Monthly Archives: November 2013

Oh So OmnipoTENT!

There is a small rumour floating around that I may be a slight fan of a certain tent-like horse. This rumour I can confirm, is correct.

Another awesome Saturday of racing lay ahead of me at 6:40am this morning, and that is the only force capable of pushing me out of my warm cosy bed at that time. The prospect of seeing Imperial Commander’s last hurrah, the return of the best racehorse ever created (that’s My Tent Or Yours by the way, if you’re a racing newbie) and oh, to be stripped to your underpants by Newbury’s fashion police?

It’s hard not to start with the negativity that had formed throughout the week, principally at the Berkshire track. It’s a well-known fact I am a shorts guy through and through and any attempts to get me in a suit are normally thwarted by a quick glare or, an ironic sudden change of heart. So a ‘dress code’ for a jumps meeting was not exactly desirable. Even more so considering I’d paid £38 to travel to the races and would require a further £45 to enter the Premier Enclosure of the linguistically challenged racecourse, The Racecourse Newbury. Nevertheless, I was actually shocked by racing’s reaction; plenty of tweeting jockeys, trainers and members of the press stated their ‘outrage’ online.

Why? My theory is that simply, it’s jump racing. It’s not just the fact there’s a few bushes in the way in the winter; jump racing and flat racing are poles apart in the audiences they attract. Flat racing is the professional, wealthy and classy side of racing (though, on occasions, passionless) whereas jump racing is for racing fans, who brave the freezing cold to watch their favourite horses battle it out year after year. Don’t get me wrong, flat racing fans can be full of passion, but jump racing for many takes passion to a new level. Since the jump season has returned, I’ve noticed it more than ever and today’s racing at Newbury was no different.

The first two races were small-field contests with two short priced favourites: Vicky de l’Oasis and Black River. Both were turned over, easily, by the one eyed mad mare As I Am and the bold white face of Valdez. The first parallel with flat racing started here; the applause awarded to both of the victors up the run-in. Unlike flat racing, where these are few and far between in my experience, applause for the winner, no matter if you backed it or not, is nearly a given, especially on Saturdays.

The day soon heated up (surprisingly in temperature, too) as Tatenen won the handicap chase and Vendor the handicap hurdle, the latter topping up my pocket money. Before the next at Newbury, we moved into the stands to watch My Tent Or Yours. I don’t think I could ever have been more nervous. I felt like I was the owner, trainer, jockey and stable hand all in one; not only hoping he’d win, but also come back safely. He did. The huge weight of expectation not only lifted from his connections shoulders, but also from his biggest fan’s. My half an hour of heaven continued.

The next at Newbury saw a stunning display of front running from Celestial Halo. He took full advantage of an easy lead and a below-par At Fishers Cross to take the Long Distance hurdle for the Stewart Family once again. Celestial Halo was clapped all the way up the run in and he trended on twitter for hours after. I can’t be happier for the Stewart Family who have supported the sport for years and also happen to be some of the nicest people in racing.

The Hennessy was then upon us and the excitement intensified. The pre-parade was packed, the parade ring jammed and the stands gridlocked. Plenty of racing stories had been talked about: Imperial Commander’s winning swansong? Rocky Creek or Our Father to pay tribute to David Johnson? Katenko’s return from colic or Invictus’ two year injury break?

Unfortunately, it never always works out quite like we’d like it to. The unfancied Triolo d’Alene took the prize ahead of Rocky Creek and co. In fact, the best part of the race was possibly not the race, but the parade, when the stands erupted as Imperial Commander’s name was announced. It’s those little things that have me enslaved to this up and down sport.

This Saturday’s smile has stayed with me until this very hour and I don’t see it disappearing for a while. If you take away all of racing’s problems, fiascos and dress codes and focus back on the simple things, the horses, you get the sport we love. We may create the issues that surround the track, but the horses always know how to answer. The negativity surrounding Newbury this week vanished from my mind as I saw my favourite horses bravely battling it out right up to the line. They’re all we need.

Image

Thank you Imperial Commander, for it all.
(Picture by Michael Harris)

Saturday Preview

1:50 – bet365 Handicap Hurdle (CLASS 2) (4yo+ 0-150)

Certainly many of these are regressive or are having their first run of the year and it definitely won’t live up to last year’s renewal which saw two subsequent Festival winners take part in At Fishers Cross and Salubrious. The step up in trip could suitMischievous Milly whileBatonnier is too short considering the massive layoff.

I like Saphir Du Rheu but still he has to improve. Gibb River is also fairly high off top weight and Punjabi and Citizenship both have it to prove after going off the boil. At a good e/w price I can’t leave SHOTAVODKA who I have always liked and he ran a cracker behind a good horse last time in a strong race at Bangor.

This test will really suit him and Kieron Edgar takes off a good 7lb. The ground is a touch less testing too and though others may be better handicapped, there’s none that I would say come into this in any sort of form and I have a good deal shorter than he is.

I think he may be the price he is due to jockey bookings but off that weight I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the plan for Edgar to ride whatever the chances of Punjabi or Notus De La Tour.

Advice – Shotavodka 1pt e/w @18/1 Betbright

 

3:00 – Hennessy Gold Cup Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Nothing like the quality it can be unfortunately and again I am struggling to find anything that will fit the bill. It usually is a race were the potential is proven of many future stars but you can count on one hand how many there seems to be in that ilk.

Katenko probably leads that list but I would prefer slightly slower ground and I still have a feeling after colic surgery that he will just need this. I can’t have Invictus off his break as that Ascot form is not one I want to take at face value.

RSA winner Lord Windermere has to go well but needs to improve as that was a very weak renewal, while Our Father is best caught fresh but he’s far too risky for me.Highland Lodge thrashed him last season at Chelternham but again he doesn’t strike me as a Hennessy winner and neither does Hadrian’s Approach whose jumping is dreadful and that’s being kind.

Merry King has place claims but ROCKY CREEK is the one I’ve had for the race for a while and he really is the only one who convinces me in this. It’s been the plan for ages which for me is an instant positive, he will be absolutely primed for this and he struck as one that would improve a good deal for the year on his back.

The ground was too quick for him at Aintree but before that he did well to rack up a hat-trick, including beating two horses in this including the Lavelle horse already mentioned and also Houblon Des Obeaux. It would be a superb story for David Johnson who obviously passed away not long ago and there really is nothing I’d rather be on by some way.

Advice – Rocky Creek 3pts win @8/1 generally

 

3:35 – bet365 Handicap Chase (for the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy) (CLASS 2) (4yo+ 0-145)

The 1:50 was last year’s race to follow but I’d say this is the one for this season as it looks extremely strong on paper. The market agrees with 5/1 the field and a bundle of them at single figures. Tetlami was a good hurdler but took a while to take to chasing and a mark of 137 could be generous, but there’s risks attached.

Cheltenham Open meeting winner Anay Turge should go well, as too the in form Next Sensation but I have two horses in my notebook for this, firstly ELENIKA who was well backed at Cheltenham behind Anay Turge and ran a very nice race for fifth, strongly suggesting we’d see a far better horse next time out.

Venetia Williams is flying too and I think he has a big chance. So too does FILBERT though who also ran a notable race first time up, travelling menacingly before stopping as if he also needed the run badly. He is inexperienced over fences but is a winner in waiting and I cannot ignore backing him here with conditions sure to suit.

Fairy Rath has a bit to prove after falling while jumping is also a worry for Parsnip Petewho did well to finish where he did considering he jumped terribly at Cheltenham and maybe the flatter track will help.

Advice – Elenika 2pts win @6/1 generally

                   Filbert 2pts win @15/2 BetVictor

 

Newcastle

2:40 – At The Races Rehearsal Chase (Handicap) (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Baile Anrai has to go well here, as too Vintage Star but 2011 winnerHEY BIG SPENDER has a massive chance off this mark. He travelled all over a good field at Aintree on his return but flattened out quickly and I’ll be amazed if we don’t see him fully tuned here.

He won this off 150 two years back and considering I don’t think he is far off that level at the age of 10 anyway, he is thrown in off 140 and I think he will retain his crown in this.

Advice – Hey Big Spender 3pts win @4/1 Totesport

Tara To Fend Off Bangor Challengers

Good Morning or Evening, depending on what time you are reading this, but thank you for coming here nonetheless! You join us on one of the best racedays of the year with many festival clues to be had across the country especially up at Newcastle. They hold the yearly Fighting Fifth Hurdle won last year by Countrywide Flame but has names on the trophy such as Sea Pigeon, Kribensis and Comedy Of Errors. The other big meeting comes from Newbury who stage the Hennessy Gold Cup won last year by Bobs Worth who of course went on to win the Gold Cup. They also go to post at Towcester, Bangor, Wolverhampton and over in Ireland they race at Fairyhouse where Flat Out returns after 1042 days off.

We had just the one winner last week with Alasi as she narrowly held on at Ascot and Mac Aeda took a tumble when still going well. The one you should all put in your tracker is Tokyo Brown however who turned for home 3 lengths clear before fading late on finishing out of the places. That was off the back of a long lay off and he will be winning next time out, so keep him on your side.

As always we have a video prepared for you covering tomorrow’s races but unfortunately due to technical issues I was only joined by Michael Andrews (@mytentoryours) this week. You can follow me on twitter on @Lukeelder13 and watch the video by clicking on the following link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTIKvPv5FjU

A few weeks ago I went to visit Martin Smith’s yard who is a trainer based in Newmarket and will be unleashing more of his string over the coming weeks. He has already had his first winner earlier this week with Boris The Bold at Kempton who returned at 14/1. Watch the stable tour by clicking on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Favvx9Tdi2M&list=FLezAefNM6xM_sGDsrGUwjjQ

Onto this week’s selections!

1:30 Bangor – Fentara

Tim Walford has Fentara off a winning mark now and Will Biddick takes a further 5 pounds off meaning he only carries 11-7 now. Although she is the only one in the field yet to have a start this season but does go well fresh having won twice and placed a further two more times after a break. The ground is set to be on the testing side which is exactly what Fentara needs to be seen to best effect with all her wins on soft or worse. Her season was aimed towards the big Mares chase at Newbury later in the season but that was abandoned when she was favourite. One last key point is that since the application of cheek pieces her form reads 132 and still looks to have something in hand. Fentara to make up for last year and gain a deserved success today. (2/1)

 1:55 Fairyhouse – Some Tikket

This is a bit of an odd selection for this blog and a rare visit to Ireland as we side with Dessie Hughes’ horse Some Tikket who fell on chase debut. He was still well in with a chance that day when coming down at the last and was up straight away so clearly had no immediate effects. Back into his hurdling days he had some smart form earlier in his career when winning his Maiden Hurdle easily before being well beaten by Mala Beach. Obviously today is a big ask for him in a 20 runner Beginners Chase but his running style will help him out as he shouldn’t see a rival from the front. Some Tikket to make all and break his maiden tag over fences. (No Price Yet)

2:05 Newcastle – Duke Of Navan

Duke Of Navan is one that you all may scoff at a little as My Tent Or Yours is in the field and looks near unbeatable with Melodic Rendezvous 2nd in the betting. However Nicky Richards holds this one in very high regard and won the Morebattle last year, albeit a below par renewal of the race. The form that will stick out to most people is when 4th at Cheltenham behind Dodging Bullets, that form alone isn’t good enough but it was very slowly run and not his true self. The real reason for me putting him up as a selection is that at the time of writing there are 8 runners meaning the places go down to third. He will certainly get third in my mind and it would be no surprise to see him split the main two in the betting, but he could certainly cause a shock. (28/1)

2:40 Newcastle – Baile Anrai

Onto one now who is certainly for win purposes from the in form Dan Skelton yard and is his only runner today. He gets in off a lowly weight of 10-3 today and also his lowest weight for some time over fences which must be noted. Also worth noting is the stable move, as mentioned before he is now with Dan Skelton after previously at Ian Williams yard. First time out for his new yard this year he ran an encouraging third at Huntingdon over hurdles but was outpaced over the shorter trip, the return to three miles is in his favour. Baile Anrai to refind the winning thread. (13/2)

3:00 Newbury – Katenko

Our last runner today is one that I consider to be a leading candidate for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as he was back in March before disaster struck. He picked up Colic (twisted gut) and was fortunately saved to fight another day as some aren’t that lucky with this horrible illness. If he returns anywhere near the same horse that destroyed a good handicap field by 12 lengths at Cheltenham then he must go close today.That is a big if though as he is off the back of a big break and still has to prove he is the same horse after that bout of Colic. Katenko to continue his improvement for the in form Venetia Williams yard. (14/1)

 

NAP – Fentara

Nb – Baile Anrai

 Good luck and as always, happy punting!

2013 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Preview

The main attraction of the three day Hennessy meeting at the Racecourse Newbury is the £175,000 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup which incidentally is the longest serving sponsorship in sport. The race has a rich history with the likes of Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man, Denman and Bob’s Worth all taking this illustrious prize in its 56 year history.

This year’s race looks challenging on paper with plenty of unexposed second season chasers to sink our teeth into. At the time of writing, the joint favourites were the RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere and the Reynoldstown winner Rocky Creek. The former was a first festival winner for Jim Culloty as a trainer and he believes that he has a potential Gold Cup horse on his hands. If he is a Gold Cup horse then he should be winning this off a handicap mark of 154 especially also with the bullish remarks from connections. The RSA he won wasn’t exactly the strongest renewal of the race however he did well to come back from an uncompromising position before two out and was the rightful winner. He wouldn’t be my selection for the race but he has to be seriously respected.

Rocky Creek has been trained for the Hennessy for some time now and would be the most poignant winner as it was part owner David Johnson’s dying wish that he would run in this race. He is the only representative for Paul Nicholls which could reflect his confidence in the horse. His win at Warwick in January marked him down as a genuine contender for this but his Reynoldstown win wasn’t awe-inspiring and conditions at Aintree didn’t suit him. On this galloping track, he can use his long stride to his advantage although my main worry would be the drying ground although he has won on good to soft.

Our Father’s record when fresh makes him a huge danger in this. All of his first runs in a season under rules have had him winning so there is no surprise that his prize is relatively short. He’s a sound jumper as proven on his chase debut where he beat a useful horse in Sire Collonges by twenty lengths but like the season before that, he didn’t go on to bigger and better things although he did shape better on his second start behind Highland Lodge for a long way before stopping quickly.

Merry King will appreciate more of a stamina test than last time out at Ascot when running on behind Houblon Des Obeaux although this could be a preparation for the Welsh National in which he would have a leading chance. I expect him to be doing his best work at the finish.

Out of this field apart from Lord Windermere, there are two others who could potentially make up into Gold Cup contenders. The returning Invictus and Katenko. Invictus hasn’t been seen since his victory in the 2012 Reynoldstown where he beat both Bob’s Worth and Silviniaco Conti. The handicapper has dropped him six pounds for his absence which makes his mark of 145 look extremely appealing. There is every possibility that he will need the run but he will definitely improve for Saturday so if he places, I would be pleased. The same comment would apply to Katenko especially after his life-threatening colic surgery but he was one of the improvers of last season with his best performance coming at Cheltenham on awful ground where he maintained a good gallop to win impressively. He is best watched first time out.

The Nicky Henderson duo of Hadrian’s Approach and Triolo D’Alene are two to oppose. They both will need career bests plus have suspect jumping, most notably the former who was indifferent on his comeback run at Kempton and it’s also interesting that Barry Geraghty has opted to ride the latter who I don’t think will see out the distance. Also, Willie Mullins sends over two competitors and I feel Prince De Beauchene is too high in the handicap whilst Terminal won’t be good enough plus having said he would want a trip in the past, I’m inclined to think he doesn’t based on previous efforts.

I’m sure I won’t be the only person wishing Imperial Commander well in his final race before a deserved retirement. Based on his Argento run this year, he would still have a reasonable chance plus he ran well to a point in the Grand National before fading very quickly when pulled up but I cannot see him winning although it would be incredible to witness however his record first time out is strong as he has been either first or second. Cape Tribulation is interesting off top weight especially as I am convinced a big field handicap is what he wants especially with a patient creeping ride out the back which in this type of race could suit perfectly although he faces a tough ask if he is to win.

The selections for the race are HIGHLAND LODGE. HOUBLON DES OBEAUX and LOCH BA. Highland Lodge had a difficult season as a novice last season with Emma Lavelle’s yard not being right at all but his Cheltenham success over Our Father was a good performance before the wheels fell off with two disappointing efforts behind Rocky Creek at Warwick and Harry Topper at Exeter before a much better showing at Cheltenham where he ran well for a long way in the National Hunt Chase. His comeback run this season showed a lot of promise when giving two stone to a very well handicapped horse in Standin Ovation and only being beaten one and three quarters of a length. The main worry of that is whether that race will have left a mark but I feel he will be suited to Newbury much better than Wincanton and can go very close with the yard showing much better form.

Houblon Des Obeaux was one of the most consistent novice chasers last season so it was pleasing to see him come out and win first time out at Ascot however he did take a pounding from the handicapper with him going up ten pounds. He strikes me more as an each way proposition with his sound jumping plus we know he can handle a big handicap and with big race winning jockey Liam Treadwell booked, a bold bid is expected.

One at a much bigger price, Loch Ba who could be overpriced considering he has hardly any weight on his back. Trained by Mick Channon, he was one of the favourites for the JLT at the Festival before unseating around halfway but before that, he was a very easy winner of a race over this course in January over 3m and could have potential improvement. His comeback run was full of promise at Bangor and 33/1 could be some value in the race.

Good luck trying to find the winner of this!

George Gorman – Weekly Blog

Well it’s been a great week for the Cisswood team this week with Josh Moore riding 4 winners in three days, Jamie riding winners 3 days in a row, including a valuable novice hurdle at Ascot on Saturday, and Ryan rounding off the week with winning the Japan Cup! Despite this The Game Is A Foot was our only winner this week and he’ll hopefully put his subsequent fall behind him over further in the near future.

Away from the Moore stables Ascot’s Saturday meeting will prove to be very important in terms of Cheltenham pointers. Al Ferof was incredibly impressive despite beating only one rival. French Opera is a great yard stick of a horse despite being just below top class and the way Al Ferof had him at it so far from home really smacks of a classy horse. Everything that could have been against him on Saturday was, he’d been off for over a year, had to make his own running and was running over a sharper trip than ideal, yet he still dominated a very good horse and his jumping still held up. He’ll be a massive player come the King George and if he stays we know he loves Cheltenham so he may be hard to beat.

Additionally there was not a second of doubt over the result of the Coral Hurdle, there’s not a lot you can say about Annie Power, she’s beaten a strong Champion/World Hurdle contender with contempt and will be very hard to beat wherever she turns up this season.

For me the Betfair Chase is a great opportunity for speed horses to shine in the 3 mile division but class has seen a few speedy Gold Cup horses able to win anyway. This was borne out in Saturday’s result with 2 speed horse filling the first and second positions and the real staying chaser types in a pile behind them. Whilst this may have significance for the King George, 3 mile 2 1/2 furlongs around Cheltenham is a very different ask and I wouldn’t be too disheartened if your Gold Cup fancy finished down the field at Haydock.

As for my ride this week they went no gallop which ended my race very early as Auld Sthock is an out and out stayer but will put the brakes on if you try to make the running on him. This meant I had to sit in behind and suffer, knowing I would more than likely get done for a turn of foot, which is what transpired. He’s by no means a horse to give up on.

Away from the racecourse I’ve been able to school a nice Flemensfirth 5 year old for Bob Lancaster who will be running in point to points before the new year, he’s schooled brilliantly and will be an exciting horse for this season. However in terms of rides this week I may be in action at Lingfield on Tuesday on Zhukov for Kevin Tork, he’s coming back from injury but he’s sure to be fit, the trip isn’t ideal but he’ll give his all as usual and he’s off a decent mark so if the ground didn’t come up too heavy he might sneak into a place.

Also the pointing season starts on Sunday!!!!! I’m at my favourite track Cottenham on the opening day of the season, where I have a 60% strike rate. It’s early days so I just have the one ride this week on Top Choice in the restricted for young trainer Holly Chandler. He’s also coming back from injury but I know him well from his days in David Phelan’s care where he won his maiden. He’s fit and ready to go, he’ll need to have strengthened up to win a restricted but he may well have done so we’ll just have to wait and see.

A little footnote to my blog this week is simply how much I love this job. On Sunday I worked from 6:55 to 12:30 and 3:30 to 6:00, riding 5 horses for 3 different trainers. All that is actually demanded of me under my work contract is 7:30-10:00 and 4:00-6:00, so basically what I’m saying is when it’s 12:30 and everyone else in the yard left 2 1/2 hours ago yet you’re still loving every second of it, you know you’re in the right job!!

Haydock + Ascot Review (23/11/2013)

Yesterday’s racing from both Haydock and Ascot embodied most feelings that National Hunt fans go through. From the dazzling highs of Cue Card’s performance in the feature event to the disheartening lows of Master Of The Sea’s fatal injury which marred the Fixed Brush Hurdle. This review will mostly cover Haydock’s action with a look at some of the action from Ascot.

Moujik Borget defied a 619 day absence to win under Liam Treadwell beating Ruler Of All who looked the likely winner on the run in. The body language of his connections in the winner’s enclosure said it all afterwards but take nothing away from the winner with that long absence with an excellent training performance as well from Venetia Williams.

The intermediate hurdle went the way of Rolling Star who looked an imposing individual in the paddock with Nicky Henderson saying afterwards that his physical development was notable over the summer. He did have to work for this with Doyly Carte running a blinder on ground probably softer than ideal whilst Far West disappointed back in fourth. The winner is now in a difficult position as he has to improve again with a step up in grade but where he goes will be interesting, especially as the Champion Hurdle could come under consideration however he would have to improve at least twenty pounds to get competitive in one. As of Far West, he travelled well before fluffing three out and looked outpaced. He could already want two and a half miles over hurdles although his future lies as a chaser.

The staying handicap chase had the first three in the weights fighting out the finish from a long way out. Nuts N Bolts became Lucinda Russell’s second winner of the day with an across the card double after Kris Cross won at Ascot. He travelled extremely well throughout the gruelling stamina test and came home best of all to beat Red Rocco and Ace High with them being fifteen lengths clear of the fourth horse Incentivise. The winner’s trainer muted the idea that the Scottish National was the long term plan although shorter term, he could feature well in the Welsh National with soft ground looking to suit him well. Red Rocco has changed stables over the summer and didn’t look the best in the paddock so it was a surprise to see him run so well first time out. He plugged on past Ace High to finish a good second and he also has a Welsh National entry although that could come too soon for a horse of his experience.

Apart from the first fence, Ace High jumped beautifully for Tom Scudamore and was given a wonderful positive ride for his new connections. He faded towards the end although he wasn’t exactly stopping. He has a decent prize in him over a marathon distance off his current mark and like the first two has an entry in the Welsh National and with his liking of Chepstow, he could go very close in that race. One in behind that can win another handicap chase this season is Lively Baron who travelled sweetly before coming off the bridle and was soon beaten. After the three leaders had finished, it was noticeable that he still had more to give as he flew up the run in compared to some of the others and he could go down a few pounds for that effort.

The two and a half mile handicap hurdle looked to have some potentially well handicapped horses and it was proved when More Of That took the honours under a power packed McCoy drive to beat Blue Fashion and Special Catch. In my Wetherby blog, I mentioned that he won that race with plenty in hand and he was only raised seven pounds for that effort. He was outpaced in this better race before charging home. He looks a useful horse who can go in again in a handicap hurdle before going chasing next season. The runner up Blue Fashion caught the eye in the paddock. A massive chasing type for the future, he upheld his French form with a fine debut in Britain and I cannot wait to see him go chasing next season. Anything done over hurdles will be a bonus. Special Catch improved markedly for the step up in trip and is another that would be interesting over fences whilst Home Run ran well in this better race. The confusing run of the race was Clondaw Kaempfer. He jumped as if he’d been schooled over fences and still travelled well at the top of the straight before not picking up as he should’ve. He still looks a very good horse and possibly needed the run so watch out for him next time out.

The Fixed Brush Hurdle had a fantastic finish with Gevrey Chambertin holding on from Utopie Des Bordes under a brilliant ride from Tom Scudamore which firmly put me in my place for thinking he wouldn’t last home. The winner now looks set to go chasing and with Pipe having won two of the last three renewals with full brother Grands Crus and Dynaste, he has big footsteps to fill but there is no reason why he won’t go on to achieve similar things over the larger obstacles. The runner up ran a great race over the longer trip plus these obstacles looked to suit and I think she would handle fences with relish having jumped them in France. She will be difficult to place from now on.

Lie Forrit looks a changed horse with Lucinda Russell and with her stable in flying form, it was no surprise to see him run so well. Having compared his marks over hurdles and fences, with the new yard he could be worth another go in a handicap chase off a mark of 121 and is another in her yard likely to be primed for the Scottish National. The eyecatcher of the race for me though was Alfie Sherrin who I mentioned in the video but the effort he put in wasn’t expected with him staying on nicely to be placed. Although he hasn’t had a mention in my JPFestival Grand National pieces, he is back on my shortlist after today’s effort and his handicap mark over fences still looks lenient with Aintree in mind.

Of the unplaced horses, Gullinbursti deserves a favourable mention as this probably came too quick after his Market Rasen win but he showed he is in good heart unlike last season and there are prizes to win with him. Two Rockers raced very keen early on in the race and this looks to have finished his challenge as he was one of three to break away from the pack before coming back to them. A chasing career looks the plan now and he is still an exciting horse. An unlikely mention goes to The Knoxs who travelled up nicely and was in the process of outrunning his massive odds before a shocking mistake three out with him being pulled up after it pretty quickly. He cantered back in his own time and he remains interesting off his hurdles mark.

As mentioned earlier, the race was marred by the loss of Master Of The Sea. I won’t dwell on it much as Michael dealt with it beautifully in his piece plus I cannot find the right words myself to describe how you feel when a horse meets an end that isn’t deserved. Of course in this great sport you have to be prepared for every situation that is thrown at you but it is a harsh reminder of the cruel nature that horse racing can spring upon us every so often and especially as Master Of The Sea was one of Michael’s favourites.

The Betfair Chase lived up to its expectation although for different reasons as Cue Card smashed the opinion that he didn’t stay three miles with a devastating display to beat Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti. Under a superb ride from Joe Tizzard, he took no prisoners from the front with his jumping being mostly good on the whole. His run in the Haldon Gold Cup proved he is still a classy individual but the performance here was probably his best ever plus on reflection, he had the best form going into the race as he is the only horse able to live with Sprinter Sacre over both two and two and a half miles. On that reckoning, if he stayed, he won and that was the case. It was wonderful to see the affection that connections had for the horse after the race plus Colin Tizzard’s post-race interview showing the emotion and passion this majestic sport has. The future looks bright for Cue Card with plenty of options open for him. The King George looks the obvious race for him and having proven his stamina; he can go off in front like today and set a true gallop. More importantly, the Gold Cup can now come under serious consideration and he definitely would be a worthy winner.

Dynaste ran the race of his life beginning his career as a second season chaser. He did what several people predicted in that he travelled like the winner going to two out but the winner probably stripped fitter although even with a run, I don’t think he would’ve passed Cue Card. The King George looks the obvious plan for him with his performance from the Feltham being very impressive and he would hold an excellent chance. Whether he can reverse form with Cue Card remains to be seen.

Silviniaco Conti ran a fine race back in third and connections can be pleased with the way he acquitted himself. He jumped smartly and looked a big threat turning for home but there will be plenty to work on with him. His next target could be the King George although personally, the Lexus would probably suit better with him running better going left handed rather than right handed. Long Run ran much better than he did at Wetherby but seems to have lost some of his pace. The Grand National was mentioned in post-race comments and the race as it is now would look to suit him especially as Sam Waley-Cohen has an excellent record around the track.

The obvious disappointment of the race was Bob’s Worth but the sharp track and the ground were the key issues and he was beaten before leaving the back straight. Instantly, Barry Geraghty has said not to take negatives from this and believes the Lexus could be his type of race on a more galloping track. He still remains the one to beat in March where he will be fully tuned for that one day.

The final race at Haydock was a demolition job from Sydney Paget who jumped and galloped his opposition into the ground from the front. He looks set to go up for that and the ideal target for him next on similar ground would be the Welsh National given his strong galloping style. Silver By Nature ran a blinder on his comeback when he usually tends to need the run badly so it was a huge surprise to see him come second. Although flattered by the winner, he still has a big staying handicap chase in him and if the ground came up soft at Ayr next April in the Scottish National then he would be a very deserving winner.

Although I was at Haydock, I kept up with most of the racing from Ascot but the two feature events are what I will concentrate on. The Amlin was a match between Al Ferof and French Opera with the Paul Nicholls trained grey winning comfortably in the end. His jumping was mostly neat and accurate although there was one or two fences which he reached for on the way round but he did make his own running which can affect his equilibrium. The King George will suit him especially if Cue Card turns up and there is no reason not to think he wouldn’t last out the three mile trip.

The Coral Hurdle sadly lost some of its intrigue when Magnifique Etoile fell in front of the stands with a circuit to go. Thankfully, he got up absolutely fine and for good measure, jumped the final fence on the chase course immaculately. He will definitely have another day in the sun. The market principals ended up fighting out the finish with Annie Power using the weight difference to her advantage when claiming Zarkandar after the last. Bookmakers reacted by cutting her for the Champion Hurdle but I wasn’t that impressed by her as one or two leaps on the way round weren’t the best but she is entitled to improve a fair bit for the comeback plus she did battle tenaciously against a very good horse. Zarkandar ran a great race in defeat giving ten pounds to his main rival but where they go with him next will be interesting.

Thank you for reading this and I will be back next week with a review of the three days at Newbury plus the feature events from Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth card.

Cue The Emotions

Hey all!

I realise I’m the sole member of Ontheotherhoof who, until now, is yet to post an article. Hopefully I can offer a different perspective on racing than the five other bloggers, though I can’t promise winning tips, naps or NaughtyLucky15s. That said, I don’t consider myself a tipster but a budding journalist (broadcaster and commentator), writing about the stories that makes racing head and shoulders above any other sport.

After a few weeks off from Saturday racing, I returned to the cold, windy yet heart-warming sport at Haydock Park. The day promised far too many things, namely the Betfair Chase, or, as some dubbed it the ‘Mini Gold Cup’. The Mini Gold Cup it seemed; with two actual Gold Cup winners in the form of Bob’s Worth & Long Run, alongside a Gold Cup runner up The Giant Bolster, last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti and the loveable rogue Tidal Bay, who’s form figures read: What could have been.

In hindsight, I really was blinded by the passion for one of the two big ones, Bob’s Worth and Silviniaco Conti, to produce an outstanding display and set down a marker for the rest of the season, if not for years. Bob’s Worth sealed the deal for me when bravely winning the ultra-hot Hennessy last year and my faith was very much rewarded in the Gold Cup. Silviniaco Conti, though in my eyes not up to a Bob’s Worth performance, proved to be a force to be reckoned with last year too. Either of these seemed worthy of winning a ‘Mini Gold Cup’.

You can probably guess where I’m heading next; the horses I didn’t think could win a race like this, especially a race that held the aforementioned two. Tidal Bay, Roi Du Mee, The Giant Bolster, Cue Card & Dynaste all, in my eyes, couldn’t win. A win for Tidal Bay would bring about further frustration about his past endeavours, a horse past his racing prime and finally finding his feet? No, I couldn’t have that, nor could I have Roi Du Mee or The Giant Bolster, both extremely talented horses, but not as talented as an actual Gold Cup winner, or a previous winner of the race (both of whom had beat the latter on different occasions). Dynaste and Cue Card, to me, represented good solid horses who were yet to hit the big time over this trip. While Dynaste may have been winning plenty last year, he was tackling horses like Hadrian’s Approach, Third Intention and Court in Motion. Surely that form is hardly going to match up against Bob’s Worth? The other, Cue Card, was well beaten when tackling the slightly shorter trip of the King George last year. On soft ground, surely he would struggle, especially in a race as hot as the Betfair Chase?

It appears my heart-led naivety was well and truly shown for all to see today, as the two I so openly discounted whisked away last year’s protagonists’ crown. Cue Card, given a great ride by Joe Tizzard, lead pillar to post with Dynaste less than five lengths behind in second. Silviniaco Conti could only manage third and Bob’s Worth was a well-beaten sixth. A race I had hoped could be outstanding; a race to rival the Gold Cup itself, had turned into a routing of two horses I thought could dominate the three mile chasing division for years to come. Instead, the new kids on the three-mile chasing block overthrew their more experienced counterparts and blew the division wide open again.

On bare form, Bob’s Worth should have beaten Cue Card, having done so earlier in his career. Instead, he was annihilated. It bodes the question; why? Henderson primes his string to peak perfectly at Cheltenham; it’s hard to argue with that. But why can’t he produce his best in race surely worth winning just as much? Am I asking too much for a horse to dominate the division all year? Or will the division become highly dependent on ground, fitness and track, producing different winners all throughout the season? My heart rarely rules my head, but in racing I can’t help but yearn for a horse to show complete superiority. It just proves; we were so spoilt with Kauto Star.

My mix of emotions was spread right across the afternoon, with my failure to back the ‘topical’ horse of the day Nuts N Bolts (two characters in the recently released film ‘Catching Fire’) and my nap Blue Fashion, denied by the champ in the fourth. The tragic race that followed saw the death of one of my favourite horses, Master of the Sea. Words fail to really express emotions, or maybe I fail to find the right ones, but it’s hard to enjoy yourself following that. My thoughts are with the people in the Twiston-Davies’ yard, whom I’m sure knew him much better than me. RIP Master of the Sea.

It’s great when an instinctual plan comes together, and that’s what happened in the last. Noticing the past two winners had won from the front, I guessed and was rewarded with Sydney Paget doing the same. Drawing on some vague knowledge of him being a frontrunner, I won back the money I’d lost during the day.

Bring on the Hennessy.

Image

(Picture by Michael Harris)

2013 Betfair Chase Preview

Without a doubt, the Betfair Chase has a line up worthy of a high accolade with some dubbing it as a ‘Mini Gold Cup’ and with no dominant horse in this division like Sprinter Sacre, you can make a case for each horse in the race as they all bring their own dimension to this amazing renewal.

The best place to start is this year’s Gold Cup winner Bob’s Worth who went unbeaten last season in his two starts in the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Gold Cup itself. Considering all the niggly issues he had heading into Cheltenham, it was testament to Nicky Henderson that he got to the Gold Cup in good form and possibly not even in 100% shape. His record left handed is incredible with seven wins out of seven runs and I may be stupid for saying this but he is opposable tomorrow, especially as he would prefer better ground plus this is the softest ground he has ever encountered so for that one reason, I cannot see him winning tomorrow.

Silviniaco Conti improved leaps and bounds last season including a success in this race twelve months ago under a superb ride from Ruby Walsh. This year, Noel Fehily takes the ride and he is the perfect replacement having ridden the horse himself to victory twice back in 2010 when Ruby was injured so he is definitely not a negative on the chances of the horse. He racked up three victories before taking his chance in the Gold Cup where he was travelling really well before falling three out. He proved there that he isn’t a flat track bully which is what he gained a reputation for last season. His final run at Aintree in the Betfair Bowl can be forgiven as he was more than likely over the top. He will definitely be in the placings tomorrow however there is one in here that I believe can beat him.

The idea of the winner for me is TIDAL BAY. Since his success in the Bet365 Gold Cup at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, the evergreen veteran has done nothing but improve with a good second off top weight in the Hennessy behind Bob’s Worth although I felt the ride he was given that day was questionable before taking a top quality Lexus Chase where Ruby Walsh redeemed himself with one of the rides of the season to get him up in a four way finish before injury ended his season prematurely. It is sad in a way that he is finding this form so late in life and it does make you wonder what Howard Johnson was doing with him especially as Paul Nicholls has found so much improvement in him and he deserves every bit of credit given to him for changing this mercurial character.

His return to action this season was the perfect pipe-opener with a second success in the Bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby where he sprinted to beat Medinas and the major positive tomorrow is that Sam Twiston-Davies takes the ride again. The one thing he has against these rivals and this is amazing to consider but he has a turn of foot that you would expect from a horse half his age and Twiston-Davies will be trying to use this to great effect with a patient ride plus the conditions of the race are perfect for him.

There has been plenty of criticism for Dynaste but I cannot see why he deserves it. He is unbeaten over fences apart from his run in the Jewson where the vibes from the Pipe yard had been negative beforehand so for him to finish second was probably seen as a victory by his connections. He also dispelled the myth that he is a winter horse when winning in style at Aintree over 3m1f. His fast slick jumping is one of his biggest assets plus the way he travels with ease through a race is eye-catching. It wouldn’t surprise me if he is there cruising going to two out but I just feel he could be caught out by one or two of these.

Cue Card’s return to action was highly encouraging; especially with the amount of weight he gave to a former Grade One winner in Somersby and progressive chaser Module in the Haldon Gold Cup which is run over a trip short of his optimum best. This trip on soft ground however is a trip into the unknown plus if Joe Tizzard tries to settle him like he did in the King George, that could end disastrously as he belted the first two fences that day and he cannot be doing that tomorrow. If he goes off in front, the danger is he won’t see the trip out as well as some of the others.

The former Gold Cup winner Long Run has turned somewhat into an enigma. Having seen him before his run at Wetherby in the Charlie Hall, he looked fantastic in the paddock with a slight stomach but ran so badly, it couldn’t have been down to fitness. Since the race, it was found he scoped badly with connections blaming a bad mistake down the back straight. He has since been to Yogi Breisner’s for schooling and according to Robert Waley-Cohen, he schooled amazingly in the week so he must come into this with a chance but the main doubt is whether he would have the pace to keep up with some of these plus there is the obvious doubt of him regressing as he gets older.

The two outsiders Roi Du Mee and The Giant Bolster are both good horses in their own right. The former took a deserved Grade One last time out at Down Royal but you would have to question the form of the race as most of the principals didn’t run their true races and he prefers an uncontested lead which could be difficult with Cue Card to contend with. The latter would prefer better ground to be seen at his best but didn’t finish too far away in last year’s race and 40/1 is a bit of an insult to the horse.

Verdict

In a top quality renewal of the Betfair Chase, Tidal Bay looks the standout value in the race and still has it in him to beat top class competitors at the grand old age of 12. Silviniaco Conti and Bob’s Worth will more than likely fight out the placings.

1st) Tidal Bay

2nd) Silviniaco Conti

3rd) Bob’s Worth

Moore Of The Game At Huntingdon

Good morning racing fans and a big congratulations for making it through another work week, your reward? A big Saturday of racing of course. Today’s main meeting comes from Haydock who stage their yearly Betfair Chase in which Silviniaco Conti aims to go back to back in the race. He faces stern opposition from last year’s Gold Cup hero Bobs Worth and winner of the Ryanair, Cue Card who’s stamina gets tested again. Also on the cards today is the Amlin 1965 Chase at Ascot which see’s the return of the exciting chaser Al Ferof as he faces two rivals. They also go to post at Huntingdon and on the polytrack at Lingfield as well as Wolverhampton in the evening.

Last week Le Bec got us out of trouble as the others disappointed, but at least we got off to a good start which counts for something… Right? As always we have prepared a video for you all covering tomorrow’s Channel 4 races and i’m once again joined by the regulars. Amongst our regulars is Calum Madell (@Calummadell) who owns Magnifique Etoile, he of course runs in todays Ascot hurdle and we get the inside scoop on him. Making up the panel was Michael Andrews (@mytentoryours) and Adam Webb (@Adamwebb121).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA5TE6L_blQ

Now onto today’s racing!

2:15 Huntingdon – The Game Is A Foot

The Game Is A Foot improved to win at Plumpton on Monday and win well on that occasion. Gary Moore brings him up to Huntingdon under a penalty instead of waiting for the Handicapper to have his say. Josh Moore has been on fire lately with 4 of his last 11 rides being winners and 3 more being placed, including a win on this horse on Monday. I was at Plumpton that day and rushed to the winners enclosure to see him in and he would have hardly blown a candle out and definitely looks a horse going in the right direction. Before hand he didn’t have much form that would be worthy of winning this but he is clearly in fine form with himself and could once again be well in at the weights. The Game Is A Foot to get today off to a flying start albeit at a short price. (6/5)

3:15 Ascot – Alasi

Paul Webber’s mare is one that I have admired for a long time now as she never seems to run a bad race, that was no different last time out. She took on horses of her own sex at Wetherby and was in the firing line for a long time before fading late to finish eight and three quarter lengths behind the progressive Cockney Sparrow. The strongest form to her name however is when beating Champion Court by a neck over fences earlier this year, albeit a Champion Court that wasn’t 100% right that day. She runs off the lowest handicap mark for a while today in 135. Alasi to get her day in the sun today at Ascot. (7/1)

3:35 Haydock – Mac Aeda

Mac Aeda was well backed on his reappearance but could manage no better than third behind Ultimate, however has never won after a break, so it was to be expected. He will strip much fitter for that run and off the winning mark of 125 can take all the beating in what is sure to be a stamina test. If you look at the races Mac Aeda has won you will find that he relishes a real stamina sapping race and has twice been the victor over this trip. The main danger could come in the form of The Rainbow Hunter but his day like many in this race will be the Grand National in April.

7:20 Wolverhampton – Tokyo Brown

Believe it or not, Tokyo Brown is one that I have been following for a good while now, ever since he was third in a strong Maiden at Lingfield behind Clowance Estate. Despite catching my eye he has never won and has since been off for just over a year which isn’t a massive negative in my eyes. I was at Lingfield last week and Heather Main had two horses running that day running off massive layoffs yet still ran well, signifying the yard can ready one after a break. The jockey booking is also a huge positive with Luke Morris taking the reins today. Tokyo Brown to win after a break. (8/1)

NAP – The Game Is A Foot

Nb – Tokyo Brown

Good luck and as always, happy punting!

5 Things We Learnt From The Open Meeting

Five things we learnt this weekend from the Open Meeting

1. Ignore most of the novice chase form for the Festival itself.

The main evidence of the point above came on Friday where the two and a half mile novice chase was run at a farcical pace with the first three fences being jumped at a snail’s pace. The race ended up developing into a sprint late on between Taquin De Seuil and Oscar Whiskey with the Jonjo O’Neill trained horse getting the upper hand but the form should not be taken seriously due to the pace of the race plus I’m still not sold on Taquin De Seuil entirely over fences although he jumped a bit better here than at Ffos Las plus the 10/1 quotes for the Jewson for both horses aren’t exactly value at this time of the year.

Out of the three novice chase events ran this weekend, only the three mile race on Saturday was ran with a consistent pace throughout which was taken by Le Bec who on the whole jumped well under an excellent ride from Noel Fehily to beat Shutthefrontdoor by three quarters of a length with Sam Winner running an eye-catching race back in third and African Gold looking to the naked eye a shade disappointing in fourth. The winner could develop into a live outsider in the RSA whilst Shutthefrontdoor remains an exciting prospect whether he stays at three miles or steps back down to two and a half. It was pleasing to see Sam Winner jump nicely after his previous two starts as a youngster where he fell both times, the last one in which he picked up a life-threatening injury. He showed that he still has the ability and could potentially be interesting in a big handicap later on in the season. African Gold was seen by some as a disappointment however he didn’t look fit in the paddock and looked as though he would come on plenty for the run.

The two mile novice chase wasn’t ran at a typical pace but take nothing away from Dodging Bullets who jumped much better than he did at Kempton with a comfortable success over Raya Star and Ted Veale. Paul Nicholls was keen to state that he would only run the winner on better ground so we may not see him too much before his main target in March but he still doesn’t strike me as an Arkle winner. A step up in trip wouldn’t harm Ted Veale as he jumped well before getting outpaced by the first two.

2. John’s Spirit can still improve again after Paddy Power success

The first blogpost for the site was a winning one with this horse winning the Paddy Power although I must admit, I was sweating a bit when Colour Squadron came at him up the hill!

Having looked back at the race, he was given a fantastic ride by Richie McLernon who gave the horse so much confidence with his jumping which allowed him to travel so well into the race. Once he hit the front when Easter Meteor fell two out, he idled badly which allowed Colour Squadron to get so close to him however connections didn’t want to hit the front so soon so he has still won with a bit in hand. The handicapper has raised him nine pounds which leaves him off 148 but I think he can win off this mark if he returns to Cheltenham for the December Gold Cup where he can be ridden with the same confidence again going for the hat-trick.

Of those in behind, one that deserves a mention surprisingly is Wishful Thinking who jumped a lot better than he did at Aintree and was doing all his best work late on to finish sixth. Phillip Hobbs said somewhere earlier this season that he would like to try him again over three miles and his run here suggested the step up wouldn’t go amiss.

3. Keep an eye out on hold-up horses in handicap hurdles that actually made headway.

The in-running comments for several of those who won or placed may say they were held up but these made good moves before going down the hill rather than wait a bit longer which would usually be the case. Thomas Crapper was one of those hold up winners, he made a significant move which sealed him the race at the top of the hill compared to some of his rivals who didn’t make the same amount of headway. In that particular race, Killala Quay was one who caught the eye having nearly been brought down two out by Kaylif Aramis. I don’t think he would’ve won but he would have been a bit closer had he not had that interference whilst Upswing was one who came from the back and can win again off his current mark.

The staying handicap was a slight exception to my above statement but the steady gallop would have been a factor in that. However, Salubrious must be a serious horse based on that comeback run with top weight over the longer trip in which he travelled like the best horse before James Best got Return Spring up for a deserved success. Whatever connections do with Salubrious, he remains very exciting. If he goes chasing then the Jewson would come under serious consideration but if they decide to stay hurdling, he could potentially develop into a live outsider in the World Hurdle but he would be the fourth string behind Big Buck’s, Zarkandar and Celestial Halo although it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him improve into a contender for the biggest staying hurdle prize.

The Greatwood Hurdle had Dell’ Arca come from mid-division but like Thomas Crapper, he made a move before the top of the hill to get into a good position although the complexity of the race changed just before then with the fall of Ahayaknowyerself which hampered the majority of the field. One of those badly hampered was Tanarko Emery who has done well to finish where he has as he made up plenty of ground from the back and would have been placed if not impeded with whilst another noteworthy performance was Court Minstrel who would want better ground but in a good ground handicap, he would still take a bit of beating and Calculated Risk deserves another chance in a competitive handicap.

4. Both bumpers will throw up some useful prospects

This part will mainly concentrate on Sunday’s bumper however the mare’s bumper itself had some nice individuals which will be winning races. Red Sherlock was given a beautiful ride by Timmy Murphy to take Sunday’s bumper with him keeping away from the main pack and cutting every corner around the inside to beat Carningli by a length and a half. The winner looks to have grown up over the summer compared although like most of these was still a raw baby. The nicest part about the success though was seeing David Johnson’s colours being carried to victory after his death in July especially as this horse meant a lot to him having bred him. His breeding is fascinating as he is out of Lady Cricket, a wonderful mare owned by Johnson who took the Paddy Power Gold Cup back in 2000 with the sire being former Breeder’s Cup Turf winner Shirocco so his breeding underlines how exciting this horse could be in the future.

The runner up Carningli confirmed his running from October plus the form of his win was franked by The Govaness who took the mare’s bumper on Saturday. Our Kaempfer caught the eye especially as a fellow writer on here mentioned he is a horse for the future whilst Champagne At Tara and Southfield Vic all performed with credit and look to both have bright futures. The one I will definitely be taking out of the race is Neck Or Nothing. Purchased recently by Roger Brookhouse, he travelled supremely well before showing his greenness by trying to jump the road situated just after where the second last hurdle usually is and that ended his chances. Watch out for him wherever he goes next as he looks very smart.

5. The Liquidator is a strong candidate for the Supreme

The last key point from the weekend is that this horse looks as though he will go far over the smaller obstacles this season. His win at Carlisle was a good performance first time out but on Sunday he had to make his own running and Tom Scudamore rode the perfect race by injecting pace at two points with both of them not suiting his main rival Sea Lord who ran an odd race back in second. The speed that David Pipe’s inmate showed put aside the worry that he could lack a bit of pace with considerable ease and at this stage, 14/1 for the Supreme offered could potentially be a big price.