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Adam Webb’s 2016 Crabbies’ Grand National Pinstickers Guide

Here’s my 2016 Grand National Pinstickers Guide. It’s a more condensed version compared to last year due to timing constraints. One thing I have aimed for in this year’s guide is to have stronger negative stances against particular horses and their chances of Aintree glory rather than sit on the fence and give a more average rating. Each horse gets a rating out of 10, one gets 10 and three get 9 so you get a 1-2-3-4 at the end. Obviously the lower the rating, the more unlikely the chances are for success on Saturday.

Racecard number – Horse – Age – Weight carried – Trainer – Jockey

Many Clouds Silks

1)  MANY CLOUDS   9      11-10     Oliver Sherwood      Leighton Aspell

We begin this mammoth process with the 2015 hero who, in terms of a return bid, couldn’t have had a more perfect preparation if they had tried. Having needed the run in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby when sixth behind Cue Card, he followed up with a sound effort when second giving 5lb to Don Poli in the 3m1f Listed Chase over Aintree’s Mildmay Course. Another good second behind Smad Place in the Betbright Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day set him up for Kelso where he jumped brilliantly in the Premier Chase to win as he pleased by 10 lengths from Unioniste.

Many Clouds bids to become the first since Red Rum to win the National for the second time.
Many Clouds bids to become the first since Red Rum to win the National for the second time.

Everything looks primed for another big run and he has realistic claims to become the first horse since Red Rum 42 years ago to get the double. In terms of recent Grand National winners, he probably has the best chance since the same owner’s Hedgehunter back in 2006 who put up a brave effort when second to Numbersixvalverde. He deserves to be clear favourite and, even off top weight, has to be in the shortlist.

Rating – 9/10
Silviniaco Conti Colours2) SILVINIACO CONTI    10       11-8        Paul Nicholls        Noel Fehily

For a horse as popular as Silviniaco Conti, his participation in the world’s greatest steeplechase has a polarised view. Just like Marmite, you’re either for or against.

The case for him is pretty simple. The son of Dom Alco is a seven time Grade One winner including two Betfair Chases at Haydock and two King Georges at Kempton, not carrying top weight, and even with Many Clouds in the field is the class act of the race. He should race prominently and use his prime asset; his jumping. He returned to form in first time blinkers last time in the Ascot Chase over 2m5f when thrashing Dynaste by 20 lengths.

The classiest in the race but will Silviniaco Conti last home over the trip?
The classiest in the race but will Silviniaco Conti last home over the trip?

The negatives. Apart from his jumping, he hasn’t shown any inclination that he would be an ideal Grand National horse. Trainer Paul Nicholls is convinced he has all the stamina in the world and while in his more recent Grade One victories he has used his stamina to win, the majority of his rivals haven’t been the strongest of stayers at 3m and on both attempts he completed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, stamina has looked the issue rather than the track.

At the prices, he is one near the head of the market that needs to definitely be taken on with the main issue being stamina. Arguably he is better than Neptune Collonges, who won this back in 2012 for the champion trainer, but had confirmed his liking for a thorough stamina test.

Rating – 4/10

 

First Lieutenant3) FIRST LIEUTENANT  11   11-4    Mouse Morris    Bryan Cooper

A wonderful servant to connections over the years with his CV including a Cheltenham Festival win and various placed efforts. Ran in this last year and lost any chance with two bad mistakes at the first two fences, eventually completing tailed off. Bounced back to some decent form this season including when chasing home Smad Place in the Hennessy at Newbury and when a fast finishing second to Don Poli in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Hard to recommend even with Bryan Cooper choosing him.

Rating – 3/10

 

wonderful charm4) WONDERFUL CHARM    8   11-3    Paul Nicholls    Sam Twiston-Davies

Another of the Nicholls battalion which stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies chose to ride, although his choices seemed pretty limited. Either him or Rocky Creek who has completely lost the plot with Black Thunder being sold at the Aintree Sale and the trio of Silviniaco Conti, Just A Par and Unioniste being rides set out for particular jockeys.

Having looked at one stage to be the next big thing in National Hunt racing, the son of Poliglote proved to be rather frustrating and has been trained specifically for the race this season with only one outing when second behind Aachen at Cheltenham before Christmas. The major concern is stamina and the recent rain will have done more harm to his chances. He’s one to avoid.

Rating – 2/10

 

ballynagour5) BALLYNAGOUR     10    11-2    David Pipe     Tom Scuadmore

It’s a joke he’s running here when he’s shown no inclination for a stamina test in his career. Will travel well for a circuit but the warning signs will soon be showing around second Becher’s. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

o'faolains boy6)  O’FAOLAINS BOY    9    11-1    Rebecca Curtis     Brian Hughes

The closer we get to the off, the more his chances appeal. The 2014 RSA Chase winner missed last season due to a leg injury and whilst his return to action in the Amlin Chase behind Vautour at Ascot was a shocking effort, he proved his wellbeing when taking a Graduation Chase at Newbury just before Christmas when beating Sausalito Sunrise by 15 lengths. The wheels soon fell off however when disappointing in the Betbright Chase behind Smad Place before a below par effort in a Pertemps Qualifier at Chepstow at the end of February.

O'Faolains Boy will appreciate any rain falling in Merseyside.
O’Faolains Boy will appreciate any rain falling in Merseyside.

His Gold Cup effort was a lot better in first time cheekpieces and he looked for a long way as though he would have a say in the finish before fading in the closing stages. As a preparation for this it looks a fair effort and with the rain making the ground softer, his chances improve greatly.

Rating – 8/10

 

 

gilgamboa7) GILGAMBOA    8     11-1     Enda Bolger    Robbie Power

Another that has proven he doesn’t stay 3m yet holds an entry here. Ran respectably in the Ryanair but should have either gone for the Melling Chase or the Topham as he would have had a more realistic winning chance. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

on his own8) ON HIS OWN    12    11-1    Willie Mullins      Mr Patrick Mullins

A grand old veteran whose career high came when second in the 2014 Gold Cup, he has had three attempts over these fences and since his first experience has looked soured by the place. Travelling well in the 2012 National when baulked by a loose horse and falling at Becher’s second time, he returned as a leading principal the following year and had began to struggle when falling at second Valentine’s. His other effort over these fences in the 2013 Becher Chase was a extremely mulish effort as he tailed himself off before plugging on through beaten horses.

The same character has made this appearance on a few occasions this season, including on his banks debut where you couldn’t blame him in fairness and at Leopardstown in the Irish Hennessy when showing wayward tendencies at various points in the contest. Should give Patrick Mullins a fun spin round but he’s a bit long in the tooth and plenty of others preferred.

Rating – 3/10

 

druids9)  THE DRUIDS NEPHEW    9     11-0     Neil Mulholland      Denis O’Regan

Arguably a case of what might have been last year when travelling omniously well before crumpling on landing five from home and giving Aidan Coleman no chance of keeping the partnership intact.

The Druids Nephew should run well despite 9lb higher.
The Druids Nephew should run well despite 9lb higher.

Unlike last season where the Cheltenham Festival seemed to be the main aim with Aintree as a back up due to him being well-in at the weights, the whole season has revolved around a return to Aintree with three runs since the start of the campaign. A pipe opener in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby behind Kilcooley before an interesting effort at Cheltenham when sixth behind Aachen in December.

His warm up came in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster last month when chasing home The Last Samuri in second having shaped well throughout. The son of King’s Theatre is 9lb higher than last year and probably has decent place chances but the main questions, which was a pre-race fear last year, are whether his stamina will hold out and how will he take to the Aintree experience the second time round.

Rating – 8/10

 

triolo10) TRIOLO D’ALENE     9      11-0     Nicky Henderson      Jeremiah McGrath

A former Topham Trophy and Hennessy Gold Cup winner, he missed last year’s renewal due to an injured knee and returned to action this year with a comprehensive display of jumping in a Listed Chase at Kempton when having the measure of Ptit Zig before that rival unseated two out. He consequently disappointing behind Silviniaco Conti on testing ground in the Ascot Chase in February and can ultimately be forgiven the run.

Just like when he contested the race in 2014, similar concerns about his jumping apply. Despite winning the Topham, he made several mistakes on the way round and he cannot get away with those again and also similar worries about his stamina lasting out. This does look another year where trainer Nicky Henderson’s wait for a Grand National year will continue for another twelve months.

Rating – 3/10

 

Rocky Creek Silks11) ROCKY CREEK    10     10-13     Paul Nicholls      Andrew Thornton

Sent off a well backed second favourite last year, he disappointed badly and has showed little remnants of that Racing Plus Chase win at Kempton last season. Looked out of love with the game in the Grand Sefton before a poor effort in the Denman Chase. Should suit Andrew Thornton’s style and jump round safely but he won’t be troubling the leaders.

Rating – 2/10

 

Sir des champs12) SIR DES CHAMPS     10      10-13     Willie Mullins      Nina Carberry

Dual Cheltenham Festival winner who looked a live Gold Cup candidate a couple of years ago when second to Bob’s Worth in the 2013 equivalent. Injury woes prevented him from another crack at the blue riband event and he returned from a long absence to win a farce of a contest at Thurles which proved very little about what form he had retained. We got a clearer indication at Christmas when he disappointed in the Lexus Chase and further more in the Irish Hennessy. This seems a desperate last bite of the cherry and his jumping even at his peak wasn’t the most fluent. Readily opposed, even with top amateur Nina Carberry drafted in to take the ride in place of Ruby Walsh who is out injured with a fractured wrist.

Rating – 3/10

 

holywell13) HOLYWELL    9     10-12     Jonjo O’Neill      Richie McLernon

There’s no doubting Holywell has plenty of talent when on a going day, a fourth in last year’s Gold Cup a testament to that and two Festival successes in two of the toughest handicaps of the season showcases his mettle for the big days when the pressure is on.

Holywell gets on really well with Richie McLernon.
Holywell gets on really well with Richie McLernon.

As has become the norm in Holywell’s season, it had been fairly quiet including a miserable display in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster before another crack at the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he bumped into a better handicapped horse in Un Temps Pour Tout. He still looks fairly treated here on the pick of his form and Aintree could be the type of test that could just bring him alive, similar to his stablemate Don’t Push It who won the race back in 2010. If he takes to this unique test, the son of Gold Well definitely has the class to go very close but that’s the risk you take backing the horse. Any extra rain is a negative to his chances.

Rating – 7/10

 

Shutthefrontdoor14) SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR    9    10-11    Jonjo O’Neill     Barry Geraghty

The 2014 Irish National winner was all the hype twelve months ago when the final ride in the contest for Sir Anthony McCoy the possibility they could win looked more than realistic for three quarters of the race until he weakened after the second last, finishing fifth behind Many Clouds.

Shutthefrontdoor didn't quite see out the distance last year.
Shutthefrontdoor didn’t quite see out the distance last year.

The son of Accordion started his season well with a promising effort when third behind Broxbourne in a Pertemps Qualifier back at Aintree in early November before disappointing in last month’s Greatwood Gold Cup where he never travelled a yard before being pulled up. An abcess on his foot was found as an excuse but it’s not an ideal ailment to have just a month before the big assignment.

Whilst there’s a doubt he didn’t get home last year, the lack of a run since November may have counted against him and at least his supporters have the benefit of connections wanting to give him an outing this season. It would be foolish to ignore him with Jonjo O’Neill’s record in staying handicap chases but others are preferred.

Rating – 7/10

 

soll15)  SOLL    11     10-11    David Pipe     Conor O’Farrell

An excellent servant to connections who won the inaugural Veterans Chase Final at Sandown where he beat Aachen in January. As a result, he runs here off a career high mark but while the son of Presenting has shown a liking for the track, he has had enough attempts in the race to suggest his winning chance has gone. He was officially 9lb well in last year and disputed the lead for most of the final circuit before fading quickly due to a broken blood vessel. Should give a good account for a fair distance before tiring.

Rating – 4/10

 

buywise16) BUYWISE 9 10-10 Evan Williams Paul Moloney

Fortune favours the brave. This is one case however where it won’t. Buywise has a ton of ability and consistently places in big handicap chases. The issues are definitely his jumping, even with the new modification fences, and his way of managing to lose ground midway through a race. His owner Hywel Jones when interviewed at the weights lunch came up with the plan that the son of Tikkanen could go for the holes in the fences on the first circuit which could be a disastrous method of negotating Aintree with 39 other competitors and likely fallers in front of him. Even if he manages to stay upright after making several errors, he needs to prove he can stay the distance which seems doubtful.

 

boston bob17) BOSTON BOB    11    10-10     Willie Mullins      Paul Townend

Has plenty of class on his day including wins at the highest level in the Melling Chase here two years ago and the Punchestown Gold Cup when beating First Lieutenant. On that form and his Bobbyjo Chase success last time at Fairyhouse, he appears well handicapped but he can be inconsistent and has had jumping issues in the past.

Rating – 5/10

 

aachen18) AACHEN    12    10-10    Venetia Williams      Henry Brooke

A horse who has taken his form to another level this season, even allowing for the fact he is in the veteran stage of his career. The son of … was given an enterprising ride at Cheltenham in December when setting a good gallop under Charlie Deutsch and maintaining it to win as he pleased with several of these in behind including The Druids Nephew. He followed up that effort off a career high mark when second to Soll at Sandown before a couple of below par efforts. Needs more than a career best to be taking this but should give connections a decent run for their money.

Rating – 5/10

 

Morning Assembly19)  MORNING ASSEMBLY   9     10-9    Pat Fahy       Davy Russell

One of the more fascinating contenders in this year’s renewal. Third in the 2014 RSA Chase behind O’Faolains Boy and Smad Place, he missed last season due to leg trouble and returned with an excellent comeback when just denied by Bridget’s Pet at Fairyhouse. Another fair effort followed before finishing third in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase behind Un Temp Pour Touts when ridden as seemingly he was going to progress from that effort for this race. The concern would be whether he will stay. Although he has shaped like a real stayer, his finishing effort at Cheltenham does raise some doubts.

Rating – 6/10

 

double ross20) DOUBLE ROSS     10    10-9    Nigel Twiston-Davies      Ryan Hatch

Has problems seeing out 3m in races so why is 4m2f and 74 yards going to suit? Also showed a massive dislike to the course when returning in December behind Benny’s Mist in the Grand Sefton. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

goony21) GOONYELLA    9     10-8      Jim Dreaper       Johnny Burke

It’s a case of third time lucky for Jim Dreaper’s charge having missed the cut for the final two renewals, although he has had two attempts over these fences in the Becher Chase. The first ended with an unseated rider at the first and the second was used as a sighter with his handicap mark high enough thanks to his endless reserves of stamina landing him a Midlands National victory at Uttoxeter and his third in the Scottish National at Ayr.

Goonyella loves testing ground and a real stamina test.
Goonyella loves testing ground and a real stamina test.

His most recent outing came when chasing home Venetian De Mai in the Leinster National over 3m at Naas last month, a run that will have left him spot on for Saturday. His chances increase with the more rain that falls but the slight concern is whether he gets left behind in the early stages due to the likely early gallop.
Rating – 7/10

 

ucello conti22) UCELLO CONTI    8     10-8      Gordon Elliott     Daryl Jacob

Silviniaco Conti’s half brother Ucello who has recieved his fair share of dreadful rides over the course of the season, in particular the Thyestes Chase by everyone’s favourite French jockey Jacques Ricou who took an unorthodox route around the outside where he gave the rail up to nobody. All things considered, it was an excellent run to finish as close as he did back in third behind My Murphy and he also boasts strong handicap form from Christmas when run down by Minella Foru in the Paddy Power Chase. Just like his half-brother, stamina has to be the main concern with the way he weakened in the last furlong at Leopardstown lingering on the mind.

Rating – 4/10

 

Unioniste Silks23) UNIONISTE    8     10-8      Paul Nicholls       Nick Scholfield

Smart grey chaser on his day who is just short of the highest level at his best. Looked an ideal candidate when preparing for this race twelve months ago until falling at the fifth fence. Returned to Aintree in December and although the yard was out of form at the time, it doesn’t explain his poor jumping fully. Has since won the Ivan Straker Memorial over 3m2f at Kelso and ran well enough behind Many Clouds at the same track last month. At the weights in a normal handicap, you would give him a big chance but previous course form tempers enthusiasm.

Rating – 3/10

 

le reve24) LE REVE   8    10-8     Lucy Wadham     Harry Skelton

An admirable and consistent type who has an exceptional record around Sandown including several course wins over an extended three miles and a fine third in last season’s Bet365 Gold Cup behind Just A Par. The main question about the son of Milan is whether he can handle going left handed with all his best form going the other way round. However, his runs at Cheltenham and Doncaster were good enough to suggest Aintree shouldn’t be an issue. Has place claims and won’t mind the ground.

Rating – 7/10

 

gallant oscar25) GALLANT OSCAR    10     10-8     Tony Martin     Mark Walsh

Gallant Oscar has been prepared for one day only and has a real live chance.
Gallant Oscar has been prepared for one day only and has a real live chance.

Threatened to win a big staying prize over fences before finally bagging the Pat Taaffe Handicap Chase at last year’s Punchestown Festival in very taking fashion under Mark Walsh. This season has been aimed around Aintree and he was creeping into the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown on his return over Christmas when unseating Donagh Meyler at the second last. Two quieter efforts have set him up nicely, the first coming in a handicap hurdle at Leopardstown before shaping eyecatchingly in the Leinster National when fifth behind Venetian De Mai. Doesn’t look badly handicapped on the best of his form and may yet improve for the extreme stamina test. One for the shortlist.

Rating – 9/10

 

onenightinvienna26) ONENIGHTINVIENNA    7    10-8     Philip Hobbs    Tom O’Brien

The least experienced member of the field having only ran in four novice chases and runs in the colours of former Grand National winner West Tip.

Having won on chase debut at Exeter where he jumped like an old hand when beating Fletcher’s Flyer before a solid effort when runner up behind RSA Chase winner Blaklion at Cheltenham in December. The son of Oscar followed that effort up with another second at Kempton, this time behind Local Show where the pair served up a treat in the jumping department. His most recent effort came in the Reynoldstown at Ascot where he got too involved in duelling for the lead and, as a result, suffered the consequences by finishing a very tired fifth.

The obvious concern would have to be the lack of experience and he is a definite candidate for future renewals of the race. The last seven year old to win the race was Bogskar back in 1940.

Rating – 7/10

 

the last samuri27)  THE LAST SAMURI (IRE) 8 10-8 Kim Bailey David Bass

Looked a useful novice chaser last season before moving from Donald McCain’s yard to Kim Bailey where the improvement has been quite staggering. A good third behind Wakanda and Virak in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle was a sign of things to come as he won a competitive Kempton handicap over Christmas, his stamina coming into play in the closing stages. He then followed up with an excellent performance in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster at the beginning of March when beating The Druids Nephew by 10 lengths.

The Last Samuri is 12lb well in on official figures.
The Last Samuri is 12lb well in on official figures.

His chance is obvious and of the Rooney horses, he is preferred to Kruzhlinin but he can give his fences plenty of air which could result in him getting behind from an early stage. Apart from that, he holds every chance of becoming his trainer’s second winner in the contest since Mr Frisk back in 1990 who smashed the track record on firm ground.

Rating – 8/10

 

kruzhlinin28) KRUZHLININ     9      10-7     Philip Hobbs     Richard Johnson

The other Paul & Claire Rooney runner who has benefited from a switch in yards; this time to Philip Hobbs. Won on his first start in convincing style at Kempton and was my main long term fancy leading up to Cheltenham where he ran in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase when fifth behind Un Temp Pour Touts which on the face of it looks an ideal National trial. However, his jumping fell to pieces in the last mile of the race and did remarkably well to recover from a shocking mistake at the fourth last which stopped him in his tracks. Although he has jumped round Aintree twice before when ridden to give him experience of the track as an inexperienced horse and looks a thorough stayer, the worry has to be whether his jumping will hold up ridden closer to the pace.

Rating – 7/10

 

rule the world29) RULE THE WORLD    9     10-7     Mouse Morris      David Mullins

Bids to become the first novice to win the race since Lord Gyllene in 1997 and has yet to win a race over the larger obstacles in thirteen attempts. Had shown no indication of staying a trip until finishing in the runner up spot in last year’s Irish National behind Thunder And Roses, a race that hasn’t worked out at all apart from this horse. Was second to the ill-fated No More Heroes over Christmas in the Topaz Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown. The main issue here is stamina, as he looked out on his feet at the end of the Irish National and this is an extra five furlongs. Others make more appeal.

Rating – 5 /10

 

just a par30) JUST A PAR   9    10-6     Paul Nicholls         Sean Bowen

Last year’s Bet365 Gold Cup winner looked an ideal Grand National type as a novice chaser when winning a Grade Two at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting back in 2013, however his only attempt over these fences in the 2014 Becher Chase was a disappointing effort when pulled up after jumping slowly at a couple. Remains inconsistent and wants decent ground ideally but could go well if the race takes his interest.

Rating – 5/10

 

katenko31) KATENKO      10      10-6       Venetia Williams      Will Kennedy

Looked a chaser heading for the top when taking two handicap chases at Sandown and Cheltenham back in 2013 before a serious bout of colic nearly ended his life. Has failed to recapture that form since and seems very fragile these days. One to avoid. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

vicscanvas32) VICS CANVAS    13     10-6     Dermot McLoughlin     Robert Dunne

Normally when looking at entries for a Grand National, 13 year olds tend to be ignored as they usually are past their best in terms of form and ability. This son of Old Vic is a different case however as injury problems curtailed his younger days so he started life in point-to-points aged 8. Since going chasing late in life, he has improved for a stamina test having won the Cork National in 2014 and finishing second in the 2015 Bet365 Gold Cup behind Just A Par.

Vics Canvas isn't your typical 13 year old running in the Grand National.
Vics Canvas isn’t your typical 13 year old running in the Grand National.

This season began with a preparation in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock where he did well to stay with the field before getting outpaced, finishing in mid-division. Connections then came to Aintree for the Becher Chase where the slight concern beforehand was his size for jumping round. However, his jumping was excellent and he shaped with plenty of promise before getting tired on the run-in when finishing sixth behind Highland Lodge.

Two more runs in Ireland will have kept him ticking over nicely and, at the prices, he deserves to be shorter with stamina not looking an issue and him showing a liking for the fences. The last 13 year old to win was Sergeant Murphy back in 1923 but it wouldn’t be a huge shock were Vics Canvas able to return to the winners’ enclosure. One definitely in the shortlist and still available at 66’s.

Rating – 9/10

 

oscar t33) BLACK THUNDER     9     10-6     Paul Nicholls     Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

Possibly the pick of the champion trainer’s quintet as he looks fairly handicapped on the best of his form. A decent novice chaser with form tieing in with Many Clouds when he beat him at Haydock, the son of Malinas has always shaped as though an extreme stamina test will suit. His form this season looks mostly ordinary but he was running well off top weight in a recognised trial at Cheltenham in November when making an awful mistake at the second last, costing him all chance before unseating just after halfway in the Welsh National at Chepstow having just be niggled to stay in touch on atrocious ground. He ran better at Sandown behind Le Reve in early February, and can give his new connections a decent run for their money. Was bought by Robert Waley-Cohen for £90,000 at the Goffs Sale at Aintree for his son Sam to ride which is no negative whatsoever to his chances. Could sneak a place at a big price.

Rating – 7/10

 

Ballycasey34) BALLYCASEY    9     10-6     Willie Mullins     Katie Walsh

Similar to last year, he gets the exact same rating despite showing a liking for the track. A candidate for one of the worst campaigned horses in the past few seasons, the son of Presenting proved yet again in the Thyestes that he wants an intermediate trip and ran well in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Plate over 2m5f at Cheltenham when fifth behind Empire Of Dirt. Would be much better off in the Topham. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

hadrians approach35) HADRIAN’S APPROACH   9    10-6    Nicky Henderson    Nico De Boinville

A former Bet365 Gold Cup winner at Sandown back in 2014, the son of High Chapparal has had niggly issues which kept him from the track most of last season however, he shaped with encouragement on his return in the Racing Plus Chase when sixth behind Theatre Guide. The distance shouldn’t pose any issues but the concerns revolve around his jumping which can be sloppy and the ground as he wants decent good ground to be at his very best.

Rating – 5/10

 

vieux lion rouge36) VIEUX LION ROUGE     7     10-5    David Pipe    James Reveley

A progressive chaser who won a decent handicap at Haydock’s Betfair Chase before falling when in the chasing pack behind Aachen at Cheltenham in December. Ran well enough in the National Hunt Chase but failed to see out the distance. Hard to recommend.

Rating – 3/10

 

wyck37) PENDRA     8     10-5     Charlie Longsdon     Aidan Coleman

Had shaped like a real non stayer over 3m when failing to get up the hill at last year’s Cheltenham Festival behind The Druid’s Nephew but proceeded to dispell those thoughts with an impressive success in the United House Gold Cup back in October at Ascot. However, his finishing effort in the Silver Cup back over the same course and distance just before Christmas was hugely concerning and he doesn’t look an Aintree type. Very difficult to recommend. Next!

Rating – 1/10

 

saint are38) SAINT ARE    10    10-5    Tom George     Paddy Brennan

An excellent old campaigner who benefited hugely for the switch in stables from Tim Vaughan to Tom George last season when returning to form with a bang, culminating with a fine second to Many Clouds in last year’s renewal. He took a while to come to hand earlier in the season when unplaced both at Cheltenham and in the Becher Chase, but a small wind operation and better ground seemed to bring about plenty of improvement when winning a veterans chase at Doncaster after the weights came out.

The son of Network should run his usual honest race but the slight concerns are his jumping as he made several errors on the way round last year and the softer than ideal ground. Has definite place claims.

Rating – 8/10

 

home farm39) HOME FARM    9    10-4    Henry de Bromhead    Andrew Lynch

Looked a promising staying handicap chaser in his younger days when with Arthur Moore but his chase form had tailed off at the back end of last season when pulling up behind Coneygree in the Gold Cup and disappointing behind Menorah at Sandown. The son of Presenting has ran two fair races over hurdles this season but it would take a massive leap of faith to fancy him here.

Rating 2/10

 

the romford pele40) THE ROMFORD PELE    9    10-4    Rebecca Curtis    Trevor Whelan

One of my longer term fancies since his return to action at Cheltenham in November over 3m3f when running on eyecatchingly up the hill behind Sausalito Sunrise before falling behind Aachen on ground that was too testing and at a time when the yard was struggling. He bounced back with a decent effort on Trials Day in the Cleeve Hurdle behind the dominant Thistlecrack before shaping really well over an inadequate trip in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer and fairly treated at the weights.
The Romford Pele looks unexposed as a stayer and fairly treated at the weights.

A former John Smith’s Summer Cup winner at Uttoxeter over 3m2f, he’s unexposed at the distance and has a very good jockey booking in Trevor Whelan who has a remarkable record with trainer Rebecca Curtis. The only slight concern is his jumping which can be haphazard at times, but he should take to these fences and and is well handicapped on his best form.

Rating – 10/10

 

Conclusion

Many Clouds looks a solid favourite in his bid to win back to back Grand Nationals and with a smooth preparation this season, it’s hard to keep him out of the frame as his main market rivals have questions to overcome with The Last Samuri’s jumping technique and Silviniaco Conti’s stamina. Saint Are can give another bold showing while last year’s fifth Shutthefrontdoor still has slight stamina reservations. The Druids Nephew should go well after his unlucky fall last year but any extra rain is a negative.

The idea of the 2016 Crabbies Grand National winner is THE ROMFORD PELE who has had a fair season despite not winning, looks feasibly handicapped on his best form and is unexposed relating to an extreme stamina test which should suit. Gallant Oscar and Vics Canvas are two others that should make the frame, the former given an ideal Aintree preparation and the latter unique in the sense that he doesn’t tick the majority of the trends but he is more than capable of ruffling a few feathers. Outside the main four, others that could go well include O’Faolains Boy and Black Thunder with Sam Waley-Cohen now riding.

1st – The Romford Pele

2nd – Many Clouds

3rd – Vics Canvas

4th – Gallant Oscar

Good luck with your bets!

2015 Betfair Hurdle Weekend Review

What a three days of racing. The type of weekend where once you’ve gone through it all you need a good lie down. Both sides of the Irish Sea held some top quality action with Super Saturday at Newbury and Leopardstown’s Irish Hennessy card being the main attractions, upheld by some solid meetings elsewhere.

It’s rare that a Friday afternoon would get such a mention but with the quality of racing on show at both Kempton and Bangor, I felt it was worth covering those cards as well as there were notable horses at both venues.

Minella Rocco looks a very smart prospect for JP McManus.
Minella Rocco looks a very smart prospect for JP McManus.

Kempton’s card attracted some fascinating contenders for its two mile and five furlong novice hurdle, none more so than West Wizard who has been beaten twice in the same novice hurdle at the track two years running. On this occasion he was running over further but the odds on favourite again found one too good for him in Minella Rocco, an expensive purchase for JP McManus who looked to win with a fair amount in hand for Tony McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill.

Both horses travelled by far the best throughout the contest but when it mattered most, Minella Rocco had too much class for West Wizard who didn’t find again like has promised to do before. The winner doesn’t hold any fancy entries indicating that he is very much a long term prospect; one for chasing next season. It’s hard to suggest a target for West Wizard as he clearly hasn’t lived up to the hype of what his stable have expected of him. He does have a handicap mark of 136 so connections may consider going down that route with him but he isn’t one to trust.

Scorpiancer has ran respectably back in third and could be one to benefit from a wind operation as he didn’t look to see out the race. Flying Bandit will be interesting once he goes back into handicap company having shown enough here to suggest he can win one. Pyrshan was runner up to a Graded winner in Ordo Ab Chao on hurdling debut and will definitely make his mark in handicaps. Two that caught the eye further back were Rock On Oscar and The Last Euro. The former pulled away his chance and looked a horse that will need a fair bit of time to mature whilst the latter shaped with promise and is another long term project.

Third Intention was far slicker in his jumping than Josses Hill.
Third Intention was far slicker in his jumping than Josses Hill.

The Graduation Chase looked a good opportunity for Josses Hill to gain more experience of chasing after looking sketchy on his first two attempts at Ascot and Doncaster but yet again, his jumping left an awful lot to be desired and had to settle for second behind Third Intention who made most of the running for man of the moment Daryl Jacob.

On his third start over fences, Josses Hill was still guessy at a couple, including the ditch going away from the stands where he gave his supporters heart failure by standing off too far. His technique hasn’t improved much either with him lingering in the air which currently holds him back from being a top chaser. The Arkle was confirmed as the plan post-race but he hasn’t had an appropriate test. The Kingmaker would potentially have been an ideal place to go with the five fences down the back straight providing a true test for a novice. He is one to avoid at the Festival; even for each way purposes.

Take nothing away from Third Intention though who was giving the runner up eleven pounds and bounced back from a fall last time at Haydock. He did something that hasn’t been known of him completely in the past and battled all the way to the line. His slick jumping was his main asset and with his main competitor losing ground in the air, he was gaining, in particular at the final fence. The Topham was nominated as a target by Joe Tizzard, son of trainer Colin and he would be an exciting ride over those fences.

Caesar Milan wasn’t given the best of rides by Sam Twiston-Davies as he decided to kick for home too early although it did look a race winning move for the early part of the home straight. He has clearly turned a corner in cheekpieces and is definitely worth a chance depending on where he turns up next whilst Thomas Crapper had a good blow out with the novice handicap chase at the Festival firmly in mind for him.

The first division of the bumper provided some compensation for Nicky Henderson when Newsworthy made a winning debut for owners Michael Buckley and Rich Ricci. At one stage up the straight, it looked as though Midnight Cowboy would get the upper hand with the winner showing signs of greenness but he eventually put the race to bed. Of the front pair, the runner up looked a more long term prospect whilst the third horse Bilzic did too much in the middle part of the race and was a sitting duck for the minor honours close home.

The second division looked to have more substance in the entries but again, it went to Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty with Ok Corral who fought off the favourite High Bridge despite being slightly green in the closing stages. The winner looked to have more to give compared to the runner up and may have handled the softer ground better. Both Henderson bumper winners weren’t mentioned post-race for the Champion Bumper which seems fair, as both would be too inexperienced. High Bridge should be better on a more sounder surface being out of a 1,000 Guineas winner but he isn’t one to get excited about.

The Unit travelled well but went round the inside where the ground wasn’t as nice compared to going out wide whilst Antartica De Thaix was keen early on but travelled nicely before lacking a turn of foot. Both him and Baraza, a full brother to Nacarat, both look stayers and should be kept on side.

Great Try got off the mark at the third attempt over hurdles at Bangor, doing so in a professional manner under Nick Scholfield in what looks a fair enough race. With this being an EBF novice hurdle, this qualifies him for the Final at Sandown over two and a half miles which should suit him well. The runner up Hedley Lamarr ran a race full of promise on his debut in the familar colours of the Hitchens, famous for horses like Toby Tobias and Golden Freeze. If allowed to, he will certainly make his mark somewhere later in the season. L’Aigle Royal would probably appreciate going back up in trip after being put in his place here by the front two whilst Bringithomeminty was a disappointment, his jumping lacking fluency.

Beast Of Burden won this with plenty in hand and is worth his place at the Festival.
Beast Of Burden won this with plenty in hand and is worth his place at the Festival.

The three mile novice hurdle looked a match between Mendip Express and Beast Of Burden which went the way of the latter who won easily under Paul Townend. He made the majority of the running and relished the step up in distance, even with a slight error at the last. He is certainly worth a place at the Cheltenham Festival but I would be inclined to see him in the Neptune at this stage of his career rather than the Albert Bartlett as three miles on a more galloping track may just find him out at this stage of his career.

Mendip Express certainly wasn’t disgraced back in second, especially with his slickness over hurdles and was able to keep up with the winner for a fair way. He wasn’t beaten that far in the end and that should have put him spot on for the Festival Handicap Chase on the first day where he would have a big chance.

The Hunter Chase that ended the card wouldn’t have looked out of place at any of the major spring meetings and even though eight were pulled out due to various reasons, it still looked a strong contest for the sphere. As readers from last year may remember, Teaforthree was a horse that I had convinced myself that defeat was out of the question in the Grand National so you can imagine my shock when he unseated Nick Scholfield right under my nose at the Chair. Having watched the race back on numerous occasions, he wasn’t travelling with his usual enthusiasm and excuses emerged with an injury suffered during the race.

Teaforthree needs to win or finish second in another hunter chase to qualify for Cheltenham.
Teaforthree needs to win or finish second in another hunter chase to qualify for Cheltenham.

For today’s run, there was enough evidence to oppose him with. He usually needs a couple of runs before he reaches his peak and the drop back in distance looked to be an inconvenience. However, class prevailed with him travelling and jumping in the manner in which we have become accustomed to over the last few seasons, gaining his first win since his National Hunt Chase win at Cheltenham in 2012. The plan is to go to Cheltenham for the Foxhunters but he needs another win to qualify for the race. The Walrus Hunter Chase at Haydock could be a target; especially with the £10k bonus if you win that and the Cheltenham Foxhunters before a third crack at the Grand National.

Pacha Du Polder chased the winner throughout and whilst he was a useful performer at his best, giving eight pounds to Teaforthree proved too much. He only needs a win or another second to qualify for Cheltenham or Aintree with the latter looking a more preferable option over a trip that would suit him more. The other class horse Calgary Bay travelled up omniously going to three out before getting very tired. The market beforehand suggested he may need this outing and that was proven. He will no doubt be competitive in hunter chases over the coming months.

The main UK action of the weekend came in the form of Super Saturday with Newbury firmly in the limelight with a high quality card with some taking performances and some shocks along the way from both equines and human.

Qewy was impressive enough to get a 16/1 quote for the Supreme.
Qewy was impressive enough to get a 16/1 quote for the Supreme.

The opening race on the card was the two mile novice hurdle in which Qewy built upon his hurdles debut in Graded company behind Aso at Haydock when winning for John Ferguson and Tony McCoy, the first of two winner for him on the card. He jumped slickly throughout and used his tactical speed from the flat decisively against some fair opposition. He would need to improve again if he were to feature in the Supreme but with the improvement he has showed here, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if he did.

Doncaster winner Cardinal Walter loomed up dangerously having travelled strongly but was firmly put in his place by Qewy and made to look one paced; he will no doubt find a decent handicap hurdle in the spring. Royal Vacation has ran well on his hurdles debut and has performed to a fair level, suggesting that he will win a couple of novice hurdles before embarking on his chasing career.

Bouveril didn’t particularly look the strongest of finishers and could just need a summer at grass to grow up mentally and physically. Cloonacool could be used as the marker for the race, having beaten the Betfair Hurdle winner Violet Dancer on his last start at Kempton which gives this race a solid look whilst Risk A Fine was far too free for his own good and faded away tamely.

The Denman Chase looked an ideal opportunity for one of the top staying novice chasers Coneygree to cement his Cheltenham Festival position against seasoned chasers and he put in a performance similar to the Feltham where he put his rivals to the sword and one by one, they fell by the wayside, albeit this time down to jumping errors as opposed to falling.

Coneygree jumped and galloped his rivals into submission.
Coneygree jumped and galloped his rivals into submission.

A seven length success over Hennessy runner up Houblon Des Obeaux who looks to have ran to his mark suggests he isn’t far off Gold Cup class this season and his style of racing is just an absolute joy to watch with fast accurate jumping and the ability to get his rivals into trouble, something very few horses possess.

The performance was similar to Gloria Victis, like Coneygree, a novice who had both the RSA and the Gold Cup as potential targets after routing a field in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton. He was also ridden by Richard Johnson who deserves plenty of credit for the ride he gave Coneygree as he allowed the horse to do what he pleased but when asked up the home straight, he responded superbly.

The million dollar question – Do connections opt for the RSA or the Gold Cup? I’m now convinced that if he goes down the novice route then he will be extremely hard to beat, even with his running style and if they decide to go for the blue riband, he would certainly have a strong chance of winning. Whilst a lack of experience would be the concern, his jumping has been faultless so far and his relentless galloping have made him so endearing to the public.

Houblon Des Obeaux has been a model of consistency this season and deserves a big race win with this being his third second place finish this campaign. This was his Gold Cup and he was comprehensively put in his place by Coneygree which underlines how much talent the winner has. He may go to Cheltenham but his record isn’t the best. He could go to Sandown for the Bet365 Gold Cup again where hopefully he’d get further than the first fence unlike last year. Unioniste was outpaced here before staying on stoutly up the home straight, showcasing his attributes for the Grand National. Paul Nicholls did also mention the Grand Steeple Chase de Paris which is another race that could suit him very well.

Both Taquin Du Seuil and Harry Topper’s jumping were exposed by Coneygree. The former did look a danger going to three out before fading away, suggesting that the distance stretched him. He would probably head towards the Ryanair now with him showing more positive signs compared to Haydock whilst the latter wants softer ground and a similar galloping track. Double Ross showed more here than at both Haydock and Kempton but wants to go back in trip.

Mr Mole is a reformed character this season and the Champion Chase looks realistic.
Mr Mole is a reformed character this season and the Champion Chase looks realistic.

The Game Spirit Chase marked the return of last season’s Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy but the centre of attention shifted elsewhere as soon as the race finished with the shock announcement from nineteen times champion jockey Tony McCoy of his retirement at the end of this National Hunt season after gaining his 200th winner of the season on Mr Mole. McCoy’s retirement will get talked about more in due course on the videos and in written form closer to the end of the season.

To the race itself, the performance from Mr Mole was staggering. He gave about fifteen lengths away at the start when whipping round and almost looking reluctant to race. He got himself back into it early with the lack of a true gallop from Uxizandre but to make up that ground early on and to win in that manner was pretty impressive. A notoriously difficult horse in the past, this is yet another complete turnaround from Paul Nicholls who yet again has revelled in the challenge of making the horse a complete package. The Champion Chase now looks a realistic target and this is the exact same route Nicholls plotted out with a certain Master Minded in the 2007/08 season. With most of his main rivals having question marks hanging above them, the case is looking fairly strong for him and he could provide Tony McCoy a farewell present; a Champion Chase victory.

Both Upsilon Bleu and Karinga Dancer were here for prize money and have been rewarded but they were both outclassed. Uxizandre went out to make the running but was left behind quite easily by Mr Mole before his spectacular unseat at the final fence. It’s hard to know where to go next as he didn’t do anything here to enhance his Festival credentials.

This wasn't a satisfactory return by Sire De Grugy. Can he retain his crown next month?
This wasn’t a satisfactory return by Sire De Grugy. Can he retain his crown next month?

Strangely, that’s my way of thinking with Sire De Grugy as well. His fencing was far from fluent and he had threatened to get rid of Jamie Moore on more than one occasion before the final open ditch. With the ease Mr Mole won, I doubt he would have beaten him and whilst he’s entitled to come on plenty for the outing, this performance raises yet more questions about the Champion Chase rather than answer those before this contest.

As usual, the Betfair Hurdle was hugely competitive affair but it gave trainer Gary Moore a welcome tonic after the reversal of Sire De Grugy when he took the race for the third time with Violet Dancer who joined Heathcote and Wingman on the roll of honour for the Moore stable.

He was given a fantastic ride from the front by Gary’s son Josh who used the horse perfectly in first time cheekpieces and was never out of the first two. Left in the lead when Chieftain’s Choice fell at the last flight in the back straight, he built up an advantage that just wasn’t pegged back by the chasing pack. His jumping was much sharper than it has been in the past and these tactics looked to suit him well and he will no doubtedly head to the Festival for either the Coral Cup or the County Hurdle but unlike here, it will be harder to make most of the running and have something in reserve.

Cheltenian improved on his effort in this race a year ago when he was fourth by going two places better. He was another to be ridden handy and would have benefitted from that. It will be interesting to see where he goes next as he has plenty of options including going back chasing as he did jump well on chase debut behind the ponderous Josses Hill at Doncaster. Activial has ran another strong race after getting outpaced on the turn for home. He will be suited by going up in distance but the Coral Cup on normal Festival ground may prove too much for him as he did disappoint at Aintree on good ground.

Calipto was patiently ridden and travelled strongly throughout the race but once off the bridle, he looked fairly one paced. The suspicion is that he isn’t as well handicapped over hurdles as thought by connections and he will probably step up in trip before the season is out. Jolly’s Cracked It looked to be thrown in at the deep end and was given a perfect confidence boosting ride in rear by Nick Scholfield. This looks the race that may make a man of him and whilst a Festival novice hurdle is probably out the question, he will almost certainly win another race or two before the season finishes.

Arzal caught the eye massively and needs to be kept on side.
Arzal caught the eye massively and needs to be kept on side.

The eyecatcher of the whole race was Arzal as plenty went wrong throughout the race. Normally a front runner, he was inconvienienced by the standing start and was further back than ideal. He then was caught on heels passing the winning post with a circuit to go before getting badly impeded by the fall of Chieftain’s Choice which knocked him back to last place. For a couple of strides, it looked as though he wasn’t travelling at all well but he then picked up the bridle again and was allowed some time to recover. He was nursed onto the back of the main group before somehow finishing sixth. Without those problems endured in running, he would definitely have been in the frame and he has done incredibly well to be only beaten fifteen lengths.

Forced Family Fun would have finished closer having not made a blunder at the second last whilst On Tour was given a strange ride by Paul Moloney. On a horse that gets further than the minimum two miles, instead of sitting more handy, they held him up. Once he realised he was too far back, he made a mid-race move that used up too much energy and left him vulnerable after the last flight. Balgarry just wasn’t good enough on the day and may benefit with a confidence booster in a smaller contest whilst Wicklow Brave was a huge disappointment considering the amount of money that came for him. Ballybolley was beaten at the time when hampered two out but keep an eye on him if he goes to Aintree as the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle would suit him really well.

Of the non-finishers, Fascino Rustico had travelled kindly for Harry Skelton and hadn’t gone for his full effort when making a mistake and falling at the second last, bringing down Ebony Express and hampering Vasco Du Ronceray who was well beaten at the time. Fascino Rustico may well have placed and may well be a type for something like the Swinton at Haydock. It was a relief to see Ebony Express get up ok after a horrific looking tumble but he didn’t look to be going anywhere at the time. Chieftain’s Choice had jumped well up until departing whilst Goodwood Mirage barely took off at the first and gave Tony McCoy a pretty nasty fall. He then galloped off and decided to take on the open ditch in the back straight and from that evidence, I doubt he’ll ever make a natural chaser!

Kings Palace running style will leave him vulnerable in the RSA.
Kings Palace running style will leave him vulnerable in the RSA.

The three mile novice chase was a match between long odds on favourite Kings Palace and Vivaldi Collonges with David Pipe’s charge looking to regain his position at the top of the RSA Chase market after Coneygree’s sucess earlier on the card. Whilst he maintained his unbeaten record, he did give his backers a scare or two on the way round, esepecially at the three open ditches jumped. With showing that accuracy we have become used to, we did see his first real error at the third last when standing off too far and almost landing on top of the fence, doing extremely well to stay on his feet. Although he won a shade cosily, it did give Vivaldi Collonges a chance at victory as he did look vulnerable for a couple of strides.

Bookmakers were unimpressed and he actually drifted with a couple of firms. Even then, he doesn’t tempt me for the Festival at all. If Coneygree turns up in the RSA then he has competition for the lead and he would be vulnerable not just to that rival but to the whole field behind him that would stalk and pounce. Even without Coneygree, I would hold the same concerns that just like in the Albert Bartlett, he would set the race up for a stronger stayer. Vivaldi Collonges jumped better than he did on debut behind Kings Palace but it could be worth keeping his novice status for next season where he could gain plenty more experience.

The Listed Bumper that ended the card looked strong on paper and again went to an all the way winner in Barters Hill who remains unbeaten after three starts for Ben Pauling and defied all comers in tenacious style. There was a moment of concern passing the stands where his mind wandered towards the paddock exit and up the straight when taken on first by Final Nudge and secondly by the four year old Buveur D’air but he wasn’t for passing. The Champion Bumper could easily be tempting for connections and he could fare well there but would need to make the race a true stamina test from the front.

Others to note from the race for the future include Final Nudge who shaped well for a long way, Duke Des Champs who probably needed the run and Present Man who disappointed although he wouldn’t be the first horse to disappoint in this race and bounce back; Thomas Brown being a prime example twelve months ago.

Vibrato Valtat looks England's number one contender for the Arkle.
Vibrato Valtat looks England’s number one contender for the Arkle.

Warwick’s feature contest was the Kingmaker Novice Chase, which looked a match on paper between Vibrato Valtat and Top Gamble but it was turned into a procession with Paul Nicholls’ grey showing his class to dispose of an unbeaten novice whose jumping has impressed many. He was ridden with a huge amount of confidence by Sam Twiston-Davies but his jumping wasn’t as good as it has been in the past. He took a liberty at a couple along the side of the course but brushed those fiddly errors aside to beat Top Gamble comfortably giving him three pounds. He is now as short as 6/1 for the Arkle and whilst he looks Britain’s best chance of an Arkle winner, he comes up against a potential superstar in Un De Sceaux and I would expect him to be fighting out second with Clarcam, although he would need to iron out the errors made here.

Top Gamble jumped beautifully up until four out where he misjudged his takeoff and landed in a bit of a heap. He also made a slight error at the third last but was quickly back on the bridle however he was brushed aside by a smart novice. Although he has lost his unbeaten record over fences, he still emerges with plenty of credit but could be difficult to place.Turn Over Sivola has ran respectably back in third and will probably be one for the Red Rum at Aintree where he ran well last year behind Parsnip Pete whilst Kings Lad probably found the pace too hot down the side of the course. A step back up in distance would help his cause.

Petite Parisienne and Kalkir battle it out over the last.
Petite Parisienne and Kalkir battle it out over the last.

Leopardstown’s final main meeting before Cheltenham always throws up various clues and today was no exception. The Spring Juvenile Hurdle has thrown up the last two winners of the Triumph Hurdle and threw up a potential contender in Petite Parisienne who was impressive enough for her second hurdles start beating her stablemate Kalkir. She was in receipt of six pounds from the whole field (Bryan Cooper putting one overweight) and showed plenty of guts to battle all the way up the straight. Whilst her jumping was novicey in parts, she will surely improve for even better ground but she will need to considering the British juveniles.

Kalkir looked much happier than he did at Christmas on desperate ground but was beaten fair and square here. It’s hard seeing him reverse positions with the winner in the Triumph. Prussian Eagle appears to have shown improvement for slightly better ground after chasing home Fiscal Focus over Christmas and another Mullins juvenile hurdler in Dicosimo at Gowran. These three put twenty lengths between themselves and the fourth but it doesn’t look likely we saw the Triumph winner here. Vercingetorix made a bad mistake at the first and was a major disappointment, the first considerable one for owners Simon Munir & Issac Souede. That didn’t look his true running but that may sway the decision to keep him at home.

Nichols Canyon used his potent turn of foot from his flat days to full effect.
Nichols Canyon used his potent turn of foot from his flat days to full effect.

The Deloitte Novice Hurdle had yet another from the Willie Mullins stable sent off a short price favourite in the enormous grey Alvisio Ville who had attracted significant support not just for this race but for the Neptune at the Festival. But the bubble surrounding him burst when he was beaten into third by yet again, another Mullins stablemate in Nichols Canyon who shrugged off his unseat at Christmas in taking fashion, using the exact same tactics used to full effect on Vautour and Champagne Fever.

He was able from the home turn to use his flat speed to full effect and win by a comfortable three and a half lengths. Whilst the form of his Royal Bond win looked questionable, he was a class above them and the same comments apply for this performance here with much stronger opposition. With that potent flat speed, it may suit best going down the Supreme route and using the same tactics like the previous two winners listed above. Windsor Park improved on his effort two weeks ago when not given the best of rides. He was always going to come off second best to the winner and shaped like the Neptune would suit him but his jumping again would need to improve.

Alvisio Ville may benefit from staying at home this season.
Alvisio Ville may benefit from staying at home this season.

The hype surrounding Alvisio Ville has been pretty scary and he was well backed considering he had only won a maiden hurdle on Boxing Day. He jumped a lot better than on debut but was keen enough early on. That and the lack of experience probably told in the closing stages but he was beaten by a better horse on the day. With plenty of time on his side, he doesn’t need to go to the Festival this year when he has been brought for the purpose of going chasing. Silver Concorde shaped with more promise than on hurdling debut but the enthusiasm on my Supreme antepost bet has dwindled whilst Sempre Medici remains interesting if given a feasible handicap mark.

The Flogas Novice Chase looked an ideal target for Valseur Lido to remain unbeaten and book his ticket to the Festival in either the JLT or the RSA but the form of his Drinmore win was reversed by Apache Stronghold who was given an incredible ride by Paul Carberry considering he didn’t jump as well as he has done in the past. He paid a huge compliment to Don Poli who beat him over Christmas in the Topaz and was certainly suited by this intermediate trip under a patient ride. Trainer Noel Meade confirmed the JLT was his Festival target and he goes there with a definite chance as the end to end gallop should really play to his strengths.

Apache Stronghold reverses the Drinmore form with Valseur Lido. Both would have claims in the JLT.
Apache Stronghold reverses the Drinmore form with Valseur Lido. Both would have claims in the JLT.

Valseur Lido lost nothing in defeat but was just beaten by a slightly better horse on the day. He jumped and travelled like he did in the Drinmore and handled going the other way round. If he goes over to the Festival, you’d hope he would turn up in the JLT as he doesn’t shape yet like three miles would be right up his street. If he didn’t go, the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse could potentially be easy pickings. Adriana Des Mottes showed no ill-effects of her bad mistake at Limerick and has ran to a similar form level shown on that occasion as she would have finished a clear second behind Gilgamboa. She could easily drop back into her own company and win some decent prizes.

The Tullow Tank put in a much better effort than of recent times having travelled omniously well before getting outpaced after the second last. He is worth another go over three miles and this effort may have convinced his connections to ponder going to the Festival for the RSA. Jarry D’Honneur’s jumping was sketchy out in front and he unseated of his own accord at the last. A confidence booster in a lower grade will help.

RIP Le Vent D'Antan.
RIP Le Vent D’Antan.

The sad part of the race was the demise of Le Vent D’Antan who had jumped beautifully before overjumping at the last and injuring a shoulder. It’s a part of the sport no one wants to happen but for a small stable like Liz Doyle to lose their stable star, it’s heartbreaking. A one time favourite for the Champion Bumper in 2013, he had shown plenty of promise so far over fences to suggest he was above average. RIP.

Carlingford Lough and Tony McCoy in the winners enclosure after a famous win.
Carlingford Lough and Tony McCoy in the winners enclosure after a famous win.

The Irish Hennessy provided the fairytale with Tony McCoy, fresh from announcing his retirement at Newbury, gaining his first (and only) success in the race under a never say die effort on Carlingford Lough to repel the improver in the pack Foxrock with last season’s Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere running an eyecatching race back in third. The scenes that greeted the winner post-race were reminiscent of what Hurricane Fly received last month when winning his fifth Irish Champion Hurdle.

Carlingford Lough built upon his effort in the Lexus Chase where he travelled well before looking in need of the run. He did well here to recover from a mistake at the second last to run down Foxrock after the last to win going away. After this performance, he merits consideration for the Gold Cup but the concerns are based on the way he jumped around Cheltenham in last season’s RSA. It will be interesting to see whether McCoy chooses him or Shutthefrontdoor.

Foxrock continues to prove me wrong and this was by far a career best effort. He came off the bridle after the third last and found plenty for pressure, leading over the last fence before being caught on the run in by the winner. Connections may be tempted to supplement him for the Gold Cup but it could just pay to wait for the Punchestown Gold Cup this season with him.

Lord Windermere goes back to defend his Gold Cup crown with every chance.
Lord Windermere goes back to defend his Gold Cup crown with every chance.

Lord Windermere ran a much better race than he did in the Lexus. He was ridden more forward and unusually for him, he was probably in front plenty soon enough which has never been the case before. Considering he was only beaten eight and three quarter lengths, compared to last year when he was beaten twenty six lengths by Last Instalment, this was a Gold Cup preparation to be pleased with. Better ground here was a big positive compared to the testing ground he encountered over Christmas and he will now tick over until going back to defend his crown with as good a chance as any.

Boston Bob was never put in the race whatsoever having just hacked around at the back of the field. Bookmakers pushed his price out after this effort and whilst I wouldn’t be a backer of the horse, it seemed an unwise decision to let him drift. The concern for the Gold Cup would be if he gets himself out of position, whether that be by design or him getting outpaced. The other way to potentially look at this effort is that connections may have half an eye on the Grand National with the weights due to be published a week tomorrow.

Talking of Aintree, Home Farm ran a fair trial towards Aintree and would definitely be competitive there off a workable mark whilst First Lieutenant didn’t show very much for his National ambitions. Texas Jack put up a more competitive effort compared to recently but has never looked a true three miler. If kept in similar form, the Melling Chase could be his type of race having disappointed previously at the Festival whilst On His Own kept jumping out to his right and showed his inconsistency.

Prince De Beauchene isn't eligble this season for Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters.
Prince De Beauchene isn’t eligble this season for Cheltenham/Aintree Foxhunters.

The Raymond Smith Memorial Hunter Chase featured some old faces including 2012 and 2013 Cheltenham Foxhunters winner Salsify making his return to action and Mossey Joe but it was left to Willie Mullins and son Patrick with one time Grand National favourite Prince De Beauchene who didn’t jump as well as he did at Thurles but battled thoroughly to deny On The Fringe who was given a very patient ride by Nina Carberry.

The review of Prince De Beauchene could be described as pointless due to the fact he won’t be eligible for either the Cheltenham or Aintree Foxhunters, although he may return for the Grand National where he would give Patrick a thrill of a lifetime before failing to see out the trip. On The Fringe would be interesting in the Aintree Foxhunters as he has failed to get up the hill twice at Cheltenham although his main aim is likely to be Punchestown. Salsify was far too fresh on his return but showed that he was still in good enough form to suggest a return to Cheltenham is possible.

Emerging Talent should be a different horse after his summer holiday.
Emerging Talent should be a different horse after his summer holiday.

Exeter staged a good quality card on Sunday and three races are worth a mention. It was great to see Native River back in the winners enclosure after his fall on Festival Trials Day when taking the Listed novice hurdle and taking a notable scalp in Emerging Talent who still frustrates his backers as he travels so strongly through his races before finding little for pressure.

Both the front two will have smart careers when they tackle fences in the future, especially the runner up who just needs to grow up physically and mentally. He is with the perfect trainer in Paul Nicholls who will bring the horse along steadily to peak at the right time. He will no doubt leave his hurdles form behind once he goes jumping fences in the autumn.

For a moment on Trials Day, it looked bad for Native River so to see him taking this prize was pleasing. That gives the impression he would have gone quite close on that occasion and this is a nice boost to the Challow Hurdle form. He is more than worth his place at the Festival but sadly only has the Albert Bartlett entry. He would be more than worth his place in a Neptune but unlike the big Grade Ones, I’m unsure whether you can supplement for novice events.

Kalane was firmly put in his place by two smart horses but there’s no reason to believe he isn’t fairly useful himself and should make a good chaser in the autumn. The disappointment of the contest was War Sound who pulled far too hard for his own good and was comprehensively beaten. He is far better than what he showed yet but he has plenty of learning to do.

The Pertemps Qualifier looked one of the strongest so far and finally Regal Encore put it all together over hurdles with a comfortable success. The step up in distance looked to suit him really well and if progressing from this, he would almost certainly be able to make his mark in a Festival handicap but he is still one I wouldn’t completely trust. Alavian made it a JP McManus one-two and he was another to benefit from going up in distance although he was looked after significantly in the closing stages. If he is to make the Pertemps cut, he needs his mark to go up several pounds and it will likely be touch and go whether he scrapes in. Similar comments apply to the The Tourard Man who is currently in the form of his life and is worth his go in the Final.

Big Easy deserves to win a big handicap hurdle and whilst he would run his usual honest race, I don’t think he would have more improvement in him to win a Pertemps however the next home Knight Of Noir could potentially have more to come and is on my shortlist of three I have currently for the race. The other two being Brother Brian who chased home Rock On Ruby back in December and Edeymi who caught everyone’s attention last week at Musselburgh behind Dawalan.

Morito Du Berlais wouldn’t get in the Final based on this effort but hasn’t finishing winning over hurdles this season. He should win a decent handicap on good ground before the season is out. Unowhatimeanharry ran respectably from out of the handicap and has definitely shown enough to suggest he can bang a staying handicap hurdle. Pineau De Re shaped with plenty more promise compared to his previous effort at Carlisle and just managed to qualify. With improvement likely, he will run well at the Festival before attempting to regain his Grand National crown back where he should give another good account of himself.

Aubusson just failed to qualify but that could be a blessing in disguise as he could now be put away for the remainder of this season and be brought back for a chasing campaign in the autumn. Southfield Royale didn’t show his true running at all and can be forgiven whilst Ambion Wood likely needed this outing after a fair amount of time off the track.

Southfield Theatre would be more interesting at Aintree with the pace he showed.
Southfield Theatre would be more interesting at Aintree with the pace he showed.

Southfield Theatre got back to winning ways in the novice chase under replacement jockey Noel Fehily after chasing Carraig Mor home at Newbury on unfavoured soft ground. Back on better ground and allowed to make his own running, it was the best he has jumped over fences so far but it would have been touch and go had chasing debutant Val De Law stood up at the final fence as he was mounting a serious challenge. He looks a smart recruit for Jamie Snowden and was outrunning his odds when taking a heavy tumble. Happily, he got to his feet and galloped away unharmed. Whilst he holds no obvious entries, a race that could suit him towards the end of the season is the Future Champions Novices Chase at Ayr over two and a half miles.

The pace throughout was a stop start affair and they have sprinted up the straight and for a horse who has got form over further in Southfield Theatre, this shows he has tactical pace as well. Although it was the best he has jumped over fences, at this stage in his career, missing Cheltenham wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world as the RSA can be a particularly brutal test for a horse. With the pace he showed here, the three mile Grade One at Aintree could suit him really well under a bold front running ride, as he could potentially get his opposition into trouble down the back straight.

Melodic Rendezvous was sticky at a couple of fences but this was a much better effort than on his chasing debut at Bangor when scraping home against Boondooma. He did look the likely winner until a mistake three out put him on the back foot. Considering the ground was probably as lively as he would have wanted it, this was a good effort and there is no doubt he will bag a few novice chases with more cut in the ground. The Pendil at Kempton has been mentioned as a target but he will bump into England’s leading JLT hope Ptit Zig.

Thank you for reading this bumper edition which I hope makes up for not doing a blog last week. Next week features the Ascot Chase and the Grand National Trial at Haydock which will be an attritional test and I’m sure the Cheltenham video previews will begin soon.

Eyecatchers

Caesar Milan – Was better than the result suggested.

Great Try/Hedley Lamaar – The winner has the capability to go well in the EBF Final whilst the runner up is worth keeping an eye on.

Arzal – No luck at all in running and should be backed next time out.

Lord Windermere/Boston Bob – That will have put the former spot on to defend his Gold Cup crown whilst the latter wasn’t given a chance to show anything.

Knight Of Noir – Looks interesting for the Pertemps Final.

Val De Law – Looks a smart horse for Jamie Snowden and if his confidence isn’t affected, he should win novice chases.

2015 Betfair Hurdle Weekend Preview

With a cracking weekend of racing upon us, here is our preview which focuses on the Channel Four action from Newbury and Warwick with the feature event being the Betfair Hurdle, formerly known as the Schweppes/Tote Gold Trophy which has thrown up Champion Hurdle winners Persian War and Make A Stand and various top class performers including more recently, Zarkandar and My Tent Or Yours. We also look at the Grade One action from Leopardstown on Sunday where Willie Mullins looks to have a strangehold on all the Grade Ones on the card.

On the video tonight we have @Lukeelder13 and @AdamWebb121 plus a guest appearance from @calummadell as he was doing work for Timeform. Our Cheltenham Festival previews will begin either next week or the week after and if you have any suggestions for potential realistic guests then please send them in.

NAPs

Adam – Barters Hill – 4:40 Newbury

Luke – Jolly’s Cracked It – 3:35 Newbury

Calum – Calipto – 3:35 Newbury