Monthly Archives: November 2014

2014 Hennessy Gold Cup Preview

One of the highlights of the National Hunt season takes place on Saturday with the 58th running of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. The race has one of the richest reputations within the sport, horses such as Mandarin, Mill House, Arkle, Burrough Hill Lad, One Man, Suny Bay and Denman all have their name on the winners’ trophy.

Before the analysis, we did our usual video preview in which we covered the Hennessy Gold Cup in depth.

The main talking point surrounding this year’s renewal is the Willie Mullins trained Djakadam and his price which is currently as short as 4/1 is far too short. Whilst I like the horse, throwing a five year old straight into one of the most competitive handicap chases in the sport could potentially ruin him.

Djakadam's price is plenty short enough for a horse with his inexperience.
Djakadam’s price is plenty short enough for a horse with his inexperience.

His chase debut at Leopardstown had some scrappy jumping but his ability saw him home. He returned in January in a Grade Two where he jumped much better when beating Bright New Dawn before being thrown in at the deep end in the JLT at the Festival, where he was travelling well when landing too steeply and unseating Paul Townend at the fourth last. If he is a Gold Cup horse then he should be winning this and whilst it’s understandable why connections have targeted the race, as the likelihood is he will never run off his mark of 142 again, his inexperience is a huge worry. The other big worries, although he has shaped like a stayer, stepping up from two and a half miles to three and a quarter miles looks substantial at this stage in his career and for an inexperienced horse, he could easily pull his chances away due to freshness.

SMAD PLACE comes into this with a huge chance for in form trainer Alan King who saddled a treble today at Newbury. He should be three out of four over fences but a misjudgement at the last on chasing debut at Huntingdon meant Robert Thornton departed unceremoniously. A win next time out at Exeter restored the confidence before going on to win at Newbury in desperate ground where he beat Sam Winner getting three pounds.

Smad Place has an ideal profile for the race and should go close.
Smad Place has an ideal profile for the race and should go close.

His final start as a novice came in the RSA Chase where he jumped superb and travelled ominously well but just found one that was slightly better on the day in O’Faolains Boy. Both of those pulled six lengths clear of Morning Assembly back in third and it was heart-breaking for connections as he did everything right through the race only to just go down by a neck. The form of the race has already looks pretty strong with the fifth Sam Winner defying top weight at the Open meeting and the sixth Carlingford Lough winning the Grade One novice at Punchestown where he beat Ballycasey.

This has been the plan since March. He goes really well fresh having proven this when winning a handicap hurdle off a big weight at Ascot in January 2012 in impressive style, he has a touch of class which is all important in a race like this and jumps really well. The booking of Denis O’Regan looks a big positive as well as his riding style would really suit the horse.

King’s other runner Midnight Prayer improved plenty last season with his season culminating with a win in the National Hunt Chase. His main early season target is the Welsh National but Tom Bellamy takes a useful five pounds off and he could easily run into a place.

Philip Hobbs has been in tremendous form recently and the apple of his eye Fingal Bay is his sole representative. The last time we saw him jumping fences at Exeter in December 2012, he ran out and crashed through the rail dramatically after looking a particularly awkward ride for Richard Johnson.

Fingal Bay is a fascinating contender. Can he continue the excellent run of Philip Hobbs?
Fingal Bay is a fascinating contender. Can he continue the excellent run of Philip Hobbs?

He returned after a fourteen month absence to carry top weight in a Pertemps Qualifier at Exeter where he beat stablemate If In Doubt before defying the handicapper in the Pertemps Final itself where he just denied Southfield Theatre and Grand National winner Pineau De Re in a driving finish. He then stepped up to Grade One company at Punchestown where he finished fifth behind Jetson who had chased him home in the Pertemps.

One thing of note, the handicapper has reassessed Fingal Bay and given him the same mark over fences that he has achieved over hurdles (mark was previously 143).  With limited chasing experience and the memories of Exeter firmly in the mind, he is overlooked however there is no denying the horse is hugely talented.

Many Clouds has been laid out for this race since the Reynoldstown.
Many Clouds has been laid out for this race since the Reynoldstown.

For some time now, Many Clouds has been considered the ideal candidate for the Hennessy. Always looked upon as a horse that could reach the top by connections, this is the season for him to finally fulfil the potential he has shown in his career so far. His chasing career has been up and down with two wins at Carlisle and Wetherby, the latter performance being notable with the other two contenders Indian Castle and Pinerolo both going on to frank the form. He ran a big race in the Reynoldstown Novice Chase at Ascot when second to subsequent RSA winner O’Faolains Boy before taking his chance in the RSA itself. The form figure says he was brought down by the fall of Don Cossack but he had made a shuddering mistake at the same fence.

He was possibly over the top by Aintree but still ran creditably enough considering previous runs at the meeting. He returned at Carlisle in the Colin Parker Memorial where he beat Eduard and Gold Cup fancy Holywell although the latter was entitled to need the run. His profile for the race is definitely interesting and whilst he shapes like a stayer, evidence suggests the trip could be a worry as his best form has come at two and a half miles. Whilst he will travel through the race strongly, he could be vulnerable to stronger stayers.

Last year’s first and second return again in Triolo D’Alene and Rocky Creek. The former carries joint top weight and is ten pounds higher now in the handicap. On both his starts after in the Gold Cup and the Grand National, he ran as though his breathing was a big issue. He has had a breathing operation over the summer however needs much better ground to be seen at his best.

Triolo D'Alene and Rocky Creek fighting out last year's finish.
Triolo D’Alene and Rocky Creek fighting out last year’s finish.

Rocky Creek can definitely reverse form with Triolo D’Alene after a stop start campaign with various issues from minor colic to ringworm which forced him out of the Gold Cup. He ran a fantastic race in the Grand National where he jumped and travelled brilliantly for Noel Fehily before getting tired between the last two fences. Also noteworthy is that he was the only horse carrying above eleven stone in the first ten which makes his effort all the more creditable, especially with his problems. The run in the JNWine Champion Chase behind Roads To Riches will have blown the cobwebs away and if being able to finish off his races better after a breathing operation, he is a serious contender.

Paul Nicholls other runner Unioniste has the huge positive of Noel Fehily booked to ride. After showing promise on his return last season in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby and at Aintree when winning a Listed contest, he failed to progress after running too free in the Lexus Chase when beaten by Bobs Worth and could be considered a disappointment when third in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster behind The Rainbow Hunter when looking a handicap snip. He also ended his season with a lamentable effort behind Duke Of Lucca at Aintree on Grand National day. Whilst he looks a strong stayer, he probably needs the outing and will come on for the run considerably.

The Druids Nephew has been a revitalised horse since joining Neil Mulholland in the summer after leading Andy Turnell. He won effortlessly at Huntingdon on his return to action before being given a questionable ride at Cheltenham when second to Sam Winner. Beforehand, connections were concerned about whether he’d see out the trip but he saw it out thoroughly and with a more forceful ride, he could have won. The worry here is whether the hard race two weeks ago has taken plenty out of him.

What A Warrior has improved plenty for a switch to Dan Skelton.
What A Warrior has improved plenty for a switch to Dan Skelton.

Another horse to be rekindled by a change in stable is What A Warrior. Having moved from Nigel Twiston Davies to the emerging talent that is Dan Skelton, he has improved twenty pounds with a win at Ludlow followed by an excellent all the way success at Ascot where he fended off Black Thunder. The softer ground here is a concern but he is well worth a go here and is one of the likely front runners.

Merry King is one that stays longer than the mother in law and on the whole, he was hugely consistent in staying handicap chases last season. He was fifth in this race a year ago before finishing sixth in the Welsh National. A third in the Peter Marsh at Haydock behind Wychwoods Brook followed before an effort worth forgiving in the Grand National Trial back at the same track where he was badly hampered and wasn’t able to get back into a crucial rhythm. The season ended with a fourth in the Scottish National.

His return to action this season started nicely enough when third behind What A Warrior in the United House Gold Cup at Ascot. He has the assistance of AP McCoy in the saddle but he can be a tricky customer as he likes to run in snatches and drop himself out before running on again. He would have place claims at best if putting his best foot forward.

Annacotty could struggle if taken on for the lead.
Annacotty could struggle if taken on for the lead.

Annacotty was a Grade One winner of the Feltham at Kempton on Boxing Day last season when fitted with blinkers for the first time when allowed to dictate matters at his own pace. His run at Cheltenham on Trials Day was a brave effort off top weight in a novice handicap chase behind Indian Castle. He then disappointed in the RSA when taken on for the lead by Corrin Wood and jumped with a lack of fluency. Throughout the contest, he kept leaving his back legs in fences and didn’t look happy from an early stage. His comeback run at Kempton was promising enough behind Fox Appeal and Theatre Guide but he had a tendency to wander about before his fences suggesting the reapplication of the blinkers will help.

The big worry with him is whether he can get his own way out in front but with What A Warrior another confirmed front runner, he could easily get flustered like he did on several occasions last season, most notably at Ascot where he made several mistakes on the way round. Whilst he won a Grade One last season, the Feltham and the Hennessy Gold Cup are two completely different races and with a bigger emphasis on jumping here, it’s likely he will struggle.

Ballynagour has a big question mark about him seeing out the trip.
Ballynagour has a big question mark about him seeing out the trip.

Ballynagour is more renowned for having form at shorter distances and for having his issues in the past. His last three starts though have seen him put together three consistent efforts including when absolutely laughing at a competitive handicap field in the Byrne Group Plate before two solid efforts when third twice in Grade One company behind Boston Bob at Aintree and Sizing Europe at Punchestown. The big question here is whether he will see out the trip and on the current ground, it doesn’t look likely.

Wychwoods Brook was an unfancied winner of the Peter Marsh before returning to Haydock in the Grand National Trial where he was out on his feet when falling three out. He had a nice pipe opener over hurdles at Worcester but he doesn’t strike as the type who would appreciate a race like this.

Monbeg Dude's jumping has improved considerably and has a good each way chance.
Monbeg Dude’s jumping has improved considerably and has a good each way chance.

Monbeg Dude is a consistent staying handicap chaser who showed himself to be in excellent heart when second to Victors Serenade on his return at Chepstow over three miles. That distance is probably sharp enough for him and the softer ground here poses no concerns for this former Welsh National winner. Whilst he can be ridden patiently, it could pay for him to be ridden a bit handier than normal as rarely, winners of the Hennessy come from the back of the field. If he is ridden this way he definitely has a big chance of making the frame as his jumping has improved plenty.

Vino Griego and Via Sundown both represent Gary Moore. The former has looked a proper stayer and this big field test should suit him well after an eyecatching reappearance in the United House Gold Cup whilst the latter won a novice hurdle on desperate ground at Exeter recently but may find this a bit too hot to handle so soon in his career.

Houblon Des Obeaux looks a big price for a horse that goes well fresh.
Houblon Des Obeaux looks a big price for a horse that goes well fresh.

Le Reve has a reputation for being a scrappy jumper but put it all together when winning easily on his first start this season at Sandown but this represents another big step up. The joint top weight HOUBLON DES OBEAUXS looks overpriced on the pick of his form. He goes extremely well fresh, having proved this when running away with the United House Gold Cup last year. He was sixth in this a year ago when held up off the pace before winning the Silver Cup back at Ascot. The concern is that he is a better horse right handed however he does have useful form going left handed including when a close second to Rocky Creek at Warwick in a novice chase. He ran well enough in Grade One company last season and whilst carrying top weight here, he did the same in the Silver Cup. At 33/1, he looks overpriced and has a big each way chance.


Whilst Djakadam could be extremely well handicapped off 142, his price has absolutely no value and for his inexperience, you’d be a brave man to be taking 7/2. My idea of the winner is SMAD PLACE who is a second season novice, has a touch of class and jumps really well. The form of Alan King currently is red hot with four winners over the last couple of days and Denis O’Regan will suit the horse perfectly. I believe he is good enough to have a say in the Gold Cup so it would be disappointing if he wasn’t at least in the frame. Of those near the head of the market, Rocky Creek poses the main danger having had a much better preparation whilst Monbeg Dude and HOUBLON DES OBEAUXS at bigger prices could outrun their odds.

  1. Smad Place
  2. Rocky Creek
  3. Houblon Des Obeauxs
  4. Monbeg Dude

Spotlight on the Hennessy Gold Cup – Steve Mullington

The Hennessy Gold Cup takes place this Saturday at Newbury and once again it has attracted a high class field. Last Saturday’s Lancashire Chase winner trainer Paul Nicholls holds a strong hand with Rocky Creek, Black Thunder and Unioniste whilst lady of the moment Venetia Williams saddles Houblon Des Obeaux.

The Hennessy is a Grade 3 Handicap Chase run over a distance of 3m 2½ furlongs. In the past ten years two winners have won this race on route to then winning the Cheltenham Gold cup namely Denman and Bob’s Worth.

Trainer trends (past ten years)

Nicky Henderson (3-3-12) trained the winner in 2005, 2012 & 2013.

Paul Nicholls (2-7-24) trained Denman to win in 2007 and 2009 and has won the race three times in all.

David Pipe (1-3-10) has had the winner once in the past ten years.

Philip Hobbs (0-3-10) has never won it in the past ten years. His last winner in this race was back in 2001.

Age Trends (win-place-runners)

5-y-o: 0-0-2

6-y-o: 3-9-27

7-y-o: 5-8-59

8-y-o: 1-2-24

9-y-o: 1-5-42

10-y-o: 0-3-16

11-y-o+ 0-1-7

As you can see a combination of all the 6 & 7 year old winners over the past ten years has yielded eight race winners in all, more than any other age group.

Diamond Edge in 1981 is the only horse aged over nine to win in the last forty years.

Over 8’s haven’t fared that well either over the past ten years with only Denman bucking that trend when he won the race for a second time.

Price Trends

Eight of the last ten winners were sent off 10/1 or shorter.

The winner has come the first four in the betting seven times out of the last ten renewals.

Other Race Trends

Highest placed RSA finisher to run in this event: 161P22P18 (3-2-9)

UK Jump Jockey & Trainer Partnership Trends (past 14 days)

R.Johnson/PJ Hobbs 10-26 (38.5%), S.Twiston-Davies/P.F Nicholls 10-32 (31.3%), T.Scudamore/D.Pipe 5-25 (20%), A.Coleman/V.Williams 5-26 (19.2%), B.J Geraghty/N.J Henderson 3-14 (21.4%)

Previous Winners

(Graphic Courtesy of
(Graphic Courtesy of

(Graphic courtesy of


Given their impeccable record in this race in recent times it is very difficult to get away from backing a Nicholls or Henderson trained horse. Six and seven year olds look to be the order of the day and my own personal selection is the seven year old Smad Place (e/w). Although Alan King’s name is not particularly synonymous with this race his grey gelding ticks plenty of the trends boxes for me.

Spotlight on the Betfair Chase – Steve Mullington

OnTheOtherHoof would like to welcome guest blogger Steve Mullington who gives us an insight into the statistics and trends for Saturday’s Betfair Chase. You can see his usual blog stuff at

Saturday the 22nd November will see the tenth running of the Betfair Chase (registered as the Lancashire Chase) at Haydock Park so let’s take a look at some of the big race trends and the trainers and jockeys to follow on the day. The race itself is a Grade 1 Chase run over 3 miles and has been won by Kauto Star four times and also by another Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander. Silviniaco Conti & Cue Card have won the last two renewals and are both entered again this year.

Trainer Trends

Paul Nicholls (5-1-10) saddled Kauto Star to win it four times and also trained Silviniaco Conti to win it in 2012 and finish third in 2013.

Nigel Twiston-Davies (1-1-6) saddled Imperial Commander to finish first and second in the race.

Colin Tizzard (1-0-2) won the race last year with Cue Card.

David Pipe (0-2-3) has trained the runner-up in 2008 & 2012 and third in 2009.

Nicky Henderson (0-2-2) saddled Long Run to finish second in 2011 & 2012.

Age Trends (win-place-runners)
6-y-o: 2-1-3
7-y-o: 2-4-15
8-y-o: 1-2-19
9-y-o: 2-2-14
10-y-o: 1-1-4
11-y-o+: 1-0-4

Horses aged six have gained two wins and a second from just three attempts and all three were French bred.

Price Trends

Eight of the last nine winners were priced 9/1 or shorter and the favourite has won the race four times in all.

Other Race Trends

Six of the nine winners ran in the previous season’s King George race and four of the nine winners have run in a Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Three of the last nine winners ran in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last time.

Haydock Jockey Trends (last five seasons)

Jason Maguire 26-105, 25%, -£14.40, A.P McCoy 10-23, 19%, -£23.80, T. O’Brien 9-46, 20%, +£5.58,
W.Hutchinson 7-36, 19%, -£9.88, B.Hughes 6-68, 9%, -£9.27

Haydock Trainer Trends (last five seasons)

Donald McCain 33-143, 23%, -£2.08, Venetia Williams 10-76, 13%, -£14.18, David Pipe 10-58, 17%, +£10.71, Nicky Henderson 10-55, 18%, -£6.98, Paul Nicholls 10-53, 19%, -£5.43

Previous Winners

(Graphic courtesy of
(Graphic courtesy of


This race demands a high level of pre-race form to be a contender and in all probability the winner is likely to come from the first three in the betting. Cue Card, Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti currently head the market and will all have their supporters for obvious reasons. Menorah the recent Charlie Hall Chase winner from the all-conquering Hobbs/Johnson/Whateley team is an interesting prospect should he line up and could be an interesting outsider.

2014 Cheltenham Open Meeting Review

After one of the best weekends I have had for a very long time, National Hunt is officially back and proper with the Open Meeting throwing up some fantastic racing full of real quality plus racing over the Irish Sea testing the emotions of even the hardiest of fans.

Before I get into the analysis of Cheltenham, it would be wrong to not start with a mention of the immensely sad news that broke yesterday morning that Dessie Hughes had died aged 71. Whilst it was known that he had been ill for some time, the news was still a huge shock to everyone involved in racing.

The minute’s silence observed at Cheltenham was first class and the piece shown on the big screen with Alastair Down bringing a lump to the throat. Seeing those old Cheltenham winners he had including as a jockey with Davy Lad and Monksfield plus as a trainer with dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace. His story giving the reminder that we cannot take everything in this sport for granted with Keiran Kelly, the first jockey to ride him to success at the Festival in the Royal & Sunalliance Hurdle, tragically killed in a fall at Kilbeggan in August 2003.

Earlier on in the day when Racemaking, an Irish gentleman called Eamonn was chatting with a couple of us when we broke the news to him that Dessie had passed on. His face just dropped. The emotion was plain to see. He left us with words that summed up the man. “One of the true gentlemen of the sport.” That sentiment was echoed around social media with a huge outpouring of those paying their respects to a fine trainer. His last winner was The Tullow Tank, a horse destined to be something very special and it would be hugely fitting if he were to win the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in a couple of weeks’ time.

With the amount of racing on over the last couple of days, I have only selected particular races to talk about, one of those placed at the end of the blog turning into a rant about something that has irritated me for quite some time.

Champagne West won stylishly on chasing debut. Bigger targets now await.
Champagne West won stylishly on chasing debut. Bigger targets now await.

Although the two and a half mile novice chase turned somewhat into a farce with the low sun causing six fences to be omitted, it was a pleasing enough display from Champagne West who jumped economically to see off the enigma that is Colour Squadron who travelled into the race strongly but again he hung going up the hill. Considering three miles would seem to be the winner’s ideal distance, he showed enough pace here and for the time being, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay at two and a half miles. On this evidence, he will definitely have a say in one of the big novice chases at the Festival. Urban Hymn looked to lack a gear change at a crucial time and wouldn’t have been helped by the omitted fences. He will ideally be suited over further whilst Splash Of Ginge and Dell’ Arca would look to want better ground over fences.

Blaklion leads Port Melon and Parlour Games over the last.
Blaklion leads Port Melon and Parlour Games over the last.

Parlour Games caused a surprise in the Grade Two Hyde Novices Hurdle for Barry Geraghty and John Ferguson when claiming the scalp of Blaklion. This ex-flat performer for Godolphin was a former winner of the Melrose at York and saw out the distance nicely whilst handling the softer conditions well. Blaklion attempted to make all the running at his own pace and inevitably was done for a turn of foot by the winner but his likeable attitude continues to impress and will be winning a good deal more over the winter months.

Port Melon ran a promising race just like last year where he travelled well for most of the race. He will hopefully go chasing sooner rather than later and should excel over the larger obstacles. Champagne Present looks a horse for the long term and in better company travelled well before a mistake two out knocked his equilibrium. The ground was probably on the softer side for him as well and is one firmly to keep on the right side of.

Balthazar King showing his courage and determination by winning for the eighth time at Prestbury Park.
Balthazar King showing his courage and determination by winning for the eighth time at Prestbury Park.

The cross country has been Balthazar King’s race at Cheltenham and yet again he proved himself to be too good for the opposition, despite hating the ground and taking a couple of chances on the way round. His exuberance is an absolute joy to watch but it can leave you with your heart in mouth at times. Straight after the race, Philip Hobbs was quick to note that the defence of Festival crown was unlikely and he would prefer to head to the Grand National a fresh horse. Two reasons would put me off backing him for the race.

Although he does go well fresh, this would be a big worry. Especially when you look at one key trend that had stood up in recent years. Winners of the Grand National have had a run somewhere within 50 days of the race and whilst some horses have ran well having not run in that timeframe including Mely Moss in 2000 and Alvarado in this year’s renewal, it underlines that you need a horse that has ideally had a run somewhere. Secondly, it would take a herculean effort for him to win off his handicap mark of 159 as he would be near the head of the weights.

Uncle Junior ran an excellent race again at the veteran age of 13 to chase home Balthazar King but on recent past evidence, he seems happier in the conditions events as opposed to the handicaps where he carries plenty of weight. Sire Collonges ran a much better race than on his return at the Showcase meeting with the first time headgear rekindling the old enthusiasm. He could either go for the Becher Chase or return for the handicap he won a year ago whilst Any Currency will return after another good effort in fourth.

Morito Du Berlais is going in the right direction and will improve further as the season progresses.
Morito Du Berlais is going in the right direction and will improve further as the season progresses.

The concluding intermediate handicap hurdle on Friday ran in memory of Michael Scudamore has been won by some nice types in the past including the likes of Punchestowns and Grand Crus. Morito Du Berlais has been a revelation since his wind operation over the summer and continued his progression beating Knight Of Noir and Cup Final. The winner holds an entry on Saturday at Haydock and it will be interesting to see his new mark which comes out tomorrow. The runner up Knight Of Noir travelled really well for Tom Scudamore and just couldn’t quite get past the winner on the run in. He looks exciting for big handicap hurdles and a step up to three miles will suit whilst Cup Final ran a nice race on his return considering he probably wanted better ground plus made a bad mistake going down the far side.

Kings Palace impressed with his jumping as the race progressed.
Kings Palace impressed with his jumping as the race progressed.

Saturday’s staying novice chase on paper looked a mouth-watering contest where you could make a case for all five runners. In the end, it was the debutant Kings Palace who got off the mark at the first time of asking seeing off Sausalito Sunrise. Receiving five pounds from the whole field and tongue tied for the first time, he reached for some of his fences early on but on the whole he jumped extremely well and more importantly, he settled far better than he did over hurdles.

Soon after the race, the quotes from bookmakers came rolling out for the RSA Chase with some firms having him as short as 8/1, which at this moment in time, looks plenty short enough. David Pipe said afterwards that they were working backwards from the race but there’s still plenty to pass under the bridge before we even reach the Festival.

Sausalito Sunrise emerged with plenty of credit and looks a thorough stayer with a bit of quality about him. The mistake he made two out didn’t help but he stayed on resolutely up the hill and remains an exciting prospect for the Hobbs team. Drop Out Joe was outpaced at the top of the hill before staying on into a distant third. He is a really good jumper of a fence and ideally, the National Hunt Chase is where we would be likely to see him come March whilst Knock House would probably appreciate better ground after attempting to go with the front two before fading.

It was hard work for Sam Twiston-Davies but he never gave up on Sam Winner.
It was hard work for Sam Twiston-Davies but he never gave up on Sam Winner.

The Murphy Group Handicap Chase looked a competitive race on paper however perseverance was the main attribute needed and Sam Twiston-Davies had that by the bucket load on the top weight Sam Winner. As early as the fifth fence, Twiston-Davies was niggling at him to keep interested as he wasn’t travelling that well and wasn’t taking a cut at his fences but he never gave up and amazingly came on the bridle running down to the third last before showing bags of stamina to see off The Druids Nephew. Whilst his jumping early on was sticky, he is normally a very sound jumper which he showed late on in the race apart from the final fence and the obvious long term target is the Crabbie’s Grand National at Aintree but he may not be suited by a big field and with his idleness, that could be a concern for him.

The Druids Nephew ran a solid race in defeat and travelled really well on the ground which was a concern beforehand and saw out the trip really well for a doubtful stayer off a career high mark. There looks to be improvement yet to come and back on a sounder surface, a staying handicap chase is well within his region. Saint Are ran a fantastic race for new connections and looked the force of old as he travelled with plenty of zest. He is one that ideally wants good ground to be seen at his best and long term; a race like the Scottish National looks tailor made for him.

Cape Tribulation is still well handicapped on his best form.
Cape Tribulation is still well handicapped on his best form.

Of the rest, recent Market Rasen winner Master Neo ran well from the front and from five pounds out of the handicap. A drop back to three miles wouldn’t do any harm whilst Cape Tribulation was given a strange ride as he travelled well at the rear of the field but never seemed to be put in the race by Brian Hughes. He still looks very well treated on his old form and a race like the Welsh National on similar ground would be an interesting target for this former Argento winner.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup was the centrepiece of the meeting and Paul Nicholls won it for the second time with Caid Du Berlais who was nearly taken out on account of the ground getting up to deny the brave John’s Spirit on the line under a power packed Sam Twiston-Davies, showing why Nicholls made his decision to make him stable jockey. On only his fourth chase start, he jumped nicely and there looks be further improvement to come as a handicap chaser with the race in December probably the next ideal target. From there, we shall find out whether he’s up to Grade One standard or a very good handicap chaser.

Caid Du Berlais gets up on the line to deny John's Spirit a famous double in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Caid Du Berlais gets up on the line to deny John’s Spirit a famous double in the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Both John’s Spirit and Oscar Whisky deserve a mention together as they both ran cracking races off joint top weight. Given yet another brilliant ride by Richie McLernon, the waiting tactics on John’s Spirit worked just as well as a year ago and the softer conditions didn’t affect him. This performance suggests he is capable of winning Graded races at this distance with the Ryanair looking the likely target. Oscar Whisky was well backed just before the race and was hampered three out before staying on up the hill. Although he ran extremely well here, he could be difficult to place with the firepower in Henderson’s yard.

Present View jumped superbly and travelled like the winner for the majority of the contest before fading back into third on ground that was described as being on the soft side for him. His trainer Jamie Snowden suggested in his blog that the Topham Trophy in the spring could be the ideal race for him and with the way he went on Saturday, he could be a lethal force over those fences.

If Buywise could put in a clear round without jumping blemishes then there is no doubt that he will win a big prize. He didn’t make an error to the degree of the one made two out at the Festival behind Present View but some sticky jumps cost him again. He could easily turn out in the Hennessy and the longer distance should suit him well.

Champion Court shaped well for a long way before not getting up the hill again. After suggesting that he was out of love with the game last time, a spell hunting and cheekpieces brought back the old enthusiasm. He would appreciate better ground, as would Edgardo Sol who will probably go down in the weights and could be dangerous in the spring.

Golden Doyen showed a really good attitude to beat Hargam.
Golden Doyen showed a really good attitude to beat Hargam.

Golden Doyen showed a really likeable attitude to get back up to beat the former Aga Khan representative Hargam. The winner was yet another one for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson and comments about the Triumph Hurdle afterwards seem realistic with him although it is a dangerous time to consider backing a horse for the race with the big stables having contenders that may not even be seen until after Christmas. Hargam ran a really nice race for a horse that would appreciate much better ground and jumped nicely as well.

The mares’ bumper was won impressively by Bitofapuzzle under a lovely front running ride by Noel Fehily for Harry Fry. She now goes novice hurdling and will be an exciting addition to Fry’s novices. The other horse of note from this bumper was the Gordon Elliott trained Dancing Meadows who was jumping over the undulations going down the far side and came down the hill awkwardly before making ground up late on. Back on a more conventional track, she is worth another chance in a bumper.

Garde Le Victoire fends off Vantieux to give Philip Hobbs his fourth Greatwood Hurdle success.
Garde Le Victoire fends off Vantieux to give Philip Hobbs his fourth Greatwood Hurdle success.

Sunday’s Greatwood Hurdle went the way of Garde Le Victoire who was given a brilliant front running ride by Richard Johnson who took the initiative on ground feared too soft for him to beat the well backed Vaniteux who put up a great effort under top weight. Both ran in the Supreme back in March and gave that race yet another boost. The winner did very well considering the huge worry about the ground and has plenty of options including novice chasing however after yesterday’s success, staying over hurdles is probably going to be the plan.

The runner up Vaniteux also had a slight concern about the ground having disappointed at Kempton in December but handled it perfectly fine. The cause for concern was the fact that Barry Geraghty, normally the first jockey to go round the outside in search for the best ground decided to go round the inside which looked a strange decision, especially as he raced alone going to the final flight. On better ground, he still remains a very exciting horse and if he comes out of this well, the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle could be the race to go for however that could potentially come too quick for him.

In behind, Clondaw Warrior has ran well but getting plenty of weight from the front two and although he looks to not need much improvement to win a big handicap, I feel there are other handicappers in his yard that could be better treated for the bigger races later in the campaign. Both Blue Heron and Pine Creek have ran solid races, the latter returning from a lengthy absence and off his mark has a big handicap prize in him.

Further back in the pack, Katgary again deserves a mention on this blog as he was niggled going down the hill before coming back on the bridle however when the leaders kicked he couldn’t go with them. The ground wouldn’t have been in his favour and he is crying out for a step up in trip. When that happens he will be a very interesting proposition.

Uxizandre was faultless in the jumping department for Barry Geraghty.
Uxizandre was faultless in the jumping department for Barry Geraghty.

On the rest of the card, Uxizandre jumped really well with the cheekpieces back on in the Schloer Chase and looks set to head to Ireland over Christmas whilst the runner up Simply Ned will prefer better ground but proved he is worthy of Graded chase prizes.

Vyta Du Roc was given a lovely patient ride by Barry Geraghty who allowed for time to fill the horse up before challenging Emerging Talent who has ran really well considering his jumping was scratchy at times. Long term, Emerging Talent would be the one to keep on the right side of, especially when he goes chasing. In the same race, Commissioned hated the ground and will be a much better horse on good ground in the spring.

The final race on the card went to Definitly Red who defied a penalty to win nicely for Steve Gollings and man of the meeting Richard Johnson who steered him to his seventh success over the three day period. He is yet another addition to Gollings’ list of novice hurdlers. Before I cover the last part in the blog, I shall put the eyecatchers part here as it fits in before the rant underneath.


Port Melon – Already in the horses to follow piece, he should hopefully now go novice chasing where he could be a key player in the top ranks.

Morito Du Berlais – Has gone the right way since his wind operation and will still be dangerous after being reassessed.

Drop Out Joe – One who will appreciate a stamina test in time, NH Chase a suitable aim.

Saint Are – On good ground, he is well capable of another big handicap win.

Cape Tribulation – Given a quiet ride and still leniently handicapped on best form.

Present View – Two words. Topham Trophy.

Dancing Meadows – Can definitely win a bumper on a more conventional track.

Katgary – Step up in distance will help.

The last race that will be covered is the two mile novice chase which was won tenaciously by Dunraven Storm, again for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson. However, the main talking point about the race was the ride given to Vibrato Valtat by Sam Twiston-Davies, which caused split opinions on social media. Before the race, a tweet from someone very familiar to the site got some of the reaction spot on.

Normally when reviewing racing, I would tend to shy away from issues like this however this is one rare exception to that as it deserves addressing. Those who know Vibrato Valtat know very well that he is one of the trickiest horses in training to ride in a race. Especially as he does nothing once he hits the front and needs to be ridden with the most exaggerated confidence to get him in front right on the line, having thrown away races including the Swinton at Haydock plus the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle at the Showcase meeting. Those that do know realise he will always be a risky betting proposition.

You can argue that he gave the leaders too much leeway, however with the horse as difficult as he is, he couldn’t just give him a kick in the belly and go with Dunraven Storm, the only option is to sit still for as long as you can. When he went for his effort, the horse picked up as he had something to chase but on past evidence, had he been closer and passed Dunraven Storm, the likely fact is he would have stopped allowing that rival to power back past.

Immediately post-race, the amount of ‘Tipster’ accounts & pocket talkers were all in uproar about how a terrible ride it was and how on earth is Twiston-Davies stable jockey for Paul Nicholls. To answer the latter point, go watch his rides on Sam Winner and Caid Du Berlais from Saturday. The slight skeptic in myself wondering if it was the wrong decision to have Sam as stable jockey, believing it to be a couple of years too early, was proven to be way off the mark.

On the former point, I found it disturbing at the fact some of these ‘Tipster’ pages suggest a lack of knowledge about the sport they are meant to be ‘experts’ on with giving out ‘tips’. People trying to get into our sport may see these ‘Tipster’ pages as a way of gaining interest, with some of them amassing a huge following, and would trust their judgement as they appear to be ‘experts’ on the subject matter. Unfortunately with some of their outlooks upon the sport, new potential fans would gain a negative appearance from the outset.

The sad part about all of this is Twiston-Davies gets this on a regular basis. Mainly from pocket talkers who wish to vent their anger for the sake of doing so. Don’t get me wrong either, there have been times in the past where I have questioned or voiced an opinion about a poor ride but there’s criticism and there’s unacceptable abuse. Sadly, the latter seems to pop up more prominently and as seen below, the modern era with social media can be a very disheartening place, especially for sporting stars. It shouldn’t have to be like this for someone as promising as Twiston-Davies and his fellow riders to have to continually prove themselves to ‘critics’.

To end the blog on two happier notes, I spent Saturday and Sunday at Cheltenham in the company of the RaceMakers, organised by the enthusiastic John Hanley who has worked his socks off to make sure the initiative set up last year was a huge success with both racecourses and the public. This year, it has picked up substantially with the time and effort gone into it second to none. In two weeks’ time, Newbury’s Hennessy meeting plays host to the RaceMakers for all three days and I shall be there on Hennessy day, sharing my love and passion for the sport.

It was fantastic to meet a variety of racegoers, young and old who all shared the same passion. Being situated by the Best Mate statue which had no plaque due to the renovation work and answering the most common question asked “Which horse is this?”, seeing people’s faces light up at the mention of the horse makes you realise how much the sport means to people.

The other happy note links with how much the sport means to people. After the two mile novice chase, the reaction from the crowd when Duke Of Navan rose to his feet was heart-warming to say the least and to see his lass in tears on the Channel Four coverage speaks volumes to how much people genuinely care about the welfare and safety of those taking part in the sport we love. At around the same moment, Hurricane Fly was roared home by the stands to win his twentieth Grade One, a mammoth achievement by a true jumping great. Moments like that are just priceless.

Easy, Lazy and Regurgitated Journalism: A Reply to Oliver Millman




I must profess I didn’t regard the Guardian as a tabloid newspaper, but their choice of article following this year’s Melbourne Cup certainly puts them in the same league as papers like the Daily Mail, who willingly publish their twelve-page Grand National pull-out on the Saturday to popularly declare horse racing as the spawn of Satan on the Sunday.

Is it this that makes the racing community so ashamed of their sport? You may argue that, as a loyal, racing enthusiast you don’t feel you’re ashamed. Then why do you feel the need to rationalise popular tabloid news when approached by non-racing fans? Explain that racing isn’t ‘crooked’, a large percentage of horses are not running on drugs and that we don’t cheer when horses die. We don’t have our own journalists to thank unfortunately, as the following image attests. I think I’m still yet to see a news broadcast from the following company that lasts more than five seconds painting horse racing in a positive light. “PineauDeReWinsNationalNoDeaths…Yet”.

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BBC Horse Racing Homepage, 11/08/2014

The problem at hand, highlighted by Mr Millman (no relation James, I’m sure) is when journalists from outside our sphere decide to step their toe in what they really don’t fully understand. Now perhaps I’m undermining a well-respected journalist who does know all the facts, but the respect surely wains when he fails to produce them.

Let’s take into account the first and surely most popular headline: HORSE RACING KILLS. This is one point no enlightened person can disagree on; it ultimately does. However, so does cheerleading, gymnastics, skiing, lacrosse, hockey, obesity, lightning, hippos, aeroplanes, falling out of bed, jellyfish, dogs and roller coasters. There is a risk to everything and anything you do in your entire life. Typing now, a bizarre electric current could perhaps shock me through my keypad or a plane could crash land through my window. I run that risk, every day and so do you. Minimising that risk is instead what we do and those enlightened members of the horse racing discipline know full well that those risk assessments have been, perhaps overexamined due to external public pressure. Whip rules, changing of the Grand National fences, jockey training, drug tests and rehabilitation centres have been introduced even through my lifetime to ensure all participants help prevent accidents and get the best care they deserve. Why doesn’t the public know that? Surely it’s extremely important to educate the non-racing public about these safety regulations we’ve put in place? It’s very easy and lazy for journalists such as Mr Millman to tug and the heartstrings of the wider public but they’re just not getting the clear picture.

I could go further, many people ask me, “but why do they have to put the horses to sleep, he only broke a leg”. Once again, the lack of education means the general public thinks vets are enjoying an excuse to kill a horse, rather than doing what it ultimately right for the horse. In the wild, an injured horse would just have been left, abandoned by its herd. Trying to heal broken bones leads to further complications with horses, as many racing fans could remember in the case of St Nicholas Abbey last year. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, the money, effort and love ploughed into that horse remained an unwritten about topic in the general press.

HORSES ARE FORCED TO RACE. Of course, because running fast is against a horses nature. The phrase is farcical to the bitter end. Try stopping a shark from swimming, a frog from croaking or a koala from doing just whatever a koala actually does. It is as natural as a horse to competitively race as it is for you or I to want to take a drink of water. I still seethe when I hear people, who have never sat on a horse in their lifetime, enlighten the ears with what an equine actually desires. Of course, dear fellow, like yourself, horses want to sit in a penned field until they grow old getting more and more bored by their monotonous days. Unfortunately, as man so helpfully decided wild horses should no longer be exactly that, wild, they are destined to do just that. I’ve ridden since I was six, and every single time I ride to the end of a cold, grey, hard track and enter a field, my equine companion lights up. If I’m not alone, suddenly, there’s a race on, without the rider’s encouragement, coercion or violence. It’s horses human nature. They want to race. Lough Derg. Borderlescott. The Tatling. The latter two have even refused to retire. They want to run. Let them.

HORSE RACING MISTREATS HORSES. In my life I’ve never seen anything cared for as closely and lovingly as a racehorse. Care homes and hospitals should really take note. In the heavenly field most rights activists desire for racehorses there’s no such care and the reports of horse mistreatment are those left abandoned in this divine quadrilateral, not in the racing ‘whip-chamber’. You could, if you want, ‘strip away the pomp’ as Millman so kindly puts it; the silks, the owners, the yard. All you will find is the stable hand, who comes back day after day, certainly not for the money, but for the love of the horse. The indolent writer doesn’t fail to deliver a full house for those with Anti-Racing-Article-Bingo cards when relating the sport to the rich and those with little real-world morality. “The crowds will be back next year, with their perchers and their daft hair”, go and collect card holders, go and collect. Once again, one-dimensional.

But in the racing community we really see what goes on in our world. Admire Rakti’s death alongside Araldo’s will be mourned by us all, instead of moving on as quickly and as perverse as Millman paints the picture, we will remember. Instead, it’s the outside world that forgets, the non-racing world. They scream out roar before getting on with their daily lives. In fact the stereotype of race-goers unceremoniously ploughing around intoxicated with a negligent view on the days events is not typically racing fans at all, but those from outside the sport; racing fans can have a purely enjoyable day out without touching the vastly overpriced and often vulgar stench of liquor. Did the newspapers catch sight of the racking emotion of Admire Rakti’s adoring owner?

He wasn’t at the bar looking for his next drink. And do they report the far more common event of a horse surviving a fall? It happens every day, perhaps every race for jump racing. If you really want a reflection of our respect, love and adoration for horses then look no further than Twitter after Irving’s fall on Saturday at Wincanton. When he got back up, the feeling of affection racked through the racing community. As racing fans, we can come together so often, an emotional linkage between fans rarely seen in team sports. There’s just no feeling quite like it. The flood of relief, elation and adoration in one sweep. But newspapers don’t show that. Not that.

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Instead, it’s those that want to ‘protect’ horses that publish images like this. Because those that ‘really love horses’ just want to see images of them dying, because that’s how we’ve always defined love and respect in human nature. Propaganda may tug at the heartstrings, but it doesn’t actually do anything. If you really want to do something, work with us. Make a change. We are.


Why is this necessary? Because despite Mr Millman’s many failing qualities to put across a balanced informed argument some readers may devour his words as gospel. It’s our duty to educate non-racing fans to the truth. Call it out. Be proud. Because this is what we truly are. No monetary involvement needed.

Charlie Hall Chase Weekend Review

What a weekend of racing it has been.  With top class action and something that everyone can enjoy from international action in Santa Anita to Group races on the flat at Newmarket to some top quality jumping action from across UK and Ireland. This blog will concentrate on the National Hunt action that took place over the weekend with Saturday’s action from Ascot, Wetherby and Down Royal plus a race from Carlisle on Sunday.

This list will also include two eyecatchers from last weekend’s action at Aintree as the blog didn’t come together at all last week.

Ascot’s return to National Hunt racing was a stark contrast to two weeks ago when Champions Day was staged on desperate ground with yesterday’s action on ground that would have been far more suited to two weeks ago. In saying that, jockeys reported that it was beautiful jumping ground and some course records were broken throughout the day.

Jolly's Cracked It taking the last flight on his way to victory.
Jolly’s Cracked It taking the last flight on his way to victory.

Jolly’s Cracked It was an emphatic winner of the novice hurdle having travelled beautifully throughout for Nick Scholfield and put the race to bed in a professional manner despite kicking the last two flights out of the ground. He is one that should be better over a longer distance and trainer Harry Fry already wants to return to Ascot in three weeks for a race in a better grade for this lightly raced son of Astarabad. Clondaw Banker wasn’t particularly fluent at his hurdles and would look to appreciate further than the minimum two miles. Light Well ran really well off a 612 day absence and will now get a handicap mark over hurdles where he could potentially pick up a nice race whilst the well regarded Our Kaempfer ran far too free and will need to learn to settle.

November is traditionally described as Venetia Williams time and The Clock Leary proved this point by jumping and galloping some decent rivals into the ground in the novice handicap chase. Considering the liveliness of the ground was a slight worry, he dismayed those fears with consummate ease. A step up in grade wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world with the runner up considered to be pretty smart by connections. It will be interesting to see what the handicapper does.

Behind the winner, there were plenty of thrills and spills. Cocktails At Dawn travelled well but his jumping at times left a bit to be desired and was easily disposed of by the winner. Connections will probably find an easier race to get the confidence levels up. Garrahalish jumped well again but looked one paced when the winner went on. He will definitely be winning races over the winter period.

Monkey Kingdom was going well until ploughing through the open ditch and unseating Tom Scudamore. He looks the type to keep an eye on later in the season when tackling open company. Keltus was hampered and never looked happy. A possible return back over hurdles would help him whilst Generous Ransom was travelling well enough when slipping at Swinley Bottom. Where he would have finished is questionable but he had done nothing wrong to that point.

Ulck Du Lin jumping the last better than his main rival Claret Cloak.
Ulck Du Lin jumping the last better than his main rival Claret Cloak.

The Byrne Group Handicap Chase looked a nice returning point for the highly regarded Next Sensation but was bitterly disappointing. He made an uncharacteristic mistake early on at the third fence before steadily dropping back as the race went on. One reason for this could be that he wasn’t allowed to stride on like he was in last season’s Grand Annual and with that potent weapon basically discarded; he didn’t show that usual zest which would leave you breathless. He could also possibly be better left handed as well.

Ulck Du Lin looked well treated if showing anything like his old form and under forceful tactics jumped nicely for his very useful claimer Sean Bowen fending off Claret Cloak who ran a stormer giving the winner twenty seven pounds. Jumping yet again let the latter down and one day he will finally put it all together on the track but he remains frustrating as he clearly possesses plenty of talent.

Sign Of A Victory couldn't have been more impressive on handicap debut.
Sign Of A Victory couldn’t have been more impressive on handicap debut.

Nicky Henderson had the first and second in the handicap hurdle when Sign Of A Victory made a mockery of his handicap mark of 139 when laughing at his opposition under Barry Geraghty.  Afterwards, trainer Nicky Henderson was keen to state he wanted his races spaced out and he wouldn’t be the type to turn out quickly which rules out a bid at the Greatwood in two weeks’ time. If the Indian Summer we are currently having continues until December (wishful thinking!) then the Ladbroke could be an ideal target depending on what the handicapper does.

Dawalan put up a career best and confirmed the promise his trainer had in him last season with Baradari confirming the Fred Winter form back in third. He showed no ill effects of his Aintree fall and will be a force to be reckoned with in these big two mile handicap hurdles. Of the rest, Get Me Out Of Here caught the eye for obvious reasons as he put in his best performance in this race before fading after the last. Connections will have bigger targets in mind next March yet again with this hugely talented hurdler.

What A Warrior proved he has similar traits to his name with a superb front running performance from Harry Skelton and again highlighting the emergence of Dan Skelton as an up and coming trainer. When formerly with Nigel Twiston-Davies, he ran some eye-catching races including over course and distance back in December on testing ground behind Houblon Des Obeauxs. Sweetened up by new connections, he tended to jump left handed but take nothing away from him as he battled dourly when Black Thunder came to challenge. He holds a Hennessy entry and with this rich vein of form, it wouldn’t surprise to see him run well there however the second would appeal more for that race.

Black Thunder ran a hugely encouraging Hennessy Gold Cup trial back in second.
Black Thunder ran a hugely encouraging Hennessy Gold Cup trial back in second.

Black Thunder ran a huge race giving the winner a stone and received a lovely patient ride by Nick Scholfield. He was the only horse who made progress from off the pace to challenge the winner which makes this effort more commendable. Although this ground suited him fine, softer ground would definitely play to his strengths more and a race like the Hennessy would be an ideal place to go for this likeable type.

Merry King ran his usual consistent race without looking a likely winner. It was interesting that he ran without headgear yet looked to fight all the way to the line. He will be down for all the big staying handicap chases again this season with a tilt at Aintree looking his main plan. Pass The Hat also stayed on nicely into fourth and whilst he doesn’t hold a Hennessy entry, there are plenty of big staying handicap chases on both sides of the sea for him to be competitive in this season.

Of those in behind, Midnight Appeal made a shocking mistake at the second and was given plenty of time to recover. When he irons out his jumping there potentially is a big pot to be landed with him. Grandads Horse is just tough and consistent but looks in the grip of the handicapper. Vino Griego ran a really nice race for his return to action considering he didn’t have his usual headgear on. These big handicap chases play to his strengths and he holds a Hennessy entry where he would be an interesting contender although he may need some assistance from the handicapper.

Vino Griego ran a nice race without his beloved headgear on.
Vino Griego ran a nice race without his beloved headgear on.

One more horse that needs a mention is my long term Grand National fancy Cantlow who hit the last down the back and looked disappointing however he came on plenty for his comeback last season next time out. Hopefully he remains over three miles next time out so he can get qualified for the race.

On a sad note, Le Bec was taken away in a horse ambulance and it was reported that he has been retired which is a crying shame for connections who lost two horses in The Last Night at Kempton and the promising Timesremembered at Aintree. Both deserve a real change in luck and underlines how cruel this sport can be at times.


The Grey Taylor fends off Chieftain's Choice to win on his hurdling debut.
The Grey Taylor fends off Chieftain’s Choice to win on his hurdling debut.

Up at Wetherby,  ground conditions were perfect with the card beginning with a gutsy display from the The Grey Taylor who benefitted from an excellent ride from Richard Johnson to repel his chief rival AP McCoy and Chieftain’s Choice in what was effectively two races in one with four kicking clear from an early stage including the first two. Steve Gollings has some nice novice hurdlers to go to war with this season including Relic Rock and Definitly Red plus this son of Royal Anthem who has already won a Point to Point. There was no disgrace for the runner up to lose to the winner as they were nine lengths clear of the third and he looks a more than useful recruit to hurdling.

Solar Impulse leading over the last.
Solar Impulse looks a smart chaser on the up for Paul Nicholls.

Solar Impulse was an impressive winner of the novice handicap chase considering he made a bad error through no fault of his own when Halling’s Wish put the brakes on at the first open ditch. Apart from that, he jumped superbly and showed his older rivals a clean pair of heels. He looks a horse that could mix it either in novice or open company and there are plenty of options open for him.

Turn Over Sivola still remains frustrating. He clearly has plenty of talent but a bad mistake two out effectively finished his chance. Danny Cook deserves a medal for his sit four out on Dark Dune whilst Pair Of Jacks made several errors on the way round and did well to get round.

Aurore D'Estruval winning impressively. She has a bright future ahead of her.
Aurore D’Estruval winning impressively. She has a bright future ahead of her.

The Mares Hurdle lacked a bit of depth but Aurore D’Estruval won this in the style that an odds on favourite should. The further she went the better she looked and coasted home. She looks to have plenty more to give and considering she will be better with a bit more cut in the ground, she is yet another exciting proposition for the John Quinn yard.

Emily Gray tried to go with the market leader but couldn’t live with her once she lengthened up the home straight and like the winner, potentially wants further to be seen at her best. Bonne Fee has been on the go for long enough and ran respectably back in third.

Cole Harden showed he has improved from last season with Saturday's win.
Cole Harden showed he has improved from last season with Saturday’s win.

The West Yorkshire Hurdle on paper looked a penalty kick for At Fishers Cross however for his reappearance he was plenty short enough and Cole Harden, second to Beat That at the Grand National meeting took full advantage with his slick jumping and an excellent front running ride from Gavin Sheehan. Not only has he boosted the Aintree form, he was upsides Faugheen coming down in the Neptune so he has paid him a handsome compliment as well. He looks to have improved on last season and deserves a go at the big boys now with races like the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Hennessy day and the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown looking ideal for him as he must go left handed.

Medinas ran a solid race on return and will find life hard these days whilst At Fishers Cross will come on plenty for that run. Although he looked disappointing to the eye, Rebecca Curtis horses are needing their first starts and with AP McCoy suggesting they go chasing, he shouldn’t be forgotten about easily. Jumping fences may also help him out as he does give his hurdles plenty of air.


The Charlie Hall Chase revolved around the pre-race fears from some that Silviniaco Conti wouldn’t be fit enough. Those came to fruition but he jumped beautifully in the main and got tired up the home straight. He wasn’t beaten that far in the end and he will come on plenty for this with bigger targets awaiting him in the coming months including the Betfair Chase in three weeks’ time at Haydock.

Menorah becoming the fourth big Saturday winner for Philip Hobbs in a row.
Menorah becoming the fourth big Saturday winner for Philip Hobbs in a row.

Take nothing away from Menorah who for the second Saturday in a row provided connections with a big winner after Wishfull Thinking’s Old Roan Chase win. The worry is whether he will go on from this as he wants better ground to be seen at his best. Taquin Du Seuil still doesn’t convince in the jumping department at all but he has got some engine and rallied well to nab second on the line from Double Ross whose stamina didn’t seem to last out.

The former will probably head to Haydock for the Betfair Chase whilst the latter will step back down in distance with a race like the Peterborough Chase looking an ideal target. Medermit wasn’t disgraced at all on his comeback and holds an intriguing Hennessy Gold Cup entry. If he were to take that up, he would be fascinating as a second string behind Smad Place.

The final race on the card at Wetherby was an intriguing three runner contest which again went the way of Warren Greatrex and Gavin Sheehan with Kayserberg making most of the running to see off Blakemount. The winner jumped really well on the whole and was given a breather at the right time before using his race fitness to his advantage.

Blakemount on the whole jumped nicely but did make a couple of errors, most notably two out when challenging the winner. After that, he simply blew up and will come on plenty for this effort. One niggling thing about his performance was that he left his back legs in a few fences but it was a pleasing enough chase debut without fireworks. Doing Fine made several mistakes including at the fourth and seventh before unseating four out.


Road To Riches under a confident Paul Carberry winning the JNWine.Com Champion Chase.
Road To Riches under a confident Paul Carberry winning the Champion Chase.

Down Royal had two feature races however the main event, the Champion Chase went to a horse that had a benefit of a run in Road To Riches who won easily from Rocky Creek and Boston Bob. The winner made every inch of the running under an ice cool Paul Carberry and used fitness to his advantage, vindicating his connections decision to run in this rather than the Grade Two later in the card. There looks to be improvement there as well and he definitely is capable of making up into a Ryanair contender this season.

Rocky Creek ran plenty well enough for his return and looked to need the run badly. If connections decide the Hennessy is the right race again for him, he will be a danger especially with this under his belt. Boston Bob was hampered by the fall of Realt Mor but was close enough going to three out and just faded away. He is bound to come on for that a bit and a race like the Lexus Chase over Christmas would be ideal for him.

First Lieutenant looked one paced back in fourth and his chances of winning a Grade One look limited. One thought his trainer had at the end of the 2012-13 season was the Grand National and that wouldn’t be the worst idea for a horse like him who jumps really well. Ma Filleule was a big disappointment but any horse is forgiven one bad run whilst On His Own looked as though he would come on plenty for the run.

Don Cossack continues his progression nicely.
Don Cossack continues his progression nicely.

The other feature race saw Don Cossack win impressively for Gigginstown denying Paul Nicholls his seventh win in a row in the race with Wonderful Charm back in second. The winner has always been highly regarded and this is the season where he has to deliver on the potential he has promised. So far with two wins to his credit this campaign, it will be interesting to see what route Gordon Elliott goes with him with a race like the John Durkan at Punchestown looking a likely place to go next.

Wonderful Charm who has gone well fresh as shown at Newton Abbot was put in his place here by Don Cossack and he has looked as though three miles is what he wants. He could join his stablemate Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase but whether the test of Haydock will suit him remains to be seen.


Many Clouds has been touted for the Hennessy by many for some time.
Many Clouds has been touted for the Hennessy for strong travelling type.

Sunday’s feature contest in England was the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase which had a small but select field including leading Gold Cup contender Holywell and plenty of up and coming second season novices. In the end, he had to settle for third behind Many Clouds and Eduard who both came a fair way clear.

Many Clouds has a really good record fresh and travelled strongly throughout for Leighton Aspell before staying on up the run in to beat the favourite Eduard who was given a strange ride in the sense that he wasn’t allowed to stride on with this losing him time at his fences which inevitably cost him the race. The winner’s next muted target was the Hennessy Gold Cup but the niggling doubt is whether he would truly see out the trip even though he shapes as a stayer. The runner up could go to either Ascot for the Amlin Chase or Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase however he could potentially meet Simonsig in the latter.

For his comeback run, Holywell ran a race full of promise. Most importantly, he jumped much better than his previous experience at the track and blew up just after the last. There will be something to work on and whilst his next target remains unclear, his form always improves as the season goes on.

Both Green Flag and Up To Something looked to need this outing severely and will come on plenty for this. Both horses could be targeted at Aintree’s Becher Chase meeting where the former would likely line up in the feature event as he looks to want at least three miles whilst the latter would be ideal for the Grand Sefton with his excellent jumping likely to stand him in good stead.


Horses to Follow

Get Me Out Of Here – Ran with plenty of promise and will be primed again for that one day.

Black Thunder – Hennessy would suit him really well.

Solar Impulse – Jumped really well for an inexperienced horse and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Aurore D’Estruval – Can take high ranks in the mares division this season.

Cole Harden – Well worth a go at Grade One company. Whether he is good enough is another question.

Green Flag/Up To Something – The Aintree double next month.


Horses to Follow from last week

Katgary was a notable eye catcher in several ways in the opening handicap hurdle. On paddock appearance he looked to have grown and strengthened up over the summer. He also looked as though he would need the run badly and this was proven the case as travelled strongly before stopping quickly. This effort can definitely be forgiven and he is one to follow when he goes up in distance to two and a half miles.

Great Try and Nick Scholfield before his run at Aintree. Photo courtesy of Jackie Kingdom.
Great Try and Nick Scholfield before his run at Aintree. Photo courtesy of Jackie Kingdom.

The other eye catcher came in the bumper with the hugely imposing Great Try, another Paul Nicholls representative. A winner at Southwell last season, he travelled really well on a track that I worried would be too sharp for him and looked the likely winner two furlongs out however he blew up. When he goes jumping, he will be one that will appreciate a more galloping track and a trip although he could easily win another bumper if kept to that discipline this season.

Melbourne Cup Guide

The race that stop the nation(s) is back! For all loyal racing fans from across the world, an early morning awaits us. On The Other Hoof did a bumper preview of the race with special Australian guest Andrew Hawkins, alongside panellists Michael (@mytentoryours), Luke (@lukeelder13) and Adam (@adamwebb121). If you have a spare hour (or so) you can watch it anytime via the following link, or if there’s just a specific horse you wish to get our views on you can skip using their racecard number (they were talked about in chronological order). There are also claims that the image preview of the video is perhaps one of the greatest faces in our history and I take all the credit.

Best of luck!

Hold up (58.5kg)

Hard not to be impressed with the manner in which he won the Caulfield Cup last time out over 2400m. Hadn’t won in over a year previously, and that was over 3400m (showing he has the stamina) but was a G3 contest. Not had the best domestic lead ups with a poor showing in the 3200m Tenno Spring G1 (13th) his last start in Japan.

Will exaggerated hold-up tactics work in a race where there’s very little pace available? Needs to be close up. 2012 repeat (slowly run) race expected.

Hold up (57kg)

Been the Godolphin star this year with many of their other stars failing to perform. Won two in the UK as well as a win in UAE (and an unlucky second). Came unstuck at York last time and long gap between this race and that. Has won off a break before, and has run in this before but only 12th. Carries more weight today. Is a British 3200m horse.

Hold up (57kg)

Sixth but beaten fair distance in last years race (54,5kg). Carries more but in a weaker renewal here. Just denied under big weight in Makybe Diva over 1600m and since won the Caulfield Stakes over 2020m (reversed placings with Makybe Diva winner). Second in Cox Plate since giving 3kg. Yet to tackle this distance apart from last years running.

Hold up (57kg)

Ever popular stayer whose finished second in this twice now. Best sign of himself as usual came in Geoffrey Freer when he ran eye-catchingly. Ignore latest start at Kempton, but carries more weight than last year (56,5kg), 2012 (55,5kg), 2011 (53kg). Not his usual lead up race (usually Irish St Leger) but around similar time so break no issue. Will be enjoying time in Australia. Sentimental.

Hold up/Versatile (56.5kg)

German 4yos really come on and he has done so, winning the Hansa Preis (Singing) and then the Kergolay, which is usually a good lead up race for this. The form not the strongest but a really good run in Herbert Power. Nice type for this race as stays well in Europe over 2400m so not devoid of speed but also needs that extra distance in Australia. He’s short now considering what he’s actually proven but hard to think of too many negatives. Never been out of first four. Ryan Moore is apparently a negative, but he’s looking for a Cox Plate-Cup double.


Tracks (56kg)

Really likeable type who won the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury this year. Undone by the sprint that developed in the Caulfield Cup and the slow pace so question whether these Australian races suit? Not the type of horse you’re looking for.

Track-mid (55.5kg)

Huge stamina doubts. Never been further than 2400m. Won G1 Metropolitan – was in front a long way and came up the straight very slowly – and then good run behind Admire Rakti when seventh in Cau Cup. No stamina available in pedigree, was running over a mile in UK in earlier years.

Hold up but flexible, can lead (55.5kg)

Best to ignore Irish St leger run considering the jockeys were largely to blame. Not really shown enough to suggest he’s good enough for this. Classiest successes come on soft (Ascot, only just got there on Champions Day). Seems to need every part of the trip in Legers over 2800m. Just unexciting.

Track-mid (55kg)

Hasn’t been in a field bugger than nine since April 2013. Won a few decent Listed and G3s this year but strength of those races has to be questioned. Never raced over further than 2400m. Last trip to Australia didn’t go so well. Bizarre move.

Tracks (55kg)

Very consistent type, not out of first three since July 2013. Mainly handicaps however though third in 2800m Listed race. Won the Ebor which looked good on paper but only Pallasator has really impressed since (3rd, Champions Day). Hasn’t had a run since then which is a worry for Australians but form figures after a layoff read 1-2-1. This is the Melbourne Cup though.

Tracks-mid (55kg)

Has won a 3200m NZ G1. Also won at the course twice who stayed on well over 2000m and 2520m, not the quickest. Was well beaten in Cau Cup but mucus found post race. Interesting one at bigger odds considering Distance win.

Hold up (55kg)

Very lightly raced for his age. Furthest he’s ran so far is 3100m so likely to stay the trip, but was only third that day in mediocre French G3 (Prix Gladiateur) 2012. Did win the Ebor in 2012.

Does seem a different horse this year however and plenty to like about Newbury second behind Seismos and fourth in Irish St Leger. One to keep in mind.

Leads if breaks well. Doesn’t always (54.5kg)

Very moody, but arguably the classiest member of the field. Won G2 over 2100m at York earlier in the year before good third to Cirrus at Epsom over 2400m. Never been further than 2900m (came close fifth) but that was behind classy soft ground stayers Wild Coco and Estimate as a 3yo. Really worth a shot here especially if jumping well and getting soft lead.

Mid (54.5kg)

Hasn’t won for a year. Ran in this in 2012 and 2011 without threatening and in worse form this time around.

Tracks (54kg)

Well placed when winning at Flemington (beat Signoff into third) over 1700m. Questions over the stamina have to be raised, good fourth in Caulfield Cup but then mid-div in Mackinnon at the weekend. More likely to be well placed than in the finish on merit.

Tracks (54kg)

Needs rain (never won on good). Not really of this class, mid-division in Listed race LTO. Never been this far.

Tracks/can lead (53.5kg)

Really nice run over 2400m when just beaten by Spiritjim in listed race then didn’t enjoy soft ground behind same horse next time. Back to form in Prix Foy. Ran over 3000m in 2013 and was narrowly denied there so hope on extended trip. Good run when striking from the home straight in Moonee Valley G2 and one to really consider for e/w purposes. Under the radar.

Tracks/mid (53.5kg)

There or thereabouts around 2400m last few starts, second in Turnbull before sixth in Cau Cup. Few queries if he will stay the 3200m but usually sticks his neck out to be in the mix so could place.

Hold up (53.5kg)

Second behind Junoob over 2400m in Metro G1. Only sixth at Moonee Valley since however and not screaming out for 3200m. Came 18/18 when last seen at Flemington over a staying trip, 2800m in Carnival Handicap (started fav but had tack issues). Unreliable.

Hold up (53kg)

Nice run in the Cau Cup, met a bit of trouble and stayed on quite eye-catchingly. A slow run race would not be to liking. Step up in trip should be appreciated however as did win a Listed race in Germany over 2800m.

Hold up (53kg)

In flying form of late, winning Turnbull before not getting to the line quick enough to peg back Admire Rakti in Cau Cup. Exaggerated hold up tactics are going to help in this race. Stamina? 2400m was a step up for her last time…

Hold up (51.5kg)

Hard to fancy.

Tracks (51kg)

Nice chance this. In really good form of late including when winning Lexus Stakes at the weekend. Turn around no problem for Australian horses and one to consider. Very promising.

Top Four

PROTECTIONIST 7/1 (150/1 Ante-Post)




Think those that sit close up will be there for a long time due to a slowly run race, so a chance is taken on Au Revoir who has some nice form in Europe and a decent run in Australia. My Ambivalent is a big risk but is huge at 40/1 for such a classy type. I expect Admire Rakti, alongside many others, to fly home at the finish but not quite get there. The selection is PROTECTIONIST whose versatility and potential is just as enticing as the massive odds I have him ante-post.