The National Hunt season is imminent and there are big TV changes in store

This evening I received my first reminder that one of my selected horses for the new NH season is due to run tomorrow at Gowran. Hurrah! At last the proper racing is back and before I know it there will be races by the minute on Saturday afternoons that provide the start of the big build up to the Grade 1s that begin to shape the season.

Of course, I’ll be watching the Arc meeting on both Saturday and Sunday but on Saturday the highlight will be Ryanair winner Balko des Flos in the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Gowran. 

It’s a shame that Thomas Hobson has been ruled out of the Parislongchamp Prix du Cadran on Saturday and I’ll have a little interest on Mille Et Mille at a current 12/1 as an alternative. I can’t have Max Dynamite who is placed in these type of races worldwide but isn’t an obvious choice for me.

It’s also a shame that the strange weather is impacting on the start of the season. While Chepstow is seen as the first big meeting, Exeter has often thrown up a few early starters. However, the Racing UK season opener on 11 October is in serious doubt because the ground is firm, hard in places.

The big story is to do with TV coverage. I’ve subscribed to Racing UK for about 5 years. It’s expensive: nearly £300 a year, but their coverage (to date) has been excellent, including a lot of the early races that are not available on free to air. A big downer for me is that they don’t provide coverage on secondary TVs so you have to watch on the main TV that you’ve subscribed to. I’d love to go to bed and watch the highlights of the day but that’s not available, including the free to air programmes such as Nick Luck’s Sunday morning programme which would be ideal. I’ve complained to them about this but got nowhere.

So, ATR is going to be Sky Sports Racing from 1 January 2019. Significantly, it will be broadcasting in HD which is long overdue. However, we won’t be there for their grainy pictures of Irish racing but more of that below. Also of note they have secured the rights for Ascot, Bangor, Chester and will continue with Doncaster. The channel is free for all Sky basic subscribers.

The big news for Sky, as far as I’m concerned, came a few days ago when they announced that they have signed a deal with PMU to provide exclusive  coverage of all French racing. Unlike the occasional coverage that we’ve seen on ATR and Racing UK, they are going to provide coverage of everything, including regional and trotting races. Matthew Imi, chief executive of At The Races, said:

This is a very exciting new partnership for us with France Galop, Le Trot and PMU and one that has immense potential. French racing is already well supported by owners and trainers in the UK and Ireland but we will showcase the strength and quality of French thoroughbred racing throughout the year in a way that has never been done before by UK racing media.

Sky Sports Racing will provide consistent, live broadcast coverage of French fixtures with all relevant betting information and presentation crews regularly live on site at French racecourses. will deliver in depth and comprehensive online coverage of French racing to the largest digital audience of racing fans in the UK and Ireland. In addition, Sport Mediastream, ATR’s wholly owned video streaming platform, will make every one of PMU’s 10,000 French thoroughbred and trotting races available live to online betting operators in the UK and Ireland for the first time.

“We look forward to extending our long-standing relationship with PMU and now working more closely and proactively with the teams at France Galop, Le Trot and PMU on this venture which we believe will raise the already strong profile and appeal of French racing in the UK and Ireland considerably.”

Cyril Linette, CEO of PMU added:

We see a great opportunity for French racing in the UK and Ireland. At The Races will be a strong partner for us to help deliver our high quality racing to the online betting market and at the same time generate interest with regular broadcast coverage and promotion.

Switching channels, Racing UK will have from 1 January 2019 exclusive coverage of Irish racing. There has been a great deal of hoo hah on social media about whether Racing UK will be able to provide adequate coverage of the big Irish races when there are inevitable clashes. I think that we will have to wait and see. It is an obvious challenge but if, like me, you are OK with as near as possible live coverage and split screens only when absolutely necessary, I think that they should be OK. For me, a big plus will be seeing Irish races in HD for the first time and, from a National Hunt perspective, most big British races will be on a Saturday and most big Irish races on a Sunday. I’ll also look forward to top level presentation from people like Lydia Hislop and I hope that they will recruit Gary O’Brien.

It’s going to be a very different season and I understand those who say that Irish racing will be much less accessible. However, we have to bear in mind that there is still a great deal of free to air racing on terrestrial TV, e.g. the Arc meeting, so we shouldn’t be so fussy about where the hardcore stuff can  be accessed.

How to write a professional email


When I started practising law, emails didn’t exist. There were rules about how to write letters and it was de rigeur to adopt a supercilious manner, using phrases that would demonstrate your legal training. A properly constructed letter before action would nearly always include a generous smattering of Latin, in accordance with the corresponding rules. Nemo dat quod non habet , novus actus interveniens, nulla bona, obiter dictum, prima facie, res ipsa loquitur, subpoena duces tecum, sine die, certiorari, donatio mortis causa and guardian ad litem all spring to mind.

Times have changed (Mutata sunt tempora). Speaking of times I was advised that all aspirant lawyers should subscribe to The Times or the then newly launched The Independent, which were at the time the sources of current law reports. When I joined Canter Levin & Berg (in 1988), access to older reports was in the All England Law Reports which we have retained in our interview rooms. In 1999 Lord Woolf changed plaintiffs to claimants, writ to claim form, discovery to disclosure, minor/infant to child, Mareva injunction to freezing order and inter partes to on notice, as well as inaugurating the fast-track. All county courts were closed for a day to allow the changes to be implemented.

The transition from letters to emails has been much more evolutionary and without any material regulation.

At Canter Levin & Berg we have steadily moved with the times. Our guidance for writing letters and emails is set out in our intranet (staff can find it at section 2.15 of the Office Procedures Manual).

I spend a lot of time reviewing files, from Canter Levin & Berg and other firms, and it’s staggering to see how writing styles have changed. They vary from a letter style which has barely changed from that which I learned as a clerk in the late 1980s to a txt style which is about as far removed from it that I could imagine. So, what is the “right way” to write a professional email? When I decided that I wanted to be a solicitor and applied to the College of Law in Chester, I was advised to read the seminal work on the subject, Glanville Williams’ ‘Learning The Law’. It’s been substantially updated since I read it but I remember that, in the edition I read, one of the most important things to do was to learn by rote the Crown succession since Henry VIII! Modern advice is some way removed from that.

Letters v Emails

In this post I am not setting rules. I am merely offering my thoughts based on my experience. One of the best things that a lawyer can do is to be orderly in his or her structure of what, for these purposes, I am going to call a letter (although I include in that emails). Traditionally, the training that produced letters in the style that I have summarised above meant that letters, particularly those that set out a claim, were very close to pleadings in their layout. In my view, that remains the correct approach. A specific example of where this is particularly important is a letter which includes a Part 36 offer. You may have read about the recent case in which a claimant was bound by an inelegantly and more pertinently, as it turned out, inclusive offer of £950 in respect of a claim for over £125,000

There is an overwhelming need to move with the times. That means that most legal professional communications will be (and should be) by email rather than by letter. Transitionally, some lawyers have taken to sending cursory emails which refer to “the attached letter”. There is nothing wrong with doing so but, equally, there is nothing wrong with putting the content of the letter in the email itself, as long as the email is properly constructed.

The basics of professional emails

These observations apply to any formal emails that you want to send, not just those sent by lawyers in the course of business.

  1. Use a professional email address. Use an email address which reflects who you are. Use a variation of your real name, not a nickname or username (the latter could easily be used to hack your accounts). I review all our job and training contract applications and it’s amazing how many come from “babycuddlesxxx@…”, “LFChero@…”, “topcoolguy@…” or similar. There are loads of ways to get a free email address such as Gmail and Hotmail, so, if you’re not using your work email address, do so.
  2. Use a professional font. If you use Comic Sans, expect to be treated as a comic. The default these days are Calibri 11 pt because that is what is used by Microsoft, or Helvetica (Apple) or Arial for Gmail. All use Times New Roman as a fallback, and that is always acceptable. Many businesses have a corporate standard font. At Canter Levin & Berg our default font is Calibri 11 point.
  3. Don’t use a background! You may have received emails which have, for example, a light grey background. Bear in mind that they might be accessed on various platforms, including smart phones and tablets. On some of them (as you may have seen yourself) they are completely illegible.
  4. Always use your own subject line (and keep it short and accurate). It’s easy just to hit reply and that will include whatever has been sent to you, such as “complete failure to understand my case”. Make sure that your title reflects your email, such as “in response to your enquiry” or, even better, make it specific such as “request for medical records” or “your witness statement”.

The format of your professional email

  1. Salutation. Most of us know that “Dear Mr Smith,” should end with “Yours sincerely, ” and that “Dear Sir/Madam,” should end with “Yours faithfully, ” Don’t be afraid of that in an email. It’s just another way of sending a letter. Unless replying in the same style that you have received, do not use “Hello”, “Hi”, or (God forbid!) “Hey”. If you know the person that you are communicating with and, importantly, if they adopt a more familiar style, then it is perfectly acceptable (and, in my view, encouraged) to reply in the same format and in those circumstances, “Hello” or “Hi” are acceptable (“Hey” is never acceptable in a professional email!).
  2. References. There is no reason why you should not use references in emails in exactly the way that you would in a letter. I often include in an email (at the top of the body content and in bold): Your ref:xxxx; Our ref:xxxx. Doing so can’t do any harm and reinforces the point that your email should be treated as equivalent to a letter.
  3. Content. Please remember what I’ve said above. The content of every single email you send could be analysed and therefore all the content should be structured in a strictly professional format. A conversational (and above all a smart phone text) style should be avoided. If necessary, you should introduce yourself in the first paragraph, e.g. “I have been instructed by xxx and I have been asked by my client to contact you in connection with xxx”. In your next paragraph you should explain the purpose of your communication, e.g. “I understand from my client that you witnessed the accident which took place on…” or “I am writing to ask you to provide me with…”.
  4. Keep it brief.  Keep to the point and do not engage in a conversational style, particularly when you are looking for clear instructions or a clear response (e.g. does your client accept liability?). Do not use indenting in your emails. You should not assume that lists or bullet points will appear in the same way in the recipient’s emails. Often they don’t.
  5. Use letters when you feel that they are appropriate. Sometimes, you need to send letters which are analogous to pleadings, e.g. a Part 18 request. If you are entirely confident about using emails then there is no reason why you should not do so. If you feel more comfortable using a conventional letter then that is fine. However, please make sure that you attach it to an email rather than sending it by post.
  6. Signing off. As indicated above, corresponding to the salutation, “Yours sincerely” and “Yours faithfully” is perfectly acceptable for emails. For more informal communications, “Regards” and “Kind regards” are appropriate. I have seen emails in which people have signed off professional emails with one or more kisses (“x” or more). For the avoidance of doubt they are never acceptable in professional emails!
  7. Before you send your email. Read what you have typed and correct any errors. If you are in any way unsure about the content, check with your supervisor. If you intended to attach any documents, make sure that they are correctly attached. If they are large attachments (e.g. big pdfs of 8Mb or more) check with IT to see whether they need to be sent by an alternative method.
  8. Check for any sensitive content. This is particularly relevant for family cases. Check to see whether you need to send your email by using a protected system.
  9. Save your emails. If you have written your email in Outlook, make sure that it is saved in Proclaim so that it forms part of the file history.

Please check with me if you need any further guidance.



My thoughts about the report of the Justice Select Committee concerning road traffic accident and other personal injury claims

I don’t often make a plea but please read this in full. It will take you no more than a couple of minutes.

For years, the Government has been kow-towing to the insurance lobby by suggesting that victims of road traffic accidents are fraudulent claimants who are just after a quick buck as part of the so-called “compensation culture”. The truth is that lots of people suffer injuries as the result of road traffic accidents and, for over 100 years, our legal system has provided that compensation is payable if you suffer injuries as the result of an accident that was not your fault. It makes sense, and that is why drivers are required to have insurance in case they cause an accident. I was involved in an accident three weeks ago, when my static car suddenly lurched forward and damaged two cars in front of me, I lodged the claim and the compensation is being arranged. That is why we have insurance.

Yes, there are people who have exploited the system by staging “cash for crash” fraud but they are in a tiny minority. For most people involved in an accident (and I expect that most people reading this have been), the obvious thing is to submit a perfectly legitimate claim and recover the compensation that they are properly entitled to, not paid by the other driver but, quite properly, by the insurer.

So, the Government is planning to increase the limit for legal representation for these claims to injuries with a value of over £5000. That excludes broken bones and psychological injuries. You are expected to run the claim yourself, online (what if you’re not computer literate or accessible?) and to deal with gathering evidence, preparing court-compliant witness statements, disclosing documents, obtaining medical evidence (a medico-legal report, not just a visit to a GP) and representing yourself if, as is much more likely, your claim is defended.

Thankfully, the Justice Select Committee has recognised that this is nonsense and has explained why, in detail, in its report:…/cms…/cmjust/659/659.pdf
published today.

I urge you to read it and I’m delighted to note that Canter Levin & Berg’s contribution has been cited, recognising the impact on jobs in North West England:

“The law firm Canter Levin and Berg Ltd observed:

The notion that law firms will find other areas in which to practice is nonsensical as while everyone can retrain, the market for other types of legal advice will not expand simply because the personal injury market has been culled.”

The Committee observed:

We consider it regrettable that, at the consultation stage of these proposals, the Ministry of Justice concluded that it was not relevant to estimate the potentially substantial impact on the PI legal sector, particularly in the North West. It is also unclear to us why the Ministry’s final stage Impact Assessment has assumed that the sector will be able to replace PI legal work with work of equivalent value. While our inquiry did not focus on this issue, we nonetheless draw the Ministry’s attention to the impact of the reforms on the PI legal sector and the potential for this sector to replace PI work that it loses, both of which we consider to be important questions.

Please contact your MP and ask him or her to read the report. It is compelling.

Grand National Day 2018

Bloody Danny Kirwan! It sounds like I’m telling off someone I know but, in fact, he was the disappointing flop in the Bumper, which was the last race at Aintree today. I could say the same about Chef des Obeaux, but Terrefort’s win meant that I ended the day level. Not bad when the results delivered 10/1, 14/1, 3/1, 11/1, 14/1,6/4f and 25/1. And that’s the message from today. The winners were, against standard, 28.6 seconds slow, 22.8s, 49.9s, 30.5s, 29.6s, 40.8s and 36s. This is proper testing ground and it’s much more testing than it appears on TV. In other words, the soft ground is very relevant.

This is the Turftrax measure from this morning. The message is that the ground is much more testing than it looks and that may well have contributed to some of Friday’s results. Minella Rocco, Vicente and Beeves have been ruled out of the National, all because of the soft ground and here’s the forecast for tomorrow:

There is no more rain forecast but it will remain overcast with no wind so it’s reasonable to assume that we should work on the basis that the ground will dry out a bit, but remain, as I said last Monday, soft (arguably heavy) all round. That means that you should be very cautious with your bets.

This preview would not be complete without my back garden assessment of the ground! And here it (…was). Apparently it’s too big a file to download so the message is that it’s trés souple (i.e. very soft).

Here’s Bryony Frost, working out her route with dad, Jimmy Frost, winner of the National on Little Polveir (1989):

I think that she will complete on Milansbar but I can’t see him as the winner.

So, on to the races:

1.45 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 1/2f

Do not bet in this race!

So, this is a lottery. I’m going to choose some of the horses that I’ve liked during the season but without any confidence! Accordingly, please don’t follow them. They are: Debece* (9/1) and Connetable* (14/1). I fully expect a 33/1 winner of this race and I ave no idea which one it will be.

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

I think that we should back Kildisart (16/1) in this one. Another Munir/Soude option with Daryl Jacob on board. He won the Silver Plate, beating Zubayr and Mongeg Theatre.

3.00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m (Mildmay)

Petit Mouchoir (8/15) (little hankie) is comfortably the best in this one. I can see this one dominating the field. The current 4/7 is entirely fair.

3.40 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

I have no strong view about this race. If you need a placepot option I’d go for Thomas Patrick (9/2).

4.20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

I’ll go with Sam Spinner (5/4) for the selection but I doubt that I’ll be betting. I’ve just taken a wander outside and it’s raining again.

5.15 The Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2 1/2f (Grand National)

So, this is the big one. I don’t have a strong view and, on balance, I’ll go with Ucello Conti at an appealing 18/1. Gordon Elliott thinks that he is in peak form and that will do for me

6.20 Conditionals and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 1/2f

Let’s face it, you won’t be betting in this race unless your National bets have gone west! If so, follow the Racing Post and have a go with Maquisard at 12/1 who is by some way the most progressive in this field.

Aintree Friday

Well, Thursday is best forgotten, with a blank sheet. Bristol de Mai ran really well but the only result to take from the selections was Clan des Obeaux’s third place.

So, on to another day and a really hard card. I think I maybe overthought Thursday’s racing so I’m going to make quick selections this evening and be done with. Friday’s card has to rank as one of the poorest for several years and has the potential to produce some long shot winners.

The ground turned out to be slow, but nowhere near as bad as it might have been.

1.45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f

Zubayr* (12/1 e/w)

I have no strong view about this race so the selection is really just for the sake of putting one up.

2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1/2f

Global Citizen** (9/4)

Global Citizen has been saved for this race and was a very impressive winner of the Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton. He should be well ahead of the rest but others to look out for are Vision des Flos (5/1) and, if he’s got over his heavy fall in the Supreme, Slate House (11/1)

2.50 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

Terrefort** (7/2)

I think that Black Corton may have boiled over after a long campaign but I’d love to see him take this one with the excellent Bryony Frost (a winner at Taunton today) on board. The pair get on very well but he’s not had a break since last summer.

Others of note are Terrefort, winner of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and second in the JLT, Coo Star Sivola, winner of the Ultima, Ms Parfois, only just beaten in the National Hunt Chase (but had a hard race) and Elegant Escape, third in the RSA (ahead of Black Corton).

The RSA is renowned for leaving a mark on novices and, on balance, I’m siding with Terrefort

3.25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f (Mildmay)

Min**** (11/8)

Embed from Getty Images

For a £250,000 race, this would normally attract a better field. In my view it’s down to Min, a gallant second to Altior in the Champion Chase, and Balko des Flos, winner of the Ryanair. I think that Min is comfortably the best and he is therefore my nap at a very appealing 11/8.

4.05 Topham Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f (Grand National)

I won’t be having a bet in this second outing of the week over the National course because, to me, none of the runners make obvious appeal. I think that this race could throw up a long odds winner and I’ve no idea which one it might be. 11/1 the field is, in my view, about right.

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

Chef des Obeaux** (10/1)

I’ve decided to overlook the poor showing of Chef des Obeaux in the Albert Bartlett and, if that was just an off day, the 10/1 on offer is great value. The second and third in that race, Ok Corral and Santini are respected but I think that an on song Chef des Obeaux can take both of them.

5.15 Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Danny Kirwan*** (7/4)

I watched Danny Kirwan’s win at Kempton in February and was seriously impressed, deciding at the time that I would definitely follow him. The price (7/4) shows that I was clearly not alone. A repeat of along the lines of that performance should see him take this fairly comfortably.


Good luck!

Aintree Thursday

Our first stop has to be, as usual, the ground. I’ve been noting on Twitter the unusual deluge in the last few days and the going stick reading on the Mildmay course on Tuesday was 4.1 which is apparently the lowest (i.e. softest) reading in recent years (the National course was 3.7). On Wednesday afternoon the readings were 5.4 on the Mildmay, 5 on the hurdles and 4.2 on the National courses. So what does that mean? The going stick ranges from 0 (beyond waterlogged) to 15 (a tarmac road) and the vast majority of readings are in a range from 5-10. Here’s what matters. Based on thousands of readings the mean for heavy is 5.2, soft 6.0, good to soft 6.8 and good 7.7. Clerks of the courses tend to suggest that the ground is better than the readings suggest (and can often be right). Today has been dry; a little rain is forecast overnight, but there has been no drying wind and it’s been overcast all day. I’m sticking with my view that, overall, it will be soft and adding that it will be heavy in places on the National course.

Here’s the view from the Met Office:

So, in summary, I’m taking the view that we should look for confirmed soft ground horses and bear in mind that the ground will churn up as the week progresses.

1.45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f (Mildmay)

Cyrname*** (9/4)

Embed from Getty ImagesThis is a poor Grade 1 and my selection process has been based on which horses I least dislike. Although he’s been favourite until just now (on Wednesday evening) I don’t like Brain Power. This course is likely to suit him better than Cheltenham, but he had a hard race in the Arkle, picking up the pieces when 14l behind Footpad, and is not guaranteed to get round. I can’t have Finian’s Oscar under any circumstances and Modus is not a Grade 1 horse, even in this company. Rene’s Girl would have to improve a lot but could do so. She jumps well and has the half a stone mares’ allowance which could be important on this ground. An each way chance at a rapidly shortened 6/1.

However, Cyrname looks all over the winner to me. He swerved Cheltenham, has had a decent break (last out on 24 February), and has good form (including on soft) on flat tracks. He was beaten by just a neck by the very promising Terrefort over the same distance in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. Timeform have him him level with Brain Power on 174 but with the all important “small p”.

2.20 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f

Apple’s Shakira***** (9/4)

Beau Gosse** (18/1 e/w)

Embed from Getty ImagesNow this is an intriguing race, won in 2016 by Apple’s Jade (maybe you can see where I’m going!). Regular readers know that I have keenly followed Apple’s Shakira all season and she was included in my top three bets for Cheltenham, only to finish fourth in the Triumph (the only blot on her copybook). She was far too keen in that race and has a hood on for this outing. I think that Barry Geraghty will have realised from the Triumph that she needs to be held up and the evidence now shows that she certainly needs to be. She also has form on soft ground and has the potentially all important 7lb mares’ allowance.

We Have A Dream is on a five timer but hasn’t beaten much and that leads me on to my reference to this race being intriguing. As the blog demonstrates, I’m very interested in French racing and Guillaume Macaire is bringing Beau Gosse here, notwithstanding that he is in the same ownership (Munir/Souede) as We Have A Dream. There is no way that he’s here as a pacemaker for We Have A Dream and it’s a long old hike from Royan (not that far from our house in south west France). He was well beaten in the Adonis Hurdle but has listed winning form on trés souple at Auteuil and, for me, has an outstanding each way chance.

2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

Bristol de Mai*** (11/2)

Clan des Obeaux* (14/1)

Embed from Getty ImagesSometimes you have to keep the faith and that is what I’m doing with my selection in this one. I think that it was absolutely the right thing to do to avoid Cheltenham with Bristol de Mai and he has a tendency to run well after a break (75 days). Haydock used to be renowned as an Aintree trial course (albeit for the National course and with stiff fences – until they were unforgivably taken away) but it is a park course renowned for its testing ground and Bristol de Mai excelled in one of the performances of the season when winning the Betfair Chase on heavy ground by a staggering 57 lengths (beat Cue Card, Outlander and Tea for Two). It’s too easy to say that he’s just a Haydock specialist. He’s a classy horse with a gruelling pace on at least soft ground and this should suit him down to the ground (no pun intended).

Might Bite had a hard race behind Native River in the Gold Cup and, with a few notable exceptions, not many Gold Cup horses do well for the remainder of the season. There is also the famous quirk of this horse to run all over the place. Take a look at the featured image in this post. There is loads of room for him to take a wander over the last two furlongs.

Embed from Getty ImagesAs for the places, I really like Clan des Obeaux. He has great form, lots of room for improvement as a 6-y-o, and could be on his way to being a championship contender. I think that he’s nailed on for a place.

3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

Cyrius Darius* (22/1 e/w)

Right, well let’s get this out of the way, I don’t like Supasundae. 2m 4f is undoubtedly better for him than 3m but the Stayers’ Hurdle was no classic renewal and his recent form is more down to the failings of his opponents than establishing him as a Grade 1 performer. The New One and My Tent Or Yours have been great and I was very close to selecting the latter for a place. However, I’m firmly of the view that they’ve had their best days.

Embed from Getty ImagesSo, this is a race that is crying out for a progressive horse and that one, for me, is Cyrus Darius. From a northern yard, he was thought to be good enough to run in the 2017 Champion Hurdle (finished last of those that completed). He didn’t blossom when sent chasing but won last time out over hurdles in the Morebattle at Kelso, beating among others, 6/4f Chti Balko. He likes flat tracks and has winning course form.

I would have been interested in Diakali, had not W P Mullins unloaded him and he’s well and truly in at the deep end on his first outing for Gary Moore.

4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase 2m 5f (Grand National)

Unioniste** (12/1 e/w)

So, who is riding which horses? That’s very often the key to this one. Jamie Codd is riding Grand Vision (9/2) for Colin Tizzard, Nina Carberry is riding On The Fringe (9/1), Derek O’Connor is riding Balnasflow (5/1), David Maxwell is riding Unioniste (12/1) and Sam Waley-Cohen is riding Wonderful Charm (7/1).

Let’s get On The Fringe out of the way. He’s been a fine horse but is a 13-y-o and has no form to speak of this season. Grand Vision has never faced the National fences and had a hardish run in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’. Balnasflow has been frequently touted for races of this nature but is becoming a bit of a nearly horse and Wonderful Charm flopped in the Foxhunters’.

Embed from Getty ImagesAdopting the strategy of bet-lose-repeat I’m going again with Unioniste. The course is a concern but he’s only a 10-y-o and was by far the classiest of these in his earlier years. He was 10th in the Foxhunters’ but has followed up with a win.

I have to give a mention to Distime (16/1) who has course form and is bringing good pointing form into this race.

4.40 Red Rum Chase (Grade 3) 2m (Mildmay)

Bun Doran* (8/1 e/w)

I doubt very much that I will have a bet in this race. I selected Theinval for the Grand Annual but if the ground is as soft as I expect, I can’t have him, taking into account in particular that his last outing was undoubtedly the season’s target.

Everyone seems to be with King’s Socks, with the prevailing view that the drop in trip will suit. However, it can’t be avoided that David Pipe has had a shockingly bad season.

I’ve been here before (like Unioniste in the last race) but I like Bun Doran, who is a consistent performer, was third in this race last year (Theinval was second) and ran well on soft when second to Gino Trail at Cheltenham last December, with Bentelimar third, another that appeals (albeit modestly).

5.15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Dissavril* (13/2)

I’m not going to pretend that I have any great knowledge about these horses. I know that Paul Nicholls rates Posh Trish but, if I’m inclined to have a go, it will be on Dissavril, who seems to me to have a lot of potential.


Good luck!

Excellent French racing website

I was dreaming about Footpad against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil when writing my intro for Aintree later this week and, while doing so, happened upon a superb French racing website:

I highly recommend that you take a look.

Great writing, loads of videos and superb photos. Very impressive!

Here’s a tribute to Whetstone in the Prix Fleuret on 1 April:


And here’s the excellent and comprehensive report on De Bon Coeur’s victory in the Prix Hypothèse:


What a good website!

Getting ready for Aintree

It’s a bit early to be putting up posts about the Aintree Festival because we have little idea just which horses will be turning up where, or at all, but I’m laying down a marker.

I’m looking forward to watching Thursday’s fare in a suitable Racing UK furnished hostelry, followed by Friday with the obligatory sparkling drinks and Grand National day at home from start (preview programmes in the morning) to finish with, as usual, probably more interest in the “undercard” than the main event.

On Sunday, Nicky Henderson reported that Altior will be aimed at the Celebration Chase at Sandown and today Willie Mullins said that Footpad will not be traversing the Irish Sea later this week. If I was in the wonderful position of Munir/Souede (if only) then I would be seriously contemplating a trip to France in May, given this one’s predilection for Auteuil, perhaps over the haies (half way houses between hurdles and fences) that he has shown he is so adept at dealing with. It would be something else to see him up against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil but that is perhaps too much to hope for!

Buveur d’Air has also been ruled out of an Aintree run and is looking like he’s on his way to Punchestown later this month.

It’s sad but unsurprising to read about the retirement of Cause of Causes after his abject performance in the Cheltenham Cross Country. He’s been a nailed on bet at the Festival for the last few years and has well and truly earned his relaxation after his halcyon days.

In other news Ryanair winner Balko des Flos will run in the Melling Chase on Friday, Identity Thief will take part in the Stayers’ Hurdle on Saturday and Petit Mouchoir is likely to be favourite in the Maghull Novices’ Chase also on Saturday (which will undoubtedly be called Mag-hull by the racing presenters – as it always is!).

And what about the going? Here we go again (after Cheltenham). Here on the Wirral it poured all day on Saturday, although I’m told that it wasn’t so bad across the Mersey. As usual, I’ve tested the ground in my back garden and it’s soft, heavy in places! However, Aintree is renowned for it’s drying properties.

Here’s the Turftrax view as at 13:01 today:




According to the the generally reliable Accuweather, it’s going to rain tonight, showers on Tuesday, a shower or two on Wednesday, more showers on Thursday and Friday and cloudy on Saturday. As with Cheltenham, my prediction is for soft all round on all courses.


Here are the races to look forward to, ready to be filled and commented on over the next few days when we know the participants.


1.45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f (Mildmay)

2.20 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f

2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Red Rum Chase (Grade 3) 2m (Mildmay)

5.15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f


1.45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f

2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1/2f

2.50 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f (Mildmay)

4.05 Topham Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f


1.45 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 1/2f

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

3.00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m (Mildmay)

3.40 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

4.20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 The Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2 1/2f (Grand National)

6.20 Conditionals and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 1/2f

So, just the 11 Grade 1 races to look forward to!


Who’s watching me?

A few days ago I downloaded my Facebook data in light of the current furore. It was very revealing and surprising. You can do so here:

I recommend that you do so. I’m sure that you’ll find interesting information. It led me to delete a number of apps, some of which I don’t remember having visited or installed.

But it’s not just Facebook. Here’s a map of all the places I’ve visited in the last 12 months, taken from Google Maps.

It turns out that, with your standard settings, Google Maps stores your location every time you turn on your phone!

I should give credit to Dylan Curran on Twitter (@iamdylancurran) whose tweets I have used to do this. Take a look at his timeline and you can do the same thing.

Google’s “MyActivity” ( is a revelation. It showed me all the pages I have visited based on Google searches. Here’s an example:

This is amazing. It shows me every search I have made and you can filter it, going back for years. Google also records the ads that you’ve seen, let alone clicked on. To quote Dylan “Google creates an advertisement profile based on your information, including your location, gender, age, hobbies, career, interests, relationship status, possible weight (need to lose 10lbs in one day?) and income”.

Google also records what apps you’ve accessed and what they can do. Here’s an example (I’ve removed about 20 apps that had similar access):

How about Youtube (owned by Google)? Well, that keeps a record of all the Youtube videos that you’ve viewed as well as the search terms that you used. Here’s mine for the last two weeks (unsurprisingly focused on horse racing):

You can download all the data that Google holds about you, by going to 

I’ve just ordered mine and the file size is about 443Mb! As Dylan reports “This link includes your bookmarks, emails, contacts, your Google Drive files, all of the above information, your YouTube videos, the photos you’ve taken on your phone, the businesses you’ve bought from, the products you’ve bought through Google…”.

If that’s not enough: “This includes every message you’ve ever sent or been sent, every file you’ve ever sent or been sent, all the contacts in your phone, and all the audio messages you’ve ever sent or been sent”.

So, you’re thinking, OK, that’s kind of what you expect. How about this? As Dylan points out: “Here’s the search history document, which has 90,000 different entries, even showing the images I downloaded and the websites I accessed (I showed ThePirateBay section to show much damage this information can do)”:

Or how about this: “This is all the photos ever taken with my phone, broken down by year, and includes metadata of when and where I took the photos”:

The upshot is that pretty much everything that you do on the internet and on your phone is recorded and can be accessed.

All the Cambridge Analytica stuff is easy to dismiss on the basis that you might say, I won’t fall for all that, but the far more serious point is that this data exists and you would be very naive to think that it’s not accessible and tradeable by all sorts of nefarious agencies.

Cheltenham Friday

There’s normally a day at the Festival when winners are thin on the ground and Thursday was it. Terrefort ran well in the JLT. The surprising defeat of Un de Sceaux by Balko des Flos (supposed not to like the ground) meant that I was bound to end on a loss for the day but the commanding win by Laurina in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle cushioned the blow.

On to the big day.

1.30 Triumph Hurdle

Apple’s Shakira***** (nap)
Embed from Getty Images

On Tuesday I was absolutely delighted to hear J P McManus say that Apple’s Shakira was his selection of the week. Her sister Apple’s Jade flopped on day one and I mentioned to a fellow watcher at the Lady of Mann that it might have been her time of the month. It’s now been confirmed that she was indeed in season so that goes some way to explaining the uncharacteristic lacklustre performance. Apple’s Shakira is my selection of the week and the current 7/4 is still worth taking. I got on at 3/1 a couple of months ago and I might well top that up. She’s been campaigned at Cheltenham since her valuable transfer from Emmanuel Clayeux last September and has won all three outings on soft, including a defeat of Nube Negra (who ran well in the Fred Winter).

I expect that many of you have seen her Cheltenham races so here is a video of her win at Vichy which, I expect, prompted the purchase (she’s in yellow and green) “facilement”:

Just nine runners in this championship race for juveniles will reinforce the view that the Fred Winter has diluted this race. I take the view that the top newcomers should  have their opportunity in a decent race and the hustle and bustle will be absent this time.

Stormy Ireland is one to watch, a 58 lengths winner of her last outing at Fairyhouse on heavy ground.

2.10 County Hurdle

Smaoineamh Alainn*

Well, this one is full of horses that I’ve followed into a hole, namely Ivanovich Gorbatov, Meri Devie, Moon Racer, Jenkins, Brelade, Divin Bere and Sternrubin! I’m going each way with Smaoineamh Alainn (on a four timer at 16/1) who has winning form on soft here last December, albeit in a Class 3. To be honest I’ll have no more than a marginal interest in this race.

Current joint favourite Bleu et Rouge (10/1) is also of interest.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Chef des Obeaux***

The potato race. As regular readers will know I’m all over current second favourite (5/1) Chef des Obeaux in this race. I was really taken by his win last month at Haydock in the Grade 2 trial for this. That was on properly heavy ground but he’ll keep going when others have lost their chances. Others of note are Dortmund Park (16/1), Calett Mad (16/1) (for a place) and Kilbricken Storm (33/1) (also for a place).

3.30 The Gold Cup

Native River***

Embed from Getty Images

I’m still with Native River (5/1), even though the ground may not be as bad as I predicted. He was third in this race last year and the conditions are undoubtedly more in his favour this year. He made an impressive return in the Denman Chase last month (when many of Colin Tizzard’s horses were not running well).

Here are Colin and Joe Tizzard talking about him last week:

I can’t have Might Bite.

Our Duke beat Presenting Percy by a length in the Red Mills Chase last month and the latter’s win in the RSA on Wednesday was very impressive. However, I have concerns about his jumping.

Of the remainder Definitly Red (10/1), Killultagh Vic (10/1) and Road to Respect (12/1) have live chances.

Overall, it’s a very open race.

4.10 Foxhunters’ Chase

Caid du Berlais*

Embed from Getty Images

Foxrock (8/1) and Burning Ambition (3/1) have been strongly supported for this. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my preference is for Caid du Berlais (14/1). He’s not seen a racecourse since coming in eighth behind Presenting Percy in last year’s Pertemps Final. However, he has won his last three point to point races easily, the most recent of them 19 days ago, and his back form includes a win in the Paddy Power Chase.

I’ll also be backing Unioniste each way (22/1), formerly a high class horse, who has won his last two hunter chases easily.

4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle

Dieses des Bieffes**

This race is a bit of a lottery and often throws up a long priced winner. However, I’m keen on second favourite Dieses des Bieffes (8/1) for Nicky Henderson and excellent young jockey James Bowen. Of the remainder I’m interested in the Mullins/Ricci pair Burrows Saint (18/1) (Lizzie Kelly) and Deal d’Estruval (6/1) (Liam Gilligan).

For a bit of value Delire d’Estruval (33/1) and Brillare Momento (28/1) are worth a look.

5.30 Grand Annual Chase

Theinval* (pictured) / Gino Trail* (e/w)
Embed from Getty Images

I decided a while ago that I would side with Theinval (14/1) in the finale.  He was third in this race last year and has a good place record overall. He won a Grade 3 hurdle at the Grand National meeting in 2015 and followed up with a valiant second in the Red Rum Chase last year.

Gino Trail is good value for a place at 20/1 (recent form 31121) but has a lot of weight to carry.

Dresden is the Racing Post nap at 40/1 and North Hill Harvey has been routed here instead of the Arkle. However, he was beaten by 39 lengths at Warwick by Saint Calvados who was subsequently outclassed in last Tuesday’s Arkle and has enough weight to be carrying as a novice.


Good luck!