Here’s is some excellent insight into Willie Mullins’ plans for the Dublin Racing Festival and beyond:
Here’s is some excellent insight into Willie Mullins’ plans for the Dublin Racing Festival and beyond:
I highly recommend Lydia Hislop’s “Road to Cheltenham” which is now well established as the authoritative guide to the National Hunt Olympics. There’s no need to pay for desktop readers of the form when this is free, very well-informed and, self-evidently, a journalistic tour de force.
I’m astonished that Shantou Flyer (100/1) has been entered for the Gold Cup. Good luck to my former CLB partner Carl Hinchy. This has to be the definition of keeping the faith!
This season has been, even more than usual, one which has been characterised by the failures of big names. It started with Our Duke at Down Royal and has continued unabated, reaching its zenith (to date) at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting. Many of the Irish trainers have pinpointed the new Dublin Racing Festival on 3 and 4 February as their target for collective redemptions and I’ll be there to see how it plays out. As you’ll gather from the early selections made below I have serious reservations about most of them and I’m more interested in seeing a few newcomers stamping their credentials (a good reason for looking at the markets now).
My shortlist is fairly easy, comprising horses that have obvious top level ability and they are:
Footpad (7/4 – Arkle)
I am a francophile (if you haven’t been racing at Pompadour you need to put it in your bucket list!). The Munir/Souede buying policy has borne fruit well and truly this season and their interest in French racing has, in my humble view, never been better deployed than giving this one regular returns to his hurdles (small fences) debut at Auteuil. It’s made him one of the most natural jumpers I’ve seen in a long time and he’s got loads of speed as well as winning form over 2m 3 1/2f. The perfect profile.
Buveur d’Air (4/6 – Champion Hurdle)
His only serious opponent would have been Faugheen but, even if WP’s successor to Hurricane Fly makes it to the Dublin Racing Festival and wins, he’s 10 and, for me, would still be under a cloud. Apart from him, Buveur leads the market at 8/1 bar and that’s a fair measure.
Samcro (2/1 – Ballymore Hurdle)
You have to assume that this is where he will run, which is a fairly safe bet in itself (I expect that Next Destination will turn up in the Albert Bartlett). Some people knock maiden hurdles form in Ireland but, although this one brings a vastly superior and unbeaten record to the table, I have to remember (you’ll have to indulge me here) the progress of Quatre Heures (a horse in which I was lucky enough to have an interest about 10 years ago). QH progressed nicely, via Leopardstown, Naas and Navan. Although Cheltenham didn’t suit him in the Supreme, he went on to win a Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival. What marked him out as a contender was his 5th of 20 in a similar race to Samcro’s first outing over hurdles (a low level maiden at Punchestown last October). He’s gone on to win the Grade 3 Monkstown at Navan and it’s his dominant running style that really appeals, more than the margins of victory. I think that this 6-y-o might turn out to be a genuine star.
Apples Shakira (4/1 – Triumph Hurdle)
This one could not have been more impressive in her two outings this season. Obviously, like others, I’m taken with the fact that she’s a sibling of Apples Jade but, putting that aside, her wins at Cheltenham suggest that she really is a class apart. The obvious question is how she might perform in a big field but I’m happy to take the view that, subject to any late winter/early spring springers, she’ll dominate the 2014/2018 4-y-o crop.
As always, don’t follow me blind because I’ve no doubt that I’ll have dozens of changes of mind (well, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?) and, above all, good luck!!
Espoir d’Allen (8/1)
No bet yet
Buveur d’Air (4/6)
Apples Jade (8/11)
Black Corton (20/1)
No bet yet
No bet yet
Presenting Percy (7/1)
Cause of Causes (4/1)
No bet yet
No bet yet
Brain Power (16/1)
No bet yet
Un de Sceaux (9/2)
Sam Spinner (4/1)
Clan des Obeaux (16/1)
No bet yet
Apples Shakira (4/1)
No bet yet
Next Destination (8/1)
Coney Island (11/1)
Caid du Berlais (14/1)
No bet yet
Copaine de Classe (25/1)
Just some quick selections this time.
Just a watching brief for the unopposable Apple’s Shakira***** at a prohibitive 1/5. Selected last time at Cheltenham and my goodness she delivered. She’s currently 7/2 favourite for the real thing (10/1) bar and will probably be shorter after tomorrow.
Another short price and Movewiththetimes*** (evens) should take this without too much difficulty.
I’m not sure why they’re giving Sire de Grugy such a hard campaign at this stage in his career and without any of the exuberance he had in his pomp. Bun Doran is the well supported favourite but I prefer Gino’s Trail** at a decent 7/2.
Clan des Obeaux**** won very well last time out and ran creditably in a match with Whisper the time before. I don’t see top weight as a problem for a strapping horse like this and he’s my bet of the day at a decent 7/2. I might also have a small place interest in Deauville Dancer at 40/1 chasing a four-timer, albeit that this is a serious step up in class.
This is a substandard renewal and I don’t have a particular view. Maybe just current joint favourite Equus Secretus (15/8) but not a bet for me.
The New One has won this three times and could easily do so again. I can also see My Tent Or Yours making a winning return. It would be great to see Melon take a step up and enter the Festival reckoning. One to watch unless, at the last minute, I decide to have a little go with The New One** at 9/4 who is likely to prefer this ground.
Lady Karinga** has winning form on soft and heavy and I’d love to see this daughter of Lady Rebecca take another step forward at an appealing 11/2.
I’m very interested in the J P McManus/Nicky Henderson combination in the shape of Countister*** who could be very good indeed. She has an excellent French profile including two Grade 2 AQPS bumpers. Clondaw Castle provides serious opposition but I’m still happy with the current 10/11 (could be a lot shorter on the day). I expect to see this one in some of the big races later in the season and she definitely fits the “could be anything” mould.
I fancy Paul Nicholls’ Braquer d’Or** (9/4) under Bryony Frost to turn over favourite Keeper Hill.
This is another in which I prefer the second favourite, Act of Valour*** (11/8) to beat the favourite (We Have A Dream). Paul Nicholls has identified this one as a potential star and this is the perfect opportunity for him to frank his credentials after winning on heavy at Newcastle earlier this month.
The ground at Fairyhouse is heavy. I’ll be looking out for Bravissimo (7/2) in the 12:05 beginners’ chase, Bonbon Au Miel (Mullins) v Monbeg Notorious (Elliott) in another beginners’ chase at 12:35, Stormy Ireland (Mullins) in the juvenile maiden hurdle at 13:10 and Giant Spirit (Mullins) in another maiden hurdle (transferred from Sandra Hughes).
As ever at this time of year, lots of interesting racing. Good luck!
Cheltenham 12:10: Apple’s Shakira
Cheltenham 13:55: Clan des Obeaux
Doncaster: 12:30 Countister
Doncaster 14:45 Act of Valour
I was not too far off the mark today (Friday), as you can see here and particularly pleased with Willoughby Court’s win. We would have had a nice big race double were it not for the remarkable performance of Beer Goggles, defeating Unowhatimeanharry. It was clear from some way out that Thistlecrack was not going to be the winner. Now, if you’re a small scale trainer and you get hammered for schooling in public, are you entitled to be somewhat miffed by the “not knocked about” performance of Thistlecrack who, according to the trainer, is now nicely primed for the King George? Yesterday, I quoted the trainer saying that this was his “racecourse gallop”. Hmm. As it happens, I take the view that his fifth of six revealed that he is not at all “nicely primed”. Both trainer and assistant (Colin and Joe) were keen to emphasise that he was race fit. I suggest that you have a look at the last three furlongs (courtesy of ITV) and tell me that he wasn’t gently treated when obviously not going to win.
On to a great Saturday and the best pre Boxing/St Stephen’s Day December cards.
Cap Soleil**** (2/5) is dominant in this field and will surely see off Dame Rose. She is one of the top prospects for the season and will surely be a player if correctly entered next March. Not a betting proposition at the price unless you want to play with big money.
I can’t believe that my favourite pair of the season so far, Black Corton*** (a great 13/8) and Bryony Frost, are back out again for a potential six timer in a Grade 2. Paul Nicholls did say that he might as well keep going with him until he hits the wall, but this looks like another winnable race. He’s tough as teak and this placing has turned out to be a great opportunity to add to that excellent record. I think that this is my bet of the day because there’s a good case for saying that he should be odds on against a poor field for a Grade 2.
I could tell why I think that lots of these won’t win and, after reflection, Gold Present probably should win this but I can’t put him forward as a selection, particularly after Tully East’s failure last time out (2nd to the latter in the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase at the Festival). One to watch and take ideas from.
This is another where I don’t have strong view. I might just have a little dabble with Coeur de Lion* for a place at 9/1 because the trip might suit.
Now, thank goodness, it’s time to take a view again! Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of Charli Parcs***** at an excellent 3/1. He didn’t’t deliver when push came to shove last season but I think that he absolutely oozes class and can start this season in the same way he did last. Absolute bet of the day (sorry, yes, I now that’s the second one), in the hope that he’s summered well and will now become a serious candidate at the top level.
All the talk is about WP’s Munster National winner Total Recall who has a serious weight increase here. Paul Ferguson and other equally highly respected analysts see this as one for Singlefarmpayment. However, I think that this is the time for American** (6/1) to make the breakthrough to the top level, with course and ground to suit. Whisper (8/1) is respected and A Genie In Abottle (10/1) is good value for a place (especially with the big race offers for extra places).
I quite like (no more than that) Baby King* to take this at an appealing 4/1.
Well, this is always that strange day when perhaps the biggest favourite for the ante post Cheltenham market runs in the north east.
Buveur d’Air doesn’t face any serious opponents in the Fighting Fifth and the 2/9 reflects that. Given the weather this week, I see that as the most likely opponent (soft, heavy in places).
I must be getting old because I’ve thought in recent years that this was never the same after relocating and I see that this was back in 2005 (from Chepstow). I always remembered it as a slog and it could well be again. However, this features another horse who I think has lots more to come in the shape of Beware The Bear*** who I think is very well priced in this one at 3/1.
Having now measured it all, the bet of the day is a double: Black Corton and Charli Parcs. Bet placed for a £98.40 return to a £10 stake.
By the way, Sunday is probably an even better day for Festival prospects, including in Ireland, Meri Devie (surely at last!)
Another great jumping weekend is upon us. Tomorrow’s (Friday) card features a few opportunities to get off to a good start.
Perhaps I’ve over analysed this race. I’m interested in three of them. The first is Peur de Rien at no less than 150/1. he was 12th of 16 on his debut at Worcester in a bumper but was thereabouts until fading so could come on for that. Purchased from Guillaume Macaire, I think that he has a similar profile and has as much of a chance as World Premier who happened to have things go his way in his bumper. The difference in the market is largely down to the latter having been bought by J P McManus last Saturday. My selection is Black Op** (9/4) who was a decent 9th in the Grade 2 Aintree bumper at the Festival.
I’m all against Yanworth, particularly up against the very impressive Willoughby Court*** (9/4), who therefore represents very good value and on a five timer.
This is a really competitive race and although I’ve lost with him on more than one occasion I’m with O O Seven** (6/1) to follow up his Topham fourth and RSA fifth (beating Acapella Bourgeois). He’s a 7-y-o and entitled to improve and this could be the start of a very good season. It will be interesting to see how the time of this race compares with the previous one.
This is the race of the day and, again, I’m against the favourite. Thistlecrack at his hurdling peak would probably win this, but he’s not. He’s being trained as a chaser and is returning from injury. His last outing over hurdles was at Aintree in April 2016. This is not his target. In contrast, Unowhatimeanharry**** (2/1) is at his peak, on the back of a fine win at Aintree earlier this month and with a stellar record of consecutive wins at the highest level apart from the stayers’ hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The presence of Thistlecrack makes him outstanding value and the course will suit. Bet of the weekend.
If you’re in any doubt, here’s a quote from Colin Tizzard:
He can’t possibly go to the King George without a run…The hurdle will be his racecourse gallop.
After last weekend’s very pleasing four from five selections (no favourites when selected) on Saturday and the fifth lost to a 25/1 winner, plus (admittedly more favoured) Fox Norton, Slate House and Faugheen on Sunday, here we go again. Not expecting that I can simply repeat with night before selections, you can see from the earlier posts that I selected entries of interest over the last couple of days so that there is a measured (and not market dependent) process applied.
The ground is hugely important this weekend. I’m typing this (Friday at 7.15 p.m.) as I can hear heavy rain with a hint of hail on the Wirral, not that far from Haydock. As aficionados know, there are three main UK racecourses that have a tendency to produce knackering ground – Haydock, Chepstow and Doncaster (others include Sedgefield). I’ve resisted checking the penetrometer ratings because I don’t need to know what happened 24/48 hours ago. I suspect that once we get going tomorrow there may be numerous non-runners at Haydock, particularly because the chase course is scheduled to take a bit of a hammering. Good luck Kirkland Tellwright (clerk of the course) who’s had a bit of a chequered history.
Kuraka*****. Selected when 1/2 and now 2/5.
Carter McKay (13/8) was the entry selection but I think that MinellaforDollars* (5/4) might win.
Sharjah*** (5/4) will win. Chosen with the entries and happy to stay there.
This had proper runners but its now all about Min*****, now 1/8. Hey ho!
Battleford, C’est Jersey, Monbeg Notorious were the early choices and only the latter makes it to the decs. That’s no problem with me – can’t have Tin Soldier at 8/13! Go with Monbeg at 9/4 (now 6/4).
Ainchea, Claimantakinforgan, Dynamite Dollars, Whatmore were the notable entries. From them, just Dynamite Dollars**** makes it to the race. Another short odds selection (15/8) but justifiably so.
Russe Blanc (7/2), Emperor’s Choice (5/1). Both selected on Wednesday. Both are heavy ground specialists and will relish the (attritional) marathon trip.
I fancy Clan des Obeaux** (4/1) to prevail against a decent field.
I’m with Value at Risk* for a small interest at 15/2
The Worlds End and shortening Champers On Ice properly head the market. One to watch
Former Peter Marsh winner Bristol de Mai*** will never have better conditions and should add this Grade 1 at 7/4.
Smad Place, Frodon and Top Notch have all stood their ground. Would love to see Smad Place win but my interest will be Frodon* at 14/1 e/w.
A great race for a small field and I fancy Defi du Seuil to give way to Lil Rockerfeller** (3/1).
A shame that Speredek is not running but my bet of the day is the excellent San Benedeto**** at an appealing 100/30.
Sunday selections to follow. Good luck!
Acapella Bourgeois, Childrens List
Mon Lino, Folsom Blue
This post is really a reminder to me for tomorrow evening’s preview.
12:35 Carter McKay, Minellafordollars, Monbeg Worldwide
14:20 Shaneshill, Min, Childrens List
14:55 Battleford, C’est Jersey, Monbeg Notorious
12:10 Ainchea, Claimantakinforgan, Dynamite Dollars, Whatmore
12:40 Russe Blanc, Emperor’s Choice
13:15 All of them!
13:50 Value at Risk, Air Horse One, Whatmore
14:25 The Worlds End, Champers On Ice
15:00 Bristol de Mai, Outlander
15:35 Vintage Clouds, Henri Parry Morgan
14:05 Smad Place, Frodon, Top Notch
14:40 L’Ami Serge, Defi du Seuil, Lil Rockerfeller
15:15 Sire de Grugy, San Benedeto, Speredek
14:35 Acapella Bourgeois, Childrens List
15:05 Mon Lino, Folsom Blue
14:45 Mon Palois, Cobolobo
Wednesday. The sad death of Alan Potts, just three months after the death of his wife, has thrown into doubt the participation of Finians Oscar and Fox Norton this weekend. However, it seems at the time of writing that his Irish runners on Thursday will take part (Beyond the Law and Magic of Light at Clonmel).
However, as is so often the case at this time of year, there is still much to be excited about. Before it starts Yanworth took a soft fall at Exeter today. There’s nothing to take from that. He jumped well and just knuckled over.
I’ll be updating this page as the declarations come through.
Thursday. It’s great news that the Potts horses are running.
Friday. Well, I thought that Movewiththetimes was all over the winner of the Steel Plate and Sections but the resolve of Finians Oscar was mightily impressive and he’s got to be in the list for the spring features. Very sorry to see Counter Shy pulled up sharply with what turned out to be a fatal injury in running, doing what he was trained to do. A great shame. Another shame, but far less serious, was the fall of Auvergnat in the Cross Country when going well. I’m happy to put that down as a one off and will continue supporting him in these races. By the way, here’s a really good Youtube channel where you can watch the race alongside the Betfair market in running: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtNHoP6Axxj5DwSpvFCAEhg Really informative. So, on to Saturday’s great card (see below).
As ever, the focus should be on the top amateur riders so that means that attention is drawn to Kim Bailey’s Dueling Banjos (6/1) with Jamie Codd and Donald McCain’s What Happens Now* (7/1) with Derek O’Connor. Both have strong form and my preference is for the latter. Pickamix (a shortening 9/1) is another to look out for.
This one depends on what view you take about Counter Shy’s** (9/2) last two runs. The win at Worcester was impressive, but he was 14/1, and the second at Uttoxeter was respectable, beating much touted Cause Toujours. The breeding is excellent (by Galileo out of a Flemensfirth mare) and I’m content to take the view that this 4-y-o will be one of Jonjo/J P’s progressive prospects. I think that the selection of this race for the next outing is significant. Another to look out for each way is the Skeltons’ 5-y-o Or de Vassy.
I’ve watched and liked Exitas’ last two outings but I think that the improving Kapstadt* (7/2) is the one to go for in this one. He’s been campaigned through the summer and should be race fit.
The Steel Plate and Sections Chase is a long established feature of this meeting. The last five winners are O O Seven, More of That, Champagne West, Taquin du Seuil and Dynaste. I’m very confident that Finians Oscar**** (10/11) will prove to be good value at a shade of odds on. Some cribbed his run at Chepstow but I think that he should comfortably see off his three opponents, giving 8lb.
I love cross country races, although my preference is for the real challenges in France and Ireland. One of the main benefits is to see familiar contenders over a few seasons. Although I’m a big fan of Cause of Causes, surely this is just an early season marker. Urgent de Gregaine was all over the winner of the Pardubice until the last couple of furlongs and will treat the Cheltenham fences as a doddle in comparison. As usual I can’t have Cantlow so that leaves me with another regular selection, Auvergnat*** (11/4) who, as a cross country specialist at just seven, can come to dominate this division.
This is a great finale for the first day, a Grade 2 featuring the first and third in the (real) season opener Persian War at Chepstow. However, I’m opposing both (Poetic Rhythm and Vision des Flos) and going with Momella** (9/2), just ahead of Calett Mad for a decently priced winner to round off the card.
This is a real trial, as much as it can be at this time of year. Gumball for Hobbs/Johnson, at slight odds on is the current favourite for the real thing but I’m much more interested in the Henderson/Geraghty/J P combination in the shape of a full sister to Apples Jade, Apple’s Shakira*** at a highly appealing 13/8 (Lads, much shorter elsewhere). Purchased from the excellent Emmanuel Clayeux, with only one previous (easy first of 11) run at Vichy, she could be a top prospect. It would be good to see JP have a new real contender after the sad loss of Counter Shy on Friday.
This is a genuine trial for the RSA, notwithstanding the small field. Ballyoptic has shown that he is a good jumper, whereas West Approach is yet to prove similar ability. The latter won at Ffos Las and I’m perhaps unfairly biased against form from from that course. As previously advised, I’m a big fan of the outsider of the three Black Corton**** at an appealing 9/2. This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge yet in the current run but course and distance recent form and five wins from the last six outings can’t be ignored. This one has the same frame as Politilogue last season and, as I’ve also commented previously, Bryony Frost on board is a plus.
Well, we have to start with the Gold Cup second, Minella Rocco. Was it the best Gold Cup in recent years? – of course not, so treat it with caution. He impresses me as a fragile but very capable horse, not to be counted on though. Three Faces West has had a long lay off – why? Not for today. Premier Bond runs when he wants to and, in my view, this race does not suit. Doing Fine and Benbens tend to make up the numbers. Shotgun Paddy is, frankly, shot. So, by the well worn process of elimination that leaves me with, unusually for me, Fergal O’Brien’s Perfect Candidate*, at a decent 10/1. Probably an each way at that price but nonetheless my idea of this winner. Will have been targeted for this, unlike some of the others.
The Mackeson! Notwithstanding its many changes of name this has been a great race and this year’s renewal is no exception. They’re not the greatest bunch of 2m 4f chasers but, my goodness, they’re very well matched and this has been the hardest pick. The last five winners are, in order, Taquin du Seuil, Annacotty, Caid du Berlais, Johns Spirit and Al Ferof. Who will follow that decent bunch? Favourite Kylemore Lough is the Timeform selection but I can’t have him after his last season 2554 form. I’m a real fan of Le Prezien, just beaten here by Foxtail Hill last time out. However, this is a race for a coming horse and that one is targeted for this race rather than later opportunities, Tully East**, at a highly appealing 8/1. He knows how to win at Cheltenham (Close Brothers’ Novices’ Chase at the Festival) and had a nice pipe opener with a “not knocked about” hurdle race at Punchestown on 18 October.
This is the betting race of the day. It includes my outsiders in previous selections, Connetable and Soletatentif (see previous posts) but this is all about Festival serious candidate Thomas Campbell***** (13/8). I can’t believe that he’s odds against in this field and my bet is on already. Surely this one will be odds on at the off?
Let’s be honest – this is a poor race. I have no view.
It’s likely to be an interesting race, but the recent renewals have tended to throw up long odds winners. One to watch and then follow.
Let’s Dance is the one to watch out for in this one.
Early views are that, with the benefit of decs, I’m looking forward to Capitaine in the Cheltenham Arkle Trial (won’t win the real thing), Fox Norton in the Schloer, Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Greatwood, Slate House in the Supreme Trial and, of course, Faugheen in the Morgiana.
Very pleased with my new dining room, courtesy of Paul O’Hare:
A great location for settling down with my MacBook and previewing the racing.
Well, Friday turned out to be alright, with Brillare Momento delivering, Sceau Royal just being seen off by a neck, Black Corton seeing off the opposition (albeit that Sizing Tennessee was going well when falling) and Slate House proving that he is a serious contender. All very boring when you’re stuck at work so roll on the weekend.
Basically, this is a much tougher card.
Lots of people like Singlefarmpayment but I’ve never warmed to him. I like Coologue but, on balance, my preference is for Viconte du Noyer* (11/1) to upset the favourites.
It’s a great shame that Defi du Seuil doesn’t show up for this one, Philip Hobbs having stated that the ground might be a bit sharp (although it’s turned out to be good, good to soft in places). Apparently his reappearance may be rescheduled for the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle or the International at Cheltenham. The result is, for all intents and purposes a head to head between Bedrock and Twobeelucky and I fancy Bedrock** at slight odds on (10/11) to prevail. Owned by the well-named Risk Takers Partnership, who purchased him for 70,000 gns. A winner at Bangor on 4 October.
As flagged up yesterday I’m happy to stick with Le Prezien*** in this one, at a decent 5/1. Cases can be made for a number of them, while others have clearly not lived up to what was expected of them (e.g. Vaniteux). Of the others I think that Sizing Platinum and Poker School are of interest.
This is, as is so often for a Pertemps qualifier, wide open. I’m therefore picking two at the current 16/1, not with a great deal of confidence but just to have an interest. They are Connetable* and Solatentif*. There was a 33/1 winner yesterday and this is another which doesn’t appeal with the favourites. Keep an eye on the market for this one.
I’m strongly with Alcala*** (7/4) and strongly against Two Taffs (9/4) so expect the latter to prevail against the former!
I think that Phillip Hobbs has a good one here in the shape of Robbinhannon**, who, at 5/4, should see off this lot.
What do you say about a Bumper at this time in the season? Have a bet on P2P winner Cracking Destiny for Nicky Henderson at 9/4 and stuff the rest!