Cheltenham selections – Friday 14 December

This weekend’s races take place on the new course, generally regarded as the slower of the two. A notable feature is that there are just two flights in the last 6 furlongs on the hurdles course. The ground is reported as good, but apparently not soft enough for Willie Mullins to bring over his star mare Laurina who was favourite for the International Hurdle on Saturday. According to the BHA website Doncaster has been watering for Saturday and don’t be surprised if the same happens here (yes, I know, in December) because there was a big report published this week into fatalities at the Festival which included in its recommendations that the ground must as a minimum be on the soft side of good for future Festivals and there is no rain forecast. Latest readings are 7.3 chase and hurdle and 7.5 cross country (good ground with no soft).  A high of 3 degrees celsius is going to make it suitably bracing for those at the course.

So, on to Friday’s card, which is decent rather than being anything special. My main interest focuses on the opening novices’ hurdle and chase and, unusually for me, the cross country where, in this distinctly European week,  I think that there might be a bit of value from a travers la Manche.

12:10 Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

The one who immediately appealed to me in this race is exciting prospect Elixir de Nuts** (9/4), not least because he won here last month (on the old course). I think that he could be a good recruit for Colin Tizzard but has to concede a good deal of weight to his opponents. Angels Breath, currently 11/10 (was 100/30), is an 85000 euros recruit for Nicky Henderson but how many times have decent Irish pointers flopped when making the transition to novice hurdles? Of the others I K Brunel (Carlisle) and Jarveys Plate (Perth) have modest form and, whether it should be the case or not, Northern course form very rarely translates to Cheltenham success, particularly in novice company.

12:45 Novices’ Chase (Class 2) 3m 1 1/2f

This is my favourite race of the day. You need to take a view because the top three, The Worlds End (15/8), Lil Rockerfeller (9/4) and Ibis du Rheu (9/2) all have a realistic chance. Of them, the doughty hurdler Lil Rockerfeller*** is my selection. I’ve watched both his chase races. The first outing over fences (here) was far from convincing but he did much better at Exeter next time out with cheekpieces and is on a four timer. As such he represents excellent value and I expect his price to shorten, so get on.

The Worlds End is a very nice horse but I’m always wary about Tom George trained horses who are often hyped but don’t deliver. He was beaten (third) behind Ibis du Rheu but has an 8lb turn on him for this one.

For me, the rock solid hardiness of Lil Rockerfeller will be decisive in the long run up the hill. My nap. 

Previous winners of this include Sizing Tennessee, Singlefarmpayment (see below), Blaklion and Sam Winner, so it’s generally one to take the winner from.

13:20 Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

Two things. We have to bear in mind that this is a fairly moderate Class 3 so there could be a turn up, and I think that there is one absolutely primed for this.

This is a bog standard 0-140 moderate hurdle. It was won last year by Smaoineamh Alainn** (13/2) who was far from disgraced in a Grade 2 last time out. If you were the owner you’d have targeted this for a next exciting day out at Cheltenham. Two stars is my realistic assessment but I don’t like either of the runners ahead of him in the market (Highest Sun and Al Dancer).

The other one of note is Not That Fuisse, last out in the Greatwood Hurdle (6th) and one of Paul Ferguson’s horses to follow.

13:55 Mares’ Handicap Chase (Class 3) 2m 4 1/2f

So what do we say about a mares’ handicap chase without a star? Not much to be honest. Beware of Silent Steps (failed to win for Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls and now with Neil King). I’m swerving this one by a mile.

14:30 Handicap Chase(Grade 3) 3m 2f

Technically the race of the day because it’s a Grade 3. I hope not to offend anyone but Singlefarmpayment is a squiggly dog. Rock The Kasbah, a Grade 3 winner here, could easily win this but I’m not absolutely convinced. I think that Festival winner Coo Star Sivola** (13/2) (Festival winner, just to make that point again) is a proper contender and represents very good value.

Theatre Territory (7/2) is a relatively poor value each way option.

15:05 Cross Country Handicap Chase (Class 2) 3m 6f

Now, I’ve got a proper view about this one. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Josies Orders wins this at a current 3/1 (from 9/4). But, this is transparently not the target. On the other hand, this looks like the absolute objective for Amazing Comedy**** (4/1), trained by David Cottin (former jockey and son of Francois) who ran well in the Festival cross country in 2017 and beat Vol Noir de Kerser by over 18 lengths in an impressive win at Compiegne (3m 3f very soft) five weeks ago. Perfectly primed for this and my next best (after Lil Rockerfeller).

15:40 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m 7f 213y

The only thing that interests me about this race is that a couple are, on the face of it, ahead of the market so there should be a betting angle in a field of 13.

Great Trango is a horse who could develop well on his form at Galway and Listowel and could be much better than the bare form suggests. However, he is not my idea of the winner.

This evening Aaron Lad is attracting marginal support at 6/1. Jumping is dodgy and not one for me.

Both Clondaws (Cian and Native) are, for me, average horses who are best avoided.

Buywise is, again with respect to the owners, the second absolute dog of the day. Every chance of a place (as is his way at 28/1) but no desire to win. If you are an each way player this could be a very good bet but not one for me.

So, the first of the two. I really like Worthy Farm***, a horse who I think is thrown in here. A really good pointer who won well with loads in hand for Paul Nicholls when last out at Taunton (typical first outing for Nicholls). I expect that we will be talking about this horse next March.

The other is Sizing Granite. He was a Newbury hurdles winner and was sixth in the Punchestown Gold Cup. His current form is 0665 but he might just spark here. Just to be clear, that is not a betting proposition.

So, in summary:

12:10 Elixir de Nuts

12:45 Lil Rockerfeller

13:20 Smaoineamh Alainn

13:55 No bet

14:30 Coo Star Sivola

15:05 Amazing Comedy

15:40 Worthy Farm

Good luck, and for those of you that are there, have a great day!!

TV changes – if you love your racing, take the plunge with Racing TV for the best of British and Irish racing plus proper French coverage from Sky Sports Racing

So, we now know about the big changes which are coming from New Year’s Day for TV coverage of horse racing

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are due for very different coverage when ATR becomes Sky Sports Racing and Racing UK becomes Racing TV.

First, the good stuff (but see my comments below about watching Irish racing). Sky Sports Racing is looking very good. They’ve kept a lot of the talent from ATR although, sadly, I’ve not yet seen a mention for Sean Boyce. The lead presenter is Alex Hammond. Significantly, she will be joined by Josh Apiafi, a man who really knows his racing and Jamie Lynch, who is moving from his post as chief correspondent for Timeform. Jamie is a shrewd man whose expertise is beyond doubt. 

There’s no doubt that Sky will bring all their sports expertise to deliver a very slick product, with presenters at all British meetings and all races in HD. They’ve captured Royal Ascot, Chester and Bangor from March. We can also look forward to over 200 French fixtures with proper live coverage, as well as the Breeders’ Cup, the US Triple Crown and the Melbourne Cup. Notably, coverage will be available to all Sky subscribers without the need for a Sky Sports subscription. With their capture of Royal Ascot, people are saying that this could become the home of all major racing when the ITV contract runs out in 2020, with Sky using its Pick TV channel for free to air coverage.

Proper French racing coverage in HD from 1 January 2019

Nonetheless, Racing TV (formerly Racing UK) will still cover about 70% of British racing including Cheltenham, Aintree, Newbury, Newmarket, York, Sandown and Kempton. £298 a year is a stiff price for this but the big catch for the new year is all Irish racing. This has happened because Irish Racing sold the rights to SIS a couple of years ago and it is SIS who have cut the deal with Racing TV.  It can’t be avoided that many in the Irish racing community are disappointed with this development and there is a real concern about fixture congestion. Given that Racing TV is owned by most of the main British racecourses it’s hard to imagine that they will give way to Irish coverage when the inevitable clashes happen. Just today it was reported that Gowran is likely to miss out on main channel coverage on New Year’s Day.

They’ve said that the problem will be addressed by being able to access all meetings including parade rings etc. by accessing their additional channels on the website. Well, that’s all very well, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in wanting to watch decent racing on my TV. However, here’s an interview with the chairman of the Racecourse Media Group (which owns Racing TV) and listen carefully to what he has to say.

Critically, he says that (at 3’55”) that there will be a red button option. 

I’m delighted with the team and mentioned in an earlier post that I hoped that Gary O’Brien will be at the helm, which he is.

The recent press release has confirmed the details:

Gary O’Brien will spearhead the Racing TV team in Ireland, where he will be joined by Kevin O’Ryan, Kate Harrington, Ruby Walsh and Donn McClean – while new programming and extended broadcast hours, including a daily Mark Your Card preview programme, are also being introduced.


Each of the 61 racecourses will have its own dedicated live stream available on Racing TV Extra, a feature of Racing TV’s digital platform.


This means live coverage of every British and Irish race in its entirety, as well as uninterrupted paddock, going down and unsaddling coverage, will be available to Racing TV members. Racing TV Extra will be available via the website, mobile and TV Apps for all members, whose membership fee will remain the same.

To be fair, this doesn’t mention the red button option so I hope that the chairman wasn’t overstating it.

So, should you pay nearly £300 a year for the best of British and all of Irish racing? I think that you should, if you can afford it, and here’s my rationale. If you are a serious horse racing fan, you will probably spend a lot more than that on betting over 12 months. A large number of the races that you bet on will not be covered on ITV. Yes, you can watch the races on betting websites, but bear in mind that a subscription includes access to all the channel’s races so if you want to check form, this is without doubt the best way to do it. Racing TV is also available worldwide, so you can watch their races from wherever you happen to be. If you haven’t experienced that option, believe me, it’s a great facility.

Further, if you are betting on a good few races, it’s worth listening to news on the day from people like Steve Mellish, Lydia Hislop, Jonathan Neesom and now Gary O’Brien. Their insight is worth a good few quid and their on course guidance has earned me well over £300 a year, particularly with ones to avoid, let alone ones to follow!

Timeform update

Just copying these for now. Superb weekend in prospect and more to follow.

Timeform’s top-rated novice chasers: (updated 03/12/2018)

152P – LALOR

151p – KALASHNIKOV

151p – KNOCKNANUSS

150p – DELTA WORK

150p – SANTINI

149 – DIAKALI

147p – LE RICHEBOURG

147p – VOIX DU REVE

146p – LIL ROCKERFELLER

146p – MENGLI KHAN

Timeform top-rated hurdlers: (updated 03/12/2018)

170 – BUVEUR D’AIR

166 – MELON

165 – FAUGHEEN

164 – PENHILL

163 – L’AMI SERGE

162 – BAPAUME

162 – SAMCRO

162 – SUPASUNDAE

161 – MICK JAZZ

160 – APPLE’S JADE

160 – SUTTON PLACE

Top-rated novice hurdlers: (updated 03/12/2018)

146p – CHAMP

141 – QUICK GRABIM

140 – HEARTS ARE TRUMPS

137p – DINONS137+

– KLASSICAL DREAM

137 – AYE AYE CHARLIE

136p – CITY ISLAND

136p – TRIPLICATE

135p – BLACK SAM BELLA

135 – DEBUCHET

135 – DOUBLE TREASURE

Saturday 24 November selections

Just a few selections today before I settle down to another great day’s racing.

Haydock

12.10 Grand Sancy (6/4) to beat Cause Toujours (11/4) (forecast)

1.15 Magic Saint (100/30)

1.50 Cyrus Darius (6/1)

2.20 Paisley Park (9/2)

3.00 It remains to be seen whether Bristol de Mai will take part. Even if he does I can’t see past Might Bite (evens)

Ascot

12.20 Doux Pretender (11/4)

2.05 Politilogue (6/5)

2.40 If The Cap Fits (8/11)

3.15 San Benedeto (9/1)

Gowran

11.35 Tiger Voice (8/11)

2.20 Tycoon Prince (7/4)

Good luck!

Timeform top rated NH horses – updated today

Which horses do Timeform think are the current top rated? Normally, I wouldn’t want to disclose what might be seen as protected content. However, since they’ve published the details on Twitter, they’re obviously happy to let the information be known.

Top hurdlers

167 BUVEUR D’AIR

166 MELON

165 FAUGHEEN

164 PENHILL

163p SAMCRO

163 L’AMI SERGE

162 BAPAUME

162 SUPASUNDAE

161 MICK JAZZ

160 AGRAPART

159 MY TENT OR YOURS

159 WHOLESTONE

158 SAM SPINNER

158 YANWORTH

157 CILAOS EMERY

157 ELGIN

157 SHARJAH

156p SUMMERVILLE BOY

I agree with the top five and that makes the anticipated Fighting Fifth at Newcastle with Buveur D’Air and Samcro very interesting. I think that Bapaume is slightly overrated and I wouldn’t be backing Mick Jazz at the highest level. Agrapart can have a good day and I think that My Tent Or Yours is probably past his best. We’ll have to see how Sam Spinner performs this season and I’d definitely hold fire on that one. Cilaos Emery has had no outings in 2018 and holds no entries so we’ll have to wait and see about that one as well.

I think that Sharjah is underrated. I know that he’s been race fit against season debutants but the record is there to be challenged.

Top chasers

179p ALTIOR

174 FOOTPAD

172 NATIVE RIVER

171 MIGHT BITE 

170p GREAT FIELD

169 MIN

169 ROAD TO RESPECT

169 SIZING JOHN

169 UN DE SCEAUX

168p WAITING PATIENTLY

167 FOX NORTON

166 BALKO DES FLOS

166 BELLSHILL

166 POLITOLOGUE

166 THISTLECRACK

166 TOP NOTCH

This is a very compressed list, particularly towards the bottom, with 10 horses between 166 and 169.

I strongly agree that Altior is the best current chaser. Footpad has to assert following his latest outing to take the mantle. I think that Great Field deserves his “p” and could be one of the horses of the season. I hope to see Min on TV at Ascot this weekend, entered for the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (currently 3/1), along with Politilogue (13/8f), Bellshill (5/1) and surprising omission from the list Shattered Love (5/1).

Sizing John will need to show that he retains top class form, but I doubt that this will be a problem for hard as nails Un de Sceaux. Waiting Patiently is another with a deserved “p”.

Top Novice Chasers

152P LALOR

149 DIAKALI

147p COUNT MERIBEL

147p VOIX DU REVE

145p BAGS GROOVE

145p KAISER BLACK

145p THE WORLDS END

145p WINTER ESCAPE

145 BRAVE EAGLE

145 MALL DINI

145 ORNUA

144p BLOW BY BLOW

144p LE BREUIL

144p LIL ROCKERFELLER

I could not have been more impressed with Lalor’s jumping and running away win at Cheltenham last weekend. For me, this is the Arkle one to beat.

I’m very surprised that Diakali is so highly rated. Kaiser Black is another that hasn’t beaten much opposition and appears overrated. I totally get why Winter Escape is included in the list. A very exciting prospect.

It’s too early to say much about the following two categories but I’ve added them all to my horses to follow.

Top Novice Hurdlers

139 QUICK GRABIM

137 AYE AYE CHARLIE

137 HEARTS ARE TRUMPS

136p CITY ISLAND

136p TRIPLICATE

136 GRAND SANCY

135p BLACK SAM BELLA

135 DEBUCHET

135 DOUBLE TREASURE

134p CHAMP

134p FAIR MOUNTAIN

134p ROYAL RENDEZVOUS

134p STONEY MOUNTAIN

134p THE DEVILS DROP

Top Juvenile Hurdlers

137 QUEL DESTIN

135p JACK REGAN

134 CRACKER FACTORY

133 MONTESTREL

128 CHIEF JUSTICE

126p NEVER ADAPT

125p FANFAN DU SEUIL

123p KING D’ARGENT

122p ELYSEES

122 KATPOLI

121p OUR POWER

121p SONG FOR SOMEONE

120 IDILICO

119 NEEDS TO BE SEEN

117p FRET D’ESTRUVAL

The bottom of this list is intriguing. Idilico (by Lawman from a Sadler’s Wells mare) was a beaten evens favourite at Market Rasen on 8 November (“ridden when switched inside flat, kept on, no extra towards finish”). Needs To Be Seen (by Motivator and formerly with J P O’Brien) was fifth of six in Quel Destin’s Triumph Hurdle Trial last weekend at Cheltenham (50/1) –  “held up in rear, headway on wide outside before 3 out, soon prominent, every chance next, ridden and unable to quicken before last, well held flat”. Fret d’Estruval has been bought by Munir/Souede and placed with Alan King. Formerly with Guillaume Macaire, he won at Vittel on 4 August and followed up with a win at Lyon Parilly on 16 September, both over hurdles. Looks very interesting! Song For Someone, a son of Medicean, won a hurdle at Le Lion d’Angers in July for Joel Boisnard and has been placed with Tom Symonds for Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings.

I wonder how many of these will turn out to be Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham Festival winners? It’s a good long list to work from.

Saturday selections

A good day yesterday with a reasonable return on the Lucky 15 plus Josies Orders.

Cheltenham

Much harder today so just the selections:

12.40  As usual a this is a rally good race and a good marker for next March.  I like all three at the top of the market so I’ll be watching rather than betting. From Quel Destin (5/1), Never Adapt (evens) and Montestrel (5/2) I’m just with Quel Destin.

1.15 As the market suggests The Worlds End (5/6) should be well ahead of the rest of the field.

1.50 I’ve never liked Singlefarmpayment who is highly strung and has too much of a habit of coming up short. I’ve given up on Calett Mad and, with ground to suit, my selection is Vicente (8/1).

2.25 The BetVictor Gold Cup is a really good race and a hard one to work out. I’d love to see Frodon win but with top weight against this field it’s a tall order. There’s a lot of support for Rather Be and Kalondra but I’ll have a small wager on Movewiththetimes at 9/1.

3.00 I have no views about any of these horses so I’m swerving this one.

3.30 This is another really hard race but I keep on getting drawn back to Speedo Boy, the current 3/1 favourite.

Punchestown

12.35 This looks like a great opportunity for Mall Dini at a generous 5/2.

2.20 Finally we get to see Stormy Ireland on her first outing of the season and, against her own sex, in an average race, the current 2/1 looks very appealing. 

Not a betting day for me (apart from the two at Punchestown (singles and double) but nonetheless a very enjoyable afternoon in prospect.

A quick update for Friday before this weekend’s excellent racing

Just selections tonight.

Cheltenham

12.40 This is a winnable option for The Young Master* (7/2) to follow up on his win at Chepstow against good opposition (at 14/1) at Chepstow on 13 October.

1.15 Dostal Phil** has been bought by J P McManus and is with the resurgent Philip Hobbs. Should win at 9/4.

1.50 Bun Doran*** (11/4) is a confident selection in this one against no obvious opposition. 

2.25 This is a decent race and I like White Moon (4/1) to bounce back after a year’s break.

3.00 (Cross Country) As I mentioned in a previous post, I can’t imagine that Tiger Roll will be remotely fit for this. There isn’t much opposition so I’m happy with Josies Orders* (9/4) in a small field. Probably one to watch.

3.35 This Grade 2 as attracted a less than deserving field. One to watch. If I’m flying by then I might have a little dabble with Darlac.

Summary: A Lucky 15 with The Young Master, Dostal Phil, Bun Doran and White Moon (for low stakes). Potential £1155.06 to a £30 (£2) stake. I think that we will at least break even.

Good luck!

A potentially great weekend in prospect

Friday

Undoubtedly the highlight of Friday’s racing is Kalashnikov‘s chasing debut in the 2.00 at Warwick. 1/3 is a fair price against three markedly inferior opponents. I wouldn’t often be tempted at a price like this but he has reportedly schooled well over fences (always looked like a chaser in the making) and might just stake the Betfair balance on this one to get things started.

Another of interest but at prohibitive odds is dual bumper winner Windsor Avenue (at 2/5) in the 1.05 at Hexham. This is the time of year when very short odds progressive horses are given easy outings and this one could easily be combined with Kalashnikov for a modest return on a double. A £10 double will return a little over £18. Bet placed, just to make it a little more interesting (my first bet since Aintree’s national meeting).

Saturday

Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran

Now we’re talking! Saturday’s Naas meeting could be a cracker if some of the main entries are declared.

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I think that we’ll see seriously good bumper horse from last season Blackbow in either the midday maiden hurdle over 2m or the 1.05 maiden over 2m 3f (probably the former) notwithstanding that he won his maiden PTP on good ground over 3m (current going for Naas on Saturday is good).

The Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at 12.30 could see Saldier (15/8) v Mr Adjudicator (9/4) v Espoir d’Allen (5/2) and Stormy Ireland (6/1). Farclas was entered but it’s reported that he won’t run. Saldier was one of my horses to follow last season but I’m hoping that Stormy Ireland has progressed and that she could be a serious player this season. Her best form is on soft/heavy but she beat good horses on yielding in a listed race over 2m 1f last May.

The Grade B Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f has no less than eight J P McManus entries from a variety of trainers including Jezki, Sire du Berlais, Housesofparliament, Plinth, De Name Escapes Me and Fitzhenry. As matters stand, my preference is for Stooshie who was third last week in a Grade B for Gordon Elliott at Down Royal on good to yielding and will therefore have race fitness on his side.

The Poplar Square Chase (Grade 3) at 2.15 will be my highlight of the day because Willie Mullins has said that this will be Footpad‘s season debut. One of the best horses (and my favourite) last season, the current 1/4 is another fair price but he could be facing some fairly decent opposition in the shape of Saint Calvados and Tombstone. As I said in my last post, I think that this is the season in which he will progress to open company proper stardom and I can’t wait to see another foot perfect performance. 

The 3.25 may feature a few horses that disappointed last season, namely Bleu Berry, Carter McKay, Bacardys and Deal d’Estruval. However, this is a beginners’ chase and could throw up one or more who are now in their element. One to watch with interest.

Over the water, the fare is more modest with, putting aside the flat meeting at Doncaster, interest being focused on Wincanton’s big day and some fairly average racing at Aintree.

The Wincanton feature Badger Ales Chase has attracted a pretty rum bunch. I don’t have any particular fancies in this and I suspect that the field could cut up severely so it’s one to wait and see with. 

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The Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase (2.25) at Wincanton has one of the poorest set of entries (let alone declarations) for a race at this level that I’ve seen for a long time, which I suspect is down to the predicted good to firm ground. The Elite Hurdle (3.00) is a bit better but I won’t be surprised if We Have A Dream and Verdana Blue are both pulled by Nicky Henderson, in which case Redicean (with recent decent form) should win.

Aintree is predicting good, good to soft in places on the chase course, so we have a better chance of seeing some half decent horses. 

Terrefort would be one to watch in the 1.35 Pertemps qualifier but I don’t really see the point of running him in a race like this when his future is manifestly over fences. He’s entered in the intermediate chase at Sandown on Sunday which seems far more likely as a prep for the Ladbroke (Hennessy) Chase on 1 December.

The 2m 4f hurdle at 2.10 could be a decent race but I’m afraid that I suspect that the potentially interesting participants probably won’t turn up.

The feature handicap chase at 2.40 could turn out to be a fair event but doesn’t feature any horses at the entry stage that I’d see as ones to get excited about. When are we going to get 48 hour entries for all the big national hunt races? Well, we are for next year’s Cheltenham Festival thank goodness!

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I’ll be interested in Bun Doran if he turns up for the the 3.20 handicap chase and the bumper at 3.55 could turn out to be a good pointer but I have no idea which one may prevail.

Sunday

The top racing continues at Navan on Sunday. In the 1.05 I’ll be with WP’s Quick Grabim at an attractive 11/8 (current co-favourite with Felix Desjy) and the Lismullen Hurdle (1.35) could be a cracker with too many good horses to mention so let’s see which ones turn up. The Fortria Chase is, on its face, right up to standard but will depend very much on which ones run the day before in the 2.15 at Naas. The beginners’ chase at 2.40 could feature top hurdler Mengli Khan, another who could be progressing to his natural metier.

Meanwhile at Sandown I’ll love the chasers tackling the railway fences in a taster for what the season is to bring. Most of the fields are too big to pass any comment on but the intermediate chase (2.20) definitely has the makings of being the highlight. Daryl Jacob has been named as the jockey for Terrefort which makes me think that this is his target and he could face decent opposition in the shape of Elegant Escape, Coo Star Sivola, Thomas Patrick, Barney Dwan and Ms Parfois. A race to savour! Let’s hope that they stand their ground.

Boxing

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Although national hunt racing is my favourite sport, boxing comes a close second and I can’t wait for Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew on Saturday. This is an absolutely top class fight. I’ve watched Bellew more or less from the start of his career and his progression is all about heart and determination. He’s not the best technically (Usyk could well be) but… Bellew is on a nine times winning streak and his last loss was to Haitian superstar Adonis Stevenson in 2013. His last five fights have all been wins against the odds. This is Bellew’s last fight and he has promised to give it his all and leave absolutely everything in the ring. Usyk is very impressive and unbeaten but his biggest win was against a lacklustre Marco Huck (suspended indefinitely by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board) and who lost in his previous fight against Mairis Briedes who is also fighting Saturday (in Chicago against a no mark opponent). For the record I know that others might take the view that his World Boxing Super Series win against Murat Gassiev was his best but I watched that fight and Gassiev was valiant but a hyped and lesser opponent (on form). All of that taken into account the current 5/1 on Usyk against 5/1 against Bellew is crazy! I see it as about a 2/1 on Usyk, 7/4 against Bellew, 20/1 the draw. As such the 5/1 is possibly the best bet of the weekend.

On the undercard, Scotty Cardle against “The Rickster” Ricky Burns is a hastily convened fight which, for me, can have only one outcome: an easy win inside the distance for Ricky. 1/4 is absolutely fair and takeable to bolster the funds for the big one.

Good luck and enjoy!

Getting into the new NH season

News about Footpad

Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran

Today brings news that Footpad may take part in the King George. Willie Mullins is aiming for an autumn season for my favourite horse in training and imperious winner of the Arkle back in March. Willie Mullins has said that he is yet to speak with the owners but he’s planning for two races before Christmas, the first over two miles and the second “let out” to two and a half miles. It’s worth remembering that he won as a 4-y-o on soft over 2m 3f and very soft over the same distance, both at Auteuil so, unless the ground is bottomless, the King George, as I’ve previously commented as an “easy” 3m, seems highly achievable. The current 16/1 with Paddy Power is ridiculously good and well worth a pop (as short as 7/1 with Coral).

I’m also interested in the current 4/1 Footpad for the Champion Chase, behind Altior at 7/4.

Douvan

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Disappointingly, Willie Mullins has reported today that Douvan has suffered a setback. Thankfully it is the off fore rather than the near fore which was the injury that caused his extended break. Assuming that he gets over it, and Willie thinks that he will, he could yet be a major player this season. Willie believes that he can be extended but remains a Champion Chase contender. One to watch for the moment.

Samcro

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Vying with Footpad as the star of 2017-2018 is Samcro, winner of the Ballymore at the Festival when following up on his win at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival. He looks like a star chaser in the making but Gordon Elliott has stated that his target this year is the Champion Hurdle and I agree with that because Buveur D’Air is very good but has not yet faced a true star and Samcro could be just that. He’s currently 11/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, ahead of  Buveur D’Air at 7/2, 9/1 bar and I think that he’ll just shorten over the season.

Tiger Roll

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Gordon Elliott has confirmed that the Grand National hero of 2018 is going to follow a similar Cross Country route in 2018-2019. For betting purposes it’s worth bearing in mind that he was 5th of 19 when tackling the Cheltenham course last December. He won well at the Festival Cross Country in March before following up in the greatest national hunt race of all exactly a month later. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him out until 2019.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

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Tony McCoy has already selected Presenting Percy for the Gold Cup and he’s the current 6/1 favourite, slightly ahead of Might Bite (13/2) and Native River (7/1), 16/1 bar. I agree with him. He acts on any ground and won against decent opposition in the RSA. Many people take the view that the RSA takes the edge off novices but this was an easy victory and he’s a proper horse. At 7-y-o going 8 he’s primed to improve and I suspect that competition for this race may fall away during the season.

This weekend

It’s a bit early to be doing this because we don’t know the declarations yet. However, I’ll highlight a few possibles to watch out for (Saturday unless indicated otherwise).

WKD Hurdle Down Royal Friday (Grade 2)

Samcro is currently 1/3 for this. We’ll see whether he takes part and if the entries stand up then Sharjah (Mullins / Ricci) and Stratum (both with recent flat form) may provide a modicum of opposition.

Ascot Underwriting Chase (Class 3)

Mont des Avaloirs was one of my horses to follow last season. He didn’t deliver but is only a 5-y-o. There is therefore every chance that he has grown up and I fancy him at a current 6/1 in open company.

OLBG.com Mares Hurdle (Wetherby) (Class 1)

Regular readers will know that I am an unrelenting fan of Apple’s Shakira, who was another one that dominated in the early season. This is only her seventh race and she was campaigned at the highest level. Still a 4-y-o she can still show her best and the current 7/2 (behind Verdana Blue at 5/2) is great value.

Byrne Group Handicap Chase (Ascot) (Class 1)

This is one to watch but I might have a few quid on Bun Doran

Charlie Hall Chase (Wetherby) (Grade 2)

I love the Charlie Hall Chase because, for me, it’s one of the first stop and take notice races of the season (the other is the JNWine Champion Chase – see below). The going is currently good which may not suit Bristol de Mai. I don’t fancy Thistlecrack or Clan des Obeaux so I’m siding with last year’s unexpected star, Black Corton at an appealing 11/2.

Bet With Ascot Handicap Hurdle (Class 1)

This field is likely to cut up but I have to highlight another favourite choice from last season in the shape of Countister, a Nicky Henderson/J P McManus horse. I suspect that this is another whose best days are yet to come and who will have benefited from the summer break.

Mycareneedsa.com Chase (Down Royal) (Grade 2)

What an appallingly named race. I’ve been writing this while waiting for so called “trick or treaters” and I don’t know whether they, or this race name are worse. Anyway, this is a Grade 2 and it’s interesting because it has a very good field (as matters stand). Above all, Monalee.

JNwine.com Champion Chase (Down Royal) (Grade 1)

Well, this depends very much on the final field so there’s not much to say. I think that many of the current entries might be better directed elsewhere. Based on the entries I fancy a Ryanair/Gigginstown winner but couldn’t tell you which one it will be. Let’s wait and see.

Summary

So, there we go. A pretty mixed bunch but I can’t wait for the first full on National Hunt weekend. Thank goodness we are back again and watching superb horses do what they do best! Enjoy!!

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. Attheraces.com 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.