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: http://coursesetelevage.com/en/

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:

WHETSTONE ABOVE ALL

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

DE BON CŒUR PAYS A TRIBUTE TO HER LATE SIRE VISION D’ÉTAT

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.

Thursday

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

Friday

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

Saturday

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:

https://www.facebook.com/help/302796099745838

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” (https://myactivity.google.com/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 https://www.google.com/takeout 

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!

Cheltenham Thursday

Another good day on Wednesday with big stakes wins from Samcro and Altior.  I accidentally bet twice on Altior which provided an unexpected bonus so funds are in place for the rest of the week! Although Samcro was impressive there is no doubt that the performance of the day was from Presenting Percy in the RSA. He’s now as short as 6/1 for next year’s Gold Cup and A P McCoy didn’t hide his enthusiasm for him to take the blue riband next year.

Black Corton didn’t jump with his usual zest but, in reality, even if he had done so, he would at best have run into a place (as Paul Nicholls acknowledged). Mitchouka was badly hampered at the third in the Fred Winter, having to jump over the stricken faller Lisp and lost all chance in a manner reminiscent of the hampering of The New One as a result of the sadly fatal fall of Our Conor in the Champion Hurdle in 2014.

It’s a desperate shame that Ruby is out after Al Boum Photo landed on him in the RSA. The latest (as I’m writing) is that he has aggravated the prior injury and it was quite emotional to see Katie Walsh in tears when talking about it after her win in the Bumper.

For me, Thursday is all about three races, the Ryanair, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Mares Novices’ Hurdle and I’ll do no more than dabble in the remainder.

We are on the new course for Thursday and Friday. The common view of the jockeys is that the ground on the old course was holding but the results suggest that this has not provided anything like the inconvenience that really heavy ground might have done. According to the BBC weather website the forecast is for heavy rain tonight and tomorrow morning so we’ll have to take stock again and see what the first race brings.

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase

Terrefort*

Terrefort

I wanted to see Monalee in this one but, of those declared I have a slight preference for Terrefort (9/2). Invitation Only and Benatar could both have been chosen so just a small bet in this one.

Here’s Terrefort beating Cyrname in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase:

2.10 Pertemps Final

Forza Milan* (e/w) / Protek des Flos* (e/w)
Embed from Getty ImagesI’ve never had a winner in this and I doubt that will change this year. I’ve picked two each way but very much more in hope than expectation. Forza Milan (14/1) has good form on soft, having been beaten by decent horses on his last two outings. Protek de Flos (25/1) (pictured) looks too big a price, perhaps because his last outings have been at Huntingdon, Wincanton and Ludlow.

As I’m writing Sort It Out is shortening at 10/1. He was second in the County Hurdle in 2015 and ran well on soft/heavy when joint third last time out in a Pertemps qualifier at Punchestown last month.

2.50 Ryanair Chase

Un de Sceaux***** (nap)
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I’ve been with Un de Sceaux all season (and the last couple) and without Douvan I think that he’ll win this easily. The current 10/11 is excellent value.

Here he is winning his third Clarence House Chase in a style that I expect will be repeated tomorrow:

He lacks the exuberance that he’s had in previous seasons, including when he charged away from the field when winning this last year, but this is well within his scope.

3.30 Stayers’ Hurdle

Sam Spinner**** (n.b.)

Embed from Getty ImagesI selected Sam Spinner after his win at Haydock last November. The choice was confirmed with his Grade 1 win in the Long Walk at Ascot the following month. 4/1 is a very appealing price.

Here he is winning the Long Walk Hurdle, beating L’Ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry:

4.10 Brown Advisory Plate

Tully East** (e/w) NON RUNNER
Embed from Getty Images (He’s the horse in second clearing the last at the Dublin Racing Festival)

Tully East (10/1) has let me down a couple of times this season, but he flourishes at the Festival and this has clearly been his target, following his fourth in the Martin Pipe in 2016 and his win in the Close Brothers’ Chase last year.

4.50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Laurina**** / Countister* (e/w)

Laurina
Laurina wins the Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse

By all accounts Laurina is a bit special and has won on heavy in both runs for Willie Mullins, including the Grade 3 Solerina Novice Hurdle last time out.

Here she is demolishing the field at Tramore (00.17″ to 8.32″):

I’ve followed Countister since she moved to Nicky Henderson from France last September. I doubt she’ll be good enough to trouble the favourite but she could well run into a place.

Here she is winning the Grade 2 AQPS Prix Chloris at Maisons Lafitte before her transfer in September 2017 to Nicky Henderson/J P McManus:

5.30 Kim Muir Amateurs’ Chase

Mall Dini*
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I see this as a head to head between the front two in the market and I’ve marginally selected Mall Dini ahead of Squouateur.

Mall Dini won the Pertemps in 2016 and was fifth in this race last year (running on after having been hampered). Patrick Mullins is an eye-catching jockey choice.

Squouateur was seventh in the Martin Pipe in 2016 and unseated in this race last year.

However, his fourth to Presenting Percy in the Grade B Porterstown Handicap Chase (11st 8lbs v the winner’s 11st 10lb) now looks very good after the winner’s dominant performance in todays’s RSA.

As I said on day one, I’m trying to avoid multiples but I’ve had a sneaky little treble on Un de Sceaux, Sam Spinner and Laurina at 11/1.

Cheltenham Wednesday

A great first day, most of all with the performance of the day by Footpad in the Arkle. Apple’s Jade was a surprising disappointment and Kalashnikov and Ms Parfois both went very close. Beware The Bear’s fourth in the Ultima topped up the profit on Footpad so I’m ahead leading into today’s racing.

1.30 Ballymore Hurdle

Samcro***** (nap)

Embed from Getty ImagesWe start with the one that, for many, is the Irish banker of the week. There is nothing to fault about Samcro and both ground and distance should not inconvenience him. 8/11 is a betting price and I see no need to look beyond him.

Here he is winning easily in the Deloitte at the Dublin Racing Festival:

As At The Races said after that one “Seven from seven, and rampant winner of his biggest – time to believe the hype”.

I can’t have any of the others against him.

2.10 RSA Chase

Black Corton 7/1***

Embed from Getty ImagesBlack Corton has been a favourite of mine since very early in in the season and I’m not going to desert him now. He is a course and distance winner and graduated to the top level with his Grade 1 win in the Kauto Star Chase on Boxing Day, having won a Grade 2 in his previous outing at Newbury. His prep race in the Reynoldstown at Ascot only confirmed what we had seen before, also confirming his ability to handle soft ground.

Star conditional Bryony Frost and her “best mate” serial winner Black Corton are a lethal combination.

Here they are winning the Kauto Star Chase:

and the Reynoldstown:

Monalee and Presenting Percy are the obvious threats. Monalee is as hard as nails and both of them should be able to deal with the ground. It would be no surprise if either of them won but I’m drawn by the undoubted resolution of Black Corton and the price.

2.50 Coral Cup

Max Dynamite**

Embed from Getty ImagesThis is one of the races that could very well see a long price winner but Max Dynamite is without doubt the class in the field. Like Wicklow Brave, notwithstanding his exploits on the flat (including third in the Melbourne Cup), he has winning form on soft (albeit a long time ago in a maiden hurdle) and his big field experience is a big plus. I think that Wicklow Brave is the better of the two in this discipline but this is much more winnable.

However, Max Dynamite’s performance coming third in the race that stops the nation, The Melbourne Cup, is mightily impressive:

Of the others my current shortlist is made up of Mount Mews (16/1), Barra (20/1), Bleu Berry (20/1) and Kildisart (currently a reserve at 40/1).

3.30 Champion Chase

Altior****

Embed from Getty ImagesI’m convinced by those who know much better than me about these things that Altior will not be inconvenienced by the pus in his foot a couple of days ago. On that basis I’m reverting to him as the strong selection.

Douvan would be at least his equal on his best form but after a year off, with no prep and with doubts about his participation he must be running here more in hope than expectation.

There is value in Politologue each way at 14/1. A commanding winner of the Tingle Creek and the Desert Orchid Chase, this one is an obvious candidate.

4.10 Cross Country Chase

Cause of Causes***

Embed from Getty ImagesPeople have knocked this race since it was introduced and I see that gobby controversialist Mark Winstanley, aka “The Couch”, called it The Circus Race a couple of days ago. Anyone who understands National Hunt racing (look at the banks racing and prevalence of cross country racing in France plus the Velka Pardubice in the Czech Republic, let alone hunting) will know that this was a long overdue addition to the Cheltenham Festival card in 2005. The international cross country series The Crystal Cup is offering prize money of 700,000 euros this year.

Enda Bolger had a well deserved stranglehold for years but this time round Gordon Elliott holds the main cards. As reported in a previous post Gordon was supposed to be all over Tiger Roll. However, I watched the Racing Post/Betfair preview on Saturday evening (when others were probably watching Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night or Pointless Celebrities) and there’s no doubt that he thinks that Cause of Causes will win. Of the others, I like Bless the Wings but he’s also  trained by Gordon Elliott.

Cause of Causes seems to have been here for ever but is only a 10-y-o. He’s a Cheltenham specialist who frequently disappoints before coming to light here. This is more winnable than most of his other Cheltenham challenges and the current 5/2 is just fine.

I couldn’t resist giving you the French version of his win last year (sa quatrième succes à Cheltenham) <<I’l a pris l’avantage>> and a good mention for <<Bless Ze Wings>>:

4.50 Fred Winter Hurdle

Mitchouka** (n.b.)

Embed from Getty ImagesMitchouka is ideally placed here, having won four of seven hurdle races and tested at the highest level. Very appealing at 9/1.

Mercenaire is an interesting outsider at 25/1.

5.30 Champion Bumper

Blackbow**

I selected Blackbow after watching his very taking win while at the Dublin Racing Festival and, with the defection of Hollowgraphic, I’m pleasantly surprised that he’s holding at 5/1.

Of the others, I’m not alone in thinking that Acey Milan, on a four-timer and with the 8lb swing for a four year old, presents serious opposition.

As always, I’ll wait for market moves and may well change my selection moments before the race.

Cheltenham Tuesday

Well, here we are, under 24 hours from the Cheltenham roar as the Supreme gets under way. The ground in my garden is squelchy and the rain is set in for the day. It’s scheduled to be the same at Cheltenham until 11.00 p.m. so we can now safely say that the going will be heavy all round. It’s hard to overestimate the effect that this will have on racing, particularly up the hill. Expect horses with a turn of foot to find nothing at the finish and horses with a decent lead at the home turn fading badly. The last time the Festival started with proper soft ground was in 2013 and the week included winners at 28/1, three at 25/1, 33/1 and 50/1 and just eight favourites won. The last time we had soft/heavy ground was as long ago as 1995 when the Supreme was won by Willie Mullins’ Tourist Attraction at 25/1.

Simon Claisse has reported this morning that “there isn’t much standing water around” which, of course, means that there is some. Expect significant non-runners on the day.

The news as I write is that Altior is lame this morning with pus in his foot (although might still run) and We Have A Dream is unlikely to run in the Triumph. Douvan has been declared for the Champion Chase, scotching suggestions that he might be diverted to the Ryanair.

The ground has put paid to any but the most obvious multiple selections. Winners will be harder than usual to come by.

Of course there are lots of bookie offers but one of note is with Paddy Power who are offering money back as a free bet on all losers if the SP favourite wins on all day one races.

1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Kalashnikov**** 

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The top seven in the betting have all shortened with Getabird current favourite at 2/1, followed by Kalashnikov  at 5/1, Summerville Boy and First Flow 11/1, Mengli Khan and Paloma Blue 14/1 and Claimantakinforgan 16/1  (22/1 bar). I’ve already said that I think that this is a two horse race between the leading two in the market. I think that Getabird is a false price because of its connections and I’m firmly with Kalashnikov to follow up on his ideal prep with a mud-spattered victory in the most valuable handicap hurdle of the year at Newbury last month. He’s the form selection and certainly in with as good a chance as the favourite so the price of the selection appeals.

Here’s Amy Murphy talking about Kalashnikov’s chance:

Getabird has won on soft and heavy ground and over 2m 4f and therefore should not be inconvenienced by the going. He should improve on his runs to date but Ruby Walsh thinks that he’s “short enough”.

Of the others First Flow has won on heavy on his last two outings at Haydock and Newbury and can fill the frame.

2.10 Arkle Chase

Footpad***** (nap)

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A small field for the Arkle is not unusual but just five runners (as matters stand) is disappointing. This is one of the races that was (very unusually for the Festival) re-opened on Sunday.

Robinshill (125/1) has no chance and I was already strongly against Brain Power (12/1) (form 1UF) before the ground turned against him. That leaves Footpad, Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados. I’ve heard so many people say in previews that Petit Mouchoir’s hurdles form is better than Footpad’s but it’s a chase and the latter has well and truly come into his own over fences. Petit Mouchoir (100/30) has been overtaken by Saint Calvados (3/1) as second favourite and that makes sense given the conditions.

Saint Calvados has sprung to prominence on the strength of one, albeit very impressive, win in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on soft ground.

Footpad’s price of 5/4 is a steal. I would have him at 4/6. I’ve already pointed out that his Auteuil experience is a big asset and his form there – 112 – on soft, very soft and heavy reinforces that view. This is no tougher assignment than his win in the Irish Arkle last month.

Here he is winning the Prix Alain du Breuil on Auteuil soft in 2016:

2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase

Beware The Bear* (e/w) / Vintage Clouds* (e/w)

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This is a race that could well produce a long odds winner. Having said that, there are several candidates with good form on soft and heavy who are worthy of consideration.

On the contrary, long time ante-post favourite Gold Present has not run on soft ground since November 2015 when he was pulled up at Bangor.

I try to avoid favourites where possible but I completely get why Coo Star Sivola is now 5/1 favourite. He was an easy winner of his last outing over three miles on soft ground at Exeter, albeit that he didn’t beat that much. However, I think that his price is too short. He was very nearly my selection and, unlikely though it is, any drift in the price would see me backing him. An entirely plausible winner.

Regular readers will know that I don’t have any time for Singlefarmpayment (6/1) who has consistently failed to deliver.

Beware the Bear (14/1) is a fine horse. He was pulled up in the Welsh National after a couple of mistakes but was a fine winner of the Rehearsal Chase on soft at Newcastle last December (beating Yala Enki and Wakanda among others). He has winning form on heavy ground. He’ll need to jump better than he does sometimes and, if he does, I can see him (one of the few) staying well up the hill.

Vintage Clouds (8/1) is another reliable stayer on soft ground. He began his season with a win at Aintree and followed up with a second to Clan des Obeaux at Haydock on heavy ground. He kept on for a commendable staying on fourth in the Welsh National (again on heavy ground) and was second (yet again on heavy) in the Towton Chase at Wetherby last month. As such he represents excellent each way value.

By the way, there are no Irish runners in this race.

3.30 Champion Hurdle

Buveur d’Air***** (n.b.) / Wicklow Brave* (e/w)

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I’m interested to see that connections have declared my former favourite Charli Parcs in this day one highlight. I’m afraid that the current 100/1 is fair. He’s assumed to be here as a pacemaker for the favourite.

The ground should not inconvenience Buveur d’Air (8/15) whose last three wins have been on soft and who also has winning form on heavy (Sandown in February 2017 when, according to the in-running comments he “cruised into the lead”). He is head and shoulders above the opposition and the ground may only to serve to extend the margin of victory. I expect a shorter price at the off.

Here’s Buveur d’Air winning last year:

For a dual purpose horse Wicklow Brave (14/1), winner of the 2015 County Hurdle, has surprisingly good form on heavy ground. He’s a bit in and out but could just turn in a good one here. He can be fussy at the start so that’s another factor to take into account.

Faugheen is currently 6/1 second favourite and this has to be all about what was rather than what is. I saw him in the parade ring at Dublin last month and he looked majestic. However, I’m afraid that coming second to Supasundae is simply not good enough.

Yorkhill has form on heavy ground but that’s not his problem. This is an afterthought and there can be no confidence in him turning it round here.

Elgin has an each way shout with his win on soft over course and distance in the Greatwood last November but most of his decent form is on good/good to soft.

4.10 Mares’ Hurdle

Apples’ Jade*****

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This one is short and sweet. I don’t see any serious opposition to Apple’s Jade who is on a six-timer, including this race last year. She has winning form on heavy.

Here’s Apple’s Jade toughing it out in this race last year:

Second favourite Benie des Dieux has been chasing in her last three races so it is hard to see that this was the target.

La Bague Au Roi is a fine mare but not in the same league as the favourite.

4.50 National Hunt Amateurs’ Novices’ Chase

Ms Parfois**

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Jury Duty is a fair favourite with the redoubtable Coddfather on board. However, my selection is the very progressive, soft ground stayer Ms Parfois at an appealing 7/1.

Over four miles this race will be attritional and I see no more than a handful of finishers, one of whom could be Rathvinden, although the 13/2 is too short for my liking.

5.30 Close Brothers Novices’ Chase

Testify* (e/w)

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De Plotting Shed is a well handicapped favourite.

I don’t have any strong views in this race but, of the others, I like Testify each way at 12/1. He won well over the same distance in a Grade 2 on heavy at Haydock last time out and should have no problem staying on when others have given up the ghost.

Good luck!

My bets placed for the day

1.30 Kalashnikov** win 5.2/1

2.10 Footpad****** win 1.04/1

2.50 Beware The Bear* 13.5/1 e/w

3.30 Wicklow Brave* w/o fav 5/1

4.10 Apples’s Jade*** win 4/6

4.50 Ms Parfois** win 7/1

5.30 Testify* win 9.5/1

Footpad/Apple’s Jade double** 2/1