Martin Malone

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Month: March 2016

Ludlow – Thursday

ludlowmartinI’m at Ludlow tomorrow, undoubtedly one of my favourite racecourses (and towns) for a pleasant and relatively low level interlude between Cheltenham and Aintree. The going is good. It’s a typically tricky card so I’m approaching it with some trepidation!

Here’s a much better preview than I can possibly aspire to from the incomparable and superb Racing Post writer, David Ashforth.

2.30 Novices’ Hurdle 2m

The current market says it’s between three – Beallandendall (7/4), Ascotdeux Nellerie (9/4) and Magic Music Man (on the drift at 7/2) and the Betfair market reinforces that. Beallandendall’s last three outings have been at Ludlow (pulled up on 12 January on heavy ground at 150/1; 3rd on 3 February on soft at 100/1; won on 3 March on soft at 12/1). He is the definition of progressive but I have a feeling that this is a step too far off joint top weight (11st 9lbs). I’m therefore with Ascotdeux Nellerie***, a dual course and distance winner on only his fourth outing and bringing into this race form of 117.

3.05 Handicap Chase 2m

On the face of it, an eight runner handicap chase shouldn’t be too difficult but six of these are in with a real shout. Ashcott Boy is the favourite and obvious choice based on his form and rating (120/Timeform 130). However I think that there’s value in the current 9/2 for Oficial Ben** (yes, that is the correct spelling), a JP/Jonjo O’Neill horse and point winner having his third “official” chase (pulled up on heavy over three miles at Market Rasen 3 December and a much more promising second over two miles on soft at Catterick on 28 December).

3.40 Ludlow Food Centre Mares’ Handicap Hurdle 2m

I’ll be at the excellent Ludlow Food Centre on Friday morning, stocking up for the Easter weekend. As for this race, mares’ handicap hurdles are races that I would generally avoid unless there’s an obvious choice. Six runners and four serious candidates. Midtech Valentine was third of ten at Uttoxeter in a Class 3 but the official rating of 98 doesn’t compare well with Hope’s Wishes** (off an official 120/Timeform 126+) whose jockey claims 5lbs. Timeform have Midtech Valentine on 137 (clear by 11) but I’m happy to stick with the favourite at a current 9/4.

4.15 Handicap Chase 2m

This is the £20,000 feature race and has comfortably the best field. Parsnip Pete is a seasoned campaigner who started his career with a bumper win at Ludlow in 2011. His finest moment was winning the Red Rum Chase at Aintree in 2014 but his last win was also at Aintree in October 2014 and recent form is, frankly, lamentable. Nonetheless he’s the Timeform selection on 157. My strong selection and nap is the current favourite Presenting Arms**** at a current and very appealing 100/30. If you ignore his run in the Ladbroke the form is an outstanding 111711. This is his second chase, having seen off 1/3 favourite Coologue at Doncaster on 4 March, and this looks like a perfect opportunity to consolidate that form. I’m sure that he’ll be much shorter by the off.

4.50 Hunters’ Chase 3m

I used to avoid hunter chases like the plague. Amateur riders, unknown (to me) trainers and random results. However the character of these races has changed in the last few years and it’s often possible to pick out a leading candidate. That said I’m not sure that I’ll do so this time! On The Bridge** might well take to this on his hunter chase debut. Primarily a hurdler, his chase form (albeit going back a while) was good (211PU445) including a 3m chase win at Ludlow and he’s never fallen in his 41 race career.

5.20 Mares Novices’ Hurdle 2m 5f

At last a short priced favourite and I see no good reason to oppose next best Mo Chailin*** (Evens and the rest drifting). OK, the trainer is Donald McCain who has had a shocking season, not least as a result of the removal of so many horses from his yard, and the horse was fourth of seven here in a bumper on 4 January, but her clear win at Catterick earlier this month was very encouraging.

5.50 Bumper 2m

Thank God this is the last race and not in the placepot! Eight of the fourteen are having their first visit to a racecourse. The shortlist includes three. Blu Cavalier was first of fourteen in his second outing at Taunton last November on good ground. The second in that race, Boubry, went on to win at Newcastle but was sixth of fourteen in his last outing at Newbury earlier this month (albeit a Class 2). Ridgeway Flyer is Timeform top-rated and runs for Harry Fry with Noel Fehily on board. He was second of fourteen off 11st 4lbs and beaten by an Alan King 4-y-o horse off 10st 5lbs at Kempton last month, with a Nicky Henderson 7/2f in fourth so that’s pretty decent form. Speaking of Nicky Henderson, he has an interesting debutant (Alhaarth/Sincere) in the shape of New Member, a 5-y-o bought for €36,000 as a three year old. All three are currently on the drift and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyhill (with Sam on board) is currently shortening from 12/1 to 8/1. What to do? Possibly nothing. On balance I’ll go with Ridgeway Flyer* on the basis of experience and ostensibly decent form.

Placepot

2.30 1

3.05 7

3.40 1

4.15 3

4.50 12

5.20 1

Good luck!

 

 

Cheltenham – Gold Cup Day

VautourLike many others I had a very profitable Thursday, complemented by the pleasure of seeing two spectacular horses, Vautour and Thistlecrack. A big bet on Vautour (well it had to be after my previous posts!) and a few combination bets mean that I’m well ahead for the week no matter what happens tomorrow. Always pleasing to go into the last day betting with winnings! Bristol de Mai put up a valiant performance in the JLT and the undoubted ride of the week was Jamie Codd on Cause of Causes in the Kim Muir. The horse was last and apparently struggling second time in the back straight and yet stormed through to win easily. He’s 67 in the entries for the National and therefore may well not make the cut but has shortened from 25/1 for 14/1 for Aintree and maybe an alternative Spring campaign might bring rewards. Now on to the pinnacle of this week, Gold Cup Day.

1.30 Triumph Hurdle

Zubayr has had only one jumps race in his life (two previous outings on the flat at Longchamp) but his impressive win in the Adonis has resulted in him leading the market at a current 5/1. I’m happy to stick with Footpad*** at 10/1. He won a Grade 1 last time out and Ruby has switched to him from Let’s Dance (3rd in that race / Ivanovich Gorbatov 4th). Again ground is a concern but the best he’s run on is on soft and he won. Course and distance winner Sceau Royal is another serious candidate.

2.10 County Hurdle

Can it possibly be another Mullins winner? Well, yes it can in the shape of Great Field*, the current favourite at 9/1. The form (2/11-1) looks impressive but the first three races in France were minor affairs in small fields at Lyon Parilly. However, the ground seems OK for him. He’s never run in a race like this and there are much more seasoned (but therefore also exposed) candidates, and I think that he could be very good. Of the others, Cheltenian* appeals for a place (look for first five at 1/4 odds) at 50/1.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Hurdle

Barters Hill has been all the rage for this for months and he is unbeaten in six. However, another unbeaten in his last six (including two Grade 1s and a Grade 3) is Long Dog*** and, based on that record, the current 9/1 is both very appealing and remarkable, given the Mullins week to date. He’s had a nice break since the Royal Bond in November and the Future Champions’ at the Leopardstown meeting in December. I’m not a big fan of Challow winners (Barters Hill) and, of the others at the head of the market, I tend to avoid Gigginstown horses in hurdles (Gangster) while Shantou Village didn’t beat much in his last but one and was beaten by Yanworth (his only serious opponent) last time out.

3.30 Gold Cup

17 March 2010; CUE CARD, Joe Tizzard up, winning The Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. © Peter Moone, 6, Cumberland Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Tel: 00 353 (0)86 2589298

17 March 2010; CUE CARD, Joe Tizzard up, winning The Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham. © Peter Moone, 6, Cumberland Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Tel: 00 353 (0)86 2589298

Regular readers of the blog (I understand that there are a few!) know that I’m not a fan of the Dons (Cossack and Poli) and I remain firmly of the view that Cue Card**** (4/1) will prevail in this year’s renewal and, in doing so, collect what was thought to be a very improbable £1million bonus. It was great to see Thistlecrack dominate the World Hurdle on Thursday and in doing so demonstrating that Colin Tizzard has what it takes to win a championship race (if that was ever in doubt, which it shouldn’t have been). This is Cue Card’s year and, although he’s not from the biggest yard, he’s always been up with the best, starting with his Champion Bumper win in 2010 (at 40/1) and followed up with his second to Sprinter Sacre in 2012’s Arkle, his win in 2013’s Ryanair, his second to Silviniaco Conti in the same year’s King George and, this season, his imperious win in the Betfair Chase and, even more impressively, his gutsy defeat of Vautour in the King George. He’s had a decent break since that hard fought victory and I’ve been baffled why he’s not favourite for this. I think he will be before the off. Why this year? I don’t think that he would have stayed the trip until this season but now I’ve little doubt. I see the biggest threat as Djakadam but, putting aside last year’s valiant second to Coneygree in last year’s race (soft), his main successes have been on heavy ground. If you’ve not had a bet yet, take the 4/1 about Cue Card: he will be shorter tomorrow!

4.10 Foxhunters’ Chase

The Victoria Pendleton race #sigh. I’ve written about Pendleton’s quest in my ante-post preview but, as I’ve previously said, the “Amateurs’ Gold Cup” is now a serious betting proposition. After Jamie Codd’s spectacular performance in the Kim Muir on Thursday I feel that I should just blind select his ride (Aupcharlie for Henry de Bromhead at 10/1). However, I’m as confident as I am about Cue Card that Nina Carberry will recover from the defeat of Josies Orders in the Cross Country in the shape of deserved favourite On The Fringe**** (form:112211-17). Ignore the last run on heavy which was a pipe warmer. This one is another Enda Bolger specialist who will have been primed for the day. As for VP, she’s 8/11 to fail to complete the course – ’nuff said.

4.50 Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle

“The boys’ race” – I think that Bridget Andrews on Work In Progress (25/1) and Grade 1 winning Lizzie Kelly, somewhat interesting on Buiseness Sivola for WP at 40/1, might have something to say about that. I would not have WP choosing anyone other than the best jockey for the race but I don’t have the horse (form:250F) as winning. It would be fitting if Lizzie (one of the stars of this season – putting aside the ill-judged photo-shoot in The Times!) followed up on VP’s failure in the previous race. I confess that I don’t know much about the horse that everyone’s been talking about in the previews – Sqouateur*, currently the clear favourite at 5/1. However, it seems that his form (4-1211) suggests that this one could be a proper horse in the making.

5.30 Grand Annual Chase

The oldest race of the meeting (first run in 1834) and the relatively new finale (since 2009) has a tendency to throw up a long odds winner (or at least that’s how I remember it!). Do you remember Oiseau de Nuit (2011), Bellvano off 10st 2lbs (2012) and, more significantly today, Next Sensation (2015 at 16/1). Let’s face it, by now you’re out of the game or just looking for a pinsticker. With that in mind (very much) I’ll go for The Saint James* (drifting at 18/1) on the basis that he was supposed to be a serious contender this season and might just light up. Just to be clear, I won’t be betting on this one unless the Stella, Guinness and Prosecco (or Verve Clicquot depending on the previous four hours) have taken over!

Placepot

It is traditional to have a placepot today so here goes:

1.30 5 Footpad, 10 Sceau Royal

2.10 6 Great Field, 21 John Constable, 16 Starchitect

2.50 6 Barters Hill, 14 Long Dog

3.30 2 Cue Card

4.10 18 On The Fringe

4.50 2 Squoateur

Double

No Lucky 15 today – it’s not that sort of day. Instead, I recommend a double on:

3.30 2 Cue Card

4.10 18 On The Fringe

Good luck!

Cheltenham – Thursday

IMG_0122Yesterday was a bit of a washout from the betting perspective with just (and only just) Diego du Charmil delivering in the Fred Winter. Un de Sceaux was a big loser in the Champion Chase but, like almost everyone else, I was delighted with Sprinter Sacre’s remarkable performance. Just visually I have to put Un de Sceaux’s failure down to the ground and, albeit on the new course and with overnight watering, that has to be a consideration today.

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase

We don’t have another Vautour for this like last year but we do have one of my favourite horses of the season, Bristol de Mai***, who has come into his own over jumps this season. The ground is a major concern. He’s never run on better than good to soft and the ground is officially good, good to soft in places. However, it’s the first race on the new course on new ground so I’m going to take a chance at an excellent 5/1. Would have been five stars if it was not for the ground concern.

2.10 Pertemps Final

My two for this are Our Kaempfer* (10/1), apparently laid out for this, and Missed Approach* (12/1). Both have excellent profiles for the race but this is one to bet in only if you’re determined to do so.

2.50 Ryanair Chase

I’ve made my view about this clear since mid-January and now it’s come to pass. I won’t have the comments about him not being 100% – that was surely just a cover for the late decision. This is Vautour‘s***** race for the taking and I would have him in a bracket with Douvan and Vroum Vroum Mag (but then I would have had Un de Sceaux making up the quartet). In any event, now is not the time for the faint-hearted so it’s time to go all-in at a generous double your money Evens.

3.30 World Hurdle

Another favourite of the season in this one in the shape of Thistlecrack****. I was on him at 25/1 at Aintree last April (although not on the basis of detailed analysis!) and his progression this year gives the impression of a horse that won’t be beaten for a while to come. 5/4 is another very decent price. Of the others there was a positive word from the yard for Whisper (11/1) on The Morning Line.

4.10 The Plate

This is a far harder race to solve. Johns Spirit* is a clear 6/1 favourite and my selection based on the market and his excellent record here. An outside selection is spring horse Baily Green* who has no recent form of note but is likely to benefit from better ground and is worth a small nibble at 40/1.

4.50 Mares Novices’ Hurdle

A new race which has a very short priced Mullins favourite in the shape of Limini. Although many have talked of her as a bet of the meeting I’m less convinced and I don’t think that two decent performances warrant the 8/11 price. I prefer Bloody Mary** (12/1) who is on a seven-timer, albeit with only one run in the UK (having run in bumpers in the French provinces before a win at Auteuil prior to being purchased by JP and placed with Nicky Henderson). I think that profile of this one is just as good as Limini so the price selection speaks for itself.

5.30 Kim Muir

There are lots of familiar names in this race and much of the preview talk has been about Doctor Harper. However, Cause of Causes*** has served me well in recent years and has an undoubted Festival pedigree (runner up in this race in 2014 and winner of the National Hunt Chase last year). This is another one who tends to save his big performances for the big occasions (also a reasonable eighth in last year’s Grand National). He was fifth of five in his prep race in January 2015 and fourth of five in his prep at Gowran this year and it’s reasonable to assume that a pattern is being followed. I had been hoping for a bit better than 6/1 on the day but he’s still worth a go, bearing in mind that many in this race have little or no chance.

Placepot

1.30 3 Bristol de Mai

2.10 6 Missed Approach, 11 Our Kaempfer

2.50 13 Vautour

3.30 11 Thistlecrack

4.10 8 Johns Spirit

4.50 1 Bloody Mary

Lucky 15

1.30 3 Bristol de Mai

2.50 13 Vautour

3.30 11 Thistlecrack

5.30 5 Cause of Causes

Good luck!

Cheltenham – Wednesday

Un-De-SceauxA profitable day yesterday, primarily thanks to Altior in the first and the combinations with the hot pots. All credit to Annie Power who ascended to a new level. Post Alexandre was a sad loss, breaking down in the 4-miler, along with the other two who didn’t make it through the day. Now on to a very tricky Wednesday.

1.30 Neptune Hurdle

This is the first of a few today in which there are two outstanding candidates at the head of the market. There is a lot of money this morning for Mullins’ Yorkhill but I see no reason to depart from my selection, Yanworth*** at a fair 6/4. I don’t see any others getting into it.

2.10 RSA Chase

Another with the two market leaders apparently some way clear of the rest. It’s a close call between No More Heroes and More of That*** but I’m firmly for the latter, albeit at a short enough 7/4.

2.50 Coral Cup

Good luck with this one! As ever it’s a wide open race. The well weighted Politilogue* has a decent chance at 10/1 and I’m also interested in Rock The Kasbah at 12/1 for a place.

3.30 Champion Chase

It has to be Un de Sceaux***** who will win if he gets round (which he should). He is by some way the best 2 mile chaser and all his opponents have question marks about them. Should be much shorter than the current 4/5.

4.10 Cross Country Chase

Another favourite selected in this one but Josies Orders**** (11/4) is a warm order for this. I fancy a straight forecast with Cantlow (reportedly taken very well to cross country) for a JP one two at 44/1.

4.50 Fred Winter Hurdle

You just have to take a view in this race and stick with it. Like many others I’m willing to take a chance with Diego du Charmil**, unarmed in Britain but placed in his three outings in France. Yet another favourite, currently trading at 7/1.

5.30 Champion Bumper

It’s hard enough to pick one from WP’s seven runners let alone the race itself. Ruby is on Bacardys but I’m with the mare, Augusta Kate** (9/1) who has done nothing wrong and looked very impressive in both outings to date.

Lucky 15

Fairly predictable today

1.30 Yanworth

2.10 More of That

3.30 Un de Sceaux

4.10 Josies Orders

Good luck!

Cheltenham – Tuesday

CheltenhamSupreme Novices’ Hurdle

No reason to change now so I’m with Altior*** at an appealing 9/2. As the betting suggests there are only three serious candidates, with Min and Buveur D’air making up the trio.

Arkle

This is not a betting proposition, just an opportunity to sit back and enjoy Douvan*****, generally regarded as the best of the current Mullins crop. 2/5 is a fair price.

Ultima Handicap Chase

This is the first of the races not to feature in my preview and therefore time for a new selection. Favourite Out Sam is thought to be well in at the weights. I can’t have Holywell at any price and my eye is drawn to The Young Master**. Having opened at 11/1 he’s drifted to 16/1. I have to overlook a couple of runs this season but he’s a course and distance winner and I can see Sam Waley-Cohen bringing him home in front. I also like Theatre Guide** at the same price and both represent good each way value (first four in a 16+ runner handicap and look for 1/4 place odds which are bound to be on offer).

Champion Hurdle

I’m pleased to see that Chris Cook of The Guardian is with me on Sempre Medici** at a still very appealing 25/1. I love Annie Power but this is the wrong race at the wrong distance and it’s hard to ignore the disrupted preparation. Of the market leaders I’m still keen on Identity Thief** at 15/2.

Mares’ Hurdle

I agree with the market that this is two horse race and I readily favour Vroum Vroum Mag***** at a generous 11/10 over Polly Peachum.

National Hunt Chase

I was going to choose Noble Endeavor in this one but now that Pont Alexandre*** is running here with Patrick Mullins on board the 10/1 here has to better value than the 20/1 in the RSA. The distance is an unknown but he’s the class act in this race with ground to suit.

Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase

I don’t have a strong view about this one. Aloomomo* has a very good profile and looks worthy of his 6/1 price. However, I’lll be watching out for market movers on the day.

Placepot selections

1.30  1 Altior

2.10  3 Douvan

2.50 5 Theatre Guide, 8 The Young Master

3.30 3 Identity Thief, 9 Sempre Medici

4.10  20 Vroum Vroum Mag

4.50 9 Noble Endeavor, 11 Pont Alexandre

Good luck!

Thursday update

It seems that I may not have been too wide of the mark with Vautour in the Ryanair!

Now confirmed by Rich Ricci on The Morning Line and Twitter is in uproar.

My rationale was simple. For years WP has said that, at the Festival, you put horses in the races which they have the most chance of winning. Happy days!

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