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Month: April 2016

SkyQ doesn’t work

skyqWhatever you do don’t get #SkyQ until it’s working properly. Had the guys round this afternoon. Between them they were here for over four hours and I have to say that they were great. The bottom line is that it doesn’t work for non Sky broadband users. I now have two Sky extenders installed (one hard wired), we tried two top of the range routers (Belkin N1 and N600) with factory resets and we disabled 5Ghz connections to force the 2.4Ghz connections which it apparently requires. I’m also now getting random drops on my broadband connection which have not happened since the early days of broadband. I suspect that they are attributable to the relay boxes which aren’t working.

The upshot is that I have a primary box which works for live broadcasts but doesn’t work for any network facilities including catch-up TV and the link to the second TV simply doesn’t work. By the way, when you get SkyQ you can’t access your prior recordings on previous boxes because of a LNB change which hasn’t been advertised.

Subject to the new line drops the rest of the network (non-TV) is working like a treat and I’ve used the Ofcom app to make sure that reception is OK throughout my house. I live in an entirely average sized house (1930s semi) so there are no range issues.

I’ve been a Sky customer for 14 years 4 months (they told me this when I placed the order and got a discount on installation). This service costs £79.50 per month and it’s not good enough. (Update – I’ve just received a letter to let me know that my subscription is increasing by £5.50 a month from 1 June.)

It’s all very well having a (well overdue) facelift to the interface but it’s an annoying waste of time if it doesn’t work. Apparently I’m going to get a call from a senior tech at Sky and my request will be a return to the prior system (which worked!) until they get their network issues sorted out.

Be warned!

Update – 27 April

I had a further visit from a Sky installer last Thursday. Initially Sky Q still didn’t work. However, after a replacement Sky Q Silver box was installed and three signal boosters were used to relay the signal from this to the Sky Q Mini it is now working. Is it stable? I was away from Saturday to Tuesday and returned with some trepidation. It’s still working but if there is a need to reboot or re-pair the boosters I’m not confident that it will stay that way. It’s hard to describe but it doesn’t feel solid and we all know that wi-fi can be unpredictable. I think that it’s still flaky and I’m still reserving judgement. My advice is that if you have Sky broadband, wait until they add the powerline option (signal via the home electrical circuit) and if you haven’t, think long and hard before taking the plunge. If you have wi-fi issues in your house (and many do), avoid at all costs. It’s a very expensive option for a system that might work and there’s no option to roll back unless you spend money on installing a hybrid LNB (which Sky don’t want to offer you). If, like me, you use Sky abroad (France in my case) you will also have big problems viewing while you’re away until the new LNB becomes the norm (probably not for a few years). By the way the Sky Q app doesn’t work in France (“this content in not available in your territory”) unless you’ve downloaded to the app what you want to view, hence no good for live viewing. I suppose that you could use TunnelBear or similar, but that is expensive for high bandwidth and you’ll need to have a very big monthly usage allowance if, like me, you’ve got metered satellite broadband.

The concept is great and I expect that they will get it right in the end. However, unless (like me) you have a determination to be an early adopter, give it a year or two!


Aintree 2016 – Friday

Well Thursday got off to the best possible start with Arzal seeing off the opposition in grand style and that set the tone for others to follow. Annie Power was the first horse to bag the Champion Hurdle / Aintree Hurdle double since Istabraq and is now without doubt one of the top five horses in training. Cue Card duly delivered in the style of his Betfair Chase win at Haydock, more or less exactly as predicted, and On The Fringe was clearly the winner from some way out. Augusta Kate nearly rounded it off for five for the day, only just defeated in a head to head by an impressive 14/1 shot in the last. Overall, very satisfying and an endorsement of choosing favourites where appropriate for the big races.

Now on to an altogether more challenging day with two, possibly three, exceptions.

1.40 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f

There is a lot of support this evening for Ma Du Fou (161p) currently 8/1 market leader but I’m not convinced that Huntingdon, Bangor and Ffos Las novice winning form is enough for this step up. I can’t claim credit for this but Virgilio** (12/1) was tipped up by both Paul Ferguson and Dan Kelly at the Rigbys preview night and I get it. If you ignore the last time out pulled up in the Relkeel Hurdle on heavy ground on New Year’s Day he is coming into this off three wins with the last two at Aintree on good and soft so it makes sense. At the price this is a strong each way selection (four places) and one for the placepot.

2.15 Top Novices’ Hurdle 2m 1/2f

Now we’re back to the hot pots and Limini*** (a generous 6/4) ticks all the boxes. She was put up by Ruby as his best bet of the week at Cheltenham and duly obliged, albeit in a mares’ novices’ hurdle that was made for her. Timeform have her at 174p with Buveur D’Air next at 169p. As they rightly point out she is “hard to oppose”. Of the others I like Agrapart (10/1) with winning form here last December on soft and the chance for Lizzie Kelly to add a Festival win to her Grade 1 success on Tea For Two on Boxing Day.

2.50 Mildmay Novices’ Chase 3m 1f

It’s time to take a strong view here. Blaklion had a hard enough race in the RSA Chase, known for taking it out of novices and I have him as one who will show the signs of that. Un Temps Pour Tout (10lbs clear in this with Timeform) was another who had a hard enough race at Cheltenham in the Ultima Handicap Chase. Again with credit to last Tuesday’s tipsters at Rigbys I’ve sided with Henri Parry Morgan** at an appealing 16/1, a price worth looking at for the each way option as long as all eight go to post. Look out for the bookies (quite a few of them) who are offering 1/4 odds first three.

3.25 Melling Chase 2m 4f

VautourSame time, second day, and once again an opportunity to see one of the best horses in training. Vautour***** (now 1/4) was my result of Cheltenham with my call in January that he would run in the Ryanair. This is a surely a victory parade at his best distance and on a course which will show his jumping at its best.

I cannot make a case for any of his rivals and this could be a very long distance win.



4.05 Topham Chase 2m 5f

This is the second race of the meeting over the National fences. Do you know who’s going to win? The market suggests that not many do. Again, credit where it’s due, this is not my own work but Paul Ferguson and Dan Kelly were both very keen on Cocktails At Dawn* (16/1-25/1 – latter with Coral) at Tuesday’s preview night. I have no better suggestion so we’ll have an each way on that one with a saver on Bishops Road* (12/1) for Kerry Lee who is having a fantastic season. However, beware, Bishops Road is first reserve for the National (deadline 1.00 p.m. Friday) so if any drop out this one will probably be saved for Saturday’s feature.

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle 3m 1/2f

Is this really a Grade 1? It’s not often that that you would see an unbeaten horse in his sixth race at 12/1 and that one is Tomngerry. However the career winnings of a little over £13,000 give the game away (this is worth £56,270 to the winner). For me, Bellshill is a horse that has lost his way. I don’t fancy the Gigginstown horses (Arkwright, Balko Des Flos and Gangster) so that leaves us with Ballydine (9/2), Ballyoptic (8/1) and Baoulet Delaroque (13/2) from the market leaders. Balyoptic’s career winnings are £9,613, Ballydine £21,115 and Baoulet Delaroque £33,543. Ballydine**‘s second to Barters Hill in the Grade 2 River Don at Doncaster in January swings it for me.

5.15 Aintree Champion Bumper 2m 1f

Last year’s winner was Barters Hill and this is a proper top division bumper with several of the Cheltenham runners out again. Rather like the RSA Chase the Cheltenham Bumper is a tough race and this is all the more relevant for horses setting out on their National Hunt careers. Ballyandy only just beat Battleford*** and I think that the latter will get his revenge at a fair enough 5/2 (currently vying for favourite). As ever, keep an eye on the market during the day for any significant movers.

News update

Grand National runner Black Thunder was sold at an auction for £90,000 at Aintree on Thursday evening to Robert Waley-Cohen, thereby giving his son and Aintree specialist Sam a runner in Saturday’s big race. However, the market is not that impressed with his price remaining in the 50/1-66/1 bracket.

My selection, Saint Are, seems settled at about 14/1 to 16/1 (similar on Betfair) and that will do for me.

Placepot selections

1.40 2 Virgilio; 11 Ma Du Fou

2.15 11 Limini

2.50 2 Blaklion; 3 Henri Parry Morgan

3.25 5 Vautour

4.05 4 Cocktails At Dawn; 7 Bennys Mist

4.40 4 Ballydine; 6 Baoulet Delaroque

Good luck!

Aintree 2016 – Thursday

So it is now upon us. Undoubtedly, even by recent very high standards, the best renewal of the Aintree Festival for many years and therefore probably the best ever across the three days.

There is a perfect balance between the graded races and handicaps in which value may lurk – it’s just a matter of finding it!

In terms of strategy, following the favourites in the big races at Cheltenham turned out to be very profitable. Some of the biggest players, William Hill and Ladbrokes, issued profit warnings after what turned out to be, for them, a disastrous Festival. On the back of this I’m not at all afraid to follow the favourites through all three days. After all, winners are winners whatever the price.

There is a small word of warning and that’s the weather. While I’ve been typing this there have been some very heavy showers on Merseyside and they’re forecast to continue through the night. Aintree drains very well and I’m expecting soft on Thursday and good to soft Friday and Saturday.


1.40 Manifesto Novices’ Chase 2m 4f


Sizing John is the obvious choice and most likely to win. His form is 21122 but the last two were in honourable defeat to Douvan so, taking that into account, he might otherwise be coming to this looking for a five-timer. On that basis 3/1 looks very appealing. However, I’m going to take a chance with Arzal** at 13/2, laid out for this race, with both course and ground likely to suit.

2.15 Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle 2m 1f


Nine runners in this one but no need to look beyond the first three in the Triumph Hurdle. The order in that one was Ivanovich Gorbatov (OR154), Apple’s Jade (OR 145 with the 7lb mares’ allowance repeated here) and Footpad (OR150). Just to be clear this is a graded race and all are off 11st save for Apple’s Jade with 10st 7lbs.

I’m still very reluctant to abandon Footpad*** who may well take better to this course and, for me, represents value at 11/2. Ruby asked him to do an awful lot in the Triumph and I don’t think that the Cheltenham hill suited. A flat tight track might suit a whole lot better but I have to accept that there’s a need for improvement.

If Sceau Royal’s run in the Triumph is regarded as too bad to be true then he also has to be considered, based on previous form. I would prefer to wait and see.

2.50 Betfred Bowl 3m 1f

Cue Card

I was going to call this the feature race of day one but it’s a hard call between this (£150k), the Juvenile Hurdle (£100k) and the Aintree Hurdle (£200k). In any event it’s an excellent race and I’m going to stick with Cue Card**** (5/4). As a result of the fall he wasn’t exerted as much as he might have been in the Gold Cup. Who knows what might have happened if he did’t fall? It doesn’t matter. This course and distance is a better opportunity and don’t forget that he beat the apparently invincible Vautour by a head, albeit right handed, but otherwise on a similar course at Kempton on Boxing Day.

If that was not enough I’ve just re-watched his imperious victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last November and I can readily see a similar performance here. Regular readers of the blog will know that I can’t have Don Poli and Djakadam’s last two wins were on heavy ground and undulating courses. The park course horse should have his day (again).

3.25 Aintree Hurdle 2m 4f

Annie Power

As I said in my last blog post I was wrong about Annie Power***** in the Champion Hurdle. She was a stunning winner of the hurdling blue riband and there is every reason to believe that both distance and course here will suit her better. She’s completely unopposable in this race.

There are not many times I would say this but I think that the current 4/7 is good value. She was completely in control in the Champion Hurdle and the manner of her victory meant that she was doing no more than running out within herself at the line. This is a race to sit back and enjoy. Nichols Canyon will also appreciate the longer trip but we can now say with confidence that Annie Power is a division above.

4.05 Fox Hunters’ Chase 2m 5f


The first race over the national fences and the amateurs’ big day. They always charge to the first fence and there is the chance that leading contenders will be caught up with others. However, as I’ve said before, these races are now much better betting propositions than they used to be when the “Corinthians” took their chance with a Heinz variety of horses.

As my very good friend and racing sage Gerry Rooney has pointed out, you won’t go far wrong by focusing on the best amateur jockeys when preparing a short list. Nina Carberry is still suspended and therefore misses this race (she’ll be back on Saturday), so we look for riders like Jamie Codd (On The Fringe), Katie Walsh (Current Event), Marasonnien (Patrick Mullins) and Pacha du Polder (Will Biddick). What to make of Pacha du Polder, Victoria Pendleton’s mount in the Cheltenham equivalent? The horse was fifth after being dropped out (sensibly) and is arguably the best of these based on form prior to going hunting. I heard a very good word for Marasonnien at the excellent Aintree preview with Paul Ferguson and Dan Kelly at Rigbys on Tuesday evening.

I’ve taken another look at the Cheltenham race and the incredibly resolute On The Fringe was very impressive. However, that was a hard race and I’m not sure that the three week gap is enough. Major Malarkey dominated most of the race and the shorter distance and no hill may just be ideal. It’s a very close call but I think that On The Fringe** just edges it for me at 7/4, with a saver on Major Malarkey at 20/1. Jamie Codd’s apparently unlikely victory in the Kim Muir on Cause of Causes was one of the very best rides I’ve seen for some time, amateur or professional, and I’ve no doubt that he’ll get the very best out of the favourite.

4.40 Red Rum Handicap Chase 2m

Minella PresentI’m looking at this only from a placepot perspective and I won’t be surprised if there is a long priced winner. Fayette County could be a good thing and the market reflects that.

However, my preference is for Minella Present* (6/1), back from a longish break, and another apparently laid out for the race. Of the remainder Viconte Du Noyer is a good choice for placepot cover.



5.15 Mares’ Bumper 2m 1f

Augusta KateWell, if you’re still inclined to place a bet by now you’ve either had a very good day or you have a strong view. Hopefully I’ll still have both and in that case I’ll be looking forward to Augusta Kate*** bouncing back from her far from disgraced seventh against the boys in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper. She was another asked to do a lot and they all landed in more or less of a heap.

I’ve taken a view that the hype horse, La Bague Au Roi (translates as The Ring King) may be no more than that! This is Augusta Kate’s fourth race and, against her sex, she enters this unbeaten. Would she be favourite without the Cheltenham race? Undoubtedly. I suspect that she’ll be shorter than the current 7/2 at the off.



1.40 1 Arzal; 7 Sizing John

2.15 4 Footpad

2.50 1 Cue Card

3.25 6 Annie Power

4.05 19 On The Fringe; 12 Major Malarkey

4.40 9 Minella Present; 4 Viconte Du Noyer


Good luck!


Aintree Thursday

AintreeMy very good friend Ian Fitzpatrick reminded me yesterday that there is a decent gap between Cheltenham and Aintree this year. To be honest I’d missed it but now I see the entries for Thursday and realise that it’s looking extraordinarily good.

WP is now a serious candidate for the trainers’ championship and, more importantly than that, we have stars on show next Thursday. As usual, I’ll post a proper preview next week but some highlights are worthy of note now.


Aintree Bowl

Cue Card**** (5/4) – redemption!

Aintree Hurdle

Annie Power***** (7/12) – yes, I was wrong at Cheltenham!

Manifesto Novices’ Chase

Black Hercules** (2/1) – will be much shorter next week.

Anniversary Juvenile Hurdle

I’m still with Footpad* (perhaps foolishly but we need a value winner) at a current 9/1.

Foxhunter Chase

On the Fringe***** (2/1). I’ll be amazed if he’s not odds on at the off.

As for the remainder of what is now a superb festival I’m interested in Vautour on Friday (2/5 and should be 1/10), Altior (Friday and has no real opposition at 4/6), Thistlecrack on his best course at 1/3 and not even tested at Cheltenham and Saint Are at 25/1 for the National. Don’t take the latter as my final choice – there is a week to go!

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