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Month: February 2018

Cheltenham chat (featuring Mullins and Nicholls)

Just a quick follow up to last week’s post after a few more clues including the weekend’s racing and WP’s press day. First, these are the horses that WP turned out for the press as Cheltenham candidates:

Un de Sceaux, Douvan, Min, Yorkhill, Djakadam, Killultagh Vic, Total Recall, Al Boum Photo, Bonbon au Miel, Footpad.

Invitation Only, Rathvinden, Faugheen, Melon, Wicklow Brave, Augusta Kate, Bacardys, Penhill, Benie des Dieux, Lets Dance.

Vroum Vroum Mag, Lagostovegas, Meri Devie, Ballyward, Brahma Bull, Carter McKay, Duc de Genievres, Fabulous Saga, Getabird.

Laurina, Next Destination, Real Steel, Scarpeta, Sharjah, Whiskey Sour, Mr Adjudicator, Saldier, Stormy Ireland, Blackbow, Hollowgraphic.

His comments about some of them are included in the update below.

What of the weather? When checking before trips to Saint-Martin-de-Gurson I find that Accuweather is the most reliable of the long range forecasts. Some say that Cheltenham has something of a micro-climate. Nonetheless, Accuweather is predicting fairly typical weather for the time of year:

so we shouldn’t expect anything too much out of the ordinary.

Tuesday 13 March

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Kalashnikov (15/2 > 6/1)

WP says:

“Getabird will go for this. He’s been fragile. Sharjah has improved since the poor run at Leopardstown and will run here.”

Arkle Novices’ Chase

Footpad (7/4 ->11/8 > 11/8)

All is well with Footpad. Delighted that WP agrees with me that, in time he could be a Gold Cup horse. “He has a beautiful method of jumping.”

Ultima Handicap Chase

No selection yet

Paul Nicholls suggested at his preview day today that Vicente will be aimed at this one.

Champion Hurdle

Buveur d’Air (4/6 -> 1/2 > 4/7)

Faugheen will probably take part.

“Maybe he might never reach his old heights. I am delighted he was what he was, hopefully he can come back to that but age is not on his side.

“Yorkhill is 60-40 for the Champion Hurdle.”

Wicklow Brave will also take his chance in this one.

Buveur d’Air is Gordon Elliott’s choice as meeting banker.

Mares’ Hurdle

Apples Jade (8/11 -> 4/6 > 4/6)

Vroum Vroum Mag will take her chance. She hasn’t been covered (yet). Benie des Dieux is also likely to participate.

National Hunt Chase

No selection yet

Rathvinden is 60-40 to run in this. Other options are the RSA and JLT. Patrick Mullins has said that he hopes to be riding him here, before Aintree.

Close Brothers Chase

No selection yet

Tommy Silver and Movewiththetimes likely for Nicholls in this race.

Wednesday 14 March

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Samcro (9/4 -> 8/11 > 4/5)

Next Destination and Real Steel will probably run in this although WP says that Samcro “looks like an Irish banker”.

If you believe what Gordon Elliott has to say he might be the least confident of all of us.

“Samcro is a nice horse who has done everything right, but he has to keep improving.

“He is big, good-looking horse and that captures the imagination, although Cheltenham is a big step up again and will be the first time he has travelled for a race – that can often be a big ask too.

“We went over with Death Duty last year thinking he would win, but he never travelled and got very light over there. But Samcro is a big laidback horse and I don’t see it being a problem.”

Coral Cup

No bet yet

RSA Chase

Black Corton (10/1 > 9/1)

Al Boum Photo is a probable for this (could go for the JLT).  Bonbon au Miel also probable and Invitation Only could go for the RSA or JLT.

Champion Chase

Altior (11/8 -> 8/11 > 8/11)

WP on Douvan:

“He has been pleasing me, doing everything right. He has a few more bits of work to get through. He has to go for the Champion Chase, all being well. And all is well.

“Not so long ago we were being told we couldn’t train him for the year. He was entered at Gowran because it is beside us and the race may have cut up but the ground was really heavy.”

Min will also run.

Cross Country

Cause of Causes (4/1 -> 7/2 > 7/2)

Fred Winter

No selection yet

Act of Valour probable in this for Paul Nicholls.

Mitchouka (16/1) and Doctor Bartolo (20/1) are interesting.

Champion Bumper

Blackbow (13/2 > 6/1)

WP again:

“Hollowgraphic is a fair horse, a fine looking horse I’m fond of, and I really liked how he did it last time, whereas Blackbow produced an excellent performance at Leopardstown.

“Carefully Selected booked his place by winning at the weekend but Patrick said he always had his place booked! He dropped back in trip but was very good. I’m not sure who he will ride there.”

Patrick Mullins has called Blackbow’s run at the Dublin Racing Festival “the best Bumper performance of the season”. I agree. I think that they thought that Hollowgraphic was their best chance but he has been displaced.

Paul Nicholls’ Danny Kirwan was a very impressive winner of Saturday’s bumper at Kempton and should be considered for a place bet.

Thursday 15 March

JLT Novices’ Chase

Monalee (14/1 > 12/1)

Willoughby Court has a poisoned foot and is a doubtful participant. There is support for Benatar (12/1).

Pertemps Final

No bet yet

Ryanair Chase

Un de Sceaux (9/2 -> 3/1 > 11/4)

WP on Un de Sceaux:

“He’s very strong and everything is fine with him. We are aiming for the Ryanair. I haven’t any other plans.”

Fox Norton is out for the season and this must significantly improve Un de Sceaux’s chance.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Sam Spinner (4/1 -> 11/2 > 5/1)

Augusta Kate is slated to run here with the mares’ hurdle as a backup. Penhill is also planned to run here and WP is very positive:

“We knew form very early on that the Stayers’ Hurdle would be Penhill’s first run of the season and everything has been geared to a spring campaign. He has really pleased me in his work.”

Brown Advisory Plate

No selection yet

Romain de Senam and Le Prezien likely to go for Nicholls. Clan des Obeaux was my selection but, in Nicholls’ words has “thrown a splint”.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Countister (12/1 -> 12/1 > 12/1)

WP obviously rates Laurina:

“She looks special. She can go for the mares’ novice hurdle. If ever there is a Cheltenham mares’ chase it’ll be for her. She looks really good. She ran in Tramore because the race suited and won since in a winners’ race. She is top-class. I’ve no ground worry with her.”

I’m beginning to think that Laurina could be WP’s banker of the week so my selection is in doubt.

Kim Muir Chase

No selection yet

Braquer d’Or in this one for Nicholls.

Friday 16 March

Triumph Hurdle

Apples Shakira (4/1 -> 3/1 > 3/1)

I think that we’ve got to the stage when people are trying to find horses to beat Apples Shakira. However, her price is unchanged.

Mr Adjudicator “is as fit as a flea” and Saldier “will like a bit of nice ground…He did everything right” (at Gowran). Stormy Ireland “had a bit of a hold up…It was an awesome performance” (at Fairyhouse). I agree and see this one as the main threat to Apples Shakira, but she could go for the mares’ novices’ hurdle (but why would the yard put her up against Laurina given their view of the latter).

Redicean was an impressive winner at Kempton on Saturday but not enough to shake my view that Apples Shakira is the one to beat, particularly on better ground.

County Hurdle

No selection yet

Lagostovegas is likely to run here and “would appreciate some better ground”.

Ben Pauling’s Global Citizen was the most impressive winner on Kempton’s Saturday card and he’s now aimed here but at 20/1 so people must think that he’s a doubtful participant.

Max Dynamite remains very interesting in this.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Next Destination (8/1 -> 6/1)

Brahma Bull (“in good shape”) is likely to run here. Duc des Genievres, Ballyward and Fabulous Saga are also likely participants.

Chef des Obeaux (9/1) must be of interest. If only it wasn’t dodgy form on heavy at Haydock!

Gold Cup

Native River (6/1)

WP has no concerns about Killultagh Vic‘s stamina and he has “schooled well since his fall”. Total Recall is likely to take his chance, but the Grand National remains the target. Say no more.

My very good friend Gerry Rooney, who is known to many readers of this blog, fancies Road To Respect (just a 7-y-o and currently 8/1). He will no doubt be pleased with this glowing assessment from Noel Meade today:

“We are daring to dream. I wish the Gold Cup was the first race on the first day! Nobody can paint a horse that would win a Gold Cup, but anyone who looked at this lad would like him. He is everything you want; he has the most beautiful head, shoulders and depth. He is the most beautiful horse you could wish to see, so if ever you could paint a Gold Cup winner, you would say this could be one.”

Dublin Racing Festival hero Edwulf remains on course to take his place.

Might Bite is rightly drifting (a little).

Foxhunters’ Chase

Caid du Berlais (14/1 -> 14/1 > 12/1)

Paul Nicholls thinks that Wonderful Charm has a “massive chance” in this one, his best of the meeting.

Martin Pipe Hurdle

No selection yet

Zubayr is Nicholls’ call here.

Grand Annual

Copaine de Classe (25/1)

Paul Nicholls has suggested that Dolos will run in this one.

Copaine de Classe had a schooling round after his only opponent fell at the fourth at Fontwell yesterday. While not shaping up as a Cheltenham candidate, he’s been added to the notebook for later in the season.

Cheltenham update

Time for a quick update after the preview earlier this week and with the benefit of the handicap entries.

Alan King has made clear that his preference is for Yanworth to contest the stayers’ hurdle so that blip when he mentioned a possible run in the Ultima Handicap Chase can be disregarded since he is duly not entered.

We had mixed messages about Cue Card because Jean Bishop said that he would take his place in the Gold Cup field but, at his press day at the yard, Colin Tizzard seemed to be more inclined to the Ryanair (former winner in 2013). I was one of those who said that he should have been retired after his earlier season performances but I have to acknowledge that his Ascot Chase performance demonstrated that I was wrong. I think that the trainer is right: he should contest the Ryanair but I don’t think that he’ll win it.

Noel Fehily has been booked to ride Our Duke in the Gold Cup. This is not particularly surprising given that Robbie (puppy) Power has been selected as the jockey for the Potts horses including, of course, Sizing John. I do hope that Bryan Cooper finds his mojo and, in order to do so, he will need to move on from where he is.

Presenting Percy and Monalee have stood their ground for the RSA. As I said in my last post I prefer Monalee for the JLT (in which he remains an entry and now shortened to 12/1).

Gary Moore has decided not to run Benatar this weekend and if Monalee doesn’t turn up in this race will be my selection (currently 12/1 and on a four timer).

Mont des Avaloirs has an interesting entry in the Imperial Cup at Sandown on the Saturday before the Festival, taking into account that Matchbook have doubled the bonus (this one plus any race at Cheltenham) to £100,000. He’s currently 9/4 for the Dovecote this Saturday.

On to the handicaps. On Tuesday the market for the National Hunt Chase is distorted by still having entries including Presenting Percy and Black Corton. This one needs to be looked at when we know the declarations but the one I’m inclining towards is Monbeg Notorious (currently 10/1 and not entered elsewhere).

Next in the handicaps and closing Tuesday’s card is the Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase. This one currently has 78 entries! I agree with the selections at the head of the market but’s way too early to take a view about this one.

On to Wednesday and the Coral Cup with 119 entries! Defi du Seuil is 10/1 favourite but, at this stage, my two to follow towards the head of the market are WP’s Bleu Et Rouge (16/1) and yes, you could have guessed it from previous posts, JPO’B’s Ivanovich Gorbatov (also 16/1)!

We currently have 23 in the Cross Country but there’s not even a market outside the first ten. I suspect that the market shows that I’m not alone in thinking that this is the settled target for Cause of Causes (3/1 fav) who has also today been entered in the Irish Grand National but I’m convinced that this is where JP expects to make his money.

So, this is what prompted today’s post, the Fred Winter (Triumph reserve race). Disappointingly, Saldier does not make it into the trainer’s entries, so presumably, WP thinks that he deserves his place in the Triumph. It’s worth noting that Redicean remains in this one and if he wins the Adonis on Saturday he could be much shorter than the current 20/1. Equally, an impressive win could see him in the Triumph (for which he remains entered and is 8/1).

On Thursday the Kim Muir looks ideal for Sqauoteour, in this type of race and deserving favourite at 7/1. If Barney Dwan went here he would be great value at 16/1. I’d also do a lay on Singlefarmpayment (sorry).

Now this is the other news of the day. Off You Go is currently favourite at 8/1 with Paddy Power for the County Hurdle but he’s not even been entered. I hope that any bets after 10.00 a.m. will be refunded! I think that Jenkins and Countister might be interesting for this one.

Pascha du Polder failed to impress in his warm up for the Foxhunters at Doncaster so my preference is now even more with Caid du Berlais.

We finish with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual and I’m sad to see that Copaine de Classe is not entered. I hope that this 6-y-o is OK and pleased to see that he’s still entered at Fontwell this weekend. Subject to any news I’ll keep the faith.







Cheltenham update

Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran

First, a reflection on last weekend. I was really looking forward to Coney Island’s participation in the Ascot Chase but he was a bitter disappointment. Like Faugheen, the trainer has no explanation for his lacklustre performance and he must now be discounted for Cheltenham. Cue Card performed admirably but Jean Bishop’s decision to go for the Gold Cup instead of the Ryanair is, in my humble view, wrong. Waiting Patiently was hugely impressive but both jockey and trainer were immediately adamant that at least soft ground is required. Ruth Jefferson has, admirably, made clear that in her view Cheltenham is not the be all and end all and identified Kempton’s King George as the long term objective. I agree. Frodon put in another really decent show but it was new star Bryony Frost on her best mate Black Corton who, for me, stole the show. Regular readers will know that I highlighted this pair at the start of the season and I am less surprised than some by their progress. Even against the likes of Presenting Percy this one is now the selection for the RSA, where he should most deservedly take his place. In my initial preview I chose him for the National Hunt Chase at 20/1 and he’s now 10/1 for the RSA.

It’s a shame that Stormy Ireland didn’t make it to the Dublin Racing Festival but, assuming that this was attributable to a minor setback, he shouldn’t be ignored (currently 8/1 for the Triumph Hurdle).

I said in an earlier post that the Gold Cup was wide open and that I wanted to see Native River and Coney Island before making my mind up. Might Bite is a justified favourite but not my choice. Based on what I’ve seen, Our Duke is a bit of a talking horse and is likely to clout at least one so, for me, it has to be Native River to do what several have in recent years, win well in a prep and go to the race very fresh but with a reliable jumping style and loads of stamina.

It’s a shame that Espoir d’Allen bombed out at Leopardstown and is now swerving Cheltenham. One to watch out for later in the season.

I called last weekend the last of the preamble but there are a few to watch out for this weekend who could feature. Redicean (excellent pedigree) is properly favourite for the Adonis but is, at best, a place option for the Triumph. Mont des Avaloirs is a good bet this weekend for the Dovecote but not, in my view, a Cheltenham selection. Gold Present may be a Cheltenham choice, depending on where he turns up. The Pendil has been reopened so we’ll have to wait and see on that front.

So, on to the current selections:

Tuesday 13 March

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Kalashnikov (15/2)

What a great performance at Newbury in the Betfair Hurdle (formerly the Schweppes). Has dual winning form on good to soft, including at undulating Doncaster. That was the ideal preparation for this race.

Arkle Novices’ Chase

Footpad (7/4 ->11/8)

This one has been my selection all year and all the more so now after his foot perfect performance at Leopardstown. As previously advised he is a Champion Chaser in the making. Petit Mouchoir made a good comeback and lots of people have got very excited about Saint Calvados but I’m not unnerved and this will probably be my bet of the week.

Ultima Handicap Chase

No selection yet

Alan King caused a ripple of excitement on Sunday by suggesting on Luck on Sunday that this might be a good option for Yanworth (now 10/1 favourite) off 149. I’d have Gold Present, Monbeg Notorious, Beware The Bear and Frodon ahead of him.

Champion Hurdle

Buveur d’Air (4/6 -> 1/2)

After his saunter in the Contenders Hurdle, there is no reason to assume that any of the others will get near to him in what is likely to be one of the easiest Champion Hurdles for years. Wicklow Brave is a good call for a place, as is the likely to be supplemented Elgin, but this could turn out to be one of the smallest fields for years.

Mares’ Hurdle

Apples Jade (8/11 -> 4/6)

Similarly, this is a race with one outstanding candidate.

National Hunt Chase

No selection yet

Black Corton was the initial selection but he will surely now go for the RSA. This all depends on who turns up where. We will have to wait and see.

Close Brothers Chase

No bet yet

As above.

Wednesday 14 March

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Samcro (9/4 -> 8/11)

All the signs are that Samcro will turn up here, in which case 8/11 is still good value. He was so impressive at Dublin and, for many, is the best around and surely too good for any opponents in this one. The next best of the week (after Footpad).

Coral Cup

No bet yet

Still too early to take a view.

RSA Chase

Black Corton (10/1)

This selection has displaced Presenting Percy. It’s impossible to ignore his progress and last weekend’s victory in the Reynoldstown showed that he’s able to maintain a pace that will have others in serious trouble (even if the time was slow, which it was).

Champion Chase

Altior (11/8 -> 8/11)

A symmetrical switch in the betting is entirely deserved after his super return in the Betfair Exchange Chase (formerly the Game Spirit) at Newbury the weekend before last. We needed to know that he’s retained his superior speed and jumping and he has. The only other serious contenders are Min and Douvan (if the latter can avoid doing a Faugheen and I doubt it).

Cross Country

Cause of Causes (4/1 -> 7/2)

The battle of the Bolger/Elliott green and gold brigade. I think that we can now discount Cantlow (never a favourite of mine) and I’ve followed Auvergnat one or two too many times. The slower pace of the Cross Country will suit the typically unimpressive Cause of Causes in his prep race and this is now surely a better option for this 10-y-o than the Foxhunters.

Fred Winter

No selection yet

Saldier was a mightily impressive winner at Gowran last weekend and is currently 10/1 for the Triumph. However, I think that, if entered, he could be an easy winner of this.

Champion Bumper

Blackbow (13/2)

I have the benefit of having seen Blackbow live at Leopardstown and I was very impressed. WP has said that his best shot at this is Hollowgraphic but we haven’t seen him since December and he didn’t beat much at Punchestown. As ever, the bet on this one might only be minutes before the off.

Thursday 15 March

JLT Novices’ Chase

Monalee (14/1)

If it was my choice I would readily select this race ahead of the RSA for Monalee because it’s much more winnable and his performance at Leopardstown (Grade 1) shows that this distance suits. Please choose this one! A tough, tough, horse who nonetheless has the speed for this.

Pertemps Final

No bet yet

Ryanair Chase

Un de Sceaux (9/2 -> 3/1)

The Ryanair has, contrary to the view of many, been one of my favourite races since it was introduced. Too many people overlook the fact that, at 3m 2 1/2f, the Gold Cup is a race for out and out stayers and this is an entirely legitimate championship race. I’ve got a good record in it in terms of selections and the current 3/1 for Un de Sceaux is remarkable value given the lack of serious opposition. We could see some serious defectors from other potential targets to shake up the market but, as matters stand, I expect Un de Sceaux to be at least half his current price on the day.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Sam Spinner (4/1 -> 11/2)

I see this as a head to head between Supasundae and Sam Spinner. The former is admirably consistent but the coming horse has the potential to become a star (if he’s not already). It would also be a great win for a small yard.

Brown Advisory Plate

Clan des Obeaux (16/1 -> 16/1)

This one is a bit of a mystery because Clan des Obeaux hasn’t been seen since coming second in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and currently has no entries. Incidentally, Caspian Caviar must be the most unlikely consistent sponsor of a Grade 3 race but all credit to them for doing so. They are also a supplier of foie gras (assuming that the Labour and Conservative parties don’t stop them!). If only I could take them to Emmanuel Provin’s superb orchards in Saint Martin de Gurson where the geese and ducks run over to be fed!

I’ll stick with Clan des Obeaux for now pending further news.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Countister (12/1 -> 12/1)

Everyone seems to want to be with Laurina and I understand why. She’s the probable winner but I’m happy to stick with Countister with loads of room for improvement and particularly after Dame de Compagnie’s defeat by a 12/1 shot last Saturday.

Kim Muir Chase

No selection yet

Still too early.

Friday 16 March

Triumph Hurdle

Apples Shakira (4/1 -> 3/1)

I can’t believe that this one is still trading at 3/1. The Triumph is not the cavalry charge that it used to be (following the introduction of the Fred Winter) and can be won on the snaff by a good one. This is a very, very good one and should be 6/4. Third best choice of the week.

County Hurdle

No selection yet

The market has been shaken up by the suggestion that flat campaigner Max Dynamite might go for this one, currently 8/1 fav and last seen in the Sha Tin Group 1 Hong Kong Vase and, before that, third in the Melbourne Cup. Let’s wait and see how this one pans out.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Next Destination (8/1 -> 6/1)

Not a favourite race of mine. I’ll stick with the selection for now but it’s the least confident of them.

Gold Cup

Native River (6/1)

Native River replaces Coney Island as my selection. My view remains that Might Bite is not the Gold Cup winner. Although now more competitive, ahead of the first three or four the market falls apart. As I’ve stated above, the Gold Cup is all about staying and Native River is a great grinder who definitively fits that bill.

Foxhunters’ Chase

Caid du Berlais (14/1 -> 14/1)

Happy to stay with the current selection for now.

Martin Pipe Hurdle

No selection yet

I’ll probably make a selection for this one on the day.

Grand Annual

Copaine de Classe (25/1)

Happy to stick with this one for now.


Good luck!!


The end of the Cheltenham preamble

The coming weekend entries have turned up what could be some proper clues for the  forthcoming festivals, including the potential return of Douvan.

Horses to look out for on Saturday


1.15 Dame de Compagnie

1.50 Black Corton, C’est Jersey, Fixe Le Cap, Ms Parfois

2.25 Gold Present, Vieux Lion Rouge

3.00 Kildisart, Dieg Man

3.35 Coney Island, Cue Card, Frodon, Top Notch, Waiting Patiently

4.45 Lots of interesting debutants in this bumper


1.25 Augustin, Mall Dini, Up For Review

2.00 Bellshill, Our Duke, Douvan, Presenting Percy

3.10 Bacardys, Forge Meadow, Lagostovegas, Mick Jazz

4.55 Too many to mention in the bumper


1.30 Esprit de Somoza, Lisp, Padleyourowncanoe, Shambra

2.05 Agrapart, Boite, Golan Fortune

2.40 Divine Spear, Mount Mews, Crievehill, Markov

3.15 Blaklion, The Dutchman

4.25  Chef Des Obeaux

5.00 Galway Jack, Grandturgeon, Virak


2.45 Elgin, Cliffs of Dover, Call Me Lord, Ch’Tibello

4.30 Town Parks



1.50 Antey, Debuchet, Dis Donc

2.20 Augusta Kate, Bacardys, Bapaume, Let’s Dance, Vroum Vroum Mag

4.00 All of them

5.00 Cemister, Rio Vivas, Stay Humble

What a weekend in prospect!


Thank goodness decent boxing is back after the Christmas break. Although I think that, just on balance, Eubank Jr is likely to win, Groves is far too long at 17/11. On 3 March Deontay Wilder is ridiculously good value at 4/7. Ortiz is a slow lump who is massively overrated and the powers that be will not tolerate a drugs cheat as WBC champion, let alone disturbing the road to Joshua/Wilder. On 5 May Bomber Bellew is another great bet at 2/1 against Haye (7/15).



Reflections on the Dublin Racing Festival (including the Racing UK decision)

I had a great weekend at Leopardstown with ideal company. Service in the 1888 restaurant was a bit dodgy on Saturday but great on Sunday and, of course, the highlight was racing of the highest order. Having arrived at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge (of which more later and which, for those who remember it, is the “Burlo” in all but name) I reminded myself of some of the greatest days I have had at the races (lower case).

On the way to Ireland I picked up on Twitter the news that Irish racing is on its way to Racing UK from 1 January 2019.  The social media backlash to this decision has been remarkable. The reality is that if you’re into racing and, like me, in particular NH racing, you either rely on terrestrial coverage (ITV in GB and RTE in Ireland) or you choose to watch all the big races and the early part of the cards on RUK. I made the decision about four years ago to spend money on Racing UK. No matter what others might say, it was a shadow over the weekend that all Irish racing was on its way to RUK.

I think that this is a load of nonsense. It’s long been a major irritation that ATR has broadcast in SD (standard definition) so that blurry pictures of Grade 1 races have been the norm. Not good enough. The presenters have done their best but the coverage has not been good enough. It makes you think that Irish racing is substandard. There have been reports that it would be improved with ATR being rebranded as Sky Sports Racing but presumably that will not now happen. I kept on searching for news on Google about ATR HD but nothing was coming.

As for people who think that the RUK presenters are “boring”, I’m with you when it comes to some extent. (I was going to name several people at this moment but decided that wasn’t fair given the material they have to work with.) When it comes to major meetings and their analysis let’s not in any way criticise people such as Lydia Hislop, Jonathan Neesom, Steve Mellish and Claude Charlet who are utterly on top of their game. It is inconceivable that RUK will not take on the peerless Gary O’Brien as part of their team.

After racing on Saturday I walked up to the main road. I couldn’t get a taxi and had a meltdown for about two and a half hours. I ended up in the Clayton Leopardstown and tried to tell them that it was their fault that I’d ended up there. I did the decent thing and didn’t take their free taxi. On Sunday I followed Harry Fry and got a taxi very quickly (wish I’d been sensible the previous day).

So, at last, on to the racing!

We missed the first race and I was happy to do so with a 25/1 winner. I was not surprised by Min’s win in the next but I was I was delighted to be there to see just how how good Footpad was in the Irish Arkle.  What a good horse and, for me, nailed on for the Cheltenham equivalent.

The others that makes me excited were Off You Go  (off 9st 10lb never again) in the Coral Hurdle and highlight of the day, Blackbow, at a very profitable 11/4!

On Sunday Espoir d’Allen was very disappointing. However, Alletrix delivered for my friend Gerry Rooney, Samcro was superb, Total Recall lived up to his name and Monalee proved that he is a tough campaigner and, therefore, worthy of support at Cheltenham, wherever he turns up.

For God’s sake, RUK costs as much as a couple of silly bets on the flat. Get over it and enjoy the best racing coverage that there has ever been.

Dublin Saturday

Well! Now that we have the declarations I need to refine my initial views (particularly concerning Samcro and the race choice is significant) but, above all, it’s still held up as a hell of a day’s racing. I’ll have a look at Sunday when the decs are out tomorrow but, for now, here are my thoughts about Saturday. By the way, this is a complete endorsement of the decision that Cheltenham decs are going to be 48 hrs so we can take a measured view of the races. So, here we go:

1.10 Lacy & Partners Novices’ Hurdle 2m 6f (Grade 1)

Without Samcro this is a big Grade 1 opportunity. Last season I was a big fan of Carter McKay but I’m now far more skeptical after his third to Getabird and Mengli Khan in the Moscow Flyer Hurdle (Grade 2) on 13 January. It wasn’t so much the ones that beat him than his run which was modest. Dortmund Park** (2/1) looks like good value and could be a lot better than the decent current form suggests. The only serious opponent is Fabulous Saga. Now this one could be a very good WP horse but he notably failed to deliver over 3m at Cork in November. He’s the main threat (Saint des Saints by Fabalina).

1.45 Dublin Steeplechase 2m 1f (Grade 2)

This race has stood up so, as previously advised, I’m with Yorkhill*** (currently evens). Simply Ned is still good value at 7/1 and exceptional as an each way option.

2.20 Frank Ward Irish Arkle Novices’ Chase 2m 1f (Grade 1)

I’m delighted that Footpad***** (8/13) has stood his ground and, quite rightly, Petit Mouchoir (another recovering from injury) is drifting. I’m looking forward to getting a photo with my Cheltenham Festival favourite.

2.55 Coral Sandyford Handicap Chase 2m 1f (Grade B)

Now then, oh my goodness, here’s the first big challenge of the day. 20 runners as matters stand and 8/1 the field with seven currently shortening! OK, decision time. I don’t like any of the favourites up to 20/1 apart from… Tully East* (9/1). This one was 6th in the BetVictor at Cheltenham in November and has properly been highly tried. He could fly in or bomb out but I’m happy to give him another chance.

3.30 Irish Champion Hurdle 2m (Grade 1)

So Faugheen is declared! What do you think? Oh my goodness, this could be the best odds against ever (currently 6/4) or the worst ever. I have to declare, I didn’t think that he would make it. I’m sticking with my view expressed a couple of days ago that he won’t be the machine and I’m looking at the rest of the field for value. I’m not a big fan of Supasundae and I’m disregarding Defi du Seuil (note that this one remains entered in a number of other races notwithstanding the declaration). I’m sticking with Mick Jazz** at an excellent 12/1, including e/w for the current eight.

4.05 Coral Hurdle 2m (Grade B)

What a race! 29 have stood their ground and the forecast favourite is the 29th on 9st 10lb in the shape of Off You Go* (6/1), a JP horse trained by Charles Byrnes with Mark Enwright delivering (lack of) the weight. I will also be having a little wager on Bleu Berry** (16/1) for win and place.

4.40 Goffs Future Stars Bumper 2m (Grade 2)

Well, I had a try a couple of days ago and now it’s a bit easier. There are no odds on the Racing Post website yet but Patrick is riding Blackbow**** (forecast 7/2) and that will do for me.


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