Martin Malone

my home on the web

Month: March 2018

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)
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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***

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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*

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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)
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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)

Embed from Getty Images

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*****

Embed from Getty Images

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**

Embed from Getty Images

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)

Embed from Getty Images

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

 

 

 

 

Miscellaneous thoughts about Cheltenham

If there’s one thing that’s absolutely certain about the Cheltenham Festival it’s that it’s going to rain…a lot. Please bear that in mind with all your selections.

It’s great to see that the first two days of Cheltenham are now listed on the Racing Post website as forthcoming races rather than ante posts. This isn’t a full update, rather a few observations about today’s news. I’m now done with work before my week off for Cheltenham as it’s been for the last at least 15 years. I’m not going to the Festival but I’m no less excited about it. I’ll be doing a full Festival preview tomorrow.

Here are some random observations.

Ballymore

There was a drift on Samcro this morning (reported to me by Gerry Rooney) but he’s still short enough at 8/11. Eddie O’Leary has said, categorically, that he will run in the Ballymore so maybe he will run here! Shall I say “lack of clarity” about race selections is no longer the exclusive preserve of WPM and Rich Ricci? We’ll know the answer about 11:00 on Sunday (thank goodness for those 48 hour decs for all races).

The ground

Nothing has moved me from my view that it will be soft all round on Tuesday and it may have at least a reference to heavy by Friday. Accuweather now agrees with BBC weather that it will rain every single day from this Saturday until next Friday.

Max Dynamite

It seems that this one will be turning up in the Coral Cup and if Ruby’s on board that would be a big plus (currently 10/1). He can hurdle and he’s miles ahead of the opposition on his best flat form but what about the ground? However, he might contest the County Hurdle (Rich Ricci identified this at the start of the season) so beware or, if you can’t wait, go NRNB.

Black Corton

Timeform are against him and think that he will be outclassed in the RSA. I disagree. By the way, at the current prices, even if you’re not with me this one is surely nailed on for a place at 15/2.

Sizing John

…is out of the Gold Cup with a pelvis injury. He wasn’t in my reckoning anyway.

Saint Calvados

I think this one will be second to Footpad. Thinking about a forecast but can’t get a price yet. It’s a dangerous strategy to rely on hurdles form when chasing can bring out the best in many horses. How many times have you heard a trainer say that his or her horse is marking time until he/she goes chasing? Relying on the chasing form in isolation rarely goes wrong. I could give you innumerable examples. Incidentally, that means that Footpad and Saint Calvados are the big stars in this one and I’m in no way wavering about Footpad.

Tiger Roll in the Cross Country

I watched the At The Races preview last night – very entertaining. Kevin Blake often knows the word in the yards and could not have been more positive about Gordon Elliott’s enthusiasm for Tiger Roll in the Cross Country. Given that he also trains Cause of Causes that has to be worthy of note. Looking at Twitter today the feeling is that this is Tiger Roll’s target whereas Cause of Causes is being seen as a serious Grand National candidate. I’m going to hold my bet and watch the market.

However…Cause of Causes is always targeted for the Festival and has regularly delivered. I will keep the faith.

WP’s runners in the Triumph

Ruby’s choice will, as often, be very informative. If he goes for Saldier (and I think that he will) then this one will definitely be an each way bet.

Kalashnikov

The likely soft ground is firming my view for this one. His official rating of 154 cannot be ignored. I’m increasingly of the view that Getabird is a hype horse. All over Kalashnikov and will be a big bet to get us off to a good start.

Native River

The ground will play to the staying strength of this one, unless I’m very much mistaken. If it’s seriously tough going Definitly Red is very good value for a place at a current 14/1.

I’m dead against Our Duke, Killultagh Vic and Djakadam. By the way, judging by his comments, I don’t think that Ruby Walsh will be on Djakadam, even though he’s spoken positively about his previous runs on him in this race.

Total Recall is another great option each way at 16/1.

Waiting Patiently

All the signs are that he will not run. If he does and the ground goes as I’m thinking it will, I think that I might just switch from Un de Sceaux. It will certainly be a very close call.

Mares’ Hurdle

With the retirement of Vroum Vroum Mag (the last time that I’ll have to override the spell check!) this just reinforces my view that Apple’s Jade is the best short odds-on option of the week. She could quite easily win the stayers’ hurdle and will surely win this. Incidentally, she will no doubt run here because, as all the leading trainers say, you put the horses where they have the best chance of a Festival win.

The Bumper

Hollowgraphic is out so that makes Blackbow all the more appealing and still at a decent 5/1. I’ve heard good talk about the 4-y-o Acey Milan who, as such, gets 8lbs from most of them.

Early handicap views

Diesse de Bieffes is apparently being aimed at the Martin Pipe. If so, I don’t think that he has any serious opposition. By the way, it’s unsatisfactory that SunBets, Betway, Betbright and my nemesis BetVictor are still quoting Hunters Call for this after trainer Olly Murphy said:

“Unfortunately Hunters Call has some heat in his foot today and as far as Cheltenham is concerned we have lost the race against time.”

He added: “We will now aim him at the Scottish Champion Hurdle or one of the main Irish festivals in Fairyhouse or Punchestown.”

I’m a big fan of Tully East and supported him last time out. Last year he won the Close Brothers’ Novice Chase and this time he’s an 8/1 favourite against distinctly dodgy opposition in the Brown Advisory Plate.

Surely Theinval is another that will frank his Cheltenham form in the closer, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, which closes the Festival on Friday. Nicky Henderson has run him in a way that puts him on a mark of 141 and that’s just about right for this. I doubt that this is just by chance. The current 11/1 against drifting favourite 10/1 Vaniteux (transferred from Nicky Henderson to David Pipe last October) is excellent value for the “get out”. There are a few still entered in this who could change my mind, for example, I’m not sure why San Benedeto is 33/1 – maybe someone can help me with this?

Much more detailed observations to follow tomorrow.

Cheltenham – The Grade 1 Races

This is the last update with selections before the declarations. Thank goodness we have 48-hour decs this year so we can have a good look at the fields rather than wondering which horse will take its place where. Of course there is still the possibility of double decs but, overall, it should be much better all round.

The first considerations are the weather and the ground. According to the BBC website rain is forecast every single day from this Friday until Gold Cup day. Today (Tuesday) the ground is soft, good to soft in places. I’m expecting soft ground all round on Tuesday (11/8) and soft, heavy in places by Gold Cup day. According to Accuweather extended rain is expected this Saturday, followed by next Thursday and particularly on Friday.

I’m going to confine my views to the Grade 1 races and the Cross Country today because there are too many multiple entries in the main handicaps.

Later in the week I hope to post videos of the main contenders. For now, here’s an example of Footpad’s spectacular jumping performance at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting:

Tuesday

1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,188)

Kalashnikov**** (15/2 > 6/1 > 11/2)

There are 53 entries but it’s 10/1 bar Getabird and Kalashnikov without NRNB. It’s a “pick ’em”. It’s easy to think of Getabird being another Melon (i.e. a beaten hotpot). His form is impeccable and he has winning form over 2m 4f on heavy so softish ground shouldn’t be a problem. He easily beat Mengli Khan and Carter McKay in the Moscow Flyer at Punchestown on soft to heavy last time out in January and may well improve.

If you disregard Kalashnikov’s second to Summerville Boy in the Grade 1 Tolworth on proper heavy ground (and I think that you can) his profile is also impeccable and his victory in the the Betfair Hurdle (formerly the Schweppes) was a mighty performance for a novice. Another horse to have progressed from this race was Make A Stand in 1997 (having improved 50lbs in the course of the season), except he went on to win the Champion Hurdle at 7/1. Kalashnikov has shown his resolution and speed in a cavalry charge on soft ground and he is a confident four stars selection.

2.10 Arkle Novices’ Chase (winner £99,663)

Footpad***** (7/4 ->11/8 > 11/8 > 6/4)

Regular readers will know that I’ve been a fan of Footpad for years and he’s moved up to top gear by chasing. I’ve already said that I see this one as a future Champion Chaser. He took a drift in the market last weekend but it now seems that this may have resulted from confusion with the Munir horses (Sceau Royal is out), as noted by Ruby Walsh:

“Footpad is 100 per cent and we don’t know why he was in the news over the weekend.

“Maybe someone had the wrong information about a Simon Munir horse or something, we know Sceaux Royal went missing on Monday, but Footpad is 100 per cent and there was never an issue with him, but you get those rumours at this time of the year.”

I can’t split Footpad and Apple’s Shakira as my nap of the week. They are both five star selections and the current prices for both are staggering value.

I agree with the Racing UK pundits that Brain Power has no chance and although Saint Calvados was impressive in the Kingmaker at Warwick he didn’t really beat that much. He was sixth of 10 behind last weekend’s star De Bon Coeur last April at Auteuil. As an aside De Bon Coeur looks like France’s next Questarabad after his latest demolition job of the opposition at Auteuil on Sunday (winning a race also won won by Questarabad at a similar stage). It would be great to see that horse taking on the best from the UK and Ireland but, if I was the owner, I’d hold on to him and sweep up all the extremely valuable prizes in France for years to come (form 111111-F111).

3.30 Champion Hurdle (winner £256,275)

Buveur d’Air***** (4/6 -> 1/2 > 8/15)

None have emerged to prevent Buveur d’Air from retaining his crown. The only reason why he’s not my nap is the price. I’m therefore looking at the place options. As previously noted Elgin should be supplemented (for £20,000) and take his chance (currently 16/1) and Wicklow Brave could well run into a place at 12/1.

4.10 Mares’ Hurdle (winner £67,524)

Apple’s Jade**** (8/11 -> 4/6 > 4/6)

W P Mullins appears to be firing his best available against his former charge Apple’s Jade but none of them should be able to see her off. This is easily Gordon Elliott’s best chance of the day and probably the week. I might have a small interest on La Bague Au Roi for a place at 14/1 if she turns up here.

Wednesday

1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,187)

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

There appears to be a consensus that this one is the Irish banker of the week. The price is certainly very attractive but, in reality, there are better options (albeit at shorter prices). His win at the Dublin Racing Festival was mightily impressive and there is no good reason to look beyond him. He’s unbeaten and this is his graduation day.

2.10 RSA Novices’ Chase (winner £99,662)

Black Corton*** (10/1 > 8/1)

I’ve been with Black Corton from the start of these previews and I’m not going to change now. The only concern is if Monalee turns up here but I think that he’ll show up in the JLT. Don’t worry about the progression from a summer horse to a Cheltenham Grade 1 candidate. As I mentioned above Make A Stand improved 50lb in one season before winning the Champion Hurdle. His victory in the Grade 1 Kauto Star Chase, followed by the Grade 2 Reynoldstown, proves his class beyond doubt and, with Bryony Frost on board, I can already see her smile and raised arm on board the winner making the front pages of the newspapers.

3.30 Champion Chase (winner £227,800)

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

Altior is the chasing equivalent of Buveur d’Air in the Champion Hurdle and should ensure that Nicky Henderson bags both 2m prizes. A curve ball in this one (for a place) is Great Field for Willie Mullins after 321 days off but on a five timer (into 10/1 from 16/1 in the last few days).

4.10 Cross Country Chase (winner £40,235)

Cause of Causes** (4/1 -> 7/2 > 11/4)

There’s not much to add to my earlier views. Cause of Causes is a fair bet for this one but no more than that.

Thursday

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase (winner £85,425)

Monalee** (14/1 > 13/2)

I do hope that Monalee turns up here and, if he does, he should win. One to watch is the Munir/Henderson highly rated recruit Terrefort at 13/2.

2.50 Ryanair Chase (winner £199.325)

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

Unusually, I’ve put up the prize money in the titles of the races in this preview, particularly with this race in mind. The Ryanair is often seen as the poor relation of the other championship races but that prize to the winner of nearly £200,000 is not to be sniffed at. The ground prediction reinforces my view that this is Un de Sceaux’s for the taking. Waiting Patiently would be interesting if he turns up but I don’t think that he will. If the decs go as they might, this might be 7/1 bar the fav in which case the advice must be to get on now.

3.30 Stayers’ Hurdle (winner £185,088)

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

Let’s get two out of the way to start with. Neither Supasundae nor Yanworth are my ideas of the winner. Both have had good days but are not champions here. This is a wide open race and that is why I think that it’s a perfect opportunity for the highly progressive Sam Spinner who, like Kalashnikov, has shown tenacity in his prep races.

Friday

1.30 Triumph Hurdle (winner £71,187)

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

I’m going to repeat myself – Apples Shakira is a very, very good horse. She gets half a stone from the geldings and arguably wouldn’t need it to win. That is a very significant advantage and all her wins in the UK have been on soft (she also beat 10 on her debut in France on trés souple) and this could be run on very soft ground. Unbeaten, she is all over my idea of the winner of this. Of the others Saldier (12/1) and Stormy Ireland (9/1) are candidates for a place, both at decent prices.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (winner £71,187)

Next Destination* (8/1 -> 6/1 > 7/1 (as low as 4/1 in places))

This is by some margin the weakest of the Grade 1s and Next Destination is the weakest of my current selections. Santini is the current 4/1 favourite and if Chef des Obeaux (11/2) turns up here I’ll be switching to him (particularly on soft ground).

3.30 The Gold Cup (winner £355,937)

Native River*** (6/1 > 6/1)

Well, bring on that properly soft ground for my selection! If it does turn up that way on properly churned ground (after two days on the new course) I can see this one grinding on and on for an old fashioned win over 3m 2 1/2f. I can see some of the the Irish horses repeating their Christmas flops and, as I’ve already said, I can’t see Might Bite winning and all the more so on trying ground. I think that Ruby will ride Total Recall and he’s excellent value for a place at the current 16/1.

Combinations

It seems this way at this time every year but this year in particular I think that there are horses to place in multiples and they are:

Footpad

Buveur d’Air

Apple’s Jade

Samcro

Altior

Un de Sceaux

Take them all (including NRNB) for a realistic 50/1. I have.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

Cheltenham previews from the @racingblogger (Stephen Power)

A couple of years ago Stephen emerged on social media (Twitter) as an occasionally sweary video blogger. This evening he’s probably calling out Arsenal more vociferously than Piers Morgan. He’s certainly split opinions but what he has done, beyond any perceptions, is to have attracted 15,600 followers and 34,700 likes.

What he has also undoubtedly achieved is to attract lots of new fans of racing through a medium that many people in the business don’t understand. I’m a 54 year old fuddy duddy  but Stephen has often made me smile with his willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve, particularly when it comes to making selections and videoing his before and after snippets.

He’s also secured loads of interviews with big players at racecourses including all the main trainers, including a few real insights. He’s taken more than his fair share of stick from the usual slaggers on social media but, to his credit, he’s stuck with it. It’s notable that some of the best people on Twitter engage positively with him and those that don’t should rethink.

I applaud him for sticking with what he’s doing. I’ve no doubt that he would like to be a part of the presentation of horse racing (e.g. his participation in Racing UK’s Tipstar competition).

Anyhow, he’s turning up here because I’m doing an evening of Cheltenham previews and his are right up there. Here they are:

Cheltenham Part 1:

I like that he’s got an illuminated tree like mine!

“Gwann Da Pad”

Cheltenham Part 2:

Cheltenham Part 3:

Star Sports Preview time (starsports.bet) including Alastair Down

Many of the previews have been cancelled because of the weather but we have the benefit of proper recordings now, rather than the odd mobile phone clips!

Here are the Star Sports (“The Gentleman’s Bookmaker”) previews including Alastair Down.

Supreme Novices’Hurdle:

The Arkle:

Overlook them referring to Brain Power as “Brian Power”!

They think that Footpad will go off longer than 11/10 – fine with me!

So, on to the Champion Hurdle:

Ballymore thoughts:

Samcro!

Champion Chase:

The Ryanair:

The Stayers’ Hurdle:

The Triumph Hurdle

The Gold Cup:

“I love Native River”. I agree.

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