Martin Malone

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Month: April 2018

Grand National Day 2018

Bloody Danny Kirwan! It sounds like I’m telling off someone I know but, in fact, he was the disappointing flop in the Bumper, which was the last race at Aintree today. I could say the same about Chef des Obeaux, but Terrefort’s win meant that I ended the day level. Not bad when the results delivered 10/1, 14/1, 3/1, 11/1, 14/1,6/4f and 25/1. And that’s the message from today. The winners were, against standard, 28.6 seconds slow, 22.8s, 49.9s, 30.5s, 29.6s, 40.8s and 36s. This is proper testing ground and it’s much more testing than it appears on TV. In other words, the soft ground is very relevant.

This is the Turftrax measure from this morning. The message is that the ground is much more testing than it looks and that may well have contributed to some of Friday’s results. Minella Rocco, Vicente and Beeves have been ruled out of the National, all because of the soft ground and here’s the forecast for tomorrow:

There is no more rain forecast but it will remain overcast with no wind so it’s reasonable to assume that we should work on the basis that the ground will dry out a bit, but remain, as I said last Monday, soft (arguably heavy) all round. That means that you should be very cautious with your bets.

This preview would not be complete without my back garden assessment of the ground! And here it (…was). Apparently it’s too big a file to download so the message is that it’s trés souple (i.e. very soft).

Here’s Bryony Frost, working out her route with dad, Jimmy Frost, winner of the National on Little Polveir (1989):

I think that she will complete on Milansbar but I can’t see him as the winner.

So, on to the races:

1.45 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 1/2f

Do not bet in this race!

So, this is a lottery. I’m going to choose some of the horses that I’ve liked during the season but without any confidence! Accordingly, please don’t follow them. They are: Debece* (9/1) and Connetable* (14/1). I fully expect a 33/1 winner of this race and I ave no idea which one it will be.

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

I think that we should back Kildisart (16/1) in this one. Another Munir/Soude option with Daryl Jacob on board. He won the Silver Plate, beating Zubayr and Mongeg Theatre.

3.00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m (Mildmay)

Petit Mouchoir (8/15) (little hankie) is comfortably the best in this one. I can see this one dominating the field. The current 4/7 is entirely fair.

3.40 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

I have no strong view about this race. If you need a placepot option I’d go for Thomas Patrick (9/2).

4.20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

I’ll go with Sam Spinner (5/4) for the selection but I doubt that I’ll be betting. I’ve just taken a wander outside and it’s raining again.

5.15 The Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2 1/2f (Grand National)

So, this is the big one. I don’t have a strong view and, on balance, I’ll go with Ucello Conti at an appealing 18/1. Gordon Elliott thinks that he is in peak form and that will do for me

6.20 Conditionals and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 1/2f

Let’s face it, you won’t be betting in this race unless your National bets have gone west! If so, follow the Racing Post and have a go with Maquisard at 12/1 who is by some way the most progressive in this field.

Aintree Friday

Well, Thursday is best forgotten, with a blank sheet. Bristol de Mai ran really well but the only result to take from the selections was Clan des Obeaux’s third place.

So, on to another day and a really hard card. I think I maybe overthought Thursday’s racing so I’m going to make quick selections this evening and be done with. Friday’s card has to rank as one of the poorest for several years and has the potential to produce some long shot winners.

The ground turned out to be slow, but nowhere near as bad as it might have been.

1.45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f

Zubayr* (12/1 e/w)

I have no strong view about this race so the selection is really just for the sake of putting one up.

2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1/2f

Global Citizen** (9/4)

Global Citizen has been saved for this race and was a very impressive winner of the Dovecote Hurdle at Kempton. He should be well ahead of the rest but others to look out for are Vision des Flos (5/1) and, if he’s got over his heavy fall in the Supreme, Slate House (11/1)

2.50 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

Terrefort** (7/2)

I think that Black Corton may have boiled over after a long campaign but I’d love to see him take this one with the excellent Bryony Frost (a winner at Taunton today) on board. The pair get on very well but he’s not had a break since last summer.

Others of note are Terrefort, winner of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and second in the JLT, Coo Star Sivola, winner of the Ultima, Ms Parfois, only just beaten in the National Hunt Chase (but had a hard race) and Elegant Escape, third in the RSA (ahead of Black Corton).

The RSA is renowned for leaving a mark on novices and, on balance, I’m siding with Terrefort

3.25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f (Mildmay)

Min**** (11/8)

Embed from Getty Images

For a £250,000 race, this would normally attract a better field. In my view it’s down to Min, a gallant second to Altior in the Champion Chase, and Balko des Flos, winner of the Ryanair. I think that Min is comfortably the best and he is therefore my nap at a very appealing 11/8.

4.05 Topham Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f (Grand National)

I won’t be having a bet in this second outing of the week over the National course because, to me, none of the runners make obvious appeal. I think that this race could throw up a long odds winner and I’ve no idea which one it might be. 11/1 the field is, in my view, about right.

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

Chef des Obeaux** (10/1)

I’ve decided to overlook the poor showing of Chef des Obeaux in the Albert Bartlett and, if that was just an off day, the 10/1 on offer is great value. The second and third in that race, Ok Corral and Santini are respected but I think that an on song Chef des Obeaux can take both of them.

5.15 Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Danny Kirwan*** (7/4)

I watched Danny Kirwan’s win at Kempton in February and was seriously impressed, deciding at the time that I would definitely follow him. The price (7/4) shows that I was clearly not alone. A repeat of along the lines of that performance should see him take this fairly comfortably.

 

Good luck!

Aintree Thursday

Our first stop has to be, as usual, the ground. I’ve been noting on Twitter the unusual deluge in the last few days and the going stick reading on the Mildmay course on Tuesday was 4.1 which is apparently the lowest (i.e. softest) reading in recent years (the National course was 3.7). On Wednesday afternoon the readings were 5.4 on the Mildmay, 5 on the hurdles and 4.2 on the National courses. So what does that mean? The going stick ranges from 0 (beyond waterlogged) to 15 (a tarmac road) and the vast majority of readings are in a range from 5-10. Here’s what matters. Based on thousands of readings the mean for heavy is 5.2, soft 6.0, good to soft 6.8 and good 7.7. Clerks of the courses tend to suggest that the ground is better than the readings suggest (and can often be right). Today has been dry; a little rain is forecast overnight, but there has been no drying wind and it’s been overcast all day. I’m sticking with my view that, overall, it will be soft and adding that it will be heavy in places on the National course.

Here’s the view from the Met Office:

So, in summary, I’m taking the view that we should look for confirmed soft ground horses and bear in mind that the ground will churn up as the week progresses.

1.45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f (Mildmay)

Cyrname*** (9/4)

Embed from Getty ImagesThis is a poor Grade 1 and my selection process has been based on which horses I least dislike. Although he’s been favourite until just now (on Wednesday evening) I don’t like Brain Power. This course is likely to suit him better than Cheltenham, but he had a hard race in the Arkle, picking up the pieces when 14l behind Footpad, and is not guaranteed to get round. I can’t have Finian’s Oscar under any circumstances and Modus is not a Grade 1 horse, even in this company. Rene’s Girl would have to improve a lot but could do so. She jumps well and has the half a stone mares’ allowance which could be important on this ground. An each way chance at a rapidly shortened 6/1.

However, Cyrname looks all over the winner to me. He swerved Cheltenham, has had a decent break (last out on 24 February), and has good form (including on soft) on flat tracks. He was beaten by just a neck by the very promising Terrefort over the same distance in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. Timeform have him him level with Brain Power on 174 but with the all important “small p”.

2.20 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f

Apple’s Shakira***** (9/4)

Beau Gosse** (18/1 e/w)

Embed from Getty ImagesNow this is an intriguing race, won in 2016 by Apple’s Jade (maybe you can see where I’m going!). Regular readers know that I have keenly followed Apple’s Shakira all season and she was included in my top three bets for Cheltenham, only to finish fourth in the Triumph (the only blot on her copybook). She was far too keen in that race and has a hood on for this outing. I think that Barry Geraghty will have realised from the Triumph that she needs to be held up and the evidence now shows that she certainly needs to be. She also has form on soft ground and has the potentially all important 7lb mares’ allowance.

We Have A Dream is on a five timer but hasn’t beaten much and that leads me on to my reference to this race being intriguing. As the blog demonstrates, I’m very interested in French racing and Guillaume Macaire is bringing Beau Gosse here, notwithstanding that he is in the same ownership (Munir/Souede) as We Have A Dream. There is no way that he’s here as a pacemaker for We Have A Dream and it’s a long old hike from Royan (not that far from our house in south west France). He was well beaten in the Adonis Hurdle but has listed winning form on trés souple at Auteuil and, for me, has an outstanding each way chance.

2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

Bristol de Mai*** (11/2)

Clan des Obeaux* (14/1)

Embed from Getty ImagesSometimes you have to keep the faith and that is what I’m doing with my selection in this one. I think that it was absolutely the right thing to do to avoid Cheltenham with Bristol de Mai and he has a tendency to run well after a break (75 days). Haydock used to be renowned as an Aintree trial course (albeit for the National course and with stiff fences – until they were unforgivably taken away) but it is a park course renowned for its testing ground and Bristol de Mai excelled in one of the performances of the season when winning the Betfair Chase on heavy ground by a staggering 57 lengths (beat Cue Card, Outlander and Tea for Two). It’s too easy to say that he’s just a Haydock specialist. He’s a classy horse with a gruelling pace on at least soft ground and this should suit him down to the ground (no pun intended).

Might Bite had a hard race behind Native River in the Gold Cup and, with a few notable exceptions, not many Gold Cup horses do well for the remainder of the season. There is also the famous quirk of this horse to run all over the place. Take a look at the featured image in this post. There is loads of room for him to take a wander over the last two furlongs.

Embed from Getty ImagesAs for the places, I really like Clan des Obeaux. He has great form, lots of room for improvement as a 6-y-o, and could be on his way to being a championship contender. I think that he’s nailed on for a place.

3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

Cyrius Darius* (22/1 e/w)

Right, well let’s get this out of the way, I don’t like Supasundae. 2m 4f is undoubtedly better for him than 3m but the Stayers’ Hurdle was no classic renewal and his recent form is more down to the failings of his opponents than establishing him as a Grade 1 performer. The New One and My Tent Or Yours have been great and I was very close to selecting the latter for a place. However, I’m firmly of the view that they’ve had their best days.

Embed from Getty ImagesSo, this is a race that is crying out for a progressive horse and that one, for me, is Cyrus Darius. From a northern yard, he was thought to be good enough to run in the 2017 Champion Hurdle (finished last of those that completed). He didn’t blossom when sent chasing but won last time out over hurdles in the Morebattle at Kelso, beating among others, 6/4f Chti Balko. He likes flat tracks and has winning course form.

I would have been interested in Diakali, had not W P Mullins unloaded him and he’s well and truly in at the deep end on his first outing for Gary Moore.

4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase 2m 5f (Grand National)

Unioniste** (12/1 e/w)

So, who is riding which horses? That’s very often the key to this one. Jamie Codd is riding Grand Vision (9/2) for Colin Tizzard, Nina Carberry is riding On The Fringe (9/1), Derek O’Connor is riding Balnasflow (5/1), David Maxwell is riding Unioniste (12/1) and Sam Waley-Cohen is riding Wonderful Charm (7/1).

Let’s get On The Fringe out of the way. He’s been a fine horse but is a 13-y-o and has no form to speak of this season. Grand Vision has never faced the National fences and had a hardish run in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’. Balnasflow has been frequently touted for races of this nature but is becoming a bit of a nearly horse and Wonderful Charm flopped in the Foxhunters’.

Embed from Getty ImagesAdopting the strategy of bet-lose-repeat I’m going again with Unioniste. The course is a concern but he’s only a 10-y-o and was by far the classiest of these in his earlier years. He was 10th in the Foxhunters’ but has followed up with a win.

I have to give a mention to Distime (16/1) who has course form and is bringing good pointing form into this race.

4.40 Red Rum Chase (Grade 3) 2m (Mildmay)

Bun Doran* (8/1 e/w)

I doubt very much that I will have a bet in this race. I selected Theinval for the Grand Annual but if the ground is as soft as I expect, I can’t have him, taking into account in particular that his last outing was undoubtedly the season’s target.

Everyone seems to be with King’s Socks, with the prevailing view that the drop in trip will suit. However, it can’t be avoided that David Pipe has had a shockingly bad season.

I’ve been here before (like Unioniste in the last race) but I like Bun Doran, who is a consistent performer, was third in this race last year (Theinval was second) and ran well on soft when second to Gino Trail at Cheltenham last December, with Bentelimar third, another that appeals (albeit modestly).

5.15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Dissavril* (13/2)

I’m not going to pretend that I have any great knowledge about these horses. I know that Paul Nicholls rates Posh Trish but, if I’m inclined to have a go, it will be on Dissavril, who seems to me to have a lot of potential.

 

Good luck!

Excellent French racing website

I was dreaming about Footpad against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil when writing my intro for Aintree later this week and, while doing so, happened upon a superb French racing website: http://coursesetelevage.com/en/

I highly recommend that you take a look.

Great writing, loads of videos and superb photos. Very impressive!

Here’s a tribute to Whetstone in the Prix Fleuret on 1 April:

WHETSTONE ABOVE ALL

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

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

What a good website!

Getting ready for Aintree

It’s a bit early to be putting up posts about the Aintree Festival because we have little idea just which horses will be turning up where, or at all, but I’m laying down a marker.

I’m looking forward to watching Thursday’s fare in a suitable Racing UK furnished hostelry, followed by Friday with the obligatory sparkling drinks and Grand National day at home from start (preview programmes in the morning) to finish with, as usual, probably more interest in the “undercard” than the main event.

On Sunday, Nicky Henderson reported that Altior will be aimed at the Celebration Chase at Sandown and today Willie Mullins said that Footpad will not be traversing the Irish Sea later this week. If I was in the wonderful position of Munir/Souede (if only) then I would be seriously contemplating a trip to France in May, given this one’s predilection for Auteuil, perhaps over the haies (half way houses between hurdles and fences) that he has shown he is so adept at dealing with. It would be something else to see him up against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil but that is perhaps too much to hope for!

Buveur d’Air has also been ruled out of an Aintree run and is looking like he’s on his way to Punchestown later this month.

It’s sad but unsurprising to read about the retirement of Cause of Causes after his abject performance in the Cheltenham Cross Country. He’s been a nailed on bet at the Festival for the last few years and has well and truly earned his relaxation after his halcyon days.

In other news Ryanair winner Balko des Flos will run in the Melling Chase on Friday, Identity Thief will take part in the Stayers’ Hurdle on Saturday and Petit Mouchoir is likely to be favourite in the Maghull Novices’ Chase also on Saturday (which will undoubtedly be called Mag-hull by the racing presenters – as it always is!).

And what about the going? Here we go again (after Cheltenham). Here on the Wirral it poured all day on Saturday, although I’m told that it wasn’t so bad across the Mersey. As usual, I’ve tested the ground in my back garden and it’s soft, heavy in places! However, Aintree is renowned for it’s drying properties.

Here’s the Turftrax view as at 13:01 today:

 

 

 

According to the the generally reliable Accuweather, it’s going to rain tonight, showers on Tuesday, a shower or two on Wednesday, more showers on Thursday and Friday and cloudy on Saturday. As with Cheltenham, my prediction is for soft all round on all courses.

 

Here are the races to look forward to, ready to be filled and commented on over the next few days when we know the participants.

Thursday

1.45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f (Mildmay)

2.20 Doom Bar 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1f

2.50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 Betway Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Red Rum Chase (Grade 3) 2m (Mildmay)

5.15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Friday

1.45 Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f

2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 1/2f

2.50 Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

3.25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f (Mildmay)

4.05 Topham Chase (Grade 3) 2m 5f (Grand National)

4.40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 1f

Saturday

1.45 Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 1/2f

2.25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f

3.00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m (Mildmay)

3.40 Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 1f (Mildmay)

4.20 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 1/2f

5.15 The Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2 1/2f (Grand National)

6.20 Conditionals and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 1/2f

So, just the 11 Grade 1 races to look forward to!

 

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