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Month: October 2018

Getting into the new NH season

News about Footpad

Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran

Today brings news that Footpad may take part in the King George. Willie Mullins is aiming for an autumn season for my favourite horse in training and imperious winner of the Arkle back in March. Willie Mullins has said that he is yet to speak with the owners but he’s planning for two races before Christmas, the first over two miles and the second “let out” to two and a half miles. It’s worth remembering that he won as a 4-y-o on soft over 2m 3f and very soft over the same distance, both at Auteuil so, unless the ground is bottomless, the King George, as I’ve previously commented as an “easy” 3m, seems highly achievable. The current 16/1 with Paddy Power is ridiculously good and well worth a pop (as short as 7/1 with Coral).

I’m also interested in the current 4/1 Footpad for the Champion Chase, behind Altior at 7/4.


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Disappointingly, Willie Mullins has reported today that Douvan has suffered a setback. Thankfully it is the off fore rather than the near fore which was the injury that caused his extended break. Assuming that he gets over it, and Willie thinks that he will, he could yet be a major player this season. Willie believes that he can be extended but remains a Champion Chase contender. One to watch for the moment.


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Vying with Footpad as the star of 2017-2018 is Samcro, winner of the Ballymore at the Festival when following up on his win at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival. He looks like a star chaser in the making but Gordon Elliott has stated that his target this year is the Champion Hurdle and I agree with that because Buveur D’Air is very good but has not yet faced a true star and Samcro could be just that. He’s currently 11/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle, ahead of  Buveur D’Air at 7/2, 9/1 bar and I think that he’ll just shorten over the season.

Tiger Roll

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Gordon Elliott has confirmed that the Grand National hero of 2018 is going to follow a similar Cross Country route in 2018-2019. For betting purposes it’s worth bearing in mind that he was 5th of 19 when tackling the Cheltenham course last December. He won well at the Festival Cross Country in March before following up in the greatest national hunt race of all exactly a month later. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him out until 2019.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

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Tony McCoy has already selected Presenting Percy for the Gold Cup and he’s the current 6/1 favourite, slightly ahead of Might Bite (13/2) and Native River (7/1), 16/1 bar. I agree with him. He acts on any ground and won against decent opposition in the RSA. Many people take the view that the RSA takes the edge off novices but this was an easy victory and he’s a proper horse. At 7-y-o going 8 he’s primed to improve and I suspect that competition for this race may fall away during the season.

This weekend

It’s a bit early to be doing this because we don’t know the declarations yet. However, I’ll highlight a few possibles to watch out for (Saturday unless indicated otherwise).

WKD Hurdle Down Royal Friday (Grade 2)

Samcro is currently 1/3 for this. We’ll see whether he takes part and if the entries stand up then Sharjah (Mullins / Ricci) and Stratum (both with recent flat form) may provide a modicum of opposition.

Ascot Underwriting Chase (Class 3)

Mont des Avaloirs was one of my horses to follow last season. He didn’t deliver but is only a 5-y-o. There is therefore every chance that he has grown up and I fancy him at a current 6/1 in open company.

OLBG.com Mares Hurdle (Wetherby) (Class 1)

Regular readers will know that I am an unrelenting fan of Apple’s Shakira, who was another one that dominated in the early season. This is only her seventh race and she was campaigned at the highest level. Still a 4-y-o she can still show her best and the current 7/2 (behind Verdana Blue at 5/2) is great value.

Byrne Group Handicap Chase (Ascot) (Class 1)

This is one to watch but I might have a few quid on Bun Doran

Charlie Hall Chase (Wetherby) (Grade 2)

I love the Charlie Hall Chase because, for me, it’s one of the first stop and take notice races of the season (the other is the JNWine Champion Chase – see below). The going is currently good which may not suit Bristol de Mai. I don’t fancy Thistlecrack or Clan des Obeaux so I’m siding with last year’s unexpected star, Black Corton at an appealing 11/2.

Bet With Ascot Handicap Hurdle (Class 1)

This field is likely to cut up but I have to highlight another favourite choice from last season in the shape of Countister, a Nicky Henderson/J P McManus horse. I suspect that this is another whose best days are yet to come and who will have benefited from the summer break.

Mycareneedsa.com Chase (Down Royal) (Grade 2)

What an appallingly named race. I’ve been writing this while waiting for so called “trick or treaters” and I don’t know whether they, or this race name are worse. Anyway, this is a Grade 2 and it’s interesting because it has a very good field (as matters stand). Above all, Monalee.

JNwine.com Champion Chase (Down Royal) (Grade 1)

Well, this depends very much on the final field so there’s not much to say. I think that many of the current entries might be better directed elsewhere. Based on the entries I fancy a Ryanair/Gigginstown winner but couldn’t tell you which one it will be. Let’s wait and see.


So, there we go. A pretty mixed bunch but I can’t wait for the first full on National Hunt weekend. Thank goodness we are back again and watching superb horses do what they do best! Enjoy!!

The National Hunt season is imminent and there are big TV changes in store

This evening I received my first reminder that one of my selected horses for the new NH season is due to run tomorrow at Gowran. Hurrah! At last the proper racing is back and before I know it there will be races by the minute on Saturday afternoons that provide the start of the big build up to the Grade 1s that begin to shape the season.

Of course, I’ll be watching the Arc meeting on both Saturday and Sunday but on Saturday the highlight will be Ryanair winner Balko des Flos in the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Gowran. 

It’s a shame that Thomas Hobson has been ruled out of the Parislongchamp Prix du Cadran on Saturday and I’ll have a little interest on Mille Et Mille at a current 12/1 as an alternative. I can’t have Max Dynamite who is placed in these type of races worldwide but isn’t an obvious choice for me.

It’s also a shame that the strange weather is impacting on the start of the season. While Chepstow is seen as the first big meeting, Exeter has often thrown up a few early starters. However, the Racing UK season opener on 11 October is in serious doubt because the ground is firm, hard in places.

The big story is to do with TV coverage. I’ve subscribed to Racing UK for about 5 years. It’s expensive: nearly £300 a year, but their coverage (to date) has been excellent, including a lot of the early races that are not available on free to air. A big downer for me is that they don’t provide coverage on secondary TVs so you have to watch on the main TV that you’ve subscribed to. I’d love to go to bed and watch the highlights of the day but that’s not available, including the free to air programmes such as Nick Luck’s Sunday morning programme which would be ideal. I’ve complained to them about this but got nowhere.

So, ATR is going to be Sky Sports Racing from 1 January 2019. Significantly, it will be broadcasting in HD which is long overdue. However, we won’t be there for their grainy pictures of Irish racing but more of that below. Also of note they have secured the rights for Ascot, Bangor, Chester and will continue with Doncaster. The channel is free for all Sky basic subscribers.

The big news for Sky, as far as I’m concerned, came a few days ago when they announced that they have signed a deal with PMU to provide exclusive  coverage of all French racing. Unlike the occasional coverage that we’ve seen on ATR and Racing UK, they are going to provide coverage of everything, including regional and trotting races. Matthew Imi, chief executive of At The Races, said:

This is a very exciting new partnership for us with France Galop, Le Trot and PMU and one that has immense potential. French racing is already well supported by owners and trainers in the UK and Ireland but we will showcase the strength and quality of French thoroughbred racing throughout the year in a way that has never been done before by UK racing media.

Sky Sports Racing will provide consistent, live broadcast coverage of French fixtures with all relevant betting information and presentation crews regularly live on site at French racecourses. Attheraces.com will deliver in depth and comprehensive online coverage of French racing to the largest digital audience of racing fans in the UK and Ireland. In addition, Sport Mediastream, ATR’s wholly owned video streaming platform, will make every one of PMU’s 10,000 French thoroughbred and trotting races available live to online betting operators in the UK and Ireland for the first time.

“We look forward to extending our long-standing relationship with PMU and now working more closely and proactively with the teams at France Galop, Le Trot and PMU on this venture which we believe will raise the already strong profile and appeal of French racing in the UK and Ireland considerably.”

Cyril Linette, CEO of PMU added:

We see a great opportunity for French racing in the UK and Ireland. At The Races will be a strong partner for us to help deliver our high quality racing to the online betting market and at the same time generate interest with regular broadcast coverage and promotion.

Switching channels, Racing UK will have from 1 January 2019 exclusive coverage of Irish racing. There has been a great deal of hoo hah on social media about whether Racing UK will be able to provide adequate coverage of the big Irish races when there are inevitable clashes. I think that we will have to wait and see. It is an obvious challenge but if, like me, you are OK with as near as possible live coverage and split screens only when absolutely necessary, I think that they should be OK. For me, a big plus will be seeing Irish races in HD for the first time and, from a National Hunt perspective, most big British races will be on a Saturday and most big Irish races on a Sunday. I’ll also look forward to top level presentation from people like Lydia Hislop and I hope that they will recruit Gary O’Brien.

It’s going to be a very different season and I understand those who say that Irish racing will be much less accessible. However, we have to bear in mind that there is still a great deal of free to air racing on terrestrial TV, e.g. the Arc meeting, so we shouldn’t be so fussy about where the hardcore stuff can  be accessed.

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