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Month: December 2018

Boxing Day – other races

You can read my King George preview here. On this page I’ve taken a look a some of the (many) other races.

Kempton

12:50 Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) 2m

Didtheyleaveyououtto (5/2) beat Thomas Darby last time out and should repeat. The Big Bite is also respected.

13:55 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m

Current favourite for the RSA Santini (6/4) should win this but faces decent opposition including Bags Groove, The Worlds End and La Bague Au Roi.

14:30 Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

This is one to watch and enjoy. Dual Champion Hurdler Buveur d’Air (1/5) is streets ahead of the opposition.

15:05 King George

See my preview here.

Leopardstown

12:10 Maiden Hurdle 2m

Vision d’Honneur (6/5) has run only once in his life (winner of a three runner race at Fontainebleau) but is a very interesting recruit for Gordon Elliott.

13:10 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m

This race is often a good pointer for later in the season. Chief Justice (11/4) beat Coeur Sublime last time out and should confirm the form.

14:20 Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m 1f

Mengli Khan is currently odds on (4/6) but I prefer Voix du Reve (3/1) for Willie Mullins, a decent winner of a Grade 2 novices’ chase last time out at Punchestown.

15:30 Bumper 2m

This is one to watch but Allaho‘s (evens) only run to day was a second in a listed hurdle at Auteuil. He has to come back from a 297 days’ break and faces 205,000 euros Gigginstown purchase Fury Road, but could turn out to be one of WP’s serious contenders in this division.

Wetherby

14:10 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 45y

This race was won in 2016 by Definitly Red and there are two or three decent candidates in this renewal. I’m against current favourite Wakanda. Lake View Lad (4/1) is commendably consistent and is preferred over highly tried (RSA and Hennessey) Allysson Monterg.

Limerick

14:00 Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 160y

Getabird is not a betting proposition at 1/2 but has taken very well to chasing and should be good to watch. It’s notable that Ruby Walsh has chosen this ride instead of other Grade 1 options at Leopardstown.

Good luck!


King George Chase 2018 preview

One race dominates the Christmas schedule and, as it should be, that is the King George. Will it be a day for the greys? Here’s a runner by runner summary.

1 Bristol de Mai**** 15/2

A favourite of mine, he didn’t run to his best in this race last season (on the back of wins in the Charlie Hall and the Betfair Chase). However, he won on his first outing in this year’s Betfair, beating Native River by four lengths on good ground. I expect that we’ll see a better performance this time. Some say that he’s a Haydock specialist but he was second to Might Bite in the Betway Bowl at Aintree last April. I suspect that the key to him is that he needs to be run sparingly (not normally Nigel Twiston-Davies’ style) and I think that having this as his second race of the season could make a big difference.

2 Clan des Obeaux* 16/1

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He is a progressive 6-y-o and definitely open to improvement. His 8 3/4 lengths fourth to Bristol de Mai in the Betfair Chase represents a fair measure of his ability at this level.

3 Coneygree* 33/1

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Imperious and unbeaten in 2014/15, including the Gold Cup. However, he’s had a number of injuries and as an 11-y-o was probably showing the peak of his current potential when third to Rock The Kasbah in the Grade 3 BetVictor Chase at Cheltenham last time out.

4 Double Shuffle* 33/1

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(Pictured right)

Was a highly unexpected second to Might Bite in the 2017 King George. There is every reason to believe that this was a one off at this level, although he was a decent second to Definitly Red on soft ground in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree last time out.

5 Might Bite** 3/1

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Now here is the conundrum of the race. If it was not for his last outing he would be a much shorter priced favourite. However, his poor last in the Betfair Chase raises serious questions. It was suggested that he didn’t take to the stiff fences at Haydock that day, but I think that far too much has been made of that. Apparently there were no abnormalities detected following the race and I couldn’t possibly back him on the back of that performance. It is far from unusual for dominant top level performers to peak and then fail to make a transition from one season to the next. That said, if the Haydock outing was a blip, then I would have him in the first three.

6 Native River*** 6/1

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The going is good to soft but he is all about stamina (former Welsh National winner over 3m 5f on soft), as demonstrated in this year’s Gold Cup. I can see him being run out of it, while putting in another decent performance. I don’t see him turning round the form with Bristol de Mai in the Betfair Chase but a safe call for a place.

7 Politologue**** 5/1

There are two big pluses which could well see this one marking a changing of the guard at the top level. First, I see him as the most progressive horse in this race and he has excellent recent form, having beaten Peterborough Chase winner Charbel in the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot last month and Min in the Melling Chase at Aintree last April. Second, and most importantly, as a son of Poliglote he is bred to stay three miles and this is his first outing over the distance. As a 7-y-o (rising 8) he is ideally placed to show his full potential.

8 Tea For Two* 25/1

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Third in this race last year and fourth of five in 2016, he is a very in and out horse. His form since last running in this race is PU76PU/3 and he can’t be fancied in this renewal

9 Thistlecrack** 7/1

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He was given much praise for his last outing when third in the Betfair Chase, but I’m not so sure. He seemed to be struggling round the back of the course and was, in truth, never challenging. He’s not won since taking this in 2016 and there’s good reason to believe that he’s not the same horse as he was then.

10 Waiting Patiently** 7/2

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The price is way, way too short. Although unbeaten over fences he’s not run for 312 days and it would be nothing short of a miracle for him to take this on his return. He beat Politologue but that was back in January 2017 and his subsequent wins were in an intermediate chase in Carlisle, a listed race here and, his single top class performance to date, beating a past his best Cue Card in the Ascot Chase, his last outing. I think that the odds are stacked against him.

Verdict

My two against the field are Bristol de Mai and Politologue. I’m finding it very hard to split them and, just on balance, I’m going for the former to follow up on his impressive win in the Betfair Chase. I will also be having a forecast at an appealing 15/2-5/1.

Cheltenham selections – Friday 14 December

This weekend’s races take place on the new course, generally regarded as the slower of the two. A notable feature is that there are just two flights in the last 6 furlongs on the hurdles course. The ground is reported as good, but apparently not soft enough for Willie Mullins to bring over his star mare Laurina who was favourite for the International Hurdle on Saturday. According to the BHA website Doncaster has been watering for Saturday and don’t be surprised if the same happens here (yes, I know, in December) because there was a big report published this week into fatalities at the Festival which included in its recommendations that the ground must as a minimum be on the soft side of good for future Festivals and there is no rain forecast. Latest readings are 7.3 chase and hurdle and 7.5 cross country (good ground with no soft).  A high of 3 degrees celsius is going to make it suitably bracing for those at the course.

So, on to Friday’s card, which is decent rather than being anything special. My main interest focuses on the opening novices’ hurdle and chase and, unusually for me, the cross country where, in this distinctly European week,  I think that there might be a bit of value from a travers la Manche.

12:10 Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

The one who immediately appealed to me in this race is exciting prospect Elixir de Nuts** (9/4), not least because he won here last month (on the old course). I think that he could be a good recruit for Colin Tizzard but has to concede a good deal of weight to his opponents. Angels Breath, currently 11/10 (was 100/30), is an 85000 euros recruit for Nicky Henderson but how many times have decent Irish pointers flopped when making the transition to novice hurdles? Of the others I K Brunel (Carlisle) and Jarveys Plate (Perth) have modest form and, whether it should be the case or not, Northern course form very rarely translates to Cheltenham success, particularly in novice company.

12:45 Novices’ Chase (Class 2) 3m 1 1/2f

This is my favourite race of the day. You need to take a view because the top three, The Worlds End (15/8), Lil Rockerfeller (9/4) and Ibis du Rheu (9/2) all have a realistic chance. Of them, the doughty hurdler Lil Rockerfeller*** is my selection. I’ve watched both his chase races. The first outing over fences (here) was far from convincing but he did much better at Exeter next time out with cheekpieces and is on a four timer. As such he represents excellent value and I expect his price to shorten, so get on.

The Worlds End is a very nice horse but I’m always wary about Tom George trained horses who are often hyped but don’t deliver. He was beaten (third) behind Ibis du Rheu but has an 8lb turn on him for this one.

For me, the rock solid hardiness of Lil Rockerfeller will be decisive in the long run up the hill. My nap. 

Previous winners of this include Sizing Tennessee, Singlefarmpayment (see below), Blaklion and Sam Winner, so it’s generally one to take the winner from.

13:20 Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

Two things. We have to bear in mind that this is a fairly moderate Class 3 so there could be a turn up, and I think that there is one absolutely primed for this.

This is a bog standard 0-140 moderate hurdle. It was won last year by Smaoineamh Alainn** (13/2) who was far from disgraced in a Grade 2 last time out. If you were the owner you’d have targeted this for a next exciting day out at Cheltenham. Two stars is my realistic assessment but I don’t like either of the runners ahead of him in the market (Highest Sun and Al Dancer).

The other one of note is Not That Fuisse, last out in the Greatwood Hurdle (6th) and one of Paul Ferguson’s horses to follow.

13:55 Mares’ Handicap Chase (Class 3) 2m 4 1/2f

So what do we say about a mares’ handicap chase without a star? Not much to be honest. Beware of Silent Steps (failed to win for Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls and now with Neil King). I’m swerving this one by a mile.

14:30 Handicap Chase(Grade 3) 3m 2f

Technically the race of the day because it’s a Grade 3. I hope not to offend anyone but Singlefarmpayment is a squiggly dog. Rock The Kasbah, a Grade 3 winner here, could easily win this but I’m not absolutely convinced. I think that Festival winner Coo Star Sivola** (13/2) (Festival winner, just to make that point again) is a proper contender and represents very good value.

Theatre Territory (7/2) is a relatively poor value each way option.

15:05 Cross Country Handicap Chase (Class 2) 3m 6f

Now, I’ve got a proper view about this one. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Josies Orders wins this at a current 3/1 (from 9/4). But, this is transparently not the target. On the other hand, this looks like the absolute objective for Amazing Comedy**** (4/1), trained by David Cottin (former jockey and son of Francois) who ran well in the Festival cross country in 2017 and beat Vol Noir de Kerser by over 18 lengths in an impressive win at Compiegne (3m 3f very soft) five weeks ago. Perfectly primed for this and my next best (after Lil Rockerfeller).

15:40 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m 7f 213y

The only thing that interests me about this race is that a couple are, on the face of it, ahead of the market so there should be a betting angle in a field of 13.

Great Trango is a horse who could develop well on his form at Galway and Listowel and could be much better than the bare form suggests. However, he is not my idea of the winner.

This evening Aaron Lad is attracting marginal support at 6/1. Jumping is dodgy and not one for me.

Both Clondaws (Cian and Native) are, for me, average horses who are best avoided.

Buywise is, again with respect to the owners, the second absolute dog of the day. Every chance of a place (as is his way at 28/1) but no desire to win. If you are an each way player this could be a very good bet but not one for me.

So, the first of the two. I really like Worthy Farm***, a horse who I think is thrown in here. A really good pointer who won well with loads in hand for Paul Nicholls when last out at Taunton (typical first outing for Nicholls). I expect that we will be talking about this horse next March.

The other is Sizing Granite. He was a Newbury hurdles winner and was sixth in the Punchestown Gold Cup. His current form is 0665 but he might just spark here. Just to be clear, that is not a betting proposition.

So, in summary:

12:10 Elixir de Nuts

12:45 Lil Rockerfeller

13:20 Smaoineamh Alainn

13:55 No bet

14:30 Coo Star Sivola

15:05 Amazing Comedy

15:40 Worthy Farm

Good luck, and for those of you that are there, have a great day!!

TV changes – if you love your racing, take the plunge with Racing TV for the best of British and Irish racing plus proper French coverage from Sky Sports Racing

So, we now know about the big changes which are coming from New Year’s Day for TV coverage of horse racing

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are due for very different coverage when ATR becomes Sky Sports Racing and Racing UK becomes Racing TV.

First, the good stuff (but see my comments below about watching Irish racing). Sky Sports Racing is looking very good. They’ve kept a lot of the talent from ATR although, sadly, I’ve not yet seen a mention for Sean Boyce. The lead presenter is Alex Hammond. Significantly, she will be joined by Josh Apiafi, a man who really knows his racing and Jamie Lynch, who is moving from his post as chief correspondent for Timeform. Jamie is a shrewd man whose expertise is beyond doubt. 

There’s no doubt that Sky will bring all their sports expertise to deliver a very slick product, with presenters at all British meetings and all races in HD. They’ve captured Royal Ascot, Chester and Bangor from March. We can also look forward to over 200 French fixtures with proper live coverage, as well as the Breeders’ Cup, the US Triple Crown and the Melbourne Cup. Notably, coverage will be available to all Sky subscribers without the need for a Sky Sports subscription. With their capture of Royal Ascot, people are saying that this could become the home of all major racing when the ITV contract runs out in 2020, with Sky using its Pick TV channel for free to air coverage.

Proper French racing coverage in HD from 1 January 2019

Nonetheless, Racing TV (formerly Racing UK) will still cover about 70% of British racing including Cheltenham, Aintree, Newbury, Newmarket, York, Sandown and Kempton. £298 a year is a stiff price for this but the big catch for the new year is all Irish racing. This has happened because Irish Racing sold the rights to SIS a couple of years ago and it is SIS who have cut the deal with Racing TV.  It can’t be avoided that many in the Irish racing community are disappointed with this development and there is a real concern about fixture congestion. Given that Racing TV is owned by most of the main British racecourses it’s hard to imagine that they will give way to Irish coverage when the inevitable clashes happen. Just today it was reported that Gowran is likely to miss out on main channel coverage on New Year’s Day.

They’ve said that the problem will be addressed by being able to access all meetings including parade rings etc. by accessing their additional channels on the website. Well, that’s all very well, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in wanting to watch decent racing on my TV. However, here’s an interview with the chairman of the Racecourse Media Group (which owns Racing TV) and listen carefully to what he has to say.

Critically, he says that (at 3’55”) that there will be a red button option. 

I’m delighted with the team and mentioned in an earlier post that I hoped that Gary O’Brien will be at the helm, which he is.

The recent press release has confirmed the details:

Gary O’Brien will spearhead the Racing TV team in Ireland, where he will be joined by Kevin O’Ryan, Kate Harrington, Ruby Walsh and Donn McClean – while new programming and extended broadcast hours, including a daily Mark Your Card preview programme, are also being introduced.


Each of the 61 racecourses will have its own dedicated live stream available on Racing TV Extra, a feature of Racing TV’s digital platform.


This means live coverage of every British and Irish race in its entirety, as well as uninterrupted paddock, going down and unsaddling coverage, will be available to Racing TV members. Racing TV Extra will be available via the website, mobile and TV Apps for all members, whose membership fee will remain the same.

To be fair, this doesn’t mention the red button option so I hope that the chairman wasn’t overstating it.

So, should you pay nearly £300 a year for the best of British and all of Irish racing? I think that you should, if you can afford it, and here’s my rationale. If you are a serious horse racing fan, you will probably spend a lot more than that on betting over 12 months. A large number of the races that you bet on will not be covered on ITV. Yes, you can watch the races on betting websites, but bear in mind that a subscription includes access to all the channel’s races so if you want to check form, this is without doubt the best way to do it. Racing TV is also available worldwide, so you can watch their races from wherever you happen to be. If you haven’t experienced that option, believe me, it’s a great facility.

Further, if you are betting on a good few races, it’s worth listening to news on the day from people like Steve Mellish, Lydia Hislop, Jonathan Neesom and now Gary O’Brien. Their insight is worth a good few quid and their on course guidance has earned me well over £300 a year, particularly with ones to avoid, let alone ones to follow!

Timeform update

Just copying these for now. Superb weekend in prospect and more to follow.

Timeform’s top-rated novice chasers: (updated 03/12/2018)

152P – LALOR

151p – KALASHNIKOV

151p – KNOCKNANUSS

150p – DELTA WORK

150p – SANTINI

149 – DIAKALI

147p – LE RICHEBOURG

147p – VOIX DU REVE

146p – LIL ROCKERFELLER

146p – MENGLI KHAN

Timeform top-rated hurdlers: (updated 03/12/2018)

170 – BUVEUR D’AIR

166 – MELON

165 – FAUGHEEN

164 – PENHILL

163 – L’AMI SERGE

162 – BAPAUME

162 – SAMCRO

162 – SUPASUNDAE

161 – MICK JAZZ

160 – APPLE’S JADE

160 – SUTTON PLACE

Top-rated novice hurdlers: (updated 03/12/2018)

146p – CHAMP

141 – QUICK GRABIM

140 – HEARTS ARE TRUMPS

137p – DINONS137+

– KLASSICAL DREAM

137 – AYE AYE CHARLIE

136p – CITY ISLAND

136p – TRIPLICATE

135p – BLACK SAM BELLA

135 – DEBUCHET

135 – DOUBLE TREASURE

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