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Month: February 2019

Early thoughts about Cheltenham

All of what follows is, as usual, subject to the ground! We’ve had a very unusual season with good and good to soft featuring pretty much throughout. Perhaps the biggest bet for the week as matters stand is what the going will be, and it could have an enormous bearing. For holidays I’ve tended to rely on Accuweather and they are predicting that six of the twelve days at Cheltenham between now and the start of the Festival will feature rain, plus more of the same on the first three of the four days of the Festival itself. If that’s right then much of what follows will be pointless!

If you want a quick summary of what follows, it’s here:



Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Al Dancer (3/1) is the right favourite and could be a top horse. The Betfair Hurdle win was an ideal prep. Fakir D’Oudaries (6/1) proved his credentials in the Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham on 26 January. However my early selection is Elixir De Nutz (8/1), with Grade 1 form in the Tolworth that has stood up really well.


Le Richebourg would have been my selection until his unfortunate setback. I can’t have current favourite Defi du Seuil (5/2) and I’m torn between Lalor (11/4) and Glen Forsa (4/1), the latter being also entered for the JLT so that might help. Lalor requires a leap of faith after being beaten fair and square by Dynamite Dollars, who subsequently beat not much in the Lightning at Doncaster. Albeit that it was a match, Glen Forsa was mightily impressive when beating Kalashnikov on soft ground and could be a very good horse indeed.

Champion Hurdle

I’m going to oppose Buveur D’Air (2/1) and side with Apple’s Jade (15/8) with the mare’s weight advantage, but won’t be surprised if the other mare, Laurina, overpowers them both. It’s 10/1 bar the three which seems right.

Mares’ Hurdle

On the assumption that Apple’s Jade and Laurina will go for the Champion Hurdle (by no means certain), Benie Des Dieux (evens) will be my bet of the day.


RSA Chase

One of the bets of the week is deserving favourite Santini (3/1), for whom this race should be absolutely ideal. It’s a grinder for the novices and this one has the perfect combination of quality and stamina.

Champion Chase

I can see no reason whatsoever to oppose Altior (4/9) and suspect that he will face a small field of others who he has comprehensively beaten or who have no chance. A crowning glory before being tried at longer distances (hopefully), notably the King George.

Cross Country

Tiger Roll demonstrated his rude health with a dominant victory in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan on 17 February. I can see no reason to oppose him and the current evens on offer will surely be much shorter on the day.

Champion Bumper

I wouldn’t normally be considering this one at this stage but Envoi Allen (3/1) looks to me like very good value for what is almost certainly the horse of the year in this division. Assuming good health, I see this one being a major player in all the main races in years to come.


JLT Novices’ Chase

If Glen Forsa (6/1) turns up here, I think that he wins. Alternatively, I like Camelia de Cotte for Mullins/Ricci at an appealing 14/1.

Ryanair Chase

Min (5/2) could win this if he turns up but I doubt that he will. Frodon (6/1) should run at this ideal trip, rather than the far too long Gold Cup and if he turns up then, subject to Min’s absence, will provide Bryony Frost with her first Festival Grade 1.

Stayers’ Hurdle

In the unfortunate absence of Penhill, this is an easily winnable race and provides my bet of the week in the shape of the admirable Paisley Park (15/8). The emerging horse of the season in my book and one with a very exciting future. Again, like the Champion Chase, this could end up being quite a small field.

Don’t forget that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that it’s not inconceivable that Presenting Percy could turn up here instead of the Gold Cup. He’s still available at 12/1 with Betfair and 2/1, non runner no bet, with Sky Bet. A big conspiracy theory I know but, given the quirky preparation, not out of the question.

Brown Advisory Plate

I wouldn’t normally mention this race at this stage but current favourite Siruh Du Lac (8/1) should be half that price. An outstanding candidate.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

Another race I wouldn’t have expected to mention now but I’m very keen on race hardened and impressive Posh Trish, at a very appealing 15/2.


Triumph Hurdle

Everyone in Ireland seems to think that Sir Erec (6/5) is the banker of the week. However, I prefer proven National Hunt types in this race and I’m delighted that Quel Destin, who has served me very well throughout the season to date, is currently 8/1 and represents my first bet placed. By the way, that’s an outstanding each way option.

Gold Cup

Well, if Presenting Percy (7/2) turns up then he wins, assuming that the ground is as usual, and probably even if it’s not. If it’s not (i.e. soft or perhaps even worse) then Native River (11/2) has a fair chance to follow up on his victory last year. That’s pretty much it. Kemboy doesn’t jump well enough. Clan Des Obeaux won’t stay the distance up the hill (particularly on the likely softer ground, but may do subsequently). Bellshill is a good horse but not a prospective Gold Cup winner. Might Bite can’t be supported this season. Of the rest, I wouldn’t be shocked if Invitation Only (25/1) runs a screamer and is definitely a candidate as an each way shot.

Foxhunters’ Chase

Recent pointer Stand Up And Fight, owned by J P McManus and trained by Enda Bolger, is the big talking horse and current favourite for this race at 3/1. As a 7-y-o he could be absolutely anything. My preference is currently for two proper campaigners, Ucello Conti (4/1), a very taking winner of the Navan hunters’ chase against good opponents on 17 February, and my current selection, Road To Rome (6/1), a superb winner of the Walrus at Haydock on 16 February, whose form following wind surgery is 24321111111. This will be former winner’s Pacha Du Polder’s last race so I’m just hoping for a safe round for that one. Another that I’ll keep an eye out for is Shantou Flyer (7/1) who appears to have found his metier with new owner and man of the Hunters David Maxwell.

There will be lots more to follow in the run up to the Festival with the huge benefit of 48 hour declarations.

Good luck!

Saturday 16 February

So, first, a little rant about how rubbish BT are. I was really looking forward to doing a big preview about tomorrow’s excellent racing. However…near to a main city, I’ve had no internet connection since mid-morning. Their diagnostic tool didn’t work because, surprise surprise, the internet connection wasn’t working. I would pay in an instant for high speed internet but, after years of them telling me that the local exchange (Claughton) is fibre connected, it isn’t available. As of right now, according to Openreach, they “don’t have a plan for my area yet”. Apparently I’m in Wirral District B and, according to their schedule the availability is “now”, except that it’s not. What a complete shower. So, after that, on to the racing.

However, on TV (when it was working), I did see Kalashnikov well and truly beaten by Glen Forsa in the Grade 2 Kingmaker Chase. I’m afraid that the inevitable conclusion is that Kalashnikov was battered by the winner who, having been a Close Brothers’ candidate is now well beyond the 0-145 eligibility (was 138 and wouldn’t have got in on that).

Unsurprisingly, the cards reveal that not all the great head to heads have materialised but there is still some decent fare. The most notable absentee is Presenting Percy from the Red Mills Chase. I’ve been watching Twitter all day (on my phone) and the strong message is that the horse is 100% well and might run next weekend. Trainer Patrick Kelly is notoriously uncommunicative and, although I can’t claim credit for this, I love the conspiracy theory that, at 12/1, he is an absolute shoe in for the stayers’ hurdle!

It’s a great shame that Santini isn’t running this weekend because, like many others, he didn’t have a flu jab in time. However, he remains 3/1 favourite for the RSA.

So, on to tomorrow, and in light of the technical problems, just the selections.


12.30 Novices’ Hurdle Class 2 2m 4f

I Can’t Explain (15/8)

1.35 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase Grade 2

Coup de Pinceau (10/1) although Top Ville Ben (11/4) is respected.

2.10 Swinley Chase (Listed)

This is perfect for Black Corton (5/2) for another Bryony Frost Saturday winner

2.45 Denman Chase Grade 2

This is a gift for Clan Des Obeaux (4/11) to follow up on his King George win. To be included in all permutations.

3.20 Betfair Hurdle Grade 3

Al Dancer (11/4) is a very good horse but I think that Getaway Trump (also 11/4) is a star in the making.

3.55 Ascot Chase Grade 1

For all that this is a great day of racing, this is the only Grade 1 and the highlight of the day. I’m against Waiting Patiently and strongly with Polititologue at a very appealing 3/1. A friend of mine rates Aso at an also very appealing 12/1.


12.50 Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle

I really like this race as a prep for the big one and I’m delighted that the best British candidate, Quel Destin, has turned up. I think that he will definitely win at 10/11 and will shorten on the day. In fact I have just placed a substantial win bet so let’s hope that it is a good start to the day!

1.25 Warwick Mares’ Hurdle Class 1

I wouldn’t have highlighted this race were it not that I really like French listed winner Laskadine (15/8 – watch the price) for Nicky Henderson and J P McManus.

1.55 Rendlesham Hurdle Grade 2

Don’t back Yanworth. This one was entered in all sorts of races and I don’t think that they know where to go.

2.55 Pertemps Qualifier

Beware of this one because it’s all about qualifying, i.e. within the first six. A definite non bet option.

3.35 Grand National Trial Grade 3

Be very wary! These races are often treated not as trials but as objectives in themselves (£100,000 race). The best horse in this type of race is Wakanda but, unless I’m awash with money after the earlier races, I’ll be giving this one a big swerve.

4.10 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Grade 2

Now, we have a proper candidate in the shape of Kateson (7/4). My second favourite of the day. Also a bet placed.

4.45 Walrus Open Hunters’ Chase

This one tends to throw up a serious Cheltenham candidate. Pacha Du Polder is an obvious candidate but Road To Rome could be the Cheltenham winner this year.

Maybe more will follow but it’s now 23:24 and I’m going to have a time out!

Great racing this weekend

After the great flu shut out is a great extended weekend of racing, starting tomorrow with some decent runners at Kelso, albeit at short odds.

Ones to watch are Dream Du Grand Val (1.25 4/7f), We Have A Dream in the Morebattle (2.25 4/9f), Definitly Red in a match with Captain Redbeard (3.00 1/7f) and Shantou Flyer against more suitable company in the hunters’ chase (4.10 1/2f).

The feature at Clonmel is the 2.40 Grade 3 3m novices’ hurdle, featuring a number of Ballymore and Albert Bartlett entries. All the main yards are represented including Willie Mullins (Allaho 5/1), Henry de Bromhead (Capuccimix 9/2), Gordon Elliott (Swordsman 5/1) and Noel Meade (Eurobot 12/1) plus several second strings. It’s far too competitive for a bet but a decent candidate for Cheltenham could well emerge.

Friday is likely to see Kalashnikov at Sandown in the rescheduled Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase and Posh Trish in the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle, as well as Rathlin Rose off 12st 10lbs and, after 593 days (439P), Keltus, 15-y-o Pete The Feat and, for Ben Pauling, the very consistent Carlos Du Fruitier, all entered in the Artillery Gold Cup.

Saturday is spectacular with 10 races on ITV including another Irish race live on terrestrial TV, the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase from Gowran, featuring Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (4/6f), Monalee (9/4), Bachasson (7/1), Anibale Fly (8/1) and Killultagh Vic (8/1). There’s also a Grade 3 hurdle with entries including Farclas, Forge Meadow and Coeur Sublime, as well as an interesting beginners’ chase.

Haydock includes the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle with entries including one of my current favourites of the season, Quel Destin, the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle with Yanworth and If You Say Run, a Pertmeps qualifier including Blaklion, and a number of other familiar names, the Grade 3 Grand National Trial which could be an absolute cracker and a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle, plus one of the notable pre-Cheltenham races, the Walrus Hunters’ Chase.

Wincanton features the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle, which also looks like it could be a top race, although many of the candidates hold multiple entries.

And then we have the unparalleled nine race card at Ascot. I’ve listed the main races with notable candidates.

1.35 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase – Grade 2

Glen Rocco and Coup De Pinceau

2.10 Swinley Chase (Listed)

Coneygree, Black Corton, Yanworth, Glen Rocco

2.45 Denman Chase (Grade 2)

King George winner Clan Des Obeaux, Terrefort, Coneygree, Royal Vacation

3.20 Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3)

Grand Sancy, Mont Des Alavoirs, Getaway Trump, Al Dancer and one at an outside price that I’ll keep up my sleeve until the declarations are out!

3.55 Ascot Chase (Grade 1)

Cyrname, Fox Norton, Politologue and, at last (appropriately), Waiting Patiently.

And if that wasn’t enough, there are two Grade 2s at Navan on Sunday.

What a weekend. It’s fair to say that the Cheltenham picture is likely to be very much clearer in a few days. My schedule? Get the jobs done on Friday morning and settle down with a few real ales for a feast of racing!

A little anecdote about Naas

Here’s a little story that I’ve told to my friends on many occasions but perhaps bears repetition because, for a very unusual reason (equine flu), Naas racecourse is going to be the focus of racing on Saturday afternoon on ITV racing.

Back in the mid 2000s I was lucky enough to have a very small interest in a horse called Quatre Heures, trained by Willie Mullins. He made his debut when 9th of 18, ridden by Katie Walsh in a maiden hurdle at Galway and followed up with an encouraging 5th of 20 in the Paddy Power Festival 3-y-o Hurdle at the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown. His next outing was at Naas on 8 January 2006, in a maiden hurdle where he met the horse that had won the last race he was in, Count Kearney.

A few of us decided that we had to travel to Naas to see him run. It was my first visit to the course. We took an early flight from Liverpool and were in Naas in time for breakfast. Having arrived, a lady across the road beckoned us and, with amazing prescience, asked whether we were looking for somewhere to go for breakfast. She directed us to a hotel just off the main road and we were happy to enjoy a superb full Irish breakfast. The lady who served us enquired, without any reason to know it, whether we might have a horse running at the racecourse that day. We were happy to confirm that Quatre Heures was indeed taking part in the 3.20 but was an 8/1 shot and there were 25 runners. Within minutes it seemed that everyone in the hotel and perhaps in Naas knew about the horse.

I was captivated by the course. A beautiful location with an amazingly scenic backdrop of the Irish countryside. One of my colleagues pointed out that, round here, they know to be quiet around the horses, particularly the young ones. There was a murmur in the ring but no more. I soon realised that this was a place where the racehorse took justified pride of place.

3.20 (a little before 4.00) arrived and Quatre Heures, ridden superbly by David Casey, duly obliged at a very rewarding 8/1. Our excitement was uncontained, particularly when Willie identified him as a potential Cheltenham candidate.

We repaired to the main pub, where the football was on the big screens. When the staff realised that we were connected with the winner of the 3.20 they were more than happy to switch to a replay of the race.

What a day!

Quatre Heures followed up by beating Count Kearney again and 17 others at Fairyhouse on 4 February and we knew that we were going to Cheltenham!

An owner’s badge for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was beyond my wildest dreams. He was in fourth place heading down to the home straight and I was giddy with excitement. Surely not! Well, as it happened, he didn’t stay up the hill and ended up in 11th place but that day will never be forgotten.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Quatres Heures was to have his day. His next outing was at the Punchestown Festival when he won the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald.

He then travelled to France where, respectively, Ruby Walsh and Mick Fitzgerald gave him every chance in the Prix de Longchamp and the Prix Alain du Breuil.

Injury intervened, as is so often the case, and after a break, he made a brave return, just being headed by Clopf on heavy ground in a beginners’ chase in 2008 at Navan. Latterly, he performed admirably in France, winning the 2012 Prix Aeroport Pau Pyrenees in Pau when trained by Francois Cottin and ridden by Philip Carberry.

I began my interest in racing in the 1970s by watching the ITV7 with my grandfather, Les, in his local club in Wallasey where then 82 year old Ted Wootton was his “bookies’ runner”. At the time, I had no idea that I would be at Cheltenham with a (very small) interest in a serious contender for the Supreme Novices’ when the roar went up at the start of the Festival. I love National Hunt racing and whether or not you can have a direct interest, such as I was lucky enough to have, the joy of seeing horses soaring over hurdles and fences is one of the greatest satisfactions of my life.

Dublin Racing Festival thoughts and initial Cheltenham Festival interests

I was delighted to attend the second day of last weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival, following a prime IRFU seat at the Aviva for Saturday’s rugby international. I went to both days last year and my immediate thought after last Sunday is that this is yet to establish itself as a Festival. Attendances and betting turnover were down and it was obviously unfortunate that the unusual weather conditions led to significant non-runners and only four participants in the Gold Cup.

Overall, the horses to take away from the weekend and with an eye for Cheltenham were:

  • Commander Of Fleet** (Grade 1 Novice Hurdle 2m 6f) – 25/1 Supreme / 16/1 Ballymore / 7/1 Albert Bartlett
  • Apple’s Jade**** (Grade 1 Champion Hurdle 2m) – 15/8f Champion Hurdle / 4/1 Stayers’ Hurdle
  • Envoi Allen** (Grade 2 Bumper 2m) – 4/1f Champion Bumper
  • Min** (Grade 1 2m) – 9/2 2f Champion Chase / 5/2f Ryanair Chase
  • Le Richebourg*** (Grade 1 Arkle Novices 2m 1f) – 7/2f Arkle
  • Sir Erec**** (Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle 2m) – 6/4f Triumph Hurdle
  • Klassical Dream** (Grade 1 Novice Hurdle 2m) – 8/1 Supreme Novices’ / 16/1 Ballymore
  • La Bague Au Roi*** (Grade 1 Novice Chase 2m 5f) – 16/1 RSA Chase / 12/1 JLT Chase
  • Bellshill* (Grade 1 Gold Cup 3m) – 10/1 Ryanair Chase / 10/1 Gold Cup

Here are my initial long lists for the main races.

Supreme Novices

  • Fakir D’Oudairies (now owned by J P McManus) 7/1
  • Klassical Dream 8/1
  • Elixir de Nutz 14/1
  • Blackbow 25/1
  • Battleoverdoyen 33/1
  • Brewin’upastorm 33/1


  • Le Richebourg 7/2f
  • Lalor 9/2
  • Cilaos Emery 13/2
  • Camelia de Cotte 33/1

Champion Hurdle

  • Apples Jade 15/8jf
  • Verdana Blue 10/1

Mares’ Hurdle

  • Benie de Dieux 7/4f
  • Stormy Ireland 8/1

Ballymore Hurdle

  • Champ 11/4f
  • Battleoverdoyen 9/2
  • Brewin’upastorm 12/1
  • Vision D’Honneur 20/1
  • Emitom 25/1
  • Annamix 33/1
  • Dinons 33/1

RSA Chase

  • Santini 11/4f
  • Delta Work 7/2 2f
  • La Bague Au Roi 16/1

Champion Chase

  • Altior 4/9f

Cross Country

  • Auvergnat 11/2
  • Mall Dini 25/1

JLT Chase

  • Defi Du Seuil 7/2f
  • Kalashnikov 12/1
  • Kildisart 20/1

Ryanair Chase

  • Footpad 5/1
  • Frodon 7/1
  • Politologue 8/1
  • Saint Calvados 14/1
  • Terrefort 16/1

Stayers’ Hurdle

  • Paisley Park 15/8f
  • Bapaume 20/1
  • Pallasator 33/1

Triumph Hurdle

  • Sir Erec 6/4f
  • Fakir D’Oudairies 9/1 2f
  • Quel Destin 16/1
  • Jon Snow 20/1 (NH unraced)

Albert Bartlett

  • Commander of Fleet (7/1jf)
  • Dinons 20/1
  • Emitom 20/1
  • Dalls des Pictons 33/1

Gold Cup

  • Presenting Percy 5/2
  • Native River (subject to ground) 5/1
  • Frodon 16/1

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