Martin Malone

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Month: April 2019

Aintree 2019 – Saturday

No winners today but Rouge Vic and Emitom came close. I should have stuck to my view that some of the Cheltenham runners would not have sufficient time to recover. The truth is that, unsurprisingly, some of them have and some of them haven’t.

The ground has also turned out to be nowhere near as testing as I expected. It is mainly sandy loam which has the ability to dry out very quickly.

Jockey news is that Barry Geraghty suffered a suspected broken leg following a fall in the Topham. He was due to ride Forza Milan in the 1.45, Unowhatimeanharry in the 3.40 and, most significantly, Gold Cup runner up Anibale Fly in the National.

In light of the inherent greater than usual unpredictability, I’m going to keep it really brief.

13:45 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 3m 149y – £75,000

Pertemps winner Sire Du Berlais is the current favourite at 4/1, 10/1 bar. Now that was a hard race so I am going to look elsewhere. Mia’s Storm* (e/w) fell twice last season but they were in chases and otherwise the form looks really good (1111FF-11), albeit not at the highest level. 16/1 looks to me like a really good each way option. She’s returning from a 131 days’ break which I regard as a plus.

14:25 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f – £100,000

The form of Brewin’upastorm* (11/4) and Angels Breath* (7/2) is comfortably ahead of the rest and that’s reflected in the betting. However, both failed to live up to expectations at Cheltenham (Brewin’upastorm fourth in the Ballymore and Angels Breath seventh in the Supreme). Champ was second in the Ballymore and won really impressively today. Fakir D’Oudairies, Felix Desjy and Aramon were all ahead of Angels Breath and all have performed well this week, particularly Felix Desjy who won the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle this afternoon.

I can’t choose between or beyond them so, unusually for me, I’m going for a reverse forecast (1st and 2nd in either order).

15:00 Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m – £100,000

The bare form of Us And Them** (11/4) when second in the Arkle (13 lengths behind Duc Des Genievres) and second to Le Richebourg in his previous two races, is impressive and the best on offer. Clondaw Castle and Knocknanuss were fourth and fifth in the Arkle, in which Lalor was pulled up and Ornua fell. Lalor can’t be supported until he shows a return to form but could bounce back. Destrier and Caid Du Lin have yet to prove themselves at this level. Overall I think that it’s between the selection and Ornua.

15:40 Ryanair Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 149y – £180,000

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What do we do with Apple’s Jade? Sixth of seven finishers in the Champion Hurdle, the bubble well and truly burst, but that’s not the only time that has happened at Cheltenham. Significantly, she has shown the ability to bounce back and prior to the Champion Hurdle she had won all her outings this season (three Grade 1s and a Grade 2). She was not overly exerted when beaten and there is no problem with the longer trip. I expect her to win well.

Sam Spinner showed a remarkable return to form when runner up to the brilliant Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle (Wholestone fifth) but the overall form suggests that this may have been a one off in terms of recent form. Roksana (winner of the Mares’ Hurdle) and William Henry (winner of the Coral Cup) are both decent horses but some way behind the favourite at her best.

On balance this looks like the ideal opportunity for Apple’s Jade**** (15/8) to resume her winning ways, and at a tempting price.

16:20 Betway Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 210y – £75,000

A word of warning. As far as I can remember I don’t think that I’ve ever selected the winner of this race and I don’t expect that to change this time around.

Kildisart** (7/1) ran well in the JLT at the Festival, coming fourth behind Defi Du Seuil, Lost In Translation, impressive conqueror of Topofthegame in this afternoon’s Mildmay Novices’ Chase and now being touted for great things, and Mengli Khan, who ran well in third in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase yesterday.

It’s a mystery to me why Debece (6/1) is the current favourite on the strength of two Class 4 wins this year at Newcastle and Catterick. Perhaps he’s been primed for this, but I can’t have it.

Mister Malarkey is a much better proposition, taking into account his Grade 2 win in the Reynoldstown at Ascot in February and his fourth at 20/1 in the RSA, albeit some way behind the first three.

17:15 Grand National (Grade 3) 4m 2f 74y – £1,000,000

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It would be easy and obvious to select Tiger Roll (9/2) and I really hope that he wins. As I mentioned in the Cheltenham preview, his CV is nothing short of spectacular and a repeat victory will make him one of the all time National greats. However, I’m going to pick a few alternatives.

9 Lake View Lad* (14/1)

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Trevor Hemmings and the Grand National are synonymous and we know that he acquires horses with the primary intention of having them run in this race.

Winner of the Rowland Meyrick and a creditable third at 25/1 in the Ultima, this horse is very progressive and seems to have had an ideal build up. It’s the first time that he’s been tried at this distance, but the same can be said for many of them. I suspect that this has been the plan for for this 9-y-o for at least a couple of years.

13 Rathvinden** (15/2)

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Officially rated just 5lbs behind Tiger Roll, this one won the 4-miler at Cheltenham last season. His only outing to date this season was when winning the Grade 3 Bobby Chase at Fairyhouse in February and he is a top quality candidate for the Mullins/Walsh combination. He’s another who has almost certainly been laid out for this race and it’s interesting that he’s Ruby’s only ride of the day. He also has a very fair weight (11-00). Definitely the biggest challenger to Tiger Roll in my opinion.

33 Vintage Clouds* (11/1)

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Another for Trevor Hemmings, he was placed in the Scottish and Welsh Nationals last season and was second in the Ultima at Cheltenham, his only race this calendar year. Another one that has undoubtedly been aimed at this for a long time.

40 Joe Farrell* (20/1)

This one has only just got into the race and therefore runs off bottom weight (10-02). That’s not bad for last year’s winner of the Scottish National (in which Vintage Clouds was third).

18:20 Conditional and Amateurs’ Handicap Hurdle 2m 103y – £50,000

Not much to say about this so I’ll just point out that Ludlow winner Flashing Glance is the Timeform selection at an appealing 16/1.

Good luck!!

Aintree 2019 – Friday

Overall Thursday was very moderate on the tipping front with Glen Forsa pulled up, Band Of Outlaws very disappointing and Buveur D’air turned over by Supasundae. However, the Betway Bowl went very much to plan with Kemboy’s victory and The Glancing Queen was an impressive winner of the mares’ bumper.

The most notable feature of the day was the ground which was very stamina sapping. It’s been raining constantly since racing finished and I see this as a major factor for the next two days. It makes the short gap from Cheltenham even more relevant.

The second most notable feature of the day happened after racing when Grand National entries, Don Poli (£170k to Philip Kirby/Darren Yates) and Outlander (£165k to Richard Spencer/Gowing’s Eleven), were both sold in auction. Darren Yates had previously paid £300,000 for Blaklion (a faller at the first last year), only for him to be ruled through injury a few days ago. That’s some serious money to be paying just to have an outsider in the big race (both are 100/1)

Friday’s racing is not up to the standard of the opening day and includes several wide open races, so I’ll confine myself to brief selections. I think that Paul Nicholls might have a good day.

13:45 Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) 2m 4f – £75,000

Tedham is the right favourite but I prefer both of the Paul Nicholls runners, Brio Conti (13/2), fourth in the Coral Cup, and Mont Des Avaloirs* (12/1), who should benefit from having swerved Cheltenham and represents excellent each way value.

14:20 Top Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1) 2m 100y – £100,000

Favourite Itchy Feet (7/2) was an impressive third in a strong renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Aramon (4/1) was only just beaten by Supreme winner Klassical Dream at the Dublin Racing Festival but could only manage sixth in the Supreme. However, I’m avoiding the Supreme runners and siding with the highly progressive Precious Cargo (4/1) (Henderson/de Boinville) and, just on balance, my selection Rouge Vif *(11/1), a Grade 2 winner chasing a three timer with form on proper soft ground.

14:50 Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m 200y – £100,000

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Although I’m contradicting my advice about Cheltenham Festival runners, I can’t look past hot favourite (4/5) and RSA winner Topofthegame***. This is only his fourth run of the season and he seems to be well ahead of the opposition while remaining open to further improvement.

15:25 JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y – £250,000

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The feature race of the day has attracted an impressive field. For me, Waiting Patiently, second to the mightily impressive Cyrname in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase is too short at 13/8, having his first run at Aintree. I was really impressed with Politologue’s*** (9/4) second to the best National Hunt horse in training, Altior, by just 1 3/4l in the Champion Chase, a race in which Min was fifth. Politologue won this race last year, just beating Min by a neck. So I’m contradicting my Festival runners’ advice again but I think this horse has improved this season and has the perfect profile.

16:05 Topham Chase (National Course) (Grade 3) 2m 5f – £140,000

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I’m struggling to make a selection for this race so I’m just going to go with a horse that I’ve followed, San Benedeto* (18/1), who seemed to have recovered his form when impressively winning the Grade 3 Greatwood Chase at Newbury on 2 March. This is his first attempt over the National fences but in a 38 race jumps career he’s only unseated once when reaching for a fence at Cheltenham in a novices’ chase. I think he might just have a bit more overall quality than his opponents.

16:40 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m 149y – £100,000

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This is another open race but I think that there’s a strong case for siding with the unbeaten Emitom** (4/1), chasing a six timer, albeit that this is by some way his toughest assignment yet. He has form on soft and should benefit from a 35 day break. Champ is the most serious opponent, second in the Ballymore. However, he’s not been tried at this distance and that, along with the prevailing ground, deters me.

17:15 Weatherbys Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 209y – £45,000

Even by bumper standards, it’s hard to know what to make of this lot. The last five winners of this race have been returned at 25/1, 33/1, 25/2, 11/2 and 14/1 so it’s one to approach with considerable caution, particularly when adding the ground factor. However it can also throw up a very good winner (Barters Hill in 2015, Bacardys in 2016 and Lalor in 2017). I won’t be having a bet but my selection is Santa Rossa* (currently 100/30 second favourite).

Good luck!

Aintree 2019 -Thursday

The first matter of note for this year’s Grand National Festival is that it seems that we will have decent ground, neither to fast nor too slow. As at 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday the going was good to soft on the Grand National course and good to soft, good in places on the Mildmay and hurdle courses.

*UPDATE After further rain this afternoon the ground is now good to soft, soft in places (National course) and good to soft (Mildmay and hurdles courses).

I confess that I haven’t spent much time following the build up to this year’s National Festival so I’ll confine myself to fairly brief comments and selections.

I know I say it every year but the first day of the meeting is a treat for true racing fans. The first four races are all Grade 1s (which you don’t get at the Cheltenham Festival) and they’re followed by the Foxhunters’ Chase with amateur riders taking on the unique Grand National fences.

13:45 Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 200y – £100,000

Although we only have six runners, this is an intriguing race to set the ball rolling.

La Bague Au Roi (7/4)

Not seen at Cheltenham and chasing a five-timer following an impressive win at the Dublin Racing Festival, she is a serious candidate, who is top-rated and benefits from the 7lbs mares’ allowance.

Bags Groove (8/1 > 9/1)

This is another one that swerved Cheltenham. He didn’t beat much in the Pendil Novices’ Chase and was well beaten (5th of 7) behind La Bague Au Roi in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. I’m looking beyond this one to find the winner.

Glen Forsa** (7/2 > 4/1) – selection

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This was my selection for the Arkle but he unseated his rider at the 4th. I’m willing to give him another chance. He’s progressive and the Timeform highest rated behind La Bague Au Roi (5 lbs difference and both have “small ps” (i.e. progressive)). I also think that the course will suit.

Kalashnikov (4/1 > 9/2)

Unseated at the 6th in the Arkle, having been routed by Glen Forsa on his previous outing. Unconvincing this season and best watched.

Mengli Khan (15/2 > 8/1)

Has been a serial underachiever this season and has simply not progressed as expected.

Spiritofthegames (8/1 > 9/1)

Is a fair enough horse but is likely to find two or three too good for him at this level.

14:20 Anniversary 4-y-o Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 209y – £100,000

Realistically, unless they’re not fully recovered from their Cheltenham excursions, this is between the three market leaders.

Pentland Hills (13/8 > 5/2)

Largely unheralded (20/1) winner of the Triumph Hurdle, benefiting from a particularly good ride, he is unbeaten over hurdles but his only other jumps race was a maiden hurdle at Plumpton. I think that the price is too short.

Fakir D’oudairies (6/1 > 4/1)

Went off 9/2jf in the Supreme and there was a lot to like about his 4th, particularly the way he was staying on. I think that the price is fair and it is conceivable that there is more progression in him. A big race victory would be welcome for the connections (O’Brien/McManus) who tragically lost Sir Erec in the Triumph.

Band Of Outlaws*** (15/8 > 7/4) – selection

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This one is also trained by Joseph O’Brien and brings winning form from the Festival (Fred Winter 7/2f). He’s also chasing a four-timer. I think that the current 15/8 is excellent value.

Outside these three we are currently 10/1 bar, with a couple at 25/1 and the outsider at 33/1. In my view they are a long way behind the leading contenders and should be completely disregarded.

14:50 Betway Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m 210y – £200,000

On the face of it, this is a really classy race, comprising four participants in this year’s Gold Cup and two from the Ryanair. However, that is precisely the reason for exercising considerable caution. The gap between Cheltenham and Aintree is shorter than usual (20 days for the Gold Cup participants) and I don’t think that anyone would dispute that the Gold Cup is a tough race which often leaves its mark. Of the Ryanair runners, Road To Respect is way too short at 11/2 and Balko Des Flos is not a top order horse, as reflected by his current 33/1. So let’s take a look at the Gold Cup runners.

Clan Des Obeaux (9/4 > 5/2)

By common consent (including Paul Nicholls) he didn’t stay the 3m 2 1/2f of the Gold Cup and this 3m 200y on a flat galloping track looks ideal. A young horse (7-y-o although all these are 7 or 8) I don’t think that he was pushed too hard when clearly beaten and might therefore have the recuperative powers to bounce back.

Kemboy* (11/4 > 5/2) – tentative selection

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I warned about this one’s suspect jumping before the Gold Cup and, sure enough, he unseated at the first. However, that means that he wasn’t subjected to the energy sapping challenge of the race and comes here fresh. The Mildmay fences are fairly stiff but they are very fair and hopefully this small field will help him to keep out of trouble. A very tentative selection.

Bristol De Mai (3/1 > 7/2)

Perhaps he can smell the Haydock air from here?! Beaten by Might Bite in this race last year (Clan Des Obeaux third), critically he didn’t run at the Festival and was on the back of a three months’ break when putting up a good performance. This time round he was hard ridden to secure an impressive third in the Gold Cup. He’s well known for running well fresh after a decent break so I can see the small gap of 20 days affecting him more than the others. For that reason I am bound, very reluctantly, to oppose him. Equally I would be surprised and delighted to see him bounding ahead and winning by 10 lengths but on this occasion it’s head over heart.

Elegant Escape (20/1 > 22/1)

This horse’s form is a great deal better than the price might suggest. He opened his account this season by winning an intermediate chase and followed up with a mightily impressive second in the Ladbroke (Hennessy) at Newbury. His next outing was in the Welsh Grand National which he won and was then a valiant second to subsequent Ryanair winner Frodon in the Cotswold Chase. His sixth in the Gold Cup looked like about the best he was ever likely to manage but was nonetheless creditable. Overall he’s had a hard season and I’m far from convinced that course and distance will suit. It’s very likely that he’ll find one or two who are, quite simply, faster than him in a race of this nature.

15:25 Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f – £250,000

This is the most valuable race of the day, with over £140,000 going to the winner. While the same caveat applies (that Cheltenham exertions may have taken their toll), I’ve decided that, based on the prices, this is the one in which we should take the betting plunge.

Buveur D’air***** (10/11 > 5/6) – nap

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Last seen when unexpectedly falling at the third in the Champion Hurdle. Nicky Henderson didn’t seem too concerned, pointing out that he is very low and fast over his hurdles, so there is a small margin between brilliance and disaster. As a result, like Kemboy in the Bowl, he can benefit from coming to this race fresh with the Cheltenham outing unlikely to have made a difference. He won this race in 2017 so the distance should not be a problem. While beaten in the Christmas Hurdle, I think that he has everything in his favour in this race and, as such, the slight odds on currently on offer is an outstanding double your money opportunity.

Faugheen (6/1)

Was a fine, fine horse in his day but has not recaptured the same level of form following a long injury break. Aged 11 and now over a shorter trip than is probably ideal, the best to hope for is a place.

Melon (8/1 > 9/1)

Second but beaten by 15 lengths in the Champion Hurdle (at 20/1) I can’t see him beating Buveur D’air after an uninspiring season.

Supasundae (9/1 > 11/1)

A fine stayer but was beaten in this race last year by L’ami Serge and has not won this season (7th in the Stayers’ Hurdle). A decent place option.

16:05 Foxhunters’ Chase (National) 2m 5f – £45,000

This is the big opportunity for the amateur riders to take their chance over the National fences. As such it can be a bit of a lottery. However, it’s worth noting that the last five winners have been returned at 11/2, 16/1, 15/8f, 5/2f and 7/2.

I was a big supporter of Road to Rome*** (4/1 > 7/2) who was chasing an eighth consecutive win in the Cheltenham Foxhunters’, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen and came fourth. I think that the distance (3m 2 1/2f) did for him and his excellent jumping should see him to the fore in his first outing over the National fences over a distance which should suit much better.

Burning Ambition (11/2) is a progressive 8-y-o. He was eighth of 24 in this race last year. Only 3rd in a P2P at Bellharbour in February, he’s not for me.

Of the others, Kruzhlinin (11/1) is a 12-y-o and has moved from Philip Hobbs to Gordon Elliott for a hunting campaign, but has jumping issues. I don’t have any outsider options but advise against any of the other 12-y-os and definitely the three 13-y-os.

16:40 Red Rum Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 1m 7f 200y – £90,000

This is a very competitive Grade 3 handicap with all sorts of angles. Favourites have fared poorly with none winning for the last five years (which include winners at 16/1 and 33/1). You really have to just go with your instinct and, having done so, my three against the field are, in order of preference, Diego Du Charmil** (12/1 > 9/1), a winner of the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase at this meeting last season, Lady Buttons (9/1 > 8/1), a Grade 2 winner and fourth in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival, and Brelan D’as (15/2 > 8/1), a progressive 8-y-o,

17:15 Mares’ Bumper (Grade 2) 2m 200y – £45,000

I was reluctant to make a selection for this one and confess that I know very little about these horses. However, for the sake of going through the card I’m with what a think is a bit of value with Miss Heritage* (7/1 > 10/1), who was a wide margin winner last time out, albeit in a very moderate race at Catterick. The Glancing Queen (11/2), fifth in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper, has the best form and is respected.

Good luck!

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