Martin Malone

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Category: Aintree (page 1 of 4)

A potentially great weekend in prospect

Friday

Undoubtedly the highlight of Friday’s racing is Kalashnikov‘s chasing debut in the 2.00 at Warwick. 1/3 is a fair price against three markedly inferior opponents. I wouldn’t often be tempted at a price like this but he has reportedly schooled well over fences (always looked like a chaser in the making) and might just stake the Betfair balance on this one to get things started.

Another of interest but at prohibitive odds is dual bumper winner Windsor Avenue (at 2/5) in the 1.05 at Hexham. This is the time of year when very short odds progressive horses are given easy outings and this one could easily be combined with Kalashnikov for a modest return on a double. A £10 double will return a little over £18. Bet placed, just to make it a little more interesting (my first bet since Aintree’s national meeting).

Saturday

Footpad is in a class of his own at Gowran

Now we’re talking! Saturday’s Naas meeting could be a cracker if some of the main entries are declared.

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I think that we’ll see seriously good bumper horse from last season Blackbow in either the midday maiden hurdle over 2m or the 1.05 maiden over 2m 3f (probably the former) notwithstanding that he won his maiden PTP on good ground over 3m (current going for Naas on Saturday is good).

The Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at 12.30 could see Saldier (15/8) v Mr Adjudicator (9/4) v Espoir d’Allen (5/2) and Stormy Ireland (6/1). Farclas was entered but it’s reported that he won’t run. Saldier was one of my horses to follow last season but I’m hoping that Stormy Ireland has progressed and that she could be a serious player this season. Her best form is on soft/heavy but she beat good horses on yielding in a listed race over 2m 1f last May.

The Grade B Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle over 2m4f has no less than eight J P McManus entries from a variety of trainers including Jezki, Sire du Berlais, Housesofparliament, Plinth, De Name Escapes Me and Fitzhenry. As matters stand, my preference is for Stooshie who was third last week in a Grade B for Gordon Elliott at Down Royal on good to yielding and will therefore have race fitness on his side.

The Poplar Square Chase (Grade 3) at 2.15 will be my highlight of the day because Willie Mullins has said that this will be Footpad‘s season debut. One of the best horses (and my favourite) last season, the current 1/4 is another fair price but he could be facing some fairly decent opposition in the shape of Saint Calvados and Tombstone. As I said in my last post, I think that this is the season in which he will progress to open company proper stardom and I can’t wait to see another foot perfect performance. 

The 3.25 may feature a few horses that disappointed last season, namely Bleu Berry, Carter McKay, Bacardys and Deal d’Estruval. However, this is a beginners’ chase and could throw up one or more who are now in their element. One to watch with interest.

Over the water, the fare is more modest with, putting aside the flat meeting at Doncaster, interest being focused on Wincanton’s big day and some fairly average racing at Aintree.

The Wincanton feature Badger Ales Chase has attracted a pretty rum bunch. I don’t have any particular fancies in this and I suspect that the field could cut up severely so it’s one to wait and see with. 

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The Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase (2.25) at Wincanton has one of the poorest set of entries (let alone declarations) for a race at this level that I’ve seen for a long time, which I suspect is down to the predicted good to firm ground. The Elite Hurdle (3.00) is a bit better but I won’t be surprised if We Have A Dream and Verdana Blue are both pulled by Nicky Henderson, in which case Redicean (with recent decent form) should win.

Aintree is predicting good, good to soft in places on the chase course, so we have a better chance of seeing some half decent horses. 

Terrefort would be one to watch in the 1.35 Pertemps qualifier but I don’t really see the point of running him in a race like this when his future is manifestly over fences. He’s entered in the intermediate chase at Sandown on Sunday which seems far more likely as a prep for the Ladbroke (Hennessy) Chase on 1 December.

The 2m 4f hurdle at 2.10 could be a decent race but I’m afraid that I suspect that the potentially interesting participants probably won’t turn up.

The feature handicap chase at 2.40 could turn out to be a fair event but doesn’t feature any horses at the entry stage that I’d see as ones to get excited about. When are we going to get 48 hour entries for all the big national hunt races? Well, we are for next year’s Cheltenham Festival thank goodness!

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I’ll be interested in Bun Doran if he turns up for the the 3.20 handicap chase and the bumper at 3.55 could turn out to be a good pointer but I have no idea which one may prevail.

Sunday

The top racing continues at Navan on Sunday. In the 1.05 I’ll be with WP’s Quick Grabim at an attractive 11/8 (current co-favourite with Felix Desjy) and the Lismullen Hurdle (1.35) could be a cracker with too many good horses to mention so let’s see which ones turn up. The Fortria Chase is, on its face, right up to standard but will depend very much on which ones run the day before in the 2.15 at Naas. The beginners’ chase at 2.40 could feature top hurdler Mengli Khan, another who could be progressing to his natural metier.

Meanwhile at Sandown I’ll love the chasers tackling the railway fences in a taster for what the season is to bring. Most of the fields are too big to pass any comment on but the intermediate chase (2.20) definitely has the makings of being the highlight. Daryl Jacob has been named as the jockey for Terrefort which makes me think that this is his target and he could face decent opposition in the shape of Elegant Escape, Coo Star Sivola, Thomas Patrick, Barney Dwan and Ms Parfois. A race to savour! Let’s hope that they stand their ground.

Boxing

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Although national hunt racing is my favourite sport, boxing comes a close second and I can’t wait for Oleksandr Usyk v Tony Bellew on Saturday. This is an absolutely top class fight. I’ve watched Bellew more or less from the start of his career and his progression is all about heart and determination. He’s not the best technically (Usyk could well be) but… Bellew is on a nine times winning streak and his last loss was to Haitian superstar Adonis Stevenson in 2013. His last five fights have all been wins against the odds. This is Bellew’s last fight and he has promised to give it his all and leave absolutely everything in the ring. Usyk is very impressive and unbeaten but his biggest win was against a lacklustre Marco Huck (suspended indefinitely by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board) and who lost in his previous fight against Mairis Briedes who is also fighting Saturday (in Chicago against a no mark opponent). For the record I know that others might take the view that his World Boxing Super Series win against Murat Gassiev was his best but I watched that fight and Gassiev was valiant but a hyped and lesser opponent (on form). All of that taken into account the current 5/1 on Usyk against 5/1 against Bellew is crazy! I see it as about a 2/1 on Usyk, 7/4 against Bellew, 20/1 the draw. As such the 5/1 is possibly the best bet of the weekend.

On the undercard, Scotty Cardle against “The Rickster” Ricky Burns is a hastily convened fight which, for me, can have only one outcome: an easy win inside the distance for Ricky. 1/4 is absolutely fair and takeable to bolster the funds for the big one.

Good luck and enjoy!

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)

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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!

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!

 

At last – the National Hunt season gets properly under way

I’m really looking forward to this weekend with two great days at Cheltenham on Friday and Saturday and a potentially top day at Aintree on Sunday. The Old Roan Chase looks like it could be a cracker.

I’ll be starting the previews again this weekend and, as usual, it’s now going to be non-stop throughout the winter with the new Dublin Racing Festival in early February a very welcome addition.

 

Aintree 2017 – Saturday

Just about time for quick selections this afternoon.

1.45 3m½f (3m149y) Gaskells Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)

No Hassle Hoff** (4/1) should win this but I’ll also have a small interest in Rons Dream (45/1).

2.25 2m4f Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Brio Conti* (9/2) and La Bague Au Roi (22/1).

3.00 2m (1m7f176y) (Mildmay) Doom Bar Maghull Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)

San Benedeto** (8/1)

3.40 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)

Value At Risk* (10/1)

4.20 3m½f (3m149y) Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Supasundae* (6/1)

5.15 4m2½f (4m2f74y) (Grand National) Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (7yo+)

Vieux Lion Rouge** (16/1) and Ucello Conti* (25/1)

6.15 2m½f (2m103y) Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys’ And Amateur Riders’ Race) (Class 2) (4yo+)

So Celebre* (13/2)

Good luck!

Aintree 2017 – Friday

Well it was a middling day overall – a princely £9.40 up. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the first race but order was restored with the forecast delivering nicely in the second. Cue Card would have won handsomely were it not for the impressive performance of Tea for Two, which I would never have called. I’m sorry that Empire of Dirt was found to be lame but, as I said, he couldn’t have been my choice anyway. Buveur d’Air duly delivered. On The Fringe made a serious blunder at The Chair and Parsnip Pete made a mistake in the back straight which cost him any chance in the next. I’m convinced I’m not alone in thinking that Theinval was all over the winner in the Red Rum Chase, only to be nabbed on the line by the heavily supported on the day Double Ws. I’m glad I mentioned Dame Rose for the bumper and she duly obliged at 14/1 (although sadly I wasn’t on).

I have to pay respect to Silviniaco Conti who has run his last race today and served me very well in his illustrious career. It took about half his time for racing people to pronounce his name correctly and some never quite got it. Happy retirement my friend.

Now on to Friday which is, overall, much more difficult.

1.40 2m4f Alder Hey Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)

I don’t have a strong view about this race because the ones I was interested in when the entries were announced have not turned up. Nicky Henderson could well take this one with Thomas Campbell or Rather Be, both at the head of the market. Although he’s not lived up to initial expectations I still think that course and distance winner Clondaw Kaempfer* has a good race in him and is worth a go with Skybet for a first six each way at 22/1. However this is my least confident selection of the day.

2.20 2m½f (2m103y) Crabbie’s Top Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

We’re back to the Grade 1s although you might not know it from the field. I’m firmly against Moon Racer and equally firmly in favour of River Wylde*** to take this one. People have crabbed the Supreme form, mainly because (unlike me) they thought that Labaik was a freak winner. I disagree and I think that this is an ideal opportunity for him to follow up on his valiant third in that race with a comfortable win here at a shortening 5/2.

2.50 3m1f (3m210y) (Mildmay) Betway Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)

Would you take 4/7 about Might Bite who was wildly erratic when just winning the RSA by a nose from Whisper who is 11/4? All week I was going to say yes but I have a nagging feeling that Aintree and, in particular, the run from the second last to the last, might just find him out. Frankly, I think that the horse is a bit mad and the price is just too short. There’s also a good case for avoiding RSA runners who were in the mix at the finish because there is a trend for them not to follow up. However, I can’t have any of the others so I’m going to go for the value and my thought that the course will suit better and side with Whisper** at 11/4 to reverse the result last time out.

3.25 2m4f (2m3f200y) (Mildmay) JLT Melling Chase (Grade 1) (Class 1) (5yo+)

I may be taking loyalty a bit far but I have a feeling that Uxizandre** (7/1) may have bounced in the Ryanair. If I’m right he can take this over 2m 3 1/2f. Fox Norton gave his all in the Champion Chase, in which God’s Own made mistakes. I see Sub Lieutenant as the biggest threat.

4.05 2m5f (2m5f19y) (Grand National) Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)

Above all I’m just looking forward to watching this race with a maximum field of 30 taking part in another spectacular event.

There are lots of reasons not to like a number of these runners so we can thankfully whittle down the field a bit. My candidates are third in the Festival Plate Bouvreuil and the excellent Grand Sefton winner As de Mee**, both for Paul Nicholls. I prefer the latter at an appealing 10/1 each way (first 5 at 1/4 the odds with Bet365). I think that Go Conquer is a talking horse and I’m unconvinced that Gold Present will finish his race in the particularly testing Grand National course run in. The Munir/Souede NTD runner Ballykan is another each way interest at 33/1.

4.40 3m½f (3m149y) Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1) (4yo+)

Initially this looks challenging but it boils down to a three horse race and, ultimately, only one winner, albeit with a live outsider for an each way stab. We can’t have West Approach after he was pulled up in the Stayers’ Hurdle and didn’t seem right. Constantine Bay overcame trouble in running to come fourth in the Albert Bartlett but The Worlds End*** (5/2) is my horse to take out of the race. He fell at the second last and knocked Constantine Bay seriously out of his stride but, having watched the replay four times, I’m convinced that he was going better at the time.

Debece* is the each way selection, currently varying from 10/1 with SkyBet to 16/1 with BoyleSports. He’s had a nice break (35 days) and could go well. Having said that Timeform have him nearly 20lbs behind the leading candidates. Bet365, Coral and Ladbrokes lead the offers with 1/4 the odds first three.

5.15 2m1f (2m209y) Weatherbys Private Bank Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4-6yo)

Another bumper, but perhaps a better one!

Money doesn’t always talk but Black Op** (7/2jf) cost a cool £210,000 and backed up a point to point win with a taking first bumper win, beating the ludicrously named Claimantakinforgan at Doncaster in February by a little over 2 lengths. They were well ahead of the rest. Having watched the replay, the selection was green and could come on a lot for that race, albeit that the runner up was conceding 7lbs.

I’m not confident enough to take on the Placepot on this card

Grand National

I don’t have a strong view this year but, for what it’s worth, Vieux Lion Rouge** (12/1) is my idea of the winner with Ucello Conti* (20/1) worth an each way bet to equal or improve on his 6th last year (BetVictor 1/4 the odds first six and Paddy Power 1/5 the odds also the first six if, like me, you can’t bet with the former!)

Good luck!

Ready for Aintree

After an expensive Gold Cup day at Cheltenham, attention now turns to the increasingly prestigious Grand National meeting at Aintree.

The importance of this meeting over all three days should not be underestimated. Thursday features four successive Grade 1s, plus the Foxhunters’, a Grade 2 and a Grade 3. Every single race on Friday is graded (four Grade 1s, one Grade 2 and two Grade 3s including the Topham over the National fences). Saturday is, of course, the biggest racing day of the year for the general public featuring, in my view, the most exciting race of the year, notwithstanding the necessary changes to the course. Take it for what it is: an adapted race which attracts better horses and just as much excitement. The card for the big day is much improved with three Grade 1s and two Grade 3s (including the National itself because it is a handicap).

To get you in the mood here are some great pictures from the best racecourse in the world with, of course, the obligatory Champions music:

It’s too early to make selections but I recommend a visit to Rigbys in Dale Street, Liverpool, next Monday at 7.30 p.m. for the best preview with Paul Ferguson and Dan Kelly:

Post-weekend update

So, another eventful (and unprofitable) weekend and time for a quick check on the betting (as much for my benefit as any readers who happen upon this post).

Betting movements are from initial preview (three prices are 7 February to last week and today 27 February / two prices are last week and today).

Tuesday

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Charli Parcs (6/1 -> 7/1 ->16/1)

He ran a shocker before falling when beaten, with the result that Barry Geraghty is out of Cheltenham (may return for Aintree/Punchestown). It’s remarkable to have seen him gingerly getting to his feet when he’d broken six ribs and suffered a “slightly collapsed” lung. The horse appears none the worse, other than the puncturing of his reputation. I’ve not yet given up on him.

One to watch: Bacardys (33/1 -> 14/1)

…appears to be going elsewhere (see below).

Arkle

Choice: Altior (1/2 -> 1/3-1/4 ->1/3)

Will win.

Ultima Handicap Chase

This race is full of horses I want to oppose. Champers On Ice 14/1 favourite and Holywell 16/1. Wow!

Champion Hurdle

Choice: Petit Mouchoir (9/2 -> 4/1 ->11/2)

No reason to move away from the selection, notwithstanding the addition of Tombstone (14/1) and (possibly) Limini (13/2)

Mares Hurdle

Initial Choice: Apples Jade (2/1 -> 11/4 -> 5/2)

This is one to beware of because of possible entries elsewhere. I’m sticking with Apples Jade for the moment.

One to watch: Lets Dance (11/1 -> 8/1 -> 16/1)

I’m very happy with the drift on this one.

National Hunt Chase

Too early.

Close Brothers Novices Chase

As above.

Wednesday

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle

Choice: Finians Oscar (9/2 -> unchanged ->5/1)

Still my choice but Bacardys (8/1) is now featuring in this one and I might change my mind. Neon Wolf also needs to be considered.

Coral Cup

Just putting this in as a reminder for a later post.

RSA Chase

Choice: Might Bite (6/1 -> 7/2 ->100/30)

Still fine with the selection.

One to watch: Royal Vacation (20/1 -> 16/1 -> unchanged)

Might bite (sorry!) on this one before the impending rash of Cheltenham previews.

Champion Chase

Choice: Douvan (4/11 -> 1/3 -> unchanged)

Can’t see an opponent who is likely to turn up let alone challenge.

Cross Country

Choice: Auvergnat (12/1 -> unchanged ->)

No changes here.

Fred Winter

Coeur de Lion (one to watch in the Triumph at 33/1) is apparently being routed here (16/1). If confirmed, he’s the selection.

Champion Bumper

I’m unlikely to have a choice in this one until the day. As in previous years, I might well go for a big mover on the day (if it materialises).

Thursday

JLT Novices’ Chase

Choice: Politologue (9/1 -> 8/1 -> unchanged)

Still opposed to the front three (Yorkhill, Top Notch and Disko).

One to watch: Frodon (25/1 -> 16/1 -> 20/1)…remains of interest to me.

The signs are that he might go to Aintree but no harm in a NRNB.

Pertemps

Barring any big news in the meantime I’ll have a bet on the day.

Ryanair Chase

Choice: Un de Sceaux (5/2 -> 4/1)

Could be the value of the week.

One to watch: Uxizandre (7/1). Last week: “I’m still happy with this one as a place selection. Get on now because this race will cut up severely”.

No reason to change from the selections and advice to get on.

Stayers’ Hurdle

Choice: Unowhatimeanharry (13/8 ->11/8 -> unchanged)

One to watch: Footpad (33/1 -> unchanged -> unchanged)

Similarly, like the betting, unchanged.

Brown Advisory Plate

Too early. I think that we might see one suddenly emerge in this one. There are still lots of interesting entries.

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

This is a pain in the arse race because it messes up other options. If Let’s Dance (3/1) turns up here, she is the selection.

Kim Muir

Another one to wait for and another with the top of the market full of horses I don’t fancy.

Friday

Triumph Hurdle

Choice: Defi du Seuil (3/1 -> 9/4) is the justified favourite.

Remarkably Charli Parcs has shortened today to 12/1 (albeit after a drift) but maybe I am not alone in my view that we should not give up hope. I still think that he’s more likely for the Supreme.

One to watch: Coeur de Lion (33/1 -> unchanged -> unchanged) …remains of interest for a place.

Foxhunters’ Chase

Choice: On The Fringe (6/4 -> unchanged)

Mon Parrain won well at the weekend but not my idea of a winner.

County Hurdle

Too early but interested in Ivanovich Gorbatov at 20/1.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

No clear choice at this stage but interested in Augusta Kate at 10/1.

Gold Cup

Choice: Cue Card (7/2 -> 3/1)

Is Thistlecrack fit? NO. What a lot of garbage on the exchanges over the last 24 hours. Skybet and Boylesports are offering 3/1 notwithstanding that, at 8.46 p.m. on Monday evening, Colin Tizzard says that the horse is “still out”. OK, there is apparently no heat in the leg, an update is due tomorrow, he’s made a late transition to chasing and this might be his only chance (ref. Coneygree) but this makes no sense. Conceivably, if the injury is not as bad as first thought, he might be fit for Aintree and/or Punchestown but the Gold Cup, no.

I’m sticking with Cue Card and agree with the market move. As I’ve said, Native River has had an excellent prep but Cue Card is proven at this level and would be a defending champion were it not for that most unfortunate fall.

I’m still hanging on to the hope of Bristol de Mai (25/1) running into a place.

Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

Still too early but Battleford (10/1) is one to watch for this one.

Grand Annual

We’ll be “exhausted” by the time we get to this one and I think I’ll wait for a while before taking a view.

Yet again, good luck!

 

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