Martin Malone

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Category: National Hunt Racing (page 1 of 11)

Initial thoughts about the main Cheltenham Festival races

This post is really for my benefit, as a reminder about my current views about the big races.

Tuesday

Supreme: Asterion Forlonges (6/1)

Arkle: Fakir D’oudairies (6/1)

Champion Hurdle: Pic D’orhy (16/1)

Mares’ Hurdle: Benie Des Dieux (4/5)

National Hunt Chase: Copperhead (8/1)

Wednesday

Ballymore: Envoi Allen (5/4 – great value)

RSA: Allaho (13/2 – also great value)

Champion Chase: Chacun Pour Soi (11/4)

Cross Country: Easysland (3/1)

Champion Bumper: Appreciate It (2/1)

Thursday

Marsh: Itchy Feet (11/2)

Ryanair: Min (7/2)

Stayers’: Paisley Park (8/11 – good value)

Friday

Triumph: Goshen (4/1 – all in – NAP)

County Hurdle: Ciel de Niege (10/1)

Albert Bartlett: Thyme Hill (5/1 – great bet)

Foxhunters’: Hazel Hill (5/1 – also good)

Gold Cup: Bristol De Mai (33/1 e/w – ground dependant)

Grand Annual: Greaneteen (10/1 n/b)

Martin Pipe: Column Of Fire (9/1 – watch this one’s price contract)

Timeform update

The Timeform updates following an excellent weekend’s racing in Dublin are eye-catching. I’m not betraying any confidential information here because they’re all available on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Timeform.

Chacun Pour Soi – 176p

Uprated from 170p he’s now their joint top rated chaser alongside Cyrname, following his impressive defeat of Min (174). It’s also worth noting that this one’s time rating was highly impressive.

3/1 for the Champion Chase


Honeysuckle – 154 from 157p

Her victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle was viewed as “workmanlike” – I agree.

6/1 for the Champion Hurdle; 11/4 for the Mares’ Hurdle


Notebook – 155p

Unchanged but could easily be enough to take the Arkle. The Timeform assessors were also impressed by Cash Back – 152p from 147p.

Notebook 3/1 for the Arkle; Cash Back 7/1


Latest Exhibition – 144 from 141

13/2 for the Albert Bartlett; 16/1 for the Ballymore


Itchy Feet – 153p from 127P

Meanwhile at Sandown Itchy Feet showed real class to take the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and this 26 points hike is the first real eyecatcher.

8/1 for the Marsh (JLT); 16/1 for the Arkle


Appreciate It – 119 from 106

I highlighted this one in Saturday’s preview and it’s no surprise that he’s now 11/4 favourite for the Champion Bumper (9/1 bar). A great buy at 60,000 euros and already a winner of a 100,000 euros bumper (59,000 to the winner)


Asterion Forlonge – 153p from 131p

Unbeaten in a point, a bumper and two hurdles, this one is now only second to Envoi Allen among the novice hurdlers.

5/1 for the Supreme, 8/1 for the Ballymore and 16/1 for the Albert Bartlett


Irish Gold Cup

I’m unconvinced that this race revealed a likely Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. It seems that Timeform assessors are in agreement – Delta Work 168p unchanged, Kemboy 173 from 176 and Presenting Percy 165 from 167. Of the Irish Al Boum Photo is currently 7/2 for the big one and holds no other entries before the Festival.

Gold Cup odds:

Delta Work: 6/1

Kemboy 7/1

Presenting Percy 14/1

Al Boum Photo 7/2


Faugheen – 160 from 161

Amid all the hoopla I think that this is a very sensible assessment. It was thrilling but did he really beat any other serious contenders? I hope that they go for the Marsh (formerly the JLT) rather than the RSA because, regardless of his age, the latter is a mighty ask for a horse that excelled at 2 miles and seems to benefit from jumping at speed.

Marsh Chase – 6/1

RSA – 12/1

4 Miler (now 3m 6f) – 20/1 (please no!!!)


I’m going to do my first Cheltenham preview after this weekend’s “Super Saturday” at Newbury at which we can expect to see Chantry House and Ecco in the 2m 4-y-o novices’ hurdle, Altior, Sceau Royal, Dynamite Dollars and Kalashnikov in the Game Spirit Chase and Native River in the Denman Chase (albeit against limited opposition). The Kingmaker at Warwick could also be interesting.


A quirky note for Friday is that the featured (14:45) hunter chase at Bangor has three entries for David Maxwell Racing Limited. Bearing in mind that these horses (two with Philip Hobbs and one with Paul Nicholls) are in training for the owner to ride them, it will be interesting to see which one (if any) he selects to ride.


Finally, one to note on Thursday is that Shishkin is entered to run in the Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle at Huntingdon (14:31). This one is currently 4/1f for the Supreme but the owner also has Asterion Forlonge, currently 5/1 in the same race. Personally I prefer the latter.


The big week at Cheltenham is not far away now!

Dublin Racing Festival

What a great weekend of racing in prospect. Just a few Saturday selections this morning.

Leopardstown

12:50 Novice Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m 6f

Latest Exhibition (15/8) was very impressive last time out and is probably the right favourite but I’m with Elixir D’ainay (11/4) to build on his last time second to Envoi Allen.

13:25 Dublin Chase – Grade 1 – 2m 1f

Chacun Pour Soi (7/4) needs to improve on his last outing and could well do so. He’s also the selection of Paul Townend of the two Ricci horses. However, Min (9/4) is on a hat-trick in this race, is completely proven at this level and is a confident selection, under Robbie Power.

14:00 Arkle Novice Chase – Grade 1 – 2m 1f

Notebook opened as favourite for this race but has now been joined by Fakir D’oudairies (both at (9/4) and the latter was always going to be my selection and I expect him to supplant Notebook as the favourite for the Cheltenham version after this.

15:10 Irish Champion Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m

I’m not in the least surprised to see Sharjah (5/4) as the short odds favourite for this. Honeysuckle gets the mares’ allowance and is unbeaten, but this is a big step up. I’ll also have a little each way on Aramon at 25/1 (ran very well against Klassical Dream (non-runner today) at last year’s meeting).

15:45 Ladbrokes Hurdle – Grade B – 2m

Buildmeupbuttercup (11/2) is ideally suited by a big field challenge such as this.

16:20 Bumper – Grade 2 – 2m

WP’s 13/8 favourite Appreciate It is surely the one to beat.

Sandown

13:50 Contenders Hurdle – Class 1 – 2m

It’s worth noting that the ground is heavy at Sandown today and we could see some slow-motion finishes. Call Me Lord is too short for me at 8/13 and Quel Destin (13/2) is a tough campaigner with form on the ground.

14:25 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase – Grade 1 – 2m4f

I wanted to oppose Laurina, whose last race was too bad to be true and subsequently turned out to be attributable to a burst blood vessel. The chase debut before that was also unconvincing. However, I’m finding it hard to find a suitable opponent in this field. I might have a small wager on Itchy Feet (8/1).

Musselburgh

12:57 Novices’ Chase – Class 3 – 2m 4 1/2f

I have a strong preference for Espoir de Teillee at 9/4 ahead of the odds-on favourite Southfield Stone.

14:05 Scottish County Hurdle – Class 2 – 2m

Miranda (11/4)

14:40 Scottish Champion Chase – Class 3 – 2m

Greaneteen (6/4f)

Wetherby

14:45 Towton Novices’ Chase – Grade 2 – 3m

Chapel Stile (13/2)

15:58 Hunters’ Chase – Class 6 – 3m

A small field for this type of race but fascinating nonetheless with Hazel Hill (1/3f) looking to build on a winning point return 20 days ago and Minella Rocco (85/40) who won his hunter debut 10 days ago.

Good luck

Christmas Racing – 27 December

Well, today (Boxing Day) was a complete wipeout from a betting perspective but was nonetheless thoroughly enjoyable.

What to take from the day?

  • Dostal Phil duly won for Richard Johnson (without my money) at Fontwell and it turned out that Joshua Moore was the star jockey at the course with a three timer.
  • Dilrow won the big Hunters’ Chase at Down Royal at 25/1, beating all the big names.
  • Faugheen was an imperious winner of the Grade 1 novice chase with an exuberant jumping display that put Samcro in his place. I don’t for a moment accept that Samcro was below par, which means that the winner is a serious candidate in March, but in which race? Perhaps the 10/1 for the Marsh Novices’ Chase (formerly the JLT) is attractive?
  • Mt Leinster dumped my selection Entoucas in authoritative style at Leopardstown.
  • Aspire Tower was a dominant winner of the Knight Frank Juvenile and is now favourite for the Triumph (but I’d watch out for Goshen).
  • Notebook (one of my three to watch in the race) was a dominant winner of the Leopardstown featured novice chase. I wouldn’t take too much from this. Mark Walsh lost an iron on Fakir D’Oudairies and Laurina suffered a burst blood vessel.
  • Fred was an impressive winner of the opening novices’ hurdle at Kempton but I was encouraged by the impressive runner up, Ecco, who I’ll remain faith with.
  • Slate House was a decent winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. It’s a shame that Master Tommytucker fell but he wasn’t looking like the winner at the time. Black Op didn’t live up to the hype – more of hype below – in the King George. This race didn’t produce a Festival winner.
  • Epatante was an emphatic winner of a below standard Christmas Hurdle. The second and third were 11/1 and 14/1. Fusil Raffles was a big disappointment and has to be disregarded unless or until he progresses.
  • Clan des Obeaux yet again proved the old maxim of horses for courses (and races).

The King George warrants a new paragraph. I was, as usual, excited during the running of it but, with the benefit of a few hours’ reflection, it was a disappointing race. Clan Des Obeaux did what many horses have shown in recent renewals – demonstrated that certain horses are very well suited to the race.

Credit Mick Fitzgerald – Twitter this morning

Clan Des Obeaux is a very good and progressive 7-y-o but he won’t win the Gold Cup and I think that Paul Nicholls knows that. This is his ideal race and he was an impressive winner. Course, distance and conditions suit perfectly and he should be aimed for this next year.

On to tomorrow!

No narrative after today’s disaster, just selections. I couldn’t resist just a few comments and one selection per meeting (underlined).

Leopardstown

12:05 Saint D’Oroux (5/2)

12:35 Melon (11/10)

13:10 Chacun Pour Soi (2/5)

13:45 Abracadabras (4/7)

14:20 Moon Over Germany (8/1)

14:55 Chef Des Obeaux (40/1); Liveloughlaugh (20/1)

15:30 Ragnar Ladbrok (4/6)

Limerick

13:25 (Hunters’ Chase) Winged Leader (evens)

14:00 Fury Road (11/10)

14:35 Colreevy (2/7) (WP horse in a maiden)

15:45 Getabay (7/4) (Jamie Codd in a bumper)

Wetherby

13:00 Tarada (4/9) (Hemmings hot pot – one to watch)

13:30 Goobinator (8/13) (Not a betting option but one I’ve been watching)

14:05 Hawk High (9/4) (I love this horse and really fancy him for this)

Chepstow

12:30 Cap Du Mathan (9/2) to beat big favourite Harry Senior (5/4)

13:35 This race could properly be called a hidden Grade 1. If you had to make a list of the Grade 1s, would you include it? Well, this year’s renewal has attracted a decent Joseph O’Brien horse in the shape of Cerberus (2/1), which is only second favourite behind the Skeltons’ Allmankind (11/10). He beat one of my selections today, A Wave Of The Sea, who was well beaten today (26 Dec) by Aspire Tower, so not overly enthusiastic but looking for a decent price, no more.

14:10 Clyne (6/1). I’m all over this one for what looks like an ideal race for him.

14:50 The Coral Welsh National. Elegant Escape is the appropriate favourite but Potters Corner (15/2) has been laid out for this and would be a great home winner for Christian Williams.

15:55 Jeremy Pass (9/4)

Kempton

12:45 Homer (11/10) Exactly my sort of horse. Bought by Munir/Souede following outings in Longchamp, Clairefontaine and Saint-Cloud, and then placed with Henderson. An early closer for the Triumph Hurdle and currently trading at 20/1. I could continue with the breeding but…

13:20 The Wayward Lad. I love this race but, let’s face it, it’s not the best renewal. I’m a big fan of Al Dancer (3/1) so I have to stay with him, albeit with limited confidence.

13:55 Culture De Sivola (7/2)

14:30 Capeland (2/1)

15:05 Sametegal (11/2)

Good luck!

Boxing/St Stephens Day 2019

In the words of Shakin’ Stevens, “Merry Christmas Everyone” (released 34 years ago!).

What do I do on Christmas Day (apart from the festivities)? Well, take a good look at the Boxing Day cards of course!

First, a few parish notices. As a one off and no doubt in response to criticism about split screens on congested days , Racing TV is broadcasting a free-to-air dedicated Irish racing programme presented by Gary O’Brien, with all the races from Leopardstown, Limerick and Down Royal on Freesports (on Freeview HD channel 64, Sky channel 422, Virgin 553, FreeSat 252, TalkTalk 64 and BT Vision channel 64).

Second, Richard Johnson (98), currently second to Brian Hughes (100) in the jockeys’ championship has chosen to take five rides at Fontwell which, on such a prestigious day, must be a notable pointer. His rides are: 12:15 Early Days (11/2), 12:45 I Like Him (7/4), 13:50 Sky Full Of Stars (15/2), 14:25 Dostal Phil (11/8) and 15:00 The Tin Miner (7/2).

Third, as is traditional, the only racing of note on Christmas Day is at Pau. One of my horses to follow, Fret D’Estruval, runs in the 11:15 chase and there is an interesting cross country race at 12:15 featuring Uroquois, who should atone for his unexpected defeat last time out.

Leopardstown

12:40 Maiden Hurdle

As might be expected, some decent prospects head the field in this one. I take Joseph O’Brien’s Entoucas (7/2) to beat Mullins’ favourite Mt Leinster (5/2).

13:10 Knight Frank Juvenile (Grade 2)

I see this as between Aspire Tower for Henry de Bromhead (15/8f) and A Wave Of The Sea (5/1), again for Joseph O’Brien, and my preference is for the latter.

14:20 Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1)

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This is a legitimate trial for the Arkle and my race of the day. It features the main Irish protagonists, the highly impressive 4-y-o Fakir D’Oudairies (6/4), the equally impressive mare Laurina (6/5) for Willie Mullins and the exciting prospect Notebook (9/1). The Irish definitely have the upper hand in this division and the winner of this one should be the clear favourite for the Cheltenham race in March. I can’t split them and will sit back and enjoy. It’s also worth bearing in mind the 7lb allowances for Fakir D’Oudairies (4-y-o) and Laurina (mare)

Kempton

12:50 Novices’ Hurdle

We get the card going with a decent head to head between Henderson (Vegas Blue – 2/1) and Nicholls (Ecco – 4/1). Vegas Blue won both bumpers (Bangor and Huntingdon) and Ecco is much more experienced, having been sixth in the Triumph Hurdle and following up with wins at Wincanton and Ascot, before a third in the Grade 2 Supreme Novices’ Trial at Cheltenham last month. I’m prepared to forgive him the last run on testing ground and if I’m right the current 4/1 provides very good value.

13:20 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

I was at Ludlow to see current favourite Roll Again (3/1) win for very much in form Venetia Williams eight days ago. He went off at 7/2jf but was far from foot perfect and carries a 7lb penalty. Although Venetia is renowned for quick turnarounds, I prefer Doctor Dex at am appealing 15/2.

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

I’m really looking forward to seeing Master Tommytucker (3/1jf of 3). A fragile horse who has had time off, he won well here over a shorter distance last time out and this should be ideal. Of the rest I respect Slate House.

14:30 Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1)

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Nicky Henderson has the first three in the market (Fusil Raffles, Epatante and Verdana Blue). He couldn’t conceal his excitement about Fusil Raffles (2/1) in a recent interview and he’s a confident selection.

15:05 King George (Grade 1)

Cyrname (6/4)

Currently the highest rated National Hunt horse and at 3.15 the current 6/4 could turn out to have been very good value indeed. His recent form is faultless but this is his biggest challenge yet and I’m not 100% convinced.

Lost In Transation (15/8)

There is nothing to dislike about his recent form and he is definitely the most progressive. He’s coming here on the back of a facile Betfair Chase win and therefore remains on course for the £1million bonus if he wins and goes on to win the Gold Cup. I think that there’s every chance that he will and become the next big thing in chasing.

Clan Des Obeaux (4/1)

Last year’s winner has been there and done it. However, this is undoubtedly a tougher race and I wasn’t too impressed with his return at Down Royal last month when beaten by Road To Respect, albeit that was probably a pipe opener. It’s also notable that Harry Cobden has chosen to ride Cyrname.

Footpad (11/1)

A firm favourite as a novice, there’s no doubt that he has lost his way since then and he needs a striking return to form to feature in the shake up (not out of the question but a very big ask).

Thistlecrack (16/1)

Won this race in 2016 and was runner-up last season but surely his best is behind him.

Aso (50/1)

A decent handicapper but ground, distance and form are all against him.

Verdict: I think it’s between the front two in the market and my ready preference is for Lost In Translation (15/8) who, although a 7-y-o like Cyrname, Clan Des Obeaux and Footpad, looks like the one with the greatest capacity to move ahead of the rest. Colin Tizzard has shown time and again that he has the capacity to prepare horses for the biggest assignments and the yard is currently in a rich vein of form.

Limerick

14:40 Greenmount Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

Samcro (8/13f) is a dual Grade 1 winner and was looking like he was getting back to his best when falling while in contention at the second last in a Grade 1 last time out. Timeform have him 10lb ahead of the field (168p).

I’ve previously expressed my view about Faugheen (5/2) going novice chasing when rising 12 and I’m still unconvinced that it’s what he deserves. A genuinely great horse in his day but with a habit of clouting one or two, as on the last occasion, I don’t favour this campaign and hope that he has a safe round.

If Samcro doesn’t get round then I favour Castlebrook (16/1) to spring a surprise.

Wetherby

14:10 Rowland Meyrick Chase (Grade 3)

I think that Lake View Lad (13/2) will show a significant improvement on his last outing. He was an impressive third in the Ultima at the Festival, although appeared not to take to the fences when next seen in the Grand National.

Another Hemmings horse to look out for on the card is the very promising Sammy Bill (10/11f) in the 1.35.

Down Royal

14:45 Bluegrass Hunters’ Chase

This is a high quality race with all the leading contenders of note: Edwulf (6/4), Black Hercules (3/1), Burning Ambition (11/2) and my selection Ucello Conti (7/1).

Good luck!

Sunday’s watching brief

12:05 PU Yanworth 13/8 Vyta du Roc 3/1

12:15 CO Front View and Jon Snow, both 5/4

12:45 CH Don’t Shout 11/1

12:50 CO Colreevy 4/6

13:05 PU Stormy Ireland 1/2

13:15 CH Urgent de Gregaine 100/30

13:30 FO Goshen 8/11

13:50 CH Al Dancer and Getaway Trump, both 13/8

14:00 CO Faugernon 11/2

14:25 CH Politologue 2/1

14:40 FO Captain Cattistock 9/4

14:50 PU Battleoverdoyen 8/13

15:00 CH Quel Destin 11/2 (nap)

15:10 CO Uisce Beatha 3/1

15:30 CH Ecco 2/1, Pacify 3/1

16:00 CH Time Flies By 4/5

Tomorrow’s racing – 16 November

No tips today, well OK just a few. Just a reminder to myself about the horses to watch out for.

Cheltenham

12:05 Thyme Hill (very good value at 6/4)

12:40 Mick Pastor (big recruit from France for Nicholls/Geraghty/JP)

13:15 Aye Aye Charlie (one of my horses to follow – e/w)

13:50 Ramses de Taillee (perfect going)

14:25 Siruh du Lac should win this. Can’t understand why Slate House is being supported. Splash Of Ginge for a place at 28/1.

15:00 Tobefair is excellent value at 7/2.

15:30 Avoid this race. Lots are double declared.

16:00 Looking forward to watching Cill Anna in this (11/1) but not betting.

Uttoxeter

13:20 Petite Power looks exceptional value at 9/4

14:30 Looking forward to seeing Midnight Tune (3/10) before she moves on to a higher order. Just a watching brief.

15:35 Take (possibly) a first look at Grandads Cottage (5/6). This one could well turn up in the spring festivals.

Punchestown

12:50 What the hell is hurdler Faugheen doing in this?! This smacks to me of running out of ideas and what, ultimately, is the point of putting an 11-y-o, rising 12 into a beginners’ chase? As you will have gathered I am really unhappy about this. He might well win but my selection is Dommage Pour Tou who could turn out to be quite interesting.

13:25 I really like Moon Over Germany at a remarkable 5/2.

14:00 I think that Klassical Dream is the real deal. 8/15 could be very generous.

14:35 Blue Sari (3/10) is one to watch and should win. However, I’ll also be watching Fakir (9/1).

15:40 The Big Getaway could be a big player later in the season. Not for me at 4/9, albeit that he doesn’t have much to beat.

Friday 1 November

I’m writing this on Thursday evening, having successfully swerved any visits from the nonsense that is “trick or treat”. Unfortunately, the tricks I have in mind would probably attract a visit from PC Plod.

So, on to a fascinating day’s racing on Friday. It’s not a betting day (for the most part), but should be very interesting and here are the ones that I’m looking forward to. A notebook day. OK, there’s a bit of betting involved!

Down Royal

12:40 Fury Road (4/5)

13:10 Daylight Katie (4/11)

13:45 Coeur Sublime (6/4 selection) and stablemate Coko Beach (5/2)

14:55 Samcro (chase debut – 1/7)

16:05 Pencilfulloflead (11/8) and Powerful Ted (15/8)

Wetherby

13:55 Sam Spinner (4/5). A good betting option after his winning debut over fences.

14:30 Nordano (11/2) to beat favourite Crealion (4/5)

15:05 A forecast. Guitar Pete (3/1) to beat Demi Sang (16/1)

Uttoxeter

12:55 Battleofthesomme (11/10 nap)

13:30 France De Reve (Nicky Henderson/JP/Geraghty). Opened at 11/8, now 4/7

14:40 Thomas Darby chase debut (6/4). Also of note: Summerville Boy and Western Ryder

15:15 Heavenly Promise (super hot Fergal O’Brien – opened 11/10, now 8/11)

Newcastle

Britain’s first all weather Group 1 is the Vertem Futurity 2-y-o 1m, relocated at 18:00. My selection is Innisfree at a current 13/2

Santa Anita

It’s a big deal that Santa Anita has retained the Breeders’ Cup after its torrid season. However, it’s taking place notwithstanding the opposition and day one sometimes provides betting options, but not obvious ones this time round. Therefore I’ll just choose the ones of interest without any intention of betting:

17:45 Campaign (4/6)

20:12 A’Ali (5/1 Dettori and even though drawn 10)

20:52 Arizona (2/1 O’Brien/Ryan Moore and drawn 12)

As ever, good luck, although bear in mind that, unless you’re very bold, this is overall a watching and noting rather than betting day.

Cheltenham 25 October 2019

My first bet of the new NH season was Brewin’upastorm in the 2.25 at Carlisle today. Got off to a good start, albeit by a head!

So here are the selections for tomorrow at Cheltenham.

14:00 Braid Blue (3/1)

14:35 Getaway Trump (11/8 second favourite behind Al Dancer)

15:10 Totally random- no bet

15:45 A great race – looking forward to Dinons (100/30) beating Wholestone (9/4) and wary of Mulcahys Hill (10/1)

16:20 A French head to head. I prefer Cap du Mathan at an appealing 6/1.

16:55 Great to have an amateurs’ proper chase over the Old Course and I’m with Doing Fine for Neil Mulholland and Sam Waley-Cohen, again at 6/1

17:30 Totally random race – no bet. If I’m rolling I’ll have a go with Ballydunblaze at 17/2

One of our best options has been to do a Lucky 15. It’s interesting that BetVictor has today announced that it’s cancelling “Lucky” bets because they’re costing them too much! A very good reason to stick with them where they’re available. So here they are (placed with fixed prices with Paddy Power):

Cheltenham 14:35 Getaway Trump 11/8

Cheltenham 15:45 Dinons 100/30

Dundalk 18:45 Thames River 7/4

Newbury 13:40 Bright Eyed Eagle Evs

Good luck! Based on the bet I’ve just placed the potential return is £351.44! Well, part of that will do!

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!!

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