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Category: Racing 2018 (Page 1 of 3)

Cheltenham 2019 – Friday

Thursday turned out to be one of the great days of recent Cheltenhams with excitement and big stories throughout the afternoon. We got off to a good start with Defi Du Seuil (3/1) and followed up with Paisley Park (2/1) and (most pleasing) Siruh Du Lac (8/1 when initially advised). Ladies Day was delayed by 24 hours this year with Lizzie Kelly’s win on Siruh Du Lac and, most significantly, Bryony Frost’s thrilling win on Frodon in the Grade 1 Ryanair (the first woman to win a Grade 1 at the Festival).

So, on to Friday and another great card. The ground is holding up very well (Willie Mullins said that both Un De Sceaux and Footpad needed it softer) and it seems that the wind is drying the rainfall with no significant changes expected for tomorrow. The times have indicated genuine soft ground but more on the good than the heavy side. This militates against soft/heavy specialists but means that we can take most of the form at face value, as demonstrated by the spate of favourites winning, based on their performances this season.

I’ve been following French website Equidia (who provide live coverage of the Festival in France) throughout the week and it’s been notable how, time after time, they’ve been pointing out that the winners have been French bred. You will see that theme in what follows.

13:30 Triumph Hurdle

Sir Erec – 4/5f

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This one was a very good flat horse for Coolmore, placed behind Stradivarius in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup at Ascot and exceptionally well bred (by Camelot out of a Galileo mare). He’s taken very well to jumping although it’s worth noting that his trainer Joseph O’Brien said that he had the run of the race when winning last time out at the Dublin Racing Festival. It’s reasonable to assume that he won’t have such an easy time of it in this race. Joseph also noted that Pic D’Orhy has very good French form. He has a Timeform rating of 167p (courtesy of

Gardens Of Babylon – 8/1

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I mention this one only because of his place as second favourite in the betting. Also trained by Joseph O’Brien and in the same ownership (J P McManus) I see no reason for him to reverse the form, having been beaten by 6 lengths by Sir Erec when last seen out.

Pic D’Orhy – 9/1

This is an intriguing horse, making his UK debut for Paul Nicholls after performing at the highest level for Francois Nicolle, exclusively at Auteuil. His trainer describes him as “a gorgeous horse”, “a proper horse” and Timeform clearly agree with their rating of 166, just 1lb behind the favourite.

Quel Destin*** – 10/1 – selection

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This is probably my favourite horse of the season, although it’s a close run thing with Paisley Park. Imported from Guy Cherel last September, he has had the ideal preparation including two Grade 2s and a Grade 1 and is the epitome of a tough National Hunt horse. He has nothing to prove and, for me, is a confident selection at an excellent price (my only ante-post bet placed several weeks ago but still great value). Timeform rated 159.

14:10 County Hurdle

I don’t have any strong views about this race so I will follow the positive words in previews for Whiskey Sour* (Mullins/Walsh), who is unsurprisingly the current 11/2f. He was third in this last year and appears to have been targeted to go two better this time. Of the others, I’m interested in Monsieur Lecoq (11/1), second in the Imperial Cup last Saturday, Capitaine (14/1), beneficiary of a wind op and subsequent winner last time out and Countister (16/1), one of my selections last year when fifth in the Dawn Run last year, but hasn’t been seen since then so it’s another leap of faith.

14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (“The Potato Race”)

3m (or, for pedants like me, 2m 7f 213y) is a long way for novices, so we’re looking for a confirmed stayer, particularly on softish ground. This is a race in which this year’s form on unusually good ground could make a difference. I think that this one could produce a long odds winner.

The current favourite is Birchdale (6/1 > 9/2). I think that he’s a hype horse because of the connections (Henderson/JP) and I don’t think that his form is anything special.

Commander Of Fleet (15/2 > 13/2) is second favourite. Gordon Elliott’s comments about him are illuminating. At the Betfair preview he said that he’s brilliant on the track but hopeless at home, adding that it is hard to be confident about him and saying he could be first or last.

Lisnaghar Oscar is OK and has a better Timeform rating than the favourite but not one for me at all.

Dickie Diver* (8/1) is one that will relish the trip but, again, is in the same ownership and with the same trainer as the favourite. I suppose that they wouldn’t mind which one wins and presumably wouldn’t be running him unless they thought that he had a chance. However, I should emphasise that this is a random choice, even by my standards!

Joseph O’Brien rates Rhinestone (12/1) as having an each way chance and rates Gordon Elliott’s Dinons (10/1), as do I (e/w), particularly with Davy Russell on board.

15:30 The Gold Cup

Presenting Percy – 4/1f

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The enigma, and that covers both the horse and even more so the trainer. This has been a properly weird build-up. He ran three times in 2017, three times in 2018 and is chasing a three-timer at the Festival (Pertemps 2017, RSA 2018). He was beaten by Our Duke in the Red Mills in 2018 but that was probably over an inadequate trip (2m 4f). He’s won over 3m 5f on soft so his staying credentials are not in doubt. But, and it’s a big but, he’s had only one outing this year, over hurdles, and I’m not buying into the idea that this is a genius strategy. He could have run in two decent chases, including a repeat opportunity in the Red Mills, but didn’t. My take on that is that the horse needs properly soft ground and we haven’t got that (previous runs soft/soft/heavy/heavy/soft/soft-heavy). Could well win easily but will not have my money.

Native River – 4/1 > 9/2

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In the same way as with Presenting Percy, I’m unconvinced that the ground is sufficiently soft for him to prevail at the highest level this time. It’s very hard to follow up on Gold Cup wins and, with the best will in the world, he’s not a Kauto Star or Best Mate.

Clan Des Obeaux** – 4/1 > 5/1 – selection

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There’s no way that I would have selected this horse, even a week ago. However, I’ve been strongly influenced by the times of the races for the last three days (particularly on the New Course on Thursday) and there’s no doubt that he has the best profile, based on this season’s performances. I accept that there’s really nothing to go on with Presenting Percy but his King George win can’t be ignored and he has won on Haydock heavy over 2m 5f. Will he stay? I’m not absolutely convinced but he is, in my view, the best horse in the race and Nicholls’ current form can’t be ignored.

Bellshill – 10/1 > 8/1

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I can see exactly why this one has attracted support, including from my shrewd friend Gerry Rooney, who notes that he’s Ruby’s selection ahead of the one Ruby previously hinted at, Al Boum Photo. Two of his last three outings include wins in the Punchestown and Irish Gold Cups but, in between, he was beaten by Kemboy, Monlaee (4th in the Ryanair) and Road To Respect (3rd in the Ryanair). WP is desperate for a Gold Cup winner but I don’t see this one delivering it for him, albeit I can well see him running into a place.

Kemboy – 11/1

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This one is probably a stayer and won the Savills Chase. David Mullins keeps the ride but, for me, his jumping is against him and I don’t see him as top level.

Al Boum Photo – 12/1

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Another one that is just not top level.

Might Bite – 12/1

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Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville both reported that he ran very well in his racecourse gallop but there’s no way that he can be supported based on his proper races this season.

Elegant Escape – 16/1

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I’ve gone this far down the field because staying is the game and I think that this one should not be ignored. 2nd in the Hennessy, winner of the Welsh National and 2nd to Frodon in the Cotswold Chase, he’ll be staying on, even on this ground, when many others have given up the ghost. A sound each way option.


I’ve surprised myself by selecting Clan Des Obeaux but I’m keen on Elegant Escape usurping Native River as the place option.

16:10 Foxhunters’ Chase

In late February this is what I had to say and I see no reason to depart from it:

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

28 February 2019

So, now we are at the night before and the odds are:

  • Ucello Conti 7/2
  • Stand Up And Fight 4/1
  • Hazel Hill 11/2
  • Caid Du Berlais 7/1
  • Road To Rome 8/1
  • Shantou Flyer 8/1
  • Pacha Du Polder 18/1

I’ll take the 8/1 Road To Rome*** thank you very much.

16:50 Grand Annual Chase

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For me, the Festival finishes with the Foxhunters’ but I’ll put up selections for the remaining two races. Le Prezien* (9/1) is very well priced to repeat last year’s victory in this race.

17:30 Martin Pipe

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This race has produced future Cheltenham stars and my idea of that one is 6-y-o Dallas Des Pictons** (11/4f) for Gordon Elliott. He’s made no secret of the fact that he loves to win this race and has put him up as his pick of the week. Bear in mind that this was when Apple’s Jade and co were still to run.

King George Chase 2018 preview

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

1 Bristol de Mai**** 15/2

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

2 Clan des Obeaux* 16/1

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

3 Coneygree* 33/1

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

4 Double Shuffle* 33/1

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(Pictured right)

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

5 Might Bite** 3/1

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

6 Native River*** 6/1

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

7 Politologue**** 5/1

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

8 Tea For Two* 25/1

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

9 Thistlecrack** 7/1

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

10 Waiting Patiently** 7/2

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


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

Timeform top rated NH horses – updated today

Which horses do Timeform think are the current top rated? Normally, I wouldn’t want to disclose what might be seen as protected content. However, since they’ve published the details on Twitter, they’re obviously happy to let the information be known.

Top hurdlers



















I agree with the top five and that makes the anticipated Fighting Fifth at Newcastle with Buveur D’Air and Samcro very interesting. I think that Bapaume is slightly overrated and I wouldn’t be backing Mick Jazz at the highest level. Agrapart can have a good day and I think that My Tent Or Yours is probably past his best. We’ll have to see how Sam Spinner performs this season and I’d definitely hold fire on that one. Cilaos Emery has had no outings in 2018 and holds no entries so we’ll have to wait and see about that one as well.

I think that Sharjah is underrated. I know that he’s been race fit against season debutants but the record is there to be challenged.

Top chasers






169 MIN











This is a very compressed list, particularly towards the bottom, with 10 horses between 166 and 169.

I strongly agree that Altior is the best current chaser. Footpad has to assert following his latest outing to take the mantle. I think that Great Field deserves his “p” and could be one of the horses of the season. I hope to see Min on TV at Ascot this weekend, entered for the Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (currently 3/1), along with Politilogue (13/8f), Bellshill (5/1) and surprising omission from the list Shattered Love (5/1).

Sizing John will need to show that he retains top class form, but I doubt that this will be a problem for hard as nails Un de Sceaux. Waiting Patiently is another with a deserved “p”.

Top Novice Chasers















I could not have been more impressed with Lalor’s jumping and running away win at Cheltenham last weekend. For me, this is the Arkle one to beat.

I’m very surprised that Diakali is so highly rated. Kaiser Black is another that hasn’t beaten much opposition and appears overrated. I totally get why Winter Escape is included in the list. A very exciting prospect.

It’s too early to say much about the following two categories but I’ve added them all to my horses to follow.

Top Novice Hurdlers










134p CHAMP





Top Juvenile Hurdlers
















The bottom of this list is intriguing. Idilico (by Lawman from a Sadler’s Wells mare) was a beaten evens favourite at Market Rasen on 8 November (“ridden when switched inside flat, kept on, no extra towards finish”). Needs To Be Seen (by Motivator and formerly with J P O’Brien) was fifth of six in Quel Destin’s Triumph Hurdle Trial last weekend at Cheltenham (50/1) –  “held up in rear, headway on wide outside before 3 out, soon prominent, every chance next, ridden and unable to quicken before last, well held flat”. Fret d’Estruval has been bought by Munir/Souede and placed with Alan King. Formerly with Guillaume Macaire, he won at Vittel on 4 August and followed up with a win at Lyon Parilly on 16 September, both over hurdles. Looks very interesting! Song For Someone, a son of Medicean, won a hurdle at Le Lion d’Angers in July for Joel Boisnard and has been placed with Tom Symonds for Sir Peter and Lady Gibbings.

I wonder how many of these will turn out to be Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham Festival winners? It’s a good long list to work from.

A potentially great weekend in prospect


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).


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.


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.


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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)

Embed from Getty Images

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!

Excellent French racing website

I was dreaming about Footpad against De Bon Coeur in the Grande Course des Haies d’Auteuil when writing my intro for Aintree later this week and, while doing so, happened upon a superb French racing website:

I highly recommend that you take a look.

Great writing, loads of videos and superb photos. Very impressive!

Here’s a tribute to Whetstone in the Prix Fleuret on 1 April:


And here’s the excellent and comprehensive report on De Bon Coeur’s victory in the Prix Hypothèse:


What a good website!

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.


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


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


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!


Cheltenham Friday

There’s normally a day at the Festival when winners are thin on the ground and Thursday was it. Terrefort ran well in the JLT. The surprising defeat of Un de Sceaux by Balko des Flos (supposed not to like the ground) meant that I was bound to end on a loss for the day but the commanding win by Laurina in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle cushioned the blow.

On to the big day.

1.30 Triumph Hurdle

Apple’s Shakira***** (nap)
Embed from Getty Images

On Tuesday I was absolutely delighted to hear J P McManus say that Apple’s Shakira was his selection of the week. Her sister Apple’s Jade flopped on day one and I mentioned to a fellow watcher at the Lady of Mann that it might have been her time of the month. It’s now been confirmed that she was indeed in season so that goes some way to explaining the uncharacteristic lacklustre performance. Apple’s Shakira is my selection of the week and the current 7/4 is still worth taking. I got on at 3/1 a couple of months ago and I might well top that up. She’s been campaigned at Cheltenham since her valuable transfer from Emmanuel Clayeux last September and has won all three outings on soft, including a defeat of Nube Negra (who ran well in the Fred Winter).

I expect that many of you have seen her Cheltenham races so here is a video of her win at Vichy which, I expect, prompted the purchase (she’s in yellow and green) “facilement”:

Just nine runners in this championship race for juveniles will reinforce the view that the Fred Winter has diluted this race. I take the view that the top newcomers should  have their opportunity in a decent race and the hustle and bustle will be absent this time.

Stormy Ireland is one to watch, a 58 lengths winner of her last outing at Fairyhouse on heavy ground.

2.10 County Hurdle

Smaoineamh Alainn*

Well, this one is full of horses that I’ve followed into a hole, namely Ivanovich Gorbatov, Meri Devie, Moon Racer, Jenkins, Brelade, Divin Bere and Sternrubin! I’m going each way with Smaoineamh Alainn (on a four timer at 16/1) who has winning form on soft here last December, albeit in a Class 3. To be honest I’ll have no more than a marginal interest in this race.

Current joint favourite Bleu et Rouge (10/1) is also of interest.

2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Chef des Obeaux***

The potato race. As regular readers will know I’m all over current second favourite (5/1) Chef des Obeaux in this race. I was really taken by his win last month at Haydock in the Grade 2 trial for this. That was on properly heavy ground but he’ll keep going when others have lost their chances. Others of note are Dortmund Park (16/1), Calett Mad (16/1) (for a place) and Kilbricken Storm (33/1) (also for a place).

3.30 The Gold Cup

Native River***

Embed from Getty Images

I’m still with Native River (5/1), even though the ground may not be as bad as I predicted. He was third in this race last year and the conditions are undoubtedly more in his favour this year. He made an impressive return in the Denman Chase last month (when many of Colin Tizzard’s horses were not running well).

Here are Colin and Joe Tizzard talking about him last week:

I can’t have Might Bite.

Our Duke beat Presenting Percy by a length in the Red Mills Chase last month and the latter’s win in the RSA on Wednesday was very impressive. However, I have concerns about his jumping.

Of the remainder Definitly Red (10/1), Killultagh Vic (10/1) and Road to Respect (12/1) have live chances.

Overall, it’s a very open race.

4.10 Foxhunters’ Chase

Caid du Berlais*

Embed from Getty Images

Foxrock (8/1) and Burning Ambition (3/1) have been strongly supported for this. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my preference is for Caid du Berlais (14/1). He’s not seen a racecourse since coming in eighth behind Presenting Percy in last year’s Pertemps Final. However, he has won his last three point to point races easily, the most recent of them 19 days ago, and his back form includes a win in the Paddy Power Chase.

I’ll also be backing Unioniste each way (22/1), formerly a high class horse, who has won his last two hunter chases easily.

4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle

Dieses des Bieffes**

This race is a bit of a lottery and often throws up a long priced winner. However, I’m keen on second favourite Dieses des Bieffes (8/1) for Nicky Henderson and excellent young jockey James Bowen. Of the remainder I’m interested in the Mullins/Ricci pair Burrows Saint (18/1) (Lizzie Kelly) and Deal d’Estruval (6/1) (Liam Gilligan).

For a bit of value Delire d’Estruval (33/1) and Brillare Momento (28/1) are worth a look.

5.30 Grand Annual Chase

Theinval* (pictured) / Gino Trail* (e/w)
Embed from Getty Images

I decided a while ago that I would side with Theinval (14/1) in the finale.  He was third in this race last year and has a good place record overall. He won a Grade 3 hurdle at the Grand National meeting in 2015 and followed up with a valiant second in the Red Rum Chase last year.

Gino Trail is good value for a place at 20/1 (recent form 31121) but has a lot of weight to carry.

Dresden is the Racing Post nap at 40/1 and North Hill Harvey has been routed here instead of the Arkle. However, he was beaten by 39 lengths at Warwick by Saint Calvados who was subsequently outclassed in last Tuesday’s Arkle and has enough weight to be carrying as a novice.


Good luck!

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