Martin Malone

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Early thoughts about Cheltenham

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

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


Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

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


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

Champion Hurdle

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

Mares’ Hurdle

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


RSA Chase

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

Champion Chase

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

Cross Country

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

Champion Bumper

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


JLT Novices’ Chase

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

Ryanair Chase

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

Stayers’ Hurdle

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

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

Brown Advisory Plate

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

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

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


Triumph Hurdle

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

Gold Cup

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

Foxhunters’ Chase

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

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

Good luck!

Saturday 16 February

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

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

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

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

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


12.30 Novices’ Hurdle Class 2 2m 4f

I Can’t Explain (15/8)

1.35 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase Grade 2

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

2.10 Swinley Chase (Listed)

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

2.45 Denman Chase Grade 2

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

3.20 Betfair Hurdle Grade 3

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

3.55 Ascot Chase Grade 1

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


12.50 Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle

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

1.25 Warwick Mares’ Hurdle Class 1

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

1.55 Rendlesham Hurdle Grade 2

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

2.55 Pertemps Qualifier

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

3.35 Grand National Trial Grade 3

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

4.10 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Grade 2

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

4.45 Walrus Open Hunters’ Chase

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

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

Great racing this weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1.35 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase – Grade 2

Glen Rocco and Coup De Pinceau

2.10 Swinley Chase (Listed)

Coneygree, Black Corton, Yanworth, Glen Rocco

2.45 Denman Chase (Grade 2)

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

3.20 Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3)

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

3.55 Ascot Chase (Grade 1)

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

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

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

A little anecdote about Naas

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dublin Racing Festival thoughts and initial Cheltenham Festival interests

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

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

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

Here are my initial long lists for the main races.

Supreme Novices

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


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

Champion Hurdle

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

Mares’ Hurdle

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

Ballymore Hurdle

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

RSA Chase

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

Champion Chase

  • Altior 4/9f

Cross Country

  • Auvergnat 11/2
  • Mall Dini 25/1

JLT Chase

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

Ryanair Chase

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

Stayers’ Hurdle

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

Triumph Hurdle

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

Albert Bartlett

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

Gold Cup

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

Dublin Racing Festival – early views

I’m very much looking forward to returning to Ireland for the first renewal of the Dublin Racing Festival on 2 and 3 February.

Here are a few early thoughts about the big races (which have now been priced up by Paddy Power). Judging by the trainers’ comments it seems that many of the entries are likely to take part. I think that everyone agreed that last year’s inaugural meeting was a great success and it’s perfectly timed for Cheltenham prep races. As was the case last year, there aren’t as many British entries as might have been expected given the prize money on offer. Are the British trainers reluctant to meet their Irish counterparts before March?


Ladbrokes Dublin Chase Grade 1 2m1f

The top eight in the betting are:

  • Footpad (8/11)
  • Min (100/30)
  • Great Field (11/2)
  • Un de Sceaux (6/1)
  • Waiting Patiently (7/1)
  • Saint Calvados (8/1)
  • Simply Ned (9/1)
  • Castlegrace Paddy (12/1)

I’m still with Footpad who was collared by Simply Ned when all over the opposition last time out. I doubt that Un de Sceaux will turn up and I don’t think that Great Field is a top level candidate. I expect that we’ll see both Waiting Patiently and Saint Calvados elsewhere, before and/or after this race.

Frank Ward Solicitors Irish Arkle. Grade 1 2m1f

This is an intriguing race. This division is wide open and I’m not yet bowled over by current favourite Le Richebourg (13/8). Knocknannus ran a very decent race at Plumpton when second to the sadly now injured and out for the season Master Dino but the winner beat him having sustained a hairline fracture to a hind leg. Others of interest include Gordon Elliott’s Hardline (beat an unlucky Getabird in December and second to Voix Du Reve (8/1 in this) in November), Paloma Blue and Cilaos Emery.

BHP Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 2m

I think that the best way of approaching this one is just to list all entries and current odds. I’m with the favourite but we’ll have to see which ones turn up (could be a small field).

  • Apples Jade 2/1
  • Supasundae 5/2
  • Melon 11/4
  • Laurina 5/1
  • Sharjah 5/1 (serious contender)
  • Petit Mouchoir 16/1 (surely now chasing)
  • Faugheen 16/1 (surely now going for 3m)
  • Saldier 25/1 (not good enough)
  • Farclas 33/1 (as above)
  • Cilaos Emery 33/1 (another chaser)
  • Tombstone (33/1) (just no)


Spring Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1 2m

I’ve not got anything to say about this one at this stage so I’ll just give you the link.

Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle Grade 1 2m

It’s the same with the one. Several of these are due to run between now and this race. Here’s the link.

Flogas Novice Chase Grade 1 2m5f

I really like Delta Work for this one. Here are the current odds.

Unibet Irish Gold Cup Grade 1 3m

This could be a great race but the obvious problem is that many of the entries have been targeted elsewhere. It’s understandable because a longer gap before the arduous Cheltenham Gold Cup would seem to be preferable. So I’ll just list the current leaders in the betting.

  • Road To Respect 4/1
  • Al Boum Photo 5/1
  • Bellshill 11/2
  • Presenting Percy 11/2
  • Kemboy 6/1
  • Monalee 8/1
  • Anibale Fly 10/1
  • Total Recall 10/1
  • Shattered Love 12/1
  • 14/1 bar

I’ll be posting detailed previews once we know the actual participants.

Boxing Day – other races

You can read my King George preview here. On this page I’ve taken a look a some of the (many) other races.


12:50 Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) 2m

Didtheyleaveyououtto (5/2) beat Thomas Darby last time out and should repeat. The Big Bite is also respected.

13:55 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m

Current favourite for the RSA Santini (6/4) should win this but faces decent opposition including Bags Groove, The Worlds End and La Bague Au Roi.

14:30 Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

This is one to watch and enjoy. Dual Champion Hurdler Buveur d’Air (1/5) is streets ahead of the opposition.

15:05 King George

See my preview here.


12:10 Maiden Hurdle 2m

Vision d’Honneur (6/5) has run only once in his life (winner of a three runner race at Fontainebleau) but is a very interesting recruit for Gordon Elliott.

13:10 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) 2m

This race is often a good pointer for later in the season. Chief Justice (11/4) beat Coeur Sublime last time out and should confirm the form.

14:20 Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m 1f

Mengli Khan is currently odds on (4/6) but I prefer Voix du Reve (3/1) for Willie Mullins, a decent winner of a Grade 2 novices’ chase last time out at Punchestown.

15:30 Bumper 2m

This is one to watch but Allaho‘s (evens) only run to day was a second in a listed hurdle at Auteuil. He has to come back from a 297 days’ break and faces 205,000 euros Gigginstown purchase Fury Road, but could turn out to be one of WP’s serious contenders in this division.


14:10 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m 45y

This race was won in 2016 by Definitly Red and there are two or three decent candidates in this renewal. I’m against current favourite Wakanda. Lake View Lad (4/1) is commendably consistent and is preferred over highly tried (RSA and Hennessey) Allysson Monterg.


14:00 Novice Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 160y

Getabird is not a betting proposition at 1/2 but has taken very well to chasing and should be good to watch. It’s notable that Ruby Walsh has chosen this ride instead of other Grade 1 options at Leopardstown.

Good luck!

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

(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

Embed from Getty Images

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

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Cheltenham selections – Friday 14 December

This weekend’s races take place on the new course, generally regarded as the slower of the two. A notable feature is that there are just two flights in the last 6 furlongs on the hurdles course. The ground is reported as good, but apparently not soft enough for Willie Mullins to bring over his star mare Laurina who was favourite for the International Hurdle on Saturday. According to the BHA website Doncaster has been watering for Saturday and don’t be surprised if the same happens here (yes, I know, in December) because there was a big report published this week into fatalities at the Festival which included in its recommendations that the ground must as a minimum be on the soft side of good for future Festivals and there is no rain forecast. Latest readings are 7.3 chase and hurdle and 7.5 cross country (good ground with no soft).  A high of 3 degrees celsius is going to make it suitably bracing for those at the course.

So, on to Friday’s card, which is decent rather than being anything special. My main interest focuses on the opening novices’ hurdle and chase and, unusually for me, the cross country where, in this distinctly European week,  I think that there might be a bit of value from a travers la Manche.

12:10 Novices’ Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

The one who immediately appealed to me in this race is exciting prospect Elixir de Nuts** (9/4), not least because he won here last month (on the old course). I think that he could be a good recruit for Colin Tizzard but has to concede a good deal of weight to his opponents. Angels Breath, currently 11/10 (was 100/30), is an 85000 euros recruit for Nicky Henderson but how many times have decent Irish pointers flopped when making the transition to novice hurdles? Of the others I K Brunel (Carlisle) and Jarveys Plate (Perth) have modest form and, whether it should be the case or not, Northern course form very rarely translates to Cheltenham success, particularly in novice company.

12:45 Novices’ Chase (Class 2) 3m 1 1/2f

This is my favourite race of the day. You need to take a view because the top three, The Worlds End (15/8), Lil Rockerfeller (9/4) and Ibis du Rheu (9/2) all have a realistic chance. Of them, the doughty hurdler Lil Rockerfeller*** is my selection. I’ve watched both his chase races. The first outing over fences (here) was far from convincing but he did much better at Exeter next time out with cheekpieces and is on a four timer. As such he represents excellent value and I expect his price to shorten, so get on.

The Worlds End is a very nice horse but I’m always wary about Tom George trained horses who are often hyped but don’t deliver. He was beaten (third) behind Ibis du Rheu but has an 8lb turn on him for this one.

For me, the rock solid hardiness of Lil Rockerfeller will be decisive in the long run up the hill. My nap. 

Previous winners of this include Sizing Tennessee, Singlefarmpayment (see below), Blaklion and Sam Winner, so it’s generally one to take the winner from.

13:20 Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) 2m 1f

Two things. We have to bear in mind that this is a fairly moderate Class 3 so there could be a turn up, and I think that there is one absolutely primed for this.

This is a bog standard 0-140 moderate hurdle. It was won last year by Smaoineamh Alainn** (13/2) who was far from disgraced in a Grade 2 last time out. If you were the owner you’d have targeted this for a next exciting day out at Cheltenham. Two stars is my realistic assessment but I don’t like either of the runners ahead of him in the market (Highest Sun and Al Dancer).

The other one of note is Not That Fuisse, last out in the Greatwood Hurdle (6th) and one of Paul Ferguson’s horses to follow.

13:55 Mares’ Handicap Chase (Class 3) 2m 4 1/2f

So what do we say about a mares’ handicap chase without a star? Not much to be honest. Beware of Silent Steps (failed to win for Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls and now with Neil King). I’m swerving this one by a mile.

14:30 Handicap Chase(Grade 3) 3m 2f

Technically the race of the day because it’s a Grade 3. I hope not to offend anyone but Singlefarmpayment is a squiggly dog. Rock The Kasbah, a Grade 3 winner here, could easily win this but I’m not absolutely convinced. I think that Festival winner Coo Star Sivola** (13/2) (Festival winner, just to make that point again) is a proper contender and represents very good value.

Theatre Territory (7/2) is a relatively poor value each way option.

15:05 Cross Country Handicap Chase (Class 2) 3m 6f

Now, I’ve got a proper view about this one. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if Josies Orders wins this at a current 3/1 (from 9/4). But, this is transparently not the target. On the other hand, this looks like the absolute objective for Amazing Comedy**** (4/1), trained by David Cottin (former jockey and son of Francois) who ran well in the Festival cross country in 2017 and beat Vol Noir de Kerser by over 18 lengths in an impressive win at Compiegne (3m 3f very soft) five weeks ago. Perfectly primed for this and my next best (after Lil Rockerfeller).

15:40 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m 7f 213y

The only thing that interests me about this race is that a couple are, on the face of it, ahead of the market so there should be a betting angle in a field of 13.

Great Trango is a horse who could develop well on his form at Galway and Listowel and could be much better than the bare form suggests. However, he is not my idea of the winner.

This evening Aaron Lad is attracting marginal support at 6/1. Jumping is dodgy and not one for me.

Both Clondaws (Cian and Native) are, for me, average horses who are best avoided.

Buywise is, again with respect to the owners, the second absolute dog of the day. Every chance of a place (as is his way at 28/1) but no desire to win. If you are an each way player this could be a very good bet but not one for me.

So, the first of the two. I really like Worthy Farm***, a horse who I think is thrown in here. A really good pointer who won well with loads in hand for Paul Nicholls when last out at Taunton (typical first outing for Nicholls). I expect that we will be talking about this horse next March.

The other is Sizing Granite. He was a Newbury hurdles winner and was sixth in the Punchestown Gold Cup. His current form is 0665 but he might just spark here. Just to be clear, that is not a betting proposition.

So, in summary:

12:10 Elixir de Nuts

12:45 Lil Rockerfeller

13:20 Smaoineamh Alainn

13:55 No bet

14:30 Coo Star Sivola

15:05 Amazing Comedy

15:40 Worthy Farm

Good luck, and for those of you that are there, have a great day!!

TV changes – if you love your racing, take the plunge with Racing TV for the best of British and Irish racing plus proper French coverage from Sky Sports Racing

So, we now know about the big changes which are coming from New Year’s Day for TV coverage of horse racing

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are due for very different coverage when ATR becomes Sky Sports Racing and Racing UK becomes Racing TV.

First, the good stuff (but see my comments below about watching Irish racing). Sky Sports Racing is looking very good. They’ve kept a lot of the talent from ATR although, sadly, I’ve not yet seen a mention for Sean Boyce. The lead presenter is Alex Hammond. Significantly, she will be joined by Josh Apiafi, a man who really knows his racing and Jamie Lynch, who is moving from his post as chief correspondent for Timeform. Jamie is a shrewd man whose expertise is beyond doubt. 

There’s no doubt that Sky will bring all their sports expertise to deliver a very slick product, with presenters at all British meetings and all races in HD. They’ve captured Royal Ascot, Chester and Bangor from March. We can also look forward to over 200 French fixtures with proper live coverage, as well as the Breeders’ Cup, the US Triple Crown and the Melbourne Cup. Notably, coverage will be available to all Sky subscribers without the need for a Sky Sports subscription. With their capture of Royal Ascot, people are saying that this could become the home of all major racing when the ITV contract runs out in 2020, with Sky using its Pick TV channel for free to air coverage.

Proper French racing coverage in HD from 1 January 2019

Nonetheless, Racing TV (formerly Racing UK) will still cover about 70% of British racing including Cheltenham, Aintree, Newbury, Newmarket, York, Sandown and Kempton. £298 a year is a stiff price for this but the big catch for the new year is all Irish racing. This has happened because Irish Racing sold the rights to SIS a couple of years ago and it is SIS who have cut the deal with Racing TV.  It can’t be avoided that many in the Irish racing community are disappointed with this development and there is a real concern about fixture congestion. Given that Racing TV is owned by most of the main British racecourses it’s hard to imagine that they will give way to Irish coverage when the inevitable clashes happen. Just today it was reported that Gowran is likely to miss out on main channel coverage on New Year’s Day.

They’ve said that the problem will be addressed by being able to access all meetings including parade rings etc. by accessing their additional channels on the website. Well, that’s all very well, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in wanting to watch decent racing on my TV. However, here’s an interview with the chairman of the Racecourse Media Group (which owns Racing TV) and listen carefully to what he has to say.

Critically, he says that (at 3’55”) that there will be a red button option. 

I’m delighted with the team and mentioned in an earlier post that I hoped that Gary O’Brien will be at the helm, which he is.

The recent press release has confirmed the details:

Gary O’Brien will spearhead the Racing TV team in Ireland, where he will be joined by Kevin O’Ryan, Kate Harrington, Ruby Walsh and Donn McClean – while new programming and extended broadcast hours, including a daily Mark Your Card preview programme, are also being introduced.

Each of the 61 racecourses will have its own dedicated live stream available on Racing TV Extra, a feature of Racing TV’s digital platform.

This means live coverage of every British and Irish race in its entirety, as well as uninterrupted paddock, going down and unsaddling coverage, will be available to Racing TV members. Racing TV Extra will be available via the website, mobile and TV Apps for all members, whose membership fee will remain the same.

To be fair, this doesn’t mention the red button option so I hope that the chairman wasn’t overstating it.

So, should you pay nearly £300 a year for the best of British and all of Irish racing? I think that you should, if you can afford it, and here’s my rationale. If you are a serious horse racing fan, you will probably spend a lot more than that on betting over 12 months. A large number of the races that you bet on will not be covered on ITV. Yes, you can watch the races on betting websites, but bear in mind that a subscription includes access to all the channel’s races so if you want to check form, this is without doubt the best way to do it. Racing TV is also available worldwide, so you can watch their races from wherever you happen to be. If you haven’t experienced that option, believe me, it’s a great facility.

Further, if you are betting on a good few races, it’s worth listening to news on the day from people like Steve Mellish, Lydia Hislop, Jonathan Neesom and now Gary O’Brien. Their insight is worth a good few quid and their on course guidance has earned me well over £300 a year, particularly with ones to avoid, let alone ones to follow!

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