Martin Malone

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Oh, the times they are a’changing

I’ve stayed at home since last Wednesday. Going a bit spare – yes! I looked up to the sky at various times today when I wandered around in the garden, lonely as a cloud. So, with that in mind, here’s the Flightradar map of our area just now:

The only flights that are happening are emergency ones to get people to Ireland. Who needs a tunnel from the Isle of Skye?

If you saw the normal map for this area you would appreciate how different this is.

There is no limit to my respect for the people who are enabling these flights to take place. It’s a crap time for everyone but some of our greatest people are doing what needs to be done to get people to where they need to be!

Cheltenham 2020 – Thursday and Friday

It’s been a frustrating couple of days with four 2nds on Tuesday and just two winners on Wednesday. Very much a case, as is so often at Cheltenham, of what might have been! Nonetheless it’s been a decent couple of days’ racing, notwithstanding the absence of two of the main protagonists in the Champion Chase. The first two in the Champion Bumper (Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It) are no doubt destined for great things if they remain sound. My highlight of the week so far was Easysland’s win in the Cross Country.

Onwards and upwards!


13:30 Marsh Novices’ Chase

I’m really surprised that Itchy Feet*** (9/2) is such a short priced favourite. I tipped him last time out at 8/1 and I hope that he goes on to win this well. Equally, I hope that Faugheen (5/1) puts in a clear round, regardless of where he finishes. If he wins then that will be the highlight of the week and a genuinely momentous performance at the age of 12.

14:10 Pertemps Final

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The Storyteller* (11/2) won the Plate at the Festival in 2018 on soft to heavy ground and I back him to follow up here. Another favourite but he’s obviously been laid out for this. Of the remainder I might have a little each way on Jatiluwih* at 20/1 for Corinthian amateur (but prolific winner) Mr David Maxwell. The jockey will have to be at his very best in a race like this but the field should have sorted itself out after two circuits in the home straight.

14:50 Ryanair Chase

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Earlier in the season I thought that I would be backing Frodon (5/1) to repeat his victory in this race last year. However, he’s not been quite the same horse this time round. There are many people who just will not see past A Plus Tard but I think that this ideal for Min*** (11/4) who is comfortably the top rated horse in this field (Timeform 185), who ran Chacun Pour Soi close last time out and for whom I think that this 2m 4 1/2f should be ideal at this stage of his career.

15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle

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There is absolutely no reason to look beyond defending champion Paisley Park***** (4/6) who has absolutely dominated this division and may very well be better than last year. One to watch and enjoy.

16:10 Brown Advisory Plate

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I don’t have a strong view about this race so, after deliberation and having decided that the favourite (Simply The Betts – 100/30) is much too short, I’m going to take a plunge and side with Siruh Du Lac* (18/1) notwithstanding that he was pulled up in his only outing this season. He won this race last year and is another who is likely to have been saved for the big day.

16:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle

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I think that this is a head to head between the front two in the market and, having been passed on a good word (at least three times removed!) I’ve opted for the favourite Minella Melody** (3/1).

17:30 Kim Muir Amateurs’ Chase

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I really have no idea at all about this one and won’t be having a bet. As a random selection I’ll choose Cloth Cap* (20/1 e/w) as an improver.


13:30 Triumph Hurdle

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Unlike the last race I have a very firm view about this one and one of my bets of the week is Goshen***** (7/2) who I think is a prodigious talent. Unbeaten over hurdles and on a seven-timer, he can jump right (like Asterion Forlonges!) but has top class in abundance. Likely to follow up on Envoi Allen and Easysland as one of the stars of the week.

14:10 County Hurdle

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Another favourite I’m afraid but I think that Ciel De Neige** (7/1) had the ideal prep in the Betfair Hurdle, coming second to Pic D’orhy, who would have been my choice had he run in the Champion Hurdle. However, it’s notable that of the J P McManus runners, Barry Geraghty is riding another inexperienced but potentially very good Willie Mullins horse, Saint Roi (currently 14/1), so watch out for a market move for that one.

14:50 Albert Bartlett Hurdle

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I thought all season that I would back current favourite Thyme Hill (7/2) whose preparation has been exemplary. However, I can’t resist being drawn to two other contenders, Harry Senior (8/1) and Ramses De Teillee (10/1). I was very taken with Harry Senior’s win on this course over 2m 4f in January. He was staying on to win well and the step up in trip should be ideal. I am concerned about Colin Tizzard’s form so far this week but I’ve been caught out by that in the past so I’m going to overlook it. Ramses De Teillee has an unusual profile for a race like this, having previously run in the Welsh and Aintree Nationals. He was fourth in a Grade 3 chase at Cheltenham last November but is a hardened campaigner who should be in the mix if, as is entirely possible, this turns out to be a bit of a slog. However, on balance, I’m siding with Harry Senior* who I think represents decent value at 8/1.

15:30 Gold Cup

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There are so many different ways to approach this race, so I’ve decided to apply a process of elimination. There are doubts about Colin Tizzard’s horses at the moment and Lostintranslation would have to bounce back from a very disappointing performance in the King George. I’ve never been a fan of Santini or Presenting Percy. I’ve decided that Kemboy isn’t quite good enough. So, at the head of the market, that leaves Al Boum Photo, Delta Work and Clan Des Obeaux.

Al Boum Photo (7/2)

The defending champion who could very well follow up. He’s had the same prep, with a nice rest before this race, and deserves to be 7/2 favourite.

Delta Work (9/2)

This admirable horse has a great CV. In his last five outings (in order) he beat Kemboy and Presenting Percy at the Dublin Racing Festival, Monalee in the Savills Chase, was fourth of five in the Down Royal Champion Chase, beat Discorama and A Plus Tard in the Punchestown Champion Novice Chase and was third to Topofthegame in last year’s RSA Chase. On balance I’ve decided that he’s just a tad below the very top level.

Clan Des Obeaux (7/1)

As an 8-y-o, he comes here direct from his easy victory over Cyrname in the King George. I think that the decent break is ideal for him. He was second to Road To Respect in the Down Royal Champion Chase but it’s reasonable to assume that this was nothing more than a pipe opener. People used to criticise Henrietta Knight for limiting Best Mate’s outings but the record speaks for itself. It was widely suggested that he didn’t stay in last year’s Gold Cup (“Looked well; tracked leaders, close 3rd 2 out, soon ridden, no extra from last”) but I think that the extra year will make all the difference.

Well, I’m sure that you’ve worked it out by now. I think that Clan Des Obeaux *** at 7/1 represents excellent value for Paul Nicholls (after having had no runners on day one) to take both of the major chases of the week. I recommend taking the price now because I think that he’ll be much shorter on the day.

16:10 Foxhunters’ Chase

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I think that this is much easier. I’ve watched all of Hazel Hill‘s**** (5/1) races this season, including the point at Sheriff Hutton, and I think that the defeat by Minella Rocco at Wetherby was no more than a blip, when outrun at the death. He won this well last year and followed up with a course and distance victory in the Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters’ Chase two months later. A confident selection.

16:50 Grand Annual Chase

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I have a nasty habit of overlooking the last two races after what has preceded them. However, as I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I had an early selection for this one, current favourite Greaneteen** (5/1), another for Paul Nicholls. It’s odd for a Cheltenham favourite to have been last seen at Fakenham but he comfortably beat a Nicky Henderson/Trevor Hemmings horse, having previously won the generously named Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh. This is by far his stiffest test but Nicholls made clear in his pre-Cheltenham stable visit that he holds him in very high regard and, for what it’s worth, I agree. By the way, he’s unbeaten this season and definitively fits the bill as “progressive”.

17:30 Martin Pipe Conditionals’ Hurdle

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I flagged this one up a few weeks ago and, for once, I do have a keen selection for the Festival closer in the shape of Column Of Fire** (6/1 – initially advised at 9/1). He ran very well when third at the Dublin Racing Festival and, quite simply, fits the bill.


So, here they are:


  • 13:30 Itchy Feet
  • 14:10 The Storyteller (win) / Jatiluwih (e/w)
  • 14:50 Min
  • 15:30 Paisley Park
  • 16:10 Siruh Du Lac
  • 16:50 Minella Melody
  • 17:30 Cloth Cap


  • 13:30 Goshen (nap)
  • 14:10 Ciel De Neige
  • 14:50 Harry Senior
  • 15:30 Clan Des Obeaux
  • 16:10 Hazel Hill
  • 16:50 Greaneteen
  • 17:30 Column Of Fire

Good luck!

Cheltenham 2020 – Tuesday and Wednesday

The featured image this year is of former Arkle winner Footpad, a regular in this post in recent years, having won £650,000 in his career to date, and now sold to race in the United States.

As was the case last year, the going is of more interest this year than the standard good to soft. According to the latest Turftrax going report (14:00 on Monday) it is soft, good to soft in places on both the chase and hurdle courses and soft, heavy in places on the cross country. However, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of the main courses are soft, with the good to soft confined to the end of the back straight. This should suit most horses but the preferences will be for those with winning form on similar ground, while disfavouring those who want properly good ground. 5mm of rain is forecast on Monday afternoon which should mean that it will be unchanged for Tuesday. It’s expected to dry out during the week.

19.30 Monday update. There has been much more rain than forecast, with more predicted for tomorrow morning. It must now be likely to be soft all over on Tuesday.

This year I’m delighted that my very good friend, racing sage and former Quatre Heures co-owner Gerry Rooney has kindly allowed me to add his day one selections. As usual, he’s picked a few at long odds (he’s got some very good form at this!).


13:30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Asterion Forlonges (11/4f) is unbeaten, including his only two hurdle races, and is the current Timeform top rated (167p). He has a tendency to jump right, which obviously isn’t ideal, but he seems to be able to correct himself quickly and obviously has abundant talent.

Shishkin (in the same ownership) is second favourite at 100/30 and has not looked back since falling on his hurdles debut. He’s a fast finisher, ideally placed to pick off runners up the hill.

Abacadabras (13/2) is the most highly tried of the leading contenders and impressed when second to Envoi Allen, before winning a Grade 1 at Leopardstown.

Chantry House (7/1) has also impressed, winning over course and distance on his hurdles debut, before winning again in a decent novices’ hurdle at Newbury. This one could easily improve further to be in the mix.

Of the remainder, Fiddlerontheroof (7/1) and Elixir D’ainay (25/1) are of interest but probably not quite up to the standard of the market leaders.

My selections: Asterion Forlonges** (now 3/1) win and Chantry House* (7/1) each way (look out for the offers – as many as the first seven!)

Gerry’s selection: Chantry House (7/1)

14:10 Arkle Novices’ Chase

This is the first race in which I have a firm view. Current favourite and winner of the Irish Arkle, Notebook (3/1) is headstrong and could find things a bit too consistently fast for him. Cash Back (7/1) was second in that race. He has a tendency to jump to the right. Of the British runners I prefer Maire Banrigh (12/1) to Brewin’upastorm (11/2). The former does not have the likely profile of an Arkle winner but is unbeaten over fences (Huntingdon, Doncaster, Warwick and Stratford) and will definitely stay.

My idea of the winner is Fakir D’oudairies (9/2) (167p). Another who will be suited by the ground, he won the Grade 1 Drinmore over 2m 4f at Fairyhouse and was second to Notebook at the Dublin Racing Festival. I think that this one is the most talented in the field and, as a 5-y-o experienced chaser, has room for rapid improvement.

My selections: Fakir D’oudairies*** (9/2) win and Maire Banrigh** (12/1) each way.

Gerry’s selection: Fakir D’oudairies (9/2)

14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase

I don’t have a strong view about this race. I think that Vinndication is the right favourite at 13/2 and should relish both ground and trip. However, he’s carrying top weight and was only 5th of 10 in his only previous outing at Cheltenham (in last year’s JLT).

A lot of people like The Conditional (8/1) off only 10st 6lbs, mainly because of his second in the Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury but that wasn’t a top class renewal and I’m not convinced.

My very marginal preference is for Kildisart (10/1) who has been campaigned at a high level, runs off 11st 3lbs, and won well in a similar race at last year’s Grand National meeting. First time cheekpieces may help.

My selection: Kildisart* (10/1) each way

Gerry’s selection: Cogry (28/1)

15:30 Champion Hurdle

There has been much discussion about how this is a below par renewal and it’s fair to say that the field would not look out of place in a decent handicap. However, that makes for a very interesting race with lots of cases to be made.

I’m against current favourite Epatante (3/1). She was an easy 5 lengths winner of the recognised trial, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on soft ground, and gets the 7lbs mares’ allowance. However, she was 9th of 22 on her only previous outing at Cheltenham (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) when going off at 15/8f.

I’m even more against second favourite Pentland Hills (13/2). Although he won last year’s Triumph and Aintree 4-y-o hurdles, the transition from four to five can be problematic for some and he’s been underwhelming this season. He was fifth in the International Hurdle here last December and was beaten last time out by Ballyandy at Haydock. He’s had a wind operation since then but there are too many question marks for me.

Cilaos Emery (15/2) has reverted to hurdles after failing to shine as a chaser. He’s been supplemented for this race at a cost of 22,500 euros, is trained by Willie Mullins and definitely has the ability to win. I think that he’ll be a much shorter price before the off.

Supasundae (11/1) is now 10 years old but has consistently run well against the best, will definitely stay and has winning Grade 1 form. I see him running into a place.

Of the remainder, Darver Star (12/1) is a big improver, Sharjah (14/1) probably won’t like the ground, Coeur Sublime (16/1) is good but not top notch and Call Me Lord (20/1) is another that’s just below top grade.

Ballyandy (20/1) is an ultra reliable horse who, in my view, is seriously overpriced. Third to Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle, beat Pentland Hills in the Haydock trial, proven on soft, a strong finisher and has run well at Cheltenham, he ticks the boxes for me.

My selections: Cilaos Emery* (15/2) win and Ballyandy** (20/1) each way.

Gerry’s selection: Ballyandy (20/1)

16:10 Mares’ Hurdle

The banker of the day is Benie Des Dieux (3/5). She has won all eight completed starts for Willie Mullins with her only defeat coming in this race last year when falling at the last and looking all over the winner.

Honeysuckle (11/4) is her stiffest test yet against her own sex but has a sticky jumping style and lost serious ground over the hurdles, although to her credit overcoming that to win the Irish Champion Hurdle last time out.

My selection: Benie Des Dieux***** (3/5)

Gerry’s selection: Benie Des Dieux (3/5)

16:50 Novices’ Handicap Chase

This is a race that could easily turn up a long odds winner, but which one? Since I’ve no idea I’m just going to take a look at two towards the head of the market as possibles.

Galvin (8/1) runs for Gordon Elliott and is ridden by Davy Russell. He was sixth in last year’s Ballymore but was always likely to shape up more as a chaser. He’s been kept largely under the radar, performing creditably in a beginners’ and a novices’ chase when treated “gently” and has been kept away since his last outing in November. Regular followers of Gordon Elliott will recognise the profile!

Espoir De Guye (8/1) has progressed very nicely for Venetia Williams since moving from France. He’s on a three-timer and, unsurprisingly for the trainer, has winning form on soft and heavy ground.

My selection: Galvin* (8/1)

Gerry’s selection: Trainwreck (12/1)

17:30 National Hunt Amateurs’ Chase

Much discussed after last year’s attritional renewal which has led to changes in the conditions, this is an excellent way to finish day one.

Carefully Selected (9/4) has been aimed for this race by Willie Mullins and is, by some way, the classiest horse in the field. He was placed in Grade 1 bumpers and hurdles and has an unblemished record over fences, including a Grade 3 novices’ chase last time out at Naas. He’ll stay, will have no problem with the ground and has the significant benefit of Patrick Mullins on board. His only blemish is that he does have a tendency to clatter the odd one but he’s clever and it’s not stopped him so far.

I’d like to find some opposition but I can’t see past the favourite.

My selection: Carefully Selected**** (9/4)

Gerry’s selection: Lord Du Mesnil (13/2)


13:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Many people’s idea of the banker of the week is Envoi Allen (11/8) and I’m one of them. There are no chinks in his armour. He won all four of his bumpers, including last year’s Champion Bumper, and all three hurdle races this season, including two Grade 1s. He’s running over his ideal distance of 2m 4f (having been considered for the Supreme) and is rated 168P by Timeform.

I expected him to be a much shorter price and he’s currently drifting slightly but, subject to any late news, that’s fine with me.

Of the remainder, Sporting John (7/2) is very progressive. Beware of the names in this race! The Big Getaway (Mullins/Townend) and The Big Breakaway (Tizzard/Power) are both next in the market at 13/2 and, of them, I prefer the latter.

Selection: Envoi Allen***** win.

14:10 RSA Novices’ Chase

Ante post favourite for this race at the start of the season, for me, Battleoverdoyen (12/1) has been slightly underwhelming in his recent outings, putting in workmanlike, albeit winning, performances, before falling last time out in the Grade 1 Flogas Novices’ Chase.

Another who fell last time out (here) is the highly touted Champ (7/2jf), second in last year’s Ballymore. He treats his fences with disdain and I’m far from confident that he’ll deliver a clear round at this highest level.

Last year’s winner of the Albert Bartlett is Minella Indo (7/2jf). Widely tipped at the preview nights, he’s been seen in two fairly low profile beginners’ chases (second and first) and this is a massive step up in chase company. He’s 14lbs behind Champ on Timeform ratings, albeit with “a big P”, but has it all to prove.

Although also in a beginners’ chase, Allaho (9/2) for Mullins and Townend was a really impressive winner last time out at Fairyhouse and looks to have loads of potential for improvement.

Copperhead for Colin Tizzard is another that has attracted tipster support and has recently shortened in the market to join Allaho at 9/2.

Selection: Allaho** win.

14:50 Coral Cup

Take your pick! Although I have no strong views, two to consider from the field are Birchdale (10/1) and Eglantine Du Seuil (20/1), the latter having won last year’s Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at 50/1, thereby demonstrating aptitude at the course.

Selection: Eglantine Du Seuil* each way.

15:30 Champion Chase

Will Altior (3/1) take part after his minor setback at the weekend? It doesn’t make a great deal of difference to me because he wasn’t going to be my selection in any event. From being the very best jumps horse in training I take the view that he peaked about 18 months ago, notwithstanding that that he’s seeking a hat-trick.

Defi Du Seuil (7/4f) is a grand horse and has a very strong chance of winning this race. He won last year’s JLT and has won all his subsequent races (two Grade 1s and a Grade 2) – except – when he was beaten by Chacun Pour Soi at last year’s Punchestown Festival. There’s everything to like about him.

So, on to Chacun Pour Soi (5/2). He’s been very lightly raced and had a 1219 days’ break when moving from Emmanuel Clayeux to Willie Mullins. However, perseverance has paid off and I think that he’s one of the very best National Hunt horses currently racing. I’m pleased to see that Timeform agrees and have him top rated at 187p. I could not have been more impressed with his last time out win, beating Min at the Dublin Racing Festival in a very fast time. All over the winner to me.

Outside the top three it’s 20/1 bar.

Selection: Chacun Pour Soi***** win

16:10 Cross Country Chase

There are some well-known names behind the market leaders in this race, including Might Bite (14/1) and Yanworth (16/1). However, if you’re not a keen follower of racing and you’re attracted by the familiarity of the names, beware, they’re here because connections have run out of other ideas.

Although it may seem like sacrilege, I’m opposing Tiger Roll (11/10), although heart over head I’d love to see him win easily as an ideal prep for the Grand National. There have been no negative vibes about him, quite the opposite, and his fifth in the Boyne Hurdle was a perfectly respectable return.

However… he faces a seriously good opponent in the shape of Easysland (100/30) for David Cottin and cross country specialist jockey Jonathan Plouganou. He’s on a seven-timer and comfortably won the cross country here last December. I watched his subsequent race at Pau (on TV) when he won as easily as you like. J P McManus was clearly also impressed because he bought him between those races, no doubt with this in mind.

Selection: Easysland*** win

16:50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

I’ve never been a fan of this race since it was introduced a few years ago and, to be honest, I’ve paid little attention to it. Subject to that, I think that current favourite Aramax (6/1) and Blacko (16/1) are quite closely matched so, on prices alone, I’ll opt for the latter.

Selection: Blacko* win

17:30 Champion Bumper

It’s the bumper and therefore time for another Willie Mullins hotpot, but this time I think that he’s the real deal. If you wanted to see the ideal prep race it was delivered in the shape of Appreciate It’s (2/1) mightily impressive win in the Future Stars Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival on 1 February (a race won last year by Envoi Allen). If you can, see if you can find a reply of the race finish and you’ll see what I mean. For the places, David Pipe has a strong hand with Panic Attack – a big money purchase from Willie Mullins’ yard – and Israel Champ (both 11/1).

Selection – Appreciate It***** win

Summary and a Lucky 31(!) (with updated prices)


  • Supreme – Asterion Forlonges** (3/1)
  • Arkle – Fakir D’oudairies*** (9/2)
  • Ultima – Kildisart* (10/1)
  • Champion Hurdle – Cilaos Emery* (15/2)
  • Mares’ Hurdle – Benie Des Dieux***** (3/5)
  • Novices’ Chase – Galvin* (8/1)
  • NH Chase – Carefully Selected**** (9/4)


  • Ballymore – Envoi Allen***** (11/8)
  • RSA – Allaho** (9/2)
  • Coral Cup – Eglantine Du Seuil* (20/1 each way)
  • Champion Chase – Chacun Pour Soi***** (5/2)
  • Cross Country – Easysland*** (100/30)
  • Fred Winter – Blacko* (16/1)
  • Champion Bumper – Appreciate It***** (2/1)

Lucky 31

So, not content with a Lucky 15, I’ve opted for a Lucky 31! Five selections, 31 bets at £1.00 each = £31 and they are:

  • Benie Des Dieux
  • Carefully Selected
  • Envoi Allen
  • Chacun Pour Soi
  • Appreciate It

…to deliver £468.17. (A Lucky 15 (£15) without Carefully Selected will currently deliver £120.18 with a full house.)

Good luck!

Racing Post tips for Cheltenham


13.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Abacadabras (5/1)

14:10 Arkle – Notebook (5/2)

14:50 Ultima Handicap Chase – Mister Malarky (10/1)

15:30 Champion Hurdle – Ballyandy (20/1)

16:10 Close Bros. Mares’ Hurdle – Benie Des Dieux (4/6)

16:50 Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase – Imperial Aura (11/2)

17:30 National Hunt Chase (Amateurs) – Carefully Selected (7/4)


13:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Envoi Allen (5/4)

14:10 RSA Novices’ Chase – Minella Indo (100/30)

14:50 Coral Cup – Kilfenora (20/1)

15:30 Champion Chase – Defi Du Seuil (2/1)

16:10 Cross Country Chase – Tiger Roll (10/11)

16:50 Boodles (Fred Winter) Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Tronador (14/1)

17:30 Champion Bumper – Israel Champ (11/1)


13:30 Marsh Novices’ Chase – Faugheen (5/1)

14:10 Pertemps Final – Skandiburg (12/1)

14:50 Ryanair Chase – Frodon (5/1)

15:30 Stayers’ Hurdle – Paisley Park (4/6)

16:10 Brown Advisory Plate – Ben Dundee (10/1)

16:50 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Minella Melody (11/4)

17:30 Kim Muir Handicap Chase (Amateurs) – No Comment (10/1)


13:30 Triumph Hurdle – Mick Pastor (12/1)

14:10 County Handicap Hurdle – Saglawy (25/1)

14:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Thyme Hill (9/2)

15:30 Gold Cup – Kemboy (7/1)

16:10 Foxhunters’ Chase – Hazel Hill (9/2)

16:50 Grand Annual Handicap Chase – Lisp (9/1)

17:30 Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys) – The Bosses Oscar (12/1)

Beware when placing your Cheltenham bets

There have been suspensions of gambling companies in recent weeks, including high profile company Matchbook ( and lesser known MoPlay, which has declared that it is insolvent and has stopped account withdrawals with little prospect of any returns, including funds deposited, for users.

Mr Green (you’ve probably seen the TV adverts) is part of William Hill plc and was recently fined £3.9m for failing to prevent harm and in respect of money laundering.

The Horseracing Bettors Forum has provided helpful guidance about the level of protection available:

Proceed with care, particularly with those graded as “Not Protected” including, ironically “Betsafe”!

Initial thoughts about the main Cheltenham Festival races

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


Supreme: Asterion Forlonges (6/1)

Arkle: Fakir D’oudairies (6/1)

Champion Hurdle: Pic D’orhy (16/1)

Mares’ Hurdle: Benie Des Dieux (4/5)

National Hunt Chase: Copperhead (8/1)


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

RSA: Allaho (13/2 – also great value)

Champion Chase: Chacun Pour Soi (11/4)

Cross Country: Easysland (3/1)

Champion Bumper: Appreciate It (2/1)


Marsh: Itchy Feet (11/2)

Ryanair: Min (7/2)

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


Triumph: Goshen (4/1 – all in – NAP)

County Hurdle: Ciel de Niege (10/1)

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

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

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

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

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

Timeform update

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

Chacun Pour Soi – 176p

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

3/1 for the Champion Chase

Honeysuckle – 154 from 157p

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

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

Notebook – 155p

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

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

Latest Exhibition – 144 from 141

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

Itchy Feet – 153p from 127P

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

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

Appreciate It – 119 from 106

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

Asterion Forlonge – 153p from 131p

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

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

Irish Gold Cup

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

Gold Cup odds:

Delta Work: 6/1

Kemboy 7/1

Presenting Percy 14/1

Al Boum Photo 7/2

Faugheen – 160 from 161

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

Marsh Chase – 6/1

RSA – 12/1

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

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

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

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

The big week at Cheltenham is not far away now!

Dublin Racing Festival

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


12:50 Novice Hurdle – Grade 1 – 2m 6f

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

13:25 Dublin Chase – Grade 1 – 2m 1f

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

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

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

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

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

15:45 Ladbrokes Hurdle – Grade B – 2m

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

16:20 Bumper – Grade 2 – 2m

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


13:50 Contenders Hurdle – Class 1 – 2m

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

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

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


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

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

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

Miranda (11/4)

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

Greaneteen (6/4f)


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

Chapel Stile (13/2)

15:58 Hunters’ Chase – Class 6 – 3m

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

Good luck

Christmas Racing – 27 December

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

What to take from the day?

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

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

Credit Mick Fitzgerald – Twitter this morning

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

On to tomorrow!

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


12:05 Saint D’Oroux (5/2)

12:35 Melon (11/10)

13:10 Chacun Pour Soi (2/5)

13:45 Abracadabras (4/7)

14:20 Moon Over Germany (8/1)

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

15:30 Ragnar Ladbrok (4/6)


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

14:00 Fury Road (11/10)

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

15:55 Jeremy Pass (9/4)


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

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

13:55 Culture De Sivola (7/2)

14:30 Capeland (2/1)

15:05 Sametegal (11/2)

Good luck!

Boxing/St Stephens Day 2019

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

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

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

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

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


12:40 Maiden Hurdle

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

13:10 Knight Frank Juvenile (Grade 2)

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

14:20 Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1)

Embed from Getty Images

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


12:50 Novices’ Hurdle

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

13:20 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

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

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

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

14:30 Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1)

Embed from Getty Images

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

15:05 King George (Grade 1)

Cyrname (6/4)

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

Lost In Transation (15/8)

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

Clan Des Obeaux (4/1)

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

Footpad (11/1)

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

Thistlecrack (16/1)

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

Aso (50/1)

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

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


14:40 Greenmount Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

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

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

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


14:10 Rowland Meyrick Chase (Grade 3)

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

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

Down Royal

14:45 Bluegrass Hunters’ Chase

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

Good luck!

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