Dubai World Cup Night 2013 (Tapeta Races Only)

GODOLPHIN MILE

Won last year by the Godolphin runner African Story in blistering fashion, the son of Pivotal has this year been rerouted towards the Dubai World Cup after an explosive performance over a mile on his comeback run this campaign.

I can see the logic in the Godolphin thinking given how open and poor quality of opposition the Dubai World Cup has attracted this time round – a year in which it wouldn’t be surprised to see the Winter Derby winner (Farraaj) end up the season rated higher than the winner of the Dubai World Cup.

Mike De Kock saddles the favourite in Soft Falling Rain who comes into this contest off the back of two impressive victories out in Dubai, most recently in the UAE 2000 Guineas (Group 3). He was the champion two-year-old in his native South Africa and remains unbeaten in his career to date but hasn’t been given an ideal draw in stall 13, on the outside of likely pace-setter Capital Attraction with Saamidd to his outside who will also be looking to drop in.

Moonwalk In Paris has twice run to a mark of around 113 on his two most recent Dubai Carnival starts but hasn’t been given any help with the draw out in box 15, and is ridden by the enigma that is Ahmed Ajtebi.

Barbecue Eddie is a very likeable sort and a stalwart out on the Dubai scene but he has been handed a draw out in the car park in stall 16, and whatever chance he appeared to have before the draw was announced soon evaporated.

Surfer is one you have to give a chance to, he has been handed an assortment of high draws throughout this campaign and gets a decent draw position for the first time in a short while. A decent run the last day when fourth over the long distance to Dubai World Cup favourite Hunter’s Light and must surely place a role in the finish here.

From memory there appeared to be a fairly slow and tactical running of the Godolphin Mile last year with those positioned closest to the pace benefitting from soft early fractions. I am hoping that Tadgh O’Shea can grab the lead without as little exertion as possible aboard the Ernst Ortel trained Capital Attraction and lead them all from pillar-to-post in a performance similar to last time when only bettered by African Story in the Burj Nahaar.

Should they go too quick in the early exchanges it will be worth looking out for Weichong Marwing aboard Rerouted who will be finishing fast and late down the centre of the track and wouldn’t be a forlorn hope at double-figure odds.

UAE DERBY

Strictly speaking a repeat performance of his victory in the Al Bastakiya will be more than enough to see Secret Number take out this Group 2 contest. A winner of his sole start as a juvenile in the UK, Secret Number put in a huge performance when winning that contest off just his second lifetime start.

Losing lengths at the start of the contest he endured a terrible trip throughout keeping widest of all to avoid any trouble in what was a tactically run affair throughout. The fact he still had enough engine to roll over the top of them into the straight, let alone to win convincingly signalled this is a top class colt in the making and he really should win this race tomorrow afternoon.

I have him running to 112+ when winning the race, that is without even accounting for the distance lost at the start and the amount wider he travelled further than his rivals throughout (which equates to around 10L) it wouldn’t be inconceivable to think he is a legitimate 120 horse based on that performance.

Of course we have a couple of American’s in the field who are untried on the surface, along with Keiai Leone a raider from Japan who has to be respected. Add to that the twist of the European duo of Lines Of Battle (Aidan O’Brien) and Law Enforcement (Richard Hannon) this makes up into a half interesting race in what has been suffering in recent years.

Mahmood Al Zarooni also saddles Now Spun who was an impressive winner on the Dubai turf on his most recent effort and makes the switch to the Tapeta for the first time, and must have impressed enough to warrant a run in this contest.

Of the remainder the two which interest me most are Shuruq and Snowboarder and I’ve included them in a couple of small each-way multiples on the card despite being against the hotpot favourite of Secret Number. Both have run to decent figures out in Dubai and could easily make the frame here in what is an open contest.

GOLDEN SHAHEEN

Won last year in somewhat of a shock by Krypton Factor who basically picked up the pieces after Rocket Man, duelled so hard at an electric pace in the opening exchanges with Giant Ryan to grab the lead he had nothing left when Kieran Fallon bought his mount upsides.

Krypton Factor was a disappointing second behind Reynaldothewizard the last day in the Mahaab Al Shimaal and it would genuinely be a shock were he to retain his crown in this contest against much stronger opposition.

Mental made an impressive debut in the UAE with a strong late burst to snare the Al Shindagha Sprint back in February. He was held back off a hot pace in the first half of the race so understandable finished powerfully as those in-front of him had already given their all. He is without doubt a class horse and ran to around 122 when winning that race last time, and he could well have the race set up for him again with the two American horses looking likely to duel on the lead early.

Trinniberg winner of the Breeders Cup Sprint when last seen at the close of 2012 he looks a big price at around the 8-1 mark based on that performance. He likes to go forward and get things done and looks sure to run a big race along with fellow American Private Zone who will likely be ridden attackingly also.

Frederick Engels was a good horse in the UK as a juvenile and has since developed into one of the best sprinters in Hong Kong since being sold by Pearl Bloodstock, and he would be a very interesting recruit on the first time switch to Tapeta. He is an unknown quantity on this surface (a similar thing can be said about much of this opposition) and he ranks a fair price at around the 10-1 mark.

Of the remainder Gordon Lord Byron has developed into a smart horse but looks much too short at the prices, and only won an egg and spoon race at Dundalk the last day.

I honestly can’t see Reynaldothewizard being good enough to land this Group 1 prize despite being transformed since wearing blinkers and I’d be disappointed were he to get his head in-front of these based on what I’ve saw.

I guess the one I’d chance at this stage would be Kavanagh from the Mike De Kock yard who was ridden closer to the hot pace than Mental when these pair last met in February and has since accounted for some high-grade sprinters on the turf in impressive style. He is currently around the 10-1 mark and if ridden more conservatively off the likely quick pace early on he’ll be in with a say in the finish as they turn for home.

DUBAI WORLD CUP

A very poor renewal of the world’s richest race and considering the prize money on offer you’d expect a better turnout for this event.

Last year’s winner Monterosso was so disappointing on his return to action behind this year’s favourite Hunter’s Light in the third round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, but his trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni appeared to suggest the run was needed and he’d left plenty to work with. A repeat of his victory in this race last year would be good enough to win this I reckon, but I struggle to see him finding enough improvement in such a short space of time.

Hunter’s Light has done nothing wrong since the middle of the summer in 2012 and has further enhanced his reputation with his performances out in Dubai this winter. He is the one they all have to beat and has been given a good draw in stall four, he looks likely to go very close but consequently isn’t a big enough price to get excited about.

I can’t have either of Royal Delta who looked absolutely clueless on the Tapeta in this race twelve months ago and I can’t see any reason why she should improve dramatically on that effort and is clearly a better animal on the more conventional dirt in her native America – or Dullahan who is a massively overrated animal.

Kassiano has progressed nicely through handicaps this campaign in much the similar way Capponi did twelve months previously but hasn’t been helped with a wide berth in this contest and although will be dropped in early on will need plenty of luck in running in what is a usually tactical affair.

African Story switches to this race instead of trying to defend his crown in the Godolphin Mile, and on ratings alone is one of the best horses plying his trade out in Dubai in recent years. Quite whether he’ll be good enough over this longer distance remains to be seen but if his stamina holds out he holds massive claims.

Meandre is too slow to get competitive over this distance, and Treasure Beach should have gone for the Sheema Classic.

Capponi is one who could surprise a few here if Mahmood Al Zarooni has him forward enough for this assignment and given the value of the race you’d have thought he’d have him spot on.

My idea of the bet though has to be Planteur who won in a massive time on the Polytrack at Lingfield a month or so ago, despite looking awful in the pre-parade ring beforehand. He ran third in this race last year despite sweating up badly at the start, he was caught wide throughout and came home really well from off the pace. Providing he is ridden closer to the pace this time round, and doesn’t lose his head in the preliminaries he looks a sure bet to be in the first three for me, and rates a fairly strong bet at the prices.

[notification_box]My Bets:
1pt each-way Capital Attraction @ 20-1 (1/4 odds) with Boylesports
4pts win Secret Number @ 2-1 (Generally)
1pt each-way Kavanagh @ 11-1 (1/4 Odds) with Boylesports, Bet365 & Ladbrokes
3pts each-way Planteur @ 12-1 (1/4 Odds) with Boylesports & Bet365. [/notification_box]

 

A Cheltenham Update

It has been a fair while since the last entry on this blog but fear not I haven’t been sitting on my hands doing nothing, which is usually why there is often a lull in activity on here. We have been working on the Cheltenham Festival!

As majority of our attentions are beginning to be drawn towards the Cheltenham Festival next month, I have been working tirelessly along with good friend Charlie Sutton in getting the Cheltenham Tips website up-to-date after a quiet year last year.

Those of you have been visiting this website for a few years now will know that each year I try and do as many previews as possible revolving around the Cheltenham Festival, usually with the help of Jacob Cohen (Alias: Dancing Brave). However this year Jacob has been unable to find the time required to contribute towards the website so Charlie has been drafted in to work alongside myself.

Over the last week we have posted a whole host of previews of races which are going to take place at the Cheltenham Festival next month, and have spent plenty of time and hard work into making them as good as possible for you, our reader.

I have browsed around the web and haven’t found much in the way of previews available yet so we are up nice and early with plenty of time for users to read what we think will be winning at the Cheltenham Festival 2013, and then form their own judgements based on the knowledge we’ve put forward.

Races we have previewed up until this article was published:
Cheltenham ’13 – Supreme Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Arkle Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Champion Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Cross Country Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Neptune Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – RSA Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Champion Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Jewson Novices’ Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – Ryanair Chase
Cheltenham ’13 – World Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Triumph Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Cheltenham ’13 – Cheltenham Gold Cup

Feel free to click on any of the links above where you will be taken to the relevant article on the Cheltenhamtips website. You can alternatively go via the Cheltenham Festival Races tab on the Cheltenhamtips website, by clicking on the race you require and clicking through to the preview from there.

Over the next couple of weeks our attentions will be turning towards the handicaps at The Festival and thus more is still to be done with the website but we are aiming to make it the most informed place around ahead of the greatest show on turf.

Thanks for reading.

Gold Ship sails to success in Arima Kinen

On the greatest stage of all for the season finale, three-year-old GOLD SHIP put in a powerful performance in the home straight to lift the Arima Kinen for trainer Naosuke Sugai and rider Hiroyuki Uchida.

Settled in rear early, the grey son of Stay Gold made ground on the outside of the field into the second last turn before a strong sweeping move into the middle of the track rounding for home. Giving up lengths of ground to those on the inside, the Kikuka Sho and Satsuki Sho winner turned on the afterburners to drive himself into the lead inside the final furlong.

The Craig Williams ridden Rulership came wider still and ran as close to Gold Ship as he could but lacked the finishing gear of the winner, but it was quite a brilliant run in defeat after his well documented stalls problems resurfaced costing him four lengths at the start.

Rulership was narrowly claimed inside the last few yards by Ocean Blue and Christophe Lemaire who put in a strong late run more towards the inside of the track but was unable to reel in Gold Ship who’s jockey Uchida was already celebrating the victory as they crossed the line.

Gold Ship is the third three-year-old to win the Arima Kinen in a row after Japanese Triple Crown winner Orfevre was successful in 2011, and Victoire Pisa before him in 2010. Will Gold Ship now go for the Arc de Triomphe in 2013? Stay tuned.

Gold Ship was advised in our extensive big race preview on the blog here.

Arima Kinen 2012 Preview

With Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Japan Cup runner up Orfevre not taking to the field this weekend in Nakayama, the 57th Arima Kinen will be lacking a little in ‘big names’ especially if you take into account that Fillies Triple Crown winner, and Japan Cup victor Gentildonna doesn’t make the line up either.

However the Arima Kinen is “The Grand Prix” in Japan, and is the season finale for the Japan Racing Association which has arguably the highest turnover of any race in the world alongside the Grand National at Aintree in April. Despite the lack of Orfevre and Gentildonna, the Arima Kinen has still managed to attract a stellar group of horses including high-class three year olds Rulership and Gold Ship.

The race was originally known as the Nakayama Grand Prix, founded in 1956 by then president Yoriyasu Arima. The inaugural running of the race was held over about thirteen furlongs and was renamed the following year to the Arima Kinen after founder Yoriyasu Arima died in January. The race has been held at its current distance of 12.5 furlongs since 1966, and began accepting foreign-bred entries from 1971. In 2007 the Arima Kinen received International Grade 1 status which opened the door to a maximum of six horses of overseas to run in this prestigious race.

The record for the race was set by Zenno Rob Roy in 2004, running the distance in 2 minutes 29.5 seconds.

 BEAT BLACK – Winner of the Tenno Sho (Spring) back in April, the five-year-old son of Miscat has failed to trouble the judge in his three most recent starts, culminating with a seventh place finish in the Japan Cup on his most recent start. Usually hard on the pace, the shorter home straight at Nakayama will work to his advantage unlike Tokyo and should come into this race in top order after two recent runs a month ago.

 DAIWA FALCON – Usually thereabouts on the front-end, Daiwa Falcon comes into this off the back of victory in the Grade 3 Fukushima Kinen in the middle of November. The five-year-old son of Jungle Pocket has won 5 races from 13 tries around the Nakayama circuit and always come to form around this time of year. It’ll take a career best from the Hiroyuki Uehara trained entire and based on his run in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) he is likely to struggle in this grade.

 DARK SHADOW – The five-year-old son of Dance In The Dark comes into this race in search of his first Grade 1 success after backing up with two impressive performances in both the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and Japan Cup finishing fourth in both races, just 0.4sec off the pace. The Noriyuki Hori trained entire has a bit of a reputation for being a Tokyo specialist and the longer straight obviously plays to his strengths so it has to be a bit of a worry coming to Nakayama with his only previous run here yielding an unplaced effort.

 EARNESTLY – The Shozo Sasaki trained seven-year-old comes into this Grade 1 completely out of form, with two recent heavy defeats in both the Kinko Sho (G2) and Tenno Sho (Autumn, G1) and realistically doesn’t have much chance against quality opposition here.

 EISHIN FLASH – Winner of the 2010 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) returned to winning ways in October to lift the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) in what would be his first victory since landing the Tokyo Yushun two years ago, blasting through the final three furlongs in 33.1 under talented big race jockey Mirco Demuro. Second in this race last year to Orfevre, Eishin Flash is a free going sort so will need all the strength of Mirco Demuro to settle him in the early stages of what could be a tactical affair but he seems to have hit form lately and looks to be a major player this year without the likes of Orfevre of Gentildonna in the line-up.

 GOLD SHIP – Winner of the Kikuko Sho (Japan St Leger) in 3 minutes 2.9sec back in October, this impressive son of Stay Gold also has the Satsuki Sho (Japan Guineas) on his resume having won that back in April. The only blot on his copybook coming when beaten on the middle leg of the Japanese Triple Crown in the Tokyo Yushun, but he was unlucky that day and is clearly the best of the three-year-olds based on what I’ve seen. This is an impressive colt and his only previous run at Nakayama yielded an impressive success in the Satsuki Sho (Grade 1), and given that he will be staying the distance strong he looks the one they all have to beat.

 LELOUCH – A four-year-old son of 2004 Arima Kinen winner Zenno Rob Roy, Lelouch recorded a first graded success in the Copa Republica Argentina (Grade 2) on his most recent start. A late maturing start who only has eleven starts to his name he comes into this race in the form of his life, and could pick up the pieces in the place market if one or two of the main protagonists fail to run to form, but looks very much a horse for next year to me with another winter to strengthen up.

 NAKAYAMA KNIGHT – A very attractive chestnut son of Stay Gold, this four-year-old has a big liking for this Nakayama circuit winning three and placing twice from just five attempts. Ninth in the Tenno Sho Autumn (Grade 1) he had previous returned to Nakayama in style to record a ready success  in the Sankei Sho (Grade 2) over eleven furlongs. His failure to Tokyo can be excused though and the return to this trip will certainly help this deep-closing sort – place chances.

 NEVER BOUCHON – The veteran of the race at the grand old age of 9, he comes here off a fifth placed effort in the Nippon Sho (Grade 2) last time out. He isn’t getting any younger though and has been well beaten off in decent races this season and it is seriously hard to imagine him laying a glove on the main contenders here.

 OCEAN BLUE – Comes into this race after winning the Kinko Sho (Grade 2) at Chukyo on his most recent start, he seems to win every other start looking through his most recent form. That said it is hard to imagine him being good enough against some of the better quality of rivals here and looks another just making up the numbers.

 OKEN BRUCE LEE – Hasn’t got the best record at either this distance or around the track, and isn’t getting any younger either at the age of seven. He comes here off a tepid display in the Japan Cup and in all seriousness I couldn’t envisage him playing a hand in the finish here.

 ROSE KINGDOM – A very good three-year-old this now 5yo son of King Kamehameha has appeared to lose his way over the last two years and will need to rediscover that 3yo form to feature here. Well beaten in this contest last year I can see him plugging on into mid-division but that looks about it really after a disappointing display in the Japan Cup latest.

 RULERSHIP – A top class operator at around this level, but although he landed the QEII Cup in Hong Kong back in April, the 5yo has yet to win a Grade 1 on home soil. With both Orfevre and Gentildonna out of the way this could be the time for Rulership to shine, with placed efforts in all three of the main races on lead up Takarazuka Kinen, Tenno Sho Autumn and Japan Cup. The son of King Kamehameha has shown a tendency to be slow to break from the gates in his races and this has ultimately proved his undoing this campaign. However trained Katsuhiko Sumii has a plan in place to combat this problems judging by reports I’ve read, and he gets the assistance of Aussie Craig Williams in the plate – live contender.

 SKY DIGNITY – A good late-finishing second to Gold Ship in the Kikuka Sho on his most recent start, this three-year-old looks the type who could improve further next year. A winner of a maiden and allowance race from just 9 starts this could be a step too soon for the son of Brian’s Time but I can imagine him staying on through beaten horses late.

 TO THE GLORY – A fair four-year-old last year who finished third in this race last year with a big late closing effort. He has disappointed on majority of his starts this campaign but that has probably been over trips short of ideal. Also placed in this race in 2010, he has shown a clear liking for this track and distance and although it would be hard to see him having the class to take this, would be my idea of one of the big outsiders getting into the frame at a price.

 TRAILBLAZER – Winner of the Kyoto Kinen before a stint in the United States which yielded a fourth-placed finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, this five-year-old son of Zenno Rob Roy is a winner of his sole attempt around the Nakayama circuit although in general his form isn’t quite good enough to secure victory here.

COMMENTS FROM CONNECTIONS:

Beat Black (5yo, horse)

Hitoshi Nakamura
“I thought he’d run it in 56 seconds, but he did it in 54. I think he’s in very good form. Before he won the Tenno Sho (Spring), he worked a lot faster than we expected him to. We’ll have to see about where we travel but we do want to be out in front fairly early.” 

Kodai Hasegawa (assistant trainer)
“He was in pretty good shape (for the Japan Cup) but he’s just as good as he was then. I get the impression he has an easier time racing at Nakayama than Tokyo. Now all we need is for the turf to hold up.”

Daiwa Falcon (5yo, horse)

Hiroyuki Uehara (trainer)
“Everything’s been like clockwork. He’s done all the training we planned for him. He always picks it up at this time of the year and judging by his last performance (first, Fukushima Kinen) I’d say he’s in excellent condition at the moment. He should have no problem with the distance so we’ve got a lot to look forward to here.”

Dark Shadow (5yo, horse)

Ryan Moore
“Judging by what I saw in the workout and looking at his fur today, he seems like he’s in pretty good condition. I could tell right away that he’s got a lot of quality, that he’s a very good horse. He just went through the motions today but I’m really pleased with where he’s at. I think he should be able to run clockwise just fine, on a tight track, too. You never know how a race will turn out but I’m in this to win it. Hopefully I can deliver a Christmas gift to all the fans.” 

Noriyuki Hori (trainer)
“For his last two starts, we worked him hard on a Wednesday, trying to get his weight down. But this time he was ready to go last week which is why he put in his work today. The big concern for us last time (in the Japan Cup) was the distance but we know now he can handle it. He traveled at the back and we had to make our move early but he was still accelerating on the straight. We got a lot out of his last race.”

Earnestly (7yo, horse)

Shozo Sasaki (trainer)
“Considering what the track was like today, he gets passing marks from me for the way he finished the workout. His movement offers more hope than disappointment. You can never say never…”

Eishin Flash (5yo, horse)

Mirco Demuro
“He was focused yet relaxed. I think he was very good today. When I won the Arima Kinen two years ago (with Victoire Pisa), I won the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (with Grand Prix Boss) the week before. I hope I can do the same with Flash this time, too.” 

Hideaki Fujiwara (trainer)
“He was very impressive. I think it’s safe to say he’s ready. This will be his fourth start of the fall so I am keeping an eye out to make sure he doesn’t suffer from exhaustion. But he’s a tough horse who always responds when you ask for it. He knows how to work himself into top form and sustain it once he’s there. (Christophe) Lemaire does a wonderful job of riding him, but I just think the horse hits it off slightly better with Demuro. He made his comeback in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), and I hope he can win this one now after he came so close last year.”

Gold Ship (3yo, colt)

Hiroyuki Uchida
“He got a lot stronger over the summer. He’s more sure of himself now and knows what he’s doing during a race. He can take the race to the opposition while remaining in control. You have to be a good racehorse to be able to do both. We could’ve positioned ourselves closer to the front (in the Kikuka Sho) but the horse didn’t exactly jump out of the gate; maybe he knew we were in for a long one so I just decided to sit back until the time was right. But to produce the performance he did takes not only talent but toughness. There’s no telling how the race will unfold but I want to make sure he leaves every bit of horse out there. This race will tell a lot, whether he can be one of the best racehorses in the country or not. There’s a lot on us here. I’ve been told by the trainer that he’s stronger than ever before which almost worries me because I’m not sure if I can control him if he does become too strong. I was watching the race on TV a year ago so to be back riding in the Arima Kinen with such a special horse is just an unbelievable feeling. I’ll ride Gold Ship with confidence and there’s not much more I can do than that. A bunch of 3-year-olds have won the Arima Kinen before and even when they lost, I remember them having pretty good races. I don’t see much of a gap between the older horses – if at all. I hope I can bring some hope and excitement to all the racing fans.” 

Naosuke Sugai (trainer)
“We wanted to get his lungs going today and crack the whip a little bit, to remind him we’ve got a big race coming up. I think on the day of the race, he’ll be 10 kg bigger than he was for his last race – 10 kg of muscle, too – and that’s the way we wanted it because we asked the farm to add around 20 kg to his frame. He’s built up, really broad across the chest and you’ll notice it. You need power at Nakayama unlike a marathon in the Kikuka Sho. We’re leaving everything in Uchida’s hands now. We’re going up against the big boys but I want him to ride with the utmost confidence. We’re challengers here.”

Lelouch (4yo, colt)

Norihiro Yokoyama
“His time wasn’t especially fast but he’s coming along fine. I’m just glad he’s managed to get this far without any issues. With him, it was never a case of filling out but staying injury free. I thought he had something special from the moment I rode him in his debut. He’s just a very easy ride. The competition will get tougher here, but he doesn’t take a backseat in terms of potential.” 

Kazuo Fujisawa (trainer)
“He has the pace to race near the front and the stamina to leg it out. We’re going up against horses who run regularly at Grade 1. It’ll be interesting and anxious to see how he does here. His whole future is still ahead of him next season.”

Nakayama Knight (4yo, colt)

Yoshitomi Shibata
“His breathing has improved even from a week ago. I was careful not to overwork him but at the same time, you want to make sure he puts in the necessary work because it is a huge race. 

Yoshitaka Ninomiya (trainer)
“The jockey himself worked the horse last week and we went at it pretty hard, but he wanted to work him again this week so we obliged. There’s nothing wrong with him; all systems are a go. He doesn’t struggle running counterclockwise but he does seem to get his legs better underneath him running the other way around. He’s won at Tokyo, but his wins at Nakayama are probably more impressive. I think he’ll be even better next year but I’m pretty happy with his progress at this point in time. He continues to mature physically, and I’m really excited to see how he does against the best horses in the country. It’s not too often that you get to race a horse in the Arima Kinen in the shape he’s in right now.”

Never Bouchon (9yo, horse)

Masanori Ito (trainer)
“He’s got a lot of motivation for a horse his age. He doesn’t seem to be tired, and he’s in good shape. Not bad for an old-timer. He’s starting to show the form of his peak years. He suffered a broken bone at a relatively old age and that was really stressful for him. But he’s back, finally. No one can predict how a race will turn out. I mean, a 10-year-old won the Stayers Stakes. I hope he has his moment and gets the fans involved. I’m really happy with the inside draw; we’ve got less of a distance to cover.”

Ocean Blue (4yo, colt)

Christophe Lemaire
“He’s in extremely good condition, very relaxed as well.” 

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“He looked good. He’s just as fit as he was for his last race. He’s relaxed and I was happy with the way he responded. Hopefully, we can stay on the tail of the pacesetter and travel along the rail.”

Oken Bruce Lee (7yo, horse)

Hidetaka Otonashi (trainer)
“He looked good to me. He’s not in bad shape by his standards.”

Rose Kingdom (5yo, horse)

Yasunari Iwata
“He was running in a straight line down the last furlong. He didn’t show any signs of losing his handle. I hope I can get the most out of my horse.” 

Kojiro Hashiguchi (trainer)
“I was hoping for an inside draw and we got what we wanted. I hope he leaves from the No. 1 post and ends up No. 1. Leaving from this gate, he should be able to save himself for when it matters most. It’s definitely not a disadvantage.”

Rulership (5yo, horse)

Craig Williams
“He’s improved from last week. He seems motivated, and is responding much better. His form dipped a little after the Japan Cup but he’s on the way back up now. A good trainer knows how to prepare a horse in best condition for the race. Mr. Sumii knows what he’s doing; the horse has been perfect this week. I know how much the fans love him. He’s definitely among the favorites and would love to help him win a Grade 1 race in Japan. The crowd is massive at the Arima Kinen and I really hope we can win.” 

Katsuhiko Sumii (trainer)
“He worked among a party of three but he settled fine and was moving really, really well out there. Physically, I’d say he’s the same as he was for his last race – if not a little sharper. Again, he’s going into another race in really good form. We were worried about how he might hold up inside the gate in the Japan Cup and things didn’t turn out well. Since then, we’ve been trying a number of things to make sure he starts properly. We’re still not sure if he’ll be wearing any kind of equipment for the race. I think the only thing standing in our way is the start of the race. I pray we draw an even number. We’ve been doing everything we can for him, especially so that he breaks properly. I hope we can have a good Christmas.”

Sky Dignity (3yo, colt)

Christophe Soumillon
“He was relaxed and he responded really well. It’s tough to compare how he is in real life to the horse I’ve been watching on film, but he is an easy ride for sure.” 

Yasuo Tomomichi (trainer)
“We were thinking about racing him in either the Stayers Stakes or the American Jockey Club Cup after the new year so the farm had been prepared. He’s in good condition and after Orfevre pulled out, we decided to give him a shot. I think his footwork has improved since the Kikuka Sho, and there’s no wear and tear on his body. He doesn’t have a huge stride so a tight course like Nakayama should work to his favor.” 

Yusuke Oe (assistant trainer)
“An inside barrier is definitely better than outside. The weather nor the turf conditions will be an issue for him. He’s such a diligent racehorse. He used to be physically weak and couldn’t keep up in the workouts but that’s no longer the case. He’s always had the quality but he’s added toughness to it now. He’s gotten really, really strong. Given the quality of the field we’re going up against, we can’t sit here and brag about our chances. But he does have lots of stamina and has never had an issue settling, which bodes well for this race. We’re looking forward to it.”

To the Glory (5yo, horse)

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“It’s only been two weeks since his last start so we took it easy on him. I think the workout he had today was just fine. I didn’t see the immediate effect of the cheek pieces in training but I certainly don’t think it will take away from him. I hope he remembers the way he ran the race last year.”

Trailblazer (5yo, horse)

Yutaka Take
“He was in really good condition for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. I was surprised how good he was during the workouts. He came around that next to last turn so smoothly and that’s usually the way he wins races. I was betting on it. He didn’t back down against the world’s best racehorses, and I’m happy we were able to show what he’s made of. I hope we can go back next year – but as a Grade 1 winner. Even when he was an assistant trainer, Yasutoshi and I used to always talk about American racing because he spent time over there learning the trade. I think the distance and the layout of the Arima Kinen suit him because he’s a pretty crafty horse. It’s probably better if he travels toward the front but not on the lead. He can get a bad jump out of the gate from time to time so I want to make sure he gets off to a smooth start. It was never a concern in the States because we always had someone at the gate. The only thing that worries me is his physical condition because he spent a long time in America to come back for this. But he did finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf so as long as he’s in halfway decent shape, we should have a chance here. I’ve only won the Arima Kinen twice, aboard Oguri Cap and Deep Impact. It would be nice to win the Arima Kinen because it’s been a while.” 

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“His action wasn’t very good, even taking into account how bad the course was today. The horse has a history of nose bleeds when he trains too hard so we’ll just have to see what kind of an effect this workout will have on him. He hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue. We worked him to the limit (for the Breeders’ Cup Turf) and we’ve got to admit he’s not close to being in that form right now.”

VERDICT
In years gone by the Japan Cup has proven to be a poor form guide to use in the Arima Kinen with a win ratio of just 8.8%, and place of 17.6% it has often paid to look elsewhere. Rulership comes into this off the back of three decent placed efforts in top races this campaign but his bid depends on his start and taking that into account I couldn’t possibly advise him here.

Of 10 winners in the last 10 years all (apart from Dream Journey in 2009, 5yo) have been aged four or younger, and it generally pays to side with quality with those having already won a Japanese Grade 1 in the same year doing well. If you extend that to having won a JRA G1 over 12 furlongs or less, you are talking about a 40% top two finish ratio, which augurs well for GOLD SHIP who comes into this race with all the form in the book to add to his impressive campaign here, and take the season finale for connections.

[notification_box]2pts win Gold Ship @ SP [/notification_box]

 

Marvelous Kaiser takes 135th Nakayama Daishogai

Majesty Bio winning the 2011 Nakayama Daishogai

The history of the Nakayama Daishogai dates back to 1934 when the biggest jump race in Japan was established in the aim of providing equal excitement to the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), which was the most popular race in flat racing. The highest level of steeplechase racing was originally held as a biannual event held in April and December until the spring version was renamed the Nakayama Grand Jump in 1999. Still, the two jump races continued to position itself as the only two obstacle races of J-G1 level of equal standard and its results serving as a decisive factor in the selection of the seasonal JRA award for Best Steeplechase Horse. In addition to the Nakayama Grand Jump, which was designated an international race in 2000, the Nakayama Daishogai became an international steeplechase event open to foreign contenders in 2011.

The Nakayama Daishogai features 11 jumps over the figure-of-eight-shaped course which includes six up-and-downs over the banks. The first half resembles that of the Nakayama Grand Jump while the Nakayama Daishogai does not include the movable hurdles along the outside turf track and the total distance being 150 meters shorter. The uphill stretch before the wire also is quite a test for many of the runners especially after running at a solid pace throughout the race.

2011 Best Steeplechase Horse Majesty Bio was the heavy favourite  having continued to excel this season with another overwhelming eight-length victory in the Nakayama Grand Jump (J-G1, 4,250m) in April. He came off his third win this year in the Illumination Jump Stakes (3,570m) early this month. Basel River, who finished second in the spring J-G1 this year after his first grade-race victory in the Hanshin Spring Jump (J-G2, 3,900m), was also among the top favourites having come off a runner-up effort in the Kyoto Jump Stakes (J-G3, 3,170m) last month. Meiner Neos, who finished fourth in the Nakayama Daishogai last year, had come off a ten-month break after recovering from a tendon injury, while Spring Ghent had also just come back from a leg injury incurred during his fifth-place performance last year—the 2009 Nakayama Grand Jump winner came into the race with one start on the flat earlier this month. This year’s line-up also included Merci A Time, a consistent jumper who won the 2007 version of this race while finishing second in six J-G1 events at Nakayama between 2005 and 2011. The ten-year-old son of Chief Bearhart, who also suffered a tendon injury after his runner-up effort in the Nakayama Grand Jump (held in July due to schedule change following the earthquake), made his return start over the flat last month to prepare for his first jump start in 17 months.

Symboli Montreux (JPN, by Mogami) set the record when winning the 1991 Nakayama Daishogai (Autumn) in 4:37.2.

Marvelous Kaiser’s first grade victory came in his first attempt at the highest level in this year’s Nakayama Daishogai, denying the challenges of two-time J-G1 winner and heavy favorite Majesty Bio and second choice Basel River who had finished first and second, respectively, in the spring version of the race in April but was nowhere near the winner in this race while with no excuse regarding their performances. The four-year-old son of Marvelous Sunday, also the sire of two-time Nakayama Daishogai winner  King Joy (2008, 2009), proved an immediate success over jumps in his first steeplechase test which he won by nine lengths in October 2011 after registering two wins out of 13 starts on the flat earlier in his career. Coming off his second win following a runner-up effort in the spring this year, he was third in his first grade-race challenge over jumps in the Kyoto High-Jump (J-G2, 3,930m) and scored another third-place finish in his fall debut prior to his Nakayama Daishogai start. Jockey Shigefumi Kumazawa, who is also well recognized in flat racing with three G1 titles to his name, had won nine grade-race jump titles since the grading system was first adopted in steeplechase racing in 1999, but a G1 title was his first this time. It was also the first G1 title for trainer Masami Shibata.

All broke smoothly with Sexy Sweet taking command to set the pace as Spring Ghent, I T Gold followed a few lengths behind. Marvelous Kaiser was forwardly placed behind that beside Merci A Time in fourth or fifth as all the horses cleared the water jump. Heavy favourite Majesty Bio sat around eighth position while Basel River kept track of the defending champion another length behind that in mid-pack.

The field continued to travel at a moderate pace over the course rated good after the rain earlier in the day as Sexy Sweet maintained a comfortable margin up to around two thirds of the race, but the four-year-old filly began to tire after clearing the big hedge (fence seventh) and was overtaken by Spring Ghent approaching the final fence.

Marvelous Kaiser also made headway to challenge and caught the 12-year-old veteran who gave a terrific fight to duel with the four-year-old chestnut up to the last turn. However, once entering the stretch for home, Marvelous Kaiser found another gear, despite keeping pace with the leaders for the whole trip, and was uncontested for the rest of the way as Basel River and Majesty Bio desperately rushed to contention but failed to close the gap behind the winner in second and third, respectively.

Krypton Factor to aim for all top Dubai Carnival sprints

When Krypton Factor took to the track at Meydan Racecourse at the start of last season, he was a handicapper rated 100.

This season he will embark on the defense of his 2012 US$2m Dubai Golden Shaheen Crown a Group 1 winner rated 123.

Within the span of just four races last term the highly progressive gelding worked his way through the ratings to earn a spot in the Group 1 Dubai World Cup day all-weather sprint alongside the likes of the contest’s 2012 winner, Rocket Man and Bob Baffert’s The Factor.

“I think a lot of people were questioning whether he had the class,” says owner-trainer Nass of his first Group 1 winner. “In a very short span he went from being a handicapper rated 100 to being a Group 1 winner. He wasn’t the favourite and I don’t think anybody expected him to win in the way he did. He looked the winner around 200m out.”

This season the handsome bay won’t get onto the track until the Al Shindagha Sprint rolls around in February.

“There isn’t really a race for Krypton Factor until February,” says Nass. As well as conditioning 11 horses in Dubai, the handler also maintains a 42-strong yard in his native Bahrain and has a small number of horses in training in the UK. Among them is the promising Mujazif, a three-length winner of a nice maiden for Brian Meehan in Newmarket this October.

“I’ll be looking at the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint in mid Febuary and the Mahab Al Shimal on Super Saturday for him,” he says.

Krypton Factor was the popular success story of the Dubai World Cup Carnival last season. His duels with Hitchens captured the imagination of race fans. Hitchens first beat Nass’s charge by a short head in the Al Shindagha Sprint before the fast-improving Krypton Factor turned the tables on David Barron’s sprinter in the Mahab Al Shimal.

Then on World Cup day Krypton Factor, ridden by regular jockey, Kieren Fallon, claimed the biggest sprint prize, dashing the hopes of Pat Shaw’s defending champion, Rocket Man as well as pre-race favourite, The Factor to claim the Golden Shaheen.

Now Nass is looking forward to seeing whether his stable star can defend his Golden Shaheen Crown on March 30, 2013.

“He went to Singapore and Ascot and encountered soft ground and he’d done some travelling so we didn’t see him at his best,” he says. “But he loves the all-weather in Dubai and he is back here now. He’s doing very well but he’s still far away from being ready for his first run, which won’t be until later in the season.”

But Nass has plenty to keep him busy until then. He recently purchased Carnival runners, Lui Rei an old Dubai campaigner and two-year-old Hototo, who finished sixth in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes for former trainer, Kevin Ryan, in October.

“Lui Rei is rated 102 and has run around Meydan a few times,” says Nass. “He’s not a young horse and we are just hoping that he bounces back to his best form. Hototo is rated 104 and he looks like a consistent youngster that I’m hoping can maintain that same form over here.”

With 42 days to go until the Carnival, Nass is set to saddle his first runner of the new season tomorrow (Friday) at Jebel Ali Racecourse.

Critical Moment goes to post in a 1,600m maiden at the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum-owned course under jockey, Pat Cosgrave.

“He ran in the UAE last year having come over from England rated 100,” says Nass, who won’t be in attendance at the races on Friday as he also has runners in Bahrain. “He’s now rated 88, which hopefully should be nice competitive mark. He stayed here in Dubai over the summer and I’m looking forward to seeing how he comes on.”

Also carrying the Nass colours this season will be Forevertheoptimist and Journalistic who will make their seasonal debuts at Meydan on Thursday December 6.

“Forevertheoptimist is in the same boat as Critical Moment,” says Nass. “He came here last year but we could not get him right so he didn’t run. He’s dropped from a mark of 97 to 91. Journalistic is a maiden who had five attempts in England, coming second once and third twice. I’m hoping that the break has helped him come on since his last run.”

Also due to have pre-Carnival runs are Finest Reserve, Shamsheer, Muraweg and Rocks Off.

“I bought them over from Bahrain and they’ve all run there apart from Finest Reserve,” says Nass. “They have good race records and they are just horses that I thought would take to the all-weather.”

Drinmore Novices Chase 2012

Along with the Royal Bond Novices Hurdle and the Hatton’s Grace this Sunday, Fairyhouse has a Grade 1 chase on a quality packed card. Won last year by Bog Warrior, owners Gigginstown Stud will be hoping to keep the race in their possession for another year, sending out another Tony Martin trained runner in the shape of Dedigout.

pink, light green spots, pink sleeves & cap ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE – Has had his injury problems which saw him sidelined throughout the whole of 2011 but made a seriously impressive comeback on chasing debut with an unextended victory at Punchestown. Thrashed a horse in Giblin who wasn’t beaten much further by Hidden Cyclone since then and all the form suggests this horse could be the one to be on in this competitive Grade 1 chase. I always thought this horse would make into a cracking chaser and although it is embarking on that career a season or two later than I expected he still showed signs of that ability when winning when last seen.

emerald green, yellow chevron & sleeves, red cap BUCKERS BRIDGE – Remains unbeaten and connections wasted no time in going chasing after a successful bumper campaign yielding two impressive wins. A winner in the point-to-point sphere he made a winning chasing debut when beating Sword Of Destiny (impressive winner since). He looks the type to continue improving over longer distances and has plenty of time to shape himself into a decent staying chaser but I think this could be a step too soon here.

maroon, white star, armlets and star on cap DEDIGOUT – A wide-margin winner on chasing debut but on the face of it, it was pretty much an egg-and-spoon race so he was entitled to win by such a distance. A very good novice hurdler, culminating with a good victory in Grade 1 conditions at the Punchestown Festival last spring he is certainly an interesting sort for the powerful owners Gigginstown and will be very popular with the betting public on the day I feel.

red, black seams, striped sleeves & cap PRIDE OF THE ARTIC – Has certainly improved on his hurdles form since being sent chasing, culminating with a victory in the Grade 3 Like A Butterfly Novices Chase at Tipperary when last seen. Has been awarded a rating of 144, and although is another likely to run his race I think he’ll struggle against the main contenders in this race and could perhaps pick up a place if something happens to either Arvika Ligeonniere or Dedigout.

orange & emerald green chevrons, orange sleeves, striped cap TEXAS JACK – Wasn’t as good as these over hurdles but made a winning chasing debut when edging out Make A Track at Naas. He will once again need to improve and the general feeling is that he has a task at hand to try and serve it up to the more likely rivals in this race and perhaps the experience is the best he can hope for at the moment.

VERDICT
In what looks a tight race, the bookmakers aren’t giving much away but I feel the value in the race certainly lies with ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE who at around 100/30 looks a cracking price against the ‘hype’ of Dedigout. Willie Mullins has his string in cracking form, has the best jockey in Ruby Walsh in the plate and ground conditions to suit.

[notification_box]1pt win Arvika Ligeonniere @ 10-3 with Ladbrokes [/notification_box]
 

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below what you think will win, and why!

Royal Bond Novices Hurdle 2012

A race named after the Arthur Moore trained Royal Bond, a successful national hunt horse in the early 1980’s; the race itself was established in 1994 and has held Grade 1 status throughout its history. It is usually staged on the same afternoon as the Drinmore Novices’ Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and is run over two miles.

A brief look back through the history of the race tells a story of some impressive champions have etched their name into the roll call of winners before moving onto bigger and better things.

Names like Istabraq, Moscow Flyer, Like A Butterfly, Hardy Eustace, Newmill and Hurricane Fly are amongst past winners and it is a race that both Noel Meade and more recently Willie Mullins have farmed over the last decade.

Once again we have a small but select field lining up for this prize, and this is one of the best renewals I’ve seen in recent years.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starALLY CASCADE – Looks to have ground to find on all known form but has to be respected hailing from the Noel Meade stable. A facile winner of a bumper before finishing second to Jezki on his hurdles debut. Jezki already had the benefit of a recent run on the flat and has since gone on to further success in fine style to suggest Ally Cascade is no back number in this contest and has to be respected. The only thing that would concern me is that all ten of the recent winners of this race had all won over hurdles prior to winning the Royal Bond.

pink, light green spots, pink sleeves & capCHAMPAGNE FEVER – Winner of both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Champion Bumpers (first horse since Dunguib (who won this race) to do the double). He is a winner of four of his five races and made a successful debut over hurdles two weeks ago. Let’s not get carried away though, that race he won was an egg-and-spoon race as far as hurdles go and his pedigree is absolutely laden with stamina. I actually thought he’d make into a fairly nice staying chaser in the future and thus could find this trip on the sharp side against a better quality of opposition and is far too short for me at the prices.

dark blue, dark blue & orange hooped sleeves, orange cap, dark blue starCLONBANAN LAD – A winner at the first time over hurdles after switching from a bumper campaign which yielded two victories from four attempts. He was well beaten by Champagne Fever in both the Cheltenham and Punchestown bumpers and quite whether he has the class necessary to take this prize remains open to question. If he were to win this though he’d be only the third horse aged over 5 to win this race, with Like A Butterfly (2001) and more recently Dunguib (2009) being the two before him.

orange, black star , black & orange hooped sleeves, orange cap, black starJEZKI – A very likeable honest sort from the Jessica Harrington outfit, and a winner of four of his six races. Held by Champagne Fever in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March he made a workmanlike debut over hurdles to edge out Ally Cascade when the pair made their debut over timber at the end of October. Jezki has followed that up with a recent success when fairly un-extended to thrash a couple of fair 135+ rated individuals in Un Beau Matin and Pageboy, with the 143 rated Hisabaat a further 22L back in fourth (although he arguably run below form).

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starMIDNIGHT OIL – Another entrant from the Willie Mullins stable who looks to have very little chance of winning this race on hurdles form shown thus far. Beaten by Bat Masterson (a fair 130’s rated performer) on hurdles debut before readily put away by Burrenbridge Lodge when last at Fairyhouse in April, his peak flat form would give him a chance in this but on what we’ve seen thus far he couldn’t enter considerations.

yellow, dark blue sash, dark blue cap, yellow starMINSK – A four-year-old with a huge reputation who came very close to make a winning debut over hurdles when getting edged out by Burrenbridge Lodge in a mad dash to the line. He made amends though on his next start over hurdles when thumping previously unbeaten bumper performer Glens Melody from the powerful Willie Mullins stable. He is a tricky horse to assess as he is no doubt better than his debut over hurdles but his proximity to Burrenbridge Lodge (now rated 129) is a slight concern, but I think it’s fair to say he would have beaten him had he landed faster over the last flight.

royal blue, light blue star, white sleeves, royal blue stars, white cap, royal blue starZUZKA – The third runner and probably second string for the Willie Mullins stable. This daughter of Flemensfirth was a fair performer in the bumper sphere before taking a while to get the hang of hurdling. Bred for stamina it was no real surprise to see her step up when upped in distance last time, and a return to the minimum trip looks sure to work against her and looks out of her depth in this grade to me.

VERDICT:
In what looks a typically tough renewal of a race which in recent years has gone the way of the favourite (last 4 renewals) I’m going to go against the grain and try and get Champagne Fever beaten. Adding to the mixture is the flat spice of Minsk who still holds his huge reputation, and got off the mark over hurdles last time but he will be over bet such is his reputation. I also think he takes a little too long in the air over his flights for my liking, and that could prove his undoing if it comes down to a battle over the last flight.

With Clonbanan Lad, Zuzka and Midnight Oil not appearing to have the class to win this grade of race it looks to be left between old adversaries Ally Cascade and JEZKI, with the latter coming out on top for me after a very authoritative success over decent horses last time. The gelded son of Milan will no doubt improve for going up in trip like a few of his rivals here but I like the way he gets things done in his races and he thrashed some fair 130 rated rivals with utmost disdain last time.

[notification_box]2pts win Jezki @ 9-2 with Boylesports and PaddyPower[/notification_box]
 

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below what you think will win, and why!

Hennessy Gold Cup Preview 2012

It is fairly obvious to anyone with half an idea about horse racing that this year’s Hennessy Gold Cup is a fascinating and high quality renewal. It looks like there is going to be a star-studded line up going to post on Saturday afternoon, with the headline act sure to be Bobs Worth should Nicky Henderson give him the ‘green light’ on Tuesday afternoon.

Last year’s RSA Chase hero makes his seasonal return off a mark of 160, although is so far untested on ground softer than ‘Good to Soft’ so it remains to be seen if he can handle conditions if they worsen throughout the week – he has already had a breathing operation last season.

Alongside Bobs Worth is the current top-weight and ‘character’ that is Tidal Bay who comes into this off the back of an impressive victory in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his seasonal return. I’ve always had Tidal Bay down though as the sort of guy you’d see at school who would lure kids into a false sense of security that he was their friend before coaxing them towards the nearest alleyway and taking their lunch money – he has done that to me a few times (Tidal Bay that is – click this over here now)!

Roberto Goldback and The Package come into the race off the back of impressive victories last time, and First Lieutenant ran a very brave race to fill second to Kauto Stone when the pair met in Ireland a month ago.

A quick check of the weather suggests Newbury shouldn’t be getting too much rain during the week, so the ground should be fairly similar to what is currently being described ‘Soft’ and generally Newbury does drain fairly well for a jumps track so we shouldn’t be dealing with bottomless conditions come raceday.

black and beige (halved), chevrons on sleeves, beige capTIDAL BAY – Has recently put together the first back-to-back success since his novice chasing campaign in 2008 when recently landing the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his seasonal return. He rounded off his previous campaign with a rousing victory when absolutely slamming the field in the Bet365 Gold Cup in soft ground off a mark of 154. Is now up to 166 and I think that’s too much of an ask for this old boy against these rivals. He has failed to beat both Midnight Chase and Neptune Collonges off this mark both off level weights and in receipt of weight and I couldn’t see either of those horses winning a Hennessy off a mark of 166, so even though Ruby Walsh has already been declared he wouldn’t be for me.

emerald green, dark green sleeves, dark green and emerald green quartered capROBERTO GOLDBACK – Put in a quality return to action on debut for Nicky Henderson when slamming the field by nine lengths at Ascot last time (Duke Of Lucca in-behind), and in the process removed all thoughts that he was just a small-field specialist when beating home 13 rivals. He was kept wide throughout and kicked on turning for home to score a strong success, but has been handed a 12lb raise by the official handicapper and competes here off a mark of 162. It looks a difficult task for the gelded son of Bob Back who despite looking impressive last time will have to give away weight to better horses here, and it would be hard to imagine him being good enough to do that in all honesty.

royal blue, red stripe, red capBOBS WORTH – Arguably the horse the race pretty much revolves around for me, and the definite class angle. He returns to action off a mark of 160 which looks fairly lenient given the impression he made when winning a strongly contested RSA Chase last season. He is untested on ground this soft though so that could be a concern, but he is bred to handle conditions and he is also unbeaten in five attempts going left-handed and has won at Newbury previous. Whatever way you look at his form it holds up to the closest inspection and he is a worthy favourite.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starFIRST LIEUTENANT – A horse I’ve been waiting to go back up in distance after ending last season over two miles and returning over two and a half this campaign. A solid run when second to Kauto Stone in a Grade 1 when last seen a month ago has seen him raised 4lb in the weights to a mark of 159. Was beaten 2.5L by Bobs Worth off level weights at Cheltenham so I can’t see 1lb doing much to reverse the form in truth but he is a horse I like a lot, and one worthy of respect in this race.

light blue, orange epauletsJUNIOR – Is a better horse on quicker ground and later in the season when able to get such conditions. He has struggled really since winning at Cheltenham off 134 two seasons ago, and a brief solid run when second to Ikorodu Road at Doncaster has been backed up with two failed attempts to complete and has to be off the list of contenders for me.

purple and white (halved), sleeves reversed, light blue capPLANET OF SOUND – Isn’t getting any younger and is the horse I backed in this race last season when finding Carruthers too good in the closing third of the race. He usually goes fairly well fresh so that lacklustre effort at Wetherby has to come of somewhat of a concern. He is 6lb lower in the weight this time round though, and although he’ll probably be able to reverse form with Carruthers it is hard to see him being good enough to win this at his age, and is best passed over in my opinion.

emerald green and white check, halved sleeves, emerald green capHOLD ON JULIO – Is on many people’s shortlists for this race this season, and made a pleasing return to action when third at Cheltenham in October. Lightly raced and scope for further improvement he wouldn’t be out of it here off a mark of 148 and is certainly one of the more likely types for a yard in decent form.

red & black halved, diabolo on sleeves, quartered capLION NA BEARNAI – This one’s improvement came from seemingly out of nowhere when landing a Grade 2 Novice Chase off a mark of 108 at 50-1, but he duly followed that success up with a win in a valuable handicap chase off 27lb higher on his next start. He has now been handed a further 12lb rise for that success and my punting history has taught me to steer clear of these types, and it’d be hard to imagine this one defying a further rise in the weights against this calibre of opposition.

white, black diamond, red sleeves and capCARRUTHERS – Has looked seriously out of sorts since winning this race 12 months ago, and is able to return here off a 2lb lower mark than he won off last season. His form hasn’t been anything to write home about this season and although he goes well around Newbury I’d be very surprised if this one won again.

black and white (halved), red sleeves and capTATENEN – Trainer Richard Rowe apparently ‘can’t wait’ for the Hennessy with his charge but from what I’ve read in the form book his entrant doesn’t really have the class to be winning such a contest from his rating. A better horse around Ascot he will need somewhat of a miracle to win this race off a mark of 147, and isn’t one I can entertain for any great length of time.

royal blue, emerald green sleeves, white cap, emerald green spotsTHE PACKAGE – Returned as good as ever to take out the Badger Ales Trophy around Wincanton on seasonal return, and did so with a rather authorative display. The ground looks like being ideal for the David Pipe trained gelding but with just two weeks between the Hennessy and his previous race, I can see this race coming a little too soon for the son of Kayf Tara, who had quite a hard race last time.

dark blue and white stripes, halved sleevesTEAFORTHREE – A stoutly bred son of Oscar, Teaforthree always requires a run or two to come right after a layoff so I wouldn’t be too concerned by a below-par showing at Cheltenham on seasonal return in October. He previously ran out a good solid winner of a competitive National Hunt Chase over four miles at the Cheltenham Festival in March beating Harry The Viking by 2 lengths and he could well be in the shakeup here off this sort of rating after a recent run.

dark green, royal blue diamondFRUITY O’ROONEY – Has looked the type to do well in this race based on what I’ve seen of him so far. Solid placed efforts off 140 at both Doncaster and Cheltenham before finishing fifth off this mark in the Scottish National. A comeback over hurdles should have put him right for this contest, but he wouldn’t want the ground too soft despite winning on heavy over hurdles, majority of his better chase runs have came on decent ground – has his chances at these weights.

light green, yellow inverted triangle, yellow sleeves, red diamonds, yellow cap, red diamondsSAINT ARE – A very interesting contender for this staying handicap chase and one which could be well handicapped in this sort of grade. He has had a lot of his racing at Cheltenham and it is clear to see from his form figures that he hates the place (754U0) whereas away from Cheltenham his form improves to (2F310221) and has shown a liking to the flatter left handed tracks of both Aintree and Newbury. He is certainly bred to relish the stamina test he will face at the weekend, and the Hennessy is usually run at a searching pace throughout which will play to this horses strengths. Any juice in the ground will be a bonus and he has shown a tendency to go well fresh and finished second on his comeback last year beaten 4.5L over an inadequate trip to Champion Court (now rated 155) so you’d think there could be room for manoeuvre off his rating of 145.

red, black star, striped sleeves, yellow cap, black starDUKE OF LUCCA – Whilst I find it hard to imagine this horse winning the Hennessy I found it hard to remove him from my final shortlist. A good second to Roberto Goldback at Ascot last time you’d have to think he might have got a little closer had he not been crossed by Nataani and his slow jump at the last. A rating of 144 certainly looks workable and a return to a left-handed track ought to be an extra positive for ‘The Duke’ and I can see him going fairly close in this contest at a very decent price.

white, red triple diamond, royal blue sleeves, white stars, white cap, red diamondsDIAMOND HARRY – Has failed to complete on his last three starts and this former top-class chasing prospect appears to have seen better days. Has been coming down in the weights and did win this race in 2010 for Nick Williams off 13lb higher but he looks on the downgrade these days, and couldn’t entertain this one sadly.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starMAGNANIMITY – A tricky horse to assess with a very in-and-out profile but would have to be respected if Dessie Hughes decides to make the trip across the pond. From what I have seen he wouldn’t be well handicapped off a mark of 143 so he has questions to answer and wouldn’t be one I’d be rushing to back.

red, white stars on sleevesHARRY THE VIKING  – Beaten by Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and has since failed to complete in two starts after that effort. Has questions to answer and a mark of 142 looks stiff enough really to me given I think Teaforthree held a definite advantage at Cheltenham and is only 4lb higher in the weights than Paul Nicholls’ gelding.

dark blue, pink diamond, armlets and diamond on capIKORODU ROAD – Came to hand last season over fences winning a couple of decent staying handicaps and going up 10lb in the weights in the process but I have a feeling this one’s improvement may have reached a plateau, and is coming up against some decent rivals here and hard to see him reaching the frame.

brown, orange seams and sleeves, quartered capFRISCO DEPOT – On a line through their run at Punchestown this one has the beating of Magnanimity and has the advantage of a further 5lb coming off his back thanks to Sam Whaley-Cohen’s allowance. His jockey has his knockers for his rides aboard Long Run but he isn’t the worst jockey I’ve seen and didn’t do much wrong at Haydock last weekend IMO. Was still travelling fairly well at Ascot when coming to grief last time behind Roberto Goldback but I don’t think he’d of won and I can’t see him being good enough to win here either.

dark blue, royal blue chevrons, dark blue cap, royal blue starSOLL – Has switched from Willie Mullins to Jo Hughes and is very much the unexposed aspect to this race. Is certainly bred for the job and was unlucky when brought-down at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen. Could be a stone well in off his rating of 139 but I’d of much preferred the horse to still be with Willie Mullins and it’s hard to know what the plans are for this one, so I’m leaving this as a watching brief for now until I’ve seen for myself what they plan to do with this horse.

white and black stripes, royal blue sleeves, white capALFIE SPINNER – Third behind Roberto Goldback and Duke Of Lucca at Ascot last time and he wasn’t closing the gap at any real pace when the line came, so it would be hard to imagine this gelded son of Alflora getting into the frame in this big handicap. Has dropped 2lb in the weights for that run but that shouldn’t be enough to feature here and is another I’m leaving alone.

VERDICT
All in all this is a fairly tough race to assess as one would come to expect given its history, and chances are we won’t be left amazed and open mouthed like we were when Denman retained his Hennessy off top weight back in 2009. However it looks a class race on paper and provided the main protagonists line up at the weekend we should be in for a cracking renewal.

On form Bobs Worth could be absolutely thrown in off a mark of 160, and you’d have to think there will be more to come from him this season in higher grade chases. The only problem I have is you aren’t going to get rich at the 7/2 on offer, and although he is the most likely winner for me I usually try to look elsewhere for a value alternative.

First Lieutenant is another I expect a good run from (if he lines up), and Mouse Morris will be making a decision during the week on his participation but a repeat of his run when second to Kauto Stone last time out would put him bang into contention and looks a better priced alternative to Bobs Worth at around 14/1.

However the two which catch my eye are Duke Of Lucca who looks tailor-made for this sort of test, has been given a pipe opener last time at Ascot and a return to a left handed galloping track should coax out further improvement from this likeable sort, and SAINT ARE. The latter of which I find very interesting off this mark of 145, is bred for the distance and is fairly unexposed over this trip if you forget his races around Cheltenham where he clearly doesn’t act – I think he is a cracking price to be honest and whilst he might necessarily come up short against Bobs Worth and perhaps First Lieutenant he is sure to run his race.

[notification_box]1.5pts each-way Saint Are @ 14-1 with Betfred, Boylesports, SportingBet
0.5pts each-way Duke Of Lucca @ 20-1 with Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, PaddyPower
Both horses 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 [/notification_box]
What do you fancy? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on the race and what you are backing!

Coral Hurdle (Ascot Hurdle) Preview 2012

A small and select field for the 2012 renewal of the Coral Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on Saturday, with just the four runners going to post.

Won last year by the Donald McCain trained Overturn who has now embarked on a novice chasing campaign, so won’t be around to try and defend his crown so it’ll be going with a horse that will be winning this race for the first time.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/GMOOH.png” href=””][/frame_right]1. GET ME OUT OF HERE
A very likeable son of Accordion, who is very likely to be the pace in this race under champion jockey Tony McCoy. He has put together back-to-back successes in his two recent runs and given he usually comes on plenty for his first run you have to take note of that victory last time out over Brampour, in the William Hill Hurdle. He has high class form but was held by Oscar Whisky whilst in receipt of weight (8lb) when second in the Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) at Cheltenham last year.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/oscar.png” href=””][/frame_right]2. OSCAR WHISKY
Without doubt the class horse in the race, and many would argue he was coming to win the race last year when taking a tumbling fall when overstepping the final flight. He is a small field specialist with form reading: 111F1111 (8 runners or less), and has a killer burst of acceleration which will be his great strength in this sort of battle. I think he is the one to beat and is likely to sit behind likely pace-setter Get Me Out Of Here, stalking him into the straight and then easing clear over the last.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/brampour.png” href=””][/frame_right]3. BRAMPOUR
Has always been held in some regard at Ditcheat and in some ways has yet to reach the lofty heights he was touted for early on in his career, however last year showed somewhat of a resurgence to form; winning a handicap hurdle at Ascot before taking down the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham off 149. Came up short in both The International and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham since, and was held by Get Me Out Of Here on return at Kempton on his most recent start. The step-up in trip ought to suit this stamina laden sort and that could bring out more improvement but he seems a horse better in larger fields where there is a true pace and could be undone by a tactical affair likely here.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/raya.png” href=””][/frame_right]4. RAYA STAR
Hails from the Barbury Castle outfit of Alan King and has shown improvement through the handicapping ranks, rounding off with a good success in a decent handicap at this track last time out (off 149). Is certainly bred to improve over further even though his only start over the longer distance yielded a defeat to Premier Grand Cru (now rated 133), but I think Raya Star is a much better animal now than he was back then. He will need to improve again and I don’t think the small field will be of great help to him either given he likes to take cover in races and is likely to come up short against this opposition in these conditions.

VERDICT:
On paper this race looks between OSCAR WHISKY and Get Me Out Of Here and I think that is what we’ll get, with the Nicky Henderson trained gelding confirming Relkeel Hurdle form with Jonjo’s charge. These two last locked horns in the Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) at Cheltenham last December and given that they now race off level weights you’d have to expect Oscar Whisky to confirm his 1.75L superiority over Get Me Out Of Here given the fact he is 8lbs better off at the weights.

If the ground got any softer it would be a concern for Brampour who has shown a liking for a little juice but not too much, but that wouldn’t hurt Raya Star’s chances who won a decent handicap around here last year in testing conditions and Alan King’s charge could sneak into third behind the main two if this is the case.

[notification_box]3pts win Oscar Whisky @ 5/6 with StanJames & Coral [/notification_box]

 

Q&A with Kevin Parsons (NASS)

National Association of Stable Staff or NASS for short, have recently won a bid from Union Learn Funding which will provide for a Union Learn Project Manager, who will based in Newmarket at the New Astley Club. They have recently appointed Kevin Parsons who started with NASS on the 8 November; Kevin has provided a short biography which outlines his history in racing and his plans for the Newmarket Learning and Community Project.

So having met with Union Learn who are funding the project last week, NASS are hoping to roll out courses with the help of local college’s and tutors starting in The New Astley Club, Newmarket in January. The main objective is to increase the workforce’s current skills and qualifications and to give them an opportunity to do so in areas they choose.

Then hopefully with success NASS will be able to progress nationally working on the same ideas in Lambourn, Epsom, Middleham, Malton, South West and The Midlands. This will give everyone involved in Racing all around the country a chance to enrol on the courses and help make this a success for all participants.

As with the sport side of things Kevin is looking to organise a National Football Cup competition between racing regions (as used to be in place years ago).  As well look to organise a National Go Karting competition starting off in each region then to a grand final somewhere central to everyone.  Another idea is to do something similar with paintballing.

Another task for Kevin is to get the Cricket day that used to be hosted once a year in Arundel going again as this is another sport event that has not been continued for the last few years and was always a fun day for those involved.

All in all the whole idea of the project is to re-engage stable staff with a community feel and to give them a chance in extra learning and taking part in events. At the same time adding members to our union that works and provides for them.

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kevo.png” href=”#”]Kevin Parsons with the Newmarket Ladies Team.[/frame_center]

Kevin Parsons – Biography

Kevin has been involved part time in racing since catching the bug at 14 and then started working full time in racing as when he left school aged 16.

Kevin has spent the last 18 years enjoying working with horses and held positions ranging from apprentice; conditional jockey; work rider; stable lad, head lad and travelling head lad. He has been lucky enough to travel all around the world including Europe and Dubai and worked with many good horses. In his time in racing he has worked for some excellent trainers like; Roger Charlton, David Loder, John Gosden, Chris Wall and Roger Varian.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/kev.png” href=”#”]Kevin Parsons[/frame_right]

During his 18 year career in racing, Kevin has always been involved with organising football games including Roger Charlton’s vs.  Peter Chapple-Hyam’s , Newmarket vs. Lambourn, North vs. South and most recently the NASS national team.

He began at the British Racing School (course 90)1996 and has completed up to his NVQ Level 3 in Horse and Stable Management as well as FA Level 2 Coaching Badges and FA youth module 1. So he is now looking to combine all his experience and skills working with NASS in giving the people in racing something back.

Kevin will be looking to organise more sporting events, as well as putting on local course’s to offer IT courses along with core subjects such as maths,  English and any other course’s that may be of interest to people within the local community. They plan to hold a survey using a page on the NASS website which will be dedicated to sports events, to find out more about ‘what the people want’ as well as talking and interacting with racing staff to find out their interests and then looking to build events and courses around those.

Q&A with Kevin Parsons

Having filled various positions within racing over the last 18 years, what made you finally make the decision to take up a more active role within the racing community and go from being a general stable employee to your current role for NASS?

[quote]KP: Well firstly it was offered to me by NASS Chief Executive George McGrath whilst the bid for the funding was in motion. After we sat down and had a chat about what the job was to entail and what they were looking for, I went away to think about it and if I was the right man for the job. Firstly knowing it was going to be a massive change in career as all I have known since leaving school was early starts and horses, and having to be dedicated to a job that can be hard at times especially in the winter. But this is a job I have to have a good crack at for myself, the stable staff and racing as a whole, even though I will miss the day to day banter and riding out in the summer I feel if I can make a difference in this new role it will all be worthwhile.[/quote]

So NASS stands for National Association of Stable Staff, tell us more about what they do etc?

[quote]KP: NASS is the union for stable staff and was formed in the early seventies as the SLA (Stable Lads Association) unfortunately though it went through a dismal period in the early 2000’s and a regeneration took place, and this newly named organisation was formed in 2007 and renamed by a member to its current name. With its newly elected Chief Executive George McGrath who was voted in and started his role in August this year the whole Union is looking to expand, with 18,000 people in racing we need to have more than the current third of staff signed up. NASS meets with the National Trainers Federation every year to discuss wage and expense rises as well as improvement in working conditions. They also legally represent any member who needs representation in a dismissal case or with any grievances at work. So to be a member is free and only beneficial and we need to get more people on board.[/quote]

As Project Manager for NASS what does your job entail on a day to day basis?

[quote]KP: At the minute it’s lots of organising and planning, interacting with tutors, organising to work with the British Racing School and Northern Racing College and trying to establish links. As well this I’m helping to design and set up the IT Suite in the New Astley Club. Its all very new to me though so learning as I go, whilst hoping to get numbers on the first courses to get the ball rolling.[/quote]

What do you think people within the racing community can achieve by taking part in courses provided by NASS?

[quote]KP: They can achieve qualifications which will enable them to progress from racing into other careers (if they so choose), not that we want to lose anyone from the industry but a more skilled work staff is better for our industry overall. Knowing they can learn and get qualifications to do other things will be good for the racing staff, and it will keep people more interested in their jobs whilst learning new things in their spare time.[/quote]

What are you most excited about introducing to the racing community over the coming months?

[quote]KP: Mainly the chance to add to their qualifications with new ones and even qualifications they never thought about trying. We are looking to put on courses to cover a wide range of activities, be it from IT Skills to Cooking or Gardening to Basket Weaving, basically whatever the racing staff want we will look to provide. Being sporty myself the National Go Karting Championship we are planning for next year will be great fun for members, and will help boost staff morale and be a great way to bring the community closer together![/quote]

If somebody would like to find out more information on the courses provided by NASS, where would be their best place to go?

[quote]KP: The NASS website which is currently being updated and modernised but the old website still remains available at www.naoss.co.uk this will eventually have a section for all this info on as well as the sporting events coming up and being planned. Otherwise NASS has a page on Facebook or ringing the office on 01283 211522.[/quote]

Anything else you would like people to know about?

[quote]KP: Well mainly that joining NASS is completely free and they work for you the racing staff! All these events and courses we are planning are to get more people involved in activities out of work time and to give them something else to do, aim for and hopefully achieve! Each event and course will be for members and you can sign up on the day, so at the same time as providing these activities NASS will also be gaining the union members and helping us to grow and become much stronger and more influential  in the national industry.[/quote]

 

Doing nothing this weekend and local to Newmarket? Get yourself down to the match and show your support!

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/nass.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]

What got me into racing?

I’ve always been a sports fan from the day I could walk. From Football to Rugby to Cricket and everything in between. But as a child, horse racing never caught my eye. I’d hate it when Grandstand would interrupt something to broadcast a race from Haydock or Sandown, it all looked the same to me at a young age. I had no appreciation for what I was watching and so would wander off outside with a football or a tennis racquet. My friend used to run https://www.radracquets.com/ – and was an avid tennis fan, so the glass-half full side was that I had someone to play with. The only member of my family to have been keen on it was my Grandfather who passed away many years before I was born. Without that influence it was football and cricket that became the sporting passions of my youth.

In the past few years however, horse racing has eclipsed them both. Not immediately at first. I’d watch the ‘big’ races; the Grand National and the Derby, then the odd handicap at a big race meeting, but before long I found myself watching maidens and sellers at Wolverhampton with almost the same zeal. Football isn’t the sport it once was, players are now celebrities rather than sportsmen and, in my opinion, care more about appearing on the front of a newspaper than the back of it. And as a purist there isn’t enough Test matches to keep me interested in cricket for any length of time. Racing however, never stops. The National Hunt season ends, the Flat season begins, old favourites return and a new crop emerges.  It’s impossible to get bored!

Obviously the interest skipped a generation from my Grandfather but has now manifested itself in me and I’m completely converted. Maybe I just didn’t understand it in my early years? It’s not the easiest sport to comprehend after all.  With so many horses, trainers, distances and venues, all over the world,  it can seem overwhelming to someone just finding the sport with no-one around to guide their hand.  This is an area I feel the BHA and even Racing For Change need to address.  Information needs to be more accessible to newcomers. Especially to those wanting to actively participate in the sport, even if that only amounts to having a flutter at the weekend.

But with this I’ve found horse racing rewards patience.  It rewards those who buy their copies of the Racing Post and watch The Morning Line religiously as I now do. And when those small sacrifices are made the ‘Sport of Kings’ gives back much more than it demands.  Nowadays, I wouldn’t dream of choosing a football terrace over standing by a parade ring, looking through a race programme for my selection as the  horses are led past,  (not always with the greatest success) and at the breeding of an animal that combines such grace with incredible power.

For me it’s these two things that make it so easy, too easy, to become attached to the chief protagonists. They don’t always have to be the best ones either. I quickly fell for Lough Derg with his front running style and red blinkers. His all out win when off the bridle a long way from home in the Long Walk Hurdle was arresting to someone new to the game and even in defeat he would always give his all.  Exotic Dancer was another I instantly took to heart. Always clearly visible in any race due to his gorgeous bay coat.  And  It was the demise of Sir Robert Ogden’s French import that taught me how painful it can be too, learning of his death after the Aintree Totesport Bowl in 2009 was a bitter pill.

But for each low point there is an equally meaningful high. Watching Sea The Stars weave his way to the win the Arc from an unlikely position 5 furlongs from home with Jim McGrath describing him aptly as, ‘perfection in equine form’, on crossing the line, will live long in the memory. As well as following Cinders and Ashes all of last season knowing he was the Supreme Novice in waiting and to have my opinion vindicated is a feeling that only racing can give.

These are the ups and downs I’ve had to learn to endure for the love of a sport steeped in history. It’s impossible to watch a horse like Frankel destroying Group 1 fields without wanting to know how he came into being. What makes him so much better than the rest?  And where does he rank in comparison with those who came before him? Impossible questions to answer with any great certainty and nothing could be more subjective, but it’s this that’s grabbed my imagination now.

I’d love to sit down with my Grandfather and debate Frankel against Sea Bird II or Kauto Star taking on Arkle over the Gold Cup fences at Cheltenham . The two stand out horses of his era in both codes. Or even the jockeys, a titan like Lester Piggott against the greatest jockey of my era in Frankie Dettori.

Sadly this wasn’t to be. Maybe in years to come I’ll be able to have that debate with a grandchild of my own. Being told about a two year old winning the Royal Lodge Stakes in fine fashion and putting them in their place by showing a recording of Prince Abdullah’s wonder horse doing the very same thing all those years before.

This year saw my first visit’s to the Cheltenham Festival, seeing Sprinter Sacre make the Arkle Chase look like a racecourse gallop, Big Bucks claim a fourth World Hurdle, and Synchronised power up the hill to win the Gold Cup before his ill-fated attempt at the National.  Followed by a trip to Royal Ascot to see Black Caviar, not quite win in the manner I was hoping but a thrilling finish and an ‘I was there’ moment none the less.

It’s said that trainers find it so difficult to retire incase the next superstar is in their juvenile ranks. I guess it’s the same for me? I couldn’t turn my back on racing now, for the threat of not seeing another finish like Pour Moi’s Derby or Wichita Lineman coming from out of the clouds to win the William Hill Handicap Chase is unthinkable. No other sport can promise me so much drama all year round.

 

[information_box]This article was written by Mark Butcher
Sadly for some this wasn’t written by the former International Test Batsman but nevertheless it is a cracking read, and gives you an idea of how the ‘Sport Of Kings’ can really draw you into its beautiful majesty.

Follow Mark on Twitter @TheGr8WhiteHope[/information_box]
 
What got you into racing? Let us know how via the comment box below!

Elite Hurdle 2012 Preview

A highly competitive renewal of the Grade 2 handicap hurdle on Saturday see’s the return of Zarkandar for a trainer with such an impressive record in the race (Paul Nicholls has won 3 from the last 9 renewals). A faller at Aintree when last seen, the gelded son of Azamour has been set quite a task for his seasonal return and given that he’ll have to shoulder top weight against some quality young opposition even the most optimistic person would have to be reserved about his chances of winning.

That said Celestial Halo did managed to win off both 160 and 165, so it can be done.

Owner details1. ZARKANDAR
A class horse who showed everyone how good he was when winning the Triumph Hurdle off the back of one previous run. He followed that up with a gritty display at Aintree and a came back a year later off a lay-off to win a competitive Grade 3 handicap off a mark of 151. Things didn’t exactly go to plan thereafter with a staying on fifth in a strong Champion Hurdle, and then falling when tried over longer this looks a tough spot to come back at, and looks more like he is making the race for another one of the Paul Nicholls in-mates. He is no doubt a class horse but it will take some performance to win this off a mark of 163, and conditions likely to worsen it looks a near impossible task to me.

Owner details2. LOCAL HERO
This gelded son of Lomitas has shown improved form recently and is 2/2 on right-handed tracks in the national hunt sphere. His last victory off 147 in a handicap reads fairly well but although he has won a race on soft ground over hurdles, that was an egg-and-spoon race in reality and he has shown a liking for decent underfoot conditions, which if the weather goes the way I think, he’ll suffer tomorrow.

Owner details3. BALDER SUCCESS
Made quite the impression when springing onto the Juvenile Hurdling scene last season, racking up a couple of authoritative successes in soft ground. However his two most recent efforts put a dampener on his two prior victories. Falling in the Triumph Hurdle at the fourth, and then unseating at the first at Punchestown he can be called somewhat unlucky as neither mistake was really his fault as such. His jumping will have been worked on extensively by Alan King over the summer months, and with the yard in superb form to kick-start the campaign, any further juice in the ground will suit this son of Goldneyev.

Owner details4. PROSPECT WELLS
I am convinced this horse is a class act, but he needs a strong paced race to show his best and therefore he probably won’t be seen at his best until the championship races in the spring. He also looks to have a preference for decent ground and with around 11mm forecasted to fall overnight/morning it could become too soft and too tactical for the son of Sadler’s Wells and despite being well handicapped and getting lumps of weight from his stable-mate he could be scuppered by the underfoot conditions and make-up of the race.

Owner details5. ESCORTMEN
Hasn’t taking to chasing but showed enough on return over fences last time that the fires still burn brightly so a switch back to hurdles could bring about further improvement. The prospect of softer ground than advertised tomorrow is very likely at Wincanton, and his victory over Frascati Park at Kempton in soft conditions reads fairly well, that said I struggle to see him being good enough to trouble the judge off these terms.

Owner details6. BABY MIX
Imported from France and rustled a few feathers when bolting up on UK debut and promptly went to the head of the Triumph Hurdle market. Was turned over next time and returned to winning ways in a Grade 2 hurdle at Kempton before disappointing once again, this time in the Triumph Hurdle. A disappointing return when well beaten behind Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham suggests he has plenty to do to feature here, and any heavy rainfall would be seen at a disadvantage.

Owner details7. TOPOLSKI
Made a really pleasing start over hurdles for David Arbuthnot culminating in the John Smith’s Top Novice (Grade 2) Hurdle at Aintree, but hasn’t really gone on since then and has been well beaten in some fairly similar class races since. His latest effort when well beaten off 144 gives him a hopeless task against this field, and with the form of that graded win not really working out it is difficult to envisage this gelded son of Peintre Celebre getting involved.

 

VERDICT
I think before I looked at the weather forecast for this race tomorrow I’d of sided fairly strong with Prospect Wells but with up to 12mm of rain due over the next 15hrs it could become very testing and the horse best coped and weighted to capitalize on this would be the classy BALDER SUCCESS who’s yard has had a brilliant start to the season and he bids to continue that success. He is reasonably priced in the market, is more than capable of winning off 147 and although historically 4yo’s haven’t got the best record in the race (Well Chief last 4yo to win in 2003) he is worth chancing on the hope that the heavens open.

[notification_box]1pt win Balder Success @ 9-2 with StanJames. [/notification_box]

 

Melbourne Cup 2012 Preview

Not long now until the Melbourne Cup 2012 and one horse will add itself to racing history winning the biggest race in the whole of Australia. Question is though, who will it be?

It has been six years since Makybe Diva made it a historic third win in consecutive years, and she was the first horse since Think Big back in 1975 to retain the Melbourne Cup after winning it the previous year. The Alain Royer-Dupre trained Americain made history in 2010 becoming the first French trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, although he sadly failed to defend his crown last year but finished a very gallant fourth in the process – going out on his shield.

It seems that you wait all those years for the French to win one, and then they come back the following year and take it again as Dunaden edged out Red Cadeaux in a thrilling finish, and both horses return to do battle again, but it is now Dunaden’s turn to try and defend his crown. Can he do it?

Owner detailsDunaden – Has been a revelation since switching to the talented Mikael Delzangles, and bids to retain the Melbourne Cup and make it back to back victories after winning the race last year. Craig Williams has taken over in the saddle after several lacklustre efforts from Christophe-Lemaire, and Williams wasted no time in getting acquainted with his new partner when steering him to success in the Caulfield Cup. Dunaden bids to become the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup off top weight, and before that the last horse to do so dates back to the legendary Rising Fast in 1954, a tall order. That said Dunaden has looked a different animal in Australia, going 3-3 unbeaten and it would be very unwise to write him off despite the weight.

Owner detailsAmericain – Has seen heavy support over in Australia over the last 24hrs and has been backed into favouritism over there to do what no horse has done since Peter Pan in 1934, and that is to regain the Melbourne Cup after losing it. His run last year when fourth was massive off top weight but he is getting on in years, and personally I don’t think Damian Oliver will do a better job than Gerald Mosse did on this lovely staying type. The ground is also likely to be on the quick side for this big son of Dynaformer after heavy rain forecast failed to hit Flemington overnight. I would love him to go and win it again (after backing him 2yrs ago) but I think a place at best is what they can hope for here.

Owner detailsJakkalberry – This was my idea of the winner earlier in the year and although he didn’t run totally as I expected in the Caulfield Cup (Group 1 Hcp) his run translates a lot better than it seems. Ridden on the outside rounding for home, he lost his position after getting outpaced before meeting trouble and then staying on again near the finish. The longer straight of Flemington will work to his advantage as will the step-up in trip. Jockey booking has to be a worry as Colm is either all or nothing but with such a big pot on offer you can expect him to be giving it his all. A winner of the American St Leger with serious ease on his previous start, his form in Dubai reads well and his run at Ascot off level weights with Red Cadeaux gives him hope of going close off these revised terms, and looks overpriced.

Owner detailsRed Cadeaux – Came within a width of a cigarette packet of lifting ‘The Cup’ last year narrowly losing out to Dunaden. He came wide into the stretch and was making laboured progress until Michael Rodd dropped his hands at the ‘Clock Tower’ where Red Cadeaux found an extra gear and put in a resilient late surge at the wire. He is better off at the weights with Dunaden this year and from a similar position has to have a big chance. Has gone well fresh in the past and Ed Dunlop is one of the very best in prepping a horse for a big international race and I expect him to be thereabouts at the finish again.

Owner detailsWinchester – A three time Grade 1 winner in America back in 2010 but hasn’t really done it since coming to Australia. Generally the American turf division are quite weak thus it is very likely he isn’t up to this sort of grade. Failed to run down the likes of Zabeelionaire three days ago in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) off a strong pace and would literally need utter carnage in the run to be in with a shout, and even then is likely to be beaten by the milk man on his daily rounds.

Owner detailsVoila Ici – Started off well in his new career in Australia, with solid runs in both the Underwood Stakes (Group 1) and Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) but bombed out emphatically in the Caulfield Cup on his latest run. Given that both he and Glencadam Gold both ran so below par suggests to me they went too quick in front, and talk from the Moody camp is that he’ll be ridden with more restraint this time but even so it is difficult to envisage this ageing grey getting into the thick of things.

Owner detailsCavalryman – Will go down in history as being the last ride Frankie Dettori has for Godolphin at the end of a glorious partnership but that is all it will be. Has regressed significantly since his third place finish to Sea The Stars in the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, so much so they’ve tried to reinvent him as a stayer. The problem is he hasn’t exactly been beating anything of note over longer distances either and it would take a sheer miracle from Saeed Bin Suroor and Dettori himself to put this old boy’s head in-front.

Owner detailsMount Athos – Has turned a corner this season and comes into the Melbourne Carnival unbeaten this campaign signing off his domestic season with a win in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Group 3) at Newbury. Luca Cumani loves to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup and gets the services of excellent international race pilot Ryan Moore to steer home to son of Montjeu.  There is a slight question to what he has actually beaten this season but the Australian handicapper has given him every chance here getting 11lb from Dunaden and 9lb from Americain (the UK handicapper has him rated 1lb inferior to Dunaden) – solid chance if handling the hustle and bustle of the race.

Owner detailsSanagas – In a similar mould to Winchester but nowhere near as good, the form of the American turf staying division really is suspect in the greater terms of the discipline and has shown nothing under the tutelage of Bart Cummings to suggest he’ll get anything out of this runner on the greatest stage of Australian racing.

Owner detailsEthiopia – This for me has to be the number one hope for the Aussies this year and has impressed me with his attitude throughout his campaign. Is still a very lightly raced horse and I’m not entirely sure they are doing the right thing in running him here so soon into his career. Closed savage well at Randwick to take the Australian Derby (Group 1) on the nod from miles out the back, and followed that up with a solid effort in the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) before a really eye-catching run in the Cox Plate (Group 1) last time. A change of equipment and tactics saw the blinkers on and him setting a searching pace. After being passed by the main protagonists on the home bend he rallied well to press the high-class Pierro for third after looking like dropping out and looks tailor-made for this step up in distance. Rhys McLeod has ridden him expertly so far throughout his career and I genuinely rate this one’s chances of getting in the money, perhaps even winning it!

Owner detailsFiorente – Has always promised to do much more than he actually has, and was held in high esteem at Freemason Lodge in his early three-year-old days. Gai Waterhouse purchased him just over a month ago and thus wouldn’t have had enough time to ready him for this test, and looks very much like a run with a view to the future. The extra distance ought to suit and that run at Newmarket two starts ago reads well, but once again I don’t think this year will be his year.

Owner detailsGalileo’s Choice – An intriguing runner from Ireland from a trainer that has done so well in this race, in the shape of Dermot Weld. Galileo’s Choice has solid form both over hurdles and on the flat, and his latest victory reads well in that second placed Massiyn since went very close in the Irish St Leger (2nd). Historically it tends to favour those that have had a prep-run in Australia before tackling the Melbourne Cup but Vintage Crop came here and won without having prepped so Dermot knows what he is doing, and has to have solid claims in a very open renewal.

Owner detailsGlencadam Gold – Was unbeaten in Australia before bombing out in the Caulfield Cup last time, and in truth he set too brisk a gallop on the front end. He doesn’t look the easiest to settle out in front and I remember from his days in England he wasn’t the most genuine of sorts either. Chances are he’ll be ridden on the sharp end again and his ability to see out the trip at a true pace will be exposed once more, given he nicked the Metropolitan Handicap off a soft lead – couldn’t back with stolen money, and is reported to have missed some work recently with a bruised foot.

Owner detailsGreen Moon – Won the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) two starts ago but was heavily beaten when sent off favourite for the Cox Plate last time. Trapped wide throughout but still covered up, he made laboured late progress and judging by his run in the Turnbull Stakes I can see this trip stretching him and he’ll fade right out of it in the final half mile.

Owner detailsMaluckyday – This is another of the horses I like and thought there was plenty to like about his run in the Geelong Cup (Group 3 Hcp) when fifth behind Gatewood. His finishing position doesn’t tell half the story given they went a crawl throughout (he was held up practically last). He began his challenge from the same position as both Tac De Boistron and Exceptionally and beat them both by 4.5L at the line but was unable to peg back those whole stole a march on the field, over what would be an inadequate mile and half. Came second to Americain two years ago (getting 7lb) and has had injury problems since but looks to be tuned up to perfection for tomorrow, and will be 3lb better off with that rival and providing he gets a good pace, and a good passage he should be rolling home large as they reach the ‘Clock Tower’.

Owner detailsMourayan – Was well fancied for this race last year after a solid second placing in the Mackinnon Stakes but was found to be lame post race and thus missed the Melbourne Cup. Faces a tough draw on the inside in box 3, and will need to jump running to get a prominent position from that draw. Keeps on grinding in his races and won the Craven Plate (Group 3) last time out but will need to step up on that form to figure here, and in all honesty doesn’t look good enough to trouble the ‘big guns’.

Owner detailsMy Quest For Peace – Has a really difficult draw in the 1 box and will take a serious effort to win from there I reckon. Is no better off with those that beat him in the Caulfield Cup and he wasn’t finding anything for pressure late in the day either. Ability to stay the distance has to questioned based on that run, and I couldn’t say an extra 400m was what I thought he needed when watching that run, so another I’m passing over.

Owner detailsNiwot – Age really is against him this year and hasn’t really shown any sort of form that would give him a chance in this big prize. Finished 8th in this race last year but has looked slow and laboured in his runs to date this Spring comeback and his Caulfield Cup run did little to aide his cause and is looked over in favour of those with better scope for improvement.

Owner detailsTac De Boistron – Was ridden from a very disadvantageous position in the Geelong Cup but even so it was a very disappointing run from the son of Take Risks, and given he is only a small horse it has to be a worry how he’ll back up after a run so quickly. Has good form with both Shahwardi and Brigantin who have both run so well this Spring (neither run in the Melbourne Cup) but his record on ground quicker than soft is to be blunt, abysmal and has to be overlooked here against strong opposition.

Owner detailsLights Of Heaven – Ran well to finish third in the Caulfield Cup behind both Dunaden and Americain, and the impression I got off that run was that was as good as she is, and nor do I think she’ll improve from going up in trip either. She travelled extremely well from a perfection position in the race but flattened out in the straight and the longer straight of Flemington looks sure to work against her. Winner of the Brisbane Cup over twelve furlongs earlier in the year but is not really better off in the weights with either Dunaden or Americain and the extra distance is assured to suit them better than Peter Moody’s mare.

Owner detailsPrecedence – This son of Zabeel tried and failed in the big race last year (finished 11th) and from what I’ve seen this campaign he looks seriously out of his depth and will do well to beat home the American imports. Bart Cummings historically has a good record in this race, and has pulled off shocks in the past but this will require a work of god to get this seven-year-old in front, and it won’t be happening.

Owner detailsUnusual Suspect – Even worse than Precedence based on form in Australia, and this one will be leading home the charge for the wooden spoon. Finished 9th last year but is getting on in years now and his chances went long ago and faces a hopeless task.

Owner detailsZabeelionaire – A tough horse to get a firm handle on. Ran the rails at Caulfield and ran above his ability to finish sixth to Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup, and followed that run with a solid enough effort in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) coming from far back to run fifth. 6lb better off with Winchester doesn’t sound good enough to place in the Melbourne Cup, let alone win it but I do like this horse and I feel the distance will bring out the best in him, small place claims off a low weight but not one I’m backing.

Owner detailsKelinni – Winner of the Lexus Stakes (Group 3 Hcp) last time and from what I saw he got potentially luck given that both Ibienco and the eventual second Dare To Dream were both stuck on the inside rail for a sustained period of the home straight. His previous run when second to Glencadam Gold (GC got an easy up front) reads fair, and as a lightweight could be running on through beaten horses late on and is certainly bred for this distance but once again I struggle to see this horse having the class to win this prestigious prize.

 

Verdict:
Another  very open and competitive renewal this year of the Melbourne Cup, it is quite intriguing as to trying to fathom which horse it will go to. With the likes of Mount Athos, and Galileo’s Choice have yet to race in Australia, it is difficult to gauge how they will perform ‘Down Under’. From what I have seen so far this campaign, it looks to be a tough and open heat where the best way to play it will be to side with value and hope for the best. Two of my selections come from the home guard in the shape of Ethiopia and Maluckyday. Both horses have run really strong preps and with the support of the majority behind the European’s after their recent success means both these horses have drifted to backable prices.

My final selection comes from the Europeans in the shape of Jakkalberry who should be suited stepping back up to this distance and his run in the Caulfield Cup last time was a lot better than it looked. He is a massive price given his general form and can see the hustle and bustle of the big race suiting him down to the ground.

Likely Result:

Owner details1st – Dunaden
Owner details2nd – Ethiopia
Owner details3rd – Maluckyday
Owner details4th – Jakkalberry

[notification_box]My Bets:
1pt each-way Maluckyday @ 14-1 with Ladbrokes, StanJames, WillHill
1pt each-way Ethiopia @ 20-1 with Bet365, Boylesports, BetVictor, Ladbrokes
0.5pt each-way Jakkalberry @  70-1 with Bet365

All bets are 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 [/notification_box]

 

Duke’s Tips – 9th August 2012

Sandown Races

A better return for investment when the blog last made an appearance, bagging two winners and two second places which could so easily have been four winners but for lady luck, and one useless inept pilot.

I make the profit on stakes (+16.25) from the bets advised which is a healthy profit on the day and should provide a little stake money on the next few selections, of which hopefully a few will win.

Thursday presents to us some good racing, and a return of one of my favourite horses of the moment in the shape of Satanic Beat, if you haven’t seen this horse race before load up his replay at Ripon last time out – one of the gamest horses in training and doesn’t know when to give up. I think he has a tough ask on his plate today up against the likes of Touch Gold and Van Der Art but his attitude will stand him in good stead, and I hope he wins again.

Just the one bet for me today, having previously toyed with the proposition of adding Santefisio to that but just felt his price was a touch short at 3-1 given he isn’t likely to be improving much at his age, but that run at Goodwood last time suggests he is ready to win. I’m going to chance a win bet on Courage in the (7:15) at Sandown. Sir Michael Stoute’s gelding posted an improved effort when a close second at Windsor last time (three well clear of fourth) and with the winner looking a useful prospect and the third winning since, the form looks solid.

The prospect of fairly quick ground at Sandown will also play into the strength of Courage, who gets the assistance of Ryan Moore and this strong travelling sort will be more streetwise for this than the likely favourite Royal Empire who comes here off the back of one run, and usually I like to take these sorts on as things can happen a little too quickly for them – especially if they didn’t have much of a test on debut. And there we go fellas, sign up for a Roblox Free Membership by following the link.

[notification_box]1pt win Courage @ 6-1 with Bet365, BetVictor, WilliamHill[/notification_box]