Cheltenham ’11 – Champion Chase

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a championship race run over two-miles for five-year-old chasers and above at Grade 1 level.

The race itself is the feature on the second day of the Festival (Wednesday) and is always filled with high quality entrants. Traditionally the field sizes for this race are smaller than some of the other big Festival races; however what we lack in quantity is made up for in quality, as the very best two-mile chasers do battle over the larger fences at break neck speed – a thrilling spectacle for the racing fan.

A general rule to follow in this sort of race are horses which are to the forefront of the betting market, as in recent years favourites have a very decent record in the race, as does previous Arkle winners, and this year it falls to Sizing Europe to try and continue the trend of Arkle winners doing well in this race.

This race has produced some fantastic memories down the line, and one in particular which sticks in my mind was when Edredon Bleu got up on the line to nail Direct Route in 2000. That was an absolute thrilling spectacle for me, and in memory of that I uploaded the race footage to YouTube, which you can view here: Champion Chase 2000.

The winner of the race last year Big Zeb bids to do what Master Minded did the year before him and retain his crown by winning the Champion Chase twice. He looks to have stiff opposition this year but has to be respected.

Key Trends
All of the last 32 winners finished placed at worst last time out.
10 of the last 12 Arkle Trophy winners were 1st or 2nd in this race the next year.
27 of the last 29 winners started at single-figure odds.
19 of the last 26 winners had been placed at the Festival before.
Just one winner older than 10 since 1997.

With Master Minded in a bid to emulate Badsworth Boy (the only horse to have won this race three times) it looks set to be a fantastic race and well worth the wait.

Big Zeb
10-y-o Gelding
Oscar (IRE) (15.2f) — Our Siveen (Deep Run (13.4f))
Notes: Is a horse which goes well fresh and has had issues with his jumping in the past, but that has now been ironed out with a string of impressive displays. He won the race last year in great style (advised at 7/1) and looks set to launch a bold bid at the race again this year. His form over fences at 2M-2M1F on Good/Good to Soft ground reads (11F1), and if you want to compare that with his record on Soft/Heavy ground (F2141112) despite him being somewhat versatile in regards ground, he is clearly a better animal on better ground. He has followed a similar pattern to last year before taking in this race and is my idea of the winner at this stage, and provides more value than Master Minded does at the prices.

Captain Cee Bee
10-y-o Gelding
Germany (USA) (10.5f) — Elea Victoria (IRE) (Sharp Victor (USA) (10.5f))
Notes: Has always been held in high regard, and has had a low key comeback after breaking a blood vessel when sent off favourite for the Arkle Chase last year. In my experience horses rarely return to top form when they begin breaking blood vessels and he has plenty to find at the weights to mix it with the best of these, and looks like he’ll need to improve heaps if he’s to figure here – dismissed.

Golden Silver
9-y-o Gelding
Mansonnien (FR) (16.9f) — Gold Or Silver (FR) (Glint Of Gold (11.0f))
Notes: Has been improving steadily over the last couple of years and has become somewhat of a cult figure over in Ireland. His form reads exceptionally well on ground Soft/Heavy in Ireland over 2M/2M1F (11121212111) but his two forays over to Cheltenham have resulted in him being beaten the length of around five football fields each time. He readily saw off Big Zeb the last day, but Golden Silver is the type of horse that is very much ground dependent, and relishes the slow tactical races you see quite often over in Ireland. The faster pace of the Champion Chase equipped with the quicker ground doesn’t look tailor made for this likeable sort and he’ll be passed over again.

Master Minded
8-y-o Gelding
Nikos (9.7f) — Haute Tension (FR) (Garde Royale (11.2f))
Notes: An awesome winner of this race back in 2008, when slaughtering Voy Por Ustedes hard on the bridle. He was more workmanlike in his success the following year but still won by seven lengths with Well Chief back in second. He came fourth in the race last year behind Big Zeb and never really let himself down on the ground, running some 17lb below his winning form in 2008. This year he returned to the track with two easy successes in relative point and shoot races, but almost came unstuck against Somersby in soft ground at Ascot last time. I’m worried about the ground at Cheltenham again for him this time round, and my suspicions once again are that we’ve already seen the best of this fellow, and the price of 5/2 is seriously on the short side.

Somersby
7-y-o Gelding
Second Empire (IRE) (8.2f) — Back To Roost (IRE) (Presenting (14.3f))
Notes: Quite why Henrietta Knight continues to plough a fruitless furrow over this minimum distance when it is clear for everyone to see the horse needs further. The Ryan Air looks the perfect race for Somersby (he is still entered) but will no doubt run in this race. He has misbehaved on his two most recent outings at Cheltenham, and is liable to make mistakes on his way round, which at Championship level he is liable to be taken off his feet early but he will be finishing late, I’m just not sure he is quite up to top class despite his narrow-margin defeat behind Master Minded at Ascot last time I’m just not convinced.

Sizing Europe
9-y-o Gelding
Pistolet Bleu (IRE) (11.2f) — Jennie Dun (IRE) (Mandalus (12.3f))
Notes: Winner of the Arkle last year he has had somewhat of a mixed campaign since, trying a few different trips without success. Last time out he was beaten fair and square by both Big Zeb and Golden Silver last time out and it remains to be seen if the horse has stopped improving. He has a similar profile to Captain Cee Bee and for me has it to find at the weights with the principals but it wouldn’t surprise me if he plugged on into a place should they go a gallop – Cheltenham certainly brings out the best in him.

Woolcombe Folly
8-y-o Gelding
Presenting – Strong Gara (IRE) (Strong Gale)
Notes: Has improved out of all recognition this year and has put himself forward as a live Champion Chase candidate. He has only won two handicaps but off marks of 142 and 154 he has done it with utter disdain for his rivals, and has been the subject of a lot of chat from speed-raters across the land. In a time where his rivals are reaching the end of their careers, and some are not as good as they once was this looks the most eligible new kid on the block to dethrone the past champions, but perhaps this is a year too soon? He is currently (4-5) over fences, and his only defeat came when last of 12 in last year’s Arkle (which came days after a nasty schooling accident at home) so that run is forgiven.

Others
Both Guavain and Cornas need to improve but on all known form shouldn’t be able to cut it at this top tier and are both discounted on that basis.

Verdict:
At first I felt compelled to stick with my selection of last year and give Big Zeb the verdict in his bid to retain the Queen Mother crown, but in the end I’ve decided to give a chance to new-kid-and-valid-contender-on-the-block Woolcombe Folly, who recorded a faster closing sectional than Master Minded did on the same card (and carried 5lb less than Woolcombe Folly). I believe that Master Minded is only where he is in the market due to his previous high profile wins, and is no longer than horse of two years ago. So on that basis Woolcombe Folly has been overlooked with just a handful of runs and handicap victories to his name and is available at three times the price of his stable-mate.

1pt each-way Woolcombe Folly @ 8/1 with Bet365 (NRNB and Best Odds Guaranteed).

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The Spring Double – The First Leg

For those of a certain age, the Lincoln was always the first leg of the Spring Double (with the Grand National being the other) and its running always signalled the start of the Flat Season.

Nowadays, things have changed with the all-weather tracks ensuring all-year round flat racing and the Turf Season now starting at Lingfield!

Whatever history and tradition demonstrate, the fact is that the Lincoln is still an important race and a very valuable one to boot.

This latter fact has made a huge difference to the shape of the field in recent seasons as trainers have been keen to chase the big money on offer on Town Moor. This means that any entry rated 90 or below is very unlikely to get a run in the main event and John Gosden was quoted recently expressing his concern that his 95 rated entry Taqleed may not make the cut.

At this stage, I would put this trio up as three that could well be suited by the Lincoln test and hopefully will all get to Doncaster on 2nd April – Irish Heartbeat, Nationalism and Taqleed.

Richard Fahey has been very public about his intention to have as many runners as he can in the Lincoln. The prolific Yorkshire trainer had five runners in the 2010 Lincoln and could easily have at least one more in 2011. The one that catches my eye from the yard is Irish Heartbeat.

The 6yr old started his career in Ireland where he won a maiden in 2008 over a mile and then a very competitive sprint handicap at the Curragh as a four year old.

Significantly, both of Irish Heartbeats UK wins have come at Doncaster, including when landing a gamble in the Lincoln consolation race last March. He will race from 96 next month, but showed when winning at Doncaster in the autumn off 91, that such a mark should not prove beyond him.

Looking at the entries it is clear that John Gosden is keen to win another Lincoln. The Newmarket trainer made punters very happy in 2009 when his Expresso Star landed a huge gamble in the Lincoln and two of his entries catch my eye this time around.

Nationalism comes from a family Gosden knows well as owner/breeder George Strawbridge has sent the majority of the family to Clarehaven, most notably half-brother Sleeping Indian, who won the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket before being placed in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Nationalism was brought along with typical Gosden patience last season, not breaking his duck until late-July at Sandown. He then quick added a Goodwood handicap (off a mark of 95), before being sent off favourite to win the Cambridgeshire. His draw proved to be a negative, but even so, he only finished 5th in his group of 10 on the stands side. Gosden ran him once more at HQ, but he made no show behind Kingsfort in the Ben Marhsall.

Reports from Newmarket suggest that Nationalism has done particularly well over the winter and that he could well develop into a Group performer later this season.

However, the Gosden entry that looks marginally better handicapped is Taqleed. Like his stable companion, Taqleed has been lightly raced in his career to date, with just four runs on his CV.

Like Nationalism, Taqleed ran in the Cambridgeshire, and ran a great race, hitting the front going into the dip before weakening up the hill to finish 6th.

Assuming that the 95 rated Taqleed makes it into the final field, he looks to be a major player.

Latest Betting on The Lincoln Handicap with BlueSQ

Cheltenham ’11 – Champion Hurdle

The Grade 1 Champion Hurdle is the highlight of the opening day and the climax of the NH hurdling season.

Known for epic finishes, and won last year by Binocular, it’s open to five year old and above horses, run over an extended two miles, on the Cheltenham Old Course, with a total of eight hurdles to be jumped.

Binocular – N Henderson
7yo bay gelding
Enrique (UK) – Bleu Ciel Et Blanc (FR) (Pistolet Bleu (IRE))
Followed a second in the Supreme, with a close third in this race two years ago. A poor season by his standards followed and was all but ruled out of last year’s renewal, due to a muscle problem. Not only made the line-up but dispelled fears about the Cheltenham Hill by returning an emphatic winner. The standard of that renewal has been brought into question since and whatever your views on that, no doubt this will prove tougher. Clearly in need of his seasonal debut when blowing up behind Peddlers Cross before getting firmly back on track in Christmas Hurdle. Ultimately well below expectations in a recent prep race but on a going day, his hurdling is unmatchable and every chance or defending his crown.

Hurricane Fly – W Mullins
7yo bay gelding
Montjeu (IRE) – Scandisk (IRE) (Kenmare (FR))
No superstar on the flat over in France, but has looked every inch of one since. Having initially battered a maiden hurdle field, it didn’t take long for Grade 1 success to follow. A narrow success in the Royal Bond was soon eclipsed by a wide margin victory in the Future Champions, and made up for missing Cheltenham when completing a Grade 1 hat-trick at Punchestown. Only defeat came on past seasonal reappearance when refusing to settle in a race won by Solwhit, but since then, that rival has been firmly put in his place. Seven Grade 1 successes’ and counting but due to an injury hit career, yet to race outside Ireland. As a result, form is hard to evaluate in comparison to the opposition here and Montjeu is yet to sire a winner at the festival.

Menorah – P Hobbs
6yo bay gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Maid For Adventure (IRE) (Strong Gale (UK))
Yet to finish outside the first two in nine races to date and looked a hugely talented, if not frustrating novice, often let down by sloppy jumping. Until that is, everything came together in landing last seasons’ Supreme. Started this season with a gutsy win in the Greatwood, shouldering top weight and duly brushed aside two highly regarded novices’ a month on, when taking the International. That was a hugely impressive performance that put him firmly in the Champion Hurdle picture but it’s probably not ideal that he hasn’t been seen since.

Peddlers Cross – D McCain
6yo bay gelding
Oscar (IRE) – Patscilla (UK) (Squill (USA))
Snapped up after a point to point success and began life for Donald McCain jnr in a bumper, winning comfortably. The winning hasn’t stopped since! He arrived at last season’s festival on the back of two wide margin successes’ and duly walked away with the Neptune, swooping down the straight to claim both Reve De Sivola and Rite Of Passage. A pretty comfortable win at Aintree followed, before stepping out of novice company to tackle the Fighting Fifth. Victory was his once again, taking down Binocular in the process, but he’ll have his work cut out confirming that form. Returning from a near three month break, he could only really be described as workmanlike in the Morebattle but that was in reality, nothing more than a means to an end. Not sure he can go toe to toe with some of the other main pretenders but should the race pan out to suit, it’ll take a good horse to fight their way past him up the Cheltenham Hill.

Others of note:
Dunguib was a red hot favourite for the Supreme last year but the chartering of a wide course seemed to put paid to his chances. With that race in mind, there is a certain logic that would suggest wherever you find Menorah, Dunguib won’t be far away, but his jumping will determine how accurate that proves. His recent return was one of promise and his hurdling was better, but due to the nature of that contest, it’s difficult to assume his flaws have been corrected with certainty. Oscar Whisky finished a place behind Dunguib in the Supreme and has enjoyed two comfortable successes’ this term but when I look at those two wins, I see a very good horse, not a Champion Hurdle winner. Alan King has made some lofty comments about Mille Chief and his easy victory in a hot Sandown handicap showed glimpses of why. He’s since won the Kingwell, all be it narrowly, and though I’m not sure what to make of the race itself, he must be given credit for coming out on top. He jumps well and it’s worth remembering the yard was cold when he suffered a couple of reverses during the tail end of last year but this looks a tall order nether-the-less. I wasn’t convinced by Khyber Kim last year, yet he ran a fine race chasing home Binocular followed by a win at Aintree. He was well below that form on his return though and talk of the World Hurdle doesn’t inspire. He’s not on my radar but I could see why he’d be considered interesting each way.

Verdict:
Next season will truly determine how good a renewal this is but for now, initial impressions are its pretty hot. Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be that many candidates from a pace angle, and while a few of the principals could employ pacemakers, I don’t think we can blindly bank on the usual end to end gallop seen in this race. That aside, it’s time to narrow things down; Dunguib doesn’t look a natural over the lesser obstacles and that may well cost him in this company. I wouldn’t class Peddlers Cross as slow, not by a long way, but he does lack the tactical speed and pure acceleration of others in opposition. It’s worth recalling he was momentarily outpaced in the Neptune last year and for me, he’ll need to manipulate this race in such a way as to blunt his opponents’ superior attributes; Something I just don’t see happening. Bula, back in 1971, was the last Supreme winner to follow up in the Champion Hurdle, a statistic Menorah must overcome. The Hobbs charge is undefeated at Prestbury Park and looks a future champion all but guaranteed, just maybe not this year. Last year’s Champion Hurdle hasn’t hugely held up, and as impressive as Binocular was in claiming the crown, I’m not convinced a repeat performance would be good enough. That said, he is a class act, and if he jumps the way we all know he can, it’ll take a serious horse to dethrone him. He’s been similarly unspectacular, in the main, throughout this season as was the case last, but said seasons revolve around one race and one race only, so it’s of no surprise to see him now open up some daylight at the top of a compressed market. For me however, Hurricane Fly, is the one to side with, even if an element of faith is required. The Irish raider has an abundance of star quality and every facet needed to be a Champion. His career to date has been blighted by injury but finally, it appears, the opportunity to truly shine has arrived. The festival stat regarding his sire is pretty damming, and as such, how he’ll take to Cheltenham is a worry, but stats are there to be broken and this is the Montjeu to break them.

2pts win Hurricane Fly @ 11/2 with Stan James.

Cheltenham ’11 – Supreme Novices Hurdle

Where better to start than at the very beginning with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The Grade 1 event is the curtain raiser to the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.

Won last year by Menorah, it’s open to four year old and above novices’, run over an extended two miles, on the Cheltenham Old Course, with a total of eight hurdles to be jumped.

10 Year Trends:
10/10 – won at least 50% of past hurdle starts
10/10 – had run within the last 45 days
8/10 – had won their last race
8/10 – were aged five or six
7/10 – were trained in Ireland


Cue Card
– C Tizzard
5yo bay gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Wicked Crack (IRE) (King’s Ride (IRE))
Impressive winner of last year’s Champion Bumper, who went on to make very easy work of opposition on hurdling debut round Aintree. Followed up with another comfortable success returning to Cheltenham in mid-November, when dispatching Dunraven Storm in the Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle. Tasted defeat for the first time at the hands of last year’s Supreme victor, Menorah, when runner up in the International Hurdle. Found not a great deal off the bridle in that race however, and the proximity of Silvaniaco Conti is now a concern. Short priced favourites don’t have a great recent record in this event, and given Cue Card’s absence since early December, I wouldn’t be shocked if that were to continue.

Spirit Son – N Henderson
5yo bay gelding
Poliglote (UK) – Kirzinnia (FR) (Zino (UK))
Made positive impressions on UK debut when cruising to win at Huntingdon in early January. Followed that by putting himself firmly into the Supreme picture with a wide margin demolition of five opponents in a listed contest at Exeter. Smooth hurdler who has yet to encounter decent underfoot conditions, but every chance of improving with them. Quoted as the more mature of the highlighted Henderson duo.

Sprinter Sacre – N Henderson
5yo bay gelding
Network (GER) – Fatima Iii (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR))
Classy individual who won both bumper starts before filling the runners up spot on his hurdling debut. Travelled supremely that day but possibly two keen for his own good, and only limited response when push came to shove. Yet to come off the bridle in two wins since, and although pulled hard last time, unlikely to encounter the circumstances responsible for that here. Reported as still quite immature and interesting to see if he is deserted or favoured by Geraghty.

Recession Proof – J Quinn
5yo chestnut gelding
Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE) – Elevate (UK) (Ela-Mana-Mou (UK))
Useful on the flat and made a winning start to hurdles when coasting clear at Carlisle in early October. Lost little in defeat when bumping into Dunraven Storm three weeks later. Returned to winning ways at Lingfield the following month and ended the year with another success in a jumper’s bumper over at Southwell. Six weeks on, he landed a big prize for the yard when edging out Bothy in the delayed Totesport Trophy at Newbury. Lot to like about his hurdling but he does have a propensity to idle and often takes a while to settle. Trainer plans to take in a handicap as well as the Supreme which doesn’t scream confidence and despite having flat form on good or better ground, it’s worth noting, connections weren’t quite as keen on his Newbury chances, prior to the softer conditions encountered in the rearranged Totesport Trophy meeting.

Zaidpour – W Mullins
5yo bay gelding
Red Ransom (USA) – Zainta (IRE) (Kahyasi (IRE))
More than useful flat performer over in France and made extremely impressive debut when cruising to success in a maiden hurdle. Enjoyed another bloodless success a month later when taking the Grade 1 Royal Bond looking every inch a future star. Turned over two weeks later at 1/4 in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle but gave the impression that that race had come too soon. Having had six weeks to recover, he pitched up at the Deloitte Novice Hurdle but again failed to fire and was easily dispatched by Oscar Wells. Both reversals did however, come on very testing ground and it would be a mistake to write him off just yet. His jumping, however, is yet to convince so backing him requires a huge leap of faith.

Dare Me

Others of note:
Hidden Universe was a Grade 1 winning bumper horse and although he’s run three nice races over obstacles, he hasn’t really shown enough to merit his current prices. Al Ferof was second in last year’s Champion Bumper and has done nothing wrong in three outings since falling on his hurdling debut but his jumping isn’t overly convincing.Dare Me ran four very pleasing races as a bumper and has been nothing but impressive in his two starts over obstacles. He’ll have to step forward to take a hand here and hasn’t been seen since early November but were he to line up, he warrants plenty of respect. Gibb River wasn’t a bad horse in his short flat career and has enjoyed three bloodless successes since switching codes. Improvement is probably necessary to take a hand here but he may have been slightly overlooked. Rock On Ruby brings some decent enough form to the table but may well head to the Neptune and a similar destination looks likely for So Young. He’s created two memorable performances so far in his fledgling career and looks a horse with a very bright future. The form might not mount up to much and his inexperience is a concern but I’m a sucker for untapped potential and this horse has it in abundance.
Verdict:
Finding an angle into this race at this late stage isn’t easy. I’d be quite happy, were I sitting on double figure prices for Cue Card but I couldn’t go near him now with such short odds available. Spirit Son and Sprinter Sacre could simply be anything but the time to back them both has probably passed, while despite liking the horse, I’m put off by Zaidpour’s jumping. So Young would have been my selection but seems Neptune bound so focus turns to Dare Me and Gibb River who both appeal strongly as each way angles, with slight preference being for the latter. They can probably be backed on the day at similar prices to the ones available now and that seems the safer route to take, given there is a slight doubt over their participation.

0.5pts each-way Gibb River @ 20/1 with Totesport, VCBet, StanJamesPaddyPower.
0.5pts each-way Dare Me @ 25/1 with Bet365StanJamesPaddyPower.

Article reproduced from www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk

Cheltenham ’11 – D Nicholson Mares Hurdle

The David Nicholson Mares Hurdle is a Grade 2 event run over two and a half miles, and has been run now for three years.

L'Accordioniste

Over the last two years the race has been won by Quevega and trainer Willie Mullins will be sending his superstar racemare to try and complete a historic treble in the race, named after the legendary David Nicholson (God rest his soul) who rode 5 winners and trained 17 more in a fantastic career. Nicholson trained some of the fantastic festival favourites which include Barton Bank, Charter Party and the formidable Viking Flagship.



Quevega
Robin Des Champs (FR)Vega IV (FR) (Cap Martin (FR ))
Notes: Quevega returns again this year to defend her crown, and looks to have an excellent chance of doing just that. She readily accounted for her field in both 2009 and 2010, and only Carole’s Legacy could get within throwing distance of her the last day. The way she travels through her races and that exceptional turn of foot makes her a potent force against her own sex and it is surprising they haven’t tried pitching her in against the males in the Champion Hurdle before now, she certainly has the class.

Sparky May
Midnight Legend (11.9f) — Glassy Appeal (USA) (Glassy Dip (USA))
Notes: This year however, Quevega will have to be every inch as good as before as new challenger on the block Sparky May created a favourable impression at Ascot last time out, and she destroyed a Grade 2 Mares field, including Carole’s Legacy. On a line through Carole’s Legacy (assuming she ran to form last time) would put Sparky May ahead of Quevega in this race, given Carole’s Legacy is now rated 13lb higher than when second in this race last year beaten almost identical distances by Quevega and Sparky May (albeit the latter was in receipt of 5lbs). Sparky May has been improving considerably with each run and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see her get her small yard into the big time at The Festival – and ranks a live contender.

Our Girl Salley
Carroll House (7.7f) — Lenmore Lisa (IRE) (Phardante (FR )(12.7f))
Notes: Unbeaten in three starts to date over hurdles, this Irish contender has a live chance of making the frame at The Festival if repeating her run two starts ago when readily accounting for her rivals including previous Grade 3 hurdle winner Macville who had been on an upward curve prior to that effort. Unraced so far on anything quicker than soft it remains to be seen just how effective she’d be should it come up good or quicker and with that taken into account looks a risky proposition against the likes of Quevega and Sparky May and a place looks the best possible chance for this one.

Morning Supreme
Supreme Leader (12.4f) — Portryan Native (IRE) (Be My Native (USA) (11.7f))
Notes: Would be an interesting one on hurdles form here, with the yard already saddling Quevega in the race, but the market on Betfair suggests this mare is heading elsewhere so it would be wise to look somewhere else on this occasion.

Carole’s Legacy
Sir Harry Lewis (USA) (14.8f) — Carole´s Crusader (Faustus (USA) (9.3f))
Notes: Should be thereabouts on all known form but has been held by both Quevega and Sparky May recently and it would take a miracle for her to reverse form with the former especially, and one would expect the latter to continue her upward curve and thus increasing her advantage over Carole’s Legacy and place money at very best for this one it would seem.

Macville
Christophene (USA) (8.0f) — I´lltelimar (IRE) (Montelimar (USA) (11.5f))
Notes: Improved this year into a decent hurdler, and looks to be heading to this race according to the Betfair market. Is held on her run with Our Girl Salley last time but could sneak into the frame at a double figure price, but isn’t one for us to get involved with.

L’Accordioniste
Tikkanen (USA)Crystal Chord (IRE) (Accordion (11.9f))
Notes: Won a handicap at the track two starts ago uber impressively going right away when seemingly beaten out of sight turning for home. Excuses can be made for her last run behind Sparky May after a terrible round of jumping going right handed for the first time more than counted for her chances. The Twiston-Davies yard generally begin to return to form around the time of The Festival and back on better ground, and back down four furlongs in trip to this seemingly ideal trip for this daughter of Tikkanen looks a live player in this race and cannot be discounted – live outsider.

Verdict: In theory this should be Quevega’s race to lose and many punter will have her in those Antepost multiples given how easily she has won the race the last two years, but at this stage she represents very little in the way of value. Sparky May has a live chance at a bigger price but comes from an unfashionable stable and Ascot is a very different track to Cheltenham, which is why we are going with L’Accordioniste each-way at a massive 20/1. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained mare was four from four before disappointing when going right-handed last time (for the first time) and if you cancel out that effort the way in which she finished her race at Cheltenham over 17F last time lives long in the memory, considering how far she was behind coming down the hill. This extra distance on offer in this race, and likely decent ground on offer are further pluses for this daughter of Tikkanen and she is taken to upset her huge Antepost odds.

0.5pt each-way L’Accordioniste @ 20/1 Bet365, StanJames, Coral

Article reproduced from www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk

Cheltenham ’11 – World Hurdle

Grands Crus

The World Hurdle is regarded as the feature race of Day 3 of the Festival. Some good horses have won this race down the years, including the ill-fated Inglis Drever who won the race on three separate occasions. Paul Nicholls’ Big Bucks aims to repeat the feat of Inglis Drever before him by winning three World Hurdles.

I’m not really one for stats and usually stick to punting on the flat due to me being a time merchant, however a few key stats to adhere to in this event are:

No five-year-old has ever won the World Hurdle.
An Irish trainer has not won the World Hurdle for 16 years.
Horses who finished unplaced on their final start before the World Hurdle have an awful record in the race, and it’s worth following horses in form.

At this distance and class you can usually single out a handful of real contenders along with the bit-part chancers and form usually tends to work out. In recent years Big Bucks’ has dominated the staying division suggesting you can get a half decent staying chaser to revert back over hurdles and dominate due to the staying division not being up to much. This year it looks like Big Buck’s has a real challenge in the David Pipe trained Grands Crus who has put in performances on the clock to shake up the Paul Nicholls inmate.

BIG BUCKS
Cadoudal (FR) (18.0f) — Buck´s (FR) (Le Glorieux (10.1f))
Notes: Starting with the horse this race revolves around, Big Buck’s aims to emulate what Inglis Drever did before him and win three World Hurdles. He has won his two in emphatic style to date but in fairness he hasn’t really been up against anything out of the top drawer. This year looks the same with only one or two with realistic chances, but Grands Crus could be a fly in the big fella’s ointment. Big Bucks has an imperious Cheltenham record and his form at the track reads (71111) and that seventh placed run came over larger obstacles, so over hurdles at the track he remains unbeaten. He is currently a standout 11/10 with VCBet while most other firms have him odds on.

GRANDS CRUS
Dom Alco (FR) — Fee Magic (FR) (Phantom Breeze (8.8f))
Notes: A horse I hold in real high regard and have an antepost bet on for this very race albeit at larger odds (25/1), he has always been regarded as a very smart prospect but took a while to acclimatize at Pond House after starting his career in the French provinces. Grands Crus ran a time to put him right in the ballpark of lowering the colours of Big Buck’s when winning the Cleeve Hurdle effortlessly last time out, and the second placed Knockara Beau has since franked the form winning a decent handicap hurdle at Carlisle. David Pipe’s grey comes into the race at the top of his game and will be primed to the absolute minute come the race and a repeat of that Cleeve Hurdle run (he could well have gone faster too) will put him bang there at the line.

MOURAD
Sinndar (IRE) (12.0f) — Mouramara (IRE) (Kahyasi (12.8f))
Notes: Has been somewhat of a nearly horse throughout his career and has now made the switch to running over staying trips having started out over two miles. Willie Mullins’ son of Sinndar has put together back to back victories of late but that has come up against inferior opposition to what he will face in the World Hurdle and although he could run into the places, won’t have the class to serve it up to either Big Buck’s or Grands Crus.

FIVEFORTHREE
Arzanni — What A Queen (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Notes: Another from the Willie Mullins yard, and looks about best of his runners and those from the Emerald Isle. The Irish haven’t won this race in the last 16 years, and if they were to win it this year it might rest with Fiveforthree who made a pleasing return from a long layoff to score easily over a trip plenty short of his best. A winner at the Cheltenham Festival when landing the Ballymore back in 2008, he will almost certainly relish stepping back up to this trip but questions have to be answered on his ability to handle such a race so soon after coming back from two years off the track. If he is fully sound, and prepared for the World Hurdle (most horses need a rest period of around 6 weeks after coming back from a layoff for the first time) he will be thereabouts in the placings.

PUNCHESTOWNS
Morespeed — History (FR) (Alesso (USA))
Notes: Looks like potentially reverting back to hurdles after not quite living up to the hype over fences, and the last time he was seen over the smaller obstacles was when second to Big Buck’s in this race back in 2009. He has been held by the Paul Nicholls hurdling star on every time they’ve come up against each other and despite his claims to throwing down a big challenge to the placers, on the form he won’t be winning this but could certainly make the frame at a large price. (20/1 StanJames and Totesport).

SOLWHIT
Solon (GER) (15.0f) — Toowhit Towhee (USA) (Lucky North (USA))
Notes: Could potentially line up here according to the Betfair market (currently available to back at 29/1) but it’s never good trying to second guess Charles Byrnes as you’ll always come off second best. Solwhit is an interesting contender on his form when beating Fiveforthree over 20F at Aintree two years ago but has been exclusively campaigned over two miles since. He ran well over 20F against Hurricane Fly in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in December but couldn’t match that runner for pace in a typical Irish jog-and-sprint race. The faster pace of Cheltenham and the longer trip should give him a solid chance of making the frame, and at 33/1 (VCBet) could be worth chucking a couple of quid at, at the price.

Verdict: In what looks a match between Big Bucks and GRANDS CRUS it would be worth taking a chance on the expected improvement of David Pipe’s likeable grey who still remains on the upgrade. Big Buck’s has done fantastically well over hurdles and will be a formidable opponent for all his rivals, but the times of his victories aren’t nothing flash and Grands Crus has every chance of toppling him come March. Of the remainder, it would be worth chancing a small each-way on Fiveforthree at 16/1, and he could well get the best of the remainder if retaining his ability.

1pt win Grands Crus @ 9/4 (Generally)
0.25pt each-way Fiveforthree @ 16/1 (Generally)

Article reproduced from www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk

Hackwood Stakes Preview

Weatherby’s Super Sprint Day
History

2000’

100.05 Auenklang 8-12
79.56 Patsy´s Double 9-4
95.99 Superstar Leo 8-6
87.34 Ascension 8-6
93.72 Claxon 8-12
93.70 Duchamp 8-8
85.52 Aegean Dream 9-2

Ground – 3.98 (Firm)

2001’

94.12 Invincible Spirit 9-3
87.75 Zucchero 8-7
94.18 Good Girl 8-5
80.79 Dulcet Spear 8-10
99.31 Sakhee 9-3
89.34 Cashneem 8-8
97.01 Majestic Bay 9-3

Ground – 2.21 (Good to Firm)

2002’

74.37 Dublin 8-13
97.50 Ashdown Express 8-12
97.04 Highdown 8-10
93.04 Presto Vento 8-9
85.30 Calcutta 9-8
90.05 Nemo Fugat 9-1
94.79 Elgria 8-5

Ground – 1.36 (Good)

2003’

98.69 Mubtaker 9-3
86.99 Definite Guest 8-2
85.70 If Paradise 8-7
78.92 Matloob 8-10
97.54 Somnus 8-12
94.01 Lochridge 9-3
89.95 Mac 8-4

Ground – 2.75 (Good to Firm)

2004’

98.65 Muqbil 9-3
90.40 Everest 8-6
88.33 Siena Gold 8-1
79.76 Grand Marque 8-13
91.30 Pastoral Pursuits 8-12
90.91 Indian Trail 9-4
86.98 Merrymaker 9-1

Ground – 1.33 (Good)

2005’

86.19 City Of Troy 8-7
91.99 Another Bottle 8-12
88.44 Lady Livius 8-5
100.44 Welcome Stranger 9-3
104.48 Beckermet 8-12
84.84 Evaluator 8-7

Ground – 2.10 (Good to Firm)

2006’

95.82 Fayr Jag 9-7
87.21 Salinja 9-1
92.11 Elhamri 9-4
86.18 Thousand Words 8-13
97.66 Tam Lin 8-10
84.48 Inchloch 9-9

Ground – 1.23 (Good)

2008’

81.49 Doctor Crane 8-13
98.79 Intrepid Jack 9-3
82.30 Lindelaan 9-7
90.83 Jargelle 8-6
97.89 Hunting Country 8-4
90.32 Passage Of Time 8-12
80.99 Alnwick 9-0

Ground – 0.17 (Good)

2009’

82.70 Sir Parky
99.35 High Standing
88.74 Cosmopolitan
90.00 Monsieur Chevallier
89.29 Crime Scene
81.58 King Charles
91.42 Aaim To Prosper

Ground – -1.22 (Good to Soft)

The Hackwood

2000’

The Time:
With a rating of 100 this confirmed that the winner was potentially a Group 1 animal but the German bred colt was unable to turn over Aidan O’Brien’s Bernstein in the Shergar Cup Sprint for 3yo at Ascot who was coming off a bad first time out run in the 2000 Guineas, he was 2nd that day and lost by a head but failed to back up his time at Newbury before bombing out in the Haydock Sprint Cup on heavy ground – definite question marks.

The Winner:
This was won by a new Godolphin recruit Auenklang, the unexposed colt was a Group 2 winning juvenile for Hans Hillier at Baden-Baden and this was his first run of the season in which he was dropping down in class although you’d have to question the strength of Group races in Germany but he made all from stall 9 under John Reid to win a comfortable 6 lengths with the jockey describing him “”as good a sprinter as I´ve sat on in a while” yet the market support didn’t give any indication of this admiration pre-race.

The Strength:
A 9 runner field that featured a lot of hold up horses, 3 year olds with something to prove and some well travelled experienced sprinters who have been running since March/April.
1. Auenklang
2. Harmonic Way (Progressive handicapper, winner of The Stewards Cup and The Wokingham; he also broke the track record along with Tajasur over this distance at Newbury in 1999 – on the go since April)
3. Cretan Gift (progressive handicapper, on the go since March and winner of 15 races prior to this including a listed win at Newmarket.)
4. Halmahera ( Winner of the Cornwallis as 2yo and 5th in the Palace House during that year, on the go since March)
5. Alfailak (3rd in the Molecomb, 2nd run of the season as a 3yo)
6. Gaelic Storm (experienced yard stick)
7. Now Look Here (21 races and one maiden win over 7f prior to this race)
8. Halland Park Girl (5 time winner as 2yo, including 2nd in Super Sprint and winner of Doncaster Stakes, run in 1000 Guineas but didn’t train on as a 3yo)
9. Tabheej (3rd in Oh So Sharp, 6th in Duke of York, lightly raced 3yo)
10. Don Puccini (Super Sprint winner, lightly raced 3yo and 2nd run of season)
11. Desaru (Royal Lodge 3rd, didn’t train on as a 3yo)

2001’
The Time:
A time of 94.12 was particularly disappointing considering Invincible Spirit went on to win the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup; it was 1.88 pts slower than what the listed race standard is (96) but the horse did drift very badly right handed inside the final furlong which may have influenced the poor time which was certainly nothing on Auenklang in 2000.

The Winner:
Invincible Spirit was a highly regarded 2yo with injury problems at 3, only notable win was a conditions race and a decent 9th in Group 2 Company at Ascot from a horror draw prior to this race, he was racing from stall 3 and was held up off a decent clip travelling with ease throughout, he looked like a horse that was better than this level who could start going the right way.

The Strength:
This was an 8 runner field with plenty of horses that liked to race close to the pace which suited the holdup type.
1. Invincible Spirit
2. Mugharreb (one run at 2, progressive 3yo and 6th in Irish 2000 Guineas)
3. Bouncing Bowdler (Never unplaced as a 2yo in 9 starts, Mill Reef winner, 2nd in Super Sprint – beaten 62l on both 3yo career starts prior to this run)
4. Superstar Leo (Fantastic 2yo, Norfolk winner, Super Sprint winner, Flying Childers winner and 2nd in Prix De L’Abbaye – failed to inspire on her 3 starts as a 3yo)
5. Industrial Pride (Anglesey winner, 5th in the Jersey Stakes and 3rd in the Chipchase stakes prior to this, exposed 3yo)
6. Doctor Spin (Decent enough handicap sprinter on his day, 4th in Chipchase prior to this race)
7. Bannister (Gimcrack winner, beaten 43l on his 3 outings as 3yo)
8. Fire Dome (Experienced handicap sprinter)

2002’
The Time:
This was a time of 97.50 that indicated a horse that was at Group 3 level and potentially a Group 2 performer, it wasn’t until 14 runs later that he secured a Group 3 victory although it was a long time coming but did manage to reproduce the figure in defeat on a few occasions.

The Winner:
The winner Ashdown Express yet again was another who benefited from the 3 year old allowance, he was a talented horse tried and tested over a mile before the decision was made to drop him back to 6f were it would only be his 4th run over the trip but he improved from ever run over 6f in 2002 and was 3rd in the Chipchase prior to this race, he likes to be held up of a strong pace which he got from stall 4 under Jimmy Fortune.

The Strength:
There were yet again plenty of horses who enjoy racing close to the pace which suited Ashdown Express who was held up towards the rear.
1. Ashdown Express
2. Mugharreb (one run at 2, progressive 3yo and 6th in Irish 2000 Guineas, 2nd in this race in 2001 and had finished 2nd in Duke of York in 02’ – 3rd run of the season)
3. Massarra (Listed winner and Group 2 placed at 2, 2nd in Nell Gwyn on seasonal debut and tried over a mile in French 1000 Guineas prior to this race (16th/17th) – half sister to 2001 winner Invincible Spirit)
4. Vision Of Night (Very decent sprinter, multiple European Group winner who was 2nd in the Chipchase prior to this race)
5. Indian Country (only 6th run of career, lightly raced and 4th in Golden Jubilee prior to this race)
6. Sartorial (1st run of the season, Group 3 winner in Deauville, Group 2 placed at Baden-Baden)
7. Brevity (progressive handicapper, winner of 9 races over 6-7f prior to this race
8. Spencers Wood (Listed winner at The Curragh in 02’, hard horse to place and found himself in sprints after runs over 8-10f)

2003’
The Time:
This was fascinating because the figure was just 0.04 outside last year’s time with last year’s winner Ashdown Express running 2nd here losing by a neck which just solidifies the figure as this time had to give away the 5lb penalty to the eventual winner and yet another horse who showed Group 3 potential boarding Group 2 class which would be the 3rd time in 4 years that this had happened (Auenklang, Ashdown Express, Somnus)

The Winner:
Somnus was a winner of the Yearling Sales Stakes at Doncaster were he took full advantage of a draw bias before going on to win the Redcar Two Year Old Trophy when things looked impossible from a horror draw in 1 which was a complete change of fortunes from Doncaster. He was 6th on his seasonal debut before coming 8th/11th in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, weak in the market when bagging a Haydock Conditions race just 2 weeks prior to the Hackwood, he was a monkey that was off the bridle although he found a lot of it for pressure which was reminiscent in his Hackwood victory.

The Strength:
This was a much larger field than previous years and featured some strong horses; the winner was ridden up with the pace from stall 8 with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th being held up.
1. Somnus
2. Ashdown Express (winner of the race in 2002, flirted around listed level since and was 4th in the Chipchase prior to this race)
3. The Tatling (experienced sprinter, season started in April which included a 3rd in the Wokingham and listed win at Sandown prior to this race)
4. Saddad (Winner of the Flying Childers at 2, 12th in Kings Stand and 5th in Chipchase prior to this race)
5. Bonus (unexposed 3yo who started his season in March rising 35lbs and 2nd in a conditions race prior to the Hackwood)
6. Peace Offering (winner of Cornwallis as 2yo, struggled with handicap mark at 3)
7. Chookie Hamilton (Progressive handicap sprinter, 3rd in Wokingham and 2nd last in Chipchase prior to this)
8. Country Reel (High class 2 year old; winner of Gimcrack and 4th in Middle Park behind winner Oasis Dream, 2nd in Gimcrack prior to this race and was only 4th run of career)
9. Needwood Blade (multiple listed winner and Group placed, winner of the Palace House stakes in 03’ started season off in the Cammidge)
10. Indian Spark (very experienced handicapper with 13 wins prior to the race)
11. Vision of Night (4th in 2002, flirted around listed level and 2nd in Listed race at Sandown prior to this)
12. Sartorial (Group 3 winner in Deauville, coming here 2 years without a win)
13. Red Carpet (2nd in the Middle Park as a 2yo, 5th in the 2000 Guineas, winner of Cammidge on seasonal debut at 5 before going off the boil and never really built from his 2000 Guineas 5th)
14. Polar Way (Excellent 2yo winning 4 out of 5 races including a Group 3 at the Curragh and 4th in the Diadem Stakes at Ascot, 3rd in Duke of York on seasonal debut at 3 followed up with a 6th in the Golden Jubilee prior to this race)

2004’

The Time:
This figure of 91.30 was quite disappointing on the face of things being a large 4.70 pts below Listed level but when you look deeper into it you can see the factors which lead to the misleading time, the horse was extremely well thought off and the fact he was kept to Listed level meant it was just going to be a run out getting the horse back carefully with bigger engagements to come but the goings on prior to the race wouldn’t have settled any nerves in regards to the horses health which may have been the reason behind the slow start from Drowne as he was a horse who liked to race up with the pace but that could of been too pressurising for the horse, I don’t think they would of cared about a loss but the horse’s class shone through in the end when he came through with a dangerous challenge 2f out but never really put the race to bed which would have been a fitness problem. Pastoral Pursuits went on to win the Park Stakes at Doncaster and the July Cup in 05’ three runs later.

The Winner:
Pastoral Pursuits was an 8l Auction Maiden winner at Chepstow before repeating his winning margin when stepped up to a conditions event at Windsor which put him very much a horse to watch out for and he grabbed Group 3 success during that season with a win in the Sirenia. He never went for the Middle Park or Mill Reef after chipping a bone which left him off the track for some time and missing the 2000 Guineas which was a serious target although he made his reappearance at Sandown coming 2nd in the Scurry Stakes over 7f before staying at this level when landing the Hackwood dropping down a furlong, he reared over and banged his head badly in the saddling boxes prior to the race and was kicked by another horse who flipped in the stalls and was very much slowly away under Steve Drowne from stall 1 who managed to get him up for a hard fought victory with a head and a neck separating first 3 home.

The Strength:
1. Pastoral Pursuits
2. Cartography (3rd in Sirenia Stakes at 2, 3rd in the King Charles Stakes at Newbury and 3rd in the Jersey Stakes At Ascot prior to this step down in trip from 7 to 6f)
3. Dowager (exposed, listed winner at 2 over 6f, 6th/8th in a conditions race at Haydock prior to this)
4. So Will I (unexposed, 2 runs at 2 including a maiden win at Newbury, 3rd in Greenham on debut, listed winner over 6f at Newbury in May and 8th in Chipchase prior to this)
5. Phantom Wind (unexposed, 8l Maiden winner on 2nd start as 2yo, 6th in the Fred Darling on seasonal reappearance as 3yo prior to this race)
6. Mac Love (16 runs at 2 including 2nd in the Doncaster Stakes and 2nd in the Rockingham Stakes, 3rd in Heritage handicap at Newmarket July meeting prior to this)
7. Nights Cross (well travelled and experienced 2yo 2nd in the Molecomb, 8th in the King Stand and 10th in the Golden Jubilee prior to this)
8. The Kiddykid (decent juvenile, Listed winner at Haydock and progressive handicapper at 3, Greenland Stakes Group 3 winner at 4 and 6th in Sandown Sprint Group 3 prior to this)
9. Iqte Saab (unexposed, conditions winner at Newmarket on seasonal debut, failed in transition to Listed class in the King Charles Stakes at Newmarket prior to this)
10. Colonel Cotton (experienced sprinter, listed winner at Newmarket and 3rd in Sandown Sprint Group 3 prior to this)
11. Crimson Silk (3rd in St Ledger Yearling Sales, didn’t train on)

2005’
The Time:
This was staggering time of 104.48 which beggars belief and thank god with the benefit of time we’ve been able to see that the winner wasn’t a Group 1 sprinter but at the time theres no doubt that having a Golden Jubilee 3rd and a Golden Jubilee winner in 3rd and 4th place would have made the time more believable making it a potential very costly meeting. Although if we look at it on the positive side the 3rd Barons Pit did win the Group 2 Diadem Stakes at 20-1 with Fayr Jag back in 2nd, Fayr Jag went to go run 6th in the Nunthorpe at 50-1 and 5th in the Haydock Cup Sprint at 33-1 whilst 2nd placed Ashdown Express ran 3rd in that race at 50-1 which adds another angle to the rating, in fact it kind of solidifies the time although I wouldn’t go as far to saying it was a 104 but possibly a 100-102.
Why didn’t Beckermet aspire to the potential he showed on the day in future engagements? There must have been something seriously wrong which could of been caused possibly wrong advertised distances, tailwind etc and the ground also dried up significantly during the day with the 10f race before being run in a fast time who gain was very much towards the fore of the field and we can see also that Welcome Stranger was no Group 1 horse in time but what are we saying, if the ground is quick at Newbury then anything with an easy lead is more than likely going to run a fast time and very likely to win the race but may not be the horse to take out for future engagements – interesting.

The Winner:
Beckermet ran the 10 times as a juvenile managing to bag 4 races yet failed in his step up to Listed class towards the end of the season where he was very much effective at 5f although found it tough in fields where he wouldn’t get his own way out in front. He made his seasonal reappearance at Lingfield in April coming 4th in the Pavilion Stakes before showing electrifying pace in large handicap fields over 6f during the summer under Royston Ffrench, it wasn’t until the man who rode him on his seasonal reappearance Martin Dwyer took the reins 7 runs later in the Hackwood when going off a 14-1 outsider, how was this horse who hasn’t won in his last 12 starts stretching back 12 months to 9th of July last year be able to beat horses of Group Class, the only way was to do something he relished at as a 2yo when taking advantage of good draws showing a blinding early pace and hope they over do the waiting tactics and surprisingly enough this is what happened which ended up in a fantastic pay day for the owners and trainer.

The Strength:
There was many hold up horses in the race which allowed Beckermet an easy time out in front who expected to pick him off although the weight for age proved vital.
1. Beckermet
2. Ashdown Express (A real solid sprinter who made the transition to Group level, 2nd in the Palace House earlier in the 05 season and 6th in July Cup prior to this race, a race in which he was primed for after coming 2nd in the previous year)
3. Barons Pit (Norfolk winner at 2, 3rd in Golden Jubilee and 15 months of the track prior to this race)
4. Fayr Jag (decent 2yo, 5 wins in 2003’ including the Wokingham, Ridge Wood Pearl Stakes Group 3 at the Curragh, Golden Jubilee winner in 2004’, beaten 45l in 4 starts during 2005’)
5. Jedburgh (decent 7f juvenile with multiple wins, winner of the Buckingham Stakes at York prior to this and had been on the go since April)
6. Baltic King (decent improving handicap sprinter, winner of listed race prior to this and had been on the go since April were targeted for a Heritage Handicap at Newmarket coming 2nd in consecutive years.
7. The Crooked Ring (in form handicap sprinter, on the go since April)
8. If Paradise (decent 2yo, winner of Field Marshal Stakes at 3, hard to place at 4)
9. Boogie Street (Roseberry Stakes winner at Ayr, 3rd in Palace House on seasonal reappearance, multiple group placed and 2nd in the King Stand during 05’ season leading up to this race)
10. Chookie Heiton (Listed winner at Beverley since his 2004 running, disappointing in handicaps prior to this)
11. Desert Fantasy (Listed winner at The Curragh, without a win in 2 years)

2006’
The Time:
After a strong renewal in last year’s race the Hackwood had now been upgraded to Group 3 level, the time was just below listed level at 95.82 although the ground faced a barrage of rain throughout the day which took its toll on 4 horses being withdrawn leaving a quite substandard Group 3 field but however you try dress it up Fayr Jag was primed for the Golden Jubilee at Ascot were he didn’t have a hard race and picked up the Chipchase on his next outing before again trying at the big time in the July Cup at Newmarket coming 10th/15th which made this race just a consolation prize keeping the horse on the go and a smart piece of placing by the trainer. The horse never went on to winning anything smart but was consistent in his approach and most notably placing in the Group 2 Diadem at 20-1, 16 runs later he hadn’t won but did reproduce the figure on several occasions and he sadly died when beginning to look like he was well handicapped and would have had more races left in him.

The Winner:
Fayr Jag

The Strength:
1. Fayr Jag
2. Kodiac (Decent improving handicap sprinter, on the go since January in Dubai, 3rd in a Conditions event at Haydock prior to this)
3. Tawaassol (unexposed sprinter rising the handicaps, made the transition well to Group 3 level when coming 4th in the Champagne Stakes prior to this)
4. Balthazaar’s Gift (Winner of the Rockingham and Group 2 winner at Maison Laffitte at 2, 2nd in the Golden Jubilee prior to this race)
5. Baltic King (6th in Kings Stand and winner of the Wokingham prior to this race, on the go since April)
6. Ashdown Express (4th in the Golden Jubilee and 3rd in the July Cup prior to this, on the go since April)
7. Ajigolo (Decent 2yo, 4th in the Norfolk Stakes and 2nd in the Cornwallis stakes, beaten a total of 24l on his 2 reappearances at 3 prior to this race)

2008’
The Time:
This was an excellent renewal in my view and the time of 98.79 was Group 2 class boarding Group 1 and the sort of race Newbury management would have been pleased with after a sub standard field when putting the race up in grade. This is a funny situation again much like what we had in 05’ with Beckermet were the winner hasn’t gone on to be the best horse or carry the rating on into other races and Intrepid Jack hasn’t managed to win since in 17 races whilst the 2nd horse who tragically died in 09 had superb potential and he franked the time when 4th in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Doncaster were injuries got the better of him in time, Balthazaar’s Gift managed to come back here in 2009 and repeat the time giving him a Group 2 victory in the Hungerford Stakes whilst picking up a win in Nad Al Sheba along the way and Strike The Deal who finished 3rd has come back here in 09 and repeated the figure in his Group 3 success whilst also picking up some valuable places in Group company along the way.

The Winner:
Hughie Morrison’s Intrepid Jack was a progressive 3 year old sprinter raising 25 lbs in the handicap towards the end of the year including two victories and a 2nd to Tax Free in the William Hill Trophy at York. He was still very much lightly raced as a sprinter in 2006 having just 8 runs to his name and it was interesting rated 97 that they stuck to handicaps, a good 6th on debut at York behind Borderlescott was followed by a 10th in the Wokingham were he faced a difficult draw and new hold up tactics before coming 11th in the Stewards Cup. 2007 was very much the same starting off in handicaps before his 2nd run of the season came at Kempton in a weak Listed event where he managed to come 2nd before frustratingly coming 2nd again at Royal Ascot in the Wokingham when benefit from a positive draw but was already looking a much more stronger and consistent horse, handicaps wouldn’t beckon forever and after another tilt at the Stewards Cup in vein (10th/27th) he would finally have another attempt at Pattern Class in his 3rd run of the season in the Group 3 Champagne sprint after coming 10th in the Wokingham prior and he could only manage 7th at best were the stiff 5f looked too sharp before he was to go back to back in pattern company in the Hackwood 2 weeks later where the step up to 6 furlongs suited as George Baker held him up off a strong pace set by Beckermet and he was able to find the gaps with a strong run inside the final furlong

The Strength:
1. Intrepid Jack
2. Corrybrough (Highly thought of sprinter, impressive winner of the Scurry Stakes at Sandown prior to this)
3. Balthazaar’s Gift (4th in 06’, 3rd in the Wokingham and winner of the Hackwood in 07 when meeting was re-scheduled to Ascot, winner of a listed race at Windsor and 10th in the Golden Jubilee prior to this)
4. Strike The Deal (excellent 2yo and winner of the Richmond stakes, 2nd in the Mill Reef and Middle Park, failed in 2 starts over a mile at 3 before coming 5th in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot prior to this)
5. Edge Closer (one run and one win at 2, progressive handicap sprinter at 3,stepped up in grade as a 4yo and winner of a Listed race at Salisbury before coming last in the Wokingham prior to this)
6. Excusez Moi (decent 3yo and 4th in Heritage Handicap at York although failed at Group Level, 4th in the Stewards cup at 4 in 2006 and 2nd in a Group 3 at Newbury in the backend of the season, failed in Dubai before becoming a solid AW sprinter and winner of the Cleves Stakes in 08, beaten 32l prior to this in 2 starts and has been on the go since February)
7. Wi Dud(2nd in the Molecomb, winner of the Flying Childers and 2nd in the Middle Park – excellent 2yo, failed to build on that as a 3yo although 5th in the Nunthorpe, on the go since March when 3rd in the Cammidge at Doncaster, 4th in the Champagne Sprint at Sandown prior to this)
8. Hoh Hoh Hoh (decent handicap sprinter, on the go since April and 6th in the Palace House during 2008, well beaten in a listed event at Chester prior to this)
9. Final Verse (2nd in the Horris Hill at 2, 6th in the 2000 Guineas, solid group performer over a mile ex Sir Michael Stoute horse and 19th/29th in the Royal Hunt Cup prior to this, lost his way in 08’)
10. Dark Missile (improving sprinter, 2nd in the Diadem Stakes in 07, 9th in the Golden Jubilee prior to this ad on the go since April)
11. Beckermet ( 2 years without winning a race sine landing the Hackwood in 2005, Listed winner at Goodwood and Newmarket in 07, 3rd in both the Duke of York & Chipchase in 08’ and 2nd in the Chester City Plate prior to this)
12. Rowe Park (Improved 55lbs from 06’-08, solid group level sprinter and winner of Group 3 at Newbury in 07, last and 2nd last in all 3 starts prior to this race)

2009’
The Time:
The Newbury Sprint meeting was as soft as it has ever been in last 9 years but the quality and time of the Hackwood stood up well in what was a strong field despite the small in numbers, the time of 99.35 suggest the winner was Group 1 class which hasn’t always been the case although the owners decision to ditch the Stewards Cup in favour of pattern class here and the Wokingham win where he was backed off the boards going away strongly despite interference probably gave a good indication into the future engagements of the horse and he was 3rd in the Haydock Sprint Cup next time out with Kieran Fallon getting the ride finishing 2 lengths behind the 2nd horse Fleeting Spirit who had won the July Cup although no one could have found the eventual winner Regal Parade though. The runner up Prime Defender is a solid Group performer and although he didn’t build on that rating in 2009 he’s gone on to win the Duke of York in 2010 whilst coming 9th in the Golden Jubilee, the 3rd horse Doncaster Rover won a Listed race at Chester next time out had has come 4th in Group 2 whilst placed twice in Group 3 company in 2010. The 4th horse War Artist who was pacemaker and returning from serious health issues managed to flop next time out in a conditions race understandably but picked up a Group 2 at Baden-Baden, Group 3 at Longchamp and came 3rd in the Prix De L’Abbaye that year before winning at Meydan in Group 3 company shortly after.

The Winner:
High Standing initially trained by Simon Callaghan was beaten a total of 57 lengths on his 3 starts in maiden company as a juvenile before managing to win two backend handicaps on the All Weather, incredibly he hadn’t done much to be rated 76 despite his initial rating of 38 after his maiden exploits but reappeared at Leicester over 7f in May before finishing the year off at Great Leigh’s over 8f coming 2nd after just having the 3 runs in 2008. He began 2009 with new trainer William Haggas and owners Harry Findley and Tony Bloom were the shackles were about to be taken off, well backed to land a handicap at Doncaster in May he was eased down at the finish by Jamie Spencer at Goodwood were the handicap mark could of easily been put to shreds but he was able to get into the Wokingham off 8-12 and was very much the talking horse as he was for the 3rd time in his new career backed off the boards and ended up beating a Group/Listed Godolphin horse in the process by the finest of margins when encountering some trouble. The decision to ditch The Stewards Cup in favour of the Hackwood spoke volumes about the new route and future of High Standing who was a hold up horse and found a willing partner in War Artist to set a testing pace in testing conditions and it was easy for Ryan Moore who was able to pick them off at ease coming to the final furlong.

The Strength:
1. High Standing
2. Prime Defender (decent 2yo, twice a listed winner at 3 over 6-7f, winner of the Cammidge in march, solid Group race performer and 9th/13th in July Cup prior to this)
3. Doncaster Rover (decent 2yo, 6th in the Flying Childers, last in the Spring Cup on seasonal debut, 2nd in a listed event at Haydock before winning a conditions event there a month later prior to this, on the go since March)
4. War Artist (Excellent Group 1 winning Australian sprinter, 3rd in July Cup in 2008, 12 months of the track with Colic prior to this)
5. Festoso (smart 2yo, 2nd in the Cherry Hinton, 4th in the Lowther and 3rd in the Cheveley Park, 11 months of the track at 3 and well beaten in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket, failed over 8f on seasonal reappearance in April before winning a listed event over 6f at Haydock and 6th in a Group 3 at Fairyhouse prior to this)
6. Edge Closer (5th in this race last year, well beaten on both starts in 2009’ and 3rd/6th in a Listed race at Windsor prior to this)
7. Madame Trop Vite (very fast 2yo and winner of the Flying Childers, generally didn’t train on and 7th/11th in the Coral Charge prior to this)
8. Shalall (two races and one win at 2, 4th in the Greenham behind Paco Boy, beaten 41l on his next 3 starts out of form and generally regressive on the go since April)

Conclusion

The Hackwood is a really nice race, it’s unpredictable and fascinating at times playing its part in what is a fantastic day attracting the likes of Golden Jubilee winners, July Cup horses, Wokingham winners and Stewards Cup winners along with some excellent 2 year olds bringing in winning and place form from the Gimcrack, Mill Reef, Middle Park, Norfolk, Flying Childers etc. The race has developed in phases and features a variety of different horses with different agendas were it could be used as a stepping stone for young unexposed talented horses to the experienced well travelled sprinters looking for an edge to take advantage of and finally the progressive handicappers.

I do believe the race has some good stories to tell and has a habit of throwing up a surprise with 12-1, 14-1, 16-1 winners in recent years which are there to be found if you look hard enough and in the right areas. The race can be seen as one were a horse has been trained for a particular race were they would use this as a consolidation but that’s not such an easy route to take now a days with their always being a surprise around the corner and we’ve seen Group 1 horses come into the Hackwood and short prices get beat.

I have learnt not to underestimate the weight for age allowance I think many good 2 year old sprinters who’ve gone wayward at 3 use this in a hope of getting that all important win understanding that the race will consist of well travelled handicappers and horses who’ve not made the grade at higher levels or over a longer trip. The race has got stronger in recent years making it harder for 3 year olds now and I don’t believe the advantage may be as clear cut as it once used to be which is unfortunate but the quality of the races are more important.

I think theres a key race;
The Haydock Conditions Sprint on Lancashire Oaks day, the performance of horses who’ve run in that race in the Hackwood are as follows;
09’ – Doncaster Rover 3rd (6-1)
06’ – Kodiac 2nd (25-1)
04’ – Dowager 3rd (50-1)
03’ – Somnus 1st (5/1)

Also I don’t know why Royal Ascot (bar the Wokingham) or the July meeting at Newmarket bares such a terrible record in horses running in the Hackwood let alone trying to find t winner but I think it’s down to the sheer pressure and hard race they have were this is used to keep them ticking over until bigger assignments maybe but its defiantly a day for the underdog – The Chipchase or Failchase is a race that has to be written off in this race.

Barney McGrew – He’s probably unfortunate to bump into a similar horse in Markab and I can’t see his stamina lasting.

Markab – This is a horse I like, he could and should be hard to beat from draw 5 given his stall reminiscent of Beckermet although he’s likely to be over bet from Royal Ascot form and surely the Prix De L’Abbaye or Haydock Sprint Cup is a more realistic target to get him ready for?.

Doncaster Rover- A very interesting contender who’s dropping back in distance here and has proven himself in the race although I don’t think he’ll have a chance if he’s ridden handy and prefers more dig in the ground.

Edge Closer – Now this is a horse I think could upset the applecart or at the very least run a big priced place, he ran back into form at Windsor before running 8th in the Wokingham and theres no shame in that before finding trouble at Windsor in his penultimate run. Theres a little something about him which reminds me of Intrepid Jack in his preparations, Hughie Morrison kept Intrepid Jack out of pattern company for as long as possible before winding him up at Sandown over 5f well Richard Hannon looks to have done the same in Edge Closer who has used his run in the infamous Haydock conditions sprint as his preparation for what in my eyes is a serious target for Edge Closer and the quicker ground is only going to help with a nice draw.

Fravashi – I wouldn’t know much about this Godolphin horse, they won this race with a German export but this Australian bred colt is interesting stepping down in trip, but horses that’ve been on the go since April or earlier generally do bad in this race.

High Standing – He is the best horse in the race and has everything set up for him to win if he wants it, his mentality at Haydock wasn’t the best and flopped badly in the Golden Jubilee although he didn’t have much of a race, this is weaker in terms of quality than last year when he won but he’s going to be running against more horses that are in form and could easily be upset at short odds.

Regal Parade – I can’t have Regal Parade on this ground although the race will be run to suit but I think he’ll probably need this in his tilt for back to back Haydock Sprint Cups.

Secret Asset – This is a typical handicapper who looks to be out of their depth and wouldn’t be in the class of previous progressive handicappers who’ve had a shot at this race and looks up against it.

Angels Pursuit – Richard Hannon’s got another serious chance in Angels Pursuit who recorded a really nice speed rating in beating Society Rock whose since gone onto Group 1 class, she’s not the typical decent 2 year old who’s been either stepped up in trip to a mile and found out stamina wise or completely failed to train on entering this race and they knew the case with her that she’s an out and out sprinter with a touch of class. The weight for age shouldn’t be underestimated even if recent years are a little tougher but Angels Pursuit has place claims.

1st – Markab
2nd – Edge Closer
3rd – Angels Pursuit

I believe I’ve covered this year’s selections with a bit of everything over the last 9 years, the Beckermet pacemaker in Markab who can quite easily get an easy lead on this quick ground and be a hard horse to crawl back along with the outsider Edge Closer whose got a bit of the Hughie Morrison preparation in him and the use of a very hot Haydock conditions race as a set up for the Hackwood along with the 3 year old who has the race to suit and a lot of weight allowance. I believe that the value lies in the two Hannon horses who will be overlooked, Markab’s ability to get an easy lead makes him more dangerous in my book than High Standing who are both coming from the dreaded Royal Ascot and I just don’t have faith in High Standing at this stage to pick them off from a rear position and much rather be on a horse whose going to be in a position to win than ask one whose not.

Mr Wilson

Glorious Goodwood – Lillie Langtry Stakes

Fresh from the small success of Mata Keranjang grabbing some place profits in the Vintage Stakes yesterday, there is just one race that interests me tomorrow on what is a poor card for Glorious Goodwood.

I have to say that the Goodwood Cup is probably the worst Group 2 race I’ve ever seen, and anything could theoretically win that race, with Schiaparelli being far too short at 5-2.

I’m going to focus my attentions on the Lillie Langtry Stakes (Group 3) run over 1m6f for Fillies aged three and above.

This race has been run since 2003, with three year olds winning three out of the six renewals. With that in mind, and with the only three-year-old in the field being the Michael Bell trained Lady Artemisia it would be right to start with her first.

Lady Artemisia – Was second to Aromatic in a good time at Salisbury but I’m beginning to believe it’s a potentially rogue card given the recent failings of Aromatic in handicap company off favourable marks to the speed figure posted. Lady Artemisia went to Newcastle and finished second behind Charity Belle, who then went to contest Listed Company finishing fourth but was turned over by a horse rated in the 60’s in Handicap Company since. Lady Artemisia has been upped in grade here and I can’t see why, she’ll come unstuck in this company and won’t be winning.

Cassique Lady – One of the very few horses Lucy Wadham has on the flat and has run with real credit since being drafted in from Ireland. Clearly improved for the step-up in trip when a second at Haydock and a win at Warwick last time in Listed grade. However against some classier types in this field on speed figures, despite her OR being the highest of the lot on 102 – she should struggle to win here.

Dolly Penrose – A dour stayer and wants a trip further than this ideally but I can see Mick Channons method in trying to plunder some black type here with this full sister to Misternando. She lacks the class of some of these but certainly will be trying her heart out but is another who should come up short at the business end, and is liable to get outpaced at a vital stage.

Presbyterian Nun – Would have a chance on this based on her third at Newbury last August but has failed to fire so far this season. Questions have to be answered if she retains all ability and is another passed over in favour of something else.

Princess Taylor – A good effort to finish second to Barshiba over 12f at Newmarket last time out, and showed enough pace to be racing over a mile last year. I think she is the type of horse who regularly finds one better every time and is held by Cassique Lady on their Warwick running, should run her race though but wouldn’t be too sure on her lasting home over the extra 2f.

Sevenna – Has plenty to find on official figures and you’d have to go back to Great Leighs last September to find a rating big enough to give her a chance here. A fair run last time at Goodwood in an okay time but the horse that beat it has since disappointed twice when fancied.

Starfala – Is a horse I’ve backed on numerous occasions now and has let me down plenty of times but still runs well in defeat. She has been campaigned over 12f mainly and tends to hit a flat spot in her races before coming home well. Should of won here in Handicap Company over 12f last year and the extra distance can only suit this Galileo filly. Frankie Dettori is an excellent booking for this Paul Cole filly and on the speed ratings and figures; she should be half the price she is quoted at given she is unexposed over this trip and ought to improve for the extra yardage.

Sualice – Is the favourite for the race for the Irish President and Dermot Weld couldn’t be in better form at the moment. The run behind Profound Beauty last time was in a very good time but appears to find one or two better in each race she runs and doesn’t win very often. With that in mind the 11/4 on offer is plenty short enough. There have also been no Irish winners of this race since the race began in 2003.

Victoria Montoya – Has it to find on official figures here but the Andrew Balding filly has posted some very noteworthy times this year over this distance. Second to Desert Sea at Sandown over two miles last time, the time was very quick and thus puts her slightly ahead on figures over the remainder of the field here and with a C&D win under her belt (itself in a good time) last year suggests this High Chaparral filly holds all the aces tomorrow under William Buick.

Verdict: In what looks a straight forward scope-em-up on figures for Victoria Montoya and Starfala, I really can’t separate the two – so I have two options. Take a blind leap of faith and take one over the other, or back both and hope that one of them wins given I’d be dutching the pair at just above 9-4 (Providing I take the 7-1 and 5-1 Best Odds Prices). I’m going to side with Victoria Montoya for the Andrew Balding team who should get back to winning ways here providing she reproduces her effort at Sandown last time.

1pt win – Victoria Montoya @ 7-1 with Bet365

The Sunday Service

A very good day for the blog on Saturday with both Sirvino (16-1) and Hit’s Only Vic (16-1) obliging and entering the winners enclosure. I’d been waiting two months for David Barron’s gelding to come out and run and the victory is made even sweeter by the price, never did I expect him to go off at such long odds.

David Barron was interviewed by Lydia Hislop on RacingUK after the race and came across very well and definitely a trainer who knows his arse from his elbow, as does jockey Neil Brown who is worth every bit of his claim, he’s a very mature rider for his age and is sure to get plenty more opportunities with Mr Barron keeping him in the yard. It also goes to show that you don’t have to take the conventional route when it comes to handicapping your horse. David Barron let Sirvino do his maturing on the track and improved on a race-by-race basis culminating in five wins on the spin after landing the John Smith’s Cup on Saturday afternoon, this is a smart horse going places and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s tackling Pattern Company before long.

Declan Carroll got a deserved success with Hit’s Only Vic after an inspired no-nonsense ride from Derek Nolan to land the Listed Handicap and showcased the trainers talents after improving the horse 53lbs in official figures to land this off a mark of 97. The Ebor is his next intended target but the gelded son of Lemon Drop Kid is ground dependant and the trainer believes a little cut in the ground to be just what’s needed.

Onto this afternoon’s racing and there are a couple of bets which interest me over in Ireland, and the first of those two is King Ledley (3:05 Curragh) who gets his ground for the first time since his debut success at the track back in March and the son of Stormin Fever has been fitted with the first-time blinkers for this assignment. Aidan O’Brien usually does well in this race despite not winning it for the last three years, and he saddles Air Chief Marshal and Beethoven, although the latter I’m convinced has mental issues surrounding how much effort he actually puts in. King Ledley is currently a 3-1 chance with Bet365 and Betfred.

Next and finally the Irish Oaks (3:40) and plenty of people will want to be with the Epsom duo Sariska and Midday after the pair fought out a thrilling finish to the Investec Oaks just last month. Midday needs to prove she acts on a slower surface after being exclusively campaigned on faster surfaces so far in her career and Sariska I believe had a hard race at Epsom and it wouldn’t be surprising if she was still feeling the effects from that run. I’m looking elsewhere for value as always and the optimist in me suggests that Beauty O’Gwaun ranks a solid bet at the prices. A winner in soft ground on her debut, she once again did well to win at Naas when last seen on rain-softened ground looking green when the pressure was applied but she got there eventually to win by a head. John Oxx has fitted the filly with blinkers for the first time, now this could be down to her ‘greenness’ being a sign of her not putting it all in, or the fact that she still isn’t entirely ready for the big stage and the blinkers are applied to give her the best chance she can have of winning the race. I’m in-between both thought patterns, she is a filly with limited experience and evidently hit a flat spot in her last run, I’m guessing they’ve worked her at home in these and noticed an improvement in her work, John Oxx will obviously know best, he isn’t a well respected member of the game for making wrong decisions. Oh Goodness Me rates a large price for the each-way thieves amongst us but I’m slightly concerned about her lasting home as she didn’t appear to last out at Epsom last time. Beauty O’Gwaun is currently best-priced 4-1 with PaddyPower.

That concludes Sunday’s blog entry and possibly the last entry until the end of the week. I’m trying to avoid getting involved in the lower-grade racing on offer in the earlier part of the week and channel my energy elsewhere on projects that need my attention.

Time for some well earned breakfast.

Saturday’s Action

Yes well it’s Saturday afternoon (12:23) as I write this piece and obviously means I’m lacking sleep after a late Friday evening. However I thought I’d better get something up on the blog because as we all know Saturday is usually the best days racing of the week.

The first bet of mine this afternoon will be Hartley (2:25 Chester) and the James Bethell gelding ran a race full of promise on comeback behind Brief Encounter in a good time at York when last seen. The form has been franked after Brief Encounter won at the July meeting this week just gone in a good time once again meaning the James Bethell trained gelding comes here full of chances and is nicely priced at around the 10-1 mark.

Esoterica (2:35 York) is again overpriced on the speed ratings clocked at both Newcastle and Ayr and if you forgive him his last effort at Chester which is a track many fail to act on to full ability then he looks a fair bet here. His only run at the course before resulted in victory and despite being off a career high mark this gelded son of Bluebird continues to improve and is worth a small each-way poke at 22-1 (SportingBet).

David Barron can pull an ace from his sleeve in the shape of Sirvino (3:10 York) in the John Smiths Cup. The gelded son of Vettori comes into the race on the back of a four-timer and has been given a break to freshen up ahead of this intended target. His last rating at Ayr gives him a real shot at this race and the form has been franked to some extent with Shy Glance coming out and winning next time. Moonquake ranks the danger on his second to Perfect Stride at Royal Ascot. Sirvino currently rates 20-1 with SportingBet and BlueSQ and is worth an each-way poke.

Quite a tricky sprint round Chester (3:30) and one which possibly can go to Rievaulx World from the one box. The Kevin Ryan trained colt will be able to bounce out and make all and hopefully have enough distance between himself and his rivals as they swing into the straight to hold on, and is currently priced at 10-1 with Betfred and BlueSQ.

Back to York we go for our next bet and Hits Only Vic (3:45 York) can go close for Declan Carroll and David Nolan. The son of Lemon Drop Kid did the business in fair style at Haydock two runs ago and posted a good figure in the process. He also showed enough pace over 12f at Doncaster to suggest the drop back to this trip wont be any sort of problems and can put behind a lacklustre effort at Newcastle last time and return to form here, he is 16-1 to do so with Totesport.

Over to Ascot for the (4:35) and one in which the Chris Wall trained Fathom Five can resume winning ways under regular pilot Alan Munro. A winner of the Epsom dash in a good time on his first run of the season, he was below-par at Newcastle two weeks ago but the return to a course like Ascot should help eek out further improvement. His last run at this track resulted in a solid second behind Strike Up The Band off this same mark and looks sure to go close, and rates a 7-1 chance with Bet365 and Stan James.

A tough race to round off the list of days business but Ishetoo (5:30 York) can return to winning ways for Alan Dickman and Barry McHugh in this Knavesmire handicap. A winner here off 93 in May under Jamie Kyne, Ishetoo returns here off 95 after a disappointing effort behind Pavershooz last time up. Barry McHugh takes off a further 5lbs which suggests he should go close here on a course he obviously likes. He is worth a token each-way at the prices, and is priced up at 16-1 with SportingBet.

Hills to execute French sprint raid

Yesterday was hard, long day as far as my punting was concerned and it took until the second last at Newbury to get myself into profit. Various things was wrong yesterday about the way I went about my punting, too many bets, too many stupid combinations and wasn’t really thinking about being more selective as I had hoped the previous day.

Today (Sunday) I plan to be totally different in my approach, in that I’ll only be backing what I tip up in this blog and hopefully I can secure a profit that way without having to go in race by race on instinct as despite it paying off a few times, it can really break a bank if things aren’t going your way.

Beacon Lodge ran his heart out yesterday to finish second, but let’s face facts Main Aim was far too superior for him. I had worried about Main Aim after his win at Newbury as the figure from that race was immensely strong, but at the short price he already was I decided it was worth chancing another horse just incase he failed to fire but lets face it he oozed class and won easily. A small profit made on the each-way bet means the blog remains intact and in profit and looking ahead to some racing this afternoon it would appear that France, Chantilly to be precise is where to head.

I won’t be getting involved in the 2:30 race, but the 12-1 available with Totesport and Coral for Only Green is a big price in the context of the race. After a win in a listed contest at Longchamp last time Freddie Head’s filly will be ready to roll in this Group 2. Another line of form when third to Elusive Wave at Maisons-Laffitte gives her solid claims here at double figure odds.

The 3:05 race holds a horse I’ve been waiting to see since his impressive Group 3 win at Longchamp when last seen. The Eli Lellouche trained son of High Chaparral, Magadan can complete a hat-trick of wins here with a victory in this Group 2 contest. In need of a strong pace to show his immense turn of foot he may not get this here and for that reason I’m not backing him today at 4-5 (Coral) but I’m going to watch this race carefully with a view to the Arc betting.

Then we have the Prix Du Gros-Chene (3:40), a five furlong Group 2 contest for the best sprinting talent in both France and elsewhere. Marchand D’Or hasn’t looked the same horse this year and was turned over at a short price last time at Longchamp behind Benbaun and Mood Music. The winner of the race Inxile was later disqualified for minimal interference so its interesting that Dandy Nicholls has sent over Tax Free instead to Chantilly to contest this race, he must fancy his chances. On the figures Tax Free is a worthy favourite, but this game is all about being happy with the price you get and thus value and I can’t see anything better than 11-2 about Equiano (Coral). Has been running over six furlongs so far this year and got within 0.5L of Tax Free at Newmarket before a below-par run at York when from a poor draw and never really stood a chance. Equiano ran a massive rating in this race last year when getting collared by Marchand D’Or late on before going on to win the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot. In this race it looks fair to side with Equiano each-way at 11-2 and hopefully under the handling of Michael Hills he can guide this former Spanish Armada recruit home in front.

Cox’s Beacon to shine at Haydock

An excellent start to the blog with King’s Wonder doing the business at a princely 12-1. The 14-1 was available the evening before but suffered a minor rule4 after the withdrawal of one of his rivals but he proved unfancied in the market and did the business in fine style.

As far as the race was concerned he went about his business in the style of a well handicapped animal and after a few seconds where he looked like getting tired he kicked again after idling out in front. He’s a well handicapped horse and should be followed if turned out again quickly under a penalty.

On to today (Saturday) there is one massive piece of value to be taken and it runs at Haydock Park (3:05). Many punters are already suggesting it’s just a matter of how far for Main Aim but he’s already priced accordingly and in the art of selecting value it always pays to look elsewhere.

There is one horse which catches my eye immediately as being overpriced at 11-2 at the time of writing (1:20pm) and that’s the Clive Cox trained Beacon Lodge. Beacon Lodge looked like a real smart two-year-old two seasons ago when landing the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury but injury problems at three meant he only saw the racecourse twice. After being off for almost a year he was in desperate need of his comeback run at Doncaster in the Cammidge Trophy and made amends at Haydock when readily accounting for Ordnance Row. Ordnance Row came out and won the Royal Windsor Stakes (Listed Race) at Windsor next time up and the form looks strong, along with the rating of 101 I awarded to Beacon Lodge. The form of his last run looks strong with the TS and RPR just 4pts difference which is always a good indicator for the strength of form in regards to time, and this is my selection today.

Main Aim has also shown a tendency to throw in the odd clunker before now and has to my eye looked a quirky individual. There was plenty to like about his comeback romp over six furlongs at Newbury but he’s stepping up on better ground and for me he doesn’t represent a value price. Aye Aye Digby the horse he beat had posted an 87 the time before at Goodwood, a track which can sometimes inflate a winners rating especially over sprint distances and although Main Aim will be up there at the finish, I’d rather be taking the 11-2 each-way about Beacon Lodge than 5-4 about Main Aim.

Take Wonder to rule supreme for Muir

The first post for this blog of mine, and hopefully things will be kicked off with a winner. I’m going to throw in a big priced runner on a poor and hard days racing but I feel there’s one piece of value what has been underestimated by fellow punters and bookmakers alike.

The horse is King’s Wonder and has been chalked up at 14-1 at the time of writing (10:45pm) with bookmaker Bet365. Now for those of you who know me already or have read the about me page on this blog will know that I deal solely on speed figures. The best figure by this horse was when running at this track over six furlongs last year behind Peter Island when clocking a 92 speed figure. King’s Wonder was a well backed favourite after his wide-margin success on the all-weather at Kempton the time before where he clocked a respectable 86, however he was bumped at the start at Goodwood and made a strong effort to challenge before just running out of gas late on.

Peter Island has already come out this year and clocked a massive speed figure at Leicester on fast ground, and King’s Wonder has been gelded over the winter which should tease out further improvement for this quirky son of King’s Best, who has shown a tendency to hold his head high when under pressure. Martin Dwyer takes the ride for father in law Willie Muir who has his string running well at present and this looks massively overpriced at 14-1.

Of the remainder the Andrew Balding trained Dingaan could pose a threat but is a tricky customer and William Buick will have to be on top of his game to get his nut in front.

Finally I see nothing really in this field that can serve it up to King’s Wonder is the gelding is on top form, and with a solid run fresh last year to his name he looks sure to put in a big effort from the front.