Duke’s Tips – Champion Hurdle 2012

Following on from my tip for Prospect Wells in both the Ladbroke Hurdle at the weekend and the Supreme Novices at the Cheltenham Festival my attentions turn to another Paul Nicholls runner with a view to landing Champion Hurdle glory.

Campaigned over longer trips last season, Rock On Ruby returned with a massive performance on the clock to crush a ludicrously well handicapped Empire Levant in some style at Newbury giving away 24lb to his well fancied stable mate.

That performance came off a mark of 145, and given he will improve for that seasonal return he looks an exciting prospect for the Ditcheat handler this season where many expected him to be going novice chasing.

Although he has run excellent races over further, Rock On Ruby is unbeaten (accounting for his debut defeat) in five attempts at running the minimum distance in both Bumpers and Hurdles and heads towards the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day, and should he win that (and I think he will) his price will collapse with a view to the Champion Hurdle in March.

Oscar has proven himself a very decent stallion so far, and has proven equally adept at getting distance chasers to fast hurdlers; Peddlers Cross was second in this race last year to Hurricane Fly. Oscar also has Oscars Whisky and Oscars Well in the Champion Hurdle entries and it all bodes well for Rock On Ruby dropping back to the minimum distance in the highest grade over hurdles.

Istabraq, Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca and Hurricane Fly are but a few that have won a Champion Hurdle that had previously raced over further which adds further to the case of Rock On Ruby being effective back down in trip.

With doubts surrounding the current participation of Hurricane Fly, and questions about whether Binocular is now on the decline it paves the way for something from the new brigade to come through and show their hand in the greatest race over two miles.

We have yet to see Spirit Son and Zarkandar, and either of those could have improved heaps over the summer, and I know plenty is thought about Spirit Son (who ran massive at Cheltenham and Aintree) but he hasn’t been seen yet and Rock On Ruby has already done it on the clock to make me want to get involved.

If I was Paul Nicholls I would run Rock On Ruby in the Christmas Hurdle, and then put him away until the Champion Hurdle in March. I have been watching him closely with the recent best laser rangefinder and he has proven his capability to run exceptionally well fresh, and this would enable them to also go and run in the Aintree Hurdle after taking in the Champion at the Festival.

Antepost: Champion Hurdle
1pt win Rock On Ruby @ 20-1 with Bet365, StanJames, WilliamHill, SkyBet[/notification_box]


Duke’s Tips – Ladbroke Hurdle

Amazingly another excellent day for the blog with two winners from three selections, we rounded the day with a 15 point profit to advised stakes (not 18 as put accidently on Twitter) and thus continuing the fantastic run this blog has been on over the past month or so.

I genuinely haven’t expected it to be going so well as I am historically a flat based speed figures man and have in the past had a hard time trying to select winners over the sticks, but something is clearly going right at the moment and we just have to hope that trend can continue.

There was nothing of interest for today, and as Matt Chapman said on Attheraces “if you’re a first time racegoer you’re not turning up at Fakenham on a Monday are yah?” pretty much sums up the quality on offer on a quiet Monday afternoon.

I’ve turned my attentions towards the Ladbrokes Hurdle at Ascot the weekend, where I really expect the exciting Prospect Wells to continue winning ways and thrash these off a mark of 142.

He is a lovely big horse that was very decent on the flat in his native France winning a Group 2, before switching across to England and taking a listed race at Pontefract, before embarking on a hurdling career in the care of Paul Nicholls.

I was visually impressed with the run Prospect Wells gave at Cheltenham when narrowly beaten by Steps To Freedom and the way the raced panned out wouldn’t have suited him (jog-sprint). This is a horse that will benefit from a true pace throughout and I expect him to turn the form around in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in March.

I have to attribute this next piece of research to Nick Mordin via his website, he timed the Greatwood and Novice Hurdle that Brampour ran in and came up with this conclusion based on timings.

[quote]Incidentally, from a timing point of view, this was an interesting race. The official time was 6.5 seconds slower than it was for the Greatwood Hurdle on similar ground at the same meeting two days later. But that was partly because the runners in the Greatwood Hurdle started much closer to the first hurdle. From the first hurdle the time difference between the two races was only 3.9 seconds, which is pretty remarkable seeing that the novices went a slow pace till reaching the third flight. From that jump the novices came home 1.5 seconds faster than the Greatwood runners.[/quote]

If you work with the calculation that it takes 0.20sec over jumps for a horse to cover a length, then Prospect Wells has beaten Brampour by 7L off level weights from when the race got going (third flight) in the novices hurdle to the line which is some effort. Brampour was rated 149 at the time which would put Prospect Wells somewhere around 156 based on that effort which gives him a massive 14lb swing at the weights with his current official rating.

Another tenuous line would be through Brampour again who ran third to Grandouet in the International Hurdle off level weights beaten 4.5L, Grandouet is rated 164 which would further enhance the claims of Prospect Wells given the son of Saddler’s Wells is lightly raced and has plenty of scope for further improvement.

The larger field on offer at Ascot at the weekend will be a big plus for this gelding, and from what I have seen he should deliver a hammer blow to the bookies at the weekend, before moving up in the ranks and shortening massively in the betting for the Supreme Novices Hurdle.
So with that in mind, I’m going to bet as follows.

Ladbroke Hurdle:
3pts win Prospect Wells @ 9-2 with Bet365 [/notification_box]

Antepost: Supreme Novices Hurdle
2pts win Prospect Wells @ 14-1 with Boylesports, PaddyPower and William Hill. [/notification_box]


PaddyPower Gold Cup Chase

I know this is a week away, and we still have some decent racing this weekend to get through but I was browsing through the form earlier and was interested in one at decent odds.

The Paddy Power Gold Cup is without doubt the highlight of Cheltenham’s Open meeting, which this year, runs from Friday 11th November to Sunday 13th November. Run just a shade over two and a half miles (2m4.5f), it is a premier handicap chase which over the last few years has attracted some of the very best staying chasers around.

The likes of the ill-fated Exotic Dancer took this in 2006, future Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander won in 2008, and other greats like Our Vic, Fondmort, Cyfor Malta have all won this race prior to further success.

Last year Long Run ran third in this race, before progressing to win both the King George and Gold Cup in quite impressive fashion.

A quick look at the weather forecast for next week (metcheck.com) suggests we should be in for some dry weather in and around the Cheltenham area so hopefully we will get decent racing ground (we usually get good/good to soft at this time of year).

Poquelin (if he runs) tops the weights off a mark of 170, and although he has won handicaps over this trip off marks of 163 and 170 it is difficult to imagine him winning this race with so many unexposed and improving horses in the field, he remains an admirable and high-class sort though.

Should Poquelin not line up, Wishful Thinking will move up to the heads of the weights but for the time being he sits 6lb off Poquelin in the weights. On form he appears held by Noble Prince on their running here at the Cheltenham Festival, and it is difficult to imagine him reversing that judging by how impressive Noble Prince has been on his comeback.

19 horses aged ten and above have run in this race in the past ten years, and not a single one of those made the frame, so you can rule out Scotsirish, Holmwood Legend and Finger Onthe Pulse really on the basis of that one stat.

7 of the last 10 winners of this race had previously won at Cheltenham, which as we know is a big advantage given the stiffness of the fences.

10 out of 10 had won a chase at class 2 or above, and all ten had run in 6 or fewer handicap chases (last 7 had run in two or less).

One which immediately catches my eye in this is the Nicky Henderson trained Dave’s Dream, who returns after a long layoff since disappointing over C&D last December in the Vote A.P Gold Cup off a 1lb higher mark. He was given reminders after just the fourth fences, and was beaten before both the trip and his 11lb hike in the weights off his previous victory came into play, and was clearly not on a going day.

A quick glance through the form of Dave’s Dream reveals a rather alarming performance pattern. When the horse returns to the course off a break of six months or more his form reads (11111), which when you compare to his figures after a recent run (01663400) it reveals a pattern which would otherwise have been concealed to the normal viewer.

Dave’s Dream runs his best races fresh, and is unbeaten when returning from a break. His latest effort after a break came when readily accounting for a decent field when winning over two miles at the track off a mark of 137 and judging by the way he won that day he would have won with another 10lb on his back as well (he is due to carry 147). Still pretty much unexposed having just had three starts in handicaps over fences (only one when returning from a break, which he won) he could still be concealing a fair amount of ability from the handicapper.

When winning that race at Cheltenham, he ran over half a second quicker than Gauvain did over the same C&D (rated 142 at the time) suggesting he is capable of running to his current mark, providing he is fresh.

The son of Anshan returns here off the back of an eleven month break, and Nicky Henderson quite possibly may have tinkered with his breathing again (has had breathing operation before) in the meantime and he rates a very interesting runner in what is a competitive race.

The probable decent ground on offer will certainly suit him also, and although there is a slight concern about him getting the trip – his breeding suggest he’ll have no problems whatsoever with it, and this could be the year he wins a nice race.

[notification_box]1pt each-way Dave’s Dream @ 20-1 with Ladbrokes, PaddyPower, BlueSQ, Betfred, SportingBet
(1/4 odds 1-2-3-4).[/notification_box]