Preview: Santa Margarita

Small field at Santa Anita for this Grade 1, without a real outstanding candidate, and in general it looks a rather open renewal. Warren’s Veneda is trading as favourite at the moment after she looked an improved mare over the last number of weeks. She won two on the bounce, most notably her recent success in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes. She got the perfect race and ride, trailing the field and making a sweeping move around the home turn to win with a bit of authority. She steps up in trip to 1 1⁄8 miles for the first time, but has a fair chance to stay the additional distance. A couple in this field try this trip for the first time and that adds to the openness of the contest.

The mare I feel is a good deal overpriced is the generally still rather lightly raced Uzziel. She finished runner-up in the Santa Maria, and was fair and square beaten in the end. However she was the one who fared best from the horses up with- or tracking the pace, while the winner and the horses behind her came all from off the pace. The fact that she was able to keep going must give her a fine chance of getting the new trip, as she looked more beaten for speed than anything else. On pedigree, this should suit very well too. That says it is not out of this world that she can turn around the form with Warren’s Veneda. And if she can do that, then she’ll go very close here today.

11.00 Santa Anita: Santa Margarita Invitational (Grade 1)
Uzziel @ 14/1 William Hill – 5pts win

Cheltenham Festival Preview – Day 4

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Hard to believe, but time is really flying – This is already the last day of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival! We’ve seen some memorable performances over the course of the last three days, but none was more impressive than Vautour’s demolishing job in the JLT on Thursday. Simply in another world! Well, betting wise it was poor day yesterday, but overall we’re still big in profit. Today is a tough day punting wise once again with big, competitive fields. So I try to be a bit more selective. You can read my Gold Cup Preview here, in addition to two more selections for this last final day of the Festival in this post.

Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle)

Not sure if the favourite can be beaten here, but it is certainly a big and competitive field. For a much bigger price a chance is taken with Stars Over The Sea who was a very promising horse earlier this season. He has been a good performer to the flat and took well to hurdles but disappointed subsequently at Cheltenham in December, which was his last start. He’s coming into this as a fresh horse and first time hood and tongue tie have helped so many others before already to realize their potential. He remains a talented hurdler with potential and may outrun his price.

Stars Over The Sea @ 66/1 SJ – 2.5pts EW

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Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

The always improving Martello Tower should relish this test today. He stays all the way and going up in trip back to 3m will surely suit. So should be the arriving rain. He beat smart Outlander over this trip at Limerick and followed up with a fine runner-up performance over shorter at Leopardstown. There is plenty to like and in favour for him today and I feel track, trip and ground are tailor made.

Martello Tower @ 10/1 PP – 5pts win

Preview: Gold Cup Chase

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This years Festival feature race looks wide open. There is no real outstanding candidate in the race. Or is there? Normally, Silviniaco Conti would be a red hot favourite in anyone’s book. He has the best form this season, and clearly is the number one chaser around at the moment. His Kempton King George success is the standout piece of form – undoubtedly. Trainer Paul Nicholls insists that all past problems have been solved and therefore he won’t falter again the way he did in last years Gold Cup after jumping the last, when he actually looked the sure winner. I’m not convinced, however To my eyes he simply looks a horse tailor-made for flat tracks, like Kempton and Aintree. For that reason I oppose him today.

There are plenty of new kids on the block. Novice Coneygree is a super exciting prospect. I really like him. He gets his ground with the rain arriving. But he’s a novice. That is not an easy task today. Road To Riches and Many Clouds are the improvers. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be competitive. Carlingford Lough also falls into this category and I like his profile. But the more rain’s falling, the more his chances are faltering. Willie Mullins’ best chance is rising star Djakadam. Another progressive sort, but  he is a very short price in this competitive race given his form.

Holywell is tipped by many to give AP McCoy the perfect farewell gift. He has been improving throughout the season and looks primed for a big run. He loves it around Cheltenham and stays. Surely it would be lovely to see him winning. But is he good enough? I remain a doubter.

What about the old brigade? Bob’s Worth, a former Gold Cup winner. Hard to trust these days with lack of recent form. Last years winner Lord Windermere hasn’t shown much this year either. Though an improved effort in the Hennessy may bring him nicely along. He’s trained with only this one race in mind. But the 2014 renewal was a strange race. I don’t trust the form.

Boston Bob and On His Own, two more Mullins horses. The latter one was runner-up last year. As mentioned before, a strange race. He done well this winter in the Lexus Chase and is not out of this, clearly he is a better chance than Boston Bob in my mind.

A bit the forgotten horse is The Giant Bolster. He absolutely loves it around Cheltenham and with a bit luck he would have won at least one Gold Cup in recent years. His jumping can be a problem sometimes, but he has the heart and guts to be a big runner once again today. At 40/1 with four places, he is well overpriced and his chances underestimated. He usually comes alive at this time of the year, and it is wise to ignore anything he has shown up to this point this season.

The Giant Bolster @ 40/1 Bet365 – 2.5pts EW

Cheltenham Festival Preview – Day 3 / Part II

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Part II of my preview for Cheltenham Thursday takes a look into the races with the big field sizes. Always on the hunt for value, I belive to have found some interesting overpriced horses.

Pertemps Network Final (Listed Handicap Hurdle)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Grand National winner Pineau De Re shows up today with a big performance but I like Trustan Times a bit more and trust him to run a very good race at a big price. Less than a lengths beaten in fourth last year, he followed on with a third in the Scottish Grand National. Wasn’t seen at his best this season so far, but good ground and return to Cheltenham will definitely suit.

Trustan Times @ 20/1 PP – 2.5pts EW

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Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Grade 3 Handicap)

David Pipe’s favourite looks hard to oppose but offers zero value. Jessica Harrington in contrast brings over the excellent mare Burn And Turn who was runner-up in the Galway Plate last year and who won off 138 a good Chase at Limerick over 2m4. Out off depth in Graded company, this drop in class will help and key to her is the good ground. She arrives fresh, what can only enhance her chances.

Burn And Turn @ 20/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

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Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase

Benbane Head has a p proven track record over course and distance and if you can forgive him his recent antics at Warwick then you see a nine lengths CD triumph in a Grade 3 Handicap Chase. He’s seven pounds higher today but could be up to it at this venue with ground he clearly likes.

Benbane Head @ 25/1 VC – 2.5pts win 

Cheltenham Festival Preview – Day 3 / Part I

Vautour

Tuesday was great, Wednesday even better – thanks to two winners on this second day of the Cheltenham Festival! Don Poli obliged in the style of a future Gold Cup star, while Rivage D’or went in @ 20/1 in the Cross-Country Chase. Under a patient ride by Davy Russell, he was all over jumping the last, though may have also profited from a crashing fall of two strongly travelling rivals. Don Poli is a very lazy sort and didn’t look too interested halfway through, but once set alive there was no stopping. That makes it another whopping 62.5pts profit for the day and now 100pts+ for the Festival overall! 

JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

Vautor is the clear favourite but I feel this is more down to his hurdling form than what he has shown over fences. You can pick holes into the form and his jumping can be slightly worrying. He may well be the star everyone thinks he is and he promised over hurdles at the Festival last year, but this game is about jumping and not every top class hurdler is a top class chaser.

Looking elsewhere, Ptit Zig is a very talented individual and if fully recovered from a recent fall he can run big but I don’t like backing lto fallers. Valseur Lido has a touch of class but not too many excuses the last time at Leopardstown. May need softer ground to be seen at his best anyway. Apache Stronghold chased Don Poli home over 3m, so clearly has class and loads of stamina. I liked the way he won at Leopardstown over 2m5 the last time. He should relish Cheltenham and the good ground and is a better chance than his current price tag suggests.

Apache Stronghold @ 11/2 PP – 5pts win

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Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)

Competitive renewal but Taquin Du Seuil looks hugely overpriced if you can forgive him some below part efforts over 3m in tough conditions. He didn’t seem to relish those stamina tests, so the drop in trip and good ground should help. His record over 2m5f speaks for itself, so does his love for Cheltenham. He won the JLT last year, and another win in addition to a close runner-up effort in four starts here means it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back at the venue of his biggest success.

Taquin Du Seuil @ 12/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

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World Hurdle (Grade 1)

No Big Buck’s in here this time and last years winner hasn’t made it to the Festival either. That opens up the way for improving Saphir Du Rheu who looks the new bright star in the staying division. A tough winner at Cheltenham in January, he could have still more to offer on what is only his third start over three miles. He’s also  rather low mileage for a jumps horse in general. Says he could be still on the up.

Dark horse for me is Dedigout. He remains in the World Hurdle despite the good ground potentially against him. He is hugely progressive as well and has won two nice races this season. He was once quick enough to win over 2m4f in graded company on yielding going, so that gives hope that the ground is not as big a deal as some may thing it will be. He looks certainly a huge price and is worth a nibble.

Saphir Du Rheu @ 6/1 PP – 5pts win
Dedigout @ 25/1 PP – 5pts win

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW – DAY 2/PART II

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Part II of my preview for Cheltenham Wednesday – I’ll have a closer look into all of these very competitive looking races with huge filed sizes. There might be some value to find, though, and if only one wins for me, I’ll be big in the profit today.

Coral Cup (Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle)

Prices are quickly diminishing for Lac Fontana but he is still big enough to have an each-way interest in him. He loves it around Cheltenham, won three out of six starts here and was progressive last season, culminating in a triumph in the Country Hurdle at the Festival. He has been not quite as good this season, well held in two of his three starts, though he ran in hot company and a third behind Faugheen at Kempton looks good form. He’s a fresh horse today which should work, he has his decent ground and is back at his beloved Cheltenham. I expect a bold bid.

Lac Fontana @ 18/1 Coral – 2.5pts win

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Cross Country Chase

I love this race. Visually it is most compelling. Some strong runners with excellent experience in this type of race are at the top of the market and it is not easy to oppose them, but they offer little to no value in their prices. From the rather unexposed looking animals I like Rivage D’or. He needs decent ground and looks on a fair mark with potential improvement to come. He fell when last seen but usually jumps well. Trip is an unknown but possible. He has won as a fresh horse before, and could outrun his price .

Rivage D’or @ 20/1 PP – 2.5pts EW

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Champion Bumper (Grade 1 Standard Open NH Flat Race)

Some lovely bred sorts in this race. I think some of the bigger prices are underestimated, however. Very well bred indeed is the only mare in the race, Montana Belle. She has a bit of experience in bumpers and shaped well in most starts. I loved the way she quickened here at Cheltenham over CD when last seen. She finished runner-up behind very useful mare Bitofapuzzle who won a couple of races subsequently and finished 3rd in the Mares Hurdle yesterday. The decent ground should suit Montana Belle who looks big and scopy. Worth a nibble.

Montana Belle @ 66/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL PREVIEW – DAY 2/Part I

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It’s been a spectacular opening day of the Cheltenham Festival! Willie Mullins was utterly dominant, as many did expect. Well, he didn’t quite made it a four-timer though, as Annie Power crashed through the last fence when she looked a sure winner. The bookies probably cried tears of joy that moment. A Mullins four-timer would have cost them millions. Nonetheless it was the Mullins Show on day one. It all kicked off with Douvan in the Supreme, half an hour later Un De Sceaux stamped his authority on his rivals in the Arkle, and Faugheen duly lived up to the hype in the Champion Hurdle – with Artic Fire and Hurricane Fly producing a one-two-three for the all conquering Irish trainer.

One a side-note: Our selections produced a whopping near 40pts profit on the day! Can be continue like that on day two? Well, let’s try. Part I of my preview for Wednesdays action is below – short and snappy once again.


Neptune Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Wide open race. Question marks all over the runners. Parlour Games is an improving sort, usually very strongly travelling. Should go close with good course form. If Nichols Canyon gets the trip, he rates a big danger. Will his jumping hold up, though? Windsor Park is an all improving sort as well, but looks short enough for what he showed so far. Vyta Du Roc may enjoy this test and can progress as well.
Hard to distinguish the better fancied horses. Looking for value, I like to think Ordo Ab Chao is overpriced. Won a trial over course and distance and seemed to enjoy the hill. Has obviously a bit too find and will have to improve to feature, but has the right profile and could well be the one to spoil the party.

Ordo Ab Chao @ 14/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

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RSA Chase (Grade 1 Novices’ Chase)

Don’t pretend to be smart here – Don Poli looks the real deal and has the best form in the book. He won at the Festival last year, but looks a stayer through and through. Reportedly lazy, he never shows too much but once asked for all, he usually finds plenty. His most recent Leopardstown win over 3m is the strongest form any horse has to offer here and he looks to be a class above the rest.

Don Poli @ 2/1 Bet365 – 10pts win

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Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)

This looks as open as it gets and it evolves around the winners of the last two renewals. If either Sire De Grugy or Sprinter Sacre can run to something close of their brilliant best, they are hard to beat. Consistent Champagne Fever and Dodging Bullets could capitalize on any flaws in the big two’s performance. It would not be totally out of the world to see a big price going well approaching the last either. It’s very tough to call what happens here but even though I don’t fancy him to win, I believe he’ll run a fair race for a very big price…

Talking about old boy Sizing Europe. Key to him seems to be to bring him fresh to a race. He won all his last starts when off for more than 100 days. That’s the case here. He goes well at Cheltenham, and retains some ability as he won over 2m5f this season on his seasonal debut. His legs may not be quick enough and he may get outpaced, but I can see him staying on for a place.

Sizing Europe @ 50/1 VC – 2.5pts EW

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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