Tag Archives: Chase

Tramore Racecourse: An Irish Racing Pearl

A friendly track with plenty of charm, fine facilities and stunning panoramic views of the Waterford coastline – Tramore is a place where racing feels celebrated.

It’s certainly a place steeped in history: racing at Tramore dates back to the 19th century – at least. While racing in the existing location has taken place since 1912.

History is in the air and you can feel it, smell and hear it when approaching the entrance to the track, with the spectacular coastline standing tall in the background. This isn’t the shiny new Curragh or a renovated Leopardstown. Racing at Tramore feels raw and real.

No surprise, you can sense the age of the place everywhere you go but that doesn’t distract from the fact that the facilities are well maintained. Yes, some wear and tear is visible, which only adds to the charm of the place, though.

The layout of the actual racetrack is interesting. This is a tight, roller-coaster like 7 furlong circuit. It’s up and down, ever turning and I can see how some horses love it while others won’t travel a yard.

This is perfect from a racegoers perspective because you are able watch the horses pretty much the entire race. No big screen needed. You can get a superb look of how the race develops especially once the field races down the hill on the far end of the track before turning for home.

As for filling the empty stomach or quenching the thirst: Tramore simply gets it right, There is lovely bar for pints from the tab. Enough space to sit with screens to follow the racing.

Food options are varied thanks to a fine bistro that offers a variety of fresh food options. There is also a dedicated fish and ship shop at the track. Prices are fair, taking into considerations we’re on a racecourse. It was €15 to get in, a coffee €2.50 and the food is reasonably priced.

Getting around is easy. Parade ring, stands, betting ring and all the other facilities are in close proximity. Despite the age of the racecourse everything here is clean, tidy and as well maintained as can be. Also a big shoutout to all the staff. Every single one had a smile on their face.

A highlight of Tramore’s location is the spectacular scenic view you can get from the parade ring toward the Waterford coastline. You can see the waves crashing on the beach in the background and smell the salt in the air.

The racing on the day of my visit wasn’t spectacular. Maiden Hurdles, low-grade Handicap Chases and a bumper – but it’s the atmosphere that matters. And from that perspective it was a stellar day.

A bumper crowd in attendance marveled in the victories of household names Rachel Blackmore and Paul Townend. Particularly Blackmore’s winning rides were popular with the local crowd.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the Champions Parade of Cheltenham heroes Honeysuckle – the two-time Champion Hurdle winner, Energumene – the reigning Champion Chaser, and A Plus Tard – the 2022 Gold Cup winner.

A Plus Tard

I wasn’t sure what to expect when heading for County Waterford. In any case: all expectations where certainly exceeded. Tramore Racecourse is a stunning place to go racing. I loved every minute. It’s pushing hard to become my favourite track in Ireland, I must admit.

The combination of coziness, rural charm and history with scenic views, fine facilities and a lovely atmosphere make this a place where the sport of horse racing feels celebrated.

All Photos © Florian Christoph

Saturday Selections: January, 11th 2019

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12.15 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

Agent Of Fortune looks to have a solid chance following up with another victory here, however he’s close to his very best rated and has to deal with a wider than ideal draw.

My ideal of a value chance is Subliminal. He comes with clear risks attached given he’s not the easiest to win. Connections try new headgear – remains to be seen whether that has any positive impact.

On the positive side: there is in my mind clear evidence that Subliminal is better than his current 57 handicap mark if he puts it all together. His last three starts all at Lingfield are perfect illustrations for this. He’s been running into trouble multiple times, not helping himself when usually leaving the stalls a tick slowly.

I feel a fair case can be made that when 3rd in November over this course and distance that he came with a winning run down the stretch if not for being a clear run denied on the inside rail. His latest 10/10 finish behind Agent Of Fortune can be upgraded also due to the fact of the suicidal pace Subliminal set and still got as far as he did actually.

A smaller field, a decent draw and no other horse in this field seemingly well handicapped, this is the chance for Subliminal to shine. He’s ran to 60 and 62 topspeeds in 2019 on the All-Weather, so clearly any visual evidence is backed up by the numbers that he is a better horse than what his win record portrays.

Selection:
10pts win – Subliminal @ 7/1 MB

………..

1.30 Kempton: Class 3 Handicap Chase, 2m4½f

Dipping my toe into unusual territory at this time of the year. But I feel Paul Nicholls’ Sao is supremely well handicapped and should be hard to beat here – if the handbrake is off.

This lightly raced 6-year-old hasn’t won in Britain yet, although showed promise a few times already and looks ready for an interesting campaign. Evidence of his latest run prove a couple of things: Sao wintered well and doesn’t appear to have any breathing issues.

That last race here at Kempton over 2.5f shorter back in November was his first after a summer break and he travelled and jumped well throughout. However he also was hampered by fallers and lose horses twice in the middle of the race, seeing him trailing the field.

Sao made up nice ground and after a pretty light ride by Harry Cobden finished strongly and seemingly with plenty in the tank after jumping the last.

A 123 handicap mark appears certainly low given potential improvement rather likely to come from this half-brother of Frodon. The additional furlongs are unlikely to bother Sao, however he appeared plenty keen the last time over shorter. So there is a light risk as well as the ground which may not quite be soft enough.

Nonetheless Sao appears an outstanding chance in this field in my book if he puts everything together and gets a clear run.

Selection:
10pts win – Sao @ 9/2 MB

Review: Cheltenham 2019 – a Boum Week

A magic week of racing is over – an excellent week from a personal perspective on the betting front: 145pts profit for a 72.50% ROI; but more importantly Cheltenham provided – as is usually does – the stage for incredible stories, memorable moments, tears of joy and sadness – four days full of drama are well and truly behind us!

Gold Cup Joy

Willie Mullins won the Gold Cup – finally! “I’d sort of resigned myself to not winning a Gold Cup” – the Irishman could be forgiven for his negative thinking because with more than a circuit to go it looked like another year of misery  as three of his four horses in the race were already gone!

Thankfully not Al Boum Photo, who was the “last man standing” for the Mullins camp – and my 22/1 selection for the Gold Cup (alongside Shattered Love who faded away in the closing stages) – was always travelling strongly in the hands of Paul Townend.

Sitting at the back of the field initially, Al Boum Photo made smooth progress, jumping well, Townend sitting confidently, letting his mount find a rhythm; turning for home he couldn’t hold him back for much longer as Al Boum Photo was tanking along, still hard on the bridle.

Despite a mistake at the second last, now asked for full effort, Al Boum Photo returned every call to win the Gold Cup a shade cosily!

The seven-year-old proved that his Tremore run on New Years Day wasn’t a fluke and that the glimpses of brilliance he showed last season in fact were real. It was also a hugely rewarding success for Paul Townend after what happened last year at Punchestown when Al Boum Photo looked all but to secure a Grade 1 success, only for Townend to take the horse out before jumping the last.

Can Al Boum Photo defend his crown? We have been here before. It’s such a difficult task as defending champion Native River had to find out.

Many believed he could do it, but there were early signs of concern as Richard Johnson had to encourage his mount from an early stage. In fairness, the brave Native River responded and battled to the line, ultimately finishing in a creditable yet well beaten 4th place.

Colin Tizzard lamented afterward not having used blinkers. Personally I don’t think it would have made a huge deal of a difference, to be honest. Native River didn’t have the legs to go with the three horses in front of him in the end. Neither had Clan Des Obeaux. His bubble burst.

Mitigating factors can be put forward for Presenting Percy’s flat performance. Not so much the preparation, which wasn’t ideal as had been discussed for weeks and weeks, but more so because he was found to be lame after the Gold Cup.

Female Jockeys Rule Over Cheltenham

Rachael Blackmore, Lizzy Kelly, Bryony Frost – three top class female riders who won races at this years Festival. Blackmore scored twice, though it was Bryony Frost who got the girls off the mark in terms of a first Grade 1 Festival winner over hurdles or fences.

Still challenging for the Irish jockey championship, Blackmore with close to 20 rides over the course of the four days, set a new record for female jockeys – the fact female riders achieved a higher strike rate vs. their male counterparts (4-46; 8.7% vs. 5.3%; 24-452) is an interesting side note.

I don’t want to be patronising. Nonetheless, this is a story that goes beyond racing, particularly in these times where equality is such a strong topic.

It shows that if given the opportunity, female riders can be as successful as male jockeys. It shows not everything is about riding the strongest finish but also about riding a smart race: knowing your mount, judging the pace right and finding an advantageous position to challenge when it matters most.

What I loved most about Bryony Frost in particular when she won the Ryanair Chase on Thursday were the words the found after the race speaking to a huge TV audience: emotional, yet smart. The way she spoke about the horse, about adversity, putting her own emotions into words which felt warm and relatable at the same time – a message not all jockeys are equally gifted in transporting to the general public.

One Era Ends Another Begins

Age catches up with anyone. It has caught up with Un De Sceaux and Faugheen. Both eleven-years-old now; the fall has been gradually, nonetheless it’s clear their younger rivals have fresher and faster legs these days.

I fancied Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase, actually. But truth is you knew his time was up when Paul Townend buried the 2017 winner of this very race at the back of the field. What eventual winner Frodon did you would have expected Un De Sceaux to do if at his brilliant best.

Faugheen fared a little bit better. He was there until the last in with a chance. Still, as soon as Paisley Park shifted into 6th gear the former Champion Hurdler was a beaten horse. He finished a creditable third, and he may well be able to go to Punchestown and win another race.

But as far as the Festival is concerned Faugheen won’t have many more stories to write, neither does Un De Sceaux. They don’t have to. Both horses have bee brilliant throughout their respective careers. They owe us nothing.

In saying that, the mentioned Paisley Park looks a staying hurdler for the ages. How he went from appearing briefly in trouble to looking absolutely irresistible within a matter of seconds was one of those “WOW” moments this week.

It can be the start of the new era. Comparisons with Big Bucks have been made. They aren’t far off the truth I reckon.

Thumps Up ITV

Good news on the TV front: average viewing figure rose 18.5% from last year to 993,000, while peak daily viewing numbers and overall share also saw positive rises.

As record crowds flooded trough the gates, record numbers were glued to the telly as well: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of this year’s festival saw  the highest average viewing numbers since records began in 2003.

Having the luxury of choosing between RTV and ITV at home, I chose to stick with ITV after day one. I thoroughly enjoyed their coverage. From the morning show to the coverage of the actual races – it was excellent, with good people before and behind the camera.

Yes, they speak a simpler language on ITV than they do on RTV. Francesa was asking some seemingly ‘dumb’ questions. One shouldn’t forget, though, the audience on ITV is a different one than on RTV. So overall, thumb up for team ITV – my biggest compliment for them: their genuine love for the sport comes across in every shot and every discussion.

0 British-Bred Winners

I only noticed this fact when reading the opening comment in the Irish Field yesterday morning – even though the numbers were low in years before, not a single British-bred winner at this years festival must be a concern.

Contrary, France closed the gap to Ireland. It’s 14-14 for French-vs. Irish-bred winners this time.

The likes of Klassical Dream, Duc De Genievres, Frodon or Al Boum Photo are all French-bred and were some of the most impressive winners of the entire week. Good news for the French breeding industry!

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There is so much more to say. I could go on for hours. So many memorable performances. So many stories to tell. Also a few sad ones – they are unavoidable in our sport.

It’s been a wonderful week of horse racing over all. The sport is as popular as ever, if not even gaining in popularity again! Long may this trend continue.

Back to bred and butter now: class 6 Handicaps on a Wednesday night at Kempton, Wolverhampton or at Southwell, not that Britain’s only fibresand track owns a bunch of floodlights! Butnot for long.

Even though the sky over county Kildare Is rain filled at the moment (and has been for the entire last week pretty much!) spring is around the corner and with that comes the flat season – the Doncaster Lincoln, the Dubai World Cup and also the opening of the new Curragh. It’s gonna be exciting!

Cheltenham Festival 2019 – Thursday Selections

Cheltenham Festival

2.10: Grade 3 Pertemps Final, 3 mile

The Pertemps Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas could be the key to this race: Favourite Sire Du Berlais qualify under a shrewd ride and looks perfectly laid out for this race – but he is a shocking price.

The first three of this particular race are of a lot of interest to me. The winner Cuneo made a big impression with his excellent attitude in the closing stages. He was still green, quite raw, travelling wide throughout, but made nice headway with three out, hit the front turning for home and found plenty under pressure.

He ran once more in another hot contest, though the fast ground wasn’t quite to his liking, so was the the way the race was ran. He looks bound to improve for the stiffer test at Cheltenham.

One had to be impressed with Walk To Freedom also, the way he finished late was eye-catching. Nonetheless I liked the performance of Thermistocles equally, and he’s a better price. He also is one who is still learning his trade quite obviously.

Thermistocles travelled strongly, throughout, maybe saw daylight a little bit to early after jumping the second last and just got beaten in a tight finish. He was 3rd in a Maiden Hurdle behind Dortmund Park last year, which reads good form and he has steadily improved ever since.

Selection:
5pts win – Thermistocles @ 16/1 MB
5pts win – Cuneo @ 16/1 MB

…….

2.50: Grade 1 Ryanair Chase: 2m 5f

Everyone keeps saying this is such a strong renewal – stronger than last year, most certainly. But is it really? More runners, yes. But more runners doesn’t always equate for more quality.

At the top of the market we have last season’s star novice Footpad. His reputation took a massive tumble this season when beaten in two starts. In truth, we were probably fooled by the impressive visuals: his jumping at speed looked simply stunning!

Form wise those achievements are less than stunning. Particularly in open company against the best in this division those runs don’t compare as impressively. With softer ground sure to suit it’s not impossible to see him improve, but stepping up to this longer trip is a concern on the other hand.

His prominent racing style should suit the nature of the Ryanair, on the positive side. So, with the ground for his liking and giving him the benefit of the doubt to stay the trip at Cheltenham, Footpad remains one the more likelier contenders. At 7/2 that is an awful lot of trust you have to have, though.

Last years winner Balko Des Flos has never after or ever before ran to the level he did this one magical day in March 2018. Suspicion is that simply everything went pinch perfect for him in this race twelve months ago. The pace, the ground, the ride from supreme Davy Russell. Not again – I’m pretty sure.

Road To Respect would be better running in the Gold Cup now that he settles better. I doubt he has the speed required in this field. Frodon is interesting. But he’s on the go for a while and I wonder: how much more can he improve? He may not have to but was well beaten in this last year.

There’s plenty of support for Monalee. In fact he’s touch and go for market leader at the moment of writing. It makes sense. This intermediate trip will most likely be his optimum. He ran well this season and has still relatively few miles on the clock, compared to some others.

On pure form I don’t think he should be up there, though; I find the hype unwarranted. That says, he could be the most solid choice – meaning, Monalee is likely to run a rock solid race. There is a case to be made that it’ll be enough to land the Ryanair this year.

The somewhat ‘forgotten horse’ is former champ Un De Sceaux. A lot is made of his age. True, and 11-year-old now, how much longer can he keep producing the goods? He was beaten in this race last year fair and square.

However, it was obvious he lost the race in the middle part when he made way too much, way too early. He set it up perfectly for Balko Des Flos. There’s the risk the same happens again. We know UDS. Once lit up he goes. No stopping.

On the other hand, as pretty much the only one in this line-up, he keeps producing the goods indeed. Certainly on the ratings front, everything he’s done this last season or in this single run this season – a highly credible 2nd behind Altior – is pretty much in line with his best, or close to.

By that standard there is no doubt Un De Sceaux is the best horse in the race. One last hurrah for the popular gelding. Ground will be perfect for him I reckon. He gets the trip.

He won here before – even though, judged on RPR’s he’s never produced his best at Cheltenham, which is the one niggling concern, more than his age, to be honest.

Selection:
10pts win – Un De Sceaux @ 5/1 MB

…….

3.30: Stayer’s Hurdle, 3 miles

On the surface Paisley Park is hard to oppose. He’s the right favourite, has the right form in the book and has clearly a good chance to put unbeaten run of four successfully to the line. But at odds of 6/4, with at least one viable alternative in the line-up, I happily oppose him.

Horses beaten in this race the year before have a dreadful record when they return. Nine-year-old horses upwards have a dreadful record also. But trends are there to be broken and Supasundae may well have returned as a winner if not for bumping into smart 2017 Albert Bartlett champion Penhill.

Supasundae travelled incredibly well throughout the race in ground conditions probably not to dissimilar to what he’ll encounter on Thursday and clearly stayed the trip without a problem – in fact without Penhill we would say he stormed up the hill, leaving the third placed Wholestone 5 lengths behind.

Trained by Jessica Harrington, Supasundae is a rare sort as he is so versatile to be good enough to compete in either a Champion- or a Stayer’s Hurdle.  In fact he is an Irish Champion Hurdle winner already but has been placed in multiple Staying Hurdle races as well as having landed the Coral Cup in 2017.

This season saw him clash with the brilliant Apple’s Jade multiple times. He was chasing in vane but shouldn’t be judged too harshly on that because the fact is he was runner-up in all his three start this season, all in Grade 1 company.

To round it up, I love the quote and bullishness of Robbie Power as he says:
“The English are ranting and raving about Paisley Park but he’s only beaten West Approach who I’ve ridden and is a very, very ordinary horse. Barry Geraghty rode in the race that Paisley Park won at Cheltenham and he came in and said that Penhill and Supasundae will eat him up.”

Selection:
10pts win – Supasundae @ 8/1 WH

……..

4.10: G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, 2m4½f

Very excited about this one: Eamon An Cnoic looks ready to rumble! The 8-year-old ticks all the boxes: an improving sort, coming here in nice form. Already ran well at this course and has Festival experience. Right level of experience, acts on the ground and trip and is trained by Martin Pipe who has a super record in this particular race.

Eamon An Cnoic travelled well for a long time in the Ultima twelve months ago, although the whole experience and 3m 1f trip was a bit too much in the end.

He returned to Cheltenham in November, running with plenty of credit in the ultra competitive Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

Eamon An Cnoic had a wind OP in the meantime, returns from that and a little break at Chepstow over sharp 2 miles. He travelled powerfully and produced a nice turn of foot to win which ensured he made the cut for the Brown Advisory.

Only 7lb higher over a longer and more suitable trip, with soft ground no worry, I feel Eamon An Cnoic is the answer to the puzzle.

Selection:
10pts win – Eamon An Cnoic @ 16/1 PP

……..

4.50: Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, 2m1f

Short priced favourite Epatante is already a French NHF Grade 1 winner but has only done what was expected in a couple of hurdle starts since switching to Nicky Henderson. She’s open to more improvement, particularly on softer going, but at given odds is easy to take on.

Particularly if you have such a strong opponent in Posh Trish. This classy looking individual has quite a physical presence and has clearly the best form in the book when beating Indefatigable at Taunton. According to TS and RPR’s still is by far the strongest piece of form on offer.

Posh Trish is still pretty raw and learning her trade, but with soft ground likely to suit her as well, and the fact she is already been to Cheltenham in the past, when she won a listed bumper, means that she should be a lot closer in the betting to Epatante than she currently is.

The Taunton form is interesting also because the runner-up Indefatigable ran a mighty race too. She made a mistake at the last, so we don’t know how much closer she could have got, but she went on to follow-up with another strong performance nearly collaring much more experienced – and 4th in the Mares Hurdle on Tuesday – Lady Buttons on the line.

Indefatigable has only won once and has to prove her ability to act on proper soft ground. At a big price I have a little saver on her as I feel she is well capable to outran this massive price tag.

Selection:
6.5pts win – Posh Trish @ 6/1 Coral
3.5pts win – Indefatigable @ 33/1 WH

Saturday Selections: March, 2nd 2019

National Hunt Fence

1.30 Newbury: Class 3 Handicap Hurdle, 2m 4f 118y

Nico de Boinville for Ben Pauling over hurdles at Newbury…. an interesting combination. A winning one, history tells us. They team up here with A Hare Breath. The veteran has question to answers after poor showings lately.

Nonetheless, fitted with CP for the first time, dropping significantly in the weights into an easier race, with conditions to suit, he should have on based on that a tremendous chance to win this race.

Obviously only if he is still in the mood. We probably will know soon after the start whether he is on a going day. At given prices I feel it is a fair risk to take.

Selection:
10pts win – A Hare Breath @ 6/1 MB

………

3.00 Doncaster: Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, 3m½f

Danse Idol has top form in the book as runner-up in graded company. She could prove hard to beat if she takes to the trip over this fast ground.

I feel she is short enough in the betting and red hot mare Bonza Girls offers better value. 5-5 in handicaps this season, she is improving rapidly. This is a higher grade and she has to improve again.

However, given she tries 3 miles for the first time, a distance that could suit and may well eke out more improvement, given she has been very game in her races, always running well to the line, it is possible we haven’t seen her best yet.

Selection:
10pts win – Bonza Girl @ 5/1 MB

……..

3.35 Doncaster: Class 2 Handicap Chase, 3m 2f

Given form and ratings, Dingo Dollar offers plenty of upside and looks a shade overpriced in this race. On the surface he was slightly disappointing in the Listed Skybet Handicap Chase here at Doncaster recently, however that form as well as his run in the Grade 3 Landbrokes Chase were strong races.

This looks easier. The trip will suit. The additional furlong should be to his aid. Off 148 back in a handicap I feel there is still a bit more to come.

It’s Wayne Hutchinson’s only ride on the card also. He knows the horse well already, which is a bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Dingo Dollar @ 4/1 PP

…….

7.30 Chelmsford: Class 5 Handicap, 6 furlongs

Real Estate is clearly in good form as his last performances suggest. He also remains handicapped to go close again. He may have better form over 7f, however he can be keen over that trip, and his latest runs over the shorter trip are promising.

Those races look like rock solid form, he’s also rated a pound below his last winning mark right now. There doesn’t seem to be too much pace on in this race today, so from a good draw there is fair chance he’ll be well positioned to make a break turning for home, playing out his extra bit of stamina in the closing stages.

Callum Shepherd comes here for this one ride only; let’s hope he can make this one a winning one.

Selection:
10pts win – Real Estate @ 10/1 PP

Preview: G2 Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase, Thurles

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A wide open contest in my view; the trip and ground in combination is something most of these have to prove their class. Tramore’s Savills Chase appears to be a key piece of form, which the market seems to evolve around.

Total Recall was a clear runner-up that day. Invitation Only a distant third. Progressive handicapper Tout Est Permis is the sexy new kid on the block. He’s quite clearly the most interesting of the lot, as he is unknown quality, not having met any of the others in this field yet and also handles good ground.

However, most, if not all in this field, prefer to go further than the 2m 4f 118y; particularly on fast ground this race becomes a bit of a lottery.

Hence the one I find most interesting is Sub Lieutenant. He’s got to bounce back from poor showings in his last two starts. On the excuse side one could argue: Tramore was on ground way too heavy for him and Down Royal a much tougher race, even though it looks more likely he simply didn’t fire that day.

Sub Lieutenant also prefers a longer trip. Nonetheless, he has quite decent form over this sort of distance. That form looks even better if only taken races on better ground into account. Sub Lieutenant is a horse that thrives on fast ground. And with that he is one of only a few in this line-up.

That the 10-year-old isn’t gone that proved his Punchestown victory in the Irish Daily Star Chase back in October and to lesser extend the Galway Handicap success in August.

No doubt Sub Lieutenant has to step up today. And whether he is still near his old best remains to be seen. In these conditions today, in such an open race, I back him to bounce back.

Selection:
10pts win – Sub Lieutenant @ 9/1 MB