Tag Archives: Gold Cup

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

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Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home  Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Saturday Selections: March, 14th 2020

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Cheltenham is over. It didn’t deliver the goods on the betting front as it did in the last years. At the very least it delivered some relieve in the sense some of my selections were successful. Many more ran really well. That’s a big positive after the worst start to any betting year I ever had.

There is a bit a question “would, could, should”. But those type of thoughts rarely lead to anything good.

I got the Gold Cup spot on, though: Al Boum Photo was the one to beat and he had everything you need to go back to back. He didn’t quite have the same dream run through as last year but he had a super sharp Paul Townend in the saddle who made the right decisions in the right moment to ensure ABP endured as little trouble as possible.

He beat Santini in a brilliant finish. In third, my selection, Lostintranslation, ran a massive race. The two possible improvers were good enough to beat the rest of the field, as was my expectation before the race. But they were not quite good enough (yet?) to beat the defending champion.

After the week didn’t start too well for Paul Townend, he finished it off with a week that’ll go down in history. Champion jockey and the man who steered a horse to defend the crown in the Gold Cup. He doesn’t always get it right. But who does? Ruby and AP didn’t. What matters is that Paul Townend got it as right as it gets at the grandest of stages. That makes him a top top class jockey.

I will review Cheltenham tomorrow afternoon on Dublin City FM. Tune in if you like. Beyond that, I gonna struggle on in an attempt to get by betting back on track. Thankfully the flat is around the corner.

………..

6.00 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 9.5f

The money is pouring in for Taurean Dancer who returns from a break with a first time visor fitted and Rossa Ryan in the saddle for what is his only ride on the card.

Whether this Taurean Dancer’s optimum trip is a question mark, given his career best topspeed rating came over further. However hes form over shorter as well, having been beaten only by a neck at Kempton over a mile of a much higher rating in the past.

I imagine he’ll be ridden forward in order to set a good pace and use his undoubtedly existing stamina. As he can be keen, this should suit him well in a race that is wide open.

Selection:
10pts win – Taurean Dancer @ 11/1 MB

Cheltenham 2020: Friday Preview

Winner!

Oh Melon…. right before the line and after the line in front but not on the line – where it mattered. Tough to take. This year really tests my mental strengths. It’s the second tight finish this week (Abacadabras) that went against my horse. Kilfilum Cross was another runner-up, albeit fair and square beaten.

Final day of the Festival. Even though it went decent enough so far, I really could do with a big winner. On a different note: how Cheltenham can go on while every other sporting event worldwide is cancelled due to COVID-19 is hard to understand.

I mean don’t get me wrong: I’m home bound, so happy it’s on. But from a pure risk management perspective this looks wrong.

………

1.30 Triumph Hurdle, 2m 1f

This is a wide open race as the betting suggests. The completely unexposed Solo is probably the one most likely to be a superstar. If he finds this a bit too much, though, there is anything up for grabs.

The one that looks completely overpriced is the JP owned Cerberus. If not for idling when seemingly having won the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, he’d be a Grade 1 winner and much shorter today.

He’s jumping generally fine and economically, has run as fast on the ratings front to suggest he belongs here and is much closer matched to Allmankind that the bare Chepstow form would suggest.

Re-watch the race and you’ll see the field gifted the eventual winner an easy lead, and while Cerberus made nice progress at the latter stages, Robby Power was taking a bit pull before approaching the last, which meant the ground made up was lost in an instant. He was pretty kind on the gelding in the finish, is fair to say.

The 5 place offer with William Hill looks attractive. I firmly believe he’ll be in the money. But the win odds on the exchange are much bigger and even better value.

Selection:
10pts win – Cerberus @ 24/1 MB

……..

2.10 County Hurdle, 2m 1f

Oakley ticks a lot of boxes trend wise but also form wise. I really liked his most recent effort in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury when pretty much all went against him that could.

Good ground was certainly not what he wants, a standing start didn’t help with finding a good position early on, and then being hampered by fallers at the last was still not enough to see him finishing strongly, resulting in an eye-catching performance that also looks good rating wise.

He’s one of few in the field who has already proven to be able to run as fast as his handicap mark warrants. Oakley has performed with plenty of credit this season, including course form, including a neck beaten runner-up effort over this CD.

Selection:
10pts win – Oakley @ 29/1 MB

………

2.50 Albert Bartlett, 3 miles

Experience can count for a lot here, so does stamina. With that in mind Ramses De Teillee should have a tremendous chance to be in the shake-up at the very least.

He’s reverted back to hurdling, although he was quite a good staying chaser, actually. A runner-up in the Welsh Grand National, he also achieved a topspeed rating of 149, which is the highest in this field and manifests his status as a graded horse.

Ramses De Teillee has won his last two starts, so comes here in fine form and is sure to stay every inch of the uphill finish to the line.

Selection:
10pts win – Ramses De Teillee @ 14/1 MB

……..

3.30 Gold Cup, 3m2½f

After landing the big pot twelve months ago as a 22/1 longshot (and I backed him!), Al Boum Photo holds a special place in my heart. Emotions aside, he looks the type capable of doing the seemingly impossible: defending his crown!

Part of the reason why I believe he has quite a decent chance is simply down to the opposition. Make no mistake this is a good and deep Gold Cup field – but without any true superstar to beat, other than ABP himself. That may change post race; as of now Al Boum Photo looks the clear favourite in my book.

The other reason to believe he can do it is the ideal preparation the 8-year-old enjoyed. He went down the same route as last year, he comes here fresh on the back of a fine effort at Tramore. Since Cheltenham he only ran twice: the aforementioned January race and a fair runner-up effort behind Kemboy at Punchestown.

ABP is still relatively low mileage and even though he may not improve any further, he doesn’t have to: an effort as good as twelve months ago will see him probably hard to beat.

The one thing that does potentially speak against him is the fact that last year he got pretty much a dream run through the race. Everything worked to perfection. That may not be the case this time.

Nonetheless it’s reasonable to attest that 10/3 is at the very least a fair price – potentially even too big. Still, I feel there is better value in the field for the fact that I do want to have an improving horse on my side.

I don’t think Delta Work is good enough. He’s a contender but a silly price for all what he has done so far. Particularly if leaving naked form aside – which can mislead – and look what’s under the hood, it becomes clear he simply hasn’t ran particularly fast yet. He may well be capable of doing so, but fact remains in 17 starts over fences or hurdles he never bettered a 132 topspeed rating. That’s not up to scratch for a proper Gold Cup horse.

Granted these ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt and Al Boum Photo didn’t achieve that either before his Gold Cup victory. He had, though, less chances to do so and you could make a reasonable case to believe why he might be able to step up to the required form, plus he was a much bigger price, than Delta Work is today. Not to forget ABP ran to a 177 TS rating in the Gold Cup eventually.

Kemboy has been disappointing this season. His jumping makes him vulnerable. If he gets his act together he is a live chance, nonetheless, and a far better one than Delta Work.

Presenting Percy had enough opportunities to prove he is a top class staying chaser. He hasn’t quite delivered the goods as many would have hoped he would at this stage last year. He has place claims if at his best.

As impressive as Clan Des Obeaux is at Kempton, he will likely struggle here once more. Bristol De Mai can run his race and could be an interesting each-way candidate at massive odds.

That leaves the two potential improvers. Santini and Lostintranslation.

Santini has been touted a Gold Cup horse for a while and to his credit he has answered the calls when landing the Cotswold Chase this season. A breathing operation has clearly helped. He has the right profile and looks to have talent in abundance, with more to come.

The same can be said about Lostintranslation. However his star has faded a little bit since the King George where was pulled up. He had a wind OP in the meantime, though.

You have to believe that procedure has helped to rectify the issues he clearly had in December. If it has and you ignore the King George, you see a progressive staying chaser who was a fine winner of the Haydock Betfair Chase, which made him a short price for the King George in first place.

What I appreciate most about Lostintranslation: he is not a pure stayer but has proven speed. He has both: speed and stamina. That is the magic combination for a true Gold Cup contender.

Therefore, at given prices I have to side with him. He ticks nearly all the right boxes. Only the King George and recent wind operation are question marks; hence he isn’t 3/1 but rather 11/1, which is over the top and the fair price is probably somewhere in the middle.

Selection:
10pt win – Lostintranslation @ 11/1 WH

…………

4.10 Foxhunter Hunters’ Chase, 3m2½f

The drift is a worry, but at this price, particularly each/way, too good to let go. Alcala has ran well to qualify for this race with two efforts within two weeks last month. That may have left a mark and possibly is a reason for the drift.

Hard to know. If he is fine, and one hopes he is if allowed to run, then Alcala must have a better chance to make the frame than 50/1 would suggest.

He’s a decent chaser who has won over this trip in the past and he’ll enjoy the drying ground. In an open contest he can outrun his price tag.

Selection:
5pts e/w (5pl) – Alcala @ 50/1 Bet365

Cheltenham Festival 2019 – Friday Selections

Winner!

Comprehensive preview of the Gold CupRead Here.

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Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle, 2m 1f

Sir Erec has been touted as the banker of the week and he may well be. His flat form and Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle win entitle him to be at the top of the market. His preparation hasn’t been quite worry free, though. Probably it won’t make a difference, but it’s something to keep in mind.

As for his form: for all the visual sensation his most recent Leopardstown success created, as weak that form looks on the other hand.

Main rival Tiger Tap Tap had excuses (if you’re willing to accept them) and other than the Willie Mullins horse there was little of real quality in the field. It also was a steadily ran affair, suiting Sir Erec from the front best. A TS rating of 85 for a Grade 1 over 2 miles on good ground is appalling.

Soft ground holds no fears to Sir Erec judged by his strong flat form on this type of going. But on anything he’s achieved over hurdles so far he’s clearly one to avoid at a skinny price.

In saying that, it sounds hypocritical to put up Tiger Tap Tap as a selection for the race. Though, there are good reasons: on his stable- and hurdling debut in December at Leopardstown he nearly matched vastly more experienced Sir Erec stride for stride and only went down narrowly in the closing stages.

The Mullins camp expected a big run in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle but neither the steady pace suited, nor the fact he was boxed in turning for home, nor that he may have been undercooked, hence didn’t pick up at all after jumping the last.

Willie Mullins contested: “I might have been too easy on him between those races but he’s a smart sort”.

Mr Mullins has seen plenty of great horses over time. He’s got plenty of great horses filling the boxes in his stable right now. It would have been easy to let Tiger Tap Tap fall after such a disappointing run. But to the contrary, the trainer keeps faith, saying this lad is quite a smart one and he’s hopeful to get him back to the type of form produced on his debut.

I take trainer comments always with a pinch of salt. If they complete a picture I’ve already painted, it’s a positive, though. Clearly Tiger Tap Tap is talented; also related to a few smart horses. He’s already won on soft ground in France – so here’s hoping for a big run on Friday.

There is another one I quite like and want to throw at the favourite here:

….that’s not Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle winner Quel Destin. Don’t get me wrong, I do like him but I simply like the close runner-up of the very same race, Adjali, the little bit more at much bigger odds.

Truth is there was little to chose between the two, even though Quel Destin kicked on from there winning another Grade 2 whereas Adjali was a massive disappointment subsequently.

Nonetheless, there is a dramatic price difference between the two, which I don’t feel reflects truly on the difference in class.

Interestingly, after the disappointing Cheltenham performance Adjali was seemingly out of the Triumph picture but came right back into it when delivering a fine piece of home work which lead Nicky Henderson to attest Adjali to be in “great form” and that “he’s very much come back to the front line.”

If Adjali can improve – which he has to – he can be able to outrun his price tag given ground and trip will be perfectly fine.

Selection:
5pts win – Tiger Tap Tap @ 10/1 PP
5pts win – Adjali @ 16/1 Coral

……

2.10: Grade 3 County Hurdle, 2m 1f

Eclair De Beaufeu has made eye-catching progress from poor maiden hurdles right into hot handicap company. The novice showed guts when getting finally off the mark at Limerick in heavy ground. He followed up with an impressive success at Fairyhouse.

However the real eye-catcher is undoubtedly his latest run at Leopardstown, in a strong handicap – hist handicap debut – he travelled and jumped well and stayed on nicely in a messy finish for 4th place.

He comes here only 2lb higher. This experience should taught him plenty. He’s open for progress and should enjoy the stiff test on softish ground Cheltenham will provide on Friday.

A second selection here is improving Monsieur Lecoq. Since moving to the UK the French import won two on the bounce in deep ground and was only edged out late in the Imperial Cup last week by a well handicapped winner, while not getting the best of rides by an overwhelmed young apprentice.

Monsieur Lecoq can actually race off a lower mark here and has the excellent assistance of Lizzy Kelly in the saddle, who’ll claim valuable 3lb. Ground and trip will suit. Whether he can stay up the hill remains to be seen.

Selections:
5pts win – Eclair De Beaufeu @ 12/1 BF
5pts win – Monsieur Lecoq @ 14/1 PP

……..

2.50:  Grade 1 Albert Bartlett, 3 miles

Proper soft ground, usually an attritional race, one where stamina and experience counts for a lot. Cap York doesn’t tick all the right “trend” boxes but plenty enough for me.

He was a promising younger horse when moving over to Ireland after showing signs of talent in France. Leg issues prevented him from running for roughly two years before coming back this season to land a Maiden hurdle on his comeback run as well as a decent Handicap when last seen.

That performance is hard to gauge because the main challenger fell at the final hurdle, but up until that point Cap York rallied strongly, to suggest he may have held on anyways.

Before that the seven-year-old ran with plenty of credit in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle at Limerick, finishing 4th behind Derrinross. He was unlucky that day – not only did they crawl, which doesn’t suit this lad at all, but he was also several times heavily impeded over the last two furlongs.

A race with good pace, with emphasis on stamina and soft ground will be ideal for York Cap. He looks like a stayer through and through, which his trainer Noel Meade confirms:

“He just keeps galloping and I’d say the softer the ground and the longer the trip the more he would like it… he stays and stays. ”

Selection:
10pts win – Cap York @ 26/1 MB

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4.10: Foxhunter Open Hunters’ Chase, 3m 2f

If you’re one of the lucky ones who got early on to Hazel Hill – well done! I’m late too the party but not too late. The 11-year-old isn’t a sexy price any more but I imagine he”ll go off around 7/2 fav on the day.

This lad looks a serious Foxhunter contender – still relatively low mileage for his age, a proper ‘hunter’, he came into the picture with a wide margin success at Warwick in January. He ran to an RPR of 151 and TS rating of 119 that day – this is as good a piece of form you’ll find this year in this sphere.

Hazel Hill is 14 out of his last 15 rides, unbeaten under rules, will love the ground and trip and is without a doubt the one to beat.

Selection: 
10pts win – Hazel Hill @ 13/2 WH

………

Grade 3 Grand Annual Chase, 2m½f 

Last year’s winner Le Prezien comes here only a single pound higher than winning twelve months ago. That was a serious performance in similar conditions as to expect on Friday, when he had to navigate around a faller three out, yet came home super strongly to win with a bit in hand.

If Le Prezien is a similar sort of form he’ll take a hell of beating, granted he gets a clear enough run. He’s had a quiet enough season, with one fine hurdle run and two disappointing performances over fences. He didn’t set the world alight last year before Cheltenham either, so this isn’t a worry.

The other one at an even bigger Price I quite like is Marracudja. He’s down to a pretty fair mark having won the Scottish Champion Hurdle off a pound higher last year.

He’s a tricky enough ride, but looked quite good in his last two starts toward the end of 2018. Since then Marracudja had a wind OP and comes here fresh. He’s won off breaks before, and if his wind is fine now then he should go close in these conditions.

Selections:
5pts win – Marracudja @ 20/1 BF
5pts win – Le Prezien @ 11/1 PP

……..

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, 2m4½f

Acapella Bourgeois returns after a one year plus lay-off. You have to trust Willie Mullins to bring him over in good shape. Now a 9-year-old, it remains to be seen how much ability he retains, but judged on past form he’s got a brilliant chance here.

He was in the Ryanair, Gold Cup and Grand National picture still at the start of the year. So, I hope now reverting to hurdling, where he can race off 9lb lower than his chase mark, a big run is on the cards.

One shouldn’t forget Acapella Bourgeois was a Grade 2 winning novice hurdler and two years ago a leading RSA contender. Also when last seen, Acapella Bourgeois was punted off the boards in a hot 2 mile handicap (where he was subsequently pulled up).

Back up in trip, with soft ground, one would hope Acapella Bourgeois will find ideal conditions to show – granted fitness is on his side. At a massive price it’s worth the risk.

Selection:
10pts win – Acapella Bourgeois @ 20/1 MB

Big Race Preview: Cheltenham Gold Cup 2019

Presenting Percy is the one to beat, surely? Too commanding was his RSA victory twelve month ago – a second successive Festival success after landing the Pertemps in equally impressive fashion another year earlier.

A less than ideal preparation for the Gold Cup stands on the other side. Only one run over hurdles, not having contested a chase this season; it has to be a big negative, regardless of how bullish Davy Russell and trainer Pat Kelly are.

I don’t necessarily mind having only one race this season. Coming fresh to Cheltenham, potentially fresher than rivals, in what should be another war of attrition, may not be that big a deal. But not having jumped a single fence in public for a year certainly is.

Visually Presenting Percy looks the real deal. Even though over hurdles, the Galmoy success at Gowran Park, the RSA, the Pertemps… they were wonderful performances on the eye.

It’s a different matter on the clock. In five starts over fences his best time speed rating is a lowly 106. Given he ran to 146 over hurdles and he potentially better over the larger obstacles he is potentially capable to better that. He hasn’t shown it yet, though.

With all these negatives, despite having the best man for the job in the saddle with Davy Russell, I can not see the value in the 7/2 odds. He may drift out on the day and if so, at 6/1 and upwards I’d be interested.

Defending champion Native River has defied a few trends already, so why shouldn’t he be the one who does the near impossible, going back-to-back?

On the many preview nights you could hear plenty of positive vibes, because with the ground likely coming up favourably for him, there are many much wiser men than I am who believe the nine-year-old is capable of mastering the enormous task on hand, that is defending his crown in the Gold Cup.

Form wise it’s hard to judge what he has really done this season. Again only a light campaign, he ran with plenty of credit on fast ground in the Betfair Chase, which was also his seasonal return. He rallied on rather quick ground once more in the King George.

It was a concerning look I felt, nonetheless: Native River, the reigning Gold Cup champion outpaced way too early in one the few big targets he’d have this season. Sure, Cheltenham is a different task. Nonetheless, nearly 14 lengths beaten, racing clearly with less zest than in the past, was and still is a big concern for me.

The new kid on the block – at least in terms of being regarded as a true Gold Cup contender – is Clan Des Obeaux. Even though, not quite that fresh; in fact this is his 3rd season over fences.

He’s only won five of his 13 starts since going chasing, and only lately did he come into the frame as a potential winner of the blue ribbon of jump racing.

An impressive success in the King George, followed up with a visually incredibly impressive Denman Chase victory – it’s obvious this is a horse in the prime of his career.

Personally I still struggle to take him serious for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In truth, all he’s done is beating horses that haven’t been in peak form in the King George, and you hardly can take the latest Ascot race as a proper measuring stick.

Clan Des Obeaux was a runner-up in two of four runs at Cheltenham, so he’s probably okay over course and distance. But the fact remains his jumping can be sketchy at times, he can be a tricky ride in general and quite obviously he’s much better at right handed- and speedier tracks in my view.

I’m not saying he can’t win. Of course Clan Des Obeaux can – he’s the form horse. But there is at least as much on the con-side as on the pro-side, therefore he’s a skinny price.

Might Bite has clearly gone backwards. He’s had another wind procedure after a lackluster effort in the King George (and preceding Betfair Chase). You have to have a lot of confidence that this will help the son of Scorpion to rediscover the magic he produced in 2017 and 2018. Even at 14’s or bigger I’m not ready to take a punt on this.

Can Willie Mullins finally win a Gold Cup? He got close with Djakadam a couple of times. There are those that say, despite running four in this year’s renewal, he’s not the quality to win it. There’re others who’re sweeter on his chance this year. Including myself.

There is Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill. Only nine runs over fences for the nine-year-old, he appears to be still on the upward. He’s clearly come a long way since finishing a 10 lengths beaten third behind Might Bite in the 2017 RSA Chase. Nearly an Irish National winner, now a Punchestown and Irish Gold Cup winner – you have to respect his chance.

Bellshill goes on any ground, he stays the trip and even on ratings – particularly if you’re in the camp believing the market leaders are a bit overrated – he’s got little to find to be right up there. I find little wrong with him anyway – he’ll be bang there.

There is not a lot wrong with Kemboy. He really stepped up this season, winning a Grade 2 on reappearance followed by a wide margin Savills Chase success at Leopardstown.

Nearly the same as for Bellshill applies, even though there is a little niggle in my head – despite having form on slower ground, whether Kemboy simply found perfect conditions, both in terms of ground and how the race panned out at Leopardstown? Both clearly favoured his speed hence do we overvalue this form?

Despite Bellshill finishing well behind Kemboy that day, I feel he’s got more improvement to come and in a match race would be my choice.

That says, purely on prices, I do fancy Al Boum Photo the most of this trio – Invitation Only really should not be good enough. But Al Boum Photo has definitely the potential to be good enough.

Surprisingly, the seven-year-old flies quite a bit under the radar. True, Tremore form is hardly sexy, and New Year’s Day may feel like a long time ago now, as that was the last time we saw him – however, it shouldn’t be forgotten what he did that day as he slaughtered a pretty decent field in the Savills Chase.

The seven-year-old has not too many miles on the clock, but during his career he’s certainly been somewhat an ‘unlucky’ horse: most prominently in last season’s Punchestown Champion Novice Chase when he ran out before the last fence while looking like the winner of the race.

Earlier that season he won the Gold Cup Novice Chase beating Shattered Love which came right after a late fall in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham, where he would have finished at least a clear third (most likely second, I believe) behind Presenting Percy. He wouldn’t have caught the winner, but running so well as a 6-year-old in that type of race rates significant in my book.

Al Boum Photo looks incredibly talented and Willie Mullins alludes to the fact that despite all the excellent performances the gelding has beside his name, we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Soft in the going description will be vital for Al Boum Photo. Given the current whether forecast it looks likely we’ll get that come Friday. Unlikely it’ll be heavy, but it should be still riding on the slower side is my prediction.

This type of conditions are key to my second fancy also: Shattered Love. The only mare in the race, at the bottom of Official Ratings and certainly not seen as a serious contender whatsoever, judged by the betting market.

The market may have it wrong, though. On RPR’s she’s got to find 6-12 pounds with the market principles. If my assumption is correct that Native River and CDO are overrated, then, taking the 7lb sex allowance into considerations, Shattered Love is suddenly right up there. That doesn’t take into considerations potential race conditions and any sort of improvement the mare could still show.

The facts are: the mare has a 45.5% win rate over fences, she has been outside of the money only twice in eleven starts over the larger obstacles, she is in the right age group as an eight-year-old and most importantly she has Festival form.

Cast your mind twelve months back, when Shattered Love stormed up the hill to win the JLT decisively. It wasn’t a fluke. She followed up with strong runner-up performance behind Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

That was last season. Has she trained on? Absolutely! Two fine second place efforts this season, most notably chasing home Min over 2.5 miles in the John Durkan can be classified as rock solid form – notably upgraded because they came on unsuitably fast ground.

Hence I’m not worried about Shattered Love’s below-par run at Leopardstown over Christmas. She needs cut in the ground and Gordon Elliott said afterwards he’ll keep her fresh, not risking her on ground too fast until the Gold Cup.

While it is true the mare needs to improve a bit, I feel she may well do so and is certainly entitled to more respect than she is currently receiving. Shattered Love has a lot going for herself either way: the weight allowance will help her allot. She has pace but stays well also. She proved good enough to step into open company. She’ll primed for the run of her life comes Friday.

Selections:
5pts win – Shattered Love @27/1 MB
5pts win – Al Boum Photo @22/1 WH

Sunday Selections: Dublin Racing Festival

Dedigout and Paul Carberry

Big day at Leopardstown today – day two of the Dublin Racing Festival! The Irish Gold Cup is on the menu, serving a fin main dish.

That despite the weather turning for the worse. Saturday was such a lovely, sunny, crisp and clear winter day – 24 hours later it’s rather windy, grey and dirty. Still, there isn’t a lot of water coming down from the sky, which means the ground continued to dry out and remains on the good side.

That has seen plenty of on-runners already, and that in turn makes some of those races on the card today quite interesting betting contests.

So, unusually for me, I’ve found three pretty strong bets!

…….

2.25 Leopardstown: Grade B Handicap, 3 miles

Despite a 7lb raise in his handicap mark, unexposed Cuneo looks ready to follow-up on an impressive Christmas success that came over course and distance. He has the making of a better than 133 rated individual, even though future will clearly be over fences.

The last time at Leopardstown, in massive 28-runner strong field, he travelled always close enough to the pace but showed signs of greenness throughout, making it a tricky ride for Rachael Blackmore.

Nonetheless Cuneo’s eye-catching progress over three out had the making of a talented individual. And even though he nearly messed things up approaching the final fence, he ran on well, while appearing to be doing as much as needed to win the race.

There should be plenty more improvement to come with this fella and if he gets a clear run of things today should be hard to stop. Even more so as he seems to enjoy good ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Cuneo @ 7/2 MB

……..

3.35 Leopardstown: Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup, 3 miles

The flagship contest of the Dublin Racing Festival has been thrown wide open with the drying ground and the withdraws of quite a few interesting runners.

That should make it a clear thing between Al Boum Photo and Road To Respect? Noel Meade’s charges enjoys good ground maybe the little bit better and is proven class – he’ll be tough to beat. On the other hand, despite his overall positive record, he’s one who can also find trouble and get beaten when he shouldn’t – in my mind.

I’m yet to be fully convinced by Al Boum Photo, particularly on this ground. Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill is the more attractive Willie Mullins runner.

As the field is much smaller now than initially thought, this could turn into a tactical contest also. And that’s why I feel this is much more open than the market suggests. Probably more open than it was if anyone would have lined up?

Edwulf will appreciate any drop of rain that’s currently falling. Will it be enough? Remains to be seen.

I am keen at a massive price – though falling all the time already – on the aging Outlander. He’s not getting any younger, his best days may be beyond him. But he ran okayish, without setting the world alight, in three starts this season.

I’m pretty sure this was his target all along. Outlander loves Leopardstown – he’s a different animal here – and he loves a bit of decent ground. He was runner-up in this very race last year. So he must rate a live chance. A better one than 4% in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Outlander @ 24/1 MB

…….

4.10 Leopardstown: Grade A Handicap Chase, 2m 5f

Competitive contest in its nature, but I feel only few are weighted to win, particularly on the rather fast ground. I can make good cases for favourite Speaker Connolly – though it’s a skinny price, really, De Name Escapes Me or Cadmium, but it’s the ever improving Cubomania who catches my eye.

The 6-year-old has been progressive over fences, ever since having a wind operation during the summer. He won five times since then, and has been a highly creditable runner-up in his last two starts.

His latest effort at Fairyhouse in particular proved he still finds more. The favourite had a bit too much speed in the end but Cubomania stayed on very strongly after a good round of jumping.

The grey will enjoy the step up in trip and has quite an excellent record on better ground. So, while he has to defy a career highest mark, there is a good chance he can find the improvement needed – as long as he gets a clear run, which is the worry if he drops in in this big field.

Selection:
10pts win – Cubomania @ 13/1 MB

Cheltenham Festival 2018: Day 4 + Gold Cup Fancies

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Delta Work (12/1) lit up the day! In a thrilling finish, driven out by brilliant Davy Russell, won the day, and the week. Back in the profit, and with less races to come than needed to erode the accumulated profit, it’s already, before the final day, a profitable week. Now the question is: is a noteworthy profit or pocket money? On to  Gold Cup Friday….

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14:10 Cheltenham – County Hurdle

The trend horse, the sexy horse…. the winner? Smaoineamh Alainn must go close. This lightly raced six year old has won all his hurdle starts and got up here at Cheltenham over this trip in December – a piece of form that has worked out incredibly well.

Eight pounds higher than that day; he seems very well handicapped. Connections opted against from running him again. It certainly protected his handicap mark.

With the track and trip not imposing any fear, the ground shouldn’t either. He’s won on very soft ground already.

Selection:
10pts win – Smaoineamh Alainn @ 16/1 Skybet

…….

14:50 Cheltenham – Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

I take a swing at two pic prices: Fabulous Saga wasn’t right when last seen at Leopardstown. Leaving that form out he won a Grade 2 and Grade 3 on the bounce over this sort of trip on deep ground.

Mulcahys Hill went desperatly close in a the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle. Can be a tricky character and bombed the next, but that may came too soon. Step up to 3m should be perfect and ground is in his favour.

Selection:
5pts win – Fabulous Saga @ 33/1 VC
5pts win – Mulcahys Hill @ 54/1 Matchbook

…..

15:30 Cheltenham – Gold Cup

As open a Gold Cup as I can remember in a while.  Personally I don’t trust Might Bite yet. He has to show it here that he stays professional and can get home in a competitive top class field in the noisy environment that Gold Cup Day at Cheltenham is.

That means, without a clear cut favourite, you can make cases for plenty in the field. I give Our Duke a big chance. However, he’s not a price I want to get involved in. Simply because I feel Killultagh Vic nearly double the price is much better value.

The question is how he has mentally recovered from the crashing fall in the Irish Gold Cup. We won’t find out until he runs. That says, without being able to say for sure whether he would have won, given Edwulf, the eventual winner that day, travelled strongly approaching the last fence too, it’s fair to say Killultagh Vic would have gone almighty close.

Despite his age of nine, the Willie Mullins charge has only nie starts to his name and only three over fences, of which he won two, and the other one the mentioned Leopardstown race.

That means Killultagh Vic may still have a bit of improvement left. That he is up to Grade 1 standard he showed last month. The ground is sure to be to his likening. So, if he has recovered from his fall, he must rate a huge runner.

Another interest I have is American. Not for win purposes. He’s likely not good enough, however, will relish the ground conditions. He has been supplemented for the race and his runner-up performance behind Definitely Red here in the Cotswold Chase at the end of January is a fair piece of form.

He travelled really well for most parts of the race, however might have done a bit too much too early, I felt. So there is a chance he could finish closer to Definitely Red on another day. That should be good enough to see him in the mix. He’s also one who is still open to progress.

Selections:
5pts win – Killultagh Vic @ 10/1 VC
5pts Place – American @ 8/1 Matchbook

…….

16:10 Cheltenham – Foxhunter Chase

Foxrock can make this a true test for the hype horse of the race: Burning Ambition. It’s true, in the past Foxrock didn’t enjoy the best of runs at this venue. However, in my mind, it was down to bad jumping. He’s older now, wiser, a better jumper and this not as good a race as those he used to run in.

Says, the ten year old is still class. He won four times in this sphere last season and had a fine reappearance at Thurles in January when runner-up behind Gilgamboa. Both jumped the last locked together, but Foxrock got very tired, as he was entitled to after his break in bad ground as it was that day.

Trip and ground conditions will be ideal for him here. Hope he can make it third time lucky – he certainly is the price of the race in my eyes.

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

Coneygree Superstar!

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The Punchestown Gold Cup promised to be a race not to be missed…. it thoroughly delivered! In a thrilling, head bobbing finish, Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John got the better of Djakadam and the unbelievably brave Coneygree. What a race it was!

It’s been the cherry on the cake of an unbelievable season for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power – only a good week ago they also landed the Irish Grand National and of course the big price at the Festival in March.

For me, though, this race was all about Coneygree. He who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a novice in 2015, but since then until today had only two more runs due to injuries. After another lengthy spell on the sidelines he returned to the racecouese today and tried it once again his way – the hard way – from the front.

He set a rattling pace, jumped explosive as ever, but got tired in the closing stages – who will begrudge him that – and as a result made a big mistake two fences from home, which ultimately ended his dreams.

Though – and that was what impressed me most – he rallied and battled, fought his way back into contention to be in with a chance jumping the last.

It wasn’t enough, Djakadam an Sizing John battled it out in the final furlong – Coneygree came home one and a half lengths beaten in third eventually. Given the circumstances this was as massive a performance as you’ll ever see. What a superstar Coneygree is!

……..

1.40 Beverley: Class 5 Handicap, 5f

If it wouldn’t be for apprentice Patrick Vaughan on board I’d say Lawless Louis is a penalty kick in this race. The young jockey’s record on turf is atrocious and even on the All-Weather he’s having a hard time this year so far.

On the other hand he’s got some decent rides for the O’Meara yard over the last couple of seasons and is quite an experienced rider for his seven pound claim, so this allowance might come handy here, actually.

Lawless Louis makes his seasonal reappearance here at Beverley where his trainer has quite a fine record over the years and given he can race off what could easily be a lenient mark I assume he’s ready to go fresh.

He finished a fine sixth in the Listed 2yo Trophy when last season in 2016, which was an excellent performance and in line with some other decent performances where he wasn’t all that far beaten and the form has stand the test of time.

Now as a three year old dropping to 5f again and taking a massive drop in class I feel he has a bit of potential to win one or two races. Certainly the handicapper gives him every chance, and while it is no easy feat as a younger horses against older, seasoned handicappers at this point in the season, I feel he has a prime chance in this particular race.

It’s also noteworthy that Lawless Louis is a full-brother to the decent filly Lydia’s Place who herself was a 89 rated individual at some point in her career.

Selection:
10pts win – Lawless Louis @ 5/1 Bet365

………

Another winner on the board yesterday – okay half a winner! London Master travelled much the best in the 6.30 at Wolverhampton but just couldn’t quite get past the gutsy filly Log Off. He appeared to be in front behind the line, though when it mattered, it seemed to my eyes that Log Off held on.

After lengthy enquiry a dead heat was declared – certainly a result I can live with, giving I though it was lost! And as I backed London Master at 11/2 the night before, even a dead heat resulted in a decent payout!

Cheltenham: The Future Starts Here

The Festival it was – a crazy week flew by in a blink of an eye. A proper review of all the Cheltenham action is due, though at another time. Nonetheless a big shout out to Sizing John and everyone connected with the new king of jump racing!

What a gutsy performance, he stayed every inch of the Gold Cup trip. A sensational, patient, cool ride by Robbie Power. A horse that was campaigned over two miles where he couldn’t get past the almighty Douvan, but upped in trip and his class could finally shine to its full extend!


Horse racing is the game that keeps giving. It never stops. Only one week then it’s Dubai World Cup day, one week after the flat season starts…. it comes thick and fast. Cheltenham is over and one might think the world ends. But no – the future starts here! Isn’t that beautiful?

So let’s keep the momentum rolling and have a look what racing has to offer on this Saturday. Two races in particular are of interest to me.

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2.40 Kempton: Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle

An ultra competitive race with nearly half of the 2o runners in with a fair shout. However I do like quite a lot Dan Skelton’s Bandsman off a lowly mark on his handicap debut.

The six year old took his time to get off the mark, but was massively impressive once he did it. He followed up with another success at Market Rasen, when he fought gamely to be on top when it mattered most.

This form looks strong through the runner-up who since then went on to win a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle. An opening mark of 129 may well underestimate Bandsman’s true class, particularly with ground sure to suit and potential improvement to come for the step up in trip.

He’s not a slick jumper yet, so has certainly to do be better in that department against classier opposition here. But if he learned and if he stays the trip then he’s a good chance to be in the shake-up I feel.

Selection:
5pts win – Bandsman @ 9/1 Bet365

……

3.20 Limerick: Handicap Hurdle (80-109)

Top weight Hareth looked worth for more than his narrow success in a Handicap Hurdle here at Limerick under a stylish Carberry ride back in April. Off the track for nearly three years subsequently, he made a pleasing comeback at Naas last month when a fair third.

Back at Limerick, he’s probably a good deal better than his current rating and can make that count against very beatable opposition. Slight concern over the soft ground and the 2m trip, given he won on fast ground over further in the past, but class can see him through.

Selection:
10pts win – Hareth @ 7/2 Matchbook

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017 – FRIDAY PREVIEW

There you go: the finale, the last day – it’s nearly over, gone, history. Time’s flying and these four days of Festival craziness fly by in a blink of an eye. This is Friday, the day were the champ of champs is crowned. Who’ll make history, who will it be, the new king?

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1.30: Triumph Hurdle

The home team has a strong hand in the race with the unbeaten Defi Du Seul and progressive Master Blueyes and French recruit Charli Parcs but I feel it’s the Irish that will take home the price.

If Bapaume would line up I’d be certainly interested in him but the market trend suggests he’s not going to be declared. So it’s left to the horse who has beaten him in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle last month: Mega Fortune.

I really do like the progression this good looking Soldier of Fortune son has made this season.He got closer and closer to the big guns in Graded races until eventually getting his head in front.

In the Leopardstown feature he jumped well but was most impressive once he put the foot on the gas pedal. He jumpedthe second last and wooosh off he went, in the end running strongly to the line.

I’ve got slight worries about the fast ground as he seemed to relish the juice in the ground the last time, but at given prices he’s a bit over here with only a handful of runners having a realistic chance to go close. Further progression must see him go close.

Selection:
10pts Win – Mega Fortune @ 7/1 PP

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2.10 County Hurdle

Gordon Elliott has a massive week so far and it might get even better because with Mick Jazz he has an exciting runner in the race. He won well on his first start for Elliott in October and was a fine runner-up behind Labaik, which looks brilliant form in hindsight.

He then went on to Fairyhouse Handicap where he travelled strongly behind a wall of horses but in the home straight then getting hampered twice, also making a mess of things at the second last, yet staying on strongly. Impressive!

After a break he produced another strong staying performance beating an odds-on Mullins horse at Punchestown. He looks the type ready made for Cheltenham. Even the ground is no worry. He could easily be better than his handicap mark.

Another one I really like to run big is Twiston Davise’s Crievehill. He’s probably getting in off a light weight. He’s progressive, his 3rd place behind Neon Wolf when last seen looks strong form and he might be still able to progress. The ground is a big worry as he never encountered anything less than soft, but at a big price he’s worth a punt.

Selection:
10pts win – Mick Jazz @ 10/1 Bet365
5pts win – Crievehill @ 40/1 Betfair SB

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2.50: Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Death Duty may look like a good thing to many – but not to me. He could easily be too good, though at shortish odds I’m against him given he’s unproven on this ground and trip.

Two bigger prices are certainly of interest and seemingly underappreciated: there is the lightly raced Constantine Bay, who stepped up to 3m at Doncaster and produced a strong travelling yet incredibly game and tough performance in a ding dong finish, staying on very strongly. Traits you want to see in an Albert Bartlett contender.

Ami Desbois is the other one: Already  a seven year old, bit more experienced, he’s been improving this year, was only a lengths behind Wholestone over course and distance in December but the price difference in the betting would imply there is a whole world between the two.

I really like Wholestone, but if I do so, then I have to like Ami Desbois even more, given his progressive profile and much bigger price.

Selection:
5pts win – Ami Desbois @ 33/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Constantine Bay @ 16/1 Bet365

…..

3.30: Gold Cup Chase

Who’s the new champ? Native River most likely. Hard to be against him? He put in some big performances, is clearly on the up, has Cheltenham form and is only seven. Even if there is no rain arriving, the ground may not necessarily be too big an issue.

But at the given price I can’t have him. Plain and simple he’s got to prove it all now for the first time in Grade 1. He hasn’t done that before. This is the toughest test to date which he may pass with flying colours. But I have to see it to believe it.

The standard is set by Djakadam. Twice a runner-up in this race; seemingly enjoying a better preparation this time and the Mullins yard is bullish. Fact is he’s been here before and ran extremely well, but fact is also his win record is only average. He had a lot of hard races for a horse of his age, so I’m not convinced he is even able to run to his form of the last two years.

He may well, but again, price dictates that he’s not for me. Even at double the odds he’d not be my choice, I have to admit. And that might be unfair to the poor horse and he could easily prove me wrong. If he does: great for Willie Mullins and well deserved.

Looking elsewhere I cant have Cue Card either. The old boy seems to be nearly as good as ever. But does he truly stay the Gold Cup trip? I still have a few doubts. Another one who’d be a well deserved winner, don’t get me wrong. But there are good reasons to oppose him, at least at a shortish enough looking price.

Sizing John is an interesting case. He won’t see the backside of Douvan here, but will he actually have the stamina to get home? Big question mark in my book.

Lexus Chase winner Outlander is a serious horse, though one you never can be sure whether he’s on a good or a bad day. It concerns me that he has not been seen since Christmas. Maybe to keep him fresh. This quirky character is not for me.

Neither is More Of That, even if Jonjo is blullish. Maybe unlucky the last time when he fell in the Irish Gold Cup, but overall his form over fences is below the standard required to land a Gold Cup.

Brings me to the two I fancy – though as it is with each and everyone in this field, you can blow big holes into their form.

After landing the Peter Marsh Handicap at Haydock, Bristol De Mai was odds-on to land the Denman chase, where he was then a long way beaten by Native River. That form is not his true class and I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s clearly better than that.

Still only a six years old he could easily improve and develop into a top chaser. He may not, of course, that is also possible. At given prices I’m rather backing him to close the gap to the favourite.

Speaking of form that ties in with Native River: he was second at last years Festival behind Minella Rocco in the National Hunt Chase!  For Minella Rocco things did not go well since then. A decent comeback run followed by a fall and unseating his rider in his next two other starts this season.

Hard to know what to make of that. Confidence might be an issue. But if he can get his act together, which is more likely to happen at a place over a trip he has proven to be successful at, then he could be in the shake-up.

Selection:
5pts win – Minella Rocco @ 25/1 WH
5pts win – Bristol De Mai @ 25/1 WH

……

The Foxhunter is a race I find impossible to solve. Yes, On The Fringe is the most likely winner, but he is also a very short price. I would love to find an alternative but I rather focus on the last two races of Festival.

…….

.4.50: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap

There is no doubt that Battleford ticks every box for me. Granted he gets in to the race, which looks rather likely (otherwise it’s money back anyway), he’ll be a big market mover come Friday I believe.

He had the perfect preparation in my mind, showed excellent form this year – his runner-up effort behind Monalee rates highly in my book. Most importantly he was here last year, finishing an agonisingly close second in the Champion Bumper.

Off a really nice mark he’s got a tremendous chance to win this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Battleford @ 8/1 Bet365

……

5.30: Grand Annual

Having fancied Le Prezien to have a chance to have a place chance in the Arkle and subsequently in the Brown Advisory, I have to fancy him for this, right?

The French recruit has had a good – albeit – light season so far, including a Grade 2 success here at Cheltenham. Hi seasonal reappearance when second behind Charbel looks increasingly strong form after his excellent performance in the Arkle on Tuesday.

Ground is a slight worry, but he looks potentially well in on handicap debut, so it’s the risk I take.

However there is another horse I even more fancy: that is Velvet Maker. I was incredibly keen on this lad last year in the very same race, where he bombed out. But he scoped badly- and had his issues in the aftermath, which meant he only made a reappearance last month.

That was an encouraging spin over hurdles where he travelled well and finished a nice third without getting a hard time. He should come on allot for the run – hopefully – with a 2lb lower mark than last year, fit and healthy this time around, I sense he’s a massive chance to lead from start to finish.

Selection:
5pts win – Le Prezien @ 10/1 Bet365
10pts win – Velvet Maker @ 14/1 Bet365