Tag Archives: Jump racing

Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Wednesday Preview

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A winner?! A feeling I forget exist: enjoying one of my selections crossing the line in first.

I can’t quite remember the last time this happened – it’s been a while – even though it looked like coming when Abacadabras traveled like a dream through the Supreme, despite a slightly awkward start, and getting hampered by a faller, he looked like the winner turning for home…. only to be denied on the line. Of course!

Thankfully Honeysuckle ended my incredibly brutal losing run, beating Benie Des Dieux in a brilliant finish. It was a superb ride by Rachel Blackmore, who continues to prove female jockeys certainly can be at the very top of the game.

I could do a with a few more winners now. Have a lot of catching up to do in order to get 2020 back into the green. The second day of the Festival is a tasty one, although again a tricky puzzle to solve as usual. All selections are big prices which increased the chance for a blank day on the winners front.

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1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, 2m 5f

On paper Envoy Allen looks the banker of the day. He may well be. If he can continue to improve he’s hard to beat. Will he, though?

You can argue he didn’t have to be pushed to the limits in his last two starts. There is a good chance he can pull out more. At the same time, at least on the rating front, Envoy Allen is good but not overwhelmingly brilliant. RPR’s and TS ratings are to be taken with a pinch of salt in jump racing, yet have some merit.

On that front, second favourite Sporting John is a highly intriguing rival. All the time improving, his Kempton performance was simply stunning and looks excellent on the rating front too. Unfortunately I am too late to the party: the juice is out of the price. Factoring in his general inexperience, having never raced on these terms, I have to leave him alone.

Brings to my selection: a rare each-way one: Easywork appears to be a massive price. I believe he’s harshly judged by his runner-up effort – albeit a long way beaten – behind Asterion Forlonge, who didn’t run too badly in a super competitive Supreme today btw..

Relativally decent ground over two miles was clearly against Easywork that day. Stepping up to 2m 4f with plenty of juice in the ground is much more to his liking. He showed his talent already this season winning three on the bounce, in pretty good style, all of these victories came on soft or heavy going.

Selection:
5pts e/w – Easywork @ 22/1 WH

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2.10 RSA Chase, 3m½f

What a competitive renewal: the betting says it all with four horses heading the market with less than two points between them. I personally think there a few behind them that can’t be discounted either. Certainly form wise the first five, six in the market are rather closely matched anyway.

Certainy overpriced is Battleoverdoyen. He probably would right in the mix at the top of the market if not for an usually poor showing in Flogas at Leopardstown. He was effectively beaten before falling at the last.

That’s a big question mark obviously. He was apparently pretty sore and 50/50 running at the Festival, only a fortnight ago. That’s a reflection of his price tag.

Nonetheless, even taking that into account, he remains an exciting prospect. Battleoverdoyen was classy hurdler, although twelve month ago was disappointingly pulled up in the Ballymore.

The big, rangy gelding was always a chaser in the making. And he took well to fences, winning three on the trot, including a small-field Grade 1 over Christmas.

Three miles om soft ground won’t be a problem. The fact Battleoverdoyen usually travels strongly and is a good jumper will count for a lot in what could well turn out to be a war of attrition. That sort of race could easily put Copperhead at an advantage, who has been quite impressive as well, and would be my most likely winner.

At given odds, even with the risk of the recent fall attached, Battleoverdoyen is clearly one who’s much bigger than he should be.

Selection:
10pts win – Battleoverdoyen @ 14.5/1 MB

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2.50 Coral Cup, 2m 5f

In a tricky affair where in-running luck will play a role Protektorat stands out to me. His style of running, and the fact he can b a quirky sort, adds to the risk of needing things to fall right. On the other hand he ticks a lot of boxes which outweigh the risk given the price.

The five-year-old is an improving individual, having ran well here at Cheltenham already, will enjoy the ground and will stay the trip. He ran with plenty of credit finishing third under a penalty when last seen here, following from a Listed victory at this venue, if not for a demotion post race.

A mark of 144 gives him a really nice weight in this contest where few make appeal on that front. French bred with speed – and Protektorat has shown to have a bit of speed as well as staying ability – tend to do well in this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Protektorat @ 16.5/1 MB

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3.30 Champion Chase, 2m

With absence of Altior this race is wide open, despite two seemingly clear horses leading the market. There is little in the betting between Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi, even though personally the potential improvement that can still come from Willie Mullins’s charge would sway me to believe he is the one to beat today.

Nonetheless this race is wide open for the fact that both these star names have actually never ran to speed figures that are mind blowing. Not yet at least. That is in contrast to Altior or other top class Champion Chasers of the past. Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi may still be the best of the rest today and for that reason land a Champion Chase, but I firmly believe they are not as much clear of the other four runners.

The two I think have a chance to get much closer than there odds suggest are the runner-up and third of the 2019 Champion Chase.

Look back at the reply of what as hugely exciting race, that produced strong ratings and see how both Politologue and Sceau Royal had the almighty Altior off the bridle and hard working two from home. In fact Sceau Royal traveled much the best!

This was a career best performance for both horses. However, they have proven in the past – at leas on ratings – to be on par with the two market principles. Both are proven in Championship races.

Sceau Royal was beaten by DDS this season, however that was on his seasonal reappearance. In his next two starts he has shown himself in good nick, including a fine second behind Altior in the Game Spirit Chase. He’s likely to run his race today, and if he does run to form then he’s a much better chance than 25/1.

Politologue has already been beaten twice by DDS this season. He was a close enough runner-up on his comeback run but bitterly disappointing in the Tingle Creek. That wasn’t his true showing.

He will need to bounce back and there is risk attached to a 9-year-old with so much racing under his belt already.If he can bounce back he’s in it with a fair shout, having run well at Cheltenham in the past.

Selection:
5pts win – Politologue @ 19/1 MB
5pts win – Sceau Royal @ 26/1 MB

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5.30 Champion Bumper, 2m½f

Willie Mullins could have another winner in this one with Appreciate It who is a rock solid favourite in my book. Nonetheless he is a short enough price to look what’s further down the market in what appears otherwise an open race.

Ask A Honey Bee is one that catches the eye with his three bumper wins, particularly as he defied a double-penalty when last seen! I also appreciate the fact the six-year-old has plenty of experience, as beside those 3 NHF races, he also has ample point-to-point experience.

Further to this Ask A Honey Bee clocked a solid topspeed figure on his penultimate run, which can’t be said for many in this field. He is a fine each/way shout.

Selection:
5pts e/w – Ask A Honey Bee @ 44/1 WH

Cheltenham Festival 2020 – Tuesday Preview

The Festival

Here we are: Cheltenham 2020! The festival has been good to me over the last number of years. More of that this week please – I could do with a few positive results after a start to the year that can only be described in one word: catastrophic!

Day one looks pretty tricky, at the same time offers plenty of value in the market. Rain has soften the ground significantly and adds extra spice to open contests.

Unlike in previous years there are few red hot favourites, heading the betting at short odds. I can see some big prices making the frame – one of those winning for me would a unimaginable relieve as at this point I simply wonder if I ever will back a winner again?!

From a pure racing perspective the championship races are highly intriguing, more so by the lack of odds-on favourites. Although not a vintage year, the Champion Hurdle makes for a compelling puzzle to solve, whereas Supreme and Arkle shaping like unmissable contests with future starts in their respective divisions unleashed.

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1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, 2m½f

Highly competitive. Plenty of exciting novice hurdlers in the field. Usually a fast start to the Festival and the year: plenty of pace, crowd noise, nervousness among the jockeys.

I feel experience will count for a lot. Hence I like Abacadabras. Fourth in the Champion Bumper last year, he made a seamless transition to hurdles, having four already under his belt, winning a first Grade 1 at Leopardstown over Christmas and only been beaten by sublime Envoi Allen at Fairyhouse.

He tends to travel well, has been here before, has proven to run fast, can jump straight and is tactically versatile, giving Davy Russell plenty of options.

Selection:
10pts win – Abacadabras @ 11/2 MB

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2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase, 2m

The one completely forgotten here, particularly in the soft ground conditions, is Global Citizen. He’s been classy hurdler over two miles, which tends to be a good indicator for this race, and since switching to fences has left a poor start to his chasing career behind when winning impressively at Kempton last time.

That Grade 2 at Kempton looks useful form, but it’s more the way Global Citizen went over his business that is noteworthy. He was pretty keen, set a fast clip, jumped pretty well – much improved to his debut – and held off the advances of his rivals in fine style in the end, finding plenty when needed.

He’s got to bring this to Cheltenham and is unlikely to get an easy lead, however it’s his now proven ability to jump at speed that can be key in the Arkle.

Selection:
10pts win – Global Citizen @ 22.5/1 MB

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2.40 Ultima Handicap Chase, 3m 1f

Stamina is key in this race, so my eventual choice is a risk, but beside the favourite Vindication, who is, on the other hand a rather short price for a race like this, I struggle to identify many who are ahead of their respective handicap marks.

Who Dares Wins could be on his handicap debut, though. Whether he well and truly stays the distance, particularly on soft ground all the way up the hill remains to be seen. Fact he has been here before, ran well at two Festivals before, particularly in the Pertemps two years ago.

That day he lead the field to the final hurdle but faltered into finishing fifth eventually. That’s an obvious negative. On the other hand, Who Dares Wins potentially saw daylight a little bit too early, certainly compared to the winner and runner-up who were asked all questions a little bit later.

With that in mind, this performance also gives hope as Who Dares Wins is a little bit older now and has proven his ability to on the flat to stay marathon trips. He also could be rather well handicapped on his chasing debut after having landed a Grade 2 in Novice company at Kempton when last seen, with an opening mark of 147, which is 4lb lower than his hurdling mark.

Selection:
10pts win – Who Dares Wins @ 15/1 MB

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3.30 Champion Hurdle, 2m½f

A rather ordinary renewal with plenty of question marks hanging over the market principles. The mare Epatante looks a fair favourite, if nothing else. With plenty of pace this race is unlikely to turn into a pure speed test and I’m not sure whether that truly suits her.

This should suite, however, quite clearly Supasundae. It’s probably fair to argue two miles isn’t quite is optimum trip, on the other hand there is plenty of evidence he is – or least used to be – highly effective over the minimum distance as much as over further:

A winner and runner-up in the Irish Champion Hurdle, a Punchestown Champion Hurdle winner and a decent 4th on his seasonal reappearance in the 2020 Irish Champion Hurdle back in February; Supasundae doesn’t seem to slow down too much, even though turning ten now.

He is still a class act in this field and I feel the likely setup of the race will be an advantage to him. Hi experience, having been around Cheltenham numerous times is another bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Supasundae @ 11.5/1 MB

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4.10 Mares’ Hurdle, 2m 4f

A fascinating clash between two top mares, albeit the market has Benie Des Dieux a clear favourite, which seems fair, given the should be a hat-trick seeking Festival winner if not for a fall at the last twelve months ago.

The question is, though: is the 9-year-old that far ahead of the young challenger Honeysuckle? We’ll find out today. As it stands now I come to the conclusion to answer this question with a “No”.

BDD has stellar form in the book and look as imperious as ever at Gowran Park in what was her sole outing this season. She has the experience, is fresh and clearly in top form.

Honeysuckle in contrast had quite a few more races this season already, advancing through the ranks, landing the Irish Champion Hurdle when last seen, and connections seriously pondered whether a bid for THE Champion Hurdle should be the race to go for.

It was a widely shared opinion in the aftermath of Leoprdstown that Honeysuckle didn’t quite jumped that well and wasn’t as brilliant as expected. That is to some extend a fair comment.

On the other hand, the Irish Champion Hurdle was still an excellent contest, she beat some really good horses, would be at the very least joint favourite for the Champion Hurdle if running there, and in my view, showed a lot of valuable traits in February, mainly the ability to dig deep and go through the wall when challenged heavily.

I also believe that stepping up to 2 miles & 4 furlongs, on soft ground can lead to further improvement for a mare that has only raced seven times and has won all of them. On the ratings front she ties in closely with BDD: their career best RPR’s and TS rating are only two and one pound off respectively.

With that in mind: Honeysuckle has to improve. But not by much. Given that, she is quite clearly overpriced.

Selection: 
10pts win – Honeysuckle @ 10/3 WH

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Edit: 10:45am – added Mares’ Hurdle

Saturday Selections: January, 18th 2020

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

12.30 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Presence Process makes a lot of appeal dropping further and further in his mark, now below 50. His latest effort over course and distance was positive, given there looked a spark there for first time headgear.

He probably got a little bit too much locked up in an early battle for the lead, subsequently was pulled back and then didn’t quite have the kick in the home straight, nonetheless finished well enough to see him winning again.

He loves this CD, has ran multiple times to higher speed ratings than his now lowly 49 rating and must have a prime chance in a poor contest.

The key will be the early parts of the race, though: drawn in 9 is a negative.

Selection:
10pts win – Presence Process @ 8/1 MB

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2.25 Ascot: Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle, 2m3½f

It’s probably not the best of signs that he is on the drift with the high street, but I remain quietly hopeful at the very least that Pic D’orhy is a good deal better than his 146 rating and will show it today.

Connections have always said he’s a chaser in the making. Nonetheless, he showed plenty of promise in France over hurdles, in deep ground and I feel the trip and conditions today will suit him.

Granted it is a competitive field. 2m3½f fell the last time at Autil in Grade 1 company a long way from the finish. He made his Nicholls debut at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle where he travelled strongly until a blunder at the second last that ended his chances.

He’s still a young horse, will little millage on the clock and more to come. If he’s a class horse for the future he will need to show something good today against this opposition. At given prices I am inclined to be on his side.

Selection:
10pts win – Pic D’orhy @ 13/2 MB

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4.25 Meydan: Handicap, 7 furlongs

One that caught my eye two weeks ago here at Meydan in a competitive mile handicap was Moqarrar. He started well but was soon pulled back and before hitting the turn switched to the widest outside of the field travelling five deep.

As a consequence Moqarrar lost a lot of ground and had to do more than others in order to stay in touch burning vital energy. The gelding fought on gamely though hitting top gear entering the home straight and looked in with a good shout for the placings but faded eventually.

That was a strong performance taking circumstances into considerations. He can race of 2lb lower today, although drops to 7 furlongs, which may not be a big deal as he won over this trip as a juvenile in the UK.

I imagine he’ll jump out of the gate to be much closer to the pace today in hands of Jim Crowley and if getting a clear run should have a strong chance to outrun his price at the very least.

Selection:
10pts win – Moqarrar @ 11/1 WH

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

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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

Sunday Selections: November, 17th 2019

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1.15 Cheltenham: Cross County Chase, 3m 6f

Tricky affair that leaves the door wide open for a big price to win. Neither market leader appeals today: ground possibly against Kingswell Theatre and return from a break with bigger fish to fry later the season for French Urgent De Gregaine.

I find the other Emmanuel Clayeux runner Diesel D’Allier the most interesting one: A three times Cross-Country winner in France, still only a six-year-old with more to come potentially, particularly over this longer trip, he’ll love the ground and has potentially a nice weight to play with here.

His last two starts have been slightly disappointing, but he comes here fit at the very least to “test the waters”, according to Clayeux, with an eye on a return to Cheltenham later the season if he takes to the test.

Selection:
10pts win – Diesel D’Allier  @ 15/1 MB

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3.00 Cheltenham: Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, 2m½f

Quel Destin looks to be a potential Champion Hurdle candidate hence I feel, even though it’s a tough ask for a four-year-old to shoulder 11-12, his opening mark of 149 may not stop him.

He won a tough contest over course and distance last month – a career best – and clearly thrives over the old course at Cheltenham, also having no trouble with the soft underfoot conditions whatsoever.

he showed plenty of promise last season already, including multiple graded victories and a fine 5th in the Triumph Hurdle.

Selection:
10pts win – Quel Destin @ 7/1 MB

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1.40 Punchestown: Handicap Hurdle, 2m

After a number of poor performances Scheu Time drops to a tasty mark. The six-year-old likely needed his seasonal reappearance last months and was keen enough to forgive him.

He ended last season poorly, however. Although he showed promise before that, culminating in a strong performance at Aintree clocking a 124 topspeed rating, a career highest performance.

He drops down to a 117 rating now, which I believe gives Scheu Time a big chance to go close if in the mood today. Well riding 5lb claimer Kevin Brouder is booked for the ride.

Selection:
10pts win – Scheu Time @ 10.5/1 MB

Preview: Irish Grand National 2019

Katie Walsh and Thunder And Roses, winner of the Irish Grand National

The money is pouring in for Willie Mullins to crack another milestone as Burrows Saint, the choice of Ruby Walsh as well, is now a 6/1 favourite to land the Irish Grand National, and give his trainer a first success in the big race.

A recent winner of a Grade 3 Novice Chase, which was a career best for the 6-year-old, Burrows Saint is turned out under a penalty today, which leaves him still well handicapped potentially, after connections decided to miss a seemingly excellent Grade 1 opportunity yesterday, and instead run here.

As much as I like the look of Burrows Saint, 6/1 is not a price to back him. He ain’t no Tiger Roll!

The two I fancy are further down the pecking order according to the betting. No surprise, I am sweet on the mate Shattered Love again. I fancied her for the Gold Cup – wasn’t to be, though she ran with plenty of credit that day, in my mind.

True, she may prefer it softer, but her record on fast ground isn’t too shabby either. Shattered Love strikes as one who’ll enjoy the test of stamina. Let’s not forget she’s a classy individual, good enough to win at the Cheltenham Festival and one of very few in this contest who ran to a time speed rating of 130+ in their careers.

The other one I quite like is 9-year-old Auvergnat. He gets the excellent assistance of 5lb claiming Miss O’Connor, which is probably needed due to his career highest handicap mark, thanks to his excellent victory in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

He was below par in the Cross-County Chase at Cheltenham subsequently, though that may be a form to discount. However, Auvergnat clearly acts well on decent ground, is likely to stay the trip and had a quieter 2019 than many others in this field – so should be rather fresh with plenty left in the tank.

Selections:
5pts win – Shattered Love @ 20/1 MB
5pts win – Auvergnat @ 27/1 MB

Saturday Selections: April, 6th 2019

Aintree parade ring

Preview for the Grand National: Read Here

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3.40 Aintree: Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle, 3m½f

It’s unusual for me to get involved in a hot favourite. The times I do it? It usually backfires. So this should be the kiss of death for Apple’s Jade today.

Nonetheless, I simply can not let the 6/4 odds on offer go, for this supreme mare in a race that’s at her mercy, as long as she turns up back in form – in my book she’s a much bigger favourite and I would expected her touching odds-on.

She probably would be a long odds-on favourite if not for her ‘flop’ in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Recency bias is a funny thing: only a few weeks ago Apple’s Jade was deemed nearly unbeatable – that was the opinion of some smart racing experts.

Today, in a weaker contest, she’s deemed merely a 40% chance. Seriously? I’m puzzled. True: the seven-year-old was disappointing at Cheltenham. On the other hand she had fair excuses for an uncharacteristic performance, as we found out afterwards. Right from the start the mare didn’t travel and it was obvious she wasn’t right on the day.

You’d bet connections wouldn’t let the superstar mare run today if she wouldn’t have shown to be back on song at home. So, trusting she’s fine from a physical standpoint today, she’s the best horse in this race by a country mile.

Further to this: personally I had my doubts whether Cheltenham as a track could see Apple’s Jade to best effect. We still don’t know, but suspicion remains it may not. Hence a return to a flatter track, like Aintree, will be to her advantage. In fact she is a course winner already.

The step up in trip, on what looks fair ground today, is no issue. She’s won over 3 miles this season – in fact she is 2 from 2 over 3 miles – the additional distance will not bother her either, I believe.

So, if back to the form Apple’s Jade showed all season long, bar the most recent run, she is hard to oppose today and should convert this penalty kick.

Selection:
10pts win – Apple’s Jade @ 6/4 WH

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3.50 Leopardstown: Group 3 Ballysax Stakes, 1m 2f

Another rare occurrence: a bet on an Irish race. Over the last 14 months I’ve had only five bets, despite calling this little island my home. Betting wise it’s a tough place for me, though. Can fortunes change today?

Obviously the Ballysax is a wide open race, with little recent form on offer and you have to go by juvenile form, without knowing how it truly translates to this new season with a winter in between.

That says I figure Sydney Opera House looksover priced here. He’s a small drift in the market, to a handy price, I feel. He’s the one who ran to the highest time speed rating and joint highest RPR last season. And that despite conditions not always favouring him.

The son of Australia is obviously supremely well bred, a half-brother to a Melbourne Cup winner and Irish Derby second. He showed a lot of promise in a handful of starts as a juvenile, including a close runner-up effort in the Criterium De Saint Cloud when last seen.

Sydney Opera House looks bound to improve as a 3-year-old, even more so when stepping up in trip. But I also have the feeling a softer surface will see him to much better effect.

So, if ready today, he should run a big race on the rain softned Leopardstown ground. And in doing so, he could put himself firmly into the Derby pciture.

Selection:
10pts win – Sydney Opera House @ 7/2 MB