Tag Archives: Jump racing

Saturday Night’s Racing Talk

The Nakayama Grand Jump is quite something! Starting stalls, quirky fences and an idiosyncratic course layout that sees the horses constantly confronted with twists and turns – a bit like what we are used to see in the Cross-Country Chase. It certainly is a tremendous spectacle.

Today the 18th running of what is one of the richest prizes in jump racing (worth about €1 Million) took place at Nakayama Racecourse.

The race went to the red hot favourite Oju Chosan, who is currently Japan’s leading jumps horse and who defended his crown with this rather comfortable victory, winning back to back the Grand Jump.

Take a look at the race below:

……..

Racing on a bridge? I thought I’ve seen and heard a lot of different and interesting ideas if it comes to reinvigorating horse racing to make it attractive to a wider and younger audience. But racing on a bridge? Well, that’s new!

But yes, that’s right, the Aussies wanna race next year on the world famous Sydney Harbour Bridge! This spectacle shall coincide with the world’s richest turf race, the $10 million Everest, which will be held at Randwick in October 2018.

And it won’t stop there according to Olly Neil from the English company GAG 403 who have invented a portable racetrack system that can be quickly laid and removed:

“We will create a global circuit of horse racing events with high-quality local horses thundering down iconic city streets ridden by the world’s top jockeys.”

Now, that sounds ambitious. Let’s first get this Sydney thing under way? At this stage I find it hard to believe, though the idea makes sense and sounds exciting. To say it with a famous commentators call during a game of Australia’s national sport, Aussie Rules Football: I see it, but I don’t believe it!

……..

5.05 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Keith Dalgleish’s Dirty Randy is an interesting handicap debutante. He didn’t show a lot in three maidens last season which all came in quick succession, hinting connections were keen to get the runs into him to qualify for a hopefully lenient opening mark.

The Handicapper – that is fair to say – has not taken any chances and allotted Dirty Randy a rating of 60, which, for what he has done so far, is harsh. Shouldn’t the handicapper allocate marks for what horses have actually achieved without taking into account whether improvement may come in the future over different trips and surfaces?

Well, anyway, let’s focus on the race. Given Dirty Randy was never going to be a miler but more with a future over middle distance trips he might still have a fairly good chance to outrun his opening mark.

A drastic step up in trip to 12f should see him certainly in better light than in those maiden races. He hails from a successful family that generally tends to do better with age and the further they go, so it’s fair to assume Dirty Randy could develop into a decent horse.

He was never to enjoy the fast All-Weather surface at Newcastle, however his sire has shown his offspring can outrun the odds at the slower and more demanding Southwell fibresand.

So things fall right here for Dirty Randy in that sense, with trip and track likely to suit. He likely to be sharp enough on his seasonal reappearance, with cheek-pieces fitted for the first time. A fine 5lb claimer makes life a bit easier.

The Dalglish yard goes pretty well at the moment and it looks significant that Dirty Randy has two more entries for next week, which may suggest they hope for a strong run here to turn him out quickly again.

Selection:
10pts win – Dirty Randy @ 5/1 PP

Concordin will love the Navan Mud

3.10 Navan: Handicap Hurdle

An open enough looking contest given the fact that none of the runners has ever won off their current rating or higher. Top weight Grand Partner must be taken serious o has to be fine flat performer Benkei on his handicap debut.

But I take a chance with Concordin who seems to be a bit overpriced. Already a nine year old but for his age with reasonable mileage on the clock. He didn’t really enjoy chasing but has looked as good as ever since reverted to hurdling.

A fine third on his seasonal reappearance in November followed up by a strong staying performance at Leopardstown in a very competitive Handicap at the Christmas Festival. Subsequently he finished a long beaten fourth off a career highest mark in a mud fest at Gowran Park, but the form is better than it reads on paper.

Concordin travelled strongly and was about to make a big move when the field turned for home when suddenly one of the leaders slipped and fell. A miracle it was Concordin didn’t came down too. But he certainly lost all momentum. Not knocked over in the closing stages he finished fourth but his chances were clearly ruined by the incident around the 3f marker.

The drop to 2m tomorrow seems odd, given he looks like a grinder, who needed every inch of the 2m 2f at Leopardstown. But it makes sense given the desperate ground to be expected at Navan, a track that has a very stiff and tough finish where emphasise is definitely more on stamina, particularly in testing conditions. That should really help Concordin’s cause.

Selection:
10pts win – Concordin @ 9/2 WH

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.

……

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

PREVIEW: Irish Champion Hurdle Day

It’s Leopardstown’s big day – so it was supposed to be at least – but the absence of two of racing’s biggest stars in Min and Faugheen has diminished the excitement factor of Irish Champion Hurdle day.

Still, two Grade 1’s and another Grade 2 – today is a big deal for Irish racing! The losses of Min and Faugheen due to injury hurt, nonetheless there is some serious racing action o show at Leopardstown. The two big races are intriguing, possibly even slightly more now, given both Min and Faugheen would have been long odds-on to land them.

The ground remains officially good – that should suit certain horses, while others will struggle with the emphasise on speed. That say If I glimpse out of the window I can see some very dark clouds hanging over the “fair City” right now.

The magnificent Hurricane Fly will be honoured with the unavailing of a statue for his lifetime achievements. Emotionally I’m quite attached to him  – quite clearly he is my favourite National Hunt horse. So it’s fantastic that Irish racing and Leopardstown embraces his legacy. ‘The Fly’ will also be paraded today.

2.00 Leopardstown: Novice Hurdle (Grade 2)

One of the main contenders is out with Monalee and that makes it a much easier task for the exciting Willie Mullins mare Let’s Dance. She is a second season novice who was already promising in her first year over hurdles but she appears to have improved significantly over the summer.

She landed a listed price at Punchestown on her seasonal reappearance but looked even sharper when stepped up to 2m 4f at Leopardstown over Christmas when she bolted up in a Grade 3.

She is a slick jumper with gears who’s an incredibly exciting prospect and should have no problems to cope with the good ground here today. She takes the world of beating in my book.

Stable mate Kemboy can’t be discounted. He was a fine winner on debut and has more to offer with the experience under his belt. Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa was an impressive winner of a maiden hurdle here at Leopardstown over Christmas. He enjoys decent ground but has to prove he wants the trip.

Selection: Let’s Dance @ 5/4 Skybet

————-

2.30 Leopardstown: Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)

I totally get why Identity Thief is the “hype horse” here and no doubt his record makes for impressive reading. I also wouldn’t read too much into his last run when pulled up. Nonetheless it is a slight concern, so is the good ground today. I feel he is best suited so rain softened underfoot conditions but then he might easily stuff my mouth if he bolts up today.

Anyway, the Arkle is quite an open and intriguing race and the slight concerns over the favourite do bring the other three rivals right into the game.

De Bromehead’s nine year old Some Plan is two from three over fences and has only 2lb to find on the ratings and the one race he didn’t win he fell and we never know how close he would have gone. Still early days in his chasing career but he already looks a better chaser than hurdler and no doubt there’s more improvement likely to come.

The grey Blue Et Rouge is the youngest challenger in the race and looks to have plenty of ability. A winner of a solid Beginners Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, he left a lasting impression on me. Truth told his jumping wasn’t the best that day, though he was badly hampered two out by a faller and it was impressive how quickly he made up lost ground to jump the final fence on par eventually. Once clearing the last he produced a fine turn of foot to win with plenty in hand.

Willie Mullins also saddles nine year old Royal Cavalier. A solid sort in his own right and a good jumper, but he has a bit to find with his three rivals.

At given prices I do fancy Blue Et Rouge to be thereabouts in the finish. The drop in trip doesn’t concern me personally, given he showed plenty of pace the other day. He acts on track anf ground quite clearly and should have learned plenty from his first outing over fences. He looks an incredibly exciting prospect.

Selection: Blue Et Rouge @ 7/2 PP

————–

3.30 Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)

A disappointing renewal given Faugheen’s absence, Now this looks pretty much a two horse race, though the younger Petit Mouchoir is firmly fancied. Rightly so, after an impressive Ryanair Hurdle success where he beat today’s most dangerous rival Nicholas Canyon quite easily. But do we get carried away and letrecency bias influence our judgement a bit too much here? Let’s not forget Petit Mouchoir win record is not impressive at all and given he was a 3m point to point winner it might well be the case that he can get into trouble on this good ground against a pacier sort.

Connections couldn’t explain Nicholas Canyon’s rather lacklustre showing at Christmas. Seven lengths beaten in second by Petit Mouchoir seems not a true reflection of his ability. Now, if he is anywhere close to his best – and his seasonal comeback run suggested he is as good as ever – then he should make this a real race for the long odds-on favourite. Obviously he has to improve a good bit to get closer this time, and fact is he’s better with cut in the ground and probably on a right handed track….

Yet, let’s not forget he’s last years Cheltenham Champion Hurdle third, a seven times Grade 1 winner, including two of those here at Leopardstown. On ratings he’s only two pounds to find with Petit Mouchoir and it’s not unreasonable to believe NC can be closer to this rival today.

Hard to make a case for Footpad and Ivanovich Gorbatov, though the later one is the reigning Triumph Hurdle winner nonetheless so can’t be fully discounted.

Selection: Nicholas Canyon @ 11/4 Ladbrokes

————-

Arrogate romps home in Pegasus

What an anti-climax for the richest race of the world – the inaugural Pegasus World Cup promised a fascinating showdown of the two highest rated horses on the planet…. unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

Only Arrogate showed up and he did what we expected him to do: romp home. A shame that California Chrome never got going. He already looked edgy and not particularly willing in the warm-up. Something was clearly not right. Even before the field turned for home Chrome lost touch. The race was over.

Taking nothing away from Arrogate who still had to go on and win the race. But we know he is so superior to the rest of the field that it was no real surprise that he did what he did in the end. Much more exciting will be to see how he continues in 2017 now as a four year old, most likely with the defence of his Breeders Cup Classic crown as the main target.

For California Chrome it’s the end of a long road. A deserved retirement and daily meetings with some lovely mares await him now – he deserves it and also send a clear signal yesterday: I’ve enough of this game. Happy retirement!

On the Don Poli Bandwagon

It’s been a quiet time for this blog… racing hasn’t really got my blood boiling lately. That’s okay. Everyone needs a break at some point, and mine was in recent weeks, taking a step back from racing. It felt good. There are other things in life as well.

Rejuvenated, fresh and less depressed with the days starting to be longer and brighter (and seemingly a bit less rainy – it’s been some depressing months here in Ireland on that front I can assure you!) – it’s time to head right into it again. I can smell the summer and oh…. I can hear the quick horses thundering down the final furlong at the Curragh! Would you believe it, the start Irish flat season is roughly two weeks away?!

There is this small matter of the Cheltenham Festival before that though… so one step at a time please! I was there, two years ago. It was great (just look at the enormous crowd in the lead photo of this article which I took on opening Tuesday that year). This year it’s me in front of the TV. Still good, Cheltenham is the most spectacular week of horse racing… only rivalled by Royal Ascot in my humble opinion. But let’s not get into an argument here. Let’s be focused on what’s really important: the races, the horses, the betting….

Shout it loud, shout it proud: Don Poli wins the Gold Cup! Okay, that’s not news for most of us…. or is it? Well, there’re some prominent advocates for the seven year old gelding, screaming it from roof for weeks, that’s for sure. I’m simply jumping on the bandwagon.

Why? Let’s start with the trainer. Master Willie. Never won the Gold Cup, but this horse is prepared to change it. Lightly campaigned, Don Poli will arrive fresh, trained to his absolute best on the day. But that’s also the case with the other Mullins inmates in the line-up . What’s a difference: the “Polinator” has vital course form – it’s no secret: Cheltenham is one of those rare tracks – it makes or breaks you.

Don Poli won the last two seasons at the Festival, with the RSA Chase arguably his biggest triumph. The way he poured it on and stormed up the hill after clearing the last that day in March 2015 was nothing but impressive.

Some have knocked the horse for his seemingly laziness and potential lack of pace. Don Poli a slow horse? It may appear to be so visually but I would argue that he usually just does as much as is required, without being fancy – nothing more, nothing less. He gets the job done. That’s it. It not “sexy” but Sea The Stars never won by a wide margin either yet I would argue was by far the best horse we’ve ever seen… though that’s a completely different argument, for another day.

In contrast to what some ‘experts’ say, I do like what I saw from Don Poli this season. Two starts, two wins, nothing overly impressive visually, obviously more’s required to win a Gold Cup. Nonetheless winning the Lexus Chase is still winning an important Grade 1 – regardless of how he did it, in terms of style. It’s a prestigious race and it takes a really good horse to land it.

Sure, Don Poli appeared outpaced rather early on, and you could bring up the argument again that he’s a slow horse, who’ll be out of touch once they swing for home in the Gold Cup if he’d show the same traits there. I argue: he has shown again and again in the past as well as here at Leopardstown that he is well able to move up a gear when it’s really needed. He knows to save the best for those key moments.

Not only that. You have to wonder whether Don Poli was actually at his absolute peak in the Lexus Chase. Knowing Willie Mullins I’d rather believe we’ll see an even better conditioned Don Poli when it matters most: at the Festival.

But one last point on the Lexus Chase, which I feel hasn’t been really made by many: while I wholeheartedly agree that on balance a 1/2 lengths defeat of First Lieutenant is short of Gold Cup winning form, I also would say that the runner-up wasn’t necessarily ridden with winning the race in mind, but rather to finish as close as possible – a bit like Arctic Fire in last years Champion Hurdle.

That sort of tactics enabled First Lieutenants jockey to commit much later to a run, asking his mount to go for all too late to win the race, though to preserve as much energy as possible for a big finish, to pass tired horses in front and finish eventually as close as possible.

That’s in stark contrast to what Don Poli had to do, who as a result was in front of First Lieutenant by a couple of lengths clearing the last while going for all of it. Don Poli went on to win his race and seemed to idle once hitting the front in the last 200 yards, while Davy Russell was able to tap into unused reserves on his mount First Lieutenant to finish extremely strongly, without ever looking likely to win – in my mind at least. No doubt Don Poli was the best horse in the race. The quality jumped out.

Now, that is controversial. I’m sure plenty of people will shake their head in disbelief amid such theory, and sure enough, what do I – the armchair jockey – know about riding winners anyway. That’s fine with me.

It’s just another argument adding on to the already impressive list of “pro-arguments” to Don Poli’s cause of winning the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Now, that’s Don Poli. What about the opposition? Top class opposition is awaiting. Don Cossack, the highest rated chaser in training – I was mightily impressed with how he finished in the Ryanair Chase last year, after loads of trouble, making a big mistake, being short of room, yet staying up the hill very strongly. Nonetheless it looks that Don Cossack is not at his best at Cheltenham. Although the Gold Cup trip may see a different horse this time around?

The case of Vautour is a difficult one and could take up another thousand words to write about. Is he going to run in the Gold cup eventually? His owner certainly thinks so. Other sources seem adamant that he’s a sure thing for the Ryanair. Regardless of whether he runs or not, I have to oppose him anyway on the boring argument of stamina. Sure enough, you can say he has this super Cheltenham form, is potentially the most talented chaser in training and he got close enough at Kempton to win the King Goerge. I say: It’s two additional furlongs, plus the daunting hill. At this point in time I believe it’s too far for Vautour, even if he will strip fitter on Gold Cup day.

I’m not really sure about Cue Card. He seems to stay, he’s the form horse you could say  and definitely likes it around Cheltenham. I still have my doubts that he really wants it that far. Not only that, I believe Don Poli is simply a more talented horse, who could still improve. I don’t see that with Cue Card.

Although I see that very much in another Willie Mullins runner, Djakadam. Only seven years of age, lightly campaigned this season too and crucially an excellent runner-up in the 2015 Gold Cup. He’s got everything you want to see in a lively contender – however one shadow is casting my mind: his jumping. He fell here at Cheltenham in a Trial in January, and he fell at the Festival in 2014 in the JLT. So that has to be a concern. I find it hard to have him over Don Poli, for that reason.

Let’s not rule out Smad Place, brilliant winner of the Hennessy this season, nor Road To Riches – if he runs – third in Gold Cup last year…. but I can turn and twist it all day long, I always end up with Don Poli as the winner of the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup!

You can still get 6/1 with some firms for Don Poli, which looks outstanding value in my mind. Sure, the final field isn’t 100% clear at this stage, nonetheless in any field this lad has a better than 15% chance.So lump on, as long as you can!

Fairyhouse Betting: Grade 1 Action

DSC_0161

Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (Grade 1)

Willie Mullins holds the keys in his hands to the outcome of this race. Exciting Long Dog might be hard to beat but stable mate Bachasson can’t be underestimated.

The French import is unbeaten in four starts in Ireland and landed a good Grade 3 Hurdle in excellent style when last seen. He’s also receiving some weight from Long Dog.

Bachasson @ 7/2 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

———–

Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (Grade 1)

If Arctic Fire runs to his best he’ll be probably running away with this. However he’s fallen short to prevail on the highest level up until now and is one I’m prepared to take on.

Receiving 4lb from all his rivals, French gelding Gwencily Berbas is an interesting alternative. He probably would like it a bit softer but has won on yielding ground here at Fairyhouse over 2m on Grade 3 level earlier this month.

Still lightly raced, he is unexposed over the 2 1/2m trip, which on pedigree should very much suit.

Gwencily Berbas @ 10/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Preview: Hennessy Gold Cup

DSC_7380

3.00 Newbury: Hennessy Gold Cup (Grade 3 Handicap)

It’s great to see Bobs Worth back as a contender for a big race. His prep over hurdles when beating Simonsing was encouraging but I find it hard to trust him to back it up stepping up to 3m plus in a much tougher race.

Ante-post favourite Saphir Du Rheu has top credentials. His trainer knows what it takes to win the race. The six year old could still be on the up and looked striving on his seasonal debut. That says 11-12 is a tough ask and it needs a special performance.

I struggle to see why Smad Place is as short as he is, as in my mind he will struggle in a deep race like this off a big weight. If In Doubt has still not too many miles on the clock for a seven year; he could bounce back given he’s on a handy mark.

Ned Stark and The Young Master will enjoy this test of stamina in soft conditions. Both have fair credentials and could still have a bit more to offer.

Seemingly not too much love from the punters gets last years Hennessy runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux. True, his seasonal return late in October wasn’t all too encouraging, but also not completely off putting, given another crack at the Hennessy was always the target.

He was a fine second behind subsequent Grand National winner Many Clouds but is one pound lower rated today. If in the same sort of form he must have a big chance given he backed this run up with two other strong performances subsequently.

Houblon Des Obeaux @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win