Tag Archives: Selection

Saturday Selection: March, 16th 2019

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7.45 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 6f

Favourite Tour de Paris looks set for another big run after a breakout performance over course and distance when last seen here. The 4-year-old stepped up to this longer trip for the first time and produced a fine turn of foot to land the spoils.

He was keen enough in the early stages of the race, thankfully dropped the bit for Tom Marquand soon enough to travell strongly in midfield, getting closer to the pace in the second half of the race and once pulled out into the open swinging for home he put the race rather easily to bed.

That performance awarded him a time speed rating of 64 – the hike in the handicap mark sees him now race off 63, so potentially he could be still well handicapped, particularly if more improvement is there to be unleashed on what is only his 5th handicap run and second time over this trip.

Tour de Paris  got an okay draw in order to find a good position somewhere in midfield, and as long as he gets a clear run he’ll be very hard to beat.

Selection:
10pts win – Tour de Paris @ 10/3 PP

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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

Saturday Selection: February, 16th 2019

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4.25 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Handicap debut for lightly raced gelding Ede’s. He steps up dramatically in trip, but that is the main reason for fancying him today. His pedigree points to the longer trips, so no surprise to having seen him struggling in three starts over shorter distances.

His sire Sir Percy has a tremendous record over 12f on the All-Weather, particularly at this course. The mare, albeit her track record with offspring is less encouraging, was a winner on the sand herself.

His latest effort over a mile at this track came in a hot race, I felt. He was clearly outpaced and not in it to win it, but he showed a little bit of promise, though, was stopped in his modest progress in the home straight.

It’s Paddy Braddley’s only ride on the day – hopefully he can make it a winning one.

Selection:
10pts win – Ede’s @ 6/1 PP

Saturday Selections: February, 2nd 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

12.35 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 7 furlongs

Only one ride today, that usually is a sign of confidence if Joe Fanning makes his way down to Lingfield. His mount Port Of Leith may have a future over further, but right now offers still plenty of scope over this 7f trip also.

A cozy CD winner in December off 2lb lower in a good race, which loooks strong form through the runner-up who is now 5lb higher rated than back then, today is only his second All-Weather start.

He couldn’t follow up at Kempton subsequently but you can forgive that run. Master Fanning may be able to dictate matters in this small field today and that could be telling when it matters most in the closing stages.

Selection:
10pts win – Port Of Leith @ 6/1 MB

……..

6.45 Kempton: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Looks a competitive race, but in reality most are in the grip of the handicapper. That leaves space for an unexposed sort. I feel Enzemble could be this. Still generally lightly raced, particularly on the All-Weather.

Gerald Mosse back in the saddle, he steered Enzemble to CD success last summer. The 4-year-old followed up with a strong runner-up performance behind a subsequent Group 3 winner and ran another nice race on Turf.

Changed yard since then, returned to the track after a small break here at Kempton last month. He finished well enough after hitting a flat spot over 2f out. He needs to improve to have a chance today.

But he should be capable of doing so. Enzemble’s mark has dropped below 80 now – given he already ran to higher RPR’s and an 80 TS rating (on turf) there is a fair possibility he is something like a mid-80 rated individual.

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

………

8.15 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

In truth, I do not have all that much trust in the ability of Spring Ability – but in a wide open race I feel this lad has a chance to outrun a huge price tag. And there a reasons for it.

First of all, the yard has a fair spell. Furthermore trainer Laura Mongan’s charges excel over longer trips generally and her record with horses stepping up in trip is quite excellent.

So, from that perspective, seeing Spring Ability, who has only his second handicap start, stepping up to 12f after doing most of his races over a mile, until his latest 10f bout at Lingfield, a second run after a long break, gives a bit of hope.

Spring Ability looks quite a big and scopey individual. He’s related to a couple of 12f winners, so clearly bred to go this distance, and you can pretty much draw a line under anything he has done so far.

Whether today is already the day to let the handbreak off, I don’t know. Price suggests no. Mark is still high enough. But then, it seems significant to me to see him running 3rd time after a break, 2nd handicap, for the first time over “his” trip with a good jockey in the saddle also. And not to forget, Spring Ability’s best career run came at Kempton.

Selection:
10pts win – Spring Ability @ 100/1 MB

Thursday Selections: January, 31st 2019

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A 50/1 second yesterday, yet what does it matter – at the moment they simply don’t get their head in front. What a rotten run. Tough start to the year, now the final day of the month, what started out as a fine January, has turned into a nightmare. But then, it’s the game of patience and cool heads….

…….

4.05 Newcastle: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4.5f 

Lopes Dancer dropping down to his preferred trip as well as down in to class 5 should see him having a tremendous chance getting back to the winning ways. He was a CD winner of a mark of 75 in higher grade in the past, so down to a 72 rating now offers an opportunity.

Key piece of form in mind is his December runner-up effort over course and distance in higher grade. An excellent performance up with a fast pace, he fend off everyone, bar the late charging Loud And Clear, who went on to win another race subsequently.

Lopes Dancer did that of 71, so given on most other days he is the winner of that race, the one additional pound today doesn’t make a difference as this is also an easier race.

Selection:
10pts win – Lopes Dancer @ 9/2 MB

Wednesday Selections: January, 30th 2019

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7.45 Wolverhampton: Class 7 Handicap, 8.5 furlongs

As my rotten run continues I don’t have high hopes to change that today. How can you when backing a 50/1 shot?! I’ve been incredibly keen on Blue Harmony the last time she ran at Kempton, though – before finishing a 27 lengths beaten eleventh.

As a consequence the handicapper has dropped her another 5lb. down to 48 now and the filly will contest in the lowest grade for a first time. There is a plot thickening here and it could well be the case Blue Harmony is “gone”.

Nonetheless, for this time, pretty much all I liked about her chance the other day applies today also – with the added benefit of a lower grade and lower mark! So let’s pull out the arguments from the 5th of January again:

“I’m excited as heck because I feel Blue Harmony could be supremely well handicapped in this race!

The equation is a simple one: the filly has been dropped dramatically in her handicap mark, mainly on the basis of a string of poor showings which – in my view – came on the back of marks too high as a result of her maiden win and a couple of subsequent decent handicap efforts. It took a while to get the weight down.

But now, third start for a new yard after a bit of a break, she drops to a more realistic distance plus got another few pounds off thanks her most recent 7th place finish at Wolverhampton.

Looking back at that race, for the first time of a rather realistic mark, but probably a trip still too far, things didn’t go to plan early on when the inexperienced apprentice jockey removed the hood way too late, the filly bumped into a couple of horses and was lit up.

She dropped over the next furlongs back in the field, finding herself turning wider than ideal for home and when attempting to make a run, she lost her footing, stumbling, losing all momentum.

She still managed to finish 7th in quite a hot contest – the form has worked out rather well for that type of low grade race.

Now down to a mark of 53, one has to remember Blue Harmony has been running to a TS 69 rating in the past and to RPR’s over 53 on on six out of nine occasions on the All-Weather.

Even more significantly she gets the assistance of competent 5lb claimer Megan Nicholls and has the additional aid of a good draw. The price on offer is way over the top I feel given how well this filly could be handicapped.”

So, the same 5lb claiming apprentice is on board, but the handicap mark is 5lb lower and the race an easier one. I feel I rarely had a better 50/1 shot.

Selection:
10pts win – Blue Harmoney @ 50/1 MB

 

Thursday Selections: January, 24th 2019

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2.55 Southwell: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 4f

Michael Appleby has a 22% strike rate in handicaps at Southwell with horses running for the first time for him, so that makes High Command an interesting contender.

The latest performances are concerning, though. A long beaten 5/2 four of five in claimer at Wolverhampton is the latest of below-par performances. One has to bank on Appleby’s magic hands.

On the other hand, what also could lead to a change in fortunes is the return to the Southwell fibresand. High Command is 2/2 here, including a CD success and dropped 2lb lelow his last winning mark.

From a good draw, a horse who likes to go forward, he may use his stamina to stretch the field and make use of the good mark, if rejuvenated by the change of yard.

Selection:
10pts win – High Command @ 7/1 MB

…….

6.25 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

New headgear combination for Fink Hill. How that works remains to be seen. He’s drifting in the market, so that’s a negative. He also has an engagement in a couple of days, which is interesting. So is that jockey Charles Bishop comes here for this one ride only, which is a positive.

Since winning a 5f sprint at Southwell in hands of Bishop, Fink Hill has been on a downward curve. A subsequent 6th, 3l beaten at Wolverhampton under a penalty was still a fair effort, but he was a long way down the field the next three times.

A return to this course and distance is interesting: arguably his best career performance came here in a few years ago, when 3rd of a mark of 70, running to a TS rating of 61.

So, dropping down to a mark of 60 over this CD in a weakish class 6 Handicap a return to form isn’t out of question today.

Selection:
10pts win – Fink Hill @ 22/1 MB