Monthly Archives: November 2011
“Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in a hot air balloon hovering thirty feet above this field,” comes the reply.
“You must work in Information Technology,” says the balloonist.
“I do,” says the man, “How did you know?”
“Well,” says the balloonist, “Everything you told me is technically correct, but it’s no use to anyone.”
“You must be Paul Roy of the BHA,” says the man.
“I am,” says the balloonist, preening himself. ”How did you know?”
“Well,” says the man, “You don’t know where you are, you don’t know where you’re going, but you expect me to be able to help. You’re in the same position you were before we met, but now it’s my fault.”
Although the new whip rules project has raised much dispute and emotion in the racing fraternity, most people who’ve worked in a large organisation, public or private, would barely have raised an eyebrow. They recognise that all projects follow exactly the same six phases:
4 Search for the guilty
5 Punishment of the innocent
6 Praise and honours for the non-participants
Trying to figure out what a trainer’s figured out is a quick way to the poor house. Every trainer is an optimist – as are most people in racing. Beshabar’s trainer, Tim Vaughan strikes me as being fairly shrewd as trainers go, so why is he running the third favourite for the John Smith’s Grand National in the Hennessy Gold Cup?
Beshabar is already rated 150 – the same as this year’s National winner Ballabriggs was when he lined up at Aintree. A prominent run in the first prestigious staying Chase of the season is going to do his mark no good at all; even a poor run probably won’t affect it.
Well, the National is five months away and anything can happen between now and then. What Tim Vaughan has today is a horse he says is ‘happy, fit and healthy’. I think he’s still well handicapped to and almost certainly has a fair bit of improvement in him.
Although he’s a 9-y-o, this will only be Beshabar’s 6th run over fences and he has got noticeably better with each one. At Cheltenham a year ago he was two lengths off the winner (Wayward Prince) and staying on when he was brought down two out. He followed that with an easy long odds-on victory over 3 miles at Doncaster before running a sound race to be second at the festival to Chicago Grey. A rise of 8lbs in his rating for that wasn’t enough to stop him winning the Coral Scottish Grand National next time.
Those final two races of the season (4m and 4m 1f) might mark him as a plodder but I think he might have run so well in them despite the distance rather than because of it. He has wins at 19f and 20f (twice) in his CV. He didn’t see a racecourse till he was five (2nd to Petit Robin over 19f) and this big horse might just be finding his feet now. I’m confident he’ll have the pace for this and that it will probably suit him better than the four milers do.
At around 14/1 I think he is very good value today.
I’ll be having a small saver on Neptune Collonges even though it looks like he is just there to keep Paul Nicholls other two runners on decent weights. Neptune Collonges, 6th behind Beshabar in the Scottish National, is 10 years old and not many his age win a Hennessy especially off such a high mark. But his very talented young rider, Harry Derham reduces the burden by 7lbs and this classy grey – placed in a Gold Cup – could run much better than his price of close to 50/1 on Betfair suggests.
Good luck. Let’s hope all today’s horses and jockeys come home safe
Having lost a few quid on Cue Card when he unseated last time, I did something I’ve never done before: I emailed a trainer. Cue Card’s Chepstow win had impressed me immensely and I thought him great value against Grands Crus. At Chepstow Joe Tizzard, seeing there’d be no early pace, let the horse go on and make most, albeit at no great lick. But he won well.
At Cheltenham next time, Cue Card took his usual keen hold but JT was determined to hold him up this time. Lord knows why. He’s a horse who looks to be very comfortable and athletic jumping at pace; I thought JT should just have let him get on with it, enjoy himself, and stop using pointless energy – his and Cue Card’s- fighting the horse. (This was pretty much what I put in my email to CT – I got no response and concluded he’d thought me an arrogant bugger)
Anyway, Cue Card runs in the 1.35 at Newbury tomorrow and I believe JT is now talking about making all if needs be (It woz the Sun wot won it!)
I hope to see an outstanding round of jumping from him and a comfortable victory leaving his trainer wondering about his Festival target. Only 3 of his 7 races over jumps have been at below 20 furlongs, resulting in just one win at odds on. Second to Menorah at Cheltenham having travelled very well throughout, he found little off the bit. He then finished 4th in the Supreme, again fading towards the end.
Stepped up to 20f at Aintree he was beaten a long way into second by Spirit Son, once more using plenty energy racing keenly.
Anyway, let’s hope all tomorrow’s energy goes into galloping and jumping (and that I’m not jinxing him with this post!). If he does win, I expect to hear connections talking about everything from The Arkle to the Gold Cup with the RSA and Ryanair thrown in. I’ve taken a chance at big odds that he ends up in the RSA.
Good luck to him and his connections tomorrow.
There’s nothing I can add to what’s been written and what will be about Kauto Star’s magnificent Betfair win: I tweeted on Thursday that his trainer seemed to be viewing it as Kauto’s Gold Cup and if it turns out to be his only win of the season it will lose no lustre for that.
There’s an ante-post list at the foot of this post, courtesy of Easyodds. I’m going to go through and pick a few from it for comment in the hope I can find some value.
Long Run 11/4
I was more impressed with him today than I was at any time last season. His King George and Gold Cup victories were against horses with question marks against them: a poorly Kauto Star and a few others who were amiss at Kempton. At Cheltenham the 2nd fav, Imperial Commander pulled up lame and the aging KS and Denman arguably set it up for Long Run.
He ran a remarkable race today given that he left his hind legs in almost every fence down the back straight on the second circuit. To battle back after such a string of errors in a Grade 1 on that ground on his seasonal debut showed what power he has. Unless something unexpected emerges between now and March he will have the best engine in the Gold Cup field. The trouble is, he’ll have 22 fences to get over.
Here’s his form comment from this year’s Gold Cup:
In touch, blundered 3rd, hit 10th, tracking leaders when blundered 12th, stayed right there, not fluent 4 out, ridden before next, stayed on to challenge 2 out, led before last, driven and stayed on strongly run-in
His only steeplechase in the UK without a mistake was the King George he won.
Sam Waley-Cohen seems a nice fella and he has talent but I’d love to see what Long Run could do with Ruby on board. Given his jumping issues and the usual ante-post worries of remaining sound, he’s no value at 11/4.
Kauto Star 12/1
In his ninth season with 14 Grade 1 victories on his CV including 2 Gold Cups and 4 consecutive King Georges, 4 Betfair Chases( he’s the only horse to regain a Gold Cup) who’d write him off? Come Gold Cup day he will be 12 years old. Since the race’s first running in 1924, only two 12-year-olds have won it – Silver Fame in 1951 and What a Myth in 1969. I’m never too concerned with age stats because the information on how many of the relevant age group took part is often absent giving you no sample size from which to draw a conclusion.
If you want to be picky, you could argue that he’s much more error-prone at Cheltenham than anywhere else with his 2009 Gold Cup win the only race there which was mistake-free.
Having missed the 44/1 available yesterday, I’m loath to back him now at 12s but I wouldn’t put you off.
Quito De La Roque 16/1
This 7-y-o, despite trading above 250/1 three out on his last run where he completed a five-timer by catching an utterly exhausted Sizing Europe close home, appears Ireland’s main hope for the Gold Cup.
He’s got stamina stamped through him though has won at 2m 4f. Ferry/Plane trips don’t bother him as he won at Aintree in April, The ground seems to make no difference (always a confidence booster when ante-post betting). He’d be 7 from 7 over fences but for just failing to catch RSA winner Boston’s Angel in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown, two fencing errors not helping.
His trainer’s quotes (below) suggests there might be quite a bit more to come and he’s on my short list.
05Nov11 Down royal ( 24 Sft ,RPR167 )
To win was a bonus. He wasn´t as fresh as we would have liked today. Three weeks ago he had a leg problem and we had to knock the sparks out of him to get here. He had a hard race today, though, so we´ll have to revise his programme now. He´ll probably go for the Lexus at Leopardstown at Christmas. I´ve never had a runner in that race. The John Durkan at Punchestown could come a bit quick but he´ll get an entry. He´s a pure gutsy horse. He kept going when the rest were stopping today. We´ll see if there´s a five mile race for him anywhere! – Colm Murphy, trainer
08Apr11 Aintree ( 25 Gd ,RPR151 )
He is still such a big, backward, raw horse and we felt that the flat track here would suit him better than the undulations of Cheltenham. Physically there is still more to come, but we won´t get carried away yet. Time will tell if he can make it. We´ll let him do the talking, but he would have to improve for us to start talking about Gold Cups. – Colm Murphy, trainer
Grands Crus 16/1
RSA would seem a much likelier target for this grey, the Arkle has been mentioned too so aside from his unknown level of talent and his inexperience it would be daft betting him for the Gold Cup at any price when he seems unlikely to run.
Captain Chris 16/1
No value at 16s. The Arkle winner’s form is not top-drawer, to me he ran in snatches on his reappearance at Exeter, wasn’t at all fluent before landing on top of the last and unseating. Has a chance of staying the trip but far from guaranteed and should be at least 25s for this.
Weird Al 20/1
He was 20s before the Betfair and it’s interesting that his price remains unchanged. At 8, he’s had comparatively few races for his age and it’s hard to draw conclusions about him. He’d been with Donald McCain only about 6 weeks when he won the Charlie Hall impressively (never off the bridle according to T Murphy). Mr McCain mentioned before today’s race that it might come a bit soon for him and Murphy’s post-race report today was that the horse did not feel as sharp as at Wetherby. The trainer announced he would have a long rest and be brought back in the spring.
Weird Al is 2 from 3 at Cheltenham – he broke a blood vessel in the Gold Cup this year. Before that he was 8th of 18 in the Hennessy – by far the biggest field he’s ever faced. It might be he prefers small fields and there’s no way of predicting how many will line up for the Gold Cup given Long Run has now proved he is no superstar.
But Weird Al is a fine jumper, a stayer, very gutsy, a good traveller and, perhaps most critical of all, seems to go particularly well fresh. There was some 25s to be had after today’s race which seems to have evaporated and given that it is unlikely he will be seen again until after Christmas, his price is unlikely to shorten. There’s no drawback I can see in holding off for now if you fancy him.
If Rolls Royce Denman went in for a service, they’d be sure to have to change a few worn-out parts. I doubt I’ve ever seen a horse who puts so much into his racing; I think he’d rather die than give up. The cost of that over the years has been a loss of energy after his first run of the season.
I think he has never been quite the same after his Gold Cup victory when he poured it on so aggressively. He lost something that day which could never be recovered. His heart problem arose after that race and, with hindsight, perhaps it was no coincidence. The only time he came close to reproducing that RPR was on his seasonal debuts 0f 09/10 and 10/11 (both in The Hennessy)
If I thought Mr Nicholls was going to run him just once this season, in the Gold Cup, I think 25s would be huge value.
Great Endeavour 33/1
The Pipe horse would need to find about 20lbs improvement to figure with a chance in the Gold Cup – not completely out of the question, but the Pipe stable was red hot when he won the Paddy Power. No denying Cheltenham’s a track ke likes having won the Byrne Group Plate at the 2010 Festival. However, he’s been inconsistent and the trainer’s post-race quote from last time doesn’t inspire confidence in him getting the Gold Cup trip:
12Nov11 Cheltenham ( 21 GS ,RPR164 )
We did fancy him last year but things didn´t happen for him. He is a bit quirky but Timmy got a great start and got him into a rhythm. He is entered in the Hennessy but we´ll see. He´s a very good traveller in his races and three miles and two furlongs might be a bit far. – David Pipe, trainer.
Were it not for that comment, I could be tempted to have a small bet.
Master Minded 33/1
Another very good horse with the mixed fortune of having hit the best day of his life against a poor field in the Champion Chase on his ideal ground, and at the zenith of his very progressive profile at that time. His 19 length victory resulted in a rating of 186 (probably 10lbs too much) and the superstar expectations which he’s been unable to meet.
Master Minded never lived up to his 186 rating. In his dominant period, the 2m opposition was poor – Petit Robin, Mahogany Blaze, a past-it Well Chief, a 20 furlong horse in Voy Por Ustedes: arguably the first good horse he met, Big Zeb, would have beaten him but for demolishing the last fence at Punchestown (and still running him to a head). Big Zeb then beat him in the Champion Chase and Paul Nicholls stepped MM up in trip.
I thought him workmanlike at best at Ascot today and I suspect he’s getting a bit quirky. He can also throw in the odd mighty blunder. Although his trainer thinks he wants a trip these days – it’s very hard to imagine that trip being an extended 3m 2f at Cheltenham. The following quote is an old one (given after his Aintree defeat by VPU), but can it be turned around to the extent that 33/1 becomes value for the Gold Cup? Not for me – I suspect his race will be The Ryanair but if he wins or goes close in the King George, who knows?
04Apr08 Aintree ( 20 Gd ,RPR168 )
He´s run a good race, he just said he didn´t stay – simple as that. He made a mistake but he was running on empty before then, and Ruby said, ‘We´ll just stick to two miles´. He´s absolutely fine and you will see him next in the Tingle Creek. There was always a doubt, though Ruby said when he won at Sandown that he thought he´d get two and a half. At least we know now and we will stick to two miles. There will be no, ‘Oh, he might be a King George horse´, he is going to stick to two miles, and that´s it. Voy Por deserved to win a big race. He has been knocking on the door and we owe him one. – Paul Nicholls
I think Weird Al is the one to take from today – from a value perspective – but given his fragility in the past and the fact that we’re unlikely to see him again for at least 2 months, the price is unlikely to drop. A dazzling performance by the KG winner might see Weird Al pushed out, so I will wait a bit.
Prior to Quito De La Roque’s next run, I’ll have 2 points win on him.
Good luck and if you have read this far without dozing off . . . my work here is done.
In preparing for the Cheltenham Festival, any race fan getting on in years had to remember to book a couple of weightlifters to carry his Timeform Perspective folder. But the 2012 Festival will be the last for this printed publication which has been around for 20 years.
The Flat edition will finish on December 31st. The NH edition dies at the end of the current season.
The Perspective contained detailed analysis of every race in the UK and Ireland plus the big races in Europe and North America. In the heart of every true punter, hope rules, and the arrival of each delivery promised potential riches courtesy of a horse or two spotted by Timeform’s analysts, tucked away in the also-rans and ignored by many . . . but sussed by the boys from Halifax.
Those deliveries are planned three times a week but it’s a run-rate that the Royal Mail can’t seem to keep up with. An undelivered Perspective on its nominated day would cause almost as much frustration as a missing Giro in The Scheme.
Technology too has played its part. Timeform’s head of communications and commercial. Kieran Packman said: “Timeform will not be producing Perspectives beyond the current seasons as it is simply not a viable product in the modern environment. The reliability of Royal Mail has dropped to such an extent that we cannot guarantee a sufficiently high level of service to our customers. Our online Race Passes product includes everything previously contained in Perspective (and a lot more!) and it makes considerable sense for us to concentrate resources on a product for which we control delivery.”
That raised a question about the future of another famed Timeform publication The Black Book. Kieran said: “The Black Book is in no immediate danger. The fact there’s only one a week significantly reduces postal problem build-up and we receive far less complaints about the delivery of this service.”
Pessimists will note the use of the word ‘immediate’.
The passing of The Perspective was mourned by a few posters on The Racing Forum. Gingertipster wrote:
Amongst others, it did help with Camache Queen on Sept 28th, backed at 20/1.
7th July Warwick 7f good-soft 6th
“Camache Queen persevered with at 7f, again took a keen hold during the early part of the race and failed to last home, so surely she’ll be back over shorter next time”.
6th Sept Lingfield still at 7f good-soft Camache Queen 3rd
“Camache Queen really is one to look out for when dropped to sprint trips, going through the race like comfortably the best handicapped horse, but not able to pick up like the winner, albeit not helped by the winner hanging left either”.
28th Sept 4:10 Salisbury Now at 6f good-soft.
Backed at 20/1 where SP only 8/1
1st Camache Queen 20/1
‘Race Passes’ seem to be Timeform’s big hope. Mr Packman was very guarded on the question of iPad and iPhone development plans but it looks to me like printed matter, as in many organisations, is on its way out.
Don’t be surprised if you see a few of our TV pundits squinting at a phone screen when offering comments on runners in the future.
As I mention in the blog from time to time, I neither seek nor accept reward from any company mentioned