Category Archives: General
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CAPPA BLEU (IRE) FACTFILE
b g Pistolet Bleu - Cappagale (Strong Gale)
11-10-11 Form: 1/3F2P/1334-22 Owners: William and Angela Rucker
Trainer: Evan Williams Breeder: Thomas O’Connor
I’m grateful to Racenews for supplying factfiles for every runner in the John Smith’s Grand National. I reformat these and publish as I get them, with the first batch coming out 2 weeks before the big race on April 6th. By the eve of the National all factfiles will be published here. You can find others by clicking on the factfiles tag at the foot of this post
Cappa Bleu was born on June 6, 2002 in Ireland for breeders Thomas and Eileen O’Connor and he raced for the family in Irish point-to-points. He made his debut at Tullow on February 10, 2008, when he fell at the penultimate fence. He returned seven days later at Knockanard and showed promise in second behind Dreamy Sweeney before breaking his maiden tag at Kilworth point-to-point in comfortable fashion. He returned after a short break, at Ballybunion point-to-point, winning well despite heavy ground.
Shropshire-based trainer Sheila Crow, who had first taken interest in the horse when Cappa Bleu was entered in a sale but then withdrawn, was looking on behalf of owners William and Angela Rucker, and went to Ireland to buy him. A deal was struck but the horse became ill travelling to England. It was touch and go whether he would survive, but he did and, following a brace of point-to-point victories, he was sent to the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival where, despite his relative inexperience, he annihilated the field to win by 12 lengths.
He switched from Crow to Evan Williams for a campaign geared around a return to The Festival for chasing’s Blue Riband, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, the 2009/2010 season didn’t pan out as expected. After finishing third of five on his seasonal return at Aintree over two and a half miles of the Mildmay Course in late October, he lined up in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury but fell at the 15th when beaten.The fall reportedly knocked his confidence and he returned in February in a three-mile novices’ hurdle at Taunton, finishing second. Connections were encouraged enough to run him in the three-mile Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival, but he was found wanting, being pulled up before the last.
He left Williams and rejoined Crow for the 2010/11 season to participate in some point-to-pointing so that he could regain his confidence. That nine-month spell appeared to be a shrewd move, because he hasn’t finished out of the frame in six subsequent starts over fences. Cappa Bleu made a winning return for Williams in a valuable three-mile handicap chase at Haydock in November, 2011, before thirds in the Coral Welsh Grand National in late December and a Listed handicap chase at Ascot in February, 2012.
He did well in last season’s John Smith’s Grand National, running on strongly to take fourth after encountering trouble on the first circuit. With the world’s greatest chase again the target for the 11-year-old, he has only run twice this season, chasing home fellow John Smith’s Grand National aspirant Across The Bay in a graduation chase at Carlisle in November and finishing second, beaten two and a half lengths, by Vino Griego in a Listed three-mile handicap chase at Ascot on February 13.
Race Record: Starts: 11; Wins: 2; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £122,561
William and Angela Rucker
William Rucker, born on June 18, 1963, is chief executive of Lazard London operations and has been since June, 2004. He is also deputy chief executive of the European investment banking business at Lazard. The bank dates back to 1848 and is one of the world’s pre-eminent financial advisory and asset management firms, operating from 40 cities across 24 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Central and South America. William joined Lazard in 1987, having previously qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen.
He is also non-executive chairman of Quintain Estates and Development plc and Crest Nicholson Holdings Ltd, and was a non-executive director of Rentokil Initial from 2008 to March, 2013. His wife Angela is from a legendary point-to-point family, being the grand-daughter of Major Harold Rushton, who rode 86 winners, and the daughter of Pat Tollitt, who rode 171 winners between the flags and was champion lady rider on six occasions.
Angela herself is also a talented rider and trains pointers. The Ruckers are based at Himbleton in Worcestershire and also have horses with Fergal O’Brien and a variety of point-to-point trainers, including Sheila Crow, who trained their Cappa Bleu to win the Christie’s Foxhunter Chase at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. Horses that progress to run under Rules are principally sent to Evan Williams, who has been well supported by Angela’s family since he began training in 2003.
Major winners for owner and trainer include State Of Play, who won the 2006 Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, 2008. State Of Play became a Grand National stalwart by finishing fourth to Mon Mome in the 2009 John Smith’s Grand National, third behind Don’t Push It in the 2010 and fourth behind Ballabriggs in the 2011 renewal. High Chimes landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase for them at the 2008 Cheltenham Festival. They have about 20 horses in training.
John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th)
Evan Williams (Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan)
Unrelated to the winning jockey of the 1937 Grand National who bears the same name and also hails from the Cowbridge area of South Wales, Evan Williams was born on April 3, 1971, on his family’s farm in the village of Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan. He used to get up at dawn to milk the cows before going to school. He took over the running of the farm full-time when he was 17, concentrating firstly on dairy farming and then beef when the price of milk dropped.
He also started training a few point-to-pointers in 1997 but the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 decimated his herd and restrictions on the movement of livestock wiped out the point-to-point season. Williams sold his cattle at a loss after the outbreak and went to Ireland to buy 18 horses with the proceeds, going on to be champion point-to-point trainer and jockey in 2002. He rode and trained over 200 point-to-point winners.
He took out his full training licence the following year and rode his first winner, Cherry Gold, in a hunters’ chase at Chepstow on April 22, 2003. Williams enjoyed his first big-race success at the same course in December of that year, when saddling Sunray to win the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at odds of 40/1. The winners continued to flow and Williams shot to national prominence with State Of Play, who followed up success in a handicap chase at Aintree’s John Smith’s Grand National meeting in April, 2006, with victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury seven months later.
The chaser went on to triumph in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 2008, while other big-race success has arrived courtesy of High Chimes, who gave Williams a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the 2008 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and Grade Two scorers Deep Purple and Simarian. In the 2009/10 season, Barizan emerged as a top-class juvenile hurdler, winning a Grade One at Punchestown after finishing second in both the JCB Triumph Hurdle and in the Matalan Anniversary 4-Y-O Hurdle at Aintree. Williams enjoyed his best season in terms of winners in 2010/11, with 90 successes and had 89 victories in Britain and Ireland in 2011/12.
State Of Play did him proud in the John Smith’s Grand National – finishing fourth in 2009, third in 2010 and fourth in 2011 before unseating his rider in 2012 when Cappa Bleu ran fourth. Williams is assisted by top amateur James Tudor, who was champion point-to-point rider in 2007 and partnered High Chimes to his Cheltenham success. He is married to Cath who continued to train point-to-pointers after he took out his professional licence, saddling over 50 winners in two seasons including the prolific Cannon Bridge, who chalked up nine wins in a single campaign. They have three children William, Isabel and Ellie. Evan is the son of former amateur jockey Rhys Williams. John Smith’s Grand National Record: 2009 State Of Play (4th); 2010 State Of Play (3rd); 2011 State Of Play (4th); 2012 Cappa Bleu (4th); State Of Play (UR 5th); Deep Purple (PU 19th)
In the spring of 1967, I was 13-years-old. Walking through the local park with my father, we met a friend of his who’d just come out after watching the Grand National. I’d never seen an adult so excited as he talked of the shock result of the 100/1 chance who’d won the race. His graphic description of the mayhem at the 23rd fence, the remounting of the favourite, the pursuit of the no-hoper who’d been too slow to get caught up in the fracas which had brought the remainder of the field to a standstill, fired my imagination. I decided to learn more about the Grand National and about horse racing.
I’ve been captivated ever since. Much of my racing ‘education’ came from reading Dick Francis’s great racing mysteries. In the early ’90s I published my own racing mystery, Warned Off, co-written with an early hero of mine who became a great friend, Richard Pitman, whose own Grand National memory on Crisp was much more affecting than mine. In the mid 90s I got a job at Aintree.
That seed sown by the tale of Foinavon, the 100/1 no-hoper, grew to make a huge impact on my life and I was delighted to get a message from David Owen today telling me about a book he’d written, Foinavon, The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset
Here’s a taster from David who is a former sports editor of The Financial Times
It was the upset to end all upsets. On 8 April 1967 at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool, a 100-1 outsider in peculiar blinkers sidestepped chaos extraordinary even by the Grand National’s standards and won the world’s toughest steeplechase.
The jumps-racing establishment – and Gregory Peck, the Hollywood actor whose much-fancied horse was reduced to the status of an also-ran – took a dim view. But Foinavon, the dogged victor, and Susie, the white nanny goat who accompanied him everywhere, became instant celebrities. Within days, the traffic was being stopped for them in front of Buckingham Palace en route to an audience with the Duchess of Kent. Fan mail arrived addressed to ‘Foinavon, England’. According to John Kempton, Foinavon’s trainer, the 1967 race ‘reminded everyone that the National was part of our heritage’.
Foinavon’s Grand National victory has become as much a part of British sporting folklore as the England football team’s one and only World Cup win the previous year. The race has even spawned its own mythology, with the winner portrayed as a horse so useless that not even its owner or trainer could be bothered to come to Liverpool to see him run. Yet remarkably the real story of how Foinavon emerged from an obscure yard near the ancient Ridgeway to pull off one of the most talked-about victories in horseracing history has never been told.
Based on original interviews with scores of people who were at Aintree on that rainswept day, or whose lives were in some way touched by the shock result, this book will use the story of this extraordinary race to explore why the Grand National holds tens of millions of people spellbound, year after year, for ten minutes on a Saturday afternoon in early spring.
I wish David luck with the book.
If you want to read Warned Off, it’s available as an eBook and paperback. The eBook is £2.50 and you can read the reviews and find out more by clicking the image below.
GBR’s annual review, concentrating on its aims and what it has achieved so far, has just been published. You can read/download a copy by clicking the link below.
I’m grateful to my friends at Racenews for this highly detailed Grand National briefing. You can read it/download it by clicking the link below.
I’ll be posting my tips for the National in the week running up to the race which takes place on April 6th. All my blog posts are notified to my twitter followers.
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Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup winner BOBS WORTH (IRE)
8 b g Bob Back (USA) – Fashionista (IRE) (King’s Theatre (IRE))
Owner: The Not Afraid Partnership Breeder: Lois Eadie
Trainer: Nicky Henderson Jockey: Barry Geraghty
Bobs Worth was bred by Fermanagh-based Lois Eadie who sold him as a foal to Peter Maloney at Rathmore Stud. Bobs Worth’s jockey Barry Geraghty bought the son of Bob Back for 16,500 euros as a yearling at Tattersalls Ireland in November, 2006, but, having failed to resell him as a three-year-old at Goffs in June, 2008, got £20,000 for him the following May at Doncaster. David Minton of Highflyer Bloodstock bought the then four-year-old to join Nicky Henderson.
Geraghty reflected: “We were a bit disappointed and had hoped for more. It was just the economic times we were in. Anyway, it has worked out very well for me in the end, I just had to wait a bit to get my bonus now from riding him!” The gelding made his debut in a National Hunt Flat race at Kempton in February, 2010 and finished second. He progressed to win a similar race at the same course on April 9. The following season, he won all four of his novice hurdles, including when beating future Stan James Champion Hurdle victor Rock On Ruby at Cheltenham in January, 2011. He is unbeaten in five starts at Cheltenham and has enjoyed three successes at The Festival – in the 2011 Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, the 2012 Grade One RSA Chase and the 2013 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
There were two defeats as a novice chaser but he has been victorious in his other four chases, including his debut success over fences at Newbury in November, 2011 when he narrowly defeated Cue Card, who is a now a dual winner at The Festival. He annexed the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury on December 1, when he carried 11st 6lb to beat Tidal Bay by three and a quarter lengths before reappearing in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 15, when he stayed on strongly to beat Sir Des Champs and stable companion Long Run by seven lengths and two and three quarter lengths. He was the first horse since Flyingbolt, between 1964 and 1966, to win three different races at The Festival in consecutive years.
Jump Race Record: Starts: 12; Wins: 9; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £578,136 Not Afraid Partnership
Berkshire-based Malcolm Kimmins (born February 12, 1937) heads the five-strong partnership. He has owned horses for 50 years, including with legendary trainer Fulke Walwyn. He is a Jockey Club member, former trustee of Ascot racecourse, an ex-director of Newbury Racecourse, former chairman of wine merchants Corney & Barrow and drinks company William Sanderson & Son.
He was High Sheriff of Berkshire in 2003-04, was appointed CVO in 2002, a Deputy Lieutenant in 2008 and also runs the Starlight charity racedays. The Not Afraid Partnership also includes Caro Wells, a longstanding family friend of Kimmins, former Sandown Racecourse chairman John Jarvis, David Nash and Nick Deacon. The partnership name was a play on words prompted by their first horse Afrad. They also own Chatterbox, who finished fourth in the 2013 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival. The partnership is a successor to the Barrow Boys, a syndicate including Kimmins that was run by the late Nigel Clark, one-time chairman of Kempton Racecourse. Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup win – 2013 BOBS WORTH
Nicky Henderson (Lambourn, Berkshire)
The all-time leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival with 50 successes after gaining a record seven wins last year and four this year. Twice the winner of the Jump trainers’ championships, in 1985/86 and 1986/87, he has sent out approaching 2,500 winners and is hot favourite to capture another trainers’ title this season. Born in Lambeth, London, on December 10, 1950, he is the son of financier and amateur jockey John Henderson MBE, who founded the Racecourse Holdings Trust, the forerunner for Jockey Club Racecourses. Nicky, who had Field Marshal Montgomery as a godfather, was educated at Eton and the Royal Agricultural College.
He worked for stockbrokers Cazenove in London and Australia, where he gained experience riding work at Randwick, before devoting himself full-time to racing. First made his name in Britain as an amateur rider, finishing runner-up three times in the non-professional championship. His main wins as a jockey came on Happy Warrior in the 1977 Fox Hunters Chase at Aintree and on Acquaint in Sandown’s Imperial Cup in the same year. Recorded his 78th and final win on Rolls Rambler in the Horse & Hound Cup at Stratford in June, 1978. He became assistant trainer to Fred Winter in 1974 and received his own training licence in July, 1978, taking over from Roger Charlton at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn. Moved to Seven Barrows, to the north of the village, in 1992. First winner as a trainer was Dukery at Uttoxeter, October 14, 1978.
He has won five Stan James Champion Hurdles, two Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cups (2011 Long Run, 2013 Bob’s Worth), three Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase (1992 Remittance Man, 2012 Finian’s Rainbow, 2013 Sprinter Sacre) and two Ladbrokes World Hurdle (1989 Rustle, 2000 Bacchanal).
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup wins: 2011 Long Run, 2013 BOBS WORTH
Barry Geraghty (born September 16, 1979) is one of six children from a “horse-mad” family that hails from Drumree in Co Meath. His father ‘Tucker’ was a useful amateur and trains a few horses in addition to his riding school and livery yard, while his now US-based brother Ross, who won the 2002 Irish National on The Bunny Boiler, and sister Jill, an amateur, are both jockeys.
Like so many Irish jockeys, Geraghty has a background in pony racing, riding his last winner in that sphere in September, 1996, before becoming apprenticed to Noel Meade that month and having his first ride in October, 1996. He rode his first winner aboard Stagalier at Down Royal on January 29, 1997.
It was for trainer Jessica Harrington that he first sprang to prominence, partnering her 1998 Midlands National winner Miss Orchestra. Geraghty will forever be associated with the great Moscow Flyer who provided him with his first Cheltenham Festival victory in the 2002 Arkle Chase and went on to add the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2003 and 2005, as well as a host of other championship races including the Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase at Aintree in 2004 and 2005. He crowned the 2002/03 season with victory in the John Smith’s Grand National aboard Monty’s Pass, something which contributed to him being voted RTE Sports Personality of the year by Irish television viewers.
He captured the 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Tom Taaffe-trained Kicking King the day after Moscow Flyer’s emotional second Queen Mother Champion Chase triumph. In total, he has enjoyed 28 victories at the Cheltenham Festival after three successes this year. He was top rider at The Festival in both 2003 (5) and 2012 (5). Geraghty teamed up with Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson at the start of the 2008/09 season, splitting his time between Ireland and Britain. Geraghty’s association with Henderson has yielded a Champion Hurdle victory in 2009 with Punjabi, two Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase wins with Finian’s Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre (2013) and a Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup with Bobs Worth (2013).
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup wins: 2005 Kicking King, 2013 BOBS WORTH
I’m grateful to my friends at Racenews for another of their superb Factfiles
Stan James, Boylesports, William Hill, Bet 365 and Betvictor will lay you 12/1 the Ryanair winner. Bookies are becoming used to taking this horse on, but a sizable element of this price can only be based on the chances of Cue Card not turning up. He ran poorly in the 2012 King George (his first attempt at 3 miles) although he was on his nose at the first, blundered again at the third and generally seemed to struggle in the deep ground – the worst going the race had been run on since 1937.
Should it be as muddy again this year, I doubt he will run. But the going there is usually no worse than good to soft. He was showing no signs of stopping in the Ryanair on good to soft and I’d expect him to stay the extra 3 furlongs of the King George on the pancake flat Kempton course.
His trainer, Colin Tizzard seems ready for another shot going by his recent comments to Racing UK when interviewed at Exeter:
He’s come back absolutely fine and he actually cantered on Saturday.
I’m sure he’ll go to Aintree (Melling Chase, 2m 4f). I’m sure he’ll start off here (the Haldon ) but I’m not convinced he doesn’t stay the longer trip.
“The King George could be quite tempting. He was a bit fat in the neck and one or two of mine weren’t running well at the time. He didn’t stop at Cheltenham, so it’s all to play for.
Of his likely opponents on Boxing Day, all being well, I reckon Bobs Worth will need a much sterner stamina test to be at his best; Simonsig doesn’t jump well enough and his trainer believes he’s a two-miler; Long Run is very consistent but is another who needs a severe staying trip and is one-paced; Silviniaco Conti could run well; Dynaste is over-rated; Flemenstar’s connections fear he is a poor traveller (as in making the journey across from Ireland) and I suspect he might not be quite the horse some think he is. I’d fear Al Ferof if he turned up fit and well, and also Benefficient who impressed me at Cheltenham.
Cue Card is currently Timeform’s joint-third top-rated steeplechaser on 175 (with Flemenstar – Bobs Worth is on 179 and Sprinter Sacre 192p).
I think Cue Card is a very short price to run in the King George, and if he runs, I doubt he’ll be more than 5/1, probably shorter if he wins at Aintree next month, and I think he will.
So given a seven or eight point benefit in the price, I think he’s well worth a bet, For those unfamiliar with ante-post betting, please bear in mind that if Cue Card does not run in the King George, your stake money is lost.
Entries are announced today for the £120,000 John Smith’s Topham Chase and the £40,000 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase, both run over two miles, five and a half furlongs of the famous Grand National course at Aintree Racecourse early next month.
The John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase takes place on the first day of the John Smith’s Grand National meeting, Grand Opening Day, Thursday, April 4, while the John Smith’s Topham Chase is one of the highlights on Ladies Day, Friday, April 5. Together with the John Smith’s Grand National, worth £975,000 and run on Saturday, April 6, they form the races over the Grand National fences. The other 18 contests at the John Smith’s Grand National meeting are run over the fences of the Mildmay course and the hurdle course.
The John Smith’s Topham Chase has attracted a fine entry of 54 including Always Waining, who captured the race for an unprecedented third consecutive time last season. The 12-year-old, trained by Peter Bowen, is also among the latest acceptors for the John Smith’s Grand National which were revealed yesterday.
Tartak boasts some high-class form at Aintree, having captured the Grade Two Manifesto Novices’ Chase in April, 2009. Tim Vaughan’s charge also finished fourth in the 2010 and 2011 renewals of the Grade One John Smith’s Melling Chase when trained by Tom George, but broke a blood vessel on his first attempt over the Grand National fences in last season’s John Smith’s Topham Chase, coming home 15th.
The 10-year-old finished a staying-on third in the Byrne Group Plate over two miles and five furlongs at the Cheltenham Festival on his latest start, beaten 13 and a half lengths on March 14.
Vaughan, whose stables are in South Wales, revealed: “Tartak had a stretch and canter yesterday morning and he seems in great old nick. If we can get him in the John Smith’s Topham Chase, he will definitely run.
“That seems to be his trip and if we get some drying ground, you never know because he seems to be in the form of his life.
“He has been running on predominantly the wrong ground all winter and in fairness to him, when he got his ground at Cheltenham last week, he ran an absolute blinder. If he took that forward to Aintree, I would like to think he would have a sensible chance.
“The handicapper has given him a chance and, if he gets a bit of luck in running, it looks to be the ideal opportunity for him. We know he likes Aintree and his jumping was exemplary at Cheltenham so I don’t think the fences will bother him.”
Seven-time champion jump trainer Paul Nicholls has five entries, the most of any handler, headed by the unexposed six-year-old Pacha Du Polder. A lot was expected of the French import after a Grade Two victory at Ayr in April and, following three disappointing displays this season, he lived up to his reputation with a gutsy front-running success in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on March 2.
Somerset-based Nicholls could also run last year’s third Fistral Beach and There’s No Panic, who chased home Soll in an extended three-mile handicap chase at Sandown on March 9, plus Rebel Du Maquis, a recent close second in a Taunton hunter chase and also entered in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters Chase,and Criqtonic, a winner at Wincanton last month.
Irish champion jump trainer Willie Mullins proved he has his string in fine form when saddling five winners at the Cheltenham Festival last week and the County Carlow handler can choose between classy chaser Call The Police and Lambro.
Walkon and Nadiya de La Vega, who were second and third in the valuable Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, could run for trainers Alan King and Nicky Henderson respectively.
Gloucestershire-based Nigel Twiston-Davies is a great supporter of races over the Grand National fences and may be represented by last year’s seventh Little Josh, who got the better of Gansey in a thrilling finish to the Betfred “Goals Galore” Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree over the Grand National fences in December, when Tranquil Sea, trained by Edward O’Grady in Ireland, was third.
Philip Hobbs could send out two possible runners – last year’s runner-up Chance Du Roy and Planet Of Sound, who led the field for much of the race in the 2012 John Smith’s Grand National.
Other notable entries include Grade Two scorer Rathlin, from the stable of Irish handler Mouse Morris, and 2012 Betfred Becher Handicap Chase third Big Fella Thanks, who is also going forward in the John Smith’s Grand National, in which he has finished seventh (2011), fourth (2010) and sixth (2009).
NORTHERN IRISH CHALLENGER WARNE TARGETS JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ CHASE
Cloudy Lane gave the McCain family another success over the Grand National fences in last season’s John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase and is one of 35 entries for this year’s renewal.
The 13-year-old has yet to recapture that form this season and was beaten a long way by subsequent CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup third Cottage Oak at Haydock Park in February.
But Cloudy Lane, trained by Donald McCain, has an excellent record over the Grand National fences – having also finished sixth and eighth in the 2008 and 2010 John Smith’s Grand Nationals respectively.
Other potential runners with winning course form include 2008 John Smith’s Topham Chase hero Gwanako, from the stable of Paul Nicholls who has also entered Rebel Du Maquis, and Marilyn Scudamore’s Silver Adonis, who was the shock 50/1 winner of the 2010 John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase.
Warne, trained in Northern Ireland by Brian Hamilton, has been in good form this season, having won over a similar trip at Fairyhouse last month in impressive fashion by five and a half lengths. On his penultimate appearance over three miles at Leopardstown on February 9, he came home ninth behind dual Cheltenham Foxhunter scorer Salsify.
Hamilton revealed: “The plan is to run Warne in the John Smith’s Fox Hunters’ Chase. He has been in very good form since his win at Fairyhouse and we decided straight after to let him take his chance at Aintree.
“The reason we did not go to Cheltenham with him is because three miles, two and a half furlongs is too far for him. He is quite trip dependent and that is why we planned to go to Aintree – we never even thought about going to Cheltenham.
“The three miles at Leopardstown was too far for him. He travelled as well as Salsify and Tammys Hill but jumped the second last and fell in a hole. An extended two and a half miles is his ideal trip.
“He has plenty of pace and travels well through his races and better ground will definitely benefit him as well.
“He is a very good jumper – quick and accurate – and I am hoping he gives a good account of himself. If he jumps round, he would have to have a good chance.”
Willie Mullins’ Boxer Georg may bid to go one better than in 2011 when he was narrowly denied by Baby Run and the third that day, Grade One winner Offshore Account, trained by Tracey Bailey, could make his fifth start over the Grand National fences.
Other notable entries include Denman’s full-brother Silverburn, now in the care of Welsh handler Evan Williams. The 12-year-old took the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle in 2007 and has made a good start to his hunter chasing career, scoring easily at Musselburgh in February before finishing the eight-length second to the Fiona Browne-trained Bold Addition, who has won both his races this season and is part-owned by (his former trainer) Paul Nicholls, at Warwick on March 10.
Vic Venturi, formerly trained in Ireland by Dessie Hughes, has run in the John Smith’s Grand National three times and won the Betfred Becher Chase over the big fences in 2009.
THE JOHN SMITH’S FOX HUNTERS’ CHASE
Class 2, £40,000 total prize fund. 3.40pm, Aintree, Thursday, April 4, 2013, two miles about five and a half furlongs over the Grand National Course. For six-year-olds and upwards which, after October 2010, and before March 19, 2013, have finished first, second or third in a Hunters’ steeple chase on two occasions OR have finished first, second or third in a Hunters’ steeple chase on one occasion and have won either another steeple chase (Hunters’ steeple chases included) or an Open Point-to-Point steeple chase. Weights: 12st, mares allowed 7lb. To be ridden by Amateur Riders holding ‘Category B’ permits to ride, or Amateur Riders riding under the provisions of Rule (D)27. Entries closed March 18, entries revealed March 19 (35 entries). Six-day confirmation stage March 29, final declaration stage 10.00am, April 3. Form figures supplied by Weatherbys and are correct up to and including the racing of Monday, March 18.
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
36506-3 BATTLEFRONT (IRE) 11 Helen Walsh Ted Walsh IRE
11/22-11 BOLD ADDITION (FR) 8 Nicholls, Browne & Friends Syndicate Fiona Browne
1002-43 BOXER GEORG (IRE) 11 William Murray/Keith Murray Willie Mullins IRE
03-0004 CARSONSTOWN BOY (IRE) 9 J T Monaghan Colin McBratney IRE
2161-30 CLOUDY LANE 13 Trevor Hemmings Donald McCain
36214-3 COOL FRIEND (IRE) 10 Stephen Evason Oliver Greenall
0P4113 COTTAGE OAK (IRE) 10 R J Hewitt Joe O’Shea
6P/PP2-5 DEFYING GRAVITY (IRE) 10 I P Crane Laura Pomfret
3001-0P EARTH DREAM (IRE) 10 The Bloomfields Partnership John Ferguson
0/10000- EMERGENCY COVER (IRE) 10 Nigel Padfield Nigel Padfield
3-22405 FAIRWOOD PRESENT (IRE) 15 Jonathan Caulkin John Buxton
0/5/-2 FAMILY OFICIAL (IRE) 11 Mary Twohig Mary Twohig IRE
P2-12FU FLAMING GORGE (IRE) 8 A Fool & His Money Fleur Hawes
5/232/15- FRESH AIR AND FUN (IRE) 10 Mrs D J Ralph Alastair Ralph
3P/-0241 GENTLE GEORGE 10 B J Mould Steve Flook
1F-4411 GWANAKO (FR) 10 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
32U-0P6 HARPS COUNSEL (IRE) 11 Cathal McGovern Stephen Magee IRE
FFPP3P KEENAN’S FUTURE (IRE) 12 Stephen Rea Stephen Rea
3/03U-P1 KILDONNAN 14 Neil Mechie Neil Mechie
34560-2 MOON OVER MIAMI (GER) 12 Drew Holmes Drew Holmes
2 MOURNE PADDY (IRE) 9 Stuart Crawford Stuart Crawford IRE
33/P1U-4 OFFSHORE ACCOUNT (IRE) 13 N Sutton Tracey Bailey
13P-343 ON BORROWED WINGS (IRE) 10 William & Angela Rucker Angela Rucker
2- OWENACURRA (IRE) 8 S C Robinson Rose Grissell
4061F-P PRESENTANDCORRECT (IRE)12 Mr & Mrs Tim Sage Tim Sage
1/-12132 RASH MOVE (IRE) 12 K Hutsby Fred Hutsby
1/10-602 REBEL DU MAQUIS (FR) 8 Kathy Stuart & Paul Nicholls Paul Nicholls
2P410-P SILVER ADONIS (IRE) 12 Lesley Sluman & Maz Scudamore Marilyn Scudamore
5/B5-113 SILVER STORY 10 N B Jones William Vaughan
F443/1-2 SILVERBURN (IRE) 12 Cath Williams Evan Williams
03626-2 SIZING AMERICA (IRE) 12 The Good, The Bad & The Handsome Sally Randell
255212 TARTAN SNOW 13 R V Westwood Stuart Coltherd
0/42P2-6 TWIN JOY 10 Patrick Joseph Redmond Liam Kenny IRE
0R4-663 VIC VENTURI (IRE) 13 S W Dunn Stephen Rea
02/-4101 WARNE (IRE) 9 Mrs C Magill Brian Hamilton IRE
THE JOHN SMITH’S TOPHAM CHASE (HANDICAP)
Form Horse Age Owner Trainer
4001-00 ALWAYS WAINING (IRE) 12 Mr & Mrs Peter Douglas Peter Bowen
2-06541 ARCTIC BEN (IRE) 9 Mrs A Timpson Henry Daly
5351PF BENNYS MIST (IRE) 7 Mezzone Family Venetia Williams
40/-U312 BIG FELLA THANKS 11 Crossed Fingers Partnership Tom George
21U214 BILLY CUCKOO (IRE) 7 Gap Personnel Tony Coyle
4-F2113 CALL THE POLICE (IRE) 10 DD Racing Syndicate Willie Mullins IRE
12-0F04 CHANCE DU ROY (FR) 9 Miss I D Du Pre Philip Hobbs
1U1-442 CHESTNUT BEN (IRE) 8 John Bourke Gary Brown
212-441 CRIQTONIC (FR) 6 Axom XXXIII Paul Nicholls
3141rP DASHING GEORGE (IRE) 11 Dr Richard Newland Dr Richard Newland
4F4261 DIAMOND FRONTIER (IRE) 10 John Wade John Wade
12-1120 DUNOWEN POINT (IRE) 7 Tim Leslie Donald McCain
P0/1P33- FISTRAL BEACH (IRE) 10 Graham Roach Paul Nicholls
34-522P GANSEY (IRE) 11 Trevor Hemmings Sue Smith
100-050 GIORGIO QUERCUS (FR) 8 Seasons Holidays Nicky Henderson
F-3054P GONEBEYONDRECALL (IRE) 10 Noel Glynn Noel Glynn IRE
0/44-060 GULLIBLE GORDON (IRE) 10 Yeh Man Partnership Peter Bowen
154P3P GUS MACRAE (IRE) 9 Quicksilver Racing Partnership Rebecca Curtis
1-P4006 HECTOR’S CHOICE (FR) 9 James and Jean Potter Richard Lee
P6244F JAMSIE HALL (IRE) 10 Teresa Mangan Gordon Elliott IRE
236-146 LAMBRO (IRE) 8 Byerley Thoroughbred Racing Willie Mullins IRE
544-142 LARKS LAD (IRE) 9 Pitman Gold Syndicate IV Jonjo O’Neill
2-35143 LAST TIME D’ALBAIN (FR) 9 Fontstown Syndicate Liam Cusack IRE
513F2U LEAC AN SCAIL (IRE) 12 Mrs J Drake Joanne Foster
00-1FP0 LITTLE JOSH (IRE) 11 Tony Bloom Nigel Twiston-Davies
40-4434 MAC AEDA 9 Mrs D W Davenport Malcolm Jefferson
15-3004 MANGER HANAGMENT (IRE) 8 Kevin Brennan Barry Brennan
6-P561P MINELLA THEATRE (IRE) 10 Alan Hill Lawney Hill
30B152 MISTER FIRST (FR) 7 Bill Hennessy Robert Hennessy
F60323 MONTOYA’S SON (IRE) 8 Straightline Construction Ltd Tim Vaughan
236026 MR MOONSHINE (IRE) 9 Mrs Strang-Steel, Mr Pryde & Mr Beaumont Sue Smith
0-13U3P NADIYA DE LA VEGA (FR) 7 J P McManus Nicky Henderson
3F4252 ODYSSEAS (FR) 10 Mrs Jean Porzier Yann Porzier FR
210P62 ORPHEUS VALLEY (IRE) 10 No Horse Box Syndicate Tom Gibney IRE
F1-P2P1 PACHA DU POLDER (FR) 6 The Stewart & Wylie Families Paul Nicholls
006020 PACO JACK (IRE) 9 C Beirne Philip Rothwell IRE
230-530 PLANET OF SOUND 11 Charles Lloyd-Baker Philip Hobbs
34F610 RATHLIN 8 Gigginstown House Stud Mouse Morris IRE
1/10-602 REBEL DU MAQUIS (FR) 8 Kathy Stuart & Paul Nicholls Paul Nicholls
3P0456 REGAL D’ESTRUVAL (FR) 8 Paul Jenkins Dr Richard Newland
343020 RENARD (FR) 8 ROA Arkle Partnership Venetia Williams
F10203 ROMANESCO (FR) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
0//21F2/-0 ROYAL DE LA THINTE (FR) 8 Alan & Ann Potts Partnership Jim Dreaper IRE
3F213P SIZING SANTIAGO (IRE) 7 Yeh Man Partnership Peter Bowen
21B-001 SOLL 8 Derrick Mossop Jo Hughes
4U-P1P5 STATE BENEFIT (IRE) 8 Michael Buckley Nicky Henderson
P-64361 STORMING GALE (IRE) 7 Tim Leslie Donald McCain
141120 SWIFT ARROW (IRE) 7 Mrs C Strang Steel Donald McCain
644043 TARTAK (FR) 10 Power Panels Electrical Systems Ltd Tim Vaughan
1P4432 THERE’S NO PANIC (IRE) 8 The Stewart Family Paul Nicholls
253255 TRANQUIL SEA (IRE) 11 Dermot Cox/Nelius Hayes Edward O’Grady IRE
10-2P30 TRIOLO D’ALENE (FR) 6 Mr & Mrs Sandy Orr Nicky Henderson
5P-22P5 WALKON (FR) 8 McNeill Family Alan King
22P323 WHITE STAR LINE (IRE) 9 Patsy Byrne Dessie Hughes IRE
I’m indebted to Racenews for the above content
The festival continues its domination of the season, like a multi-headed monster growing stronger each year. Having a winner there is becoming a target against which the careers of trainers and jockeys are measured.
Grasping how vital it is to trainers needs no words; a look at the red, tearful, heart-burstingly strained face of Nicky Henderson says everything.
There are plenty moans on twitter about how unbalanced NH racing has become by the focus on the festival, but like government and media, we get what we deserve, and from a punter’s viewpoint there should be no complaints. In the not too distant future, these will be looked upon as the glory days of punting.
The desperation of the big bookmakers to compete and attract new players is illustrated by some offers that would stretch credibility in fiction.
P Power ran a series of offers to tempt new phone customers, each up to £50, each with a stake-matched free bet should the selection lose. Examples: 5/1 Pont Alexandre: 8/1 Cue Card: 7/1 Bobs Worth.
Coral went evens Sprinter Sacre throughout the festival to £20 – small stakes but free money just the same. Most of the others had their own take on financial suicide over the meeting…crazy.
But where bookies can be wounded most, imo, is in the pressure that comes with shoving the first post-race quote for next year under the noses of CH4. The dilemmas here for bookmakers are: we want to be first, we want to be best price, we know we’ll need to hold those prices for a reasonable time period.
All this without being able to dissect the race properly. They quote on the fly and hope for the best.
Many punters run shy of betting a year in advance and, under normal circumstances, such caution is merited. But the fury of the festival has changed everything in the punters’ favour and cherry-picking from post-race quotes can be a goldmine.
Hills went 5/1 Bobs Worth. 5/1 about a horse who . . .
has won the Gold Cup
has won three different festival races (first since Flyingbolt)
is five from five at the track
is only 8
was having just his 6th steeplechase
is with a trainer who could make a fortune running festival masterclasses
has no history of unsoundness (touch wood)
faces no threat from those he beat (you can argue for Silv Conti, but at 5s BW, I’m happy to rule him out)
faces no threat from the younger generation
and, crucially, who will definitely have the race as his target
If you don’t mind tying up your money for a year you are being offered 5/1 about a 6/4 (tops) chance
In the Champion Hurdle, if you’re happy to stick with what looks a hugely talented younger generation you can dutch Our Conor at 6/1 and The New One at 8/1.
The bias among some ‘judges’, which The Ryanair should finally have put to rest, seems to have continued with 5/1 available about Cue Card for a repeat against the usual suspects. There is a small chance he might be stepped up to the Gold Cup but that is pretty remote, and you can have a saver on it at a big price.
PPower went 4/6 Sprinter Sacre (Bet 365 offer a more realistic 1/3).
Hills soon caved in and cut Bobs Worth to 7/2, but you can still have 4/1 with Sportingbet. PP now go 4/7 S Sacre.
To recycle the old Richard Baerlein line, now is the time to bet like men.
Before any talk of racing, my thoughts, like yours, are with JT McNamara and family. The 37-year-old Irish amateur jockey was injured in a fall from his horse Galaxy Rock today. The latest news is that he is in an ‘induced coma’ in Frenchay Hospital, Bristol. Never do we feel more like a band of brothers than at the festival – all of us, punters, owners, trainers, jockeys, grooms, valets, media people, everybody who loves racing. We know how everyone else feels in this sport – we all get the same heartlift from Sprinter Sacre and we all get the awful stomach lurch when we hear of a bad fall. First thoughts are with the jockey, then the horse. And we lost a decent one today in Matuhi.
He was no superstar, but a fair handicapper and was still in with a chance when coming down heavily at the last. Whatever his rating, there is still an empty box in the Pipe yard tonight, and much sadness among connections.
Davy Russell too was taken to hospital with a ‘spontaneous punctured lung.’ It’s a hard game sometimes.
On to the racing and betting side . . . in all the years I’ve watched the festival I’ve tried to learn from my betting mistakes. One of those was spending hours trying to solve handicaps. I gave it up about ten years ago to concentrate on the graded races and have never had cause for regret. Some punters relish the challenge of finding a big handicap winner but for me it’s a time sink. It’s demoralising. It’s close to pointless. Now, I’ll pick out two or three that appeal at first glance and have a fiver each on them. This ‘system’ has worked better for me than sweating over weights and plots and trying to read the minds of the Tony Martins and Gordon Eliotts.
I smile now when I hear trainer after trainer say, “This has been the target all season.” That sounds impressive. Trouble is the target is a small red and white disc at the top of a hill and everybody is aiming a half ton horse at it. Only one will hit the bullseye.
Anyway, I hope you’ve found a winner or two and maybe even backed a couple of the right ones (plenty wrong ‘uns!) from my pre-festival post.
Today was one of mixed feelings and results for me. Blog followers will know I’ve always thought the world of Cue Card and, apart from winning a few quid, I was delighted for the horse and for Joe Tizzard especially, who has taken some outrageous flak from ‘riders in the stand’. As his father said, Joe has made Cue Card; the horse is a bit quirky in manner and has an unusual way of getting from one side of a fence to the other, which JT understands perfectly. If he sees a clean stride, he asks him up, if not he lets the horse pop in that curious cat-backed style which I don’t think I’ve seen in any other top-notch horse.
By the way, credit to the Racing Post summarisers: I criticised them after Ascot when they said they thought Cue Card would have been beaten by Captain Chris had that horse not blundered (one of the silliest pieces of professional race-reading I’ve come across), and stated in today’s post-race summary that they’d been wrong.
His win helped take the edge off my disappointment with the earlier Tizzard runner, Third Intention, who never really got his jumping together. I remain convinced there’s a decent race in him and I will follow him over the proverbial cliff.
Another serious and costly let-down was Oscar Whisky. I knew after two flights he’d be winning nothing. The two things he normally does supremely well – jumps and travels – evaporated quickly today and B Geraghty rightly pulled him up. I hear that his owner’s heat-of-the-moment declaration was that he’d never go three miles again – understandable in the immediate aftermath, but I hope he will reconsider as the horse was simply amiss. Perhaps he left this race in the mud of the Cleeve Hurdle and doubtless NJH will regret the fact the horse had a tough race there.
Sam Winner gave me another jolt: like OW, he was never travelling or jumping. At least punters knew their fate early.
And, I could be feeling worse: I could be the guy who decided that opening a new Paddy Power phone account qualified you to have £50 on Cue Card at 8/1, stake back as a free bet of he lost. Some of these offers from the big bookies are eye-popping.
Gold Cup day
Let’s get the nap of the day done first. I’ll be most surprised and quite a bit poorer if Bobs Worth doesn’t win the Gold Cup. I think he’s almost as good a bet as Cue Card was. I’d feared Silviniaco Conti, but the Nicholls yard seems to be very much in and out, and winnerless so far, with some fancied horses running very badly.
Reflecting on Mail de Bievre’s Champion Chase performance, I’m beginning to wonder if the Newbury race 33 days ago, where he led Silv Conti and The Giant Bolster a merry dance, was another attritional contest which might have taken more out of the principals than you’d want coming into the Gold Cup. It made me wonder if Bobs Worth’s supposed stat bullet of this 104 day layoff might not turn out an advantage.
Cue Card franked Bobs Worth form today, from last season. Bobs Worth is unbeaten in 4 runs at Cheltenham, two of those being festival victories – and these first three days have shown yet again how reliable past festival winning form is. BW is still young and improving with this being only his 6th outing over fences. I’m confident Nicky Henderson (I’d forgive that man anything when I see how stressed and emotional he gets watching his horses) will have him spot-on.
Bobs Worth’s two runs before his RSA win last season could be crabbed, but Mr Henderson said he’d never been happy with the horse throughout that crucial mid-part of the campaign (Bobs Worth had undergone a breathing op). Take those runs out and BW’s form looks gold-plated. He’s an economical jumper and traveller, so much more important, imo, than the flashy travellers like Dynaste , My Tent or Yours etc., and he stays well.
I’m very confident he’ll win. If he doesn’t I will crawl under the bed like that kid used to do in the adverts when he’d let in a dozen goals.
I won’t have a serious bet in any of the other races, though I’ll be having a small interest in each as follows:
I like the way Vasco Du Ronceray goes about things and I think he’ll outrun his price of around 16/1
Hisaabaat was 2nd in the Triumph last year and is a dual Grade One winner. The very talented claimer Micheal Nolan rides, and good claimers are increasingly being used very effectively in big handicaps.
2.40 A Bartlett
In the hope that P Nicholls unfancied runners will continue running better than his shorter-priced ones, I’ll take Aaim to Prosper at around 20/1. I like At Fisher’s Cross (especially as he beat the apple of my other eye (Cue Card’s my right eye!), The New One. But he’s had a couple of very hard races and is too short a price to risk.
I’m going with Cottage Oak (around 8/1) to overturn the Irish hotpot Salsify
4.40 M Pipe
I thought Bourne very unlucky last time and believe there’s a nice race in him. The hill should suit and he’s value at 16s.
5.15 J Henderson Chase
I’m trying one more time with a horse I can never catch. He’s back on the mark he can win from and has a good claimer up – Oh Crick. He won this in 2009 and the handicapper thrashed him for it. He’s 25/1 here and I cannot let him go at that. But I’ll also back Stagecoach Pearl. This grey is about due to pop up again and is 40/1
As I write, you can bet Third Intention on Betfair at 32 for tomorrow’s Jewson Chase (1.30). I think he should be a third of that price at best and strongly recommend a bet. You should also back him for a place at around 5.8. The best fixed odds price I can find is 22/1 with Sportingbet.
Captain Conan is third favourite here and I think Third Intention would have beaten him last time at Sandown had he not idled halfway up the run-in (CC won by a neck).
I’ve always thought there was a decent race in TI and tomorrow might be it. I backed him last year in The Coral Cup where he finished 8th of 28 under 11st 10lbs. He likes Cheltenham, the ground will be fine, the yard is in form (28/1 winner yesterday) and he is simply too big a price to miss.