Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cue Card the value Arkle bet at 14/1

Good as Sprinter Sacre looks, I think it would be folly to dismiss Cue Card for the Arkle, especially at the price still available.

He wasn’t fluent at times today, granted but Tizzard did the right thing in making all as the horse’s prime need over fences is to be travelling fast enough to have a proper cut at them. Restraint at Cheltenham caused the unseat imo – he was giving Grands Crus 5lbs that day when the grey was a very marginal favourite. (6/4 -7/4) and given he didn’t get the best ride at Newbury last time, combined with his tendency to idle, I think there’s a reasonable argument he could be 3 from 4 and who knows what might have happened had he stood up at Cheltenham?

At Newbury he gave Bobs Worth 7lbs. Today he gave the runner-up 7lbs and beat him much further than Al Ferof did at levels.

His idling habit and good jumping at pace on decent ground will, I believe, make The Arkle ideal for him, allowing Tizzard to hold him up. He also looks to be one of those ‘no specialist distance’ stuck somewhere between 2m and 20f that The Arkle’s stamina/speed test suits perfectly.

20s was too big yesterday (as tweeted) and 14s with Betfred is still way too big today imo.

Cannington Brook looks a strong EW bet at 14/1 for Welsh National

I was very impressed by Cannington Brook last time out at Haydock despite about the worst piece of idling I’ve ever seen. He’s seriously unexposed in my view, with quite a bit more to come.

He seemed to get on much better – jumping-wise – with Tom O’Brien than with his regular rider J Tizzard. He’ll love the ground at Chepstow tomorrow (2.10 race)  and is a very sound EW bet imo.

I’d fear Cappa Bleu, if he is definitely over whatever was ailing him, and Blazing Bailey, but will be betting Cannington Brook each way with some confidence.

Dear Mr Stewart, please allow Big Buck’s a crack at the Gold Cup

Had Big Buck’s never appeared again after the 2008 Hennessy, we could only have speculated about his potential. But we have the advantage of three years’ of hindsight and from what he’s shown since, there must be a very strong chance he’d have won that Hennessy.

He was 5 at the time. He was rated 153 and carried 11.7. It wasn’t the highest quality renewal but it was truly run and he’d have been the first 5-y-o to win.

BB wasn’t a staying hurdler trying ‘chasing as a natural progression. His first seven runs in the UK were over fences. He ran just twice at 3m plus – beating Battlecry at Aintree, then that Hennessy unseat.

Returned to hurdles, at 3m, he gave Don’t Push It 16lbs to start his unbeaten run.

I think it’s possible that his early clumsiness over fences might well have been a combination of inexperience and things happening too quickly over too short a trip.

He doesn’t have Frankel’s charisma. There is nothing fancy or seductive about his style of running or winning though he is a fine looking individual and a very taking mover.

I’ve no doubt whatsoever he has the best engine in NH racing and think it’s a real shame that his trainer today ruled out any return to ‘chasing. Andy Stewart’s on record as saying the Gold Cup is his holy grail. He could live a hundred more lifetimes and he’ll never have a better chance of winning the Gold Cup than with Big Buck’s who could make half a dozen errors in an average GC and still win it, imo.

Finally, one of the expressions I used to mock and detest on the Betfair forum was ‘Free Money’. But Ladbrokes post-race 4/5 NRNB for the World Hurdle, was exactly that.


Sea of Thunder looks very good value at 16s for the Albert Bartlett

Yesterday’s trial for this race has proved most reliable in the past which makes the last flight faller and moral winner Sea of Thunder a very good bet at 16s.  Trainer confirms this is his target whereas Simonsig, by all reports is due to miss it and Fingal Bay seems more likely to turn up in the Neptune.

Here’s the Racing Post’s summary of yesterday’s race.

This Grade 2 has had an important bearing on the Albert Bartlett (Spa) Novice Hurdle over C&D at the festival. Black Jack Ketchum and Nenuphar Collonges won both races, while Brewster and Mossley won this and were placed in March. Another well-known winner, Iris´s Gift, was runner-up in the World Hurdle later in the season in the days when there was no 3m novice at the festival.

This looked a reasonable edition on paper. The pace lifted on the second circuit and there was drama at the final flight.

Sea Of Thunder had taken up the running on the home turn moving well and was in the process of drawing clear when he stepped into the last and came down. It was a horrible fall, but thankfully he got up from it. Previously unraced beyond 2m2f under rules, this half-brother to the high-class hurdler Macs Joy had won two point-to-points in Ireland and obviously has plenty of stamina. The moral winner, he paid a compliment to the Charlie Longsdon-trained Hazy Tom, who beat him easily at Wetherby last month, albeit over 2m. If he´s none the worse he deserves a place on the shortlist for the Albert Bartlett proper.

Cheltenham’s day one ground policy means Overturn might as well stay in his box in March

Well done to all those who had faith in Grandouet.  One experienced forumite on TRF thinks getting Grandouet running a bit further out would benefit the horse. But B Geraghty (very little between him and Ruby I think in a fine era of jockeys) seemed almost frustrated after the race that he hadn’t been able to hold him up for longer.

When he put Grandouet under pressure, the horse visibly lengthened stride I thought – most impressive – while also still looking a bit green, to my eye, if that doesn’t sound daft. I think the inexperience of pressure caused that and perhaps that’s why some might want to see the horse begin his run a bit sooner.

Geraghty would need nerves of steel and huge confidence to pull off both a hold-up ride (which he seems determined to give the horse in future) and getting him running from some way out because he’d have to lie way off the pace to accomplish both, a very risky PR strategy on such a strong traveller.

I’ve little doubt Overturn has improved substantially as a hurdler and he ran a fine race today giving the winner 4lbs and running him to 4L. His rider reported the ground a bit dead and the horse not showing his usual spark.

If that’s true, under normal circumstances, he’d make huge EW appeal at the 20s on offer, especially if prepped specifically for the race rather than today’s ‘afterthought’ strategy.  But Cheltenham’s policy of producing good to soft ground on day one means this  potential CH winner might as well stay at home. I’m aware of all the PR and safety arguments but I think it is a flawed policy which discriminates against top-of-the-ground horses at the biggest meeting of the year.

Finally, in all the rightful celebration of Grandouet. I wouldn’t forget that Zarkandar absolutely slaughtered him in the Triumph. No question that Grandouet has improved enormously but Zarkandar is the same age, a more compact and, arguably, symmetrically built horse than Grandouet, and has every chance of having also made at least the same improvement.

What is in  no doubt after today (Brampour ran a sound race too) is that we have a very talented handful of four-year-olds. Strict interpretation isn’t quite fair, I know, but given that today Grandouet beat Menorah farther than Hurricane Fly did in the Champion Hurdle, and that the wellbeing of the Irish horse is unknown (he’s had splint problems in the past) the Fly is lousy-looking value at 7/4.

Brampour worth a bet at 11/2 in the Stan James Hurdle

Brampour appeals at the price for Saturday’s big hurdle race at Cheltenham (3.05pm). It is a tricky looking race which even Donald Rumsfeld would have trouble describing with his collection of ‘known knowns, unknown unknowns’ etc.

If Overturn lines up it should, at least, ensure a truly run race. I seem to recall many runnings of this in the past (The Bula Hurdle) have turned into sprints.

Overturn looks as though he’s improved a fair bit but he’s a horse I just cannot catch right. I’ve never bet him when he’s won but have done a couple of times when he ran poorly. Mr McCain had a habit of going to the well once too often with this horse although I think young Donald is learning all the time.

Still, even if the horse runs to form, a flat track would see him to better effect. I believe the same applies to Grandouet who ran a perfectly good race in The Triumph but went from cantering turning in, to not finding much on the slope.

I always avoid Menorah because although he is capable of absolutely flying a hurdle, he is prone to walk through the odd one too and I’d rather not chance him because of that.

Clerk’s Choice has changed stables. His reputation rests mostly on a Cheltenham victory in October last year which was very taking to the eye. But that was an unusual race in that two horses burned each other out at a very hot pace on fast ground leaving Clerk’s Choice to almost canter home by more than 20 lengths.  He would, arguably, have to get those same conditions again to run close to that performance.

Irish Grade 1 winner Pittoni is interesting too though the classy and consistent Thousand Stars made him look flat-footed last time.

I like Brampour a lot.  His form and running style suggest he’ll want a strong pace although young Derham said he was run off his feet in the early stages last time. Still, there’s a chance he wants a stamina test, and he’ll be the one I’ll be watching closest on Saturday. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent articles, if the price is big enough, I’m always happy to pay to find out just how far an improving horse can go. Highly thought of last season, he disappointed somewhat then, but one of the famous P Nicholls breathing ops seems to have made all the difference.

He’s shown his mettle in big fields off a strong pace. If he can pull this off, he’ll be a lively Champion Hurdle option for those reluctant to take the 7/4 about the yet-to-be-seen-this-season Hurricane Fly.

And a word here in appreciation of Brampour’s owners, Banks, Blackshaw and Gannon.  This is their only horse. Young Derham cannot utilise his 7lbs claim because of the race conditions, and they could easily have given the ride to Ruby Walsh. Many people feel loyalty has no place in professional sport, but I think some owners take joy in being able to make dreams come true for others. To Ruby, it would be just another ride; to 17-y-o Harry Derham, it will be a day he’ll remember all his life.
A fascinating race in prospect.

Update: Brampour ran well – he was 3rd though I didn’t back him EW

My thoughts on the big Saturday Chase at Cheltenham are here

Matuhi the value at 25/1 in Saturday’s Gold Cup

The Mackeson Gold Cup and the Massey-Ferguson Gold Cup will be remembered by us old-timers as two highly anticipated Cheltenham handicap Chases back in the 60s and 70s. They’re now known as The Paddy Power Gold Cup and The Spinal Research The Atlantic 4 Gold Cup.

David Pipe won the Paddy Power with Great Endeavour who is one of his four runners in tomorrow’s Gold Cup. The biggest priced of those, Matuhi, is, I think the best value at 25/1 for an EW punt. Betfair’s win price will almost certainly be bigger than that unless Pricewise tips him.

Matuhi is an experienced ‘chaser with three wins a 2nd and three 3rds from 13 races over fences. The 8-y-o is a competent jumper who races enthusiastically and has a dose of tactical speed that could stand him in good stead tomorrow. He’s also a bit better than his form figures suggest which has, I think contributed to his big price.  He was 6th over this trip at the Festival in March after being hampered by a faller four out – I don’t think that made a lot of difference but it knocked him off balance for a few strides when he was just trying to get into the race proper.

Massey Ferguson Tractor

He dropped to Class 2 next time and won nicely enough at Haydock and after three months’ rest travelled over for the £100,000 Galway Plate where he was brought down at the last when only about two lengths off the leader and still very much in contention despite what the formbook says (“no extra in 6th”). Stable jockey Tom Scudamore rides though perhaps not too much should be read into this as Great Endeavour, owned  by David Johnson, is Timmy Murphy’s ride.

Tom hasn’t ridden the horse in public for a year but has won on him before. If he could choose a track for this race, he’d probably opt for Newbury or Haydock rather than Cheltenham as the horse might be just a bit short on stamina. But I believe his price compensates for that and with just 10.3 to carry I think the risk is worth it. For Betfair players, the horse normally travels well and a back to lay could be an option.

The one I fear most is Quantititaveeasing. Ap McCoy has rejected this horse in favour of Sunnyhillboy but Barry Geraghty is a fine sub; the horse is game and consistent with plenty track experience – 2nd at the Festival and in the Paddy Power. He almost certainly has improvement in him and with 10.7 a saver bet is strongly recommended.

I like Divers too but think he needs further to be seen at his best, even though he’s won over course and distance.

Of the others, I believe Woolcombe Folly has had his season in the sun: Great Endeavour has gone up in the weights, makes the odd blunder and, I suspect hasn’t the heart for a battle: Medermit doesn’t jump well enough: Sunnyhillboy is too short a price given he’s been beaten in all four chases he’s run in at Cheltenham (he’s won just once in two years). If the well touted Roudoudou Ville were to have a strong chance here, he really should have won the Class 2 he ran in at Perth (2nd). Also, although he’s a fine jumper, at Sandown he got very low at  a number of fences, as quite a few French-schooled horses tend to do.

Update: Matuhi made a bad mistake at the 6th and was never really in it after that. Thankfully, recommended saver on winner Quantititaveeasing at 7/1 ensured a profit on the day.

(My thoughts on the big hurdle race are here)

Good luck


Cheltenham exec guilty too in Cross Country fiasco

Sitting round the table at a management meeting at Cheltenham you will find, arguably,  the most experienced racecourse executives in the country.

Even if today was the first running of the Cross Country Chase they’d be liable to take a fair bit of the blame.  The fact that they’ve staged plenty such races should mean that by now, course layout, dolling off, signage and jockey briefings should be as close to perfect as you can get.

CH4 reported that Ruby and AP avoid these races because of the risk of bans for just what happened today and that should be another spike in the boardroom chairs reminding the exec of their responsibilities. A scattering of inexperienced jockeys riding a long way on a complex layout is as potent a recipe for racing-disaster as you’ll find.

I’ve no doubt there will be changes for the Festival though that might be too late to pull back together the shredded reputation of these events. Ed Gillespie is a standout figure in racing, not least because he’s one of the few who’s willing to admit blame when things go wrong at his track. He should, I think, put his hands up and take at least half the blame for today’s balls-up.

Old horse A New Story the cross country value at 14s

A New Story, 14/1 – 2.20 Cheltenham

I’ve got a soft spot for A New Story who will be 14 years old in three weeks time. He did me a big favour when winning the Cross Country race at the Festival last year at very fancy odds on Betfair (25s sp). He’s run here five times and apart from one 7th placing, he’s not been out of the first four.  They only pay 3 places today but it’s a relatively small field (11) for a cross country race.

His 5lb claiming jockey Adrian Heskin gets on very well with the horse who has always run better here than anywhere else. I have a wee concern that A New Story is more a spring type than a winter one but at 14s with Bet 365 (who’ll pay SP if it’s bigger) I’m happy to have a small EW bet in this, the 96th race of his career.

Update: A New Story was 5th and travelling strongly with one to jump when rider took wrong course and was brought down

Golden Gael, 7/1 – 12.35 Cheltenham

As mentioned in Wednesday’s post about Mr Moonshine, if the price is big enough, I’m always willing to pay to find out how much more an improving horse has to give.  In the 12.35 at Cheltenham the 5-y-o mare Golden Gael is on offer at 7/1 with Hills and I think it’s well worth taking that price for an each way bet.  It’s Golden Gael’s first appearance in a handicap. She’s won her last three races, two of them novice hurdles and one bumper. Her trainer Jeremy Scott is not very high on the bookies’ hit list so you tend to get a point or two longer than you would if the horse was with Nicholls or Henderson.

She responds well to pressure, has won on different types of track and ground (always a good sign, I think) and Cheltenham should suit her well.

Update: GG blundered at the 4th and was never in the race after that

Shakalakaboomboom 9/2 – 1.45 Cheltenham

This is a trappy looking handicap featuring a few characters who have disappointed a number of times and I’m hoping Mr Henderson has found the secret to Shakalakaboomboom in this longish trip. The 7-y-o ended the season with a fine battling victory at the Punchestown Festival over 25f on yiedling ground. His three runs before that were in fairly hot handicaps at around 20 furlongs on better ground and I think there’s a chance they simply went too fast for him to get into the race.  In his only previous attempt at 3 miles he won at Taunton. I believe he’ll be shorter than 9/2 but once again you have the comfort of best odds with Hills and Bet365 should the SP be longer.

Update: Shaka won nicely at 9/2 under a very fine ride from Geraghty: the horse has his own way of getting over fences and BG mostly let him fiddle his way round.  I was surprised to hear the trainer nominate him as a Grand National horse – fences would scare him imo.

Good luck

Caught between Mr Moonshine and Mr Fehily in the Peterborough Chase

Tomorrow’s Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon (2.00) has a tempting field of 8 for EW backers. My problem is I don’t know which of two to bet.  I always think it is worthwhile following improving horses (if the price is right) until they’re beaten. Sue Smith’s Mr Moonshine is available at 14s having won his first two races of the season in runaway fashion. This is a big step up in class even though he’s been raised 26lbs since his seasonal debut.

Second in his only other Chase, the 7-y-o is highly thought of by the yard.  Here’s what Harvey Smith said about him:

18Nov11 Haydock   ( 22 Gd ,RPR154 )

It´s only his third run over fences – if he is given the chance to develop he could be tops. He has got brains, he is not a dope and he wants to be a racehorse. We will find another nice novice chase for him around Christmas time – Harvey Smith (trainer´s husband)

30Oct11 Carlisle   ( 20 GS ,RPR150 )

Mr Moonshine is a good prospect, he could be a real ´Saturday afternoon horse´. We´ll probably go for some decent novice chases now – Harvey Smith, trainer´s husband

Given that I’ve never much cared for the likely favourite, Somersby, who is, I believe, much over-rated, and that there are a few question marks over others in the field like The Nightingale (heart problem and possibly breathing issue – tongue tie tomorrow), Tartak (breathing problems) Surfing (lameness), I’m tempted to pay to find out if Mr Moonshine is up to this.

I’m between him and Gauvain, more because I think Gauvain’s rider Noel Fehily a fine judge and a superb jockey than because I like the horse. He’s prone to errors but classy on his day and at 7/1 he too looks EW value.  I think Noel Fehily is as good as any bar perhaps Ruby. He’s been dreadfully unlucky with injuries throughout his career; otherwise, I believe he’d be right at the top by now.

After Gauvain’s easy success on his seasonal debut, Noel Fehily suggested this was the very race for him:

13Nov11 Cheltenham   ( 16 GS ,RPR166 )

I sent him on a long way out and he kept going. He is a bit of a character and some days he is better than others. I think he could be a Peterborough Chase horse but it will be up to Nick Williams – Noel Fehily, jockey

His judgement is worth respect.  Gauvain fell at the 8th in the Tingle Creek (a 7/1 chance there) and I can only hope he puts in an error-free round.  His knack of belting the odd one pushes me towards Mr Moonshine, in a straight choice between the two, but I will probably back both.

With God on the side of the big battalions, doubtless a vet’s certificate will magically appear for something in the morning, reducing the field to 7.

Good luck

Update: Gauvain won at 15/2 – Mr Moonshine was 3rd at 8/1 (backed at 14/1)  Happy days!