Category Archives: Cheltenham festival 2013

Detailed Factfile on the great Sprinter Sacre

Sprinter Sacre & B Geraghty

Sprinter Sacre & B Geraghty

Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase winner SPRINTER SACRE (FR)

7              b/br g Network (GER) – Fatima (FR) (Bayolidaan (FR))

Form: 11/2113/11111-111             Owner: Caroline Mould Breeder: Christophe Masle

Trainer: Nicky Henderson             Jockey: Barry Geraghty

Sprinter Sacre

French-bred horse who has been nicknamed Jump racing’s Frankel after some brilliant performances. He was bought in a ‘job lot’ of 21 horses from the same vendor for €300,000 in France by Raymond Mould, whose wife Caroline owns the chaser, through bloodstock agent David Minton. He was a high- class novice hurdler in 2011 and finished third in the Grade One William Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at The Festival.

Unbeaten in eight phenomenal starts over fences since, with five Grade One victories to his name. Last season was headlined by spectacular success in the Racing Post Arkle Chase at The Festival. He returned this season to another impressive victory in the Grade One Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park, won the rescheduled Grade One Victor Chandler Chase over an extended two miles at Cheltenham easily by 14 lengths on January 26 and put up another brilliant performance in the Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at The Festival, winning effortlessly by 19 lengths from Sizing Europe.

By winning at the odds of 1/4, Sprinter Sacre became the shortest-priced winner at The Festival since Arkle took the 1966 Cheltenham Gold Cup at 1/10. He is now one of the best chasers there has ever been. His official rating is now 188, 2lb behind the highest-rated horse in the history of the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications, Kauto Star, while Timeform makes him the third best chaser on 192p in the last 65 years.

Jump Race Record: Starts: 14; Wins: 12; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £511,001

Owner

Caroline MouldSSACRE

Based at Wormington in the Cotswolds, Caroline is the wife of longstanding owner Raymond Mould. A revered figure in the property world, Mould founded and sold on both Arlington Securities and Pillar Property. His latest venture, London & Stamford, recently merged with another firm to become London Metric after the now 72-year-old decided to edge towards retirement.

He is a former chairman of racecourse group Arena Leisure and once had a share in the Hollow Bottom pub at Guiting Power near Cheltenham. Valued at £60 million when last appeared in Sunday Times Rich List in 2009. He owned the 2002 Grand National winner Bindaree, while his late wife Jenny jointly-owned 1988 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Charter Party with Mould’s business partner Colin Smith. Raymond Mould also owned 1993 King George VI Chase winner Barton Bank. Although better known for his jumping horses, he enjoyed a Royal Ascot success when Ransom Note won the 2010 Britannia Handicap, trained by Barry Hills. Flat-bred Pure Science, a 160,000gns yearling by Galileo out of Rebelline, stayed on to be sixth in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at The 2013 Festival.

Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase wins – 2013 Sprinter Sacre

18-03-2013 15-26-40Trainer

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

Jockey

Barry Geraghty18-03-2013 18-06-21

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

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Detailed Factfile on Bobs Worth

Bobs Worth & B Geraghty in 2013 Gold Cup

Bobs Worth & B Geraghty in 2013 Gold Cup

Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup winner BOBS WORTH (IRE)

8              b g Bob Back (USA) – Fashionista (IRE) (King’s Theatre (IRE))

Form: 21/1111/1321-11

Owner: The Not Afraid Partnership         Breeder: Lois Eadie

Trainer: Nicky Henderson             Jockey: Barry Geraghty

Bobs Worth

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

Owner18-03-2013 15-28-15

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

18-03-2013 15-26-40Trainer

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

Jockey

Barry Geraghty18-03-2013 15-23-07

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

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Detailed Factfile on Hurricane Fly and all connections

Ruby Walsh after winning the 2013 Stan James Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly

Ruby Walsh after winning the 2013 Stan James Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly

Stan James Champion Hurdle winner – HURRICANE FLY (IRE)

9 b g Montjeu (IRE) – Scandisk (IRE) (Kenmare (FR))

Jump Form: 11211/131/1111/1131-1111

Owner: George Creighton and Mrs Rose Boyd

Trainer: Willie Mullins IRE             Breeder: Agricola Del Parco         Jockey: Ruby Walsh

Hurricane Fly

Although bred in Ireland, Hurricane Fly began his racing career in France after selling for 65,000 euros as a yearling at Goffs to trainer Jean-Luc Pelletan. The son of Montjeu proved a classy Flat performer, having been placed on three starts as a two-year-old before stepping up a level the following year. He won his first two outings of his three-year-old campaign, the second of them when beating subsequent Group One winner Literato in a Saint-Cloud Listed race and went on to finish fourth to French Derby winner Lawman in a Group Three at Chantilly.

He finished last on his final two Flat starts but had been schooled over hurdles by Pelletan since the age of two and was bought in late 2008 by bloodstock agent Richard Hobson to send to Willie Mullins. Hurricane Fly has been a revelation over hurdles since winning on his debut at Punchestown in May, 2008. He went to Auteuil to win a Grade Three Hurdle later that month and won the first of 15 Grade One victories to date in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November, 2008.

A 10-length success in Leopardstown’s Future Champion Novice Hurdle was followed by a seven-length victory in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the 2009 Punchestown Festival. After being beaten on his debut in the 2009/10 season, he had only one more start when returning from a five-month lay-off to win the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at the 2010 Punchestown Festival.

The 2010/11 season brought victories in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and both the Festival Hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown before he travelled over to Britain for the first time to contest the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Festival. He effortlessly saw off Peddlers Cross and bowed out for the season in front of a home crowd in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle when justifying odds-on favouritism with a five-length defeat of stablemate Thousand Stars. He beat Oscars Well by six and a half lengths in the 2012 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown before finishing third, when sent off 4/6 favourite, in last season’s Stan James Champion Hurdle.

He rounded off the season when seeing off three rivals in the Rabobank Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. He is four from four this season, winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, the Istabraq Festival Hurdle at Leopardstown in December and another Irish Champion Hurdle in January. He won his second Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in good style on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, becoming only the second horses to regain his crown in the two- mile hurdling championship race – Comedy Of Errors was the first to do this in 1975.

Race Record: Starts (Jump): 20; 1st: 17; 2nd: 1; 3rd: 2; Win & Place Prize Money: £1,339,067

 

18-03-2013 18-01-48

Owners

George Creighton and Rose Boyd

Belfast-based George Creighton is retired from the construction industry and his whole family have enjoyed following Hurricane Fly’s progress with his grandson Lewis at Cheltenham for his 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle success. Creighton’s son Andrew is a successful property developer in Northern Ireland, often in partnership with Frank Boyd, whose wife Rose is Hurricane Fly’s co-owner. The Boyds are based at the Rademon estate at Crossgar in County Down.

Frank Boyd described the 2011 Stan James Champion Hurdle success as “the best day of my life”. Rose Boyd breeds both thoroughbreds and hunters at home, where they also stage a cross-country event, and she is joint-master of the local Killultagh Hunt. Away from Hurricane Fly, the best horse owned by the Creightons and Boyds has been the late C’est Ca, a useful hurdler and chaser with Mullins. Andrew Creighton was valued at £67 million in the 2012 Sunday Times Rich List and Frank Boyd at £60 million. The pair are partners in Belfast-based William Ewart Properties.

Stan James Champion Hurdle Wins: 2011 & 2013 HURRICANE FLY

 

Trainer

Willie Mullins IRE (Bagenalstown, County Carlow)18-03-2013 18-24-21

Born on September 15, 1956, Willie Mullins was six-time amateur champion rider in Ireland and both rode and trained Wither Or Which to win the 1996 Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He hails from one of Ireland’s most famous racing families, as son of the late Paddy Mullins, the outstanding all-round trainer whose most famous star was Dawn Run, winner of the 1984 Champion Hurdle and 1986 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Wither Or Which was one of eight Weatherbys Champion Bumper winners trained by Willie Mullins (also Florida Pearl 1997, Alexander Banquet 1998, Joe Cullen 2000, Missed That 2005, Cousin Vinny 2008, Champagne Fever 2012, Briar Hill 2013). Mullins saddled Rule Supreme to win the RSA Chase at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival and sent out the same horse to win the Irish Hennessy in 2005.

His best chaser to date has been Florida Pearl, who was placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, won the 1998 RSA Chase, the 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004 Irish Hennessy Cognac Gold Cups in Ireland as well as the 2001 King George VI Chase and the 2002 totesport Bowl at Aintree. In 2011, he trained the brilliant Hurricane Fly to win the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and regained the hurdling crown with the same horse in 2013. He was leading trainer with five victories at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, where he has been successful 29 times – the best record of any Irish trainer ever after overtaking Tom Dreaper’s 26 wins.

He won The Irish Independent Award as the top Festival trainer for the first time in 2011 with four victories. He captured the 2005 Grand National with Hedgehunter. Mullins has over 150 horses at his Closutton yard near Bagenalstown in County Carlow and has been champion Irish jump trainer for the past five seasons. He is set for a sixth title and has already broken the previous record of 155 winners in a season set by Aidan O’Brien in 1995/96. Stan James Champion Hurdle Wins: 2011 & 2013 HURRICANE FLY

 

18-03-2013 18-08-53Jockey

Ruby Walsh

Ruby (Rupert) Walsh rides for the champion stables of Paul Nicholls in Britain and Willie Mullins in Ireland and – along with Tony McCoy – leads the current generation of jump jockeys. Born May 14, 1979, and based in County Kildare, Ireland , he is the son of 11 -times Irish amateur champion jockey, Ted Walsh, now a trainer and television pundit. Ruby is the second of Walsh’s four children and his younger sister Katie is a successful amateur who had two wins at the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. His sister Jennifer acts as Ruby’s agent. Ruby had his first success under Rules aboard Siren Song at Gowran Park on July 25, 1995, and followed in his father’s footsteps when capturing the Irish amateurs’ championship at the age of 19 while still studying for his Leaving Certificate.

He was champion Irish National Hunt jockey in his first season as a professional (1998/99) and has taken the title a further seven times (2000/2001, 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10). Walsh has won the John Smith’s Grand National twice on Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter (2005). He is the most successful jockey of all time at the Cheltenham Festival with 38 victories and has been the Thomas Pink leading rider at The Festival seven times (2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2013). His Cheltenham victories include the 2007 and 2009 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup with Kauto Star, three Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chases (2004 Azertyuiop, 2008 and 2009 Master Minded), two Stan James Champion Hurdle (2011 &2013   Hurricane Fly) and four Ladbrokes World Hurdles (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Big Buck’s).

There are few omissions in his list of big-race successes and he has also won five King George VI Chases on Kauto Star. His autobiography was published in October, 2010. He is married to Gillian and the couple have two daughters, Isabelle, who was born in October, 2009 and Elsa, born in May, 2011. Stan James Champion Hurdle Wins: 2011 & 2013 HURRICANE FLY

I’m grateful to my friends at Racenews for another of their superb Factfiles

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A whole heap of stats from the 2013 Cheltenham festival

18-03-2013 17-48-09I’m indebted, as ever, to my friends at Racenews for sending me this comprehensive round-up of festival statistics on trainers, jockeys and owners for the 2013 festival. It might prove useful to stats fans and festival fiends.

It’s in the form of a PDF, and you can read/download it by clicking the link below

 

ch2013mg15

 

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Read it and weep; bookie Geoff Banks’s story of his Cheltenham festival

Geoff Banks, son of John, a bookmaker way ahead of his time, writes of his festival experience and his frustrations with the industry.

Geoff Banks

Geoff Banks

Bankers. We used to count the banker material in the car with my Dad on the way to Cheltenham. It was our benchmark to success at the meeting. And that was the word – success, because losing at the Festival was a non runner for Bookies like John Banks.

The environment has changed. I don’t use betting exchanges to price up my book, I value opinion over trading between Bots and the numpties. I’m very much in the minority. Modern day Bookmakers can’t see past exchanges, trading every penny they take, offering poor service to the customer, which starts with uniformity of odds.

We have Rob Hughes to thank, the casting-vote chairman of the Levy Board. He introduced exchanges to betting rings – now decimated. Bookies have become their own worst enemy.

Me? I expect to win by taking the aggressive line.  No, I didn’t offer ten pound bets on Sprinter Sacre at Evens, but then I’m not running a casino. I don’t study a yard of form pre-festival. It clouds my plans. If I spent all night studying form, I’d surely end up with the same book of hotpots as the punters do. Dynaste, Quevega, Hurricane Fly, Bobs Worth and Simonsig.

My job is to get them beat.

Day one

cash_in_handTuesday rolls in, starting well for the Books, with the hard pulling My Tent Or Yours looking assured of victory, outbattled by Champagne Fever. Last year we started poorly and never looked back. This year was more muddled. Wins for Simonsig, Hurricane Fly and Quevega placed the straight bat layers on a sticky wicket. We lost. Plenty. The bright spot? Handicaps. Result after result all week stunned punters.

Day two

Wednesday, a gloomy bunch of Bookies snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the first, with Back In Front rallying. Groans and queues around the Centaur for payouts.

I employ 3 people to just pay out the cash, which by nature is more time consuming than accepting a bet – it wasn’t enough!

The office rang – running up bets onto Irish wonder-horse Pont Alexandre in the next. This from multiple bets onto Back In Focus and yesterdays ‘heroes’.  ‘How much do we have it for?’

‘Don’t ask’, says my senior trader, ‘we’re behind the sofa in here’.

Talking-horse, not wonder-horse. And it kicks off panic with the punters. They barely scrape a return in another race for two days. Who cares about Sprinter Sacre? Not the Bookies – they ignore him. Ooh aaah, well done, move on.

hands

Day three

Round after round to the Bookies continued through Thursday. Had you asked me to write down my own set of results, I couldn’t have penned a better set. It was almost embarrassing. Thursday night we celebrated, care of the Richard Power firm in Cheltenham. Smiles all round and stories of derring do and how what looked on paper a punters’ festival, had turned so much our way. We were well in front.

Day four

cryingmanFriday. Hmmm. I remember thinking I would coast round, secure that even if the results were similar to Tuesday, we couldn’t finish behind now. That’s not to say I intended backing off and hogging the pot. Oh No! not my way at all. I’m too daft to do that. Punters on the ropes and down… I was going to put my heel gently on their necks.

Hard to remember a plan proven more wrong, as result after calamitous result ensued. The worst of which for me was Salsify in the Foxhunters. Backed in from 9/2 long term to 2/1. It was a catastrophe.  I was stunned by the manner of his victory, speechless at the turn of events, and the volley of noise in the Centaur was unbelievable! It didn’t surprise me to watch McCoy boot the last favourite home. I was numb. The punters deserved their day.

The fallout

How much did the Festival cost the firms? Well, we lost double on Friday what we’d reaped on Wednesday and Thursday. Those are traditionally quieter betting days.

I’m not crying, I have a track record of winning long term. Overall, the Cheltenham bash cost the Bookies big time. More with the large offshore concerns, who outdid each other with one moronic offer after another.

These days they seem to treat the whole event as an opportunity to pad their online products with lovely names and addresses. And the dimmies queue up to sign up as if it’s Christmas. Is that a fair comment? I believe so, because every tenner laid at evens on Sprinter Sacre usually gets ploughed into something else. I mean who deposits a tenner and goes through the rigmarole of withdrawing it the next day? It’s ploughed into some other product and Bobs Worth’s  your uncle.

Whilst everyone from the BHA downward is clapping themselves on the back at producing another showcase event – and it was, I offer a word of caution. I listened to the great Micky Fitzgerald on the excellent Morning Line, a show I’ve been lucky to participate in, eulogising about his former boss producing the horse in tip top condition to wrest the big prize of the Gold Cup. And I congratulate my friend Nicky for his skills.

However, the last time I saw the great Bobs in action was November. He wasn’t the only one of course. A number of top jumping stars rested from December onwards. Fine, the weather was poor in January, but there were still opportunities to be had, rejected by stable stars with owners rich enough to take the gamble and lie low for months.

18-03-2013 17-48-09

In the meantimeTV  viewers , and,  worse,  attendees on course endured uncompetitive events and ‘match races’ for months.

There have been 23 grade one events this season. 16 won by the favourite, and 6 by the second favourites.

That highlights the predictable nature of jump racing these days, and hardly pads the Levy. It’s not good enough in my view. I don’t care who wins the Gold Cup, it’s a great institution,  and whatever lifts the little cup, Dessie or Nortons Coin, is going to be big news.

Micky Fitz was right to congratulate the great one, but he forgets the intervening months have become drab and boring. Might I remind those looking in that Desert Orchid ran 8 or 9 times a year. He was an athlete and so are today’s horses. It disproves the current lame excuse given for horses languishing in their boxes, that they’re not ‘capable’ of winning top races if they run in February.

And if you’re Newbury or Kempton? You’re doing the industry no favours by permitting quiet gallops for top stars after racing. Ask Fontwell who provided 50 grand for a five-runner race how they felt at the lack of ambition?

Simonsig? Beatable.SIG3

Dynaste? Stuffed.

Where was the inventiveness of connections then? Small fields for Championship races at the Festival? An alarming development for Racing. As for Quevega? Group class in a seller. It just leaves me cold. There’s only one horse who cannot be bested these days. One.

Let them race.

Geoff Banks

One day left and one strong bet to get you back in front

Matuhi

Matuhi

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.

Cue Card

Cue Card

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:

1.30 Triumph

I like the way Vasco Du Ronceray goes about things and I think he’ll outrun his price of around 16/1

2.05 County

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.

4.00 Foxhunters

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

Good luck

Joe

Third Intention far too big at 32 for Jewson

cash_in_handAs 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.

Good luck

Joe

 

Back The New One at 25/1 for 2014 Champion Hurdle…and Simonsig

SIG3

Mea Culpa first . . . Hurricane Fly is a much better horse than I thought. He did that in style from a tough position. Since Zarkandar’s Triumph victory I’ve always thought the Nicholls horse was top-notch but he was put in his place today and that seems to be as good as he is I’m afraid. He won’t turn the form around next year, nor will any of the others.

So where does that leave the 2014 market for the Champion Hurdle? Judged on today, My Tent or Yours finds little for pressure up the hill. Champagne Fever looked smart under a masterful ride and I suppose he could have a tilt at next year’s Champion, but perhaps going up in trip will be the best option for him.

I didn’t take much notice of The New One last year, but he really caught my eye when winning at Cheltenham this season and I backed him for The Supreme. After his Warwick stroll I had a few quid on for The Neptune but had a couple more small bets for The Supreme at big prices as he has so much speed (I still believe it would have been the better option).

I had a decent bet on him at Cheltenham where he was outstayed by At Fishers Cross after using his impressive turn of foot too early. His jockey admitted he’d gone too soon and was unduly hard on himself in hindsight.

Anyway, he runs against the meeting’s hotpot – Pont Alexandre – tomorrow in The Neptune, a race which has been won by some top-notchers (and by Willie Wumpkins).

I’d been confident about TNO until the bug got into his yard and knocked out Imperial Commander and two others. That’s my main concern tomorrow. TNO has scoped clean and has been working well, but sometimes a bug will only show under race-conditions when a horse is working at his maximum. We’ll have to wait and see.

This is the highest quality Neptune field I can remember. If The New One wins, I suspect he’ll be single figures for the 2014 Champion Hurdle. He can be backed now with Hills and with Geoff Banks at 25/1 and the bug risk + the Mullins risk with his Pont Alex doesn’t add up to 25s in my book; I think TNO is excellent value and worth betting a year in advance.

His Cheltenham form is very good – beaten 6 lengths by Champagne Fever in the Bumper last year, he’d won on his Cheltenham debut and won again there this season. At Aintree last April he beat my Tent or Yours in the bumper, showing once again that he has speed as well as stamina.

I wouldn’t have a huge bet, but at 25s he’s well worth an interest.

Champion Hurdle sponsors, Stan James, have quoted today’s Arkle winner Simonsig at 16s for the 2014 Champion Hurdle (only because I asked, they are not trying to reel in mugs – except me, perhaps)

As I mentioned last night, Simonsig was nowhere near as good a jumper as many pundits said he was. He did what I feared he would with these stiffer fences – left his back end in too many of them.

I suspect he simply hasn’t the knack for fences or, like Long Run, has some form of stiffness which prevents full flexibility. Long Run tends only to show this under pressure.

Connections might persevere, but why would you when Sprinter Sacre is in the yard? Another impression Simonsig left today is that he’s a two-miler, pure and simple: quotes for the Gold Cup were laughable. The horse is all speed and confirmed, by winning despite those mistakes, that he has some engine.

I’m willing to risk a small bet at 16s that he’ll revert to hurdling.

SIG4

So, there you go, my longest-range ever ante-post tips, The New One and Simonsig for the 2014 Stan James Champion Hurdle.

Good luck

Joe

Full statement by Simon Claisse, clerk at Cheltenham festival

nana_slipGROUND NEWS AT 8AM – INSPECTION 10.30AM

 

After a wind chill of minus12C overnight, a few parts of the Cheltenham track are frozen. There will be an inspection at 10.30am.

The going is soft (Chase & Hurdle courses), frozen in a few places under the covers, and also soft on the Cross Country course, which is frozen in a few places too.

Simon Claisse, Head of Racing, South West Region & Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course, told Channel 4 Morning Line: “It was minus12C in the wind chill just before midnight according to our weather station and it was still minus9C at 5am.

“That enabled the frost to get under the covers a bit. 90 per cent of the course is fine but obviously we cannot clear the course as fit to race until everything is 100 per cent OK.

“The problem areas tend to be on some of the take-offs and landings, on the slightly wider ground. We have fresh ground – seven to eight yards on the inside.

“We just have to be a bit careful of a horse going a little bit wide – it is on those areas that were worn a little bit in October, November, December which are frozen”

He was asked whether problem areas like that can be by-passed if necessary.

Claisse replied: “We will look at everything that we could possibly do to ensure that the meeting goes ahead today.

“Previously, we have forked crusty areas and, if we had to, we would go around any hurdles and fences but it is not easy to make a full assessment while the (frost) covers are still on.

“We will begin to strip them at 10am. The good news is that the temperature has risen a degree or so in the air – though it might not feel it in the wind.

“The forecast is for plus one1C by 10am and plus3C by noon if the sun comes out. If that happens, we should be OK.

“We are not running on the Cross Country Course until 4pm and again the afternoon temperatures are meant to reach plus4C or plus5C. That course may take a bit longer to get fit when the sun comes out but it should be all right by 4pm.

“I remain optimistic about racing going ahead but you never quite know what is happening with this weather.

“Our experiences last night were beyond anything we had ever seen before.”

Cheltenham festival: Gordon Elliott concerned about the ground

10570720-1600x2400GROUND CONCERNS FOR ELLIOTT

Gordon Elliott, who currently lies third in the Irish National Hunt trainers’ championship, has 13 possible starters at The Festival this year with Carlito Brigante, who won here two years ago in the Grade Three Coral Cup and Cause Of Causes, a declared runner for tomorrow’s Grade One William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle, appearing to be his two best chances.

Elliott said: “I only got in last night and I am just about to go out and walk the course. The ground would be a worry for my horses – the more it dries out the better.

“I am looking forward to this year with Carlito Brigante – he is declared for the Listed Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase tomorrow.”

Elliott had two winners at The Festival in 2011 and holds a good record at Cheltenham, with a 12% strike rate at the course overall.

The trainer continued: “My best result here would be two years ago with Carlito Brigante (Coral Cup) and Chicago Grey (who won the National Hunt Chase in 2011 and is entered in this year’s John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree).

“I am not sure about the handicaps yet, I only have Romanesco in the Kim Muir and Nina (Carberry) is going to ride him. Bonisland is entered in several but I don’t think he is going to get in, as to the others we will see later today.”