Reviews of recent horse racing meetings

Cheltenham Open Review… and My Mistake

Cheltenham win machine, Balthazar King

Cheltenham win machine, Balthazar King

It was a brilliant weekend of racing, as Cheltenham's Open meeting went toe to toe with Punchestown's Morgiana Hurdle weekend. As well as some cracking winning performances, and plenty more of great promise, there was also a bit of an error on my part. More on that, including how you can help ensure it doesn't happen again, towards the end of this post.

But first, let's dwell on a wonderful few days of jump racing. The overlapping period of the last couple of weeks of the flat and the first few of the jumps offer little in the way of solid form, or competitive racing. All that changed, though, with the rise of the tape for the first race at Cheltenham on Friday. It may have only been an amateurs' handicap chase, but the scene was set for a thrilling three days.

Highlights on Friday included Taquin de Seuil showing he can act on ground better than soft when he outkicked Oscar Whisky after the last. In truth, it was a muddling race, and the ground may have been closer to good to soft (or 'dead' as some jockeys were calling it) than the official quote of good at race time. Take nothing away from the winner who was always in the right place, and it was AP McCoy doing the stiffening after the last.

For Oscar Whisky fans, while this was another blow after the disappointments at the end of last season, the real shame might be that he failed to convince in his jumping, looking every inch like a horse which - after five years hurdling - cannot fathom how to get a foot or two higher at these revised obstacles. He could be one to oppose at short prices in the near future.

The following handicap hurdle resulted in a smooth win for Thomas Crapper over a field bristling with potential. Numerous horses were heavily backed, but none could live with the horse named after a firm of toilet manufacturers. If anything, three-quarter length second, Angles Hill, may have been flattered by his proximity given that the winner seemed to idle once hitting the front.

His narrow margin of victory may save him from draconian measures by the handicapper and, if that comes to pass, he's capable of notching the hat-trick next time.

Angles Hill was running second in the race for the second year in a row, and he had daylight to spare over the third placed Whisper, the best finisher of the gambled-on nags.

Further back, Upswing was given a metaphorical mountain to climb which, allied to the literal hill he was required to scale, proved too much. Nevertheless, he can improve markedly on this, and looks likely to go close in a decent contest as the season wears on. This isn't the first time a McCoy-ridden McManus-owned horse has been exaggeratedly out of its ground before closing all too late, and it's become something of a blueprint for getting horses handicapped.

The cross country races aren't everyone's cup of tea, but I loves 'em. Here's why: firstly, although they can be run at a pedestrian pace, they offer plenty of variety in the jumping tests, and they also feature some of the more, erm, mercurial (read, doggy) members of the equine fraternity. That leads me to the second reason I loves 'em: they are excellent betting heats.

Take Balthazar King, for example. A stand out prospect for the race for all sorts of reasons alluded to in Friday's post, he was available at 2/1 for much of the morning, and as big as 9/4 the night before. He returned 5/4 in the end, and my weekend expenses were covered then and there. I don't bet a lot of short-priced horses, but value comes at all prices and he was knocking value.

Plenty in behind will never a Festival Cross Country winner make, and the stage looks set for some new blood to take on BK if they're able. Perhaps Enda Bolger's Love Rory, staying on winner of the Risk Of Thunder Chase over Punchestown's banks twenty-three-and-a-half-hours later, could be the pretender come March. He'll only be six then, but he already looks a stayer of some promise.

Ruby Walsh made a rare foray over for the one ride: Quick Jack in the last on Friday, and he made it worth his while when sluicing up atop the 15/8 favourite. This fellow is clearly progressive, and he's going to get plenty of cargo to carry when next he faces the starter after this romp.

Jack's mark here was 113, and he's likely to be nearer 125 next time. He's also to have a break now, before coming back in the New Year. Doubtless the Festival will be on the agenda, and most likely a tilt at the County Hurdle, a race won this year by the same connections.

The placepot slipped away on Friday as AP got the better of Barry Geraghty in that win only heat, and with it about £2,500 in dividends evaded my betting account.

**

Saturday was Paddy Power Gold Cup day, and a cracking race looked in prospect, with almost every runner having a case made for them in one quarter or another. The babies were first to take the floor, with Royal Irish Hussar laying down a good early season benchmark for the Triumph Hurdle next March. He'll need to jump better to win at the Festival though, and the 16/1 quoted by Ladbrokes is a good bit more sensible than the 8/1 offered elsewhere.

It's entirely possible the Triumph Hurdle winner is hacking round a field somewhere in France just now, so keep that powder dry!

The novices' chase was noteworthy mainly for the poor showing of African Gold on his fencing bow. On this showing he's more of a contender for the four miler than the RSA, but I'd be inclined to think he's better than he showed, and wait on his next start before taking a firmer view.

Le Bec won well enough, but ought not to be up to RSA Chase standard, gritty and determined though he is.

The placepot went west in leg three, as Monbeg Dude - who jumped to last to give a lead to Godsmejudge - capitulated to fourth on the run in, with the 'judge still just behind him. The trio who scooted by up that debilitating hill were led by Alvarado, a talented "monkey" according to his jockey, Paul Moloney.

He was kicking off a fat-priced double for local trainer, Fergal O'Brien, a man worth following.

Johns Spirit won the PP Gold Cup

Johns Spirit won the PP Gold Cup

As for the Dude, well he doesn't want to be in front too long, and perhaps if regular pilot Paul Carberry had been in the saddle, he'd have been delivered later. That said, he was weighted to finish behind Bradley on their last year one-two in the race, and that's pretty much exactly what he did.

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The big race was up next, and I was happy enough with my three against the field: Champion Court, Astracad and Attaglance. Midway through the race, I was far less content, as Champion Court put in a hollow effort, perhaps getting stuck in the dead ground, but still failing to match expectations.

Astracad on the other hand ran a lot better than his finishing position of eleventh might imply. He's got a nice race in him somewhere along the way this term. As for Attaglance, he remains an enigma over fences. It might be that three miles is his trip now, or it might be that he's just not as good over a fence as he was over a hurdle. I suspect the former, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him make the frame - at least - in the Festival Handicap Chase on Festival Tuesday.

The winner was Johns Spirit who, like Thomas Crapper and Balthazar King before him, was doubling up after success at the October meeting here. This game is so easy with hindsight, isn't it?

I gave Johns Spirit a chance, but he seemed short enough in the betting to my eye. Be that as it may, he was clear best here, and taking his time under a stylish Richie McLernon, he went the longest way but never looked like losing from the turn in. This was off a perch of 139, and he'll be a 150 horse in future. That may put him in the picture for such as the Ryanair, though in truth it could leave him a bit betwixt and between handicaps and Graded company, assuming there's not another ten pounds of improvement still in him.

Easter Meteor was running a massive race when falling two out and, if none the worse for that, is of clear interest next time, assuming the market doesn't overreact (as it often does with such horses).

In the penultimate race, the handicap hurdle, Salubrious put in one of the performances of the weekend... and still lost! That he was carrying 11-07 to the winner's 9-11 tells the story and, after an impressive weight-carrying effort when winning the Martin Pipe off 11-08 last term, he shouldn't be ignored when lumping top weight in handicaps.

James Best was blubbing like a baby when interviewed after his last gasp win here, and fair play to the lad: it clearly meant everything to him.

The concluding bumper exemplified my luck for the day. Having a speculative loyalty £15 on Lilly Waugh, trained by Anthony Honeyball and ridden by Rachael Green, I'd snared 22.0 on Betfair, which implied only a slim chance in this Listed bumer. Miss Waugh, under Miss Green, traveled extremely sweetly turning in and looked for all the world like the winner... before getting mugged by the rattling-home The Govaness, for that man, Fergal O'Brien. At 28/1?!

Meanwhile, over the pond at Punchy, Champagne Fever was making an eye-filling impression in the novices chase. Always thought of as a chaser in the making (aren't they all?), the fact that he's been good enough to win both the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novices' Hurdle prior to filling his vocation over the big buggers should have made him a very exciting prospect. And he wasn't going to disappoint.

Up against a very talented ex-pointer in Marlbrook, Champagne Fever was much the best and looks to be a strong fancy for the Arkle, though the Jewson may also be considered for a horse who seems to have stamina to match his speed. It's not impossible that he might be a Gold Cup horse next season, but let's first see how he goes through this term.

For the contrarians amongst you, it's worth noting that Champagne Fever was beaten a few times last season prior to outstaying Jezki and My Tent Or Yours, so don't be too perturbed if he does flounder on deeper ground-er 'twixt now and middle March.

**

Sunday, and I get a pass to head to the track. Cheltenham with my great mate Gavin (of Nag Nag Nag, Trainer Track Stats and Festival Trends fame), and his family (including long-shot king, brother Gary). I was also able to catch up with Nicky Doyle, who has just relaunched his excellent Bet Alchemist service. He's had the typical losing start as soon as new subscribers come on board, but has shown some promising signs with the nomination of two placed 33/1 shots in Attaglance and Rawnaq. I wish him well with his service, and I'm certain he'll continue to find value for those who 'get' what he's doing.

To the racing, and we kicked off with a big field handicap hurdle, in which I had no view. I'd banked on Lieutenant Miller in the placepot, and that meant I didn't need to bet anything else. Just as well, really, as I'd never have found Home Run, the 40/1 winner and a portent of a golden day for David Pipe. He also saddled the second placed horse, and went on to greet three more beasts in the winners' enclosure before the day was out.

Cumulative odds amounted to 5,995/1 and that tells you much about the facility (or lack thereof) of locating this little quartet.

The second race of the day was a novices' hurdle, featuring two very promising sorts in Sea Lord, high class on the flat and protecting a six race unbeaten run over hurdles; and The Liquidator, an excellent bumper horse now making his name over timber.

As it turned out it was a mismatch: The Liquidator went to the front and stayed there, while Sea Lord toiled and laboured, and flapped and flailed. I'd backed the Sea Lord (of course), and I - like the hordes who shortened him to even money from an early 11/8 - knew my fate pretty early.

If anything, Sea Lord deserves credit for staying on to be a respectful second, as he barely jumped a hurdle all the way round and looked errant enough on the flat too. It could be that the dead ground did for him; it might be that the undulating track wasn't his bag... but this run strongly suggested that Cheltenham won't be his happiest hunting ground, and I would rather wager him on Aintree's pan-flat plains than Cheltenham's big dipper.

Take nothing away from the winner: he jumped well throughout, and was kept up to his work all the way to the line. The fact that Scudamore continued to encourage him - more vigorously than the distance of his lead suggested he needed - implies that he may have been running out of gas. That's conjecture on my part, and I'd like to see him in a deeper field where getting his own way in front is less assured.

Yes, I'd backed Sea Lord, in a double with Ted Veale, the County Hurdle winner in March, and now faced with fences. He was up against Dodging Bullets, a horse I've consistently crabbed, and Raya Star, a smart hurdler that had made a nice start over the birch.

Well, sometimes you just get it all wrong. Ted, who I topped up with a single after double with Sea Lord had mutinied, ran a listless race in third. Raya Star ran well enough. But neither was much of a match for Dodging Bullets, who fair bounded away up the hill and looks a smart recruit to novice chasing. He'll probably continue to be suited by small fields, and he's much more likely to get that scenario over fences than hurdles.

It was the second leg of a stellar novice chase double for owner Martin Broughton, whose Taquin de Seuil had lowered the Oscar Whisky colours on Friday.

As for Ted Veale, well, my suspicion is he was under-cooked and that he'll be tilting at the Grand Annual (two mile handicap chase) come Festival time. A nice low weight, having had a sighter over the Prestbury fences and a couple of muddling mud runs back home: just the job.

The feature of the afternoon was the Greatwood Hurdle, and both Gavin and I had reasonable confidence in our nominations. Gavin was in the Ifandbutwhynot camp, and I was in the Sametegal camp. As it transpired, we were both in the losing voucher camp, though I earned pole position on the whingeing grid, Sametegal having looked set to win before the €280,000 purchase, Dell'Acca duffed him - and my bet - up on the run in.

That's a chunk of money to spend on a horse with no undercarriage, and connections will be relieved that he's at least made a reasonable dent into the expenses column with the £43,000 he picked up here. I don't suppose they fancy paying me out on Sametegal...? No, thought not.

This was leg three of the Pipe quad, and it returned 12/1, well enough fancied, but unconsidered by me.

Rawnaq ran well for Nicky and his subscribers, claiming 8/1 for the place, or thereabouts; and Flaxen Flare was another who showed plenty with an eye to the future. Last year's Fred Winter winner, he'll need to drop a few pounds, or improve a few pounds, or most likely both, if he's to win again next March. But this performance suggested it's far from impossible for that to happen.

Tanerko Emery was one of the main victims of the fall of Ahyaknowyerself - well, of those that weren't brought down anyway - and he ran with huge credit to finish fifth: another excellent turn from David Pipe horse. He ought to be winning soon.

And Pipe was to complete his four-timer with the unbeaten Red Sherlock, owned by the late David Johnson, and bred from his brilliant race mare, Lady Cricket. Many people offered plaudits to jockey Timmy Murphy for his 'almost off the course' inside line, but let's be clear, the best horse on the day won.

Neck Or Nothing tried to jump a path, and he's a good bit better than the bare finishing position of eighth suggests.

**

Meanwhile... over the pond at Punchy, Willie Mullins saw David Pipe's four-timer, and Ruby Walsh, the cheeky little showoff, raised them with a nap hand of five consecutive winners!

Whilst the headline horse will be Hurricane Fly, the subtext is that this was a deeply disappointing effort, albeit in victory. The Fly was sent off at odds of 1/16 to win his 'world record' seventeenth Grade 1. He won by one and a quarter lengths. Not a Ruby Walsh cheeky little showoff one and a quarter lengths; more like an almost all out where's the line? one and a quarter lengths.

Most bookies pushed him out marginally for the Champion Hurdle and, given that he'll be ten years old by then, I just can't have him. It's true that I've written off good horses prematurely before, but even if Hurricane Fly was 80% fit, beating a horse rated 37 lbs his inferior in such animated fashion was a weak showing.

Marito for his part may well be on the upgrade, and I understand it's possible he's headed for the Hennessy next, which would be interesting.

That was leg four of the Ruby Showoff Show, and it had been preceded by a 1/5 winner (Faugheen), a 9/4 winner (Felix Yonger), a 6/4 winner (Morning Assembly), and succeeded by a 7/4 winner, City Slicker. Cumulative odds, then, were 27.5/1. Chuck in 10/1 winner, Presenting Beara, and you had a 312/1 six-timer.

Double that and add a bit and you get the €648.50 dividend for a euro that the Punchy Pick 6 paid. There was a juicy rollover and, with those two bankers, I couldn't resist a tilt at it. True enough, I threw 120 €1 lines into the mix. But still it was enough to make a good weekend a very good weekend, despite a fair amount of crossbar-rattling.

I'll let Tony Keenan dissect the Irish racing, as he has a much better handle on such things. But I will say that Faugheen looks like a massive horse, and he virtually walked over the hurdles in his stride. Big. Horse.

****

Now then, to my mistake. I went looking for a bookmaker to offer a free bet prize based around Saturday's big race. There was a condition - entrants had to place a £10 bet - but, despite that, I have to say I was surprised and a bit disappointed with the number of entries. Thirteen. Five of which had failed to place the qualifying bet. Meaning eight legit entries.

Now that's my issue, and it's my mistake. And it serves me right for assuming I know what you fine people want from this 'ere blog. I should have asked you what you want!

So, closing the competition door after entries horse has bolted (or something), below is a question - please select all answers that apply to you - and next time, I'll be able to frame a comp that will be more popular and, hopefully, fun! 🙂

[poll id="52"]

Thanks in advance for your responses, and I hope you had a great weekend with the geegees.

Matt

Irish Racing Review: 14th August 2013

Galway Races

Galway Races

Irish Racing Review – August 14th, 2013

Jim Bolger has long had his own way of doing things – indeed it could be said that he rewrites the book on training racehorses, so much so punters find him hard to read – but last Sunday we saw what can go wrong when the Bolger method is applied too forcefully with both Dawn Approach and Scintillula disappointing after a number of quick runs.

There are few things better than watching a Bolger horse thrive through a series of wins in quick succession, with seemingly little need for rest, but – and I write this at the risk of overvaluing recent evidence – there are times when Bolger’s approach comes back and bites him in the backside, not that the ever righteous trainer would care to admit it!

Bolger campaigns group horses like handicappers, Scintillula having six runs in 52 days lately, and as a rule it’s best not to do this or at very least it is rare than a horse manages to maintain its form through a long period. In group races, horses are sternly tested; they frequently run fast with pacemakers often employed and are competing against stiff competition. It is unusual when such a horse holds it form throughout a series of these races, as Sea The Stars did, which makes such horses so memorable.

Certainly there is something admirable in the way Bolger campaigns his horses and I am all for this aggressive approach, racehorses are made to run and that is what they should do provided they are sound. But there is a limit and there are times when Bolger’s methods become more ridiculous than sublime and he gives them an extra run or two that sends them over the edge.

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Take some of his best horses of recent years as examples: Alexander Goldrun won just one of her last eleven starts, Finsceal Beo lost her last nine, Lush Lashes her last eight.

Clearly these comparisons with something like Dawn Approach are imperfect; the above trio are all fillies and few horses win their final start no more than any other start but all were multiple Group 1 winners that finished their careers on a down note and perhaps the trainer pushed things too far. When a horse starts to go wrong, the best thing is to give it a rest rather than push on as at this point injuries are more likely to occur or a previously sound temperament may go sour.

With Dawn Approach, it is possible that the trainer has already asked too much of the horse. It is mid-August and last year’s Champion Two-Year-Old has had five foreign trips with the prospect of more to come. He bounced back from a terrible run in the Derby though in hindsight he didn’t have a hard race but was then asked to back up quickly after a tough encounter in the Sussex.

He is now on a course of antibiotics following his Marois fifth and this isn’t the time of year to be meeting with a training setback with so many big races looming. It will be one of Jim Bolger’s greatest achievements if he can manage to get him back to Group 1-winning form from this.

None of this is to suggest that Bolger can change his methods; one is reminded of a comment a few years back when Peter Chapple-Hyam tried to take his focus away from getting two-year-old winners and concentrate on a more gradual approach. Instead of an increased number of three-year-old winners, Chapple-Hyam found himself with few winners at all so he reverted back to what he knew.

It is difficult for a leopard to change his spots but looking at the figures for the previous Bolger inmates that finished their careers on long losing runs, there is certainly betting value in opposing such horses in the latter part of their racing lives.

I got through the replays of the flat races for Galway in the past few days and as ever there were eye-catchers aplenty on the tricky Western track so here are five of the best.

Ravello Again was a most unlucky loser in the 3yo handicap over 7f on Monday, a race that already looks decent form. The finish was dominated by horses that raced on the pace but Ravello Again was held up; she got chopped off badly leaving the dip and lost at least 3 lengths, stayed on under an easy time in the straight, beaten little more than 3 lengths, and this on her first run since February so there should be improvement to come.

The trainer’s daughter was aboard Zip Wire in the 1m4f amateur riders maiden on Wednesday and she was little assistance from the saddle; allowed the race to get away from her leaving the dip despite having plenty of horse under her, the gelding stayed on well in the finish and should be winning a maiden soon, his previous form working out well.

Friday’s feature, the Guinness Handicap over 1m4f was fought out by a pair that shaped better than the form. A really likeable effort from the winner Curley Bill, very keen early held up off slow pace, took a couple of false steps early on, sweeping move around outer coming out of dip, really quickening up well and finding enough in closing stages, won’t be getting much of a rise for this.

The second Bayan lost position coming down the hill, finding himself nearer last than first, had to come through traffic then wide in straight, conceded first run to winner, found loads, looks on fair mark.

Considering the time of year, the 1m4f maiden for fillies on Saturday was a strong contest and it resulted in an impressive win from Exotic; came from last, raced wide, smart turn-of-foot, not easy for debutants to win here and beat the right horses, the ones open to progress.

Irish Racing Review: Naas, June 3rd 2013

Naas Review

Naas Review

Naas – Monday June 3rd

7f Maiden

A poor race that took little winning; Ramsa, one of least exposed, got first run on second, good attitude, was taped up for this and may not want the ground this quick, an opinion voiced by trainer/jockey afterwards. One True Love an unlucky loser, going well swinging into straight but got trapped on rail thereafter travelling strongly, came home very well but did show attitude at two.

Some promise in the debut of Balmont Belle, missed break, ran on well in a race that few got into. Lottie Dod was keen, possibly finding ground too quick, has long looked a dodge though. Of the Weld pair, Violet Hour got an easy time while Lapis Blue held her head awkwardly.

7f Listed

Easy win for Reply, looks much best on fast ground, good or better: 311330921, now strung two good runs together. Tobann has come from rear, belatedly building on wide-margin maiden win, but looked tricky ride in process, inclined to cock jaw and run flattened out when got close to winner, one to oppose. Off the bridle early was Parliament Square, may like further while Core Element put up a career best.

Not a bad return from Coolnagree on livelier ground than she’s used to, ran on in finish and might build on this though infrequent winner. Caprella was BTBF, travelled well and want to see her back at 6f. Ghaamer was found out in this class while Foxtrot Romeo’s career has gone badly awry.

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7f Handicap

The pace looked decent enough and it was the best time over the trip on the card; they finished in a heap. Slipper Orchid one of first off the bridle but found plenty and appears to have improved for this faster ground which is the opposite of what her breeding would say, won’t be getting much for this and likeable. Tarsille travelled best (won’t mind 6f) but is difficult to win with while Ningaloo Reef was well-backed and has a very good record at the track – 1213.

Iron Major caught the eye; held up, travelled well for inexperienced jockey, not beaten far, first run since December and has dropped to 76 having won off 84 in the past. Collingwood met some trouble but wouldn’t overdo it and hard to win with while Seanie showed HC; the fact he hasn’t been put into good races in England with a mark of 92 has to be a negative with Marnane. Prince Jock looked an awkward ride.

6f 2yo Listed

This looked slowly run – time markedly slower than the following race – which was something JPOB remarked on post-race and Stubbs did it well to come from rear, jockey never having to get serious, type to do better over strongly run 6f.

No sign of attitude from Club Wexford but there was enough in his debut run to make him one to take on and his return to maidens is something to look forward to. All Set To Go shaped well on debut but ran no sort of race and the impression is that the Sir John Hawkins maiden is not all it is cracked up to be.

6f 2yo Listed

A pretty straightforward race with no hard luck stories; Sandiva was impressive, raced more professionally than last time and the idea to give her an extra run before Royal Ascot looks a good call given how she went here; goes to the Albany next and a big player. Heart Focus hadn’t impressed previously but this was much better and she’s improving run-to-run as ones from the yard can do; step up to 7f will suit.

There would be a doubt about the strength of the Irish fillies at this point as APOB is yet to win a race with a filly so perhaps the English will have an edge at the Royal meeting. Glassatura was a bit disappointing, not really building on debut, while Adeste Fideles put up a fine debut getting among maiden winners and was unwanted in the market.

7f 3yo Handicap

They finished in a heap and the pace was moderate. Connacht Council has proved a little in-and-out but finally got his win while Zalty whose LTO form is proving strong ran much better, the soft ground seemingly against in Killarney, Lightnin Hopkins travelled best and has dropped to a good mark on his 2yo form, coming back to 6f will be no issue and seemed to like the faster ground.

The decision to switch Angela’s Dream inside about a furlong and a half down was a poor one, met some trouble afterwards and may have cost a place while Rain God met some traffic too though looked beaten at the time. Street Party looks on a harsh mark for what he has done in maidens, albeit not particularly busy in previous races.

1m2f Handicap

An interesting race but more for the negatives it threw up, the first three all showing attitude. Love And Cherish swished the tail, Drifting Mist (brought along with handicaps in mind, well-backed here, stumbled on one of ridges) looking an awkward ride and Something Graceful showing HC; want to be against all three next time.

Headford Lady didn’t run too badly but some of these were terrible: Coco Bella, Bint Nayef and Nabat Ali.

Irish Racing Review: The Curragh, May 26th 2013

The Curragh

The Curragh

Curragh – Sunday, May 26th

6f 2yo Maiden

The obvious impression is that this was a good race but I’m not so sure and they looked something of a rogue’s gallery. To start with Taanif who unshipped rider shortly after stalls; he swished the tail just before doing this and may not be one to trust. In the same colours, Mustajeeb raced very keenly but also showed HC in the process.

Intensified held the head a bit high in the finish while Muscle Beach (entered in the Railway which wouldn’t be the yard’s style) got an easy introduction though had the jaw cocked albeit meeting traffic. Sudirman was much more professional than debut (that form worked out over the weekend) but with doubts about the attitude of a few, hard to get carried away with the form of Sir John Hawkins.

Some promise in the run of All Set To Go, travelled better than most, stayed on from rear having to be switched and not given hard time; yard’s runners all improving for the run. Master Of Time (well-backed) showed speed but faded.

 

1m4f Handicap

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Beforehand this looked light on well-treated sorts and the form is probably below the grade; the pace looked even. Paddy The Celeb limitations well-known before this (likely to improve for further though, niggled early), likewise Leah Claire and surprise if not some better-handicapper middle-distance types than this lot in country. Show Court has reputation and did more to deliver on it here, decent effort, and same applies to Hold The Line from 10lbs wrong in the handicap; the fact a 3yo could run so well, being 10lbs wrong suggests maybe they will do well up in trip, the Irish 3yo middle-distance colts going well at present. Beach Of Falesa ran on from rear but finds little and is hard to win with; good run from Aladdins Cave as had a rotten draw, type to like cover but 19 of 20 here.

First off the bridle but ran on despite having every chance to throw in the towel to take sixth; likeable and should bounce back though may not be well-treated at this stage. Cul Baire was inclined to cock the jaw both ways while Rich Coast has a high HC. Top Spin not quite so bad as the result, hampered albeit losing ground at the time, but handicapper could drop again and was good flat horse in youth. Raydari wasn’t beaten up but made little inroads anyway and looks AW horse. With regard to the non-runner Justification, he met trouble in the Chester Cup but made no real progress closing stages there, at least relative to Simenon, and could be overbet NTO.

 

1m2f 3yo Group 3

This is a race that has been of little account in recent years, the pace looked slow. Leading Light an idle type, found plenty for pressure, looks like further will suit, sort to trade higher IR. Little White Cloud is slow but at least paid some sort of compliment to Battle Of Marengo. Count Of Limonade has never beaten a decent horse (in fact has only beaten yokes) while Fighter Squadron would prefer shorter. A mark of 107 overrates Sruthan who found this trip too far anyway; very keen hold and was never going to last home.

 

1m2f Group 1

Camelot found out here as mid-120s horse at best, well-beaten by Al Kazeem who was not given a hard time having travelled the better, only getting two cracks. Possibility the winner will be overrated off this though plenty have been doubted Camelot for a while but hype may still hold sway; feeling at this stage is that likes of Snow Fairy and Cirrus Des Aigles would have winner’s measure, to mention but two, though there may be more to come from Al Kazeem up in trip. This race has no business being a Group 1.

 

1m 3yo Group 1

These looked a poor crop beforehand and nothing to support a contrary view afterwards; something could improve past the winner before season’s end. Rehn’s Nest came from rear having briefly met trouble but is a bit of a thief and one to take on; the form of her sole win is terrible. The attitude concerns about Just Pretending not really an issue now, found plenty for pressure, and improving. Big Break travelled as well as anything bar the winner and this was a very good run conceding fitness all around on ground that would have been quick enough for her. Mizzava has improved run-to-run though may be difficult to place now. Maureen met plenty of trouble and is worth marking up, could well have placed with a clearer run while Dubaya travelled well to a point.

 

6f Handicap

Looked a competitive race beforehand and the form should prove decent. Very impressed with how Via Ballycroy travelled, less so with the fact she swished the tail in the finish (has shown temperament in the past); now in foal and clearly in good heart. A step back up to 7f may suit Arbitrageur while Srucahan has run well; travelled strongly and had to weave way through from rear, Foot Perfect another that met some trouble coming from rear and has joined Halford though temperament issues in past. Lake George in better heart than LTO though not sure to back this up while Greek Canyon showed a bit albeit not any better than form, can win off this mark. Six Of Hearts another that can compete off his mark, best horse at weights here and 7f and/or softer ground might suit; streaky sort but in form now. Curly Wee got an easy time and ran on while Rummaging was off it early but kept at it; has a race in him but it will likely be over further; he tends to improve for a run. Royal Empress, not for the first time, went like a 5f horse, while the well-backed Grey Danube showed little; he’s well-treated but may need the AW. Angela’s Dream was off it early and was entitled to need it while Made In Design is out of form and was one of the first beaten.

 

1m2f Maiden

Orator went like the best horse here, Connor King riding a gradual sort of race but not really allowing for Maggie Dalton quickening up on the inner, more concerned with the others he was going better than; the horse ran on again in the closing stages. Pearl Turn was another to show up well from the Majenta form-line though showed attitude that day while Lake Nova’s debut form looked poor and had a high HC on that occasion. Manalapan has not built on his debut effort despite having conditions back in his favour here and has something to prove while Magical Steps was one of the first beaten. Street Party travelled well and got an easy ride off Lordan, better to come.

Irish Racing Review: Naas, May 15th 2013

 

Naas Review

Naas Review

Meeting Review: Naas – Wednesday, May 15th

6f 2yo Maiden

The action took place up the centre of the track. Heart Focus is one that would find the stiff 6f here her minimum and trainer of same opinion afterwards; step up to 7f will suit though had looked limited before this. Pulled clear with Bye Bye Birdie who travelled the better with Homeric Hymn getting an easy time in third; stayed on from rear (only one to get involved from off the pace), not subjected to any sort of hard race, better than the form. The John Joseph Murphy horses are going through a purple patch, Dimity another to outrun her odds. Tap Dancing was strong in the market and travelled quite well, Little Sweetheart was one that took a fierce hold. Moss Nation may not be straight forward; quite keen, head to side, inclined to hang.

6f 2yo Conditional

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Big Time another winner for the Murphy yard, pretty professional found plenty off the bridle. Fountain Of Youth travelled well and found a bit while Saakhen went best of all (hit 1.37 IR), not see it out having been a little keen, failed to build on promising debut, perhaps some better ground will suit. The one to take from it and in a negative way is Visit Wexford; clearly well thought of as heavily backed, plenty of ability as travelled well but attitude to boot, swished tail each time got the whip and only ran on when whip put down, type that is going to need finessing which he’s unlikely to get with Manning up. Sudirman was never travelling.

6f 3yo Handicap

There was plenty of predicted pace here and they looked to go a good clip; the time was much faster than the preceding 2yo races and the winner came from rear though the ones behind him were always up there. Strong pace would have suited Gathering Power and while one with ability wouldn’t be sure to reproduce this as hard to win with; Lynch is the sort of jockey that would suit. A couple of the pacesetters – Abstraction and Boom And Bloom – looked 5f horses as they travelled better than most; the first-named is particularly interesting as having first start back and marked looked stiff, this was promising. Toccata Blue is one that would have been suited by the strong pace. There was promise in the run of Yulong Baoju; strong in betting on just second start, keen and travelled well, tightened up about 2f and ran on looking like getting into frame before early exertions told and not persevered with; quite impressed with debut win and get impression a bit is thought of it. Lightnin Hopkins not show much despite handicapper giving it a chance. The form of this hasn’t worked out early with both Boom And Bloom and Wexford Opera spurning winnable opportunities soon afterwards.

1m2f Group 3

Euphrasia has gotten the run of this in front with nothing taking her on; that said, she is better than an 85 filly and her LTO run at Limerick has worked out well. Slow pace hardly have suited La Collina; keen hold in rear and the only one to make any sort of late inroads, may not be in love with soft ground either. Princess Highway has travelled like a good horse (went like one that would improve for run) but certainly she is nowhere near as good on soft ground and she’s got a patchy overall profile anyway; reputation precedes her a little but career record now reads 3 good runs, 1 decent run and 4 poor ones. Rehn’s Nest won a rotten race FTO and is one to be against.

1m2f Maiden

Good ride from Smullen on Resolute Response, put him into lead after 4f and got first run on others, notably the second Lake Nova. There might be some temperament to the winner; ran about a little here and didn’t find very much LTO. Lake Nova got shuffled back early which didn’t suit as pace was slow and winner got first run, not beaten up and certainly promise to this run. Indian Icon shaped well, travelled nicely and not given hard time while Conan’s Rock showed little even allowing for things not going right from the stalls, got messed about a bit early, knock to LTO form which looked a weak race at the time. Arch Pearl is bred for better ground.

7f Handicap

Great Ability and September Lily (travelled well on the pace, might prefer 6f but essentially one to oppose) provided a surprise boost to what looked a very poor Cork handicap they fought out LTO. Enough Is Enough had an overall patchy profile but 7f on soft ground is clearly its thing (3022 under such conditions, the 0 when totally missing the break); jockey rather let the winner get first run on him and would likely have won under stronger handling; hopefully will run under unsuitable conditions NTO and then be bigger back on suitable. Tsar Paul ran on from here but held head to side and one to take on as a rule while Glacial was very keen; Zelos Dream is very in-and-out and failed to build on promise of LTO.

1m Maiden

Pace looked steady here and there were few pointers from this. Hanky Panky travelled well but is hardly up to her mark of 93; Nabat Sultan another that travelled well and found a bit; she could improve for this (first run since June) and might be underrated, seemingly having left 2yo efforts behind; dam won on GF and by Invincible Spirit, decent siblings in dam’s family. Sharp Crisp Air looks limited and Say is one that needs to find stones to compete in the Oaks; Morga is a thief (awkward under pressure here) and showed attitude at two.

1m Handicap

More than a few suspect attitudes in here; things didn’t go right for Snakes And Ladders in terms of not getting a clear run early straight but being trapped wide probably suited here as got to come at best of ground along stands’ rail and he’s been dropped on the line which was ideal as his HC is pretty poor; could be one to oppose NTO though won’t be getting much for this. Las Encinas was a little lairy when asked for his effort; Rock On Coco travelled well on the pace but hung terribly when asked to race. Good run from Indy Gal who likely was racing on the worst of the ground nearest to the far side; made good more to get into race midway up straight and nutted on line; 65 looked harsh enough so good run; her yard is streaky but have had a few run well at big prices lately. Stephen Hero was off it sooner than most but came home well; the Oliver horses have been behind but he can win a race on this evidence. Annagh Haven has a terrible HC.

Irish Racing Review: Leopardstown, May 12th 2013

 

Leopardstown Review

Leopardstown Review

Meeting Review: Leopardstown – Sunday, May 12th

6f 2yo Maiden

This was slowly-run like many other races on the card and it was pretty boring to watch in truth; the first four in the same positions throughout. Sacred Aspect has come from the Focus On Venice race over course-and-distance and trainer was at pains to point out after the race that that race had a number of horses that connections liked; I remain to be convinced about how good that race was though. Disappointing that Ealain Aibrean couldn’t winning getting lumps of weight; bit keen but had the run of it and gives a knock to the form of Najm Suhail though that one will be better over 6f. Heart Focus is limited while Pleasant Bay travelled quite well though that may not have been much of an achievement in a race such as this. Third Dimension was very strong in the market from a yard not known for punting theirs and Lyons has history with this race, often starting a good type here as it’s restricted in terms of sales prices; his runner here broke badly but showed little in truth, well-beaten and could be one to take on as might be punted NTO too.

1m Group 3

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The run of the race was interesting with Murtagh trying something new on Sweet Lightening by making it; it didn’t work out and he’s just one that isn’t suited by a small field and his mark flatters him especially as he can’t run to it under conditions as this; had a soft lead when Custom Cut was settled in (jockey hardly wanted to get into a battle with his suspect stamina at the trip) and one to keep opposing in this sort of race. Duntle travelled well in the manner of one that is better than these (which she is), didn’t pick up brilliantly but she’s not a flashy type and never getting beaten, type to improve for this. Trainer said afterwards she wants a strong pace and better ground (formbook backs this up) and no surprise to see her get 10f; might be a touch overrated but keeps winning and was part of a very strong crop of Irish 3yo fillies last year and could well have the measure of this year’s 3yos later in the season. Both Custom Cut and Bold Thady Quill are very likeable and being from smaller yards are likely to be overpriced in races such as this for rest of season; they’re in the form of their lives at present; Custom Cut likely prove best at 7f, Bold Thady the first off it here but ran on well and will do better on deeper ground and/or stronger pace.

1m Group 3

Pace looked stronger here than most races on the card, We’ll Go Walking seems to have only one way of going – hard – and the first five were all dropped out to one degree or other. Very dubious about the form of this with the two fancied ones running no race; We’ll Go Walking dropping out completely and Rawaaq running to about 80, the latter likely best fresh and/or wants softer ground. Consequently, this took little winning and two with dubious attitudes fought it out; Just Pretending has been called tricky by the trainer but in fairness found plenty for the whip, she may just be one the APOB fillies whose form has just taken off; Hint Of A Tint showed temperament as a 2yo. Presence of 80 rated yokes just behind holds the form down and the handicapper hiking Wannabe Better 12lbs to 92 looks harsh; that one wants further on breeding and went like it too, first off it but staying on. Talitha Kum might have done a bit much too soon as part of the pace but isn’t up to this class anyway.

1m2f Group 2

Nothing impressive about Battle Of Marengo especially in light of some wide-margin wins for his stable-mates in England in the previous days; there are some things that suggest he is the pick of them though: has taken the Ballysax/Derrinstown route, was hammered in the betting here (2/13 from 4/9) and APOB may well have done nothing with him since the last day (when he was more impressive and the form worked out), training him only with Epsom in mind; he travelled best here and keeps winning. Loch Garman showed temperament, awkward HC and hanging, his French Group 1 win was a Group 1 in name only and could be flattered by 114. Little White Cloud ran well for one so inexperienced and a tilt at a Royal Ascot handicap looks a good call though he’ll have plenty of weight there; Don’t Bother Me doesn’t get this trip. First Cornerstone was a non-runner but was likely to be sent off at 12/1 plus which suggests he’ll be underrated when he does run though missing this is hardly ideal; the form of his Irish wins is rank but the Racing Post Trophy effort is anything but.

1m Handicap

In a race with few likeable types, the winner Reposer is certainly one; he’s a surprise improver but there is a reason with trainer stating his feed has been changed and he did it very well even getting a soft lead, raced keenly and had this won entering the straight; advantage was reduced in closing stages but that masks his superiority and with this sort of speed will prefer 7f as may not have entirely seen this out; has clearly improved a ton and took the rise out of the bottom grade in his stride. Brown Butterfly never wins and Waydownsouth is similar; off it early he stayed on but is hardly screamingly well-treated. Stronger Than Me had a troubled run, checked early and then ridden to hold position before straight, in rear meeting some trouble in straight but came home well; as a hold-up type needs luck in running but can win off this mark. Bendzoldan showed more than lately; lost position early straight but picked up afterwards not getting clearest run. Little Arrows had to weave way through but is hardly well-handicapped while Danzerini showed little, may need better ground. Pc Henry not show much either but mark likely to drop for this and may have a day as being brought back slowly.

1m4f Handicap

Fairview Star got the run of this in front, a soft lead, and looks flattered. The best horse in this was Aladdins Cave; raced in mid-division, off it over 3f out but came home well and would likely have won with a stronger pace. He’s the definition of likeable: never wins far, never seems to be punted and consistent; had no record fresh before this so improvement likely and could be one for the 1m4f premier handicap on Guineas weekend where sure to be taking on a few hyped yokes. Beach Of Falesa met trouble but is the type to find little while Brog Deas looked awkward under pressure. The slow pace would not have suited Rossvoss and he didn’t run badly in the circumstances; that said, he rarely wins and isn’t likeable. Shadow Eile got hampered in the straight but its chance was gone at the time and isn’t well-treated on the flat while Cebuano looks like proving an all-weather specialist, not that there’s anything wrong with that but it could be a while until you get paid on him with no upcoming fixtures at Dundalk. Salam Alaykhum may have needed it.

1m4f Maiden

Ralston Road is slow (off it early again here) but keeps finding and is likeable; will do better up in trip. There has to be an attitude doubt with Mourani; travelled better than the winner but not find as much, hung in and not really going forward when asked to lead in straight and the blinkers going on so early with Oxx would be a negative. Rae’s Creek improved for the hood (keen-goer) and the run, got plenty to do here and can be rated a bit BTBF. Waver ran a fair race on debut with little help from the saddle, sure to improve, while Teoirim looks very limited.

 

Irish Racing Review: The Curragh, May 6th 2013

 

The Curragh

The Curragh

Curragh – Monday, May 6th

5f 2yo Maiden

Far from impressive from Michaelmas in a very weak race, looked to hold head slightly to side too and not totally helping jockey, likely aided by going from the front; his LTO form from Leopardstown is not working out despite looking a decent race at the time. Good debut from Candy Apples whose stable is in good form while The Organ Grinder doesn’t look like living up to his Phoenix entry. Bru More was the first ridden and would prefer further.

6f Maiden

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Drop in trip suited Scotland Forever after running over 7f LTO (possibly made too much use of); showed attitude that day and likely suited by making it and chance handicapper could take evasive action with him beating a pair of 90 horses. Manning seemed more than happy to anchor Wexford Opera from the stalls, not adopting his trademark pace chasing tactics; strongly suspect he has a kink or two as he came to win his race but got worried out of it by one that may not be genuine either; everything was right here with trip and fitness on his side and still couldn’t win, one to oppose at short prices. True Verdict just isn’t up to her mark while Wannabe Better did come home well having been held up and had to weave way through; not totally sure about HC though it may have been down to meeting slight trouble. Sherzam tightened up a bit and ran on but frustrating type while the definite eye-catcher was Red All Star; raced on wide outside and jockey just gave up closing stages having already been giving it an easy, could well have finished in the frame with a ride. Illustrate was off it from an early stage.

1m2f Group 3

We learned nothing new about Camelot; confidently ridden, travelled well but not really impressive in winning especially with second favourite not running his race; one would expect a Group 1 horse to win more easily even allowing for penalty and lack of run; head possibly a little high; still, he’s a 125 horse and solid at this point but likely to be priced up like a 130 horse in coming runs, yet to face anything much from outside last year’s 3yos, the Arc excepted and we saw what happened there. Triumphant hold his head high but that’s hardly an issue if he’s going to pace-make while Parish Hall didn’t run to form; beaten 3f out, only plugged on, possibly bounced but bit to prove now. Macbeth may prove better down in trip but mark likely to suffer off this.

1m2f Handicap

Run three seconds quicker than the preceding Group 3, the pace looked strong, too strong indeed; Saga Eiger (raced keenly) and General Bunching went at it and headed two front-runners in Benbecula and Bualadh Croi, going particularly hard in the middle part of the race when they went clear; this has suited the hold-up horses. Valbucca travelled well and looks improved for blinkers – 3411 in them – and would have improvement in her for run, weak in betting. The Fox Tully travelled even better than the winner and is a hound, everything right here with fitness, ground/trip to suit and strong pace but didn’t find much and one to oppose. Coco Bella has run well from 2lbs wrong at the weights; travelled well in first time hood and blinds, didn’t get as clear a run as some and can drop in class; belatedly delivered on promise of return for this yard and no problem with drop back in trip, likely suited by run of this but a good effort nonetheless. Strong pace suited Lonan who was off it early, came home well but showed some attitude LTO; wants further. Smoke Charger slightly less keen than has been but not well-handicapped while Benbecula did best of those to race on pace but still well-beaten. Wrekin Rock is one that struggles to hold form and could do with a break and it’s worth forgiving the front-runners their efforts here.

7f 3yo Listed

This took no winning, 95 at very best would have done it; that said, Sruthan did it well, travelled nicely and found plenty on just second start; the Jersey Stakes is too ambitious and would be better going for a good handicap though likely to get an inflated mark for this. Fortify ran on well when headed but is a dodge; Pop Art met trouble but didn’t exactly fly home afterwards and there’s no way she’d be beating the winner on this evidence even allowing for her momentum being halted. Tobann is limited and was soon beaten while Uleavemebreathless is more out than in and was never travelling.

7f Group 3

Pace didn’t look great and Viztoria has come from rear; beat little here but impressive, Murtagh not asking for anything like full effort and quickened up well; will have no problem with a mile on breeding and trainer may still be a bit underrated in better races but has done well with likes of Sole Power. Improved effort from Bunairgead in first time blinkers, not the only mare to boost the form of the Ondeafears races from Gowran over the weekend. Caprella might do better down in trip (goes well at Naas and there are suitable races over 6f for her) and trainer has said she will be put in foal shortly while Roseraie seems paceless regardless of distance. Dubaya is an interesting one as she was supplemented for this (had an entry in the Tetrarch) despite her breeding and runs last year suggesting stamina was her thing; trainer said she’d started showing more speed lately and keen hold here, not given hard time when beaten; one to watch reading between the lines. Infanta Branca appears not to have trained on.

7f Handicap

Slipper Orchid, typical of family, has improved with age and won this nicely enough. Coakley (not much value for his 7lbs) might have made his effort a bit early on Core Element; looks a bit improved for stable switch. Not for the first time, Man Of Erin has fought back after being headed which is something to note for in-running. Little Arrows improved for his first start of the year and does like 7f with some ease while Footprint shaped quite well second time up, travelled well and not beaten up. Winning Impact has met trouble but wasn’t really picking up at the time for a few cracks and this could be overdone; LTO form is not working out. Imaginationrunwild is as disappointing a horse as one will find while Elusive In Paris is out of form.

Irish Racing Review: Gowran Park, April 28th 2013

Gowran Park Racecourse

Gowran Park Racecourse

Gowran Park – Sunday, April 28th

7f Maiden

This form came out of nowhere with Tobann and hard to know whether to trust it; was ponied to the start and head a bit high, not the only wide-margin winner on the day. Silver Lightening’s debut form not worked out and looks limited while Scotland Forever was keen and had the head a bit high too. Hard to like this form and Cocktail Hour has become disappointing; PC Henry in fairness would have more improvement in him than most given the length of time he’s been off. Drifting Mist was one that when with promise on the AW and now has a mark; her trainer very much one with an eye to handicaps.

7f Handicap

Handicapper can’t put Ondeafears up much for this and she could be a Halford improver; shaped like wouldn’t mind 8f here (off it early, came home well) as did LTO though failed over that trip in youth and not bred for it. This might have been an improved effort from Core Element off stable switch; fought on well and new trainer an upgrade on old. Flic Flac hard to win with while this suggests Bunairgead is too high on 92; her maiden win not worked out. Nini Ok travelled nicely (more suited to sprint trips) but never wins while this trip would have been on the sharp side for Maude Adams though her LTO win not really worked out.

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1m Handicap

Hurricane Sky got a pig of a ride over this course last July when heavily backed and his form with Daigreen worked out well in this context; he is one that will like further (by Hurricane Run, dam by sire with SI of 11.6f) but picked up well in the closing stages having been off it early in the manner of one that is well-treated. The second Only Exception wants dropping in trip and might even be a sprinter; shaped that way last year and has a race in him off this mark; wide draw here, had to be used to get early position and trapped wide yet still looked like winning this for a long time. Smoke Charger was keen but has had plenty of chances at this point. Certainly promise from Zelos Dream on first start for new yard; he looked like one that could win off mid-50s mark last summer and has now dropped to 51; could improve for this. Confident Cub is hardly well-treated off his revised mark.

1m Handicap

Quite impressed with how Benalex Park travelled and Conor King certainly looked competent for a 7lb claimer; the 0-70 he was fifth in last time is working out quite well. Busalla is keeping a bit back for himself as was Mamma Rose down the field. Killena Boy is better than the bare form; made effort soon enough and led until under 1f out; sixth doesn’t do him justice and has competed well here off a right hike in the weights. Dragon Khan has ability and recent acquisition for JP though type to be overbet. Carvelas is completely out of form and was off it after a couple of furlongs.

1m 3yo Handicap

Action took place up to stands side of the centre which is unusual for flat racing at the track. Much improved effort from Lucky Kitten, first time blinds, off a mark that looked stiff on maiden runs. Lake Louise improved from debut run (that form starting to work out) while Kiss Goodnight went well off a mark that looked very harsh; her breeding (by Papal Bull) suggested this trip would suit and her best previous effort came over a mile too. Terrible ride on Snake And Ladders; missed break but put into race too early, mid-race move on outer to lead into straight, ask for effort too soon, did well to finish so close, better than form. Miller Beach not build on debut promise.

1m1f Listed

Caponata, typical Weld older horse, tends to have them ready FTO, talking post-race about Group 1 races; looked very promising last year before losing form. Good effort from We’ll Go Walking, pulling clear with winner on just second start. 107 flatters Aloof, that figure achieved in a bad Group 3. Cleofila could prove difficult to place and no surprise to see the two 3yo fillies from last year that ran in pattern races as juveniles well-beaten as that looked a poor crop; Coolibah was awkward under pressure and may have a kink.

1m1f Maiden

Suspect things have fallen right for An Saincheann, eased to front 4f out, unchallenged and never had to get into fight as nothing got into it; looked ungenuine last year and probably still the same even allowing for application of hood; one to be against NTO; may have ability but kinky. Sharp Crisp air an early knock to form of the Kerisa maiden at Leopardstown while Teochrios showed HC in fourth and would be one to oppose in maidens.

1m1f Maiden

Early pace looked slow with a few keen; Safe Home has done very well to come from off it on debut and this was a fine performance. Ghaamer travelled well and should improve for this, won’t mind drop in trip and should win his maiden. League Of Nations looks limited while Manalapan not build on debut promise; Stephen Hero one with HC down the field.

Irish Racing Review: Naas April 20th 2013

Naas Review

Naas Review

Meeting Review: Naas – Saturday, April 20th

1m Maiden

The pace here looked very strong for an ordinary maiden; time much the fastest over the trip on the day, spread out from an early stage and many well off it turning out of the back. Pay The Kitten put up a likeable show, finding plenty in the manner of one that will improve for further; on breeding fast ground will suit. Hold The Line is a different proposition this season after moving to Shanahan; briefly held head off to side when asked to challenge but ran all the way to the line, pulling clear with winner and can win a maiden.

King Of The Romans cut out the running and went hard but found little when asked; maybe 6/7f will suit but might be empty type. There was money for Shouranour and he’s an obvious ‘notebook’ horse given connections but at best he ran to 70 and was well-beaten. Zadawan was clueless on debut, never travelling and it was the same here. There might be something for Harbin down the line; his breeding, price-tag and owners are all interesting given the trainer.

1m Conditional

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Talitha Kum has got the absolute run of this from the front, it was a crawl with a number keen early; flattered in a big way. Fortify found less than nothing, high HC as had been at Cork LTO and one to be against. Manning was poor on Caesaria considering he went forward on him LTO and should have been wiser to the possible slow pace; even so, he showed little considering he had the run and was in form. Not so the last and second last; Mouteab was never going to be suited by the slow pace (likely to improve for up in trip/stronger pace) and Smullen was negative on him considering he had been ridden quite prominently last year; certainly he got no great assistance from the saddle and the blinkers he won in last year were left off; he was keen too. Hard Core Debt was better than the form; very keen but moved up into race from 2f out looking a big danger before lack of run told; trainer has said his horses are behind this week and running as such; he might do something later on.

1m Handicap

Confident Cub might be best on turf; goes well on soft at least. Stoichkhov was a touch unlucky here; lost position after turning into the straight but ran on well in the finish; this ground wouldn’t have looked ideal beforehand but there’s ability there and he’s found consistency for the move in yards. King’s Wharf is not without ability having won twice over hurdles; this wasn’t a bad run. There was shuffling for Big Bad Billy Bob off the turn and he came home well but HC isn’t great and he’s a serial loser. Poor run from Smoke Charger for all that he wasn’t best positioned; no promise despite drop in class. Gold Tantrum would prefer a drop in trip on this evidence (mark looks high enough) while Jennys Lane was a horrible ride, looked rotten.

5f Listed

There can hardly be a more likeable horse in training than Maarek; being a contrary sort, I wouldn’t absolutely rule out him going on good ground and he could be a touch underbet on it should he be given his chance despite his trainer’s utterances on the subject. Hell of a run from Scream Blue Murder off the back of a maiden win at Bellewstown; she’d be more entitled than most to improve for it as it was her first start since April and was third string. Doc Hay travelled as well as any in rear but may not be back in Ireland for a while; this should bring him on. The HC on Leitir Mor isn’t great while things were going badly for Cape Of Approval from the start; squeezed out from stalls and not run to form. My Girl Anna didn’t travel like she can, one of first off it, while Nero Emperor looks an empty sort; bags of toe but possibly doesn’t get the trip.

6f Handicap

Allegra Tak isn’t the easiest to predict but does go well here, 3 from 5 at the track. Definite promise from Theyturnedmedown on return from 2lbs out of the handicap; he finished last term off poorly having looked good on previous starts but this suggests can win off this mark and is a pointer to Ningaloo Reef who ran with promise last weekend. A faster surface would suit Arbitrageur better while An Saighduir is likely handicapped to the hilt; Flic Flac is always one to take on for win purposes. Bird’s Eye View doesn’t look well-treated on this evidence and carries its head high while Kateeva lost any chance at the start when rearing.

7f Handicap

This Damian English lad can train a bit and has done some job with Cash Or Casualty; if I had a middling handicapper to go into training right now he’d be near top of the list. Ondeafears wasn’t helped by Seanie messing around in the early stages (running around) but has gone like one that would like further here; seemingly unable to go the pace early, off it before most, needing to be switched and coming home well; might be worth a try over a mile. Star Links is in good heart while Imaginationrunwild travelled well (not like the same yard’s Hard Core Debt earlier on the card) in the manner of one that would improve for the run; jockey looked around 2f out like he had plenty under him but not pick up and mark has dropped. Qasser is not well-treated off 81 and has shown temperament while Gunner Lindley finds 7f too sharp and is harshly handicapped. Seanie was having a prep run for the Victoria Cup and went as such, not given a hard time while Hurricane Twister showed nothing on conditions that suit.

7f Maiden

Poor race and it was slowly-run, the first three up there throughout. Suspect the first and third are dodges, the winner the lesser as ‘only’ hung LTO while Lake District looked very bad previously. Montferrat was keen and might be more of a sprinter but on the whole hard to like any of these.

Irish Racing Review: Leopardstown April 14th 2013

Leopardstown Review

Leopardstown Review

Leopardstown – Saturday, April 14th

6f 2yo Maiden

Sedate pace here and Tom Dooley looks flattered having made it. Focus On Venice didn’t look much on breeding but Bolger can make a fool of pedigree and tends to run a good one in the race; he travelled worst of the first three but was professional. Not so Michaelmas who ran about a bit under pressure but picked up well when asked and closed to the line. Glory Boy the one to take from it and another example of Weld keeping his good horses for this track; he travelled nearly as well as the second and was tightened up quite badly on the rail over 1f out when coming with his run before running on again afterwards. Fine Cut was keen enough.

1m 3yo Listed

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There looked a proper pace on; Fort Knox has been very impressive and shown a sharp turn-of-foot for the second time in as many races, classy prospect and weak in the betting for a yard that tend to know what they’re at so there could be improvement; excellent performance albeit with lots of dogs down the field but he has really flew home. No fluke about the effort of Don’t Bother Me and he might prove better over 7f. High Octane has a very high HC (as had on debut) while Dibayani looked awkward too, particularly on the turn, one to oppose. O’Brien might use the headgear to good effect on handicappers and maidens but cheek-pieces going on a stallion prospect like The United States FTO were a big negative and he has a lot to prove. Move To Strike was keen and is another with lots to prove.

1m Listed

Hate to go down the road of ‘vibes’ but get the feeling that Declaration Of War is very good albeit that he hasn’t really shown it from a form point of view yet; travelled nicely here and certainly not the first that Ballydoyle have got from another yard and improved plenty. Bold Thady Quill has improved this season while Sweet Lightening just isn’t suited by this sort of race; indeed he looked like a dodge, head high and not going forward. Big field handicaps are his thing but next to impossible to win one off 112. Paene Magnus looks a polytrack horse.

7f 3yo Group 3

General impression that this was a poor race if Rawaaq (well-exposed as below the best last year; possibly best fresh) could win it; Liberating also a bit close up in fourth for it to be a decent race. That is a negative for all field and the only positive could be that Weld has plenty at home that would have been perceived as better than the winner; in fairness to her, she does go well on bad ground. What Style has improvement in her for going up in trip but everything went right in the race (good position off a slow enough pace) and wasn’t good enough.

1m2f Group 3

There is nothing remotely flashy about Battle Of Marengo but he’s very likeable and has slipped below the radar for an open Derby; has the best form on offer in that race. Beat the right horse here in Sugar Boy (keen) giving it weight and looks like one that will have no problem with 12f, never looked like getting beaten and well on top at the line. Imperial Concorde has travelled best and should have a race in him while Beyond Thankful travelled well enough too. Alpinist was poor but his form was too; he was found to be lame.

7f Handicap

Suspect Fastidious got a soft lead here and is not as good as he looked; hike in the weights away and he doesn’t win too often so one to oppose NTO as this was a bad one. September Lily is 0/16 career with 9 places so is one to be against and likewise Lily Of Kenmare; not harshly dealt with by the handicapper, she was off it early in the manner of one not liking the ground and/or finding the trip too sharp, her HC says her attitude will hold her back. Little Arrows might improve for his first run since July and would prefer a better pace; 7f on good or slower appears to be his thing, in handicaps of this type he is now:1133431 and the form of his last win worked out well. Ningaloo Reef might be the one to take from it; keen early and was conceding fitness to most of these, did best of those held up and would be eligible for 0-75s with his mark. The ground would hardly have suited Cluin Aine while Bendzoldan is out of form.

1m6f Handicap

This hardly took much winning with a number of the ‘potential’ horses coming out because of the ground, Ozeta not running a race, and most of these, with the notable exception of Leroy Parker, were well off it before turning in; of that one, he either wasn’t getting home or is a dodge or a combination of the two. Justification won’t mind further on this evidence while Rossvoss stayed on well but on the whole I’d take a pretty dim view of this form.

Irish Racing Review: Curragh April 7th 2013

Leopardstown review

Leopardstown review

Curragh Review – Sunday, April 7th

5f 2yo Maiden

Fast In The Wind had a bit of breeding to him, costing 45k and a half to Maybe Grace; had a clear run of things when switched wide from rear and his trainer’s horses have started the season well as has often been the case. Coach House was strong in the market and very well-bred out of Lesson In Humility; travelled just about best and one that is likely to be better for the run. With where Saakhen raced in rear, he was always likely to get trouble trapped in a pocket and came home well when finally extricated from it; in contrast to the winner, he had a troubled run. I get the impression that the Prendergast runners are being underrated by the market at the moment, perhaps working off the belief that he is finished, but despite only having had one winner this season a lot of them have outrun their odds. Highland Falcon ran poorly, beaten more than twice as far as in the first race of the year and that is an early knock to that form.

7f Maiden

They walked here and while Moth has done well to come from off a slow pace and quickened it up she has beaten very little (only the horse she raced with in Naas last backend) and is hard to get carried away with; Guineas prices are far-fetched. Bethany Bay and Tobann had the run of this from the front but could make little impact; neither has the most endearing head-carriage; the former holding it off to the side in the finish while the latter held it to the side mid-race. Sea Shadow failed to build on a promising debut.

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7f Group 3

Things likely went the way of Custom Cut, getting an easy one in front, but he deserves credit all the same, fighting on well in the closing stages as higher rated horses came at him; whether he is good enough to win again at this level remains to be seen. Hard to be anything but positive about Nephrite; came off a long break here, given an exaggerated hold-up ride off a slow pace and travelled best; won’t mind cutting back to 6f and his breeding would support him being a sprinter. La Collina was off the bridle earlier than most but kept finding; she is one that would not have been suited by a slowly-run 7f and will do better back at a mile; the Ridgewood Pearl on Guineas weekend is the obvious race for her. Bold Thady Quill is in the form of his life though whether he is any better than this is doubtful. Carmody said Foxtrot Romeo was nowhere near fit but the market said otherwise (move for him on-course as is often the case with this crowd); he ran poorly and has it to prove as does Lady Wingshot who tends to improve for the run but will need to step up markedly from this.

1m Handicap

Another slowly-run affair and Maude Adams is worth marking up; came from rear with a good run and won with a bit in hand in the end; got 7lbs up to 84 but no surprise if she can win off that again as looks on the improve. Winning Impact doesn’t get this trip but can certainly win off this sort of mark at 7f. Miller Beach met some trouble entering the final furlong and is value for more than this; both his good runs have come on turf with a slight ease. Smoke Charger ran really well from a pound out of the handicap; he got shuffled back at a key stage by fading leaders but came home well and with a mark of 52 on the turf can surely win in the bottom grade. Bendzoldan looks out of form while Daring Man got a poor ride; a dubious stayer at this trip as well as a hound, he was in front over 2f out but didn’t get home and got little cover either; he’s also one that goes well fresh so is not sure to be in the same heart next time.

1m2f Listed

The pace was slow enough early but it lifted soon enough; the front-running Inis Meain is likeable and still improving on the flat and beat some higher rated horses here; he provided another boost to the Lincoln form. Like Nephrite earlier, hard to be negative on Parish Hall; raced keenly and coming off a long break (also reportedly met a setback when being prepped for Dubai), he did wander in the closing stages and held head a bit awkwardly but appeared to be going forward. The bounce would be a worry next time but he could improve coming into this off a setback. Steps To Freedom is an open book, not good enough in this grade and better conceding weight against inferiors; his figures in listed races or better are:433793, other flat races:12211. Ernest Hemingway’s mark overrates him. Montebell was strong in the market and raced keenly; she would be better off running in a handicap with her mark of 95.

1m4f Handicap

A race full of badly-handicapped horses as indicated by Tantalising winning and first six being covered by about 2 lengths. Fantasy King travelled well in rear and came home strongly but he’s one that could bounce next time and has never been straightforward. Beach Of Falesa was another than travelled well but she found little and can’t be excused this as it was her second run; she is hardly well-treated at this point. It is worth taking a negative view of this form.

1m2f Maiden

Worth taking a reasonably positive view of the form of the front two, particularly Manalapan who travelled better than Ruler Of The World and won’t mind cutting back in trip; this was a fine debut and his small yard means he might be underbet next time. Hudson’s Bay was fiercely disappointing especially given the form of the yard.

 

Monday Mish Mash: Wacky Races

Well, what a weekend a wacing... sorry, racing... that was. Wacky races indeed. I was lucky enough to attend a couple of meetings last week and I've jotted my thoughts down here.

It all started on Thursday, down on the Dorset/Somerset border, and frosty Wincanton. The good people at Racing Welfare had commandeered the meeting for promotional and fund-raising purposes, and had a number of events scheduled as part of the afternoon's merriment.

However, all that would come to nought if dear old Winny couldn't pass its 8am inspection. Now, as you'll know if you've been following twitter in these weather-dominated days of abandonments and further inspections, the micro-blogging site is an absolute treasure trove of current information, most of it pretty much spot on.

So, as I clambered aboard the 08:20 rattler from Waterloo to Templecombe, I was expecting to tune in and get full chapter and verse before the carriages left the platform. Alas, no. When you need it to be, life is often not that simple.

It seems - from a communications perspective, at least - that Wincanton's 8am inspection lasted until 09:20! And even then, the bulletin was that there would be a further inspection at 10am.

Having made the early part of the journey through streets of frosted roofs as the iron horse wended westward, I knew the problem. It would be a fair few degrees sharper in the country. And indeed, by the time the 08:20 from Waterloo had become the 09:23 from Andover, the battle in which the clerks of the course were engaged became apparent as field after field was topped with a crusty, dusty white surface.

I was making contingency plans when it was finally revealed, some time after 10am and just as I was alighting the train, that the meeting would go ahead. Stepping down from a warm heated carriage into the fresh, cold morning offered little in the way of supporting evidence that the meeting could proceed, and it wasn't until I arrived at the track that I realised what a superb job the maintenance staff had done.

Let's be clear: clerks of the course and their teams have a generally thankless task. If it's not trainers and owners whining that they shouldn't have watered /the ground is too firm / there's a draw bias; then it's the dreaded 'will temperatures rise?' conundrum.

This one is a bit of a nightmare for all concerned, and is clearly not as cut and dried as some dismissive observers insinuate. Sure, it's easy enough to gauge the depth of frost in the ground; but overlaying the likely rise in air and ground temperature between inspection time and first race time... and doing that in a manner where you simply cannot afford to be wrong... is a real challenge.

Back to Thursday, and Wincanton. They had more reasons than most to ensure the meeting went ahead. Not, you understand, especially for the racing itself, which was only marginally above moderate in the main. No, this was about fund-raising, and the aforementioned Racing Welfare, as well as EPDS Racing - more of them momentarily.

You see, on this day, there was a special charity race featuring twelve trainers or assistant trainers riding nags which varied from a Group 3 winner that ran in the Derby (Ted Spread) to a winning three mile chaser (Roalco de Farges). Not only that, but each of the jockeys was sponsored for the event, and one of them - Anthony Honeyball - was sponsored by me!

It seems the excitement of such lofty backing was lost on AJH, as he told me prior to the start that his mount, Swincombe Stone, needed a blow out and this was an ideal opportunity. As a race not run under the rules of racing, it seemed that schooling in public was positively de rigeur!

Not that I cared, of course. It was little more than an excuse for a day out and a chance to catch up with the sport we all love. Here are some pictures of various riders before and after the race...

Anthony in the paddock beforehand

Anthony Honeyball in the paddock beforehand

Kieran Burke, Anthony Knott's trainer

Kieran Burke, Anthony Knott's trainer

Neil Mulholland enters the winners' circle

Neil Mulholland enters the winners' circle

Ralph Beckett (nearest), Tim Vaughan (with daughter), and Johnson White

Ralph Beckett (nearest), Tim Vaughan (with daughter), and Johnson White

Bill Turner with Anthony Knott

Bill Turner with Anthony Knott

The race was won by Neil Mulholland, aboard Adiynara, and I have to say he was very stylish in the finish to see off all comers. Ralph Beckett will have been pleased with his placed showing in third, with Tim Vaughan splitting the pair. Dan Skelton, atop the aforementioned Ted Spread, did all he could but his mount didn't seem to have the guts in the last furlong of his trio of vanquishers. Fourth only for the logical favourite.

As you can see from the snaps, much fun was had by all, principally the spectators.

The 'actual' racing, featuring professional jockeys and obstacles barring the path to victory, was less comment worthy. Luckily for me, a chance meeting with a friend, John Powell of EPDS Racing, led to a spot of lunch and a glass of wine. That was a by-product of the fact that the great and the good of the racing fraternity in this part of Albion had convened for a luncheon. Thirty-odd tables of ten were thronged with munching and guzzling, with the likes of The Chemist and The Denizen (names protected to protect the innocent, but regular readers will know to whom I refer) in their midst. And this prior to the ROA Awards that very night. It would be a long day for some of those lunchtime revellers.

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(My thanks to John for his kind hospitality, and best wishes to his Shilpa, which runs today at Fakenham).

On the track, Coole River made a very pleasing return from three years off on his first start for Emma Lavelle and should be winning soon. He was only second here to Paul Nicholls' Grandioso, which plugged on best in very sticky conditions. I wouldn't fancy him to confirm form with the second next time they meet.

I backed Ulis de Vassy, the horse at the centre of Daryl Jacob's ten day ban: a suspension that will see him miss all of the Christmas and New Year racing and, potentially, some big pay days. He received his ban for not riding to the finish. I have to say, I thought that was extremely harsh, as his horse went from cruising to nothing in a couple of strides.

Clearly a monkey, Ulis de Vassy would not have beaten the game and super-consistent Quaddick Lake. This is the race from which I think future winners will emanate, and if any of the sextet are worth a weather eye, then concentrate here. Top Wood, Notarfbad and Headly's Bridge should all be competitive under optimal conditions in the near future.

Leaving the course after the fifth race, I was in a hurry to catch a train for an evening meeting with some of the other online racing product vendors: a meeting which I'd arranged. Unfortunately, I wasn't familiar with Wincanton, and didn't realise that taxis are rarer than hen's teeth there. I was extremely lucky then to find a minibus driver awaiting his party after the last, and to blag a ride from him to Templecombe station, some five miles away.

Having recouped my earlier losses with a fairly lumpy investment on Ballinahow Star, I made the journey worth his while, and thanked him kindly for getting me out of a self-dug hole.

Back in London and a quick spin up the Northern Line from Waterloo to Euston to meet with ten or so fellow online racing chaps. Fun, booze and curry were the watch words, as well as a smattering of business chat of course!

Friday was a day on the 'easy list' after this, and especially so as I had plans to be at Sandown on Saturday for a card that included the wonderful Sprinter Sacre making his seasonal bow in the Tingle Creek Chase.

Last season, I'm slightly embarrassed to say, I was a little slow on the uptake in acknowledging the brilliance of this horse. And I tried to 'get him' a couple of times. Naturally enough, the record shows the futility of those attempts and I'm now firmly in the 'Sprinter is a machine' camp.

I headed to Esher (home of Sandown Park) with Declan Rix, who works for At The Races, and we strolled across the course from station to grandstand. It was a truly glorious early winter day and, as the sun's watery warmth dulled the worst of the cold, I thought to myself what a wonderful week it was.

The racing, in contrast to that at Wincanton, was generally excellent, and there were many pointers for the future. The opening novice hurdle was run at a crawl, but it was hard not to be taken by the performance of Golden Hoof, owned - like a number of other 'Hoof' horses - by golf agent, Chubby Chandler, and his former world number one golfer, Lee Westwood.

The Hoof cruised through the race and quickened smartly to win going away by eight lengths from the pace-setting Lord Protector. Most of these will find their mark in handicaps rather than Festival Championship events, but there were some decent sticks in here, perhaps most notably Beckhani, which ran better than a free-falling drift from 7/2 to 11/2 implied.

The second race, a mares' handicap hurdle, was won by the top weight, Kentford Grey Lady. Second in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, behind the mighty Quevega, entitled her to serious respect; and the manner of this victory is worth a good bit more than the winning margin, to my eye at least.

She travelled very well off the pace, and when she was asked to get involved, fair cantered up to the leaders. She was giving a stone to the second horse, and the best part of the same to the third, so this was a run of proper class.

The unlucky mare was Justazippy, who looked the main danger to the winner when taking a heavy fall at the last. She's one to keep an eye on next time, as is the winner, wherever she goes next, as long as it's against her own sex.

Araldur was another impressive winner, and was ridden like a non-trier. Certainly, the jockey would have been in trouble had he not got up in the shadow of the post to collar Kasbadali for the luckless Oliver Sherwood (received a hefty fine for a very dubious stewarding judgment of a non-trier in the week).

Araldur could have picked them up a quarter of a mile earlier, and three miles on soft ground looks well within his scope. He's another to follow. The other in this race of some interest is David Pipe's Amigo, who was expected to need the run. He raced prominently throughout and plugged on for third, on his first start in Britain. I'm fairly sure he'll be tilting at one of the Festival handicaps, perhaps the race named in his trainer's father's honour.

Captain Conan too was impressive, for different reasons. His jumping was the thing that caught my eye. For a novice having only his second run over fences, he was athletic generally and clever when needed. It is that second component which is so important in novices, and this fellow now has a Grade 2 and a Grade 1 chase win under his belt. He looks a ready made Arkle candidate, and is already no better than 7/1 for that race. He'll continue to be hard to beat.

If there was a horse not trying on this card, then it was Paul Nicholls' Hinterland. Quite clearly ridden from way off the pace, Hinterland wasn't asked for maximum effort until late in the piece, and he cruised through for second, eventually beaten three and a half lengths. After the 'brave' verdicts of the stewards earlier in the week, in the cases of Jacob and Sherwood, it seemed remiss of them to fail to enquire as to the running and riding of Hinterland, in my view.

Presumably the Denizen of Ditcheat (oops, that's one cat out of the bag) will be plotting up a Festival handicap with this chap off a big weight...

Sprinter Sacre

Sprinter Sacre

Then it was time for the big one in the big one. Sprinter Sacre is a monster. He has huge hind quarters, and that - I presume, being no expert on such equine constitutional matters - is from where he derives his 'Forrest Gump' ability to just keep on running.

Sanctuaire was supposedly a credible threat and, according to official ratings, there wasn't too much between them. But, sometimes, official ratings don't really tell the whole story. This was one of those times.

Sanctuaire leads Sprinter Sacre

Sanctuaire leads Sprinter Sacre

I had heralded Sprinter's chances to readers in an email on Saturday morning, compelling all who would listen to back him with the race sponsors, sportingbet.com, who not only were guaranteeing to match the best price of their fellow bookmakers, but were also offering to pay out at evens if Sprinter Sacre won by more than ten lengths.

And, not only that, they were offering a free bet if he got beaten for new account holders.

Some of you shrewdies took advantage of the sponsors' generosity. Bizarrely, to me at least, most did not.

The long and short of it is that Sprinter Sacre was truly imperious in destroying a decent field of 150+ rated speed chasers.

Sanctuaire set the gallop, as he was almost certain to do. He failed to sustain it, as also was almost certain. Sprinter Sacre slipstreamed the cut-throat pacemaker, and ambled to the front in his own time.

Sanctuaire, rolling up the Sandown hill like a drunk trying to 'do a runner' from a taxi, was caught and passed by Kumbeshwar, a horse for whom I have great affection, and which I thought had a place chance if the 'Sanctuaire ran out of gas' scenario came to pass. I backed him at 11/2 for a place.

Sportingbet.com paid me - and those who followed me - out at 1-2, and then topped that up to make things up to evens, as the official margin was fifteen lengths, considerably bigger than the ten lengths qualifying verdict.

Sporting Bet payout on Sprinter Sacre

Sporting Bet payout on Sprinter Sacre

Sometimes we are guilty of looking a gift horse in the  mouth and, if you saw this and ignored it, you probably already have too much money. 😉
[Note, you didn't have to take the offer for £50. You could have bet £20, £10, £5 or even £2]
Value. Is value. It can be found in odds on chances.

Then came Sunday, and the much vaunted John Durkan Memorial Chase, featuring a shootout between some of Ireland's top chasers, Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs, Rubi Light, and Bog Warrior.

The race lost some of its interest with the morning defection of Bog Warrior, and most of its interest as the tapes went up and Rubi Light didn't try to lead. That one was nursed round for third place money, and the big two were left to fight out the finish. Except Flemenstar had already gone before Davy Russell pretended to get serious on Sir Des Champs.

It was a most unsatisfactory affair, and told us little to nothing we didn't already know. Yes, Flemenstar is very good. And he stays two and a half miles in a bog. But how... how the hell... does that make him 4/1 joint favourite with Ladbrokes for the Gold Cup?!

Seriously, that's a joke price whether he goes on to win it or not. He's never won beyond two and a half miles (except in a pointing field), and almost all his form is in deep ground. 4/1. Joke price.

Sir Des Champs had a racecourse gallop and little more. He is the 6/1 third favourite for the Gold Cup on the back of that, and there's little value there either. He does have credentials that suggest he can win a Gold Cup at least.

If you want to look for a Gold Cup wager, my quartet worthy of further investigation are Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs, First Lieutenant, and The Giant Bolster.

Trainers riding in charity races; Sprinter Sacre demonising a decent field; and a three runner farce at Punchestown. Yep, these were wacky races indeed...

What were your weekend racing highlights? Any horses to follow in your notebook? Leave a comment and let us all in on the secret. 😉

Matt

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