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Monday Musings: Hughie Not So Sleepy with Aspirations

As I look out of my office window at 8 a.m. this Sunday morning with the pre-Christmas gloom and apparently endless belts of rain still sweeping across the land, it’s hard to believe that the days are getting longer again, writes Tony Stafford.

I’m writing this a day earlier than usual as nothing will be happening in the racing world before Boxing Day – four days of marking time, unless of course you are working in a racing yard.

Horses have to be fed, their boxes cleaned and their fitness regimes maintained, all for our delectation in the coming days, weeks and months. The new 2020 programme books, for the first time separated into Flat and Jumps have finally arrived but with conditions as they are – apparently Huntingdon had one of its periodic mini-floods this weekend – cancellations will be likely.
When I spoke to Hughie Morrison on Saturday morning he was full of gloom about the chances of Ascot’s going ahead. We were between inspections and, with Not So Sleepy due to contest the last race, that pessimism, admittedly a characteristic of the East Ilsley trainer, seemed justified.

Arriving at the foot of Ascot High Street at 11.45, at least the cars were still going up and in rather than down and out, signifying a positive outcome to the 11.30 ‘look’. That it was tempered with a “monitoring the situation race by race” could have had little mollifying effect on connections of the home-bred gelding.

Not So Sleepy has a deserved reputation for being “quirky” and when you consider that after his third career start, in the Dee Stakes at Chester – stopping point of Derby winners in the past – he had a flat-race rating of 107. In 35 subsequent starts on the flat, he has added only one more victory – on Oaks Day at Epsom, 2017 - but fourth of 30 in the Cesarewitch this October signalled some progress four and a half years after Chester.

In the meantime, he’d had three runs over hurdles, sandwiching a wide-margin all-the-way victory at Wincanton with hard-pulling 20-length defeats at Kempton and then on a return to the Somerset track. So when he turned up at Ascot last month in a handicap hurdle, necessitated by the abandonment of the November Handicap at flooded Doncaster, he was pretty much either a handicap snip on the correlation between flat (94) and jumps (122) ratings or a powder keg waiting to implode again.

He was allowed to set off in a clear lead and while a couple of his rivals eroded some of the advantage up the straight. Not So Sleepy never appeared likely to be caught.

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I’d also spoken to Hughie before that race and the “handicap certainty, with a health warning” was our mutual assessment. Hughie didn’t have the extra bias of my high regard for Speed Company, an Ian Williams improver who had also been on schedule for the November Handicap. I’d caught him right at Chepstow; knew he’d go on the soft and he also had a reasonable jumps mark in relation to the flat. Two runners – trust me to go the wrong way.

Speed Company loitered at the back that day and was again disappointing last weekend at Doncaster, while Not So Sleepy returned to Ascot yesterday and was still on a detached bottom weight having been raised only 5lb for that previous win over course and distance. Many commentators believed he would struggle to get far ahead in a stronger and more highly-populated (13, or rather 16 with three ground defections) field.

Johnny Burke again got him off alertly and apparently settling better than hitherto, if understandably still a little novicey at some of the early obstacles – it was only his fifth hurdles start after all – he maintained a narrow advantage until the bend turning for home as the bunch tried to close.

It was soon evident though that nothing was going more comfortably and all the way up the straight the margin was extended, finally to a full nine lengths over Monsieur Lecoq at the line. He was in receipt of 23lb from the runner-up and no doubt the handicapper will be nowhere near as lenient next time. That eventuality is not worrying Morrison who has newly-ambitious plans for the seven-year-old.

Owner-breeder Lady Blyth had a major part in the decision to keep Not So Sleepy on the go over jumps and now the aim is for Champion Hurdle glory. Morrison went close with Marble Arch many years ago and Not So Sleepy is clearly capable of making steps towards that lofty ambition.

The ground was very testing – it caused the absence of Paisley Park, the one horse that many of the always large Ascot crowd had come to see. Yet Not So Sleepy’s winning time was less than three seconds slower than Mohaayed’s in the same race 12 months before. Mohaayed, back on the same mark as last year, was a long way back yesterday. All the other times were considerably slower – the best being the very smart Riders Onthe Storm, who comfortably beat On The Blind Side in the Betfair Exchange Graduation Chase. He was seven seconds slower than Kildisart’s 2018 time.

Even the real possibility that racing might not go ahead couldn’t deter a seasonal family attendance at a track which seems to hit the right note at every meeting during the year. As I’ve said many times here before, from Royal Ascot down to their humblest fixture, Ascot is unique and the punters just love going there. I do too.

***

One of the most eagerly-awaited moments in my household is the trademark three loud bangs on the door that heralds the annual arrival of the M & S Christmas hamper from the Editor of this publication. If you work for him and he doesn’t send one to you then sorry if I’ve caused envy, but maybe his generosity has something of the “he’s a poor old sod that needs some Christmas cheer” about it.

I rushed to the door and sure enough it was a “delivery for Stafford”. The big box duly came in and as I went to reach for the document to sign, he said: “There’s another one!” I took that in too, and it was in an apparently-identical container. These hampers, there are several to choose from, come in a wicker basket and by now we have accumulated a few and they adorn the lounge and among other things, conveniently house the Christmas decorations so they are readily at hand at tree-time.

I later called the boss and said he’d better check whether he’d paid twice. He came back with: “No, only once. Must be an M & S error, fill your boots!”, or sentiments to that effect.

Later, I was talking to Wilf Storey who I know is also customarily on the Geegeez hamper rota – he trains for them - and asked whether his had arrived. He answered in the affirmative, but when quizzed whether they were the same, confessed that far from containing a cross-section of Christmas victuals, his was purely of a liquid nature, with some exotic concoctions included.

Just as I was terminating the conversation, Wilf asked, “By the way, Brenda <Mrs S> wants to know if you received a parcel from her?”. Mystery almost over and when I finally found where to look for any message from the sender, one was indeed from the boss and the other from “Wilf, Brenda, Stella and all at Grange Farm”.

Of course it was identical. So as Mr Coincidence, I was able to add yet another unlikely tale to my lengthy litany of “can you believe it’s?”. Two people of widely differing backgrounds and age groups in two places almost 300 miles apart, simultaneously decided on sending the same person an identical item from M & S’s lengthy Christmas gift list, and they arrived in the same delivery. You couldn’t write it!
I hope the Festive season is as good for you as for Lady Blyth, the Morrisons and for me and mine!

-TS

Monday Musings: The Kings Are Dead, Long Live The Kings

The Kings are dead – long live the Kings. Nicky Henderson and Nigel Twiston-Davies might disagree but in just 60 minutes on Saturday between the hours of 2.07 (the off time of the Christy Ascot 1965 Chase) and 3.07 p.m. (conclusion of the Betfair Chase at Haydock) two champions were dethroned, possibly terminally such is the merit of their respective conquerors, writes Tony Stafford.

First it was Altior, unbeaten and unblemished in 19 races over hurdles and chases, but almost psyched (well Nicky Henderson and owner Patricia Pugh were) by the official handicappers to risk his record over the longest distance he’d ever tried. There has been general disbelief in many quarters (not least this one) that the weights and measures men from Wellingborough could translate two wide-margin wins around Ascot by Cyrname as worthy of a 176 rating, 1lb more than Altior earned in 14 impeccable runs and 28 miles of effort over three seasons’ hard labour.

More remarkable perhaps was that when Cyrname had finished a remote seventh of 13 at Ascot last year on the corresponding day’s racing in a 2m1f handicap chase, Altior had already been adorned with his 175 mark ever since beating Min easily in the Arkle at Cheltenham back in March of that year. In none of his previous triumphal marches to victory was it deemed necessary to mark him even the single pound higher than would have staved off Cyrname’s two-race surge early this year.

Cyrname exploded with a 21-length demolition of Doitforthevillage, Happy Diva, Mister Whitaker, Flying Angel and Mr Medic, smart chasers and big-race winners all, in the bet365 Chase over Saturday’s course and distance in late January, necessitating a surge to 165 from 150.

Four weeks later, back on the same track, this time for the level weights Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase he made all, in another clinical humiliation of a top-class field, running home 17 lengths clear of the 170-rated Waiting Patiently with Fox Norton (166) and Politologue (168) clustered up close behind. It would have been possible to give Cyrname less than the 176 he got, easy on a literal application to go even higher. The result on Saturday with Altior just over two lengths behind, suggests the officials got it right – at the longer trip – but that Altior is still pre-eminent over two miles.

Then again Nicky Henderson might be looking over his shoulder towards Ireland where Laurina’s first try over fences resulted in an eight-length margin over the more than useful Minella Indo, all produced with an effortless stroll up the run-in after the pair were close coming to the last fence at Gowran Park. Maybe that’s why Nicky didn’t rule out a rematch even in the King George where Paul Nicholls is intent on next revealing the new champ to his soon-to-be-adoring public, never mind Saturday’s restrained reaction to the upset.

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For make no mistake, upset it was. The betting public had, it seems, as much respect for the present official ratings as the rest of us, making Altior a heavily-backed 1-3 shot after mathematically bigger  odds-on prices had been available earlier in the day. Cyrname was never bigger than his 5-2 starting price. One thing I didn’t expect to witness happened as the horses came up to the line. Harry Cobden is still a relatively inexperienced jockey, albeit one whose boss thought enough of his potential to cast aside the excellent Sam Twiston-Davies not too long ago as first jockey. I was waiting for the Dettori-esque whip brandishing, extravagant waving to the crowd or the triumphal shake of the fist and a loving grab of his mount’s neck, but there was none of that from Cobden, just a professional message to his horse to slow down, the job’s done.

Having seen that happening 55 minutes earlier – got this timing thing down to a tee! – I was a little surprised when after a masterful waiting-at-the-back ride from Robbie Power on Lostintraslation in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, he did the full victory celebration as his horse crossed the line a comfortable length and a half ahead of dual previous winner Bristol de Mai.

His victory was anticipated by approximately half the betting public as he was shortened in to 5-4 equal favouritism with the title-holder, despite there being a 9lb deficit in their ratings, 161 against 170, the stylishly-ridden and economically-minded Lostintranslation living up to all Colin Tizzard’s pronouncements.

Since being beaten by Defi Du Seuil at the Cheltenham Festival last March, Lostintranslation won at Aintree the following month and easily landed the odds at Cheltenham on his return three weeks ago. It is hard to see how Bristol De Mai would turn the form around in next year’s Gold Cup, despite last March’s third place, and at this stage the Tizzard improver has to be one of the main contenders.

It was a case of the Kings are all dead (if you include De Sousa, Dettori and Moore) and Long Live the King in Tokyo on Sunday morning as overwhelming 2019 UK champion Oisin Murphy guided home Suave Richard to an opportunistic first place in the Grade 1 Japan Cup, squeezing through up the rail inside the last furlong and a half and holding the renewed effort of Curren Bouquetd’or by threequarters of a length.

Suave Richard was third favourite at just over 4-1 and earned the £2.16 million first prize. None of the other international riders got into the money, which goes down to fifth place. William Buick partnered the 16-5 favourite Rey De Oro in the 15-runner, all-Japanese line-up but could do no better than 11th. Christophe Lemaire, a regular in Japan, did best of the others in eighth on a 14-1 shot; Christophe Soumillon was ninth (19-1), Frankie Dettori 10th (14-1) while Ryan Moore beat only two home in 13th on a 33-1 outsider. The changing face of international jockeyship appears to be echoing what is happening in the UK steeplechasing ranks.

This weekend’s big attraction is another race that habitually throws up potential Gold Cup winners to show their early-season paces. In the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase’s more recognisable guise as the Hennessy, I hit on what was almost a guaranteed formula for finding the winner – a seven-year-old second-season chaser – not that it always worked.

When I had one of my biggest bets of all time on Jodami, who fulfilled my conditions in the 1992 Hennessy, he carried 10st2lb, a full 25lb less than previous Gold Cup winner The Fellow. He did beat The Fellow, who finished third six lengths back in a wonderful renewal of the race, but was still threequarters of a length behind another seven-year-old, Geoff Hubbard’s Sibton Abbey, trained by the late Ferdy Muphy. He was a 40-1 shot ridden by the brilliant Adrian Maguire and ran from 21lb out of the handicap. Three unbeaten runs later Jodami lined up at Cheltenham and won the Gold Cup.

It’s was sad news to learn of Ferdy’s death two months ago. He’d relocated to France in his later years but it’s good to see Mr Hubbard’s great friend Pat Betts still looking in fine fettle at Sandown recently watching his horse Le Reve finishing third for Lucy Wadham. Pat didn’t take any reminding of Sibton Abbey and was also quick to mention the great French Holly.

That brilliant, versatile horse won ten of his 20 career starts and would have been even more vividly remembered had he not been around at the same time as Istabraq. In three consecutive Grade 1 races he was beaten one length by the brilliant Aidan O’Brien-trained star at Leopardstown; was a six-length third to him in the 1999 Champion Hurdle and then after leading the great horse over the final jump of the Aintree Hurdle the following month, again gave best by a length.

He raced only once over fences, three miles at Wetherby and still had 18 lengths to spare of the field despite being eased, presumably when rider Andrew Thornton “felt something”. That was his final appearance. Ferdy was a great man, prone to sudden bursts of energy, suddenly calling you up to discuss the latest “vital” topic or other, and just as quickly moving onto another, and as a horseman he had few peers.

Sibton Abbey was the first big winner under his own name but as head lad to Bill Durkan in Ireland - in all but name he was the trainer - Ferdy guided the great mare Anaglog’s Daughter through her brilliant career in the 1980’s.

Back to next Saturday and, whereas the Henderson stable’s nine-year-old Ok Corral is ante-post favourite, I’m hoping that fellow Seven Barrows inmate On The Blind Side, who does fulfil age and experience requirements, and who was noted here after his fourth to Vinndication at Ascot three weeks ago, can win the race for Alan Spence.

Monday Musings: A Magical Finale

I think everyone who has racing’s best interests in heart should be thanking Chris Stickels, writes Tony Stafford. His early decision to utilise Ascot’s unwatered inner hurdles track for three of Saturday’s six Champions Day races undoubtedly saved the day. Whoever arranges the on-the-day weather also deserves congratulation. As we drove away in lovely late autumnal sunshine a big crowd was celebrating some excellent competition despite the testing underfoot conditions.

Last year’s fixture was run on ground official described as “soft, heavy in places”. The three races run on the close-to-unraceable ground until Saturday’s respite were run in uniformly slower times than 2018; the opening sprint 2.04sec slower; and the two mile races, the QEII 2.40 sec slower and the concluding Balmoral Handicap 2.30 sec slower than their predecessors.

Two of the three inner course races were run over officially shorter yardages than normal. The stayers’ race, 93 yards shorter, was run in eight seconds faster time than last year. The Fillies and Mares, 87 yards shorter than the mile and a half was run almost five seconds faster than last year. The Champion Stakes was still officially a mile and a quarter and interestingly only differed from last year by 0.37sec, Magical’s time actually minutely quicker than six-length winner Cracksman 12 months earlier.
So when adding the “missing” yards from those two earlier Inner Course races, all three of the switched races were run close to last year’s times.

Swinley Bottom is always the sticking (or perhaps Stickelsing) point when the ground gets bad. Ascot’s facilities and glamour, even after a week of monsoon conditions in the soft southeast of the country, continue to attract the crowds and as ever it was the younger generation that energised and populated the enclosures.

It was on that day that the Alizeti consortium announced the completion of its buy-out of the Tote from Betfred. Anyone who has backed any horse minutes or even seconds from the start of a race and waited for the win dividend knowing it will almost certainly, especially in the case of a winning favourite, be considerably less than the pre-race figure shown on screen will be hoping for less disingenuous dividends. If the technology that allowed such disgraceful returns is still in place, Alizeti or even Ali Baba would be destined to failure. One day somebody should look into past events. It happened often enough to be comical never mind questionable.

But let’s go back to Champions Day. So Stradivarius didn’t win again, just being nosed out of a second Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup by last year’s St Leger winner, Kew Gardens, under a masterful ride by Donnacha O’Brien. At least Stradivarius, in winning ten consecutive races since another Ballydoyle Classic winner, the five-year-old Order Of St George, denied him in the same race two years earlier, won the four £1 million bonus staying races in both the last two seasons. This race is not included in the bonus. Maybe to make it harder, for £2 million, throw in this race.

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John Gosden is not the greatest loser in the world. He suggested after the race that the going beat Stradivarius. Sorry John, it was always reckoned Kew Gardens didn’t like soft ground, but as he showed when winning at Doncaster last September, he relishes a battle. On Saturday he also made it clear that he will be the one to beat in the Gold Cup next June, and in finishing five lengths clear of the rest it is hard to suggest Stradivarius did not run up to form.

But undoubtedly the star of the show was Magical, and typically, the name chosen by Mrs Susan Magnier has been uncannily appropriate. As they milled around in the winner’s enclosure after her comfortable win over mudlark Addeybb, Derrick Smith was talking to Aidan O’Brien about the possibility of her going to another Breeders’ Cup. Aidan said: “Sure, if you asked her, she wouldn’t say no!”

Amazingly since her fourth place behind Laurens in the Matron Stakes on Irish Champions Day 13 months ago, she has raced 13 times, 11 of them in Group or Grade 1 races. In five of them she has finished behind Enable, when tenth in last year’s Arc and fifth when Enable was beaten this month by Waldgeist.

Otherwise she’s been in the first three every time, and the only months in which she has not appeared have been between December last year and March.
As Smith again was saying on Saturday: “Imagine what her record might have been if Enable hadn’t been around. It tells you how good Enable is to see her win like that.” It does indeed, Derrick.

And “like that” it truly was, Donnacha hardly picking up his stick even when the filly with 18 races already on her dance card, having cruised through the race on going which, as with Kew Gardens, was hardly playing to the accepted strengths of a product of the peerless Galileo.

Had another of his fillies, the 20-1 shot Delphinia, been able to hold off Gosden’s Star Catcher rather than succumb by a short head in the Fillies and Mares race that Magical won last year, or more probably had Donnacha O’Brien and Fleeting not been unlucky in running in fourth in that race, then O’Brien would have passed Gosden in the race for the Champion Trainer title. Big John is just over £100k ahead and with the Vertem Futurity, the final Group 1 of the UK season being worth only £111,000 to the winner he should hold on.

Xxxx

I’m looking forward to the jumping now and with the recent torrents come safe conditions on the training and schooling grounds for the top trainers. Nicky Henderson was at Ascot on Saturday and said he had been very happy with his horses in their preparations which, until last week, had been almost entirely on his all-weather strips. “But then when we got on the grass, I realised they weren’t quite as “ready” as I’d thought”. Don’t worry, that’s one stable’s horses which won’t appear until they are ready. Like everyone else I can’t wait to see the next chapter in the unbelievable history of Altior. Who knows, maybe in time he’ll do a Desert Orchid and win a Gold Cup?

I’m off to Pontefract this afternoon where Raymond Tooth’s homebred Sod’s Law gets the chance to win for the second time on the track with ground, trip and Danny Tudhope all in his favour, before next week’s visit to the Horses in Training sale. But there’s a nagging worry at the back of my brain. All year I’ve been following a Micky Hammond horse with the greatest of frustration, including in the ladies’ race on King George day.

Frankelio is the name and he’s a four-year-old son of Frankel who had decent form in France. On his last start there he was beaten three-quarters of a length into third in a conditions race over a mile at Saint-Cloud, one which caused me all year to refer back to it saying how ridiculously well-handicapped he had become.

On Saturday at Ascot, the horse that beat him that day, namely The Revenant, and now with an official rating of 120, finished runner-up to the 2,000 Guineas second, King Of Change. That Saint-Cloud run was Frankelio’s second encounter with The Revenant, as they had been second and third, again separated by three-parts of a length, at Compiegne a month previously and almost a year to the day to Saturday’s epic performance, again on heavy ground.

At Pontefract, Sod’s Law, a 5-1 shot, gives 7lb to Frankelio now rated only 72. I can picture it now, Tudhope coming from way back to hit the front 100 yards out and then Graham Lee swooping even later on Frankelio. Magical might be the best-named horse of all time, but Sod’s Law isn’t far behind.

Social Discourse – Monday 29th July

It was a week in which girls really did rule our world. Two major Group 1’s in Europe both went to female superstars, and a couple more dominated the finish of a high quality handicap for good measure. But there’s only one place to start, writes William Kedjanyi.

  1. Long Live The Queen

Watch it again. Savour it. Enjoy one of the finest races we’re likely to see for a long time.

 

And then re-live how these two competitors brought us all together in admiration.

Here's what trainer John Gosden had to say:

 

And owner's representative, Lord Teddy Grimthorpe:

https://twitter.com/KfordEquidia/status/1155182838309883904?s=20

 

Jockey Frankie Dettori was at his most captivating post-race:

 

Oh, and a lovely moment when the Ascot crowd applauded runner up Crystal Ocean, who ran a truly tremendous race.

https://twitter.com/sav2701/status/1155149116525219840?s=20

And don’t forget the grooms:

https://twitter.com/WHR/status/1155198671731875841?s=20

 

  1. The Growing Legend Of Laurens

Another day, another superstar filly. Let’s enjoy Laurens being back to her best.

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https://twitter.com/ChampionsSeries/status/1155481063902392320?s=20

 

She did what she does so effectively: racing from the front, laying down the gauntlet, and proving too good for last year’s winner With You in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville to earn an incredible sixth Group 1. She’s not done with France yet either: The Prix Jean Romanet could be next.

 

https://twitter.com/j_norman9/status/1155477068332851200?s=20

Here's the reaction straight from Karl Burke.....

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1155480772762951680?s=20

Lucy Burke:

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1155484461431021569?s=20

PJ McDonald:

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1155482951074770950?s=20

 

  1. International Fun and Games

https://twitter.com/itvracing/status/1155117122126786560?s=20

More success for women, although this time they were aboard rather than conveying, as Nicola Currie gave Raising Sand a tremendous ride to get the better of Hollie Doyle and Kaeso in the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot.

It wasn’t just a great victory for Currie, but also for Jamie Osborne and the Nick Bradley syndicate, which includes ATR tipster Hugh Taylor, who many will know, so let’s all share in their delight.

https://twitter.com/itvracing/status/1155118869826154496?s=20

 

 

  1. Can You Handle The Heat

It has been a hot summer and this week saw the hottest day in the UK on record. It tested man, machine, and animal to the limit.

This was too much for the meeting at Southwell, which saw the final two races sensibly abandoned after the times for certain races were changed.

 

But, to play devil’s advocate. Why, on a day when the mercury rose to 34 degrees and beyond, was a jump meeting going ahead?

https://twitter.com/BHAPressOffice/status/1153773680381612035?s=20

Now yes, races are run at high temperatures very often, and yes, the cooling system was first class – as was the care that the horses received. Extra staff were brought in from Worcester to cool horses down as well, to the course’s credit.

But in a sport which is at the mercy of public perception, the consequences of an accident for a race run in a heatwave would have handed easy pickings to the sport’s detractors. Was that risk worth it?

https://twitter.com/leighfarmstrong/status/1154730317141413888?s=20

 

The Heat’s A Comin': We are living in a world which is experiencing substantial changes in the climate. Racing should be showing its fine efforts in keeping its competitors cool to all and sundry.

 

  1. Do This, But Not That

Horseracing continues to be the gift that keeps on giving this week, where we have not one but two of the summer’s biggest festivals.

Glorious Goodwood will give us the best the flat can offer in brilliantly classy surroundings. Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, the Galway Festival will test the agility, speed and stamina of Ireland’s best, as well as the partying constitution of the racegoers.

As is traditional before Festivals, we asked you, the good people of Twitter, for your best tips. Enjoy if you are going!

https://twitter.com/chatman_phil/status/1155556554579632128?s=20

 

Geegeez will have plenty of coverage of these big meetings, so DO check us out!

That's all for this week - it's sure to be a packed edition next time. Until then...

- WK

Stat of the Day, 16th February 2019

Friday's Pick was...

7.15 Newcastle : Ginger Jam @ 11/4 BOG still to run ()

Saturday's pick runs in the...

3.20 Ascot :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Getaway Trump @ 3/1 BOG

...in a 14-runner, Grade 3 handicap over 2 miles on Good to Soft, worth £47,829 to the winner... 

Why?

A fiendish handicap puzzle and a relatively short-priced runner, so the case has to be fairly compelling. Fortunately it is, as follows...

Paul Nicholls is a trainer at the very top of his craft and, while his Cheltenham Festival record in recent years is not what it was, the remainder of his season has bombproof statistics. This chap is making his handicap debut, which is an area in which Nicholls excels: in the last two years, he's run 65 handicap debutants from which he's harvested 14 winners (21.54% SR, +12.73, A/E 1.26).

Specifically at Ascot, his five year handicap 1st time record is four wins from ten runs (three more placed). Those four winners (40%) were worth 18.13 in profit at SP at an A/E of 2.03. Very healthy, albeit on a small sample size.

Harry Cobden, who blogged here at geegeez.co.uk in his conditional season, is the number one rider at Nicholls' Ditcheat yard nowadays, and the pair are in excellent form. In the past fortnight at time of writing, they've combined for four winners from nine runners (44%), with another three placed.

And Nicholls' record at Ascot over the past year is also very good: 7 wins from 38 starts, +15.66, A/E 1.02 IV 2.00

Getaway Trump is stepping into the lion's den to some degree here, but his trainer has shown time and again how adept he is with placing his horses first time in a handicap, a feat who pulled off in this race in 2012 when Zarkandar scored. All of which gives us...

...a 1pt win bet on Getaway Trump @ 3/1 BOG which was widely available at 6.40pm on Friday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.20 Ascot

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Monday Musings: All About the A’s

This weekend for me was all about the A’s, writes Tony Stafford. Starting with Ascot and the Shergar Cup which - along with 31,000 other attendees - I thoroughly enjoyed, it progressed yesterday with Alpha Centauri and Advertise collecting the two Group 1 races in France and Ireland respectively.

In between, young Andrew Breslin was the focal point in a four-day Gordon Elliott plot for a Scottish Flat-race hat-trick with recent Perth hurdle winner, Kuiper Belt. Most enjoyably for me, though, Aegean Mist ended a long barren spell for her owner-breeder, Jack Panos, at Lingfield on Saturday night.

Five-year ownership records for Jack’s Theobalds Stud until Saturday morning showed only one place and no wins from 22 runners. That came just over a year ago at Lingfield when Aegean Legend, trained by John Bridger, finished third in a modest five-furlong juvenile affair. Her only subsequent start was a highly-creditable fifth in a much better contest at Ascot in the autumn, but she has yet to reappear.

Bridger was also the trainer when Panos’ home-bred full-sisters, the two-year-old Aegean Mist, in her first handicap after three runs from the Richard Hannon stable, and previously-unraced three-year-old Aegean Beauty, ran in two of the later races on Lingfield’s Saturday night card.

can declare a slight interest as when Aegean Mist previously appeared in the last of those Hannon-managed races at Chelmsford on June 21, I took the liberty of asking Jack whether he had any spare badges as a good friend was going there. He kindly said he did, also suggesting a small each-way bet might be a good idea.

I’d looked back at both her previous runs, having seen both of them live, promising enough on debut in a big field at Leicester and then, possibly unsuited by the track when a well-backed but never dangerous third at Brighton. We both came to the conclusion after Chelmsford when, quite well supported at 11-1, that she didn’t enjoy the kickback.

That still didn’t fully explain her last of ten finishing position all of 20 lengths behind the winner. For much of Saturday’s race, a similar eventuality looked likely for the 20-1 shot, but in the last 100 yards she passed at least half a dozen opponents, finishing strongly under Kieran O’Neill to win with a little in hand.

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An hour later her inexperienced elder sister overcame a slow start initially to cut through her six rivals, strung out the width of the track, to lead inside the two furlong pole. Here she immediately darted left to the far rail, enabling the odds-on Invincible Spirit filly, Aaliya, to tackle and pass her. The favourite also showed slightly erratic tendencies, almost pinning her on the rail before O’Neill extricated his mount.

She still looked a certainty for another Theobalds Stud place until Petite Fleur, out of sight on the opposite side of the course, caught her on the line. I’ve no idea, as daylight was ending in deepest Surrey, whether the stewards took much of a look at the finish, but Kieran might have been lucky not to be made aware that he appeared to take things a little too easily late on.

Aegean Mist’s win on turf should not have been too much of a shock. Nine years earlier, her dam Aegean Shadow won first time out, also on Lingfield’s turf at 33-1 from the Michael Wigham stable, before being beaten on Kempton’s all-weather. Panos moved her to Henry Cecil the following season, and she maintained her turf unbeaten record with wins at Lingfield again on May 22 and Brighton two weeks later, both under Tom Queally. She raced just twice more in a concerted seven-week campaign, again failing to fire on all-weather switched to that surface for her final Lingfield sortie, before finishing with a Doncaster fifth for her only turf defeat.

*

Ever since back in the early 1980’s when I suggested a quick-fire Saturday, Monday, Tuesday raid on English tracks for Jim Bolger for his three-year-old Lynconwise – he flopped at Doncaster before winning twice at Leicester in the mud over Whitsun - I’ve loved the concept.

I was made aware of a similar challenge late last week when Wilf Storey told me he’d been unable to get Andrew Breslin, a  young rider from the Mark Johnston stable we both admire, for Jan Smuts at Musselburgh on Friday. He was riding elsewhere, but that he’d also not be available should Wilf choose to run anything on Saturday or Monday as he’d be required for the Gordon Elliott-trained Kuiper Belt, as there was a family ownership connection.

Kuiper Belt was another of those questionable handicap beneficiaries that have been exercising, nay irritating, my equilibrium recently, Jan Smuts’ own rating of 56 a case in point. Kuiper Belt started out as a Niarchos family homebred with David Lanigan, running five times unplaced until his sale for 17,000gns five days after the fifth run, at Newmarket’s July sale just over a year ago.

Sent to Ireland, he raced four times over jumps for C P Donoghue, beaten in turn 47 lengths at 66-1; 42 at 50’s; 34 at 100-1 and 58 lengths at 100-1. It would appear that at this point the Mysterious Men Syndicate had enough, and the next stop was with trainer William (hope that’s right) Ross, when after pulling up at 50-1 and then finishing eighth of ten at 33-1 beaten 44 lengths, the penny seems to have dropped.

Running off 92, Kuiper Belt, now in the trainer’s ownership having previously been running under the executors of Cecil Ross, was a well-backed 100-30 favourite and finished a half-length second of 12 to Politeness in a competitive handicap hurdle.

Raised 5lb for that, he reappeared on the same track, but this time under the Elliott colours, in a novice hurdle on August 1 winning by 15 lengths in a canter under James Bowen. The latest official rating has gone up by what seems a lenient 6lb to 103. Wonder what will happen when he next comes to Perth?

When he signed off for David Lanigan, his 57 Flat rating had already been readjusted downwards to 53, and it was off this mark and under Jamie Spencer, who was hardly traipsing up to Musselburgh for his health, that he had the task of beating the ten-year-old Jan Smuts receiving 3lb to boot. The result was highly-predictable, Kuiper Belt winning with Jamie doing his statue impression, by a neck from another Elliott raider, Hurricane Volta, while Jan Smuts trailed home last.

Young master Breslin came in for Saturday night, when a 12-strong field melted away into a four-horse affair with excuses by the dozen, and another painless exercise, aided by the claim offsetting the laughable penalty, ensued.

Today at Ayr, with 12lb extra for the two wins, less Andrew’s 7lb, Kuiper Belt will be tested by dropping down in trip to a mile and a quarter. That said, 65 probably still underrates him markedly, and his pedigree is not that of a slogging stayer as he’s by Elusive Quality out of a Storm Cat mare – ideal for the distance.

Tomorrow at Chelmsford, another “A”, Alexanderthegreat, runs off 68 in a 0-60, showing that William Haggas learned plenty in his time with Sir Mark Prescott. Raised to 62 from 53 after his Eureka win over a Prescott hotpot at Lingfield after three long-priced coconuts to get the initial mark of 55 and a modest Chepstow fourth to reduce it by 2lb, he sluiced past Twister after turning for home miles behind.

He followed up by six lengths in better company at Newbury and gets in here because of the newish rule which enables 61- and 62-rated horses to contest 0-60’s. In tomorrow night’s 14-furlong finale, the three-year-old, rated 68, still carries the same weight of 9st 11lb as the year-older Ginger Lady, thanks to the 11lb weight for age advantage at the distance. His new rating will hit the BHA web site at 7 a.m. tomorrow. How high will they dare to go, and also for Haggas’ Saturday Chelmsford winner Croque Monsieur, an easy well-backed first-time gelded scorer after previous form figures of 777?

Jim Crowley: The Champ for All Seasons

crowleyjim-151016_ascotJim Crowley was crowned champion jockey at Ascot on Saturday, with never a more appropriate racecourse for the celebration, the champ being born and raised only a few hundred yards from the winning post there, writes Ian Sutherland.

At the start of this year's turf season, Crowley had his eyes firmly fixed on the all weather racing circuit. On All Weather Championship Finals day at Lingfield in March, Crowley confirmed his place in the top half dozen jockeys in that competition with a win in the (almost) two mile Marathon event on board Ralph Beckett's Moonrise Landing.

When the turf season started at Redcar three days later, Crowley was priced at 66/1 for the jockeys' crown, a price that was still available in the middle of July.  While it was not quite the odds of Leicester to win last season's Premiership race, it was certainly a reflection of the chances of a man who had yet to post a century of winners in one year on the turf. That landmark was reached  with a double at Brighton in September, by which time he was describing himself as "obsessed" with the title fight. He and Silvestre de Sousa were neck and neck, the lead swapping hands several times as the season approached its climax.

But the century of winners and the jockeys' title were not the only significant achievements for jockey Jim this year. He also had his first ride in the Derby on Algometer, and in September joined a select band, including Fred Archer and Sir Gordon Richards, to have ridden 45 winners in a month. He may even have set a new record with his win on Castleacre at Newcastle on the last day of the month. (Such things as jockey records are never easy to categorically confirm in Britain, alas).

That's a far cry from the somewhat more forgettable first Crowley 'achieved' in April 2001. In those days he was a jump jockey, riding mostly for Sue Smith. However, record-breaking trainer, Martin Pipe, put Crowley up on Art Prince in the Grand National of that year. It was a day he would probably prefer to forget, as his only ride in the race ended with a fall at the first fence.

How things have moved on for Crowley, and how he has shown himself truly to be a man for all seasons.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Supplement: A Test of Patience

Tony Stafford

Tony Stafford

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

You wouldn’t often meet more a more seemingly-contented type of chap than Mark Brisbourne. Former jobbing jump jockey – 1,000 odd rides, 60 or so winners in the days of Jonjo - and long-standing Shropshire trainer, once with 94 in his stable but now down to around 20. “The sort of people I used to train for just can’t afford it now”, he says.

On the days when he isn’t driving the box, you’d picture him cheerfully supping a pint in the bar at Wolverhampton or Chester. As he says, “we’re right in the middle, 35 miles from each of them”.

Mark has won three races so far with Ray Tooth’s useful stayer Two Jabs and on Thursday morning I was just about to go through the entrance at Lord’s with my pal Peter who’d been invited as a guest (with friend) to Spreadex’s box for the Royal London Cup one-day match between struggling Middlesex and leaders Notts when Mark called.

He’d made an optimistic entry for Ray’s horse in one of the Shergar Cup races at Ascot, and before leaving Peter’s house around the corner from the great cricket ground, I’d seen from the 48-hour provisional decs on the BHA site that he’d not made the cut by a number of horses.

Each of the six races for the Shergar Cup takes just ten runners and I think we were number 18, but two reserves are also nominated and the BHA had called him to ask if he’d bring Two Jabs along as second reserve. Mark checked with me, I asked if he knew what the deal was and he said he’d find out.

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They told him that if you turn up and do not get a run, you collect £500 appearance (or rather non-appearance) money, making it a small profit on the day after allowing for diesel for the trip. So we agreed to go ahead, with the back-up of an alternative at Ffos Las on Tuesday if he didn’t get a run.

At the 48-hour overnight stage, two of the definite ten, one trained by Ian Williams, the other by Richard Fahey, were also declared to run on Friday at Musselburgh in the Archerfield Cup, which carried almost identical prizemoney to the Ascot race.

Both missed Musselburgh, according to Mark, with the following explanations. “One was taken out because of the ‘unsuitable’ going, the other on a vet’s cert”. Mark added: “Today’s going is the same as yesterday, while the other horse must have made a miracle recovery!” Not quite so contented as usual.

Mark said: “he would have had a big chance, his speed figure was the best and he was well there on RPR ratings. It’s so annoying”.

I had been under the impression that horses withdrawn under a veterinary certificate needed to miss a few days before being allowed to run, but maybe that was never actually the rule, or it’s been relaxed, but as usual it’s the big stables who have all the benefits, with Fahey for example sending out 15 different horses far and wide for Saturday’s usual bean-feast. He won two elsewhere, but was at Ascot to enjoy the Silver Saddle success of his apprentice Sammy-Jo Bell, who won two races.

“What about Lord’s?” you might ask, or “I thought that the cricket was at Trent Bridge”, but I felt I had to digress for a change. On the way round to the box, I wanted to do a little half-a-century ago bragging so with play already going on and Notts two down for just a few, I guided Peter to the Library and got the nice chap who’s written a book about the year of the four England captains - “1988, Gatting, Emburey, Chris Cowdrey and Gooch, we lost 4-0 to the West Indies”.

He was quiet so despite the fact we were not MCC members – waiting list 40 years, might get in when I’m 110 – he was happy to dig out the three scorecards for MCC Young Professionals versus London Federation of Boys’ Clubs matches of 1962-64. Scores of 14, 29 and 8 were hardly earth-shattering, but as the nice lady on reception said: “My dad would have loved to have played here”. My dad watched all three!

The Library man also showed a little friendly envy and just as we gave him back the three slim folders with score cards of all the matches played on that hallowed turf in those three years, he called out, “Rogers is out, Broad, second ball of the match”.

Before we made it to the box, number 16 in the Grandstand, another was down, and by the time I’d caught up with the other more prompt box-inhabitants and scoffed a nice bacon bap and consumed a first of several coffees they were four down.

I – uniquely among the dozen or so lucky guests – had a Racing Post, and everyone seemed to love the articles explaining why Australia with their superior early batting would turn the screw after their inexplicable lapse at Edgbaston the previous week. I chose to take a seat outside and watch the classy recovery of Notts from their poor start, but there was to be no respite for the Australians, who slumped to 60 all out back in Nottingham, each wicket accompanied by a roar from the boxes which must have startled and amazed the players on the pitch in front of us.

Alex Hayles, Michael Lumb and James Taylor, England players all in various styles of the game, were back in the Pavilion in time to watch all the carnage at their home ground while Samit Patel did not linger long a little later. In the end they won comfortably to maintain their lead in the table, while their teammate Stuart Broad was collecting 8-15 back at home, a return beaten only twice in Ashes tests for England, Jim Laker’s nine and then ten wickets with off-spin in the 1956 demolition of the great foe on an Old Trafford “turner”. I can still remember the grainy black and white pictures as I watched – school holidays – the mesmerised visitors trail to and from the wicket.

Even that humbling on a wicket which exposed their inability to cope with proper spin in the days of uncovered pitches, was nowhere near as complete as this woeful effort in less than 19 overs. I’ve seen many things in cricket but nothing like this.

We were on our way to Ascot yesterday morning, taking the wrong even-money route option, staying with the M4 after the M25 turn, rather than going in the Royal Ascot insurance way off at the A30 past Wentworth.

No signs heralded the imminent frustration of one of those hold-ups where hundreds of people get out of their cars and in many instances coaches to look vainly ahead. I was lucky enough to get into the lane for the Langley turn, and onto the Datchet road which runs alongside the motorway from where the despair was fully evident. It was in the traffic limping into Datchet that the final Aussie wicket was taken for an innings win and unassailable 3-1 margin in the series.

Loads of people must have missed the start of the meeting, but sadly neither the Fahey nor Ian Williams box was stuck in the hold-up so we never got a run. Mark had his lunch and then turned back on the way to Great Ness. “Busy this week?” Peter asked as the trainer said he wouldn’t wait for Lulu, Rick Astley and Razorlight after racing, unlike most of the 30,000 crowd.

“Yes, Ffos Las, Tuesday; Beverley, Wednesday and Bath, Thursday and they’ve all got chances”. We didn’t stay either. I expect you know the football’s started again, so well done England for getting the Ashes done before the Man U and Spurs’ early kick-off. I was home just after the start of Chelsea – Swansea (nearest racetrack Ffos Las). Swansea had 18 shots, ten on target, the champions and team the experts reckon will win it all again, 11 and a miserable three on target in a 2-2 draw. Bit like the Aussies, really, false favourites from where my unbiased [ahem, Ed.] eyes are looking.

Sunday Supplement: The Mystery of the Missing Horn

Gosden decided not to run Golden Horn

Gosden decided not to run Golden Horn

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

John Gosden gets most things right in the operating of his team of high-class thoroughbreds, but the result of the 2015 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes suggests he made a considerable mistake by withdrawing Golden Horn in the hours leading up to the great race.

As Dave Nevison commented in a throwaway line on Racing UK while discussing Ascot’s stewards own own-goal over the belated (and later reversed) decision to declare Speculative Bid a non-runner after a stalls misfortune in the previous big handicap, “it’s nice that someone can afford to miss out on the £689,000 first prize”.

Naturally the decision had more to do with projected stud fees after his end-of-year retirement, but had Golden Horn run and won with conditions against him it would have added to his lustre for mare owners.

Just like the stewards, Gosden and owner Anthony Oppenheimer will have been wondering whether their decision to pull out on the grounds of unsuitable ground, was correct. True Ascot had 35 millimetres of rain in the preceding 24 hours, but as most people reckon these days, the moisture simply drains through.

So it was left to two more Gosden hopes, Eagle Top, the new favourite, and Romsdal, in the Godolphin colours, to fly the Clarehaven flag in face of such as Postponed, from Luca Cumani, Sir Michael Stoute’s Hardwicke winner Snow Sky and the seven-year-old Clever Cookie, trying the most elevated level of competition after spells as bumper horse, hurdler and upwardly mobile Flat handicapper for Peter Niven.

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Hardly an elite bunch, you’d say, and you would be right after an epic finish where Postponed, showing great courage under Andrea Atzini, saw off confidently-ridden Eagle Top and Frankie Dettori, who thereby was not even top Italian rider on the day.

The first two, who’d been involved in an in-race barging match in the Hardwicke Stakes over course and distance at the recent Royal meeting, were clear of pacemaker Romsdal, with Snow Sky this time only sixth of the remaining seven runners behind Madame Chiang and Clever Cookie, a 4-1 shot for Britain’s premier midsummer Group 1!

Gosden’s worries about running an unbeaten Derby winner on what he perceived as unsuitable ground seemed over-protective before the race, and simply silly afterwards. The times for yesterday’s races suggested it was no worse than good to soft all day and the fact that the final time was quicker than that of the Hardwicke will have caused Big John more than a little irritation.

Ascot, principally through the efforts of Nick Smith, work hard to get strong representation in all their big races and particularly the Royal meeting, but even the £1.15 million prize fund for the King George is evidently not enough to entice many top names.

Here we had ten declarations with just one from France, one from Italy and none from Ireland, so no O’Brien, Bolger, Weld and Oxx runner, and the French Flintshire followed the Golden Horn route, while Italy’s Dylan Mouth, unbeaten at home made it a second Ascot flop on his overseas trips in finishing last of the remaining seven.

The first three produced an entertaining finish, but it is hard to see the official handicappers pushing the winner’s mark much higher than the pre-race 118, considering that beforehand, the trio had won just seven of their 26 career starts.

In that context, the 130-rated Golden Horn should have been able to beat his elders, from whom he was set to receive 12lb. Now he sets off for York, and after the show of Gosden self-doubt, maybe the Irish will be encouraged to take him on over the Dante trip.

I’ve missed the odd King George, but I’m glad I decided not to watch the anticipated Golden Horn lap of honour and unlike many racegoers who did make the journey, therefore didn’t feel cheated. Instead I was able to switch back and forth through the channels to keep track of the last meaningful stage of the Tour de France.

Chris Froome and his Sky Cycling teammates have endured days of innuendo about whether or not they and especially he ever consumed illegal drugs, magnified ever since he set up what was to be an unchanging lead in the early stages of the three-week Tour.

At the same time, another outstanding British sportsman, Mo Farah has been suffering the consequences of a close association with a coach about who drugs involvement are suspected. Mo was over the road at the Olympic stadium on Friday night, running his usual brilliant race to beat off all comers before going off to the World Championships next month.

The same evening, Usain Bolt was back in the old routine, winning the 100 metres, but in an environment where cyclists (Froome, South African-born), cricketers (many English Test cricketers were also born in that country) and runners like Farah (born in Somalia) run for Britain, we’ve got a new man who could be as they say, the real deal.

Step forward 20-year-old Zharnel Hughes, a training partner of Bolt’s in London this summer, who hails from Anguilla, a tiny Caribbean island with a population of just 15,000. Because they do not have an Olympic committee, any of their athletes cannot run under the Anguillan flag, but as they have British passports, they can run for us.

So in a month when Zimbabwe-born Gary Balance became the scapegoat for the Lord’s Test debacle, losing his place for Edgbaston this week, Hughes endeared himself to the East London crowd with a fast win over 200 metres. The youngster already has a Diamond League victory on his 2015 record and should go close to a medal next month.

I don’t have BT Sport, so missed the six Arsenal goals in an Emirates Cup thrashing of Lyon, France’s second or third best team. Needless to say the experts are still saying Wenger needs to buy. He doesn’t.

But yesterday’s principal activity was to watch three of my grandchildren on the stage. The eldest played Danny in a rousing production of Grease in which his younger sister seemed to be in just about every scene through an evening which also featured Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, in which their 11-year-old cousin played the leading role.

It’s hard to know where the trio collected the confidence and talent genes, but it’s lovely to think you made a little contribution to the evening.

Sat TV Trends: 14th Feb 2015

The C4 cameras head to Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton this Saturday – like all big race days we’ve got all the trends & stats to help you whittle down the fields.

 

ASCOT (ATR/C4)

2.05 - racinguk.com Reynoldstown Novices´ Chase (£18K Field Size Bonus) Grade 2 Cl1 3m CH4

12/12 – Aged either 6 or 7 years-old
12/12 – Returnd 17/2 or shorter in the market
11/12 – Won between 1-3 times over fences before
11/12 – Raced within the last 6 weeks
10/12 – Won their last race
10/12 – Winners from the top 3 in the betting
9/12 – Won by an Irish bred horse
8/12 – Won over at least 3m (fences) previously
7/12 – Favourites placed
7/12 – Went onto run in that season’s RSA Chase (2 winners)
6/12 – Favourites (1 joint)
6/12 – Went onto finish 5th or better in the RSA Chase
3/12 – Ridden by Ruby Walsh
3/12 – Ridden by Barry Geraghty
2/12 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
2/12 – Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
Note: The 2005 & 2006 - Run at Lingfield Park
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 10/3

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Paul Nicholls has a 27% record with his chasers here

2.40 - Weatherbys Hamilton Chase Limited Handicap (Listed Race) Cl1 3m CH4

Only 4 previous runnings
4/4 – Returned 9/1 or shorter in the betting
4/4 – 1 or 2 chase wins
4/4 – Raced at either Ascot (2) or Cheltenham (2) last time out
3/4 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) previously
3/4 – Winning distance head or shorter
3/4 – Carried 10-13 or less in weight
3/4 – Had raced at Ascot (fences) before
3/4 – Aged in double-figures
2/4 – Won last time out
2/4 – Irish bred
1/4 – Favourites
Vino Griego won the race in 2013
The average winning SP in the last 4 runnings is 11/2

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Nicky Henderson has a 32% record with his chasers here
Emma Lavelle is just 1 from 17 with her chasers here
Paddy Brennan is just 1 from 17 riding chasers here

3.15 - Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap Hurdle Cl2 2m3f110y CH4

9/9 – Raced within the last 5 weeks
8/9 – Won between 1-3 times over hurdles previously
7/9 – Winning distance – 1 ¼ or less
6/9 – Aged either 5 or 6 years-old
6/9 – Carried 10-12 or less
6/9 – Went onto race at that season’s Cheltenham Festival (no winners)
6/9 – Won over 2m4f or further previously
5/9 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
5/9 – Returned 9/1 or bigger
5/9 – From outside the top 3 in the betting
4/9 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
4/9 – Raced at Ascot over hurdles previously
4/9 – Irish bred
4/9 – Favourites
2/9 – Favourites (1 joint)
2/9 – Ran at Sandown last time out
2/9 – Trained by Dr Richard Newland
The average winning SP in the last 8 runnings is 12/1

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Paul Nicholls has a 22% record with his hurdlers here
Don McCain has a 27% record with his hurdlers here
Tom Cannon is 0 from 20 riding hurdlers here

3.50 - Betfair Ascot Chase Grade 1 Cl1 2m5f110y CH4

12/12 – Won over at least 2 ½ (fences) before
11/12 – Returned at 15/2 or shorter in the market
10/12 – Winners from the top 3 in the market
10/12 – Raced within the last 6 weeks
10/12 – Winning distance – 4 lengths or more
10/12 – Winners that failed to win their next start
9/12 – Placed favourites
8/12 – Returned 2/1 or shorter in the market
8/12 – Favourites
8/12 – Officially rated 158 or higher
7/12 – Won between 1-4 times over fences before
6/12 – Unplaced last time out
5/12 – Ran at Kempton (King George) last time out
4/12 – Winners that ran in that season’s Ryanair Chase (1 winner, Cue Card) later that year
4/12 – Won over fences at Ascot before
3/12 – Ran at Cheltenham last time out
3/12 – Won last time out
The winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 11/4
Note: The 2005 & 2006 - Run at Lingfield Park

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Nicky Henderson has a 32% record with his chasers here
Paul Nicholls has a 27% record with his chasers here
Alan King is just 2 from 23 with his chasers here


HAYDOCK (RUK/C4)


2.20 - Betfred "Still Treble Odds On Lucky 15´s" Hurdle (Registered As The Rendlesham Hurdle) Grade 2 Cl1 3m CH4

12/12 – Returned 10/1 or shorter in the betting
10/12 – Ran within the last 5 weeks
9/12 – Won over at least 3m (hurdles) previously
9/12 – Winning distance – 3 ½ lengths or more
9/12 – Rated 145 or higher
9/12 – Favourites placed
9/12 – Aged 8 or younger
8/12 – Won at least 4 times over hurdles previously
7/12 – Aged either 6 or 7 years-old
7/12 – From the top 3 in the betting
7/12 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
6/12 – Went onto run in that season’s World Hurdle (no winners)
5/12 – French-bred
4/12 – Favourites
4/12 – Had raced at Haydock previously
2/12 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
2/12 – Raced at Ascot last time out
1/12 – Favourites
1/12 – Winners that went onto win the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 13/2
Restless Harry won the race in 2012
Cross Kennon won the race in 2011
Note: The 2003, 2004, 2005 - Run at Kempton Park

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Don McCain has a 24% record with his hurdlers here
Emma Lavelle has a 27% record with her hurdles here
Brian Hughes is just 2 from 37 riding over hurdles here

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2.55 - Betfred Grand National Trial (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3) Cl1 3m5f CH4

12/12 – UK trained winners
12/12 – Had won between 2-4 times over fences (rules) before
11/12 – Had won over at least 3m (fences) before
10/12 – Finished in the top three last time out
10/12 – Aged 10 or younger
10/12 – Had won just 2 or 3 times over fences (rules) before
9/12 – Carried 11-0 or less
9/12 – Came from outside the top 3 in the betting
9/12 – Aged 9 or younger
9/12 – Had raced within the last 7 weeks
9/12 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/12 – Finished in the top two last time out
8/12 – Rated 135 or higher
6/12 – Winners that went onto run in that season’s Grand National (all unplaced)
6/12 – Unplaced favourites
5/12 – Won last time out
4/12 – Irish-bred winners
4/12 – Winners that won by exactly 15 lengths
4/12 – Ran in the Welsh Grand National last time out
3/12 – Won with 11-12 in weight
3/12 – Finished 1st or 2nd in the Welsh Grand National last time out
2/12 – Trained by Lucinda Russell
2/12 – Winning favourites
Seeyouatmidnight won this in 2014
Across the Bay won this in 2013
The average winning SP in the last 11 runnings is 10.4/1

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Paul Nicholls has a 32% record with his chasers here
Nigel Twiston-Davies is just 2 from 39 with his chasers here
James Reveley is just 2 from 22 riding over fences here

WINCANTON (RUK/C4)

3.35 - Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle (Grade 2) Cl1 2m CH4

11/11 – Ran within the last 8 weeks
10/11 – From the top 3 in the betting
10/11 – Returned 10/3 or shorter in the betting
10/11 – Won at least 3 times over hurdles before
10/11 – Went onto run in that season’s Champion Hurdle (1 winner Katchit)
10/11 – Favourites to finish in the top 3
9/11 – Placed 1st or 2nd in their last race
8/11 – Aged either 5 or 6 years-old
8/11 – Rated 155 or higher
7/11 – Favourites
7/11 – Won their last race
4/11 – Ran at Sandown last time out
3/11 – Ridden by AP McCoy
2/11 – Trained by Alan King
1/11 – Went onto win the World Hurdle (Inglis Drever)
The average winning SP in the last is 11/4

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Paul Nicholls has a 32% record with his hurdlers here
Nicky Henderson has a 24% record with his hurdlers here
Mark Gillard is just 2 from 44 with his hurdlers here

 

 

Trainers Quotes

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Some Recent Quotes..................

"Katie Gale: Poor first run back last week but despite that we are expecting a lot more now she's back up in trip and seems to have come on for that outing. They went a bit quick for her last time too. Has won here over 2m in the past and with that recent run under her belt then we should see a different horse here."
Mick Appleby

10/02/15 1st 7/2

"SUDDEN WISH has been off for a while and could just need this today on her first run back. Whatever SUDDEN WISH does today I expect to see some improvement from this run today"
Gary Moore

09/02/15 3rd 14/1

"Laughton Park: Up 12lbs for his last win which I thought was a bit harsh. Returning from a ten month absence and can be a bit of a stuffy/lazy horse at home. Not the strongest race for the grade but he will come on for the run. Might sneak into a place."
Suzy Smith

09/02/15 1st 13/2

"Dewala: Off the mark last time over hurdles at Doncaster - has come out of that race well and the tight track here will help her running style. AP booked to ride a big plus too and should go close to defying the 8lb rise."
Mick Appleby

09/02/15 1st 2/1

"TRAFFIC FLUIDE is a keen type so this drop back in trip on better going conditions just could make a difference today. This race could see all four horses finish very close as I have respect for all the runners"
Gary Moore

09/02/15 1st 11/8

"Street Force: Decent horse for Clive Brittain - only third run for us and better last time out. Handles the track and expected to be in the mix as getting better by the race, but on these terms might have it all to do to beat the Kevin Ryan horse."
Mick Appleby

08/02/15 1st 5/2

"Electric Qatar: Third last time out here - but race with 8 CD winners in so a lot of chances. We are one of those previous winners and we were really pleased with his recent run (not beaten far). Same mark and same conditions give him a great chance of being in the mix again and three non-runners a plus too."
Mick Appleby

08/02/15 1st 5/2

"Good race but VIOLET DANCER has been a solid performer all season. I have no going concerns and he  is working well at home"
Gary Moore

07/02/15 1st 20/1



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Saturday TV Trends: 20th Dec 2014

It’s the last weekend before Christmas and it looks set to be another decent Saturday of jumping action with the C4 cameras heading to Haydock and Ascot for six LIVE races.
So to help you narrow down the fields Andy Newton returns with all the big-race trends, plus key jockey and trainer stats ahead of each race.

 

ASCOT (ATR/C4)

1.50 – BGC Partners Handicap Chase Cl3 2m1f CH4

6/6 – Carried 11-1 or more in weight
5/6 – Aged 7 or older
5/6 – Officially Rated between 130-137
5/6 – Won at least twice over fences previously
5/6 – Won a chase race over 2m1f previously
4/6 – French bred
4/6 – Priced 6/1 or shorter in the betting
3/6 – Won their last race
2/6 – Ran at Ascot last time out
2/6 – Trained by Venetia Williams
1/6 – Favourites
Lancetto won the race 12 months ago
The average winning SP in the last 6 renewals is 8/1

Trainer/Jockey Stats:

Dan Skelton is 2 from 5 with his chasers at the track
Paul Nicholls has a 23% with his chasers at the track
Evan Williams is just 2 from 22 with his chasers at the track
Jockey Sean Bowen is 1-from-1 riding chasers at the track

2.25 – JLT Long Walk Hurdle (£25K Field Size Bonus) Grade 1 Cl1 3m1f CH4

12/12 – Ran within the last 5 weeks
12/12 – Ran in that season’s World Hurdle later that season (4 won, 4 runners-up, 3 unplaced)
11/12 – Finished in the top three last time out
11/12 – French-bred horse
10/12 – Aged 8 or younger
10/12 – Winning distance – 5 lengths or more
10/12 – Placed Favourites
9/12 – Won at least 5 times over hurdles before
8/12 – Won over at least 3m (hurdles) before
8/12 – Ran at Newbury last time out
7/12 – Winning favourites
6/12 – Won last time out
3/12 – Trained by Paul Nicholls
3/12 – Ridden by jockey AP McCoy
2/12 – Ridden by jockey Ruby Walsh
The average winning SP in the last 12 renewals is 9/2
Note:
2009 and 2010 runnings - Newbury
2005 running - Chepstow
2004  running –Windsor

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Trainer/Jockey Stats:

Paul Nicholls has a 24% record with his hurdlers at the track
Alan King has a +£48 level stakes profit with his hurdlers at the track
Jockey Wayne Hutchinson has a 25% record riding at the track
Sam Twiston-Davies is 0-from-28 riding over hurdles at the track

3.00 – Mappin & Webb Silver Cup Handicap Chase (Listed Race) Cl1 3m CH4

9/9 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
7/9 – Won by a French bred horse
7/9 – Won over at least 3m (fences) previously
7/9 – Aged either 7 or 8 years-old
6/9 – Raced at Ascot previously
6/9 – Carried 10-12 or less in weight
6/9 – Went onto run at that season’s Cheltenham Festival (no winners)
5/9 – Placed in the top 4 last time out
5/9 – Won at least 5 times over fences before
5/9 – Favourites placed
4/9 – Aged 7 years-old
4/9 – Ran at either Cheltenham (2) or Ascot (2) last time out
3/9 – Priced at double-figure price in the betting
2/9 – Trained by Henry Daly
2/9 – Favourite (1 joint)
The average winning SP in the last 7 renewals is 13/1
Note: The 2004 renewal was staged at Windsor

Trainer/Jockey Stats:

Dan Skelton is 2 from 5 with his chasers at the track
Paul Nicholls has a 23% with his chasers at the track
Evan Williams is just 2 from 22 with his chasers at the track
Jockey Barry Geraghty has a 32% record riding over fences at the track
Jockey Sean Bowen is 1-from-1 riding chasers at the track

3.30 – The Ladbroke (A Handicap Hurdle) (Grade 3) Cl1 2m CH4

10/10 – Aged between 5-7 years-old
10/10 – Won over at least 2m (hurdles) previously
10/10 – Won between 1-3 times over hurdles previously
8/10 – Ran within the last 2 months
8/10 – Unplaced favourites
7/10 – Officially rated between 127 and 136
6/10 – Returned 12/1 or bigger in the betting
6/10 – Carried 10-11 or more in weight
5/10 – Won their last race
5/10– Won by a horse aged 5 years-old
4/10 – Irish bred
4/10 – Raced at Cheltenham last time out
3/10 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
3/10 – Trained by the Pipe stable
1/10 – Favourites
The average winning SP in the last 8 runnings is 13.4/1

Trainer/Jockey Stats:

Philip Hobbs has a 21% record with his hurdlers at the track
Harry Fry has an 80% record (4 from 5) with his hurdlers at the track
Willie Mullins is 2 from 4 with his hurdlers at the track
Sam Twiston-Davies is 0-from-28 riding over hurdles at the track

 

HAYDOCK (RUK/C4)

2.05 – Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (Sponsored By Swift Financial Solutions) Cl2 3m CH4

7/7 – Ran within the last 5 weeks
7/7 – Failed to win their last race
7/7 – Aged 7 or 8 years-old
6/7 – Won between 2-3 times over fences previously
6/7 – Won over at least 3m before (hurdles or fences)
6/7 – Returned 10/1 or shorter in the betting
5/7 – Favourites placed
5/7 – Winning distance – 2 ½ lengths or shorter
4/7 – Had raced at Haydock previously (hurdles or fences)
3/7 – Ridden by jockey Tom O’Brien
2/7 – French bred
2/7 – Ran at Cheltenham last time out
2/7 – Trained by Colin Tizzard
2/7 – Went onto run in that season’s Aintree Grand National (both unplaced)
The average winning SP in the last 7 renewals is 13/2

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Sue Smith has a +£37 level stakes profit with her chasers at the track
Venetia Williams is just 3 from 40 with her chasers at the track
Jockey Aidan Coleman is just 1 from 24 riding over fences at the track

2.40 – Grech Family Handicap Hurdle Cl2 2m4f CH4

10/10 – Priced 12/1 or shorter
9/10 – Winning distance – 2 ½ lengths or more
8/10 – Won between 1-3 times over hurdles before
7/10 – Favourites placed
7/10 – Ran within the last 8 weeks
7/10 – Carried 10-13 or less in weight
7/10 – Irish (4) or French (3) bred
7/10 – Ran at Haydock before
6/10 – Placed third last time out
4/10 – Ran at Haydock last time out
4/10 – Favourites
The average winning SP in the last 8 renewals is 6/1

Trainer/Jockey Stats:
Don McCain has a 24% record with his hurdlers at the track
Evan Williams has a 21% record with his hurdlers at the track
Jennie Candlish is just 1 from 24 with her hurdlers at the track
Jonjo O’Neill is just 2 from 36 with his hurdlers at the track
Note: All jockey and trainer stats correct as 18th Dec 14

 
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British Champions Day 2014 Preview

British Champions Day 2014 Preview

British Champions Day 2014 Preview

British Champions Day 2014 Preview

This Saturday sees the fourth renewal of British Champions Day, Ascot's end of season celebration of British (and European) racing. Although the weather forecast has dampened prospects somewhat, allied to the untimely and premature retirement of some of the sport's main equine athletes, there remains much to look forward to.

Racegoers and punters will be treated to three Group 1's, two Group 2's, and the inaugural running of the Balmoral Handicap which, with a purse of £250,000, is the richest mile handicap in Europe. And there will be something else to assist the on-course betting public this year, too. More on that in a moment.

The action gets underway at 1.45 with the Long Distance Cup, a Group 2 run over two miles. The Queen's Estimate headlines the entries, her last time out win in the Doncaster Cup bringing her to Ascot - scene of her finest hour when taking the 2013 Gold Cup - in fine form.

But she may have to yield to a strong Irish contingent, bidding to retain a prize they've held since the race - formerly the Jockey Club Cup run at Newmarket - was transferred to Her Majesty's racecourse in 2011. The raiding party is headed by reigning Gold Cup champ, Leading Light, a thorough stayer perhaps caught out by the shorter trip and tactical disaster on Irish Champions Weekend.

Heavy ground should be fine as Leading Light, a son of Montjeu, broke his maiden on bottomless terrain at Tipperary. Two from two at Ascot, he'll make a bold bid for the hat-trick, and 5/2 is reasonable if unexciting.

The fly in the ointment is the hugely scopey unbeaten Dermot Weld-trained Forgotten Rules. Winner of a bumper at the Punchestown Festival (by thirteen lengths no less), and the Guinness Race at the Galway Festival (only eight lengths clear this time), Forgotten Rules epitomises the phrase, "could be anything". The runner up there, Shu Lewis, has run some fair races on unsuitably quick ground, giving the form a firmer look than Ascot's weekend lawn.

Still further potential depth is added to the race with Irish Cesarewitch winner, El Salvador, and progressive pair Big Orange and Pallasator still all engaged.

The bookies want to 'get' Leading Light, but I see few chinks in his armour, and reckon 5/2 is perfectly fair. Whilst I won't be piling in, I can't find one I like enough against him either.

Next up is the British Champions Sprint, a six furlong Group 2. Slade Power, last year's winner and the most classy deep ground six furlong horse on the planet, has gone in search of oriental prizes rather than plundering occidental pots closer to home. In his absence, G Force has been supplemented at a cost of £20,000, but the Haydock Sprint Cup winner has to prove he acts on a slow surface. Second on his debut on soft, he's not raced on anything more stamina-sapping than good in seven runs since.

Still, with so few miles on the clock and a Group 1 already on his metaphorical mantelpiece, he could take some pegging back. Another three year old, the unbeaten Lightning Moon, has only raced on the soft side of good, though never as deep as this, and already has a course and distance Group 3 to his name from just three starts. That was a solid performance against older horses, but there are a couple of better class animals in here. So, despite his obvious scope to step forward again, I'm looking further afield.

The one I like is Eddie Lynam's four year old filly, Viztoria. She has had a very quiet campaign, but was an impressive winner of a Listed race over the same trip last time, and was third in this race last year. She's two from two on heavy ground - both at the distance - and 8/1 looks fair enough, especially as she's drawn alongside key pace angle, An Saighdiur.

I must also mention my old mate, Jack Dexter, who will relish the boggy conditions. Seven of his eight wins have come on soft or heavy, and after a season largely in the doldrums, Jack showed more of his old dash last time when a running on eighth in the Ayr Gold Cup under top weight, and on unsuitably firm ground. 10/1 is far from a gift, but I expect him to make a bold bid, as he did when a neck second in the race last year.

The Fillies and Mares Stakes is race three, and the first of the trio of Group 1's. One of the two supplementary entries, Silk Sari, looks of interest. She has been progressive throughout the season and arrives here on the hat-trick after wins in Listed and Group 2 company. She showed on the latter of those runs that she stays very well, and she has form on soft and is bred for it too (by Dalakhani out of a Rainbow Quest mare).

Those proven on heavy ground include Cubanita and Euphrasia, with the former being worth a second look in an open race. Ralph Beckett's five year old won a going and distance Group 3 this time last year, and she's a grinder plain and simple. With a prominent running style in her favour, she ought to go close.

In the same ownership is Madame Chiang, another filly who should love the ground. She's not been seen since a well beaten tenth in the Oaks, but prior to that had won both her starts and both on soft ground. The latter was the Musidora Stakes at York, the form of which has worked out pretty well making 16/1 a speculative price about a filly who has a bit to prove after a layoff, but one which might be worth taking.

If the opening trio of races look largely up to scratch, then the fourth - and first of the features - may be a tad sup-par. The QEII Stakes this year has a highest rated of 122, and that chap - Charm Spirit - is little known on these shores.

But, in what could turn out to be a Gallic double for the two flagship races, Freddie Head's colt is the narrow form choice. Beaten into fifth in the 2000 Guineas, he reversed form with Night Of Thunder when taking the Group 1 Prix Morny in September. There was only a head and a neck back to Night Of Thunder, and there should again be little between the pair.

Integral is a very smart filly, winning two mile Group 1's against her own sex this season. Soft ground is fine for her, though heavy would be an unknown, but her win record of six out of seven at a mile is impressive, and she's a spot of value to my eye. Ryan Moore is a huge fan of Integral, and far be it from me to argue with his knowledge of the the form book. He's a jockey who could make a good living from betting if he wasn't a jockey (and the best in the world at that), such is his comprehension of past performance.

Two at bigger prices that are known mud-lovers are the on-a-roll Custom Cut, and the proven here Top Notch Tonto. The former has won his last five and has bags of form on heavy. Whether he's up to a Group 1 is open to question, but that he should have a crack at one is beyond doubt. I'd expect him to be outclassed ultimately, but not disgraced, in fourth or fifth place.

TNT ran a dynamite race (geddit?!) in this contest last year, finishing a respectful second to facile winner Olympic Glory. He's been a touch in the wilderness this season, but showed more in his most recent pair of starts. I can't see him winning, for similar reasons to Custom Cut, but he's another who will likely run his race regardless of the ground, having won his only heavy ground start over a mile at two.

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The lightly raced Kingsbarns, winner of the Racing Post Trophy two years ago, looks a smidge over-priced at 33/1 in a place, if at his best. Clearly he's hard to train - just seven starts in three years - but he has class and he relishes deep ground. On his A game, he wouldn't have much to find with the pick of these, and he's still open to improvement after such a sparse racing career to date.

And Tullius has been saved for this, and gets his conditions. He's improved with age, but does have a bit to find with the pick of his rivals. Still, I expect him to run well in what looks a great betting race.

The Champion Stakes has no Frankel this year - it didn't last year either - and it has no Australia, with the dual Derby winner having been more likely to contest the shorter QEII Stakes prior to being retired with a foot injury. The Grey Gatsby also swerves the race, which is a pity, as they are the pre-eminent middle distance pair of their generation.

The pity is compounded by the presence of Free Eagle, a colt of enormous potential who has been forced to miss most of the big dances this season through injury. After a monstrous return to the track on Irish Champions Weekend, he'd have been a big danger to both Oz and TGG had they rocked up.

Instead, 'Freagle' will have to content himself with taking on the mighty old warrior, Cirrus Des Aigles. His rivals couldn't beat him last time in the Prix Dollar, but the stewards did, taking him down for interference late in the day. No matter, he comes here in cracking form, and he handles soft ground better than almost all top class performers. Cirrus was being written off last year before running a close second, whereas now he's as short as 11/8, and no bigger than 13/8, to claim a second win in the race after his first in 2011.

I am one of CdA's legion of fans, and I hope he wins the Champion Stakes again, because he is unquestionably a champion. In an era when top class horses rarely race beyond their second season, Cirrus Des Aigles' enduring legacy is exactly that: he is sparring his way through a seventh racing season. Now, of course, that's because his ability to breed was cruelly denied by too hasty a removal of his undercarriage. But the shed's loss is our gain, and this veteran of 59 races - 21 of which are wins, and eighteen of those Pattern race wins (six Group 1's) - is a true colossus of the flat.

But he's not a bet at the price. Nor is Freagle. Dermot Weld's impressive last day winner ran a race that whispered 'bounce' after a year off the track. The bounce, in case you didn't know, is the word attributed the phenomenon of a horse performing brilliantly after a long layoff - often having a seemingly easy race in the process - only to fail to run to that level in its subsequent start.

It's entirely possible that Freagle is over his Enterprise Stakes win, but at 3/1 I'll swerve.

Noble Mission could be good enough to take this, after back-to-back soft ground Group 1 wins overseas in May and June, and a second place in a third continental Group 1 in July. He would be continuing the Frankel theme, being a full brother to the brilliant one, and in that regard would be a perfect story horse, especially as he's trained by the late Sir Henry's widow, Lady Cecil; and I understand he's been training very well.

But I'm still looking for my Champion Stakes wager, and one that is of mild appeal (note, only mild appeal) at a price is Johnny G's Western Hymn. Ten furlongs and give in the ground look ideal for a horse that ran quite well despite the terra firmer in the Derby, finishing sixth. Since then he's won a Group 2 in France, and was a slightly disappointing favourite when fourth in a similar race there.

Although he's had a long enough break since that last start in mid-August, Gosden's colt goes well fresh, and I think at 18/1 he might be a soupçon of value each way in a heat where the layers look to have things about right.

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After that, all that's left is the super-valuable Balmoral Handicap, a mile race with a big field, and that running of the bulls is best considered in the context of going and draw. The pace looks to be middle to high, and it could be Brian Ellison who holds the aces with a pair of mudlarks.

Baraweez is the more obvious of the duo, the ex-Freddy Head-trained Cape Cross gelding coming here on a hat-trick after two valuable seven furlong wins in Ireland. He stays a mile easily, with wins at both that range and a furlong further; is drawn right in the middle with pace around him, and he has a prominent enough run style himself. That may be crucial as quickening out of the mud from the rear past so many hardy handicappers could prove an insurmountable task. He's 14/1 generally.

Less obvious, but still worthy of consideration, is Ellison's second string, Dream Walker. This fellow has box 17, two away from his stablemate. He also has a low weight, and a win and a second on heavy. Those were over shorter trips, and in Class 6 races, a huge step - literally - from today's distance, and metaphorically from today's grade. Still, Dream Walker's progression in the last two years has been impressive. Rated just 56 last July, a rapid-fire triple pushed him up to 77, and a further win two starts later nudged him still further to 84.

Winless in ten since, he's been second or three four times in that sequence, and was only three lengths behind Baraweez in that Leopardstown handicap. It's no surprise to see Dream Walker being backed, and 20/1 with Coral, five places, is a bet.

My last 'guess' is Buckstay. Drawn fairly high in 20, and versatile as regards running style, if he was gunned near the front rank he'd have definite place claims. Although Peter Chapple-Hyam's nag is yet to race on heavy, his soft ground form offers hope: third of sixteen in a good Newmarket handicap on his only try at a soft mile. He's frequently been campaigned at longer distances, in spite of not being bred for it and not staying every time. Fourth in the Cambridgeshire last time - losing a couple of places in the last of nine furlongs there - the 'turn back play' is in effect. 20/1 and drifting doesn't worry me: I think he can again hit the board.

**

Now then, Saturday is my birthday - 43, in case you were wondering - and I shall be at Ascot for British Champions Day. And, in a welcome embrace of something which doesn't come from the more traditional stables of either Racing Post or Timeform, so will Geegeez Gold.

This year's Champions Day programme will feature, alongside each of the six races, the Instant Expert grid for that race. You know, the traffic light thingie that finds loads of big priced winners. Here's last year's concluding handicap - which horse would you have chosen?

Breton Rock was a high profile winner for Instant Expert

Breton Rock was a high profile winner for Instant Expert

If you said Breton Rock, the 12/1 winner, well done, your eyes still work and you're probably not colour blind. [Click the image if it's a bit small, and it will open in a new window]

The  presence of Instant Expert in the Champions Day programme is great for a number of reasons. Obviously, from a personal perspective it's very gratifying to be playing a tiny part in such a big day. But it represents a lot more than that. I believe this is a recognition that there is a better way to help newcomers to the sport, or those who are short on time, to get a handle on the form.

Clearly this is not the alpha and omega of form reading - Geegeez Gold has other tools for that, like pace analysis, form filters, trainer/jockey reports, hot form races, subsequent form analysis and so on - but it is (in my completely biased opinion) the most accessible route to making an informed betting decision for people who know little or nothing about horse racing form.

And it's pretty bloody good for those who know loads about horse racing form, too!

So yes, I'm thrilled about this, though of course the curse of the big moment means that Instant Expert will now fail to flag a winner on Saturday!

I need to thank all Gold subscribers for their feedback and support, which has made all of the features and tools what they are, and will continue to shape the future of Geegeez Gold.

**

For those of you who are not Gold subscribers, why not?! 😉

Actually, on a more serious note, I wanted to do more to showcase Gold features to non-subscribers, so we now have two things that all registered users (i.e. free subscribers) can access:

1. Race of the Day offers full access to Instant Expert, Pace Analysis, trainer and jockey form indicators and more for the second most valuable race each day. Today it's the 3.50 Huntingdon. You'll know which race it is if you're a free logged in user, as it will be highlighted by a big yellow bar.

2. Feature of the Day varies from day to day and gives free logged in users access to one facet of the Gold fraternity each day. On Mondays it is Stat of the Day (yesterday's free SotD tip was an easy 9/2 winner). Tuesdays (i.e. today) it's The Shortlist report. Wednesday is Trainer Stats report day; Thursday opens up the Instant Expert tab for ALL races; Friday showcases the Horses For Courses report; Saturday has the Trainer/Jockey Combo report; and Sunday brings the Pace Analysis tab to all.

Phew! That's pretty cool, right?

If you're a free user, you MUST check out these freebies. They're sure to help your betting. And if you want to upgrade to an unrestricted trial of Gold for ten days (it's only £24 a month, or £197 a year, thereafter, which is ridiculously good value compared to other services), you can do so here:

Take a 10 Day Totally Unlimited Gold Trial

If you're not yet a free user, and you bet on horses, you are seriously missing out. Seriously. Missing. Out. You can register for a free account here:

Get a free account here

That's all for today. Good luck!

Matt

Saturday Big Race Preview: 26th July 2014

Ascot King George Preview 2014

Ascot King George Preview 2014

A big weekend of racing precedes a big week of racing, as Ascot's King George day comes just 72 hours before Glorious Goodwood's gates open. There are eight races live on Channel 4, and I've taken a look at four of the most interesting from a betting perspective below, starting in the...

2.55 York

A ten furlong Group 2 is the first event to come under scrutiny, and with no rain forecast it looks set to be played out on a fast racing surface.

Danadana is a pretty good place to start. Luca Cumani's Dubawi colt has won five of his sixteen career starts, all over this mile and a quarter range, all on good or faster, and one on this track. Indeed, his form under those conditions (10 furlongs, good or quicker) reads 1211911. The 9 was in an 19 runner handicap at Glorious Goodwood.

As if that wasn't enough in Danadana's favour, he looks likely to be able to make his own running here, with no obvious pace contention; and he has the considerable support of wonder boy, Andrea Atzeni, in the saddle. He's rated just a pound below the pick of these, on 113 and, while the trainer has expressed a slight reservation about his absence of 79 days, Danadana has won both times he's faced a sound surface after a break of 60 days or more.

In short, I think he's a solid bet at 5/1.

Against him are a number of credible challengers, notably the Godolphin pair of Long John and Windhoek. The former is having only his second start in Britain, via Australia and Dubai, and was staying on over a mile last time. That far from makes him certain to stay an extra 25% though, and all his best form is up to a mile (stuffed the only two times he's run at ten furlongs).

The latter is a ten furlong fast ground horse, and comes here in good heart. But he's never won above Listed grade, so this is two rungs up a steep ladder. In beating a field last time all bar one of which were rated 106 or below, he achieved little more than he should, and he looks under-priced.

All three of Secret Gesture's wins have been against her own sex, and she looks to have a bit to find with some robust fellows; while Sheikhzayedroad is also stepping up two rungs on the class ladder and has been found out on previous attempts at this level. He may need a bit more pace to run at too.

I reckon 'Filthy' Luca can claim his second win in this race since 2010, courtesy of Danadana at 5/1 (general).

3.15 Ascot

The state of the turf is a bit more of a guessing game at Ascot, and I'm plumping for good to soft, possibly good in places. In short, I think these seven furlongs will take a good bit of getting, and I don't think it will pay to be too far off the pace.

There are 29 of them engaged, prior to the inevitable absentee reshuffle, but we'll be playing for at least four places and most firms are going five. The first question to answer - or the second after the ground guessing game - is where is the pace berthed?

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This looks fairly cut and dried according to the geegeez pace map for the race - it's stacked middle to high - and I'd imagine the winner will also emerge from that mob, towed along by the current of prominent racers.

Those suited by seven furlongs (a bit of a specialist trip), big fields, good or good to soft ground, and Class 2 are Watchable, Majestic Moon, Pacific Heights, Dance And Dance, and Racy. All of that quintet are double figure prices, and I couldn't put you off any of them, especially as all bar Racy are drawn in the pace zone.

The one I like most in a very trappy scrap is David O'Meara's young improver, Watchable. The Channel 4 boys just love banging on about O'Meara, and I reckon they'll have reason to shove a mike under the ginger wizard's nose once more. The case for Watchable is predicated on promise: in just five runs to date, he's only been out of the first three once - and that was on heavy ground.

Last time out he was third of 28 in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a ferocious handicap over this course and distance. Danny Tudhope is replaced for the first time by Richard Hughes, and all the signs are that this young lad could add a heritage handicap to his palmarès before July is out.

At bigger prices, and far longer in the tooth than young master Watchable, are the likes of Pacific Heights. This five year old is fairly unfussed by ground - he's won on soft, good to soft, and good to firm - and he's a seven furlong nag that gets the mile well enough. He's run over further the last twice, and ran respectably on both occasions, in no less than the Royal Hunt Cup and the John Smith's Cup.

That form brings him into contention back over a more viable distance and from a plum draw in 18. He'll hopefully be gunned half a pace closer to the driver's cab than normal, and 66/1 is absolutely massive.

Majestic Moon is another for whom seven on the soft side of good is optimal, though I have a slight niggle about whether he's quite up to this. He may very well lead, and that looks to be a tough assignment with anywhere up to 28 rivals chasing his tail.

Dance And Dance is one of those expensive types to follow: always running on when the game's gone. He'll be doing likewise here, but the drop back in trip hardly looks the answer for a latecomer such as he. Indeed a look at his seven furlong form is instructive: "strong run to take 2nd but no chance with easy winner"; "ran on well, not reach leaders"; "stayed on one pace"; etc. It might be his day this day, but he's a heartbreaker, this lad, plain and simple.

It's Watchable from the top of the market (11/1 PP) and Pacific Heights (66/1 888sport, Coral) at monster odds, both each way five places, for me.

3.30 York

The Skybet Dash is a six furlong Class 2 handicap, and some dear old friends reunite for another shemozzle. Muthmir is favourite, at about 5/1, and he has claims. Making his belated seasonal debut at the end of last month, Muthmir was just a neck shy of winning a class and distance handicap, and while an elevation of six pounds is not lenient, it is not especially harsh either.

He'll be fitter this time, and is the one to beat, albeit hardly a bargain in a competitive field of seasoned pros.

Against him, there may be value in the price of the three-year-old, See The Sun. His ten career starts to date have yielded three wins, including on good to firm, and over six furlongs (twice). His most recent triumph was here in a field of twenty over this trip and in this grade. Just seven pounds higher than for that victory, and with a highly respectable run the last day on Newmarket's sodden July course, he's tempting at 20/1.

At bigger prices, I'm vaguely drawn to the prospects of Rene Mathis. This is his trip and class and, though it might be quick enough for him, he has made the frame three times on good to firm. 22/1 makes him worth a chance.

Not a race I'll be getting stuck into but See The Sun (20/1 SkyBet, Coral) and Rene Mathis (22/1 BetVictor) are interesting alternatives to Muthmir (11/2 BetVictor, PP, Lads).

3.50 Ascot

The King George is the feature event of the weekend, a mile and a half Group 1 for three year olds and up. The likely going will not be ideal for some, but if it is on the soft side of good, most should stand their ground. At least, I hope they do.

Telescope is the market leader, and Sir Michael Stoute's four year old has begun to point more firmly to the quality that has long been associated with him. His seven length demolition of Hillstar in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot was impressive; and the soft ground he encountered in both defeats to Noble Mission earlier in the season are excusable.

I think he's a smart horse, and I love the way Sir Michael brings them along with age. He has a fine chance to win, but he does finish second in a lot of races, and 5/2 is a bit short in such a decent line up.

Oaks winner Taghrouda gets the weight and sex allowances, and she's a progressive filly for sure. There was no fluke about that Epsom romp, and good ground will be perfect for her. I doubt a bit more juice than good will be a concern either, so she's a shortlist contender with the prospect of a fair bit more to come. But fillies don't have a fantastic record in the race, with just Danedream claiming the spoils this century. Of course, they're numerically under-represented and it's far from a terminal knock.

Gosden has Eagle Top in here too - as well as Romsdal - and this son of Pivotal, out of an In The Wings mare, has a rating of 118 after just three runs. Given his breeding, he should handle soft ground dancing the can can, but the fact he's yet to race on softer than good still leaves a bit of a question mark, especially when one considers how impressive he was when romping away with the Group 2 King Edward VII at Royal Ascot on good to firm.

Still, he is rated six pounds inferior to the top rated older horse and, because of his age, he gets a weight pull of almost a stone. Despite the four year olds historically having the upper hand against their juniors, I like this boyo. He travelled liked an absolute machine at Ascot last time, and with so much more to come he can surely usurp his elders.

Magician is stepping back up to a mile and a half for the first time since given plenty to do in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Prior to that, he'd won the Breeders' Cup Turf over the trip, mugging Johnny G's The Fugue in the process. Fast ground is optimal for him, and I'd not be certain that he'll be as effective with a spot more squeeze in the lawn. There are no worries about the distance though, and he's a dual Group 1 winner already.

Trading Leather was second to Novellist in this race last year, but that was on his preferred good to firm. He does act on slower, but he's not best suited by it, and I think this may be one of the rare occasions when Jim Bolger's ultra-consistent son of Teofilo fails to make the frame.

Likewise, Mukhadram will not be allowed the rope he was gifted in the Eclipse, and anyway he is very far from certain to appreciate this first try at twelve furlongs. Not for me, not in this deep field.

Romsdal is more interesting given his guaranteed stamina and ground agnosticism. After just four runs, he's the third of Gosden's musketeers to have vast scope to demonstrate more than is currently in the good book, but perhaps that bronze behind Australia in the Derby doesn't read quite so well as Taghrooda's Oaks win. It reads better at this stage than Eagle Top's Royal Ascot victory, but it's hard to crab the winner of that: he was in a different constituency to his rivals, and has course and distance form nailed down.

Let's hope they all stand their ground, because if they do - despite the early defection of Flintshire - it looks a fizzer of a King George. Telescope is respected but short enough on the basis of his more exposed look. That's not to say he can't improve - many Stoutey's do at four - but he surely doesn't have the untapped potential of Taghrooda or Eagle Top.

At the prices, Eagle Top is the one for me. Course and distance form, a perceived liking for a spot of give, and any amount of talent yet to be revealed make 9/2 attractive, relatively at least. Most of these can win this, but if any is over-priced (and I'm not sure they currently are), then it's probably Eagle Top.

Sat TV Trends: 21st Dec 2013

aSCOT jUMPSThe C4 cameras head to Ascot and Haydock for the last weekend before Christmas – Andy Newton’s got all the key TV race trends..... Read more

Sat TV Trends – 23rd November 2013

Ascot JumpsSome excellent jumping action at Ascot and Haydock this Saturday with the C4 cameras heading to both venues – As always Andy Newton is on hand with all the trends and stats….. Read more