McCain enthralled with Hughes’ ‘David and Goliath’ title task

Donald McCain has described this season’s neck-and-neck jockeys’ title race as a battle which has taken on “David and Goliath” proportions – with reigning champion Brian Hughes currently cast in the giant-killing role.

Hughes closed the gap behind Skelton to just two again when he and McCain’s Bannixtown Glory fought off his rival on Eglantine Du Seuil by three-quarters of a length in the Citipost Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Cheshire trainer McCain said: “It’s good to be involved and part of it, and it’s all very civilised.”

He nonetheless senses the extra firepower available to Skelton could be key – especially with multiple champion trainer Paul Nicholls supplying an increasing number of winning opportunities in the final weeks of the season, with his stable jockey Harry Cobden out injured.

He said: “We are lucky to have some lovely horses that do the job right – but when they wheel Paul Nicholls in it is like David and Goliath.

“We remember watching (Richard) Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire in their battle that went all the way (in the 1990s) – but with this it does look as if things are falling in favour of Harry.

“Brian will probably come off the wrong end of it, but we will keep kicking.”

Of his 9-1 winner, McCain added: “This is a lovely tough little filly, but I was a bit surprised turning in that there was nothing going behind her.

Hughes said: “She was a Listed winner over three miles at Kempton Park. She stays well, but was getting a bit lonely up the straight.

“It’s good to have another winner here. I won’t give up, and will keep chipping away.”

Coral trimmed Hughes to 5-2 (from 3-1) for championship, and eased Skelton to 1-4 (from 1-5).

“Although Harry Skelton remains a hot favourite to win a first NH jockeys’ title, Brian Hughes has closed the gap with a winner at Cheltenham, and the battle now heads to Ayr, familiar turf for the reigning champion,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

My Drogo stars in Premier prize at Kelso

My Drogo heads a high-class field for the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle at Kelso.

The £40,000 contest forms part of a quality card in the Borders, with the huge prize-money on offer in the three feature events in particular tempting the likes of Dan Skelton and Paul Nicholls to send runners on the long journey north.

My Drogo must concede weight to each of his six rivals, having already won at Grade Two level on his latest outing in the Sky Bet Supreme Trial at Ascot in December.

Nevertheless, Skelton is anticipating a big run in Saturday’s two-and-a-quarter-mile contest.

He said: “We’ve had this race in mind for some time for My Drogo. Obviously he carries the penalty, but I think the trip will be perfect for him and there are no real excuses.

“I’m very happy with him. We decided it was the best thing for him to miss Cheltenham this year and he might go here and then Aintree, but we’re taking it one race at a time.”

Irish point-to-point recruit Bareback Jack is stepped up in grade by Donald McCain in the same race, following a hat-trick of novice wins at a lower level.

“It’s a good race. Credit to Kelso – they’ve put the money on and they’ve got the horses,” said the Bankhouse handler.

Donald McCain has high hopes for Bareback Jack
Donald McCain has high hopes for Bareback Jack (Nick Potts/PA)

“Bareback Jack is a smart horse, we think a lot of him.

“Obviously it’s a step up, so we’ll see where we are.”

The Nicholls-trained Lucky One and Any News from Neil Mulholland’s yard also feature.

Nicholls told Betfair: “He has kept improving as he learns to settle better in his races, which is key to his performance and the form of his latest win at Wincanton is red hot, with the horse he beat 20 lengths hacking up earlier this week.

“He is very much going the right way and deserves to take his chance in this better race.”

The Shunter (right) runs in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso
The Shunter (right) runs in the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

With a total prize fund of £75,000 up for grabs, the most valuable race on the card is the bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

The likely favourite is Emmet Mullins’ Irish raider The Shunter – winner of the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November, before reverting to fences to finish third in a handicap chase at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.

The home team includes Skelton’s Faivoir, who switches back to handicap company following a Grade Two novice win at Haydock.

Skelton said: “He won the graded race for us last time and is quite a progressive horse.

“I think a fast-run race will suit him and this is the next step up the ladder.

“He’s running off 143, which is a high mark for a novice, but I’m very happy with him and we’ll see how we get on.”

McCain is hopeful the application of blinkers can help Blakeney Point bounce back from a slightly underwhelming effort at Musselburgh, saying: “It just didn’t quite work out for him the last day – he got a little bit lost early on.

“We’re putting a pair of blinkers on to sharpen him up and he’s got a good weight, so hopefully he’s got a squeak of sorts.”

Ann Hamilton’s Tommy’s Oscar and the Nicholls-trained pair of Christopher Wood and Solo are others to consider in a fiercely-competitive affair.

Nicholls said: “Christopher Wood is up 7lb to a mark of 150 after his latest success at Musselburgh, so Angus Cheleda’s 7lb claim is obviously a big help.

Solo has plenty to prove
Solo has plenty to prove (Julian Herbert/PA)

“The first two were a long way clear of the rest that day and I’m hopeful that Christopher Wood can again be bang there at the finish in a strong field of runners.

“Solo made a big impression on his debut in this country a year ago in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton, but the horses he beat that day have hardly advertised the form.

“Solo has not found life easy racing off a stiff handicap mark this season, but it has dropped to a more realistic level now and he has started to come together in his work over the past couple of weeks and is showing us the right signs.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him run well at a nice price.”

No Drama for Minella in Sidney Banks success

Minella Drama got back on the winning trail with an authoritative display in the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle at Market Rasen.

Transferred from its traditional home of Huntingdon following the abandonment of the track’s fixture earlier in the month, the Listed contest has an illustrious roll of honour, with last year’s winner Shishkin going on to win the Supreme at Cheltenham on his next start.

The Donald McCain-trained Minella Drama was the 13-8 favourite in a five-runner field under champion jockey Brian Hughes, having come up narrowly short in his bid for a third straight victory in the Grade Two Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock four weeks ago.

Fitted with a hood for the first time, the six-year-old travelled strongly on the heels of the pacesetting Optimise Prime for much of the two-and-a-half-mile contest, before taking over between the final two flights.

An untidy leap at the last obstacle gave the closing Stoner’s Choice a sniff of success, but Minella Drama had plenty up his sleeve as he passed the post three lengths to the good.

Hughes said: “He’s always been a nice horse, his form’s been solid, you’d have to say. Every run he’s had has stacked up well. The horses he’s beat or that have beaten him have all come out and won and have got good ratings now.

“He’s a nice horse, he’s obviously progressing with every run. He’ll make a nice chaser in time.

“It was only suiting us to run him over two miles because the right races were there. As you can see, he does stay this trip and I dare say he might get three miles in time. We’ll take one step at a time, it’s a nice stepping stone.

“The horse that beat him the first day (Llandinabo Lad) won a Listed race and then the horse that was 12 lengths behind him at Bangor (Ballybegg) has won two since, and we were giving him 7lb. His form is solid.”

Minella Drama is not entered at Cheltenham and when Hughes was asked about the possibility of running at Aintree, he replied: “You’ll have to speak to Mr McCain and the owner about that.

“I just ride them, I don’t place them.”

Carlisle delight for Henry Brooke with winning return

Henry Brooke is looking forward to the rest of the season and beyond after making a successful return from almost four months on the sidelines at Carlisle on Tuesday.

The 30-year-old has emerged as one of the north’s leading riders in recent seasons, enjoying big-race success aboard Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase at Aintree, Lake View Lad in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby and Cornerstone Lad in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle.

However, Brooke has been a frustrated spectator since early November, having broken three vertebrae in his neck and two in his back when suffering a schooling fall at Oliver Greenall’s yard in Cheshire.

He said: “It’s felt like an age, to be honest.

“I did three vertebrae in my neck and two in my back. They were all compression fractures, which isn’t too bad, although one in my neck was a bit touch and go. Luckily, it all worked out well.

“I had a solid brace on for seven weeks and then a soft collar on for another three weeks after that.

“I’ve been in great hands with Dr Jerry Hill of the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and all of my recovery is down to the people at Jack Berry House – I can’t praise everyone that helped me enough.”

Having finished sixth on his comeback ride earlier in the day, Brooke got back in the winning groove aboard the Mark Walford-trained Miss Amelia in the Racing TV Handicap Chase.

After taking over the lead between the final two fences, the 15-2 chance found plenty for pressure on the run-in to score by two and a quarter lengths from Pistol Park.

“Today was the main aim – to come back. To come out of it with a winner, I’m absolutely on cloud nine,” Brooke added.

“I took a blow on my first ride, but when you’re in with a chance of winning you find the strength – and to be fair to the mare, she’s very gutsy and helped me all the way to the line.

“No jockey likes being off – it’s an absolute nightmare watching horses win that you would have rode, but I’m looking to the future now and hopefully I can get myself a couple of nice winners before the end of the season.”

Brooke was also keen to pay tribute to British event rider Matthew Wright, who died earlier this week, saying: “Matthew was a really good event rider and I was good friends with him. My condolences go out to his family at this tough time.”

Donald McCain is in no rush to make any grand plans for the unbeaten Dreams Of Home following an impressive display in division one of the Watch Irish Racing On Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle.

A winner on his only start in the Irish point-to-point field last autumn, the son of Jet Away made a flying start for his new connections when scoring by 12 lengths on his hurdling debut at Wetherby last month.

The five-year-old was the 4-5 favourite to follow up in the hands of champion jockey Brian Hughes and was ultimately well on top as he passed the post with almost four lengths in hand over promising newcomer Royal Arcade.

McCain said: “He’s a nice horse. We’ve no great big plans. We’re going to go quietly with him as he’s every inch a chaser.

“I’m sure he’ll run once more, but he won’t run a lot more this season, I don’t think.”

Harry Cobden (left) and Paul Nicholls enjoyed a Carlisle winner
Harry Cobden (left) and Paul Nicholls enjoyed a Carlisle winner (David Davies/PA)

Harry Cobden was pleased to break his Carlisle duck aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained Highland Hunter.

A rare runner at the Cumbrian circuit for the multiple champion trainer, the 11-8 favourite made the 600-mile round trip from Somerset worthwhile with a neck success in the Introducing Racing TV Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Cobden said: “I’ve ridden here a couple of times before and thankfully we’ve come away with a winner today.

“It was Paul’s only runner of the day. I just think it was the right race for him, with only five runners – Paul just saw an opportunity that couldn’t be missed really.

“He’s a real stayer who handled the testing ground well and managed to get the job done.”

Conditional jockey Kevin Brogan enjoyed a double on the afternoon with wins aboard the Ben Pauling-trained Apple Rock (4-1) and Daragh Bourke’s Evita Du Mesnil (9-2).

McCain favouring Aintree option for Musselburgh victors

Donald McCain could skip Cheltenham in preference for Aintree with Musselburgh winners Fiveandtwenty and Bareback Jack.

The duo have both won three times since joining McCain and took their form to a new level at the weekend.

Juvenile hurdler Fiveandtwenty, with Mark Johnston on the Flat, won a Listed event by four lengths and Grade One company now beckons on Merseyside.

“It was a good weekend, very positive,” said McCain.

“We were a little disappointed the last time she won, but to be fair to her, she’s now been up there three times and stayed overnight each time, the second time there wasn’t much of a gap.

“She’d had more time this time and was obviously the better for it.

“At the moment it’s all systems go for Aintree.”

Bareback Jack beat a quality opponent in Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki, who eventually faded into fourth after the two were locked in battle all the way up the straight in the Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“I suppose people can say the favourite made a mistake at the last, but we weren’t clever at it and I think we had his measure going to it,” said McCain.

“He was a bit careful two out and he lacks a bit of racing experience.

“We’re really positive about him because he can only improve for better ground, I think, and by the end of two days at Musselburgh it was a bit of a mess.

“He’s a very neat jumper. He’s not got the physique of a chaser at the moment, but the way he jumps suggests to me he’ll be a two to two-and-a-half-mile chaser.

“Tim (Leslie, owner) and myself are big fans of Aintree. He’s in at Cheltenham, but this year I don’t think we’d be in a rush to take him there. Aintree should suit him, so there’s a strong possibility he might end up there.

“We might look to take him somewhere before then, but it’s not easy at the minute. The Premier Hurdle (at Kelso) is an option, but the ground is likely to be slow so we’ll see.”

Hughes hits century mark with Musselburgh double

Brian Hughes chalked up his 100th winner of the campaign as Bareback Jack highlighted a double at Musselburgh for the reigning champion jockey.

Hughes secured his first championship last term and he leads the way again this year, with two wins for trainer Donald McCain at the Scottish venue seeing him hit the century mark.

Fiveandtwenty (6-4 favourite) got the pair up and running in the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle, before Bareback Jack (5-2) lifted the bet365 Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in fine style.

Hughes told Great British Racing: “Reaching 100 winners is always the first main target for the season. Unfortunately, it’s taken slightly longer than I would have hoped due to racing being abandoned etc, but it’s great to finally reach that target. I now hope to push on and keep riding as many winners as I can.

“The championship is of course the main aim. Winning it last year has made me even hungrier and determined to win it again and retain my title. I will keep trying my hardest to hopefully become champion jockey once again come the end of the season.”

McCain added: “We take a lot of pride in having Brian, the current champion jump jockey, as our stable jockey, so I’m delighted to see him reach 100 winners for the season. In any season, riding 100 winners is a massive achievement.

“We are all behind him in his quest to become champion jockey again this year. It will be fully deserved, great for northern racing, and will cement his place as the top jump jockey at the moment.”

Paul Nicholls was also in double form at Musselburgh, with Threeunderthrufive (11-10 favourite) maintaining his unbeaten record over obstacles in the bet365 Scottish Stayers Novices’ Hurdle before Get The Appeal (7-1) took the closing handicap hurdle.

Bareback Jack leads McCain’s Musselburgh raid

Few trainers have started 2021 in better form than Donald McCain, who takes some of his big guns up to Musselburgh for this weekend’s Cheltenham trials meeting.

Bareback Jack is arguably one of the most exciting prospects in McCain’s team, having won his first two outings over timber as well as a point-to-point.

He is set to put his unbeaten record on the line in Sunday’s Bet365 Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

“We think he’s a nice-ground horse, which is why we took him up to Musselburgh for his debut,” said McCain.

“He then won on heavy at Catterick – but that doesn’t get as heavy as some places, and we’re getting to the point where we have to run them. It wasn’t a great race, but he couldn’t do any more than he did.

“The ground is probably going to be a bit too soft on Sunday. But I can’t not run him now, because of what he did at Catterick – and we’ve got to run them.

“I’m not thinking beyond Sunday – and while you obviously have targets in the back of your mind if things go well, we’ll worry about it after this.”

McCain enjoyed a treble at the track on New Year’s Day – and Fiveandtwenty, who runs in the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Trial, was among those winners.

“We had the option of here or Doncaster last week, but the ground there would be even more extreme,” said McCain.

“She’s a dual course-and-distance winner – she’s taking on better horses, but we may as well take a punt. Black type would be important for her as well, it being a Listed race.”

Another New Year’s Day winner was Blakeney Point, a classy Flat horse in his day, who runs in Saturday’s Bet365 Scottish County Hurdle.

“I have to say, since there has been a reshuffle in the handicapping, the northern horses seem to be getting a bit better deal – in the short term anyway,” said McCain.

Blakeney Point won a decent race last time out
Blakeney Point won a decent race last time out (David Davies/PA)

“He went up 2lb for his last win, and he didn’t win by far, but in the past he might have gone up a fair bit more. He probably wants better ground – but like everyone else, there is nowhere else to go at the moment.

“We also have Theo (Gillard) taking 7lb off Dear Sire, who has won this race before (2018) – he’s got targets in the spring. He ran very well on the all-weather the other day.

“We’ll have plenty of others, and they are what they are, but let’s just hope they all get to run.”

Traditionally there is a strong Irish presence at the meeting – and despite the complications brought on by the pandemic, there will still be plenty from the Emerald Isle.

Peter Fahey is bringing two of his brightest talents in Belfast Banter, fifth to Not So Sleepy in a valuable handicap at Ascot, and the lightly-raced Born Patriot.

Belfast Banter will take on Bareback Jack, and Fahey said: “The ground maybe told close home at Ascot, but he’s in good form and he should put in a good run. I was pleasantly surprised with his new mark.

“He’s in good nick – I’m just not sure the ground is going to suit.”

Born Patriot was an 80-1 winner on debut, but showed it was no fluke when second to Gordon Elliott’s Frontal Assault at Thurles next time out.

“I think he’s a horse that’s improving all the time. He needs a trip, but a fast pace as well,” said Fahey.

“He’s a lovely horse. He lacks a little in experience – but he’s done very little wrong, and if he can improve from his last run he should have a good chance.

“It wasn’t a surprise when he won on his debut. He’d always worked well, and I was more surprised after the race at the price he was.

“He’s a very nice horse – and whatever he does over hurdles, he’ll be a lot better over fences.”

McCain looking forward to bright future with Navajo Pass

Donald McCain is already looking forward to next season with Navajo Pass following his victory at Haydock on Saturday.

The five-year-old upset dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air in The New One Unibet Hurdle, thanks to a bold front-running performance in the hands of Sean Quinlan.

The Cheshire trainer might consider the Grade One Aintree Hurdle, over two and a half miles, as a spring target, but he believes Navajo Pass is a horse for the future.

“Obviously, as everyone has been saying, the favourite probably needed the run, but he (Navajo Pass) went about his job in a good manner and did it really well. He came back well, so happy days,” said McCain.

“We’ve that one under our belt so there’s no panic. You never say never, but I can’t quite envisage we’re going to be going to Cheltenham because handicaps are going to be out of the question now.

“If we get one more run into him, maybe go to Aintree, that is probably the scenario, and then he’s next year’s horse really.

“He’s won a couple of races now this season. He’ll improve again for another summer and we’ll keep going forward. He’s changing all the time.

“It’s a pretty steep learning curve out of juveniles, but he seems to be finding his feet now and improving all the time.”

McCain makes flying start to new year with Musselburgh treble

Triumph Hurdle fourth Navajo Pass highlighted a New Year’s Day treble at Musselburgh for trainer Donald McCain.

Arguably the classiest horse on the card, he was carrying top weight in the Betway Handicap Hurdle, but was assisted by the very handy 7lb claim of conditional jockey Theo Gillard.

He showed his class as a juvenile last season, when he won a Grade Two at Doncaster before running a very fine race at the Cheltenham Festival.

While his first two starts this season did not offer too much encouragement, back down in grade and with Gillard’s claim, the 7-1 chance pulled almost 10 lengths clear of Newtown Boy.

McCain said: “All the good juveniles from last year have struggled and the only one to have won over hurdles is Henry de Bromhead’s (Aspire Tower).

“There’s a real lack of options for them. He had top weight in his last run against seasoned handicappers and when I was carrying the saddle over to him, I could barely lift it and I just thought it wasn’t fair on him.

“That’s why I’ve waited for better ground and it’s why we put Theo on today, to take seven off and he’s one of the best conditionals in the country for me.

“He was bought to last and he’s been trained to last. It’s nice to get his season back on track.

“I’ve always thought he was a staying hurdler rather than a prospective chaser. I know he’s only won a handicap at Musselburgh so I can’t get carried away, but long term I think he’s a Stayers’ Hurdle type.”

Earlier McCain teamed up with champion jockey Brian Hughes to win the Betway First Foot Juvenile Hurdle with Fiveandtwenty.

Sent off as the prohibitive 1-4 favourite on the back of a seamless hurdling debut over the same course and distance, she was not as impressive on this occasion.

The former Mark Johnston inmate had won by 26 lengths on her first run over obstacles and while she never looked like losing on this time, Hughes had to get fairly serious to beat Herbiers by two lengths.

“I think she found the ground testing enough, she’s only a light-framed filly and it was quite holding. Spring ground will suit her better,” said McCain.

“There are a couple of obvious races. There’s one at Musselburgh on their Trials Day, while there’s also a Listed fillies’ juvenile at Doncaster and black type would be important for her.

“We’ll be governed by ground, but you are only a juvenile once.”

Hughes was also on former smart Flat performer Blakeney Point in the Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle.

Blakeney Point remains unexposed over hurdles
Blakeney Point remains unexposed over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

A Listed winner for Roger Charlton, Hughes appeared to have delivered his mount perfectly after the last, but the 22-1 chance still had to fend off the late lunge of Voix Du Reve, a Grade One winner over fences in his days with Willie Mullins.

“It’s not usually my way to go straight from a novice into a big handicap, but it wasn’t a massive field, I knew he’d like the ground and it’s worked out,” said McCain.

“He does have loads of experience in big handicaps from the Flat which helps, but it was really satisfying to win a decent race with him.

“I don’t think he wants much further than two miles, surprisingly given he was a stayer on the Flat, and truthfully I don’t think he does a whole lot in front. He’s still unexposed over hurdles.”

Hughes then grabbed a treble for himself on Nick Alexander’s Eagle Ridge (9-4 favourite) in the Betway Casino Handicap Chase.

Carrying a penalty for a recent win at the track, he just held off the slightly unlucky Oscar Ceremony by a nose.

The long journey north proved worthwhile for Harry Skelton, who made most of the running on Romain De Senam (13-2) in the Betway ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase to continue the excellent form of his brother, Dan’s, yard.

Bannixtown glory for Bass and McCain at Kempton

David Bass continued his recent good run in the saddle after Bannixtown Glory completed his second double in the space of three days with victory at Kempton.

The 32-year-old again demonstrated he is riding at the top of his game with an enterprising front-running victory aboard the Donald McCain-trained 12-1 chance in the Listed Racing TV Mares’ Hurdle.

Despite facing a host of challengers late on in the extended three-mile prize, the six-year-old rallied gamely under Bass before defeating recent Hereford scorer Getaway Totherock by a length and three-quarters.

McCain – who won the race in 2009 with the smart Whiteoak – said: “There were plenty of question marks over a lot of them regarding the trip, but one thing you can rely on with her is that she turns up every time and the ground and trip were fine.

“We were hoping to get a little bit of black type and between the last two I thought we would be hard done by if she didn’t get it, but she got more than we hoped for and is set for life.

“I would imagine Charlotte (McCracken) will breed from her and that makes a big difference to her CV. She deserved that win, as she is as tough as nails.”

Kim Bailey equalled last season’s total of 32 winners after Ajero (10-11) – who is a half-brother to the yard’s Grade Two winner Charbel – got the ball rolling for Bass when getting the better of Captain Morgs by a length in the EBF Stallions “National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bass said: “I was absolutely delighted with that. He relaxed lovely in front and his jumping was at its best over the last two when they were going quick. He picked up really well down the straight. Although he hung right it was nowhere near as bad as Ludlow.

“He is not as big as Charbel as he is a bit more compact. He is by a sire (Red Clubs) that is all about speed. It is nice to have a proper two-miler in the yard.”

Few people will have left the track as happy as Zac Baker who not only celebrated his first winner of the season, but reduced his claim from five to three pounds with a front-running success aboard Supakalanistic (14-1) in the Wise Betting At Handicap Hurdle.

Baker said: “That’s my 5lb claim gone. I’d been stuck on 39 winners since March. I’m delighted to do it on this horse though as I’ve had three wins on him now.

“Thanks to the owners and Nigel Twiston-Davies for putting him on me. When he goes out again hopefully I might get the call up.

“He is a lovely little horse. He has got a really good gallop and really good stride so I thought I might as well send him on.”

Fergus Gillard was another to enjoy a milestone winner when riding out his 7lb claim on the Alexandra Dunn-trained Thahab Ifraj in the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, which the 8-1 shot claimed by a length and three-quarters.

Gillard – who enjoyed a big-race win with Main Fact at Haydock on Saturday – said: “I’m delighted to get down to 5lb and long may it last. Thanks go to David Pipe and my dad (Mark Gillard) as they have been my biggest supporters.

“He won well today off a very light weight which was a big help against the second horse who was carrying top-weight.”

McCain impressed as Gaelik claims Fakenham glory

Donald McCain and owner Tim Leslie have enjoyed plenty of big-race success together and Gaelik Coast appears another smart prospect for the pair judged on his debut victory over fences at Fakenham.

Having signed off last season with a brace of novice hurdle wins at Doncaster and Bangor, the six-year-old gelding hit the ground running on his chasing bow in the Greene King IPA Novices’ Chase.

As favourite Mick Pastor crashed out at the last when mounting his challenge, the 5-1 shot demonstrated the best of his battling abilities to overhaul long-time leader Timetochill close to the line before going on to score by a head.

McCain, speaking away from the track, said: “We had him in at Carlisle, but the ground had gone heavy up there. Fakenham isn’t a place I would normally go to, but we wanted to give him a nice education over fences on nice ground.

“He is a nice horse that has got a great attitude and will get a bit further as well. The win was a bonus and the best thing to take out of today was his jumping, which was really good. He is a young horse with a future.

“His first run over hurdles was disappointing, but he wasn’t himself, then he won his next two, but he always looked like he was going to jump a fence.

“I’m never one to rush them, but we will be governed by the novice chase system, however, there are no grand plans at this stage.”

Chris Gordon can now boast both riding and training a winner at the Norfolk track after Twominutes Turkish (100-30) secured a front-running 15-length success in the Racing To School, “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.

The Winchester handler said: “That was my first winner as a trainer here, though I rode a mare called Nethertara to victory at the track 22 years ago in a men’s open point-to-point.

“I spoke to Josh (Moore) this morning and we said to pop him off in front and let him lob along as he jumps very well and the plan has worked well.

“He came to me as an unbroken three-year-old and this is great for the lads that own him, as they have let me be easy on him and their patience has been rewarded.”

A switch back to chasing is on the cards for Glimpse Of Gold, who claimed his second success since joining Sarah Humphrey when landing the Greene King IPA Handicap Hurdle by a length and three-quarters.

Humphrey said of the 9-2 winner: “He has run ever so well since we’ve had him and that was brilliant today as that was off a career high mark. He is just so tough and game.

“His confidence is sky high and it has just grown with every race. We will now go chasing with him. I’ve put him over fences and he jumps well, so he should be well handicapped.”

Harry Reed celebrated his second winner back since returning from a broken arm after steering the Neil Mulholland-trained Master Burbidge (10-1) to glory by a length in the Racing Partnership Selling Handicap Chase.

Reed said: “I broke my left arm at the start of August and had eight weeks off. I’ve still got the metal plates in, but the team at Oaksey House were a big help in getting me back.

“Me and Neil (Mulholland) have done well in the selling races here this season as we won the selling hurdle here at the last meeting, which was my first winner back from injury.

“Master Burbidge is probably not the best of battlers and I needed a good one at the last and luckily I got it.”

Stat of the Day, 6th August 2020

Wednesday's pick was...

5.35 Lingfield : Alezan @ 4/1 BOG 8th at 5/2 (Led, ridden and headed over 2f out, weakened final furlong) 

Thursday's pick runs in the...

5.20 Stratford :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Normally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.30am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

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.


See The Sea @ 3/1 BOG a 7-runner, Class 3, Mares Handicap Hurdle for 3yo+ over 2m½f on Good ground worth £5,393 to the winner... 


As I set my daily reports to generate qualifiers at an A/E of 1.25 or greater and an IV of 1.50 and greater, this runner appeared 6 times in my report this morning, as you can see below...







and to be honest, there's probably enough there to hang a bet on, but rather than just lean heavily on very recent (14/30 day) form, let's take a closer look at trainer Donald McCain's record here at Stratford, shall we?

The above says he has a 14 from 61 (almost 23% SR) record here over the last five years, which is decent enough to retain my interest and spark me to look closer and when I did just that, I found that in hurdles contests since the start of 2016, his runners racing over trips no further than 2m3f were...

...with a win ratio of almost 1 in 3 and an ROI of almost 175% at betfair SP and now that's really interesting/relevant and a far better stat to hang the bet upon. Of those 31 runners...

  • 10/21 (47.6%) for 64.1pts (+305.2%) at 11-45 dslr
  • 10/15 (66.6%) for 70.1pts (+467.3%) in 4-7 runner contests
  • 9/19 (47.4%) for 61.77pts (+325.1%) during June to September
  • 8/17 (47.1%) for 19.89pts (+117%) at odds of 6/1 and shorter
  • 5/20 (25%) for 20.05pts (+100.2%) over this 2m½f C&D
  • 5/12 (41.7%) for 9.54pts (+79.5%) off a mark (OR) of 120 or higher
  • 4/10 (40%) for 8.71pts (+87.1%) with jockey Brian Hughes
  • 4/9 (44.4%) for 28.14pts (+312.6%) at Class 3
  • 3/8 (37.5%) for 22.42pts (+280.2%) with female runners
  • and 2/5 (40%) for 21.8pts (+436%) in female only races

...and the most exciting thing for me from stats perspective is that from the above, those returning from an 11-45 day break to run in a 4-7 runner contest during June to September are 9 from 9 (100% SR) for 71.77pts (+797.5% ROI) profit... us... a 1pt win bet on See The Sea @ 3/1 BOG as was widely available (inc several BOGs and Bet365 were a half point bigger) at 8.15 am Thursday, but as always please check your own BOG status (*some firms are not BOG until later in the morning)To see a small sample of odds offered on this race... here for the betting on the 5.20 Stratford

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


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!