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Stat of the Day, 16th April 2018

Saturday's Runner was...

4.05 Chepstow : Kimberlite Candy @ 4/1 BOG WON at 11/4 (Tracked leader, tracked new leader before 3rd, led next, joined 4 out, in command and good jump last, stayed on strongly to win by 10 lengths)

And we kick off a new week via Monday's...

2.40 Kelso :

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?

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Geronimo @ 5/2 BOG

A 7-runner, Class 4,  2m6.5f handicap hurdle (4yo+) on soft ground worth £4289 to the winner...

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding is certainly knocking on the door, having finished as a runner-up on all three starts so far. He can consider himself unlucky not to have won last time out when badly hampered late on by a faller (Luckime, who incidentally won at Taunton last week) contributing to him getting caught and headed close to home causing him to be be beaten by just half a length.

That was his handicap debut and he'd been stepped up in both class and trip, so I'd expect another good show from him today back down at Class 4 and over a trip some 2.5 furlongs shorter, especially as he was some 24 lengths clear of the third placed horse, whilst the narrow winner was more experienced in handicap racing, landing a third win from six attempts.

Stat-wise, since the start of 2013, in UK NH handicaps, horses coming into a contest off the back of three consecutive runner-up finishes finally managed to go one better on 55 of 357 (15.4% SR) occasions, returning profits of 62pts at an ROI of 17.4% and from these 357 "triple bridesmaids"...

  • males are 51/328 (15.6%) for 73.1pts (+22.3%)
  • 6 to 9 yr olds are 43/266 (16.2%) for 97.8pts (+36.8%)
  • those beaten by 0.25 to 4 lengths LTO are 33/180 (18.3%) for 106.9pts (+59.4%)
  • in the opening third (Jan-Apr) of the year : 30/175 (17.1%) for 105.4pts (+60.2%)
  • and those ridden by 7lb claimers are 8/38 (21.1%) for 39.9pts (+104.9%)

OR...based around the above, you could save this little micro-system...6 to 9 yr old males in January to May, beaten by 0.25 to 10 lengths (the extra month and bigger margin of defeat gives a better/more reliable sample size) are 23/106 (21.7% SR) for 159.3pts (+150.3% ROI), with 7lb claimers riding 4 winners from 12 (33.3%) for 33.7pts (+280.8%)

I mention the 7lb claimer jockeys, because trainer Sandy Thomson is very adept at booking such jockeys, as his record with them is 22/120 (18.3% SR) for 251.1pts (+209.2% ROI) since the start of 2015...

...pointing towards...a 1pt win bet on Geronimo @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.30pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.40 Kelso

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!

Stat of the Day, 16th April 2018

Saturday's Runner was...

4.05 Chepstow : Kimberlite Candy @ 4/1 BOG WON at 11/4 (Tracked leader, tracked new leader before 3rd, led next, joined 4 out, in command and good jump last, stayed on strongly to win by 10 lengths)

And we kick off a new week via Monday's...

2.40 Kelso :

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?

Geronimo @ 5/2 BOG

A 7-runner, Class 4,  2m6.5f handicap hurdle (4yo+) on soft ground worth £4289 to the winner...

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding is certainly knocking on the door, having finished as a runner-up on all three starts so far. He can consider himself unlucky not to have won last time out when badly hampered late on by a faller (Luckime, who incidentally won at Taunton last week) contributing to him getting caught and headed close to home causing him to be be beaten by just half a length.

That was his handicap debut and he'd been stepped up in both class and trip, so I'd expect another good show from him today back down at Class 4 and over a trip some 2.5 furlongs shorter, especially as he was some 24 lengths clear of the third placed horse, whilst the narrow winner was more experienced in handicap racing, landing a third win from six attempts.

Stat-wise, since the start of 2013, in UK NH handicaps, horses coming into a contest off the back of three consecutive runner-up finishes finally managed to go one better on 55 of 357 (15.4% SR) occasions, returning profits of 62pts at an ROI of 17.4% and from these 357 "triple bridesmaids"...

  • males are 51/328 (15.6%) for 73.1pts (+22.3%)
  • 6 to 9 yr olds are 43/266 (16.2%) for 97.8pts (+36.8%)
  • those beaten by 0.25 to 4 lengths LTO are 33/180 (18.3%) for 106.9pts (+59.4%)
  • in the opening third (Jan-Apr) of the year : 30/175 (17.1%) for 105.4pts (+60.2%)
  • and those ridden by 7lb claimers are 8/38 (21.1%) for 39.9pts (+104.9%)

OR...based around the above, you could save this little micro-system...6 to 9 yr old males in January to May, beaten by 0.25 to 10 lengths (the extra month and bigger margin of defeat gives a better/more reliable sample size) are 23/106 (21.7% SR) for 159.3pts (+150.3% ROI), with 7lb claimers riding 4 winners from 12 (33.3%) for 33.7pts (+280.8%)

I mention the 7lb claimer jockeys, because trainer Sandy Thomson is very adept at booking such jockeys, as his record with them is 22/120 (18.3% SR) for 251.1pts (+209.2% ROI) since the start of 2015...

...pointing towards...a 1pt win bet on Geronimo @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.30pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.40 Kelso

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!

Stat of the Day, 16th March 2018

Thursday's Runner was...

3.45 Hexham : Itstimeforapint @ 5/1 BOG  4th at 5/1 Held up last, mistake 2nd, left modest 4th 19th, ridden and weakened after 2 out.

And now we move on to Friday's...

11.30 Musselburgh :

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?

Nendrum @ 3/1 BOG

A Class 4, 2m0.5f handicap hurdle (4yo+) on good ground worth £4,094 to the winner...

Why?

An in-form 9yr old gelding who has finished 3121 in his last four starts, all at today's Class 4 under today's jockey Jamie Hamilton with three of those races (311) taking place here at Musselburgh. He was last seen 30 days ago winning here by three lengths and putting another winner on the board for trainer Sandy Thomson, who over the last two years...

...has 35 winners from 195 NH (17.95% SR) runners yielding 224.1pts profit at an ROI of 114.9% and these figures include...

  • males at 35/174 (20.1%) for 245.1pts (+140.9%)
  • at Class 4 : 18/97 (18.6%) for 203.6pts (+209.9%)
  • over hurdles : 16/97 (16.5%) for 202.3pts (+208.5%)
  • at odds of 6/5 to 5/1 : 23/73 (31.5%) for 17.5pts (+23.9%)
  • over trips of 2m1f and shorter : 13/48 (27.1%) for 211.9pts (+441.5%)
  • here at Musselburgh : 10/36 (27.8%) for 28.7pts (+79.8%)
  • and 9yr olds are 5/16 (31.25%) for 8.56pts (+53.5%)

The above profit & respective ROI figures are admittedly skewed by a 66/1 non-handicap winner, but that doesn't detract from some excellent strike rates and if you just took male Class 4 handicap hurdlers at odds of 6/5 to 9/1, like we have today, you'd have 6 winners from 11 (54.6% SR) for 19pts (+172.5% ROI) profit, from which...

  • here at Musselburgh : 2/4 for 5.02pts
  • 2m1f and shorter : 2/2 for 5.02pts
  • 9 yr olds : 2/2 for 5.02pts

AND... 9 yr olds here at Musselburgh over 2m1f and shorter = 2/2 for 5.02pts, achieved by Nendrum on his two visits here with Jamie Hamilton in the saddle this year!

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Nendrum @ 3/1 BOG which was available from Bet365, SkyBet, SportPesa & 10Bet at 5.30pm on Thursday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 11.30 Musselburgh

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!

The ‘Big Two’ Primed For Bruising Betfair Chase Battle

The much-anticipated return of Coneygree is set to take place at Haydock on Saturday, though there remains a question mark over who will be on-board the 2015 Gold Cup winner.

Nico de Boinville’s ill-timed injury, when falling and breaking an arm at Cheltenham last weekend, has presented a rather exciting opportunity to Richard Johnson or Aidan Coleman. Johnson is first choice, with Mark Bradstock saying on Monday: “He'll ride him if he's available and we're just waiting to hear. When we get the nod, he'll come in and give him a jump. I know there's a big race at Ascot which I haven't seen the entries for, but fingers crossed he'll come.”

The ‘big race’ at Ascot is the Stella Artois 1965 Chase, with Garde La Victoire and Royal Regatta both entered for Philip Hobbs. The Somerset trainer also has Menorah as a possible runner in the Betfair, though rain during the week may have scuppered those plans. Hobbs told the Daily Mail: “It will be a Thursday morning decision - the 48-hour declaration stage for the Betfair Chase. We won't know until then. It depends on the weather.”

Whichever jockey gets the nod, the tactics look assured, with Bradstock stating earlier in the week: “It's wonderful to have him back, and hopefully he can build and build and build. I imagine he will go off in front and any softening in conditions will be a help rather than a hindrance. He never looks impressive in his work here, but he has this extraordinarily deceptive gallop that we saw to best effect when he annihilated some decent handicappers in the Denman Chase at Newbury.”

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The trainer went on: “We took him to Haydock for a proper gallop over two miles with a young horse and then old Carruthers jumped in for the last three to four furlongs. It's been so dry with us that it was his first work on grass since he came back in. He's only run 11 times in his life and has only been beaten twice. Furthermore, he does tend to go well fresh from a break, as he showed when winning at Uttoxeter in successive seasons.”

The vibes are certainly positive, with Bradstock highlighting the £1million bonus put up by Jockey Club Racecourses as a realistic target, when adding: “Hopefully after Saturday it will be the King George, followed by the Denman Chase and then the Gold Cup. There is also the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, but it comes closer to Kempton than Newbury.”

Cue Card took Haydock’s showpiece last year and is likely to go off favourite. Colin Tizzard’s team have been in sparkling form, and the King George hero is reportedly sure to strip fitter than on debut at Wetherby. Coneygree’s running style may well set the race up for a strong traveller such as Cue Card, though Bradstock’s fella may have competition up front from another mud-lover, Seeyouatmidnight.

Sandy Thomson’s eight-year-old was mightily impressive on his seasonal debut at Carlisle, when accounting for Bristol De Mai. His jumping was wonderfully slick on that occasion, and he’s as short as 7/1 for Saturday’s renewal. The prospect of him and Coneygree going head to head from the off is an exciting one. And should the latter show any signs of ring-rust, a tussle for the lead could again play into the hands of those ‘sitting in’ just off the pace.

With conditions set to become testing, the prospect of Irish Cavalier repeating his Charlie Hall success look to be slim. His best form has come on a sounder surface, and there were doubts that he would see-out the trip at Wetherby. Soft or even heavy ground on Saturday would certainly test his stamina to the limit.

Tom George has had a terrific start to the campaign, but the weather has likely put paid to any chance of God’s Own attempting the three-mile trip. A fast finishing second in the Old Roan at Aintree last time, it would have been intriguing to see how he coped with the step-up in distance. He’s undoubtedly a better horse on a sounder surface, and possibly better going right-handed. He now seems sure to head to Ascot for the Grade 2 Stella Artois. And if impressive there, it would come as no surprise to see him take his chance in the King George over Christmas.

Silviniaco Conti looks sure to take his chance in a race that he has twice been successful. The track and trip are ideal, with ground conditions also set to be in his favour. He was soundly beaten by Valseur Lido on his return, though is sure to improve plenty for the outing. He was no match for Cue Card in this race 12 months ago, but should Tizzard’s star underperform, he could well be the one to take advantage.

Moore Success At Wetherby For Resurgent Curtis

The Rebecca Curtis trained Irish Cavalier caused something of an upset when landing the Charlie Hall Chase on Saturday, defeating top-rated chaser Cue Card in the process.

The outstanding staying chaser of last winter was sent off a short-priced favourite to win his second Charlie Hall, but faded late-on to finish third. Tizzard’s multiple Grade 1 winner jumped enthusiastically throughout, and was sent to the front at the end of the back straight. Turning for home all looked well, and we waited for the favourite to turn the screw. However, Jonathan Moore had other ideas, as he sent Irish Cavalier in hot pursuit, drawing alongside Cue Card three fences from home.

As the favourite started to empty, another veteran threw down a late challenge, but 2014 winner Menorah was unable to reel-in Moore and his willing partner.

“That was my second ride in a Grade Two,” said the thrilled pilot. “It's one of those races you dream about winning and it's great to get it under my belt. Early on he was a bit gassy and we went a real strong gallop. My lad was a bit on his head but second time around he started winging fences down the back. I was confident then and I just wanted to stay on Cue Card's heels.”

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Rebecca Curtis had anticipated a strong performance, though the win came as a surprise. “I was hoping for a place,” said the Pembrokeshire handler. “There was the question of would he stay three miles? Jonathan rides like an old pro, he’s so cool.” When asked if a crack at the Hennessy Gold Cup was on the cards, she remained non-committal, saying: “We’ll enjoy today, get home and decide where to go next.”

Colin Tizzard was far from disappointed with his star chaser when saying: “He just got tired, that's all. I thought he was going to win, but he tired after the second-last. We took him for a racecourse gallop because if we hadn't, I didn't want to wish that I had done. He's only been beaten two lengths, so we'll go to Haydock (Betfair Chase) and see where we are at. I'd sooner he had won, but I'm delighted with him.”

The RSA winner Blaklion, ran well for a long way, and looked to hold every chance four from home. But he failed to live with the front three, and looked a little one-paced at a crucial point of the race. He stayed on for fourth, and looks like a horse that needs a stiffer stamina test. The Hennessy remains a possibility, and softer ground may help.

At Ascot Saphir Du Rheu performed solidly in defeat, and is another likely to be seen next at Newbury for another tilt at Hennessy Gold Cup. He was given a ‘caring’ ride by Nick Scholfield, being allowed to pop-away over his fences without being hurried or forced at any stage. It had the looks of a confidence building exercise, and he remains attractively handicapped.

From the foot of the weights, it was Gary Moore’s Antony that sprinted clear late-on, to win the Sodexo Gold Cup with plenty in hand. This was by far the six-year-old’s best performance, and he’s clearly progressing at a rate of knots. He’s not particularly big, but is an effortless jumper. Future targets are uncertain, but he looks capable of taking more valuable handicaps during the campaign.

At Carlisle yesterday we witnessed an exciting performance from Seeyouatmidnight in the intermediate chase. He jumped superbly on his way to victory over sole rival Bristol De Mai. A crack at the Betfair Chase is not out of the question, with trainer Sandy Thomson saying: “Before today, we were thinking about either the Rehearsal or the Hennessy, but that might be shelved now. It (the Betfair) might come a bit soon, but we will see. He takes a lot of work and is a hard horse to get fit, but he is the horse of a lifetime for us.”

The Betfair Chase takes place at Haydock on November 19, with the Hennessy Gold Cup held at Newbury a week later.

Paddy’s Day at Ayr

Ayr’s two-day Coral Scottish Grand National Meeting begins this afternoon, with the showpiece taking place on Saturday.

The race originally known as the ‘West of Scotland Grand National’, was first run at a course near Houston, Renfrewshire in 1858. In 1867 the race moved to Bogside Racecourse, near Irvine and became known as the Scottish National in 1880. Bogside closed in 1965, when the event was transferred to its current home at Ayr.

Several horses have won nationals at both Ayr and Aintree, but only one has completed the double in the same year, and that was of course the extraordinary Red Rum in 1974.

A week ago in testing ground at Aintree only two of the 16 that finished the Grand National carried more than 11 stone. The 2015 winner Many Clouds was one of those, and he trailed home last. The ground is currently described as soft at Ayr, and with showers forecast for today, chances are that the national on Saturday will prove something of a slog.

It’s rare that the Scottish National is run on anything other than decent ground, yet still only three of the last 15 winners have managed to haul more than 11 stone to victory. Godsmejudge in 2013 carried 11st 3 lbs to success, whilst back in 2004 the wonderful Grey Abbey managed to claim victory having lugged top weight of 11st 12lbs. Trends suggest that Saturday’s victor will carry less than 11 stone.

Age in these marathon events is always a factor. With 30 runners going to post on Saturday, a horse with plenty of chasing experience has a huge advantage. Godsmejudge and Beshabar were the notable exceptions to that rule in the last 10 renewals. Only one seven-year-old has took the race in the last dozen years, and that was the aforementioned trend basher Godsmejudge. The rest have been a pretty even spread of eight, nine, 10 and 11 year-olds.

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Vics Canvas ran an absolute cracker last week at Aintree, but generally the senior citizen should be avoided in such events. Only one horse over 11 has hit the target in this race since 1966, though a strong performance from the former Grand National winner Pineau De Re would come as no surprise.

As well as discounting those carrying plenty of weight, there’s also a case for focusing on those from the very bottom end of the starting list. In the last 10 renewals, only two have carried more than 10st 7lbs to victory, with seven of those carrying 10st 4lbs or less. Indeed, horses from outside the handicap have managed two wins in that time frame.

So having decided that we need a horse of between eight and 11 years of age, with plenty of chasing experience, carrying less than 11 stone, let’s take a closer look at this year’s contenders.

Gigginstown have dominated events in recent weeks, taking two nationals and the Gold Cup in a stunning spell of success. They have the favourite for tomorrow’s race in Measureofmydreams. Willie Mullins trains the eight-year-old, with Bryan Cooper taking the ride. He’s a classy sort, and proved he’ll handle the trip when taking third in Cheltenham’s National Hunt Chase. Native River was second that day, and franked the form at Aintree. The only negative, is that this fella has only had three outings over fences. It’s a hell of a task for one so inexperienced.

Cause Of Causes represents further powerful connections in JP McManus. Fresh from a romp at Cheltenham, when scooting clear to win the Kim Muir, he is also a former winner of the National Hunt Chase. Often held up in his races, he’s likely to be delivered late in the piece. It’s a tough ask with him having to lump top weight over the four-mile trip. As good as he clearly is, I find him hard to fancy for this.

Seeyouatmidnight would be a popular winner in the north. Sandy Thomson’s chaser will appreciate the easier ground conditions having struggled to land a blow in the RSA last time. He’s always looked a thorough stayer, though is yet to truly prove it over fences. He has to carry 11st 6lbs, and has limited experience as a chaser with just five outings to his name. He’s therefore a ‘no no’ on the trends front, and has to be struck off my list.

Royale Knight is a really interesting contender. He’s trained by the man behind Pineau De Re, Dr Richard Newland, and has plenty of experience over these marathon trips. He ran a respectable race in the 2015 Aintree national, when finishing sixth behind Many Clouds, having probably been outpaced on livelier ground that day. He’s a winner of the Borders National and twice a winner of the Durham National at Sedgefield. Those victories came on a more testing surface. He’s the right age, and sneaks in under the 11 stone barrier.

The same can be said of Emma Lavelle’s classy chaser Shotgun Paddy. The nine-year-old has dropped down the handicap in recent times, and ran poorly in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last time. However, he was carrying 11st 11lbs that day, and only has 10st 13lbs on his back tomorrow. It’ll be the first time he’s carried under 11 stone in his career, and though he’s an unpredictable sort, I’d give him a huge chance. He was third in this year’s Welsh National and then second in the Eider at Newcastle, showing that he retains plenty of form. I can hardly believe that he is currently a 25/1 shot.

From lower down the handicap, Mouse Morris will be hoping for an unprecedented treble, when he sends out his diminutive chaser Folsom Blue, in a bid to add the Scottish to his Irish and Aintree National successes. The horse is not without a chance, having run respectably in several staying events in Ireland. He has finished fourth and fifth in two Irish Nationals, and is likely to be in the hunt at the business end. At 25/1 he’s the right price for each-way punters, but I’m not sure he’s quite good enough to win the race.

Alvarado is another that missed the cut for the Aintree showpiece, and it would be nuts to discount this fella. The veteran is an out and out stayer and is likely to be doing his best work late on. Further rain would not aid his chances, as his better performances have come on a sounder surface.

Nigel Twiston-Davies sends Cogry north for the event, and should he get in at the bottom of the handicap he could prove another interesting contender. He ran well in last year’s race before coming down late on. He clearly appreciates a trip having finished third in the Midlands National last month. He’s still only seven, though has 10 chase outings to his name. He’s another each-way player.

As always, finding the winner of such a race is a tall order. I’m taking two against the field, with Royale Knight and Shotgun Paddy my each-way tips. The latter is undoubtedly my main fancy.

Great Scot – Russell Double Delight

A double at Musselburgh yesterday will have come as a great relief for leading Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell.

The victories brought a lean spell to an end, though it’s wrong to say the yard was out of form. Just one winner from the last 26 runners before yesterday sounds a little depressing, but the Perth and Kinross outfit had a frustrating four second place finishes at Kelso just a week ago. The team also showed their well-being with big runs from Reaping The Reward at Sandown and Mumgos Debut at Ayr, both on Saturday.

The former, ridden by man of the moment Richard Johnson, had run an absolute cracker in the Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final, cruising into contention as if certain to win, before fading to third late on. Mumgos looked a winner at Ayr as he approached the last fence, but pitched on landing and could not recover.

Simarthur was one of yesterday’s winners. A half-brother to Cheltenham Festival winner Simonsig, it’s fair to say that he’s not quite as talented as his sibling. However, after several poor performances over fences, he clearly enjoyed this outing over hurdles on a sounder surface with the visor back in place. He ran out a wide margin winner at fancy odds, and on his day, when in the mood, is certainly capable of further success especially with ground to suit.

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Sammy B won the concluding bumper. Described by Russell on her website as a ‘late maturing type who is gradually getting stronger,’ the six-year-old romped home and looks a fair talent. A little green on the run in, it certainly didn’t prevent him from scorching clear.

The lone success last week came at Haydock when Throthethatch took a novices’ limited handicap chase. He looked outpaced turning for home but stayed on strongly to make it three from four over fences, and looks especially useful when encountering testing conditions. He’s by Beneficial out of a Saddlers’ Hall mare, and although a little keen at times should still improve from a step up in trip.

Stable star Lie Forrit finished back in seventh in the veterans chase at Sandown. Now a senior citizen at 12, the run was an improvement on his seasonal debut. He had a terrific 2014/15 campaign, winning three of his five chase outings including the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock. The mounting miles on the clock and inevitable hike in the handicap will make things particularly tricky this winter, though a return to Haydock, a track he clearly enjoys, may give the opportunity of one last hurrah.

Much was made of the recent Cheltenham success for Sandy Thomson with Seeyouatmidnight. The northern trainers have had a lean time of it lately in comparison to the powerhouses of the South and Ireland. Clearly having winners at the spring festivals isn’t everything, but it is a pointer to the north/south divide as regard quality of racehorses. Last March at Cheltenham the north drew a blank, whilst a year earlier Tim Easterby‘s Hawk High was the lone success.

A decline in fortunes for the likes of Donald McCain and Nicky Richards, coupled with an influx of impressive young trainers in the south, such as Harry Fry and Dan Skelton, is certainly a worrying trend for Jump racing in the north. My article yesterday on Newcastle businessman Graham Wylie and his horses based in Ireland is an example of owners searching for success away from their roots.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops over the coming seasons. Clearly it’s a complex matter, but McCain had a spell when he was competing successfully at the highest level and there’s no reason why, with investment from suitably wealthy connections that the north cannot hit back. Many would argue that we need fewer millionaires in the sport and that yards geared to supporting ownership for the masses rather than the elite is far more favourable.

For Lucinda Russell with almost 80 horses in training and fast approaching £300,000 in prize money, another successful winter looks assured. As Perth and Kinross takes a battering from the elements, Scotland’s leading National Hunt trainer marches on regardless.

Stable Stars Shine for Thomson and Walford

Sandy Thomson and Robert Walford travelled from opposite ends of the UK in hope of a bright start to the New Year.

Their destination was the home of jump racing, and both arrived dreaming of exciting times ahead with their stable stars. Thomson’s Seeyouatmidnight has always looked a horse with a huge future. By Midnight Legend, it comes as no surprise that he performs at his best in testing conditions.

Though the Dipper Novices’ Chase is run over a trip plenty short enough at 2m 5f, the heavy ground looked certain to play to the eight-year-olds strengths. And so it proved as he led from pillar to post, seeing off the persistent threat of Blaklion to win by more than three lengths, with a yawning 20 lengths back to third.

He looks sure to return to Cheltenham in March and probably contest the RSA Chase for which he is now widely available at 14/1. He’d proved to be a talented staying hurdler when running well for a long way in last year’s World Hurdle on unsuitably lively ground. However, he always had the physical attributes to jump a fence.

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Though Thomson appeared non-committal as regards targets, jockey Brian Hughes clearly sees the horse as a stayer, when after the win he said: “He loves that ground. It's a bold shout by Sandy coming here. Three miles is what he wants so dropping back by half a mile was a risk. He's a fair horse and he did it the hard way. He picked up coming to the second last and then got a bit lonely in front. I'd say good, good to soft ground would be fine for him but three miles is what he wants.”

He looks a player in the RSA, though a wet start to March would surely enhance his chances. Thomson spoke of his dreams remaining intact, and the same can be said for Robert Walford who has always thought plenty of his French import Camping Ground.

His victory in the Relkeel Hurdle came as a surprise to many, though it shouldn’t have. Weighted favourably, on ground he looked sure to appreciate, and a trip that looked ideal, the stars truly aligned as he shone brightly on Cheltenham’s hallowed turf. That’s not to say that he isn’t capable of going on from here, but I have a feeling that he’ll never again have so many vital factors in his favour.

His impressive win was aided by the lamentable performance of many in opposition. Top Notch underperformed and was possibly a non-stayer; Cole Harden is a different horse on better ground; Bobs Worth is a long way past his best, and Whisper is a shadow of his former self. It was left to the fast improving Lil Rockerfeller to chase home the winner, though his jockey Trevor Whelan would have needed binoculars to spot the rampaging French gelding as he scooted up the hill and far away.

“He's a special horse, he's fast and stays,” said Walford after the win. “We've always thought he was really good. He was fourth in the Imperial Cup off top weight, and last time out (unseated in Peterborough Chase) was a bit of a blip. There's the Cleeve Hurdle at the end of the month then the World Hurdle. We consider him a chaser but we'll stick to hurdles this season.”

He clearly is a talented horse, and has to be considered as a realistic contender for the Festival in March. However, he’s likely to encounter better ground and has to travel an extra half mile. The Relkeel is a pretty poor pointer to the main event in March, with only More Of That following up in recent times.

We’ll be all the wiser after the Cleeve Hurdle, and I’d be happy to hang on until then before believing he has what it takes to get the better of Thistlecrack.

Nevertheless, for Robert Walford and Sandy Thomson, New Year’s Day delivered the hope of glorious days to come, and just maybe a famous victory at Jump racing’s premier festival.