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Stat of the Day, 5th December 2018

Tuesday's Pick was...

12.50 Lingfield : Wotadoll @ 3/1 BOG WON at 4/1 (In touch, headway over 1f out, ran on to lead closing stages, ridden out to win by half a length)

Wednesday's pick runs in the...

1.45 Ludlow :

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?

Sumkindofking @ 11/4 BOG  

...in an 8-runner, Class 3, Handicap Chase  for 4yo+ over 3m2f on Good To Soft worth £12086 to the winner...

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding made the switch to the bigger obstacles 7 months ago and has made the frame in 6 of 7 efforts so far, winning twice. His best performance was arguably at Wincanton last time out when a runner-up by just 2.5 lengths in a Listed race. There was no disgrace in the defeat 25 days ago, as he went down to a Paul Nicholls-trained favourite (we know how well they do!) with previous winning form at Gr2 and he was 11 lengths clear of the third placed horse.

Stat-wise, I'll be keeping it relatively simple today, focusing on trainer Tom George, whose runners are 4 from 19 (21.05% SR) over the last fortnight, but more pertinently are 16 from 40 (40% SR) for 26.88pts (+67.2% ROI) in chases here at Ludlow when sent off at 5/1 or shorter since the start of 2013 and these include of relevance today...

  • males @ 16/39 (41%) for 27.88pts (+71.5%)
  • in hcps : 15/38 (39.5%) for 26.75pts (+70.4%)
  • within 2 months of last run : 12/33 (36.4%) for 18.82pts (+57%)
  • November to April = 15/32 (46.9%) for 32.99pts (+103.1%)
  • at Class 3 : 13/31 (41.9%) for 27.51pts (+88.7%)
  • and 5-7 yr olds are 12/25 (48%) for 25.58pts (+102.3%)

And a composite from the above?

In Class 3 handicaps during December to April, 5-7 yr old males rested for less than 7 weeks are 8 from 12 (66.6% SR) for 25.17pts (+209.7% ROI)...

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Sumkindofking @ 11/4 BOG, as offered by Betfair & Paddy Power at 6.00pm on Tuesday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 1.45 Ludlow

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!

To Chase or not to Chase? That is the question.

The dust continues to settle on the latest Cheltenham Festival. For today’s piece I thought I’d look at the novice hurdlers that impressed during the week and attempt to second-guess future targets.

I covered a little of this in yesterday’s review of the meeting, but I wanted to expand on a few points.

Trainers and owners will have plenty of tough decisions to make and many will get it wrong. Yorkhill appeared the type that would flourish over fences. Indeed, just a year ago he landed a JLT Chase at the Festival. Yet his subsequent demise is undoubtedly down to his loathing of the larger obstacles, with the result that the great Willie Mullins has been left clueless as to what to do with him.

Much the same can be said of Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar, a horse touted as a future Gold Cup contender. As a novice hurdler he landed a Grade One at Aintree last April, but the switch this winter to fences has proved difficult. He’s looked awkward at his obstacles and at one point his trainer took the decision to send him back over hurdles. That move backfired with the horse pulling up in the Cleeve Hurdle. He was given a wind-op before returning to fences at the Festival, but again disappointed when trailing home fifth in the JLT. His trainer will now be scratching his head as to the direction to take.

Both horses were top class and their faltering careers are testament to the importance of that decision-making process. Are they bred for chasing? Do they possess the desired size and scope for the task? Having been schooled, do they look a natural fit? Such questions will be asked and of course a leap of faith is often required.

The Supreme Novices’ runner-up, Kalashnikov, looks the perfect type to make the grade over fences. He’s a sizeable unit with plenty of scope and makes the right sort of shape over his hurdles. He’s out of an Old Vic mare and I’d be surprised if he didn’t make a talented chaser, though I fancy he’ll need to go up in trip to make an impact.

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Summerville Boy lacks both size and scope and though some horses jump a fence better than a hurdle, I’d be surprised if this fella becomes a natural over the larger obstacles. We may well see him spend another season over hurdles, though I fancy he’ll need to go up in trip if he’s to progress. He’s out of a Carroll House mare (a source off mud-lovers) though his apparent liking for testing ground may be more a result of his lack of gears. I can’t see him living with the best two-milers and if he does remain a hurdler he may well end the next campaign at three rather than two miles.

Mengli Khan is a big beefy sort and particularly tall. Though don’t be fooled by his size. Gigginstown love their chasers, but I’m convinced that this fella will make a top-class two-mile hurdler. He travelled better than any in the Supreme, despite the testing ground. Highly rated on the flat, there’s plenty more to come from this youngster. He’s 33/1 for next season’s Champion Hurdle and I’d much rather take that than the 20/1 available on Summerville Boy.

Henry De Bromhead has a habit of uncovering two-mile chasers and in Paloma Blue he may have another. By Stowaway out of a Supreme Leader mare, the pedigree suggests he’ll stay further, but he is a keen going type. He certainly has the size and scope for fences and is under the same ownership as Ordinary World, himself placed in an Arkle Chase.

Samcro has undoubtedly become the season’s star novice and was hugely impressive in winning the Ballymore. He’d previously hammered Paloma Blue at Leopardstown, suggesting he’d have won the Supreme had connections fancied the shorter option. He’s athletic rather than large and scopey, though connections have said all along that he’s a staying chaser in the making. He’d probably go close in a Champion Hurdle and the same could be said of the Arkle, the JLT and the RSA. The likelihood is that connections will not ‘waste time’ in staying over hurdles and will instead target the Arkle Chase. That could change depending on decisions over Mengli Khan. Samcro looks more adaptable and is without doubt the more talented.

Black Op got closest in the Ballymore and looks sure to go chasing next term. He’s similar in stature to Kalashnikov and should prove an ideal sort for the larger obstacles. He certainly jumped his hurdles like a chaser and looks a JLT or RSA contender in the making.

Next Destination flew late-on in the Ballymore and looks sure to become a decent staying chaser. He’s out of a Flemensfirth mare and though by no means huge, he attacked his hurdles like a chaser. I’m also a fan of another Mullins youngster, Duc Des Genievres. Just a five-year-old, this son of Buck’s Boum (sire of Al Boum Photo) has plenty of scope for a fence and should strip stronger with another summer on his back. I’m uncertain as to how far he’ll stay, though the JLT and RSA seem the most likely options.

The Albert Bartlett is usually a breeding ground for decent staying chasers and in Santini we look to have a potentially high-class one. Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old is a gorgeous looking son of Milan, out of a Sleeping Car mare. He’s only run three times under rules and looks sure to progress when sent chasing. I’m far from certain that he’ll make an out-and-out stayer and am more inclined to think that his optimum may rest at around two-and-a-half miles. He looks a classy sort.

Kilbricken Storm landed the Albert Bartlett and looks a four-mile chaser in the making. It was noticeable that he leapt the last with feet to spare whilst others battled wearily through the Cheltenham mud. He’s not huge, but looks big enough to make his mark.

Henderson’s OK Corral has proved difficult to keep right and that may have a bearing on the decision-making process. He’s a lovely big horse and his pedigree suggests that fences will prove ideal. Out of a Flemensfirth mare, this was only the fourth run over hurdles for the eight-year-old. He’s clearly talented and if kept right should make a lovely chaser.

I’ll also be interested to see if Topofthegame and William Henry are sent over fences. Second and fourth in the Coral Cup, the former is a huge son of Flemensfirth, whilst the latter is a more athletic type by Kings Theatre out of a Bob Back mare. Topofthegame has continued to improve throughout the season, seemingly strengthening as he’s filled that huge frame. Paul Nicholls will be hoping he can take high order.

There’s plenty of decisions to be made by excited connections over the coming months. Many will take the right course and go on to bigger and better things. For some the inevitable disappointment of huge potential sadly never fulfilled.

Welsh National looks a Sweet Little Mysteree

First run at Chepstow in 1949, the Welsh National is this weekend’s feature event.

Rain caused the cancellation at Christmas, and though the ground remains heavy, the re-arranged fixture looks sure to go ahead. The marathon contest is run at a little over three and-a-half miles, and is certain to prove a gruelling test for a competitive field of 20 runners.

Vicente tops the weights and heads here after a pleasing return at Cheltenham in November, when a close second to Perfect Candidate off a mark of 150. He won the Scottish National on very different ground in April, and is now 5lb higher in the handicap. It usually takes a serious Gold Cup contender to challenge here off such a lofty weight. Native River managed it last year, and back in 2011 Synchronised carted 11-6 to victory. Vicente is good, but not quite in that league. He could run a huge race, but he’s up against it.

The same can be said of Rock The Kasbah and Beware The Bear, who are next in the weights. The former appears a doubt, with Philip Hobbs likely to decide this morning. The trainer is clearly concerned that the ground will be too testing. It’s a shame, as the horse clearly loves the track. But I’m inclined to agree with Hobbs on this one.

Beware The Bear won the Rehearsal Chase last month, though I’m not sure how. Seemingly beaten turning for home, he battled on bravely, and as the leaders faltered, picked up the pieces to lead after the last. A 4lb penalty isn’t severe, but he’s no Gold Cup winner and I can’t have him as the winner of this.

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Chase The Spud will love the ground, and returned to action in style when winning at Haydock. He’s a relentless stayer and looks to be improving despite now being a 10-year-old. Nevertheless, he’s gone up plenty for his win in the Midlands National and that Haydock success. I’m not sure he has the class to cope with such a hike in the handicap.

Along with the top-weight, Paul Nicholls has Silsol entered. The nine-year-old rarely jumps a fence, but has performed to a high standard in staying hurdles. He beat Native River in last year’s West Yorkshire at Wetherby, but was somewhat below-par on his return from a year off when down the field in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Haydock. The ground shouldn’t prove an issue, and his chase mark is some 10lbs lower than that over hurdles. Bryony Frost takes a handy 5lb off his back, and if she can get him jumping he could run a huge race. He has a touch of class.

Though seven and eight-year-olds have dominated in recent times, Mountainous was successful at 11 in the 2015 renewal (ran in early 2016). That gives hope to those fancying Houblon Des Obeaux, who came third in this last year. He could head to Sandown, but should he take his chance at Chepstow, he’ll be a full 10lb better off this time around. He’s another with that touch of class, and I fancy he’ll run well.

Wild West Wind lacks experience, though surprisingly, that rarely holds them back in this marathon handicap. The Tom George-trained nine-year-old took the trial in early December, and has been raised 4lb for that effort. I felt his jumping was a little ‘safe’ on that occasion, and this race is a much tougher task. He defeated 12-year-old Alfie Spinner (now 13) by a couple of lengths, but probably needs to improve a fair bit to land a blow here. I’m not convinced he’s good enough.

One equine pensioner that could again go well is the Irish raider Raz De Maree. Runner-up to Native River in last year’s race, he’s on a similar mark, and has the talented James Bowen in the saddle. The 5lb claim is a great help, and this young jock is one of the best. He could well run into a place.

Vintage Clouds is an interesting contender and has the right kind of profile. The eight-year-old is bred to operate in testing ground, and ran well last time behind Clan Des Obeaux. He needs to prove that these marathon trips truly suit, but I fancy he will. His best form has come on flatter tracks, and that’s a slight concern. Nevertheless, I fancy he’ll run well.

Mysteree certainly has proved his liking for a gruelling test of stamina, and he looks ideally handicapped to go close here. He’s not had a prep-run, and that has proved a negative in this race over the years. However, he goes well fresh, having won his last three seasonal renewals. He won the Eider Chase last year, and came close to landing the Midlands National. The ground is ideal, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in the first three.

Michael Scudamore took the 2012 renewal thanks to Monbeg Dude, and I fancy his sweet little Mysteree will do the business on Saturday. It’s going to be a slog, and he’s a slogger. I’ll also be placing a few quid on Houblon Des Obeaux, in the hope that he retains enough ability to make the most of his generous looking handicap mark. If Houblon heads to Sandown, I’ll splash the each-way cash on Silsol.

Best of luck to those having a punt.

Stat of the Day, 5th December 2017

Monday's Result :

1.40 Plumpton : Jester Jet @ 3/1 BOG WON at 11/2 Tracked leaders, smooth headway to lead before 2 out, clear between last 2, kept on well, comfortably by 3.75 lengths.

Next up is Tuesday's...

12.50 Southwell :

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?

Get Rhythm @ 3/1 BOG

A Class 3, 4yo+ Novices Limited Handicap Chase over 1m 7.5f on Good ground worth £10,635 to the winner...

...featuring a 7 yr old gelding who has finished 2112 in his last four starts, culminating in an excusable defeat three weeks ago. I say excusable because, it was his chasing debut, the ground was unsuitably soft for him and he probably needed the run after almost 21 weeks off the track.

All that considered, a 2 length defeat over 2 miles when only headed in the final half furlong wasn't a bad effort, but he looks better suited today as he should come on for having had a run, he should benefit from the experience of tackling the bigger obstacles, we've got good ground today and he drops back half a furlong.

He 's trained by Tom George who has a 20% strike rate over the last fortnight (5/25) with 3 of his last 8 chasers winning, so the yard seems in good health and over the last six years here at Southwell, his string are 25/81 (30.9% SR) for 33.3pts (+41.1% ROI), including of relevance today...

  • at odds of 12/1 and shorter : 25/71 (35.2%) for 43.3pts (+61%)
  • males are 19/64 (29.7%) for 26.7pts (+41.7%)
  • from September to March : 20/55 (36.4%) for 44.2pts (+80.4%)
  • on debut today or finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th LTO : 16/39 (41%) for 51.5pts (+132.1%)
  • over 1m7.5f/2m : 13/39 (33.3%) for 22.4pts (+57.5%)
  • 21-60 days since horse's last run : 12/37 (32.4%) for 15.4pts (+41.5%)
  • ridden by Adrian Heskin : 6/17 (35.3%) for 5.6pts (+33%)
  • 7 yr olds are 3/12 (25%) for 7.1pts (+59.2%)
  • and LTO runners-up are 5/10 (50%) for 15.61pts (+156.1%)

As I alluded above, Adrian Heskin takes the ride today and he has become Tom's go-to jockey of late and overall together they are 68/331 (20.5% SR) for 76.6pts (+23.1% ROI) with Class 3/4 handicap chases providing 27 winners from 103 (26.2% SR) for 32.1pts profit at an ROI of 31.1%.

...pointing towards... a 1pt win bet on Get Rhythm @ 3/1 BOG which was widely available at 5.45pm on Monday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 12.50 Southwell

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 Worlds End to be Haydock Hero

The Betfair Chase commands top-billing at Haydock on Saturday, with Cue Card attempting to win the prestigious event for the fourth time.

Bristol De Mai looks set to be sent off favourite following his success in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. With ground and track ideal, he certainly looks a major player. Outlander travels over the Irish Sea, and though erratic, is a class act on his day. Good enough to win the Lexus last Christmas, he bounced back to form last time with victory in the JNwine.com Champion Chase. And Tea For Two can’t be dismissed based on his Betway Bowl success at Aintree. He also ran a cracker in last year’s King George and should strip much fitter following his slightly disappointing performance in last month’s Old Roan.

With so few entered and none at a price worth an each-way punt, I’ve decided to look elsewhere for the Friday Preview. For what it’s worth, I’m keeping faith with Cue Card. Despite his age I think he’ll prove too good.
I’ve decided to have a crack at Haydock’s Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, formerly the Fixed Brush, despite it appearing to be the most open renewals in living memory.

First run in 2005, the roll of honour is a pretty tasty one for a handicap. Halcon Genelardais won in 2006 and a month later romped to victory in the Welsh National. Diamond Harry was an immense talent, and he landed the prize in 2009. A year later he was a thrilling winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup, with the mighty Denman back in third. David Pipe has won the race with a trio of French-bred five-year-olds. The best of these was Dynaste, who went on to become a high-class staying chaser. He came close to landing a Betfair Chase and the King George, whilst in 2014 he was successful in the Ryanair chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

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Pipe has a similar type in tomorrow’s renewal, with Champers On Ice returning to hurdles after a disappointing term over fences. By French stallion Robin Des Champs, the seven-year-old never took to the larger obstacles, but on his last outing over hurdles was a terrific third in the Albert Bartlett of 2016 behind Unowhatimeanharry. He’s on an attractive handicap mark and is sure to be primed for a strong performance. He does lack gears, though testing conditions should make that less of a factor.

The Worlds End is favourite for the race following an impressive season as a novice. The six-year-old came down at the second-last when mounting a huge challenge in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in March. He made amends at Aintree when taking the Grade One Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. His pedigree suggests he’ll handle conditions, as does his exaggerated knee action. Horses trained by Tom George tend to thrive in testing ground. He was an impressive winner on his only previous visit to Haydock when giving weight and a thrashing to Dan Skelton’s No Hassle Hoff.

The Harry Fry-trained Minella Awards is next best in the betting. The six-year-old ended the last campaign with victory at the Punchestown Festival, battling bravely to defeat No Comment. He’s a big chasing type and a thorough stayer. By Oscar out of a Presenting mare, he appeared to be suited by the better ground in Ireland and that may be a slight concern.

Nick Williams has won two of the last eight and has a fancied contender in the French-bred Le Rocher. A classy juvenile, he lost a season through injury and arguably hasn’t quite progressed as hoped. Nevertheless, he loves testing ground and if coping with this step-up in trip could prove a huge player. He’s by Saint De Saints and ought to thrive at the distance. He’s won five of his 11 starts over hurdles and should be fighting fit after a pipe-opener in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October.

Sam Spinner was ahead of him that day, and the Jedd O’Keeffe-trained five-year-old has plenty of scope for further improvement. Yet to be out of the first two in seven starts under rules, he’s another that needs to cope with this extended trip, though he certainly wasn’t stopping last time. Up 3lbs for the Chepstow run, he looks well treated and must to have a great chance if lasting home.

Gayebury has bits of form that would certainly give him a chance in this. He’ll appreciate both trip and conditions, though was somewhat disappointing on his reappearance when tailed off in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby. Evan Williams has put a 5lb claimer onboard which offsets a handicap mark which looks slightly high. Of those at a decent price, he has a chance.

Three Musketeers is an intriguing contender. Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old looked a future star a couple of years back, but when sent over fences his form proved patchy. He showed hints of an improvement at Aintree last time, and an interesting handicap mark, coupled with testing conditions could see him surprising a few.

This is a race that rarely produces a shock winner, and though predictable I’ll be siding with The Worlds End. He has course form and looked to be one of the leading novice hurdlers last term. I’ll also have a few quid on Dan Skelton’s Three Musketeers. I’m hoping that soft ground, a generous handicap mark and Bridget Andrews taking a further 3lbs off his back will all play a part in a much-improved display.

Best of luck to those having a punt.

Nicholls has the right Mix for Wincanton showpiece

The Flat season concludes at Doncaster on Saturday, but with the Jumps now in full swing, I’ll be focusing on the Badger Ales Trophy which takes place at Wincanton.

First run in 1962 at a trip of 2m5f, the race was extended to 3m1f in 1990 and achieved Listed status in 2003. The right-handed galloping track with hefty fences proves a thorough test for a chaser. Though not as ‘trappy’ as Kempton, they do nevertheless tend to go at a fair old clip.

Paul Nicholls trains at Ditcheat, just a short distance from the racecourse, and it’s no surprise that the ex-champion trainer enjoys plenty of success at the track. His record in the Badger Ales is mightily impressive. He’s been responsible for seven of the last 20 winners, achieving a stunning strike-rate of 35%. He looked likely to land last year’s renewal, when Southfield Theatre came down at the last.

The same horse is back for another try, and is among a trio of entries for the master of Ditcheat. All three have posted victories at the track and are well fancied to go close on Saturday.

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Southfield Theatre runs off a 3lb higher mark than 12 months ago. He’s clearly not the easiest to keep right, having only had two outings last winter. He’s gone well fresh in the past, winning his seasonal debut in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Though a nine-year-old, he’s got relatively few miles on the clock, and his age group have a strong record in the race. Carrying big weights has not proved an issue in this over the years, and if Nicholls has him right, he ought to run well.

Mr Mix has far less experience, though did win a handicap at the track last time. He’s up 5lbs for that success, though the six-year-old should have plenty of improvement in him. He has a fair strike-rate with four wins from 13 starts under rules. Two horses aged six have won this in the last 10 years.

Present Man is the other Nicholls contender, and was last seen winning over hurdles at Kempton. That should have put him just right for this, and he’s currently the race favourite. He’s won four of his nine chase starts, though I’m far from convinced he’s good enough to win here. I’m also doubtful as to whether the trip will suit. His best performances have come at 2m5f, and this may stretch him.

One that I do like is the Tom George-trained Double Shuffle. His handicap mark is plenty high enough, but he seems to enjoy going right-handed, and ran a race full of promise last time over an inadequate trip. Arguably his best two runs have come at Kempton over three-miles, and he gave weight and a thumping to Go Conquer last December (that form given a boost last week at Ascot). I fancy he’ll go close.

Colin Tizzard looks sure to fire plenty darts at the target. Theatre Guide, Tempestatefloresco and Bally Longford look likely contenders. The latter is the one I fancy to go well. Owned by Ann and Alan Potts, he had just the three runs for his new trainer last winter due to a stress fracture. Now back to full health and thoroughly used to his new surroundings, he could take a marked step forward this term. His seasonal debut was certainly promising, when fourth behind Mr Mix at Wincanton. He should improve plenty for that, and is 5lbs better off at the weights. He could go close.

Neil Mulholland is another with plenty of potential runners. Pilgrims Bay is best going right-handed, and beat Double Shuffle at Kempton in February. He’s worse off at the weights, though the seven-year-old may well have further improvement to come. He does very little when hitting the front, and as such, may still be ahead of the handicapper.

Mulholland also saddles The Young Master. Talented, though out of sorts last year, he’s still only eight, despite appearing to have been around forever. His handicap has dropped from a high of 150 to a rather attractive mark. He’s another that likes going right-handed and is capable of running a huge race.

This looks an intriguing renewal, and a case can be made for many. As long as the rain stays away, I can see Double Shuffle going very close. I’ll certainly be on his side. I also like Mr Mix, though his lack of experience is a slight concern. Nevertheless, I think there’s plenty more to come from this young chaser, and will be throwing a few quid his way.

Best of luck to all those having a punt. It looks a tricky one.

Stat of the Day, 15th December 2016

Wednesday's Result :

1.30 Newbury : Beware The Bear @ 3/1 BOG WON at 5/2 Chased leaders, went 2nd 4 out, clear last, idled run-in, always doing enough and more comfortable than 1 length would suggest..

Thursday's pick goes in the...

1.00 Exeter...

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?

Rocklander @ 9/2 BOG

Why?

This 7 yr old gelding comes here on a hat-trick after winning at Chepstow (good) on his handicap debut and follwing up with a win LTO on good to soft ground ground like today, over at Leicester 18 days ago.

This takes him to 2 from 2 in handicaps, both under today's jockey AP Heskin, who is now 20/88 (22.7% SR) for 77.6pts (+88.2% ROI) on Tom George's horses this year (and overall!).

The string is in good nick generally to be fair and the yard seems to do particularly well at the shorter NH trips, with 106 winners from 590 runners (18% SR) for 209.1pts (+35.4% ROI) profit at trips shorter than 2m4f since the start of 2012, and of those 590...

  • males are 96/498 (19.3%) for 203pts (+40.8%)
  • 5 to 8 yr olds are 93/447 (20.8%) for 272.4pts (+60.9%)
  • those who last ran 11-20 days ago are 22/88 (25%) for 63.96pts (+72.7%)
  • those ridden by AP Heskin are 11/44 (also 25%) for 68.5pts (+155.6%)
  • and here at Exeter : 7/26 (26.9%) for 29.9pts (+115%)

AND from all that...Males aged 5 to 8 yrs old are 84/363 (23.1% SR) for 261.9pts at an ROI of 72.1%, of which...

  • 11-20 dslr = 17/48 (35.4%) for 75.7pts (+157.7%)
  • AP Heskin = 10/30 (33.3%) for 18.6pts (+62%)
  • Exeter = 5/15 (33.3%) for 29pts (+193.5%)

...hence...a 1pt win bet on Rocklander at 9/2 BOG with either BetVictor or Ladbrokes who jointly led the way at 5.20pm on Wednesday with plenty of more than acceptable 4/1 available elsewhere. To see your preferred bookies' odds, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 1.00 Exeter

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

Mullins and Moore in Tingle Creek Tussle

Douvan stays at home after all, with Mullins opting to send Un De Sceaux over for the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

“It was an easy enough decision to make,” said the Closutton supremo. “It was probably Un De Sceaux all the time as he’s used to travelling to France and the UK, while Douvan is only a novice going into Grade 1 company against horses who are well used to running in Grade 1s.”

While his Arkle winner heads to Cork on Sunday, Mullins will be hoping that the ground at Sandown is not too lively for Un De Sceaux, who is undoubtedly at his best with plenty of juice underfoot. His best performance of last winter came at Ascot, when easily accounting for Sire De Grugy in the Clarence House Chase. He led from the drop of the flag on that occasion, stretching away from the chasing pack to win by five lengths.

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He came off second best to Sprinter Sacre in the spring on quicker ground, though was still very much ‘best of the rest’ behind the now retired champion.

Gary Moore fires two arrows at the target, and has last year’s Tingle Creek winner, Sire De Grugy, seemingly firing on all cylinders. He ran a cracker at Ascot last time, though his victory off top-weight came in a handicap against rather modest opposition. He was certainly impressive, but winning yet another Grade 1 will be much tougher. He does take to Sandown particularly well, having won four chases from five at the track. He’d be making it a record equalling three wins in the prestigious event, though only Moscow Flyer has managed to win the race as a 10-year-old.

Moore also unleashes the six-year-old Ar Mad. He too has a love of the track, having romped to victory in his two previous visits. He looked a potentially top-class novice chaser last winter, before injury curtailed his season. His demolition of Bristol De Mai at this corresponding fixture was quite sensational. If returning in that kind of form, he could take some catching. He and Un De Sceaux rattling along at the front could be a sight to behold. It will be interesting to see if he can draw an error or two from the Mullins contender.

Tom George is also double-handed, with God’s Own probably his best chance of success. He already has a trio of Grade 1 victories to his name, with two of those coming at Punchestown. Right-handed track on decent ground is ideal for the eight-year-old, though Un De Sceaux has had the better of their encounters thus far. He appears to have plenty in his favour, but I fancy he’ll find one or two with a little more zip.

George captured the Haldon Gold Cup with Sir Valentino in November, but this is undoubtedly a different proposition for the seven-year-old. He’s an improving sort that should not be discounted out of hand, and will come here match-fit, whilst some may need the run. No horse has won the Haldon and followed up here since Flagship Uberalles in 1999.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a fabulous record in the race, but a Vibrato Valtat victory would be a huge shock. The horse is simply not good enough in this company, and has now become very difficult to place. He was tried at 2m5f in the Stella Artois at Ascot last time, but failed to land a blow. He’d need plenty of these to have an off day, to have any chance.

The markets have it about right, as they often do in the Tingle Creek. Favourites have a strong record, and the Champion Chase is regularly a pointer to this. Un De Sceaux looks the likely winner, with the youngster Ar Mad the main danger. Moore’s six-year-old has been off since February, and that tips the balance towards the favourite. Chances are that they will go head to head from the off, inevitable placing emphasis on the pairs jumping. It’s sure to be a thrilling spectacle.

Punters On – But is Douvan in

Will he, won’t he, appeared to be the topic of conversation yesterday, as the inclusion of Douvan in Saturday’s Tingle Creek remained uncertain.

Priced up at 5s earlier in the week by some bookies, prior to a stampede and subsequent shortening to 4/7, Mullins’ outstanding young chaser can now be backed at 6/4 in places.

His regular pilot, Ruby Walsh, had little sympathy for the betting industry when saying in his Paddy Power blog: “Willie Mullins will make a decision on Douvan running in the Tingle Creek Chase at declaration time, but pricing him up at 4/1 or 5/1 was crazy. He’s the odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase, is unbeaten since he joined us in Closutton, and we've never made any secret of how highly we rate him. And the reigning champ Sprinter Sacre was retired a few weeks ago.”

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Walsh went on: “Gary Moore's Ar Mad put in a hell of a performance here last year, but hasn't run since February after getting injured, while his stable-mate Sire De Grugy is rising 11 in a month's time. Most of the others are also more exposed. If the bookmakers decided for some reason to price Douvan like he wasn't going to run, that's their problem, not ours. I expect him to run a big race if he takes part, but I also expect Un De Sceaux to do the same if he runs. Don't forget Willie entered both at the initial entry stage and hadn't said anything to contradict that before the bookies' alarm bells started ringing yesterday.”

There’ll be a huge sigh of relief from numerous bookies, should Douvan be pulled, though not from the public, who would love to see the Arkle winner scooting around Sandown. A clash with Moore’s exciting front runner Ar Mad is a mouth-watering prospect. Last year’s impressive Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase winner was two from two at the track, and appeared a better horse going right-handed, before being struck down by injury.

Moore reports him to be ‘as ready as I can get him at home’, adding: “He's a busy horse, so you would think he would get fitter quicker than some of the others.” The Sussex trainer also has last year’s winner Sire De Grugy, primed for another crack on the track he loves. He’ll be looking to win the Tingle Creek for a record equalling third time, and has four wins from his five outings over fences at the Esher racecourse.

Tom George may also be double-handed, with God’s Own and Sir Valentino set to take their chance. The former needs better ground and a right-handed track to be at his best, though his jumping will need to stand up to the Tingle Creek test. The race can quickly get away from you at Sandown, if a round is not error free.

Sir Valentino won the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last time, beating Garde La Victoire in a titanic struggle. Though Tom George’s yard remain in outstanding form, it’ll be some training achievement to make this fella competitive in this Grade 1. He was slick at Exeter last time, and goes well on a sounder surface, but is sure to be taken out of his comfort zone at this elite level.

With the declarations for the race confirmed today, we’ll find out just how select the field is, and hopefully the Sandown crowd can look forward to a real treat, in seeing the outstanding talent Douvan, a horse described by Ruby Walsh as having ‘unbelievable natural ability’.

Stat of the Day, 21st November 2016

Saturday's Result :

2.35 Lingfield : Swiss Cross @ 3/1 BOG WON at 9/4 (Held up, headway entering final furlong, quickened to lead inside final furlong, ran on for a comfortable win by 2.25 lengths)

Monday's pick goes in the...

2.50 Ludlow :

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.

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Who?

Noche de Reyes @ 2/1 BOG

Why?

A little shorter than I'd normally go for, but there's very little of interest to me in the usual 11/4 to 5/1 range that I try to play in.

This 7 yr old gelding comes here off the back of a decent runner-up finish in a Listed event at Ascot 23 days ago, when only beaten by Quite By Chance who ran well again at the weekend off a mark of 143. Our bouy now drops down to Class 3 handicap company off 129 and he's 3/12 at this level with all three wins coming from six efforts here at Ludlow, all over the 2m trip where his form reads 12P112.

Those three wins have contributed to his trainer Tom George having 18 winners from 70 (25.7% SR) for profits of 29.5pts (+42.1% ROI) during the November-April period of 2011-16. Of these 70 runners (applicable here today)...

  • males are 18/65 (27.7%) for 34.5pts (+53%)
  • 5-8 yr olds are 17/55 (30.9%) for 42.2pts (+76.8%)
  • handicappers are 14/44 (31.8%) for 21.9pts (+49.8%)
  • chasers are 14/38 (36.8%) for 27.9pts (+73.4%)
  • at Class 3 : 13/36 (36.1%) for 25.2pts (+70%)
  • and over 2m : 9/30 (30%) for 28.2pts (+93.9%)

AND...males aged 5-8 in Class 3 handicap chases are 11 from 26 (42.3% SR) for 31.4pts (+120.8% ROI), of which those priced at 8/1 and shorter are 11/21 (52.4%) for 36.4pts (+173.4%) with those racing over 2m winning 5 of 10 (50%) for 13.34pts (+133.4%)

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Noche de Reyes at 2/1 BOG with any of Bet365 (my preference), BetVictor, Hills, Betbright, Ladbrokes and/or Boylesports who all concurred at 11.20pm on Sunday, but to see your preferred bookies' odds, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.50 Ludlow

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

Stat of the Day, 21st November 2016

Saturday's Result :

2.35 Lingfield : Swiss Cross @ 3/1 BOG WON at 9/4 (Held up, headway entering final furlong, quickened to lead inside final furlong, ran on for a comfortable win by 2.25 lengths)

Monday's pick goes in the...

2.50 Ludlow :

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?

Noche de Reyes @ 2/1 BOG

Why?

A little shorter than I'd normally go for, but there's very little of interest to me in the usual 11/4 to 5/1 range that I try to play in.

This 7 yr old gelding comes here off the back of a decent runner-up finish in a Listed event at Ascot 23 days ago, when only beaten by Quite By Chance who ran well again at the weekend off a mark of 143. Our bouy now drops down to Class 3 handicap company off 129 and he's 3/12 at this level with all three wins coming from six efforts here at Ludlow, all over the 2m trip where his form reads 12P112.

Those three wins have contributed to his trainer Tom George having 18 winners from 70 (25.7% SR) for profits of 29.5pts (+42.1% ROI) during the November-April period of 2011-16. Of these 70 runners (applicable here today)...

  • males are 18/65 (27.7%) for 34.5pts (+53%)
  • 5-8 yr olds are 17/55 (30.9%) for 42.2pts (+76.8%)
  • handicappers are 14/44 (31.8%) for 21.9pts (+49.8%)
  • chasers are 14/38 (36.8%) for 27.9pts (+73.4%)
  • at Class 3 : 13/36 (36.1%) for 25.2pts (+70%)
  • and over 2m : 9/30 (30%) for 28.2pts (+93.9%)

AND...males aged 5-8 in Class 3 handicap chases are 11 from 26 (42.3% SR) for 31.4pts (+120.8% ROI), of which those priced at 8/1 and shorter are 11/21 (52.4%) for 36.4pts (+173.4%) with those racing over 2m winning 5 of 10 (50%) for 13.34pts (+133.4%)

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Noche de Reyes at 2/1 BOG with any of Bet365 (my preference), BetVictor, Hills, Betbright, Ladbrokes and/or Boylesports who all concurred at 11.20pm on Sunday, but to see your preferred bookies' odds, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 2.50 Ludlow

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

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.

Young Irish Jocks Are Quick Out The Blocks

Ireland has produced a plethora of top-class jockeys over the years, with many displaying their expertise on this side of the Irish Sea.

The greatest of them all, Sir AP McCoy, arrived in England back in 1994, making an instant impact as a conditional jockey for Toby Balding. His domination of jump racing began when joining forces with leading trainer Martin Pipe. McCoy retired with 20 consecutive jockey titles to his name, and more than 4,000 career wins on the board.

Richard Dunwoody was also stable jockey for Martin Pipe, and Champion Jockey from 1992 until 1995. Born in Belfast, he won the King George on four occasions, riding a pair of outstanding greys, One Man and Desert Orchid. He was successful in the Gold Cup and twice victorious in the Grand National.

Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh spent a decade together, winning every prestigious prize on offer. The man from County Kildare is recognised as one of the modern greats of the saddle, and until 2013, split his time between his home in Ireland and Nicholls’ Ditcheat yard in Somerset. Though no longer plying his trade in England, he remains at the pinnacle of the sport as number one jockey for the Mullins empire.

Add to these goliaths, the likes of Mick Fitzgerald, Barry Geraghty and Aidan Maguire, and you start to appreciate the immense role Irish talent has played in the history of jump racing on these shores.

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And this latest season is notable for an influx of fresh talent, with exciting additions to several yards in England, Scotland and Wales.

Adrian Heskin has proved a revelation since arriving as stable jockey to Tom George at his Down Farm stables in Gloucestershire. Formerly the retained rider for owner Barry Connell in Ireland, he has found his feet quickly in new surroundings. A strike rate of 22% is testament to that, and his victory on Sir Valentino in the Haldon Gold Cup a couple of weeks back, will have given the 24-year-old a huge boost.

The young man had already proven himself a talented jockey in Ireland, and had a Cheltenham Festival victory to his name, when winning the Albert Bartlett aboard Martello Tower in 2015. He’s both stylish and strong in the saddle, as he proved when getting the better of Richard Johnson on Sir Valentino at Exeter. Heskin can also look forward to high-profile races on-board God’s Own throughout the winter, having looked an unfortunate loser on the horse at Aintree last time in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase.

Another young Irish raider to make an instant impact is Jonathan Moore; now stable jockey for the resurgent Rebecca Curtis. The partnership struck at Wetherby, in the prestigious Charlie Hall Chase, with the fast improving Irish Cavalier. Moore’s delight was clear for all to see, and he summed up the reason for the move to Wales, when saying: “It's days like this that you dream about, and it was the chance to be able to ride horses like him that I came over to ride."

Moore’s strike rate of 24% for the campaign shows that he is a young jockey worth following. And despite still being a conditional jockey with a 3lb claim, he can still look forward to rides such as the Betfair Chase this coming weekend aboard Irish Cavalier. The opportunity to get on-board such talented horses was a major draw for the 22-year-old.

If Heskin and Moore have arrived with ‘all guns blazing’, then Shane Shortall’s opening period in new surroundings has proved rather more low key. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old from County Offaly in Ireland, is another young jockey with a bright future. He recently made the move to Scotland, joining Iain Jardine’s yard, and looks to be a key component in a developing enterprise. The dual-purpose trainer continues to add more horses to the team, and last week had Yogi Breisner visit the yard for a spot of staff coaching.

Shortall is a talented horseman, and given the right opportunities will surely make a name for himself on the northern circuit. You get the feeling that he’ll need to be patient as his new employer adds quality to his stock.

If Shortall needs to build a reputation, then one young Irishman who has already gathered a following in the north is the conditional jockey Finian O’Toole. From County Galway, O’Toole worked for Charlie Swan in Ireland before arriving in England to work for Malcolm Jefferson a couple of years back. He rode 17 winners in his first full season, and got the ‘leg-up’ for 24 different trainers. He’s now with Micky Hammond at Middleham in North Yorkshire, and the trainer has praised the young jockey’s natural ability and terrific work ethic.

Hammond has a pretty large set-up at Oakwood Stables, and O’Toole is having plenty of opportunities to learn his trade on the racetrack. He has a decent return of seven winners from his 67 rides during this latest campaign, and that valuable 5lb claim is unlikely to last much longer.

Ireland has for some time now, been a thriving breeding ground for racing talent, both equine and human. Greats of the sport have showcased their ability on this side of the Irish Sea over the years, and this winter is proving no exception. Heskin, Moore and numerous others, look sure to make their mark during the months ahead.

Brothers – How Art Thou?

Longsdon with Kilcooley

Longsdon with Kilcooley

One hugely talented sibling does not always guarantee the arrival of another, though often the genes give hope that little brother or sister will come close.

Denman was one of the greatest chasers of the modern era. Staggering performances in winning the Hennessy twice off top weight were matched by a stunning success in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. His record at the highest level was simply sensational. He was a beast of a horse, rightly adored by National Hunt fans.

Silverburn was his talented full-brother. Also trained by Paul Nicholls, he won a Tolworth Hurdle as a novice but never reached the same heights over fences, eventually being transferred to Evan Williams before attaining limited success as a hunter chaser.

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Frankel and Noble Mission were another great equine example. The former is recognised as one of the all-time greats, whilst the latter, though never reaching the heights of big brother, was still a hugely talented colt capable of winning the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Over the past few weeks we have been introduced to several more ‘brothers in arms’ who look more than capable of making a serious impact during the winter jumps season that lies ahead.

Charlie Longsdon is once again fast out of the traps with the latest campaign still in its infancy. The Cotswolds trainer is currently running at a 25% strike rate and had winners at Chepstow and Warwick yesterday. Chances are that he is still on a high after an exceptional weekend which yielded major wins at Wetherby and Ascot. Pendra finally got his act together over fences to win the Sodexo Gold Cup, while in Yorkshire Kilcooley romped to victory in the West Yorkshire Hurdle.

It’s the latter who holds our attention for today’s piece. The six-year-old is a son of Stowaway out of an Irish mare called Bealaha Essie. There is a strong staying influence in the pedigree on the dam’s side provided by a terrific jumps sire Roselier. Kilcooley clearly appreciated a step up in trip at the weekend and looks set to have a hugely successful winter.

Just a couple of days earlier at Stratford his younger brother Ballydine, also trained by Longsdon, ran out an impressive winner in a stayers maiden hurdle. Ridden by Richard Johnson, the strapping chestnut gelding appreciated the testing conditions, galloping to an eye-catching 10 length success. Slightly larger than his talented sibling, he looks every inch a chaser in the making.

Yesterday at Chepstow we were introduced to another gelding that looks to have a bright future. Bun Doran is a four-year-old trained by Tom George. The son of Shantou is out of the King’s Theatre mare Village Queen. A winning pointer, he was an expensive purchase and looked impressive winning this competitive bumper. A scopey type, he travelled beautifully throughout and should prove exciting when sent over hurdles.

His performance came just a few weeks after his older sibling Shantou Village had run out a stunning winner of a novice hurdle at Carlisle. Neil Mulholland’s five-year-old looked something special when cruising to a 20 length success on his hurdling debut. He’s set to step up in class with an outing at Cheltenham in just over a week’s time. His wins have come on a sound surface, but it’s likely he’ll have little trouble coping with more testing conditions.

Pedigree is obviously a key component to success and in this pair of siblings there’s every chance that a potent mix of genes has produced a number of potentially high class racehorses. Messrs Longsdon, Mulholland and George will certainly hope so.

Nicholls at it again

Nicholls takes Exeter showpiece

Nicholls takes Exeter showpiece

I make no apologies for once again banging on about how impressive Paul Nicholls is as a trainer. Seasons come and go, yet the outcome of significant races is rarely in doubt.

Ptit Zig made it seven wins from the last eight for the Champ in Down Royal’s Powers Irish Whiskey Chase. It’s an amazing record in an event that takes place at such an early stage of the season. And the trainer was at it again yesterday, when scooping another decent prize at Exeter, thanks to Vibrato Valtat’s victory in the Haldon Gold Cup Chase.

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Fresh from a successful novice campaign, the youngest horse in a five runner field cruised to an impressive win. He would have won by further than four lengths had he not made such a mess of the last fence. Nicholls will be hopeful of considerable improvement from the six-year-old son of Voix Du Nord, who appears to have a liking for testing conditions.

He was slightly disappointing at the end of last season on livelier ground when fourth at Cheltenham in the Arkle before a second to Clarcam at Aintree. He was then thrown in at the deep end when fourth again, this time in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at Sandown. That was his ninth outing of an incredibly busy campaign. With another summer on his back he looks capable of taking high order this winter.

Yesterday’s winning jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, was clearly impressed when after the win he said: “This was a good starting point for the season and Paul had this in mind for him from the back end of last season. Bar the last he jumped well and did everything right. He's got a similar profile to Dodging Bullets coming into this season. He might end up going straight to the Tingle Creek and take on Dodger, but they're both good horses and deserve to take their chances.”

One major disappointment of the race was ex-champion two mile chaser Sire De Grugy. He faded badly in the latter stages though is sure to strip fitter next time. He clobbered the fourth fence and was giving a hefty 10lbs to the winner, but jockey Jamie Moore wasn’t looking for excuses when saying: “I'm gutted, but the simple fact of the matter is he is not as good as he once was. He had a couple of good seasons but he is now nine years old. Whereas before he would wing his fences, today he was laboured.” It was a typically honest assessment from Moore, though there’s just a chance it may prove a hasty one.

God’s Own took the race last year but was a well beaten third this time. Tom George’s charge would undoubtedly have preferred a sounder surface and will remain competitive when conditions suit.

As for the winner, who knows how far he could go? Dodging Bullets progressed throughout the last campaign and took the major prize at Cheltenham. With Un De Sceaux lurking in the distance it looks to be a tougher division this time round. However, with Paul Nicholls at the helm anything is possible.