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Emitom has ‘mojo back’ for Rendlesham defence

Warren Greatrex is confident Emitom has got his “mojo” back in time to defend his title as he returns to the smaller obstacles in the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock.

The seven-year-old was fourth in the Stayers’ Hurdle to Lisnagar Oscar in March, following his victory in this race a month earlier, and Greatrex had hoped he would take high rank among the novice chasers this season.

However, defeats at Uttoxeter and Ffos Las forced a rethink. With Emitom having had a wind operation as well, the Upper Lamourn trainer is happy to retain his novice status for another season – should he fail to win the Stayers’ Hurdle.

“We are reverting back to hurdles (on Saturday) following a spell chasing. He has had his wind done and he is working very well,” said Greatrex.

“He seems to have his mojo back and seems in great nick. The chase races were good, and he jumped well, but he was a bit lacklustre – and whether his wind was just affecting him, I’m not sure.

“We will go to Haydock this week and see what happens. But he seems in good form, and his work is as good as ever.

“If he was to go on and win a Stayers’ Hurdle then we probably wouldn’t go back over fences, but if he didn’t win that we probably would look at going back over fences with him.”

Stayers’ Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar, Olly Murphy’s Itchy Feet and Thomas Darby and Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side are all in the reckoning at Haydock – to ensure it will be far from an easy task for Emitom.

Delight for King as Royal Pretender returns to winning ways

Alan King was delighted to see Royal Pretender claim a first career victory on the latest ‘jumpers’ bumper’ card at Kempton on Thursday.

Having shaped with promise on his first two starts over hurdles at Chepstow and Ascot in the autumn, the five-year-old was all the rage to make it third time lucky at Doncaster last month, but was ultimately well beaten in third place.

Switching to an artificial surface for division two of the vbet.co.uk ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, Royal Pretender was an 11-2 chance in the hands of Tom Bellamy and showed a willing attitude to get up and beat Quiana by a neck.

King said: “I’m very happy. He’s been a progressive horse and just got completely stuck in the ground at Doncaster last time. He never travelled at all and was never once on the bridle, so he actually did well to finish third in the end.

“That was much more like it today and he’ll go back hurdling when the ground improves.”

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There was a surprise result in division one of the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest, with Colin Tizzard’s 25-1 shot Floy Joy finishing with a flourish under Jonjo O’Neill Jnr to deny 5-2 favourite Dorking Lad by a head.

Joe Tizzard, assistant to his father, said: “We’re chuffed to bits with him.

“The horse actually ran all right in a couple of bumpers. He was getting balloted out left, right and centre in novice hurdles and there’s a bit of a backlog in that division.

Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner
Floy Joy (right) provided Colin Tizzard with another winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We were keen to give him a run, so we let him take his chance today and it worked out lovely.

“I wouldn’t say I thought he’d win, but I thought he’d be competitive.”

The victory continues the recent revival in of the Tizzard team’s fortunes following a difficult winter.

“As I said over the weekend and last week, we think we’ve got the horses back right, but the proof is in the pudding,” Tizzard added.

“It’s lovely that they’re all going and running well. Hopefully we can keep going strong until the end of the season now.”

The Warren Greatrex-trained Young Lieutenant (20-1) was an authoritative winner of the Download The VBet App ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race, with Gavin Sheehan the winning rider.

“We were waiting to go chasing with him, but a few meetings were off and we said we’d go back hurdling once the ground gets a bit better and maybe go chasing from May onwards,” said Greatrex.

“We thought this race today was a nice opportunity to get him out and it’s great he’s won again – that’s two from three this season now.

“He’s not the easiest to train as he hasn’t got the best feet and has had wind issues, but when he’s on-song he’s a fair horse.”

Elsewhere on the card Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden teamed up to land the Play Golden Shot At VBet Mares’ ‘Jumpers’ Bumper’ NH Flat Race with Tomorrow Mystery (4-1).

Morans snap up bumper winner Hollymount

Exciting bumper mare Hollymount is set to join Gordon Elliott after being sold for £300,000 on Tuesday.

The Goffs January Sale usually takes place at Doncaster, but both horses in training and National Hunt breeding stock were this year sold entirely online due to the restrictions in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Hollymount is a daughter of Jet Away out of broodmare Zaffarella, who has produced a trio of high-class performers in Windsor Avenue, Ravenhill Road and Malone Road. The later joined Elliott three years ago for £325,000 and has since won three of his four starts.

Zaffarella’s latest potential star made an impressive start to her racing career for trainer Stuart Crawford in a bumper at Carlisle last month – winning by eight lengths in the hands of champion jockey Brian Hughes.

The online bidding for Hollymount started at £180,000, before she was eventually being knocked down to Noel and Valerie Moran’s Bective Stud for £300,000.

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The Morans are becoming an increasingly powerful force in Irish National Hunt racing, with the likes of Triumph Hurdle favourite Zanahiyr and £400,000 purchase Grand Roi among their big-race winners on the track this season.

Just last month they went to 530,000 euros to secure former hurdling star Apple’s Jade – a record price for a National Hunt mare sold at public auction – for breeding purposes.

Elliott’s bloodstock agent, Mouse O’Ryan, said: “Hollymount has been bought for Noel and Valerie Moran to go to Gordon.

“She looks very smart and was well recommended and we’ve been lucky with the family.

“Hopefully she’ll go on to big things on the track before going on to become a broodmare.

“Noel and Valerie obviously bought Apple’s Jade and have some other very nice mares on the track, including Queens Brook, Party Central and Riviere D’etel.

“They’re having fun trying to make broodmares.”

La Bague Au Roi is set for a future career as a broodmare
La Bague Au Roi is set for a future career as a broodmare (PA)

Asked whether Hollymount could take up her entry in a Grade Two bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Sunday week, O’Ryan added: “We haven’t even got her in the yard yet, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

The undoubted star of the breeding stock on offer was Grade One-winning mare La Bague Au Roi, who won 14 races for trainer Warren Greatrex including the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton and the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.

The recently-turned 10-year-old was sold for £170,000 to former Republic of Ireland international footballer Kevin Doyle and bloodstock consignor Peter Nolan.

Nolan said: “When you see what the mares have been making all year, I’m not saying she’s value but I don’t think she’s over-dear.

“We said we’d try to get her bought before deciding which stallion she’d go to.

“Kevin bought Augusta Kate a couple of years ago and has a couple of lower-grade mares. He wants to get a nice band of mares together.”

Nigel Dunger takes Pride in Fakenham success

Pride Of Pemberley gave trainer Nigel Dunger the perfect start to 2021 when becoming his first winner in 660 days following a facile success in the Happy New Year Handicap Hurdle at Fakenham.

The Pulborough handler, who combines training with working at a stud, watched on as the lightly-raced nine-year-old made it sixth-time lucky with victory in the two-and-a-half-mile contest.

Always moving well, the 12-1 shot barely had to get out of second gear before prevailing by four and a quarter lengths under Robbie Dunne from favourite At First Glance.

Dunger, who previously spent 18 years as travelling head lad to Amanda Perrett, said: “We got him out of Jamie Snowden’s and he had time off with a bit of a leg injury.

“He has been a bit of a challenge, but he is a nice improving horse that will make a nice chaser. I’ve only got two horse, this one and Hier Encore who ran earlier.

“I’ve had a permit on and off for years, but this is my first winner in nearly two years.”

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Zee Man secured a poignant success on his debut over fences in capturing the Wells Next The Sea Novices’ Handicap Chase by seven lengths.

The winner 100-30 was having his first start for Olly Murphy, who said: “Unfortunately Brian Vaughan, his previous owner, passed away between eight and 10 weeks ago.

“He was a real keen supporter of his racing and he was a local man who had just moved the horse to me and had shares in other horses as well.

“He will have been cheering the horse on from above.”

Bill Baxter saved the best until last when making his debut under rules a triumphant one by 13 lengths in the Norfolk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

Trainer Warren Greatrex said of the 8-1 shot: “We got him privately for owner Adie Gibbons. He got him for his partner and he wanted a grey horse.

“He has done everything right at home and already jumps brilliantly.

“I was a bit worried this course might be too sharp for him. He has done that on ability alone.”

Kielan Woods ended his losing streak stretching back 33 days and 45 rides aboard the Phil Middleton-trained Sopat (5-1), who made all to claim the Thorpland Maiden Hurdle by two lengths.

The winning rider said: “She ran here the last day and was a little bit fresh as she had been off for two years. Today I just tried to keep things simple.

“I jumped off last over two and a half miles here and she pulled me to the front after the second hurdle and it was an absolute waste of a run.

“He (Middleton) told me today she was a certainty and I’d say he had a few quid on her.”

Love The Leader (4-1) showed he still has plenty of life left him in at the age of 13 after completing a double for trainer Johnny Farrelly when scoring by 14 lengths in the Visit attheraces.com Handicap Chase.

Winning rider Mitchell Bastyan said: “I was able to dictate the race and he travelled lovely throughout. I think we just bumped into one last time.

“He is a fantastic old horse that Johnny also owns. He is a real yard favourite.”

Krujers Girl got the ball rolling for Farrelly in the Racing Partnership Mares’ Handicap Chase, which the 5-1 chance claimed by five lengths.

Greatrex fine quashed as panel halves Sheehan’s riding ban

Trainer Warren Greatrex has had his £3000 fine quashed – while jockey Gavin Sheehan has had his suspension halved – following their appeal against a judgment of schooling and conditioning Beaufort in public at Newbury.

The disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority cut Sheehan’s ban down from 14 days to seven, as well as wiping out Greatrex’s fine.

The Newbury stewards ruled the horse had appeared to be ridden without substantial effort from Sheehan.

Beaufort was one of three complete outsiders at 250-1 in a 16-runner maiden hurdle over two miles on December 16, and was beaten 76 lengths in 13th place behind odds-on winner Lecale’s Article.

Both Sheehan and Greatrex have had their deposits returned. Full written reasons for the panel’s decision will follow in due course.

Greatrex said: “I’m happy with the result. Obviously I thought I was sure I hadn’t done anything wrong, and it’s been proved that’s the case.”

Stewards ban Sheehan and fine Greatrex over Beaufort run

Jockey Gavin Sheehan is set to miss the busy new year period and the first two weekends of 2021 after being hit with a 14-day ban for his riding of Beaufort at Newbury.

The local stewards also fined trainer Warren Greatrex £3,000 for ‘schooling and conditioning the horse on a racecourse’.

Beaufort was one of three complete outsiders at 250-1 in the 16-strong field and was beaten 76 lengths in 13th place. The horse is suspended from running in any race for 40 days.

Greatrex described the decision as “farcical”, however, and insists he has done nothing wrong.

Beaufort had been beaten a total of 251 lengths in four previous races for him.

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“I have to say it’s just ridiculous,” said Greatrex.

“The horse has got a rating of 87. He has been very keen in the past and hard work at home. Last year he had a couple of runs and he was headstrong. He ran at Newbury last year and finished third and bled after the race.

“We took him to Perth, and Kielan Woods rode. He led again that day, and Kielan Woods said he needed his wind doing and changing the tactics.

“We ran him at Plumpton last Monday when I instructed Gavin to do what Kielan had said, and he did get better as the race went on, but he is what is. I’ve run him today to try and improve him, because I think the more racing he does the better he will get.

“He behaved badly at the start and jumped midfield. But he was keen early on in the race, and Gavin did the best thing by trying to take a pull to settle him. They have said he has not ridden him out to the line. Are we meant to beat horses that are out of contention? He is rated 87, and a 250-1 shot.

“He is not running for a mark, because he has already got one –  I am just trying to get the horse better by running him. It’s farcical. He finished 13th out of 16. What good going forward is it going to do to batter him to finish eighth.”

Greatrex will take advice before deciding to contest the verdict, but did reveal Sheehan intends to appeal. Sheehan returned to action only last month after breaking his wrist.

“I know Gavin plans to appeal,” said Greatrex.

“I will wait to hear from people and seek their advice and go from there. I’m confident I’ve done nothing wrong.

“I feel sorry for Gavin, because he is going to miss 14 important days of racing. He is a good guy that was riding a bad horse. He has done nothing wrong.”

Sheehan’s ban runs from December 30-31, January 1-12 inclusive.

Portrush Ted has option of Gowran trip for Galmoy Hurdle

Warren Greatrex is considering a trip to Ireland with Portrush Ted, for a tilt at the Galmoy Hurdle.

The Grade Two prize at Gowran Park next month has emerged as a potential option for the talented eight-year-old, who is already a winner at the same level having claimed the Aintree bumper in 2018.

After falling on his final start last season, Portrush Ted – who holds an entry in the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday week – took his record to three wins from four starts over hurdles with a triumphant return to action in a Pertemps qualifier at Sandown.

Greatrex said: “I feel the Long Walk at Ascot will come too soon for him as he put a lot of effort into Friday.

“The Galmoy at Gowran Park has been mentioned and that could be a possible option. Ground conditions are really important to this horse and he must have it really soft.

“The race would be a proper test and the track would suit him. The main thing with him though is keeping him in one piece.”

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Although Greatrex expected Portrush Ted to run well on his return, he believes it was his determined attitude that managed to secure the victory.

He added: “I thought he was a little bit short on Friday and that he would come on for it, as he hadn’t run since February. He will be better next time.

“His form suggested he would have a say, as when he gets round he wins. You have to compliment him on how tough he is.

“Through all the issues he has had, he still comes out and wants to win and credit goes to the team and the hard work they have put in.”

Emitom will revert back to hurdles following a recent wind operation
Emitom will revert back to hurdles following a recent wind operation (David Davies/PA)

The Lambourn handler is leaning towards giving Emitom the chance to defend his Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle crown at Haydock on his return from a recent wind operation, after deciding to put his chasing career on hold.

He said: “Emitom has had a wind op and he won’t be out until the end of January at the earliest.

“He was fourth in the Stayers’ Hurdle last season and now we have sorted his wind he hasn’t got much to find to be in the mix in those Grade One staying hurdle races.

“He could go for the Cleeve at Cheltenham or the Rendlesham. I’d probably favour the Rendlesham as it is likely to be not quite as competitive and he has good course and distance form there.”

Emitom could return to chasing in the future, but much will depend on how he fares back over hurdles, according to Greatrex.

He said: “His jumping over fences was never an issue as he jumped brilliantly at Uttoxeter and although he was well beaten at Ffos Las he still jumped well.

“He has that bit of experience over fences now so he could go back chasing as a second-season novice.

“We will make a decision whether he goes back chasing or stays over hurdles depending on how he does back over hurdles.”

Keeper Hill is being lined up for a return to the Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton (David Davies/PA)
Keeper Hill is being lined up for a return to the Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton (David Davies/PA)

Keeper Hill could bid to get his career back on track by attempting to go one better than 12 months ago in the Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.

The nine-year-old was last of five in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on Saturday.

Greatrex said: “I think the plan is to head back to the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, though come January he will also qualify for veterans’ races as he turns 10.

“He hated the ground at Aintree, but he still picked up a bit more prize-money for his owners.”

Greatrex boosted by Portrush Ted at Sandown

Portrush Ted lifted the spirits of trainer Warren Greatrex with a triumphant return to action at Sandown on Friday.

In what has been a difficult few months for the Lambourn handler, the talented but fragile eight-year-old got his career back on track in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, to give Greatrex his first winner in 46 days.

Not sighted since suffering a fall at Haydock in February, the Grade Two bumper winner demonstrated the best of his battling abilities to rally back past eventual runner-up Storm Arising, scoring by half a length.

Greatrex said: “I’ve had a torrid time this season. It’s been the hardest time I’ve had without success as a trainer.

“Everyone knows I’ve been quiet, but if I’ve got the horses and ammunition I’ve shown I can do the job time and time again and I think a horse like this demonstrates it.

“I’ve had a lot of people say that form is temporary and you will be fine. The one thing I have is a competitive mind and that has helped me through this.”

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While Portrush Ted holds an entry in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot later this month, Greatrex all but ruled out giving him a first start at Grade One level in the extended three-mile prize.

He said: “I would say that what he is has put in today, the Long Walk will be unlikely.

“He is already a Grade Two winner and in my eyes when he has his conditions he is every bit a Grade One horse.

“He does need soft ground so we will plot accordingly.”

Call Me Vic and Albi Tufnell on their way to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
Call Me Vic and Albi Tufnell on their way to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Albi Tufnell celebrated his first winner under rules aboard the Fergal O’Brien-trained veteran Call Me Vic, who rolled back the years at the age of 13 to claim the Sandown Park Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase by six lengths.

The 18-year-old rider said of the 17-2 shot, who is owned by his mother, Jane, said: “It was almost unreal. I had a peak to my right thinking I really hoped my lad’s head was in front and crossing the line he was the only horse there.

“I always knew they would go that quick. I wasn’t sure he would be able to stay with them or have that much left in the tank, but when you are riding a horse like that around these fences on a course like this he makes me look good.”

The Dan Skelton-trained Alnadam went one better than on his debut over fences at Carlisle in the My Oddsboost On Betfair Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Assistant trainer Tom Messenger said: “We expected him to have come on from his last run and the form has worked out well.

“It was a competitive race, but he coped with the ground well and ended up putting it to bed nicely.”

Gary Moore saddled a one-two in the Londesborough Handicap Chase – but not in the order the betting suggested as Darebin (5-1) edged out Du Lemo (5-2), who was making his first start in 689, days by a neck.

Moore said: “I wouldn’t say I thought they would be first and second, but I thought Darebin was a fitter horse and with Jamie (Moore) back on him around here he improves 7lb.

“That’s probably what made the difference today – fitness.”

La Bague Au Roi may head to Ladbrokes Trophy

Warren Greatrex is keen to let La Bague Au Roi take her chance in this month’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, provided the ground is suitable.

The Lambourn trainer believes the prestigious three-and-a-quarter-mile prize on November 28 is the ideal test for his dual Grade One winner, who is unbeaten in three starts at the Berkshire track.

La Bague Au Roi finished fifth on her first outing since undergoing wind surgery in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby last month, after which she was dropped 2lb.

Greatrex said: “The ground is key to her. If it comes up like it was at the track on Thursday or is good to soft we would definitely have a go – if it doesn’t we will have to think again.

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“I was chuffed to bits with her run at Wetherby. She just didn’t travel as well as she can do on better ground, but I thought she ran a respectable race.

“She is three from three (at Newbury) – and she will stay the trip.”

La Bague Au Roi could be joined at Newbury by Stayers’ Hurdle fourth Emitom, with Greatrex considering the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase.

Having been denied a winning debut over fences by Hurricane Harvey at Uttoxeter, the seven-year-old disappointed on his most recent start at Ffos Las.

Greatrex said: “We’ve freshened Emitom up since Ffos Las and we might look at the John Francome at Newbury, but there are a couple of other options around that time.

“He ran flat at Ffos Las, but it was only two weeks after Uttoxeter. He has now had two experiences over fences, and the thing that has pleased me most is his jumping. There is a lot more to come from him.”

Keeper Hill, right, will return to Haydock for a tilt at the Betfair Chase (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Keeper Hill will return to Haydock for a tilt at the Betfair Chase (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Finishing one place ahead of La Bague Au Roi at Wetherby was stablemate Keeper Hill, who will head to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday week.

Greatrex said: “Keeper Hill will go to the Betfair Chase. We know on ratings he is not going to be winning it, but he loves small fields and won a graduation race on the card last year.

“He ran a blinder at Wetherby, and I thought he would get tired in that ground because he would appreciate it a bit better.

“He has come out of Wetherby well, and we know flat tracks suit him well.”

Greatrex satisfied as Roi finishes fourth on comeback

Warren Greatrex was satisfied with La Bague Au Roi’s return effort after a last-fence blunder saw her finish fourth in the Weatherbys Racing Bank David Whitaker Handicap Chase at Perth.

The nine-year-old was conceding weight all around in the three-mile affair, but was still sent off the 2-1 joint-favourite under Richard Johnson.

La Bague Au Roi led from the outset, but was joined by both the Keith Dalgleish-trained Amalfi Doug and Lucinda Russell’s Elmono over the third-last fence.

After shaking off the latter, La Bague Au Roi and Amalfi Doug drew level on the approach to the final obstacle, where Greatrex’s mare clambered through the fence and handed the race to her challenger.

Amalfi Doug went on to triumph by seven and a half lengths, with Elmono second and Dan Skelton’s Very First Time a further three and three-quarter lengths behind in third.

La Bague Au Roi finished a further nine lengths behind in fourth place, but Greatrex felt she would have been closer were it not for her late error.

He said: “She seems fine after the race, which is the main thing. Everything was generally going to plan until the last when she came to a bit of a halt and just couldn’t get going again after that.

“Dickie said she felt like she had all her old enthusiasm, she jumped well enough in the main and galloped from fence to fence, but he said we might just want to get her wind checked out. She had it done two years ago and it’s not been looked at since.

“It was a lot of weight to give to the winner, who has had a few runs and was match fit. Coming into the race, I said I would be happy if she was in the first three and I think she would have been, but for the mistake at the last.

“We’ll take her home, get her wind looked at and see where we go from there. The plan was to have a look at the Ladbrokes Trophy and I still think that race could suit her, back at Newbury where she has won before.

“I still think she’s reasonably treated and if tinkering with her wind could bring a bit more improvement, that might be the race.”

La Bague Au Roi out early at Perth

Warren Greatrex believes dual Grade One winner La Bague Au Roi has plenty in her favour as she returns to action at Perth on Wednesday.

The talented nine-year-old will begin what is to be her last season in training  in the Weatherbys Racing Bank David Whitaker Handicap Chase.

With the combination of a sound surface and a step back up to three miles expected to suit La Bague Au Roi, the Lambourn handler is confident of a big run.

Greatrex said: “I just thought that she would love the track and it is not a stiff three miles. This is the right sort of race for her.

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“She seems in good nick and has come to hand quick. She has got to give plenty of weight away but she is a high class horse.

“She runs well fresh, while she will love the ground and trip, so she ticks a lot of boxes. It is going to be her last season so let’s see if we can start on a high.

“She has lost no enthusiasm at home as she schools well and still enjoys her work.”

La Bague Au Roi failed to hit the heights of her novice chasing campaign during her second over fences last season, however, Greatrex believes there were some positives to take out of it.

He added: “Last season she was not at her best but she might have been having a bit of a hangover as she put everything into those Grade Ones the season before.

“It was a trainer error running her at Wetherby as the ground was very soft. That put her confidence back and she ended up having a hard race when there was no need for it.

“She did run well in the Peterborough Chase and the Listed mares chase at Doncaster. Her best run was probably in the Irish Gold Cup and if she runs like that she will be hard to beat as there is nothing of that class in the field.”

Jarveys Plate, seen winning over hurdles, will bid to get back to winning ways over fences at Perth (David Davies/PA Images)
Jarveys Plate, seen winning over hurdles, will bid to get back to winning ways over fences at Perth (David Davies/PA Images)

Fergal O’Brien hopes Jarveys Plate can rediscover the sort of form that saw him lower the colours of Reserve Tank on his chasing debut at Chepstow last October and get his career back on track.

He said: “After winning first time last year against Reserve Tank it looked like the world could be his oyster but the wheels subsequently fell off and I don’t really know why.

“He seems in good form and I just hope he goes well. He has got a good record fresh, while he won his bumper around Perth. He has got the ability so hopefully he is on a going day.

“Stepping back up to three miles should help him travel better. Warren’s horse will be hard to beat but if we have the Jarveys Plate we have at home he will give her a run for the money.”

Emitom ready to switch to fences

Grade Two-winning hurdler Emitom is being readied to make his debut over fences at Uttoxeter next month – provided conditions are suitable.

Trainer Warren Greatrex has earmarked the Free Tips Daily on attheraces.com Beginners’ Steeple Chase, over two and a half miles,  at the Staffordshire track on October 4 as a first port of call for the six-year-old.

After landing the Rendlesham Hurdle at Haydock on his penultimate start, Emitom finished a respectable fourth on his return to Grade One company on his final outing of the season in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Greatrex said: “It could be argued he had unfinished business over hurdles, because I don’t think he was at his best at Cheltenham but he still managed to finish fourth.

“Next year he will be seven going on eight, and I know he will be a better chaser, so we decided the best thing to do was to go straight over fences with him this season.

“Physically he has done so well over the summer, while his work has been very good, and he is now reaching his full maturity

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“The plan if all goes well would be to run him at Uttoxeter on October 4 over two and a half miles, provided they have enough rain, and see how we go from there.”

Despite Emitom not being the most fluent over hurdles, Greatrex expects the switch to fences to bring out the best in his jumping.

He added: “He has always schooled fences at home better, for whatever reason. He has had a few schools recently and he has jumped very well.

“The biggest thing over hurdles was his concentration, and fences just give him something to look at – which I think helps him.

“He has improved a lot and he is hugely exciting.”

Bob Mahler will have his campaign mapped out around making an appearance in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree (Simon Cooper/PA Images)
Bob Mahler will have his campaign geared towards the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree (Simon Cooper/PA Images)

An outing in next year’s Randox Health Grand National is the long-term aim for Bob Mahler, who was last seen finishing third at the Festival in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.

Greatrex said: “The Grand National is the main aim for Bob Mahler, because he is at the age where he is fully developed now.

“I’ve had two horses run in the race before, and he looks the ideal type for it as he travels well and stays forever.

“He has done very well over the summer, and the first target will probably be the first Cheltenham meeting in October, then possibly the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.”

Keeper Hill, right, has the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby lined up as an early target (Anthony Devlin/PA Images)
Keeper Hill (right) has the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby lined up as an early target (Anthony Devlin/PA Images)

Keeper Hill is likely to return in the Grade Two bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on October 31, after a trip to America to contest the Grand National Hurdle at Far Hills was ruled out.

Greatrex added: “The plan was to go for the American Grand National, because we thought that was made for him, but we’ve had to think again.

“He is not one for those big handicaps and he likes small fields on better ground. He won at Haydock last year, then gave Frodon a fright at Kempton in a Grade Two.

“I think something like the Charlie Hall could be a good place to start his season off. He has come in looking great and has been a good stalwart for the yard.”

Punting Angles: Uttoxeter

After a recent focus on some of the UK’s All-Weather courses it’s time to adjust the radar to a little bit of National Hunt racing (I’ll return to the remaining AW tracks of Wolves and Lingfield in due course), writes Jon Shenton. For this edition, I’ve chosen the Staffordshire venue of Uttoxeter to focus upon, the reason being that, based on a quick query (run in Query Tool), this course has hosted the most races in the last few years. More races equals more data, and more data sometimes equals better inferences.

Uttoxeter is probably best known for the second longest race in the UK calendar, the 4m2f Midlands National. The course offers a year-round jumping programme, with 25 scheduled meetings per annum. The summer jewel in the crown is the prestigious and valuable Listed race, the Summer Cup.

Course Map

The course is left-handed and relatively sharp in nature.  It is seemingly synonymous with punishing winter ground meaning the track has a reputation for suiting stamina-laden types. Although, given its relative sharpness, speed is possibly an undervalued commodity, especially on the typically firmer ground during the summer. A single circuit is approximately 1 mile 3 furlongs in length, with an unusual kink in the back straight.

 

Uttoxeter Trainers

We start, as usual, with a perusal of trainer performance as a way into developing betting opportunities at the track. The table below shows the record of each yard that has had 50 or more runners at the track since 2012, at a starting price of 20/1 or shorter, and with a minimum of 10 victories over that period.

 

There is some promise in these numbers, with the trio at the top of the list possessing phenomenal records at the track. The IV data confirm that runners from these stables are approximately 2.5 to 3 times more likely to prevail than the average at this venue, and all at a healthy margin, based on A/E or plain old profit and loss.

The Sue Smith, Evan Williams and Harry Fry data also would merit further investigation should time and word count permit, which it doesn’t for this edition, sadly! 

Warren Greatrex

For Warren Gretrex, things aren’t quite as rosy as they might seem from the headline figures, as will become clear below. Firstly, it is notable that his yard hasn’t had a single winner at the course at odds above 10/1. I haven’t shown workings but if you can take that on trust, of the remaining 78 runners we get the following profile by splitting the info by calendar year.

 

 

As can be seen, performance has dipped in 2018, and thus far in 2019. In fact, there was not even a solitary placed animal this year until Elleon won on the 16th November at a welcome SP of 15/2. [As was noted in this article, the Greatrex yard suffered a big dip in fortune last campaign, and will hopefully revert to type this term].

Any projected angle from this high-level data comes with a wealth warning then. Taking the overall data at face value, 24 winners from 78 runs, a strike rate of over 30% and a reasonable return all appears to be a rock-solid no-brainer. But two victories from 22 over the last couple of years removes some of the lustre of the overall picture.

Of course, it’s possibly attributable to the usual variance and randomness (as could the over-performance of earlier years be) given the acutely small sample size. It’s the beauty / challenge / pointlessness of using data such as this to base punting on depending on your viewpoint.  I’m firmly in the beauty & challenge camp if that’s not clear enough already.

Presenting the data differently gives an alternative view.  The graph below shows the cumulative return if you had put a £1 win single on every Greatrex runner with an SP of 10/1 or shorter at Uttoxeter since 2012.

It’s not a bad picture is it? In the context of the overall numbers the relative downturn in 2018/19 of 2/22 winners doesn’t look too damaging. The key question is, what is going to happen from today onwards? Clearly nobody knows for sure, but I’d be inclined to treat this data positively, at least for the time being, and especially in light of the recent winner.

However, if that’s not convincing enough, by looking a bit deeper under the surface there are opportunities to potentially improve the chances of success and lessen the risk based on historical data.

The table below shows track performance by the race code/type data for the yard at the course.

 

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Did you spot it? One of those lines is very striking indeed! Chase numbers are fine; hurdle data are competitive, but not micro material. However, the National Hunt Flat race data is exceptional and irrefutably worth tracking. Sadly, for us, the aforementioned Elleon delivered the goods recently meaning a good betting opportunity was missed. The SP of 15/2 is the largest priced winner in the dataset just to add a little bit of salt to the wound!  It does mean that for angle purposes a cap of 8/1 on SP will be used for Uttoxeter runners.

The Greatrex bumper (NHF) record at Uttoxeter is particularly strong, so it is a sensible step to check if the yard performs well in such races generally, or particularly at the Staffordshire venue. Analysing results by course suggests there is some definite further interest.  The below table offers insight:

 

 

There is no doubt that performance is strong at the top four listed tracks, arguably five if including Ffos Las. A/E’s of the quartet at the head of the table are all above or equal to 1.22, a nice benchmark.

Is it interesting or coincidence that it could be argued that the top three are all geographically close to the trainer's base (in relative terms)?  Or is it interesting that all the high-performing tracks have similarities in being left-handed sharpish constitutions? Indeed, all of the top five are left-handed circuits.

The absolute, sacrosanct rule on angle building is that every filter used to compile the angle is explainable and must make at least some degree of sense. I am aware enough to recognise entirely that the above conjecture may be stretching that point, but I have the gut feel that there is something worth noting here. Probably more based on the track layout similarities than location; after all, Lambourn to Uttoxeter is a bit of a schlep.

However, I’ll be watching Greatrex bumper entries at these tracks with great (and probably financial) interest over the coming months.

Incidentally no winners have been delivered at SP’s of greater than 15/2 in this data. While that’s risky and arguably somewhat convenient, for pure angle building I’m only going to consider those runners at 8/1 or shorter (but will personally monitor all).

 

 

The bottom line is, as always, that it is your call how - and indeed if - to play:  the numbers presented are factual, but whether they are strong enough or reasoned enough for you to part with your hard earned is your choice. Caveat emptor!

Suggestions

  • Back Warren Greatrex horses at Uttoxeter in NHF races where the SP is 8/1 or shorter
  • Take note of all other Warren Greatrex runners at 10/1 or shorter at the course
  • If you feel so inclined, track or back Warren Greatrex runners in NHF at SP’s of 8/1 or shorter in races at Warwick, Stratford and Bangor in addition to Uttoxeter

Dan Skelton

It’s hardly new news that the Stratford-based operation has a prolific and rewarding record at the not-too-distant Staffordshire track; however, it’s always worth delving to establish if any deeper insights can be attained. The first port of call in this instance is by market price (it’s usually the first item I look at), and in the case of this intel there is some enthusiasm for a deeper dive.

 

 

The data tell us that  shorter-priced animals outperform the market in terms of A/E, IV and profit (look at that 5.3 IV for animals sent off shorter than 2/1!), whilst the entrants who start at prices of 11/2 or greater just about hold their own. Shorter priced the better, then.

If a lower SP is counter-intuitively a good thing then analysing performance based on market position is a sensible step.  There may be an angle containing the favourite, rather than just short priced animals.

 

An odds rank of 1 relates to the favourite, 2 is the second favourite and so on.  It is crystal clear that a Skelton jolly at Uttoxeter is a very serious contender, with over half of them delivering, and recording an A/E of 1.29 to boot. Impressive stuff at such apparently such short prices.  It proves that there can be value when fishing at the top of the market on occasion.

Obviously, knowing whether a horse is going to start at the top of the market is a bit of guesswork if you generally back the night before or early on the day of the race, but invariably you win some, you lose some and such things even themselves out over time.

Suggestion: Back Dan Skelton horses at Uttoxeter when they are positioned as SP favourites

 

Dr Richard Newland

Third on the trainer table is Dr. Richard Newland. The former GP and Grand National-winning trainer (2014, Pineau De Re) has an impressive record at Uttoxeter. However, focusing on the time of year gives a lot of clarity regarding when the real spotlight on his runners should occur.

The graph illustrates the volume of Newland runners at Uttoxeter, as well as the number of winners.  There’s a pronounced focus on summer jumping at the track, particularly in the months of June and July.

This table shows the same data in more traditional format, with the usual supplementary info, as provided by geegeez.co.uk's Query Tool:

Admittedly, highlighting summer jumping prowess at this point in the year is terrible timing, but it’s worth keeping in cold storage until the warmer temperatures return to these lands. Again, Query Tool is your friend!

The summary version of all runners from May-Sep (inclusive) results in the below output.

That’s good enough but further optional sharpening could be attained as there is no runner that has won at odds of greater than 15/2 SP, albeit only from nine attempts (three of which placed).

I get a strong impression that there is more to find with this trainer. From a relatively small number of horses in training this is a yard worth tracking closely and getting to know in closer detail.

Suggestion: Back Dr Richard Newland horses at Uttoxeter over the summer months (May-September) at odds of 15/2 or shorter

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Distance nuggets

As ever, let's have a quick hack around some of the race dynamics at the course.

Hurdle races – 2 miles

I’ve concentrated on hurdles primarily due to the volume of data; the chases are a little sparser in frequency so harder from which to draw even moderate conclusions. Initially, then, let's pick up the two-mile distance for larger field sizes (nine or greater) the following profile is generated:

The table illustrates the Impact Value (IV) performance of horses by the various underfoot conditions and by pace profile. The column “races” simply contains the number of races that relate to those going descriptions. This is included primarily to demonstrate the sample size of each data set so you can draw your own conclusions to the relevance when assessing a race.

The data clearly shows that front end pace is important and it’s better to be at the head than biding time in the relative back positions. This is a general truism for all races on all goings at all courses.

There is a suggestion that racing prominently is of greater importance as the ground becomes more testing, with the strongest two numbers in terms of IV relating to leading in Soft (1.81) and Heavy (2.55) conditions, abeit on smaller sample sizes. Making up ground from the cheap seats is tough in all conditions, especially so in the sticky stamina-sapping Staffordshire mud.

 

Hurdle races – 2m 4furlongs

The data for the two-and-a-half-mile trip is reasonably similar to it’s shorter two-mile counterpart, namely that leaders and prominent racers are generally favoured. The green-tinged data is on the right-hand side of the table where the speed is, the redder/orange numbers relating to horses who are ridden patiently is towards the left. There isn’t the same profile in terms of front-running mudlarks getting an even better time of it, perhaps stamina becomes of greater importance than track position over the extra half-mile. Irrespective of reasons or rationale, backing a horse that is likely to be in the leading ranks seems a sensible approach when assessing a race at this distance.

 

Hurdles - 3 miles

Finally, a focus on the longer distance of the 3-mile trip. The first thing to say is that there are fewer races at this distance, but there is no doubt that based on the information available, the box seat seems to have shifted towards the prominent racers, not the horses who cut out the running.

Whilst the front runners perform perfectly well on average, it seems logical that to lead without cover for this longer distance is a more difficult proposition. The low sample sizes do not help, but there is a flavour of it becoming increasingly difficult to make all as the ground gets more testing.

Broadly speaking the optimum position is tucked in nicely behind the leaders; however, based on the overall sample sizes it is not a strong conclusion. Taking the good ground data (where there is the biggest sample, 71 races) the pace profile is relatively flat in comparison to some of the numbers we’ve seen on other tracks. However, caution is advised on likely leaders in deeper underfoot conditions.

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I hope that is of some use to you over the winter and beyond. Forget the Derby, I’m already looking forward to Dr. Newland at Uttoxeter next summer!

- JS