A huge weekend ahead with the UKâ€™s richest ever race day at Ascot, whileÂ Cheltenham stages their first NH fixture of the season â€“ but which trainers are heading there at the top of their game?
JOHN FERGUSON (3 winners from his last 8 runners, 38% strike-rate): Only been on the training ranks for a few seasons, but with three recent winners from his limited string then the Ferguson name could be one to follow in the coming weeks. Youâ€™ll find his runners over the sticks and although the yard failed to win a race from their 6 runners last season I suspect they were still finding their feet. Therefore, with 3 victories from just 9 runners so far this term the stable have finally broken their duck and with recent Uttoxeter winner Dubai Phantom they might have a horse that can follow-up in the right grade. In terms of jockeys they tend to use Mr J M Quinlan - I know little about him, but he does have a useful 7lb claim and has so far ridden 15 winners under rules. The only negative is their small string, so lack of runners, but they do have one going at Uttoxeter on Thursday, and they are actually 1-from-1 at the Midlands track. Entries and track stats: - Uttoxeter (1 from 1, 100%)
SIR HENRY CECIL (5 winners from his last 14 runners, 36% strike-rate): He might trail Richard Hannon by well over Â£1million in the trainers championship, but a win for Frankel, a first and second for Midday and Twice Over in the Champions Stakes and Vita Nova landing the Fillies and Mares Stakes then the Warren Place handler could just do it. Okay, all three of those happening and the Hannon team drawing a blank is a long-shot, but they are at least heading to Ascot, the richest ever race day in the UK, in tip-top order â€“ so who knows! Theyâ€™ve not been sending many runners out in recent weeks, but itâ€™s clear the ones they are sending to post are in form with five recent victories form just 14 runners and that all bodes well for a great day on Saturday. With 54 winners this season they need 9 more to equal last seasonâ€™s haul, while it looks odds on they will surpass last terms total prize money won, needing just Â£200,000 â€“ a win for Frankel in Saturdayâ€™s QEII Stakes will take care of that.
Entries and track stats: - Kempton (14 from 76, 18%), Haydock (6 from 37, 16%), Ascot (10 from 62, 16%) & Catterick (1 from 5, 20%).
CHARLIE LONGSDON (7 winners from his last 22 runners, 32% strike-rate): The Oxon-based trainer has been a regular on here over the last 3 weeks and with 10 of his last 12 runners finishing second OR BETTER (5 wins) then you could argue the best is still to come. Iâ€™ve already gone on record as saying Iâ€™m expecting big things from this yard this season and although they might lack the quality for the top class races there are plenty of other big prizes they will have their eye on, while the more headlines they make then the more high-profile owners they will attract. They do share the riding arrangements out a lot, but Felix De Giles is their main man, while keep an eye out for young Kielan Woods as heâ€™s ridden 2 winners from his last 3 rides for the stable. They notched 44 wins last season and with 24 already this term they are already halfway and the season is yet to really start, while itâ€™s worth noting any NH Flat runners they have as so far this season theyâ€™ve had 6 winners from just 16 runners (38%).
Entries and track stats: - Uttoxeter (7 from 32, 22%), Cheltenham (1 from 32, 3%), Haydock (4 from 20, 20%), Kelso (no runners) & Kempton (1 from 24, 4%).
PAUL NICHOLLS (3 winners from his last 10 runners, 30% strike-rate): Things are starting to hot up at the Dicheat yard as we draw nearer to the new jumps season hitting top gear and it looks as if the champion trainer is ready to hit the ground running. Yes, their Silviniaco Conti was a bit disappointing behind Cue Card on Saturday on his chase debut, but Nicholls did say before the race heâ€™ll come on for the run, and should be seen in a better light next time - possible over a tiny bit further. That said, the yard have still had 3 winners from their last 10 runners and although youâ€™re not going to get rich backing most of the Nicholls runners these days itâ€™s still well worth being aware of the form their runners are in. With the first Cheltenham meeting of the new season starting this Friday then, for me, this is really were the flat-to-jumps transition kicks in properly. Every NH fan loves Nicholls, especially with his openness to the press and public, but with the likes of Kauto Star and Denman on the downgrade and the Henderson team having an array of new blood to go to war with I really think the Seven Barrows team will push Nicholls all the way this season, and actually think the 6/4 on offer on Henderson being â€˜top NH trainerâ€™ looks a great bet (Nicholls 5/6) that will give you an interest most days for the next 6 months.
Entries and track stats: - Wincanton (47 from 184, 26%), Cheltenham (54 from 365, 15%) & Kempton (27 from 120, 23%)
WILLIAM JARVIS (3 winners from his last 10 runners, 30% strike-rate): Incidentally two of the stables last three horses to go off favourite have won, so keep an eye for any money in the market for their entries, while the way Mondayâ€™s Yarmouth winner Lokiâ€™s Revenge finished suggests he could go in again if turned out quickly. They only need one more winner to surpass last season tally of 20 winners, so that looks a certainty, but more impressively theyâ€™ve achieved that total with just 121 runners and thatâ€™s a very decent 17% overall strike-rate. 13 of their 22 successes have been with their 3 year-olds, while with only a couple of 2 year-old winners from 25 runners then it suggests they take their time with their juveniles.
Entries and track stats: - Windsor (2 from 35, 6%) & Pontefract (2 from 7, 29%)
JOHN GOSDEN (8 winners from his last 31 runners, 26% strike-rate): These big gun trainers are shrewd operators and the fact the Gosden team are another that have their string in cracking order ahead of the richest days racing in the UK this Saturday is no fluke. Another 3 year-old winner at Nottingham on Wednesday saw his recent haul hit 8 winners from 31 runners and this bodes well for their King George winner Nathaniel (providing the ground is not too firm), who will be hopefully trying to add the Champion Stakes to his CV this weekend. With 89 winners itâ€™s unlikely they will beat their 2010 tally of 105 winners, but with a bit of luck at Ascot on Saturday there is a very good chance they can make this their best-ever total prize money season â€“ they need around Â£265,000 to achieve this. Finally, of their 89 winners this season 62% (55) have come with their 3 year-olds â€“ and how old is Nathaniel? Yes, three!
Entries and track stats: - Brighton (7 from 14, 50%), Kempton (46 from 232, 20%), Haydock (14 from 70, 20%) & Ascot (18 from 129, 14%)
COLIN TIZZARD (4 winners from his last 14 runners, 29% strike-rate): The Tizzardâ€™s are another NH yard that seems to have their horses more forward than most at this stage of the new jumps season. Cue Card was, of course, a high-profile winner for them on Saturday on his chasing debut and the way he jumped when they quickened in the home straight was really impressive â€“ the novice chasing division looks strong this season, but heâ€™s put down a fair marker and it could pay to have a small interest in the both the Arkle and RSA chases, with the latter (according to his trainer) the more likely at this stage. Away from Cue Card they also had Theatrical Star go in at the Welsh track on Saturday and a double at Exeter last Thursday. Son, Joe, takes most of the rides and despite having his critics over the years letâ€™s not forget heâ€™s actually one of the most experienced riders on the NH circuit and being based at his dadâ€™s farm will know these horses better than anyone. In terms of winners theyâ€™ve already notched 14 this season, and look odds on to beat their 2010-11 tally of 41 and make this their best-ever campaign. Based on last season 26 of their 44 winners came over fences and that pattern seems to be continuing with 11 of their 14 successes so far being over the bigger obstacles. Entries and track stats: - (Wincanton (17 from 143 12%), Cheltenham (11 from 72, 15%) & Kempton (4 from 27, 15%)
JAMES FANSHAWE (3 winners from his last 15 runners, 20% strike-rate): The team at Pegasus House are heading into Saturdayâ€™s Champions Day on the back of 16/1 and 12/1 midweek winners and, therefore, connections of their main Ascot hopes Deacon Blues and Society Rock, who both head for the Sprint Stakes, must be confident of big runs. One more winner will see then equal last seasonâ€™s haul of 29 winners, but, mainly thanks to the already mentioned stable stars, theyâ€™ve already banked over Â£540,000 in total prize money. They are also operating on a huge +Â£128 level stakes profit this season, but even if you take out their rare 100/1 winner they are still in the black. Finally, not a single 2 year-old winner is hardly surprising for a yard that is renowned for taking their time with their inmates.
Entries and track stats: - Redcar (1 from 10, 10%), Haydock (0 from 19), Ascot (12 from 60, 20%) & Bath (0 from 5)
MARK JOHNSTON (16 winners from his last 80 runners, 20% strike-rate): He celebrated his 52nd birthday on Monday, but after an average season the Kingsley House handler is certainly ending on a high, backed up by a treble at York on Saturday. Yes, a bit like the Hannon camp, they have so many runners each week that itâ€™s sometimes hard to sort the wheat from the chaff but if any of these big yards are operating around the 20% mark then you should take notice. Title-chasing jockey Silvestre De Sousa has ridden all of their last 4 winners and the stable have made no secret just how highly they think of the pocket Brazilian. Heâ€™s currently around 10 shy of Hanagan, but due to a ban on the horizon is a hefty 25/1 to end the season as champion jockey. That said, with this powerful in-form yard behind him and the fact heâ€™s bound to pick up plenty of other outside rides should he ride another of his famous four-timers in the next week or so then despite his ban he could be worth a tiny interest. They might be ending the season on a high, but the figures back up that itâ€™s been a slightly frustrating season with 50 winners less than last yearâ€™s 211 total, while unless they have a big winner at Ascot on Saturday then it looks likely they will not break the Â£2million barrier for the first time in four years â€“ oh, and if youâ€™d backed all their runners blind then youâ€™ll be showing a LOSS of Â£236!
Entries and track stats: - Brighton (13 from 43, 30%), Kempton (52 from 351, 15%), Haydock (20 from 220, 9%), Redcar (21 from 137, 15%), Dundalk (7 from 21, 33%), Wolverhampton (88 from 407, 22%), Ascot (24 from 285, 8%), Catterick (30 from 147, 20%) & Bath (13 from 53, 25%)
This Weekâ€™s Cold Trainers...........
MICHAEL BELL (55 days and 69 runners without a winner): Yes, the Bell team have featured on the cold list for the past few weeks and itâ€™s no secret theyâ€™ve had a bug in the yard, but itâ€™s still worth being aware of. Some reports have suggested that their stable star Wigmore Hall, who heads for Saturdayâ€™s Champion Stakes, has avoided the virus at the stable, and three recent seconds and a third on Wednesday are encouraging signs. However, until they can fire in another winner, and I hope itâ€™s not too long, I would still be treating ALL their runners with caution.
FERDY MURPHY (161 days and 29 runners without a winner): Okay, these stats are a bit inflated as they are carried over from last season and the Murphy team donâ€™t have many summer jumpers. That said, 7 of their last 8 runners have been well beaten, in fact one was pulled up but if you add up the total number of lengths the other 6 runners were beaten it would be around 446! Yes, they generally donâ€™t get going for another few weeks and are certainly a yard to keep on the right side of, but they will be hoping for a better season than last year with just 29 winners from 321 runners (9% overall strike-rate). The yard have also been hit with bad news that their 2011 Bet365 Gold Cup winner Poker De Sivola will miss the season due to a few niggling problems picked up in that hard-fought win.
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