Author Archives: John Burke

Its A Vanity Tip

Morning all,

The flat season is starting to hit top gear. Tomorrow sees the start of the three day Craven Meeting at Newmarket and last Friday and Saturday we had the best flat racing of the season so far, as Newbury hosted the Greenham Meeting.

You can read my thoughts on the Newbury action and get my Monday tip inside…

Five Newbury Takeaways

Kaloor looks a nice middle-distance prospect

Kaloor, caught my eye when putting in a strong finish to win on his juvenile debut, over a mile at Salisbury back in October. Given his pedigree the son of Nathaniel was always going to be a better horse when racing over middle distances in his second season

Making his seasonal reappearance in the 1m 2f conditions race on the Friday card given a hold up ride, pushed along three out, he ran on nicely in the final furlong to finish third. Although he never looked like he would catch the first two, this was a good effort on just his second career start.

The way he finished off his race means he should appreciate a step up 1m 4f or further. It’s early days, but he already looks like a St Leger horse to me.

Andrew Balding continues to bang in the winners

Andrew Balding has his horses in great form. In the past 30-days he’s had 13 winners from 49 runners 27% 22 placed 45%. This good form carried over to Newbury. He sent seven runners there, three of them won and two more finished second.

The most impressive of his three winners was Happy Power’s who won the 7f handicap on Friday. A winner of two of his four starts as juvenile. The handicapper had put the 3-year-old up 10lb for his win on his final start of last season. The rating's rise wasn’t a problem, as the colt easily brushed aside a decent looking field to win by 5 lengths.

We know Happy Power handles cut in the ground but it will be interesting to see how he goes on quicker ground. He looks capable of more improvement and could be a pattern horse in the making.

Marmelo set for coronation Marmelo

Marmelo. who was last seen in action finishing second in the Melbourne Cup, put in a good performance to win the 1m 4f Group 3 that opened Saturday’s Newbury card.

The race had on paper looked like a match between last year's winner Defoe and three-time course winner Young Rascal. However, the two market leaders both under-performed in a slowly run race turned into a bit of sprint for home in the straight. For a horse who has done most of his winning at 1m 6f/ 1m 7f, Marmelo was the one who showed the better turn of foot.

After the race trainer Hughie Morrison talked about going back for another tilt at the Melbourne Cup. However, the 6-year-old's short term target is the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom. It tends not to be the strongest Group 1 middle-distance race of the season and there is normally a small field of runners. It's a race I could see him run really well in especially if the ground was to be good or softer.

Dandu’s a Newbury darling

The Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes is considered a 1,000 Guineas Trial but it’s 20-years since the winner went on to win the first fillies classic. The once raced, Dancing Vega was sent off the 3/1 favourite but she was a bit keen in the early stages of the race and didn't give her running.

The eventual winner Dandu who had improved with each start as a juvenile, ending last season with a 1 ¾ length, second to Just Wonderful in a Group 2 at Newmarket in September. That form was some of the best on offer in the race, so it was a little surprising that she was sent off at a generous 8/1.

The daughter of Dandy Man has trained on from two to three and was given a fine ride by jockey Gerald Mosse. Making good headway two furlongs from home she hit the front inside the final furlong. Her jockey then nursed her home as she just held off the late lunging Iconic Choice by a short head.

I think she will come on for this run and unlike some other pundits I really liked the filly's performance. If she takes her chance in the 1,000 Guineas, she has each-way claims if the going is good or softer.

Tregoning’s back in the big time

The Greenham Stakes has been a traditional launch pad for top 3-year-old colts. Frankel won this race before going onto win the 2,000 Guineas. Other recent winners Kingman and Barney Roy both went onto finish runner-up in the first colts classic. The late defection of 2,000 Guineas ante post favourite Too Darn Hot, due to heat in a leg, robbed the race of its main attraction.

The absence of the hot favourite shouldn’t take away from the win of Mohaather. The colt who had won the Horris Hill over C&D on his final start as a juvenile. Once again, he probably handled the tacky ground better than his rivals. Striding clear inside the final furlong. If he hadn’t have hung toward the stands rail in the final furlong, he would have won by more than the final ¾ length margin.

Plenty of people are questioning whether the colt will stay the mile of the 2,000 Guineas. On breeding there are mixed messages, his sire gets plenty of sprinters, however, his full sister Prize Exhibit won a Grade 2 Handicap over an extended mile at Del Mar which gives his Guineas supporters plenty of hope.

Mohaather’s win was a big one for his trainer Marcus Tregoning. He probably hasn’t had as good a horse since he trained Sir Percy to Derby glory back in 2006. Could he have another classic winner on his hands?

Monday Selection:


5:25 – Vanity Vanity – The 4-year-old remains a maiden after 12 starts on the all-weather and turf. Still she has run some good races in defeat over the winter at Lingfield off her present mark of 60. Including when last seen 52-days ago. The filly’s best turf form has come at Windsor on good to firm ground. She can now race off a 9lb lower mark and can take advantage of her drop in the weights.

Vanity Vanity – 6/1 – Gen

Until next week.

It’s Saint’s Day At Windsor

Morning all,

Another Grand National has come and gone. You can read my thoughts on Saturdays big race. As well as a look ahead to another Grand National, the Scottish, which takes place at Ayr on Saturday. All this plus my Monday tip can be found inside….

Eye of The Tiger

When Red Rum won the last of his three Grand National’s back in 1976, just 9,000 people watched the race. On Saturday almost 70,000 were in attendance. Those figures show that the race remains in good health.

So, it was probably right that Tiger Roll should win and become the first horse since Red Rum in 1974 to win the race in successive years. The 9-year-old doesn’t have the build of a chaser but he’s arguably the most natural horse over the national fences since Red Rum.

Absolutely cantering over his rivals coming to two out and soon was pushed clear. Like last season the little horse seemed to idle on the run in the final 100yds. He probably ran to something like 175 on Saturday and if that’s the case he must a have a great chance of winning the race for a third successive year in 2020

The National Continues to Thrive

The changes made to the National fences have done the race a great favour. Yes, it’s not the race it used to be but to the wider general public it remains the great spectacle it always has been.

Too many “racing folk” seem to want to turn the clock back to the so called “good old days”. I can’t subscribe to that at all. Lest we forget the “good old days” of the Grand National involved drops on the landing sides so steep they broke many a horse’s leg and the ditches were so deep that fallen horses had to be hauled out of them.

We still have a Grand National to enjoy and that's down to the race modifications introduced. It's possible without them it wouldn't still be with us today.

Horse racing made the headlines for the right reasons on Saturday with Tiger Roll's win and rumours of the death of the Grand National look premature after Saturday.

Coral Scottish Grand National

On Saturday it’s the latest renewal of Scotland’s most famous race The Coral Scottish Grand National.

There is only one Grand National but the Scottish version of the race is up there with the Irish & Welsh races.

Which horse will be adding its name to the alumni of winners this year?

The Contenders:

Big River – The bookies ante-post favourite. He ran an eye-catching race when staying on strongly to finish 4th of 24 in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. The 9-year -old could well improve for the step up to 4m. His best form has come with plenty of juice in the ground so how he will cope with good ground is a bit of an unknown.

Dingo Dollar, trained by Alan King, is next in the betting. The 7-year-old was runner-up in the valuable novices’ handicap chase at last years meeting and this race could well have been a target for the trainer.

Crosshue Boy, beat Dingo Doller 12 months ago and there shouldn’t be much between the pair again. The 9-year-old has been subject to some good support for the race over the weekend. No issues with good ground for this one and if he stay’s the 4m, the Irish trained horse can go close.

Nicholls Possibles

Give Me A Copper, trained by Paul Nicholls, returned from a 446-day break when 4th at Sandown, before falling in the Ultima was beaten at the time. He’s highly regarded by his trainer and remains capable of improvement over fences. A mark of 143 could underestimate him.

Ibis Du Rheu, another possible runner for the Nicholls stable. A winner of a good ground Cheltenham novices’ chase on his seasonal reappearance back in November.

Ran poorly at Warwick when last seen and was said to have bled from the nose after the race. That would be slight concern, but he looks an ideal type for this race.

He's a real stayer whose at his best on good ground. Not one to dismiss lightly should he get his favoured underfoot conditions.


Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, made it 2 from 3, going over fences when winning at Catterick back in November. A 141-day absence to overcome but the 7-year-old remains open to more improvement over fences. He's well suited to good ground and a mark of 134 looks more than workable.

Geronimo, would be a popular local winner. The 8-year-old made it 2 wins from 4 runs when winning a 3m 3f handicap chase here back in January. He remains capable of more improvement over fences and could well relish this 4m trip. Best form has so far come on rain softened ground.

Verdict: A lot depends on the weather. On a sound surface both Dingo Dollar and Crosshue Boy would be strong contenders. On such going the likes of Ibis Du Rheu and Cloth Cap would also need respecting. Whilst a softer surface would bring the improving double course winner Geronimo into the reckoning.

Monday Selection:


4:20 – Gabrial The Saint, did well in the early part of last season winning at Chester and Leicester. He didn’t run to that form on his final three starts of last season. Has had a wind-op over the winter and looks on a competitive mark for his seasonal reappearance.

Gabrial The Saint – 11/2

Until next week

Ludlow Specialist Can Bounce Back To Winning Ways

Morning all,

It was great to see the return of the British flat season in the Doncaster spring sunshine. You can read my thoughts on Saturday’s action on Town Moor and an early look at the Grand National and couple of other Aintree fancies inside…

Doyle Keeps It Nice And Simple

The first big race of the new flat season the Lincoln Handicap was won in impressively by the Godolphin owned Auxerre. The 4-year-old had the potential to be the proverbial Group horse in handicap and so it proved.

James Doyle deserves the plaudits for his ride on the winner. He had worked out there wasn’t a lot of pace in the race. He quickly got the front and once there was never headed, as he proved too classy for his rivals.

It’s A Ripp Orf

Before the race I thought the David Elsworth trained Ripp Orf was in the grip of the handicapper. Now, I am not so sure. Held up as normal, the 5-year-old was tanking along in the hands of Hayley Turner. Making good headway two out he didn’t get the best of passages. Evan with a clearer passage he wouldn't have beaten the winner. Still it was good to see him finish his race off as strongly as he did to grab 5th.

Given how well he performs at Ascot, on good to firm going, 2 wins from 3 runs 3 placed with form figures 131 and on good to firm going 3 wins from 7 runs 6 placed with form figures 1212314.

The gelding is 5lb higher than for the last of those wins but on the evidence of his Lincoln run remains on a competitive mark.

I can can see him going well in a big field Ascot handicap once again this season.

Doncaster Eyecatcher

Birkenhead, trained by Mick Channon, was the subject of some good reports before the Brockelsby Stakes. He looked fit enough before the race but when asked for his effort his inexperience was apparent and he was too green to do himself justice.

However, the experience will not be lost on the colt. He’s no superstar juvenile in the making but looks more than capable of winning a race in the coming weeks.

The form of this years first two-year-old race could be worth following. As both the winner Show Me Show Me and runner-up Strong Power look capable of better.

Randox Health Grand National Festival

Here's my take on the National and a couple of other horses that look worth bets this week.

Randox Grand National

Looking to shortlist contenders for the race using the trends? You could do worse than use the following:

Horses Age: 8 And 11
Max Distance Won: 3m 1f +
Runs Last 90-days: 1 And 3
Runs In Chases: 10+
Handicap Chase Wins: 1 to 3

These trends have found 10 of the last 11 winners or 91% of the winners from 24% of the total runners.

My fancy is Joe Farrell. The 10-year-old ran well to finish runner-up at Newbury last time. I can see last years Scottish Grand National winner go well if his last race doesn't come too quick. Number 56 on the list of entries, he's by no means certain to get a run. However, if he does 50/1 looks too big to ignore.

Other Aintree Fancies

Shanahan’s Turn looks worth a bet in Friday's Topham Chase. The 11-year-old was second in last year’s race and can race off an 8lb lower mark this time around. Form this season has been poor, but he's likely been trained for the race and at 33/1, looks too big to ignore. Assuming he can get in the race.

Duke Of Navan, trained by Nicky Richards, would have to be of interest if he was to take his place in Thursday's Red Rum Handicap Chase. Beaten just a head off this mark at Cheltenham back in October he was also an excellent 3rd at Leopardstown over Christmas on his last start. Despite his age he's on a winnable mark and 20/1 looks decent each-way value to me.

Monday Selection:

Last weeks Monday tip Jacob Cats plugged on into third to land the each-way money.


2:50 – Marcilhac, trained by Venetia Williams, has pulled up on both his starts this season. However, it’s worth noting his top three Racing Post Ratings have come over C&D and the 10-year-old is on a winnable mark if boucing back to his best.

Marcilhac – 10/1

Until next week.

Cats For Lingfield!

Morning all,

In this weeks article,  I’m going to be looking at a young jumps jockey that is fantastic value for his 5lb claim and looks destined for the top. I will also be sharing with you an ante post selection for next Saturday’s Lincoln Handicap. All this plus my Monday tip can be found inside…

Jonjo’s A Chip Off The Old Block

Two conditional jockeys have caught my eye this jumps season. One is Rex Dingle. The other is the subject of my attention and its Jonjo O’Neill Jnr.

The son of trainer and former top jockey Jonjo O’Neill is really starting to take the eye. On Saturday he rode a big race double in front of the ITV cameras at Newbury.

The first of his wins came on Chic Name in the 3m 2f handicap chase that kicked off the card. The 7-year-old came to hand in the spring last season and it looks he’s doing the same this time around.

Always up in a prominent position. Jonjo gave the horse a great ride getting the horse into a great jumping rhythm from the off.  Once taking it up at the 9th he applied the pressure and soon had plenty of rivals in trouble. Given the standard of his jumping he never really looked like he would be caught.

Joe Farrell Heads To Aintree

The only horse to give Chic Name a race was last years winner and subsequent Scottish Grand National winner Joe Farrell. The 10-year-old needed the run on his seasonal reappearance earlier in the month, but this was much better. He eventually finished well clear of the third but was unfortunate to come up against a well-handicapped horse who benefitted from having useful 5lb claimer in the saddle. This will have put him on course for a tilt at the Aintree National which is less than two weeks away.

O'Neill's' Combine For Big Race Win

The second of young Jonjo’s wins came on his fathers trained mare Annie Mac in Newbury’s feature race the EBF Mares Novices’ Hurdle. The 5-year-old was given a patient ride by his jockey, making steady headway to take up the running between the final two hurdles and when asked for her effort she quickly stormed clear of her rivals.

Her final margin of victory was only eight lengths but it’s fair to say she won with much more in hand than that. As her jockey was easing the mare up in the final 100yds and it’s not often you see a competitive handicap hurdle won so comfortably.

Drama On Bend

The race certainly wasn’t short on drama. On the bend, The White Mouse clipped the heels of a horse in front of her and came down At the same time she hampered Etamine Du Cochet who unseated her rider.

Further drama was to occur coming to two out when race favourite She Mite Bite lost her action and was quickly pulled up and after the race she was found to have suffered a pelvic injury. Although she seemed to be mounting a challenge when suffering her injury and would have finished in the places, I am not sure she would have beaten the authoritative winner.

Jonjo O’Neil had enjoyed big race success last week when he partnered the JP McManus owned Early Doors to a stylish success in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He seems to be getting plenty of outside rides and will continue to be great value for his 5lb claim for the last few weeks of this jumps season.

Fehily Bows Out With A Winner

As one jockey is just starting out on their career another ended his with a win at Newbury. Noel Fehily who had announced his retirement at the Cheltenham Festival, had earlier in the week said he would be having his final rides at Newbury.

It was nice that it was Harry Fry who was able to send Fehily off into retirement with a winner on Get In The Queue, who made it three from three with a fairly easy win the valuable NHF race. The 5-year-old looks like he will make an exciting novice hurdler over 2m 4f+ next season.

Fehily was a late comer to big race success but soon made up for it. He was in my eyes a very underrated jockey who gave the likes of Silviniaco Conti, Rock On Ruby and Special Tiara great rides to earn deserved Grade 1 success.

Injuries and a recent health scare have no doubt played a major part in his retirement. At least he’s goes out at a time of his choosing and on a winner too.

Unibet Lincoln (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) – 1m

It’s the start of the 2019 Flat turf season on Saturday and with it comes the first big handicap of the new season and the Lincoln handicap over Doncaster’s straight mile. At the time of writing the going is soft but it should be much quicker come Saturday if the weather is as dry as expected.

The Contenders

The ante post favourite is the Godolphin owned Auxerre at 9/2. The drying ground will be in his favour and it could be that the 4-year-old proves to be better than a handicapper this season. He has an obvious chance of giving his trainer Charlie Appleby a second win in the race.  

If the ground remained on the soft side I would give the Martyn Meade trained Chilean a solid each way chance. The 4-year-old won a Longchamp Group 3 on his seasonal return last season, beating the subsequent French Derby winner in the process, albeit on heavy. Below that level of form on four subsequent starts last year but would have a great chance here although good ground would be a bit of an unknown

Humbert, trained by David O’Meara is another to catch my eye. The 5-year-old’s four career wins have come on the all-weather for previous trainer Hugo Palmer. He’s 0 from 6 on the grass but has finished runner-up three times. Has since moved to his present trainer, same owner. One of those runner-up efforts came at this meeting in the Spring Mile over C&D, off 8lb lower, before filling the runner-up spot in the Newbury Spring Cup off 4lb lower. First run since October but he’s won off a longer layoff so fitness shouldn’t be an issue. Two of his best turf runs have come on good to soft, he’s effective over a mile and he handles a big field.  At around 12/1 he looks a decent each way bet for a trainer who won this race in 2017 and the runner-up last year.

Monday Selection:

Last Monday’s selection Young Paddymc, ran well had to settle for second. This week’s tip runs at Lingfield.

3:30 – Jacob Cats – The 10-year-old hasn’t won since April 2017 but he’s run some decent races since and has dropped back to a tempting handicap mark. Granted he’s yet to win beyond 1m 5f and this his first start since November, but he won first time up in 2017 and Osin Murphy has been booked for the ride. The 14/1 generally available makes him a sporting each-way bet.

Jacob Cats – 14/1 – each way

Until next week.

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