Author Archives: John Burke

Christmas Crackers & Plumpton Tip

Morning all,

My last Monday column until New Year’s Eve. This time next week I will be enjoying some winter sunshine in Mexico. A great opportunity to recharge the batteries for the New Year and boy do I need it, as it’s been a tiring year.

This week’s column takes a look back at Cheltenham’s two-day International Meeting and forward to some of the key trends for the Coral Welsh Grand National. Inside you will also find the Monday tip which is looking for the hat trick…

Fabulous Frost

On paper Saturday’s action seemed pale in comparison to previous week's fare. We needn’t have worried. As seems to be the case each Saturday during the winter there’s always a good story to be found.

The performance of the weekend came from Frodon in winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. His jockey Bryony Frost got the horse in a great jumping rhythm from the off. Baron Alco who had beaten Frodon into second in the BetVictor Gold Cup at the previous meeting couldn’t match his rivals jumping on this occasion and eventually finished 4th.

The only horse who could match the winner was Cepage. The 6-year-old still had a chance coming to the second last. However, jumping is the name of the game and he made a mistake two out whilst Frodon winged it. From then on there was only going to be one winner.

Rather Be Anywhere But Cheltenham

A mistake four out ended Mr Medic’s challenge. The 7-year-old was still travelling well enough at the time although it was probably too early to say where he would have finished. His connections will have been delighted with this run as he showed he can go well left handed. His progress may not have ended just yet.

Nicky Henderson will have been mystified by the performance of favourite Rather Be. The 7-year-old had been well backed ante post for the race, although was weak in the betting before the off. But he was never really in the race and finished a well beaten 5th. There will no doubt be other days for him.

I doubt there is a better ambassador for jumps racing than the winning jockey. Bryony Frost gave a really good interview to ITV after racing and her enthusiasm for the game and the horses is truly infectious.

The New One Retires

Last week I was reporting on the retirement of My Tent Or Yours. Well this weekend another great warrior The New One ran his last race. Connections had said that the International Hurdle would likely be his last race if he didn’t show more.

Racing in the first time visor he was keen out in front. Sadly coming to three out he had nothing more to give and faded out of the race. His jockey sensibly pulled him up after the last.

A Grade 1 winner at 2m 4f. He was just a little behind the very best at 2m. He had a few attempts at the Champion Hurdle crown but the closest he got was when 3rd to Jezki in 2014.

The 10-year-old has been a credit to connections and deserves a happy retirement from racing.

Racing Post Enters A New Era

On Friday It was announced that 31-year-old Tom Kerr would be replacing Bruce Millington as the Editor of the Racing Post.

Tom Kerr has big shoes to follow as Millington has held the job for 11-years and whilst he hasn’t been to everyone’s taste I think he has done a good job at the paper in times of change.

I’m big fan of Tom Kerr’s writing. He’s never been afraid to take on those controversial topics that can be uncomfortable for those who run the sport and sometimes racing fans in general. I think he will do a good job in his new role and I wish him all the luck in the world. I suspect he will need it.

Christmas Crackers

There’s plenty of high quality of racing over Christmas. The Highlight of Kempton’s two-day Christmas Festival is of course the King George VI Chase. Over the Irish Sea we have four-days of high-class racing at Leopardstown. However, on December 27th it’s my favourite race of the festive period the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

The Welsh National is a race that that has been hit hard by the weather in the past decade with the 2010, 2012 and 2015 renewals having to be held in January of the following year.

Chepstow – December 27th 2018

2:50 – Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – 3m 5 ½ f

Since 2008 there have been 10 winners from 192 runners 40 placed and seven renewals of the race have been run on going officially described as heavy.

The Trends

Here are some of the more interesting trends of the last 10 years:

Age: 6 to 8yo’s8 winners from 84 runners +16.75 19 placed (8 -year-olds – 5 winners from 45 runners +25 11 placed)

Odds SP: 22/1 + – 0 winners from 65 runners 14 placed

Weight: 10-0 to 10-107 winners from 104 runners 23 placed

Runs In Last 90 Days: 2 to 4 – 9 winners from 102 runners +4.75 28 placed

Wins In Handicap Chase: 1 to 310 winners from 111 runners +16.75 31 placed (runners with 0 handicap chase wins are 0 winners from 54 runners 6 placed).


Looking at those trends the Henry Daly trained Back To Thatch looks of some interest. He’s won at the track in the past and was a close up 4th in the Grand National Trial at the track at the beginning of the month. He was beaten six lengths by ante-post favourite Ramses De Teille but was still in with chance until a mistake at the last and does get a 4lb pull.

The 6-year-old has winning form on heavy. He was travelling noticeably well in the 4m Eider Chase when falling at the 16th. He’s more than capable of winning a staying handicap chase off his present mark if his jumping holds up. Does need a few to drop out to get into the race though.

If the ground was heavy, I can see Otago Trail running well for Venetia Williams. The 10-year-old has potential for more improvement over this trip and was an excellent 3rd in the Rehearsal Chase after a 665-day absence.

Elegant’s Escape runner-up in the Ladbroke Trophy has to be respected and he should appreciate the longer trip.

Another with potential for plenty of improvement over this marathon trip is Ron’s Dream. The mare is one of Pricewise (Tom Segal's) ante-post selections for the race.

Hopefully the above trends will enable you find the winner of this year’s renewal.

Monday Selection:

Last week’s tip The Gipper landed a bit of a touch at Lingfield, following on from the previous week’s winner. Can we make it three on the trot?


3:05 – Finnegan’s Garden – 13/2 @ William Hill & Paddy Power – A winner over C&D in the spring. He ran really well to finish runner-up at Lingfield on his seasonal reappearance. Didn’t back that up at Uttoxeter 12 days later but could have been feeling the effects of previous effort. He looks capable of going close.

Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and see you again on New Years Eve.

A 12/1 Lingfield Tip And Profitable Cheltenham Trainers

Morning all,

There was plenty of top-class racing at the weekend. We had Altior winning the Tingle Creek and the National fences were in action for the first time since April.

You can see my thoughts on the Saturday action, as well as stats for the upcoming Cheltenham two-day International Meeting inside this week’s column….

Altior Simply The Best

Before looking at those all-important Cheltenham Stats and of course Monday’s selection. Let’s take a look at what's been making the weekend's racing headlines.

The Tingle Creek Chase was a spectacular race wasn't it?  It's what jumps racing is all about. Sandown racegoers and those watching the action on TV saw some marvellous jumping by both Altior and Un de Sceau. The latter has never jumped better than he did on Saturday and went down on his shield. He was just beaten by a magnificent horse who once hitting top gear is impossible to hold off.

The sport needs superstars like Altior and we're privileged to be able to see him race. When fully fit there's no horse that can beat him. We won’t see him in this year’s King George VI but how far would he win that race?

The National Fences Are Back

It’s always good to see the Aintree National fences in action and we had two races over them on Saturday. The Becher Chase was won by Walk In The Mill, who held off the running on Vieux Lion Rouge. The winner and runner-up will no doubt be lining up in the National in April.

Bowen's Warrior Ride

Of the two races it was the 2m 5f Grand Sefton Handicap Chase, that I enjoyed more. A strong pace was set from the off by Brandon Hill from who was jumping really well out in front. He was still in the lead after the last but was then joined by Warrior’s Tale who battled on well to prevail by 1 1/2 lengths.

Sean Bowen who won the British conditional jockey championship in the 2014-15 season, when attached to the Paul Nicholls stable, was in the shade last season due to the exploits of younger brother James. However, this season Sean is riding as well anyone in the country and I don’t think there is a stronger jockey in the saddle.

He rode the perfect race on Warrior’s Tale. In mid-division in the early part of the race he slowly brought the horse into contention and produced the horse with a perfectly timed challenge to overhaul the long-time leader after the elbow.

For those of you who like your jockey stats you will like this one. Sean Bowen is a jockey who really excels when the mud is flying. Since 2015 he's had 32 winners from 119 rides 27% +95.16 A/E 1.61 45 placed 38% when heavy is in the going description.

My Tent Or Yours Retires

On Sunday Nicky Henderson announced that My Tent Or Yours is to retire. Time has finally caught up with the 11-year-old who must rank as one of the best hurdlers never to have won a Champion Hurdle.

He was runner-up to Jezki in 2014, beaten just a neck, and returned from a mammoth 703-day break to occupy the same spot behind Annie Power in 2015. His great efforts in the race hadn’t finished because in 2017 he was runner up to stablemate Buveur D’Air in the 2017 renewal.

It was an emotional Nicky Henderson who greeted My Tent Or Yours after he had won the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham 12 months ago. It was the horse's first win since February 2014 and you could see what the win meant to his trainer.

After all his good efforts in defeat you couldn’t say he didn’t deserve one final moment in the sun!

Cheltenham International Meeting Stats:

Friday December 14th to Saturday December 15th

General Stats:

The figures are from 2013 to 2017 and consist of 70 winners from 603 runners

Runners in the top three in the betting have produced 46 winners from 219 runners A/E 0.88 or 66% of the races from 36% of the total runners.

Clear favourites are under-performing with 17 winners from 59 runners 29% -21.85 A/E 0.78 31 placed 53%.

Runners sent off at odds 18/1 & bigger are 3 winners from 148 runners 2% -46 A/E 0.67 19 placed 13%

Previous course winners have produced 28 winners from 151 runners 19% +13.29 A/E 1.09 51 placed 34%.

Runners returning from a 60+ day absence are 5 winners from 63 runners 8% -27.37 A/E 0.65 17 placed 27%.

Trainer Stats:

The top five trainers numerically have won 44% of the races from just 25% of the total runners:

Nigel Twiston-Davies – 8 winners from 37 runners 22% -6.52 A/E 1.24 13 placed 35%
Jonjo O’Neill – 6 winners from 21 runners 29% +41.58 A/E 1.73 7 placed 33%
Philip Hobbs – 6 winners from 34 runners 18% +24.57 A/E 0.99 17 placed 50%
Colin Tizzard – 6 winners from 25 runners 24% +15.75 A/E 1.64 12 placed 48%
Nicky Henderson – 5 winners from 36 runners 14% -20.37 A/E 0.59 15 placed 42%

Jonjo O’Neil’s profits are excellent and as the A/E figure shows his runners are under bet. Colin Tizzard is another trainer with a good win strike rate and solid profit figures whose runners are under bet.

It may also pay to watch out for any runners from the following three trainers:

Anthony Honeyball – 2 winners from 3 runners 67% +9.5
Martin Keighley – 3 winners from 13 runners 23% +22 5 placed 38%
Evan Williams – 3 winners from 18 runners 17% +39 7 placed 39%

Trainers To Avoid? 

Tom George – 1 winner from 19 runners 5% -13.5 A/E 0.38 8 placed 42%
Paul Nicholls – 4 winners from 50 runners 8% -15.25 A/E 0.47 13 placed 26%
Kim Bailey – 0 winners from 10 runners -10 1 placed 10%
Willie Mullins – 0 winners from 7 runners -7 1 placed 14%
David Pipe -2 winners from 19 runners 11% A/E 0.70 2 placed 11%

In the past two seasons Paul Nicholls has had just 1 winner from 18 runners with just three placing.

David Pipe’s two winners have come in non-handicap races and he’s 0 winners from 13 runners 0 placed in handicaps. His last winner at the meeting came in 2014.

Tom George has had plenty of runners here in recent years. The trainer has had plenty of solid placed efforts and his 42% win & place strike rate indicates his runners need respecting.

Monday Selection:

Last Monday’s selection was a winner. Can we have another one this week?


2:00 – The Gipper – You have to go back to February 2017 for the 8-year-old last win but he now runs off a 19lb lower mark.

Twice a winner on heavy, his other two career wins have come on soft. He really needs testing going to be at his best so underfoot conditions should at least be in his favour today.

He also ticks the distance box all four of his career wins have come at around 2m. Leighton Aspell has been booked for the ride and he's got excellent record when teaming up with trainer Evan Williams – 10 winners from 29 rides 34% +37.24 A/E 1.81 16 placed 55% (+50.30).

I think we could see a decent run from the gelding today. Of course, he could just as easily fall out the back of the telly. Still there’s enough to think he looks worth an each-way interest at the 16/1 available with Paddy Power at the time of writing.

The Gipper – 12/1 or bigger – each way

Until next week

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Monday Musselburgh Tip And Weekend Pointers

Morning all,

There’s plenty to talk about this week.

It was a tale of two races on Saturday. The Ladbroke Trophy provided a one-two for trainer Colin Tizzard, although his better fancied runner didn’t win. Meanwhile up at Newcastle the connections of Buveur D’Air will have left the racecourse with smile on their faces whilst Samcro’s will have left with a frown.

Off the track, Racing TV was launched and Betfair Sportsbook made a significant change to their BOG terms and conditions. You can read about all this plus some stats for next weekend's racing and a Monday selection inside…

Samcro Slain By Henderson Warrior

A hurdler who can quicken off any pace is really good horse. Buveur D’Air is such a horse, as he had good turn of foot after the last to storm away from Samcro and win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle. If he’s in the same form, as he was here, then surely he will be winning his third successive Champion Hurdle in March.

The winner was giving away race fitness to his main rival Samcro, who looked magnificent in the paddock before the off. Not surprising then that there was plenty of money for the runner-up before the race who was sent off favourite.

Surely the Champion Hurdle is off the agenda on the back of this run. He just doesn’t seem to have the pace to beat the best over 2m. He looks like a stayer to me. Connections after the race indicated that Samcro will stay hurdling this season rather than go chasing so will the Champion Hurdle or the Stayers Hurdle be the target come March?

Tennessee Lands Ladbroke

At Newbury it was the Ladbroke Trophy. Just twelve went to post for this year’s renewal which is a smaller number than is the norm. The consensus before the race was that wasn’t the best in terms of quality and so it turned out. However, that won’t concern trainer Colin Tizzard who saddled the first two and also the fifth.

Sizing Tennessee beat his more fancied stablemate Elegant Escape by a fairly easy 10 lengths. The winner was a trends buster as he became the first horse older than nine to win the race since Diamond Edge in 1981.

Despite the small field there was no lack of pace in the race with plenty of horses who liked to race prominently in the line up. Several trainers/jockeys changed tactics and it didn’t suit their horses.

Tom Scudamore on Sizing Tennessee did right thing. He never got involved in the battle for the lead. Instead he kept his horse out wider giving him plenty of sight of his fences. Taking it up four out, he was soon clear of his field and never looked like being caught by Elegant Escape who plugged on for second.

Dollar Lands Each Way Money

The well backed favourite Thomas Patrick and Dingo Dollar had helped to set a strong pace, maybe too strong a pace. Thomas Patrick was a beaten horse four from home and soon pulled up. Maybe something was amiss with the horse as this couldn’t have been his true running. My each-way play in the race Dingo Dollar jumped really well to finish third but probably didn’t stay the 3m 2f trip.

Runner up Elegant Escape made to many small errors and would need to jump a lot better if he’s to be considered a Gold Cup contender. He’s always struck me as more a Welsh Grand National type.

Sizing Tennessee doesn’t have a lot of mileage on the clock for a horse his age. He seems to have got his jumping right and looks capable of a bit more improvement. If there was a Gold Cup horse in the field it was the winner. However, it’s hard to imagine 11-year-old winning jumps racing's ‘blue riband’ race but then it’s a long time since a 10-year-old won Saturday’s race. So stranger things have happened.

Racing TV Launched

On Saturday Racing UK announced that it will become known as Racing TV from January 1, 2019. The name change is happening because 26 Irish racecourses will be joining the channel from At The Races, soon to be known as Sky Sports Racing.

Racing TV announced their new Irish presenting team at Fairyhouse. Not surprisingly “The Voice”, Gary O’Brien has switched to the new channel and he will be the main presenter of the Racing TV’s Irish coverage. Along with O’Brien will be Kevin O’Ryan, Kate Harrington, Donn McClean and Ruby Walsh.

It all sounds good on paper, with the mooted introduction of a new daily Mark Your Card programme and it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

Betfair Changes BOG Terms

I got a message last week from Betfair Sportsbook announcing that they have made changes to their Best Odds Guaranteed terms and conditions. From the 29/11/2018 BOG will only be available from 8am on the day of racing.

It looks like the bookies are taking a stronger hold of the prices. It will be interesting to see how many more firms follow suit in the coming weeks.

Notebook Horse:

Le Musee, trained by Nigel Hawke, is the week’s horse for the notebook. The 5-year-old won a maiden hurdle at Taunton last season. He showed the benefit of his seasonal reappearance when putting up a career best when runner up to the well handicapped Champ in the 2m 4 ½ f handicap hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.

The return to softer ground clearly suited the gelding. As did the addition of the first time cheekpieces. He was no match for the winner but was clear of the 3rd. He looks capable of landing a handicap hurdle off this sort of mark in the coming weeks.

Something For The Weekend:

Well it’s Sandown and Aintree next weekend. Sandown hosts two days racing, including Tingle Creek Day on Saturday. Over at Aintree, we get to see the Grand National fences in action for the first time since April.

Sandown Pointers

Since 2014 there have been 52 races at Sandown’s two-day Tingle Creek meeting. Just four trainers have provided 58% of the winners from just 22% of the total runners:

Nicky Henderson – 9 winners from 25 runners 36% +15.62 15 placed 60%
Paul Nicholls – 8 winners from 36 runners 22% +16.67 15 placed 42%
Gary Moore – 7 winners from 28 runners 25% +28.83 10 placed 36%
Alan King – 6 winners from 10 runners 60% +23.31 6 placed 60%

I don’t think you'll do too badly following those four trainers again this Friday and Saturday.

Monday Selection:


2:45 – Trainer Sandy Thomson has a good record with his runners at Musselburgh and his stable has been among the winners.

He saddles John Williams in this handicap chase. Two of the 9-years-olds career wins have come here, he’s 2 wins from 5 runs 3 placed at the track on good ground and his form figures on good going in races up to 2m 4 1/2 f are 131. The selection is just 3lb higher than his last winning mark and can go well.

John Williams – 3/1 or bigger

Until next week

Ladbroke Trophy Selection & Monday Tip

I am back in the saddle after a week off. In this weeks post I will be taking a look back at Saturday's Betfair Chase and taking a look forward to Saturday's big racing action.  Inside you will also find a  selection for Newbury's Ladbroke Trophy, some trends for Newcastle and the normal Monday tip….

Haydock Fences A Mighty Talking Point

The Betfair Chase was billed as the jumps race of the season so far. We had the Gold Cup winner in Native River, two King George VI winners in Might Bite and Thistlecrack, add in a potential improver in Clan Des Obeaux and of course last years winner Bristol De Mai. Now it’s not often that a race lives up to the hype but this one delivered in style!

The big taking point prior to the race was how stiff the fences were. Haydock used to have arguably the biggest and stiffest fences in the country, apart from the Aintree National fences. In recent years there had been complaints that the fences had become too soft and horses could plough through them with ease. It wasn’t the case on Saturday. As Haydock provided a real test of jumping and it was good to see.

I think the modified fences came as big shock to Might Bite's trainer Nicky Henderson. Maybe it wasn’t a good time to roll them out on Grade 1 day with no one knowing how tough they were going to be.

Haydock De Mai 

Back to the race itself. It was a vintage renewal with plenty of drama. Bristol De Mai was three from three at Haydock and won last year’s renewal by 56 lengths on heavy. The good ground seemed to have taken his chance away. However, he got into a good jumping rhythm from the off. Either in the lead or close up in second. Once back in the lead four out, he never looked like he would be caught. The 7-year-old found plenty for pressure when required and he clearly wasn’t inconvenienced by the going either.

This was a better performance than last year but can he transfer his excellent form to Kempton and the King George VI on Boxing Day. He ran poorly in the race last year, but maybe the wind-op he had early in the year has done the trick. This was his second run since the op. The first being when beaten by Might Bite at the Grand National Meeting.

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said after the race that the gelding is a fragile horse, whose probably at his best when fresh. Now there is some substance to this view. Looking at his record, over fences, when having had 0 to 1 runs in the previous 90-days he's 4 wins from 8 runs 50% +10.13 7 placed 88% with form figures 21221121.

He will go to this years King George VI having had just 1 run in the previous 90-days. Maybe we’ll see a different Bristol at Kempton? If you think we will, the 8/1 available about his chances will be very tempting.

Bite Is Less Than Mighty

Native River ran well enough to finish second. I think the trainer has his eyes on Cheltenham in March. On a sharp track like Haydock, on good ground, this wasn’t going to be a stiff enough stamina test for the 8-year-old.

Thistlecrack arguably ran a more pleasing race than Native River to finish third. He travelled well between his fences and seemed to be enjoying himself again. Sadly, the stiff fences were his undoing. His jumping was too cautious and he was losing lengths at plenty of the fences. It was his class that kept him in the race. He didn’t have too hard a race though and if he can build on this performance, he would have a chance in the King George.

Might Bite – The even money favourite seemed to travel well enough to three out, albeit tending to over jump at his fences, but when put under pressure he found nothing and soon weakened out of contention to finish last of the five runners. Why did he run so poorly? Maybe it’s a temperament issue and he’s just had enough of racing. For me, it’s more likely he was suffering from a wind issue or another physical ailment.

Notebook Horse:

Igor, trained by Nicky Henderson, is this weeks horse for the tracker. The five-year-old made a pleasing racecourse debut in the maiden hurdle at Ascot on Friday. Physically he was the best horse in the race and has plenty of scope for improvement.

The son of Presenting came with nice looking run coming to two out but a mistake there and a novicey jump at the last cost him any chance he had. He was just beaten by a more experienced horse on the day and the first two finished clear of the rest. The gelding will be better for the experience and can win races over hurdles.

Looking Ahead To The Weekend

Follow The Dollar In Ladbroke

I seem to be wishing my life away as I am already thinking about next weekends racing.

It’s the Hennessey Gold Cup… no I meant the Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury on Saturday. The name of the race has changed but the race hasn’t. It remains after the Grand National the best handicap chase of the jumps season.

In recent renewals class horses have come to the fore. The last five winners of the race were officially rated between 147 and 157 and all five winners had run just once in the previous 90-days.

One potential runner, who ticks the boxes is Dingo Dollar. The 6-year-old had a recent pipe opener over hurdles, at the beginning of November. He was only 4th that day but there was plenty to like about the run.

He has the makings of good staying handicap chaser this season but I think he could end up being better than that.

I don’t think I saw a better jumping novice chaser all last season than him. At times he can take lengths out of his rivals. He’s a big chasing type with a big stride which devours the ground.

In my mind he’s a potential 156+ horse over fences which means he’s starting the season on a winnable mark.

The 16/1 available with Coral and William Hill looks good each way value to me.

Fighting Fifth Could Be A Cracker

On a day of top-class racing. It’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle Day at Newcastle. We could see the likes of Buveur D’Air, Samcro and Summerville Boy all in action in the big race. If we do it has the making of the strongest renewal of the race of recent years.

Also, on the card we have the BetVictor Rehearsal Handicap Chase (Listed Race) over 2m 7 ½ f. It doesn’t attract the same size of field as the Ladbroke. Indeed the last eight running's of the race have produced an average of just nine runners.

It’s a good race for the trends all the last eight winners had the following traits:

Official Rating: 140 to 155

Horses Highest Winning Official Rating: 129 to 156.

Odds: 16/1 & under

Monday Selection:

On a day with few solid betting opportunities. I have gone for Robinshill in the 1:40 at Ludlow. The 7-year-old won this race last year off a 2lb higher mark. That was his second win at the Ludlow. His from figures between Oct and Dec when racing at 2m/2m 1/2f are 111U11. The unseated rider came when leading at the last here. The gelding was last of seven on his reappearance last month at Kempton but he probably needed the run and he'll do for me today.


1:40 – Robinshill – 4/1

Until next week

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