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Cheltenham Festival 25/1 Ante Post Nibble!

Morning all,

Milansbar Gets Classic Ride

I was eulogising in last week’s article about James Bowen’s ride in winning the Coral Welsh Grand National. Well, he won yet another of the season's big handicaps when taking the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday, this time on William Henry trained by his boss Nicky Henderson.

As good a win as that was, the jockey performance of the weekend happened an hour later at Warwick. As Bryony Frost picked up a winning ride on the Neil King trained Milansbar to win the Betfred Classic Chase. A week earlier the horse had never been travelling before coming to grief in the rescheduled Welsh Grand National. On Saturday his young jockey had him up with the pace and once he got into the lead from the 9th he was always jumping better than his rivals and two from home he was well clear of the field.

Granted the first time blinkers replacing the cheekpieces made a big difference to his much-improved performance but let's take nothing away from the jockey who got the 11-year-old into a great jumping rhythm from the start and there was no stopping the well-handicapped horse from then. Not even Ruby Walsh or Richard Johnson could have given the horse as good a ride as Bryony Frost. A natural horsewoman, she is, but not for the first time this season she was seen to good effect on front-runner showing she is also a good judge of pace.

I have spoken before about how highly I rate her and how valuable her 5lb claim is. Let’s hope her Saturday success leads to even more outside rides in these big handicaps over chases and fences as I think she’s already as good, if not better than 80% of male professional jockeys.

Another jockey to catch the eye over the weekend was Irish amateur jockey Liam Quinlan who won the Amateur’s National handicap chase at Punchestown on Saturday. This young man had caught my eye when coming in for a winning spare ride for Henry De Bromhead at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. He has a long way to go to match the likes of Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor but he’s already heading in the right direction. I didn’t know much about him before last month but his career record so far is:

7 winners from 40 rides 18% +48.9 A/E 1.9 15 placed 38%

Chases – 4 winners from 12 rides 33% +32.9 6 placed 50%

Hurdles – 1 winner from 9 rides 11% +14 7 placed 78%.

He looks well worth his claim and is a jockey to note till the end of the season, especially as there are plenty of amateur riders races at the upcoming spring festival and his services will surely be in demand.

Cheltenham Festival: Horses for the Tracker

As I mentioned last week in the lead up to the Festival I will be giving you a horse for Cheltenham trackers. They will mostly be potential horses for the handicaps although there will be the odd non-handicap horse too.

Coo Star Sivola – Nick Williams – The 6-year-old has won over hurdles at Cheltenham but even more importantly he’s placed in big field handicap hurdles at the last two festivals. He was beaten, just ¾ length into 3rd in the Fred Winter in 2016 and last year finished 4th in the Coral Cup. He has had three starts over fences this season and although he has yet to win his form figures being 522 and on his last start was 2nd to the useful Kalondra in a 2m 5f novice chase at Cheltenham.

A sound jumper of a fence already he still has improvement in him over the larger obstacles. We already know he’s got the previous festival form and is effective in big fields, as well as being ground versatile. Given his rating of 135, his likely target would seem to be the 2m 4f Close Brothers Handicap Chase on Day 1 of the Festival. He’s not certain to get into that race but if you decide to follow me in and can get on the 25/1 available with Betfair Sportsbook that looks a value price. Unusually for me, I didn’t have any ante-positions for the Cheltenham Festival until the weekend but I couldn’t resist a nibble Coo Star Sivola at 25s.

Monday Racing

There are jumps meetings today at Ayr and Plumpton and flat action at Wolverhampton for the all-weather fans.

Last week’s selection Clondaw Rigger never made it to the track as the Hereford card was abandoned due frost. Let’s hope for better on the weather front as I’m heading up to Ayr for today’s selection.


2:15 – Rowdy Rocher might be a 12-year-old but he showed last season that he could still win races when winning twice here in January. Ran poorly over fences on his sole start of the season at Carlisle back in October but he handles the track, distance and forecast heavy going. This is his time of year as he’s 3 wins from 5 runs in January. Granted fitness has to be taken on trust given his after his 81-day absence but he is 3 wins from 9 runs 4 placed when racing 60+ days since his last run. A field of nine is declared to go to post which gives us an each way option and at the available 14/1 he looks fair value.

Monday Selection:

Rowdy Rocher – 14/1 @ B365 & BV

All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.

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Go with the Price at Hereford…

Morning all,

By the time you read this week’s article, there will be just 63 days until the tape raises for the first race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle. Putting that into some perspective it’s 63 days since November 5th. I know one shouldn’t be wishing away the next two months of racing but all roads now really do lead to Cheltenham!

The two most significant meetings to come are the Cheltenham Trials meeting at the end of this month and the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on the first weekend of February which is often the last chance for trainers to prep their Cheltenham contenders.

On Sunday, the Willie Mullins trained Next Destination enhanced his credentials for March with a solid enough win in the Grade 1 novice hurdle at Naas. He’s been likened by some pundits to former stable star Hurricane Fly and you can see why. Yesterday he showed a nice blend of speed and stamina in taking the 2m 4f race.

A mouth-watering clash with Samcro in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle over 2m 5f looks the ideal race for the 6-year-old but the way he travelled into the lead shows a strongly run 2m Supreme Novices Hurdle would also suit the gelding and in a weak looking year you wouldn’t be totally surprised to see him at the start for the first race of the Festival.

The rescheduled Coral Welsh Grand National was won by the 13-year-old Raz De Maree. He had finished 2nd in last years renewal and had clearly been laid out by trainer Gavin Cromwell for another tilt at the race. Only seven runners finished this year's race which can be attributed by the very heavy ground. The bigger the test of stamina the better for him and once again it showed here. Others were going better four out, including the eventual third Final Nudge, but once he took the lead two out, you knew no horse would be finishing stronger.

Raz De Maree's win was also a triumph for his young jockey James Bowen who at 16 is only three years older than the horse. He is tremendous value for his claim and serious injuries aside he will surely go on to be Champion Jockey one day. I have to say it’s pretty amazing that we have two brothers who are riding at the top of their game in James and Sean Bowen. The latter has slipped under the radar recently but it’s worth noting he has had 10 winners from 38 rides 26% +12.24 A/E 1.4 19 placed 50% in the last 30 days and his talents were showcased on Saturday with his ride on the Nigel Hawke trained Speredek at Sandown.

One For The Tracker:

From next week I will be giving you an eyecatcher from Meydan Winter Carnival which gets underway on Thursday but this week’s horse for the notebook ran on the all-weather at Kempton on Friday evening.

Eljaddaaf – Dean Ivory – Won the race last year and was racing off an 8lb higher mark this time around. He probably came up against an improving horse and did well to get within ½ length when finishing 2nd. He came from further back than the eventual winner and would probably have preferred an even stronger pace to chase.

The 7-year-old is 3 wins from 5 runs 4 placed over 6f at Kempton and 2 wins from 3 runs over 6f at Wolverhampton. All six of his career wins have come when racing within 30 days since his last run, including 5 wins from 8 runs +16.38 when racing on the all-weather 16 to 30 days since his last run. Despite his career-high mark, he looks capable of winning again when he gets his optimum conditions.

Monday Racing & Selection

After a tough December betting wise, we bounced back with five winners over the weekend all at decent prices. Some nice profits – £200 to £10 level stakes – for those of you who took up the £1 subscription offer to the Victor Value service last week.

We have jumps racing from Fontwell and Hereford, although the latter does have to pass a precautionary inspection at 8 am. There is also all-weather action at Wolverhampton which has no handicap better than Class 5!


2:30 – Clondaw Rigger showed that heavy ground holds no terrors for him when staying on to finish second at Uttoxeter 8 days ago. That run came over 3m and he looks like he will be suited by the extra furlong of today’s race. The 6-year-old has only had two starts over fences so he looks capable of better with more experience. I think connections will be disappointed if he wasn’t capable of winning a race off his present mark of 78. On a day when solid betting opportunities at a decent price are hard to find, he should give his backers a good run for their money.

Clondaw Rigger – 6/1 @ William Hill and BetVictor

All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s betting.

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Cheltenham New Years Day Selections…

Morning all,

It's New Year Resolution Time

Welcome to 2018, I hope you are not too hungover this morning.

Rather than look back I thought I would start the first column of 2018 by looking at New Year resolutions, of which I have two this year. Both are racing related and if I give you only one worthwhile bit of advice all year, then you could do worse than follow my lead so to speak. Here they are:

1. I have resolved to look more closely at the Racing Post Stable Tour’s and trainer comments. Over the last two months, I have noticed a wealth of information contained here and plenty of winners too. Now you have to sort the ‘wheat out from the chaff’, as some trainers provide excellent information whilst others are not so good. But with a bit of experience, you soon know which ones are worth following and those that are not. So if you’re a subscriber to the Racing Post Members Club, I suggest you keep an eye on those trainer comments.

2. My second resolution is to look more at sectional timings. The At The Races (ATR) website has a weekly blog by the excellent Simon Rowlands’ from Timeform, in which he looks at the previous weeks best performances based on sectionals. It’s similar to the blog that he writes on the Timeform website on sectional debriefs and previews, all worth a look, but just covers the races that have been on ATR channel. The best bit about both these short but highly informative blogs is that you can access them for free.

So there you have it two resolutions for the New Year. Check out the Racing Post Stable Tour’s and trainer comments for some real nuggets of information and do check out Simon Rowlands’ writings on sectional timings.

This week’s column is different to a normal Monday one as I won’t be looking at last weekend’s action, in all honesty for a Saturday the racing was underwhelming, or putting up a horse for your trackers this week but instead I will take a more detailed look at three of the races from today’s Cheltenham card.

Monday’s Racing

Well It’s New Year’s Day so not surprisingly there’s plenty of it both sides of the Irish Sea but the highlight has to be one at Cheltenham, which you can see on ITV as well as Racing UK, and which if the past is any guide will attract a really big attendance for what looks some good action. The highlight for many will be the rematch between Willoughby Court and Yanworth in the 2m 5f Grade 2 Dipper Novices Chase at 1:25 but as ever I am going to focus in on a couple of the handicaps.


12:50 – A disappointing turnout for this 3m 2 ½ f Class 2 handicap chase. Given there is over £15,000 on offer to the winner, a field of just five runners is appalling. If I was the sponsors BetBright I would be very disappointed. Vyta Du Roc looks set to go well, the 9-year-old is a well-handicapped horse on his best form and while he's the most likely winner he's not a horse I would ever want to take a short price on. The fact that Russe Blanc is as short as 5/2 for the race shows just how poor the race is for the class.

1:25 – Only five are set to go to post for the Dipper Novices Chase but the race shouldn’t be seen as just a match between Willoughby Chase and Yanworth, as the likes of Ballandy and Ami Desbois also need respecting and the latter could turn out to be a bit of value at a double-figure price. It has the makings of a very exciting race but one to watch rather than bet in.

2:00 – A better-sized field, as nine go to post for this 2m 5f Grade 3 handicap chase with £42,713 on offer to the winner. My two against the field are Top Gamble and Burton’s Well: The former was 3rd in this race last year, beaten 3 ½ lengths and can now race off a 5lb lower mark. Add in the fact that trainer Kerry Lee has booked the excellent James Bowen to take off another 5lb and there is plenty to like about his chance at the weights. My reservation would be that he has finished 3rd in this race for the past two seasons. Does he really stay 2m 5f and does a very undulating track really suit the 10-year-old (0 wins from 9 runs 3 placed on such a surface)?

For that reason, I am just siding with a horse that was a previous tracker horse from back in October. We haven’t seen Burtons Well since he was runner-up to race fit Romain De Senam in a Stratford handicap chase. It was an excellent seasonal reappearance from the Venetia Williams trained 9-year-old who would have appreciated softer ground than he got that day. He has won fresh in the past and is 1 win from 1 run on heavy and possibly even more importantly his trainer's horses are going much better now. It’s Burtons Well for me although I was looking for slightly better than 4/1 about his chance.

2:35 – A 3m Class 2 handicap hurdle with stamina likely to be at a premium on the very testing surface it may pay to go with a horse guaranteed to run their race on heavy ground. Boyhood trained by the in form Tom George was 4th in a decent 3m handicap hurdle at Newbury on soft, heavy going is a bit of an unknown but if he's effective on it he won’t be far away.

One who won’t have any concerns with the going is Lovenormoney. Both the 7-year-olds wins have come on heavy (form figures 311), including last time out when winning at Chepstow. The handicapper has put him up 10lb for that nine-length win and he is up a notch in class today. However, there was plenty to like about how he jumped and galloped that day and given he has only had six career starts he could be capable of the improvement required to win this.

3:10 – I am more of handicap punter myself but I do like the chances of one in the Grade 2 2m 4 ½ f Relkeel Hurdle. Colin’s Sister rightly heads the market given how well she handles soft ground and on the form, she showed when winning a 3m Grade 2 hurdle a Wetherby, two starts back.

At the prices, I have to take on the mare with Agrapart, who won last years race on soft ground. The 7-year-old loves the mud flying with all three of his hurdle wins coming on soft or heavy. He hasn’t run for 51 days but he has won off a longer break in the past so fitness won’t be an issue and his trainer Nick Williams has his horses in excellent form 5 winners from 11 runners 45% +9.73 in the past 14 days. If he’s in the same form as when outbattling L’Ami Serge on the run in 12 months ago it will take a good and tough one to beat him. At the time of writing this, on Sunday evening, he is a best-priced 7/1 which looks good value to me.

Monday Selections:

3:10 – Agrapart – 7/1 @ Bet365

2:35 – Lovenormoney – 5/1 @ William Hill & Bet365

All that’s left now is to wish you a prosperous New Year.

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Can South Be The Talk Of Plumpton?

Tears of Joy and Sadness…

In just over an hour on Saturday Cheltenham witnessed both. The tears of joy by Nicky Henderson after seeing his runner My Tent or Yours edge out The New One in a battling finish in the International Hurdle. That was 10-year-old’s first success since winning a NHF race at Kempton back in February 2014 and his first win over hurdles since taking the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton 4 years ago. You could see how much that horses success meant to the trainer.

Just over an hour earlier and it had been tears of sadness, as the connections of Starchitect, could only watch on in dismay as the 6-year-old broke down and suffered a fatal injury before two out. It was made all the worse as the horse had pulled 7 lengths clear of nearest pursuers and had the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup seemingly at his mercy. A sad end for a young chaser who surely had a few nice pots in him.

Sadly the incident overshadowed the game win by the Nicky Richards trained Guitar Pete, who David M had put up last week as his idea of the likely winner of the race. The northern raider was just too strong for Clan Des Obeaux after the last. The runner-up, who was bidding to give trainer Paul Nicholls a 5th win in the race, ran with credit but was just tapped for toe when it mattered. On the evidence of this run, he might improve further for a step up in distance. Le Prezien his stablemate was still in contention when stumbling on landing three out. That mistake ended his race and he could only finish 8th. Given what happened to Starchitect a fence later it’s likely but for his mistake that Le Prezien wouldn’t have been far away at the line.

I have to say that I thought this year's Cheltenham International Meeting lacked a bit of quality and the two-day fixture was somewhat underwhelming and bereft of true championship-level performances.

One For The Tracker:

This week’s horse for your trackers doesn’t come from Cheltenham but from Doncaster on Saturday.

The 8-year-old Takingrisks trained by Nicky Richards was making his seasonal reappearance and racing off the same mark as for his last win at Kelso back in February. He was just in lead after the third last but once the eventual winner loomed up alongside him there was only going to be one winner. He plugged on to hold second, albeit beaten an easy looking 6 lengths by the Ben Pauling trained Markov.Takingrisks was giving away race fitness to the winner and 4lb to a well-handicapped horse, who was only having his second start over fences. Given all his three career wins have come when racing 16 to 30 days since his last start this was a pleasing return from the gelding who will strip fitter on his next start.

Monday Racing and Selection:

Today sees more moderate Monday fare with jumps meetings at Musselburgh (which faces a precautionary morning inspection), Ffos Las and Plumpton as well as action on the tapeta at Wolverhampton which hosts a card with no race better than a Class 5 contest.

So on a day where solid betting opportunities are hard to come by and Musselburgh may not race I am going to Plumpton for today’s selection.

1:50 – Talk Of The South was in the process of running his best race of the season and still in contention three out when unseating his rider three out over C&D. The 8-year-old has dropped a further 2lb in the weights and is well handicapped on his best form of last season including when 2nd over C&D. He remains a maiden over fences (0 wins from 12 runs) but if he is to gain that elusive win over the larger obstacles its likely to happen here at Plumpton, a track where his sole career win was gained. His trainer Paul Henderson has a good record in handicap chases at the track having had 12 winners from 14 runners 29% +28.58 A/E 1.38 (profit to BSP +42.79) 19 placed 45% with runners, going off at odds 14/1 & under, since the start of 2012.


1:50 – Talk Of The South – 5/1

All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable week’s punting and a Happy Christmas.

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