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Can Invicta Take Suzy Off The Cold List?

Cheltenham Look Back

Well, that’s three days at Cheltenham out of the way and an interesting November meeting it certainly was. The bookies had a couple of cracking days on Friday and Saturday as punters found it as hard a slog as the horses found going up the Cheltenham Hill on Saturday. On a personal level, a cracking days profit on Friday but a couple of mediocre days meant we made a small overall profit over the three days. Most of the shocks on Saturday came because the going changed from good to soft to soft bordering on heavy mid-way through the card on Saturday.

The watering that had taken place before the previous meeting had clearly made the water table at the track fairly high and as we know from past experience it doesn’t take much rain on a high water table to change the going. Granted Cheltenham got a lot more rain than had been expected and that allied to the watering that took place last month was of no help to punters.

The BetVictor Gold Cup was won by the Nigel Twiston–Davies trained 9-year-old Splash Of Ginge who was sent off at odds of 25/1. He was a well-handicapped horse at his best, racing off an 11lb lower mark than for his last win over fences in January 2015, also at Cheltenham, and was one of the few runners in Saturday’s feature race who really appreciated the testing conditions.

One of my bets for the race Starchitect ran a cracker to finish 2nd beaten just a neck at the line and if he had jumped the final two fences I think he would have won the race. Jumping is the name of the game though so I can’t have many complaints as I wasn’t expecting him to do that well on the ground.

I will end this short look back at the weekend on a sad note as the Ian Williams trained London Prize, who last weekend had won the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, was still well in contention for yesterday’s the Greatwood Hurdle when falling two out and unfortunately sustained an injury which meant he had to be put down.

The 6-year-old had also finished 2nd on the flat in last months Cesrarewitch and was developing into a top-class dual purpose horse. He will be a sad loss to connections and those who backed the horse during his short career. For his trainer, who last week must have been on top of the world after wins by Saunter in the November Handicap and London Prize in the Elite Hurdle, it clearly exemplified the real ups and downs of the racing game.

Racing Mourns the Loss of Mary Reveley

Last week hundreds of mourners turned out for the funeral of trainer Mary Reveley. Mary who is still the most successful woman trainer of all time having sent out over 2000 winners on the flat and jumps from her base at Saltburn on the Yorkshire Coast. One of her earliest success stories, and one of my favourite northern sprint handicappers, that grand old servant King Charlemagne.

Back in the mid 80s I wrote to about a dozen trainers asking if they had any Pupil Assistant vacancies. Mary was the only one who got back to me. I can still remember the cold November evening when she called me to invite me up to her stables for a chat. I got offered the job as Pupil Assistant but sadly I was unable to take up the post due to personal reasons. How things could well have turned out differently for me if I had joined her team. Racing wont forget this no nonsense Yorkshire woman and nor will I. RIP Mary Reveley.

One For The Tracker:

I doubt it will be any surprise to readers to find that this week’s horse for your trackers comes from Cheltenham.

Trainer Philip Hobbs must have been delighted with the run of Three Faces West in the 3m 3f handicap chase on Saturday. Having his first run since making all to win at Newbury last December, he once again gave a bold front-running jumping display and gave it his all to three out. He eventually finished just over 17 lengths back in 3rd but given 5 of his 6 career wins have come within 16 to 30 days of his last race, with form figures of 11211, so this run was probably needed.

Indeed he did pull up on his seasonal reappearance last season. He hasn’t been the easiest horse to train as this was only his 12th career start. He remains a horse with potential over fences at 3m + having had 3 wins from 6 runs 5 places. The way he jumps means he can win a race or two this winter if he stays sound.

Monday Racing

The action is less exalted than the weekend racing. With jumps meetings at Leicester and Plumpton and Wolverhampton provides all-weather fans with a slice of flat racing. Here are some interesting stats from Leicester and Plumpton.

Leicester

David Pipe’s horses are going well at present after a fairly quiet autumn and it is worth noting his good record at Leicester. In the past 5 years he has had 15 winners from 34 runners 44% +16.24 A/E 1.49 (profit to BSP +20.57) 17 placed 50% at the course and he has 11 winners from 22 runners 50% +12.83 A/E 1.64 (profit to BSP +15.94) 13 placed 59% when teaming up with jockey Tom Scudamore. The pair combine with two today:

12:50 – Red Square Revival
1:50 – Delface

Plumpton

Trainer Anthony Honeyball hit form with a vengeance with three winners at Fontwell on Sunday and its worth noting he has a good win strike rate at Plumpton. In the past 5 years he has had 13 winners from 42 runners 31% -4 with all his runners here and 4 winners from 10 runners 40% +3 with his chasers. He sends just the one runner to the Sussex track today.

3:10 – Red Sox

One trainer who could do with a winner is Suzy Smith she is very much on the cold list but there were signs with a couple of her runners last week that a winner may not be far away. She saddles two today at Plumpton, her local track, and it’s a track where she has a good record with her handicap hurdlers. In the past 5 years she has had 14 winners from 43 runners 33% +71.38 A/E 2.19 (profit to BSP +92.01) 20 placed 47% in handicap hurdles at the course.

The 10-year-old Invicta Lake holds no secrets from the handicapper but he is now on a tempting handicap mark. Two of his career wins have come at Plumpton and four of his five career wins have come when racing between 16 to 30 days since his last start. He was having his first start for 625 days when tailed off here last month but he will have needed that run and if the trainers horses are indeed coming into form a much better show can be expected.

Monday Selection

Plumpton

2:50 – Invicta Lake – 12/1

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

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Bryony is a chip off the old block

Williams and Frost take the weekend plaudits

Trainer Ian Williams had a notable big handicap double on Saturday as he won the November Handicap with Saunter and the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton with London Prize. He surely has to be the best dual-purpose trainer in the country at the moment and he is now chasing handicap chase glory with Ballyalton who is one of the leading fancies for next Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Whilst there is no denying the Saturday achievements of Ian Williams, I think the performance of the weekend has to be Bryony Frost’s ride in winning the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton on the Paul Nicholls trained Present Man owned by the sponsors of the race.

It was an apt win as her father Jimmy had won the same race back in 1996. Given doubts about the soft ground Bryony gave the 7-year-old an excellent forceful ride always up with the pace. The horse looked like he might be caught after the last she still managed to hold off the challenge of the runner-up by just a head at the finish.

Clearly, she is well worth her 5lb claim and her boss Paul Nicholls has been using her to great advantage this season. Since the start of the season, the pair have combined for 13 wins from 34 rides 38% +9.38 A/E 1.4 20 placed 59%. As the trainer said after the race “She rides as well as all those lads” and it showed in this ride, that she does.

Present Man could run in the Grand National and it would be great if Bryony can keep the ride at Aintree.

One For The Tracker:

There were plenty of potential tracker horses from the weekend’s action and I have gone for one from Aintree.

Vyta Du Roc trained by Nicky Henderson made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when back over hurdles and finishing 5th in the Pertemps qualifier. The 8-year-old was last seen finishing a close-up 2nd in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown back in April. He showed that day that 3m 5f held no terrors for him so we can expect him to return to that sort of distance when he goes back over fences.

He is all about stamina as he showed when finishing 6th in last years Hennessey Gold Cup. A tilt at the race could be on the horse’s agenda again but he would surely want softer ground to bring out the best in him and maybe the Welsh Grand National would be a more suitable race for him now as would the Grand National. He has won twice on good ground but he is 4 wins from 7 runs 5 placed on heavy and soft.

Monday Racing:

Racing today over jumps at Carlisle and Kempton and for all-weather fans, it’s over to Southwell for action on the fibresand.

Kempton

It’s Kempton for today's selection and a horse that I have been waiting to make his return to the track, it’s the Ben Pauling trained Le Breuil.

The 5-year-old was held in high regard for his trainer last season winning novice hurdles at Sedgefield and Newbury. Upped in class to Grade 1 company at the Grand National Festival on his final start of last season. He didn’t really travel too well that day; losing his place at the 8th and was pulled up at the 9th. Something must have been amiss, as I am sure that wasn’t his true running.

Interesting that trainer in his recent Racing Post Stable Tour said, “He'll be a major player in top Graded races. He'll start in a handicap hurdle this week….and I'd like to think his mark of 139 is very fair as he could be top drawer”. If that lofty praise is to be fulfilled he must surely win this even on his first start since April.

The trainer has warned,“He's famous for needing his first run, so beware, but he's a very, very nice horse”. Despite this comment, the selection is 2 wins from 3 runs when returning from a 90+day break. The easing of the ground to good to soft will be in his favour and the stable is running at a 19% win strike rate in the past 14 days.

Monday Selection

Kempton – 2:55 – Le Breuil – 3/1

Looking a bit further ahead we have three days of top-class jumps racing at Cheltenham to look forward too with the highlights being the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday and the Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday.

One trainer who will be hoping for better luck at the meeting is Venetia Williams who is 0 wins from 29 runners 2 placed at the fixture since 2011, a 7% place strike rate is a bit of a shocker for such a top handler.

Can Venetia come off the cold list this year? Who knows, but it’s a stat to be aware of when looking at any of her short priced runners at the meeting.

On the subject of the BetVictor Gold Cup, it’s traditionally been a good race for the second season chaser and those horses that have had some experience of the track. Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O'Neill and Nigel Twiston-Davies have won six of the last nine renewals of the race so the top trainers have tended to dominate in recent years and I doubt that trend will change this year.

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

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Woe For The Duke But Joy For Meade

Saturday saw some potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders in action. At Wetherby we had the Charlie Hall Chase which saw Cue Card and Coneygree make their seasonal reappearances and over the Irish Sea at Down Royal we had runaway Irish Grand National winner Our Duke make his eagerly awaited return in the Champion Chase. Our Duke was sent off the 5/6 favourite he was never travelling or jumping with any fluency from the start. This was clearly not his running and in all likelihood, he was suffering from some sort of low bug. He can be forgiven this poor run and I am sure he will bounce back.

Prior to Saturday he only horse to beat Our Duke was the Noel Meade trained Disko who won the 2m 3 ½ f Grade 2 chase on the Down Royal card. He travelled powerfully and jumped really accurately throughout his race. He won with his jockey not having to resort to the whip. His final margin of victory was just ½ length, which in no way reflects his superiority over the rest. This was his first run since the Punchestown Festival in April so he was entitled to get tired towards the end of the race. It will be interesting to see the 6-year-old step back up to 3m again and he looks set to give connections an exciting winter.

Cue Card Crashes Out at Wetherby

Over a Wetherby the Charlie Hall was expected to be a match between Coneygree and Cue Card but fate intervened as both horses failed to complete the race. The former set out in front but an indifferent jump at the open ditch, he soon lost the lead and was quickly pulled up by his jockey. After the race connections said he had suffered an over-reach of his left fore which would explain his quick pulling up. Cue Card look set to capitalise on his rival’s misfortune. He was still going well when falling five out. For his supporters, it brought back memories of his falls in the Gold Cup. Hopefully, he will be none the worse for this mishap and will attempt another win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

The departure of the two market leaders left stablemates Bristol De Mai and Blaklion to fight out a good finish, after the last, in which the former prevailed by ½ length. Given the winners liking for Haydock not surprisingly bookies cut him to 4/1 for the Betfair Chase where he will no doubt renew rivalry with Cue Card. The winter jumps season is now truly with us.

One For The Tracker:

This week’s horse for your trackers is Calipto trained by Venetia Williams. The 7-year-old was making his seasonal reappearance and his first run since falling at Ayr back in the spring, prior to that he had finished an excellent 6th in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival on his first start for 11 months. He could never really get competitive in this 2m 1f handicap chase on the good ground, has won on heavy an over 2m 3f in the past, and could only stay on to finish 5th. This was only his third start for the trainer and there will be other days for him. A mark of 138 looked more than workable before the race and remains so.

Monday Racing

We have jumps meetings at Plumpton and Southwell and Kempton host's a surprisingly good all-weather card, which includes a listed race and the London Middle Distance Series Final, a Class 2 handicap over 1m 3f.

Monday Selection

Fast Track – Getting the negative out of the way the selections trainer David Barron is 0 wins from 21 runners at the track in the past five years but the 6-year-old ran on really well to grab 3rd over C&D back in April in a slightly better race than this. He returns from a 142 day lay off but he did win after a 111-day break in January so fitness shouldn’t be an issue. Fairly consistent record on the all-weather after his last win with form figures 43333 before a disappointing back on the turf at Musselburgh over 5f. Stall 10 isn’t ideal but if he can get in a good position looks a solid each-way contender.

Kempton – 3:50 – Fast Track – 9/1

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

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Did We See Next Years Derby Winner at Doncaster?

Warrior Cuts Down Racing Post Rivals

The Aidan O’Brien trained colt Saxon Warrior not only won the Racing Post Trophy on Saturday and solidified his position as the ante-post favourite for next year’s Derby but he was also part of a bit of racing history as his trainer broke Bobby Frankel’s number of Grade/Group 1 winners in a year.

Now there have been plenty of people comparing the number of runners O’Brien has had in Group 1 races in contrast to Bobby Frankel or that some Australian trainer has had more Group 1 winners. As far as I am aware no one has yet identified this Australian ‘unicorn’ trainer. Even if there is one, it wouldn’t be that great an achievement given the number and the quality of many Group 1 races in Australia.

Make no mistake this is an incredible achievement by the trainer, should be celebrated by the racing public, as it indeed was by race-goers on Saturday at Doncaster.

I would have expected the ITV News to have given it a mention in their sports segment particularly as ITV now show horse racing. Did we see it mentioned? No, which goes to show just how much the visibility of horse racing has fallen in the mainstream media. The channel that shows horse racing couldn’t find a few seconds in its evening news programme for one of sports great achievements.

The Pentagon Looks Serious Derby Contender

Back to the race itself Roaring Lion who had previously won the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket looked like he hadn’t read the script and was to be a real ‘party pooper’ when taking the lead inside the final furlong, looking like he had the measure of Saxon Warrior.Continue Reading

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