A Problem Within Society

The last two weekends have been blighted by deplorable, unsavoury scenes at two of the countries leading racecourses, namely Goodwood and Ascot, where the violence on show far surpasses the level of brutality often displayed inside a UFC ring.

Please don’t miss-understand me, I do not jest, as this is a serious matter that requires strong and immediate action in order to stop behaviour of this nature becoming the ‘norm’ on British racecourses.

However, whilst I by no means condone or accept the appalling behaviour experienced over the last fortnight, I do think that it would be foolish to merely condemn the sport of Horse Racing when scenes like these sadly happen all to often in modern day society. Take, for example, the first leg of the Champions League semi-final tie between Liverpool and Roma at Anfield last month, where one fan suffered life-threatening injuries following pre-match supporter clashes.

Naturally, much has been spoken about the amount of alcohol consumed on racecourses, with many eye-witnesses recounting stories of drunken men becoming foul and abusive in the build-up to these unfortunate incidents.

I have always been of the opinion that people can enjoy a drink and racing together, and that the majority should not be punished for those actions of the few. That said, clearly something must be done to stop those who have had one too many from instigating anti-social behaviour and casting a dark shadow over the sport of British Horse Racing. And, it goes without saying, time is of the essence.

With more people attending Saturday fixtures, clearly a far greater security presence is now required, and, with due respect, a higher level of training provided to those stewards whose job it is to ensure that situations of this nature are dealt with swiftly and sufficiently.

There are many big meetings on the horizon and the sport simply cannot allow itself to be dragged down by those individuals who prioritise anti-social behaviour over the health, safety and enjoyment of other racegoers.

Sadly, this is just the latest phenomenon to hit British Racing, following on from the ‘keyboard warriors’ who use social media as a modern day playground to abuse and hound both those within the sport and genuine racing enthusiasts alike.

While the methodology may be different, the end result remains the same, and more has to be done to quash the minority who may discourage people from visiting a racecourse or joining in and sharing their views on various social platforms.

Make no mistake, those who hide behind comical names and ‘punchy’ taglines can do just as much damage as a punch or a kick. Hopefully the powers that be can resolve these issues before irreparable damage is done.

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2000 Guineas day at Newmarket

2.20 Longholes Palace House Stakes (Group 3)

Havana Grey quickly developed into a high-class two-year-old sprinter last summer and looks a cut above his rivals if ready to do the business on his first outing since September.

The speedy grey, who won four of his eight starts last term, defeated Wednesday’s impressive Ascot scorer Invincible Army in the Molecombe Stakes at Goodwood last summer and will relish the good ground and furious five-furlong test.

Regular rider P J McDonald retains his place in the saddle. While the weight the youngster receives from each of his eight rivals only further enhances his claims.

Overall, 5/2 looks a fair price about the the son of Havana Gold.

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3.35 Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (Group 1)

The first classic of the flat racing season can go the way of Elarqam, who looked hugely exciting on both occasions he made it to the racetrack last summer.

Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum’s impeccably bred colt is yet another potential superstar sired by the freak that is Frankel, who sent shockwaves through the racing community when producing a breathtaking performance to land this prestigious prize in 2011.

Mark Johnston’s promising youngster confirmed the promise of his debut victory at York when running out a ready winner of the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes (7f) at Newmarket last September, and will be ridden by retained rider Jim Crowley, who is looking to land a maiden classic success.

Elarqam is undoubtedly one of the most exciting young prospects heading into the flat racing season and, with the extra distance almost guaranteed to yield further improvement, I’m happy to take the 11/2 that he can land the opening classic of the season.

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SELECTIONS:

2.20 Havana Grey 5/2 (Ladbrokes)

3.35 Elarqam 11/2 (Betfair)

A Cheltenham double would be the icing on the cake!

Yesterday we made a fair profit thanks to the victories of Diese Des Bieffes (5/2) and Magic Dancer (7/1) who topped and tailed a hugely competitive Prestbury Park card. While both Kalondra (6/1) and Singlefarmpayment (7/2) hit the woodwork, the latter in rather frustrating fashion.

Today’s fixture at Cheltenham is confined solely to Mares. And, given the decent ground that National Hunt Racing has been starved of this winter, there are many Mares who have the potential to show significant improvement on what they have achieved thus far.

Oscar Rose undoubtedly falls into that category.

Fergal O’Brien has excelled with his Mares in recent years and has always held this strong-looking daughter of Oscar, who finished second in the hugely competitive Grade 2 Mares’ Bumper at Aintree last year, in high regard.

A record of 0-6 hurdles doesn’t exactly tell the whole story, as a glance at the form-book clearly confirms that the six-year-old is seen to best effect on a sound racing surface, something she hasn’t encountered too often this season.

Oscar Rose arrives here following a creditable sixth-placed effort in the EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale and will compete from a lowly-looking mark of 122, a rating that she could easily leave behind her on her preferred spring ground.

This is undoubtedly a hugely competitive handicap featuring any number of potentially well-treated mares. However, O’Brien’s charge could be very dangerous with just 10-3 on her back. And a price of 11/1 looks very fair indeed.

Stablemate Tashunka may be worth supporting in the concluding bumper.

Soundly beaten by the re-opposing Lust For Glory in a Lironagh point-to-point in October, the bay daughter of Flemensfirth showed a lot more promise on her debut under rules when chasing home fellow contender Definitelyanoscar at Market Rasen last month.

While Harry Fry’s promising youngster ran out an impressive winner that day, she did rather enjoy the run of the race. While Tashunka, who was held-up in last place, flew past 10 rivals upon turning for home but had no chance of catching the winner who had already kicked clear of the field.

This looks to be competitive contest but I am sure that O’Brien’s mare possesses the ability to get involved if travelling closer to the pace.

Needless to say the experience that she gained at Market Rasen should stand her in good stead. As should the pleasing attitude that she displayed in the closing stages. At 10/1, she is worthy of support.

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SELECTIONS:

3.15 Oscar Rose 11/1 (Generally)

5.35 Tashunka 10/1 (Generally)

Cheltenham: 4 Selections for Wednesday

2.05 Citipost Novices’ Hurdle 2m 4f 56y (Class 2)

Diese Des Bieffes, who finished fifth in the ultra-competitive Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month, can get us off to the perfect start.

Nicky Henderson’s talented five-year-old ran a fine race on unsuitably soft ground last month. Therefore the return to a sounder racing surface could easily see the Seven Barrows inmate improve upon that showing.

The Jared Sullivan owned grey finished a close-up fifth in a rock-solid renewal of the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in January, with the form of the race being well advertised by the likes of William Henry, Topofthegame, Spiritofthegames and Coeur Blimey subsequently.

Henderson enjoyed a superb three-days at Aintree last week and could hardly have his string in better shape. Hopefully Deise Des Bieffes can further enhance his champion trainers impressive strike-rate.

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2.40 Barchester Healthcare Silver Tropy Chase 2m 4f 166y (Grade 2)

Frodon brings a touch of class to this Grade 2 contest and will undoubtedly made a bold bid despite being lumbered with top-weight against a field of potentially progressive rivals.

While there are a few potential improvers lurking, I am drawn to the Neil Mulholland trained Kalondra, who confirmed his ability to act in the Cotswolds when comfortably landing a Class 2 novice event in December.

Cheltenham Festival winner Coo Star Sivola chased home the seven-year-old that day. With the well-regarded Movewiththetimes and previous winner Jameson adding further substance to the form.

Disappointing at Sandown on his only subsequent start, I am prepared to forgive that effort as the yard simply weren’t firing on all cylinders at the time.

Happily that is not the case now, with Mulholland currently operating a 20% strike-rate with 4 winners from his last 20 runners. Therefore it may be the right time to support Kalondra, who could easily be well treated from a mark of 145.

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5.00 Weatherite Handicap Chase 3m 2f (Class 2)

I am inching ever-closer to the edge of the cliff where Singlefarmpayment is concerned. However, I am going to give Tom George’s experienced eight-year-old one more opportunity given his appealing mark and solid course form.

Fifth in the ultra-competitive Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last month, the stamina-laden son of Milan has been dropped 3lb to a mark of 142, the very same rating from which he placed second in the corresponding Cheltenham Festival contest in 2017, when losing out to the classy Un Temps Pour Tout by the narrowest of margins in a photo finish.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson will take the ride and the better ground should aid the Prestbury Park regular further. Hopefully this can be the day.

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5.30 Cheltenham Pony Racing Authority Graduates Handicap Hurdle 2m 179y (Class 3)

Hopefully Magic Dancer can score in the lucky last.

Kerry Lee’s progressive six-year-old landed a competitive nineteen-runner handicap at Prestbury Park in November before finishing seventh in a quality renewal of the Grade 3 Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot one month later.

The form of that Ascot contest reads well, with Bleu Et Rouge (fourth) and Elgin (sixth) both running well in hugely competitive contests subsequently, while the winner, Hunters Call, was fancied to run well at the Cheltenham Festival prior to suffering a setback.

The son of Norse Dancer will arrive here primed and ready to run following a blow-out on the all-weather at Kempton last month, having presumably been kept away from the deep ground during the wet winter months.

Lee’s charge will compete from an 11lb higher mark than he carried to success in November. However, he will undoubtedly be fresher than many of his rivals and could still be on an upward curve.

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SELECTIONS:

2.05 Diese Des Bieffes 5/2 (Bet 365)

2.40 Kalondra 6/1 (Generally)

5.00 Singlefarmpayment 7/2 (Bet 365)

5.30 Magic Dancer 7/1 (Generally)

The Angel Of Aintree

1.45 Alder Hay Children’s Charity Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f (Grade 3)

This looks a particularly tricky opening contest. However, I am going to give one more chance to the so-far disappointing Sumkindofking, who ran well to a point in this contest 12 months ago.

Tom George’s seven-year-old made an extremely promising start to his career under rules when winning a bumper and novice hurdle with the bare-minimum of fuss. However, he is without a win since.

While that offers little encouragement, the son of King’s Theatre, who will be having his first start since undergoing a wind op, has kept good company in his career to date and doesn’t look too harshly treated from a mark of 126.

At 25/1 he is worth one more chance in the hope that his corrective procedure can help him to fulfil his early promise.

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2.20 Betway Top Novices’ Hurdle 2m 103y (Grade 1)

Global Citizen rates a worthy favourite for this Grade 1 prize based on the performance he put up at Kempton in February. However, it may be worth taking him on with Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle sixth Vision De Flos, who has clearly benefited greatly from undergoing a breathing operation.

Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old ran much a better race than his finishing position may suggest at Cheltenham, turning for home virtually upsides the super-exciting Samcro and only giving way on the long climb for home.

The drop in trip, soft ground and flat track may prove to be a match made in heaven for the former Punchestown Festival bumper winner. And both trainer and jockey will be boosted by the Grade 1 success of Finian’s Oscar yesterday.

This looks to be a warm renewal. However, 5/1 looks fair value.

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4.05 Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase 2m 5f 19y (Grade 3)

Any race contested over the fabled Aintree fences is a race to savour. Therefore the Topham Chase, which often rewards those who jump well and possess the tactical speed to obtain a prominent position early-on, is always a race that I look forward too greatly.

This year i am keen on the chances of Flying Angel, who achieved his peak rating over hurdles at this meeting in 2016 and returned to land the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at the corresponding fixture 12 months ago.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained seven-year-old began the season with a rating of 157, but will line-up here off a potentially lenient mark of 148 following two underwhelming efforts over three-miles.

A return to two-and-a-half-miles looks ideal for the bold-jumping grey. And it is entirely possible that his canny Cotswolds-based handler, who has history with the famous spruce fences, has had this race in mind for some time.

He simply must be supported at the generous-looking price of 14/1.

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4.40 Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle 3m 149y (Grade 1)

Nicky Henderson enjoyed a superb opening day to this meeting with We Have A Dream, Might Bite and L’Ami Serge all picking up Grade 1 silverware, and the champion trainer’s dominance could easily continue today.

The master of Seven Barrows is set launch a powerful three-pronged attack on this Grade 1 novice event, and I am keen to be with the biggest priced contender amongst the trio, namely Chef Des Obeaux.

The Jared Sullivan owned six-year-old had looked thoroughly progressive prior to being pulled-up at the Cheltenham Festival last month, most notably when sluicing through the Haydock mud to record an impressive 15 length Grade 2 success in the hands of regular rider Noel Fehily.

Clearly the son of Sadler Maker didn’t give his true running in the Cotswolds. However, the return to flat track and testing conditions could easily see the well-built French-bred regain the winning thread.

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SELECTIONS:

1.45 Sumkindofking 25/1 (Bet 365)

2.20 Vision Des Flos 5/1 (Bet 365, BetVictor)

4.05 Flying Angel 14/1 (William Hill, Coral)

4.40 Chef Des Obeaux 10/1 (Generally)

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The Angel of Aintree

While many within the racing community would readily point to the Cheltenham Festival being the Jewel in the crown of National Hunt Racing, it is undoubtedly the Aintree Grand National that grabs the attention of the nation, enticing every man, woman and four-legged friend to thumb their way through the newspaper and pick out a name in the hope that they can cheer home the winner with family and friends.

Indeed, the 4m2f marathon has been firm favourite since it’s inception in 1839. And the fixture, which encompasses graded races, handicap contests and, of course, those races contested over the famous Aintree fences, provides the ideal stage for racing’s winter-warriors to strut their stuff in the springtime sun.

Naturally, those races contested over the ‘big’ spruce obstacles are the highlight for many – myself included – with my personal favourite being the Topham Chase, which rewards those who jump well and have the tactical speed to gain a prominent position from an early stage.

Understandably, many tend to favour those who have previous experience over the unique obstacles. And a quick glance at the entries would suggest that there will be no shortage of experienced candidates facing the starter this year.

Last year’s victor Ultragold, who again displayed his liking for the spruce fences when placing second in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase in December, will attempt to defend his crown from a 5lb higher mark. While 2016 winner Eastlake, who would line-up from a 1lb lower mark than when successful two years ago, has shown little enthusiasm of late but could easily out-run his huge double-digit price if arriving on a going-day.

O O Seven, who finished fourth last year from a 2lb higher mark, may represent champion trainer Nicky Henderson, who recorded a hat-trick of Topham Chase victories between 2013 and 2015 courtesy of Triolo D’Alene, Ma Filleule and Rajdhani Express.

While Highland Lodge, who comes alive over the Aintree fences, could also play a leading role for James Moffatt and Henry Brooke.

All of the above warrant the utmost respect given their proven ability over the unique obstacles. However, I am drawn to a 20/1 chance who is yet to encounter the famous fences. Namely Flying Angel.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained grey landed the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at this meeting last year, beating smart horses such as Cloudy Dream (second) and Top Notch (third) in the process. That performance demonstrated both the seven-year-old’s effectiveness over this trip and ability to travel prominently, which, as mentioned previously, is a strong asset to possess in this contest.

Furthermore, Flying Angel achieved his peak-rating over hurdles when chasing home Yorkhill and Le Prezien in the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the 2016 Aintree Festival, which further confirms his liking for both the course and time of year.

The scopey son of Arcadio began the season with a rating of 157, but will line-up here of a potentially lenient mark of 148 following two underwhelming efforts over three-miles.

A return to two-and-a-half-miles looks ideal for the bold-jumping grey. And it is entirely possible that his canny Cotswolds-based handler, who has history with the famous fences, has had this race in mind ever since his sparkling success last April. Therefore, Flying Angel must be worth supporting at 20/1.

It may also be worth backing the Donald McCain trained Katachenko, who unseated his rider when travelling prominently 12 months.

It is well known that both Donald McCain and Trevor Hemmings, who teamed-up to land the 2011 Grand National with Ballabriggs, are also great admirers of the Aintree fences. And in Katachenko they have a horse who appears to flourish at the Liverpool venue.

Winner of the Red Rum Handicap Chase on the opening day of the 2016 Aintree Festival, the nine-year-old came unstuck at the Canal Turn (twelfth) last year. However, it may be significant that he has only graced the racetrack on two subsequent occasions. Perhaps with a view to returning here in A1 condition.

Beaten in a photo on his return to action at Aintree in December, Katachenko will line-up off a mark of 135, just 2lb higher than when successful two-years ago.

Donald McCain has enjoyed a fine campaign to date. A winner over his favourite fences would undoubtedly be the cherry on the cake.

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SELECTIONS:

Flying Angel 20/1 (Generally)

Katachenko 33/1 (Generally)

Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Blogs – Profit or Loss?

Profit Or Loss?

It goes without saying that Cheltenham Festival week is always a tricky time to find winners. Therefore, trying to find them well in advance of the meeting would be considered a complete waste of time by many who would happily argue that ante-post punting has had it’s day.

However, I like to believe that you can still strike a hammer-blow against the bookmakers if you are prepared to put in the graft and side with rock-hard form over hype. And, with bookmakers tenaciously touting for trade nowadays, more has to be made of the early introduction of concessions such as NRNB and BOG.

Kalashnikov was undoubtedly the best example of those particular concessions this year, as I was able to advise Amy Murphy’s talented youngster at 25/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle prior to his hugely impressive success in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

Sent off at 5/1, his defeat was a hard one to stomach given how both the race and conditions panned out. However, you have to accept that you are betting blind in terms of opposition and ground when striking an ante-post wager. Quite simply – you pay your money and take your chance.

In the interests of transparency I have penned this brief summary featuring all of the horses that I have advised (Cheltenham Festival ante-post) this season. Starting with the ugly duckings and ending, thankfully, with the swans.

Frustratingly, both Elegant Escape and Fagan – advised at 50/1 & 25/1 respectively – bypassed the National Hunt Chase. While neither Ballyandy (25/1) or Movewiththetimes (25/1) contested the Arkle Novices’ Chase.

Red Jack (16/1 – Any race) , Misterton (33/1 – County Hurdle) and Coney Island (40/1 – Cheltenham Gold Cup) all failed to make the meeting. While Bacardys (16/1 – RSA Chase) ended up in the Stayers Hurdle and our each way play on Kalondra (20/1 – JLT Novices’ Chase) resulted in a refund.

Tully East (16/1 – Brown Advisory Plate) was contesting favouritism prior to being withdrawn on raceday due to unsuitable ground. While the value secured on De Plotting Shed (14/1 – Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase), King’s Socks (20/1 – Brown Advisory Plate) and Vantieux (33/1 – Grand Annual) was also scuppered by the soft terrain.

Cause Of Causes (9/1 – Cross Country Chase), who was found to be lame post-race, The Worlds End (12/1 – Stayers Hurdle) who prefers better ground, and Our Duke (10/1 – Gold Cup), who didn’t jump with enough fluency, were also disappointing.

Thankfully, both Samcro (16/1 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), who featured in my ‘Long-Range Ante-Post Punts’ blog, and Farclas (20/1 – Triumph Hurdle), who was advised in a piece titled ‘Farclas can Triumph’, got the job done to guarantee a profitable week.

While Farclas showed the biggest profit, Samcro was undoubtedly the most popular result given his star-studded status as the most exciting young horse in National Hunt Racing. It may be a very long time before he trades at 16/1 again.

Places for the aforementioned Kalashnikov (25/1 – second) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Monalee (16/1 – second) in the RSA Chase, William Henry (14/1 – fourth) in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup, and Cap Soleil (16/1 – second) in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle further bolstered the ante-post coffers.

Naturally, it is beyond frustrating to have a 25/1 shot and brace of 16/1 chances beaten into second place. However, it does show that the method behind the madness was fairly spot-on. And, on another week, we could have tasted much more success.

11 of the 12 horses to face the tapes started at shorter prices than advised, with The Worlds End the only exception. Therefore, it is safe to say that we had value on our side.

Overall, the selections showed a profit of £28.75 to a £1 each-way level stake. So, while it could have been a whole lot better has seconditis not struck, dedicated followers of my selections would have still made a sizeable profit over the course of the week.

I would like to say a huge thank you to those who have taken the time to read, like and retweet my ante-post pieces over the course of the season. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

I look forward to starting the 2018-19 ante-post portfolio in the autumn.

All the best,

Stu.