Friday, 27 March 2015

Dubai World Cup preview

The richest race in the world, the US$10m Dubai World Cup returns to dirt this year which rules out most horses from Europe unfortunately. Still, if they want to have a couple of American horses in the big race, they've achieved their goal...

With the preview, it's Mitchell Fenton, @mitchfenton88.

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Dubai World Cup
21:00 LOCAL 1700GMT
G1 2000M Dirt
US$10,000,000

PRINCE BISHOP (IRE)

Ran ninth beaten over 10L behind African Story in this race last year when coming off a dominant Al Maktoum win in the lead up. This campaign he’s had two Meydan runs and finished second on both occasions beaten narrowly. Both times he ran home hard to just miss out on the major prize. Will settle back but be running on hard late and is a definite winning chance in the race.

HOKKO TARUMAE (JPN)

Dual Gr1 winner in his native Japan, he finished 16th and last in this race last year but returns on the dirt surface for another go. Comes here on the back of two consecutive wins so he’s going well, that sees him a decent each way chance in this race.

AFRICAN STORY (GB)

Defending champion looking to create history by becoming the first dual winner of the world’s richest race. Comes into the race in winning form after beating home Prince Bishop narrowly in the 2000m Gr1 Al Maktoum last start. A genuine chance of making it back to back wins.

SIDE GLANCE (GB)

Australian punters would know this boy well. Last Spring he had two runs in Australia - a third in the Gr1 2000m Caulfield Stakes followed by a luckless fourth in the ‘WFA Championship’ of Australia the Cox Plate behind Aidan O’Brien’s Adelaide. This is a lot tougher and whilst he always runs well he doesn’t win out of turn and I doubt that’ll be any different here.

LEA (USA)

Lightly-raced American horse arriving off the back of a narrow Gr1 defeat at Gulfstream Park over 1810m. He’s never been tried beyond that distance, so as much as it looks like he will run a strong 10 furlongs it is an unknown quantity. A triple Gr3 winner but this looms as much tougher and at his current 5-1 quote I think he’s well unders.

CANDY BOY (USA)

A rough place hope if he can run up to his Breeders Cup Classic run when beaten 5.5L behind Bayern.

LONG RIVER (USA)

Outclassed.

EPIPHANEIA (JPN)

The world’s highest ranked horse thanks to his devastating 4L Japan Cup win over 2400m but he’s twice won over the mile and a quarter journey of the World Cup. Possesses an explosive turn of foot I think Soumillon can park him in the first half of the field and he can use that dash to go right over the top of them.

CALIFORNIA CHROME (USA)

Won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness before failing over the 2400m in Belmont to miss out on the Triple Crown of America, when his owner became more famous than the horse for his ridiculous moaning to the media. He’s all class having won four Group 1s at home, he’ll take plenty of beating and we know he loves the dirt tracks.

TIPS:
8.EPIPHANEIA
9.CALIFORNIA CHROME
2.AFRICAN STORY
1.PRINCE BISHOP

SUGGESTED BET: 8.EPIPHANEIA (EACH WAY)

Golden Shaheen preview

It's Dubai World Cup weekend when the world racing spotlight turns to the obscenely rich and the delights of Meydan racecourse. Taking on the feature sprint race is international racing aficionado Calum Swan, @calumswanlaw.

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Dubai Golden Shaheen
G1 1200m Dirt
1505 GMT


Big Macher- Californian sprinter who climbed the ranks from Maiden Claiming level to G1 winner when besting Goldenscents in the Bing Crosby at Del Mar. Hasn't been able to replicate that level of form since and was below par when only fifth in a G2 when last sighted. Will need to run right up to his best form in order to strike here

Cool Cowboy- Former US speedball who was four from four on Dirt over 1200 metres when based stateside. He lost his unbeaten record over the distance when only 4th on his debut for Watson in the Mahab Al Shimaal, but he travelled really well before tiring late on. His trainer was on record as saying he was a week or two behind schedule for that assignment and improvement from that display can be expected. He looks a big runner at juicy odds

El Padrino- Singapore raider who was known as Ip Man in 2012 when he attacked Meydan first up and broke the course record in a 1400 metre Handicap on the Tapeta. The wheels somewhat came off after that performance and he has been lightly raced since. He did take a local G3 last time but doubtful he will follow up in this field

Krypton Factor- Winner of this race in 2012 on the Tapeta when besting the mighty Rocket Man but not so good nowadays. Well beaten in the trial for this without any obvious excuse and will need to roll back to years if he is to regain his crown

Lucky Nine- Exceptional Hong Kong based sprinter who is approaching the twilight of his career but is still a capable sort at the highest level. He has taken two of his three G1 victories in Singapore and has also ran with credit at the highest level in Australia, Japan and here at Meydan, so travelling is of no concern. He split Aerovelocity and Peniaphobia in his prep for this and that level of form puts him right in the mix here

Salutos Amigos- David Jacobson charge who has rattled up a four-timer at Aquaduct since finishing 7th in the Breeders Cup Sprint in November. He really impressed in accounting for the useful Dads Caps on the slop last time and he looks a sprinter on the upgrade. If he is able to translate his recent form to Dubai then he has every chance of winning outside of NY for the 1st time

Secret Circle- Very consistent 6yo who has finished off the board only once in 15 starts, having seemingly done all of his racing at the highest level. He won at the Breeders Cup as a Juvenile, and then took the G2 Rebel Stakes over 1700 metres at three before reinventing himself as a top grade sprinter when taking the Breeders Cup Sprint at four. Having taken the latter race on only his second start after a 14 month layoff he looked to have the potential to dominate the sprinting ranks in the US. However he is winless in six since and he looks a tight price to get back on the winning trail here

Rich Tapestry- Runner-up in this race last year having taken the prep race on Super Saturday, and has since become the first Hong Kong based horse to win a G1 in the US when taking the Santa Anita Sprint Championship by a nose from Goldenscents. Was unable to back that up when last and heavily eased [reported to have bled] as the chalk in the Breeders Cup Sprint and he hasn't been seen since. His trainer has stated he lost some weight and was dehydrated on arrival in Dubai and he looks massive unders on his first start in five months

Muarrab- Locally based 6yo who has been campaigned disappointingly this season having not been since at Meydan since finishing second in the Dubawi Stakes. He travelled like a dream that day before finding nothing off the bridle and connections didn't hesitate to scuttle back to his beloved Jebel Ali following that display. He has since won two races there at long odds-on, taking his winning streak at the venue to seven. The level of competition is far removed from what he faces here and his light preparation may have left him ill prepared for this challenge. The choice of Hanagan and Looks the best of the home team. He certainly has the talent to compete in this grade, but has he got the toughness

Shaishee- Often a slow starter and took advantage of a pace meltdown when cooking up a shock in the Mahab Al Shimaal. Very possible a similar pace scenario could unfold here and he should be finishing strong at the finish. He remains unexposed over this trip and may have been underestimated by the market. One to keep in mind

Montiridge- Son of Ramonti who was a winner of five races for team Hannon before becoming a disappointing sort at four, having started that season as a 5/1 shot in the Lockinge. Was jettisoned to Saudi Arabia at the end of his 4yo campaign and has returned to form of late, winning his last two over 1400 metres. Hard to quantify that form but likely he will find things happening all too quickly here

Speed Hawk- UK based son of Henny Hughes who has shown an affinity for the Meydan Dirt in a busy carnival campaign. He has travelled best of all on his three tries on the surface but has found little off the bridle each time, and seems to struggle to see out the final 100 metres over thie 1200. Has been placed in the two G3 trials for this race and will do well to match those efforts

Super Jockey- Hong Kong representative who was a winner on his off turf debut last time. He beat a useful field that day, but did get an ideal trip that day and was perhaps a fortunate winner. Does get the benefit of Ryan Moore, who has won on him before, and should run a praiseworthy race whilst finding a few too good

United Color- Ghostzapper colt who was third in this contest last year and showed a return to that level of form when a steady finishing second in the trial. That contest was run at a frantic pace and he picked up the pieces late. Such a pace war has the potential to happen again here and he should be staying on past beaten horses at the end

Verdict- Strong looking renewal which can go the way of the New York Gelding Salut Amigos who arrives in the Gulf having won four on the spin at Aquaduct and looks a sprinter on the up. His prolific trainer has been making bullish noises in the build up and he can complete the five-timer here. Cool Cowboy is entitled to improve from his run in the trial, having fared best of those who ran up with the pace and he is a threat for the in form barn of Doug Watson. Lucky Nine and Shaishee are others to consider.

1 Salutos Amigos
2 Cool Cowboy
3 Lucky Nine

The BMW preview

Sydney's autumn carnival kicks on. The CHampionships don't officially start until next week but there are still Group 1 races at Rosehill to be run. Taking on the richest WFA 2400m race in the country is regular contributor Mitch Fenton, @mitchfenton88, from UBET.

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The BMW
Rosehill, G1, WFA 2400m
1630 local time, 0530 GMT
Odds Comparison
Form guide

At time of preview the Rosehill Gardens track was rated a Heavy (8) surface. Our Sydney track expert expects it to dry up somewhat but still be rain-affected come Saturday so I’ve based my preview off a Slow (5) track.

1.PROTECTIONIST (GER)

A brilliant 4L Melbourne Cup winner back last November - coming from as far back as 18th in the run to demoralise his opposition. His closing sectionals in the race were:

600m – 34.52
400m – 22.70
200m – 11.68

Those type of sectionals at the end of two miles are unheard of, in-fact his closing 200m sectional of 11.68 was the second fastest ever recorded in a Melbourne Cup. Has had two runs back since that win in the 1800m Peter Young Stakes and the 2000m Australian Cup and both efforts have been fair to middling, certainly not setting the world on fire on either occasion.

He could only manage the fifth fastest closing 600, 400 and 200m sectionals in the Australian Cup. There’s no doubt he’s looking for further but from what I’ve seen from him in his two runs back he needs 3200m and I still think the mile and a half might be too sharp for him.

Can’t entirely dismiss him as he does has a G2 2400m win in the Hasna-Pries in France and he oozes class but I think he needs one more run to bring him right up to the mark for the Sydney Cup.

Has won two from two on soft going including G2 Prix Kergorlay, a major Melbourne Cup lead-up race, so if the track is rain affected it won’t worry him in the slightest.

2.WHO SHOT THEBARMAN (NZ)

Has come on in leaps and bounds since placing in the Melbourne Cup and he now looms like he’s going to be a genuine G1 WFA horse. He’s had two runs back this campaign. He settled 5.5L off the speed 1st up in the Gr1 Chipping Norton at Warwick Farm before zipping home his last 600m in 3.3L quicker than average time to finish fifth beaten just 1.4L behind Contributer who has since won again in the G1 Ranvet Stakes in which he blew a high quality field away. His last 200m split was faster than Contributer, just to exemplify how well he finished the race off.

Second up he went to the 1900m Sky High Stakes at Rosehill and again he settled back in the ruck before powering home his last 600m 1.4L faster than average, including a race fastest final furlong of 11.94 on a Soft 5 rated surface. That might be a tad deceiving however as race winner Hartnell was allowed to trot the last bit, but it was still a terrific run by ‘The Barman”.

Glenn Boss who rode the horse in the Melbourne Cup climbs back aboard and he gets out in trip to 2400m that will suit down to the ground. I think the Sydney Cup over two miles will be his perfect race but that’s far from saying he’s not a winning hope in this based on his two terrific runs back this campaign. Twice a heavy track winner so rain-affected going won’t be an issue.

3.BEATEN UP (GB)

Has had four runs back this campaign in the Expressway, CF Orr, Peter Young & Sky High and has failed to flatter in any of them. Got within 2.5L of Hartnell in the Sky High but that was only a battling effort. He’s either looking for further or more likely, and what I think, he just hasn’t come up this prep.

4.OPINION (IRE)

Has followed the same path as stablemate Who Shot Thebarman through the Chipping Norton first then into the Sky High Stakes. Both runs have been terrific and he’s ticking over very well heading towards the two mile Sydney Cup, but I just have a few question marks over him under the handicap he’s been allotted.

5.EXTRA ZERO

An old marvel who's been up this time, longer than the honeymooner’s proverbial. He’s had 13 runs to be exact and in those 13 runs he’s had one win – run second on an incredible seven occasions and had four third placings. He’s missed the placings one just one occasion and that was a luckless effort where he was beaten just 3L. HOW’S THAT FOR CONSISTENT! It’s seen the 8-year old gelding crack the $1million in stakes.

Last start was his toughest assignment of all the G1 2000m Australian Cup at Flemington. He was 16th and last at the 400m mark some 9L off the leaders before sprouting wings late to get beaten by the narrowest of margins. I’ll be the first to admit I though he’d won watching it live then again as they rolled the replays, but it was stablemate Spillway who got the verdict. His sectional times running home were freakish. Nothing else in the prestigious G1 race came close to matching them.

The knock this time around however is that at 11 tries beyond 2000m he’s only managed to fill the placings once – a second in the 2009 VRC Derby. He’s run in this race before and flopped and while he’s in dynamite form I can’t see him troubling these quality horses over a mile and a half.

Doesn’t handle the wet, has one placing from 11 soft track runs.

6.FAST DRAGON (NZ)

Got a cheap lead in the Ranvet Stakes last Saturday running the first 1400m of the 2000m race in a ‘tortoise like’ 10L slower than average. Despite the soft run in front he still compounded badly and finished last. Will lead them up for a portion of the race but isn’t up to this grade.

7.TO THE WORLD (JPN)

Probably the best horse the Japanese have ever brought to Australia, right up there with amazing Caulfield Cup winner Admire Rakti. His latest run was a close second to legendary mare Gentildonna in the G1 2500m $4.1million Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix) at Nakayama racecourse. That run saw him rated at 120 by the Horse Racing International Federation (world ranking’s system) that to put into perspective was equal to the figure Adelaide returned in the Cox Plate and Protectionist recorded in winning the Melbourne Cup.

In the race he beat home Japanese champions Gold Ship, Just A Way - the world’s highest-rated horse as well as Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia, the world’s second best horse.

The 4 year old entire has only had 10 career starts for four wins and four minors as well as a solid fifth in Japan’s famous Derby. On ratings, form and ability he just wins. It’s that simple. Of course we all know it’s racing and things can and do go wrong – but this invader is a load up, put in, get out job.

Untried on anything bar good going but breeding suggests a slightly damp surface won’t harm his chances at all.

8.HARTNELL (GB)

Godolphin horse who has been imported to Australia. Made a stunning Australian debut in the Chipping Norton running home 5L quicker than the average to get within a half-length of star stablemate Contributer. He then strolled home in the Sky High to prove his first up Australian effort was no flash in the pan.

His European form was very good prior to being transferred to Australia and John O’Shea, he won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the Gr3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket ….but the begging question is, is it good enough to topple such a class horse as To The World? No doubt he’s improved with O’Shea putting some speed into his legs, but I just think he runs a clear second behind the gun Japanese horse To The World.

Multiple wet track winner, so a soft surface holds no fears.

9.SILENT ACHIEVER (NZ)

Very disappointing last week in the Ranvet after getting a soft on pace run. She looked before that like she was building nicely so I’m inclined to forgive that effort, but she’s outclassed against a tougher opposition this year, even though she won this race last year….This is five times harder.

Does love the wet though so a heavy track would see her as a genuine each-way chance.

10.LUCIA VALENTINA (NZ)

Star mare that will relish getting out to 2400m for the first time since her slashing Caulfield Cup run in the Spring in which she was third behind Admire Rakti and Rising Romance. She’s had three runs back this campaign in the Apollo, Chipping Norton and last week in the Ranvet Stakes. All three of those runs have been very sound but she hasn’t quite produced the brilliance that we’ve seen from her prior yet this time in.

No doubt Kris Lees has set the mare for this race since the Spring and she’s a live each-way hope in the race. If the track was to be rated at a Soft 6 or worse she’d be the horse to beat all of a sudden as she relishes the wet tracks.

Good hope on her best but needs to lift.

11.RISING ROMANCE (NZ)

Was a touch disappointing last Saturday when being tipped over as the odds-on favourite in the G3 1900m Epona Stakes here at Rosehill (even though beaten very narrowly by Scratchy Bottom who got the freak inside run), even conceding the fact she did have to lug the top-weight.

The start before that she was a very unlucky second in the G1 2000m New Zealand Stakes, failing to have the result overturned in the steward’s room after lodging a protest. Steps up to 2400m now which is her ideal trip, having run the race of her life last Spring in the 2400m Caulfield Cup where she was nabbed right on the line by Japanese star Admire Rakti. The difference here is that she doesn’t get in the race with a light-weight however now facing WFA conditions at the highest level.

She beat Lucia Valentina and Zanbagh last Autumn over 2400m and that form has proven to be just about as good as it gets. I give the Kiwi mare a great each way hope at a decent price.

12.HAMPTON COURT

Has been thrashed at all three runs this campaign. Hasn't done anything since flopping as VRC Derby favourite in the spring. Simply isn’t good enough at his best and he’s not going his best.

TIPS
Supremely confident 7.TO THE WORLD, back him straight out.

Take a trifecta 7.TO THE WORLD / 8.HARTNELL / FIELD
$50 = 5000%

Very confident on the first two, plenty of hopes for the third spot so cross your fingers something at value can bob in.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Golden Slipper preview

It's Slipper Day in Sydney, the best day of racing of the year north of the Murray with five Group 1s. Just such a shame that they'll only get about 1/4 of the crowd which turn up to Derby Day at Flemington.... #verysydney

Taking on the 2yo Championship of the World (well, the richest 2yo race anyway), is regular contributor Mitchell Fenton, @mitchfenton88, from UBET.

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Tooheys New Golden Slipper
Rosehill Gardens, 1200m
Group 1, $3.5m, 2yo

1630 local time, 0530 GMT

Formguide

Odds Comparison

The big feature for the 2yos and the $3.5 million prize pool sees it maintain its status as the world’s single richest two-year old race.

Here’s an in-depth runner-by-runner look at the race.

1.VANCOUVER
Star Medaglia D’Oro colt trained by the two-year old genius Gai Waterhouse. He has a perfect record of three from three.

He won the Breeders' Plate on debut back in the Spring by leading all the way beating the highly-fancied Team Hawkes runner Saboog, who is the full brother of Slipper runner-up (behind Pierro) and Gr1 winning mare Snitzerland.

Then resumed in the Autumn beating Gai’s colt Outreach in the Canonbury at Rosehill, Outreach being a full relation to Gai’s 2013 Slipper winner Overreach. He showed his versatility that day by settling well back in the small field of six before running home to score with conviction again.

He stamped himself as a potential superstar then by winning the Gr2 Todman at Randwick by a massive 3.5L beating home Furnaces and Headwater who he’ll face again here. He ran very slick time overall in winning and his last 600m sectional was four lengths quicker than average.

The knock is obviously drawing the outside gate of 16 and for mine but that’s the only knock, had he have drawn well he would have been nearly past the post even in such a quality race. He can go forward or settle back in the field and that versatility may help overcome the alley. Wins with luck and good T.Berry ride.

2.HEADWATER
Brilliant winner of his first two races including the Gr2 Silver Slipper Stakes at Rosehill that saw him start $1.75 in the Todman against Vancouver. Blake Shinn elected to sit three wide without cover that day and he was a beaten horse a long way out, before plugging on OK late to nab third, but he was a whopping 5.5L behind Vancouver.

That’s a hell of a lot of ground to make up and even though I think he’s better than what he showed in the Todman, I can’t see him turning the tables on Vancouver or Furnaces for that matter unless “Group 1” Glenn Boss can produce some sort of little miracle.

3.FURNACES
The first of four Godolphin runners in the field. Comes here at start four a la the top two. Huge debut winner by 6.5L at Rosehill last spring before being immediately tipped out for a spell by O’Shea. Has come back this prep with two second placings including last start behind Vancouver in the Gr2 Todman beaten 3.5L. Looks an handy type who probably wants a bit further, lacking any real brilliance over 1200m. Place chance.

4.HAPTIC
Unbeaten from two career starts including the listed Lonhro Stakes at Randwick last start where he beat stablemate Furnaces. That form ties in with Vancouver. On pacer who from barrier three will likely be able to lead with James Doyle riding but not sure he has the class of some of these other youngsters, and think he’s a place chance at best.

5.EXOSPHERE
Flopped on debut as an odds-on favourite being going for a spell. Has won both starts this prep firstly a Kembla Grange maiden before an explosive win in the Gr2 Skyline Stakes at Warwick Farm. That run sees him a legitimate chance here to snare the Slipper. He showed a brilliant turn of foot and that’s often what wins Golden Slippers. James McDonald should be able to position him close and let him unleash a big finish. One of the main hopes.

6.READY FOR VICTORY
Won impressively on debut. Comes here at just his second race start. There’s no telling just how good he might be. A real wildcard hope!

7.ODYSSEY MOON
Prefer others but champion international jockey Ryan Moore, who claimed the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup last spring, takes the ride.

8.ENGLISH
Gai’s unbeaten filly winning 2 from 2. I prefer other formlines, howevere it’s tough to ever completely dismiss a Gai Waterhouse trained 2yo in the Slipper.

9.REEMAH
Nosed out in the Blue Diamond at just her second start in a race, after the stable tipped her on radio at a huge price. That day she ran the fastest last 600, 400 and 200m splits of the race. That shows that she’s high quality. A real live knockout chance at 40-1.

10.SPEAK FONDLY
Won last start but I prefer the other Waterhouse runners.

11.FIREWORKS
Looks to me like she wants further and will be better suited in the Sires and Champagne.

12.HAYBAH
Won last start in Adelaide but highly doubt it’s got what it takes in a Slipper.

13.OTTOMAN Big boom on her before Xmas, beating Pride of Dubai on debut, and then a little disappointing this campaign with mild excuses in being caught wide and over-racing. Probably not up to it.

14.LAKE GENEVA
Went to the Blue Diamond at just race start number two and was terrific running a gallant third behind Pride of Dubai. Has been freshened up since and draws a decent gate for the first time here.

15.SINGLE GAZE
Prefer others.

16.LOOK TO THE STARS
Not for me.

TIPS:
1.VANCOUVER
5.EXOSPHERE
6.READY FOR VICTORY
9.REEMAH

SUGGESTED BET; 1.VANCOUVER TO WIN, 9.REEMAH EACH WAY AT BIG ODDS.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Alister Clark Stakes preview

Melbourne's autumn carnival winds down as the attention moves north of the Murray, but Moonee Valley still has a couple of feature races under the Friday night lights before the clocks go back.

This week it's the Alister Clark Stakes for 3yos, a race which launched the career of the mighty Vo Rogue all those years ago... Sharing their shrewd analysis is the team from Premium Racing Services

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Alister Clark Stakes
Moonee Valley
Friday March 20
Race 6 - 9:15PM
G2 3YO, 2040m


PRS Speed Map



Expecting that, having drawn the closest barrier to the rail that No.5 MASTER RESET crosses and leads the field with No.13 MAASTRICHT and No.10 GENERAL JAMES coming across and sitting behind him. The speed outside that trio is reduced, likely enabling this trio to slow the tempo down mid race.

By this time of the night, it will be established whether or not there is a noticeable bias, so play close attention to that as it is a challenge to predict what (if any) bias will occur prior to the meeting starting.

Our Market:



This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.

Stratum Star is brilliantly weighted in this event, given the Set Weight conditions of the contest. He has a 16 point Official Handicapper Rating advantage on the second highest rated horse, Magicool. This places him with an immediate head start, all else being equal.

He has been excellent this campaign, rising gradually in distance and grade – first up 1300m Open Grade, second up 1400m G3 then last start in the G1 Australian Guineas over 1600m. 4th up this distance is a smart decision by trainer D.K.Weir, one that should ensure the horse peaks. He has, vitally, improved his performance rating at each of these starts, with a PB last start finishing within 0.6L of Wandjina (arguably the best 3YO miler in the country). His rider, Brad Rawiller should have an easy time parking the horse on the back of the speed, ready to join in at the turn to put pay to them.

Presumably, the market has decided to partially risk his chances with the rise to 2040m, yet he has given no indication that it is beyond his reach as the longer the distance he competes in, the higher his performance rating has proven to be.

The current public offering of >$2.00 is good value.

Recommended Bets:
Back Stratum Star to win.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Albert Bartlett preview

The last of the G1 Novice Hurdles is the Albert Bartlett, a gruelling three mile test which has thrown up the likes of Wichita Lineman, Bobs Worth and At Fishers Cross in recent years. It's a race that's worth looking at in depth - while there have been four successful favourites under 2/1 in the last decade, there have also been a couple of 33/1 shots claiming victory.

My turn to have a crack at this one, certainly an intriguing contest, even more so by a decent drop of rain overnight.

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Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
3m New Course, Grade 1
£120,000
1440GMT

Willie Mullins brought a ridiculously strong team to Cheltenham particularly in novice hurdle ranks but was denied in the Neptune by another Irish runner in Windsor Park. This time Willie has five horses in his armoury, and all of them have multiple recent wins.

In racecard order:

Arbre Vie
Lightly-raced French import with only five starts to date, and just two for the Mullins camp. Hard to line up his form as they don't really link up with any other runner but he has won well in both runs for Ricci & Mullins. One interesting link in his form, he ran a close third to Aux Petit Soins who was very convincing on Wednesday in the Coral Cup. Untapped.

Avant Tout
Just three starts to date and steps up from two to three miles. Rated 10lb behind Arbre Vie, a huge ask to improve that much beyond others with improvement still in them.

Black Hercules
The obvious favourite, has had a boom on him since the start of his career. Took on three miles for the first time last start and relished it, albeit in a small field on a heavy track at Cork. Has won four from six but it irks me that his two failures have been in the big races, although both were bumpers last season (Cheltenham and Punchestown). For all the hype, he's only one of eight horses rated 145-148, so it's the Mullins & Walsh factor making him favourite rather than pure class. Have to take him on at the price.

Blaklion
Consistently running to 145 at his last four starts which puts him right in this but vulnerable to rivals on the improve. Narrowly beaten at his last two starts, and Sam Twiston-Davies replaces Ryan Hatch, a notable tick. The pair who beat him at Newbury (Parlour Games and Vyta du Roc) were right in the finish in the Neptune, and his conqueror at Doncaster, Caracci Apache opposes him here. In contention but place best for mine.

Caracci Apache
Three from three over obstacles and relishing the increase in trip each time. EVerything went his way at Nico de Boinville mightn't be one the biggest names in the jockeys' room but he has ridden Festival winners before and has won twice on this runner. Capable, probably a touch of value at 20s.

Carningli
Won a Chepstow maiden last start and his jumping wasn't fluent. Won't get near these.

Definitly Red
Annoyingly misspelt, inclined to write him off just for that! Trained by Brian Ellison who is yet to notch a Festival winner, but the yard is in outstanding recent form. Strong English formline through Fletchers Flyer in a G2 last start, won at the track, distance, in the going and has top jockey aboard. Do not rule out.

Fletchers Flyer
Promising hurdler who meets the aforementioned Definitly Red 3lbs better for defeat by a head at Haydock last time. Nothing to really to pot him, but nags me slightly that this will be his fourth different jockey in a row, but that's probably a symptom of being from a smaller stable. Right in this, gives AP McCoy a decent chance of a final day winner.

Kylemore Lough
Bolter of the field, beaten in a four horse Listed race at Huntingdon last start, miles out of his depth here.

Martello Tower
Has form through Outlander, a leading chance in the Neptune who ultimately failed with my money aboard, and finished ahead of No More Heroes last time at Leopardstown, although that horse was said to have scoped poorly after the race. Has won a pair of Grade 3s over this distance. In contention but I prefer a few ahead of him.

Measureofmydreams
One of the many Mullins and Gigginstown Stud runners but bottom of the pile. Beaten 31 lengths by Martello Tower in December with the benefit of 6lbs, no reason to suspect that could be overturned.

Milsean
Similar form and connections to Measureofmydreams. Nuisance value.

Native River
Not hopeless, rated right up to the best here yet will go around at a huge price. Impressive win at Exeter last start, running away from the field giving them all weight. The Tizzard stable is not averse to a big price Festival winner, worth an interest.

No More Heroes
The pick of the Gigginstown team. Yet to run over three miles but has always looked like it will suit him. Scoped dirty last time at Leopardstown, should be right in this but the market hasn't missed him.

Out Sam
The preferred Henderson runner based on jockey bookings. Just two runs under rules, beating two of today's rivals at Newbury in November (receiving 8lb from Thomas Brown) and then winning under a big weight at Ascot without a huge amount left in the tank. The Newbury win puts him right in this with natural improvement. Another with a strong chance.

Shanroe Santos
Northern raider with two starts under rules. Won a Class 2 Novice nicely last time at Musselburgh over the same distance but would have to think that is well below the level required here.

Shantou Bob
Fascinating runner from the Warren Greatrex yard, who claimed their first Festival winner yesterday in the other staying hurdle with Cole Harden. Beaten a nose by Vyta du Roc at Sandown in December (cast a plate) and then bled from the nostril in early January, running third in a Grade 2 at Warwick when 10/11 favourite. Just like Cole Harden yesterday, he's had a wind operation too. Rated to be in the mix here and the stable is firing.

Tea For Two
Marginally top in official ratings, winner of three from five over hurdles. From a smaller stable and has an inexperienced jockey aboard who would normally claim 7lb, but Lizzie Kelly has ridden him throughout his career. You can't substitute big race experience and this is a hot race, but that concern is more than compensated in the price.

Thomas Brown
Not raced since he won here on New Years' Day, defeating among others, Zeroshadesofgrey which ties in favourably with form of Blaklion and Caracci Apache. Form through an earlier win at Exeter ties in with Arbre Vie through Kingscourt Native, and then there was the second to Out Sam conceding 8lbs. Stablemate of Fletchers Flyer, trainer can't seem to split them. One of a host of chances, he'd be shorter in a higher profile stable.

Value At Risk
Just the two starts over hurdles, for a 22L win at Newbury and a narrow defeat at this venue behind Ordo Ab Chao who finished midfield in the Neptune. Steps up to three miles for the first time, but being by Kayf Tara, that's only a good thing. Won't mind the rain one iota, another strong chance.

SUMMARY
This is tough, very tough. If you're not going for either of the two favourites then just about anything can win.

I'm going to take a punt on the Greatrex stable continuing their run - another staying hurdler coming off a wind op at a massive price.

1. Shantou Bob (50/1 at Stan James if you're quick, or 33/1 generally)
2. Arbre de Vie
3. Native River
4. Tea For Two

with other mentions in exotics for Out Sam, Definitly Red, Fletchers Flyer and Thomas Brown.

County Hurdle preview

Amongst the set weight championship races, there are some cracking handicap races during the Festival and the County Hurdle is always near the top of that list. Get out the darts or just listen to the shrewd advice of Adam Webb, @adamwebb121, on the back of tipping the first three in the World Hurdle yesterday.

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Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle
2m1f Handicap, Grade 3, £80,000
1405 GMT


Thank you for all the congratulatory tweets after today’s result. Whilst it didn’t go the way planned, at least the top three I could make a case for finished in the placings. Congratulations to both Gavin Sheehan and Warren Greatrex for their debut wins at the Festival and what a way to do it!

This preview won’t be as long but the County Hurdle is always a minefield with so many potentially well handicapped horses who have been laid out for the race. Ireland head the market with several contenders including Quick Jack who has probably had this race in mind since he finished third in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket back in October and he also has some fair handicap hurdle form. His trainer Tony Martin elected to miss the Festival last year due to a mark given to him of 136. He races here off the same mark however useful claimer Shane Shortall takes five valuable pounds off his back. The overnight rain shouldn’t be much of a concern and looks solid enough as favourite.

The Game Changer is another with top handicap form when third in the Galway Hurdle to Thomas Edison before winning a competitive handicap at Killarney in comfortable style. His most recent start in October was promising enough behind Rebel Fitz. Since then, he has moved to Gordon Elliott’s following the retirement of Charlie Swan. The forecast rain isn’t a complete negative to his chances but he seems to prefer good ground.

The JP McManus trio of Princely Conn, Sort It Out and Waxies Dargle all look interesting contenders. Princely Conn is the choice of Tony McCoy who showed some fair bumper form before going hurdling. The pick of his form would be the third behind Nichols Canyon in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse in December. He ran well last time on handicap debut at Leopardstown behind Sir Scorpion and whilst he goes on most ground, the less rain the better for him. Sort It Out has improved leaps and bounds when winning on his last two starts at Punchestown and Leopardstown, the latter where he dropped back in trip which really looked to suit him. He looks the best of the McManus trio with Waxies Dargle looking to recover from a fall in the Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

Of the leading English contenders, Ebony Express goes for the Imperial Cup/Cheltenham Festival bonus for Dr Richard Newland but he had a hard enough race on Saturday and may be best watched whilst Violet Dancer heads the Betfair Hurdle form with Cheltenian. The former was given an easy time on that occasion and will not be getting the same luxury this time whilst the latter has had a wind operation since last year’s race where he was pulled up.

He holds his claims but his owner Roger Brookhouse has another contender in BALTIMORE ROCK who disappointed on his only start this season in the Greatwood but won last year’s Imperial Cup before not being disgraced at Aintree behind Josses Hill. Ground shouldn’t be too much of a concern and a first time tongue tie is an interesting addition.

Willie Mullins has several entries including the inexperienced Max Dynamite who Ruby Walsh has chosen and the surprise second string that is SEMPRE MEDICI. He was one of the ante-post favourites when the weights came out but has now drifted out to as big as 28/1 which seems a bit extreme. When he was second to Jollyallan at Kempton, he went straight into my notebook especially for this race.The weather forecast shouldn’t really be of any bother as he has won on testing ground both on the flat and on hurdling debut at Cork. The hustle and bustle shouldn’t inconvenience him and he goes in with a big each way chance.

The other Mullins contenders look to have plenty to find. Wicklow Brave has become increasingly frustrating with the rain falling not helping him at all whilst Analifet has looked a different horse for the wrong reasons since her pelvis injury and Lucky Bridle looks badly handicapped.

Horses that I was originally keen on had it been run on good ground were Hawk High and Orgilgo Bay who fought out the Fred Winter last year. The former is such a likeable horse who is just a gutsy little street fighter and whilst he would run well on a softer surface, good ground would bring out the best in him. Orgilgo Bay is a strong travelling type but the doubt even without the rain would be the more stamina sapping idiosyncrasies of the New Course compared to the Old Course. Commissioned and Roman Flight are two others who look well treated but both need top of the ground to be at their most effective.

The final horse worthy to go in the shortlist is one that doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the 50/1 mark in ASO for Aidan Coleman and Venetia Williams. A Grade Two winner at Haydock two starts ago, he disappointed in the Betfair Hurdle but he is well worth another go here which makes the price look insulting, especially as he did beat useful horses at Haydock in Kiama Bay and Qewy. The track should be no issue having stayed on powerfully up Sandown’s hill and he could easily run into the frame.

Conclusion

Having noted SEMPRE MEDICI down for this race back at Christmas, it would be stupid of me not to back him around the 25/1 mark whilst BALTIMORE ROCK still may have more to come from his handicap mark and if the rain really gets into the ground, ASO comes into consideration at the prices. An honorable mention goes to Hawk High as well who carries top weight and should run his race regardless of conditions although he would prefer a sounder surface.

Baltimore Rock - E/W
Sempre Medici - E/W
Aso - E/W

Newmarket Handicap preview

Just a few hours after the hustle and bustle of Cheltenham has ended (although a few of the night clubs will still be cranking!), the spotlight heads back south of the equator to Flemington and Super Saturday. Australia once again has an outstanding generation of sprinters and we may see a couple of these head to Royal Ascot in June.

After tasting success last week with Hallowed Crown, Mitch Fenton, @mitchfenton88 returns to the chair to preview the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap, a race steeped in tradition.

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Lexus Newmarket Handicap
$1 million. 1200m. Group 1.
1550 local time, 0450 GMT


1. LANKAN RUPEE (58.5KG)
Bounced back to his brilliant best first up in the Lightning thrashing Brazen Beau and the undefeated ‘boom horse’ Deep Field, with arrogant ease. Has been weighted with 58.5kg, which has only been carried to victory once in the past 50 + years. (Hay List – 2013). He was beaten fair and square into third by Terravista and Chautauqua in the Gr1 Darley Classic at weight for age, during Cup week and he meets both those horses much worse off under these handicap conditions. Having said that his Lightning Stakes win showed he’s in much better form now then he was last Spring. He’s earned the big weight through his brilliance and also shown his toughness time and time again. Prefer the two that beat him in the Darley Classic, purely based on the weight scale but it’s impossible to completely discount him, he’s a freak.

2. TERRAVISTA (56.5KG)
Comes here first up giving away a race fitness edge in the race to the other fancies Lankan Rupee and Chautauqua who have both had one run back this campaign, however he’s a first up “bomb” having won all 4 of his career first up attempts. No horse has won the Newmarket first-up since Polycrates in 1917! He broke through at Gr1 level in the Spring winning the Darley Classic defeating Chautauqua and Lankan Rupee over this very same track and distance. The only difference this time around is the handicap conditions. That sees him very well weighted against Lankan Rupee – he meets him 2kg better for beating him, however he meet the narrow runner up Chautauqua 1kg worse off for beating him only a short half head. One of the world’s best he’ll be very hard to beat from the inside gate.

3. CHAUTAUQUA (55.5KG)
Ran slashing overall and sectional times winning the Gr2 1100m Rubiton Stakes first up at Caulfield, when he looked underdone and as though he’d derive a great deal of improvement from that run. Class got him home. He really stamped himself as a super star during the Spring when he twice thrashed quality opposition in stakes races down the Flemington straight before being very narrowly beaten in the Darley Classic after being sent out a short priced favourite. He meets Terravista, his conqueror in that race 1kg better at handicap and for me the slight pull in the weights will make all the difference. He comes here more seasoned then he was in the Spring time and I think he’ll exact revenge for the Darley loss.

4. AERONAUTICAL (52KG)
Good honest sprinter who has been up for a long time without victory but has run a couple of decent sort of races in the process. Get’s in with the light weight but is outclassed at Gr1 level.

5. BRAZEN BEAU (52KG)
Won the Gr1 Coolmore Stud Stakes against his own age group, over this track and trip in the Spring before resuming with a distant second in Lightning Stakes at Gr1 Open WFA - Ran very well despite being safely held by Lankan Rupee. Very well suited dropping to Handicap conditions and with 52kg meets Lankan Rupee 3.5kg better off than what he did in the Lightning. He’ll also be better suited by the rise to 1200m. Should be very competitive and definitely isn’t with a hope.

6. DRIEFONTEIN (52KG)
Ran well behind Deep Field here in a Gr3 race during the Cup Carnival. That form can be lined up through the Lightning when Deep Field was well beaten. Will lead most likely but on the evidence seen she’ll find this a bit too strong.

7. LORD OF THE SKY (52KG)
Speedy customer but well and truly outclassed in this.

8. WATERMANS BAY (52KG)
Terrific second in the Winterbottom in Perth late last year, narrowly beaten. Was ok in the Lightning and will definitely be better off over the 1200m but I doubt he has the class to match up with the big guns here.

9. DELECTATION (50KG)
Has been competitive in 3yo grade including a second behind stablemate Brazen Beau in the Gr1 Coolmore Stud Stakes over this track and trip during the Spring. Carries the proverbial ‘postage stamp’ but I don’t think he’s up to this level just yet at this stage of his career.

BETS
Very bullish on Chatuaqua, and for the exotic, taking the trifecta 3 - 1,2,5 boxed for 500% ($30).

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Triumph Hurdle preview

The final day of the Festival kicks off with the juvenile feature, the Triumph. In theory the raw, developing hurdlers should be prone to dealing a surprise or two but those at the pointy end of the market have a very good record in recent years.

After success with Moon Racer in the Champion Bumper, it's the return of Harriet Fuller, @HattieLFuller, to the tipping podium.

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Triumph Hurdle
2m 1f New Course
£120,000 Grade 1 for 4yos
1330 GMT


The Triumph Hurdle betting is dominated by Nicky Henderson with his three runners, Peace and Co (11/4), Hargam (11/2), and Top Notch (8/1). Of these three I would give the latter the best chance tomorrow, but not as good a chance as two of Alan King’s horses.

Peace and Co has done nothing wrong, since his impressive British debut at Doncaster he then went on to win a better race at Cheltenham, confirming his promise. Peace and Co looks every bit a chaser in the making, anything he does this year will be a bonus. Whether he deserves to be the favourite is slightly questionable, with others in the race coming in withhold form as well.

One of those is Hargam, another of Henderson’s. He was beaten on his first start, but since then has gone on to win both his starts since. McCoy has been very vocal about his chances, and has said that he could well be his best chance of a winner.

Top Notch is the last of the Henderson trio, and this is a horse that I am very interested in tomorrow. Mainly due to the rain that is forecast. It's difficult to know how much Cheltenham will get and how much it will change the ground, but if there is significant rainfall then I would want to be on him rather than the other two. On the topic of drying ground at the start of the week Henderson stated that Top Notch would be vulnerable on fast ground whereas the other two would appreciate it. The night before, and we are looking at a flip situation where Top Notch could have the advantage.

He has won all five of his races, two in France and three in Britain and he has looked impressive in doing so. If the rain comes, then I would be willing to back him.

At a bigger price are my two original selections for the race (before the mention of rain), and they represent the value. Both are trained by Alan King and both have caught my eye. Karezak is a solid selection. He will run his race every time and will be involved in the business end of the race. He has been beaten by the likes of Peace and Co and Hargam but he is battle-hardened so to speak and at 20/1 I'd be very interested in backing him.

Pain Au Chocolat is completely the opposite to Karezak in the sense that we don't know how good he actually is yet. After winning at Plumpton ahead of Devilment he went on to win at Sandown, and looked every bit a smart horse. Devilment has since gone and franked the form of his Plumpton win bolting up next time out. If we use this form line then perhaps Devilment should be a selection too, but I just think Pain Au Chocolat has more potential and could be anything at the moment. He could be one of the best value bets of the Festival at 18/1.

So, while Henderson may have the fire power, King has got a great duo of horses and both are worth each way bets, as Pain Au Chocolat especially should appreciate slightly better ground than he has raced on before. As a side note, if there is a lot of rain, then I would advise you to back Top Notch at a shorter price as he could be Henderson’s best hope.

BETS
Karezak and Pain Au Chocolat each-way
If significant rain, back Top Notch as well.

Cheltenham Gold Cup preview

The feature of the final day, if not the whole Cheltenham Festival, is the Gold Cup. This year's cast isn't rated to be the strongest of all time but it certainly isn't a race where finding the winner is a simple task. And that's before the rain arrived!

In the hotseat for the blue riband event is Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup
3m 2.5f New Course, Grade 1
Track GOOD at time of posting but significant rain forecast


What a festival it's been but for many the best is yet to come. We've had the point and fire victories of Mullins' big guns earlier in the week and the fight back of Paul Nicholls with Graded and handicap victories demonstrating just why many of us consider him to be the best trainer and placer of horses we've ever seen.

As we go into the final day the highlight is undoubtedly the Gold Cup, a race which retains the open look it has had since the days when Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander strode the stage.

Last year's contest, and the result itself, remain a mystery and, with his festival record and an owner, trainer and jockey with a brilliant recent history here it's impossible to write off last year's winner, Lord Windermere. He's won an RSA Chase and Gold Cup from his two visits to Prestbury Park and warmed up for this with a much more promising performance in The Irish Hennessy last time than he had put up prior to last year's race. He's obviously well suited to the test and I couldn't honestly put anybody off backing him.

The top two in the market last year, Silviniaco Conti and Bobs Worth, jumped the last looking likely to fight out the finish before being overhauled on the punishing climb to the winning line by Lord Windermere, On His Own and The Giant Bolster. Whilst it may have been easier to predict Nicholls' horse not quite seeing out the trip, Bobs Worth should have loved it and I cannot explain the run at all.

Since then, Silviniaco Conti has won a Grade 1 at Aintree, run disappointingly on his Charlie Hall comeback at Wetherby and put up arguably his two most dominant performances ever in winning Haydock's Betfair Chase and Kempton's feature, the King George. The question with him is whether he's better on a flat track or has Paul Nicholls just managed to improve him as he's done so brilliantly this season with Dodging Bullets?

Second in the market as I write is the admirable Many Clouds who has done nothing but improve this season. He's demonstrated his versatility in beating a high class opponent in Eduard over 2 1/2 miles at Carlisle with Holywell way behind, sitting in behind in The Hennessy before staying on stoutly as he'll need to here and then showing the course holds no terrors for him in winning here on Trials' Day. The significant thing about the latter victory was that he was conceding the maximum penalty, something which not many horses have managed in recent times. He represents connections who nobody would begrudge victory here, in fact it could be argued that he would be the most popular winner of the season if he could pull it off.

One trainer aiming to spoil the party will be Noel Meade, who runs Galway Plate and Lexus winner, Road To Riches, who's also been on a steep upward curve in the last year and The Lexus has now become the pre-eminent Gold Cup trial in Ireland. The form looks solid but I jut wonder whether he will have the brilliance normally associated with winners of this race.

The big plunge horse in recent days has been the Willie Mullins trained Djakadam, always highly rated and apparently now beginning to deliver on his promise with victory in the Thyestes Chase last time out. Apparently unfit in The Hennessy, he'd travelled like a class horse until entering the straight at Newbury and, as the saying goes, could be anything. If you're on at 20-1, good luck but I do feel he's too short at single figure prices.

One of the most popular quotes in tomorrow's media about the rest of the field will be "would have his chance if returning to his best" and this really does apply to the majority of this field which is covered by a ratings spread of generally less than 10lbs so a good or bad jump will be key and I've absolutely no idea who will be the benefactor or otherwise of fortune.

In the hope that we'll see a horse worthy of taking on Don Poli in 12 months'time, I'll take Many Clouds, who should benefit from overnight rain, to provide a dream result for us nostalgic types with Lord Windermere as runner up and Silviniaco Conti to be carried out on his shield in third.