Saturday, 31 December 2016

Relkeel Hurdle preview

The hurdling highlight of the day and the last race on ITV's (modern) debut as FTA racing broadcaster is the Relkeel Hurdle. What state the Prestbury Park track will be by that stage is anyone's guess with plenty of rain forecast. Stepping in to analyse this race in detail is Richard from Bet Catalyst, @betcatalyst.

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Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle
Grade 2, £40,000, 2m4f56yds
1510 local, 0210 AEDT




Ratings Key:
Form: Green = last time out finish is a positive trend
Horse: Green = C&D winner, Orange = Course winner
Age: Green = positive age trend
Trainer: Green = won the race before, Orange = placed in the race before
Adjusted OR: Green = positive, Red = negative
Master Rating: is the master speed rating, top three rated are in Yellow in descending order and is the main way they are rated for this race
A + B: is speed indicators, Green = one of the top three on each indicator
MySpeed Rating: is the secondary speed rating, top three rated are in Yellow
W + Y: is the performance indicators, Green = put in a positive performance on my figures last last time
Trainer In Form: Green = positive
Verdict: Red = negative + reason, Orange = unsure plus reason, no colour means they've made the shortlist

Analysis
Strictly on adjusted ratings only four horses can reasonably win this race: Cole Harden 167, Lil Rockerfeller 160, L'Ami Serge 160 and Camping Ground 157. The rest of the field are at least 4lb or more adrift of Camping Ground and have it all to do.

The big factor for this race is likely to be the ground. It is forecast to rain heavily all morning at Cheltenham on Sunday and that has to at least make the ground soft if not heavier as the forecast has it raining into the afternoon too. This would be a big worry for LIL ROCKERFELLER who on genuine good-to-soft ground would have been the pick. He has good form on soft it's just that all his best form is on faster ground than what he's likely to encounter on Sunday. Throw in the fact he's had three hard races in a short space of time and may be it could pay to look elsewhere for the winner.

The worry for L'AMI SERGE is his stamina on the ground at the trip in a truly run race. He'll love the ground and has won on heavy ground over 2m3.5f at Wetherby in an uncompetitive affair. Wetherby is a flat and sharpish track and a million miles away from 2m4.5f around Cheltenham which in this likely well run race will ride like 2m6f+ on a flatter track. In his most recent races, which provide good form by the way, he has never been one for running on strongly at the finish and the infamous Cheltenham hill might really find him out especially on this ground. Could well be one to trade short in-running before blwoing out up the hill.

COLE HARDEN is 7lb clear on the adjusted ratings but the worry would be from his comeback run over fences is whether or not he's the same horse? Its'afreebee is a decent animal but shouldn't have beaten Cole Harden as well as he did last time at Wetherby and that is a big worry moving forward. He of course won the World Hurdle back in 2015 but he benefitted that day from being an unknown quantity and was allowed an easy lead and was able to capitalise. He was smashed out of sight in this race last year by Camping Ground and was then beaten out of sight in the World Hurdle by Thistlecrack. Right back to his best he'd be in with a shout but his ability to rekindle that form has to be a big question mark. Also a slight worry is the fact that both his Graded wins have come over 3m+ and both on good ground.

That leaves us CAMPING GROUND who strolled through this race last year to beat Lil Rockerfeller (giving 4lb) by 11L and Cole Harden (giving 8lb) by 20L. He should have very similar conditions come Sunday afternoon but this time he meets the improved Lil Rockerfeller on level weights and has to give 8lb to Cole Harden. I cannot see given the conditions either of those horses reversing the form. This season he's been running over fences and ran Josses Hill, who ran so well in the King George, to 9L at his opponent's favoured Kempton Park and on Camping Ground's unfavoured good ground. That performance in light of the conditions suggests to me that he retains all his ability and he looked like winning last time before falling at Newbury over 3m. Back at Cheltenham on this ground he must be banker place material at the very least and the 6-1 for him looks value too. He'll love the ground and stays the trip well in the conditions, is top-rated on Master Ratings and second top-rated on MySpeed Ratings. All in all he must go very close!

Suggested Bets
1 point win Camping Ground @ 6-1 generally bog
0.5 point place only bet @ 2.20 or better as a cover bet

Cheltenham 3.40 preview

Concluding the card at the home of National Hunt racing is the bumper, a race which often turns out a very good one. With only three runners having had more than one race start, there's a big sign saying POTENTIAL over all of them...

Casting a shrewd eye over the field is another blog debutant, Tony Amato, @mato66. Welcome aboard!

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EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club NHF
Listed, £20,000, approx 1m6f (1m5f209yds), New Course
1540 local, 0240 AEDT


Plenty of decent horses have won this race over the years; The New One, Modus and Wishful Dremaing to name just a few, so it's safe to say trainers know what they have when entering for this race. I'm going to concentrate on the ones I think will make the market (I write this Friday evening before markets are available) and the ones I think stand out.

COCKNEY WREN from the Harry Fry yard ran a fair second on debut at Taunton, beaten just a neck by a Henderson 4yr old. You can never discount one from this yard and Nicky Henderson described the winner in his stable tour as a "outstanding individual" so that run may be very good even though the race did look a match.

SHEARLING from the shrewd Brian Ellison yard won a bumper at Warwick showing a fine attitude, rallying to get up close to the line after looking beaten. She then went to Wetherby for a junior bumper and won again. It takes a decent sort to win a bumper with a penalty, so she is certainly one to look for in the betting.

DAPHNE DUE CLOS, from the all powerful Henderson yard won a bumper in France. We don't know how good the form is but it says something that her trainer starts her here. No doubt if the market speaks for her, we need to take note.

My selection for the race is CAP SOLEIL who won on debut at Newbury in a junior fillies race. This Fergal O'Brien inmate was backed like defeat was out of the question on debut and she didn't let her backers down. She cruised into the race and took it up 2f out, putting the race to bed like a nice sort. I don't know how strong that race was but there are very few bad Newbury bumpers, so I'm willing to go with this daughter of Kapgarde as she was visually impressive!

Selection CAP SOLEIL

Cheltenham 2.00 preview

New Year's Day hangovers are best treated with a bit of punting in the brisk, clean air of the Cotswolds - Cheltenham on January 1 means there are only about 10 weeks until the Festival!

And witrh the arrival of the next arbitrary group of 365 days, it's a warm welcome to some new contributors. Firest off the rank making his debut on the blog is Racing UK Tipstar winner, Harry Allwood, @H_Allwood1. And you can read more on his blog (actually he only started it today, but I'm sure there'll be plenty more!) here.

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BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase £60,000, Grade 3, approx 2m5f (2m4f166yds), New Course 1400 local, 0100 AEDT

The races at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day look set to be highly competitive, none more so than the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase that comes up at 2.00. Won last year by the reappearing Village Vic who showed a game attitude to fend off another reappearing rival Tenor Nivernais to complete a four timer. That was off a mark of 144 and now races off a mark of 158 but has progressed again since that win. Has run two good races at Cheltenham so far this season off marks of 155 and 158 respectively and looks sure to go close again.

Currently heading the betting is the Nicky Henderson-trained Vaniteux who has some very smart form to his name. He’s finished third on both his starts in handicaps this season off a mark of 154 and now steps up in trip. Henderson has stated in his Stan James blog that he feels it’s only a matter of time until he wins a big one. However, I’m not convinced that 2m4f around Cheltenham is going to be ideal for him and he looks high enough in the handicap based on those two runs this season.

Paul Nicholls is represented by the 7 year old As de Mee who disappointed in a similar handicap over course and distance in November but got back on track with a win in the Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences at Aintree last time out. Similar to Vaniteux, As de Mee showed some smart novice form and has won two of his three starts over fences this season. An 8lb rise in the handicap for his last win will make life harder but he’s clearly progressing and the trip and ground will be ideal for him.

Quite by Chance was deemed unlucky by some when finishing a staying on 4th in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup over course and distance last time having been hampered down the back straight by a faller. He eventually stayed on to be beaten only two lengths at the line off a mark of 147. He has a progressive profile and looks sure to be competitive again off the same mark for man of the moment Colin Tizzard.

Visored for the first time is Henri Parry Morgan whose second at Aintree last season behind Native River is the stand out piece of form in this race. On that form he would be the one to beat but hasn’t got off to the best of starts this season having disappointed in the Hennessy and unseating his rider last time out. Trainer Peter Bowen isn’t in great form at the moment either and he looks a horse who is best caught in the spring.

Sent off joint favourite last time for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup was Thomas Brown who was ultimately disappointing in the end and failed to build on a successful seasonal debut at Aintree where he put in his best round of jumping to date. The form of that win hasn’t worked out great and he looks on a high enough mark now.

Another horse who ran in this race last year was Top Gamble who finished third off a mark of 153. He then went on to win a Grade 2 at Newbury and at Fairyhouse. It’s likely he would have needed the run when finishing fifth behind Fox Norton here in November. Kerry Lee has booked Davy Russell for the ride and although he will be running off a 6lb higher mark than last year, there should be plenty more to come from him this season and I can see him running a big race.

As mentioned, Tenor Nivernais was second in this race last year behind Village Vic. He was a good third in a competitive race on his seasonal debut at Ascot last time out off a mark of 150. Has been put up a couple of pounds by the handicapper for that run though so that puts him on a career high mark again and has shown his best form on soft/heavy ground.

Shantou Flyer was last seen running a creditable ninth in the Galway Plate. Has since moved to Rebecca Curtis and although returns from a five month break, this is likely to have been the target for some time. A mark of 149 means more is required having never won off a mark this high before but he’s still only seven and was a course winner in October last year.

Promising 7lb claimer Tom Humphries takes the mount on Foxtail Hill who runs from 9lb out of the handicap. Was an easy winner at Uttoxeter in October and the further trip is likely to suit but lots more required if he is to be involved in the finish.

2014 Irish National winner Shutthefrontdoor has been relatively disappointing since finishing fifth in the 2015 Grand National. That race is likely to be the target again for him this season and this looks to be another stepping stone. The handicapper has given him a chance though but hasn’t looked in love with the game this season.

Cheltenham regular Thomas Crapper has recorded just one win from seventeen chase starts but has been given some impossible tasks. Was sixth in the Bet Victor Gold Cup on his latest run where he wore a tongue tie for the first time. Needs to find more though to be competitive today and looks held by Village Vic on that form.

Last but not least is Solar Impulse who is bidding to give Sam Twiston-Davies his win in this race. Won the Grand Annual at the Festival last season but has been disappointing in two runs so far this season for new stable. Hard to recommend in current form despite the fact he is only 3lb higher than his win in the Grand Annual.

Verdict:
Fiercely competitive as you would expect for a race of this nature. Village Vic is sure to be there at the finish but the selection is Quite by Chance who went close here last month despite being hampered, should still have more progress left in him and can continue Colin Tizzard’s run of good form. Top Gamble looks to have an each way chance too despite having to carry top weight.

1) Quite by Chance
2) Village Vic
3) Top Gamble

Friday, 30 December 2016

Premier League - the New Year fixtures

More great work from William Kedjanyi, keejayOV2, while his Wordpress site is out of action. Manwhile, I'll just chug along with my old Nokia, I mean Blogger, site...

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PREMIER LEAGUE previews 30/12 - 1/1

Hull (10/3) v Everton (Evs)
Everton are beginning to turn things around slightly. After a long winless run, they have finally begun to get some results together, taking advantage of a low intensity Arsenal performance to win here a couple of weeks ago and going down in the last seconds to rivals Liverpool. They took advantage again of weak opposition on Boxing Day when winning a poor game at Leicester in with both sides failed to inspire. Hull, however, look headed tor relegation although they were giving Manchester City a hard time until a Yay Tour penalty opened the floodgates, and this could be tight. That said, in Romelu Luaku and Kevin Mirallas they do have forward threats and they should be able to competitive competitively in the midfield. Hull looked good when Robert Snodgrass had the ball on Boxing Day and will try for that again here but they’ve lost four of their last five and this could be the same story.
Advice: No bet

Burnley (29/20) v Sunderland (12/5)
It took a stunning and lucky late winner from Andre Gray to take Burnley above Middlesbrough but it proved how hard they are to beat at home and they have to be worth chancing to beat Sunderland here. That now makes it 19 of their 20 point tally and 15 of their 17 goals that have come at Turf Moor and it’s worth remembering how well they played in one goal defeats at West Ham and Tottenham. Sunderland should find this easier than Old Trafford and have improved in recent weeks but this is a very tough task.
Advice: 1 pt Burnley (29/20 Hills)

Chelsea (1/4) v Stoke (13)
Only Arsenal’s famous Invincibles have gone on a longer consecutive winning streak than this Chelsea aside and based on Stoke’s 4-1 thumping that they received at the hands of fellow contenders Liverpool they can make it 13 here. They coped with the cost of Diego Costa without a bother against Bournemouth as Pedro put in his best performance of the season in tandem with Hazard to take Bournemouth. They should
Advice: No bet.

Leicester (11/10) v West Ham (11/4)
With every single week that passes, Leicester look in more and more danger of relegation and their “performance” against Everton was as bad as we’ve seen. Their 4-2 win against Manchester City appears to be a blip and they’re in serious trouble, still missing Fuchs and Huth in defence. West Ham may not still look like the side of last year but they have gotten the wolves away from their door with three wins in a row over Christmas and they didn’t need much invitation to take apart a dreadful Swansea side on Boxing Day. At times Leicester have looked at least as bad and they are worth chancing for a fourth straight win on the bounce.
Advice: 1 pt West Ham (11/4 general)

Manchester United (1/4) v Middlesbrough (16)
Jose has found the team he likes and it’s now four on the bounce in the league for Manchester United, who moved through the gears with aplomb against Sunderland in what was an easy win. Middlesbrough were unlucky not to take a pint from their trip to Turf Moor but they have won just one game on the road and this will be a different test altogether, with Paul Pogba now operating as he did at Juventus and Zlatan Ibrahimović having scored 50 goals this year and 16 this season. With Henrikh Mikhitaryan now being used to full effect Middlesbrough could be overwhelmed and United can put space between them and the visitors.
Advice: 3 pts Manchester United -1 (4/5 general)

Southampton (3/4) v West Brom (9/2)
Southampton finally got beaten at home when Spurs proved to be far too good for them but that was just their second home defeat of the campaign (the other coming to Chelsea) and it’s more likely the onus will be on them to break down West Brom, who made Arsenal pull out all the stops on Boxing Day. It took Oliver Giroud’s bullet heard to get past Ben Foster that day but Southampton have the height to compete in all areas – Jose Fonte and Virgil Van Dijk being two tall centrebacks – and the overall quality to find away past West Brom, even if they have to work very hard for it. The one goal winning margin might be the best value but the hosts can get back on track.
Advice: 1 pt West Brom to win by 1 goal (5/2 Sky Bet)

Swansea (19/10 v Bournemouth (13/8)
Swansea could well be much improved for having jettisoned Bob Bradley but the fact remains that this is a far simpler assignment for Bournemouth than other of their last two assignments, namely the visit of Southampton and a trip to League leaders Chelsea. Bournemouth were outplayed on both those occasions but here the likes of Jack Wilshere and Benik Afobe have a chance to impose themselves on the game here and Bournemouth are good to enough to take the three points.
Advice: 1 pt win Bournemouth (13/8 Hills)

Liverpool (11/8) v Manchester City (2)
They say to save the best for last and the Premier League has done that by making the last match of 2016 a huge title clash between Liverpool and Manchester City. Liverpool, unbeaten in their last 15 at Anfield, are understandably slight favourites but the individual quality in a City side that has proven clinical and resilient in December to keep on the trails of Chelsea. About the only thing to be expected is goals – the two have scored 159 goals between them in 2016 and Sergio Augero is returned from his suspension. Goal scoring markets are incredibly short already but over 3.5 could be the bet, or an option including both teams to score in the match outcomes.
Advice: No bet.

Watford (5) v Tottenham (8/13)
Tottenham won their first game on the road in five attempts at Southampton but they were deeply impressive in running out 4-1 winners at Southampton, becoming only the second side to do so, the other being Chelsea. Dele Alli was hugely influential that day as they slowly dominated midfield through the second half and they can be too good for Watford. The Hornets have lost four of their last six and were bested in the first half by Crystal Palace.
Advice: 2 pts Tottenham (7/10 Hills, Coral)

Arsenal (1/3) v Crystal Palace (9)
Arsenal have had their December struggles but with Liverpool and Manchester City playing eachother they’ve got a big chance to put themselves on the coattails of Chelsea with victory over Crystal Palace. Based on their home form they should have too much for Palace, although the visitors looks improved for the sacking of Alan Pardew when they drew with Watford and they nicked a point from them last year after being dominated so this has the look of a banana skin. Oliver Giroud’s header has broken past Sunderland and West Brom already this season and he is an interesting goalscorer option.
Advice: No bet.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Boxing Day cricket previews

Boxing Day for an Aussie, even an expat one, means just one thing - CRICKET! Stepping up for possibly the first-ever cricket preview on the blog (can't remember and can't be arsed going back through every post!) is esteemed, prolific and multi-pronged writer, William Kedjanyi. Follow him via @keejayOV2 or his blog... when it works again!

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Boxing Day Cricket

What will be the first sign that Christmas Day is over and the feast of sport that will clog our screens over the next week? The first ball bowled in New Zealand as their ODI series against Bangladesh kicks off. The Black Caps swill have their eyes set on yet another home victory but this is a Bangladesh side that is improving all the time and is leaner, fitter and better coached than they’ve ever been, and there should be a good contest.

An hour later, the first ball shall be bowled as Australia clash with Pakistan again, and if this test is anywhere near as exciting as the first – or towards the end of it, at least – then it will be an occasion fit for Christ himself. A test that Australia had taken by the scruff of the neck on one of their favourite stumping grounds – they haven’t lost a test at Brisbane since 1988 – eventually became one of the most thrilling tests of the year, with the hosts escaping with a 39-run victory from a three-hour final session.

At the beginning of the day you could have gotten 600/1 with no restrictions on a Pakistan win, but the magical 137 of Ashad Shafiq, the cornerstone of a much improved second innings performance from the team, took things to the very wire. However, the dominance of Australia’s bowlers - Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood, and Josh Bird teaming up for nine of their 10 first innings wickets - in the first innings proved to be too much despite Steve Smith’s much criticised decision to declare instead of enforcing the follow on.

That was the day/night test and now things move to the MCG, where Pakistan may find themselves more at home. There have been four day/night tests played and Australia have been involved in three of them; The Aussies have won all three, each against an opponent playing in the conditions for the first time.

The move back to the red ball should help a Pakistan side that has the players to target the Australian middle order with reverse swing in the shape of Mohammed Amir, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz when the conditions are right and the battling lineup had adapted to the conditions with aplomb in the second innings.

Shafiq’s innings took the headlines, but Azhar Ali (71) and Younis Khan (65) made the headlines whilst Mohammed Amir nearly did with his 48; Yasir Shah and Whab Riaz combined for 60. Any number of the Pakistanis could once again be top bat – it’s no surprise that you can get 7/2 for four or five choices.

Australia have lost just 3 matches from 29 played at home over the last five years and two of those came when South Africa visited in the summer, so favouritism is deserved. However, this could be more competitive earlier than the last test, and the 11/2 on Pakistan appeals as being too big if their batsmen can get into the game earlier.

Steve Smith got some flak for his tactics in the last test but he’s scored three half centuries and scored 132 to set up the Australian position in the first test. He’s scored a century at the MCG for the last two years and the 4/1 on him doing do again is of interest along with the 11/10on him making a half century. What might be a better investment than the latter, is the performance points line of 110 that Bet365 offer on him. Smith would have made it with both runs alone in Brisbane but he also took four catches and the last time he failed to take a catch was at the Oval when Australia were being taken apart during the Ashes.

For those of you who prefer to sleep of the excesses of Christmas, South Africa take on Sir Lanka in their Test series at 8am on Boxing Day. The last couple of years have been tough for the Proteas but they have been searching long term replacements to the outgoing heroes like Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, whilst they must cope with the absences of AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

However, they have found plenty of new faces to take the team forward. Faf Du Plessis is now an established captain, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma are the second and third leading run-scorers for South Africa in Test cricket this year in what is their breakthrough year as member whilst Kagiso Rabada is the top wicket taker. Rabada, who took 15 wickets in Australia, can repeat the success that other fast bowlers have had against the Sri Lanka, especially back on home soil where he impressed so much against England last year.

This approach reaped rewards when they went to Australia and took a very much deserved 2-1 series win where Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott took 28 wickets between them and Quinton De Kock was the second top combined runscorer. De Kock was nearly 80 clear with his 281 in three tests where batting conditions are tricky and the 8’s that he’s the leading runscorer again appear to be big.

Sri Lanka are entitled to respect, but they have won just four of their 13 away games in the last two years and two of those were the two wins against Zimbabwe in their warm up for this; One other success was against Bangladesh. Their more relevant piece of form would broadly be their visit to England, which ended in a 2-1 home success, and a similar scoreline could be in the office.

There’s still reason to be wary for South Africa – their Boxing Day record is not immaculate – and Sri Lanka have got the confidence from a five-match winning streak, and the rise of rise of Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva in the battling lineup for solidity.

Trying to take 20 South African wickets is probably a bigger question for them, and much will rest on Rangena Herath’s late spinning, especially at Port Elizabeth, and Unwan Pradeep’s fitness, although he’s been exceptional when it’s held, taking 40 wickets at 32.55 since the beginning of 2015. If his legs hold he can lead the way for the visitors.

Advice
Australia v Pakistan – 2nd Test
1 pt Steve Smith 1st Innings Century (4/1 general)
3 pts Steve Smith to score over 110 performance points (5/6 Bet365)

South Africa v Sri Lanka – Series
1 pt Quinton De Kock Top South Africa Batsman (8/1 general)
1 pt Unwan Pradeep Top Sri Lanka Bowler (5/1 general)
1 pt Kagiso Rabada Top South Africa Bowler (9/4 general)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Hurdle preview

For the hurdlers, they get their chance at Grade 1 glory in the Xmas Hurdle in another disappointingly small field. Still, four out of the five are pretty darn good horses...

Back to Jon da Silva, @creamontop, for the preview.

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32Red Christmas Hurdle
£100,000, Grade 1, Two Miles
Kempton Boxing Day, 1440 local, 0140 AEDT


We have a fair idea how good The New One is in small fields at park courses at two miles - both losses in this race to be fair. A blunder against My Tent or Yours causing a narrow loss and a mauling by Faugheen - Faugheen dominated him. If it's a crawl Ch'tibello can burn as he showed in the unnecessary Haydock race. My Tent or Yours appears best when finding himself in the lead after everything else has shot their bolt and I hope connections are considering the two mile handicap at Newbury again and off 155 I'd be interested.

Gray Wolf River gives lie to the idea that padding these races with more numbers would make them better races. Indeed whilst he could luck into a lot of prizemoney most likely he repays a couple of months fees which given jumpers don't run that often has an opportunity cost for anyone who wants to win a race and does not own and train a complete no hoper. His main benefit is to encourage EW bettors who want to oppose the top two. Anyone want to price up how many lengths he'll be beaten - under/over 100?

Anyway in future terms this race is about Yanworth or Boaty McBoatface as a public vote I conducted on Twitter concluded. Yanworth has won over two miles in bottomless ground and became favourite for the Neptune off a win over two and a half miles in bottomless ground. He appeared to be out-sprinted at a crucial point in the Neptune by a horse who seemed less suited by subsequent tests of speed at Aintree and Punchestown himself. He looked anything but a speed horse barely getting the better of Lil Rockerfeller receiving four pounds too over two and a half miles last time. He is favourite here.

Conclusion

Cut a long story short The New One could dominate and is almost unbeaten under those conditions. If his pilot is clever this should be a 3 furlong sprint. Maybe Yanworth tries to make it and brings My Tent or Yours into it but even then The New One can sit on him and what pace he could set is interesting for a horse who tries to run out and is ridden wide so he can be unhurried. At the prices The New One is the bet. Like Thistlecrack if Yanworth wins we can get very excited but I can't see any form that makes him favourite here, never mind the distance and race shape might be against him.

The New One win at 6/4 or more
Consider forecast TNO over MTOY Ch'tibello


King George VI Chase

The highlight of Boxing Day sport in Britain is the King George Chase, the biggest jumps race outside the Cheltenham and Grant National Festivals. It's a clash of the old and the new, the defending champ against the rising upstart with just three chase starts to his name, but an absolutely dominant record in staying hurdles before taking on the sturdier obstacles. And then there's a two-time winner of the race going around as the bolter of the field. What a great event to behold while most of us are recovering from Christmas Day!

Taking on the preview for this small but tantalising content in his own inimitable style is regular contributor, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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32Red King George VI Chase
Grade 1, £209,000, Three Miles
Kempton, 1515 local, 0215 AEDT


Colin Tizzard, henceforth 'Big Col', knows his brass from his muck and I've noted his horses' habits of winning the most valuable races they contest at the expense of others. Now thrust into the rank of essentially the second top trainer in the UK of chasers in my not humble opinion. Clearly Big Col knows that winning the "32RED KAUTO STAR NOVICES´ CHASE (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) formerly known as the FELTHAM NOVICES´ CHASE" is worth about the same as second here or maybe we have very sporting owners. He had the favourite and they will run the novice Thistlecrack as second favourite and indeed that favouritism could flip flop.

Nonetheless it's hard to escape the reality the winner will get less than a 120 Bags for winning the second most prestigious Weight for Age chase in the calendar. The saddest part being even if this was trebled we might not get any more good horses in the race. Amazing that no Irish horses are coming given it is more valuable than the Lexus and that will be a bigger deeper field even if nothing as good as Cue Card in it?

With only one over 165 Official Rating and that way over and only über novice Thistlecrack prevents a 4/7 favourite. Thistlecrack, because of his perceived scope, is at least perceived as a real opponent if Cue runs within 12 pounds of his best not of the others can be. With ground likely no slower than Good to Soft connections of ilk of Irish Cavalier and Menorah missed a golden chance of a small field. The former wasted on bogs at Haydock and Aintree.

Third fav is Josses Hill who can jump like an articulated lorry but his last three starts over 2.5 miles on flat right handed tracks has seen facile beatings of God's Own, Tea for Two and Camping Ground and this is a flat right-handed track and scene of two of those trouncings. If you take a view Thistlecrack is wrong price or a shit or bust bet then 1/4 odds 1,2 makes him interesting for EW types. Equally with pressure on his jumping and distance issue one can take a view he and the novice make EW on others good bets.

Tea for Two won the "32RED KAUTO STAR NOVICES´ CHASE (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) formerly known as the FELTHAM NOVICES´ CHASE" last year. He is a really negative bet as looks squarely a 155 at best horse but will likely give his running and has course and distance form. Also his smart pilot may ride for a place.

Silviniaco Conti. Looked a light of former days for much of last year but dealt with lessers severely in the Betfair Ascot Chase. A run in the National looked interesting given his record was a series of 1s at tight tracks and his small stature. His form since suggests he is not top Grade 1 standard now. However the Ascot result has him well in with Tea for Two and Josses Hill say. Former winner.

Cue Card, the best UK horse in training. Devastating run at Haydock where the usual mixture of spring heeled and awkward leaps and Brennan as a passenger led to a facile win over a race-fit Silviniaco Conti and an injury-returning Coneygree. Time was good and since his wind was done really only had one poor run [Punchestown] and that would beat the public form of all in this race. Has had issues arguably on half his starts for pilot Brennan being out of sync both Haydock wins especially down the back last year where he was bizarrely credited with slowing horse down by getting in close to avoid the lead. Arguably lighting horse up in wrong place at Cheltenham and at Wetherby where Big Col took blame for early move at wrong time.

Thistlecrack is a physical freak. Big Col seems to love him even more than Cue which is a lot and astonishing at the same time. He has with increasing certainty blasted away three fields in novices including some worthy rivals. He now attempts a leap that many fail the first time. I cannot think of a horse trying his first unrestricted three mile Grade 1 Chase getting to Cue Card's level bar Vautour or maybe Dessie handed an easy and the top chasers in Britain a beating. Cue probably peaked to beat Vautour for me would have been favoured in a rematch. Vautour was also a notable jumper albeit left handed on goodish ground and not at two-miler tempo. Thistlecrack is an energetic jumper making some big scary leaps and at Cheltenham showing fences schmences as he ploughed through the ditch. For a stayer nothing has got him off the bit for two years it seems. However as a hurdler he was very much a stayer and three-mile chasers generally were faster hurdlers. Personally think he is too short and it needs a huge leap of faith. I am not as enamoured of his jumping as some to boot. This is not to damn Thistlecrack, who may be my second favourite horse in training, merely to say if he beats Cue Card with the right horses a mile back it's some achievement.

Conclusion

As a fan of the sport I would be delighted if Thistlecrack won or got close to Cue Card in a year where top class chasers are thin on the ground however at current prices for me it is hope over logic. The odds are not far off 6/5 the pair. Anything over that for Cue Card is value for me. Not liking Thistlecrack you can look at EW with a 1/4 odds but wait until 5 runners confirmed if doing that. You cannot realistically make a case for anything beating Cue Card on any form in the last 15 months if he finishes. I can make EW cases for the other 3 but Tea for Two's would be if 3 horses run below their last start he can place assuming Silviniaco does not run to that Ascot form of February.

To oppose Cue Card at greater than evens I think you're betting he runs well below even what can be reasonably expected or that Thistlecrack is even more of a freak than he has shown. Cue peaked in this race last year off a similar prep and faces less opposition most likely. He is the same price as a horse who will probably have to become the best chaser in training on his 4th start from a base camp ~20lb below that having faced no live ammunition. Even Coneygree went into the Gold Cup dismissing a Grade 2 field and he did not achieve Cue Card's likely rating in those races.

Cue Card to win at 6/5 or better.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Premier League football 26-28/12/16

I don't often cover football on the blog but when you get an offer from esteemed tipster William Kedjanyi, @keejayOV2, desperate for an outlet because WordPress was playing up... well, you'd be mad not to use it. Welcome back to the blog William!

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PREMIER LEAGUE preview 26-28/12/16

Watford (5/4) v Crystal Palace (11/5)

This game doesn’t appeal a whole lot. Watford looked to be the better side in their defeat at Sunderland but they were toothless with the final ball for all of the chances they made that weren’t beaten away by Jordan Pickford; Crystal Place couldn’t lay a glove on league leaders Chelsea last week, although no side has been able to for 11 straight weeks. The hosts, at home should be favourites; Crystal Palace have won just twice in 19 league away games. This might be one where both get on the scoresheet – Palace have only been held at Tottenham and Sunderland but have conceded huge amounts including to three of the bottom five.
Advice: No bet.

Burnley (21/10) v Middlesbrough (17/10)
If Burnley are to stay up then they will do it via victories at Turf Moor and they will give Middlesbrough plenty of problems. They have claimed all but one of their 17-point tally and 14 of their 16 goals at Turf Moor and they were unlucky not to take something in one goal defeats at West Ham and Tottenham, especially the latter. Middlesbrough have won just once on the road, early in the season at Sunderland when they were finding their feet against David Moyes.
Advice: 1 pt Burnley (21/10 Bet Victor)

Chelsea (2/5) v Bournemouth (19/2)
How long can this winning run last for Chelsea? Their remarkable run extended to 11 when they beat Crystal Place with a minimum of fuss and a side that spent most of last season closer to the relegation zone than the top is suddenly nearly odds-on for the title. And they will take a huge amount of beating in the race for the title, with no other commitments bar the FA Cup. However only two sides have won more than 11 games in a row and the run can’t last forever; What’s more, four of their last six wins have been 1-0 wins and five of them have come by a single goal. Bournemouth ordinarily wouldn’t be considered by most, and they can be hit and miss, but when they’re good they can be very good as their win over Liverpool showed and they were better than the scoreline suggested when losing 3-1 at the Emirates. The loss of Diego Costa to suspension is also a blow to Conte’s prospects of extending the record (not forgetting that N’Golo Kante is also suspended) and this could be closer than the markets have it. A two goal head start would have been successful for all but Manchester City for Chelsea’s opponents and it is a fair price here.
Advice: 3 pts Bournemouth +2 (5/6 Paddy Power)

Leicester (7/4) v Everton (6/4)
It’s been a dreadful past few months for both these sides. Leicester looked to have recovered last season’s title winning form with their thumping of Manchester City but they lost to Bournemouth three days later. Everton have recently began to pick up points from some tough games and had the Merseyside Derby stolen from them at the death although outside of that there have been very average performance. Defensive mistakes have compounded some of Leicester’s failures with Kasper Schmeichel absent but they can still score and both teams have scored in five of Leicester’s last six home games and four of Leicester’s last six so that appears to be a sound route.
Advice: 1 pt Both Teams To Score (7/10 Bet365)

Manchester United (1/4) v Sunderland (16)
Jose Mourinho appears to have finally got things going at Manchester United. Gone are the tantrums of only a month ago as the boss has now found something like his best 11 at Old Trafford with Henrikh Mkhitaryan now in the thick of things and Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera giving them something like control of games. Zlatan Ibrahimović is evergreen and leading he line with aplomb – he now has 11 – and all things considered they should have too much for Sunderland. With credit to David Moyes, Sunderland have won four of their last seven but lost to Liverpool, Chelsea and Swansea.
Advice: 1 pt Manchester United -2 (9/5 Paddy Power)

Swansea (8/5) v West Ham (8/5)
Swansea are heading for the drop but in South Wales they’ve actually-only lost one of four since Bob Bradley came in and that includes wins against Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Two wins in a week will have provided a vital fillip to West Ham given the struggles they’ve had this season, but they were at home against Hull and Burnley and with no shortage of fortune, so this game appears best left.
Advice: No bet.

Hull (9) v Manchester City (1/3)
It has been a tough few weeks for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City but they have approached Christmas in the perfect fashion with wins over Watford and more importantly Arsenal in the last week to leave them on the trails of Chelsea and Liverpool. Much was made about the failures of Arsenal (and rightly so) but the way that Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and David Silva stepped upto the plate must give huge encouragement for the rest of the title challenge into 2017. They should be too god for Hull, who have collected just six points from their last 15 games with their one win – against Southampton – a smash and grab effort when Southampton dominated but Hulll scored with their only two shots on target. City's last clean sheet on their travels came in the 4-0 triumph at West Brom in October so the BTTS and City win option looks value along with the handicap.
Advice: 1 pt Manchester City to win and Both teams to score (19/10 Betfair), 1 pt Manchester City -1 (5/6 general)

Liverpool (1/4) v Stoke (10)
It took Liverpool nearly 95 minutes to break down Everton but get there they did and they will be aiming to keep the pressure on Chelsea over Christmas. Their only recent dropped points have come as a result of defensive issues, so back to back clean sheets against Middlesbrough and Everton will have come as a relief and if they are able to nil Stoke, then they should be able to take all three points due to their attacking firepower. Stoke’s dropping of two points to Leicester will rankle with Mark Hughes but they have proven stubborn opposition in the past, enough to shy away from backing Liverpool here.
Advice: No bet.

Southampton (9/5) v Tottenham (13/8)
Tottenham have gotten things back on track in the league recently but they face a potentially serious stumbling block at Southampton. The Saints have adapted well to their new manager Claude Puel, quietly making his way near the European places, and have a phenomenal home record – only Chelsea have won at St Mary’s. Tottenham are recovering some form, but they haven’t hit the heights of last season, and have drawn at Arsenal, West Brom, Everton and Bournemouth.
Advice: 1 pt Draw (12/5 general)

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Hong Kong Cup preview

LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
Group 1, 2000m, HK$25 million (£2.19m)
1430 local, 1730 AEDT, 0830 GMT


My Idea of the Winner

In a word: Maurice. Nothing original to say here. Every time I have played him, he’s won. He’s a beast. Noriyuki Huri is confident. Ryan Moore is confident. And all the Japanese cats on Twitter are confident. Nevertheless, I have a couple of reservations. As a rule, I tend not to play horses that are running in their last race. This ordinarily would rule out both Maurice and A Shin Hikari who both heading to stud. However, I have had to play both this year. Maurice because Maurice means Maurice and because it’s going to be a Yellow, Orange and Green Maurice. I have also included A Shin Hakari in a couple of minor across the card multiples. I had a 4 figure sum falling on to four Japanese horses in last year’s Hong Kong Cup. I thought I couldn’t lose. There were five Japanese horses in the race and I one I ignored was the outsider of the five, 40/1 shot (at the time of placing the bet), A Shin Hikari. You live and learn! My other reservation stems from watching Maurice win the Tenno Sho. He was drifting late and his time of 1m 59.30s over Firm at Tokyo was about one second slower than the 1m 58.40s put up the previous winner of the Tenno So, Lovely Day. Lovely Day is drawn in gate 2 and gets Hugh Bowman. Bowman when interviewed by racing.com’s Shane Anderson said he didn’t think Lovely Day had the measure of Maurice and that he had not shown his best form recently, but on his best form he was good enough. You can get still 14/1 about Lovely Day. Because it has been Bowman’s year as much as it has been O’Brien’s year, it would insane to ignore Lovely Day here.

The Other Japansese Contenders

After last year’s debacle I am compelled to play every Japanese horse in the race in some form or other. My interest in A Shin Hikari is token. My interest in Lovely Day is serious. The other two Japanese horses in the race are not there to sing Bonsai to Maurice. They are there to win and must be taken seriously. Queen’s Ring was kept fresh for the QEII and won with a lightening turn of foot in the final 200 meters. Queen’s Ring was supplemented into race. I take supplementary entries seriously. She is 7/1, but drifting. It’s possible she could be 10/1 on the day. That’s great value. Stephanos seems not to be up to Maurice’s class, but gets Christophe Soumillon and is also beginning to drift as the money comes for Maurice. I don’t think he can win, but he will be incorporated into a small stakes Each Way punt once the bookies push him out to a nice double figure price.

Past Their Sell By Dates

Designs on Rome and Blazing Speed were champions once. But now watch their recent races and listen to the resignation in the voices of their riders. They’re done. Toss.

New Kids on the Hong Kong Block

Secret Weapon could be one of the new kids on the Hong Kong block. He was impressive winning the Jockey Club Cup under Nash Rawilller. He has an interesting speed/stamina comibation pedigree being by Australian wonder sprinter Choisir, out of Montjeu mare. But even with Zac Purton aboard, 12/1 is not tempting enough. If a UK booke wants to make him 25/1 I might throw some Each Way spondulics their way. Former South African galloper Strongman now known as Horse of Fortune could surprise. He ran a respectable sixth as a long shot in the 2014 Cape Derby and has been compettiive in Hong Kong Group III company, including a win over Helene Paragaon over 9 furlongs when getting heaps of weight. 40-1 is a square price, but I will be happy to pass.

The French Raider

Andre Fabre’s Chantilly yard suffered from all sorts of well documented viruses this summer. Despite this Elliptique turned up in Germany and took a competitive Group I under Frankie Dettori. Elliptique ran next in the Prix Foy Arc trial, but was well held by Silverwave. Next Elliptique ran into Premio Roma and got handed a 7 length mauling by Andreas Wohler’s Potemkin. Pierre Charles Boudot has been breaking records in France and comes over for the one ride. That is interesting. 33/1 is superb value. If Andre Fabre has flown to Hong Kong for the race, I’m be more interested. Whether he has nor not, I don’t know.

The Dark Horse

Gun Pit is now 100/1 with several firms. The horse was intended for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile and has designs on the Meydan Carnvial. He’s a dirt specialist, hence the price. But Gun Pit is no mug over turf. He was supplemented for the race. I have long been locked into Gun Pit after seeing him trial effortllessly last year. One just knows when one has seen a serious horse. You never forget it. And I can’t let Gun Pit run without backing him, whatever the price. Trainer Casper Fownes had said he is expecting to genrate a cheque for the owners. Mauritus rider Karis Teetan is a hot jockey.

Advice

Maurice Win 6/4 Paddy Power
Lovely Day Win and Each Way 14/1 Bet365, Bet Victor and Paddy Power
Gun Pit Each Way 100-1 Each Way Bet365, SkyBet, Bet Victor and Betfair

Twist Exacta
1st Maurice
2nd Lovely Day

Trifecta
1st Maurice
2nd Lovely Day, Queen’s Ring
3rd Queen’s Ring, Lovely Day


Use Lovely Day and Gun Pit in all exotics and Each Way Multiple Parlays.

Hong Kong Mile preview

Sprint time at Sha Tin, courtesy of Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
Group 1, 1600m, HK$23m (£2m)
1650 local, 1950 AEDT, 0750 GMT


My Idea of the Winner

I cannot divine the winner here. Despite the presence of Able Friend, there is no obvious horse to beat. I have played four horses in the Ante Post market, with a plurality of punts going on Helene Paragon when 16/1 on most books. The horse formerly known as Sir Andrew is by out of High Chaparral mare and remains popular in Spain, where he was purchased. Hugh Bowman was wise not to push Helene Paragon once the door closed in the mile trial. Bowman was clearly thinking ahead. The Australian retains the ride and both he and trainer John Moore have been effusive in their praise of the horse’s preparation. Moore rates the horse his best chance in the race (which is a serious assessment since Able Friend is also in the race). I have played Neorealism in a few lines but only because of Ryan Moore. He suffered late interference when third last time in the Mile Championship at Kyoto, but the horse looked a spent force. Perhaps there is more speed to come or maybe Moore got as much zip out of him as he could last time. It’s hard to know. It seems he would better suited over 2000 Meters, but connections were proabably keen both to avoid Maurice in the Cup and keen to have Ryan Moore aboard. This invites questions about Cougar Mountain. Why is Moore not riding the O’Brien horse? I would posit it’s not Moore’s law. Cougar Mountain was partly bred Aiden’s wife and I think “The Lads” are comfortable with Donnacha taking the ride. He was drawn 14 of 14 in the Breeeders Cup and finished a fine 8th, only was 4 1/2 length off the protagonists, Tourist and Tepin, and ahead of Hit It A Bomb and Alice Springs, ridden by guess who: Ryan Moore. I suspect one or two of “The Lads” will be throwing bricks of Hong Kong dollars at the Sha Tin windows on Sunday. With Able Friend and the Magic Man in the race, Ryan Moore on a Japanese contender, and the likes of Bowman, Soumillon and Purton all booked, Cougar Mountain could be massive overs. The lads could all make out like bandits. (Anyone who watched Irish racing this past summer will recall plenty of ocassions when an O’Brien 2nd or 3rd or even 4th string romped home with one of the O’Brien clan aboard, either Donnacha or Ana.) Cougar Mountain is drawn lucky 7 and gets the firm ground he clearly needs. You have been warned! Finally, Satono Aladdin. A Deep Impact out of Storm Cat mare is probably all you need to know. This horse has been unlucky several times, was badly checked in the Mile Championship at Kyoto. He’s due. Moreover, he has taken the eye of railbirds at trackwork.

You Cannot Bet on Everything.

Logotype beat Maurice over the mile three starts back when Hironobu Tanabe caught Tommy Berry napping. Logotype is dropping back in trip. He’s out of a Sunday SIlence mare. And Mirco Demuro gets the ride. This makes him dangerous on many levels. At 7/1, I am happy to pass, but willing to swoop on the day if the English bookies dangle 12/1 or more. Sun Jewellery was right there in the Jockey Club Mile. He’s a live chance, but I’ll pass on the 6/1. Give me double figure on Size / de Sousa venture and I’ll think about it. If Eastern Express goes well in the Vase, Sun Jewellery maybe worth a punt. Beauty Only is probably Zac Purton’s best chance in the HKIR. For that reason, he can’t be so easily dismissed. If I can get 10/1 instead of 6/1, I’ll consider him.

Thanks, but No Thanks.

It’s three years since Romantic Touch beat Zoustar to win the Group I JJ Atkins at Eagle Farm. He went off a 96/1 chance last time out in the Jockey Club Mile and battled all the way to the line for a courageous 2nd. The race went his way, but it was clear he doesn’t the change of foot needed to burst through here. Toss. Packing Pins is complete no hoper here. I pity Maxine Guyon. Toss. Contentment is a 7 furlong horse who once promised to be a contender, but now has one way ticket to palookaville. Toss. Christophe Soumillon put Giant Treasure in exactly the right place in the mile trial, but according to Soumillon the horse had nothing when he pressed the button. Toss. Joyful Trinity came late in the Jockey Club mile, but was never getting there. He is a former Andre Fabre horse who showed promise in small fields. He could yet become something in Hong Kong. Toss. Beauty Flame provides a great opportunity for young local rider KC Leung to compete with the world’s best jockeys. Toss. Able Friend is on the comeback trail from an injury that would have seen most horses retired. This 2nd up race after a long layoff comes too soon, I fear. The Sha Tin mile begins in the shoot and there is a lot of straight racing before they turn for home. The 14 marble is not the concern for me. I take John Moore’s word that the horse may simply not be fit enough. Toss.

Advice

I have played four horses in this and may play another three either each way or in various multiples depending on how market moves on Sunday morning with respect to Logotype, Sun Jewellery and Beauty Only.

Cougar Mountain 40-1 Win and Each Way, SkyBet Helene Paragon 12-1 Win and Each Way, Coral Satono Aladdin 6-1 Win and Each Way, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and William Hill

Trifecta

1st Cougar Mountain
2nd Satono Aladdin
3rd Helene Paragon

Use Cougar Mountain, Satono Aladdin, Helene Paragon and Neoliberalism in across the card Each Way multiples.

Hong Kong Sprint preview

Next up, it's the Hong Kong Sprint, from Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint Group 1, 1200m, HK$18.5 million (£1.62m) 1540 local, 0640 GMT, 1840 AEDT

My idea of the Winner

Rank outsider Growl is my idea of the winner. Growl is a 66/1 shot because he is perceived to be a humble handicapper from the North having a crack at a big pot because Dr Marwan Koukash loves to see his horses race in exotic places. Yet Growl is no ordinary Richard Fahey trained horse. Growl is by Oasis Dream out of a Storm Cat mare (the Secretariat line for the uninitiated). Growl was purchased from Lady Rothschild in April this year. Attempts to turn him a classic horse never materialized. Always too keen, or held back on inconvenient ground, he was subsquently gelded. Three of Growl’s four wins have come over 6 Furlongs on Good to Firm. He will get the firmest ground he’s ever encountered at Sha Tin on Sunday. Hold on tight! Graham Lee knows the drill. He partnered Growl in his four previous starts, including two wins, each over 6 furlongs, and a bold 2nd in the British Champions Sprint also over 6th furlongs. A look back at that Ascot Champions race is highly instructive. Lee settled Growl in the slipstream of market leader, Quite Reflection. This was the obvious horse to follow. Yet Quite Reflection bombed early forcing Lee to shuffle Growl out and around the fading favourite. Growl ate up the ground 400 meters out, but again had to swerve late, this time around tiring leader, Signs of Blessing. That Group I 2nd place performance proved Growl belonged in the highest company. Yet somehow this form has failed to filter into the market. Growl is rated 114. The highest rate horse in this Spring rates at 119 and the lowest is 112. Even without a close examination of his pedigree, past performances and little knowledge of the comptence of his trainer, the winniest trainer in the UK last season, the ratings show Growl to be bang in this race. Fahey was phelgmatic about the wide draw, pointing out the winnner came from wide last year. Growl himself was seen strolling on to the training track before the draw, equally unflustered. Jockey Lee had some serious health issues this summer, including a debiliatating virus. That connections have preferred Lee to some marquee international name speaks volumes for their integrity and loyalty. Owner Dr. Marwan Koukash will be not at Sha Tin, as he has an open day for his Salford Rugby League franchise, but he has tweeted he will tuned at 6:40 a.m. to cheer his horse on. Local seismologists be warned!

Inside Draw, 1-5

Those with the best chances in this race should in theory be the best local horses with the lowest draws. It turns out five of the top six Hong Kong horses are drawn 1-5. The speed will be on. Peniaphobia and Aerovelocity, drawn 1 and 2, respectively, are the two most recent winners of this race. As such it is difficult to dismiss them, but jockey bookings, age, colic attacks and patchy recent form suggest neither still hold the neccessary umph to punch through here again. Strathmore is probably out of his depth, but could find his way into a Superfecta. Not Listenin’tome ran third in last years’ renewal and was winner of the Sprint trial last time out. Hugh Bowman retains the rides and thinks the horse is improving. Lucky Bubbles, drawn 5 is the hot local favourite and clearly the horse to beat. This son of Sebring has been in the first two in 10 of his last 12 races. The collateral form suggests he wins this race within a race, but will the locals cut each other’s throats?

Middle Draw, 6-10

Gary Moore has been talking up Takedown. The horse is huge beast weighing in at over 620 Kgs, he possesses great gate speed and has put up winning times comprable to the locals to his inside. Connections are even talking Royal Ascot. Takedown belongs on the short list. Drawn next in 7 is Amazing Kids. Astonishingly, this horse has been easy to back thanks to a moderate performance in the recent trial. Moreira stressed it was an ideal trial in his post race interview. Once the horse was beaten, Moreira rode and hands and heels in the final half a furlong. I suspect there is another gear and we’ll see that from this John Size inmate on Sunday. Five times the price of Lucky Bubbles with a comprable draw and Moreira aboard, the 12/1 about Amazing Kids is the best value of any local horse on UK markets. Rebel Dane got soft conditions, a flat favourite and the run of the race last time in the Manakato Stakes at Mooney Valley. It was a deserved Group 1 victory for a perenial bridesmaid, but this is much higher class of Group 1. Toss. Super Jockey took the deep dirt Group 1 Korea Sprint by 4 lengths last time out. He’s a dirt horse who tends to be a one second behind the best turf sprinters in Hong Kong. Toss. Finally Red Falx drawn 10 is another dual purpose beast. He has skipped a potentially lucrative dirt engagment in Japan for this and could shadow Amazing Kids. Hard to tip, but hard to dismiss.

Outside Draw 11-14

Pure Sensation has tremendous early speed, but is a doubtful contender because of a stone bruise. His first time around the training track was also far from ideal with the horse reportedly confused about going clockwise. Trainer Christophe Clement has not made the trip to Hong Kong. The chances of the three horses drawn to his outside will surely improve if he is scratched. Growl and Big Arthur drawn 12 and 13, respectively, can concentrate on their late charges over the final 400 Meters. That Growl and Big Arthur are both drawn wide may be seen as a disadvantage, but that the two of them are drawn side by side I see as a big advantage. Big Arthur is the most probable winner of the race. He has put in the most impressive trackwork this week per astute trackside observers. His coat is reportedly fantastic. His winning times from Japan are superior. And he now gets Ryan Moore. Signs of Blessing is a early speed horse that badly needed an inside gate. He got drawn widest of all. Trainer François Rohaut described the draw as a “catastrophe”. Growl had his measure last time and Signs of Blessing will have to do more work to find a comfortable running position. Toss.

Hong Kong sprinters have generally among the best in the world in recent years, but comments by Christophe Soumillon and Zac Purton suggest there is no real superstar sprinter in Hong Kong this year. I expect the inside drawn locals to burn each other out and for either Growl or Big Arthur to blow past them at the business end of the race with Amazing Kids, Lucky Bubbles and Not Listenin’to me fighting out the minor places.

Advice

Growl 66/1 Win and Each Way Bet 365, Bet Victor, Ladbrokes and Betfair Big Arthur Win 7/2 Ladbrokes

Twist Exacta

1st Growl
2nd Big Arthur
Trifecta
1st Growl, Big Arthur
2nd Big Arthur, Growl
3rd Amazing Kids; Lucky Bubbles, Not Listenin’to me

Use Growl and Big Arthur in across the card Each Way Multiple Parlays.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Hong Kong Vase preview

International Day at Sha Tin is one of the finest days of racing in the world. A swathe of foreign raiders, the best jockeys in the world on show and a capacity crowd at a fantastic racecourse. Put it on your bucket list, it really is something special.

Backing up once more for International Day is foreign racing aficionado Davy Lane, @loscharruas. He'll have previews for each of the international races.

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Longines Hong Kong Vase
Group 1, 2400m, HK$16.5 million (£1.444m)
1400 local, 1700 AEDT, 0600 GMT

My Idea of the Winner

I had pinned my Ante Post hopes on One Foot in Heaven. This race has been a long term plan for connections. (The dam Pride was the winner of the Hong Kong Cup in 2006.) Christophe Soumillon chose the colt over other French contenders. And the photo finish between Postponed, New Bay and One Foot in Heaven for fifth place in this year’s Arc was seared in my mind. Can win a major Group 1 race one day, I scribbled on my racecard. The O’Brien tag team may have danced away, but a forensic inspection of the Chantilly Arc suggested One Foot in Heaven was the one to take out of race. Held up by Cristian Demuro, One Foot In Heaven made headway on the turn only to run into The Grey Gatsby on the rail and going backwards. Evasion action was taken to side step the labouring Harzand and Silverwave. Then just as One Foot in Heaven saw daylight, he took a bump from Highland Reel himself moving out to challenge. One Foot in Heaven changed leads and knuckled down making lengths on the hot favourite Postponed, while always having the measure of late-charging New Bay. The clincher was a glance at the gallop out which showed One Foot in Heaven gliding by the winner, Found. One Foot in Heaven was always going to be my Big Enchilada Bet of the HKIR weekend. Three days ago it reported by the Hong Kong vets that One Foot in Heaven has shown blood abnormalities in routine tests. One Foot in Heaven has been wandering around the quarantine barn since. As such it would be unreasonable to put up One Foot in Heaven as my pick. I have already bet him relentlessly for the past two weeks at 20/1. I am locked in. If the vets and Alain Royer-Dupre are ultimately content and One Foot in Heaven takes his place, I would not put anyone off including him in some exotic action and or in any Each Way plays. He remains 20/1 with Paddy Power and will probably drift on the day because of the recent question about his bloods.

The Other Contenders

According to the market Japanese mare Nuovo Record, conqueror of Harp Star in the 2014 Japanese Oaks and second in the Hong Kong Cup last year, seems to offer the only serious competition to Highland Reel. Reports from the track are rosy, but the historic victory at Del Mar was by a nose hair and Nuovo Record did not show anything after the line. On the other hand, she ran where the surf meets the turf without Lasix and she does get 4kg from the boys. She’s a must use in all exotic wagers. Satono Crown had been great value in Ante Post markets initially available at 50-1. When it dawned on UK punters the Magic Man Moreira had been booked, that price was cut into 16-1. The 4 year old colt maybe avoiding Maurice in the Cup, but has been going to hoof-to-hoof with his compatriot on the training track. He has looked more than capable. His 1 3/4 length third to Duramente in last year’s Japanese Derby makes him terrific Each Way value at 16/1. The price will only shorten and the starting price will be single figures because of the Magic Man.

The Wise Guy Horse

The Wise Guy horse is Eastern Express. This is probably because the 4 year old gelding is trained by John Size, hottest trainer in Hong Kong. I find the booking of Silvestre de Sousa intriguing also. The Brazilian can help horses find muscles they never knew they had. But this is not about me being a card carrying member of the Silvestre Fan Club. It’s about finding the winner or value in the exotics. Would not the Magic Man still be on the horse if he thought it could win? Moreira has been vocal about loyalty to Hong Kong with his other choices. The horse has never gone the distance. I cannot tip, but nor can I toss. Watch the market.

Six Raiders You Can Toss

The first horse to toss is Big Orange. The connections were torn about going to the Melbourne Cup. The original plan as stated last summer was the 2017 Dubai Gold Cup. If connections were serious about winning this, Jamie Spencer would have been flown to Hong Kong, no expense spared. For me, this is nickle and diming en route back to Michael Bell’s yard. Nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of nickles and dimes to picked up for finishing fourth, fifth and sixth here. Toss. Silverwave could come into the reckoning. Pascal Bary has said the relentless gallop in the Arc did not suit him. This will also not be a stroll followed by a 2 furlong dash up the straight. Toss. Garlingari caught the competition cold early in the French Spring. Credit to Corine Barande-Barbe. She likes the craic in Hong Kong and she’s also entitled to have a crack at those nickles and dimes. Toss. Japan’s Smart Layer has no form over the distance. She is also a badly-drawn girl which means The Legend will be in no position to dictate a slow pace. Toss. Quechua is an Argentine-bred with an interesting US dirt pedigree among the ancestors, but I suspect we’d have seen signs of the great Secretariat before now. This run seems like an opportunity to celebrate the career of retiring Singapore handler, Patrick Shaw. Toss. New Zealand-trained Benzini is another with framed photograph of Secretariat on his barn wall. Benzini has a few notable Australian Gr III scalps to his name. This is his distance. Rosie Myers keeps the ride, which is commendable. But 66/1 is way too short to even consider a random stab at an Each Way play. Toss.

Three Locals You Can Toss

If you follow great jockeys you may tempted by one of the three remaining local runners. Anticipation is the mount of Neil “ignore at your peril” Callan. Helene Happy Star gets Hugh “Big Money” Bowman. And Flame Hero is the ride of Zac Purton, Hong Kong Champion Jockey in 2014. Bowman has been honest in his interviews. Toss. Flame Hero and Purton have only got one mention on Twitter and the jockey has conceded the horse “is out of his depth”. Toss. Anticipation is a former Aidan O’Brien horse who didn’t make the grade. He is admirable local handicapper. Toss.

The Probable Winner

The lads clearly see this as money for old rope. Highland Reel is obviously the probable winner. The 11/10 available today will look great value when the horse goes off at 8/11. That said, one cannot ignore Highland Reel was woeful last time out at Sha Tin. It was unusually yielding ground in the Audemars Piquet QEII Cup last April and the horse was not match fit. Highland Reel looked composed and in fine fettle during trackwork. The firm ground will suit. He’s almost bullet proof. Only a fit One Foot in Heaven can stop him.

Advice

Highland Reel Win 11/10 Betfair
One Foot in Heaven Each Way 20/1 Paddy Power

Twist Exacta (also known as a Reverse Forecast or Quinella)
1st - Highland Reel
2nd - One Foot in Heaven

Trifecta
1st - Highland Reel
2nd - One Foot in Heaven
3rd - Nuovo Record; Satono Crown

Use Highland Reel in across the card Multiple Parlays.
Use One Foot in Heaven in across the card Each Way Multiple Parlays.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup preview

Day 2 of the December meeting at Cheltenham features a trio of graded races, but the most intriguing is the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, a name that just rolls off the tongue. Bookies had a field day on Friday with just one favourite winning (the only one to run a place!), tomorrow at least appears to be more punter-friendly.

Let's see what regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100, has to say about the toughest race on the card.

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Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase
Grade 3, £100,000, approx 2m5f
1350 GMT, 0050 AEDT


The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup is the second of the season’s big 2 ½ mile handicap chases which provide such a great spectacle throughout the year at the home of jump racing.

The form of the first in the series, the Bet Victor Gold Cup, has already been boosted with the success of eighth home As De Mee in last week’s Grand Sefton at Aintree and the placed horses plus the fifth and tenth all renew rivalry this weekend.

Village Vic put in a superb round of jumping to see off all bar Taquin Du Seuil, who looks likely to put his Gold Cup credentials on the line at Leopardstown over Christmas, 4 weeks ago and must take all the beating again from a 3lbs higher mark. He won the race last year off 136 and now finds himself on 158 but his jumping will put anything not bringing its a game under pressure from early on. Very difficult to keep out of the frame and anything in front of him at the line is the likely winner.

Third home that day was Buywise, running on strongly at the death and 23lbs better off with Village Vic for the 8 lengths he was beaten in this race last year. He has his own way of doing things but his record here is superb, just the type of horse you’d love to own and surely he must have his day in the sun some time, having last won here on good ground at the April meeting in 2014 from a mark of 134. Despite the presence of the very highly regarded stablemate, King's Odyssey, Moloney has always been jocked up and he has everything in order over this stiffer track to go very close. Kings Odyssey improved dramatically between his first two runs last season and supporters will be hoping for the same but the way he won here on heavy ground on Trials Day in January suggests he’ll need plenty of the wet stuff as well as being able to find similar improvement.

Turning for home that day, Aso looked to be travelling like the winner for Venetia Williams but he hit two out and could not quite match the boot of the other high class horses. This race was always the target from them and he looks nailed on to win a good race soon but his form does say he needs it soft.

The Ante Post gamble, Bouvreuil, caught the eye in fifth, given a patient ride that day by Gavin Sheehan conceding the outside to no one and should love this better ground having put up his best performance over fences at the festival in the novice handicap chase won by Ballyalton. As a backer that day, I felt he had a think as he came to win his race and may not have truly stayed the trip. No such luxuries will be afforded here and, as he’s favourite, that’s a negative for me.

Tenth home was Frodon, a four year old who jumped and travelled well but seemed to have the stuffing knocked out when banking the open ditch four out and never recovered. It’s difficult to know what would have happened but jumping’s the name of the game and you have to be guessing to back him.

Kylemore Lough, a Grade 1 winner at Fairyhouse over Easter for last year’s breakthrough trainer, Kerry Lee, stayed on well on his reappearance when just failing to get up behind Royal Regatta at Ascot last time. If he improves he has to run very well but this will be a stiffer test of his jumping and he’s never won a chase with more than 6 runners in.

Tom George and Adrian Heskin have had a promising start to their new partnership and Module stayed on well behind Fox Norton here in the Shloer Chase over two miles and now runs in a handicap from a mark 15lbs below that he achieved two years ago. Injury has largely been responsible for that and he’s another who could go well but needs to show the fire is still in his belly.

Colin Tizzard just goes from strength to strength and runs a couple here, firstly Quite By Chance, who has looked improved in two outings at Ascot, finishing runner up to Sire De Grugy last time from just a 4lbs lower mark. The exploits of the former Champion Chaser against Un De Sceaux last weekend make that effort look all the more commendable and he was always considered more of a 2 ½ miler although his best form is right handed. His other entry, Sizing Codelco, fell at the first in the Grand Annual but is obviously very talented and should soon be adding to his trainer’s coffers in pursuit of Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ title.

Solar Impulse will enjoy the ground, is a Grand Annual winner but has been allowed to leave the yard and that is off putting in itself, Roman Flight is solid, loves good ground and keeps improving, Turban well in on old form but has shown very little for some time now, Aloomomo surely needs deep ground and is much higher than for his last win and Full Shift has the ability but has to show the mental toughness to compete in a race of this nature.

Thomas Brown looked very good when holding off a well handicapped rival at Aintree with 28 lengths back to the third but he won’t get things his own way here and was well held in seventh behind Ballyalton in a race previously discussed here in March.

To sum up, I believe the BetVictor Gold Cup form was the best handicap form of the year and I recommend backing both Village Vic and Buywise win only plus a reverse forecast on the two.

For tricast purposes I could see Bouvreuil filling the third place at a respectable distance behind the principals.

Inter Dominion Final preview

Harness racing has taken a bit of a knock in recent years in Australia, but that doesn't stop the most prestigious championship race of them all - the Inter Dominion final. The WA industry has re-launched it, returned to the three heats and final series, and have been rewarded with a great championship. Who'll be the new champ to add their name to the honour roll alongside superstars such as Blacks A Fake, Imthemightyquinn and Our Sir Vancealot?

Making his debut on the blog to share his assessment of the final is Glen McWilliams, @grmc1902. Welcome aboard! He's started off with a big odds tip!

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Tabtouch Inter Dominion Final
Gloucester Park
Group 1, AU$1,100,000
2936m Mobile start, Nine across the front
2130 local, 0030 AEDT, 1330 GMT


What looked two weeks ago as a battle between two stablemates has now, due to the draw and the scratching of the reigning champion, become a very intriguing battle indeed. It will also be the focus of arguments about emergencies slotting into the scratched runner’s gate - and whether they should be running 12 in the final rather than the 10 we will see. At any rate, purists love the fact that the Inters are being run over the traditional format. The 2936m final ensures that the eventual winner has indeed earned the trophy. The tight Gloucester Park track also means a few of them will be no hope a few hundred metres after the start if they don’t get the right run.

1. Bling It On. Punters are funny people. I have never heard so much disregard for a pacer that has won almost $1.2m form 70 starts. But that’s where Bling It On sits on the eyes of the experts. When he wins it is because he got a soft run. When he doesn’t win it is because he is soft. Further to muddy the waters is the only heat win he had this series was over Lennytheshark who has now been scratched due to a hoof abscess which was apparent on that evening at Bunbury. Regardless, this is a top shelf conveyance with the best draw in Australian harness racing (just research GP and gate 1 winners). You want a soft run? Got it, You want late speed? Got it. You want a horse that can run a strong 2900? Mmmm, more question marks, McCarthy needs to take a trail, he can’t lead and win. He will certainly be around the podium but in a race like this you can’t back something hoping others do the work for you.

2. Run Oneover. This guy could not have been more impressive during the series. Everything that he was asked to do he did with interest. Assessed 80/1 in heat 1 he ran second and followed that up with two straight victories. The draw is perfect. He can cross Bling It On with ease and then decide whether to lead or hand up from there. I think he gets to the pegs and hands up. That’s his best option as there is too much quality drawn outside to hold out. If he gets a late split he wins. Clinton Hall will let us know all about it. I’m going to say that the extra lap and the occasion will be just beyond him however. Only just though. He’s in the mix.

3. Our Jericho. The ugly duckling of the final (I would give anything to own one this good by the way!). He’s done great placing fourth, second, fourth. Earned his way to the final and drawn a great marble. 50/1 due to the draw. If he was out wide he would be 200+. I can’t see him going forward to press but just drifting off the arm and seeing where he lands. Driven for luck and not talented enough to cause an upset.

4. Lennythshark - Scratched

5. John Of Arc. I’m a huge fan of this bloke and he has performed brilliantly in this series. A real credit to Clive Dalton in bringing his A Game when it matters. Despite three consecutive placings in the heats he never seriously threatened to win and this race will be no different. AC Lewis can’t push him forward as he doesn't have the motor to burn against this lot. Will more than likely drift to the back few and plug away late. Not in my reckoning,

6. Franco Nelson. I think he’s lucky to have made the final. I think he was driven far too conservatively during the heats. I think that was a deliberate ploy. I think he wins. This is the night we get to see the real Franco Nelson and Australasia's best driver in Dexter Dunn will work him to the lead by the winning post for the first time and keep him there. Upwards of 30/1 on offer at the moment. What are you waiting for? He’s been saved for the final, not winning heats and appeasing crowds. Class act. Get on. He crosses here and then sends them to sleep for two laps. You couldn’t ask for a better driver to be in the gig either. Ice cold and knows when to pull the trigger. GP is a tough track to get by a leader. Dexter will rate it to perfection.

7. Smolda. Here is your breeze horse. Tough as old boots and loves a scrap. The tight circuit will cruel his chances as they heat up a lap and a half out and he needs to handle the bends at speed. The only way he can win is if Franco Nelson hands up (which should not happen), or Bettors Fire gives him cover. If he death seats, and I see him being there, he won’t win. But I do see him running a place and have invested heavily on that occurrence,

8. Bettors Fire. If he drew in the inside four I would have him high in my predictions. This draw: he has to go back and follow someone home. That’s probably going to be The Bucket List or Our Jericho. Not a train I would want to be on. He can’t win and won’t place.

9. Hectorjayjay. The fave! And after the draw still the fave. I hate saying this buty if Chris Alford was driving and not Josh Aiken I would have him almost winning this. He needs the NZ racing mentality of ‘hand up to the fave’. This never happens at GP. I see him being posted three-wide for a lap to a lap and a half and then going back to the rear to take the late train with Our Jericho and co. He is brilliant. Point to point speed is superior to any other animal in the barn on the evening, And probably the best horse at the track. But this is GP and barrier draws are so important. And brutal. It couldn’t have been any worse for Hector. But it couldn’t have been any better for the race. I think he shoots home late in a tragedy-beaten type of loss.

10. Beaudine Boaz. Best draw he could have got. There are several horses I would have rather seen in the race ahead of this guy. Really don’t like him but the peg line means he is in business. Saved for one run I think he could squeeze a fourth or fifth but certainly not win. Not good enough.

11. The Bucket List. Gets in with the scratching of the champ. Drawn to follow Run Oneover through and then get the trail of Smolda. He won’t be able to keep up after that. Love that he gets in and great for connections but he’s not a threat.

Selections:
Franco Nelson
Smolda
Hectorjayjay
Run Oneover

Friday, 2 December 2016

Becher Chase preview

Highlight of the day's action at Aintree is the time-honoured Becher Chase, no doubt featuring a lot of Grand National hopefuls.

Resuming after a long spell to dissect the field for us is Sam Tribe, @samtribe87.

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The Betfair Becher Chase
£140,000, Grade 3, 3m2f
1335 local, 0235 AEDT


The Betfair Becher Chase is the first race of the season over the famous Grand National Hunt Fences. It is never an easy race to pick a winner and this year's renewal is no exception with 23 runners set to go to post. After a search on Google and picking up on a tweet from another racing enthusiast, I have picked three trends from the past ten years that I hope will help me narrow the field and give me the best chance of finding a winner.

9 out of 10 winners have been Irish-trained. The only French-bred horse to win the race was Chance Du Roy in 2013 who has only ever fell at a fence in his nine year career so it's safe to say you are looking for a sound jumper as well as being Irish bred.

8 out of 10 winners have run in at least 13 chases. This race definitely favours the more experienced horses with 9 of the last 10 winners being aged nine or older. Since fence modification, those yet to run in class of race are 0/94. So this refers to the modifications made in 2012 where the core of the National fences were soften in an attempt to reduce the rate of fatalities. It has worked but it has meant that, although still a challenge to jump, there are less fallers, which in turn has meant the better horses are more successful.

So from looking at these trends I am basically looking for an Irish-trained horse that has had a spin over the fences before and performed at a class 1 level. Simple... If only!

1. The Last Samuri 12/1
The last winner off top weight in this race was 2009 and that was the first since 2001 so the Kim Bailey stayer is certainly up against it. David Bass has also chosen to ride Charbel at Sandown as well rather than taking this ride in the Becher. Obvious positive is that he finished second in last year's Grand National so maybe foolish to rule out completely?

2. Viconte Du Noyer 11/1
Won over 3m3f at Cheltenham last month off a mark of 148 and has subsequently raised 6lbs for this. Tizzard is on fire at the moment so has a chance but he is American-bred which goes against him. He also has never had a run over the National fences so I am going to be bold and write him out of the running.

3. The Young Master 10/1
Won the lucrative Bet365 Gold Cup Chase back in April and that was the last time we saw him. A subsequent 200+ day break suggests that he will come on better for this run. Sam Waley-Cohen on his back though and knows how to win over these fences.

4. Double Ross 20/1
What a run in the Hennessy just seven days ago! That race was run at a relentless pace and must have taken it's toll on this ten year old surely? To turn him around so quickly suggests that he has come out of that race well but not well enough to feature this weekend. Surely?!

5. Aachen 50/1
His price suggests he hasn't really got a chance and I tend to agree. His last win came off a mark of 133 and with the ground more than likely being good-to-soft, I think this Venetia Williams twelve year old will struggle to go the pace.

6. Uchello Conti 9/1
Currently disputing favouritism, this Gordon Elliott-trained eight year old ticks a number of boxes. He ran and finished a creditable sixth in the Grand National last year, just running out of stamina in the closing stages, which suggests the shorter trip may suit. Negatives are that he is French-trained and maybe a little inexperienced in comparison to others, but I am clutching at straws. One to consider.

7. Saint Are 16/1
Okay so here is one of my fancies for the race even though he's French-bred and therefore goes against what I said in the intro. But it looks as if Tom George has had this race in mind for Saint Are. His three wins over fences have been at around the three mile mark so the trip should suit. His most notable piece of form though was finishing second in the 2015 Grand National and that confirms his ability over these fences. Down to a workable mark I'm hoping for a big race from this ten year old.

8. Rogue Angel 25/1
Has done all his campaigning in Ireland and the most notable piece of form is the win in the Irish Grand National back in April. Hasn't shown much this season and I feel fairly comfortable discounting this one.

9. Vieux Lion Rouge 10/1
I have a bit of a soft spot for this horse. I backed it in the Grand National when he just finished out of the places in seventh. That's the last we have seen of him though and I think if he would've had a prep run before this then I would be backing him for sure.

10. Silvergrove 16/1
This horse has never competed in a Class One Handicap Chase and has never had a run over the GN fences so I think it's fair to say that he won't feature.

11. Midnight Prayer 33/1
Another who has never had a run over these races but is a sound enough jumper so the fences shouldn't pose too much of a problem. The ground suggest they will go quite quickly in this and I think Midnight Prayer will struggle to keep with them.

12. Ziga Boy 16/1
The other Alan King runner and one that is causing me a bit of grief. His Class 1 win at Doncaster in January is a nice bit of form but he's only seven and you have to go back to 2004 to find the last winner at that age. His performances thus far this season have been poor but he keeps slipping down in the weights and perhaps he's ready to run a big race?

13. Beeves 33/1
Been campaigning in Class three contests and up against it here among a quality, experienced field. Won gamely last time out at Hexham so deserves his chance here.

14. Highland Lodge 16/1
Winner of last year's race hasn't been seen since being pulled up in the Scottish Grand National back in April. No horse has ever won this race back-to-back and I don't see that fact changing tomorrow.

15. One For Arthur 16/1
Has only eight chase starts to his name and has never jumped these fences so is seemingly up against it tomorrow. Another that won last time out and deserves his chance but others offer more appeal.

16. Sizing Coal 14/1
Another Irish raider whose only appearance on these shores was in last year's Midlands' National and was pulled up three out. He won nicely on bottomless ground last time out at Sligo but is another that might find the pace a little too strong.

17. Gas Line Boy 20/1
Non-Runner

18. Alvarado 8/1
Current favourite and it's easy to see why. Finished fourth in the 2015 and the 2014 runnings of the Grand National and therefore won't find the fences much of a problem. Also finished second to Vicente in the Scottish National and his prep run at Cheltenham last month went well as he finished strongly. May need further than tomorrow's 3m2f but has the necessary experience to feature.

19. Milborough 40/1
I don't know a huge amount about this Ian Duncan-trained horse and nothing suggests to me that he will be in the frame tomorrow. Famous last words!

20. Bob Ford 40/1
I love this horse! Works hard when he is on song but tends to play up a bit. He ideally needs bottomless ground and therefore I'm pretty certain he won't feature tomorrow. Another stab at the Welsh National maybe his best chance of winning a Class 1 Chase this season.

21. Dare To Endeavour 18/1
Second in this last year off a 1lb lower mark so has the necessary experience to feature tomorrow. He finished a respectable fifth in his prep race at Limerick back in October and this would have been the target for connections. Big player if on song.

22. Cogry 16/1
Was running well at Cheltenham until he was brought down in a bizarre sequence of events where a loose horse refused a fence and ran down it. Subsequently Cogry smashed head on into the loose horse's side and sent Ryan Hatch flying! Should be able to keep with the pace and therefore if he jumps around safely is another possible contender a placed finish.

23. Portrait King 20/1
Has a couple of appearances over these fences to his name (fell late in both) so has the necessary experience. Would probably need it softer than it is going to be tomorrow and therefore I don't believe he will feature.

24. Financial Portrait 66/1
Sixth in this race last year but has struggled subsequently and is 23lbs out in the handicap. No hope.

Verdict
Clearly a number with chances but at this point I have managed to narrow the field down to seven: THE LAST SAMURI I think will run a big race but carrying that weight I don't think he can win it, each-way claims at best. Another I feel confident in discounting for the win is COGRY who again has a big race in him but may need further and another year's worth of experience. Another that falls into that category is ZIGA BOY so that leaves four to pick a winner from...

UCHELLO CONTI, SAINT ARE, ALVARADO and DARE TO ENDEAVOUR make up my top four. Any of them could win and it's hard to pick one out of the line up to go onto win it but I'm going to have a punt on Tom George's SAINT ARE. He ticks a number of boxes and should have the ground in his favour.

1. Saint Are
2. Alvarado
3. Uchello Conti
4. Dare To Endeavour

Grand Sefton Chase preview

A brilliant weekend of National Hunt racing includes a rare visit to the hallowed ground of Aintree. Two previews lined up for the card there, the first of which is the Grand Sefton Chase, as previewed by young writer Adam Webb, @adamwebb121. You can read more of his work at OnTheOtherHoof.

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Betfred Grand Sefton Handicap Chase
£70,000, Class 2, 2m5f19y
1515 local, 0215 AEDT


Although the Becher Chase takes centre stage, and rightly so, the Grand Sefton looks a more competitive renewal than it has done in recent seasons with a couple of these having had this as a long-term plan.

The best place to start is with last year’s hero Bennys Mist, who has a mixed profile over these fences. Apart from his Topham Trophy second to Ma Filleule in 2014, his best efforts over these fences have come in this very contest with success twelve month ago and him finishing third to Poole Master the year before. Rated 7lb higher than last season, he comes here on the back of a disappointing return at Cheltenham but he tends to need his first outing before improving as the season progresses. The main concern tomorrow is whether the ground is too lively; all his wins having come on soft or heavy ground.

Seefood had threatened he was coming back to form when looking a non-stayer at Cheltenham over an extended 3m in October before landing the spoils in a weak enough contest at Musselburgh, although the margin of victory could well have been further had he not blundered at the last. A 7lb rise seems fair and, as long as his jumping holds up, he should be thereabouts in the finish.

As De Mee and La Vaticane can both be described as frustrating. They clearly possess ability, the former having placed in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices Chase behind Bristol De Mai at Sandown plus chased home More Of That at Cheltenham back in November of last year and the latter looked smart in her native France before joining David Pipe. She was arguably unlucky on her return at Market Rasen last month when cannoned into by Desert Queen at the final fence. The pair are sound jumpers on the whole but neither have convinced fully in a finish so can be passed over, especially with the long run for home after the final fence.

Others worth taking on include Henryville and Troika Steppes on the proviso their jumping has been an issue in the past. The former also has an unexplainable run to put behind him at Cheltenham. Vintage Vinnie is another who looks to bounce back from a poor effort in the BetVictor Gold Cup. However he may prove vulnerable as he looks at his best when able to dominate, something he won’t be able to do tomorrow, while Astracad’s best form comes when he is fresh and has disappointed over these fences before

The form of Valadom’s Bangor win looks very interesting in the context of this contest having beat Seventh Sky, who reopposes, in tenacious style over 3m. Richard Hobson’s grey has a rise in the weights to overcome but has been trained with this in mind, has experience of unique obstacles from running round Cheltenham several times in the cross country, and can use his jumping to a huge advantage from the front with Conor O’Farrell in for a hugely exciting spin. The aforementioned Seventh Sky was runner-up in this last year and another bold bid should be expected off a 4lb higher mark with him versatile regarding ground.

Conclusion

The clear standout at the prices available is VALADOM, who gets the nod based on his excellent jumping, the fact he is a front runner which can be a huge advantage around Aintree, and the nature of the track over this distance. Others worthy of consideration include Seventh Sky, who chased home Valadom at Bangor, and Seefood, who may prove to still be on a decent handicap mark.

1. Valadom
2. Seventh Sky
3. Seefood

Tingle Creek preview

A chilly start to December brings us to Sandown where racing is expected to go ahead. The Tingle Creek is a traditional early-season pointer towards the Champion Chase and a look through the honour roll highlights some stars of the sport, the horses listed below and special mention to Paul Nicholls with nine wins in the past 17 years. Handy record that...

Taking a magnifying glass to the small, but select, field is aspiring journo Adam Crooks, @acrooks95.

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Betfair Tingle Creek Chase
Grade 1, £150,000, approximately Two Miles (1m7f119y)
1500 local, 0200 AEDT


The Tingle Creek, one of the significant two mile races of the season, is here again. Won by legends of the past such as Desert Orchid, Master Minded and Kauto Star, it is one of the early season highlights. This season's renewal is a slightly disappointing one, due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Firstly the legend Sprinter Sacre, a past winner and dual Champion Chase winner, was unfortunately retired due to injury a couple of weeks back. On the same day he was retired, stablemate and loveable grey Simonsig tragically lost his life in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. The winner of that race, Fox Norton, sustained a nasty cut and is out until the new year. And then there is the case of Douvan. Last year's star novice, unbeaten for Willie Mullins, was subject to an apparent gamble on Tuesday morning, his odds for this race going from 5/1 into 4/7 in a matter of hours. This dramatic odds changing suggested that Mullins was ready to unleash him on Saturday. However, come Thursday morning the declarations were out, and hi-ho, Douvan was out. Antepost punters were left seething, but surely experienced punters are well aware of the antepost risk?

With those absentees, it has left a small but select field of six to run.

Current favourite is Un De Sceaux, the Willie Mullins representative. Having never won the Tingle Creek, Mullins will be hoping Un De Sceaux can add this race to his glistening CV. And the exuberant front runner has every chance to do so. Finding only the mighty Sprinter Sacre too good in the Queen Mother at Cheltenham, a shuddering error three out in the Celebration Chase over course and distance ended any chance of turning the tables on Sprinter Sacre. He was then campaigned in France over hurdles and longer trips, winning over 2m 5f and then failing to stay 3m 1f on his last outing. Also the ground is a big factor for Un De Sceaux. Seemingly at his brilliant best with plenty of give in the ground, it doesn't look likely to be that bad on Saturday. Also it is his first run of the season, and the previous two seasons he has fell on his first run back. All in all, 13/8 is very short and I am happy to look elsewhere.

Gary Moore trains the next two in the market, in the shape of Ar Mad and Sire De Grugy.

Ar Mad is returning from a nasty injury suffered 294 days ago. Well fancied for the Arkle at Cheltenham before the injury, he is another exuberant front runner. He has won twice over the Tingle Creek course and distance, on both occasions jumping superbly. His toughest test so far was at Kempton in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad, where he made most, got headed, then rallied and got back up to beat Vaniteux. It was a likeable performance from Ar Mad and it was such a shame he never made it to the big festivals. This is a hot contest to pitch back up in, and at around the 7/2 mark I am happy to leave him alone on this occasion.

Sire De Grugy attempts to become only the second horse to win this Grade 1 three times (won 2013 and 2015), and bounced back to form last time out winning an Ascot handicap off top weight. Whilst that was a good performance, the last three times he has come up against Un De Sceaux he has been well beaten, and at the age of ten I doubt there is any improvement left in him.

So that leaves my selection for the race, God's Own. A non-stayer over 2m 5f last time out, the drop back in trip is not an issue and with fitness on side, a huge run is on the cards. I see the race panning out with Un De Sceaux and Ar Mad tearing off in front taking each other on, and I believe they were will tire on their first runs back, leaving Gods Own to pick up the pieces for Adrian Heskin and Tom George.

Vibrato Valtat has an entry for Paul Nicholls but will surely be outclassed, and Tom George's other entry Sir Valentino will surely find this Grade 1 test too much.

So there we go, question marks over the front three in the market have left me siding with God's Own, which at 5/1 (in places) looks a tasty price.