Friday, 10 February 2017

Betfair Hurdle Preview

Highlight of the day at Newbury is the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle, with a quality field engaged for one of the better prize pots of the season. Producing the magnifying glass to cast a close eye over the contenders is Racing UK Tipstar winner and talented writer, Harry Allwood, @H_Allwood1. You can read more of his work here.


Betfair Hurdle
Grade 3, £155,000, 2m69yds
1535 GMT, 0235 AEDT

Nigel Twiston-Davies has always held Ballyandy in high regard and he’s one of three who are currently vying for favouritism. A winner of the Champion Bumper last season, he’s been given a mark of 135 for his handicap debut having posted three respectable efforts in defeat so far this season. Has been given a break since a close second to Messire Des Obeaux who has franked the form since, surely has more progress left in him and this race is likely to have been the plan for some time.

Second to The New One at Haydock last time out was Clyne who is now as short as 4-1 with some firms having been well supported since that run. Is due to go up 5lb in the handicap after this race which means he’s well handicapped on that form. Had previously won twice at the same track, has a progressive profile and the soft ground is sure to suit having raced on easy going throughout his career.

The other horse who is prominent in the betting is Movewiththetimes who has only had four runs to date and was last seen winning a novice hurdle at Wincanton. The form of that race hasn’t worked out too well since and starts life off in handicaps with a mark of 136. Had previously finished just a length behind Ballyandy at Cheltenham giving him 4lb and was hampered at a crucial stage. Although he’s a potential improver now sent handicapping, he looks a short enough price based on his form to date.

Alan King will be represented by William H Bonney who travelled well when winning a competitive handicap at Cheltenham on trials day. Improved plenty for his seasonal debut that day but King reported afterwards that he still felt the horse would have needed another run having had a setback in training at the start of the season and his win at Cheltenham should have put him spot on for this race. Has a 5lb penalty to contend with in a stronger contest but is clearly held in high regard having run in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last season.

Seven-year-old Song Light has some good form to his name in similar races to this one and posted his best effort to date when third in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. Has been given a 3lb rise for his efforts but the form of that race has worked out well and, although he hasn’t been seen since, this race is likely to have been the plan for a while and should run his race once again.

An impressive winner of the Adonis Hurdle last season was Zubayr whom trainer Paul Nicholls has likened to Zarkandar who won this race back in 2012. He looked held when falling at the last in the Elite Hurdle on his seasonal debut and ran disappointingly at Sandown afterwards. In my opinion, his future lies over further and he also looks a chaser in the making.

Irish raider Veinard has been running consistently this season and went close in a strong handicap at Leopardstown last time. He has 3lb extra to carry in this race compared to the others which will make life tough as he doesn’t look obviously well handicapped and he doesn’t always find as much off the bridle as you might expect looking at the way he travels.

Wait for Me looked the winner for a long way last time at Cheltenham when finishing fifth behind one of today’s rivals William H Bonney. Clearly has plenty of ability and was a good fourth in the County Hurdle at the festival last season but his jumping still isn’t polished and it’s hard to see him reversing the form with that rival today, despite being 5lb better off.

Similar to Veinard, De Name Escapes Me has extra weight to carry compared to his rivals and hasn’t been seen since finishing down the field in a strong handicap at the Punchestown Festival. Has only had five runs to date and was a dual winner over hurdles at the start of last season but he’s clearly had his problems having had substantial breaks in between runs. Also runs without a hood having worn it the last twice and Barry Geraghty has chosen to ride the other McManus-owned runner Movewiththetimes.

Dual performer Beltor beat three of today’s rivals at Kempton last time out when he looked the winner before making a mistake at the last which proved costly. A decent juvenile, he landed a gamble when bouncing back to form on the flat at Kempton in December. A 2lb rise for his latest effort seems fair although two of the rivals he beat that day have progressed since then and will need a fast pace as he tends to race keenly.

Kerry Lee has been in good form of late and runs Gassin Golf who will be wearing a tongue-tie for the first time and will be suited by the drop back to two miles having finished fifth at the course over 2m5f last time out. Has some decent form to his name but looks vulnerable against some unexposed rivals.

Kayf Blanco has some respectable form to his name, most notably when third to Brain Power at Sandown on his second start this season but was disappointing last time over further at Exeter. Capable of out-running his odds if he bounces back to form but looks high enough in the handicap at present judging by his recent form.

Nigel Twiston-Davies also runs Ballyhill who has been kept busy in novice company throughout this season and this will be his first run in a handicap. Starts life off in handicaps with a mark of 136 which looks fair judging by his novice form and Tom Humphries takes a handy 7lb off but has run below par on his last two starts and needs to bounce back.

The handicapper has given Hargam a chance dropping him to a mark of 146 having been rated as high as 157 in the past. Posted a couple of decent efforts in graded company last season and clearly has plenty of class but is hard to recommend on his last two runs.

Another trainer in decent form at present is Warren Greatrex and he runs Boite who wears cheekpieces for the first time. A ready winner at Wetherby on his seasonal debut but disappointed next time at Newbury. The extra trip was potentially the reason for a below-par run that day but needs to progress again even on his best form to be competitive today.

Current outsider of the field is Eddiemaurice who returned to form beating two reappearing rivals when finishing a close fifth in the same handicap Beltor was third in at Kempton. He’s only 4lb above his last winning mark and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did outrun his odds.

Verdict: This year’s renewal lacks the class compared to previous years but is still as competitive as usual and the selection is William H Bonney who travelled well when winning last time out, is progressing nicely and I’m sure Alan King has had this race in mind for a while as he felt his win last time will have put him right for this race. Song Light is sure to run his race again having gone close in the Greatwood Hurdle in November. The well supported Ballyandy should be able to go close off a mark of 135.

1) William H Bonney
2) Song Light
3) Ballyandy

Newbury Bumper 16:45 preview

There's not much left over the next month in National Hunt racing as trainers wrap most of their charges up in cotton wool for the Festival. But there is a decent card tomorrow at Newbury, and concluding the card is an intriguing bumper which might unearth quite a bit of talent. And to preview this race, it's recent addition and NHF specialist, Tony Amato, @mato66.


Betfair Ready? Bumper
Listed, 2m 69y, £20,000
1645 local, 0345 AEDT

A decent card ends with a decent bumper, with top trainers and all have seen the racecourse, these races can sometimes be cut down to trainers that take the races seriously and we have a lot of them in attendance with an Irish raider thrown in the mix. Lots of winners will come out of this race I'm sure and I expect all that I mention will go on to be good horses this season and beyond.

I'll start with the Irish raider.. COSMOS MOON (Robbie McNamara) ran in a Naas bumper where he was disappointing (fifth) his shrewd trainer made no secret of his disappointment that the horse had not shown what they thought he would as the whispers were that the stable thought a fair bit of him. I don't think they would be bringing him over to run here if they thought that was as good as he had in him.

WESTERN RYDER has run in three races and won two of them including a decent Listed contest at Ascot, that's fine form and no matter what, he looks like he'll play a big role in this race. His trainer knows how to win these races and that's always a big plus. However he has to carry a lot of weight and for that reason I'm happy to pass him over here. Giving good horses over a stone will not be easy.

INFINITE SON beat Western Ryder by a nose last November on debut at Market Rasen. The race was a touch messy and Western Ryder pulled hard, the reason I think Fergal O'Brien's 6yr old held off the late challenge from the 8/11 favourite. Fergal's horse was 12/1 for that race so it was a surprise to the yard he ran as he did. They do however know what it takes to win these races so I'm sure a lot of punters may take a chance on this one e/w @14/1.

KAYF MARINER beat a fancied horse at Bangor on debut, I was there and Kildisart (10/11) was well fancied by his yard but this Alan King 5yr old had the excellent W. Featherstone in the saddle with his 5lb claim which made a big difference towards the end of the race. I don't think that form will be good enough here.

MARTEN (Ben Pauling) was a bitter disappointment on debut at Doncaster. His trainer had stated that he had high hopes for his father-in-law's horse but he faded tamely to finish fifth. However he left that run behind him at Warwick on New Year's Eve when staying on well to go away from the field to win a touch cosy.

DAPHNE DU CLOS (Nicky Henderson) was thought good enough to debut at Cheltenham in a Listed mares' bumper, she had been purchased from France and her reputation was the talk of the track. She ran a cracker to go down a neck to the highly regarded mare Cap Soleil (who is Aintree bound). She is obviously a filly of some potential and with the weight concession she receives from this field, it'll take a top performance to lower her colours.

DYNAMITE DOLLARS was third in the listed bumper Cap Soleil won at Cheltenham. That was a big improvement from the Paul Nicholls inmate who was beaten on debut at Taunton in a five-runner affair where the winner has since come out and been beaten. I think a place is the best this 4yr old can expect.



Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Cheltenham ante-post preview

We've had Trials day and the calendar has ticked over to February - it's now only weeks until the Cheltenham Festival!

Getting in early with his ante-post analysis is Racing UK Tipstar winner, Harry Allwood, @H_Allwood1. You can read more of his work here.


Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle

2014 Champion Bumper winner Moon Racer currently heads the betting for the Supreme Novices Hurdle and was a winner over course and distance in November. He won what turned into a tactical race that day and beat horses who look better suited over further. Although he’s three from three at Cheltenham and is still relatively lightly raced for an eight-year-old, I think he will prove vulnerable against some potentially top class horses.

I was seriously impressed with Charli Parcs when he won at Kempton on his UK debut where he jumped and travelled well and won without coming off the bridle. That wasn’t the strongest of races but he had the race won a long way from home that day as well as posting a decent time. Held in high regard, he looks a high-class horse in the making.

Jenkins was ante-post favourite for this race until running disappointingly at Kempton on Boxing Day. Prior to that he had shown some useful bumper form and won in workmanlike fashion at Newbury on his hurdling debut in what looked a strong maiden hurdle. He still remains with plenty of potential but is hard to recommend on the back of that disappointing run and has also had suffered a setback since then.

The Willie Mullins-trained Cilaos Emery won nicely on his hurdles debut at Navan and at the time that looked an uncompetitive race. However, the second that day is now rated 139 but probably found the trip too short when second to Cilaos Emery and Mullins looks to hold stronger claims with Melon who had a lofty reputation before winning easily at Leopardstown at the end of January. The form of that race is questionable but couldn’t have won any easier and is clearly held in high regard.

Although it hasn’t been confirmed, this race is likely to be the target for Charli Parcs and still looks value at 8-1 having been well supported for this race over the last few days. It’s worth having a saver on Melon who Willie Mullins holds in high regard and created a good impression when winning at Leopardstown.

Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase

Won in 2012 by the mighty Sprinter Sacre, Nicky Henderson looks to have another superstar on his hands with Altior who is three from three over fences and looks destined for the top. He’s unbeaten at the course, jumps well for a novice and is a confident selection to continue his winning streak in the Arkle.

Min is currently clear second favourite and is also unbeaten over fences. He raced keenly in his races as a hurdler but has settled better over fences this season. However, he has suffered a setback in training recently and was beaten easily by Altior in last year’s Supreme.

The former Paul Nicholls-trained Some Plan looked unfortunate not to win over course and distance in December but has made amends since then by winning at Navan and Leopardstown. He travels well and his jumping has improved on each of his starts over fences. He will also be suited by the likelihood of a small field.

Altior is a confident selection to win but I wouldn’t put you off having a few quid each-way on Some Plan who is not without hope at 25-1.

Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

This race revolves around current favourite Faugheen who we haven’t seen since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January last year. He’s been due to run a couple of times already this season but has once again picked up a couple of injuries. Providing he does make it to the race he will be tough to beat but I wouldn’t want to be taking short odds at this stage on a horse who’s had a disrupted preparation and may not even make it to the race.

The Henry de Bromhead trained Petit Mouchoir put in a brave performance to win this year’s Irish Champion Hurdle, travelling well before holding off the late challenge of Footpad. He’s progressed gradually this season and, providing he handles the track, he has a chance of going close.

Yanworth is currently prominent in the betting and had previously been fancied for the World Hurdle at the start of the season. Having beaten The New One in the Christmas Hurdle over two miles at Kempton, this race is now the plan for him. He didn’t jump too well that day though and I believe he wants further.

Nicky Henderson will be represented by Brain Power who bolted up in a competitive handicap at Ascot in December. When quotes came in for the Champion Hurdle after that win I thought they were a bit optimistic but looking back at the race he was highly impressive indeed carrying almost top weight in one of the strongest handicaps run this season. He defied a 7lb higher mark that day and has now been given a rating of 162 which doesn’t leave him with much to find with those at the head of the market.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Yorkhill was supplemented for the race if Faugheen doesn’t turn up. He’s unbeaten over fences this season but was a good winner of the Neptune last season beating Yanworth and looks to have enough speed for two miles.

Plenty of speculation as to who will actually turn up in this race. If Faugheen does run then he will be tough to beat but that’s looking more and more unlikely and I would rather take a chance on the progressive Brain Power each-way at a general 12-1.

Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Seven-year-old Douvan has looked unbeatable in eight career starts over fences to date, easily winning the Arkle last season and completed a hat-trick of wins at the three big festivals. He’s jumped imperiously in each run over fences as well as beating some useful horses along the way. He’s currently best priced 2-5 for the race so will be many people's banker and should duly oblige.

The horse that is most likely to follow him home though is Fox Norton who has a progressive profile, goes well at the course and is likely to go for the race unlike most who have been given an entry. He was beaten just over ten lengths by Douvan in the Arkle last season but has clearly improved this season. With a revised mark of 167, he’s only rated 2lb inferior to Douvan. He’s three from five at the course and has also produced a couple of decent placed efforts.

Douvan really should be winning this race and has done nothing wrong over fences in his career to date. This race is likely to have very few runners with most of the horses entered having other races as preferred targets. Fox Norton is progressing nicely over fences and this race is the intended target for him at the moment so is the most likely to follow the favourite home.

Ryanair Chase

Although the target for Un De Sceaux is currently undecided, he looks likely to go for the Ryanair Chase with stable mate Douvan a short priced favourite for the Champion Chase, a race in which Un De Sceaux was second in last year. He won the rescheduled Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham in good fashion on Trials day and clearly stays the Ryanair trip having won over 2m5f in France last year. He didn’t jump too well at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase but was much better in the Clarence House, travelling well and finding plenty under pressure.

One horse who ran an eye-catcher at Cheltenham on Trials day was Uxizandre who ran a fantastic race to finish second behind Un De Sceaux, his first run since winning this race in 2015. Although he looked pretty fit beforehand, he’s sure to come on for the run and two miles is on the sharp side for him. Providing he can avoid the dreaded bounce factor, he’s sure to go close in this race especially with the likelihood of better ground than he encountered on Trials Day.

As mentioned, although the target is not yet decided for Un De Sceaux, this race looks tailor-made for him in my opinion and should take plenty of beating providing he goes for the race. Uxizandre is the obvious danger having ran so well in defeat behind the selection on his comeback after a long absence.

Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle

The Harry Fry trained Unowhatimeanharry has done nothing wrong all season and made it eight wins on the bounce in the Cleeve Hurdle since winning a Handicap off a mark of 123 in November 2015. That was also his fourth win at the course and I’m surprised he’s not shorter than 15-8 to win this race. He strikes me as a horse who only just does enough and clearly idled up the run in when winning the Cleeve Hurdle.

2015 winner Cole Harden was second to Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve and that was his best run for some time having run a few disappointing races. He’s sure to go straight to the stayers hurdle now and looks to be gradually coming back to form so has an each-way chance.

2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki won on his return at Navan in January after a long lay-off due to injury. The form of that race is below what some of his rivals have achieved in the run up to this race but he’s a high class horse, has won over three miles in the past and usually shows his best form in the spring. He has the ability to go close providing he can build on that comeback win.

My festival banker is going to be Unowhatimeanharry who has improved nearly 50lb since the start of his winning streak. He enjoys Cheltenham, is versatile ground wise and could have even more improvement left in him. He’s a confident selection but is likely to be an even shorter price than he is now on the day and one for the each-way players is Cole Harden who is a previous winner of this race and showed he was coming back to form with a good run last time out.

JCB Triumph Hurdle

Defi Du Seuil has done nothing wrong all season and deserves to be the current favourite for this race. He won two on the bounce at the track before winning the Future Champions Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. He didn’t jump so well that day but beat two smart novices easily and was conceding 7lb to a 144 rated rival. He’s been winning on soft ground but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be just as good on better ground and has plenty of speed. He will be going into the race with the best form, already has three wins at Cheltenham under his belt and has plenty of experience for a four-year-old.

I was impressed with Dinaria Des Obeaux when she won at Cork in December. She travelled and jumped well in the main that day and the form has worked out okay since. I thought she deserved to be a shorter price for this race as she looked a high class horse in the making on her Irish debut and is also a likely runner.

Although Defi Du Seuil will prove hard to beat having done nothing wrong all season and will have the strongest form going into the race, the value lies with Dinaria Des Obeaux who bolted up on her first run for Gordon Elliot and I’m surprised she’s still available at 16-1.

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup

Unfortunately plenty of horses who were fancied for this race at the start of the season are now out of the race. Thistlecrack lost nothing in defeat when second in the Cotswold Chase on trials day and is still the clear ante-post favourite for the race. He was foot perfect in the King George the time before, easily beating stable mate Cue Card. The trip is of course a question mark in the Gold Cup having been outstayed in the Cotswold Chase but I have no doubt he will stay the trip on better ground which he looks better suited by. His jumping around Cheltenham is still questionable but hasn’t done much else wrong this season and deserves to be favourite.

It was confirmed recently that Cue Card is now an intended runner in this race and was deemed an unlucky loser by some last year when falling at the third last. Like Thistlecrack, he will also be suited by better ground but has work to do to beat the favourite having been beaten easily by him in the King George. The Hennessy and Welsh National winner Native River is also due to line up for the Tizzard team. He’s a thorough stayer and is likely to make this a proper test for his rivals having made virtually all to win his last two starts and I can see him running a big race, especially if the ground is soft.

Twice a runner-up in this race is Djakadam who was third in the Lexus Chase last time out. He’s sure to run his race in the Gold Cup again but was beaten by Outlander whom I believe the value lies with having won a competitive renewal of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He clearly improved for the step up in trip that day and looks certain to be suited by the Gold Cup trip judging by the way he won that race. He’s not won at the course before but was going okay when falling in the JLT last year and I expect him to go close.

The value, as mentioned, lies with Outlander who looks a great each-way bet at 12-1 although Thistlecrack will be hard to beat if the ground is good.