Sunday, 18 March 2012

Closing Post

Before I created this closing post, I re-read my very first post – the ‘Introduction’ from the end of October…

I don’t know how many of you were around at that point in time, but whether you were or not, I think it is worth a read before you go any further…

Now we are all on the same footing !!

I created this blog, with the intention of demonstrating that I could identify ricks in the early bird prices issued by the bookmakers. The hope/belief was that if I could do this accurately then it should be possible to make money over a period of time, simply by backing these horses…

4 months on, and I think I have demonstrated pretty conclusively that I can spot ricks – and also that money can be made by this method.

I’ll start this review of this project, with the headline figures from the 4 months (I’ve excluded the Cheltenham festival because it was a one-off, in which different rules applied).

148 tips in 140 races (I tipped 2 horses in a race 6 times – plus 1 F/C  and 1 double)
159.25pts staked
52pts profit (so an ROI of 33%)

Ultimately, these are the only numbers that matter…
Whilst 52pts profit on 159.25pt staked is a perfectly creditable performance, I have to say it is a little below where I had hoped…
Still, I set my minimum requirement when I began, at 50pts profit on 300pts staked – so achieving the profit target with only half the staking, has to be viewed positively…

Looking at the 140 races in a little more detail, they yielded the following:

1st – 14
2nd – 20
3rd – 12
4th – 12

Therefore, 34 selections finished first or second (24%) and 58 finished place (41%).
The first number is almost exactly where I want it to be, which is very pleasing. The second number is a little short of target, but within acceptable limits.
It’s obviously slightly irritating to see that so many more selections finished second that first – but that is one of those fine lines which I forever seem to be on the wrong side of…

The other measure that I’ve been keen to push during the period, has been the performance of price advised against BSP.
You will have noticed in the introductory post, that the object of this ‘project’ was to identify pricing ricks (ie. effectively beat SP). The hope was simply that if you can consistently do that, the profits will follow (as SP is as good an indicator of success, as you can get).
If, over the 4 months, you had simply backed every TVB selection at advised price, to advised stake – and then layed off your potential profit at BSP, you would have made 47.3pts profit. This is a ROI of 30% - which itself, is highly creditable…

So, there are all the key facts about the 4 months tipping – but here are a few more, just for your entertainment/amusement ;)

P&L by day of the week:

Mon: -10.5pts (0 from 12)
Tue: -5pts (1 from 15)
Wed: -11.5pts (0 from 10)
Thur: 16.5pts (3 from 16)
Fri: -1pt (1 from 24)
Sat: 24pts (9 from 58)
Sun: 40pts (3 from 11)

Which suggests that I am clearly a weekend tipster ! (I know someone who be pleased to read that ;) )

I tipped a number of horses, multiple times…
Here is the top of that particular chart:

4 times

Pocket Aces -4.5pts

3 times

Frontier Dancer +25pts
Atouchbetweenacara -3pts
Lucky Landing +6pts
Plein Pouvoir -3.5pts
Sophonie –2.5pts
Stow –3.5pts

Despite this, I still managed to miss Sophonie’s victory – and another one by Lucky Landing !!

In terms of trainers, as I mentioned once or twice, Venetia Williams has been removed from my Christmas card list ! I tipped a horse trained by her 13 times – and managed to lose 13pts in the process !
Conversely, 10 tips of horses trained by Philip Hobbs, yielded 3 winners and a profit of 20pts (and that doesn’t include Balthazar King at the festival !).

So that is just about it in terms of numbers…

In terms of people, then I would like to thank you all for ‘tuning in’ every day.
If there was an award for ‘best viewer’ then it would undoubtedly be handed out to Ciaran (Villa Viper), who’s support – particularly during the dark days of December - was very much appreciated…
I would also like to single out Michael and Roy for special thanks. Neither name will mean much to blog readers – but these 2 guys sit behind the scenes, helping me keep sane on a daily basis…
The blog has enabled me to ‘meet’ a number of other guys, whom I have enjoyed ‘chatting’ with over the past few months: Steve, Dan, Jim, Kevin, Peter and Ian to name just half a dozen (and there have been a fair few more)…
Finding all these people has been a real bonus of creating the blog. And then there was Marvin – dear Marvin – I wonder whose life he is enriching now…?!

With regard to the future, then my plans are fluid…
I’ll continue to watch and bet on the racing (as I always have done !) – but I will also give some attention to the things I’ve been neglecting over the past few months.
At the moment, my intention would be to return late autumn, with a new blog – very much TVB – though possibly not ‘early bird’...
Towards the end of this project, I was getting a little frustrated with the lack of early bird opportunities that presented themselves. I tried, half heartedly, to create theoretical ‘tissues’ for one or two races, which people could then use to back (or even lay !) horses prior to the off, once particular odds had been reached. I may choose to build on that experiment (but then again, I may not !)…

Whatever, I have email addresses for everyone I sent the tips to – and I promise I will make contact with you all, well in advance of any new venture.

If anyone wants to contact me in the meantime, you have my email address, so please feel free.

For now though, I am going to sign off.
It’s been a heck of a journey – it’s been fun – it’s been emotional.

Thanks for the support !

Maruary monthly summary

It might seem a little over the top producing a monthly report for the final ’month’ of the TVB project and a closing report – but that’s what I intend to do.
I’ve produced monthly reports for all of the previous months, so for consistency, I want to produce one for 'Maruary'.
Diligent readers will recall that Maruary is the month I created, to cover the final 2 weeks of February (the bad weather scuppered all racing during the first 2 weeks of the month) and the first 2 weeks of March (obviously, my tipping came to an end after Cheltenham).

So, the headline figures for the final month:

28 selections (in 27 races)
30.25pts staked
7pts profit (so an ROI of 23%)

There were less selections and less points staked in this month, than there had been in any of the previous 3…
This was due, in the main, to there being less days in this fictitious month – and also to me virtually stopping tipping during the week before Cheltenham.

Looking at the number in more detail there were just 5 selections placed first or second. This is just 18%, which is a fair bit below the target of 25%
Fortunately, 3 of the 5 were winners, so this helped with the profit..
A further 3 finished third and 3 finished fourth, meaning that 11 of the 28 were placed.
This gives a placed percentage of around 40% - which is a bit lower than I would like, but not a disaster…
Average odds of selections were, like last month, just below 13/1…
The ratio of price taken to BSP was very high. If you had simply backed all selections at advised prices, to advised stakes and then layed off at BSP, you would have made 11.7pts profit !
On only 30.25pts staked, that is a phenomenal return (38%), for virtually no risk.

The most notable aspect of the month compared to the others, is that the staking wasn’t good…
This is the only month of the 4, where a greater profit would have been achieved by playing with a level stake (that would have yielded 18pts profit).
There were four 2 point bets during the month (non larger than that) and whilst 3 of the 4 were placed, non of them won…

So on balance, Maruary can go down as a reasonable month – were the strike rate was fine, but the staking not so good…

Friday, 16 March 2012

Cheltenham round-up

The final brilliant day of an unbelievable festival – with AP and Synchrionsied putting the cherry on top of the cake.
I’ll summarise the whole meeting at the end - but first a few words on the day…

It started with victory in the Triumph hurdle for outsider Countrywide Flame. As I said last night, I hadn’t got a clue what would win the race – but I certainly wouldn’t have put that one up !
I might have put Hisaabaat up though – I struggled to choose between him and Ut De Sivola and it was the slightly bigger odds that made the latter the selection.
However, if I had put it up, it would have been win only; so the race would have been rather painful to watch. As it was, Ut De Sivola never featured, so as a spectacle, it wasn’t that bad !!
Ubi Ace ran a fair race in the County Hurdle, racing prominently until he weakened. Magnifique Etoile and Local Hero both travelled quite nicely until the race began in earnest. But at that point, both were found wanting and ultimately finished well beaten.
Grand Vision ran an absolute screamer in the Albert Bartlett, to finish third – a good way clear of the fourth horse. In truth, he never looked like winning but it was still a terrific performance – and at just over 8/1 for the place, a profitable one too.
Then came the Gold Cup…
Firstly the disappointments: it was obviously a shame to see Kauto pull up – and it looks like that will be his final ever race. We won’t see many like him in our lifetimes, so we should treasure the memories.
Weird Al ran no sort of race – but apparently bled from the nose. The same thing happened to him in last years Gold Cup – it must be the southern air ;)
Those out of the way, what an amazing race it was…
Synchronised blundered his way over the first few fences and AP never looked easy on him – but the horse must have the heart of a lion. He managed to hang on to the leaders and when he appeared on the outside jumping 3 out, I could honestly only see one outcome.
Great credit must go to The Giant Bolster – and Time for Rupert – both of whom ran way above expectations. But ultimately, they lacked the stamina of Synchrionised and that won him the day, as he powered up the hill…
I almost gave The Giant Bolster a positive mention last night – as I thought he had a better chance than his odds implied. However, even I never imagined he would run as well as he did…
The only point I would make, is that in the cold light on day, I wonder what the form is actually worth…
Knockara Beau was beaten about 20 lengths back in sixth place. He is an exposed 147 rated chaser. He clearly ran a cracker – but to my mind, he holds the form down…
Let’s put it this way, after the race, I was feeling even happier with my ante-post voucher on Sir Des Champs for next season renewal.!
In the Hunter chase, I managed to successfully identify the 2 key races, as they provided the first 6 home ! However, I maybe over analysed them a little, as it was the winners of those 2 contests that fought out the finish.
My Flora ran very creditably to finish fourth, she maybe got caught out by chasing a suicidal early pace. I also couldn’t help but wonder how On the Fringe would have fared if he had not been declared a late non-runner.
On the book, he should have finished very close to the winner – and today’s conditions should have suited him better. However I guess we’ll never know...
The penultimate race of the festival almost produced another high for us, with Oscar Nominee ultimately beaten 2 necks into third, despite finishing like a train.
The horse made things impossibly difficult for himself by barely going yard for the first half of the race. He did the same at Doncaster last time but I hoped the longer trip would make the difference – it didn’t ! He still got mightily close to pulling off a highly unlikely victory. However the fact he needed to weave his way between rivals to make his challenge – losing significant ground in the process – almost certainly cost him the race…
The finale proved disappointing. I was very keen on Astracad – but he never featured. Tara Royal ran well and – coming down the hill – looked likely to be involved in the finish. However, his jumping wasn’t slick enough and that ultimately cost him.
Instead Nicky Henderson notched yet another winner at a festival which was a personal triumph for him and his stable.

So that’s it for another 12 months…
I promised highs and lows – and boy did we get them !
We had a winner on each of the 4 days: Balthazar King; Teaforthree; Cape Tribulation and Synchronised.
However, we also had a number of very near misses: First Lieutenant, Voler La Vadette and Oscar Nominee – not to mention me failing to tip Rock on Ruby !
It is always a concern when you tip over such a short period of time, that you won’t get the bit of luck that you inevitably need.
However, on this occasion, a think we got precisely what we deserved.
With a bigger slice of luck, we could have had at least 3 more winners – but if Balthazar King’s head had been up and not down, we would have finished the week about level…
Instead, we ended up with 20.5pts profit on 46pts staked – a very healthy return, by anyone’s standard.
I like to think that you would all have enjoyed the meeting even if it hadn’t ended in profit.
I’ve put my heart and soul into the form study and write ups over the past few days – and hopefully it showed.
I’ve honestly done nothing other than ‘Cheltenham’ for a week – but I’ve enjoyed every minute.
Hopefully you have all done the same.
If nothing else, I would like to think that, at a tenner, the TVB Cheltenham Special was, at least, ‘value’ ;)

Cheltenham Day 4

Another tremendous days racing – though from a betting perspective, it was more about what might have been…

Sir Des Champs was hugely impressive wining the opening contest – so much so, that I had a small play on him for next years Gold Cup, at the 12/1 offered post race. The horse seems to have everything – and Willie Mullins is adamant that he will be better over further, next season. He really is something to look forward to…
Of the 2 selections: Zaynar ran well to a point – but he wasn’t able to go with Champion Court when he quickened down the hill.
Michael Flips ran a tremendous race for an outsider, travelling and jumping as I’d hoped he would – but he simply hadn’t got the class of the first 3 home and could only finish fourth (the fate of all the best EW selections !).
Peddlers Cross ran no sort of race – and may as well have run in the Arkle ! Clearly all was not right with him…
If the first race hinted about the state of the ground – the second race confirmed it.
Buena Vista needs quick spring ground – but he struggled in the prevailing conditions. Conversely, Cape Tribulation wants it soft – in fact, my main concern was whether he would handle the ground today.
I need not have worried on that score, as he tanked through the race and comfortably saw off the late challenge of Catch Me.
Unfortunately the soft ground probably did for the chances of most of our other runners…
The Ryanair was an absolutely brilliant race – but I simply couldn’t have foreseen the outcome.
Credit must go to Riverside Theatre, who won despite never really travelling and hitting numerous fences. His stamina won him the day.
Somersby travelled really well (despite the fact that Dominic Elseworth bizarrely gave up the outside to no-one for the entire race). However, he didn’t have the stamina when it was required and ultimately finished well beaten.
Captain Chris ran a strange kind of race: continually jumping to his right and getting outpaced on the downhill section, He stayed on approaching the last but couldn’t bridge the gap to the leaders and finished fourth…
The World hurdle was an equally compelling spectacle – and for a few strides, looked like it might be a financial gold mine for us as well !!
Ruby pressed for home on Big Bucks, coming down the hill but Thousand Stars was still cantering in behind. I thought he was going to outspeed Big Bucks – but he started to falter in the run to the last.
However, it was at that point, that Andrew Lynch arrived there swinging on Voler la Vadette. She looked sure to take the measure of Big Bucks – but I guess you don’t get to win 3 word hurdles unless you are prepared to fight - and Big Bucks fought.
As hard as Voler la Vadette tried, she simply couldn’t get past him – and, as I said yesterday, Big Bucks deserved all of the post race accolades he received. A truly outstanding champion.
The Byrne Group plate was taken apart by Salut Flo – who was handicapped to do so, if his jumping stood the test.
As it turned out, there were no issues with his jumping, which had improved massively since his seasonal debt over the same course.
Hectors Choice ran a very disappointing race – and has maybe had enough for the season. Radetsky March simply wasn’t good enough – though Gilbarry ran a very eye-catching race and will certainly be of interest in the coming weeks on quicker ground.
The ground also probably scuppered the chances of Benbane Head in the last. He ran a solid enough race, helping to force the pace - but he made a few niggly mistakes and was a spent force turning for home. Like Gilbarry, I suspect there will be other days for him in the next few weeks…

So, another tough day’s betting yielded a small profit – and we go into the final day of the festival a little ahead.
I’ve struggled a bit more finding selections for tomorrow – and the knowledge that the ground is slower than I expected, has made me doubly cautious.

Still, hopefully we can find a winner or two – and thereby end the meeting on a high…

Triumph Hurdle

I feel I’ve got to put my hands up with this one, I’ve absolutely no idea what will win !
I’ve turned the race upside down looking for an angle – but I can’t find any route in that I feel comfortable with…
I find it very difficult to separate the English challengers – if forced to pick one, I would probably go with Pearl Swan, however it would be in hope rather than expectation.
The Irish challengers are just as bad, and again I could give all the major players a chance without overly fancying any of them.
The one horse I can make a case for being over-priced, is Ut De Sivola.
He hacked up on his Irish debut, before accounting for Hisaabaat at Punchestown in January.
On the strength of that performance, he was sent off 2/1 favourite for the grade 1 Spring juvenile hurdle, at Leopardstown in February. He was a bitter disappointment that day, finishing well beaten. However, it subsequently transpired that he was struck into during the race, so I think his run can be ignored.
What is interesting, is that the race was won by Hisaabaat. Now, he probably improved from his run against Ut De Sivola at Punchestown, but regardless, it suggests that Ut De Silvoa should be capable of holding his own in grade 1 company.
The concern, is that Ruby has got off him to ride Pearl Swan – but he has probably as  much of an idea on the relative merits of the various form-lines, as we have !
Paul Townend is a more than able substitute and hopefully Ut De Sivola can give is a fair run for our money at a decent price.

County Hurdle

This is a wide open looking race, but hopefully I’ve found 3 who all have a better chance than their odds imply…
The most interesting of the 3, is probably Local Hero.
He ran 8th in last season’s triumph hurdle, splitting Third Intention and Brampour, with Smad Place just behind. Those 3 are now rated 153, 161 & 157 respectively, so the fact that Local Hero gets to run off a mark of 140 tomorrow, shows you how potentially well handicapped he is…
He only made his seasonal debut last month, in the conditions race that Simonsig used as his prep for his Cheltenham romp. Local Hero finished a very creditable third that day, just 4 lengths behind the winner (whom he was conceding 4lbs to). The bare form of that result flatters him – but it was a commendable performance all the same and if he has progressed for that run, he must go very close tomorrow.
Next on the short list, is Ubi Ace.
He has already had a fine season, recording 2 wins and 2 places from 4 runs. Last time out at Mussleburgh, he travelled like a hose who was still ahead of the handicapper, only getting caught close home by another progressive rival. He has been raised a further 5lb for that effort – but that may not be sufficient to stop him. He has recently transferred into the care of Jonjo O’Neill and if he can eak a little more improvement out of him, then this fine looking sort can run another big race tomorrow.
Finally, Magnifique Etoile is a really progressive novice, who was last season at Sandown back in January when he ran in the grade 1 Tolworth novice hurdle.
He finished a respectable third that day – but the soft ground wouldn’t have been ideal. He should be much better suited to the conditions he will encounter tomorrow (even with the watering !) and a mark of 136 looks very workable.
The Charlie Longsdon stable are back in form, as was proven by Paintball’s victory in Saturday’s Imperial Cup and Magnifique Etoile must have fair prospects of adding to their tally.

Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle

My original intention here, was to tip Sea of Thunder...
He was very unlucky not to collect the trial for this race that was run over course and distance in December. He was pulling clear of the field when he over jumped the last and took a very nasty fall. 
However, that run was on good ground – and Sea of Thunder is far more effective on a quick surface. On his only subsequent run, he was destroyed by Boston Bob on heavy ground at Leopardstown. He was in receipt of 7lb from the winner that day and it really does take a leap of faith to see him turning the form round tomorrow - at level wieghts on the prevailing surface.
Boston Bob also comfortably holds the other main Irish challenger, Mount Benbulben. He beat him by 4 and half lengths at Navan back in December, and again it is difficult to argue a case for the form being turned round…
The English trained horses don’t generally look as strong as their Irish trained counterparts in this race. Brindisi Breeze is the highest rated and unbeaten over hurdles.
However all of his form is on deep winter ground and he may well get found out by the quicker ground tomorrow.
A more interesting English challenger – and the potential dark horse of the race – is the Colin Tizzard trained Grand Vision.
He absolutely hacked up in the mud at Haydock, in the style of a horse going places. It was only a handicap that he won – and he did so off a lowly mark of 123 – but he couldn’t have done so more impressively and when you look at the horses that finished behind him that day, the form starts to look a little more interesting…
No less than 3 of this weeks winners finished in his wake – and whilst all 3 were doubtless using the race primarily as a prep for this week, it still makes the form look quite strong.
Grand Vision will need to improve again if he is going to hold his own tomorrow – but that is a distinct possibility.
In a race which lacks strength in depth and which has a very strong favourite, an EW play on Grand Vision looks to be the best shout.

Gold Cup

The highlight of the 4 days – and whilst this years renewal doesn’t look to be of the finest vintage, it still looks like a race to savour…
The question everyone is asking, is whether Kuato Star can regain his crown for an unbelievable second time. I would truly love to see it happen –and will be cheering him on as loudly as anyone if he has half a chance – but I some how doubt it will be the case…
That said, I think he has a better chance of winning this year than any recent year, simply because I don’t see a lot of strength in the opposition.
Obviously there is Long Run – and he will undoubtedly take the beating, but he has hardly set the world alight with his performances this season and when you look back and see that he only beat What a Friend 11 lengths in last seasons renewal, it does make you wonder…
Of course he also beat Kauto in that race – but Kauto has operated at a much higher level this season. The issue is, that despite 2 victories in the race, the Cheltenham Gold cup has never really played to Kauto’s strengths. Even when he was at his peak, he won because of his class rather than because he was perfectly suited to the demands of the race. If you combine that with the fact he is now 12, you really have to think that the winner will come from elsewhere…
The trouble is where !!
Long Run is the obvious place to start – and whilst he may not be the best Gold Cup winner ever, he is a very decent animal who is well suited to the demands of the race. I would consider him the most likely winner and certainly struggle to envisage him finishing out of the first 3…
Burton Port has a definite chance based on form – but his long absence prior to his last run, is a worry – plus before he had his problems, it was felt that he was better suited to a flat track.
Midnight Chase is an honourable horse, who will doubtless give his all from the front. A placing is a distinct possibility for him – but I can’t really see him coming home first, even in a relatively weak year.
The two I am most interested in, are Weird Al and Synchronised.
Weird Al was an ante-post selection a couple of months back – but the case for him now seems even stronger than it was at the time.
He is unexposed; has good course form and has purposefully been kept fresh, as that is when he runs his best races.
Again, he might not quite have the class to win the race – but everything is in place for him to run a very big race.
Synchronised is a little more exposed but he has improved significantly this season – and who is to say the improvement is over…
He won the Grade 1 Lexus chase in Ireland last time out, from Rubi Light. That might not be absolutely top class form, but it is pretty good – and the demands of the Gold Cup should suit him even better.
To win the race, he will need to improve significantly again – but that is possible…
The only other runners in the race whom I feel worthy of a mention, are Quel Esprit and Diamond Harry.
I was tempted to put up the former as a saver – but opted for Synchronised instead. I would view both horses in a similar way (potentially progressive) but think tomorrows test will suit Sysnchronised better.
Diamond Harry has no chance on recent form – but the horse has a real engine. If connections somehow managed to get him to the post with his ‘A’ game, he certainly has the natural ability to get placed… 

Foxhunters Chase

I think there are 2 races to concentrate on, in order to find the winner of this particular contest:
The M&C Carpets Hunter Chase, which was run at Newbury on January 18th – and the Raymond Smith memorial Hunter Chase, which was run at Leopardstown on 12th February.
The former race was won in spectacular style, by Chapotergeon, with Cloudy Lane second and My Flora beaten when falling at the second last….
There are 2 reasons for thinking that My Flora can turn the tables on Chapoturgeon tomorrow. Firstly, there is a weight turnaround of 15lbs – and secondly the race is over an extra 4 furlongs.
My Flora will relish the extra distance – but it could well prove to be a bit too far for Chapoturgeon (whose best form under rules, was around 2m5f).
The Leopardstown race was won by Salsify, with On the Fringe back in third place.
However, that was On the Fringe’s seasonal debut and he was only beaten 4 lengths by Salsify. His 3lb better off tomorrow – and should also be the better suited of the pair to the longer trip and slower ground.
The third horse I want to have on side in this race is Roulez Cool. He didn’t run in either of the above ‘trials’ and in fact hasn’t been seen on a racecourse for almost 2 years.
However, he is still the highest rated runner in the field and went off 9/2 favourite for this race, 2 years ago.
He suffered an interrupted preparation that year and already looked beaten when brought down.
However I have little doubt that he has the ability to win a race of this nature – and he is still only 9 years old. He has won of the back of a long absence in the past, so if connections have managed to get him back to form, I think he could go very well at a decent price.

Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle

This looks a potential minefield – but I’m hoping I might have found one…
Nicky Henderson could hardly be in better form this week and in Oscar Nominee, he has a very interesting contender for this race…
Strictly on form, the horse has a lot to do – and his rating of 135 doesn’t look overly generous. However, he has only run 3 times over hurdles and therefore has endless scope for improvement.
Interestingly, one of those 3 runs, was behind Cinders and Ashes in a grade 2 contest at Haydock. The race was run on bottom-less ground – so the form can’t really be taken at face value – but Oscar Nominee was beaten under 3 lengths that day, by the horse who subsequently won the Supreme novice hurdle…
Next time out, Oscar Nominee lost his maiden tag at Doncaster. He ultimately won quite comfortably that day (as his odds suggested he should) but that didn’t look like being the case for a fair bit of the race and it was his stamina that ultimately won him the day…
Tomorrow, Oscar Nominee gets to tackle a trip in excess of 2 miles of the first time – and I think that will enable him to show his true ability…
If I’ve read Oscar Nominee wrongly, then I’m not sure what will win the race !
I did consider putting up Bourne, as he won very well last time out (beating Smad Place, amongst others). A 10lb rise for that victory doesn’t look overly harsh – but 6/1 in a 24 runner race, isn’t really my style !
If the ground had been quick, then Grandad’s Horse would have been interesting at a price – but if the going is on the soft side, it won’t suit him…
On balance, I’m happy to go with just the one tip in the race – and win only – in the hope that Nicky can pull another one out of the bag !!

Grand Annual Chase

So, here it is, the 27th and final preview of the 2012 festival. If it’s been tiring for you to read them all – just imagine the amount of effort hat has gone into writing them ;)
I figured that as this is the last race of the meeting, it would be right and proper to end with a winner.
I therefore spent a lot of time looking a this race – and having considered quite a few, eventually decided that it will be won by Astracad !
I’ve actually taken a shorter price on this horse than I would have liked – but both in terms of actual form – and reading between the lines, I can’t see how he won’t go very close tomorrow (assuming he gets a bit of luck).
He has clearly been laid out for this race and that was after winning a similar (if slightly less competitive race) over course and distance, in December.
Astracad was backed to win that day – and a 7lb rise in the weights doesn’t look overly punitive for a horse that still has plenty of scope for improvement.
The main danger tomorrow, is likely to come from one of the other novices in the race…
Kid Cassidy, Kumbeshwar, Toubab and Eradicate all look potentially very interesting. However, Astracad has experience of the hurly burly of a big handicap that they don’t have – whilst having similar scope for improvement…
As a saver (even though I sent it out first !), I’ve gone for Tara Royal, who won so well for us at Mussleburgh…
He has been raised 10lb for that win, but did hack up that day and has always looked a horse capable of competing off a mark in the 140s.
His stable form is obviously a big bonus and if his jockey can get him into a rhythm behind the leaders, he may even be able to spoil the party for Astracad.
A 1,2 in the final race of the festival – now that would be some way to bow out !!

Summary of bets

1:30 Triumph Hurdle

Ut De Sivola 0.5pt win 25/1 
Minsk 1pt win 16/1 - (ante-post) NR

2:05 County Hurdle

Magnifique Etoile 0.5pt win 20/1
Ubi Ace 0.5pt win 25/1
Local Hero 0.5pt win 25/1

2:40 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle

Grand Vision 0.5pt EW 33/1

3:20 Gold Cup

Weird Al 1pt EW 25/1 (ante-post)
Synchronised 0.5pt win 14/1 

4:00 Foxhunter Chase

My Flora 1pt win 10/1 
On the Fringe 0.5pt win 10/1
Roulez Cool 0.5pt win 16/1

4:40 Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle

Oscar Nominee 1pt win 16/1

5:15 Grand Annual Chase

Astracad 1pt win 10/1 
Tara Royal 1pt win 20/1 

11.5 points staked in total


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Cheltenham Day 3

Another engrossing day today – with the inevitable ups and downs…

It started really well, as 2 of the 3 tips for the National Hunt chase, fought out the finish from the home turn.
Having looked the most likely to succeed, Four Commanders just couldn’t maintain his effort up the final hill, enabling Teaforthree to battle his way back to the front.
The other selection, Daffern Seal, also ran an honourable race to finish sixth. He travelled particularly well in rear and is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks…
2 of the 3 selections in the second race were non-runners – which was probably a blessing in disguise, considering how comfortably Simonsig won.
The third, Benefficient, ran a fair enough race, briefly looking as if he might play a hand in the finish, but he was ultimately well beaten…
Grands Crus proved a major disappointment in the RSA chase. It is difficult to know whether he didn’t get home – or whether something just wasn’t right with him.
Whatever, he was beaten entering the home straight, leaving our ante-post selection, First Lieutenant, to fight out the finish with Bobs Worth.
There was little early pace in the race (as rather oddly, Mr Moonshine was held up) and as a consequence, First Lieutenant ran a bit too free.
I suspect that was a major factor in him not getting home quite as well as Bobs Worth.
So it was the place money we picked up rather than the win money – a disappointment, but these things happen…
I was thinking exactly the same after just one fence of the Queen Mother Champion chase, when the well supported Kauto Stone managed to take a crashing fall.
Wishfull Thinking departed even more spectacularly at the next, leaving the race as a dual between Sizing Europe and Finians Rianbow.
Ultimately it was the younger horse who proved the stronger – but for a Championship race, the form doesn’t really look that great.
In the Coral Cup, Balgarry was well supported and was given an aggressive ride by Tom Scudamore. Coming down the hill it briefly looked as if it might pay off – but he was a spent force turning for home and could only finish seventh.
Spare a thought for Featherbed Lane, who broke a leg down the back straight. He was a horse who should have had a very bright future, so the incident was particularly sad...
In the Fred Winter hurdle, is was a bit galling to back a horse from the same stable as the winner – and with the stable jockey on board ! Aside from that, there was little to take out of the race, as Soliwery was pulled up around half way and Argocat never featured.
Finally, in the bumper, Horatio Hornblower raced prominently but weakened before the home straight; whereas Jezki made ground on the run to the home straight but never looked likely to reach the leaders…

An afternoon that started so well, ultimately went down hill.
On the plus side however, only a tiny loss was made on the bets placed as part of the ‘Special’ – and this was more than offset by the profit  from the ante-post wager on First Lieutenenant.

So, onto day 3 – and we are still very much in the game…  

Jewson Novice chase

Not surprisingly, the market for the race is headed by Peddlers Cross.
He is undoubtedly the class act – but there has to be some doubt over his fitness for tomorrow’s race. If he was A1, you have to think that he would have taken on Sprinter Sacre in the Arkle – but that didn’t happen.
He might be able to get away with not being 100% in this slightly lesser company and over a slightly further trip - and the form of the McCain yard is a big positive - but non-the-less, he is not an easy horse to back in the circumstances…
Sir Des Champs is a horse I have got a lot of time for. He won at the festival last season (beating Son of Flicka) and looks to have an attitude to die for. If he’s in with a shout jumping the last, I think he will take some beating – even by Peddlers Cross…
Cristal Bonus, Champion Court, Solix and For Non Stop are all very decent animals – so whatever wins this race is clearly going to have to be from the top drawer…
Despite this strength, I’m going to take a chance with a couple of outsiders…
Zaynar would have been a match for almost all of these in his prime, over hurdles. He has also shown in flashes this season, that he could be just as good over fences – however, he has also shown signs of temperament.
Last time out at Kempton, he unseated his rider when refusing to jump the first fence. He was sent off at 3/1 to beat Cristal Bonus that day and was attempting to give him 7lb. Tomorrow they meet at level weights…
Maybe as a result of his performance, Zaynar has been transferred to the stable of David Pipe. He has his first run for the yard tomorrow – and blinkers are applied…
Just 3 runs earlier, Zaynar had jumped for fun at Ascot and taken apart a decent field. If the change of stable can revive that level of form – and he is given a suitably aggressive ride - then I think he can go very well tomorrow…
Michael Flips is a much more reliable horse – though probably a little less talented…
That said, he has been steadily improving this season and has run particularly well in his last 2 races.
Last time out, he finished second to For Non Stop at Newbury. He meets that rival on exactly the same terms tomorrow – but was only beaten 2 lengths and is tomorrow available at 4 times the price.
A feature of both his last 2 races has been his clean fast jumping – and his ability to get into a rhythm.
If he can do the same tomorrow, it will stand him in very good stead – and I can see him outrunning his odds and hopefully claiming a place, at least…

Pertemps Final

It’s difficult not to start with Buena Vista when previewing the Pertemps Final, as the horse has won the last 2 runnings of the race.
What’s more, I think he has a very good chance of making it 3 on the bounce - and I’m not saying that for sentimental reasons…
He will be racing off a mark just 2lb higher than the one he won off last year – and he didn’t just win then, he dotted up. The official margin was 4 lengths – but it was a very comfortable 4 lengths and the rest of the field were strung out behind. If he had carried 2lb more last year, it would not have made a jot of difference to the result.
Of course there is a good reason why he is only running off a mark 2lb higher tomorrow-  and that is because he has run poorly on almost every start since.
I say almost, because last time out at Newbury, there were distinct signs of a retune to form. He was completely unfancied that day but led the field to the fourth last – before running out of gas. He travelled really well that day and it looked to me as if that run would put him spot on for tomorrow (which is the only day of the year that counts for him).
I fully expect him and his new apprentice jockey to run a huge race – and I really won’t be at all surprised if he does make it a hatrick of victories in the race.
If he’s not quite up to the job, then the one I’m hoping will take advantage, is Cape Tribulation.
He was also a big eye catcher last time out at Haydock. He finished fourth to Grand Vision that day, with Alfie Sherrin just behind him.
Coming to the second last, he really looked like he would be involved in the finish.However, he didn’t quite get home and faded to finish fourth. It is the same trip tomorrow - but the heavy Haydock ground will be replaced with quicker Cheltenham turf. In theory, this won’t be ideal for Cape Tribulation, who likes the ground soft – but I’m confident he will get away with it once.
He is very well handicapped on old form and has the big race jockey of the moment, Denis O’Regan, on board.
I can see him running a very big race… 

Ryanair Chase

An absolutely cracking race – and one I’d fancy having a real go at, if we weren’t already sitting pretty with our ante-post bet…
I would be happy taking on quite a few of the field, for one reason or another – which would leave me with a very manageable short-list…
Starting at the top of the market: despite the stable form and suitability of the trip, I wouldn’t want to be with Riverside Theatre…
He was very disappointing the last time he ran at Cheltenham in the 2010 Arkle – and there must also be a chance he will ‘bounce’ following his comeback victory at Ascot…
The ground is likely to be just too quick for both Rubi Light and Blazing Tempo – whilst you must have some serious concerns about Albertas Run and Kalahari King – both 11 year olds and both returning from significant absences…
Forpadytheplasterer and Little Josh are honest sorts – but they don’t look good enough and at 10 years old, are unlikely to be progressing. Which leaves just 6…
Poquelin hasn’t proved up to the task the last 2 seasons – and with Ruby deserting him this year, his case has hardly been enhanced.
Whilst Medermit appears comfortably held by Captain Chris on a couple of pieces of form – and doesn’t really look quite good enough any way…
I think the remaining 4 – Noble Prince, Somersby, Great Endeavor and Captain Chris - have all got a shout…
Captain Chris is the riskiest of the 4. His jumping last time out was positively alarming. However, if he can recapture his form of last season – or indeed first time out this season, he would take all the beating. At 16/1 he is worth a saver…
I can see no reason why Noble Prince won’t run a really big race – but equally it wouldn’t surprise me if the string of ‘2’s against his name got one longer after tomorrow…
I could give Great Endeavour a big shout - and he looks a fair bet at 11/1,
However, the horse I would be tipping – if we hadn’t already backed him, would be Somersby…
However you look at it, his form is absolutely rock solid - even his last time out defeat of Finians Rainbow was made to look positively guilt edged today.
Furthermore, his form is consistently from the top drawer. Barring accidents., he looks almost certain to run a huge race tomorrow and with a bit of luck I think he can provide us with some compensation for First Lieutenants defeat….

World Hurdle

Great horse that he is, Big Bucks is going to get beaten one day – and I have a sneaking suspicion that day might be tomorrow…
The reason I think this, is because tomorrow, Big Bucks takes on a higher calibre of opponent that he has for some significant time – possibly ever…
Specifically, I am referring to Oscar Whiskey and Thousand Stars, horses who were good enough to be placed in last seasons Champion hurdle.
If there is no pace in tomorrow’s race, I think that one – or possible both of them – will have too much speed for Big Bucks.
Consequently, how the race will be run, becomes very important. I doubt it will be run at a crawl – but the only horse I can see who will want to make the running is Dynaste.
Dynaste has faced Big Bucks on his last 2 outings and Tom Scudamore made the mistake of going far too fast on the first of those and played right into Big Bucks hands.
Therefore, I think he will make a much slower pace tomorrow – and hope to kick going down the hill.
In that scenario, it is the speed horses that will be best suited – most specifically, Oscar Whiskey and Thousand Stars – but also possibly Voler la Vadette.
I really don’t see very much between the first 2 named: they finished close together in last seasons Champion – and have consistently run to a similar level of form.
However, Thousand Stars is available at around twice the price of Oscar Whiskey – and that is despite the fact he is proven over 3 miles and the highest level and Oscar Whiskey isn’t…
I think Voler La Vadette is also worth a small play. She is a really classy mare – with plenty of pace and she too will be well suited if the race develops into a sprint.
I was happy enough with the 14/1 on offer about her over the weekend – 25/1 tonight just looks insulting !
However, despite this, Thousand Stars is the solid play. I think he has the class to beat Big Bucks – but if the race does become a stamina test, then I think he is stronger on that front than Oscar Whiskey.
The other runners set are all of a decent standard – but they are the kind of horses that Big Bucks has been toying with for the past 3 seasons. Tomorrow he will have a different kind of battle on his hands and if comes through this one unscathed, he will deserve all the accolades that will doubtless flow his way…

Byrne Group Plate

There are a number of potentially well handicapped horses in this race…
Salut Flo, Crack Away Jack and Divers, are the 3 most obvious and there has to be a chance that one of the 3 will just waltz away with the race.
However, all 3 have significant jumping frailties and I therefore couldn’t entertain tipping any of them.
I think Salut Flo is potentially the best handicapped of the 3 – but he showed the Cheltenham fences no respect when he ran here in December and subsequently paid the price. Unless he has been taught to jump differently in the meantime I struggle to see how the outcome won’t be the same tomorrow…
A far more solid option than any of the 3, is Hectors Choice.
He has been a revelation this season, running good race after good race – yet despite this, he has only risen just over a stone in the handicap. He probably ran his best race of all last time out, when he looked likely to collect the Racing Plus chase until lack of stamina caught him out over that 3 mile trip.
There is no shame in losing to Nacarat at Kempton – yet bizarrely he has been dropped a pound for that run. More importantly however, he is cut back 3 furlongs in distance tomorrow and he looks sure to run a really big race.
I acknowledge that even if he runs to his best, he might find a better handicap rival on the day – but at 4/1 for him to be in the first 4, I think he represent a really solid each way bet.
One of his rivals who could prove to be very well handicapped, is Gilbarry. He has shown very little this season – but at the end of last season, looked to be a horse going places…
It is a bit of an act of faith, but the warmer weather and quicker ground – plus a handicap mark that has dropped 11lb since the start of the season, could see him spring back to form. At 50/1, I think he is worth a tiny play just in case…
Similarly, the case for Radetsky March is not that obvious. True he did win a handicap hurdle off a mark just 2lb lower than he races off tomorrow, on his penultimate outing, but  he has subsequently disappointed and it is a long time since he showed any worthwhile form over fences.
However, I do think he remains well weighted in that discipline and the fact he likes to race prominently should see him avoiding trouble. When he gets unto a rhythm up front, he can prove difficult to pass – and hopefully that is exactly what will happen tomorrow.

Kim Muir Chase

I was quite keen on the chances of Benbane Head in today’s National Hunt chase, but connections decided to side step that event for a shot at the Kim Muir.
Banbane Head is only a novice and has in fact only won one chase in his life – but he has already shown a reasonable level of form and there is every reason for believing he can build on that tomorrow.
Back in November, he ran third in the Badger Ales trophy at Wincanton, behind The Minack. The Minack was running off a mark of 141 that day – but is now rated 159, which shows the size of the task for Benbane Head that day. The fact he was only beaten 9 lengths, is to his credit.
Some fair horses finished well behind that day, including Richards Sundance, Aldertune and – Dovers Hill. Despite that, Benbane Head gets to run off a mark 1lb lower tomorrow…
Benbane Head has only run 3 times since then and has been well beaten on each occasion. However, the first of those runs was a 5 runner affair, where the form is probably not that reliable and in the second of them the ground had turned soft, which does not suit Benbane Head at all…
He was put away after that run and only reappeared in the middle of February, when he ran over hurdles at Wincanton. I think it is safe to assume that race was simply a prep for tomorrow…
In summary, I think Benbane Head has a lot going for him. He should be well suited by the trip and the ground and appears to have been prepared specifically for the festival. He has scope for improvement but has also demonstrated himself capable of running well in a similar contest.
The icing on the cake is the booking of Matt O’Connor for the ride. He was a crack apprentice with Colm Murphy in Ireland until he had a near life ending fall a couple of seasons back. He has clearly found it difficult since that day and has switched status to become an amateur. He will be far more competent than the majority of the jockeys riding in tomorrow s race.
I was a big fan of his when he was riding for Murphy – and it would give me enormous pleasure to see him ride a winner at the festival. After everything he has been through over the past few years, I don’t think any one would begrudge him a day in the limelight…

Summary of bets

1:30 Jewson Novice Chase

Michael Flips 0.5pt EW 25/1
Zaynar 0.5pt win 25/1

2:05 Pertemps Final

Buena Vista 1pt win 11/1
Cape Tribulation 0.5pt EW 20/1 

2:40 Ryanair Chase

Somersby 1pt EW 20/1 (ante-post)
Captain Chris 0.5pt win 16/1

3:20 World Hurdle

Thousand Stars 1pt win 9/1 
Voler La Vedette 0.5pt EW 14/1

without Big Bucks

Thousand Stars 1pt win 9/2 

4:00 Byrne Group Plate

Hectors Choice 0.5pt EW 16/1
Vino Griego 0.5pt EW 33/1 (NR - stake refunded)
Gilbarry 0.25pt win 50/1
Radetsky March 0.25pt win 40/1

4:40 Kim Muir Chase

Baile Anrai 1pt win 12/1 (NR - stake refunded)
Benbane Head 0.75pt EW 33/1

12 points staked in total

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Cheltenham Day 2

I did say that I wouldn’t do my normal ‘race reviews’ for the Cheltenham festival – after all, there are only so many hours in the day ! But I simply can’t let Day 1 pass without making a few comments…

What a tremendous days racing it was - it really doesn’t take very long for me to remember why the Cheltenham festival is the centre of my entire year !

From a financial perspective, I feared that it might all go a bit pear-shaped, after Cinder and Ashes won the opener…
He was the first horse I found – but I dismissed him, due in part to the ‘incident’ with Peddlers Cross. A costly lesson…
Trifoloium ran an honourable race – and may well have prevailed on softer ground. Though that said, the winner won well – despite ploughing through the last.
In the Arkle, Sprinter Sacre lived up to all the hype. The race didn’t pan out exactly as I expected, because Ruby chose to ride Al Ferof more aggressively (an understandable move, if he wanted to beat Sprinter Sacre) - but it was all to no avail. Al Ferof made a costly mistake at the top of the hill and Sprinter Sacre cantered into the lead. Despite the best efforts of both Cue Card and Menorah, the winner was simply different class and the post race quote of 2/1 about him winning next season’s Queen Mother Champion chase, almost looks generous.
There was little to cheer in the Festival handicap chase, as neither Zarrafakt nor Baile Anrai ever figured. Instead it was left to the peerless Tom Segal (Pricewise) to find another big priced winner.
Then came the Champion hurdle – and my fears concerning the day looked to have been confirmed.
I intended to have 0.5pt on Rock on Ruby last night at the 12/1 with Ladbrokes but they shortened the price just as I was about to issue – so I decided not to bother. Needless to say, Rock on Ruby powered up the hill to record a famous victory...
However, once again, the Philip Hobbs/Richard Johnson combination saved the day for me. They did it a few times during my 4 months tipping – and they worked the oracle again today in the cross country chase.
It struck me from the start of the race, that Johnson looked determined to avenge Decembers defeat over the same course – and Balthazar King was clearly full of himself, jumping from fence to fence.
Approaching the second last, it did look like A New Story was going to over-haul him – but as I said on the blog a few times, whilst he may not be the most technically gifted jockey, I would not swap Richard Johnson for anyone, if it comes down to a battle from the last fence to the line. Once again, he didn’t let me down, forcing Balthazar King’s head back up in the shadows of the post.
At that point, the day seemed to turn and I had great hopes for both Terre Du Vent and Vino Griego.
However, Terre Du Vent made a costly error 5 hurdles form home and couldn’t recover her position. I doubt she would have troubled Quevega regardless as she looked truly imperious, taking her fourth mares title.
In the finale, Vino Griego ran well – as I expected him to. However, he was just too free and despite leading over the second last, he had nothing to offer from that point. He needs to be ridden with more restraint – but I’m not sure that Jamie Moore is the man to do that and I doubt the ride will go to anyone else…
Again, it is highly unlikely that he would have beaten the winner whatever, as Hunt Ball was again hugely impressive in victory. He really could make up into a Gold Cup contender next season. Not bad for a horse that started this season rate 69 !!

Anyway, after that ‘brief’ recap of today, on to tomorrow…!

National Hunt Chase 

Day 2 of the Festival kicks off with the National Hunt 4 mile chase…
In days gone by, this was the most important race at the meeting – but now it is seen more as a curiosity, sending amateur riders over the furthest distance of any festival race.
My main fancy for the race, is Teaforthree.
He is the highest rated horse in the race and can boast some pretty decent form this season. The trip should hold no fears for him and he should be well suited by the prevailing ground conditions. The booking of J T McNamara is also seen as a positive, as he is a previous winner of the race (he gave Rith Dubh a brilliant ride to get up close home in 2002).
Treaforthree likes to race prominently - but that tends to be an advantage in races such as this, as it means you steer clear of any trouble.
There are 2 other in the race, that catch my eye at longer odds…
The first is Four Commanders, who is a full brother to former Gold Cup winner, Kicking King.
He is unlikely to ever reach the lofty heights his sibling managed, but he has already shown himself to be a fair performer. There is a slight question mark about him getting the trip – but I would expect him to benefit greatly from running on the quicker spring ground (Kicking King has a preference for good ground).
Again ,the jockey booking (which is important in amateur races) can be seen as a positive, with Nina Carberry taking the ride.
Finally, I feel obliged to have a small play on the Dermot Weld trained Daffern Seal.
There is quite a bit of guess work involved with his one, as he has only run 4 times in his life (only twice over fences); has never run further than 2m6f – and hasn’t run for 6 months !
However, he was very impressive on his chasing debut – and represents top class connections who simply wouldn’t be coming over for just a day out.
Robbie McNamara (cousin of JT – and brother of Andrew) is just about the best amateur around in my opinion – and if anyone can get a tune out of Daffern Seal, he will.
In a very trappy race, fingers crossed one of the 3 manages to come good.  

Neptune Novice Hurdle

This looks even stronger than today’s Supreme novice hurdle !
Simonsig, Monksland and Sous Les Cieux could all be seriously smart animals – but equally, they have all been priced up short enough, considering the strength of the race.
Batonnier was very impressive in taking the trial for this race, held at the January Cheltenham meeting. He cruised through that race and could be called the winner some way from home.
He is clearly progressing quickly and the fact he has good course and distance form to his name, is a further positive. His credentials look rock solid and I will be surprised if he does not go close.
Benefficient actually beat Sous Le Cieux last time out. His odds of 50/1 that day, suggest the win was something of a fluke – and it is true that he had the run of the race. However, Sous Le Cieux had time to get to him that day, if he had been good enough – and Benefficient appeared to improve for racing on quicker ground.
The ground will be on the quick side again tomorrow, so it is difficult to justify the huge disparity in odds.
Benefficient isn’t anywhere near as solid as Batonnier – he is likely to either win or finish nowhere. However at the odds on offer, I think he is worth a small play to demonstrate that his last time out victory wasn’t a fluke.
Finally, I want to have a tiny play on The Tracey Shuffle...
He finished mid-field in last seasons Champion bumper and has only run twice over hurdles this season, finishing second at Lingfield before hacking up at Ayr.
I suspect he will go from the front and might be able to get a few of the other runners at it.
I would have preferred Tom Scudamore to be on board (the jockeys hadn’t been declared when I issued the tip) – as the jockey booking suggests he is not the stable first string.
Still, the horse doesn’t know that – and hopefully he will run a fair race regardless… 

RSA Chase

My two longest standing ante-post bets for the festival, were Grands Crus in the Gold Cup (at 33/1, backed in November) and Peddlers Cross for the Arkle…
As it turns out, neither animal will run in the race for which I backed it – yet despite potentially losing much more by Grands Curs taking up the RSA option, I don’t feel nearly as bad about it, as I did about Peddlers not running in the Arkle !

I’ll be surprised if Grands Crus doesn’t win the RSA chase tomorrow. Being in mind our ante-post position on First Lieutenant, I did actually toy with putting him up as a saver, as the generally available 6/4.
On quick ground, over the 3 mile trip, I think he will take some beating…
That said, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near as confident about his chances, if Mr Moonshine were not running in the race. He is the only pace angle I can see – and Grands Crus will definitely need a strong gallop if he is to win.
A lack of pace is always a potential issue with a small field – and tomorrows field is much smaller than expected.
Of course, that is good news for our ante post bet, First Lieutenant, who looks sure to run a big race on his favoured quick ground.
In fact, if Grands Crus is beaten, I think First Lieutenant is the horse most likely to hand out the defeat, so I am very comfortable with our position on the race.
Of the others, I’m not a big fan of Bobs Worth (over fences) or Join Together, whilst I’ll be surprised if the Irish horses prove good enough.
In fact the other horse I can see outrunning his odds, is the aforementioned Mr Moonshine.
As I said, he is likely to get an uncontested lead – and the conditions of the race should suit him fine. On official ratings, he has not got much to find with most of the field and I can certainly see him outrunning his current odds of 80/1.
There will be worse each-way shouts, that's for sure…

Queen Mother Champion Chase

I’m a big fan of Sizing Europe, but seeing him priced up as an odds on shot for the Queen Mother Champion chase, just seems wrong.
He’s a really good horse – but lets be honest, he’s no Master Minded, or Moscow Flyer or Viking Flagship – and certainly no Pearlyman ! (my favourite racehorse of all time :D ).
That said, when I look at the opposition, I can understand why he is that price – I don’t think he’s frightened them away, it is just that there is just a dearth of top class 2 miles chasers at the moment.
Of course, that is not Sizing Europe’s fault – and the situation will doubtless change next season, when Sprinter Sacre has graduated form the novice ranks.
For tomorrow though, I can’t help but feel that whilst Sizing Europe looks the best horse in the field, in absolute terms, he doesn’t set an impossibly high standard…
That said, looking through the field, I can only see 2 horses who have the potential to beat him: Finians Rainbow and Kauto Stone.
The chances of Finians Rainbow are the more obvious. He was a decent novice last season, finishing second in the Arkle before winning well at Aintree.
He has continued his progression this season, wining at Kempton after making a shocking mistake 4 out – and then finishing runner up to Somersby in the Victor Chandler chase at Ascot.
However, it is that second run which I feel demonstrates his limitations. He was beaten by Somersby that day and whilst he is a good horse – he is no crack 2 miler.
If he is to win tomorrow, Finians Rainbow will need to have improved a good deal from the Ascot run.
Kauto Stone is a half brother to Kauto Star and was a grade 1 winner in his native France as a 4 year old.
He made his debut for Paul Nicholls at Down Royal last November and was mightily impressive in victory.
Next time out, he tackled Sizing Europe at Sandown in the Tingle Creek chase. That was a heck of an ask for a relative novice and he ran really well, keeping tabs on the reigning champion until his jumping started to let him down over the final few obstacles.
Despite this, he was only beaten 8 lengths on the day – a gap which I can see being closed tomorrow…
I was actually tempted to tip Kauto Stone ante-post for this race based on that performance but it looked likely that connections would opt for the Ryanair chase over an extra half mile. However Kauto Stone disappointed in his prep race for that target and instead finds himself back in the Queen Mother field…
Hopefully, that will turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Despite running poorly at Ascot, Kauto Stone showed real pace and I don’t see the drop back in trip as an issue.
He does have 8 lengths to make up on Sizing Europe but he is only 6 years old and so there is still likely to be improvement in him.
If anyone can eak that improvement out, it is Paul Nicholls – and with the rest of the opposition looking limited, I am really optimistic that Kauto Stone will be able to run in to a place tomorrow – and who knows, with a bit of luck, he might even be able to get the better of the current champion.

Coral Cup

When the overnight declarations for the Coral cup were released this morning, I was really surprised to see that Balgarry had made it into the field.
He was way down the list when I looked over the weekend and expected him to be running in the Martin Pipe conditionals race on Friday instead.
However this is the more valuable race – and I, like connections, feel he has an excellent chance of success in this race.
In truth, his chances aren’t that easy to assess, as he has only run once in this country.
That run came at Newbury at the beginning of this month, when he took apart a competitive field, recording an easy victory over Nampour. The merit of that performance was highlighted on Saturday, when Nampour himself ran an excellent race to finished runner up in the Imperial Cup.
Balgarry gets into tomorrows race off his old mark of 129 – plus a 5lb penalty. Following the Newbury victory, the official handicapper raised him to a mark of 140 – so he is officially 6lb well in tomorrow.
However, the real thing about Balgarry, is his potential. He won by 3 and a half lengths at Newbury – but at one point it looked as if it might be double that margin. A rating of 140 might significantly under-estimate his ability.
The big concern with him however, is whether he will ‘bounce’ following his Newbury effort. That was his first run for 18 months, so there is a possibility that he will need longer than the 2 weeks he has had, to get over it.
However, if that isn’t the case, then I can see him going very close tomorrow…
The other one I want on side for tomorrow’s race, is Featherbed Lane.
He is a much more exposed horse - but has been improving throughout the season.
He transferred into the care of Philip Hobbs at the start of this season and on his first outing for his new trainer, won well at Ascot, off a mark of 120. He then defeated Reindeer Dippin in the mud at Aintree, before running Swincombe Flame very close at Kempton.
His final outing was in a conditions race at Haydock and although he was ultimately well beaten behind Restless Harry, it looked to me as if it was the 3 mile trip that was his undoing that day.
He is dropped back to 2m5f tomorrow which should suit him better and although he has a mark of 150 to defy, Philip Hobbs has wisely enlisted the services of 7lb claimer James Best, to reduce his burden.
It will be a tough ask – but I think the horse is still progressing and I expect him to run very well.

Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle

Of all the races run during the 4 days of the Cheltenham festival, this is the one that appeals least to me…
I’m not a big fan of juvenile hurdles – especially handicap hurdles – but the winner will be payed out in the same way as all the other races, so I have diligently gone through the runners.
Initially I was looking for horses who were relatively unexposed. The theory being that you would ideally want to find a horse that hadn’t fully shown it’s hand to the handicapper (and therefore had scope for improvement).
I think Argocat is such a horse. He was a fair performer on the flat and has only run 3 times over hurdles, On the second of those runs, he finished behind Darroun and Shadow Catcher - both of whom are prominent in the betting for Fridays Triumph Hurdle.
On his final outing, he was a comfortable winner of a Thurles maiden hurdle. The suggestion is that he is improving – whilst still being unexposed.
I am happy to keep him onside, however, whilst I was looking though the field it struck me that there were a number of runners who had acquired their ratings whilst running in France for other stables.
There is a distinct possibility that these animals will improve for the switch to UK stables and therefore show themselves to be well handicapped.
The favourite, Vendor, is an example of such an animal – but so too is Soliwery.
He has also only run 3 times in his life: twice in his native France and once in the UK.
He showed distinct promise on that UK debut at Sandown and if he can build on that, I think he should run well tomorrow.
All this said, the race remains one to be cautious about and therefore stakes have been kept to a minimum…

Champion Bumper

Another race where it is very difficult to get a handle on things – and one where again, stakes should be kept low…
That said, I was really taken by the performance of Horatio Hornblower when he made he debut at Newbury in the middle of February.
Historically, that race has always been a hot contest (I remember watching Mosigneur run in it before wining the Cheltenham Bumper) and Horatio Hornblower was a relatively unconsidered 25/1 shot.
However, he ran a race full of promise – and would probably have won, if he had not shown inexperience in the final few furlongs.

With that run under his belt – and receiving the valuable 4 year old allowance – I think he can go very well tomorrow.
I am taking another 4 year old as a saver.
He is the Jessica Harrington trained Jezki. He has run a couple of times in Ireland and won on both occasions, showing a good attitude and significant ability.
There is a fair bit of guess work involved, trying to figure out which form lines are the strongest, but in a race where there are no obvious standouts, he looks decent value at 14/1.

Summary of Bets

1:30 National Hunt Chase

Teaforthree 1pt win 8/1 
Benbane Head 0.5pt win 25/1 (NR - stake refunded)
Daffern Seal 0.5pt win 25/1
Four Commanders 0.5pt win 14/1

2:05 Neptune Novice Hurdle

Benefficient 0.5pt win 20/1 Generally
The Tracey Shuffle 0.25pt EW 66/1 L,C (50/1 Generally)
Batonnier 0.5pt win 9/1 BS,PP
Mount Benbulben 0.5pt EW 25/1 T,BS,BF,SJ (NR - stake refunded)

2:40 RSA Chase

First Lieutenant 1pt EW 20/1 (ante-post)

3:20 Queen Mother Champion Chase

Kauto Stone 0.75pt EW 18/1 SJ (16/1 Generally)

4:00 Coral Cup

Balgarry 1pt win 12/1
Featherbed Lane 0.75pt win 16/1
Batonnier 0.75pt win 14/1 (NR - stake refunded)

4:40 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle

Argocat 0.5pt win 20/1
Soliwery 0.5pt win 25/1

5:15 Champion Bumper

Horatio Hornblower 1pt win 16/1
Jezki 0.5pt win 14/1

11.75 points staked in total