23 June 2017
Shock - Day Three!
Every day of Royal Ascot so far has brought a surprise or shock result. On Tuesday, against all odds, Churchill failed to win the St James's Palace Stakes. On Wednesday French raider, Le Brevido, claimed the Jersey Stakes and yesterday the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange (in the favourite pun of the day!) 'pipped' last year's winner, Order Of St George, at the post by a short head to carry off the Gold Cup. What is also impressive is that this son of Duke of Marmalade was attempting the two-and-a- half-mile trip for the first time after winning back-to-back doubles in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes and the Goodwood Cup. There were a few moments when it looked as though the odds-on Aidan O'Brien-trained favourite was going to make it when Ryan Moore brought his mount on with a long powerful run on the outside but the eventual winner bravely held off the challenge for his well-earned shock victory.
An Artist at Work
It's only the third renewal of The Commonwealth Cup today but already the six-furlong Group 1 contest has established itself as a firm favourite among racegoers. Today's race is set to maintain this popularity. As expected, the focus of attention falls naturally on the Aidan O'Brien-trained Caravaggio. As his juvenile performance at Dundalk in April last year revealed, this son of Scat Daddy seems to be able to do no wrong. He was an impressive winner of the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year, following that up with a cracking four-length victory in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August. Connections have obviously taken the wise decision to send their protégé down the sprinting route rather than stepping him up to a mile. Caravaggio's only outing this season was at Naas where he notched up another four-length-plus win. As the latter success was on soft ground, it is anticipated that he should run even better on the quick surface he'll be on at the Berkshire track today.
Today's King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot was lined up for the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Crystal Ocean as a result of his coming an impressive third in last month's Dante Stakes at York. Well fancied before that race, following a maiden victory at Nottingham, this son of Sea The Stars seemed destined to step up to a mile-and-a-half trip. Also of advantage is the fact that the Sir Evelyn De Rothschild-owned colt gave the Derby a miss so it will be up to those runners today who did compete unsuccessfully in the 'Greatest Flat Race in the World' to prove that they have fully recovered from their exertions.
22 June 2017
A tall Order?
There are four other racing fixtures in the UK today but you'd never know it! All the racing news is about one event – the Berkshire Bonanza. Today is the third day of Royal Ascot and it's Gold Cup afternoon. After Churchill's disappointing performance in the James's Palace Stakes on Tuesday, short-odds punters can't be blamed for having second thoughts about another Aidan O’Brien-trained star. Last season the 1/7 odds-on favourite, Order of St George was denied victory in the Irish Leger by the 11/1 Willie Mullins-trained Wicklow Brave. A few reasons could be raised why this Galileo son won't successfully defend his crown in this prestigious event today. One, in particular, is the fact that the going was much softer this time last year. Apart from that, however, it's difficult to see, comparing the competition, why a back-to-back triumph will not be forthcoming at around four-thirty this afternoon.
Well. Blow me down!
This two-year-old filly safely made the the long trip all the way from the States to race at Ascot, only to be knocked over by a two-wheeled vehicle! The Wesley Ward-trained Princess Peggy, due to line up in the Albany Stakes tomorrow, was returning from a morning work-out yesterday when she was hit by a cyclist on her way back to the stable yard, lost her footing and fell to the ground. This daughter of Scat Daddy was immediately checked out by a vet. It was discovered that she had suffered superficial scratches and will need to re-examined by the vet on Friday morning before she can take part in the opening fixture of the day.
The French have a word for it – gagner!
The Andre Fabre-trained Le Brivido, partnered by Pierre-Charles Boudot, claimed the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot yesterday, denying Aidan O'Brien's Spirit of Valor (American spelling!) victory by a neck. The well-backed French raider was heavily supported by many local racegoers who were treated to a stirring last-minute battle before going off to collect their winnings.
21 June 2017
The British and Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, Churchill, bidding for his eighth straight victory, was forced to taste the bitterness of defeat yesterday, only managing to come fourth in the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes and the reason was not immediately obvious. It's on recruns and not spectacular performances, always doing just enough to get home in triumph. Yesterday, however, he seemed unable to apply his usual tactics with rivals such as Barney Roy and Thunder Snow, both of whom had never got the better of him before. Even his stable companion, Lancaster Bomber, rubbed it in by claiming second spot. One of the first reasons for the poor performance put forward was the quick ground but his trainer, Aidan O'Brien, didn't think that was the problem, suggesting that the big occasion and even the heat had just been too much for the young colt.
The John Gosden-trained Daban drops back in trip to seven furlongs in today's Jersey Stakes after last month's battle in the 1000 Guineas when she could only make third, beaten inside the final furlong by two classy Aidan O'Brien-trained fillies, Winter and Rhododendron. Before that defeat, however, the three-year-old daughter of Acclamation won the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket's Craven meeting, displaying an excellent turn of foot to win by seven furlongs. Given that the John Gosden team is in top form with a 54% better-than-expected win rate in the past fortnight, then Daban could be the one to go for.
One for the Record
The Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester, with William Buick aboard, produced a record-breaking run in the Queen Anne Stakes yesterday, confirming his status as the No 1 miler in the country. Not only was it a great day for Ascot, Berkshire but also for Malton, Yorkshire where the son of Iffraaj's handler is based. It was obviously a much appreciated win for owner, Sheikh Mohammed, exactly forty years after his first race in Britain. This victory also took Ribchester's career earnings to just under £2 million and will certainly enhance his value for the day when he’s retired to stud to begin a second career as a top-class stallion.
20 June 2017
A Right Royal Occasion
Today until Saturday we shall have the pleasure of enjoying this country's most valuable race meeting. Royal Ascot will feature a host of world top-class horses competing for around £6,665,000 in prize money, in the presence of the Queen and other members of the Royal Family. Each day presents six races, comprising a total of eight Group Ones. One highlight takes place on Thursday when the Aidan O'Brien- trained Order of St George will bid to claim the Gold Cup for a second successive year. Other famous equestrian names will dominate the five-day extravaganza, including Ribchester, Lady Aurelia, Churchill, Jack Hobbs, Caravaggio, Highland Reel and, of course, the Queen's Dartmouth.
Mum's the Word!
A dozen or so horses changed hands at the Goffs London Sale in Kensington last night which has become the unofficial curtain-raiser for the five-day Ascot fiesta to follow. One of the acquisitions is the half-sister to last year's Windsor Castle Stakes winner, Ardad, amusingly named Armum. Originally owned and trained by Jamie Osborne, the Society Rock filly is now handled by Ed Dunlop who says that the aim is still for this Chester maiden winner to run in the Albany Stakes on Friday, having recently signed the ticket on behalf of an unnamed owner in his yard.
Where there's Hope ...
The David O'Meara-trained Consequences is scheduled to line up in the Norfolk Stakes on Thursday. This son of Dandy Man produced a pleasing second on in his debut in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes at York in the middle of last month and went on to victory at Catterick two weeks later in the EBF Novice Stakes. The jockey booked for the ride is Danny Tudhope, who is riding high this season and is clearly hoping that the consequences will be his first Royal Ascot triumph.
19 June 2017
The Price of Defeat
Yesterday's French equivalent of the Oaks, the Prix De Diane Group 1, turned out to be a local affair with the first three home trained and ridden by French Nationals. The result proved to be a disappointment for both the John Gosden-trained Shutter Speed who lost her unbeaten record, coming fourth to the winner, the Pascal Bary-handled Senga and Aidan O'Brien's 1,000 Guineas heroine, Rhododendron, who was pulled up halfway through the race with a reportedly broken blood vessel.
Hugo Palmer and James Doyle had better luck on the Düsseldorf track yesterday when Unforgetable Filly (registered with one t!) provided this trainer/jockey partnership with back-to-back renewals of the German 1000 Guineas. The Newmarket handler, who triumphed in the race last year when James Doyle rode Hawksmoor to a half-length victory in this one-mile Group Two event.
Six out of Ten!
Meanwhile back on home soil, Richard Hannon and Jim Crowley did the business at Salisbury yesterday when Eqtiraan claimed the narrowest of victories in the British Stallion Studs EBF Cathedral Stakes. This son of Helmet went all out to reel in the leader, Mythmaker, in the final furlong and ended up a triumphant nose ahead. This is the sixth time in the last ten years that the Herridge Racing Stables' team have won this six-furlong Class 1 contest.
18 June 2017
Where there's Hope there's Jo!
It's all happening for last year's champion apprentice. Ahead of a big week at Royal Ascot Josephine Gordon landed the Listed Best Western Hotels Ganton Stakes at York yesterday. The lightly-raced Saaed bin Suroor-trained Arabian Hope handled the step up in grade well and notched up a hat-trick after winning at Kempton and Chelmsford in April, both times partnered by Josephine Gordon. The Godolphin-owned daughter of Distorted Humor wasn't joking when she challenged the long-time leader, Golden Stunner, inside the final furlong and claimed the prize by a head.
A Family Affair
The prize for lady amateur riders in the Queen Mother's Cup Handicap at York yesterday was won by two granddaughters of veteran Yorkshire, trainer Mick Easterby – trainer, Jacqueline Coward and jockey Joanna Mason. The latter was continuing her impressive partnership with Tapis Libre whom she steered to a seventh victory. Joanna Mason kept the nine-year-old son of Librettist in a handy position, allowing the Richard Fahey-trained Imshivalla to lead the field as far as the long straight before going for home and winning by a length-and-a-quarter. Mukhayyam came from a long way back to claim second place thus keeping it in the family as he is handled by Tim Easterby, nephew of the training legend, and ridden by his daughter, Emily.
B an Angel!
The Charlie Hills-trained Battaash took no prisoners as he came fast and late to claim the Randox Health Scurry Stakes at Sandown yesterday. Ridden by Dane O'Neill, the son of Dark Angel hdn't been seen since last October when he came third in the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes and ran, it seemed, a little disconcerted on the outside of the pack in the early stages. By the halfway mark, however, he was making eye-catching progress and went on to pull a length-and-a-quarter clear at the line.
17 June 2017
She aint heavy!
At Royal Ascot next Wednesday the 2016 British flat racing Champion Apprentice will be aboard the John Gosden-trained Gymnaste competing in the Listed Sandringham Stakes Handicap at Royal Ascot. Josephine Gordon has landed this enviable ride on the TMT Group Maiden Fillies' Stakes winner because the filly is set to carry 8st 6lb, which is too light for stable jockey, Frankie Dettori. Gay Kelleway, now a successful trainer, is the only female rider to have ever ridden a winner at the Royal meeting, achieving this honour on Sprowston Boy in the 1987 Queen Alexandra Stakes.
All you need is Love …
Richard Fahey has had considerable success with his two-year-olds just lately and tomorrow could see one more victory added to his credit. Paramount Love returns to Doncaster to line up in the Project Polar EBF Fillies' Novice Stakes, after an impressive debut at this South Yorkshire track at the beginning of the month when she lined up in the Betfred TV EBF Fillies' Novice Stakes which she was seriously expected to win but ended up in third place.
Silvestre de Sousa notched up a remarkable five-timer at Sandown yesterday, further establishing his challenge for this year's Stobart jockeys' title. The Brazilian-born rider won his first British jockeys' crown in 2015 and is in top form to claim the prestigious prize again. He almost made it six triumphs but was deprived of victory when his mount, Tirania, was beaten by a neck by Time Chaser in the Supporting British Stallions EBF Fillies' Handicap. Silvestre de Sousa was not to be denied his six wins in a day, however, as later on in the evening at Goodwood, he partnered the Brian Meehan-trained I'Vegotthepower to a narrow victory in the one-mile Lady's Newspaper Handicap.
16 June 2017
No Payne, no Gain!
Tuesday's Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot will include the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015. Michelle Payne has come over to ride for fellow Australian, trainer, Jane Chapple-Hyam. The mount chosen for the occasion is Kaspersky, already a Group Two winner in Germany and runner-up in the totepool Racecourse Debit Card Betting Available Handicap at Nottingham at the end of last month.
Leopardstown, it has just been announced, is to stage a new two-day festival which will feature, among other events, the Irish Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup. The first day's major event will be the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle and the Stan James Irish Gold Cup will be the highlight of the Sunday fixture. The total prize-money on offer for the weekend will be in excess of £1.3 million. The new Festival will incorporate the feature races from the Dublin racetrack's current three separate meetings at the end of January and in the middle of February, conveniently mid-positioned between Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival and the Cheltenham Festival in the middle of March.
Level Playing Field?
Trainers and owners, including Sheikh Fahad al Thani and Newmarket trainer Michael Bell, have voiced their opinion that, allowing a US trainer to gallop his Royal Ascot team at the racecourse in preparation for next week's bonanza, disadvantages domestic trainers who do not enjoy the same privilege. Wesley Ward was allowed to work out Lady Aurelia, favourite for the King's Stand Stakes, on the straight at the Berkshire track on Wednesday together with six other of his two-year-olds.
15 June 2017
Getting it Across
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained son of Sea The Stars has been given the all-clear to line up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot a week on Saturday. Across The Stars won the King Edward VII Stakes last year and connections are hoping that he can provide them with another visit to the winner's enclosure this time. The four-year-old colt has only had two runs since that last victory, coming third in the Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August and a disappointing fifth on his return to action in the Al Rayyan Stakes last month. So today connections are shooting for the Stars!
Suits her to a T!
In today's Lord Weinstock Memorial EBF Stallions Stakes at Newbury trainer Owen Burrows is hoping that a step-up in trip will be what the doctor ordered for Talaayeb. This Dansili daughter couldn't wait to get the show on the road when she scored on her debut at Newmarket in September, following that up with an impressive run in the on the Rowley Mile when she finished fourth in the 1000 Guineas on just her second career outing. Connections decided not to enter their three-year-old filly in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot but go for this ten-furlong Listed event instead. Fingers crossed for this decision!
September 13 2015 was the last time the Richard Fahey-trained George Bowen notched up a winner so he owes his connections one. Not that the son of Dark Angel has run badly in all that time it's just that he hasn't won. More tribute, then, to the Mews House yard, for persevering with the five-year-old gelding. In fact, last time out in the Investec Asset Management Handicap at Epsom at the beginning of this month their patience was rewarded when their charge revealed what he is capable o,f when coming third in a Class Two event. George Bowen goes off the same mark of 86 today and, what is more, this race is a drop in class and the going and distance are ideal, So it will be interesting to see whether his jockey, Paul Hanagan, will be able to cash in on these benefits.
14 June 2017
It's only five days since this daughter of Poet's Voice came within a neck of victory in the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies' Handicap at Carlisle and she's running again this afternoon, this time, at Haydock in the Racing UK HD Handicap. The quick return to the track must mean that the Mark Johnston-trained Storm Cry is considered to be in with a good chance of success, particularly as she is reverting to a more comfortable seven furlongs and has dropped a couple of pounds since her last run. With Franny Norton steering at his "home" track, it looks like a win is on the cards.
Off the Marco
After twenty-one losses this Italian Newmarket-based trainer must be praying that yesterday's win at Yarmouth is a sign that his yard is on the up just in time for Royal Ascot. The reason for this optimism is that the Marco Botti-trained Moolazim, with Ryan Moore aboard, powered to a two-and-a-half-length victory in the Racing Welfare Handicap on his first start on the turf.
Yet another Olympic champion is getting in on the horse-riding act, following the success of cycling gold medallist, Victoria Pendleton. Sarah Ayton, winner of Olympic golds in sailing at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, is now training to be a jockey in the hope of competing in a charity race this summer. The particular contest she is aiming for is the Magnolia Cup, a charity race staged at Goodwood Festival on Ladies' Day in August. There will be twelve women riders taking part, all of whom have one thing in common - they have little or no experience of horse racing. Apart from acquiring equestrian skills, all the participants must submit themselves to a series of rigorous fitness tests.
13 June 2017
The Full Monty
It's almost a week since the Ed de Giles-trained Akavit came a respectable second to Micky Hammond's Wishing Well in the Ripon Races Supports Racing Welfare Handicap at you-know-where. In that race he was partnered by apprentice rider, Callum Shepherd, but today he gets the full monty for the Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap at Lingfield Park. This evening the son of The Vale Of York will be ridden by the 2015 champion jockey, Silvestre De Sousa and it's likely he'll try to win from the front and could succeed. He scored at Chepstow three races ago which is also left handed, with a similar downhill, undulating straight.
Racegoers got more thrills than they expected at Brighton yesterday when a loose horse, still wearing a blindfold galloped down the track at the start of the Follow Us On Twitter @starspreads_bet Apprentice Handicap. The Clare Ellam-trained Just Marion had just unseated Louis Steward after the stalls opened and before he could pull off the orange blindfold. For the record, the five-year-old mare was officially deemed a runner, but she had no rider and crashed into the rails at top speed before crossing the track to the other rail and crashing through it into the infield. Fortunately the blindfold finally came loose and, thanks to the Equisave on-course ambulance staff, any further harm was averted when the five-year-old daughter of Bushranger was caught before she could run through the course enclosures. The run-away was subsequently taken to the Arundel Equine Hospital with cuts and bruises and the jockey was able to walk away from his fall.
It Luca good!
Salisbury features the Margadale Fillies' Handicap is the feature race his evening and the mixture of experience and youth should make for an interesting contest. The Luca Cumani-trained Dubara, highest on official ratings, is expected to go close. This daughter of Dubawi got off the mark at Beverley last season after five attempts. On her first start of this campaign, the three-year-old filly finished third in a Newmarket handicap and is expected to improve for that effort, plus the fact that the Cumani yard has been in top form lately.
12 June 2017
Crisis? What Crisis!
It was all sweetness and light and business as usual at Godolphin on Saturday, despite having the drama of losing their chief executive, John Ferguson. Sheikh Mohammed's all-blue silks dominated the winner's enclosure for the first four races at Newmarket. Charlie Appleby, one of Godolphin's two main trainers in the Suffolk town, claimed the first two races with Glorious Journey and Folk Tale, respectively, both ridden by William Buick. John Gosden, who has a few of their horses nearby, then stepped in and took the third contest with Parfait, partnered by Martin Dwyer. The Moulton Paddocks' team came back again half-an-hour later with victory for Culturati.
A Friend indeed
The Nicky Henderson-trained son of King's Theatre came from last to first to snatch Grade One honours on the Paris track yesterday. On his first attempt at the three mile one-and-a-half furlongs L'Ami Serge was given a patient ride by Daryl Jacob in the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle). As expected the French favourite, Blue Dragon, was determined to seize the initiative and take the lead from the start but things went wrong and he made a mistake three out which put paid to his chances. While this was going on, L'Ami Serge, on the opposite side of the track, galloped on steadfastly after taking the the last hurdle and hit the front on the run-in, claiming victory by one-and-a-half lengths.
Oh, Lucky Jim!
Trainer Jim Bolger and jockey Kevin Manning were seeing double at the Curragh yesterday. The duo started out as they intended to continue by narrowly claiming the first race of the day, the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden with the aptly named Strike For Freedom. Then two hours later Glamorous Approach did the honours for the County Kilkenny yard when scoring by one-and-a-quarter lengths in the Listed RI Equestrian Silver Stakes.
11 June 2017
So be It!
Third-placed in the 2015 renewal of this race, the Andrew Balding-trained Absolutely So returned to Haydock yesterday to, as it were, settle some unfinished business. The seven-year-old, partnered by David Probert, even seemed to enjoy the rain-softened conditions. The David O' Meara-trained That Is The Spirit set the pace for this seven-furlong contest and was out on his own on the far side. Charlie Hills's Jallota headed the near-side group but Jamie Spencer was clearly put at a disadvantage by his mount's 3lb penalty and ultimately was no match for the Andrew Balding-trained son of Acclamation who surged on to claim the Betway John of Gaunt Stakes by half a length.
Local talent was swept aside by a foreign invader yesterday in the Betway Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock. First of all, Irish trainer, Henry de Bromhead's Island Remede dominated the field with Dubka and Ajman Princess in hot pursuit. Then Richard Kingscote, riding the Francis-Henri Graffard-trained Bateel, showed remarkable patience, waiting for a gap to come up in the straight, and then was duly rewarded and rode the four-year-old filly to a one-and-a-half length victory.
A Good Deal
Just over a week ago this Mark Johnston-trained Cardsharp came second in the Investec Woodcote Stakes at Epsom and clearly learned a lot from that experience and upped his game yesterday at Beverley in the Brian Yeardley Continental Two Year Old Trophy Conditions Stakes The Lohnro colt had David O'Meara's Chatburn for company through the early stages but Joe Fanning knew he had plenty left to go for home and claim the prize by two-and-a-quarter lengths leaving his stable companion, Rufus King, the runner-up slot.
10 June 2017
Making a Stand
A non-runner upset the apple cart in more ways than one in the Foxdenton Gins Open Hunter Chase at Stratford last night. The trouble began when the Fergal O'Brien-trained Are They Your Own, the twenty-six- length winner of the Brian Babbage Memorial Open Hunters' Chase at Cheltenham at the beginning of last month, literally made a stand, truly living up to his sire's name. When he arrived at the start, the nine-year-old son of Exit To Nowhere planted himself away from the other runners and refused to race. Not only was this action a disappointment for his trainer and connections but for the backers and supporters of the eventual 14-1 winner, Numbercruncher, owned, trained and ridden by David O'Brien, who had been granted his trainer's licence under rules only three days earlier. The withdrawal of the evens favourite resulted in a 45p rule 4 deduction.
Way off Course
This Richard Hughes-trained son of Sir Prancealot always seems to be on the wrong track. This time, Goodwood Crusader was at Brighton where he lined up in the six-strong Kew Electrical Handicap. Up to twenty-third of March the three-year-old had notched up nine career runs with his best results a couple of runner-up slots at Kempton Park and Lingfield. Then in April suddenly things changed. 7lb claimer, Finley Marsh, was booked to ride and the two seemed to hit off as they went on to score in the Betway Maiden Stakes at Brighton by one-and-a-quarter lengths. The partnership was renewed at Bath a month later where they 'dead-heated' in the Dribuild Group Handicap. Then a little longer than it takes to say Jack Robinson, the dynamic duo was back making it a hat-trick at the Sussex track.
King is King
The last day's racing at Stratford was the decider for the award of the champion male amateur jumps jockey title. James King and Sam Davies-Thomas were battling it out for the prestigious crown. As it turned out, both contenders had three booked rides at this feature hunter chase meeting at the Warwickshire track and neither of them scored. James King, however, already had fifteen victories to his name, one ahead of his rival, so he was declared the winner.
9 June 2017
The Aidan O'Brien-trained daughter of Deep Impact perhaps had an easier task than expected when winning the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden at Leopardstown yesterday. That was because the favourite, Shapes, who finished third to Royal Ascot favourite, Alpha Centauri in Listed company at Naas, was withdrawn. Nevertheless September, with Seamie Heffernan aboard, put on an impressive performance that did her sire justice in this seven-furlong contest. The two-year-old filly demonstrated a nifty turn of foot when she overhauled the leader, Himmah, in the final furlong and coasted clear by five-and-a-half lengths.
This Retford-based trainer continued his recent good form (seven wins in two weeks) when adding the Weatherbys General Stud Book Online Handicap to his list of credits at Ripon yesterday. Scott Dixon saddled Boots And Spurs in this one-mile race and the victory would have been doubly pleasurable as this son of Oasis Dream also put the lid on a 24-race losing streak. The Karen McClintock-trained Gurkha Friend, bidding for a course hat-trick this season, was at least one tipster's favourite, but was denied victory in the final yards by both Boots And Spurs and Roller.
The Weighting Game
There was quite a bit of controversy, even among lady riders, when French racing authorities introduced the controversial weight allowance for female jockeys. It was announced yesterday, however, that, as result of this innovation, there has been a significant increase in the number of rides for women. In the first three months that the allowance has been in operation, female riders have been booked for than 300 additional rides compared to the same period last year – an increase of 39 per cent increase. The number of winners in the same period, however, has only increased by 12 per cent. France Galop, therefore, maintains that the 2kg (4.4lb) allowance had not "destroyed the balance" of the French weighing room by giving female jockeys the advantage.
8 June 2017
The Charlie Hills-trained Rosarno runs at Sandown this evening in the Boodles Diamond Handicap. The son of Fastnet Rock made his seasonal appearance at Windsor on May 15 but but his performance was unfortunately no great shakes on that day. Even Andrea Atzeni realised that wasn't his day and eased him up some way out. The Abdulla Al Khalifa-owned three-year-old, however, is capable of better things as his victory in the SIA Maiden Stakes at Newmarket last October illustrated. Today Rosarno seems to have a few things going for him: a welcome drop back in trip; the current ease in the ground; a 2lb drop in the ratings and the incomparable Jamie Spencer aboard.
From the US of A
The 10 pm flight from Kentucky duly delivered trainer Wesley Ward's latest Royal Ascot raiding party. The nine-strong party, six fillies and three colts, headed up by last year's top sprinter, Lady Aurelia, is now settling in at the National Stud in Newmarket. Originally a string of ten was due to arrive but, at the last minute, Fairyland, couldn't come because of an outbreak of warts on her mouth. It is hoped that the two-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, a contender in the Albany Stakes, will soon get the all-clear and come over and join the group next week. Wesley Ward, who has notched up a tally of seven victories at Royal Ascot since he started to come over in 2009 is expected to fly in next week.
They're the Tops!
The County Carlow king is headed for the Big Apple with an even greater air of confidence after securing the services of two top American jockeys to ride for him in the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational. Willie Mullins has booked Javier Castellano to partner Wicklow Brave and John Velazquez, last month’s Kentucky Derby winner, to ride Carlow Warrior. Both contenders arrived last week and are acclimatising at stables on the outskirts of New York.
7 June 2017
More Fire to come
It was good to see a member of the Aramis family back on the track again at Southwell yesterday. The Michael Scudamore-trained Zayfire Aramis, not seen since August last year at Worcester, finally found the good to soft conditions he prefers and lined up in the two-and-a-half-mile Tony Martin Ltd Handicap Chase. The son of Zafeen was partnered by Liam Treadwell, who last rode Cheltenham champion, Kayf Aramis, at Fontwell in 2009. The market generally reflected the opinion that the eight-year-old needed the run after such a long absence, although trainer and connections, having been much impressed by his work-outs at Eccleswall Court, no doubt secretly hoped for something unexpected to happen. Ultimately the market was right. Zayfire Aramis stayed the distance, making a valiant attempt to stay with the leaders but, as the jockey afterwards revealed, he tired from about two out. Generally, though, everyone seemed pleased with the eight-year-old's performance. Here's to the next time!
Making a Stand
After victory at Chantilly on Sunday it seems that the William Haggas-trained Muthmir will have as his next target the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot after his win at Chantilly on Sunday. The son of Invincible Spirit was third to Goldream in the five-furlong Group One at the Royal meeting last year and has qualified for second bid after his second success in the Group Two Prix du Gros-Chene.
Harrison Fords the Way
The Mick Channon-trained Harrison will have his work cut out when he makes the step up in trip and class in the Ascot Gold Cup. The son of Sixties Icon hasn't actually tackled anything more than a mile and three-quarter but the Berkshire trainer firmly believes that two-and-a-half-mile trip won't be a problem for the four-year-old gelding who won the totepoolliveinfo.com For Racing Results Conditions Stakes at Chelmsford in May. Harrison was also third in the King George V Stakes at the Royal meeting last year and had a good preparation for his bid for the Gold Cup when coming fourth in the Listed weddingmates.co.uk Grand Cup Stakes at York late last month.
6 June 2017
The American rider who won the 1984 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, going on to compete successfully at racetracks in Italy, Malaysia and Singapore, is once more drawing up his Royal Ascot plans. Yesterday, at Keeneland racecourse, trainer, Wesley Ward, arranged a special workout for his team, including last year's Berkshire belle, Lady Aurelia. Around thirty owners, breeders and also some interested onlookers had the pleasure of watching from the grandstand as last year's Queen Mary Stakes winner, and a number of other horses trained by the Washington-born handler, worked out on the turf course in preparation for the prestigious event at Royal Ascot in two weeks' time.
Swilly. Will he?
This son of Killachy has only raced nine times which did include a win at Wolverhampton in september 2015 and he ran close on a number of the other outings. The Anthony Carson-trained Swilly Sunset is being stepped up in trip to a mile for today's Ladies Night At Great Yarmouth Racecourse Handicap to see whether this can produce another victory. The four-year-old will also have the advantage of having the hugely talented Silvestre De Sousa on borad, so a big run is expected.
The recent Derby shock result was followed by another turnip for the books at Listowel yesterday when a 50/1 outsider trounced the 4/9 favourite by six-and-a-half lengths. The scene was the last race of the day at the County Kerry track, the Dr. Louis O'Carroll Flat Race, in which the Michael Hourigan-trained Humm Baby lined up against, amongst others, Fabulous Saga, trained by Willie Mullins. And the rest, as they say is history!
5 June 2017
No Monkeying around!
Everything seems to be going this County Meath trainer's way at the moment. Gordon Elliott saddled another eye-catching juvenile in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Median Auction Maiden at Listowel yesterday. Monkeylou made a successful debut in this six-furlong contest under the effective guidance of Pat Smullen. The Dream Ahead colt was fully alert when urged to go for home about a furlong out, easily getting the better of Drombeg Dream two-and-three-quarter lengths.
Wings and Things.
After the shock 40/1 victory in the Investec Derby on Saturday, Aidan O'Brien, it seems, is thinking of letting his Wings Of Eagles have a crack at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh in three weeks' time. His other derby hopeful, Cliffs Of Moher, will now possibly drop back to ten furlongs and have a crack at the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 8.
Not to be outdone, there was another Derby across the Channel yesterday. The Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, established in 1836, was inspired by the English Derby and its name pays homage to the Jockey Club based at Newmarket in England. The winners are usually trained in France with the exception of three years ago when the Kevin Moore-trained The Grey Gatsby ctriumphed. This year didn't break the mould, however, as the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Brametot, with Cristian Demurro aboard, came from an unpromising position to win the prestigious prize. Things didn't go well at first for the French Guineas winner as he unfortunately missed the break and was left trailing. It then looked as though Andre Fabre's Waldgeist would do the honours for his Galileo sire but it wasn't to be as the eventual winner swept down the centre of the track to record a narrow victory.
4 June 2017
Beggy to Differ!
A 40/1 outsider, ridden by a jockey whose name is probably not too familiar to many racegoers won the 2017 Investec Derby at Epsom yesterday. The Aidan O'Brien trained Wings Of Eagles with Padraig Beggy aboard, upset the apple cart by getting the better of two Frankel colts in the Epsom Classic, becoming the biggest priced winner in over 40 years in what is now the UK's richest race. This also provided Aidan O'Brien with his sixth Derby victory.
Fit for a Prince
The Investec Corporate Banking Dash was won by a horse for a third time but for a third different trainer - Tony Coyle, following the successes of his previous fellow trainers, Tony Carroll and Dean Ivory. The front-running Caspian Prince got the widest draw in stall one but his jockey, Tom Eaves, wasn't going to let that deter him, getting his mount quickly away and into the lead. All seemed done and dusted by the last hundred yards but suddenly Duke Of Firenze, another former winner, and Dark Shot both mounted late challenges. The battling trio flashed past the post tightly bunched but the result went to the eight-year-old son of Dylan Thomas by a short head.
Up for the Cup
The unique Derby tends naturally to somewhat overshadow other events around the country. For instance at Musselburgh yesterday the feature race was the prestigious Edinburgh Cup. The Mark Johnston-trained Time To Study, the 15/8 favourite, ridden by Joe Fanning, denied victory to Sir Mark Prescott's Alibaster by a head and thereby provided his Middleham handler with his fourth victory in this £80,000 handicap.
3 June 2017
Ups and Down
With torrential rain driving racegoers for cover, a classic contest developed in the Investec Oaks at Epsom Down yesterday. A new equine superstar thundered down the home straight and beat the odds-on favourite by five lengths. The Khalid Abdullah-owned Enable not only put paid to the dreams of the Aidan O'Brien-trained Rhododendron but he did it in a race record time, presenting the winning trainer, John Gosden, with his second victory in this mile-and-a-half Classic.
Winning a Class 5 maiden at Southwell, albeit by nineteen lengths, is not usually the accepted route for a horse to run in the Derby but that's the John Gosden-trained Pearl is set to do today. To add icing to the cake, the Newmarket trainer will also be saddling his stable companion, Crowned Eagle, fresh from winning the Class 4 Sky Bet Top Price Promise Handicap at Windsor two weeks ago.
A Reel Winner
Travel problems non-equine meant the Ballydoyle team didn't arrive until just before the beginning of racing at Epsom yesterday. Aidan O'Brien was there in good time, however, to watch Highland Reel win the Investec Coronation Cup. This Galileo son was given an easy time of it in the early stages of this Group One contest, with the riders of Godolphin's duo, Hawkbill and Prize Money, happy to shadow Ryan Moore, who had a smooth uncomplicated ride for part of the mile and a half contest. Two furlongs from home, however, William Buick decided to lay down a challenge with Hawkbill and seemed to be making a success of it until the son of Kitten's Joy ran out of steam, allowing the eventual winner to go clear by one-and-a-three-quarter lengths.
2 June 2017
Lady Be Good!
So a young female apprentice jockey will line up in tomorrow's Derby after all but it won't be the one all the fuss has been about in the last few days – Gina Mangan. No the distaff debutante will be none other than the daughter of Ballydoyle trainer, Ana O’Brien, who will bid to make history by becoming the first female rider to win the Epsom Classic when she boards The Anvil.
Jockeying for position
Meanwhile back at the ranch it has been announced that the 1000/1 outsider, Diore Lia, will run despite the earlier statement by breeder, Richard Aylward (owner his sister Mary Todd.) that if his chosen jockey is not allowed to ride then he would withdraw his horse. Now it seems he has changed his mind as the most important thing is to generate publicity for Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, having even received donations from America as a result.
In the saddle, will be another apprentice, Paddy Pilley, with thirty-four winners to his credit to date, who has been selected at late notice. The latter is still a 5lb. claimer but his boss, Roger Charlton, and his jockey coach, Derby-winning rider John Reid, have nothing but praise for the rider, who, although not yet having notched up a winner from four starts at Epsom, does at least have experience of the track.
That's the Spirit!
The first race of the day at Lingfield yesterday was the chance for the Archie Watson-trained Ghost Serge to shine on his maiden trip. This son of Zebedee gave a boost for his handler's Royal Ascot aspirations by winning the Join Us For Countryside Day - 3rd June Novice Median Auction Stakes by seven lengths under the guidance of Oisin Murphy. This startling result has now persuaded the Lambourn trainer to send his his stable companion, We Are The World, for a crack at the Chesham Stakes.
1 June 2017
Not Fit to Ride!
Just four days ago the British Horseracing Authority announced that there are no rules to prevent apprentice jockey, Gina Mangan, from riding the rank outsider, Diore Lia, in Saturday's Investec Derby. Now it has have changed its tune and cites a subsection of rule 83 which states that it does have the power "to refuse to accept any declaration of rider for a horse" and they have accordingly deemed Gina Mangan not fit to ride. That seems an unnecessarily harsh way of putting it. The apprentice rider may not qualify for entry but it is unkind to say that she is not 'fit' to ride! In any case, owner-breeder Richard Aylward, who was planning to run the filly to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, has stated that if his choice of jockey is unacceptable then the horse won't run.
James Moffatt's Cumbria-based Pit Farm Stables kicked off the day well at Cartmel yesterday when Brian Hughes won the first race by eight lengths on the favourite, Boruma. There is no doubt, however, that the last contest of the day was something really special in its own way. One of the yard's stable staff, Charlotte Jones, notched up the first win of her riding career when she partnered Lough Kent in the Wainwright Ale Conditional Jockeys Hanidcap. The twenty-one-year-old rider had already won three prizes for having the best turned-out horse in the parade ring. Now the Barrow-born jockey had an even greater success to savour for, on only her eighth career ride, she beat stable companion, Fiosrach, to the line by a length-and-a-quarter.
This County Meath-based trainer may well say he leaves the girls in the office to remind him of such things but it can hardly have escaped his notice that yesterday was something of a landmark occasion. The Davy Russell-ridden Moonday Sun won the Track & Cash Out With The Ladbrokes Grid App Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown and thereby produced the 1,000th winner for Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer, Gordon Elliott.
31 May 2017
Pat Smullen is bidding to win the Derby for the second year in succession on Saturday. The forty-year-old Offaly-born rider won the Epsom Classic last year aboard the Dermot Weld-trained Harzand. This time John Gosden has booked him to ride Khalidi who was supplemented for the race to the tune of £85,000, after winning the EBF Stallions Cocked Hat Stakes by five lengths last week.
Today's feature race at Nottingham could be a chance to shine for the Ralph Beckett-trained Very Dashing. The Dansili daughter, previously trained by Luca Cumani, for whom she won just one of her six starts, lines up in the British EBF totepool Nottinghamshire Oaks Stakes. When connections decided to switch to the Kimpton Down Stables they also decided to keep her at Listed level and entered her in the Magnolia Stakes at Kempton. Unfortunately Very Dashing was faced with some tough opposition on her reappearance last month. Jockey, Richard Kingscote, decided, however, his mount should try to win the race from the front but the four-year-old filly just found herself overwhelmed at the line, just three necks behind the appropriately named winner, Absolute Blast. The cards could well be stacked more in Very Dashing's favour this time.
The Harry Dunlop-trained Fighting Irish did his dad proud yesterday at Leicester in the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes. His sire, the three-time Classic winner Camelot, “the fastest son of sire of sires Montjeu” has just started his new career as a stallion at Coolmore at a cool £31, 000 a time. Fighting Irish, one of his first progeny, was a 66/1 outsider for this six-furlong sprint but jockey Adam Kirby was determined that his mount should show what he was made of and the two-year-old juvenile didn't disappoint, displaying plenty of speed from the word go and battling on gamely to finish fourth, just three lengths behind Frankel colt, Westerland.
30 May 2017
Way to go!
When a jockey or trainer makes an exceptionally long trip to a racecourse, then this is something to be noted. Former champion jockey in both Ireland and Britain, jockey Jamie Spencer made the four-hundred-mile round trip to Redcar at the beginning of the month when he rode the George Scott-trained Gilgamesh to victory in the racinguk.com Handicap. The thirty-six-year-old County Tipperary rider is back at the seaside track again today for just one ride when he partners Near Kettering, trained by Luca Cumani, in the Racing UK HD On Sky432 Media Auction Stakes. This son of Medicean was an eye-catching fourth three weeks ago on his maiden outing at Windsor and is strongly fancied in this ten-furlong contest today.
Third Time Lucky?
This son of Dylan Thomas has been handled by a number of different yards in his relatively short career. Caspian Prince has already won the Investec Corporate Banking "Dash" Handicap twice before; in 2014 for trainer Tony Carroll and in 2015 for Dean Ivory. On Saturday the eight-year-old will be seeking a third triumph but, this time for his current trainer, Tony Coyle. A lot has happened since last year's success. The Stephen Louch-owned gelding moved to David Loughnane's yard in Shropshire for a while before going into the care of North Yorkshire-based Roger Fell, for whom he won the Listed Mercury Stakes at Dundalk in October.
That's a bit rich!
This year's Derby will now be the richest race ever staged in Britain after the addition of two more horses a cost of £85,000 apiece – the Mark Johnston-trained Permian, York Dante Stakes hero and John Gosden's Khalidi, who scored in the EBF Stallions Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood last week. That means that the Epsom Classic's total prize money has reached an eye-watering £1.625 million. The John Gosden-trained Cracksman is the current favourite, having got the better of Permian in the Derby Trial last month.
29 May 2017
An apprentice jockey, with only one winner to her name, has been booked to ride 1000/1 chance Diore Lia in Saturday's Derby. Gina Mangan, who was last in the winner's enclosure when she won on Salazaar in 2009, will partner Diore Lia, previously trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam but now with John Jenkins, in the Epsom Classic. The last apprentice to ride in this event was Mark Coumbe aboard Castlemorris King in 2011 and he finished last but one.
Owner-breeder Richard Aylward probably has no illusions about the chances of this three-year-old daughter of Yeats coming anywhere in the first ten but he is keen for her to run to publicise the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital to whom he plans to donate any prize-money.
The Ballydoyle king confirmed his dominance of this year's Classics by completing the 1000 Guineas double at the Curragh yesterday. Just twenty-four hours Churchill had followed up his triumph in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket with victory in the Tattersalls-sponsored Irish equivalent, his stable companion, the Aidan O'Brien-trained Winter followed suit in the Fillies' Irish 1,000 Guineas. This daughter of Galileo had already stirred things up three weeks ago when beating her Ballydoyle neighbour, Rhododendron, in the 1000 Guineas over the Rowley Mile and she went on to repeat the performance at the Curragh yesterday. Another stable companion, Hydrangea, blossomed in the early stages until Pat Smullen decided to take it up on the Mick Halford-trained Rehana. All these efforts ultimately proved to be of no avail because the eventual winner, partnered by Ryan Moore, produced an irresistible challenge inside the final three furlongs and galloped on to a four-and-three-quarter-length victory
Big Day for Knight
Trainer Roger Charlton has claimed this Group One prize at the Curragh twice before in 2013 and last year - both won by his former stable star Al Kazeem. It was on the cards that Decorated Knight would do it again for the Wiltshire-based handler and bring home the Tattersalls Gold Cup. Shane Foley steered Success Days at the head of the eight-strong field for most of the ten-furlong contest. Jockey, Andrea Atzeni, always kept the five-year-old handy and halfway up the straight he took over and steered the Galileo son to a one-and-a-quarter-length win.
28 May 2017
A Win for Winnie!
Last season's champion juvenile has come of age. After winning the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago Churchill went on to complete a Classic double with an easy win in the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh yesterday. The prohibitively priced 4/9 favourite Galileo colt has now triumphed in seven out of eight starts and delighted connections back on home soil. Stable companions, Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valor, encouraged him along by giving him a nice lead into the race. The Saeed bin Suroor-trained Thunder Snow endeavoured to make it some sort of contest but but ultimately Churchill, with Ryan Moore aboard, left him trailing two-and-a-half lengths in his wake.
The Ballydoyle king has no time to rest on his laurels after Churchill's back-to-back 2000 Guineas' successes yesterday. Aidan O'Brien, in a bid for his fourth Classic triumph, saddles Winter in today's Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas. This Galileo daughter looks a though she's ready to dominate the fillies' mile contest. She was runner-up to Hydrangea on her first outing this season and took the Leopardstown's 1000 Guineas trial by storm in April. She was well backed for the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago and won by two lengths, benefitting from a superb ride from Wayne Lordan.
Taking a Fence
After winning the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes at Bath this Lethal Force colt ditched his jockey, Adam Kirby, after the winning post and decided to explore the neighbouring farmland. The Clive Cox-trained Prince Of The Dark then made his way along a hedgerow until he eventually landed up in a field. Subsequently a barbed wire fence had to be undone to get the wayward colt safely back onto the course. Fortunately the potential Royal Ascot runner didn't suffer any adverse effects from his little escapade. Race officials at the Somerset track have promised to do whatever is necessary to ensure that such a thing doesn't happen again.
27 May 2017
Today in the Winners Are Welcome At Matchbook Handicap at Goodwood last year's champion apprentice notches up another landmark in her stellar career. Josephine Gordon takes the reins of the John Gosden-trained Hyde Park in this £100,000 contest. This is the first time that the twenty-four-year-old has ridden for Clarehaven Stables but with two jockeys sidelined, Rab Havlin and Nicky Mackay, the Newmarket handler has indicated his high regard for the Devon-born jockey by selecting her for the ride. It would be another feather in the young rider's cap if this son of Oasis Dream makes it into the winner's enclosure as would also be a first for the famous pink and green silks of owner, Khalid Abdullah, after three near misses recently.
High and Mighty
The John Gosden-trained Khalidi was clearly faced with a tougher task than he could handle last time out when faced with the likes of Permian at Newmarket, but yesterday at Goodwood he made amends in no uncertain terms. This son of High Chaparral was held up early in the contest on but demonstrated real class in the way he negotiated his way through the field, shrugging off any challenge at the the furlong pole, and going on to to claim the EBF Stallions Cocked Hat Stakes by five lengths.
Order of the Day
Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore did the dual act again when Order Of St George easily triumphed in the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown yesterday. It was already predicted that the £25,000 contest would be a piece of cake for this Galileo son, who had already claimed last year's renewal, and so it turned out, when the 4/11 favourite cruised home by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
26 May 2017
One of the hottest evenings of the Summer so far didn't stop this Michael Bell-trained colt from claiming a cool £36,000 by winning the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes at Sandown. Double Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange, with Frankie Dettori aboard, put on a perfect display of front-running in this Group 3 two-mile contest. By the time the son of Duke Of Marmalade had made his way into the straight there was a line of potential rivals queuing up to make a challenge but the more pressure that was laid on the more the six-year-old gelding thrived until he put end to the proceedings by passing the post with five lengths clear.
Stoute Rules. OK?
There was a a career-best effort for this Cheveley Park Stud-owned colt in the Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Autocratic finished last season by winning the Download The Coral App Stakes Handicap at York and then was stepped up in trip for the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket last month but that proved a wrong decision as he landed up last-but-one in a seven-strong field. That upset didn't seem to have affected the Dubawi four-year-old's attitude, however, as from a furlong out he conveyed Ryan Moore to a one-and-a-quarter length victory.
Earlier in the day another Sir Michael Stoute-trained filly did the honours at Goodwood. Mori, boasting the very best of pedigrees (her sire is Frankel), easily took charge of the Markel Insurance Height Of Fashion Stakes. The three-year-old filly only had an Ascot maiden victory to her credit before taking on this more serious Listed contest but that didn't seem to trouble her. Jockey Ryan Moore just had to make sure that she was handy until the right moment came and Bob's your uncle!
25 May 2017
Long Journey worth it.
Well, the 700-mile round trip paid off yesterday for the Ahmed Al Maktoum-owned filly who was the odds-on favourite in the Listed Rothesay Stakes at Ayr. The Roger Varian-trained Nezwaah, even though on her first start for 220 days. didn't put a foot wrong. Last year's winner, Maleficent Queen, went off at quite a pace but Andrea Atzeni was content to bide his time on the Dubawi daughter. The duo was forced to go wide for a clear run when the field reached two furlongs out but it was plain sailing rafter that, with Nezwaah winning by three-and-three-quarters lengths ahead of Sophie P and Maleficent Queen.
Two for the Ride
Wexford last night gave jockey Andrew Lynch the opportunity to shine when he notched up a double, making it his fourth winner for the new season. The Ashbourne rider kicked off with a win in the second race of the evening, the Rosslare Mares Handicap Hurdle when the Joseph Hennessy-trained Kiln Rock claimed the two-and-a-half-mile event by one-and-a-half lengths. Then half-an-hour later he was back in the winner's enclosure, having ridden the Vincent Halley-trained Mr Picotee to victory in the Slaney Handicap Hurdle.
On the Map
This Newmarket trainer has just finished his deliberations for next month's Derby when he discovered he had even more talent in his yard, this time female. Martyn Meade saddled Cartographer in the Holidays On The Norfolk Broads Median Auction Maiden Stakes at Yarmouth yesterday and she went on to break the six-furlong course record for the Jellicoe Road track The daughter of Henrythenavigator, having been runner-up on her debut outing at Kempton in November, was the 4/9 favourite and well merited this position. Jockey Jamie Spencer didn't dare trust his luck and kept on looking round from some way out to see where any challenge might come from but none materialised and Cartographer conveyed him to a four-length victory.
24 May 2017
Ayr to win!
When a Newmarket trainer sends one horse on an over 700-mile round trip to Scotland then it must be serious. Today at Ayr, Roger Varian saddles Nezwaah in the feature race, the Tennent's British Stallion Studs EBF Rothesay Stakes and, on the face of it, the journey could be worth it, as the winner bags some £28,000. The four-year-old, Ahmed Al Maktoum-owned filly was supposed to have her firstshe didn't race as she broke out of the stalls and was withdrawn. This daughter of Dubawi has had only seven starts to date, finishing fifth in Group 2 company at Deauville and, at the end of last season she was beaten by two lengths in a Grade 1 contest at Woodbine. Clearly Roger Varian believes, however, that Nezwaah, as all Dubawi filly offspring so far, will improve with age. Added to that, the Varian Stable sports a 15% better-than-expected win rate.
War And Peace
Five of the nine runners in Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh are trained by Aidan O'Brien. Heading up this quintet is Churchill, bidding for a Guineas double after his triumph in the British 1000 guineas at Newmarket recently. This field commander will be accompanied by three warriors, Lancaster Bomber, War Decree and Spirit Of Valor. In a less war-like vein, the Ballydoyle trainer will also be saddling Pipes Of Peace and Orderofthegarter. The only unbeaten horse in the race, not trained by Aidan O'Brien, is Irishcorrespondent who comes from the Michael Halford stables. Connections will be keeping their fingers crossed that this son of Teofilo will be submitting his victory report just after 4pm on Saturday.
Clearly this four-year-old grey was not entirely enamoured of her fourth place in the Racing UK Straight Mile Series Fillies' Handicap at Redcar. The Julie Camacho-trained Rosamaria, having not made the winner's enclosure, decided her efforts needed more publicity so on the way back to the stable yard she crashed into the stable lads' canteen and showed up behind the counter. Apparently this happened after the four-year-old daughter of Rip Van Winkle shied away from a camera, got loose, and wound up in these most unlikely surroundings.
23 May 2017
The result of the first race of the day, the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes, at Carlisle yesterday cost punters a packet. The world and his mate seemed to be backing the Hamdan El Maktoum-owned Sayadey at the generous 10/1 odds. Their dreams even seemed to have come true when the Mark Johnston-trained son of Excel And Exceed looked as though he had shaken off the challenges of both Richard Fahey's Ventura Dragon and Karl Burke's Magic Mark. A photo-finish, however, revealed that he beat the latter by a short head but Ventura Dragon claimed the £6,500 prize by a nose.
So Long Solow!
It has been announced that this sensational winner of five Group Ones in a row, including two wins at Ascot in the Queen Anne and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, is to be retired. Sadly the career of the Freddy Head-trained Solow was niggled injury after making a comeback run at Chantilly last March last year. The Chantilly-born trainer has now admitted defeat in his attempts to get the seven-year-old son of Singspiel back to his former winning ways.
Rhyme And Reason
The Andrew Balding-trained Poet's Vanity, who finished third on her return in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes in the middle of last month, will will be dropped back in trip on her next start. The reason for this is probably that the daughter of Poet's Voice couoldn't handle the mile on her return to Newmarket in the 1000 Guineas. So Oisin Murphy will be aboard the three-year-old in Saturday's six-furlong Timeform Jury Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock.
22 May 2017
A Merry Dance
This Aqlaam filly caught the eye last year when she won the Stewards' Cup at Glorious Goodwood by one-and-a-quarter lengths. The Andrew Balding-trained Dancing Star so delighted connections that they were keen for her to run in Group One company and so she tried her luck in the Sprint Cup at Haydock. The four-year-old admittedly finished well down the field but she put on a doughty performance. Today she takes a drop down in class when she lines up at Windsor this evening in the Class 1 Weatherbys Private Bank Leisure Stakes. As the Kingsclere yard have been in superb form with the trainer notching up a 61% better-than-expected win rate in the past two weeks, great things are expected.
As a juvenile this son of ScatDaddy was unbeaten in four starts and he maintained his superb record yesterday at Naas by easily winning the EMS Copiers Lacken Stakes even though he carried a penalty in this Group Three contest. In the early stages of the race the Aidan O'Brien-trained Caravaggio was kept at the rear of the six-strong field by jockey Ryan Moore, who waited for the final two furlongs before asking his mount for an extra effort. This wasn't immediately forthcoming but eventually the three-year-old got going and accelerated away from the field inside the final furlong to record an impressive win.
A Star is Born
Also at Naas in the Coolmore Stud Irish EBF Fillies' Sprint Stakes the Jessica Harrington-trained Alpha Centauri romped easily home, establishing herself as a juvenile filly to keep an eye on. The daughter of Mastercraftsman was naturally the 8/11 favourite and didn't disappoint her backers, keeping to the task throughout under the stewardship of Colm O'Donoghue. The Niarchos Family-owned two-year-old challenged the leader, Shapes, at the halfway mark and proceeded to sprint right way from her four rivals to win by five lengths from Actress.
21 May 2017
Cloud 1 so Cloud 9!
Surprising turnip for the books in the 142nd renewal of the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, yesterday. Kentucky Derby winner and Triple Crown hopeful, Always Dreaming, having valiantly tried to win the contest from the front, just lost it at the top of the final run-in and finished a disappointing eighth out of ten, more than thirteen lengths behind the leader. The contender who caused the shock result was the Chad Brown-trained Cloud Computing, ridden by Javier Castellano, who went on to dominate inside the final furlong and win the $1.5 million prize by a head.
No Plan B!
Another surprising result but at Newbury this time. The Richard Fahey-trained Ribchester scored his first top-level success in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. Things didn't bode well at the beginning, though, as the planned pacemaker, Toscanini, missed the break and the Mews House team's plans went up in smoke. With no Plan B it was up to jockey William Buick to save the day. He decided to take the initiative and grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck. Fortunately the four-year-old son of Iffraaj accepted the plan and accelerated into a leading position two furlongs from home, shrugging off the challenge from Lightning Spear to win by three-and-three-quarter lengths.
The Prix La Barka at Auteuil yesterday was won for the second year running by an Irish raider. The Willie Mullins-trained Shaneshill, with Ruby Walsh aboard, followed up last year's triumph by Un De Sceaux with a narrow victory over Nicky Henderson's L'Ami Serge. The eight-year-old son of King's Theatre made most of the running but he was closely hassled by the favourite, Device, ridden by James Reveley, but ultimately Andrea and Graham Wylie's pride and joy did the honours.
20 May 2017
York race track is considered by many to be the Ascot of the North and yesterday it vied with its Berkshire-based rival by putting on a right royal show. Though the Queen wasn't present on the Knavesmire, her representative, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Dartmouth, was and he duly rendered service by claiming the Yorkshire Cup for his regal owner. This feature race of the week saw five runners spread across the width of the track with the Ryan Moore-ridden son of Dubawi on the stands side, closely marking the St Leger hero, Simple Verse, with Oisin Murphy aboard. The two battled it out in the final stages but Dartmouth held on valiantly to win by a neck.
Have I got News for you!
The Luca Cumani-trained Aljezeera will be aiming to put down her marker for the Investec Oaks when she lines with the other eight runners in the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial at Newbury today. This daughter of Frankel put up a fine show on her debut at Doncaster last August when she won the Betfred TV EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies' Stakes by two-and-a-half lengths. The Al Shaqab Racing-owned Frankel filly figures among four of the runners who are still probables for the Epsom Derby next month.
Gotta Want it!
Another filly followed up her course record-breaking Nottingham debut with a half-length victory at York yesterday. The Michael bell-trained Main Desire, despite the much slower conditions this time around, handled the ground well enough to make it two wins in a row, when winning the Langleys Solicitors British EBF Marygate Fillies' Stakes. The thirteen runners split up into two groups with Mount Victoria and Neola leading the far side, and the joint-favourite High Chaparral filly on the stands side but it was the latter who had the faster turn of foot in the closing stages.
19 May 2017
Go The Distance!
Today sees the renewal of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Fillies' Stakes and one trainer is content that his entry will acquit herself well. William Haggas saddles On Her Toes in the Class 1, a-mile-as-good-as-dammit contest, with Ryan Moore in saddle for the first time. The Kodiac filly was kept busy as a two-year-old between June and July last season, having had five outings and scoring in three of them. The ground conditions should be no problem as she has already won on soft (heavy in places) at Windsor. The known unknown is the distance as the Cheveley Park Stud-owned filly has so far only tackled seven furlongs. The extra 192 yards will be the key.
Dante Day Double
A potential future champion, sporting a black eye as a result of a close encounter with an irritable horse earlier this week, triumphed twice on the second day of York Dante Festival. Oisin Murphy consolidated his position as one of this country's leading young riders when he came up double trumps – with the Andrew balding-trained Blond Me in the Betfred Middleton Stakes and Here Comes When in the Betfred TV Hambleton Handicap, again for the Newbury-based handler. The twenty-one-year-old rider may also have a few more surprises today when he partners Ralph Beckett's Simple Verse, winner of the 2015 St Leger and will be hoping that he can turn the tables on the defending champion, Clever Cookie, in the Yorkshire Cup.
The Hugo Palmer-trained 2000 Guineas winner kicks off his four-year-old career tomorrow at Newbury. Frankie Dettori rides Galileo Gold in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at the Berkshire track. The son of Paco Boy had a string of successes in the early part of last season Apart from the Newmarket Classic he was runner-up in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh and won the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Unfortunately the four-year-old didn't exactly cover himself with glory on the next three outings but least said soonest mended!
18 May 2017
Well, the Clarehaven Stables' trainer notched up his fifth win from seven of the last Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, despite his worries about the damp conditions. Perhaps it wasn't such a surprise really, because John Gosden usually has a string good middle-distance fillies ready at this time of the year and Shutter Speed was no exception. What is interesting, though, is the fact that this Group 3, ten-furlong contest is generally considered to be a good indicator of who might win the Investec Oaks. In fact none of this Newmarket handler's last four winners went on to claim this prestigious prize and yesterday's Dansili filly is no exception as she is scheduled to race in the French equivalent, the Prix de Diane at Chantilly on 18 June.
Light My Fire!
There weren't many top class races that this jockey, who is now a trainer, didn't have to his credit. The York Dante Stakes is one, though. Today, however, Joseph O’Brien has a strong chance of setting the record straight when he saddles Rekindling in this Knavesmire contest. This son of High Chaparral scored in the P.W. Mcgrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown ten days ago and, if things go well, the outcome could decide whether the three-year-old will also line up in this year’s Derby in which Churchill, winner of the 2000 Guineas, trained by Joseph O’Brien’s father Aidan, is the only noteworthy contender at this stage.
Trainer William Haggas was a bit concerned about the soft ground for the running of the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes. His worries proved unfounded, however, as his 14/1 shot, Tasleet, seemed to have no problems. The only potential fly in the ointment for champion jockey, Jim Crowley, was whether he had room to mount his challenge. That concern was short-lived as the opportunity came when the field approached the last furlong marker and the son of Showcasing was able to go well clear and leave last year's winner, Magical Memory trailin two-and-a-half lengths in his wake.
17 May 2017
Rain, Rain Go Away!
There hasn't been much of it about lately across most of the country but just when you think it's safe to run your Dansili filly in the York Dante Festival then down comes the rain. A disappointing prospect certainly for the racegoers who were looking forward to getting dressed up for the festivities on the Knavesmire but for trainers such as John Gosden, winner of four of the last six renewals of the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes, the prospects are not looking good. He is scheduled to saddle Shutter Speed in this afternoon's ten-furlong contest but yesterday he added a note of caution that, if there is significant rain at York, following recent deluges, then the Khalid Abdullah-owned filly might not even run.
Not Annie More!
No long goodbyes from the winner of last year's Champion Hurdle. An incomparable career has suddenly come to an end. The Willie Mullins-trained Annie Power will not now return to racing. The daughter of Shirocco hasn't competed since her merciless defeat of My Tent Or Yours at last year's Cheltenham Festival, followed by an even more resounding 18-length triumph over the same horse in the Aintree Hurdle. Since then the nine-year-old has been beset by niggling injuries and setbacks that have kept her off the track. Finally owners, Rich and Susannah Ricci, have decided to call it a day.
Thanks for the Memory
One group of people who will be hoping that there is not too much of the wet stuff on the Knavesmire today are the connections of Magical Memory who is seeking a back-to-back victory in the Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes. The five-year-old son of Zebedee hasn't appeared on the track for some 256 days just after his disappointing performance in the Sprint Cup at Haydock but trainer Charlie Hills and owners Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds now have their fingers crossed that conditions are not worsened by more rain.
16 May 2017
Struck it Lucky
It's been over three years since this son of Verglas made it into the winner's enclosure but the seven-year-old was still sent off the 11/4 joint-favourite. The reason for this is not hard to find. The David Griffiths' yard is currently hitting the heights and that continued yesterday at Wetherby when Lucky Beggar won the Watch Racing UK On BT TV Handicap by two-and-a-half lengths, making it four wins from eight runs for the Doncaster-based handler. Despite the long absence of successful racing, jockey David Allan was given a trouble-free ride, easily beating co-market leader Tylery Wonder.
Stealing the Limelight
The 188bet.co.uk Novices' Chase at Warwick today only has three competitors but one of them produced impressive results last season over hurdles and further improvement is expected over fences. The Paul Nicholls-trained El Bandito notched up no fewer than six wins from just eight starts, including five on-the-trot (or more likely gallop!) This son of Milan was a plucky winner at Cheltenham last October and also scored as a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle qualifier at Musselburgh but, sadly, he didn't manage to cut the mustard in the Final at the Cheltenham Festival. The six-year-old seems to have been born to chase, however, and he will no doubt enjoy the decent ground forecast at the Midlands track.
The Name's the Game
The most well-known French race track is to get a new name next year - well a slightly amended name, when the £110m redevelopment work is completed in November. With the aim of stressing the precise location of Longchamp, particularly for overseas visitors, henceforth the iconic race course will be called ParisLongchamp. The new four-storey grandstand with capacity for 20,000 racegoers, with 360 degree panoramic views over the French capital, is the centrepiece of the venue. It has been announced that ParisLongchamp is on course to re-open with a special meeting on April 8 after trial runs have been rehearsed the previous month.
15 May 2017
So, bets who on Sobetsu?
After the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Best Solution’s run-away victory in the Betfred Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield two days ago it was trainer, Charlie Appleby's turn to give owners, Godolphin, a second Epsom hopeful. In her first appearance since last October when she struggled to handle the fast ground at Newmarket in the Dubai Fillies' Mile, Sobetsu was more in control in yesterday's Group 1 The Gurkha Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary at Deauville. William Buick, aboard this Dubawi daughter, shadowed the pace-setting Estelle Ma Belle for some time before deciding it was time to go for home and the Darley-bred filly then could not be caught as she raced clear two furlongs from home.
Franco-Irish relations were riding high yesterday when a Knocktoran Stud-bred filly handled by a Lamorlaye-based trainer won the Abu Dhabi Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Deauville. The Fabrice Chappet-trained Precieuse, ridden by Olivier Peslier, overhauled Sea Of Grace, trained by William Haggas, in the final stages of the one-mile contest to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths. It was the first Group 1 success for Fabrice Chappet but County Limerick winning owners, Brendan and Anne-Marie Hayes of Knocktoran Stud, have now notched up three French 1,000 Guineas winners.
Something to write home about
Yesterday's Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Race at the Curragh enhanced the Michael Halford-trained Irishcorrespondent's unbeaten record after his impressive victory and placed his marker on the Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas in twelve days' time. This son of Tefilo, after a successful debut in a Leopardstown maiden was sent off the 8/11 favourite and and fully justified this confidence by overtaking the short-lived leader, Homesman In the latter stages of the contest and transporting jockey, Shane Foley, to a four-and-a half-length victory.
14 May 2017
The $400,000 Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park yesterday, named in honour of an American Thoroughbred who is widely considered to be one of the greatest racehorses of all time, was won by a worthy successor. The Dermot Weld-trained Zhukova, partnered by John Velazquez, outran her her US-trained rivals to win by a comfortable six lengths. On paper the daughter of Fastnet Rock had a lot going for her as far as weight was concerned and, by chance, faced less opposition as three runners were scratched due to the rain-sodden ground. The eventual winner headed up a tightly bunched field before going into the lead on the far turn and maintaining a clear advantage.
Josephine. She's the Queen!
This season's champion apprentice fully justified her crown when she won the totescoop6 Victoria Cup at Ascot yesterday. Josephine Gordon, aboard the William Haggas-trained Fastnet Tempest claimed the prize with a perfectly-timed run. The four-year-old son of Fastnet Rock was not surprisingly the 5/1 market leader for this seven-furlong contest. His talented rider was also early determined to make amends for the recent defeat at Newbury, by calculatingly delaying the final challenge until the last possible moment. The Amanda Perrett-trained Zhui Feng was a possible threat for most of the time but the eventual winner, after switching for a run as the field headed into the final furlong, raised the tempo yet again and left Richard Hannnon's George William three-quarters of a length adrift.
All in the Mix
The fact that the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Qemah was the clear favourite for the Betfred "Supports Jack Berry House" Chartwell Fillies' Stakes at Lingfield yesterday caused even more consternation when she suffered a two-and-a-quarter length defeat. The disappointment was compounded as the four-year-old won two Group Ones last term and was only using this Group Three event as a prep race for Royal Ascot next month. Things didn't work out that way, however, and the plan was thwarted by Ryan Moore's decision to race the Chris Wall-trained Mix And Mingle alone up the stands rail whilst the rest of the field headed to the middle of the track. The four-year-old son of Exceed And Excel, in fact, seemed to enjoy this situation and defiantly threw down the gauntlet to the French raider and with only half a furlong to to go Mix And Mingle was well in control and claimed the prize.
13 May 2017
Dancer's Daughter Due
The Betfred 'Supports Jack Berry House' Chartwell Fillies' Stakes at Lingfield today should give the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Qemah a chance to shine on her first seasonal appearance. A return to Royal Ascot is already on the cards for this daughter of Danehill Dancer who notched up one of two Group One victories in last year's Coronation Stakes. That result was clearly no fluke, either, as the four-year-old Al Shaqab Racing-owned filly had already established herself as a top-level juvenile in France when coming third to champion, La Cressonniere, in the French Guineas last May.
Oldie but Goodie!
The oldest winning horse on the Flat for the past seventy years is about to make his seasonal appearance at Lingfield today in the Betfred 'Follow Us On Twitter' Handicap. Connections of sixteen-year-old Megalala are hoping that their veteran can add a further note in the history books by building on the remarkable record he established last year by becoming the oldest winning horse in Britain since 1945. The John Bridger-trained son of Petardia lines up this afternoon for the 142nd race of his career, of which he has won 20. Megalala's most recent triumph was last June on this Surrey venue's all-weather track, when he beat five youngsters who were only fourteen years old. The Trevor Wallace-owned gelding is not the oldest winnFfred Winter's Sonny Somers who won twice over fences in 1980 at the age of 18.
The Keith Dalgleish-trained Sound Advice produced a swift turn of foot when powering home in the final furlong at Chester yesterday to win the first race of the day, the Crabbie's Earl Grosvenor Handicap by a length-and-a-quarter. The eight-year-old son of Echo Of Light, partnered by Dougie Costell, even managed to thwart a last-minute challenge by the well-backed 13/8 favourite El Hayem, trained by Sir Michael Stoute.
12 May 2017
Life's a Beach!
Ladies’ Day at Chester received an extra sparkle yesterday from a son of Galileo. Jockey, Ryan Moore, it seems, only chose to ride the Aidan O'Brien-trained Venice Beach because, of the three Coolmore entries, this was one he hadn't ridden before. The thirty-three-year Brighton-born rider was certainly glad he did, as the three-year-old colt managed to beat off any challenge from his stable companions, Wings Of Eagles and The Anvil and claim the Class 1 feature race by a length-and-a-quarter. So less than a week after completing the Guineas double at Newmarket with Churchill and Winter, Aidan O’Brien won the Chester Vase for the fifth year in succession.
At Newmarket a week on Saturday, the Queen will find out whether she will receive a belated birthday present. It will all depend on whether her Wiliam Haggas-trained Call To Mind has what it takes to be a Derby contender and win the first Classic for his illustrious owner. This son of Galileo made a good start to his racing career by winning on his debut appearance at Newbury last month in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes and is expected to appear again at York on 18 may in the Betfred Dante Stakes.
Derby for Pound
The famous hill in the middle of the Epsom track, very popular because it is a free area from which racegoers can watch the races and enjoy other entertainments, will for the next ten years, at least, be known, perhaps contraversially, as Poundland Hill, under a sponsorship arrangement with budget high street retailers, Poundland. Steinhoff International, Poundland's owners, was yesterday revealed as a new partner of Investec, who have also agreed a further five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Derby Festival.
11 May 2017
He's urned it!
Starting in 2007 with subsequent Irish Derby winner, Soldier Of Fortune, the Ballydoyle king has won the Chester Vase seven times. More significantly, Aidan O'Brien has saddled the winner of this Derby Trial four in a row and is aiming to make it five with Ryan Moore aboard Venice Beach in today's mile-and-a-half feature race. The three-time champion jockey has ridden six different winners in this event, five of them for Aidan O’Brien, making this trainer/jockey partnership the most successful in the race’s history.
Stoute – No Doubt!
Another Chester highlight today is the Huxley Stakes. Sir Michael Stoute carried off the prestigious prize last year with Cannock Chase and, all things being equal, aims to repeat the process when he saddles Poet's Word in today's renewal. This son of Poet's Voice made marked improvements last season and looks as thugh he could build on that. The four-year-old showed a nifty turn of foot, even under top weight, when winning the Betfred Mobile Stakes Handicap by one-and-a-quarter lengths at Glorious Goodwood last July. He did the same again Chelmsford last month when he claimed the Bet toteexacta At totesport.com Handicap so there seems no rhyme nor reason why he can't have the last word this time. Added to that Sir Michael Stoute has been in top form just lately, saddling ten winners in the past two weeks at a strike rate of 58%.
All Cisterns Go!
Another renowned racetrack opens its gates for another year. The Curragh, where there are still extensive redevelopment works underway, will, however, have a slightly shorter season to enable these activities to be completed. The CEO of the County Kildare race course, Derek McGrath, assures, though, that it's all systems go for the first meeting on Saturday when the feature contest is the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes. Because of the ongoing building an 6000 attendance limit has been set for all fixtures, including the Irish Guineas weekend later this month, the Irish Derby weekend next month and the Irish Champions Weekend in September.
10 May 2017
A tempting bet!
If luck is with Aidan O'Brien today he could go home with his sixth victory in the Arkle Finance Cheshire Oaks. The Ballydoyle king first launched his claim for this prestigious prize with Sail in 2008. This year he's tempted to go for gold again with Alluringly, a three-year-old filly who didn't seem very promising when getting soundly beaten on her two starts as a juvenile but made amends three weeks ago when she won the Tipperary Races Fillies Maiden by four-and-three-quarter lengths.
Double, no toil nor trouble!
Another double on the cards for Renfrewshire trainer at Ayr yesterday, adding to his two on Monday at the Firth of Clyde track. Jim Goldie claimed the two feature races of the day courtesy Sam James who was aboard both. First off was the Spring Promotion At Western House Hotel Handicap, where Euchen Glen looked as though he would be denied the spoils but the resourceful jockey fortunately spotted a gap near the far rail and the son of Authorized didn't need asking twice and quickened well to win by a length-and-a-quarter. The double came up an hour-and-a-half later when 5/1 shot, Tommy G, surged past the kenny Dalgleish-trained Glengarry in the final furlong to claim the QTS Handicap by a length.
Luck of the draw
One aspect of a race is quite often not given as much importance as it deserves – the draw. The results of this lottery can make or break a strong prospect for a contest. One example today is in the 188Bet Chester Cup at erm ... erm …! The Sir Mark Prescott-trained Sea Of Heaven has been drawn 14 in a 17-runner field and the Newmarket Baronet is quite downbeat about chances for the son of Sea The Stars in the two-and-quarter-mile contest. The five-year-old comfortably won a two-mile handicap at this track in September 2015 so the location and distance hold no fears for him.
9 May 2017
The F Word!
When this name is mentioned in racing circles personal memories of the champion on the track and expectations from his new role as a Sire abound. Frankel, officially the world's best Thoroughbred racehorse, was victorious in his fourteen races and didn't disappoint with his first progeny last year. So it was naturally assumed that his sons and daughters would make their mark in the first Classics last week. Nothing is written in the racing world, though. As it turned out, the son of Galileo was put into the shade by his iconic father, showing how far Frankel has to go to even match the amazing achievements of Galileo. Eminent was the shortest favourite of the four Frankel entries in both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas but only managed sixth behind Churchill with Dream Castle just ahead of him in fifth. The girls didn't fare better in the 1000 guineas, either, as Fair Eva, the stallion’s first Group winner, also came fifth and and last year's Group Winner, Queen Kindly, ended up way down the field.
Room for Improvement
Thirsk-based trainer, Noel Wilson is obviously keen to keep the momentum going after his Longroom claimed the Book Direct At Western House Hotel Handicap by three-and-a-quarter lengths at Ayr yeaterday. The son of Oasis Dream had already shown his potential by taking the Racing UK Apprentice Handicap at Musselburgh just four days earlier. As luck would have it, yesterday's favourite and winner escaped a penalty for that success because it was an apprentice race. Graham Lee was aboard this time and all he had to do was sit comfortably and steer.
Horse becomes a Man!
Saturday's 2000 Guineas turned out to be a proving ground for the Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy, who came in just one length behind the winner, Churchill. It was only the son Excelebration's third career outing although you would never have guessed it judging from his brave performance. As the Marlborough-based trainer put it: “The experience will turn him into a man".
8 May 2017
Winter of Content!
For over 150 years the record for saddling the most 2000 Guineas winners was held by 'The Wizard of the North', trainer, John Scott (1794–1871). The Chippenham-born handler notched up his then record seven victories from his Whitewall Stables in Malton. This record last established in 1862, has now been overtaken by the Ballydoyle king. Churchill's triumph on Saturday brought Aidan O’Brien's total to eight triumphs. The icing on the cake came yesterday when his second string, Winter, with Wayne Lordan aboard, scored a surprise victory in the 1000 Guineas for fillies, outrunning her more fancied stable companion, Rhododendron.
Somehow she did it!
Earlier on in the day on the Newmarket fixture Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore teamed up again to win the Group Two Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes which Somehow won by three-and-three-quarter lengths. The four-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock 's filly was making a quick return to the track after claiming the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes at Gowran Park. The Andrew balding-trained Elbereth dominated the race for most of the way but couldn't beat off the eventual winner's forceful challenge.
In Front Here!
The Charlie Appleby-trained Frontiersman was an impressive winner in the first race of the day at Newmarket, the Qatar Racing Handicap. The four-year-old Dubawi son, seeking to make it three-in-a-row, put on a doughty performance in the hands of William Buick and bravely went for home three furlongs out and even had enough in reserve to accelerate in the last 100 yards to seal an impressive two-and-a-half length victory ahead of Alan King's Top Tug.
7 May 2017
After Two comes One
Today's big feature race is the the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, the second Classic of the season and the Group 1 Fillies' one-mile contest has attracted fourteen runners. Aidan O'brien is obviously hoping to follow up yesterday's triumph with Churchill in the 2000 Guineas. Today he saddles Rhododendron who hasn't raced since last October but it was the same for the Galileo son yesterday and it didn't seem to do him any harm. This daughter of Galileo was the leading juvenile filly both here and in Ireland last year, achieving that status by winning the Dubai Fillies' Mile on her first run of the season. There might be a few niggling questions about Rhododendron's fitness but the Ballydoyle king wouldn't run her if he didn't think she had a great chance.
Churchill may have been up at Newmarket yesterday but Churchill Downs was the focus of attention in Louisville, Kentucky where the 143rd renewal of the Kentucky Derby was staged. The Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming, with John Velazquez aboard, certainly had all her wits about her as she glided smoothly from the gate and patiently shadowed the leaders for the first half of the one-and-a-quarter mile contest before going for home as the field went into the far turn, giving this trainer/jockey partnership its second career victory in this legendary Classic.
Marsha do about nothing!
The Sir Mark Prescott-trained Marsha nonchalantly shrugged off the seven-pound penalty she had acquired as a result of her victory in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Chantilly in October by triumphing in yesterday's Longholes Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, her first appearance of the season. The daughter of Acclamation, partnered by Luke Morris, produced a staggering burst of speed in the final furlong to claim this Group Three five-furlong contest by a neck, ahead of the Aidan O'Brien-trained raider, Washington DC.
6 May 2017
This afternoon in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last season's top youngster will have a chance to show how he fares in top quality company on the Rowley Mile. The Aidan O’Brien-trained Churchill, with five wins from six career starts to his credit, enhanced his credentials at this track when he won the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes one-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of his stable companion, Lancaster Bomber, who is back again today for revenge.
Thanks, Big Fella!
This son of American sire, Primitive Rising, finished third in the Randox Health Foxhunters' Open Hunters' Chase at Aintree last month despite his age. This result probably persuaded connections to give the fifteen-year-old Big Fella Thanks a chance to notch up a winner in the GX Landrover Open Hunters' Chase at Cheltenham fixture for the second year running. Sadly it wasn't to be as his jockey, Noel George, had to pull him up when things seemed to go wrong. Fortunately his trainer, Tom George, was able to report afterwards that the popular old-timer was perfectly fit and well but that it had been decided that he should be retired forthwith.
A Day Off Racing
A disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority has finally delivered their verdict following an enquiry into the starting problems at this year's Grand National on April 8. Twenty-six jockeys were found to be in breach of the rules by attempting to line-up and/or take up a position for the start before being authorised so by the starter and have accordingly been given a one-day ban. Sam Waley-Cohen, Jamie Codd and Sean Bowen will be forbidden to ride on May 15; Derek Fox on May 16 and the rest, including Ruby Walsh, Daryl Jacob, Noel Fehily and Bryan Cooper, will be sidelined on May 13.
5 May 2017
The farther they fall!
Sunday's Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket presents an intriguing family fight. The O'Brien brothers, trainer, Joseph and jockey, Donnacha, are taking on their father, Aidan, in this first Classic of the season, in which twenty-three-year-old O'Brien junior will be saddling his first runner in this mile-long contest. Dad on the other hand, has entered five fillies, one of whom, Rhododendron, is expected to blossom even more after her 1,000 Guineas Trial performance at Leopardstown last month when she came fourth to Hydrangea, another Galileo filly from the Ballydoyle Stables.
The George Scott-trained Gilgamesh made it four-in-a-row last night at Redcar when he claimed the racinguk.com Handicap by a neck. The three-year-old son of Foxwedge won twice on the all-weather at Wolverhampton after breaking his duck at Nottingham last August. Jockey, Jamie Spencer, kept the 7/4 favourite towards the rear for a while and he seemed to need a bit of encouragement to take on the rest of the field. The Niarchos family charge was not too slow on the uptake, however, and and cut the long-time leader, Tai Sing Yeh, down to size in the final fifty yards.
Cut to the Chase
Picking one Hunter Chase winner at Prestbury Park this evening fixture is not as easy as it sounds because this is Cheltenham's Hunter Chase meeting. One contest, in particular, stands out, though and that's the Class 2 Timico Mixed Open Gold Cup Final Hunters' Chase, with prize money of £25,000. the richest race of its kind ever staged. The Philip Rowley-trained Barel Of Laughs probably sets the standard in this contest, having proved himself by coming in close on the heels of Pacha du Polder in the St James' Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup. This son of Milan has the highest rating in the field, after an impressive three-and-a-half-length victory in the Lady Dudley Cup at Chaddesley Corbett on April 15.
4 May 2017
Winnie's for the Guineas!
Perhaps not unsurprisingly last season's Dewhurst winner is the ante-post favourite for the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday. The Aidan O'Brien-trained Churchill, however, is taking on the first domestic Classic of the season, but he hasn't been seen on the track for over seven months. The Ballydoyle trainer seems confident, though, that the Galileo colt is up to the job and won't disappoint connections.
The problem with betting on maiden races is that there are so many variables and quite often an unknown quantity will swoop through the field and the race is over before you know it. All things being equal,though, a known known is previous form. This could just prove to be the case at Redcar today in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Maiden Auction Stakes. The current two favourites for this contest are the Paul Mulrennan-trained Grinty, who's had four previous outings and Wonder of Dubai, trained by Michael Bell, who has only had two. The influencing factor, however, could be the latter's spirited run at Lingfield at the end of March when he was runner-up to the William Knight-trained Hajjam. Of course there may be unknown unknowns!
Space for Ace
Tonight at Musselburgh there's an interesting five-furlong contest, the Racing UK Day Pass Just £10 Handicap. Of the seven runners one particularly catches the eye and that is the Iain Jardine-trained Desert Ace. The son of Kheleyf, with already five wins to his credit, performed really well last time out at Ripon two weeks ago on his seasonal reappearance. Admittedly that was an amateur riders’ race but he ran confidently well in front for quite way before seeming to tire close to home. He will no doubt have benefited from the run and will have the advantage of being sixteen pounds lighter than when he scored at Ripon last September.
3 May 2017
It seems the chance of winning half-a-million dollars is too much to resist for Andrea and Graham Wylie so they have decided that the season is not yet over for their diminutive star, Nichols Canyon. In ten days' time this son of Auhorized will be in Tennessee lining up in the seventy-sixth renewal of the Grade One Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes. The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old finished third last year in this three-mile Nashville contest. Nichols Canyon was last seen at the Punchestown Festival when runner-up to Unowhatimeanharry in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle.
Safe Port of Call?
Today's Longines Sagaro Stakes at Ascot is the venue for the seasonal reappearance of the Laura Mongan-trained Harbour Law, winner of the St Leger and the Epsom-based handler admits she is nervously excited. Connections, too, will no doubt a little on edge as the four-year-old son of Lawman will be partnered by a new rider, Tom Queally, replacing George Baker who suffered a serious injury recently. It's not that there is any objection to the new jockey but it is felt that the regular rider is "a big part of the jigsaw puzzle".
Last January's Coral Welsh Grand National winner has been retired from racing and will take up another career in the show ring. Kerry Lee-trained Mountainous also claimed the Chepstow contest in the 2013-14 season when the current handler's father, Richard, held the licence. It seems that connections feel that the twelve-year-old son of Milan owes them nothing, having achieved all that can be expected on the race track and a fresh start could be rejuvenating.
2 May 2017
One for the Sire
Saturday's Newmarket Classic will be the smallest field since 1995 when the Andre Fabre-trained Pennekamp claimed the prestigious prize, beating ten rivals, and the top French trainer is confident that Al Shaqab racing's Al Wukair will be in the frame this time around. At yesterday's confirmation stage only a dozen runners are scheduled to run the Qipco 2,000 Guineas and four of these will be saddled by Aidan O'Brien, namely the favourite, Churchill, Lancaster Bomber, Peace Envoy and Spirit Of Valor. The legendary Frankel showed twelve rivals a clean pair of heels in 2011 and Eminent and Dream Castle will be attempting to become the first Classic winner for their illustrious sire.
The Group Two Mooresbridge Stakes at Naas yesterday was the race for Champion filly, Minding, to prove, if any proof were necessary, that she's still got what it takes and the four-year-old filly did it in style, coming home with a comfortable lead of three-and-a-half lengths. The Aidan O'Brien-trained daughter of Galileo was urged by Ryan Moore to go into the lead after the first furlong and he was content to let her stride on in her own inimitable manner from there. Although the Ballydoyle trainer had hinted that Minding might just need the run for her first appearance of the season, the outcome never really looked in doubt.
Sacre not so bleu!
Nicky Henderson’s National Hunt champion has moved from Lambourn to the Cotswolds. Sprinter Sacre, who was found to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat after having been pulled up at Kempton in December 2013, remarkably went on to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at last year's Cheltenham Festival. Since his retirement the popular dual Champion Chase winner has spent his recent months parading at racecourses to the delight of his hosts of adoring fans and seemed to enjoy his new walk-on role. Now the 11-year-old son of Network is facing a new life at with event rider, Spencer Sturmey.
1 May 2017
She did it Somehow!
The Aidan O'Brien-trained daughter of Fastnet Rock seemed to enjoy the extra quarter-mile when she outran her eight rivals in the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes at Gowran Park yesterday. Somehow obvioulys benefited from her previous run when coming second in the Park Express Stakes on the opening day of the season and was well in control in this nine-furlong contest. Seamie Heffernan steered the four-year-old smoothly through the field but there was a moment when it seemed the dynamic duo wouod run out of room. Fortunately a gap opened up in time for the 6/4 favourite to sprint home with a length-and-a-quarter advantage.
Another Aidan O'Brien prodigy is back on track today at Naas. Four-year-old Minding lines up in the Camelot Irish EBF Mooresbridge Stakes, taking on just four rivals in this Group Two contest where, because of her class, she has to carry a top group One weight. The Galileo daughter completed a very successful campaign las season when she won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot and clearly is a one Ballydoyle stars to keep an eye on.
Could come Good
The USA, Hong Kong and Japan have been some of the places that Goodwood directors have visited over the Winter months in their attempts to persuade the owners and trainers to bring of some of the best horses in the world Glorious Goodwood at the end of June. Adam Waterworth, the Sussex track's MD, for one, spent a whirlwind week last November attending both the Melbourne Cup and the Breeders’ Cup meetings and also jet-setted off to Japan and Dubai to meet owners, trainers and sponsors.
30 April 2017
Can't keep good man down!
The County Carlow king did it again! After starting the week about £350,000 behind Gordon Elliott he made a dramatic comeback on Friday with a terrific treble. As a result Willie Mullins arrived at Punchestown with a £90,000 lead. And the rest, as they say is history. The Closutton handler retained his champion trainer crown.
King crowned posthumously
The Trevor Hemmings-trained Many Clouds was crowned the Racing Post Jumps Horse of the Year for the second time at Sandown yesterday. Sadly the champion chaser died at Cheltenham in January just after winning the Cotswold Chase, beating the incomparable Thistlecrack. The 2015 Grand National winner was one of the most popular National Hunt runners, due to his sweeping successes and doughty running style. It was a popular result as witnessed by the landslide victory of 65 per cent of the vote.
History books rewritten yesterday at Sandown. Nicky Henderson got the better of his old rival and notched up a fourth victory in the title race. It had been a battle right down to the line but Nicky Henderson had enough in the bag to beat off any last-minute counter-attack by the Ditcheat handler. The final blow was provided by Altior who triumphed in the the bet365 Celebration Chase, seeing off the Nico de Boinville-ridden Special Tiara by eight lengths.
29 April 2017
Not beaten yet!
The County Carlow king notched up a first and third in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle yesterday. Trainer, Willie Mullins, thereby made an incredible comeback in his bid for the Irish trainers’ championship after winning yesterday's two main races and took the lead for the first time in a season which ends today. Wicklow Brave and Arctic Fire did the honours in the Grade 1 Punchestown Champion Hurdle and Bacardys added to the glory by winning the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle.
Frankels trailblazing son Cunco, trained by John Gosden, was the first offspring to run and win at Newbury in May last year, and followed that up with success in the bet365 Classic Trial by a head. It's interesting that the sire's headstrong nature evident in many of his sons and daughters was present in the three-year-old today but he managed to overcome this quirk and launch a winning challenge in the straight.
Woodland Opera furthered the remarkable run of form for the trainer/jockey partnership of
Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power, when winning the EMs Copiers Novice Handicap Chase at Punchestown by three-quarters of a length. The duo has been riding the crest of a wave ever since Sizing John claimed the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival last month. Then they landed the Irish Grand National with Our Duke and have this week enjoyed another successful streak at Punchestown, with the County Kildare trainer saddling four winners.
28 April 2017
Blow them Away
All eyes on the Punchestown Champion Hurdle today. A contest that has attracted a dozen of the best two-mile hurdlers from both sides of the Irish Sea. One runner in particular could do well, especially as he seems to perform better on right-handed tracks. The Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir probably produced his best effort at the Cheltenham Festival in March when coming third behind Buveur D'Air and My Tent Or Yours in the Grade 1 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. The son of Al Namix also claimed the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown at the end of January. It was then decided to swerve Aintree to give the six-year-old a chance to be fully fit for today's event. Another positive is the fact that jockey, Bryan Cooper, is currently on a 17% strike-rate for the County Waterford trainer so connections have every reason to be quietly confident.
Could go with a bang!
The John Gosden-trained Royal Artillery only raced four times last season and was perhaps a bit too inexperienced in his first two starts but he eventually got there at Haydock in August when he go the better of two tough rivals, Scottish and Arab Spring. The three-year-old son of War Front lines up today in the Group Three bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown and if he can summon up the same skills which produced his best effort so far at Deauville when he came third behind champions, Almanzor and Zarak, then the Clarehaven Stables team are in for a good day.
Victory in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown was very much needed by Willie Mullins in his battle with Gordon Elliott for the champion trainer's crown and the favourite, Nichols Canyon, certainly looked as though he would deliver the much-needed prize-money. The Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry had other ideas, however, and had gone into the lead some way out and, although Ruby Walsh worked away reducing the lead, Noel Fehily managed to keep the son of Sir Harry Lewis on the job and the provide the Beaminster-based trainer with one of the biggest wins of his career.
27 April 2017
His Cup Runneth Over.
Punters were pretty confident that the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner would repeat his success on home ground and they were not proved wrong. The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John, the 9-10 favourite, with the irrepressible Robbie Power aboard, didn't disappoint and won the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup in the most dramatic fashion. The Mark Bradstock-trained Coneygree had free rein at the front of the field for quite a bit of the extended three-mile contest and was still in command as the field came into the home turn. The Willie Mullins-trained Djakadam and the eventual winner were hot on his trail and the event turned into an exciting grandstand finish. At the final fence there wasn't much to choose between the trio but Sizing John had the measure of his opponents and took the prize by a short head.
Mind the Gap!
The Cullentra contender for the champion trainer title struck back again in his bid for the coveted crown. Gordon Elliott saddled a Grade One double on the second day of the Punchestown Festival. The County Meath trainer established a lead of of some £340,000 but, by the end of the day, long-time champion, Willie Mullins, had reduced that to around £230,000.
Yesterday's Investec Derby Trial at Epsom was a close-run thing but the John Gosden-trained son of Frankel got his act together in the dying strides to win by a short head. It was only Cracksman's second appearance on a race track, having won the Class 4 Breeders Supporting Racing EBF Maiden Stakes at Newmarket back in October, and it took him a while to rise to the challenge. By the time he did it looked as though the three-year-old had left it too late as Mark Johnston's Permian, partnered by Franny Norton, set off for the post in the final furlong. Cracksman wasn't done yet, though, and a final thrust saw the job well one.
26 April 2017
About the Size of it.
Today there is the pleasure of watching one of the best staying chases of the season - the Punchestown Gold Cup and this year's renewal looks a humdinger. The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John attracts a lot of attention whenever he runs, particularly since he stepped up in trip. Before that the son of Midnight Legend seemed to spend his time chasing Douvan over the minimum trip. But once the distance was right the seven-year-old never looked back, claiming the Brae Chase at Thurles by two-and-a-half lengths and the Irish Gold Cup by three-quarters of a length. After triumphing in the Cheltenham Gold Cup he has been allowed a long enough break to recover. The County Kildare trainer is also in top form with a 45% better than expected strike-rate so connections are confident that their star will be in the frame.
The Old One Two
Despite losing around £850,000 in prize money when Un De Sceaux's failed to score in the BoyleSports Champions Chase, Willie Mullins has still managed to reduce Gordon Elliott's £350,000 lead to £220,000 in the race to be champion trainer, with four days remaining. The County Carlow king notched up a one and two in yesterday's Herald Champion Novice Hurdle with Cilaos Emery and Melon, which netted around £68,000 plus the added bonus of seeing Gordon Elliott leave the first Grade One of the Festival with nothing to show for it.
The late great Dessie Hughes' daughter has decided to give up training in the next few months because it is no longer financially viable to continue. Sandra Hughes took over the reins on the death of her father in November 2014 and took no time making her mark, scoring a victory with two Grade One wins before that year was out. The Osborne Lodge trainer's most valuable success was when Katie Walsh won the 2015 Irish Grand National aboard Thunder And Roses.
25 April 2017
Another day another Festival! This time at Punchestown where the feature race this evening is the Grade 1 Champion Chase. The in top-form trainer, Colin Tizzard with already an incredible tally of winners this season, will be hoping for another Group One. This evening he saddles Fox Norton in the ten-furlong contest. The seven-year-old, originally trained by Neil Mulholland, seems to like it at Venn Farm, and rewarded his new handler with a rollicking nine-length victory in the Schloer Chase at Cheltenham in November and coming a close second in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Prestbury Park last month. The son of Lando is a versatile performer and will no doubt enjoy the good ground that is forecast.
Willie Do it?
One trainer who will be bidding to make things hard for Tizzard in the Champion Chase is Willie Mullins. Although the Count Carlow king is trailing Gordon Elliott in the final week of the season by about £340,000 and may not be crowned Ireland's champion trainer for the first time in ages, it may be a bit soon to write him off. The Closutton handler has been spectacularly successful at Punchestown in recent years and, with the likes of Un De Sceaux and Ruby Walsh for support on the opening day of the Festival, 'don't count your chickens', as they say!
Not Quite A year!
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Washington DC seemed to appreciate the drop in grade yesterday at Navan by putting an eleven-month losing run behind him. Partnered by Seamie Heffernan, the son of Zoffany was off the pace for a while before launching his bid on the outside to take the Listed five-furlong Woodland Stakes by a neck.
24 April 2017
A Run for her Money
This seven-year-old Kayf Tara mare has only raced three times, coming fourth in a Novices' Hurdle at Towcester in February and more of the same at Southwell in March. The Michael Scudamore-trained Sheneededtherun, however, certainly added credence to her name when she was steered by Tom Scudamore to a twenty-two-length victory in the D M Keith Mares' Maiden Hurdle at Wetherby yesterday.
That Was The Week That Was!
From saddling the Irish Grand National winner, Our Duke, on Easter Monday to a Navan big-race double on the Flat yesterday, with Khukri and Torcedor, the weeks don't come any better for trainer Jessica Harrington. The Fairyhouse First was the icing on the cake just a month after her Gold Cup win with Sizing John at Cheltenham on St. Patrick's day.
Battle to the Line
Paul Nicholls' winning the Scottish Grand National with Vicente means that he has edged his way back into the Champion trainer's title race and Nicky Henderson, who is still narrowly in the lead, will have to battle on right to the line until Saturday when the National Hunt Season officially terminates. The Seven Barrows trainer is still some £190,000 ahead of his Ditcheat-based rival with hopes for more success at the Punchestown Festival which starts tomorrow. Paul Nicholls, on the other hand, is pinning his hopes on success in Saturday's bet365 Gold Cup card at Sandown.
23 April 2017
A very Happy Unbirthday!
The Queen got her birthday present a day late when her Galileo colt claimed the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes at Newbury yesterday after being disappointed on the actual day when Maths Prize miscalculated. The William Haggas-trained Call to Mind, partnered by Ryan Moore, made up for it, however, tracking the leaders for a while but then starting to make headway about a furlong from from home. The three-year-old was a little tight for space in the closing stages but luckily a gap appeared and he just managed to squeeze through to win the one-mile contest by a neck.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Vicente won his second Scottish Grand National in a row, putting his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, in the unenviable position of denying his father, Nigel, a prestigious win. It was a close run thing, though, as the Grange Hill Farm star, Cogry, wasn't going to be beaten that easily and the race developed into a real ding-dong battle in the final stages. Ultimately, however, the eight-year-old son of Dom Alco triumphed just as he did a year ago.
No Shame for Seamus
There was also a thrilling finish to the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr yesterday when the Seamus Mullins-trained Chesterfield gave the cold shoulder to Paul Nicholls' Zubayr. The seven-year-old son of Pivotal, fresh from a handicap win at Aintree just two weeks ago, was forced to go really wide round the home turn but stayed on strongly, well steered by Daniel Sansom, providing both trainer and jockey with their biggest wins to date.
22 April 2017
The Name's Bond!
The race that was first run in 1858 at a course near Houston, Renfrewshire and known as the "West of Scotland Grand National" is today's highlight at Ayr where it has featured since 1966. One trainer who will be crossing his fingers for success today is Nicky Henderson who saddles Premier Bond in the close-on four-mile contest. Victory for the Middleham Park Racing-owned son of Kayf Tara will mean that the Lambourn-based handler will take the crown as champion trainer. Premier Bond, ridden by David Bass, was runner-up to his impressive stable companion, Might Bite in the 188bet.co.uk Novices' Chase at Doncaster in December. After winning at Catterick and Doncaster in January, the seven-year-old finished third in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.
Dis Guys no Jockey!
Yesterday at Newbury, a racegoer, was apprehended by Julian Thick, Newbury's CEO, and escorted from the the parade ring. The man in question, it seems, who had disguised himself as a jockey, was probably on a stag trip. The problem was that the Queen, on her birthday, was visiting the Berkshire track to watch her horse, Maths Prize, compete in the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup EBF Stallions Conditions Stakes (sadly came fifth out six!) and security was stricter than usual.
Kindly pay attention!
Today is a big day for the Richard Fahey-trained Queen Kindly at Newbury when she lines up in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes. This Frankel daughter seems to be currently in top form with three wins from five career outings. The three-year-old filly hasn't been seen since last September, however, and today's contest may be something of a fact-finding mission as she tackles seven furlongs for the first time but if she can stay the extra furlong then her natural speed should stand her in good stead.
21 April 2017
Summing it up
The son of Royal Applause could well get his sums right today and triumph in the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup EBF Stallions Conditions Stakes at Newbury. Maths Prize, owned by Her Majesty The Queen, only had four outings last year but notched up two Firsts a Second and a Third, the last being at Doncaster in September. The Roger Charlton-trained three-year-old will be partnered by Ryan Moore and it looks like it could be one of his most promising of his six rides at the Berkshire track
Another Frankel colt made it two out of two at Newmarket yesterday when he claimed victory in the Group Three bet365 Craven Stakes. Martyn Meade-trained Eminent, maintained his unbeaten record with a one-and-three-quarter length victory over the William Haggas-trained Rivet, winner of last season's Group One Racing Post Trophy. The Sir Peter Vela-owned three-year-old cast aside any worries about the fast ground and seemed to relish the one-mile trip in the company of champion jockey, Jim Crowley.
A Star Performance
Marlon may well have been content to be a contender in the movie, On The Waterfront, but this Brando wanted more than that and got his season off to a flying start by comfortably winning the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes at Newmarket yesterday. It initially looked as though the Robert Cowell-trained Ornate would claim the spoils, steered by the adventurous Ryan Moore but Tom Eaves always seemed at ease on the favourite, son of Pivotal, trained by Kevin Ryan, and the four-year-old finished the contest with a length in hand.
20 April 2017
Blue Skies Over ...
Whitecliffsofdover at Newmarket yesterday left no room for doubt what the outcome would be in the bet365 European Free Handicap. The Aidan O'Brien-trained three-year-old, who finished third on his most recent outing in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly in October, was fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time, was well in control from more than a furlong out. The WarFront colt, with Ryan Moore aboard, was challenged briefly by Seven Heavens and Rodaini gap, but he was unpeturbed and galloped all the way to the line to victory by two-and-three-quarter lengths.
Three on Two
The Clarehaven Stables trainer is certainly on top form for the time of year. After notching up two winners on Day One of the Craven Meeting at Newmarket, John Gosden followed with a treble on Day Two. First off the mark was Daban, the least experienced horse in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes who showed a cool turn of foot to come from the back of the field to score by three-quarters of a length. Then it was Dancing Breeze's turn in the bet365 EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies' Stakes. The New Approach filly, under Frankie Dettori, was keen from the start and went into overall lead from about three furlongs from home, eventually claiming the prize by half-a-length. The treble came in the last race of the day, the Class 3 bet365 Handicap, when Jimmy Fortune steered ten-year-old Middle Kingdom to a narrow victory. The icing on the cake for John Gosden was another two winners at Beverley.
Trouble at t'mill
All is not sugar and spice, it seems, at Musselburgh racetrack which is reported as is "heading towards disaster" due to a management crisis. The situation is now sufficiently serious that the British Horseracing Association (BHA) has issued this popular east Lothian venue with a temporary licence that is due to expire at the end of June. Apparently the Scottish racing community is about to be disrupted by a protracted and damaging civil war between the two sides responsible for the local authority-owned Musselburgh race course. The BHA is understood to be optimistic about the outcome but the threat of the end of racing in two months time still looms.
19 April 2017
Not a Soft Touch!
The John Gosden-trained High Chaparral colt was beaten into second place in a Class 3 handicap at Doncaster sixteen days ago but he made amends at Newmarket yesterday. The deciding factor was that Khalidi clearly prefers faster ground which he demonstrated by repelling the challenge of the Sylvester Kirk-handled Salouen to win the bet365 Feilden Stakes by a neck.
Full of Grace
This Born To Sea daughter was moved to the William Haggas stables from her previous trainer, John Oxx, over the winter months and could well put down a marker for the 1000 Guineas if all goes well on day two of the Craven Meeting at Newmarket. Sea Of Grace only made her debut last June, when she put up a noticeable performance by coming a well-earned third in the Peter Keatley Curragh Equine Groundcare European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden, following that with two wins, one at Tipperary and the other at the Curragh. Today the three-year-old filly lines up in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes. There's a question mark over her drop back in trip to seven furlongs after being used to further but connections seem to be confident that there's more to come from Sea of Grace.
Just Had Enough!
It seems that dual US champion mare with six races at the highest level to her credit, including beating her male counterparts in the Breeders' Cup Mile as a four-year-old in 2015 and following that with her memorable visit to Britain last year, when she recorded a famous victory in the Queen Anne Stakes has lost interest in racing and has been retired. Her trainer, Mark Casse, said that the six-year-old daughter of Bernstein is happy and healthy but just doesn't have the same desire to train any more and he respects her wishes.
18 April 2017
For the winner of yesterday's BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse it was a debut handicap appearance and only his fourth outing over fences. The Jessica Harrington-trained
Our Duke, however, with Robbie power aboard, never looked in any real danger, claiming the prestigious prize by fourteen lengths. This triumph added further glory to the trainer/jockey partnership, following on from a Cheltenham Festival treble, including the Gold Cup victory of Sizing John.
A High Five-Five!
What better fifty-fifth birthday present than to establish another record number of seasonal winners for the Ditcheat yard! That's what Paul Nicholls did at Chepstow yesterday, when he notched up his 156th victory with Sam Twiston-Davies-ridden Dolos claimed an easy two-and-a-quarter length triumph in the Hugh James Supporting NSPCC Schools Service 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle. The celebrations didn't stop there, thugh, for, three hours later, If You Say Run put the icing on the cake with a win in the Army Cadets Wales Supporting NSPCC Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race.
Cream on the Top!
The Grade Two Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle at Fairyhouse yesterday was a nine-length victory for the Willie Mullins-trained Renneti. De Plotting Shed, handled by Gordon Elliott, was urged by jockey Davy Russell to make all he running but that plan only lasted until the eight-year-old son of Irish Wells, steered by Ruby Walsh slipped smoothly into top gear and sailed past to an easy win, despite valiant efforts by the eventual second.
17 April 2017
Yorkhill was denied victory by a neck in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse yesterday and, what is more, denied his trainer, Willie Mullins the significant £34,000 prize money that could be crucial for his bid to retain the Championship title. The key to the son of Presenting's problems seems to have been a return to a right-handed track which proved a disaster as he jumped sharply left at most of the fences. The seven-year-old managed to make his way into the lead after the fourth fence but, unfortunately, saved the worst of his sideways manoeuvres for the last obstacle and, thereby, gifted the Grade 1 Fairyhouse feature race to Road To Respect, owned, ironically, by Michael O'Leary, whose company, Ryanair, sponsors the event.
You Betcher, Fletcher!
The BoyleSports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse today will be a chance for the Harry Fry-trained Fletchers Flyer to capitalise on his previous experience of the County Meath track when he won a competitive handicap chase over three-and-three-quarter miles at the Punchestown Festival last April. The nine-year-old son of Winged Love was then given a rest until December when he had two outings so he should line up this afternoon fit and fresh for the fray.
Harry didn't tarry!
Harry Bannister, after a high-profile win at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting, sustained a broken wrist, leaving him languishing on the sidelines for most of the National Hunt season. Happily the conditional jump jockey was able to relegate a frustrating season to history when he partnered the Warren Greatrex-trained Magic Memory to victory in the Challenger Series Mares’ Handicap Chase Final at Haydock.
16 April 2017
All that Aljazzi!
The Racing UK-sponsored Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes at Kempton yesterday was won, for the third year in a row, by Marco Botti. The Newmarket trainer saddled Aljazzi, ridden by Ryan Moore, in this one-mile contest. The four-year-old Shamardal filly was always prominent and was comfortably ahead inside the final furlong, beating the Luca Cumani-trained Materialistic by a length and a half.
This Listed prize and two Group Three events winner didn't live up to expectations when competing in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot. This time, however, the Dermot Weld-trained Zhukova was the clear favourite and, although it looked as though Henry de Bromhead's Island Remede might have it all done and dusted by the home straight, the five-year-old daughter of Fastnet Rock, with Pat Smullen aboard, eventually wore her rival down and passed the post with two lengths to the good.
Sound as a Bell
Yesterday's totepoolliveinfo.com Royal Mile at Musselburgh was won by the Richard Fahey-trained Cullingworth, ridden by Sammy Jo Bell, riding her first winner since returning from injury. The highly-successful apprentice was wheelchair-bound for quite some time after undergoing a pelvic operation as a consequence of a heavy fall at Carlisle last May and only returned to race riding at the beginning of last month. The four-year-old son of Kodiac, one of four runners in the race for the North Yorkshire trainer, appearing for the first time since September, went into the lead inside the final furlong and managed to hold off rival, Grey Britain, by a head.
15 April 2017
Third of a Grand!
With the aim of pocketing as much of the €500,000 (£424,000 in real money!) and, thereby, claim Ireland's champion trainer crown for the first time, Gordon Elliott is planning to saddle ten of the thirty runners in the Irish Grand National on Monday. In fact, almost half of the field is dominated by Gigginstown Stud runners and fourteen sets of owner, Michael O'Leary's well-known maroon colours will be sported in the fabulous Fairyhouse fixture.
Last to First
The Richard Fahey-trained 25/1 shot, Forest Ranger, caused quite an upset in the 32Red Burradon Conditions Stakes at Newcastle yesterday by coming right from the back of the field to claim the one-mile contest by two-and-three-quarter lengths. Partnered by Tony Hamilton the three-year-old son of Lawman easily beat the 10/3 favourite, Utmost, trained by John Gosden.
Get it across easily.
Sir Michael Stoute's Winter Derby winner, Convey, never really had any worries when he won the last race of the day, the Betway Easter Classic at Lingfield yesterday. Ryan Moore had the 11/10 favourite very handy behind the leaders and when asked the question two furlongs from home, the five-year-old Dansili son had all the right answers and cruised to the front past Third Time Lucky and Elbereth.
14 April 2017
On your Mark's!
Arena racing Company has invested significantly in Bath racecourse facilities, including the opening of the new Langridge Grandstand last Summer and today's new Good Friday fixture presents its richest-ever programme. The eight-race card embraces a main attraction of two valuable handicaps worth a total of £182,750. The £60,000 Bathwick Tyres Handicap, in particular, has attracted top trainers from far and wide. Even Middleham-based trainer, Mark Johnston, has been tempted to make the over-500-mile round trip to Bath with no fewer than three of his horses – Permian, Sofia's Rock and Manduro, so he must think he has a chance.
The Ahmad Abdulla Al Shaikh-owned Son Of The Stars produced a last-race success in the Class 4 Paul Goodwin 50th At Charlie Lockrams's Bar Handicap at Chelmsford City yesterday. The Richard Hannon-trained son of Delegator, ridden by Ryan Moore, following up his winning debut at Kempton Park last December, was always in front in this mile contest and secured victory by two lengths.
It's Championship Day at Lingfield Park today and what better time for a fairytale ending. An unraced son of Champs Elysees was acquired eighteen months ago for an incredible £600. In August of last year the Neil King-trained Petite Jack was a 20-1 chance for a juvenile hurdle at Newton Abbot and merited those odds as he finished last. Things changed drastically thereafter, however, as the four-year-old notched up four wins and a second on the flat, dramatically increasing his handicap mark from 73 to 98. Now he is a definite contender in the Class 2 Betway All-Weather Marathon Championships. It would be lovely if Petite Jack could now repay his owner, Bill Burn, by winning the £93, 375 first prize money.
13 April 2017
Easter Monday heralds this year's running of the €500,000 Boylesports Irish Grand National. Thirty-one years after its English counterpart, the Irish Grand National was inaugurated in 1870. Five furlongs shorter and seven fences fewer than the Aintree affair, the Fairyhouse feature is the biggest prize in Irish National Hunt racing. The very first winner of the race was a horse called, funnily enough, Sir Robert Peel, creator of the metropolitan Police Force (hence the nickname 'Bobby'!). The event is affectionately known as ‘The Race of the People’ because anyone can enter their horse and have a chance of winning it against many of horseracing's well-known millionaire owners. This was soundly illustrated in 2012 when the 33/1 chance, Líon na Bearnaí, trained by a young rookie, Tom Gibney, won it for a small group of tradesmen. Then the following year a 50/1 outsider, Liberty Counsel, owned by two sisters, did the honours.
Rhyme and Reason
At Chelmsford City tonight the Bet toteexacta At totesport.com Handicap is financially a race well worth winning. Some of the country's top trainers are well aware of this and have the contest in their sights. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Poet's World, in particular, has been ear-marked as the short-priced favourite and quite rightly so. The son of Poet's Voice won two of his four outings last season. The four-year-old finished a close second in the Class 2 crownhotel-bawtry.com Handicap at Doncaster last September which did his reputation no harm. Today Poet's World will have the benefit of the partnership with top-class jockey Ryan Moore, with a 42% strike-rate at the course, which can't be bad, either.
It's all Go!
Kempton Park's first race of the evening yesterday saw a continuation of this Devon-based trainer's successes at the Sunbury-on-Thames race track. Rod Millman saddled Go Amber Go in the 32Red.com Handicap and, although the four-year-old daughter of Compton Place seemed not too keen on the loading process, once the stalls were opened, she conveyed her jockey, Lulu Stanford, to an impressive two-and-three-quarter length victory.
12 April 2017
Verse to come!
This daughter of Duke Of Marmalade pulled out all the stops in 2015, notching up such successes as the St Leger and a second Group One victory in the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot. The Ralph Beckett-trained Simple Verse didn't have such an easy time of it last season, however, but finally got back to her former self when scoring in the Park Hill Stakes and coming third in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot. The Andover-based trainer admits that the five-year-old mare has been somewhat slow getting it together this year but he is confident that she can compete at the highest level again and, with that in mind, the Royal Ascot Gold Cup has been pencilled in.
Have a good trip!
The 2016 season was not an easy time for another rising star after winning the 2015 Ascot Gold Cup. The Ed Dunlop-trained Trip To Paris is hoping to get his career back on track when he lines up in today's totepool Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham. Ryan Moore is back aboard the son of Champs Elysees again after an absence of three years and will be aiming to make it three wins in a row. The Newmarket-based trainer is keen to stress, however, that the six-year-old has proved himself as a successful stayer and owes his connections nothing and will only continue to race if he appears to enjoy it.
The Turf Club’s new ‘non-trier’ rules introduced at this Summer’s Galway festival are to be reviewed by the Jockeys Association. This action is being proposed as a result of jockey Wayne Lordan's failed appeal against a five-day ban for his ride on the Aidan O’Brien-trained Music Box at Dundalk last week. Aidan O’Brien’s own appeal against a €2,000 fine and a forty-two day suspension for his horse, Music Box were also rejected by the referrals committee panel, applying the January 21st-introduced Rule 212. The referrals committee chairman, Joe Finnegan, described the new rules – which refer to riders being observed to take all measures as judged reasonable by an informed member of the racing public – as an objective test.
11 April 2017
This son of Zebedee kicked off his career with flying colours last September at this West Yorkshire track and proved it wasn't a fluke by going on to win again at Catterick a month later. Today the Richard Fahey-trained three-year-old with the inappropriate name of Brian The Snail is set today defend his unbeaten record back at Pontefract again in the Class 3 Racing UK Anywhere Available Now Handicap. It's true the Godolphin-owned colt is ceding a lot of weight away to eight more experienced rivals who may, however, not be up to dealing with a sprinter of this class.
The new Flat season has barely begun but clearly some trainers already have their sights on Royal Ascot. This certainly seems to be the case with Charlie Hills after his Rock Of Estonia produced a winning debut in the EBF Racing Welfare Novice Stakes over five furlongs at Windsor yesterday. Steered by Jamie Spencer the son of Society Rock raced keenly, making virtually all until caught about a furlong from home by the Dean Ivory-trained Angel Of The South but managed to hold off this challenge by a neck.
It has just been announced that, after a good work out at Kempton Park last week, the Khalid Abdullah-owned Fair Eva doesn't need any further prep runs but will head straight to the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 7. The Roger Charlton-trained daughter of Frankel did her sire proud on her first two starts in June and July last year, following those successes with a notable third in the Lowther Stakes at York and second in the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket last September. The three-year-old is currently a 12/1 shot for the prestigious fillies' Classic.
10 April 2017
The Ten-time champion National Hunt trainer has stated that £331,000 stands between him and another title. At the conclusion of the Aintree fixture Paul Nicholls is this amount of prize money behind Nicky Henderson, who gained his third championship in 2012-13 and so the latter is destined to be top trainer for this season. Conceding that an eleventh honour is almost certainly out of reach this year, the Ditcheat handler has set his sights on another target, that of beating his 2008-09 record of 155 winners. As he's on 152 at the moment and there are three weeks to go before the end of the Jump season, this certainly seems achievable.
Riding on Air
This year's Dr Vincent O'Brien Centenary Alleged Stakes at Naas was bagged by a British challenger for a change. As expected the Aidan O'Brien-trained US Army Ranger was the flavour of day in this Group Three contest but, somehow, he didn't seem to have his usual verve. It was Ralph Beckett's Air Pilot, with Fran Berry aboard, who delivered a well-timed challenge in the final hundred yards to claim the prize by a head.
The winner of the Grand National, One For Arthur, has naturally attracted most of the attention for a superb achievement. The jockey , Derek Fox, however, also achieved something spectacular. Just over three weeks ago he broke his left wrist and right collar bone in a fall at Carlisle. The amazing thing is that the way he rode the National winner and particularly how he battled on in the run-in at the end of the four-mile-plus contest no-one would have guessed that he had just returned to racing after a serious accident. As has been acknowledged, the real miracle workers behind the scenes were the employees at Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund’s northern rehabilitation centre.
9 April 2017
To a Tee!
One for Arthur's winning the Grand National was a big one for ecstatic owners, Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson and for Irish jockey, Derek Fox. It was also a big one for the history books as this was the first horse trained in Scotland to win the National for the thirty-eight years and so marked a memorable day for trainer Lucinda Russell. It seems the two lady owners bought the son of Milan three years ago for £60,000 because they wanted a hobby, as they were fed up with being golf widows!
The Barbury Castles' trainer was of a mind to step the son of Norse Dancer up in trip earlier in the season. Alan King's instincts proved right yesterday when Yanworth won the Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle. At the turning for home it looked an open race with six-or-so contenders battling it out but by the second last there were only four seriously in the picture, with the Noel Meade-trained Snow Falcon probably having the edge. Then Barry Geraghty on Yanworth and Robbie Power, aboard Supasundae, came up alongside the leader at the last obstacle. It proved to be a close-run thing all the way to the post but Yanworth had that little bit extra and bagged the prize by three-quarters of a length.
Although 'winless' since September 2015, this Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old ran his rivals ragged in yesterday's Betway Handicap Chase at Aintree to score by eighteen lengths. Sizing Codelco, partnered by Robbie Power, claiming his fourth win of the week for owners, Ann and Alan Potts and the Milborne Port handler, was prominent from the start in this three-mile-one-furlong contest and the result, bar misfortune, was never really in doubt.
8 April 2017
An Ardent Loathing?
Or “Aha! Rotten landing!” However you arrange the letters of The Grand National, the Aintree Extravaganza is back again for its 170th renewal. First run in 1839, this four-mile-plus contest, now the most valuable jump race in Europe with a prize money of £1 million, has become a prominent feature in British culture and a race that is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year. The course over which the race is run features much larger fences than those to be found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these obstacles, particularly Becher's Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn, have become almost household names in their own right. So whatever system you use for selecting the winner – hard statistics, sticking a pin in a list or choosing an unusual name, the place to be at 5.15 pm is at Aintree or in front of a TV screen!
It's been five years since the Ditcheat trainer won the most prestigious contest in horse racing with his 33/1 shot, Neptune Collonges, and he seems determined to do it again. Paul Nicholls intends to saddle five hopefuls in this afternoon's race any one of which could be a very welcome birthday present for the top trainer who will be fifty-five next week. The Manor Farm Stables' runners to look out for are: Saphir de Rheu (20/1) – ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; Vicente (20/1) – Brian Hughes; Wonderful Charm (33/1) – Katie Walsh; Le Mercurey (33/1) – Sean Bowen and Just A Par (40/1) – Harry Cobden
The Old One-Two!
Nicky Henderson added yesterday's Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase at Aintree to his credits following his recent victory in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham when the same horse, Might Bite did the honours again, beating his stable companion to the line by two lengths.
7 April 2017
The Fontwell’s top trainers’ table is headed by Sussex trainer Gary Moore who extended his lead with another victory, taking his score card to forty-eight from 265 rides – a strike rate of 18.1%. This time he saddled Dell Oro, with his son Josh(ua) aboard in the bet365 Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race which the four-year-old son of Walk In The Park won by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
A thirty-five-year old jockey, winner of the Grand National ten years ago and the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Sizing John last month, is seeking to become the first rider, since Jim Culloty in 2002, to win the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season. Robbie Power is scheduled to ride the Anthony Honeyball-trained Regal Encore in the Aintree spectacular tomorrow. The nine-year-old son of King's Theatre won the Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in December but sadly had to be pulled up in a handicap chase at Cheltenham at the end of January.
This son of Oscar won this nigh-on two-and-a-half-mile contest last year and his Slad-based trainer is hoping for a repeat prescription. Tom George saddles God's Own in the JLT Melling Chase at Aintree this afternoon. The nine-year-old seems to be on the top of his form this time of year as he proved when going on to beat the ill-fated Vautour at Punchestown.
6 April 2017
Life beyond The National
You'd think that there's no other racing in the UK today if you read Sporting Life or Racing Post! Not a mention of Southwell, Chelmsford City or Taunton! The latter has not, however, been ignored by top trainers such as Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe. There are a couple of interesting contests at the Somerset track this afternoon. One that catches the eye is the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase when Michael Scudamore saddles the eleven-year-old Skint. This son of King's Theatre was an impressive winner a month ago at this track in the Clarke Willmott LLP Handicap Chase and he's the favourite today, ridden again by Tom Scudamore.
Of course there's a lot of exciting action at Aintree today and it's not surprising it hogs the limelight. One contest, in particular, will be worth watching. The Nicky Henderson-trained Champion Hurdler, Buveur D'Air, is aiming to emulate Annie Power who, a year ago, claimed the Betway Aintree Hurdle for the second year running. The slight question mark is that the son of Crillon has never raced over two-and-a-half miles before. On the plus side, however, is the fact that the five-year-old hasn't been beaten in his last five races since March last year.
Right for the Wrong Reasons!
A hundred winners for the second year running for trainer Dan Skelton when his mare, the strangely-named Listen To The Man, triumphed in the 188 Bet Mares' Handicap Hurdle at Wincanton. Ridden by the trainer's brother, Harry, the seven-year-old daughter of Court Cave shrugged off the challenge of bearing top weight and claimed the Class Three contest by a length and three-quarters and, surprisingly, on good to firm ground. An interesting post-race confession by the Alcester-based trainer was that he hadn't 'listened to the woman' because he always thought the mare was a stayer on soft ground!
5 April 2017
Never say die!
A year and sixteen days is a long time to wait for a winner and this Hungerford-based trainer's patience was finally rewarded at Kempton Park yesterday. Pat Murphy saddled Cloudy Bob in the Class 4 Polyroof Advanced Liquid Roofing Handicap Chase and the ten-year-old sprinted home like a young colt. The son of Cloudings last did the honours for Glebe House Stables over this course and distance in March 1916.
The Colin Tizzard-trained Cue card is seeking his tenth Grade One win on Thursday in the the Betway Bowl at Aintree. The eleven-year-old son of King's Theatre is returning with the aim of living down his heart-breaking fall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, coming a cropper at the third fence from home, just as he had done last year. He bounced back from that disaster to win again so naturally connections are expecting him to do the same this time.
The Leading Rider Award presented at Grand National Festival, which starts tomorrow, will be sponsored by Racing UK, in conjunction with Aintree. The leading jockey over the three days of the Festival will be awarded £1,500 and an Inkerman-produced trophy; the runner-up will get £1,000; the third £750; the fourth £500 and fifth £250. The leading conditional. Jockey will receive £500. The prize will be based on the number of wins achieved by a jockey. If these scores prove to be are level, then the number of seconds and thirds will be taken into calculation.
4 April 2017
What's in a Name!
With a nigh-on twenty percent strike rate it seems one of the heaviest burdens this eleven-year-old gelding has to bear is his name which follows the never-ending quest to come up with something unusual and non-equine. Yesterday, at Ludlow, the Tim Easterby-trained Ifandbutwhynot took the Boyne Cup by storm and transported champion jockey, Richard Johnson, to a nine-length victory ahead of another quirkily-named runner, I'dliketheoption, from Jonjo O'Neill's yard. The commentator sounded a little amused with the two names in juxtaposition but nothing can quite compare with the classic race at Monmouth Park 2010 when My Wife Knows Everything ran neck and neck with The Wife Doesn't Know!
(Look it up on Youtube! - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVMY-VX7NyA )
Intent on Winning
The Nicky Henderson yard is still firing on all cylinders and there are a couple of targets in their sights at Kempton today. One in particular is the Trust Klober Novices' Chase when the Lambourn-based trainer saddles Bivouac in ths Class 4, three-mile contest. This son of Califet has revealed that he has plenty of ability in two previous outings over fences at Leicester and Exeter in February and March, respectably, so connections should be quietly optimistic about the outcome.
Last shall be First!
At the five-day stage there are still seventy contenders for this Saturday's Grand National. The latest situation, after the surprise withdrawal of the John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough, is that it falls upon The Last Samuri to shoulder top weight of 11st 10lb. Trainer, Kim Bailey doesn't seem particularly concerned at this stage for her nine-year-old son of King's Theatre.
3 April 2017
It's all Go (dolphin)!
It may only have been the very first weekend of the Flat racing season but it was obvious that Godolphin are determined to do better than they have done at this stage of the British season in recent years. Well-backed favourites from Saaed bin Suroor's yard were the team to follow at Doncaster yesterday where they had three winners: three-year-old Benbatl, with Josephine Gordon aboard, won the Purple Vouchers Maiden Stakes by seven lengths; Frankel son, Dream Castle, under Oisin Murphy, claimed the next race by three-and-a-half lengths and Bin Battuta completed the treble for the Godolphin/Bin Suroor team when he won the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Handicap by a neck.
Arena Racing Company's sixteen race tracks are to join the existing partners, Jockey Club Racecourses and York as members of Rewards4Racing later this year. As a consequence British racing's rewards programme, in which the Racing Post is a partner, will be increased to thirty-two racecourses and the number of meetings where members can both collect and spend their points will augmented from 360 to more than 900. The programme's members qualify for Rewards4Racing points when buying tickets for the races, placing bets with its three betting partners bet365, Betfred and Coral, and when making purchases at some four-thousand retailers.
Banned if you do. Banned if you don't!
Jockey Wayne Lordan, who recently joined Aidan O'Brien' Ballydoyle yard, didn't use his whip on Music Box in the Dundalk Stadium - Light Up Your Night Maiden and consequently missed out on second place by a short head. The Turf Club's revised Rule 212 (A) (ii) states that a jockey who "cannot be seen to have been the subject of a genuine attempt to obtain from the horse timely, real and substantial efforts to achieve the best possible place shall be guilty". As a result the stewards fined the County Wexford-born trainer €2,000 (about £1700 in real money), issued the jockey with a five-day ban and the three-year-old filly can't appear on a track for forty-two days.
2 April 2017
It just had Tupi!
Richard Hannon had the honour of saddling the winner of the first race of the 2017 British Flat turf season at Doncaster yesterday. Five-year-old Tupi, with Ryan Moore aboard, proved to be the fittest in the field after strong prep runs in Meydan over the last two months, and pulled away from the field inside the final furlong to win the Betway Cammidge Trophy by four lengths
An Absolute Blast!
It was a close finish in the Listed Betfred Mobile Magnolia Stakes at Kempton. The Ralph Beckett-trained Very Dashing had made much of the running on first run for Kimpton Down Stables but ran out of steam in the final stages of the ten-furlong contest. This was a golden opportunity for the Archie Watson-trained Absolute Blast to squeeze between the rail and get her head in front in the final yards.
The David O’Meara-trained Bravery thwarted a massive gamble by punters on the Ryan Moore-ridden Oh This Is Us in the Betway Lincoln at Doncaster yesterday which would otherwise have cost the bookmakers an arm and a leg. The three-time champion jockey had already bagged the first three races on the first day of the Flat season so the gamble was on for four-in-a-row. The Richard Hannon-trained son of Acclamation travelled well in the centre of the track and the race looked in the bag as he went for home about a furlong from home. Daniel Tudhope, however,wasn't prepared to give up so easily and coaxed a little more out of the Galileo son to win by a neck.
1 April 2017
There's a novel attraction at Doncaster today to mark the official first day of the Flat season. An extra event, sponsored by The Side Saddle Association, will take place after last race of the day and will feature a unique variant. All the male jockeys will honour the presence of their three female competitors by riding sidesaddle. They have been given two weeks to practise this unorthodox way of race riding on specially made saddles. The lady riders will sit astride their mounts in the more usual way. If one of the men wins this ten-furlong contest they will be awarded a special First of April fool's hat!
The first career win from six runs by Ajman Princess in the 32Red Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Lingfield yesterday has given trainer, Roger Varian, renewed hope for his four-year-old. After coming second in the Class 1 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot last June, this daughter of Teofilo missed the rest of the season due to an injury sustained in the Irish Oaks. Admittedly she was among inferior competition on her seasonal return and only needed to be ridden with hands and heels by Andrea Atzeni to claim the mile-and-a-quarter prize by three-and-three-quarter lengths.
Tomorrow sees the return to action of the Anthony Curran-trained Flemenstar in the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse. The son of Flemensfirth looked set for stardom after his hat-trick of Grade One wins in 2012 but was off the track between November 2013 and March 2015 because of a series of niggling problems and has never really quiet got back to his previous top form. Connections are quite sanguine and confess only time will tell whether their charge has more to offer.
31 March 2017
This County Meath jockey has been absent from the track since the end of February after a fall at Kempton, which landed him with six broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Barry Geraghty sadly had to miss his favourite Cheltenham Festival due to these injuries. The good news is, however, that the thirty-seven-year-old rider has been pronounced fit to return to action probably as soon as Sunday at Fairyhouse and certainly for next week's Grand National Festival at Aintree.
Not yet in Clover!
There's a new trainer on the block. After spending five years as assistant to David Simcock at his Trillium Place Stables in Newmarket, thirty-one-year-old Tom Clover has decided, together with his partner Jackie Jarvis, daughter of the late Michael Jarvis, to join the illustrious ranks of Newmarket trainers. The rookie handler, based at Wroughton House Stables will be well aware of the need to achieve some early successes in order to hold his own among such distinguished company.
Breaking the Mould
It's half-a-dozen years since a favourite won the Betway Lincoln, the feature race at tomorrow's traditional opening of the flat racing season at Doncaster. There is one contender, however, who could change this situation. The Roger Charlton-trained Yuften, is relatively unexposed as he has only had thirteen career starts. On the downside the six-year-old son of Invincible Spirit is rated at 105, a pound higher than any other winner in the last ten years but he has been as high as high as 116. In his favour, however, Yuften and is only four pounds heavier than when he won the Balmoral Handicap on British Champions Day.
30 March 2017
Grounds for hope
Philip Hobbs-trained Cigarisi, after coming fourth on his first career outing in the Neptune Investment Management Standard Open NH Flat Race at Ascot in November went on to show he had what it takes to tackle hurdles at Taunton and Exeter, although only gaining third place at the latter. It was at Plumpton, on his handicap debut, on heavy ground in February that the son of Kalanisi notched up his first success, justifying his odds-on favouritism status on that occasion. Today the five-year-old is back at the Somerset track, lining up with eight rivals in the Chetwood Wealth Management Supports The RNLI Handicap Hurdle, for which the conditions are forecast as good and it looks like a return to better ground will be a huge positive.
Article 50 was invoked yesterday morning to trigger the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union but, uncannily, the EU had the last word at Southwell in the afternoon. The Derek Shaw-trained Treaty Of Rome*, with Tony Hamilton aboard, won the Betway Sprint Handicap by a neck. Maybe an omen for the tough negotiations ahead to bring about Brexit!
*The name of the agreement signed in 1957 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany that brought about the establishment of what was first known as the EEC (European Economic Community), then the EC and currently the EU.
More power to your Elbow!
Steering the Alan and Ann Potts-owned Sizing John to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on St. Patrick's Day certainly enhanced this thirty-five-year-old jockey's career. Robbie Power has been appointed to the highly coveted new job as retained jockey to this successful horse-owning duo. This new association gets started today when Robbie Power rides the Colin Tizzard-trained Sizing At Midnight, and Sizing Granite at Taunton.
29 March 2017
It's here again! The first day of Britain's turf flat racing season takes place at Doncaster on Saturday. The feature event is, of course the one-mile Lincoln Handicap, which as it is run just a couple of weeks before the Grand National, forms part of a double bet for punters. The only jockey to have ever won Lincoln-Grand National Spring Double was David Dick in 1956 who also held the record (nine times) for the number of clear rounds on a notoriously difficult Aintree course. The Aintree Clear Rounds Award, given for any jockey completing more than five clear rounds, was inaugurated in 1986.
Out for the Count
This Frankel son, already booked for the Derby, showed his distinctive credentials when he won the one-and-half-mile Betway Maiden Stakes by three lengths at Wolverhampton yesterday. Andrew Balding-trained Count Octave came third last time out on his debut at Goodwood when ridden by Oisin Murphy. This time it was David Probert who steered the three-year-old colt to victory.
Two in a row at Hexham yesterday for the Henry Hogarth-trained Hattons Hill in the Super League Betting At 188Bet Handicap Chase. The eight-year-old son of Pierre had already proved he's one to watch when he won the 188bet.co.uk Novices' Handicap Chase at this Northumberland track just twelve days ago, also partnered by 3lb claimer, Jamie Hamilton.
28 March 2017
Just One More!
The Grand National has one rule that other races don't. To qualify to compete, jockeys have to have at least ten wins to their credit. For most of the competitors that's no problem but for one rider, in particular, this poses a race against time. Rachael Blackmore, from Tipperary who is four wins clear in the race to be champion conditional jockey in Ireland this season, is one short of this minimum requirement. The problem is that there are only three days of jump racing left in Ireland before the 6 April deadline. Her next opportunity is at Limerick on Thursday so the pressure's on.
That's the Ticket!
It is nigh on two years since this son of the Great Pretender failed to make his mark after being sent off favourite at Sandown in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle and his results have been nothing to write home about since. It was time to make amends, yesterday at Market Rasen, however, when the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Box Office, partnered by Aidan Coleman, lined up in the 32Red.com Handicap Chase. The six-year-old 5/2 joint-favourite was clearly in control a long way from home and dominated at the final fence to claim a five-length victory over Donald McCain's The Clock Leary.
The Rest is History
In preparation for an attempt on a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic this triumphant four-year-old grey will enjoy a well-deserved rest. The Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate produced one of the greatest performances in horse racing history when he turned a twenty-length deficit into a two-and-a-quarter length victory in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on Saturday. The Khalid Abdullah-owned colt thereby put a further £5 million in the coffers of Juddmonte Farms Inc.
27 March 2017
This Warwickshire-based trainer notched up three winners from five runners at Bangor on Saturday, all ridden by his brother, Harry – Some Invitation in the Deva Racing Syndicates Novices' Hurdle; Atlantic Storm in the Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre Wrexham Handicap Hurdle and Seelateralligator in the Silverburn Finance Mares' Maiden Open NH Flat Race. The omens are good, therefore, that Dan Skelton can continue his winning streak today when he saddles Stage One who is making his debut over the larger obstacles in the 32Red.com Limited Novices' Handicap Chase at Market Rasen. This son of King's Theatre finished third on each of his four hurdles outings so all bodes well for the six-year-old in this two-mile-plus contest.
Back on Track
A memorable day for this forty-one-year-old jockey yesterday when he scored at the track where he had his very first ride. Graham Lee partnered the Mick Channon-trained Czabo in the Group Three Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes at Naas. The four-year-old daughter of Sixties Icon impressed when she came fourth in last season's Irish 1000 Guineas and got in some useful experience a couple of weeks ago at Saint-Cloud. The Galway-born rider timed his challenge to perfection, defeating the Aidan O'Brien-trained 7/4 favourite, Somehow, by half a length.
Sam played it again (and again and again and again!)
Sam Twiston-Davies produced a priceless Mother's Day present yesterday at Wincanton when he claimed four out of the seven-card fixture, three of them for his boss, champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, who, thereby, passed the £2million mark in prize-money for the season. The twenty-four-year-old jockey won on Copain De Classe, Antartica De Thaix and Winningtry for the Ditcheat handler and on How's Vienna for the Wortcestershire-based trainer, David Dennis.
26 March 2017
John Gosden-trained Jack Hobbs, winner of the 2015 Irish Derby but absent for most of last season because of injury, made an impressive return to the track by winning the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan yesterday. This victory was a reward for the Newmarket-based trainer's endless patience with the five-year-old son of Halling during his recuperation. The 7-4 favourite, Postponed, trained by Roger Varian, last year's winner, failed to do the business and could only manage third.
Never Say Die
A dramatic beginning but an expected result in the Dubai World Cup yesterday. The odds-on favourite, Arrogate, got squeezed out at the start of the race and and, at one stage, he must have been a good twenty lengths behind the leader. It was 'never say die' for jockey, Mike Smith, however, who was determined that the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup Invitational winner would have another day of glory and slowly but surely worked his way back into the race. By the home turn the son of Unbridled's Son had considerably reduced the deficit and dug deep for that bit of extra and galloped clear to give his trainer, Bob Baffert, a third win in this ten-furlong spectacular.
The Arlary House Stables' trainer scored magnificently yesterday at Kelso. Lucinda Russell saddled Big River in the Edinburgh Gin Handicap Hurdle and the son of Milan, with Blair Campbell aboard, claimed the £23,000 three-mile-plus contest by ten lengths. With next month's £1 million Grand National only two weeks away this was a very welcome victory for owner, Debs Thomson, and connections.
25 March 2017
Taking it in his Stride
This Khalid Abdullah-owned four-year-old hasn't raced for a whole year but already has the Travers Stakes, the Breeders' Cup Classic and the inaugural Pegasus World Cup amongst his list of credits. Today the Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate takes on thirteen rivals in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates Airline. The Californian trainer believes the secret of success for the four-year-old son of Unbridled's Song is the length of his stride.
Two for the Road
After a hectic Cheltenham Festival Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson only sent two runners twenty miles down the road to Newbury yesterday but both came up trumps. He scored in the first race of the day, the Be Wiser Insurance Novices' Hurdle which Reigning Supreme claimed by a length. Then in the penultimate contest Nico de Boinville steered Maestro Royal to victory in the Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Hurdle. With a current slight lead in the race to be champion trainer, Nicky Henderson needs every win he can get.
This is not the first time this mistake has been made and won't be the last! It looked like another win was being offered jockey James Ridley on a plate, having been gifted a fifteen-length lead, when the Martin Wilesmith-trained Duke Of Lucca unseated his rider at the last in the BJP Insurance Brokers Open Hunters' Chase at Newbury yesterday. That's not how it turned out, however. The amateur rider, aboard Lookslikerainted, unfortunately mistook the half-furlong marker for the winning post, lowered his his hands and slowed down, eventually finishing third. He received a twenty-eight-day ban to add to his misery!
24 March 2017
Duo for a trio?
The Oakley Coachbuilders Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Newbury today could well see the in-form Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson partnership continue in its winning ways. Two days ago the dynamic duo triumphed twice at Warwick and this afternoon they are hoping to make it three in a row when Sykes lines up against six rivals in this nigh-on three-mile contest.
Spoilt for Choice?
Sam Twiston-Davies seems to be in the fortunate position of having the pick of a few good horses for the Grand National at Aintree in a couple of weeks' time. The twenty-four-year-old jockey has just made it known, however, that he's plumping for the Paul Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu in the world's most famous steeplechase. This eight-year-old son of Al Namix is currently 16/1 after coming fifth in last Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Tales from Wales
It has just been announced that ITV is following up its exclusive coverage of the Cheltenham Festival with the launching of a programme called 'Welsh Horse Power' tonight on ITV Cymru Wales. This is a three-part series about the activities of four of the most prominent racing stables in Wales. The programmes will highlight the profiles of four National Hunt trainers: Peter Bowen, based at Little Newcastle; Tim Vaughan at Aberthin; Evan Williams, in Llancarfan; and Rebecca Curtis, located in Newport (Pembrokeshire). Viewers will see footage from some of the UK's top race meetings such as the Welsh Grand National from Chepstow and the Cheltenham Festival as well as gain an insight into what goes on at these stables with contributions from trainers, jockeys and stable hands.
23 March 2017
First-timer gets a four-timer
Thirty-nine-year-old Richard Johnson, who finally gained the coveted Champion jockey crown for the first time last year, scored four times at Warwick yesterday. The Hereford-born rider didn't waste any time getting down to buiness mark, either. His first victory was for his boss Philip Hobbs, when he steered the 9-4 favourite Robbin'hannon to a two-and-a-half length win in the first race of the day, the Executive Hire Show Maiden Hurdle. Then thirty minutes later this trainer/jockey partnership triumphed again with the 1/9 shot Multiculture in the two-mile GES Novices' Hurdle. Then in the third race same jockey, different trainer when the Kerry Lee-trained 8-11 market-leader, Krackatoa King, scored in the CB Stephen Allday Perpetual Plate Chase. Richard Johnson's fourth came when he was aboard the Henry Oliver-trained Sparkling River who won the Ricoh Arena Mares' Handicap Hurdle by an incredible thirty-nine lengths.
Racegoers who attend next month's Craven meeting at Newmarket will have the pleasure of viewing the statue of King Charles II that has recently been unveiled by the Rowley Mile. The decision for such a monument is very apt because this monarch was responsible for bringing about the development of Newmarket as the home of horse-racing and the Rowley Mile, in fact, is named after one of the King's favourite horses, Old Rowley.
At a Pinch
After The Nipper's run-away fourteen-length success at Haydock yesterday, trainer Warren Greatrex is now considering an entry in the Punchestown Festival next month. The six-year-old daughter of Scorpion scored in her first three bumper starts last season, including the listed EBF British Stallion Studs & TBA Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race at Sandown. This win made it three in a row for the Smith, Ratcliffe & Bowring-owned mare.
22 March 2017
“Build me up Buttercup!”
It's only ten days since this six-year-old daughter of Limnos cruised home by eighteen lengths in the TBA EBF Mares' Chase (Novices' Limited Handicap) at Warwick but the Venetia William-trained Buttercup is back on track again at Haydock today in the Howdens Joinery Chase. The six-year-old takes on a seven-pound penalty for that runaway victory as she seeks to make it three-in-a-row for her Herefordshire-based trainer. Clearly connections think Buttercup is up to the task
This year's Grand National is just around the corner and the latest news is that seventy-nine horses are still on the list for the world's most famous race, worth £1 million. One contender who has been a favourite since the allocation of weights is the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge, who finished seventh in the 2016 Grand National. This eight-year-old son of Sabiango has made his mark this season with a win in the Becher Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences in December and again in the Grand National Trial at Haydock Park last month. The Somerset-based trainer's last success in the Aintree Spectacular was in 2008 with Comply Or Die.
Back on Song
This five-year-old son of Kapgarde produced a very disappointing performance at Sandown in February when he came fifth (out of five!) in the Grade 1 Betfred Tv Scilly Isles Novices' Chase so it was good to see the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux getting his act together yesterday in the Higos Insurance Services Novices' Chase at Exeter.
21 March 2017
Runner with Appeal.
After a two-month absence following a not-to-impressive result at Catterick in the middle of January, this six-year-old son of Duke of Marmalade might do better in the racinguk.com Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby this afternoon on the forecast Good/Good to soft conditions. The Sir Mark Prescott-trained William Of Orange should also appreciate the additional half mile, having proved he likes the longer distance when coming runner-up over two miles on the flat at York less than two years ago.
All that Jazz!
The Venetia Williams-trained Kap Jazz is looking to make it three-in-a-row in the Higos Insurance Services Exeter Interactive Handicap Chase at Exeter this afternoon. The seven-year-old son of Kapgarde broke his duck over fences at Carlisle towards the end of February and then went on to claim the Racing UK On Sky 432 Chase (Novices' Limited Handicap) at Ludlow three weeks ago. Inevitably the Charles Barlow & Fiona Neill-owned gelding pays the penalty of an extra thirteen pounds weight for those earlier successes but he seems a cut above his seven other rivals.
Emerald Isle Irish horses claimed most of the glory at the Cheltenham Festival but at least one 'smaller' trainer is reported as saying that there should be a cap on the number of horses one owner can enter in a major handicap hurdle or chase. Tony Mullins fears for the future of smaller yards who do not have the backing of wealthy owners. Without the support of horse racing’s rich men and women, there is no doubt that Irish trainers would and do struggle to survive.
20 March 2017
Life goes on
Where have all the top trainers gone now that the Cheltenham Festival is over? Well, there's a place in Somerset where horse racing has been taking place since the 18th century and officially became the Taunton Racecourse Company in 1927. That's where today you'll find the likes of Paul Nicholls, Alan King, Phillip Hobbs, Colin Gizzard, Jonjo O’Neill, and Nigel Twiston-Davies, ably assisted by top jockeys Richard Johnson, Wayne Hutchinson, Noel Fehily, Aidan Coleman and Sam Twiston-Davies.
This County Meath trainer hardly took a breather after the Prestbury Park Pageant. Gordon Elliott saddled six horses in the seven-card fixture at Navan yesterday and five of them scored. The Cullentra House stables' handler also had five runners at Limerick earlier in the day but only one of them struck lucky. But with another six victories to his credit Gordon Elliott continues to set the pace in the race for his first National Hunt trainers' title.
Over the Moon
The small County Kildare village of Moone last night provided a hero's welcome for their returning Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. Seven-year-old Sizing John fully justified the exuberant reception after his brilliant display in Saturday's spectacular which also gave his trainer, Jessica Harrington, her first Gold Cup victory.
19 March 2017
So there was life after the Cheltenham Festival! Yesterday Uttoxeter staged the second longest Steeplechase in the country(4 miles 1½ furlongs). The Midlands Grand National has been a popular fixture since 1969. The winner this year was the Fergal O'Brien-trained Chase The Spud who battled on gamely to win the contest by one-and-a-half lengths. For the Paddy Brennan-ridden son of Alflora it was a chance to get even with Michael Scudamore's Mysteree who had the upper hand at Haydock in November.
A win con Brio
Another post-Cheltenham victory for a top trainer for whom things hadn't gone as expected over the previous four days. The Paul Nicholls-trained Brio Conti made up for some of the Prestbury Park disappointment with a decisive win in the Matchbook Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at Kempton Park.
Fizz did the biz!
Gordon Elliott finally got the better of his great rival, Willie Mullins, by being crowned top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival. The County Meath trainer already had it in the bag when his 12/1 shot, Champagne Classic, became the sixth winner for Cullentra House stables after winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
18 March 2017
His Cup runneth Over
A remarkable result for the Irish Gold Cup winner on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival yesterday. The Jessica Harrington-trained Sizing John, with Robbie Power aboard, claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup by two-and-three-quarter lengths. There was also a certain deja vu about the contest as the ever popular Cue Card, partnered by Paddy Brennan, once more fell three fences from home. A disappointing result, too, for Lizzie Kelly, the first female jockey to ride in this three-mile-plus Grade 1 event for thirty-three years, as she was unseated from Tea for Two at the second fence.
A Gordon for me!
There was a surprise result in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. The 12/1 shot, Champagne Classic, presented his trainer, Gordon Elliott with his sixth winner of the Festival and thereby his first Festival trainer's award. This means that the County Meath handler is still ahead in the race for the Irish trainers' title which will probably be decided by what happens at Fairyhouse and Punchestown at the end of next month.
Willie Mullins hasn't had much luck in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in recent years and yesterday's renewal didn't bode well, either. His main hope, Augusta Kate, ridden by Ruby Walsh, was a strong contender according to the market but she made a bad mistake as she headed out on the final circuit. All was not lost, however, as Paul Townend, aboard one of the other two Closutton entries, grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck and urged Penhill from the rear of the field as they reached the bottom of the hill, going into the lead as they approached the last obstacle. From there the six-year-old son of Mount Nelson could turn a blind eye to the rest of the field and coast home three-and-a-half lengths clear.
17 March 2017
It's St. Patrick's day so it was to be expected that Irish runners would dominate the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival. One in particular race provides evidence of this and that is the County Handicap Hurdle. Seven out of the last ten renewals of this two-mile-plus Grade 3 contest have been from Ireland and, not surprisingly, five of them were trained by Willie Mullins, who today saddles Renneti and Arctic Fire. The County Carlow king may not have it all his own way, however, as his duo will be up against the Gordon Elliott-trained Mick Jazz and Ivanovich Gorbatov handled by Joseph O’Brien.
Bets are off!
After yesterday's breathtaking four-time win by Ruby Walsh the bookies have taken fright and have stopped taking bets on the thirty-seven-year-old County Kildare jockey's chances of claiming the top jockey crown for the fifth year in a row and the eleventh time since his first triumph in 2004. This turn-around is amazing considering that the formidable Walsh/ Mullins partnership drew a blank on the first two days of the Prestbury Park pageant. Incredibly, Ruby Walsh was a 10/1 shot with Paddy Power in the top jockey betting after that disappointing start.
The Willie Mullins-trained Let's Dance's victory in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle equalled the County Carlow trainer's own record for the number of winners on a single day of the Cheltenham Festival, after claiming the six of the seven races on the card.
16 March 2017
Better believe it!
There are few certs in horse racing but the nearest to it must have been that Douvan would win the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase yesterday at Cheltenham. After all, since joining Willie Mullins, the son of Walk in the Park had an unbeaten nine out of nine over fences and is deemed by the County Carlow trainer as one of the best he has trained. Clearly bookies and punters thought so too, as the Mrs Ricci-owned seven-year-old was sent off the 2/9 favourite. The rest, as they say, is history: Douvan came seventh and the bookies enjoyed a £10 million windfall from the thousands of losing bets. A sizeable contribution to these Turf Accountants' profits was made by one unfortunate punter, who, after winning £400,000 on Tuesday on Altior in the Arkle, decided to bet £500,000 on Douvan at odds of 1/5, hoping to make another quick £100,000. Erm … erm …...
Whilst all eyes were on the Willie Mullins-trained favourite, Special Tiara, with Noel Fehily aboard, staged an impressive front-running performance to claim the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Henry De Bromhead-trained son of Kayf Tara gained a clear lead with still a circuit to run and the main concern was obviously whether the eight-year-old, third in this race for both of the last two seasons, would have enough left to finish the job. Any anxieties worries on that score, however, were ultimately assuaged when Special Tiara proved superior to the challenges of God's Own and Sir Valentino who were getting close two out and even the strong-finishing Fox Norton who was held off by a head.
Might is Right!
Earlier on in the day racegoers were treated to another nail-biting conclusion in the RSA Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite, partnered by by Nico de Boinville, gave his rivals a good run for their money right from the word go and was a good fifteen lengths in the lead by the home turn. The seven-year-old son of Scorpion must have caused a few missed heartbeats when he made a mistake at the last fence, causing him to lose his momentum and it looked like the race as well, because his stable companion, Whisper, took advantage by galloping by on the inside. Then the unexpected happened. A loose horse, Marinero, who had fallen earlier on, but was still racing alongside, seemed to spur Might Bite on to further last-minute efforts. The result was an unforgettable dramatic photo finish settled by a nose.
15 March 2017
The Nick(y) of Time!
The most successful trainer at the Cheltenham Festival has now won more Champion Hurdles than anyone. There were doubts in certain quarters whether this son of Crillon was ready for the task. Nicky Henderson, however, was adamant that Buveur D'Air should run and he was proved right yet again. The Lambourn trainer He claimed his sixth hurdling crown when the six-year-old went on to win, beating his stable companion, My Tent Or Your, by four-and-a-half lengths.
What are mates for?
Another turnip for the books. The Gordon Elliott-trained Apple's Jade beat his former stable mates, Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini, both trained by Willie Mullins in a dramatic conclusion to the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday. Willie Mullins had won the last eight renewals of this two-and-a-half-mile contest and was confident that one of his duo would make it nine. This wasn't to be and the defeat must have been all the more galling for the County Carlow king as he used to handle the winner before Michael O'Leary moved his horses to Gordon Elliott's yard.
A trainer's life is up and down. So it was yesterday for Willie Mullins at the Cheltenham Festival but today is another day. The County Carlow king has one not-so-secret weapon up his sleeve for for the Queen Mother Champion Chase – the doughty Douvan, the indubitable envy of all other trainers. The six-year-old son of Walk in The Park, a jumping natural, has notched up thirteen wins in a row and already has two Grade Ones at the Festival to his credit. It's a daunting fact that it's been some two years since any rival finished within five lengths of him.
13 March 2017
Go Native with Cue
Racing is taking place all over the country this week but judging from the headlines there's one event that everyone's waiting for: the four-day Cheltenham festival. No yard is more keyed up than that of the Sherborne-based trainer, Colin Tizzard, who saddles two hopefuls in the timico Gold Cup on Friday; Cue Card who, unfortunately, fell three from home last year in this event when it seemed he could claim the prize: and Native River, with a dreamlike season so far, having won the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Welsh National and the Denman Chase.
Back more Blackmore!
There was a little bit of pre-Festival delight at Naas yesterday when Abolitionist, formerly with Shark Hanlon but now trained by Ellmarie Holden, won the Download The Ladbrokes Exchange App Leinster National. The winning jockey aboard this eight-year-old son of Flemensfirth was leading conditional, Rachael Blackmore, who hopes to make her mark at Prestbury Park by not hanging around on Linger in Wednesday’s Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. The twenty-seven-year-old rider has already clocked up twenty-eight victories this season. Her one disappointment, apparently, is that she is not allowed to compete in Friday's Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle because she is too old. There is an age limit of twenty-five for this contest!
What's in a Name?
Irish bookmakers, Paddy Power, decided to commission a study of gamblers from last year’s Cheltenham Festival. The results have established a profile for the perfect punter based on the first names, surnames, areas and age ranges of the most successful speculators. If you're after top tips, it seems, you should look out for someone called Kelvin Atherton, who will be aged somewhere between 18 and 24 and hail from Dagenham. If you can't locate the man in question then anyone from Dagenham will do, as punters from this area of the country made an average of 645 per cent profit last year. Whatever you do, avoid accepting tips from anyone called Andre Horton who will be aged over sixty-five and comes from Windsor. Apparently this luckless individual acquired the worst tipster profile of the least successful punters in 2016.
12 March 2017
The Nicky of Time
This morning this three-times jump racing Champion trainer plans to walk the Cheltenham course to get an idea for himself what conditions are likely to be like for the Festival which starts in forty-eight hours. Nicky Henderson has a string of possible contenders but, from what he said at the Cheltenham Festival preview at Sandown on Saturday after the day's racing, it seems that his short favourite, Buveur D'Air, might not be one of them.
Tom O'Brien, who had just learned that his leading ride at next week's Cheltenham Festival, Finian's Oscar, would miss the meeting due to a minor injury setback, received some sort of compensation yesterday at Sandown. The thirty-year-old Wexford-born jockey managed to put his obvious disappointment behind him and rode the Ian Williams-trained London Prize to a one-length victory in the £70,000 Matchbook Imperial Cup.
Aspell of wins!
Also at the Esher track, the Lucy Wadham-trained Gregarious made it two out of two after making all the running in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. The son of Big Bad Bob, with Leighton Aspell aboard, was following up his nine-length victory at this same track in the Telegraph Hill Novices' Hurdle, this time claiming the prize by just half-a-length. A good day for for the twice Grand national winning jockey as he notched up two wins for Lucy Wadham and one for Oliver Sherwood.
11 March 2017
Another in the Pipeline?
This Somerset-based trainer's yard has already produced nine winners of the Sandown Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle, now sponsored by Matchbook, one of the UK's top betting exchanges, who have re-introduced the £50,000 bonus on offer for also winning at the Cheltenham Festival. David Pipe will be hoping for another name to be added to his list of winners of this prestigious prize: Max Do Brazil ridden by Tom Scudamore. The four-year-old son of Blue Bresil, added a win and a couple of respectable placings to his name in France but was disappointing on his English debut when he had to be pulled up before the last hurdle.
Connections of this daughter of Robin Des Champs will be hoping for three-in-a-row this afternoon in the EBF Stallions/TBA Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Sandown. The Willie Mullins-trained Redhotfillypeppers was acquired for a modest £200,000 after her impressive performance in an Irish point-to-point last May and the purchase was well justified as she went on to easily win her debut for the County Carlow trainer in a Punchestown bumper on New Year's Eve.
After a disappointing performance on his Meydan debut this winter trainer, Marco Botti, is hoping that his six-year-old son of Oasis Dream can make amends in the sunbets.co.uk Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton. Naadirr, on this occasion, will be partnered by three-times champion jockey, Ryan Moore, who will get him into the winner's enclosure if anyone can.
10 March 2017
End of the Road?
Another trainer is seriously considering retiring due to financial reasons. County Cork-based Adrian Maguire, who clocked up a winner with Knockraha Pylon in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Mares Beginners Chase at Thurles yesterday, admits he has only “five paying horses”. A major contributing reason for his decision to withdraw is undoubtedly that his training career in his native Ireland has become progressively tougher over the years due to the dominance of leading yards, run by the likes of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott, who are fortunate to enjoy the patronage of the top wealthy owners.
Mine's a Double!
There are many trainers we hardly ever hear who just keep beavering away in the background. Yeovil-based Simon Hodgson, for instance, enjoyed his first national Hunt winners for over three years at his local track at Wincanton yesterday. His first big surprise was in the opening contest, the Bathwick Tyres Trowbridge Handicap Hurdle when Daytime Ahead, who had not even been placed in any of her nine previous runs, conveyed Nick Scholfield to a half-a-length victory. Then almost three hours later you could have knocked the Somerset handler down with a feather when his 50/1 outsider, General Girling won the Bathwick Tyres Yeovil Novices' Handicap Chase by six lengths, partnered by Mitch Bastyan, who only rode his first-ever winner at Lingfield on Monday.
Back on Track
Returning to racing after almost seven months' absence due to injury, Andrew Lynch is preparing himself for the Cheltenham Festival, for which he has just been declared fit, with a a couple of rides at Ayr today. The twenty-eight-year-old County Meath jockey is back with trainer, Stuart Crawford, for whom he will partner Our Valentina in the first race of the day, the two-mile Weddings At Western House Maiden Hurdle, followed by Mullaghboy who lines up in the extended two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle half-an-hour later.
9 March 2017
Bonus for Boanas
Gillian Boanas, who only recently succeeded the retiring Keith Reveley as trainer, enjoyed her first win yesterday at Catterick when Redkalani, ridden by 7lb-claiming amateur Emma Todd, triumphed in the Bedale Hunt Masters Handicap Hurdle by ten lengths. The nine-year-old son of Ashkalani was only the rookie trainer's ninth runner since she took over the reins at Groundhill Farm near Saltburn.
Getting a kick out of it!
Another sports person has decided to realise the dream of riding a horse in a competitive race.
Ex-footballer, Michael Owen, is planning to be in the saddle in the Prince's Countryside Fund Charity Race which takes place in November. Michael Owen, together with his wife Louise, owns Manor House Stables in Cheshire, where Tom Dascombe has been a trainer since 2009. It is reported that the former striker only sat astride a horse for the first time this year so he has a lot of training ahead of him for this seven-furlong event in eight months' time.,
Time to Go
The legendary Sprint King, who earned this nickname due to his unrivalled skill in preparing runners for major sprint races such as the Ayr Gold Cup and the Stewards’ Cup, has just announced he is retiring. Sixty-year-old David ‘Dandy’Nicholls was a highly successful jockey before deciding in 1992 to switch to training at his yard near Thirsk. His last success was with Sovereign Debt in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cup at Doha in Qatar on 24 February.
8 March 2017
Bring Home the Bacon
Pig farmers from Northallerton are hoping for success at next week's Cheltenham Festival. Peter and Lucinda Atkinson have entered Irish Roe in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. This daughter of Vinnie Roe was purchased as a three-year-old for just £2,000 which seems a measly sum, considering her sire won four successive Irish St Legers from 2001-04. The six-year-old bay mare triumphed in her first two starts at Perth and Sedgefield last August and September and 'dead-heated' with the Alan King-trained My Khaleesi in the Listed High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire's Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Cheltenham in November.
One in Ten
If you have a flutter on Sunday's Grade Three Naas Directors Novice Chase there's a nine in ten chance that you will be backing a horse owned by Michael O'Leary. This is no act of clairvoyance. It's just a fact that nine of the ten horses scheduled to run come from the Gigginstown House Stud, the company headed by the Ryanair boss. That means the outsider, the Tom Mullins-trained Oscar Knight, owned by JP McManus, will have his work cut out, dealing with rivals with such names as All Hell Let Lose, Gangster and Prince of Scars.
Predicting which horses will be backed in next month's BoyleSports Irish Grand National is not so easy, however, as trainer Gordon Elliott is only responsible for 28 of the 124 entries listed at this early stage. This County Meath trainer almost made it in last year's Fairyhouse feature when his Bless The Wings was runner-up by just a shoulder. This time around sizeable squad includes the Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Outlander, Empire Of Dirt, Don Poli and Noble Endeavor.
7 March 2017
Roll out the Barrels!
The Eccleswall Court team has been firing on all cylinders recently so trainer Michael Scudamore could still be on target when he saddles Two Smokin Barrels in the two-and-a-half-mile Mares' Handicap Chase at Newcastle. The son of Kayf Tara scored three times on the trot (or gallop!) at Wetherby and Kelso in December and January and didn't seem troubled by the resulting twelve-pound increase in weight. The eight-year-old, partnered by the trainer's brother Tom, only has to see off three rivals who haven't had a win between them since before last December.
Making his Mark
One jockey's misfortune is another's opportunity. It has been announced that Mark Walsh will ride the favourite, Yanworth, in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. The son of Norse Dancer has previously only been ridden by Barry Geraghty on each of his eight starts over hurdles but, as has been well broadcast, the County Meath rider will unfortunately miss this year's Prestbury Park Pageant due to injury.
Two to Go
A County Meath trainer is so keen to win the Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown park on Saturday that he is planning a double-barrelled attack. Tony Martin hopes to saddle both Golden Spear and Tudor City for the prestigious handicap. The latter just beat his stable companion when they came second and third, respectively, in the Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.
6 March 2017
A Field Day
The final fence in the Irish Stallion Farm EBF Novice Chase at Leopardstown yesterday must have caused a few hearts to miss a beat, particularly the jockey's, Jody McGarvey, who was left with only one foot in the stirrups after the Willie Mullins-trained Great Field sprawled almost flat on the ground after the last jump. It was nothing short of a miracle that the partnership not only remained intact but recovered sufficiently to go and win by eight lengths.
For the Record
The 188Bet Lady Protectress Mares' Chase took this Somerset trainer another step closer to his best seasonal total of winners. After notching up a treble on Saturday (two at Newbury and one at Doncaster) Paul Nicholls saddled Antartica De Thaix in the nigh-on two-and-a-half-mile contest at Huntingdon yesterday. The seven-year-old Dom Alco mare, with Sam Twiston-Davies aboard, did the honours with a nine-length victory and the Ditcheat handler finished the day on the 130-winner mark for the current campaign.
It's almost twenty-one years (1996) since Frankie Dettori achieved his 'magnificent seven' (winning all seven races on the Ascot card). Now a Brazilian-born jockey has made racing history in Hong Kong by riding eight winners on a single card at Sha Tin. There was no stopping the thirty-two-year-old Joao Moreira as he worked his winning way through the day's fixture, beating his previous six wins on two occasions in March and December, 2015 at this same track.
5 March 2017
The Roger Varian-trained Postponed failed to follow up his last-year success in the Dubai City Of Gold at Meydan yesterday. After the son of Dubawi's 2016 triumph he went on to claim the Dubai Sheema Classic, the Coronation Cup and the Juddmonte International. Things obviously didn't go according to plan in yesterday's contest, however, as Postponed, under Andrea Atzeni, was short of racing room and deftly deterred from switching wide by Adrie de Vries, aboard the eventual winner, Prize Money.
A good day at Kelso for trainer, Brian Hughes, with four scalps under his belt. One race in particular caught the eye and that was the £33,000 Listed Premier Chase which Seldom Inn won by twenty-one lengths. Earlier in the day it didn't seem that this was the expected result as all the betting was centred around two Southern raiders, the Venetia Williams-trained Tenor Nivernais and Le Mercurey, handled by Paul Nicholls. Jockey, Sandy Thomson, had other ideas, however, and after tracking the key rivals for most of the race, he threw down the gauntlet coming off the home turn, and the son of Double Trigger galloped into the lead as he approached the second fence from home.
Not Number Two!
The Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury turned out to be virtually a one-horse affair when the Robin Dickin-trained Thomas Crapper, partnered by Charlie Poste, produced an astounding twenty-length victory. This win was only the son of Tamure's second success over fences after twenty attempts, although he has been runner-up twice at the Cheltenham Festival.
4 March 2017
Come to think of it
It's been three years since William Haggas had a winner in the Listed 32Red Spring Cup Stakes which has its renewal at Lingfield this afternoon. The Somerville Lodge-based trainer is back again with another powerful contender, Second Thought, one of the more lightly-raced runners in the nine-strong field, with two previous victories on the all-weather at Kempton Park and Wolverhampton. The son of Kodiac resumes his successful partnership with Robert Winston in his bid to make it three in a row.
This is a Bute!
Also at Lingfield park today is the eighth and final race in the All-Weather Hands and Heels series. The 7lb claimer, Jane Elliott, riding the Mark Johnston-trained Tartan Bute, is leading after seven races with 46 points, four ahead of Aled Beech in second and with William Cox who is in third place on 41 points. Contestants get five points for a win, three for second place, two for third and one for fourth. Additional points are awarded for other equestrian skills such as professionalism and presentation and the ultimate prize is £1,000 to be spent on some aspect of career enhancement. The race could be a bit of a nail-biter because Jane Elliott competes with her nearest rival, Aled Beech, partnering the Tony Caroll-trained Scrafton, who could notch up five points if successful and claim the series by one!
Last could be first
The Kim Bailey-trained The Last Samuri will have to overcome a huge weight rise of twelve pounds if he is to achieve back-to-back victories in today's BetBright Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster. The son of Flemensfirth is now rated 161 compared with the 149 when he won this twenty-six-furlong contest last year. Connections, however, including owners, Paul and Clare Rooney. do not seem unduly peturbed by the task confronting their eight-year-old gelding.
3 March 2017
A Hard-up Winner
It sounds like he doesn't have much money but when it comes to racing this son of King's Theatre certainly seems to have a lot in the bank. This was demonstrated yesterday at Taunton in the Clarke Willmott LLP Handicap Chase when the Michael Scudamore-trained Skint showed his younger rivals a clean pair of heels, winning the twenty-one furlong contest by six lengths. It wasn't all plain sailing for the eleven-year-old, however, as just after he had taken the lead, he made a bad mistake at the third fence. Fortunately, his jockey, Tom Scudamore, had everything under control and the duo survived to claim yet another victory for the in-form Ross-On-Wye trainer.
Aidan Coleman proved yet again what a talented jockey he is by notching up 100 winners for the second successive season and carrying it off with such ease in the Forbra Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ludlow. It was nice touch that he achieved this target aboard the Venetia Williams-trained Marcilhac because the twenty-eight-year-old Innishannon-born rider used to be stable jockey for the Herefordshire-based trainer for whom he rode champion, Kayf Aramis, to victory in the 2009 Pertemps Final at Cheltenham.
Back in 2010 this son of Killachy hit the headlines when, as a 100/1 outsider, he won the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. The Eddie Lynam-trained Sole Power then went on to land consecutive renewals of the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2013 and 2014, before successfully regaining his Nunthorpe crown three years ago. The multiple Group One-winning sprinter was last seen at the Dubai Carnival in which appeared in three races, unfortunately, without any distinction. Now it has been announced that the ten-year-old Sole Power has been retired, having won twelve of his sixty-five starts and after earning over two million pounds in prize money.
2 March 2017
Horse racing history was made at Deauville yesterday when Delphine Santiago became the first female jockey to ride a winner under the new weight rules allowance of two-kilograms (4.4 pounds or a medium sized pumpkin!). The thirty-eight-year-old rider, who just missed celebrating this auspicious occasion on her birthday, the last day of February, partnered the Ana Imaz Ceca-trained Milow to a length-and-a-quarter victory in the Prix Du Cap Gris Nez, presumably benefiting from the controversial regulation which had only just come into force.
Not Sleeping on the Job!
A seven-pound conditional jockey had a good day at Wincanton yesterday, notching up his third career winner. Harry Reed steered the Neil Mulholland-trained Sleep Easy to a five-length victory in the Lycetts Farm And Estate Insurance Brokers Handicap Hurdle. The 6/1 shot son of Rip Van Winkle who had disappointed connections at Taunton in January made amends this time, however, quickly asserting his domination over his five rivals.
One hundred-and fifty yards to go and the Warren Greatrex-trained Bob Mahler seemed certain to achieve his first career victory in the Hugh James Novices' Hurdle at Ffos Las. But this is horse racing and one thing's for sure: nothing is certain! The son of Mahler, ridden by Gavin Sheehan, had just overhauled Evan Williams' Swift Crusador after the last hurdle when everything went pear-shaped. The five-year-old suddenly swerved to the right away from the whip and unseated his hapless rider within yards of victory.
1 March 2017
The longest-running commercial sponsorship in racing history came to an end yesterday. The historic Gold Cup, after sixty years of being associated with the spirit of Hennessy, will now be called the the Ladbrokes Trophy and the prize money boosted by £50,000 when it is next run in December. The only race that will not be sponsored by Ladbrokes, in what will be called the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival, is the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase which will continue to be supported by the friends of the late and great BBC commentator.
Weight and see!
A new chapter starts in French racing today at Deauville. France Galop ( the equivalent of the BHA) is bringing in a new weight allowance ( 2kg or 4.4lbs.) for female jockeys. There will only be four women riders at Chantilly's Meydan Trials but the symbolic event will certainly attract a lot of attention from officials in France and further afield. A few female jockeys, including Britain's Josephine Gordon and France's Pauline Prod'homme have described the innovation as 'demeaning' and even Jean-Pierre Colombu, Vice President of France Galop, has said he has been taken aback by the amount of controversy the new measure has caused.
The champs back!
After an enforced absence due to a fall last week at Ludlow, champion jockey, Richard Johnson, is back in the saddle for just one ride at Wincanton today, when he partners the Kerry Lee-trained Town Parks in the Lycetts Farm And Estate Insurance Brokers Handicap Hurdle .
28 February 2017
Stop by Dubai.
The Dubai World Cup at Meydan on March 25 will give racegoers the chance to watch Longines World's Best Racehorse 2016 in action. The Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic in November and the inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park last month, after initial doubts about going to Dubai, has now been confirmed as a runner.
Bob Baffert commented: "I just got the call and we've got the green light to send him to Dubai as long as he's doing well. (The decision) came down from (owner) Prince Khalid (Abdullah).
That's one Song!
There's one owner who admits that victory in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup would be the perfect swansong for the son of King's Theatre. Jean Bishop thought her Cue Card had secured the prestigious prize at last year's Festival but, sadly, he crashed out at the third fence from home. That fall cost the eleven-year-old the £1million bonus he would have won after already triumphing in the other two stages of the contest - the Betfair Chase at Haydock and the King George at Kempton. The Colin Tizzard-trained gelding scored again in the Betfair Chase this year and last time out claimed the Betfair Ascot Chase by fifteen lengths. The Cheltenham Gold Cup would probably mark Cue Card's sixth and final Festival appearance, as connections think he has nothing left to prove.
Jean Bishop commented on her star's possible retirement: "It is a good question. I don't know - I would have to speak to Colin (Tizzard, trainer). I wouldn't want to carry on racing him and see him struggle or anything like that. He couldn't do anything else if he won the Gold Cup and there would be nothing to aim for. It would be a nice way to end his career. He has been on the go for seven years and it would probably be the best thing for him. We will have to see.
27 February 2017
About the Size of it.
It's hard to believe but this County Meath trainer has never had a runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before. One musn't tempt fate but there is a strong possibility that history will be made next month. Jessica Harrington has decided that her stable star, Sizing John, should be the one to carry the colours of his owners, Ann & Alan Potts, at Prestbury Park next month. The son of Midnight Legend had probably not even been considered a contender until he was stepped up in trip to two-and-a-half miles after Christmas and won the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase by two-and-a-half lengths. Then he excelled himself even further when he took on the three-and-a-half-mile Grade 1 Stan James Irish Gold Cup Chase at Leopardstown a fortnight ago and beat Gordon Elliott's Empire of Dirt and Don Poli to the post. The prospect of the Cheltenham crown looks even more tempting with the absence of Coneygree and Thistlecrack, although there is talk today that Colin Tizzard is having the latter's tendon re-examined in case there is any hope of an improvement before C-day.
Jessica Harrington commented: "I've never had an entry in the Gold Cup let alone a runner. Sizing John goes there with an each-way chance. I think he will settle better in the Gold Cup. If he does relax he should get the trip and in that race the main thing is to get a clear round of jumping. He's used to doing it at two mile speed, so you can pull him back and get a breather into him."
The major Cheltenham Festival races have been the subject of negative discussion in the last week or so due to a spate of significant withdrawals. So it's good to hear something positive. Trainer, Gordon Elliott, has revealed that he proposes to supplement Tombstone for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. The seven-year-old son of Robin Des Champs had the pleasure of beating the former champion, Jezki, by four lengths last time out in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran. It seems there was considerable discussion between the trainer and the owners, Gigginstown House Stud, before the final decision was made.
The County Meath-based trainer commented: "It looks an open race this year so we have decided to supplement Tombstone for the Champion Hurdle. He has come out of the Red Mills race in great shape so we are happy to take our chances. Obviously he needs to improve but he hasn't got many miles on the clock and the turnaround in form with Jezki was very encouraging."
Of the three runners that Greystoke trainer, Nicky Richards, is transporting all the way from Penrith to Ayr today, one particularly catches the eye. Chidswell has performed well this winter and certainly impressed when winning the Brian Ellison Racing Novices' Chase at Sedgefield by thirty-seven lengths a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly the son of Gold Well only had one, perhaps less experienced, rival to contend with but it was more a case of how he did it not what he did. The eight-year-old really put on an impeccable display of jumping and proved that he was well able to handle heavy ground. He will certainly need these skills again today on the demanding terrain at Ayr in the Class 3 Racing Uk Now In Hd! Novices´ Limited Handicap Chase.
26 February 2017
Just twenty-four hours after winning the Devon National the Eccles Wall Court team were back in the headlines again at Newcastle. The Michael Scudamore-trained Mysteree, with Robbie Dunne aboard, romped home by four lengths in the Betfred Eider Handicap Chase. It was the first time the Dublin-born jockey had partnered the son of Gold Well, who won last year's renewal of the race when he was trained by Lucinda Russell. The contest was fairly cut-and-dried with the nine-year-old travelling well on the inside until making for home at the third-last fence.
The winning jockey commented: "I was a bit further back at the start than I wanted to be but he soon made up the ground. I wanted to be on the inside as he can hang badly left, but he travelled well and jumped well. It's always more simple on good horses, it's getting on them that is the problem.
Michael Scudamore commented: "Mysteree is a very straightforward horse. He ran well in this race last year and is now a year older and a year wiser. I am grateful to his owners for sending him to me - I think they wanted him to be in a smaller yard. The Midlands National will be too soon for him, he is a horse who is best when fresh, but we will give him an entry in the Scottish one at Ayr in case it is soft there."
Owner, Lynne Maclennan, added: "We have had him since he was a five-year-old and he has been a great horse for us. It has been a bit frustrating this season for although he won at Haydock in November we have struggled to get him in the big races since then. He was eliminated from the Welsh National and he didn't get into the Warwick Classic either. Then he was dropped 2lb so we weren't sure he would get into this. Luckily, he did."
Giving his Best.
Yesterday's BetBright Chase at Kempton Park was an example of cool precision, with the jockey hardly needing his whip to steer his 25/1 outsider, trained by Neil Mulholland, to a half-a-length victory. James Best's ride on Pilgrims Bay came at the right time with the Cheltenham Festival just weeks away. Fortunately for the Cornwall-born jockey the son of Turtle Island had more speed in reserve than his sire's names suggests and when asked to go, he went, in no uncertain manner.
A nervous-looking winning trainer commented: "He was there too soon today! That's what [James] said. With him you just couldn't get your hopes up because he can stop in a second. Thankfully it all went to plan. I'm delighted to give James a nice winner because he's a hard worker. He rides out on a regular basis and he's a good rider. Hopefully people will see that and give him more chances. He's a real nice fella to top it off too. It's also great for Bathwick Tyres who are big supporters of racing and me."
A Lot to Convey
Another day, another Derby. This time at Lingfield. The Sir Michael Stoute-trained Convey finally added a Group Three prize to his list of credits by claiming the Betway Winter Derby. This Dansili son used to be owned by Khalid Abdullah but was bought by Robert Ng 130,000 guineas at the end of last season. The five-year-old handsomely rewarded his new owner with over £56,000 with his last-minute victory by a neck.
The winning rider, Andrea Atzeni commented: "Convey did it quite well. Obviously, it was his first time over this trip - I wasn't sure that he would get it but Sir Michael was pretty positive and thought he would stay. It worked out perfectly from a bad draw. I actually lost my left iron coming out of the stalls but somehow managed to put it back on. He travelled smoothly and I didn't want to go too early because I didn't know what he was going to do in front. To be fair to the horse, he was always doing enough to win his race and saw the trip out really well.”
25 February 2017
All's Well that Kingswell!
A surprise birthday present at Exeter yesterday for this popular Ross-on-Wye-based trainer when the three-year-old son of King's Theatre narrowly won the Higos Insurance Services Devon National. The now thirty-three-year-old Michael Scudamore confessed he was pleasantly surprised when Kingswell Theatre came home by a neck. The John Murray-owned eight-year-old was an impressive winner last season in successive victories at Chepstow and Market Rasen in November and December 2015, but, thereafter, seemed to struggle to make his mark on a higher handicap. Last time out at Warwick in the middle of January, in fact, Kingswell Theatre didn't exactly cover himself with glory when finishing way down the field in the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase. Connections then decided to drop their charge in class and entered him for the £25,000 feature race at the Devon track where, sent off at 20-1, and with conditional jockey Ben Poste aboard, he travelled well on the pace and was in the lead as the field turned into the home straight. The 7/2 favourite Spookydooky, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, was the first to challenge and then the Nigel Twiston-Davies's Millicent Silver, threw down the gauntlet after the last fence but the eventual winner was more than a match for both of them and claimed the well-earned prize.
Michael Scudamore commented: "He's found life tough since going up in the weights after winning a couple last year, so I'm delighted to see him get his head in front again. We've always thought heavy ground suited him, but I think he's just got a bit fed up of running in testing conditions during the winter and the drier ground seems to have helped him. Maybe we've been getting him wrong all along. He's not the quickest, but a marathon test on decent ground obviously suits him well and it was great to see him battle all the way to the line today. We'll look at all those long-distance races in the spring. He might get an entry in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter, which is three weeks away, and later on we could look at something like the old Whitbread (bet365 Gold Cup) at Sandown."
Knock on Wood!
Despite the forecast testing conditions for this four-mile marathon at Newcastle this afternoon, trainer Kim Bailey is keeping his fingers crossed that his lightly-raced Knockanrawley can successfully meet the challenge of the Betfred Eider Chase. The son of Portrait Gallery ran in this contest two years ago and came fourth to the Neil King-trained Milborough, who is back to try again. The eight-year-old has only appeared twice since that time, the last time at Warwick when finishing fifth in the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase, well behind the Derek Fox-trained One For Arthur who is now one of the top considerations for the Grand National. Kim Bailey's Thorndale Farm had a quiet period for a while but recently has started to clock up a few winners. Another trainer hoping for at least a share of the prize money is Michael Scudamore who saddles Streets Of Promise, with conditional jockey, Ben Poste, riding again for the Ross-On-wye handler, looking for a follow-up to his Exter triumph yesterday. (See above)
Kim Bailey commented; “I was absolutely delighted with him at Warwick after so long off. He ran well in this race two years ago and hopefully he’s retained all of his ability. If he has most things are in his favour for him to run well.”
A Winning Guide
Another son of King's Theatre could today be the one to warm the cockles of the heart of the Colin Tizzard team who have had something of a tough week, to say the least. It is hoped that Theatre Guide can get back some of his last season form when he takes on twelve rivals in the three-mile BetBright Handicap Chase at Kempton Park this afternoon. The ten-year-old won this race last year by ten lengths, beating Harry Fry's Opening Batsman, who is also back again for more.
A good result from Theatre Guide would confirm his place in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race that raises the hopes for other trainers after Thistlecrack was sadly ruled out of the race due to injury.
24 February 2017
On the Up
By all accounts the Kerry Lee-trained Mountainous is the one to beat in this afternoon's feature race at Exeter, the Higos Insurance Services Devon National Handicap Chase. The son of Milan already has two Welsh National wins to his credit and loves soft ground so will have no problems if it should rain at the Devon track, although the forecast is for a partly cloudy day. Also the twelve-year-old has a handicap of 132, the same rating that he had when he was the impressive victor in the Chepstow marathon last year, winning by two-and-three-quarter lengths. On the whole Mountainous has performed reasonably well recently and after almost a year off the circuit, he made a good comeback at Hereford last month when he finished behind his stable companion, Goodtoknow. Mountainous will also have the benefit of the seven pounds claimed by his jockey, Richard Patrick, who has an impressive record of riding for the Powys-based trainer.
Tin has Heart
The Grade 3 At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles yesterday gave the Willie Mullins-trained Tin Soldier his second triumph in a row. This French-born son of Soldier of Fortune had already provided the County Carlow handler with a win on his first start for the Closutton stables over an extended three miles at Fairyhouse last month. This time it was decided to take on the shorter distance and clearly his jockey, Ruby Walsh, knew he had stamina in reserve on which he could call so he was quite happy to take an early lead. He was challenged with a circuit to go by Champagne Classic, Moulin A Vent and Justmemyselfandi, who proceeded to battle it out. Tin Soldier was eventually more of a match for any of them and produced powerful leap over the last to go on to a one-length victory.
Willie Mullins commented: "He is making good progress and while he made heavy weather of it, once Ruby made up his mind for him he made nice progress. I don't think any horse is happy on that ground today - it's tough to race on. He's a horse who never shows me much at home but he obviously has a lot more in the locker than he lets on to have. But I like horses who improve unexpectedly and he's one of those. He wants a trip and two and a half is as short as he wants - he seems to go on that ground but maybe he wants it better."
A Sheer Cock-up!
That was trainer, Kevin Ryan's opinion of what happened at Chelmsford City yesterday afternoon. The Essex venue certainly had its fair share of farce and drama. First the winner.co.uk Bet & Watch Handicap at 3.30pm had already been delayed as the high winds caused by Storm Doris threatened to force the abandonment of the meeting altogether after the first two races. Then it was decided that conditions were suitable to continue the rest of the day's fixture but then, after the race had been run, stewards ruled that things went wrong with the starting procedure and the contest was declared void after the Kevin Ryan-trained Nautical Haven had claimed victory. A subsequent stewards report blamed the incident on the AFO (advanced flag operator) who, it seems, mistakenly raised the recall flag, which all the runners ignored and completed the course.
Kevin Ryan commented: "I'm very disappointed. It was the horse's first race for a new owner and the plan was to come here. It was a sheer cock-up. All the lads carried on riding and it was just a technicality. It's a long way to travel and we should be compensated. It's not just the owner who suffers, though: apprentice Lewis Edmunds has driven there and back and misses out on a winner. Our technology is stuck in the dark ages. To rely on a flag man in this day and age is ridiculous. In France they have lights that come on [to highlight a false start]. The stewards have to take a lot of blame for pushing everyone so fast to make up the time. The starter was rushed, the flag man was rushed. That's how mistakes happen."
Owner, Adam Hizzett, added: “The flag lady made a mistake and we've had to pay the price. I've flown in from Malaga this morning for this and it's a bit of a shambles to be honest. I understand why they had to void the race but not the way it's been carried out as the correct procedure has not been carried out. If she wants to void a race she has to keep her flag up and blow a whistle, which she didn't do. None of the jockeys even saw her flag and none of them stopped riding at any stage in the race. They said they are going to refer it to London."
23 February 2017
Surprise result at Punchestown yesterday. The Willie Mullins-trained Limini got the better of Apple's Jade in the Quevega Mares Hurdle. The Gordon Elliott-trained 2/5 favourite, ridden by Bryan Cooper seemed to have everything cut and dried, going alongside Limini as they overhauled another Closutton hopeful, Whiteout, at about the halfway mark. From then on it became a test of fitness between these two contenders. As the race developed further, however, the daughter of Peintre Celebre showed her true colours and got the better of her main rival when they negotiated the final flight. Thereafter a superior turn of foot secured an easy victory.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh scommented: "We kind of steadied up from the fourth-last, it turned into a bit of a sprint to the last and we always knew she wasn't short of pace. It was a good performance and onwards and upwards. I'd say she jumped better than last season. She was very slick and very accurate. Fingers crossed she'll come out of the race well and she can start her prep for Cheltenham next week."
Willie Mullins added: "The conditions didn't suit us and we didn't have a run all season, so I didn't really know what to expect. The fact that Ruby didn't even have to pick up his stick means she has improved a fair bit from last year. I'm hoping that will bring her along nicely. The mares' race (at Cheltenham) is what I have been aiming for. She has run a stone better than I thought she would."
The BetBright Casino Juvenile Hurdle offered a successful training ground at Doncaster yesterday for Nicky Henderson's Soldier In Action, confirming his enlistment in the JCB Triumph Hurdle on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival next month. The son of Soldier of Fortune disappointed connections last time out on his hurdling debut at Musselburgh, only managing fifth out of six but this time he emerged guns blazing, bounding clear to claim the fifteen-furlong-plus Listed contest by fourteen lengths.
Mike Spence, son of owner Alan, commented: "It was ambitious thinking we could go up to Musselburgh and win first time out but we half-expected a performance like this as we know he's a good horse. We went up there because we'd have learned nothing if he was 1-4 favourite somewhere and we knew there'd be no messing about. However, everything went wrong up there. The track was probably too tight, the ground too quick and he was caught out wide. We needed to see if it was worth going to Cheltenham as the plan has always been for him to go back to Mark for the Flat. We've always thought two runs and then the Triumph and after that I see no reason why not.”
Don't Desert The Queen!
After her run at Leicester last month in the Listed Charnwood Forest Mares' Chase, Desert Queen, trained by Harry Fry, had a date with Kayf Tara over at the Overbury Stud. In that race, however, Desert Queen, although ten pounds heavier than her seven rivals, dominated the race from the start and galloped all the way to the line to claim the prize by ten lengths. It seems that connections were so impressed by their daughter of Desert King's astounding triumph that they have decided to postpone this assignation and enter her today in the 188Bet Lady Protectress Mares' Chase at Huntingdon. The nine-year-old will be up against a couple of rivals who are probably set on wreaking revenge but this contest seems almost a mirror image of the one at Leicester so it is highly likely that result could reflect that.
22 February 2017
The Here and Now
A racing feast awaits visitors to Kempton Park when a couple of well-bred horses make their debuts in the 32Red On The App Store Maiden Stakes. Out of the eight runners the first to catch the eye is the Ralph Beckett-trained Here And Now, the three-year-old son of Dansili, who, it is hoped, will do better than his older siblings, who both failed to win on their first time out. There's every chance he will succeed as his Andover-based handler has masterminded the career of a number of successful beginners. The three-year-old colt will be up against Sun Or Shade, saddled by Newmarket trainer, John Gosden. This son of Galileo will provide quite an opposition as he is a half-brother to Flawless Beauty and Diara Angel and was bought back by his vendor for 240,000gns when offered by Highclere Stud at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale.
Nicky back for Moor
There seems to be nothing trainer Nicky Henderson loves more than sending a couple of his horses up to Doncaster to take advantage of what is usually decent ground. One he has ear-marked for Town Moor track is Ericht who could be just the one to beat in the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Veterans’ Handicap Chase. The eleven-year-old was well beaten in fourth place at Kempton Park last month but that was a tough race in which the winner, Foxtail, subsequently beat Saphir Du Rheu. That defeat was nevertheless disappointing and the Seven barrows handler has obviously decided that today's race is just right for this son of Alderbrook. It's more than likely that the three times Champion trainer will have already scored earlier on in the day when he saddles Soldier In Action in the Watch Live Racing On BetBright.com Juvenile Hurdle. Rated 105 on the flat, this son of Soldier of Fortune was a bit of a disappointment on his hurdling debut, when he came five out of six in the Listed bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Musselburgh at the beginning of this month. Connections are clearly hoping for better things today.
Crunch at Punch
There's an interesting clash in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown today when a runner that used to be trained by Willie Mullins confronts one currently handled by the County Carlow king. In the left-hand corner is Apple's Jade who saw off some menacing rivals the last time out at Aintree last spring when trained by Willie Mullins. This five-year-old daughter of Saddler Maker was subsequently one the horses to be removed from Closutton after the well-publicised split between the champion trainer and Michael O'Leary, boss of Gigginstown House Stud, and transferred into the care of Gordon Elliott. The five-year-old mare produced a couple of respectable seconds for her new trainer at Down Royal and Newcastle, before seeing off former stable companion Vroum Vroum Mag in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse in December.
Gordon Elliott commented: "I was disappointed not to see Limini declared for the Red Mills Hurdle in Gowran last weekend, but there's always going to be one. She (Apple's Jade) will definitely improve (for the run) and the Mares' Hurdle is definitely the plan."
In the right-hand corner is the Willie Mullins-trained Limini has already made her mark as Festival heroine when she claimed the inaugural Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last March.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, added: "Limini is in good form, but I'm sure she'll come on a lot for the run. She's had no issues and has been in training plenty long enough.
"She's wrong at the weights with Apple's Jade and it will be very difficult to beat her, but we've got to start somewhere and we'll see how she goes. Whiteout beat Limini in Punchestown and has a habit of winning when she's the second string. Hopefully she'll pick up some prize-money and continue to pay her way."
21 February 2017
Since last Thursday a surge of bets has been coming in from across the Channel for a 40/1 Queen Mother Champion Chase outsider running at the Cheltenham Festival on 15 March. Incomprehensibly the horse that 106 French punters are going for is the Tom George-trained Sir Valentino. It's true the Slad-based handler is enjoying his best season so far with fifty-four winners but the son of Early March's biggest career success to-date was last November when he won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. He did, however, beat the likes of the Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire and Dodging Bullets, saddled by Paul Nicholls, so he has got something going for him. There is even an unlikely speculation that, as the bets arrived just after St. Valentine's Day then it's just a flutter of French lovers who have been attracted by the name. One explanation that seems to have been overlooked, however, is that the eight-year-old gelding, whose Dam was Valentine out of Double Bed, was bred in France by Mlle Camille Serveau and M. Roger Simon and it is this couple who have encouraged the Gallic gamblers.
A spokesman for Oddschecker commented: “Someone somewhere knows something. Someone in France to be more specific. It's pretty rare to see this number of bets on a 40/1 outsider in such a high profile race almost a month ahead of Cheltenham. It's even more peculiar the number of bets we've seen from people based in France.
As reported yesterday, the Sandra Hughes-trained Acapella Bourgeois's thirty-two length victory in Sunday's Ten Up Novice Chase caused quite a stir and even Noel O'Brien, the Turf Club's senior handicapper, seems to have been taken aback by it; so much so that he has slapped a fifteen pound penalty on the seven-year-old son of Network, putting him on a mark of 158. This rating is just two pounds less than the six-year-old Willie Mullins-trained Min and three pounds short of Don Poli, who was only rated 156 before he won the RSA Chase in 2015. Acapella Bourgeois is now the highest rated horse in the RSA.
Noel O'Brien commented: "It was a staggering performance, and he gave the last fence plenty of light as well - he wasn't stopping. Hard to find a flaw. You can talk about the testing ground and tactics or whatever, but the other horses ran to their ratings and in sequence, and he just looked in a different league. There was nothing coasting in behind. Ruby Walsh sat closest to him on Haymount, and he paid the price. The 158 is a huge rating for a novice, although it's still lower than Min, who I have on 160."
On the Spur of the Moment
This son of Oasis Dream is today reunited with jockey Luke Morris, with whom he had a couple of victories last year. The Scott Dixon-trained Boots And Spurs disappointed connections last time out when he was the favourite but he did have a seven-pound claimer aboard on that occasion so better things are expected today in the sunbets.co.uk Handicap at Southwell. If only Boots And Spurs can get back to the form he displayed on New Year's Day at this Nottinghamshire track when, even three pounds heavier, he gave the Mike Easterby-trained Holiday Magic a run for his money although ultimately finishing second some three lengths adrift. It's true that the seven furlongs is a tough distance but not unfamiliar so despite the doughty opposition it looks like Boots And Spurs should be a good value each way bet.
20 February 2017
Horse racing suddenly had unexpected publicity in the Social media yesterday but not for the best of reasons. It seems that many people were not happy with the result of the Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan. The bone of contention was that the Sandra Hughes-trained Acapella Bourgeois, who, it has to be admitted, put on a superb display of jumping and galloping from the front, and, therby, won the three-mile contest by thirty-two lengths. So there was criticism on Twitter and Facebook that the seven jockeys didn't seem to be trying hard enough to prevent the son of Network from building up such a huge lead. There was no denying, though, that winner's performance was spectacular. Jockey, Roger Loughran, was in a strong position and quite rightly took advantage of the situation to extend his lead until, from about a mile from home, it was clear that his position was unassailable. Later it was announced that the stewards had decided that an inquiry into the performance of the seven stragglers was unwarranted.
Hugh Hynes, the stewards' secretary, commented: "We didn't feel any need to call an inquiry. We felt that the winner jumped and stayed, that the remaining runners could make no headway on him at all, and that a lot of them were at it from a mile out. The winner just went further clear and we didn't feel that any riding offence was committed."
Winning trainer, Sandra Hughes added: "You'd have to say after today he'll be travelling to Cheltenham, but we will see what the ground is like. If it came up very good we might give it a miss, but if it's nice soft ground we'd have to take our chance. He's improving all the time but the ground is key. He goes on really heavy, testing ground and his jumping was superb. He showed today how good he is."
It was this County Meath-based trainer's day at Navan yesterday. Gordon Elliott produced a hat-trick of winners but the race that caught the eye was the the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle in which he saddled two runners, Sutton Place and stable companion, De Plotting Shed. The 66/1 outsider, Milsean, led the nine-runner field for a good half of the contest but he had nothing left by the time they reached the home straight. The Willie Mullins-trained Thomas Hobson briefly disputed the lead before the Jack Kennedy-ridden De Plotting Shed took over at the third from home, promptly pursued by Sutton Place, Supasundae and Renneti. Ultimately it was the Elliot equines that were left as the duelling duo with Sutton Place, partnered by Barry Geraghty, producing that little extra to claim the prize by three-and-three-quarter lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "He's a nice horse and he's a big chaser in the making, really. I'd say that ground just wasn't ideal for him, but he showed his class. We were riding him maybe a little negatively with the trip. Barry said he's a horse that you'd be better off grabbing a hold of and riding a race. He was a bit sloppy with his jumping because we wanted him relaxed. Chasing will be his game and whatever he does this year will be a bonus. There isn't a whole lot for him and we might look at the race in Fairyhouse for him (Grade Two Ballybin Hurdle)."
Roaring to Victory!
The Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock Park revealed another exciting duel between the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard. Initially it was Gas Line Boy who made the running as far as three out before the eventual first and second took over and turned the affair into a virtual two-horse contest. The lead alternated several times all the way to the line. William Twiston-Davies, riding for his father, adroitly switched his son of Kayf Tara off the rail to throw down the gauntlet one more time. The Tom Scudamore-ridden son of Sabiango, however, gamely took up the challenge and, assisted by the fact that last year's RSA Chase winner was carrying an extra six pounds, wore down his opponent to win by three lengths.
David Pipe commented: "He's changed a lot, as he never used to find much at the end of his races. As a French horse he's quite a late maturer, running in the National last season [he finished seventh] made a man of him. I wasn't confident he was going to win as it's a long straight and Tom wasn't sure what he had left. He's going back to Aintree with experience over the fences and he proved today he doesn't need soft ground.
Tom Scudamore added: "He never used to finish off his races, but running in the National as a novice made a man of him. He was foot-perfect in the Becher and was foot-perfect today. He wasn't the greatest jumper before he ran in the National last year. We can head to the National now with confidence and a few pounds up our sleeves, we hope."
19 February 2017
A Winning Card
It was one of those occasions that racegoers will look back on and say “I was there!” The Colin Tizzard-trained Cue Card rolled back the years and showed his younger stable companions how to run a race, winning by fifteen lengths. The eleven-year-old son of King's Theatre stamped his authority on the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase from the outset, tracking the leader, Royal Regatta, until his jockey, Paddy Brennan, decided it was time to challenge, which he did four fences out. It was then all over bar the shouting - which was still come when the winning duo made their way towards the winner's enclosure. Everyone strove to get a good vantage point from where to to roar their delight as their hero passed by. It was the kind of welcome that would have moved anyone vaguely connected with the noblest of animals.
An emotional Colin Tizzard commented: "He's such a superstar. He's surprised me all my life, he's been a brilliant horse for such a long time and deserved that [reception]. You keep worrying, he's 11 years old, can he keep doing this? I've been doing this with him for years and he was brilliant again today. He jumped fantastic and destroyed them. It was everything I could have wanted and more. After his last race ( the King George) he wasn't right behind, he had a big fat leg afterwards. He had a bit of lymphangitis - he didn't have it when he raced but you don't know if it affected him. Paddy was the instigator of this. He said to come here because over two and a half they'd go a Cheltenham pace, we wouldn't have to have three months off and it'd fire him up and keep his jumping sharp."
The winning jockey added: “He's changed my life the last couple of years. He's a serious machine. I was most impressed from the second last to the last, he picked up like a good horse should."
A Grave Victory
Things didn't go so well for another racing star, making only his second appearance after an absence of a year-and-a-half. Champion Hurdle hero, Jezki, had to content himself with being runner-up in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park yesterday after Bryan Cooper partnered the Gordon Elliott-trained Tombstone to a four-length victory. This son of Robin Des Champs got his revenge for only coming third behind Jezki last time out after making his comeback following almost a year off.
The winning jockey commented: “I watched the race in Navan back about 10 times and it didn't look like they went very quick, so today I was making sure of a strong-run race, I wasn't afraid to take it up at the third-last. The one thing I wanted to do was knock the speed out of Jezki, I know he stays three miles but he is still a Champion Hurdle winner and I had that in the back of my mind. One thing I do like is when he missed the last he picked up and went again, so he's definitely one to look forward to. He's got an engine and hopefully we can keep him right.”
Trainer Gordon Elliott added: “I felt he'd improved a lot from Navan, and we were giving Jezki weight the last day. It was a good performance. He was going to go chasing, but he had a few setbacks. He'll go over fences next year. He could step up to two and a half miles, and the race at Aintree might be a possibility. The plan was to let him roll off the back straight and if he was good enough, he was good enough.”
Not so Bad!
There was a thrilling finish to the Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot yesterday when the Rebecca Curtis-trained Bigbadjohn got back into winning ways by a short head. This son of Vinnie Roe had been a great disappointment last time out in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase when he fell on the flat approaching the eighth fence. The narrowly defeated Flintham, trained by Mark Bradstock, made most the running in this three-mile contest and it looked as though the eight-year-old was going to claim the prize. Jockey, Jonathan Moore, however, had other ideas and was successful in persuading the eventual winner to find that little extra.
Rebecca Curtis commented: "We've not been running too much because of the ground. Jonathan Moore said he hated the ground and you could see he was changing his legs the whole way. He is probably better going left-handed. He has done it the hard way, but he always stays very well. He is in the four-miler (National Hunt Chase) and the RSA. We will get him home and make a plan, I guess."
18 February 2017
A Word in your Ear!”
After this son of Cape Cross disappointed connections by refusing to enter the stalls at Lingfield Park recently his trainer called on the services of a well-known horse whisperer and horse guru, Steve 'Yarmy' Dyble. There is no report of what the latter whispered to the George Scott-trained Hamelin but he behaved impeccably yesterday and put on a perfect performance when he won the £25,000 Betway Handicap at Newcastle. The seven-year-old gelding was partnered by Oisin Murphy, who had hot-footed it back from Dubai where he, twenty-four hours earlier, rode the Mick Channon-trained Opal Tiara to victory in the Group Two Balanchine at Meydan racecourse. Hamelin mounted a last-minute charge to take the extended-mile-and-a-half contest by three-quarters of a length.
The winning trainer commented: "We were pleased with that. He obviously had a bit of a hiccup the other day at the stalls at Lingfield. Yarmy has worked his magic and the team have done a great job to get the horse back in the right frame of mind. Oisin gave him a smashing ride. The plan was to drop him in. Since he lost his way having raced for so long off the front end, the plan was to try to fill him up with a bit of confidence. He's always had a lot of ability and had nice bits of form. It's just a matter with those old horses of changing things up a bit and getting then in the right frame of mind. With the situation we were in with him not going into the gate the last time, it was just one step at a time. I'm not going to commit to anything just yet, but I think we will get an extended trip much better now we've got him relaxed. With his turn of foot he could be effective and it would give us some more options."
Jez back for the Crown?
The Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park today will give trainer Jessica Harrington an opportunity to decide what the chances are for this son of Milan at next month's Cheltenham Festival. The 2014 Champion Hurdle winner, Jezki, had to relinquish his crown when he came fourth to the Willie Mullins' trio, Faugheen, Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly on the renewal of this extended-two-mile contest last year. It is on the cards, though, that Jezki, owned by the JP McManus, may return to reclaim the honour at Prestbury Park after his impressive performance at Navan in January, following an absence of more than eighteen months. The nine-year-old is back to the two-mile trip for today's Grade Three contest where he will be up against only four rivals.
Jessica Harrington commented: "He worked after racing at Naas last weekend and we were very happy with him. All seems to be well and he's had plenty of time (since comeback run) and I think that's the main thing, time. I hope he is (as good as ever) and Saturday will tell us a lot more."
Not only famous horses have a statue raised in their honour at racetracks, it has been revealed. Next month at the Cheltenham Festival a life-size bronze statue of Tony McCoy will be unveiled. Paul Ferriter, whose other works include Cheltenham Gold Cup winner War Of Attrition as well as jockeys Martin and Tim Molony, has had the honour of carrying out this commission. The Dublin-based sculptor spent six months working on the statue, which is to be placed on the Best Mate Plaza at the Northern entrance to the racecourse and will be unveiled on 14 March, Champions' Day.
The former champion jockey commented: “I thought most people got a statue when they were dead! I guess it will give the birds somewhere to sit. His ( Paul Ferriter's) dedication to getting it right was really outstanding, from measuring me to videoing me and when I was standing for him. Some of my friends were wondering whether the statue was going to be the old or new me — the 10-stone one or the 12-stone one! Paul has done really well in sculpturing me as a jockey and it was a very enjoyable working with him. I last saw Paul’s work about seven weeks ago, just before it was about to get bronzed and it looked very, very good. I took some videos and showed them to friends who agreed that Paul has really captured my likeness.”
Paul Ferriter added: “For me, as a sculptor, he was a brilliant subject. AP has a really great face with incredible cheekbones, a great jaw and chin as well as really good hair. He is also a really funny guy and was incredibly obliging throughout the process. In terms of the piece, what I really wanted to try and capture was the kind of intensity that AP has, his total dedication. I have basically produced the classic AP pose – standing with his arms folded and the whip under his arm, with an intense look on his face. It is a pre-race pose, lost in maybe that pre-race anxiety and always looking to the future.”
17 February 2017
Saphir on Fire
This eight-year-old grey hadn't had a win since November 2015 so connections were obviously hoping for a change of fortune yesterday at Kelso and they weren't disappointed. The Paul Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu had no trouble dealing with his three rivals in the nigh-on three-mile Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso. With Sam Twiston-Davies aboard, the 1/7 favourite was kept hard on the heels of the pace-making Bernardelli, trained by Nicky Richards, until going clear from the twelfth fence and thereafter well ahead of a struggling field to put fifteen lengths between him and the Brian Hughes-ridden Firth Of The Clyde.
Paul Nicholls commented: “He needed a confidence booster and won as he should have done. He jumped well and travelled well. He's starting to get his act together now. He's in everything - a handicap at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup, the Grand National. He could go back to Kelso on March 4 for another race like that (Premier Chase). I'll have a chat with Andy (Stewart, owner), but he's quite keen to run him in the Gold Cup. We'll make a plan, but basically nothing's ruled in and nothing's ruled out.'
The Weatherbys GSB Goes Online Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Sandown looks like another opportunity for the Fergal O'Brien-trained Colin's Sister to continue onwards and upwards. It took the six-year-old mare five shots at bumpers before achieving a close second result at Sandown in March last year. There were no problems when she moved up to hurdles, though. She won three out of three at Chepstow, Warwick and Haydock, the last success being in December when the daughter of Central Park graduated to Listed class with honours. Conditions are going to be very testing at the Esher track today but that shouldn't be a problem for who should be able to dispose of her four rivals with the help of her partner, Paddy Brennan.
Cue for Paddy
Paddy Brennan's back in action tomorrow at Ascot but this time he'll be aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Cue Card in the six-strong Betfair Ascot Chase. The son of King's Theatre won this race back in 2013 but since then has been aimed at three-mile-plus contests, producing seven wins from nineteen races, his latest being the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day when he was runner-up to his stable companion, Thistlecrack. Word has it that the Milton Port-based trainer is using tomorrow's contest as a preparation for another shot at the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in which the eleven-year-old fell at the third-last fence last March when it looked like the race was his for the taking. A particular threat could be the Rebecca Curtis-trained Irish Cavalier, who won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in October, in which Cue Card could only manage third.
16 February 2017
Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival is a complete sell-out, the Jockey Club has just announced. Such a thing is not unusual for one of the biggest days in the racing calendar but this year's fixture has reached that point two weeks earlier than last year's and that was deemed a record. One of the reasons for this state of affairs must be that day four of the Prestbury Park Pageant – Gold Cup Day – just happens to fall on March 17 and that, of course, is St Patrick's Day!
Regional Director for the South West region of The Jockey Club, Ian Renton, commented: “All three enclosures on Gold Cup Day are sold out and this has happened significantly earlier than in 2016. We have seen strong demand for badges and tickets across all four days of The Festival, not just Gold Cup Day, and look forward to welcoming racegoers in March.”
With the aim of making some last-minute preparations for the Grand National Pat Griffin saddles Maggio in today's Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso. The now twelve-year-old son of Trempolino failed to get into the Aintree spectacular last year and ran in the Betfred Handicap Chase instead, which he went on to win by twelve lengths. A result that must have made connections wonder what might have happened. With that in mind the emphasis of the twelve-year-old's training programme this year has centred on his possible performance in the National, for which, this time around, he has a guaranteed place. Maggio is up against it at Kelso though, in this four-runner contest, particularly as the takes on the Paul Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu, with Sam Twiston-Davies aboard.
James Griffin, the trainer's son and assistant, commented: "He's always runs above himself when he's wrong at the weights, like when he won the Premier Chase a couple of years ago. I'm not really that bothered about what else is in the race, if he runs as well as he seems at home he'll go very close. We could probably do with a bit of rain to put a bit of life in the ground, that's all. Derek Fox has won on him before and he's fit and well. Fingers crossed, he comes back safe and then it's on to Aintree."
Andy Stewart Saphir Du Rheu's owner, added: "I asked Paul what race he was going to run in at Cheltenham and he can't win a handicap off his mark, so he's going for the Gold Cup," said Stewart. Paul said we may as well go to Kelso - it's worth £25,000, the race usually cuts up and we'll put Sam (Twiston-Davies) back on him. We know we can't beat Thistlecrack, but hopefully if he stands up this will be a nice confidence booster. I'd have thought the Grand National is a year too early for him. I actually thought he was going to win the race I sponsor at Cheltenham last time out, but he was giving so much weight to the winner (Foxtail Hill) he just couldn't catch him up the hill."
A lot to Swallow
The Ben Pauling-trained Two Swallows, despite almost two years' absence, made it two out of three at Towcester yesterday when she won the Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors Mares' Handicap Hurdle. Connections were clearly so impressed that it appears they are considering a possible quick return to action at Ascot on Saturday. The seven-year-old Kayf Tara daughter, partnered by Nico de Boinville, dominated the race being two lengths ahead as the field approached the third from home and easily saw off any challenge from the Anthony Honeyball-trained co-joint-favourite Act Now to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "She's not the biggest, but she's as tough as old boots. She loves her job and that was a competitive little race, so I'm very pleased with how she ran. She jumped brilliantly and handled the ground which was great and she's progressing nicely. She was beaten at Wetherby by a horse that was very well-in (Happy Diva). She's back on an upward curve and is a very nice little horse and one we can look forward to at the end of the season. She might run on Saturday, but she's only small and would have to carry a 7lb penalty which would not be ideal. We'll see how she comes out of this race and make a decision in the next couple of days."
15 February 2017
Flying after Flu
The champion jockey has been sidelined since Saturday, recovering from the virus that has been laying everyone low this Winter – influenza. Richard Johnson had certainly shrugged off the viral influence with alacrity as he went to Fontwell Park and notched up a double. The Hereford-born jockey got off the mark in the second race of the day, the Porto Racing Specialist Horse Racing Saddlery Novices' Hurdle when he partnered the Philip Hobbs-trained Kayf Adventure to an astounding fourteen-length victory. This result was a double delight as the winning rider also bred this son of Kayf Tara.
Richard Johnson commented: "He won his bumper really well a couple of years ago and he had niggly problems last year. He's big, so a bit of time wouldn't have done him any harm. Hopefully he's come on a bit for his run back at Exeter and he did it pretty well. He travelled super through the second half of the race, but then I wasn't sure what he would find but he picked up nicely from two out. I've got his half-sister to breed from, so there's a few more in the pipeline."
Two races later Richard Johnson was back in the winner's enclosure again on another Philip Hobbs-trained runner, Casper King, who triumphed in the European Breeders' Fund 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle, this time by five lengths.
The champion jockey commented: "It was great to get him off the mark last time as he'd had a few seconds and you were starting to think was there anything untoward, but he'd just jumped into some quite nice horses. Now he's won two novice hurdles, I'm sure the EBF Final is an option, we'll see what Philip thinks. Hopefully he's a staying chaser in time."
Life's a Beach!
On the face of it this son of Dunkerque shouldn't be the 5/4 favourite in this evening's 32Red Handicap at Kempton Park as he only won one of his eleven starts in France. The Ralph Beckett-trained Cherbourg, did, however, show some promise on the Lingfield Polytrack last time on his debut this side of the Channel. The five-year-old, ridden by Patrick O'Donnell, defied the widest of draws to come within a neck of winning the Sun Bets On The App Store Handicap. The draw (10) is again somewhat stacked against Cherbourg this evening but to offset that disadvantage he only carries an extra pound for his last performance, although he does lose the five-pound claim of his previous jockey, as George Baker will be in the saddle. Another plus is that trainer Ralph Beckett is the one to watch at this Sunbury-on-Thames track.
Worth the Wait
The Betway Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday could give the leading contender for the Stan James Champion Hurdle the opportunity to get in a bit of practice before Cheltenham. The Alan King-trained Yanworth missed Sandown earlier this month due to a muscle problem. All seems back on course again, though, now and the JP McManus-owned Christmas Hurdle hero seems set to do business.
Alan King commented: "We worked Yanworth this morning on the grass and it's all systems go for Saturday. We really appreciated that Barry Johnson (Wincanton's clerk of the course) brought forward the Kingwell Hurdle to 2.45pm to provide these Champion Hurdle contenders with first dibs of the hurdle track."
14th February 2017
A New Adventure
Today is only the fourth outing for this son of Kayf Tara since coming fourth in a bumper at Kempton Park two years ago. The Philip Hobbs-trained Kayf Adventure then went on to win his next National Hunt Flat race at Warwick a month later before taking on hurdles. This was the race that demonstrated that the four-year-old gelding was one to keep an eye on for the future because he beat the Dan Skelton-trained Knockgraffon by an incredible nineteen lengths. Then, for some reason, Kayf Adventure was not seen for the whole of last season. Suddenly he was in action again on New Year's Day when he competed on equal terms, although coming third, with the likes of Harry Fry's Neon Wolf, one of the best novices in the country. The Minehead-based trainer has clearly bided his time before making the next move and this afternoon's Class 4 Porto Racing Specialist Horse Racing Saddlery Novices' Hurdle appears to be the one to see how his charge has developed. Champion jockey, Richard Johnson, takes the ride in this two-and-a-half-mile-plus contest.
Where there's a Will ...
The son of a former jockey-turned-trainer, brought up on The Curragh reached fifty yesterday. No not his age! He's only twenty-nine! Will Kennedy notched up a half-century of winners for the first time in his career when he rode the Donald McCain-trained Raise A Spark to victory in the racinguk.com Handicap Hurdle at Catterick. He only just reached a personal best of forty-seven wins at Bangor on Friday, when he struck again twice with Same Circus and Raise A Spark, both from the Cholmondeley yard.
The Cheshire-based winning trainer commented: "That was Will's first 50. He is a very hard worker and is always in the right places when riding them. He is very enthusiastic and good with he (Raise a Spark) wants, two miles on that sort of ground. He went up quite a bit for his win at Bangor then he ran well at Haydock and went up again. He was slightly down in grade today, but he deserved that. He has his own ideas but he is tough when he gets to the races. We might just take our chance in a better race off a light weight with him next."
Hey Big Spender!
Racing fans from Ireland spent over nineteen million pounds at last year's Cheltenham Festival. The Economic Impact Analysis, compiled from 810 completed questionnaires and data by the University of Gloucestershire, calculated that this sum was spread across travel, accommodation, tickets and entertainment. The study revealed that some 57,375 tickets were purchased by the visitors from the Emerald Isle. That amounts to thirty per cent of all the tickets sold for this prestigious Prestbury Park phenomenon. On average, over fourteen thousand visitors from Ireland attended each day of the four-day Festival. Furthermore the number of Irish visitors to the Festival has gone up by twenty-two per cent since 2010. The average spend per Irish racegoer was £479 on entertainment, £437 on a tour package, £361 on accommodation and £322 on food and drink.
The regional director of the South West region of The Jockey Club, Ian Renton, commented: The Festival is one the biggest and most successful sporting occasions of the year involving Britain and Ireland. Over the years, it has become synonymous with Ireland through the participation of its great horses, trainers, jockeys, owners and staff. Irish fans make up close to one-third of our attendance over the week, helping to create a truly unique atmosphere and experience for all racegoers. Ireland has long had a love affair with Cheltenham because they put on a wonderful festival where we see the best National Hunt horses in the world taking each other on," said Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland. The importance of Cheltenham to Ireland goes beyond just the punters and racegoers as winning there is of vital importance to owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys and can be the highlight of a career, or the making of a horse's pedigree."
13th February 2017
Finian win again
At Exeter yesterday this son of Oscar gave further evidence why he's the favourite to win the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. The Colin Tizzard-trained Finian's Oscar sailed home by four-and-a-half lengths in the Free Bet At 188Bet Novices' Hurdle. The Ann and Alan Potts-owned five-year-old, carrying an eight-pound penalty, after his eighteen-length triumph at kempton Park just after Christmas, dominated the contest and easily beat off any challenge from the David Pipe-trained Taws to clinch his third victory in a row.
The winning trainer commented: "There was not a lot to be gleaned from that as all the others were frightened off by him and it hasn't really told us anything we didn't already know.
It's showed us he is well within himself and he will go to Cheltenham for either the Supreme or the Neptune - it will have to be talked about in the coming days which one he will run in. Native River won this race back in 2015 and if this horse turns out to be as good we will all be very happy."
About the Size of it
A double at Leopardstown yesterday. Trainer Jessica Harrington's saddled her first runner in the Irish Gold Cup and her stable star, Sizing John, was attempting his first three-mile trip. The son of Midnight Legend, partnered by Robbie Power, claimed the three-mile Grade 1 contest by three-quarters of a length, thus cutting his odds to for the Gold Cup from 40/1 to 8/1.
Jessica Harrington, who hasn't had an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, either, commented: "I will have to talk to Ann and Alan and see what they want to do. He's in three races at the festival but there's no point in taking on Douvan, who has beaten our horse seven times, in the Champion Chase, so it will come down to the Gold Cup or Ryanair. He wasn't stopping at the end of three miles today, so we might go the Gold Cup route. We don't know whether he'll get three and a quarter miles, but on better ground he might. I think he's a horse who would prefer better ground," she said. "Robbie was convinced he'd get the trip, and he does look like a stayer. That was only his third run of the season so he's still a fresh horse."
Heir we go!
The mooted heir to the throne vacated by Sprinter Sacre, made a further claim when winning the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury by thirteen lengths. The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior threw off his novice status to take on three rivals in this Grade Two contest, including the 2015 Champion Chase victor, Dodging Bullets, trained by Paul Nicholls. The son of High Chaparral, with Nico De Boinville on his back for the first time since winning the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham last march, produced an excellent round of jumping and delighted the crowd by clearing the fourth fence from home very comfortably to assure his victory.
Nicky Henderson commented: "It's a pity he has had to go round again on his own. He is starting to show off a bit too now. The nice thing is he found that easy and handled the ground. I remember him getting beaten in a bumper one day behind Barters Hill and Buveur D'Air. He was third and I was disappointed. I thought he was very special then. Now he looks like what I thought he was. This year he has not put a foot wrong. He is a genuine two-miler and he doesn't need to go any further. If it comes up soft now, we don't have to panic. We are going to stay in the Arkle for sure.”
11th February 2017
What today's Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality, as two red-hot rivals for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup go eye-ball to eye-ball. The Tizzard-trained Native River whose odds are currently evens to 10/11 takes on 5/4 shot Bristol De Mai, trained by Nigel Twiston- Davies. The handicapper has rated them only two pounds apart, 168 for the former and 166 for the latter after the duo's immaculate performances in handicaps this winter. Native River is no stranger to Newbury, having already scored there twice, most memorably when claiming the Hennessy Gold Cup. The son of Indian River also went on to take the Coral Welsh Grand National off the same mark under his partner of today, champion jockey, Richard Johnson.
Colin Tizzard commented: "If we're going to go down the Gold Cup route we really have to win. After the Welsh National we gave him an easy fortnight. Since then we've prepared him as we would for any race. I'm not saying he'll improve for it, as I don't think he will. He'd probably be better on slightly springier ground but he put any ground worries to bed at Chepstow. His form has been good and we know he likes the course. This is a good, honest staying horse and he's running in a lovely race."
Time for Three?
Racegoers are keenly looking forward to Irish racing’s most prestigious Grade One event, the Irish Gold Cup tomorrow at Leopardstown. On the surface this contest is looked upon as an indicator of what might happen at the Cheltenham Festival but beneath the surface it's all about whether the John Kiely-trained Carlingford Lough can notch up a hat-trick. As the eleven-year-old son of King's Theatre isn't running in that Cheltenham contest, connections would like to celebrate tomorrow's race as his own personal ‘Gold Cup’. Perhaps the one horse that could put a spoke in the wheel is Don Poli, trained by Gordon Elliott, although he hasn't won a race since claiming the Lexus Chase in December 2015.
Worth the Wait
Connections are hoping that the Philip Hobbs-train today. The seven-year-old has been a little disappointing so far this year but a certain optimism prevails this the son of Optimism has what it takes to make his mark in one of the most fiercely competitive handicaps. After showing great promise when coming third behind Moon Racer in the 2015 Cheltenham Champion Bumper, Wait For Me didn't really impress when he switched to hurdles but, nevertheless, notched up a couple of victories over this course and distance. In his favour, though, is a rating of 138 which undervalues his potential and the soft ground which should suit him fine. The bonus of having champion jockey, Richard Johnson, aboard makes the race worth waiting for.
10th February 2017
A Two-horse Test
On the face of it, Kempton's Matchbook Traders Conference Graduation Chase for five-year-olds plus, who have previously won fewer than three chases should have them queueing at the gate. This year, for example, there's almost £20,000 in prize money on offer and there are payouts down to sixth place. For some reason, however, this two-and-a-half-mile event has attracted no more than seven runners in the last eight renewals, with only four horses lining up in the last three years. Today's entries reach a new low with only two contestants and it seems a bit of a David and Goliath confrontation. In the left-hand corner there is the Dan Skelton-trained Pain Au Chocolat who won his last novices' chase back in February 2016 and was pulled up last time out at Musselburg in January; in the right-hand corner stands the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue, already tipped for the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, who almost claimed three in a row at Haydock last time out when runner-up in the Grade 2 Star Sports Cheltenham Preview Evening Novices' Chase.
BHA racing manager, Stuart Middleton, commented: "It's always disappointing when a race achieves a small field and we will pick this up with Kempton Park during our strategic review of the programme for next year. We're still committed to the concept of graduation chases as a race type as they do provide a genuine developmental opportunity for a certain profile of horse, albeit that on this occasion we might review the positioning of this race within the season."
Harry Derham, Paul Nicholls' assistant trainer added: "Paul [Nicholls] has always been a big supporter of graduation chases because these types of races are very important to give novices like Politologue some more experience. Politologue is absolutely fine and it's a nice stepping stone towards Cheltenham. We're hoping the first-time hood will relax him a little bit more."
Tom Messenger, assistant trainer to Dan Skelton gave his view: "There's always the danger, particularly leading up to Cheltenham, that people want to protect their handicap marks and it's disappointing that a race offering such money can only attract two runners. Politologue is a very good horse and will be hard to beat but you'd like to think our lad has got a nice prize in him as he seems progressive. He didn't travel very well up to Musselburgh so you can put a line through that run."
Today at Dundalk this son of Martaline, absent from racing since last June due to injury, will try to get his career back on track whe he lines up in the ASM Chartered Accountants Race. The Willie Mullins-trained Pique Sous probably enjoyed his finest hour when he transported Ryan Moore to victory in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2014. prior to that the ten-year-old grey proved himself to be a top-class competitor in National Hunt flat races, even coming an impressive third to his stable companion, Champagne Fever in the Weatherby' Champion Bumper. Clearly his County Carlow handler has taken his time finding a suuitable race for a comeback.
Steve Massey for the Supreme Horse Racing Club, owners of Pique Sous commented: He has had a couple of niggles, nothing serious. We are happy with him now and it is great to have him back. He owes us nothing after his Royal Ascot win, although we feel there are a few big races left in him as he has very low mileage for a 10-year-old. He has got plenty of speed, which he showed in bumpers. You need speed to win bumpers in Ireland, especially under a penalty."
The Nicky Henderson-trained Might Bite, who fell at the last fence in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, was certainly back on form at Doncaster yesterday when he claimed the three-strong Soar Enterprises Online Ltd Novices' Chase by ninety-nine lengths. The son of Scorpion was the odds-on favourite and justifiably so as the result was never in doubt.
The Lambourn trainer commented: "That was just what we wanted to see him do. It didn't look as if the fall has had a lasting effect, anyway. Without talking to Nico I can't give a detailed description, but his jumping looked good. We've not really learned anything about him, but it was good for his confidence."
Winning jockey, Nico De Boinville, added: "I enjoyed that, it was lovely and we just need him to get his confidence back. I think he is the sort of horse who will be better in a better race. You can be more aggressive on him and his jumping comes to hand the stronger he goes. He's got an awful lot of potential and is going the right way. We just need to keep his jumping low and flat."
9th FEBRUARY 2017
This weekend Exeter race track presents its annual event - Super Sunday - which is used by many trainers of Cheltenham hopefuls as a useful last-minute preparation for the Festival at Prestbury Park. There are entries from many top class horses and trainers, demonstrating once again that this Devon venue is the place to be. For example, Colin Tizzard will saddle Alary who, disappointingly, was pulled up in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last month so will be hoping to get his act in order in time for the Timico Gold Cup when he partners Aidan Coleman in the 188bet.co.uk Graduation Chase. The Sherborne-based trainer has also entered Finian’s Oscar, a leading contender for the Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle, in the Listed Freebet at Bet188 Novices’ Hurdle, a race previously won by his Coral Welsh National and Hennessy star, Native River. Jockey, Lizzie Kelly, who achieved the first Grade One success for a female rider in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing day 2015, will be hoping to ride the same horse, Tea For Two, to victory in the 188bet.co.uk Graduation Chase. And the hits keep on coming! Check out the racecard for the other exciting runners.
Daniel Thompson, the General manager of the Exter Racecourse commented: “We are over the moon with the entries, and we are very hopeful that many of them will stand their ground. Super Sunday at Exeter is a fantastic opportunity for local racegoers to see top class horses in action. It’s a day to savour with many previous winners, such as Native River, going on to register success at the very highest level.”
This Horse All Right
Short-odds betting is not everyone's cup of tea, although popular with many dedicated punters who always bet on the favourite. Occasionally, however, an opportunity arises when all the conditions seem overwhelming. In the Betway Handicap at Lingfield today, for instance, there is a runner who ticks all the right boxes, with the best recent form, top ratings and, what is more with, arguably, the best rider aboard. The horse in question is the David Simcock-trained Starboard who was in the winner's enclosure just a week ago when scoring in the toteplacepot Six Places In Six Races Apprentice Handicap at Cheltenham, his best run since getting his head in front at Chepstow in August 2015. The eight-year-old's quick return to the track is possibly a clear indication connections think all the right things have cone together – their horse is top rated and gets four good positives, including his handler's 24% and his 22% over Course and Distance. There appeared originally to be some doubt whether Starboard would be able to manage the extra two furlongs but he did win over this distance at Longchamp when he was a three-year-old but that was five years ago. An additional bonus is that the son of Zamindar has been entered in a Lady Amateur Jockey's contest, where he will have the benefit of the equestrian skills of none other than Sarah Brotherton who has notched up a 22% winning strike rate over the last four seasons, better than any of the other riders in the event.
It has just been announced that the Comer Group International (previously known as the Palmerstown House) Irish St Leger, the highlight of of the second day of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh on September 10th, will now have €500,000 (just over £425,000) prize money on offer as part of an extended sponsorship deal. This is the race where the Willie Mullins produced a surprise win with his Wicklow Brave beat Ascot Gold Cup winner, Order Of St George trained by Aidan O'Brien. The Irish St Leger is the final leg of a series of races sponsored by the Comer Group, which also includes the Comer Group International Curragh Cup and the Comer Group International Irish St Leger Trial.
Luke Comer commented: "We are delighted to renew our support of the Curragh as they embark on their very exciting redevelopment. We look forward to working with the team at the racecourse helping to ensure that the Irish St Leger remains one of the most prestigious and important Classic races in Europe".
8th February 2017
Cut to the Chase
The Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday could see an interesting contest between the 166-rated, twenty-two-length winner of the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock last month and the 168-rated victor of the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow just after Christmas. The former, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai, takes on Native River in this two-mile-seven-furlong contest. Currently the market appears to be with the son of Indian River, trained by Colin Tizzard. Interestingly the latter also gets the vote of trainer Paul Nicholls, who saddles Le Mercurey in the five-runner field.
The Ditcheat handler commented: "I dare say Native River will be hard to beat and I think he is the one for everyone to beat in the Gold Cup and that's always been my opinion. I thought that when he won the Welsh National because that was a real staying performance carrying top-weight and it will be interesting to see how he runs against Bristol De Mai.”
Mad not Bad
Gary Moore, it appears, is in no hurry to make any decision about the possibility of Ar Mad's running at next month's Cheltenham Festival where he is, currently, entered for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase. The West Sussex-based trainer has already decided that the seven-year-old son of Tiger Groom will not be taking up his place in the Ascot Chase a week on Saturday. Connections are clearly pinning their hopes to their stable star's recovery in time for the Prestbury Park bonanza.
Gary Moore commented: "He is okay but we are just taking it day by day with him. He definitely won't make Ascot, so it will be a case of getting him ready for Cheltenham. I don't know which race he will go for there yet. We will take each day as it comes with him. These horses are animals and not machines."
Going for Gold
It's the Stan James Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday and the John Kiely-trained son of King's Theatre will be bidding for his third victory in this three-mile Grade 1 contest. Carlingford Lough, who was unable to cut it against the Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki a couple of weeks ago, when he finished fourth, sevemn lengths adrift, will be up against some fearsome opposition such as the likes of Djakadam and Don Poli, who is currently the 5/2 ante-post favourite after finishing and impressive runner-up to his stable companion, Outlander in the Lexus Chase at the end of December. The latter is also in the line-up to prove his last success wasn't a fluke. Carlingford Lough is owned by JP McManus and his familiar green and gold colours will also be sported by Minella Rocco and More Of That, both trained by Jonjo O'Neill so a race with an interesting clash of talent and loyalties.
7th February 2017
It's a bit Ricci!
What owners and trainers have to put up with! First a Champion Hurdler and now an up-and-coming Grade 1 winner, both Mrs S Ricci-owned, will not be appearing at the Cheltenham Festival. The Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen won the Stan James Champion Hurdle in 2015 but after triumphing in the 2016 Irish Champion Hurdle it was discovered that the son of Germany had sustained an injury during the contest and was prevented from defending his Cheltenham crown. Further minor complications this season meant that the nine-year-old was scratched form the Leopardstown event at the eleventh hour, due, it was thought, to a muscle problem it was later revealed that it was something more serious.
Willie Mullins commented: “We had hoped Faugheen had just tweaked a muscle, but we’ve had it checked out and it’s a stress fracture.”
It was also on the cards that Min would go for the Irish Arkle at the end of January last month but that wasn't to be and it has now been confirmed that the six-year-old son of Walk In The Park won't make it to Prestbury Park, either.
The County Carlow handler added: “Min has a bruise. Hopefully both will still make the track this season. It’s a real shame with Faugheen, we needed everything to go right and obviously it hasn’t. There are options at Fairyhouse and Punchestown for Min, hopefully he makes one of them, while we’ll try to get Faugheen ready for Punchestown.”
Having the Edge at Sedge
It wasn't all down beat news yesterday, however. A Pembrokeshire-based trainer transported three horses three-hundred miles to Sedgefield and scored with one of them, coming home with the five-thousand-pound prize. Peter Bowen saddled Dr Robin in the JG Paxtons Handicap Chase and his son, Sean, rode him to a one-and-three-quarter length victory. The latter, who also rides for Paul Nicholls, kept the seven-year-old son of Robin Des Pres aon the heels of the leaders for most of the race and, although the duo looked hard pressed after the third fence from home, they stayed on gamely to throw down the gauntlet at the last and snatch victory from the Susan Smith-trained Wolf Sword.
The winning jockey commented: "It helps when they jump as well as he does. The one in front just got tired and my lad kept galloping. It will make the journey home shorter."
Bowling a Maiden Over
When the BHA decided to convert the majority of two-year-old maiden races into novice contests, it wasn't well received. After a successful trial , however, this initiative will be extended the entire 2017 Flat season. Original critics were sceptical that all that would happen would be that trainers would take advantage of the new arrangement to bag a lot of prize money. As it happened, there was an augmentation of the numbers of runners and starting prices increased. The trial, which ran from the start of the Flat turf season to July last year, will now be extended through the second half of the season when it is intended that 442 races, or 82 per cent of maidens, will also be amended. Two-year-olds will now now have to win twice rather than once before receiving a handicap mark which will allow them to compete in a nursery handicap, in which they still qualify after three runs whatever the result. Additional changes will involve two-year-old handicap ratings being published prior to the beginning of programme of nursery handicaps.
6th FEBRUARY 2017
Name of the Game
The Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon made all in the Scottish Future Champions Novices' Chase at Musselburgh yesterday, resulting in a nine-length victory, the first of a treble for the Ditcheat handler. The son of Nickname didn't appear too composed at the start but his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, soon got him to settle down. The race was a bit of a disappointment really because the other three runners hardly got a look-in, as the five-year-old Frodon produced an immaculate round of jumping, clinching his fifth victory of the season, the highlight of which was his triumph in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December and the lowlight his fall two weeks later at Kempton Park in the Grade 1 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase.
The winning jockey commented on his mount's antics at the start: "He gets like that sometimes. It's been a while since his last run so he was good and fresh. He is a horse that loves his racing, as you saw by the way he was at the start. It was as good a ground he's run on for a long time. He could have done with a bit more cut, but he put up a good performance today and jumped brilliant."
Harry Derham, the winning trainer's assistant added: "He'd won some good races but tired last time when he fell. He was really good today. Today was a stepping stone to bigger things. We knew he was going to improve for today, so we're really pleased. He's a horse I love. He's so professional. He's only five, but when you think what he's achieved already, he's a fantastic little horse."
A Walk in the Park
Douvan's win in the Grade 2 Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown yesterday provided a tantalising taster for what to expect at Cheltenham next month in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Although not the most inspiring of contests for the son of Walk In The Park, his jockey, Ruby Walsh, described it as the “perfect warm-up” for Prestbury Park. Douvan came home six-and-a-half lengths ahead of his nearest rival, the Gordon Elliott-trained Realt Mor, making it fourteen straight wins in a row races for the seven-year-old, nine of them over fences.
Ruby Walsh commented: “Deadly, isn’t he? He just sauntered along at his own speed. I gave him a squeeze before the second last and he jumped out of the bridle. He has a huge amount of natural ability and is a pleasure to ride. You just have to sit there. The jumping is up to him. You tactically ride the race, the horse does the jumping. It’s a lovely prize in its own right but it was also a perfect warm-up for next month. He won as he liked – or how you would have expected him to really. He is a wonderful horse and it’s great to see people coming out to watch him. Cork had a great crowd when he turned up there and then Leopardstown and here.”
Winning trainer, Willie Mullins added: “I’m relieved that’s over. He’s probably not showed anything that he hasn’t showed us before.”
That's the Spirit!
Nico de Boinville, back in the saddle again after three months' absence due to injury, returned to the winner's enclosure again, after steering Lough Derg Spirit to victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices' Hurdle at Musselburgh yesterday. The five-length advantage the Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old landed up with at turn for home proved to be decisive as, from there on, all the son of Westerner had to do was maintain his gallop for the line, leaving Neil Mulholland's Peter The Mayo Man some two-and-a-half lengths in his wake.
The winning jockey commented: "I'd seen there was a bit of a golden highway from the front round here, so I thought we may as well be positive. We had to find a pound somewhere to beat Peter The Mayo Man, so that's what we did. He's slick at his hurdles and he came out of my hands at a couple of them. He is good and knows what he's doing."
Nicky Henderson added: "I just thought after Burbank in the first race the track was sharp enough. His hurdling is very slick so I said to Nico we had to grab this a bit and be very positive. He gave him a good ride. It was good because you have to be sharp round here. It was a good performance, but we'll have a think about what we do next. He's still a baby and his life's in front of him. We'll see what the owners want to do."
5th FEBRUARY 2017
Flyer's a Trier
The six-year-old son of Westerner gave an impressive performance on his last outing when he won the Broadway & Horton Cricket Club Maiden Hurdle at Taunton by twenty-two lengths, his first run in the UK after racing in Australia. Now the Paul Nicholls-trained Overland Flyer is aiming to add to these successes when he lines up in the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial Novices' Hurdle at Musselburgh this afternoon. It's already on the cards that the six-year-old will feature at the Cheltenham Festival next month so a victory here will be a taste of what's to come. There are only three rivals in today's Class 2 contest but this is a bigger test for the previous successful point-to-pointer but his redord indicates that jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies could well add to his current seventeen percent strike rate.
Yesterday's Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at Sandown provided an opportunity for the Nicky Henderson-trained Top Notch to increase his winning run over fences to four, thereby confirming he'll run in the Cheltenham Festival, where he might take on the JLT Novices' Chase. The proceedings in the initial stages were dominated by Amore Alato and Baron Alco but the other three runners were always handy in this challenging Grade One contest. The son of Poliglote, with Daryl Jacob aboard, put on an impressive jumping display throughout but it was the superb leap over the final fence that clinched it. From there on Top Notch galloped gamely up the hill to win by five lengths.
Daryl Jacob, who has now won this race for three years running, commented: "It was a great performance. That was a real test for him. He's not the biggest in the world but he makes up for it with his heart. He deserves it. He's very, very consistent and he always tries his heart out. This was a big step and it told us a lot."
Nicky Henderson added: "This is a real favourite. He's nearer a pet than a racehorse. He came as a juvenile hurdler and I thought that was all he ever would be. He had a good year last year. He won the Morebattle (Kelso) and was fifth in the Champion (Hurdle) and had nowhere to go so we tried him over a fence. He was beaten first time out (over fences). Then we found him two lovely, easy races and you could see him grow in stature and confidence. Daryl says the two and a half miles suits him well. It will probably be the JLT he'll go for at Cheltenham. He is still in the Champion Hurdle but after the last two races that is probably not the plan for Top Notch. His jumping to start with was good but it was hard work as he has not got the scope. I'd say the JLT is what we've got to go to. It just gives him that little bit more time with his jumping. He was a very good hurdler in his own right but he looks to be a better chaser now, which we never dreamt of."
Coming up for Air
A decisive win in the Betfred "Follow Us On Twitter" Contenders Hurdle at Sandown yesterday fully justified connections' decision to return their Grade 1-winning novice hurdler Buveur D'Air to the smaller obstacles. The six-year-old son of Crillon triumphed without even coming off the bridle, and the way he flashed by Grade 2 winner Rayvin Black and dual Grade 1 winner Irving proved that he's the one to keep an eye on in the Champion Hurdle.
The Seven Barrows trainer commented: "I said to Barry (Geraghty) at Cheltenham last week that I wanted to switch Buveur D'Air back to hurdles before they announced Faugheen was out [of the Irish Champion]. We've talked about it throughout the week and he hasn't proven anything to anybody today, we know that, because on those terms he should have won like that. I think at this stage of his life I think he might just be a sharper hurdler than he is a chaser. Barry said he can make a length at his hurdles but he can't do that over fences. He's very quick, very slick, and very pacy too. Barry said he took a fair few blows but that doesn't surprise me as there's room to get him fitter. That is the road we are now going to take, you can take it that's where he's going to go. I don't think we're suddenly going to bounce him back to the Arkle."
4th FEBRUARY 2017
Winning on the Sly
With yesterday's two wins at Catterick this Peterborough-based trainer has now notched up five winners from just twelve starters over the last five years. Pam Sly had just two runners on the card at the North Yorkshire track - Walsingham Grange and Actinpieces. The latter was bred and is owned by the Cambridgeshire handler so there was a double pleasure when the six-year-old grey claimed the feature of the day, the Happy Birthday Barbara Ramshay Mares' Handicap Chase by three and a quarter lengths from the Nicky Richards-trained Conquer Gold. The result didn't quite turn out as anticipated because Total Assets looked like winning but made a bad mistake at the final fence. The Act One mare, however, ridden by amateur jockey, Gina Andrews, already throwing down the gauntlet, had no such problems and jumped it cleanly to go on to score.
Pam Sly commented: "Gina gave her a splendid ride. She's so good with her and I think we'd have won anyway. Actinpieces gets the three miles well. The ground had dried out a shade which was a help probably, especially with that weight (12st 2lb)."
The double pleasure was doubled again when the 5/6 favourite, Walsingham Grange, partnered by Kielan Woods, triumphed in the first race of the day, the opening Racing To School Juvenile Hurdle. There was no doubt about this victory. The four-year-old son of Paddy O'prado made most of the running and, despite a short period of losing concentration in the closing stages, made it across the line two-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of Michael Blake's Moon Arrow.
The winning trainer added: "He's a bit lairy and was wandering all over the place," said Sly.
Mayo or Mayo not.
Tomorrow at Musselburgh trainer, Neil Mulholland, will be hoping that Peter The Mayo Man is up to maintaining his top-of-the-form season in the Sky Bet Supreme Scottish Trial Novices' Hurdle. This son of Dylan Thomas was snapped up at an auction for £120,000, after scoring in an Irish bumper at Fairyhouse in April 2015 but owners, Masterson Holdings Limited, must have wondered whether they had got a bargain because his first couple of races over jumps were less than satisfactory, to say the least. Then suddenly, after returning from his Summer break, the seven-year-old chestnut gelding decided to get his his act together and produced three wins on the trot ( or gallop!) at Worcester, Warwick and Newbury.
The Somerset-based trainer commented: "He's a nice horse and is coming back from a break. He's going there fresh and well, hopefully he'll run a nice and we'll learn a bit more abut him."
Throwing their weight around!
France Galop, France's equivalent of the BHA, has declared a new rule whereby female jockeys will be allowed to carry less weight (2kg – 4.4lbs) than their male counterparts, with the aim of encouraging the booking of more female riders. It is estimated that about 90% of races in France will be subject to this new rule change but, for some reason, listed and group races will be exempt. Already this initiative has attracted comments such as "unfair", "offensive" and "patronising". Even Group One-winning jockey Hayley Turner thinks that there should be a "more subtle" way of dealing with the situation as "It seems a bit unfair on the lads."
The British Horseracing Authority says it has made a note of the amendment but has no plans currently to take any similar action. The Vice president of France Galop, Jean-Pierre Colombu, says he is convinced that the rule change will provide a real opportunity for female riders in France. In the UK apprentice and conditional jockeys are given a weight allowance, aimed at offsetting their inexperience by reducing the burden on a horse.
Top jockey Adam Kirby commented: "It's ridiculous, isn't it? 4lbs is two lengths. I appreciate women might not be as strong as boys, but riding in races is not about strength, it's about positioning, rhythm and things like that."
3rd FEBRUARY 2017
All Fired Up
This Kayf Tara daughter is looking to make it four hits in a row when she lines up in today's Happy Birthday Barbara Ramshay Mares' Handicap Chase at Catterick, even though the eight-year-old is carrying an extra seven pounds after her win last time out at Kelso in the EBF/TBA Mares' Novices' Handicap Chase. The Michael Scudmore-trained Two Smokin Barrels, however, has already proved that she can handle a step-up in rating on previous occasions. Therefore there is every confidence that the Martin Jones-owned mare will deal with this challenge just as impressively. There is the added bonus that the Ross-on-Wye trainer is currently enjoying a thirty percent strike record with his horses over fences.
Winner goes free!
The Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield Park on Saturday has, as expected, attracted a batch of highly talented runners. Part of the appeal is clearly that the winner is guaranteed a free run after winning this ten-furlong Polytrack contest, which is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic over the same course and distance on All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday. Two of the competitors that catch the eye are Group Three winners Arab Spring and Decorated Knight. The former, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, to be ridden by Ryan Moore, was unbeaten in his two starts on the All-Weather. Particularly impressive was the seven-year-old's victory in the mile-and-a-half Group Three September Stakes on the Kempton Polytrack. The son of Monsun has also won thirteen times on turf, triumphing in the 2014 Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot, following that up with a victory in the 2015 Group Three John Porter Stakes at Newbury. For the Roger Charlton-trained Decorated Knight, to be partnered by Andrea Atzeni, however, this will be the first time on the All-Weather and, in fact, his first appearance since winning the nine-furlong Group Three Meld Stakes at Leopardstown in July. This five-year-old Galileo son has notched up four wins from 10 starts and had the misfortune of being pipped at the post by the Andrew Balding-trained Tullius in the Group Three Investec Diomed Stakes over an extended mile at Epsom in June.
Musseling in on the Act!
Another racing attraction takes place this weekend. It's the Scottish Cheltenham Trials fixture and, quite naturally, with more than £260,000 prize money on offer, quite a few of the UK’s leading trainers are making a bee-line there. Paul Nicholls, Alan King, Charlie Longsdon and Donald McCain have set their sights on this day as well as local Scottish trainer, Lucinda Russell. Tomorrow will also feature the first-ever running of the £40,000 Bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase, a four-mile preparation race for the Grand National. Saturday's most valuable race, the £50,000 Bet365 Scottish County Hurdle will mark a a rare appearance at Musselburgh by Somerset-based trainer, Jeremy Scott, who saddles his seven-year-old Unison, who seems to be in top form lately. Paul Nicholls runs his Cliffs of Dover, winner of six of his last seven starts over hurdles, in the Bet365 Scottish Triumph Juvenile Hurdle. Not to be left out, Royal trainer, Charlie Longsdon, saddles the Queen’s horse, Forth Bridge, returning to this track after his success in December in the Racing UK Anywhere Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.
Musselburgh Chief Executive, Bill Farnsworth, , commented: “We like to try new things and the Edinburgh National will be the longest race ever staged at Musselburgh Racecourse. We usually have good ground, even in the winter, so this gives trainers a chance to run horses over four miles without the extra burden of facing soft or even heavy ground, which can be very demanding. With 20 entries it has been well supported by owners and trainers.”
2nd FEBRUARY 2017
(It's Groundhog Day! - Again!)
McNamara - the Leader of the Band?
The Micro Dog ID Steeplechase at Clonmel this afternoon could provide a surprise winner for this multiple Grade One-winning rider who only embarked on his new career as a trainer just one year ago. Andrew McNamara saddles Val De Ferbet in this two-and-a-half mile race in which there are only three rivals. Teaming up with a former weighing room colleague, Sean McDermott, the Limerick handler has a great opportunity to bag a share of this relatively lucrative event where prize money is available to fifth place. There's over £600 available for coming last! The son of Voix Du Nord is not exactly everyone's choice for a winner as he hasn't had a really successful career thus far, although he did win at Limerick over Christmas and he has enjoyed a few good placings. In the eight-year-old's favour, however, is that the other runners really haven't got much to write home about.
A winner with bells on!
Trainer, Fergal O'Brien, made the hundred-and-forty-mile round trip from Cheltenham to Leicester with just one horse but he didn't come back empty-handed. The Naunton-based handler saddled Bells 'N' Banjos in the H.A.C. Pipeline Supplies Novices' Limited Handicap Chase. Ironically the son of Indian River's main rival was the Kim Bailey-trained Duelling Banjos and, as expected, the duo struck a chord with each other from the word go. The latter was in the lead until around the fifth fence but eventually lost the duel on the run-in by a length and a quarter.
The winning trainer commented: "I'm delighted. He's won twice here now on different ground, but Paddy (Brennan) said he doesn't want extremes, so he went wide all the way in search of better ground. He'll have a little break. I'll have a word with the owners, but I'd like to go to Cheltenham for the four-miler (National Hunt Chase). He jumps well and he stays well. He's very straightforward."
The old one-two!
The feature race, the 188Bet Handicap Chase at Hereford yesterday was dominated by a Herefordshire-based trainer. Kerry Lee once more proved that she's got what it takes when it comes to training staying chasers when she saddled both Goodtoknow and his stable companion, Mountainous, in the three-mile-plus contest and they came first and second. The former, the 4/1 favourite, was runner-up last time out in the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase. The latter, however, who seems to love soft ground, was struggling from quite some way out and was never really going to be a threat to the eventual seven-length winner. Ultimately the heavy conditions took their toll and only three finished from the original eleven starters, with the Michael Scudamore-trained Streets Of Promise finishing way way back in third.
Kerry lee commented: "I'm absolutely thrilled and they've both run to their best form. Both jockeys (Jake Greenall and Richard Patrick) were excellent, they were given very clever rides. I had no idea which one would win as they had both been in good form at home, working nicely. I was asked this morning which one I fancied the most and because I couldn't choose I told them to do a reverse exacta! (same bet both ways). Goodtoknow will hopefully go up enough now to get in the Grand National, that's where I'd like to go with him."
1st FEBRUARY 2017
Never too Late
A twelve-year-old gelding, who only started racing last July and did no better than fourth in six hurdle contests, has finally scored over fences at Down Royal on the third time of asking. The John “Shark” Hanlon-trained Honest Robber went into the lead after the last obstacle and won the St.Patrick’s Punter Pack Handicap Chase by three lengths. The son of Court Cave, ridden by Rachael Blackmore, was a high as a 20/1 shot in the early part of the day but, by the time the race started, punters had an inkling for some reason that this was his day and his odds were down to 8/1 at the off.
The winning jockey commented: “It’s a fair training performance to get a twelve-year-old to win as a maiden. The ground is hard work out there, but he seemed to relish it.”
This unexpected success obviously brought luck to the Hanlon/Blackmore because they went on to score their double later on in the fixture when six-year-old Camlann claimed the Bet With The Tote Handicap Hurdle by two-and-three-quarter lengths.
Rachael Blackmore added: “It’s always a good day when you have a double! So it’s a great day. He’s been consistent and deserved this.”
Power and the Glory
Lee Power, Swindon Town's chairman, clearly hopes that his success at Lingfield Park will be a lucky omen for his club on Sunday when they play Oxford United. Yesterday his Good Man Hughie, trained by Gary Moore, won the Racing Welfare 24 Hour Support Line 08006300443 Handicap Hurdle by one-and-quarter lengths although his owner must have missed a few heart beats when the son of Flemensfirth made a bad mistake at the last obstacle and stumbled badly on landing. All was not lost , however, as the the 7/2 favourite recovered and enough in reserve to beat off the challenge by the Michael Roberts-trained Sea The Springs by a length and quarter, providing jockey, Jamie Moore with a welcome 32nd birthday present.
The winning owner commented: "That might buy us a new striker! I wish the football was going as well as the horses, as things are not going well and the supporters are not happy. He has always had problems, but we have just persevered with him. He cost us £25,000 and we have had him for just over two years but never seem to get him right. Jamie gave him an unbelievable ride and I thought he was beat to be fair."
Australia is set to stage the world's most valuable race. On October 14, Randwick racetrack will initiate a six-furlong sprint, worth A$10million (just over £6m), to be called The Everest, which will be run similarly to the Pegasus World Cup in America. Owners will have to pay a A$600,000 entry fee to take part in the twelve-horse field. The Everest is a joint venture between Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club.
Russel Balding, Chairman of Racing NSW, commented: "The Everest will be a game-changer for racing in Sydney and provide a stage for showcasing the best Australian sprinters against leading international contenders.”
Laurie Macri, Australian Turf Club Chairman, added: "The Everest is a joint venture between Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club, who share a vision to see more Sydney racing on the world stage. Royal Randwick itself is an international landmark, and it will now rightly showcase the world's richest sprint over one of the best but most testing 1200-metre courses anywhere in racing."
31st JANUARY 2017
This trainer is based just half-an-hour's drive from Ayr racetrack and the fourteen-mile trip certainly paid off yesterday. Mike Smith, who handles about twenty-five horses in his stables in Galston, notched up a surprising double at Whitletts Road. His first success came in the first race of the day, the racinguk.com 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle. Strong Economy, a regular at this venue, had given notice last time out, when he was runner-up in the Racing UK Maiden Hurdle at the beginning of this month, that his time had come. And so it proved. The five-year-old son of Sandmason gave jockey, Stephen Mulqueen, an energetic ride, easlily leavin the Lucinda Russell-trained Vertigo trailing six lengths in his wake.
The winning trainer commented: "He was very impressive. He likes it at Ayr, so we'll see if we can find another race for him here. He'll be fine on any galloping track. I think he's really next year's horse and he'll be a better horse over a fence."
Mike Smith was not resting on his laurels just yet, however, for he was, perhaps unexpectedly, back in the winner's enclosure after the next race, the Racing UK Novices' Hurdle, in which he saddled Glingerside, with Henry Brooke aboard. Unexpectedly because it was assumed that the the 1/4 favourite, David O'Meara-trained Fattsota would easily add to his recent Musselburgh triumph. But the son of Milan had other ideas and struck for home in the straight and the favourite had no response but suffer a two and a half length defeat.
Mike Smith commented: "He was bought for quite a lot of money (48,000 euro) and then they threw him away at the sales and we bought him for £800. Coming to a smaller yard has maybe helped him. I knew coming into the race today he was coming right and I'm delighted to see him win. I have some very good staff and some loyal owners who have stood by me. I shoot from the hip and tell them how it is, but things are going well at the moment and I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."
Caller not a Faller
Yesterday's win in the Bill Cornford Memorial Maiden Hurdle at Plumpton gave Gavin Sheehan the chance to prove he's back at the top of his game after fracturing a wrist in a nocices' handicap at Newbury on New Year's Eve. The twenty-four-old jockey was aboard the Warren Greatrex-trained The Caller in this nine-runner Class 5 event. He came close when finishing second on Cole Harden in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. The son of Yeats, had been beaten on his previous two starts over hurdles but that was all forgotten when he trounced 1/4 favourite ,Oscars Boss, by eight lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "It is great to have him (Gavin) back. I've been very lucky that everyone has helped out. Leighton Aspell and Andrew Tinkler have done a great job filling in while he has been away and doing the schooling. Gav has had a nice break and has come back raring to go. "The Caller has got a good pedigree. He wants further and he hates that ground. I'm very happy with him, but I think the race was not very good at all. In time he will get three miles. He is not very big, though, so maybe he won't be a chaser."
Mother of all Wins!
“What lovely boots you have, Grandma!”
“All the better for riding in, my dear.”
"What a lovely horse you have, Grandma!”
"All the better for winning on, my dear!”
Yesterday at at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, great-grandmother, Sue Martin, partnered Blue Haze Of Fire, trained by her husband, Wayne, to a surprise victory. Equibase credits Sue Martin with riding her first race in 1976 but it actually happened in 1973 at Les Bois Park in Idaho. The sixty-two-year-old then went on to score for the first time in the following year the Coeur d'Alene Turf Club in the Gem State. Monday's triumph was, in fact, the first since 2014 for the rider, who has seven children, eighteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Sue Martin commented: “I didn't know how she would like going a mile (and 40 yards), but she's been training really well. The Lord keeps putting me together - I've broken every bone in my body, I have a titanium leg and I have a plate and screws in my arm. I just follow the lead of the Lord and try to be obedient. I don't want to retire, and I think I have the mount back on Blue (Haze Of Fire).”
30th JANUARY 2017
Hurrah for Henry!
This was certainly the week for a special County Waterford trainer. He had already saddled the winner at Gowran Park on Thursday in the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase when Champagne West stormed home by seven-and-half lengths. Then at Leopardstown yesterday he was a little lucky when his nine-year-old Some Plan was offered the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase on a plate after two of the four runners unseated their rider and the likely winner fell at the last fence. There was no luck, however, about Henry de Bromhead's victory, however, in the Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, in which, coincidentally, there were also only four contestants. Ryanair Hurdle champion, Petit Mouchoir set about his business from the word go, accompanied by the Willie Mullins-trained Nichols Canyon, leaving Footpad and Ivanovich Gorbatov way back down the field. Nichols Canyon started to put the pressure on as they entered the home turn but the son of Al Namix was well on top of his game and, when Nichols Canyon said goodbye at the last fence, he had enough left to beat off the strong challenge from Footpad.
Henry de Bromhead commented: "It's been a fantastic week for us winning the two Grade 1s here today and the Thyestes Chase on Thursday. We're having an excellent season and I'm absolutely delighted that Petit Mouchoir has now won two Grade 1s. It's hard to do what he has now done twice - go a strong pace from the front and keep going. He's not a fast horse at home but he is a great galloper."
Fruits of Victory
The first race of the day at Leopardstown was claimed by the Willie Mullins/ Ruby Walsh partnership. Melon put down a marker for the future when he scored on his debut over jumps in the Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle. Another French import to the County Carlow yard, this son of Medicean didn't take long to show his twelve rivals who was boss. Ruby Walsh kept his mount in a handy third position, leaving the Gordon Elliott-trained Broken Soul to make the running, before going for home after the second-last flight. Melon made his only serious mistake as he took the last hurdle but he got over that quickly and sealed victory by a lead of ten lengths.
Ruby Walsh commented: "He did it well. He travelled well and jumped well at a good gallop.
"He was a bit long at the last but it was a maiden hurdle. How much more we learned, I don't know. The only other horse in the race with form was the Gigginstown horse (Broken Soul) and he's beaten him. It was a good start. Talkers tend not to gallop, but thankfully he galloped today."
Dublin's Leopardstown racecourse now has a bronze monument of one of Northern Ireland's best-loved racehorses. A bronze statue of Twice Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner, Hurricane Fly, now stands at the racecourse where he enjoyed some of his most famous victories. The thirteen years old son of Montjeu, now retired, holds the world record for most Grade 1 (or Group 1) races won by any racehorse. Eight of his Grade 1 triumphs were at Punchestown and another two at Fairyhouse but Hurricane Fly seemed to always save his best performances for Leopardstown, where he proved to be invincible over ten Grade 1 starts. The owners, the Boyd and Creighton families, commissioned the bronze statue from the celebrated renowned Irish equine sculptor, Siobhan Bulfin.
A spokesman for the owners commented: "Year after year 'The Fly' gave so many great and thrilling moments - winning in his own way. The affection and support of the Leopardstown racegoers was unique. We are honoured that the 'people's champion' will have a permanent base at Leopardstown and will always be part of the Leopardstown story," he said.
Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, added: "We are delighted that, thanks to the generosity of the Boyd and Creighton families, Hurricane Fly will be coming back to Leopardstown. His statue will be there to remind us and future generations of his wonderful achievements."
29th JANUARY 2017
The Bob Baffert-trained Breeders' Cup Classic winner has now claimed the $12m (£9.56m) Pegasus World Cup - the world's richest race. Arrogate, ridden by Mike Smith, seemed initially in no hurry to get the job done but once he got going there was no stopping him as he powered his way to victory at Gulfstream Park in Florida. This impressive win follows the son of Unbridled's Song's being named Longines World's Best Racehorse after scoring a rating of 134 after his half-length victory over California Chrome at Santa Anita in November. Unfortunately the much anticipated rematch with California Chrome, competing in his final race, just didn't happen as the son of Lucky Pulpit produced the weakest performance of his career.
The winning trainer commented: "I'm so relieved. He (California Chrome) just didn't bring his race so that match-up never came about. It's great to be here. I never thought I'd be here in a $12m race. I'm a little emotional."
Mike Smith added: “ Arrogate has just produced another incredible performance to secure the $7m (£5.58m) first prize. Sad. Though. That's not the California Chrome I know. He didn't fire."
Today's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown will now have to do without the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen who was withdrawn at the eleventh hour. That means there are only four runners in this Grade 1 two-mile contest and the favourite is now Henry de Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir. This son of Al Namix clearly likes this Dublin race track as he demonstrated last time out in December when he won the Ryanair Hurdle by seven lengths. Petit Mouchoir, it is hoped, will give his owners, Gigginstown House Stud, a first success in the race, and his handler a second victory since his win with Sizing Europe in 2008. Ironically, Petit Mouchoir used to be trained by Willie Mullins before Michael O'Leary decided to take his horses away from the County Carlow trainer. The latter, who has won the last six renewals of this prestigious fixture, now has to pin his hopes on Nichols Canyon and Footpad.
Henry De Bromhead commented: "Petit Mouchoir He won very well at Christmas and all has gone well with him since. He's in great form and we're looking forward to another good performance."
Willie Mullins added: "It's most unfortunate Faugheen misses the race, but he wasn't right yesterday morning and seems to have a muscle problem in his hindquarters. We still have two good horses to represent us and we think Nichols Canyon, who didn't perform when beaten by Petit Mouchoir at Christmas, is back in better form now. As a seven-time Grade 1 winner, he fully deserves a shot at the race. We'll see how things go before deciding whether we keep him to two miles or go back up in trip. Footpad, who won two Grade 1s as a juvenile last season, is difficult to place. While he was well beaten behind Petit Mouchoir and Nichols Canyon in the Ryanair Hurdle last time, we decided to let him take his chance as there is nice prize-money to be won."
A Mean Performance
The Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry increased his unbeaten run yesterday at Cheltenham in the Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle which he won comfortably by one-and-three-quarter lengths. The son of Sir Harry Lewis was following up his Ascot victory when he claimed the JLT Long Walk Hurdle. His jockey, Barry Geraghty, admitted that last race was challenging and he was ready for some of the same again but was clearly relieved that this race was less complicated. He kept his mount always in a handy position, stalking the leaders before taking over the lead between the last two hurdles. There was a bit of an alarming moment when Unowhatimeanharry seemed to think the job was done and slowed down as they approached the line. The County Meath rider was used to these kind of tricks, however, and soon coaxed the eventual winner back into the game to win by four-and-a-half lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "Typically he only does what he has to do and pulled himself up in front but Barry was always confident. Noel Fehily came in and said what a ferocious gallop it was but Barry said he travelled brilliant in the soft ground. By pulling up, hopefully he's saving something in the tank. We've given Cole Harden 4lb as well so it was a very good performance. That's his third win of the season and eighth on the bounce; it's just incredible for all the team. It's a tried and tested route to the Stayers' Hurdle and all being well that's where we're heading. He's versatile with the ground but Barry was enthusing how well he travelled today, so soft ground would be perfect."
Barry Geraghty added: "He's a pleasure to ride. There's only so long you can wait and I felt I was outstaying my welcome. At every other stage he travelled so well."
28th JANUARY 2017
Seven horses line up for the Grade 2 BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham today and, inevitably, all attention appears to be focussed on one particular runner. It seems to be general accepted that this son of Kayf Tara will maintain his unbeaten record over fences. It may be a taller order, this time, however, for the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack, as he will be taking on some of the best in the business, such as 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds, and, especially last year's winner, Smad Place, who left the latter trailing twelve lengths in his wake. Statistics might also be against the John and Heather Snook-owned nine-year-old as the favourite hasn't claimed this three-furlong-plus contest since 1999 when Martin Pipe accompanied Cyfor Malta into the winner's enclosure. This event also has a history of giving some very good horses a difficult time: Dawn Run, for instance, fell in 1986. It also has to be remembered that Thistlecrack didn't seem entirely in control of his jumping when he last appeared at this track last November in the mallardjewellers.com Novices' Chase. So it wil be one of th most interesting contests at Prestbury Park.
Another runner at Cheltenham attracting a lot of attention is the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux who takes on six rivals in the Grade 1 Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase, which he won last year by five lengths. The son of Denham Red today renews acquaintance with the Henry De Bromhead-trained Special Tiara who was only a nose behind him in third place in the Grade 1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase last March.
Willie Mullins commented: We’re happy with Un De Sceaux, but he was in Ascot last week, he came home, rode out a couple of days and did a bit of work which told us he was in good form. But he has now travelled back to Cheltenham, and who knows what effect that will have on him. The ground will be a little better here than it would have been had it got the go-ahead at Ascot, but they have frost covers on here, and it makes the ground very dead, so it’ll be slower than people think. It’ll be tacky, holding ground. You’d imagine he’ll take all the beating.”
Adam Good Show!
Hot-footing it back from a whistle-stop trip to Dubai, Adam Kirby, went straight back into action at Lingfield yesterday and notched up a treble, clearly throwing dow the gauntlet in his bid for the All Weather Jockeys Championship. Just twenty-four hours after winning on both of the Charlie Appleby-trained runners, Gold Trail and Baccarat at Meydan, the Group One-winning jockey partnered the William Haggas-trained Dandy Flame to a length victory in the 32RedSport.com Claiming Stakes.
After that victory Adam Kirby commented: "He just needed to settle and the first half of the race he settled well. He toughed it out and picked up nicely enough. He made me work for it, but he is a tough horse that tries."
Three races later trainer Anabel Murphy had the pleasure of seeing her Krazy Paving finally make it into the winner's enclosure after eighteen attempts in the Betway Best Odds Guaranteed Plus Handicap.
The winning jockey commented: "They went slow. As I turned in, I had one to aim at and it all went well really. It was nice for him to get his head in front. Hopefully he can gain a bit of confidence."
The would-be All-Weather Champion jockey wasn't finished yet, however. In the very next race he was aboard the Simon Dow-trained Emenem, who just beat another rise in the weights as a result of his recent victory at Wolverhampton. The Sir Percy colt seemed determined to score as he managed to squeeze through close to the rail and claim the 10 Free At 32Red.com Handicap by half a length, thus making it three wins for the day for Adam Kirby.
Simon Dow commented: "Today was one of the final mile-and-a-quarter options open to him to run off this mark in this grade. I thought we would find out whether he stayed and although he did, it was not a proper test. I'm not entirely sure what we learnt apart from that he is brave."
27th JANUARY 2017
The winner of yesterday's Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase, after taking over the lead from the first fence, turned the event into a 'follow my leader' contest. The Henry de Bromhead-trained Champagne West, gave his jockey, David Mullins, a faultless ride apart from one mistake down the back straight on the second circuit. It's strange to recall now that not so long ago this son of Westerner looked as though a jumping career wasn't for him as his performance was so weak. All that was forgotten yesterday, however. The nine-year-old's jumping agility and dexterity gave his rivals a lot to contend with right from early on in the race. When Champagne West turned for home, the only horse he hadn't yet completely shaken off was the Gordon Elliott-trained Ucello Conti, (one of seven horses the County Meath handler had saddled in this contest!) who was hoping to improve on the third position he attained last year. There was a moment near to the last-but-one fence when Daryl Jacob was able to get his son of Martaline within striking distance of Champagne West but the eventual winner just nonchalantly increased his speed and galloped to win by seven-and-a-half lengths.
The winning jockey: "He's run away with me for at least 2m6f. He has a serious engine. I've no doubt he'll improve on softer ground, it was gluey out there."
Henry De Bromhead commented:"David [Mullins] gave him a brilliant ride. He is not easy because of his jumping, but he just sat so quietly on him and we hoped that would be the key to him. Bar the fourth last, I thought he jumped really well. We have done a fair bit of work with him but it is there, it is as much confidence with him. You try not to interfere, leave him do it, and in fairness bar the fourth-last, he was brilliant. He guessed at that a little bit but all credit to David, he is not an easy ride and I thought he gave him a fantastic ride."
BACK FOR MOORE
The Longines World's Best Jockey of 2016 is back in Britain. The three-time British champion jockey, Ryan Moore, is scheduled to be aboard the John Gosden-trained American History in the 32Red Casino Maiden Stakes at Lingfield today, followed by a partnership an hour later with Ocean Drive, trained by William Haggas in the ten-furlong 10 Free At 32Red.com Handicap. That's it for this week but the thirty-three-year-old Brighton-born rider will most likely the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Arab Spring in the Winter Derby Trial at this Surrey track next week.
Tony Hind, Ryan Moore's agent commented: "Ryan spent Christmas with his family and is back at Lingfield but beyond that it depends on what comes along. I think Arab Spring may be running shortly but I'm not sure if he's around then our not."
BIN THERE. GOT 200TH WIN!
It was a Very Special win at Meydan for trainer, Saeed bin Suroor as it marked his 200th Dubai Carnival winner. Not only that but the Lope De Vega daughter also made it a victory two years running in the Cape Verdi Empowered By Cepsa. The five-year-old mare has been off the track since last July when she was runner-up to Aidan O'Brien's Alice Springs in the Group 1 Tattersalls 250th Year Falmouth Stakes. Very Special, with Champion Jockey, Jim Crowley, aboard, seemed to take longer than usual to get into her stride but, when she did, she easily fended off Muffri'Ha inside the final furlong and left challenger, Opal Tiara, half a length behind at the post.
Jim Crowley commented: "I didn't force her and I just sat where she was happy. The pace slackened quite a bit turning for home, but she had the gears to get out of trouble. Another furlong wouldn't be a problem for her. She is lively and that is why she wears the hood. It was her first run of the year, she was a little bit fresh in the race which she is entitled to be. You would like to think there is a fair bit of improvement."
26th JANUARY 2017
One trainer's name has dominated the headlines when it comes to graded handicap chases in Ireland this season and that is Gordon Elliott. With winnings so far of well over £85,000 the County Meath-based is strengthening his bid for eight wins in the division by sending seven runners to Gowran Park today, all running in the same contest - Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase. This prestigious three-mile-plus handicap has eluded Gordon Elliott so far and today he clearly hopes to setthe record straight. Three of his prominent representatives are Roi Des Francs, Clarcam and Prince Of Scars, from Gigginstown House Stud, who own six of the trainer's seven big handicap chase winners this season. The four other members from the Cullentra House Stables are Jetstream Jack, running in a handicap for the first time, Bless The Wings, Ucello Conti and Shadow Catcher.
Gordon Elliott commented: “Roi Des Francs has plenty of weight, so we're claiming 7lb. If he came back to his best he'd have every chance. Clarcam came out of Leopardstown on Sunday well and takes his chance, going back up in trip. Ucello Conti is in good order. The ground was probably quicker than ideal for him at Leopardstown last time but he ran very well in the race last year and we're happy with him. Jetstream Jack will like the ground and while it's his first run in a handicap, he definitely has a chance. Prince Of Scars would prefer slower ground and that's a bit of a concern. Bless The Wings is an out-and-out stayer with plenty of experience and he has a nice low weight while we're taking the blinkers off Shadow Catcher where he was pulled up after making a couple of mistakes.”
VERY SPECIAL DAY
Today at Meydan, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Very Special will be attempting to add to her already excellent record after over half-a-year's absence. Already a dual Group Two winner at this Dubai track, the Lope De Vega mare, ridden by Jim Crowley, will be seeking to add another prestigious prize to her collection – the Cape Verdi Empowered By Cepsa, An IPIC Group Company Group 2 Stakes. The five-year-old daughter last raced at Newmarket in the Falmouth Stakes when she was runner-up to the Aidan O'Brien-trained Alice Springs.
Saeed Bin Suroor commented: "Very Special is a very tough mare. She won twice out in Dubai last year before running well at Group One level, including at Newmarket on her latest start. She has been working nicely and I am looking for another good effort from her."
Another leading trainer's son seems to have what it takes to become a successful jockey, at least according to trainer, Seamus Durack, whose Just Joelliott triumphed in the ROA/Racing Post Owners Jackpot Amateur Riders' Handicap Hurdle at Ludlow yesterday. The young jockey in question is Jonjo O'Neill jnr, son of twice champion jockey and now leading trainer. The way the seven pound claimer urged the seven-year-old son of Great Exhibition to a half-length victory in a handicap hurdle for amateur riders certainly proves he's a chip off the old block. In fact this Jonjo O'Neill was notching up just his third National Hunt success in Britain to add to his winners in Ireland and on the Flat.
The winning Hungerford-based trainer commented: "He got a nice little ride there. They went very quick early on, but Jonjo was cool and he didn't panic. He was nice and composed and was strong enough in the finish. He also talks a fair bit of sense and has definitely got the basics to be a very decent jockey. I was hoping that stepping up in trip and getting the right conditions would see him come into his own. Putting a tongue-tie on him and riding him like that was also beneficial. He's always looked like a stayer, so this now opens up a few more options."
25th JANUARY 2017
“IT IS THE COURAGE TO CONTINUE THAT COUNTS”
This Galileo colt won five of his six starts, including the National Stakes at the Curragh and the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. The Aidan O'Brien-trained Churchill has now been crowned top juvenile at a rating of 122 and is the ninth European champion two-year-old to have been trained by the Ballydoyle king in the last eighteen years. As such Churchill emulates previous champions Air Force Blue (124), Dawn Approach (124), New Approach (126) and Teofilo (123).
Mark Bird, Irish Turf Club handicapper commented: "Churchill's final rating of 122 sits just marginally below this century's par rating for a European Champion two-year-old of 123. However, the progressive nature of his form allied to his obvious physical scope and impressive pedigree give rise to hope that his early career may be just the launch pad to greater success as a three-year-old. As his namesake once stated, 'the price of greatness is responsibility', so we hope and expect that Churchill will live up to his reputation in 2017. It was quite a close-run thing this year, with Lady Aurelia on one hand and Churchill on the other. We debated and then came to the unanimous decision that we would prefer to have Churchill ahead of Lady Aurelia. His rating essentially comes from the run in the Dewhurst, which is working out to be very strong form. I suppose looking forward for Churchill, it will be interesting to see what happens next year in terms of form. He looks very progressive and has improved from run to run. His breeding is a major plus factor for him and he looks to have the physical size and scope. He looks to have ticked all the boxes. He does look a worthy champion in our view.”
An impressive front-running performance at Leicester yesterday by Desert Queen in the Listed Charnwood Forest Mares' Chase may have persuaded her owners, The Jago Family Partnership, to delay sending her for motherly duties. The Harry Fry-trained nine-year-old had a planned assignation with champion sire, Kayf Tara, at the Overbury Stud but, despite being ten pounds heavier than the rest of her seven rivals, she put on an immaculate display of jumping to win the richest jumps race (£30,000) held at the Midlands' track.
Harry Fry commented: "We were talking with the owner beforehand and she was due to be visiting Kayf Tara before too long, but we may have to postpone those plans for a little while," said Fry. The better ground helped her today as two and three-quarter miles is probably her best trip. These races are very good and she's now won two of them. She's not that easy and does things her way. She's done more than we expected her to do and she's naturally a better chaser."
It is understandable why owners are keen to have their mares covered by this Sadler's Wells son. The six-time champion jump stallion, Kayf Tara, produced two more examples of his siring capabilities when two of his offspring won at Leicester yesterday. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyarthur was the first to score, when, after leading all the way, he carried his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies to a nine-length victory in the Croxton Park Novices' Hurdle.
The winning trainer commented: "He is a nice horse, but I think the favourite ran a bit below par. He'd had a hard race in the Tolworth 17 days ago. He's a chaser for the future. We'll just keep chipping away with him and see what we've got. He'd been pretty unlucky this year. He had a fall, so deserved that."
The second success of the day for the champion sire came two races later when the Richard Phillips-trained Master Vintage, a 16/1 shot, despite being absent for almost two years, lead from start to finish in the Humberstone Handicap Hurdle and was steered by Danny Hiskett. To a six-length victory.
Richard Phillips commented: "A few of the family have been hard-pullers. In the past we've held him up, but having been off for so long we thought we'd pop him off in front and try to settle him that way.”
24th JANUARY 2017
KERRY ON WINNING
Eleven runners are listed in the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase featured at Cheltenham on Saturday. One horse attracting a lot of attention is naturally the Colin Tizzard-trained Thistlecrack, who, after his impressive performance in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day is currently the star of National Hunt racing scene. After that victory, the Sherborne-based handler was quick to state that this imminent three-mile-plus contest would be a good Gold Cup preparation for the nine-year-old son of Kayf Tara. One trainer who may have other ideas about the outcome of Saturday's race is Kerry Lee. Her Grade One winner, Kylemore Lough, was scheduled to appear at Ascot last weekend but the weather put paid to that plan and a hasty re-think was in order. The eight-year-old son of Revoque consequently has two entries on the nine-race card fixture at Prestbury Park on the 28th - the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase and the Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase.
The Herefordshire-based trainer: "I know it means stepping up to three miles for the first time and it's a massive step up in class, but he's got a Gold Cup entry so we need to know if we're going to use it or not. At this stage it's just an entry, we'll just see who goes where."
CATHY CAME HOME
Last January's PPORA (Look it up on Google!) jockey of the month went one better when she rode the son of Overbury to a five-length victory in the sunbets.co.uk 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Newcastle yesterday. The James Walton-trained Catchamat was clocking up her second victory this season at this High Gosforth Park track. The eight-year-old mare, was given a brave ride by the trainer's step-daughter, Catherine, managing to outrun the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Dubai Angel, partnered by Brian Hughes.
The winning Northumberland-based handler commented: "We're very happy. The race went to plan. We'll take her home and see how she is and then see what the handicapper does. I might try to find a mares' race somewhere for her. That might be the way to go."
A GORDON FOR ME
Winning the Sky Bet Chase, which has its renewal at Doncaster on Saturday has been something of this family's tradition. The late great Gordon Richards claimed this three-mile contest three times in his illustrious career, with Playlord in 1969, Addington Boy in 1996 and General Command in 1997. Now his son, Nicky, is hoping that it is his turn and that he can can win this prestigious prize for the first time. In the hope of strengthening his chances, the Penrith-based trainer plans to saddle two hopefuls, Ballyboker Breeze and Looking Well.
Nicky Richards commented: “It’s a lovely race with a lot of tradition. Hopefully, we’ll have a good week with Ballyboker Breeze. He seems well and fine so I’ll discuss it with Jason (Maguire, racing manager to owners Paul and Clare Rooney) in the next day or two, but I suppose the plan is to run him. He’s in grand order. The going is good to soft, good in places at the minute. I’d say that would be fine. Looking Well has not run for a while because the only races for him have been on soft to heavy ground and that wouldn’t be his cup of tea.”
23rd JANUARY 2017
At odds of 1/5 this son of Presenting certainly seemed about to deliver a somewhat measly reward to punters in the Grade 3 "Money Back On Fallers" At Coral.ie Novice Chase at Leopardstown yesterday and there seemed no way that they would qualify for their money back if he fell. The Willie Mullins-trained Yorkhill, the sixth in an illustrious line of entrants for this race, gave his jockey, Ruby Walsh, not much more to do than stay on. The duo went into the lead more than a mile from home and by the last-but-one fence the other four runners were all ining up for their share of the action. The County Kildare rider, however, didn't seem over-concerned about all this attention and calmly steered the six-year-old chestnut gelding to a length-and-a-quarter victory without even having recourse to his whip,
Willie Mullins commented: "He was very strong with Ruby there. He had a tendency to jump left again but he seemed to be all right. We thought we would get a lead from the two horses in front but obviously his cruising speed is greater than theirs. He might run again before Cheltenham as the experience would do him no harm."
CHROME COMES HOME
The US horse of the year for 2016 is set to make the $12million Pegasus World Cup in Florida on Saturday his finale. California Chrome has just received the prestigious 46th annual Eclipse Awards which honour excellence in North American racing. The son of Lucky Pulpit, also winner of the 2014 award, triumphed in seven of his eight starts last year, winning the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic, thus accumulating more than 14.5 million dollars in prize money and establishing himself as the top North American money earner of all-time. The Art Sherman-trained six-year-old, who sadly never finally made it to Royal Ascot in 2015, was denied victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic by the Bob Baffert-trained Arrogate at Santa Anita in November and this son of Unbridled's Song, voted the US's outstanding three-year-old male, seems set on repeating that triumph when he goes eyeball to eyeball again with America's Horse of the Year at Gulfstream Park.
NOT GOODBYE TO DUBAI!
The Malcolm Jefferson-trained Dubai Angel is only on his seventh career outing but he seems to be the one that has caught the eye in the sunbets.co.uk "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle at Newcastle today. The son of Dubai Destination made his mark last time out in December when, ridden by Brian Hughes, he made all in the Happy 19th Birthday Emily Robson 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Sedgefield and won by a comfortable two lengths. The fact that, as a result of that last victory, the handicapper has clobbered him with a daunting 14-pound penalty, doesn't seem to have deterred his odds-on backing supporters. Connections seemalso confident that their budding star will deliver the goods and qualify for a step-up in grade thereafter.
22nd JANUARY 2017
Not bad, winning Race Displays Event Signage Hurdle at Navan yesterday after over a year-and-half's absence from racing but that's the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner, Jezki, for you. It didn't seem any effort, either. So much so that his trainer, Jessica Harrington, is now even considering another stab at the prestigious hurdling crown at Cheltenham in March. Up to now, the plan seemed to be to run the son of Milan in the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle but he performed so well yesterday in the two-mile contest, ridden by Barry Geraghty, that connections have confidently raised their horizons. The J P Mcmanus-owned nine-year-old seemed just like his old self again, always travelling strongly throughout the race and taking the lead between the final two hurdles. The magnificent jump over the final obstacle clinched the deal, demonstrating that that the minimum trip is his for the asking and victory was his by a length-and-three-quarters.
The jubilant winning trainer commented: "Barry [Geraghty] said he took a blow going down the back, blew up again after the second-last and then just filled up and went away. That was great and you couldn't ask for any more," said Harrington. We had him ready to run at Christmas and he got a little bit of a setback. Every time you go you worry about whether you have done too much or not done enough and whether he has his old spark. He was very settled there and was really good. I'll have to talk to JP [McManus] and Frank Berry and see where we go, but it might well be the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran [over 2m]. We know he gets three miles so we have options which is great. The Red Mills will be another stepping stone and he gets into it without a penalty. There isn't really another alternative race."
A GREY DAY!
The dark horse for the Gold Cup was the one everyone was rooting for in yesterday's Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock but it was a galloping grey who won the day and made his own claim for National Hunt Racing's most coveted prize. Bristol De Mai, a 66/1 shot at the start of the day, is now down as low as 14/1 after an immaculate display of galloping and jumping, leaving the rest of the field straggling behind him. The Colin Tizzard-trained Alary, probably one of France's best chasers, was out of it with still three fences still to jump, having virtually sacrificed any hope of success after a couple of bad leaps earlier on in the race. The six-year-old son of Saddle Maker, on the other hand, partnered by his regular rider, Daryl Jacob, was excellence personified as he went clear just under halfway down the straight, not even seeming to struggle on the testing ground.
The winning trainer commented: “You get worried when the last fence looms, but he was as brilliant at the last as he was at all the others. In the early days, he was very buzzy and he used to go flat out everywhere, but now he’s settled and you can put him anywhere you want in a race. Whether we’re quite the class of Thistlecrack [the Gold Cup favourite], we’ll have to see, but we’ll be going for one of them. I’d be leaning towards the Gold Cup because today was three miles in heavy ground, so it looks like he’s a stayer now, but it will be up to the owners. He’s a year older and hopefully he’s improved and strengthened. That was his best performance for us, his jumping was just superb all the way round. You mustn’t get your head turned [by a horse like Alary]. The fences are different, and when I’ve had horses from Ireland and France, they take time to acclimatise.”
THIRSTY FOR SUCCESS
This owner/trainer/ jockey partnership was not content with their outstanding triumph with Jezki, and went on to land a double at Navan yesterday. JP McManus, Jessica Harrington and Barry Geraghty were again the successful trio when their Thirsty Work claimed the 2017 Navan Membership Rated Novice Hurdle by an impressive five-and-half lengths, making it two victories in a row.
The winning trainer commented: "He'll make a smashing chaser, and will get further, which is great. There is a novice-rated hurdle up to 130 coming up, which would be ideal for him. We'll take little steps for the moment. The three-mile novice handicap later on at Fairyhouse could be a race for him."
21st JANUARY 2017
GOT ALL HIS MARBLES?
The Sky Bet Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices' Hurdle at Haydock today should give an indication as to whether this Duke of Marmalade son has got what it takes to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The Alan King-trained Elgin is considered a 20/1 shot for that prestigious prize after winning his last two contests. The Elite racing Club-owned five year-old, however, is clobbered with an additional seven-pound burden after his Kempton Park outrunning of the Dan Skelton-trained Mohaayed who is, by the way, back again today, presumably out for revenge.
Alan King commented: "He's a progressive young horse. He did well at Kempton on Boxing Day and Haydock would probably tell us more again. He's certainly going the right way. He's pretty highly regarded. Stepping up in class will help tell us whether the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham is a realistic aim."
JUST SEE JEZKI!
The Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki is back in action today in the Race Displays Event Signage Hurdle at Navan – a much anticipated return. This 2014 Champion Hurdle winner has been absent from the track since the 2015 Punchestown Festival when he triumphed over his old rival, Hurricane Fly, in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle in April 2015. Originally it was planned that the JP McManus-owned nine-year-old would make his comeback in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown a week on Sunday. Connections, however, have clearly decided it's better not to pose too heavier task on their son of Milan after such a long period of absence and have opted for a less challenging task at the County Meath track.
Jessica Harrington commented: "I'm very happy with him at the moment and this race is for horses who haven't won more than one since May 3, 2015. He hasn't run since then, so he can get in. It's a good place to take him, he's got to start somewhere and it's a lovely race rather than starting him off in the Irish Champion Hurdle. We had him ready for Christmas, but he just got a little niggle right before he was due to run, otherwise he'd have been out then. We want to get him out now and hopefully he'll have another run before Cheltenham. He's entered in the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers' Hurdle and we'll see how he gets on.
The six-year-old son of Mastercraftsman was in the hands of Thirsk-based trainer, Kevin Ryan, for whom he ran twenty-two times, yielding four Wins, eight Seconds and one Third, including the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in 2014. All-in-all, The Grey Gatsby has earned more than £2.7 million in win and place prize-money. Now owner, Frank Gillespie, has decided to ship his star middle-distance performer across the sea to Ireland to join the Dermot Weld stables based in the Curragh.
Dermot Weld commented: "He has been a grand horse and perhaps he has been unlucky a few times. We beat him by a short-head one day in Royal Ascot with Free Eagle and sometimes the ground didn't go his way. He just needs a bit of luck. He arrived in great condition. I have no definite plans - we'll see how he settles in.”
20th JANUARY 2017
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? ALFIE!
The veteran son of Alflora hadn't had a race since the beginning of last March but it didn't show yesterday at Wincanton. The twelve-year-old Alfie Spinner, trained by Kerry Lee, was ahead of his younger rivals in this extended three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, the Higos Insurance Services Somerset National Handicap Chase and was four lengths to the good when three fences from home. Events then took a dramatic turn when the David Dennis-trained Cyclops took a crashing fall, leaving Alfie spinner to remove the challenge of Abracadabra Sivola in the home straight, which he did splendidly with two bold leaps over the final two fences to claim the prize by three lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "That was absolutely fantastic. It was 100 per cent job satisfaction. The horse has had his problems. He came to us at the beginning of last season and has only run twice and he is now two from two. He really enjoyed it as he jumped well and galloped them into submission. Credit to Jamie Moore, as he gave him an absolutely beautiful ride. It really was a 'wow' moment at the second-last. It is just a testament to how much he enjoys racing. He is a horse that loves life. I think he was out of love with racing when he came to us and we have just reignited him. We will have to see where we go now, but Higos Insurance Services also sponsor the Devon National, so we may take him to Exeter and try to win some more of their prize-money there. We are pretty pleased with him. It has taken us a long time to get him right, but it just shows what patience can do."
CAN'T TRAIN BECAUSE OF TRAIN
For seven years this Staffordshire-based handler has battled against plans to construct the proposed new London to Birmingham high-speed railway (HS2), right across his land at Horsley Brook Farm, Lichfield. Yesterday Ed McMahon, who was assistant trainer to his father Bryan for 20 years before taking on the training licence at the current premises, announced to owners and staff that he had finally yielded to the inevitable and that Mysterious Look will be his last runner at next week's fixture at Southwell. Appropriately this Look Here's Carol mare was his first winner at Haydock in 2005.
The disillusioned trainer commented: "Unfortunately, it's correct that I'm stopping. I've always tried to keep HS2 low profile because it was affecting the business, but it's got to a point now it’s just not sustainable. When you know it’s coming to an end you can’t invest as you will never get that money back, so there’s only one way out. It was like a cancer."
QUITE A STAYER!
No not the horse. The rider! Yesterday at Thurles in the Matty Ryan Memorial Handicap Hurdle the Gordon Elliot-trained Bilko made a bad mistake at the first obstacle and almost, but not quite, unseated his rider. Seventeen-year-old Jack Kennedy, however, was determined not to be got rid of so easily. With the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old galloping at full throttle, the brave (or foolhardy!) jockey hung on for grim death and for quite a while was literally lying in a horizontal position across his mount. Then the Dingle-born Jack Kennedy carried out an incredible feat of acrobatics and somehow managed to get back into the saddle. Unfortunately it was to no avail. Bilko had nothing left after these exploits and was pulled up three out.
Watch the incredible stunt, courtesy of At The Races and Irish Examiner:
19th JANUARY 2017
AT LAST. VICTORY IN THE AYR!
Most owners accept the expense of keeping a horse in training for the pleasure it gives them when enjoying a day out at the races but they also harbour the hope that one day, in the not-too-distant future, they will see their colours paraded in first slot in the winner's enclosure. Most owners, however, would not expect to have to wait over a quarter of a century for this to happen! This was precisely the unusual situation at Lingfield Park. Owner-breeder, Bill Davis, has kept horses in training for twenty-six years and has never had a winner. His luck changed yesterday, however, when his Ayr Of Elegance, trained by Philip Hide, won the one-and-a-half-mile Betway Median Auction Maiden Stakes. There are even more startling facts leading up to this ultimate victory. The Motivator mare did, in fact, get her head in front in the Menzies Distribution Ltd Handicap at this track last May only to be denied victory after an appeal. Then, in August, it was expected that the then four-year-old would get a good result as she was joint-favourite in the Follow Us On Twitter At 188bet Handicap but, fate intervened again and she unfortunately got her head caught in the gate. The process of extricating herself meant she was away very slowly and was soon pulled up.
The jubilant owner commented: "It's fantastic, it's so wonderful. I just enjoyed [owning horses] but the end product is you want a winner. At last I won one, but I never had a penny on it."
The winning trainer added: "I'm sweaty. You just worry what will go wrong. You can't believe anyone would keep horses for 26 years without a winner, it's madness!”
A WING AND A PRAYER
The Higos Insurance Services Somerset National at Wincanton today could provide the son of Antonius Pius with another victory following on from his triumph in the At The Races Sussex National Handicap Chase at Plumpton at the beginning of this month. Today the Charlie Mann-trained Morney Wing faces ten rivals in this three-mile-plus contest. Even though the Plumpton success at odds of 12/1 seems to have come as something of a surprise to his connections, the eight-year-old has been far from disappointing this season, particularly when coming third behind the Paul Nicholls-trained Rocky Creek in the Betfair London National Handicap Chase at Sandown at the beginning of December. As a result of his recent performances the handicapper has slapped an additional five pounds on his back but Morney Wing looks like he could take it in his stride.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
The Nicky Henderson-trained Beyond Conceit hasn't had a race since July 2013, when he came fourth in the UBS Goodwood Stakes so a lot was expected of him. The Galileo son, however, didn't disappoint connections in the Betfred 'Goals Galore' Novices' Hurdle at Newbury yesterday. Apart from the last hurdle when the eight-year-old wasn't particularly fluent, the extended two-mile contest seemed right up his street and he duly conveyed his jockey, Barry Geraghty, to a comfortable ten-length victory.
The winning owner commented: "I think the owner's patience has to be congratulated. He had tendon problems before we had him, then he fractured his pelvis in the summer. It is lovely to see him come back and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. He had got some form on soft ground, which helped us a little bit. He has done plenty of work, but he is so laid-back. Barry said the way he tanked around there is no need to be doing two and a half. I suppose he will get an entry in the Supreme (Novices' Hurdle, at Cheltenham)."
18th JANUARY 2017
WORTH THE TRIP?
This trainer made an 800-mile round trip to Ayr racecourse yesterday with two horses and both of them won. Evan Williams, based at Llancarfan. South Wales, got off the mark in the first race of the day, the Racing UK 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle, when Paul Moloney partnered the 10/11 favourite, De Dollar Man to an easy seven-length victory. Half-an-hour later the duo were back in the winner's enclosure again with BillyBronco but perhaps this time more due to luck than skill. The Stuart Crawford-trained Elusive Theatre, with Craig Nichol aboard, had made all in the three-mile Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Maiden Hurdle and was about twenty-two lengths ahead of his nearest rival by the time he reached the second hurdle from home. Then the King's Theatre mare fell, thereby handing the prize to the son of Central Park. The total prize money earned was close on £5,000 so there might have been a little left for the owners after paying fees and expenses.
The celebrated son of Sadler's Wells enjoyed another memorable season, particularly at last year's Cheltenham Festival with a trio of winners, such as Champion Bumper victor, Ballyandy, Blaklion, winner of the RSA Chase winner and, of course, Thistlecrack who claimed the World Hurdle by seven lengths and then went on to score in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day. Keen Kayf Tara followers will also recall that one of his prominent early offspring, Kayf Aramis, went on to win the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in 2009. As a result of all this successful siring the Overbury Stud management has decided that their star will now stand at a career-high fee of £10,000 this year, double last year's amount.
Overbury Stud owner, Simon Sweeting, commented: "Kayf Tara’s been a great servant to National Hunt breeders and we are indebted to them for their steadfast support over his long career. He’s been the UK’s champion National Hunt sire no fewer than seven times and Britain has never had so dominant a jumps stallion! He is the game’s most successful stallion ever here, going great guns again in the 2016-17 season. Thistlecrack is his masterpiece and confirmation that Kayf Tara can sire a horse of the very greatest talent, as well as delivering winners and sales successes from all manner of mares. We are very fortunate that he is hale and hearty at the age of 23 and we dearly hope he stays that way, as his book is full for 2017."
AYR WE GO AGAIN!
A good day for another trainer/jockey partnership at Ayr yesterday. The David Pipe-trained Starchitect finally got off the mark in the racinguk.com Novices' Chase, after coming third on two previous attempts. The son of Sea The Stars attained a rating as high as 150 when racing over hurdles but the six-year-old was unlucky to be faced with a couple of talented runners on his debut over bigger obstacles. So the Somerset-based trainer also had to make the big decision to take the Paul and Clare Rooney-owned six-year-old on the the 800-mile-plus round trip in search of an easier opportunity and found it in this fifteen-furlong Class 4 event. Bookies and punters must have realised what was going on as jockey, Tom Scudamore, found himself aboard the 11/10 favourite but was still keen to give his mount as easy a race as he could, holding him in the rear for the first part of the race and then goimg into the lead at the last fence. The day's plan paid off, career- if not money-wise. Starchitect broke his duck over fences and connections shared £4,000 for their trouble.
David Pipe commented: "It was all about giving him some confidence. He'd run well in two novice chases this season, but it is very hard to find an 'easy' novice chase these days. We've had to go a long way but it looked like, on ratings at least, that if he jumped well he'd take all the beating. He did jump nicely and he did what we expected him to do. He used to wear blinkers and be aggressively ridden, but he settled nicely today and relaxed. It might be that a truly-run two miles on a galloping track is just what he needs. I think we'd probably run him again before Cheltenham, now his confidence is going the right way."
17th JANUARY 2017
LOVE FINDS A WAY
It seems incredible but video evidence shows a jockey steering his horse into the path of other runners so that his girlfriend could go on to win the race. Josh Cartwright, aboard the 50/1 outsider, Senior Council, is clearly seen looking over his right shoulder before deliberately setting out to stop two other horses, Go The Journey and House of Wax, from catching his Norwegian partner, Anna Jordsjo who went on to ride Murti to a half-length victory. Racing authorities, after initially banning the jockey from racing, have now launched a full investigation into the incident at South Australia’s Morphettville track near Adelaide and it is mooted that the twenty-two-year-old' s career is in the balance.
John Peacock, trainer of Josh Cartwright's horse, Senior Council, commented: “I don’t know what was going on at the time, but it is a shocking thing he has done. When he got off the horse he said it had just shied out and I just accepted what he said.”
A former trainer, Jamie Edwards, added: “That was totally out of character. It must have just been a brain fade. I can’t work it out. He was a hard-working, very pleasant boy when he was down here and I just feel it’s totally out of character.”
As expected the first two home in yesterday's Betway Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton were owned by Godolphin. The Charlie Appleby-trained Antiquarium, winner of last year's Northumberland Plate, who was on his first outing since his underwhelming performance in the Ebor at York in August, certainly made it up to connections and deservedly claimed his automatic place in the fourth All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield Park on Good Friday. In the number two slot was Famous Kid, trained by Saeed bin Suror, who was determined to go for it from the start and make all the running but, when push came to shove, he just couldn't outrun the Adam Kirby-ridden son of New Approach who went on to score by a length and three-quarters.
The winning jockey commented: "I'm very pleased with him. He's an easy-actioned horse. He's very clear-winded and easy to ride. We went a good pace. They steadied up with a circuit to go but we got going again. He didn't pull, he was relaxed and is the perfect horse for the all-weather. He stays and there's no point complicating things. He gave me a great feel and he'll be there or thereabouts on Good Friday. He should be a major player."
FIT FOR A KING
The Alan King-trained son of Panoramic broadened his horizons even further by maintaining his unbeaten record, after winning the Download The Timeform App Novices' Hurdle at Plumpton yesterday. The 10/11 favourite, Bastien, partnered by Wayne Hutchinson, finally and decisively overhauled the early leader, Not Never, as he made for the the second-last hurdle and went on to win by a comfortable eleven lengths.
Ollie Wardle, Alan King's assistant trainer, commented: "He is just a lovely, genuine young horse. He is very straightforward and uncomplicated. It was good effort to defy a penalty on soft ground. He will definitely get further and his stamina has kicked in and won him the race. We will possibly give him a couple more races. He will be much stronger with another summer on his back."
16th JANUARY 2017
NOT QUITE THERE!
It's been nigh on three years since this English National Hunt amateur jockey scored at Kelso so Sam Waley-Cohen was clearly overjoyed to be back in the number one slot on his only ride of the day. He was aboard the Warren Greatrex-trained Black Thunder in the last race of the day, the Eildon Hill Stables Open Hunters' Chase which he won under slightly peculiar circumstances. It looked as though Ben Pauling's Dolatulo would do the honours but in the last ten yards his jockey, Dougie Gittins, appeared suddenly to stand up in his stirrups and virtually stop riding just before the line. It seems the amateur rider may have mistaken the starter's rostrum for the winning post. An expensive error as it cost him a ten-day ban. The stewards' take on the situation was that Dougie Gittins, who works as Ben Pauling's PR and marketing manager and was having only his third ride under Rules, was "guilty of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best possible placing in that he failed to ride out on a horse that could possibly have been placed first".
Ben Pauling commented: "The idea was for Dougie to have fun and enjoy himself and he certainly did. He did everything right but then mistook the line - I think it was the starter's stand on the left which he mistook for the post. He had given Dolatulo a very patient ride, getting into a lovely rhythm, letting the other two get on with it and when they tired he nearly did it. He will learn from the mistake and won't do it again. It looks a tough ban and I don't know whether to appeal."
SECOND CAME FIRST!
Ted Walsh-trained son of Oscar secured his second successive career victory when getting his nose in front in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Any Second Now had already shocked the racing world when, as a 66/1 outsider, he won the Kells Maiden Hurdle on his debut at Navan last month, so bookies and punters were more aware of his capabilities and placed him as second-favourite in this Grade Two contest. As expected, the Willie Mullins-trained Crack Mome was the clear favourite at 4/11 as the betting community was convinced that the County Carlow king would claim the prize again as he had already saddled six of the last eight winners -including Mikael D'Haguenet (2009), Vautour (2014) and Douvan (2015). The six-strong field was led along by Dr Mikey for much of of the two-mile journey but he ran out of steam as they went round the home turn, providing an opportunity for Crack Mome and Runfordave to take over. The former looked to have got the measure of his rival as they galloped for final flight but, surprisingly he landed awkwardly and Mark Walsh, aboard the eventual winner, didn't need asking twice as he produced a well-timed challenge which paid off with a length-and-a-quarter win. .
Ted Walsh commented: “Not as big a surprise as the first time. You’d be disappointed if he didn’t run well, but turning into the straight I was quite happy that he was going to be a good third. They were two fair horses in front of him and when he got by Gordon’s horse I thought Ruby had a bit more in the tank, but he joined him at the last and did it well. It’s a sharp old two around here. It’s tight on the inside and I was worried about that. It was down to be a Grade Two but it was a winners of one really, but he did it nicely, his jumping was very good, I thought he was going as quick as he wanted to be going. He could be a very good horse. He’s a big raw sort of a horse. I’ll leave it to Frank [Berry] and JP [McManus] I’m sure they’ll have loads of ammunition for Cheltenham, we won’t be rushing. We could maybe look at the Deloitte, which is five weeks away. We'll keep him to the better tracks, the likes of here, Leopardstown, Naas, Navan or Fairyhouse."
TAKES TWO TO TANGO
Wolverhampton is the scene for an interesting fast-track qualifier this afternoon when seven runners do battle in the Betway Conditions Stakes. As usual Godolphin has two strong contenders in the form of Famous Kid and Antiquarium, both available at short odds. The former, trained by Saaed bin Suroor, overdid it last time he ran over this distance and if he proves too fresh in the early stages he could have the same problem again. The Charlie Appleby-trained Antiquarium, on the other hand, can handle this kind of contest as he proved when winning the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle in June. On his last outing at Newcastle in August things didn't go so well for him in the Betfred Ebor Heritage Handicap when he finished way down the field. This race, however, could well turn out to be more competitive than the bookies think. One runner seems to be under-rated and that is the Karl Burke-trained Intense Tango who is currently a 20/1 shot. The Mastercraftsman mare will certainly have her work cut out when she takes on the two market leaders but, notably, she does have a five-pound advantage which could come in handy if she decides to go for it from the front. The six-year-old has proved she has the speed over shorter distances but whether she will have the stamina for the step-up in trip remains to be seen.
15th JANUARY 2017
ONE FOR THE ROAD
Yesterday must surely be the day that the connections of this son of Milan dared even to dream that they might have a contender for the Grand National in their possession. One for Arthur, trained by Lucinda Russell, won the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick by six lengths, having taken a clear lead from two fences from home. The two Golf Widows'-owned eight-year-old had already made his mark when coming fifth, only some two-and-a-half lengths behind the winner in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree at the beginning of December, holding his own against the likes of Highland Lodge, Ucello Conti and The last Samuri.
Lucinda Russell commented: "He jumps fantastically, but was unfortunate when he was interfered with in the Becher and I thought the same would happen there. But Derek took his time and let him get back into the race. If he goes up enough he might be a National horse this year, but he'll definitely be one next year. I wouldn't want to run him on good to firm ground, but Aintree won't let it get like that. I'm delighted as the owners are lovely, proper National Hunt people."
This son of Motivator has frustrated many a punter with his performances in recent months and, indeed, hasn't had a win since November 2015. The Paul Nicholls-trained Modus, however, made up for lost opportunities by claiming the 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle by two-and-three-quarter lengths at Kempton yesterday, beating the well-backed Templeross. His rider, Barry Geraghty, wearing the familiar JP McManus colours, was clearly delighted with the decisive victory by his mount who proved he could well handle the step-up in trip to twenty-one furlongs, having only taken on seventeen before.
The winning jockey commented: “He seemed to lack the pace for the race at Ascot last time [over two miles] so I was happy enough he would get the trip today. He travelled well and the ground was probably slower than ideal and I wasn't sure how much I had under me, but in fairness he picked up."
The winning trainer's assistant, Harry Derham, added: "The step up in trip has worked the oracle," Derham said. "The ground was softer than ideal but he is a high-class horse - we've always thought that. He kept hitting the crossbar over two miles and I was fairly certain he would stay, to be honest. I rode him work on Thursday and he felt fantastic. I've never questioned his attitude because the only thing he's done wrong is be a bit keen - and to me that means he just wants to go and do it! It's great for him to win a nice pot."
Making it two wins in a row over the movable obstacles, this Ben Pauling-trained son of Court Cave, ran his rivals ragged in the Neptune Investment Hurdle at Warwick yesterday. With David Bass for company, Willoughby Court demonstrated again that he rather likes this Midlands' track, the scene of his last success in December and and proved it by galloping off immediately the flag fell. The six-year-old's jumping proved generally good and was, indeed, particularly exemplary five hurdles from home when he produced a huge leap after which it was all over bar the shouting. In fact, by the time he reached the home turn, it was a fait accompli and a couple of good jumps over the last two sealed his success.
The winning jockey commented: "He was really impressive. I can't believe how much he's improved from the run here before. He got into a really good rhythm and on this ground he's relentless. He just gallops and jumps. He's an improving horse, so I wouldn't be surprised if he could handle better conditions as well. Fair play to Ben, he really fancied him."
Jason Maguire, racing manager for owners Paul and Clare Rooney, added: "Ben was very keen to come. Off a mark of 127 you'd think he'd be up against it on official ratings, but he obviously loves this track - he's won a bumper and two hurdle races now - and it was a good performance. Whether he's ground dependent, I'd like to think he's not. He handles this ground better than some. Where he goes I don't know. Obviously there's the Festival. Ben's been great with him, he's been so patient."
14th JANUARY 2017
A WINDFALL RESULT?
Today's National Hunt fixture will provide just one reminder, if such is needed, of what the racing world will be missing if plans to bulldoze the Sunbury-on-Thames track are given the go-ahead. Fifty-odd runners and countless racegoers will be making their way to Kempton Park to enjoy an attractive day's racing. The feature race of the day is the 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle which has attracted many top trainers and jockeys. After a freezing cold night it looks like the ground conditions are likely to be very testing after the frost protection is taken off. One runner that is being disregarded in the run-up to this two-and-a-half-mile-plus contest is the Anthony Honeyball-trained Fountains Windfall who could well carry the day as he's well handicapped and has already proved that he has the stamina for such a challenge. This son of Passing Glance, it's true, is still a novice he only removed his maiden tag on his last outing and that was some 230 days ago, in May. The Dorset-based trainer, however, reports that the seven-year-old is in great shape, despite his long absence. One clue for this runner is that it was decided to pitch him into a challenging first handicap race rather than stay reasonably comfortably in novices' company. He was, in fact, also entered for the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Warwick but was withdrawn. It should be an interesting contest.
SUCCESS THE SECOND TIME AROUND?
The main event at Warwick this afternoon is the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase and the second-fence faller in this race last year is back in an attempt to set the record straight. While the Alan King-trained Sego Success seemed not really affected by that experience at the time, he does appear to have lost some of his sparkle as a result. As proof, this son of Beneficial could do no better than finish fourth last March in the BetBright Grimthorpe Chase. He fared a little better at Bangor in November when he finished third in the Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial Handicap Chase but then blotted his copybook again when landing up outside the frame in the bet365.com Handicap Chase at Doncaster last month. It's more than likely that the nine-year-old gelding was not enamoured of the good ground but, in his favour, as a result of his recent poor performances, he has slipped down the handicap ratings. As a result is a good six pounds lighter than when he failed to make the grade last time so connections and punters must be crossing heir fingers that this is the day for redemption.
KEEPING AT BAY
Another big question mark looms over the Betfred Mobile Hampton Novices' Chase at Warwick this afternoon. Seven runners line up in this Class One Three-mile contest and four of them scored last time out. One of the entrants is looking for three in a row over fences and that's the Evan William-trained Pobbles Bay, who, in any one's book, didn't particularly excel himself over hurdles, but it was a different story when he he went for the fixed obstacles. Then this son of Oscar impressed everyone on his chasing debut with a sixteen-length victory in the Wychwood Hobgoblin Chase at Uttoxeter in November and followed that up with a decisive win in the coral.co.uk Money Back If Your Horse Falls Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Chepstow just after Christmas. The plan then, it seems, was to give the seven-year-old a well-earned rest but, as he still seemed to be in great form, it was decided to give him another run just eighteen days after his last outing.
Evan Williams commented; "He's a lovely horse, I couldn't think he'd be doing what he is because he wasn't that good a hurdler. He wasn't half as good as he's looked over fences already. In time he's going to be a lovely staying chaser, but quite how classy he is, I don't know. He won what looked just an ordinary race at Uttoxeter at the time, but the form worked out incredibly well. Then last time at Chepstow he beat a Cheltenham Festival winner (Ibis Du Rheu) rather easy. I was going to give him a break but he came out of it so well I thought if he's in good nick we may as well run. I don't know if he's up to this, but we may as well find out."
13th JANUARY 2017
KNIGHT ON A DAY LIKE THIS!
Formerly trained by Mark Johnston on the Flat, this son of Mastercraftsman was acquired by Paul Chapman for £16,500 at the Doncaster sales last September and put in the hands of trainer Gary Moore. Templier was first given a run on the all-weather at Kempton Park in November where he didn't seem entirely at home so it was decided to put him over the hurdles at Plumpton in December. This proved to be a good move as the then three-year-old claimed the J H Builders Novices' Hurdle by eight lengths. Today he lines up with six rivals in the Equimark Horseboxes Sport Pro Chatteris Fen Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon which marks a step-up to Class Two on only his second run over obstacles. Currently rated as a number three favourite at 6/1, clearly punters are expecting Templier to take the contest in his stride.
WHAT'S UP DOC?
Nine horses competed for a guaranteed place in the line-up on All-Weather Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday when they lined up in the Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle yesterday. The David Evans-trained Gracious John, the 5/4 favourite was clearly keen to get on with the job as he closely pursued the Irish raider Chiclet who was quick to dominate the pace. When the latter weakened as he entered the final furlong, the son of Dandy Man looked all set to make this Class Two contest his own but somehow he seemed to have nothing left at this stage and quickly dropped out of contention, leaving Justice Good and Doc Sportello to take it up inside the final furlong. The latter hit the front first but Shane Kelly was well prepared aboard Justice Good and briefly urged his mount ahead by about a nose. The Michael Herrington-trained Doc Sportello, however, provided a bit more for jockey Robert Winston and the they came home victorious by a short head.
The winning jockey commented: "I purposely took him out of the race because he can get racing with you a bit too much. He switched off beautiful once I took him a couple of lengths behind and then landed in front too soon, but once he saw the other horse he produced the goods. He's a lightly-raced horse and was a nice buy for the connections."
Michael Herrington added: "I can't tell you much as I was at the start to put him in the stalls!
He has a history of being a bit naughty in the stalls. When Eddie Lynam had him in Ireland he had a bit of trouble I think. Then when he ran at Chester in September he laid down under the stalls, so Adam West (previous trainer) spent loads of time sorting him out and got him to win a claimer here. Fortunately for me he was a good claim (£10,000). It's unbelievable. We thought he'd run well and he's got an engine. It's only his sixth run and he can only get better if we can keep his mind right."
PADDY AT SEVENTY!
No. not his age! He's only thirty-six! This is Paddy Brennan's number of winners for the season so far after notching up a double at Leicester yesterday. The County Galway jockey kicked off the day in the first race when he was aboard the Tom George-trained Baraza in the Groby Novices' Handicap Chase. Having never scored over hurdles, this son of Smadoun successfully negotiated his debut over fences, jumping into the lead at the fourth-last obstacle and producing an easy three-length win.
Tom George commented: "He probably takes after his elder brother, he's a very good jumper and hopefully we can get him to start improving now. He's got quite a long way to go to catch up with Nacarat, but he jumped nicely. Hurdles weren't his thing. He'll go for another little handicap like this. He'll probably come back here because he does like the better ground. You'd hope one day he might progress like his brother did, but we're not there yet. This was the first step. We took him to Uttoxeter last time, but he was lost there - he couldn't cope with the ground. He's a winter good-ground horse."
Three races later, Paddy Brennan once more demonstrated his equine skills when he steered another novice over fences for the first time. The Fergal O'Brien-trained Bells 'N' Banjos had been off key since his victory in the Chancellor Of The FormChecker Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell Park in November 2105 so the son of Indian River owed his connections one. The seven-year-old was obviusly aware of what was expected of him in the Leicester Annual Badge Holders Chase and produced an immaculate round of jumping and from the ninth fence victory was in the bag by three lengths.
12th JANUARY 2017
WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?
The Jockey Club is the largest commercial organisation in British horse racing. The Organisation was founded in 1750 by a group of gentlemen brought together by a shared passion for horse racing. Its members were some of the most influential people in the country. Initially meeting in London at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall and also in St. James’ Street and Hyde Park, the Club soon relocated to Newmarket. The Club is governed by Royal Charter and, as such, all profits it makes are reinvested back into the sport. The jockey Club owns fifteen race tracks in the UK, including Aintree, Epsom Downs, Newmarket and, of course, Kempton Park which is very much in the news as there is an intention to sell this Sunbury-on-Thames racecourse for housing development, The purpose, it is said, is to raise further money for a bigger investment in British racing. Implicit in the current proposals is that Newmarket would get a third (all-weather) track, to which all Kempton fixtures would be transferred, meaning that the Suffolk town could enjoy the sport of kings all the year round. Newmarket is considered to be the home of racing and is the main beneficiary of a £500 million investment by the the Jockey Club. The new all-weather floodlit track, if approved, would be in addition to the Rowley Mile and July courses. There would, of course, also be a huge commercial benefit to the local community in the way of new jobs.
Amy Starkey, the Jockey Club's regional director commented: "At its highest point there are 3,300 racehorses training in the town, so we are working to market forces. The best location for a new all weather race track within the jockey club group is here at Newmarket. It provides an all-year-round racing product."
Following further delays in recovery from a tendon injury it has been announced that the 2015 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has been retired. The Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack, owned by Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud, suffered the injury when he was getting ready to compete in the Punchestown Festival but there was still hope that he would return to the fray in February. The son of Sholokhov was only beaten just twice from twelve races since taking to the track in October 2014. The ten-year-old came third in last year's Ryanair Chase and, unfortunately took a dive in the 2015 King George VI Chase (at you know where!) when it looked as though he would claim the prestigious prize. Connections had never stopped publicly making confident comments about their champion's return but made it clear that that if there were any complications Don Cossack would be retired.
The County Meath-based trainer commented: "I am very sad to report that Don Cossack has suffered a setback and will now be retired. We found that he had a bit of heat in his leg yesterday and we've made the decision to call time. It's a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run at Gowran Park next month. He's a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away. He's won Grade Ones at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Down Royal. He was the top-rated horse in Britain and Ireland for the last two seasons running and we'd have loved to see him take on Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup. It would have been a cracking race. That's racing, as they say, and we have to let that go now and find something else to take on Thistlecrack.”
A WINNING FLYER
The Broadway & Horton Cricket Club Maiden Hurdle at Taunton yesterday saw the winner live up to his name and run the rest of the field ragged in his first race over obstacles. The Paul Nicholls-trained Overland Flyer, joint-second favourite at 3/1, made virtually all with hardly any challenges, going clear well before two from home and transporting his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, to a twenty-two length victory. As a result the six-year-old son of Westerner was already getting quotes of 20/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
The jubilant winning rider commented: "He must be a fair animal. Hopefully he's a nice horse for the future."
11th JANUARY 2017
No doubt what news is grabbing the headlines today. The Jockey Club has just announced that it plans to sell this popular Sunbury-on-Thames racetrack. Kempton Park, which had its inaugural race in 1878, is to make room for the building of 3,000 homes as, purportedly, part of a scheme to raise £500 million for future investment in horse racing. If the proposal goes ahead the world-famous King George VI Chase would be relocated to Sandown, some six miles away. Racing will continue at Kempton Park for at least another four years and the redevelopment will only be agreed if more than £100 million is raised from the sale and the proposed all-weather track at Newcastle gets the go-ahead. It has been revealed that the proposal was a response to Spelthorne Borough Council's local plan for 2020, highlighting where housing development could take place in the area.
Roger Weatherby, the Jockey Club's senior steward commented: "We must show leadership with the assets we have and, where merited, take tough decisions to help our sport to keep improving."
Trainer Nicky Henderson was one of the first to comment: "The King George isn't the same race at Sandown. Kempton is a track National Hunt racing cannot afford to lose. It's that simple. Very sad news indeed."
Jockey Andrew Thornton added: "There wasn't even a muttering around the weighing rooms of this coming. That worries me. Why haven't trainers and individuals had a say? It seems very close knit. From a jockey's point of view, it is one of the greatest tracks in the country."
Kempton Park isn't the first track to succumb to this kind of development. Others include:
Bromford Bridge, Birmingham. First race: 14 June 1895. Last race: 21 June 1965
Alexandra Park, London. First race: 30 June, 1868. Last race: 8 September, 1970
Castle Irwell, Salford. First race: 26 May 1847. Closed: 1867 - 1896 - racing was held at New Barns, Salford, now the site of Media City. Reopened: Easter 1902. Last race: 9 November. 1963
Hurst Park, Surrey. First race: 19 March 1890. Last race: 10 October 1962.
Gatwick racecourse. First race: 7 October, 1891. Last race: 21 April 1948
Along with the sad news about Kempton Park the Jockey Club has announced plans for a new all-weather course at Newmarket. This has disturbed trainers who regularly visit Chelmsford City's all-weather track. Although this track is about an hour's drive away from their racing yards,a new all-weather course in Newmarket would provide stiff competition. So Chelmsford management have come up with their own adventurous plans. They have been granted planning permission for a casino to be part of the planned Racetrack Grandstand which will house the first UK 'Racino.' The new plans will also include major new facilities for the horses and a new turf course on the inside of the existing all-weather surface. Work on the grandstand and turf track has been scheduled for the beginning of this year. Officials are confident that the plan to build a turf track will enhance Chelmsford City Racecourse's position in Europe as it will include the first floodlit turf track.
Racecourse Chairman, Joe Scanlon, commented: "This is fantastic news. Over the course of the last few years, the leading casinos across the world have been changing into multi-purpose complexes offering a full range of leisure facilities to complement their gambling options. Here at Chelmsford City Racecourse, we will be the first to offer a fully integrated racecourse 'resort' or leisure destination with entertainment. In a very short time, we expect to become the leading leisure offer in this region, providing high class entertainment and facilities to meet all tastes."
A CLASS WINNER?
The Betway Amateur Riders' Handicap at Newcastle today could provide this son of Champs Elysees with his first win since May 2015 The Alan Swinbank-trained Genres, previously with John Gosden, is strongly expected to start writing a new chapter in his racing history. Connections' optimism is based on their then four-year-old's last outing at Newcastle at the end of December, when better late than never, Joe Fanning was able to coax his mount into a last-minute charge in the final furlong and finish fourth. That was his best performance for quite a while so something appears to have stirred in the Brian Valentine-owned gelding. The current trainer has also made the brave decision to go for a step-up in trip to a mile and a half and, perhaps more importantly, he has booked Simon Walker for the first time, an amateur jockey very much in demand for such a race.
10th JANUARY 2017
This son of Cape Cross hasn't had a win since December 2015 so one can imagine how trainer and connections must have felt when their five-year-old claimed the Betway Middle Handicap at Wolverhampton yesteday and by three-and-a-half lengths. Neil Mulholland-trained Seven Clans seems to have learnt something in his various defeats because this time he stayed on well from the rear of the field and, when asked to do so by his jockey, Adam Kirby, strode on to register his second victory from thirteen outings, thereby also presenting his Limpley Stoke trainer with his first success on the Flat in the current season.
Neil Mulholland commented: "The blinkers helped him last time as he can be a bit lazy and the drop back into a claimer also probably helped his confidence. His hurdle runs didn't work out very well and I think that knocked his confidence. Adam gave him a great ride and hopefully he is on his way back again."
Two owners who are popping up in the winner's enclosure more and more are Mike Grech and Stuart Parkin. Yesterday proved no exception. They have twelve horses being trained by Nicky Henderson in Lambourn. Two of these were sent up to Doncaster and the two came back winners. They kicked off the day with a victory in the first race of the day, the sunbets.co.uk Maiden Hurdle, when Lough Derg Farmer, ridden by Jeremiah McGrath, won the two-and-half-mile contest by an easy six lengths. Then three races later, not to be outdone, their Stowaway Magic, this time with Daryl Jacob aboard, triumphed by nine lengths in the Karl Smith Men's Grooming 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle. Together with Sunday's success with Constantine Bay at Chepstow that means that the dynamic duo has seven winners under their belt this season with six individual winners from the eleven runners who have appeared so far.
The Warren Greatrex-trained son of Golan certainly lived up (or down!) to his name when making his debut over fences in the Bathwick Tyres Novices' Chase at Exeter in November when he finished some twenty lengths behind the winner in fourth position. Connections must now be praying that their Missed Approach has learnt a few things ready for his appearance in the in the Lingfield Park Novices' Chase at the Surrey racetrack this afternoon. It's difficult to forget his poor performance last time out. one thing is for sure, however. The Hungerford-based trainer is not one to give up that easily and he will certainly have engaged the seven-year-old in plenty of schooling in readiness for his challenge later on today. So, although there are a few ifs and buts about Missed Approach, it seems about time he came into his own. That is, if he gets his approach right!
9th JANUARY 2017
RESERVOIR OF TALENT
This son of Kapgarde first caught the eye with his impressive performances in both the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival and the Setanta Sports Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown but then unfortunately had a fall on his chasing debut at Fakenham, enforcing a good nine months' absence. The Nicky Henderson-trained Hammersly Lake seems back to his previous top form after two good runs at Cheltenham and Ascot in November and December, respectively and lines up in the grandnational2017.com Novices' Chase at Doncaster this afternoon. The nine-year-old is the highest-rated runner in this field at 142 and, with the forecast suggesting that the ground is how he likes it – good – there's a strong chance that jockey, David Mullins, will have a successful ride and notch up another win on his first ride on this Michael Buckley-owned gelding.
The Noel Meade-trained Art Of Security finally had the chance to show what he's made of. Winner of a bumper at Navan last season, this High Chaparral gelding failed to make his mark on his first two starts over hurdles but made amends by coming third at Leopardstown over the Christmas period. In yesterday's the I.N.H. Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Maiden Hurdle at Naas, as expected the 3/1 joint-favourite, Turbojet, accompanied by the Henry De Bromhead-trained Arvico Bleu, was determined to make all the running but he started to look decidedly uncomfortable when he approached the final flight. Art Of Security had made good ground and was virtually alongside when they took this obstacle and picked up well on the run-in to score by two and three-quarter lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "I thought he'd win as he ran very well in Leopardstown. Sean thought the ground was a bit quick for him then and said he was flat out from the second-last. He won a bumper on soft ground and I think he's a reasonable horse. I suppose he'll go for a winner's race, but we'll see what way the handicapper rates him. It's so difficult at the moment because no matter what race you go for, a Grade Three or a Grade One, they are all the same and you run into the same horses. It's the same for any of those horses that win. The next step is a big one."
GREAT FEAT BY PETE!
A true veteran, one of two 13-year-olds in the race, claimed the 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase at Sandown. The Charlie Longsdon-trained Pete The Feat, running off bottom weight as he hadn't scored for over three years, put on a remarkable show when he saw off the fancied winner, Theatrical Star, trained by Colin Tizzard. Sent off at 20/1 the son of King's Theatre, with Aidan Coleman aboard, was given a patient ride in the testing conditions but his low weight proved to be the deciding factor.
Charlie Longsdon commented: "We haven't had a winner since December 14, they've been running well but not winning so it's a relief. Pete The Feat has been a legend for years, it's the 10th win of his career. "Loose Chips (stable companion) ran a blinder as well. He's missed three weeks since his last win and only been in training 10 days."
Aidan Coleman added: "He doesn't ride like he's 13, he rides like a four-year-old, you're always trying to retain his enthusiasm. He just absolutely loves it. He travelled great and I loved it as well, his enthusiasm made him a pleasure to ride. He had a low weight so I was quite anxious to kick on turning in as I knew he'd gallop to the line. It's strange, the longer the race here, the more pace there is. It's peculiar, we all wanted to go a good gallop. I'd have been happy to make it but I was just as happy to sit third or fourth, it makes it a great race to ride in."
8th JANUARY 2017
END OF AN ERA
This eleven-year-old son of Martaline had his last competitive race yesterday at Sandown yesterday when, although seeming to have everything in his favour, including a generous handicapper's rating, he only managed to come seventh, some eighteen lengths behind the winner in the 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase. The David Pipe-trained Dynaste will, his owner John White was keen to stress, after announcing his horse's immediate retirement, will continue to enjoy the same five-star treatment meted out to him throughout his distinguished racing career, reaping in that tine nigh on £600,000 in prize money.
John White reflected on the highlights of his champion: "For me it was a combination of his win in the Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock, when we realised we had a bloody good horse, and that win in the Ryanair. I've got his full brother and half sister, both so far unraced, and if you said either would be half as good we would take that now. They are something to look forward to anyway. Hard to find another one like him. Whatever he does now, he'll have five star treatment like he's had at David's all of the way".
David Pipe added: "Dynaste has been very good for my career and also for Tom Scu's, and he can stay with me as long as he likes. Every stable needs a flagship horse and he's been ours for a few years. It will be hard to find another one like him, let alone at that price. He only cost €8,000."
A BIRTHDAY BONANZA
Yesterday's win in the Grade 1 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown Park was a fitting sixty-first birthday present for this Sherborne-based trainer. Finian's Oscar presented Colin Tizzard with his a fourth top-ranking win of the season and his third since Christmas. The result was perhaps not a complete surprise, however, as the Venn farm Racing boss had made no secret of the fact that he regarded this son of Oscar as one of his best horses due for future glory. It was certainly a dream of a birthday present following closely the successes of Thistlecrack, Cue Card, Royal Vacation and, of course, Native River in the Welsh National. It also means that Colin Tizzard has another strong Cheltenham contender.
Colin Tizzard commented: "He's a beautiful young horse. We didn't know he was going to do that – he's only won a point-to-point and a novice hurdle at Hereford – but the way he did it at Hereford we thought there was no point in wasting him in another little race when he could have a go at this. It's worked out beautifully. It was a brilliant performance and he obviously handles this sort of ground as well. He looked in control most of the way and then soon went five lengths clear. He stuttered a bit going into the last, but when Tom [O'Brien] got busy with him he went on again. He's a good horse."
GOING, GOING, ALMOST GONE!
What do Classic winners such as Troy, Pilsudski, Golan, North Light, the legendary Arkle and most of the big-race winners, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, have in common? They all emanated from the County Meath-based Ballymacoll Stud, owned by the Weinstock family since the 1960s. The sad news is that unless a private buyer is found very soon the stud farm will probably put up for public auction and the fifty or so horses sold off.
Peter Reynolds, Ballymacoll Stud's General Manager commented: "I've been trying to sell the stud and horses as one lot, and there is still a little bit of time for that to happen. If we don't receive an acceptable offer for the farm by mid-February then we will have to consider public auction. We have about 50 horses to sell - some of them as yet unborn - and are likely to go the dispersal sale route with them. By the end of the year we will most likely be closed down. We just need to get things moving along now on behalf of the owners."
7th JANUARY 2017
SUCCESS FOR SUCCESSION?
A year has gone by already since the inaugural running of the £100,000 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase at Sandown and seventeen runners line up today for the three-mile contest. Last year David Pipe saddled Sol who narrowly claimed the prize which now appears to have become something of an annual coveted target for the Somerset-based trainer. This time it's Dynaste, also ridden by Tom Scudamore, on whom he pins his hopes. As a sign of advancing years, perhaps, this eleven-year-old son of Martaline competes off a mark of 145 compared with as high as 169 when he was in his prime.
David Pipe commented: "If he runs like he did in the Charlie Hall he'll run well. If he runs like he did last time at Kelso he has it to do. We go there hopeful rather than confident."
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN!
The Ditcheat handler will be hoping for a fifth victory at Sandown today when he saddles Capitaine in the 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle. The Paul Nicholls-trained grey failed narrowly to keep his record intact when he lost out to the Richard Hobson-trained Tahira in the Listed Betfair Ready Newton Novices' Hurdle at Haydock Park in November. The five-year-old made up for that disappointment, however, with an impressive frontrunning display in the Grade Two Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Ascot last month.
Paul Nicholls, who last won this contest back in 2008, commented: "Hopefully he is up there with my past winners as he is a proper horse. As I said before, we got the tactics totally wrong at Haydock when he got beat there but we've always thought a lot of him. We let him bowl along in front last time and he was very good. He wouldn't want too much rain. Hopefully he will run well again. He is another horse for the future."
After presenting her Blewbury-based trainer with his first first winner at Cheltenham in the OLBG Mares' Handicap Hurdle in December connections believe that the Noel Williams-trained Briery Queen is well capable of upping the ante in today's 32Red.com Mares' Hurdle at Sandown when Leighton Aspell this time does the steering.
Noel Williams commented: "It's a competitive race, as you would expect, but when I saw the entries it looked a winnable one. I was pretty sure she had improved over the summer, but how much was the question. I was confident she would run a good race at Cheltenham. What was so taking was how she went through the race and travelled through the race and just quickened up as soon as Barry Geraghty said, 'Go'. I'm under no illusions as she needs to step up again and continue on her upward curve if she wants to keep winning. I think she has come out of Cheltenham well and I'm very happy with her. She is better on better ground but it should be fine as long as it doesn't get tacky. The aim with her is that hopefully she will be good enough for the mares' race at the Cheltenham Festival without being a back-number. We will get a fair judge if she is good enough for Cheltenham after Saturday."
6th JANUARY 2017
DIVA ON SONG
The Today's Racing Just 10 Mares' Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby, despite its name, only has seven mares competing in this three-mile contest. So it depends whether you want to have a drink of Bells on Sunday and Two Swallows at the Bull and Bush or be Fresh By Nature and go to Lyme Park in Midnight Silver with Happy Diva. On balance it is difficult to oppose the latter, who is well tuned up and going for a back-to-back encore. The Kerry Lee-trained daughter of King's Theatre took the stage for her handicap debut at Fontwell in the Butlins Bognor Regis Mares' Handicap Hurdle on Boxing Day and treated the handicapper's rating of 114 with disdain and romped home to an eighteen-length victory. The six-year-old today, however, pays the price for that bit of horsey haughtiness by being lumbered with an extra sixteen pounds, albeit alleviated by the seven pounds claim by her jockey, Richard Patrick.
BRIDGING THE GAP
The County Dublin-based trainer wasn't about to rest on his laurels after his Wednesday win at Wolverhampton. Adrian McGuinness was back again at Dunstall Park when he saddled Pivot Bridge in the first race of the day, the Betway Marathon Handicap. The nine-year-old son of Pivotal hadn't had a win since March 2015, although getting the odd good placing. The Ralph Beckett-trained Remember The Man seemed keen to get on with the job and was soon leading the way after the one-furlong pole, going more than four lengths clear but soon ran out of steam in the home straight. That left the way for the Adam Kirby-ridden Pivot Bridge to come through and win comfortably by six lengths.
Adrian McGuinness commented: "He had been a bit disappointing on his last couple of runs, so we gave him a break and he came back fresh and well. We knew he was in great order going into the race today, so we were expecting a big run and thankfully he's come good. He's a half-brother to the 1000 Guineas winner Speciosa and was a good hurdler at one time, but he had a very bad fall at Wexford one day early last year and it took him a long time to get his confidence back. There's a nice race back here for him next week, so we'll have a look at that if he comes out of the race well. It's nice to make the trip worthwhile. The owner is a big supporter of mine and it's great when it all works out.”
It's just been announced that the Cheltenham Festival in March is to receive an extra £190,000 for prize money, taking the total on offer over the four days at Prestbury Park to £4,305,000. The main beneficiaries of this new injection of cash will be the four main novice chases, the Racing Post Arkle, and the RSA Chase each receiving an additional £25,000, making a total of £175,000 apiece. The JLT and the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase hare in line for a boost of £20,000, bringing them to £150,000 and £120,000 respectively.
There is no change in prize money, however, for the five biggest races, the Timico Gold Cup (£575,000), The Stan James Champion Hurdle (£400,000), the Betway Champion Chase (£350,000), the Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle (£300,000) and the Ryanair Chase (£300,000).
Ian Renton, the Jockey Club Racecourses' regional director commented: “It’s a combination of the Jockey Club and our sponsors. We lifted the Gold Cup last year and feel many of our top Grade Ones are at a competitive level but we’re happier with the level of prize-money for the novice chases now. We’re up 10 per cent in total since 2015 so we’re going in the right direction.”
5th JANUARY 2017
This son of Westerner was beaten by five lengths on his hurdling debut at Ffos Las at the beginning of November, although he did make amends next time out by comfortably winning the Bangor On Dee Church Roof Fund Novices' Hurdle. So trainer Warren Greatrex was obviously pleased with Keeper Hill's five-length victory at Hereford yesterday in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Novices' Hurdle. Deputising for the injured regular jockey, Gavin Sheehan, Wayne Hutchinson kept his mount always prominent urging him to throw down the gauntlet three hurdles form home and from there it was clear sailing to the line.
The Hungerford-based trainer commented: "I was a bit worried about the ground as it was testing all day, but Wayne said he coped with it very easily and he's done it very well.
"He's a horse who is getting stronger all the time and his jumping is improving all the time.
"We'll have to step up now and before this race I had in my mind was the Sidney Banks (Novices' Hurdle) at Huntingdon (February 9). It's a race we won last year with Ma Du Fou, it's a track I like and this horse could be the ideal candidate. I hope he's a progressive horse with a very bright future. Huntingdon will tell us where we're going, but he has everything you need (in a Cheltenham horse) as he travels well in his races, his jumping is getting better and he has a turn of foot. He's a horse we've always liked at home and it's nice to see it paying off now."
There are nine entries for the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on January 21st and this Racing Post Arkle favourite figures amongst them. The Nicky Henderson-trained Altior seems set to take his chances outside novice company after preceding his career over the larger obstacles with three wins from three starts, including last year's Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. The seven-year-old son of High Chaparral will certainly have his work cut out on this occasion as he will be up against the last three winners of this premier Ascot attraction - Un De Sceaux, Dodging Bullets and Sire De Grugy.
Nicky Henderson commented: "An entry has been made for him in the Clarence House, which does not mean he's going to run but we just like to keep our options open. The Game Spirit is an alternative."
Tonight sees the start of the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival at Meydan Racecourse when Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge is the feature event on the seven-race card. This evening's attraction is especially interesting as locally-trained Le Bernadin will be seeking to make history by becoming the first horse to win the US$250,000 Group 2 contest twice. So tempting is the chance of scooping a slice of the US$10,925,000 prize money that some of the world’s top race horses will be spending their winter in Dubai to get a share of the rewards available across the 2017 Dubai World Cup Carnival, which will stage eleven meeting every Thursday night at Meydan through until 23rd February. These fixtures will then be followed by the Super Saturday programme on March 4th and the Dubai World Cup card three weeks later on March 25th.
4th JANUARY 2017
SAM PLAYS IT AGAIN!
This Guisley-based trainer started off the New Year as she finished the Old. Former jockey Sam(antha) Drake, now England, scored at Bangor just three days after her Uttoxeter triumph on December 31st. The eight-year-old Cabragh, ridden by the trainer's new husband, Jonathan England, won the three-mile Stella Artois Supporting Bangor Handicap Chase by six lengths. The son of Old Vic was urged into the lead as early as the third fence and successfully headed off a not-too-serious challenge from the Ben Pauling-trained Pithivier and despite not being completely fluent over the last obstacle kept on well to duly deserve the nigh-on £5,000 prize.
The winning trainer commented: "That was good. The horses are running well. I'm not complaining. I'll see what else there is that comes up for him."
This North Yorkshire-based jockey has done well this season North of the Border. After notching up a treble at Ayr on Monday Brian Hughes went to Musselburgh yesterday and performed an encore. The Ulster-born twenty-nine-year-old is no stranger to this East Lothian track, either, as last November he secured an incredible five-timer. His first success yesterday came aboard the James Moffat-trained Idder, in the racinguk.com/hd Maiden Hurdle. Here the six-year-old son of Authorized had luck on his side when victory was virtually handed to him on a plate when the front-running Stipulate, ridden by Henry Brooke, who ended up runner-up, almost copped it at the third from home.
Brian Hughes commented: "I think I might have won anyway as I was going very well when the other horse made a mistake. To be fair, he was idling all the way up the straight. He was a decent horse on the Flat. Jimmy Moffatt's picked him up and he'll be a good, fun horse."
This triumph was quickly followed up in the next race, the racinguk.com/hd Maiden Hurdle when Brian Hughes partnered the David O'Meara-trained Fattsota to a one-and-three-quarter-length victory.
Here the winning jockey's comments were: "David (O'Meara) said to try get something to go with him over the first but he's a good Flat horse and it would have taken a decent one to get by him. He could defy a penalty but I'll leave it up to the trainer to place him."
The treble came in the closing bumper, the racinguk.com Standard Open NH Flat Race when Beyond The Clouds, trained by Kevin Ryan, outclassed and outran the other eleven runners, leaving them struggling at least twelve lengths in his wake.
A FRIEND INDEED
The Stanjames.com Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock in seventeen days' time could be the next assignment for the Nicky Henderson-trained for L'Ami Serge. The latter, back over hurdles in the Relkeel Hurdle on New Year's Day looked to have the race in the bag half-way up the run-in but was caught by the Nick Williams-trained Agrapart in the last strides of the contest. It seems the decision to put the seven-year-old son of King's Theatre back over timbers is soundly based on his past successes such as coming fourth to Douvan in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle in 2015.
Anthony Bromley, owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede's Racing Manager commented: "The feeling is he seemed to enjoy being back over hurdles. He did everything right bar win at Cheltenham and I think the idea is to stay over hurdles. Possibly he could go for the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock which is only three weeks away but could fit in nicely before the National Spirit at Fontwell. He's versatile, trip-wise, and I just think he doesn't need to be in front too soon. Those are our thoughts, but obviously Nicky needs to be happy with him in the meantime. It was nice to see him go with relish after his first run over fences this season. I don't think he wants to be going further than two and a half miles, but he goes in heavy ground, which is why Haydock could be possible."
3rd JANUARY 2017
For over fifty years the Royal Mail has commemorated anniversaries and celebrated events in British heritage and life in its special stamp programmes. Obviously with an eye on the estimated 2.5 million stamp collectors in Britain, it will feature in April a series called 'Racehorse Legends'. It has not been revealed who has been giving advice on the selections as there are many equine superstars that could be suggested for such a collection. All that is known at this stage is that eight horses - four from Flat racing and four from National Hunt, from the past sixty years will be honoured with an original-artwork stamp. At this stage one legendary name has been released - Desert Orchid who will be shown on his way to winning the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, although the artist could equally have chosen many other highlights of 'Dessie's career, including his 1990 triumph in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park. It will be interesting to learn the names of the other seven legends. Significantly, one famous horse-owner and breeder approves all UK stamp designs before they are issued - the Queen!
TA EVER SO!
A seemingly grateful Irish jockey is very much looking forward to being aboard this James Bethell-trained Lucky Story mare at Musselburgh this afternoon. Riding high after a treble at Ayr yesterday, Brian Hughes will partner Thankyou Very Much in the Kilmany Cup Handicap Chase. The seven-year-old is out to make it three out of three, after her previous wins at Leicester in December and at this Mid-Lothian track in November.
The forty-three-year-old Lambourn-based rider commented: "Thankyou Very Much is in great form after her wins at Leicester at course and distance. She is very well and there is no problem with the track, the trip or the ground. There is no reason why she shouldn't go close again as she has taken very well to fences."
It's interesting to note that Musselburgh first opened its National Hunt circuit on January 5th 1987 and one of the trainers, Chris Grant, who rode on the card on that historic occasion, will be saddling Robins Legend for Brian Hughes' fifth ride of the day
It was a successful comeback story at Musselburgh on New Year's Day. The last time the Dan Skelton-trained Superb Story was seen was in the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap when he had to be pulled up in what seemed to be his race. The six-year-old son of Duke of Marmalade, however, was able to put that experience behind him and conveyed his jockey, the trainer's brother, Harry, to an easy victory.
The winning Warwickshire-based trainer commented: "We were really happy with him on Sunday. Galway was a bit of a disaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong that day, so it was nice to see him bounce back. I think we'll probably go straight to Cheltenham now and we'll give him entries in the County Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle. The Champion Hurdle would obviously be a big step up, but we'll see how the picture is looking nearer the time."
2nd JANUARY 2017
FIVE TIMES A LADY!
The New Year augurs well for female jockeys, four of whom celebrated success across the country. At Cheltenham Lizzie Kelly made the headlines by notching up a double, starting off in the first race of the day, when she rode the Nick Williams-trained Coo Star Sivola to a four-and-a-half length victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle . Three hours later she was back with the Devon-based trainer after winning the Grade 2 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle aboard the 16/1 shot, Agrapart despite the pressure from last year's one, two and three, Cole Harden, Lil rockerfeller and Camping Ground. Whilst this was going on, Megan Carberry dominated her only ride of the day at Musselburgh when she partnered the Brian Ellison-trained Dominada in the Collect totepool Winnings At Betfred Shops Handicap Hurdle, winning by seven lengths. Meanwhile 450 miles South in Exeter, Lucy Gardner scored a first and two seconds for her mother, trainer Sue Gardner. The victory was courtesy of Only Gorgeous who claimed the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase by three-and-three-quarter lengths. Catterick was subsequently the scene for the remaining two of the quintessential quintet. With only one ride apiece Bridget Andrews steered the Dan Skelton-trained The Bay Oak to victory in the three-mile-plus Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Novices' Hurdle whilst in the last race of the day, Racing Again 12th January Handicap Hurdle Lucy Alexander accompanied trainer, James Ewart into the winner's enclosure aboard Touch of Steel.
Megan Carberry commented: "I've now won three times from four starts on him and he's definitely a real favourite - we get on so well together. I checked on Twitter and saw people talking about it, and it's great to see people taking notice. It's especially good it happened on a big day like this, when a lot of people will be watching the racing. It's brilliant and should give us all a boost."
At the Cheltenham Festival five years ago Baby Run unseated his jockey just two from home leaving his teenage rider not only in tears but in hospital. Such memories must have been uppermost in his mind yesterday when Willy Twiston-Davies, switching back to hurdles aboard Cogry, trained by his father, Nigel, in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle, had sufficient strength to beat off the hard-pressed challenge from the Tom George-trained Rocklander and claim his first Cheltenham victory by just a neck. The Gloucestershire-born rider had decided years ago to be a Flat jockey, enduring all the strict dietary regimes in order to get his weight down to 8st 9lb, which is quite a feat for a six-footer-plus chap. It was also very much a family occasion because his brother, Sam, was one of the first to offer his congratulations, having been fortunately spared the possibility of competing against his younger sibling as his mount, the Paul Nicholls-trained Rainy City was a non-runner.
Willie Twiston-Davies commented: "It's really really special. If I can make National Hunt racing work I would like to stick with it.”
TO CAP IT ALL!
Cheltenham's New Year's Day fixture was somewhat unexpectedly plunged into the doldrums, not by the weather but as a consequence of a tense and lengthy stewards' enquiry after the last race of the day. The problem was that in a photo-finish for the EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club NH Flat Race it was revealed that the Fergal O'Brien-trained Cap Soleil, the declared winner, had made contact with Nicky Henderson's runner-up, Daphne De Clos, and the stewards had to decide whether this had cost the latter the race. It is generally considered that the longer a stewards enquiry goes on, the more likely it is for the original placings to be reversed and, it goes without saying, that a tense and nervy wait ensued and tempers were inevitably becoming a little frayed. Suddenly the air was filled with noisy celebrations when it was announced that Cap Soleil was re-confirmed as the winner.
Fergal O'Brien commented: "I would have been disappointed to lose it. The other one came in on us. Paddy (Brennan) and Daryl (Jacob) had their stick in the wrong hand. They (the stewards) had to take a look. They (the horses) are four-year-olds, it's very soft ground and I think it would have been harsh if they had took (stet!) it off her. We went to Newbury and Paddy said it wasn't the strongest race but it was effortless. We are very lucky to have her."
1st JANUARY 2017
KING FOR THE DAY
The Betfred Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury yesterday gave a chance for the Alan King-trained 100/30 second favourite to produce a victory of note. Messire Des Obeaux, ridden by Daryl Jacob, won the Grade 1 novice hurdle by a comfortable couple of lengths. There was a little drama at the third last when the Dan Skelton-trained Robin Roe fell heavily just when it looked as though he had a good chance. Afterwards it was revealed that the son of Robin Des Champs had cracked a bone in his knee but jockey Harry Skelton seemed none the worse for wear.
The winning trainer commented: "He travelled very well. The last time was the first time he had to battle and he's really learned from that. I'm delighted with him today. It seemed an awful long way from the last but he's held on. I thought he'd run well. He'll definitely get three miles but we don't need to be in a rush. He travels very well. I hope he's got a big future."
Today at Cheltenham sees the renewal of the Grade Two Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle which looks almost like a re-run of last year's event because the first three on New Year's Day 2016 are back to do it all over again. Twelve months ago, in heavy conditions, it was the Robert Walford-trained Camping Ground who came in first, eleven lengths ahead of Lil Rockerfeller with Warren Greatrex-trained Cole Harden a further nine lengths adrift in third. The ground conditions today are reported to be much faster so it looks like the 2015 World Hurdle winner, Cole Harden, is in with a chance, particularly as he's eight pounds lighter than his two old rivals on this occasion. There's no doubt that Camping Ground runs at his best when there is plenty of cut in the track. A potential threat will come from the Neil King-trained Lil Rockerfeller, who, this season, has mixed it with the likes of Silsol, Yanworth and Unowhatimeanharry. The only problem for this son of Hard Spun is that he is probably more used to running three miles plus and today's race is a good half a mile shorter.
GOING FOR GOLD?
The Grade 2 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase has been known to be the starting point for future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners so there is much anticipation among the connections of the Paul Nichols-trained Clan Des Obeaux who hope their star can go on to emulate the success of the legendary Little Owl who claimed this prize when it was first run in 1980. Recent successes, such as winning the Grade 2 Fuller's London Pride Novices' Chase at Newbury last November have established that this son of Kapgarde is a chaser with great potential.
Paul Nichols commented: "He could be a top-class chaser and he was very good at Newbury last time. As he started the season a four-year-old we always said we would take our time with him, and for now there are no plans for him after this race. I wouldn't rule out the festival, but if he did go there he definitely wouldn't run in the three-miler. At this stage of his career it would have to be for the two-and-a-half-miler."
NOT THE DAY FOR A KNIGHT!
I guess it's a bit early in the day for another knight in the horse racing business, following so soon after the former champion jockey, Tony McCoy's elevation to the ranks. There is noticeably a generous sprinkling of knight- and damehoods in other sports in the New Year's Honours' List, such as tennis, athletics and rowing (Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katherine Grainger). If you search the lists carefully, you will, however, find a small group of horse racing personalities whose contributions to the sport have been recognised. John Gosden has been awarded an OBE for services to horse-racing and training. The Newmarket-based handler, who was Britain's champion Flat trainer on two occasions (2012 and 2015) has achieved a life-time total of over 3,000 winners including winning the Derby twice and St Leger four times, listed among his eight British Classic triumphs.
Another recipient honoured for services to racing and charity, this time an MBE, is former jump jockey. Sam Morshead, who retired last as racecourse manager at Perth after twenty-five years' service, gets an MBE
Sam Morshead: "I am overjoyed and just so excited. It is a fantastic honour and I am truly humbled by it all. However, I do know that this honour is not all mine and it must be shared with my chairman at Perth, David Whitaker, who sadly is not with us but will be enjoying this from above, and my simply brilliant team at Perth racecourse. Without their wonderful support over the years I would have achieved very little."
Rhona Elliott, has also received an MBE in recognition of her services to horse-racing and charitable services to people with multiple sclerosis in the Scottish Borders. The former rider and trainer, who is, herself, an MS sufferer, is recognised as the inspiration behind the MS Borders Racing Club, which was set up to help raise awareness of the illness. The club, which has 40 members, currently has three horses in training, two with Nicky Richards and one with Iain Jardine.
Rhona Elliott commented: "I can't believe it. I am a little bit embarrassed about it. I don't feel I am really worthy of it. I was an amateur jockey and then trainer. I had done most things with horses. I wanted to try to do something positive out of something very unpositive. A lot of people joined to begin with because they were flabbergasted about the news I had MS, which I kept secret for 12 years. I was having difficulty walking so had to let everybody know. I trained them myself to begin with but the illness got so bad I couldn't train. I think we were one of the first charity syndicates in Scotland and it has helped improve the awareness of the condition, but there is still no full treatment. I have also tried to highlight the fact that racecourses are so good for disabled people. Wherever we have been everyone has been so helpful and supportive."
Another MBE award went to Tim Adams, who is Chairman of the Leger Legends committee and a trustee of the Northern Racing College. There were other well-deserved awards for equestrianism as such but nothing specifically for the Sport of Kings!
A GOOD LASS!
The totepool Chip & Pin Betting Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Taunton yesterday gave rise to jubilation among the recently formed Ditcheat Thoroughbreds Syndicate when the Paul Nicholls-trained Coillte Lass made it three in a row. The daughter of Beneficial was hastily acquired after winning the Grange Stud, Fermoy 5&6yo Mares Maiden in Ireland in April and proved to be a valuable investment. An easy victory in her hurdling debut at Hereford in October was followed by an incredible eighty-six length run-away triumph in the Racing UK HD On Sky 432 Mares' 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Ludlow the following month. Yesterday's contest presented the mare with a much stiffer test but with a confident Sam Twiston-Davies aboard, the 11/4 shot, racing over two miles for the first time, had no problem going for home before the final turn and claiming the prize by four-and-a-half lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "Look how many owners are here, it's amazing. Part of having a syndicate is having a lot of fun like they've had today and that means a lot to them. She's a good mare and has just kept improving. I was a little bit worried about the trip, but it was a good performance. I'm thrilled for all the owners."
GET AWAY IN STYLE
This Sherborne-based trainer, now recognised as one of National Hunt racing's leading trainers, has no intention of letting 2016 go out with a whimper after a fantastic year on a high. Names such Cue Card, Native River and Thistlecrack, all big-race winners, spearheaded a spectacular beginning to Colin Tizzard's current campaign that could well mean he is a strong contender for this season's champion trainer's crown. Today he has the Betfred Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury in his sights when he saddles Elegant Escape in the Grade One two-and-a-half-mile contest. This four-year-old son of Dubai Destination is only at the beginning of his career but so far hasn't put a foot wrong with confident victories at Chepstown and Ascot in October and November, respectively.
Colin Tizzard commented: "He's a very nice young horse. He's stepping up all the time and you forget he's only a four-year-old as he's done so much already. We've had this race in mind since his last one and we're looking forward to it."
There was a shock result in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown yesterday. It was on the cards that the 2/5 odds-on favourite, Willie Mullins-trained Nichols Canyon would claim the prize for a second successive year. Horse racing is notorious as a sport where not everything goes according to expectation and this was no exception. The Henry De Bromhead-trained Petit Mouchoir, ridden determinedly by Bryan Cooper, ran on freely early in the early stages and took over the lead from Nichols Canyon after the first hurdle and had developed a three-length lead by halfway. There was no stopping him now as pushed ahead and eventually sealed his success by seven lengths. Having virtually ceded victory following the first, the Ruby Walsh-ridden son of Authorized, having lost a lot of momentum after getting in too tight at the second last, had to be content with denying Joseph O'brien's Ivanovich Gorbatov second place by two-and-a-quarter lengths.
The winning trainer commented: "He's a lovely galloping horse with a huge stride. Bryan thought he'd have won the Fighting Fifth but for falling and he did jump brilliantly today. It's our first win of the week but the horses have been running well and we've won races at Kempton, Limerick and Down Royal over the past few days. I'll have to talk to Michael and Eddie [O'Leary, owners] about plans but the horse has had a light season and the Irish Champion Hurdle [on January 29] could be next."
A CLOSE CALL!
Donald McCain just beat the close of the Old Year by two days when he notched up his 1,000th career win at Kelso yesterday. There must have been moments when the Grand National-winning trainer (Ballabrigs 2011) must have thought he wasn't going to make it, as for the past sixteen days he drew a blank and his total was stuck ominously on 999. (Sounded like a distress call!) Then just when he wasn't expecting it Lough Derg Jewel, with Will Kennedy aboard, ran the fourteen-strong field ragged to win the Samantha & Rebecca's 18th Birthday Bash 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle by twelve lengths. His official total consists of 985 British jumping wins, 14 British Flat wins and one jumps winner in Ireland.
Donald McCain commented: "I feel proud and delighted to have finally reached the 1,000 winners. It's been a bit of wait and we've hit the crossbar several times in the last two weeks.
This female Newmarket-based trainer, who only secured her first winner last month in her first training season, gained her biggest success so far when Kalane, owned by her father, Paul, won the Listed Sheffield Greyhound Stadium Mares' Chase at Doncaster yesterday. That means that Amy Murphy has now scored a creditable six victories under all codes. Ironically her Kalanisi mare fell in this contest a year ago when she was trained by Charlie Longsdon. Indeed, it looked as though history was about to repeat itself at the fifth fence when the seven-year-old made a bad mistake, with jockey Jack Quinlan, just just managing to stay aboard. The Paul Nicholls-trained Viky Du Reponet, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies had made all the running until the seventh-last obstacle when the eventual winner took over. She was, however and headed three from home by Colla Pier who lead until the final fence but Kalane mounted a game last-minute rally, gaining the advantage on the run-in and winning by five lengths.
Amy Murphy commented:"I'm obviously delighted with her. It was touch and go whether we ran prior to the race. I walked the track twice over before I made the decision. With it being her last season, we thought we'd let her take her chance. I said to Jack if at any point he wasn't happy, bring her home and look after her. Jack said that although she wasn't at her best on the ground she handled it, so I'm delighted with her. I'm terrible, I can't watch anything so I didn't actually see the mistake, but I was told it was awful! I'm delighted for Dad. He's put so much into the sport with the mares and keeping them in training. It's fantastic. When she retires at the end of the season she's going to be covered Sulamani. It's my biggest success. We've had six winners so far from about 20 odd runners. I'm got such a good team at home and I couldn't do it without them. Today was the main aim. It's not that she doesn't handle Cheltenham, I think she's better on flat, galloping tracks. We'll take her home and have a look at the programme book to see where we go next."
HADN'T THE FOGGIEST!
Fog caused a few problems over the Christmas period but it can't be blamed for yesterday's fiasco at Lingfield as it had virtually cleared by the time of the staging of the 32Red Casino EBF Nursery at 14.55. The problem arose from a tight photo-finish, not for the winning slot, clearly won by Vatican Hill but for third and fourth positions. As a result of the judge's decision, the Michael Bell-trained Elementary was placed third, a nose in front of Henry Candy's Sun Angel in the seven-furlong nursery. Subsequent replays, however, revealed that the result was the other way around. An inquiry was held at the end of the final race of the day when the judge notified the stewards that he wished to correct the result. Later an announcement was made on course that the result for third and fourth placings had been reversed but that for betting purposes the result stands as originally established because the riders had all weighed in. That being the official result, bookmakers paid out on the each-way portion of bets on Elementary but were under no obligation to do the same for supporters of Sun Angel.
Sam Angell, a Stipendiary Steward commented: "Judge Graham came forward and said he would like to reconsider his decision on the seventh race and after the stewards viewed the print the placings were revised to place Sun Angel third and Elementary fourth. But for betting purposes the original result stands as the weighed-in signal had been given."
Paul Binfield of Paddy Power added: "We're delighted to be paying out each-way on Sun Angel."
Jon Ivan-Duke of William Hill wasn't such a happy bunny, however, when commenting: "Punters shouldn't have to suffer so we'll pay out on 'both' results on this occasion, but the BHA should refund bookmakers for every error of this nature. It is entirely the fault of the judge, so why should bookmakers bear the brunt of another sorry saga from British horseracing? Unfortunately, trust in the governing body is at an all-time low and that confidence needs to be restored as a matter of urgency."
TATA BACK AGAIN!
The Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick yesterday made it five-in-a-row for this daughter of Astarabad. The Gordon Elliott-trained Missy Tata with only two rivals between her and victory had no problem, making all and claiming the Class 1 two-mile contest by six-and-a-half lengths. Since winning the Setanta Sports Mares Novice Hurdle the four-year-old filly hasn't looked back and it now looks as though she will be booking her ticket for the Cheltenham Festival in march.
Olly Murphy, the winning trainer's assistant commented: "I don't think two miles is her ideal trip so we decided ride her nice and positive. Her Gold Cup is going to be the two-and-a-half-mile Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham. She is improving the whole time but I doubt we'll see the real article until she goes jumping fences. She is straightforward and stays going well and will have one more run or will go straight to Cheltenham."
NICHOLS AND DIMES!
The Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown today is expected to provide a back-to-back victory for this six-year-old son of Auhorized. Nichols Canyon' trainer, Willie Mullins, has claimed this race on four of the previous five years, courtesy of Hurricane Fly. The latter may have been a classed by many above today's aspirant but the six-year-old won his hurdling maiden conclusively and has since done himself justice in exclusive Grade One company, winning eight times from fourteen starts over hurdles. That's a creditable performance a horse, still only a six-year-old, bearing mind that at a similar same stage of his career, Hurricane Fly had notched up five Grade One wins. So Nichols Canyon is quietly building up a fantastic record, perhaps somewhat overshadowed by his former illustrious stable companion. Today Nichols Canyon only has three rivals between him and another Grade 1 success. No wonder he's the odds-on
ORWELL. WHAT'S NEXT!
Dire predictions were postulated in this futuristic novel, pitched only thirty-six years ahead of its publication. One relatively benign development George Orwell he did not foresee in 1984, however, was that Channel 4 would take over the reins as the UK's broadcaster of horse racing. That partnership came to an end yesterday with the Channel's presentation of the action across the country on one of the busiest racing days, Bank Holiday. On balance the day proved to be a well-delivered farewell, with coverage divided between Kempton Park and Chepstow for the Welsh National. Mick Fitzgerald and Richard Hoiles did the honours in the Land of My Fathers and it's good to hear that this professional and likeable duo will be back on New Year’s Day working for their new employers at ITV. Not everyone has fared so well as a result of the new deal. Nick Luck, Gina Harding, Tanya Stevenson, Graham Cunningham, Simon Holt and Rishi Persad all had nice things to say about all the people behind the cameras and swapped memories of their time on Channel 4. A subject that no-one wanted, quite naturally, to dwell on was the fact that from this sextet, for some reason, only Rishi Persad has been chosen to continue his work for the new owners.
Overall, it's true to say that Channel 4 Racing succeeded most of the time in maintaining a delicate balance between presenting a service for the casual viewer, including the inevitable human interest stories whilst, at the same time, delivering sporting insights and information for the serious racegoer. The final coverage ended on a triumphant note with a stirring montage of some of the greatest moments and personalities (two-legged and four-legged) Channel 4 has given us over the last thirty-two years: Sir Henry Cecil, Desert Orchid, Tony McCoy, Best Mate and “three Gold Cups”, with Denman, Kauto Star and Frankel. Quite a list and quite a legacy for ITV to inherit and live up to!
WELSH WAS GRAND!
Yesterday's Coral Welsh Grand National Handicap Chase witnessed arguably one of the great performances in its history. The Colin Tizzard-trained Hennessy Gold Cup hero, Native River, put on an impressive performance, supported by a confident and suitably aggressive Richard Johnson, to claim the three-and-a-half-mile event by a comfortable one-and-three-quarter lengths. That comparative short winning distance belies the way the son of Indian River had the field well strung out for most of the contest and only Raz De Maree had enough left to try unsuccessfully to close the gap in the last minutes of the race.
Richard Johnson commented: "He is such a hardy horse as the more you ask of him, the more he gives and after what he has just done he has to be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender now.
"I was never really that happy with him on the first circuit but as soon as I said 'come on boy' he picked up and had everything beaten. He has to be pretty special to carry that sort of weight and win the way he did."
The winning trainer added: "Between the fourth and third last he must have made up eight lengths. I wondered if he would hold on but looking back at the rest nothing else was going with him. It's a fantastic time for us. Things couldn't be better. Horses like this are hard to find and you've just got to enjoy the moment. It's addictive. We'll look at the Cotswold or the Denman Chase and then the Gold Cup. I might send Cue Card to the Ascot Chase and the Ryanair Chase because I don't really want Native River, Cue Card and Thistlecrack in the same race."
Kempton Park proved to be this Cork-born jockey's oyster yesterday when he stormed home a winner in the first four races and came second by only a length and a fifth in the last two, respectively. It was certainly a good Boxing Day for Noel Fehily, the highlight being, undoubtedly, the victory by the Henry de Bromhead-trained Special Tiara in the feature race, the Desert Orchid Chase. The front-running son of Kayf Tara proved that he enjoyed the decent ground at the Sunbury track by repeating the success he had in this race two years ago. The 8/11 favourite made all the running in two-mile Grade Two contest, too far ahead to have been troubled by the earlier drama when former Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy unseated Jamie Moore at the second fence. Of the two survivors the Dan Skelton-trained Savello was always having problems at the back of the field and, and, although the Tom George-trained Sir Valentino, with Adrian Heskin aboard, mounted a strong challenge in the straight but was far from foot-perfect over the last, giving the eventual victor the winning hand.
Noel Fehily commented: "It's been a fantastic day. I've ridden some lovely horses and I'm very lucky. I've had some great days on this fella. I've been placed in Champion Chases on him, I've won a Celebration Chase on him. He's been a very good horse to me. He's older now and is finishing his races off a lot better. He picked up well."
Earlier on in the day, Noel Fehily provided Nicky Henderson with two winners: Charli Parks in the 32Red Casino Introductory Juvenile Hurdle and Altior in the Grade 2 32Red.com Wayward Lad Novices' Chase. Between those two triumphs the forty-one-year-old jockey scored on the Henry Daly-trained Nordic Nymph in the three-mile-plus 32Red Casino Mares' Handicap Hurdle.
A RACE WITHOUT END!
The Bathwick Tyres Lord Memorial Cup Handicap Chase at Wincanton yesterday fell completely flat when the only horse still in the race after seven of the runners fell or were brought down at the open ditch (fence six) refused to finish. The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Hollow Blue Sky miraculously escaped the melee and was left out on his own but he came to a halt as he approached the fated sixth (now omitted 15th) he broke into a canter after that but refused twice at next and was retired and the race was declared void.
Ardkilly Witness's trainer Jamie Snowden commented: "It's very bizarre. Our horse was bounding along in front and jumping from fence to fence. He's an older horse and has jumped lots of open ditches in his time and not a bother. Something has obviously taken his eye going into the fence and caused him to back off and refuse. There's the old domino effect and they've all gone down. Touch wood both the horse and jockey (Micheal Nolan) seem OK. A few minor cuts, but hopefully nothing more than that. I would guess that the sunlight has reflected off something on the inside of the track and caused a blinding effect, but I'm guessing. Micheal said it perhaps might have been off a reflective jacket worn by an ambulance man. The winter sun can be quite low."
Barry Johnson, Clerk of the course. added: "I've not seen that before. You see pile-ups sometimes, but I've never seen anything like that. As far as a I know, all the jockeys are fine. There are never two races the same and you have to be prepared for every eventuality. This is one we can tick off now.”
FEAST OF STEPHEN
The County Carlow king celebrated the festival in style at Leopardstown and Limerick with six victories which took him through the 100-winner mark for the season. The Willie Mullins-trained Min was the centrepiece of a 12/1 Leopardstown hat-trick on the busiest day of the Irish racing year. A record crowd at the St Stephen’s Day feature event delighted in watching the master team, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, goingthe Horse & Jockey Hotel Maiden Hurdle, which Bunk Off Early won by five-and-a-half lengths. They followed this up with a victory in the third contest, the Grade Two Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, winning with Bapaume. It was Min, however, who probably impressed the most with victory in the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase which he claimed by nine lengths.
Ruby Walsh commented: “He’s an easier horse to ride over fences. He has a look where he’s going over fences and he’s a bit more manageable. I was happy with him in Navan but he impressed me today. He reminds me of Kauto. We thought he’d improved a little bit for his first run for us at Fairyhouse. I rode my own race and he’s a tough horse. He stays well and is improving. Who knows how much more he can improve.
When the Kempton Park King George Chase is mentioned inevitably memories of Desert Orchid come to mind. The legendary grey won this feature event as an unlikely 16/1 shot in 1986 and went on to win it three more times. In future it will be another name that will come to mind – Thistlecrack. Yesterday the Colin Tizzard-trained son of Kayf Tara certainly made an equally remarkable breakthrough performance, revealing exceptional racing talent to match that of Desert Orchid. Just like the latter, Thistlecrack made much of the running, taking the first couple of fences at break-neck speed. He also performed a flawless round of jumping, including several jumps that must have left the crowd, and possibly his opponents, short of breath. His stable companion, Cue Card, last year’s winner, did his best to compete but Thistlecrack had his measure and galloped away on the long run to the third-last, giving his jockey, Tom Scudamore, plenty of time to easily take care of the last three-and-a-quarter lengths in front. Maybe now in years to come racegoers will recall Thistlecrack's hypnotic performance on Boxing day, 2016.
A QUESTION OF NUMBERS
Strange to say this County Kildare jockey hasn't yet got a ride in the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day but he hasn't been quiet in his racing columns as to which horse he would go for. Ruby Walsh has made it clear that that he would like to be aboard Thistlecrack. The novice chaser last night was vying with his stable companion, Cue Card, for favouritism certainly on the Betfair’s exchange on Wednesday night and both runners are on offer at 11/8 with most bookmakers. Whilst recognising that the son of Kayf Tara's reputation is only based on novice events and has only clocked up just three minor successes over fences so far. The thirty-seven-year-old rider was keen to point out, however, that the Grade 1 three-mile chase would have a maximum of seven runners and he would have opted for Cue Card if there had been in excess of a dozen competitors.
Ruby Walsh commented: “It won’t inconvenience Cue Card but he has all the experience of big fields and competitive races and that won’t come out as much on Monday. If I had the choice I’d ride Thistlecrack. The likely tempo of the race and the quality of this King George field is his biggest test yet over fences. But I think he’ll prove up to it. I haven’t seen anything in his jumping suggesting this is a race or two too soon for Thistlecrack. He’s looked a great jumper. But, that said, Cue Card is possibly 20lb better than any horse he has faced before.” Walsh added that he would have chosen Cue Card if there were 12 runners or more.
In any case, it's pure speculation because, barring some unexpected circumstance, Tom Scudamore is booked to ride Thistlecrack and Paddy Brennan will be aboard Cue card.
A TALE THAT DIDN'T FAIL
The two-mile race yesterday contest on Tapeta at Newcastle was a Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 Betway Marathon Championships over the same distance on Polytrack at Lingfield Park on All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday and, what is more, it is a free entry for the victor. The appropriately named Winning Story, trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin notched up his fourth Fast-Track Qualifier victory of the 2016/17 All-Weather Championships season when he claimed the £20,000 Betway Conditions Stakes by a length-and-three-quarters. Unusually the three-year-old son of New Approach wasn't on the ball when coming out of the stalls but with but jockey Pat Cosgrave's encouragement, he quickly made up the lost ground to get himself into second slot behind early leader, the Brian Ellison-trained Buthelezi. When the eight-strong field approached the the final three furlongs Winning Story was sent into a clear lead and kept going, brushing off the Hollie Doyle-ridden First Mohican
The winning jockey commented: "It has been great so far this year [the link up with Saeed] but it is easy when you have got the horse. Fair play to Saeed and his team this morning because they said to me that Winning Story is a big, galloping horse. I don't think things have quite gone to plan in his last few runs and I followed him the last day when I rode Wrangler in a very muddling race. Going back up in trip today on a big, galloping track has really suited him. He didn't half stretch in the last furlong and went through the line good. He is a good staying horse. I think he is a big baby still. He has only had a few runs and is a bit raw. I think there is more to come. I would imagine he will go for the Marathon final at Lingfield now. It is a different track and I think the main thing is to make plenty of use of him and his big stride. Newcastle will probably suit him better than Lingfield but you might as well have a crack at it now he is qualified."
THREE IN A ROW?
The Count Carlow king is counting on his top mare, Vroum Vroum Mag, to bring home the prize for the third year in a row in the 32Red Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci have claimed this Grade One contest in the last couple of years, courtesy of Faugheen, but he has been absent from the track since winning the Grade 1 BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last January during which he incurred an injury and missed the chance to defend his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March. There were plans to run the son of Germany in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month but that didn't happen. It remains to be seen whether the eight-year-old will take up his appointment in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown next week. Vroum Vroum Mag, on the other hand, lost her unbeaten record at the beginning of this month when she was denied victory by a shoulder in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse but the eight-year-old daughter of Voix Du Nord also has other options at Leopardstown over the Festive Season.
Regular rider, Ruby Walsh, commented: "She'll have to work again tomorrow. I think declarations are Friday. She seems well. She came out of her race nicely when Apple's Jade beat her, but there's obviously Yanworth and The New One. It's going to be a small field, but she looks to be in good order. I suppose when a horse gets beaten it takes the shine off them a little, but we still think she's a very good mare and she'll give a good account of herself getting 7lb from the geldings."
ALL HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS …
The winner of the Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle this afternoon will automatically gain a free place in the £150,000 Betway Marathon Championships at Lingfield on All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday. That is because this race is a £20,000 fast-track qualifier and eight trainers have their eye on this prize. One, in particular, Mark Johnston, has made no secret of how he would like this present for his Christmas stocking. His Royal Ascot runner, Oriental Fox, who wasn't great shakes at Kempton Park for his debut on the all-weather track last time out but the son of Lomitas had already shown what he was capable of on turf when he triumphed in the totepool Phil Bull Trophy Conditions Stakes at Pontefract in the middle of October.
The trainer son and assistant, Charlie Johnston, commented: “He is in good form. Two miles around a galloping track like Newcastle should suit. It was obviously a turf track when he ran a screamer when he was beaten a short-head in the 2013 Northumberland Plate. “That sort of track and trip is his ideal, whereas Kempton is a bit sharper.”
This son of Dream Ahead is just one of ten runners bidding for the big feature race at Chelmsford City tomorrow afternoon. The Richard Fahey-trained Donjuan Triumphant will be hoping to live up to his name when he runs in the £45,000 Weatherbys Stallion Book Conditions Stakes. Donjuan Triumphant came second in the Prix de Maurice de Gheest on turf at Deauville in July and and last month came third in a seven-furlong sunbets.co.uk Conditions Stakes on the Polytrack at Lingfield Park. One runner may deny the Musley Bank-based trainer this coveted prize. This is the David Simcock-trained Dragon Mall, with his regular rider, Jamie Spencer, aboard. It's over a year since this son of Blame claimed the totepool Racing's Biggest Supporter Conditions Stakes at this track and seven months since losing by a neck to the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Thikriyaat in the Listed King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket.
Trainer David Simcock commented: "Dragon Mall heads to Dubai in the New Year. He actually hasn't been in training that long after a break and, although it hasn't been a rush, he goes to Chelmsford as ready as I can get him. This race fitted in well in regard to going to Dubai which is his priority. The seven furlongs might be a tad short of his best but we know he likes the surface as he won nicely there last year."
SNOW FORECAST FOR AFTER XMAS
Trainer Noel Meade seems confident that his son of Presenting is none the worse for wear and ready to take on the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 28. Snow Falcon was the clear winner of the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle at Navan in the middle of November and looked like he could he had a chance of claiming the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last time out, at the expense of the eventual winner Unowhatimeanharry, but unfortunately fell at the third hurdle. Snow Falcon might be joined by his stable companion, Monksland, who was returned to hurdling this season after recent disappointments over the larger obstacles.
The County Meath-based trainer commented: "The plan is for Snow Falcon to run in the Christmas Hurdle, and maybe Monksland might join him. We weren't happy with Monksland after he ran the last day, so we gave him a bit of time. It depends on how he works. We sent him back swimming for a while again."
DO US A FLAVOUR!
Having not had a win since the toteexacta Pick The 1st And 2nd Handicap Hurdle at Taunton in April 2014 it seems about time for this son of Passing Glance to savour the sweet taste of success. Today's Weatherbys Racing Diaries "Confined" Handicap Hurdle, also Taunton, could be just what the confectioner ordered for the Harry Fry-trained Hint Of Mint. The seven-year-old, formerly handled by Nick Williams, was rated as high as 140 last Spring but the handicapper seems to have taken the hint and lowered his rating to 128. also the change of stables seems to have rejuvenated the bay gelding. After a disastrous first outing for the Beaminster-based trainer at Ascot when he came last, Hint Of Mint came third in the Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Hurdle at Wincanton in November and then went on to produce an impressive effort at the Orchard Portman track when he was denied victory by just a head. He obviously likes this course, the scene of two of his previous wins, so connections must be quite hopeful of a return to the winner's enclosure.
STILL TUNING UP
Trainer Sandra Hughes has decided that her son of Network will be better served by staying at beginners' level for his next outing rather than going for a Grade One contest. The reason is obviously due to the fact that Acapella Bourgeois blotted his copybook last November when he fell on his debut run over fences in the Download Paddy Power's Messenger Betting App Beginners Chase at Naas. The six-year-old did redeem himself the next time out, however, coming third in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Beginners Chase at Fairyhouse at the beginning of this month, just two lengths behind the winner, Martello Tower,
The County Kildare trainer commented: "Acapella Bourgeois has an entry in the three-mile Grade One at Leopardstown (Neville Hotels Novice Chase, December 29) but will go for the two-mile-three-furlong beginners' chase instead. He just got a bit tired the last day at Fairyhouse as it was practically his first run of the season as he fell at the first at Naas."
BY GEORGE! HE'S RUNNING!
Ultimately it was the owners who made the decision to run their Kayf Tara son in the Boxing Day King George VI Chase at Kempton. John and Heather Snook let it be known that it was always at the back of their mind to let Thistlecrack compete in this feature event.
John Snook commented: "It's definitely the King George for Thistlecrack - it has always been my intention to go that way provided the horse has been coping with jumping fences and we think he has. . . provided he's 110pc on the day, we'll be in the King George."
Trainer Colin Tizzard admitted that he had been considering letting his star novice take on the best chasers in the business since the eight-year-old had no problem winning his first three races over fences. This means also that stable mate, Cue Card, will also be lining up in next Monday's race, as the Sherborne-based trainer is hoping the son of King's Theatre can achieve a back-to-back win after last year's success.
Colin Tizzard commented: "We'd been saying for the last three weeks that we were going to leave the decision as long as we could, but we thought it was only fair that we told people what we intended to do. Cue Card's owners have sat down with Thistlecrack's owners and they are both in agreement that the King George is a once-in-a-lifetime race and both horses are in cracking form, so they should take their chance. Thistlecrack is eight coming nine, we know he can gallop and win a World Hurdle. He's had three chases and last time his jumping was immaculate. Do we need to wait another year before we try to win a King George with him? The owners had the final say and they wanted to go, I fully support it. It would have been easier if Cue Card wasn't in it, but he is and he's in very good form, so they can both go."
The County Meath track paid its dues yesterday when the Gordon Elliott-trained Death Duty claimed the Navan Novice Hurdle by three-and-three-quarter lengths, therefore extending his wins to three in a row, having triumphed at this track last month at Roscommon
in October. The Henry De Bromhead-trained Monalee was clearly determined to dominate the Grade Two contest from the outset. The son of Shantou, however, ridden by Bryan Cooper, had shadowed him closely from the outset and, as they approached the second hurdle, they went eye-ball to eye-ball and, with a little encouragement from his rider, the the Gigginstown House Stud-owned five-year-old had no trouble putting the race to bed.
The winning trainer commented: "He's done it well and we like him a lot. I thought he'd improved a bit from the last day, and Bryan said he was on the bridle more this time. He will go now for the Grade One (Lawlors Hotel) novice hurdle at Naas (January 8). You couldn't help but be impressed there. He jumps, he gallops, he stays, he settles. He does everything. He's an exciting horse. If he'd got beaten today, I'd have been disappointed. I wouldn't be afraid to go for the Albert Bartlett, but I'll have to talk to Eddie and Michael (O'Leary) about the other horses they have. A bit of better ground and a further trip will probably suit him."
Bryan Cooper added: "His jumping kills other horses, and he gets four lengths at a hurdle when another horse might get two. Shane McCann rides him in all his work, and he told me that he has more gears than you think. He's not as slow as we think, and he has plenty of options."
Two hours later a Gordon Elliott-trained horse was back in the winner's enclosure again but this time at Thurles race track when Shattered Love, with Jack Kennedy aboard, claimed the Horse & Jockey Hotel EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle after the odds-on favourite fell three from home. Up to that point it was six of one and half-a-dozen of the other as to which one would claim the prize but fate intervened and the five-year-old Yeats daughter was handed victory on a plate as Catcheragain fell at the last and the Joseph O'Brien-trained Kalopsia, although managing to stay on her feet, was no threat as she thirty-seven lengths adrift, albeit claiming second prize.
The winning jockey commented: "She jumped and travelled away and I was still going all right when Paul (Townend, on Asthuria) fell and I'm not sure how it would have worked out. She is a nice mare and is progressive and I was happy enough with how I was going (at the third-last). She'd stay further."
Gordon Elliott added: "It worked out great for us with Willie's runner falling, but she deserved it. We'll keep her in mares' races this season."
Trainer Alan King has decided that the time has come for Dino Velvet to rise to the challenge and take on top-level rivals for the first time on December 27 in the Coral.co.uk Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow. The son of Naaqoos will be seeking to make it two wins from three sorties over jumps in this Grade One contest. The three-year-old must have given his McNeill Family owners severe palpitations at Cheltenham last month when he fell at the last obstacle in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle when it looked like he had the race in the bag but has since made amends by opening his account at Sandown Park earlier this month in the Beazley Insurance Introductory Juvenile Hurdle.
Alan King commented: "The plan with Dino Velvet is to go to Chepstow. I think the race will suit him as he stays very well and handled soft ground. He is the logical one to take there. He will be much sharper with his jumping. He was a little bit cautious at Sandown as he probably still remembered that fall at Cheltenham."
RIDING ON AIR
The Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D'Air, a Grade 1 winner over hurdles last season, was successful on his chasing debut yesterday. The son of Crillon only had three rivals in the Read Paddy Brennan At 32Red.com Novices' Chase which was initially taken along by Chic Name who soon faded by three out when the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Cloudy Dream took over. Buveur D'Air, with Aidan Coleman aboard, never looked in any trouble and proved it by making a confident leap into the lead over the last fence to claim the race by three-and-three-quarter lengths.
The winning jockey commented: "He enjoyed it. He was low and accurate. I wouldn't say he was brave in the sense of taking off outside the wings, but he took me right into every fence. He's a very nice racehorse."
Malcolm Jefferson, magnanimous in defeat, added: "The winner is a nice horse and we've run a grand race. We'll mind him now, as he's a better horse on better ground. We'll freshen him up in January and then bring him back. I don't think he needs any further, a good gallop over 2m will suit him on better ground when he can quicken. He's a grand horse."
MIST THIS ONE!
The last race at Haydock, the 32Red.com Handicap Hurdle, had to be seen to be believed! As it couldn't be seen, however, the result still had to be believed. The problem was the track was shrouded in thick fog and the runners were barely visible until they crossed the line when it could just be made out that one silhouette had passed the post about half a length in front of another.
Commentator, Stewart Machin, carried on gamely but soon abandoned the task saying: "I'm afraid I can't tell you what won, what finished second or whether they all got around. But certainly to the fore late on it looked like El Terremoto, Draytonian, Sharp Response and Super Sam. All those were involved. But in what order, make up your own mind."
In fact, the latter came third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively! It was announced that the race was narrowly won by the Evan Williams-trained Clyne, pursued by the Lizzie Kelly on Le Rocher. In what must be an event for the record books, no distances were published There was just a list of the finishing order with no official time given. It turns out that a stipendiary steward who was stationed at the winning post helped the judge to finalise the result.
Appropriately named Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the course, commented: "We saw it worsening and sent a stipendiary steward down to the winning post as a contingency. It was the last race and there's always a desire to complete the card if you can, but we have to admit that had that worsened or been as bad as that at the time of the first race we could not have done so."
Winning jockey Adam Wedge said: "It was only when I saw the wings that I knew a hurdle was coming up," he said. "[Visibility] couldn't have been much more than 50 yards."
Robin Mounsey, the BHA's head of media, added: "The welfare of horse and rider is paramount and the views of the jockeys were taken throughout the day, including before the last race. They gave the thumbs up they were happy the race could take place without welfare of horse and rider being impacted. The fog then started to come in shortly after the runners had set off in the last race and visibility was difficult. The judge made it clear he was going to have difficulty calling the result, but there was a stipendiary steward in the medical vehicle following the runners. He positioned himself on the line and was in a position to call the result. The team on course then took their time to clear the result and to make sure there was full confidence in the integrity of the result."
KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
Things weren't quite so opaque at Ascot and the Grade 1 JLT Long Walk Hurdle's runners were still visible and the winner and positions fully recorded. Making it seven wins from his last seven outings the Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry, ridden by Barry Geraghty, was the expected winner of this £100,000 feature and did it handsomely by four-and-a-half lengths. The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old turned out to be a confident staying novice hurdler last season and gave Harry Fry his first success since moving from the Dorset-based stables of Helen Nelmes.
The winning jockey commented: "He had to work harder today and it was a good performance. He's very good and he only does as much as he has to, and probably has a bit more class than he lets on."
POLITICS RULES, OK?
This son of Poliglote sent a strong message at Ascot yesterday that he's aiming to be top novice this season. The Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue, on just his second start over fences (he won his first at Haydock in November), made all and won the Grade 2 Mitie Noel Novices' Chase by four lengths. Steered by the back-in-top-form Sam Twiston-Davies, the five-year-old grey produced his best jumping form to outrun and outclass any competition.
An unusually cautious winning trainer commented: "Next season he will be ready to take on the big boys but we won't do that this season. We will get some experience into him. I am not that mad about going too far with him this season. Two miles four, five or six is about as far as he needs to go. He is enthusiastic, he jumps, he has plenty of pace. You are all going to ask what he will do at Cheltenham but it is unlikely to be RSA. He could go two and a half and there are two and halfs at Aintree and Ayr. I am really focussing on next season. He will be awesome then and we are just going to mind him for that."
A POINT TO MENTION
Fifteen pounds lighter than the top-handicapped horse in the Grade 3 Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot today, the Tony Martin-trained Golden Spear heads up a three-pronged bid for glory by the County Meath-based trainer. It will not have escaped the serious race-goer's attention that the latter has regularly claimed the biggest handicap races this side of the Irish Sea, both on the Flat and over jumps. Golden Spear, although rated no better than a 16/1 chance when bookies first announced their prices, has rapidly come into 7/2 with some Turf Accountants. This son of Killachy will have the full support of his stable companions, Quick Jack, winner of the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. 'Petingo' Handicap at Leopardstown last November and Pyromaniac, a former Galway Hurdle winner, who was runner-up in that contest.
Tony Martin commented: "All three are in good order. Pyromaniac and Quick Jack haven't run over hurdles since the Galway Hurdle in July when they both ran well despite not having the clearest of runs. We're claiming 7lb off Quick Jack as he has plenty of weight. Golden Spear is the least experienced of the three over hurdles and hasn't run over hurdles since winning at the Listowel festival last year, but he won nicely on the Flat last time and has his chance off bottom weight. The better the ground, the more it will suit all three."
Today's Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot could be the making of this son of Morosov or so his handler believes. The Nicky Richards-trained Eduard will be taking on a step-up in trip to three miles when he lines up for only his second outing after an eighteen-month absence. The Greystoke Stables' boss was obviously pleased with his eight-year-old's performance in November when he was only three lengths behind the winner, the Philip-Hobbs-trained Royal Regatta in the Grade 2 Stella Artois 1965 Chase this Berkshire track.
Nicky Richards commented: "He seems to be fine. The only bit of a doubt is I hope that I'm not going a fortnight too quick on him because he'd had a long lay-off. There isn't really another race for him in this country, but he's in grand fettle. I thought he ran a smashing race last time. His jumping was just a little rusty mid-race, but he finished very well. If he'd had jumped the last two real good he might have nearly won the race. He wasn't beaten far at all and was finishing faster than anything in the race. I've always thought he'd want three miles. He's been a big, strong horse now and he's got a grand old staying-chase pedigree.”
Willie Mullins saddled another future star in the Online Tickets From www.tramore-racecourse.com Mares Maiden Hurdle at Tramore yesterday. Camelia De Cotte staked her claim for glory at next year's Cheltenham Festival when she won this two-mile contest by fifteen lengths. The standard of the race is perhaps a little questionable as the third and fourth runners came home some thirty and twenty-eight lengths adrift, respectively. This daughter of Laveron was making her debut in Ireland after coming third in her only previous start over hurdles in France and already she was a measly-priced 1/5 odds-on. Ruby Walsh kept the four-year-old handy, close to the pace, from the word go. Then as the duo approached the second flight from the finish, Camelia De Cotte easily cruised into the lead to become the hallowed heroine.
Winning jockey Ruby Walsh commented: "She was a little bit keen at home, so we didn't know how she'd handle the track, but she settled relatively well and jumped super. It wasn't the strongest race on paper, but I'd say it was a good performance Not many take that much pulling up at Tramore on quick ground, let alone soft ground. She did that nicely and I'm sure Willie will be happy."
Michael Shinners, racing PR manager added: "An impressive start, make no mistake, but those above her in the market are there because they've showcased stronger form so far. Still, those famed Ricci silks and a performance like that mean she's a mare we'll probably be looking to keep on-side."
The 188Bet Graduation Chase at Exeter yesterday didn't unfold as had been expected. But that's horse racing! The one many had their eyes on, the Nicky Henderson-trained L'Ami Serge, threw away his chances by jumping markedly to the left throughout the race and this got noticeably worse as the contest progressed and the pace increased. This, in no way, belittles the performance by the winner, the Paul Nicholls-trained Le Prezien who, although obviously profiting from son of King's Theatre's capricious cavorting, more than merited his 10/11, favouritism. The J P McManus-owned five-year-old, ridden by Barry Geraghty, had already made his mark over fences by winning the Grade 2 Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase at Cheltenham in November so great things were expected of him.
The winning trainer commented: "It was a nice race to support. He jumped a little bit novicey at Cheltenham and I was keen to get some more experience into him. Horses like him need to have plenty of races to get experience into them. He will go back up in trip, but we will take our time. There are no plans, I will talk to the team but he could run in another graduation chase. There are plenty of good races in the calendar and it is not all about Cheltenham. We've got some good novice chasers and they are the future for us. He jumped nicely today,"
Barry Geraghty added: "It came easy for us, I'd say Cheltenham is a stronger test. The runner-up, I wouldn't like to meet him the next day - we didn't see him at his best."
TEN FROM NINE
The Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle has been run nine times and has produced ten winners. That is because Jolly's Cracked It and Sternrubin dead-heated at last year's renewal. These two are back again tomorrow aiming for a more conclusive victory. This is the first time back on the track for the Harry Fry-trained Jolly's Cracked It since this race last year but Philip Hobbs' Sternrubin won the Listed William Hill Handicap Hurdle at this track in October and was fifth in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. Four of the runners are Irish-trained: Tony Martin saddles Quick Jack, Pyromaniac and Golden Spear and Noel Meade is hoping the best from his Waxies Dargle. The latter is one of four runners in the race owned by JP McManus. The others are the Nicky Henderson-trained Hargam and stable companion Consul De Thaix and the Paul Nicholls-trained Modus, who will have Barry Geraghty aboard. This popular event used to be known as The Ladbroke and will be hotly contested by another Nicky Henderson entry, Brain Power, Meet The Legend, trained by Dan Skelton and Who Dares Wins from Alan King's yard.
A FRIEND IN NEED
The188Bet Graduation Chase at Exeter today should decide what the optimum distance is for this son of King's Theatre. The Nicky Henderson-trained L'Ami Serge only has two others to beat in this two-mile-plus contest and the likelihood is that he'll lead the way into the winner's enclosure, with the help of jockey, Daryl Jacob. The six-year-old hasn't been seen since coming second in the Grade 1 Merseyrail Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree in April, following up his third slot in the JLT Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
The Seven Barrows-based trainer commented: "He's been in good form and sets a good standard. I'm not sure this is the right way round for him but he doesn't mind the cut in the ground. Trip is still the guessy part for him. He's always looked as if he might get two and a half and then you go there and he suggests he's not getting it. However, he looks great and we're looking forward to getting him out."
The presence of Godolphin's Chief Executive at Newbury yesterday could have been an act of pure paternal solicitude or it could have been a covert tip for the shrewd punter. John Ferguson was ostensibly there to watch his youngest son, Alex, ride the Ben Pauling-trained High Bridge in the Blackmore Building Maiden Hurdle. The son of Monsun was making his first start since coming second in the totetrifecta Pick The 1, 2, 3 Maiden Stakes at Thirsk at the end of April when he was handled by Charlie Appleby. In fact the switch was so recent that the five-year-old was still sporting the colours of his former trainer. The Bloomfields-owned gelding did the honours for his new handler by taking the prize by by three lengths.
Ben Pauling commented: "We are all obviously over the moon and it means a lot. John Ferguson and Alex Ferguson prepared this horse and sent him to me in magnificent condition.
It is great for Alex to ride in a top-class novice hurdle so competently. He jumped well, travelled well and stayed well to the line. We will keep him to this trip, but then come March if he is good enough he may want further."
FORTH CAME FIRST!
Five months after unveiling the six-foot-six high Corten steel sculpture to mark the East Lothian track's bicentenary, it was royal payback time. The Charlie Longsdon-trained Forth Bridge, owned by Her majesty, won the Racing UK Anywhere Juvenile Hurdle at Musselburgh yesterday. This son of Bernardini's last victory was in the ApolloBet Weekly Golf Returns Maiden Stakes at Haydock last June although he did come close last month at Wetherby, losing the ROA/Racing Post Owners Jackpot Juvenile Maiden Hurdle by just a neck. This time, with Brian Hughes aboard, he set the record straight by beating the John Patrick Shanahan-trained Warp Factor by the same distance.
The winning jockey commented: “He’s a nice big horse and he liked that decent ground. He’s a lovely prospect and was a little green in front over the last but I was always going to win.”
After riding the Peter Niven-trained Brian Boranha to victory in the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Hurdle Brian Hughes learnt the true meaning of the biblical expression: “ … and the first shall be last”! The problem was that the twenty-nine-year-old jockey weighed in two pounds lighter than he weighed out and so was disqualified and place at the back of the line.
Trainer Peter Niven explained: "There was a hole in the lead cloth. There's four panels and Brian's quite light so he had loads of lead. There were two or three [pieces of lead] in three panels but there was nothing in the back one, and they'd always spread them evenly."
The stewards later announced they accepted that the missing weight was accidental although the weight cloth had appeared in a "serviceable condition" before the race began.
The daughter of Striking Ambition has a challenging name to live up to but the Michael Chapman-trained Striking Nigella hasn't come anywhere near being in the frame in seven outings. She continued her lack of success by trailing home last of six in yesterday's Betway Claiming Stakes at Southwell, forty-eight lengths behind the winner. That is discouraging enough for connections but the fact she has an official rating of 1 does rub it in even more. The handicapper dropped the six-year-old mare down to this lowest possible mark from the previous mark of 46 after her race at Thirsk in August, when she was beaten by thirty lengths in a selling handicap.
Trainer Michael Chapman, clearly not happy with the handicapper's rating commented: "She beat three horses last time and they were all rated above her so I feel somewhat misjudged. The horse doesn't know her rating so we're not worried. She's beaten three horses and they're still in training."
David Ashforth, former Sporting Life and racing Post journalist explained: "Such a rating is extremely rare and achieving it is not easy. It requires a level of failure below and beyond the commonplace. Striking Nigella has achieved that level, for which she can blame her mother, Fiona Fox. Between 2006 and 2008 Fiona Fox ran five times, runs which included finishing last of 16, last of 12 twice and eleventh of 13.”
A BRIDGE TOO FAR?
There's a royal presence at Musselburgh when the Charlie Longsdon-trained Forth Bridge lines up in the feature race of the day, the £20,000 Racing UK Anywhere Introductory Juvenile Hurdle. Owned and bred by the Queen, this son of Bernardini, with Brian Hughes aboard, will be opposed by seven rivals in this fifteen-furlong-plus contest. Forth Bridge, formerly a Flat racer trained by Michael Bell, was narrowly denied victory on his hurdling debut at Wetherby last month by the Alan King-trained Coeur De Lion.
The Chipping Norton-based trainer commented: "He is a lovely recruit from the Flat and he jumps well. Rather frustratingly he finished second at Wetherby and looking like the winner jumping the last. He'll come on for the run and looks a good prospect for juvenile hurdles this season."
A DAI TO REMEMBER
Another son of King's Theatre finally got back into the winner's enclosure again at Ffos Las yesterday, the first time for more than eighteen months. West Wizard, who is with his third trainer in three years, showed great promise in his early days when with Nicky Henderson. The seven-year-old started his career with a bang when he won his bumper debut at Kempton Park by six lengths in March 2013. He then went straight for the hurdles and was runner-up in the next three contests. The Dai Walters-owned gelding was then, for some reason, moved to the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard and was deemed ready to tackle fences but that proved not to be a good decision as he fell in his first chase and came fifth in his next. It's early days but the third move to the Mid-Glamorgan-based Paul Morgan seems to have done the trick for West Wizard because he came second in the Vindico Beginners' Chase at the Kidwelly track at the end of November and went back there yesterday and claimed the Volvo Novices' Handicap Chase by four-and-a-half lengths.
Owner Dai Walters, Ffos Las founder and Chairman, commented: "I was very happy with him today. He was a big talking horse a couple of years ago and hopefully he's on his way back up. I think he likes this soft ground. He's had a lot of trouble with his knees and I just think cut in the ground suits him a lot better. We don't want to rush him. We'll see where we are in a month or six weeks and then try to find a race for him."
SHEIKH THE MONEY TREE!
Over six-hundred members of the public applied to ride in the Champions Willberry Charity Race on April 20, 2017, in which Nick Skelton, Ben Hobday, Tina Cook and William or Alice Fox-Pitt are also scheduled to compete. The event is in aid of The Bob Champion Cancer Trust and Hannah's Willberry Wonder Pony Charity. One not so surprising entrant, selected to ride alongside Nick Skelton, the Rio 2016 gold medallist, is the leading racehorse owner, Sheikh Fahad al Thani, who won the Newmarket Town Plate in July and is becoming a regular presence in such charity contests. Each of the competing riders has pledged to raise at least £2,500 and the target for the day is £100,000 to be split evenly between the two charities.
Ian Renton, Cheltenham's Regional Director commented: "The number of applicants to ride in the race were more than any of us could have expected and we'd like to thank everyone for their interest in the event. Selecting the final riders was incredibly hard but I believe we have a great line up of people to take part and hopefully raise plenty of money for two such worthwhile charities."
ONE TRACK, MIND!
A ninety-two-length defeat in the Grade 2 Fuller's London Pride Novices' Chase last month at Newbury is hardly a good omen for this Flemensfirth gelding when he lines up at Catterick today in the Come Racing New Year's Day Beginners' Chase. Trainer Warren Greatrex, however, seems to be sure that he has done all he can to restore One Track Mind's confidence ahead of today's contest when he will be partnered by his regular jockey, Gavin Sheehan.
The Hungerford-based trainer commented: "Gavin was happy, we were all very happy and there's no reason not to run him. He's fit and healthy and the schooling went well, so we're going to give it a go. At Newbury, I think it was the first time in his small, young career he'd done something like that and it shook him a bit and it took him a while to get over it. We've done plenty of schooling since and I was happy with what I saw (on Monday morning) and we go to Catterick. It looks a good little race. First and foremost we want to have a nice, clear round and get back on track. If he does that he'll be hard to beat, so we've got it a go."
MAURICE NOT MINOR
Ryan Moore made up for his disappointment at not steering Highland Reel to victory in the Longines Hong Kong Vase on Saturday. The three-times Champion jockey (2006, 2008, 2009) displayed his excellent equestrian skills aboard Maurice in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin yesterday. The Noriyuki Hori-trained five-year-old, making his last-ever appearance on a race track, notched up Sha Tin four out of four with an impressive three-length success. As only the second Japanese horse to win three Group Ones abroad, he will now retire with the reputation as one of his country's greatest-ever racehorses.
Ryan Moore commented: "He's very good at a mile but he's better at ten [furlongs]. He gets better every time I ride him. He's a lot of fun to ride."
HORSES FOR COURSES
Some may have thought that Ruby Walsh's decision to ride Djakadam at Punchestown instead of Douvan at Cork was pushing his luck but the Count Kildare jockey got it spot on. Taking on a trip a good half-a-mile shorter than he's used to, the son of Saint Des Saints delivered impeccable jumping except for the last-but-one fence and ran his rivals ragged to win by nine lengths.
Winning trainer, Willie Mullins commented: "That was a good effort first time out. He was able to find a leg when he made his only bad mistake at the downhill fence but other than that he jumped very well. We hadn't made a plan beyond today but I'd imagine we'll be looking at some of the top Grade 1s including the Cheltenham Gold Cup in which he ran second last season and the season before."
Ruby Walsh added: "It was a good performance bar one mistake and it was good to win the race for the second year in a row up, beating two race-fit horses in Outlander and Sub Lieutenant."
Two young riders from the successful Ditcheat stables gave the Champion trainer a treble at Doncaster, two of which were the feature races of the day. Paul Nicholls first of all saddled All Set To Go in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle which jockey Harry Cobden claimed by four lengths. Then two races later it was the Jack Sherwood's turn to do the honours. He was aboard Present Man who made all in the Grade 2 bet365 December Novices' Chase and, despite a terrible mistake at the eighth obstacle, held on to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths. Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day was saved until the last event, the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle in which Cliffs Of Dover, again with Harry Cobden aboard, lead from the word go in the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle, with two-and-three-quarter lengths in hand at the line. That also made it a double for this season’s leading conditional jockey.
Harry Cobden commented: “He’s a proper horse, I was quick out of the gates on him today. I didn’t realise how far clear I was down the back and I think he just idled in the straight. I think he’d have gone again if anything had come close. He’s very exciting, I think he’ll go to the Triumph now.”
IT'S NOT REEL!
The Santa Anita Breeders' Cup winner had to settle for second place after being caught on the line and being denied the Sha Tin Longines Hong Kong Vase. The Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel was bidding for a second successive victory in this 12-furlong Group One contest and jockey Ryan Moore had full confidence in this Galileo son and by the time they went past the post for the first time, it looked as though it could be mission accomplished. Trainer Michael Bell clearly had other ideas how the race should pan out and his Damian Lane-ridden Big Orange, who was from the outset kept handy in fifth slot, was urged to kick on approaching the seven-furlong marker, moving up to harry Highland Reel. This son of Duke of Marmalade, however, soon began to show the effects of those efforts at around three furlongs from home and dropped away to evetually finish in eleventh position out of fourteen runners. Ryan Moore, with just a furlong to go, seemed to have everything under control as various rivals prepared to throw down a challenge. The one who came under the radar was the Japanese raider, Noriyuki Hori-trained Satono Crown who, ridden by Joao Moreira, mounted a last-minute successful charge to claim the one-and-a-half-mile feature race by half a length.
The winning trainer commented: "I'm very happy the race went so well for us. He reminds me of another very good horse I trained called Duramente who was also a very good two-year-old and developed."
Joao Moreira added: "It's a dream come true. I always knew he had it in him to land a very big prize and turning in I had a lot of horse underneath me. I was held back a bit by Silverwave at one stage coming round the turn, but when he saw clear daylight he really picked up for me."
DJAK'S ALL RIGHT!
Having watched the son of Saint Des Saints settle for runner-up in two Cheltenham Gold Cups, doesn't seem to have dampened his connections' spirits and they are clearly looking forward to better things in today's John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. Djakadam is a few weeks short of his eighth birthday and he is now bidding for a second victory in this Grade One feature race following his supreme, but not victorious, efforts at the Cheltenham Festivals.
Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, Willie, commented: "He's a fabulous horse and as he's still only seven going on eight we hope there's still a lot more to come from him. When he won this last year he beat Valseur Lido very easily and he's a very good horse in his own right, so you'd have to think a repeat performance would be good enough to win. It must have been a very tricky decision for Ruby to miss the ride on Douvan, but it's not like he's in danger of missing the ride next time or anything like that.”
The Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon provided Sam Twiston-Davies with a fitting return to the winner's enclosure in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. The son of Nickname thus became only the second four-year-old to win this prestigious handicap chase at Cheltenham whilst giving his jockey a welcome big-race success after his recent return from serious injury. Last year's hero, the Philip Hobbs-trained Village Vic, bidding for a second successive victory, had ultimately to settle for minor honours.
The winning jockey commented: "I said he had a good chance, and it's important for me coming back from injury to get a big one on the board for the boss - I couldn't be happier. If he hadn't made a mistake at the ditch down the back the last time, you wonder what might have been. I was happy with my position and that's what we wanted to do today, give him a bit of space and the right horses to aim at. He jumped the last really nicely, but when the ground is like this it's a long old run-in. These days are very important. He's brave and it's a very special day."
Paul Nicholls added: "I enjoyed that, I thought he was awfully unlucky the last day. The rain suited him and I thought he'd go close today. Frodon's a good horse, he jumps well. They can all make the odd mistake, he's only a novice, but we put that right in the last month and he was a lot fresher today. He'd only run seven days before the BetVictor. The great thing is he is still a novice, we will mix and match but today was the day. It was great for Sam to have a winner on the big stage. It will have done his confidence the world of good."
WITH GOOD GRACE
This Nicky Henderson-trained Kayf Tara mare outclassed her twelve rivals and opened her hurdling account in the bangorBet 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at you-know-where yesterday. This was an encouraging sign as it took Kayf Grace four attempts to get off the mark in the requisite number of bumpers. She obliged, however, by following up her first National Hunt Flat race victory with another win in the Grade 2 Goffs Nickel Coin Mares' Standard Open NH Flat Race. Yesterday the six-year-old looked well composed as Jeremiah McGrath rode her to a two-and-half length victory.
The winning trainer commented: "From what I saw, she looked good. She travelled and jumped well but she was expected to win that. She is good and doesn't need a lot of work. It was important to get her out today. We might let her do that again in a novices' race but it depends where the races fall. There is a Listed race for mares coming up in a couple of weeks' time and Theatre Territory who won on Tuesday could come back for that, but Kayf Grace won't. I'd like to think that the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Festival will be the long-term target."
VIC FOR VICTORY?
This could be one for the record books if this son of Old Vic his career-high rating to win the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham today. If this happens, Village Vic will become only the second horse in history to notch up back-to-back victories in this two-and-a-half-mile contest. The one concern is the fact that the Philip Hobbs-trained nine-year-old claimed the prize last year when he was bottom weight of 10 stone, with a rating of 136; this time around, however,he is on 11 stone 12 pounds with a rating of 158. Clearly the Minehead-based handler is hoping that his charge will show some improvement as he attempts to emulate the Andrew Croskery-trained Poquelin who claimed this contest both in 2009 and 2010.
Philip Hobbs commented: "He ran great at Cheltenham in the BetVictor and was just run out of it on the run-in. That was his first run of the season and hopefully he might have improved a bit for it since. He has been in good form since. The ground being good is a bit of an unknown as we know he goes well on soft. Maybe he won't be quite so effective on good, but that is only a maybe. We will just take our chance and go from there. He went up 3lb for the last run so hopefully it won't be beyond him."
It must be difficult for jockeys when they find themselves in the position of competing against a horse, trained by the stable for which they regularly ride. This happened yesterday at Cheltenham. Paddy Brennan, who has played an important role to-date in the successes of Fergal O'Brien, was, ironically, aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained Theatre Guide when he won the Unicoin Group Handicap Chase, thus denying the Gloucestershire-based trainer victory by the shortest of distances – a nose. Conor Shoemark, who won on Perfect Candidate at this track in April, was entrusted with the ride again and was clearly determined to get the most out of this son of Winged Love by relentlessly galloping into the lead with the aim of putting pressure on the rest of the field in this three-mile-two furlong handicap. The more experienced Theatre Guide, however, didn't put a foot wrong and was definitely travelling the best as he moved effortlessly alongside Perfect Candidate. The latter wasn't going to give up without a fight and it seemed victory was his as he galloped on for the line. The son of King's Theatre, however, was the one who ultimately took the curtain call.
TWO FOR ONE
This Lambourn-based trainer always seems to do well at Doncaster and he's taking no chances this afternoon. Of the three runners Nicky Henderson's sending on the three-hundred-and fifty mile round trip, two of them are targeting the same event, the 188bet.co.uk Novices’ Chase, the race he won last year with Volnay De Thaix. Might Bite is undoubtedly a good hurdler but was a disappointment to his connections on his debut over fences last time out at Ffos Las in the Rob Davies Chemists Novices' Chase. That was last November so the long break might have given time for his trainer to sort him out. Not that this son of Scorpion will have it all his own way. His stable companion is a son of Kayf Tara, the sire who is a leading producer of excellent jumpers. Premier Bond is also making his debut over the larger obstacles after a establishing himself as a capable hurdler. So it will be an interesting contest.
AN ABSOLUTE STAR
Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Sprint is a contest that always seems a bridge too far for European trainers. Richard Fahey, however, is aiming to change all that with a son of Oasis Dream whom his handler describes as "an absolute star." Just over a year ago, however, things didn't look so rosy. When with another trainer, Growl had a pretty dismal record, amongst other things, finishing tenth out of thirteen in a mediocre all-weather handicap. Then, for whatever reason, the Dr. Marwan Koukash-owned gelding was transported up North to Richard Fahey's stables at Malton in North Yorkshire. Since then Growl's improvement has been meteoric especially in his last two starts. The transformation became particularly apparent in the British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October when this former mediocre all-weather performer blossomed into to a classy Group 1 sprinter, producing an amazing last-minute challenge to bag second place.
His ultra-modest trainer commented: "He is an unassuming character and it is hard to know how good he actually is. Growl is so straightforward that he could train himself. We got him just when he was starting to come right. He ran easily the best race of his life at Ascot and then when doing what he had to do to win at Doncaster last time - sprinters winning is good for their confidence. When I saw the photo of him arriving off the plane in Hong Kong I thought he looked a bit light, but now I've seen him here I think he's looking grand. Growl's got some good fast ground form, I'm not remotely worried by the bend and, though it is obviously not ideal, last year's Sprint winner came from an even higher gate."
The CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares' Handicap Chase at Cheltenham today should provide the champion jockey with an interesting ride. Richard Johnson will be aboard the Henry Daly-trained Queen Spud, one of the more experienced runners, who will be renewing her ongoing rivalry with the Michael Scudamore-trained Dawnieriver whom she got the better of at Fakenham in the middle of last month. The daughter of Multiplex is attempting to complete a hat-trick today. The Indian River mare was frustrated in that last defeat, however, when she was narrowly denied a four-timer, as a consequence, is slightly better off at the weights. It is likely, though, that this tough track will be handled better by Queen Spud a little better. This in no way a two-horse contest, however. There's the Ben Pauling-trained Treaty River who has probably improved since her chasing debut at Huntingdon on the 19th of last month. Dan Skelton's Yes I did could answer again in the affirmative and the Tom George-trained Song Saa could well be in tune.
OVERCOMING THE HEX
A win aboard steeplechaser Munsaab yesterday marked National Hunt jockey Henry Brooke’s amazing return to racing at the very track, Hexham, where the twenty-six-year-old sustained life-threatening injuries just two months ago. It was only last week that the Yorshire-born jockey got back to race riding when his mount, Highland Lodge, was denied victory by a short head in a thrilling climax in the Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree. Clearly overjoyed to be back in the winner’s enclosure, Henry Brooke announced that his winnings of around £400 would be donated to Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton where he was helped to recovery from his horrific injuries. He had promised that any prize money from his first victory would be donated to the IJF and was terribly disappointed that he didn't win on Highland Lodge as the donation would have amounted to several thousands of pounds.
Henry Brooke commented: “I’m delighted to be back riding winners and all I want to do is get stronger and better. I’m hoping this will be the end of all the press coverage, to be honest. I’ve had some unbelievable support, which I really appreciate, but I just want to get back to normal. I suppose in a way it’s nice to do it at Hexham, but I would rather have done it at Aintree on Saturday! It’s nice to ride my first winner back for Jimmy after that. I’ve got some nice rides at Newcastle (on Thursday), so hopefully I can ride another winner there and get things going again. I’m only going to get fitter and stronger. I watched the finish back today and I looked a bit untidy. I don’t want to be remembered as the jockey who had that fall at Hexham. I’m more determined than I’ve ever been.”
TEN FOUR? NO SIXTY!
This son of Presenting, returning to the track after a thirty-four week absence, was given a master class in how to win a race by the champion jockey. The Philip Hobbs-trained Ten Sixty landed the two-and-a-half-mile Advent Handicap Hurdle at Leicester yesterday. The six-year-old was held up at the back of the field for the first part of the race and didn't start to make any headway until about five hurdles from home. Added to that, his jumping over the fourth and third wasn't anything to write home about. Richard Johnson, however, on his only ride of the day, clearly demonstrated why he's the champion and persevered, getting his mount just in front of the Dan Skelton-trained Abricot De L'Oasis after the last and battled on to the line to win by a head.
The winning jockey commented: "He is a very honest horse. The summer break has really done him the world of good as he needed a bit of time. He is a staying chaser in the making."
added: "The jockey gave him a wonderful ride but the horse stayed on very well - he didn't quit. It has taken time for the penny to drop. I would think we'll keep him to hurdles this season. We'll discuss it with Philip."
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
There could be trouble ahead at Newbury if plans to save this historic race develop as they are rumoured. There is talk that Ladbrokes has offered to step in as the new sponsor of the Hennessy Gold Cup at the Berkshire track. Any such move would defy the the British Horseracing Association's Approved Betting Partners policy, whereby race sponsors are obliged to give a percentage of their on-line earnings to the sport, something that Ladbrokes, now merged with Coral, have explicitly refused to do. Strong objections are bound to be voiced by the BHA and the Horsemen's Group at this rumoured Newbury decision, even though the ABP agreement has not been accepted by all racetrack organisations. The offer is obviously very tempting for Newbury, which is neither a Jockey Club Racecourse nor a member of ARC, as Ladbrokes/Coral could well inject huge amounts of money into this great race. If this betting conglomerate does enter into a sponsorship, however, it is interesting to speculate what the future holds for the new Hennessy Gold Cup? Clearly most people would want the name 'Hennessy' to be kept as it is very much a part of racing history. There should be no problem there, though, as Mandarin who won the first running of this race at Cheltenham in 1957 and again in 1961. when the contest was transferred to Newbury, was owned by Peggy Hennessy, a member of the sponsor's family. If the name isn't retained the same thing could happen as happened to the Whitbread Gold Cup which lost its historical identity when the famous brewery removed its sponsorship in 2001.
THE CUP RUNNETH OVER!
After sixty years this company's sponsorship of one of the most prestigious awards, won by the likes of Arkle, Many Clouds, Bobs Worth, Denman and Triolo D’Alene, has come to an end. The Hennessy Gold Cup, one of the longest-running sponsorship partnerships in horse racing, was awarded for the last time to the Richard Johnson-trained Native River on November 26.
Dominic Burke, Newbury racecourse Chairman, commented: “For anyone with even a passing interest in jump racing, the Hennessy Gold Cup has been a race that has captured the imagination. It has helped to identify future stars, confirmed existing champions and produced as much emotion and excitement as almost any other race in the calendar. We are enormously grateful to several generations of the Hennessy family and the company’s management team for their wonderful support of such a special event. But everything comes to an end at some point and it is fitting that the sponsorship is drawing to a close after such a thrilling race to mark the 60th Hennessy Gold Cup as the highlight of two wonderful days of top-class jump racing last month.”
A TRYING TIME
The Turf Club's Rule 212, whose implementation has sometimes produced considerable controversy, is to be amended. This rule deals with the tricky situation of non-triers. The most recent incident involved JP McManus' Noble Emperor who was punished under this rule in April and his jockey, Barry Geraghty, received a 30-day ban, which was, however, subsequently overturned. The Turf Club has been debating this issue for some six months and it has now been revealed that rule will henceforth be divided into four categories according to the alleged severity of the offence.
Denis Egan Chief Executive Officer of the Turf Club, commented: "The thing is you've the one rule for high- and low-level offences; now we'll break it into four parts. The first will be a blatant stopping job, which will be a 90-day ban for the horse, for one. The second will be when the rider doesn't make a genuine, real, timely effort. The third will punish horses running in a condition which precludes their chance of winning; the fourth will be for misjudged rides. We hope to complete this in about a fortnight. It will be the most complete running and riding regulation in any jurisdiction.”
Uttoxeter proved to be a successful start to a chasing career for the David Pipe-trained Champers On Ice prompting connections to wonder how the rest of the season will proceed. The six-year-old triumphed in two out of five starts over hurdles last year and yesterday's contest, the three-mile-plus Signs 2000 Novices' Chase, was his first appearance since since coming third in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March. Not surprisingly, Champers On Ice was the measly short-priced 1/5 favourite only having to deal with two other contenders, Dueling Banjos and Have A Go Hero. As expected this duo proved no match for the Tom Scudamore-ridden grey, who when he emerged from the fog was clearly in the lead as they rounded the home turn to conclude this little stroll in the park with a twenty-seven-length victory.
Winning trainer David Pipe commented: "We're pleased. Apart from one mistake he jumped nicely and did what he had to do. He does jump a bit left-handed - he did that over hurdles as well - so we'll stick to left-handed tracks and see where we go. I haven't really made a plan. We've been waiting for softer ground, so it was nice to get that and get his first run out of the way. It's a good start to his chasing career and hopefully he'll improve from it."
At the Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) award ceremony yesterday at Leopardstown a popular female stole the show and she wasn't a horse. Eighty-seven-year-old Maureen Mullins, widow of the late and great Paddy, forever remembered for his successes with Dawn Run, was presented with the Contribution to the Industry award. The mother of trainers Willie, Tom and Tony received a standing ovation. When asked if she had a favourite son, Mrs Mullins replied that she had not. At this point the MC of the proceedings, Des Cahil, interjected that he reckoned it was Willie.
Maureen Mullins added after some thought: "Well, I would say that Tony needed the most forgiving."
Some time later said son, Tony, commented that, although his mother was "as sharp as ever," he believed she had got the year wrong when she quoted Caughoo's 1947 Aintree National victory as her favourite racing memory. As it turned out the remarkable dame of racing was right but I expect she'll forgive her wayward son again!
The award for The Outstanding Achievement of the year must have been hotly contested but the ultimate recipient was the former Hon. Michael Morris, now known as 'Mouse'. The Tipperary trainer is known for his quick wit. After he won this year's Irish National with Rogue Angel and the Aintree spectacular with Rule The World, he was told by his son Jamie that the social media pages were packed with messages from people who said they couldn't understand an emotional Morris when he was interviewed on TV after the race. The sixty-five-year-old without hesitation quipped: "I couldn't understand what I was saying either.”
A MARCUS OF RESPECT
Yesterday in London marked the fiftieth renewal of the Horserace Writers & Photographers Derby Awards and the winner was …... Daily Mail racing correspondent, Marcus Townend who was crowned Racing Reporter of the Year. The fifty-two-year-old journalist, with a twenty-seven-year career with the Mail, writing under the pseudonym Captain Heath, beat both Jon Lees and Lee Mottershead from the Racing Post and the Guardian's Chris Cook. The John Oaksey Trophy was presented to the East Yorkshire-born writer in recognition, among other things, of his well-publicised campaign this summer when he raised £14,000 for the racehorse charity, HEROS, by competing for the first time in a race at Windsor.
The judges made their decision based on the examination of three submitted articles from each contender and came to the conclusion that Marcus Townend's exclusives and a marvellous report of his success at Windsor in the Mail on Sunday warranted the esteemed award.
Marcus Townend commented: : 'I am deeply honoured to receive this award after such a memorable year and it is always special to be recognised in this way by your peers. It is the first thing I've won since a 20-20 cricket competition in my early 20s!”
It's that time of the year. Awards are being dished out, right, left and centre. At the same ceremony, mentioned above, Jim Crowley completed what must have been his best year ever by being named Jockey of the Year. The new champion Flat jockey was up against some tough competition in this category. Not only did he have to see off the leading apprentice, Josephine Gordon but also National Hunt champion Richard Johnson and Ryan Moore.
Aidan O'Brien whose season has probably been beyond his wildest dreams, was voted Trainer of the Year, where he had strong contenders such as the Epsom-based trainer, Laura Mongan, the County Carlow king, Willie Mullins and flavour of the month, Colin Tizzard. As expected,
Coolmore, whose horses are mainly trained by Aidan O'Brien, was crowned the Owner of the Year, beating Jean Bishop, Ontoawinner, Strecker & Burke and Susannah Ricci. The prize for International Trainer of the Year went to Godolphin handler, Charlie Appleby, recently enjoying great success in Australia. Others competing for this prestigious award were David O'Meara, Sir Michael Stoute and Roger Varian.
O'Brien scores again. No not that O'Brien. Nor that one! The Naunton-based Fergal O'Brien who received some sort of consolation for his disappointment at Aintree on Saturday when he watched his stable star, Alavorado, fall in the Becher Chase at Aintree. Yesterday things were more to his liking. Oscar Rose, with Paddy Brennan aboard, made it fourth time lucky in the Betfred TV Henrietta Knight Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Huntingdon. The 4/1 shot, son of Oscar, finished just outside the frame last time out at Cheltenham but clearly demonstrated that better things were on their way.
Fergal O'Brien commented: "She is very good and I'm delighted for the owners. Paddy Brennan said she just travelled well throughout the race and said she felt like the best horse. She had a bit of a look when she hit the front, but he said he enjoyed the ride. Conor Shoemark gave her a lovely ride at Cheltenham and she has progressed from that. It is a shame he didn't ride her as he brought the owners to me and is a big part of the team, but Paddy rides everything when he can. We can't run her in an ordinary bumper, but they will let us run at Sandown in a Listed bumper so we will probably do that. It is a similar route to Colin's Sister who finished fifth in this last year and came second in the Sandown race."
NO WARREN PEACE
One trainer was visibly disappointed by the debut performance of his stable star in the Constant Security Services Novices' Chase at Wetherby. Hungerford-based Warren Greatrex was clearly at a loss to explain why Cole Harden finished second, seven lengths behind the winner, the Dan Skelton-trained Its'afreebee, even though his jockey, Gavin Sheehan, was a bit more positive. The diminutive son of Westerner seemed to be doing everything right. He led the field until the fifth jump when he was passed by the eventual winner. The seven-year-old didn't give up, though. He and regained superiority after the seventh but then was outpaced by the ninth and made hard going of it up the home straight, even allowing himself to be passed by the Harriet Bethell-trained rank outsider Newberry New, as they approached the last but Gavin Sheehan was having none of that and managed to rally his mount sufficiently on the run-in to gain the second slot.
Warren Greatrex commented:“Gavin is more bullish than I am. I thought it was work in progress. I didn’t think he was as fluent as he should be. The winner is a fair horse, but he was third best going to the last when the outsider made a mistake. I’m probably being harsh on him, but we’ll have another go around Christmas and go up in trip to three miles.”
NOT ENOUGH VROUM!
Two of the three mares running in the seven-strong field in the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse yesterday dominated the first two places but the winner wasn't the favourite. The Willie Mullins-trained Vroum Vroum Mag had to settle for second-best again when Apple's Jade, trained by Gordon Elliott scored by a short head. The son of Voix Du Nord, with Ruby Walsh aboard, looked well in command and ready for victory. That discounted the determnation of Bryan Cooper, who, recovering from a nasty-looking fall just half an hour earlier, managed to get more from the Gigginstown House Stud-owned four-year-old and claimed victory. Ironically the winner was one of the horses originally trained by Willie Mullins before Michael O'Leary moved them all to Gordon Elliott's yard!
The winning jockey commented: "I didn't think I'd be riding again after the fall, thank god the impact was on my left leg, the better of the two! She's so tough, I made the call last week (to ride Petit Mouchoir) and I maintain that was right, but she is progressing with each race. I didn't know she's be coming here last week but it was a fair call, she was bouncing and if she came back to her form of last year she had to have a chance. Gordon told me I knew her, I knew she stayed and last year at Aintree I felt she was a stayer. She's only four, maybe in two years she'll be a World Hurdle horse, this year the Mares' Hurdle over two-five might be her race, but I'll leave that to others to decide."
Gordon Elliott added: It's great it worked out. She had a hard race last week, but I'm in a lucky position training for Gigginstown and they left it up to me - she actually weighed more than before she went to Newcastle. I'm delighted for Bryan as he needed that. She's so brave and I'd say she needs three miles before the season is out."
SCEAUX FAR SCEAUX GOOD
A victory in yesterday's Tingle Creek Chase notched up Willie Mullins' Grade 1 one win for his first runner of the season in Britain and and challenged all the cynics who doubt that he can still remain Ireland’s champion trainer. Jockey Ruby Walsh was clearly very moved when Un De Sceaux claimed Sandown's feature race, beating the dual Tingle Creek champion, Sire De Grugy by a length. The County Carlow king has had to endure a couple of knocks recently; firstly sixty of horses, owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, were removed from his stables and then he lost one of his best horses, Vautour, in a freak accident in the paddock. Yesterday's victory marked a second Grade 1 success for Willie Mullins in two weeks.
The winning jockey, not one to mince his words, commented: “The more you write us off, the more you piss us off and the harder we try. We are all part of the team. We have a huge amount of talented staff and we all feel the same that we are lucky enough to ride for a guy who tries to do the right thing at the right time. It’s great when he gets rewarded and you ride a big winner for him.”
ONE FOR THE ROAD
The Saeed bin Suroor-trained daughter of Exceed and Excel fully earned her place in the all-weather championship finals at Lingfield on Good Friday when she won the 32Red.com Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton yesterday. Dubai One was back on the track just six days after an easy victory in the five-furlong 32RedSport.com Nursery at Newcastle on Monday but that didn't stop her taking on so soon higher class rivals over the same distance. The Godolphin-owned filly seemed anxious to get the job done and transported jockey, Pat Cosgrave, into a handy position behind the pace-setting Monte Cinq and about a furlong from home she headed for home and just managed to fend off a last-minute challenge from the William Haggas-trained Gheedaa by half-a-length.
The winning jockey commented:"We dropped her to five from six at Newcastle as she was a bit keen before. We put a hood on the last day as well. We took the hood off today and that helped. She's all speed and a quick-turning five is up her street and she's qualified now for the big race at Lingfield. That race is over six and hopefully by then she'll have relaxed a little more by then, but she got the job done."
As expected the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase provided all the drama yesterday at Aintree with a short head preventing a fairytale ending. It was a two-fold dream: the horse that won the three-mile-plus contest last year was bidding for a place in history as the first to notch up back-to-back successes: the jockey, just seven weeks after sustaining horrific life-threatening injuries in a fall at Hexham in October, was assisted in his remarkable recovery by the dream of returning to ride last year's winner to victory. The dream almost became a reality as the James Moffatt-trained Highland Lodge, with Henry Brooke aboard, went into the lead five out and looked as if he was going to succeed only to be reeled in by the David Pipe-trained Vieux Lion Rouge, ridden by Tom Scudamore, in the last few strides.
A clearly disappointed Henry Brooke commented: "Maybe I should have waited a little bit and taken my time a bit more. I was on the rail but he drifted over. Obviously I am disappointed he hasn't won, which I came back to do. I don't like finishing second but hopefully he will get into the National now."
An equally emotional owner, Simon Wilson, added: "I thought he ran a brilliant race. He jumps for fun and you could see them all struggling behind him. It's a long way in on your own and he's got done but how can you be disappointed with that? Just tell Mr Smith to put him up a couple of pounds to make sure he gets in the National. That is the ultimate target as he just loves jumping these fences."
Winning trainer, David Pipe, added: "I wasn't sure he was quite going to get there but once Scu (jockey, Tom Scudamore) got the running rail at the Elbow the horse has responded well," said trainer David Pipe, who now has to plan a route back to the National - which may not involve another race. The difficult thing now is to decide whether to run him again. You are probably high enough to get in now so you don't want to risk going down a few pounds and you don't want to risk going up a few pounds either. That's the frustrating thing sometimes with a National horse, he might not run again until the race."
LODGE A CLAIM
Neither punctured lung nor broken ribs, injuries sustained at Hexham in October, were enough to prevent this determined Yorkshire-born jockey from riding Highland Lodge in today's Grade 3 Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree. The rider in question is Henry Brooke who has been dreaming of returning to tis feature event aboard the James Moffat-trained ten-year-old, who, just twelve months ago, was the shock 25/1 winner of this three-mile-plus contest. If he makes it today, this son of Flemensfirth would the first to achieve back-to-back successes, although two horses have won it twice: Into the Red (1994 and 1996) and Hello Bud (2010 and 2012).
Henry Brooke commented: "It was always my main intention to come back for this ride and Highland Lodge felt in great order when I sat on him at Jimmy Moffatt’s last week. He enjoys the fences and hopefully he can give me another nice spin."
BAILEY WON'T YOU PLEASE COME HOME!
Sandown is the target for the Kim Bailey-trained Charbel when he lines up in the four-strong in the Grade 1 Racing Post Henry VIII Novices' Chase this afternoon. Although all eyes appear to be on the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior, winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Andoversford-based trainer has high hopes for his two-mile novice chaser, who was victorious in the Kalahari King Beginners’ Chase at Uttoxeter last time out in June, defeating the likes of Top Notch and Le Prezien.
Kim Bailey commented: “He deserves to go and take on Altior as it will pinpoint where we go later in the season. Sandown is never easy, but David Bass was very good on him at Uttoxeter and met every fence right. He’ll be very lucky to do that at Sandown over those Railway Fences, though. It will be a proper race.”
OBEAUX IN TUNE
Trainer Alan King saddled the 25/1 winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle for the second successive season, when his Messire Des Obeaux followed the success of Label Des Obeaux's triumph last year. As seems to be the trend just lately it was a small field, just seven runners. What the race lacked in numbers, however, it made up for with excitement with a thrilling finish, with the sight of three runners battling it out to the end. Ballyandy, last year's Champion Bumper hero rendered, as expected, another stalwart performance but still failed to break his duck over hurdles after three attempts. This contest has been the making of many a quality winner, such as Fingal Bay and Taquin Du Seuil so the winner's achievement takes a lot of taking in. The son of Saddler Maker, the youngest in the field (there were five five-year-olds and one six-year-old), won the Bathgate Group Handicap Hurdle by ten lengths last time out at Bangor in November.
Winning trainer Alan King commentedsaid: "Between the last two I thought he had run very well and would be a good third, but he's knuckled down well. That's the first time he's been asked a question like that and he's responded. Giving 7lb to Nigel's horse [Ballyandy] is a good performance. We always thought he was very good, but this was a cracking Winter Hurdle with real depth. He's a horse that is going to get better as he is big and rangy.”
NOT BAD FOR SLAD
This Slad-based trainer won't be putting his feet up this weekend, not when he's saddling two hopefuls in both the Tingle Creek chase and the Becher Handicap Chase. Tom George may not hit the headlines as often as the currently riding-high Colin Tizzard, for instance, so it may come as a bit of a surprise that he has actually saddled more winners (32) this season than that Sherborne-based handler. Tom George's big weekend revolves around the performance of God’s Own, ridden by Adrian Heskin, in the six-runner highlight at Sandown where he comes up against the Willie Mullins-trained Un de Sceaux and his Sir Valentino at Aintree who, steered by Noel Fehily, takes on a whole host of contenders, including last years' winner, Highland Lodge,the Liverpool track specialist, Saint Are, The last Samuri and Double Ross.
Comparing himself to Colin Tizzard, Tom George commented: “The numbers are the same. But the quality has gone up. However it is not an overnight process, it has to happen over a few years and you sacrifice a few that might have won a poor race at Fakenham for a nice young horse which might not win for 18 months. I think we’re heading in the right direction now though.
Tom George who had the presence of mind to snap up Adrian Heskin as his stable jockey when the latter's job with Barry Connell in Ireland came to an end explained: “I knew a fair bit about him. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have been in a position to take on someone like that. Thankfully it looks the right call. He’s very up together. When he gets on a horse he knows the dam and the dam’s sire and he spent a day off earlier this week visiting National Hunt stallions. He’s also worked out British courses very quickly. He’s won on his first rides at a lot of them and, though he’s only been here a couple of months he’s already telling me which courses would suit which horses.
UTTER FOR SUTTER!
A Yorkshire based trainer is making the three-hundred-mile round trip to Wolverhampton tomorrow with eight of his horses. Mark Johnston has his eye, in particular, on his two-year-old Sutter County who he hopes will get back into his winning ways in the £19,000 32Red.com Conditions Stakes. This five-furlong contest on Tapeta is a Fast-Track Qualifier for the six- furlong £150,000 32Red.com Three-Year-Old Championships over which will be staged on the Lingfield Park Polytrack on All-Weather Championships Finals Day on this Dunstall Park track on his debut in March and was only was beaten a neck by Kananee in a six-furlong Fast-Track Qualifier on Tapeta at Newcastle last month.
Charlie Johnston, mark's assistant commented: "We are very happy with Sutter County. He came out of Newcastle with a huge amount of credit. He had an 8lb penalty, which is a lot of weight to give away, and emerged as the best horse in the race. We have kept him on the go with Finals Day in mind and it would be nice to get this Fast-Track Qualifier under our belts - then we can work back from Good Friday. P J rode him at Newcastle and said he stayed the six furlongs very well and wouldn't be worried about going a bit further, but the one breathtaking performance that put this horse on the map came over Saturday's course and distance. He was very effective over it in March and we hope nothing has changed since then.”
The last race of the day at Market Rasen, the 1stsecuritysolutions.co.uk Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, proved lucky for this Cheltenham Festival-winning rider. Ryan Hatch was aboard the Alex Hales-trained Crafty Roberto who had not been in the winner's enclosure for more than three years. The eight-year-old son of Intikhab this time was in blinkers which seem have done the trick because he made a last-minute rally to deny victory to the odds-on favourite Jaunty Inflight by a length and three-quarters, thereby also presenting his rider with his sixteenth winner of this season.
The winning trainer commented: "It has been a long time, but he likes it here as his last win was here three years ago. He had just been holding a bit back for himself, so we tried something different and decided to put the blinkers on and, to be fair, he stuck his head down well. Ryan gave him a great ride. The other horse was two lengths clear coming to the last, but he has just outstayed him. I had it in the back of my mind that if he won today he would go to Taunton next week for a 0-110 race over hurdles."
NOT AS EXPECTED
Super Sam scored in the Finnings Handicap Hurdle at Ffos Las yesterday but it wasn't the Sam we were expecting - Sam Twiston-Davies – returning after and absence of seven-and-a-half weeks because of injury. It was the Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old grey, winning for the second time in a week after almost two years off the track. Just before the third flight from home five-pound claiming jockey, Charlie Deutsch, decided to go for it, aftertracking the leader Time For Champers thus far. The 10/11 favourite, not showing any ill effects as a result of his easy victory at Hereford last Wednesday, responded well and shrugged off the challenge by Southport by a length-and-a-half, denying the other 'super' Sam a comeback victory.
The winning jockey commented: "He was pricking his ears at the end. He just stays well and he's very gutsy. I was confident if he was like he was last week. You just don't know. He seems to have come out of it really well by the looks of it, so I'm really pleased with him."
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH!
Victory in the ten-furlong Betway Conditions Stakes at Lingfield Park yesterday must have certainly warmed the cockles of his new connections' hearts. The Jamie Osborne-trained Battalion, bought for 70,000 guineas at Tattersalls last month, claimed this race for the second year running, making it the third win of his career on the Polytrack All-Weather. This son of Authorized, originally trained by William Haggas, triumphed in the 2014 Churchill Stakes, over the same distance, also at this Sussex track in 2014. The six-year-old, ridden by William Carson seemed a little reluctant to get involved at first, settling at the rear of the field but, by the time the seven runners entered the straight, the Melbourne 10 Racing-owned gelding went into the lead about a furlong from home and eventually left the 5/4 favourite Master The World trailing some four lengths in his wake.
Jamie Osborne commented: "Battalion did it nicely today. It was a bit of a fact-finding mission and I probably wouldn't get too carried away because he did get the run of the race and maybe the favourite underperformed. We have got some decisions to make now because he has been accepted to go to Dubai and we wanted to see what happened today before making a decision. It is possible he could go to Meydan and, if he did, it is not impossible that he could come back for the Winter Derby and Finals Day. We have got to decide whether we want to put him through that. The prize money in Dubai is very tempting, but then again we have super prize money here during the winter season and it looks like he will be one of the better mile and a quarter horses.”
Saturday's Betfred Becher Chase at Aintree will provide the opportunity to see Brian Hughes riding The Last Samuri. This Ulster-born rider had a humdinger of a November, notching up over thirty winners and a victory over the Grand National fences would be the crowning glory for an incredible few weeks and maybe the start of another high-scoring month. The Kim Bailey-trained son of Flemensfirth's last impressive performance was also at this Merseyside track in April when he was runner-up to Rule The World in the Grand National. As stable jockey, David Bass, has opted to be aboard Charbel at Sandown, the Andoversford-based trainer was happy to book the riding-high Brian Hughes.
Brian Hughes commented: "I'm very much looking forward to it. I won the Topham on Always Waining for Peter Bowen, he was a grand little horse who came alive around there. I then got off him to ride Frankie Figg and he won a couple more! I've had a few good spins around there and I'm really looking forward to another one."