No time for Trading your bet

25 07 2013
Irish Derby winner: Trading Leather

Irish Derby winner: Trading Leather

THIS year’s renewal of the Group 1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot has a real international flavour to it as the world’s best one and a half milers go to war at the Berkshire venue on Saturday.

Last year’s renewal went the way of Germany and it is Novellist (4-1) that bids to follow in the same footsteps as Danedream, who come out on top in a ding-dong battle with 2011 winner Nathaniel 12 months ago.

John Gosden’s two-time Group 1 winner was the first three-year-old since Alamshar in 2003 to land this prize two years ago and Trading Leather represents good value at 9-2 with Paddy Power as he bids to follow suit.

Following the most unfortunate news that six-times Group 1 winner St Nicholas Abbey suffered a career-ending injury in a routine piece of work this week, punters that had played elsewhere in the ante-post market will be in no mood for trading their bet.

Ireland are still well represented, though, as Jim Bolger’s charge was last seen notching in the Irish Derby at the Curragh and his Teofilo colt has done nothing but improve this year.

An unlucky loser in the Dante Stakes at York on his seasonal reappearance, he finished behind two very useful form yardsticks in Ballydoyle’s Gale Force Ten and Magician in the Irish 2,000 Guineas before successfully dropping in class for his Derby prep in the Listed Silver Stakes.

Challengers

Cirrus Des Aigles boasts a great record at Ascot, Champion Stakes hero in 2011 and second to only Frankel in the same race last October, and he’s a worthy favourite representing France.

When described as only 60% fit for the Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud on his seasonal reappearance, though, the seven-year-old was no match for German raider Novellist and that performance will only come as a concern to punters willing to take 6-4.

Universal (16-1) deserves to take his chance and has done nothing but progress for Mark Johnston this year, but as was apparent in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, he might not benefit from an uncontested lead with Ektihaam (15-2) another confirmed front-runner in the race for Roger Varian.

Both come into the reckoning, along with Hillstar (7-1), who impressed over the C&D at the Royal meeting when beating Epsom Derby fourth Battle Of Marengo in the King Edward VII Stakes.

Selection: Trading Leather 9-2 (1pt win)





Vision to show his true colours at Ascot

10 06 2013
Colour Vision wins the 2012 Ascot Gold Cup

Colour Vision wins the 2012 Ascot Gold Cup

When Rite Of Passage landed a most dramatic renewal of the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot last October, Dermot Weld’s lightly-raced Giant’s Causeway gelding was returning from a 510-day absence.

Supporters of the eight-time career winner, then, wouldn’t have been overly concerned to learn he’d bypass his intended prep-run in the Listed Saval Beg, a race in which he finished third behind Fame And Glory in 2011, and head straight to Royal Ascot for a date in the Group 1 Gold Cup, the race he won at odds of 20-1 in 2010.

Paddy Power are currently 5-1 about him repeating that feat and, versatile in regards to underfoot conditions, he ticks plenty of boxes and is a worthy favourite at this stage.

Estimate gave Her Majesty a winner at the Royal meeting 12 months ago when Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive filly notched in the Group 3 Queen’s Vase and, on the back of her successful reappearance in the Sagaro over that 2m trip, she steps up in class and warrants close consideration.

Ground conditions are key to Saddler’s Rock’s chance and he’ll be bang there on a rattling quick surface, while last year’s Ascot Stakes and Queen Alexandra Stakes hero Simenon must also come into the reckoning.

This 2m4f trip looks absolutely made for COLOUR VISION, however, and last year’s winner can be backed at 10-1.

He represents great each-way value for the in-form Saeed Bin Suroor and while his seasonal reappearance in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown was somewhat uninspiring, the outing is expected to have brought him forward and he can reverse the Long Distance Cup form with Weld’s charge going back up in trip.

Selection: Colour Vision 10-1 (1pt e/w)





50-1 Friend to head National weights?

25 03 2013
Grand National hope: What A Friend

Grand National hope: What A Friend

SIR Alex Ferguson will be forgiven for taking one eye off the Premiership title race on April 6, two days before his Manchester United team welcome rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford, when What A Friend could shoulder top-weight for the eagerly anticipated John Smith’s Grand National at Aintree.

Currently a 50-1 shot in the ante-post market with Paddy Power, What A Friend hasn’t graced the winning enclosure since landing the Grade 1 Bowl at the Liverpool track in 2010 and with current top weight Imperial Commander having suffered a pre-Cheltenham Festival setback, there is every chance he’ll head the weights under 11st 10lbs.

The Paul Nicholls-trained 10-year-old went on to finish a respectable fourth behind Long Run in the 2011 Gold Cup, but he’s since found life very difficult at the highest level and may just appreciate going back up in trip against lesser opposition.

Entitled to have stripped fitter for his effort in the Grade 3 Racing Plus Chase at Kempton on his return from a 317-day absence in February, the son of Alflora wasn’t completely disgraced when passing some tired rivals in the 3m handicap and you can be sure that last year’s winning handler will have him fully wound up for the big occasion.

That outing is sure to have blown the cobwebs away and the same could be said about Quinz, who wasn’t without his supporters when finishing fourth and in front of What A Friend in the Racing Plus.

Philip Hobbs’ five-time career winner, who had won the corresponding race in 2011, hadn’t been seen for 449 days before finishing within 11 lengths of Opening Batsman at the Surrey track and he’s another to consider closely at rewarding odds.

Currently on offer at 66-1 with Paddy Power for the Aintree marathon, he’ll get in under a nice weight off a mark of 144 and will have learned plenty from his exploits here in 2011 when still very much inexperienced at the age of seven.





Sacre simply pulsating in Champion Chase romp

14 03 2013
Champion Chase hero: Sprinter Sacre

Champion Chase hero: Sprinter Sacre

The horse racing world stood still for a few minutes when the Queen Mother Champion Chase took place on Wednesday and all eyes were on one contender, the incredible Sprinter Sacre.

A red-hot 1-4 favourite ahead of the championship 2m event, he toyed with a brilliant bunch of chasers before oozing swagger and class when rolling down the hill at his leisure to give Sizing Europe a 19-length beating.

The seven-year-old made it look effortless and enhanced his reputation as one of the best chasers in training. He’s still young at the age of  seven and has the potential to go on and smash all the record books to pieces.

Never has a horse seemed to have so much presence and at times, arrogance in the build up to such a race. Trainer Nicky Henderson has often said he feels as though the gelding is cocky and knows he’s going to win.

However, the Seven Barrows handler admitted he doesn’t enjoy it when his star takes to the racecourse. There is of course plenty of pressure and a degree of responsibility when you are the trainer of such a superstar and Henderson said: “It was the worst five minutes of my life — it was hell. I nearly needed the doctor and a cardiac machine.”

It really was a stunning run from Sprinter Sacre and the sky is most certainly the limit for this individual.

But for Henderson, there is no time to dwell on his Champion Chase success as we move on to Day Three and he may well land the feature World Hurdle.

Henderson has the current 4/1 favourite Oscar Whisky and he’s expected to go very close to reversing the Cleeve Hurdle form with Reve De Sivola on better ground.





My Tent camp keen on Supreme chance

4 03 2013
Leading Supreme hope: My Tent Or Yours

Leading Supreme hope: My Tent Or Yours

TRADITIONALLY greeted by the ‘Cheltenham roar’ on day one, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle marks the beginning of the most eagerly anticipated festival in NH racing and My Tent Or Yours bids to give Nicky Henderson his first winner in the race since Flown in 1992.

Quite a poor record in the race by his own high standards, but that doesn’t appear to putting punters off at around the 7-4 mark with Paddy Power and, on the back of his most recent display in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, you can understand why.

It was AP McCoy’s idea that leading owner JP McManus should swoop to buy him at the start of this season and it was a schooling session one morning at Seven Barrows that pleased the 17-time champion.

McCoy was quoted saying, ‘there is only one thing wrong with this horse – it’s in the wrong colours’ and connections haven’t looked back since. His only defeat when sporting the famous green and gold hoops came at the hands of useful stablemate Chatterbox (14-1) on very bad ground at the Berkshire track in December and that outing has since been put firmly behind him.

He beat subsequent Grade One winner Taquin Du Seuil, a horse McCoy knows well, at Ascot the time before that and, a Huntingdon winner prior to justifying favouritism in the Betfair, he simply oozed class when bolting up in the Grade Three handicap last month and he’s most certainly the one they’ve got to beat on March 12.

McManus, who was narrowly denied in last year’s renewal when Darlan could only bag the silver medal under McCoy, is again well represented and Jezki (5-1) would be many a punters idea of the value bet.

The Milan gelding will sport the famous silks for the first time when going to post for the Supreme and he was purchased on the back of a scintillating performance in the Future Champions at Leopardstown in December. Jessica Harrington’s charge had previously got the better of last term’s Champion Bumper hero Champagne Fever (12-1) in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and his form stacks up.

The horse I’m most interested in at a nice price is Melodic Rendezvous (8-1) who, while not trained by a so called “sexy” trainer, has done nothing wrong for Jeremy Scott this term with his only defeat over hurdles having come at the hands of the well-touted Mr Mole on his Exeter reappearance in October last year.

He improved markedly for that outing (Paul Nicholls’ charge has since franked the form) and he went on to land a hot novice event at Prestbury Park giving the likes of Royal Boy, Eduard, Mr Watson and Village Vic a fair beating. Grade One success was just around the corner as the son of Where And When confirmed that taking performance when scoring in the Tolworth at Sandown and, last seen returning to Exeter and giving the useful Puffin Billy a nine-length beating, he’s hardly put a foot wrong.

Throw Willie Mullins’ unbeaten five-year-old Un Atout (7-1), Nicholls’ Dodging Bullets (9-1) (fourth in the Triumph last year) and Henderson’s River Maigue (10-1) into the melting pot and we appear to have ourselves a cracker – a race which is certain to get the juices flowing.





Young guns take centre stage in Gold Cup

28 02 2013
The Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Cheltenham Gold Cup

CHELTENHAM’S most eagerly anticipated steeple chase, the Gold Cup, earns top billing at Prestbury Park on March 15 and we could be about to witness the beginning of a new era.

The corresponding race 12 months ago saw Synchronised simply out-staying his rivals under a stellar ride from AP McCoy and, while Jonjo O’Neill has recently raised the possibility of Sunnyhillboy following in similar footsteps this time around, Nicky Henderson boasts a typically strong hand with Bobs Worth and 2011 winner Long Run and last year’s leading trainer at the Festival will be pitching his team against Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti and Willie Mullins’ Sir Des Champs.

Last year’s RSA hero Bobs Worth is unbeaten at Cheltenham and looks a worthy favourite at 3-1 with Paddy Power. The Cheltenham undulations most certainly suit his style and the form of his Hennessy Gold Cup win has worked out well since. Beating Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant on that occasion, that pair subsequently franked the form when first and second in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown respectively and both Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs (4-1) handed that a further boost when Mullins’ two-time Cheltenham Festival winner reversed the placings with Peter Casey’s star in the Irish Hennessy.

Many will argue that last year’s Jewson winner will have to improve in the jumping department is he’s to maintain a perfect record at Cheltenham’s showcase meeting, but what you can be sure of is that Mullins will have left no stone unturned come the big day and the fact remains that he arrives on the back of landing a leading trial.

The young pretender?

Some have hailed Silviniaco Conti as ‘the new kid on the block’ and, a 5-1 shot for the big event, he warrants the utmost respect. An 11-length winner of the Grade 2 Charlie Hall at Wetherby in November last year, that form isn’t particularly great but it was the manner in which he gained the scalp of  Long Run at Haydock that impressed most. On the same day that Sir Des Champs was beating Flemenstar over in Ireland, Nicholls’ Dom Alco gelding was further enhancing his Festival claims in the Denman Chase at Newbury and he justified odds-on favouritism comfortably beating The Giant Bolster, last year’s  Gold Cup runner-up.

To round up the top four in the market, we have the 2011 winner and last year’s third Long Run. Sam Waley-Cohen has come in for plenty of criticism for his rides aboard the eight-year-old, but the six-time Grade One winner bounced back to form in the King George at Kempton when last sighted and, while his jumping style is sometimes classed as a little unorthodox, he represents some value at 7-1 renewing his rivalry with Silviniaco Conti at this track.

No horse since 1966 has won three different races in three consecutive years at the Cheltenham Festival, but with both Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs attempting to buck that particular trend, the prospect of this year’s extended 3m2f contest is a mouth-watering one and let’s not forget about previous winner Imperial Commander (16-1) and King George runner-up Captain Chris (20-1).





Aintree clues aplenty

19 02 2013
Aintree: The Chair

Aintree: The Chair

MANY a racing enthusiast will already be drooling at the prospect of what is next month’s showcase meeting at Cheltenham, yet while they’ll feel as though the nerve-jangling and hair-raising grandstands are within touching distance, it’s the John Smith’s Grand National that appears to be on everyone’s lips this week.

On His Own was cut to 10-1 from 12’s with Paddy Power on Tuesday following an impressive win in the Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan.

Willie Mullins was doubly represented in the 2m5f contest, but his Presenting gelding took full advantage of Thousand Stars’ inability to pick up at the business end and, while the champion trainer is sure to have mixed emotions this evening, there is no hiding from the fact that it was a highly encouraging trial for the Aintree marathon.

The nine-year-old was last seen falling at Bechers Brook (21st fence) when sent off a 14-1 chance for last year’s National won by Neptune Collonges, but he scored a shade cosily on his return from a 311-day absence to give both Andrea & Graham Wylie something to smile about following the disappointing news regarding Tidal Bay last week.

Another strange Navan result saw Chicago Grey (20-1 Paddy Power) warm up in fine style.

The feature Grade 2 Red Mills Chase saw hot-favourite Rubi Light fall into a hole when approaching the straight and Gordon Elliott’s inmate, under a patient David Condon ride, travelled with consummate ease to upset the odds at 25-1.

The eight-time career winner can boast success at the Cheltenham Festival (2011 National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup) and there will be worse each-way bets to be had between now and April 6.

Hints

Elsewhere, Saturday’s Grade 3 Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock saw the well-backed Well Refreshed complete a hat-trick for Gary Moore, but while not entered for the big race at the Liverpool track, arguably the best trial of the day came over at Ascot.

Cappa Bleu, cut to 14-1 from 16-1 with Paddy Power, had previously created a favourable impression when a running-on second in a competitive renewal of the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Chase over 3m.

Evan Williams’ charge remains lightly raced for his age after just 11 career starts and the 11-year-old ran a massive race 12 months ago when 12 lengths behind Neptune Collonges back in fourth.








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