Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) 1 Mile Curragh

oddsguru curraghFirst run in 1921, Saturday sees the 98th renewal of the first Classic of the Irish flat racing season, and coming 3 weeks after its English counterpart, usually attracts many of the contenders from the Newmarket Race. Starting with Right Tack in 1969, nine animals have brought off the Newmarket-Curragh double and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to make it ten with this year’s Rowley Mile Hero, Magna Grecia.

The son of Invincible Spirit certainly won the Newmarket heat on merit, coming home  2 1/2L clear of the 66/1 outsider, King Of Change, (sole success came in a Nottingham
Class5 Novices) but it did seem as if the winner and runner up did have a distinct advantage racing against the stand rails. The time, nearly 2 seconds slower than standard on Good ground, wasn’t great for a Classic, and it won’t be the greatest surprise if the 3rd Skardu, who raced up the middle of the course, finishes a lot closer on Saturday.

The Willie Haggis trained Skardu had previously won the 2000Gns Trial, The Craven Stakes, over The Rowley Mile in workmanlike fashion, a race that hasn’t worked out particularly well, but the winner of last year’s Longchamp Group1, The Prix Jean-Luc Legardre, Royal Marine, (13th in The Guineas) was 2 3/4L back in 4th. Skardu came home best of all of the group of 16 racing up the middle in The Guineas, beating the talented Madhmoon by a head, and should finish a lot closer to Magna Grecia on Saturday.

The Charlie Hills (pictured) trained, Phoenix Of Spain may have been an unlucky loser of Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last Autmn when beaten a head by Magna Grecia. oddsguru charlie hillsIn a strongly run race on the Gd/Sft surface he was pushed left when challenging inside the final furlong and his cause wasn’t helped either by quite a severe bump with 50 yds to go. He had no answer to Too Darn Hot when beaten 1 3/4L in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes, (Good) in his previous race but looked an improved horse in The Futurity, and having easily won York’s Acomb Stakes on Gd/Fast ground, looks as if he handles most conditions. Lack of an outing this term is a concern but the yard is in excellent form.

John Gosden’s sole success in The Irish 2000 Guineas came with Kingman 5 years ago and he looks to have serious prospects of landing a second with his surprise late entry,
Too Darn Hot. Last year’s top rated juvenile, (cruised up in the Dewhurst from the 112 rated Advertise and earned an impressive rating of 126) was thought to be too backward to run in the 2000Gns, but took up his engagement in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes at York 9 days ago, where despite running well, didn’t seem to get home over the trip and could only finish 2nd to Telecaster, whose sole previous success had come in a lowly 3yo Class5 Windsor Novices. Too Darn Hot is by the outstanding Stallion Dubawi out of the triple Group1 winning mare Dar Re Mi, (won twice over 12f at the top level) and his full sister, Lah Ti Dar, was 2nd to Kew Gardens in The St Leger, so it must be very disappointing to connections if indeed it was a lack of stamina that was the cause of his defeat at York. If that is the case however, Saturday’s race represents his last chance of getting that much sought after Classic victory on his CV, and a repeat of his performance in The Dewhurst would bring him close.

Operating at a current strike rate of 75%, Cashel handler, Paddy Twomey must be nursing hopes of a first Classic victory with his progressive colt, Decrypt. A son of Dark Angel, he made his racecourse debut in a Curragh Maiden (6f) last May, finishing a very encouraging second, and went one better at the same venue (6f)13 days later, winning by 1/2L in a good time. Given plenty of time, he was put away for the season and reappeared 5 weeks ago. Racing over 7f for the first time he won a Cork conditions event with his head in his chest. He would need to improve considerably more to figure on Saturday, and there isn’t much encouragement from his pedigree that he will get a mile, but he certainly wasn’t stopping in that Cork heat, and I’ve no doubt that we have yet to see the best of Decrypt.

Ballydoyle’s €1.6 million purchase Old Glory is worth a mention. A son of Frankel, he made a winning debut at Naas last September. He failed to score in his other two starts but finished a respectable 3rd when attempting to make all in a Leopardstown Group3 in October. A half brother to the useful Australian horse Assign, he may do better with
a more patient ride, (a view endorsed by our respected follower, Alan from Anglsea) and is an interesting addition to the O’Brien challenge,
(Attempting to win the race for the 12th time).

Selection : Too Darn Hot
EW.           : Phoenix Of Spain

John Gray

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Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Group1 1Mile Newbury

varian lockinge

Roger Varian sends out Sharja Bridge on Saturday

I hope some readers of the Oddsguru blog were on last week’s EW selection, Le Patriote, who landed The Swinton Hurdle under a great ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, at the tasty odds of 20/1. Our Win selection, Fiesole didn’t run badly either, finishing 4th in the 17 runner handicap also at 20/1. Indeed, but for a blunder at the last, this strong finisher would have been a lot closer. There will be no obstacles to get in the way of the runners in Saturday’s Lockinge, but with a field of 17, and 14 of them rated within 3 lbs of each other, it’s clearly a contest that’s going to take some winning. Aidan O’Brien won last year’s renewal with the filly, Rhododendron, (Oddsguru’s selection) and will be hoping to make it two in a row with the ex-Andre Fabre trained 5yo, Le Brivido.

The son of Siyouni has only been on a racecourse 6 times, 5 of them in France, and has been in the winners enclosure 3 times, but his best performance came in defeat when runner up in the French 2000Gns in 2017. In a race where the first two finished 3L clear of the field, he just lost out by a Short Head to the subsequent French Derby winner, Brametot. He went one better next time, winning the 7f Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, but was soundly beaten in his only other run for Fabre, a 6f Newmarket Group3 in April 2018. Following his move to Ballydoyle 2 months ago, and 369 days since that Newmarket race, he made a satisfactory debut for his new yard 4 weeks ago, finishing 3rd in the 7f Group3 Gladness Stakes at Naas. He reared up in the stalls, and was slowly away, but came home strongly to finish 1 1/4L behind the 105 rated Imaging. Plenty more will be required on Saturday but in the hands of the Ballydoyle Genius, it could well be forthcoming.

Kevin Burke’s wonderful filly Laurens, has scored a hugely impressive 5 times at the top level, but only against her own sex, and she did come up short when tackling the colts for the first time in last Autumn’s Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes. newbury mapShe certainly didn’t give her true running, finishing 8th, 11 1/2L behind Roaring Lion, and her poor performance can be put down to the effects of a long season and the soft Ascot surface. Back on good ground it will be interesting to see how she gets on against the boys. Her trainer reports her to be 95% fit but points out that she improved for her first run of the season last year,(2nd 1000Gns).

Sir Michael Stoute has won The Lockinge 7 times, and will be hoping the 6yo gelding Mustashry, can land him an 8th. The son of Tamayuz has progressed from being a 95 rated Handicapper in his early 3yo career to winning two Group2’s in the space of a fortnight last Autumn, and is now rated 115. He had a nice pipe opener, finishing 3rd in a Newmarket Group3, 30 days ago, and I’m sure that Sir Michael, who does so well with these older horses, will have him primed for a race he clearly loves to win.

The Roger Varian trained 5yo entire, Sharja Bridge confirmed that he was better than a Handicapper when hosing up in the Listed Doncaster Mile first time out in March. 27 days later, he was beaten a 1/2L by Saturday’s opponent, Beat The Bank in a slowly run Sandown Group2, but back racing over a straight mile, and with plenty of pace guaranteed I fancy the Varian horse to come out on top.

Godolphin with 8 wins in the contest, are far and away the leading owners, so their sole representative this year, Mythical Magic, has to be of interest. The 4yo son of Iffraaj, was quietly impressive last time when winning at Group2 level for the first time. Taking it up at the 2f marker he ran on well to easily beat the 116 rated Century Dream at Meydan in February, and a strict interpretation of that form would make him look the one to beat on Saturday. However caution is advised, as the runner up has failed to fire in his 2 subsequent races, albeit at Group1 level. However Mythical Magic is clearly improving at a rate of knots, and a winter basking in the Arabian sun, won’t have done his chances any harm.

The Simon Crisford trained Ostilio, (in the same ownership as Sharja Bridge) ended his 3yo career with 2 excellent front running performances, hacking up in a Doncaster Handicap, and then taking a serious step up in class to win a Longchamp Group2. He may not be good enough to win on Saturday but should guarantee plenty of pace which can only benefit the co-owned, Sharja Bridge.

The only other animal besides Laurens, who has won at the top level, is the 25/1 winner of last year’s Irish 2000Gns, Romanised. A son of Holy Roman Emperor, he failed to score in his subsequent 3 races last year, but made a promising seasonal debut in the same heat at Naas as Le Brivido, where despite being short of racing room, he kept on well to finish couple of heads behind the O’Brien runner to whom he was giving 5lbs. Trained by the excellent Kevin Condon, it wouldn’t surprise to see him involved at the business end, particularly if the ground is on the fast side.

Selection : Sharja Bridge
EW.           : Mythical Magic

John Gray

Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle (Grade3) 2Miles Haydock Saturday

oddsguru haydock ringHaving won the race four times in the last six years, including the last twice, any contender from the Llancarfan yard, in the Vale of Glamorgan, of Welsh Maestro, Evan Williams, needs a close look, and his two contenders this time, Court Royale and John Constable, are certainly of interest.

The former, a 6yo, has won 3 of his 9 starts over hurdles including last time out, when he outbattled the useful, Snapdragon Fire to win a Class3 Ludlow Handicap by 1 1/2L 23 days ago, racing off a mark of 121. He has been put up 5lbs for Saturday’s contest which looks fair, but still needs 10 above him in the handicap to come out to get a run. Another slight concern would be that all his wins have been on right handed tracks, and indeed he has done most of his racing going clockwise, so perhaps Evan’s best chance of landing a 5th victory lies with the 8yo John Constable.

By Montjeu, he is a full brother to the St Leger and Ascot Gold Cup winner, leading light, and he won The Swinton 2 years ago by an impressive 14L off a mark of 134. Raised 16lbs for his next run, he comfortably won the valuable and competitive Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen 3 months later, but has failed to fire in his subsequent 14 starts, (was a respectable 7th off a mark of 156 in last year’s renewal). There was little encouragement to be drawn from his last run 4 months ago either, finishing down the field in a Cheltenham Handicap in January off a mark of 134, but if the man from Llancarfan has been able to get this talented individual back to anywhere near his best, he is an extremely well handicapped animal on his mark of 132. Interestingly if Mr Williams did land the race with the 8yo, it would complete a striking sequence for Evan, winning the contest with a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8yo.

Nicky Henderson has won this twice, (Eradicate in 2010 and 2011) and must have serious prospects of landing a 3rd with his course and distance winning Novice,
Mister Fisher. He won The Grade2 Rossington Main Novices Hurdle in January, from the now 149 rated, Bright Forecast by 2 1/2L, (3rd in the Grade1 Ballymore at The Cheltenham Festival) which does make Saturday’s mark of 145 look reasonable. He has to be forgiven a poor showing in the Supreme Novices at The Festival, (8/16) but back on a flat track on better ground can make his presence felt.

oddsguru richard newlandThe Dr Richard Newland (pictured) trained 7yo, Le Patriote is 5/14 over hurdles and has looked an improved performer in his last 2 races. He won an Ayr Class2 (2Miles Good) in November off a mark of 135 and following a 165 day break won a Cheltenham Class2 (2m4f Good) off a 7lbs higher mark 25 days ago. A 3lbs rise looks very fair, and with Sam Twiston-Davies who is riding better than ever in the Plate, The Newland horse is definitely one to be interested in.

A Swinton victory is one of the few big Hurdle races missing from the CV of Paul Nicholls, but the master Of Ditcheat will be hoping that his 4yo, Christopher Wood can get his head in front on Saturday and fill in the gap. 4yo’s, with only 2 wins in the last two decades, don’t have a great record in the race, but they do get a valuable 4lbs age allowance, and the Nicholls horse looked much more the finished article when coming 3rd in the Grade1 Anniversary Novices Hurdle at Aintree last time. This was only the ex flat racers third race over hurdles, and he travelled well throughout keeping on well to finish 6 1/4L behind the winner, Pentland Hills. Rated 142, with his 4lbs age allowance, he has the nice racing weight of 11-2 and could be interesting.

Talented flat racer, Sofia’s Rock, achieved a rating of 106 when trained by Mark Johnson, and promises to be just as good over hurdles. He joined Dan Skelton’s yard last September and has won 2 of his 3 races over hurdles. He was quite impressive last time winning a Ludlow Novices by 13L from the previous winner Good Man Jim. With plenty of experience in big handicaps on the flat, Saturday’s large field shouldn’t be a problem, and he looks well treated on a mark of 140.

The Seamus Mullins trained Arthington ran the best race of his career three weeks ago when just failing to get up to beat Saturday’s opponent, Cubwin, over course and distance. In a very competitive 16 runner field, he finished much the strongest and was an unlucky loser. On the same terms he should finish in front of Cubwin and there could be plenty more to come from the 6yo.

olly murphy oddsguruThe Olly Murphy (pictured) trained Fiesole is another who put in a career best performance last time, winning a Plumpton Class2 by a long looking 9L from Saturday’s opponent Legal History despite being impeded at the 2nd last. A hike of 12 lbs looks severe but at the very least he should confirm the form with the runner up, (10lbs better off) and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if the talented Murphy’s charge, landed the spoils.

Selection : Fiesole
EW.           : Arthington.      Le Patriote

John Gray

Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (Group1) 1Mile Newmarket Saturday

napoleon oddsguruFirst run in 1809, the year Napoleon was getting his eponymous war into top gear, and neither that conflict, nor two twentieth century World Wars, have managed to interfere with the continuous running of the first Classic of the season. As a result, a possible maximum field of 25 will line up on Newmarket Heath for the 210th renewal of the historic contest. Over the 2 centuries and 9 years there have been quite a few great trainers who have had multiple success’s in the Classic, but none to equal the master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien, who will be hoping to land the 2000 Guineas for the 10th time in the last 21 years, a truly amazing feat. He has 4 entered at the time of writing, but the two to concentrate on are Magna Grecia and Ten Soverigns.

The former, a son of Invincible Spirit, didn’t see a racecourse until the end of September when starting at odds of 2/1 he comfortably won a seven furlong Naas Maiden on Good-Soft ground. Sent off a 3/1 shot behind the French Hotpot, Persian King (had won his previous 3 races) for the Group3 Autumn Stakes at Headquarters a fortnight later he was beaten a neck after a sustained duel up the Rowley Mile by Andre Fabre’s talented colt, (won a Longchamp Group3 by 5L on his seasonal debut last month). The ground was pretty fast at Newmarket but back on Good/Soft ground a  fortnight later in Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity over a mile, he beat the Charles Hill trained Phoenix Of Spain. Beautifully bred, he is out of the Galileo mare Cabaret and it’s worth mentioning that the great stallion, has been the Dam Sire of three of the last five winners of The 2000 Guineas. It could also be significant that if Magna Grecia wins on Saturday, he will be following in the footsteps of two previous Ballydoyle Greats, Camelot and Saxon Warrior, who brought off the Futurity-2000Guineas double.

Ten Soverigns looked something special when coasting home by 7L in a 6f 25 runner Curragh Maiden on his debut last August, and confirmed the impression with an easy victory in a 6f Group3 at the same venue a week later. 4 weeks after that, he took the step up to Group1 level in his stride when winning the 6f Middle  Park Stakes, running on well to get the better of the strong travelling runner up, Jash by 1/2L, with the 3rd, Rumble Inthejungle, 3 1/2L behind. A horse with terrific speed, and the concern must be his ability to get the mile, particularly in a Classic. There are mixed messages coming from his pedigree as he is by the sprinter, No Nay Never, and his dam, Seeking Solace, is also by a sprinter, Exceed And Excel. However she did win over 10f and was only beaten a length in a 11f Listed race at Longchamp. One has to mention the poor record of Middle Park winners in The 2000Guineas, but that said, Ten Soverigns was staying on strongly in last year’s renewal of the Newmarket heat.

Veteran handler, Kevin Prendergast (pictured), won this 42 years ago with the Gabriel Curran ridden, Nebbiolo and must be harbouring serious hopes of finding himself in the Newmarket Winning Enclosure for the second time, with the talented, Madhmoon, owned by Sheikh Hamadan Al  Maktoum. Kevin Prendergast Friarstown Stables 5.5.10 Pic:Patrick McCannA son of the 2000 Guineas winner six years ago, Dawn Approach, he won a Leopardstown Maiden (1m Gd) on his debut last August, and followed up a month later with victory in a Group2 (1m Gd-Fm) at the same venue, where he kept on well under a hands and heels ride to win by 2 1/2L from the O’Brien trained Broome. As the runner up was only beaten a neck in the Group1
Prix Jean-Luc Lagardre at Longchamp next time out this was a pretty impressive performance. He made a satisfactory reappearance over an inadequate 7F four weeks ago, finishing 2nd to Never No More conceding 3lbs, and enjoying a nice pipe opener in the process. The veteran trainer, a son of the immortal Paddy “Darkie” Prendergast, who sent out the first Irish trained winner of the 2000Guineas, Martial, in 1960, knows the family of Madhmoon inside out. He trained both the dam Aaraas and  the Grandam Adaala and most of their offspring to win plenty of races, and it would be a great result for Kevin if he were to find himself in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner 3 times and Martyn Meade has been lucky to get him for the ride on his son of Showcasing, the well named, Advertise. He has won 2 of his 5 starts including the 6f Group1 Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh last August. He has yet to win beyond 6f, but despite being no match for the winner, Too Darn Hot, in the 7f Dewhurst, he did keep on well to finish 2nd, and had the Ballydoyle hope, Anthony Van Dyke, 1 1/4L back in 3rd. He is by the sprinter Showcasing, out of the Pivotal mare, Furbelows, whose sole success from 3 runs came over 6F, so his pedigree doesn’t offer much hope that he will get the mile, but that said, his Dewhurst run offers some encouragement, and it’s doubtful if Dettori would take the ride on an obvious non stayer.

The Andrew Balding trained Shine So Bright was campaigned in his 5 outings as a 2yo mostly at 6f, and indeed his sole success came in his one run over 5f. However, stepped up to 7f In Newmarket’s Free Handicap on his seasonal debut, he came home 1 3/4L clear of the runner up Space Traveller, and had the 104 rated favourite Azano (rec2lbs) 5 1/4L back in 3rd. He was running on strongly at the finish, looking as if further would suit, and there is plenty of evidence in his pedigree that this may be the case. By Oasis Dream, who gets plenty of winners at a mile+, his dam, Alla Speranza is by the Derby winner Sir Percy, and she won a Leopardstown Group3 over 10f. With Silvestre De Sousa booked and odds of 25/1 available could be interesting.

Selection :  Madhmoon
EW.           : Shine So Bright

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday

oddsguru bet365 gold cupSaturday brings the curtain down on another excellent National Hunt season, and having already banked well over £3,000,000 in prize money, The Master Of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, has yet another Trainer’s Title safely in the bag. However, as a man who has won Saturday’s valuable prize four times, he is not averse to adding another substantial Pot to his seasonal winnings, and of his 4 contenders at the time of writing, the 9yo, Give Me A Copper, looks the most interesting.

A winner of his only PTP, he made his debut under rules a winning one, easily landing a Cork Bumper in March 2016. Having moved to the Nicholls yard, he followed up with a facile victory in an Exeter Maiden (December 2016). Sent off a hot 5/4 favourite for a Doncaster Grade2 the following month, there was clearly something amiss, as he finished tailed off with the “also rans”but redeemed himself with a comfortable Ayr victory, 83 days later. He made an inauspicious start to his chasing career, unseating pilot, Sean Bowen in a Kelso Novice’s at odds of 30/100, but made no mistake when landing similar odds in a better race at Kempton 16 days later, easily beating the 135 rated, Three Ways. Having suffered a setback, he was off the course for 446 days, and despite the long layoff, ran an excellent race over Saturday’s course on his reappearance to finish 4th of the 20 runners (Sandown 3m Soft 2Feb 19). He was a beaten horse when falling at the last on soft ground in The Ultima Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival last time, but his shrewd connections have persevered with this stoutly bred individual, and back on good ground, up in trip, and going right handed, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if their patience was rewarded.

The Nicky Henderson trained 9yo, Beware The Bear, is improving at a rate of knots, and having made a decidedly tardy start to The Ultima Handicap at The Festival last time, finished with a wet sail on a mark of 151, to win by 1 1/4L and 2L from Vintage Clouds and the 155 rated Lake View Lad. nicky henderson bet365 oddsguruA 9lbs rise on Saturday looks quite harsh, but the son of Shantou has probably earned it, and, out of the talented, Be My Native mare, Native Bid, (won all 3 of her starts) he is from a good staying NH family, and should be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He could be the first, since Tidal Bay 7 years ago, to carry top weight to victory.

The Neil Mulholland trained 11yo, The Young Master, won this 3 years ago off a mark of 148, and following a couple of seasons in the Doldrums, has come back to form with a bang, and gets into this year’s renewal on a 6 lbs lower mark. He won 2 of his first 3 starts on Good ground this term, and having got stuck in the Newbury mud in The Ladbroke in December, ran another fine race last time out, to finish 3rd in The Kim Muir at The Festival. Obviously well suited by Sandown, if he gets his preferred good ground is definitely one to be interested in, especially as he will have the benefit of the excellent 3lbs claiming amateur, Sam Whaley-Cohen in the plate.

The Mark Bradstock trained 9yo Step Back won last year’s race on soft ground under an inspired ride from Jamie Moore. He took it up at the 5th fence and always in the first two throughout, drew right away after the 3rd last to win by 13L from Rock The Casbah. He seems to have been aimed at this all season, and even off a 10 lbs higher mark looks a danger to all.

Philip Hobbs has taken the prize back to Somerset on 2 previous occasions, and if
Rock The Kasbah gets his preferred good ground he could take his score to 3. He ran well to finish 2nd on soft ground last year, and on 2 lbs better terms on decent ground, must have serious prospects of reversing the form with the Bradstock horse. He had also run well in the 2017 renewal, finishing 2 1/2L behind the winner in 5th place, running on strongly on the good ground, and if Richard Johnson can keep him closer to the pace this time, could be interesting.

Nicky Henderson’s 10yo, Vyta Du Roc,  also finished with a flourish in that 2017 renewal, just failing to overhaul the winner, Hennlan Harri and is actually 4lbs better off with Rock The Kasbah who finished 2L behind him. However he has failed to fire in his last 3 races, but that said, they certainly know the time of day at Seven Barrows, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see this current 25/1 shot, involved, particularly if the ground softens.

The Alan King trained Novice, Talkischeap, is very stoutly bred and could be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He was only having his 5th race over fences last time, contesting a handicap for the first time, he finished a respectable 5th in a valuable Sandown Grade3 off a mark of 145. He had earlier got to within 7L of the talented mare, La Bag Au Roi, giving her 7lbs over an inadequate 2 1/2miles, and had the 149 rated Lostintranslation, 6L back in third place. He looks fairly treated on 145, and despite his inexperience is a sound  jumper and has to be considered.

Selection : Beware The Bear
EW.           : Rock The Kasbah

John Gray

BoyleSports Irish Grand National (Handicap) 3m5f Fairyhouse Monday

fairyhouse grand national
With no stand out contender like Tiger Roll at Aintree, Ireland’s Grand National looks a difficult heat to solve, but there are some strong trends to help. Weight has been hugely significant with only two animals in the last two decades carrying more than
10-13, and in the same period  younger contenders have had the best of the argument, with only 3 animals older than 9 getting their head in front. Favourites have a poor record in the race, and 13 of the last 16 winners have been returned at a double digit price. Stamina is obviously important, and only one of the last 16 winners hadn’t registered a victory over at least 3 miles. Racing for 3m5f with the throttle out, demands maximum fitness, so it’s not surprising that 15 of the last 16 winners had raced within the previous two months, but interestingly, only 2 of them had won last time out. There are no multiple winning trainers represented on Monday, but Ted Walsh, who won with the 7yo Comanche Court in 2000, will be hoping that another animal of the same age, Any Second Now, can land him win number two.

fairyhouse irish grand national

The JP McManus colours should be prominent on Monday

A winner of 2 of his 4 Hurdle races, including at Grade2 level, the son of Oscar has been taken along very steadily in his chasing career, by his Uber shrewd connections , and it wasn’t until the 10th time of asking, that he got his head in front, and that was in the prestigious, and hugely competitive Kim Muir at The Cheltenham Festival last time out. Racing off a mark of 143 he took it up after the last and stayed on stoutly up the hill to win the 23 runner 3m 2f contest by 3 3/4 lengths. He actually races off a one pound lower mark in Mondays early closing event, and looks very attractively weighted
on 11-0. Bred by JP’s Missus, Noreen, I’m sure the McManus’s would like nothing more than to add to their 2 previous wins in the Irish National (Butlers Cabin 2007, Shuthefrontdoor 2014) with their home bred, Any Second Now.

Mind you, Team McManus have another interesting looking contender in the Philip Hobbs trained 7yo Novice, Jerry’s Back. A winner of an Irish PTP, he won his first two Hurdle races after joining the Somerset trainer as a 4yo, but suffered a setback and was off the course for 601 days. He won a Class4 Bangor Chase, (2m4 1/2f Soft) last December at odds of 50/1, and stepped up substantially in Class to Grade 2 level for his next 2 races, acquitted himself well, finishing 2nd on both occasions. He was sent off a not unfancied 16/1 shot for The 4miles National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham last time, and despite a very troubled passage, finished 3rd, albeit at a distance of 47 lengths. I feel that we have yet to see the best of Jerry’s Back, and if he really stays Monday’ trip, could be interesting with his nice racing weight of 10-9, and could add to the decent record of English trained runners in the race.

Jessica Harrington won 2 years ago and will be hoping to do so for a second time with her gallant Aintree runner up, Magic of Light. The 8yo races off a 2lbs lower mark giving him a racing weight of 10-13 and if fully recovered from his Aintree exertions has to be firmly in the picture.

Paddy (Dawn Run) Mullins, won the race 4 times, but surprisingly, son Willie, has yet to score. Mobhanded at the time of writing, Willie’s best chances would seem to lie with Pairofbrowneyes and Total Recall. The former was sent off the 15/2 favourite for last year’s renewal off a mark of 146, but got no further than the 5th fence. However he has been brought along quietly since, and won the valuable Leinster National, (3miles yielding to soft) 44 days ago off 146, staying on strongly at the finish, and he gets into Monday’s heat on the same mark. Last year’s mishap was his only fall in 21 races over fences, and if the son of Luso gets Monday’s trip, and the signs are positive, he will be a danger to all.

Total Recall has won 3 of his 13 starts, including the 2017 running of Newbury’s big Handicap, The Ladbroke Trophy, (was The Hennessy). Sent off the 7/1 Fav for last year’s Aintree Spectacular, he didn’t enjoy the experience and was pulled up before two out, and 11 days later was again pulled up in The Punchestown Gold Cup. However 251 days later, making his seasonal debut on New Years Day, he ran respectably to finish 2nd to subsequent Gold Cup Hero, Al Boum Photo, and 19 days later finished a decent 3rd in a Thurles Grade2, a race he might have won but for making a dreadful mistake at the last.

Winning course form is always an asset, and the Liam Cusack trained 9yo  Snugsborough Benny was quite impressive when easily landing a 3miles Fairyhouse Chase 68 days ago, running on strongly at the finish. At home in a large field of handicappers, he won a 20 runner Handicap Chase at The Galway Festival in August,(2m6 1/2f Soft) coming through the field, and staying on strongly to lead near the finish. A son of Beneficial, out of a Saddlers Hall mare, he comes from a good NH family. His full brother, the year younger Snugsborough Hall, has won his last 2 races and looked a stayer when keeping on strongly to finish 2nd over 3m2f in a Punchestown Handicap last December. One can never be sure, but the signs from Snugsborough Benny’s pedigree, and style of racing, strongly suggest that he will stay, and might even improve for Monday’s trip. On a mark of 145 he is definitely one to be interested in.

Selection. : Any Second Now
EW.            : Snugsborough Benny.      Pairofbrowneyes.

John Gray

CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle (Limited Handicap) Grade2 2miles Ayr Saturday

scottish champion hurdleI hope followers of the blog took our advice and backed the amazing Tiger Roll in last week’s Grand National. Brilliant though he was, I think that comparisons with the immortal Red Rum are a little premature, as Rummy, not only landed a 3rd Grand National, but finished 2nd in two others, and all were achieved over the pre “modified”
fences. It would be wonderful to see the apple of Gordon Elliott’s eye land a 3rd win in the great race, but with the prospect of having to carry top weight next year, It’s quite possible that we witnessed the little horse’s Aintree Swansong last Saturday. We can be pretty certain that Saturday’s field for The Scottish Champion Hurdle, doesn’t contain any future winners of Aintree’s Blue Riband, but nevertheless, the Grade2 Handicap, with 20 runners, and the market leader, Nube Nebra, trading at around the 5/1 mark, it does look a highly competitive heat.

Trained by Dan Skelton, who won with Ch’Tibello three years ago, the 5yo Nube Negra, spent his two and three year old days, racing on the flat, around Madrid’s
La Zarzuela Hippodrome, without a win from his 7 starts, but joining the Skelton Academy in October 2017, he hit the back of the net at the first attempt. With form figures reading 1 2 1 he was sent off the 15/2 Fav for last year’s Fred Winter at The Cheltenham Festival and ran well to finish 3rd to Veneer Of Charm and Style De Garde (now rated 139) racing off a mark of 135. He failed to catch the judges eye in his next 3 races, but performed much better 24 days ago when finishing a close 3rd off a mark of 134. On his run in The Fred Winter he doesn’t look badly treated on Saturday’s mark of 137.

scottish champion hurdle alan kingAlan King (pictured) won with the 6yo, Raya Star seven years ago, and is double handed on Saturday, with another 6yo, Dino Velvet, and a year younger, Redicean. The former, a winner over course and distance at this meeting last year off a mark of 121, has progressed nicely over the subsequent 12 months, and comfortably won a Stratford Class3 off a mark of 129 34 days ago. He will be well suited by the likely good ground at the weekend, and racing off a mark of 134, giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-4, looks fairly treated (note the same connections are also represented by Seddon).

Stable companion, Redicean, is a decent flat racer, (rated 97) and is no slouch over hurdles either. He has won 3 of his 6 starts, including a 7L victory over Saturday’s opponent, Malaya (rec 5lbs) at Kempton in February 2018, and actually meets the Nicholls runner on 2lbs better terms. Malaya looked an improved performer last time at Sandown but Redicean has also taken an 11lbs forward step on the flat and if he has made the same progress over hurdles looks well treated on 144. A patriotic Scot, there is little Alan King enjoys more than a victory on his home turf.

It is 33 years since Nicky Henderson last tasted success in Scotland’s Champion, and triple handed this year, he’s obviously intent on correcting the deficit. Verdana Blue,  Mister Fisher, and Brain Power, Line up for the Seven Barrows yard and of the three, Mister Fisher, the mount of Stable Jockey, Nico De Boinville looks the most interesting.
Lightly, raced the 5yo has won two of his four starts over hurdles including the Grade2 Rossington Main at Haydock where he beat the now 149 rated, Bright Forecast,(rec3lbs) by 2 3/4L. He failed to fire on Prestbury Park’s  Soft ground in The Supreme Novices at The Cheltenham Festival but back on good ground racing off a pretty fair looking 145 has to be considered.

The mare Verdana Blue is the undoubted class act in the race and will be helped by the 7lbs claim of the experienced Connor Brace. Good ground will also be in her favour but my main concern is that all her best runs over hurdles have come on right handed tracks, and indeed she has yet to register a win going left handed. Mind you if she does manage to win left handed it will probably be on a galloping course with a long straight like Ayr.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Benny’s Bridge has sneaked into the race on bottom weight and could be well treated. The son of beneficial, comfortably won a Class2 Cheltenham Handicap in January from the Skelton trained favourite, Flash The Steel. He drew clear in quite impressive style inside the last 100 yards and as the runner up was an easy winner next time out there is a really solid feel to the form. He can be forgiven a poor performance behind Malaya in the Sandown mud next time but showed that he was still progressing last time when readily beating David Pipe’s useful ex German flat racer, Yala Salaam at Market Rasen 17 days ago.

Selection : Redicean

EW.           : Benny’s Bridge  Dino Velvet

John Gray