Betway Lincoln Handicap Tips

Betway Lincoln Handicap 1m Str Doncaster Saturday – Run as the Lincolnshire Handicap at the county town’s venerable racecourse for over one hundred years until its closure in 1964, the race was transferred to Doncaster and became known as “The Lincoln”, where it has thrived as the first leg of the “Spring Double” ever since.

Historically, winners have come from all sections of the handicap, but recent renewals have seen a definite increase in the class of competitors, and last year a handicap mark of 96 was required to even get a run. The winner, the Richard Fahey trained Gabrial was the third of the last five winners to have been rated at 100 or above. However, despite these higher rated animals winning, big weights still have proved a serious bar to success, with Babodana in 2004, carrying the steadier of 9st10lbs the last to win with more than 9st4lbs in the plate.

Read our 2014 Lincoln Handicap preview.

Over the past decade training honours, with two wins apiece, have been shared by Messrs Quinn, Fahey,and Haggas, and the latter was also responsible for the 1992 winner. The draw has been significant with only one winner emerging from a draw higher than 17 in the last twelve years. Good form on straight tracks, particularly Newmarket has been a definite pointer. Plenty of previous winners had the benefit of a race under their belt,but thanks to modern conditioning methods, we have seen seven of the last ten winners come home in front on their seasonal debuts. So what of this years renewal?

One that immediately catches the eye is the David O’Meara trained 5yo entire, Lord Of The Land. Previously trained in France by the great Andre Fabre, for whom he won five of his ten starts, including over a straight 1m1f at Maison-Laffite. He makes his debut here for the hugely talented O’Meara, racing off a mark of 102, giving him a tough looking 9st5lbs to shoulder. However the son of Shamardal does look a highly versatile type having had the speed to win over 6 1/2f on the all weather at Deauville, and the stamina to win that 9f contest at Maison- Laffite. O’Meara has already sent out a winner with his first runner of the turf season from his new base in the village of Upper Helmsley, and looks set for another great innings, so Lord Of The Land looks one for the shortlist.

Ed Mc Mahon’s 5yo by Dylan Thomas, Express Himself, looked a progressive type until finishing out the back from a midfield draw in last years Cambridgeshire. However he got back on track three weeks later when putting up a top notch performance at Haydock. Having missed the break he came home with a wet sail and got up to beat the very useful Mitchum Swagger off a mark of 93. As the runner up went on to earn a 15lbs rise, for his close second in a listed contest, Express Himself’s new mark of 101, just 8lbs higher, looks more than reasonable. With decent form at Newmarket, and being by a sire whose offspring often improve with age, Mc Mahon’s 5yo has plenty to recommend him.

Representing the three times successful Haggas yard, the very lightly raced 5yo Mitraad looks interesting. A winner of his only two races on turf, both at Newmarket, he was last seen, on the all weather at Chelmsford last August, where he finished a close second in a Class3 handicap off a mark of 95. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend he may have got in lightly and if handling the cut and thrust of a 22 runner handicap could be involved at the business end.

The 4yo Udodontu ran a great race in last years Brittannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. Trained by Richard Guest he finished a close second off a mark of 88. Now in the hands of Saeed bin Suroor he wasn’t seen again until trotting up off a mark of 94 at Meydan in January. Raised another 8lbs to 102 he was only headed inside the last 50yds at the same venue four weeks later. He races off the same mark on Saturday and sure to have benefited from his winter holiday in the Dubai sunshine he is another well worth considering.

Harry Dunlop’s lightly raced 4yo Storm Rock won a Leicester handicap off a mark of 87 last October and nine days later nearly defied a 15lbs rise when going down by a neck to the year older You’re Fired. He meets the winner on 2lbs better terms at the weekend and as considerable improvement from three to four can be expected he is another who looks well handicapped.

Selection : Lord Of The Land

E.W. : Storm Rock

Irish Grand National Tips

Irish Grand National Tips 3m5f Fairyhouse Easter Monday

Last week’s selection Don Cossack did us proud in the Gold Cup. In total contrast to his run in the King George, where he never seemed comfortable on the track, he travelled like a dream, and despite the fall of Cue Card at the third last, to this observer the result was never in doubt. He is clearly one of the best winners since Best Mate completed his three timer in 2004, and in the hands of master trainer Elliott, must have every prospect of bringing off the double next March. With winners rated lower than 143 and carrying weights less than 11st in all recent renewals of the Irish Grand National it is unlikely that Easter Monday’s showpiece will feature any future Gold Cup winners but who knows!

As well as the weight factor being of serious significance, winning form over at least three miles has been a prerequisite, as has proven ability to perform going right handed. Seven and eight year olds have the best record although plenty of older animals, including the great Desert Orchid (won as a 11yo carrying 12st) have prevailed. Novice status is no bar to success with eighteen winning since 1974.

Gordon Elliott’s 8yo Mala Beach is set to carry 10st12lbs, has won a Grade2 three mile hurdle, and has won three times going right handed so has to enter calculations. In his most recent race, a Grade2 chase here at Fairyhouse (3m1f soft Feb 20 ) racing off a mark of 148, he was travelling like the winner when tipping up at the second last. A month earlier he had had a hard race when going down by 1 3/4L to My Murphy off a mark of 142 on desperate ground in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran park and now meets the winner on 1lb better terms. With only seven chases under his belt and likely to be suited on breeding by the step up in trip he looks one for the short list.

Noel Meade runs a full sister to Mala Beach, the 6yo mare Bonny Kate. Since unseating in a 2 1/2m chase at Down Royal last October she has put in three impressive front running performances winning at Fairyhouse, Punchestown, and Limerick and emphatically proved her stamina credentials for this in that Punchestown event over 3m4f on soft to heavy ground. She raced there off a mark of 125 and has more to do off a mark of 137 on Monday. However she is clearly progressive and the new mark gives her a nice racing weight of 9st13lbs.

Historically the Dreaper clan had an amazing record in this, with father Tom winning nine times and son Jim (pictured above) collecting on four occasions. Alas, the last time a Dreaper animal won, was Brown Lad’s victory in 1978, but are the good times about to roll again with the highly promising 7yo, Venitien De Mai? This recruit came from the Point to Point   Field with an unblemished record and has now won the last two of his four races over the larger obstacles. He looked a bit special last time when comfortably disposing of stable mate and Aintree contender, Goonyella in the Leinster National (3m hvy) earlier this month off a mark of 127. Taking it up early on he travelled and jumped well forging clear from the last for a facile victory. This is a horse going places and with 9st13lbs in the plate on Monday looks well handicapped.

Jonjo O’Neill has won this twice in recent years with Shutthefrontdoor, and Butlers Cabin and fields a likely type again this year, the 7yo Another Hero. A winner of five of his seven races over hurdles he is two from two over fences and is already rated higher in this discipline. He won a 3m Ascot chase (gd-sft) in November off a mark of 125 and followed up at Ludlow off 131 in Febuary. Definitely one to keep in mind, particularly if the ground dries out.

Tony Martins 9yo Heathfield won over 3m6f at Punchestown last May off a mark of 120, and seemed to be in the process of putting two subsequent poor performances behind him, when racing with much more enthusiasm, until after the second last at Leopardstown in January, off a mark of133, over an inadequate 2m5f. Back up in trip and racing off the same mark on Monday any Market moves from this uber shrewd stable should be noted.

Selection : Venitien de Mai

E.W.   :  Another Hero

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Weatherbys Champion Bumper – 2m N.H. Flat. Cheltenham March 16th‏

First run in 1992, it has been a contest dominated by Irish stables, who have won seventeen of the twenty three renewals, with that man Mullins hitting the back of the net on eight occasions. It usually takes a very decent animal to win, and the roll of honour features some really outstanding horses, such as Florida Pearl and Cue Card to name but two. Last years hero Moon Racer did this column a favour, so let’s hope we can keep the ball rolling and point us in the right direction again.

Top rated of the Mullins brigade (eight entries at the time of writing) is the 6yo Avenir D’Une Vie and with four runs under his belt is one of the more experienced. A winner at Navan in December he was beaten by Jessica Harrington’s contender, New To This Town, in January by 1 3/4L, but was conceding 10lbs. He was impressive last time winning by 14L from the well fancied Tamlough Boy, and if owners, Gigginstown stud allow him to take his place he must be a serious contender.

Not far behind on the ratings is the second highest of the Closutton troops, the 5yo mare, Augusta Kate, owned by a syndicate formed at “The Masters” and including the soccer pundit Alan Shearer, and those two mainstays of “Get me out of here” Ant and Dec. Augusta Kate is out of that superb Grade 1 winning mare, Fethard Lady and by the redoubtable sire Yeats, so certainly lacks nothing on the breeding front, and she fully lived up to her stellar pedigree when hacking up in a listed contest at Listowel on her debut last September. She followed up two months later at Navan in equally impressive fashion, and was then wisely put away, avoiding the attritional heavy ground that we have been racing on for all of this “Monsoon”winter. She is reported to be a very lazy worker at home but obviously retains her best for the racecourse. She will arrive at the post a fresh horse on Wednesday and looks the one to beat.

2015 Weatherbys Champions Bumper preview.

Having won a modest Class6 Worcester number in October, the Twiston-Davies trained 5yo Ballyandy went to post an 8/1 shot to win a much hotter Class1 contest at Cheltenham twenty five days later. He stayed on well up the hill and won comfortably. He was a 7/2 shot to repeat the dose at Ascot five weeks later, and, while running well, couldn’t quite manage the concession of 10lbs to another of next Wednesday’s opponents, Coeur Blimey, losing by a length. He may well have been in front too long at Ascot but made no mistake a Newbury two months later winning comfortably carrying his penalty. With four runs under his belt, he goes to post one of the most experienced in the field, a definite advantage in a race that can be pretty rough, with inexperienced young horses rolling about on Prestbury Park’s undulations. One for the shortlist!

Multitalented John Ferguson went close to winning this in 2012 when his New Years Eve came second to Champagne Fever, and fields an interesting runner in the 5yo High Bridge. He was second to O’K Corral on his debut at Kempton in February 2015, and third behind Aurillac at Cheltenham last October. He then won nicely at Huntingdon in November showing plenty of pace over the 1m5 1/2f course. He really seemed to step up a gear last time at Catterick when hosing up by 13L and 3L from the two subsequent winners, Atomix and Shambourg. He again showed plenty of pace in a race that was run in a decent time for the conditions. The form looks solid and it would come as no surprise to see those famous black colours well to the fore at the business end of Wednesday’s contest.

With New To This Town having already taken the scalp of Avenir D’une Vie, Jessica Harrington must be harbouring hopes of adding to her success with Cork All Stars in the 2007 renewal. It can be argued that the Mullins horse was giving weight, but equally the Harrington animal did seem to run a little green under his claiming rider, and ran on with some resolution to win totally on merit.

Selection. :  Augusta Kate

E.W.          :  High Bridge (if abs) New To This Town

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Tips

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Tips – 3m2 1/2f 70y March 18th.

This year’s race looks to be one of the most open, competitive, and exciting renewals, since Major Wyndham’s 5yo Red Splash stormed up the hill to beat Conjuror by a head in the inaugural running of the great contest way back in 1924. Team Mullins is mob handed at the time of writing and at least four of them have to be considered, Djakadam, Don Poli, Valseur Lido, and Vautour. Add to these top class animals the wonderful Cue Card, in line for a £1,000,000 bonus if successful, Alan King’s grand warrior Smad Place, and top rated of them all, Gordon Elliot’s 9-y-o Don Cossack (pictured above), and we must surely have one of the most intriguing contests of the modern era in prospect.

Read some of last year’s Cheltenham Festival tips from the Oddsguru.

What a great performance for a 6yo, Djakadam put up in last years contest when finishing second to Coneygree! Always up with the pace, and maintaining a relentless gallop throughout, he had every chance but hit the last and lost vital momentum. He got back on an even keel and stayed on again to secure second place. After such a hard race for a young horse, many felt that stumps should be drawn for the season, but he was back in action six weeks later, and ran well finishing second, seven lengths behind Don Cossack in a Grade1 at Punchestown. He put stable companion Valseur Lido firmly in his place when reappearing at Punchestown in December (2 1/2m) and was then sent off the hot 5/6 fav to take the BetBright chase at Cheltenham in January. He travelled well but blotted his copybook at the 10th taking a nasty fall leaving a suturing job necessary on his chest. It has hardly been the ideal preparation but last year’s performance for a 6yo was outstanding, and it would come as no great surprise to see Rich Ricci leading this one in to the winners enclosure.

Also sporting the Ricci colours is the exciting 7yo Vautour. Going down by a head to Cue Card in the King George, he looked the winner coming to the last, but couldn’t resist the late challenge of the Tizzard horse. However his tendency to jump left was no help and he is definitely a better performer going anti-clockwise. The memory of his victory in the 2014 Supreme Novices hurdle, where he led the field a merry dance, remains fresh in the memory. He won by a long looking 6L and beat the great Istabrraq’s course record into the bargain. He also never put a foot wrong when cruising up by fifteen lengths in last years JLT over 2 1/2m at the Festival, running on strongly up the hill. While there must be some doubts about his stamina credentials, this four times Grade1 winner is the class act in the field, and given decent ground is going to take a lot of stopping.

Like stablemate Vautour, Don Poli boasts a 100% course record having won the RSA last year and the “Martin Pipe” the year before. His failure behind Valseur Lido at Punchestown six weeks after Cheltenham last April was too bad to be true and is easily excused. He has won both outings this season in workmanlike fashion, most recently the Lexus, where he had to work hard to get the better of First Lieutenant. He is an animal that races very lazily and it is hard to know how good he is. However you don’t win three Grade1 contests without plenty of talent, and his win in the “Martin pipe” demonstrated how much pace he has. He has had an ideal preparation and goes to post a fresh horse who is guaranteed to stay. If it turns into a real stamina test he must have great prospects of giving Willie his long awaited first win in the race.

There would be no more popular winner should Cue Card add this to his Betfair and King George victories and bag that £1,000,000. bonus. He is another about whom there have been stamina issues in the past but following a “breathing” operation is enjoying some thing of a renaissance. He certainly hasn’t been stopping at the business end of his three starts this term, and as we saw, outstayed Vautour at Kempton. It is hard to believe that it is six years since he flew up the hill to win the Champion Bumper and three years since his victory in the “Neptune” but if he really does stay he could be the first ten year old since Cool Ground in 1998 to collect.

Many observers feel that Gordon Elliott’s 9-year-old Don Cossack might have won the King George but for coming down at the second last, where having run indifferently for most of the race, and not the recipient of the greatest of rides, he was just beginning to stay on, and had gone into second place when falling. He got back on track last time with a facile win at Thurles and if back to the form that saw him beat Djakadam by 7L and Cue Card by 26L in Grade1 chases at Punchestown and Aintree last April, this five times winner at the top Grade, looks to have an awful lot going for him.

A wind operation and a change to front running tactics has transformed Alan King’s 9yo Smad Place. He was hugely impressive when making all to win the Hennessy by 12L. Held up in the King George he was a disappointing 4th,but reverting to front running he again impressed when taking the BetBright chase over the course in January. He Probably needs to find 10lbs from somewhere to win, but coming from this yard that is not impossible.

Last years third, Road To Riches, seems to be the forgotten horse of the race. The apple of his trainer’s eye, he ran a great race last year and given good ground he could spring a surprise.

Selection: Don Cossack

E.W. : Vautour

Grimthorpe Chase handicap 3m2f Doncaster

As a Grand National trial the Grimthorpe has been pretty significant, providing three winners of the Aintree Spectacular, Ben Nevis, Corbiere, and Amberleigh House. It requires a touch of class to carry big weights with only two winners, the very talented duo, Cloudy Lane and Grey Abbey managing a burden over 11st in recent renewals. All recent winners have boasted decent form in their penultimate contests, with the exception of last years victor, the 11yo Wayward Prince, who had the unflattering figures of F-6PP before his name. Age isn’t a significant factor with winners coming from the 8-11yo age bracket over the last decade, but stamina has been of paramount importance. Doncaster on the face of it isn’t a testing course but these handicap chases tend to be run with the throttle out, and if they go for home from the four furlong marker it takes a strong stayer to win. Previous successful protagonists with contenders at the weekend are Kim Bailey, who won way back in 1994, Paul Nicholls (2000) and Nicky Henderson (2010). Having been in the racing Doldrums for many years, since the halcyon days of March 1995, when taking the Champion Hurdle on the Tuesday with Alderbrook and the Gold Cup two days later with Master Oats, Kim Baileys fortunes have taken a very welcome turn for the better in recent seasons, and he fields the likely favourite for Saturday’s contest.

His 8yo The Last Samurai was no slouch when trained by Donald McCain, last year winning three of his fives starts, and he has continued to progress under his new handler. He is now on a mark of 149, 12lbs higher than when leaving the Cheshire yard. Last time out (27 Dec Kempton 3m Gd-soft) he showed a nice blend of speed and stamina when quickening nicely after the last, he ran on well to win comfortably off a mark of 140. This was a £25,000 contest run at a decent clip so despite the form not working out I suppose the 9lb rise to 149 is justified. He is certainly prominent in most ante post markets for the Aintree Spectacular so should be to the fore off his new mark.

Charlie Longsdon’s 8yo stayer, Drop Out Joe is another on a sharp upward trajectory, and is now on a mark 18lbs higher than when winning off 133 at Chepstow (2m7 1/2f Good) last October. He went on to take the Badger Ales chase in November at Wincanton (3m1f soft), staying on well to beat Royal Palladium by 1/2L off a mark of 143. He is obviously a much improved performer since coming second in this last year, off a mark of 132, when a well backed 9/2. He does seem to have it all to do off a 19lbs higher mark, but in his favour he has won on all three occasions following a decent break, and with the Longsdon stable going well is considered.

The stable also runs the 7yo Coologue and if turning up, this will be his fourth consecutive course appearance. He has run well on all three previous occasions particularly last time when going down by 3 1/2L, off a mark of 139, to the useful Ziga Boy, who was receiving 6lbs (3m Good). He was staying on nicely that day and had that good yardstick Buywise 1/2L behind in third, so on only a 2lbs higher mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st9lbs is well worth considering.

Alan King’s 8yo Sego Success was an impressive winner over the course (3miles) off a mark of 139 in December, indeed he looked as if he could go around again, and was subsequently sent off the 7/1 fav for the Gd3 3m5f chase at Warwick five weeks later. In what was a ludicrously fast start for such a marathon he came a cropper at the second. His shrewd trainer wisely avoided a marathon slog in the Haydock mud a few weeks ago so comes here a fresh horse only 7lbs higher than for that impressive win on his last visit.

Nicky Henderson’s Bears Affair is well suited by a flat left handed track on good ground and a repeat of his Aintree win (3m1f) last May would make him interesting. He had Drop Out Joe 3 3/4L back in 4th and meets him on a stone better terms. The winner did have the benefit of Freddie Mitchell’s 7lbs claim, and the fourth horse has improved since, but the Henderson runner still looks reasonably treated.

Paul Nicholls Grand National hope, the 8yo Wonderful Charm will be well served by better ground than he raced on at Cheltenham last time out (Dec11 3m 2f Soft). He was a well beaten 2nd off a mark of 159, 17L behind the winner Aachen, to whom he was conceding 31lbs. As the winner was just pipped off a mark of 146 next time, and considering Wonderful Charms preference for a drier surface, the run can be considered in a very positive light, so Saturday’s mark of 158 looks fair. Three times a winner at Gd2 and Cl1 level, he has that touch of class that may enable him to become the first since Grey Abbey in 2004 to defy top weight of 11st12lbs.

Selection : Wonderful Charm

E.W. : Sego Success