888Sport Scilly Isles Novices Chase (Grade1) 2m4f Sandown Saturday

sandown 888Last week’s selection in the galliard homes.com Cleeve Hurdle, Paisley Park, proved, in no uncertain fashion, that he is the horse we strongly suspected he might be, when hosing up in the 3m Grade2 heat. Always travelling well in mid division, he needed a little encouragement from the saddle after three out, but made easy progress between the last two, led before the final flight, and showed the runner up, West Approach a clean pair of heels up the Cheltenham Hill. He won by 12L and had the 3rd horse, Black Op, (our EW suggestion) a further 2L back in third. He was superbly ridden by Aidan Coleman, who maintained his 100% record(4/4) on the son of Oscar, and connections will surely be looking forward to Cheltenham’s Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle with some confidence, particularly as both Big Buck and Thistlecrack won “The Cleeve”on their way to Cheltenham glory in recent years. Indeed a strict interpretation of Saturday’s race would give Paisley Park a rating in the low 170’s, which would have been good enough to have won every renewal of The Stayers since Big Bucks last victory in 2012. Unfortunately the bookmaking fraternity aren’t blind to his talent, and have made him their 7/2 Fav for Cheltenham, but with the promise of more to come from the apple of Ms Lavelle’s eye, perhaps even that represents some value.

Unlike The Cleeve Hurdle, The Scilly Isle Chase hasn’t been much of a guide to further success at Cheltenham, but both of the last two winners, Terrefort and Top Notch did finish runners up in The JLT at The Festival. Both were trained by the master of Seven Barrows, Nicky Henderson, who was notching his 5th victory in the race when the former won last year’s renewal, all of which has to make the  sole contender from his powerful yard, Ok Corral, of interest.

A 9yo son of Mahler, Ok Corral has only had 9 runs under rules, and has won 5 of them, including both his starts over fences. Very lightly raced, he obviously has had some fitness issues, but coming from the same family as that fantastic chaser,
Tidal Bay, connections have persevered and their patience is beginning to be rewarded as he showed himself to be a chaser of some potential at Warwick 3 weeks ago. Jumping well over the tricky 3 mile course, he showed plenty of pace, and came home a comfortable 6L clear of the 143 rated, Secret Investor. He shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the drop back to 2m4f as he had the speed to win 2 of his 3 NHF races, (2nd to the talented Yorkhill in the third) all over 2 miles, and also won a Novices Hurdle over the same trip. He has won twice going right handed so Sandown’s clockwise track shouldn’t be an issue and I will be surprised if there isn’t more to come from the 9yo.

Also racing in the same colours, (JP McManus, green and gold hoops) is the Philip Hobbs trained, 6yo, Defi Du Seuil and he also looks an animal of some potential. He lost nothing in defeat last time, going down by 1 1/4L to Saturday’s opponent,
Lostintranslation, at Cheltenham on New Years Day. A winner seven times over hurdles, including three times at the top level, this son of the super National Hunt Stallion,
Voix Du Nord, has only run 3 times over fences, (was quite impressive winning his second race at right handed Exeter) and meets his Cheltenham conqueror on 3 lbs better terms so it should be close between them.

Colin Tizzard’s, Lostintranslation’s form, also ties in closely with the warren Greatrex trained mare, La Bague Au Roi. She beat him by 1 1/2L on his Seasonal Debut at Newbury in November, and 3 weeks later, meeting for the second time, the Tizzard horse was going ominously well when hitting the third last so hard he broke the fence.
He nevertheless continued, but finished a well beaten 3rd, 13L behind the mare. We shall never know what might have been but there doesn’t seem to be a lot between them.

Warren Greatrex must be extremely happy with his super mare as she continued her winning run next time, winning The Grade1 Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. This was a super effort, beating the boys, and if she turns up in the same form, with that very useful 7lbs Mares Allowance, she will be difficult to beat. A word of caution though, she seems to preserve her best for the first half of the season.

kim bailey trainerThe Kim Bailey trained 6yo, Vinndication, has won all of his 6 starts, (all going right handed). He achieved a rating of 149 in his 4 Hurdle races (beat the exciting Champ giving him 6lbs, and the 150 rated, Western Ryder, by 3L) and has looked even better in his two outings over fences. He won a minor affair at Carlisle in November, and 33 days ago, jumping soundly, comfortably beat the now 149 rated, Jerrysback, in an Ascot Grade2, (2m5f Soft). The unbeaten son of Vinnie Roe, must have Kim dreaming of the glory days of 1995, when he won the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook, and The Gold Cup with Master Oats. Such thoughts may be a little fanciful, but there’s no denying that Mr Bailey has a very talented individual in his care.

Selection  : Vinndication
EW.            : Ok Corral

John Gray

Galliardhomes Cleeve Hurdle 3miles Cheltenham Saturday

Cheltenham RacecourseFollowers of the Oddsguru Blog who backed our EW suggestion, Wakanda, (odds of 16/1 available when first advised) will have left the Merseyside track on good terms with themselves, having seen Sue Smiths 10yo, winning The Peter Marsh Chase
by 1 1/2L from our other selection, Robinsfirth, (Exacta paid 52/1). Wakanda stayed on well and must come into the Aintree picture, but Colin Tizzard’s runner up ran in snatches, and despite rallying, and running on strongly, didn’t seem suited by the track. The Milbourne Port handler will be hoping for better luck when Thistlecrack’s half brother, West Approach, tackles Saturday’s Cleeve Hurdle, and will be hoping that the 9yo can emulate his more famous sibling’s victory in 2017.

Having been campaigned over fences in his previous ten outings, (won twice) West Approach reverted to hurdles for the first time since being pulled up in an Aintree Grade1 in April 2017, and ran a most promising race. Starting at odds of 40/1 for the Grade1 JLT Hurdle over 3miles at Ascot (Soft) 5 weeks ago, he travelled strongly throughout, and was only headed after the last by Saturday’s opponent, the exciting Paisley Park, who went on to win by 2L. Obviously he has a bit to find with the winner, and his Cheltenham record isn’t great, (0/12) but that was an excellent effort at Ascot, and coming from this yard, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Devon trainer, Nick Williams, won the contest for the 2nd time last year with Agrapart, and will be hoping the same animal can provide him with a 3rd success on Saturday. Clearly best on testing ground, he came home 3L ahead of Saturday’s opponent, Wholestone, on going described as heavy in last year’s renewal. The 8yo son of Martaline had just the one further outing last term, losing by 2 1/4L at odds of 4/7 to Donna’s Diamond at Haydock in February. He has also failed to shine in both outings this season, but he has a decent record at Prestbury Park (2/4), and with the yard in top form is difficult to ignore, particularly if the ground is testing.

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park has been something of a revelation since teaming up with top jock, Aidan Coleman this season. The lightly raced 7yo son of Oscar only managed a single victory, ( Class4 Hereford Novices)) from his first 5 starts, but has won all 3 since Coleman took over steering duties this term. emma lavelle oddsguruVictories on Good ground at Aintree and Haydock preceded a first Grade1 for both horse and rider in The JLT over Ascot’s 3 miles on soft 5 weeks ago. He is now rated 16 lbs higher than he was at the end of last season and this observer for one, doubts very much if that is the limit of this exciting horse’s progress.

Sue Smith who won with Patriarch Express 14 years ago, is also represented by a young horse to fire the imagination, and get the pulse racing, the 6yo, Midnight Shadow. Always held in high regard at the West Yorkshire yard, he started to prove that esteem well founded when winning Scotland’s valuable Champion Hurdle, (2m Handicap Good) last April. Stepped up to 2 1/2miles for his last 2 races, he won an Aintree Handicap off a mark of 141 in early December, and 3 weeks later showed dramatic improvement when putting Wholestone and Old Guard firmly in their place in the Grade2 Relkeel Hurdle over Saturday’s  Course, earning a rating of 158. There was no fluke about the Cheltenham win and the Sky looks the limit for this exciting horse, but there has to be a slight doubt about Saturday’s trip. His sire, Midnight Legend is a strong influence for stamina, but his dam, Holy Smoke, is by the sprinter, Statoblast, and his full brother, Unify, was best at 2 1/2m. That said the dam did win over 10f on soft ground at Doncaster, and Midnight Shadow certainly wasn’t stopping up the hill at Cheltenham last time.

The Tom George trained, 8yo, Black Op, has only raced 9 times under rules, winning a NH flat race, and two heats over hurdles, including a Grade 1 at Aintree last April. Clearly very talented, he ran a great race in the Grade1 Ballymore at The Festival, finishing 2nd, 2 3/4L behind Samcro, where he had the subsequent Grade1 winner, Next Destination, 5L back in third. Having failed to make much impression in his first two attempts over fences, he reverts to the smaller obstacles and he could find the step up to 3 miles, (won his sole PTP over 3 miles by 25L) right up his street.

Selection : Paisley Park
EW.            : Black Op

John Gray

Peter Marsh Chase (Grade2) Handicap 3m1 1/2f Haydock

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Gold Cup - Cheltenham - 1981First run in 1981, 4 of the first 9 winners went on to collect Cheltenham’s Blue Riband,
Little Owl (pictured), Bregawn, The Thinker, and Jodami. However subsequent renewals have seen The Peter Marsh become the preserve of tough, established handicappers, and it is hard to envisage any of this year’s contenders (with the possible exception of Nicky Henderson’s recent French import, Valtor, who has ambitions in that direction) troubling the judge at Prestbury Park in March. West Yorkshire trainer, Sue Smith, with 3 successes in the contest, has the best record, and her sole entry this year,
Wakanda, is certainly tough, and wont fail for lack of experience.

A son of Westerner, and a half brother to the useful Irish pair, Shanahan’s Turn, and
Kings Song, Wakanda is certainly bred for the job and has won 7 of his 25 starts over fences. The 10yo put in an excellent effort 12 months ago when winning Doncaster’s valuable Sky Bet Handicap Chase off a mark of 145, staying on strongly, to get the better of Warriors Tale and the Nicky Henderson trained warm favourite, L’Ami Serge, in a close finish. His 2 subsequent efforts last term were disappointing, but both starts this season, 5th in a Wetherby Hurdle over an inadequate 2 miles, and a respectable 4th in a Grade3 Chase at the same venue 24 days ago, suggest that he may be nearing his peak. He is only 1lb higher than Doncaster on Saturday, and if turning up,
(also entered in next week’s Sky Bet Handicap) has to be seriously considered.

David Pipe won with the 12yo, Our Vic, 9 years ago, and fields 3 interesting looking contenders this time, Two 7yo’s, Ramses De Teillee, and Daklondike, plus the 10yo Vieux Lion Rouge.

david pipe trainer

David Pipe could travel to Haydock mob handed

While it is 23 years since a 7yo has won, both Ramses De Teillee and Daklondike have plenty to recommend them. The former, a winner of 3 of his 9 starts over fences put in a career best performance last time when going down by 1 1/4L to Elegant Escape in The Welsh Grand National 23 days ago, (Indeed might have won but for a bad mistake 4 out). He looks an improving stayer and may be capable of defying his 5lbs higher mark on Saturday. Daklondike has won 4 of his 8 starts, and also put in an excellent effort last time, sporting a visor for the first time, he won the 2m7f Tommy Whittle over the course 4 weeks ago. A length down at the last, he responded gallantly to Tom Scudamore’s driving, and ran on strongly on the heavy ground to beat Saturday’s opponent, Ballyarthur. He is 6 lbs higher at the weekend but should be well suited by the extra 2 1/2f, and as a course winner, (not every animal handles Haydock’s upright fences and clay surface) has plenty going for him.

The third runner from Pond House, the 10yo, Vieux Lion Rouge has become inconsistent. It is nearly 2 years since he last got his head in front where it matters. However, following wind surgery, he did run well to finish 2nd in The Beecher Chase, over the National fences on his reappearance, but then never looked at all interested  in The Welsh National 3 weeks later, where he was pulled up at the 20th. However, racing in the same colours as Daklondike, and as a double course winner, he is difficult to entirely dismiss.

Having joined Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard in mid November from France, the 10yo veteran of 51 races, Valtor, put up an amazing performance only 5 weeks later, winning a valuable Ascot Class1 Listed Handicap at odds of 33/1. Always travelling well within himself, and handling the British fences, which he was seeing for the first time, with aplomb, he came home 8L clear of Jammin Masters, with the 149 rated Benatar a further 1/2L back in third. A strict interpretation of the form I suppose justifies his 12lbs rise to 160, giving him top weight of 11-10 on Saturday, and if connections Cheltenham ambitions are to be entertained, a very prominent showing this weekend will be required.

The second Henderson runner, O O Seven was ending a 23 months drought when getting his head in front at Doncaster 5 weeks ago. Racing off a mark of 147 he stayed on well to beat Go Conquer by a head. There probably isn’t that much more to come from the 8yo, and off a 5 lbs higher mark on Haydock’s holding surface, Henderson’s best chance of landing the prize lies with his recent French import.

Colin Tizzard won last year’s renewal with The Dutchman, and relies this time on the lightly raced 10yo, Robinsfirth. A winner of 2 of his 6 starts over fences, he hasn’t been seen since winning a Cheltenham Grade3 off a mark of 142 13 months ago. He beat the now 137 rated Shanroe Santos, to whom he was conceding 15 lbs, by 2L, which makes his mark of 146 on Saturday look generous. He has solid course form, finishing 2nd on his only other Haydock appearance, goes well after a break, and with the talented Tizzard Team doing the training, the son of Flemensfirth has plenty going for him.

Selection : Robinsfirth
EW.           : Wakanda   (If Abs. Daklondike)

Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle Tips 2m5f Kempton Saturday

kempton park tacesOur selection last week, Elixir De Nutz, put up a really solid effort when winning the  Grade1Tolworth Hurdle. He had to do the donkey work, out front on the testing ground, and when joined by Grand Sancy at the last, kept on bravely to win by 1/2L. Last year’s winner of The Tolworth, Supasundae, went on to take the Supreme Novices Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, but on a strict interpretation of last Saturday’s form, Elixir De Nutz will have to improve quite a bit to repeat the feat. However that is by no means a forlorn hope, and this  tough and likeable animal, who has won twice at Prestbury Park, certainly deserves his position towards the top of the market for the Cheltenham heat.

The ground at Kempton Park at the time of writing is described as Good, and Gary Moore will be hoping it stays that way for his charge, and the current market leader,
Kloud Gate, in Saturday’s feature. The ex French 7yo joined Gary last March, and was a pretty abject failure in his first 4 hurdles culminating in a poor 4th in a Warwick Novices in May for the West Sussex handler. However the penny must have dropped over the summer, because he hacked up on his 5th attempt. Starting at 4/6, he easily won a Leicester Class4 off a mark of 108, (2m4f Gd-Fm) at the beginning of December, and followed up 8 days later with another facile win in a Doncaster Class4,(2m3 1/2f Gd) carrying a 7lbs penalty. He has been raised another 12lbs to 127, and is up in Class, which at first glance makes Saturday’s task look pretty daunting, but in view of the fact that this staying son of Astronomer Royal, has performed really well, including at the top level, on the flat in France, and has earned in this country a current rating of 90, it can be argued that he looks well treated.

The Paul Nicholls trained 6yo, Darling Maltaix, put up a career best performance when stepped up to Saturday’s trip for the first time. Racing off a mark of 122 he easily won an Ascot Class3 (2m5 1/2f Soft) looking as if he could go around again. Raised a severe looking 12lbs tempers enthusiasm, but this son of the excellent NH stallion Voix Du Nord, (sire of Kemboy, Taquin Du Seuil, Vibrato Valtat, Vaniteux, Vroom Vroom Mag, and Defi Du Seuil to name but a few), is from a yard in rude health, and it won’t come as a surprise if he does defy the 12lb increase.

Another who has improved for a step up in trip, is the Philip Hobbs trained Cotswold Way. He has won all 3 starts this term, (all on good ground) and was quietly impressive last time in a Leicester Class3,(2m4 1/2f Gd-Fm) where, racing too keenly at the head of affairs, he had to make all. He won by 3 1/4L off a mark of 127, and only 4lbs higher on Saturday could be interesting, particularly if the rain stays away.

7lbs Claimer, Chester Williams is 3/3 this season on the improving 5yo,
Erick Le Rouge, and rode an excellent race last time to beat Saturday’s opponent, Mellow Ben, over course and distance. He got a good jump out of the son of
Gentle wave at the last, and vigorously kept him up to his work to win by 3/4L. He meets the runner up on 2lbs worse terms but as the younger and less experienced horse he should have the greater potential for improvement and confirm the form.

The career of the 5yo Star of Lanka has taken a definite upward turn since joining
Warren Greatrex’s yard last November. He has won 2 of his 3 starts for the stable, and last time held on to beat Geordie B by a Shd giving him 6lbs,(Hereford 2m4f Soft). As the runner up beat a 125 rated animal by 4L next time out, Star of Lanka’s mark of 130 on Saturday looks very fair, and if he gets Saturday’s trip, (not guaranteed on pedigree) could be interesting.

The Nicky Henderson trained Doux Pretendre didn’t seem to quite get home last time over 3 miles in a Cheltenham Grade2, but previously won an Ascot Class 2 Novices over Saturday’s trip. peter bowen trainerMind you, that heat also seemed to stretch his stamina, but at easier, flat, Kempton, the distance shouldn’t be a problem. The Ascot form has worked out well, with the runner up, Stoney Mountain,winning easily at Southwell next time. It is also worth noting that Stoney Mountain had beaten the 145 Aye Aye Charlie prior to the Ascot heat at level weights, form if taken at face value, makes the Henderson horse look very well treated on his mark of 134.

Rated 77 on the flat, Lord Napier, has done well over hurdles for top Welsh handler, Peter Bowen (pictured). He won 3 of his 6 starts last term, and has acquitted himself well in both his races this season. Racing over 2 miles on each occasion, and looking as if he needed further, he finished a respectable 4th at Wincanton and 6th at Ascot last time. Saturday’s trip will be the furthest he has raced over, but he did win a Sedgefield Novices last term over 2m4f, and being by the great Galileo, he is a full brother to the useful stayer, the John Gosden trained Zenon, all of which augurs well for the step up in trip.

Selection : Lord Napier
EW.           : Darling Maltaix

Unibet Tolworth Novices Hurdle (Grade1) 2miles Sandown

unibet newburyYou really had to feel for young trainer, Ruth Jefferson, when her stable star, Waiting Patiently, lost his 6 race unbeaten record over fences in cruel fashion in last week’s King George. Held up out the back, he had jumped the first eight fences in impeccable style, and travelling really well within himself, was badly hampered by the fall of Bristol De Mai at the 9th where he unshipped pilot, Hughes. However, as the old proverb says, “every cloud has a silver lining” and any followers of Oddsguru’s EW selection, Clan Des Obeaux, (advised at around 20/1) will have been on good terms with themselves. He won the race in quite impressive fashion, and put himself firmly in The Cheltenham Gold Cup picture. Connections of many of Saturday’s Grade1 Tolworth Hurdle contenders, will also be dreaming of Cheltenham glory, none more so than the
JP McManus team, who have 4 entries at the time of writing, including the current market leader, Rathhill.

By the strong stayer, Getaway, he finished a distant 2nd in his sole PTP but making his Rules debut at Newbury 17 days ago was quite impressive. Always travelling well on the heels of the leaders, he took it up a furlong out to win readily by 1 1/2L from Nordic, with the 136 rated favourite, Dashel Drasher a further 2 1/2L back in 4th. The ground at Newbury was soft, suggesting that stamina may be Rathhill’s forte, (out of a Milan mare he is from the same family as stayers, Bellshill and Foxbridge) and unless the ground comes up testing on Saturday, JP might have a better chance of landing the spoils with his easy Kempton winner, Epatante.

A son of No Risk At All, (best at 10f) he won 2 NHF flat races (including at Grade1 level) over 12f in France and was sent of the 8/15 Fav for his British debut at Kempton where the result was never in doubt, cantering home, 3 1/2L in front of the now rated, 117
Eye Up Rocky. Out of the Silver Rainbow mare, Kadjara, his pedigree strongly suggests that around 2miles will be his optimum trip, (hasn’t been entered for the 21f Ballymore Novices at Cheltenham in March) and could find Saturday’s trip ideal.

Colin Tizzard (pictured), who won with Finian’s Oscar 2 years ago runs the 140 rated Elixir De Nutz and this steadily progressive 5yo has won both his last 2 races. Having won a Cheltenham Grade 2 in November he was sent off a 6/5 Fav for a Class 3 at the same venue 3 weeks ago and obliged in pretty convincing fashion beating Jarveys Plate by
1 3/4L giving him 10lbs. colin tizzard newburyThe runner up underlined the form with an iimpressive 13L victory on New Years Day at Prestbury Park (20f) in a Class1 event, beating the Henderson hotpot, I Can’t Explain. Strong form indeed and we have yet to see the best of this son of Al Namix.

Paul Nicholls has won the Tolworth 4 times and has 2 entered, Southfield Stone and Grand Sancy. The former has won both starts over hurdles, last time at odds of 2/9. He won the Taunton Class 4 as a 2/9 shot should, but as the runner up had been beaten a total of 68L in his 2 previous races, we are little the wiser. However all he could do was beat what was put in front of him, and with the Ditcheat operation firing on all cylinders is hard to ignore. Grand Sancy has achieved more on the book but finishing 4th in an Ascot Handicap off a mark of 137 last time is unlikely to be good enough even if he gets his preferred good ground.

The Olly Murphy trained Brewin’Upastorm kept on well to finish 4L behind the exciting Champ in last week’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle and previously had won well at Huntingdon but will need to improve.

ben pauling newburyBen Pauling (pictured) has a very promising prospect with the well named Bright Forecast. The 5yo finished a distant 3rd in his only PTP but was a revelation when making his rules debut in a Newbury Class3 Maiden Hurdle in November. Starting at 20/1 in the 20 lrunner heat he got up close home, despite getting the last all wrong, to beat Sevarano a neck in a respectable time for the conditions, (Soft). Further progress was evident 10 days ago when he easily beat the ex flat horse Humble Hero conceding 6lbs. Making all in that Leicester Class 3 was a particularly meritorious performance, and the future is certainly looking “Bright” for the Pauling 5yo.

Selection : Elixir De Nutz   (If abs Apatante)
EW.           : Bright Forecast

John Gray