Almanzor Primed For Qipco Champion Stakes Glory

Almanzor looks the one in Saturday’s Qipco Champion Stakes
– A race first run in 1877 in which, over the next one hundred and forty years, the classic generation have had more than their fair share of success, but since the race was transferred from headquarters to Ascot in 2011 no three year old has managed to get his head in front. Sir Michael Stoute with two winners, Pilsudski 1997, and Kalinisi in 2000, has been the most successful of Saturday’s trainers, but one name, most conspicuous by its absence from the roll of honour, is one, Aidan Patrick O’Brien. However the Ballydoyle maestro, with four entries at the time of writing is attempting to fill in this glaring gap in his amazing CV, and as his 1000gns and Oaks winner, Minding, is more likely to run in the Qipco Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes, his best chance would seem to lie with the “Arc” heroine of 13 days ago, Found. She was probably a little unlucky when finishing second in this to Fascinating Rock last year, but it is significant that she was again beaten, fair and square over 10f, in the Irish Champion Stakes by Almanzor, prior to that superb Arc victory, and it may be that she now needs a full 12f to show her best. Indeed the French race, which was run in a really fast time strongly played to her undoubted stamina. However she is a really tough animal, as she showed last year when, having finished second in this and the Arc, she went on to take the 12f Breeders Cup Turf only two weeks later, and as this is her time of year, her chance is certainly not easily dismissed.

The Dermot Weld trained Fascinating Rock won last year’s renewal by 1 1/4L and 1/2L from Found and Jack Hobbs, and indeed the score between the Weld 5yo and the filly stands at 2-1 in his favour, emphasizing what a top class animal the son of Fastnet Rock is. He is a big gross horse who needs to get his toe in and if he gets his conditions at the weekend he must have serious prospects of adding to his master trainer’s impressive Ascot record.

Having won his only 2yo race, and hacked up by 12L on his reappearance as a 3yo, Jack Hobbs looked like an animal going places, and so it proved, finishing second in the Derby and winning the Irish equivalent by 5L. Following that honorable third in last year’s Champion Stakes he was put away for the season and reappeared in a 12f Newmarket Group 2 in April where he was sent off the 8/15 fav. He was pulled up, and a stress fracture to his pelvis was diagnosed. His hugely talented handler John Gosden, was firmly of the opinion that the son of Halling was immature as a 3yo, and that he would be more the finished article with another year on his back, so obviously that Newmarket setback was a blow. However on the positive side, horses do make full recoveries from this particular injury, and as he is an animal who obviously goes well fresh, the enforced holiday could prove to have been a blessing in disguise.

Sir Michael Stoute attempts to add to his two previous successes with the very lightly raced 3yo son of Galileo, Midterm, and it would come as no surprise at all if this beautifully bred animal figured very prominently on Saturday. He is out of that marvellous mare Midday who won six Group 1s, including an unprecedented three timer in Goodwoods 10f Group1 Nassau stakes, in her fabulous racing career. An impressive winner of both 2yo starts, Midterm confirmed the promise shown, when winning a Sandown Group3 on his reappearance and was sent off a warm order for the Dante Stakes. Unfortunately he sustained an injury during the course of the race, but for which he may well have started favourite for the Derby itself. However he showed that no lasting damage had been caused when finishing a close second in a Chantilly Group2 four months later. This beautifully bred animal’s career has yet to seriously take off but Saturday could well see him in the departure lounge.

J.C. Rouget’s 3yo Colt Almanzor is a hugely progressive animal. He won the French Derby, (10 1/2f) as an unconsidered 20/1 shot at the beginning of June, and followed up with a comfortable win in a Deauville Group2 eleven weeks later. It was last time though, which showed what giant strides he had  taken, when he cruised to success in the highly competitive Irish Champion Stakes 33 days ago. Second last of the 12 runner field  at the two furlong marker, he was switched to the outer, and made rapid headway to get to the leader, Found, and effortlessly went past the filly inside the last 100yds. With strong reservations on breeding, (his sire Wotton Basset never won beyond 7f) he didn’t take up his engagement, in the Prix de L’Arc, quite rightly in my opinion. He should arrive at the start on Saturday a fresh animal, and is going to be hard to beat.

Selection: Almanzor

E.W.       : Midterm

Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes Odds Tips

Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes Odds Tips

Sir Michael Stoute’s Arab Spring is fancied to go  close this weekend in Haydock’s showpiece race.

Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes Group3 10 1/2f Haydock Saturday
– First run in 1986, Saturday will see the 28th renewal (no race 2002) and the classic generation, with sixteen victories, including last year, when Roger Varian’s Intilaaq won at the prohibitive odds of 1/3, have had much the best of the argument. Sir Michael Stoute, who is enjoying something of a renaissance after a number of poor seasons, has been the most successful handler with three wins, interestingly, all with older animals. Both Mark Johnston and Saeed bin Suroor have both hit the back of the net twice.

The sole Stoute representative this time is the 6yo entire, Arab Spring, and it is intriguing that the yard is persevering with this clearly fragile horse. He has had only the eight runs in his entire career, the most recent 436 days ago when he finished a neck behind Western Hymn in a Sandown Group3. He is an animal that clearly goes well fresh, and a repeat of last terms first time out performance when he won convincingly from that good yardstick Pether’s Moon, in a Newbury Group3, would see him go close.

Last year the Oddsguru went for Roger Varian’s Intilaaq.

The Mark Johnston trained 5yo Fire Fighting ran a brave race last week at Goodwood holding on by a neck in a Cl2 handicap off a mark of 102. Fire Fighting, like the men who do, is a tough and brave individual, and is clearly in good heart, but he is fully exposed, and it is hard to see where the further 12lbs improvement necessary to win this is to come from.

The Godolphin operation has won this twice before, with the 4yo’s Hunters Light, (2012) and Tamayaz, (1996). They have two entered this time, Basem and Scottish, and their best chance would seem to lie with the latter, a 4yo gelding by Teofilo who looks very progressive. He was having only his ninth outing when comfortably taking a 10f listed race at Newbury on Gd/Fm three weeks ago, where he looked well up to Group3 level. He had finished 3rd on his reappearance seven weeks earlier, when beaten a neck and 4 1/2L by Time Test and Western Hymn, which does give him plenty to find with Arab Spring, but judging by the Newbury run, plenty of progress has been made in the meantime, and he is short listed.

John Gosden’s 3yo gelding Foundation was sold as a yearling for the considerable sum of €190,000, and it looked money well spent when he won his first three races as a 2yo, including at Group2 level. He was slightly disappointing when only managing second on Gd /Sft on his reappearance over a mile, but, stepped up to 10 1/2f in the Dante at York on faster ground, he did well to finish a neck and 1 1/2L behind the top class pair Wings of Desire and Deauville. Sent off the 4/1 fav on soft ground for the French Derby he trailed in last of the sixteen runners so does seem to need decent ground. Given good or faster ground at the weekend this two times course winner would be dangerous to ignore, particularly as he avoids any penalties for his 2yo success at group 2 level.

Roger Charlton runs the highly consistent 4yo colt by Galileo, Decorated Knight. He has never been out of the first four in all ten racecourse appearances, winning four of them. He was particularly impressive last time in a Leopardstown Group3 (1m1f Gd/Fm) 23 days ago when firmly putting Royal Hunt Cup winner Portage in his place. He does have to carry a 4lbs penalty for the Leopardstown win, but looks a highly progressive type and it will come as no surprise to see him competing at a higher level in the future.

Richard Fahey’s 7yo veteran Gabrial has been plying his trade at Group1 and 2 level over a mile, and considering the standard of the opposition has not disgraced himself. He finished 5th, in the Group1 Sussex Stakes last week just 3 1/2L behind the best miler around, The Gurkha, and in his previous run, a Group2 at Ascot, he was only 2 3/4L and a short head behind Mutakayyef and last week’s impressive winner of the Group2 Qatar Lennox Stakes, Dutch Connection. He has been campaigned over further in the past without success but perhaps now a step up in trip might just suit this enigmatic type.

David Lanigan steps his 3yo handicapper Gershwin up to Group class for the first time and he does have a progressive profile. He won off a mark of 83 in May and was probably a tad unlucky to be caught in the last stride off 93 six weeks later. Considerably more is required at the weekend but this very well bred Colt might just be up to it. By prolific winning sire Shamardal, his listed winning dam is a half sister to the Group1 and 2 winning Giofa, and to the listed winner Gomati, so it would be no great surprise to see Lanigan’s Colt make significant progress.

 Selection: Decorated Knight. (if abs. Scottish)

E.W.   : Arab Spring.

bet365 Gold Cup Chase Tips

bet365 Gold Cup Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday – I hope you backed last week’s selection, Vicente, in the Scottish Grand National. What a great race he ran, always travelling comfortably, just off the pace, he stayed on really strongly to outstay Alvarado and See You At Midnight and won with something in hand at the rewarding odds of 14/1. Only seven, he is going to be a force in staying chases next season, and is one to bear in mind come Aintree in April. Our E.W. selection, Royale Knight, also ran a cracker and looked a possible winner approaching the second last, but could only run on at one pace to hold onto 4th place at odds of 20/1 in the 28 runner field. All in all a very satisfactory result! Saturday’s contest looks just as difficult a puzzle to solve but here are some suggestions.

Peter Bowen’s 8yo, Henri Parry Morgan has only run 5 times over fences, and having finished last in the first of them, he got rid of his jockey in the second. However his last three runs have been much more promising, winning easily at Chepstow (2m7 1/2f) at the end of Febuary off a mark of 122, and then trotting up at Uttoxeter three weeks later in a very good time for the conditions, off a 13lbs higher mark. Last time he took a step up in class when finishing a good second in a Grade1 3m chase at Aintree where he had the talented Blaklion 3 1/2l back in third. He is clearly an animal on the up, and as his dam is by that great influence for stamina, Over The River, even more can be expected tackling Saturday’s trip. Although up 14lbs since his Uttoxeter,stroll in the park, he is well worth considering.

Neill Mulholland has three entered at the time of writing and two of them, Carole ‘s Destrier, and The Young Master are of definite interest. The former has had a very light season having run only three times since last April, and put up a very telling performance in the second of them, when registering a comfortable course and distance victory last December off a mark of 146 under Noel Fehilly. His talented trainer has only run him once since, avoiding the heavy winter ground, (p/u at the festival) and arrives here a well handicapped (151) and fresh horse. One for the short list!

His stable companion The Young Master had the 2014 Badger Ales trophy taken off him due to a technicality but went on to win an Ascot handicap off a mark of 144 the following month. He hasn’t hit the back of the net since but did finish a staying on 3rd at the festival, (3m1f) albeit beaten 16L. He won a 3m3f heavy ground hurdle race as a 5yo so could be well suited by Saturday’s trip and off a mark of 148 looks well treated. Presumably he will be ridden by his part owner, the very useful 3lbs claiming amateur R. Waley-Cohen, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 12lbs. Well suited by a right hand track he has plenty to recommend him.

With Nicholls and Mullins going head to head for the trainers championship the outcome of Saturday’s contest could be of huge significance, and at the time of writing they account for seven of the weekend contenders between them. Nicholls best chance would seem to lie with the 8yo Southfield Theatre who races off a mark of 150, and if successful would give the Ditcheat handler his fifth success in the race. This time last year he looked an animal going places with three chase victories and a second to Don Poli in the RSA to his credit, but this season things haven’t gone to plan. He was sent off a 7/2 chance in a three runner affair at Sandown in November, but after a poor round of jumping finished a remote last, 44L behind Coneygree. He again finished last in his next race, this time 56L behind Don Poli at Aintree in December. He was making some progress last time when brought down at the Festival, and perhaps Master Trainer Nicholls has worked the Oracle and it’s possible we will see a much better performance on Saturday. However it is still hard to understand why the bookmakers have made him favourite and is impossible to recommend.

The Irish record in this isn’t great with only three victories in the last twenty years, but anything Willie Mullins runs has to be taken seriously and his 10yo Sir Des Champs would be of interest if turning up. This triple Grade1 winner fell at the Chair in the National but wouldn’t have found the soft ground ideal. He has won five of his seven races going right handed, is not badly handicapped and on what is likely to be decent ground at the weekend could easily outrun his odds of 25/1.

Selection : The Young Master

E.W. : Sir Des Champs (if abs) Carole’s Destrier

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

Betfred Grand National Trial 3m4f handicap Haydock

Having won three of the last ten renewals, Lucinda Russell’s sole entry, One For Arthur, has to be of interest. The 7yo, who has had only four races over the larger obstacles, can be excused a poor performance last time at Cheltenham (2m5f). Unsuited by the Prestbury Park undulations and over a trip too short, he finished a well beaten fifth. However his two chases at flat, left handed Kelso were more promising, yielding a win, and a third place, behind Seeyouatmidnight who is very prominent in the market for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was beaten 21L but was conceding 5lbs to Seeyouatmidnight,so it can be considered a decent effort. The previous Russell winners were aged 8,9, and 11, but three 7yo’s have won this in the last seventeen years so age shouldn’t count against him. A course winner over the smaller obstacles on heavy ground he is racing off a mark on Saturday 3lbs lower than his hurdles mark suggesting this promising young stayer has plenty in his favour.

The Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste had disappointed in his previous five races (two of them over the Aintree fences) since winning at Sandown in January 2015, but hinted at better things to come last time. Held up and seemingly struggling, he started to progress from the 17th fence and stayed on to finish third behind La Reve in a Sandown handicap racing off a mark of 150, two weeks ago. Running off the same mark at the weekend, he will have top weight of 11st10lbs to carry, but it didn’t stop his superb trainer winning with Shotgun Willy carrying the same weight in 2003, and indeed Silver By Nature also carried 11st10lbs to victory five years ago. With odds as long as 16/1 available at the time of writing, this winner of six of his nineteen starts over fences does look tempting.

David Pipe’s 8yo Broadway Buffalo ran a fine race in a valuable Grade1 3m hurdle at Auteuil last November finishing 5th, at level weights only 5L behind the winner, the top class Thousand Stars. Considering it was his first run since finishing 6th in the Scottish National last April the performance was particularly meritorious. He is two from three over the course having collected a 2m7f soft ground handicap hurdle in 2014 and the same years renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase. Indeed he might well have brought up the hat trick but for falling at the 16th when still travelling strongly in last years Betfred Grand National Trial. Stamina won’t be an issue as he has finished second in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival. Off a mark only 4lbs higher than last year he has to be on the shortlist.

The Pipe yard is also represented by the 7yo Vieux Lion Rouge who also boasts winning chase form over the course. However he was being pushed along when unseating at the third last over 3m2f at Cheltenham last time, and his stable companion would seem to possess the better stamina credentials for this.

Sandy Thomson’s 11yo Harry The Viking has run well on all three course appearances, and ran a super race when going down by a head in last years renewal racing off a mark of 124. Remarkably for an 11yo it can be argued that he even trumped that when running second to Rigadin de Beauchene again over the course (3m3 31/2f hvy) in December off a mark of 128. Running off the same mark on Saturday it will come as no surprise to see this hardy veteran again involved at the business end when plenty of the others have cried “enough”.

Alan Kings 8yo Sego Success looked a strong stayer when winning a 3m Doncaster handicap off a mark of 139 in December, and duly went off a well backed 7/1 favourite to take a 3m5f Warwick Grade 3 chase off a mark of 146 five weeks later. In a strange start to a marathon race on heavy ground,they tore off the blocks, and the King horse hit the deck at the second. Always thought of as a stayer and held in high regard his best days are surely in front of him so again racing off 146 is another worth considering.

The Jonjo O’Neill trained 8yo Spookydooky didn’t jump a fence in public until finishing a well beaten 4th in an Aintree novices chase last November. He showed remarkable improvement nineteen days later taking a 2m6 1/2f Newbury novices handicap chase off a mark of 134 and again ran well next time finishing second to Seventh Sky off a mark of 142 on heavy ground at Haydock in December. He had Cloudy too, who went on to win the valuable Peter Marsh Chase, (was Oddsguru’s e.w. Selection) next time out, 6L behind, and now meets that horse on 11lbs better terms, so does look well handicapped. The question is will he stay? It has to be said that he hasn’t looked as if he was crying out for further in any of his races to date, but his pedigree, on both sides has plenty of stamina in it and he has won a 3m and a 3m 1/2f hurdle race, so while the omens are positive the jury remains out.

Selection: Broadway Buffalo

E.W. : Unioniste

Peter Marsh Chase Haydock Odds

Last week’s E.W. Selection, Midnight Prayer gave us a great run for our money and must surely have collected but for making that “howler” at the third last in such testing conditions. However it was only his second outing of the campaign and with further improvement certain, he is one to keep in mind for the big one at Aintree inApril. Saturday’s Peter Marsh Chase is going to be run on similar attritional ground so once again stamina is going to be of paramount importance.

First run in 1981 it certainly attracted some high class animals in its early years, with no less than four Cheltenham Gold Cup winners featuring on the roll of honour in its first ten renewals. It can safely be said that none of Saturday’s contestants will be troubling the Prestbury Park judges in the big one on March 18th, but nevertheless plenty of decent animals have won this in recent years, with seven of the last ten winners racing off a mark of 140 or higher. Indeed Cloudy Lane collected in 2006 off a mark of 155, carrying 11st10lbs, demonstrating that weight has been no bar to success. Course form has been a most significant factor, with ten of the last seventeen winners boasting a previous course win. It hasn’t been a race for the younger brigade as we have to go back to 1996 to find a winner younger than eight, (Scotton Banks). The McCain yard, with two wins, has the best recent record, but Sue Smiths achievement of saddling a winner and five placed horses from nine runners in the last nine renewals is certainly worth noting, and makes her 10yo, Cloudy Two of considerable interest.

Unsuccessful since winning a Wetherby Grade3 handicap off a mark of 148 over two years ago Cloudy Too has been disappointing since, but showed signs of a revival over the course six weeks ago. He was in the process of running a decent race, travelling nicely in second behind the eventual winner Seventh Sky, when blundering badly at the fourth last. To his credit he kept on for third place 13L behind the winner. But for the mistake he would certainly have finished a lot closer and meets the winner on 10lbs better terms so this previous course winner is certainly worth considering.

It is amazing to see the six times Grade1 hurdles winner, Reve de Sivola, who has been rated as high as 167 at his peak, racing off a mark of 139 in this different discipline, and if he puts in a performance within a stone of his best over the smaller obstacles, Saturday’s opponents might as well stay in their stables. However his ten attempts over fences to date, have yielded a score of zero, although he has put up some decent performances, getting placed in Festival handicaps at Cheltenham and Aintree and coming fourth in a Grade1 chase at Punchestown. He won’t be inconvenienced by Saturday’s heavy ground, and indeed the more pedestrian pace and easy fences may well help his fencing technique, and spark a revival in the old warriors chasing career.

Despite being only seven, the Paul Nicholl’s trained Virak has had plenty of chasing experience. He has contested ten chases, winning four of them and being placed in five of the other six, so perhaps his age shouldn’t be viewed as too much of a negative. In his last race, six weeks ago at Ascot, racing off a mark of 158, he looked a tad unlucky. He tried to challenge between the the two horses in front of him before the last, but failing to get through he had to switch right. Despite loss of momentum he stayed on strongly and was only beaten a length, with the third horse, Saturday’s opponent, Fingal Bay, 3/4L back in third. Hopefully he will be ridden again by Nicholl’s fine young claimer, Harry Cobden taking offa useful 7lbs giving him a racing weight of 11st3lbs. He handles the ground and is a previous course winner, so clearly has plenty going for him.

Considering it was only his third attempt over fences, Jonjo O’Neills Spookydooky put up a decent enough performance when finishing second to another of Saturday’s opponents, Seventh Sky, over the course six weeks ago, when racing offa mark of 142. Further progress can be expected from this animal whose pedigree is all about stamina, and meeting Seventh Sky on 9 lbs better terms, things should be much closer at the weekend. A slight reservation would be the poor current form of the Jackdaw’s Castle operation who are struggling for winners.

Selection : Virak.

E.W. : Cloudy too.

Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2ml 7f Saturday

Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2ml 7f Saturday

Saturday’s contest is run over obstacles based on the French hurdle design, which is similar to a plain fence but lower in height, and significantly, unlike the British design, are of very rigid and inflexible construction, so it comes as no surprise that many subsequent top chasers, such as Grand Crus and Dynaste have won the race, and Holywell and Synchronised have been placed.

David Pipe has won three of the ten renewals of the contest, but given the likely conditions at the weekend and the current low strike rate of the Nicholashayne operation his two representatives, Low Key, and Batavir are passed over. However the man with the second best record in the race, Nick Williams, who has hit the back of the net on two occasions, runs the six year old Tea for Two, and he isn’t so easy to dismiss.

He breezed up in the 21f Lanzarote hurdle last January off a mark of 134, winning by 16L, but was hit with a 19lbs rise for his trouble. Having disappointed in his next two races he has been cut some slack by the handicapper and raced with some promise, off a mark of 142 finishing sixth, on his reappearance at Chepstow six weeks ago. By Kayf Tara, Saturday’s 23f shouldn’t present any problems and again enjoying the benefit of Lizzie Kelly’s 5lbs claim he looks a well handicapped horse off his new mark of 141, only 7lbs higher than for his Lanzarote romp.

With a greater emphasis on stamina likely at the weekend, Warren Greatrex certainly has a candidate in Shantou Bob bred for the job. The seven year old is by the St Leger winner, Shantou, out of a Bob Back mare so Saturday’s 23f should hold no fears. He relished testing conditions in only his third race over hurdles, when failing by the shortest of margins to get the better of Vyta Du Roc in a Cl1 Gd2 novices hurdle at Sandown last December. He was staying on with great resolution, and the effort was even more meritorious as he lost a shoe causing him to hang. He broke a blood vessel when odds on in his next race and was a little disappointing at the Festival over three miles, but did run on well to finish sixth. Very lightly raced one feels the best is still to come from Shantou Bob and a reproduction of his Sandown effort would put him firmly in the mix.

Venetia Williams’s French-bred 5yo Yala Enki looked an animal going places when hosing up in a 21 1/2f novices hurdle at Exeter eighteen days ago, making all, and winning by sixteen lengths. A winner over fences in France he is clearly a pretty versatile young horse and as six of the ten winners have hailed from his country of birth, and five of the last six first past the post, have been five year olds, the stats certainly point firmly in his direction.

Brian Ellison’s 6yo Definitly Red showed the right attitude, when despite a ground losing mistake at the third last, he fought back to beat the favourite, Fletchers Flyer, over three miles at the course in Febuary on soft ground. He was pulled up at the Festival, but this winner of two listed bumpers in testing conditions at Newbury and Cheltenham, (also won a heavy ground Uttoxeter bumper) definitly has an engine and looks well treated off a mark of 138, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. A winner first time out for the last two years, he is well worth considering.

Emma Lavelle’s triple course winner, Closing Ceremony, is worth a second look. He was beaten in a 26f Warwick slog by Join The Clan, to whom he was conceding 22lbs, (including Patrick Cowleys 10lb allowance) last January off a mark of 134, but made a very good impression five weeks later when making all in a Cl1 Gd2 hurdle over three miles at Haydock, in a time four seconds faster than Definitly Red managed on the same day. While such time comparisons can be slightly spurious this stout stayer is clearly on the up, and will definitly improve for his reappearance run behind Aqualim three weeks ago.

Selection : Shantou Bob

E.W. : Definitly Redhaydock park

Darley July Stakes Betting Tips 6f Newmarket Saturday


Gimcrack winner Muhaarar is the Oddsguru’s fancy for Saturday’s big race.

First run in 1876, The July Cup is considered by many to be the 6f championship, and with names such as Green Desert, Soviet Star, Cadeaux Genereux, and Royal Academy, on the roll of honour, it is hard to disagree. Winning form at the distance has been of paramount importance, the only exception in recent years being the filly Fleeting Spirit, who had been runner up in a 6f Gp1.

With only seven 3yo’s collecting in the last twenty runnings, it can’t be said that the younger generation are having the best of it, but historically honours have been pretty evenly shared. The outstanding 3yo in this years renewal is undoubtedly the Charlie Hills trained Muhaarar. By the outstanding sire Oasis Dream, he is a product of his owner, Sheik Hamdan’s, Shadwell stud.

Muhaarar had a fine two year old career, which included a win in the 6f Gp2 Gimcrack Stakes, and a third in the 6f Gp1 Middlepark. He surprised many when winning the 7f Gp3 Greenham stakes on his reappearance, but then blotted his copybook when finishing 8th in the French Guineas. Excuses were made due to his wide draw, but, wisely returned to sprinting, he has been a revelation. In the newly inaugurated Gp1 Commonwealth Stakes, a 6f contest confined to 3yo’s at Royal Ascot, where held up off the pace, Muhaarar came with a devastating run in the final furlong to go clear, beating the high class Limato by 3 3/4L, with Saturday’s rival, Anthem Alexander, a further 3/4L back in third, in a time faster than the following days Golden Jubilee Stakes. A repeat performance at the weekend must give him great prospects of emulating his sire, who won this in 2003.

Chris Waller must have been a bemused and disappointed man following the defeat of his Australian champion, Brazen Beau, in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, where amazingly his rider Craig Williams chose to race all alone on the stand side. Considering he had nothing to run with he ran a marvellous race to finish second, 1/2L behind Undrafted, with Saturday’s opponent, Astaire 1 3/4L back in third. He has been twice a winner at the highest level over the distance in his native Australia, on the last occasion ( March 14th) in a blindingly fast time. One slight negative is that due to the vagaries of the breeding seasons between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, he is classified as a 4yo ( despite being only 5 months older than Muhaarar) and has to concede the weight for age 6lbs. However with James Doyle now in the plate, and sporting the Godolphin colours for the first time, this outstanding sprinter is going to take all the beating at the weekend.

David O’Meara pulled off a minor miracle when winning the Gp1 sprint at Haydock with the then 3yo, G Force last September. He has been disappointing in his three races since, but two of them have been at Ascot, a course that may well have not suited him. His other run was in the 5f Temple Stakes at Haydock where he met all sorts of trouble in running and finished 5th. His brilliant young trainer reports that the “engine is still intact” so returned to 6f on Saturday, it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

Richard Fahey’s 4yo gelding Eastern Impact obviously enjoys the East Anglian air as three .of his four wins have been at headquarters. He beat last Saturday’s talented Windsor winner, Huntsman’s close, on his reappearance at Newmarket in May, but then failed to get in a blow behind Tropics at Windsor. However his close 4th in a Gp3 at Newcastle (June27) was more encouraging, so in the hands of R.Fahey, who won this with a similar type, Maysoon, three years ago, is considered.

The unlucky horse in the Newcastle race was undoubtedly Michael Appelby’s 4yo gelding Danzeno. Slowly into his stride, under a less than inspired ride from Andrew Mullen, despite stumbling after 2f, he finished 3rd, behind Aeolus and Saturday’s opponent, Mattmu. Frankie Dettori takes over riding duties at the weekend, so at odds of 20/1 he could represent some e.w. Value.

Another whose sire won the race is the Michael Lynam trained Anthem Alexander. By Starspangledbanner, who won the 2010 renewal, his 3yo daughter is proving to be a super game and talented racehorse. She ran a great race when finishing third to Muhaarar at Royal Ascot, but on paper her prospects of reversing the form look remote. However Lynam, who is such a master trainer of sprinters feels that perhaps the Ascot race had come too soon following her reappearance victory at Naas eighteen days earlier, and expects things to be closer on Saturday. It is worth pointing out that fillies and mares have a poor record in the race, with only two succeeding in the last thirty years, so perhaps a place is the best that can be hoped for.

Selection: Muhaarar.

Danger: Brazen beau.

Old Newton Cup 1m4f Haydock Saturday

Old Newton Cup

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point.

Luca Cumani has won the Haydock race four times since 1997, (the last time with Mad Rush, 2008) so current joint favourite, Penhill is of interest. He looked an animal to keep on the right side of when winning a Cl3 1m4f Ascot handicap, off a mark of 86 on his reappearance, when a well backed 13/8 fav. He went of at even shorter odds, 6/4, to follow up at Newmarket three weeks later off a 7lbs higher mark in a Cl2 event, but never really got competitive behind Watersmeet. He took a very strong hold, and Cumani reported that Penhill was unsuited by the course. Returned to a left handed turning track, (has won over Nottingham’s similar course) it would be no surprise to see his uber shrewd trainer in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Andrew Balding’s very progressive 4yo Mount Nelson filly, Elbereth, looks interesting. On only her second start on turf she stepped up considerably on her first, where despite not handling Brighton’s idiosyncratic course, she was only beaten 3/4L in a Cl3 handicap off a mark of 80. Ridden by the very promising 7lb claimer Edward Greatrex, she was stepped up to Cl2 level at the Derby meeting and won cleverly off a mark of 86.(1m2f). Due to race off an 8lb higher mark at the weekend,( 7lbs will again be negated by Greatrex’s claim ) and having won over the distance, albeit on Wolverhampton’s all weather surface, this fast improving filly with just 8st4lbs (including the 7lbs claim) in the plate, has a lot in her favour, and is shortlisted.

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point. Beautifully bred, this full brother to the Group1 winning Visit, and half brother to the top class filly Promising Lead, who has also succeeded at the top level, was bought out of the Stoute yard, having failed to catch the judges eye as a 3yo. under the Dalgleish tutelage he picked up a Cl5 handicap at Mussellburgh last September off a mark of 67. He won a similar contest at Newcastle in April this year off 70, but it was his last run which emphasised the progress that has been made. Stepped up to Cl3 level at York at the end of May (1m4f) he stayed on well to beat Dance King off a mark of 83. It is quite probable that there is plenty more to come from this very well connected animal, and it will be no surprise to see him staying on strongly up the long Haydock straight at the weekend. Definitely one for the short list.

Roger Varian, whose horses invariably perform well at Haydock, runs his 4yo Galileo colt, Battersea. He won a Cl2 Ascot handicap (1m4f) off a mark of 90 in very taking fashion last September, but disappointed six weeks later in a similar contest, off a 10lbs higher mark at Newmarket. The Newmarket effort was too bad to be true, so considering normal improvement from three to four, he doesn’t look badly treated on 99. Perhaps he is one best caught fresh, so is well worth a second look.

Amanda Perrett’s Sea the Stars 4yo colt, Astronereus, ran a fine race in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot to finish 3rd off a mark of 100. He has been raised 2lbs for Saturday’s contest, giving him an intimidating burden of 9st5lbs to carry. However the Ascot race has been a good guide to this, so provided the two above him in the handicap don’t come out (triggering a further weight rise), his chance has to be respected.

Alan Swinbank, who won with Collier Hill way back in 2003, runs his 4yo Galileo gelding, Kinema. He showed how well suited he is by a truly run race at the trip, when winning over Carlisle’s testing track (1m3 1/2f) last week off a mark of 84. Having run seventeen times he is quite exposed, but he has been mostly campaigned at shorter, so perhaps the step up in trip has elicited improvement. Again partnered by the very talented Ben Curtis, he is worth keeping an eye on.

Selection: Pressure Point.

E.W. Elbereth.