Betway Summer Plate Handicap Chase 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen

peter bowen training

Welsh handler Peter Bowen’s record in the Plate is exceptional

With a relative dearth of top class flat racing on Saturday, we have one of the highlights of the Summer jumping season, Market Rasen’s, eponymous Plate, to get our teeth into. Some of the top yards are represented, but the first port of call has to be the Yet-Y-Rug stables, down Haverfordwest way, of Welsh Maestro, Peter Bowen, as he has won exactly 25% all the runnings of The Plate since it’s inception in 1995, a pretty remarkable achievement for a small yard operating so far from racing’s centre!
Of his 3 entries at the time of writing, last year’s Hero, More Bucks looks the most interesting.

In a heat run at its usual pillar to post gallop, the son of Presenting, jumped fluently throughout, and held on very gamely, to beat the Skelton-trained Too Many Diamonds by 1/2L, and land Peter his 6th Summer Plate. More Bucks has only caught the judges eye once in his subsequent 10 races, ( a Ludlow Class3 Chase in January) but as a result races on Saturday off a mark only 7lbs higher than last year. He showed little in his last two races, (a race on the flat at Bath and a Hurdle race at Market Rasen 13 days ago) but back in a race that suited so well last year, and coming from this yard, the 9yo has to be considered.

7yo’s have won the contest 8 times, and Warwickshire genius, Dan Skelton, will be hoping to improve that record even further with his son of Beneficial, Gortroe Joe.
He is a winner of 2 of his 5 starts over fences for the Alcester handler, including last time out, when he cruised up by 12L over Saturday’s course and distance 90 days ago. It was only a 4 runner affair, and Saturday’s 16 runner field, all racing with the choke out, will present a very different challenge, but the Skelton’s, with a win and a 2nd in the last 3 years, know what is required, and their contender is owned by that great supporter of National Hunt racing, Terry Warner.

Like many a horse before him, the 11yo, Ronava, has improved dramatically for coming under the Tutelage of Worcestershire trainer, Dr Richard Newland. He only arrived at the Claines yard a mere 54 days ago, on a mark of 117, and he is already rated 19lbs higher. The ex Irish son of Blueprint, had plied his trade in the PTP field, over hurdles, and over fences, for the meagre return of a couple of PTP victories, 3 wins over hurdles, and a single chase victory in a 7 year career. Since joining the good doctor, the veteran has won two of his three starts, and was pretty impressive at Hexham last time, winning by an eased down 8L off a mark of 124. He has to cope with a hefty 12lbs rise at the weekend, and would be only the third 11yo to win the contest, but in the hands of Dr Newland, who won with Bobowen 6 years ago, nothing seems impossible.

nicky henderson oddsguruSomewhat surprisingly, Nicky Henderson still awaits a first victory in the Market Rasen feature, but with 3 contenders this year, Theinval, Pacific De Baune, and Casablanca Mix, he looks to be determined to fill the gap in his outstanding CV.  Theinval finished 3rd three years ago as a 6yo, when despite travelling well throughout, he didn’t seem to quite get home, and was beaten 11L. Indeed the rest of his career would suggest that 2m4f is the limit of his stamina so Nicky’s best chance of bringing the prize back to Seven Barrows would seem to lie with one of the other two.

Pacific De Baune is a 6yo son of that good dual purpose French stallion, Al Namix,
(sire of Petit Mouchoir and Saphir Du Rheu amongst many other good horses) and has won 2 of his 4 starts over fences. He showed last time that his recent wind operation had been a success, when comfortably winning a Class2 Newton Abbot Handicap off a mark of 142 from that good yardstick, Wait For Me by 3 1/2L, which makes Saturday’s mark of 149 look fair. A slight concern would be  Pacific De Baune’s lack of experience in a race like The Plate, but he looked a sound jumper in his last 2 races and put in a near flawless round over Warwicks tricky circuit last November.

The 3rd contender from Seven Barrows is the ex French 7yo Casablanca Mix, and he is 2/9 over fences since joining the Lambourn genius in April 2017. He looked well worth his rating of 142 for Saturday when winning an Aintree Class3 Handicap 64 days ago off a mark of 138, and could be well suited by Saturday’s race. All his best efforts have come on flat tracks, and he has looked particularly well suited by a right handed circuit. He has won and been placed twice at Huntingdon, where he gave the now 152 rated
Willoughby Court a fright in 2017, and didn’t quite see out the 3miles trip when failing by only 1/2L to win a Class1 Listed Chase here at Market Rasen last November. Back over a more suitable trip and with Nico De Boinville doing the steering, he could be the one to fill in that gap in the Master of Seven Barrows CV.

Selection  : Casablanca Mix

EW          : Gortroe Joe

John Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection : Fiesole
EW.           : Arthington.      Le Patriote

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection : Beware The Bear
EW.           : Rock The Kasbah

John Gray

BoyleSports Irish Grand National (Handicap) 3m5f Fairyhouse Monday

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

fairyhouse irish grand national

The JP McManus colours should be prominent on Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection : Redicean

EW.           : Benny’s Bridge  Dino Velvet

John Gray

Randox Health Grand National Handicap 4m2 1/2f Aintree Saturday

grand national oddsguruAny consideration of this year’s Merseyside Marathon, has to begin with the phenomenon, that is the diminutive Tiger Roll. The gallant winner of last year’s renewal is a mere 15.2 hands, which must make those Aintree fences look huge, but this natural jumper, dare I say it reminiscent of the great Red Rum, just jumped from fence to fence and had plenty left in the locker to fend off the late challenge of Pleasant Company. The 9yo has won 11 of his 34 races, including an amazing 4 victories at The Cheltenham Festival, (Triumph Hurdle 2014, National Hunt Chase, 2017 and The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase for the past two years). His stamina and jumping skills were spectacularly on show last time out when he coasted home by 22L for his second win in The Glenfarclas at The Festival. A strict interpretation of the form of that heat would suggest that he has improved at least 10lbs over the last 12 months so still looks reasonably handicapped on a mark 9lbs higher than last year. He has never fallen in any of his 34 starts and if in the same form as last time, will be a tough nut to crack.

Three 11yo’s have won The National in the past decade, and Irish Maestro, Willie Mullins will be hoping his talented stayer, Rathvinden, can make it four. Lightly raced for his years, he has won 6 of his 13 starts over fences, including last year’s stamina sapping 4miles National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, where he outstayed Saturday’s opponent, the mare, Ms Parfois. There was only 1/2L in it at the finish and Rathvinden is a pound worse off with her at the weekend, but the Mullins horse looked an improved performer 6 weeks ago when comfortably beating the 159 rated, Alpha Des Obeaux at level weights, and is fancied to confirm the form. With a nice racing weight of 10-10 this confirmed stayer has plenty to recommend him.

Despite being badly hampered at the first, and clouting the 5th last, Tony Martins, Anibale Fly did really well in last year’s race to finish 4th, 11 1/2L behind Tiger Roll racing off a mark of 159. He ran the race of his life to finish second in The Gold Cup 22 days ago, and if that heat hasn’t left its mark, he may just have been a tad underestimated by The Handicapper on 164. He meets Tiger Roll on 4lbs better terms than last year, and owner, JP Mc Manus, could be justified in entertaining hopes of landing a second Grand National to add to his win with Don’t Push It nine years ago.

oddsguru aintree fencesGood ground and a staying trip seemed just the ticket for the Philip Hobbs trained, Rock The Kasbah when the 9yo won the 3m3 1/2f Bet Victor. Com Handicap at Cheltenham in November. He took it up two out on the good ground and staying on well up the hill beat the now 150 rated Royal Vacation, (rec 4lbs). A safe conveyance, he has never fallen in his 13 starts over fences, and having had a nice Winter break, avoiding the deep seasonal ground, he will strip one of the freshest in the race. If as seems likely Champion Jockey Richard Johnson is in the Plate he looks to have a serious shot at filling in that one serious gap in Richard’s CV.

Owner Trevor Hemings is double handed in his quest for a 4th victory in the great race, and both his runners, Lake View Lad and Vintage Clouds, have plenty to recommend them. They both clashed in their last race, the Ultima Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival with Vintage Clouds doing best. He finished 2nd, two lengths in front of the rallying Lake View Lad. They meet on the same terms on Saturday but I feel that Lake View Lad might be the better armed to cope with the demands of Saturday’s marathon, and Scottish trained, by Nick Alexander, he will certainly be a popular pick with punters north of the border.

The last time a 7yo won the Grand National, was way back in 1940, which makes it difficult to recommend the David Pipe trained, Ramses De Teillee, but as we all know, statistics can be misleading,(7yo’s are something of a rarity in the race) and it’s also worth remembering that the Trophy has gone back to Pond House on two previous occasions, so they certainly know what’s required  down Nicholashayne way. Ramses De Teille, by the middle distance stallion, and top class sire of NH horses, Martaline, has won 3 of his 10 starts over fences, and may have been a little unlucky not to have added The Welsh Grand National to his CV last December. Always travelling well within himself, he looked the most likely winner until belting the 4th last fence, and while that would have been the end of most animals challenge, he rallied bravely, and got to within 1 1/4L of Elegant Escape. He put in another excellent effort last time over Haydock’s tricky upright fences, where despite running on strongly, he was collared inside the last 50 yards. (3m4 1/2f Good). A seriously upwardly mobile young stayer, who never knows when he’s beaten, he is definitely worth considering.

Selection : Tiger Roll    Danger : Rock The Kasbah
EW.           : Ramses De Teillee

John Gray

EBF &TBA Mares National Hunt Novices Hurdle Tips

nicky henderson oddsguruA contest the Master of Seven Barrows, Nicky Henderson (pictured), has won 4 times, most recently with Polly Peachum in 2013, and he goes to war with another likely looking type on Saturday with the 6yo daughter of Scorpion, She Might Bite. A winning Irish Pointer, she failed to catch the judges eye in her first four races over hurdles, but following a promising second at Sandown, on that 4th attempt in February, she looked the most likely winner when brought down at the 3rd last in a Ludlow Class3 Handicap, (3m Gd) 26 days later. Out of a winning Irish Point to Pointer, and Hurdle winner, she looks to be going the right way, and if over her fall at Ludlow has to be of interest.

The Seamus Mullins trained Maebh beat She Might Bite by 1 1/2L when the Henderson mare was making her hurdles debut last November, (Warwick 2m5f Gd) and on only 2lbs worse terms on Saturday certainly comes into the picture. However the Henderson horse has probably made the greater progress in the meantime, but it’s worth noting that Seamus won this in 2004 with Kentford Grebe so should know what is required. Having been well beaten last time over 3 miles this current 20/1 shot is easy to dismiss, but back over Saturday’s trip on Good ground, she could represent some value.

Barbury Castle Handler, Alan King (pictured) has also had success in the race, (Tante Sissi 2012) and he runs the quietly progressive 5yo, Sixties Belle. The daughter of Gold Well has only been on a racecourse four times but took a serious step forward last time when going down by 2 1/4L to Loveherandleaveher in a Huntingdon Maiden, (2m 4f Gd) 30 days ago. alan king oddsguruShowing her inexperience, she only got going between the last two obstacles and finished really strongly. Alan trained the mother, Over Sixty, to win Five times, and achieve a rating of 135, so it won’t come as any great surprise if Sixties Belle proves to be considerably better than her current mark of 111, and brings the trophy back to Barbury Castle for a second time.

The Lucy Wadham trained, The White Mouse, is 2/3 over hurdles, and the 5yo was quite impressive last time, winning a Class4 Doncaster Maiden to beat Saturday’s opponent, Oscar Rose, by 4L, 22 days ago. It was only a 3 runner affair but the time was reasonable and on 3lbs worse terms the Wadham mare should confirm the form.

Oliver Sherwood has won the race twice, (2008 & 2009) and his 6yo, Millarvillle, looks interesting. From a good Irish NH family, she won her only PTP by 8L, and had the now rated 120, It’s All A Lark, 12l back in 3rd. There are mixed messages from her 3 starts over hurdles, winning once over 2m1f, following a wind operation, but well beaten in the other two. However Saturday’s step up in trip should suit this stoutly bred mare, and a strict interpretation of her PTP win would make her look well treated on her mark of 120 at the weekend.

Jonjo O’Neill won the inaugural running in 2003 and his contender, Annie Mc, has been pretty consistent in her 5 races over hurdles, winning once, in  quite impressive fashion at Chepstow two races ago, (2m3 1/2f Good-Soft). She took it up at the second last and went clear to beat the 118 rated, Burn Baby Byrne, (rec2lbs) by 18L which makes Saturday’s mark of 127 look fair. Racing over a furlong shorter last time, in a slowly run heat, she was very disappointing, but back up in trip on Saturday, and with the benefit of the seriously talented Jonjo O’Neill junior’s 5lbs claim, she has to be worth considering.

Runners from the Perth and Kinross yard of Nick Alexander are an infrequent sight in Berkshire, so he must be dispatching his daughter of Getaway, Off The Hook, on the long journey with a little more than just wishful thinking. Despite running very consistently, on mostly testing ground, it wasn’t until her last race, her 8th attempt over hurdles, that the 7yo got her head in front. Racing on better ground for only the second time in her career, (a close 2nd on the previous occasion),  she won a tad cleverly from the now 122 rated Sam’s Adventure, (Ayr 2m4 1/2f Good-Soft 20 Jan). She races off a mark of 121 on Saturday and could be interesting.

EBF &TBA Mares National Hunt Novices Hurdle Series Final 2m4 1/2f (Handicap) Newbury Saturday.

Selection : Sixties Belle  (if abs Annie Mc)
EW.           :  Off The Hook