Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap 2m2f Newmarket Saturday

First run in 1839, the race was named in honour of the Russian Crown Prince, The Tsesarevich, (reportedly after a donation by him of £300 to the Jockey Club). The unfortunate prince later became the Tsar, Alexander 11, and was assassinated in 1881. Punters, while not exactly suffering the ultimate fate of poor old Alexander, haven’t fared particularly well in recent renewals of the contest. Only two “Jollies” have come home in front since the great Vintage Crop prevailed as 5/1 fav in 1992, and in the past decade we have seen one winner returned at 66/1, two at 50/1, and a 25/1 shot collect the prize, so don’t be put off by a long price. The race, which uniquely starts in one county and finishes in another, (starts in Cambridgeshire and crosses the border into Suffolk) has only the one slight change of direction, at the 10 furlong marker, and this almost straight two miles two furlongs gallop, puts a unique premium on stamina. Jockeys struggle to get a breather into their mounts in this nonstop charge across the heath, so very rarely does an animal without winning form at a minimum of two miles on the flat or over hurdles prevail.

The 4yo, Withhold, was trained last term by Charlie Hills, and following some nondescript efforts, showed improved form when given a test of stamina. The son of Champs Elysee put up an excellent performance when getting the better of Saturday’s opponent, London Prize, over two miles at Haydock last October, winning by 3/4L and he now meets the runner up on 8lbs better terms on Saturday. Transferred to the Roger Charlton (pictured) yard, Withhold wasn’t seen again until reappearing in a mile and a half Newbury Handicap last month where he proved his well-being, finishing third over the inadequate trip. He was keeping on nicely in the final furlong off a mark of 87 and is bound to have benefited hugely from the run after such a long break. He races on Saturday off the same mark, and looks a well handicapped animal with a nice racing weight of 8-8 to carry. With Silvestre De Sousa doing the steering he has to be of interest.

Now six, London Prize didn’t see a racecourse until he was four. He made his debut in a two miles Worcester national hunt flat race in June 2015 which he duly won when trained by John Ferguson. Transferred to the Ian Williams yard the following May, progress was slow, until running Withhold close in that Haydock contest last October, racing off a mark of 72. Since then progress has been dramatic highlighted by a win in the prestigious Imperial Cup over hurdles at Sandown, off a mark of 137, and three further victories on the flat, culminating in a win in the valuable Northumberland Plate consolation race in July off a mark of 89. By Teofilo whose progeny stay well, and out of a mare who has produced the 3mile chaser Categorical and the stayer, Daghash on the flat this tough battler shouldn’t fail for want of stamina and looks reasonably treated on his new mark of 95.

Alan King won this with the 50/1 outsider Grumeti two years ago and considering the way his 5yo, Who Dares Wins, stayed on so resolutely to take The Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago, he must be more than a little hopeful of finding himself back in the winners enclosure on Saturday. Staying is the name of the game for Who Dares Wins as he also demonstrated when staying on strongly to finish a close fourth in the 2m2 1/2f Chester Cup. A winner of a Class1 Newbury Handicap Hurdle with 11-10 in the plate he should cope with a four pounds rise for his Trial victory and doesn’t look overburdened with 9-4 on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins trained, Laws Of Spin did well to win last year’s Irish Cesarewitch (2m good) as a three year old at the Curragh by 1 1/4L from the year older Cradle Mountain, staying on well off a mark of 89. Brought along slowly this term by master trainer Mullins, he came good again last time when winning a valuable 1m5f Leopardstown Handicap off a mark of 97 five weeks ago. He is up another four pounds on Saturday giving him a hefty looking 9-8 to carry but Aim To Prosper won with two pounds more five years ago and Sergeant Cecil carried 9-8 successfully in 2005.

The beautifully bred John Constable, who currently heads the market, hasn’t raced on the flat for over three years, when he was trained by Aidan O’Brien, for whom he had a pretty undistinguished career. This 6yo son of the brilliant Montjeu, is out of that highly talented mare, Dance Parade, who won both The Queen Mary, and Fred Darling Stakes, and is a full brother to the Ascot Gold Cup winner Leading Light. The only success he had for O’Brien was in a 13f Navan maiden, but his talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams, seems to have found the key to him, and he has really blossomed over hurdles wearing a tongue tie. Having won his last two races he now has a very flattering rating of 156 in that discipline. If this improvement over hurdles, mirrors a commensurate improvement on the flat, he looks extremely well treated on a mark of 89 and would be a serious blot on the handicap.

Selection : Withhold

E.W. : London Prize

John Gray

Racing Tips Betfred Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

First run in 1843 The Ebor Handicap is now the richest race of it’s type run anywhere in Europe, and this year carries a guaranteed prize fund of £285,000. The legendary Lester Piggott (pictured) won the race five times, but the closest any rider has come to matching

“The Long Fellow’s” record in recent years, is Jamie Spencer, with two victories. Any contenders from the yards of Sir Michael Stoute or Luca Cumani, who share the training honours with three victories apiece, are worth noting, as are any travellers from across The Irish Sea, as Four of the last eight winners have been trained in The Emerald Isle. The market in recent years has been a poor guide with only the one “Jolly” obliging in the last decade, and indeed, only two of those winners were returned at odds shorter than 10/1. Good recent form has been paramount with eight of the last nine victors recording a first or second placing in one of their last two races. Weight as ever, has had it’s say, with none of the last nine winners carrying more than 9-04, and indeed, only two horses have won with a bigger burden since 1945. However it is worth pointing out that in more recent renewals the handicap has become much more compressed, leaving a much narrower weight range, and consequently the higher weighted animals have less poundage to concede, so it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see the 9-04 barrier broken.

Sir Mlchael Stoute’s representative, the 4yo filly Dubka, is certainly bred for the job on Saturday, as she is by the brilliant Dubawi out of the Sakhee mare Rosika, who herself finished second in the 2010 running of the Ebor. Four times a winner over 12f, Dubka, seemed to take her form to a new level when stepped up in trip to 14f, when she was only beaten a hard fought neck in a Goodwood Group3 last time. Having had a far from clear passage, she was ridden to lead a furlong out, and hard pressed, she battled hard, and only conceded in the shadow of the post. With 9-02 to carry on Saturday it won’t come as any great surprise if she manages to go one better than her dam, and give Sir Michael a fourth win in the famous old handicap.

Sir Mark Prescott trains the market leader, Flymetothestars, and this 4yo son of Sea The Stars, has only had five runs, all on the AW. He won the first of his two races this term, a 2m1/2f Newcastle handicap off a mark of 91 very comfortably, and six weeks later, racing off a 9lbs higher mark, was sent off the 11/4fav for The Northumberland Plate. In a slowly run race, he seemed to get outpaced, but finished with a flourish, and was only beaten 1/2L and a neck. Clearly progressive, this lightly raced animal, if transferring his ability to turf is going to be a danger to all.

Since being stepped up in trip to 12f, the Richard Hannon trained Danehill Kodiac has made significant progress and the manner of his win in a Newmarket handicap by 3 1/2L a week ago , off a mark of 97 on soft ground, strongly suggests that Saturday’s extra two furlongs should suit. Only 4lbs higher he is certainly worth a second look.

Mark Johnston won The Ebor with Quick Ransom twenty five years ago and the way his hardy campaigner, Soldier In Action, defied a mark of 106 in a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks ago, suggests that he has a serious chance of landing another. A close fifth entering the final furlong, he quickened impressively to lead in the final stride, and even off a four pounds higher mark, burdening him with the steadier of 9-10 at the weekend it is not too hard to envisage this 4yo son of Soldier Of Fortune repeating the effort.

Following a disappointing campaign over hurdles, the Alan King trained Top Tug looked an improved animal back on the flat when finishing second, off a mark of 97 to the talented Frontiersman over 12f at Newmarket in May, and he confirmed that good impression when taking a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks later off a 2lbs higher mark. He probably found the trip too short in the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at The Royal Meeting next time, but still acquitted himself well, finishing fourth, a neck behind Saturday’s opponent Star Storm. He meets Star Storm on a pound better terms on Saturday and sure to be suited by the step back up in trip, and freshened up with a nice nine week break since Royal Ascot, Top Tug looks one for the short list.

There is nothing Yorkshireman Willie Haggas enjoys more than a win on The Knavesmire and he must be harbouring serious hopes of landing his first Ebor with the classy 4yo

Dal Harraild. Having won a listed contest over course and distance in May on his only course appearance, he ran another solid race when finishing sixth, four lengths behind the winner Idaho, in the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his burden of 9-11, this son of Champs Elysee has a touch of class and bearing his 100% course record in mind is worth considering.

Selection : Top Tug

E.W. : Dubka

John Gray

Betting Tips King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes 1m4f Ascot Saturday

Paul Nicholls won his first Summer Plate at Market Rasen last Saturday in fine style with the very progressive 7yo, Alcala. The grey travelled really well throughout and looked the most likely winner a long way from home. There was only a neck in it at the post, but I feel that jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies had a bit to spare, and there could be more to come from this likeable grey. Bringing home the bacon at the rewarding odds of 9/1 he certainly left followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves, so here's hoping we can keep the momentum going in Saturday's Ascot showpiece.

First run in 1951 as a Group1 open to all ages, the Classic generation, with twenty nine wins on the scoresheet have historically had the best of the argument, but it has to be said that with only four victories since the turn of the new millennium, their record hasn't been nearly so impressive. Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor share the training honours with five victories apiece closely pursued by the Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O'Brien, with four.

Sir Michael's best chance of taking the outright lead lies with recent Eclipse winner,
(and Oddsguru's selection) Ulysses. Typical of the slow maturing type that Maestro Stoute excels with, Ulysses, who had been a tad disappointing as a 3yo, showed that the penny was beginning to drop when winning the Group3 Sir Gordon Richard Stakes over Sandown's demanding 10f on his reappearance in April, and confirmed that he was indeed on an upward track eight weeks later, when finishing third in the 10f Group1 Prince of Wales Stakes to Highland Reel and Decorated Knight, beaten 1 1/4L and a Shd. Probably needing the race after his two months break, he took a very strong hold, and mounted his challenge too early in the straight, giving the winner a target to aim at, but seventeen days later looked much more the finished article when winning the 10f Group1 Eclipse Stakes. Always travelling well, he again came with his run a little too early and had to hold off the late challenge of 2000gns runner up Barney Roy, who clearly improved for the step up in trip. Ulysses won Goodwood's 12f Gordon Stakes as a 3yo and as a son of Galileo out of the Oaks Heroine, Light Shift, Saturday's trip could prove ideal. A concern would be testing conditions. Although he has performed on easy ground in the past, connections are hoping the rain stays away.

The Ballydoyle operation is represented by one of the toughest and most genuine animals on the planet, the 5yo Highland Reel, and by his year younger full brother, Idaho. The former, yet another son of the great Galileo is attempting to become only the third horse to win back to back runnings of the contest, and boasting six Group1 victories on three continents, must have serious prospects of bringing off the double. However he does like to hear his hooves rattle so with so much rain about a waiting brief is advised.

His younger sibling, the 4yo Idaho, was certainly not winning out of turn when taking Royal Ascot's Group2 Hardwicke Stakes last time out. He was an unlucky loser of last year's St Leger, unseating Seamie Heffernan when coming down the straight on the bridle, and again the fates were against him when making his seasonal debut in the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting in June, where due to some cock up in the flying arrangements, he only got to the course an hour before the race. Third in Last year's Derby, and second in the Irish equivalent, this beautifully bred animal may only now, as a 4yo be beginning to realise his full potential, and as he seems to handle most ground is one for the short list.

John Gosden, a two times winner of the race, is represented by dual Oaks winner, Enable, and 5yo Jack Hobbs. The former, a daughter of Nathaniel, has looked a real class act when winning both the English and Irish Oaks. She won at Epsom by 5L from O'Briens Rhododendron, and was equally impressive at The Curragh, winning by 5 1/2L from Rain Goddess. It has to be a concern that it is only two weeks since her stunning Curragh victory, but very much in her favour is the fourteen pounds she will be receiving from most of her older rivals.

Second to Golden Horn in the 2015 Epsom Derby, and winner of the same year's Irish Derby, Jack Hobbs has had his problems since, but looked to have put them behind him when winning at Meydan on his reappearance in March, (yielding ground) but then was a major disappointment at Royal Ascot. He was sent off the 2/1 fav for the Prince of Wales Stakes but finished last of the eight runners behind Highland Reel. The fast ground and very hot day were blamed for the poor performance. However the horse has continued to attract plenty of support in the market, and with nothing faster than good ground likely at the weekend, is worth considering.

David Simcock would love to see the heavens open over the Berkshire track as his 5yo Desert Encounter revels in soft ground. The son of Halling is a little short of the required standard but he did run a decent race last time to finish third, 3 /12L behind Ulysses in the Eclipse, and as we all know, heavy ground is a great leveller.

Selection : Idaho

E.W. : Ulysses

John Gray

Lanzarote Hurdle 2m5f Kempton Saturday

Named after the great Fred Winter’s Champion Hurdle winner, and Kempton specialist, Lanzarote, who was a two times winner of the track’s premier hurdle race, “The Christmas”. He finished his hurdling career with a remarkable twenty wins from thirty three starts. He went on to become a top class chaser and was strongly fancied to win the 1977 Gold Cup and become the first horse to complete the Champion Hurdle, and Cheltenham’s premier race double. It wasn’t to be alas, as he was fatally injured in the race and we had to wait another nine years for the mare, Dawn Run to bring off that elusive double. The “Lanzarote” was run over 2m from its inception in 1978 until 2007 when the distance was extended to 2m5f, since when, some quite strong trends have emerged. The eight renewals we have had since 2007 have only been won on two occasions by animals with form at the distance, the other six have been bagged by animals improving for the step up in trip. Weight has been a significant factor and again only two have defied a burden of 11st or more. Age has been extremely relevant with youth having the best of the argument, particularly six year olds, who have collected on five occasions. Inexperience has been no bar to success with three of the last four winners having had only three previous runs over timber. The last eight renewals have also been quite punter friendly, with 9/1 being the longest S.P. returned, (Verasi 2007). So what of this years contest?

Paul Nicholls has won the race twice since 2007, and is represented this year by the 5yo Ibis Du Rheu, whose half brother Saphir Du Rheu, also in the care of the master of Ditcheat, won this two years ago. This lightly raced horse will be having only his sixth hurdle race, and only his third since joining the Nicholl’s Academy. A winner of a valuable 3yo hurdle at Enghien in 2014 he was campaigned at around 2m on his first two races in this country, but it wasn’t until stepping up in trip last time that he really showed his true potential. On soft ground at Newbury over 2m3f at the end of November, having been held up, he stayed on really well, gradually closing, but unable to quite get past the winner, Royal Guardsman. He did however have that good yardstick, Ma Filleule, 2 1/2L back in third. Bound to be well suited by Saturday’s extra two furlongs, he races off a generous looking mark of 135, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st8lbs, (his half brother won with 11st7lbs) and must be one for the shortlist.

Nicky Henderson’s 5yo Bivouac is another who seemed to be well suited by the step up in trip last time, when comfortably accounting for Ruacana and Lil Rockerfeller at Huntingdon over 2m 3 1/2f on soft ground nine weeks ago of a mark of 134. As Lil Rockerfeller won a Class1 handicap at Sandown next time out off a 2lbs higher mark the form looks rock solid, making the Henderson horse look reasonably treated off a mark of 141. Already a course winner, Bivouac is three from four going right handed and does seem to have plenty in his favour at the weekend.l

Harry Fry runs the 8yo, Unowhatimeanharry, who, having won his last three races heads the market. He looked a real staying type last time over three miles at Cheltenham (soft) where taking it up at the second last, he stayed on stoutly, and was driven right out to win by 1 1/2L and 9L from Final Nudge and West Approach. His terrific trainer has obviously found the secret to this horse and my only concern would be his ability to handle Kemptons sharp right handed track. All eight previous winners had a clockwise win on their C.V. but the Fry animal, despite five attempts going right handed has failed to hit the back of the net.

Irish trainer Alan Fleming who is having such a good season at home, sends over his 6yo Blue Hell, and he looked a serious tool when winning a highly competitive (115-133) handicap at right handed Fairyhouse seven weeks ago of a mark of 124. He was always travelling well on the soft/heavy ground, took it up before the last and won comfortably by three lengths from the favourite Diamond King. He has been raised an eye watering 17lbs, and the Fairyhouse race was over two miles, so there have to be doubts. However he did win twice in the French Provinces as a three year old over hurdles, and his dam is by Fairy King, giving plenty of encouragement that the step up in trip won’t be a problem. He did impress at Fairyhouse so is one to keep on the right side of.

Selection : Ibis Du Rheu.

E.W. : Bivouac.

King George VI Chase Grade1 3m Kempton Saturday

I hope you backed last weeks selection, Jolly’s Cracked It, and put yourself in funds to help defray some of the upcoming festival expenses. Despite a mistake at the third flight, he travelled extremely well throughout and looked primed to collect the pot outright when flying the last and powering up the run in. He went at least 1/2L up on the free going Sternrubin and seemed to have the race in the bag, only to falter near the line, allowing the Hobbs horse to grab a share of the spoils. However as the old saying goes “half a loaf is better than no bread” and the starting price of 7/1 wasn’t the worst. With the first four in Saturday’s showpiece trading at prices between 9/4 and 7/1 it is unlikely that last weeks SP will be bettered, particularly in view of the fact that the 9/2 recorded about long Run when winning The King George in 2011 is the longest SP of the past decade.

First run in 1937 in honour of the newly crowned monarch, the race has become the second most prestigious chase in the calendar after the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, and has been won by some of Steeplechasings greats, including Cottage Rake, Mandarin, Arkle, Desert Orchid, who won it an amazing four times, and Kauto Star who hit the back of the net on an even more amazing five occasions. Nothing in Saturday’s renewal can improve on either of those two outstanding records, but the Paul Nicholls trained Silviniaco Conti is going for his hat trick and it would be foolish to ignore this Kempton specialist’s chance. A winner of over £1,000,000. in prize money, and ten of his twenty chases, he has won two and been placed twice from his four course appearances. He looked as good as ever at Aintree last April when beating Ballynagour, Holywell, and Smad Place, but did disappoint in the Betfair Chase at Haydock eight weeks ago. Having had the benefit of a pipe opener over hurdles, he was sent off the 5/4 favourite, but had no answer to Cue Card, who won easily. On that running his prospects of getting the better of the Tizzard horse at the weekend look remote, but back at his favourite track, and in a truer run race, I’m not so sure.

Cue Card certainly looks a rejuvenated animal this year, and the Haydock win followed an equally impressive performance on his reappearance at Wetherby in October, where racing keenly, he won easily from the stable companions, Dynaste and Ballynagour. It seems hard to credit that rising ten on January 1st, he is improving, but perhaps it’s a case of his excellent trainer having sorted out the multitude of niggling problems that have beset this super animal over the years, and that we are now seeing the full promise of that young horse who flew up the Cheltenham hill to take the Champion Bumper five years ago, being realised.

The Willie Mullins trained Vautour looked a horse in a million when cruising up in the 20f novices chase at the Cheltenham festival.He made all, jumped like an old hand and won by 15L in a time nearly five seconds faster than standard, from Apache Stronghold, and stable companion Valseur Lido. Retired for the season, he reappeared at Ascot five weeks ago and wasn’t the most convincing when beating Ptit Zig from whom he was receiving 5lbs, by what looked a hard fought 1 3/4L. A tendency to jump left which he had shown previously at right handed Punchestown reemerged, and obviously raises concerns about how he will cope travelling in the same direction at the weekend. However that wonderful performance at Cheltenham will live long in the memory, and I doubt if master trainer Mullins would run this super young horse right handed in such a competitive race if serious doubts were entertained. It was his first run for nine months, so the race was probably badly needed and considerable improvement can be expected.

No concerns about the direction of travel will be keeping the connections of the 8yo Don Cossack awake,as he has won ten of the fourteen races he has contested going right handed.. His score of five from six chase wins in 2015 is mighty impressive, particularly as three of them were at Grade1 level.The only slight blot on his copybook came at the festival when finishing third to Uxizandre over an inadequate 21f. Following three subsequent victories he is considered by the assessor to have improved 9lbs from Cheltenham, making him the highest rated animal in Saturday’s contest. He was very impressive when taking a Grade1 chase at Down Royal at the end of October easily from Rocky Creek and Roi Du Mee and looks to have plenty going for him on Saturday. A worthy favourite to give his superb trainer his first “King George” win!

Selection: Don Cossack

E.W: Silviniaco Conti.

Betting Preview Racing Post Trophy (Group1) 1m Str Doncaster

Doncaster

Deauville, a good looking bay colt, he is by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, Walklikeanegyptian, is our selection.

Originally called The Timeform Gold Cup, it was first run in 1961 under the sponsorship of the Halifax tipping service. It was given Group1 status when the current race grading system was introduced in 1971 and assumed it’s present title when first sponsored by the Racing Post organisation in 1989. It is the last Group1 of the British flat racing season and having five of the last eighteen Derby winners on it’s roll of honour can certainly be considered a good guide to a horses Epsom prospects. So is there a putative Epsom hero lurking in Saturday’s field? Well if so the likelihood is that it will be trained by A.P.O’Brien, who has been responsible for seven winners of The Racing Post Trophy since 1997, two of whom (High Chaparall, and Camelot) have gone on to Epsom glory. At the time of writing he is responsible for half the ten runner field and if the market is to be believed, Deauville represents his best chance.

A good looking bay colt, he is by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, Walklikeanegyptian, and unusually for a Ballydoyle potential high flyer, made his racecourse debut in a Listowel maiden over 7f on heavy ground at the end of May where he duly obliged. He next appeared eight weeks later in a Leopardstown Group3, again over 7f where starting at 9/2 he beat the long odds on favourite (and subsequent Dewhurst third) Sanus Par Aquam by 1/2L in a workman like fashion. His jockey, Joseph O’Brien was pushing along from halfway but stayed on stoutly at the finish, strongly suggesting that a step up to a mile was required. He duly reappeared two months later in the Group1 Royal Lodge Stakes over a mile at headquarters and was beaten 3/4L by Saturday’s opponent, Foundation. On the face of it the Gosden horse should confirm the form, but I wonder if the Newmarket race played to Foundation’s strengths. The way the race was run, at a very steady pace and in a slow time, where Deauville, for whatever reason, lost a couple of lengths mid race, but then ran on stoutly, you would have to say undoubtedly favoured the speedier Gosden runner. Saturday’s race is invariably won by a staying type and there would have to be some doubt if Foundation’s pedigree, (by a miler, out of a miler) fits that particular bill. Deauville on the contrary is more stoutly bred and with a strong pace almost guaranteed at the weekend their second meeting could be very interesting.

Foundation didn’t see a racecourse until the beginning of August when taking a lowly Cl5 maiden at Haydock Park. Great strides forward have been taken since, winning a listed race, again at the Lancashire venue, and culminating in that impressive win in the Royal Lodge. Obviously out of the top drawer, he looks the one to beat.

The all conquering Hugo Palmer yard has a very interesting runner in Menghil Khan. He made a promising debut only four weeks ago where despite running green he finished third in a Newmarket maiden, and showed the benefit, when trotting up at Nottingham on soft ground over 1m 1/2f a fortnight later. He is very well bred, being by the first season sire, Lope De Vega ( winner of the French 2000gns and Derby) and out of a Danehill mare who is a half sister to two Group1 winners. He did seem to relish the soft ground at Nottingham so if a similar surface prevails at the weekend this 150,000gns yearling might just cap a ‘superb season for his highly talented trainer.

The penny seemed to drop late on in the group1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on “Arc” day for another O’Brien blue blood, Shogun. Having been pushed along in midfield for most of the race he seemed to get the message late on and finished with a flourish, and despite coming sixth, was only 1 1/2L behind the winner. By the Australian stallion Fastnet Rock, who is doing so well with his European runners, and out of a Galileo mare who was second in the Group2 1m6 1/2f Parkhill stakes he is another who could be well suited by Saturday’s contest and is one to keep on the right side of.

Selection: Deauville

E.W. : Shogun

Racing Betting Tips Bet 365 Gold Cup 3m5 1/2f Sandown Saturday

Warren Greatrex

Warren Greatrex’s prolific scoring hunter chaser, Paint The Clouds will think he’s loose with just 10st on his back, having been used to humping around 12st and more in the amateur division.

The race was first run as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1957 at the instigation of the Brewers chairman, Colonel Bill Whitbread, who as an amateur had ridden in two Grand Nationals. The first commercial sponsorship in British sport, the race continued under the Whitbread banner until 2002. The race’s roll of honour boasts six Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Pas Seul (1961), Arkle (1965), What a Myth (1966), Mill House (1967), The Dikler (1974), and Desert Orchid (1988). Alas the Wonderful grey was the last Cheltenham hero to collect at Sandown, but perhaps the 2013 Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth may have something to say about that on Saturday. It is highly unlikely that the legendary Fulke Walwyns record of seven victories in the contest will ever be equalled, but Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, and Philip Hobbs, with two wins each, have certainly got a record to be proud of.

Henderson, who won last years renewal with the 7yo, Hadrians Approach, is represented on Saturday by his 2013 Gold Cup Winner, Bobs Worth, and has been given a real chance by the handicapper. Rated as high as 180 in the past, He races off a mark of 159 at the weekend. He has been very disappointing since his win in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown in December 2013, but it is worth noting that the last time He ran on good ground, (2014 Gold Cup) He did run a decent race, beaten only 4L. It is interesting that his highly talented trainer is persevering with him, so perhaps Saturday’s less demanding test may bring about a revival.

Market leader, (9/1) at the time of writing, is the Emma Lavelle trained 7yo Milan gelding, Le Reve, and he does seem to have a lot going for him. Particularly well suited by going right handed, (5 wins 4 places from 12 runs) He has an enviable record at Sandown, where He has won twice, and been placed twice from six course appearances. He ran a fine race at Ascot in December, finishing 4L behind the very progressive The Young Master, and then beat that good yardstick Theatrical Star easily over the course six weeks later, off a mark of 139. Second to the talented Rocky Creek, (with whom he is 8lbs better off on Saturday) he was put away with the weekend contest in mind. He has never won on good ground, (only 2 runs) but his sires offspring like it, so it shouldn’t be an issue. A slight reservation would be the stables lack of form but with jockey of the moment Leighton Aspell in the plate He is definitely one for the short list.

With his exceptional record in the race, Philip Hobbs’s Duke of Lucca is worth a second look. This is certainly his time of year, with his last four wins having come in either March or April, and he will be well suited by Saturday’s forecast good ground. He stayed on with great reseloution two weeks ago over the Mildmay course at the aintree festival to deny Your Busy, and the Nicholls trained Wonderful Charm, by a nk and a nk. He meets Wonderful Charm on the same terms on Saturday, so if fully recovered from his Liverpool exertions, with only a featherweight of 10st. To carry (He is 1lb overweight) is worth considering.

Warren Greatrex’s prolific scoring hunter chaser, Paint The Clouds will think he’s loose with just 10st on his back, having been used to humping around 12st and more in the amateur division. He ran well in the Fox Hunters at the Cheltenham festival finishing third to the runaway winner On The Fringe. He couldn’t match Nora Carberry’s mount for speed from the last, but as the winner repeated the dose at Liverpool, it was certainly no disgrace. He is another animal who reserves his best for the Spring and Early Summer, (9 wins from March to June) likes good ground, and stays forever, so with his nice racing weight is another for the short list.

Henry de Bromhead’s 7yo Grand Jesture belied his odds of 25/1 when running the hugely progressive The Druids Nephew to 3 3/4L at the Cheltenham festival, off a mark of 143, on only his 7th start over fences. He ran like an improving stayer at Prestbury park, so off a mark only 4lbs higher and ridden by the very promising 3lb claimer JJ Burke He is well worth considering.

Selection: Le Reve.

E.W. : Paint The Clouds.

The John Smith Novices Handicap Chase (Cl 2) 2m5 1/2f Kelso Sat 3.25

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch.

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch.

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch. He has been plying his trade at Cl 4 level and Saturday’s task represents a considerable step up in class, but he did win very comfortably at Sedgfield last time ( 2m4f soft handicap chase ). He has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 7lbs, so with these connections, it would be no great surprise to see this progressive young chaser bridge that class divide.

Having won a Cl1 bumper and a Cl3 chase, Malcolm Jefferson’s joint top weight Oscar Rock is the class act of the race. He was quite impressive last time out ( 21 Feb Newcastle 2m4f gd/sft Cl3 handicap chase ) where having raced prominently, he made smooth headway to lead at the last, and despite idling in front won comfortably. As this was only his second start over the larger obstacles plenty of progress can be anticipated, making his 6lbs rise look less than onerous. In his only other chase ( Kelso 7 Dec 2m7 1/2f soft ), when finishing second, he didn’t seem to get home over the trip,suggesting that Saturday’s distance may prove ideal.

Having won on four of his seven course appearances, the thouroughly genuine Philip Kirby trained Stopped Out has to be of interest. He has combined a hurdling and chasing career to such good effect that he has won ten and been placed eleven times from his fourty three starts. It has to be said that only two of these successes have been acheived over the larger obstacles, but one of them was last time out in a Cl3 Novice chase ( 2m6 1/2f Market Rasen ) where he beat Minella Forfitness and the 2/5 favourite Close Touch. Can he be improving as a chaser at the age of ten? Time will tell, but he is of some interest racing off a mark 4lbs lower than his hurdles rating on a track he clearly enjoys.

Selection: Degooch.

Danger: Oscar Rock.

Racing Betting Tips: Novices Handicap Hurdle Newbury 3.45pm Saturday

Andrew Balding's Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123.

Andrew Balding’s Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123.

After the frenetic pace of last weeks Cheltenham Festival, (hope you got on our selection, Moon Racer, in the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper) racing this week is of a more pedestrian nature. Newbury stages some competitive looking racing, not least the Doombar Novices Hurdle at 3.45, while North of the border, at Kelso the Brewers John Smith sponsor a valuable and intriguing novices handicap chase at 3.25. Paul Nicholls is the only trainer represented on Saturday to have won the Newbury contest over the past decade, although both Alan King, and Venetia Williams have had runners placed. The Nicholl’s contender this year, Celestino, has been generally dissappointing and as he is 5lbs out of the handicap at the time of writing is passed over.

The Alan King trained Gimme Five is of considerable interest. Rated 67 on the flat, he has won two of his five starts over hurdles, both times on good ground. Last time out ( Huntingdon 2m1/2f gd Oct 5 ) he made most of the running and had to be kept up to his work to win by 3/4L. In his previous race ( Fontwell 2m21/2f ) he may have been a tad unlucky as he lost a shoe, when going down by 3/4L to the useful Vosne Romanee. Both the Fontwell race and his ability to stay 2miles on the flat ( 2nd btn 3/4L Lingfield 2m Feb 2. ) would suggest that he will be well suited by Saturday’s step up in trip. With the benefit of the Lingfield pipe opener in Febuary, he is Definitley one for the shortlist.

Andrew Balding’s Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123. Last time out ( Cheltenham 2m1f soft 24 Jan ) he finished a running on 4th behind Peace and Co, Karezak, and Zarib. Although 12 1/2L behind the winner, the very useful Zarib, was only 1/2 in advance at the line. As Peace and Co went on to victory in the Triumph, and Zarib won his next race the form looks rock solid. On a point of handicapping Zarib finished a good 6th in the Fred Winter at the Festival of a mark of 133, suggesting that the Balding horse is well in here off 123.

Philip Hobbs’s Golden Doyen, was going well behind the leaders, when coming down in the Fred Winter, eight days ago. He races off the same mark,141, on Saturday and so, on the form of his penultimate race ( 17Jan Ascot 2m soft ) where he was a staying on 2nd to the Triumph runner up, Top Notch, combined with the strong likelihood of being suited by the extra distance at the weekend he is another to consider.

Seamus Mullins runs his 72 flat rated Ultimate off a mark of 123 and promises to be a decent recruit to jumping. A winner of two of his three starts over hurdles he put up a fine performance last time out. ( Sandown 2m1/2f gd/sft 7th Mar.) where staying on strongly up the Sandown hill he beat Libeccio 4L with the well backed favourite Princess Ombu (rec15lbs) a further 2 3/4L back in third. He races on Saturday off a mark only 5lbs higher than Sandown giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 8lbs. Another to consider!

Selection: Storm Force Ten.

E.W. : Ultimate.

Racing Betting Tips BetBright Chase 3 Miles Kempton Saturday.

Lucy Wadham's 7yo La Reve would appear to have a lot going for him.

Lucy Wadham’s 7-y-o La Reve is our tips for the BetBright Chase.

With eleven of the last sixteen winners carrying 11st or more to victory, weight is no bar to success in this, which firmly puts the spotlight on the classier competitor. Indeed last years winner Bally legend, who won off a mark of 138, was the lowest rated in the last decade and three of the last ten winners, Farmer Jack ( 2005 ), Gungadu ( 2008 ), and Nacarat (2012 ), all scored of a mark higher than 150.

Tom George and Philip Hobbs have the best recent record, scoring twice in the last ten years, with Caroline Keevil, Harry Fry, Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Paul Nicholls collecting once. Course form has been a useful pointer, with ten of the last sixteen winners boasting a previous Kempton win, and it has to be said that the track certainly brings out the best in some animals. Favourites have had a desperate record, with only one succeeding in the last decade, and only three managing to finish in the first three. All age groups from seven to eleven have graced the winners circle in the same period, and earlier years have seen two six year olds win. Proven stamina has been important, with seven of the last ten winners having previously won over three miles. Good recent form has been shown by all except one winner in the last decade.

Lucy Wadham’s 7yo La Reve would appear to have a lot going for him. He won his last race ( Cl2 chase 3m1/2f Sandown ), by a comfortable 5l, from that good yardstick Theatrical Star, off a mark of 139 and doesn’t look harshly treated off seven pounds higher on Saturday. Successful on his only course appearance, ( 2m5f h ) he does seem to be particularly well suited by going right handed, with all his five victories having been acheived in a clockwise direction. Certainly one for the short list!

A winner of two of his five ventures over the larger obstacles, and three over hurdles, the Nicholl’s trained 7yo Easter Day looks well treated off a mark of 142, only 3lbs higher than his hurdles mark 139. He blotted his copybook last time out on trials day at Cheltenham four weeks ago, when travelling strongly he paid the price for a minor error at the third last and came down.

Some feel that he was an unlucky looser, but I’m not so sure. The winner Annacotty had plenty more in the tank, so whose to know? However on the plus side he can race off the same mark at the weekend. He has never won over three miles, but certainly wasn’t stopping when beating the subsequent R.S.A. Winner O’Faolain’s boy at Ascot ( 2m51/2f sft ) to whom he was giving 4lbs, thirteen months ago. A winner over 2m6f hurdling at Newbury and Ascot, He is unlikely to be found wanting on the stamina front, indeed may improve for the step up to 3m and is shortlisted.

Emma Lavelle’s 8yo, Fox Appeal, boasts a record of two course wins from four appearances, and ran second (beaten 10L), to the upwardly mobile Balder Success here in January. There are stamina issues, as the furthest he has won over fences is 2m41/2f,here at Kempton last November . He has won two 3m1/2f hurdles at Taunton, but Kempton’s 3m chase course, particularly, in races such as the King GeorgeV1 and Saturday’s contest, where they start racing in earnest a long way from home, can take some getting, so the jury is out on Fox Appeals stamina credentials.

Dr Richard Newland’s 9yo Ardkilly Witness is worth a second look. Another who prefers going right handed (all four wins going clockwise) is one of only three course and distance winners in Saturday’s race. ( last years winner Bally Legend, and Ballinvarrig the other two. ) After some lacklustre displays he bounced back to form with a battling performance over course and distance (January 10th), getting up to win by a shd to beat Masters Hill, with the 7/2 favourite Open Hearted 16L back in third. He unseated at the 3rd last behind La Reve at Sandown three weeks later, but may have been feeling the effects of his previous hard race, so off his mark of 139 it would be no surprise to see him involved at the weekend.

Course and distance winner Ballinvarrig, who was also placed on his only other course appearance, and trained by the twice successful Tom George, is of considerable interest. He had a hard race when winning over course and distance (Dec 27) off a mark of 126, and despite jumping errors ran well enough off his new mark of 133 to finish a battling on 6th (Ascot 2m51/2f). Returned to 3m at Kempton, with a nice racing weight of 10st 4lbs he is worth considering.

With two victories from four course appearances, both over the larger obstacles, Jonjo O’Neill’s Lost Legend catches the eye. It looked like a staying performance when he got up in the last stride to beat Cold March over the course (2m41/2f) when having his first run for six months ( Jan10) off a mark of 139. Turned out again two weeks later at Doncaster he finished a well beaten fifth. The race may well have come too soon, so racing off a mark on Saturday of 141 he looks quite well treated.

Selection: La Reve.

Danger: Easter Day.