Qipco 2000Gns Tips 1mile (Rowley) Newmarket Saturday

Rock The Kasbah gave us a good run for our money in last week’s bet365 Gold Cup but the ground had gone against him, and he did well to hold onto second place behind the runaway winner Stepback to whom he was conceding a stone. The dreadful weather has had a huge influence on results all through this winter so let’s hope the forecasters have got it right, and the first Classic of the year on Saturday is run with the Sun shining on a decent racing surface.

Aidan O’Brien, with an astonishing eight wins in the race, (an all time record), won four of the five British Classics last season, including the 2000gns, (with Churchill) and will be hoping to get off the mark again this year at the first time of asking. Of his quartet of entries at the time of writing, the two to concentrate on are Gustav Klimt, and last year’s Group1, Racing Post Trophy Victor, Saxon Warrior.

The former has won three of his four starts, including the Group2 Superlative Stakes (7f Gd/fm) over The July Course, where despite being hampered and losing his place at the 2 furlong marker, he battled back to win by a head from the useful Nebo. He was quite impressive on his reappearance, winning The Leopardstown 2000gns Trial (7f Hy) putting 1 3/4L between himself and the runner up, Imaging, in the last 150yds. By super stallion, Galileo, out of the Danehill mare Massarra, (a cross much favoured by Coolmore) Gustav Klimt hasn’t had the opportunity to race at the top level yet, (withdrawn from the Group1 National Stakes because of a stone bruise last September),but his full brother, Mars, was placed at the top level and finished 6th in the 2013 renewal of Saturday’s contest. Of further interest from a breeding point of view is that the grand dam, Rafha has produced the two outstanding stallions, Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.

Saxon Warrior has raced three times and won all of them, including last time, when he won the Group1 Racing Post Trophy from Saturday’s opponent, Roaring Lion last October. He was headed by the Gosden horse, who tended to hang left inside the final furlong but gamely fought back to win by a head. There are mixed messages from his pedigree as he is by the very successful Japanese stallion, Deep Impact out of The Galileo mare Maybe, who didn’t seem to train on after a terrific two year old career. She won all five of her starts as a 2yo, including at the top level, but never beyond 7f. She was beaten 10L, finishing third behind Homecoming Queen in the 1000gns and never again troubled the judge in her career. Her only other offspring, Saxon Warrior’s full brother, Pavlenko, has only managed a single maiden victory from eleven starts.

While the Charlie Appleby trained Masar did win two of his six starts as a 2yo, including the Group3 Solario Stakes at Sandown, his overall form didn’t suggest that he might win a 2000gns, an impression reinforced by his first run as a 3yo, where he finished 10th on the dirt at Meydan in March. However, last time he put up a real eye catching performance in The Craven Stakes, Racing over Saturday’s course and distance, he made all to come home 9L clear of White Mocha, with the Racing Post Trophy runner up, Roaring Lion, the 8/13 favourite, another 1/4L back in third. While visually very impressive it’s worth remembering that the runner up was rated 13lbs inferior to masar and the time, 3.1 seconds slower than standard on good ground, was nothing to write home about. However his winter in the sun has obviously done him good and he’s worth a second look.

We can only assume that Roaring Lion didn’t run his race in The Craven but based on his Racing Post form, and his win over Aidan O’Briens’ talented Nelson, in The Royal Lodge last September, he has to be of interest. However that poor performance last time is a serious concern, so perhaps Gosden’s best chance of landing a first 2000gns lies with the lightly raced son of Frankel, Without Parole.

He didn’t see a racecourse until last December when he dotted up in a lowly Class5 on the AW at Newcastle, and was again impressive when winning another Class5 at Yarmouth eleven days ago. The form doesn’t amount to much and Saturday represents a huge step up in class, but it’s worth noting that half brother Tamarkuz has had a hugely successful career, albeit on the AW, winning at the highest level, and banking more than £1.2 million in prize money.

Since winning with Mister Baileys in 1994, Mark Johnston has drawn a blank in the 2000gns but must entertain serious hopes of landing a second with his talented son of Frankel, Elarqam. He is out of that wonderful mare, Attraction, who won five Group ones, including the 1000gns in 2004 for Johnston, and Elarqam has been impressive in winning both of his starts, at York and Newmarket. The form of his win at Headquarters has been franked, with the runner up, Tip Two Win, easily winning his next two races, including a local Group2 in Doha last time. Elarqam not only has his inexperience to overcome, as well as the rest of the field, but coming from this yard, it won’t surprise if he does.

Selection: Elarqam

E.W. : Masar

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips 3m5f Sandown Saturday


First run in 1957 under the sponsorship of the Whitbread Brewery, the race is now sponsored by the Stoke Bookmakers, bet365, and this valuable, always competitive Chase, which has been won by some of the greats of The Winter Game, brings the curtain down on what has been another terrific National Hunt season.

Nigel Twiston-Davies won this back in 2000 with the 7yo, beau, and will be hoping that his tough and talented Blaklion might achieve some compensation for his early departure in The Grand National a fortnight ago. Unluckily brought down at the first at Aintree, the son of Kayf Tara had made a good start to his season, finishing 1/2L second to his stable companion, Bristol De Mai, in The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, and then putting up a career best performance the following month, when winning The 3m2f Beecher Chase at Aintree by 9L from The Last Samurai. Raised a severe looking 9lbs, he finished a distant second at Haydock on ground that was bordering on the unraceable in February to Yala Enki. His current rating of 161 leaves him with top weight of 11-12 to carry but his performances before Christmas showed him to be an improved animal this term, and it will come as no surprise to see this tough character involved at the business end on Saturday.

If Blaklion fails to do the business the Naunton yard has a strong looking second string with the 9yo Bigbadjohn. A winner of the Grade2 Reynoldstown Chase for Novices at Ascot in 2017 the future looked bright for the son of Vinnie Roe, but alas, his next five runs were most disappointing. However he got back into the winning groove at Kempton in February where, jumping soundly, he stayed on strongly over the three miles trip to beat the useful Brandon Hill by a length. He can be forgiven his fall at The Chair in The Topham Trophy at Aintree fifteen days ago and back on a more conventional track he doesn’t look badly treated on his mark of 138 giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-3.

A winner of his only PTP and Bumper, Missed Approach went on to win his first race over hurdles and indeed his first handicap over the smaller obstacles, (3m Soft) but his future was always going to be as a staying chaser and so it has proved. He has to date put up some sterling performances in that discipline, including a second to subsequent Grand National Hero, Tiger Roll in the 4mile National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and a superb win over Mall Dini in the 3m2f Kim Muir at this year’s Cheltenham Jamboree. He has been raised 8lbs for that victory but still doesn’t look overburdened with 10-11 at the weekend, and I suspect we have still to see the best of Warren Greatrex’s 8yo.

The Philip Hobbs trained Rock The Kasbah, having got behind, stayed on strongly from the second last to claim 6th place, only 2 1/4L behind the winner Henllan Harry, in last year’s renewal when racing off a mark of 142. phillip hobbs oddsguruHe made his seasonal reappearance a winning one off the same mark at Chepstow nearly six months later, and was then pulled up on unsuitable heavy ground in his only other race at Haydock in January. A year older, and a stronger animal this time, who will enjoy the likely good ground, he looks well treated on his mark of 149, giving him a racing weight of 11-0, and is well worth considering.

The David Pipe trained 6yo, Daklondike, has looked a seriously progressive young chaser. He won over fences for the first time at Wetherby in November off a mark of 114, and only eight weeks later saw him winning The Mandarin Chase at Newbury (3m2f Heavy) in facile fashion from that good yardstick Grand Vision off a 19lbs higher mark. He looks very well handicapped on Saturday racing off a mark of 140, giving him the featherweight of 10-5 to carry and the only reservation I have is the ground. He has done all his winning with plenty of give underneath and it remains to be seen how he will cope with conditions at the weekend. However in his favour his very talented half brother, Great Endeavour had no problem with good ground and neither had the grand dam, Ross Gale.

One who will cope if the going is on top on Saturday is the Nicky Henderson trained Sugar Baron. A winner on Good/ Firm, the 8yo was 7th in last year’s race, only 2 1/2L behind the winner Henlland Harry despite some sticky jumping and a weak finish. Jumping better and finishing strongly over course and distance in December he just failed to catch Benbens off a mark of 135. He is easily excused his last run behind Missed Approach at the Festival on unsuitable soft ground and should have his optimum conditions at the weekend. Again racing off 135, giving him a lowly 10-2 to carry he has to be worth considering.

Selection: Rock The Kasbah

E.W. : Sugar Baron

John Gray

Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips

Sandown Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m5f Sandown Saturday – First run as the Whitbread Gold Cup in 1957, it was the first commercial sponsorship in British sport, and in its early years, the classier animal at the top end of the handicap tended to dominate. It’s first two decades saw five Cheltenham Gold Cup winners come home in front, but in the subsequent fourty years, Desert Orchid in 1988, has been the single winner of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, to figure on the role of honour. Indeed it has become a contest where the lighter weights have had the better of the argument, with twenty three of the twenty eight winners since “Dessie’s” victory, carrying less than eleven stone. Experience counts for plenty with eight of the last ten winners having had a minimum of ten outings over the larger obstacles, and significantly all ten had a previous run within eight weeks of their victory. A win going right handed, and success over at least three miles, have also proved essential. Paul Nicholls with three wins holds the training honours with Henderson and Hobbs sharing the runner up spot with two each.

The latter’s sole representative, Rock The Kasbah, racing off a mark 8lbs lower than his rating over hurdles, (150) looks interesting. The 7yo has won going right handed, winning a Grade3 Hurdle at Ascot, and won a Chepstow 3m Chase on soft ground in February. He looked a bit one paced finishing second over three miles at Uttoxeter last time and could be suited by the step up in trip. Worth considering!

The 2016 winning trainer, Neil Mulholland is triple handed. He runs last year’s short head victor, The Young Master, fifth placed, The Druids Nephew, and the recent easy Cheltenham winner, Doing Fine. The first named races off the same mark but with 11-5, (including Walley-Cohen’s 3lbs claim) has 7lbs more to carry than last year and has been disappointing in his three races this term. The same can be said of The Druids Nephew, but with a 10lbs lower mark than last April, and with Noel Fehily riding, he is not so easy to dismiss. He was slightly hampered at the 19th in last year’s contest, so did well to finish 5th, 7L behind the winner, and I suppose 7th of 23 runners (although beaten 29L) at the Cheltenham Festival last time, doesn’t read too badly. However, Mulholland’s third contender, Doing Fine, with the featherweight of 10-03 in the plate looks to have the best chance of the trio. He had been a promising young horse for Rebecca Curtis, winning twice, and on one occasion, gave the useful Cogry, a run for his money over 26f at tricky Warwick in February 2015, before losing his way. The move to The Mulholland yard has proved a success. He went down by a neck, over Saturday’s course and distance, to the useful Rocky Creek in December, followed by a good second at Wincanton, and last time he got back to the winners’ enclosure, with that impressive win at Cheltenham over 28f, ten days ago. He will enjoy the good ground at the weekend, has won going righthanded and with his light weight will think he’s running loose.

Paul Nicholls, who after his Scottish National win last week, must be still entertaining hopes of retaining his Trainers’ title, also runs three. However with 11-12 and 11-9 to carry both Southfield Theatre and last year’s short head runner up Just A Par have a very difficult task indeed, so perhaps the Novice, Present Man (pictured top), represents the best chance of keeping the Master of Ditcheat in the title race. A winner of four of his eight chases, including a Doncaster 3m Grade2, he won at Ascot 27 days ago over an inadequate 21f, and as a son of Presenting, out of a Strong Gale mare, Saturday’s test over eight furlongs further, on good ground, might prove right up his street. With Jack Sherwood taking 3lbs off he will have a nice racing weight of 10-13, and looks to have plenty to recommend him.

Considering he is a double Grade2 winner over hurdles, and a winner at the same level over fences, Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vyta Du Roc, looks very well treated on a mark of 137 which puts him in Saturday’s race with 10-11 on his back.

Horse Racing - Tingle Creek Christmas Festival - Sandown Park Racecourse

Vyta Du Roc looks well handicapped for Saturday’s big one.

He has disappointed in his last two races, (lost a shoe last time) but did run a decent race in the Hennessy Gold Cup when finishing 6th, nine lengths off the winner Native River off a mark of 143. Having avoided the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals he will strip a much fresher animal than many and is worth considering.

Paddy Brennan who usually partners Theatre Guide has jumped ship to take the ride on Fergal O’Briens Viva Steve. The 9yo looked good when winning at Ayr in November following a six-month break, but disappointed in his next two races. Perhaps he is best caught fresh, and following a nice nine week holiday, might prove the surprise package.

Selection: Doing Fine

E.W.         : Present Man