Emirates Cesarewitch Stakes (Handicap) 2m2f (Rowley) Newmarket Saturday

Cesarewitch guruI hope plenty of followers of The Oddsguru Blog took our advice and rowed in with our EW suggestion, Waldegeist in last Sunday’s “Arc”. Available at some very fancy prices when first advised last Wednesday, Andre Fabre’s, Longchamp specialist was always travelling well within himself at the back of midfield, and when asked by his outstanding rider, Pierre-Charles Boudot, made up ground with consummate  ease from 1 1/2f out, and went past the 1/2fav, Enable, 50yds from the post to win by 1 3/4L, recording his 5th course victory in the process. There will be nothing in the Waldegeist class lining up for Saturday’s Cesarewitch, but in a heat, 2m2f in length, contested over 2 counties, (starts in Suffolk, ends in Cambridgeshire) that is always run with the choke out, some of the French Star’s stamina will not go amiss, and the current market leader, Buildmeupbuttercup, shouldn’t fail on that front.

Trained by top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, (won last year’s renewal with Low Sun) Buildmeupbuttercup proved her stamina for this when a running on 2nd in Royal Ascot’s 2m4f eponymous Handicap in June. The 5yo daughter of Sixties Icon, showed that she wasn’t short of pace either when taking a 12f Galway Maiden next time out, and following a 45 day break, put up another excellent performance 4 weeks ago, when failing by a neck to concede 15lbs to the rapidly improving 3yo Kastasa over 13f. As the winner has gone on to win a Curragh Group3 and is now rated 109, a strict interpretation of the form would make the Mullins mare look like something of a good thing on Saturday off her mark of 94, but it has to be remembered that Kastasa is a rapidly improving 3yo so perhaps that conclusion is a little tenuous. Nevertheless, however you look at it the Mullins mare looks very well handicapped, and proven on soft ground, (won a Bumper on soft when trained by Mick Channon) she is well worth considering.

prescott newmarketThat uber shrewd master of getting a horse well handicapped, Sir Mark Prescott has never won The Cesarewitch but goes to war on Saturday with two contenders, both of whom look very well in, Timoshenko and Land Of Oz. The former, a 4yo, won all 5 starts at 3, and carried on the good work on his seasonal debut, following a 355 days break, he landed a Goodwood Handicap over 2m4 1/2f, 73 days ago. Clearly still improving, he is only 5 lbs higher on Saturday, and the main concern would be soft ground, as he has never won, or been placed on anything slower than Good. On the other hand, Sir Marks’ second runner, Land Of Oz, looked very much at home on soft ground when winning over 2m1 1/2f at Ayr in July, and this improving 3yo son of Derby winner Australia, has been very shrewdly placed to sneak into Saturday’s heat at the bottom of the handicap. He won his first run in a handicap, back in July, off a lowly 58, and despite winning 4 of his next 5 starts, still needed to win Newmarket’s Cesarewitch Trial over Course and Distance 3 weeks ago to get into Saturday’s race, a feat he accomplished in some style, winning comfortably by 1 1/2L. Top lightweight pilot David Egan, takes the ride, and could be the one to Land Sir Mark, his first Cesarewitch.

Another upwardly mobile 3yo is the Andrew Balding trained Ranch Hand, and he revelled in the Haydock mud when landing a valuable 14f Handicap 5 weeks ago. By The Melbourne Cup winner, Dunaden, out of the High Chaparral mare Victoria Montoya who stayed 2 miles well, he is bred for the job, and with champion elect, Oisin Murphy, doing the steering has plenty to recommend him.

It isn’t often that the master of Ballydoyle has runners in a race like The Cesarewitch, so it’s worth taking note when 4 of them appear in the declarations, and the one that catches the eye is the 3yo colt, Barbados. Beautifully bred by Galileo out of the Danehill mare, Sumora, he has only won one of his 8 starts, a Navan Maiden, but undoubtedly his best performance came when racing on soft ground for the first time, he was only beaten 1/2L, by the now 109 rated Dashing Willoughby, in Royal Ascot’s 14f Group2 Queens Vase, where the subsequent St Leger 3rd, Nayef Road, was a further 1/2L back in 3rd. He has done little since, and indeed finished last of 17 last time out, but coming from this quarter, it is premature to write him off, and if the ground does come up soft on Saturday, it could well spike a revival in the fortunes of this well bred colt.

If the going does get testing don’t ignore Alan King’s Chester Cup Hero,
Coeur De Lion as he came home 5L clear of his rivals over The Roodeye’s 2m2 1/2f on heavy ground. He ran well without troubling the judge in his following 3 races, so top handler King has given him a nice 78 day break, and he will strip one of the freshest in the field.

Selection.  : Land Of Oz

EW.             : Ranch Hand

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup 3m2f Chase (Grade1) Cheltenham March 16

With racing prospects looking extremely doubtful for the weekend due to the Arctic weather, it is an opportune time to look forward to Cheltenham’s Blue Riband in just sixteen days time.

Nicky Henderson, who trained the 2011 winner, Long Run, and the 2013 Victor, Bobsworth, is hoping to bring up the treble with current market leader, Might Bite, and following a highly satisfactory racecourse workout at Kempton Park last Saturday, the master of Seven Barrows expressed himself highly delighted with the condition of his challenger. Currently available at around the 4/1 mark he has won his last five races, three of them at Grade1 level, culminating with victory in the 3m King George V1 Chase last time. However his win at Kempton, again raised some doubts about his stamina, as his seven lengths advantage over the 50/1 runner up, Double Shuffle, turning into the straight, was reduced to a length at the post. Pilot, De Boinville, is convinced that the horse wasn’t tiring, only idling in front, a view I’m inclined to agree with, remembering the courageous way he fought back in last year’s 3m 1/2f RSA Chase at The Cheltenham Festival, where having got the last wrong, and hanging violently right, he still found the reserves to get back up in the shadow of the post. However the fact remains that the furthest he has won over is 3m1f and that was over the flat Mildmay course at Aintree, and despite his stamina laden pedigree, ( By the stayer Scorpion out of the Presenting mare, Knotted Midge, whose own dam, Bula Beag, got that strong staying chaser Drombeag ) the jury remains out, and its anyone’s guess how he will cope with the demands of a Gold Cup, invariably run at an attritional pace.

The record of Irish stables in the first twelve renewals of the new millennium, with only two wins, Kicking King 2005, and War Of Attrition 2006, was hardly impressive, but the last four years has seen a dramatic improvement in the fortunes of The Emerald Isle runners, with three of the last four Gold Cups going across the Irish Sea, and with messers Harrington, Mullins and Meade, fielding strong challenges, it wouldn’t be long odds against the trend continuing this year.

Jessica Harrington runs both last year’s winner, Sizing John (pictured), and her impressive Irish Grand National winner, Our Duke. The former marked himself down as a really exceptional performer last term when becoming the first horse to achieve the amazing treble of winning the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, The Cheltenham Gold Cup the following month, and The Punchestown Gold Cup in April. He carried on the good work on his reappearance seven months later in December, beating Djakadam by seven lengths at Punchestown, but was a bitter disappointment eighteen days later in The Christmas Chase at Leopardstown, trailing in 32L behind the winner, Road To Respect, in seventh place, at the cramped odds of 9/10. As well as the race coming “too soon” and some other non specific illness being blamed, no one really knows what caused the upset, but given a complete rest, he is reported to have put his problems behind him, and delighted Jessica with a scintillating workout last Tuesday. If he is indeed fully recovered, he will make them all go on the 16th.

Mrs Harrington’s other contender, Our Duke, was a hugely impressive winner of last year’s Irish Grand National, winning the 3m5f contest by 14L from Bless The Wings. He let his supporters down badly when trailing in 51L behind Outlander, when sent off the 5/6 fav for a Grade1 Chase at Down Royal, on his reappearance, seven months later. However a back problem was diagnosed and the 8yo subsequently underwent corrective surgery. He was less than convincing again with his jumping, three months later in The Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, making a real howler at the penultimate fence when in contention. However he did show what an engine he has, by getting going again, and running on to finish fourth. Obviously short of match practice, Jessica ran him again two weeks later over an inadequate 2m4f at Gowran Park, where despite some sticky jumping he got the better of the evens favourite, the talented Presenting Percy. Our Duke was foot perfect in the Irish National, a race run at a good even clip throughout, and outstanding trainer Harrington, feels that given the pace at which The Gold Cup is invariably run the son of Oscar, wont have any trouble at the obstacles, and if she proves to be correct, it will take a good one to beat him.

The one glaring omission from the Mullins C.V. Is The Cheltenham Gold Cup, and Willie would dearly love to emulate father, Paddy, who won with the great mare, Dawn Run, in 1986. His two likeliest candidates look like being Djakadam and Killultagh Vic and as the former, despite some brave efforts, runner up twice, and fourth last year, doesn’t seem to quite get up the famous hill, his best chance of correcting the deficiency in the C.V. would seem to lie with the lightly raced Killultagh Vic. Considering it was only his third race over fences, Killultagh Vic was in the process of running a super race when coming down at the last in The Irish Gold Cup, when travelling like the winner. He has gone well over Prestbury Park’s undulations in the past, finishing 5L behind Silver Concorde in The Champion Bumper in 2014 and winning over hurdles at the 2015 Festival. A strong stayer, (outstayed Thistlecrack to win the Grade1 3m Hurdle at the 2015 Punchestown Festival) if fully over his fall at Leopardstown, could be the one to end the Mullins “Drought”.

The Noel Meade trained Road To Respect beat Baron Alco by 6L in a Grade3 Handicap Chase (2m5f) at last year’s Cheltenham festival off a mark of 145, and four weeks later, took the step up to Grade1 level in his stride, winning by a neck from Yorkhill at Fairyhouse ( 2m4f) earning a rating twelve pounds higher. He made a highly satisfactory return six months later, winning comfortably at Punchestown, (3m1f) and two weeks later, was sent off at 7/2 for a Down Royal Grade1. Clearly uncomfortable on the right hand track, and never jumping fluently, I thought he put up an excellent effort to only go down by 1/2 L to the enigmatic Outlander, earning a mark of 163. Further progress was made when he won the Grade1 Christmas Chase at Leopardstown comfortably from Galway Plate Victor, Balko Des Flos, and he is now rated 22lbs higher than he was for that Cheltenham victory. Clearly an improving animal, shrewd trainer, Noel Meade has kept him away from the exhausting winter ground, and he will be one of the freshest animals lining up at the start on the 16th.

Selection : Road To Respect

E.W. : Sizing John

John Gray

Racing Betting Tips Irish Grand National 3m 5f Fairyhouse Easter Monday

Irish Grand National 3m5f Fairyhouse Easter Monday

Willie Mullins, (who has never won the race, although his father Paddy was three times successful), tries with his National Hunt Chase 4th Perfect Gentleman,and looks to have a serious chance.

First run in 1870 over a distance of 3m4f, the trip was increased to 3m5f in1991. Historically it had been something of a Dreaper family benefit, with the legendary Tom (trained Arkle) winning nine renewals, including with the great horse in 1964. Tom actually won the race on an unprecedented seven consecutive times between 1961 and 1966, and son Jim continued the good work with four victories, that included a hat trick between 1974 and 1976. Alas, the last time the winner was led up by a Dreaper was back in 1978, when Brown Lad won with an impost of 12st2lbs on his back.

Perhaps this unhappy state of affairs can be rectified this year by Jim’s live contender, Los Amigos. Weight has been most important, with only three winners carrying more than 11st, to victory, since the immortal Desert Orchid won with 12st on his back in 1990. Unusually for such a competitive race, relatively inexperienced animals have thrived, with none of the last ten winners having had more than a dozen runs over the larger obstacles. Indeed, counting the 6yo Garoupe in 1970, nineteen novices, including last years winner Shutthefrontdoor, have hit the back of the net. So what of this years renewal?

Willie Mullins, ( who has never won the race, although his father Paddy was three times successful ), tries with his National Hunt Chase 4th Perfect Gentleman,and looks to have a serious chance. Jumping soundly in the four mile test at Cheltenham, he took it up at the 16th, and only faded into fourth place, when not quite seeing out the trip. He enjoys a 6lbs turn around with the National Hunt Chase winner Cause of Causes, so this lightly raced 10yo, with less than 11st on his back, must have serious prospects of correcting a serious gap in the Mullins C.V.

The previously mentioned Los Amigos is Definitley one to consider. On only his third outing over fences, in last years Thystes Chase, he ran a fine race to finish runner up to the subsequent shd Gold Cup second On his Own, off a mark of 126. He then ran the useful Gallant Oscar ( rec 11lbs) to 3 1/4L when finishing 3rd at Naas (3m sft March 2014). We didn’t see him again until his reappearance at Fairyhouse at the end of January, where he proved his wellbeing, beating the 134 rated Lion Na Bearni (2m5 1/2F sft-hvy). Bred to be a stayer, Jim Dreapers Overbury gelding looks well treated off a mark of 138, and is one for the short list.

Another Lightly raced animal to be interested in is the Ted Walsh trained Champagne James. A very well backed favourite for the 3m2f Kim Muir at the Festival, he wasn’t the recipient of one of Katie Walsh’s best rides. Always behind when held up out the back, he was never in a position to challenge, but did run on through beaten horses to finish 7th. Perhaps the faster ground at Cheltenham was against him, as he does seem well suited by plenty of give, well demonstrated by his run at Naas in Febuary (2m4f sft-hvy), when despite losing a shoe, he was a closing second to Empire of Dirt,(rec 6lbs) who was rated 125. His style of racing strongly suggests that staying is his game, and given easy conditions at the weekend, he is one to consider.

Lucy Wadham’s 7yo La Reve, has won three of his twelve starts over fences, and off Monday’s Mark of 147 is likely to carry more than 11st, but still makes some appeal. He does love racing right handed, and has won five, and been placed four times, from his twelve clockwise starts, so Saturday’s track should be ideal. A reproduction of his run at Sandown at the end of January (3m1/2f sft) where he won very easily from that good yardstick Theatrical Star, would put him firmly in the mix.

Michael Hourigan’s 7yo The Job Is Right is another who may be well suited by Monday’s test. He finished third in The National Hunt Chase (5L ahead of Perfect Gentleman), where he led at the last ( normally the 2nd last) and was only run out of it in the last 100yds, finishing 3rd, (1 1/2L and 5L) behind Cause of Causes, and Broadway Buffalo. Reservations for Monday would be his very hard race at Cheltenham, and his less than fluent jumping.

Selection: Perfect Gentleman.

E.W. : Los Amigos.