Racing on Sunday comes from Limerick with a seven race card. The feature race on the card is the Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase off at 4:05. Moonshine Bay comes into this race after finishing fourth at Navan in February behind good horses. The third Any Second Now has since came out and won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival.
Moonshine Bay has won his Beginners Chase over three miles at Thurles back in December. I think he brings the best form into the race and will run a good race at a price of 4/1.
Race one off at 1:50
Calicojack has had three runs over hurdle and finished second twice. On debut he finished second behind Ballyneety at Gowran Park, he has since came out and finished third in a decent handicap hurdle at Naas. Calicojack is a lightly raced seven year old and I think he can win a maiden. Breaken represents Gold Cup winning connections and is having his Irish debut after being off the track since June 2017.This looks an ordinary enough Maiden Hurdle and I think Calicojack is the one to beat.
Race two off at 2:20
Maze Runner comes in here after finishing second to Band Of Outlaws at Naas. Band Of Outlaws has since came out and won at the Cheltenham Festival. Maze Runner won his maiden hurdle in Cork beating Band Of Outlaws, Band Of Outlaws didn’t jump great on that occasion but has given Maze Runners form a boost. I think 5/2 is a fair price and I think he will be hard to beat.
Race three off at 2:55
Champagne Lady could be slightly overlooked here. She has only had the one run this season when she fell at Cheltenham in the Mares Hurdle. Her penultimate start was at Cheltenham when she finished third behind Laurina in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2018. I think she will run a good race at a price of 9/1.
Race four off at 3:30
Veneziano Springs last run was disappointing when he travelled well but weakened quickly and was pulled up back in January. Before that he was a good second to Smoking Gun and the form of that race is working out well. Smoking Gun has since came out and won again. The third Ming Dynasty has also came out and won at Naas. If he returns to that form he will run a good race at a price of 9/1.
National Hunt racing is taking a bit of a break this weekend so my focus turns to Doncaster on the flat and the Lincoln Handicap.
The race is a Class Two Heritage Handicap over one mile and four year olds have had an excellent record in this, winning the last three renewals. Eight four year olds take their chance this year, including the favourite Auxerre. Charlie Appleby’s Godolphin gelding has won his last three in very good style. He has an official rating of 100 and this is only his second start in handicap company. He looks to be very progressive and that may be underestimating him. His jockey James Doyle won on a similar type last year.
Alan King’s Beringer has won three of his twelve starts and ran the 117+ rated Wissahickon to three quarters of a length. He has won over ten furlongs before so this shouldn’t be a problem. Dissimilarly, AnotherBatt has done most of his racing, and winning, over sprint trips. He has spent the winter in Meydan but looks up against it off top weight.
Mark Johnston has three runners in this – Aquarium and VenturaKnight, who are both four, and MashamStar. The former has been beaten a long way on all of his starts since winning at York in October. The same kind of comment applies to VenturaKnight, who completed a double in July but is 4lbs higher than then still. The older horse MashamStar has won over this course before and goes well at the trip but will be a big price.
Raydiance won a Listed race on just his third start two seasons ago beating AnotherBatt by a neck and carries 9lbs less than that horse in this. SilverQuartz’s last win came in a handicap at Ascot in September when he beat Zwayyan by a length and a half.
Zwayyan won at the start of the month in the trial for this race ahead of Breden, Third Time Lucky, Aquarium, MashamStar, Ventura Knight, Wahash and SilverQuartz. He is on an unchanged mark but has to carry a penalty. 14/1 looks a good price. The second placed horse Breden has put in three good runs after a double over a mile on the all weather. Third Time Lucky has been a grand horse but there is plenty of life left in the seven year old’s legs yet. He ran a really good race on seasonal debut and his trainer, Richard Fahey, has won this before. Fahey also has four year old Great Prospector, who was third in the Superlative Stakes at two. He hasn’t been beaten far on his starts since apart from finishing last in a race at York. Wahash finished worse placed of all these runners in the Lincoln Trial. The Dark Angel gelding came tenth. He placed here in May 2017 on heavy but has only ever won round Lingfield.
Humbert and Ripp Orf were regulars in big field handicaps last season. The former was second here in the Spring Mile, finishing ahead of Kynren, over course and distance and then second in another large field race, crossing the line before Third Time Lucky. He won at Newcastle in June and has ran betterhan placings suggested the last twice. Kynren was behind Another Batt last time but has ran well in big field handicaps all last season so definitely has claims. Ripp Orf ran fourteen times since this time last year and all four of his wins have come in that period. He goes well at this trip but my only worry is his ninth over course and distance last time. He couldn’t just been tired at the end of a long season then and he will be fresher for the break.
Ado McGuiness has been in good form in Ireland lately and he sends over Saltonstall with Ronan Whelan on board. The five year old used to be with a different yard and is making his debut fir the McGuiness yard. He was second in the Irish Lincolnshire in 2018 and that seems decent form. He won of top weight in a competitive handicap in May. South Seas is also having his first start for trainer Philip Kirby. He was a well regarded two year old with Andrew Balding and won a group three in 2016. He hasn’t won since but it would be nice for him to run well as connections have suffered a huge blow with Blaklion getting injured before his tilt at the Grand National.
Connor McGovern is a good apprentice jockey and takes 3lbs off Waarif. The pair won a class two at Ayr in September, beating Chatez, but he doesn’t have a great record in big field handicaps. Chiefofchiefs has been behind Wissahickon the last twice and has ran a few times at this trip. Safe Voyage won a big handicap in Ireland in August then finished fifteenth in the Balmoral Handicap at Champions Day, in which Another Batt, Kynren, Waarif and South Seas all finished ahead of him but he finished before Zwayyan, Humbert, Raydiance and Aquarium.
Four of the main trends of the last few years have been that the winner has been rated between 95 and 99; carried less than 9st4; came second or won last time (on the flat) and ran well at this track before. Interestingly, the one horse left is Chatez and he is roughly 50/1! He’s from the same ownership as my favourite horse Smad Place and is a four times winner on the flat, including here in the 2015 Spring Mile. He ran a pitiful race last time in a competitive handicap hurdle but he ran well before that, has a good draw and good jockey and I think he can out run his big odds.
Selections I think the favourite AUXERRE is a nice type and will run a big race with Kynren and Zwayyan to fill the places. Hopefully Chatez can run well too but he’s a ginormous price and his run last time wasn’t great.
winners and over £1 Million in prize money over the last five seasons.
A lot of racing fans wish they have their own string of racehorses and with Dance’s new project, working with the talented Jay from Trackside Media, racing fans will get the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a racehorse owner through the content shared on the new @DanceThorobreds Twitter Page. “We’ll probably have to give the credit for the idea to Jay at Trackside Media. He was keen to do a project that would help promote racing to a wider, newer and maybe younger audience with behind the scenes content and done in a kind of funky way,
“The idea is that we do more features that are behind the scenes compared to what you’d normally see, so things like some of the parade ring chats we have with the jockeys and post race chats – so what we talk about and what the jockeys tell us etc. Also we’ll show the process of what we go through at the sales and show that to people. Hopefully, over time, we’ll be able to follow horses who we’ve bought at the sales onto the race track and do projects on the breeding side and also horses we’ve bred to the racetrack.”
Within the site and over the course of many seasons to come, every aspect of racing will be covered. There will be features on bloodstock such as how the team decides which stallions to send their mares to, pedigrees and how they work and foaling.
Something Dance spoke passionately about was the importance of stable staff and how they hope to include features on the day to day life of yard staff and the highs and lows of the job to highlight how valuable they are because, “At the end of the day, without them, there would be no show,” he said.
This will allow fans to get up close to the racehorses; see behind the scenes at yards and at the races; showing viewers the career choices racing offers through the videos but, most of all, educate the wider public on the in-and-outs of racing away from the races and what is shown on TV.
Dance believes that the promotion of the sport is down to the racecourses and participants, whether that’s trainers, owners or jockeys – not fully the BHA’s responsibility. “It isn’t necessarily the BHA’s job to promote the sport: it is their job to make sure it is promotable.”
The aim of the project is to help to do just that, “I think that we have a wonderful sport and one of the unique attributes it has, that no other sports do, is you’ve got the great stories behind the scenes.” Dance was part of a great story recently with his nine year old gelding Im Too Generous. The Rebecca Menzies trained horse was off the track for a week short of four years and he pulled up and bled horrifically. He pulled up next time as well but the team persevered and he won a novice hurdle last time out by six lengths. It was an incredible training performance and also hats off to Dance’s team for being so patient with him.
Im Too Generous will be one of the horses featured in the videos, I’m sure, as will their top-class filly Laurens. They bought her for £220,000 in 2016 and she battled on well to win her first ever race in July 2017. She went on to win the Group Two May Hill at Doncaster and then the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket aged two. It was her three year old season which put her name in lights though. She finished second in the 1000 Guineas and then she went over to France and won two of the top grade one races for Fillies, in May. She later won the Matron Stakes and the Sun Chartiot Stakes beating top Irish filly Alpha Centauri. “For any owners to have a horse like Laurens, to have five group one wins and six group wins whether you’re Godolphin, Judomonte or Coolmore – that’s pretty exceptional and unusual.” You could hear the love in his voice for the filly which is completely expected as she’s took them to three different countries and to some of the biggest meetings. “For little John and Jess Dance, who are fairly new to the game, and not a global operation – it’s amazing really!”
The big wins just kept coming after her first French success, “I thought she’s already won X, Y and Z races and it’s preposterous to think she’ll win another big one. I even thought this going into the French Oaks, the Prix De Diane. PJ [Mcdonald, Laurens’ regular jockey and Dance’s first jockey] rang me and said “How are the nerves?” to me and I said “I’m pretty relaxed actually.” I said to him – ‘We’ve won the May Hill, Fillies’ Mile, come second in the guineas and won the group one Prix Saint-Alary, it doesn’t seem feasible that any horse could come out and win a classic on top of that’.”
And where will we see this super filly next? “The intention is to make a reappearance in the Lockinge in the middle of May. We’re starting to get excited about that and the one we’re keen on going to next is the Queen Anne on the first day of Royal Ascot, the opening race of the meeting.
“From then on, there is a variety of a mile or a mile and a quarter options. We’ll see how the first two races go and then plot a course which is either biased for one mile or biased towards one mile and a quarter races.”
In racing, we’re constantly looking forward to the future and to future stars so I had to pose the question to John about whether he has another Laurens, “We’ve got a handful of unraced three year old and we’ve got two or three that we don’t potentially know how good they could be. Also I’ve got a yearling filly by Kingman and there’s a while to wait to see her on the track or even in training but at the moment she’s just an absolutely beautiful horse.”
It is so incredible to see an owner who is so committed to the sport and wants to make it better and widen the fan base. For me, I think it is a genius idea and this new initiative offers a brilliant access-all-areas transparency which could have the added benefit of strengthening the public’s trust in the welfare of the horses.
I believe that one of the ways racing should be trying to attract new fans is through social media. Hopefully, John and Jay’s new project will help racing step forward into the 21st century and get more people involved in this wonderful sport that we love.
Sunday marks the start of the flat season in Ireland with flat racing coming from Naas. For those that don’t like the flat there is also jumps racing coming from Downpatrick. I have a few selections for each track and will go through my Naas selections first.
The feature race at Naas is race six the Tote Irish Lincolnshire off at 4:10. It is hard to be confident in many horses at Naas with there being a question mark about most horses fitness. This looks very competitive with twenty runners going to post. It is easy to make a case for a lot of these but the one I like is Quizical at around 20/1.
This son of Roderic O’Connor only got to the racetrack once last season as a three year old. He finished fifth behind Imaging at Naas last May. The form of that Listed race looks good with the sixth horse, Romanised since coming out and winning the Irish 2000 Guineas. The third Brother Bear came out and won a listed race on his next start. The winner Imaging has came out and finished second in a Listed race at Leopardstown.
Quizical has form on soft ground finishing second three times on soft ground. Two of those seconds were behind Yulong Gold Fairy at Galway and Naas back in 2017. I think a mark of 94 is a winnable mark. I think if he is fit enough he can run a good race with Gary Halpin in the saddle.
Race two off at 2:00
This race sees the match everyone has wanted to see, Ruby Walsh vs Ryan Moore on a racetrack over six furlongs. All messing aside it is interesting to Ruby ride for his dad Ted at Naas on the flat. It will be interesting to see how he gets on but I like Ryan Moore’s mount Empire State for Aidan O’Brien.
This son of Scat Daddy was a very expensive purchase costing $275,000. He came close to winning twice as a two year old only bet a head at Naas and a neck at Gowran Park. It won’t be long till he gets his head infront and I think here is a good chance for him to do so. If he is fit he will be hard to beat.
Race three off at 2:35
Arcanears won on his second start last year on heavy ground. He was an unraced two year old. He finished second to Sors in October in a handicap at Naas. I think he is better than a mark of 79. Hopefully he will have improved through the winter and will run a good race at around 6/1.
Race four off at 3:05
Zander looks a worthy favourite on ground he will enjoy. He was impressive when winning his maiden at Galway last year. He then came out and finished second to Mount Tabora giving him ten pounds. I think he will be hard to beat off a mark of 98.
One at a bigger price that could run a good race is Chicas Amigas. She ran in a lot of good races last year. She finished second behind Servalan at Naas last year with Skitter Scatter finishing third. Skitter Scatter has since came out and won a group one and has a leading chance in the 1000 Guineas this year. If she handles the ground she can run a good race off a mark of 92.
Race five off at 3:40
Yulong Gold Fairy looks hard to oppose here. She is a filly with plenty of class, she finished second in a 1000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown last April. She won a Group three and a listed race last year. I think she is by far the best of these and will be hard to beat on ground she likes.
Race seven off at 4:45
This race sees the return of Amedeo Modigliani after missing all of last season with a setback. Before being ruled out for the season he was being built up as one of the leading contenders in the Derby. He won his maiden at Galway on soft ground so the ground won’t be a concern but how fit will he be is the question. I think he will be hard to beat,whatever he does here he would be expected to improve for the run.
Race eight off at 5:20
Wargrave looks to be the best of these. He finished second behind Zander at Galway back in July. He has also finished second at Limerick behind Could Be King back in October. If he comes here ready to go he will be hard to beat.
Now to Downpatrick and the first race is off at 2:15. I think the favourite Kalum River will be hard to beat. On his hurdles debut he finished six lengths behind Commander Of Fleet at Punchestown back in November. He hasn’t built on that run since but he won’t get a better opportunity to get his head in front.
Race three off at 3:20
Cappuccino Man was second on his penultimate start at Fairyhouse. The first three pulled six lengths clear of the fourth. Last time out he was fifth at Leopardstown. He probably ran better than his finishing position suggested, he was slightly interfered with after the last hurdle. I think the step back down in trip will suit and can run a good race at a price of 11/2.
Race five off at 4:25
Mill Forge ran a great race to finish second to Father Jed at Gowran Park earlier this month after a break. He know returns to fences after some good runs over hurdles. He hasn’t shown much over fences but I think in handicap company he will be shown to better effect. He is well in on his Hurdle form and hopefully he can run well with Patrick Corbett in the saddle.
Race seven off at 5:30
Fasola Tido ran a promising debut at Fairyhouse back in December finishing second to Santa Rossa. Santa Rossa has since came out and won a Grade two bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival. Fasola Tido has since came out and disappointed at Punchestown. That run was too bad to be true and if she returns to form she will run a good race at a price of 9/4.
Racing on Saturday comes from Thurles with seven races on the card. The feature race is the Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase over two miles two furlongs. While there may only be a small field of four runners, it looks a competitive race.
Jetz and Duca De Thaix don’t have much betweeen them on their form from Navan back in November when Jetz got the better of Duca De Thaix by half a length. When they last met at Navan, Jetz was an easy winner beating Duca De Thaix by thirty four and a half lengths. I think it is fair to say Duca De Thaix didn’t run his race on that occasion, he was in the ideal position stalking Jetz around and then found nothing after turning in and faded.
Jetz has since had a run when unseating Robbie Power at the first. The horse near stopped coming into the fence and gave his jockey no chance. When loose he done the same at each fence slowing right down coming into the fence. Even when he won the Grade three at Navan his jumping wasn’t fluent at times. Duca De Thaix now recieves seven pounds off Jetz and I think he will run a lot better than last time out at Navan.
Race one off at 2:20
Generalisation has showed some promise on his four starts over hurdles to date. His best finish to date was third at Thurles in November. On his first run he was fourth behind Vocarium and Jack Dillinger at Gowran Park in October. Jack Dillinger has since came out and won twice. He hasn’t been seen on the track since January, he will need to improve from his past runs but I think there is a fair chance he will.
Race two off at 2:55
Prince Of Scars ran a promising race for a long way at Gowran last time out after near two years off the track. He is a previous Grade one winner, he won the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle back in 2015 as a five year old. I think he is a lively player against the top two in the market.
Race three off at 3:30
Be My Dream showed vast improvement to finish second in her second start in a handicap hurdle. She stayed on strongly to finish second. The extra two furlongs is a plus and has the Gold Cup winning jockey, Paul Townend onboard.
Race seven off at 5:50
Soviet Pimpernel ran a promising debut at Leopardstown last time out. He finished second pulling fourteen lengths clear of the third Dewcup who lines up again. I think he will be hard to beat with Derek O’Connor in the saddle.
This Saturday marks the end of an era as weighing room legend Noel Fehily hangs up his boots.
Fehily’s career was an illustrious one. He won two King Georges on the incredible Silviniaco Conti and two Champion Hurdles with Rock On Ruby and Buveur D’Air. Fehily won at last year’s Cheltenham Festival in the opening race riding the Tom George trained Summerville Boy and struck gold this year on 50/1 outsider Eglantine De Seuil in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle for Willie Mullins and that is when he announced his retirement.
He will round out his career thus Saturday at one of his favourite tracks – Newbury. He has three booked rides and he has some good chances. It is a shame that the ITV Racing team aren’t at Newbury for his last hurrah but Kelso offers a nice substitute. Viewers will be treated to four races from the Scottish track as well as three from Newbury.
The first televised race is the EBF/TBA Mares’ Novices’ Chase (13:50), which is a qualifier for the Mares’ Chase Series, from Kelso. Only four mares go to post and Paul Nicholls and Grech and Parkin team up with Kapatuna. She’s a chancey jumper and as a result has fallen twice in 2019, including last time, so that’s a worry. KALAHARIQUEEN won last time out and the form of that has worked out considering the third has since got her head in front since. She’s s consistent and I’m expecting a big run. Northern trainer Nicky Richards has My Old Gold, who has won over further in the past. The other horse Tokaramore is making her chasing debut.
Next up we go down south to Newbury for the Insure With Be Wiser Handicap Chase (14:05). Last year’s Scottish Grand National winner Joe Farrell has top weight and he has only been seen once this season and he ran very well considering the long absence. CLASSIC BEN battled on to win, beating Chic Name, at Sandown last month by a neck and has been put up 4lbs for that. He’s a very progressive six year old and is my idea of the winner. Colin Tizzard‘s veteran Grand Vision will give a bold view out in front but hasn’t won for a while.
Back to Kelso next and to the William Hill Handicap Hurdle (14:25). The mare Irish Roe is classy on her day but has struggled to get her head in front of late. Winston C is having no problem winning and is currently looking for a three timer. He’s lightly raced over jumps but has done nothing wrong so far. This will be his handicap debut. Tom George send up Champagne City, who was beaten eleven lengths first time out this season by Al Dancer. He ran well last time and could figure. David O’Meara doesn’t have many jumpers but his INGLEBYHOLLOW has won his last two very and should be bang there.
That horse’s form links into the Be Wiser Insurance Juvenile Hurdle (14:40). GROVEMAN followed in Ingleby Hollow last time out. Before that, Jedd O’Keeffe’s flat recruit won twice in that code and then won on hurdles debut. He’s been second the next two times and, if he steps up, I fancy him to win. Elysees was only beaten a neck in a grade two behind Quel Destin, who went on to win a grade one, and should run well dropped in grade. Retiring Noel Fehily rides Prabeni for Charlie Mann. The son of Teofilo finished fourteenth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham ten days ago when his jumping wasn’t quite good enough. He has each way claims.
After this, coverage returns to Kelso for the Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase (15:00). Blue Flight looks a completely different horse this year and is on a four timer after beating grade one winner Black Corton in a Listed race. This is a drop in class but he got put up 14lbs for that victory so that puts me off. He’s only six and has a big future. SOME CHAOS won going away over roughly this trip last time. He has been put up 11lbs but looks a progressive type. Lucy Wadham’s stable star Le Reve (which means ‘the dream’) in French) has won his last two: the Surrey National in February under this conditional and the Grand Military Gold Cup. He has won of a mark higher than this before so a three timer could be on the cards.
Next up is the highest rated race of the day – the grade two EBF & TBA Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Series Final (15:15) at Newbury. These mares are searching for coveted black type to enhance their breeding credentials. Fifteen runners go to post with the Jonjo O’Neil trained Annie Mc at the top of the weights. She is owned by the Coral Racing Club and has been made famous by reality TV star Chris Hughes who rides out on the mare some mornings. She will struggle with the weight in this race. Dan Skelton and Bridget Andrews teamed up to win this last year with the Roksana, who went on to win the Mares Hure at Cheltenham, and they have the consistent SoLonely in this. She is probably the second string to Etamine Du Cochet,who has just had a wind op, and will be ridden by Harry Skelton. It took off the hook a while to win but she did so in a maiden last time. She has a good piece of form in behind Queenohearts and Danse Idol so that boosts her credentials. Back in November, Maebh won at Warwick with She Might Bite and Millarville behind yet she is still a 22/1 shot. Since then, she has been well beaten but the trainer had the third at a big price last year. THE WHITE MOUSE is quite lightly raced and has won at both tries at this trip, including beating Oscar Rose last time. Her only defeats came over a trip too short and she should run well here.
The final race is the Paxtons Exclusively Kverneland Handicap Hurdle (15:35) at Kelso. One of my ‘20 To Watch Horses’ runs in this race. Rocklander hold so much potential and ran a blinder to be third at the Cheltenham Festival last year but since then he’s ran six times and only finished two of them. He’s so frustrating but hopefully the return to hurdles can rejuvenate him. WORTHY FARM is quite lightly raced and won by a half length last time. He has been put up 7lbs for athat run but Lorcan Williams takes off 5lbs so should go close. It is very interesting to see that James Reveley is riding on this card. He is a very successful jockey in France and partners Seemorelights. The gelding fell when in contention last time out. Captain Drake won his last two and Taxmeifyoucan likes it round here but has been badly out of form.
13:50 Kelso- Kalahari Queen 14:05 Newbury- Classic Ben 14:25 Kelso- Ingleby Hollow 14:40 Newbury- Groveman 15:00 Kelso- Some Chaos 15:15 Newbury- The White Mouse 15:35 Kelso- Worthy Farm
After a fantastic weeks racing at Cheltenham we move onto to Navan and I have a selection in every race.
The feature race at Navan is the Toals.com Webster Cup Chase off at 4:00. This looks to be between Darasso and Cadmium. Woodland Opera would idealy like further and may struggle to keep tabs on the front two. I would slightly favor Darasso.
He was last seen winning over hurdles at Gowran in February. This will be his first start over fences since he won in France back in March last year. He will enjoy the softer ground while Cadmium would prefer better ground. He receives 5lbs off Cadmium and I think that will be enough to see him get his head infront here.
Race one off at 2:25
The frustrating Debuchet lines up here. He promised so much as a bumper horse and it is disappointing that he is still a maiden over hurdles. This will be his ninth start over hurdles and I will give him one more chance. He finished half a length behind Final List at Thurles earlier this month. On that occasion Debuchet gave him 1lb. That was over two miles six furlongs, the drop in trip will suit and hopefully he can finally get his head infront.
Race two off at 2:55
I think Serious Ego will make it back to back wins. He was very impressive winning at Leopardstown but his overall form isn’t good. I think that may be beacause he had never run on anything worst than good to yielding. On soft ground at Leopardstown he won very well. If he can run up to that form I think he will be hard to beat.
Race three off at 3:30
I think Caravation can get her head infront here. She was impressive winning at Navan last time out over two miles. She finished second behind Relegate at Naas back in December. The step up in trip will suit her, she won a point to point at Punchestown over three miles on soft to heavy ground. I think she is the one to beat.
Race five off at 4;30
Se Mo Laoch is a very consistent horse and hasn’t been out of the top three in his last nine appearances. He bet Whisperinthebreeze last time out,he has since came out and won at the Dublin Racing Festival. The third Snugsborough Hall has came out and won twice by a combined eleven lengths. I think he can run another great race for connections.
Race six off at 5:00
I think Customer will run well here. She is the youngest in the field and I think she has a reasonable handicap mark of 102. She finished five lengths behind All The Chimneys last time out receiving 1lb. She now recieves 10lb. She has won on heavy ground in France as a five year old. I think she can run a good race at around 13/2.
Race seven off at 5:30
Santana Plessis comes into this race with with great bumper form. He finished third in last years Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown behind Commander Of Fleet. This season he finished second behind Embittered at Punchestown. Embittered has since finished third behind Envoi Allen at Leopardstown. I think he is the one to beat and I think he should be shorter than 6/1.
To begin this preview of one of the greatest races of them all, I would like to take you back to the beginning of the season or, more precisely, the 24th November 2018.
I’ll set the scene for you: five horses lined up to take their chance in the first grade one of the season – The Betfair Chase. Bristol De Mai had won it in 2017 on bottomless ground by a whopping fifty seven lengths. He faced Gold Cup Winner Native River; King George winners Might Bite and Thistlecrack and a six year of Paul Nicholls’ who’d followed in Might Bite and Bristol De Mai at Aintree in the spring, in this renewal.
Bristol De Mai went out in front in his trademark style round his beloved Haydock. When push came to shove, no one could lay a hand on him. He went clear up the run-in with Native River plugging on for second, Thistlecrack in third, after tanking for most of the way but his jumping letting him down, and Clan Des Obeaux finishing fourth. Twenty lengths behind the field, Might Bite trailed home almost at a walk.
Meanwhile, over in Ireland, the favourite and big talking horse of the entire Cheltenham Festival, Presenting Percy, had not made his seasonal debut.
Just over a month later, it was time for the second leg of the ‘Jumps Triple Crown’ – the King George VI Chase – and those five were to face off again. They represented half of the field and were joined by 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree, who was retired later in the year; 2017 King George second Double Shuffle; grade one winner Tea For Two and two top-class horses stepping up in trip – Politologue and Waiting Patiently. Might Bite, despite his awfully disappointing run last time out, was favourite at 3/1 and Bristol De Mai was 8/1.
For this premier race, Bristol De Mao was ridden more conservatively in mid division but, at the ninth, disaster struck. He stumbled and fell, completely wiping out Waiting Patiently.
The whole complexity of the race changed then. The third and fourth of the Haydock race jumped the last sync and turned the entirety of the form on its head when Clan Des Obeaux won by one and a half lengths. Thistlecrack showed a good return to form by coming second and Native River stayed on in his usual gutsy style for third. Might Bite crossed the line in last place, thirty six lengths behind Clan Des Obeaux.
The next day Elegant Escape won the Coral Welsh Grand National, beating Yala Enki. It has been reported that trainer Colin Tizzard said dismiss him at your peril for this grade one showpiece.
Over the Irish Sea, on the 28th December, young pretender Kemboy shot himself into the limelight under David Mullins, when beating a classy field, containing Shattered Love who gets 7lbs from the boys in the Gold Cup, by seven and a half lengths in the grade one Savills Chase over three miles. A couple of days later, stablemate Al Boum Photo hosed up by six lengths in a Listed race of the same name, beating Invitation Only, over two miles and five furlongs.
Even at the beginning of 2019, we’d not seen the favourite yet. Racing fans had to wait almost until the first of January before Presenting Percy resurfaced. He made his reappearance in a grade two hurdle and won well. All antepost punters, who’d lumped on after the RSA, breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Midway through February, King George winner Clan Des Obeaux enhanced his Cheltenham credentials in the Denman Chase (which was won by Native River in 2018 before he went on to win the Gold Cup). Also that day, over in Ireland, Aniable Fly was second in the Red Mills Chase.
Now the Cheltenham Gold Cup is upon us and the excitement is building.
We haven’t seen Bristol De Mai, Might Bite, Native River or Thistlecrack since the King George VI Chase. Also, firm favourite Presenting Percy hasn’t been seen over fences since the RSA in 2018 so, for me, there is no way I could fancy him to win it. An appealing factor is that he has some of the best course form as he has won twice at the Festival.
The weather has not been kind and, with a smattering of rain forecast overnight, there is a chance that it could become a slog so I believe horses who have assured stamina and soft ground form will go well. Native River looks the obvious one that can tick those two boxes. In 2016, he won the Hennessy Gold Cup (now known as the Ladbrokes Trophy) and the Welsh Grand National on soft going for Colin Tizzard. This is the perfect test for him and I really hope he can rekindle last year’s form.
Native River may have won this last year but his trainer has two other live chances in the race. I’ll begin with Elegant Escape on the basis that he is more likely to stay and handle the ground. He won the Welsh Grand National on soft going, beating Yala Enki. Last time, he was second to Frodon, who won the Ryanair, in the Cotswold Chase and he was staying on less than ideal ground. I don’t think he has the star quality to win but 16/1 is a good each way price. The gelding is by Dubai Destination, who was a good quality flat horse and has already sired a Cheltenham festival winner this week when Roksana won the Mares Hurdle. Their other runner is Thistlecrack and he is an excellent horse but he is now eleven. He has only been beaten ten times and put in a much improved run to be second in the King George, beaten only a length and a half.
Clan Des Obeaux will be one of the favourites on Friday after winning his last two races in great style. He is probably the one to beat but a worrying factor is that he’s never won at this course or ran over further than three miles so there are stamina doubts.
Another horse who may not stay up the infamous Cheltenham Hill is Might Bite. He didn’t stay last year when finishing behind Native River. He underperformed on both tries in the back end of 2018 and it came to light that Might Bite had a wind issue and has undergone an operation to fix this. It will be a massive task to get him back but he’s in the best hands as Nicky Henderson nursed Sprinter Sacre back to health from a heart condition.
If you can fancy the aforementioned horses, you have to like the chances of Bristol De Mai. He beat Ckan Des Obeaux, Thistlecrack, Might Bite and Native River convincingly at the start of the season. The way I look at it is, if he hadn’t have fallen, who knows what would’ve happened? He will like the soft ground and connections obviously think he will stay or he wouldn’t also have an entry in the Grand National. Some people pigeon he him as a Haydock specialist, which in a way he is, but he has ran well around here before and has each way claims.
The other English challengers are Definitely Red, Double Shuffle and Yala Enki. I liked Definitely Red for this race at the start of the year but, last time out, he was beaten by a horse rated 21lbs less. Double Shuffle put in a career best when second to Might Bite in the 2017 King George. He’s a lovely horse but he isn’t at this standard. Yala Enki is one of my favourites. He is such a cool horse and rarely runs a bad race. He has bundles of stamina and will like the ground.
There is a seven strong representation in this race from the other side of the Irish Sea. Willie Mullins trains four of them but he, believe it or not, has never had a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner! Ruby Walsh rides Bellshill, who won the Irish equivalent last time out and the Punchestown Gold Cup in April, but he was behind Kemboy in the Savills Chase. That horse, who is to be partnered by Grand National winning jockey David Mullins, won his last four races and will like the conditions. He kept on strongly and I think he seems very progressive as he’s only seven. Al Boum Photo is a bit of a monkey but he’s classy on his day as he won the Ryanair Gold Cup, beating Gordon Elliott’s mare Shattered Love and his stablemate Invitation Only, who is one of the outsiders at 66/1.
Shattered Love gets 7lbs from the boys and it has been a but of a theme of the girls beating the boys this Cheltenham Festival but I’d be surprised if she featured. She won the JLT at this meeting last year. Aniable Fly is a good horse and will relish conditions but doesn’t look up to this standard.
In conclusion, my faith is with NATIVE RIVER and Dicky Johnson to win a second Golf Cup but I think Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai will run a big race. Elegant Escape and Kemboy could run to a place too. I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
Day four gets underway with the JCB Triumph Hurdle over two miles. Sir Erec looks like getting favourite backers off to a flyer. He was a top class horse on the flat and he has transferred that form over hurdles. He is unbeaten over hurdles and I don’t think he will lose his unbeaten tag here.
Race two is the County Hurdle over two miles. This looks a very competitive handicap. I like Eclair De Beaufeu for Gordon Elliot. He was last seen finishing fourth on handicap debut at Leopardstown. Before that run he had won two in a row, at Cork and Fairyhouse. I think he is better than mark of 136 and can run a good race with Jack Kennedy on board.
Race three is the Albert Bartlett Novices’ hurdle over three miles. Usually for his race you need a horse that is battle hardened. I like Derrinross for the father son combination of Philip and Luke Dempsey. This horse has had five starts over hurdles and is an eight year old. He will love the ease in the ground and can run well at around 10/1.
A horse at a mad price I like is Rockpoint for Colin Tizzard. His last two runs have been underwhelming but a return to Cheltenham could see him return to the form of his win at Cheltenham in December. He has had twelve runs over hurdles so he won’t lack experience. I think he will outrun his odds of 25/1.
Race four is the feature race of the week, The Gold Cup over three miles and two furlongs. I like Presenting Percy for Pat Kelly. While he hasn’t had a run over fences this season he has schooled around Galway. He won’t have a problem staying, he has won over three miles five furlongs at Fairyhouse in 2017. I think he is the best horse in the race and if he had of run over fences he would be a lot shorter than 7/2.
Race five is the Foxhunter Chase over three miles and two furlongs. I like Shantou Flyer for Richard Hobson. He has won his last two starts at Fontwell and Kelso. Last year he finished second in the Ultima on day one. He is a nine year old who still has talent. If he runs up to the form of his second in last years Ultima he is the one to beat.
Race six is the Grand Annual over two miles. I like last years winner Le Prezien for Paul Nicholls. He is running off 151, he won this race last season off a mark of 150. If he was to return to that form he can run a good race at around 10/1.
The last race of the festival is the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle over two miles and four furlongs. I like Defi Bleu for Gordon Elliot. His last run was slightly disappointing at Leopardstown. Prior to that he finished second behind Derrinross over three miles at Limerick. I think he is better than his mark of 139 and can run a good race at a price of 14/1.
The Cheltenham Festival never fails to thrill and we’ve already had a shock in one of the ‘Big Four’ races at the Festival in the Champion Hurdle. It was billed as a race between the big three – Laurina, Apples Jade and Buveur D’Air. The script got chucked out the window when Buveur D’Air fell but both mares later on the mares flopped and the Cheltenham Hurdle crown was passed to young pretender Espoir D’Allen but I expect this race to be a case of an Altior situation when the favourite obliges.
PAISLEY PARK is the stand out stayer of the season by miles and, as a result, is the favourite. He has won his last few and began this winning run with a sweeping late surge to land a grade three round Haydock, then the JLT Hurdle (Grade One) and finally the Cleeve Hurdle last time. He beat West Approach, Black Op, Sam Spinner, Wholestone and The Mighty Don. West Approach is a half brother to the mighty Thistlecrack, who runs in the Gold Cup. He is in no way as classy as Thistlecrack but he has been showing bits and pieces of ability back over hurdles when following in Paisley Park. He has each way claims but Paisley Park will need to flop for him to reverse the placings. Connections deserve a big winner and I really hope Paisley Park can run well and not flop like Sam Spinner did at the festival last year.
Jedd O’Keeffe’s chestnut gelding, who is almost as orange as his colours, won his two races before the festival but then was fifth in this race last year and third at the Aintree Festival behind Identity Thief and Wholestone. He hasn’t been the same horse as last after unseated on his first two starts but put in an improved performance last time out.
Wholestone has kind of lost his way a little bit since winning a Hurdle race at Aintree in November and he was beaten thirty eight lengths by Paisley Park. He’s a decent horse in his own right as he has won three grade ones. His stablemate is Top Notch and he is the preferred of the two based on jockey bookings. He’s a classy chaser but ran over hurdles this season on his first start and Paisley Park beat him by almost six lengths in December so he has a bit to find with him. He won well last time but may not be suited to this.
Black Op was second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year and has since won a Grade One over hurdles and then went chasing. He didn’t have much luck over the large obstacles when he followed in Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation. He was beaten fourteen lengths behind Paisley Park last time. Kilbricken Storm won the Albert Bartlett last year, with Paisley Park behind, and went novice chasing but didn’t take to that and theyve come here instead of one of the chases. He loves it round here and could go well. Yanworth is also a decent chaser but ran very poorly last time and was pulled up sharply in a grade two at Haydock. He has a bit to find and last time out was a worry.
Faugheen is such a loveable old soul and it would bring the house down if he could win this race. He had the most horrible fall last time out and I’m hoping he can bounce back to form and run as well as he did at the Punchestown Festival in April. He’s getting on a bit in the age department but I’m hoping he can produce a big run.
Willie Mullins trains him and he also has three other runners- Bacardys, Bapaume and CoquinMans. Bacardys has quite a few Fs by his name lately but he was a very classy novice and is a grade one winner. Bapaume is the second string from the stable and he has followed in Apples Jade and Presenting Percy the last three times. He won a grade two in France on heavy in June so will handle the ground. Coquin Man is a good horse and won a grade two in April beating Bapaume but that form was reversed in that French Grade Two. The ground will be in his favour.
The Mighty Don won a Pertemps Qualifier over course and distance but connections opt for running here. He’s be a shock winner. As would Man of Plenty and NauticalNitwit. The former won a Listed race on heavy going but isn’t up to this class. NauticalNitwit won the Yorkshire Hurdle beating KeeperHill, who won a Pertemps Qualifier on his penultimate start then disappointed last time. He’d be better off in that race in my opinion.
SELECTIONS Paisley Park (NAP) and Kilbricken Storm Each Way.
REST OF THE CARD
R1- LOSTINTRANSLATION- Has lots of good form in behind La Bague Au Roi and he won the Dipper at this course by one and a quarter lengths to Defi Du Seuil but was then second to that horse at Sandown. I think my selection is more gutsy and is well suited to Cheltenham.
R2- FIRST ASSIGNMENT- Won over this course on his first two starts including a Listed race that he ran away with. Ran into grade one winner Paisley Park and then Keeper Hill when qualifying and both of these go to the Stayer. Has a big chance.
R3- ROAD TO RESPECT- This race is very open but this horse is very classy. He won the Irish Champion Chase and is a course and distance winner. Should go well.
R4- PAISLEY PARK
R5- SIRUH DU LAC- He is a very progressive young chaser and jumps really well. He’s won all of his starts this season, including a grade three round here.
R6- SANCTA SIMONA- won a grade three and then was second in a grade one so has the class for this and could unwind the favourite who can be very keen.
R7- ANY SECOND NOW- Bit stuck on this race as my fancy annoyingly was second reserve but I think this horse is a good alternative. He is sure to stay and has the best amateur jockey on board!