Arkle 2013 Preview Cheltenham Festival

This year’s Racing Post Arkle seemingly holds the perfect balance of talent and rivalry as the two unbeaten market leaders, Simonsig and Overturn, go head-to-head for 2m novice supremacy.
Both have been foot-perfect this season with has created a rivalry that has created a number of opinions from a range of trainers and punters.
Bookmakers however remain reluctant to take on Simonsig and whilst he currently stands best price 8/11 with Coral, he may go off close to last year’s winner and stablemate Sprinter Sacre’s 8/13 price with money continuing to come in for him.

Overturn however is 11/4 with the majority of firms and many punters are looking to this race for an upset on a day of red hot favourites.
Both have won their respected races this season very easily which in both cases is down to both their talent and maybe the lack of opposition against them.
Overturn’s three victories have accumulated a total of 68 lengths whilst Simonsig’s two races accumulated a whopping 84 lengths. Their superiority is the main reason why this race is dubbed a two horse race.

Overturn’s ability to gallop strongly has been there for all to see on the flats and hurdles and he has managed to keep that speed when taking to the fences.

What is even more impressive about the Donald McCain trained 9-year-old is the accuracy in which he has jumped this year and he will undoubtedly be the first to test Simonsig come the Arkle.
However, when you spin it round, Simonsig will be the first to test Overturn this year and will he manage the jumping at such speeds when put under pressure?

The duo’s closest rival in the betting is Irish trained Arvika Ligeonniere (9/1 Ladbrokes) whose preparations were dealt a blow when he fell in a three horse race last out leaving outsider Benneficient to score from Oscars Well.
However the fall would concern me less than his lack of fluidity even in races that he’s won.

His races have been run against just as little as Simonsig and Overturn yet he has failed to win as convincingly as his rivals and has a big ‘F’ next to his name whilst the others ring ‘1s’.
With the betting very much dominated by the top two, there could be some good each way prices out there and Module at 40/1 with SkyBet is the one that catches my eye but in truth he is most likely to be some distance behind Simonsig and Overturn.


It would seem in the betting that the race is Simonsig’s to lose and I would have to agree with that. He will undoubtedly be given a test by Overturn but I have a feeling that ‘that test’ may come in a similar form to that of Sanctuaire’s efforts to conqueror Sprinter Sacre in the Tingle Creek this year.

Overturn will give a strong gallop but I sense he may be surprised when Simonsig simply goes with him. That will leave it to the final couple of fences and I think it will be here when we see how good Simonsig actually is.

He will kick on from then and if Overturn manages to go with him and get him off the bridle then racing fans are in for a treat coming up the hill. However, if he doesn’t get Simonsig off the bridle, he will be well beaten. That said, whether we are witness to yet another Nicky Henderson Arkle onslaught or a tight thriller, I believe Simonsig will still win and most probably go on to better things.

Win: Simonsig (4/6 Coral)

Each Way: Module (40/1 NRNB SkyBet)

    RSA Chase Preview 2013 Cheltenham

    Boston BobThe RSA betting market jumped into life this week as it emerged that long time ante-post favourite Dynaste, is likely to drop back in trip for the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
    Dynaste currently remains the 2/1 favourite, but with the majority of bookmakers offering non-runner no-bet, it is not in their favour to change that and connections have revealed the Jewson Novices’ will be his preferred option.
    His absence could be down to a whole host of reasons, yet will still come as a surprise to many after winning so easily over 3m in the Feltham Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
    His route to the festival matches that of stablemate Grands Crus’ route last year that ended in defeat in this race. In fact, no horse has ever won both the Feltham and the RSA in the same season and that, as well as the probable heavy rainfall, may have contributed to trainer David Pipe changing his mind.
    Dynaste’s probable absence leaves a massive whole in at the top of the betting with the Irish trained Boston Bob leading the way at 4/1 to fill it.
    Boston Bob was imperious as a hurdler and went into last year’s festival a red hot favourite in the Albert Bartlett. However, his run came to an abrupt end when he had little answer to the late Brindisi Breeze coming up the hill.

    If you had read our ‘5 to follow’ feature at the start of the season you’d know that Boston Bob was one of our selections and a so far promising season as novice puts him in a good position to out his festival blues right.
    However, despite impressing this season, he has not looked sensational in his two runs despite unbeaten and scoring a Grade One at Leopardstown.
    His maiden run over fences came at Navan when he got up by ½ a length to win as the 1/5 favourite. Not flattering by any stretches of the imagination.
    He followed that up with an even closer victory at Leopardstown when battling to get up by a nose in a trilling finish winning as the 6/4 favourite.
    Boston BobWe may not have seen the best of Boston Bob yet and his pedigree suggests he will stay the 3m so you’d have to give him a great chance without Dynaste in the race.
    Unioniste has been a revelation this season and his consistent jumping and ability to stay will put him up there with a fantastic chance of success.
    His only defeat this season came at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting when he had no answers to Dynaste’s speed up the hill.
    Since then, he’s responded with an impressive victory in the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham, course form that will prove vital when running in the traditionally gruelling RSA Chase.
    Nicky Henderson trained Hadrian’s Approach was just beaten by Unioniste last out and could be deemed quite unfortunate not to win that race. His performance when a well beaten second in the Feltham Chase is decent form even though he was more than nine lengths behind Dynaste.
    A horse that has been a real eye catcher this year is David Pipes Goulanes. I said after his latest victory at Wetherby that he could potentially be a player come the festival after getting up by a head to Super Duty, and I stand by that comment especially with stablemate Dyanste not in the race.


    This race looked like Dynaste’s to lose but with him looking Jewson bound, the race is wide open and I sense there will some big priced contenders challenging.
    Boston Bob looks likely to go off favourite for the race and that is probably justified going off his impressive hurdling form and unbeaten start over fences. However, he doesn’t need to be much shorter than he is right now as there a range of other potential contenders out for the crown.
    He is the classiest horse in the race but will be in good company with the likes of Unioniste and Goulanes looking really solid jumpers and stayers. Boston Bob will undoubtedly have to raise his game to win this.
    Unioniste’s December Gold Cup win came from bottom weight of 9-9 with 16lbs in hand on second placed Walkon. He was undoubtedly better than the handicappers made him out that day but he was lucky to beat Hadrian’s Approach last out.
    Goulanes looks a real good horse but this is a massive rise in class and he is somewhat unexposed at this level. However, at 10/1, he is much better value than his rivals and doesn’t look that far away.

    Winner: Goulanes (10/1 Bet Victor)

      Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle Preview 2013

      This year’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle looks set to be a real blockbuster with the best of British and Ireland going head-to-head for festival glory.
      Ante-post favourite Pont Alexandre looks a real classy hurdler and punters will feel even more confident about their backing this five-year-old, with trainer Willie Mullins, claiming this is his best chance of festival success. A bold statement, especially when you think he has Quevega (as short as 1/2) to continue her festival winning streak.
      His class is there for all to see. He has bags of speed and combines that speed in his jumping and looks a real stayer. You don’t really look for much more in a race like this.
      He smashed his rivals on debut at Navan, coming home 13 lengths ahead of Busty Brown. The odds on favourite Don Cossack fell at the last in that race but it would not have stopped Pont Alexandre from slamming him.
      He is not the only Irish chance in this race with Jonjo O’Neill trained Taquin Du Seuil 6/1 and Rule The World 10/1, emphasising the Irish stronghold on this race.
      Taquin Du Seuil will be the mount of champion jockey AP McCoy and although his all round speed and jumping don’t stand out as much as other rivals, he has quietly gone about his business and picked up the coverted Grade One Challow Hurdle.
      Trainer Jonjo O’Neill thinks the world of this six-year-old but he had no answers to My Tent Or Yours pace on his second run and only loss of the season.
      However, despite that defeat, O’Neill believes he has improved leaps and bounds since we last saw him and that he’ll have his star novice in tip top condition come the festival. Another plus point is how versatile he is with the ground. With unpredictability surrounding the ground going at The Festival, that will prove in his favour.

      Despite the Irish having three of the top four in the betting, the race is by no means going to Ireland as The New One holds massive claims on behalf of Britain.
      The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained five-year-old looks the real deal despite a ¼ length defeat by At Fishers Cross on heavy ground at Cheltenham last month.
      He will have definitely learnt more from that race and improve for it. Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies probably went slightly too early on him and on another day, on better ground, would have gone on to win easily.
      Last year’s Champion Bumper sixth followed up that festival ride with an emphatic win over My Tent Or Yours at Aintree on Grand National day. Bearing in mind My Tent Or Yours emphatic Betfair Hurdle win last month, that form looks very good.
      Twiston-Davies regards this five-year-old as potentially one of the best he has trained and a win in this race come the festival will set him on his way to potential greatness.
      Puffin Billy (12/1) was beaten last time out by Melodic Rendezvous. Connections suggested there were genuine excuses but he looked well beaten for most of that race and will have to improve immensely to challenge.
      Chatterbox (14/1) is a very interesting one, should he run, as he holds some potentially tremendous form yet is a large price considering.
      Unbeaten in his three starts but gave out a thumping to a somewhat under-par stablemate, My Tent Or Yours. The form obviously stands out but is dismissed by many as the race time was run extremely slowly. However, with the weather the way it has being, it is hardly surprising that that was the case.


      This race is so close I have personally changed my mind three times in the space of a couple of weeks. Off first impressions my allegiances lied with Taquin Du Seuil after I was very impressed with the way he went about his win in the Challow Hurdle.
      However, backed into 6/1 from 12’s since tipped by Pricewise leaves me thinking he is now too short.
      Pont Alexandre looks set to go off a short priced favourite with money continuing to come for Willie Mullins’ star. He looks as bomb proof as it gets looking at his performances in Ireland and that is backed up by his trainer’s confidence.
      Many have compared Pont Alexandre to the great Denman and you can see why. He looks like he will go on to be a potential staying chaser as he looks blessed with staying ability. However, should you look further into the comparisons with Denman, you’ll see that Denman went on to lose this race and that is what I see happening to Pont Alexandre.
      The horse that will deliver this defeat will be The New One. I was super impressed with this five-year-old on his first three victories over hurdles, but I was even more impressed the way it was defeated by At Fishers Cross at Cheltenham.
      Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies let him go at an area of the course that is avoided by most on heavy ground but he simply kicked away at phenomenal speed. Should Twiston-Davies have got another chance he’d have held on longer and I’m certain he’d have won very easily.
      Winner: The New One (4/1 William Hill)
      Each Way: Chatterbox (14/1 Ladbrokes)

        Stan James Champion Hurdle Preview Cheltenham 2013

        Rock On Ruby This year’s Stan James Champion Hurdle has the potential to be a real classic with a range of contenders including a possible four previous winners. Current champion Rock On Ruby will be defending his crown against Hurricane Fly, Binocular and Punjabi. Throw in the likes of Grandouet, Zarkandar, Cinders and Ashes and Countrywide Flame and you have a recipe for an absolute thriller.

        The weather has hampered trainer’s preparations this winter but 2011 winner Hurricane Fly has once again been impeccable in Ireland and heads the betting for the third consecutive year.

        Best priced at 15/8 with Paddy Power, punters will be hoping Hurricane Fly’s below par performance last year was just a minor hiccup and he looks primed to bounce back to the top with trainer Willie Mullins claiming he is better than ever.

        The question remains whether he can handle a strong ran gallop. His turn of speed is second to none but he struggled to keep on track with Overturn and Rock On Ruby last year.

        Yes he was probably below par last season and the one solo run leading to the festival may not have helped. However, many believe Ruby Walsh left it too late on catching Rock On Ruby but the fact of the matter is Rock On Ruby was further ahead at the finishing post than he was jumping the last.

        The pace that Overturn brought to the race last year meant that the winning time has only been beaten once since the great Istabraq and whilst the ground was probably quicker than is likely this year, even an on song Hurricane Fly will struggle to match a time similar to last year.

        That said the question is this year is who will inject the pace into the race. It is no secret Rock On Ruby would prefer a strong gallop but with no Overturn, who, if anyone, is likely to take them along?

        Should no one decide to take it up, Noel Fehily may have to take it up with Rock On Ruby although I’d imagine he’d prefer not to.   A somewhat fortunate victory at Doncaster after Darlan’s tragic fatal fall is Rock On Ruby’s only victory since his famous triumph last year.

        His defeat to Oscar Whisky at Aintree was over 2m4f, a distance he has never won at that distance and so many Festival winners fail at that Aintree meeting.

        His seasonal return came in the International Hurdle in December at Cheltenham. Coming around the bend he seemed to be going best of any, but he hit a flat spot after the penultimate flight and finished a good 8 lengths behind Zarkandar.

        Trainer Harry Fry however was not expecting him to peak in that race and despite looking beat by eventual faller Darlan last out, he ran into a strong head wind and will definitely be better for the run.

        Fry has since come out to express his delight in the form his stable superstar is currently in and he will, like he has most of his career, be a surprise winner should he emulate Hardy Eustace in defending the Champion Hurdle crown.

        Fry inherited Rock On Ruby from Paul Nicholls after Nicholls put his maiden Champion Hurdle success last year down to his then employee Fry.

        Nicholls hopes of himself defending the Champion Hurdle crown comes in the form of Zarkandar.

        The 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner has had a much busier season than last year and looks a much stronger horse as a six-year-old than he did last year.

        His season kicked off to a promising start when getting up to beat stablemate Prospect Wells by a neck and 15lbs despite been the unfancied of the two.

        He kicked on from then to score at Cheltenham over Grandouet and Rock On Ruby but did have 4lbs in hand that day.

        His most recent success came with victory over Khyber Kim at Wincanton. Victory was easy enough and he goes into the race in good form. He looks a real battler and should it turn into a slog for the line, this horse will be hard to pass.

        It will be interesting to see where Nicholls decides to go with this young hurdler with him looking to be a potential stayer. He could be Nicholls long term replacement for Big Bucks.

        Pre-New Year, Nicky Henderson looked to hold a firm hold on the race with Darlan, then ante post favourite, and Grandouet looking very prominent in the betting also. Them thrown in with Binocular meant he held three of the top eight of the betting.

        However, Darlan’s tragic fall coinciding with doubts over the fitness Grandouet’s fitness have somewhat weakened Henderson’s hold on the race.


        Grandouet at one point had been pulled out of the betting but Henderson assured punters his injury was not bad enough to keep him out of the festival.

        His form is solid enough and the 4 length victory over Overturn last year was made even more impressive after the former’s second place last year.

        However he has not proved enough to me that he is a strong enough finisher to compete in large fields in top Grade 1 races. It is not that I don’t think he is good enough to win this year’s Champion Hurdle I just think he has the most to prove.

        Grandouet’s stablemate Binocular could well be the forgotten horse this year. The highly talented 2010 winner has nowhere near the amount of grade 1 victories as he should do.

        His season return was a disappointing 3rd against Hurricane Fly but he has never ran well fresh and Henderson seems to get this 9-year-old firing when everyone writes him off.

        Blessed with a phenomenal turn of speed and natural pace, rule Binocular out at your peril. His talent is there for all to see when you see his starting prices.

        Never before has his starting price gone off in double figures and with him currently 10/1 and money continuing to come for Hurricane Fly, it maybe this, is the first time. In fact his biggest starting price was the 2010 Champion Hurdle victory, going on to win at 9/1. Should he stay a similar price he could well be a good each way bet.

        Cinders and Ashes could very well prove to be the forgotten horse in this race. The heavy ground will not have favoured him one bit and he will be out to prove his worth at a big price of 12/1.

        Many thought triumph hurdler victor Countrywide Flame would be a big player before a beaten favourite in the Christmas Hurdle.

        A distant 2nd to Rock On Ruby at Doncaster does him no favours form wise but he is capable of performing on his day, but may still find himself a distance behind a high class field. This race has a poor record for five-year-olds with Katchit the only one to prevail in over 25-years.


        Hurricaine Fly is seen by many as the one to beat and I have to say I agree. His overall hurdle record is simply outstanding and no one would be surprised should he be the first horse since Comedy Of Errors in 1975 to regain the crown.

        However, with victories in Ireland of 2/5, 1/5 and 1/6 suggest, he has come up against very little and I believe Rock On Ruby will be out to prove last year was no fluke.

        His race will all hinge on how the race is run. A strong gallop will most definitely favour Harry Fry’s defending champion and he will be better than we have seen already this season.

        For some reason this horse has never had the respect from people that he deserves and he has a striking resemblance of Hardy Eustace.

        Eustace was the last horse to win back-to-back Champion Hurdles and my money is on Rock On Ruby to emulate him.

        The field is undoubtedly strong with Zarkandar and Grandouet deserved contenders but I think the race may simply hinge on how the race is run and my personal opinion is that they won’t feature.

        If it is run at a pace then I think Rock On Ruby will win. If not then I’d fancy Hurricane Fly and possibly Binocular.

        Paddy Power are offering money back should Hurricane Fly win creating the perfect opportunity to back Rock On Ruby and Binocular each way.

        Win: Rock On Ruby (11/2 with Paddy Power (If Hurricane Fly wins, money back))

        Each Way: Binocular (10/1 with Coral)

          Supreme Novice’s Hurdle 2013 Preview Cheltenham

          My Tent or YoursRacing fans are now counting down the days before that mighty ‘roar’ runs around Cheltenham Racecourse and what better way to start to than with what looks to be the strongest runWilliam Hill Supreme Novices´ Hurdle in years.
          The festival’s opening blockbuster is headed by My Tent Or Yours who shot to favouritism after a superb victory in the Betfair Hurdle last month earlier this month.
          Bookmakers reacted to his classy romp by slashing him from 12/1 to 6/4 favouritism and with AP McCoy looking to have even more left in the tank, you can understand why the bookies took evasive action.
          That said, in a race that traditionally doesn’t favour the favourites, 6/4 is an awfully short price for a horse that yes was impressive latest, but tasted defeat to stablemate Chatterbox.
          There are others in the race that go into the race unbeaten this season however few have come out on top in the size of field the My Tent Or Yours, something that will boast well for the Nicky Henderson trained 6-year-old considering the large field that will contest the race.

          JezkiMy Tent Or Yours owner JP McManus’s chances of winning the race are boosted even further with his new acquisition and second favourite Jezki (4/1).
          The electrifying hurdler caught the eye of everyone with some pulsating performances in Ireland hence McManus’ decision to pay big money for the impressive five-year-old.
          A loss in his maiden run in early October did little to derail his season as he simply bounced back with four wins with the scalps of Champion Bumper winner Champagne Fever and Waheeb the standout victims.
          However Champagne Fever has not been the hurdler we thought he would be and his form over Waheeb was weakened when Waheeb was beaten into third earlier this week despite going off as short as 1/5.

          Dodging Bullets
          Dodging BulletsApart from My Tent Or Yours, the big market mover has been Dodging Bullets moving from 16’s to 10’s this week. The Paul Nicholls trained five-year-old was a beaten 4th in last year’s Triumph Hurdle but has some impressive form to his name including a respectable third behind the late Darlan in the Christmas Hurdle as well as two Cheltenham victories over River Maigue and Hi Note.
          For a horse so young to already have a love for winning at Cheltenham bodes well for him and punters will be looking to snap up 10/1 as an each way bet, especially with the likelihood of Ruby Walsh being in the saddle.
          Melodic Rendezvous is the standout bet for people looking at an each way bet to oppose the favourite.
          With a grade 1 victory already to his name as well as an impressive victory over market rival Puffin Billy he is very much a contender for this race.
          He is no less consistent than any of his rivals leading up to the race and gives off the impression that he is improving for every run he has.
          Pique Sous could yet be the forgotten horse in this race and with the ground looking set to be good, he could be a real player despite been kept in cotton wool by trainer Willie Mullins.
          His third in last year’s Champion Bumper was impressive and he had a superb season on the flats in the summer with two wins out of four.
          However soft ground has restricted him to only one hurdles race at Thurles way back in October in which he easily dispatched a field of 18 by five lengths. His only other run this year came earlier this month on the all weather which he again won at odds on.
          At 20/1 he is very much the dark horse for the race and will have Ruby Walsh scratching his head even though he is likely to choose Dodging Bullets or Champagne Fever.
          Admittedly his preparation is not ideal but Mullins insists he is still a force and there are not many 20/1 shots that boast the form that he does.


          Many see My Tent Or Yours to be the runaway winner of this race but he would personally be the lay of the week for me. The Supreme Novices’s is always a super competitive race and this year is no different so for a 6/4 shot to be heading the field is ridiculous. However it would be unsurprising to see him win the race as easy as he did the Betfair Hurdle but at 6/4 I will not be taking my chances.
          Melodic Rendezvous is a horse that has really caught my eye this year. He is blessed with the fantastic trait of been able to go when his jockey tells him to. Nick Schofield was awarded his first Grade 1 success aboard this young hurdler and he will be the man who has the privilege of controlling this energetic novice. He just as the horse is young and learning and from what I have seen this season, he looks like the improver in the field.
          Pique Sous is very much the forgotten horse in this race and despite a lack of run outs, Willie Mullins will have him in top nick however should the ground come up the soft side of good, there will be no chance in him running.

          Win: Melodic Rendezvous, 10/1 William Hill

          Each Way: Pique Sous, 20/1 Coral

          Supreme Novice Hurdles Entries

          3-12154 ALLY CASCADE (IRE) 5 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
          1111 ANNIE POWER (IRE) 5 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
          3/-11F ANONIS (GER) 7 Barry Connell Mags Mullins IRE
          32-122 BILLY TWYFORD (IRE) 6 Andy Weller Lawney Hill
          BLACK SPIRIT (USA) 6 Alan Spence Nicky Henderson
          240-13 BRIGHT NEW DAWN (IRE) 6 Gigginstown House Stud Dessie Hughes IRE
          1 BUTHELEZI (USA) 5 Bloomfields John Ferguson
          261311 CAUSE OF CAUSES (USA) 5 Timeform Betfair Racing Club Ltd Gordon Elliott IRE
          041 CAYMAN ISLANDS 5 Bloomfields John Ferguson
          111-123 CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE) 6 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
          1 CHAT ROOM 5 Bloomfields John Ferguson
          1-1 CHATTERBOX (IRE) 5 The Not Afraid Partnership 2 Nicky Henderson
          211/- CHELTENIAN (FR) 7 Roger Brookhouse Philip Hobbs
          111 CLOSE TOUCH 5 The Queen Nicky Henderson
          214-134 COURT MINSTREL (IRE) 6 Janet Davies Evan Williams
          246-113 DODGING BULLETS 5 Martin Broughton & Friends Paul Nicholls
          5111-1F DON COSSACK (GER) 6 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
          23-141 DUKE OF NAVAN (IRE) 5 David & Nicky Robinson Nicky Richards
          1-213 EDUARD (IRE) 5 Kingdom Taverns Ltd Nicky Richards
          P ELECTROLYSER (IRE) 8 Mr & Mrs P Hargreaves Nicky Henderson
          23(1) FAIR TRADE 6 Raymond Tooth Alan King
          2F1 FATCATINTHEHAT 4 Susannah Ricci Willie Mullins IRE
          FIRE KING 7 D Steele Philip Hide
          12 FLAXEN FLARE (IRE) 4 Mrs Pat Sloan Gordon Elliott IRE
          FLYING CROSS (IRE) 6 Robin Geffen David Pipe
          114 FORGOTTEN VOICE (IRE) 8 Susan Roy Nicky Henderson
          2110 GOLDEN HOOF (IRE) 5 The Hoof Partnership Nicky Henderson
          10-1P I SHOT THE SHERIFF (IRE) 6 Malcolm Denmark David Pipe
          40-3110 IFANDBUTWHYNOT (IRE) 7 Claire Hollowood & Henry Dean David O’Meara
          112 IRISH SAINT (FR) 4 Mrs Johnny de la Hey Paul Nicholls
          10-1111 JEZKI (IRE) 5 J P McManus Jessica Harrington IRE
          211(1) KARAZHAN 5 Pump & Plant Services Ltd Nicky Henderson
          1 KING OF DUDES 4 Masterson Holdings Limited Alan King
          6 KUDA HURAA (IRE) 5 Thurloe 53 Alan King
          0-F1 LEGAL EXIT (IRE) 6 Mary Samworth Jim Culloty IRE
          2 LIFE AND SOUL (IRE) 6 Matthew Taylor Donald McCain
          LOOKING ON 5 Irvin Naylor Venetia Williams
          34116 LORD OF HOUSE (GER) 5 Good Lord Partnership Charlie Mann
          14 LORDOFTHEHOUSE (IRE) 5 St Albans Bloodstock LLP Tom George
          12-211 MELODIC RENDEZVOUS 7 Cash For Honours Jeremy Scott
          61P MINELLA DEFINITELY (IRE) 6 Wellcroomed T/A Neil Mulholland
          10-3 MINELLA FORFITNESS (IRE) 6 Michael Buckley Nicky Henderson
          2-142 MINSK (IRE) 5 Barry Connell Dessie Hughes IRE
          11/3- MONO MAN (IRE) 7 Bridget Hanbury Nicky Henderson
          242-411 MORNING ROYALTY (IRE) 6 Eileen Milligan James Moffatt
          31114-1 MOSCOW MANNON (IRE) 7 J M Flanagan Brian Hamilton IRE
          2/1213-1 MOZOLTOV 7 Martin Lynch Willie Mullins IRE
          3-4511 MR WATSON (IRE) 6 Gay Smith Jonjo O’Neill
          122-121 MY TENT OR YOURS (IRE) 6 J P McManus Nicky Henderson
          2-121 NED BUNTLINE 5 J P McManus Noel Meade IRE
          1120-2 NEW YEAR’S EVE 5 Bloomfields John Ferguson
          333- OFF THE WALL (IRE) 6 Malcolm Denmark David Pipe
          630/0- OSTENTATION 6 Chris Beek Alastair Lidderdale
          31 PINE CREEK 5 Bloomfields John Ferguson
          3-31121 PIQUE SOUS (FR) 6 Supreme Horse Racing Club Willie Mullins IRE
          16 POET 8 Tina Cox Clive Cox

            February 16th Horse Racing Preview

            khyber-kim-full_2901378[1]With Cheltenham approaching faster by the minute, Festival hopefuls are hoping to get the last minute prep run to put them in the ideal condition come their big race in March.

            And potential festival stars are out in numbers at Ascot, Wincanton and Haydock this weekend all in hope of gaining one over their rivals.

            The Betfair Ascot Chase is the days big feature race of the day. The strength in depth of the field is phenomenal with four out of the six runners being either previous or reigning festival winners.

            2011 Arkle victor, Captain Chris, leads the market at 5/2 at Paddy Power and will take all the beating if his King George efforts are anything to go by.

            Philip Hobbs’ stable star came from nowhere to jump away from Long Run at the last only to get outstayed on the run in to the line.

            His form is boosted even further with victory over Finian’s Rainbow and Ghizao in his season return at Ascot in the Amlin 1965 Chase. He did have 10lbs in hand on Finian’s Rainbow that day but that by no means would have reversed the twenty-length hammering in which he gave the current Champion Chaser.

            Finian’s Rainbow ran an absolute stinker in that seasonal reappearance but jockey Barry Geraghty was never confident giving away all that weight on such dire ground.

            Although the ground is likely to be on the heavy side of soft, it will by no means be as traitorous as the race in November and connections are much more bullish of a performance this race, than they were last race.

            At 7/2 with Coral, there is almost certainly value providing he can rekindle the form that saw him pronounced the best 2m chaser last year.

            Finian’s Rainbow is a lot older than many may think at 10-years-old. He has matured late and it was last summer that for me saw him really grow up consequently leading to his blockbuster season last campaign.

            However he looked to have slipped back into old habits last time out but should he have matured for that run, he will most certainly be a contender in this race and whatever race Nicky Henderson selects for him come March.

            The youngest horse in the field comes in the form of the impressive, yet slightly complicated, Cue Card.

            The Collin Tizzard trained seven-year-old has been destined for greatness ever since his eight length romp over Al Ferof in the 2010 Champion Bumper.

            Big time success has somewhat alluded Cue Card since that victory but his record shows signs of consistency and his form is very boastful.

            His latest outing in the King George can be discarded from the form books as he struggled to see out the trip and made two big errors early on. He did however still finish a respectable fifth in a very hard race.

            His glorious demolition of Menorah and Edgardo Sol in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in November shows what he can do on his day and also showed his willingness to see out 2m4f.

            He may have beaten very little that day but anything that wins a Grade Two by 26 lengths must be considered.

            He has come closer than anyone to taking down the mighty Sprinter Sacre and looks the type who will only get better. He for me, is the one to beat.

            Somersby is arguably the most frustrating horse in national hunt racing. His form just never adds up as he seems to turn up when least expected.

            For that reason I would never rule Somersby out but I do think at 5/1 he is slightly on the short side as there is better in the field.

            Paul Nicholls trained Ghizao is appealing at 10/1 for E/W backers as he is mighty fine jumper who should stay the trip. The ever popular Pigeon Island props the betting as the 66/1 outsider with this race coming probably a year or two too late.

            With the weights for the Grand National being announced this week, there has never been a more appropriate time for the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock.

            Rigadin De Beauchene is the 5/1 favourite for the race after his stunning victory in the Classic Chase at Warwick last out. Despite that victory the handicappers have only raised him 2lbs to 10-5 putting him in the ideal position to strike again.

            His rivals come in the form of Welsh National winner Monbeg Dude (6/1) and runner up Tea For Three (11/2).

            Monbeg Dude has been handed a 10lbs penalty for that victory but still looks well in considering the 12lbs he has in hand of Tea For Three.

            The speculation of Grandouet’s Champion Hurdle chances has been rife in the racing news this week. A slight injury to Nicky Henderson’s hopeful has ruled him out of Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle leaving Paul Nicholls’ Zarkandar the outright favourite (4/9).

            The ever improving Raya Star (4/1) looks to be his biggest test but it will surely be a procession for Zarkandar just to tune him up for the Champion Hurdle next month.

              Horse Racing Preview 9 February 2013

              DarlanRacing was hit hard this week with the high profile tragic loss of Champion Hurdle hopeful Darlan as well as fatal injuries for Mujamead and Desert Vision. High profile stars such as Silviniaco Conti, Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs and My Tent Or Yours will hopefully put on a show this weekend to remind us all why we love this sport so much despite the tragedies that sometimes occur.

              With top racecards from Newbury, Leopardstown and Warwick, racing fans are spoilt for choice as trainers hope to fine tune their festival hopefuls with just over a month to Cheltenham.

              Newbury’s ‘Super Saturday’ is the perfect preparation for trainers on this side of the Irish Sea, and for punters; it answers a lot of questions as to what are serious festival players, and what simply aren’t.

              The Irish however have their own preparations ongoing and the Irish Hennessy at Leopardstown looks certain to be a classic.

              Flemenstar and Sir Des Champs will lock heads for the third time this season in what looks to be a stunning Irish Hennessy and will also answer a lot of questions as to whether ‘round 4’ between these two stars will be in the Gold Cup.

              Flemenstar’s convincing victory over Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan in December was nothing short of electrifying. The way he approached and took off at the fences with so much accuracy made the hairs on my back stick up and he never looked at one point like the race wasn’t his.

              However we all know the class of Sir Des Champs and many thought he would come back in the Lexus Chase with questions over Flemenstar’s ability to stay the 3m trip.

              It looked for the majority of the race like it was to be another sublime demolition for Flemenstar after gobbling up a number of fences in superb style.

              He looked in full control coming to last fence but looked tired jumping it and the field began to draw him in up the running and was eventually beaten a close third by Tidal Bay but beat Sir Des Champs by a nose on the line in a pulsating finish.

              However Sir Des Champs jumped very poorly that day again and he came on like a train at the end prompting many to think he can reverse the form at the third time of asking.

              At 11/8 a piece for the Hennessy there is little to choose between them in the market and it will undoubtedly be close.

              It comes down in my opinion to whether or not Flemenstar stays or not. If he stays the trip then it is hard to see anything but a victory as he jumps so well, if not then Sir Des Champs will be there to pounce.

              The Betfair Hurdle is arguably the most open out of the many feature races tomorrow with Supreme Novice’s hopeful My Tent Or Yours leading the market at 9/2.

              The promising Nicky Henderson trained 6-year-old has had a complicated season so far despite his two wins and a second from three runs.

              His maiden victory over hurdles was an impressive one seeing off Taquin Du Seuil by 1½ lengths at Ascot, form which was boosted by Taquin Du Seuil’s Challow Hurdle victory. However his second run was less impressive when beaten 4½ lengths by Chatterbox over this course and distance at 4/11.

              He did however return in superb style when beating Population by 7 lengths at Huntingdon last month and Henderson remains confident that he has got what it takes to be a player come the festival next month.

              At 11-2 in the weights he has 10lbs in hand of top weight stablemate Petit Robin (11-12) and considering his form he is coming off a handy mark to strike.

              Henderson has an army of contenders with Cash and Go, Punjabi, Lyvius and First In the Queue to add to My Tent Or Yours and Petit Robin so must have confidence of taking the race.

              However, there is class all over this field of 23 including the likes of Cotton Mill and Swing Bowler both off handy marks, it is by no means a certainty that Henderson will be in that winners enclosure come 3.45.

              Paul Nicholls leading charge comes in the form of Pearl Swan. The promising five-year-old had a topsy-turvy novice campaign last year which included a victory, a disqualification and a fall at the last at the festival.

              That festival performance was one of the most peculiar races I have seen. Coming round the bend at the top of the hill Ruby Walsh was asking questions with the horse very much off the bridle and looked for all the world like he was to be pulled up. However he came charging from nowhere down the hill and had as much chance as any coming to last only to fall.

              Off a mark of 10-13 he is poised to strike and at 9/1 with Ruby Walsh on his back, he is good value to do so.

              Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls will also team up in the Denman Chase on Gold Cup fancy Silviniaco Conti. At odds of 4/6 he is a little more fancied than Pearl Swan in the Betfair Hurdle but still looks good value after his Betfair Chase romp in November.

              Nicholls has deliberately held back his new Gold Cup hopeful so he is as fresh as possible come the festival, and this looks the ideal prep run. Despite carrying top weight he is still very much the one to beat boasting some tremendous form including defeating King George conqueror Long Run and Wierd Al.

              Paul Nicholls will be cautious of the fact that Kauto Star once was beating in this race from top weight many years ago but it is by no means the same with Silviniaco Conti giving away weight to only 4 of the 8 declared runners with Menorah, Master Of The Hall and Weird Al all going off that 11-10 mark.

              Nicholls was quoted as saying he would not swap Conti for any other of the Gold Cup contenders so it would seem like it should be procession for him this weekend.

                Racing Preview 2 February 2013

                Despite the withdrawal of the all the hurdle races, Sandown Park has beating the weather to get an all chase card including the classy novice chaser Captain Conan.
                The Nicky Henderson trained six-year-old has looked very impressive in his first season over fences with victories at Cheltenham’s Open meeting and Sandown Park.
                He looks a real old fashioned chaser jumping at pace with ultimate control and elegance and at 4/9, he is a big odds on favourite to take the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.
                Although it looks promising for Captain Conan, it is by no means going to be a procession. He is moving up from 2m to 2m4f which will not be easy.
                That is most probably due to the fact stablemate Simonsig seems to be the leading contender for Nicky Henderson in the 2m novice division.
                Henderson is consequently leaving his options open and moving Captain Conan up in trip gives him the optimum chance for festival success come March.
                Captain Conan will face three with Houblan Des Obeaux (9/2) and Changing Times (8/1) the most likely to come up with a challenge leaving Third Intention (14/1) as the outsider to take the Grade 1 spoils.
                Despite no hurdling at Sandown, Ffos Las is to host the wide open Welsh Champion Hurdle with the impressive Oscara Dara taking top weight and favouritism after a very impressive win at Kempton last month despite making a mistake at the last.
                The eight-year-old trained by Henderson is a 7/2 shot with William Hill and looked in real control throughout his last race before wobbling at the last losing all momentum.
                However what impressed the most was the way he responded as he simply regained his composure and sprinted away from his rivals to win by 3 ½ lengths.
                Tanerko Emery (4/1) however looks to hold a big chance following up his second at the Open Meeting with two victories at Sandown and Lingfield.
                With them races being subsequently weaker than this, the handicappers have laid off him (10-5). That means he gets nearly a stone-and-a-half on the favourite (11-10).

                  Cheltenham Trials Day Preview 2013

                  reve-de-sivola-ascot-2-full_2877196[1]With the likes of Grands Crus, Oscar Whiskey, Imperial Commander and Sprinter Sacre all set to make appearances at Cheltenham this weekend, racing fans are set for an explosive day of racing.
                  That is however if the wintery weather holds back after devastating the racing last weekend.
                  In one of the most important meetings in terms of festival preparation in the calendar, there are top class races which will give clues for the Gold Cup, Champion Chase and World Hurdle amongst others.
                  The biggest race of the day is the Argento Chase which features a whole range of Gold Cup fancies from the Lexus Chase winner Tidal Bay, to the returning 2010 Gold Cup conqueror Imperial Commander.
                  Despite the withdrawal of this year Gold Cup favourite Bob’s Worth, the Argento looks set to be a cracker with a star studded field led by Tidal Bay (9/4).
                  The resurgent 12-year-old has shown glimpses of class in his early career when winning the Arkle by 13 lengths at the 2007 festival but he has never since shown any consistency. That is however since his move from Howard Johnson’s to Paul Nicholls’ yard last year.
                  The champion trainer eased him into the season last year opting to leave out Cheltenham festival and go straight to Aintree where he was a distant 4th behind Big Bucks in the Liverpool Hurdle.
                  However that lesson seemed to do him wonders as he followed with a thumping 15 length win in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
                  He started this season with a return over hurdles and comfortably saw off Crack Away Jack and odds-on favourite Smad Place at Wetherby.
                  A valiant display in the Hennessy Gold Cup when staying on to finish second to Bob’s Worth when given 6lbs to the Gold Cup favourite.
                  The best was still to come when he again stayed on superbly in the Lexus Chase against Ireland’s best, to beat First Lieutenant by a head in a superb finish involving Sir Des Champs and Flemenstar.
                  The torrid autumn and winter may well have helped Tidal Bay as he seems to love the soft ground but even still his form is tremendous going into this race and is a worthy favourite.
                  Nicholls still reiterated even the night before the race that he was only 50/50 to race so should you fancy him, don’t move too early. Nicholls appearance on the Morning Line should give more of an idea whether or not he runs.
                  Tidal Bay’s main rivals are Grands Crus (9/2) and the returning Imperial Commander (6/1).
                  Grands Crus’ disappointing Paddy Power Gold Cup was followed by a solid performance when finishing 3rd to Long Run in the King George on Boxing Day.
                  That run come very soon after a wind pipe operation and he could well improve on that performance.
                  There is no doubting Grands Crus’ class but he seems to struggle when the race becomes a battle and the soft ground doesn’t help that but he definitely is in with a big shout.
                  Imperial Commander has had a very long layoff through injury and returning at the ripe old age of 12, he has a very difficult task ahead of him.
                  However trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has never lost faith in his Gold Cup hero and has always insisted that the old spark is still there and could not be happier with him leading into the race.
                  A horse which is blessed with as much talent as Imperial Commander is always a threat and should you fancy him to return with a bang, his ante-post odds for the Gold Cup in March of 50/1 may also appeal as they will be considerably slashed should he bag this race.
                  The torrential weather last weekend forced the Victor Chandler Chase to be rescheduled for this meaning fans will get the chance to see the emerging superstar Sprinter Sacre.
                  Blessed with class and speed Sprinter Sacre has torn the 2m division apart for a season and a half now and questions are now been asked if he can even be beaten never mind when.
                  Priced at 1/5 bookmakers will not be taking any gambles after seemingly holding him too big in the Tingle Creek when he won at odds of 8/13 from Kumbeshwar.
                  Never before have I seen such an energetic chaser jump with so much style and accuracy. It is scary to think the level in which Sprinter Sacre could reach.
                  Rarely does the 7-year-old make mistakes but should he get too close into a fence for example he simply adjusts himself and gobbles up the rest like a true athlete.
                  He leaves jockey Barry Geraghty motionless on almost every run coming off the bridle only a handful of times during his career and tomorrow will no doubt be the same.
                  With the race result seen be by many in little doubt, the market of betting without the favourite will most probably be the most popular.
                  Sanctuaire is the 13/8 favourite and will probably take the beating providing he doesn’t try to take on Sprinter Sacre on with a gallop again.
                  When lining up in the Tingle Creek a lot of punters believed that he could indeed beat the favourite and galloped off early on to draw out a nine length lead on the unbeaten chaser.
                  However Sprinter Sacre was simply toying with him and when the railway fences came around the final time he drew him in and Sanctuaire had nothing left when travelling into the final furlong.
                  He responded with a gutsy effort in the Desert Orchid at Kempton when looking at one point defeated to reverse the form on Kumbeshwar.
                  Somersby (12 win 5/2 without favourite) is making his season return after an up and down season last year concluding with defeat to Sanctuaire at Sandown. On his day he can produce a big performance but lacks any sort of consistency.
                  William Wishes (14 and 7/2 without the favourite) produced a fantastic performance despite making a big mistake two out staying on to win by two lengths.
                  His form is fantastic bearing in mind the run Champion Court gave in the King George and at 7/2 without the favourite, is an appealing price.
                  With the absence of the invincible Big Bucks, the staying hurdling division has been blown wide open and tomorrow will see top two-and-a-half-miler Oscar Whiskey return with another crack at 3m.
                  After a very disappointing run in his maiden attempt at 3m in the World Hurdle, trainer Nicky Henderson will hope he can prove he can stay the trip in the Cleeve Hurdle this weekend and is 13/8 to take the Grade 1 race.

                    Horse Racing Preview for Saturday 5th January 2013

                    This weekend’s racing has a super line up with Grade One action coming from Sandown and Chepstow with the rearranged Welsh National taking centre stage.
                    Torrential weather this winter has cost a number of racecards already this winter but luckily, just like the Peterborough Chase, the Welsh National has been promptly rearranged.
                    Teaforthree (3/1) heads the betting for the Grade 3 handicap having produced a number of good jumping performances this season despite not scoring even a place since his festival win at Cheltenham last March.
                    The Rebecca Curtis trained 9-year-old was sixth in the Hennessy last month and finished a lowly eighth in the Henrietta Knight Handicap at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting.
                    However, despite the lack of winning form, Teaforthree jumped well throughout both of the races and was facing stiff competition especially in the Hennessy.
                    Curtis has had her 9-year-old in contention for this race for some time and has even put him through his paces on the beach to make sure the heavy ground does not hamper his chances.
                    He carries the second top weight of 11-3 and looks the best of the field but I am not sure whether that justifies his price.
                    With Teaforthree the outstanding favourite there is plenty of each way value should you oppose Rebecca Curtis’s 9-year-old.
                    Last year’s runner up Giles Cross (12/1) beat Grand National winner Neptune Collonges at Haydock last year before disappointing in the Grand National when pulled up.
                    This is his season reappearance and connections are confident of a big performance off a handy mark of 11-3 considering his decent form last season.
                    Paul Nicholls’ big chance comes in the form of Michel Le Bon (7/1) and the lightly raced 10-year-old is in good form after running a good race when second to The Package in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton in November.
                    Sona Sasta (9/1) is the best out of the lower weights (10-0) and has course form after his win of the 3m course earlier in the season. However David Pipe’s number one jockey, Tom Scudamore, has chosen to ride Master Overseer (14/1).
                    Viking Blond (9/1), Universal Soldier (10/1), Soll and Monbeg Dude (12/1), make up the rest of the top end of the betting with the rest of the field 16/1 or greater.
                    That is apart from Alfie Spinner (14/1), but the Nick Williams trained is more likely to go for the HBLB Handicap Chase at Sandown where he is a 5/1 chance.
                    There is a stiff challenge facing the Noel Fehily ride with Johns Spirit (11/2) and Royal Charm (6/1) looking very promising off good marks and Fruity O’Rooney (9/1) has produced a string of good handicap performances over the past year.
                    Hey Big Spender (14/1) is top weight but you have to question the reason for running it so soon after a shocking reappearance at Ascot last month. There could be some each way value if he is anything close to his best and if the last performance was just a one off.
                    Sandown is also staging the Tolworth Hurdle which looks set to be a belter with a range of promising novices such as Royal Boy (3/1), Melodic Renezvous and Poet (7/2) going head to head for Grade 1 glory.