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.

      England v India Betting 1st Test Tips 2011

      England host India in a test series which will decide the best cricket team in the world at Test Cricket. India are the current number one team in the world with England needing to win by 2 clear tests to take the title.

      If one were to look at the way in which the Indians were decimated in their tour game against Somerset at Taunton, England would probably go into the Lord’s Test match as overwhelming favourites. And then again, not for nothing is this Indian side the number one team in the world.
      Winning abroad had been India’s Achilles Heel for long but all of it changed under the stewardship of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. The current captain MS Dhoni is merely carrying their work along to a different plateau, and will looking to continue with his no-loss record.
      Come July 21, India will know that this could be their sternest test thus far, at level pegging with their series against South Africa. Lord’s is not one of India’s favourite grounds and with many of their cricketers coming from a long layoff, it isn’t getting easier for them. Juxtapose that to the fact that the Indians are one of the slower starters in a series and one could be looking at England going in as favourites.
      Shane Warne may have predicted a 1-0 win for England, but what remains unaccounted for, either way, is the fact that he is looking at three other draws. Not that the bookmakers disagree, with the odds of a drawn game at Lord’s being a favourite amongst them at 10/11 ( Best Price Bet365). Barring the last game played against Sri Lanka, which lost around 90 overs due to rain, the last four games have had results at Lord’s.

      England will be very chuffed with what they saw at Taunton though. The Indian batting capitulated hard and barring Suresh Raina’s dazzling century, it looked all in a lost cause. With James Anderson in the swinging form of his life and Chris Tremlett always present to make things difficult with the bounce that he can extract from the pitch, it is no surprise then that the hosts will go in 2/1 Bet365 to take a 1-0 lead to India’s 4/1 Betfred to win the game.
      England haven’t had too much thinking to do, except for the selection of Stuart Broad. Ever since returning back from the Ashes due to injury, he hasn’t shown the same pedigree as a bowler, as before. His selection, which is a given under normal circumstances, seemed to have been debated long and hard and it was only after the captain-coach combination pressed his case hard that he was selected.
      The batting is in good hands for England, with Alastair Cook translating his good Test match form into the ODIs as well. Jonathon Trott and Ian Bell are the two others who have been amongst runs and will look to grind the Indian bowlers in a similar fashion to what the Somerset batsmen had done.
      Sachin Tendulkar’s imminent 100th international century has been the talking point in the media and there is an offer of 15/8 (PADDY POWER) for him to get there in the 2000th Test match played – this first game at Lord’s. Interestingly, the second best option is for him to not score a century in this series at odds of 9/4 ( Coral)

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