#startracking Thursday January 28th 6.30pm

GoingStick update @Cheltenham Races Festival Trials Day: Soft, 6.2, on Thursday at 14:00 TurfTrax ‏@TurfTrax  ·

#startracking Friday runners

Huntingdon 2.40        UN ACE Has to be no bet as I still live in hope that Kim Bailey is protecting that chase OR of 149. The three miler on Tues at Cheltenham, the Plate on the Thursday? The Betbright Chase at Kempton, something at Aintree?

Huntingdon 4.20        BAGS GROOVE We have waited a while for this chap who was meant to be a good thing over Christmas at Wincanton but like a lot of Fry’s horses stayed in his box. Has the yard had or indeed still got the sniffles or did Fry simply not want to run his good young horses on this deep winter ground? 24 runners in October, 49 in November, 25 in December and only 13 in January and just one winner. With Doncaster due to race on GOOD (remember that word?) to SOFT ground we’ll be brave and put him up as a two star** win selection @7/4 with Skybet and general on line.

#startracking AntePost update

COOLOGUE Hope you are all clutching your 20/1 e/w voucher as he is one of fifteen left in at final decs. PP are still top price at 12/1 with 10/1 being the general price, that is with three places. We are in again for a one star* each way at 12/1 (1,2,3) with PP. If on Saturday morning we can get 10/1 or better and FOUR places we’ll be in again.

STERNRUBIN Still 16/1 for the Betfair Hurdle but in the Pricewise Preview midweek Philip Hobbs confirmed Sternrubin was an intended runner.

#startracking Monday Results

ONENIGHTINVIENNA             2nd        10/11 Fav No bet. Great run and jumped for Britain, however as I feared he was outpaced from three out before staying on strongly being beaten just a head!

I was gobsmacked to read the following in the much respected Lydia Hislops latest ‘Road to Cheltenham’ article,

“At Kempton on Monday, Local Show was steadily being run down at the end of three miles by the favourite Onenightinvienna but – after an excellent round of jumping from both horses – still held sway by a head at the line.

…… The runner-up had caught my attention as a beautiful old-fashioned chaser when finishing second to Blaklion at Cheltenham last time out. He jumps like a seasoned pro and has stamina in abundance. Here, he was patently unsuited by Kempton’s tight track but kept on trying to rescue the situation all the way to the line.I had been shaping up to recommend him for the NH Chase but could not dismiss the idea that Philip Hobbs, his trainer, might prefer the RSA.

So I rang him to inquire about plans… and learned of a career trajectory 12 months in advance of that which I had envisaged. Hobbs said he sidesteps Cheltenham. Instead, Onenightinvienna will run in this year’s Crabbie’s Grand National as a novice via one more run. “He’s qualified and that’s where we’re going,” he said. “He runs in the West Tip colours, so it would be some story, but that’s not the reason we’re doing it, of course. Some people might be surprised but that’s the plan.”

Ridden by Richard Dunwoody, West Tip won the 1986 Grand National in the silks of Peter Luff, the property-developer and philanthropist who died in September 2014. The horse – famously scarred on his hind quarters due to a life-threatening collision with a vehicle in his youth – was part of Aintree folklore in the 1980s: lining up six times, winning once, making the frame on three other occasions and completing in all bar his first attempt. Onenightinvienna now races for Luff’s widow, Judith, in the knowledge that Hobbs had said this was potentially another Aintree horse. That date with destiny has now been brought forward to this April. Surprising, it is. Attractive, it also is – with bells on. As a rule, I wouldn’t fancy a novice in the National but every case should be judged on its merits and this horse has all the attributes required for the race. I’d mentally penciled him in as a 2017 National type but in handicap terms he’ll never be better treated than this year. So, although this is the Road To Cheltenham, I feel compelled to recommend Onenightinvienna for the Aintree marathon – especially as Sky Bet are offering 50/1. It would be rude not to.”

STELLAR NOTION                         7th        7/2 Fav Two star** win selection at a weak 4/1 Never really travelling but stopped very quickly from the third last and the reason is, “The representative of Paul Nicholls, the trainer of STELLAR NOTION (IRE), unplaced, reported that the gelding bled from the nose.” BHA Stewards report

#startracking Tuesday Results

THE ORGANIST                       2nd        4/6 Fav No bet. Tried to make every yard but was readily outpointed by the more experienced Tara Flow from the second last. The Organist was too keen and needs to learn to settle. Next race will be informative, what level, how she is ridden etc. etc.

NO COMMENT                       2nd        7/4 Fav No bet. Probably a little lucky as didn’t get the smoothest run from the second last and carried left on the run in but no luck in the Stewards room.

“The Hobbs youngster No Comment looked a nice horse but this was no penalty kick with both Fionn Mac Cul and The Dutchman having recorded pretty decent figures on their previous outings.” Adam Norman’s Notebook

#startracking CheltenhamFancies

First of all Onenightinvienna bypasses Cheltenham and now this for handicap fancy Falcon Crest.

“Christy Roche is hoping Falcon Crest can regain full fitness in time for a spring campaign. The six-year-old won his first two outings over hurdles but finished well down the field when upped to Grade One level in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas. However, Roche reports Falcon Crest to have suffered a setback and will not be sighted until later in the year. He said: “Falcon Crest came home lame after Leopardstown and he has been lame since. He stood on something firm and bruised the foot. He is out of Cheltenham but I hope to have him right for Punchestown and Fairyhouse.” IrishRacing.com Thu 28th Jan 2016, 13:02

#startracking CheltenhamNews

“Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days I have decided BARTERS HILL will run at @DoncasterRaces for his @cheltenham prep run.” Ben Pauling Racing ‏@benpauling1  · Weds. 1.45pm 

#startracking MullinsWatch

“The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is definitely the plan for Bellshill,” he told the Racing Post as part of a Pricewise ante-post preview of the race in Wednesday’s edition. Bellshill is a general 16-1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, while his price ranges from 8-1 to 25-1 for the Albert Bartlett. Mullins, who is also responsible for 9-1 shot Yorkhill, 16-1 hopes A Toi Phil and Long Dog, as well as Petit Mouchoir and Bachasson at 20-1 and 33-1, added: “Yorkhill, Long Dog, A Toi Phil, Petit Mouchoir and Bachasson are all in the mix at this stage. A lot will depend on how they all are closer to the time.” Racing Post Neptune Pricewise Preview

Willie Mullins. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly of National Hunt Racing.

January 28th 2016

I wrote the following piece in response to Will Hayler’s splendid article on sportinglife.com about the effect of Willie Mullins current domination of our sport.

The four days of the Cheltenham Festival are the most eagerly anticipated four days racing of either code in Britain and Ireland. Why? Every horse is a trier and it is the best racing against the best. Hours would be spent pouring over the form book trying to find a couple of winners to pay for the four days betting whilst looking forward to cheering home the legends of the jumping game whether they carried your money or not. Cheltenham 2016 has polarised the two extremes of enjoyment National Hunt racing can bring, the sheer joy of horse and rider in perfect harmony negotiating a series of obstacles at full tilt and the handicap snip you spotted in November hacking up at 16/1!! Why? Two words, Willie Mullins.

Willie Mullins is brilliant at his job. However how can you solely blame one man because he has assembled a complete team from the likes of Harold Kirk who buys the protégé’s, to a top quintet of jockeys in the definitive horseman Ruby Walsh, Paul Townend and the Mullins boys, nephews Danny and David and his own son and heir apparent Patrick, to his staff at Closutton? Willie’s easy going manner makes him media friendly and the likes of Rich Ricci, the O’Learys with Gigginstown and the Wylies are used to winning and have the money to give themselves the best chance of doing so.

But in my opinion there are three other culprits who have questions to answer.

In no particular order the first are the bookmaking fraternity. The Mullins fourfold on the Tuesday at less than 10/1 is a mug bet. I know it, they know it, but they need to generate the interest hence Mullins and his four Horses of the Apocalypse. Any horse trained by Willie Mullins will be shorter than its form warrants and that skews the market immediately. The layers need to get creative, take the four out of the equation and lets have some serious without markets for instance.

The second group are the rest of the jockeys and trainers. I can’t believe the English are just going to roll over and let this happen. Are the jockeys just going to let Ruby have his way in front, choose HIS stride, run at HIS pace, quicken when HE wants to? Most of the Irish already do! Are they all going to ride for a gallant second? Are the trainers going to give him the Championship races to try to find “easier” targets? Just one example, Smad Place. He won the Hennessy by going from flagfall, getting in a great rhythm and stuffed a good field by fifteen lengths. He has twice finished third in a World Hurdle yet he is down to run in the RyanAir. Why isn’t he putting it up to them in the Gold Cup? Take a look at last season’s Cheltenham bumper. The first four home were Moon Racer, Modus, Wait for Me and Yanworth, all trained this side of the Irish sea yet Bellshill was 10th and Up for Review was 18th. Is there a chance these Irish novices of Mullins may be over hyped?

Thirdly it is us, the punter. Two groups here and I’m going to be age-ist. The younger brigade who got into betting via football just want to have winners, are used to sixfolds+ and couldn’t tell the difference between 4/11 and 5/6. The layers must love them. They have no concept of value. The older horse orientated punter is shaking his head at the thought of backing horses on Day 1 at Cheltenham at 5/4, 2/5, 1/3 and 4/6!! We want to have a bet and currently Cheltenham has little appeal.

Racing must remain a competition not an exhibition! Who bets on an exhibition?

#startracking Fakenham Thursday January 27th 5pm

Posted Wednesday 26th January 5pm

A friend asked me to mark their card for our local NH track so I might as well share my thoughts with the worldwide inter thingy!

Looks as though they will be running round the outside of the track with the races distances being extended by 113, 170, 221,113, 185 + 141 yards. Therefore the course could be narrow in places and it will pay to be in front. The going is currently Soft but we’ve had less rain than expected and there is a brisk drying wind.

Plenty of horses and some big yards in the form of Henderson and Skelton.

1.25 Trappy start. I think the winner is among the topweights and OGARTIMO (5/2) is a course winner and I just prefer him to Irondale Express and the precocious Harry Cobden.

2.00 Question marks over most of these. Can’t have the rags, Mahlers Spirit and Cupids Lad, Far from Defeat has been dreadful this season after promise in bumpers, and Valiant Creek and Minella Daddy don’t look like they’ll stay. Weststreet was really lucky to win at Southwell which leaves the promising mare Girly Girl and the failed novice chaser Road to Freedom. I prefer Lucy Wadham’s ROAD TO FREEDOM (11/4) who has won a hurdle over the trip and has form at Fakenham.

2.30 Good race for Fakenham a C3 chase worth £6,500. Beforeall takes a drop in class on seasonal debut, Aigle de la See is only a 6yo from a powerful yard but yet to prove he stays 3m, Fruity O’Rooney is a game veteran that has every T-shirt. I wouldn’t be surprised if any of those three won but I’m going for AMIDON (3/1) who looks a ‘now’ horse. Harry Skelton rides the in form 8yo for Fakenham specialist Lucy Wadham. This is just his third run over fences and his second to Silvergrove last time out is the best form on offer and my only concern would be if he jumps right, as he did on chasing debut, on this tight left handed track.

3.05 This C4 maiden hurdle is another competitive event which could produce a useful winner. The two 4yo’s Haut Bages and Magic Dancer were both placed last time out, the latter in two grades higher. Barman makes his British debut for Nicky Henderson/Nico de Boinville having won in the French provinces and could be anything but I’m going for the Skeltons well-regarded mare LATE NIGHT LILY (4/1) who was a very promising second in a similar event at Huntingdon last time out. The main danger could be Gwafa (8/1) who was sixth on hurdling debut in one of the strongest novice hurdles run in Britain this season. He was a decent 3yo on the flat and any improvement could put him in the frame.

3.40 I can’t remember the last time I put up a horse with form figures of PFPP-PP!! However the race before that string of letters MIDNIGHT CHARMER (12/1 with Ladbrokes 4.47pm!!) won over course and distance off exactly the same handicap mark and this is his first return to Class 5 since. The opposition looks weak and I just hope the selections regular rider James Banks didn’t have a choice of mounts as he is aboard Salut Honore!!

4.10 The bet of the day is in the finale. The three at the bottom of the weights are hopeless, Slidecheck is a chaser and Jumpandtravel is a bridesmaid who won just a seller here at Fakenham. That only leaves veteran front runner Hassadin who will hopefully set the race up for the improving 5yo RUNNING WOLF (5/2) for the in-form Alex Hales yard.

 

Nap of the day – RUNNING WOLF Next Best –AMIDON (3/1) Each Way –GWAFA (8/1)

Placepot 8 x 50p= £4

Leg 1 – 2 & 3 Leg 2 – 1 Leg 3 – 4 Leg 4 – 4 & 9 Leg 5 – 1 & 5 Leg 6 – 2

#startracking Weekend Review Thursday 22nd–Sunday 25th January

#startracking Weekend Review Thursday 22nd–Sunday 25th January

Tuesday January 26th

It’s all about Willie Mullins!

Un de Sceaux and Vroum Vroum Mag at Ascot, Douvan and Faugheen at Leopardstown and probably A Toi Phil at the same venue and Footpad and Tell Us More at Gowran all booked their tickets to the Cheltenham Festival.

Un de Sceaux, Douvan and Faugheen will all be odds on in March and rightly so. Vroum Vroum Mag is more difficult to place as it depends on Annie Power. My personal feeling is that Ricci/Mullins/Walsh feel there is a wrong to be righted and Annie Power will go for the Mares Hurdle and VVM would be a shot to nothing in the World Hurdle. Whilst talking of race plans I believe that Mullins, definitely, and Ricci, probably, want to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup above all other races at any of the Spring Festivals and they will run BOTH Djakadam and Vautour in the Gold Cup if they are fit and raring to go. This arrangement might not suit Ruby Walsh but I think he’s got enough to smile about already and I think he would chose to ride Vautour. With Vautour out of the RyanAir it would give another of Willie Mullins big owners, Gigginstown, a free run at their own race and I would not be surprised if Don Cossack took that route.

Many wise men have pointed out that Willie Mullins is a creature of habit. He likes to give his Cheltenham horses three runs in three definite windows, end of October/beginning November, Christmas/New Year and this is the third, end of January/first week of February. If a top horse misses one or even two of the windows he will try to make tis the third. So I would expect to see Annie Power between now and February 7th otherwise it will be a la Quevega and straight to Cheltenham for the MARES race. Some of his top novices he may run outside of those windows to gain experience or try a new trip.

I am a keen follower of trends and statistics but Willie Mullins is completely bucking the system and rewriting the record books. I am not surprised he has now started to mop up the big English Saturday races as he just hasn’t enough opportunities to run the in Ireland. So again this Saturday Djakadam will be odds on to take the Grade 2 Betbright Trial Chase over Cheltenham’s three miles and I just hope Oliver Sherwood is brave enough to take him on with Many Clouds to make the form worthwhile. I expect Paul Townend will go Doncaster to ride Morning Run in the Grade 2 OLBG.com Mares Hurdle. It would be interesting if any of Up for Review, Nambour or Stone Hard ran in the Alfred Bartlett trial or Shaneshill in the 2m Grade 2 Lightning Novices Chase on Town Moor. Avant Tout and Townshend are entered in the handicaps at Cheltenham. Their OR ratings alone will be worth the exercise.

Talking of handicappers and getting back to the weekly review Blood Cotil ran well enough in the Coral.ie Chase at Leopardstown the Sunday before to suggest he could be a player in the 3m handicap on Day 1 of Cheltenham. Likewise Ballycasey in the Thyestes at Gowran on Thursday though he has always looked a lay not a play to me! Another who could have Coral Cup/Martin Pipe pretensions is Pylonthepressure and it will be interesting if he gets a third run in the next fortnight.

#startracking Monday January 25th 6pm

#startracking Monday January 25th 6pm

I’ll do the Weekend Review tomorrow morning.

#startracking Tuesday Runners

Tues. Leicester 1.30   THE ORGANIST This mare could be very good and she steps up another grade. She’ll need to run to OR130+ to win this. Expect her to make every yard, just one to beat in Tara Flow. She’s odds on so we’ll take a watching brief.

Tues. Wetherby 4.00 NO COMMENT My notes say “.this 4yo gelded son of Kayf Tara is owned by JP McManus and in the hands of Philip Hobbs. He was a keeping on second behind Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be in a Ludlow C4 Junior bumper over 1m 6f but there was 19L back to the third horse. The JP horse is closely related to Aran Concerto who won three Grade 1’s including the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and the Powers Gold Cup over fences and was probably at his best over two and a half miles on decent ground. Let’s hope No Comment turns out to be as good!” Interesting course to choose for his hurdling debut. 7/4 is remarkably skinny on what’s in the book. No Bet. Watching brief.

SimpleSimonSays… Tuesday Runners

Tues. Leicester 3.00   KNOCKGRAFFON “He’s a nice horse and the form of his race at Liverpool (2nd to Perform) is working out well.” Dan Skelton Nov. 28th 2015 He has since beaten OneFitzall and the trainer has also said he thought the horse was “kindly” handicapped so I am surprised to see him in a C4 Novices hurdle under a penalty? In this company I think his form really stacks up and I’m quite happy to put him up as a four star**** selection @ 6/4 with Ladbrokes.

 

#startracking TwitterTalk

Patrick Mullins talking Champion Bumper on ATR; the pair of Morning Run & Invitation Only both cut to 14s (from 16s) for the yard this aft. BetVictor Racing ‏@BetVictorRacing  · 5pm Monday 

Brookhouse or Poor house?

DanBarberTF Did someone kneecap all those Brookhouse horses before they joined Nicholls? Some Plan good at Ascot but rest running out of excuses

Chaser in the Making ‏@dopedhorse  · 2h2 hours ago

@DanBarberTF they’re always heavily punted as well, someone is losing a bloody fortune

Tom ‏@Jupon_tom  · 2h2 hours ago

@DanBarberTF he was at best when he trained them before sending to someone to improve them 2 stone

Joe Porter ‏@JoePorter1990  · 1h1 hour ago

@DanBarberTF Some Plan isn’t finishing his races either, travels well though.

Shane Foster ‏@ShaneF_  · 1h1 hour ago

@DanBarberTF There has to be something up with the yard or does he just not have the horses? Been running poorly for vast majority of season

Maddy P ‏@mp_horseracing  · 1h1 hour ago

@DanBarberTF Think the issue may have been they were never that good in the first place?

#startracking Monday January 25th

Weekend Review, latest news and Ante Post updates will follow tonight.

Absolutely right – “Plenty of discussion around Mullins’ domination. To me it’s simple. If you love horse race then it’s great; if you love betting it’s not.” The Final Flight ‏@thefinalflight1 · 11.30am Monday

#startracking Monday Runners

Kempton 2.40                        ONENIGHTINVIENNA I’m not absolutely sure that 3m around Kempton are ideal conditions for a horse I fancy for Cheltenham’s four mile NH chase. He’ll probably have to make every yard. He’s a strong 4/5 shot so he’s no bet and very much a watching brief.

Kempton 3.45                        STELLAR NOTION With reference to my earlier article “Brookhouse or Poor House” his runners are currently putting me in the latter. Let’s see if this one can get us back on track and he is a two star** win selection at a weak 4/1 with WH.

 

These are the horses and races I will be paying most attention to between now and Friday.

#startracking entries

Tues. Leicester 1.30        THE ORGANIST

Tues. Leicester 3.00        THE ORGANIST

Tues. Wetherby 4.00      NO COMMENT

Fri. Doncaster 1.25          BUVEUR D’AIR

Fri. Doncaster 3.05          ONENIGHTINVIENNA

Fri. Huntingdon 1.35      BUVEUR D’AIR

Fri. Huntingdon 2.40      UN ACE

Fri. Huntingdon 4.20      BAGS GROOVE

SimpleSimonSays…

Tues. Leicester 2.30        THOMAS BROWN

Tues.Leicester 3.00         KNOCKGRAFFON

Weds. Catterick 1.20      RED HANRAHAN

Weds. Catterick 1.20      VINCIAETTIS

Weds. Catterick 2.25      FOREST BIHAN

Weds. Catterick 2.25      CUP FINAL

Weds. Catterick 3.00      C4 Novice Chase

Weds. Bangor 3.20          RED HANRAHAN

Weds. Thurles                  Juvenile Hurdle, 2m Maiden Hurdle & Bumper

Thurs. Warwick 4.30       Bumper

Thurs. Thurles 2.45          ARBRE DE VIE

Fri. Doncaster 3.05          THOMAS BROWN

 

#startracking Weekend Results

Fifteen stars bet, fifteen stars returned. Royal Regatta would have helped.

Ascot 12.40 GIBRALFARO                  1st       4/5 Fav. (A three star*** selection @ Evens with Betfred) Workmanlike as he had to make his own pace but had enough to hold off market rival, Connetable. Trainer Alan King said afterwards, “He will learn plenty from that. He’ll want another run somewhere. The Adonis is a possible or he could go for the victor Ludorum if we didn’t run Sceau Royal in that. I would like to get one more run in just in case I have to go to the Fred Winter.”

Ascot 2.25 ROCK THE KASBAH                      1st        7/1 Co Fav. (A one star* win selection @ 8/1 with PP & Ladb’s)

Impressive again in getting to Baron Alco and then holding his rally. Trainer’s wife Sarah Hobbs said afterwards “He will probably go for the Coral Cup but the only thing is he does need soft ground.” An OR of 150+ won’t help either!

Ascot 2.25 MONSIEUR GIBRALTAR               PU       16/1 (A one star* each way selection @ 20/1 ) Absolutely no show. Remains interesting with Team Ditcheat still quiet.

Ascot 3.25 ROYAL REGATTA                          2nd        11/2 (Two star** selection @ 9/2 general.) How frustrating! Again he’s chinned from the last to the line but by a 25/1 12yo who came into the race with form figures of FPP!! Dare Me started off life in the Hobbs yard and I backed him when he was 6th in the Champion Bumper to Cue Card and again 2 years later when he was 10th in the Coral Cup. Always talented but very fragile and probably enjoyed the soft ground. As for Royal regatta he could pick up a nice C2 pot over 2m 4-6f on Good to Soft at somewhere like Newbury, Doncaster, Ascot or Aintree?

Haydock 2.40 FOU ET SAGE                          6th        10/1 (16/1 (Lads + Coral) is silly, he’s a one star* e/w selection!)

Nibbled in the market, I thought he was going well and getting into contention when he made an absolute horlicks of the third last and he was beaten then eased off. After trainer Dan Skelton said but in France these were his perfect conditions – left handed, flat track, heavy ground.” I am not sure where he goes now if the ground dries out? Needs to settle a bit better and could be interesting in a big 2m handicap off OR143.

Taunton 1.35 MILES TO MILAN                    3rd        7/4 Fav (Two star** selection @ 5/4 general.) The market got it right as Miles to Milan, a drifting favourite was unable to defy a penalty but will remain of interest when he goes handicapping off OR134. Two star** selection @ 5/4 general.

Taunton 3.20 SOME BUCKLE                                    PU       15/8 Fav (Three star*** selection @ 11/4 with Coral.)Huge disappointed having received positive press from trainer and jockey! The horse looks the part but seemed to be putting absolutely no effort in. The Stewards were told “Conor O’Farrell, the rider of SOME BUCKLE (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was never travelling. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post race examination of the gelding, during routine testing, failed to reveal any abnormalities.” Headgear would be no surprise next time.

Leopardst. 1.20 WOODLAND OPERA           Watching brief. Never competitive and he can come OFF the trackers. Just hasn’t backed up that maiden win and needs to find his own level.

#startracking Saturday January 23rd 12noon

Looking forward to a busy days racing. Quality and quantity!

#startracking thoughtsfortheday

A going stick of 2.7 at Haydock today, must be the lowest I’ve ever seen, the word “bottomless” springs to mind. Paul Brierley ‏@PB_jockeyagent  · 8am Sat. 

Dan Skelton on Coral Stable Talk

I was a little bit disappointed with Born Survivor last weekend. I watched it a couple of times again during the week and it looked to me like he couldn’t get out of the ground. He’s just turned five and when a horse goes hard out in front as it did on Saturday it’s going to make it really hard work for a baby, so that’s just how it ended up. Yes, it was a bit disappointing but at the end of the day he is still a very nice horse. Now, we’ll get him right, give him a couple of runs in the spring and then go chasing next year.

2.40 Haydock – Fou Et Sage

He ran a lot better last time at Haydock. I was quite hard on him after Cheltenham to get him to where I wanted him at Haydock. I’ve left him alone since then and he’s really fresh and well. He’s got a bit to find with a couple of the principles but in France these were his perfect conditions – left handed, flat track, heavy ground. He still has to find something after his first two runs but he’s in good form.

Skeltons thoughts on winter ground!

Other than that we are just waiting on better weather and better ground for many of the horses. I see Jonjo O’Neill has had just 12 runners this year so far, and we’re in a similar position. I think many jump horses these days just don’t want heavy winter ground any more. I found that out in my first year training when we didn’t have a winner in January. A lot of these horses are bred in such a way that they are less able to perform on winter ground than they were, say a decade or two ago. So when a horse runs below par on this type of ground, it’s not that much of a surprise. If you put it into a human context, who likes working in this weather? Nobody does. I think horses are a little bit the same. So yes, we are all waiting for better ground but I don’t think that’s unique to this year, I just think more of the jump horses bred these days want better ground, and don’t want winter going. So I think increasingly you will see trainers not running their horses in January as much as they used to so that they can wait for the better ground.” Don’t know if Kerry Lee, Venetia Williams, Emma Lavelle et al. would agree?

 

Paul Nicholls on Betfair

14:25 Ascot – Monsieur Gibraltar I was really pleased with the way he ran at Kempton over Xmas under top weight when he loomed up looking a big threat between the last two flights before tiring in the closing stages. That race probably came a bit too quickly for Monsieur Gibraltar following an operation to sort out his wind. He is altogether a lot sharper now, and has definitely improved massively. The longer trip at Ascot will suit him well. While I am not sure he wants really testing ground it is encouraging that he did win on heavy and soft in France.

15:20 TauntonSome Buckle Ran very well over hurdles at Cheltenham last time on his first start for us when he needed the run as we hadn’t had him long. Some Buckle is a lot sharper now, jumps fences well at home and should have a decent chance here under top weight.

 

Norm’s Notebook at Market Rasen

“Ballyalton chased him home and it was a decent showing over a trip that looks on the sharp side and on ground that would have been too soft. I’d strongly fancy him to reverse the form on better ground. What a lovely big horse he is and wouldn’t look out of place at Cheltenham. While I’m more wary then ever of horses returning from a long break, he may just be one to keep an eye on if they go for one of the staying handicaps at the Festival.” OR140ch 146h

#startracking…Scoop6 January 23rd

I fancied a go at the Scoop 6 and thought it about time to see if I could still read a race on the day as opposed to three days or three weeks before!! So we are after a £2 straight line and a 20p Lucky 63 and see what we get back for our £14.60?!? Put it on in Betfred 11am-1pm and take Best Odds Guaranteed.

LEG 1-ASCOT 2.25                              Simply A Legend (14/1!!)

LEG 2-TAUNTON 2.45                        Bredon Hill Lad (10/1)

LEG 3-HAYDOCK 3.15                         Fingal Bay (5/1)

LEG 4-ASCOT 3.35                              Royal Regatta (9/2)

LEG 5-TAUNTON 3.55                        Foxcub (15/2)

LEG 6-ASCOT 4.10                              Kings Minstrel (10/1)

and here’s why!!

LEG 1-ASCOT 2.25 Nice easy one to start with! Should be a strong pace with Baron Alco and Royal Guardsman in the race. Rock the Kasbah was impressive last time but is up 8lbs and the form has not been franked. Zulu Oscar is up 10lb and the Fry yard is under a cloud. How the hell did Kilcrea Vale get a mark of OR147? Value at Risk has fallen in two novice chases and surely needs 3m. Unaminite and Ebony Express go up in trip and Monsieur Gibraltar looks a plot for the Martin Pipe. Lil Rockefeller will stay on but the handicapper may have him. So it’s Baron Alco to get the better of Royal Guardsman by the second last but Alan King’s SIMPLY THE LEGEND and 3lb claimer Tom Bellamy to pick him up on the run in!

Simply A Legend runs in the £50,000 handicap hurdle and inevitably he is paying for his consistency. He went up 5lb for winning at Sandown, yet ran another blinder to finish second at Kempton on Boxing Day and I even thought he might win going to the last. He got another 6lb hike for that yet will still need to go up a bit more to ensure a run in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.” Alan King Racing News

“First up is Rock The Kasbah (2.25pm) in the handicap hurdle. This is a very competitive race, but I’m looking forward to getting back on him. Tom [O’Brien] rode him at Haydock last time when he was very good. Prior to that, he ran really well at Chepstow first time out and I was very pleased with him when I schooled him on Wednesday morning. He’s definitely an improving horse. Ascot should suit him well, he’ll stay the trip and a true run race will help. Although he’s probably a staying chaser in the making, I’d hope there’s more to come over hurdles. He went up 8lb for his last win and that’s probably a fair assessment.” Richard Johnson Betway Blog

LEG 2-TAUNTON 2.45 Novices Handicap Chase over close on 3m. Nice! Badger Wood, Some Finish, Trehan Cross and Residence and Spa are all having their first run over fences under rules but the most interesting debutante is top weight Garde Fou who was an OR118 hurdler but is off the top limit in this race of OR105. Having said that he is 1 from 12 over hurdles and fell in 2 out of 4 PtP’s in his younger days! Johns Luck is on a losing run of eleven and Eaton Rock looks a non-stayer so we’ll play safe and go with BREDON HILL LAD and the Gardner girls.

LEG 3-HAYDOCK 3.15 Reve de Sivola may be 21lb well in on his hurdling mark but the 11yo hasn’t jumped a fence in four years and his best form is at Ascot. With a serious doubt of some sort over most of these the trip, their well-being, their fencing etc. it has to be a toss-up between Virak and FINGAL BAY on their last run at Ascot. Fingal Bay didn’t quite get home in the Hennessey and over 2F less he is the selection.

LEG 4-ASCOT 3.35 I have covered this race in #startracking and think that they’ve worked out ROYAL REGATTA and these are ideal conditions and he will justify his Festival RyanAir entry.

“Royal Regatta (3.35pm) has been a little in and out. He was back on top form last time – whether it was the blinkers or the tongue strap, we’re not sure. It was soft enough that day, so the ground shouldn’t be a problem. He’s obviously risen in the handicap, but this is over the same course and distance. If he reproduces his form from last time, he’d have to go well. I just hope he’s on a going day.” Richard Johnson Betway Blog

LEG 5-TAUNTON 3.55 A Seniors Hurdle!! If Spice Fair wants to win he probably will but topweight FOXCUB only failed by a neck to give Simply a Legend 21lb and that looks by far the best form on show. I’ll look no further!

LEG 6-ASCOT 4.10 This is all about course and distance form from the 18th December. Masterplan beat Duke des Champs a short head in the C3 novices handicap and Western Cape beat King Kayf and Kings Minstrel in the C3 maiden hurdle in a time over three seconds slower. Solid form or an improver? Has to be the improver and I’ll go with KINGS MINSTREL, a half-brother to Barbers Shop, trained by a back in business Nicky Henderson.

“I was delighted with Masterplan‘s win yesterday. It was a great ride from Graham and the horse really stuck his head down to win. It is amazing how a new season can change a horse. Last year he could barely finish his races and now he has won twice at Ascot.” Charlie Longsdon Blog Dec. 19th.

#startracking Friday January 22nd 6.30pm

Decent weekends racing and the weather is improving!

#startracking Saturday Runners

Ascot 12.40 GIBRALFARO Won four out of his last five of ten moderate French provincial flat races. A good size, scopey individual impressed on British debut when coming from a way back to nail Duke of Medina in a C3 juvenile event at Kempton. 20/1 with Coral is top price for the Triumph but his second run will be more informative. Could see him being suited by Cheltenham. Alan King Racing News said “Everyone is guessing as to which of Alan’s Triumph Hurdle contenders is best, but the boss is happy in the knowledge that we have three solid contenders, and with Sceau Royal having advertised his claims at Huntingdon last week, tomorrow it is the turn of Gibralfaro to rubber-stamp his Cheltenham credentials in the opening Juvenile Hurdle at Ascot. Alan said: ”We won this race with Balder Succes in 2012 and it looks the right route to take. Gibralfaro had smart Flat form in France, winning four of his last five races, and we were very encouraged with his debut victory for us at Kempton over Christmas. For most of the Kempton race I thought he was going to run a highly promising second, but he managed to get up in the last few strides. He will have learned an awful lot from that experience, and, while he jumped perfectly well, he will be sharper for it. We haven’t done a lot with him since Kempton, but he seems in very good form and we are looking forward to taking this next step.”

A three star*** selection @ Evens with Betfred

Ascot 2.25 ROCK THE KASBAH OR144 Massively impressive when hacking up by 8L in a C2 handicap hurdle off OR136 on Soft ground in November. Put up a fair 8lb for that effort to OR144 which means they can have a pop at a valuable C2 next run but which one? Well it’s this one! The trouble is that Haydock form hasn’t been franked at all and he’s won at Newbury and Haydock, flat galloping left hand tracks, this is right handed up a hill? Richard Johnson wrote in his Betway Blog “First up is Rock The Kasbah (2.25pm) in the handicap hurdle. This is a very competitive race, but I’m looking forward to getting back on him. Tom [O’Brien] rode him at Haydock last time when he was very good. Prior to that, he ran really well at Chepstow first time out and I was very pleased with him when I schooled him on Wednesday morning. He’s definitely an improving horse. Ascot should suit him well, he’ll stay the trip and a true run race will help. Although he’s probably a staying chaser in the making, I’d hope there’s more to come over hurdles. He went up 8lb for his last win and that’s probably a fair assessment.”

A one star* win selection @ 8/1 with PP & Ladbrokes

Ascot 2.25 MONSIEUR GIBRALTAR OR135 Great mark for the Cheltenham and the Spring Festival handicaps. Certainly unexposed. #startracking Spring Festivals. Adam Webb wrote in his 2015/16 Christmas & New Year Racing Review January 3, 2016 “The closing handicap hurdle won by Zulu Oscar featured a Paul Nicholls horse returning after an absence in Monsieur Gibraltar who had pulled up at Chepstow after choking mid-race. His first appearance since having a wind operation was encouraging for the future having travelled nicely before being looked after in the closing stages by Sam Twiston-Davies. There is a decent handicap hurdle prize to be won this season and is one to keep a very close eye on wherever he goes next.”

A one star* each way selection @ 20/1 with PP (4 places ¼)

Ascot 3.25 ROYAL REGATTA I posted this on Wednesday January 20th in #startracking Ante Post. “I think the improver here may actually be towards the top of the weights in ROYAL REGATTA trained by Saturday king Philip Hobbs. I have always liked this horse who was a classy novice hurdler but has taken time to mature and now I think they have finally worked him out. He needs 2m 4f away from Cheltenham, he needs blinkers to help him concentrate and the recent tongue tie seems to have got rid of the “plugged on” comments. When he won at Doncaster this time last year Hobbs’ wife, Sarah, said: “He’s a nice horse who is going the right way. What he needs is a strong two miles, he doesn’t get two and a half yet but he will do in time. He’s still big and gangly and is still filling out.” Sporting Life My notes said “Jumped really well and Richard Johnson was able to dictate the race.” I was heartened to see he has a RyanAir Festival entry which suggests connections think he could still improve and on Saturday with Richard Johnson/Tom O’Brien having him racing prominently if not actually from the front I think he will be hard to beat.

Two star** selection @ 9/2 general. Best Odds Guaranteed.

Today Richard Johnson put in his Betway Blog, “Royal Regatta (3.35pm) has been a little in and out. He was back on top form last time – whether it was the blinkers or the tongue strap, we’re not sure. It was soft enough that day, so the ground shouldn’t be a problem. He’s obviously risen in the handicap, but this is over the same course and distance. If he reproduces his form from last time, he’d have to go well. I just hope he’s on a going day.”

Haydock 2.40 FOU ET SAGE Right up with the best of the French novices but hasn’t beaten a horse home in two races in Britain! Down four pounds and off to Haydock for the Champion Hurdle Trial on 23rd January. Does he need heavy ground, is he just taking time to acclimatise, is it a wind issue? If young Mr Skelton can find the answers he could have a very well handicapped come Festival time. Has to be a Watching Brief unless he’s at a really silly price! 16/1 (Lads + Coral) is silly, he’s a one star* each way selection!

Taunton 1.35 MILES TO MILAN This one cost 52K guineas as a 3yo but didn’t make his debut until he was five and was pitched in at C3 level he was a keeping on 3rd to the stellar Modus. My notes on the race for Miles to Milan say “travelled, hurdled, competitive two out. Can only improve.” That was over 2m 3f and another couple of furlongs may help? Has since turned that form round with Modus on dreadful ground here at Taunton. Will try to defy the penalty over course and distance.

Two star** selection @ 5/4 general.

Taunton 3.20 SOME BUCKLE Mr Brookhouse moved him to Paul Nicholls in the summer who starts him off in a 0-140 C3 handicap hurdle at Cheltenham on day one of the International meeting, once again with a tongue tie, with Sam Twiston-Davies in the plate. This 6yo must show some pace at home to be kept in these two mile hurdles. We want to see him over a fence at 2m 4f plus having had “a small wind op”? OR135h Ideal opportunity to start his chasing career in a C3 0-135 novice’s handicap off his hurdling mark.

Three star*** selection @ 11/4 with Coral.

#startracking Sunday Runners

Leopardst. 1.20 WOODLAND OPERA A gelded 5yo son of Robin des Champs out of a Strong Gale mare he won his bumper at Leopardstown as an unconsidered 14/1 shot but beat the odds on Mullins Fuji Mountain and he was “eased close home”. He won his maiden hurdle at Navan when he “kept on well” and had Coney Island and another Mullins favourite Potters Point behind in second and third with over twenty lengths back to the fourth. I keep reading among Irish correspondents that his maiden hurdle win and that of Tombstone (already in #startracking) have been the strongest in Ireland this season, so let’s see how far Woodland Opera can go? Really disappointing in the G1 novice at Leopardstown at Christmas behind Long Dog. Can he get back on track in this G2 over half a mile further? Watching brief.

#startracking keepaneyeonthese

At Ascot Willie Mullins sends over Vroum Vroum Mag and Un de Sceaux as they prepare for the World Hurdle/Mares Hurdle and Champion Chase respectively.  Both odds on and it’s about 11/8 the double. Both have something to prove.

In the Miles to Milan novice hurdle at Taunton are two horses who popped up on my radar. JP McManus owns Behind Time and Harry Fry trains him and Mountain Eagle. Both could be winning sooner rather than later. However the health of Harry Fry’s horses needs monitoring on Saturday, he has six runners.

Couple of interesting novices at Haydock in Philip Hobbs improver Vieux Lille in the Neptune trial and Nigel Twiston Davies has Robinshill in the ‘Fixed Brush’.

#startracking Stewards Reports

Fri. 15th Jan. Race 2 – 1:50pm The 32Red EBF ‘NATIONAL HUNT’ MAIDEN HURDLE RACE (CLASS 4) (QUALIFIER)

The Stewards gave permission for TIPPMANBOY (IRE), trained by Dr Richard Newland, to go early to post.

#startracking Thursday 21st January 12noon

Sorry I’m late on parade but I’ve been working on the ante post pieces for the Thyestes, the Bet365 Chase, the Skybet Chase and the Betfair Hurdle.

We have a runner today.

Wincanton 2.10 WUFF I will be really disappointed if he doesn’t go close in this field. He doesn’t do anything quickly and I would like to see him gallop them into submission. He comes back in trip and has a tongue tie and cheekpieces to help. Failure here and I will give him just one more chance on good ground and that will be it! Wuff is a two star** selection at 11/4 general (Best Odds Guaranteed).

 

Twitter Talk

Officials at both @Ascot and @HAYDOCKRACES have told us Saturday’s C4 racing is under no threat whatsoever from the weather Channel 4 Racing ‏@Channel4Racing  · 12noon Wednesday 

 4pm Wednesday  “No risk to racing here on Sat, despite this morning’s frost. Going is soft, heavy in places” Ascot Racecourse ‏@Ascot 

“Cheltenham is beginning to resemble the Punchestown Festival. Loads of short priced Irish favs in bad each-way races that will probably win.” James Knight ‏@jamesaknight  · 3.45pm Wednesday  DISCUSS!

 

#startracking updates

Antepost Racing ‏@AntepostRacing  · 23h23 hours ago

@CharlieLongsdon Any update on Our Kaempfer, Charlie?

Charlie Longsdon ‏@CharlieLongsdon  · 15h15 hours ago

@AntepostRacing plan will be to head straight to Cheltenham with him

Antepost Racing ‏@AntepostRacing  · 14h14 hours ago

@CharlieLongsdon Thanks Charlie, is the Pertemps the race for him I expect as qualified at Aintree?