#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.

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