#startracking Monday February 29th 7pm

#startrackingFoodforthought

I should thing the musings of St.Willie has sent Oddschecker into meltdown!

Cheltenham 2016 Trainers Plans

Henry de Bromhead In the opening race Supasundae will take on another Willie Mullins hot pot in Min. “Supasundae is working really well ahead of the Supreme,” said De Bromhead. “I decided not to give him an extra run and he’s probably going there lacking a little bit of experience over hurdles but I feel he’s better fresh. So it’s a bit of a gamble but he jumped really well for most part of his last race.” irishracing.com

 “I’ve made no secret of how highly I rate Chef D’Oeuvre and we’ve got a few options with him but the key to him is soft ground, so, whilst drying ground would be a help for a few of my big guns, it would spell trouble for Chef. He’s in the Coral Cup, the Albert Bartlett and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle on the final day (where he would be ridden by Harry Bannister), and it’s the latter of the three that interests me the most given it will be run over the same course and distance that he ran over when fourth to Yanworth in January. I’ll be disappointed if he’s not better than his current mark of 135 but if the ground isn’t right we’ll just wait, possibly for Punchestown, as we are in no rush with him and he’s going to be a cracking horse next year. Ma Du Fou is almost certainly going to go to Aintree.” Warren Greatrex Oddschecker blog

 

Today Willie Mullins is holding his Cheltenham Press day. So far Twitter tells us that:-

Black Hercules in RSA or possibly JLT NOT 4mNH, “too free last time”.

Yorkhill leaning towards Supreme, “he has loads of speed”.

Annie Power to be supplemented for Champion Hurdle and WILL wear hood.

Mullins on Vautour: “Possibly with different tactics he should easily stay.”

‘Un De Sceaux thrilled me with his measured approach to jumping at Ascot. It was his most mature performance to date”

“Bellshill was really disappointing last time and nothing came to light – suppose it was just a bad day” #Neptune

Wicklow Brave not going. He’s having a Flat campaign.”

A Toi Phil likely to head to the Neptune as Gigginstown have plenty for the Albert Bartlett”.

“Augusta Kate shows nothing at home and could be in the Champion Bumper team”

“Battleford very likely to go for the Champion Bumper”

 

Mullins reflects on his team going to Cheltenham by Irish Field Contributor on 29 February 2016

Willie Mullins opened his doors to the media today, outlining his festival plans

IRELAND’S champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins today hosted a media visit organised by Cheltenham Racecourse and gave updates on many of his leading contenders ahead of the festival. Mullins has won The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award four times in the last five years at the festival, including a record-breaking eight winners in 2015. He is the leading Irish trainer at the festival, with 41 successes, and currently sits second on the all-time trainers’ list behind Nicky Henderson.

The trainer’s comments on his festival entries:

Annie Power: “We have got to supplement Annie Power for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Vroum Vroum Mag looks a possible for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle and, if that is the case, I would think Annie will run in the Champion.

“Going back two years, Annie Power was quite a short price for the Champion Hurdle. We thought she was a Champion Hurdle horse that year but we obviously had Hurricane Fly and a few others in the race. I don’t think the trip will be a problem for her. We have six horses here who, if they were with other yards, would be aimed at the Champion Hurdle and she is as quick as any of them. I think it might actually be easier for her to race over two miles with the sort of pace they will be going. It will be easier to ride her anyhow. I would imagine she will wear the hood. We will see how she is going before but it wouldn’t cost anything to wear it.”

Arbre De Vie: “The Coral Cup would look his job.”

A Toi Phil: “I would imagine he will go for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle.

Gigginstown have a lot of horses for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and he slots in nicely for the Neptune.”

Avant Tout: “He is entered in chases and hurdles. He won a two-mile chase on good ground and a three-mile handicap hurdle at Punchestown. He could go anywhere.”

Bellshill: “His performance the other days suggests he is going to go for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Nothing came to light after his run in the Deloitte. He just had an off day. In the autumn I thought he could easily have the speed for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, especially the way he jumps, but his run the other day has put doubts in my mind.”

Black Hercules: “He is the one that I am thinking most about. He is favourite for the National Hunt Chase, but he raced very keen with Ruby the last day and I wonder, if he did that again, would he get home? I don’t think I have mentioned it to Mr Wylie yet but it has been on my mind to bring him back for the RSA Chase or even the JLT Novices’ Chase. I actually think he might be better suited by coming back (in intended trip) and that one is up for discussion big time.”

Blazer: “He will go up in trip for either the Coral Cup or Martin Pipe Conditions Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.”

Bleu Et Rouge: “He can go in any of the three novices’ hurdles. He has the speed to run in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but I am not sure he has the jumping ability. He should go for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle but the owner (J.P. McManus) has Yanworth in that. If Yanworth stays right, I’d imagine Bleu Et Rouge will run in one of the other races. He has enough stamina to go out in trip for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. I’m sure Barry Geraghty will want to ride him which is why he is likely to avoid Yanworth.”

Boston Bob: “After he won in Fairyhouse, I thought about the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. There is only three weeks between Cheltenham and Aintree, so we might just save him for the Grand National. Nothing has been finalised though.”

Djakadam: “I must compliment the vet in Cheltenham for the work on Djakadam’s stitches. We were lucky the cut was on his chest because we were able to keep him walking. He probably missed 10 days before he was starting back to trot but he would have had a week off anyhow. We did not take him to Leopardstown yesterday just in case what’s left of his stitches opened, but they look very good. I am not too worried about whether or not he jumps again between now and Cheltenham because is he is basically a good jumper. He is doing plenty of work. There is still more to do but I am very happy with where he is.”

Don Poli: “He is in good order. He is doing nice work and jumped well at Leopardstown yesterday. He loves Cheltenham and the hill. He is obviously not the fastest horse in the world, but in the RSA Chase last year he appeared in front at the top of the hill. Bryan (Cooper) never dreamt he would have enough speed but when he got daylight he shot to the front. The extra two and a half furlongs in the Gold Cup is exactly what he wants and I think he has enough speed.”

Douvan: “I suppose Douvan looks to have good prospects in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase. This time last year I could not believe what I was seeing from him on the gallops. Looking back, I can’t believe I said what I did, but I was only saying what I was seeing here and thankfully he lived up to it in Cheltenham. I am happy he has enough experience. He has had three starts over fences and, although it would have been great to have another, we had a very dry autumn.”

Felix Yonger: “He is good and goes for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.”

Footpad: “Both Footpad and Let’s Dance definitely run in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. I have a few others in there and we will see nearer the time. I like the form of Footpad’s race. We dropped him in and I thought he was very, very good in a true run race. The Triumph is usually a strongly run race and that will suit him.”

Gangster: “He is a definite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. He was working very well and then had a small setback after that. He is back and rolled out perfectly this morning. He has done plenty of work to go there and is a horse with a lot of ability. He is very hard to train though as he keeps having little setbacks. Hopefully, we can get him back because he works fantastically when he’s right.”

Limini: “She will go for the Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle. Her form is very good and she shows us that at home as well. She has a fantastic pedigree – her dam is half-sister to Vintage Tipple who won the Oaks for my father. Her flat form in France has worked out very well. Nicolas Clement wanted to give her one run more run in a Listed race, which I think he thought she would win, but he didn’t. The horses she beat have gone on to win Group races.

“Even though she jumped the way she did, she was still able to beat a fantastic field in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown very easily. Her jumping has been way better this season and if she can handle the hurdles in Cheltenham, she has a fair engine.”

Long Dog: “He would be one for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. He fits in the same bracket as Thomas Hobson who looks set to go for the longer race.”

McKinley: “I’d say he will go for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.”

Min: “He definitely runs in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. I don’t think he is as good as Douvan and it is hard to think he might be as good as Vautour, even though I hope he is. He looks very decent but we won’t know where he stands until after Cheltenham. His temperament is fine at home, but when he gets down to the start he takes a grip. I would imagine there will be a lot more pace on in Cheltenham and that will help him. When I had a winner in Galway somebody asked me about Min. There has been an undercurrent of Min, Min, Min from so early in the season that he probably has a bigger reputation than he is entitled. Having said that, all the form lines from his races are working out. Maybe horses like Ball d’Arc are improving but Min made him look very ordinary. If those form lines are to be believed, he is entitled to be favourite.”

Myska: “She could go for the Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle, but she disappointed the last day and that is a worry. She might wait for the mares’ Grade One at Fairyhouse over Easter.”

Nichols Canyon: “We will have another think about the Ryanair World Hurdle for him, but I think connections are keener to go for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. He did disappoint us the last day. He is usually very, very good and you have to forgive a horse one bad run every now and then.”

Open Eagle: “He will go for one of the staying novices’ hurdles.”

Outlander: “It looks like he will be going for the JLT Novices’ Chase. That looks the right race for him.”

Pont Alexandre: “We are looking at the RSA Chase or the National Hunt Chase for him.”

Roi Des Francs: “We are looking at the National Hunt Chase or RSA Chase for him, depending on what Gigginstown want to do. Stamina is not an issue with him and I think he’s good.”

Sambremont: “He is most likely for the National Hunt Chase, although we have also given him an entry in the Kim Muir. Patrick might be tempted if he got a nice weight but the Irish don’t have a great record in that.”

Sempre Medici: “He definitely goes for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. He has got to improve about 10lb to get involved. He is not rated in the 160s yet but I have got nothing else to run him in, unless he goes in a handicap off top-weight and I don’t want to be doing that.”

Shaneshill: “He looks like he wants to be going further than two miles. He will probably go for the JLT Novices’ Chase or maybe the RSA Chase as there is plenty of stamina in his pedigree.”

Sir Des Champs: “At the moment, he is going to Cheltenham and I would love to have a go at the Gold Cup if I can get him into any sort of form. He has been disappointing.”

Thomas Hobson: “I am thinking of the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle for Thomas Hobson. He could be a class horse in that race.”

Up For Review: “He definitely goes for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.”

Un De Sceaux: “He is in terrific order and I would love it if the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was tomorrow. I am counting down the days. We will probably do a school at a racetrack before Cheltenham. I would love it if yesterday’s schooling was this Sunday because Leopardstown is a great place to school. We will squeeze him in somewhere with a few others. What I loved about his win at Ascot was his style of racing. He switched off and sized up his fences instead of charging down and flying out over them. It was the most mature performance I have ever seen him put in. He did everything right and had plenty in the tank to pull away at the end.”

Valseur Lido: “To me, Valseur Lido runs in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. He looks to be crying out for more distance. Ruby had not asked him a question going to the last in the Irish Gold Cup and the extra two furlongs will be right up his street. Gigginstown might prefer to go for the Ryanair but we will see.”

Vautour: “He is in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Ryanair Chase. We threw the kitchen sink at him last year and we are doing the same this year, which is why he went to Leopardstown yesterday. You will probably see him somewhere else in the meantime as well. I read an interesting article in the Racing Post this morning suggesting his pedigree might not have enough stamina in it. We will have to see but I think he has enough stamina and at the moment he is going for the Gold Cup. Watching him at home, he is a stayer. We asked him a big question in Kempton pushing on that far out. Traditionally, our horses would not be as fit at Christmas as they are in March and he has never shone at Christmas. He has always been way better when it comes to Cheltenham. I think with different tactics he should easily stay.”

Vroum Vroum Mag: “She has run in the races that have been there for her. I don’t have any problem racing the geldings, but the programme of races was there and they were nice races. I have been taken with her performances from a visual perspective rather than what she has beaten. She just goes along nicely before Ruby changes hands and she picks up two gears. I think she is a very good mare. At this stage, it is looking like she is going for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. To step into open Grade 1 company at the festival would be a big jump for her, even with the fillies allowance. You would have slight concerns about quicker ground for her but the ground is always safe at Cheltenham. It is a winter game and we need winter ground as it is safer for man and beast.”

Yorkhill: “I think Yorkhill is plenty fast enough for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. I am happy with him at two miles even though his pedigree suggests he can go out to three miles. He is a point-to-point winner but he’s sharp and would prefer nice ground. He has had two runs over hurdles and two wins, including a Grade One. And the horse who finished third came out and won the Betfair Hurdle. He is good value!”

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#startracking Monday 29th Feb. Noon

#startrackingWeekendTwitterNews

Stan James join Sky Bet and Brt365 going NRNB for all races at the Festival. Paul Jones ‏@CheltFestNews

 Cheltenham Going 4:01PM 28 FEB 2016 The going description at Cheltenham now includes the words good in places on all three courses after an exceptionally wet winter finally gave way to a dry fortnight. However, the forecast is unsettled and clerk of the course Simon Claisse is reluctant to speculate upon how it might ride when the festival begins on March 15. Confirming that the track had dried out considerably since trials day on January 30 took place on ground officially described as heavy, Claisse said: “We’ve not had significant rainfall for two weeks and, as of this morning, it is now good to soft, good in places on both the New Course and the Old Course, as well as on the cross-country course. All three tracks are pretty similar in condition, with the good patches on the turn away from the stands, at the end of the back straight as they climb the hill, then turning down the hill on both the Old and the New courses, and a little bit in the home straight too. Rain is forecast for Monday into Tuesday, perhaps 5mm or 6mm, and then a similar amount towards the end of the week, and then it is expected to remain unsettled.”

Claisse maintains a hotline to former BBC weatherman John Kettley, who predicts that Cheltenham will see “a bit of everything” over the next two and a half weeks. Kettley confirmed the likelihood of rain tonight and added: “I’ve told Simon that there is enough rain around to keep it as he likes it – not too quick. There will be plenty of chilly days too.

Tuesday is milder, but on the whole temperatures over the next two and a half weeks are probably about average, or a little below, and a bit colder than we would like it for festival week, with possibly a bit of snow on the hilltops.”

 

RIDING PLANS SAM TWISTON-DAVIES has decided to try and make it third time lucky in the Stan James Champion Hurdle on The New One rather than partner Old Guard for boss Paul Nicholls. Twiston-Davies has ridden The New One on all bar one of his 23 career starts, and it was Old Guard that he was aboard when deserting The New One, finishing fourth of five in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton in December. The New One was a seven-length runner-up to Faugheen that day under Noel Fehily. Nicholls released the news on his website on Monday morning. He said: “Sam has revealed that he is going to stick with The New One in the Champion Hurdle so therefore Nick Scholfield will be on Old Guard.”

Nicholls also had news on who will partner his pair of Ryanair World Hurdle hopes, Aux Ptits Soins and Saphir Du Rheu. The pair worked at Kempton before racing on Saturday, with Twiston-Davies aboard last season’s Coral Cup winner, while Scholfield was on Saphir Du Rheu. However, Twiston-Davies has decided to partner the latter, as Nicholls added: “They both looked great and Sam has just phoned me and thought about it over the weekend and said he is going to ride Saphir Du Rheu so Nick will be on Aux Ptits Soins.” 11:41AM 29 FEB 2016

 

“Alisier D’Irlande continues to excite. His jumping definitely improved for that better ground. We’ll more than likely look at Aintree next.” Henry de Bromhead ‏@HenrydeBromhead  

 

Saturday Leopardstown Schooling Feedback An array of equine talent was on show in the traditional post-racing gallops at Leopardstown on Sunday, with Davy Russell emerging as a potential partner for Don Cossack in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Owners Gigginstown House Stud have plenty of big guns for the blue riband event, meaning retained rider Bryan Cooper will have a decision to make for the March 18 showpiece. Cooper partnered the Gigginstown-owned Don Poli as he schooled with Willie Mullins-trained stablemates Vautour (Ruby Walsh), Pont Alexandre and Ballycasey. Cooper was later on RSA Chase contender No More Heroes for Gordon Elliott as he jumped in company with King George faller Don Cossack, ridden by Russell. Elliott said: “The two of them were very good, I couldn’t be happier. Davy said he (Don Cossack) could have gone round again, I thought the two of them worked very well. Davy sat on him there, Bryan has to make a decision on which one he is going to ride. I would have no problem with Davy riding him.”Russell, who won the Gold Cup on Lord Windermere in 2014, said: “He went well and he jumped great.” Asked if he would like to ride him in the Gold Cup, he said: “I’d be delighted to ride any Gold Cup horse.”

Mullins said of his quartet: “Vautour made a mistake at the first, I think he was just idling, but they all went well. They jumped eight fences and went about a mile and a quarter. It was just to get their eye in and have a day out rather than serious work, it wasn’t a trial or anything. It was also for the riders to get a feel of them. Don Poli is a very lazy horse and takes every bit of work we can give him. Him and Pont Alexandre were upsides in behind and Ballycasey led Vautour. As they said in the election, there’s lots done, more to do.”

Also in action was JCB Triumph Hurdle favourite Ivanovich Gorbatov from the Aidan O’Brien yard. The Montjeu gelding went round with a lead horse under Barry Geraghty, and Joseph O’Brien said: “I’m very happy with him, and Barry seemed very happy with him. We weren’t going to learn anything more today, but it was a nice day away.”

 

Saturday Kempton schooling – Cue Card looked full of himself as he showed his well-being ahead of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup with a pleasing workout before racing at Kempton. Colin Tizzard’s stable star is chasing a £1million bonus if he can add the blue riband to his wins in the Betfair Chase and William Hill King George VI Chase earlier in the season. Cue Card, with his regular big-race partner Paddy Brennan in the saddle, was accompanied in the two-mile exercise by stablemate Morello Royale, who was ridden by Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe. “It was lovely to see the horse so happy afterwards. The whole idea was to come and give him a gallop round here and get him on the lorry,” said Tizzard senior. “We probably didn’t go as fast as everyone else, but it was a day out for him and he’s had a good blow out.” The Tizzard duo were among 12 horses who worked in pairs at regular intervals.

Two of Nicky Henderson’s Stan James Champion Hurdle hopes, My Tent Or Yours (Barry Geraghty) and Hargam (Sir Anthony McCoy), were the first to strut their stuff. “We were all delighted. It was great and it all went well,” said Henderson. “My Tent Or Yours has come on again and both Barry Geraghty and AP thought he had. They said they could have gone further. Everybody was happy with that and he’s come on a hell of a lot for the last time he was here a few weeks ago. Barry said he was still tanking at the end. We are in a better position than we were three or four weeks ago when we were up against it. We’ve got him as ready as we can without having a run and that’s as good as we can possibly do. That was a good gallop. They went a good gallop, as you can’t hang around with My Tent Or Yours otherwise he will pull and go.”

Paul Nicholls’ two Ryanair World Hurdle hopes Saphir Du Rheu (Nick Scholfield), runner-up last season, and Aux Ptits Soins (Sam Twiston-Davies) worked together. Nicholls said: “Both horses went well and I’m more than pleased with both of them. I said to Sam to sit on Aux Ptits Soins as he’s not sat on him since last year. There’s no point Sam making a decision now on what he rides, but I’ve a fair idea what he might go for.”

Last year’s World Hurdle winner Cole Harden was also put through his paces with his Warren Greatrex-trained stable companion Missed Approach.

Other horses to work were Charlie Longsdon’s Germany Calling and Our Kaempfer, and Tom George’s Double Shuffle and O Maonlai.

 

RICHARD JOHNSON Five Cheltenham rides I’m looking forward to With the Festival just over two weeks away, I thought I’d update you on some of those horses I’m most looking forward to riding…

Balthazar King He must have a great chance in the Cross Country Chase. I schooled him the other day and you’d never know he’d had such a bad fall last time. This is a conditions race now and that will definitely help him.

I’m going to school him over the Cross Country course on Thursday so will update you at the end of the week.

Village Vic He’s been absolutely outstanding this season, winning four out of four. He has form at Cheltenham as well which is an obvious bonus. We’re still not sure if he’ll go in the handicap or the Ryanair, but whichever race he runs in I’d like to think he’s got a great chance.

Saddlers Encore I think the Pertemps will be the race for him. It was very bad ground at Sandown last time and he’s by Presenting whose offspring normally prefer better ground. He showed a good attitude at Sandown and I felt like there was a bit more to come. He’s still a fairly unexposed horse, hopefully the more I ask him, the more there’ll be.

Rock The Kasbah I loved his attitude at Ascot when he won there last month. He’ll be one for the handicap hurdles and whichever race he runs in I’d be hopeful of him running a very big race.

Garde La Victoire We’re still not sure where he goes, it really depends on the ground. I think a lot of people have forgotten that he beat Bristol De Mai pretty comfortably at Uttoxeter on his seasonal debut, when he was giving him 9lbs. He really hasn’t done a lot wrong at all. He’s got solid form at Cheltenham and he’s another who I think will have a great chance whichever race he runs in. Betway Blog Monday 29th

 

Schooling @PJHobbs1 this morning great to sit on Baltazar King again and pop over the fences feels as good as ever #crosscountry Richard Johnson ‏@dickyjohnson77 · Feb 24

 

#startracking Saturdays results

Newcastle 2.20           DRAYTONIAN             8th        5/1 Market drift spoke volumes and he was beaten turning for home. “Draytonian disappointed but he is merely marking time before he goes over fences” Adam Norman, paddockwatcher

Newcastle 3.25           DELUSIONSOFGRANDEUR     4th        9/4 Never looked happy and was backpedalling from two out having set the fractions. “Delusionofgrandeur has had a tough campaign and he wasn’t right here, getting warm beforehand and running flat. This was his sixth race of the campaign but no doubt they will find another race for him if the ground remains soft.” Adam Norman, paddockwatcher

Kempton 2.00            GIBRALFARO                   4th        Evs Fav. Three star*** win bet @ 11/10 with PP (12.30pm)

The Racing Post comment of “plugged on” is about as good as it gets. Off a mark of OR151 he will be impossible to place. Looking forward to Alan King update.

Kempton 3.05            OCEANE                             4th        12/1 Watching Brief. Odd choice of racing taking on his elders. OR132 should stay intact for a tilt at the Fred Winter? Looking forward to Alan King update.

Kempton 3.35            CHAMPAGNE WEST   Fell      7/1 Three star*** win bet @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes 5.00pm) Massively disappointing as his jumping was ragged at best. Thought he was sneaking back into it turning in but departure at the second last was on the cards. Looking forward to Philip Hobbs update.

Kempton 5.20            DRUMCLIFF                 3rd        7/4 Fav Two star** selection @ 3/1 general. Impressive looking horse who was just two keen but this half brother to Simonsig is very much one for the future.

“The concluding bumper at Kempton is sure to be a pointer to plenty of future winners over jumps and the surprise 20/1 winner, Bolving, made a very taking racecourse debut here for a yard that traditionally does well in this sphere and certainly looks to have a bright future in the care of Victor Dartnell. However, it was DRUMCLIFF who caught my eye as a raw unfurnished individual who did well to finish third after being keen throughout. This gorgeous son of Presenting is open to plenty of improvement once switched to the hurdling ranks and once he learns to settle he should be effective in races between two and two and a half miles. Ultimately he looks to have the physique to make a lovely chaser and for that reason, this Harry Fry-trained 5-year-old enters the notebook as more of a long-term prospect.” Final Flight Notebook

Newcastle 3.00           SHOTGUN PADDY        2nd        7/1 Two star** e/w selection @ 9/1 ¼ the odds first four with Coral. As always solid and reliable. I fear that the ground and the handicapper may now have gone against him and he may continue to be susceptible to the improvers.

#startracking Saturdays additions

“After winning his sole point in November, BIG MEADOW was very much on my radar for next season’s publication and his demolition job of the eleven strong bumper field at Chepstow went a long way to justifying my belief that this 5-year-old is a graded jumper in the making. This Neil King-trained gelding had this race in the bag with two furlongs still to race and although it is over obstacles where I think he will excel, on this evidence defying a penalty in the bumper sphere before going onto bigger and better things” Final Flight Notebook

#startracking Saturday 27th Feb. Noon

Only money about today seems to be for the Pricewise horses.

Keep one eye on the Leopardstown handicaps, 2.30, 3.00 and 4.00 tomorrow. Probably best ground in Ireland for a while and maybe a few good ground horses having a pre-Cheltenham blow out? Grade 2 National Spirit Handicap Hurdle, 3.20 at Fontwell on Sunday could take some solving!

#startracking Saturday runners update

“DRUMCLIFF (5.20) won well at Taunton on his racecourse debut in December. He is a nice horse and he should be able to build on that. He should go well in the bumper. Criq Rock is a big danger though. I finished second to him at Ascot on Bags Groove, the pair of us clear, and Bag’s Groove has won easily since. He sets the standard for us.” Barry Geraghty Blog ATR

twitternews

“Rebecca Curtis normally has Paul Townsend come over to ride fancied horses Talented D Mullins is over today at Chepstow take note!!!” Doherty horse tips ‏@thedocca

#startrackingCheltenhamNews

Both Bet365 and SkyBet have gone Non Runner No Bet on ALL Cheltenham races so if you have a strong fancy get on now especially in the handicaps.

Aspen Colorado, as low as 8-1 for the Champion Bumper, not certain to go for the race, says assistant trainer Joseph O’Brien. Racing Post ‏@RacingPost · Fri.Feb.26th

Cheltenham 2016 Master Plan (Work in Progress 6pm Fri.Feb.26th)

Cheltenham 2016 Master Plan (Work in Progress 6pm Fri.Feb.26th)

Enter as many tipster competitions as possible!

Check out daily offers in big 4 betting shops

Only bet Best Odds Guaranteed                      Daily win Lucky 15 – Daily Placepot (Scoop 6?)

TUESDAY

Race 1 1.30pm Supreme 2m Novices Hurdle

Single (s) Yorkhill and Supasundae where free bet if 2nd or 3rd

Race 2 2.05pm Arkle 2m Novices Chase

DOUVAN is a banker.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Garde La Victoire

Race 3 2.40pm Ultima 3m 1f G3 Hcp Chase (11st 12lb topweight = OR153ish) OR132+

Possibly use “free bet” from Race 1.

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver                     Pendra/Cause of Causes/The Young Master

Race 4 3.20pm Champion Hurdle

FAUGHEEN is a banker. Not sure I want to play.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Identity Thief

Race 5 4.00pm Mares Hurdle

ANNIE POWER is a banker or IS SHE? All bets on hold!!

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Polly Peachum/Rons Dream

Race 6 4.40pm 4m National Hunt Chase

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     Local Show/Native River

Race 7 5.15pm CHAPS 2m 5f G3 Hcp Chase (11st 10lb topweight = OR140 5yo’s get 1lb) OR134+

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     Golden Doyen/Full Shift

WEDNESDAY

Race 1 1.30pm Neptune 2m 5f Novices Hurdle

Single (s) Two of Mullins five!! Yorkhill, Bellshill, Long Dog, A Toi Phil, Bleu et Rouge where free bet if 2nd and 3rd

Race 2 2.05pm RSA 3m+ Novices Chase

Don’t know! Have to take No More Heroes on @ 5/2. Ground dependent boat or next Gold Cup contender? Just gone through form and More of That @ 9/2 is a cracking bet.

Race 3 2.40pm Coral Cup 2m 5f G3 Hcp Hurdle (11st 9lb topweight = OR156ish) OR140ish

One of my favourite races of the year. Under 16/1, second season unexposed hurdler

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver

Race 4 3.20pm QM Champion Chase

UN de SCEAUX is a banker.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Sire de Grugy

Race 5 4.00pm Cross Country

Put the kettle on! Allegedly Dolatulo (OR145) and Foxrock (OR157) are going to run in this?

Race 6 4.40pm 2m Fred Winter 4yo Handicap Hurdle

Hardest race of the twenty eight available! OR132ish, ran in last 32 days, French Bred, top four in market?

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     Oceane/Skelton?/Nicholls?Romain de Senam/Irish? Allblak des Places

Race 7 5.15pm Champion Bumper

Wide open this year. You have to start with Mullins. Fillies are strong?

Bacardys/Drumcliff/NewtothisTown

 

THURSDAY

Race 1 1.30pm JLT 2m 4f Novices Chase

Single (s) Shaneshill and Three Musketeers where free bet if 2nd or 3rd

Race 2 2.05pm Pertemps Network 3m Listed Hcp Hurdle (11st 10lb topweight = OR152ish) OR140ish

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     Missed Approach/Mall Dini/Sir Mangan

JP McManus (Cup Final OR139h, If In Doubt OR146h, Box Office OR135h, Unique de Cotte OR140h)

Race 3 2.40pm RyanAir 2m 5f Chase

Currently impossible as who’s running in it?

Race 4 3.20pm World Hurdle

Thistlecrack looks a standout on this seasons form but Annie Power is she/isn’t she is currently muddying the waters.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Saphir du Rheu/Bobs Worth

Race 5 4.00pm Brown Advisory Plate G3 2m 5f Handicap Chase

Run at a previous festival, won at C3 or above around this trip. 10st 11lb or less. David Pipe. Conditional.

This race really is one for the night before! Johns Spirit/Stilletto

Race 6 4.40pm Kim Muir Amateur Riders 3m 1f+ 0-145 Handicap Chase

This race is another one for the night before!

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver Another Hero/The Job is Right

“Will be aged 7 to 10 years unless trained by D Pipe.  Will either have never run at Cheltenham before or will have strong placed course form. Last race will have been in a handicap over at least 3 miles but not necessary to have won a handicap chase.  Has competed in a G3 this season or has won a Cl2 this season.  At least two runs this season but may not have been seen for months.  Either has won a NH race over 3 miles or has top class placed form over at least that distance.  Will have finished at least 3rd in either of last two runs or is under 10/1. Headgear wearing very much in vogue recently.  Winning jockey a non-claiming amateur.  Wasn’t beaten favourite last time out.” Gaultstats

Race 7 5.15pm Mares Novices Hurdle

New race for 2016. Cheltenham equivalent of the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot! Minimum stakes.

LIMINI is a warm favourite.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. Smart Talk

FRIDAY

Race 1 1.30pm 4yo Triumph Hurdle

More open than usual with Alan King holding a strong hand with Sceau Royal, Gibralfaro and Who Dares Wins.

Adonis @ Kempton and Victor Ludorum @ Haydock relevant.

Single (s) Sceau Royal and ???? where free bet if 2nd or 3rd

Race 2 2.05pm County 2m 1f G3 Handicap Hurdle (11st 12lb topweight = OR146ish) OR137ish

One of my favourite races of the year. Under 16/1, second season unexposed hurdler

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     Superb Story/Ivan Grozny/Blue Hell

Race 3 2.40pm Alfred Bartlett 3m Novices Hurdle

BARTERS HILL is a warm favourite.

Check out “without market”. Select a “place” horse for SP orientated competitions. OO Seven

This race is another one for the night before!

Race 4 3.20pm Gold Cup

Should be the highlight of the Festival. Committed to Vautour.

Race 5 4.00pm Foxhunters

Put the kettle on! It Came to Pass?

Race 6 4.40pm Martin Pipe 2m 4f 0-145 Handicap Hurdle (11st 10lb topweight = OR145) Compressed handicap?

Another one of my favourite races of the year.

Look for 5 or 6 places and just one selection or

Selection + ½ Saver + ½ Saver     It’s a Freebie/Ivan Grozny/Jetstream Jack

Race 7 5.15pm Grand Annual 2m+ G3 Handicap Chase

 

FIVE TO TAKE ON

MIN                             Tuesday 1.30               Supreme Novices Hurdle

Too much of his price is based on his connections and not the form in the book and there isn’t much of that!

ANNIE POWER           Tuesday 3.20               Champion Hurdle

One run in a three horse exhibition in twelve months and SHE is 7/4 to win a Championship?!?

BLACK HERCULES        Tuesday 4.40               4m NH Chase

Fell last time out is a dreadful stat and already disappointed twice at the Festival.

NO MORE HEROES     Wednesday 2.05         RSA

Needs ground Soft or worse and none of his form this season has been franked.

BRISTOL DE MAI         Thursday 1.30             JLT

Bit like NMH on Good ground this impeccable fencer could be done for toe!

 

Cheltenham Festival Handicaps

In order to win a handicap at Cheltenham I think you need all the right conditions and 10lb in hand!

No interest in Gigginstown horses

No interest in Roger Brookhouse horses

Mullins running horses with Graded form in handicaps

The Sundance Kid is bound to have a go at a couple.

Nicholls, Henderson, Hobbs, King, Skelton, Mulholland and Fry.

I will update and expand the list below over next week. The weights come out on Tuesday and hopefully a few firms will be NRNB on all races by then.

HANDICAPPERS with the right mark WITH Cheltenham entries

ALLEE BLEUE                           Philip Hobbs                OR135h                       CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

ALTERNATIF                                     David Pipe                          OR137ch                     FWKM, ULT

ANOTHER HERO                            Jonjo O’Neill                     OR136ch                     FWKM, ULT

BAMAKO MORIVIERE                        Willie Mullins                   OR133h (Irish)                        CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

CAMPEADOR                          Gordon Elliott                   OR133h                       WINTER

CARDINALD WALTER             Nicky Henderson             OR140h                       CORAL, COUNTY

CYRIUS MORVINIERE                 Ben Pauling                        OR135h                       COUNTY

Cyrius Moriviere – County Hurdle Trainer Ben Pauling talking to Ladbrokes “I’d put [his Tolworth Hurdle disappointment] down to the ground because he actually pulled up first time out at Stratford on soft ground where he stopped very quickly down the back straight to nothing. If he had been outclassed [that Sandown] he would have got tired in the last two furlongs, but once again, like at Stratford he just stopped dead three out. I just don’t think, even though he’s French-bred, that he handles the heavy ground at all. We switched him to a sounder surface up at Doncaster, and I don’t know what kind of race it was, but to win a Novice Hurdle under a penalty by 20 lengths on the bridle has got to be good in anyone’s book. He’s got a mark of 136, has the profile of an improving novice, he’s very tough, jumps well and deserves his place. Whether or not he will be troubling the judge is another matter. I think he’ll need 12 or 14lbs in hand to be winning a handicap at least. I couldn’t say he doesn’t but it would be more of a surprise if he won it than A Hare Breath.”

GERMANY CALLING               Charlie Longsdon             OR140ch                     CLOSE, JHGA

HUNTERS HOOF                     Nicky Henderson             OR139h                       CORAL, PIPE

IT’S A FREEBIE                        Dan Skelton                       OR141h                       COUNTY, PIPE+ B.Andrews(5)

Dan Skelton suggests on Coral Vlog “Mature, tough. Runs in Supreme then Aintree”.

JETSTREAM JACK                   Gordon Elliott                   OR139h                       CORAL, PIPE

JOIN THE CLAN                       Jonjo O’Neill                     OR140h                       PNF

MAD JACK MYTTON              Jonjo O’Neill                     OR139h                       CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

MARRACUDJA                                    Paul Nicholls                     OR136h                       COUNTY

MR MIX                                   Paul Nicholls                     OR138h                       CORAL, PIPE

ROCK ON OSCAR                   Paul Nicholls                     OR135h                       PIPE

ROCK THE WORLD                 Mrs John Harrington      OR145ch                     JHGA

ROMAIN DE SENAM              Paul Nicholls                     OR136h                       WINTER

SIR MANGAN                         Dan Skelton                       OR139H                              PNF

SQUOUATEUR                        Gordon Elliott                   OR137h (Irish)                        CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

  1. SAVIOUR Philip Hobbs OR134h                       WINTER         

SUPERB STORY                       Dan Skelton                       OR135h                       COUNTY

Dan Skelton suggests on Coral Vlog “Not run for a reason. One of our best chances of the week”.

THE JOB IS RIGHT                         Michael Hourigan         OR140ch                     FWKM, ULT + D.O’Connell

THOMAS BROWN                        Harry Fry                             OR140ch                     CLOSE, FWKM, ULT+ M.Legg(?)

Thomas Brown, who is very talented, clearly enjoyed the better ground at Doncaster and has several options at the Cheltenham Festival.” Harry Fry News

THREE KINGDOMS                 John Ferguson                  OR141h 150ch                        CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

VIEUX LILLE                                      Philip Hobbs                      OR138h                       CORAL, COUNTY, PIPE

WAIT FOR ME                         Philip Hobbs                      OR139h                       COUNTY

WORKBENCH                         Dan Skelton                       OR140ch                     JHGA

#startracking Friday February 26th 6pm

So much for my second guessing Alan King and his plans for his 4yo’s earlier! Completely wrong!

A fascinating weekend of racing albeit less than three weeks from the Festival and hopefully my selections won’t get “bogged” down for once. So what are we looking for?

JP McManus has a shed load of entries, many of which require close scrutiny especially the Leopardstown handicaps on Sunday. Rory Delargy (Freelance racing broadcaster/writer and Final Furlong Podcast contributor) when asked about Draco tells me on Twitter “Interesting, but connections need to be careful – if he wins on Sunday, he’ll be reassessed rather than carry a 5lb penalty. Normally Sunday results ignored when handicapping early closing races, but BHA make an exception for the Cheltenham handicaps.”

Performance of the big yards especially Messrs Nicholls, Henderson and O’Neill.

SATURDAY FAB FOUR

Newcastle 2.50           SHOTGUN PADDY

Kempton 3.35            CHAMPAGNE WEST

Newcastle 2.20           DRAYTONIAN

Newcastle 3.25           DELUSIONSOFGRANDEUR

#startracking Saturday runners

Kempton 2.00 GIBRALFARO Has to give weight all round to two previous winners and three touted horses but if the handicapper is to be believed it is within his compass as it will be a big ask for a 4yo newcomer to run to OR144+ on debut and Gibralfaro looks a solid three star*** win bet @ 11/10 with PP (12.30pm)

“Gibralfaro has his Triumph Hurdle trial in the Adonis. I have been happy with him since Ascot, though I think the handicapper might have over-reacted in putting him up 9lb for standing in his box when runner-up Connetable won at Sandown. I just hope the handicapper is right, but he is now rated 151 and there are plenty of Triumph winners who don’t get that high a mark.” Alan King on his website

Kempton 3.05 OCEANE takes on the older horses and despite getting weight has a stiff task against the likes of stable-mate Winter Escape and Dan Skelton’s Welsh Shadow. It has to be a Watching Brief.

“Oceane is in good form after his winter break and the drier ground will certainly help him. He is in three races at the Festival and this should tell us which route we should take or indeed whether we should wait for Aintree.” Alan King on his website

Kempton 3.35 CHAMPAGNE WEST Has to be a solid three star*** win bet @ 6/1 (Ladbrokes 5.00pm) for reasons given below, See BETBRIGHT CHASE

Kempton 5.20 DRUMCLIFF Priced up for this year’s very open Champion Bumper at just 25/1 top price with SkyBet but none of the High Street Big Four. One of a few JP McManus sent Harry Fry for the first time this season, noteworthy in itself, Drumcliff was green but “in command” on winning debut at Taunton. I have high hopes for this 60K euros, son of Presenting. Let’s go with a two star** selection @ 3/1 general.

BETBRIGHT CHASE

Kempton 3.35 CHAMPAGNE WEST Jumping is his Achilles heel but the longer trip and lesser pace may help and even on OR154 he could be well handicapped. His conqueror in the Caspian Caviar chase, Village Vic, has gone up another 4lbs recently for standing in his box! He’s won for Tom O’Brien, there should be enough juice in the ground to suit and I think the extra two furlongs will bring further improvement, he does still hold a Cheltenham Gold Cup entry! At last Friday 1.20pm Mr Johnson reveals all in his Betway Blog! I’m on Roc D’Apsis for Tom George in the big handicap chase (3.35pm) and it’s great to pick up a good spare. The owner was keen for Tom [O’Brien] to ride Champagne West and I can understand that. He ran really well behind Village Vic two starts back and there’s every chance those two could meet at the Festival again. Three miles round Kempton should be absolutely fine for Champagne West. The Village Vic form is very strong and he should have a very good chance. He made a bad mistake at Cheltenham last time, which knocked him out of the race. He came back fine from that, though, and he’s got good form on better ground.” Said through gritted teeth?!?

EIDER CHASE

Newcastle 3.00 SHOTGUN PADDY I love the booking of Davy Russell and surely it is only weight, and clouting one fence too many, that can stop this horse going really close. He is a knocking two star** e/w selection @ 9/1 ¼ the odds first four with Coral.

Thoughts of connections courtesy of sportinglife.com The weights are headed by the the Emma Lavelle-trained Shotgun Paddy, who was last seen finishing third in the Welsh National. Former Irish champion jockey Davy Russell is an interesting jockey booking. Dan Downie, racing manager for the owning Axom Syndicate, said: “The ground drying up might not be the worst thing in the world because over four miles I don’t think any horse really wants it desperate. He ran a gallant race at Chepstow to be third, he was really brave. Since then he’s had a fair break so it’s not like we’re asking him to come back too quick. This has always been the plan for him since then as Aintree and Ayr are never likely to suit him. I think he’d get taken off his feet at Aintree unless it was like Red Marauder’s year. This is his race, there’s £85,000 on offer.”

Davy Russell also blogs with Betway and he said “I’m heading to Newcastle rather than Navan on Saturday where I’ve picked up the ride on the top-weight Shotgun Paddy in the Eider Chase (2.50pm). He’s got no easy task being shouldered with 11st 12lbs, but he’s got that weight for a reason as he’s high class on his day. Yes, he is liable to make the odd jumping error here and there, but he ran with real credit in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow last time and a reproduction of that run will see him go close.

Weekends Racing

Kempton has plenty of #startracking runners but the Pertemps Qualifier at Chepstow at 3.45 is a cracker with the likes of O’Faolains Boy, Kings Palace, Pineau de Re, Gevry Chambertin and a whole series of in-form horses. Expect them to ride out for sixth to qualify for the final! At Newcastle Philip Hobbs has Woodford County in the Eider and the other two horses he has put in the box are both worth supporting, Draytonian in the handicap hurdle at 2.20 (Nicely summed up by Catching Pigeons column on sportinglife.com Draytonian can double his tally for the season in the Betfred Handicap Hurdle, earlier on the card. Philip Hobbs’ charge is coming back from a break following a dismal effort at Kempton nine weeks ago, and looks worth another chance. He looks well handicapped on his two previous efforts this term at Wetherby, an emphatic win and a close third to the highly-rated Charmix.”) and Shambougg to defy a penalty in the bumper at 5.05. Another trainer who could be among the winners is Sue Smith. Her DelusionsofGrandeur at 3.25 has strong form with the likes of Ballydine, Jonniesofa and OO Seven and at 4.35 she saddles Blakemount who has long been a favourite of SimpleSimonSays.. but niggling injuries have so far stopped his chasing career taking off.

#startrackingCheltenham AntePostUpdate

4m NH chase LOCAL SHOW Trainer Ben Pauling talking to Ladbrokes (why?) “He’s a nice horse that has done everything I’ve asked of him so far. All he does is stay so the four-miler looks to be a very good option for him. He came to us on a mark of 125 and I knew he was held in high regard, but is now rated 147 so I suppose he’s already excelled what the owners were hoping for. He goes to there with a decent chance and it is exciting to see how he goes around Cheltenham. I think he will be a better horse on a sounder surface. He doesn’t necessarily want it quick, but he’s not a horse with a high knee action as such, so I don’t think he’s one that relishes the wet, he has simply handled it so far.”

Dan Skelton’s latest Cheltenham update on Coral’s Stable Talk.

“In terms of Cheltenham plans, everything is shaping up nicely. It looks like we’ll run Mister Miyagi and North Hill Harvey in the Supreme. Stephanie Frances will run in the Mares Hurdle and Willow’s Saviour will go in the novices’ handicap chase.

On the Wednesday we have Its’afreebee in the Neptune and possibly Welsh Shadow depending on how he gets on at Kempton. Long House Hall goes for the Coral Cup, Kasakh Noir is on target for the Fred Winter and Ashoka could go too. This has been the plan for Kasakh Noir since he got beat at Newbury. Work In Progress is in the Coral Cup, the Neptune Hurdle and the Conditional Hurdle on Friday but we haven’t decided where he goes yet.

Thursday is a big day with Al Ferof in the Ryanair, and Sir Mangan and Three Musketeers both running in the Pertemps and the JLT respectively.

On Friday Superb Story goes in the County Hurdle, with Workbench and Savello in the Grand Annual, and a few options in the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle.

#startracking Friday February 26th 11am

Just had a few days off from this blogging lark to try to clear my head before this four day frenzy coming up in March. This wet winter has been really frustrating and when I looked back through the form from Paddy Power day in November it’s all been “Soft and Heavy” ground, small field racing. The word “Good” only appeared at Doncaster, Musselburgh, Huntingdon and Kempton and none of those tracks are very similar to Cheltenham especially Huntingdon!!

In this blog I’m just concentrating on our #startracking horses running/entered in the next few days, a few thoughts on the Betbright and Eider Chases tomorrow and recent #startracking results. I’ll blog again tonight with tomorrows Fab Four plus Cheltenham 2016 “as I see it at the moment”.

#startracking Entries

Kempton 2.00 Kempton 3.05 OCEANE He has two entries here in the G2 Adonis 4yo hurdle AND in the G2 Dovecote hurdle where he gets 9lb plus from the older horses, both over two miles. He ALSO has similar entries at Cheltenham in the Fred Winter AND the Supreme! Oceane has been on many a shortlist for the Fred Winter, most notably Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead), and trainer Alan King has four useful juveniles and I just wonder whether Sceau Royale and Who Dares Wins will go for the Triumph, Oceane getting weight in the Supreme and Gibralfaro in the Fred Winter?

Kempton 5.20 DRUMCLIFF Priced up for this year’s very open Champion Bumper at just 25/1 top price with SkyBet but none of the High Street Big Four. One of a few JP McManus sent Harry Fry for the first time this season, noteworthy in itself, Drumcliff was green but “in command” on winning debut at Taunton. I have high hopes for this 60K euros, son of Presenting.

#startracking Results

FINGERONTHESWITCH          1st        9/4 Fav. (6/1 early with WH!!) Well supported. Travelled well in midfield, moved to challenge two out and saw it out well. Not sure he will defy a penalty but should make a lovely three mile novice chaser next season.

BETBRIGHT CHASE

I really want to put up our old friend and #startracking entry CHAMPAGNE WEST as trainer Philip Hobbs has been itching to put him over three miles. However initially at 10/1, Hobbs had a well fancied Kruzhlinin also in the race so I held fire and now Tom O’Brien is jocked up and Richard Johnson does 10st 3lbs to ride Roc D’Aspis for Tom George, which is a Paddy Brennan spare!! Hopefully dear Dicky will reveal all in his Betway blog later. Only other horse of interest was Thomas Brown for Harry Fry who could still be improving and may be best right handed. More news in the 6pm blog.

EIDER CHASE

Another old friend here in the shape of Welsh Grand National 3rd SHOTGUN PADDY. Four miles in the soft at Newcastle is ideal but top weight of 11st 12lbs tempers enthusiasm a tad. He is the best horse in the race and bar a race ending mistake has to go close. Woodford County is another who has ideal conditions and goes well for claimer Cairan Gethings. More news @ 6pm.

#startracking Friday February 19th 6pm

Posted 11am Saturday February 20th due to a computing malfunction last pm.

Ascot is a most peculiar card with a whole load of horses running in the “wrong” races. Chasers over hurdles, down in trip, up in trip, wrong grade etc. etc. Need to have a long look.

Haydock is just about as curious, opening with the a four runner juvenile hurdle featuring the current Triumph hurdle favourite against the current Fred Winter favourite, Fixe le Kap v Frodon. The Pertemps Qualifier is particularly spicy with two very interesting Irish challengers in Woodford Island (Gordon Elliott) and last year’s big gamble in the Kim Muir Chase, Champagne James (Tony Martin).

At 2.55 Fairyhouse runs a handicap hurdle over 2m4f with two interesting horses in it. Mall Dini who could be a Pertemps player and Townshend who runs off one of those dodgy French marks of OR131 for the Ricci/Mullins/Walsh combo!

Wincanton hosts a sub-standard Saturday programme featuring a sub-standard Kingwell Hurdle, Irving v Melodic Rendezvous take two.

The Fab Four

Fairyhouse 2.55          MALL DINI (7/1 WH & L) Talented horse who hasn’t been getting home over three miles. Townshend is over-bet being Ricci/Mullins/Walsh and jockey Davy Russell gives Mall Dini a chance. He just hasn’t been seeing out his races over three miles so we are hopeful that a half-mile drop in trip will help. The ground conditions should be fine for him and I’m hopeful of a bold show.” Betway Blog

Haydock 2.05             AT FISHERS CROSS (9/2 PP & L) I can think of a hundred reasons not to back AFC but he looks value in this field. He was fourth in last year’s World Hurdle and his comeback run at Gowran was excellent.

Haydock 3.15             BOX OFFICE (5/1 WH) See below.

Haydock 2.40             BROADWAY BUFFALO (4/1 general) See Friday Fe. 19th post.

#startracking Saturday runners

Saturday Ascot          1.50 ONENIGHTINVIENNA The trip may well be on the short side but he could simply be the best horse in the race. He jumps, travels and stays and there are just too many questions over the rest, most of whom are trying to sort out their handicap mark. He is a two star** win selection at the 11/4 on offer with PP.

P.S I would hate to see Ballyalton blow that handicap mark of OR140.

Saturday Ascot          2.25 BALLY BEAUFORT Trip and ground are fine but he is still flying a bit high in Listed company. 10/1 is not big enough to tempt me for a bet, so it is a watching brief.

Saturday Haydock     3.15 BOX OFFICE Up two pounds and a furlong further, should cope with both. He is already qualified for the Pertemps final and off current mark of OR135h he should just about sneak in. Another couple of pounds wouldn’t go amiss but it’s a strong field so it may be a case of all or nothing. He is a one star win selection at 5/1 with WH.

“My other ride is BOX OFFICE (3.15) in the Pertemps Qualifier, and he should enjoy the step up in trip.  He hasn’t won this season, but he continues to progress.  I thought that he ran well at Aintree in October, and he improved on that at Sandown last time as he stepped up a little in distance. He is only five, so he is entitled to improve again, and this two miles and six and a half furlongs should suit him.  It’s a competitive race though.” Barry GeraghtyATR blog

Saturday Haydock     3.50 CAPARD KING Dreadful last time and friendless in the market today. Watching brief.

“Capard King goes in the novices’ handicap chase (3.50pm). I really liked him when I won on him at Southwell in November, but he was admittedly disappointing at Ayr last time. He looks to have Kylemore Lough to beat here who is going for a hat-trick. I thought he looked good at Exeter and he’ll like the ground. There shouldn’t be too much between them.” Richard Johnson Betway Blog

Sunday Naas              2.55 CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE Jack Kennedy is a positive booking and makes CVT a one star* each way selection

#startracking Friday February 19th 11am

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY An across the card treble for Paul Nicholls Thursday with Alcala, Unioniste and Stilletto. I expect he has some very well-handicapped horses. The Final Flight ‏@thefinalflight1 Thursday 18th Feb.

SimpleSimonSays…Fakenham Friday

On a day that will be dominated by Ms Pendleton and the media circus there are two elsewhere on the card I fancy.

REYCANO Caught my eye when coming from a way back last time out in finishing third. Think grade, track and trip will all suit the shrewd Mr Easterby’s charge. Two star** win selection @ 9/4. Now solid 2/1 shot @ posting time!

ROCK N RHYTHM Has some sound bumper form, winner over hurdles and this is the weakest chase he has run in. Ladbrokes have put him in at a huge 8/1. Pity there’s only seven runners but he’s a one star* win selection. Sorry 11/2 is best price this morning!!

#Startracking Saturday

ASCOT Saturday Going is Soft, Heavy in places after a dry night as we look ahead to the Ascot Chase – http://ascot.co.uk/Ascot-Chase Ascot Racecourse ‏@Ascot · 9am Friday

SimpleSimonSays…Saturday

Haydock 2.40 BROADWAY BUFFALO Winning form round Haydock, goes on heavy ground, Katie Walsh over to ride and could do with a few pounds extra to guarantee place at Aintree. Don’t expect to see BB until three out but hopefully he’ll arrive swinging. He is a two star** win selection @ top priced 11/2 with WH (5/1 general) and pleased to read the opinion of his trainer, David Pipe. “David Pipe is expecting a bold show from Broadway Buffalo, who is ridden by leading Irish amateur Katie Walsh. Walsh steered the eight-year-old to the runner-up spot in last season’s National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and was also on board when he finished fifth in a Grade One hurdle at Auteuil in November. He has been off the track since the latest of those efforts, but the Pond House handler does not expect him to be lacking in the fitness department. Pipe said: “We’re hoping he’ll run well. He won’t mind the ground and everything looks ideal. It’s been the plan for a while to start him back in this race and he schooled well earlier in the week. It’s a tough race and it’ll be a real slog, but he should appreciate that.

Tom (Scudamore) decided to go to Ascot and the owner was keen for Katie to ride Broadway Buffalo again.” At The Races Friday

Tomorrows #startracking runners and three more selections for the Fab Four will be posted 6pm tonight.

#Startracking results

CHEF D’OEUVRE         1st        2/11 Fav. Looked under pressure turning for home but did the job comfortably. “Touch wood, Chef D’Oeuvre (Fontwell, 3.30) will register his second win over hurdles this afternoon as he looks to face a relatively simple task even with the penalty. The form of his run at Cheltenham last time behind Yanworth is light-years ahead of what these rivals have achieved and it will be good to get some more experience into him as he’s still very much a young horse learning the game. I think we are more likely to wait for Punchestown than go to Cheltenham with him as he’s a horse who needs soft ground, which he’s more likely to get in Ireland than at Prestbury Park next month, but wherever he goes this spring, he’s going to be a cracking horse next year” Warren Greatrex Oddschecker Thurs. 18th Feb.

STILLETTO                   1st        7/4 Fav. (from a morning 11/8!) Hoorah. Our two star** selection shows what he can do when he wants too. A mistake at the first ditch was the only blemish on an impressive victory. That should put him on about OR139 which would make him an ideal candidate for the Novices handicap on Tuesday at Cheltenham and as it’s Mr Brookhouse I’m sure he will want to run. I’m not sure what our talented delinquent will make of the Festival atmosphere. Victory may make a man of him, he is clearly talented. That’s Stilletto not Mr Brookhouse! Jockey STD tells the Racing Post today “they hope Stilletto can be competitive in the Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham off about 140”. No bookmaker has priced him up. Why not the novices handicap on the Tuesday if he gets OR140 or less?

#startracking Wednesday February 17th 6pm

Just when you thought it was going to be an ordinary Wednesday enlivened by the return of the hooded Annie Power Uncle Willie tells us that FAUGHEEN is out for the season! OMG.

“FAUGHEEN, red-hot favourite to defend his Stan James Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham next month, has met with a setback and will miss the festival. Speaking before racing at Punchestown on Wednesday, trainer Willie Mullins told the Racing Post: “Unfortunately, we’ve had a hold-up with Faugheen and he won’t be going to Cheltenham. When we started back working him this week we discovered he had a sore suspensory and, while it isn’t a serious problem, it’s come at a bad time and it means we’ve had to abandon plans to run him in the Champion Hurdle.” Racing Post Tony O’Hehir 1:33PM 17 FEB 2016 

But an hour after her success and after conferring with her owner, Rich Ricci, Mullins indicated that the Champion was now her most likely target. “I would rather run her in the Champion Hurdle than I would the World Hurdle,” the trainer said. “I’ve just had a word with the owner and it looks like she will be supplemented. But we have to see what happens between now and then. The same owner has Vroum Vroum Mag, who could be a real good option for the Mares’ Hurdle. As we see, with horses you don’t know what injuries are coming down the road. Come the week in Cheltenham, we’ll see what we have but she would have a good few options anyway.” Tony Paley, Guardian

For someone who had Faugheen at 7/4 (lumpy single) and Faugheen (5/4), Annie Power (5/4 Mares) in my Tuesday Acca’s plus Annie Power at a sneaky 10/1 for the World Hurdle (!*!*) it has not been a good day!

#startracking Runners

Thursday Fontwell     3.30 CHEF D’OUEVRE             Looks a shoo-in but at 1/3 he is no bet.

Thursday Leicester    3.55 STILLETTO           Galloped into contention last time out, took lead and got the third last wrong and capsized. Quite capable of winning a C3 20F handicap chase off just OR132, the issue is the 11/8 on offer. STD in his Saturday Racing Post column had his fall as “downer” of the week and said “he’ll go one better next time”! Let’s hope so he is a two star** win selection @ 11/8 general.

#startracking Ante Post Update

MORE OF THAT – “I’d have loved to have entered him for the Gold Cup but I suppose we are going down the right novice route and hopefully next year he can go back there (to Cheltenham), all being well,” O’Neill told At The Races. “If he can’t win the novice race, he wouldn’t win the Gold Cup so I have no regrets, really. I’m looking forward to him going and the ground drying up a little bit. He seems in great form at home. I would have loved to have run him at Newbury the other day but he is a better horse on good ground and he doesn’t mind being fresh so he’ll go there with a live chance. He’s in great form. We’re very happy with him. I’m very pleased with the horse. If he turns up there in the same form he did the other day, I don’t see anything beating him.”

#startracking Tuesday February 16th 4.30pm

Grand National weights out today. Have you #startrackers got any views? Email me on simonmoore57@gmail.com or tweet me on @mooresthepity. My shortlist would have to have Don Poli, Many Clouds and Alvorado on it. The Druids Nephew possibly? If Broadway Buffalo won on Saturday could creep in and would have a chance.

#startracking entries

Thursday Fontwell     3.30 CHEF D’OUEVRE

Thursday Leicester    2.45 STILLETTO

Thursday Leicester    3.55 STILLETTO

Thursday Leicester    3.55 WUFF

Saturday Ascot          1.50 BALLY BEAUFORT

Saturday Ascot          1.50 ONENIGHTINVIENNA

Saturday Ascot          2.25 BALLY BEAUFORT

Saturday Ascot          4.10 FINGERONTHESWITCH

Saturday Haydock     3.15 BOX OFFICE

Saturday Haydock     3.15 FORT WORTH

Saturday Haydock     3.50 CAPARD KING

Saturday Haydock     3.50 STILLETTO

Saturday Haydock     4.25 CHEF D’OUEVRE

Saturday Wincanton 2.15 STILLETTO

Saturday Wincanton 2.15 WUFF

Saturday Wincanton 3.55 STILLETTO

Sunday Ffos Las         2.00 CHEF D’OUEVRE

Sunday Naas              2.55 CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE

#startracking news

Annie Power latest I was confused as why she needed a race with two opponents. It seems the first time hood is the answer. “She is odds-on across the board to right the wrong of last season back in the Mares’ Hurdle at Prestbury Park next month, but connections have not ruled out a crack at the World Hurdle two days later, a race in which she was narrowly denied by More Of That in 2014. Joe Chambers, racing manager for owner Rich Ricci, said: ” It will be good to see her back and this gives us a chance to get a run into her before a return trip to Cheltenham, all being well. She’s been wearing a hood at home for the last while, but this will be the first time she’s worn it on the track and we’ll see what effect it has. We’re hoping it will help her relax. She’s won around Punchestown a couple of times before, so she likes the track and we’ll see what happens.” Punters are waiting with bated breath for Annie Power’s Festival target to be confirmed, but connections are keeping their cards close to their chest. “Let’s get tomorrow out of the way first. Cheltenham is still four weeks away,” said Chambers. At the Races News Tues. 16th Feb.

#startracking Updates

“Nigel Twiston-Davies says Splash Of Ginge is “made for the race” but is “most excited” by chance of novice Bally Beaufort.” Grand National Weights lunch

TOP GAMBLE/CHAMPAGNE WEST/VILLAGE VIC “It’s never easy putting figures on a race where all bar the winner have run below form, but we do have a few methods we can use for a guide. Historical standards suggested a figure around 163 for Top Gamble, but as his rating had settled between 152 and 155 over the last twelve months I wasn’t sure I wanted to credit him with that level of improvement. Instead I went back to his last race, a competitive handicap at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, which I knew was working out well. The winner Village Vic hadn’t run since, but Tenor Nivernais in second had improved another 4lb on top of that day’s form to be second again at Cheltenham’s late-January meeting. Considering Top Gamble had finished a close third, and clear of the remainder, I thought it appropriate to keep him in line with Tenor Nivernais from Cheltenham and therefore raise him 4lb to 159. As a knock on, Village Vic’s rating was also raised an extra 4lb to 157 despite the fact he’d never left his stable. This is standard handicapping practise – horses go down as well as up for ‘not running’ – but we do like the horse’s profile to support such movement, and as Village Vic has improved hugely to win good handicaps on all four starts this winter there’s no doubt that his does.” BHA Handicapper

So if Village Vic is to run at Cheltenham he would be taking his chance in the RyanAir where he would need to improve another 7lbs to be competitive? The upside to Phil Smiths observations are that Champagne West looks remarkably well handicapped re Village Vic/Tenor Ninervais/Top Gamble off “just” OR154ch.

 

“Fox Norton clearly wasn’t himself having lost touch fully five from home, and he’s down to 145, with the race in which he’d been beaten by Garde La Victoire at Cheltenham also pulled back 3lb” BHA Handicapper

I am not sure this is how Richard Johnson saw it!!

“AGRA LOOKS THE PART I suppose in what seems to be developing into a stellar season for 2m novice hurdlers it shouldn’t come as a shock that novices filled three of the first four places in last Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle. The season’s most valuable handicap hurdle is always a competitive affair and with Ladbroke dead-heater Sternrubin leading after the first flight a strongly-run renewal looked assured. However Richard Johnson didn’t seem to have read the script and he slowed his mount going into the first bend, causing a domino effect in behind in which there were one or two major sufferers. One of the main ones was the inexperienced favourite Blazer, having only his seventh race. Originally handicapped on his limited French form, he had made that initial mark look all wrong at Leopardstown the previous weekend and was running effectively 10lb well in at Newbury. He failed totally to cope with the slowing of the pace on the first bend whereas Lizzie Kelly and Agrapart were positioned just to the outside of the leader and took it in their stride” David Dickinson BHA Handicapper

He just never fired and whereas I’m usually trying to restrain him early on, I only managed to get him to the lead on sufferance.” Richard Johnson Betway blog