#startracking Weekend Review Cheltenham Trials-Skybet day

Monday February 1st 12noon

Was last Saturday the day the Brit’s fought back?

YANWORTH really put the cat among the Closutton pigeons with an “on the bridle” victory in the Neptune Trial at Cheltenham and no one got a better view of the winner than Ruby Walsh who was aboard the much touted but stuffed second, Shantou Village. With Up for Review running a stinker at Doncaster in the Alfred Bartlett trial this could see a major reshuffle amongst the Mullins novice hurdlers. On Thursday at Clonmel is the Grade 3 “Surehaul Mercedes Benz” Novice hurdle over the convenient 2m 6f trip, i.e a Neptune/Alfred Bartlett trial and entries include Arkwrisht, Stone Hard, Nambour and Townshend for Mullins plus four for Elliott including Westend Star. Then on Saturday Leopardstown have their big trials day including the massively influential Grade 1 Deloittte Novices Hurdle over the ticklish trip of 2m 2f and supposedly is a Supreme/Neptune trial. Mullins has his complete ‘A’ team entered especially Bellshill, Yorkhill, Petit Mouchoir and Long Dog the more likely runners. Gordon Elliott’s Tombstone will give them all something to think about.

BARTERS HILL ground his way to victory in the Alfred Bartlett Trial and as the commentator said he really does have a “thou shalt not pass” attitude. He’s all guts and stamina and nothing flashy but he has Grade 2 winning bumper form and is three from three over hurdles and ground and trip are no worries. Two niggling concerns, firstly he’s never been to Cheltenham before and all his wins have been on flat tracks and secondly how hard a race did he have on Saturday? The second on Saturday, Ballydine, was only three-quarters of a length off Barters Hill yet is four times the price, 12’s compared to 3’s? Will either Yorkhill or Bellshill step up to 3m or could Nambour or Stone Hard force themselves into the picture with a convincing win on Thursday?

DJAKADAM fell at Cheltenham. For the second time in three visits! Smad Place made every yard jumping impeccably and if he adopts the same tactics in March he won’t be far away but he will ask some serious questions of any Gold Cup aspirant. Djakadam, Don Cossack it’s jumping, Cue Card it’s the hill, Vautour it’s stamina. Don Poli and Road to Riches meet this weekend in the Irish Gold Cup and the market is all for the latter but the handicapper says they have to find 7-10lbs to trouble the King George form.

THISTLECRACK looks the real deal. Any other winner will have to be pretty left field?

Time to talk Royal Ascot? How many of you like a big bet in the Queen Mary, the 5F race for 2yo fillies? Not many I suspect and the new Mares Novice hurdle at Cheltenham this year is the NH equivalent? These young ladies could find a stone between runs, boil over with the hullabaloo of a festival or just have an “off” day! LIMINI was impressive in victory but even money for Cheltenham!! SMART TALK put Morning Run and the rest in their place at Doncaster. She will be really exciting when she jumps a fence!!

As for the 4yo Juvenile hurdlers? Hold all your bets until we have seen the Grade 1 Spring hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday, the Victor Ludorum at Haydock on Feb. 20th and the Adonis at Kempton on Feb. 27th.

Maybe it won’t all be emerald green this March!


#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 Weekend Review 9th-10th January 2016

Posted Tuesday Jan. 12th 6pm

An unispiring weekend of racing with one exception but I’ll come to that in a Min. Delighted with the gutsy performance of Shotgun Paddy who lumped 11st 10lbs through some atrocious ground to a courageous third place in an uber attritional Welsh Grand National. The Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton was a non-event with some senior jockeys giving a well backed mud lover a five length start and an easy lead. My selection Bivouac “stopped quickly”. So jockey Noel Fehily told the stewards, could have added the words “as if shot”.

The weekend was however illuminated by Min’s second run in Ireland in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle. My notes at the time were “Keen, led by 8L, natural jumper, closed down turning for home, pinged the last ran away from them.” I’ll pinch the next bit from Timeform.

“Over in Ireland, the most taking performance of the week came from Min (improved 10 lb to 147P) who emulated the same connections’ Vautour and Douvan by taking the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown. Min looks the real deal, even at this early stage (rated higher than Vautour was after his Moscow Flyer win), and it’s going to take a special horse to lower his colours any time soon.”

Great but 5/4 for the Supreme, please! Can’t back it, can’t oppose it? Yes we can because quite a few bookmakers on the day, almost definitely Paddy Power, are going to offer us our money back as a free bet if our selection finishes second or third to Min. So here’s the rub, who is our selection.

Alan King is running Yanworth in the Neptune trial to see if he improves for the trip. Altior would seem rock solid e/w material. The next two candidates are Tombstone and Yorkhill and I’ve backed both those AntePost for the Neptune!!

I could see a scenario where Min runs against Altior, either York- or Bells-Hill, another Mullins horse, a Gigginstown entry possibly Disko, and a bunch of horses with an Official Rating below 132 who won’t get in the handicaps. The Cornwall’s are probably lining one up as we speak, in case it cuts up to six runners!!

Let’s see what turns up?

Cheltenham International Hurdle Meeting – Weekend Review Dec.8th – 13th

Monday 14th 5.30pm

Tuesday Dec. 8th

Aubusson won his novice chase at Uttoxeter jumping well but I think he is ground dependent, needs it V.Soft-Heavy, and if he was mine I’d be looking at a 3m Chase/Hurdle in Auteuil not Cheltenham in the spring.

Thurs. Dec. 10th

It was all about MIN. He probably beat trees but he was electric between the last two flights and hurdled cleanly. Thomas Hobson could be a handicap player at the Spring Festivals.

I was very taken by the C4 2m 5f maiden hurdle at Warwick on Soft (heavy in places) ground. I really like the winner BORN SURVIVOR, from the Skelton yard, and he will be a #startracking entrant. Mention also for the second, Alan King’s Minella Charmer, who was the only one to give Born Survivor a race. Meanwhile at Taunton Harry Fry introduced another two smart horses in Whataknight, who won the C4 3m hurdle (…in time he will make a chaser. He appreciated the better going at Taunton as almost all his winning form in points was on good ground. Harry Fry Website) and DRUMCLIFF, who won the bumper and will also be a new #startracking entrant.

Fri. Dec. 11th

I have already covered #startracking horses who ran at Cheltenham, Fletchers Flyer, Anightinvienna, Some Buckle & Fingerontheswitch in Saturday’s blog. Nicky Henderson introduced two novice chasers who both won. At Bangor Vyta Du Roc, a big, old fashioned chasing type but I’d be more interested in the horse he beat, The Saint James, in 2m6f/3m handicaps off his current mark of OR142. Volnay de Thaix at Doncaster came up well at the last when he needed to but there isn’t a lot of the horse. Respected paddock watcher Adam Norman blogged Volnay De Thaix looks a proper horse but was very novicey. However, he met the last two on a good stride and that helped him seal the win. I wouldn’t be that confident if they took him to a Grade 1 track next.”

Also at Bangor Warren Greatrex’s Ma Du Fou hacked up and defied a penalty and is one to keep onside.

Sat. Dec. 12th

I have to start by talking about the weather. Plenty of Good ground horse went to Doncaster which did catch the rain and the going went from Soft (GS in places) to Soft after race 1 to Heavy after race 4!! Meanwhile loads of Soft ground horses ran at Cheltenham that missed most of the rain and was Soft (Good to Soft in places) and rode better. Those at Cheltenham who threw their hats into Festival ring included Sceau Royal (very neat at his flights and must be a Triumph contender) and More of That (continues on course for the RSA but Village Vic ran the same trip 9 seconds quicker winning the handicap). As for the International Hurdle they might as well not bother running the Champion Hurdle in March and just ask Willie Mullins what the 1-2-3 will be and we can have the Charity race back!!

Form from Doncaster has to be taken with a fairly large pinch of salt. Holly Bush Henry is an improver and his trainer Graeme McPherson is in rude form. Sego Success put himself in the Skybet Chase picture, Robertstown was disappointing and apparently Who Dares Wins will win the Ebor!

Warren Greatrex had another interesting winner at Lingfield, Chef D’Ouvre, who handled the heavy ground much better than the well thought of Krugermac. The winner may be a #startracking entrant when I’ve decided if he is ground dependent and heard what Warren Greatrex has to say about him. On debut he was 4th to Born Survivor in an Irish PtP and has won both his races on heavy ground.

Sun. Dec. 13th

Losing the Cork fixture was a blow but plenty of good action at Navan and Carlisle. Outstanding at Navan was Bellshill who was another of the Mullins artillery to stake a Cheltenham Festival claim. He hurdled fluently, travelled strongly before quickening between the last two. He is currently quoted best price Supreme 16/1 PP, Neptune 8/1 fav general, Alfred Bartlett 12/1 Betfred and any race 5/1 general. Stone Hard had already clipped the top of a couple of flights when he unseated his rider and Tycoon Prince could need better ground to show that acceleration he possesses. Fine Rightly won the Grade C 2m 4f handicap chase in the style of a horse going places. Death Duty was good in the Listed bumper and his progress needs to be closely monitored, although he has chaser written all over and a damned good one at that!

At Carlisle Tullamore Dew and Pineau de Re rolled back the years, Suit Yourself didn’t come off the bridle in the 2m 1f Novice hurdle and Billy Billy (probably up for sale) won the bumper as he wished but for me the race of the day was Western Rules beating BRONCO BILLY in the 2m4f C4 novices hurdle. In the future I would want to take the winner on as his hurdling lacked fluency whereas the runner up is going to come on for his first run in over a year and we will put him in #startracking (details to follow).

Mon Dec. 14th

Corks two Listed races were moved to Navan 24 hours later (take note BHA) and although the G3 mares novice chase was a muddling affair the Hilly Way was worth the entry money on its own and the chance to see Ruby Walsh give another master class as he got Felix Yonger home on ground that was clearly too deep for him. Walsh was also on board another of the Mullins Cheltenham ‘A’ team when giving Black Hercules a perfect introduction to chasing. “Meanwhile Black Hercules is likely to run again over 2m 4f some time next month. “He has RSA written all over him” remarked Mullins” The Irish Field ‏@TheIrishField Mon. 14th Dec. Yes!! But it begs the question “where is Pont Alexandre going?”

Black Hercules  JLT 25/1 PP,                  RSA 25/1 Betfred,            NH 4miler 12/1 PP,          any race 10/1 WH

Pont Alexandre JLT 25/1 Stan James,      RSA 10/1 General,           NH 4miler      –     ,            any race 7/1 Skybet

There wasn’t enough mud at Plumpton for Zamdy Man, who is built for chasing, but JP McManus’s Regal Encore looked tidy in taking the prize. “Regal Encore scores at Plumpton to set up 60k bonus – which hcap at the Festival will he be aimed for?” matt tombs ‏@thespieler 14th Dec. 1pm 


“To lose one …. may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

Friday “The Stewards held an enquiry into the fall of Sam Twiston-Davies, the rider of POLITOLOGUE (FR), approaching the final hurdle. They interviewed Twiston-Davies. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the incident the Stewards found that the fall was caused by the gelding jinking right and unseating the rider.”

Sunday “The Stewards held an enquiry into the fall of Sam Twiston-Davies, the rider of HAWKHURST (IRE), after the final flight of hurdles. They interviewed Twiston-Davies and having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the incident the Stewards found that the fall was caused by HAWKHURST (IRE) attempting to buck and jinking right after jumping the final flight, causing the rider to be unseated.”


Tingle Creek/Becher Chase/John Durkan Weekend Review Dec.4th – 6th

Monday 7th 12.30pm

An eye boggling amount of quality racing over the last four days so how do you start to make head nor tail of it?

Once again you have to begin with the Cheltenham Gold Cup and that man Mullins.

Don Poli is only a 6yo and has won on both visits to the Cheltenham Festival (Martin Pipe Hurdle 2014, RSA Chase 2015) and on Saturday he beat Many Clouds (Hennessy and Grand National winner), Menorah (Charlie Hall, Supreme Hurdle and Betfair Chase 2nd) and Southfield Theatre (2nd in the RSA) without turning a hair. Many Clouds ran a great race and is firmly on course for the 2016 Grand National. The other two may struggle to find a race this season.

On Sunday Djakadam comes out and runs all over a quality field in the John Durkan over a trip I thought at least half a mile too short!! Valseur Lido (Mullins again) was a credible second under Bryan Cooper, a young man I will be writing more about in a following blog (probably not for his mum’s eyes!).

So I posed two hypothetical questions on Twitter this morning. If Vautour and Djakadam both make it to the Gold Cup who does Ruby Walsh ride?” and “If Road to Riches, Don Cossack, Don Poli and Sir des Champs all get to the Gold Cup who does Brian Cooper ride? If he gets a choice!” Michael Looby an Irish member of the twitterati replied “Cooper Don Poli, Carberry Road To Riches, Russell Don Cossack, Ruby and Townend on Vautour and Djakadam so a spare on SDC left”. All food for thought. I will stick with my opinion that Vautour is the second coming until the King George or proved otherwise or Douvan steals his mantle!

On Sunday Saint Willie revealed another world beater in Pont Alexandre after 998 days off the course and Yorkhill is going to be a player in either the Neptune or the Alfred Bartlett come March, probably the former.

Also on Sunday we had a crazy Peterborough Chase with Wishfull Thinking sprinting off, Camping Ground stumbling off, Petite Rose dropping off and Al Ferof doesn’t turn a hair as Ptit Zig crashes out at the last! Guess what? Al Ferof’s owner wants to go for the King George and the Gold Cup!!

On Saturday, apart from Don Poli, it was all about those Aintree fences. Great spectacle but not my favourite betting opportunities. Previous experience is crucial. Dolatulo ran well but does he get 4 miles? The Becher winner, Highland Lodge, on old Lavelle form would have a squeak in the National itself if he can get in. The Sefton, despite being shorter than the Becher, was attritional. Top Cat Henry was eye-catching. In the van throughout, jumped like a stag, 2nd over the last, walked home from the elbow!! Is there a 2m chase over the National fences? Not sure he will get in the Topham in April off 134 but he is only a 7yo and one of these shorter races could fall his way under the guidance of Dr. Newland.

The interesting horses started on Thursday at Wincanton with Lifeboat Mona (Nicholls) hosing up in a mares maiden hurdle but where next? 33/1 WH for new Mares novice hurdle at Cheltenham. Presenting Arms won a handicap hurdle at odds on for that nice young Mr Fry and here’s what he wrote on his website afterwards. Presenting Arms won for the second time over hurdles inside a fortnight at Wincanton on Thursday on ground that was more testing than ideal for him. I would not normally have considered running him so quickly after Kempton, particularly on heavy going, but my hand was rather forced when the handicapper put him up 10 lbs for that success.

For Presenting Arms to win twice more over hurdles is a bonus at this stage of his career as I was really thinking of sending him chasing this season. That may well happen in the spring but for the moment we will see if we can find another handicap hurdle for him. I have given him an entry in the Ladbroke at Ascot before Christmas, though it is important to stress that Presenting Arms is at his best on top of the ground which is difficult to find at this time of year.” Could be interesting come Festival time? Will go up from current 137. How about Liam McKenna or Michael Legg on board in the Martin Pipe Conditionals hurdle?

Hobbs had a couple of winners to keep an eye on. Rolling Dylan won his bumper and Duke des Champs, a chaser in the making, ground out victory over the JP owned Matorico who could be a player in a C2/3, 2m 4/5F handicap hurdle at a Festival, Aintree perhaps.

At Leicester Blandford Gunner landed some tidy bets and could be one to keep onside in handicaps. Add to that list recent winners Aloomoo, Mixbay, Top Billing, Virgilio, Courtown Oscar and the tenacious Bally Beaufort who could all be ahead of the handicapper. Dan Skelton’s Captain Chaos and his conqueror, Alan King’s Label des Obeaux plus the Philip Hobbs pair, Vieux Lille and Chepstow winner Tapaculo, all look novice hurdlers going places and will win again at this grade or above, although Tapaculo’s trainer  has suggested he may well go the handicap route.

Three bumper winners of note. La Bague de Roi was mightily impressive in the Listed bumper at Huntingdon and its Aintree next for this big girl. At a lesser level Malcolm Jefferson’s filly, McGregors Cottage, was all the rage at Sedgefield and she duly obliged. Jonjo O’Neills Lithic won the Junior Bumper at Southwell in the style of a useful horse.

Please feel free to cut and paste any of my stuff and put in your notes with any of these horses you may choose to put in YOUR tracker.