Monday 30th November 4pm
I have had this article kicking around in my brain for a couple of weeks now but I’ve rather had my thunder stolen by Tom Segal’s piece in last week’s Weekender but here goes anyway.
When it comes to finding winners over the jumps where do you start, especially with big races on a busy Saturday card? Well for me first stop is what is in my email box courtesy of numerous trackers but my second move seems to be, which trainer is running what where, why and whose riding it! I seem to have developed a sub-conscious pecking order of trainers which I will try to categorise here.
Level 1 is simply Willie Mullins.
His stable strength is simply unparalleled at the moment and any runner in any race will have a say on the market. Will his runner win and is there any value in the price? I would have no fear in backing a supposed second or even third string if the price is right. There have to be questions over a) do his big guns need their first run as they will be 100% for the Festivals and not before Christmas Day b) Were last season’s supposedly sub-standard bumper winners actually embryonic chasers who may struggle through the hurdling phase as well.
In Ireland beneath Mullins are Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade and Henry de Bromhead who all have the horses to take on Mullins and often represent better value.
Level 2 is Paul Nicholls.
Probably the strongest stable in Britain in strength and depth and watched over by a man at the peak of his powers. I prefer his chasers to his hurdlers although there was nothing wrong with Old Guard in the Greatwood Hurdle recently. In stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies he has a class act growing into the role. Love the combination in eyeball rides from the front in 2m chases. Nicholls can also call on the riding services of the likes Noel Fehily, Sean Bowen and the newest kid on the block, claimer Harry Cobham (literally, he is 16 years old!)
Level 3 are the solid straight batters.
In this category are the likes of Philip Hobbs and Alan King who have large strings and enough ammunition to set up a few Saturday winners and probably nick one at the Festival itself. Winners will nearly always be at a decent price as they just are not attention seekers, although King does have a column in the Weekender.
Level 4 are my favourites, the up and comers and they fall into three categories.
- Definitely got the horses. Three in this category and two of them were assistant trainer to Paul Nicholls, Harry Fry and Dan Skelton, (the basis of the Tom Segal column) and the third, Ben Pauling was assistant to Nicky Henderson. The first two are media savvy with the “right” owners and both have their powerful strings in cracking form. Ben Pauling is also among the winners but probably lacks the quality and quantity of the first two.
- Possibly got the horses. Four in here Warren Greatrex, Neil Mulholland, David Dennis and Ewan Williams. All capable of a decent Saturday winner, all good at their job. Ewan Williams must surely breakthrough to the big time with the money the Rucker’s have spent on their horses.
- Would be if they had the horses. In here I would include Seamus Durack, Robert Stephens, Neil King and Harry Whittington. If a Ricci or a JP sent them a couple of horses I don’t think they would be disappointed.
Level 5 are the shrewdies.
Two here, the born-again Kim Bailey and Dr Richard Newland. They run the right horses in the right races, fit as fiddles and know their job.
Level 6 are the gals.
Rebecca Curtis, Emma Lavelle and Venetia Williams are all capable of getting a Saturday winner. They have the horses but all three are probably best with their staying chasers as they and their owners seem to have the patience required.
Level 7 are those I struggle to get right.
First up is John Ferguson. With those pedigrees surely he should be winning stack loads of quality hurdle races but does he just get the nut cases who struggle on winter ground? Those summer winners are just too short.
Second on the couch is Jonjo O’Neill who definitely has the horses, the owners and the facilities but seems to be continuously playing the long game. Very interesting come Festival time at Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown etc.
Thirdly the Smith’s, Sue and Harvey. Wonderful horsey people but they don’t run a horse for ages then it’s twice in a fortnight. More chance of getting a helpful press release out of North Korea!
Level 8 are the old fashioned brigade.
They probably think that Twitter and Blog are a couple of the neighbour’s cats!
Here you will find the likes of Colin Tizzard, Oliver Sherwood, Tom George, Victor Dartnall and Jeremy Scott. All good trainers and Colin Tizzard in particular is having a fine season led by a rejuvenated Cue Card and Native River could be a Cheltenham horse. Oliver Sherwood is probably a really nice chap and he can train horses of which he has a few decent ones BUT has no idea in which race to run them! Never known a bloke ruin so many good handicap marks! The other three love their horses and their job but they aren’t driven.
Level 9 are the current under achievers who I’m looking to oppose.
Step forward Nicky Henderson, who quite easily could be included in Level 8 as well, who just doesn’t seem to have the real top drawer horses any more. West Wizard and Josses Hill (great quote “jumps like a snooker table!) are cases in point. In my opinion continuously over-bet but he does seem to have a few novice hurdlers coming through and Vaniteux was pretty impressive.
What is happening at the winner’s factory at Nicholshayne? David Pipe’s runners are seeming to all be a gallop short? This can only be a temporary blip but I can’t back one from the yard at the moment.
Charlie Longsden and Donald McCain both turn out regular winners but struggle up against the big boys and both could do with a flagship horse or two.
Tim Vaughan’s winning streak seemed to disappear with the first frost.
Am I glad that’s all off my chest?
Would more than welcome any feedback on those I’ve missed especially in Level’s 4 and 9.