Star Tracker Index

Star Tracker Index Saturday January 9th 2016

APACHE STRONGHOLD            Second to Vautour in that JLT last March when I thought he was going to win running to three out! Fell in the G1 at Fairyhouse and 3rd to Valseur Lido in the G1 Growise over 3m+ at Punchestown and not seen since! Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?

A PLEIN TEMPS          (Harry Fry) Dec. 17th ran in the Taunton 3.20 coming 2nd. Put up as a two star selection at 11/4, he was returned 13/8 favourite. Right price, wrong result. For this 2m 7f C4 novice hurdle they went a steady pace in the heavy ground. The selection was always prominent on the inside but at times looked a little green running about a bit and he really guessed at one in the back straight but turning for home there were four in it and he had every chance but just didn’t see it out as well as the winner. Definite work in progress as a 3m chaser and still some growing up to do. He will improve for the run and better ground may help. He goes in the tracker. Could finish up with the whole of Harry Fry’s yard in the tracker come season end!!

ARBRE DE VIE             6yo      OR149h Fourth in last years Alfred Bartlett and not seen since second in a 2m4f Grade B handicap hurdle at Punchestown in May. Trainer suggested he was going chasing? Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?

BAGS GROOVE               (Harry Fry) On bumper debut this 4yo son of Oscar gave previous winner Criq Rock a real race in a C4 Ascot bumper on good to soft ground with 14L back to the third. Harry Fry paid 40K guineas for him and being out of a Roselier mare it is possible the very best of him won’t be seen until he jumps a fence, however a similar bumper is there for the taking and he showed enough speed to suggest he could be tidy over hurdles.

Mark Howard (One Jump ahead) wrote “Paul Nicholls’ former assistant came close to making it a four timer in the bumper with debutant Bags Groove finishing a close second. The front two pulled clear of the rest and the Oscar gelding will be hard to beat next time.” Harry Fry wrote on his websiteBags Groove, on his racecourse debut, came tantalising close to giving us a fourth winner on the card in the closing bumper. He led into the final furlong before lack of experience told as he was caught close home by Criq Rock who was more streetwise on his fourth start.”

BALLAGH                          (Ben Case)      The stable is completely out of form and Ballagh opened this season over a trip at least half a mile too short but was still competitive two out before the Henderson pair of OOSeven and Premier Bond did him for toe. Stable in some sort of form, 2m4f+, possibly a fence and he’ll win. I would love to see him have a go at a Pertemps qualifier as I think the trip would be right and he could have the profile for the Cheltenham Festival final OR135h An ex-inmate of Charlie Swan he cost £125K at Brightwells having beaten Lord Scoundrel in a Navan bumper. His three runs in this country were a, headed at the last, second to Different Gravey at Newbury and the same position behind Three Musketeers in a G2 at Warwick where despite staying on he was three parts of a length short.

Case also believes Ballagh has a bright future ahead of him after he chased home Three Musketeers in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday. While Dan Skelton is thinking of skipping the Festival with the winner, Case is likely to enter his former Charlie Swan inmate in both of the aforementioned Cheltenham events, after he has hopefully won a novice hurdle next month. “I think he’ll have a run in February somewhere in a novice hurdle,” said Case. “He’ll have an entry in the two-five race at Cheltenham and possibly the three-miler as well. Potentially he’s a nice three-mile chaser of the future. Even though he’s shown a high level of form, he hasn’t won yet so we can run him in a novice, but he’s been given a handicap mark of 135. He’s a nice horse, ever since we’ve had him we’ve always thought a lot of him. We thought the step up in trip might help him and it did, he travelled really well. As he’s quite a big horse I wouldn’t want to run him on ground too quick yet, but I’m sure he’d handle good ground.” Sporting Life Jan.16th

“Ballagh finished 3rd in the Rendlesham novice hurdle at Haydock, he was beaten by two very good horses but it appeared that he did not quite get the 3 miles, he will have a short break and I will look to run him at Aintree in the 2 1/2 mile novice hurdle.  He is a very exciting prospect for the future.” Ben Case Racing latest news

I was a little surprised to see him flying this high. I thought maybe the handicap route off a mark of OR 135h. G2 behind Definitly Red and Fletchers Flyer. Outpaced three out, over 20L behind Definitly Red.

Ballagh was well beaten off but he’s a chaser in the making and lost little in defeat. Norms Notebook Hayd Feb 14th

“Ballagh finished 3rd in the Rendlesham novice hurdle at Haydock, he was beaten by two very good horses but it appeared that he did not quite get the 3 miles, he will have a short break and I will look to run him at Aintree in the 2 1/2 mile novice hurdle.  He is a very exciting prospect for the future.” Ben Case Racing latest news

BALLY BEAUFORT             (Nigel Twiston-Davies) I hope I haven’t missed the boat with this one as he has won both his chases this season and his handicap mark has already gone up 7lb from 128 to 135 and is due to go up again above 140. However I just love his attitude and he is one tough cookie. This son of Old Vic ran in three Irish PtP’s as a 4yo and twice as a 5yo returning figures of PU1PU-48. However as a 4yo that victory was a three length beating of no less than Outlander!! Then on turning six he ran seven times in thirteen weeks in Irish PtP’s, winning five of them! His much touted half-brother Birch Hill went for £160K at Brightwells and is currently labouring with Nicky Henderson and last season Bally Beaufort was no great shakes over hurdles (552481PU) often highly tried his win came in a 3m C4 maiden hurdle but he beat Onenightinvienna (#startracking) by a nose typical of his tenacity and undoubted stamina. Sent chasing this season he didn’t touch a twig when winning first time up in a C3 Novice chase at Aintree over 3m 1f beating Spirit of Shankly by 4L. Returning to the same course over 5f shorter in a C3 novice’s handicap he hit a flat spot before powering down the straight to win going away off a mark of 135. His trainer said he will return to 3m+ and with a mark in the early 140’s I’m sure The Twister will be eyeing a couple of big handicap chases closer to home, especially in March, and it seems the Grand National back at Aintree. “He found this trip (two-and-a-half-miles) a bit sharp, not surprisingly having won over three miles last time, he won’t be running over it again,” said Twiston-Davies. “He jumps and gallops, he’s won that off 135, he’ll be going into the 140s, he turns eight in a few weeks so why wouldn’t you be thinking of the Grand National? Bindaree won it as an eight-year-old.”

BLEU ET ROUGE             5yo        Twice now I have heard Ruby Walsh wax lyrical about this French Bred owned by JP McManus. Blue et Rouge won his maiden and was immediately put into the Grade 1 PP Future Champions at Leopardstown behind Long Dog. What path will they choose? Lots more to come and the sort that could look a second string with Geraghty on board and be a price! Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?

BORN SURVIVOR          (Dan Skelton) I should have been bold enough to put this chap up before his British debut on the strength of the Irish PtP reports and his £220k price tag but I wanted to see him run first! Luckily he made his debut on “Min” Thursday and Warwick may have gone slightly under the radar! He is a strapping specimen, big, scopey and chasing shouldn’t be an issue further down the line. He won a decent Irish Point in a style that had the scouts drooling. On debut in Britain in a C4 maiden hurdle he was prominent throughout, jumped neatly, took it up three out but Alan King’s Minella Charmer gave him a race all the way to the line with the rest well strung out behind. Indeed the second could be well worth adding to your tracker as well! The Skelton’s know they have a good horse on their hands and he just did enough. There is talk of not over racing the horse this season, so an EBF qualifier would be an interesting second race with the final at Sandown the Saturday before the Festival?

Here are a few items written before his debut,

“BORN SURVIVOR 4yo b g (1) King’s Theatre – Bob’s Flame (Bob Back) W.F. Codd The Ballymena maiden looked top class on the day. This winner topped the Brightwells Sales making £220,000 while the second and third were sold for a combined £152,000 as both had previous form. Two winners have already emerged from this maiden in Chef D’Oeuvre and Definitly Grey. He is beautifully bred and showed an exceptional turn of foot on his debut against some very talented opposition. He could well be high class and is one of the standout performers of the season. He was purchased by Richard Kelvin Hughes and will now go to Dan Skelton.” FUTURE STARS Richard Pugh 08 May 2015

Dan Skeltons ATR Stable Tour 10th Nov. “Winner of his only point-to-point in Ireland.“He’s a lovely horse who won his only Irish point-to-point. He would be running probably in early December probably in a novice hurdle and he won’t be over raced this year.”

and here is what the Weekender’s Ken Pitterson wrote after the race.

“Expensive purchase Born Survivor made a striking debut at Warwick on Thursday. He looked quality and produced performance to match. His trainer, Dan Skelton, will bring him back to the track for the Leamington Hurdle, the Grade 2 novice he won with Three Musketeers last year.

Minella Charmer was more unfurnished and showed a fair amount of ability to at least give the favourite a race in second. He was a long way clear of the third and the race had a fair bit of depth to it.”

BOX OFFICE                      (Nicky Henderson) Will enter the history books as AP McCoy’s last ride when 3rd at Sandown in April. Box Office won three out of four in France and at auction JP McManus had to go to 185K euros to secure the 4yo Great Pretender gelding. He made his debut in this country in a C4 handicap at Taunton off a mark of 135 running third to Tornado in Milan. His second run was at the Festival in the Fred Winter and he went off at 13/2F! Someone thought he was well handicapped and he was a 6L seventh to Qualando. He was then 6th at Aintree and on his final run last season when stepped up 4f third to Brother Tedd in the Bet365 handicap hurdle at Sandown, both times off 135. He started this season back at two miles off 134 and was 6th at Chepstow off 135. Then back up 4f he was 3rd at Aintree off 134 and recently he was fourth at Sandown over 300 yards further off 133. BOX OFFICE ran well to finish a close fourth in the handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. It might have looked like he was a bit unlucky, that he was squeezed out on the run to the final flight and again a little on the run-in, but the reality was that I didn’t have the pace to take the gap when it was there.  Even so, it was a nice run, the first four were nicely clear. Box Office is only four and he is another who has the scope to progress a little more.” Barry Geraghty blog 7th Dec. This horse runs the same race every time. Held up, progress three out, challenged at last, didn’t go through with it!! He’s back up to OR135 and he is only four. I am convinced there is a big C2 handicap hurdle in this horse, if not two. They just seem to think he needs to come between horses to challenge, does he stop in front? Never been put there so we don’t know. He could be a County/Coral Cup/Martin Pipe player at the Festival. Probably prefer the Martin Pipe as an under performing Barry Geraghty won’t be on him! Currently 16/1 favourite for the race!!!

BRONCO BILLY                           (Jonjo O’Neill) You just can’t ignore the Ballydoyle boys paying big money for geldings. 120K euros for this one. John Wade has his year older brother (Allez Cool) who is currently a 100 rated handicap hurdler! Second first time up in a Worcester bumper he made no mistake next time winning at Carlisle on heavy ground. Geraghty completed the double when booting Bronco Billy to victory in an interesting bumper. What a lovely horse this was, with plenty of size and good bone, he looks a proper horse for the future. With a run behind him he was a good bet against the other two market principals.” Notes-from-the-northBRONCO BILLY won the bumper despite being green. I’d expect a lot of improvement for the experience.” Geraghty Blog

He was then off the course for thirteen months hinting at a physical issue (?) but over 2m 4f back at Carlisle on hurdling debut it was only lack of a run that allowed Nicky Richards much touted Western Rules to beat him. Bronco Billy hurdled neatly, travelled strongly but just couldn’t go past in that final climb to the line.

BUVEUR D’AIR                   (Nicky Henderson) This French bred 4yo was unbeaten in two junior bumpers in France before being acquired by Portensis and Chris Giles and sent to Nicky Henderson. His bumper form last season was of the highest order running 2nd in a Listed race at Newbury and 4th in the G1 at Aintree, both times behind Barters hill. On hurdles debut he was headed in the market by Cheltenham Champion Bumper 3rd Wait for Me but in the race Buveur D’Air was so much more professional, hurdling neatly as the favourite made continuous mistakes and he cruised past on the run in winning by 11L, 6L & 19L. This one could go right to the top with the only concern being does he need soft ground.

CAMPEADOR              3yo Trainer likes this JP McManus grey, having run in two hurdle races in France he made his Irish debut in Grade 2 company finishing 4th to Apple’s Jade, and I can see the Fred Winter angle. Gordon Elliott Spring Festival Handicappers?

Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015 “He is a nice horse that came to us from France. He is cantering away and he looks a nice horse for those juvenile hurdles. We are still learning about him and I am not sure yet where he’ll start off, but he has settled in well.”

“…Campeador did well to finish where he did after pulling hard throughout. The application of a hood should help his chances in future and given connections, he could easily be a candidate for the Fred Winter.” 2015/16 Christmas & New Year Racing Review January 3, 2016 Adam Webb

CAPARD KING                    (Jonjo O’Neill) Here is a horse with a very interesting profile. This son of Beneficial started off as a 5yo in three Irish points with form figures of F42. After finishing 4th in a Tipperary bumper Jonjo O’neill paid £45K for him and ran him in three novice hurdles (18.5F 3rd btn 19L, 18.5F 6th btn 50L, 19.5F 8th btn 46L) and he was given a handicap mark of 103. Then promptly stepped up to 24F+ he won three out of four ending up on 135. That is Prescott-esque! However his trainer hadn’t finished there as first time out this season off his hurdle mark he ran in a 24F C3 Novice handicap chase and promptly won that. He jumped soundly although hanging right on the run in he saw off two solid yardsticks in Seldom Inn and Kings Odyssey and has been raised to OR139. It is fair to say that stepping up to 3 miles and the sight of a fence has brought about some improvement! I think there is a good C2 3m+ handicap in Capard King and then a pop at one of the Festival 3m handicap chases probably the one on the Tuesday.

CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE 7yo 136ch Clearly highly thought of having run in the Florida Pearl and the Drinmore as a novice and weighted to win something big. Not a winter ground horse and his programme will no doubt be planned accordingly. Gordon Elliott Spring Festival Handicappers?

Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015 “He ran very well the other day at Punchestown and that performance open up more options for him. He stays very well and anywhere from two and a half plus suits him and he’ll go for a graded chase somewhere this side of Christmas. He has a bit to go yet, but he might develop into an Irish National horse.”

CAROLES DESTRIER          (Neil Mulholland) These are the thoughts of his trainer in his ATR Stable Tour on 24th November 2015. “He made a pleasing reappearance in the Badger Ales Chase when finishing fifth to Drop Out Joe under topweight. He will run in the London Handicap Chase at Sandown on December 5 or will go to Cheltenham on December 12 for the three mile two furlong December Handicap Chase.” 8yo Carole’s Destrier is a solid 3m+ handicap chaser who knows how to win and 146 is a workable mark in my opinion and after that promising return to action in the Badger when he was right there three out, his shrewd trainer should be able to find the right race. He is in at Sandown on Saturday and right handed is good (four of his five wins have been RH) plus the extra 4F could well eke further improvement. Would like to see Noel Fehily in the saddle.

CHAMPAGNE WEST   (Philip Hobbs) Simply couldn’t leave him out as he was probably the best novice hurdler at Bilbrook who improved throughout the 2013/14 season. He was 4th in the Alfred Bartlett and his 2nd to Beat That earlier reads well. Three miles with a bit of cut are ideal conditions and it wouldn’t be difficult to see this son of Westerner in the RSA justifying the £120K Roger Brookhouse paid for this 12L winner of an Irish PtP. Three runs at Cheltenham over 2m5f, two wins and a 2nd to Ptit Zig. He was right up with the best of the novice chasers last season. Unfortunately he fell in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles at Sandown, when going well. His trainer Philip Hobbs said on Wednesday morning 4th February 2015: “Unfortunately Champagne West banged his hock when falling at Sandown when he seemed to be travelling well and some tiny bone chips around the hock have been detected as a result. He will be sent to Newmarket for further assessment but hopefully it is nothing serious and is not career threatening. If all goes well he should be back in the autumn for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November.”

Well he didn’t make the Paddy Power but he is back for The Caspian Caviar December Gold Cup over the same course and distance. OR150ch

CHEF D’OEUVRE            (Warren Greatrex) This French bred 4yo son of Martaline was 4th to Born Survivor (#startracking) on Irish pointing debut but hacked up on heavy ground on his second try. Snapped up by Highflyer’s Tessa Greatrex for £56K to be trained by her husband Warren, on debut in Britain he was 3rd in a soft ground Sandown bumper having been sent off at 6/4 favourite. Five weeks later he made his hurdling debut at Lingfield in a C4 2m 4f novice hurdle back on heavy ground and absolutely routed the well thought of Krugermac (who didn’t handle the ground!). He may be ground dependent but the trainer said in a recent Weekender stable feature “He loves soft ground and might have a good race in him when we step him up to 3m.”

“CHEF D’OEUVRE 4yo b g (41)Martaline – Kostroma (Lost World) Colin Bowe A €29,000 purchase at last year’s Derby Sale by Colin Bowe & Tom Keating. This fellow did not enjoy much luck in running when a very promising fourth on his debut at Ballymena. From that race, Born Survivor, Some Are Lucky and Fionn Mac Cul realised a combined total of £372,000 at Brightwells so this maiden was very well regarded. This fellow was the second horse to run from it as Definitly Grey had won at Taylorstown 24 hours earlier. At Laurence- town he was ridden closer to the pace and ground out a very notable victory and looks a very exciting youngster.” FUTURE STARS Richard Pugh 08 May 2015

COPPER KAY                       (Philip Hobbs) The horse that impressed me most over the three days of the Cheltenham Open Meeting was the winner of the Listed Mares Bumper COPPER KAY. She looked magnificent in the pre parade ring, she has size and scope and she sprinted away from a classy field that included eight previous winners. Will Philip Hobbs keep her in bumpers? Will he keep her against her own sex? Will he send her hurdling and target the new race next March? If she turned up in the Dawn Run she has to be respected, likewise if she is in the line-up for the Champion Bumper.

DE NAME ESCAPES ME    (Noel Meade) I hope I haven’t missed the boat with this one as he has won his last two and I’ve been impressed both times. One run in an Irish PtP then he won a Clonmel bumper easily by 8L+ for the Keatings who sold him to JP McManus who put him into training with Noel Meade. He was third behind Sandymount Duke and the well thought of Klinnsman in a June Punchestown maiden hurdle on good ground but given three months off he has won a 16F Down Royal maiden hurdle and under a penalty won at Fairyhouse at the weekend over 4F further wearing a hood for the first time having been given a mark of 123. In Noel Meade’s ATR Stable Tour on October 8th his trainer said “The first day we ran him he just took a hell of a strong hold and was too free to give himself a chance of getting home. It was two-and-a-half miles that day, so we’ll drop him back to two miles next time and hopefully that will suit him better. I think he’ll appreciate soft ground, maybe not heavy ground, but I do like him and I think he will do well.” After his last win I found this on Twitter “ Live ‏@IrishRacing365  · Nov 28  “Likes soft ground but I think he’s better over 2m. Plenty of boot” Noel Meade, De Name Escapes Me 11/10fav @Fairyhouse. If the handicapper puts him up say 10lb at worse he could be interesting in one of the 2m Christmas handicaps although he has a 33/1 quote from Boylesports for the Supreme at Cheltenham and he has an entry in the Leopardstown Christmas festival Future Champions novice hurdle.

DE NAME ESCAPES ME OR134h Just piled into 14/1 PP are offering for the Hurdle (ex-Boylesports) on Sunday January 17th. Already in #startracking. Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?

DIAKALI                              5yo        OR153h Fascinating horse who one can only presume is a little fragile. He’s run well at Punchestown, Cheltenham and Auteuil but I’ve included him because he has an OR153 and in 2014 he was 2nd at 25/1 in the County off OR154! Last seen in July ’15 when an unplaced 4/1 Favourite in the Galway Hurdle. One run and bang?! Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?

DICOSIMO                  5yo      OR137h Looked one of the better Irish juveniles but was disappointing in the Triumph when 8th behind Peace and Co and was probably over the top by Fairyhouse in May but bounced back winning at Limerick first time up and that Official Rating looks very workable. Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?

Been given a 9lb rise. Still a possible handicapper. OR137 146h

DISKO                                      5yo son of Martaline who is the apple of his trainer’s eye. About a stone behind Bellshill on Bumper form and has only won a Punchestown bumper and a Willie Mullins-less maiden hurdle but he did win them by 15L and 29L!! At some stage he’s got to step into the Mullins infested waters that is Graded company. Interesting! Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?   

DRUMCLIFF                      (Harry Fry) Bred by Simon Tindall this 4yo son of Presenting, a half-brother to Simonsig no less, cost JP McManus 60K euros and he has sent him to Harry Fry. Heavily backed in a 2m C4 bumper at Taunton he sauntered home by 5L. 2L & 8L despite “distinctly” running green. Fair to say young Mr Fry is becoming the master of understatement when he put on his website, “Drumcliff completed a good day for the yard with a comfortable success in the bumper that offered bags of promise for the future. A half-brother to the brilliant Simonsig, he is a lovely prospect and I am grateful to JP McManus for sending him to me this season. It was good to see Drumcliff make a winning start to his racecourse career. He tracked the leaders for more than a circuit before stretching ahead in the straight despite running green. I’d like to think there will be plenty more to come from him as he gains experience.” Drumcliff is 20/1 for the Champion Bumper at the Festival with Bet365 and Stan James, the only two companies to price him up.

DRUMLEE SUNSET       So far he hasn’t fulfilled his promise. Irish PtP winner and guess who paid £130K for him? Top of the class, that nice Mr Brookhouse! DRUMLEE SUNSET won his bumper at Exeter last February beating none other than OOSeven who recently bustled up Yorkhill in the Tolworth. All four of his hurdle starts to date have been at Cheltenham. On hurdling debut he was outstayed by Mister Miyagi, his second race was a non-event unshipping Richard Johnson at the start, then riderless leading the field a merry dance for the whole two miles, next time he led after the second last but was outstayed by North Hill Harvey (#startracking) and Baden and most recently he was fourth to Champers on Ice when stepped up to 2m 3f. Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) in his Christmas update suggests Drumlee Sunset could be a Coral Cup candidate but Drumlee Sunset will do well to get a run in any Cheltenham handicap off his current mark of OR133. Win an egg and spoon novice, get 5-7lbs, back on better ground and he could be a player. Brookhouse will run him at Cheltenham even if its 200/1 in the Neptune. Why? Because Western Warhorse didn’t have a chance did he! Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS

FALCON CREST              6yo        OR136h Another for JP McManus that looked classy when winning his maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse and again winning the G2 Monksfield Hurdle at Navan before finding it a bit tougher in the G1 behind Long Dog. They could have some fun with that handicap mark as the horse has a few gears off a strong pace. Spring Festivals – Irish edition

Falcon Crest travelled well before finding little for pressure in the closing stages. Having had three starts over hurdles, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if he got an entry for the Boylesports Hurdle at the end of January off a mark of 136 where he would be a well handicapped improving type.” 2015/16 Christmas & New Year Racing Review January 3, 2016 Adam Webb

FINGERONTHESWITCH    (Neil Mulholland) I don’t think I will be alone in putting this one up as he was an eye catching 4th in the Conditionals handicap at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting. Under 8lb claimer Shane Quinlan he was UknowwhatImeanharry’s only market rival but was one paced from the last. Off a mark of 123 his trainer said ““He ran a cracker at Cheltenham on his latest start when finishing fourth over two mile and five furlongs. He wants three miles and has done very little wrong.” This son of Beneficial has already won an Irish PtP and staying chasing may be his game but in the meantime my ears would certainly pick up if he ran in a Pertemps qualifier because if he could get his mark up 12lb with a couple of wins I could see that being his race. In last week’s Weekender Mulholland said ”I’ll be looking to running him over 3m soon. He is a very genuine horse and I think there’s a nice bit more to come.”

FOU ET SAGE              (Dan Skelton)             OR143h Right up with the best of the French novices but hasn’t beaten a horse home in two races in Britain! Down four pounds and off to Haydock for the Champion Hurdle trial on 23rd January. Does he need heavy ground, is he just taking time to acclimatise, is it a wind issue? If young Mr Skelton can find the answers he could have a very well handicapped come Festival time. #startracking Spring Festivals

FOX NORTON                         (Neil Mulholland)      OR148ch Quality good ground 6yo 2m chaser. #startracking Spring Festivals

GIBRALFARO                   Probably the surprise package. Won four out of his last five of ten moderate French provincial flat races. A good size, scopey individual impressed on British debut when coming from a way back to nail Duke of Medina in a C3 juvenile event at Kempton. 20/1 with Coral is top price for the triumph but his second run will be more informative. Could see him being suited by Cheltenham. Spring Festival ALAN KINGS 4yo team

GUNNERY SERGEANT            Looks short of Graded company and his handicap mark will be eagerly awaited. Don’t think we have seen the best of this 6yo son of Presenting yet and he was the subject of positive reports from the Irish PtP scouts. Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?

HAYMOUNT                     (Willie Mullins) Before he made his hurdling debut at Clonmel on November 26th trainer Willie Mullins wrote online “Haymount won a two and a half mile bumper at Tipperary in April and is doing better work now than he had been doing before that run. He jumps well and is more of a stayer but he could be each way value here.” Right on all counts Uncle Willie. Took all of Ruby Walsh’s urging to get Royal Caviar (“a difficult ride”. Correct again Willie!) past Haymount with 11L back to the third. In the Racing Post Stable Tour Mullins had called him “a fine big, chasing type” so we are looking for a step up in trip and his jumping skills should make him competitive, even over hurdles. Haymounts mum is a sister of Bishopsfurze and Mullins doesn’t have many homebreds so he must like this one and Haymount is in the tracker for the long term.


HELMSLEY LAD                 (Malcom Jefferson) We may all have to tread carefully with this young lad as Helmsley Lad is going in the tracker on the basis of what your correspondent saw in the flesh at Doncaster. He had enough size and scope in the paddock to be noteworthy, he was nibbled at in the market, raced prominently before losing his place turning for home but kept on well to finish fourth in what could turn out to be an above average northern C6 bumper, it was won by a Harry Fry mare on debut. The reason for the caution is that my summer paddock pick got withdrawn at the start after taking a dislike to the stalls, ran like a drain twice and was sold for 500 quid at the Horses in Training sale!!


ICE COLD SOUL                              Has been put in with some decent horses in his novice races, the likes of Anibale Fly, Mall Dini, Tombstone and Up for Review and made full use of a lenient opening handicap mark of OR114 and was raised 9lbs to OR123. Have a feeling this 6yo son of Stowaway may still be well treated, “led approaching last, stayed on well run-in”, doesn’t suggest all out! Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?


IF IN DOUBT                     What is JP up to? We all know that If In Doubt has a fabulous engine but a total disregard for fences but that didn’t stop him winning the SkyBet Chase off OR139 and finshing 5th in the RSA to Don Poli! Pulled up in the Irish National and the Henessey what’s he doing hacking up in a Pertemps Hurdle qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day over 2m6f off OR140 when he looked stuffed three out and is currently quoted at just 12/1 for the final! In 2014 he was a painful 9th at 13/2 in the Pertemps Final behind stablemate Fingal Bay when carrying the Moore millions! In many ways If In Doubt reminds me of another Hobbs favourite, What’s Up Boys. Not the best jumper but at his best 2nd in the National and 5th in the Gold Cup but he did win a Coral Cup. Now there’s a thought! Second in the Lanzarote 2m 5f to Saphir du Rheu, won over a sharp three miles at Doncaster maybe a crazy 2m 5f over hurdles could be the answer? Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


IFTIRAAQ                            (Seamus Durack) I had better hurry up with this one as he is out on Thursday running under a penalty over 2m in a C4 novice hurdle at Leicester. I think his trainer has a real eye for a good horse and I would love to see him in a situation where he didn’t have to sell them on as I think that he can train as well. Iftiraaq knew what was required first time up in a C4 maiden hurdle at Leicester, the money was down, and he could be picked as the winner from three out and despite missing out the last two flights he won “comfortably” by three parts of a length. An ex-Hamdan al Maktoum horse homebred out of Mutathir he ran three times as a 3yo in France in the care of John Hammond before Durack paid just 8K guineas for him. He ran him five times on the flat over a variety of trips without winning but to a mark of 77 most times. However I am sure Durack bought him for the winter game as he has the size and scope to do well hurdling and whatever happens tomorrow I think the shrewd trainer could plot a few handicaps with Iftiraaq.


JOHNS SPIRIT             (Jonjo O’Neill)                        OR151ch It was only a matter of time before he had to be included! Down 6lbs already since the start of the season, another 3/4lbs could be on the way? Rose rapidly up the ladder with three wins at Cheltenham over the 2m4f trip off OR marks of 129, 139 and 147. Couldn’t cut it at Championship level but was less than a dozen lengths behind Uxizandre in last year’s Ryanair. Anywhere around 148 on genuine Spring ground and he has to be a player in the Plate. #startracking Spring Festivals

Johns Spirit, 6th, 1.55 Cheltenham 01/01/2016 The fact that Johns Spirit ended up finishing behind stablemate Lost Legend tells the story about how quickly Johns Spirit bottomed out from the home turn. But the fact that, in conditions that he clearly simply can’t handle, Johns Spirit was able to turn for home on the heels of good horses, most of whom he was giving weight to, tells you that this horse can get involved in the Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate on the third day of the Festival. Lest we forget, he was fifth in the Ryanair over the same course and distance last season, yet has now tumbled nearly a stone in the handicap since that run. The fire clearly still burns brightly within. (WH) Latest eyecatchers Ben Linfoot and Will Hayler January 4 2016


LISHEEN PRINCE               (Philip Hobbs) It would seem the Whateley’s bought this 4yo son of Oscar as an unraced 3yo for 31K euros and after he had won an Irish 4yo PtP “impressively” at Oldcastle under JJ Codd they moved him to Philip Hobbs. In the trainers Racing Post Stable Tour in his typical understated manner he said “Not showing a great deal at home yet but is well regarded. He’ll want a trip.” That didn’t stop him running him in the 2 mile Listed bumper at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting where he went off a well supported 11/2 third favourite finishing an outpaced 8th! However that run did catch the attention of the Weekender’s eagle-eyed Ken Pitterson who wrote “Lisheen Prince looked the part in Sunday’s bumper but was green at various stages in the race. He will come on a ton for the experience.” That’s good enough for me he goes in the tracker.

MILES TO MILAN               (Philip Hobbs) Guess what? This is another once raced novice from the Hobbs yard! This one cost 52K guineas as a 3yo but didn’t make his debut until he was five and was pitched in at C3 level he was a keeping on 3rd to the stellar Modus. My notes on the race for Miles to Milan say “travelled, hurdled, competitive two out. Can only improve.” That was over 2m 3f and another couple of furlongs may help? Ideal tracker material.


MINELLA AWARDS           (Nicky Henderson) As I have written elsewhere (Jockey and Trainer Profiles) Nicky Henderson may have lost his way with fragile, ageing superstars and not much backing them up, he has some promising novices coming through and along with Buveur D’Air this is going in the tracker. On hurdling debut he was a solid second to Champers on Ice from the “hit and miss” David Pipe stable in the C3 novice hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting. Making headway from three out he was the only one to give the winner a race being held by threequarters of a length. Another one who changed hands at Brightwells having finished 2nd to Crazyheart (Sold to Paul Nolan for £110K at the same sale) in an Irish PtP he cost Portensis and Chris Giles £120K. No surprise to see Ken Pitterson (Weekender) was equally impressed “Held up, he warmed to his task and jumped and travelled with purpose. He stayed on in determined style on the run-in and I am sure this experience will not go amiss.” He is a 4yo gelded son of Oscar out of a Presenting mare and is obviously a chaser in waiting but showed enough speed to have a fruitful hurdling career.


MINELLA PRESENT     (Neil Mulholland)      OR134ch Quality good/good to soft ground 7yo 2m chaser. Astute trainer says aimed at Grand Annual at Cheltenham. May need a win to get in? #startracking Spring Festivals


MODUS                       (Paul Nicholls)                        OR139h I am not alone in having this horse very much on the radar for the Betfair hurdle. He has quality bumper form, 2nd at Cheltenham and 3rd at Punchestown, won his hurdle debut at C3 level and then Charmix made him pull out all the stops over Newbury’s two miles. His last run was in a mud-bath carrying a double penalty but he had a run and stays on OR139. He wants decent ground, a strong pace to run at and a big field to run through. He is guaranteed to get two at Newbury on the first Saturday in February and weather permitting all three! Outside of the Betfair he could be competitive in the Imperial Cup and/or the County Hurdle plus if things went well in Berkshire he could even shake up Min in the Supreme! #startracking Spring Festivals

Modus, 3rd, 1.45 Taunton 30/12/2016 Modus lost his unbeaten record over hurdles at Taunton, but don’t give up hope on him setting the record straight in the spring. Testing conditions, combined with the 19-furlong trip, stretched his stamina to breaking point and he had no answer from the final flight to two stouter rivals, who unsighted him by racing down the stands’ side of the track. I thought he jumped pretty well in the main and this contest is simply a world away from the two-mile big-field handicap hurdles I think he can contest off a fair mark. His form with Charmix from Newbury certainly hasn’t been done any harm subsequently by that rival and despite this setback – at a time when the stable isn’t firing, whatever the trainer might say – he has both the cruising speed and the strength over two miles to go really well in the Betfair Hurdle if connections opt to go down that route. (WH) Latest eyecatchers Ben Linfoot and Will Hayler January 4 2016


MONSIEUR GIBRALTAR (Paul Nicholls)        OR138h Great mark for the Cheltenham and the Spring Festival handicaps. Certainly unexposed. #startracking Spring Festivals

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

His trainer said at his Open Day on 9th October 2015 “Monsieur Gibraltar-Won twice over hurdles in France before joining us in February and scoring on his only run so far for us at Newton Abbot in April. We liked him at home before that win. I’m thinking now of the Tote Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October. He might be ready for that. He’s got plenty of ability.”

“The Stewards considered the running of MONSIEUR GIBRALTAR (FR), ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, and trained by Paul Nicholls, which was pulled up. They noted the trainer could offer no explanation for the gelding’s performance. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding, during routine testing, failed to reveal any abnormalities.” BHA Stewards Report 10th Oct. 2015


NITROGEN                           (Harry Fry) His trainer had this to say about this gelded 8yo son of Old Vic “He’s a half-brother to Best Mate and will benefit from stepping up to three miles over fences this season. He goes for a novice handicap chase and we are obviously hoping he takes to fences.” Well he did, running a very promising 3rd to Spookydooky over a trip probably too short for him, keeping on when others had cried enough. Noel Fehily gave him a tender, educational ride out the back which should pay dividends in the long run. It will need too as well known owner paid 170K euro’s for him and he didn’t get on to a racecourse until he was a 7yo. This was only his fourth race so we have a well bred horse with low mileage on the clock in the right hands off a mark of 121. 3m should do the trick.


NO COMMENT                       (Philip Hobbs) Like Drumcliff this 4yo gelded son of Kayf Tara is owned by JP McManus but in the hands of Philip Hobbs. He was a keeping on second behind Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be in a Ludlow C4 Junior bumper over 1m 6f but there was 19L back to the third horse. The JP horse is closely related to Aran Concerto who won three Grade 1’s including the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and the Powers Gold Cup over fences and was probably at his best over two and a half miles on decent ground. Let’s hope No Comment turns out to be as good!


NORTH HILL HARVEY (Dan Skelton) He’s really in the “could be anything” category. 44K euros as a 3yo, with Tom Lacey (interesting man, profile in pipeline) for a year and moved on for £100K. Now owned by Mrs G. Widdowson and Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes (long standing Henderson owner) who have only had three horses together, Three Musketeers, Born Survivor and this one and all three are with Dan Skelton and all three are in #startracking!! North Hill Harvey was the only horse to give the much touted Barters Hill a run on racecourse and hurdling debut. He won second time up beating Baden and Drumlee Sunset in what looked a solid C3 Cheltenham novice hurdle. Currently top priced 33/1 for the Supreme, 25/1 for the Neptune however one more run would get him a handicap mark! Let’s hope Dan has a plan! Three Musketeers bypassed Cheltenham last year so don’t be surprised if we may be looking at Aintree. #startracking Spring Festivals


NOBLE ENDEAVOR 7yo OR146h Son of Flemensfirth who was just pipped by Kiltullagh Vic in the Martin Pipe last March is progressing over fences. Needs a mark of 140 or under to get in 2m5f novice handicap on the Tuesday of Cheltenham, not enough experience for the Plate. Might he step up in trip? Suitable Novice 2m5f handicap at Punchestown on the Friday. Gordon Elliott Spring Festival Handicappers?

Trainer told Dave Keena on 20th November 2015He was a good horse over hurdles and with a bit of luck, he’ll develop into a good staying novice chaser.”


OCEANE                             This French bred had three runs on the Flat last summer achieving a rating of OR 88. He won his first two juvenile hurdles at Fontwell and Kempton before a disappointing 4th behind Wolf of Windlesham in the G2 Triumph trial on Paddy Power day. I was there that day and he is a fine specimen but just didn’t act on the rain softened ground. Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) feels Oceane is an ideal candidate for the Fred Winter, currently quoted at top price 25/1 with PP. Spring Festival ALAN KINGS 4yo team


ONEFITZALL                     Won his bumper and a C4 novice hurdle, both at Uttoxeter, in the style of a useful horse. Then third under a penalty in what could turn out to be an above average C4 2m4f novice hurdle behind Knockgraffon at Leicester. Trainer suggests he wants the going to be soft or worse but he has an OR130 and a win in a C3 0-130 over 2m 4f+ could bring him into Festival territory. Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


ONENIGHTINVIENNA      (Philip Hobbs) This is one of only three horses that Philip Hobbs put forward as having Cheltenham potential and the way he won at Exeter on debut suggests it will be the 4m NH chase, currently quoted at 16/1. We should have a lot of fun with this one over the next few seasons. Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) wrote “Onenightinvienna made an excellent start to his chasing career when beating the highly regarded Fletchers Flyer by a length and a quarter in a compelling three miles novices’ chase at Exeter. Tom O’Brien timed his run to perfection aboard the former Irish pointer as he mastered Harry Fry’s charge on the run-in. Progressive over hurdles last spring, he threatens to make an even better chaser with realistic Cheltenham Festival aspirations. It will be interesting to see if he heads to Prestbury Park next month for the staying novice chase.”


OPEN EAGLE                   7yo        Won the 2014 November Handicap at Doncaster in a hack canter. Hasn’t looked a natural hurdler in his three starts to date but the owners are hoping for some Festival action. Will he be entered in any of the handicaps? Probably finish fourth in the Coral Cup before finishing second in the Melbourne Cup!

Steve Massey, who manages the owning Supreme Horse syndicate, said: ” We were delighted with Open Eagle. “He jumped and travelled well and was beaten by a very good horse on the day. He got in a little bit tight to the second-last, but he kept going to finish seven lengths clear of a horse rated 140, so we’ve got to be pleased. Willie thinks he needs stepping up in trip now, so that will be the plan for his next run. We have a few options, there’s a race at Warwick, a race at Ascot and the Neptune trial at Cheltenham at the end of the month. There are also races in Ireland, obviously. He’s an exciting prospect and hopefully we’ll get him to Cheltenham in March.” OR???h Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?


OUR KAEMPFER         (Charlie Longsdon)    OR140h Qualified for Pertemps final and his third to Thistlecrack in the G1 Doom Bar Sefton Novice Hurdle over 3m at the Aintree festival last April looks a really strong piece of form. 4th in the Tote Trophy at Chepstow a race that has thrown up a bucket load of winners, a well-supported second to Broxbourne back over three miles at Aintree and then brought down in the ill-fated Baradari’s Fixed Brush at Haydock, another strong race. Remains on the same mark and probably just needs a nod from Lady Luck. #startracking Spring Festivals


PERFORM                            (Philip Hobbs) He was as green as grass on debut last March at Uttoxeter pulling hard, sloppy at his hurdles etc. etc. but reappeared at Haydock in October in a C4 maiden hurdle looking much more the real deal. The day after that Philip Hobbs’ Racing Post Stable Tour was published he was a Dark Horse or not so dark as the trainer suggests. Hobbs reported that Perform “had grown up mentally and filled out, although he still looked green. Should step up significantly on that effort could be very nice.” That is fair gushing for young Philip. The form has been well franked since with the second Knockgraffon putting another Hobbs hopeful, Onefitzall, to the sword and the third, American, hacking up at Ascot in a C2 for Harry Fry. There was 15L back to the fourth who ran in a Doncaster handicap at the weekend off OR115. His next run is eagerly anticipated.

PERFORM                            (Philip Hobbs) I watched this one’s last race when he won at Aintree and thought he looked a nice type but had no idea of the strength of the form. However the Timeform boys were quite excited at how quick the front three had been from three out. Then the second, Knockgraffon, wins a C4 novice at Leicester and the third, American, wins a C2 at Ascot beating Label des Obeaux who himself goes on to win a G2 hurdle at Sandown at the weekend. That’s form well franked!

Here’s what Timeform said “Get Perform & Knockgraffon in your My @Timeform lists, folks. Pair over 3s faster from 3 out than unbeaten Hunters Hoof in the good 2½m hcp” Daniel Barber ‏@DanBarberTF  · Mon.Oct.25th   Add to that the views of top paddock judge Adam Norman,  “A decent maiden hurdle kicked things off and it didn’t take a Mississippi lawyer to figure out that Perform would run a massive race. A market drifter, this lovely scopey animal was primed to win first time out for the Hobbs/Johnson combo. Dickie J gave the beast a most confident ride and you couldn’t help be impressed by how he came clear with Knockgraffon, another decent type albeit in the compact/strong mode. Going For Broke was well backed but I found him a quite disappointing specimen, somewhat mishapen and on edge. He clearly shows plenty at home but I have a suspicion he could want it bottomless. Monday, 26 October 2015 Aintree and Perform has to be tracked. American may have quotes of 20/1 for the Neptune but I wouldn’t be surprised if the wily Mr Hobbs isn’t eyeing up a handicap mark in the high 130’s and one of those pesky Cheltenham handicaps for Perform.


PETIT MOUCHOIR        5yo        Thought good enough to run in the G1 PP Future Champions novice at Leopardstown with a bit more experience I think he could be very good. This French bred son of Al Namix cost Gigginstown 100K euros as an unraced 3yo! Winner of his Irish PtP, the Goffs Land Rover bumper at the Punchestown Festival for Gordon Elliott and a Thurles Maiden Hurdle the world is very much his lobster!! Another who could easily upset one of the sexier types at a price. Spring Festivals – Willie Mullins under the radar, second strings, Festival Handicappers?


RATHNURE REBEL                  Not seen since he beat Three Musketeers by 10l on his only start in an Irish PtP! Where the hell is he Noel? Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?

Written on the Betbright Blog in December 2014!! “Rathnure Rebel A son of Beneficial who made a strong impression when winning his sole start in an Irish point-to-point. Now in the care of Noel Meade and owned by the powerful Gigginstown House Stud operation the five-year-old is representing eyecatching connections. The form of his run at Dromahane has yet to be tested on the race-track, but the pointing form looks useful. Having won by ten lengths the third horse home – beaten 16 lengths -would go on to finish runner-up in a good race on his next start. While that form looks sound his pedigree also took our eye. By a strong national hunt sire his dam is an unraced half-sister to 1m4f Flat/bumper/smart 2m3f-3m hurdle winner Sweet Kiln (by Beneficial) and useful bumper/2m-3m hurdle winner Earth Magic being from family of top-class hurdler Limestone Lad. With that sort of bloodline it’s not a surprise Gigginstown House Stud came on board – especially with the point-to-point win looking sound. The same duo of Meade and O’Leary combined to take last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rathnure Rebel take a similar route, if proving up to that class.”


RED SHERLOCK           (David Pipe)   OR145h Another ridiculously handicapped horse but on the comeback from injury. In the spring of 2014 he was just 7/2 second favourite to beat Faugheen in the Neptune! We haven’t seen him since March 2014 but …“I am pleased to report that Red Sherlock is getting nearer to a run. Our seven year old son of Shirocco who won his first five starts but had been absent since disappointing behind Faugheen in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 is now getting near to a run. He is pictured below swimming this morning in our equine pool and he could be making his reappearance as early as the end of January, beginning of February.” Monday, 04 January 2016 16:34 Written by David Pipe

That mark of 145 is mouth-watering for the Cheltenham Festival. Coral Cup or top weight in the Martin Pipe? #startracking Spring Festivals


ROAD TO RICHES                   Multiple grade 1 winner but I’m not sure he gets a yard over three miles. As a 9yo if he’s ready to go you would have to imagine 2016 would be his last real go at a Festival big one. Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?


ROCK THE KASBAH     Massively impressive when hacking up by 8L in a C2 handicap hurdle off OR136 on Soft ground in November. Put up a fair 8lb for that effort to OR144 which means they can have a pop at a valuable C2 next run but which one? Coral Cup or more likely the Martin Pipe for which he is generally quoted at 25/1.This strapping son of Shirocco will make a fine chaser. Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


ROYAL PLAYER               Lost the plot? In the grip of the handicapper? Flying too high? He has pulled up in his last three runs albeit in the Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup, the Scottish National and the Listed SkyBet Chase but won his two races prior to that in the style of a classy animal. He’s a hold up 3m good ground (good to soft is OK) chaser who went up 19lb to OR147 for those two wins and now dropped 3lb to OR144. In his Racing post Stable tour Philip Hobbs said “We found he had been suffering badly from warts, which have since been cut out. Now that’s been sorted out he could go the right way in staying handicap chases when the ground isn’t riding too soft.” That mark will get him into any Festival 3m+ handicap, I just see him more of an Aintree horse under a creepy-creepy ride from Richard Johnson than a Cheltenham type. Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


SCEAU ROYAL                 I have seen no horse, juvenile or otherwise, get from one side of a flight to the other as quickly as Sceau Royal. That skill alone will make him competitive especially in the juvenile division. Owned by juvenile kings Messrs Munir and Souede he won a hurdle in France before his four runs in Britain. First past the post on debut at Chepstow but lost it in the stewards room, beaten a nose by Leocavallo in a Listed event at Wetherby before comfortably beating Winterfell at Warwick in a time nine seconds quicker than Yanworth took later that afternoon! He was even more impressive on his final run winning a C2 race at Cheltenham. Others in the Triumph hurdle will have sexier Flat form but this chap is a useful hurdler and at 20/1 with BetFred is cracking each way value. Spring Festival ALAN KINGS 4yo team


SCOOP THE POT                 (Philip Hobbs) He’s only had the four career runs so far with form figures of 214-3. Second first time up when beaten a long way by Otago Tail but debuted in a C3, he then won his maiden hurdle at Ludlow at C4 level with a first time tongue tie over an inadequate 2m. He finished last season a disappointing third over 2m 4f in a C3 handicap at Wincanton off OR121 when he struggled to go the pace from three out. However over the summer he had a wind operation and he returned this season with a cracking third at Cheltenham in the 2m 5f conditionals handicap just 5l behind a much improved UknowwhatImeanharry off OR120. He was put up 4lb for that run, as opposed to the winner who has gone up 14lb having won again since, and off OR124 he looks a winner waiting to happen.


SHELFORD                   (Dan Skelton) OR139h Fifth in the Martin Pipe last March off this mark it seems that the Skelton’s are aiming him a little higher this Spring with the Welsh Champion Hurdle (Ffos Las 6th Feb.) and the Coral Cup. I love it when Dan is the man with a plan! Shelford is a son of Galileo, has a worthwhile CV and races with his heart on his sleeve in the van throughout. Win or lose we’ll get a run for our money! #startracking Spring Festivals


SIR MANGAN             (Dan Skelton) OR139h Here is another with a great profile for the Pertemps Final. A sneaky 5th at Sandown over a trip too short to qualify. Moved from Donald McCain to the Skeltons over the summer Mr McAleavy must be a happy bunny. Struggled to win a C3 novice chase with McCain he has been reinvented as a front running 3m hurdler. First up he beat the talented mare Cannon Fodder at Fontwell, then was just pipped at Cheltenham by Ron’s Dream on Paddy Power day, before the Pertemps qualification. #startracking Spring Festivals


SOLOMN GRUNDY       (David Pipe) This is the least exposed of the Brookhouse horses I’m putting forward. In his second Irish PtP he was third to Missed Approach (current OR140) and Weststreet (OR119) and he changed hands for just £30K. Off the course for eighteen months he made his British debut in a hot C4 novice hurdle at Taunton behind Vieux Lille. He was given a schooling in public tender, educational ride by Tom Scudamore being held up, making some progress turning for home and coming home a happy fourth. This son of Westerner will probably want further and maybe a fence but showed enough promise on debut to be worth following especially when the Pipe team eventually hits their straps.


SOME BUCKLE                            (Paul Nicholls) Mr Brookhouse paid £180K for this son of Milan after he had won at Tattersalls Farm point-to-point. The vendor Hamilton said: “Some Buckle could turn into a very nice horse and I wouldn’t have been afraid to run him in a bumper. He has plenty of scope for improvement.” He ran third to Zeroeshadesofgrey and Relic Rock on bumper debut (7/2F) and then a respectable 9th to Shaneshill in the Punchestown Festival Champion Bumper. He opened his hurdling campaign beating Mad Jack Mytton a comfortable 14L in a C5 maiden at Southwell. Then in January of this year Tony McFadden of Timeform (published 14th January 2015) wrote “Roger Brookhouse and Tom George have enjoyed success this season with Stellar Notion and The Ould Lad, and Some Buckle could be the next one off the production line. Much like the other duo, we are only likely to see the best of Some Buckle when he tackles the larger obstacles, but he has shown enough promise in bumpers and over hurdles to suggest that he’s also of short-term interest. Some Buckle couldn’t quite follow up his impressive Southwell win, but, in pulling clear with another exciting prospect (Glingerburn), he ran at least as well, deserving plenty of credit for putting so much distance between himself and the third in a slowly-run contest. He should benefit from the experience of such a hard-fought finish, and there’s certainly better to come down the line.” Next seen at Cheltenham on Trials day at Cheltenham he was 5th beaten less than 8L behind Ordo Ab Cheo in the Neptune trial with the Racing Post analyst reporting “Held up, headway after 2 out into closely disputed 3rd, not clearest of runs on stands’ side rails but ridden approaching last, no extra final 120yds”. He didn’t run at the Festival itself but was 6th of 23 beaten less than 4L off OR135 in the Imperial Cup at Sandown on the Saturday prior. Three points of interest, firstly he was held up and kept on but nothing got to the front two who led throughout, secondly he went off at just 14/1 and thirdly he wore a first time tongue tie. His final appearance for Tom George is at the Aintree Festival when 13 of 23 in the C1 Grade 3 handicap hurdle off OR135, again in a tongue tie and just 9/1 in the market. Held up he makes progress to have every chance two out but weakens from the last.

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


SOME PLAN                                     (Paul Nicholls) A late starter, not making his first racecourse appearance to just five days before his 6th birthday, he was beaten 10L by Twenty Two’s Taken in a two mile Down Royal bumper. Mr Brookhouse paid loose change for him, just £40K, whilst the winner went for £150K and is currently with David Pipe!

Sent to Tom George he had just one run in a bumper when fourth behind the talented pair of Relic Rock and Fletchers Flyer (#startracking). He won on hurdling debut beating Kings Odyssey in a Southwell C4 novice hurdle, made most, headed between last two but fought back. He was then a front running second in a C3 event at Cheltenham when caught late by Seedling. Went to Musselburgh on their Cheltenham trials day and won the C2 four runner novice race beating The Grey Taylor having made every yard, keeping on strongly and easing close home. He took his chance in the Supreme at the Festival coming home a well beaten 10th to Douvan.

Over the summer he went from Tom George to Paul Nicholls and nine months after Cheltenham ran in a 2m listed handicap off OR142 at Sandown. Despite wearing a hood and a first time tongue tie the money came for him from 11/2 to 100/30 favourite. The Racing Post analysis reported “Held up in last trio, smooth progress on long run before 2 out, close up when hit 2 out, soon ridden and found nil.” Is this another candidate for “a small wind op”? This 7yo son of Winged Love might just turn out to be a better hurdler over 2m/2m4f than over further over fences. His next run should tell us more, . He does have an entry in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday December 18th.


STELLAR NOTION                         (Paul Nicholls) Purchased for a not to be sniffed at £140K. 2nd in an Irish point, won his bumper and his novice hurdle and signed off with a 2nd to Un Ace (#startracking) giving 6lbs away. This strapping son of Presenting was meant for fences. So it proved, winning his first two attempts before Christmas and his handicap mark went from 120 to 137, making all both times. He was sent off at 4/1 favourite to repeat the feat in a G1 Listed handicap at Cheltenham in January but a serious error three out put paid to his chances and he finished seventh. Wearing a first time tongue tie he was a disappointing 9/1 shot behind Irish Cavalier in the Novices Handicap chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival and that was his season over with a mark of 137.

Moved to Nicholls over the summer he started off over half a mile shorter, again with a tongue tie, in a C2 handicap at Newbury. The subject of strong market support, 7/2 into 9/4 favourite, he was beaten before the ditch three out! I fully expect to hear the words “sorted out his wind” soon and I think he has the potential to run to 150 and once Nicholls has him worked out he should be back in the winner’s enclosure. OR ch 137 135


STILLETTO                            (Paul Nicholls) If I had got my act together a little bit quicker we could have launched this blog with a 6/4 winner! Stilletto is a horse of interest for many reasons. Firstly he is owned by big spending owner Roger Brookhouse who seems to have got into bed with Paul Nicholls and moved all his horses to Ditcheat, this one came from Philip Hobbs and a whole bunch came from Tom George (many of whom have appeared in 49SimpleSimonSays such as Wuff and Stellar Notion). Mr Brookhouse’s modus operandi is to take his cheque book to Brightwell’s and spend six figure sums on Irish PtP winners. This 5yo son of Westerner is exactly that costing £130K having won a 5yo maiden at Maralin. He won his maiden hurdle at Chepstow for Philip Hobbs before disappointing in the Neptune at the Festival having pulled too hard but going off at just 10/1. Secondly his first run for Paul Nicholls was noteworthy as he was a never competitive third to Rock the Kasbah, ironically trained by Hobbs, in a C2 handicap hurdle at Haydock off OR132 in a first time hood. Nick Schofield tried to settle him out the back, unsuccessfully, but he ran on through beaten horses. Thirdly he is huge, reminds me a bit of Wuff, he is headstrong and to get the very best out of him Nicholls needs him to grow up mentally. However he has real talent and on chasing debut at Catterick of all places he raced “with the choke out”, got close to a couple of fences but treated the rest with total contempt. When Amore Alato came to him he just winged the last and the race was over. If he ever settles he’ll be a real player. Look forward to the observations of Adam Norman plus comments from the connections.


TAPACULO                       Runs on Saturday January 9th at Kempton rated OR130 in a 0-130 C3 three mile+ novice handicap hurdle with Richard Johnson on board. Tapaculo has won both his runs this season over 2m3f+ at Chepstow in novice hurdles, the second time defying a penalty. If he won/ran well in this and went up 4-7lbs I could see him stepping back in trip for the Martin Pipe or going up in grade at Aintree in the graded Doom Bar Sefton 3m novice hurdle. Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


THE LIQUIDATOR        (David Pipe)   OR135h Another ridiculously handicapped horse but on the comeback from injury. In the spring of 2014 he was just 12/1 to beat Vautour in the Supreme and Faugheen in the Irish equivalent! The County could be a target but he had his comeback run over 2m 3.5f so if they think he might get two and a half miles is he being laid out for the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham? Mind you if they have got him ready the Imperial Cup/County bonus with a 7lb penalty would work nicely? #startracking Spring Festivals

His trainer said, “Over at Chepstow they held their new two day jumps fixture with some excellent prize money up for grabs and it was here that The Liquidator made his much awaited seasonal reappearance in the ultra-competitive Silver Trophy handicap hurdle. He jumped and travelled well for much of the journey before tiring in the straight – he is certainly entitled to come on for this first start in eighteen months and there will be other days for him.” Monday, 12 October 2015 15:25 Written by David Pipe


THE ORGANIST                   (Oliver Sherwood) Last May she won a C5 bumper at Perth for the Crawford’s but it was enough to persuade The Million in Mind crowd to part with £60K for her. On hurdling debut she has only won a C4 mare’s novice hurdle at Huntingdon but she made every yard, didn’t touch a twig and came home full of running winning by fifteen lengths. She is trained by my bete noir Oliver Sherwood but she could be absolutely anything so she’s in the tracker.


THE OULD LAD                       (Paul Nicholls) Moved from Tom George to Paul Nicholls he went off at 9/4F for the Badger Ales Listed handicap Chase at Wincanton over 3m 1F. Why?

A winner at the second attempt PtP-ing in Ireland Roger Brookhouse paid £100K for this son of Heron Island. His hurdling efforts were undistinguished, 744, but it did mean he started his chasing career in March 2014 on a mark of just 112 at Newbury in a heavy ground C3 two and a quarter mile novices handicap finishing fourth as 9/4F, he weakened from two out. He started last season off just 110 with a second at Huntingdon but got his head in front at Warwick (C4 2m 4f OR110) and followed up within the month at Leicester (C3 2m 6f OR118). His sights were then raised and he ran a cracking second in a C1 G3 chase at Cheltenham, four pounds out of the handicap but Brennan putting up 5lbs overweight! He just failed to see out the extended trip of 3m 2f and then he was third over half a mile shorter at Leicester but that was a surely just a prep for the seasons target, the Kim Muir at the Festival where off a mark of 130 he was a distant 14th to the Package, having hit three out and then being eased. On his final start he was pulled up behind Cocktails at Dawn and finished the season on OR125ch.

In the Badger Chase he was never competitive and pulled up before three out and guess what? He wore a first time tongue tie!! I would like to hear of the ubiquitous wind-op, see his sights lowered, win a couple (current OR122, that’s C4 territory), get some confidence and have another crack at the Kim Muir next March because he was going well when he hit three out last March.


THREE MUSKETEERS         (Dan Skelton) Hands up I’ve backed him for the JLT already. Dan Skelton has made known that the race is his target and last time at Newbury he was faultless. Jumping, travelling and winning comfortably. This horse is classy and I like it when Dan Skelton has a plan, thank you Baradari. Next appearance should be at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day in the Dipper Chase.


TIPPMANBOY                 (Dr Richard Newland) Mucking about going down to the start at Bangor and my notes said ”Son of Beneficial, bit of attitude given a strange ride. The only way to settle him was to let him blast off in front and he had nothing left to repel the winner from the last.” He hails from a small yard in Ireland and apparently they couldn’t hold him. This was his second run in Britain and he’s worn a hood both times. The big question is can the mercurial doctor get him to settle? Does he just need to grow up (the horse that is!)? Would a fence sort him out? He’s a big horse with plenty of scope and oodles of ability. Oh by the way the horse that beat him was Final Nudge and he ran UknowwhatImeanharry to one and a half lengths in the C2 Alfred Bartlett trial at Cheltenham!! We’ll tread carefully but just strikes me he is the sort of horse that Dr Newland excels with.


TOMBSTONE                      (Gordon Elliott) On Saturday I thought the best bet of the season so far was TOMBSTONE in the first division of the Maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse at a standout 6/4! The market was 20/1 bar two and the morning 8/11 favourite was the Willie Mullins trained Pylonthepressure. A useful bumper horse but destined to shine over fences having his first run of the season. Tombstone was already in my notebook as a horse who travelled, jumped and quickened, add to that Davy Russell in the saddle, a red hot Gordon Elliott training it and the negatives surrounding the favourite and the betting boots were on. Tombstone whizzed past between the last two flights and it was game over. With Paddy Power he is 33/1 (top price) for the Supreme, 12/1 (16/1 available elsewhere!) and no quote for the Alfred Bartlett. Think I know where he’s going then!! I see in the Weekender that Gordon Elliott has since called him “a proper horse.”


TOMMY SILVER          (Paul Nicholls) Watching this horse first up I thought he was big and scopey and had a future. During the race he settled, jumped and was only beaten by the greater experience of Fixe Le Kap. Delving deeper we find he was acquired for Portensis via Andrew Bromley and everyone connected to the horse seems to expect a bright future. Looked a class act, running well when the yard wasn’t exactly banging in the winners! #startracking Spring Festivals


TOP GAMBLE                      (Kerry Lee) He is rated OR153 which could be an issue as he could be a “twilight” horse. Too high for a handicap, not good enough for level weights contests. I have put him in the tracker because in eight runs over fences he has won four and placed twice and he think he could allay both my fears, namely win a big handicap and succeed at level weights. I like the trainer, Kerri Lee, who has done a fantastic job since taking the licence over from her father Richard. Only seven years old this son of Presenting could have more yet to come though probably not on deep winter ground. He is owned by Dai Walters (owns Ffos Las, Oscar Whiskey etc. etc.) and the Potters and I’m sure Ms Lee wouldn’t mind them having a few more in the yard.


UN ACE                                 (Kim Bailey) Is there a shrewder trainer than the blog-tastic Kim Bailey? He has been up and down jump racings greasy pole but seems very contented currently. I am with him on this one. Finished last season on a chasing OR of 149 so for debut this season Mr B runs him in a Listed handicap hurdle where he finishes a highly credible 4th, “Raced wide, held up in rear, steady progress from 3 out, took 4th before last, soon ridden and no impression, tired near finish”. So we are looking for a C2 0-150 chase but obviously he’s not quite ready as he is entered in two 3m hurdles at the weekend off an attractive hurdling mark of 144. Is he being lined up for another crack at what I know as the Byrne Plate? He was a disappointing 13th last year under McCoy at just 6/1. Another year older etc.


UNIQUE DE COTTE     (David Pipe)               OR140h Qualified for this years Pertemps final (6th at Newbury is so Pipe-ish!) having been second in the final last year off 135. (20/1 general) A midfield run at the end of January, down a couple of pounds and he’ll be ready to go for JP McManus! #startracking Spring Festivals


URUBU D’IRLANDE     (Paul Nicholls)            OR135 Here is a ridiculously well handicapped if fragile horse. Beat Oscar Rock on bumper debut, off course for eighteen months then ran Yanworth to a length in another bumper giving him 8lb. On hurdles debut in November 2014 picked up Gaitway but now not seen for another eighteen months. His trainer said at his Open Day on 9th October 2015, He’s been somewhat frustrating; every time he runs, he seems to get injured. He’s a seven-year-old who has only seen a racecourse four times in his life and he needed three months in his box after winning at Wincanton in November, the last time he raced. He’s got a handicap mark of 135, so we’ll see how we go but I dare say we’ll have to go novice chasing at some point. He’s got loads of ability but he’s very fragile.” Nicholls loves throwing a class animal at the Coral Cup! Win an egg and spoon contest get a 7lb penalty and that should get him in? #startracking Spring Festivals


VIRGILIO                               (Dan Skelton) Once again I hope I haven’t missed the boat but when Virgilio won his last race he looked a horse ahead of the handicapper. He had four races in France as a 4yo on very soft ground, three hurdles and a 4yo chase (5144). He then had over fourteen months off before appearing in the care of the upwardly mobile Dan Skelton with a handicap mark of OR118 (those French marks really are given out by Santa Claus!). Equipped with a tongue tie he ran twice in six days in May 2015 winning a C3 2m 3f handicap at Warwick before bagging a C2 2m 4f at Aintree under a 7lb penalty. Both times winning in the same manner, held up before coming to challenge and then pulling clear to win by wide margins, 6L and then 12L. For those two wins the handicapper put him up by 20lb to OR138 but on Saturday back over course and distance he took it up running to the last before pulling clear by 8L laughing at the handicapper. “I just steered him round,” said jockey Ian Popham. Even if he goes up to OR145 he could be a player in a range of big Saturday 2m 4f+ hurdles especially whilst the winter ground prevails.


WAR SOUND                   Class animal who won the Swinton Hurdle off OR140 on only his fifth run. His trainer said he had a minor bone injury but should be out in January with the Betfair as a possible target and he will stay over hurdles this season. Now has an OR148 which won’t be easy but Cairan Gethings has ridden him in four of his five runs and could again take off a useful 5lbs. Seems to be settling better and as long as he wings the third last (?) he can quicken off a fast pace. No Cheltenham quotes but the County hurdle would seem the right fit. Spring Festivals RED HOT HOBBS


WAXIES DARGLE                    Love this horse but two points of note. Firstly needs winter ground, soft and worse and secondly he’s probably five pounds too high in the handicap. Thought he might go chasing? Spring Festivals – Noel Meade’s absent army?


WHO DARES WINS      OR85 on the flat for Richard Hannon was bought by Anthony Bromley for Henry Ponsonby and this son of Jeremy (think Our Conor) has won both his hurdle starts, the most recent being Listed event at Doncaster by 20L albeit on heavy ground. Had his limitations on the Flat but done nothing wrong jumping and is a general 16/1 chance in the Triumph. Spring Festival ALAN KINGS 4yo team


WINDSOR PARK                            Dermot Weld is a master at getting horses spot on for “their” day as he showed with this chap who kindly obliged in the Neptune at Cheltenham last year, cheered home by me and my bank manager! World Hurdle seems an obvious target but Weld brought him out over two miles Christmas time and he had a jolly gallop! The World Hurdle market is dominated by Thistlecrack who sort of came from left field and if Windsor Park did turn up at Cheltenham on better ground that Neptune form was really strong. He had Nicholls Canyon over 5l back in third, maybe Windsor Park will step back in trip as the Neptune-Champion route has been popular with Irish trainers and if Faugheen and Nicholls Canyon take each other on he could pick up the bits? That’s 50/1 with Stan James!! Spring Festivals – Irish edition


WINTERFELL                    (Dan Skelton) He is owned by Andrew Brooks and I hope he can go some way to replace Baradari who he sadly lost recently in a schooling accident. He had two runs in France (51) and made his debut at Warwick in a C4 juvenile four runner event finishing 2nd. There are three points of interest from that race. Winterfell and the winner were both quick and nimble at their hurdles. It was a ridiculously good time, nearly nine seconds quicker than the novice hurdle where Yanworth beat Le Prezien!! The winner was Sceau Royal who has gone on to win the C2 Triumph Trial at Cheltenham and earn quotes of 16/1 for the Festival itself. The Racing Post analysis for Winterfell was “Led, ridden approaching 2 out, headed before last, eased when beaten flat.” Now young Mr Skelton really likes a plan. Well how about a couple more runs and set him up for the Fred Winter 4yo handicap at the Festival? Of course a bit fitter, a bit stronger, a decent win and he could be a player in the Triumph itself!


WOODLAND OPERA        (Mrs John Harrington) Two runs, two wins and an entry in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas. This is a dark horse to go to the very top. A gelded 5yo son of Robin des Champs out of a Strong Gale mare he won his bumper at Leopardstown as an unconsidered 14/1 shot but beat the odds on Mullins Fuji Mountain and he was “eased close home”. He won his maiden hurdle at Navan when he “kept on well” and had Coney Island and another Mullins favourite Potters Point behind in second and third with over twenty lengths back to the fourth. I keep reading among Irish correspondents that his maiden hurdle win and that of Tombstone (already in #startracking) have been the strongest in Ireland this season, so let’s see how far Woodland Opera can go? Whatever he achieves over hurdles has surely got to be bettered when he sees a fence?


WUFF                                                   (Paul Nicholls) Mr Brookhouse paid £120K for this winning Irish pointer. Caught my interest when getting up to beat Straidnahanna in the last stride over the fixed brush hurdles at Haydock in heavy ground two seasons ago. He is huge and really looked a chaser and I was impressed by his willing attitude. He doesn’t do anything quickly and improvement would be expected stepping up in trip. He made his chasing debut in February of this year, after a year off the course, at Haydock over 2m 5f and it was a fine chasing debut just done for toe between last two over 2m5f with further improvement expected when stepping up to three miles. “Wuff confirmed my impression of him last year that he would require a good test at three miles on soft ground,” Norms Notebook Haydock Feb 14th Next seen at Newbury over three miles the ground was a bit quick for him, he clouted the last and The Skyfarmer was just too speedy for him. His next race was an odd choice (by the owner?) he appeared at Punchestown in May in a £46K novice handicap chase on good to yielding ground off 130 back at 2m5F. They had too much speed from four out and he was beaten 53L in 10th. Moved to Ditcheat in the summer he made his debut for Nicholls in a C3 3m 2f handicap chase for amateur riders and the booking of Mr Will Biddick was eye-catching and the market agreed making him 6/4 favourite from a top price 5/2. He was badly hampered at the last on the back straight and never recovered, indeed he emptied at the top of the home straight but will definitely come on for the run. He has worn a tongue tie for his last two races and it would be no surprise if he has “a small wind op”! As I said he is huge and he is probably still growing into that frame and may take a few runs to reach peak fitness. Wouldn’t shock me if that was in March in the Kim Muir with a certain Mr Biddick on board.


ex #startracking

FLETCHERS FLYER                         (Harry Fry) His trainer had this to say in his Stable Tour “He has done well over the summer and we are looking forward to sending him novice chasing. He has always looked a chaser in the making and he could do even better over fences.” I think he made his chasing debut in an above average Exeter novice chase where he and the winner, OnenightinVienna (also on this list!), came 54L clear of the third leading to

Mark Howard (One Jump Ahead) writing “Onenightinvienna made an excellent start to his chasing career when beating the highly regarded Fletchers Flyer by a length and a quarter in a compelling three miles novices’ chase at Exeter… It shouldn’t be long before the runner-up goes one better.” I expect him to win his novice chase sooner rather than later and look forward to young Harry revealing what plans he has for the “Flyer”.