Weekend Reviews

#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?

#startracking Christmas Review Sat.19th Dec.-Tues. 29th Dec.

Gold Cup I covered the King George and the Lexus in the Ante Post piece yesterday. I still feel Vautour wins the Gold Cup but I will add a couple of extra comments.

I agree with many people that Vautour would win the RyanAir and possibly the Champion Chase but he COULD win the Gold Cup and that’s where I think he will go. Interesting that Kevin Blake suggests he wasn’t suited by the longer trip as the slower pace affected his normal fluent jumping but that Julian Muscat in today’s Racing Post echoed much of what I said.

IF Vautour doesn’t stay and goes for the RyanAir I would expect every chaser rated over 150 with winning form over 3m+ at Cheltenham to line up in the Gold Cup. So if I owned Many Clouds, Sausalito Sunrise, The Druids Nephew etc. I would use the Gold Cup as a prep race to nothing en route to what could be the classiest Grand National ever! I could add Don Poli to that group! Djakadam and O’Faolains Boy are due to meet in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham over 3m 2f on January 30th and that could produce a clearer picture.

Finally I must have my tuppence on the “whip” situation. When watching the King George live I never thought “whip issue” but surely if the current rules are there to protect “public image” then breaking the rules must mean disqualification of the horse, jockey et al. There is a parallel in Flat racing where winning at all costs is acceptable, even dangerous. Too many times I mutter to myself “result stands, jockey gets two days”.

Champion Hurdle Recently I wrote that they might as well cancel the race this year and just ask Willie Mullins to hold the contest at home and pass the result on for the history books! It is Faugheen’s race to lose.

Champion Chase Sprinter Sacre edges Sire de Grugy at Kempton and Un de Sceaux falls on seasonal debut. Vibrato Valtat was too close to those feuding past champions for my liking and I will remain of the opinion that if Un de Sceaux stands up, he wins.

RyanAir Chase So Vautour is now 6/4 favourite. Alan King is a trainer who is swimming against the tide when he said that “he would rather win the RyanAir than finish fourth or fifth in the Gold Cup”, re Smad Place. This is definitely a Festival race I will sort out on the day when I know what is going to post.

Novice Chasers The two mile division is simple. Douvan. Ar Mad and Vaniteux running for places only. The stayers are starting to show their hand. No More Heroes is a Grade 1 horse and the Mullins pair Killultagh Vic and Roi des Francs will probably make the Cheltenham team. Is it Ireland or is it Mullins but with his chasers you need to add half mile onto the distance they won at to find their Cheltenham target and with the hurdlers you need to take two furlongs off? In England it seems to be the fashion to win nicely then give half a dozen reasons why you are not going to Cheltenham! So Tea for Two gallops home in the Kauto Star but wants “a flat, right handed track” beating Southfield Royale who is “aimed at Aintree”. Perhaps the third Native River could have a say in the 4m NH chase! Ar Mad gets back up to beat Vaniteux but Gary Moore has said “he got beaten at Plumpton and that’s all you need to know about going left handed!”

Novice Hurdlers A good friend has just pointed out to me that Min is as low as 11/4 to win the Festival opener, the Supreme Hurdle. Did I miss his second outing? No!! Mullins will go at least three handed and Nicky Henderson seems to be being dragged out of the doldrums by his novice hurdlers, Sprinter aside. Altior looks tasty and is still improving and the likes of Buveur D’Air, OO Seven and Premier Bond will give him something to look forward too. The best novice hurdle over Christmas was run in Ireland at Leopardstown over 2m and the Paddy Power Future Champions was won by Long Dog for Mullins/Riici/Walsh whilst Tombstone and Petit Mouchoir remain in the Championship picture. The likes of Bleu et Rouge, Bachasson and Falcon Crest could play a part in the Spring Festival handicaps. I can’t work out Long Dog. He has been on the go since Galway in July and that is his sixth hurdle win on the bounce including two Grade 1’s on ground from Good to Heavy! His handicap mark is just 5lbs higher than his second win at OR147. The stats boys will weep if he wins at Cheltenham!!

Juvenile Hurdlers I don’t normally look at this division until the Adonis has been run at Kempton but it’s been bubbling up nicely over Christmas with the Coolmore boys having a go in the JP green and gold hoops. Their Outspoken would have beaten Allbak des Places (Mullins) if he had been neater at the last and those two looked useful. Ivanovich Gorbatov, rated OR97 on the flat, in the same colours beat the much touted Mullins filly, Let’s Dance, so there’s four 3yo’s worth considering! In Britain it seems Alan King has a strong hand of juveniles with Gibralfaro the latest to impress.

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 (Marin 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, Courttown 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.

Hennessy/Fairyhouse SSS Weekend Review November 26th-29th Nov.

Monday 30th November 3pm

I was lucky enough to be on Town Moor on Friday to see an informative Doncaster card but passed the option of going Saturday as a) the weather was not only wet and windy but damned cold! b) So many horses I wanted to watch at other meetings c) Poor fare for a £20 grandstand ticket so I decamped to the biggest betting shop I’ve seen in ages by Doncaster Market in the company of Mr Paddy Power. There was a bus to the toilet!!

Any report of the past four days has to start with Smad Place’s demolition job in the Hennessey itself. Watching a grey ridden from the front, measuring every obstacle correctly over Newbury’s stiff fences for three and a quarter miles is a joy to behold to any fan of the winter game and probably to a wider audience as well. The wily Tom Segal (Pricewise in the Racing Post) put the winner up at 12/1 a fortnight ago and for all the right reasons (had a prep, touch of class, course, trip and race was a target and not a stepping stone). However would I back Smad Place in a Championship race? Probably not, until Aintree maybe.

As for the rest of the four days it was winter racing on winter ground (with the exception of Doncaster who somehow produced Good ground) and the form will be most relevant to similar conditions and therefore probably not Cheltenham in March.

Three talented juveniles in Footpad, Kasakh Noir and Rasheen laid down markers for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham but that is a race I can’t get interested in until they have run the Adonis at Kempton!

No More Heroes looks a proper horse and the RSA looks the obvious target but it will be Gigginstown playing musical chairs with their entries until March. “Gordon Elliott not ruling out 4 miler for No More Heroes. If Gigg run best novice in it Willie will be spitting feathers after last year!” matt tombs ‏@thespieler  · 8.30am Mon. 30th Nov.

Monksland has spring form but I thought his jumping looked a little flakey under pressure.

The Fighting Fifth (2m G1 hurdle), the Bet365 Long Distance hurdle (3m G2) and the Royal Bond Novice hurdle (2m G1) all had me scratching my head and I’m sorely tempted to put a red line through all three. However I did that last year with Cole Harden winning the Long Distance and he hacked up at the Festival so I will keep Thistlecrack onside in what is looking a murky World Hurdle. If Henderson would commit Bob’s Worth (never competitive staying on sixth in the Hennessy) to this race I would be very interested! On Sunday Arctic Fire hosed up in the Hattons Grace. Lots of talk of Arctic Fire as World Hurdle contender but even with Cole Harden he’d surely be too keen. WM looking at 2m races now” matt tombs ‏@thespieler  · 8.30am Mon. 30th Nov. Can’t have it myself. Willie Mullins suggested at the beginning of the season that Arctic Fire would go around hoovering up all the 2m 4f Graded races he could get into and that’s exactly what I think he will do. Dan Skelton said on his blog I just feel on balance the three mile hurdlers in England are better than their counterparts in Ireland…. The staying division is very open this year.”

If as a formbook student you took the Fighting Fifth result at face value two things leap at you. Firstly Identity Thief is improving rapidly and can’t be ruled out of the Champion Hurdle picture and secondly Faugheen ran at least 20lb wrong when splitting Nicholls Canyon and Wicklow Brave. I’m still convinced Faugheen retains his Champion Hurdle crown.

As for the Royal Bond? Long Dog and Bachasson fought out an excellent finish but if these are the best two novice hurdlers in the Mullins yard come the middle of March I will be amazed! If they are then he won’t be winning the Supreme, Neptune or Alfred Bartlett!! I would prefer to concentrate on the likes of Nambour. He’s tall, leggy and long and made all to win division 2 of the Fairyhouse Maiden Hurdle on Saturday. Despite a couple of novicey leaps he stretched the field between the last two and won comfortably in a cracking time. Petit Mouchoir won the Maiden hurdle at Thurles on Thursday, racing keenly he was prominent throughout but definitely has gears. Being owned by Gigginstown he was ridden by Brian Cooper who seems to prefer to let a horse find a stride on his own as opposed to making his mind up for him which can lead to some sloppy hurdling and secondly Petit Mouchoir wore a hood which is rare for a Mullins runner suggesting he will need to learn to settle.

Sticking to the Mullins theme, Shaneshill was near faultless in winning on fencing debut in the Thurles beginners chase over 2m 2f. He travelled just off the pace and he may not be the biggest but he is athletic, he made progress turning for home and had to race over the last three. He has a big engine and tops my list for the JLT at Cheltenham, where I have Three Musketeers as the danger. TM travelled strongly and jumped well in beating Activial in the Grade 2 at Newbury on Friday. I think the JLT is a good race to back in Antepost as I am pretty damn sure the two selections are being aimed at the JLT (both of their trainers have said as much) whereas many of their current market rivals fancy themselves in the sexier Arkle or RSA.

Lucky Pass won the Sunday bumper at Fairyhouse for Mullins WP and PW. No surprise there except he was a drifting 2/1 joint favourite and questions are being asked over the standard of the Mullins bumpers this season. Even Willie has hinted that many of his have needed the run with “ring rusty” creeping in now and then! Well there was nothing wrong with this Irish PtP winner and £140K Gigginstown purchase at Brightwells, he was held up but quickened to lead 2F out. He split the field in the style of a useful horse. Ladbrokes give him a 20/1 quote although Paddy Power don’t have a price but reassuringly do have the same yards Fulham Road as 16/1 joint favourite, making the recent “broken leg” rumour less plausible.

Bad news for the Closutton crew was the fatal fall of Alvisio Ville who broke a shoulder in the novices chase. On a happier note Willie Mullins has raised the possibility of Annie Power making an appearance before the Cheltenham Festival. He said: “I was hoping to have her cantering by the New Year and if things progress quicker than that, then maybe she could have a run.”

Enough of Mullinsmania what else caught the eye?

Modus has to be a Festival player in the Supreme. Not impressive here but the bigger the field, the stronger the gallop, the better he will be.

Don’t write off Value at Risk novice chasing. He flew the first, then clipped the second and didn’t know how to get his landing gear down in time. Trainer Dan Skelton observed in his blog Value At Risk was a disaster. He’s done loads of schooling at home. We were very happy with him. He jumped the first like he was invincible and that was probably the worst thing he could do as he went down to the second thinking this is easy. He nudged the second and just tipped over. He’s a little bit sore as you’d expect when a big horse hits the floor. So it will take a couple of days to be properly right and then we’ll pick back up and crack on again.”

Harry Fry has his stable in rude health and I saw him have a double at Doncaster winning the bumper with debutante Meribel Millie and the days feature 2m 3f chase with Voix D’eau. The latter is only a French bred 5yo and has a bright future showing guts and ability to get the better of Off the Ground. The second was having his fourth run for the Longsden yard since being bought out of Emma Lavelle’s and looked race fit under ideal conditions, namely 19F, good ground, at Doncaster off OR133. So perhaps the winner’s performance could be upgraded further plus there was 6L back to the third and 13L back to the fourth.

Nicky Henderson must have been pleased with his two runners in the closing hurdles at Newbury on Friday. Minella Awards was second on debut under rules in the novice hurdle to David Pipe’s Champers on Ice (looks another off the Grand Cru, Dynaste, Gevry Chambertin production line. Big, grey gallopers!). Minella Awards is probably a chaser in the making, Highflyer paid £130K for him after he was second in his only point and Gigginstown have bought the third! Showed enough to suggest he could pick up a few races over hurdles before he challenges a fence and he is only a 4yo.

In the closing Maiden hurdle Buvier D’air comfortably saw off hot favourite and 3rd in the Cheltenham Champion bumper, Wait For Me. Not often will you see Richard Johnson attempt to make all on a hurdling debutante but Buvier D’air cruised by after the last. They both look capable of competing at the top level although Wait For Me will need to improve his hurdling. When he was good he was very good but when he was bad he was dreadful, often landing back legs first. I have a sense of déjà vu over “what if?” Menorah, Wishfull Thinking, Captain Chris could all have got over the obstacles cleanly. Same owner, same trainer. Has Philip Hobbs got some schooling issues?

A horse that is really going places is the 5yo Aloomomo who routed the opposition in the 2m 6f C3 handicap chase at Newbury on Saturday off a mark of OR129. Even if he gets a 10lb hike he will be competitive in some decent races, just a question over whether he needs winter ground. Warren Greatrex blog 30th November 2015 “On Saturday, Aloomomo continued his impressive start to the season by winning in decisive fashion in what looked a competitive handicap.  He had won his two previous starts but this was a big step up but he showed he is a horse to follow and looks to have a very bright future.  He is only five so I am sure he will continue to strengthen up.  He loves soft ground and jumps particularly well.  He will also get three miles which could bring out further improvement.”

Once again I will save the best for last. 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!!

Betfair Chase SSS Weekend Review November 20th-21st-22nd

Part 2 – “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”

I must start with the down side of being a horse racing enthusiast. Over the last few days two horses who have been on my Master List for over a year made their reappearance. Moyle Park jumped one fence, clouted it and was pulled up, has a pelvis injury and may be back for the end of the season. Mullaghanoe River fell at the 8th in the Troytown, broke a shoulder, an injury that proved fatal. My commiserations go to the connections of both horses who showed such patience only to have their high hopes dashed. Add to that the demise of Red Cadeaux whom Ed Dunlop shared with us the thrills and adventures he gave his team around the world. Racing can be a cruel game and all the more reason we should admire those that do make the racecourse, winners or not.

A case in point being Saturdays Betfair Chase at Haydock when a classy line up of five faced the starter. The pace set by Silviniaco Conti put too much pressure on the jumping skills of Holywell and Ballynagour, Dynaste couldn’t land a blow but Cue Card whizzed past after the second last as the market suggested he would. I will now make a bold statement and suggest that all five are yesterday’s horses and none of them will win another race this season with the possible exception of the Grand National. The new wave of Don Cossack, Vautour, Coneygree, Djakadam, Road to Riches et al should have them covered wherever they turn up.

Now for my favourite part of the review, horses that are on the way to greater things!! I will list them in order of how much they excited me!

THOMAS BROWN Harry Fry may have his yard in red hot form but this one was fantastic. Making his debut over fences he didn’t touch a twig and hacked up in this 2m 6f C3 Ascot novice event. Talk is of the RSA and one must be wary of his ability to dine at the top table but I would love to see him in the JLT as I’m not convinced he gets three miles.

YANWORTH My notes say “held up, keen, buried in midfield, hurdled OK, third turning in, hacked up long way back to third. Big education (coming through horses, big field etc.).” He has loads of race pace and a touch of class all of which may give Mr Mullins something to think about in the Supreme. Mention must be made of the second horse LE PREZIEN although receiving 7lbs kept on well and was 18L clear of the third. The horse Yanworth beat at Exeter WELSH SHADOW comfortably won a Listed novice hurdle at Haydock on Saturday adding further depth to the form.

CRIQ ROCK The Saturday bumper at Ascot looked an above average affair and was won by I think an above average horse in Criq Rock. Alan King’s gelded French bred son of Kap Rock was held up before cruising through as they entered the straight then had to battle hard to defy his penalty, no mean feat in the world of bumpers. His trainer suggested that the Festival bumper in March will be his next run!

BAGS GROOVE On debut he certainly bustled up Criq Rock in the Ascot bumper and being a son of Milan is likely to see a hurdle sooner rather than later and Harry Fry has another nice prospect possibly peaking over further.

KEEPER HILL I would never have taken a second look at the Market Rasen bumper he won if it hadn’t been for Mark Howard (of One Jump Ahead fame) who reported in his OJM update that “Irish expert Declan Phelan” had told him that this one trained by Ronnie O’Leary was better than Threeways who had obliged at Carlisle. Keeper Hill, backed from an early 9/4 into 5/4, was as green as grass but won well beating Scarteen, a huge John Ferguson trained son of Robin des Champs (not his normal Flat bred type!), by six lengths with eleven lengths back to the third. Scarteen should be kept onside when he goes hurdling and especially when he sees a fence!

WINNER MASSAGOT Running off a mark of 123 his trainer Alan King suggested that he was a better than that and despite being weak in the market (4/1 morning favourite, returned at 7/1) the trainer was right. This race was run at a strong pace and having been held up he cruised through and pulled clear after the last. Depending on what the handicapper does he could be interesting under a penalty and if he gets in, the Lanzarote over course and distance would have to be a target. Also in this race I had a close eye on Forest Bihan who was backed in the morning but drifted on course. Mark Howard had written in a free piece on Oddschecker that Brian Ellison felt this recent French addition was “considered well treated”. Early on he was hampered by a faller, was pushed into Swinley Bottom, made progress from four out but had nothing to offer in the home straight and “came home in his own time”. Remains very much on my radar.

Winner Massagot completed a trio of horses recently whom the handicapper seems to have underestimated, the other two being A Hare Breath and UknowwhatImeanharry. Their shrewd trainers Alan King, Ben Pauling and Harry Fry have placed them well to land three nice pots and I expect more to come from horse and trainer alike!

ALLOW DALLOW Here’s an interesting horse who won an egg and spoon Huntingdon C4 novices handicap on his chasing debut for Jonjo O’Neill at the age of eight. He came to my attention a couple of years ago because JJ O’Neill paid 100K euros for this son of Gold Well at Brightwells but over hurdles he was dismal. Hence he starts chasing off just 110 and although he clearly has a few ideas of his own he could easily rattle up a sequence as he jumped well and Joshua Moore was at pains to get some cover and he soon put the race to bed when asked to. I wouldn’t want him to hit the front too soon.

KRUGERMAC It looks like Gary Moore may have a really useful novice hurdler on his hands as Krugermac was impressive winning this 2m 3f C3 novice. He reminded me of the same yards Megastar who also announced himself over hurdles at Ascot eight years ago. I hope they have better luck with Krugermac as the only race Megastar won afterwards was a 12f C5 maiden on the AW at Lingfield!

The next four horses have a common denominator, owner Roger Brookhouse has moved them all to Paul Nicholls. It must be quite a recent thing as none of them were paraded on Press Open day.

STILLETTO has come from Philip Hobbs and he won his first two over hurdles on heavy ground before disappointing in the Neptune trial at Cheltenham last January. On his first run since Nicholls took over he had a hood on but he was still keen, was held up and enjoying the ground more than most he stayed on for third to amusingly Rock the Kasbah (who surely now has to go chasing!) trained by Philip Hobbs. Stilletto needs to learn to settle, simple as. If he does he will win races off 132 when the ground is heavy. This son of Westerner was an £130K purchase.

SOME BUCKLE Moved from Tom George and like Stilletto he was down the field in the Cheltenham Neptune trial but was 6th in the Imperial Cup and midfield in the big Aintree hurdle. Cost a cool £180K having won his Irish point. Surely this son of Milan is going novice chasing?

WUFF This horse is huge and tried hard over hurdles but Mr Brookhouse has moved him from Tom George to Paul Nicholls. This son of Beneficial won his Irish Point at 4yo before Mr Brookhouse shelled out £130K. In his three chases last season he kept good company without winning and he could be an earner for Team Ditcheat off 130. STELLAR NOTION Like Wuff he has been on my Master List and I had a good punt on him in the Tuesday Novice Handicap Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in which he tried to make all but disappointed behind Irish Cavalier having gone off at just 9/1. The owner paid £130K after Stellar Notion had finished second to Geordie Lad in his only Irish point and he is a smart son of Presenting. Tom George must have wept when this one left the yard but Nicholls has to find out whether the horse a) has to make all b) is better right handed c) doesn’t act at Cheltenham d) stays three miles. I reckon he could have a stone to play with if he gets those answers right.

Philip Hobbs still seems to have Champagne West, Drumlee Sunset and Cheltenian but Tom George seems to have lost the lot! Roger Brookhouse has others with David Pipe, Warren Greatrex and Henry de Bromhead.

For now anyway!

PURE SCIENCE Not that old rogue. Yes that son of Galileo bred to win a Derby? Yes the one who was an impressive staying on 6th to Briar Hill in the Festival bumper on just his second run. Who then got Nigel Twiston-Davies pulling his hair out but did win a C4 five runner handicap hurdle at Ludlow and a C4 Novice handicap Chase at Uttoxeter. Well the Twister has sold him to Sue and Harvey Smith for £3,000, he had a year off, a spin over hurdles a fortnight ago, some bracing Yorkshire air and BINGO! The Smiths keep him to hurdles, step him up half a mile to 3m, he makes all and wins by 42L!! If the Smiths have found the key to the door he could be one well handicapped horse!

The win of American in the C2 novice hurdle prompts me to include the next pair sooner rather than later..

PERFORM Won a C4 2m 4f Aintree novice hurdle in the style of a good horse. Held up, hurdled well, headway two out, led going to the last and held off Knockgraffon with American back in third. Three useful novices and interesting to see where Perform turns up next as he may have exceeded Philip Hobbs’ expectations. KNOCKGRAFFON Only gave best to a useful Perform in a C4 2m 4f Aintree novice hurdle Every chance going to the last but the winner quickened better and a surefire winner under similar conditions. Trainer Dan Skelton sees him as a £m Chaser in the making.


VANITEUX Just see Vaniteux hack up at Kempton. This horse has a serious CV, loads of pace, jumps well and was 150 rated over hurdles. Could give Douvan something to think about. Possibly. Maybe.

Nicky Henderson said “Vaniteux has been as natural as you can get. He nearly could have been doing this last year after being third in the Supreme – he had a tough year but a very productive year without winning over hurdles. Something like the Wayward Lad back here over Christmas could be his next race as the ground is always as good as anywhere for the time of year. He will get further but doesn’t need it as he has got plenty of gears – he took a blow at the last on the far side and Nico sat still but then kicked on around the bend. That was just the job.”

Betfair Chase SSS Weekend Review November 20th-21st-22nd

Part 1 – Willie Mullins must LEAP out of bed EVERY morning!!

At this time of year every review (Clonmel Oil Thursday to Fairyhouse next Sunday) has to start with the activity of Willie Mullins and his Cheltenham Festival missiles. Let’s get one thing straight Mr Mullins and his high rolling owners want to win races at Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals with his A team and anything in between is “very nice thank you”. Hence surprise and disappointment with Faugheen but no panic.

VAUTOUR. He won. OK we would all have liked to see him win by ten lengths on the bridle without touching a twig but I’m a cup half full man and I thought he passed the line with loads more to offer beating a race fit rival trained to the minute. His Gold Cup campaign remains on course with the next step being the King George on Boxing Day.

A technique used by most professional sportsmen is “visualisation”, preparing for the upcoming contest by mentally going through what you think will happen in the event itself, so what have Messrs Mullins and Walsh visualised for taking on Coneygree? They know that the Gold Cup winner will jump from fence to fence and set a relentless gallop from tape to line, still convinced that Ruby thought Coneygree would come back to Djakadam up that Cheltenham hill  last March, something Vautour has done ever since he stepped into Grade 1. Surely taking him on for the whole race would be madness and I am reassured that in his first two hurdle races in Ireland he took a trail. Could they use a “stalking horse” plan by entering a two miler to take Coneygree on and/or light him up? In 1992 Jenny Pitman used Golden Freeze to upset hot pot Carvill’s Hill and I remember it causing an uproar! Just a thought!

DOUVAN Tried to bank the last but otherwise faultless and now 7/4 for the Arkle.

SIR DES CHAMPS A serious race horse who returned from yonks off, jumped beautifully and won puling a cart in a race that looked framed just for him! Another Gigginstown Gold Cup candidate but I notice the savvy Paddy Power are a trade low 12/1 about him for the Ryanair and I would not be surprised if he lined up there come March.

AUGUSTA KATE Hacked up but seems Team Mullins are leaning towards Aintree and Punchestown in the Spring. Would love to see her against last weekend’s eyecatcher Copper Kay!

AMERICAN TOM Won easily without looking a natural jumper but the race fell in his lap when the two in front both fell at the second last. So the jury’s out until his next run and at what grade and trip? I wrote “handicapper” in my notes?

FOOTPAD May have beaten trees but he was spring heeled and it was hands and heels stuff and he has to be considered Fred Winter/Triumph material.

STONE HARD This lad has surely got to join the A list as in a strongly run race I thought he beat three good novices, Don’t Touch It, Supasundae and Air Command all of whom if they stay healthy could be worth following for the next three seasons as I think they could all land something big. Stone Hard hurdled well, travelled and quickened and Mullins says “he is one for the staying division and will make a beautiful chaser in time”. Neptune/Alfred Bartlett?

ROI DES FRANCS Only gave second best to the talented Monksland who was making his chasing debut aged eight. RDF jumped well if a touch big. Has a hurdle rating of 143 and if they could get his chase mark at 140 or less could see him being a big player in that Novices handicap that closes the Cheltenham Festival Tuesday card. If 140+ he could be hard to place unless he stays 3m+.

FULHAM ROAD The Ricci No.1 for the Cheltenham bumper? Non-runner at Thurles and worryingly no current entries.

OPEN EAGLE Raced 4th on the inside, held on to, asked two out and led from the last. This fizzy horse needed the run and probably better ground but remains a hurdler of enormous potential.

UP FOR REVIEW Led after a mile, at times jumped big, no pace in race, wound it up turning for home and demolished this field under hands and heels. Stamina in abundance, looks a chaser in the making, just a little wary that his form tailed off last season when stepped up in class but nothing wrong with this performance.

I have added Willie Mullins entries up to Sunday of this week and if you want to know the bulk of his Spring Festival A team just check out those Grade 1 entries at Fairyhouse on Sunday! Cheltenham may have to put on a fifth day so he has enough races to run them all in!! #absolutelyfrightening

SimpleSimonSays49… Cheltenham OPEN MEETING Nov. 13th, 14th & 15th 2015

featuring the Paddy Power Gold Cup

I was lucky enough to go to Prestbury Park on the Saturday and was massively impressed by the new stand and the redevelopment of Cheltenham racecourse. First class facility hosting first class racing.

What did we learn from the three day meeting? Everybody is looking for Festival clues and although this meeting has a poor record in providing festival winners I think we were still given plenty of food for thought.

GOING:- It was Good on Friday, getting wetter on Saturday and the rain had definitely got into the ground by Sunday. Unfit horses stopped quickly but those ready to go still came up the hill but perhaps the Friday was more like the Festival than the Saturday and Sunday.

WHO could WIN at the FESTIVAL? Only one place to start and that is with Lazarus himself, SPRINTER SACRE. He looked brilliant, he fiddled a couple but also at least two leaps would have cleared a bus and he put the opposition away turning for home. Hats off to Mr Henderson and I admit I was one of those who wanted the horse retired after pulling up at Kempton. The better the ground the better the chance of keeping tabs on Un de Sceaux but he is a definite player.

Another off the injury list was Jonjo O’Neills World Hurdle winner MORE OF THAT and I was impressed by the way he won his novice chase over a trip too short. The RSA is surely his target unless he really impresses next time and they go the Coneygree route and JP throws his hat into the Gold Cup ring! I thought the horse looked like he was really enjoying it, jumped well, has some class, we know he comes up the hill after three miles+ and Annie Power will vouch for the fact that when he stretches that neck out he’s a hard horse to pass. RSA contender and it’s the one novice contest in March that Willie Mullins doesn’t currently have an obvious candidate.

LIKELY FESTIVAL RUNNERS who may struggle to win? JOSIES ORDERS knows his way round the Cross Country course but at the Festival the race is no longer a handicap and he will be 23lbs worse off with ANY CURRENCY. Philip Hobbs will be praying that BALTHAZAR KING makes a full recovery!!

Talking of the Minehead Maestro his GARDE LA VICTOIRE entered the Arkle picture with a workmanlike win over C & D. GLV still clipped the top of a couple of fences and lacks the class of Douvan but he loves that hill.

SHANTOU VILLAGE’S next run will be eagerly awaited as he routed his opposition. Other Novice hurdlers who could be lining up to take on the Mullins batallion’s include OLD GUARD, a comfortable winner of the Greatwood Hurdle, and ALTIOR, an improver for Nicky Henderson. WHO had an Open Meeting to FORGET? Two people leap to mind. John Ferguson and David Pipe, that’s who! David Pipe had seventeen runners of which eight traded at 8/1 or less, three went off favourite and he returned two seconds and two thirds. I thought that all his horses making there seasonal debut needed the run, in contention until two out then faded. I also think that the best chance that UN TEMPS POUR TOUT has of winning a big race will be across the channel at Auteuil. As for John Fergusons band of bluebloods nearly every day there was the hiss of another reputation being burst. Penglai Pavilion, Nabucco, Maputo and Waterlord all went west with only Galizzi running above expectations in the novice handicap!

WHO had an Open Meeting to REMEMBER? Three young men introduced themselves to the greater betting public. Under the wing of Paul Nicholls Harry Cobden has a big future especially as the trainer says he will be used sparingly. His mount for the yard in the Martin Pipe at the Festival will be shortlist material. The second is slightly more obvious but Nico de Bonville showed that he could mix it with the best on the biggest stage. The third is perhaps the most exciting as I think Harry Fry is harbouring an exceptional talent in Liam McKenna who turned UknowwhatImeanharry into a steering job and in four rides for Fry has had a second, a third and two winners! He claimed 8lbs on Sunday!!

WHAT ELSE went in the NOTEBOOK?  SAUSOLITO SUNRISE has to be a player in the Welsh National. COGRY will win a big chase over 3m6f+ in the next eighteen months. ONE FOR ARTHUR will win a staying chase north of Birmingham. DOUBLE ROSS is well handicapped. SPRING HEELED on spring ground! UN ACE when he goes back chasing. FORT WORTH over three miles. Those Pipe horses that needed the run especially LA VATICANE, MONETAIRE and BATAVIR.

Saving the BEST for LAST? The horse that impressed me most over the three days 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.

Thank you Cheltenham for a fabulous three days!