Sunday, 8 March 2015

Cheltenham,


I must admit there is something soothing about writing a blog. You can say what you feel without somebody interrupting you. It’s an opportunity to get things off your chest.

Whenever Cheltenham comes around it’s inevitable it brings Cheltenham previews. Long drawn out, often repetitive, often pointless. Most are held before running plans are known, none once declarations are made.

Many who attend say it’s a ‘great craic’, even in England where ‘craic’ is rarely, or often never, used. In reality, it’s an opportunity for ‘pundits’ to earn a decent amount of money with little downside if you’re wrong. I don’t have a problem with that.

Most people that follow horse racing will have an opinion on the Cheltenham Festival, me included. You will see numerous different tips, many from the same trade paper in each race.

I love the fact people get passionate about the meeting, willing to discuss why they fancy a certain horse and defending that particular selection to the hilt, I even can stomach, for a while, people having post two hour discussions on the subject on Twitter.

Personally, I just like to use facts. I’m not big into guessing and rather than ‘give’ tips I like to analyse the evidence in front of me. 

A big talking point ever since his defeat at Ascot by Dodging Bullets has been Sprinter Sacre. Will he ever recover his former brilliance? Is he is the same horse? The answer is that he doesn’t need to be.

His run at Ascot (running to 166), after a massive lay-off, was the second best run by a 2m chaser this season behind Dodging Bullets,  who recorded a seasons best in that race.

In truth, Sprinter Sacre only needs to improve 7lbs from that run to score. Will he? I don’t know but it’s hardly a vintage renewal and after such a lay-off, on better ground, it’s hardly beyond him.

I’m not great on stats but Dodging Bullets has yet to win on six attempts in the spring. It may be a coincidence but his performance levels have dipped in the last three seasons

Sire De Grugy’s facile victory at Chepstow against handicappers confirmed nothing but his well-being and he only recorded 170 in winning the Champion Chase last season.

The one horse I can’t have for the race is Champagne Fever. His 2m form over fences isn’t good enough. He may have a decent record at the track but his defeat in last year’s Arkle by 135-rated Western Warhorse is only fair at best.

A more pertinent point is the Champion Chase has never been the long term plan for Champagne Fever. His try over 3 miles in the King George suggests the Gold Cup was the original target while his victory in the Red Mills hinted the Ryanair was also high on the agenda.

The other horse at the meeting I can’t have is Josses Hill in the Arkle. I don’t know Barry Geraghty and he is undoubtedly a top jockey, but I’m flummoxed by his assertion that the horse will be better suited by a faster gallop of a 2 mile Grade one contest at a track like Cheltenham.

This is a horse that has made mistakes in all three of his starts over fences. He struggled to beat a 145-rated horse at Doncaster, receiving weight, over 2 miles and was then beaten by Third Intention (151) in a Graduation Chase at Kempton over 2m 4f when his jumping was sticky again.

The main highlight for me this year, as it was last, is Faugheen. I have marvelled at him since his victory in that Punchestown bumper (beating Josses Hill by 22 lengths). Noted how he has won from 2 miles to 3 miles, clocked incredible splits, and mostly showing contempt for the obstacles.

He can be ridden whatever way Ruby chooses, ground is immaterial and a horse has yet to get him off the bridle. He is a freak and, worryingly, if the Mullins’ team ever decide to put him over fences (which I hope they don’t) he could be even better.  

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 I did a talk at the British Racing School on Wednesday as prospective  trainers were in the middle of their first module. It was a daunting, nonetheless enjoyable, experience in speaking about the importance of entries and race planning.

There were nine delegates, as the BRS like to call them, and they included Richard Hughes – who announced he intended to retire at the end of the season that night – former Gold Cup winning jockey Sam Thomas, erstwhile Sir Michael Stoute assistant Owen Burrows, and the delightful Sally Randell.

Sally, due to take over the licence from Andy Turnell, had to get permission to leave the course early in order to ride Loose Chips to victory in the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown on Friday. It was a glorious last ride. I'm sure she will make a success of her new career

Monday, 19 January 2015

The beauty of writing a blog is that you can vent. No restrictions of 140 characters, no knee jerk reactions to comments that annoy, and no need to convey your thoughts over three tweets. 
 
I've tried hard to resist responding to the numerous theories on Sprinter Sacre, some which have been reasonable, some made out of spite ( plenty seem to hate Henderson) and some quite frankly full of more holes than a gigantic sieve .

This is my take. If it had been any other horse apart from Sprinter Sacre running to a mark of 168 after a year off, on ground that was softer than ideal, everybody would be eulogising. Instead, it has produced phrases of ' he's gone' amongst others that are bordering on strange to the insane. 

Whilst accepting free speech I take on board what James Knight, the odds compiler for Corals, once said to me, namely that he didn't respect somebody else's opinion if he didn't agree with it.

Let's look at the facts, I concede  ( which the Racing Post's Paul Kealy - whose opinion is one that I respect - corrected me on) that he was some way below his brilliant best with his second to Dodging Bullets. 

His best ever, on my ratings, was his 186 when winning at Liverpool (2m4f) and his best over 2m I have as 185 in his last Champion Chase victory.

However, this is far from a vintage year. Dodging Bullets produced his best ever performance at Ascot yet Sprinter Sacre was running all over him until getting tired, as highlighted by his final furlong sectional compared to the previous one. 

Plenty have suggested that Sprinter Sacre was fit enough to win at Ascot. I would be amazed if the horse was 100 % racefit. It would have been folly to push him that hard to win his comeback race. It would make no sense.

As for blood on the nose, as much as you would prefer not to see it, there could be a variety of reasons rather than a burst blood vessel. 

Indeed, Shantou Bob, found to have blood in his nose when beaten at odds on at Warwick, subsequently scoped clean and now appears to have a wind problem. 

Sprinter Sacre may well not produce the figures of yesteryear. The simple fact is that he doesn't need to. There is no depth to this year's renewal.

Sprinter Sacre was beaten an eased- down 3 lengths by a very good horse in racefit Dodging Bullets. It would be a surprise, however, if he were not to  turn the tables. 

Champagne Fever - never run higher than 161- has at least 8lbs to find with Sprinter Sacre on just his  Ascot run, even without the expected improvenent from Henderson's star.

The fact that Mullins' grey has tried 3 miles and 2m4f on his last two starts suggests the Champion Chase hasnt been at the forefront of his trainers' mind. Not the way to win a Grade 1 chase. 

Many have dissed the 3-1 ante post price for Sprinter Sacre. Value seekers have gone elsewhere. For me, 3-1 is VALUE.

He is the best horse in the the race and if he runs to mark of 176 - admittedly some  10lbs below his brilliant best - he will still be good enough.

Just imagine if the cobwebs have been blown away and the Pistons finely turned come March.  All those that have stated 'I hope I'm wrong' when dismissing his chance, will have a chance to complete that statement. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Crisford on his way to Highfield Stables

Strong rumours abound around Newmarket that the recently vacated Highfield Stables (it was the third yard of Saeed Bin Suroor before it's closure at the end of August) will soon be filled by Simon Crisford.

And It's expected that all of the horses to be stabled at the yard on Bury Road will be owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, son of Sheikh Mohammed.

Crisford, former Racing Manager for Godolphin, is expected to start training from his new base in early 2015

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Shamaal Nibras at Sandown .........................................................

Shamaal Nibras - Sandown, Thursday

Normally when I look at a race, a bit like when you turn over your exam paper, you scan the field and panic over whom you don't think you can beat. It's not the case here.

I think Shamaal Nibras will win. The fact he is 10-1 is the only surprise. The horse hasn't been in the yard for long but there is much in his favour. A drop of 2lbs, from a promising run at Goodwood (fro an awful draw), enables him to run in a 0-95 for the first time in a while, he acts on the ground and the step up again to a 1m is definitely in his favour.

Shamaal Nibras is a lovely big horse so his stride will be used more tonight than has often been the case with him in the past. There will be plenty of pace in the race with Spa's Dancer, the market leader, the worst drawn in 13, unless they come across to the stands rails.

Plenty of horses in this contest want further and the same number wouldn't want any more rain. I love this horse and his attitude. He really needs to win to cement his place in the Hunt Cup (he is probably too well handicapped now), a race that he would have a chance in.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Autumnus runs at Yarmouth ..........................................................................................................


Autumnus – Yarmouth

Autumnus claims a new record today by being the lowest grade horse on grass that Ismail has sent out since he started training last May. It’s a 0-55 race where the ambulance would be in the top three in the market. It’s terrible with plenty of horses who don’t want to win.

To be fair to Autumnus he has had problems. He has bled, had breathing problems and just for good measure it was decided that his days in the choir were numbered after he ran so poorly at Wolverhampton.

Blinkers have been added. He wears them at home all the time and they seem to help, but some days he works well and others he can’t be arsed. Joe Fanning is an ideal pilot. A horse like Autumnus doesn’t need much of an excuse to down tools and hitting him is a pointless exercise.

There is no doubt that he has ability – he spanked Light Burst one day at home on a going day – and he will be held up and hopefully enjoy being among the pack. He certainly didn’t like leading at Wolverhampton.

Would I have a bet in this race? Not a chance. Can he win? For sure. Will he win? No idea..........

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Dubawi Fun at Southwell .................................................................................................................................


Dubawi Fun – Southwell

I’m pleased that we ducked going to Nottingham yesterday with Dubawi Fun . Windfast looks a useful juvenile, as do a few others in the race.  Probably wouldn’t have learnt much.

Dubawi Fun is Ismail’s first 2-y-o runner of the season and it’s hard to gauge how good he is as most of Ismail’s other juveniles are late season types. He has been working with older horses and holding his own. He presently wants to do everything at full speed and his breeding does suggests he will probably want at least 1m next season.

 Southwell is a good starting point. He is by Dubawi so the surface shouldn’t be a problem and the Fibresand may also not help the two market leaders who have decent rather than useful form. In truth, though, it’s a guessing game as to how he will go.

Pat Cosgrave has ridden him in most of his work and he likes him. The other unknown is how he will react going racing for the first time. He is like an excited schoolboy at home hopefully he won’t decide to become a school delinquent.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Light Burst at Lingfield....................................................................................


Light Burst – Lingfield

This race was originally earmarked for Brighton. The plan being that Light Burst was going to have his next few runs on the turf after his win at Southwell. We are forced to come here because it fits in with a race plan geared towards Royal Ascot.

My main worry about the switch was that it would be a much better race - not many fancy Brighton – but the race has in fact cut up. It was pleasing that Noseda decided to take Noctum to Windsor on Monday. The surface won’t be a worry and his handicap mark is fine for a progressing horse.

When Light Burst won at Southwell he was short of work and saw plenty of daylight. Today, with at least three front runners, the plan is to get cover and attack from the furlong pole. The horse is a strong traveller but lengthens rather than quickens.

Tom Brown is a massive bonus and his claim extremely handy. Light Burst has already run well in this grade, finishing third at Wolverhampton after a break, and the race is chock full of horses dropping in class after disappointing.

Main danger, for me, is Johnno. He is drawn to attack from stall one and he was a progressive handicapper last season in this class. He has been gelded since his last race, but he has been absent since August and there are other front runners to unsettle.

If Light Burst wins here he will go to Doncaster (he will have to win there as well) in three weeks time before hopefully a crack at the Wokingham at Royal Ascot. We have an excellent chance  in a race that could have had more depth.