Wednesday 5 August 2015

7.00 Southwell, Thursday, August 6

John Balding’s 7-year-old Showboating made short work of Miniskirt and eight other rivals at Southwell ten days ago, winning by 6 lengths, eased down. Unfortunately, that fact won’t have escaped the bookmakers but, back over the same course and distance, in the same grade, the Shamardal gelding is hard to oppose under a 6lb penalty in the Mansfield Town Raceday 2nd September (7.00) at Southwell on Thursday.

All his previous seven career wins had come over 6 and 7 furlongs, but he clearly relished the extra furlong on a course where his previous form figures read 3411. He’s never won off a mark this high, but seems sure to go up by more than 6lb once the handicapper has his say, so it’s easy to see why connections are keen to strike again while the iron is hot.

Apprentice Joe Doyle takes over from Shane Gray, who’s ridden him to his two most recent victories but, with a 3-8 (38%) strike rate on synthetic surfaces this season, his presence in the saddle is hardly a negative.

Selection: Southwell 7.00 Showboating to win

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Quick Jack Can Rule The Roodeye

The Betway Chester Cup (3.10) on Wednesday is always highly competitive, but Quick Jack returns to action off a handicap mark just 3lb higher than when beaten three-quarters of a length and a short head by Big Easy and De Rigueur in Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket in October and must take all the beating.

The Footstepsinthesand gelding won after a five-month break at Galway last summer, so the fact that he’s run just once since – finishing a highly creditable third, beaten 9¼ lengths, behind Wicklow Brave in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month – shouldn’t count against him. Indeed, the Cheltenham form has already been franked by the second, Sort It Out, so looks even stronger than it did at the time.

Quick Jack has won on good, yielding and soft going, so should run his race whatever the weather on the Roodeye but, with scattered, locally heavy, showers in the forecast, he could be in his element. Co. Meath trainer Tony Martin has a 3-15 (20%) with his runners on this side of the Irish Sea over the last five seasons and jockey Richard Hughes is 1-3 (33%) for the yard in the same period, Quick Jack plenty going for him at around 5/1 in the very early price lists.

Chester 3.10 Quick Jack to win

Wednesday 22 April 2015

Cruising Bye Can Wave Rivals Farewell

At the time of writing, Sean Bowen is just one winner ahead of Nico de Boinville in the battle for the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship 2014/2015, which ends on Friday, so it’s reasonable to his assume that his father, Peter, has prepared some ‘ammunition’ for the rest of the week.

In the Yorkshire & Cheshire Finance Handicap Chase (2.10) at Warwick on Thursday, Bowen Sr. saddles Cruising Bye, who may be capable of supplementing his win over 3 miles at Chepstow earlier this month, despite being 2lb out of the handicap proper. Bowen Jr. has ridden off a weight as low as 8st 13lb in the last twelve months, so should have no problem claiming all of his 3lb allowance and stepping up to 3 miles 5 furlongs could be what the 10-year-old needs at this stage of his career.

The son of Alflora has looked a shade one-paced over 3 miles, and even over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on recent starts, so an extra three furlongs might show him in a better light, especially as he seems equally effective on the prevailing good going as under more testing conditions. He steps up in class off a 4lb higher mark than at Chepstow, but this would hardly be the strongest race for the grade and, at around 3/1 in the early price lists, Cruising Bye looks a decent bet to take Sean Bowen one closer to the title.

Selection: Warwick 2.10 Cruising Bye (Nap) to win

Sunday 12 April 2015

Same Old Story for Catchin Time

Faster ground than he’s encountered for a while is a slight doubt about Catchin Time in the Le Garcon D’Or Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (5.30) at Kelso on Monday but, otherwise, Laura Hurley’s 7-year-old has plenty for going for him. The Chineur gelding steps into 0-115 company for the first time since joining his current yard in December, but has shown progressive form since beaten in a selling hurdle at Leicester and can keep up the good work.

He was, in fact, a maiden after 13 starts over hurdles in Ireland, but the change of scenery has evidently done him a power of good and a further 6lb rise in the weights may not prevent him from completing a four-timer. Warwickshire permit holder Laura Hurley has no qualms about the ground and, indeed, said after his last run, “…he’ll better on better ground, so we'll wait a few weeks until it dries up before we run him again.” An absence of eight weeks shouldn’t inconvenience him and he can justify odds of around 5/2 in the early price lists.

Selection: Kelso 5.30 Catchin Time to win

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Classy Hargam Can Gain Compensation

In the Betfred Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (2.15) at Aintree on Thursday, Hargam fared best of those who ran in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last month and can resume winning ways. The Sinndar gelding readily beat Starchitect (subsequently fourth in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle) by 6 lengths on his previous start at Musselburgh so, provided he’s sufficiently recovered from his Cheltenham exertions, he looks the clear form pick.

On the form book, he appears to have the measure of most, if not all, of those that ran at the Cheltenham Festival and may have most to fear from Bristol De Mai and Intense Tango, who both sidestepped the Festival after finishing second and third in the Premier Kelso Hurdle in February. Realistically, Bristol De Mai, who’s officially rated 3lb inferior to Hargam, is probably the main danger, but Nicky Henderson has strength in depth in the juvenile hurdlers division this season and Hargam looks decent value at 5/6 with Betway in the early price lists.

Selection: Aintree 2.15 Hargam to win

Sunday 29 March 2015

Monday Preview – Take Pride!

In the Local Parking Security Ltd Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (2.20) at Warwick on Monday, Old Pride got off the mark for Alan McCabe at the first time of asking at Doncaster in February and can defy a hefty 17lb rise in the weights. The lightly-raced seven-year-old is entitled to improve significantly for that run, his first for 18 months, notwithstanding a win in a maiden point-to-point at Cottenham in December, and he remains something of a proverbial ‘dark horse’.

The Old Vic gelding had previously been campaigned in Ireland, without success, by David Loder and Tom Taafe, but had shown signs of ability on more than one occasion and is far from fully exposed. His best efforts so far have come on good and good to firm going but, while his two attempts on soft and heavy going proved a little inconclusive, he may not be inconvenienced by slightly slower underfoot conditions.

Alan McCabe is, of course, better known as a Flat trainer, but Nico De Boinville is 2-3 (67%) for the yard overall, and 1-1 (100%) over hurdles, so Old Pride looks one to follow until beaten.

Selection: Warwick 2.20 Old Pride to win

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Lightentertainment Under the Spotlight Again

Lightentertainment has won a couple of times on good going, so testing conditions aren’t a necessity and he can make his presence felt in the Apollobet Mobile Games Handicap Hurdle (3.15) at Haydock on Wednesday. Chris Gordon’s 7-year-old drops back into 0-135 company after finishing tenth, beaten 23 lengths, in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last month. The way he stayed on strongly to beat Dell’ Arca over 2 miles 1 furlong on his previous start at Cheltenham in January suggested a return to 2 miles 4 furlong would suit him and he is just 4lb higher in the weights this time.

The King’s Theatre gelding was unlucky not to complete a six-timer, winning five of his six starts between May and January and going down by a nose on the other. He’s already gone up 33lb since his winning run started, but appears to face an easier assignment than he has on his last two starts and can return to the winners’ enclosure. Interestingly, Chris Gordon hasn’t had a runner at Haydock during the last five seasons, so the fact that he’s sent Lightentertainment to the Newton-le-Willows track may be significant.

Wednesday Selection: Haydock 3.15 Lightentertainment to win

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Cheltenham Gold Cup Preview – No Third Time Lucky for Conti

As anyone who suffers from triskaidekaphobia will be all too well aware, the final day of this year’s Cheltenham Festival falls on Friday the 13th, also known as Black Friday. In keeping with the luckless theme, we’ve decided, for once, to highlight a horse at short odds that we think is one to oppose.

Silviniaco Conti has won all three of the other Grade 1 staying chases run in Britain – the Betfair Chase (twice), the King George VI Chase (twice) and the Betfred Bowl Chase – but has failed on both attempts in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

To be fair, Paul Nicholls’ now 9-year-old was a close third, and travelling well, when falling at the third last in 2013 and was only beaten 1¾ lengths into fourth place last year, despite wandering on the run-in. The Dom Alco gelding officially has 6lb and upwards in hand of his rivals, which accounts for his market position, but the fact remains that all three attempts at Cheltenham have ended in defeat.

He once again faces Lord Windermere, On His Own and The Giant Bolster, who filled the first three places last year, and Bobs Worth, who finished fifth, plus a whole raft of plausible alternatives, so his task is no easier this time around. Coneygree, Djakadam, Many Clouds and Road To Riches are just four of those who could also have a say in the finish, so Silviniaco Conti will have to be at the very top of his game if he’s to make it third time lucky.

Selection: Cheltenham 3.20 Lay Silviniaco Conti (5.1 on Betfair)

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Wednesday Preview – Sabre Rock Looks Solid Again

Sabre Rock was still a maiden after 14 starts for John Best, but has really taken off since joining Julia Feilden in November. The son of Dubawi has repeatedly defied the handicapper, winning four from four over 1 mile 2 furlongs on the Polytrack at Lingfield in recent months, and may be capable of doing so again in the Best Odds Guaranteed on Racing Handicap (5.00) on Monday.

The 5-year-old faces arguably his toughest test ever, stepping into 0-75 company off a handicap mark of 74, but he won with plenty in hand on his last visit here in January and may yet have more to offer. The progeny of Dubawi typically progress well, so now that his trainer has, belatedly, found the key to him, he could ultimately prove better than this grade.

His trainer certainly thinks so, because she’s entered him, rather optimistically, in the Group 3 Winter Derby. Whether he’s up to that class remains to be seen but, in the meantime, he’s been given time to freshen up and is reportedly “progressing brilliantly” in his preparation for this race. Certainly, at 3/1 in the early price lists, he looks one to have on our side.

Selection: Lingfield 5.00 Sabre Rock to win

Monday 23 February 2015

Tuesday Preview – Nefyn Can Prove A Point

Bridget Andrews, winner of the National Ladies Point to Point Championship in 2013/14, is an interesting booking for Donald McCain’s 6-year-old Nefyn Point in the opening Lady Amateur Riders’ Handicap Hurdle (2.00) at Catterick on Tuesday. The Overbury gelding escapes a penalty for his half length defeat of Honourable Gent in a conditional jockeys’ event at Wetherby last week and, although his stamina for an extra three furlongs needs to be taken on trust, he’s hard to oppose.

A line through Amtired, who finished fourth at Wetherby, suggests Nefyn Point is closely handicapped with Deny, but Henry Hogarth’s charge weakened in the closing stages when last of eight, beaten 60 lengths, behind Politbureau at Newcastle last month and is probably best watched for the time being.

In truth, Nefyn Point is probably the more progressive of the pair in any case. He didn’t show much on his first four starts, in the spring and summer of 2013, but wasn’t seen again in public again until Boxing Day. He was entitled to need his reappearance run, his first for 18 months, but has won both subsequent starts and may still be open to significant improvement. He probably doesn’t want too much rain, but otherwise appeals as something of a ‘good thing’ at around 2/1 in the early price lists.

Selection: Catterick 2.00 Nefyn Point to win

Sunday 15 February 2015

Monday Preview – The Sky’s The Limit

Only modest fare, as usual, on Monday, but even the lowliest contest must have a winner and there are compelling reasons for believing that Amazing Blue Sky can complete a double in the Bet in Play at Coral Amateur Riders’ Handicap (2.35) at Wolverhampton.

I’m not usually a fan of these amateur riders’ contests, but there are amateur riders and amateur riders and Serena Brotherton is one of the very best. Perhaps the most interesting thing about her, as far as we’re concerned, is that she has a 3-3 (100%) strike rate for trainer Ruth Carr on the all-weather.

Obviously, Mrs. Brotherton can’t win without the horse, but she rode Amazing Blue Sky to victory over a furlong or so shorter at Southwell two weeks ago and a 4lb rise in the weights for that success seems more than fair. In fact, it puts Amazing Blue Sky on exactly the same handicap mark as when winning over 1 mile 4 furlongs, in this grade, at Thirsk in the summer, so it’s hard to argue that he’s anything but feasibly weighted for a return to the winners’ enclosure.

In a race where recent winning form is in short supply, Amazing Blue Sky appears to have an outstanding chance and makes no little appeal at 3/1 with Bet365 in the early price lists. Santayana, who’s still a maiden, but is 2lb better off for the length he finished behind Amazing Blue Sky at Southwell could, again, be the one that gives him most to do.

Selection: Wolverhampton 2.35 Amazing Blue Sky to win (3/1 with Bet365)