All posts by winningracing

Saturday’s In-Form Trainers

This isn’t a definitive list of in-form trainers, but just three that it might be worth keeping an eye on today, as well as a bit more information about Aidan O’Brien’s strong current form:

Dan Skelton
Dan Skelton’s duo of winners yesterday won’t have come as any major shock at starting prices of 4/9 and 8/13 but both won with considerable ease and were just a latest in a stream of winners over the past week. In the last 7 days, his runners’ form reads 4P22P1126U111141P201453233111 – that’s 11 wins (and another 6 places) from 29 runners. Skelton runs 6 at Sandown today in a bid to keep his winning run going right up to the end of the season:
1.50 Sandown – Flash The Steel
1.50 Sandown – Humble Hero
2.25 Sandown – Cobra De Mai
3.35 Sandown – Captain Chaos
4.40 Sandown – Bandsman
5.15 Sandown – Wynford

Aidan O’Brien
This wouldn’t always be considered Aidan O’Brien’s time of year but his yard has a 46% strike rate over the last two weeks, with 12 wins from 26 runners. His strike rate throughout April is 25% which is only bettered by the strike rates of April 2016 (26%), 2012 (29%) and 2010 (26%) in the last 10 years. His strike rate in the month of April last year was 17% and in 2017 it was just 15%, so the usual theory that O’Brien’s will need the run hasn’t necessarily applied this year.

Even more striking is the record of his newcomers (note that the following statistics regard any horse which has never run in the UK or Ireland as a newcomer) – over the last 2 years, just one O’Brien horse won on their first ever outing in March or April from 17 total runners, and that was So Perfect. This year, 5 of his 12 runners have done it, a 42% strike rate (the highest that he has had since 2004). One point which may be worth noting is that the old strategy of backing his horses on their second appearance on the basis that they needed the run the first time out may not work out as well this year – of the 7 that were beaten, two have had a second start and both have disappointed (one of them, 3yo King Pellinor, was 4/5 favourite on his second start having been considerably unlucky in running first time out). Magic Fountain runs in the 2:50 at Limerick today, having finished 10th at Leopardstown on debut, and this may tell us more in this regard.

George Baker
Finally, George Baker warrants a mention despite the small sample size – his form figures in the last week are 1162, and the interesting thing about this is that his winners came at odds of 2/1 and 12/1 and the runner-up was 10/1 and only narrowly beaten. He runs two outsiders today (The Gates Of Dawn in the 1:40 at Leicester and Borderforce in the 4:50 at Haydock) and it will be interesting to see whether they outrun their odds.

Selections from Sandown’s Jump Finale and Across the Cards

There are eight meetings across the UK and Ireland today so plenty of racing to get stuck into. My focus is mainly on Sandown where we see the final day of the UK National Hunt season after a good day of flat racing there yesterday. I’m going to take a look back at yesterday’s racing with some points to note, before moving on to selections from Sandown (4 bets in total) and elsewhere (another 3 bets), along with a few horses to note and keep an eye on.

Looking Back on Friday’s Action

In the Gordon Richards Stakes, Crystal Ocean looked to run up to a much better level than he did in the same race last year, so if he comes on for the run as he did last season and improves for a step up in trip, he should be a real group one horse this year, having come agonisingly close to winning one last season. Knight To Behold ran up to his best form in 2nd, so it’s possible that the key to his unpredictable profile is that he runs well when fresh, and when able to dominate in a small field. Oisin Murphy gave him what appeared to be the ideal ride as he can be exuberant and there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to restrain him. He lost nothing in defeat and I’ll be interested in him the next time that he runs after a break if likely to get the run of the race up front.

Bangkok was a very good winner of the Classic Trial. He was a bit warm before the race and he did run keen – it took a bit of effort from De Sousa to keep him back but he ultimately was just as effective under more patient tactics as he was when ridden more prominently at Doncaster. Technician might be seen as an unlucky loser and he did encounter plenty of trouble in running but I doubt that he would have had the turn of foot to match the winner over this trip. That said, he was coming close at the line and came into this race off the back of a win over a mile and a half – a step back up to that trip should see him to best effect next time, although I doubt very much that he’ll go unnoticed in the betting.

The form from Bangkok’s maiden win at Doncaster last month is working out really well, with his win yesterday adding to wins next time out for Telecaster (2nd that day) and Dubai Instinct (4th). Telecaster in particular won with considerable ease on his next outing, staying on really well over 1m 2f at Windsor and he could be one to keep an eye on. Noble Music (3rd in the Doncaster race) will also be interesting to watch – he was 9 lengths behind Telecaster in 2nd, but over 2 lengths ahead of Dubai Instinct in 4th who was also an impressive next time out winner. Two horses run today which finished down the field in that race – Soft Summer Rain (13th, runs in the 1:30 at Haydock) and Just You Wait (6th, runs in the 5:00 at Leicester).

Beat The Bank was the biggest bet I’ve put up in a while and it came through – the winner’s form in fields of 11 or less now reads 11111511, with the 5th placed finish just 2 lengths behind the winner in the Sussex Stakes. His form in bigger fields is 100060, so that looks like it’s the key to his form and it could be something that makes us a bit more money throughout the season.

Already Advised for Today

The two bets already advised for today are 1pt win on Step Back at 8/1 in the 3:35 at Sandown and 0.5pt e/w (1/4 odds 2 places) on Vosne Romanee at 66/1 in the 3:00 at Sandown. Previews of those races are in a separate post.

Sandown

1:50 – Novices Handicap Hurdle – Class 2 – 2m
It’s easy to see the case for Getaway Trump and he could be the one to side with today. However, I’d rather look for something at a nicer price in a field this big. Dream Grand Du Val was very promising at Fontwell and Kelso early this year and it’s easy to forgive his disappointing run at Sandown last time out based on the ground. He’s back on proper good ground today and that could see him back to good effect. Humble Hero might turn out to be running off a very nice mark considering the fact that he was a smart type on the flat and that he was 3 lengths behind Bright Forecast on his first start over hurdles in December – Bright Forecast is now rated 149. He showed a really good attitude at Newbury last time and 126 might still be lenient. Scarlet Dragon is another one of interest, having run too keenly last time out. It’s very possible that this large field and strong pace is just what he needs. This looks like a really competitive heat and all three of the aforementioned contenders should be content on fast ground, so it’s one that I’m going to leave alone.

2:25 – Oaksey Chase – Grade 2 – 2m 6½f
With the absence of Cyrname and Janika, this is a competitive renewal and Definitly Red and Black Corton are currently battling it out for favouritism at 7/2, followed by Charbel at between 4/1 and 11/2. Personally I’m against Black Corton at the prices.

Charbel looked very impressive when winning the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon in December, although it should be noted that the form from that race hasn’t worked out particularly well, with the horses that finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th failing to make the frame from 8 total subsequent starts. Charbel’s own subsequent performances haven’t been too reassuring either, although he probably did too much early on in his next two starts which caused him to fade at the business end of the race. More patient tactics were employed at Cheltenham and didn’t seem to work any better, although he did come back from that race cut and it will be interesting to see whether they try holding him up again here. He’s not really a horse who tends to find much when it comes to this end of the season, with form of 1455F3FP in March and April – just one win (in a bumper) and 7 unplaced efforts.

Preference is for Definitly Red, who never got the chance to run his race in the Gold Cup, brought down by Invitation Only at the tenth fence. During the winter he picked up a brace of graded wins in the Charlie Hall Chase and the Many Clouds Chase – although, as is the case with Charbel, the form hasn’t worked out too well from either race, with no subsequent winners from either of these four-runner contests. The main discussion ahead of the race with regard to Definitly Red’s claims is likely to be the ground – he has won 10 times and placed another 6 from 19 starts on soft or worse, whereas he has won 4 times from 10 starts on good to soft or better.

There are a few other interesting points, however; his form in fields of 11 or less is 11121112211311311U112 (14 wins and 5 places from 21 starts), remarkably consistent compared to 7P2FUP6B in fields of 12 or more. Another key note is his form in the first half of the season (12 wins and 6 places from 20 starts from October to February, 2 wins from 9 in March and April). He’s likely to get his preferred small field today and I’m not sure that the time of year will be a major concern, as his form in March/April in fields of 11 or less is 11U.

Honourable mentions go to Gold Present, who was running well at Ayr when he fell and has good form when back out within 30 days (1152F19) – it will be interesting to see whether he runs another good race after a short break today – and San Benedeto whose form from February to June reads 11111132317 (7th was in the Topham this year). He’s a real good ground horse (7 wins from 18 on proper good ground or better, 3 wins from 20 on good to soft or worse). The Topham run can be excused on the basis of the testing conditions and the only question mark is whether he’ll stay the trip today (although it wouldn’t be a huge surprise based on his win at Newbury over 2m4f in March).
Definitly Red 1pt win 4/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
San Benedeto 0.5pt win 9/1 (general)

3:00 – Celebration Chase – Grade 1 – 2m
This one has already been previewed, with Vosne Romanee the each-way selection at 66/1 (1/4 odds, 2 places, 0.5pt e/w).

3:35 – Bet365 Gold Cup – Grade 3 – 3m 5f
Again, the race has been previewed already and Step Back was the 1pt win bet at 8/1. I will be watching out to see whether Flying Angel can run a big race, as he tends to run well each spring and hasn’t disgraced himself on either start this spring – he’s not one that I’d consider backing, though.

Bets Elsewhere

2:20 Ripon – Crownthorpe was 5th in the Irish Lincoln at Naas from stall 12, in a race where the top 4 came from stalls 3, 4, 6 and 5. There’s a definite low bias over a mile at Naas so that run was creditable to say the least. The soft ground that day won’t have been a hindrance but it’s not a necessity for Crownthorpe, who has won on good ground in the past. He ran on well in the Lincoln and caught the eye, covering a considerable amount of ground in the closing stages of the race. The English handicapper has him on a mark of 85 (1 pound lower than the mark he ran off in Naas) which is his last winning mark, in a handicap one year ago over this course and distance. It’s possible that he would prefer a cut in the ground but he looks like a very nice prospect to me.
Crownthorpe 1pt win 5/1 (general)

2:40 Haydock – Spirit Of Lund had one of the unluckiest runs imaginable at Musselburgh last time. He was slow away to begin with, came from a mile back, had to switch and was checked more than once before not finding any space as they approached the line in what could only be described as a rough finish. He was staying on strongly and shaped as if the extra furlong today should see him to better effect, and he has only been put up a pound. He could make a mockery of his mark today and I was surprised to see him put up at 15/2 and 7/1 considering the amount of notebooks he must have entered following the Musselburgh run.
Spirit Of Lund 0.5pt e/w 15/2 (Unibet, 7/1 general, ¼ odds 4 places)

5:30 Wolverhampton – Dotted Swiss ran well over 6f at Wolverhampton two starts ago but couldn’t find anything towards the finish. This prompted connections to drop her back to 5f next time out but I wouldn’t necessarily crab the Wolverhampton run in terms of the trip as she came up along the rail which wasn’t the ideal place to be. She ran creditably over the minimum trip at Lingfield last time from the widest draw, running on well into 4th, just a length behind the winner. She didn’t have the speed from the stalls to cut inside quickly and so was caught 3-wide turning the first bend. She was held up at the back of the field and ran on like a horse looking for a step back up to 6f.
Dotted Swiss 1pt win 11/2 (Bet365)

Ones to Watch

2:45 Leicester – this isn’t a race that I want to have a bet in but it is an interesting contest from a number of perspectives – Laugh A Minute steps up in trip to 7f which could bring about improvement from a horse who has been a bit underwhelming at times, as does Eqtidaar who won the Commonwealth Cup last year but was down the field in both subsequent starts. Hey Gaman didn’t manage to win last year but he came very close on a number of occasions including being beaten by just a neck in the French 2000 Guineas and he should run well fresh. A nice race to watch.

3:30 Ripon – Yabass won over 1m4f at this track this time last year and shaped like a horse that would want a step up in trip. However, he hasn’t looked like much of a stayer on his subsequent starts. He was given a tough mark after being tried in a group 2 (went up from 88 to 98) but he’s back on 92 now and could be of more interest having been gelded.

4:20 Haydock – just another side note on a horse to keep an eye on. Sands Chorus ran very well to finish 3rd of 18 at Newbury last time considering his poor record in large fields (0 wins from 18 in fields of 12 or more, 8 wins from 32 in fields of 11 or less). He doesn’t like getting caught up in the middle of a big field so on the occasions that he has shown good form in big fields he tends to be making the running – he led on his side when 2nd in the Cambridgeshire in 2017 and led at Newbury too, before switching to the centre of the track on the straight and eventually being passed by two horses. His rating has stayed the same after the Newbury run (78) and he was rated 92 when 2nd in that Cambridgeshire, so looks like one to keep an eye on. However, plenty of these tend to race prominently and it’s unlikely that he’ll have his own way up front from stall 9 of 16, so he’s just one that I want to watch today.

5:25 Haydock – I put up Gabrials Kaka each-way at 20/1 two starts ago and he ended up finishing just a neck outside the places. This was off the back of an eye catching run and it wasn’t the first time that he looked unlucky on the all-weather (his mark has fallen by 14lb in his six all-weather starts since his last turf start). His last win came in Chester last summer, at which point his mark had fallen by 13lb in seven starts. It’s just possible that he still has a big day in him off a freefalling mark, and I have to admit to being tempted by the 16/1 on offer this evening, but not quite tempted enough. Still, if he runs a good race in defeat or is unlucky again he’ll be interesting to watch, and if he wins without carrying my money I’ll be delighted for him – he’s a real veteran and a constant presence in the big one mile handicaps for years.

Bet365 Gold Cup and Celebration Chase Previews

The curtain-closer of the National Hunt season takes place at Sandown tomorrow. I’ll be posting a full preview of the card this evening, but just want to give some early thoughts on the two feature races – the Bet365 Gold Cup and the Celebration Chase.

Bet365 Gold Cup

There has been sustained market support throughout the week for Alan King’s Talkischeap, and the case is easy to see. For any race at this stage of the season, there will be a concern that the contenders will have been trained for an earlier target and are showing up here as an afterthought, or have shown the handicapper their hand during the spring festivals. Talkischeap skipped the Ultima at Cheltenham and other potential spring targets in order to come straight here after a disappointing effort at Kempton towards the end of February. His form earlier in the season suggests that he’s well handicapped. He was 2nd in the Berkshire Novices Chase at Newbury last November, 7 lengths behind La Bague Au Roi (now rated 151) and 6 lengths ahead of Lostintranslation (now rated 161). He looked that day as if a step up in trip would suit and he won next time out over 3 miles, then finished 2nd to On The Blind Side over the same trip, 21 lengths clear of Bob Mahler (then rated 130 and now rated 140 after two subsequent wins). Talkischeap is now rated 145 and so there’s a clear case to be made that he’s well treated and that the step up in trip could see further improvement.

However, my preference would be for a horse not as obviously well treated but still a clear leading contender. Step Back won this race last year in what appeared to be his optimum conditions, leading from the 6th fence and making all from then on. He doesn’t always show his best form in larger fields (he was unplaced on all other starts with 12 runners or more) but if he can get out in front early on and keep the lead, he could be difficult to catch with a display of jumping like last year’s. His jumping hasn’t been as aesthetically pleasing this term but he has only been seen at left-handed tracks and has displayed a strong tendency to jump out to the right, with his form reading 76P. His form at right-handed tracks reads 131. He won this race off 135 last year and was raised to 149, but his subsequent disappointing performances at tracks which didn’t suit have seen him dropped 4 pounds to 145, and while this may not appear to be overly lenient from the handicapper, the image of him pulling 13 lengths clear and powering up the run-in are still strong in the memory. You might argue that he won’t have been suited by the good ground that he encountered this season (his only start on good ground before that came in the Albert Bartlett in 2017 when he finished a distant 9th), but I think that the evidence regarding him needing a cut is a bit inconclusive.

Looking at the other protagonists in the betting, The Young Master was a decent 3rd in the Kim Muir and will stay the trip, but has finished 9th and 8th in the last two renewals of this race since winning it in 2016, the 8th placed finish last year off a mark 7lb lower than this time around. Give Me A Copper is highly thought of but the Ultima seems to have been his main target and he may be priced more on reputation than evidence. Beware The Bear was an impressive Ultima winner and would be of interest if the rain does come, with his form on good to soft reading 21171 and to win this off a mark of 160 would be a serious feat. Joe Farrell was pulled up before two out in the National and looked a tired horse. His previous start was just two weeks before that, and one would wonder whether he’ll be up for this teat today.

It’s possible that I’ll be posting another bet in the race tonight, but I’m happy to go with Step Back at 8/1.
Step Back 1pt win 8/1 (general)

Celebration Chase

Cyrname doesn’t show up in the Celebration Chase to take on Altior in what arguably would have been the clash of the season. This is obviously massively disappointing to jumps fans, but there’s little doubt that Paul Nicholls will be acting in the horse’s best interests and it’s likely that we’ll see the pair up against each other next season in the King George, assuming that both stay sound in the meantime.

The general consensus is that this will be a procession for Altior and he is undoubtedly better than anything else in the field. It’s possible to question him on the basis that he jumped to the left at Ascot in the Clarence House Chase, and that he had to work hard to beat Politologue at Cheltenham, but on all known form he shouldn’t have any trouble here. That said, I won’t be backing him at 1/4 and I doubt that many will, so we’ll search for an alternative.

Sceau Royal is generally a fairly consistent type and can be expected to run his race, but his form from February until the end of the season reads 0636923, compared to 221111141211114 earlier in the season, and so he’s not of much interest at 7/2, nor will he be of much interest at short prices in the without market. In his defence, he has placed on his two starts so far this spring, but was beaten by Grand Sancy over hurdles and then was 4 lengths behind a below-par Altior at Cheltenham.

Gods Own is now 11 and regularly appears to be past his best before putting in a good performance such as his win last November in the Haldon Gold Cup and his brace of grade one wins at the end of 2016 having finished outside the places on all three previous starts that season. He was very poor on his last two starts and it would take a significant leap of faith to side with him here.

Diego Du Charmil finished a distant third of three in the Clarence House, some 41 lengths behind Altior, and before that finished 2nd in the Desert Orchid Chase, 19 lengths behind Altior. Connections must be applauded for their willingness to continue to oppose Altior when victory looks almost out of the question. The one possible upside for Paul Nicholls’ charge is that he tends to run well fresh (form after over 90 days off is 1125 – the 2nd was when well beaten by Saint Calvados in the Kingmaker Novices Chase last year but when still finishing 17 lengths ahead of the other two runners, and the 5th was a disappointing effort in the Haldon Gold Cup but he did suffer an overreach in that race which may be a good enough reason to excuse the run).

Vosne Romanee ran a career best when winning a handicap at Ascot last November and then wasn’t able to come close to Azzuri when finishing 2nd at Ayr last time out. He’s a proper good ground horse who has never won from 9 starts with “soft” in the going description, but who has won 10 times (and placed another 6 times) from 21 starts on good ground or better. He also loves small fields such as this one, with form over jumps of 13211121453112P1 in fields of 7 or less (8 wins from 16 starts compared to 2 wins from 15 in bigger fields). His form over jumps when back out within two weeks of his previous start reads 1171431 (4 wins and a place from 7 starts compared to 6 wins from 23 after a longer break) and he runs here after a 14-day break. It looks as if the ground will be quick enough and at 66/1 in the win market, it will be interesting to see what type of price we can get in the without market once bookmakers begin to offer it.

Darebin walked over at Plumpton earlier this week and one would imagine that anything he does now would be a bonus. He would probably prefer the ground to be a bit softer but realistically should be out of his depth here regardless.

Altior will take all the beating but at 1/4 he’s not a working man’s price. Sceau Royal represents little value as an alternative considering his poor form in end of season targets, and there’s no real evidence to suggest that Gods Own will be back to his best. It’s hard to envisage Darebin having a say in the race, so that leaves Diego Du Charmil, who does go well fresh but who hasn’t been able to come close to Altior in recent clashes, and Vosne Romanee who will love the ground, the small field and the short break. He has run twice with all three conditions in his favour and won on both occasions (11/10 favourite in a juvenile hurdle in 2014 and 13/2 in a listed handicap chase last November in what was arguably a career best performance). Although it will be interesting to see what price we get in a without market, I’m going to go with a small each-way bet at 66/1 with Paddy Power and Betfair for now.
Vosne Romanee 0.5pt e/w 66/1 (1/4 odds 2 places, Paddy Power, Betfair)

Sandown Friday Preview and Selections

13:50 Sandown – Esher Cup Handicap
Lestrade is taking a big step up in terms of class but his loss by a head last time out when giving away 7lb to the whole field at Lingfield wasn’t a bad effort at all – he had to race three wide and was staying on gamely despite his extra weight. He actually did race quite keenly that day and has worn a hood in all three starts to date so he will have to settle better here over a mile, but based on his last start it seems as if the step up in trip should suit. He can be backed at 16/1 but considering the fact that there are only 11 runners, Skybet’s extra place is more tempting at 14/1.
Lestrade 0.5pt e/w 16/1 (1/5 odds 4 places, Skybet, Paddy Power)

14:25 Sandown – Gordon Richards Stakes
Crystal Ocean is the obvious starting point, having gone close in the King George VI Stakes last year and winning three group races, including this one, at the start of the season. He certainly looks the most likely winner but is one that I can leave alone at 8/11. For an alternative, Knight To Behold is the one for me – he seems like a fairly unpredictable horse, having looked completely out of his depth in the Epsom and Irish Derbies last season. Prior to that, though, he did beat Kew Gardens at Lingfield – Kew Gardens went on to win two group 1 races. Knight To Behold finally got his day in the sun after Derby disappointments in a group 2 at Deauville, and then went on to run another disappointing race in a group 2 at Longchamp. He’s clearly good on his day, though, and the reason that he’s interesting for me today is simply that he has run well fresh in the past – he was beaten by just a nose first time out as a 2yo, running to more or less the same level as when he won on his next start, and victory over Kew Gardens came on his first start as a 3yo. There’s obviously a chance that he could put in another awful run, but his performance at Deauville was probably more or less on a par with what Crystal Ocean did in this race last year, and 12/1 seems a fair price.
Knight To Behold 1pt win 12/1 (general)

15:00 Sandown – Classic Trial
It seems somewhat unlikely that we’ll actually see a classic winner in the Classic Trial, but Bangkok did look like an exciting prospect at Doncaster on his first 3yo start. He looks a different horse to last season and the form from that race is working out well, with the 2nd and 4th both going on to win with considerable ease since. Bangkok could well emulate their success, and 7/4 seems generous.
Bangkok 1pt win 7/4 (Bet365, Ladbrokes, Unibet)

15:15 Perth – Mares’ Chase
Atlanta Ablaze had a wind op in August and it seems to have brought about significant improvement, with subsequent form of 1131U1F. She was still in with a chance on both of the occasions that she fell or unseated, the latter in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham when she was running an excellent race when falling at the third last. There may be some question marks over how much that tough race might have taken out of her, but it was 45 days ago and her 4 recent wins have come after similar gaps. Drinks Interval and Got Away will make it a competitive affair, but 5/2 just about looks a fair price for Atlanta Ablaze.
Atlanta Ablaze 1pt win 5/2 (Bet365)

15:35 Sandown – Bet365 Mile
Beat The Bank was only 11th of 13 on his final start of last season and that sees him come into this race as 3/1 second favourite, despite the fact that he has three group 2 wins under his belt (the only other group 2 winners in the field are Addeybb and Suedois with one each). The clear pattern in his form is field size – his form in fields of 11 or less is 1111151, with the 5th coming in the Sussex Stakes when he ran creditably and was only beaten by 2 lengths. His form in fields of 13 or more is 100060, and the time he clocked on his penultimate start in the Celebration Mile Stakes at Goodwood really sets the standard here. I make him a very nice bet at 3/1.
Beat The Bank 3pt win 3/1 (Bet365, Skybet, William Hill, BetVictor, Betway, 888Sport)

Irish Grand National Runner-by-Runner Guide

Tout Est Permis is a 6yo second season chaser who has hit form this season since moving to Noel Meade’s yard, winning all three starts. He began by winning a handicap chase off 128, was raised 10 pounds and won a grade 2 handicap chase off 138, was raised another 12 pounds and won a grade 2 by a short head from Sub Lieutenant, from whom he was in receipt of 3 pounds. That was over just 2m4.5f and he was staying on very well – the more impressive start in terms of stamina was his penultimate win over 3 miles, when he won by 5 lengths under hands and heels. He went up another 7 pounds for his last run to a mark of 157, a tough task for this race, but his improvement so far this season has been at a much greater rate than the handicapper could account for and he has clearly been kept fresh for this race, skipping the spring festivals to come straight here after his last run in January. Under the care of Mouse Morris he never tended to hit form in the spring (587 at the end of last season) but coming here fresh may be a plus – he won his first start over fences after a break of 248 days and won his first start for Meade after a break of 174 days.

3 from 3 and rapidly improving since switching yards; may still be ahead of the handicapper. Has been kept for this and has run well fresh in the past, although top weight a tough ask in this race.

Dounikos ran in the Grand National at Aintree just a few weeks ago and this has to be the first issue addressed – will that race have taken too much out of him? He was treading water and pulled up before two out looking like a tired horse. The fact that he won at Punchestown in February after running the majority of the Thyestes just 17 days earlier probably does give hope in this regard. A return to a right-handed track should be a plus, with his form going left-handed now reading 94P07P, and his win in the Grand National Trial at Punchestown would be some encouragement in terms of how he’ll deal with the big field (it was his first win in a field of 16 runners or more, P07F1P in such contests). This included a fairly disappointing run in this race last year when carrying 8 pounds less. He has also failed to fire at the end of the season in the past, winless from 6 starts from March to May (this bears stark contrast to 3 wins from 5 in October and November, albeit in easier races).

Pulled up in Grand National and hard to know if that will have taken too much out of him. Win in Grand National Trial at Punchestown enhances credentials but carries 8 pounds more than when pulled up in this last year.

Jury Duty also ran at Aintree, but this is probably less of a concern than it would be for Dounikos, as he unseated at the 20th fence and was running well at the time despite a mistake at the first. His form from earlier in the season is mixed, but an easy win over 3m2f at Down Royal as a prep race for Aintree and a good 3rd in the Galway Plate off 7 pounds less than his current mark are encouraging. He has been a fairly consistent horse throughout his career, placing on 17 of his 23 starts, with the 6 exceptions coming in the Grand National, two grade ones, a bumper, his first start over hurdles and the National Hunt Chase at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, when he unseated when struggling 3 out. The main concern here is his mark, which is now higher than it has ever been, but the fact that he was travelling so well at Aintree does give cause for optimism.

A consistent type, making the frame 17 times from 23 starts. Stamina not a concern and was travelling well when unseating at the 20th at Aintree.

The Leinster National may not have been the strongest grade one ever but a comfortable win in that race gives Pairofbrowneyes very solid credentials coming here. He didn’t run his race in the Paddy Power Chase or the Thyestes before that, although he was badly hampered in the former and never recovered. Replicating the Naas form would put him right into the mix here but his rating his 9 pounds higher today.

Leinster National win was impressive, form before that this season was poor. Raised 9 pounds for that run but a similar performance today would put him in the mix.

Total Recall’s win at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2018 made a mockery of his hurdle mark of 125 and supposedly put him into the picture for the Gold Cup and Aintree National in the months that follows (he went off 7/1 favourite for the latter). However, in both of these races he ran too keenly, pulling hard and failing to settle, and this looked to be his undoing. He failed to get involved in the Punchestown Gold Cup a few weeks later. His 6 length defeat at the hands of Al Boum Photo in Tramore on New Year’s Day doesn’t look like bad form now, and I suspect that the winner that day might turn out to have been an above average Gold Cup winner (Punchestown might tell us more in that regard, with the form not working out brilliantly so far at Aintree). However, he was then beaten 10 lengths by today’s top weight while giving him 6 pounds, and I think that it’s unfortunate for him that his official rating has only dropped by one pound since he was given a rating of 156 after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy in December 2017. He’ll have to settle well and jump well in order to have any say in today’s race.

Has had issues in terms of jumping and settling, well beaten twice this season but at the hands of subsequent Gold Cup winner and today’s top weight. Rating only dropped one pound since raised to 156 after Ladbrokes Trophy win in 2017.

It’s fair to say that we haven’t seen the best of Shattered Love this season, and she has had excuses on her last few starts. She was jarred up on unsuitably good ground in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, and was found to have post-race ataxia (essentially a lack of coordination) after the Gold Cup. I had hoped that she might run a big race there, but the only doubts were over her stamina and if that was a concern then, it would have to be one again here over 2 and a half furlongs further. She also showed all of her best form on last season’s unusually soft ground and seems to have been inconvenienced by the dry weather throughout this season. Watering is currently taking place at Fairyhouse in an attempt to produce good to yielding ground for the race, but it seems unlikely that it will be anything like last year’s slog.

Not seen to best effect on good ground this season, would appreciate more of a cut than today. Undoubtedly talented but also question marks over stamina.

A Toi Phil actually ran quite well in the Pertemps at the festival and then finished out the National in 12th, but this has him back up to a rating of 151. He has won twice on good ground, but that was during his novice chasing season and, like Shattered Love, he seems to have a real preference for a softer surface (6 wins from 16 on soft or worse, 2 wins from 17 on anything better). He also hasn’t really shown his best form in big fields (1 win from 13 in fields of 8 or more, 7 wins from 20 in fields of 7 or less), so I’m happy enough to pass up on him considering his position towards the top of the weights.

Seemed to be finding old form when 4th at Cheltenham. 12th in the Aintree National and that might have taken a bit out of him. Would probably prefer a softer surface and best form is in smaller fields.

Acapella Bourgeois was running a fine race from the front in the Martin Pipe after a break of over 400 days but stumbled on landing at the second last. He may have been shuffled around a small bit when trying to get back into the race, but certainly lost his rhythm and preceded to be passed by the majority of the field. He went on to win easily at Clonmel next time from Yorkhill (it’s obviously difficult to know what to make of that form). He has been campaigned over around 2m4f this season but a grade 2 win on testing ground over 3 miles at Navan just over a year ago gives definite hope in terms of stamina (Road To Respect and Anibale Fly were among those behind him that day). He might prefer more of a cut in the ground (4 wins and 3 places from 9 starts on soft or worse) but his Clonmel win was on good ground and it had dried out a lot at Cheltenham by the time he put in his good performance in the Martin Pipe. His Fairyhouse form reads 313P and his form when back out within 5 weeks reads 21143411621 – 5 wins from 11 and a further 3 places, with unplaced efforts coming in a grade one novice hurdle, a beginners’ chase and the RSA Chase.

Hard to know what to make of Clonmel win but was running well in Martin Pipe on previous start when a mistake ended his race. Stamina not a concern and runs well after a short break – might be another who would prefer it softer.

Any Second Now was a fine winner of the Kim Muir under Derek O’Connor at Cheltenham, and the sheer amount of money for him before the race, along with his performance, suggested that a mark of 143 must have been lenient. That race must have been the plan for a while and as such it’s hard to know what to make of his form before that, and therefore hard to know whether raising him 7 pounds to 150 was enough – although one would think that it probably is. His staying ability it proven, although one question would be his jumping – it wasn’t an issue at Cheltenham, but prior to that he had made plenty of mistakes over fences this season. I suspect that he’ll sit towards the top of the market, and I’ll be inclined to look elsewhere.

Impressive Kim Muir winner off 143, handicapper may have him in his grasp now off 150. Stamina not a concern. Although jumping wasn’t a problem at Cheltenham, it has been in the past.

Monbeg Notorious never really got involved in the Aintree National, nor was he able to get involved in graded company on his previous starts this season. He did win the Thyestes and a grade 2 novices chase last year, but he’s more or less handicapped to that old form and hasn’t really been given any allowance for him poor performances so far this year. The good weather this season has probably worked to his disadvantage, but he won’t find it much softer today (4 wins from 9 starts with “heavy” in the going description, 2 wins from 8 starts on better, one of which was on yielding to soft). Off a mark of 150 and on fairly quick ground, I’ll be happy to leave him alone.

Hasn’t been suited by the good ground this season and is still handicapped based last season’s graded successes on softer ground.

Minella Rocco is a horse who is obviously well handicapped off 148 if he returns to his best form which saw him win a National Hunt Chase and finish 2nd in a Gold Cup behind Sizing John (and just ahead of subsequent Gold Cup winner Native River). He was running relatively well in the Aintree National before a bad mistake at the 20th fence brought his race to an end. He will like the quicker ground but you get the impression that the Aintree National had been the plan for some time and although the Irish handicapper has been kind to him, he’ll still have to find more than his recent performances – this season he was beaten by a total of 53 lengths in his first two starts and failed to complete in his next two.

Well handicapped on old form and wasn’t running badly in the Aintree National before a bad mistake, but that was the long-term aim and he would have to improve on recent form.

Snugsborough Benny hit some decent form last summer, winning a novices chase in Down Royal before finishing 3rd in a Galway Plate trial in Limerick and then winning the Blazers handicap chase at the Galway Festival. All of this form was on good ground, so we can safely conclude that, unlike some others, he won’t have any trouble with the relatively quick surface today. He put in a fairly poor display over hurdles on his seasonal return before unseating in the Paddy Power Chase over Christmas, and then won a 5-runner race in Fairyhouse with some good horses behind him. He was raised to 145 after that victory which puts him 17 pounds higher than his last handicap win, but it’s easy to see the case for him – he has a preference for good ground (5 from 10 on yielding or better, 1 from 10 on yielding to soft or worse), is a course winner and has some solid form in the book.

Should like the quick surface and beat some good horse over 2m 7½f here in February. Rated 17 pounds higher than when winning at the Galway Festival last summer, though, having gone up 9 for his last win.

Burrows Saint is only a novice but that hasn’t been an issue in this race in the past, and he won a grade 3 at Limerick with considerable ease last time out. That win would suggest that stamina shouldn’t be an issue, and he’s the type who seems to be quickly improving over fences. He was raised 7 pounds for his last win but he might be progressing quickly enough to defy that. He actually managed to place in grade one company at this time last year after disappointing in the Martin Pipe, so if he sees similar improvement over fences, he could be in the mix here.

Improving from start to start over fences and might still be ahead of the handicapper, who has raised him 7 pounds for his last win in a 3 mile grade 3 at Limerick.

General Principle won this last year, although he did carry 8 pounds less that day. There are a few strong trends in his form. The first is right-handed tracks – his form going right-handed reads 1622F21154153, including finishing 5th in this race in 2017 and in the Thyestes last January. The second is soft ground. He certainly benefitted from the difficult conditions underfoot in this race last year – his form on soft or worse going right-handed reads 12F211415. You could argue that he ran a fine race in this race the year before last on ground that will closer resemble today’s, and did so carrying just 3 pounds less than he will today. However, in both of the last two years he came into this race having skipped both Cheltenham and Aintree, whereas this year he ran in the Ultima (on ground that should have suited but his jumping was very poor) and the Grand National (where he fell at the 19th fence). At a price he would be interesting, but due to the fact that he won the race last year he’s short enough in the betting and I’m happy to leave him alone.

5th in this two years ago carrying 3 pounds less, won it last year carrying 8 pounds less. Right-handed form is solid but he would prefer a cut in the ground, and may not be overly fresh having run at both Cheltenham and Aintree.

Auvergnat was pulled up in the cross-country at Cheltenham but that was off a tough mark of 158 and he’s back off a more workable 143 here. That’s still a good bit higher than when he won the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas (131) but he did win that race by 7 lengths, and behind him were the likes of Any Second Now, Dounikos, General Principle, Snugsborough Benny and Pairofbrowneyes, all higher in the weights today. He finished off last season well, winning the La Touche Cup, and his form in April and May reads 4113. However, that win last season was after a very creditable effort to finish 4th in the cross-country at the festival off 152, and his performance this year, albeit off 6 pounds higher, was far from encouraging. One theory to explain this could be the ground; he has 4 wins and 4 places from 15 starts on yielding to soft or worse, and just 1 win and 2 places from 12 starts on yielding or better. This could work to his disadvantage today, but the Paddy Power win at Christmas was on good. He’s a difficult puzzle to crack and a hard horse to discount.

Pulled up in the cross-country at the festival last time out, Paddy Power win (beating plenty of these who are now rated higher) is encouraging and confirms that he can be seen to his best on this ground, but it was off a mark 12 pounds below this.

Isleofhopendreams was an excruciatingly close second in this race last year, carrying just 3 pounds less than he will today. He came into that race in similar form (he was 2nd in the Punchestown Grand National Trial last year to Folsom Blue and was 2nd in the Leinster National this year to Pairofbrowneyes, carrying 6 pounds less than him and will carry 12 pounds less than him today). All of his wins have come in big fields and at right-handed tracks, but, like plenty of these, he would rather if there was more of a cut in the ground than there will be today – he has finished outside of the places on all five starts with “good” in the going description (85P0P), and all of his wins have come on soft ground or worse. If the rain came, it would be easy to see his claims here, but he looks like he’s ground dependent in that sense. His one good performance this season came in the Leinster National (pulled up in both of his other two starts) and it was on yielding to soft ground.

Carries just 3 pounds more than when going close in this last year, good prep finishing 2nd to Pairofbrowneyes in the Leinster National and is 6 pounds better off with him today, but form on ground with “good” in the description is 85P0P and all wins have come on soft or worse.

Blow By Blow’s chasing career got off to the perfect start with a win in Galway and he then came within a neck of winning a (possibly below-standard) grade 2 at Punchestown. However, it has been downhill from there, finishing 7th in the Drinmore, 18 lengths back in 3rd at Christmas, pulled up in January, 6th of 6 in February, pulled up in the Leinster National and pulled up at Aintree after a wind op. He was struggling early on at Aintree and was pulled up around the 19th fence, never really looking like doing much. A return to a right-handed track can be seen as a plus (21132147127 compared to 11613P6PP) but in the past his season has teetered off in April (last year he won in Thurles in February and then won the Martin Pipe before failing to make the frame at either Fairyhouse or Punchestown) and it’s possible that he needs a rest and could come back a better, fresher horse next season (111311 after over 30 days off).

A promising novice chaser at the start of the season but he hasn’t shown much promise in his last few starts and will need to find plenty of improvement here.

Valseur Lido ran creditably in the Grand National off a mark 5 pounds higher than today’s. He has a decent record at Fairyhouse from earlier in his career (1163) and in April (1261280). 6 of his 7 career wins have come at right-handed tracks, but all 7 were in relatively small fields, with form of 080000 in big fields. In truth, he would need to improve a lot on his current form to be in the mix here.

Creditable 10th in the Grand National but would need to improve significantly and has never been successful in big fields.

Woods Well had seemed out of his depth in grade 2 company all season before winning a grade 2 handicap chase over 2m 5½f at Leopardstown in March, and then defied a 6 pound rise to finish a creditable 5th in the Topham Chase. He might have been 17 lengths behind that day but he was hampered and ran on late, looking like a horse that would benefit from a step up in trip. That was a bit of a surprise as he hasn’t shown great form over further in the past, failing to win on all 13 starts over 3 miles or further and only placing once. He has been unplaced on all 10 starts in fields of 16 or more, although the creditable performance in the Topham may put those concerns to rest to an extent. He has also been unplaced on all 5 previous starts in April, and although the track should suit, he seems to have a specific set of ideal conditions which aren’t present today.

Finished a creditable 5th in the Topham and looked like he would appreciate the step up although unsuccessful in the past over further. Poor record in big fields and at this time of year.

C’est Jersey has yet to win over fences for Willie Mullins and has been given a mark of 140, something similar to what he has achieved over hurdles thus far. He was well beaten in last year’s Coral Cup at Cheltenham but did show himself to better effect in big handicap hurdles at Fairyhouse (5th) and Punchestown (2nd). This season has been a bit quieter – he was 3rd of 7 in a maiden chase on New Year’s Eve, finishing 3 lengths behind Ballyward (they were on level weights and Ballyward is now rated 150, although the winner that day only managed 7th in the Close Brothers). C’est Jersey then went to Gowran and finished 3rd of 17 in a maiden chase which is working out quite well – the winner was subsequent Arkle winner Duc De Genievres, the runner-up was Tower Bridge who came 2nd in the Close Brothers, and back in 4th was Burrows Saint who has won both starts since, including a grade 3 and comes into this race off a mark of 144. All thing considered, you could argue that he runs here off a nice weight. He has only won twice in his career since moving to Mullins’ yard, but he has hit form in April in both of the last two seasons, and his form at right-handed tracks (3125233) is better than left-handed (210P0).

Maiden over fences but arguably runs off a nice mark considering the form of his Gowran 3rd. Has hit form in April in both of the last two years and course form is 3rd of 15, 2nd of 8, 5th of 20.

Out Sam finished 4th in the Thyestes, 18 lengths behind the winner, and was left on the same mark next time out Downpatrick when pulled up.  His jumping would be my primary concern – he has made mistakes on the majority of his starts this year and he also has a tendency to go out to the left a bit. He’s another who would prefer a cut in the ground – 4 of his 5 wins came on soft or worse, with just 1 from 12 on good to soft or better. He has been left on 140 which is a fair mark but the ground and jumping would be concerns for me today.

4th in Thyestes last January off this same mark but disappointing last time out and jumping may be a concern. Would probably prefer a cut in the ground.

Gun Digger wasn’t running a bad race in the four miler at the Cheltenham festival, although it’s hard to know from that early stage whether he would have had any impact. He was a long way down the field in a seven-runner grade 3 before that, a disappointing performance after a very nice maiden chase win over Christmas, beating horses in 2nd and 3rd which are now rated higher than him. He hasn’t actually won over any further than 2m 5f, but the fact that Elliott entered him in the National Hunt Chase suggests that stamina isn’t a concern. As a novice he would be interesting but there are others in field who have shown better form.

Fell when going well in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham but it was too early to know how he would have fared. Maiden chase win over Christmas is good form but he would have to improve from that.

Whisperinthebreeze won at the Dublin Racing Festival and was given a mark of 146 by the British handicapper as a result. This was a bit harsh, as it excluded him from running in his preferred Cheltenham targets and the only option left for him was the National Hunt Chase. He fell there and while that was the first fall of his career, there have been plenty of other jumping errors which might be accentuated in this energy-sapping test in a big field. We also don’t know just how well he’ll stay, as he was arguably outstayed on his only start over more than 3 miles (albeit carrying over a stone more than the winner). His mark now looks fair and he shouldn’t be written off. He’s also one of the horses in the field which won’t mind the good ground, with form this season of 25221 on good before falling on testing ground at Cheltenham.

Fell in the National Hunt Chase and there have been a few jumping errors since he went chasing; not sure how well he’ll stay but good ground isn’t a concern.

Roaring Bull was 6th in the Close Brothers, 29 lengths behind the winner. This is probably not a fair method to assess any of the other finishers in the Close Brothers as it seems that the winner was a graded type hiding in handicap company, and Roaring Bull was 16 lengths behind Tower Bridge in 2nd. He didn’t show anything spectacular at Limerick last time, beaten by just over 4 lengths by Burrows Saint (Roaring Bull is 6 pounds better off in the weights today) but he did show some promise off a much lower mark earlier on this season. The main positives would be his course form (2nd and 1st in maiden chases over 2m and 2m5f in December and January) and the ground (11621413 with good in the going description, 133F6F6 on worse).

Looks to be around the right mark here, did show some promise off a lower mark earlier this season. Will like the faster ground and finished 2nd at 1st here over shorter trips over the winter.

Forever Gold is 12 years old but runs here off his highest mark to date, having shown himself in a positive light a number of times in graded company over the last few years. It’s possible that he could do the same this season, but his form coming into April in 2017 was 021, and last year it was F2UP before finishing 3rd in this race (both years he had won or placed in graded company). This year, his form reads 0007 and his 14th of 20 at Navan was the only time that he finished within 40 lengths of the winner (he was 17 lengths back that day). He is a Fairyhouse specialist, having run here 14 times and placing on 6 of those occasions, but he was in better form coming into the race last year and still carried 10 pounds less, so he’s not a betting prospect this time around.

Has been there or thereabouts in graded company on occasion, but form this year is 0007. 3rd in this race last year but had shown better form than this season and carried 10lb less.

Bellow Mome was 3rd in the Leinster National, 10 lengths behind Pairofbrowneyes and about 5 lengths behind Isleofhopendreams. He was in receipt of weight from both and although he’ll be in receipt of a bit more weight today, they did have him well held. That Leinster National form was his best yet – he didn’t make an impact in any of five graded contests since his maiden chase win, and unseated on the one occasion that he ran at a lower level. He was just about leading around the second last when he unseated Ruby Walsh, and that’s an interesting performance considering the fact that it came at a right-handed track – his form going right-handed reads 1181U0, with the 8th in a big handicap hurdle at Sandown and the 10th in the Thyestes. His form going left-handed reads 48463. If it could be argued that he’ll improve from the Leinster National due to a return to a right-handed track, then he could run a decent race here.

Leinster National 3rd was an improvement and he has only been raised 1 pound for it. The rest of his best form is on right-handed tracks so if that does bring about improvement he could run a good race.

Kimberlite Candy comes over from England and his form going right-handed reads 1133, compared to 1P553P41195 going left-handed. He was last seen finishing 5th in the Eider at Newcastle, and his win over 3 miles at Ayr last November suggested that he’ll relish the long trip here today. The ground might be a concern (he has 2 wins from 3 on heavy ground) but he has won once on good to soft, along with the Eider 5th. He seems to enjoy large fields, with his disappointing starts generally coming in smaller contests (just one win and no places from 6 starts in fields of 7 or less, 4 wins and a place from 8 in fields of 8 or more, with form of 11P1P1935). His form in fields of 8 or more at right-handed tracks is 113 at starting prices of 12/1, 13/2 and 20/1. It’s difficult to weigh up his form against the Irish contenders, but he doesn’t look completely without a chance.

Right-handed track and big field will suit, and stamina shouldn’t be an issue. Last seen finishing 5th in the Eider off 3 pounds higher.

Measureofmydreams was well fancied when 8th in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham under Jamie Codd. Now 11 years old, he’s just the type of horse that Gordon Elliott can often squeeze some improvement out of when there doesn’t seem to be any left – however, the major concern with him is his jumping, and this was an issue at Cheltenham, where he threw himself at a few fences. It would have to improve significantly today in order for him to be in contention.

Well-backed 8th in the Kim Muir but jumping probably let him down. Wouldn’t be unlike Elliott to get some improvement out of him but jumping is a concern.

Shady Operator was 7th in the Close Brothers last time out and although hampered at the fourth last, he didn’t look like he was going to make much of an impact at the time (there was one mistake that caused him to lose his place slightly). Stamina shouldn’t be a concern here as he stayed on well to win over 3m 1f at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. Going right-handed does seem to be a plus (121221 compared to 347 going left-handed) but none of those right-handed runs were at this sort of level.

Looks like a proper stayer and right-handed form is 121221, but this is a big step up.

Arkwrisht fell in the Kim Muir and unseated in the Punchestown Grand National Trial, so jumping looks to be a concern from the offset. Before that, he finished a long way back in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and was pulled up in the Troytown. In other words, he has a lot to find on recent form. The one piece of encouragement that you can find in his form would be a close second in the Kerry National in September 2017, although that was on heavy ground which seems to be a preference, and it was the only time that he managed to make the frame from 13 starts in fields of 12 or more runners. He has also only made the frame once from 13 starts after a break of over 30 days and has been unplaced on all 5 starts in March and April.

Has a lot to find on recent form. Jumping is a concern. Kerry National win in 2017 would give hope but he’s rated higher now. Would probably prefer more testing ground, a smaller field and a more recent run.

Selections:

Yesterday the main bet was advised, which was 1pt e/w on Auvergnat at 33/1. 22/1 is the best price available at the time of writing so we can be happy enough with the price that we got.

There has been a massive drift on top weight Tout Est Permis this morning, and he’s now widely available at 20/1, with William Hill going 22/1, and bigger prices on the exchanges. I realise that top weight is a tough ask but I just suspect that his progressive profile suggests that he’s a step ahead of the handicapper, and I think he’s worth a small interest at that price.

Acapella Bourgeois is going relatively unnoticed in the market and I’ve seen a few people writing him off on the basis that he won’t like the ground. However, his win over Yorkhill last time out was on good ground and I think that 33/1 looks like a nice price.

Finally, C’Est Jersey’s weight could be lenient and he has hit form at the time of the year in the past, so it would be no surprise to see him back in the picture today. 20/1 looks more than fair.

Tout Est Permis 1pt win 22/1 (William Hill)
Acapella Bourgeois 0.5pt e/w 33/1 (888Sport, Sportingbet)
C’Est Jersey 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (general)
Already advised: Auvergnat 1pt e/w 33/1 (4 places, 1/4 odds)

Other points to note today:

3:15 – Champayne Lady has form of 1213 at right-handed tracks but generally prefers smaller fields. It’ll be interesting to watch today to see if she runs well again going right-handed.

4:20 – Crosshue Boy was our bet in the Scottish National and we never got a run for our money as he fell relatively early on. He’s running today over a trip which is far from his optimum, but it is his time of year and he has had a recent run. It’s a competitive race and I suspect that the plan is just to pick up some prize money on the way to another target. If he turns up at Punchestown, he will have had a recent run under his belt and would be an interesting betting opportunity. I’ll be watching closely today.

Fairyhouse Easter Sunday Preview & Selections

It was a profitable day yesterday with an 8/1 place and a 7/2 win. Today we have high quality racing at Fairyhouse for the beginning of their Irish Grand National meeting:

2:50 Fairyhouse – It’s no surprise to see that Honeysuckle is very popular in the betting here, as she had leading claims in the Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival before being forced to miss it through injury, and one would imagine that this has been the plan ever since it became clear that she wouldn’t make Cheltenham. She does have to face horses that she would have faced at Cheltenham – most notably Eglantine Du Seuil, who won the race under Noel Fehily, and Tintangle in 3rd. I thought that Tintangle was probably the one to take from that race. She travelled very well throughout but got checked around the last and had to switch right. She possibly lacked the tactical speed when it became time to quicken but she stayed on very well to take 3rd and looked like the extra few furlongs would suit. Another beaten Cheltenham horse that I wanted to keep an eye on was Salsaretta in the Albert Bartlett, who was held up at the back of the field but didn’t settle well off a very slow pace. She came through the field well but she wasn’t able to mount a challenge having run keenly early on. She looked like she’d just need a more strongly run race, so the drop back in trip would suit.

Now, the only reason that I’ll want to take on Honeysuckle and Eglantine Du Seuil is price (although you could argue that the latter is overpriced, as is often the case with a horse that pulled off a major shock last time out. She hadn’t run in 6 months before Cheltenham so it would be no surprise to see her improve here). At 13/2 and 12/1 respectively, I think that both Salsaretta and Tintangle are reasonably priced, and I’ll split my stakes between the two.
Salsaretta 0.5pt win 13/2 (Bet365, Skybet, BetVictor, Unibet, Coral)
Tintangle 0.5pt win 12/1 (general)

4:25 Fairyhouse – Mengli Khan, generally considered an unpredictable, up-and-down type, headed the ante post betting at 15/8 but has been joined at the top of the market by Real Steel and Voix Du Reve. Early in his hurdling career it was often said that he would be a better horse on better ground, but whether this was the case is debatable, with one of his best runs coming in last year’s Supreme Novices on a very testing surface. He has now been seen to good effect twice at Cheltenham and has also won both of his two starts at Navan, which might suggest that he is more suited to a stiffer test than Aintree would have offered him last time out. Fairyhouse’s finish is uphill, but it’s not comparable to the type of challenge that a horse encounters at Cheltenham or Navan, and one would wonder whether Mengli Khan would have been better suited to the undulations of Punchestown. He’s a horse that I’m looking forward to seeing in future on a more testing track, maybe in more testing conditions and possibly even stepping up in trip to 3 miles, but I’m not quite convinced that today’s conditions are ideal.

Winter Escape looked like an exciting prospect when taking to fences until disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival, finishing 6 lengths behind La Bague Au Roi. The form from that race hasn’t worked out brilliantly, with La Bague Au Roi and Hardline both failing to fire next time out, and so we would have to forgive Winter Escape that run in order to side with him today. The fact that he’s back going right-handed (form of 132111 compared to 110505 going left-handed) would seem like the main reason to do so.

The most likely scenario is that Voix Du Reve will jump off in front and try to make it a case of “catch me if you can”. While this did work for him a few times earlier in the season, including in grade 2 company, his jumping has been an issue at least to some extent on every appearance to date and siding with him here might be a bit of a leap of faith. That said, the small field should play to his tactics and this has been the case in the past – his form in fields of 7 or less reads 21113F, compared to just 1 win from 11 starts in fields of 8 or more.

Cubomania also has a good record in small fields (2113141 in fields of 7 or less) but these have generally been in much less competitive contests than this one (3rd of 5 in a grade 3 and 4th of 6 in a grade 2, but the highest level at which he has won was listed). On bare form, he should find some of his competitors today to be too good (although he did beat two graded winners last time out in a listed contest at Thurles).

Real Steel didn’t appear to be up to the required standard in the JLT (and therefore in theory has 9 lengths to find with Mengli Khan) but the form from that race is working out quite well, with Lostintranslation beating Topofthegame next time out and Kildisart also winning on his next appearance. All 3 of his career wins have come at right-handed tracks, with form of 1P411 compared to F50F6 going left-handed, and this could be the key to his form. Notably, one of these wins came at Fairyhouse, making him one of only two course winners in the field (along with Mengli Khan).

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at this race and am essentially going around in circles – there are now 4 horses practically together at the top of the market and I think that the market has it more or less right. In the past, you could narrow this race down by trying to avoid those horses which had been to Cheltenham, but this isn’t really the case anymore, with a Cheltenham winner having won the race last year and considering the fact that the race falls so far away from Cheltenham this year. I’m going to leave this alone – it should be a great race to watch regardless.

Others to watch today – in the 3:25 at Plumpton, Legal History is back out for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore. He’s not a betting prospect for me but he’ll just be interesting to watch as he looked excellent when winning at Ascot and Exeter the last twice. He’s up to 126 now and it will be interesting to see whether he can continue to defy the handicapper and turn out to be a really good horse.

Irish Grand National – this evening, I’ll be posting a full runner-by-runner guide to the Irish Grand National along with my bets. The way that I approach this race is by looking at each runner, drawing up a tissue (not the easiest task with 30 runners!) and comparing. The theory is of course that we’re not necessarily looking for the most likely winner, but for what we perceive to be the most value. While it’s likely that there will be more bets in the race tomorrow, the biggest gap between my own prices and the available odds was Auvergnat, who can still be backed at 33/1 with Coral and Sportingbet (both of whom only pay 4 places but will still offer ¼ odds unlike the bookmakers paying extra places). I’m going to have 1 point each-way.
Auvergnat 1pt e/w 33/1 (Coral, Sportingbet, ¼ odds 4 places)

Saturday Selections Across the Cards

It’s not often that you’ll catch me backing a 4/6 shot but Kachy duly obliged yesterday, showing that terrific early pace to get straight over to the rail and tear off in front. George Bowen ran on well to grab 2nd and is probably one to keep an eye on (the majority of his career starts have been on turf but his all-weather record is striking, with form of 183812) and he also brings Richard Fahey’s form in that race to 121132. The other results came courtesy of Alben Star and Kimberella, and it’s just something to keep in mind for next year.

There’s a lot of racing taking place today with 8 meetings across the UK and Ireland, but, perhaps unsurprisingly after the quality of the racing that we saw midweek and will see at Fairyhouse, none of it could really be described as incredibly exciting. As usual, I’m just going to run through the cards and point out anything that’s worth noting or keeping an eye on, along with a couple of bets. I’m currently studying the Irish National in depth and will more than likely be having a few bets in that race on Monday. The grade one novice chase on Sunday looks a bit trickier at the moment with only five runners, but I’ll post my thoughts on that tomorrow.

2:05 Haydock – Casa Tall was one that I took from the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, running a fine race but failing to stay the trip in the business end. He looked like a step back to around 2 miles would suit perfectly, and he gets it today. I tend to be cautious about putting up a horse each-way in a 16-runner race in case there’s a non-runner, in which case the race suddenly turns from the perfect each-way race to a tricky one. However, William Hill have made this a 6-place race, which makes it perfectly reasonable to have a nice bet on Casa Tall, albeit not at the best available price. If we were to back him at 9/1 with Betfair we would get ¼ the odds, but would only be getting paid out on 4 places, with the risk of getting paid out on just 3 with a non-runner. With Hills, we’ll get paid out on the first 6 places even if there are as few as thirteen runners.
Casa Tall 1pt e/w 8/1 (William Hill, 1/5 odds 6 places)

2:30 Cork – we’ll see the winner of the Irish Lincoln back out again tomorrow, but Karawaan has been raised 10 pounds for that effort. You might argue that he was flattered by a favourable draw in the Lincoln, but Colin Keane’s comments after the race that he would come on for the run mean that he has to be considered interesting – one would imagine that any horse being prepared for the Lincoln is fairly forward at this time of year anyway. The 10 pound hike in the weights means that he could be within the grasp of the handicapper, and he’s sure to be short in the betting. Katiymann might be a bit more interesting – he made his reappearance at Leopardstown on Trials Day and could be backed at 11/1 the morning of the race before being backed into a starting price of 7/1. He was drawn out wide and never really got the chance to make an impact. I had been hoping to see his mark drop by a few pounds afterwards, though, and he was left on 87. At 10/1, he seems to be more or less found in the market.

2:35 Kempton – Nausha is one to watch here – she’s currently between 33/1 and 50/1 for the 1000 Guineas and 25/1 for the Oaks after an nice debut at Newbury last October. That form isn’t working out too badly; the filly in 2nd, Spanish Aria, won a class 3 race next time out and is now rated 83. The 3rd was Madame Tantzy who also won next time out and went on to compete in the Fred Darling Stakes last weekend (albeit finishing last). The Newbury run was Spanish Aria’s fifth start so Nausha should be open to more improvement and if she shows potential here then she could be one to keep an eye on.

3:35 Musselburgh – Tor hasn’t been seen since January when he ran very keen at Wolverhampton but did well to finish just 3 lengths behind the winner, almost getting 3rd. He’s back on turf today, on which he has won 5 races from 21 starts (0 from 8 on the all-weather). He’s a course and distance winner off 85 (he runs off 90 today) and I just thought that 25/1 was a little bit big. It’s not a confident selection but obviously if we keep correctly identifying overpriced horses, we’ll win in the long run.
0.5pt win Tor 25/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral)

4:10 Cork – Globe Theatre didn’t do anything spectacular at Naas but he did shape like a colt in need of a run, as is often the case with an Aidan O’Brien horse at this time of year. I had been keeping an eye on him more on the basis that he could now run in a handicap, and 15/8 is too short, but he’s still one to watch.

4:15 Kempton – Treacherous is a good stayer for 6f and he did well to finish 2nd in a slowly run 6f race last time. He steps up today in terms of class and 10/1 looks big. However, he needs a truly run 6f to be seen at his best (he has won over 7f) and I’m not too sure where the speed will be coming from here. Exchequer looks likely to lead, but none of the others are established front runners, which is putting me off having anything other than a small bet. If they go fast enough, he shouldn’t be 10/1. The question, though, is whether they will go fast enough. If they do go slowly and he runs creditably, he’ll be one to keep an eye on – he has become very consistent since a wind op last autumn, with form of 2331112.
0.5pt win Treacherous 10/1 (William Hill, BetVictor)

5:15 Musselburgh – Super Julius, who we were on last week when 2nd, is back out off the same mark, 5 furlongs, good ground, cheek pieces – it’s the very same argument as last time. I wasn’t too keen to follow him again as I thought he’d be around the 2/1 mark, but 7/2 is tempting enough to give him another chance. I suspect that he’s still well handicapped and was just unlucky to run into a horse who was better handicapped last time out.
1pt win Super Julius 7/2 (Skybet, BetVictor, Boylesports)

5:20 Cork – I backed Grandmaster Flash when he was beaten by a length from a bad draw at Leopardstown last time out, on the basis that he would appreciate the step up in trip to 10f. He did appreciate the step up and I wouldn’t write him off from a better draw here today, donning cheek pieces for the first time. It is a big field, but 4/1 is just about big enough for me to have an interest. At slightly crazier prices (100/1, to be precise), Kefallonia did come in for a tiny bit of support before the off last time out, was held up and never really on terms but he did look to be staying on from the back. My first thought was that a step up in trip would suit and he gets one today, and 100/1 is just a little bit insulting to his chances.
0.5pt win Grandmaster Flash 4/1 (general)
0.5pt win Kefallonia 100/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

That’s a total of 5 points staked. Best of luck and enjoy the racing.