Monday, 30 September 2013

Forty national hunt horses to follow 2013-14

1. Annacotty – Martin Keighley
Consistent in lower grade handicap hurdles last season (struggled a tad when stepped up in class) and has already made his mark in the point to point sphere, so every right to expect a profitable campaign this season. Debuts over fences under rules tomorrow at Chepstow and can kick off this project on a positive note.

2. Arbeo – Diana Grissell
Fairly progressive last season, though probably wants soft ground or 3 miles to be seen to best effect in handicap chases. Only 7 and still a useful prospect.

3. Bar De Ligne – Steve Gollings
The return of Gollings to the list! Whatever are things coming to? Rubbish debut over fences when apparently suffering stomach ulcers, but then ran out a handy winner in front of well-regarded Grandad’s Horse in the Summer, jumping well out of good ground. Should do well at around 2 ½ m.

4. Big Occasion – David Pipe
On this list last year and was a slow learner over fences, hitting the bar too many times for comfort. But he got his act together very well for the Midlands National and then ran into a good ‘un in the Scottish National. Obvious Welsh National credentials.

5. Carole’s Spirit – Robert Walford
Half sister to Carole’s Legacy, a distinguished former resident of this list. Looks to have a bit of stamina about her and one to take note of at around  2½m and up in novice hurdles this term.

6. Champagne West – Philip Hobbs
Related to Monsignor, scalper of Best Mate back in the day. Also has RSA Chase winner One Knight in his bloodline, who gave me one of my biggest and best Festival wins. What else is there to say? Except that breeding counts for bog all over the jumps. And that he failed to win his rules debut. But he did shape well. And he has winning point-to-point form, so could go straight over fences. Should relish a trip, too.

7. Diamond King – Donald McCain
Unbeaten in bumpers, winning a heat in April by 19 lengths. He clearly has some ability and will be interesting if he can translate that to hurdles.

8. Harry Topper – Kim Bailey
This resurgent trainer has been handling this one carefully. Unbeaten in the chases in which he has completed, he ended the season on a downer, unseating Timmy Murphy at Kelso and then being brought down early in the Grade 1 novice chase at Punchestown. Top prospect for 2013-14, though.

9. Ifyouletmefinish – Venetia Williams
Knuckled over on his only chase start last season when he looked a likely winner against a decent Easterby yardstick. Solid hurdles form to take into novice chases, despite that one blip. Left Jeremy Scott in the early Autumn.

10. Imperial Vic – Michael Smith
Likes to get his nose in front and seems to possess the stomach for a fight too, so should be a thrilling to follow in novice chases this year. Soft ground seems to suit and 3m looks the trip.

11. Jezki – Jessie Harrington
The Champion Hurdle is shaping up to be such a fantastic race this season. Already. And I reckon I say that every year. With a classic old guard (Hurricane Fly, Grandouet, Rock On Ruby) versus new pretenders (Our Conor, My Tent Or Yours, The New One) scenario bubbling away, Jezki is the beast I’ll be going to war with. He was arguably a tad unlucky in last season’s Supreme and possibly lacking in experience too. At Punchestown he won very well and looked more complete.

12. Katenko – Venetia Williams
Good quality staying chases will be his game again. Became exciting to watch last year before colic wiped out his chance to run in the Gold Cup. Colic is a nasty thing and there’s a risk that this one won’t recover to build on his pulsating season. But there’s a chance he will too.

13. Legal Exit – Jim Culloty
Back to the breeding lines again. This novice chaser is related to Lucky Bay, another very old friend of mine whom Culloty rode when trained by Hen Knight. This one was stuffed by Champagne Fever in the Deloitte at Leopardstown last season, but picked up a decent race at Limerick in April, beating a fair sort in Bonisland. Seems versatile as regards ground.

14. Le Reve – Lucy Wadham
Staying novice chases this season. Another gutsy type who seems to like a scrap. Only 2 from 5 over hurdles, but enough promise to suggest his trainer will find suitable openings. 

15. Many Clouds – Oliver Sherwood
Looked class for a lot of last season, but blew up in the Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle at the Grand National meeting when I’d decided that was the race to pile in. Punter error: soft ground seems to be required and I’m on a recovery mission with him.

16. Melodic Rendezvous – Jeremy Scott
Tolworth Hurdle winner who I was convinced was set to break my duck in the Supreme before he picked up a late injury. That Supreme now looks like good form and whether he would have been in the mix is hard to say. But has a good turn of foot, even though he rarely encountered his favoured ground and will be more than interesting.

17. Midnight Minx – Anthony Honeyball
Campaigned in bumpers last year where took three average events before showing up well in the big mares bumper at Sandown in the Spring. One for the growing number of mares only hurdle races in the programme book. Another up and coming trainer.

18. Mrs Eff – Philip Kirby
I’m a big fan of the down to earth P Kirby and this one goes in the book as one of his half decent handicap hurdle types for a low profile campaign.

19. O’Faolains Boy – Rebecca Curtis
One for staying novice chases. Improved all season last year, including decent effort in the 3-miler at the Festival, albeit slammed by At Fisher’s Cross. Fine prospect if form on the Point To Point circuit means anything.

20. On The Bridge – Jeremy Scott
Handicap hurdler, most probably. He has gone up 47lb since August last year, I note. Campaigned over the Summer, which I never really warm to in a winter prospect, but after a rest it will be intriguing to see where his progress levels off.

21. Oscar Rock – Malcolm Jefferson 
This one seems to be on a lot of lists for this season. And no wonder after his eye-catching win in Newbury’s very decent bumper in February, when in the care of Harry Fry. Now with Jeffferson, looking forward to his hurdling debut.

22. Our Vinnie – Charles Byrnes
Dour stayer who gives everything. Best on soft or deeper. Love his spirit and has a touch of quality about him. Staying novice chases likely to be the game this season.

23. Pendra – Charlie Longsden
Overfaced in the Coral Cup, but previous efforts were all very sound and with more experience he should be a force in handicap hurdles. Could be a chaser this year as well. 2½ m could be best trip.

24. Pine Creek – John Ferguson
Good record in novice hurdles and then a creditable effort in the Imperial Cup. Still looking progressive and fancied to get his head in front again this season. 

25. Rare Legend – John Joseph Hanlon
A dark horse. Just one fair effort over the sticks as a novice behind Willie Mullins’ Suntiep. But already one win and two places from three PTP outings and would appear to be plenty of scope to make a mark.

26. Red Devil Boys – John Ferguson
Another that everyone has on their lists. Obvious really. Very impressive win at Doncaster in big field novice hurdle and another two bumper wins. And he’s Ferguson horse that is not a flat bred!

27. Red Sherlock – David Pipe.
Out of Shirocco – another mate of mine and by Lady Cricket. Related to Swing Bowler. Flashing tail when asked for pressure. Come on!

28. Sausalito Sunrise – Philip Hobbs
Picked on the back of a decent 3rd to McCain’s Up And Go at Ascot in February. That was only his second run. Out of Villaflor, which is a really nice town half way up Mount Teide in Tenerife. Am I taking this breeding stuff too far?

29. Seymour Eric - Martin Keighley
Another from the yard of a trainer I’ve a soft spot for. This horse makes the list courtesy of Roy Waterhouse who spotted that this gelding was the winner of the last ever jumps race at Hereford on 16th December 2012. Won three more since then and embarks on a chasing campaign this term where 3m will suit when the mud is flying up by his sheepskin cheekpieces.

30. Sire De Grugy – Gary Moore
Enjoyed a spectacular end to the season with a tanking victory in the Celebration Chase at Sandown on ground that would not have been ideal. I’ve been a fan of this horse since his handicap hurdling days. He seems to be still improving but any chance of real success this season depends on him avoiding Sprinter Sacre.

31. Suntiep – Willie Mullins
Staying novice chases this year are possible. Seems to jump well with plenty of dig in the ground. Unbeaten so far and maybe one of the lesser lights in the powerful Mullins barn.

32. Swing Bowler – David Pipe
Out of Lady Cricket…. Ran a really poor race in Quevega’s Mares Hurdle at the Festival, but a fair 3rd in the Betfair Hurdle and previously unbeaten suggests that race may have been an aberration. Prepared to give her another chance this term.  

33. Theatre Guide – Colin Tizzard
Maximum respect for the Tizzard team after the way they campaigned Cue Card last season. This one is leagues way from that class – he couldn’t lay a finger on Dynaste at Newbury and struggled at the Festival in the Byrne Group Plate -  but he was a decent novice and there should be scope if placed to advantage in staying handicap chases on no worse than soft.

34. The Skyfarmer – Philip Hobbs
Last season's steady improvement in bumpers hopefully bodes well for progress this.

35. Tolkeins Tango – Victor Dartnell
Modest rather than spectacular progress over hurdles last term. But fancied to pay his way this.

36. Trustan Times – Tim Easterby.
Has run very well in competitive hurdles, though probably found out in the Long Walk Hurdle as a touch below top class. Seems genuine enough and presumably connections will want to chance his improvement back over fences where his mark is lower.

37. Upswing – Jonjo O’Niell
Unexposed hurdler who has recorded just one win. But plenty more expected this year as a chaser. Seems happy in the mud and will probably handle a trip.

38. Up To Something – Charlie Longsden
Well touted last season, but didn’t really live up to expectations. Admittedly given some tough assignments and not all of that form has worked out. Signs of his real ability in final outing though and given another chance here to make a decent fist of fencing.

39. Wilde Pastures – James Ewart.
He pulled off a three-timer in handicap chases last season and consequently took a hike in the weights. He was very keen final start and maybe that explains the one-pacedness rather than the weight. So he’s here in the hope that there is still more to come at around 2 ½ miles.

40. Zarkandar – Paul Nicholls
Only because the step up the three miles is intriguing. The staying divison has a cloud over it with the likely absence of Big Buck’s ‘til later in the season and Solwhit can be ground dependent. This horse doesn’t owe me a penny. Massive respect. And he’s a half brother the world’s finest filly, Zarkava. It’s basically about time I had him in my list.

Friday, 13 September 2013


Some interesting and informed previews are kicking around for the final and oldest classic of the season tomorrow.

Jamie Lynch from Timeform takes a readable and informative sire's view and Steve Miller from the RP's Weekender uses the fine-grained Dosage Index (a matrix of performance and pedigree, apparently) and have both come up with Excess Knowledge. Oddschecker jumps that way too, though its scientific application is less well pronounced than the aforementioned posts. John Gosden's charge, winless this season though with a string of good (and unlucky) efforts to his name, is currently heading the market.

By contrast, Aiden O'Brien's Leading Light is unbeaten this season but has been drifting slowly for much of the week. But he is not friendless in this straw poll of the preview circuit. Professional handicapper, Ged Egan's preview for At The Races is a pace-influenced, entertaining analysis that sides with the Coolmore No 1.

There is some nervousness about putting up Galileo Rock, even though he is mentioned in glowing dispatches everywhere. And that's because the uncertain weather forecast and possibility of the wrong conditions put his appearance in doubt. If there's anything worse than tipping a loser, it's tipping a non-runner. But that doesn't concern Tony McFadden, another of Timeform's luminaries, who sticks to the facts about the David Wachman beast. He also has a strong word for the filly and Oaks winner, Talent.

Jack Milner at Horseracing chat puts up Great Hall as the value punt whilst his colleague at the same blogsite smacked down the readies on Foundry earlier in the week. That's where I'm headed too. Backing on potential as usual.

A couple more tips for big outsiders merely underscores the fact that this is a very open and competitive renewal.  Sporting Life plunges for an outsider in Godolphin's second string, Secret Number on the basis of stamina and the trainer 'knowing how to win this' (!) Talking Horses puts up a small each way wager on their third string, Cap O' Rushes, still at 20-1 in the odd place.

Take out the rags Ralston Road and Havana Beat and we find every horse has its support amongst our preview sample, bar the Dante winner Libertarian. But I wouldn't take that as an indicator of his chances. He'll be out there somewhere, I just can't face reading another bloody preview!

Helpful? Possibly not.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Speed kings

Today will be a rare late Summer Saturday empty of commitments and devoid of distractions. There is not even much football or cricket to divert me from a proper go at the races.  This will make a change.

So taking my cue from the televised schedule:

1.55 Ascot – 7f Class 2 handicap
Not the easiest of starts. An open-looking and valuable handicap over a distance where it often pays to regard previous experience. That doesn’t help much here however. A field deep with campaigners hardened-off like frost-resistant perennials boasts 15 winners at the 7f trip. Six have winning track form too. ‘Highly tried’, I think, is the term for the majority of these boys with plenty of inconsistency and patchy form. This will have to be a cautious opening to the day. An each-way fun bet on Light Up My Life at 25-1. She has some decent form in listed company behind some good sorts (Stoute’s Integral) and ran well enough here in the Sandringham to suggest the track will be no problem. Needs to overcome a couple of moderate efforts the last twice. The price reflects that.  Only a three year old so shouldn’t be bottomed out yet.

2.05 Haydock – 5f Class 2 handicap
The big field sprint handicaps are hunting in pairs this afternoon. Prohibit is a real old war horse and there are a couple of others here who may be feeling their age. Hard to say that about Harrison George, 13-2, though. At 8, he’s landed a pair of fair handicaps this season. The track has copped plenty of rain and there are showers around today. George likes a bit of juice. Backing a horse on the basis of the prevailing atmospheric conditions is just one of the many follies I’ve adopted over the years. Time to dust it off here. Another I like is Above Standard but he looks to have a preference for good to firm, and connections turn to a hood in the hope of eeking out some improvement.

2.20 Kempton – 1m4f Group 3
Group races on the sand in England. Whatever next. Tasty little contest this, though. Royal Empire has taken big steps forward with every race this season, but 11-4 is a little short for my liking and can be opposed, bearing in mind the penalty he brings here. Main Sequence has a bit to prove since his 2nd in the 2012 Derby. Last year’s Arc 3rd Masterstroke, 5-1, is the boy for me. He will have come on a bundle for his seasonal reappearance at Goodwood when he was too fresh. Oodles of form last year. The small risk is whether he takes to the surface.

2.40 Haydock – 1m Group 3, Superior Mile
Decent enough race but I can’t find an angle to get Montiridge beaten. Looks to be well on the upgrade and has solid form at this level. But evens is never attractive (too many burnt fingers). There doesn’t look to be enough rain around to give Tawhid a realistic chance of reversing his most recent Goodwood encounter with Montiridge. Nine Realms is still progressive, though a bit unknown at this level and on this going.  The bet is a small exacta that sees the Haggis horse squeeze home behind Hannon’s gelding with Tawhid out of the picture. I may reverse it because I’m an optimist.  

2.55 Kempton – 1m Class 2, London Mile
Another valuable, big-field handicap where a case can be made for many. Market leaders Ehtedaam and Seek Again re-oppose after an informative clash at this venue last month. Clockmaker was deeply impressive when streaking away at Chester last week and seems to take his racing well. The worry is that was a bit out of character and he won’t be able to repeat the trick with an extra 7lb on his back. Graphic won well last time, but still looks a short price on the balance of his overall form. He beat Postscript into 4th in that race. Postscript is now double the price of Graphic even though he is pretty consistent at this level this season. I feel like I’m groping a little here, but am able to persuade myself through sheer bloody-mindedness that Simcock’s charge is a solid enough each way shout at 16-1. Needs to be ridden to come late from a wide draw. Possibly.

3.15 Haydock – 1m6f class 2 handicap, Old Borough Cup
Clowance Estate ran with a sliver of staying-on credit when we pitched up at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago. He may not yet have fulfilled all his potential (and I don’t know if he enjoyed McFly). Stepping him up a little bit further is definitely worth a try and it’s another each-way thievery job at 14-1 if I’m quick.

3.30 Ascot – 1m4f class 2 handicap
The day’s most valuable handicap, exclusively for 3-y-os, and 13 of them – most boasting upwardly mobile profiles - look like turning out. Elhaame, 9-1, is my pick. He has made great progress and can win ridden prominently or come through the field. His progress has not been as eye-catching as market leaders CafĂ© Society or Special Meaning, though. The latter has gone up 30lb this season and will be exciting to watch with her front running style (others in the race like to dictate too) and this race should be a great spectacle.

3.50 Haydock – 6f Group 1, Sprint Cup
Channel 4 saving the best ‘til last. By then we might have a proper view of the ground conditions. That will be crucial for favourite Lethal Force. Anything like a decent surface and he will be hard to beat. Conversely, any more rain getting into the ground will strengthen the hand of Gordon Lord Byron. Garswood is interesting, but it’s hard to judge what his best trip is. Never won at this trip, but effective at 7f on easy. I’m looking long here (oh, how many times…) and playing Heerat, 14-1, who has improved all season – trainer, Haggas has been in superb form – and put up his best showing when returned to this trip in July. Seems versatile as regards the ground and could well be in the mix.

And that’s me done. On Sunday I’ll be found in front of the e-bay screen attempting to hawk off our few remaining sticks of furniture (shirts having already gone) to raise funds for next week’s assault. Don’t try this without a responsible adult, kids.