The snow has relented in the UK and that means tracks can open again and we should get some decent racing. It has been raining over most of the country, but all systems are go and so racing shouldn’t be bothered by the weather for this coming weekend. The Cheltenham Festival is just around corner in March, so it is now vital that those with runners at the Festival can get a run into their charges. Has not been easy for those with class horses this winter, but all have done incredibly well given the circumstances and we should see those top class horses battle against each other, at their fittest, come March. This Saturday sees several Cheltenham hopefuls line up, and the Betfred Grade 1 Chase at 2.25pm certainly catches the eye. Nicky Henderson has entered up Captain Conan, and although his odds will be quite cramped, he should take all the beating. The trip and ground suits and he jumps well, so all the others will need to be in top form to have a chance of making him pull it all out. Barry Gerraghty gets the ride, as he does on most of Henderson’s horses, and he has been on record this week saying that he expects the horse to win on Saturday. Top Smart from the Seamus Mullins’ yard would be one the forecast, as with making the trip over from Ireland and having a touch of class, he could grab that second spot and give Captain Conan most to do. Betfred sponsor the card at Sandown and so, as always, it’s best to have your bets with them as of all the bonuses and special offers they will be offering. The 3.35pm race is another chase and another race that is well worth watching. The ground is expected to be soft on Saturday, so this 3 mile chase will need some getting, and a horse with plenty of stamina that jumps well will surely be winning this race. Those that fit this criteria are Cannington Brook and Viking Blond, and both will be at fair odds to win this contest. Cannington Brook will surely lead the race and it’s a case of whether others can take him late on, so worth putting a fiver on him, and Viking Blond stays all day and should be running on well at the end if all goes well. Another horse to keep an eye on in the market, is Keppols Hill from the Paul Nicholls’ yard. Does have a few jumping issues, but is getting better and better in this sphere and does stay all day long. He will like the ground and never knows when he’s beaten, so he is capable of running a big race at decent odds. Fairyhouse, Ffos Las, Lingfield and Wetherby make up the rest of Saturday’s action. Sunday sees racing from Lingfield, Punchestown and Musselburgh, with Punchestown looking the meeting to punt at. Again there will be plenty of Cheltenham pointers to have, so get those races recorded.
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The snow is starting to relent in the UK, and that is good news for connections up and down the country. However, there is still a little bit of the white stuff around, so expect the odd snow shower up north. Cheltenham should be fine for Saturday, as long as it doesn’t become too testing as the snow melts into the ground. It has been tough for connections with the Cheltenham Festival only several weeks away, as although they will have their runners in decent form, they will still need that extra bit of work that has been lost during the snowy period. Cheltenham this Saturday looks a very decent card, with plenty of top trainers and jockeys making the journey. The race that takes the eye is the Victor Chandler chase at 1.50, with the Sprinter Sacre looking to win yet again, with the main danger being the Paul Nicholls trained Sanctuaire. He could cause an upset, but will need things to drop just right and for the favourite, Sprinter Sacre to under perform a little. The ground could be on the testing side, so maybe that can bring them a little closer together. Of the remainder, William’s Wishes would appear the one to chase them home, and if he gets second place, then all concerned with him will be more than happy. Sprinter Sacre should win though, and win this well on the way to the Festival in March. Nicky Henderson, who trains him, has said the horse continues to excite him and he expects him to win on Saturday and to win at Cheltenham in March. Barry Geraghty rides him and is one of the best around, so a great combination. Somersby, previously trained by Henrietta Knight until she retired, is now with Mich Channon, and although he’s more known as a trainer of flat horses, he has had the few winners over the sticks and so should be kept an eye on for future raids at the big meetings. Apparently Somersby will need the run on Saturday, so whatever he does, he should do a bit better next time, so keep an eye on him. Doncaster and Uttoxeter have already been abandoned, but Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Leopardstown should get the go ahead. Lingfield is always a nice place to visit and they hold a 7 race card, mainly sponsored by Blue Square, so any bets should be had by them, as of offering plenty of bonuses on their featured races. The handicap at 3.10pm is of interest after hearing Ed Vaughan talking about the chances of Robin Hoods Bay. He expects this one to go very close and has booked the talents of Ryan Moore who is already booked to ride. Will handle the track and trip and should go very close to landing this race, so check the markets. Sunday’s racing looks average, with meetings being held by Fontwell, Leopardstown and Wolverhampton, with Sedgefield already biting the dust due to the weather.
Another weekend upon us, and another weekend where the weather is on the minds of all those taking part over the weekend. Snow is forecast for most of the UK on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so there is a chance that the UK will see a weekend with no racing at all – shock horror. However, there is a decent chance that at least a couple of meetings should survive if the white stuff shows its ugly face, so fingers crossed. Ascot takes centre stage on Saturday, and it will be such a shame if the meeting doesn’t go ahead and we miss the Victor Chandler (now BetVictor) chase at 3.00. Nicky Henderson’s Roberto Goldback will be fancied, as he certainly has the class, but with also having a tendency to wander, he wouldn’t be getting any of my money on his back, despite knowing he is more than capable of winning. The horse that takes my eye is another Nicky Henderson trained horse, Nadiya De La Vega. Normally jumps well enough, likes the trip and should go on the predicted good ground, so at a decent price, and with hearing that connections fancy their chances, he is well worth chucking a few quid at. Nicky Henderson will be disappointed if he doesn’t leave with some sort of prizemoney from this race, as he has four runners entered – the two mentioned along with Master Of The Hall and Quantitiveeasing. All have win claims, but the value does lie with the selection. All the top trainers have runners entered, so it should, as it normally is, be a very interesting and exciting race. BetVictor sponsor the final race on the card, another chase at 3.35, and it is that man again, Nicky Henderson, who will be the centre of attention with his very exiting chaser, Sprinter Sacre. He has won all of his six chase starts and has won over this course and distance, so although his odds are very cramped at around the 1/5 mark, he should be very tough to beat. From a betting perspective, it is worth looking for the runner to follow him home in second. My vote goes to the Philip Hobbs trained Wishful Thinking at around the 25/1 mark. Needs to up his game to get second place, but likes this track and will be more than capable of exploiting any chinks in the principals’ armoury, so stick him in for the forecast. Haydock, Kempton, Lingfield Naas and Taunton make up the rest of Saturday’s action. Sunday isn’t that bad for racing this weekend, to be fair, as although there is only two meetings on (Towcester already abandoned), there is good racing from Fairyhouse in Ireland. Kempton’s all weather card isn’t bad, but Fairyhouse is the place to be on Sunday. The chase at 3.10 is interesting, with the likes of Shelly’s Creek looking to have a fair each way chance. Trainer Flood thinks she can go well, so who are we to argue with him.
No better place to start than Kempton on Saturday and the Lanzarote Hurdle at 2.40pm. The whole meeting at Kempton is sponsored by William Hill, so any bets, as always, are best struck with the sponsors as of getting those bigger odds and bonuses. Back to the Lanzarote Hurdle itself and some good horses take to the field, none more so than Black Thunder from the Paul Nicholls yard. Harry Derham has already been booked to ride the horse, and with him taking another five pounds off the horses back for being a claimer, it all adds to the horses chances. The trip and ground should be spot on for him and Paul Nicholls has got his horses running well. The price should be around the 8/1 mark, so well worth throwing a fiver each way at this one. The main dangers look to be Araldur from the Alan King yard and Dursey Sound from the Jonjo O’Neil yard. Both should be more than capable of making the selection pull out all the stops. One at a bigger price would have to be Brampour, again from the Paul Nicholls yard. He needs to find better form than he’s shown recently, but he does have back-form to suggest he can play a hand in this and so if he comes back to his best, then he can make odds of 25/1 look very generous indeed. The Handicap Chase at 2.05pm brings us the very frustrating horse, Wessex King. He’s a very inconsistent type, and that’s very frustrating when you know he has the ability and capabilities to win races. Has won races, but like last time he disappointed. Anyhow, things do appear to be in his favour for this race and with jockey Jake Greenhall already booked to ride him and taking three pound off his back, it does appear that things could go well for him. He should be around the 12/1 mark, and so well worth a little pop each way. Others that have chances at a decent price, would be Goring One, Joker Choker and Lord Singer. It’s early days for the race and several runners may drop out, but these do appear to have chances and so hopefully they’ll take their chances. Incidentally, the weather is expected to get colder in the UK over the weekend, so although no rain is predicted, there could be plenty of frost around and some meeting may struggle. As it stands, it’s all going ahead, so let’s hope it stays that way. The other meeting for Saturday are Lingfield, Punchestown, Warwick and Wetherby, so quite quiet for a Saturday in the UK. Sunday brings in action from Fakenham, Kelso, Navan and Wolverhampton, and although it is below average racing, it is still worth a second glance if the boredom sets in, and one to side with at a price would be Tango Sky in the 3.00pm race at Wolverhampton. Dandy Nicholls’ hoping for a big run, so that’s good enough for me.
A new year upon us and already there has been some decent action up and down the country. Tony McCoy took a trip to Scotland on Tuesday and banged in a big price treble, and he goes to Scotland about four times a season, so the clue was to be had there – saying that, I didn’t back any of them! On to this weekend and action comes from Chepstow, Cork, Lingfield, Newcastle, Sandown and Wincanton. The 2.40 race at Wincanton takes the eye, as it did for Channel Four Racing, as they are showing the race live, a chase over 2 miles 5 furlongs. It is still heavy ground at most UK tracks and so the horse that takes the eye is Big Fella Thanks. He likes the trip and has proven himself on heavy ground, and with getting better and better after a layoff and with leaving Paul Nicholls’ yard for Tom George’s, he can prove too strong for his rivals on the way to a race at the Cheltenham Festival, or of course the Grand National at Aintree, so check the ante post markets. Anyhow, back to now and he should be more than capable of running a big race on Saturday. The 1.50pm race at Sandown has been spoken about quite a bit the past few days, and most talk is about the Paul Nicholls trained Doeslessthanme (stupid name). Apparently hasn’t shown as much as expected in his recent efforts and has shown more at home coming into this race. The trip and ground shouldn’t be a concern and so we should see a better display on Saturday. 32Red sponsor the meeting on Saturday and so any bets should be had with them, as of them offering enhanced odds and specials on many of the races. Sandown is a right handed, galloping, testing track, so with the heavy ground, runners will certainly need to stay the trip and a bit further. To digress, Frankie Dettori has proved he’s on his way out of racing, as he’s appearing in the UK’s Celebrity Big Brother. I know it’s not the Flat season, but surely another indication that Frankie is ready to hang up his boots pretty soon as he concentrates more on the media side of things. Good luck to him as he’s been a great jockey for many years since arriving over from Italy.
Sunday’s action comes from Plumpton and Wolverhampton, and that heavy ground will be lingering around again with more rain expected to fall. Wolverhampton has been ultra busy of late with the closure of Southwell after the track was flooded. Southwell will be back, but so much work to be done and Wolverhampton are laying on as many of their races as they can. Back to Sunday and the 2.55 race at Plumpton is worth a second glance. Petitfour is expected to run a big race for the Twiston-Davies yard, so no need to look elsewhere and just chuck a fiver each way at this one.
No better place to start on Saturday than at Cheltenham. Connections up and down the country are hoping to get their horses back here for the Festival in March and several are aiming for the Triumph Hurdle. A trial is being held for the Triumph Hurdle on Saturday, the 12.10 race, and several line up with live chances. From those who would appear capable of making the festival, I like the chances of Tidal Way from the Charlie Longsden yard. Has won his last two of three races and would be capable of improving yet again to take this and go onto the Festival. Longsden has a good batch of horses for this season and he has said that this one is one of his stable stars. The trip and ground would appear suitable, and although it’s a tough race, he should be more than capable of going close. The weather in the UK hasn’t been kind throughout the week with the loss of a few meetings, but the weather is forecast to become mild over the weekend and that means we should get good ground all over, which will be perfect for most. The Memorial Handicap Chase at 1.20 is a race that catches the eye, as with hearing Nicky Henderson in the week saying that Tanks For That has been working well, it could be a chance to go in at a decent price. The horse has pulled up in his last two races, but apparently had excuses and would be coming into this race expected to run to par. If that is the case, then he should be capable of a big run. The trip and ground (good ground expected) should be fine and so worth throwing a fiver each way at him. No jockey has been booked to ride, as yet, but if Barry Geraghty gets the leg up, then even more reason to have a few quid on, as nobody rides Cheltenham better than Irishman Geraghty. Domtaline and Oh Crick would be live dangers and also are worth a check in the market. Cheltenham is a left handed, galloping, undulating and testing track, with stiff fences and hurdles. Doncaster, Fairyhouse, Lingfield and Wolverhampton make up the rest of Saturday’s action, and remember I mentioned an 18-race card forecast for Wolverhampton with the demise of Southwell, well this Saturday they are hosting a belly busting 14 race card. The meeting starts at 2.05 and ends at 9.20 in the evening. They are having an hour break from the 5.20 race until the 6.20 race, so lets hope jockeys get enough rest in that hour!.
Sunday sees meetings from Carlisle, Musselburgh, Navan and Hereford, with Hereford looking the place to punt. The chase at 2.10 looks interesting, with Ballywatt entered up by Kim Bailey. Conditions suit and this one looks worthy of a bet. Running into form now and should be able to improve a bit, too, if he jumps as well as he can do.
Another weekend approaches and another weekend where the organisers are praying for the weather to relent. Snow has been causing meetings to be abandoned during the week, and with more snow forecast for certain parts of the UK, meetings could be disrupted once again. However, let’s hope it stays calm and racing goes ahead. Ainter, the home of the Grand National holds a decent looking meeting on Saturday and Betfred sponsor the card, so any bets should be struck with Betfred if fancying anything as of them offering bonuses and extras as of being the sponsors. The main race on the card is the Becher Handicap Chase at 2.10pm. Donald McCain has entered Ballybriggs and has said that the horse may need the run a little, but should still run a big race. He would be the class act of the field, so with no trip and ground worries, he should be capable of going well at around the 8/1 mark. The horse that catches my eye is the Tom George trained Big Fella Thanks. Formally with Paul Nicholls, this fella still retains plenty of ability and should be more than capable of showing decent form, despite unseating his rider on his comeback run last time. I usually dislike the angle in of second run back after a lay off, but this horse does appear to be quite well handicapped on his best form and if the mistake last time hasn’t had an affect, he should be able to run a really big race. Usually jumps well in the main and so with no trip and ground worries, he can go close. Others to consider in the race, at a price, are Any Currency, who stays all day, In Compliance, who comes over from Ireland, and West End Rocker for the bang in form Alan King stable. Aintree is a left handed flat track with stiff fences. Sandown also holds a decent card, with their main race being the Tingle Creek at 3.05pm. It’s over 2 miles and although it’s a shame that only seven have been entered to run, it should still be a decent race. My fiver will be going on Kumbeshwar each way, as although he lacks the class of a few others, he does like this track and is capable of showing a little better than he has of late. A big price and could be there at the end. Chepstow, Lingfield, Navan and Wetherby make up the rest of Saturday’s action.
Sunday brings us meetings from Cork, Kelso, Lingfield, Punchestown and Warwick, so plenty to think about on the Sabbath for a chance. Punchestown in Ireland looks the place to be from a class perspective and the race that takes the eye is the Punchestown Chase at 2.00pm. Sir Des Champs from the Willie Mullins yard will be well supported as he’s won his last eight races, but I have a sneaky feeling that Bog Warrior will run a big race and will be fighting out the finish. Appears to have things in his favour, so worthy of a fiver each way.
Another week of rain disrupting the UK’s racing scene, but they fight on regardless and thank God for the all weather surfaces. However, you have to feel sorry for Southwell, as with being sunk by floods a few years back and revamping the track and grandstand, they have yet again been flooded and it is so disappointing for all concerned with the all weather track and jumping track. They say they’ll be up and running again, but as yet they don’t have a date. Wolverhampton are laughing, however, as they, along with Southwell and many other smaller tracks, are owned by GG Media and they are talking about holding the main abandoned races at Southwell, at Wolverhampton. There has been mention of an 18-race card on some days; cannot wait to see how they work that out. Anyhow, onto this weekend’s fixtures and Saturday brings us action from Newbury. The Hennessy Gold Cup at 3.10pm is the race of the weekend and so let’s hope the rain stays away and we get decent ground for all to work on. The race itself is always a great race to watch, and with all the top trainers and jockeys taking part, it’s never easy picking the winner. Those that take the eye are Tidal Way from the Paul Nicholl’s yard and Bob’s Worth from the Nicky Henderson yard. Both have the class to win this race and the trip and ground will not be stopping them. Preference is for Bob’s Worth as of hearing Nicky Henderson say he fancies his chances during the week, so check the price for a little fiver each way. It’s officially soft ground at the moment, but all concerned are hoping the rain stays away and we can have good or maybe good to soft all over. Another chase follows at 3.40pm, and both are on Channel 4 by the way, and it’s the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy. All remember Jim Joel’s black colours, and with that have visions of Maori Venture winning the Grand National at Aintree. Back to the race, and Tatispout is one to keep an eye on. He won again during the week and it was a big return to form. He jumped well and made things look easy, so if he’s back to his best, then he should be more than capable of going well. Charlie Longsdon is making a name for himself and this could well and truly put him on the map. The price should be double-figure, so check the market. Fairyhouse, Newcastle, Towcester and Wolverhampton make up the rest of Saturday’s action, with Bangor-on-Dee falling to the weather.
Sunday has racing from Carlisle, Leicester, Fairyhouse and Kempton, with the latter being the meeting to concentrate on. It’s a card full of Bumper races, so although not worthy of betting in, they’ll give us all plenty of clues for the future, so get recording. The Cheltenham Bumper is getting more and more popular, so keep an eye on those non-triers flying through the pack late on!
The Frankie Dettori case is gradually coming to a close, but still nobody has a clue what substance he was supposedly using. Anyhow, French stewards are apparently close to revealing all, so the weekend should be interesting regarding Dettori and the racing world. On to the racing for this weekend and it is the weather that is the focal point as of a few meetings being abandoned during the week. The rain is expected to fall over most of the UK, so fingers crossed the meetings survive, especially the main ones. Ascot hosts a seven race card, with the Grade 2 chase at 2.10 being worthy of a second look. Nicky Henderson has entered the very exiting Finian’s Rainbow, and with hearing he’s very well in himself and ready to go, he should be fighting out the finish of this. Normally jumps well and the trip and ground’s fine, so no reason why he shouldn’t be going close. Barry Geraghty gets the ride and there is no better jockey around Ascot than him. In fact, if you can get a price on Barry Geraghty being top jockey at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival, then I would take it now as he should have a whole host of good rides at this year’s Festival. You are taking it for granted that he stays fit and well, but that’s the chance you take with ante post betting. Back to Saturday and this 2.10 race, and the dangers to Finian’s Rainbow would be For Non Stop and Ghizao, with a nice price to be had, each way, on the Phillip Hobbs trained Captain Chris who is having his first run this season. Didn’t quite shine as expected last season, but apparently still has his ability and so could go well at a big price. The other chase at 3.20 is also worth a second look, as with hearing in the week that Evan Williams is expecting a big run from West With The Wind, he could go well at a decent price. Hasn’t shown much for a while now, but apparently is well within himself coming into this race and so would be worthy of a second look. The trip and ground are fine, so no excuses can be made regarding conditions. Gowran Park, Haydock Park, Lingfield Park and Wolverhampton make up the rest of Saturday’s cards.
Sunday sees Exeter, Towcester and Navan featuring, and with the weather the way it is, it wouldn’t be a surprise is one or two meetings are abandoned. Anyhow, hopefully not as Towcester has a decent looking card with some potentially well handicapped horses. Snow Patrol in the 2.15 race is on a decent mark, so if he takes his place, then he should be more than capable of a big run. Gets in off a mark of 68 and that will surely aid him in getting another win. He’s a consistent type, so deserves another win. Jockey Colin Bolger has already been booked to ride.
Another weekend upon us, and the National Hunt season can now get into full swing after the crowning of the Champions Flat Jockey, Richard Hughes, last Saturday. Not sure why they cannot wait another month or so before they start the jumping season, as of the bad weather in and around January February seeing the abandonment of many meetings. Anyhow, I think they should put the season back at least one month and then more of the top horses can get fit and ready for the Cheltenham Festival in March. Other news worth mentioning from the past week is that of Frankie Dettori failing a drug test. As yet the substance isn’t known, but rumours suggest it could be cocaine and so if that’s the case then is could be the end of him at this late stage of his career. Hopefully, for his sake, it’s just some sort of accident and a substance that is easily taken, who knows, but it’s a shame to end a fantastic career with a failed drug test – something was obviously up due to him leaving the post of Godolphin’s stable jockey several days before! Onto Saturday and Cheltenham holds a card which is quite mouthwatering for those looking for future clues for the festival. All the big trainers have entered horses to run, and the race that takes the eye is the Paddy Power Gold Cup at 2.35. As always it’s always best to have a bet with the sponsors Paddy Power, as of all the special prices and bonuses they will be offering. The race itself looks tough to solve, as always, but a few to take a note of in the betting are Grand Crus, Hunt Ball and Forpadydeplasterer. Grand Crus looks to have a weight that suggests a run to par is needed, but he’s more than capable of that and should be able to run a big race. Hunt Ball would be around the 2/1 mark if trained by Nicholls or Henderson, etc, but with being trained by the not so popular Keiran Burke he’s a bigger prices than he should be, so is worth a bet. Lingfield, Punchestown, Uttoxeter, Wetherby and Wolverhampton make up the rest of Saturday’s action.
Sunday brings us action from Cheltenham again, and the Racing Post Hurdle at 2.50 takes the eye. Darlan will be popular under jockey Tony McCoy, but wouldn’t be one to trust here at Cheltenham and his short price makes him opposable, despite him having a winning chance. I like the chances of It’s A Gimme to be fair, as although McCoy could have ridden him, I cannot see why this one shouldn’t run a big race and go close. The trip and ground is ideal and Jonjo O’Neil has been on record saying he expects big things from this horse. Would be around the 10/1 mark, so well worth an each way bet. Cork, Fontwell and Punchestown make up the rest of Sunday’s action.