Friday, March 16, 2018

Showdown in Richmond

This could end in tears. As we saw recently in the England/Scotland match, hunger and intensity are the deciding factors when two evenly matched teams collide. I feel that a sorely aggrieved England will bring huge intensity into this match. Farrell is the fulcrum around which the team revolves and he should always be played at out half - as Jones now realizes. The pit bull Hartley is back also and you know England are going to play a brutal pragmatic game. The Irish pack is stronger - especially in the back row but I worry about our backs - especially defensively. England’s lethal back three, Watson, Daly and May could exploit this weakness. It’ll be very close but if it becomes a goal kicking competition I fear the worst. Farrell will not falter. Based on the crucial importance of home advantage and the hunger born of injured merit I suspect England will win

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cheltenham Day 3 - A Few Terse Thoughts


The least distinguished of the three days and apart from the Stayer’s Hurdle it’s hard to get excited about the quality of the racing. However that doesn’t mean that we won’t be piquing our interest with a few (hopefully) judicious bets.

JLT Novices Chase

The term “Novice Chase” strikes fear into the heart of any serious punter. Approach with caution. I think that Henderson’s Terrefort (4-1) is a reasonably safe conveyance so the race should concern him and Mullins’ Invitation Only.

Pertemps Final

Another handicap hurdle lottery. There will be a few Irish dark horses lurking but I like Philip Hobbvs’ Louis’ Vac Pouch (8-1) and Jonjo O’Neill’s Forza Milan (12-1).  McManus has a few runners so we must of course check out the betting late on.

Stayer’s Hurdle

I’ve always liked Jessica Harrington’s horses in staying hurdles and Supasundae (8-1) looks a likely sort especially given his course form. I also like Yanworth who returns to hurdling from chasing and is trained by another expert in staying hurdlers – Alan King. I think Sam Spinner’s winning run will be ended by the competitive realities of Cheltenham (like Black Colton yesterday).

Mares Novice Hurdle

There is no need to look beyond Mullins’ Laurina. Maria’s Benefit winning run will end here.

Kim Muir

A race to avoid but you know you’ll have a bet. I’ll have a few bob on Sugar Baron – a piquant combination featuring Nicky Henderson and Katy Walsh.





Cheltenham – Day 2 – Post-Mortem


Again on Day 2 there are a couple of foregone conclusion races where my interest will be Platonic – Altior should win the Queen Mother Chase and Samcro should confirm his reputation in the Ballymore, both at restricted odds. I’m more interested for betting purposes in the handicap hurdle races: the Coral Cup and the Fred Winter. And I have a fancy for one in the final race the Bumper.

Overall Post-Mortem:  A good day for those who stuck to the championship races and followed form. Alterior, Samcro, and Presenting Percy were all eminently predictable. You can enjoy the quality in those races but where’s the betting fun in following favourites. A disappointing betting day for me with only a few placed horses. Alterior’s win gave me an ante-post double with Footpad which provided a little balm for my wounds.

Ballymore Novices Hurdle

Samcro has been touted as the biggest certainty at the meeting – and a future great. We shall see – his biggest danger is Mullins’ Next Destination and it’ll be a surprise if they’re not first and second. My eye is drawn to the 80-1 on offer for Mind’s Eye. He has been hammered by Samcro and ran a stinker when favourite at Leopardstown in early February. However that race was too short for him and his novice jockey made too much use of him. Henry de Bromhead always does well at Cheltenham and unless he’s in as a pace maker for Samcro (both owned by Michael O’Leary) he might sneak a place.

Post-Mortem: Samcro won as predicted with Next Destination third. His win, however, was more workmanlike than brilliant. Maybe the going was a factor. Mind’s Eye plugged on into 10th and having lurked at the back of the field throughout was clearly not a pacemaker.

RSA Chase

Two Irish horses dominate the betting for this, Presenting Percy and Monalee – the former has formidable course form and should be thereabouts. My old school-friend Joe Donnelly runs Al Boum Photo who could make up for his disappointment at Melon’s narrow defeat yesterday. However, I’m going to look beyond my compatriots to Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton at 9-1. He’s won twice at Cheltenham and is ultra game. I suspect he’s slightly below Grade 1 class but hope that his proven courage will get him up the hill in front.

Post-Mortem:  This was dominated by Presenting Percy and Monalee as the betting suggested. Presenting Percy was very impressive and we’ll be hearing more about him. Black Corton jumped poorly throughout and on this show is just not in this class.

Coral Cup Handicap

I do like a good handicap hurdle I do. And I am inevitably drawn to Nicky Henderson’s horses who always seem to do well in the big ones. (Call Me Lord was beaten a whisker in the Betfair last Saturday causing me much financial distress). William Henry at 8-1 is the obvious choice but I prefer Burbank further down the weights. He tried chasing unsuccessfully and made a promising return to hurdling in January. Based on last years novice form he has a good ew chance at 16-1.

Post-Mortem:  The Henderson horses finished 4th and 7th and at least gave me a run for my money in a field of 27. The winner was a Mullins outsider who could not have been predicted apart from the fact that he was trained by Mullins whose horses are always trying.


Queen Mother Champion Chase

Nobody likes a short-priced favourite that is reported as being lame a few days before the race. Alterior reportedly had a hoof infection which necessitated some pus being extracted. We’re told he’s fine now but I notice he’s drifted out to 11/10 from odds on. He’s a Cheltenham specialist and if fit should win. Otherwise Douvan is waiting in the wings. No bet in this.

Post-Mortem:  Alterior’s win was the highlight of the day. I had him in an ante-post double with Footpad so at least I made a few bob. He wasn’t at his best in the going but his fabulous jumping and gameness saw him through.


Cross-Country Chase

The novelty event (over banks and bushes) is normally won by an Enda Bolger horse or a Gordon Elliot one – Bolger particularly has had any number of course specialists over the years. Causes of Causes trained by Gordon Elliot will be everyone’s fancy but I’ll take a punt on The Last Samuri at 13-2. He’s a guaranteed stayer having come second in the Grand National and if he takes to the eccentric course shouldn’t be far away. A small bet only.

Post-Mortem: The Last Samuri was backed down from 13-2 to 11/4 favourite but could only manage third. One of Gordon Elliot’s did the business. No excuses apart from a lack of course familiarity.

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

Another juicy handicap hurdle. My Cheltenham has been rescued a number of times by decent priced Nicholls’ hurdlers and being sentimental I fancy Grand Sancy at 16-1. He has the profile of an improving horse. He’s got a low weight, will love the ground, and has been chosen by the stable jockey – Sam Twiston-Davies. This race can be very rough so luck in running is the sine qua non.

Post-Mortem: This was won by Veneer of Charm at 33-1. No study of form would have elicited him as a possible winner. That’s handicaps for you – and Irish-trained horses. Grand Sancy ran a stinker and was pulled up. Maybe he’s sick the poor pet.

Champion Bumper

This is frequently won by Irish-trained horses especially Willie Mullins – he has the 5-1 favourite Blackbow. However I’m going to go for Acey Milan (13-2) trained by the up and coming English trainer Anthony Honeyball. He has course form on heavy going and has been very impressive in his last two runs. He’s being burdened with my best bet of the day.

Post-Mortem:  Sometimes I should listen to myself. Mullins, predictably, had the winner (Relegate at 25-1) and indeed four of the first five home. My selection interrupted a clean sweep by finishing 4th and earning place money.



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cheltenham Day 2 - Prognostications


Again on Day 2 there are a couple of foregone conclusion races where my interest will be mostly Platonic – Altior should win the Queen Mother Chase and Samcro should confirm his reputation in the Ballymore, both at restricted odds. I’m more interested for betting purposes in the handicap hurdle races: the Coral Cup and the Fred Winter. And I have a fancy for one in the final race the Bumper.

Ballymore Novices Hurdle

Samcro has been touted as the biggest certainty at the meeting – and a future great. We shall see – his biggest danger is Mullins’ Next Destination and it’ll be a surprise if they’re not first and second. My eye is drawn to the 80-1 on offer for Mind’s Eye. He has been hammered by Samcro earlier in the year and ran a stinker when favourite at Leopardstown in February. However that race was too short for him and his novice jockey made too much use of him. Henry de Bromhead always does well at Cheltenham and unless he’s in as a pace maker for Samcro (both owned by Michael O’Leary) he might sneak a place.

RSA Chase

Two Irish horses dominate the betting for this, Presenting Percy and Monalee – the former has formidable course form and should be thereabouts. My old school-friend Joe Donnelly runs Al Boum Photo who could make up for his disappointment at Melon’s narrow defeat yesterday. However, I’m going to look beyond my compatriots to Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton at 9-1. He’s won twice at Cheltenham and is ultra game. I suspect he’s slightly below Grade 1 class but hope that his proven courage will get him up the hill in front.

Coral Cup Handicap

I do like a good handicap hurdle I do. And I am inevitably drawn to Nicky Henderson’s horses who always seem to do well in the big ones. (Call Me Lord was beaten a whisker in the Betfair last Saturday causing me much financial distress). William Henry at 8-1 is the obvious choice but I prefer Burbank further down the weights. He tried chasing unsuccessfully and made a promising return to hurdling in January. Based on last years novice form he has a good ew chance at 16-1.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Nobody likes a short-priced favourite that is reported as being lame a few days before the race. Alterior reportedly had a hoof infection which necessitated some pus being extracted. We’re told he’s fine now but I notice he’s drifted out to 11/10 from odds on. He’s a Cheltenham specialist and if fit should win. Otherwise Douvan is waiting in the wings. No bet in this.


Cross-Country Chase

The novelty event (up hill, down dale, over banks) is normally won by an Enda Bolger horse or a Gordon Elliot one – Bolger particularly has had any number of course specialists over the years. Causes of Causes trained by Gordon Elliot will be everyone’s fancy but I’ll take a punt on The Last Samuri at 13-2. He’s a guaranteed stayer having come second in the Grand National and if he takes to the eccentric course shouldn’t be far away. A small bet only.

Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle

Another juicy handicap hurdle. My Cheltenham has been rescued a number of times by decent priced Nicholls’ hurdlers and being sentimental I fancy Grand Sancy at 16-1. He has the profile of an improving horse. He’s got a low weight, will love the ground, and has been chosen by the stable jockey – Sam Twiston-Davies. This race can be very rough so luck in running is the sine qua non.

Champion Bumper

This is frequently won by Irish-trained horses especially Willie Mullins – he has the 5-1 favourite Blackbow. However I’m going to go for Acey Milan (13-2) trained by the up and coming English trainer Anthony Honeyball. He has course form on heavy going and has been very impressive in his last two runs. He’s being burdened with my best bet of the day.







Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cheltenham Day 1 - Post Mortem

Cheltenham – Day 1:  Post Mortem

I’m struggling to find anything I really fancy on Day 1.  There are four short-priced favourites that will probably win (Getabird, Footpad, Buveur D’Air and Apples Jade) but they are of little interest to me as I won’t bet at such short odds.  I will enjoy watching the races however. My betting interests on Day 1 will be more speculative than passionately committed.

Overall Post-Mortem:   Three first and three seconds in the six races I bet on. However, the three seconds hurt as two were beaten by necks and the third by a head. If only, If only. I ended the day with a modest three-figure profit instead of a substantial four figure one had those narrow defeats gone the other way. All the fun of the fair.

Supreme Novices

This is a tricky looking Supreme – you could make cases for 4 or 5 of them. Getabird will probably get Mullins off to a good start but I’d prefer to have a few bob each way on Kim Bailey’s First Flow (11-1) – he will relish the ground and on form would be a shorter price if he had a more fashionable trainer. I’ll have a saver Nicky Henderson’s Claimantforgan at around 14-1 - Henderson has any number of decent young hurdlers so his selection for this race is worth taking seriously. Somerville Boy at 10-1 is a danger I’m aware of.

Post-Mortem:  First Flow wasn’t good enough and Claimnanmtforgan ran reasonably. My modest saver on Somerville Lad saved me.
Arkle Chase

Willie Mullins regards Footpad as his bet bet of the meeting and I couldn’t disagree. I won’t be taking 5-4 on a novice chaser however so I will admire him win without financial interest. If he trips up I fancy Petit Mouchoir to take advantage - Henry de Bromhead has an excellent Cheltenham record.

Post-Mortem:  Footpad won easily as predicted.

Ultima Handicap Chase

This is a bit of a lottery but you keep an eye out for course form amongst the lower weights which is why Singlefarmpayment and Coo Star Sivola head the market. However I won’t touch anything under 10-1 here. I like Paul Nichols Vincente at 16-1  and will have a few bob on him and on Pipe’s promising young horse Ramses de Tailee (14-1). Pipe wins this race regularly. Shantou Flyer who I backed in his last two runs (second both times) would do me a disservice if he wins this time – I think he has too much weight.

Post-Mortem:  Vincente ran a stinker and Ramses de Taille didn’t stay. I had Shantou Flier in a double with Somerville Lad – his neck defeat cost me around €1,500.

Champion Hurdle

Nobody wants to look beyond Buveur D’Air for this and it looks as if he only has to turn up. Faugheen is shot, Melon is flakey, My Tent or Yours is too old, Elgin is a jumped-up handicapper. My ew My Tent or Yours is a non-runner so I suppose an ew bet on one of Mullins makes sense. But which one? I will observe from afar.

Post-Mortem: I followed the money and backed Melon at 12-1. Buveur D’Air won as predicted but Melon only went down by a neck. Tough luck again Johnny.

Mare’s Hurdle

Apple’s Jade at 4-7 is another shoo-in it seems. Only a fall or a sniper will stop him. Mullins’ Benie Des Dieux is being backed (he’s 7-2) and he seems the only threat.

Post-Mortem:  No bet in this but Apple’s Jade ran no race and got turned over by a Mullins horse.


National Hunt Chase

I don’t bet in novice chases as a general rule. This one has the added uncertainty factor of having amateur riders involved. Put a gun to my head and I’d say back Rathvinden – despite his being brought down and unseated his rider in his last two races. He’s more mature than most of the field and Ruby Walsh likes him (he won’t of course be riding him).

Post-Mortem: I had a modest bet on Rathvinden who won at 9-2 after a nicely patient ride by Patrick Mullins.

Close Brothers Novice Chase

Another novice chase so again I will be observing. Gordon Elliot may get his double via De Plotting Shed but if I were to bet I’d back Henderson’s Rather Be (10-1) ew. If I am desperate at this stage I might just do that.

Post-Mortem:  I did just that but he was beaten by a neck at 12-1. I only backed him for a win unfortunately.