Saturday, 25 April 2015



I’d certainly prefer the rain to stay away for the opening race at least, as I’m convinced that Unanimite needs the ground to be genuinely quick to show his best form. He caught the eye in the Fred Winter when finishing strongly from a poor position, but rain on the morning of his latest outing at Ascot was of no benefit to him, and he finished fourth to Lil Rockerfeller, who reopposes here. The blinkers worn by Unanimite at Ascot are retained, and I fancy that he can reverse form as long as the going is riding good or faster. The uncertain forecast, on top of watering precludes me from making him a full selection, but if the worst of the rain fails to arrive, then I’ll be attempting to recoup losses incurred at Cheltenham.

2.35 BET365 OAKSEY CHASE (2¾M)

Menorah was a facile winner of this contest a year ago, and seems ideally suited by the test provided by this unusual course and distance. He started the season in great form before running unaccountably poorly in the King George, and while he didn’t fire in the Betfair Bowl at Aintree, is expected to bounce back to form back at Sandown. It’s worth remembering that he ran a similar race in the Aintree feature a year ago before landing this contest, and he looks to hold strong claims in a race lacking genuine depth. Al Ferof is feared on his best form, but tends to be at his best when fresh, so it was disappointing to see him run moderately in the Melling Chase at Liverpool. He’s better than that run implies, and is another who falls between two stools in terms of trip, but simply doesn’t hold his form well enough to merit support.


With Tony McCoy taking just two rides at Sandown, both are sure to be conservatively priced, and I’m not keen to back the mercurial Mr Mole at the predicted odds. He won the Game Spirit well enough, but only after thinking about planting himself at the start, and again looked less than keen when the chips were down in the Champion Chase. Similarly, it would take a brave man to back Sprinter Sacre after his tame capitulation in that contest, and Nicky Henderson’s assertion that he would never be any better than he was in March rings further alarm bells. If the former champion is to bow out on a low note, then this may not take a great deal of winning, and it’s hard to escape the claims of Champion Chase third Special Tiara. True, the selection was behind Somersby there, but unlike that rival, he won’t shrug aside a winning opportunity, and his bold jumping, such a joy to behold at Kempton earlier in the campaign, is tailor-made for Sandown. He promises to be a fine sight over the railway fences, and if given his head from flagfall, will be very hard to peg back.

3.50 BET365 GOLD CUP (3M5F110Y)

Without doubt my favourite race of the jumps calendar, with my earliest memory of the race coming courtesy of the wonderful Diamond Edge, who won the race twice, and helped create the most compelling finish ever in a jumps race when going down a short head to Special Cargo in 1984 on what was to be his final appearance. The race might not have the same lustre these days, but Sandown’s topography always makes for a great spectacle, and this year should be no different. There are some quality horses on show in this year’s renewal, but the top four in the weights all have a bit to prove in my eyes, although they do keep the weights down for my selection, Grand Jesture. Henry de Bromhead’s seven-year-old is progressive over fences, and ran a cracker to be second to The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham last month. Testing ground saw him bypass the Irish National, and he’ll be better suited by underfoot conditions at Sandown. The son of Gold Well isn’t entirely straightforward, and he looked quite a handful prior to the start of his latest race, but once underway, he did little wrong, travelling and jumping with notable fluency, and giving best only to one who was well ahead of his mark. Able to race off the same mark here, he’s undoubtedly the best handicapped horse in the field. He doesn’t need a marathon trip, and stamina is a slight concern, but one I’m willing to take a chance on.

Le Reve is an obvious danger having finished a fine second in the BetBright Chase at Kempton, and he’s very likely to turn the tables with Rocky Creek, who ran well below form in the Grand National, and will find this coming soon enough. Paint The Clouds was no match for On The Fringe in the Foxhunter, but the winner again looked an improved performer when winning the Aintree equivalent, and Warren Greatrex’s hunter chaser looks feasibly weighted off just ten stone. Roalco de Farges was runner-up in this as a novice, and had Scottish National winner Wayward Prince behind when runner-up at Ascot four weeks ago. He’s not easily dismissed, and is worth including in exotic bets.



I included Off Art in my 10-To-Follow last season, but he was unsighted after running below form when favourite for the Thirsk Hunt Cup almost a year ago. He’d preceded that effort with an excellent fifth in the Lincoln, and looked likely to improve further given how he shaped that day, and that his Lincold effort came on just his third handicap outing. Confidence in him can’t be high after such a layoff, but he’s still lightly raced, and the type to outrun his current mark if over whatever has ailed him. That fact alone makes him worth chancing at the best morning odds.


SPECIAL TIARA 3.15 Sandown – 2pts win @ 4/1 (Ladbrokes)

GRAND JESTURE 3.50 Sandown – 1.5pts e/w @ 12/1 (Boylesports)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon with Montaff

2.55 Wetherby - Racing UK 1 Price 3 Devices Novices Handicap Hurdle 

It's possible I need my bumps feeling for doing so, but I’m inclined to give one more chance to MONTAFF, who is essentially disappointing, but retains plenty of ability and could easily blow these away if consenting to put his best foot forward. Once a pattern-class stayer on the Flat, he’s yet to show much over hurdles, including on handicap debut at Fakenham last time. It’s easy enough to forgive any horse a poor run at that idiosyncratic track, however, and the wide open spaces of Wetherby look much more suitable here. He’s more likely to sulk around than he is to race with enthusiasm, in truth, but that is compensated for in a price drifting towards 20/1. 


1pt win Montaff @ 18/1 (various)

Friday, 13 March 2015

Take Road To Riches on Final Day


SILVINIACO CONTI: A surprising failure a year ago when looking sure to win between the last two, but finished weakly. Has since rebuilt his reputation thanks to cheekpieces and treatment for gastric ulcers – the latter a decidedly contentious subject in itself. Has the best form in the book, but it still niggles that he’s never won on a genuinely stiff track, and the Gold Cup is not the sort of race where practice makes perfect. Vulnerable to an improver.

MANY CLOUDS: Underrated as a novice, and has thrived as expected in his second season. Reported to have had “a serious wobble” after winning an attritional Hennessy, he deserves huge credit for coming back to land the BetBright Cup at this course in January. An enormously likeable gelding, he relishes a fight, and would be seen to best effect if the ground came up testing. Recent rain is a plus in that regard.

ROAD TO RICHES: One of a pair of Galway Plate winners among the market leaders, he has improved markedly for a change of regime, and still looks to be progressing at this stage. Workmanlike in some eyes when landing the Lexus, he struck me as one who was overcoming adverse conditions, and is definitely undervalued by the market. It was amusing to hear his trainer talking up the favourite when asked about his chances recently. Big player.

DJAKADAM: Too young as a six-year-old to win a Gold Cup, according to the experts, but so were Golden Miller, Mill House, Long Run and others. He certainly lacked experience when falling in last year’s JLT, and plenty wrote him off after pulling up in the Hennessy. That looked a premature call when he returned to demolish his rivals in the Thyestes, and he’s the darkest horse of all in the contest. A bit more experience would be a plus, but he’s not taken lightly.

SUMMARY: Many Clouds has really come of age, and the rain which has hit Cheltenham today brings him strongly into contention, but narrow preference is for Road To Riches, who defied heavy gorund to win the Lexus with more in hand than the distances suggest, and he’s capable of taking his form to new heights now.  Djakadam lacks the experience to make him a confident shout, but remains a horse of tremendous potential, and is feared most.  

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Make It A Knight To Remember

4.40 Cheltenham - Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir

Clondaw Knight is one who has been on my radar since he scored on his chase debut at Kelso last season, although it’s only on his last two starts that he’s fully confirmed that abundant promise, winning hard held at Wetherby before an excellent second to Carole’s Destrier at Ascot. On both occasions his jumping has been impeccable, and he simply did too much too soon on the second occasion (also reported to have lost a shoe). The upside to that defeat was that the handicapper has kept him on a mark of 140, which looks very workable. A straightforward ride, he has yet to finish out of the places since switched to fences, and appeals as the type to keep progressing now he’s come of age, while the booking of the experienced Corky Carroll is another plus. Victory would be an emotional one for Lucinda Russell and owner Sandy Seymour, for whom this horse is a replacement for the brilliant but ill-fated Brindisi Breeze.


1.5pts e/w Clondaw Knight @ 20/1 (general)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

No Winter Of Discontent for Pipe Followers

4.40 Cheltenham - Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle (2m110y)

Much the hardest event of the entire week to handicap, the Fred Winter can be a graveyard for followers of the market, but this is a race which tends to be run at a furious gallop, and it’s paid to stick to classy ex-Flat racers who are better able to cope with the frenetic pace that their NH-bred counterparts. One who looks to have been laid out for this is David Pipe’s UNANIMITE, who ran well from a mark of 94 on the Flat in December. He has had only the minimum number of runs over hurdles to require a mark, winning a modest affair at Market Rasen in September, and was trying to concede weight to Golden Doyen and Hargam in the Prestbury Hurdle here in November. He is bed to appreciate a fast surface, and avoided deep ground when trained by Keven Borgel in France.


1pt e/w Unanimite @ 16/1 (general)

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Serge To Glory

1.30 Cheltenham - SkyBet Supreme Novices' Hurdle

A race wich has been dominated by Douvan in betting terms, and misquotes from Willie Mullins that he's "the best I've ever sent to Cheltenham" (sic) have seen bookmakers duck him in the ante-post market. He's clearly a big talent, but he's still an unfulfilled talent after winning just one ordinary Grade 2 contest in two starts for Mullins. As a result of his profile, it's impossible to be adamant about the limit of his capabilities, but the Supreme is a race which asks some very stern questions of an inexperienced horse, and as the likes of Best Mate has shown in the past, class is not enough on its own to win.

On the other hand, L'Ami Serge has experience aplenty, as well as clearly superior form in the book. Plenty will crab his win in a small-field Grade 1 last time, but he was impressive, and the form of his win in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury in November has worked out exceptionally well, with the winners of the Betfair and National Spirit Hurdles in his wake. That form had another small boost when Astre de La Cour won at Stratford, and whatever way you analyse the form, Nicky Henderson's charge looks a standout. Douvan may improve enough to beat him, but I prefer what my eyes tell me, and there is only one way I can bet here.


2pts win L'Ami Serge @ 7/2 (general)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Repeat Guest Should Be Entertained

6.45 Kempton - 32Red com Handicap ( 1m2f) 

I'm keen to take on the quirky Tryster in this handicap despite the Godolphin runner having won his last two. He was the winner on merit at Chelmsford on his return, but swerved badly across Gaelic Silver there, and plenty believed that the runner-up should have been awarded the race. It's interesting given that view that Tryster is odds-on today, whereas Gaelic Silver is no less than 9 lbs better off, yet available to back at 16/1 in a place. The winner seemed to improve when scoring again at Wolverhampton, but he had the race set up for him with the front pair getting involved in a speed battle from the halfway point. The leaders tired noticeably in the final furlong, and I believe that the visual ease of Tryster's victory was potentially misleading. That said, he's clearly improving at the right time, and may will bring up the hat-trick, but I see no value in his current odds.

It's harder to make a case for Rebellious Guest, but he shaped a fair bit better than the bare result at Lingfield last time (Beach Bar second), and has been gradually easing in the weights on the back of a barren run. His form last spring would give him an excellent chance, and he won this corresponding event from a slightly higher mark a year ago. He's not easy to catch right, but keeps hinting that the old ability is still all there, and it's merely a matter of time before he clicks. The booking of Jamie Spencer is a positive for a horse who needs finessing.


1pt win Rebellious Guest @ 7/1 (general)