It’s been a while!

Proform

Well it has certainly been a while since the last time I rambled on. The cricket season as always takes up my time in the summer. As well as my frequent visits back to my second home in Zante. Unfortunately, the knee injury I’ve been ignoring for a year has finally taken its toll and I am pretty much done. Waiting for a specialist appointment which I’m told will take 6-8 weeks. We all know the actual spread is 16-18.

My coverage of racing has taken a back seat as per usual over the main summer months. Which is probably not the best idea considering my flat racing far outweighs my jump racing analysis. Looking forward to tackling the racing again with some gusto into the back end of the season and into the all-weather (the boos from the back of the room can be heard all round).

The first thing I’ll touch on will be the beloved West Ham. Overall I have to consider the summer a slight success. Whilst a lot of know it alls will say we were mad to part company with Allerdyce, they are also the people that don’t watch us week in week out. His gusto had gone. We started last season playing much better football, attacking with gusto and going after the better teams. Whilst I knew we wouldn’t sustain our top 4 place, to drop away like we did with such timid and poor performances it was clear the time had come. There were times in his reign that Sam got things bang on. The 3-0 win at White Hart Line was a touch of managerial beauty. There were other times when we had no plan B, selected weak teams because he felt we couldn’t win the game. He also relentlessly picked Kevin Nolan, which meant we had to play 4-5-1 to accommodate his old legs, which other teams worked out and took full advantage of. Nolan is his prime was a master at reading the game and knowing where to be. Last season, he was unfortunately way off the pace. The fact no side (even championship) has shown any interest in him says all you need. He will be Big Sam’s assistant in his next job (NAP).

So we move onto the Bilic era. I think he was the right choice for now. I like his ethos and attitude towards the game and what he wants to achieve at the club. I couldn’t give two hoots about playing kids in the Europa League and an early exit. Means nothing. English teams that get in to the group stages have terrible records in the Premier League. Our sole concentration, should be on going to the Olympic Stadium next year on the back of a top ten finish and progress. A massive positive is the signing of Payet from Marseille. He looks a classy player with the ball at his feet. He can beat a man with trickery, pace and strength. His assist stats are phenomenal. Everyone saw at the Emirates last week what an asset he is going to be. Very pleased with the additions of Obiang and Ogbonna. My one criticism would be that on the back of Enner Valencia’s injury news we should have gone and got a striker straight away. Sakho is streets ahead of the others but cannot play alone all the time. Who knows if Carroll will be back, when he’ll be back and how long he’ll last.

I still think we have the basis of a good squad and I really hope that a top ten finish should be doable comfortably. There are some really very average sides in the league this year. If Sunderland don’t finish bottom I’ll be shocked. They were a disgrace on Saturday. Players walking all over the pitch. Watch Cattermole for the 2nd goal. He don’t care.

Cricket hasn’t been too enjoyable over the summer. Whilst I’m very much at the back end of my career we are playing the highest level we ever have down at Rottingdean. It shows. We are 4/5 players short of where we need to be in all honesty. Playing for a year on dodgy knee ligaments has all but done me in. For Sussex again it’s been disappointing. Thought the squad looked capable of challenging in the Championship this season but they have been poor. Managed to get to the quarter finals of the T20 Blast largely down to Luke Wright, but again a poor home performance (said that on repeat the last two years) meant defeat. Let’s just hope having Chris Jordan back for the final few games means that they can have enough fire power to leapfrog Worcester in the table and stay up.

The positive about the cricket season coming to an end means that the NFL season is just a few weeks away! 25 days to be precise. Literally cannot wait this year. I will run a blog on a season preview at some point in the coming months. Could be all change this year. The Seahawks look like they are going to try and throw the ball. The Patriots have plenty of new faces and don’t look like they’ll have Brady for the first 6 weeks (still be 5-1). The Packers look very good, as do the Colts. There are a couple of cracking bets I’ve lined up at bigger prices but I’ll touch on them another day.

With regards to the racing. I’m hearing from Proform Racing towers that a brand new feature is being prepared for the upcoming jump season called the Cheltenham Trail. It will preview up to 80 of the major races that lead to your Cheltenham Festival bets, with facts, figures, stats and trends. Looks a cracking development and I will give you more details as and when they come through to me.

Looking forward to York this week. The Juddmonte looks an absolute belter with Gleneagles taking on Golden Horn. Time Test is no back number either. Should be the race of the year so far. Very much looking forward to seeing Acapulco in the Nunthorpe. She looked an absolute beast at Ascot and gets more allowances than the cast of benefit street. She might break the track record. Gutted that for the 3rd year in a row I can’t go. Bad planning on my part. I’m hosting Sussex vs Essex on Wednesday then on Coral TV duties the rest of the week.

I must end this edition with a note to my beloved pal Bryn Jones who we tragically lost in a car crash in Zante at the weekend. So many fond memories I wouldn’t know where to start on talking about them. He was an infectious character that just made life great. He was my neighbour for a few years with his Mrs Cat, who for the record is just nothing short of a diamond. My heart goes out to her and all of their family. Bryn was 29 and a massive hammers fan. We went away together and always bumped into each other at Upton Park. We were together just a few days ago celebrating beating the Arsenal and being general boys amongst a crowd of gooners. The Zante family has shown themselves to be nothing short of remarkable in their efforts to support Bryn’s family. Saturday was a particularly tough day. Being so far away has not helped. Rest in piece pal. You know that every time I ever sing bubbles I’ll be thinking of you. Now have a word with the big man upstairs and get us in the Champions League.

Mark

Proform

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Tuesday blog!

Proform

More crossbar hitting action again yesterday. Sea Tiger travelled well through the race but got locked in a pocket against the rail as they came down the hill and quickened things up. He barged through to finish fourth without having a hard race and will be of obvious interest over the coming weeks off a basement mark, it was very encouraging how much money came for him.

I’m still not quite sure how Rat Catcher didn’t win. I suspect now that he actually got to the front too soon and is going to be a horse you have to produce on the line. He traded at 1.18 in running. Still he was always going to be an each way certainty in that line up so no damage done and we go again.

We have lost the two jump meetings today so the action revolves around Southwell and Kempton. I’m on Coral TV duties today so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

I’m sure I’m not the only person that added BENNELONG to the horse watcher after his run at Lingfield four days ago. He was held up off a steady pace by his inexperienced rider and never got into the race despite never coming off the bridle. He has dropped to his last winning mark of 59 and has generally saved his best performances for Kempton so in a weak looking race he must come here with outstanding claims. He is a strong traveller that is versatile in his run style but I would exect Amir to have him close to the pace in here.

BENNELONG 3.15 Kempton Park- 2.5 pts win @ 7/2 generally (best odds guaranteed)

I’m sure we have a great opportunity to back ARTIST CRY (4.40 Southwell) this afternoon to get off the mark for Richard Fahey. Progressed with each of three runs in maidens and was actually unlucky not to go close last time after some trouble in running and being well backed. Have the feeling a mark of 60 probably underestimates him and I would be disappointed if he was not good enough to win this.

ARTIST CRY – 4.40 SOUTHWELL – 4pts win @ 9/4 (William Hill – Best odds guaranteed)

Be lucky today

MG

Proform

Big Saturday blog

Proform

Morning everyone. Another really pleasing day yesterday bagged us two nice winners at Lingfield. Disappointed with the run of SYNAESSTHESIA at Wolverhampton but she is a project to keep an eye on. The market was incredibly negative about her late doors and the horse that was heavily backed most of the day won easily. As expected they didn’t go much of a pace and I think they might have got the tactics wrong on her. Still a nice 12.75pts profit on the day cannot be grumbled at.

We will start with what I consider to be the bet of the day for me in the form of FESTIVE AFFAIR (1.50 Sandown). A frustrating type really for Jonjo O’Neill who has been given some time off after a disappointing return to action at Cheltenham in November (where he was very well backed). His mark of 132 really does look very workable on his beating of Dark Lover last year. I am assuming they were not keen to run him during the yards cold spell and he looks to me to be a type that could thrive in the spring and towards the festival. Very keen on his chances this afternoon and wouldn’t at all be surprised if he was very well backed.

FESTIVE AFFAIR 3 pts win @ 5/1.

2.05 Ffos LasBetway Welsh Champion Hurdle (A Limited Handicap)

A really competitive affair. The first two winners of this race (Medinas & Saphir Du Rheu) have both proved to be very smart animals but I’m not sure there is anything of that class lurking in here. I put a line through at least half this field with comfort though and I think there are two worth backing. First up, top weight SILSOL. Let’s forgive the latest run at Cheltenham behind Rock On Ruby and concentrate on his handicap exploits of which his form reads 2111. Up another 7lb for winning at Newbury off 144, he was going away at the end there and I don’t think the extra 7lb would have stopped him that day. Jack Sherwood gets on very well with him with two wins from three rides and I think he has been slightly underestimated in the market and therefore should be backed.

The other one that interests me is AWAYWITHTHEGREYS for Peter Bowen and Jamie Moore. I think he likes this type of flat track and he ran well in the race last year which was a stronger race than today. The blinkers go on and I think he might just be overpriced.

SILSOL – 1 pt win @ 10/1 generally

AWAYWITHTHEGREYS 1 pt win @ 16/1 generally

2.40 Ffos Las – Betway West Wales National

Really keen on the chances today of GLOBAL POWER. Oliver Sherwood’s gelding hasn’t had much racing over the last couple of seasons but he has given the impression on several occasions that a step up to extreme trips could bring about plenty of improvement. I think he is an out-and-out stayer and the conditions of today’s race will play into his hands. A really solid bet.

GLOBAL POWER – 2.5pts win @ 11/2.

WEST LEAKE (4.05 Lingfield) hasn’t won for two years but seems to be in the perfect race for me today. He’s a hold up horse who would like to be on the bridle as long as possible and with Bertie Blu Boy in the field they are certain to go a crazy gallop. With one or two of these keen to chase the pace he could well just have everything set up absolutely perfectly. I struggle to see him not being in the first three and if all goes perfectly thee race may just fall into his lap. Last win came off 58 so is on a nice mark and should at the very least go close.

WEST LEAKE 2pts each way @ 6/1.

Now strangely for me too there are also a few in today that I like at short prices. So what I am going to do as it is the last day of the month is put a couple of them in a one point treble.  I won’t go in to too much detail but they are as follows:

KASHTAREE 1.00 Weth

SAMPLE 1.10 Ling

BRISTOL DE MAI 1.15 Sandown

This treble pays 22/1 with Sportingbet and I’ve thrown 1pt at it.

So a really busy Saturday with 12.5 pts at Stake. Confident of a decent day.

Enjoy a cracking day and be lucky!

MG

Proform

Friday Blog!

Proform

Mixed emotions really about the action on Wednesday as we had a decent winner at 7/1 that was very well backed and two rather disappointing efforts either side. There was money for Daring Dragon and to be fair the race wasn’t really run to suit so he remains of interest in the short-term. With Dutch S the writing was on the wall before the off as she drifted drastically close to post time. Should always remember not to back against the West Ham theme as Pretty Bubbles won well again.

On to Friday’s action and I have managed to find a few particularly interesting runners to get involved with.

First up we got to Lingfield at 1.30 to back FEB THIRTYFIRST. Sheena West’s six-year-old had five starts on the level back in 2012 and was largely disappointing. A switch to hurdling brought about some rapid improvement and he has shown a fair level of form in most starts over timber on some bad ground. He is lightly raced for his age and is now potentially thrown in here off a mark of 46 (was rated 124 over hurdles). This huge drop in grade should bring about a great winning opportunity back on the level.

FEB THIRTYFIRST 2.5pts win @ 4/1 Bet365/Betfair Sportsbook.

Next on the hit list today is THE WEE CHIEF (2.35 Lingfield). Has gone down the weights like me off the ten metre board on splash! Thus there is an element of doubt attached to this one. He has however run well fresh in the past (back off a 213 day break) and Jimmy Fox has just started to have a few winners. With Luke Morris on board for the first time, he looks primed and ready to run well especially if plenty of money comes for him. On a side note to this race keep your eyes on VOLITO. He is totally being lined up for a winning sequence in my opinion. His habit of missing the break doesn’t help but he is also well handicapped now. Initially they booked George Baker for today but he is now elsewhere. Today probably not the day but I would not put you off having a little saver just in case. Keep your eyes on him in the run.

THE WEE CHIEF 1.5 pts win @ 9/2 with PaddyPower

0.5 pts saver on VOLITO at any price you like on Betfair.

The most interesting horse of the day for me though runs at Wolverhampton in the 6.45 in the form of Lady Cecil’s SYNAESTHESIA. Just four starts in maiden company for the daughter of High Chaparral (out of a Selkirk mare) and shown just modest form. The eye catcher for me though was last time when she ran better than the bare form suggested under an interesting ride. She travelled well enough and when they quickened off the bend Ted Durcan decided to switch her up the inside rail at Lingfield (not advised). He also, never at any point, touched her with the whip. I don’t think the drop back in trip will be an issue as there is not a lot of pace in the race so I can imagine that Adam Kirby will have her handy so he can kick and dictate off the bend. She is certainly bred to be better than 66 and she is very close to maximum bet material for me.

SYNAESSTHESIA – 4 pts win @ 4/1 generally.

Slightly off topic but it seems that Tom Segal came to pretty much the same conclusion to me about the Arkle so hopefully plenty of you managed to get on when we put up up a week or so ago at 25/1. The price hasn’t altered too much since but nice to be ahead of the market and I’m sure he will be much shorter come race time.

Have an awesome Friday and be lucky!

All the best

MG

Proform

Racing Post Arkle Ante-post preview

Proform

It is that time of the year again where I’ve started to wander through the festival markets that I’m not already involved in to see if there are any angles to represent a bit of value. Whilst I have mentioned this one to several of you over the last week or so, I thought I would share it with everyone now I’ve built a position.

This is roughly how the market looks as things stand:

Un De Sceaux 9/4

Vautour 8/1

Clarcam 8/1

Josses Hill 11/1

Gilgamboa 12/1

Vibrato Valtat 20/1

Ptit Zig 20/1

Sgt Reckless 25/1

Three Kingdoms 25/1

33/1 Bar

My main selection at this stage for the race is SGT RECKLESS who is best priced at 25/1.

So let’s work our way down and eliminate one or two. Firstly I am happy to take the stance that both Mullins horses won’t go. Vautour is much shorter in the betting for the JLT and the slightly easier tempo of that race will help his jumping a little so I am happy to assume he won’t go at this stage.  Un De Sceaux, I have no doubt, is a machine. I am also sure that with his running style Ruby will have no option on the day but to just let him go. If he stands up and jumps well enough then you can see the course record being in serious danger. The worry with him clearly is that if he does go off at 100 mph and he clouts a couple of the way round, his price on the day of close to even money will be scary to say the least. If he jumps well enough he is though very likely to be the winner, but at the prices, not for me.

Next in is Clarcam who is the solid option at this stage. Think he is very likely to run his race and this has always been the target. He was though readily brushed aside by Vautour when they met at Navan in November so on the day I think he’ll come up just short.

Next on the list to eliminate is Josses Hill. A horse with an incredible amount of talent and class but another who for me does not have the jumping capabilities to win an Arkle that will be run at pace. One mistake can be enough to cost you a race over two miles at the festival and with his skippy type bunny hopping at Ascot and screwing in the air at Doncaster, I just don’t think he will be good enough to recover despite certainly having the class.

Gilgamboa is next on the list. He has looked a natural over fences so far and has certainly done nothing wrong. My angle with him is watch the Supreme video from last season. SGT Reckless thrashed him. One is 12/1 and the other is 25/1. That is too big a discrepancy.

Next on the list are the two Paul Nicholls trained runners. Ptit Zig I think we can put a line through as I’m almost certain he will go for the JLT. For what it is worth I think he is very good and looks to me to be a future Gold Cup winner. As for Vibrato Valtat well he is clearly a bit of a thinker but has done well so far this season since being switched to the larger obstacles. His only defeat coming at Cheltenham behind Dunraven Storm when possibly being given too much to do. I’m not sure how much he will be into a dog fight up the hill mind you but the way the race pans out may suit him better than others. He’ll still be on the bridle when most have given way. I do think that Three Kingdoms (who is a bigger price) might improve past him however.

This all brings us on to Sgt Reckless. Now I know what a lot of you are going to say. Silly campaign, fences, hurdles, all-weather blah blah. It might just be a stroke of genius. On chase debut at Uttoxeter I thought he was outstanding. He barely touched a twig and looked like a complete natural over his fences. Considering he ripped his front two shoes off in the race in the tacky ground that gets an extra tick from me. The Christmas Hurdle experience was a strange one. He hates that sort of ground so I don’t know what that choice was about, I assume just a complete lack of options. The run on the all-weather the other day doesn’t mean a bean. He is well, he is fit but they clearly do not want to run him on bad ground again. He clearly shows his best on good ground. If you need a little nudge about his capabilities then watch the video of last years Supreme. He was 30 lengths last coming down the hill. He finished 4th, absolutely flying home. I expect on the day he will be ridden patiently again which may be sensible in what could be a brutal race, especially if something tries to go with Un De Sceaux and in that scenario, with so many likely not to run I struggle to see him not being in the first three.sgtreck

He’s currently best priced at 25/1 with Victor and Ladbrokes and he is certainly worth an each way shout. I would be surprised, provided that he turns up if he doesn’t go off at around 10/1 on the day.

Similar comments could be made about Three Kingdoms who will appreciate racing on better ground and will also get carried into the race. I just think that Sgt Reckless is classier.

All in all the angle is about price and a race that will be run to suit. If Un De Scauex jumps well he will probably win and in style too. If he tips up mind having set a fast pace. We might have a 25/1 voucher on a 3/1 shot in running.

1 PT EACH WAY ON SGT RECKLESS at 25/1

This is the first of a few angles I have. Will post more soon.

All the best

Mark

Proform

Cheltenham Gold Cup Day!

Proform

Unfortunately due to travel commitments or work I don’t have the time for a full run down of Friday’s action.

1.30 – JCB Triumph Hurdle Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo)

I think Calipto may be very good. I also think that after a break Royal Irish Hussar will play a part.

Selection: Calipto

2.05 – Vincent O´Brien County Handicap Hurdle Grade 3

A wide open renewal. I like the chances of two at a price they are Lac Fontana (12/1) and Lyvius (20/1). Play them both each way.

2.40 – Albert Bartlett Novices´ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices´ Hurdle) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Briar Hill last year’s bumper winner is unbeaten over hurdles but he has hardly been tested and his jumping hasn’t been foot perfect. I am a really big fan of KINGS PALACE and think he will continue the excellent week for the Pipe team.

3.20 – Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 (CLASS 1)

Whilst you can make a case for one or two of the others this does look a match between BOBS WORTH and SILVIANACO CONTI. I massively respect the pair of them and slightly prefer BOBS WORTH. He’s unbeaten around here and absolutely loves the hill. Barry has always had the opinion that he is a better horse on better ground too. If all goes to plan he should retain his crown.

4.00 – CGA Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (CLASS 2) (5yo+)

No opinion.

4.40 – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys´ Handicap Hurdle

I really like the look of VIEUX LION ROUGE who has always been well-regarded. He’s unbeaten over hurdles and is potentially better than 139. Full Shift is likely to play a big part and I also think that Leo Luna will be involved back on better ground.

Selection: Vieux Lion Rouge

Danger: Leo Luna

5.15 – Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

Some familiar faces. It will take an AP masterclass to get Mr Mole home in front. I very much like the chances of Eastlake who could run very well at a big price. I also really like the look of CLARET CLOAK who has threatened to win a big handicap for some time and finally has ideal conditions and the right man on board.

Selection: Claret Cloak

Each Way shout: Eastlake

Enjoy Gold Cup Day!

MG

Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Big Buck’s or Girl power?

Proform

I can’t really complain about the way day two panned out in the end as the day went really well. So pleased with Sire De Grugy. The 3/1 was an enormous price, I just hope that plenty of you managed to get on. The scenes in the winners enclosure were brilliant. So chuffed for the Moore team. I know some of the team closely and they really deserve a big race champion. What the jockeys did for Jamie was a touch of class. I’m sure Mattie Batch who has been associated with the yard since he was a kid was the ring leader. Hit the crossbar again with Smad Place, Katgary and Orgilgo Bay but shouldn’t grumble.

1.30 – JLT Novices´ Chase (Registered As The Golden Miller Novices´ Chase) Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

The penultimate race at the festival that I have a decent standing ante-post position in the form of Paul Nicholls WONDERFUL CHARM. A smart hurdler that has really taken well to fences. His jumping is fluent and accurate and he seems to stay well so a strong gallop at this intermediate trip will really suit. I made my ante-post move after he tried to give 8lbs to Oscar Whiskey in a race that Barry Geraghty dictated from the front. Oscar Whiskey’s speed and the weight allowance gave him the edge that day but I fully expect Wonderful Charm to turn the tables today. Felix Younger is respected as danger, I do wonder if there may be one or two too quick for him on this ground. Taquin De Seuil may want slightly softer ground but is certainly respected as the setup of the race will suit and Vukovar is completely un-exposed.

I really like WONDERFUL CHARM and he is a strong selection.

2.05 – Pertemps Network Final (A Handicap Hurdle) (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

I wrote an ante-post piece on this race for JPFestival.com. One of my selections is a non runner the other will go with every chance at that is JOSIES ORDERS for Jonjo O’Neill. A rapid improver over the last few months and has been given a break of 48 days since laughing at his rivals at Huntingdon. The son of Milan will need to improve again but with Maurice Linehan on board taking off 5lbs he gets a nice racing weight here and he must have a huge each way shout at 14/1.

There is no doubting the potential class in the race lies with Phillip Hobbs as he will saddle the Exeter first and second FINGAL BAY and IF IN DOUBT. They both have excellent claims. Fingal bay on his day is very classy indeed. He gave Simonsig a beating at Sandown back in 2011. A revised mark of 148 is by no means beyond him and I expect him to run a massive race. If In Doubt I really like. I backed him at Kempton when behind the rapid improver Saphire De Reu. Tom O Brien did not pick up his stick at Exeter and today is very much the day for him. McCoy will be getting the shaleylee out this time around for sure. My only question mark about him is the ground. If he goes on it, he goes very very close.

Being such a competitive race I must throw in a couple at big prices. I would love to see LIE FORRIT run well but this may be too much for him now. I like the chances at big prices of both UTOPIE DES BORDES and ON THE BRIDGE. UDB may seem like the Henderson second string with jockey bookings but I’m not so sure. Back from a break after a couple of runs on desperate ground, she is back to the mark where she ran a blinder behind Gevrey Chanbertin at Haydock bakc in November and she will love this better ground. OTB was a rapid improver last summer, will love the ground and wouldn’t have to improve too much more to take a major hand. There could be some big prices floating around on the exchanges about these two.

Selections:

Josies Orders e/w with savers on Fingal Bay/If In Doubt

Back both Utopie Des Bordes and On the Bridge at big prices on Betfair and in the place market.

2.40 – Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy Chase)

A race that for me is fairly straight forward. DYNASTE for me brings by far the best piece of form to the table with his run in the Betfair Chase. We can forgive him his run in the King George as he reportedly pulled muscles that day. If he returns to his best, he will reverse the form from last years Jewson with Benefficient and win. I will be having a money back saver on AL FEROF as he is very classy on his day and he rarely runs a bad race here. If you are looking to back one at a big price then I do think RAJDHANI EXPRESS is likely to out-run his odds.

Strong bet on DYNASTE with a saver on Al Ferof.

3.20 – Ladbrokes World Hurdle Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Well the feature of day three is a mouth-watering clash between the people’s champion in Big Bucks and the new girl on the block in Annie Power. I’ve no doubt that AP will go off a very short price favourite. She is clearly very very good as her unbeaten record shows. The main question about her is if she will get the three miles in a championship race up the hill. To give you an idea how good she is as far as mares go, last March she beat Glens Melody (2nd to Quevega in mares race on Tuesday) twelve lengths without coming off the bridle over two and a half miles. I think she will probably get the trip. Big Buck’s is just all class. He undoubtedly needed the run in the Cleeve and will come on a bundle for that. If he retains all his ability this will be another great finish. Paul Nicholls is very bullish, as always.

I’m not as convinced as everyone else is that it is a two-horse race. I do respect At Fishers Cross as Rebecca Curtis’s horses have hit a real hot vein of form. His jumping and love for soft ground would be a concern for me. More of That is still very raw and is unbeaten. He could certainly be involved in the finish as could SALUBRIOUS who was travelling very well before a bad mistake at Ascot in the Long Walk.

Rally a race to savour. My heart will probably make me back BIG BUCKS. He is around 10/11 for a place on Betfair. That is an absolutely cracking bet in my eyes as I really can’t have him out the first three.

4.00 – Byrne Group Plate (A Handicap Chase) Grade 3 (CLASS 1)

A real tough race again this year and one that the class may shine through in the form of old rivals Colour Squadron and JOHNS SPIRIT. They have met twice already this year and the score is 1-1. Johns Spirit is the one I really like. To me he looks like he has potential to be a little bit better than a handicapper and the vibes from the yard over the last few weeks have been very encouraging. He travels strongly and jumps well in the main (made a mistake early last time that knocked him back). If he gets a good passage through and Richie is patient on him I expect him to go very close on this better ground. Colour Squadron is still a maiden over the larger obstacles but he has run some cracking races in defeat. He will surely be in the mix here again and has to be included.

If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous price wise then Third Intention’s Ascot third got a huge boost yesterday and he drops into handicap company off a nice mark.  BLESS THE WINGS and NADIYA DE LE VEGA both have first time headgear for in form trainers at big prices.

Johns Spirit 2pts win @ 10/1, Colour Squadron 1 pt win @ 9/1.

Potential each way savers on Third Intention 16/1, Bless The Wings 25/1, Nadiya De La Vega 25/1

4.40 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders)

A nightmare to finish and probably a small stakes race unless we are miles in front. One horse though that jumps off the page at me is OUR FATHER for the David Pipe team. Now he comes with dangers attached as he is a bit of a thinker and is fragile. He is just as likely to finish last as he is first. He is however very dangerously handicapped (though of as a Gold Cup horse at one point) and also has the first time blinkers which may have been needed for some time. He was very well backed ahead of the Hennessy and went off the 11/2 fav on a mark of 147. That would suggest that he could be thrown in here IF and it’s a big IF he’s on a going day. That is factored into the price though and he is as big as 22/1 with Victor Chandler. I would not at all be surprised if he starts an awful lot shorter than that.

There is very likely to be an upset in this, the one towards the head o fthe market I like is SPRING HEELED who should relish being back on better ground and has an excellent pilot.

OUR FATHER STRONG BET AT 22/1, saver on Spring Heeled.

All the best today, back plenty of winners.

MG

@markagrantham

Cheltenham Day 2…He’s a Faugheen Nice Horse!

Proform

End of day one and I’m well and truly licking the ante-post wounds. Irving ran no race at all and Champagne Fever got chinned on the line by the nutter that couldn’t win (and traded at 1000-1 in running). Midnight Prayer did the job for us in the four miler to get us back on track. Thoughts are very much with all the connections of Our Connor. A classy animal that will be sorely missed.

1.30 – Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle

Some nice types go to war in the Wednesday opener including the unbeaten Red Sherlock but very much like day one they may not see which way FAUGHEEN goes for the Mullins/Walsh combination. Admittedly we don’t know just how good he is just yet as he has been much too classy for all his rivals. His jumping to say the least at times has been sketchy but he looks like he’s got a real good engine too and that may well be plenty good enough here.

2.05 – RSA Chase (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (5yo+)

A race that you can go round and round in and come up with several different answers. I want to be against Ballcasey really, although he is a fair enough favourite, I have my doubts about him at the top-level. I just think there will be one or two too quick for him at the business end! I am a big fan of SMAD PLACE. Third in the last two world hurdles, his jumping really warmed up as he went through the race at Newbury last time when beating Sam Winner (who jumped like a stag). They will both appreciate this better ground and are both very big players in my book. Carlingford Lough is also very interesting. He is all about stamina and would have gone very close to rustling up Ballycasey had he not been squeezed out at the last at Leopardstown in a tactical race that wouldn’t have suited. The likely strong gallop here will be right up his street and he is a big player. I have to also throw Black Thunder in the mix too. He has always looked a staying chaser to me and I think the make up of this race will suit him, he is definitely the each way value in the race.

1 pt each on Smad Place and Carlingford Lough with an each saver on Black Thunder

2.40 – Coral Cup (A Handicap Hurdle) Grade 3 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Some smart horses towards the top of the weights in a devilishly difficult handicap include Dunguib, Cotton Mill and Far West who all have bits and pieces of festival form. I respect all three of them hugely here. The four to concentrate on further down the list for me would be Dell’Arca, Vendor, Indevan and WAAHEB. I really like Dermot Weld’s seven year-old. He is a classy animal but is a bit of a thinker at the same time. I have no doubt in my mind that he is well handicapped off 142 and the fact that AP has chosen Get Me Out Of Here is no bad thing. Mark Walsh is very good and very patient. He is the perfect match for Waaheb and if he is on a going day he will go very close.The 18-1 about him this evening is much too big!

WAAHEB 1.5 pts each way at 18/1.

3.20 – BetVictor Queen Mother Champion Chase Grade 1

The feature race on day two and what looks to be an absolute cracking bet in the form of SIRE DE GRUGY. There will be plenty wanting to take him on on the basis of one thing….and that is his course form. Let’s strip that back. Two starts at Cheltenham, the first when being beaten by Captain Conan by two lengths on only his second start over fences. Then when being beaten here by Kid Cassidy when trying to give him 10lbs in a race that didn’t quite work out as planned (hit front too soon, then clouted the last two). The team have clearly now worked out to get him in front as late as possible and I’m sure Jamie will be patient. He has grown up enormously from his defeat by Captain Conan here back in 2012 and is a much better horse than him now.

Captain Conan is just too slow to win at this level and this has been an after thought. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Arvika Ligeonniere’s jumping and that will probably catch him out again. Bailey Green, Kid Kassidy and Module shouldn;t be good enough at this level and Sizing Europe bless him is probably too slow now. The main danger may well come in the unexposed form of Hinterland who has won both his starts to date over fences. He goes well fresh and will like the ground. Largely I just think that SDG is the absolute bet of the day in spades. Tonight there is some 3/1 about, he should be 6/4. That is value of epic proportions.

SIRE DE GRUGY – Nap of the day. 3/1 Generally.

4.00 – Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (A Cross Country Chase)

Not my favourite race of the week and I expect to see BIG SHU and BALTHAZAR KING fight out the finish. I love BK so hopes he can do the business!

4.40 – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Grade 3

This is one race this week where you might struggle to beat the market. DAWALAN is a worthy favourite and looks like this test will suit down to the ground. I think Goodwood Mirage is potentially thrown in off 132 but his jumping will need to improve. The two I really like here though are ORGILGO BAY and KATGARY. The former has aqquited himself well in a couple of impossible races the last twice and potentially is on a really nice mark of 127. First time hood could bring about plenty of improvement and Mark Bolger takes off a handy 3lb. He is a big player, as is KATGARY who makes his British debut off a mark of 130 having impressed on his last two starts in France. Paul Nicholls took this race with a very similar type in Sanctuaire back in 2010 and he could be thrown in.

1 pt e/w Orgilgo Bay, 2 pts win Katgary

5.15 – Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Not a race I ever get too involved in. Willie Mullins usually wins it and comes here with a three-pronged attack, all of which are towards the head of the market. They all look smart in their own right. I am going to have a small interest though in EL NAMOOSE for John Ferguson. He has a lovely flat pedigree (authorized out of a gone west mare) and the yard now how to ready one for this test. He could be really classy and the 16/1 about him for the finale will do me nicely.

EL NAMOOSE 1 pt e/w

Best of luck on day two, hope you back a few winners!

MG

@markagrantham

Cheltenham Festival – Day One….

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Proform

So here we are again. Less than 24 hours to go until the great roar that greets the start of the best four days of the entire calendar year! This time around more than ever we are being treated to a really fantastic opening day! The first four races on the card are all absolutely mouth watering…..for plenty of reasons. If you’ve had a shrewd winter of judging performances, times and above all working out which horses have been very good running in wellies for the past four months then you might be in one or two strong ante-post positions. I have one or two that have gone in the right direction but as always, plenty that won’t even be leaving home!

1.30 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices´ Hurdle Grade 1

The festival opener looks a real cracker as always this year and is a week defining race for myself as by far the best ante-post position I am in comes here in the form of Paul Nicholls IRVING. He is generally around a 5/2 fav going into the race and having backed him at 12/1, 10/1 and 7/1 I’m delighted to be in a strong position. I do see the argument that some pundits are making that the hill will be an issue and he seems to be a speed horse but I also see the positives. Nothing has really come close to getting him off the bridle yet. Ok, Prince Siegfried was upsides when falling at the last at Ascot but he was traveling all over him in truth. The way he sprinted away from his rivals at Kempton in the Dovecote really took my eye. Admittedly Amore Alato who was back in second is no world beater but he is rated 137 and Irving made him look very inferior. The shape of this race will surely suit him down to the ground and I’ll be shocked if he is not firmly swinging away at the bottom of the hill. That is the point where the finger nails will get a shearing.

The market suggests that the main dangers come in the form of the two-pronged attack from Willie Mullins trained Vautour and Wicklow Brave. Of the two I think Vautour is more suited to Cheltenham.  He has similar attributes to last years winner Champagne Fever but I can’t help have his run two starts back in the memory when he scraped past Western Boy. If Vautour is a 3/1 chance then Western Boy shouldn’t be 18/1. His win in the Deloitte did nothing for me. Ruby rode them to sleep and whilst some will argue that the last mile was fast, that was clearly aided by the fact the first mile was pedestrian. Wicklow Brave for me is all about speed and his jumping will really come under scrutiny in a race where they are going to go very quick. One mistake might be too many for him. No yard is in better form at the moment than that of Nicky Henderson and the champion trainer has peaked at just the right time after a slow start to the season. NH has both Josses Hill and Vaniteux in the opener. The former was just out stayed by stable mate Royal Boy in the re-routed Tolworth last time (both miles clear of The Liquidator) and I expect a similar story here. Vaniteux has reportedly taken off in the last few weeks having put his disappointing effort at Kempton over Christmas behind him to win at Donny last month. Strictly on that Kempton run and a line through Amore Alato he has an enormous amount to find with Irving. I mentioned the Liquidator who had made a pleasing start to his hurdles career with wins at Carlisle and here at Cheltenham when giving the smart Sea Lord a right good beating. He was blown away though at Kempton and with so much competition for the lead likely here, I struggle to him winning.

I think Gilgamboa could run a big race for AP and JP but he will probably need to run a stone better than his revised mark after his win off 128 in a handicap last time and if there is a single horse that is largely over priced it could be Sgt Reckless for whom the ground could be a big positive and I expect him to run much better than 40/1 suggests he will.

Irving is clearly the selection. If you can get some 3/1 tomorrow then that will do. Both Sgt Reckless and Western Boy are worth backing each way at big prices.

2.05 – Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase Grade 1

This is nice and simple for me this year as I am a huge fan of Champagne Fever. He comes here with plenty of festival positives having won the Bumper and the Supreme on his last two visits and I’m confident he can make it three on the bounce. Festival form is always a huge plus. Yes we have to forgive a poor run last time where he belted the second last having set a lightning pace but that can be said about previous visits and he has had the habit of throwing in the odd stinker. Having said that I think he is a spring horse and will relish conditions tomorrow and was delighted with the glint in the eye when Ruby was interviewed this morning. He loves the hill and I expect him with a clean round to be fending them off to the cheers of the crowd. Once the Irish tuck in early doors I think he might go off shorter than 2/1.

Talking of dangers and of festival form that obviously brings Rock On Ruby firmly into the mix having finished first and second in the last two Champion Hurdles. He looked in his match against The New One over hurdles though that he maybe is quite as good now as a nine-year old and having won two egg and spoon novice chases to date I think he has a lot more questions to answer. Trifolium is a really solid danger and will be in plenty of people’s each way bankers and accumulators. He beat Champagne Fever at Christmas but he was suited by the way things panned out there and I would prefer CF round here. I do think he is the main danger here under the excellent Bryan Cooper.

Of the others, Dodging Bullets has done nothing wrong. His defeat at Newbury though shouldn’t be good enough form to win an Arkle. Valdez is 3/3 but will need to improve again and whilst the ground will certainly suit Grandouet, his jumping at pace is not good enough to win a grade one.

Very much hoping that there will be plenty of Champagne Fever in the Arkle!

2.40 – Baylis & Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase Grade 3

Another race that I nailed myself to the mast of a runner some time ago and things could not have panned out better! I wrote a festival eye catchers preview for http://www.jpfestival.com in the build up to this week and the main feature of that was Jonjo O’Neills ALFIE SHERRIN. He is a horse I know really well as I fell in love with him when he won his first bumper at Chepstow back in 2008. He landed a right touch in this very race for me two years ago and having tucked into the 20/1 ante-post for him here I’m delighted he has got into the race and that he has been very well backed indeed. Ap McCoy has chosen him to ride too which is a huge plus and I really expect a very big run. He is 5lbs higher than when winning the race in 2012 but he has matured an enormous amount. His run in the grade three fixed brush hurdle last time could not have been more eye-catching and I’m very confident of a big run. He is currently best priced 9/1 with @Coral and I think we may see some hefty public money come for him and I expect him to go off a strong favourite.

Alfie Sherrin – Nap of the day @ current 9/1.

3.20 – Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy Grade 1 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

What a renewal to look forward too. The ten-year old Hurricane Fly chasing his third Champion Hurdle against the younger brigade, and a very good younger brigade at that! All the way through the season I’ve probably changed my opinion of the likely favourite and the likely winner about ten times. The conclusion I finally arrive at is that this is probably the strongest renewal for some time and in truth there might only be 2-3 lengths between five or six of these! If we go in reverse order of the nine runners. We can put a line through Captain Cee Bee, Grumeti and Ptit Zig who are simply not good enough. Melodic Rendezvouz would be upto this level if we had knee-deep ground to run in, unfortunately for his connections this is not the case so he is also dismissed. The brings us on to the two Irish youngsters in Jezki and Our Connor. I’m convinced we have yet to see the best of Jezki and that there is plenty to come. He has always just come up a length or two short though at the top-level. First time hood is deployed and Barry Geraghty is 4/4 on him so there are positives. Our Connor absolutely routed his rivals in the Triumph last year but conditions will be very different for the Champion this time round. He has been firmly put in his place twice already bu the Fly this season and other than the way the race may pan out there is no obvious reason why he would reverse that form. He is only five mind and still could be improving.

The New One is six now and My Tent Or Yours is seven. There was half a length between them in the Christmas Hurdle after TNO belted the last. That didn’t check his momentum too much though and MTOY was going away at the line. I have to confess to being a big fan of MTOY. I was gutted when he got beat in the Supreme last year, especially as I had a big in running lay in the market at 1.5 thinking he would travel strongly…. well he did and he got matched all the way down to 1.51!! I think he’s a beast. Matured a lot with his racing and I don’t buy into the scenario of him not getting up the hill. If any of them are going to beat the Fly I think it will be My Tent Or Yours. I greatly respect The New One and if he gets beat it won’t be by far.

Hurricane Fly is most people’s idea of the winner and his record fully justifies him being favourite. He may well win again but this is without doubt his toughest test to date and he has been beaten here before. I think reluctantly I will take him on with My Tent Or Yours but this is a race to watch and enjoy. It should be an absolute classic.

Selection – My Tent Or Yours

4.00 – OLBG Mares´ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares´ Hurdle Race) Grade 2 (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

Not much to say here other than banker QUEVEGA. She is a different class to these and should be in all your bets and multiples.

4.40 – Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase Amateur Riders´ Novices´ Chase (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (5yo+ –)

Four miles for novice chasers and no hiding place! Touch race to assess in that the front two in the market deserve very much to be there in the form of Foxrock and Shutthefrontdoor. On ratings on what they have achieved so far they both have outstanding claims but as a result they will be fairly short. I respect Suntiep but all of his form has been on very bad ground, he clearly though has stamina in abundance. I like the look here of Alan Kings Midnight Prayer who you can get a nice each way bet on at around 10/1. He will need to improve on his recent efforts but he is a strong travelling type that has hinted that this sort of test could bring about plenty of improvement and the forecast better ground may well bring that into play.

Selection – Midnight Prayer

5.15 – Rewards4Racing Novices´ Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (5yo+ 0-140)

This is a race that is generally won by quite a classy type and  big weights shouldn’t put you off. Ericht heads the weights and has long promised to win one of these big handicaps. I respect Pendra but he is a bit too short really on what he has achieved so I am going to go on a three-pronged attack. Two at big prices we can play each way and then a saver.

The first is OHIO GOLD for the Tizzard team. He has run with credit once or twice this year off similar marks when the yard has been largely quiet. They have now come really good with plenty of winners and he ran really well in this race last year. If he is on a going day then the 25/1 about him tonight is a bit too big in my eyes and he could way out run those odds.

The second is GARDEFORT for Venetia Williams. Very well backed on his British debut last time off a mark of 132 suggests that his opening mark here could be lenient. He made a mid race move after travelling well at Haydock and paid for it quickly. The forecast better ground should be no problem and there is potential that he is going to slip under the radar for this. He is currently 33/1 and in my eyes is probably a 10/1 chance.

I must have a small saver on MANYRIVERSTOCROSS who has hinted a few times that his turn is not far away.

Ohio Gold 1 pt e/w @ 25/1, Gardefort 1 pt e/w @ 33/1 & Manyriverstocross 1 pt win @ 10/1

That just about wraps up what is going to be an absolutely cracking opening day. Fingers crossed that the ante-post positions finally come good for once! Very best of luck all week with your selections! Really not sure how much sleep I am going to get tonight!

All the very best

Mark

@markagrantham

 

Cheltenham Festival Day 4!

Proform

Well yesterday was a punters nightmare. If you managed to find a winner at all you probably had a good day. My list of placeditis this week has been horrendous! Check out these bad boys with decent wagers…

My Tent Or Yours 2nd @ 5/2,  Tullamore Dew 4th @33/1, Shangani 4th @ 8/1, Rule The World 2nd @ 7/1, Meister Eckhart 2nd @ 14/1, Regal Encore 2nd @ 7/1, Dynaste 2nd @ 7/4, Captain Sunshine 2nd @ 20/1, Smad Place 3rd @ 12/1, Romanesco 3rd @ 10/1, Alfie Sherrin 4th @ 10/1!

Now if I backed place only this week I would be rich! As it is I’ve left the crossbar in a million pieces on the turf!

Friday is a day to savour though as we head for the gold cup! Todays run down will be brief as I am on the go all day!

In the Triumph at 1.30 I think this will be battled out between OUR CONNOR and ROLLING STAR. I do also really like Far West but the yard’s runners with the exception of Celestial Halo have run poorly all week and that would be a major worry. At a price KASHMIR PEAK could also run a big race! I would probably split my stakes between the front two in the market as I cannot split them.

The County Hurdle at 2.05 looks an absolute minefield! I can see why Cotton Mill is the jolly but I have to recommend a decent each way wager on CLARET CLOAK. The yard have not been in good form but Captain Sunshine gave that a boost yesterday and the booking of Noel Fehily in the absence of Dominic Elseworth is a massive plus. I have no doubt at all that he is much better than 135 and he actually made up a lot of ground from an impossible and stupid starting position in a slowly run Betfair Hurdle behind My Tent Or Yours at Newbury. The drying ground is a massive plus too and I cannot recommend a decent bet on him enough. Probably the best value bet of the whole week at 20/1 but let’s be honest it’s a race full of potential blots.

The Albert Bartlett at 2.40 is another interesting race. AT FISHERS CROSS will be hard to beat. He looks really gutsy but his price reflects that. I’ll be backing two against the field in BALLYCASEY and AFRICAN GOLD who’s yards have both had excellent weeks.

THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP @ 3.20 is a fascinating renewal. Last years 2nd and 3rd re-appear in the form of The Giant Bolster and Long Run but I think they may end up playing second fiddle to the young guns here. BOBS WORTH is absolutely rock solid after a superb win in the Hennessy. He stays all day and I think this race is going to suit him down to the ground. Silviniaco Conti comes here on the back of three terrific wins this season and looks an absolute natural over his fences. The yards form this week would be  slight doubt bu the race will suit and he looks sure to be involved in the finish. SIR DES CHAMPS went to the head of the betting for this when winning the Jewson impressively last year. He should stay but I do wonder if he is quick enough against a couple of these? The loss of Davy Russell is a blow too. Of the others the one I would play each way would be CAPE TRIBULATION who has matured massively this season. Denis gets on with him really well and his quietly quietly approach out the back here might pay some big dividends if they take each other on up front. I’ve backed Bobs Worth and had a decent each way bet on Cape Tribulation! Enjoy!

The foxhunter’s rarely entices me into a bet but my experts ensure me that Salsify is a certainty. (ok).

EDEYMI is another one I have been waiting for in the Martin Pipe at 4.40. He has been absolutely plotted up for this by Tony Martin and has been crying out for the step up in trip. He looks on a really good mark and is a cracking bet at 8/1!

The last looks an absolute nightmare as far as get out stakes go but RODY comes here in great form and is improving rapidly over fences and will do for me hopefully at the end of a card where we have already won a fortune and will be sipping champagne!

Enjoy a great day!

MG