Ante-post focus: 2017 Ryanair Chase

Forty-eight horses have been entered for the 2017 Ryanair Chase, 18 of those Irish based. In Cue Card (2013) and Uxizandre (2015), we have two past winners in, but the former is highly unlikely to run here – he’s Gold Cup bound.

Since the race’s inception at the 2005 Festival, the first 11 runnings went the way of UK-trained horses; the Irish sponsors unable to bag their own event. The Emerald Isle finally broke their duck in last season’s race, the brilliant Vautour stamping his class and winning for the Ricci, Mullins and Walsh team.

The Ryanair Chase ante-post preview

Mullins and Walsh currently house the race-favourite in six-time Grade 1 and 2015 Arkle winner Un De Sceaux (7/2). With Mullins holding all the aces in the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Douvan, a contest Un De Sceaux was runner-up in last season, it’s increasingly likely the free-going nine-year-old will run here.

The son of Denham Red has only had two starts this season, winning a strongly-run Tingle Creek at Sandown and then following up in the rearranged Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham. At Esher, despite the pace being brisk, Un De Sceaux travelled powerfully under Walsh before showing a great attitude to out battle Sire De Grugy after two sloppy jumps in the straight.

In the Clarence House, he would fend off the returning-from-injury Uxizandre by an easy five lengths on his favoured soft ground. Top Gamble, a solid and inform rival was a further five lengths back in third.

Un De Sceaux didn’t have to be at the top of his game to win here, but in doing so his jumping improved from Sandown and he went through the race like a horse at the top of his game, setting himself up nicely for March.

Stepping up in trip in the Ryanair will be a new test for him over fences however, and will also likely come on his less favoured spring ground. I have no doubt Un De Sceaux will see out the trip and handle decent terrain, but he is susceptible to a horse with gears, as Sprinter Sacre proved in last year’s Champion Chase, although, there’ll be nothing of that quality likely to run against him on current evidence.

Second favourite is another Irish-trained horse, Sizing John (8/1). Jessica Harrington’s inmate was covered in the first ante-post piece – the Gold Cup – and was recommended as a bet there. I think there is every chance he could run in the Gold Cup so; he obviously doesn’t make much appeal in a long-term market here. While the case, should he run in the Ryanair, he’ll go close as he looks on great terms with himself currently and has the requisite class to win.

In 2006 and 2012, Nicky Henderson won the Ryanair with Fondmort and Riverside Theatre, respectively. The master of Seven Barrows looks like he might run Josses Hill (10/1), but he makes no appeal at that price this far out.

While his jumping has undoubtedly improved ten-fold, I feel he is best dominating small fields on right-handed flat speed tracks. He won’t be afforded that luxury here and, even if he was, I’m not sure he’s good enough.

After a brilliant run in the Clarence House behind Un De Sceaux, Uxizandre (12/1) has firmly put himself in the Ryanair picture. A breath-taking and runaway winner of the 2015 renewal of this event in a first-time visor, the horse that gave AP McCoy his last Cheltenham Festival winner hadn’t been seen on the racetrack for the best part of two years before his Trials Day effort.

All the old enthusiasm and spark still appeared to be intact despite racing on ground much softer than ideal over an inadequate trip. Apart from guessing at one down the back, his jumping was also good and he really pleased with how he saw out the race having been outpaced before they started coming down the hill.

On back class, the nine-year-old is good enough to win this year’s Ryanair if bouncing back to that sort of form. A return to positive tactics, quicker ground and two-and-a-half miles is sure to suit, but it’s impossible to say how he’ll perform on his next start having been off the track so long.

Another horse with the undoubted ability to win the Ryanair is God’s Own (25/1), the 2015 Arkle runner-up and 2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase fourth. While comfortably held in both those quality races, I do feel there is a case to suggest he is an improved horse.

Eight-and-a-half lengths Tom George’s inmate would finish behind Un De Sceaux in the 2015 Arkle. That gap, behind the Mullins runner up, was down to five lengths in last year’s Champion Chase behind the brilliant Sprinter Sacre although, it could’ve been closer but for a mistake at the penultimate obstacle.

Having looked outpaced at the top of the hill in the Queen Mother, connections rightly stepped him up in trip at Aintree where he won the Grade 1 Melling Chase. Going right-handed, the direction his trainer is convinced suits him best, the son of Oscar would dethrone the mighty Vautour in the Punchestown Champion Chase.

In three efforts this campaign, God’s Own has yet to win, but his fans can take solace in the fact he has run a trio of highly credible races at Aintree, Ascot and Sandown. He hasn’t been seen since his fast-finishing 1 ½ lengths defeat by Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek, but that’s no surprise given he isn’t a winter ground horse.

He’s good enough to go close here, but there is a chance he could run in the Champion Chase. There is also a case to say he’s not as good over the Ryanair intermediate trip, but of the two races he’s most likely to win at the Festival, the Ryanair is it.

Best of the Rest

Although the Ryanair has been well-supported at this entry stage, many of the real class horses like Cue Card and Douvan won’t be running here and it’s a race that will likely cut up quite badly.

Gigginstown House Stud, otherwise known as Michael and Eddie O’Leary, have entered six horses, but five of those, for various reasons, may not run here and Sub Lieutenant (14/1) looks to be their number horse on paper.

Now in training with Henry de Bromhead, the eight-year-old has done nothing but progress since joining the Waterford handler. Two wins came early in the campaign before he finished behind the likes of Djakadam in the John Durkan and the new-and-improved Sizing John in the Kinloch Brae at Thurles.

Jumping is his main asset and with him now looking good enough to at least hit the frame in a Ryanair, he’s worth considering. An athletic-moving horse, he’s a half-brother to Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere and finally looks to be finding his feet.

Finding his feet is something last season’s JLT Novices’ Chase winner Black Hercules (16/1) is struggling with this campaign. Willie Mullins’s horse has at least improved in his three efforts in 2016/17, but he has failed to trouble the judge.

He was well-beaten on his return behind Djakadam in the John Durkan where Danny Mullins reported him to be “flat” on the way to post. He had little chance of beating Douvan over two miles at Christmas, but at least showed more before nothing much went right in the Kinloch Brae on his last start.

He got behind early and could never really land a blow, running an inefficient race to end up nicely held. He did at least show a glimmer of hope by latching on to the leaders turning in and he is a Cheltenham Festival winner, but he’s just not showed the same appetite this season. There is still time for him to spark however, and if he does, his current price would look more than fair.

The Gary Moore-trained pair of Ar Mad and Traffic Fluide get favourable mentions on the basis that they are good enough to run well in a Ryanair. Both had injuries that ruled them out of last season’s Festival, but the former has at least made one appearance this season.

Having drifted in the betting like a poor run was expected, Ar Mad (25/1) shaped with promise behind Un De Sceaux in the Tingle Creek. He was only beaten 3 ½ lengths in the end despite over racing early and then threatening to be well-beaten turning for home. The Ryanair intermediate trip could suit, but there still lingers a doubt about him performing to his best in Grade 1 company going left-handed.

Traffic Fluide (25/1) is an easier dodge at this stage given we haven’t seen him this season, but he remains a horse to monitor over the coming weeks.

I’ve been really disappointed with Vaniteux this campaign. His run in the 2016 Arkle, where he fell two out when looking booked for a sound second behind Douvan, has worked out nicely, but he hasn’t gone on. Flat tracks maybe suit him best and with worries about his optimum trip, he can be left alone at this juncture.

Zabana (20/1) was another to cross my mind at the prices, but there is every chance he could run in the Gold Cup if he shapes well on his next start. He has a disappointing effort at Christmas to put behind him, too, so he’s best watched at this stage.

The Final Verdict

In terms of ability and having had a faultless preparation, at the time of writing, I think there is a case to suggest Un De Sceaux could even be shorter than the best-priced 7/2 on offer. Sizing John looks his biggest and most solid danger, but could yet run in the Gold Cup. Uxizandre is another with the past ability to run Un De Sceaux close, but it’s impossible to know how he will come out of his brilliant 2017 comeback.

While the case however, Un De Sceaux must prove he is as good over two-and-a-half miles on potential spring terrain as he is over the minimum on soft ground. With him being an extravagant horse by nature, he could overdo things early and be a sitting duck up the home straight. Horses with a turn of pace could also cause him trouble and it makes sense to duck him now.

Josses Hill is another to swerve. He looks criminally under-priced by the bookmakers.

Three horses that interested me now were God’s Own, Sub Lieutenant and Uxizandre. Of that trio, Sub Lieutenant looks the most solid contender, but on all-known form, is simply not as classy as God’s Own and Uxizandre. He is improving however, and getting better at the right time.

Uxizandre was brilliant on his comeback in the Clarence House. On ground far too soft for his liking over an inadequate trip, to get as close to Un De Sceaux as he did – while finishing ahead of the solid Top Gamble – it must go down as an excellent return.

His price has correctly contracted after that effort and the big-time value has disappeared. It’s also hard to know if he will come forward for the run after nearly two years off the track.

This leaves us with GOD’S OWN who, like Sizing John in the Gold Cup blog, comes with risks. I have no doubt he’s good enough to go close in the Ryanair, but he may well run in the Champion Chase. On the evidence of last year’s fourth to Sprinter Sacre where he was outpaced a fair way from home, connections should strongly consider running him here.

Should the likes of Ar Mad, Josses Hill, Sub Lieutenant, Village Vic, Un De Sceaux and Uxizandre all run here, there could be a serious pace war on favouring those with a hold up style. God’s Own fits that bill, but more importantly has the requisite class to win so, gets the nod. Hopefully we get a bit of luck and connections take in this contest.


1pt each-way God’s Own @25/1 (general)

Ante-post focus: 2017 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup

We are just under seven weeks away from the Cheltenham Festival and it’s a nice time of the year to try and unearth some ante-post value. Entries for the handicaps are obviously quite a bit off, but initial admissions are now being made for the Grade 1s.

Two weeks back, connections had to put forward horses for the Gold Cup, the Champion Chase and the Ryanair. The big hurdle races are also now in and novice entries will soon be made so, it’s time to get cracking on some ante-post pieces.

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post preview

As everyone is well aware, Thistlecrack is now the horse to beat in the Gold Cup. Trained by a man who is currently ruining National Hunt racing, Colin Tizzard’s charge made a seamless transition from novice chase company to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day in astonishing fashion.

On goodish ground around a speed track, the son of Kayf Tara had too many gears for his four rivals. He will face a different test in the Gold Cup, however. As well as having to run an extra two-and-a-half furlongs, Thistlecrack will tackle Cheltenham’s New Course, a track designed to test stamina.

If the ground came up similar to what it was at Kempton, in March, the gelding will have to run for an extra 40+ seconds which equates to around three and a bit furlongs. How will he handle this more demanding test given his exuberance? It would be a slight concern for me.

Tom Scudamore will have an important role in utilising Thistlecrack’s energy efficiently. The 2016 World Hurdle winner has been ridden more forward in his races this season, small fields allowing Scudamore to keep things simple, but come Gold Cup day a switch to more reserved tactics should be employed, especially if the early fractions are quick.

There is little doubt Thistlecrack is the classiest horse in the race and he should be ridden so, particularly, with potential pace spoilers like Bristol De Mai, Many Clouds, Native River and Zabana in.

Nothing in the Gold Cup field can match his raw pace, but the classiest horse with the best gears often lose races and at a best-price of even money, he’s obviously not worth considering backing at the moment.

According to the betting, Native River, the favourite’s stable mate, is his biggest danger. Best-priced at 6/1, those odds look fair at this early stage with the Gold Cup test looking tailor-made for this relentless galloper.

Having made a lovely seasonal debut at Wetherby over hurdles in the West Yorkshire Hurdle, Native River then went on to win the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow.

I had him running to circa 160 in the Hennessy and I don’t think he needed to improve to beat a soon-to-be 12-year-old Raz De Maree in Wales. He didn’t jump as well as he can, but to win in the style he did off top-weight was a classy effort and I certainly respect his chances.

The two Tizzard runners take a sizeable chunk out of the market and are next followed by Cue Card, yet another Tizzard possible, Djakadam and Outlander.

The old boy Cue Card is now 11 and will find it tough to win against horses with youth on their side. While the case, he still has to be respected and could easily run into the frame. With connections last week confirming him for the race, his price (10/1) has detracted and is now no more than fair.

He also needs to bounce back from a slightly below par effort in the King George behind Thistlecrack. He was beaten over three lengths there, but on a sharp track that rode quicker due to the ground, it didn’t play to his strengths.

Some sloppy jumps and him having to navigate three and four wide at various stages didn’t help either, nor, being the only horse to take on the brilliant winner before the straight; those exertions softening him up for the remaining pack to close.

On softer ground around Cheltenham’s New Course, it wold suit better, but winning Gold Cups is a young man’s game and father time is as much a nemesis as the likes of Thistlecrack.

It feels like Djakadam (10/1) has been around nearly as long as Cue Card, but Willie Mullins’s inmate is still only eight! Rich Ricci’s horse has been second in the last two Gold Cups behind two very good winners in Coneygree and Don Cossack.

A reproduction of those efforts – one coming on soft, the other on good – would see him go very close. Softer ground would blunt the finishing kick of potential speedier types and I feel his chance would be helped by rain-softened sod on March 17.

Djakadam started this campaign in adequate style when beating Outlander readily in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. It came as a shock to see the aforementioned runner-up turn the tables just over two weeks later in the Lexus Chase.

A lack of an end-to-end gallop and a keen-going Djakadam contributed, the son of Saints Des Saints looking paceless turning for home before staying on strongly. The fact he still finished his race out despite being keen was a great sign and off proper Gold Cup fractions I could easily see him turning the form.

Outlander (14/1) surprised me in winning the Lexus, but the step up to three miles obviously helped him and given the pace, he deserves great credit for getting up to score given his early backward position. He’s a horse I’ve never really warmed to in terms of winning at the major festivals.

He’s obviously good and maybe he’s just an improved performer this season; the switch to Gordon Elliott’s yard unlocking further progress, but I do wonder how he’ll cope in a proper-strong run race?

Best of the Rest

Nigel Twiston-Davies’s Bristol De Mai (20/1 in a place) threw his hat into the Gold Cup ring with a brilliant performance in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, bolting up hard on the bridle for a 22 lengths success.

Visually, it was devastating, but I’m finding it hard to believe he ran to a mark nearing the 170s – if you think the second home didn’t significantly run below par, which I don’t think he did.

He has earned his Gold Cup place, no doubt, but Haydock’s flat three miles where he could get into beautiful rhythm will be a far cry from Cheltenham’s New Course where pace pressure will come early. A young horse and just gone six, this test may also come a year too early in his career.

Six other horses remained that I thought were potentially worth backing at this stage. Three fall under ‘soft ground is key’ and three fall under ‘nice ground is key’. Predicating ground conditions this far out is impossible, but Bobs Worth’s Gold Cup (2013) aside, the race tends to be on nice terrain.

With that being the case and Donald Trump still not believing in Global Warming, it’s safer to assume we’ll get nice sod come March.

On soft ground, the likes of Don Poli (33/1) and Many Clouds (40/1) would be huge prices while, to a lesser degree, Minella Rocco (33/1) would be of interest. The aforementioned pair may also take the Grand National route meaning they come with risks attached.

Don Poli ran a credible third in last season’s Gold Cup on ground that was far too quick for his liking. Many Clouds was a brilliant Grand National winner and has a distinct touch of class while Minella Rocco is still an unknown in this sphere despite already being a Cheltenham Festival winner. We must remember, it was less than 12 months ago he beat Native River in the National Hunt Chase.

Just like the ‘soft ground is key’ horses, a now National Hunt stalwart figures among two potential horses in this ‘section’. At their current prices Sizing John (50/1), the experienced Road To Riches (50/1) and Zabana (40/1) are worth considering.

Of that trio, on current form, Sizing John looks the safest option on the back of an excellent Kinlock Brae success at Thurles. There was no Douvan to take on this time and on his first try over two-and-a-half miles on nice sod, he created a big impression, staying on strongly to win by 2 ½ lengths from Sub Lieutenant.

At the line, he was well on top of the runner up, a horse who on his previous effort finished third behind Djakadam and Outlander in the John Durkan. There is no doubt in my mind Sub Lieutenant ran his race and the form looks strong and reliable.

The one big question with Sizing John is if he will stay, but on his Kinlock Brae performance, on nice ground, I feel he has every chance of seeing out three miles, after that, who knows? His pedigree and laidback approach to life add further positives and Jessica Harrington’s inmate is live outsider, if connections decide to take this route.

Zabana is another Irish horse to consider for trainer Andrew Lynch. On his 2 lengths defeat of Outlander at last year’s Punchestown Festival, he looks a big price. His seasonal debut at Down Royal was a pipe opener before he won in the fog at Gowran Park.

His last run in the Lexus Chase behind Outlander was disappointing, but he just looked off his game, for whatever reason. Maybe they didn’t go quick enough with him and the fact he travelled wide throughout is also a potential negative. Despite his flat pedigree, the son of Halling looks like a proper stayer and the Gold Cup test could unlock further improvement.

Having finished third in the 2015 Gold Cup behind Coneygree and third in last season’s Ryanair behind Vautour, Noel Meade’s Road To Riches has the back class to run a big race. Things haven’t got swimmingly since however, a crunching fall last campaign at the Punchestown Festival maybe leaving its mark.

Then pulled up in the Galway Plate before a well-beaten second behind Ballycasey at Gowran Park, I thought he shaped OK in the Lexus when beaten around 17 lengths. He wasn’t fully primed that day and the hold-up tactics used may suggest connections are just trying to get his confidence back.

A better run in the Irish Gold Cup could see his odds tumble for March and while he is ten, he’s no pensioner. He clearly likes Cheltenham in the spring and with the Meade team in much better order this season, he could run big.

The Final Verdict

At the prices, despite being comfortably the best horse in the race, Thistlecrack has to be taken on at this juncture. His charming zest for life and voracious bravery to attack obstacles could see his petrol gauge starting to empty in a strong-run Gold Cup on the New Course, especially on ground with juice in it.

I have an awful lot of time for Native River and to be honest, before sitting down to do this piece, I felt he was criminally under-priced. But, having gone over his form, I now feel it’s fully justified. He is a huge threat to Thistlecrack, especially on, say, soft (good-to-soft) ground. His price is the problem, however.

Winning Gold Cups is a young man’s game and Cue Card will bid to become the first 11-year-old since Mandarin (1962) to score in the Blue Riband. I could easily see him hitting the frame, but he offers no value each-way.

Either does Outlander who could be outclassed in a strong-run contest. Bristol De Mai impressed me in winning the Peter Marsh, but I’m struggling to get to grips with that race and as a six-year-old, I can leave him.

Djakadam I too can leave. He’s another that has strong each-way claims, but the place part of the bet doesn’t offer value. So with the front six in the market all looking about right in terms of their price, it’s worth swinging the bat in this year’s Gold Cup.

Don Poli and Many Clouds are far too big in the betting, but their chance really relies on softish ground. The percentage call is to assume we’ll have nice terrain come March. This pair may also take in the Grand National instead of coming here.

Looking at the early entries for this year’s Irish Gold Cup, it may not be a race run to stretch stamina and with that in mind, it could set up nicely for SIZING JOHN. It will be a first try for Jessica Harrington’s inmate over three miles, but he has a great chance of seeing it out.

A laidback back attitude and a by a sire (Midnight Legend) laden in stamina, Sizing John’s visual impression in winning the Kinlock Brae suggests he is well worth a go. After that victory, his winning rider, Robbie Power, said:

“He is so laid-back. I knew I had plenty left. He has that bit of speed. When I gave him a squeeze, he really quickened up. I think he would stay any trip. He is so lazy. The Ryanair would look tailor-made for him”

Positive words about a potential step up in trip although negative news in terms of mentioning another Cheltenham target, the Ryanair Chase. Given his owners however, Alan and Ann Potts, a good run in the Irish Gold Cup would almost certainly secure his place at Cheltenham on March 17.

A good third in the 2015 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and second in last campaign’s Arkle, Sizing John’s festival form is another plus. He’s only had two runs this season, too, another positive as he’ll hopefully be fresher than most.

It’s a risky proposition, as he may not run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but at 50/1, I’m willingly to take a chance.


1pt each-way Sizing John @50/1 (Betfred, Bet Victor, Boylesports, StanJames, William Hill)

2016 Cheltenham Festival ante-post previews

In the build-up to the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, I will be doing previews of the big Grade 1 races for BetBright. When new pieces go live, I’ll put the links here. If following the advice in the blogs, please shop around before placing any bets as better odds and terms may be available elsewhere. (Sorry BetBright)

2016 Champion Hurdle ante-post preview:

2016 Queen Mother Champion Chase ante-post preview:

2016 Ryanair Chase ante-post preview:

2016 World Hurdle ante-post preview:

2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post preview

2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ante-post preview

2016 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle ante-post preview

2016 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle ante-post preview:

2016 Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase ante-post preview:

2016 JLT Novices’ Chase ante-post preview:

2016 RSA Chase ante-post preview:

2016 Triumph Hurdle ante-post preview:


Royal Ascot 2015 – Ante-Post Focus

Wednesday 17 June – Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Having taken a closer look at this year’s running of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, I feel the race is open to an upset, of sorts. Those to the head of the market have plenty question marks about them and it may pay to take some early value.

That comes in the form of Japanese raider, SPIELBERG. Now, I won’t even try to suggest I’m in the know, where the Japanese formbook stands, but with the ‘local’ challenge looking tepid, it wouldn’t surprise to see one of Japan’s top middle-distance horses go close.

His win at Tokyo in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho back in November saw him defeat a top-class horse in Gentildonna. Like I said, I don’t know much about the Japanese form, but I do know Gentildonna is a genuine top-class horse.

Having watched that race and his Japan Cup third, where he again beat Gentildonna, over her preferable trip, it’s clear to me Spielberg is a very useful type.  It’s also worth pointing out, Just A Way, another top-class Far-Eastern horse, was just ahead in second, too.

In terms of his strong suits, the son of Deep Impact looks to have a nice turn of foot. He really gets motoring at the end of his races. Ten furlongs, according to his connections, is his best trip, so I can see the stiff course and distance of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes suiting him. Fast ground, which he likes, it looks like he will get meaning some of the most important variables for him are covered.

A massive factor in the bet is the booking of Christophe Soumillon, who knows the Ascot track well through his exploits with Cirrus Des Aigles. Soumillon will replace the selection’s regular rider back home, and that is another bonus.

With Free Eagle having his first start of the year, The Grey Gatsby looking overrated (officially), the inexperienced and free-going Ectot having his first run and California Chrome’s inexperience of European turf racing all being negatives for his main rivals, a price of 16/1 is simply too big.

He’s worth chancing at that price.


1pt each-way SPIELBERG @16/1 (Bet Fred, Bet Victor, Coral, Ladbrokes, StanJames)

Wednesday 17 June – Royal Hunt Cup

Where the Hunt Cup is concerned, two horses catch my eye and it may will be a case of grabbing a decent bit of value at this early stage before the declarations come out. AMERCIAN HOPE and FIRST FLIGHT both ran crackers at last year’s Royal Ascot meeting in the Britannia Stakes despite being drawn on the ‘wrong side’ of the track.

The main action happened stand-side where the first five places were filled with runners drawn high. American Hope was sixth while First Flight was ninth, beaten under fourth lengths.

Straight track form at Ascot always holds up well back at the course, so I feel it’s worth getting this duo onside early as there is a strong chance they may go off shorter.

I fancied American Hope last time out when he bombed out, but that effort is easily forgiven. Quite simply he was too keen into a strong headwind and was beaten early. He’s a horse who needs to get cover and if Shane Kelly can anchor him early on Wednesday week, American Hope will finish off strong.

In terms of First Flight I was very taken with this season’s comeback run at York where he finished third in a useful handicap. Held-up near last off a sedate gallop he was in an awful position to get competitive, but he still managed to do so through a sharp turn of foot. He shaped well despite the trip appearing to stretch him and back over the stiff Ascot straight mile he is very intriguing.


1pt win AMERICAN HOPE @25/1 (general)

1pt win FIRST FLIGHT @20/1 (bet365, Ladbrokes, Sky Bet)

Thursday 18 June – ASCOT GOLD CUP

The final ante-post bet of the evening comes in the Gold Cup. With conditions looking like they may be fast, it could well be that two of the market leaders, Forgotten Rules and Clever Cookie don’t line up. If that’s the case, horse’s prices will freefall, so getting on early may be beneficial.

The horse in question is the Willie Mullins-trained SIMENON, a stalwart of this race. He was second in 2013 and fourth last year, but with many horses who beat him in previous Cups not returning, any weakness in the current crop may be pounced on.

Run over two-and-a-half miles at Ascot, this race is all about stamina. No matter how good you are, if you don’t stay this trip, you won’t win. Simenon is certain to finish his race off and with him having a decent amount of class, he is simply too big a price at 20/1 in a race that may cut up badly.

He made a lovely return at Sandown two weeks ago despite plenty in the race playing against his strengths. For a start, he had to carry a penalty. Than the race was run at a crawl which wouldn’t suit his staying strengths, and this all came on debut.

It was interesting Ryan Moore rode him and I have a funny feeling Moore may keep the ride.

Even if the favourites were to line up, I still feel the current price is too big. He and Brown Panther are the only two guaranteed stayers, of the class horses I like, this year, and with Simenon receiving a poor ride in last year’s race, there is every chance he can turn that form with Brown Panther.

If the younger brigade don’t stay Willie Mullins’s stayer may pick up the pieces.


1pt each-way SIMENON @20/1 (Bet Victor, Ladbrokes, StanJames)

Ante-Post Focus: Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes

York, Wednesday 13 May – Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes

The first ante-post bet for the blog is coming pretty soon into the season, but given what Astaire did today (16 April) at Newmarket  it looks like we have a young, progressive sprinter on our hands in NAADIRR.

Marco Botti’s inmate put this afternoon’s Group 3 Abernant Stakes winner Astaire in his place easily last time out at Doncaster, on the opening day of the flat season. While being nicely on top close home, in a race that wasn’t run to suit his hold-up style, the son of Oasis Dream also gave the Kevin Ryan-trained runner three pounds. This adds plenty merit to an already visually impressive performance.

The form of Astaire’s victory today looks solid for Naadirr fans. He fended off a progressive sprinter in Watchable while having a classy speedster in Music Master back in third. Jack Dexter (fourth) is no slouch either, and while the run came on faster than ideal ground for him, it adds to the form’s concrete look.

Yes, Astaire had a fitness edge on the second and third home, but both of those won first time out last season so may have been pretty straight; after all they both ran perfectly satisfactory races.

With the above in mind Naadirr’s Doncaster win now looks sound and he interests me going to the Duke Of York Stakes. His progressive profile is just what you want in a young horse and the four-year-old has clearly summered well and returned in rude health.

This 425,000 guineas purchase may now start to pay back that hefty price tag and a return to York will possibly bring out further improvement. Two of his best efforts in 2014 came on the Knavesmire and given how well course form stands up there it’s another positive.

As ever with ante-post betting we are in the lap of the gods. We need our selection to turn-up on the day. Soft ground would be a concern and as with all races over sprint distances a favourable draw is desirable; there is little room for error racing over such trips.

Should Naadirr turn-up on May 13 I’m sure he won’t be a 12/1 shot and could in fact even be half that price. Here’s hoping he makes it and turns up in form. With fast ground. With a good draw. Is that too much to ask?


1pt each-way NAADIRR @12/1 (Betfair Sportsbook, bet365, Boylesports, Ladbrokes)



Ante-Post Focus: Aintree 2014

The start of the Aintree Grand National meeting is just three days away so I’m thinking it might be time to show a little bit of initiative in the ante-post markets in the hope of obtaining some value. Entries for all races are now through, but it’s the Betfred Bowl and the Melling Chase runners and markets that have caught my eye.

2.30 Aintree Thursday – Betfred Bowl

Fourteen have been entered up in this, but although no more than a fair price currently, I’m willing to stick up the confirmed runner, DYNASTE. This classy grey has grown on me over the last year or so. He‘s one of the most consistent top horses in training and has been bang there in good races throughout his career, especially over the last two seasons.

His chasing record is impressive, in terms of consistency, despite one blip, which came in this year’s King George. The son of Martaline was too poor to be true and subsequently was found to have pulled muscles in his hind quarters. This setback was a worry coming into the Cheltenham Festival, but he’d still go on to win the Ryanair in great style. It wasn’t a vintage running by any means, but I felt he gave some good horses, who had the race run to suit, a bit too much leeway. It didn’t matter in the end as he bounded up the hill to score convincingly.

Cheltenham is also a track that I feel doesn’t bring out the very best in him so his performance can possibly be marked up further. The eight-year-old has always shown his best for on flat tracks, like Aintree, so a return to a less demanding circuit is another positive.

In summing up the case for him, Dynaste too is a good jumper. A strong ability to travel through races is also another plus. While his price is only fair there is a chance the race may cut up further and current odds of 9/4 may contract.

Silviniaco Conti looks to be the selections biggest danger. He too is a classy horse, but there must be a strong possibility his brutal Cheltenham effort, a good run, has left its mark? Dynaste comes in a fresher horse and Silviniaco Conti was behind him earlier in the season in the Betfair Chase, too.

Another strong challenger is First Lieutenant, the Gigginstown horse that sadly missed the Gold Cup due to not eating up. (Connections possibly leaving a Gold Cup behind – we’ll never know) He’s another good horse, but finds it difficult to win and is highly dependent on good ground and a strong gallop to show his best form. Even that may not be good enough here and Bryan Cooper missing must be another negative.

The rest really don’t look good enough. Cue a boil over.

3.05 Aintree Friday – Melling Chase

The second selection runs on the Friday and like the above race we have a double figure entry, this time 13 runners. Like the Bowl the Melling may also cut up so in acting fast, we may be able to obtain a bit of value while too holding genuine claims of scoring.

To my eye, the market has this wrong at the moment. Only one book have priced up the race, Paddy Power, but it’s a small surprise that MODULE is not favourite. While official ratings can be a touch, well, inaccurate at times, it’s interesting the handicapper has Module six pounds clear of his nearest market rival, Rajdhani Express and a further three pounds clear of the next, Ballynagour.

Tom George’s chaser is still only seven-year-olds although it feels like he’s been around a fair bit longer. Since going over fences the son of Panoramic has taken his form to another level. As a novice he was a staying on fourth in the Jewson at the Cheltenham Festival before being put away for this current campaign. Connections patience may be starting to pay off as this season has seen the bay reach new heights.

An excellent second in the Haldon Gold Cup (just behind Somersby) at Exeter was followed by a disappointing effort next time out at Huntingdon. The nature of the latter track probably didn’t suit. That said, it’s encouraging that his last two runs improved.

A win at Newbury in heavy ground came before another Cheltenham Festival run, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, behind Sire De Grugy. Having done a lot right he found himself outpaced approaching the straight, fighting a losing battle, before running on to grab third. That was a career best and given how he was finishing the step-up to this intermediate trip should be perfect. He jumped superbly, too so that is another asset to have.

It doesn’t look the strongest of heats and while there is a chance I’m maybe under-rating Rajdhani Express, history shows Ballynagour struggles to put back to back races together. This rest are really all of a muchness and I’d be disappointed if he didn’t go close, if on form.

As you can see, I’ve put up two horses here and there is good reason in this instance. I’m advising an each-way double. As said I feel like Dynaste’s price is fair with the ability to contract while Module’s odds offer a touch of value. Furthermore, one or both races may cut up badly leaving first two placings on the day(s).

Both hold outstanding chances of winning, but I really couldn’t see either out of the frame so an each-way double is the bet I’ll be doing.

Good Luck!


2pts each-way double Dynaste @9/4 and Module @4/1 (Paddy Power)

Blog update – March 2014

Well it’s not an update I wanted to do, but it had to be done. It makes for pretty grim reading, a significant part of the fall deriving from a poor Cheltenham Festival.

I did a lot of work for Cheltenham, maybe too much, and I possibly over-complicated things. So for people that followed me religiously, if there are a such, I can only apologise. It’s another lesson so I’m hoping I can take from it.

Going into December 2013 we were up +55.21 for the year, since September (the blog first started in September 2012), but from here it went downhill. A loss on non-Cheltenham related blogs equalled -20.9, from December to March.

So before the March madness started we were 55.21 – 20.9 = +34.31.

Now it’s where it gets depressing:

Ante-Post Cheltenham blogs showed a loss of -29.

Blogs from Cheltenham on the day showed a loss of -16.5.

Therefore, for the year we are showing a loss of +34.31 – 29 – 16.5 = –11.19.

Our overall blog score now reads +207.45 – 11.19 = +196.26.

I am sorry for that, Cheltenham was a real killer this year, the complete opposite of 2013. The highs and lows of it all, hey? Anyway, with a bit of hard work I’m sure we can finish the year out strongly as I’ve always preferred punting on the flat. Here’s hoping.