The following runners from my list to follow are entered tomorrow.
Epsom 5.30 Raaeidd
Ripon 4.45 Dark Lane
Epsom 5.20 Piquante and Speed Dating
Warwick 5.25 Bourne
Today’s picture is by kind permission of the artist Susan Shaw.
There is a good card at The Curragh tomorrow where the Group 1 Moyglare Stakes at 3.45 tops the bill. Sent From Heaven boosted the form of Long Lashes when winning today and I will take the Godolphin filly to upset the favourite,
Later on the card in the 5.15 English horses look set to dominate with both Look Busy and Judge ‘N Jury in with chances. Look Busy gets my vote but I would be tempted to have a small each way saver on Judge ‘N Jury.
My selections at Goodwood are Cat Junior (3.55) and Mabuya (4.30) July Jasmine also represents my list to follow in the 2.45.
At Yarmouth Decorative and Blue Lyric are interesting newcomers in the 2.20 while in the 4.40 Tiger Flash, second over course and distance last time looks to hold a good chance.
At Deauville Mark Johnston’s Jukebox Jury looks more likely to be a hit than a miss in the Group 2 at 3.30.
Today’s picture is courtesy of the artist Karen Davies.
Saga de Tercey gave me a welcome winner today. He looks just the type of stayer that Alan Swinbank excels with and I will follow his progress with interest.
There is always a bit of a lull at this time of the flat season before the better quality action returns with the St Leger. There are plenty of meetings to go at over the weekend though and the quality of the racing isn’t bad after the modest fare served up midweek.
Starting at Beverley my old friend Dig Deep runs in the 2.30. I included him in my list to follow in the hope that things would drop right for him somewhere during the season and he would come in at a big price. He duly obliged last week at 16/1 although he probably isn’t the sort of animal that will necessarily follow up. He has been raised 4 lbs for his short head win and is still well handicapped on his best form. He has a chance but I don’t think the 5/1 currently quoted is value.
Goliath’s Boy has been running quite well without winning and has an each way chance in the 3.00.
The 3.35 is an interesting sprint. Some pundits fancied Invincible Lad at Chester last week but he had little chance from a poor draw and ran well in the circumstances. He should go well as should the Dandy Nicholls runner Masta Plasta.
Goodwood next and the 2.35 where the Godolphin runner Urban Poet is likely to be favourite. I am going to oppose him with John Dunlop’s King of Wands who has impressed me this season. There is perhaps a slight doubt about his ability to handle the track but he will do for me.
The form of the 2,000 Guineas this season has worked out remarkably well and on that basis you have to give Delegator a solid chance in the 2.35. Course and distance winner Zacinto is open to any amount of improvement after just 3 career starts and he could just be the danger.
The pair that make most appeal in the 3.45 are Sent From Heaven and Siyaadah. If pushed for a single selection it would be Sent From Heaven.
At Newmarket the Michael Jarvis pair of Noafal and Sard both hold group entries and any market support for them would be interesting while Palace Moon can bounce back to form in the 3.25 for the in form trainer Hughie Morrison.
Stoic has shown enough in his 2 outings to date to indicate he can win races and he is the selection in the 4.00.
There are two runners from my list to follow in the 5.05, Park Lane and Bullet Man. Now that Park Lane has got off the mark he may be able to build on that success and he is the tentative selection. Moheeb would come into the reckoning given plenty of rain.
At Windsor I will stick with Warringah in the 6.10 after his gallant effort in the Ebor.
Today’s picture is by kind permission of the artist Sarah Aspinall.
Winners have been thin on the ground of late but One Good Emperor (3rd at 20/1) was a fair shout today. We live in hope!
I fancied Northside Prince on Tuesday when he found one too good for him at Ayr. Although his sire was a miler, winning the Irish Guineas, he has quite a strong influence for stamina on his dam’s side. She was a full sister to Ionian Spring who did his winning over 10 furlongs or more and a half sister to Conduit and Hard Top. I half expected to see him upped in trip in search of that elusive first win but he drops down to a mile in the Hamilton 7.00 tomorrow. Clearly one of those occasions when the trainer knows rather more than us amateurs! It is a weak race with the main threat coming from recent course and distance winner Mohawk Ridge. The latter didn’t beat much though and has a 6 lbs penalty whereas Northside Prince has a good apprentice on board claiming 3 lbs. On pedigree Northside Prince should handle soft ground and may be able to break his duck here.
At Newmarket Cactus Curtsey represents my list to follow in the 4.35.After an encouraging debut when 3rd at Doncaster at July she has not really progressed and runs in a claimer tomorrow. Strictly on ratings she has a chance of making the frame but this is a poor race.
Another horse dropped in class is the frustrating Charles Parnell in the 2.00 at Thirsk. He did well on the all weather last winter winning a couple of times at Southwell. Although in theory he has been well treated on turf this year he has not been able to make it count and most recently was 3rd to Turnkey at Carlisle. He runs in the claimer at Thirsk but has a bit to find with Mutamared who was once rated 104.
My main hope of a winner tomorrow is Saga de Tercey in the 4.15. A former bumper winner he has been running consistently and with few miles on the clock he should have more improvement in him. Runner up at York last week he can go one better tomorrow.
Baybshambles has done well for his small stable winning 6 races at the minimum trip. He has shown that he goes well for an apprentice as he has had a claimer on board for 4 of his wins. He runs in an apprentice handicap tomorrow in the 4.45 at Thirsk where he is a course and distance winner. He has won on soft but may prefer a sound surface.
Today’s pictures are courtesy of Katy Sodeau (top) and Ruth Buchanan.
It is always nice to tip a winner but some give you more of a buzz than others. Bagber is no world beater but he finally got off the mark at my lucky track at Kempton, fairly storming up the straight – well he went quicker than the others anyway. This was his 11th start and he had only been out of the first 4 once previously and this success was well deserved. Ryan Moore had ridden him on his previous outing, also at Kempton and had chosen to stay with him which I always think is a good sign. Sometimes when a horse keeps getting placed it is because he is not genuine but with Bagber it was more that he is not the quickest and kept finding one or two too good for him. Harry Dunlop found him a winning opportunity at Kempton though and Ryan Moore gave the horse a good ride from the front.
There is flat racing at Ayr, Catterick and Warwick tomorrow. And there are a few runners from my list to follow dotted about. There are a couple in the Ayr 2.40, Northside Prince and Jachol. Northside Prince has been running well enough but like Bagber has not managed to get his head in front. He remains capable of winning off a mark of 65. Jachol is also a maiden after 7 starts and was a beaten favourite last time out at Newmarket. That was over 12 furlongs and the drop back in trip tomorrow may well see him in a better light. This is probably not a race to get too carried away with but Northside Prince should go well as long as the soft ground does not present him with any problems. He does have plenty of stamina on the dam’s side.
In the 3.40 Woodsley House has dropped to the same mark as his last two wins which should enable him to be competitive. He is a course winner and seems to act on any ground. On the negative side the stable could be in better form.
Casual Garcia had shown nothing in his races this season until finishing 4th at Pontefract 10 days ago. A change of tactics may have helped on that occasion as he was ridden with much more restraint. He runs in the 3.20 at Catterick tomorrow and in an open race he has a sporting chance.
I have been tipping Cook’s Endeavour all season with no success. He turns out again in the 3.50 at Catterick after running poorly at Redcar last time. I still have the feeling that he is better than he has shown this season but it is difficult to drum up a case for him on the form book.
Burma Rock was not beaten far by the highly rated Glass Harmonium last year as a 2 year old but has disappointed in his 2 starts this season. He may well be capable of better and is worth another chance in the Warwick 5.00.
Moving on to Thursday I would fancy Prince Rhyddarch in the 2.40 at Ayr if the ground is riding soft. He has dropped a few pounds in the handicap and if getting his ground should go well.
I thought that One Good Emperor made an encouraging debut at Goodwood and should benefit from the experience in the 3.50 at Lingfield.
My thanks to David Hebb for the photo of Catterick racecourse.
Bye for now.
Quito ran his first race for trainer David Chapman in July 2002 as a 5 year old having previously won twice in Dubai. He soon showed himself to be a tough competitor on the all weather and ran up a hat trick within a fortnight that autumn under the jockey who was to be his regular pilot, Tony Culhane.
I began following him at the start of the 2003 season having been impressed by his performances on the polytrack, especially a 6 length win at Wolverhampton where he trounced a reasonable performer called Geronimo. The first time I actually backed him was in a handicap at Doncaster when he looked all over the winner running hard against the stands rail until just caught on the line by Grey Cossack. Despite that narrow defeat Quito was a very profitable horse to follow that season with wins at Thirsk (7/1) and Newcastle (14/1) beating the useful Celtic Mill in the latter handicap. The best was yet to come that season though when, with a late flourish which was becoming his trademark, he got up close home to land the Ayr Gold Cup at 20/1. His first win for David Chapman was gained off a mark of 59 but such was his progress that he won at Ayr off a rating of 92.
Quito’s career took off from there and in total during his career he won 20 times from 121 starts. The son of Machiavellian struck up a fine partnership with Tony Culhane who rode him to 14 of his career victories. More than handicapper later in his career Quito won seven times in listed company notably when accounting for New Seeker in the John O’Gaunt Stakes at Haydock in 2006. Arguably his finest performance was when finishing strongly to when 2nd, beaten a neck by Reverence in Haydock’s Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at the age of 9.
David Chapman bought Quito for only 3,500 gns in 2002 and by the end of his career he had won nearly half a million pounds in prize money. In fact his trainer maintained that the horse never really fulfilled his potential as a result of problems with his joints.
A horse with a lot of ability and a great engine, ee was initially retired after suffering from sore shins in the summer of 2007 but after not finding retirement to his liking made a brief comeback running 3 times in 2008 at the age of 11.
Although he always ran in blinkers Quito was 100% genuine and the old warrior was as tough as they come. He is now enjoying a well earned retirement with trainer Ruth Carr, who always looked after him and has now taken over the license from her grandfather David Chapman.
Simon Callaghan introduces an interesting 2 year old in the Kempton 2.40 tomorrow in Mount Juliet. There have been some promising reports about this filly although she may need this first run. Certainly one to keep on eye on.
Later on the Kempton card there are a couple of runners from my list to follow, Hyades in the 3.40 and Bagber in the 4.10. Since winning a Yarmouth maiden on fast ground (the 2nd won next time out) Hyades has been running well enough in some hot handicaps. He seems to have quite a difficult task against some of these rivals however and I couldn’t tip him with any real confidence. Bagber has been running consistently and deserves to win a race. Tomorrow’s race looks to be the best opportunity he has had to get his head in front and with Ryan Moore riding he looks to hold a good chance.
The 4.00 at Windsor looks an open race with all 6 runners in with a shout. If Mick Channon’s Aattash settles he could be the answer.
Annice Stellato returns after a 2 month absence in the 4.30. She ran in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and the Ribblesdale earlier in the season so clearly had shown some form at home. She might be worth considering. Cherish the Moment represents my list to follow in the 5.00 but there appear to be others with better claims.
Today’s picture is courtesy of the artist Sally Martin.
The next update will be on Tuesday evening.
The last couple of days have seen an improvement on the tipping front including Dig Deep at 16/1 yesterday. Most of the horses featured in last night’s preview ran well enough.
As usual I will go through the runners from my list to follow that are entered tomorrow starting at Chester with Invincible Lad in the 2.25. He is on a high enough mark at the moment I feel and does not have an ideal draw. He has a bit of an each way chance but there do seem to be others with stronger claims notably Tom Dascombe’s Bertoliver a course and distance winner with a nice low draw who has a very able pilot in Philip Robinson.
Although not one of my “listers” I think that Dhaular Dhar is in with a chance in the 3.30. He likes a sharp track and does well in big field handicaps.
Saga De Tercey is entered in the 5.10 but ran today so may well be withdrawn. If he does line up he would warrant serious consideration.
It would be a lovely result if Simple Rhythm could win the Ripon 2.50 as the race is in memory of the jockey’s mother. The once raced Ruthie Babe from the William Haggas yard could be the answer in the 4.00.
Trumpstoo and Know by Now represent my list to follow in the 5.05. Trumpstoo looks to have the better chance of the pair. He is also entered on Sunday in the 5.20 up at Musselburgh.
In the Sandown 2.10 Say No Now looks a decent price at around 6/1 while in the 3.15 course and distance winner Antinori looks good value at 12s
Sir Mark Prescott sends his consistent 2 year old Virginia Hall over to Deauville where she tackles Group 3 company for the first time in the 2.05.
They is a good card at Deauville on Sunday where a couple of English colts, Canford Cliffs and Arcano contest the Group 1 Prix Morny. Both come into the race with unbeaten records and it promises to be a fascinating clash.
Bye for now
I have made a change to the normal format this year. I have selected 50 horses that for one reason or another impressed me during the season and added comments on a few more that didn’t quite make the initial list. As usual the list is very much a personal one.
Alfie Sherrin (P Nicholls) – Recruited by Paul Nicholls after winning his only point to point in a Larkhill maiden he earns his place on the list by winning both his starts under rules, a bumper at Chepstow and a novice hurdle at Fontwell.
American Trilogy (P Nicholls) – Formerly a smart French flat performer. Paul Nicholls’ grey turned a competitive looking County Hurdle into a procession winning as he pleased under Ruby Walsh at 20/1. He had won a maiden at Aintree at the start of the winter but had rather lost his way until making nonsense of his handicap mark at Cheltenham.
Andytown (N Henderson) – This son of Old Vic started the season as a novice chase hopeful but in the end his two wins both came over hurdles, and both at Cheltenham. The first win came in mid November with Felix de Giles during the steering in a conditional jockey’s handicap. The nature of the victory didn’t escape the notice of the handicapper who raised the horse 18 lbs! It didn’t prevent him gaining a memorable second success though. The penultimate race at the Cheltenham Festival was a conditional jockey’s handicap named after the now retired legend of the training ranks Martin Pipe. Not surprisingly son David was keen to capture the prize and accounted for 7 of the 23 starters. Andytown spoiled the party though. Always travelling well he stayed on strongly up the hill under Felix de Giles to win convincingly at rewarding odds of 25/1.
Auroras Encore (Sue Smith) – Progressed into a useful chaser. Wins at Sedgefield and Carlisle were followed by a further success at Ayr when he was trying 3 miles for the first time at 17/2.
Bakbenscher (A King) – Alan King’s grey proved a profitable horse to follow winning a novice hurdle at Newbury in December at 11/2. His best run though was when runner up to Big Eared Fran in a Grade 3 novices handicap hurdle at Sandown.
Ballygalley Bob (O Sherwood) – I always like to include a variety of horse in my end of season review, not just the big name champions but some of the lesser lights as well. Ballygalley Bob is certainly no superstar but he won a long distance handicap chase at Warwick making all at 11/1 so was a profitable one to follow.
Bensalem (A King) – A smart recruit to the hurdling ranks. A former Irish points winner Bensalem won a bumper at Sandown before notching 3 wins from 4 starts in novice hurdles with the only defeat coming in a close finish against Diamond Harry. He missed Cheltenham through a bad scope and also bypassed Aintree as it was feared the ground would be on the quick side for him. He looks an exciting prospect for next season whether he stays over hurdles or, as is more likely tackles fences.
Big Eared Fran (D Pipe) – This grey put up a couple of particularly taking performances. He landed a valuable novices handicap hurdle at Sandown in March and went to the Festival the following week where he finished 3rd in the inaugural running of the Conditional jockeys handicap hurdle named in honour of Martin Pipe.
Big Fella Thanks (P Nicholls) – Came into the new season with great expectations having won twice over hurdles, a discipline that was never going to play to his strengths. After a slightly patchy start to his career over the larger obstacles he won the Skybet Chase at Doncaster in January. Although a beaten favourite in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton this almost certainly represented improved form. Her then finished 6th in the Grand National, not at all a bad effort given the miserable record of 7 year olds in the big race.
Binocular (N Henderson) – After impressive displays in the 2008 Cheltenham and Aintree festivals Binocular (pictured below) was a leading fancy for the Champion Hurdle and began his campaign with a penalty kick win at odds of 1/9. Facing a stiffer test in the Boylesports International at Ascot in December he simply blew away 4 talented rivals including the previous season’s champion Hurdler Katchit without coming off the bridle.
On the big day he was sent off 6/4 favourite for the Champion Hurdle but in a thrilling finish was edged into 3rd by his less fancied stablemate Punjabi. How much a less than ideal preparation contributed to his defeat is hard to say but it may be that a combination of a fast pace and uphill finish just tested his stamina a shade too far.
Character Building (JJ Quinn) – A smart handicap staying chaser when things fall right for him he boasted a 2nd in a National Hunt Chase and a 3rd in a Hennesey on his CV coming into the season. He is not entirely straightforward but stays and jumps and Jamie Codd gave him a peach of a ride to land the 24 runner Kim Muir at the Festival producing the grey late at odds of 16/1.
Chomba Womba (N Henderson) – After failing to get in foal when retired to the paddocks Chomba Womba proved a real money-spinner for connections with early season wins in the Elite Hurdle at Ascot and the Ascot Hurdle, both Grade 2 events. She was far from disgraced for the remainder of the season running well for the most part in top class company.
Cooldine (WP Mullins) – Gets into the “fifty” courtesy of his win in the RSA Chase at The Festival. Willie Mullins’ gelding simply toyed with his rivals leaving the best of the British trailing in his wake. He looks a genuine Gold Cup contender for next year.
Copper Bleu (P Hobbs) – Very much a chaser in the making Copper Bleu did little wrong over the smaller obstacles and was never out of the frame in 6 starts. He justified favouritism to win a Newbury maiden but his best efforts were when 4th in the Supreme Novices and runner up at Aintree in the Grade 2 Mersey Novices Hurdle. He rounded off the season by winning at Punchestown.
Dave’s Dream (N Henderson) – The Imperial Cup on the Saturday immediately before Cheltenham is always an ultra competitive affair. Dave’s Dream, considered mainly a future chaser came into the race with only 3 previous starts over hurdles but was not unfancied at 12/1 and he won well by 7 lengths. What always makes this contest so interesting is the bonus put up by the sponsors, which were Paddy Power this season, for winning here and the following week at the festival. Although connections were initially unsure about running him again so quickly he did take his place in the line up for the County Hurdle 6 days later. Under a 5 lbs penalty Nicky Henderson’s charge started 7/2 favourite but finished 6th in a race turned into a procession by Paul Nicholls grey American Trilogy
Diamond Harry (N Williams) – Went into the new season with a perfect record having won the same valuable bumper at Newbury in each of the previous 2 seasons. Always held in high regard by his trainer he quickly rattled off a hat trick of wins over hurdles at Uttoxeter, Cheltenham and Newbury without being seriously troubled. Timmy Murphy, who has ridden him in all his races to date had to get more serious for the 4th win of the season at Cheltenham to see off the attentions of the useful Bensalem but with a record of 6 from 6 Diamond Harry went to the Festival for the Ballymore Novices. As usual, he was given a patient ride and came to the fore seemingly running away under Murphy before three out. His jumping was awkward when it needed to be quick, and a mistake at the last two hurdles sealed his fate and he finished 3rd. He should develop into a serious Arkle contender next season.
Fiveforthree (WP Mullins) – Held back by injury she made a very belated seasonal reappearance winning at Wexford in mid March. He then went to Aintree for the John Smith’s Grade 1 Hurdle and was just beaten in the final 75 yards by Solwhit. Compensation was not far away though and he duly landed the 3 mile hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in fine style.
Forpadydeplasterer (T Cooper) – Won a competitive renewal of The Arkle. He jumped well throughout for Barry Geraghty although he had to dig deep to fend off the late thrust of Kalahari King. The drop back to two miles proved to be the key to Thomas Cooper’s gelding that was positioned brilliantly through the race by his jockey.
Go Native (Noel Meade) – The Supreme Novice Hurdle went the way of the Irish, as Go Native held off Medermit under a cool ride from Paul Carberry. Runner-up to Hurricane Fly at Leopardstown over Christmas, he travelled strongly and stayed on well having hit the front turning for home.
Great Approach (N Richards) – Great Approach began the campaign in novice chases and didn’t make too bad a fist of it although not getting his head in front in 3 efforts. Reverting to hurdles he won a competitive handicap at Bangor in March at 9/1.
Great Endeavour (D Pipe) – David Pipe had a very poor first half of the season by the high standards of the yard but one horse that did him proud during that period was Great Endeavour. He also proved a superb horse for my list to follow as his 3 wins in maiden and novice hurdles came at 2/1, 15/2 and 11/2.
Grizebeck (N Richards) – Ran 4 times winning the first and final starts in Novice hurdles at Bangor and Ayr, beating Merigo in the latter. Was third behind Cape Tribulation and Junior in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Doncaster.
How’s Business (C Mann) – One of my more successful “listers” winning twice at odds of 7/1 and 15/2. The first win came in a handicap hurdle at Exeter and the latter in a listed mare’s handicap hurdle at Cheltenham. She also ran a creditable 6th in the David Nicolson Mare’s Hurdle at The Festival and she has since won at Uttoxeter in the “summer season.”
Hurricane Fly (WP Mullins) – Was unbeaten in 3 Grade 1 novice hurdles in Ireland. Won the future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown at Christmas in tremendously impressive style beating the subsequent Cheltenham winner Go Native by 10 lengths.
I’msingingtheblues (P Nicholls) – Won 3 of his 6 starts and was runner up in the other two. Best suited by good ground and a flat track his best win came in a valuable handicap at Doncaster on the last day in January.
Imperial Commander (N Twiston-Davies) – Has always looked a horse with a good deal of potential ever since he was an impressive winner between the flags in Ireland. He also seems to have a particular liking for Cheltenham and was landing his 4th and 5th wins there when taking the Paddy Power Chase and the Ryanair. (Imperial Commander is pictured below)
Kalahari King (F Murphy) – For once I didn’t have much luck following Ferdy Murphy’s runners but one that did prove very profitable was Kalahari King. He ran 7 times and ended with form figures of 1121212. The best of the wins for this highly consistent novice chaser came in April in the Grafe 1 Maghull Novices Chase. He has earlier only gone down by a short head in the Arkle behind Forpadydeplasterer, running a cracker on ground easier than he would have wanted it. Kalahari King is pictured below.
Kilmackiloge (M Todhunter) – I was rather pleased to tip this one when he won first time out in a handicap chase at Wetherby. He had won on his first two outings in both the previous two seasons and clearly goes well fresh.
Master Medic (R & S Alner) – Robert and Sally Alner’s chaser was one of the successes of my list to follow running up a hat trick before Christmas and at nice odds of 5/2, 8/1 and 5/1. His winning sequence began in a novice chase at Fontwell where he made all and he followed up by defying a raise in the weights of 13 lbs to win a Huntingdon handicap. Another 9 lbs hike in the weights didn’t stop this improver at Ascot in December where he recorded his 3rd win from only 4 starts over fences. Best on good or good to soft Master Medic (pictured below) was ridden by Robert Walford in each of his 3 winning runs.
Master Minded (P Nicholls) – Not quite the imperious form of the previous season but he still won 4 from 4. He took in The Tingle Creek and the Victor Chandler Chase on his way to Cheltenham. His success in the Champion Chase where he had to be ridden right out to account for Well Chief, coming back after a 2 year absence was more workmanlike than brilliant and he was pushed all the way by Big Zeb in the Kerrygold Champion Chase at Punchestown. He remains top class and it would be no surprise if he were to dominate the 2 mile chase division again next season.
Max Bygraves (K Bailey) – Max Bygraves is quite cleverly named as he is by Midnight Legend out of an Orchestra mare, Smokey Diva. Kim Bailey’s gelding proved a profitable horse to follow winning on his first and last starts at Kelso and Ludlow respectively. He also finished 3rd in big field handicaps at Kempton and Cheltenham either side of Christmas. His wins came at 4/1 and 13/2.
Merigo (A Parker) – I had quite a successful season following long distance handicap chasers and Merigo certainly did well for me. He won in determined fashion at Doncaster over 3 miles in December and went on to take the Eider Chase at Newcastle. In both races he looked unlikely to collect until rallying and he certainly doesn’t lack for resolution. A relentless galloper he is best suited by soft ground.
Niche Market (B Buckler) – Without doubt my biggest success of the season. He had looked a progressive chaser when winning a tremendous battle with Monkerhostin under a great ride by young Harry Skelton in the week before Christmas at Ascot. There were excuses for his two subsequent defeats and I was quietly hopeful when he went for the Irish National and tipped him on my web write up along with Wichita Lineman and Drumconvis. Sadly the other two both fell and had to be put down but Niche Market dug deep on the run in for Harry Skelton to record a notable win at 33/1.
Nicto de Beauchene (R & S Alner) – His jumping was pretty sketchy at times but he chalked up a couple of wins over fences at nice prices. Won at Wincanton by 15 lengths in December and then took a 9 runner event at Uttoxeter. Daryl Jacob was on board both times and the winning odds were 12s and 14s.
Noble Alan (N Richards) – By his standards Nicky Richards had a disappointing season but he did enjoy a big race success thanks to Noble Alan in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. Noble Alan had won a Perth maiden at the beginning of the season at 6/1 but after a couple more runs he was put away for the middle of the winter as he needs decent ground. Held up at the back he came through strongly under Davy Condon to win comfortably at 17/2 (and I tipped him!). He should make a nice chaser next season. Richards and Condon have since parted company after just one season.
Oh Crick (A King) – Remarkably Alan King had to wait until the final race of the meeting to get a Cheltenham Festival winner on the board courtesy of Oh Crick in the Grand Annual in game style at 7/1 under Wayne Hutchinson who was riding his first Festival winner. The horse went on to complete a notable double winning the Red Rum handicap at Aintree again at 7/1 and he looks a progressive 2 miler.
Or D’Oudairies (JJ Quinn) – Only 1 win from 7 outings but a profitable horse to follow nonetheless as the success came at 12/1 in a novice handicap chase at Bangor.
Punchestowns (N Henderson) – A couple of well fancied runners in Duc de Regniere and Pettifour were firmly put in their place in Ascot’s Long Walk Hurdle by an emerging talent in the shape of Punchestowns who stormed clear to win by 11 lengths. He had previously hosed up in a handicap at Cheltenham where the runner up, Ballydub, won subsequently. Not surprisingly Punchestowns became a popular fancy for the World Hurdle.
The next big trial was the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham where he was unable to concede weight to the Paul Nicholls trained Big Bucks and went down by 4 lengths. The pair met again in the World Hurdle where Big Bucks was able to confirm the form by a length and three quarters with the rest well beaten off. Punchestowns went from strength to strength during the season and will no doubt eventually make a smashing chaser. It will be fascinating to see which route connections take with him next season.
Punjabi (N Henderson) – Since finishing 3rd behind Katchit and Osana in the 2008 Champion Hurdle Punjabi had won at Punchestown as well as scoring twice on the flat. He returned to action in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in early December where he got the better of Sublimity in a driving finish. In the Stan James Christmas Hurdle Punjabi was a well fancied 11/8 favourite but he suffered a heavy fall 2 out allowing the enigmatic Harchibald to triumph in typical fashion ahead of Snap Tie.
Punjabi’s next outing was in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February. A badly cut leg had held up his preparation and trainer Nicky Henderson warned that his horse would come on for the run. On the day he was in contention coming to the last but was no match for the first two, Ashkazar and the mare Whiteoak in the run in. When they lined up for the Champion Hurdle on March 10 Binocular was a warm order despite having been off the track since 20 December. He travelled well in the race under Tony McCoy but in a desperate finish was edged out by his unfancied stable companion Punjabi going down by a neck and a head with the pair split by Celestial Halo. Punjabi finished his campaign with a narrow defeat in the Irish Champion Hurdle behind Solwhit. (Punjabi is pictured below)
Quevega (WP Mullins) – An impressive winner of a minor event at Punchestown she slammed her rivals in the David Nicholson Mare’s Hurdles beating United by 14 lengths. Not disgraced when 3rd behind Solwhit and Punjabi at Punchestown subsequently.
Russian Trigger (V Dartnall) – Another of my staying chaser successes. He had the distinction of winning two “Nationals” the Kent version at Folkestone and the Midlands National at Uttoxeter. He doesn’t always travel well or indeed jump fluently in his races but he certainly stays and with his wins coming at 12/1 and 8/1 he was a most profitable choice for my list to follow.
Sangfroid (N Williams) – I had quite a few successful tips in handicap hurdles and Sangfroid won for my list to follow on the final day of the jumps season. My write up for the handicap at Sandown went like this – “Callisto Moon hasn’t won since November 2007 and as a result his handicap rating has come down. He handles fast ground and is fit from runs on the flat. He could be a live outsider in the 2.05. Another to consider is Sangfroid who fell last time out when holding every chance. Before that he had been runner up to Silk Affair who went on to win the Fred Winter at Cheltenham.” Sangfroid won at 12/1 with Callisto Moon second at 33s. Not bad eh?
Serabad (P Bowen) – Serabad goes well with cut in the ground as he showed when winning at Aintree in testing conditions in November and he again had ground to suit him in a valuable Ascot handicap in mid February where he got the better of the ultra tough Loch Derg at odds of 16/1. Dave’s Dream and American Trilogy were both down the field in the Ascot race.
Shalone (A King) – Proved to be the ideal horse for a list to follow as he ran twice winning both times. The wins came in novice hurdles at Exeter and Kempton. He didn’t run after November so I hope he is OK as he looked to have scope to improve having been a smart bumper performer.
Solwhit (C Byrnes) – Won 5 of his 6 starts. The most impressive were the last two. In the Grade 1 John Smith’s Aintree Hurdle he got the better of Fiveforthree in an exciting finish and then just caught Punjabi on the line to land the Irish Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
Tartak (T George) – Front running novice chase. Started his season off with an all the way win at Huntingdon and after creditable efforts in 3 Grade races picked up his second success in a graduation chase at Kempton. After finishing 5th in the Arkle he completed his 3rd win of the season in a Grade 2 chase at Aintree.
Tazbar (K Reveley) – Tazbar had been one of my fancies for the World Hurdle but although he put in a couple of placed efforts in races at Haydock he had an inconsistent season and was well down the field in the big race in March. He is a horse with bags of ability though and I was pleased that he rounded off his season with a win in a conditions hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Polomoche (N Henderson) – I followed The Polomoche and Tazbar for much of the season but neither lived up to their undoubted potential until late on. The Polomoche had caught my eye a couple of years ago when fighting out a tight finish in a bumper with Calgary Bay that rounded off an evening card at Ludlow. The Polomoche, a winner at Stratford in October was my fancy for the Coral Cup and plenty agreed with me as he was sent off 6/1 favourite. He could only finish 10th and then went to Aintree where he was pulled up and he seemed to have lost his way somewhat. However he atoned for disappointing efforts at Cheltenham and Aintree under an inspired Tony McCoy ride at Ayr at the Scottish National meeting at 15/2.
Voy Por Ustedes (King) – A wonderfully consistent chaser at the highest level he once again acquitted himself well. With Master Minded ruling the roost over 2 miles Voy Por looked to the longer distances and was 3rd to Kauto Star in the King George at Kempton. A win at Ascot on unsuitably heavy ground was followed by a creditable effort in the Ryanair Chase where he found the Imperial Commander just too good. An exceptionally tough individual he ended the season with a particularly game win at Aintree in the Grade 1 Melling Chase. A thoroughly genuine and likeable individual. (Pictured below)
Wichita Lineman (JJ O’Neill) – The story of Wichita Lineman’s season was a remarkable one but did not have a happy ending. He won a couple of times over fences before Christmas, both at Chepstow but his big win came in the William Hill Chase at The Festival. As so often was the case with him he raced lazily through the contest and made several blunders. Running in snatches he never looked like winning until his stamina came into play late on and under the ride of the season AP McCoy got him up on the run in to collar Maljimar.
Sadly he fell at the first in the Irish National and had to be put down.
Best of the rest
One thing that the “fifty” have in common is that they all won at least once. I must mention a horse that failed to win a race but certainly endeared himself to the jumping fans. Denman, such a dominant force when storming home to win the 2008 Gold Cup, started the new season under a cloud. After his well publicised heart problem he only returned to the track in February for the Levy Board Chase at Kempton where he was beaten a long way by Madison Du Berlais. A shadow of his former self in the Kempton race the pundits were undecided about his chance in the Gold Cup and he was allowed to start at 7/1. Although Sam Thomas never tried to dominate from the front as he had dome the year before Denman ran well without ever really looking like getting to grips with Kauto Star. The latter became the first horse ever to regain the Gold Cup title but in the winner’s enclosure Denman (pictured below) got every bit as enthusiastic a reception as his rival.
Rather surprisingly Denman headed next for Aintree and the Totesport Bowl. On ground that was probably too lively and a track too sharp he battled bravely with Madision Du Berlais without ever really travelling as smoothly as we know he can and he fell heavily 2 out. Hopefully he will come back next season back to his best and renew the rivalry with Kauto Star.
David Pipe endured a disappointing first half to the season despite some big race success thanks to Lough Derg and Madison Du Berlais. I included a few Pipe inmates on my list to follow so didn’t enjoy much success with them initially. The quartet of Ashkazar, Quaddick Lake, Qulinton and Another Display were worth waiting for however and recouped some losses in the latter part of the season. Ashkazar, the classiest of the 4 was an outside fancy for the Champion Hurdle and while not managing to scale those heights he was at his best when winning the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
The other 3 all came in at decent odds. Quaddick Lake came in twice in quick succession in the spring at Exeter and Taunton at odds of 9/1 and 3/1. Qulinton ran away with a handicap hurdle at Chepstow at 14/1 under an enterprising ride from the front by Danny Cook while Another Display, a dual Irish points winner came in at 10/1 in a novice hurdle at Taunton.
Three runners from my list to follow won top hurdles prizes in the early part of the season, Pettifour , Duc de Regniere and Snap Tie. Inglis Drever had long bossed the stayers hurdle scene but he was pulled up on his reappearance in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and the injury he sustained there eventually led to his retirement. The winner that day at Newbury was Duc de Regniere at 9/1 following up an earlier success in handicap company at Kempton while Pettifour, a winner of a Grade 2 at Wetherby on November 1 was 3rd. Snap Tie had always been held in high regard by Philip Hobbs and he was the next to put himself in the Champion Hurdle picture getting the better of the reigning champion Katchit (pictured below) at Kempton.
Henrietta Knight endured a lean spell during the season but Calgary Bay and Somersby both gave her something to smile about. Calgary Bay beat Kicks for Free and Tartak in the Dipper Novices Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Somersby won a novice hurdle at Kempton but reserved his best performance for the Cheltenham Festival where he ran a cracker in 3rd behind Go Native in the Supreme Novices. He looks an exciting prospect for fences next season.
Female trainers traditionally do well at National Hunt racing. The star in Emma Lavelle’s yard is Crack Away Jack. He put down an early marker winning a limited handicap at Chepstow beating Alan King’s Squadron despite giving away more than a stone. This performance earned him a 12/1 quote for the Champion Hurdle. Crack Away Jack and Chomba Womba went head to head in the Coral Ascot Hurdle next. Emma Lavelles’s charge was let down by some sloppy jumps and on the day was unable to reel in the mare who added to her success at Wincanton by a length with Crack Away Jack running on well after the last. Crack Away Jack lost nothing in defeat when fourth in the Champion Hurdle.
Sue Smith had a better season with both Coe and Daldini adding to her winning tally. Coe won a handicap chase at Haydock Park at 7/1 and put up a solid effort back at the Lancashire track when 2nd to Rambling Minster in the Blue Square Gold Cup. Daldini won handicap chases at Wetherby (6/1) and Newcastle (13/2).
Another Sue Smith runner that deserves a mention is Cloudy Times. Fourth in the Aintree Champion Bumper of 2008 Cloudy Times looked a fine national hunt prospect. The grey gelding had earlier won a bumper at Sandown and again started the new season in that sphere winning at Aintree in October. He made a promising hurdles debut when 2nd at Haydock but sadly suffered a fatal injury when returning to the Lancashire track in January.
Open de L’Isle won a handicap at Carlisle for trainer James Ewart in March at 13/2. What was unusual about his victory was that he was the only winner on the card trained by a male!
My list to follow threw up some multiple winners not mentioned already. Notably Cape Tribulation, Riverside Theatre and Doeslessthanme who each won 3 times, while Merrydown, Planet of Sound, Glencree, Pterodactyl and Knockara Beau were all dual winners.
Some popular winners
Don McCain enjoyed another successful season and his popular chaser Cloudy Lane won the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock and his Rightway Star also gave my list to follow a nice winner at 14/1.
There was no more popular winner during the season than Carruthers who jumped for fun and galloped his rivals into the ground to win the Reynoldstown at Ascot in heavy ground in February. He is owned by Lord Oaksey who must be just about the most respected gentleman in the sport and who is now an octogenarian. Carruthers attempted to make all in the RSA Chase but he ploughed through the 3rd from home and tired, eventually finishing a most respectable 4th.
After the serious injury suffered by trainer Robert Alner there was a good deal of public sympathy for the family and I was particularly pleased when the Alners had an across the card televised double in January thanks to Vodka Brook and Miss Mitch (pictured below)
My write up on Miss Mitch the night before went as follows “In the 3.25 I am going for a bit of an outsider in the mare Miss Mitch. A decent hurdler she has taken some time to get the hang of fences but posted her best effort to date behind Gwanako over course and distance before Christmas.” But I am afraid I chickened out of tipping Vodka Brook; “Vodka Brook perhaps has a bit of a squeak but I don’t have enough confidence to tip him.”
A sad footnote
The first day of the Grand National meeting proved to be a depressing one with the sad loss of Exotic Dancer (pictured below) in the Totesport Bowl.
Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding has been a terrific horse for his connections winning any number of good prizes including this race a couple of years ago. However, having run his usual gallant race in second, he suffered a heart attack. He will be sadly missed.
Binocular, Denman and Exotic Dancer by kind permission of the artist Sarah Clegg.
Katchit courtesy of the artist Lisa Miller.
Imperial Commander, Master Medic and Miss Mitch courtesy of Turfpix.
Kalahari King, Punjabi and Vor Por Ustedes courtesy of Kate Tann.
The York meeting again takes centre stage tomorrow where the big race of the day is the Group 1 Nunthorpe at 3.25.
The lightly raced Amour Propre is one I am interested in. He won a Group 3 at Newmarket early in the season before disappointing at Ascot when he raced too keenly. He looks one for the shortlist if at his best and although he has been off the track since mid June he has gone well fresh in the past. Borderlescott is very consistent and it is easy to see him finishing near the front while if you are looking for something at a big price Moorhouse Lad who was not beaten far in this race last season when it was run at Newmarket and could spring a surprise.
There are 4 runners from my list to follow in the 1.45, Alanbrooke, Alcalde, Penang Princess and Braveheart Move. Braveheart Move looks to have the best chance. The 2.15 looks tricky with Spring of Fame, Palavicini and Forgotten Voice all worth considering. Spring of Fame comes from a stable in very good form and would be my suggestion.
The consistent Dream Eater is consistent even though he does not have a great strike rate. He has an each way chance in the 2.50.
There are some interesting newcomers in the 4.05 with the Exceed and Excel colt Dherghaam one to look out for as a prospect for the future.
There are 3 runners from my list to follow in the 4.40, Hawk Mountain, Hada Man and Saga de Tercey. All have a chance but if pushed for a selection I would choose Saga de Tercey. He is lightly raced, has shown a battling attitude and is the sort of horse his trainer does well with.
Chester next where there are 3 from my lit to follow in the 4.15, Union Island, Goliath’s Boy and Takaatuf. I don’t have too much confidence behind this trio but of the three Goliath’s Boy looks to have the better chance.
I thought Raine’s Cross ran really well in a nursery at Goodwood on his last start and he looks to have an each way chance in the Salisbury 6.25. The well bred Paisley is my selection in the 6.55.
Shemoli and Halfway House represent my list to follow in the 7.30. The former probably failed to stay last time and will benefit from this drop in trip while Halfway House has been in good from but has gone up in the weights as a result. They both have a chance but I don’t think I could tip them confidently.
At Sandown there are some interesting newcomers in the 3.15 with Goolagong and Magnetic Force a couple to look out for.
My original selections in the 3.50 were Bravo Echo and Bab Al Salam. I will stick with them although they are drawn 2 and 1 which tempers my enthusiasm a little.
Lastly, on the all weather at Wolverhampton Cactus Curtsey could be interesting on her handicap bow in the 7.10.
My thanks to David Hebb for the photo of York racecourse.