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Sunday 24 May 2015

3.55 Redcar, Monday, May 25

I’m not quite sure why, but the Racing UK Anywhere Zetland Gold Cop (3.55) at Redcar on Monday has always been one of my favourite races of the season; I think I just admire its general trickiness.

Anyway, it would appear that the 888Sport Stakes at York twelve days ago, in which Master Of Finance finished second, Silvery Moon sixth and Chancery seventh, would be the key to this race. It would, but for the fact that all three would probably prefer slightly slower ground, as would Libran, so it could pay to concentrate who like it rattling fast underfoot.

On that score, it may be unwise to write off Libran, who won his maiden on the prevailing good to firm going at Musselburgh last April, but preference on this occasion is for Fire Fighting at 7-1. Mark Johnston’s 4-year-old caught the proverbial ‘tartar’ when beaten 5¼ lengths by subsequent winner Collaboration at Epsom two starts ago and should be suited by dropping back in distance after tackling 1 mile 4 furlongs on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket last time.

The Soldier Of Fortune gelding remains 4lb higher in the weights than winning at Ayr last September, but still looks feasibly weighted on his recent form and provide another winner for Paul Mulrennan, who has a 7-8 (39%) strike rate for the yard in recent times.

Selection: Redcar 3.55 Fire Fighting to win

Wednesday 13 May 2015

3.15 York, Thursday, May 14

The Betfred Dante Stakes (3.15) at York on Wednesday features several unexposed, but potentially very smart, three-year-old colts. However, it could pay to side with Nafaqa, who may lack the superstar potential of some of his rivals but, consequently, may have been seriously underestimated by the bookmakers. The son of Derby winner Sir Percy has just a length to find with subsequent Racing Post Trophy winner Elm Park on their running in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket last September, should be suited by stepping up to 1 mile 2 furlongs, and may have a fitness advantage over Andrew Balding’s colt – who missed the 2,000 Guineas because of the good to firm going – this time.

Barry Hills’ charge could only finish second, beaten 1¼ lengths, behind subsequent 2,000 Guineas also-ran Kool Kompany in the Craven Stakes on his reappearance at Newmarket four weeks ago, but it would be folly to write him off just yet. He faces stiff opposition, in the form of Elm Park, Golden Horn, Jack Hobbs and John F Kennedy, but 16/1 in the very early price lists is bordering on insulting. Barry Hills’ son, Richard, assistant manager to owner Sheikh Hamdan said recently, “He [Nafaqa] is stepping up in grade on Thursday, but he has every right to be there.”

Selection: York 3.15 Nafaqa to win (although, at 16/1 in a field of eight, an each-way ‘burgle’ is also tempting)

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Sparkling Can Show Her Hand

In the Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (2.55) at Perth on Wednesday, Sparkling Hand has been in excellent form since returning to action, after nearly a year off, at Newcastle in February and can complete a hat-trick. The Lend A Hand mare has won two similar races, over 2 miles 4 furlongs and 2 miles 1 furlongs, at Sedgefield off progressively higher marks in recent months and may be capable of defying a further 9lb rise.

Peter Atkinson’s 9-year-old has done all her winning on galloping, testing tracks, so it’ll be interesting to see how she fares around the sweeping turns at Perth. Nevertheless, she seems better than ever this season, so deserves another chance to prove that she’s equally effective here as elsewhere. Underfoot conditions may be a little faster than she’s encountered recently, but the prevailing going is good, good to soft in places, so she shouldn’t be unduly inconvenienced.

Consistency has never really been her strong suit, but Henry Brooke, who’s ridden her to both victories this season and has a 4-9 (44%) strike rate for the yard over hurdles, once again takes the ride, so she looks decent value at around 6/1 in the early price lists.

Selection: Perth 2.55 Sparkling Hand to win

Monday 13 April 2015

Adrenalin Can Put Rivals to Flight

The Bathwick Tyres Marathon Handicap Chase (3.00) at Exeter on Tuesday isn’t a strong contest for the grade and may provide Adrenalin Flight with an opportunity to supplement his win over 4 miles on the course in December. Seamus Mullins’ 9-year-old is in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday but, with just 8st 13lb in the long handicap, he has little or no chance of getting in and should find this a far, far easier assignment in any case.

The Dr. Massini gelding remains 7lb higher in the weights than his winning mark and needs to bounce back from two quieter efforts at Warwick, but he has stamina in abundance, so the return to this undulating, testing track should be in his favour. He’s yet to win on going faster than good, but has run well enough, in just three attempts, on good to firm going to suggest he won’t be inconvenienced by underfoot conditions.

Five wins from 29 starts is hardly prolific, but three of those wins have come in the spring or summer and trainer Seamus Mullins seems quite keen on his chance, so the 6/1 available in the early price lists could prove to be decent value.

Selection: Exeter 3.00 Adrenalin Flight to win

Sunday 5 April 2015

Monday's Tip - Just A Par Probably Good Enough

In the Barton Executive Valeting Handicap Chase (2.40), Just A Par has failed to trouble the judge in eight starts since winning a Grade 2 novices’ event at Newbury on his second start of last season, but faces his easiest assignment for some time and can make a belated return to the winners’ enclosure. Paul Nicholls’ 8-year-old lost all chance when badly hampered at the fourth last in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival last time, but his previous handicap form at Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day makes encouraging reading.

On that occasion, the Island House gelding stayed on at the same pace to finish fourth, beaten 4¼ lengths, behind Mon Parrain over 3 miles 2½ furlongs, but has done all his winning at 3 miles or shorter and takes a slight drop in class. Conditional jockey Sean Bowen, who has ridden at 8st 13lb in the last twelve months, presumably had the option of riding Velator for his father, Peter, so the hint may be worth taking. Certainly, Bowen Jnr. has been amongst the winners for Paul Nicholls in recent weeks, so Just A Par looks fair value at around 6/1 in the early price lists.

Selection: Chepstow 2.40 Just A Par to win

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Marju’s Quest Still in the Hunt

In the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Hurdle (3.50) at Taunton on Thursday, Marju’s Quest may have pulled too hard for his own good when joint favourite, but only fifth of ten, beaten 13 lengths, behind Prouts Pub at Fontwell twelve days ago and can make amends. David Dennis’ 5-year-old appears to benefit from strong handling, as he did when making all under Noel Fehily to win by 5 lengths, over 2 miles 1 furlong, on his last visit to the Somerset track.

The Marju gelding is 7lb higher in the weights this time, but deserves another chance to show his true colours over this sort of distance at this level. He’s won on good to firm, and even firm, going on the Flat, so should have no problem with underfoot conditions and Noel Fehily is 4-17 (24%) on hurdlers for the Hanley Swan yard, so he has plenty going for him.

Hallings Comet usually goes off like the proverbial scalded cat, so competition for the lead is almost guaranteed, but Marju’s Quest doesn’t need to make the running and may, indeed, benefit from being ridden with a little more restraint. Making excuses for beaten horses is often the direct route to the poorhouse, but he seems fair value at around the 6/1 mark in the early price lists.

Selection: Taunton 3.50 Marju’s Quest to win

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Thursday Preview – Nothing Pretentious About Pentiffic

In the Rockwool Open Hunters’ Chase (4.50) at Chepstow on Thursday, Pentiffic did well to win over 2 miles 4½ furlongs on his reappearance at Warwick eleven days ago, on his first start since May, and appears to have bright prospects of following up. The 12-year-old gelding was outpaced halfway down the back straight at Warwick, but rallied before the second last, eventually overhauling Sergeant Dick on the run-in to win by 1½ lengths.

The step back up to 3 miles, on rain-softened ground, seems sure to play to his strengths and he’s reasonably treated by the race conditions. It’s worth noting that he was thought good enough to contest the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree last season, when in the care of Venetia Williams, and he looks decent value at around 7/2 in the early price lists. He’s unlikely to be improving as he enters the ‘twilight’ of his career, but he still has 10lb in hand of his nearest market rival, Kirleigh, and looks the sort with whom his new connections can have some fun.

Top weight Bobs Law would be 6lb better off if this were a handicap, but turned over the odds-on Universal Soldier, on 6lb unfavourable terms, at Ffos Las last month and could be the one who gives Pentiffic most to do.

Selection: Chepstow 4.50 Pentiffic to win

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Preview

Andoversford trainer Kim Bailey has saddled just one winner from 29 runners over fences at Cheltenham in the last five seasons, but A.P. McCoy has a 7-12 (58%) strike rate on steeplechasers for the yard in the same period, so his booking for Un Ace in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (4.40) on Thursday may be significant.

The champion jockey was aboard the 7-year-old gelding when he was beaten 1½ lengths by Champagne West in a novices’ chase over course and distance in December but, granted the winner is now rated 152, Un Ace looks well handicapped off a mark of 144.

Indeed, he may still be open to improvement after just three completed starts over fences and, while he’s done all his winning on good to soft going, he ran well enough on his sole attempt on good going to suggest that faster underfoot conditions won’t be a problem. He has an absence of 89 days to overcome, but won on what was effectively his seasonal debut at Huntingdon in November and clearly goes well fresh.

Obviously, in a field of 24, he’ll need luck in running, but he appears to have an outstanding chance and the 10/1 available with William Hill may not last long.

Selection: Cheltenham 4.40 Un Ace (10/1 with William Hill) to win

Monday 2 March 2015

Tuesday Preview – Finish The Story Can Open A New Chapter

Finish The Story steps up in class and distance in the Devon National Handicap Chase (3.30) at Exeter on Tuesday but, from a handicapping point-of-view, is difficult to ignore. The son of Court Cave carries just a 7lb penalty for beating McGregor by 50 lengths, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, at Southwell nine days ago, so it’s easy to see why connections are keen to strike again while the iron is hot.

The marathon distance of 3 miles 6½ furlongs, on heavy going, represents a different test for Johnny Farrelly’s 9-year-old, who’s done most of his winning on sharp, flat tracks. Nevertheless, he has winning form at up to 3 miles 3 furlongs, and on soft ground, so it’s not hard to envisage him being involved in the finish once again. He appeared to improve significantly on his previous form at Southwell last time but could, conceivably, improve again after just four completed starts over regulation fences.

The fact that Dougie Costello, who rode him to victory at Southwell on his one and only ride for the yard, travels to Exeter for just one ride on Tuesday is highly encouraging. All in all, Finish The Story has plenty going for him against largely exposed rivals and looks a decent bet at 9/2 with Bet365 and William Hill to continue his progress.

Selection: Exeter 3.30 Finish The Story to win

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Wednesday Preview – Bet The Farm!

It seems I wasn’t alone in fancying Wilcos Mo Chara last week. Donald McCain’s charge was sent off 7/2 second favourite, but barely went a yard and was struggling before halfway. Jockey Jason Maguire reported that the gelding was never travelling, but in the absence of any further explanation for the poor performance, Wilcos Mo Chara looks best left alone for the time being.

So, it’s a question of ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again’ this week, but Singlefarmpayment has made steady progress this season and should (at the very least) run his race in the Wrexham Lager Handicap Hurdle (4.25) at Bangor-on-Dee. The Milan gelding was far from disgraced when fourth of eight, beaten 8¾ lengths, behind Polamco in a Class 2 affair at Newbury over Christmas and, back in Class 4 company, must have every chance off the same handicap mark.

Tom Lacey’s 5-year-old has yet to encounter properly soft ground, but his pedigree suggests that he may even improve a little under more testing conditions and, if so, the 5/1 currently available in the early price lists would start to look very generous indeed. Indeed, Singlefarmpayment is entitled to be open to significant improvement in any case, after just four completed starts over hurdles and will almost certainly prove better than his current handicap mark of 115 in due course.

Selection: Bangor-on-Dee 4.25 Singlefarmpayment to win

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Thursday Preview – Wilcos Mo Chara Can Prove Punter’s Pal

In the Forth One Boogie In The Morning Handicap Hurdle (3.30) at Musselburgh on Thursday, Wilcos Mo Chara should appreciate returning to a sharp track and can make a winning handicap debut. Donald McCain’s 7-year-old could only finish fourth of ten, beaten 25 lengths, behind Smooth Stepper at Sedgefield on Boxing Day, but with the winner going in again on his handicap debut, in this grade, at Wetherby a week later, the form looks better than it did at the time.

Indeed, Smooth Stepper won quite convincingly off an opening handicap mark of 120, so it appears that Wilcos Mo Chara, who was conceding 12lb at Sedgefield, is reasonably treated off a handicap mark of 113. The Oscar gelding won a ‘bumper’ over course and distance, on the prevailing good going, at the start of last season and is reunited with Jason Maguire, who’s ridden him to both victories under rules, so makes plenty of appeal at 9/2 with Sky Bet in the early price lists.

Obvious dangers appear few and far between. Claude Carter is still 6lb higher than when winning in 0-105 company over course and distance in January and was subsequently beaten 20 lengths over 2 miles 4 furlongs here and it’s difficult to make a convincing case for any of the others.

Selection: Musselburgh 3.30 Wilcos Mo Chara to win (9/2 with Sky Bet)