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Monday 26 February 2018

Doncaster Handicap: Ante Post Betting Preview

The eagerly anticipated grand finals of Australian racing begin with the $3 million Doncaster Handicap at Royal Randwick on April 7. The Championships carry more than £20 million in prize money over the two days and feature several prestigious races that attracted an impressive roll call of superstar trainers, jockeys and horses. The Doncaster Handicap is one of the biggest events during the meeting and has had several noteworthy winners over the years, including the legendary Winx in 2016. It is run over 1600m and is therefore also known as the Doncaster Mile, and it has been running since 1866. Some of the best gallopers in history have emerged victorious here, including Tobin Bronze, Super Impose and Sunline. Here are the leading ante post contenders to join them in the history books by winning the 2018 renewal:
The Lonhro colt delivered a classy performance to claim victory at a star studded Group 2 Hobartville Stakes over 1400m at the weekend. He beat Pierata, D’Argento, Trapeze Artist, Ace High and other stars to win the $400,000 showpiece, and the odds on him winning the Randwick Guineas and the Doncaster Mile were immediately slashed. The consistent galloper has now won both races since making his season reappearance in the Group 3 Aquis Farm Eskimo Prince Stakes at Warwick Farm on February 10. He is in ominous form heading into this year's classics, and he looks as though he could be racing’s next big thing. “This colt is very good,” said Godolphin representative Darren Beadman after the Hobartville Stakes win. “I think he is top notch. To run past a horse like Trapeze Artist, who has the runs on the board, was very impressive. This was a test for him today and he has put them away nicely. We have seen a star in the making.” If he follows in Winx’s footsteps by winning the Doncaster Mile, Kementari really will have announced himself on the big stage and he is currently the $7 favourite to do so in the racing betting.

Chris Waller’s grey colt rallied well in the closing stages of the Hobartville Stakes to take third and the trainer believes he will relish a step up in trip. The extra 200m could make all the difference for D’Argento at the Doncaster Mile as he was flying at the end of the race. He is progressing nicely at the right time of season and looks dangerous ahead of The Championships at Randwick in April. He was magnificent in winning at Rosehill last year and shows signs of further improvement this time around, so he will give Kementari and co a real run for their money.

Brave Smash

Japan-bred Brave Smash beat stablemate Tosen Stardom to win the Group 1 Italktravel Futurity Stakes at Caulfield for Darren Weir at the weekend. The five-year-old is cementing his reputation as a star sprinter in Australia and can look forward to a lengthy spell in the breeding barn. But before that there is more glory potentially on the horizon, and the Doncaster Mile is now very much in his sights. Brave Smash has already placed at the Group 1 Ladbrokes C. F. Orr Stakes and the $10 million Everest Stakes at Randwick, the richest turf race in the world. That amounts to a mightily impressive CV and Brave Smash will certainly be in the mix at Randwick in April.
Happy Clapper
Happy Clapper has finished second in the Doncaster Handicap for the last two years and will bid to go one better this April. Since his last runner-up finish, the popular Syndey galloper has enjoyed breakthrough Group 1 success at Randwick in the $1 million Epsom Handicap. That was trainer Pat Webster’s happiest moment in a racing career spanning 40 years as it represented his first ever Group 1 victory, and he will be hopeful that Happy Clapper can lead him to further glory this year. However, he has to carry 57kg for the Doncaster Mile, while Kementari has just 51.5kg, so victory will be difficult for him.
The Rest
Tosen Stardom should enjoy the slightly longer trip, while Alizee and Pierata are attracting a lot of attention. Humidor, who won last year’s Australian Cup and Makybe Diva Stakes and got within a neck of Winx in the Cox Plate, carries top weight. There is talent throughout the ante post field, including Aloisia, Cliff’s Edge and Black Hear Bart, and it should prove to be an open and intriguing contest, but right now Kementari stands out.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horse racing correspondent and tipster and has been covering the Doncaster Mile for many years.

Friday 23 February 2018

Cheltenham Festival Champions

Next month the UK and Ireland's leading trainers, jockeys, horses and owners will all converge upon Cheltenham Racecourse for the most important meeting of the National Hunt season. The March Festival is where legends are born and careers are made, and every hopeful is bidding to follow in the footsteps of the all-time greats. Here are the leading lights since the Cheltenham Festival began:
Top trainer: Nicky Henderson
Henderson has been a fixture at the Cheltenham Festival since 1985 and he has saddled a record 58 winners during that time. Last year he achieved success with Altior, Buveur d’Air and Might Bite, who are now the favourites to win the three biggest races at this year’s Festival. Check the Sporting Index lines and you will see that Might Bite is the ante post frontrunner for the Gold Cup, Buveur d’Air is leading the way in the Champion Hurdle and Altior is the one to beat in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Cheltenham has handed out leading trainer awards since 1997, and Henderson claimed three of them, in 2000, 2010 and 2012, when he had a record seven winners. Last season he was crowned the UK’s Champion Trainer for a fourth time, and he leads the rankings this season, with 108 wins leaving him just ahead of second placed Paul Nicholls.
However, in recent years the one to watch at Cheltenham has been Irishman Willie Mullins. He was usurped by countryman Gordon Elliott last year, but walked off with the Festival’s leading trainer award four times in a row between 2013 and 2016. Mullins also broke Henderson’s record by landing eight winners in 2015. The serial Irish champion trainer has been in the business for a decade less than Henderson, but is closing in on his record. Mullins has recorded 54 wins and he will soon overtake Henderson if he keeps on delivering winners. These two will be in for a fascinating battle during this year’s Festival, but right now Henderson looks to have the stronger hand.
Top jockey: Ruby Walsh
Walsh has been named the top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival no fewer than 11 times during his distinguished career. He rides predominantly for Mullins, so he has enjoyed plenty of great mounts over the years, but he has also displayed great flair in the saddle and risen to the challenge of Cheltenham on an annual basis. Walsh has 32 wins at the Festival, which puts him comfortably ahead of second placed Sir Tony McCoy in the all-time stakes.
He has been the top jockey at the Festival for the last five years, but his chances of defending his crown are in serious jeopardy this year. The 38-year-old champion jockey suffered a broken leg during a fall on Let’s Dance at Leopardstown in November and has not raced since. But he is now edging closer to a return after resuming riding work, and he looks set to be back in time for Cheltenham.

Top owner: JP McManus

McManus secured his 50th winner at the Cheltenham Festival when Buveur D’Air landed the ferociously contested Champion Hurdle last year. He had two further winners at last year’s meeting to take his tally to 52 in total, leaving him clear out in front as the most successful winner in the Festival’s long history. It is worth noting that the record holders are typically operating in the modern day, because the number of races almost doubled in recent times.

But take nothing away from Henderson, Walsh and McManus, who have been at the top of the sport for many years now. The owner with the second highest number of Festival wins out of the current crop is the Gigginstown Horse Stud, with 19, leaving it 33 behind McManus. Every year he assembles a formidable team for the Cheltenham Festival and he has a strong line-up this year, including Buveur d’Air, Apple’s Shakira, Yarnworth and Espoir d’Allen.
Top horse: Golden Miller
The Gold Cup is always the pinnacle of the Cheltenham Festival and it has seen some legendary multiple winners over the years, including Arkle, Best Mate, Cottage Rake and Kauto Star. But none can hold a torch to Golden Miller when it comes to sheer dominance in this race, as the superstar chaser won it five years in a row between 1932 and 1936. The closest anyone has got since is three wins, and it seems highly unlikely that Golden Miller’s record will ever be broken. In 1934, after cruising to a third straight Gold Cup, he went up to Aintree and won the Grand National in record time. In doing so, he became the only horse to ever win both prestigious races in the same year. A statue of Golden Miller was erected in the parade ring at Cheltenham Racecourse and he is immortalised as a masterful chaser.

Monday 19 February 2018

4.15 Taunton, Tuesday, February 20

In the C&S Electrical Wholesale Hager Handicap Chase (4.15) at Taunton on Tuesday, Lillingdon remains a maiden after twelve starts, but had been in fair, if unremarkable, form last spring, prior to ‘frightening himself’ on his chasing debut at Fontwell in October. In two subsequent runs over the smaller obstacles, at Wincanton, he’s only beaten a handful of rivals and been beaten over 50 lengths on each occasion, but that should have restored, at least, some of his confidence. Colin Tizzard’s 6-year-old can race off his lowest handicap mark ever, 6lb lower than when third of 15, beaten 5¾ lengths, in a 0-120 contest over hurdles at Chepstow last April, so would have a definite squeak if able to recapture his best form. Clearly that’s a big “if”, but the Westerner gelding still has time to make the grade over fences and looks a sporting wager to give his owners, the members of the Colin Tizzard Racing, something to shout about.

Selection: Taunton 4.15 Lillingdon to win

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Five Ante-Post Bets For March And April

There is so much to look forward over the next few months as the national hunt season in the UK comes to an end with the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National taking centre stage, while we also have the start of the flat season to get excited about with the Dubai World Cup taking place in late March.

Here are five ante-post bets which can hopefully help you make some money from these big meetings before spring.

Champion Hurdle – Faugheen

Former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen made a return to the racecourse this season after almost two years off the track with the leading hurdle contest at the Festival being his target again in March. Willie Mullins’ superstar looked like he had never been away when he coasted to the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown by 16 lengths back in November to the delight of his fans who were doubting whether they’d see him again following a serious leg injury.

Sadly for his connections, the horse normally described as a ‘machine’ was below his best on his last two outings. He was pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle at the back end of December after weakening inside the closing stages, while on his most recent start, he had to settle for second place behind Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Given how long he was off the track for, the 10-year-old should be forgiven for his last couple of runs. He won’t need to improve too much on his Irish Champion Hurdle performance so he is worth sticking with as if he does turn to at the Festival back to his best, no horse in the division will be able to stop him from regaining his crown in the 2m contest.

The current favourite for the Champion Hurdle is last year’s winner Buveur D’Air who has won nine of his 10 races over hurdles, however, he has never met Faugheen before so until he beats the Irish horse, it is difficult to say he is not taking advantage of a weak division at the moment.

Cheltenham Gold Cup – Might Bite

Might Bite is looking to join only a small club of horses which have been able to win the RSA Chase and then 12 months later return to the Festival to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Nicky Henderson-trained runner looks the most likely winner of the Blue Riband event at the meeting though as he has been faultless so far this season against the older generation.

The nine-year-old put his Gold Cup credentials on the line in the Grade One King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and he passed with flying colours, beating some of the leading horses in the division, including Thistlecrack, Bristol De Mai and Fox Norton.

Clearly the biggest threat to Might Bite’s chances in the Gold Cup will be the defending champion Sizing John. The Irish runner looked very flat last time out in the Christmas Chase though so there have to be question marks asked about his form leading into Festival.

Grand National – Vicente

Two-time Scottish Grand National winner Vicente will get his second attempt at the Grand National at Aintree in April for former Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls. In 2017 he lasted just one fence as a mistake at the opening obstacle resulted in him coming down to the disappointment of all those connected to the chaser.

Vicente has proven on more than one occasion now that he has the stamina to do really well in the staying chases. He was able to make up for his disappointment on Merseyside last year to defend his crown at Ayr in the Scottish equivalent of the Grand National just weeks later. Due to the early fall, he travelled up north of the border relatively fresh and that was reflected on the racetrack as he had the speed at the end of the race to see off Cogry by a neck.

The mistake last year by Vicente can be forgiven as many good horses have failed at the first fence before they have got into a rhythm. Nicholls’ runner is a top price of 33/1 to win the Grand National in 2018 but if you are having a bet on the world’s most famous steeplechase, look out for the best free bet offers, money back specials and sign up offers which have been listed by Oddschecker ahead of the race.

Dubai World Cup – Forever Unbridled

Forever Unbridled landed the biggest prize of her career last November when she scored in the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Del Mar. The brilliant mare is now set to travel to the UAE to run in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan where she looks a big price at 10/1 to cause a surprise.

The Dubai World Cup looks very open this year as the 2017 winner Arrogate is now in stud, while the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup champion Gun Runner has also retired leaving a void open for a new horse to establish themselves as the leading dirt runner on the planet in 2018.

Dallas Stewart’s runner has not suffered defeated since she finished third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, therefore she will travel to the Dubai World Cup Carnival in fantastic form. The 2000m trip is 200m further than she is used to travelling, however, she should be just as effective at that distance.

West Coast is the ante-post favourite with the bookmakers for the prestigious dirt contest after he finished second to Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup. That was obviously a huge run from Bob Baffert’s horse, however, he has only two Grade One wins to his name so he still has a lot to prove when he lines up at Meydan in March.

Dubai Sheema Classic – Cracksman

Cracksman ended last season in superb style to win the Qipco Champion Stakes on British Champions Day at Ascot to cap off an excellent campaign in 2017. three-year-old old also had victories in the Prix Niel at Chantilly and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York

John Gosden’s colt went off as the 7/2 favourite to win the Derby at Epsom last June but he could only come home third behind Wings of Eagles and Cliffs of Moher respectively. Since then though, he has improved with every outing and looks to be at the very top of his game.

Gosden and the rest of the horse’s connections can be very excited about the season ahead with their runner as he should line up in all the open-age leading middle distance races across Europe over the next eight months.

The end goal will be the Prix de lArc de Triomphe at Longhcamp in October where he is likely to face the defending champion Enable. Before then though, all the focus will be on the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

This will be the four year’s old first appearance at the Dubai World Cup Carnival but he has a lot of experience under his belt now to handle the occasion just fine. Many of his rivals in the race are likely to come from the UK and will be horses in which on the ratings, he is expected to get the better of quite comfortably.

Cracksman could have one run at the carnival before the Dubai Sheema Classic and that will be used to sharpen the horse up so don’t worry too much about the result in the race. He is currently available at 15/8 but don’t be surprised if he goes off a lot shorter on the day as market confidence is sure to be behind the Champion Stakes winner.

Good luck with your bets over the next few months and enjoy what is a fantastic period in the sport with some major meetings taking place around the world.

Friday 9 February 2018

3.35 Exeter, Sunday, February 11

The Champions League Betting at 1888 Sport Veterans’ Handicap Chase (3.35) at Exeter on Sunday is the first leg of the 2018 Veterans’ Series and Pete The Feat comes into the race off the back of a brave effort in the final of the 2017 Series at Sandown last month. Charlie Longsdon’s 14-year-old was outpaced by the enigmatic Buywise up the famous Sandown hill, but kept on to finish an honourable second, beaten just 2 lengths. The King’s Theatre gelding has been raised 3lb for that effort but, despite being in his dotage, has looked on particularly good terms with himself in recent months and – at least, against his fellow old-timers – clearly remains a force to be reckoned with. The form of his previous win, also at Sandown, has already been franked by the second, Hedgeinator, and the fifth, Chef D’Equipe, and 3 miles on the prevailing soft going is ideal for him. He’s yet to race at Exeter, but has won over fences on similarly undulating tracks at Fontwell and Folkestone, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares on his 62nd start under Rules.

Selection: Exeter 3.35 Pete The Feat to win 7/1