Dubai World Cup Night

I can’t say I’ve been following loads of the racing going on in Dubai, which probably doesn’t fill you with much confidence reading these ‘tips’ but I’m going to try my best to hopefully pick out a few winners at the sports richest meeting. What I do know is that all the races in Dubai on Saturday have 96 hour declarations, which is bloody glorious.

11:45 Godolphin Mile
Since leaving Charlie Appleby, North America is 4-4 for new connections and was most impressive when winning by 7 lengths over track and trip last time. He likes to lead, as do a few others in this field which could be a negative if they start taking each other on. Heavy Metal is good but his last two defeats have come behind the aforementioned North America and is drawn wider than that rival which won’t help his cause. Sharp Azteca comes over from the US and is pretty quick, but this competition for an early led could prove crucial and find him out. Gifted Master is an interesting runner for Hugo Palmer, the dirt surface is an unknown but if he takes to it he could be overpriced with Ryan Moore on board and first time blinkers. I don’t have a strong view on the race but I feel it’s important to be up with the pace on this track.

12:50 Dubai Gold Cup
Vazirabad is the favourite to reclaim his title and his supporters will be encouraged by his reappearance behind the reopposing Beautiful Romance as this extra couple of furlongs ought to see those placings reversed. Big Orange was runner up in this last year and if you take the 6lb swing in the weights literally, he should have the beating of the jolly this time around. At the prices though I will opt for Sheikhzayedroad (EW) at a general 10/1. He won the Doncaster Cup and then the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day last season, despite being an 8 year old he seems to be improving and possibly needed the run last time out. Heartbreak City put up a gutsy performance in the Melbourne Cup and if back to that form can go close.

1:25 UAE Derby
Thunder Snow annihilated his opponents on his first appearance on a dirt track last time and I think he could be a class above these, hopefully this is a stepping stone to the 1000 Guineas (although this step up in trip would indicate otherwise). Epicharis is unbeaten on dirt and looks a very live threat to the market leader. Fly At Dawn and Top Score are both decent on their day, if the former can break well I would give him a strong chance. Lancaster Bomber and Master Plan both have low draws and could be dangerous, while Fawree doesn’t look the most straightforward but clearly has plenty of talent.

2:00 Al Quoz Sprint
The betting suggests this is a match between Ertijaal and Limato, I would probably agree. The former holds the course record over 5f and 6f, if this was over the minimum distance I would side with him but this is the first time this contest has been increased by a furlong. For that reason (and the prices) I prefer Limato, 6f and 7f are his best trips and I think he is unstoppable over them. Rain could be an issue as it looks like they could be in for some downpours over in Dubai, also Ertijaal has race fitness on his side but I’m banking on him running out of gas as Henry Candy’s charge sprints past him late on. I do always take note of what Joao Moreira is riding in these international races and so Amazing Kids is one to watch out for.

2:35 Dubai Golden Shaheen
I’m going to be honest with this one, I haven’t got a scooby.

3:30 Dubai Turf
We’re back in more familiar waters with this one. Zarak won nicely on his seasonal reappearance, but he was entitled to at odds on and I think 2/1 is skinny enough for a horse who hasn’t really built on his initial promise. At 3/1 Ribchester is my NAP of the meeting, his form is absolutely rock solid tying in with The Gurkha, Galileo Gold and the magnificent Minding. If the rain comes it won’t be a problem to him as he has won on soft before, the only concern would be this is the first time he has gone beyond a mile but I don’t think he should have a problem with the extra furlong. Deauville is the chosen mount of Ryan Moore and if he can reproduce his Dante and Arlington Million form he is in with a squeak. I feel Mutakayyef is seen to best effect on fast ground and while Decorated Knight is very good on his day I think he may find one too good, but he is a decent each way bet.

4:05 Dubai Sheema Classic
This looks like being a very competitive race despite the small field and you can make cases for most of them. Highland Reel is an admirable globetrotter but he could only manage fourth in this last year and the forecast won’t aid his cause. Seventh Heaven felt the effects of a busy campaign towards the end of last year and under performed at Ascot and the Breeders Cup, she could bounce back here in receipt of weight. Prize Money got the better of Postponed three weeks ago, but the Godolphin boys were out in force that day and boxed Andrea Atzeni in and he had a torrid time of things. I fully expect Postponed to win the battle this time as he is a world class performer and Roger Varian seems confident that he will put in a bold showing here. I’m really excited to see how Jack Hobbs runs, evidently he has bags of potential and we saw a glimpse of that again at Ascot on Champions Day but health hasn’t been his friend and he has struggled with injuries. He wears blinkers for the first time and if he’s back to his best he could upset the favourite.

4:45 Dubai World Cup
Now whisper this one quietly, Arrogate is as close to a good thing as a, well… good thing. So for that reason I’m happy to just watch him strut his stuff and enhance his claims of becoming one of the sports greats. If I was to have a little flutter, which I probably will, it would be on Mubtaahij (EW) as he is a model of consistency and his second in this race last race is strong form. It wouldn’t be a strong view but it does provide an alternative to the inevitable.

Cheltenham in a nutshell

The greatest show on turf may have finished, but what a show it was.

The performance of the week for me is a tough one but Un De Sceaux just takes it. He was fighting Ruby from the get go but when he let him go he absolutely flew and took some outrageous leaps, it was so good to watch and he was far enough ahead at the last that there was no worry about if there was any fuel left in the tank. Sub Lieutenant closed all the way to the line but in reality was never going to get there despite me shouting at the TV.

Douvan was without a doubt the disappointment of the festival, in some way it’s nice to know that there was something amiss and it wasn’t his true running, he’ll be back for sure. Take nothing away from Special Tiara who took the bull by the horns and won the Champion Chase gallantly from a rallying Fox Norton.

Both of those winning horses I have mentioned above competed in the Champion Chase last year and were beaten by Sprinter Sacre. We knew that the Black Aeroplane was a horse of a lifetime but even after he has retired his form is being franked which is astonishing.

In my opinion there is no competition for race of the week, the RSA was simply extraordinary. By so many people Might Bite was considered the lay of the festival, how wrong they were. He got everything out of their comfort zone and simply galloped them into submission, but on the run in he thought he’d come and say hello to the crowd. The loose horse ran past him and that switched his brain back on and Nico de Boinville miraculously got him back up on the line to beat stablemate Whisper. If Might Bite gets to Kempton sound at Christmas I think he will be very hard to overcome in the King George.

I think it’s safe to say that the first two days were not particularly friendly to punters with two favourites going in in the first 14 races. Labaik was mightily impressive in the Supreme and it shows that when he does fancy racing, he’s quite good! The hype horse Melon certainly didn’t disgrace himself in second and we can expect to see more from him. As for Ballyandy, he didn’t get an ideal spin round by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t think he would have won the race anyway.

Altior wasn’t as impressive as some expected, but my view is that this is the Cheltenham Festival and it’s the best horses competing against each other so for an odds on shot to impressive is very difficult.

Buveur D’air stamped his authority in the Champion Hurdle and was by far the best on the day, would he have beaten Faugheen or Annie Power? I doubt it. However, it would have been closer than everyone would have expected. My Tent Or Yours ran a cracker in second but that leads you to questioning the form as he hasn’t exactly sparked this season. I assume Nicky Henderson will keep the former over hurdles from now on and he could be at the top of the two mile tree for years to come. Yanworth was severely outpaced and simply wasn’t good enough, a chasing campaign looks to be the target for next season so I’ll reserve my judgement on him until I see him jump a fence.

The Mares Hurdle was a race to saviour as Apple’s Jade outbattled the Mullins pair of Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag to gain a hard-fought success. I backed the latter and coming round the bend I was starting to count my winnings as Paul Townend still hadn’t moved, she jumped the last marginally in front but Gordon Elliott’s charge showed real guts to fight back and get up. Vroum Vroum didn’t have a great trip round and I won’t be giving up on her yet.

Willoughby Court broke favourite backers hearts in the first on day 2 by just getting the better of Neon Wolf. The latter stumbled after the last and that may have cost him, to be honest I think he had every chance to go past but Willoughby Court wanted it that bit more. Plus Ben Pauling’s celebration was the best of the week, so for that alone it was worth it.

Festival hero Cause Of Causes absolutely romped home in the Cross Country and there is no reason why he couldn’t boss this discipline in the future and maybe add to his three festival successes.

It was heartbreak again in the Fred Winter as Divin Bere was edged out of it by Flying Tiger and champion jockey Richard Johnson. Jamie Codd gave Fayonagh an inspired ride in the bumper and she could be something special.

I’ve got a feeling ‘Ruby Thursday’ is going to catch on for the third day of the festival after his record breaking day this year. Yorkhill kicked it off with a comfortable win, Walsh settled him beautifully and he coasted through the race to win a shade cosily. Un De Sceaux was number 2 then Nichols Canyon followed suit by springing a surprise to the odds on favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the Stayers’ Hurdle for owner Graham Wylie. Could he have another Inglis Drever on his hands? Let’s Dance completed the Mullins/Walsh four fold in emphatic style, she was ridden with such confidence and readily came clear after the last when Ruby pushed the button.

Defi Du Seuil destroyed the rest of the Juveniles in the Triumph to begin Friday with a bang and he firmly put the talking horse Charli Parcs in his place. Richard Johnson said afterwards that he was a passenger the whole way round which tells you all you need to know, he travelled with ease and quickened after the last, easy.

Death Duty failed to deliver as favourites often do in the Albert Bartlett as Penhill came from out the back to get the better of the promising Monalee and the consistent Wholestone.

The Gold Cup didn’t disappoint as Cue Card came to grief at the third last, the same stage as last year which really was a sad sight to see. He wasn’t really travelling though and I doubt he would have hit the frame. Sizing John jumped like a stag and really showed his class, he has come out of Douvans shadow and excelled in the staying chase division. Djakadam lost all chance when he ran through the second last but I think the winner had his measure regardless. Native River ran his race and stuck on well to regain third near the line. The runner up Minella Rocco ran on really well and we might have seen a new era of stayers this year as the front three are all 7 years old and could be competing in Gold Cups for seasons to come.

The team of Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power struck again in the last with Rock The World to end the festival on a high. This meant that Jessica ended the festival with 3 wins from 7 runners, not bad going!

I hope you all enjoyed Cheltenham as much as I did and I’m already excited for next year. For know though it only gets busier on the racing front with the Grand National and Punchestown festivals finishing off this rollercoaster of a National Hunt season. Following this we are straight onto the flat with the Guineas at the start of May and it all starts coming thick and fast, bring it on!

Saturday 18th March

Well, what a week of racing that was! We witnessed some nail biting finishes and many sparkling performances. The first two days were tough for punters, myself included, but I rekindled my losses on Thursday and Friday which was capped off by the exceptional Sizing John. I’m already looking forward to next year!

The world of racing never stops and heres a couple of bets to get stuck into tomorrow.

2:25 Uttoxeter – Rock The Kasbah (EW)

The fact that he is an each way price amazes me to be honest, he beat a subsequent winner at Chepstow last time out and has been dropped 2lbs so work that one out! He boasts some strong form behind Politologue and he beat Our Kaempfer on his first start over fences and both of those ran at the festival. The Grade 2 form at Ascot is what really catches my eye and if he can reproduce that then I think he can at least grab some place money. American is an obvious danger but I think he wants really soft ground and he does have to give the selection 6lbs.

3:45 Newcastle – Dubai Angel

Malcolm Jefferson’s gelding has some really good form at this track, most recently he was behind a multiple winner but was conceding 10lbs that day. Prior to that he was 2 1/2 lengths behind Elgin off level weights so this mark of 127 on his handicap debut could be a lenient one. On Dubai Angel’s penultimate start he comfortably beat a subsequent winner by 2 lengths and they were 30 lengths ahead of the third. Jockey Brian Hughes is having a great season and he can add to his tally here.

Imperial Cup – Sandown 2m Handicap Hurdle

As Cheltenham is just a few days away we aren’t seeing any big guns lining up here, which is shocking considering the winner receives just under £40,000. It shows how much owners would rather a runner at the festival than a winner of a valuable handicap elsewhere. Well well well…

Let’s get stuck in to this preview with top weighted Fixe Le Kap, last seen finishing a disappointing eighth in the Fred Winter he reappears as favourite for this contest. Racing off a mark of 142 that day he has been dropped 4 pounds and could be well handicapped. Prior to that he was second at Haydock on heavy ground behind Frodon and ahead of Messire Des Obeaux, that form has somewhat been boosted with both of those going on to record graded victories this campaign. His first two runs for Nicky Henderson were both wins and it looks like he could be thrown in off 138, he has had a long break but he is probably miles better than these and 5/1 looks a fair price to me.

London Prize was travelling well when falling in the Scottish County Hurdle after progressing nicely through the hurdling ranks. Since then he has had a race on the flat at Newcastle and ran a very creditable second to a smart Godolphin horse. A mark of 128 could be underestimating him and he looks a big price at 9/1.

The Betfair Hurdle is usually a good race and Kayf Blanco finished a creditable fifth and his previous form suggests he could be a player here. A third to Brain Power at this track earlier in the season is a strong piece of form and a seventh in last years County Hurdle proves he is no slouch. In saying this he hasn’t won since November 2015 and he seems to have found his level. First time tongue tie and hood may bring out some improvement here though. William H Bonney finished behind Kayf Blanco in the Betfair Hurdle but that may have come too soon just two weeks after his Cheltenham win, so he should run better here but I think he is in the handicappers grasp.

Max Do Brazil was having his first run for David Pipe when pulled up and has a tongue tie applied, he is one to watch in the betting. Gassin Golf fell early on in the Betfair Hurdle but is down to a workable mark of 133 and with 7lb claimer Richard Patrick on board he isn’t without a chance. Disputed has been running well without winning and Not Another Muddle will have to take a step up on what he has shown so far but this is a good opportunity.

  1. Fixe Le Kap
  2. London Prize
  3. Kayf Blanco

Festival handicappers to keep on side

The marks for the Cheltenham handicaps are out tomorrow, and I’ve got a few horses who we should all be looking out for and keeping on side.

The Storyteller
His form is very strong, dishing out a 9 length beating to Battleford who finished runner-up in last seasons Champion Bumper the pick of it. A close second to Monalee before that is also rock solid with that one being not far behind Death Duty subsequently. I understand Gordon Elliot would like to run him in the Martin Pipe, providing he is kept to a reasonable mark he should get in the race. It is worth noting that since its inaugural running, the Martin Pipe hasn’t been won by a horse carrying less than 11 stone which is food for thought and a positive for The Storyteller. Failing that I think the Coral Cup would be a good race for him.

Noble Endeavor
He has put up some brave performances so far this season, with his Paddy Power Chase victory at Christmas being the best and most recent. Travelling very strongly through the face, he quickened up nicely after the last to win well. Prior to that a fourth placed finish behind Empire Of Dirt means he comes into the festival with strong form in the book. Hopefully he will get a nice racing weight for the Ultima Handicap Chase and could put up a bold bid. A likely mount being Davy Russell gives his chances an added boost.

Peregrine Run
This horse still looks vastly overpriced in my eyes. His latest run at Warwick came on soft ground which didn’t suit him at all, but his runs on good ground before that were very encouraging. Beating Wholestone and West Approach in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham is very strong form, depending on what mark he gets we might see him in the Coral Cup. If this was the case and the ground was decent he would possess solid claims.

Divin Bere
A French recruit for Nicky Henderson, his British debut form has been remarkably boosted by the heroics of Master Blueyes after his neck defeat of the grey. Since their Huntingdon tussle Alan King’s charge has won a Ludlow Juvenile Hurdle by 18 lengths and the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle by 11 lengths, thus giving the impression that Divin Bere could be pretty damn good. If he lines up in the Fred Winter he has every chance, but there is that feeling that he could potentially take his chance in the Triumph.

North Hill Harvey
It seems like an obvious pick I know, but to me this race doesn’t look overly hot. Dan Skelton won it last season with Superb Story and may well do it again this time around with North Hill Harvey. His Greatwood Hurdle win has worked out well with Modus winning the Lanzarote Hurdle since. That has been his only run this campaign which leads me to believe the yard hasn’t wanted to get his mark increased so he can take his chance here. Last season he was competing amongst the best in races like the Supreme (which appears to have produced some top class equine athletes) and the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree where he finished fourth. He will most likely shoulder top weight in the County Hurdle but he is the class act in the field.

Charli Parcs to cement his Cheltenham claims.

Cheltenham is just over two weeks away and the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton sees one of the leading protagonists for the Supreme and Triumph take centre stage, the highly promising Charli Parcs. A dominant performance would most likely see him jump to the head of the markets for both races he is entered in at the festival. If he is as good as Nicky Henderson portrays he is, he wouldn’t be out of his depth in the Supreme especially with the 8lb allowance be would receive which could make all the difference. Also I think Defi Du Seuil is a good thing for the Triumph Hurdle, so come on Nicky put him in the curtain raiser!

The Pendil Novices’ Chase looks a two horse race between Frodon and Charmix. The latter had the race at his mercy when coming to grief at the last fence at Exeter a couple of weeks ago and will be seeking compensation here. He does get an all important 5lb from his market rival here and the application of first time cheekpieces could make all the difference. Frodon doesn’t do anything flash but wins plenty of races, most notably the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December. Stamina got the better of him in the Feltham on Boxing Day and he is far more at home over two and a half miles. A victory here would surely see him take his chance in the JLT at next months festival.

Capitaine heads the market for the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton and was last seen finishing a tired second behind Finian’s Oscar in the Tolworth Hurdle. Yet to be outside of the first two he should be suited by the ground and is sure to run his race. Elgin was runner up to Neon Wolf on his last outing after winning at this venue on Boxing Day. He was ahead of Mohaayed on both occasions who has gone on to win well since, albeit in a much less competitive race. Peter The Mayo Man needs to improve to figure in this sphere and River Wylde was behind Elgin in a bumper so has a bit to find. Captain Forez could potentially reverse placings with the favourite from their Ascot race under a more forceful ride. I’ll be keeping an eye on how Capitaine and Elgin run in a view to Finian’s Oscar and Neon Wolf and the festival.

The BetBright Handicap Chase will be competitive as always and there is a couple I fancy to run well here. Irish Saint hasn’t quite excelled over three miles yet, but if he is going to do it anywhere it’ll be here. His record of three from three at Kempton is a massive plus and should stand him good stead. Viva Steve won well on his first start for Fergal O’Brien in November but didn’t quite get home at Warwick last time. Barry Geraghty on board is eye catching and he could run well at an each way price.

Mutakayyef returns in the Winter Derby and ought to be winning this after his successful season last year, providing he his fit enough. Grendisar hasn’t hit the heights of his previous all weather campaigns and looks like he is on the downgrade, it will be interesting to see if first time blinkers bring out any of his old sparkle. Nothing went right for Battalion in the Winter Derby Trial but he still managed to finish third and with the two in front of him that day not appearing here, must be a viable each way bet given his all weather form.

Compression isn’t necessary.

The argument regarding the Grand National weights has gone on for far too long. As it is still up for debate I thought I would say my piece about why the weights don’t need to be compressed.

Firstly, I would like to say that I have a lot of admiration for Phil Smith because of the fact he goes on ‘Ask The Handicapper’ and fully explains his decisions no matter how much flack he gets. It’s a very tough job being a handicapper, if it were down to me I would probably put the horses in on their Irish ratings which might be a shocking decision, but that’s why I’m not in that role!

However something that really bugs me about the whole situation is that it’s almost like he’s trying to make out that he has done everyone a favour by compressing the weights, allowing the higher rated horses such as Outlander and Don Poli a chance in the national. In reality, I’m not sure why these high class horses need to be accommodated for in this race, it’s a contest for handicappers and should continue to be treated as such. Obviously we love to see the best horses, but there are enough open three mile chases without them needing to compete in the Grand National.

In terms of compression I simply can’t see how it is necessary. Horses are given a BHA Rating for a reason, if said rating isn’t going to be used accurately in the biggest handicap of the National Hunt season, then why use them at all? Why not compile a completely independent set of ratings purely for the national.

The Grand National is the peoples race and there is no reason to start playing with numbers unnecessarily which result in pointless and petty disputes.