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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Lincoln Handicap Tips

The Lincoln Handicap, which has been run over a mile on Town Moor, Doncaster since the closure of Lincoln Racecourse in 1965, is always highly competitive. The traditional curtain-raiser for the Flat season proper has actually produced three winning favourites in the last 10 years but, with winners at 25/1, 22/1, 20/1 (twice) and 16/1 in the same period, it’s just the sort of race in which we like to get involved.

I noticed earlier in the week that our friends the enemy were quite happy to lay 100/1, or 200/1, in the ante post market about horses with no earthly chance of making it into the race, never mind winning it but, lo and behold, once the final declarations were published, they wouldn’t lay a single horse at odds longer than 33/1. If you’re lucky enough to back a winning outsider, you want a ‘proper’ return for your money, so my advice would be to boycott the bookmakers altogether and place your bets on Betfair, at Betfair Starting Price, instead.

The consequences of Lincoln (25/1), trained by Mick Channon, winning the Lincoln are almost too hilarious to contemplate, but the 4-year-old was in decent form when last seen in September and doesn’t look overburdened, off a handicap mark of 97, for his first attempt at a mile. His 1½-length defeat of Newstead Abbey (gave 1lb) over 7 furlongs at Chester was a creditable effort and he suggested on his previous visit to the Cheshire track, when fourth over 7 furlongs 122 yards, that a mile is within his compass.

As a former winner of the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, Belgian Bill (20/1) is clearly effective over a straight mile and the son of Exceed And Excel has been in excellent form in Dubai over the winter. He’s just 2lb higher in the weights than when winning a 95-105 contest, over a mile on good going, at Meydan in January and, having run creditably in defeat on both subsequent starts over 1 mile 2 furlongs, appears to have an obvious chance. He’s drawn in stall 2, which may not be ideal, but the draw has proved inconclusive in the Lincoln in recent years.

Just to be on the safe side, though, we’d better have one that’s drawn high as well, so the suggestion is Boom And Bust (33/1), who’s 2lb lower in the weights than when fifth of eight, beaten 1¾ lengths, in a decent handicap at Leicester in October and remains on his lowest handicap mark since winning the Shergar Mile at Ascot three seasons ago. Apprentice Jordan Vaughan can do 7st 12lb, so can claim all his 5lb allowance and that might just make the difference.

So, in the annual guessing game that is the Lincoln, our three against the field are, in order of preference, Belgian Bill (20/1 generally available), Lincoln (25/1 generally available) and Boom And Bust (33/1 generally available). The chances are that all three will be available at longer prices on Betfair on Saturday, so have fun and good luck!

Friday, 20 March 2015

The EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’Hurdle Finale Preview

The EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’Hurdle Finale (2.35) at Newbury on Saturday features 18 mares, all of whom are officially rated within 13lb of each other and all of whom, bar Briery Belle, have won at least once this season, so finding a likely winner is no easy task. Of course, that suits us down to the ground and, as usual, we’ve highlighted a few that we think could belie generous odds.

For pure devilment, if nothing else, let’s start with Briery Belle (18/1), who is the only maiden in the field and appears to be Henry Daly’s second string on jockey bookings. Nevertheless, the daughter of King’s Theatre ran creditably in defeat when fourth of eleven, beaten 9¼ lengths, in a novices’ event at Sandown last month and may be capable of building on that effort. Strictly speaking, she’s 5lb better off for 5½ lengths with Ron’s Dream, 4lb better off for 4 lengths with Queen Of The Stage, who finished second and third at Sandown, and just 2lb worse off for 6 lengths with Theregoesthetruth, who finished fifth so, even without further improvement, she appears feasibly weighted on her handicap debut.

Ballyhollow (25/1) was eased, pulled up and dismounted in the aforementioned Sandown race after bursting a blood vessel, but had previously been progressing nicely and won under Paul Moloney on her handicap debut, over 3 miles, on her penultimate start. She takes a significant step up in class off her revised mark, but a first-time hood may bring about some improvement and, in any case, she deserves a chance to show her true colours at this level.

On the book, Henry Oliver’s nicely bred Flemensfirth mare Theregoesthetruth (16/1) has her work cut out to beat Ron’s Dream, Queen Of The Stage and Briery Belle, who all finished in front of her at Sandown, but was hampered and made a mistake at the final flight, when trying to rally, on that occasion and remains of interest. Her two wins so far have come on soft and heavy going, so a drop of rain wouldn’t hurt, but an extra furlong is in her favour, as is the booking of A.P. McCoy, who hasn’t had a ride for Henry Oliver in the last five seasons.

Keen-eyed readers will have noticed that one particular race at Sandown may provide the key to this one but, anyway, our three against the field this week, in order of preference are Theregoesthetruth (16/1 with William Hill), Briery Belle (18/1 with William Hill) and Ballyhollow (25/1 with William Hill). Good luck!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Five outsiders for Dubai World Cup night

The Dubai Carnival concludes with the glittering spectacle of World Cup night when there are seemingly untold riches on offer to the winners.
The meeting at Meydan is always competitive and attracts plenty of horses sprinkled with stardust from around the world.
Because the quality of the fields is so deep, you can often find even Group One winners available at big prices and they are always worth a look in the betting.
Here are five horses entered for different races on World Cup night who are currently available at big prices:
CASPAR NETSCHER
David Simcock likes to send runners out to Dubai and his six-year-old Caspar Netscher has one of the more interesting profiles of those likely to tackle the Al Quoz Sprint over five furlongs. As a juvenile, Caspar Netscher was twice a Group Two winner over six furlongs. He won the Greenham Stakes over seven furlongs on his first start at three and, after finishing unplaced in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, he went on to win the German equivalent over a mile. His form somewhat plateaued after that and, as a five-year-old, he only reappeared in August last year when well beaten in the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. He had three more runs before winning the Grade Two Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine over six furlongs. That success secured a place in the field for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and he finished eighth to Bobby’s Kitten, beaten three lengths. On his only run since, he was beaten just a short head and a head by Sir Maximilian in Dubai. That was his first run over five furlongs since his two-year-old days. He is probably short of being genuine Group One class, but he will strip fitter for that warm-up over five furlongs.
JUST THE JUDGE
Just The Judge set a British auction record for a filly last December when sold for 4.5million guineas. The five-year-old is a two-time Group One winner, who is entered in the Dubai Duty Free and was bought to be kept in training. Just The Judge was second to Sky Lantern in the 1000 Guineas in 2013 before taking the Irish version. She was then third to Sky Lantern in the Coronation Stakes before going off the boil on two subsequent runs. It took time for Just The Judge to hit form last season as well, as she twice finished behind Thistle Bird before taking third place in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park. She then won the Grade One E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine before finishing third to Dayatthespa in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The intermediate trip of nine furlongs in the Duty Free shouldn’t be an issue, but she has only run twice against the colts in her career.
SHAISHEE
A maiden when with Charlie Hills, Shaishee has shown gradual improvement since moving out to Dubai over trips ranging from six furlongs to a mile. The five-year-old put himself in line for a tilt at the Golden Shaheen when winning the Group Three Mahab Al Shimaal last time over six furlongs. Shaishee ran on strongly that day to beat United Color by three-quarters of a length, with Krypton Factor back in fifth. Shaishee will be staying on at the finish and could run well at a big price.
SHEIKHZAYEDROAD
Another runner from the Simcock stable, Sheikhzayedroad finished ninth in the Dubai Gold Cup over two miles last year. The Sheema Classic over a mile-and-a-half looks to be the target this time and the six-year-old won the Grade One Northern Dancer at Woodbine over that trip last season. That came on the back of a Listed and Group Two success before the season ended with a sixth to Noble Mission over 10 furlongs in the Champion Stakes when he stayed on past beaten horses. A second to Sky Hunter in the Dubai City of Gold should put Sheikhzayedroad in the right condition to run a big race.
SIDE GLANCE
A regular at the Carnival, Side Glance is 33/1 at the time of writing with betfair for the Dubai World Cup, despite finishing fourth in the last two runnings of the race. The eight-year-old skipped the Winter Derby at Lingfield and Andrew Balding’s globe-trotter is expected to run in Dubai. Side Glance’s last 16 runs have all been at Group One level, and he has struck once when winning the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in November 2013. Side Glance was only beaten half a length in fourth by Adelaide in the Cox Plate on his last run in October as injury ruled him out of another crack at the Mackinnon Stakes. At eight, how much ability he retains has to be guessed at, but he is reported to be in good form and he is a tempting price at 40/1.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Cheltenham Festival - Coral Cup Preview

The Coral Cup, run over 2 miles 5 furlongs on the Old Course at Cheltenham, has produced no winning favourite in the last 10 years and winners at 33/1 (twice), 16/1 (twice) and 14/1 (three times), so it’s fair to say it’s one of favourite races of the year. As usual, a maximum field of 26 runners will face the starter this year and, with the bookmakers betting 16/1 bar the front pair in the ante post market, the chances of an upset must be quite high. Should you have a more general, less race specific interest in Cheltenham, here's a guide to the Festival.

Dell’ Arca (33/1) is 3lb higher in the weights than when fifth, beaten 3¾ lengths, in this race last year and is on a losing run of ten. Frustrating though he has become, connections reach for first-time blinkers which, in combination with faster underfoot conditions than he’s encountered for a while, could make all the difference.

Shammick Boy (40/1) is on a career-high handicap mark of 140, but has been in cracking form so far this winter, completing a hat-trick on soft and heavy going. However, Jack Doyle’s 10-year-old has winning form on good to soft and good going earlier in his career and a collateral form line involving Sidbury Hill suggests that he is much the same horse as As De Mee, who won the European Breeders’ Fund William Hill “National Hunt” Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown on Saturday.

The lightly-raced 7-year-old Hammersly Lake (25/1) is Barry Geraghty’s choice from six runners saddled by Nicky Henderson and the hint may be worth taking. The Kapgarde gelding was tailed off in the Lanzarote at Kempton in January, on his first attempt beyond 2 miles 3 furlongs, but his previous form was encouraging and it’s too soon to be writing him off.

The Coral Cup is, as usual, insanely competitive, but our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Dell’ Arca (33/1 with Ladbrokes), Shammick Boy (40/1 with Coral) and Hammersly Lake (25/1 generally available). Good luck!

Five Grand National outsiders to consider

The Grand National is a race where every horse has some sort of chance, even the outsiders. You only have to look at the recent winners of the race to see that it is possible to be an unfancied horse and still bask in Aintree glory.
Mon Mome was 100/1 when winning in 2009 and, two years ago, Auroras Encore was a 66/1 shot. Indeed, in the last eight renewals of the race, there have also been two 33/1 winners and a 25/1 winner.
So, when you have a look at the Grand National betting, don’t just focus on those at the top of the market. And, to help you along, here are five possible National runners this year which are a big price.
BOB FORD
The eight-year-old is a general 66/1 shot after winning the West Wales National at Ffos Las when, controversially, only one other horse finished. That was over three-and-a-half miles and Bob Ford’s trainer Rebecca Curtis feels the horse is a National-type. He is a front-runner and can sulk when he doesn’t lead, which is a concern, along with his preference for heavy ground. But it has not been unheard of for Aintree to turn into a quagmire in April and he would be one to have on your side in that event.
CARLITO BRIGANTE
The former Cheltenham Festival winner will be trainer Karen McLintock’s first runner in the Grand National. He warmed up for the National with a third at Kelso when he stayed on over a trip just short of three miles, which suggests he is ready to step up in distance. Carlito Brigante will head to Aintree a relatively fresh horse and the expected good ground will also be right up his street.
DUKE OF LUCCA
Duke Of Lucca already knows the feeling of winning on Grand National day after taking the Listed Handicap Chase 12 months ago. An intended runner in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham before going on to Aintree, he will be Philip Hobbs’ second string as the trainer also has last year’s runner-up Balthazar King. There would be concerns over his jumping after a fall and unseated rider so far this season, but he will be staying on when others have had enough.
SUPER DUTY
An intended runner in the National for Ian Williams, Super Duty is not considered an outsider for the race by his trainer, despite his price of 50/1. He has finished second in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival and was fourth in a Grade One Novice Chase at Aintree in 2013. He missed over a year due to a leg injury before returning over hurdles at Wetherby in January. His first run over fences since December 2013 came at the end of February when he was seventh to Wayward Prince in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster. Williams felt they want too quick on the ground for Super Duty that day, but the National should suit and he does have a touch of class.
THE RAINBOW HUNTER
This horse has yet to get round in the National after unseating Aidan Coleman in the last two runnings. However, he chased Auroras Encore all the way to the line in 2013 and he does have some smart form in the book. He needed the run on tiring ground behind Rocky Creek in the BetBright Chase at Kempton on his reappearance. Better ground will suit him and he is on the same mark that he ran off last year. Trainer Kim Bailey also sent out Mr Frisk to win the National in 1990, although he was a bit more fancied at 16/1.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Imperial Cup Preview

The William Hill Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle, run over a testing 2 miles and 110 yards at Sandown Park, has produced four winning favourites and a couple more winners at single-figure prices in the last 10 years. However, winners at 20/1 (twice), 12/1 and 10/1 in the same period – not to mention a maximum field of 24 runners, as usual – provide cause for optimism as far as this column is concerned.

Raven’s Tower (40/1) hasn’t shown a great deal in three starts so far this season, but is only 1lb higher in the weights than when sixth of twenty-four, beaten 5¼ lengths, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March. The Raven’s Pass gelding subsequently won a 0-135 contest over 2 miles at Ascot and had previously won a couple of times on soft going so, if the first-time blinkers have the desired effect, he could go well at generous odds.

Another that catches the eye is Alistair Whillans’ beautifully-bred, but relatively lightly-raced 6-year-old Meadowcroft Boy (33/1). The Kayf Tara gelding makes the long journey south from Newmill-On-Slitrig in the Scottish Borders and, although he needs to improve on the form he’s shown over hurdles so far, his chance may not be as forlorn as his odds suggest. Certainly, his latest third, beaten 8¾ lengths, behind subsequent Grade 2 winner Glingerburn over 2 miles 2 furlongs at Kelso last month was a creditable effort. He, too, has winning form over 2 miles on soft ground on a testing track, so he has plenty going for him, especially if he can learn to settle better in the early part of his races.

Another lightly-raced contender, Tom George’s 6-year-old gelding Some Buckle (18/1) was only beaten a short head by Glingerburn at Doncaster on his penultimate start and, with the winner now officially rated 152 by the BHA, looks ‘thrown in’ off a mark off 135, despite his novice status. The son of St. Leger winner Milan could find no extra in the closing stages when fifth, beaten 7½ lengths, behind Ordo Ab Chao over 2 miles 4½ furlongs at Cheltenham six weeks ago but, dropping back in distance, is so attractively weighted on his return to handicap company that he cannot be ignored.

Having somewhat pooh-poohed the chance of last week’s Grimthorpe Chase winner, Wayward Prince, I have reminded myself of the ‘glorious uncertainty’ of racing and will be, ahem, a little more circumspect in future. Anyway, this week’s three against the field are, in order of preference, Some Buckle (18/1 with Bet365), Meadowcroft Boy (33/1 generally available) and Raven’s Tower (40/1 generally available). Good luck!