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Thursday 28 April 2016

2,000 Guineas Outsiders

The first Classic of the season, the 2,000 Guineas, run over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket on 30th April, takes centre stage on Saturday. Four favourites have won the race in the last 10 years, but winners at 40/1, 33/1 and 25/1 in that period give us at least a glimmer of hope of finding one or two that have a realistic chance of beating this year’s hot favourite, Air Force Blue.

First Selection (80/1) took a keen hold when only sixth of nine, beaten 8½ lengths, behind Pure Diamond in a Listed race at Meydan last month, but has a squeak on the pick of his juvenile form. The Diktat colt was far from disgraced when fifth of 11, beaten just 1¾ lengths, behind the unbeaten Ultra in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, over a mile, at Longchamp last October and, although more exposed than some of his rivals, can be expected to make further progress, especially if the first-time hood has the desired effect.

Herald The Dawn (33/1) also pulled hard when finishing 1½ lengths behind First Selection in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on his first attempt over a mile and, while he has 3 lengths to find with Air Force Blue on their running in the National Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at the Curragh last September, his chance may not be as forlorn as his odds suggest. By New Approach, like Jim Bolger’s only previous 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach, Herald The Dawn has reportedly thrived over the winter and the fact that his trainer has decided against a preparatory race suggests he could go well at a big price.

Frankly, it’s hard to see anything else that falls into the ‘outsider’ category troubling Air Force Blue, if Aidan O’Brien’s charge is anywhere near his best, so we’ll stick with two against the field this week. Good luck!

Selections: Newmarket 3.45 First Selection (80/1), Herald The Dawn (33/1)

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Outsider Chautauqua Going to Royal Ascot 2016

The Royal Ascot, arguably the most prestigious of races in the UK, will soon be here with opening day taking place on Tuesday June 14th. Even though the five day event always generates international interests, and as such has many overseas runners competing, this year has seen a record number of foreign runners. Among the 164 overseas names, 35 of them are from outside of Europe. Although many of the runners are known for their impressive form, one name stands out from the others, and that is Chautauqua.

At this moment in time, there are six Australian participants known to be going to Ascot, with Chautauqua being known as the world’s greatest sprinter. Whether spectators share that opinion or not, there is no denying that the five year old has a lot of inspiring wins to his name, therefore making them a contender to beat, especially after his display at Randwick in early April. The Group 1 thoroughbred race is an Australian favourite that is easily the most prominent race of their horseracing calendar. This year however, the race become even more notable because Chautauqua came back from ranking last to win the competition in what has been described as a ‘win of the ages’.

Due to that unbelievable victory so fresh in everyone’s minds, not to mention the fact that Chautauqua is presently partaking in the Hong Kong based Sha Tin, all punters are wondering two things: whether Chautauqua will make it to the UK, and if he does, whether he will win at Royal Ascot this year. The reason his inclusion is still debatable, despite the fact his name is down on runners lists thus far, is due to how he fares in Hong Kong - if his form should be below par, then trainer team the Hawkes will have to reconsider their stance.

Currently, everything appears to be running smoothly for the grey bay gelding to run at Ascot, for his good form has been maintained. However, Chautauqua still has to run against national rival Buffering, a horse that is particularly renowned throughout the sports community for being the biggest earner in Australian history. Seeing as these two powerhouses aren’t having their ‘showdown’ isn’t until Sunday, observers will have to wait and see whether the Australian horse’s Royal Ascot ambitions live on or not.

Monday 18 April 2016

4.30 Kempton, Tuesday, April 19

The prospect of good ground has attracted plenty of runners to Kempton on Tuesday and the Protan, Ahead of the Rest Handicap Hurdle (4.30) looks competitive enough for us to have a look for one or two likely outsiders.

The first one that catches the eye is Victor Dartnall’s 11-year-old Shammick Boy, who’s undeniably well handicapped on the form of his course and distance win last February, but, frankly, has shown so little in five starts this season that he cannot be recommended at any price. Of course, he could pop up at silly odds but, for once, we’re happy to risk having egg on our faces by writing him off.

Howaboutnever drifted alarmingly in the betting before finishing tailed off at Wincanton earlier this month, so either the good ground was too fast or somebody knew something that wasn’t apparent from his previous form, which was, in fact, highly respectable. He’s only 5lb higher in the weights than when beating subsequent Imperial Cup third Spice Fair in a veterans’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 4½ furlongs, at Newbury in March, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in the betting this time. His jockey, Harry Teal, simply reported that the gelding was never travelling at Wincanton, but that form was just too bad to be true.

Willem has yet to win in 11 starts for David Pipe, but the French import has gone well fresh in the past, so an absence of 146 days may not be much of a worry and the 6-year-old looks reasonably treated on the pick of his British form. Conditional jockey David Noonan doesn’t have a great strike rate for the yard, but his 5lb allowance will certainly help as will the return to faster underfoot conditions.

Selections: Kempton 4.30, Howaboutnever, Willem

Thursday 14 April 2016

Scottish Grand National 2016 Outsiders

Hot on the heels of the Grand National at Aintree – in which we managed third and fourth from our three, generously-priced selections – the Scottish Grand National, run over 4 miles at Ayr on 16th April, gives another chance for a tilt at the ring. Eight of the last ten winners went off at double-figure prices, including 66/1, 40/1, 33/1 and 25/1 so, once again, we shouldn’t be afraid to dabble at the ‘wrong’ end of the market.

Golden Chieftain (25/1) is unlucky not to be chasing a hat-trick, having fallen the last twice with the race seemingly at his mercy, including in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter four weeks ago. A 4lb rise in the weights seems more than fair and, with plenty of winning form on soft and heavy going, it’s something of a mystery why he can be backed at such long-odds, even if he is on a career-high mark.

Not for the first time, Shotgun Paddy (25/1) was pulled-up in the Midlands Grand National, but had previously been running creditably in defeat in decent company and remains well-handicapped on his best form. He’s yet to win beyond 3 miles 5 furlongs, but his second of 17, beaten 9 lengths, behind easy winner Rocking Blues in the Eider, over the testing 4 miles ½ furlong at Newcastle, in February was a solid effort and he’s 2lb lower in the weights this time.

The progressive Berea Boru (33/1) has been making hay at a lower level in recent months and deserves a crack at a big prize. He has stamina to prove, having yet to race, never mind win, beyond 3 miles over hurdles or fences and has done all his winning on heavy going. However, with heavy, thundery rain forecast for the West Midlands on Thursday and Friday, his ability to act under testing conditions could be a blessing come Saturday afternoon and his unproven stamina is factored into his price.

Selections: Golden Chieftain (25/1 with Coral), Shotgun Paddy (25/1 generally available), Berea Boru (33/1 with Boylesports, Ladbrokes and William Hill)

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Grand National Outsiders

The Grand National, run over 4 miles 2½ furlongs at Aintree, presents a unique test for horse and rider and is the race for which this column was created. Winners at 100/1, 66/1, 33/1 (twice) and 25/1 (twice) in the last 10 years has us licking our lips and, hopefully, we can unearth outsiders that can give us a run for our money at similarly silly odds. The final declarations for the Grand National aren’t published until Thursday morning but, with Bet365 offering non-runner no bet and guaranteed best odds, we thought we’d dip our toe in the ante post market. This article relates to the 2016 Grand National. Go here to check here for 2017 grand national outsiders!

Perhaps surprisingly, Co. Limerick trainer has only had three previous runners in the Grand National, but Grade One winner Gilgamboa (66/1) is far and away the best horse he’s entered and is guaranteed a run. His latest fifth of 15, beaten 10 lengths, behind Vautour in the Ryanair Chase, over a seemingly inadequate 2 miles 5 furlongs, at the Cheltenham Festival was no disgrace and, having done most of his winning on soft and heavy going, any rain that falls in North West England between now and Saturday afternoon is in his favour. He’s 6lb higher in the weights than fourth of 28, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Minella Foru in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas – his last run in a handicap – but this outsider shapes like a stayer and could be the ideal type for Aintree.

Onenightinvienna (50/1) is still a novice over regulation fences, but won a point-to-point as a 4-year-old and generally jumps well, as he did when fifth of six, beaten 18 lengths, behind Vyta Du Roc in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase, over 3 miles, at Ascot in February. He was disappointing on that occasion, but may be better judged on his 2½-length second to subsequent RSA Chase winner Blaklion, over 3 miles 1½ furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham, in December. In any case, he’s been given seven weeks to recover from his Ascot exertions and, while he appears to be Philip Hobbs’ second string on jockey bookings, he could be a potential ‘dark horse’, particularly if the ground softens a little.

Last, but hopefully not least of our outsider tips, Vics Canvas (80/1) is a 13-year-old and an infrequent winner these days, but was second, off a 5lb lower mark, in the Bet365 Gold Cup Chase, over 3 miles 5 furlongs at Sandown last April and had a ‘sighter’ over the National fences when fifth of 17, beaten 3¾ lengths, behind Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase in December. His subsequent form is pretty dismal, but he wouldn’t be the first horse that kept his best for the National fences and he could surprise a few, despite his advancing years.

Good luck!

Outsider Selections: Gilgamboa (66/1), Onenightinvienna (50/1), Vics Canvas (80/1)

Panto Horse or Real Horse?

Can you tell a pantomime horse from a real horse? Your hay from your neigh? Your hoof from your spoof?
Paddy Power want you to identify which cleverly disguised horse’s, are real and which are fake in the run up to the Grand National 2016.

1. Oh no it isn’t…. or oh yes it is!

2. He's Behind You

3. Feeling a little horse today?

4. Crazy horses

5. Polo player or panto joker

6. Smile it's panto time!


The Grand National - Infograph

Grand National Stats and Trends
More Grand National Stats and Trends at

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Grand National 2016 First Thoughts

Are you by any chance busy on Saturday 9th April at 5:15pm? I hope not because, in the UK alone, 10 million + of us racing fans will be freeing up our diary and making a beeline for the settee (and 70,000 plus will be at aintree racecourse) to tune into the national hunt event that casual and serious punters alike tune in too, namely the 2016 Crabbie's Grand National.

This year's favourite, and in fact last year's winner, is Many Clouds, currently at a fairly short 8-1. Of course Many Clouds is proven over the course so is something of a known quantity but with over 40 runners and 30 jumps, it's a brave man that thinks he's onto a short priced good thing at the Grand National. A favourite, or rather a joint favourite hasn't won the National since Don't Push It was riden to victory at 10-1 in 2010 by Tony McCoy. A joint favourite won in 2008 too (Comply or Die) but you have to go all the way back to 2005 and Hedgehunter riden by Ruby Walsh to find a favourite in its own right winning, on that occasion at 7-1.

With this in mind, the Grand National would appear to be a prime opportunity to pull a big winner out of the bag, while pretending you're some kind of horse whispering savant in the process. A cousin of mine has become well known for picking Grand National winners and while he doesn't even follow horse racing on a regular basis and there was likely no rhyme or reason to his selections, each year family and friends would all ask "what's he betting on this year?" as the race neared. Many other friends don't really get a say on who they are cheering on as it's all part of a office sweepstake or the like, or perhaps a horse's name stands out for them. That's not to say that, despite the many unknowns of a race like the Grand National, a bit of knowledge and nouse can't go a long way in terms of making your selections. We'll be going into that in more detail in the days to come.

If you're looking for inspiration though in anticipation of backing a big priced winner in the 2016 event, it's somewhat easier to achieve than spotting a favourite romping home in first place. Many Clouds, this year's favourite, was actually a fairly generous 25-1 when it won last year, but if you're looking for 'really' big odds, look no further than Auroras Encore in 2013 at 66-1 with bookmakers and the bind boggling 100-1 on offer for Mon Mome in 2009. I wouldn't have minded a few quid on that one. Will 2016 be another year of the big winner, or will Many Clouds or another short priced contender romp home? We won't have to wait long to find out now!

While you're waiting for your Grand National fix, why not check out the fun online casino game I've been playing, Frankie Dettori's Magic Seven at, you can play this and other games for free or real money if you're feeling lucky.

Friday 1 April 2016

14:45, Doncaster, Saturday April 2

The Lincoln, run over the straight mile at Doncaster, is the traditional curtain-raiser for the Flat season and looks as competitive as ever this year, with just 8lb between the top and bottom of the handicap. Winners at 25/1, 22/1, 20/1 (twice) and 16/1 in the last ten years provide cause for optimism as far as this column is concerned and, with several of the fancied runners making their seasonal debuts, a shock result is always a possibility.

First on our shortlist this week is Richard Hannon’s 6-year-old Emell (40/1) who, at first glance, doesn’t appear to have much going for him. The Medicean gelding could finish only 18th of 22, beaten 19 lengths, behind Gabrial in this race last year and is 5lb higher in the weights this time, has never won over a mile, or on soft going, and finished last of eight, beaten 5¼ lengths, behind Mister Universe on the all-weather at Lingfield four weeks ago.

However, he was far from disgraced at Lingfield on his first appearance since last October and ran well enough in defeat on good to soft, and soft, going last season to suggest that he won’t be beaten because of underfoot conditions alone. From a handicapping perspective, in his last run in a handicap he was only beaten 1¾ over 7 furlongs at Newbury last July off a mark of 103 so, although he’s no handicap snip, it’s difficult to argue that he’s impossibly handicapped either. It’s worth remembering, too, that he finished second in the Celebration Mile as a 4-year-old, so he has a touch of class. Being drawn on the outside, in stall 20, may not do his chances any harm and his chance is not as forlorn as his odds suggest.

Fire Ship (33/1), a 7-year-old trained by William Knight, also returns for another crack at the Lincoln after finishing 20th, beaten 20 lengths, last year off a 9lb higher mark. However, the West Sussex trainer expressed his concern that the prevailing good ground on that occasion wouldn’t be soft enough for the Firebreak gelding, so that performance is probably best forgiven. In his defence, on his sole appearance in a handicap on soft ground last season, Fire Ship reared at the start and lost many lengths and, while he failed to make much impression in two starts over hurdles this winter, it can be argued that he’s well handicapped on the pick of his Pattern race form. According to his trainer, he doesn’t like to be crowded in his races, so stall 16 of 22 should suit him well enough and he’s another who could go well at a decent price.

While you're getting your racing fix or waiting for the day's races, why not check out the fun online game I've been playing, Frankie Dettori's Magic Seven at , you can play this and other games for free or real money if you're feeling lucky.

Selections: Doncaster 2.45 Emell (40/1), Fire Ship (33/1)