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Tuesday 22 November 2016

World Cup of Golf, Thursday, November 24

I bit of a change of tack this week, with an outsider golf tip, instead of our usual horse racing offerings. 

The World Cup of Golf gets underway at the Kingston Heath Golf Club, in Melbourne, Australia on Thursday and, although the Wales pairing of Bradley Dredge and Stuart Manley is hardly the most fashionable, odds of 125/1 in a field of 28 are just too tempting to resist. Key to Welsh success could be the Kingston Heath, one of Melbourne’s sandbelt courses, which should suit both players, and the vagaries of the inconsistent and cool Melbourne spring, which are likely to keep temperatures in the high teens at best.

Dredge, ranked 89 in the world, demonstrated his liking for “firm and fast” conditions when finishing tied for eleventh in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last month. Dredge won the World Cup of Golf alongside Stephen Dodd in Portugal in 2005, when the final round was abandoned, so is no stranger to coming in ‘under the radar’ in the 72-hole stroke play event. Manley, ranked 873, arrives in Australia having secured his European Tour card at the Final Qualifying Stage at the PGA Catalunya Resort, under difficult conditions, and should not be underestimated in an event in which he finished tied eighth, under extraordinary circumstances, at Royal Melbourne Golf Club three years ago.

Selection: Wales (125/1 with 32Red or 888Sport)

Monday 21 November 2016

David O’Meara Set for a Big Day at Newcastle on November 17

David O’Meara had five runners on November 17 across the cards at Chelmsford City and the newly installed all-weather surface at Newcastle. O’Meara has had two wins from his last six starts, while Alfred Hutchinson came very close to giving him a hat-trick of successes on November 12 at Lingfield but was just touched off by a length.
The Yorkshire-based trainer was expected to have more joy on November 14 at Newcastle with Mon Beau Visage who was heavily tipped up to win a handicap over 7f, but the 3/1 favourite was headed inside the final furlong and had to settle for seventh place in the race won by Kalk Bay.
The highlight of the year so far for O’Meara has to be his success in Arlington Million XXXIV Stakes where Mondaliste landed the spoils in the Grade One contest at Arlington Park back in August to pick up just short of £400,000 in prize money.
With the turf season done for the year, O’Meara will be concentrating on having as many winners as he can on the all-weather surface during the winter. Here is a look at the chances of O’Meara’s runners at the two meetings on November 17 in what could be another great day for the in-form trainer.
1.25 Newcastle – Betway Sprint Stakes
The first of four runners for O’Meara starts in this competitive 6f sprint at Newcastle where he saddles Highland Acclaim. The consistent five-year-old has been placed on his last two starts so has been knocking on the door of late.

The gelding was only beaten by less than a length at Chelmsford City last month when running off a mark of 90. He led going into the final furlong but just got headed in the last 100 yards by Boomerang Bob and Doctor Sardonicus, who finished first and second respectively.
Highland Acclaim went so close to making up for that loss when he ran at Wolverhampton on his latest start. This time off an official rating of 87, he was just over a length away from the winner, Upstaging, a four-year-old from Paul Cole’s yard, while the heavily experienced Seeking Magic was a neck in front of him in second place.
The horse’s last start was over the sharper trip of 5f which was the first time he had run over that distance before. O’Meara has opted to step him back up to 6f at Newcastle, the distance all four of his career wins have come at and the trip which looks to be where he is most comfortable at.
Highland Acclaim goes into this handicap with a mark of 91, however, that should not punters off backing the horse. He has won off 94 before, while his two recent runs both indicate he is running very well so he may only need a bit of luck to go his way for him to return to the winners’ enclosure.
The danger in the race will be the lightly raced Spanish City who won over this course and distance last month. At the age of just three and with only five runs under his belt, he could be ahead of the handicapper for trainer Roger Varian.
Dragon King is also worth a mention right near the bottom of the weights. Michael Dods’ horse went so close to victory last time out at this course. The first-time headgear seemed to work well on the horse so it would be no surprise to see this son of Dylan Thomas in contention again in the closing stages of this 6f contest.
1.55 Newcastle - Betway Maiden Stakes
Sunglider will be bidding to break his maiden at Newcastle at the 12th attempt under the hands of Graham Gibbons. The three-year-old was first given a mark of 85 by the handicapper but he has sloped all the way down to 75 which gives him a great opportunity to win for the first time. O’Meara’s runner is the top-rated horse in this 1m2f contest and it may not take much winning if he can bring his best performance.
The closest Sunglider has come to breaking his maiden was in his two-year-old campaign when he was trained by Dermot Weld in Ireland. The colt chased home a highly thought-of Aidan O’Brien runner in Shogun where he finished just over two lengths behind the Coolmore runner.
Since that outing at the Curragh, Sunglider has finished second on three other occasions, including runs at Ripon and Thirsk. The three-year-old switched stables earlier this year and he ran for the very first time for O’Meara back in May where he finished second behind Sir Michael Stoute’s Mustashry off a mark of 84.
Sunglider was prominent in the betting on his latest start at Newcastle on the all-weather surface where he handled the track well to finish third of eight runners over 1m2f. The colt was close up inside the final furlong and kept on well under pressure but was unable to go with Ready and L’Inganno Felice who finished ahead of him crossing the line.
To end up in Weld’s stable as a two-year-old, the horse is clearly well bred and with the greatest respect to O’Meara, was probably expected to go onto bigger opportunities than this handicap as a three-year-old. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to what his breeding has suggested he would do. However, that is not to say the Yorkshire trainer can’t find an improvement out of the horse.
The biggest threat to Sunglider in this maiden looks to be James Fanshawe’s runner Issue. He has only seen a racecourse twice and was expected to score at Kempton on his latest start where he went off as the 2/1 favourite. He may just have needed those outings to get used to the whole experience of a racecourse. It would be no surprise to see him make a considerable improvement.
Given it is a weak maiden, it may be wise to also watch the market for any support for Black Is Black and Maifalki who are both making their debuts.  It is not normally advised to back horses who are making their first run, however, they would not need to be special to take this contest.
Sunglider definitely represents a solid each-way bet here though and if all 10 runners go to post, O’Meara’s runner should have a great chance of finishing in the frame and picking up some place money at the very least.
5.50 Chelmsford – ToteQuadpot Four Places In Four Races Claiming Stakes
After two races at Newcastle, O’Meara and his team will be hotfooting down to Chelmsford for their evening meeting. The first of his three runners on the card comes in the 6f sprint at 5.50 where Regal Dan will look to defy top weight against seven rivals.
The talented Regal Dan arguably is O’Meara’s best chance of a winner at Chelmsford as the six-year-old has been running in much better company than this field so is more than capable of picking up the prize money for connections. The talented Shelley Birkett picks up the ride on this sprinter which is very helpful as she claims three pounds of his back.
Regal Dan came very close to winning two weeks back at Chelmsford over the slightly longer trip of seven furlongs. He finished second behind the odds-on favourite Fort Bastion in a really respectable run.
It’s been a busy campaign for the six-year-old as this will be his 12th run of the year. He started his campaign back in April at Doncaster in a Class Three handicap and the closest he has come to winning was at Town Moor in July where he was denied by a nose in a photo finish against James Tate’s Brazos. This horse has been rated as high as 91 so off a mark of 83 at Chelmsford, you have to feel the handicapper has given him a chance.
It’s only a small field for this sprint but the majority of their runners will be in with a chance, including Zac Brown who is the officially the highest rated in the contest at 92. He featured in a Listed race at Lingfield not long ago so is clearly the danger to O’Meara’s runner.
6.25 – Chelmsford – Handicap

O’Meara has given himself two chances of winning this seven-furlong handicap at 6.25 as he mounts That Is The Spirit and He’s No Saint to take on the field. Both horses look to have an excellent chance of being in the mix in what is the best race on the card at Chelmsford.
O’Meara has booked the services of William Buick to ride That Is The Spirit which is an excellent boost for the horse. This five-year-old has been one of the flagship horses in the Yorkshireman’s yard. In 2014 he ran in the Group One Qatar Prix de la Forêt at Longchamp as a three-year-old, while the following season he was successful in a Listed contest and also took part in the Group Two Betfred Hungerford Stakes.
At the age of five, That Is The Spirit is being campaigned in high-class handicap races like this one at Chelmsford. He was a winner two starts back at this trip at Ayr where he made all the running at the Scottish track to score by a head.
The six-year-old’s latest run at Leicester last month is a concern as he ran very flat, finishing last of the six runners. However, if you put a line through that outing, he deserves to be near the top end of the betting for this race and will be in with every chance of coming out on top.
He’s No Saint doesn’t quite have the same CV as his stablemate, however, the son of Dutch Art has earned just short of £60,000 for his connections with four wins to his name in his career so far.
The gelding came very close to a course and distance success last month only to be denied by a head behind George William. At a starting price of 16/1, O’Meara’s runner was not fancied to be in the running, however, he ran very well off a mark of 88 to suggest another big run could follow on Thursday.
He’s No Saint has one win to his name this season. He scored at Lingfield back in September when Champion Jockey Jim Crowley rode him to victory in a six-runner contest. He justified favouritism on that occasion to land the spoils. Since that victory, he has struggled a little with his mark and has finished down the field in runs at Chelmsford and York.
The highest rated horse in this race is Chookie Royale. Despite being eight years old now, the veteran still has to be respected, as he proved on his latest start where he scored at Kempton off a mark of 104.
Chookie Royale has had 66 races so far in his career and has earned just short of £200,000 in prize money. At his very best, Keith Dalgleish’s runner has been rated as high as 111 therefore at 110 he is just shy of that figure.
The eight-year-old has a six-pound penalty to contend with following his Kempton win but Shirley Teasdale will be taking five pounds off his back so connections will fancy of more success from their horse.
Further down the card, Supersta is another interesting contender. He has not been seen on a racecourse in 161 so it would be a fantastic training job from Michael Appleby if he were to come out on top. This five-year-old is a course and distance winner and has Luke Morris in the saddle, arguably the best all-weather jockey riding today.
Of the two O’Meara runners, That Is The Spirit clearly has the best chance of success, however, at the prices, He’s No Saint could be a solid each-way selection given there are 13 runners in the field so you have three places on your side.

Thursday 17 November 2016

Betfair Exchange “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle Preview

The Betfair Exchange “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle, run over 2 miles 6 furlongs and 177 yards at Haydock, is often not quite as competitive as it appears on paper. Three favourites have won in the last 10 years, but nine winners in that period were sent off at odds of 12/1 or shorter. Nevertheless, the rigid construction of the obstacles – which are similar to plain fences, but obviously not as high – always makes for a fascinating contest, in which the emphasis is on clean, accurate jumping as well as stamina.

Rathpatrick (25/1) hasn’t been seen since pulling up in the valuable Murray Spielman Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown in April, but was sixth of 24, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Mall Dini in the Pertemps Network Final at the Cheltenham Festival on his visit to mainland Britain and warrants close attention off an identical handicap mark. The Oscar gelding remains 12lb higher than when winning at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, but should be competitive if fit and ready to do himself justice after an absence of 205 days.

Western Cape (20/1) weakened quickly when only thirteenth of 18, beaten 70 lengths, behind Barney Dwan over 2 miles 4 furlongs at Sandown on his final start last season. That form leaves him with plenty to find with Two Taffs, but he was only beaten a head by Herbert Park over 2 miles 7 furlongs on his reappearance at Worcester and is entitled to improve for that run, his first since March. The Westerner gelding only 5lb better off for 63¼ lengths with Two Taffs, but he is almost certainly better than he showed at Sandown and remains a decent prospect.

Donna’s Diamond (40/1) unseated rider at the third fence on his chasing debut at Wetherby three weeks ago, but doesn’t look impossibly handicapped on the pick of his form over hurdles and merits consideration, despite stepping up in class. The Cloudings gelding is relatively lightly raced for a 7-year-old and, although still 5lb higher in the weights than when winning over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day, has an abundance of stamina that should stand him in good stead for this stern test.

Selections: Haydock Saturday 2.25 Rathpatrick, Western Cape, Donna’s Diamond

Tuesday 8 November 2016

7.55 Chelmsford, Friday, November 11

The meeting at Chelmsford on Friday is well subscribed and the final race on the card, the Totepool Betting at Handicap (7.55), a 16-runner, Class 6 affair, looks just the race for us.

Glorious Dancer has a 100% record at Chelmsford, having won a small 0-75 contest over a mile last February, off a handicap mark of 66, when with Ed Walker. He has yet to trouble the judge in six starts on Polytrack for Lee Carter, but has consequently tumbled down the weights and looks well handicapped if the return to the Essex track sparks a revival. He’s bred to be a sprinter and his two previous attempts beyond a mile were less than awe inspiring, but he would have a squeak if anywhere near his best.

Angel Of Light finished last on her first two starts in maidens at Wolverhampton and Bath in April and showed only minor promise when eighth of 13, beaten 14½ lengths, behind Mazaz in a similar race on her return to action at Kempton last month. Nevertheless, she’s by the excellent young sire Dark Angel, starts life in handicaps at a lowly level and is the only unexposed runner in the field. Trainer Jo Hughes is only 1-14 at Chelmsford in recent years, but jockey Pat Cosgrave is 1-4 for the yard on the all-weather, so Angel Of Light could find the necessary improvement.

Rainford Glory is 2-33 on the all-weather and hasn’t won a race of any description for over a year, but is 5lb lower in the weights than when winning at Redcar last October and shaped with some promise when fourth of 12, beaten 4¼ lengths, behind Mr Frankie at Wolverhampton last month. All of his wins have come at 1 mile 2 furlongs or further, so steeping back up in distance appears in his favour, especially if the first-time visor has the desired effect.

Selections: Chelmsford 7.55 Glorious Dancer, Angel Of Light, Rainford Glory

Friday 4 November 2016

November Handicap Preview

As is customary, the November Handicap, run over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Doncaster on Saturay, brings down the curtain on the Flat season proper on Saturday and, as is customary, a maximum field of 23 runners is set to go to post in search of one last hurrah. The November Handicap has produced one winning favourite in the last ten years and four other winners at single-figure prices in the same period. Nevertheless, winners at 20/1 (twice), 14/1 and 10/1 (twice) in the last decade give us at least some cause for optimism.

Trendsetter (33/1) belied odds of 50/1 when keeping on to finish fourth of 12, beaten 5½ lengths, behind easy winner To Be Wild over course and distance two weeks ago and could go well again with David Egan taking off 7lb. He’s no better off with Wrangler for the length he finished behind William Haggas’ charge on that occasion and he arguably has less scope than his old rival, but he has winning form on good to firm, good and soft going and doesn’t look impossibly handicapped on the pick of his form.

Mirsaale (25/1) emerged from a lengthy spell in the doldrums in April, following his return to Keith Dalgleish, but earned himself a 24lb rise in the weights, which has made life more difficult for him, on the Flat, at least. Nevertheless, he has demonstrated his well-being with three excellent efforts over hurdles in recent months, including a close third in Grade 2 Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow last month. He remains 7lb higher in the weights than when winning easily over 2 miles at Ripon in April, but is equally effective over this shorter distance and clearly on good terms with himself.

Unseasonably fast ground on Town Moor may well put the proverbial cat among the pigeons as far as the result of this race is concerned but, apart from the two already mentioned, it’s hard to find anything in the ‘outsider’ category that’s won without ‘soft’ in the going description. Consequently, we’ll stick with two against the field this week. Good luck!

Selections: Doncaster 3.35 Trendsetter (33/1 with bet365), Mirsaale (25/1 with Bet365)

Thursday 3 November 2016

Rich to Keep Getting Richer

"Cheltenham racecourse" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
It promises to be another stellar season for leading owner Rich Ricci as he contemplates which races to target with his battalion of pink-clad equine stars. The biggest conundrum for Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins will be how to keep their runners apart and which big targets they should be taking aim at over the season. Wherever the big prizes are to be won in Britain and Ireland, Ricci's runners are sure to be prominent in the Bet365 racing betting, with Douvan, Vautour, Annie Power and Faugheen amongst the top talents in the now iconic pink and green silks.
Ricci's recent revelation that Douvan might run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day has certainly muddied the waters when it comes to the chasers. Last season's Arkle hero, still unbeaten, is widely expected to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March. Such has been the majesty of Douvan's runs over two-miles that he would be almost un-opposable in that race.
Were he to keep his unblemished record by winning the King George, there would of course be a clamour to make the Gold Cup his primary spring target. Ricci – like Mullins – has yet to win the Blue Riband and having made a potential error back in March by re-routing Vautour at the Ryanair Chase instead of the Gold Cup, they would be loathe to swerve it in the event that Douvan showed up well over the three-mile trip at Kempton.
There is also the case of Vautour to consider. Narrowly denied by Cue Card in the Kempton showpiece last December, he is entitled to another shot at the prize and Ricci says he could line up. Mullins and Ricci may fancy a tilt at the £1m Jockey Club Triple Crown Bonus this season and that would mean having a rare runner in Haydock's Betfair Chase. Vautour is surely the logical contender for that Grade One and if he is victorious on Merseyside, all roads would lead to Kempton. It is worth remembering that Vautour routinely seems to be able to bring his very best form out at Cheltenham in March. He has won in all three festival appearances and, whichever race he appears in come the spring, Vautour will be one to keep onside.

"National Hunt Chase" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06
There is also plenty to consider in the hurdling ranks after Annie Power worked the oracle as last season's Champion Hurdle supersub. She brilliantly ended a 22-year wait for a mare to win the two-mile contest and what's more, she did so in the fastest time that has been posted this century in the race. Surely Annie Power will get the chance to retain her crown?
That could mean Faugheen heads the way of the World Hurdle. There has been speculation that he will step up in trip and the stayers contest could be his destination. Injury denied Faugheen his chance to defend the Champion Hurdle crown in March but no one should forget that he had produced what many felt was a career-best performance at Leopardstown in February before being sidelined. There's no doubting the Mullins and Ricci axis of power will be winning races over the course of this jumps season. They have the firepower to potentially dominate and their biggest challenge might well be in deciding how to distribute their considerable wealth as each big race comes along.