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Tuesday 13 December 2022

Henry VIII Novices' Chase

The Henry VIII Novices' Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 119 yards – that is, slightly shorter than two miles, but permissible since National Hunt racecourses were remeasured in 2015 – at Sandown Park in early December. As the name suggests, the race is restricted to horses aged five years and upwards who, at the start of the current season, are yet to win a race over regulation fences and are therefore classified as 'novices' over the larger obstacles.

The historic town of Esher, Surrey, which has been the home of Sandown Park since 1875, was a Royal hunting lodge during the reign of Henry VIII (1509 – 1547); the race is run in memory of 'Old Coppernose' himself. The Henry VIII Novices' Chase was inaugurated, as a Grade 2 contest, in 1987 but, having achieved sky-high standing, was eventually upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2011.

Reigning champion trainer Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer in the history of the Henry Novices' Chase with seven wins, courtesy of Dines (1998), Thisthatandtother (2003), Marodima (2007), Al Ferof (2011), Hinterland (2013), Vibrato Valtat (2014) and Dynamite Dollars (2018). Speaking at his owners' day in September, 2022, Paul Nicholls said, 'We're really strong with our novice chasers...', which include Gelino Bello, Monmiral, McFabulous, Complete Unknown and Stage Star, so further success in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase is by no means out of the question.

Arguably the best horse to win the race, though, was the prolific Altior, trained by Nicky Henderson. The High Chaparral gelding sprinted clear to win by 6 lengths on just his second start over fences and went on the win the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Queen Mother Champion Chase twice at the next three Cheltenham Festivals, achieving a Timeform Annual Rating of 180 in the process.

Monday 14 November 2022

Mick Channon

Former Southampton and England striker Mick Channon, who once described himself as 'a bit of a maverick as a trainer', turned his full attention to his erstwhile hobby, horse racing, after his retirement from professional football in 1986. Foresaking football management for racehorse training on the grounds that, 'Horses don't answer back', Channon worked as assistant trainer to John Baker and Ken Cunningham-Brown before taking out a training licence in his own right in 1990.

Channon initially set up on his own in Lambourn, Berkshire with a string of ten horses, but nonetheless saddled 16 winners in his inaugural season. Thereafter, he steadily increased the quantity and quality of his string and, by 1994, had saddled his first Group race winners, including his first Group 1 winner, Piccolo, who was awarded the Nunthorpe Stakes at York on the disqualification of Blue Siren.

It would be another five years until Channon saddled his next Group 1 winner, Seazun, in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. However, by that stage of his career, having outgrown his original base, he had moved to the historic West Isley Stables, near Newbury and was well on his way to becoming one of the leading trainers in the country. Channon enjoyed his most successful season in 2003, with 144 winners and over £2 million in prize money. Now 72, Channon still harbours the ambition to own or breed a Derby winner, although he said, 'The game’s not just about winning; it’s about the pleasure you get out of being involved in it.'

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Christian Williams

Nowadays, Christian Williams is best known as a dual purpose trainer based at Ogmore Farm, on the outskirts of Ogmore-by-Sea, in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. However, before eventually being forced into retirement, aged 29, in March, 2014, Williams was a highly successful National Hunt jockey. In fact, despite suffering more than his fair share of serious injuries, he was, at one point, number two jockey to Ruby Walsh at Paul Nicholls' Manor Farm Stables. All told, Williams rode 339 winners, many trained by Nicholls, and enjoyed his most successful season in 2005/06 with 77 winners and over £786,000 in total prize money.

By his own admission, before his riding career was curtailed by injury, Williams never harboured any aspirations to become a trainer. He said, 'I'll be honest, I never saw myself training, it sort of just happened. I was forced into doing my licence by Dai Walters [who built Ffos Las Racecourse] and moved on from there.' Williams was briefly employed as a salaried trainer at Walters' stable, The Hollies, in Lisvane, on the northern outskirts of Cardiff, before moving to his current premises in early 2018.

As a trainer, Williams has wasted little time in establishing a reputation for his skilled handling of staying steeplechasers. In 2019, he saddled Potters Corner to win the Midlands Grand National and the Welsh Grand National. In 2022, he saddled Win My Wings to win the Eider Chase at Newcastle and Cap Du Nord to win the Coral Trophy at Kempton on the same day in February and, in April, trained a 1-2 in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr with Win My Wings and Kitty's Light. In 2021/22, Williams enjoyed his most successful National Hunt season so far, with 34 winners and over £665,000 in prize money.

Tuesday 23 August 2022

John McCririck

The late John McCririck, who died from lung cancer in July, 2019 at the age of 79, was the face of Channel 4 Racing for more than 25 years. Instantly recognisable by his trademark dundreary whiskers, deerstalker and generally eccentric dress sense, McCririck was unashamedly loud, brash and, often, offensive to those of a politically-correct disposition.

However, behind the 'pantomime villain' facade, McCririck was a complex character. Formerly an award-winning newspaper journalist, with 'The Sporting Life' and elsewhere, he joined ITV Sport in 1981 and Channel 4 Racing in 1984. Although always something of a 'Marmite' character, his colourful, flamboyant style, coupled with his comprehensive knowledge of the betting landscape, made him extremely popular with many horse racing fans. Despite being an Old Harrovian, McCririck did care passionately about the ordinary, small-time punter, whose cause he championed.

Popular or not, McCririck was sacked from Channel 4 Racing, effective from January, 2013. McCririck, 72, took exception to his dismissal, citing age discrimination, and took his former employer to an employment tribunal, seeking £3 million in damages. However, the following November, a panel at the Central London Employment Tribunal unanimously ruled against him, stating that he was sacked not because of his age, but because his views were 'unpalatable to a wider audience' as Channel 4 and production company IMG Media Limited attempted to increase viewing figures. McCririck responded by saying, 'This is an historic setback for all employees in their thirties to their seventies.'

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Buster Edwards

Named Ronald 'Buster' Edwards, who served nine years in prison for his part in the Great Train Robbery in 1963, the equine Buster Edwards sprung one of the biggest surprises in recent history when winning at Haydock on December 30, 2019. Trained by David Pipe and ridden by Jack Tudor, the 6-year-old was sent off 7/2 favourite for the Bryn Gates Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, run over an extended three miles on soft going. However, Buster Edwards had to be ridden along from just after halfway and Tudor was hard at work for most of the final circuit.

Two less-than-fluent jumps at the final two obstacles appeared to have sealed his fate and, at one point, he traded at the maximum 999.00 on Betfair and was matched for £289 at that price. Nevertheless, having jumped the final flight in a seemingly impossible seventh position, eight lengths off the pace, Buster Edwards produced an extraordinary finishing effort that surprised everyone, including his jockey. Tudor later joked, 'Mr Pipe said not to get there too soon', but even he could not have anticipated how his mount 'sprouted wings' in the closing stages.

Strike West, ridden by Billy Garrity, appeared to have taken the measure of his nearest pursuers, Donnie Brasco and Passam, on the run to the line and was matched for £7,332 at 1.01 on Betfair. However, in the final half a furlong, Buster Edwards honed into view of television cameras, coming home with a wet sail to collar Strike West in the final stride and win by a head in a jaw-dropping finish.

Thursday 12 May 2022

Prince Monolulu

The history of horse racing has seen its fair share of 'colourful' characters, but perhaps none more so than Ras Prince Monolulu, the original maverick, showman tipster. Instantly recognisable by his resplendent garb, topped with a headdress of ostrich feathers, Monolulu held court at racecourses throughout Britain in the first half of the twentieth century. His catchphrase, 'I gotta horse, I gotta horse to beat the favourite', proved to be true, or so legend has it, when he backed Spion Kop, winner of the 1920 Derby at 100/6, to win £8,000, or £365,000 by modern standards.

Born Peter McKay in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands in 1881, Monolulu arrived in England, via New York, at the turn of the twentieth century. He claimed to be, and styled himself as, a chief of the Falasha tribe of the old Abyssinia, or Ethiopia, as it is now. According to researcher John Pearson, that claim was 'a load of rubbish, but it gave him the chance to dress up as someone who would be recognised.'

An engaging, humourous character, Monolulu rose to become a national, even international, celebrity. He was a fixture of Derby Day at Epsom for decades and, while his tips, which he offered at ten shillings apiece, were largely unsuccessful, he was the most famous black man in Britain for most of his life. Monolulu died in a London hospital on Valentine's Day, 1965, at the age of 84, reputedly choking to death on a strawberry cream chocolate given to him by journalist Jeffrey Bernard.

Friday 6 May 2022

Amazing Comeback

Giving home to all of us Outsider fans. It's never too late to back a stunning comeback. In-running betting must have been a riot!

Friday 22 April 2022

An Essential Beginners Guide to Racing

We’re well in to the racing season with some of the years biggest events already behind us and some exciting races yet to come into the future too as we head towards the summer – racing is as much about the ticket office for those placing their wagers at the tracks or through online platforms as options in betting online or non Gamstop poker for an alternative have grown substantially in recent years – but for newcomers to the tracks and to racing as a whole, what are some of the essentials that newcomers need to know about?

Flat vs Jump Racing – Whilst there are a huge number of different sports attributed with the horses, in racing there are two different markets to look at – either flat racing or jump racing. Whilst both can take place throughout the year, jump racing is typically favored for the winter with flat racing in the summer and you’ll often have fans that have a preference of one over the other, but will typically watch both.

Horses vs Jockeys – It’s often said that a good jockey is vital to the performance on race day and there are some jockeys that have built a fantastic career, but the horses are often the most important factor – an inexperienced jockey can win on a horse that’s at the peak of their performance, but a world-class jockey can’t run a slow horse to victory in most cases – when following racing for a hobby or for the potential financial gains, learn all about the horses.

Predictability vs Upsets – Much like any sport, upsets can and do happen in racing, but they’re not as common as they may seem on the outside – it’s easy to study past results and current form to pick out winners as horses will typically run in quite a predictable way – if a horse has shown good form in recent races, chances are they’ll continue that form for future races too and winners can somewhat be reliably chosen.

Other race factors – Whilst predictability is there, that doesn’t mean there aren’t factors to be considered too – what are the conditions of the ground on the day the race is taking place? Has the front runner shown a change in form recently? There are plenty of other factors to be considered as a fan of racing that can have a huge impact of performance too and getting to know how a firm and fast track will impact one runner and a soft and boggy track will impact another is just another part of the sport that separates the newcomers from the experienced fans.

Tuesday 5 April 2022


History records that the Winter Novices' Hurdle, run over 2 miles 4½ furlongs, on heavy going, at Leicester on December 11, 2019, was won by the 2/9 favourite Kepagge, who kept on well in the final half-a-furlong to beat his nearest pursuer Bendy Bow by 1¼ lengths. Hardly an 'unlikely' outcome, you might think, but the bare result fails to tell the whole story; in fact, far from it.

Trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore, Kepagge had made his debut under National Hunt rules at Chepstow the previous month, where he made all the running to win a National Hunt Flat Race by 4 lengths. At Leicester, the five-year-old gelding faced an apparently facile task against three, modest rivals – all of whom were fellow hurdling debutantes – a fact that was reflected by his prohibitive starting price.

Kepagge set off at the head of affairs, albeit at a dawdling crawl, but backed off the first flight of hurdles so badly that he lost momentum and only just 'fiddled' over the obstacle. He recovered on the long run to the second flight, but wandered on the approach to the obstacle and jumped violently left, all but unseating Tom Scudamore. At that stage, his less-than-keen attitude drew the attention of Betfair layers and he was matched at the maximum price available, 999/1, to the tune of £500 or more.

Kepagge was again ponderous at flights three and four, but warmed to the task as the pace increased, slightly, heading down the back straight for the final time. He led, going best of all, approaching the second last flight, but again jumped slowly at the final flight, allowing Bendy Bow to challenge for the lead. However, close home, Kepagge only had to be pushed out with hands and heels to score what had looked, at one stage, a highly improbable victory.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Barney Curley

The late Bernard Joseph 'Barney' Curley, who died in May, 2021 at the age of 81, was, at various points in his career, a bookmaker, professional gambler, racehorse owner and trainer and philanthropist. However, he freely admitted to never having held an ordinary job in his life and his unorthodox approach to horse racing made him one of the most colourful characters in the history of the sport.

Born in Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh in 1939, Curley survived a life-threatening bout of tuberculosis as a young man and, having abandoned plans to become a Jesuit priest, embarked upon a largely unsuccessful career as a bookmaker in Belfast. The chastening experience was not lost on Curley who, on June 25, 1975, masterminded the in infamous Yellow Sam coup at Bellewstown Racecourse, Co.Meath, which netted him and his associates over £2 million by modern standards. In 1986, Curley became a licensed trainer in his own right, keeping a small string of his own horses in his yard in Newmarket and financing the operation, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, by gambling heavily on them. No stranger to controversy, Curley repeatedly fell foul of the stewards because of his no-nonsense, maverick attitude and outspoken views.

In his later years, following the death of his teenage son, Charlie, in a car accident in 1995, Curley turned his attention to charitable work, founding the charity Direct Aid for Africa (DAFA), in 1996. DAFA is a non-political, non-sectarian organisation dedicated to supporting underprivileged people in Zambia, in south-central Africa.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Record-breaking Winner


On August 13, 2020, a three-year-old named He Knows No Fear won the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden at Leopardstown at odds of 300/1. In so doing, he became the longest-priced winner in the history of horse racing in Britain and Ireland, eclipsing the previous record set by Equinoctial (250/1) at Kelso in November, 1990.

Bred, owned and trained by Luke Comer and ridden by Chris Hayes, He Knows No Fear was having just his second start after finishing only twelfth of fourteen, at 250/1, in a similar race on his debut at Limerick the previous month. At Leopardstown, he showed signs of inexperience when asked for his effort but, once the penny dropped, made rapid headway on the outside of the field. He went second in the final hundred yards and stayed on strongly to collar the hot favourite, Agitare, who had gone clear inside the final furlong, in the shadow of the post and win by a head. The winning trainer said later, 'He Knows No Fear is a nice horse. The first race, you couldn't go by, because he got left in the stalls.'

Comer, for whom training racehorses is almost a distraction from his main property development business, had not saddled a winner for nine years. Indeed, he had previously hit the headlines in 2017, when he was repeatedly fined by the Turf Club and was in danger of having his licence withdrawn, after a catalogue of 'very serious rule breaches', including refusing permission to inspect his stables in Kilternan, Dublin, failing to arrange adequate supervision for his horses and providing misleading and false information.