JCB Triumph Hurdle Preview 14th March Cheltenham Festival

A race that many want to avoid from a punting point of view but I see oppurtunity. Last years emphatic winner was Our Conor and while nothing currently in the field appears to have the same potential that Our Conor did there are still some very useful types.

CALIPTO @6/1(BETFAIR EXCHANGE) Is trained by Paul Nichols.He is a french recruit who finished runner up in the second division of the Prix Finot at Auteuil in September.This 4 year old bay gelding got his English career off to a fine start by winning a 2m1f hurdle at Newbury by an easy 3&1/2 lengths( ACTIVAL ,the runner up has won since impressively ) Calipto followed up that success last month again at Newbury by 5 lengths. At the age of 4 he is improving and learning with every run and he will have progressed tremendously since his last run. I think he is a potential superstar and my money will be on him.

LE ROCHER @13/2 Also a French recruit, brings a course win to the table here. He won a 4year old Grade 2 hurdle.The form of that race doesnt appear to strong and Le Rochers French form is also average.Trained by Nick William I feel Le Rocher will be vulnerable to some lighter raced types with more room for improvement,but he very much has to be respected .

GUITAR PETE @10/1 Is the leading Irish contender , trained by Dessie Hughes he achieved a mere mark of 65 on the flat .Since sent hurdling he has been a model of progression. He won The Grade 1 Gala Retail Spring Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, that race usually acts as a very good trial for this race. He was 2nd over C&D back in November off a mark of 130 and overall boasts a very consistent profile. There is no doubt that he is talented but again I can see him running a good race without being good enough to win.

ACTIVAL @10/1 Was previously beaten by Calipto and has a very similar profile to that horse. After finishing 2nd to Calipto he won his next start( A Grade 2 Hurdle) in impressive fashion .That performance not only put him towards the head of the market for this race but it also boosts the form with Calipto and solidifies his potential. Calipto is a better horse then Actival and I think Calipto will win. Therefore Actival has a great each way chance here for his trainer Harry Fry.

BROUGHTON @10/1 Is an ex Mark Johnston inmate and is now with John Ferguson.He kicked off his hurdling career in a Grade 2 contest only to go down by a head to Fox Norton. He showed a very game attitude that day as the pair swapped the lead several times inside the final furlong. He was expected to win next time out at Musselburgh and he didnt disappoint ,beating Clarcam by 5 lengths being eased down.Like all of Mark Johnstons horses this guy never knows when he is bet  and that is an extremely valuable attribute when tackling the famous Cheltenham hill.On form he has a few lengths to find with Guitar Pete but I think if it came down to a battle this guy would prevail. Has a good each way chance and should improve for good ground.

RUTHERGLEN@12/1 From the John Quinn yard achieved a rating of 77 on the flat and has taken well to Hurdles. He is 3 from 3 for hurdles start and won a class 3 contest latest. He has interesting form lines with Broughton and is only marginally behind him. However I do think Broughton is slightly better and will be better suited to Cheltenham.

TIGER ROLL @12/1 Won his first start in England before being grabbed up by Gigginstown House Stud for £80,000. He is now trained by Gordon Elliot who wasted no time throwing him into the deep end, That was the Grade 1 Gala Spring Juvenile Hurdle won by Guitar pete, He was sent off a 20/1 shot that day but ran like a market principal,fnishing a closing second . I would be confident of him reversing that form as the jockey that day Brian Cooper dropped his whip. He is a small flashy chesnut but seems to have a willing attitude judging by his head carriage .Obviously highly thought of and one of the leading Irish chances here. Should run well even with the lack of experience.

An outsider worth a mention is ABBYSSIAL @20/1 for W P Mullins. The French recruit is 3/3 in Ireland and is on an upward curve.

I am very sweet on Calipto here and I can see him going off a lot shorter priced on the day. One that worrys me is Broughton .His tough attitude should stand him in good stead in a race like this! Thanks

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Super Saturday At Meydan Speaks Value!

An extremely competitive card for super Saturday at Meydan tomorrow with extensive amounts of prize money up for grabs. With that money comes big fields containing plenty of value!

MEYDAN SPRINT SPONSORED BY ARABIAN ADVENTURES(Group 3) (Turf) (3yo+) 1.45pm

ZEE BROS @20/1 This american raider traveled well for his Meydan debut over 6f finishing 2 and a half lengths behind Medician Man . ZEE BROS will appreciate this drop back to 5f as he appeared to tire late on over 6f the last day after hitting the front just over 1 furlong out. The jockey booking of Frankie Dettori catches the eye and the switch to the straight turf track will pose no problem. Granted he faces some well seasoned sprinters here in Sole Power and Shea Shea but he has the advantage of race fitness which can make all the difference in these short distance sprint races.

 

MAHAB AL SHIMAAL SPONSORED BY EMIRATES SKYWARDS(Group 3) (Tapeta) (3yo+)  2.25pm

BALMONT MAST @14/1  Was behind the likes of Russian Soul & Jamesie over C&D last time out . He was ridden by William Buick and settled in rear.His rivals stole a few lengths on him around the bend and he seemed to hang slighty off the turn. When the field reached the straight Balmont Mast under hands and heels weaved his was through several runners and switched to the inside doing so. He was constantly closing on the eventual winner Russian Soul but there was alot of promise with that run . Ryan Moore is on board today and odds of 14/1 are without a doubt too good to resist . Big player.

 

BURJ NAHAAR SPONSORED BY EMIRATES HOLIDAYS (Group 3) (Tapeta) (3yo+) 3.00pm

EASTERN RULES @16/1 each way 1,2,3,4. Before tipping him for his last win I suspected him to be potential group class. He steps up to a Group 3 contest here after two Course wins in Valuable handicaps. I still think he is improving and he should hold his own in a field such as this.He is drawn in 9 which is a slight negative but I can see him coming off a fast pace to pick his rivals off late in the straight.He has a great chance here and can earn his connections another valuable prize.

Good luck if you get involved. Thanks for reading ITJ.

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Clondaw Kaempfer A forgotten talent!

Trained By Donald Mccain this horse has had his ups and downs over the last two seasons. His career started with two good point to point runs in early 2012. In his first one he finished third to subsequent Grade 3 winner Sizing Rio before going better one month later. Under rules he won his debut , digging deep at fairyhouse to beat non other than the Liquidator who has since won a Grade 1 bumper and a Grade 2 hurdle.He was bought for a tidy sum of £130,000 and sent to Mccains yard.. Mccain expressed his worries from an early stage about running this horse on testing conditions but he won his debut for the yard at Aintree and the horse coped well with the conditions. He jumped very well to beat Funny Star by 6 lengths. He then went on to win a novice hurdle at Haydock, again in an impressive manner.

It was his next start that has caused this horse to be where he is at currently. It was in the Grade 1 Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury which is a well known contest.He had hurdled very well and was delivering his challenge at the third last only to stumble on landing and be pulled up by jockey Jason Maguire.He wouldnt run again until November 2013 where he made a somewhat dissapointing return which is understandable. He was significantly better next time out in December in a class 2 hurdle at Aintree where he finished a close third. He showed alot of positive signs that day and gave me the Impressions that he is on a workable mark .He holds multiple entries for next weeks Cheltenham Festival,Coral Cup @12/1 , Vincent O Brien @ 33/1& The Martin Pipe @20/1 .

I like this horse a lot and its hard to ignore how much potential he appeared to have before his injury. So with him dropping down to handicap company for Cheltenham on what is a well in mark in my view means that he has a huge chance.Regardless of what happens at Cheltenham he looks a chaser in the making.

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The Ladbroke World Hurdle Thursday 13th March 3m Grade 1

This 3 mile hurdle contest has been dominated in recent years by Big Bucks. After a lengthy lay off due to injury and a somewhat unsatisfactory comeback run ,questions remain over the horses staying relentless galloping talent that he has showed previous. 12 hurdles are jumped during this race on the New course at Cheltenham and stamina is without doubt the key ingredient

BIG BUCKS @9/4 Has shown us over recent years that stamina is no issue to him.He has won this race an astonishing 4 times , all of which were consecutive ,but after a injury he picked up mid season in 2013 he didnt take part in last years race. In January at Cheltenham racecourse he made his eagerly awaited return after a 400 plus day absence in The Cleeve Hurdle. The Cleev is known to be a good trial for this race . Big Bucks was sent off an uneasy favourite that day with Sam Twiston Davies making his debut on board the horse .He traveled well for much of the race and was sent for home earlier than some anticipated. For a few brief strides it looked like he had the race put to bed but he faded into 3rd place close to home.He was beaten that day by Knockara Beau.With no disrespects to Knockara Beau , back in Big Bucks ‘hay day’ Knockara would have gotten close enough to Big Bucks to see him with a telescope. The run in the Cleeve Hurdle from Big Bucks would leave many doubts in the minds of race goers and rightly so.At the age of 11 can he improve significantly for that run and win The World Hurdle for a fifth time?

ANNIE POWER @15/8 Was declared for this race on Sunday by trainer W Mullins. Debate has sparked for weeks as to which race should would take part in at the festival and to the relief of many she was declared for a race.This tough mare is 7 from 7 and has two Grade two victories to her name, both of which were won in an exciting manner. She has a course win over 2 miles 5 furlongs in which she beat Zarkander by 8 lengths as easy as she wished. That day she really charged up the Cheltenham hill and that suggests to me that she has an engine and a reserve of stamina.The most important thing in this mares favour is the 7 pound weight allowance she will receive. This is going to be a hard test for her regardless. She is stepping up in grade and in distance.She has never experienced crowds of people and noise like she will before this race. She appears to have a very likable attitude. She is genuine and I hope she can rise to the task .At 15/8 in price she is on the short side but the reputation she brings to this race is the reason for that price. She is already loved by many a racing fan and I can see her going off as short as even money on the day.Ruby Walsh knows her well and will get a good tune out of her. If anyone knows how to get Big Bucks beat its Ruby .

AT FISHERS CROSS @5/1 Was extremely impreesive and progressive last season winning both at the Cheltenham Festival and the following month at Aintree putting in two very smart displays. Many fancied him to do big things this season but things have not gone his way. A mixture of some sketchy hurdling and what appears to be an underlying problem with his flexibility saw him beaten on his seasonal re appearance and a faller the next time out. He was much better latest in The Cleeve hurdle finishing a close 2nd ahead of Big Bucks, He made some jumping errors still that day but it was a massive improvement on his previous efforts.His course form now reads 1,1,1,2 which cannot be ignored. It is also worth noting that Ap Mccoy has chosen him over More of That. I fancied at fishers cross to run a big race here at the start of the season and I still think he will regardless of his issues.

 

RULE THE WORLD @8/1 Again another horse who looked very talented last season finishing 2nd to the new one in the neptune at Cheltenham. He then suffered a pelvic injury that many horses dont recover from but he has returned and seems to still possess that talent. I know for a fact that Mouse Morris likes this horse a hell of a lot . The horse seems as if he is being targeted for this race. He won his seasonal re appearance at Nass but dissapointed hugely next time out in the Royal Bond. He was then beaten at Leopardstown by Zaidpour but he ran well that day in what appeared to be a slow run affair. It was back to Nass then where he won by a convincing 8 lengths beating Jennies Jewell and Dunguib in the process. He looks as if a fast run 3 mile race will suit him and Cheltenham , judging by his run last year suits him. Good ground would be a major help. This world hurdle looks wide open if the top 2 in the betting dont perform . I have a 20/1 ante post slip for Rule The world and I think that his current price of 8/1 is a bit on the short side. I hope he runs a big race for connections.

MORE OF THAT@10/1 Is a young improving horse from the Jonjo O’Neill yard. Only 4 starts to his name he remains unbeaten and he looks a serious horse for the future. He won a grade 2 over 2miles5f over the Cheltenham New course in December beating Salubrious.It was a 2 length victory in a facile manner therefore this step up to 3miles would appear to suit .If backing this horse you are gambling on his improvement since his last run.As stated above Ap Mccoy chose AFC over him. That would put me off backing him but I think he could run a very good race and he is one for the future.

On a whole this race could be wide open if Big Bucks doesnt perform and If Annie Power doesnt stay the distance. It looks as if it could set up for a shock winner and there are plenty of talented horses at big prices.Zarkander Steps upto 3 miles for the first time and is likely to make the running according to his trainer I would be confident that Annie Power would confirm form with him.CELESTIAL HALO @16/1 was second n this race last year and started this season well only to run a very poor race recently. I would be hesitant to back him on that.SALUBRIOUS @16/1 Looks good value having run well over 3 miles on several occasions this season. He could reverse placing with More Of That over this longer trip.REVE DE SIVOLA@20/1 is at his best on heavy ground and ran a very good race on his penultimate start beating Salubrious and Ath Fishers cross. He had conditions to suit the last day and ran poorly. He would need a few to under perform to get involved.MALA BEACH @50/1  Fits alot of trends but will need a big step up to match Rule The World.MOUNT BENBULBEN @33/1 was recently supplemented for this race after a few poor runs over fences, He is a talented horse but this late reversal to hurdle appears an after thought .

Currently I cannot recommend backing Big Bucks however it would please me to see the old boy win . I havent made a final decision as of yet who I am backing . I have a small stake on Annie Power @5/2 but she is short enough now at 15/8 and she will continue to shorten. Rule The World has a squeak and At Fishers Cross if solving his jumping issues would be heard to beat . More to come on the eve before the race. Thanks ITJ

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Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 Cl1 3m2f110y 14th March

I could write about this race and the possible outcome of it for days, such is the sheer quality and excitement it possesses. I have been lucky with this race having found the 3 previous winners.It is the highlight of the week for me and I am sure for many others.It is quite a grueling test. 3 miles 2 furlongs at a flat out pace where the lesser talents are found out very quickly.

 

BOBS WORTH @7/4 I have a ton of respect for this horse, Hes not overbig or flashy but he has the heart of a lion and never knows when he’s bet. An impressive winner of this race last year he looked beaten and wasnt even in the camera shot. He quickly emerged on the outside of runners two out and galloped all the way to the line to score by 7 lengths.He often comes under pressure in his races but I wouldnt worry about that as when he is asked he finds plenty.Not many horses have been able to win back to back gold cups. The last to do so was BEST MATE ten years ago.He comes into this race off the back of a lexus win and is rightly priced to follow up last years win,Bobs Worth is an out and out galloper but surely there is some value on offer elsewhere.

SILVINIACO CONTI @ 3/1 Has been a model of improvement since being stepped up to staying trips by trainer Paul Nicholls. He was a faller in last years gold cup when travelling well but in my opinion it would have been hard to see him beating Bobs Worth that day had he not fallen. I do like this horses chances but he needs to step up another notch. Noel Fehily got a great tune out of him in the King George at Kempton in December and I can see him being ridden very similarly. He beat a good horse in Cue Card that day but the remainder in behind have done little for the form since.On paper it was definatley weaker then the Lexus that Bobs worth won.I am certain he will be involved in the finish under a patient ride. Its also worth noting that all reports from trainer and stable have been extremely positive. He is fresh and well in himself!

LAST INSTALMENT @13/2 Is the controversial horse in the field. He returned from an injury causing absence this season and it didnt take him long to shake of the cobwebs and show that he still remained a class act when he won The Hennessy at Leopardstown by a handy 7 lengths. He pulled himself to the front that day and led at a strong pace, He jumped like a stag ,foot perfect and quickly put the race to bed around the home bend. He wasnt stopping at the line that day and is a serious contender for this race. His Hennessy victory was somewhat darkened with the emergence of a anabolic steroid investigation being carried out on his trainer Philip Fenton. At this moment in time his Fenton is innocent until proven guilty and doubts still remain on whether or not Last Instalment will line up. AS a lover of racing I hope that if Last Instalment was to become victorious that his victory would be recieved well by the viewing public. An absence of false accusations would be an unexpected outcome.At the odds he is a very smart each way bet but I would wait closer until the time of the off to be placing any money on him.

Apart from the first 3 in the betting the Gold Cup seems an open but competitive one for the places or even a shock result. There are several that appeal to me at bigger odds.

CAPTAIN CHRIS @12/1 Is an extremely talented racehorse but his well documented weakness is for right handed tracks. I have a niggling feeling however that this year that weakness can not be used to discount his chances. He has done little wrong this season and his latest win was a notable eye catcher. Its worth noting that he has won right handed before and twice at Cheltenham he appears as good as ever to me this year and I can see him surprising many people. FIRST LEIUTENANT @12/1is a brave consistent servant to connections but  it is hard to see him reversing the form with both BOBS WORTH and LAST INSTALMENT. He always runs his race and will improve for drying ground it appears. Questions remain over his stamina capabilities in a race of this nature.DYNASTE @16/1  I have an antepost slip for. I backed him at the early part of the season but he has dissapointed.  He ran well at Haydock behind Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti but was never travelling in the King George when fancied to run well. He has it all to prove now and may not line up in this race. I am sure that something was amiss at Kempton but his absence since is a worrying factor.BOSTON BOB @16/1 has been hurdling this season therefore this late return to chasing wouldnt instow much confidence.He was virtually pulled up over 3 miles in the Cleeve Hurdle latest and I find it hard to make a serious case for him based on this seasons form.THE GIANT BOLSTER,HARRY TOPPER &TRIOLO D’ALENE all reppresent solid each way value at 20/1. Harry Topper would need soft ground to be seen to his best . The Giant Bolster knotched up his first win for 2 years in January but come with quirks. Triolo D’alene has reportdly being working with Sprinter Scare and working well at that . At the age of seven he probably has some improvement left in him but he would need a considerable step up to be involved.

At the minute SILVINIACO CONTI Is my fancy for this race and If he was to drift out to 7/2 4/1 I would not hesitate backing him eachway to nothing. CAPTAIN CHRIS seems in the form of his life and if he could manage to put his right handed issues behind him he would be involved . as I said the only bet I currently have on this race is DYNASTE and it looks like I have done my money there. My final decision on this race will not be made till sometime next week. Thanks for your time ITJ

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THE DAVID NICHOLSON MARES HURDLE. GRADE 2 2M4F 11TH MARCH 2014

This race sometime in the future should surely be named after the wonder mare QUEVEGA(@8/11 NRNB) who bids for a 6th mares title,She is trained every year solely with this race in mind. She is difficult to train says tainer Willie Mullins who also says ‘like a fine wine she improves with age’ So if age isnt an issue for Quevega what is?

Its extremely hard to pick holes in this mare, her form is superb, she has beaten the males on several occasions and made a mockery of Reve De Sivola last April at Punchestown. Ground is no problem to her. She jumps like a stag and is ridden by the talented Ruby Walsh. W Mullins has said shes ahead of schedule after a little setback. The only negative case I can make for Quevega is race fitness, but she has proved that wrong the last 5 years. Last years race saw her in what appeared in trouble for a few strides but she easily put the race to bed up the home straight of Cheltenham racecourse . Its going to take a very good mare to beat Quevega thats for sure.

HIGHLAND RETREAT @12/1NRNB Will probably be my each way play in this race. This mare is 3from 3 this season. Trained by Harry Fry who sounds very fond of her she showed an extremely willing attitude at ascot latest to really dig deep to score in a grade 2 contest over 3 miles. Stamina is therefore not an issue and drying ground will aid her chances. I like the potential improvement that this horses possesses which cant be said for several in the field for this race.Noel Fehily rides and I am sure she will run a very respectable race.

COCKNEY SPARROW @7/1NRNB has shown some smart improvement this season ,winning a listed hurdle over 2m1 furlong. She then took on My tent Or Yours and ran a very respectable 2nd beaten 3 lengths. That form line may flatter hr somewhat as MTOY could have won by further. Next time out she took on Annie Power , and fell 2 out. She was only 2 lengths down at that stage but was beaten in my opinion. She is a classy mare but I would have doubts over her stamina as she steps up to in trip here .

SIRENE D’AINAY @7/1 NRNB is known for finishing 2nd to Quevega last year. In all credit to the mare that was a mighty performance but there is no doubt Quevega is a better horse. Since that race she has ran some awful races back in her homeland France. She recently won a non event where both her rivals fell. In my opinion she doesnt seem in the same form she was last year,but if she reproduced it she would have an each way chance.

 DOWN ACE @14/1 Is a lightly raced mare who is unbeaten under rules that I do not know much about. She has won a PTP over 3miles an is progressing nicely through the ranks with a listed mares hurdle victory latest. She definately seems to be improving . She won her last race by a neck, beating blue buttons, a Harry Fry mare. Harry should know where he stands with Highland retreat and this mare. The fact that Blue Buttons has no entry for this race would suggest that Highland retreat is a better horse.

GLENS MELODY @10/1NRNB is a very talented mare who has a grade 1 victory over hurdles to her name. She ran no race when tried over  2miles 5 furlongs against male opposition at Cheltenham in December but has since notched up two Class one victories at Warick, She is not certain to line up here but the way she has been campaigned suggests to me that she will. I am a big fan of this mare and I think there’s more to come from her. She should run a good race and has a fantastic chance of finishing in the frame.

Of the remainder the likes of DOYLE CARTE,MICKIE,MISCHEVIOUS MILLY All respect. This preview is a little rushed but Its usually a straightforward race to cover.

SELECTIONS- On the day I will most likely dutch each way bet HIGHLAND RETREAT 12/1 each way & GLENS MELODY @10/1 each way providing she lines up. 

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THE ARKLE, CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2014 PREVIEW

A fast paced 2 mile chase, where both speed and effective precise jumping is needed.

CHAMPAGNE FEVER is currently the 3/1 favourite for this race which represents no value in my view. You could argue that he is such a short price due to his 100% record at the track but his current chase form and lack of starts this season leave me wondering. He won his novice chase in moderate fashion, made a few errors and beat little but it was a start to chasing that you couldnt complain about. Next up he was sent off a short priced favourite in a Grade 1 novice chase at Leopardstown in December, He was running very well at a fast pace with Defy Logic until a critical error ended his chances of winning, Trainer Mullins was surprised with the error and said it was unlike him. He hasnt been seen since reported to have had a slight issue and while he is a classy horse I couldnt advise him at the current odds on what he has shown over fences this season.

TRIFOLIUM @4/1 was an unfancied emphatic winner of the Irish Arkle  latest. He was smart over hurdles placing in the Triumph Hurdle at this meeting two years back but somewhat lost his way. The change to fences seems to have reignited his talents . He won his debut only to be put in his place by Felix Younger next time out by 10 lengths however since that he has reversed placings with that horse to give him a 9 length hiding! He seems to be learning with every run over fences and his proven his liking for Cheltenham. He jumps well and has form on good ground.

ROCK ON RUBY @5/1 A former champion Hurdle winner now gone chasing after what appeared a lack luster hurdle debut at the start of the season when he was humiliated by the new one. Only had the two chase starts to dat against little oppositin but has been relatively good on both occasions. A few errors were made on both runs and he would need the ground to dry out to be seen at his best. He is a talented horse but the mistakes he has shown so far chasing would put any chances of him winning this race to bed on the day. If he was more of an each way price I would be tempted. 

DODGING BULLETS @11/2 A horse I never thought much of until recently  he was good over hurdles without being spectacular but chasing seems to be his game.Most recently he showed a good battling attitude to only be out stayed by Module who is a useful sort.He has the speed and the jumping qualities to win an Arkle but his trainers Chase record at the track in the last few years would be a slight negative. But if a horse is good enough records and trends become void. Nicholls seems to like him alot without being to confident about his abilities.This race will be his first try at Grade 1 level over fancies but I expect him to cope.

FELIX YONGER @9/1 has had 5 chase starts recording 3 wins. He beat the talented Defy Logic by 2 lengths and Trifolium by 10 lengths, Excuses the last day after Trifolium reversed placings with him may have been the ground.He has done very little wrong this year and is a major player in my view. He is currently the one I fear most to Dodging bullets chances.

VALDEZ @9/1 ‘was moderate as a hurdler’ stated trainer Alan King, who is impressed with his progression as a chaser. 3 from 3 this season over the larger obstacles he hasnt really faced some stiff oposition but there has been alot to like about his manner of winning. His penultimate start saw hime set a fast time at Newbury. Latest he won at Doncaster , pegging back the front running Arnaud. Questions could be asked over his lack of experience on undulating tracks. I am most impressed with the fact that he won when all else from the Yard were running atrocious .He is a striking horse physically not overly big but well put together .His lack of racing against better opposition slightly put me off his chances but I wouldnt be surprised if he ran a great race.

Of the remainder GRANDOUET & HINTERLAND need to improve their fencing considerably , after what was an awful display when the two met at Sandown ,where Hinterland just managed to get on top.VUKOVAR & ARNAUD have it all to do in the formbook as do the likes of RAYA STAR & MOZOLTOV. 

My current selection is DODGING BULLETS with FELIX YONGER being feared!Image