This weeks feature race is the Ladbroke, a ultra competitive listed handicap over 2 miles. This is a race that hasn't really been kind to punters in recent times with favourites only winning 2 from the last 14 renewals.
The first horse to hit my short list was Activial. This is a French bred gelding trained by Harry Fry and he looks to me the horse with the most improvement and potential in this line up. He was restricted to just the 3 runs in his juvenile season, and he showed some good form including winning the Grade 2 Adonis at Kempton last February. If you look closely into that form you will see he comfortably saw off both Comissioned who is now rated 141, and Solar Impulse who is now 145 rated. It's clear that a mark of 137 could underestimate Activial. He skipped Cheltenham and instead went to Aintree and on the face of it he disappointed. Harry actually said post race that he will get the horse looked at (no idea if they found a problem) but it is clear he holds this horse in high regard and while it may be a tough ask to win a race as competitive as this for your seasonal reappearance, he won't be lacking for fitness and he has been allotted a nice racing weight here (10-7). I actually backed him at 10/1 on Sunday afternoon, so it's crazy to see him best priced 6/1 not even 2 days later.
Baradari is also a horse I want to keep on the right side of. Owned by Alan Brooks who has many horses with Venettia, he was touted as a Triumph Hurdle horse before he even went to a racecourse last season and while he didn't end up quite that grade, he was a slightly unlucky 5th in another competitive handicap in the Fred Winter where he was doing all his best work at the finish. He shaped as if he had a big race in him off this sort of mark. If anyone gets a chance to watch the replay of this race, you have to tell me he would have won if there had been another hurdle to jump. He's actuay disappointed in a few runs since that performance. He did however run well on his seasonal debut when he was behind Sign of a Victory and Dawalan (won since). While you might look at that run, and think it will be hard to reverse form wit the winner, he is 12lbs better off with that horse today and he should get closer granted the expected cut in the ground on Saturday. Venettia is in good form and she won last weeks feature race, would not surprise me if she won the big race a week on. He was disappointing last time out in Cheltenham but he was forced to race prominently which didn't suit, and it was a crawl of a race. He needs a fast pace to go at and he should get that in this. 25/1 about a horse who is proven here is a decent touch of a value.
My final short listed horse was Shadow Catcher. He's been more miss then hit since his juvenile campaign but there is no doubting he has ability and he aims to build on his trainers recent good record in this specific race. If you go back to his younger days he was 2nd in a grade one in which he had subsequent Cheltenham and grade one winner Countrywide Flame back in 3rd. He hasn't really lived up to that form since although he hasn't had too many runs because of setbacks. He was 4th in the 2013 County Hurdle off 1lb higher and he seems to do okay in these big field handicaps. He had a recent pipe opener at Fairyhouse in which he shaped respectfully for most parts of the race and I just think at 33/1 he is a bit too big to ignore.
ACTIVIAL 10/1 (now 6/1)
SHADOW CATCHER 33/1
Peace and Co is probably the starting point on most peoples weekends. He was very impressive when he didn't come off the bridle on his UK debut at Doncaster on his way to landing a grade 2. He did look a superstar on that evidence and considering he is now best priced 6/1, we are sitting very pretty on 33s. Don't get me wrong there are bigger challenges to come but wow he does look the standout juvenile at the moment.
Hargam is another juvenile I've backed Antepost for the Triumph and I think his performance was very much under looked due to Peace and Cos win. I was happy with how he jumped and he won a tad more comfortable then the winning margin suggests. He will be a lot better on good ground and McCoy was full of praise for him.
No More Heroes then ousted the well touted Shaneshill to win in Navan. This is one seriously talented horse. I was actually surprised he beat the Mullins horse especially over this trip. It was a fair run race and the runner up could have had no excuses in my opinion. No More Heroes is Albert Bartlett bound according to Gordon (said this after the race) and he's now into favouritism at this early stage. Very likeable performance.
Bordini won the bumper comfortably. I have a suspicion the runner up might be a fair sort so to give him weight and a 6l beating was pleasing. A trial race before Cheltenham is the plan and he looks a good prospect.
Vaniteux might have finished 2nd on Saturday behind The New One, but I was happy with his run considering the ground would have been too soft for him. He was level at the last until The New One pulled away, but the ground would have benefitted him more then my horse and I think that on better ground, this could still be a champion hurdle horse.
3 run on Saturday, and I suppose the main place to start is with the more known and highest rated and that is Vaniteux who runs in the International Hurdle. I've put him up as a live second strong to Jezki for the Champion Hurdle in March, and this will be a good test to see where his future lies. Vaniteux comes into this race on the back off a career best effort when he was 2nd off top weight in the Greatwood around here. Today he faces his toughest test to date and this comes in the shape of The New One. This is a multiple grade one winner so I'm under no illusions about how difficult it will be to beat him although with an 8lbs swing in Vaniteuxs favour I'm confident he can beat him or at the very least give him a massive fright.
Two of my Triumph Hurdle hopes run in the respective trial races with Hargam running at Cheltenham and Peace and Co travelling down to Doncaster. Hargam was an encouraging 2nd on his debut over this C+D where he travelled and shaped like the best horse until been out battled by a more experienced rival towards the finish. He should come on plenty for that and whilst there are a few interesting runners in this like Stars Of The Sea and Mr Gallivanter, I would be disappointed if he doesn't go very close. Peace and Co goes to Doncaster for the weaker looking trial and he has been priced up at 10/11 over night which would reflect stable confidence is high. I don't think anything decent is running in opposition so I would like to think that this scopey French recruit will win this on his UK debut.
On Sunday 2 horses are running. No More Heroes goes in the Grade 2 Navan Novices Hurdle for his bang inform stable Gordon Elliott. He stays further than this and I'm a little worried about whether he will have the pace to go with Shaneshill. He does travel well in his races and super Baz has been booked to ride which is a good jockey booking so fingers crossed he gives a good account of himself.
Bordini runs in the listed bumper race, and I would imagine he will be backed into favourite for the Champion Bumper if he wins this so I'd advise taking the 20/1 if you fancy his chances in this. Quite a little decent affair here, Rock Of The Moor impressed me on his debut, so I don't think Bordini will get everything his own way but if he is to be Mullins Champion Bumper runner, he needs to realistically be taking this.
Have a good weekend folks, let's hope for some winners.
Next in the betting is Evan Williams' Barakilla. This is a lightly raced son of Milan who is still relatively unexposed in this sphere and is open to improvement near the foot of the weights. The one concern for me though is his lack of experience and also the fact his jumping is a little hit and miss for a horse that will be held up off the pace. Although he will have come on for his seasonal debut at Sandown, you would argue on that evidence that he will struggle to reverse placings with Sound Investment.
Sound Investment is another trained by Paul Nicholls and he won that Sandown race very impressively off 142. With Sean Bowens claim into consideration he runs in here off the same mark. He actually finished 2nd to No Buts last time at Newbury, although my concern with him would be the fact he has been kept away from this venue in the past most notably for more flat speedier tracks and this horse can often hit flat spots in his races which won't be easy work his conditional jockey. Not out of it but not for me.
The other horse I'm actually interested in is Ericht from Nicky Hendersons stable. Another yard with a good record in this race. He has won 3 of the last 11 renewals. His entrant this year is Ericht and again he is another coming into this on the back of a run in the Paddy Power. He was running a big race until he made a hash of 2 out, and I can tell you he ran a lot better then what the formbook implies. Not only that, I'm pretty sure he would of been at least placed but for that error. I suppose the good thing about the error was his mark couldn't be altered and this means we have a potentially well handicapped horse on our hands here. Barry Geraghty will be likely to take over which is a massive plus and with the ground to suit, I would expect a big run.
CAID DU BERLAIS 7/2 Generally
ERICHT 12/1 Generally
1. HARGAM (Nicky Henderson) 16/1 Paddy Power
*Nicky Henderson is aiming to win this for a record 6th time and I was quite taken by this horses debut at Cheltenham. I was actually there and I was on the winner, but this horse travelled so well throughout the race when Nickys string were struggling with form and he was just out battled by a more battle hardened and fitter horse. There was talk of this horse been a potential replacement for Binocular, so stable vibes must be good, and with improvement to come throughout the season, he looks a major player at this stage.
2. TIMIYAN (Nicky Henderson) 20/1 General
*This was a very useful sort on the flat winning a handicap at the Galway Festival and ended the seasoning with a RPR of 104. JP McManus has already stated he is seriously looking forward to seeing how this horse gets on and it is eye watering he paid nearly 500,000 guineas for this horse. He has yet to jump a hurdle in public but Nicky has said in a recent stable piece that he is very pleased with him and that he won't be out until after the new year. One to keep an eye on.
3. PEACE AND CO (Nicky Henderson) 33/1 Betfair
*This is a French recruit owned by Simon Munir and another from the powerful stable of Nicky Henderson. He has had just the one start in his native land and that was a comfortable all the way win in a 3 year old hurdle in Clairefontaine. He seems to have plenty of pace and he jumps well, and looks an exciting recruit for connections. The same ownership took this in 2010 with Soldatino and they also finished 2nd in 2011 with Grandouet and Kentucky Hyden was 2nd last year. These owners like to have runners in this and I'm sure this is bound to be a long term aim for this horse. If you want to have a look at his debut, see here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7SbcJfE_OpY
4. TOP NOTCH (Nicky Henderson) 33/1 General
*Another potential useful recruit for the master of Lambourn and another French import owned by Simon Munir. He won both his starts in France, and is another exciting looking individual. He received some nice words from Nicky in his stable tour“He is very robust without being an enormous horse and looks a real readymade juvenile hurdler. He was unbeaten in two hurdles race in France and we look forward to some of the better early juvenile hurdles. He is a horse I think could be very exciting for the team.” At his big odds he is another to keep on side.
5. MARAKOUSH (Alan Fleming) 64/1 Betfair
*This is obviously a bit of a stab in the dark which is reflected by his odds but this could be a nice horse for Alan Fleming. Fleming has only just recently returned to the training ranks but he rose to fame with another juvenile Starluck. He was a trainer that I always liked and he clearly knew how to target races. This is a 98 rated horse from the Aga Khan stud and he had some very good form including a close runner up effort behind the useful Fascinating Rock. He was last seen winning easily in maiden company at Gowran and this horse is a half brother to Mourad so he might be better for hurdling. Leading owner Barry O'Connell has bought him for 185,000 and he is one I'm really interested in seeing.
Race 3: Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
1. BLACK HERCULES (Willie Mullins) 10/1 Ladbrokes
*Best to start with the leading fancy and it comes in the shape of Willie Mullins' Black Hercules. This is a horse that has always been well regarded and despite finishing a brave 4th in last years Bumper here, he has always shaped as if stamina is his forte and has already been earmarked as a potential gold cup winning horse in the future. He is 2/2 over hurdles and he won a Grade 3 at Cork on Sunday from one of my Neptune hopefuls Alpha Des Obeaux. He jumps well and he seems a horse with a good temperament. The hill will suit this horse and I can see this horse been hard to peg back from the front. One to keep onside.
2. NO MORE HEROES (Gordon Elliott) 14/1 general
*Gigginstown look to have a strong hand in this well at this stage anyway but I can't help but feel this is at the very top of the list. He has won his last 3 starts under rules, and he was impressive on his hurdling debut at Punchestown. He wasn't off the bridle at any stage of the race although you could argue he didn't beat anything of note. This horse seems to be getting better by each run and he seems a horse that could easily be a flag bearer for Gordon this year. A horse I really like a lot and could easily be the best horse in this race from my selections.
3. DEFINITLY RED (Steve Gollings) 27/1 Betfair
*This horse did me a favour when winning a listed bumper at this venue at the PP meeting, and I'm prepared to forgive him his reverse from his hurdling at Newcastle. The race didn't pan out as expected, the winner ensured a more speedier finish from the last which wouldn't have suited given this horse is all about stamina. The fact he has won round here is a massive plus and Steve thinks he is a very nice sort. His bumper form stacks up really well with Black Hercules who is nearly three times shorter and I definitely think there is more to come from this horse. His odds are reflected on his smaller stable in my opinion. Keep the faith.
Race 4: Gold Cup????
1. LORD WINDERMERE (Jim Culloty) 12/1 General
*What other place to start than with the defending champion. I was really impressed with his seasonal debut where he was clearly devoid of fitness and running over a trip far too short. He stayed on well into 3rd, and it was definitely a good pipe opener. This is another one of those horses who improves as the season progresses and anything he does prior to this race will be a bonus. He proved his effectiveness for the hill here when winning last years renewal and I must be honest I think he should have won a lot easier given he was held up ridiculously by Davy Russell. He done remarkably well to win. His odds aren't overly exciting at the minute but he has a favourites chance in my opinion. Silviniaco Conti does NOT stay this distance, I'll put my neck on the line he will probably win the King George at Christmas but he will NOT be winning the Gold Cup.
2. HOLYWELL (Jonjo O'Neill) 16/1 Betfair
*Before this season begun he was generally an 8/1 favourite for this race, and now we get double the odds. Okay in hindsight his 2 runs so far this year have ended in disappointment but this is a horse that needs the better ground which he isn't getting right now and as we saw last season he improves towards the back end of seasons. He won a handicap here as a novice against seasoned chasers off 145 last season before winning a grade one at Aintree readily. This horse is looking for a third straight successive win at the Festival and if horses for courses is your thing look no further then this one.
3. SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR (Jonjo O'Neill) 24/1 Betfair
*This is a horse I have always liked, and it is good to see him finally strutting some of his talent. After finishing 4th in the NH Chase here last season, he went from strength to strength and he ended the season with victory in the Irish National at Fairyhouse. This is a horse that will probably get outpaced throughout, but he is a thorough stayer and this years Gold Cup doesn't scream out in the sense of top notch horses so it could well be a case of who stays the distance the best. He was a very useful bumper horse don't forget and this is a horse that has always had a touch of class. He seems to be quite flexible in terms of ground and he won easily on his seasonal debut at Wetherby. This is note worthy as most of Jonjo's have struggled to go the pace first time out including Taquin Du Seuil, More of That and Holywell.
4. BUYWISE (Evan Williams) 189/1 Betfair
*My stabby selection for this years Gold Cup comes in the shape of the young progressive chaser from Wales. He is 4/6 over fences, and he caught my eye from the rear in the Paddy Power last time out where he never got involved before flying home to take 5th and be beaten only 3 lengths. Not been biased but for me he would have won had he not have been given so much to do. He was full of running and shaped as if he could definitely go further in terms of distance. Looking through his form he was a hard held winner over 2m 7f at Taunton last year and he could improve for a step up to staying races. If this proves to be the case this could be a very good horse and the best Evan has ever trained. There is room for improvement in his jumping but at this ridiculously long price, I'm keen to follow his progress.
1. VROUM VROUM MAG (Willie Mullins) 16/1 Bet365
*Not really sure what the plans are with this mare but if she is to go to Cheltenham this year this looks the ideal race for this Willie Mullins trained sort. She has looked very impressive in her 2 runs for Mullins and she beat Our Katie at Cork on her recent start with ease. She hasn't really beat anything of recognition as of yet but there is no doubting that this could be a very special mare and it will be interesting to see how she progresses.
2.) RULE THE WORLD (Mouse Morris) 20/1 Paddy Power
*Have also put this horse up for the RSA but my preference is for this fella to line up in this. He is a horse I have always been fond of and agonisingly for me he was 2nd when I got 84/1 about him in the 2013 Neptune. He suffered a bad injury at Punchestown, and he did remarkably well to make it back to the track. I've got to be honest I was a tad disappointed with him last season. He did win a grade 2 over hurdles but he didn't look like the machine he once was. That said I've always been looking forward to him jumping a fence and he looked in need of the run when narrowly been edged out by Adrianna Des Mottes on his seasonal debut. It was still a good run, he was giving 20lbs to a talented mare and more importantly he jumped well. This horse is better on a sounder surface and he always improves as the season goes on. Mouse won this race with First Lieutenant a few years ago for the same connections and he might have a decent shot of landing the prize again here.
3. APACHE STRONGHOLD (Noel Meade) 20/1 Bet Victor, Hills
*Another horse from Ireland and I have a suspicion the best is yet to come from this Noël Meade trained gelding. He was an impressive winner of a grade 2 novices last year and went from strength as he finished the year with a runner up berth behind Vautour at the Punchestown Festival. This horse is still very lightly raced and the best is yet to come. He made the perfect start over fences with an easy win at Down Royal and he ran okay when 2nd to Valseur Lido in the Drinmore last time out. The course didn't play to his strengths as he kept jumping left, and I think he is better then that. This horse is very good on better ground and hopefully he will continue Noel's good record in Cheltenham.
Race 3: Ryanair Chase
1. DYNASTE (David Pipe) 17/2 Betfair
*Best to kick off with the class horse in the field and it certainly is this Pipe trained grey. He won this race last year and has held his own at the very top grade one level. He shaped really well on his seasonal debut at Haydock, and he will prove popular in this race should he line up. Personally I don't think he would see out the Gold Cup trip so I'd be amazed if connections decide not to defend their crown here. Definitely one to keep on side at the prices.
2.) MENORAH (Phillip Hobbs) 20/1 Betfair
*What a grand servant he has been for connections. He is probably the most in form horse in the entries here and his 2 runs so far this year have produced a comfortable win in the Charlie Hall and then a close 2nd (clear of Dynaste and the rest) behind Silviniaco Conti, the Gold Cup favourite in the Betfair Chase. His jumping so far this season has been superb although I do admit he is every much a rhythm type of jumper and by that he can make mistakes. Menorah actually ran poorly in this race last season which is maybe why he is as big a price as he currently trades. He has ran some fine races at Cheltenham over the years though so I'm confident he will turn in a better run in this years renewal. Definitely too big a price at the minute.
3. DJAKADAM (Willie Mullins) 25/1 General
*I know this horse was disappointing in the Hennessy last time but I am prepared to forgive him that run as to me he shaped as if he didn't see out the longer distance. The hype around him pre race was that he works like a very good horse and I think his odds are based on his Newbury effort which is wrong. He was still travelling okay before 2 out so I am prepared to give another chance. I think this distance is ideal for this horse, and don't forget he was shaping well at this meeting over C+D last year until he fell in the Jewson. He had some useful novice form including a 4l beating of Bright New Dawn and the suspicion is he hasn't brought his best to the racecourse yet. Hopefully connections will realise the Gold Cup is a no go, and they go down this sensible route.
4. FELIX YONGER (Willie Mullins) 25/1 Skybet
*Bit of a stabby one but I feel a step up in distance could bring about more improvement in this gelding. He was a useful novice hurdler finishing 2nd to the classy Simonsig in the Neptune here 3 years ago. He has matched that form over his fences and he actually won a grade two at Cork on Sunday. He jumps well and travels well and I thought he ran well in last years JLT when he was never really positioned to challenge in a race where hold up horses struggled to play a role. He stays well and he seems to appreciate the Cheltenham Hill, so I do think he is a horse certainly not to rule out. He's a son of Oscar and so you would think better ground would bring about a better performance in him.
Race 4: World Hurdle
1. MORE OF THAT (Jonjo O'Neill) 4/1 Hills, Stan James
*Again I think this is a case of bookmakers over reacting to one below par run just like they have with Jezki and Djakadam. This time last year he had a handicap win to his name at Wetherby and he went on to eventually win the World Hurdle giving weight away to the crack mare Annie Power. More Of That is another horse that will improve with racing throughout to the season and we will not see the best of him until March. He was absolutely faultless last year and could possibly win another 3 World Hurdles if Jonjo can keep him sound. Oozes class, and should progress. Will be hard to beat in my opinion.
2. RATHVINDEN (Willie Mullins) 20/1 Bet365
*Another Willie Mullins horse for the ante post squad, and it comes in the shape of this Roger Bartlett owned gelding. This is a horse I rate highly, and given he is available at long odds for the novice chases I am guessing plans are to stay hurdling this year. He had the 4 runs over hurdles last year progressing from winning a Cork maiden to finishing a never nearer 3rd in the Neptune here. He was given too much to do before he stayed on well up the hill, and I'm pretty sure he could have been at least runner up to his brilliant stablemate Faugheen. This horse travels so well in his races and he shapes as if he will improve for the step up to 3 miles. He could definitely be the dark horse for this years renewal. Interesting horse for me.
1. TELL US MORE (Willie Mullins) 10/1 general
*The first selection comes in the shape of this son of Scorpion. He is 2/2 under rules and was a very easy winner on his hurdling debut at Gowran. Mullins was very upbeat about this horses run; 'I'd say he'll improve a fair bit off that as I thought beforehand he looked a bit big. That all bodes well for the future. "We'll find something for him around Christmas and he looks top drawer.'' He jumps well and stays well. He could run in the Albert Bartlett but I notice Gigginstown have 5 horses near the top of the market in that race and so the Neptune could well be this horses long term aim. Exciting prospect.
2. PARLOUR GAMES (John Ferguson) 20/1 Paddy Power
*Think this useful flat recruit is definitely a horse to keep on side. Described by Geraghty as possibly the best bred horse he has sat on, he improved for the step up to this distance when winning at Cheltenham in November. He jumped well and obviously is bred with a lot of pace. The fact he travels so well is also a plus and you would think a fast run race would bring the very best out of this horse. His recent win was on soft but you would think the better ground would see him in an even better light. Definitely one to keep on side.
3. ALPHA DES OBEAUX (Mouse Morris) 21/1 Betfair
*This is horse that is improving by run to run and as we know with a lot of Mouse Morris' horses they perform better and better as the season goes on and there isn't many yards that are better than laying a horse out for a specified target. This horse has followed a similar path to Rule The World, he was 2nd in the 3m stayers race at Cork giving Black Hercules a good run for his money on his Sunday, he just seemed to get outstayed. This horse has plenty of pace and like Rule The World was as a novice I can see him been aimed at this race. Mouse likes him a lot and he's a horse I want to be on at this sort of price.
4. BEAST OF BURDEN (Rebecca Curtis) 29/1 Betfair
*A bit more of a risky horse here given he has yet to jump a hurdle in public, but this Rebecca Curtis trained gelding was visually very impressive when winning his bumper at Ffos Las. It's open to debate how strong that form really is but he couldn't have won any easier and he looks to have a bright future on that evidence. He's a son of Flemensfirth so he will stay well and at least we know connections are planning to go hurdling (was withdrawn the other day for whatever reason). I suppose there's half a chance that Cheltenham could come a bit soon for him as he has been described as a big baby but strictly on potential he is definitely a horse I like.
5. LONG DOG (Willie Mullins) 49/1 Betfair
*The final horse to bring up the 2015 Neptune ante post list is another Mullins horse and it is the Rich Ricci owned Long Dog. There isn't really too much to say about this one, I'm just going by the impression I get. He couldn't jump a hurdle right on his debut over hurdles yet he still managed to almost beat a fair sort in Marinero and I recall Ruby putting him up as his charity bet on the morning line on a day where he rode a treble. I'm guessing this is quite a well regarded horse and with Ricci seemingly having an empty slot in this race, Long Dog looks an ideal candidate. His jumping will brush up in time and he looks an improver when he rises in distance.
Race 2: RSA Novices Chase
1. PONT ALEXANDRE (Willie Mullins) 14/1 General
*A horse we didn't get to see last year because of injury but there is no doubting that this horse has the potential to make up into a seriously good chaser. Willie Mullins has made no secret of how highly he rates this horse, and given he is a big imposing individual you would think he would improve for a fence. He was last seen finishing 3rd to The New One and Rule The World in the 2013 Neptune, form that looks very strong to the eye now. Be interesting to see how this horse gets on after his injury. Let's hope he starts chasing life better then Un Atout.
2. CONEYGREE (Mark Bradstock) 25/1 General
*This is a horse I have always liked since he won his bumper at Uttoxeter all those years ago and I actually backed him for this race last year but unfortunately he missed the season with injuries. This horse in terms of build always reminds me of Denman, and he looked the part when he won on his chasing debut at Newbury where he jumped like a stag. Connections think he is a 'far better' horse then their previous star Carruthers which if is really the case must mean this is one seriously good horse. He has good form at this track to his name already, and I'm sure he would be a lot shorter in terms of price but for his lesser known stable.
3. RULE THE WORLD (Mouse Morris) 33/1 Betfair
*Firstly I must say that I would prefer if this horse went for the JLT on Thursday but their is no doubting that the current odds on this horse are too big. He is a horse I have always been fond of and agonisingly for me he was 2nd when I got 84/1 about him in the 2013 Neptune. He suffered a bad injury at Punchestown, and he did remarkably well to make it back to the track. I've got to be honest I was a tad disappointed with him last season. He did win a grade 2 over hurdles but he didn't look like the machine he once was. That said I've always been looking forward to him jumping a fence and he looked in need of the run when narrowly been edged out by Adrianna Des Mottes on his seasonal debut. It was still a good run, he was giving 20lbs to a talented mare and more importantly he jumped well. This horse is better on a sounder surface and he always improves as the season goes on. Mouse won this race with First Lieutenant a few years ago for the same connections and he might have a decent shot of landing the prize again here.
Race 4: Champion Chase
1.) UXIZANDRE (Alan King) 10/1 General
*With question marks surrounding both Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy, the horse with the leading chance must be this Alan King trained gelding. He has always been held in high regard (was sent off 1/2 when beaten on his Uk debut 2 years ago) and it wasn't until last years Festival where he showed it on the track. I regrettably had a win bet at 33/1 that morning and he was just edged out close home in the JLT by Taquin Du Seuil. This horse jumps well and travels well and it doesn't surprise me to see connections running him at 2 miles. He was particularly impressive in the Schloer Chase over the C+D last time out where he easily beat Simply Ned and Dodging Bullets who won Saturdays Grade One Tingle Creek at Sandown. He has plenty of speed and given he is only 6, it is possible we have yet to see the best of him.
2.) CHAMPAGNE FEVER (Willie Mullins) 26/1 Betfair
*Have got to be honest this horses target is a tricky one to solve. He has been racing mostly at this trip but was always regarded as a stayer in his early days so it's anyone's guess as to where he goes. Personally I don't see this horse staying the Gold Cup trip and the Ryanair is a race where the owner has Djakadam engaged, so I can see him been aimed at this especially with this years renewal been the most open it has ever been. Rich Ricci doesn't have another horse to run in this so I can see CF running here. I wouldn't fancy him for any other race but we do know he loves this place and he was narrowly denied by the shortest of margins a third straight Festival win in last years Arkle where he done too much too soon. This horse is a sound jumper and would definitely have enough pace for a race like this. As I said not an easy horse to weigh up but for me at this sort of price he is one I want to side with. If willie said tomorrow he was going for this, what price would he be? 6/1? 7/1?
3. MODULE (Tom George) 179/1 Betfair
*Another horse I've had a long term like with, and for me his odds are a bit laughable. We know he saves his best for Cheltenham and while he hasn't pulled up trees in his 2 starts so far this season, he is another horse who seems to improve as the season goes on and also is better for a true run race something which he hasn't had since he was 3rd in this last year. He shaped as if 2nd best to only Sire De Grugy last year (stayed on strongly up the hill, given a lot to do). Tom George has said not to rule out Module yet, he obviously thinks this horse still retains ability and it is interesting he was weak in the betting for his first 2 starts. This is a very useful horse and at these current odds I'm retaining the faith.
Race 7: Champion Bumper
1.) BORDINI (Willie Mullins) 20/1 General
*Never an easy race to weigh up at this time of the year so I've just gone for the bumper king to take this years renewal and this is the first of his entries I'm interested in. He was a comfortable winner on his rules debut this after finishing 3rd in a point when with Andy Fitzgerald. He beat a few well regarded sorts and Willie likes him a lot. He does look every inch a future staying chaser, but so did Champagne Fever and he won this race in 2012 for the same owner/trainer. Willie has already said he will be sticking to bumpers this year which is a massive plus.
2. AU QUART DE TOUR (Willie Mullins) 20/1 Bet365
*The second of Willie's entrants and another Rich Ricci owned gelding. The son of Robin Des Champs has yet to race under rules but just going on his point win he remains an exciting prospect. He won impressively at Dromahane and the runner up won on his rules debut at Aintree so the form is looking above average for a point. He is bred to be speedy given his dam was a useful flat sort (97) and he's one to look forward too.
3. UP FOR REVIEW (Willie Mullins) 20/1 Skybet
*Another useful recruit from the point field, this one owned by Graham Wylie. He finished 3rd on his point debut but built on that when he impressively beat Pulled Mussel by 6l at Knockanard. That horse is a dual winner under rules and is an exciting prospect himself so that is very good point form. Sky could be the limit for this horse and his owner had 2 runners in this race last year so it is clear he likes to own horses in this.
4. POTTERS POINT (Willie Mullins) 25/1 Betfair
*A second Graham Wylie owned horse, and this horse has only had the one start in his points and he was beaten half a length by Jeweloftheocean. This horse has since been snapped up for three figure sum and it is worth noting that Potters Point has a lofty reputation with shrewd point trainer Colin Bowe and was sent off 4/6 for that debut. Wylie has paid close to £235,000 to acquire this horse and he looks to have a bright future.
Race 1: Supreme Novices Hurdle
1. DOUVAN (Willie Mullins) 7/1 Bet365
* This is the current market leader for this race and I have to say I was very impressed by his winning debut at Gowran where he never came off the bridle to beat above average sorts in Sizing John and Ange D'or Javilex. He jumped very slickly and he certainly wasn't devoid of speed. He clearly comes with a good reputation too. "He's a good horse. He was showing us plenty at home and it's nice for him to show it at the racecourse. He's a lovely horse – a fine big horse with a big stride on him. We think he could be very good. He's exciting and hopefully he can go right to the top.' Mullins and Ricci teamed up to land this race 12 months ago with Vautour and also won it the year before with Champagne Fever. At this stage he looks the main string so he has to be one to keep onside in my opinion.
2. MAX DYNAMITE (Willie Mullins) 29/1 Betfair
*A useful sort on the flat in France without winning he contested prestige races such as the Prix Du Paris and the Jockey Club Cup, and he looks every inch a useful hurdler after he was impressive when making a winning debut at Thurles. He beat a fair yardstick in Phil's Magic and he falls into the unknown and could be anything category. He held an engagement in the Royal Bond without jumping a hurdle in public and so he must be a nice sort. He's likely to stay further then this trip but he looks a horse for speed at the moment.
3. L'AMI SERGE (Nicky Henderson) 25/1 Sportsbook
*One from the Henderson camp now and it comes in the shape of this French import. He's had just the one start on these shores thus far and he was impressive when winning the Gerry Fielden eased down. The opposition was mostly handicappers but he couldn't have won any easier and remains open to a lot of improvement. For me he is the best novice we have seen so far in the UK. The fact he won so easy when Nickys horses were struggling is noteworthy.
4.) SEMPRE MEDICI (Willie Mullins) 49/1 Betfair
*My stabby selection antepost for this race is yet another Mullins/Ricci runner (also responsible for Douvan and Max Dynamite) and it comes in the shape of this previously useful flat horse. He was placed at group level repeatedly on the level in France and was backed into 1/4 when he won easily at Cork on his debut. His jumping was a bit niffy but this horse travels powerfully and has plenty of speed from the dams side. Another could be in anything sort. Also another who held a Royal Bond entry.
Race 2: Arkle Novices Chase
1. VAUTOUR (Willie Mullins) 7/2 Paddy Power
*No where other to start then this unbeaten Mullins runner. He has won all 6 of his races under rules and last years Supreme winner made the perfect start over fences when he won at Navan. His jumping was superb and it's fair to say this is just one seriously good horse. He made light work of Clarcam who won easily at the weekend and is now rated 147, and all in all sky is the limit for this horse. He does stay further but I'd be very surprised if they go JLT over the Arkle.
2. JOSSES HILL (Nicky Henderson) 10/1 Sporting Bet
*This is one of the horses I have been most looking forward to seeing this season. He's a big dangly sort and his game was always going to be chasing. He did remarkably well in his 4 hurdle runs last year though going from winning a maiden at Newbury to winning the Grade 2 novices at Aintree. In between he was runner up in 2 grade ones and he looks a very exciting prospect for the team in Lambourn. Could be a big threat to Vautour if he takes to chasing as expected.
3. THREE KINGDOMS (John Ferguson) 69/1 Betfair
*The stabby selection for this race is this very interesting John Ferguson sort. This horse has a very good flat pedigree as does most of John's (given he gets most of his recruits from the flat) so it probably seems strange to see him over fences. Having said that he was impressive in the jumping department when winning readily on his chasing debut at Leicester and there is every chance there is more to come. He will improve for better ground and if you look through his hurdles form, he beat Vibrato Valtat (giving 7lbs to the runner up) and he won a grade one novices chase at Sandown on Saturday. Definitely worth a chance at his odds.
Race 4: Champion Hurdle
1. JEZKI (Jessica Harrington) 6/1 General
*Anyone who has followed me or talked to me on the forum will know how much I rate and love this horse. Knew he would win the Champion Hurdle after finishing 3rd in the Supreme the previous year and he won it for me at 20/1 last year so he owes me nothing. A lot of people were disappointed with his 2nd behind Hurricane Fly on his seasonal return but this horse doesn't come to hand until the Festivals so anything he does up to then is a bonus. The better the ground the harder this horse is to beat. He has so much speed and I think he will win this race again. Let's go Jezki!
2. VANITEUX (Nicky Henderson) 25/1 General
*This is no Jezki but this is for me a very good horse who we definitely have yet to see the best of. He ran a superb race in the Greatwood off top weight in what was horrendous ground on his seasonal debut and as Nicky stated previously he will come on for that run. He looked the most likely winner until he missed the last, and he could just be a dark horse for this years Champion. Nicky is looking for a horse for this years race and realistically this looks the most likely candidate. Be interesting to see how he does when he runs in level weight graded races.
3. SIGN OF VICTORY (Nicky Henderson) 25/1 General
*The stabby for the Champion Hurdle, this horse was very impressive on his seasonal debut in a handicap at Ascot off 139 where he wasn't extended to beat stablemate Dawalan a useful sort who won at Aintree last Saturday. Owners of this horse are more renown for having horses on the flat with Kevin Ryan but they could just have a top hurdler on their hands here. Obviously stiffer tasks await but he could yet prove to be up to top level company and given how he travels and the speed he has, a fast true run race will bring about more improvement in him.
Race 6: NH Novices Chase
1. DON POLI (Willie Mullins) 5/1 Bet365
*Have to be honest the price is a bit shorter then I would have liked but in hindsight this is potentially a very good horse/chaser that will be contesting a race that is normally won by a handicapper rather then a graded level sort. He won the Martin Pipe Conditionals hurdle at this meeting last year proving his effectiveness for the course and he jumped well when an easy winner at Gowran on his chasing debut recently. This race has already been earmarked by connections and providing preparations go well, he will probably turn up here a short price favourite (2/1?).
2. LOTS OF MEMORIES (Peter Fahey) 20/1 Skybet
*Dont look too much into this horses current form as he is another who comes good towards the back end of seasons. He was probably the most impressive handicap winner I saw last season when he was unextended to win the big field handicap series final at Fairyhouse. This horse has plenty of scope and size and chasing was always on the cards. His debut in this sphere was promising when he was just shaded out by Band Of Blood staying on well near the finish over his optimum distance. His jumping was okay, but he just looked in need of the run. He was disappointing last time up at Punchestown but this horse cries 4 mile chase in my opinion and anything he does leading up to it is a bonus.
Aintree features 2 races over the national fences, with the Becher and Grand Sefton races taking centre stage. The first race up is the Becher Chase run over 3m2f and the horse that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is Just A Par (14/1). It is fair to say this horse hasn't quite lived up to the hype with Paul Nicholls highlighting this horse at this time last year as a 'very promising individual who has the scope to become a top chaser.' After making a reasonable start to life he was then ultimately found out in top company. His novice win at Newbury last year was very impressive though with him trouncing both Third Intention who runs in the Tingle Ceeek today and Ardkilly Witness. Fair sort from Dr Newlands. Just A Par has looked a tad one paced in his last few races and he was very well backed prior to disappointing in the Badgers Ale 4 weeks ago. On the face of it he was only beaten 18 lengths and A lot of horses from this stable do need a run so with improvement expected today off a 2lb lower mark, I have my fingers crossed for a massive run. He jumps well so these fences should suit and he finished 2nd in the Sefton as a novice hurdler so the track should be no bother. In the Grand Sefton I don't really have a strong opinion but a favourite of mine is Champion Court (11/1) and I was at Cheltenham for his last run in the PP where he was very much bang there at 2 out before tiring on the flat. He shaped as if a big run is imminent somewhere down the line and he didn't shape too badly on his last start over these fences. He's effectively 7lbs lower then his run 3 weeks ago when taking into consideration Ryan's claim and I think I'll stick with him todAy. 2 other horses that could be overpriced because of their stables are Meadowcroft Boy (12/1) who is 3/4 and shaped as if this trip will bring about more improvement and considering he has lots of scope, he is potentially well handicapped off 137 (2.05 Race). The other one to note is Dino Mite (14/1) who makes her debut in the juvenile fillies race. She won by 18 lengths in a maiden on the flat when she encountered a slow surface, and she is a half sister to Cockney Sparrow who is a very useful hurdler for John Quinn. Snowden has his string in good form and it is interesting he pitches her in at this level for her debut. She must be well regarded and this stable does well with it's fillies and mares.
My best bet is at Chepstow with Ballyculla (4/1) engaged in the 12.55. This is a useful sort who was always built to make a better chaser and he will have come on plenty for his seasonal debut. He stays this course and distance well and I think he should be hard to beat in this. Forty Crown (12/1) and Hawkes Point (7/1) are other horses I want to keep onside in what is a very interesting days racing. Good luck all!
I am concentrating more so today on the UK and a horse I am very much interested in runs in the first at Carlisle in the shape of Bernadelli. A gelding by Golan he fell on his chase debut when still going well, and given he was always a long term chase prospect, he is interesting off his current mark. He won his hurdles off 115, and given the scope of this horse, he could be let in lightly just 4lb higher here. He has won over further then today's 2m trip but with the ground testing there is sure to be more emphasis on stamina which will play into the hands of this horse. Nicky has his string in fine order and At 5/1 I'm more then hopeful of a big run.
I also thought you could probably give another chance to Famousandfearless at Leicester. He was sent off a well backed favourite for a class 2 race at Wincanton last time where a combination of the trip and his jumping put pay to his chances. He is dropped significantly in grade today and is only 7lbs higher than when winning easily in Uttoxeter. This horse still has plenty of improvement in him and with the ground been no problem, if his jumping can hold up, he should go very close in this.
Not a lot else catches my eye if I'm honest. I have had a small bet on Sword Fish in Fairyhouse, although this is more of a heart over head type of selection. He did shape better then of late when 4th in Cork last time and is now at least on a favourable mark.
Today was a mad day it has to be said. More Of That getting turned over was a big surprise, although he shaped as if he badly needed the outing so I wouldn't give up on this horse just yet. Djakadam proved a disappointment in the Hennessy. He didn't really stay the distance in my opinion and he was beat before 3 out. Not really much else to say about that one. I was surprised Many Clouds had the stamina to win this. He looked a weak finisher in 2 previous tries at 3 miles although it was a great victory for Oli Sherwood! Well deserved!
Peoples Park was a more comfortable winner then the margin would suggest today. I was very confident he would win, and he duly obliged and was given a fine ride by Mark Walsh. He should definitely be winning again in the near future. Baby Shine and Shantou Ed picked up place money to cap a profitable day.
Other talking points today was the disappointment of Sir Vinski at Newcastle on his hurdling debut, although he already shapes like a stayer which is no surprise given his staying family connections and also a Colin Tizzard treble. Well done if you managed to find any of those.
Good luck anyway to people punting tomorrow. Let's hope for more winners.
Here's what baptist7 has been up to
Here's the latest tips & chat on the ante post races
Next Races / What's Hot?
See what's being talked about on the racecards and in the forum
Here's the latest from the tipsters that baptist7 is following