Five To Follow – National Hunt 16/17

It’s that time of the season, when the horses to follow lists come out and horses are jotted into trackers and notebooks across the land.

The National Hunt sphere sees old favourite come back year on year, so my particular five to follow are fairly young (majority are novices’), so that there may be value in following them progress.

Hopefully the sextet can see us build up to the big days with plenty of profit already banked!

EDWULF (7-y-o gelding – Joseph O’Brien – JP McManus)

Another to keep an eye on as the season progresses is the potentially useful Edwulf. He’s in the capable hands of fledgling trainer Joseph O’Brien after moving from father Aidan’s yard after his switch from Ben Pauling.

He ran three times for Aidan last season and there was three promising, yet very frustrating runs. Despite being sent off a big price on his chasing debut, he looked to have the race in the bag as he powered clear before the last only to come to grief at the final obstacle.

A drop down to hurdles followed after being purchased by JP McManus and despite sketchy jumping as the tempo increased, he battled on well to hold the very useful Haymount at bay. A Grade 2 beckoned next and again, he was running a big race before coming down at the third last.

Of course, jumping is clearly an issue but having spent a summer schooling with Joseph and his team, he is sure to have learned a lot. It looks as though the plan is to return to Novices’ Chases and he could progress into a very useful horse, should his jumping hold up.


BATTLE OF SHILOH (7-y-o gelding – Tom George – Paul and Clare Rooney)

Tom George and Paddy Brennan have enjoyed a superb partnership over the years, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see the pair part ways, as Adrian Heskin arrives from Ireland to become retained rider for George.

They have started well and surprisingly and they look to have plenty of solid horses to go to war with this season, with one of the most interesting, the still unbeaten Battle Of Shiloh.

Having won twice in the P2P sphere, he scored gamely on both hurdles starts last season. He rallied strongly on both occasions and it appears he has tremendous courage to go with his eye-catching ability.

It looked as though his unbeaten run was going to come to an abrupt end after some shoddy jumping on his chasing debut earlier this season and after a mistake at the last seen him a fair few lengths behind Jimmy The Jetplane, it looked as though he was to succumb to defeat.

However after a couple of reminders he picked up smartly and in the end, went past Jimmy The Jetplane to win smartly going away in the shadows of the post.

He is sure to have learned plenty from that run and with many sure to take the run on its bare form, the manner of the win suggests he could be a fair few pounds ahead of the handicapper. He has improvement to come and he is one who could be worth keeping on side as the season progresses.

WESTEND STORY (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs – Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club)

Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson often team up with great success and one of their more likely types this season looks to be the exciting Westend Story.

He made a fairly innocuous start to racing life, falling twice in P2P’s, before a switch to bumpers – and the Phillip Hobbs stable – seemed to work some magic. He made his debut on Boxing Day at Huntingdon, in what looked a decent enough bumper, before being backed into odds-on, winning by a cosy six-lengths.

It was a very pleasing performance for connections and they wouldn’t have to wait too long before tasting success again, as he broke the heart of his rivals on Valentine’s Day (I’m sorry), winning a race at Exeter by 18l.

They didn’t turn out to be the strongest of races, which allowed him to be sent off at 20/1 in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He travelled nicely into the race before looking set to be outpaced over three furlongs out, as the tempo increased.

He was slightly tapped for toe but he responded well to his rider’s urgings, staying on well without ever having the pace to threaten the leaders. He picked up the pieces to finish fifth and over a longer trip this season, he could be a force to be reckoned with, if schooling at the Hobbs stable has worked.

Of course, that is a slight concern given his P2P efforts but Hobbs is often reliable at readying one for their novice hurdling campaign. He’s currently 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it will be interesting to see where he aimed.










MARRACUDJA (5-y-o gelding – Paul Nicholls – Ditcheat Racing Club Marracudja)

It wouldn’t be a five (or ten) to follow over the jumps without a Paul Nicholls runner and this year, that coveted nod goes towards Marracudja. He made a rather disappointing start to live over hurdles, flopping behind the very impressive Peace And Co.

He was put away for the rest of the season and when returning fresh, he won two novices’ hurdles at Wincanton in fine style, suggesting he had plenty of ability. He contested a really competitive race at Kempton on Boxing Day, where he ran a fine race to be third behind subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Altior.

He returned for a Grade 2 at Kempton at the end of February and he battled on well, only just failing to get the better of the well-regarded Winter Escape. He was a no-show in a Grade 1 at Aintree but he showed no ill-effects of that race, as he embarked on a chasing career earlier this month.

It always looked as though he would develop into a chaser and if he progresses from his hurdles form, he will be a force to be a reckoned with in the novice division. He could hardly have been more impressive on debut, defying a drift, jumping boldly out in front before moving readily clear of subsequent winner Ballyboley.

He ticked all the boxes as an impressive novice and given his trainer is already nominating targets at Aintree and Punchestown (likely to skip Cheltenham), it suggests he rates him highly. He could be a very nice horse.

CONSUL DE THAIX (4-y-o gelding – Nicky Henderson – JP McManus)

The final member of the five to follow comes from the Nicky Henderson yard, in Consul De Thaix. The JP McManus-owned gelding ran twice in Britain last season for Henderson and it was evident they rated him highly, as he was thrown in at the deep end with a Grade 2 engagement at Cheltenham.

He travelled with enthusiasm for Barry Geraghty and looked to have every chance coming over the last. He battled bravely but couldn’t find what was required to get past the highly-rated Protek De Flos and Clan Des Obeaux.

Subsequently, he was put away until being aimed at the Triumph Hurdle, for which he was sent off at 33/1. He was kept towards the rear of the field and was outpaced when push came to shove but he stayed on once beaten to run a nice enough race.

Considering it was only his second start under rules in this country, it was a fair effort and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at graded races or maybe a top end handicap later in the season.

He has plenty of scope to improve under the handling of Nicky Henderson and he rates as an exciting prospect that perhaps may slip under the radar.

Punchestown Festival – Day Four

All three selections were placed yesterday, which shows we are managing to get on the right track, despite a whole host of shock results.

Outsiders have been the flavour of the week, and hopefully tomorrow will follow suit to some extent, as our first selection is The Romford Pele in the 4:20, at an extremely tempting 16/1.

Rebecca Curtis’ charge has been campaigned at the highest level, and has a whole host of respectable runs behind top class horses, such as finishing runner-up to Balder Success, Court Minstrel and a brave third behind Taquin De Seuil. He boasts fantastic form, and should he manage to perform consistently, living up to the high hopes that the Curtis team have for the seven-year-old, he should go extremely close.

He was last seen finishing a staying-on fourth in a handicap at Cheltenham earlier this month, and that should put him spot on for Friday’s challenge, where the extra distance on better ground should suit. Paul Townend takes the ride, and he knows the Punchestown track extremely well, which is an added bonus in itself.

It is a very open race, with Some Tikket looking the biggest danger, as he aims to follow up his impressive victory at Fairyhouse. However he has been hiked up eleven pounds for that effort, and he will have to improve to ensure he visits the winners enclosure once more. So for this reason, the 16/1 for Romford Pele looks a more than fair each-way bet.

The next race is a very open affair, with a trio of Nicky Henderson horses heading the market. Une Artiste and Nadiya De La Vega look like very interesting contenders, however Barry Geraghty has sided with Utopie Des Bordes, who has already landed a Grade One Chase over in France. She arrived with a big reputation, but has so far failed to fire over hurdles, although her fifth at Aintree behind Doctor Harper (Thursday’s Hurdle winner Jetson, finished in fourth), showed she is heading back in the right direction.

The six-year-old is having her first start over the bigger obstacles since transferring the Nicky Henderson stable from across the Channel, and she could be potentially well treated off a rather lenient mark of 136. The 4/1 looks fair and it may not last very long, thanks to the punters latching on to the Barry Geraghty factor, after the jockey has been in great form so far this Punchestown.

She should go very well, and at the very least, make the frame.


The final piece is advice may be rather boring, but looks a very solid treble. Champion Hurdle hero Jezki lines up again on Friday against Hurricane Fly and Steps to Freedom, and he is currently trading at 11/10.

It looks a straight shootout between Jezki and the magnificent Hurricane Fly, however ‘the Fly’ has never enjoyed fast ground which it looks set to be over in Ireland, and Jezki should be able to confirm his Champion Hurdle placings. Jessica Harrington’s gelding is 1/1 at Punchestown having won at the festival last year, and he should be able to keep that record in tact, thanks to his magnificent mixture of fluent jumping, speed and stamina.

He should be added with Vautour, who looked the real deal when landing the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in the most impressive fashion. He is up against an arguably weaker field than he faced at Cheltenham, and he looks like a horse firmly on the upgrade so it would take something special to upset Willie Mullins’ five-year-old. He has the potential to go on to bigger and better things, and will be hoping to stake a claim for next year’s Champion Hurdle with a big performance on Friday. The 2/5 is extremely skinny, but he looks as close to a banker as you will find all week.

The final selection to the ‘boring but hopefully solid’ treble, is Arctic Fire. He has run extremely well all year, in the highest novice company and looks set to gain compensation for a series of solid efforts, by finally landing a big one.

He finished close behind the highly rated The Tullow Tank twice, before producing his best run last time out, when only just failing to get the better of Lac Fontana in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Lac Fontana has since been out and franked the form by landing a Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, and this all points towards Arctic Fire proving extremely hard to beat for the duo of Mullins and Walsh.

At 4/5 he completes the 4.29/1 treble, which will hopefully we ensure we enter Saturday with a healthy profit.


4:20 Punch: The Romford Pele @ 16/1 (Ladbrokes)

4:55 Punch: Utopie Des Bordes @ 4/1 (Various)


Jezki, Vautour & Arctic Fire @ 4.29/1 (Coral)


Grand National Meeting – Day of Redemption

It’s that time of year again, when the nation unites for it’s annual bet on the most valuable steeplechase in Europe.

But before then comes two quality day’s of high-class racing, beginning with the Aintree Hurdle on Thursday.


It looks set to be a day of redemption for two fallers at the Cheltenham Festival, with Grandouet being my first selection of the meeting.

Nicky Henderson’s 6yo was arguably travelling best of all in the Champion Hurdle before crashing out at the fifth fence, and will be looking to make amends in the Grade One on Merseyside.

His only previous run of the season was a respectable second behind Zarkandar, making his re-appearance after a 371 day lay off.

He was clearly in need of a the run and looked to have came on a lot for it at Cheltenham. He was brought down at Aintree two years ago, when travelling best of all in a race won by Zarkandar, and the fact that Barry Geraghty has deserted Oscar Whisky who has won the race for the previous two years, is a tip in itself.

Both Henderson and Geraghty know what it takes to land the big race, and look set to have just a bit too much class for the young pretender that is the New One.

The New One has to be respected after showing such a brilliant turn of foot to land the Neptune at Cheltenham, as-well as already having course form in the book, after landing the bumper at this meeting last year.

Geraghty will likely sit behind Twiston-Davies on board the New One and stalk his prey, as the race is set up in front by the gutsy Zarkandar.

Countrywide Flame re-appears after his respectable third in the Champion Hurdle and holds solid each-way claims, while dual winner Oscar Whisky will have to put his Cheltenham run behind him if he is to have any chance.

This all points towards Grandouet having a major chance, with the 4/1 on offer looking great value.

The second horse seeking redemption is Silviniaco Conti in the the Betfred Bowl.

Paul Nicholls’ gelding held every chance in the Gold Cup when falling three out, and would’ve almost certainly been troubling the eventual winner Bobs Worth.

It is hard to say whether he would have gone on to win, but that piece of form would’ve been by far the best coming into this race anyway, and he is currently trading as Even money favourite.

He had won his previous four races before the Gold Cup, including a dominant performance in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at this meeting last year, which has been his only visit to the Merseyside track.

The Walsh/Nicholls combination has not had much luck lately, but this race looks made for the 7yo tp get back to winning ways,

Ryanair second, First Lieutenant re-appears, but will be without jockey Davy Russell who is still not allowed to ride in the UK following an injury picked up at Cheltenham.

The 8yo had a tough race last time out and the step back up in trip is unsure to suit, so there seems to be better each-way alternatives, including Quito De La Roque who is also owned by Gigginstown Stud.

He has a 100% record when ridden by Paul Townend, and also has solid course form after landing the Mildmay at the course in 2011.

There is question marks about whether or not he performs better at shorter distances, but the gelding never fails to travel like a dream, and the longer Townend can keep him on the bridle, the better chance he has.

The Giant Bolster, Cape Tribulation and Menorah all has slight each-way chances, but will need to pull out something special if they are to match Silviniaco Conti.

Usually there seems to be little point in advising an Even money shot, so we can combine the two selections together into a tasty double to kick-start our Aintree meeting.


1 point double: Grandouet/Silviniaco Conti – 9/1 (Various)

2013: +15.77

Cheltenham – Opening day’s best bets!

It’s that time of year again, when everyone forgets about their troubles and often plunges money they haven’t got into a world of magic, in the hope that they can finally land that massive pay-out they have been searching for.

Well, I’m here to help.

As a veteran of the Cheltenham Festival (first appearance aged 14, and I’m now 21..) I have always seemed to strike gold in this magical week in March.

Whether it be the Guinness that is inevitably sunk, the intense feeling that ‘this is the day’ or most likely the amount of research that goes in to following the horses throughout the year..

This year’s festival is as open as any, but there are a few very over-priced runners on the opening day.

cheltenham racecourse

The opener of the festival always seems to swing your week, a winner signifies ‘this is the week’, a place means ‘at least i’m in the right ball-park’ and a nowhere inevitably leaves you feeling ‘oh no, not again..’.

There isn’t usually a massively short-priced favourite for such a competitive race as the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, yet this year there is. Tony McCoy is incredibly bullish about My Tent or Yours, who has side-stepped a potential Champion Hurdle tilt for this seemingly easier encounter. Yet at 6/4, are you really wanting to take the chance? Especially given Henderson’s record of winners in the race and also the poor performance of favourites.  I’m not.

Usually I like to kick-off the four days with an each-way bet, which allows me to maintain the feeling it could be my week, even with a place. Tomorrow that bet will fall on Un Atout.

Willie Mullins’ gelding is unbeaten in his three starts under rules, and is yet to be tested. He travels beautifully, and has a wonderful movement allowing him to kick clear with seemingly sumptuous ease. He is yet to be tested, and although tomorrow’s field looks incredibly difficult, he looks as though he has the potential to match them

No-one knows how good he really is and tomorrow we will get to see if he is what we all expect. 7/1 looks far too big, especially with William Hill offering five places at a quarter of the odds.

There are two more well fancied runners on the card, that could well out-run their odds, and then next one is Fruity O’Rooney in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase, in which he was runner-up last year.

Since then he has had a solid campaign, running consistently in decent handicaps and even managing to drop down the weights since last year.

The Gary Moore trained 10yo ran a great race in defeat last year and course and distance form is key in these types of races. This gives him a slight edge over favourite Our Mick, who fell when looking to challenge in a race that Fruity O’Rooney competed in last time. The fall was at Cheltenham too, so it is hard to gauge how much effect that will have on his psyche.

This is why the current 11/1 on the consistent Fruity O’Rooney looks a solid bet, and you can guarantee a run for your money.

nicky henderson

The final piece of each-way advice for the day is Nicky Henderson’s Rajdhani Express in the final race of the day.

He looked a real horse to follow when winning at Kempton on Boxing Day, in testing conditions. His last race was one we can put a mark through after he threw away his chance with a bad mistake early on.

Henderson wouldn’t enter him without thinking he had a big chance, and the 28/1 on offer looks far too big. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen will be out to prove his many critics wrong, and if the geldings’ jumping holds up early on, he looks set to be in with a major chance.

More rain won’t a difference to the 6yo’s chances, and with Waley-Cohen being able to take a handy 5lbs off the top-weights back, he holds a real chance.


1 point e.w: Un Atout @ 6/1 (William Hill, first 5 places, 1/4 of the odds)

0.5 points e.w: Fruity O’Rooney @ 11/1 (Paddy Power)

0.5 points e.w: Rajdhani Express @ 28/1 (BetVictor)

2013 so far: -2.8 points