Prince Of Scars Could Land RSA Crown

We’re only just entering the very early stages of the National Hunt season but there’s already whispers of the Cheltenham Festival after a very enjoyable Cheltenham Showcase meeting.

One of the most enjoyable betting feelings (although it nearly always ends in tears) is taking fancy prices about a horse early in the season and then sitting smugly as it continues to shorten until the day of the race, should it actually make it unscathed, at Cheltenham.

It carries obvious risks and isn’t always the greatest money-making scheme, though there are definite reasons to suggest singles and perhaps doubles, could be worth pursuing if you think the price is right.

One horse in particular who could be worth following en route to The Festival is Gordon Elliot’s Prince Of Scars. The former classy hurdler looks set to embark on a Novices’ Chase campaign this season and after showing plenty of ability last year, he looks interesting in the big races at Cheltenham.

However, if you are contemplating a punt on the horse, be prepared for the fact he will only run, should the ground be sufficiently soft. Cheltenham in March is a question mark, as we have seen extremely heavy or rattling quick, so that has to be something to bear in mind.

Still, if you are committed to the cause, then the current 33/1 for the RSA Chase could prove to be very tempting. Those towards the head of the market have plenty of question marks about potential engagements over hurdles/fences, 2m4f & 3m, so it could be a race to steer clear of, if you’re not overly fond of taking a risk.

Prince Of Scars made a rather inauspicious start to maiden hurdling, though his runner-up effort in a Listed Hurdle on his second start over the obstacles suggested he had some ability. He was put away for a decent break after switching to the Gordon Elliott yard and that seemed to do the trick, as he has since won three of his four races.

He won a handicap hurdle a shade cosily on his first start for the yard before showing battling qualities, to follow up soon after in a thrilling finish at Navan. His home work must have suggested he was worth a go in better company as he was seemingly tossed in the deep end in the Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown in late December.

The Heavy ground seemed to work in his favour as he travelled beautifully before pulling clear of genuine top quality animals, Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Arctic Fire.

He swerved Cheltenham and waited for the subsequent softer ground at Aintree where he ran on well without ever threatening Thistlecrack and Shaneshill. 0pair are real Grade One animals, so finishing as close as he did was a solid effort.

The scope he possesses and his action over hurdles, suggest he may be suited to fences and in a recent interview, Gordon Elliot suggested he is looking forward to the soft ground so he can get Prince Of Scars back out.

Elliott is usually brilliant at finding an opportunity for a horse early on and if he can show he get round in style, the 33/1 for the RSA may well shorten. All things being well, we will be treated to a wetter Cheltenham this season and this lad may well turn up as a real contended in the RSA.


1pt e.w – RSA Chase – Prince Of Scars @ 33/1 (bet365)


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.

Ten to Follow: National Hunt Season


The National Hunt season is fast approaching (though large parts of Twitter will damn you for admitting this) and this signifies that wonderful window of opportunity where one and all can unleash their ‘horses to follow’ for the year.

As old favourites are returning, exciting hurdlers and chasers are switching hands and those who have looked set to fulfil tremendous promise are set to be given the chance over the coming months.

It is always an exciting time of the season, with so much anticipation and a wonderful feeling that you could be getting some tremendous early value, with long-term projects around Cheltenham and Aintree followed with great scrutiny.

I’ve narrowed the list down to ten to follow this year and to set it apart from the usual group of animals that appear throughout the masses of lists that have been released and are set to be released, I’ve limited my ten to one per trainer.

This means there is more chance of variety and also stops me from naming 10 Willie Mullins machines that will mop up everything. Oh, and I’ve neglected to take the opportunity to mention Aux Ptits Soins and Yorkhill, not because I don’t rate them, but for the likelihood that they will appear in EVERY horses to follow list this year.

Chap (5-y-o gelding – Gabe Mahon)

First up is the exciting Chap, who created quite an impression on those who risked the rain to enjoy a Summer Nights – Sounds of the 80s evening at Aintree in May. Many could be forgiven for heading over to the stage ahead of an ordinary looking bumper to round off a tricky card, but those who stayed were treated to a performance to remember.

Chap was held up towards the rear by the talented Leo Mahon and it looked a reasonable pace by those up ahead, showed by the pair that raced prominently finished a solid third and fourth behind two that crept into the race. Chap was one of those who crept into the race stylishly, yet with twenty-runners there were still plenty in with a chance entering the final two furlongs.

The five-year-old caught the eye still firmly on the bit and he continued to improve to swoop past the field, taking up the running entering the final furlong up the long Aintree straight. He quickly put the race to bed, scooting clear when asked the question and he hit the line hard, suggesting there was still plenty in the tank.

There will be plenty of opportunity to get to the bottom of the gelding this year and he has the scope to improve when he sees a hurdle. He looks to have huge promise and he is one who may sneak under the radar on his first couple of starts.

Anibale Fly (5-y-o gelding – Tony Martin)

After finishing a close second to Jetstream Jack in a bumper that seen the field massively spread out, Anibale Fly was swiftly purchased by JP McManus to run in the famous green and gold silks. As he was sent-off 25/1 on debut it is fair to say the performance may have been somewhat of a surprise, yet he proved it was no fluke by getting off the mark at the second time of asking, comfortably seeing off six rivals.

He stayed on all the way to the line that day and this meant that he was given his chance in a hit-looking bumper at Fairyhouse on his final start of the season, coming up against a number of highly-rated animals including Au Quart De Tour, Space Cadet and Livelaughlove. It was the latter that gave Tony Martin’s charge most to think about but again, we seen the gelding’s fighting spirit as he nettled gamely all the way to the line to pick up the eventual runner-up, fifty yards from the line.

He crossed the line a length-and-a-quarter ahead of Willie Mullins’ charge and with Tony Martin likely to utilise his gameness over the hurdles this season, he could be in for a big year. He is a rangy gelding who looks suited to the obstacles and the strong-travelling battler could enjoy a stellar season for respected connections.

Limini (4-y-o filly – Willie Mullins)

It was hard to narrow down Willie Mullins’ legions of exciting novices’ to just one, yet after plenty of deliberation I’ve decided to let Limini fly the flag for the yard this year. The French import ran two nice races in defeat over 10f at Chantilly and then Longchamp before making the move across to Willie Mullins’ yard, where he created quite the impression on his sole start for the master handler.

Despite enjoying a lengthy break, the filly was sent off a warm favourite for her first start suggesting there may have been a level of confidence exuding from the stable. She tracked the leaders in fourth under Paul Townend before moving into the race in typical Townend fashion, creeping closer rather stylishly.

She made a mistake two out but was allowed time to find her stride again before she moved third entering the straight, edging into second ahead of the last and then finally edging ahead under hands and heels close home. She beat the battle-hardened Sandymount Duke who had race-fitness on his side and this was an effort that screamed promise.

The Rich Ricci-owned filly may not be allowed to go off too overpriced given her connections but she may well prove worth a close eye in the long-term ante-post markets before she makes her belated reappearance. She could well be the next in a long line of high-class hurdlers heralding from the stable.

Twelve Roses (7-y-o gelding – Kim Bailey)

Kim Bailey has assembled an enviable string for this season and it was hard to narrow it down to just one horse to follow for the year. The selected horse is Twelve Roses, who has become somewhat of a forgotten horse after spending over a year off the track.

The now 7-y-o enjoyed a stellar 2013/14, improving on a nice runner-up effort on debut to finish within a length of subsequent World Hurdle winner More Of That at Wetherby. It was a performance that looks even better in retrospect and he wasn’t disgraced when taking his place in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, a series qualifier, at Newbury, where he finished a nice fourth off a high weight.

He hated the ground when floundering as favourite on Boxing Day at Kempton but after being given a break before an engagement at the Cheltenham Festival, he appeared to grow steadily and appreciate the return to a better surface. He was sent off 66/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle but he massively outrun his odds, staying on bravely to take a never nearer fifth behind Faugheen.

It looks as though a step up to three miles on good ground could be perfect and although he may well need his first run after such a lengthy break, he is worth keeping onside over the course of the season.

Bailey also has the exciting Charbel who has changed hands for a big fee following two victories and a nice fourth in the Punchestown Champion Bumper. He has a lofty reputation and he has scope to improve over a hurdle, so he could be in for a big year.

Moon Racer (6-y-o gelding – David Pipe)

I’ve tried to avoid the obvious choices for this year’s ten to follow but Moon Racer was impossible to leave off, having impressed massively over the course of last season. After springing a 50/1 surprise on debut at Fairyhouse, he was switched stables to David Pipe where he delivered a jaw-dropping performance at Cheltenham last October.

He led under Tom Scudamore and he moved nicely through the race before moving clear in the final couple of furlongs, hitting top gear to put real distance between himself the field. It was an impressive time and connections were extremely bullish in the aftermath, with the view of keeping their start at home until the Festival.

The form of that race worked out nicely with the second and third both going on to win impressively and as he arrived for the Cheltenham bumper, it was no surprise to see the money come. He was sent off 9/2 favourite and somewhat rescued punters with a scintillating success, making up plenty of ground to power clear, crossing the line one-and-a-half lengths ahead of Modus.

He has a real gear change and has plenty of speed to go with his reserves of stamina, so he should enjoy a big season in the novice hurdling ranks. He is well-built and should enjoy the challenge of the obstacles, so with his long-term aim undoubtedly the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he could be worth following all the way up the hill in March!

Penglai Pavilion (5-y-o gelding – John Ferguson)

John Ferguson has a plethora of unruly flat talent at his disposal this year with plenty of ex-Godolphin animals making the switch to the National Hunt sphere under his tutelage. There are plenty of eye-catchers in the impressive Bloomfields operation but one who is of real interest is the exciting Penglai Pavilion.

Having been trained by Andre Fabre in France during his early years, the son of Monsun fulfilled lofty potential on the level, taking fifth behind Treve in the 2013 Arc. He ran well out in Dubai before failing to land a blow when transferring to Charlie Appleby, although he was still competing at the highest level in extremely competitive group races.

It is interesting that they kept the faith for so long and didn’t attempt to drop him in grade, so the fact the was sent to John Ferguson must mean they have either lost faith in him, or they think he will better equipped over a longer distance and with a hurdle in front of him. I’m backing it’s the latter.

He scored with consummate ease on debut, making steady headway on the sound surface before pulling clear with plenty in hand. It was a performance to take note of and he was given one more outing before being put away for a break and again, he won with tons in hand, pulling clear from a long way out to score at a canter.

The form of those races leave a lot to be desired but he is yet to be tested and clearly has plenty more in the locker. He has valuable experience and the confidence boost of getting back to winning ways will mean he is ready to come out firing this season. His best flat form came on a softer surface but he has shown he can handle good or better over obstacles, so ground is no issue for him. He should mop up plenty of races and although it looks as though he would love the flat track at Aintree, he may well have enough about him to make his presence felt at Prestbury Park.

Cyrus Darius (6-y-o gelding – Malcolm Jefferson)

After a solid enough start when fourth in a Wetherby bumper on debut it was somewhat of a surprise to see what Cyrus Darius would go on to achieve last season. He switched to Malcolm Jefferson’s yard and after a nice enough third in a bumper last November, he was given a short-break before reappearing to tackle some hurdles.

He caused quite the impression on his hurdling bow, lowering the colours of odds-on favourite Course Dismissed at Newcastle, travelling into the race smoothly before pulling clear on the bit. He was heavily eased down and this ensured he was sent off 2/7 for his next start, where he landed the spoils unextended, with 23l, 28l and 16l separating the first four home.

The form of the races didn’t look anything special but the manner in which he had dismissed the field was eye-catching in itself.  He was sent to Aintree for a grade two Novices’ Hurdle and he wasn’t without support, as he was sent off 8/1 in a competitive looiong field.

Despite a mistake at the first (does have one in him, so hopefully Malcolm has sharpened him up) he travelled into the race in typical smooth fashion. With the leaders getting to work pretty seriously from a long way out, Brian Hughes eased the gelding into the race from three out, taking up second, travelling much the best.

He breezed into the lead approaching the last before being given a kick in the belly, moving clear of the field with plenty in hand. He beat some useful rivals, including Vago Collonges, Qewy and Glingerburn, all of whom are well-regarded and look to be horses who warrant their place in graded races.

The manner in which Cyrus Darius cantered past with ease means he can’t be taken likely and given the size and scope of the horse, it would be no surprise to see him make a real high-class chaser. I believe plans haven’t been confirmed as to whether he stays over hurdles or begins a career over fences, but wherever he heads, he is certainly worth following.

Drumlee Sunset (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs)

There a number of nice novices in the Phillip Hobbs stable this year and there is one of real interest in Drumlee Sunset. The son of Royal Anthem has only been seen once, when running out a ready winner of a competitive bumper, despite hanging left in the straight.

He wrestles for the lead early on in the contest and picked up it over seven furlongs out, with Richard Johnson allowing the gelding to stride on in front. He hung left when asked to assert but he still managed to stay on strongly, powering clear in the final hundred yards to claim a four-and-a-half length success over previous winner O O Seven.

He looked a strong, rangy gelding who will appreciate the test of a hurdle to keep his mind on the task and after performing credibly in the p2p sphere, he should know his job by the time he jumps a hurdle in public. He showcased plenty of talent when stretching out on debut under rules and after being given a lengthy break by the Hobbs team, he should be fit and raring to go this year.

Inner Drive (7-y-o gelding – Alan King)

Alan King didn’t have the greatest of seasons last year but he has a number of animals to keep him excited as we head into this National Hunt season, including the lightly-raced Inner Drive. After finishing a nice second on debut he moved across to the Alan King yard where he didn’t look completely wound-up on his stable debut, finishing second behind Vodka ‘n Tonic.

He was put away for a lengthy break before being brought back for a maiden hurdle at Huntingdon in March this year. He was well-backed and ended up going off favourite, scoring impressively against a field that ended up spread out by some distance.

He lowered the colours of the consistent Thedrinkymeister in a nice enough looking race before being sent to Newbury for a hot looking Novices’’ Hurdle. He took a keen hold after being help up towards the rear, before he made smooth headway into contention approaching three out.

After being urged to close approaching the last, he moved upsides the leader and began to battle it out up the straight. It was his first real eye-to-eye battle and to be fair to him, he held his own very well, only going down by a nose from the respected Rock The Kasbah.

He should come on massively from that effort and on a softer surface, he should enjoy plenty of success in the mid-range hurdling division.

Legend Lady (4-y-o bay filly – Oliver Sherwood)

The final member of the ten to follow for this year is Legend Lady, who may have slipped under the radar despite to excellent runs at the back end of last season. She was given her debut in a fairly average looking Taunton bumper but she managed to turn the race into a procession, travelling beautifully with a bit of cut underfoot before moving clear with a simple shake of the reins from Leighton Aspell.

She must have done enough to impress connections as her next and final engagement of the season came in the Listed Aintree Bumper which rounds off Grand National day. She was sent off at 40/1 but outran her odds to great effect, travelling nicely towards the rear before making nice headway from two furlongs out to run into sixth of nineteen runners.

It was a nice staying-on effort that suggests she may be more suited to further, with two and a half miles looking ideal for a first port of call this season. She has the opportunity to take in another bumper for a rather patient trainer in Oliver Sherwood but she looks to have the scope to progress over hurdles when given the nod later on in the year.

Sherwood is brilliant at placing his horses and it would be no surprise to see her mop up a couple of prizes before progressing to a decent level. She is an exciting filly who could have a touch of star quality about her.

Cheltenham Festival – Day Four Preview

For the second time this week, we return with two good priced places out of three, but still no winner.

Friday looks a good day to end the festival in style, and there is plenty of value flying around.

The Triumph Hurdle looks a typically competitive curtain raiser, and the vote in this goes to the highly rated Calipto. Paul Nicholls hasn’t been in the greatest form, but has talked very highly of his four-year-old who remains unbeaten in Britain, winning twice since coming over from Ireland.

He oozed class when winning at Newbury both times, beating the highly-rated Activial (subsequent Adonis winner), in the process. He looks a likely improver, and should take all the beating according to trainer Paul Nicholls, who seemed rather bullish when describing his geldings chances in the opener.

A nifty hurdler who travels like a dream, should appreciate the stiff finish, and the ground should hold no worries. It is a very open race, but his current price strikes value, especially when there are firms offering money back for second and third placed finishers.

Daryl Jacob was extremely emotive when finishing a nose second behind Fingal Bay on Thursday, and this looks the ideal opportunity to land a big prize to ease the pain of missed chances so far. He will have his fair share of supporters, and the current 9/2 shouldn’t last too long.

Elsewhere on the card, Fingal Bay’s team of Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson team up with the interesting Cheltenian who landed the Champion Bumper back in 2011.

He is lightly races over hurdles, having only had four runs, but he showed he still possesses plenty of ability when finishing a close fourth in the Betfair Hurdle last time out. The form of the race has worked out well with Dell’ Arca and Smashing finishing right in the mix in the Coral Cup.

The eight-year-old is running off a very generous mark of 137 and should go extremely well on his preferred better ground. The 10/1 looks a cracking each-way bet taking all things to account, and he will more than likely go off a single figure price.

Another interesting runner in the Martin Pipe is Don Poli. Willie Mullins five-year-old has improved with each run, which culminated in a smashing victory in a Grade Three at Clonmel.

The trip looks a tad on the sharp side on Friday, but his ability to maintain a solid gallop may be deadly if Fogarty decides to take him from the front.  He looks a likely improver, will be staying on best of all and the vibes from the stable have all been positive, with a big run expected.

He is currently 12/1, which looks a solid each-way bet given the form Mullins has been in so far this week.

The final selection of the day, and meeting looks to be the best of the bunch. Ned Buntline has been a talking horse from the Noel Meade stable from day one.

The six-year-old has solid form in the bag, including finishing a very close runner-up in his maiden behind none other than the Champion Hurdle hero, Jezki.

He has never finished outside of the first three, and has a bold jumping style which looks suited to the obstacles at Cheltenham. He is ridden by his perfect match in the ultra-calm Paul Carberry who has a sixth sense when it comes to producing his mounts at the perfect time.

JP McManus has had a fantastic week so far, and Ned Buntline could round it off in the perfect manner. He is on an extremely generous mark, and if he can replicate his best form, he should go extremely close. The 10/1 with Boylesports will not last long, and he is sure to be one of the biggest gambles of the day, especially if JP’s go well earlier in the day.


Triumph Hurdle: Calipto @ 9/2 (Boylesports or 4/1 with Paddy Power, money back if second or third)

Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle: Cheltenian @ 10/1(Bet365)

Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle: Don Poli @ 14/1 (32Red)

Grand Annual: Ned Buntline @ 10/1 (Boylesports)

Five National Hunt Horses to Follow – 2013/14

As the flat season draws to a close, our attentions turn to the upcoming National Hunt season, with plenty of potential stars about to make their re-appearances.

Oscar Rock (Malcolm Jefferson)

The 5-y-o went into many notebooks after running away with a very competitive bumper at Newbury in February, and he looks set for a massive season.

Transferring from the Harry Fry stable to Malcolm Jefferson, means he is nearer his owners in the north of England, and a big campaign looks in-store, with all roads leading to Prestbury Park in March.

Fry neglected the chance to rush his charge into racing at the Festival last year, choosing to bide his time and have a tilt at the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival, for which he is currently 12/1.

He beat the subsequent front-three in the Grade Two Aintree Bumper, which means his price has slowly been dropping since his last run, yet it is expected to continue to be chipped away at with every passing performance.

His former trainer suggested ‘the sky is the limit’ with the gelding, and following him should prove extremely profitable (including ante-post).

Just A Par (Paul Nicholls)


Ditcheat may well have seen better days, but there is still plenty of exciting prospects to get in the notebook for the coming season, and none-more-so, than novice chaser, Just A Par.

After winning a maiden-hurdle at Punchestown impressively in November, he changed hands for £260,000, with Paul Barber and Graham Roach taking ownership.

He performed with great credit on his only two starts over hurdles for Paul Nicholls, finishing runner-up on both starts, including behind the very highly-rated Fishers Cross in a Grade One at Aintree.

He was bought with chasing in mind, so last year’s performances were a bonus in terms of returns of income. He is a big type, who looks as though he will thrive over fences, and you can guarantee he will have the best chance of becoming a top chaser, with the schooling programmes and facilities on offer at Ditcheat.

There will be plenty of hype around his first public appearance over fences, and if he impresses as expected under Daryl Jacob, the 25/1 on offer for the RSA Chase at the Festival, will not last very long.

Blackmail (Tony Martin)

The shrewd Irish handler could hardly contain his excitement when his 5-y-o ran out a very impressive winner at the Galway Festival.

He has made a seamless transition to hurdles from the flat, winning both of his starts in impressive fashion. He looks like a likely improver, and Martin has a reputation for getting the best out of youngsters with potential, and the 33/1 on offer for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at next year’s Festival is fairly certain to be a lot shorter come the day.

His is closely matched with stablemate Ted Veale on flat form, and if he manages to continue his upward curve, he should be in for a big season.

Master Red (Donald McCain)


McCain is a master at selecting the right races to ensure his charges can spring together a run of victories, and Master Red looks a perfect type for McCain to continue this trait.

He won on his only start for Andrew Cook, running out a comfortable winner at 20/1, before being sent to Donald McCain.

The son of Red Clubs cost £100,000 and the 4-y-o has some brilliant family connections, being out of a full-sister to the classy Ghizao.

His bumper form has panned out well, and he has shown glimpses of high-class ability on his two starts for McCain, finishing second on debut (when travelling best of all, before flattening out), and a wide-margin win in a Sedgefield bumper.

He may not have the mould of a future Cheltenham winner, but there are plenty of races to be won with the 4-y-o this season, and it will certainly pay to keep him onside.

Baradari (Venetia Williams)

The very shrewd Guy Petit purchased a three-year-old son of Manduro, from the Aga Khan Stud to be sent to Venetia Williams, by the name of Baradari.

The €235,000 purchase has finished runner-up on two occasions at Listed level in France, is from a brilliant jumping pedigree (half-brother to Grade One winning hurdler Barizan), and looks set to be an exciting prospect over hurdles.

His physique suggests he will enjoy the step up to middle-distances, and you can guarantee he will be schooled extensively by Williams before he sees the racecourse.

He looks a very classy type and although he is not currently marked up for any ante-post races, he should return a very profitable season if he manages to transfer his ability over obstacles, so make sure you got on early.


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 – Day two’s best bets!

Following a sensational day for the blog yesterday with a 28/1 winner, 7/1 place and an 11/1 close fifth, from three selections, I’m hoping to keep momentum rolling with another few tasty value bets.

It was a day for the Irish as Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins stole the show with a magnificent treble. Champagne Fever, and Quevega came either side of a magnificent Champion Hurdle victory by Hurricane Fly.

Walsh and Mullins will go in to the second day buoyed with confidence and this could lead the bookmakers into shortening their mounts prices in even shorter, as Mullins look set to saddle the first three favourites on the card.

This opens up other horses value, as they begin to drift against the favourite. This leads us to the first bet of the day, Tofino Bay in the opener.

Dessie Hughes’ consistent 10yo has been placed in a Grade One, as well as winning a Grade Two this season, meaning he is arguably the classiest in the field.

Nina Carberry is a brilliant jockey over the staying chases and will be sure to give her mount the best possible positioning early on. As long as he settles, he will be right there near the end, and with his reliable jumping (never fell in his life), he looks a solid each-way bet at 35/2.

With Ireland having such a great start to the meeting, and the Gigginstown Stud silks being renowned worldwide, it us understandable as to why some other bookmakers have priced up at 8/1 – 10/1, he is likely to start around that price, so punish 32Red for their generous offer.

With Sprinter Sacre taking centre stage tomorrow, and maybe even for the whole week, it makes sense to just sit back and watch a thing of beauty.

There is no value in backing Nicky Henderson’s stable-star at 1/4, and with him looking almost certain to land Wednesday’s feature race, it will pay to just enjoy a magnificent spectacle of sheer jumping brilliance.


However wait for forty minutes, and find yourself another solid bet. Tony McCoy is yet to get on the board for this year’s festival and will be looking to rectify this as soon as possible.

His best chance tomorrow looks set to come in the colours of his boss JP McManus, with Pendra looking likely to go off as favourite in the Coral Cup.

He has never been out of the first two, winning three of his four starts under rules. McManus decided to purchase the gelding following his last run, a gallant second in a Grade One Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January.

He looked the likely winner before being headed at the last, and with McCoy likely to make more use of the gelding tomorrow, the current 8/1 looks massive for such a consistent type.

Sneaking in on a relatively low weight only adds to the positives, and expect him to go off a lot shorter tomorrow.

paul nicholls

The third and final bet of day two comes in the Bumper, in the shape of Paul Nicholls’ Fascino Rustico.

It is interesting to see that the record-breaking £310,000 recruit has stayed on the level, instead of being sent over hurdles.

He ran away with his maiden National Hunt flat race showing an immense cruising speed, before being purchased by Aiden Murphy. He has been quoted as saying he purchased him as a replacement for Noland, with the idea he has the scope to jump a fence.

He slightly disappointed when last seen, finishing fourth over course and distance in November. However he will come on massively for the run and the fact that connections have opted to aim him at this race means that he has to be respected, and 33/1 is far too big.


1 point e.w: Tofino Bay @ 35/2 (32Red)

1 point e.w: Pendra @ 8/1 (Betfred/Betvictor)

0.5 points e.w: Fascino Rustico @ 33/1 (32Red)

2013 so far – +14.08 points