Archives for December 2011

Talking Horses

The Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase at Towcester was abandoned due to fog, but the concluding NH Flat Race will take place as scheduled. Press Association

Thousand Stars wins Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown

2.27pm: Thousand Stars made every yard of the running under Ruby Walsh to run out a comfortable winner of the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

The Grade One prize was the intended target of Champion Hurdle-winning stablemate Hurricane Fly and although he was ruled out earlier in the week, the dashing grey Thousand Stars proved an able substitute.

Sent off the well supported 5-4 favourite for his first start since winning the French Champion Hurdle in June, Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old was hurdling fluently out in front and had the strongly fancied Pittoni in trouble from before the turn for home.

Oscars Well loomed up menacingly at the top of the straight but when Walsh asked Thousand Stars to quicken, he soon asserted and he produced a fine leap at the final flight to secure a five-and-a-half length win. Press Association

Today’s best bets, by Chris Cook

The excellent news this morning is that Kauto Star is fine and, according to Paul Nicholls, showing almost no sign of what looked a hard race in winning the Betfair at Haydock on Saturday. It is really exciting to think of him taking on Long Run and Master Minded in the King George at Boxing Day and I don’t think I would care to choose between them.

That being said, anyone who fancies Kauto Star to win the Kempton race for a fifth time might be best to wait until the day before backing him. He has been remarkably sound through his career and we hope it will continue to be so but, even aside from the usual injury concerns about any veteran chaser, there must be a chance that at some stage Nicholls and Clive Smith, the horse’s owner, may decide to keep him fresh for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The King George is only five weeks away and it may be that, at this stage of his career, Kauto Star benefits from more of a gap between his races.

Today’s best racing is at Punchestown, where Oscars Well (2.10) has a fine chance to land the Morgiana Hurdle in the absence of Hurricane Fly. A really impressive winner of Leopardstown’s Deloitte, which is nearly always a decent race, he was unlucky not to win the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival, when he landed awkwardly over the last and lost all chance. He will be much sharper for his reappearance run, when he blew up on the run-in, and is over-priced at 2-1 against three rivals. Pittoni is on the up but still has a lot to prove in this company.

The Craddockstown Novice Chase is another influential race and Noel Meade, who won it last year with Realt Dubh, may follow up with Monastrell (1.10), who finally showed signs of a professional approach when scoring over fences at Naas last month. At the expected odds of around 9-2, he is preferred to Lucky William, whose recent form figures might give an exaggerated impression of his ability.

The application of ear plugs has got Renard (2.30) to settle and he may get a third win on the bounce for Venetia Williams. The two miles at Lingfield looked a touch on the sharp side for him last time but Exeter is more of test. He is still well treated on an 8lb higher mark.

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Talking Horses

Talking Horses: The latest news and best bets in our daily horse racing blog

Diamond Harry (3.05) can continue his ascendancy to the top of the chasing tree by overturning reigning Gold Cup hero Long Run when the pair clash in the Betfair Chase at Haydock this afternoon.

The achievement of the amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen in winning at Cheltenham in March can never be taken away, nor can anyone denigrate the performance of the horse who destroyed a high-class field with a display of fluid jumping and relentless galloping.

However, as a new season starts for Long Run, it is right and proper for the punter to assume a cautious approach and the horse now has to show all over again exactly what he is capable of doing. He wouldn’t be the first Gold Cup winner on whom the race leaves an indelible mark.

Furthermore, Long Run clearly won’t be at concert-pitch for this return to action, with his trainer Nicky Henderson transparent about the fact that the King George at Kempton and Cheltenham are the premier targets later in the campaign.

In contrast, Diamond Harry has an excellent record when fresh, and is also unbeaten in two previous visits to the track. Even fears that the ground might be quick enough for Diamond Harry were allayed yesterday when the clerk of the course, Kirkland Tellwright, changed the going report during racing from good to good to soft after consultation with jockeys. Any further showers will tip the balance further in the selection’s favour.

While Diamond Harry is perfectly capable of performing at a high level on the back of a break, Time For Rupert will surely have come on for his recent reappearance behind Weird Al in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. Time For Rupert’s measured jumping and bottomless stamina reserves are admirable qualities, but changes to the layout of the course in recent years at Haydock mean that speed is a more important factor than ever before. That will count against Time For Rupert, who may be seen to better effect at a more galloping track and over tougher fences.

Ascot 2.10 Having got within inches of beating Master Minded at this track off level weights last season, over a slightly longer trip and with a 4lb swing in his favour, Somersby must have a fine chance of getting the better of his old rival. His jumping was as slick as ever when blowing away the cobwebs recently at Kempton.

Haydock 2.30 Despite being burdened with top weight, a big run from Knockara Beau wouldn’t surprise in a renewal which has fewer unexposed performers than usual. Generously dropped 5lb since finishing fourth in the Pertemps Final, he ought to enjoy himself over brush hurdles and stays the trip well. Robinson Collonges caught the eye on his reappearance, but he can find much less than expected under pressure and has something to prove.

Ascot 2.45 Anything but disgraced when dropped back to two miles for the Champion Hurdle last season, this kind of intermediate trip is probably ideal for Oscar Whisky, who has the scope to still make further improvement this season. Overturn will always be dangerous if getting an uncontested lead, but that may not be so easy with Lough Derg also in the line-up.

Ascot 3.20 Anquetta appears to hold a few of these on recent course-and-distance form, but Torphichen has a fair chance of overturning those placings on 8lb better terms for six and a half lengths. Alan King’s runner is also tried in a visor for the first time and may be the sort of horse to find his spark again in headgear.

Haydock 3.40 Two spins over hurdles in recent weeks ought to ensure that Killyglen comes here with fitness on his side and the booking of the champion jockey also takes the eye. He was still in contention when falling four out in last season’s Grand National and Aintree will surely be on the agenda again next year, but an ordinary handicap such as this should be within his grasp in the meantime off a reasonable-looking mark.

Horse sense

The days of Large Action and Cruising Altitude grow ever more distant, but Oliver Sherwood’s team have enjoyed a good run and the trainer has some decent horses to look forward to at present.

The smart hurdler Clerks Choice has recently joined Sherwood’s yard, while Global Power (2.30) also has a great deal of potential and should go well in the valuable Betfair Hurdle at Haydock today.

He failed to jump as well as connections were hoping when second on his reappearance, but Sherwood believes these brush hurdles should help him learn to arch his back before he goes over fences.

The big race is undoubtedly one to look forward to, but it isn’t easy to call. Long Run is fit enough to do himself justice and has been receiving plenty of schooling, both with and without the supervision of Yogi Breisner, in a bid to iron out the jumping mistakes that were still occasionally apparent last season.

However, he will come on for the run and Paul Nicholls is adamant that he has got Kauto Star fully tuned and ready, while Time For Rupert has also come on considerably for his recent return and could well reverse form with Weird Al.

Nicholls has developed a good relationship with Betfair and will be keen to win with Indian Daudaie (12.50) for the Timeform Betfair Racing Club. Rileyev (3.20) took the eye the other day and better is expected at Ascot for the trainer Venetia Williams.

It’s never easy for previous winners under a penalty in bumpers, but John Ferguson’s team have been profitable to follow this season and Population (3.55) appeared to score despite the ridiculously slow early pace rather than as a result of it over course and distance last time.

Seen and heard

The announcement on Wednesday that 17-year-old jockey Harry Derham was to relinquish his amateur status might not have seemed so surprising, had it not directly contradicted opinions expressed by the rider after his big-race victory aboard Brampour at Cheltenham 72 hours earlier. “I won’t be turning conditional in the near future,” he had said. “I want to carry on getting experience from riding in hunter chases and point-to-points. Everyone says that there’s no rush for me.” Clearly, “everyone” had changed their minds after seeing just how tidy Derham looked in victory.

New speed limits have been introduced in Newmarket in a bid to minimise the risk to racehorses and riders who have to cross busy roads in order to access the gallops. As well as cutting the maximum speed on the Bury Road and Moulton Road to 30mph, increased police patrols at the horse crossings have been promised, but locals could be forgiven for being cynical with the local police station building reportedly up for sale.

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Talking Horses: The latest news and best bets in our daily horse racing blog