Thursday, February 25, 2010

Premier County set for Premier Victory


In what is a very competitive €40,000 Grade 2 Michael Purcell Novice Hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs today at Thurles, the 140-rated mare Premier Victory looks to follow up an 11 length success at Cork against a useful field of 7. With a tongue tie installed today, she has won 5 races thus far and is a current 20/1 chance for Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle on Gold Cup day.


The versatile mare (pictured above), trained by Tom Hogan and ridden by John Cullen will start around the 5/2 mark for todays race and although she steps up in class the ground and trip are sure to suit and she looks well weighted. A winner over 3 miles in Cork and 2 miles in Down Royal in a Mares Novice Hurdle, she is improving and should account for the challenges of Western Leader andQuadrillon.


Shark Hanlons Western Leader, a stylish bumper performer last season won a maiden hurdle by a short head in December when strongly pressed by Acapulco (an odds-on winner since, beating The Book Thief). The distance will suit and the 6 year old Gelding by Stowaway will make it a race of it for Premier Victory.


Quadrillon commenced the season with a facile maiden hurdle win over 2 miles 4 furlongs at odds of 1/3 in Cork last November. This success was at the same meeting that Premier Victory scored by 11 lengths over 3 miles. He has raced twice since, finishing well down the field at Limerick over 2 miles 3 furlong when 7/4 favourite and beaten third of five in Clonmel over 2 miles 6 furlongs two weeks ago.


Nenagh-based Tom Hogan, trainer of former stars Kalderon and Silver Jaro will have Premier Victory primed today and it would come as no surprise of she was to run out an easy winner on the soft turf of Thurles at around 2pm this afternoon.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

McCoy partners Dr.Whizz



Fourteen-time Champion Jockey, Tony McCoy (pictured left with wife Chanelle at the Lesters) pays a visit to Fairyhouse today to ride three JP McManus horses, all three trained by three different trainers.
In the opening race of the day, Solerina's Restaurant Maiden hurdle, he rides the Francis Flood-trained In Great Form who was beaten 23 lengths by Grey Soldier on his only start to date.

McCoy will ride likely favourite Donoughmore in the third race, a Novice Handicap Hurdle, Donoughmore, trained by Tucker Carberry has yet to win in 10 starts, he was a head second last time out and is 2lb worse off today but even though todays race is a more open affair, Donoughmore should be placed in the top two given his latest effort.


Tom Mullins supplies McCoy with his most likely winner of the day in the €14,000 Corporate Hospitality Hurdle over 2 miles. Mullins trains Dr. Whizz who won his bumper impressively last October by 4 1/2 lengths and stayed on well to beat Puyol by 1/2 length at the Leopardstown festival. Puyol, second to Dunguib earlier in the season has since won the €100,000 MCR hurdle so the form has worked out well. Dr. Whizz should follow up today and make it a hat-trick of wins this season. He is entered in the Supreme Novices Hurdle in Cheltenham where he is a current 25/1 chance.


The biggest challenge to Dr. Whizz lies with the Dermot Weld-trained New Phase, the 123-rated gelding was fourth to Fen Game in Leopardstown over Christmas on his seasonal bow, he is a dual flat winner by Spectrum and a likely improver but may have to yield to McCoy today.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Master Minded Hat Trick

Cheltenham 2010
Wednesday March 17th - Day Two

15:20 - Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Champion Chase – 2 miles

Prize Money £320,000

Preview:
In the summer of 2007, Clive Smith, owner of Kauto Star, reputedly paid over €300,000 to acquire a three year old French Chaser who clearly impressed him to cough up a sum reserved for flat horses. (By contrast War of Attrition was purchased for €15,000, Istabraq for €57,000). The horse Smith bought was Master Minded, he joined the powerful Paul Nicholls yard and on his race debut, a four runner graduation chase, he started at odds of 8/13 favourite and promptly unseated rider Sam Thomas at the third fence.

8 wins later including a Victor Chandler Chase, Tingle Chase, Kerrygold Champion Chase and the small matter of two Queen Mother Chase victories, the early career setback is long forgotten and Paul Nicholls has said on several occasions that “He’s the best I’ve trained, and probably the best I’ll ever train”


This year, Master Minded is seeking his third successive win in the Champion Chase, a feat only achieved by one other horse, Badsworth Boy (1983-85). There have been plenty of double wins in the race including Moscow Flyer, Hilly Way and Viking Flagship. Master Minded achieved his first win in the Queen Mother Chase when demolishing the then-champion, Voy Por Ustedes by 19 legths. In 2009, Master Minded won the race again at odds of 4/11 by 7 lengths. This season he was third in his debut, he was subsequently found to have a broken rib yet still finished within 3 lengths of the winner. His last race, the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase saw him coast to victory by 13 lengths, he did make a bad mistake at the last but jockey Ruby Walsh accepted full responsibility for that blunder. Well Chief, the horse that beat Master Minded earlier this season is a 33-1 chance; the second horse that day, Mahogany Blaze is 100-1 while Master minded is currently the 4-5 favourite for the race.

Kalahari King, who was a short-head second to Forpadydeplasterer in last years Arkle, raced once this season to date, winning a Handicap Chase in early February, still he was fourth in a supreme novices hurdle but might not possess the class of Master Minded. He is also 9 and in a race suited to younger horses (Just one winner older than 10 since 1997) so his chance might have passed.

Irelands strongest challenge will come from the giant Big Zeb, he won the Grade 2Fortria Chase in Navan as well as the Paddy Power Dial-a-bet Chase and the Swordlestown Cup but his race record in England reads 4/F, he fell in the Champion Chase last year and was beaten 33 lengths by Twist Magic in this year’s Tingle Creek. He was a head second to Master Minded in last years Kerrygold Champion Chase but can be prone to jumping errors.

Twist Magic a faller in last years renewal of the Champion Chase, sixth the year before and a faller in an his Arkle does not seem to get around Cheltenham very well. He has won a Kerrygold Champion Chase and this year’s Tingle Creek and Victor Chandler Chase but ultimately I cannot see any other result than a steering job for Ruby Walsh aboard Clive Smiths gelding and in Master Minded succeeding in a well-deserved Queen Mother hat trick.

Race facts:
• All of the last 31 winners finished placed at worst last time out.
• 9 of the last 11 Arkle Trophy winners were 1st or 2nd in this race the next year.
• 26 of the last 28 winners started at single-figure odds.
• 19 of the last 25 winners had been placed at the Festival before.

Tip: Master Minded (pictured below)



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Champion Hurdle Preview

15:20 Champion Hurdle - 2miles 1/2f

Preview:


This year’s Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle, the showcase event on Day 1 of the festival is an open affair. In the renewal, Solwhit, Zaynar, Go Native, Binocular each have very real chances, they are racing in the company of previous winners Punjabi and Katchit and Sublimity.


Tony McCoy believes last year’s 6-4 Champion Hurdle favourite Binocular to be a serious contender for the race; he is currently 8-1 for the renewal. The French-bred Gelding has won just once since November 2008, the same year he finished second in the Supreme Novices Hurdle to Captain Cee Bee.


The diminutive Katchit claimed his last victory also in 2008 and Punjabi’s last victory came in the 2009 renewal of the Champion Hurdle. Sublimity, the 2007 winner of this race has won just once in three years, a victory at the December Festival Hurdle in 2008. This year’s campaign has seen him place twice behind Solwhit and once behind Go Native.


Six of the last ten winners have been trained in Ireland, Solwhit and Go Native represents the strongest Irish challenge this year. Slight preference must go to the winner of the Aintree hurdle and Irish Champion Hurdle, the Charles Byrnes trained Solwhit who is a tough, intelligent horse. Solwhit races consistently well in Grade 1 company and is a worthy favourite for this year’s race.
Last year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle winner, Go Native, trained by Noel Meade has beaten Solwhit this term in the Fighting Fifth hurdle in Newcastle (at odds of 25-1) and he also beat Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. He has a serious chance in the Champion Hurdle and stays on well in latter parts of races

Zaynar, a 5 year old trained by Nicky Henderson and winner of last years Triumph Hurdle is still unbeaten in all his starts over timber. He has won at distances of 2 miles to 2 miles 4 furlongs and possesses a very fast turn of foot. However, mindful of his age, It may be worth noting that Katchit who won the race in 2008 was the first 5 year old to do so since 1985

Solwhit, with several big runs under his belt is taken to keep improving and take the Champion Hurdle title his jockey Davy Russell was also quoted as saying after his last race that “The hill at Cheltenham is tailor-made for him".

Few would discount his chances.

Race facts:
• Out of the last 25 winners of the Champion hurdle, 22 of them won their previous race.
• Champion Hurdle past winners, have often come back and completed the double. The most recent of these was Hardy Eustace in 2004 and 2005.
• Four out of the past ten winners have been favourite in the Champion Hurdle betting.
• There have been only three winners over the age of 8 for the last 58 years.
• Over the last seventeen runnings of the race, fourteen of the winners have won or been second at the Cheltenham Festival before.

Tip: Solwhit (pictured below)



Arkle Preview

14:05 Arkle Challenge Trophy - 2 miles


Preview:
Former 2008 champion hurdle favourite Sizing Europe bids to win his fifth consecutive race over fences and extend his unbeaten streak this season. Sizing Europe, trained by Henry De Bromhead has won 4 chases this campaign by an aggregate total of 33 lengths; he is an accurate, speedy jumper and could prove hard to beat.


The JP McManus owned Captain Cee Bee has outstanding previous Cheltenham form having won the Supreme Novices Hurdle in 2008. Captain Cee Bee beat the useful Zaarito and An Cathaoir Mór (all winners since) last December and looked to have the measure of Sizing Europe when he fell at the last in a race won by Henry de Bromhead’s stable star. On his last start, a 13 length demolition of Fosters Cross, Captain Cee Bee booked his place in the Arkle where he is currently the 7-2 favourite.


French import, Long Run won the Grade 1 Feltham Novices Chase by an impressive 14 lengths on St. Stephens Day and although he is only a 5 year old, he is the progressive sort and trainer Nicky Henderson believes he can improve further.


However, as he is now a 9 year old, Captain Cee Bee may have to settle for second best on the day as Sizing Europe should have enough class and potential to continue his successful career over fences at the highest level.


Race facts
• The Arkle is run over the Old Course in Cheltenham and remains the most prestigious and valuable event for leading two-mile novice chasers
• Horses aged 7 and under have the best record in the race. 4 out of the past 5 winners were 7 year olds
• In 2002, Moscow Flyer became the only 8 year old to have won the race since 1990.


Tip: Sizing Europe (below)



Preview - Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle

14:05 Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle- 2 miles 5 furlongs
Prize Money £100,000


Preview:
Previously known as the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle and the Ballymore Properties Hurdle, the Neptune Investments Novices Hurdle is a Grade 1 hurdle run over two miles and five furlongs. It is open to novices aged four years old and upwards. Past winners have included, Danoli, Monsignor, Mikael D'Haguenet in 2009 as well as future Champion Hurdle winners Hardy Eustace and the mighty Istabraq.

Being a novice event, the race favours 6 year olds; in fact just 1 winner from over 100 runners since 1974 was aged older than 6 and 7 out of the last 10 winners were 6 years of age. The current favourite for the race is the Dermot Weld-trained Rite Of Passage. Certainly at face value, the son of Giant's Causeway is indeed a worthy one, he was an almost unbackable 5-2 favourite when third in last year’s Champion Bumper to Dunguib.

This season, Rite of Passage proved his ability when slamming the useful Donnas Palm by 8 lengths in the November Handicap and then beat the useful (and subsequent winner) Grey Soldier in a maiden hurdle in January by 3 lengths (it was a significant 14 lengths back to the third horse).

Willie Mullins who saddled the 2008 and 2009 winners of this race has entered the French-bred Quel Esprit. This gelding was Mullins chief bumper horse last year and was 2 lengths behind Rite of Passage in the Champion Bumper. He quickly won a bumper last April before winning two hurdle races over 2 miles 4 furlongs and 3 miles respectively. Although he was beaten ½ a length at odds of 3/10 in a grade 2 hurdle in January at Leopardstown, any cut in the ground will suit him and this Mullins horse cannot be ignored.

The Irish-Bred Finian’s Rainbow who is trained by Nicky Henderson represents the strongest English challenge; he won his bumper by 6 lengths and his maiden hurdle by 15. He was third to Reve de Sivola the Grade 1 Challow Novices Hurdle in Newbury in December and has since been put away for this race. Interestingly, Reve de Sivola, who was sixth in last years Triumph Hurdle is a bigger price for the race than Finian’s Rainbow (12/1 versus 10/1)

Rite of Passage, at current odds of 7-2, is on the short side for the race but favourites have been successful in 13 of the 37 runnings (a strike rate of 35%) and the horse has talent in abundance and should take all the beating. He ticks all the right boxes, he is a 6 year old, progressive; he jumps smartly from what we have seen of his one start over hurdles and he has swerved the Supreme Novices hurdle in favour of this race, whether that is to avoid Dunguib or to run over the longer distance remains to be seen but he is tipped to be the fourth successful Irish winner in this race over the past five years.


Race facts
• 22 of the last 24 winners started in the first 6 in the betting.
• Ruby Walsh has taken two race wins during the past five years
• 25 of the last 26 winners won or came 2nd on their most recent start.
• Over 80% of recent winners finished placed in their last event prior to contesting this race


Tip: Rite of Passage (pictured below)

Monday, February 15, 2010

War wins Battle of the Boyne




Attrition (noun) : constant wearing down to weaken or destroy

(Mourad pictured above, goes down by a head to War of Attrition.)

In the €50,000 Ladbrokes.com Boyne Hurdle at Navan yesterday, a race where the average participants age was 7.5, the 11 year old veteran War of Attrition defied his younger pretenders and the sustained efforts of Ruby Walsh aboard Mourad to claim a second win over hurdles in three weeks. Under a protracted ride from David Casey, War of Attrition had a 2 length advantage jumping the last and the 2006 Gold Cup winner lived up to his name and prevailed by a head to 11-10 favourite, Mourad.

War of Attrition was giving Mourad half a stone in weight but he put his head down in real battling fashion and ground out a deserved victory from the son of Sinndar. It was 9 lengths back to last years Coral Cup winner, Ninetieth Minute who tailed off badly when his leg bandage unfurled after 4 out.

Winning the Galmoy Hurdle in Gowran last time out under similar front-running tactics, the switch back to hurdles has been a success for the Mouse Morris gelding. Renowned as a hardy staying chaser, who has had a long career break due to a prolonged foreleg tendon problem, War of Attritions last victory over hurdles before last months Galmoy Hurdle win came in December 2003 when he beat Mac's Joy, himself a former AIG Europe Champion Hurdle winner.

Sporting cheekpieces, yesterdays gamey victory has demonstrated he is back to full race fitness and the the Grand National is now being strongly considered for Mouse Morris' charge. He has been slashed from 33/1 into 16/1 for the race.

If he turns out for the Aintree showcase, he will then be retired to the rich pastures surrounding Ryaniar Chief, Michael O Leary's Gigginstown House in Delvin, Co. Westmeath.

A deserved fate for a hardy warrior.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Supreme Novices Hurdle Preview

Tuesday March 16th - Day One

13:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle 2m 1/2f

Preview:

2009 Cheltenham Champion bumper winner Dunguib is deserved favourite for the Supreme Novices Hurdle. The 7 year old Philip Fenton trained gelding is unbeaten in all of his hurdle races to date and is expected to prevail and extend his winning run at the festival. Dunguib has yet to come off the bridle over hurdles and while at times, his jumping style appears contemptuous, he has an effortless style of running; he quickens with ease and will be very hard to beat.

Although only four favourites have won in the last 20 years (the last being Brave Inca in 2004), Dunguib is different class to his opposition. The Phillip Hobbs trained Menorah is an interesting prospect, winning the William Hill.com – Bonus 25 Novices Hurdle by 12 lengths at Kempton Park on St. Stephens Day.

Rite of Passage, who finished third in last year’s Champion bumper when favourite, is a very useful horse and won the November Handicap in Leopardstown in 2009 before winning his eagerly awaited first hurdle race by 3 lengths from subsequent winner Grey Soldier.Dunguib however is one of the most talked about horses in years and it is hard to see him not adding the Supreme Novices Hurdle feather to his cap

Race facts:
• 60% of Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winners are aged 5 to 6.
• Irish-trained horses have won seven of the last nine renewals

Tip : Dunguib (pictured below)


Wednesday, February 3, 2010




Joncol

You know honesty when you see it. Trainer Paul Nolan is as honest a man as you can meet, having never sat on a horse until he was 25, he took out a trainer’s license because he had nothing to lose as his livelihood as a farmer was so bad. Nolan, now a multiple Cheltenham, Galway Plate and Grade 1 race winning trainer has one of the most honest horses in training, 7 year old Joncol. Nolan understands that Joncol does not have the class of a Kauto Star or Denman and he proactively swerved entry in the Gold Cup for the shorter, 2mile 5 furlong Ryanair Chase. That race, now in its fifth year is still a valuable Grade one and Joncol is a general 8/1 chance has a very real opportunity of landing the honours.

Before Joncol makes the journey to Cheltenham for the first time, there is the small matter of the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup to contend with, a race which has been his main target for the year. Joncol is 3-1 second favourite for the Hennessy, behind last year’s runaway RSA winner and current 9-4 favourite Cooldine. However Cooldine has yet to win this term, his only outing being in the Lexus Chase where he pulled up before the last. There were excuses that day, Cooldine subsequently had an infection and although trainer Willie Mullins now admits he is very pleased with the horse, he may not be as fit as he can be. Joncol was 7-2 second favourite in the Lexus where he was ridden to the front of the pack and made little of the big fences. He took up the running at the 10th fence and attempted to gallop his rivals into submission. That tactic might have worked had he not made a mistake 3 out, this appeared to be the culmination of the habit of jumping slightly to the right on the day but he was soon back on terms but veered right again after the last fence and was headed 100 yards before the line by the Sir Alex Ferguson owned What A Friend.

Joncol has ran three times this season, in increasing distances each time, he was second to the classy Tranquil Sea in the 2 mile Poplar Square Chase in October, he won the 2 and a half mile John Durkan in early December, staying on under pressure from former Durkan winner ,In Compliance. In the John Durkan, Joncol raced in slipstream of Aran Concerto, he took up the running 4 out where he was briefly shaken up and joined by In Compliance but he responded and battled hard. Rallied by Alain Cawley, he quickened over the last where he was soon clear and won going away by 6 lengths His last run, a game third in the Lexus over 3 miles typifies how the 7 year old Bob’s Return gelding has travelled consistently well in all his races this year. Nolan believes the longer trip suits Joncol, he is after all a former Point to Pointer and the 3 mile 2 furlong distance in the Hennessey is sure to suit.

Joncol is a tough, consistent sort, he stays on strongly under pressure .His record out of 9 runs reads 5 wins and he has placed second and third twice of each. He is progressive; his runs so far this year have shown he stays focused while racing; his regular jockey Alain “Squeaky” Cawley adopts a sensible gameplan, keeping him in a prominent position, out of trouble. He has a realistic chance of winning the Hennessy, and if he improves again the 8-1 for the Ryanair looks tremendous value. Remember he is only 7, there is a bright future for the gelding and he is one to follow, for his cruising speed, his sharp jumping, his grit and if for anything else, his honesty

Monday, February 1, 2010

Zeb making it Big




"If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat." These are words from Herschel Walker, former Heisman Trophy winner and one of American Footballs quickest running backs. Walker was somewhat of an anomaly as he one of the few professional football players to become successful without the use of weight training. Rather than a heavy weight room regimen, Walker used bodyweight exercises, and calisthenics, it was said that rather than lift weights, he would do thousands of pushups and situps every day, all the while maintaining 2% body fat.

As was the case with Mr. Walker, training hard often requires the repetition of difficult tasks, Colm Murphy, trainer of Big Zeb understands the process well. Training at a fundamental level, exists to eliminate weaknesses and improve strengths. The trainer of Champion Hurdle winner, Brave Inca, has another star in his select yard, who requires a little extra training, on his jumping, the horse ? A giant 9 year old gelding - Big Zeb. Despite the geldings early chasing career almost twinning that of the famous Moscow Flyer (who for a long while, like clockwork, unseated his rider every third race), he is on of Irelands best two mile chasers. Big Zebs first ten chases read: F1F2211FF2. He is still a remarkable animal however, twenty starts, fifteen top three placings (7 wins, 7 seconds, 1 third) and four falls. He has only been out of the placings once in his career, in the 2009 Tingle Creek, when 4th and 15/8 favourite.

He has won the Paddy Power Chase, The Swordlestown Chase and the Fotria Chase, amassing a shade over €301,000 in total prize money for owner Patrick Redmond. Big Zeb, now 9, is a massivily proportioned son of Oscar. He has always kept classy company, meeting and losing to Captain Cee Bee in a bumper and beaten by Sizing Europe and Catch Me over hurdles. Yesterday, Big Zeb's odds for the Queen Mother Chase collapsed from 10-1 into 5-1. He is now joint second favourite with Twist Magic behind the 13-8 hat-trick seeking Master Minded. The reason for the disintegration in his odds was a 7 length demolition of Willie Mullins Golden Silver in Punchestown yesterday in the Grade Two Tied Cottage Chase. Big Zeb, ridden by Barry Geraghty put in a crisp display of jumping, the penny has clearly dropped with this horse as regards his jumping, trainer Colm Murphy noted "We have done a lot of schooling with him at home"

On the day, his jumping was accurate and he is a live contender for the Queen Mother, Irelands leading hope many would agree.
Finishing at odds of 5-4, he was second favourite behind the 9-10 favourite Golden Silver (who in 2009, beat Forpadydeplasterer, Watson Lake and Tranquil Sea). Big Zeb was primed for yesterdays race, trainer Colm Murphy deliberately swerved the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Christmas. There was a beautiful fluidity in his jumping yesterday, free from the jumping errors that have marred his efforts previously. He put in some giant leaps around Punchestown yesterday and gained huge yardage leaping over fences in the back straight, Geraghty never reached for his whip once, he gave the gelding a patient, confident ride, it seemed they enjoyed their time around the course, both knowing the ability of the other.

Also, Moscow Flyer won the Tied Cottage in 2003 and 2005, the Flyer won the Queen Mother in the same years, can Big Zeb emulate this success ? You wouldn't write him off , but for now it's back to training and sharpening, repeating and preparing. If he races as well as he can race, Master Minded could be vulnerable as he was last year when only prevailing by a head at odds of 3-10, beating Big Zeb by a head in the Kerrygold Champion Chase.

Colm Murphy has translated the work carried out in his training fields of Wexford into the winners enclosure of Prestbury Park. In Box 30 of his yard where Big Zeb is stationed and self admittedly the best jumper he has ever trained, this could be a very big year for a very Big Zeb.