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February 23rd

Kempton (Going; Good)

Pendil Novices Chase (2m4f110y)
Just four go to post for this Grade 2 and Bags Grove drops back in trip after a disappointing run behind La Bague Au Roi her at Christmas. Prior to that he had run up a hat trick including beating Secret Investor at Wincanton over this trip on Good Ground. The latter has been runner up on both his chase starts, finishing behind OK Corral over 3m at Warwick last month. Castafiore has won her last two over fences. At Haydock the last time she had some useful hores behind and could be improving. Good Man Pat is another who is improving having won his last start at Plumpton. Bags Grove is the highest rated but Castafiore gets 7LB from him and might cause a surprise.
Selection; Castafiore
Best Alternative; Secret Investor

Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (2m)
Thirteen go to post for this Grade 2 and it's probably a race to watch rather than play in. The fact that it's 9/2 and better the field tells it's own story and the betting market should be watched. Nicky Henderson always has to be respected in these contests and Fusil Raffles has his first start for him here having won once and finished second in two starts in France. Giving Glances has won two of her three starts, both on good ground. All three of her runs have been against her own sex so it's hard to know how she'll fare against the boys. Paul Nicholls has won this twice with Hurdles debutants and Ecco has a similar profile here. He was disappointing in the German Derby on his last run in July and has been gelded since. Nicholls also has Red Force Run who is having his second run back after a wind op. His last start was a nice warm up when finishing second in a flat race at Kempton. Petite Palais won his only start over Hurdles and was bought out of John Gosden's for £26,000. Plenty of others have potential to improve but I 'll take a chance with Red Force One although caution is advised.
Selection; Red Force One
Best Alternative; Fusil Raffles

Dovecote Noices Hurdle (2m)
Angels Breath won his only start in a Point over 3m and then was thrown in at the deep end at Ascot in a Grade 2  over 2m but only had to jump four hurdles when beating Danny Kirwan. Having finished second in this on his Hurdles debut last year, Scarlet Dragon was beaten a long way on soft at Liverpool. He was then kept busy on the Flat and is rated 106. He resumed hurdling at Huntingdon last month and won by over 4L. He took a keen hold that day and made a few mistakes but should be sharper now, The runner up won next time as did the fourth. The above two are clear of the rest in the betting but I wouldn't discount Southfield Stone who won a Bumper and two hurdles before finishing over 3L behind Elixir De Nutz at Sandown. He got beating on his last start over 2m3f just over 1L by a horse who was getting 7LB. The drop back in trip here is interesting. Rouge Vif has plenty of experience and has won two and place second twice in his five starts over hurdles. There is plenty of support for Scarlet Dragon but I think Southfield Stone is overpriced at 12/1 (William Hill and Bet 365) and could be a bit of Each Way Value
Selection; Southfield Stone (Each Way)
Best Alternative; Scarlet Dragon











February 17th

Navan (Going; Good)

Boyne Hurdle (2m5f)
Just the six declared for this Grade 2 Hurdle including Tiger Roll and and 14yo Bless The Wings who are surely ust having a blow out prior to Cheltenham. Back in November 2017 Off You Go ran off a mark of 107 when he won a Handicap Hurdle by 13L and has won three of his four subsequent starts and now runs off 151. On his last start he gave Jezki 5LB and a 1L beating in the Ladbroke Hurdle over 2m at Leopardstown a fortnight ago flying from the back in the last furlong. Mark Walsh was pushing and kicking from a long way out and he passed about ten horses in the last furlong suggesting he can take the step up in trip here. Bachasson started off winning his first four hurdles before mixed form in Grade 1's culminating in an unseated rider at the last in the Albert Bartlett in Cheltenham 2016. He went chasing the and following a fall on debut won three of his next four reaching a rating of 159 before falling in last years Gold Cup. He resumed in December at Punchestown beating Darasso, who was giving hin 8LB, over 2m4f. The latter was a very impressive winner of the Grade 3 at Gowran Park today. Cracking Smart was a useful novice winning twice before runnin up to Next Destination in a Grade 2 and Grade 1. He was off for almost a year before finishing a long way behind Apple's Jade at Leopardstown at Christmas. Whether he'll improve enough from that to be competitive here remains to be seen. Coquin Mans won his first four hurdle starts before finishing second behind Jezki and Melon in a couple of Graded races. He won a Grade 2 t Fairyhouse last Easter over 2m4f. He finished a long way behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy at Gowran on his first run since May. He's never run on Good ground and that's a concern. If Bachasson can run to his chase mark he can win.
Selection; Bachasson
Best Alternative; Off You Go

Ten Up Novice Chase
Six runners for this Grade 2 and three of then are rated 142 while the Favourite, Champagne Classic has had just one run over the larger obstacles and has yet to receive a rating. Reappearing at Naas in January after been off since April 2017, Champagne Classic ran a lovely race until tiring close home to finish just over 1L behind Chris's Dream who was 11L behind the winner Ballyward. Champagne Classic was a useful Novice Hurdler reaching a mark of 145 and seem to go on all sorts of Ground. Prior to that at Navan Chris's Dream beat Gun Digger who then went on to win at Leopardstown. Despite winning two of his four starts over hurdles, Any Second Now has yet to win in eight starts over the larger obstacles. He has run some good races in defeat. On his only start over 3m in the Paddy Power at Christmas he seemed set to mount a challenge when blundering badly at the last. He wasn't knocked about after that and ran on again to be fifth. Blow By Blow has been very disappointing since finishing second to Some Neck at Punchestown in November and is best watched. He was pulled up behind Ballyward at Naas as was Moonshine Bay.  Any Second Now looks decent value and gets the nod.
Selection; Any Second Now
Best Alternative; Champagne Classic










February 16th

Ascot (Good To Soft)

Reynoldstown Novices Chase (2m7f180y)
Only five go to post for this Grade 2 but it looks an open enough affair with two 5/2 joint favourites in the early betting. Since going chasing this season Mister Mallarkey has been a much improved horse. He's won two of his three starts and finished third on Soft ground which was probably not his preferred surface as both his wins have come on Good ground. The ground is officially Good to Soft as I write on Friday afternoon but with the drying conditions it should improve by post time. Top Ville Ben is another whose form has been turned inside out since going Chasing having fallen twice and been pulled up once in his last four starts over hurdles. He tends to blast off in front and was a bit flattered by the winning margin the last day where the favourite made a few mistakes and his closest rival fell three out. Yalltari fell at the first on his last start having won and been second on his previous two starts over fences where he raced prominently. He won three of his five starts over hurdles but they were all on Soft or Heavy ground. Now McGinty is another who likes to race prominently and having unseated on his chase debut he then finished second at Uttoxeter over 2m4f before opening his account at Chepstow last month. It's unusual to see a Paul Nicholls horse the outsider of five in a Graded race. Having won his first two over fences Coup De Pinceau was beaten a long way at Doncaster in December by Rocky's Traesure. In all three races he was up in the van and with four of the five runners showing a preference for racing prominently the race could be set up for Mister Mullarkey who is the selection.
Selection; Mister Mullarkey
Best Alternative; Top Ville Ben

Denman Chase (2m7f180y)
A disappointing field of just four for this Grade 2 and Clan Des Obeaux is short odds on to follow up his King George victory. We can pick holes in the win as a lot of the others just didn't perform but if the handicapper is right, he raised him 13LB for that win, then Terrefort is going to have to find a fair bit to beat him. The latter was very disappointing on his seasonal reappearance but something was obviously amiss and he improved next time to finish a 3L third to Frodon at Cheltenham although receiving 3LB. The other two are well out of it. The Ground for me is a worry for Terrefort and Clan Des Obeaux will be more suited by it.
Selection; Clan Des Obeaux
Best Alternative; Terrefort

Ascot Chase (2m5f)
Six runners for this Grade 1. They've had a tough time with Waiting Patiently this season. After winning last years renewal of this he was off until the King George at Christmas but was badly impeded when Bristol Mai fell at the ninth and unseated Brian Hughes. Having won his seven previous starts he's earned his rating but there are some useful horses here if he isn't in top form. Cyrname finally lived up to connections expectations the last day winning by 21L where he ran very freely and almost looked like he was running away with his jockey. The handicapper hiked him 15LB for that which puts him within 5LB of Waiting Patiently. It looked like Politologue failed to stay the trip in the King George having beaten Charbel over this course and distance in a hard fought duel on his seasonal return in November. Fox Norton made a pleasing return after a thirteen month break when finishing 7L behind Altior over an inadequate trip here in January. He should improve for that but his trainer thinks he will improve for this run. Charbel is the lowest rated horse in the race. He won next time out after the Politologue race but was over 5L behind Top Notch at Kempton last month. Aso has won his two starts since resuming in November after a thirteen month lay off. He still has a few pounds to find on ratings and I wonder if he can as a 9yo. Cyrname ran without the hood the last day and it's left off again here. However this is a tougher task here and the race could be set up nicely for Waiting Patiently.
Selection; Waiting Patiently
Best Alternative; Politologue

Haydock (Going; Good To Soft)

Rendlesham Hurdle (3m58y)
Yanworth is reported to be working as well as ever and his nearest rivals on ratings have question marks. Clyne has shown jhis best form on soft or heavy while Kilcooley hasn't been seen since pulling up in the Stayers at Cheltenham three years ago. Donna's Diamond has been way below his hurdles form since going chasing so it all looks set up for Yanworth
Selection; Yanworth
Best Aternative; Clyne

Prestige Novice Hurdle (3m58y)
Ten runners so  chance for EW punters in this Grade 2 which is a trial for the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham. Kateson probably has the best form in the race having won his first two starts over hurdles before going down by just over 3L to Champ over 2m4f at Newbury in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle. Champ is favourite for the Ballymore at the Festival and while this is a step up in trip for Kateson his dam on over 3m2f so it should be well within his compass.  Stoney Mountain has won two from four over hurdles and was runner up to Beakstown over2m5f at Warwick last time in a Grade 2. Lisnagar Oscar was runner up to Rockpoint in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham over 3m before dropping back to 2m3f and winning at Chepstow. Ask Ben was beaten a head by Beakstown at Newcastle before romping home by 19L over 3m at Ayr. Rockpoint himself was beaten by 10L by Beakstown, who was receiving 5LB , at Warwick in a Grade 2 and carries a penalty. Kateson looks well in here and should oblige.
Selection; Kateson

Wincanton (Going; Good To Soft)

Kingwell Hurdle (1m7f65y)
Just five runners here and Sceau Royal, whose target at Cheltenham is the Queen Mother Chase, reverts to hurdles here. He was probably just below top class over hurdles but the form he showed in the 2017 renewal of this when he ran Yanworth to 2L will see him thereabouts. Vision Des Flos has his second run back after a wind op. He was flattrered by the 2L he finished behind Buveur D'Air at Sandown two weeks ago. He's shown glimpses of form although I think on this Going he might prefer a longer trip. Grand Sancy has been pretty busy and is having his seventh run since October. He's won three times in that period and probably his best performance came in his last run when just bearten by Elixir De Nutz in a Grade 1 Novice at Sandown. He's going the right way and is an interesting runner. The rest look to have a lot to find. It's notable that Daryl Jacob comes here to ride Sceau Royal instead of Ascot.
Selection; Sceau Royal
Best Alternative; Vision Des Flos

Gowran Park (Going; Yielding To Soft)

Red Mills Chase (2m4f)
It's disappointing that Presenting Percy will not be running here and that has left Monalee with a great chance to get back to winning ways. He's back to a trip that many think is his best and with the ground in his favour he ticks plenty of boxes. He did have a couple of falls last year but won two and was runner up to Presenting Percy in the RSA. Those wins came at 2m5f in a Grade 1 wher he beat Al Boum Photo and 2m4f. Killultagh Vic finished just over 1L behind Presenting Percy in the Galmoy Hurdle here last month. This trip is short of his ideal one. Anibale Fly has just his second start since  April and is another who might find the trip on the short side while Edwulf is another who probably needs further. Hopefully Monalee can stay upright and land the spoils.
Selection; Monalee
Best Alternative; Killultagh Vic









February 15th

Sandown (Soft)

Kingmaker Novices Chase (1m7f119y)
A disappointing field of four for this Grade 2. Kashnikov is pretty short in the betting having run his first two starts over fences before going down by just over a length to Dynamite Dollars at Kempton over Christmas. The latter won another Grade 2 at Doncaster subsequently. Connections of Kalashnikov have expressed a preference for going right handed and it's worth noting that he was beaten 4L here over hurdles by Summerville Boy before closing the gap to a neck at Cheltenham. Glen Forsa drops back in trip having won his last two starts over the extended 2m4f and 2m7f and apparently the owners are keen to see how he handles the trip. Dalila Du Seuil had her first start in thirteen months last December after coming over from France where she won a couple of listed hurdles among her three wins. She was on her toes and very keen in the race at Exeter and wears a first time hood here. Nicky Henderson thinks a lot of her as apparently does the handicapper who has already given her a rating of 149 which is just 3LB behind Kalshnikov. Given that she gets the 5LB Mares allowance and should show a lot of improvement from her first run Dalila Du Seuil makes more appeal to me than the favourite.
Selection; Dalila Du Seuil

Jane Seymour Mares Novice Hurdle (2m3f173y)
Queenofhearts beat Danse Idol by just over 1L at Haydock over 2m3f in heavy ground last December. The winner was a bit awkward at the last two and the saddle slipped up the run in but she managed to pull away a bit near the line. The runner up is 5LB better off here and will be suited by the stiffer track according to her trainer. Papagana was closing all the way to the line in the above race to finish about 3L behind the winner having won over this course and distance the time before. Duhallow Gesture won at Taunton eleven days ago and had tform in Bumpers last year. This is a step up but she comes from a stable in form. Liberty Bella has won her last two and is highes rated which puts her well in with the favourite Queenofhearts who has to carry a 5LB penalty. In an open contest slight preference is for Danse Idol
Selection; Danse Idol
Best Alternative; Liberty Bella














February 3rd

Leopardstown (Good To Yielding)

Spring Juvenile Hurdle (2m)
Eleven go to post for this Grade 1 and if the Bookies are to be believed then it's a two horse race with Sir Erec at 7/4 and Tiger Tap Tap 9/4 and 8/1 or better the rest. The latter two were having there first start over Hurdles here at Christmas when Sir Erec when  prevailed by a neck in a terrific battle up the straight. It's possible that Tiger Tap Tap may have needed the run more as that was his first start in 202 days since coming from France where he had just the two runs. In contrast Sir Erec was returning after just 68 days and had the benefit of five previous starts on the flat. Both horses connections were positive about heir horses having improved since and it should be another great battle. Couer Sublime fell at the last when challenging in the Grade 2 here at Christmas but would prefer an ease in the ground. Chief Justice benefited from the fall to finish runner up to the winner Rocky Blue. Filon D'oudairies was a further 11L back. Chief Justice has four wins and two seconds from his six starts over hurdles and looks good each way value. The rest look out of it. Tiger Tap Tap might just reverse placings this time.
Selection; Tiger Tap Tap
Best Alternative; Sir Erec

Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle (2m)
Klassical Dream won his first start in Ireland here at Christmas. He traveled well into the straight and although he made a bit of a hash at the last, Paul Townend only had to give him a couple of smacks and he ran out a comfortable winner with Entoucas, who wears a first time tongue tie here 2L behind . That was Klassical Dream's first run in thirteen months and he should improve. Vision D'Honneur was fourth on his first start since April and he went on to win at Punchestown three weeks ago. Aramon has won three of his five starts over Hurdles and has been given a rating of 146. She beat Sancta Simona by 10L last time and had Triplicate 19L behind. Entoucas looked to be caught for a bit of toe as they turned in the ast day so I think Klassical Dream can confirm places.
Selection; Klassical Dream
Best Alternative; Entoucas E.W.

Flogas Novice Chase (2m5f)
Eight go to post for this Grade 1 and the double Grade 1 Chase winner Delta Work is the slight favourite from La Bague Au Roi who has been a revelation this season since going over fences, winning all three starts and making use of her valuable mares allowance. Delta Work got a boost when Le Reichbourg won again today the two having been separated by half a length in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in early December. Both also won at the Christmas meeting here with Delta Work beating Mortal by 10L over 3m. Winter Escape has been a revelation since coming back from England where he had shown a lot of promise over hurdles but had lots of niggly problems. He's won his last three with the last one being impressive conceding weight all around when winning a Grade 3 Punchestown Handicap with Jetz in receipt of 7LB 15L behind. It has the makings of a cracking contest and while I think Winter Escape has a big win in him the mares allowance might just swing it for La Bague Au Roi who will appreciate this galloping track.
Selection; La Bague Au Roi
Best Alternative; Delta Work

Irish Gold Cup (3m)
Road To Respect was desperately unlucky here the last day having a slight stumble before the third last and then a more serious one before the second last where he lost momentum at a crucial part of the race. He rallied to finish strongly in third behind the winner Kemboy. Prior to that he was an emphatic winner of the JN Wine at Down Royal. Bellshill was 1L behind Road To Respect the last day but had beaten him by 9L at Punchestown last April. Al Boum Photo put the Punchestown debacle behind him when easily accounting for Total Recall on his reappearance at Tramore New Years Day. He has a few F's in his form but when he stands up he is very useful. Monalee beat Al Boum Photo narrowly here last year in the Flogas before finishing a 7L runner up to Presenting Percy in the RSA. He was second here to Kemboy, a head in front of Road To Respect. Anibale Fly would probably prefer more ease in the going while others have a lot of improvement to make on their run behind Kemboy here at Christmas. Road To Respect gets another chance.
Selection; Road To Respect
Best Alternative; Al Boum Photo

EBF Mares Bumper (2m)
Disappointing to see just eight runners for this valuable Grade 2 where Black Type is available. Rebel Og looked good when storming home by 17L on debut at Downpatrick last August over 2m3f on Yielding Ground. She disappointed then in November over 2m on Good Ground at Punchestown failing to quicken and finishing almost 6L behind the winner. The runner up in that Downpatrick race. Neptune, was a subsequent winner but a dismal disappointment in the Grade 1 today. The well bred Santa Rossa caused a shock on her debut when winning impressively on her debut at Fairyhouse in December. Bigbadandbeautiful was was beaten 4L behind The Very Man with Neptune just in front of her on her only start in December while Two Shoe Tom has been second on his last three starts. Jeremy's Flame won the last of her three starts and her third place behind Midnight Run prior to that reads well with the winner beaten just over 4L behind the very impressive Envoir Allen next time. The well bred Botani is having her first start and jockey bookings suggest she's second choice of the Mullins team. It's not a race to be too involved in and market moves should be noted but I'll take a chance that Santa Rosa's win at Fairyhouse was no fluke.
Selection; Santa Rosa
Beat Alternative; Bigbadandbeautiful 










February 2nd

The eagerly awaited Dublin Racing Festival has finally arrived and hopefully it will live up to expectations. The weather is not expected to cause any problems and the Going is Good To Yielding.

Leopardstown (Going; Good To Yielding)

Nathaniel Lacy and Partners Novice Hurdle (2m6f)
Fifteen runners go to post for this Grade 1 and it looks an open affair. Dunvegan was very impressive the last day over 2m4f at Fairyhouse where he jumped and travelled beautifully to stretch away going to the last where his nearest challenger fell, but in truth the winner was never in danger. Commander Of Fleet won his penultimate start over the extended 2m4f at Punchestown but dropped back to tyhe minimum last time in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse where he finished over 8L behind Quick Grabim and gave all the signs that he needed to step up in trip. The Cheltenham Champion Bumper winner Relegate got off the mark over Hurdles at the second attempt in December when despite not fluent over the last two she kept on well for pressure to hang on by half a length. That was over 2m and she definitely needs this step up where the pace will not be as quick which should help her jumping. Ruby Walsh gets the leg up which suggests she's one of the more fancied of the five Mullins runners. Salsaretta beat the useful Felix Desjy over 2m4f on Soft To Heavy at Limerick over Christmas and the latter franked the form since. She's rated 137 and with the 7LB Mares allowance she is in the picture with Patrick Mullins in the plate. The above four are coverd by one point in the betting 4-5/1 and next best at 12/1 is Come To Me who was very disappointing behind Battleoverdoyen at Naas the last day where he took a keen hold. Prior to that he'd won a Bumper and Maiden Hurdle from three starts. The Hood goes on for the first time tomrrow. Defi Bleu is just one win from five over Hurdles when winning his maiden at Navan three starts ago. He's since finished 6L behind Easy Game and under 1L behind Derrinross at Limerick. His win came on Good ground and as he's rated 136 he could be E.W. value. Having scraped home over the minimum trip on seasonal debut at Naas, Rhinestone returned there in December for a Grade 2. He travelled and jumped well until a mistake at the third last. He then got carved up in a sandwich after the second last and Mark Walsh wasn't hard on him after that as he finished 14L behind the winner Easy Game. Getareason went down by almost five lengths to Battleoverdoyen last time at Naas and before that was beaten 2L by Easy Game at the same track. He's won twice over 2m5f and his Bumper win came over the extended 2m1f which suggests this rip will suit. He wears a first time hood but jockey booking's suggest he's down the Mullins pecking order. It's certainly not a race to get carried away in and you can make a case for plenty. In that secenario I generally look for a bit of Each Way value and Rhinestone (14/1 available with Corals and Bet Victor)
Selection; Rhinestone E.W.
Best Alternative; Salsaretta

Irish Champion Hurdle (2m)
Melon ran a career best in finishing a neck behind Buveur D'Air in last season's Champion Hurdle  but the fell at Punchestown. He didn't make his reappearance until Leopardstown at Christmas when he finished over 7L behind stablemate Sharjah in the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle. He was weak in the market that day and made a bad mistake four out and was left on the run to the last with Supasundae, who was unable to quicken running on o be second. He'll come on for the run but his Willie Mullins was quoted during the week saying that he was taking a lot more work now to get fit. Apple's Jade has won her three starts this season by a combined total of 57L. Having beaten Jezki at Navan she went to Fairyhouse for the Hatton's Grace over 2m4f and put up a fantastic performance. She powered past the pacemaker Wicklow Brave coming down from Ballyhack and left the filed for dead finishing 20L in front of Supasundae. She then went to Leopardstown at Christmas where she left Early Doors 26L in his wake over 3m in the Grade 1. The other three Gigginstown runners are up against it. Apple's Jade looks better than ever this season and although this is a drop back to the minimum trip she's not sort of speed and gets the selection.
Selection; Apple's Jade
Best Alterntive; Supasundae

Matheson Bumper (2m)
Nine previous winners among the ten starters for this Grade 1 Bumper and Envoir Allen looks like going off odds on after winning his two starts this season. He was bought for £400,000 after winning his only start in a point a Ballinaboola last February. He should continue to improve and loks a worthy favourite. Mt Leinster is highly regard by the Mullins camp and was impressive winning on his first start by 22L. He then met a good won in Malone Road and was beaten over 8L. he then went to Leopardstown with a hood on and in a slow run race he was unable to quicken and finished just over 1L behind the winner with Meticulous another couple of lengths back in fourth. The latter had won his only other start at Killarney in June on Good ground. Neptune won over 2m4f here at Christmas and dropping back in trip is not ideal but his trainer Dermot Weld says he's improved and strengthened since then and is expecting a good run. Beacon Edge is having his first start since winning a Bumper on Good Gound at Ayr last October, his only start. He was bought out of Gordon Richards' after that for £88k for Gigginstown and while he is well regarded I get the impression he'll come on for it.. It's hard to see past Envoi Allen.
Selection; Envoi Allen
Best Alternative; Neptune E.W.

Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (2m1f)
Min was an emphatic 12L winner over Simply Ned in last years renewal. He got of the mark on bis only start this season in the John Durkan at Punchestown in December getting the better of Shattered Love, who was race fit, by over 1L. Saint Calvados makes his second trip to Ireland in under under three months. He won a Grade 3 at Naas in November where Footpad fell before not handling the right handed Sandown Park in the Tingle Creek, lugging left a lot and finishing 19L behind Altior. He's a strong front running sort so the race won't lack for pace. Simply Ned is another making a return journey across the Irish Sea having beaten Footpad by half a length in a Grade 1 here at Christmas.Special Tiara is 12yo now and it's hard to see him winning although I've no doubt he'll make the running for as long as he can. Castlegrace Paddy has 6L to find with Simply Ned on the Christmas run and would probably prefer more give in the ground while Ordinary World has plenty to find as well. The strong pace that I expect will suit Min.
Selection; Min
Best Alternative; Simply Ned

Arkle Novice Chase (2m1f)
Eight runners declared although Articulum is a doubt as his trainer says he needs soft ground and will walk the course in the Morning. Duca De Thaix is stepping up in class form Handicaps where he has won his last two starts. That's left him on a mark of 151 which puts him in with a chance if running to that or even improving. Knocknanuss fell on his seasonal debut but won his next two starts by a combined margin of 38L. He then met a good one at Plumpton when beaten 7L by the outstanding Master Dino. Leopardstwon will suit him better than Plumpton and he's a bit of a dark horse. Le Richebourg was very impressive over Course and Distance at Christmas where he had Us And Them, Voix Du Reve and Mengli Khan behind and the drop back in trip from the 2m4f of the Drinmore, where he got run out of it close home, suited him better. Paloma Blue beat Moon Over Germany by 6L on his last start over Course and Distance sat Christmas having finished a long way behind on his seasonal debut. He was a very good novice hurdler who can improve on his current mark which would leave him in the mix. Le Richebourg sets the standard and gets the selection.
Selction; Le Richbourg
Best Alternative; Knocnanuss

Sandown  (Going; Good To Soft, Soft in Places)

Scilly Isles Novices Chase (2m4f)
Just five go to post for this Grade 1 and Lostintranslation and Defi Du Seuil resume rivalry followibg their battle at Cheltenham on New Years Day where the former outstayed the latter in the dying stages to win by just over 1L. Neither might be able to beat Vinndication who is unbeaten in seven starts, the last two over fences. Dell Oro faces a huge task while Mulcahys Hill, a horse I've always liked, has his first run back after a wind op. He looks hugely overpriced on his last run where he was beaten 1L by Jerrysback with latter going down by just over 1L to Vinndication next time. Slight preference is for Vinndication to keep the run going while I'll be keeping an eye on Mulcahys Hill
Selection; Vinndication
Best Alternative; Lostintranslation






January 26th

Cheltenham (New Course. Going; Good To Soft)

Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (2m1f)
Nine go to post for this Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) on what is promoted as Cheltenham Trials Day. The Nicky Henderson Adjali is clear favourite on the tissue at 7/4 with 5/1 and longer the rest. Having arrived from France where he was one from three and placed in the other two he put in an eye catching performance on his first British start at Market risen when sauntering home by 13L. He re-apeared three weeks later having been gelded and went down by a neck to Quel Destin in a Grade 1 at Chepstow. That was a turn around of their French form and perhaps the softer ground compared to Market Rasen didn't help. According to his Trainer, Alan King, Our Power is one of his best juvenile hurdlers. In between his two wins oner Hurdles he was second to Fanfan Du Seuil beaten by an easy 5L. The latter went on to finish runner up to Nelson River by 1L giving him 3LB over this Course and Distance in December in a race where Protektorat blundered badly and unseated at the fourth fence having gone off 5/2fav. Fakir D'oudairies travels over for Joseph O'Brien having won his only start since coming from France where he failed to win in five starts. That win came at Cork three weeks ago on soft ground. Dogon has his first start for Paul Nicholas having broken his Maiden on his fifth start in France last November. Fine Brunello is another Joseph O'Brien horse and he was a 6L fourth to stablemate Band Of Outlaws at Christmas. That was his first run since mid-september when he had his third start in France winning a bumper on his second run. He looks the pick of the two O'Neill runners going on jockey bookings while the curiously named Fukuto is the rank outsider. Adjali just failed to deliver for us the lat day and gets another chance here.
Selection; Adjali
Best Alternative; Protektorat

Cotswold Chase (3m1f56y)
Just six go to post here but it's an intriguing contest with Frodon, who has a good record on the New course, facing Elegant Escape , whose been running well following a wind op but has disappointed in two starts on the new course and Terrefort who had the former 13L behind at Aintree in April but finished 50L behind him in an astounding turnaround at Sandown in November.  The Aintree run came before Elegant Escape's wind op but the distance was a bit exaggerated as Terrefort hit two out and was virtually pulled up after that and was found to be sore behind by the Vet afterwards. Valtor won his only start since coming over from France when beating Jammin Masters by 8L at Ascot last month. He's had fifty one starts under rules in France and that was his first win since October 2016. Minella Rocco has his first start since falling at Leopardstown in February and a subsequent wind op. Frodon's record around here swings it for me.
Selection; Frodon
Best Alternative; Terrefort
 
The Classic Novices Hurdle (2m4f56y)
Just the six runners for this Grade 2 but another fascinating contest. Birchdale is favourite following his victory over stablemate Clarendon Street at Warwick in December on his only start under rules.. Barry Geraghty didn't have to be tooo strenuous on him and he ran out a 4L winner with the runner up hosing in by 10L next time. He won his only point and was bought privately by current connection while the runner up Blazer's Mill was sold at Auction for £160,000. Brewin'Upastorm has won a point, Bumper and Novice Hurdle from five starts. On his last outing he was a 4L fourth to the highly regarded Champ in a Grade 1 at Newbury. Jarveys Plate is progressing nicely. On his penultimate run he was beaten just under 2L on Good ground here over 2m1f by Elixir De Nutz. The latter then went on to win the gRADE 1 Tolworth Hurdle earlier this month. Jarveys Gate returned here just over three weeks ago when winning by 13L over course and distance in a Listed race. He has to carry a 5LB penalty for that win. The other three have to make a big step up to figure and of them Buster Valentine is the most interesting. Hopefully Jarveys Plate can concede the 5LB to some talented rivals.
Selection; Jarveys Plate
Best Alternative; Brewin'Upastorm

Cleeve Hurdle (2m7f213y)
A good field of twelve for this Grade 2 and some decent horses at fancy prices. Black Op attracted a lot of money early for this coming in from 6/1 into 4/1. He's riveting to the smaller obstacles after a lack of fluency over the larger obstacles spoiled his chances in what were other wise decent runs. He ended up last season winning the Grade 1 Novices Hurdle at Aintree which followed to runner up spots behind Santini and Samcro.. He steps up to this trip for the first time. Midnight Shadow is a progressive sort who has won his last two starts, the last one a Grade 2 on this course over 2m4f110y where he had Wholestone just over 2L behind. Paisley Park has won his three starts this season the last one a Grade 1 at Ascot where he had West Approach, who was reverting to Hurdles after disappointing over fences, 2L behind. Paisley Park started off the season on a mark of 140 and is now rated 156. His trainer Emma Lavelle feels there is more still to come. Aux Ptits Soins is lightly raced and was off the track fromApril 2017 until last November when he ran fifth of twelve in a Handicap Hurdle. He the won over this course and distance on New Year's Day carrying 11-4. Unowhatimeanharry fell at the seventh of twelve hurdles atAscot in Paisley Park's race last time having appeared to be rejuvenated on his previous to starts following a wind op and then the fitting of cheekpieces at Newbury where he beat Clyne in a Grade 2.The stable has only had three runners in the last fortnight though they have won well indicating a return to form for the yard. Wholestone looks held by a couple but is a three times course winner and been placed on his other four starts on the New course. Sam Spinner has Unseated his rider on his two starts this season so is best watched. Agrapart would probably prefer it softer although he does love the course while Lil Rockerfeller reverts to hurdles and has run well around here in the past. It's a wide open race and despite drifting in the betting I think Paisley Park is progressing nicely and can improve more.
Selection; Paisley Park
Best Alternative; Midnight Shadow

Doncaster (Good)

Lightning Novices Chase (2m78y)
The Bookies make Dynamite Dollars 1/4 to carry the 5LB penalty here in what is a disappointing turnout of four runners. He's run three of his four winners this seasoned the last won was in a Grade 2 at Kempton's Christmas meeting where he he had Kalshnikov just over 1L behind him. Ballywood has won his two starts but has to find 12LB on adjusted ratings to figure. Dynamite Dollars is hard to oppose.
Selection; Dynamite Dollars
Best Alternative; Ballywood

River Don novices Hurdle (3m84y)
Another disappointing turnout of just four for this Grade 2. Having had just the four runs between December 2017 and the end of May 2018, having been bought the previous May. Kim Bailey has stepped up the tempo and has been rewarded with three wins from four starts for Commodore Barry. The last run was a win over course and distance at the end of December on Good ground. Truckers Lodge is stepping up from Handicap company having risen 20LB in the ratings in four runs since September. His best form has come at Chepstow and it will be interesting to see how he copes over this trip on a good surface. Bailarico won a Point last January and then changed hands for £20,000 which could turn out to be a bargain. He was then campaigned on the flat winning all five starts before getting a walkover on his first start over Hurdles. This was followed by a third place at Leicester before winning at Kempton over 3m110y. The is a step up but he seems to be going in the right direction. Nadaitak has a bit to find. Bailarico might have more to come.
Selection; Bailarico
Best Alternative; Commodore Barry

Yorkshire Rose Mares' Hurdle (2m128y)
Lady Buttons who has won her three starts this season, a Listed Hurdle and two chases the last a Listed on around here, reverts back to Hurdles here and is a warm order to collect some more Black Type. She carries a 4LB penalty but looks to be still progressing despite being a 9yo. Irish Roe was second in this race last year having won over course and distance on her previous two starts. . She was beaten over 2L by Lady Buttons first time out at Wetherby off level wights in November. Her last start at Musselburgh on New Years Day was disappointing finishing 18L behind the winner who had an unlucky in running Chica Buena just under 2L behind. The latter has been on a great run since finishing 5L behind Chief Justice in Listowel in September. She won her next four races prior to that Musselburgh run. She has been on the go since august and this will be her ninth run. Indefatigable is less exposed than some of the others. She started off last January at Punchestown with a 3L third to subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Relegate. She then won a Bumper at Southwell and has had three starts over Hurdles winning on her penultimate start and a 2L second to the useful Posh Trish in a Listed Hurdle at Taunton the end of December. Indian Opera got her head in front after mixed results in her four previous starts under rules when running away with a Maiden Hurdle at Musselburgh by 35L. She was well backed that day and any market moves should be noted. Lady Buttons looks better than ever this season.
Selection; Lady Buttons
Best Alternative; Irish Roe
 








Gowran Park (Going; Soft)

Galmoy Hurdle (3m)
The rain that Trainers have been crying out for has arrived and more importantly is getting into the ground. The result is a twelve runner field for this Grade 2 Hurdle albeit six are from Willie Mullins, four from Gordon Elliott and one each from Pat Kelly and Joseph O'Brien. Somewhat ironically, given normal betting patterns, it's the latter two who head the market. Pat Fahy's Presenting Percy hasn't been seen in public since romping away with the RSA at Cheltenham in March. He won this last year on his way to that victory, but that was after three previous runs. It's also worth noting that he came back to Gowran for the February meeting and was beaten 1L by Our Duke. Betting markets should be watched and Paddock inspection for those in attendance is advised. Darasso has had just one run for Joseph O'Brien and J.P. McManus. Prior to that he was co-owned by his breeder and trainer Guy Cherel along with Isaac Souede and Simon Munir who have had many great horses. That one run for current connections was a useful one finishing 2L behind Bachasson who is rated 147 now. That confirmed some of Darasso's French form where he won two hurdles, two chases and was runner up four times in nine starts.. This is his first time over 3m. Coquin Mans started early last season completing the hat trick of wins at Listowel in September. He then finished runner up in his next two starts, a Grade 3 and Grade 2 behind Jezki and Melon respectively. After slipping up and suffering an injury at Clonmel next time in December he was off until Fairyhouse at Easter where he impressed when winning a Grade 2. Well beaten (55L) at Punchestown he was pulled up in his last start at Auteuil in May. Ruby Walsh takes the mount although with Paul Townend chasing the Jockey's Championship it's hard to know which is the stable choice. Townend himself takes the mount on Bapaume who has been well beaten (24L and 29L) by Apple's Jade on his two starts this season. The were his first runs since winning a Grade 2 at Auteuil in June following a second place in a Grade 1 at the same venue. The Apple's Jade form is a bit distorted as he was only a couple of lengths behind the runner up on both occasions but on the flip side he was pulled up behind Coquin Mans at Fairyhouse last April. As I write Bapaume has  hardened from 8/1 into 7/1 so might be each way value. Limini was a beaten odds on favourite at Leopardstown at Christmas. Prior to that she had finished just in front of Bapaume when behind Apple's Jade at Fairyhouse. She's been busy since July mixing Flat with Hurdles. This is her first start over 3m but she did beat Apple's Jade on Heavy Ground at Punchestown last February over 2m4f although there are questions about the Runner up's form last spring. While  she gets 12LB from the one's profiled above, Jockey Bookings suggest she's down the Closutton pecking order. Killultagh Vic has been very disappointing since falling at Leopardstown last February while this is a warm up to further down the line for Don Poli. Dortmund Park has to carry top weight for a Grade 1 win at Punchestown last April. On his two runs back this season he has been beaten a total of 67L by Apple's Jade and the same can be said for Shanshill who was beaten even further by the mare in his two starts. The remainder look to have it all to do. We have to take Presenting Percy's fitness on trust, while some of the Mullins' runners have been disappointing lately with a few favourites beaten so I willl not be getting heavily involved here and would advise punters to watch the market closely. When in doubt back the favourite I was told many years ago so Presenting Percy gets the selection although I wouldn't put anyone of Coquin Mans, Bapaume or Darasso.
Selection; Presenting Percy
Best Alternative; Coquin Mans







January 20th

Thurles (Going; Good)

Kinloch Brae Chase (2m4f118y)
Tout Est Permis has started the season in fine form winning his two starts, first over 2m6f at Galway and then the Troytown at Navan over 3m. The Handicapper was impressed enough to rise him 12LB to a mark of 150. Whether the drop back to the extended 2m4f here on Good ground might be a bit sharp for him remains to be seen. Invitation Only only made his seasonal appearance on New Year's Day and was third behind stablemates Al Bout Photo and Total Recall with all three having their first starts of the Season. Having fallen on his chasing debut last Season he then won twice earning a Rating of 153 and then went down by 1L to Monalee in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown. He was pulled up at Cheltenham after slipping up badly on landing. He also unseated rider at Punchestown. Total Recall finished last season with a fall and two "Pulled Ups" having won three big Handicaps prior to that. Those three wins came at 3m and further and again the drop in trip might find him struggling with the pace. Sub-Lieutenant got his season going early in August finishing 5th, 11L behind Clarcam in the Galway Plate. He won a handicap at the venue four days later and had a break before winning a Grade 3 at Punchestown in Mid October before a disappointing effort in the JN Wine at Down Royal where he was beaten 46L. He then had a break until he finished 49L behind the winner in the Tramore Race mentioned above. Some of his best form has been on Good Ground but he was beaten a long way out at Tramore. He has cheekpieces back on for the first time in almost three years. Having risen 19LB in the ratings last season Doctor Phoenix has struggled a bit in his three runs since resuming in November. His best runs came with soft in the Going description and he has never won beyond 2m1f over fences. A Toi Phil was pulled up after four fences in the Dan Moore at Fairyhouse last week with his rider reporting that the horse lost his action. His best form from four disappointing starts this season was a 10L third to Kemboy in the Clonmel Oil Chase in November. Although his two wins in fifteen starts over fences have come here at Thurles and he also has a good second in a listed chase on the course. It's hard to fancy Jett who has cheekpieces on for the first time. With eight runners going to post we have each way prospects and with a few question marks about some of these I'm going Each Way Sub Lieutenant
Selection; Sub Lieutenant (Each Way)
Best Alternative; Invitation Only

Coolmore Mares Novice Chase (2m4f118y)
Just seven go to post here and Camelia De Cotte, who is four from five over fences this season is odds on to collect again. Her only defeat came in a Grade 3 at Tipperary when she finished 11L behind Le Richebourg which was no disgrace. At Listowel in September she beat Ellie Mac with a lot more in hand than the official margin. The latter won her next two starts in Novice Chases before trailing in 17L behind Le Richebourg in the Grade 1 at the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting. Merie Devie was bought out of the Mullins Yard to go to the breeding shed but her owner decided to give her a go over fences and was rewarded with a win on her debut at Nass two weeks ago. She looked useful that day and it will be interesting to see her over this trip on Good Ground. The rest look to have it all to do.
Selection; Camelia De Cotte
Best Alternative; Meri Devie










January 19th

Ascot (Going; Good To Soft)

The Warfield Mares Hurdle (2m7f118y)
Just six runners for this grade 2 and four them are closely matched in the betting and on Handicap Ratings. If You Say Run is the early favourite on the tissue. She's been ultra consistent in her nine starts, winning four and finishing second four times. She's won on ground from Good to heavy. There are however a couple of caveats. She has hung badly left on her last two starts and her trainer, Paul Nicholls, says that she has had trouble with her wind and had her palate recauterised last summer. Magic Of Light reverted to Hurdles for her last run and ran out a 14L winner of a Newbury Listed Hurdle, beating a couple of horses rated higher than her convincingly. In her previous run she had finished third in the Troytown Chase at Navan having made a mistake that cost her position and then encountered traffic problems. Culture De Sivola beat Molly Childers by 2L last time and the latter, who was coming back to hurdles from Chasing and a wind op. Prior to that Culture De Sivola had finished just under 2L behind If You Say Run who in turn was was 2L behind the winner Mia's Storm. Jester Jet started off the season finishing second in a Novice Chase, 2L behind the Winner Bags Groove. It was no disgrace next time to go down by just over 1L to Maria's Benefit. She reverts too Hurdles here after finishing a 19L second to a runaway winner at Warwick. Petticoat Tails and Shimmer's Rock look to have a lot to do. Magic Of Light was impressive the last day and has attracted some support this morning and in a close contest might be good enough.
Selection; Magic Of Light
Best Alternative; If You Say Run


Clarence House Chase (2m167y)
It looks like Altior has only to stand up to win. But at 1/8 I wouldn't be encourage anyone to try to buy money as the fences are there to be jumped. Fox Norton is returning after a thirteen months absence while Diego du Charlie has 19LB and 11LB to find with the above two on ratings.


Haydock (Good To Soft, Soft in Places)
Inspection at 07.30

Altcar Novices Chase (2m3f203y)
Just the five declared for this and the Bookies seem reluctant to open a market on it. Crucial Role started his chasing career of in Novemberfinishing 33L behind the winner Activial having broken a Blood vessel. He put that behind him next time when he easily accounted for two highly rated Hurdlers at Uttoxeter over 2m4f on Soft ground. Jerrysback (also declared 3pm Ascot), who had won his two starts in novice Hurdles was very disappointing when finishing 50L behind the winner at Cheltenham where he made a lot of mistakes on Good ground. He got a confidence boost next time at Bangor beating Mulcahy's Hill by 1L. He was then beaten by over 1L by Vindication who is now rated 152. Having won a two horse race at 1/9fav on his seasonal debut Le Breuil has had two second and a third in his next three starts. Slate House has been a big disappointment since beating Summerville Boy at Cheltenham in November 2017. I suspect that if racing does ahead that Jerrysback will run here although bookies have priced him up at Ascot.
Selection; Jerrysback (with a run)
Best Alternative; Le Breuil

Rossington Main Novices Chase (1m7f144y)
Another small field of just six runners here and Mister Fisher is a warm favourite. He has had just the two runs over hurdles finishing second on his seasonal debut before going on to win next time out at Kempton at Christmas. The third horse that day had previously beaten Elixir De Nutz at Cheltenham in October which gives some respectability to the form. Bright Forecast has won his two Hurdle starts. His trainer thinks a lot of him and gets 3LB from Mister Fisher. Interestingly Nico De Boinville rode both of these on their last starts. Idee De Garde was comfortably held by Champagne Platinum on his hurdles debut and the winner won again next time. That was Idee De Garde's first run back after a wind op and he took a keen hold. I've said it before that the Skelton's don't tilt at windmills and this lad is interesting. Esprit Du Large hosed in by 11L on his only start over hurdles and could have won by a lot more. The runner up was beaten a long way over 2m4f nest time so it is hard to get a handle on the form. Muratello has his first run on British soil. I can only find two of his supposed three starts in France where he won and was second. Given his connections he could be anything so market moves should be noted.. Not a race to be heavily involved in but Mister Fisher gets the vote.
Selection; Mister Fisher
Best Alternative; Bright forecast

The Champion Hurdle Trial Hurdle (1m7f144y)
Just five go to post for this and Silver Streak who is a course and distance winner has been backed into favouritism. He put up a great performance in the Greatwood Hurdle just failing by a neck to concede 26LB to the winner. Verdana Blue was just 3L behind him giving him 6LB so it's a fair level of form.. He then put up a career best when going down by just under 2L to Brain Power at Cheltenham giving the winner 4LB with Western Ryder another 2L behind also getting 4LB. Mohaayed was over 12L behind in the Greatwood and meets Silver Streak on level weights here. Mohaayed then carried top weight to victory in a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle at Ascot beating Lisp, who was in receipt of 5LB, 2L with Western Ryder a further 1L behind off level weights. Prior to that Lisp had gone down by half a length in receipt of 9LB to Global Citizen who was then beaten 13L by Verdana Blue in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Pingshou reverts to hurdles having disappointed over fences. It's probably not the best r renewal of the race which was dominated for the last four years by The New One and I find it hard to get excited about it but I'll take a chance with the favourite Silver Streak.
Selection; Silver Steak
Best Alternative; Mohaayed









January 13th

Punchestown (Going; Good)

Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle (2m inner course)
Just six runners for this Grade 2 and it's a wide open affair with just two points covering the first five in the betting. Buildmeupbuttercup is the 5/2 Favourite but some of the horses from the Mullins yard have run poorly in the last few weeks. Buildmeupbuttercup won two Bumpers for Mick Channon in England. On her first start he went to the Grade 2 Aintree Bumper where she took a keen hold and finished  just under 5l behind Getaway Katie May. She then ran three times on the flat without success before transferring to Mullins in the Autumn. She had her only start for the yard at Navan in December and travelled strongly in the race. She went clear after the last but in the end just held on by half a length from the strong finishing Dancing On My Own. That was the Mare's first run in four months so she should come on for it. Her stablemate Harrie won over 2m5f at Tramore on Heavy ground and prior o that was runner up in a Bumper at Down Royal a year ago on Heavy ground. It's hard to know how he'll cope with the drop back in distance and the Good ground here. Swordsman is a full brother to Battleoverdoyen. He disappointed on his racecourse debut last March in a Bumper and didn't reappear until last month when he finished an 7L runner up to Dunvegan over 2m4f at Fairyhouse which is a fair level of form. He then went back to Fairyhouse over the same trip and ran out a 12L winner on New Year's Day. Since winning his Maiden Hurdle easily by 10L at Galway in October, Felix Desjy has been a bit disappointing. He wore a hood that day and it was kept on for his next two starts, a disappointing run behind run over 2m at Navan in early November and two weeks later a much better effort over 2m4f where he finished 4L behind the winner Easy Game. The hood was dispensed with the last day at Limerick where he took a keen hold a raced into a clear lead which he held until the last flight before giving way to the winner. The hood is left off again here and I can see him making the running and putting it up to the rest. Jetez has plenty of experience over hurdles. However it took him until his sixth run to break his Maiden back in May. He won a Handicap Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas off a mark of 126 and has risen to 136 since. Jan Maat has to find 8L on Jetez from that Leopardstown race and is the outsider of the field. I've been flip flopping over this. The drop back in trip is a worry for Sawordsman while Felix Desjy looks a difficult ride at times while the Mullins horses have in and out form at the minute. However, Buildmeupbuttercup had a rating of 91 on the flat which should help her reach a high standard over hurdles and with the 7LB she gets from Swordsman and the 9LB she receives from the rest this could be a good opportunity for her.
Selection; Buildmeupbuttercup
Best Alternative; Harrie










January 12th

Warwick (Going; Good, Good To Soft in places)

Leamington novices Hurdle (2m5f)
Just six are left to go to post in this Grade 2 race. Rockpoint has won and placed second on his last two starts, both over 3m. The drop back in trip is interesting but he has to carry a 5LB penalty which might prove too much against less exposed rivals. One of those is Tidal Flow who has won three of his four starts the last two in Hurdle races. The last was probably the best where he beat a Nicky Henderson odds on favourite with the first two pulling clear of the rest. He was given a rating of 139 after that  and looks the one they have to beat. While I've been writing this he's hardened in the betting from 2/1 into 11/10. Stoney Mountain is another consistent horse. Having won a bumper around here last January he disappointed in the Cheltenham Bumper before scraping home at Bangor. He then reappeared at Aintree last October where he won a neck from Aye Aye Charlie who was highly rated (145), before going down by a head at Ascot where he hung left after the last. He last run was a winning one when he won a novice hurdle at Soutwell by 11L. Beakstown has won a point and a maiden hurdle from four starts. In each of those four starts he started favourite. On his last start, over 2m6f, he hung left under pressure to go down by a head to Ask Ben. On ratings he has a bit to find with a few of these. Champagne Court was placed in a couple of points and won a maiden hurdle over 2m at Lingfield. However on his next start at Ascot in a Grade 2 at Ascot last month he was beaten 16L by Angels Breath. The step up in trip here will be probably suit him better. Finawn Bawn has won a Bumper and Novice hurdle either side of a nice introduction to hurdles where he was third. It's a step up here but he should improve a bit more and it's worth noting that the third in his Novice Hurdle was a point winner in Ireland and was having his first run for connections having cost £100k at the sales. Tidal Flow is the election to give Richard Johnson two reasons to celebrate as both Breeder and Jockey.
Selection; Tidal Flow
Best Alternative; Stoney Mountain








January 6th

Naas (Going; Good, GoodTo Yielding in places)

Lalor's of Naas Novice Hurdle. (2m4f)
Nine go to post for this Grade 1 and it promises to be a cracking contest with the Mullins stable supplying three and Elliott two of the runners. Tornado Flyer (Mullins) is shading favouritism on the tissue with Battleoverdoyen (Elliott) 1/8th of a point longer. Tornado Flyer was good in his Bumpers winning on debut a year ago then going to Cheltenham where he finished 3L third behind stablemate Relegate and then beating his more fancied stablemate Blackbow in a Grade 1 Bumper at Punchestown. He reappeared at Punchestown last month and won his maiden hurdle easing up from Take Revenge and Dream Conti who went on to be beaten 11L by another Mullins horse Castletown West at Leopardstown a week ago. Battleoverdoyen has won his three starts, a Point, Bumper and Maiden Hurdle where he impressed a lot of people running out a 13L winner over Momus and indeed the distance could have been a lot more. Having won his maiden hurdle over 2m4f at Punchestown in November Commander Of Fleet dropped back to 2m for the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse but was a bit disappointing finishing last of the four runners 8L behind Quick Grabim. The Runner up in that Punchestown win was subsequently beaten 17L by Tornado River at the same track last month. Come To Me won his maiden hurdle on Soft To Heavy at Cork last month over 2m and having won his Bumper this step up in trip should suit him. Jockey bookings suggest he's the Mullins second string. Lone Wolf won his Maiden at Fairyhouse in December and on his only other hurdle start was beaten almost 5L by Hardline back in February in a Listed Hurdle. The winner has progressed so it looks a nice bit of form. In between Lone Wolf won a Bumper at Punchestown in April. He is drifting in the market at present (8's out to 14's). Getareason is the third of the Mullins runners. Having won his maiden back in August at Tramore  he subsequently disappointed in a listed hurdle before getting to within 2L of stablemate Easy Game in a Grade 2 at Navan last month. Sams Profile was second in a Grade 2 over 3m at Cork last Month and the winner Derrinross has gone on to frank the form. Prior to that he won his maiden over 2m at the same track in November. First Approach was just over 2L behind Easy Game in a 2m4f Grade 3 at Navan in November having won his Maiden over 2m6f at Down Royal earlier in the month. Magnium disappointed behind Say Game at Navan last Month , beaten 25L having ran the same horse to a neck  in November. Plenty of these should improve from their last runs , however Battleoverdoyen impressed me greatly the last day and is slightly preferred.
Selection; Battleoverdoyen
Best Alternative; Tornado Flyer





January 5th

Sandown (Going; Soft)

Tolworth Novices Hurdle (2m)
Nicky Henderson (23%) and Paul Nicholls (29%) have a good strike rate in this race and Henderson has the tissue favourite in Rathill. Runner-up in his point in November 2017 for trainer Colin McKeever he wasn't seen again until mid-December when he wasn't hard pressed to win a maiden hurdle. He is highly regarded by connections and this race was nominated by his trainer following that win. He does lack experience compared to Elixir De Nutz who on his penultimate start won a Grade 2 at Cheltenham where he showed battling qualities in a race where they only jumped five hurdles sue to a low sun. On his last start, also at Cheltenham, he made all and jumped beautifully to beat Jarveys Plate who was always held. The latter then went back to Cheltenham on New Years Day and over 2m4f won by 13L. Elixir De Nutz was with Philip Hobbs last season but his stable was out of sorts for most of the season and was transferred to Colin Tizzard for this season. Harry Cobden who rode him in his three starts for the Tizzards rides Southfield Stone for his boss Paul Nicholls. He's won his three starts this season, all around Taunton and all on the Bridle so it's difficult to know how good he is but given the trainer's record in the race he has to be respected. Grand Sancy is a second Nicholls runner. He's settled better in his races this season winning twice after finishing second to Itchy Feet at Kempton and the latter ran Elixir De Nutz to just over 1L at Cheltenham. His wins this season have come on Good ground and after a wind op over the summer. However he made no impression on the winner, who was giving him 14LB, in a Grade 3 handicap at Ascot on soft ground the last day which is a bit of a worry. Idee De Garde and Mercy Mercy Me are both 25/1 and look to have plenty to do. There's not a lot between the top two but slight reference is for Elixir De Nutz
Selection; Elixir De Nutz
Best Alternative; Rathill




January 1st

Cheltenham (Going; Good To Soft)

Dipper Novices' Chase (2m4f127y)
Defi Du Seuil put in some erratic jumps on his Chase debut here in November over 2m but was much better next time at Exeter over 2m3f when winning comfortably from Topofthegame with Black Op over 4L back in third. Topofthegame did the form no harm when putting up a game performance over 3m when finishing second to La Bague Au Roi at Kempton last week. Lostintranslation has been beaten twice by La Bague Au Roi on his only starts over fences. The first time by just over 1L over 2m6f110y and the second time by 13L over 2m4f where he blundered badly three out. He was beaten half a length by Black Op over hurdles at Aintree last April. Black Op should improve for that defeat at Exeter. On The Blind Side has his first start over Fences and his first since a wind operation. He was unbeaten in his three hurdles races and won his only start in a point. It seems to have taken a while for him to come to hand and Henderson doesn't usually start them off in a hot race like this. Crucial Role broke a blood vessel on his chasing debut but posted impressive figures when winning next time at Uttoxeter and this is a step up again. Although he has to give 3LB to his rivals Defi Du Seuil might just have the classs to do it.
Selection; Défi Du Seuil
Best Alternative; Black Op

Relkeel Hurdle (2m4f56y)
Wholestone was very disappointing at Newbury the last day but had been last in the same race last year before winning this race. He's a good record around Cheltenham and must have a big chance. This will be Old Guard's sixth run since October 21st and he's yet to win. However some of those were over shorter trips than today and he performed well, being placed in four of the five. The ground will be a concern for Clyne who was beaten 15L by Old Guard when in receipt of 4LB last February at Fontwell on Good To Soft. He was a good second in that Newbury race where Wholestone disappointed. Midnight Shadow won over 2m4f on Soft ground at Aintree in early December but prior to that was very disappointing over 2m here in November on Good ground. Thomas Campbell reverts to Hurdles but has a bit to find on ratings. Cyrus Darius has been disappointing in his two runs this season and wears a tongue tie for the first time. Wholestone let us down at Newbury but gets another chance here.
Selection; Wholestone
Best Alternative; Old Guard










December 29th

Leopardstown (Going; Good)

Neville Hotels Novice Chase (3m)
Seven runners and five of them in the Gigginstown silks. Delta Work got back up to outstay Le Richebourg in the Drinmore at firehouse over 2m4f and the runner up put in a display at Leopardstown on Wednesday in the grade 1 over 2m. On his only other start over fences he had Ben Dundee 1L behind when winning at Down Royal in November. Ben Dundee went on to win next time out but was pulled up at Navan earlier this month. The step up in trip shouldn't be a problem as he won the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham last March. Mortal beat Any Second Now at Fairyhouse on his chasing debut at the beginning of the month over 2m5f. The only time he was tried over 3m he finished a long way behind the winner in a Handicap Hurdle. Blow By Blow was beaten a long way out in the Drinmore finishing 55L behind Delta Work. This was not his true form as he had won by 17L and been second, beaten a neck, on his two previous starts. Judgement Day is on a five timer but is 14LB worse off with Delta Work on ratings while Nick Lost has even more to find.. Moonshine Bay backs up quickly after winning over an extended 3m last week at Thurles and prior to that was over 15l behind Mortal at Fairyhouse over 2m5f. It's a novice chase and jumping will be key but Delta Work looks like he can build on the Drinmore success.
Selection; Delta Work
Best Alternative; Mortal

Ryanair Hurdle (2m)
Seven go to post with Mullins and Elliott having two each. Everything was going smoothly for Samcro last season until he arrived at Punchestown where he was sent of an odds on Favourite in the Champion Hurdle but tipped up at the third last . He reappeared at Down Royal in November but was beaten into second place by Bedrock and again had to settle for the runner up spot in the Fighting Fifth, 8L behind Buveur D'Air. Melon was a decent Novice and has continued to climb the ratings despite only winning once from five starts last season. Hw went down by a neck to Buveur D'Air in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham before falling at the same flight as Samcro, albeit independently of him, in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. He wasn't ready to run in the Morgiana  but I'm sure they wouldn't risk him here if he wasn't ready and he has won after an extended break before. Having won the Galway Hurdle carrying top weight, Sharjah then disappointed in two runs on the flat before going to Down Royal and finishing over 6L behind Bedrock. He then won the Morgiana by 7L from Faugheen but will probably have to run a career best to win here. Although beaten 20L into second place by Apple's Jade in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse, Supdundae ran decent race for his seasonal reappearance as he is a hard horse to get fit. The question is can he be effective against quality opposition over 2m. Bedrock hasn't been seen since that win at Down Royal and although Sharjah came out sixteen days later and won the Morgiana, Faugheen wasn't himself that day. Petite Mouchoir reverts to hurdles for his seasonal debut and market moves should be noted while Tombstone looks up against it. There's not a lot between the top two on ratings but Melon has won off a long break before and might do it here.
Selection; Melon
Best Alternative; Samcro

Newbury (Good To Soft)

Challow Novices Hurdle (2m4f118y)
Having won his Maiden and Novice Hurdles, each by 10L, Champ went to Newbury and carried 11-6 to a comfortable 4L win for which he got an 11LB hike in the ratings. Brewin'upastorm returned after a ten month break to win a Novices Hurdle three weeks ago on Good To Soft ground. Back in January he beat the very useful Portrush Ted by 9L in a bumper on Soft Ground. He won his point over 3m and as a 2m Bumper winner should get the trip. Getaway Trump was well beaten on seasonal debut but won his next two in fine style. Coming from the inform Paul Nicholls yard he has too be respected. Coolanly fell early on at Chepstow when favourite but made amends in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last month winning in fine style. Afterwards this race was named as a target and the trainer won it last year with Poetic Rhythm. Kateson is another on a hat-trick but has to find more at the ratings. Alsa Mix has won a Point, Bumper and two hurdles including a Grade 2 and is obviously progressive. However her trainer is hoping more rain arrives and looking at the forecast I think he's going to be disappointed. Champ looked like he had plenty left in the tank the last day and can go in again.
Selection; Champ
Best Alternative; Coolanly

Limerick (Going; Soft)

Sky Sports Novice Hurdle (3m)
Just six runners for this Grade 2 which will be a true test of Stamina. It's probably been a mixed week for Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins given the amount of runners they have had. Nonetheless they've both manage to grab a few Grade 1's and have two runners each here for this Grade 2. Defi Bleu has been the early favourite on the tissue and is stepping up to 3m for the first time. On his penultimate start he beat Momus by almost 3L at Navan before going off favourite at the same course in a Grade 2 a fortnight ago and going down by just over 6L to Easy Game.The Mullins horse, Dorrells Pierji, could be vying for favouritism at the off.. He won his point over 3m by a distance in April 17. He's won two of his three starts over hurdles his only defeat coming in October when he was beaten a long way by stablemate Quick Grabim over 2m at Tipperary. His two wins have come over 2m4f and his trainer feels the 3m on soft ground will play to his strengths. Derrinross has had his problems and returned to the track after almost a year  to win a Grade 3 at Cork on Soft To Heavy. That was just his sixth run in two years. Pleasure Dome gets the mares allowance but was over 8L behind Derrinross at Cork where she weakened on the run in.Having won two races over 2m4f on Good ground in November, Monbeg Worldwide was beaten nearly 20L by Easy Game at Navan two weeks ago. I'd say the step up in trip will help a she won his point over 3m on Heavy ground back in March 2016 and hasn't gone further than 2m4f in nine runs since then. Cap York won at Navan over 2m7f a fortnight ago after two years off the track but has more to do here. In an open race Dorrells Pierji is the selection
Selection; Dorrells Pierji
Best Alternative; Derrinross









December 28th

Leopardstown (Going; Good To Yielding)

Christmas Hurdle (3m)
Apple's Jade blew the opposition away in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse earlier this month. She tracked Wicklow Brave at a cracking pace and they were clear of the rest of the field by half way. Apple's Jade eventually ran out a 20L winner from Supasundae. This followed on from her win at Navan in November. She wasn't at her best last Spring a she kept coming into season. Connections think they've sorted that out and she is the one to beat here. Faugheen probably needs 3m these days. He was well beaten in the Morgiana by Sharjah last month on his seasonal debut. He also takes a lot of getting fit so should strip fitter for that. He destroyed a good field in the stayers at Punchestown last April and many will hope he puts up a good show here. Cracking Smart hasn't been seen in public since beating Next Destination in the  the Grade 1 Novice at Naas last January. The remainder look well held on recent form with Apple's Jade who was hugely impressive at Fairyhouse and gets the nod.
Selection; Apple's Jade
Berst Alternative; Faugheen

Savills Chase (3m)
In last years renewal Road To Respect was just over 1L too good for Balko Des Flos who went off at 66/1. The latter proved That was no fluke by going out next time and winning the Ryanair at Cheltenham while Road To Respect probably found the trip too far when finishing a respectable fourth 12L behind Native River in the Gold Cup. He had a great start to this season winning the JN Wine by 16L at Down Royal with Balko Des Flos 43L behind. The latter improved win that in the John Durkan finishing 4L behind Min with Shattered Love over 2L in front of him. Shattered Love won the 3m Grade 1 Novice on the third day of this meeting last Christmas and followed up winning the JLT at Cheltenham over 2m4f. It was no disgrace to go down by 1L to Al Boum Photo in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse. In her two runs this season she's finished second , beaten 1L each time by Snow Falcon and Min respectively , both runs coming over 2m4f. Connections feel the step back up to 3m will benefit her. Having run a big race in the Irish National, Bellshill put up a big performance on only his third run of the season when winning the Punchestown Gold Cup where he had Road To Respect, who was probably over the top, 8L back in third. He goes well when fresh and might be each way value. Monalee took a crashing fall in the novice won by Shattered Love here last year . He then went down by under a length to Al Boum Photo over 2m5f here  before beaten a well beaten (7L) in the RSA at Cheltenham behind Presenting Percy. He resumed this season at Down Royal finishing 5L behind Shattered Love in the race won by Snow Falcon. Anibale Fly finished just in front of Road To Respect in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but would probably need more of an ease in the ground to be effective. Kemboy beat Alpha Des Obeaux in the grade 2 Clonmel Oil but looks held on his run in the JLT when he was 14L behind Shattered Love in fourth. Outlander was third inn this last year but appears to have two ways of running, with Road to Respect reversing form with him from the 2017 JN Wine to the 2018 renewal by 18L. Disko returns for the first time since November 2017 but will probably need the run while Coney Island still looks to return to the form of last year while Edwulf and The Storyteller both look held. Road To Respect might just be good enough.
Selection; Road To Respect
Best Alternative; Shattered Love.













December 27th

Leopardstown (Good on chase course GoodTo Yielding on Hurdle course)

Paddy's Rewards Club Chase (2m1f)
A small field of seven for this Grade 1 with Footpad seeking to make amends for his fall then last time at Naas. That was an aberration in an otherwise unblemished career over fences the highlight of which wa the demolition of the field in the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham festival. Up against him is his stablemate, the exciting Great Field, who was also a faller last time having won his previous five starts although he was prone to a mistake.. Ballyoisin took a while to take to Chasing, falling in three of his first four starts. However when he did stand up he was useful. He seems to have put that behind him now having won his last three chases. An amazing statistic for me is that in seventeen starts under rules he has never run at Leopardstown. Castlegrace  Paddy benefitted from the fall of Great Field last time  at Cork. However the trainer is concerned that the ground might dry out more and will have a look at it in the morning. Simply Ned makes his fifth trip to Leopardstown from Cumbria. He's never been out of the first three on these trips and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him in the mix again. Doctor Phoenix and Ordinary World have a bit to find on previous form with some of these. Footpad is given a chance to redeem himself.
Selection; Footpad
Best Alternative; Great Field

Future Champions Novice Hurdle (2m)
Disappointing to see just six face the starter for this Grade . Sancta Simona gets a useful Mares allowance. She was a beaten odds on favourite in a Listowel Bumper in September before going on to win her next two starts in including a Grade 3 Mares Novice Hurdle at Down Royal in November. The third in that race, beaten 5L, was subsequently beaten by the winners stablemate Aramon in a grade 3 at Navan with Quick Grabim just 3L in front of her. That's a god level of form. Triplicate has finished second to Quick Grabim on his last two starts, beaten over 5L in Tipperary trying to concede 4LB and then by almost 4L in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. Prior to that he had beaten Aramon 1L in a maiden hurdle. Daly Tiger steps up to Grade 1 class after winning a Punchestown maiden. Due Reward is a progressive sort who stepped out of handicaps to win a rated hurdle by 9L. Tintangle scraped home by a head in aMares hurdle last month and fell the time before. She's won twice in Bumpers with plenty of ease in the ground so it might be a bit quick for her here. The mares allowance might swing it for Sancta Simona
Selection; Sancta Simona
Best Alternative; Triplicate

Chepstow (Soft)

Finale Juvenile Hurdle (2m11y)
A disappointing field of just five runners for this Grade 1 and it's possible that Adjali has frightened most of the opposition. He has finished in front of Quel Destin twice in France, both times by about 7L while on his only start in Britain he could only be describes as sauntering to the front and in the straight and winning as he liked by 13L. His trainer, Nicky Henderson, thinks he could be something special. Quel Destin has won the last three of his four starts since coming over from France where it took him seven runs to break his maiden tag under rules. He scraped home by a neck in a Grade 2 at Doncaster on his last start so he won't shirk a battle. Arverne has his first run dfor J.P. McManus since winning last of three starts in France where he is still down as being trained. Market moves should be noted. Adjali was hugely impressive last time and gets the nod.
Selection; Adjali
Best Alternative; Quel Destin

Kempton (Going; Good To Soft)

Wayward Lad Novices' Chase (2m)
The exciting Kalshnikov faces four rivals in his bid for a hat trick of wins over fences. He's won his two starts over the larger obstacles by a total of 29L and gets the benefit of a 5LB advantage over Dynamite Dollars who carries a penalty for winning a Grade 1 last time at Sandown where he had Highway One O One over 14L behind. Prior to that Dynamite Dollars had been beaten 7L by Lalor at Cheltenham. Maria's Benefit has won her two chases, the last a Listed Mares at Bangor. The sharp Kempton 2 miles will suit her and her front running tactics will test the others. However Kalshnikov looks a class act and is the selection.
Selection; Kalashnikov
Best Alternative; Maria's Benefit

Desert Orchid Chase (2m)
It's to their credit that connections of four horses are prepared to take on Altior who is 1/7 to register his sixteenth successive victory. If you don't buy a ticket you can't win the raffle and although there were a few upsets today, unless something untoward happens Altior should continue the run. If the ground dries out further Special Tiara , who won this in 2014 and 2016, could fill the forecast
Selection; Altior
Best Alternative; Special Tiara










December 26th

Kempton (Going; Good To Soft)

Kauto Star Novices Chase (3m)
Just seven go to post for this Grade 1 and jumping will be the name of the game. It has the makings of a cracking contest with Santini the likely favourite. He got his chasing career off to the perfect start winning a Grade 2 at Newbury on Soft ground and the second has franked the form winning a Grade 2 at Doncaster last week by 17L. Topofthegame fell on this chasing debut in November 2017 and reverted to hurdles for his remaining three runs that season, winning and placed second in two Grade 3's. He had a wind operation over the summer and resumed with a runner up spot behind Defi Du Seuil at Exeter having been left a long way behind at the start after trying to refuse to race. If he behaves himself he must have a big chance. Bags Groove was just touched off on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter and has won his three starts since then impressively. The Worlds End never fulfilled the promise of his Novice season when stepping up to senior company last season although he never had ground conditions in his favour. He has got off to a good start over fences winning two out of three and in the last of them beating Ibis Du Rheu, who had beaten him almost 3L the run previous, by 26L. La Bague Au Roi has won twelve of her seventeen starts including her two starts over Fences. However she has been found wanting in Grade 1 races. Santini should improve for his last run and gets the nod.
Selection; Santini
Best Alternative; The Worlds End

Christmas Hurdle (2m)
Buveur D'Air is 1/5 to repeat last years win and I'm not opposing him. He'll improve no end for his win in the Fighting Fifth as he gave a blow two out. Verdana Blue should chase him home
Selection; Buveur D'Air
Best Alternative; Verdana Blue

King George VI Chase (3m)
Ten runners go to post for this contest and with question marks about a lot of them it's probably a race to watch. Might Bite appeared to chuck in the towel at Haydock the last day. I don't buy the excuse about the fences as Thistlecrack jumped worse and battled on. Might Bite appeared to hang coming up the straight and I wonder if something was bothering him. He's always had his quirks and I wouldn't have any confidence backing him here. Waiting Patiently is six from six over fences but hasn't raced since beating Cue Card in a Grade 1 last February. His trainer Ruth Jefferson is pretty adept at getting them to win first time up after a break and if he was to win here it would be some training feat. He is also stepping up to this trip for the first time. Politilogue steps up to this trip for the first time also. He is eight from thirteen over fences and his last two wins were probably his best. In April he beat Min by a neck at Aintree and then resumed at Ascot last month with a hard fought win over Charbel who went on to frank the form next time out. Although the trip is unknown he has won around the course twice. Gold Cup winner native river found Bristol De Mar too good for him at Haydock last month. Going through his form it's noticeable that he rarely goes right handed and indeed the last time he ran around here he jumped out to his left. He probably needs further than the bare 3m to bing his stamina into play. Thistlecrack won this two years ago and was fourth last year. That was his last run until Haydock in November when he did well to finish third behind Bristol De Mai having jumped poorly. He should come on for that but his jumping will need to be slicker. A riddle wrapped up in an enigma. that's Bristol De Mai for me. He was pretty consistent in his Novice Chasing days winning four and runner up in the other four. But since stepping up to the senior ranks he doesn't seem to be able to put more than two good runs together. Last year having won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby he pulverised the field in the Betfair at Haydock by 59L. Maybe that took it out of him but he finished 26L behind Might bite at Christmas. He then got beaten by Definitely Red at Cheltenham in January and had a wind op afterwards before going to Aintree and getting to within 7L of Might Bite. Looking at his Haydock win last November it's legitimate to ask how tuned up the opposition was. Clan Des Obeaux has a bit to find with Bristol De Mai on his last two starts at Haydock and Aintree. Conygree has his second run back after a wind op having ran admirably at Cheltenham last time under a big weight to finish third behind Rock The Kasbah and while hasn't got a huge amount of mileage on the clock Father Time may be catching up with him. As I said at the start its probably a race to watch rather than have a serious punt but Bristol De Mai might be a bit of each way value.
Selection; Bristol De Mai (E.W.)
Best Alternative; Politilogue

Leopardstown (Yielding)

Juvenile Hurdle (2m)
Eleven go to post for what looks like a cracking race in the making. Chief Justice and Couer Sublime had a terrific battle at Fairyhouse three weeks ago with the former coming out on top by a Short Head giving 7LB to the second. Chief Justice is the more battled hardened of the two and that was his sixth hurdle start since mid-June while Couer Sublime was having just his second start over the smaller obstacles and his third race in total. Couer Sublime cost  260,000 Euro after winning a flat Maiden in April and Gordon Elliott must be drooling at having these two top class juveniles in the yard. There are a few interesting French imports having their first starts in the race. La Sorelita gets the fillies allowance and is one from two in France. Coming from the Willie Mullins yard she has to be respected. This is her first start since the end of July. The Gigginstown/Elliott partnership introduce Coko Beach. He's a half-brother to a number of French winners and won his only start at Nantes in October. Filon D'Oudairies represents the McManus/O'Brien Team. He had two runs in bumpers in France finishing second on debut and this looks a hot race to be making your hurdles debut. He wears a hood for the first time. Maze Runner won his maiden hurdle at Cork seventeen days ago just getting home after a mistake at the last. Those were testing conditions and his best form on the flat seems to have been with plenty of ease in the ground. Jockey bookings suggest he's the Mullins second string. Got Trumped stepped up on his second on hurdles debut at Fairyhouse to win at Punchestown next time, beating Rocky Blue 3L into second. He looked a bit green here, wandering about going to the last but found plenty for pressure. He should improve again for that run. That was Rocky Blue's first start over hurdles and he only broke his Maiden on the flat on the eight attempt. Flat To The Max has a lot to find with Got Trumped on that Fairyhouse form. Slight preference is for Couer Sublime.
Selection; Couer Sublime
Best Alternative; Chief Justice

Racing Post Novice Chase (2m1f)
An intriguing six runner Grade 1 with Mengli Khan likely to go off favourite on the back of an impressive debut over fences at Punchestown last month where he jumped well apart from a slight error at the last to win by 10L. He was one of the top novice hurdlers last season despite running out at the second last hurdle here last Christmas and always looked like jumping a fence would be his forte. Voix Du Reve has been impressive in his two chases, accounting for Mind's Eye by over 7L at Galway in October and then beating Hardline by 7L in a Grade 2 at Punchestown. The latter went on to win a Grade 3 at Navan beating Us And Them by 10L. The latter was 9l behind Mind's Eye when it won at Wexford  in October. Mind's Eye then disappointed in the Drinmore and is dropped back in trip here with a tongue tie added for the first time. Ellie Mac won a maiden hurdle at a big price on this card last year but was pretty inconsistent over hurdles. She has however won two of her four starts over fences but takes a big step up in class. Le Richebourg looked like the trip back in trip would suit after the Drinmore where he appeared to be just outstayed by the winner. He had been an impressive winner at Tipperary the time before that in a Grade 3 having won at Listowel on his chasing debut. Most of Le Richebourg's runs over hurdles in the last year were on unsuitable ground it would appear and with the Going set to be more in his favour I'll take a chance with him.
Selection; Le Richebourg
Best Alternative; Voix Du Reve

Limerick (Soft)

Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase (2m3f160y)
Ruby Walsh makes a rare Christmas visit to Limerick to get the leg up on Getabird in this Grade 1. It appears that going right handed suits the Ricci owned gelding better than going left. He beat Mengli Khan at Punchestown in January by 9L but then disappointed at Cheltenham (left handed) before winning a Grade to at Fairyhouse by 12L where Hardline was 17L behind. Getabird was probably got over the top when disappointing at Punchestown. He was very impressive on his only start over fences and will be hard to beat here although few will want to avail of the 1/2. I'm sure Willie Mullins will have a good line on Hardline through Voix Du Reve who beat the Gigginstown horse by 7L at Punchestown. Jetz won a Chase at Navan and backed up quickly at Fairyhouse a week later in the Drinmore finishing 8L behind the winner. Robbie Power travels down to take the mount. Majurca gets thrown straight into a Grade 1 having arrived from France where he had some useful form while Riders Onthe Storm is one I've been keeping an eye on since since putting up a couple of good performances in Novice hurdles last winter including a 2L second behind Hardline. Getabird is hard to oppose
Selection; Getabird
Best Alternative; Jetz 













December 22nd

Ascot (Going; Soft)

The Long Walk Hurdle (3m97y)
Eleven runners declared for this Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle and it's a tricky affair. Call Me Lord has been installed the early favourite despite not having run over this distance before. The only time he's been out of the frame in nine starts was his first start in France where he won his next two. He's won three since for Nicky Henderson, the last beating Lil Rockerfeller in a Grade 2 over 2m5f110y at Sundown last April. He seems to be adaptable ground wise and the Seven Barrow's Team have no problem getting them ready first time out. Fitted with cheekpieces for the first time Unowhatimeanharry got back to winning ways at Newbury last month. . He won this race to years ago and was third behind Sam Spinner in it last year. Sam Spinner disappointed in that Newbury race. He didn't jump well and was well beaten when hampered and unseating two out.. He hadn't run well on his penultimate start at Aintree last April and he is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time here. He needs to improve on a line through Wholestone who was 24L behind the Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury to have a chance and maybe the cheekpieces will help him find the form that saw him win this last year. Agrapart was beaten just under 5L by Wholestone at Aintree on his seasonal debut at Aintree last month. The trip of 2m4 and the Good ground were probably unsuitable as his best form has come on Soft or Heavy. Soul Emotion has won his two starts for Nicky Henderson since coming over from France where he appeared to have lost his form over fences. Still only a 5yo his trainer thinks a lot of him. He had wind surgery prior to those two starts so he could be an improver. The lightly raced Paisley Park is three wins from seven starts, two of which have come in his last two starts.. This is a step up and he has a bit to find on the ratings and the ground might be an issue.  Younevercall is four from eight and wears a tongue tie for the first time to go with the cheekpieces that were introduced on his last run which he won by 10L in a three horse race. The Mighty Don got within 4L of Unowhatimeanharry at Newbury but this might be a bigger ask. West Approach reverts to hurdling after disappointing over fences and is best watched. Top Notch reverts to hurdles after a good season Chasing where he won three Grade 2's although jockey bookings suggest he's his connections second string. The ground is sure to be testing but I'll take a chance with Call Me Lord.
Selection; Call Me Lord
Best Alternative; Agrapart











December 21st

Ascot (Going; Soft)

The Kennel Gate Hurdle (1m7f152y)
Ground could play a big part in this Grade 2 Hurdle. Thomas Darby wouldn't want it too soft but definitely has the form to justify early favouritism. On his first run back this season he beat Elixir De Nutz who has won his subsequnt two starts including a Grade 2. Thomas Darby then went down by a head over this course and distance to Didtheyleaveuoutto. Angels Breath has had just one in, in a point, which he won readily although nothing of note has come out of it. That was last April on Soft To Heavy ground and I'd be slightly concerned that the trip could be a bit short. Danny Kirwan started his career by winning a point in October 2017. His next start was in February over hurdles when he won a Bumper at Kempton before being reportedly over the top when suffering a heavy defeat at Aintree. He then got beaten a neck in a tactical affair at Kempton last month. He'll get a bit more pace on here and could be value at 11/2. Seddon was on a four timer when beaten by Elixir De Nutz at Cheltenham last month in a race where a number of hurdles were omitted. he's another who wouldn't want it too soft. Encore Champs showed a willing attitude to win a Novice hurdle at Wetherby last month. Thistle Do Nicely has won three of his four starts the last one by 10L. This is a step up as can be said for Champagne Court and Eclair D'Ainay. Market moves should be noted. Some of these could be anything but Danny Kirwan interests me and is the selection.
Selection; Danny Kirwan
Best Alternative; Thomas Darby

Noel Novices Chase (2m5f)
Just four runners for this grade 2 but a fascinating contest. Vindication is unbeaten in five starts. On his penultimate start he beat the useful Western Ryder by 3L in a Listed Novices hurdle.  His reappearance saw his only start over fences and he looked very useful when beating some useful horses. Count Meribel has won his two starts over hurdles, the last by a neck after a mistake at the last. It took him a while to hit winning form over hurdles and it looks like he might be a better chaser. Lil Rockerfeller won his first three starts over fences although making mistakes. Those caught up with him as he unseated rider early on at Cheltenham last week. These Ascot fences have to be respected so he'll need a clear round if he's to concede 3LB weight to his rivals. Jerrysback was beaten a long way by Count Meribel after a long absence and then was a surprise 50/1 winner at Bangor beating the useful Mulcahy's Hill. Interesting that he's pitched in here. Vindication is the selection.
Selection; Vindication
Best Alternative; Jerrysback



















December 16th

Navan (Going; Good To Yielding)

Navan Novice Hurdle (2m4f)
Three of these met here over course and distance three weeks ago with Easy Game coming out on top by a neck and half a length from Magnium and Choungaya. Easy Game seemed to get caught for toe two out but put in a storming finish to get up close home. His jumping was slick and he travelled nicely throughout the race although I expect he might be ridden closer to the pace here. He will also not want the ground to soften up too much according to his trainer Willie Mullins. Rhinestone showed promise in Bumpers last season . He won his only start over hurdles last month. The ones behind haven't done much to advertise the form although it was over 2m and this trip will suit him better. Defi Bleu won his maiden over course and distance last time leading home four other Gigginstown horses including runner up Momus who runs in the first race. Magnium should benefit from a bit of rain according to Jesse Harrington and it mean a bit of improvement from him. Getareason was disappointing over three miles at Cork the last day and drops back in trip. He won a couple of races during the summer but is probably best watched. Monbeg Worldwide has won his last two starts, both over 2m4f, but prior to that had finished 9l behind Choungaya over 2m at Tipperary. The latter should give another good account of himself here and might be each way value at 11/1. I find it hard to believe that his conqueror the last day is almost seven points lower 9/2. Western Victory caused a surprise over 2m at Galway in October bwating Getaway Katie May over 2m. She won a point over 3m on Heavy ground twelve months ago so staying should be her game. Barry Geraghty rides the 4yo Satoshi who could be considered unlucky the last day at Gowran in a race that could produce plenty of winners. I have no firm opinion on this and it looks wide open but I think the galloping track and step up in trip should suit Rhinestone who won a shade cosily the last day although rain could help Magnium turn the tables with Easy Game.
Selection; Rhinestone
Best Alternative; Magnium (EW)


December 15th

Doncaster (Going; Good)

December Novices Chase (2m7f214y)
Just the four runners for this Grade 2 but it's a competitive heat. Rocky's Treasure put up a big performance at Newbury a fortnight ago in a Grade 2. Bidding for a four timer he found Santini too good on ground that was unsuitable. His three wins prior to that had been by extended margins and provided the rain doesn't come earlier than forecast he has a great chance here. King Of Realms has won his only start over fences on Good to Soft. His best form has come with some ease in the ground and the twice he ran on Good ground he was well beaten. Coup De Pinceau has won his two starts over fences and while this is much tougher he has to be respected coming from the Paul Nicholls yard. Theclockisticking is another who won his chase on debut but this is a bigger step up. As long as the ground stays good Rocky's Treasure gets the selection.
Selection; Rocky's Treasure
Best Alternative; Coup De Pinceau

Summit Juvenile Hurdle
Just five go to post for this but a terrific contest in store. Cracker Factory  has just over a length to find with Quel Destin following on from there meeting last month a CheltenhamThe latter has now won two of his three starts over hurdles since coming over from France and he seems to be progressing nicely. Connections of Cracker Factory will be hoping the Going doesn't change as he's a good ground horse who will be going off for a break after this. This his his seventh start over hurdles since beating Chief Justice at Aintree in June and confirmed that form at Wetherby in November. The latter did that form no harm when winning at Fairyhouse last week. Elysees has won two of his three starts over hurdles and is another who will probably need the good ground. This is a step up in class but he is progressive. I went for Cracker Factory the last day and I'm going to stick with him here.
Selection; Cracker Factory
Best Alternative; Quel Destin

Cheltenham  (Going; Good)

Bristol Novices Hurdle (2m7f213y)
Nine go to post for this Grade 2 and Doux Pretender and Aye Aye Charlie are vying for favouritism. On a line through Stoney Mountain there is nothing between them and it all depends how they take to the step up in trip. Doux Pretender beat the latter a head at Ascot over 2m5f at Ascot last time on his seasonal debut while Aye Aye Charlie went down to Stoney Island by a neck over 2m4fat Aintree in October on his seasonal debut. Aye Aye Charlie stepped up in trip to 2m6f110y next time and was very impressive when winning with the cheekpieces on for the first time. Doux Pretender should improve for that first outing but has to concede 3LB to Aye Aye Charlie. Supreme Lucky is a lightly raced horse who won his Bumper and the second of his two hurdle starts. This is a step up but as we've said before the Skeltons don't tilt at windmills although the trainer said after his Soutwell win that he wouldn't be tried to highly this season as he is a chaser in the making. Danny Whizzbang cost connections 115,00 euros after winning his point back in April. He then won on his stable debut last month for Paul Nicholls and market moves should be noted. Rockpoint is a half brother to Santini but has a lot to find on official ratings. The remainder look to have it all to do. The 3LB he gets might just swing it for Aye Aye Charlie.
Selection; Aye Aye Charlie
Best Alternative; Danny Whizzbang

International Hurdle (2m179y)
Eight have been declared for this Grade 2 and Summerville Boy heads the early betting. He disappointed in the fighting Fifth two weeks ago but if he shows the form he showed around here when winning The supreme Novices last March he will be in the mix. Silver Mix seems to be a progressive 5yo who put up a career best here last month when beaten a neck in a Grade 3 handicap. It's hard to fancy We Have A Dream after two disappointing runs this season although his trainer Nicky Henderson seems more confident and the trainers Brain Power reverts to hurdles after seemingly not having taken to fences. It's his second run back after a wind op and he has the cheekpieces back on for the first time since April 2017. Western Ryder beat Lalor over this course and distance in the Novice Hurdle this time last year. He was hampered two out in the Supreme and stayed on to finish 7L behind Summerville Boy. He could be a bit of each way value having run a good race under a big weight here last month on his seasonal debut. Old Guard won the 2015 renewal of this but probably needs further now while The New One, after two disappointing runs this season, looks ready for retirement to the field. Vision Des Flos continues to find one or two better than him and it's hard to have too much confidence in him. I'll give Summerville Boy another chance here.
Selection; Summerville Boy
Best Alternative; Western Ryder


s since March 2016. He's won four of these so obviously has ability. His last start was a winning one in a Grade 3 at Aintree last April. He's probably best watched here. Rocky's Treasure won three chases in the space of four weeks in October/November, all on Good ground. However with more rain forecast It may well be that his ground has gone. Kilbricken Storm is reported to have strengthened up over the summer and the benefit of a run might just swing it in his favour.
Selection; Kilbricken Storm
Best Alternative; Le Breuil

Newcastle (Going; Good To Soft)

Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2m98y)
Just six go to post for this Grade 1 headed by last years winner Buveur D'Air who went on to win his remaining three starts culminating in the Champion Hurdle where he just prevailed by a neck from Melon. Since going hurdling he's only been beaten twice in eleven starts over the smaller obstacles. He's also won two starts over fences in that period. He's had a wind op over the summer and is reported in great order by Nicky Henderson. Samcro was beaten just over 1L by a race fit Bedrock at Down Royal four weeks ago and should strip fitter here. However I get the impression from listening to Gordon Elliott that he won't be surprised if he's beaten here on a track that might be a bit sharp for him and that the only race that matters is The Champion Hurdle in March. Summerville Boy won a thrilling Supreme Novices at Cheltenham beating Kalshnikov and Mengli Khan who have both started their Chasing careers in fine style. They're keeping going with Bedrock who is having his thirteenth run since March. He's been mixing hurdling with the flat and his last to runs have resulted in wins in a Grade 3 and Grade 2. His previous hurdle run was in the Galway Hurdle where in receipt of 2LB he was just under 7L behind Sharjah which in hindsight was a decent run. Vision Des Flos drops back to the minimum trip but he has a bit to find on official ratings. I'm going to take a chance with Summerville Boy.
Selection; Summerville Boy
Best Alternative; Buveur D'Air