Ron has sort of pre-empted my opening paragraph by telling everyone about my sure fire winner that duly obliged yesterday afternoon, all be it a few days later than originally planned! A 2/1 winner is nothing to get too exited about and while Ron talks about me, I want to talk about Ron – and whether he has been touched by pixie dust or something? Brownie points or not I have to say that I have been involved in a few racing clubs over the years but NEVER one as instantly successful as this – how do you do it Ron and will you pick my lottery numbers please? Hiddon Coin has won two on the bounce since Post Racing have been involved (and is well in on Thursday if turning out again according to official figures), while Rosie’s Lady has been a revelation (can I remind everyone she had raced sixteen times without success until Ron got involved), winning two and adding more money to the charity pot despite needing the run and having a strop on Tuesday afternoon! Well done Ron but you are one tough act to follow, but I will try my best, by starting off with a few comments regarding what could be the banker bet of the week – running at Santa Anita in California for English trainer Simon Callaghan, son of the legendary Neville Callaghan. Strong Suit was a quality act when trained over here by Richard Hannon, winning four Group races but I am hoping the Americans will not know who he is (or jockey Jamie Spencer) and allow him to go off at a sensible price. Looking at the possible field (with my limited knowledge of USA form of course), he is head and shoulders above any of his rivals IF he is fit enough to do himself justice, though it will be a bit of a game getting a bet on as I cannot find the race times anywhere at present but may try and update later in the week (if I remember of course).
Closer to home and the news I am hearing concerns nine-year-old chaser Divers who is trained by Ferdy Murphy in deepest darkest Yorkshire! Word is connections feel he is well weighted over hurdles (not fences) with a handicap mark of 125 (ten pounds less than over the larger obstacles), and as things stand he will head to Musselburgh over hurdles on the 3rd of February where a big run is expected – certainly another for your notebook.
Back in the present then racing world has been a little quiet until it all exploded last weekend with both the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Festival trials bringing some long awaited smiles to punters faces, but what did we really learn? Looking back in a cold hearted manner (I am not too good at that as I have so many friends I am tempted to side with), but what do we make of the return to action of 2010 Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander? Firstly, we need to consider the depth of the race and if anyone thinks this was a legitimate Gold Cup trial they should take up needlework and give up on this betting malarkey! Fact is that a cursory glance at the antepost betting will soon tell you that Bobs Worth, Sir Des Champs, Long Run, et al were all missing last Saturday leaving the form with a rather hollow ring to it. I do think it was a perfectly respectable return in the circumstances though he may have been fitter than some would have you believe, as the money was down and his price came in from 5/1 in places to 7/2 at the off. A time close to a minute slower than standard says it all about the ground, and it will be interesting to talk to his trainer to gauge his honest opinions about his Cheltenham chances. On the same card Sprinter Sacre merely confirmed his status as the best two mile chaser seen for many a year, though Oscar Whisky will be giving trainer Nicky Henderson some headaches between now and mid March. The thought in the yard is that two and a half miles is his best trip which leaves him like a fish out of water at the Festival, but on Saturday he did seem to get home over the three miles on heavy ground, so it may have to be the Stayers Hurdle after all, especially on better going where the absence of Big Bucks looks sure to provide a decent sized field he can be covered up in.
In Ireland, those who back the outsider in a field of three (its an old idea but it seems to work sometimes) will have had a bumper pay day when Benefficient took the Arkle Novice Chase at odds of 10/ after the favourite fell and the second favourite tried his damnedest to uproot the final fence when tiring, though I would STILL be crying today if I had backed him on the Tote – £7.00 (6/1) is a joke of a price and the warning is there for all to see. On Sunday, the Irish Champion Hurdle was all about one question – will the real Hurricane Fly please stand up? The Champion Hurdler of 2011 is clearly not that easy to train but when he is at his best he is a machine, so we have to see how he is in March because in this sort of mood the race is his for the taking. Binocular is the bane of Nicky Henderson’s life on occasions as he thinks he should have won at least three Champion hurdles with the now nine year old (his words, not mine), but he looked nothing like his old self here in a distant third. I had honestly hoped to see some of the old spark before considering an each way bet but the light just may have gone out (famous last words), and even at 20/1 I cannot be remotely tempted. That said, if you shop around you can still get 50/1 about Peddlers Cross with Stan James and a little 112/1 on BETFAIR!) which is plain stupidity about the eight year old who was only a length and a quarter runner up to Hurricane Fly in 2011. Never the same over fences (despite some decent runs) and is reverting to hurdles from now on which could be the making of him. His return when runner up in an all-weather bumper should put him straight after ten months off and why he is such a ludicrous price is totally beyond me, and I can only hope connections fail to switch to Plan B, which is an assault on the Stayers hurdle instead?
Looking ahead is never easy with the inclement weather we have all been suffering and all I could find was an odds on double via Captain Conan in the Scilly Isles Novice Chase Saturday and Sizing Europe in the Tied Cottage on Sunday but we wont get rich there I am sorry to say, but I ma unwilling to make bets up just for the sake of it. If they all line up for the opener at Sandown on Saturday then we could have a race worth watching with Darlan, Grandouet and Rock On Ruby all declared, though with hold ups in recent work at even the biggest yards, I am unconvinced just how much I will eventually read in to the result. It should be a race to savour, but if I had my arm twisted behind my back (or a charity bet to use up), then Rock On Ruby would be my choice – I still feel that even at the age of eight there is more improvement left to come.
Horses to follow list:
Mansonien L’As (not currently entered in any races)
Divers (declared 3rd February at Musselburgh)
Ante post suggestion
Half point each way Peddlers Cross 2013 Champion Hurdle at 50/1 with Stan James.
Strong Suit to win at Santa Anita Saturday at SP