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Home / Racing / Europeans get a bloody nose, off to the sunshine (please), a tasty Saturday trio, and come back Ron, all is forgiven (I need those stats).

Europeans get a bloody nose, off to the sunshine (please), a tasty Saturday trio, and come back Ron, all is forgiven (I need those stats).

Managing to be proved right and wrong at the same time is a neat trick of mine, but I managed it and in spades at Hong Kong last weekend, beat that if you can! The horses I suspected would run big races generally speaking failed to perform, but as we sent over some top quality challengers, my opinion that we kid ourselves that we put on the best racing/train the best horses in the World was at least justified, with Japanese sprinter Lord Kanaloa perhaps the most visually impressive, though as that was his swan song we cannot make any money on future wagers.

Talking of racing abroad, it looks like a handful of trainers fancy a bit of sunshine with the arrival of the foreign challengers ahead of the Dubai Carnival, which starts on the 9th of January. Marco Botti is well armed with the likes of Jakkalberry and Dandino joined by Linton (a Group One winner in Australia) and a handful of unknowns from Brazil (well, they are unknown to me!), so young Marco looks in for an interesting time. With US$37 million in total prize money (no that is NOT a misprint), plenty of others are eyeing the cash with Andrew Balding sending a team of six perhaps headed by Side Glance, Ed Dunlop unsurprisingly sends Red Cadeaux as well as Joshua Tree and Red Avenger in a small but select trio.

Other Brits represented are Richard Hannon and Charlie Hills but from a punting perspective, I am far more interested in the runners sent out by Mike De Kock. He invariably plunders plenty of prize money here and brings out the best South Africa have to offer with Durban Derby winner Heavy Metal as well as Vercingetorix (a really classy three year old), and top miler Variety Club who used to be trained by Joey Ramsden, son of the legendary Jack Ramsden. Ignore Mike’s runners at your peril is all I can advise at this early stage, but do keep a close watch on the betting – they often need their first or even second runs to put them spot on to go for the bigger prize money later in the spring!

Ignoring the sunshine (and really hoping this article gets me a press invite to Meydan!), it is now time to look at matters closer to home obviously starting at Cheltenham this afternoon, home of National Hunt racing and my equivalent of Mecca (am I allowed to say that these days?).  Not one but three horses this time around (blame Ron – I usually make most of my money from his ratings), starting in the 1.50pm, a three mile novice hurdle that will hopefully go the way of David Pipe’s Kings Palace. A son of King’s Theatre, he stays for ever and a day as seen when running on well over a quarter of a mile further here last time out, and with all ground seemingly acceptable, we don’t need to worry about any overnight rain – or not as the case may be! He is no certainty with Saint Roque an obvious danger as well as Flicka Williams and Milan Bound for starters, but that should only give us a better price and he does still look the likeliest winner to me.

The big chase at 2.25pm looks tough to call (where are you Ron with all your stats?), but I am told by a fairly reliable source (are any of them?) that the Paul Nicholls yard are confident that Grandioso can reverse Newbury form with Cantlow at the revised weights. Apparently, he blew a lot more than expected after the race but strips a lot fitter at home now, and will be hard to beat under jockey Daryl Jacob and looks rock solid each way at least.

Finally, and a lot risker (though sadly not priced accordingly), how about a small bet on Zarkandar in the 3.00pm for the same trainer jockey combo? Yes I agree 100% that they have The New One to beat, but the Nigel Twiston-Davies horses are hardly firing on all cylinders (African Gold anyone?), and he could be worth opposing to small stakes while the stable are out of sorts. 5/2 seems generous enough to small stakes for a multiple course and distance winner, which is exactly how I will paly it – and good luck to anyone following my frankly ridiculous path!

Selections this week

Kings Palace 1.50pm Cheltenham Saturday

Grandioso each way 2.25pm Cheltenham Saturday

Zarkandar 3.00pm Cheltenham Saturday

Horses to follow:

New look shaken up horses to follow list:

Jumps:

Rolling Star – a well-regarded young hurdler who won with any amount in hand at Haydock and seems certain to come on again for the run as per the Henderson yard this season

***No entries at present***

African Gold – a classy hurdler expected to be even better over fences, he rather let the side down on his chasing debut but is I am assured far better than that – he will win races over fences.

***Lost last week but WILL win races***

Opera Og – hopefully well handicapped off a rating of 117 (when last seen), the seven year old looked all over the winner at Bangor before fading badly to finish third. The lack of a run was clearly his undoing and with that run under his belt he should win next time out provided connections keep their sites lowered to a sensible level.

***No entries at present***

Champagne Fever – on target at home for the Arkle Chase, held in the highest regard and schooling well for Willie Mullins, likely to have Ruby Walsh in the saddle, what more can a punter ask for?

***No entries at present***

Sire De Grugy – won as he pleased on his return and sure to improve considerably for the race for Sussex trainer and ex jockey Gary Moore.

***Won the Tingle Creek at odds of  7/4, no entries at present ***

Big Casino – now with Nigel Twiston-Davies and looks well handicapped over hurdles – will be even better long term over fences. Badly handicapped (in my opinion) over hurdles and will be better back in novice company under a penalty.

***Entered next Thursday at Towcester and Exeter ***

Flat:

Mutakayyef – trained by William Haggas I had a quandary this week – do I or don’t I back the son of Sea The Stars? As with all the stable juveniles he was a shoe in to improve for the run but he is spoken of in glowing terms by gallop watchers in Newmarket. Fact is he ran as expected – slowly away, green as grass, and hampered as well, he will learn plenty from the experience and can be ignored at your peril.

***No current entries***

Freemason – a once raced juvenile owned by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing – Harbinger (a posh syndicate), he cost a whopping 150,000 Guineas so ought to be half decent – word is he is all that and more, so one to stay on the right side of.

***No current entries (unless you include the 2014 Derby!***

Idea – once raced two year old trained by Sir Michael Stoute and said to be flying on the gallops. Won after a poor run at Windsor when last seen looking as green as grass and very much one to keep on the right side of – originally nominated by a post racing reader!

***No current entries***

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