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Poacher turned gamekeeper, all the winners (?), and a happy Christmas to you all!

Well it has certainly been a strange old week in the World of horse racing with numerous obscure stories finding themselves in to the trade press. Racecourses have grabbed more of the headlines than normal with Catterick the latest to look to put down an all-weather track, but is that really such a good thing? Although ARC and others are actively looking to increase both prize money and quality the fact is the best horses wait for the turf, and unless there is a major sea change in attitudes toward the surface, I see this as losing Catterick more than I see it as gaining a new all-weather track.

 

The second big news trackside was Betfred getting involved with the planned re birth of the currently shut down Great Leighs racecourse. It may be my age (no laughing please), and that I come from a generation pre exchanges (where we saw bookmakers as the enemy), but the fact is I see this as poacher turning gamekeeper and cannot help but wonder what exactly his ulterior motive is – I could be wrong but racing needs to tread very carefully when deciding its long term partners – bang goes my invite to the reopening party!

 

On the bright side, the best news for many a week was the reappearance at Exeter of Big Buck’s, even if it was only a racecourse gallop. It seems like forever ago that the now ten year old won his last race of a sequence of eighteen consecutive wins stretching back to January 2009 and although it was good to see him fit and well, I am wary of him reappearing and being a shadow of his former self – I would personally far prefer to remember him as he was, the highest rated hurdler in training.

 

Looking ahead (at last, some will say), and a weekend full of action, plus I ought to at least mention the King George for the once a week readership.  Those interested in the big races will expect me to comment on At Fishers Cross v Celestial Halo in the Long Walk hurdle (too close to call), or even the Ladbrokes (one for Ron and his stats perhaps, but not one for me), so I will head off to pastures new for the other races – even if they are just as tough to call. This week (could it be all the romance of Christmas?), I seem to be in forgiving mode (makes a change), and have decided to give two horses another chance to show me they are not the “has beens” some others have already suggested.  Nigel Twiston-Davies started the season with a bang (he told me he likes to get them winning cash before the bigger yards get going and monopolise the prize money), then hit a poor patch where nothing could win regardless, and is now back among the winners– proving once again how tricky it is for us mere punters to have a chance at finding the winners when even the trainers don’t really have a clue. Sybarite is trained by the man himself and ran up a sequence of wins in the point to point field before disappointing in a maiden hurdle on his return under rules while the stable were very much out of sorts. For a horse rated 130 at his best (over fences and hurdles), it fascinates me that he only has one “proper” win in a bumper to his name, but he is certainly well handicapped in this three mile hurdle IF he considers putting it all in that is. From 130 to a mark of 112 this afternoon does look very generous if we ignore his last run, and at a fancy price (here’s hoping), I will be backing him each way and hope Sam Twiston-Davies can galvanise him when needed.

Puffin Billy is in a similar boat having been treated like the second coming after winning his first four races impressively, but without so much as a serious sniff of success since. His return at Newbury saw him disappoint yet again when only fifth but connections hope that the step back up to tow and a half miles and drop in class this afternoon can see him get back on track – my cash will be hoping they are right!

 

Lastly, the King George looks like a minefield and I will be writing something Christmas Day (to get out of the washing up, obviously) once a better idea of the ground/runners/prices is available to me. I can tell you now that Silviniaco Conti has shown a lot of improvement at home for his third at Newbury, and Paul Nicholls and Co are expecting a big run from a horse they are convinced can and will win a Gold Cup, but really a nearer to off time assessment would be the sensible option with the weather as it is of late!

 

 

Selections this week

 

Sybarite each way 12.45pm Ascot Saturday

 

Puffin Billy 2.40pm Haydock 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

***Entered in the 3.35pm Ascot Saturday***

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.

***No entries at present***

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?

***Entered at Leopardstown 26th sand 29th December***

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.

***Entered at Leopardstown 27th December ***

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.

***No entries at present***

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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