As some of you will have noticed (because I rarely shut up about it), I am lucky enough to be off to Hong Kong on Sunday morning for the Longines International meeting where I am really hoping for a British success or two be that horses or jockeys – and I tell you that as a brief in advance explanation of why next weeks article may be early or late and will be very much Hong Kong based!
Before then we have had a very sad week in the World of racing (again) as far as I am concerned, with the sad passing of Trading Leather who was fatally injured in the Japan Cup as well as Willie Mullins’ Allez Colombieres who was thought of as a World beater but now we will never know – my heart goes out to their connections, especially the poor lads or lasses who invariably get so emotionally attached to their charges. Elsewhere, the HWPA (Horserace Writers and Photographers Association) held their annual lunch in London where they handed out a long list of awards and where Alan Lee of The Times picked up the Writer Of The Year Award for the third time – though I should obviously point out that I didn’t enter!! Seriously though, Alan is the man we all look up to and sets a very high standard I personally aspire to as does my good friend Nick Godfrey who was also nominated but without success on this occasion. Amusingly, there was a media trip arranged to Worcestershire on Tuesday morning but just how many made it after the standard annual lunch would be an interesting question, though I can add that I cried off for purely medicinal reasons!
Looking ahead to the weekend (and hopefully doing a fair bit better than the list of places I managed to give out last week), and I hope to be at Sandown in person to cheer on Blue Buttons if she still heads there as planned at the time of writing. Naturally, as with pretty much every Harry Fry trained horse she goes there with every chance, and as I am personally of the opinion that she may not have got home over two and three quarter miles at Wincanton, the drop to two and a half miles here could be ideal, though I am sure Ron will pass on the word from the yard as and when we get nearer to race time. Highland Retreat, on the other hand, seems to stay forever but also drops back in trip at Huntingdon on Saturday though we are all hoping she could outclass these if there is some early pace in the race and I suspect she has the better chance out of the two of making it in to the winners’ enclosure.
As for a couple of bets (three last week seemed a bit too many, especially as they failed to win), I am reasonably happy to start off at Aintree where I will risk the poor form of the Jonjo O’Neill yard (23 runners and zero winners in the last fortnight), and risk a bet on Gold Cup hope Holywell who was unsuited by the shorter trip at Carlisle last time out and should strip a lot fitter over this three miles plus. His stable’s form is a major concern but should make him a better price – and as I feel he has every chance at Cheltenham in March as do the stable, he will need to put in a polished display here.
Meanwhile, best place your bets straight after breakfast as my runner at Chepstow heads off in the 12.35pm when Warren Greatrex fully expects One Track Mind to return with his unbeaten record intact. A bumper win at Wetherby last season was followed by a runaway novice hurdle victory at the same track last month and if he learns from his jumping mistakes, then the winners penalty is unlikely to stop him here in a race where there is more quantity than quality with the obvious exceptions.
To end with, some old friends are in action at Aintree when Big Casino runs in the 1.00pm for Nigel Twiston-Davies, Creepy reverts to hurdles in the 2.05pm after unseating when looking beaten last time over fences, and Cheltenham specialist Champion Court continues to drop down the weights in the Grand Sefton Chase at 3,15pm -all have chances at their best but all have plenty to prove and I will probably keep a watching brief (which means a small bet lol) this weekend.
Good luck one and all…..
Selections this week:
Holywell 2.40pm Aintree Saturday
One Track Mind 12.35pm Chepstow Saturday
Horses to follow:
Creepy – well supported on his debut over fences this week at Chepstow when making all and jumping well throughout to score by twenty lengths easing down. Trainer Martin Keighley thinks a lot of him and he will surely add more races to that success this season with the Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham presumably his long-term objective. Looked well beaten when unseating Richard Johnson last weekend at Cheltenham but can still win races if kept to a sensible grade.
***Entered in the 2.05pm at Aintree Saturday***
Broxbourne – used to be well above average on the flat when trained by Mark Johnston and looked like a machine when winning at lowly Fakenham for Nicky Henderson this week. More of a confidence booster than a real race he is entitled to improve for his first run in over a year and he could be pretty decent over two and a half miles or further over hurdles and seems sure to add to that victory.
***Third last week and no current entries***
Ballyallia Man – Tom George is off to a flyer and this nine year old returned to action with little more than an exercise canter to win at Wincanton by a long looking six lengths. This was his first run for seven months or so and he is entitled to strip a little bit fitter next time out, so as long as the handicapper isn’t too punitive he ought to score next time out as well, after which he may be in the grips and can be removed with profit made!
*** Ran Friday and no current entries***
Hargam – an unlucky runner up on his hurdling debut the three year old was travelling as if it was a matter of how far not if at Cheltenham before fading up the infamous hill. With that run behind him he is surely a shoe in to win next time out and could win a few more if sensibly entered.
***No Current Entries***