Plenty of interest already in Cheltenham championship races

Although the National Hunt season proper has only really got under way with the arrival of the autumn rain, there are already plenty of punters taking more than a second glance at the ante-post markets for the principal championship races for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.

Many of the market principals hail from the most powerful yards in the sport with the likes of Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, David Pipe, Jonjo O’Neill, and Alan King all fielding representatives with a prominent position in the Cheltenham Festival betting next yaer.
Mullins’ tremendous prospect Faugheen, winner of the Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, is generally sharing favouritism at around 5/1 for this term’s Champion Hurdle alongside the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained star The New One, a horse who many observers felt was unlucky not to win last term’s blue riband contest in which he finished a close third to Jessica Harrington’s Jezki after recovering well from being badly hampered by a faller at an early stage of the contest. Jezki is expected to try and defend his title, while last season’s runner-up, the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, is another potential candidate proving popular with punters in the ante-post Cheltenham Festival betting.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is already being priced up as something of a two-horse race – but what a fantastic pair they are. The 2013 champion, Sprinter Sacre, is generally quoted the 3/1 ante-post favourite, just ahead of last year’s impressive winner Sire de Grugy (4/1), the Gary Moore-trained star who took full advantage of Sprinter Sacre’s absence after the top-class Henderson-trained chaser pulled up on his only start of last season suffering from an irregular heartbeat.

With his ailments reportedly behind him now, the return to the fray of Sprinter Sacre is going to be one of the most exciting events of the first half of the season, and the prospective series of battles between him and Sire de Grugy throughout the campaign is likely to draw in tremendous crowds wherever they compete.

The World Hurdle, the highlight on day three of the meeting, will once again be the main target for the Jonjo O’Neill-trained More Of That, who maintained his perfect record when inflicting a first ever defeat on the high-class Willie Mullins-trained mare Annie Power in a memorable renewal of the three-mile contest last March. At current best odds in the ante-post betting with odds of just 3/1, More of That is likely to be one of the hottest favourites of the week if he maintains his form this season. Annie Power may take him on again, (although connections appear more likely to target the Mares’ Hurdle), so it remains to be seen if any new dangers, such as the Punchestown winner Jetson, will emerge as serious challengers to O’Neill’s star turn.

The most open of the four major championship races is the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself with no outstanding candidate at this early stage of the season. The latest ante-post odds reflect this, with betting firms offering 10/1 the field, former champion Bobs Worth and the Grade 1 Aintree winner Holywell, (a winner of a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks earlier), heading a wide-open field. Bobs Worth didn’t appear quite as good last year as the previous campaign when the Henderson-trained gelding won the Gold Cup in great style, but he wasn’t beaten far in March behind Jim Culloty’s surprise winner Lord Windermere, who is currently a general 14/1 shot to retain his crown.

Brilliant Bravo!

Bravo Zolo [pictured, on the gallops] shows his rivals a clean pair of heels when winning the class 3 nursery at Kempton last night [1st October]. The big bay colt a son of Rip Van Winkle sparkled under the floodlights and galloped away well to the line. He now has 2 wins to his name and looks a nice progressive type. 

“He has an entry in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and we will have to see how he has progressed from this race before we make any firm plans. He is shaping into a smart horse”. Said a delighted Mario Baratti, Assistant trainer. Who was at Kempton to saddle the 2 runners.

Sharp Sailor was very unlucky not to be making it a Kempton double. “When they took an age to call the result of the photo I though we had clinched it, He was really running onto the line”.Said Mario. Sharp Sailor finished a nose down to eventual winner My Reward. It was a real ding dong all the way as the early steady pace forced it into a sprint to the line.

Visit Marco Botti's website for more stable news. 

2014/15 British National Hunt Trainers’ Championship

The nights are beginning to draw in now and it is coming to the time of the year when the National Hunt game begins to emerge from the shadow of its Flat season counterpart.
Across the length and breadth of the nation, the handlers of the jumping scene are training up their horses in preparation for what promises to be yet another exciting campaign. Here we will discuss the merits of several trainers’ in their quest to become the British National Hunt Trainers Champion for 2014/15.

Returning stars key

Leading the current market with Betfair is Nicky Henderson, who will surely have a huge say in the destination of this seasons’ title. The Seven Barrows handler has an extensive team of horses in his stable, but the key to the hopes of the Henderson yard could well hinge on some of his major stars returning from injury.

Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig were both huge players who catapulted Henderson to the top of the jumping sphere back in 2012/13 with some sparkling performances, but Simonsig never made a track appearance last term, while Sacre was pulled-up on his only start at Kempton, behind Sire De Grugy, who went on to take his Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham.

While these two horses will not make or break the chances of the Henderson yard, a return to form for both would be hugely significant – especially with so many tempting prizes on offer for Sprinter Sacre at the minimum trip.

Potentially vulnerable

The reigning champion, Paul Nicholls, will be looking to win his ninth title in the past ten years. With the likes of Kauto Star, Master Minded and Denman all retired from the game in recent seasons, combined with the defection of star jockey Ruby Walsh to the Willie Mullins yard in Ireland, Nicholls is more vulnerable to the challenges of the rest than ever before. However, the Ditcheat handler still has many bullets of ammunition to fire amongst his yard to attempt to maintain his dominance of the National Hunt game.

Nicholls has always had a promising group of novices, and with the likes of Irving and Lac Fontana coupled with stable star Silviniaco Conti, another title bid could yet be on the cards, but the lack of current top-class stars in the yard is a major concern, especially at such short odds in the betting.

Major player

Jonjo O’Neill is the current – albeit very early – leader of the trainers’ standings. With the extensive backing of owner JP McManus, alongside the relentless urge for winners that AP McCoy brings, the team from Jackdaws Castle may well be a major player this seasons’ race for the title. O’Neill has plenty of very promising horses at his disposal, including More of That who claimed the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in just his fifth race under rules.

Holywell, was also in the winners’ enclosure at the Festival and at Aintree and is one of the market favourites for the Gold Cup next March. Taquin Du Seuil was also a hugely promising novice chaser last term in bagging two Graded races and is also another weapon for the Irish trainer to utilise. Shutthefrontdoor also went into many notebooks for this seasons’ Grand National with his Irish National win at Fairyhouse back in April, which highlights even further the strength of the emerging O’Neill team.

Best of the rest

David Pipe, Alan King, Phillip Hobbs, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Donald McCain are all trainers who are held in very high regard on the National Hunt circuit, but it seems very unlikely that any of this quintet can seriously challenge the likes of the above three. All of these trainers will surely have their big days over the upcoming calendar, but will lack the consistency of big-prized winners to maintain a serious challenge.

In conclusion

Jonjo O’Neill may yet prove a very serious threat to the likes of Nicholls and Henderson this season. With an ever burgeoning yard, alongside some hugely promising talent, the Jackdaws Castle operation could wrestle the title from their illustrious rivals – who have some question marks to answer. No matter who wins the Trainers’ title for 2014/15, it promises to be yet another fantastic season to look forward to.

Combat the Cold: Is Your Stable Ready For Winter?

The winter is drawing closer, and if predictions are accurate it could be a far colder winter than average. As a reliable horse owner, your priority is maintaining your horse’s health and happiness in these colder months, but if you haven’t started the preparations for your stable yet, don’t panic! This latest post is filled with advice on how to get your stable ready for winter…

  • Clean Vigorously
Maintaining the cleanliness of your stable is crucial all year around and winter is no exception. Use disinfectant to thoroughly clean the stable and ensure that enough pest control is in place to deter rodents. Exhaustive cleaning before winter will certainly assist in preserving your horse’s health.
  • Stop Freezing
Winter is often accompanied by dreaded snow and ice – and this is almost certainly going to be the case this year. This is why it is important to keep all areas of the stable, including doors and windows, clean and dry to prevent them from freezing shut. It is also worth insulating your water pipes to try and prevent freezing, but always keep a water bucket on hand for extremely cold days.
  • Invest In Rubber Matting
The colder months can affect your horse’s joints and hooves. By investing in high-quality rubber matting, you can lessen the pressure on their joints whilst keeping them comfortable throughout winter. Look to UK based suppliers such as Fairfield Sales for specialist rubber matting designed with horses in mind.
  • Entertainment
It may not be acceptable to install a flat screen TV in your stable but you can certainly alleviate boredom by introducing games, stimulating toys and shatterproof mirrors. When your horse isn’t playing around, they might be spending their time looking outside. Ensure that you have a stable door grille correctly installed to prevent boredom-related weaving.
  • Winter Warming Food
If your horse is kept outside throughout most of the summer, your stable may not be fully equipped for full-time use. Invest in high-quality hay nets that your horse can feed from and make sure you have enough for a constant supply. Installing more than one hay net and filling each with a different form of sustenance can keep your horse interested in eating whilst providing another way to prevent boredom.
  • Keep Yourself Warm

We admit that this is not a stable related top tip, but it is incredibly important. Keeping yourself wrapped up warm in clothing, boots and gloves will not only protect you from harsh weather but ensure that you are willing to make those colder visits to your horse.


The betting for the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe has been left wide open again following the trials at Longchamp at the weekend and Australia’s surprise defeat in the Irish Champions Stakes. With just weeks to go now, bookmakers are struggling to make a clear favourite for Europe’s premier flat race.

Germany Derby winner Sea the Moon has been forced to retire after picking up a serious injury in his last run, last year’s winner Treve has disappointed in her last two starts and Australia now looks likely to go for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in British Champions Day rather than a trip to Paris.

The forgotten horse for this year’s Arc could be Oaks winner Taghrooda. Her sole defeat came in her last run on the Knavesmitre at York. John Gosden’s filly went off a short odds-on favourite for that contest but had to settle for second as Tapestry got the better of her by half a length.

Taghrooda proved she was capable of beating her opposite sex, and the older horses, in the Group One King George back in July so anyone who gives up on her just yet as a result of her recent racing form could be being premature. She was also one of the most impressive Oak winners in recent years when she blew the field away ay Epsom and a repeat of that run would put her firmly in the mix.

The home challenge this year looks to be with Treve. The daughter of Le Havre extended her unbeaten run to six when she was successful at Deauville last month.

Avenir Certain has won two Group One races this season. She was a surprise 14-1 winner of the Poule D’Essai Des Pouliches over the short trip of a mile at Longchamp, while just weeks later, she stepped up in distance to prevail in the Prix De Diane Longines at Chantilly.

September Update From Kingsclere Park House Stables

The horses remain in excellent form and, having registered a further 12 winners in August, we have now passed through the £1.25million mark in prize-money for the season, with a tally of 82 winners in the Flat Trainers’ Championship.

Absolutely So is a very progressive four year old and he added a second win of the summer with an impressive victory in the Listed City Of York Stakes on his first outing in Pattern company. 

Having gone close in the Bunbury Cup on his penultimate start, it was a relief to see him come home in front and the form of his win has already been franked, with the runner-up going on to win in Group 2 company on his next outing. On this showing he looks capable of taking another step up the ladder into Group company next time. 

The Kingsclere Racing Club are having a year to remember and Intransigent once again showed himself to be very useful on his day when powering home to win the Listed Queensferry Stakes at Chester under Oisin Murphy. 

Things didn’t go his way next time in a valuable handicap at Goodwood, but he is capable of adding another win this term, with an All-Weather campaign this winter a possibility too.

Montaly provided his sire Yeats with a first 2yo winner last year and he continues to fly the flag for his young sire, winning a valuable handicap at Haydock Park in game fashion, despite not having the clearest of runs. He is an exciting young stayer who could go further still next season. 

We have a very good record at Chester in recent years and that has once again been the case this term, with Enliven one of eight winners at the track for us this season at a 40% strike-rate! A daughter of Dansili out of a half-sister to Group 1 winner Aquarelliste, she is capable of further improvement and will go handicapping off what looks a fair mark. 

Another filly firmly on the upgrade is Merry Me, the daughter of Invincible Spirit recording a second consecutive win on her return from a break, this time over a mile on soft ground at Ffos Las under Jim Crowley. That was just her second start on turf and she should continue to progress off her 6lbs higher mark. 

Elbereth created a good impression when drawing clear of a subsequent winner to shed her maiden tag at just the second time of asking in a 1m3f maiden at Kempton Park and she looks a good young prospect, while Chesil Beach, who shed her maiden tag in selling company back in June but had run numerous good races in defeat in handicap company since, deservedly got her head in front again at Brighton under David Probert. She will go for a valuable handicap at Chester for her next outing.

Roskilly was another to contribute towards our winners tally at Chester this term, benefitting from a well-judged ride from Oisin Murphy, who also rode fellow three year old Mime Dance to victory in the £20,000 Brighton Mile Challenge Trophy.

Though we haven’t run many of our two year olds as yet, they are an exciting bunch and the Kingsclere Racing Club’s Elm Park has done a fine job of showing his peers how it’s done, winning both a Newbury maiden and the Listed Stonehenge Stakes within a fortnight last month! 

Bred on the stud and by former Kingsclere stable star Phoenix Reach, he looks a very useful colt indeed and, though no decision has yet been made on where he runs next, he holds an entry in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster next month. 

Dance Of Fire was another juvenile to get off the mark in August, narrowly getting the better of his sole rival under David Probert in a match race at Epsom. He looks to have been given a very fair mark to go handicapping and could prove a force in nurseries this term.

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Kumaon & Sarajevo Seek Golden Rose

Kumaon and Sarajevo face each other again at Rosehill Gardens, Australia, in the seven-furlong Group One De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose Stakes on Saturday, September 13. 

Both three-year-old colts ran well at the same course on their first outings of the season in the Group Three MTA NSW Run To The Rose over six furlongs on August 30, with Kumaon [pictured] running on well to take second behind Hallowed Crown and Sarajevo coming home fourth.

Kumaon, trained by John O'Shea and ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, was headed close home to finish third, beaten just over a length, in the mile Group One Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes at Royal Randwick on April 26. 

He was half a neck second in the seven-furlongs Group Two Bowermans Pago Pago Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on March 29, and made a winning debut over five and a half furlongs at the same course in December, 2013. 

Sarajevo, also representing John O'Shea and partnered by James McDonald, was hampered on his seasonal return when fourth in the Listed Rosebud Stakes over six furlongs at Randwick on August 9. He also made a winning start to his career with a comfortable victory in a five and a half furlong maiden by just over a length at Randwick-Kensington on April 21.  

John O'Shea said: "Kumaon has made beautiful improvement from his first-up run. He has drawn nicely in gate one for a race that is run at speed. I am very happy with the colt and believe he is ready to run a very forward race. 

"Sarajevo continues to improve every time he steps out and the last fortnight has been no different. "He gets a gun run from this barrier draw (eight) but we just need the track to dry out a little bit more to have him at his most effective. He goes into the race with a great profile and I expect him to be very competitive."

Kumaon and Sarajevo face 13 rivals headed by Tooheys New Golden Slipper third Bring Me The Maid, dual Group Three scorer Hallowed Crown and Group One Tatts Group J J Atkins winner Almalad.