16 Apr 2018

Which Trainer Will End Their Grand National Drought?

After the drama of Cheltenham Festival, the attention of the National Hunt campaign turns to the Grand National. One For Arthur will not be competing at the event, leaving the door open for a new champion to enter the winners’ enclosure at Aintree. 

Colin Tizzard was the triumphant party in the major race at Cheltenham as Native River won the Gold Cup. However, two of the leading trainers of the National Hunt circuit, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Willie Mullings, will aim to hit back at the National and end their respective droughts. 

It has been 15 years since Twiston-Davies produced a winner in the Grand National. Binaree was the last of his charges to triumph, which came back in 2002. However, he has a fine chance to end his losing streak, with Blaklion considered the leading contender to win the crown.

As of 22nd March, the bay gelding has odds of 10/1 with Betway to secure the win, although he will face tough competition to get over the line as Mullins also bids to end his wait for the National. Total Recall underwhelmed in the Gold Cup but could be the one to challenge Blaklion and win the race for the first time in 12 years for Mullins.


Blaklion
Blaklion 

Twiston-Davies’ charge was considered the favourite for the National last season, despite finishing second in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock Park in his last outing before the race. Blaklion appeared to be on course for a challenge in the final stages of the race after moving second after the 24th fence, but he lacked the pace to beat out One For Arthur, finishing in fourth place. 

He returned to action for the start of the new campaign at the Charlie Hall Chase. The bay gelding faced off against his stable-mate Bristol De Mai, and the two horses duelled for the win down the stretch. However, it was Bristol De Mai and jockey Daryl Jacob that came out on top, securing the victory by half-a-length.

Blaklion returned to his peak form with a brilliant run at the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree in December. Gavin Sheehan had his charge at the back of the field in the early stages of the contest but was gradually able to shift through the gears, moving second behind Highland Lodge two fences out. He surged down the stretch and was able to canter to victory by nine lengths, highlighting his speed in the final furlong. 

Tough conditions hampered almost all of the competitors in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock Park in February. Only three horses managed to complete the race, with Yala Enki managing to battle his way to victory by an overwhelming margin, although Blaklion emerged with second place. It will still take a fine performance from jockey and the nine-year-old to pull off the victory for Twiston-Davies. 


Total Recall
Total Recall 

The Irish horse passed into the hands of Mullins at the start of the 2017/18 National Hunt campaign. In his first race under his new trainer, Total Recall put forward a fine performance to secure victory at the Munster National Handicap Chase, winning the race by seven lengths. 

Due to the result, the bay gelding was considered the leading contender for the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase. As Ruby Walsh was sidelined due to injury, Paul Townsend took the reins and was able to guide the eight-year-old to victory, although he was pushed all the way by Whisper. The two horses battled down the final furlong, but Total Recall was able to defeat his rival by a nose. 

Mullins’ charge entered the William Fry Handicap Hurdle with momentum and, with Townend once again in the saddle, he made a steady start to the race. The Irish horse upped the ante from the fifth fence and was able to see out the victory with relative ease, finishing three lengths ahead of Oscar Knight. 

Total Recall was entered into the Gold Cup, despite Mullins lining up the National for his charge. However, he and the rest of the field were blown away by the performances of Native River and Might Bite. The Irish horse fell three fences from the end of the meet after labouring, although he was able to get spring back up, much to the relief of his trainer. Mullins will be hopeful that his charge’s performance in the Gold Cup will not affect a potential charge for the National.

12 Apr 2018

Which Trainer Has Had The Greatest Success At The Grand National?


Ginger McCain and Red Rum
Ginger McCain and Red Rum
The Grand National is the biggest race in the British calendar and claiming victory represents the pinnacle of many trainers’ careers. It requires putting forward a horse blessed with a phenomenal amount of grit, determination and stamina, as the course is epic and perilous in equal measures. It comes with a prize purse of £1 million, making it Europe’s richest race, and it attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, so it is a great opportunity to shine. The prestige associated with winning the race is also enormous. So which trainer has enjoyed the most success at the Grand National over the years?

Well, it is actually a tie, as there are three trainers that have each secured victory on four different occasions. The race began in 1839 at Aintree in Merseyside and it attracted 17 runners. Queen Victoria was on the throne, the Whigs were in power and horseracing was very much in its infancy. Lottery went off as the fourth favourite at 9/1 and he took the lead on the second circuit at First Brook, a lead he held onto until the finish, winning by three lengths. Trainer George Dockeray, a former Ascot Gold Cup winning jockey, was triumphant. The following year he saddled Jerry, who beat Lottery – a faller – and favourite The Nun to win the race, making it two out of two for Dockeray.

Charity took the 1841 renewal for William Vevers and Lord Craven, but Dockeray was back with a vengeance the following year. This time he saddled Gaylad, who beat stablemate Lottery and Peter Simple to win the 1842 race, making it three out of four for Dockeray. He had to wait a decade for his next victory, but he remained patient and it paid off when Miss Mowbray handed him his fourth win in 1852.

Dockeray died in 1857 and his record still stands to this day. Nobody matched him for more than a century, but Fred Rimmel pulled off four wins between 1956 and 1976. Rimmell was another former jockey and he went on to become the first trainer to earn £1 million in prize money for his owners. He also earned the nickname Mr Grand National as a result of his prowess in the Aintree showpiece, and his journey began in bizarre fashion in the 1956 National.

The Queen Mother’s horse, Devon Loch, was the heavy favourite and he justified that status by opening up a five-length lead in the run-in to the finishing post. But then Devon Loch inexplicably jumped in the air and belly flopped to the turf. Jockey Dick Francis tried to rouse him, but was unsuccessful and Rimmel’s E.S.B. overtook him and secured victory. Five years later the trainer tasted more success when Nicolaus Silver defied odds of 28/1 to become the first grey to win the race in 90 years. It took another nine years before Rimmel secured more glory. In 1970, Gay Trip carried top weight but did not seem unduly bothered as he romped to a 20-length victory. Rimmel picked up his fourth and final win in 1976, when his 14/1 shot Rag Trade beat the legendary Red Rum to land the race.

By that time, Ginger McCain already had two wins under his belt, and Red Rum had claimed both of them. In 1973, the superstar chaser was 15 lengths behind Crisp after the final hurdle, but produced a stunning burst of energy to overhaul his rival and win by three-quarters of a length. It is widely considered the greatest Grand National in history. He carried top weight the following year but still won, and then went on to win the Scottish Grand National, becoming the only horse to claim both races in the same year. Red Rum was always burdened with top weight and he finished second in 1975 and then second again to Rag Trade in 1976. But in 1977 he cemented his greatness by completing a Grand National hat-trick aged 12 in what is ranked as one of the greatest sporting moments in British history. Remarkably, after 27 years without a victory, McCain picked up a fourth win to move level with Dockeray and Rimmel when Amberleigh House won the 2004 renewal.

A few trainers have won three races, but nobody has come close to matching that trio in recent years. Of the current crop, Nigel Twiston-Davies leads the way with two wins - Earth Summit in 1998 and Bindaree in 2002. Leading lights such as Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Paul Nicholls have only managed one victory, illustrating just how difficult this race is to win. Star trainers such as Nicky Henderson and Dan Skelton have never won this race, so for Twiston-Davies to claim two victories is a great achievement. If you take a look at the horse racing spread betting, you will see that Twiston-Davies saddles one of the leading contenders for this year's race in Blaklion, who finished seventh in 2016 and sixth last year, so he could be moving up to three, and then the McCain-Rimmel-Dockeray record would be within his sights.

11 Apr 2018

Royal Ascot 2018: Queen Mary Stakes Trends

Lady Aurelia: Queen Mary Stakes 2016
It's that time again. Horse racing in the month of June means one thing. Ladies get your best clobber ready, while men it's time to put on your whistle and flute (suit). From the 19th - 23rd June, those lucky few get a chance to enjoy some royal ascot hospitality. If you love fashion and horse racing, there is no better place to go. 

For those who enjoy two-year-old horse racing, there are 6 high-profile races to have a bet. 

Pencil this into your diary: 21st June, Wednesday, 3:05. 

A Brief History

This Group 2 race is open to two-year-old fillies and run over a distance of 5f. It was named after Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. It's inaugural running proved victorious for Wild Mint in 1921. This race was upgraded to Group 3 class in 1971 and changed to Group 2 status in 2004.  

Historically, Sir Gordon Richards and Fred Darling are leading jockey and trainer with five wins and seven wins, respectively. 

An number of exceptional talents have won this race over the years. 

Speed merchant, Lyric Fantasy (1992), trained by Richard Hannon Snr, went on to win the Nunthorpe Stakes. 

Mark Johnston's Attraction won this race in 2003. A truly exceptional talent for a small filly with an unnatural running action. She went on to win the English and Irish 1000 Guineas in 2004. 

Clive Brittain, late in his racing career, unearthed Rizeena in 2013. This daughter of Iffraaj shone brightly for owner Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum. 

American trainer Wesley Ward hit the headline with one of the fastest fillies racegoers have ever seen in 2016 when Lady Aurelia blasted clear of the opposition to win unchallenged by seven length, ridden by Frankie Dettori. 

Trends 

Over the last fifteen years we have seen a mixed bag of results. Three horses have won at odds of 20/1+ (Ceiling Kitty 2012, Langs Lash 2008 (25/1) & Elletelle 2007). Seven favourites have won over this period of time. The shortest priced being Attraction (13/8f) in 2003. As noted, Wesley Ward does well in this contest with three of the last nine winners. Compared with the Coventry Stakes (Group 2) there is more chance of an upset in this heat although ten of the last fifteen winners have been priced 10/1 & less. Average SP  being 17/2. 

Other notable two-year-old races:

Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)
Coventry Stakes (Group 2)
Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
Albany Stakes (Group 3)
Chesham Stakes (Listed) 

10 Apr 2018

Elitloppet: Sweden’s biggest horseracing event

Elitloppet: Sweden’s biggest horseracing event
Elitloppet, which translates literally to “The Elite Race", is Sweden’s largest annual horse racing event, and one of the most prestigious international trotting events in the world. Taking place in Solvalla since 1952, the invitational Group One harness event is part of the European Grand Circuit and is a big phenomenon in Sweden, drawing crowds of over 50,000 fans every year for the races and surrounding festivities.

Traditionally raced on the last Sunday of May, the Solvalla racetrack also holds special races on Friday and Saturday, with all three days being generally extremely well visited by Swedish and international crowds alike, in what is commonly referred to in Sweden as "The Elitlopp weekend". The Elitlopp is considered by Swedes to be one of the biggest sporting events of the year and is widely watched throughout the country, with viewing parties taking place in practically every Swedish city or town.

Elitloppet is also one of Sweden’s most bet on sporting events. While traditionally Swedes are known for their award-winning casinos and online slots, this is completely eclipsed by betting on horses during the Elitloppet weekend, with record breaking figures being registered at the bookmakers practically every year. 

Last year, Elitloppet weekend drew in over 60,000 visits, approximately one million TV viewers, and 373 million SEK in revenue on ATG's game modes. This year the event will take place between May 25-27th, and the event seems on track to surpass those numbers already. As is customary, the winner being decided through two qualifying races, and subsequently the grand final being celebrated on Sunday May 27th. Each qualifying race will feature eight starters, as will the final race. 

The beginning of a tradition

While Elitloppet might be an established yearly tradition now, when it was first held in 1952 it was intended to be a one-time event. In order to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Solvalla’s racetrack decided to host a huge international race called “Solvallas Jubileumslopp”, or Solvalla’s Jubilee Race. With some of the finest racehorses from all across Europe travelling by train to the Swedish town, the event created high levels of anticipation along horse racing enthusiasts.

In the first edition, the format of the race was different than that which is currently used today. The winner was decided through two heats followed by a race-off, with German horse Permit ultimately being crowned victorious in a riveting race.

The Jubileumslopp was considered by all standards a smashing success, and the Solvalla Race Track decided to hold the event again next year, now under its well-known name of Elitloppet.

Racebooks release the odds

With all participating horses having been released, several different online bookmakers have already dutily posted odds for betting on the event, trying to entice bettors into placing early wagers.

As was to be expected, the favorite to win the event is the Swedish horse Readly Express, at odds of 3.25. Readly Express is one of the best Swedish horses in memory, being crowned the winner of the Grand Prix de l'UET, the Jubilee Cup, the Prix Tenor de Baune, the European Championship for 5 year olds, and the Swedish Championship. However, when he also took home the Grand Prix d'Amérique on the Vincennes Hippodrome in Paris in January - widely considered the world’s toughest tram - it was clear that Readly was something out of the norm and would be considered the favorite in home ground. 

Standout horses Propulsion and Bold Eagle are not far behind either, with odds of 4 each, with the closest competitor after, Twister Bi, lagging behind at odds of 9, making it clear who the favorites to place in the race are. You can check out the odds for all competing horses below:



Horse
Highest odds
Readly Express
3.25
Propulsion
4
Bold Eagle
4
Twister Bi
9
Cyber Lane
16
Ringostarr Treb
20
Belina Josselyn
25
Ferrari B.R.
40
Uza Josselyn
40
Cruzado Dela Noche
50
Diamanten
50
Takethem
50
Dante Boko
50
Lionel
50
Perfect Spirit
50
Buzz Mearas
60
Dd's Hitman
60
Love Matters
60
Lionel N.O.
65
Zenit Brick
75
Tjacko Zaz
75
Workout Wonder
75
Digital Ink
85
In Vain Sund
100
Traders
100
Southwind Feji
125
Volstead
150
Carabinieri
175
Elian Web
175

Photo source: Sko Info

5 Apr 2018

Total Recall to Make Amends for Cheltenham Fall in Grand National


Aintree finishing post
Picking a horse that fell last time out is perhaps not the most logical place to start when looking at the Grand National, but despite that, Total Recall looks to be a horse with a great chance of winning the big events. He was in the process of running a great race in the Cheltenham Gold Cup before coming down and can make amends at Aintree by taking the world's most famous steeplechase.
We have seen a lot from Total Recall this season, and all of it has been very positive. From winning the Ladbrokes Gold Cup earlier this season to running very well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, every piece of form has pointed to a big run in the National. Even though he fell in the Gold Cup, there was a lot to take from that race and a lot to be positive about. He was just making a move and coming into contention when falling, and he looked ready to stay on up the hill and claim a place. That would have represented a serious piece of form, and only that fall is preventing Total Recall from being a clear favourite for the race with the bookmakers.
The experts over at Timeform have put the list of runners and riders together and they have also given Total Recall a favourable mention, alongside many other horses. Like every single year, the 2018 Grand National looks to be hugely competitive and many horses are in with a chance of winning. With the exception of Blaklion, Irish trainers are dominating the front of the betting, with Total Recall, Anibale Fly and Tiger Roll all towards the head of the market.

Much is spoken about with regards to who the race favourite will be, although that is something that won’t be decided until the day. If this year is like any other, we will see a big market move on the day that will push one horse to favouritism. Total Recall may have done that after Cheltenham was it not for the fall he had, but many punters will not want to back a horse who fell last time out.
However, if you can forgive him that mistake and give him another chance, then every other part of his recent form this season gives him a huge shout, and shows he should be the race favourite. From winning over hurdles in Ireland, to coming over to the UK and winning the Ladbrokes Gold Cup, every race has shown us that he is up to the Grand National test.
Had he maintained his challenge at Cheltenham, and stayed on his feet then there is no doubting that he would have finished in the top five, with a top-three finish looking likely. That piece of form would have instantly propelled him to clear favourite for the race, and would have been enough to leave him head and shoulders above the opposition going into the race.

21 Mar 2018

Colin Tizzard taking Cheltenham Gold Cup form to Aintree


Native River
Horse trainer Colin Tizzard was in dreamland at the Cheltenham Festival. His horse, Native River, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup as he outlasted the favourites and shot the trainer into stardom. Tizzard's win has sent the horse racing community abuzz. Some have wondered just who the trainer is and if his horses can continue their form at the Grand National. Horse racing fans wanting to follow Tizzard and his exciting horses can do so, at Sbat as he attempts to win the various races at Grand National this year.

Starting at a price of 5/1, Native River bested the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Might Bite by 4 ½ lengths. Tizzard didn't just train the Gold Cup winner at Cheltenham. Kilbricken Storm won the Spa Novices' Hurdles and landed over £70,000 in prize money.

Tizzard's two wins at Cheltenham give plenty of optimism that he can do the same at Aintree. Tizzard has had previous success at Aintree and the Grand National. In 2017, the horse trainer pulled of an incredible treble thanks to his horses Pingshou, Fox Norton and Ultragold. In particular, Ultragold's performance was one to remember. The horse was a 50/1 shot to win the Topham Chase, which he did in shock fashion.

Following his wins in 2017, Tizzard's career looked to be on an astronomical ascent. His treble was the groundwork, but it wasn't until the Cheltenham Gold Cup that Tizzard's potential as a trainer was fulfilled. Although he is unknown to most casual horse racing fans and has a name not quite as synonymous with British and Irish horse racing as his counterparts, Tizzard is on the cusp of being a major player in the sport.

Tizzard currently has one horse in the running for the Grand National race. Sizing Codelco is 66/1 to win the race. It is an outsider's price for the event. Sizing Codelco did compete at Cheltenham, but the horse pulled up and didn't finish the Ultima Handicap Chase. Depending on the horse's fitness, Sizing Codelco could miss out on the Grand National. It would be a missed chance for Tizzard in the race, but he will have others featured at Aintree during the festival.

Tizzard's success at Cheltenham stopped the assault on all the races by trainers Gordon Elliot and Willie Mullins. Tizzard could be the same foil for the two leading horse racing trainers at Aintree, but he may need another shock performance like he got in 2017.

This season hasn't been without problems for Tizzard. Despite his great successes, one of Tizzard's top horses, Thistlecrack, has not been able to race. The horse was ruled out of the 2018 season due to injury. It is Thistlecrack's second major injury of his career, and there are worries that he won't return to run. The horse suffered a stress fracture in his leg, and when it occurred, most believed Tizzard's hopes of winning the Gold Cup were lost. 

However, the trainer overcame the loss of his horse Thistlecrack the cup with Native River. Now with the Grand National approaching, Tizzard could land more prize money and silverware when he takes his horses to Aintree.