14 Apr 2021

Grand National 2021 Review

It was a Grand National like no other in more ways than one, and with the history books now being rewritten, it’s the perfect time to recap on this great sporting occasion. 

Even before we heard the sound of the Starter’s pistol for the 173rd running of the world’s most famous horse race, the feeling around this year’s National was quite different. The race was back after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, in which a Virtual Grand National, won by Potter’s Corner, took its place. However, with restrictions still in place, the Government decided no fans were allowed to attend Aintree this time around. 

The Grand National has a special place in our hearts, and for many people, having a flutter on it is a once-a-year experience. Unfortunately, the traditional trip to the bookies was off, with betting shops still under lockdown. It’s been a tough time for high street bookmakers, particularly independent shops that cannot compete online with the major brands, such as William Hills and Ladbrokes. Although noises were made to move the 2021 Grand National back a week for betting shops to reopen, these were rebuffed and the event went ahead as planned on the 10th of April. 

A Moment in History

Despite the trifecta of no betting shops open; no roaring crowds, and no Tiger Roll - the horse that had won in 2018 and 2019 - it was good to have the Grand National back on the sporting calendar. 

For a time, it looked set that the 2021 National would be remembered for one - if not all - of the above. However, a certain Rachael Blackmore had other ideas. Blackmore arrived at Aintree fresh off the back of becoming the first-ever female to be top jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, and there was a buzz of excitement in the air as she saddled Minella Times for this year’s showpiece. 

To offer some context, Minella Times was a 50/1 outsider in February, but due to Blackmore’s heroics at Cheltenham, the horse was backed all the way down to as low as 9/1 on some betting sites, with the official starting price being 11/1. Many racing pundits felt that the odds were far too short and that Minella Times shouldn’t be in the winner’s conversation. 

Yet, Rachael Blackmore had other ideas. The history books were torn up as she became the first female jockey to win the world’s most famous steeplechase. 1977 was the year that females were first allowed to race in the National, with the previous best being Katie Walsh’s third place on Seabass in 2012. Blackmore had rewritten another chapter in horse racing history. 

Certainly, her cause was aided when clear favourite - Cloth Cap - pulled up, but that is not to take anything away from this outstanding achievement. Blackmore is now one of jump racing’s superstars and fully deserves all the plaudits that are coming her way. If you missed out on having a flutter on the National, it might be worth putting a pound on her to win this year’s SPOTY award.

25 Mar 2021

The Secret to Winning the Grand National 2021

If you could see into the future, ten minutes would be just enough time.

You'd have been at Aintree, Liverpool, the home of the Grand National, and mysteriously know the name of the winning horse.

The Secret. 

You'd have been disappointed back in 2001 as Red Marauder completed the greatest steeplechase in the world with a winning time of 11m 0.1s. Even worse, you'd have missed out on the odds at 33/1. 

All recent winners have been right on time. 

You would have been laughing all the way to the bank. 

Highlights would be Mon Mone winning at 100/1 in 2009. A very pleasing 9m 32.9s. 

To be honest, if you knew the outcome of a race before it started a mighty odds-on would be tempting. 

A brazen smile as you placed your bet. We're talking suitcases.

This year's Grand National takes place on the 10th April. To give the race its full title: The Randox Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) 7yo+

The winner gets prize money worth £375,000. 

For many, the accolade of winning is worth even more. 

Which of the 2021 horses and jockeys will prevail? There will be a maximum of 40 runners. At present there are 77 entrants. 

Until the horses have been selected it is difficult to know which jockeys will be riding which mounts. 

However, you can guaranteed certain owners and trainers will have their pilot waiting ready for the off.

In recent years, Tiger Roll has been the talking horse, winning consecutive races in 2018 - 2019. Sadly, he couldn't try and emulate the third success of the legendary Red Rum, beaten by an impossible opponent in Coronavirus. 

It is disappointing to hear that Tiger Roll won't take his chance this year and heads to the Irish Grand National which takes place at Fairyhouse on the 5th April. 

This time round, we have a strongly fancied favourite in Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O'Neill who won the National back in 2010, giving Tony McCoy his only success in the race and putting a smile on the face of many including owner J. P. McManus.

Cloth Cap has been well supported at 9/2 and may be one of the shortest priced favourites for over a century 

Trevor Hemmings is the owner of Cloth Cap. This billionaire businessman is no stranger to success as he has won the Grand National three times since 2005 when Hedgehunter landed the odds at 7/1 in a time of 9m 20.8s. 

That wasn't the best kept secret.

The Grand National is a race full of stories. This April, another story will be told. Perhaps it will be a winning favourite. It could possibly be a horse at odds of 100/1. Wouldn't it be something if this year saw the first female jockey win this biggest prize. 

You'll have to wait until after the race because I'm keeping this secret under my hat. 

Good luck.  

Photo: Pixabay free for commercial use and no attribution although given 

Grand National 2021: It's Not the Same Without Tiger Roll

This year has been a little all over the place. I'm sure most people have felt they have been jumping mighty fences from last April to this. 

However, this time we will be seeing thoroughbred racehorses chomping at the bit rather than last year's disappointment of the Grand National being abandoned due to Coronavirus. It was an unfortunate thing to happen because it really should have taken place. Instead, we had the virtual Grand National to enjoy. It lacked any heart and so far removed from real horse racing that is was, for me, a disappointment. 

10th April 

4:15 Aintree, Liverpool. 

The Grand National. The greatest steeplechase in the world. I am struggling to keep up with proceedings and this moment looked at the Grand National betting. I'm a furlong behind those punters with their finger on the pulse as I was half imaging Tiger Roll would be favourite after winning at Cheltenham. Sadly, he was withdrawn from the entries and it looks like he will be heading to the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse which is to take place on the 5th April. 

If Tiger Roll wins, punters may be questioning that he should have gone to Aintree. It looks as though connections wish a less testing trip of 3m 5f for the Irish National compared with 4m 2 1/2f. 

After a rather disappointing start to the season and pulling up at Cheltenham, with thoughts of retirement, you have to question whether this will be a hard task for the eleven-year-old who has been a shining example of brilliant throughout his career. 

Looking at the betting for the Aintree Randox Grand National Handicap Chase it looks like we may a relatively short-price favourite with Cloth Cap, trained by Jonjo O'Neill in the familiar of green, yellow and white of Trevor Hemmings. In fact, most bookmakers have this nine-year-old bay gelding priced at odds of 9/2. He's won his last two races and it looks like he will enjoy a trip. Considering he ran over a distance of 2m 7 1/2f last time out at Kelso punters will be hoping he stays on strongly at the line. 

Jonjo O'Neill trained the 2010 winner Don't Push It, who gave Tony McCoy his only win in the race.

Trevor Hemmings as done well in this race over the years. Race fans will remember he last tasted victory in this tough race in 2015 when Many Clouds won at odds of 25/1, trained by Oliver Sherwood, ridden by Leighton Aspell. 

A memorable victory for many reason. 

Hemmings has had other wins including: Ballabriggs (2011) & Hedgehunter (2005).

The billionaire British businessman loves this race and if returning at odds of less than 4/1, would be one of the shortest priced winners in the history if the race. In fact, you would have to go back to 1919 when Poethlyn won at odds of 11/4, ridden by Ernie Piggott, and trained by Harry Escott for owner Gwladys Peel. 

Tiger Roll was one of the strongest fancies when winning in 2019 at 4/1. 

Even without Tiger Roll not quite living up to the mighty Red Rum, which was as much to do with the Coronavirus as anything, we still have much to look forward to with the both Grand Nationals. 

Tiger Roll will head to the Irish Grand National and battle for a historic win. While Cloth Cap could be one of the shortest-priced favourites in over a centruy and may well be a horse to emulate those successes of his owner. 

Good luck to all. 

Photo: Pixabay free for commercial use and no attribution but given

15 Mar 2021

Are You Cheltenham Ready?

It's finally here!

We've had to wait a long year to get to the starting point. However, this is what we have been waiting for and Prestbury Park will come alive on Tuesday. Betway are ahead of the field when it comes to promoting the greatest National Hunt meeting of them all. Added to mix we have Richard Hoiles and the West Ham team at their most entertaining with their very own Prestbury Cup!

It really is quite hilarious. 

Whatever you're betting at the Cheltenham Festival this is your banker. 

8 Mar 2021

Nicky Henderson Bidding For First Grand National Win

Leading British trainer Nicky Henderson has been Champion Trainer on six occasions and has won many of the sport’s leading races, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Chase, and Champion Hurdle. 

One race the Seven Barrows-based trainer has yet to win is the Grand National, a contest he will be desperate to prevail in before he retires. It has been 42 years now since Henderson had his first runner in the world’s most famous steeplechase. In 1979 he saddled Zongolero, who finished second behind Rubustic, the closest he has gone to the winner’s trophy. 

Henderson’s best chance of ending that wait for a Grand National win this year could come through Santini. Last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up is 14/1 in the Grand National betting in 2021 with Paddy Power.

The nine-year-old was a Grade One winner as a novice as he claimed the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree during the Grand National meeting in 2018. He proved his class again last season, finishing just a neck behind Al Boum Photo in the Blue Riband event of the Cheltenham Festival. 

Given what he has achieved over fences, it is no surprise that the handicapper has handed Santini the joint-highest weight of 11st 10lb in the Grand National this year. No horse has won with that weight since Red Rum was successful in 1974 with 12st.

Santini is set to have another shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup before he appears at Aintree a month later. He has yet to jump the Grand National fences at the Merseyside Racecourse. 

Ok Corral And Pym Also In The Grand National Mix 

Henderson is also likely to be represented in the Aintree contest by OK Corral and Pym. Those two horses are inside the top 40 ratings at the latest declaration stage and they have odds of 33/1 and 50/1 respectively with the bookmakers.

Ok Corral is in good form at the moment as he won a Listed contest on his last outing at Doncaster. That has helped him get a rating of 151 ahead of the weight’s launch for the Grand National. He is set to feature one more time before Aintree. 

With three wins from six outings, OK Corral has an excellent record over fences. Henderson did highlight the Grand National as a target earlier this season. His owner J.P McManus famously won the race in 2010 with Don’t Push It and he’d love to have another success. 

Pym is also a Listed winner this season as he prevailed at Sandown where he made all over 3m. He has not appeared since finishing fifth of 10 runners at Newcastle back in November. The handicapper dropped him down to a mark of 153 on the back of that run. 

Henderson has stated he believes Pym has the stamina to do really well in the contest at Aintree in April. He is also very happy with the weight his horse has been given. 

If he can get his hands on the Grand National trophy this season, it will feel like Henderson has completed the full set of big race wins throughout his illustrious career.

1 Mar 2021

Desert Orchid Gold Cup Winner 1989

The Cheltenham Festival. What does it mean to you? Which race do you love to anticipate, bet & watch? If you are going to bet, then I found this long list of offers available for this year.   

In truth, there are so many horses who have made this iconic race meeting the pinnacle of their career. Name a National Hunt favourite - I bet it won at Prestbury Park. 

As the saying goes: ''Time flies.'' But let's face it, for most readers who placed a winning bet on this special day it's as fresh as yesterday. 

Even after so many years, I wonder what odds you would give when asking this question.

Name a grey horse? 

Desert Orchid. 

Time may fly but nostalgia lives long in the heart and mind. Think back to the days of Desert Orchid. In 1989 ''Dessie'' achieved the ultimate goal when winning the Gold Cup to the voice of a legend in his own right, Sir Peter O'Sullivan. 

His most famous words:

''Desert Orchid is beginning to get up...''

To the cheers of a jubilant crowd, 'Dessie' done it!

One quote from a happy punter exemplified the feeling of a national: 

''It sent shivers down my spine. It was like watching England win the World Cup. I wanted to streak up the road I was so delirious''

What a day.

Do you remember these 3 quotes?

1) After winning the 1989 Gold Cup, jockey, Simon Sherwood said: 

"I've never known a horse so brave. He hated every step of the way in the ground and dug as deep as he could possibly go".  

2) Racing Post:

''The race has been voted the best horse race ever by readers.''

3) Carrying Weight:

''No horse since Desert Orchid has repeatedly and successfully conceded weight to his rivals at the highest level.''

Desert Orchid was born 11th April 1979 in Goadby, Leicestershire. This grey was sired by Grey Desire out of a dam called Flower Child. He was bred by James Burridge who was a part owner with Midge Burridge, Richard Burridge & Simon Bullimore. He was trained by David Elsworth racing seventy times, winning thirty-four, eleven seconds and placed third on eight occasions. His most noted victories included the King George VI Chase four times (1986, 1988, 1989, 1990), Cheltenham Gold Cup (1989) & Irish Grand National (1990). He achieved total prize money of £654,066.

He retired in December 1991. Desert Orchid had his own fan club raising over £40,000 for charities selling ''Dessie'' merchandise and racing calendars.     

Desert Orchid died on 13th November 2006. He was aged 27. His ashes were buried at his beloved Kempton Park Racecourse near his statue.  

24 Feb 2021

Tiger Roll Could Be Retired After Cheltenham

Four-time Cheltenham Festival winner Tiger Roll could be sent into retirement after his run in this year's Cross Country race at the meeting, according to his owners. 

Tiger Roll has become a household name after also winning two Grand National on the bounce, the first horse since Red Rum to do so, and was expected to go for a historic third until the Aintree showpiece was cancelled because of the coronavirus last year. Despite that, the race is expected to take place again this year, and Tiger Roll was recently announced as one of the 106 entries for the world famous race on the 10th April, meaning the hat-trick bid is still a possibility. 

However, after suffering defeat in the cross country race at Cheltenham last year, his owners have always played down another crack at the Grand National, and confirmed in recent days that this year's Cheltenham Festival could be the last time that we see him on a racecourse. 

From The Horse's Mouth 

Eddie O'Leary, who is the racing manager for Tiger Roll's owners, Gigginstown House Stud said: "Touch wood, he'll go for the Boyne Hurdle at Navan (February 21) next and then it will be the cross-country chase at Cheltenham. 

"I think the November run was just one of those days. We didn't expect him to win or anything, but we didn't think he'd run that bad. There was no reason for it, maybe he had a headache, I couldn't tell you.

"With regards to the Grand National, he's still got a crazy weight. For some unknown reason he has this crazy rating, but he didn't even appear in the end-of-season classifications last year, yet he's got this rating of 168. 

"When I queried it, I was told that was because it was a cross-country rating. Tiger Roll was beaten 17 lengths by Easysland off level weights (in March). 

"I've always said 168 is crazy and there's no point in running in the National unless he's given a chance. We'd be absolutely thrilled if he could run to a mark of 168, but it makes no sense.

"Unless he's given a chance he'll probably be retired at Cheltenham if he runs badly, and maybe Cheltenham is the right place to retire him given his record there." 

A retirement before the Grand National will be a disappointment to many racing fans, especially those who never got to see the success of Red Rum around Aintree. 

Tiger Roll has been the modern day legend of the National, and has well and truly cemented his place in sporting history regardless of whether or not he makes it back for the big race in April. 

Despite being bred to be a flat horse by Godolphin, he has continued to defy the odds over jumps and along with his two victories in the Grand National, he has also won four Cheltenham Festival races thanks to wins in the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and 2017 National Hunt Chase, plus Cross Country glory in 2018 and 2019. 

Cheltenham Festival Betting 

With just a matter of weeks until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival the betting for all the big races is already starting to hot up, with many bookmakers now offering non-runner, no bet on all their ante-post markets for the meeting. 

As well as the NRNB promotion, many of the bookmakers listed at freebets.co.uk are also offering live streaming of the Cheltenham Festival, which gives you the chance to watch every one of the 28 Festival races live with your sports bookmaker. They’re also giving out new customer offers and odds boosts on a whole host of special bets and markets, such as Envoi Allen to win the Marsh Chase and Shishkin to win the Arkle. 

In terms of the Gold Cup, there is already plenty of interest in the race with Al Boum Photo aiming to go for a hat-trick of victories. He is currently 3/1 with most of the online sports bookmakers, while the likes of Minella Indo, Santini, A Plus Tard and Royale Pagaille can all be backed at around the 10/1 mark.

22 Feb 2021

Baffert Looms Four Colts In Kentucky Derby: Life Is Good Led The Pack

The 14th running of the Kentucky Derby is coming back this May 1, 2021, at Churchill Downs, Kentucky. From the most controversial 2019 season to a setback last year, this is probably the redemption time for the Derby. It will launch the U.S. Triple Crown Series again, highlighting a new batch of three-year-old racehorses in the dirt track. 

Despite the different breed of horses seen in the annual Kentucky Derby, the fans are seeing the same racehorse trainers. One of them is Bob Baffert, a Hall of Fame trainer at the same time the current Derby winner through Authentic. Every year, Baffert handicapped horses and earned Derby wins since he started working as a racehorse trainer. 

This January, he had appeared in the Pegasus Invitational and sent three entries. Not only that, he had started saddling in the Derby trails to bid his horses in the Run For The Roses. Will Baffert continue to produce Prep Race winners to make a back-to-back Kentucky Derby slate? Below are his entries to the 2021 Kentucky Derby this May. 

Life Is Good Life Is Good is currently in training in preparation for the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes this March 6, 2021. This racing competition is a prep race for the Santa Anita Derby at the same time part of the Kentucky Derby trail. The winner will get 50-Derby points and guarantees an entry to the Churchill Downs. 

Winning over his stablemate Medina and earning two steps ahead with Parnelli at Sham Stakes, Life Is Good is Baffert's initial entry to the Derby this year. He had shown excellent performance during his Maiden Special Weight last November, winning the title over Wipe The Slate and Santos To Wilson. 

As this horse boosts his resume, Bob Baffert hopes that Life Is Good can win the San Felipe Stakes. When this happens, he'll surely be one of the biggest favorites to win this year's Kentucky Derby race. 

Medina Spirit 

Medina Spirit is another tough colt that Bob Baffert is sending to the Kentucky Derby this year. He is bred by Gail Rice, owned by Zedan Racing Stables, LLC, and ridden by Abel Cedillo. Unlike Life Is Good, Medina Spirit has no upcoming races yet, but Baffet is preparing him for bigger Derby trails in the next few weeks. 

Medina Spirit's performance during his Maiden Special Weight last December was quite impressive. He overpowered First Class Dad and Kennebec in a minute, and two-seconds run. He competed against Life Is Good in the Sham Stakes, but fell a bit short, so he landed in second place. 

Moreover, Baffert had tried Medina Spirit's luck at the Robert B. Lewis Stakes last January 30, 2021. He defeated Roman Centurion and Hot Rod Charlie, earning his first stakes races title. With this victory, Bob Baffert is again looking good in this year's Run For The Roses. 

Concert Tour 

Concert Tour has recently concluded the San Vicente Stakes with a bang earning his first stakes races title. Upon winning the title last February at Santa Anita, Concert Tour has proven to Bob Buffer that he's got another favorite horse to win the Derby. This colt is bred and owned by Gary & Mary West Stables Inc. and ridden by Joel Rosario. 

Before taking his stakes victory, Concert Tour was impressive at his first try in the Maiden Special Weight. He finished the race in a minute and ten seconds making Mr. Impossible and Tarvi hustle behind him. On March 13, Concert Tour participated at the Rebel Stakes, which can help him earn a sure spot in the Derby if he wins this game. 

Savile Row 

Completing Baffert's list of horses to compete in the 2021 Kentucky Derby is Savile Row. He had won his first Maiden Special Weight race last November against Affable and Star Sailor. Although he's not yet scheduled to vie for his debut stakes run, Baffert is indeed preparing him for the right one. 

Maneuvered by Abel Cedillo, this horse is bred by Sun Valley Farm. He is also a sire of Miss Moon, who has a pedigree of Quality Road. 


Every year, Bob Baffert sends more than two entries to work in the Kentucky Derby. He had been doing this for a long time to make sure that he gets the title. Last year, he surprisingly bid for Authentic in the 2020 Kentucky Derby running, which had disappointed Tiz The Law in his quest for the Triple Crown Series. 

Today, he is looking forward to adding up his Derby victories by making way for Life Is Good, Medina Spirit, Concert Tour, and Savile Row in the prep races. If you are one of the horse racing fans who wanted to win considerably in the Kentucky Derby, make sure to consider Baffert's entries as his skills in honing a racehorse winner are proven and tested.

9 Feb 2021

Can Anyone Stop Willie Mullins at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the jumps season. In recent years, it’s also felt like a Willie Mullins appreciation event, such has been his dominance. Last year, Gordon Elliot ran him close, yet Mullins still managed to finish as the competition’s top trainer with seven winners, seven seconds and six thirds. And if the Irish master’s hot streak was in doubt, it was put to bed at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown. 

For jockeys, trainers and fans with Mullins’ connections, the prospect of the yard sweeping before them at Cheltenham isn’t very appealing. However, even though his mounts will undoubtedly be very competitive, there is a selection of horses that might be able to upset the apple cart. 

Shishkin – The Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase 

The potential horse of the meeting is the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin. He has received rave reviews throughout his career, only losing once over both hurdles and fences, and recent performances suggest Shishkin will take some beating if he isn’t to claim the Arkle Challenge Trophy this March. A rout at Doncaster in January only boosted the anticipation for his next outing, taking on a strong gallop and unsuitable ground to cruise to an eight-length victory.

The bookies certainly believe Henderson will get off to a flier as the horse racing betting odds already have Shishkin at 10/11. Energumene, Willie Mullins' best chance in the Arkle, is rated at 5/2, which is a large gap with a month left until the festival kicks off. As ever, the Cheltenham festival results are tough to pick in advance. Still, the people whose job it is to know about these things have Shishkin and Nicky Henderson as clear favourites in the Arkle.

Metier - Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 

Cheltenham has a couple of big races that are wide-open this year, and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is a massive chance for a non-Mullins mount to stage an upset. W P Mullins still has the favourite in the race - Appreciate It is 11/8 after an impressive performance at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival – yet Metier appears to have a very good opportunity based on current form.

Firstly, the gelding hasn’t lost over hurdles since switching codes from flat tracks. In his three outings, he has won all three times, although the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle does represent a step up for Harry Fry’s horse. Still, Nicky Henderson doesn’t have a standout in the race, which means there’s not as much competition. Combine this with the fact that Metier is already a Grade One winner and is unexposed, Mullins must be wary of the threat he poses.

Bear Ghylls - Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle 

The entrants for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle have yet to be confirmed. However, it looks as if Gaillard Du Mesnil will represent Willie Mullins and Co while Appreciate It and Metier battle it out in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. This leaves a quite open field, with Nicky Martin-trained Bear Ghylls seemingly flying under the radar. 

This bay gelding is unbeaten over bumpers and hurdles, meaning he definitely has the pedigree. Beating David Pipes' Make Me A Believer by four-and-a-half lengths at Lingfield certainly added to his reputation, and depending on how his lead up to the festival goes, Bear Ghylls could have an incredibly low rating for a horse of his calibre. 12/1 could be a steal come 17th March. 

Willie Mullins’ yard will be strong – there's no doubt of that, especially with Gold Cup legend Al Boum Photo. Still, there’s enough to suggest he will have to fight to claim yet another top trainer award if Nicky Henderson, Harry Fry and Nicky Martin have anything to do with it.

5 Feb 2021

The 2021 Arkle – Will Red Hot Favourite Shishkin Cruise to Cheltenham Success?

There aren’t many bankers in horse racing, but Shishkin is about the closest you can get after his last three performances. The Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner is already highly thought of, which only means one thing – a trip to Cheltenham.    

The home of jumps racing is where this horse can go from a top gelding to an iconic one, much like many nags that are currently in the pantheon of greats. As ever, the question is, will he step up to the plate? Here’s why the omens are in his favour.  

Shortened Odds 

Shishkin was already a red-hot favourite to add an Arkle crown to his collection before his last outing at Doncaster. However, the way he cruised to success has forced the bookies to lower the odds even further, with the horse racing betting now placing Shishkin at 8/11 to gallop to victory. There is plenty that can go wrong in horse racing, and there are zero guarantees on the day. Still, the best metric for success is how the bookmakers position the runners because it’s their job to know which one might upset the apple cart. Therefore, the fact that the bookies have doubled down on Shishkin, with only a single run under his belt in 2021, highlights how highly the experts and pundits think of him.  

“A Real Test”  

Those are the words of the jockey who rode him at Doncaster, Nico de Boinville. That's because, although it appeared as if Shishkin was in complete control against the other three runners, he had to work hard for his eight-length win. For one thing, the gallop was very strong as Eldorado Allen tried to make de Boinville’s mount uncomfortable, so he didn’t have it all his own way. Also, the ground was testing due to the heavy rain making it soft underfoot. Plenty of horses could have made excuses, like his Nicky Henderson stablemate Buveur D'Air who was beaten at Haydock on the same day, but Shishkin dug in and gained valuable experience. A run like the one at Doncaster only strengthens his position at the top of the betting since it appears that bad ground and a strong pace won’t deter this horse.   

True Jumping  
Watching a horse jump over fences is a thing of beauty when it’s done properly. Too many either catch the top of it as they go through, reigning in their momentum, while others clear it by a mile and don’t have the right rhythm to attack. Shishkin strikes a perfect balance between preserving energy and clearing enough of a fence to continue unimpeded. That's one of the reasons he’s unbeaten since his switch from hurdles, as well as the fact that de Boinville understands he’s a smarter jumper when pushed rather than being restrained. He did err to his left a little at Doncaster, but there doesn’t seem to be any big concerns from jockey, trainer or owner.   

Willie Mullins-trained Energumene looks like a fantastic horse, so the rivalry will be fascinating to watch. However, at this point, it looks as if Shishkin has everything in his locker to take the 2021 Arkle at the Cheltenham festival. 

17 Dec 2020

King George VI 2020 Contenders

Clan des Obeaux will bid to win his third consecutive King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, the last horse to win more than two was Kauto Star back in 2011, when Paul Nicholls’ legendary gelding claimed his fifth King George VI success. 

Can Clan des Obeaux do it? 

We look at this year’s likely contenders and their credentials. 


After a dominant start to 2019 which included a dominant 17L win in the Betfair Ascot Chase, Cyrname was a 21L runner up to Clan des Obeaux in the King George last year. Cyrname suffered a heavy fall at Ascot in the same race he won so convincingly the previous year. This kept this 176-rated horse out of action for the remainder of the season and ruled Cyrname out of Cheltenham action. 

Questions would be asked around Cyrname and whether he could get back to his best after his fall, but the Paul Nicholls trained horse showed little signs of a decline, with a promising 2L win on his season debut at Wetherby. 

Cyrname is likely to be the biggest threat to Clan des Obeaux and the antepost horse racing odds cannot split the two of them. 


Monalee was rated 173 ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019, a race in which despite finishing 4th, was only 1 ¼ furlongs off the eventual winner Al Boum Photo. Monalee clearly has bags of talent but you have to go back to February 2019 since the last time he won a race. He is yet to run in a King George or try out the Kempton course and this 3m test could be just what Monalee needs to get back into the winner’s enclosure. 


The Willie Mullins trained Kemboy was dominant throughout the winter of 2018 to spring 2019 beating the likes of Al Boum Photo, Clan des Obeaux and Monalee. 

Kemboy failed to win in the 2019/20 National Hunt season, he made his return to the track in November this year finishing 6L behind Presenting Percy, he did manage to see off potential King George VI 2020 rival Monalee but he will be hoping for a better season this time around. 


LostInTranslation made his King George VI debut in 2019 and went off as the 15/8 second favourite behind Cyrname. LostInTranslation had some of the best form going into the 2019 race, having won his previous three races beforehand, including the Betfair Chase at Haydock. He was unfortunately unable to complete the race and was pulled up, with Colin Tizzard citing he had breathing problems. 

LostInTranslation made his season debut finishing 47L behind the winner Bristol De Mai but the ground was heavy and this was ultimately too testing for him. With a sounder surface at Kempton on Boxing Day LostInTranslation could be a real force in the race. 


Another Paul Nicholls horse who has been entered into this year’s race is Frodon, who continues to defy the odds. Frodon hit new heights by winning the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019. Despite being unable to repeat Cheltenham Festival success in 2020, Frodon did arguably produce his best effort on a racecourse yet winning a Class 2 at the Cheltenham November Meeting, when you consider he was top weight and it was his first run of the season. 

Frodon loves the underdog label and continues to overcome testing challenges. Frodon is yet to run in the King George but has some good form over the long trip and he also has previous course form winning the Silviniaco Conti Chase over the shorter 2m4 ½ trip. 

Clan des Obeaux 

Clan des Obeaux could join an exclusive group of legends including the likes of Kauto Star and Desert Orchid in winning three King George VI races. He beat Cyrname by 21 lengths last year and will confident of a strong showing again. Clan des Obeaux chased home Bristol De Mai on his seasonal debut in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and more is sure to come for this horse. He did suffer a slight injury on the back of that race but he is still on course to defend his crown. 

Clan des Obeaux is a C&D specialist and he is certainly going to be the one to beat come Boxing Day. 

Other Notable King George VI Challengers 

Willie Mullins has also entered Allaho and Melon into the race. Allaho finished 3rd behind Champ in the 2019 RSA Chase, while Melon has been runner up at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals. 

Gordon Elliot has just the one entry in the King George with Down Royal Champion Chase winner, The StoryTeller. 

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir d’Oudairies will be the trainers first runner in the race should he be a confirmed runner. 

While Harry Whittington has entered the Kate and Andrews Brooks owned Saint Calvados and Simply The Betts.

13 Dec 2020

Which Trainers Have Strong Hands for the 2020 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe?

The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe remains Europe’s premier middle-distance Flat turf horse race with millions of Euros in prize money available for winning it at Longchamp on 4 October. This year’s renewal of the race promises to be as spectacular as ever. Form lines from top British, Irish, French and German races shall all be tied together in Paris. Which trainers have strong-looking hands ahead of the 2020 Arc? Let’s take a look… John Gosden Newmarket handler 

John Gosden has won three of the last five renewals and, despite favouring the Champion Stakes at Ascot for Prix du Jockey Club hero Mishriff next, there are two equine greats in his yard out to land the spoils. Enable is a dual winner of the Arc and finished runner-up to Waldgeist in her hat-trick bid last year.

Now aged six, this wonder mare won a record third King George at Ascot over the summer and now aims for similar history at Longchamp. Enable could be joined in the Arc by champion stayer Stradivarius, who has won three Gold Cups and four Goodwood Cups in succession. 

Also a six-year-old, owner Bjorn Nielsen favours a crack at the Arc over longer distance options in which Stradivarius is proven. Prince Khalid Abdullah, who owns Enable, also has 2019 St Leger hero Logician in training with Gosden and he has been saved for an autumn campaign. 

Aidan O’Brien 

Irish training maestro Aidan O’Brien has a major hope of Arc glory in the market leader Love. Already the 15/8 favourite if you want to bet on horse racing at 888sport, she has proven a cut above her fellow three-year-old fillies in three classy Group 1 victories this season.

Love has followed in the hoofprints of Enable by winning the Epsom Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks en route to her autumn target, the Arc. O’Brien and his wealthy Coolmore backers need to decide whether or not to supplement shock Epsom Derby hero Serpentine for this race but, unlike Love, he won’t have the weights entirely in his favour. 

Older inmates of Ballydoyle like Japan and Magical have had arguably their best chances of win the Arc pass them by. O’Brien’s younger son Donnacha may have an interesting contender in fellow Classic winning filly Fancy Blue. That would be some story if she were to win in what is her handler’s first year with a license. 

Jean-Claude Rouget 

Best of the French teams by far looks to be Jean-Claude Rouget’s stable. Among his Arc ammunition is three-year-old Hamdan Al Maktoum owned filly Raabihah, who just lost out on a place in a blanket finish to the Prix de Diane when fourth. 

She has since resumed winning ways and, as a three-year-old, gets the maximum weight-for-age and sex allowances at Longchamp. The likeable colt Port Guillaume also hails from the Rouget yard and he built on a fine fifth down the field to Mishriff with an impressive Group 2 success at Deauville in the Normandy coast last time out. 

Sottsass was third in the Arc last year, but has been hit and miss since. Rouget is training the four-year-old to try and peak in this race, however, following a less than ideal prep. This is still by the far the best of the home team.