8 Jul 2018

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22 Jun 2018

Who will be the top trainer at Royal Ascot?


Who will be the top trainer at Royal Ascot?
At Cheltenham, it was the Nicky Henderson show as usual, while Gordon Elliot edged to glory by the narrowest of margins at the Grand National. Now, the drama moves to Ascot, for one of the most exclusive events in the flat racing calendar.

Here before we know it

It seems strange that there was so much anticipation for the Cheltenham Festival and we were discussing it weeks in advance, while Royal Ascot is on us before we know it. In part, the lower profile this year is inevitable with all the sporting focus being on the FIFA World Cup 2018, both in terms of the media in general and, of course, the bookmakers who love the football almost as much as the horse racing.

There is also the fact that once the flat racing season has started, it seems to be one race meet after another, and there is barely chance to catch our breath. However, for the trainers, Ascot is the place to really make a name for yourself. Where else can you know with absolute certainty that victory will make you the main topic of conversation when tea and sandwiches are ordered at Buckingham Palace later that evening? Let’s see who stands the best chance of being remembered in high places this year.

Aidan O’Brien

O’Brien is to Ascot what Henderson is to Cheltenham, and he aims to keep things that way in 2018. The bookmakers have him odds on favourite to be top of the pile for the fourth year in succession.

O’Brien has a host of great horses that will be out to scoop the trophies for him, including Order of St George, who came so close to winning the Gold Cup last year and is again favourite. There’s also Sioux in the Commonwealth Cup on Thursday, Rhododendron in the Queen Anne Stakes, Gustav Klimt in the St James’s Palace Stakes and Merchant Navy in the Diamond Jubilee, to name but a handful.

O’Brien is clearly the man to beat. But does anyone else have the firepower to challenge him?

John Gosden

According to the bookmakers, if anyone can knock O’Brien off his perch, it is Gosden. If last year’s Cartier Horse of the Year Enable was coming to Ascot, the bookmakers would be offering even shorter odds than the current 4/1, but she is still working her way back from injury and has her sights set firmly on defending the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

Nevertheless, his Cracksman is looking in great form and will take some beating in the Prince of Wales stakes, while many are very taken with Stradivarius in the Gold Cup. With Stream of Stars highly fancied to take the Queens Vase and Without Parole the new favourite for the St James’s Palace Stakes, it will only take one or two upsets and Gosden could easily come out on top.

Charlie Appleby

Charlie Appleby has had a great start to the season. And while his Derby winner Maser will not be at Ascot, he has other contenders that could make him an outside shot for the top trainer award. Keep a look our for Wild Illusion in the Ribblesdale Stakes and Blue Point in the Kings Stand Stakes. Meanwhile Hawkbill and Cross Counter are both well capable of pulling off a surprise in the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Queen’s Vase respectively. At 10/1, these are two horses that are well worth considering if you are looking for a left-field choice. And at 9/1, you could say the same for their trainer’s outside shot at finishing top at Ascot.

15 Jun 2018

Top tips for Royal Ascot 2018

Royal Ascot 2018
It’s the one racing event of the season that The Queen never misses, and despite turning 92 a few days ago, she will be at Royal Ascot as usual this year. A recommendation by Her Majesty is a good enough tip for most of us, so whether you are planning on dusting off your best suit and getting along to the most exclusive racing festival or the year or you are just planning on catching the action on TV and perhaps placing a few well-considered wagers online, here’s all you need to know. 

Dates for your diary

Royal Ascot is a five-day festival that gets underway on Tuesday 19 June and reaches its climax on Saturday 23 June. There are six races every day, and as the event draws closer, the bookmakers will be adjusting the odds. Canny punters will similarly be adjusting their horse race betting strategies accordingly, and here, we will take a look at some of the top tips for the biggest races. 

Tuesday: The King’s Stand Stakes 

The feature race on the opening day is a five-furlong sprint and it gets Royal Ascot off to a flying start in every sense of the term. The Charlie Hills-trained Battash is the early favourite with the bookmakers, having won five of his last six outings, and most are currently quoting around the 5/2 mark. But don’t discount last year’s winner. Lady Aurelia put in a stunning performance and surprised a lot of punters last year. Bookmakers have the filly at 3/1, and clearly think there is a genuine chance of lightning striking twice. 

Wednesday: The Prince of Wales’ Stakes 

All eyes are on Cracksman in the showcase race on Wednesday, and it will take a serious upset for anyone to spoil the party for the horse widely tipped to be named Cartier Horse of the Year. Bookmakers are quoting even money on the four year old, trained by John Gosden, even at this early stage. The biggest challenge will come from Sir Michael Stout’s Poet’s Word – the five year old had a good win last time out at Sandown. 

Thursday: The Gold Cup 

The two and a half mile Gold Cup is one of the most important races of the season, never mind the festival. Last year saw an epic finish as Big Orange beat the odds on favourite Order of St George by a short head. Will we see a similarly memorable showdown in 2018? Order of St George is one again top with the bookies, and trainer Aidan O’Brien will be desperate to put last year’s disappointment behind him. There will be no Big Orange to spoil the party this year, but look out for Stradivarius, another Gosden-trained horse who is coming into form at just the right moment. 

Friday: The Commonwealth Cup 

It’s back down to six furlongs for the big race on Friday, and the bookmakers fancy Sioux Nation after early favourite Beckford was withdrawn. The three year old memorably won the Norfolk Stakes in last year’s event and won plenty of fans at the same time, who will be eager to see the horse go one better with a feature win. The bookmakers have the Aidan O’Brien-trained gelding as warm favourite at around 5/1, so this is a far more open race. 

Saturday: The Diamond Jubilee Stakes 

Royal Ascot concludes with a bang on Saturday, and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is the big race that everyone will be waiting for. Many are seeing this as a two horse race between Harry Angel and Redkirk Warrior, but Merchant Navy, yet another of Aidan O’Brien’s is also coming into form and attracting the attention of the bookmakers.

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)