Sunday, 25 June 2017

Willie Mullins' Thomas Hobson flies into Cheltenham frame after Royal romp

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Willie Mullins’s Thomas Hobson forged his way in the Cheltenham Festival after an impressive week at Royal Ascot.

The seven-year-old won well in Tuesday’s Ascot Stakes under the hands of Ryan Moore, where he trailed for most of the way before powering home in the final few furlongs.

His six length success impressed Mullins so much he declared him for Saturday’s Queen Alexandra Stakes, where he ran creditably to finish second behind Mark Johnston’s Oriental Fox.

He failed to complete an Ascot double, but the hurdler may also attempt to add Cheltenham glory to his established CV.

Thomas Hobson looks set for a summer of flat racing, and may even go down under to contest Australia’s biggest race the Melbourne Cup.

After two good efforts at the Royal Meeting, Mullins was delighted by his efforts.

“It was a very good run,” Mullins said.

“I’m very pleased that he backed up like that.

“He was quite keen after his run the other day, which didn’t help him today.

“However, things are looking good for the future for his Flat racing. We will look at York.”

Pierre-Charles Boudot, who bred Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, enjoyed his first Royal winner this week.

Cheltenham Gold Cup winning handler Jessica Harrington enjoyed a good week at the Royal meeting, however her star two-year-old  Alpha Centauri could only finish second in the Albany.

Her other juvenile Brother Bear wasn’t beaten too far when fourth in Tuesday’s Coventry Stakes.

Alan King, trainer of Festival favourite Yanworth, picked up some valuable place money with handicappers Top Tug and Who Dares Wins.

Whilst three-time Champion Hurdle winning trainer Aidan O’Brien picked up the top trainers prize at Royal Ascot.

French jockey Pierre-Charles Boudot, who bred this year’s Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil, also enjoyed Royal success aboard Le Brevido in the Jersey Stakes.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Jonjo O'Neill's promising Minotaur set for Aintree test on route to 2018 Cheltenham Festival

Jonjo O’Neill’s exciting novice Minotaur is targeting his second victory over hurdles at Aintree this evening.

The former French listed winner is a short price favourite to follow up his maiden success in the Try Foot Golf At Aintree Golf Course Novices' Hurdle (6:50).

In the famous colours of JP McManus he enjoyed a creditable hurdling debut at Ffos Las, being defeated by more experienced rivals A Bold Move and Mon Palois.

But stepped up to power clear to a 20 length success at Cartmel on his next start to enhance his credentials for Jonjo O’Neill.

He takes on a stronger field at Aintree this afternoon, but connections are confident of another strong show from the potentially brilliant five-year-old.

“He’s in good form at home and ran well last time,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus.

“Jonjo (O’Neill) is happy with him and we hope he can run well.”

His flat form is exceptionally strong for the hurdler, having ending his time in France with a four length success in listed company.

Wichita Lineman was the last winner of the Albert Bartlett for Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus in 2007.

He won six times across the Channel picking up over £80,000 in prize money, winning on ground varying from very soft to good.

The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle or Neptune Novices’ Hurdle may be a long-term target for this eight time winner.

However, he does have a declaration for the Northumberland Plate on the flat and O’Neill may try and capitalise on his tidy handicap mark of 103.

This evening his biggest rival at the Lancashire track is Jimmy Breekie who was last seen winning a novice event at Perth in good style earlier this month.

Whilst Bere Haven makes his racecourse debut for Jennie Candlish.

The seven-year-old was victorious on his only start in a point-to-point, winning at Tralee by eight lengths.

Minotaur is as short as 8/13 to take this evening’s contest.

Paul Nicholls novice Alcala powers clear to gain valuable Newton Abbot prize as Irish Cavalier pulls up

Alcala earnt his place among Paul Nicholls’ star novices after winning Newton Abbot’s feature Handicap Chase (2:45) in a convincing manner.

The seven-year-old jumped well and stayed close to the lead before making his move late on. Eyeballing Phillip Hobbs’ Brother Tedd over the last, his rival made a crucial mistake handing the victory to Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount.

It’s his second victory on the trot following an easy 33 length canter at this track only 11 days ago.

“We’re really happy with him," said Nicholls.

"I thought with the 7lb penalty was worth taking a chance on,

“They seemed to go pretty quick, and he jumped nicely. The ground is the most important thing for him.

“We have the option now of running in a nice handicap or keep him novice chasing.”

The last time Paul Nicholls won the RSA Chase was with Denman in 2007, he won the Gold Cup the following year.

The Cheltenham Festival may not have his optimum quick ground, but he may take his chance in the RSA Chase which was won by Might Bite in 2017.

Alcala may feature in some of jump racing’s leading races throughout the summer period.

Nicholls hailed the prize money on offer at the Devon track, Alcala won the race with prize money in excess of £14,000.

“It’s a credit to jump racing to put on that sort of prize money at this time of the year,” said the Ditcheat maestro.

“You don’t mind supporting them, and there were some nice horses on show here.

“With novice races in the summer it’s worth bringing some good horses out for.”

Pre-race favourite Brother Tedd finished second, whilst Alan King’s Midnight Cowboy finished third.

Irish Cavalier, who won the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Haydock, was pulled-up sharply through the race.

Rebecca Curtis’ eight-year-old contested the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup but failed to finish in the Festival’s feature race.

Whilst pre-race favourite Ballybolley was withdrawn from the race in the morning by trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Former Ballydoyle ace Cook Islands out to emulate Festival winning stablemate Ivanovich Gorbatov

Joseph O’Brien's Cook Islands will need to defy young age as he lines up in a tricky novice hurdle at Roscommon (6:10) this evening.

He continues his journey towards the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, where he hopes to follow in the steps of stablemate Ivanovich Gorbatov who was victorious at the Cheltenham Festival at the same age.

The four-year-old won impressively on his only start over hurdles, winning a very competitive Punchestown maiden in good style.

His flat form is encouraging , he enjoyed one success when at Ballydoyle but ran well in pattern events such as the Dee Stakes.

With conditions an optimum he’s set to improve from the outing, however his close rivals in the betting are three years older than him.

Ivanovich Gorbatov and Barry Gerahty celebrate after beating Apple's Jade to the Grade One Triumph Hurdle in 2016.

The Triumph Hurdle could be his main target, which Ivanovich Gorbatov won two years ago.

The trainer rode him to maiden victory, before training him to Triumph Hurdle success just a year later.

The JP McManus-owned star was last seen finishing sixth in the County Hurdle at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival.

Willie Mullins’ Robin Des Foret looks to be his biggest danger in the betting, the seven-year-old has won his last three starts for the County Carlow trainer.

He enjoyed the step-up in trip at Kilbeggan last time, but may not get optimum quick ground.

“The ground and track will be fine but he is not particulary well suited by the race conditions,” said Mullins to his website.

“He is dropping back in trip having won over 3m1f last time but he seems versatile enough.

“He has been in good form at home and should go very well.”

Gordon Elliott is represented by Dorans Rover, who was last seen finishing second at Ballinrobe last time out.

Cook Islands is estimated as a 3/1 shot to take the novice contest, whilst Robin Des Foret is a 9/4 favourite at the Connacht track.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

London Prize boosts long-term Cheltenham claims after Goodwood romp

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Ian Williams' London Prize enhanced his flat and hurdle form after an impressive victory in handicap company at Goodwood.

Williams missed out on the Cheltenham Festival with the six-year-old, who instead went to the Imperial Cup where he won by a length ahead of Nicky Henderson's Fixe Le Kap.

The Scottish trainer insisted he would 'benefit from a break', after a month off the track following his eighth place finish in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock.

He stayed midfield throughout the race, before leading when travelling strongest and was pushed clear under James Doyle to enjoy an eight length success.

Remarkably the two-time hurdle winner looked to have plenty left after crossing the winner's post at the Sussex track, and could appear in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

Sternrubin, who dead-heated in the Ladbroke in 2015, could only finish third for Phillip Hobbs.

The Northumberland Plate or Ascot Stakes could be next on his agenda, before he should campaign back over hurdles.

His principal target could be a return to the Imperial Cup, or he could be tested in the County Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.

On the nature of his victory, he may even have a crack at some of the higher grade races in March's showcase.

Cheltenham Festival runner-up L'Ami Serge completes Nicky Henderson's English and French Champion Hurdle double

Nicky Henderson has completed an English and French Champion Hurdle double, as Festival runner-up L’Ami Serge powered clear at Autueil.

The newly crowned champion trainer enjoyed success on Tuesday’s feature race, as Buveur D'Air forged clear to lift the Champion Hurdle.

In the Irish edition Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours was touched off my Willie Mullins’ Wicklow Brave at Punchestown.

“It's pretty nice to win the English Champion Hurdle and the French one,” said Seven Barrows handler.

“We were second at Punchestown, otherwise we might have won all three. That would have been good, and rare.”

L’Ami Serge had previously been beaten by a neck in the County Hurdle in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, creeped into contention before powering clear over the last fence.

He reversed the form with Willie Mullins’ Shaneshill who beat him when the pair clashed at this track a month ago; the Irish challenger finished third behind France’s Alex De Larredya.

"The horse was great, and that was one of the best rides you'll ever see, because we had no idea he'd stay,” the Lambourn handler told Sky Sports.

“It was a brilliant ride and well done to the team. This horse is very relaxed at the moment. When you think he was beaten a neck in the County Hurdle under a big weight over two miles, to then go and do that is quite extraordinary.

“I think he loves these French obstacles, he ran very well in the Prix La Barka when Shaneshill beat him and we were two kilos better off today, so if he stayed he had to have a good chance.

Buveur D'Air gave Nicky Henderson his sixth Champion Hurdle victory in 2017

Henderson’s raider has finished once place better on all three visits to the Festival, he finished fourth behind the mighty Douvan, before a third placed effort the following year and narrow runner-up in the closing day of this year’s Festival.

“The money here (in France) is unbelievable, but I think we'll stay in England,” said the champion trainer.

"We've got all summer to think about what we are going to do and don't forget he's a good jumper of fences.

L'Ami Serge is being priced at around the 16/1 mark for the Stayer’s Hurdle.

Willie Mullins star juvenile Bapaume targets French Grade One glory after Festival failure

Willie Mullins’ promising juvenile Bapaume is searching for his second Grade One victory in Auteuil’s Prix Alain du Breil (4:05).

The four-year-old enjoyed a good campaign over the winter, winning a pattern race at Leopardstown before just losing out to Mega Fortune in his first attempt for Grade One success.

He was fancied in the Cheltenham Festival’s Triumph Hurdle, but Mega Fortune and Defi Du Seuil were too good for the French-born challenger.

He finally gained top level success at the Punchestown a month later, defeating the well-regarded Landofhopeandglory late on to win the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.

"On his Irish and English form Bapaume is a Grade 1 horse and better than Dandy Mag," said Mullins to the Racing Post.

Dandy Mag finishing second in Fairyhouse's G2 Juvenile Hurdle in April

Mullins is also represented by Dandy Mag who won easily at Ballinrobe last time out, but faces a steep rise in class this afternoon.

"Dandy Mag ran well at Punchestown, better than his finishing position suggests. I don’t think he's good enough to win but the extra three furlongs will help, and he's improving."

He will have to overcome De Bon Coeur, the French raider who is unbeaten in all six starts.

Francois Nicholle’s star four-year-old has won once at the top level, and was last seen destroying the 
field in a nine length romp in the Grade Two Prix Amadou.

The leading juvenile in France gets her ideal conditions, and may take some stopping even in her hardest race yet.

"De Bon Coeur is in fantastic shape as I gave her a bit of time after her last race to recharge her batteries," Nicolle told the Racing Post.

"The others can do what they like but if they try to follow her, they will be in trouble. Even I have no idea of her limits.”