Thursday, 19 October 2017

Top novices Samcro and Death Duty installed Festival favourites, after Gordon Elliott enjoys Punchestown six-timer

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Gordon Elliott’s strengthened his grip on reclaiming the top trainer title at the Cheltenham Festival, as exciting prospects Samcro and Death Duty won impressively in a six-timer for Elliott at Punchestown.

Samcro was visually the most impressive winner of the day for Elliott, as his exciting novice opened his account over hurdles.

The five-year-old was hugely impressive winning by 15 lengths, and has since been shortened into 5-1 for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next year.

"Job done, we think he's a nice horse,” Elliott said after the race.

“Jack said it was pretty straightforward and he would have done as much at home on the gallop.

"He's relaxed and you could step him up in trip but he's got pace. He's a nice horse, it's hard to know how good he is but we like him and we think the world of him.

"It'll be steady, and he'll have one more run before Christmas I'd imagine.

"We'll have to look at something like the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse. I've said it all along, I think he's quick enough for two miles and he has the stamina to stay and step out whenever you want.

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Death Duty fell at he final hurdle when well beaten in the Albert Bartlett in this year's Festival

Another of Elliott’s leading Festival hopes, Death Duty, was victorious on the card as he landed a first pattern prize over fences.

Sent off at odds-on he was a comfortable winner at Punchestown, beating closest rival Tout Est Permis by 11 lengths. He is now priced at 10-1 for the JLT, and 12-1 for the RSA, with his optimum trip still unknown.

"I've always thought the world of this horse,” added the Irishman.

“Last year I was of the opinion that he probably wanted three miles, but I'd say I might have been wrong, to be honest.

"He wasn't right in Cheltenham, so look we'll put a line through last year. He was always bought to be a chaser and chasing is his game. He's a horse to look forward to.

"I'd say he'll go for the Drinmore (at Fairyhouse) now and I'd say he'll go straight there."

Felix Desjy looked to be an exciting bumper horse, winning the finale by ten lengths. Whilst King’s Song, a 3-1 winner for Tippin’ Jimmy, Ben Dundee and Pallasator added to a dominant day for the master of Cullentra.

Yet Thursday also proved a good day for Noel Meade, who had two winners at the County Kildare venue.

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Road To Respect has been cut to 25-1 for Gold Cup glory following his encouraging Punchestown success.

2017 Cheltenham Festival hero Road To Respect fought off some tough competition to enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims.

The former Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate winner stayed promiment before finishing strongly towards the finish to land Grade Three honours by just under two lengths for jockey Sean Flanagan.

He defeated outsider Kilcarry Bridge in second, followed by Melling and Ryanair runner-up Sub Lieutenant.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Minella Rocco could only finish fourth in the 3m1f event.

Lex Talionis was the other winner on the card for County Meath-based Meade.

Exciting Elliott duo Samcro and Death Duty lead quality Punchestown card

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Gordon Ellliot claims Samcro is a ‘star in the making’ as the exciting novice hurdler features in a star studded Punchestown Thursday card.

The five-year-old is currently unbeaten in four visits to the racecourse, winning a listed prize at Navan before capping off a solid bumper campaign with a 17 length triumph at Fairyhouse.

He remains one of Ireland’s most exciting prospects for the season ahead, and expectations are huge ahead of his hurdling debut in the Maiden Hurdle (2:05).

“Samcro was impressive when winning all three of his bumper starts last season,” Elliott told his website.

“He makes his debut over hurdles today and we definitely think he’s a star in the making. He’s been schooling well at home and looks a hard one to beat.”

Always thought to improve over obstacles, Elliott’s bullish comments haven’t gone unnoticed with bookmakers already installing Samcro as a 9-1 favourite for the Ballymore Novice Hurdle (formerly known as the Neptune). His odds of 1-5 today aren’t so appealing.

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Minella Rocco is another big name on the Punchestown card, he's priced at 16-1 for the Gold Cup and 20-1 for the Grand National

Elliott’s exciting novice chaser Death Duty seeks his second victory over fences in the Buck House Novice Chase (3:40).

The six-year-old, who was a Grade One winning hurdler last year, won by just under a length at Tipperary.

“He didn’t disappoint us when winning at Tipperary last time out,” said the master of Cullentra.

“He was almost travelling too well coming down to the last when he made a slight mistake but its all a learning curve for him.

“He came out of his race well and we are hoping for another big run from him today.”

Cheltenham Gold Cup second Minella Rocco also makes his racecourse return for Jonjo O’Neill, in the Irish Daily Star Chase (4:10).

The seven-year-old , who won the four mile National Hunt Chase at the Festival in 2016, chased home Sizing John in the feature race last year and targets a Grade Three prize on the card today.

Melling and Ryanair Chase second Sub Lieutenant is his main danger, whilst 2017 Festival winner Road To Respect and last year’s Lexus winner also take their chance.

Petit Mouchoir heads Arkle market after dominant debut display

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Henry De Bromhead’s Petit Mouchoir is now the favourite for the Arkle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, after an impressive chasing debut victory at Punchestown yesterday.

The duel Grade One winner was both workmanlike and impressive on his first run since the Festival, travelling strongest and easily quickening past his ten rivals.

Helped by a strong round of jumping, he forged clear by seven lengths for Davy Russell to enjoy an easy debut success.

A winner of the Irish Champion and Ryanair Hurdle, the former Champion Hurdle looks one of the leading novice chasers for the season.

"You'd be nervous heading out on him as today was very important he did things right with the future in mind,” said winning jockey Davy Russell.

“Henry is a master at improving hurdlers to chasers and he looks to have done it again.

"Having run in a point that's a huge bonus, it gives them such a good grounding. We hadn't done that much schooling, two bits outside, though Henry does plenty himself. He gave him a pop yesterday and he was very good.

"The country is full of high-quality horses and he's one, it's a highly competitive sphere but I'm sure he'll hold his own."

He currently heads the Arkle antepost market, along with last season’s dominant Triumph winner Defi Du Seuil.

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Gordon Elliott enjoyed a double on the card with Cracking Smart and Campeador both winning

Cracking Smart, who was tipped to win by our sister site Tippin Jimmy, enjoyed a comfortable four length success in his maiden hurdle.

Elliott also oversaw Campeador defy a long absence to take a hurdle event, and he looks another smart prospect in the making.

JP McManus-owned Espoir D’Allen won tidily, as A Sizing Network also tasted victory for Gold Cup winning Sizing John’s connections.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Champion Hurdle third Petit Mouchoir makes anticipated chase bow

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Henry De Bromhead’s dual Grade One winner Petit Mouchoir can make a winning chasing debut as he takes on nine rivals at Punchestown today.

The six-year-old has won three times over hurdles, including top level success in Leopardstown’s Ryanair and Irish Champion Hurdle last season.

He was last seen finishing third in the Champion Hurdle, but has the frame and potential to be an excellent chaser.

"He seems good and we've been happy with him at home. He's schooled well and Punchestown is a nice place to start him off," said Bromhead.

His main target looks to be the Arkle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. The bookmakers have currently priced him as a 12-1 second favourite, with impressive Triumph hero Defi Du Seuil heading the field.

This afternoon he is well fancied at 4-9 for debut glory, with his nearest market rival Brelade seeking improvement from his Gowran Park second.

Elswhere on the card Gordon Elliott’s exciting Cracking Smart makes his hurdles debut in the Maiden Hurdle (3:10) event.

The five-year-old was last seen winning a bumper contest at Fairyhouse by 13 lengths, prior to that he finished a close second behind a smart stable rival.

He’s always been the type to improve over hurdles, and even more so over fences, and expectations are high of a strong run from the improving Gigginstown prospect.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Tizzard targets Cheltenham after faultless Finian's chase debut victory

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Finian’s Oscar could be targeted towards Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting, after the dual Grade One winner made a winning chase bow at Chepstow.

The 1-3 shot jumped smoothly and travelled strongly throughout the contest, and was left clear when sole market rival Alcala slipped up before the closing stages.

He pulled clear of the remaining two runners in the field, to enjoy a comfortable eleven length success.

The option of the Royal Gloucestershire Novices Chase may be an option for the five-year-old. Last year it was won by Shantou Village.

“It is always nice to start with a win as it will do his confidence a lot of good," the Dorset trainer told the Racing Post.

“We’ve not really learned anything new about Finian’s Oscar and although he looked a bit ring-rusty in the early part of the race, he was closing up when Alcala unfortunately came down and then he has come home on his own.”

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Finian's Oscar gave jockey Bryan Cooper his first win since being retained by Alan and Ann Potts

"I’d not rule out going to Cheltenham with him at the end of the month, if he didn’t go to that meeting he’d be there for the November meeting.

“That’s where we want to end up with him in March so we’ve got to get the match practice into him and then we can pick and choose our races.

“He’s made the best possible start over fences and we can take everything from here.”

After his victory in South Wales bookmakers have shortened his price for the JLT from 8-1 to 6-1.

Elsewhere on the card, it was a brilliant day for Welsh trainer Evan Williams. The Glamorgan handler celebrated wins in the handicap with Silver Streak, before Court Minstrel enjoyed his first success in two years in the feature Silver Trophy.

He saw off Jedd O’Keeffe’S Sam Spiller and Paul Nicholls’ Peak To Peak in a tight finish.

Paul Nicholls recorded a novice hurdle double with Dynamite Dollars and If You Say Run, whilst 

Phillip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah ran out an easy winner at handicap level.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

'He could be a Gold Cup contender' - Big Festival hero joins top novices in excellent Chepstow card

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Aintree and Punchestown winner Sizing Codelco can prove his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims, as he attempts to overcome top weight in the Toteexacta Handicap Chase (4:45) at Chepstow this afternoon.

The eight-year-old stepped up from his unplaced Festival effort to win impressively by 13 lengths, in a listed handicap at the National meeting.

Despite a fair 11lb rise for his Lancashire romp, he continued his progression to win in Ireland only for the handicapper to add another 10lb on his back.

With his handicap mark so high, to win giving so much weight away would surely prove him as another classy chaser in the Tizzard camp.

“He’s a 160-rated horse for us who really came good in the spring,” said Tizzard.

“Whether he is good enough to give weight to all of those I don’t know, it’s a tough ask.

“If he won this then I’d have to think he’s a Gold Cup horse, if he gets beat then he’s a handicapper.

“He seems in good form, and I am looking forward to seeing where we are with him.”

Currently he is unfancied for the Festival’s most illustrious prize, with stable stars Thistlecrack, 
Native River and veteran Cue Card setting a high standard for the three-time chase winner.
Odds of 66-1 may shorten should he enjoy a victory in South Wales this afternoon.

Phillip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah leads the market at Chepstow. A Grade Two second last season, he makes his first start since finishing sixth in Sandown’s Bet365 Handicap (commonly named the Whitbread).

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballykan, Lucy Wadham’s Potters Legend and Alan King’s Label Des Obeaux also line up in the 2m7f handicap.

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Champion trainer seeking Paul Nicholls sends two strong novice hurdlers to South Wales

Elsewhere on the card Paul Nicholls is strongly represented in the two opening novice hurdles on the card.

Dynamite Dollars (1:55) has yet to win for the Ditcheat maestro, but finished well when sixth in a competitive Newbury bumper.

“While he didn't manage to win any of his three bumpers last season when he was a little backward he created a good impression in twice finishing third including a good run in a Listed event at Cheltenham on New Year's Day,” Nicholls told his Betfair blog.

“I watched him jump well during a schooling session round a French racecourse before we bought him.

“He is built like a proper National Hunt prospect, is fit and well, can only improve with experience and I am looking forward to him starting off over hurdles here. He will run well.”

He’ll take on Captain Simon, who is two from two, for Dan Skelton and Jonjo O’Neill’s expensive new recruit Fleminport.

Meanwhile If You Say Run (2:30) has been steadily improving for Nicholls. After a point-to-point win in Ireland, he won impressively on his British debut in a bumper at this track.

“She is a lovely mare who made the perfect to start to racing with an impressive victory in a point-to-point in Ireland despite some jumping errors,” he added.

“She displayed a smart turn of foot that day and didn't surprise us at all when making all the running on her debut for us in a bumper at Chepstow in the spring on her way to winning by 13 lengths.

“She’s a smart mare who is ready to go, has a nice turn of foot and will appreciate the good ground.”

Jonjo O’Neill’s Rosie McQueen and Rebecca Curtis’ Just A Thought are her main dangers.

Read thoughts ahead of Finian's Oscar's chasing debut here, and exclusive comments ahead of the Silver Trophy here.

Twiston-Davies expecting classy hurdler Wholestone to shine in Silver Trophy

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Nigel Twiston-Davies' Wholestone has plenty of options available, as the former Cheltenham Festival third takes on handicappers in Chepstow’s Totepool Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle (4:10).

The six-year-old landed two Grade Two prizes last season as a novice, and capped off a good campaign with a place in the Albert Bartlett behind Penhill and Monalee.

He is on a good mark to take on some of the big handicap prizes just like Twiston-Davies’ winner in the race last season, Ballyoptic. But Wholestone also has  the option of going novice chasing.

"He was one of the top novices of last season and I think he’s been fairly weighted at 145,” said the Gloucestershire-based trainer to the Racing Post.

"I’m quite looking forward to it. He’s a good horse.

“After the Albert Bartlett we thought he had done enough for the season.

"We won this race with Ballyoptic last season, and we’ll try to do the same and then go onto the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby.

"We’ll be looking at long-distance trips, but if he didn’t win we might go chasing.”

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Former Gigginstown jockey Bryan Cooper takes the ride for Ann and Alan Potts' Alary at Chepstow

Alary makes his first start over hurdles in the UK for Colin Tizzard.

Since joining Tizzard’s Milborne Port setup, he’s been a tad disappointing when failing to finish on two starts at Haydock and Exeter.

He capped off last season with a sixth place finish in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and he hopes to break his hurdles duck on the eighth attempt.

“His last run in the Ryanair was actually a very good run,” said the Dorset-based trainer.

“He didn’t look himself last year but over the summer he has improved a lot and he looks fantastic now!

“We’ve had horses in the past who have lost their way a little so we try running them over hurdles.

“It’s important to see how he gets on, on his chase mark he is very well handicapped and he’s in great form.”

“I don’t know where we are with him, but we will let the horse do the talking!”

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Former Grade One juvenile winner Le Rocher joins a number of top hurdlers at Chepstow this afternoon

Sam Spinner looked an exciting hurdler in the making when winning three races from four last season for Jedd O’Keeffe.

JP McManus is represented by Drumcliff and River Frost. The latter won well in a handicap at Kempton back in February before finishing ninth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham.
Drumcliff was last seen being brought down at Punchestown five months ago for Harry Fry.

Away from the iconic green and yellow colours, Fry also saddles Bags Groove. The six-year-old won twice as a novice hurdler last season including a six length success at Taunton on his last start.

Paul Nicholls’ Peak To Peak and Peter Bowen’s Souriyan come here on the back of a two-timer, whilst Dan Skelton’s Whatduhavtoget is the only mare in the field. She may be more suited to races against her own sex.

Court Minstrel won this race back in 2015, but has a bit to prove following his most recent fourth place finish at Stratford last month.

Wishing And Hoping runs for Alan King, as Tom George is represented by Sumkindofking.
Le Rocher, Old Guard and Louis’ Vac Pouch all make their seasonal bow, whilst Milrow, Doesyourdogbite, Three Musketeers also feature.