Saturday 30 September 2017

Balko Des Flos out to establish chasing credentials in Irish Grade Two contest

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Henry De Bromhead is expecting Galway Plate hero Balko Des Flos to strengthen his Ryanair Chase claims, as he seeks a first pattern victory in Gowran Park's Champion Chase (4:00).

The six-year-old didn't enjoy the best novice chasing campaign last season, where better was expected when a runner-up at Grade Three and handicap level but he showed promise when third in a Grade One.

He utilised a handy mark to storm clear in a competitive Galway Plate, thumping his nearest rival Shaneshill by just under five lengths.

Following a 12lb rise in the weights, handcapping is out of the equation and he is expected to make a winning start in pattern company.

"He seems in good form and we're happy with him going into the race," said De Bromhead.

"I was really impressed with the way he won at Galway, and I feel he is still improving.

"This is a competitive little race but he deserves to be there. I am looking forward to running him, and hopefully he will be very competitive."

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Shaneshill has finished second on two visits to the Cheltenham Festival, Champion Bumper (2014) and RSA Chase (2015).

Shaneshill is targeting his first pattern victory over fences for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.

A two-time Grade Two winner over hurdles in the calendar year, he hasn't been seen since finishing twice at Galway including behind today's market leader.

Mullins' also saddles veteran Ballycasey who won this contest last year, he finished a narrow loser in a prep run over hurdles for this.

Gordon Elliott's A Toi Phil takes his place in the 2m4f contest, Kylecrue may find this a tough assignment.

Balko Des Flos is currently priced at 20-1 for the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, a market led by exciting chaser Fox Norton.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Brilliant Ballyandy in 'exceptional form' ahead of chasing debut at Perth

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Nigel Twiston-Davies reports star performer Ballyandy to have taken to fences well, ahead of his highly anticipated chasing debut at Perth this afternoon.

A former Cheltenham Festival winner, he makes start since March’s showcase meeting six months ago, taking on former Festival runner-up Fagan in a four runner Timothy Hardie Jewellers Novices’ Chase (4:30).

The 2016 Champion Bumper hero enjoyed a stellar campaign as a novice hurdler last season, winning the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury before finishing fourth in the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

He hasn’t been seen since his eleven-length defeat to 50-1 outsider Labaik at Cheltenham, but his popular trainer is confident he is a horse that’ll improve now switched to fences.

“He’s a very good horse and we are really glad to get him back on a racecourse,” said the Gloucestershire-based trainer.

“It’s his first time over fences but he seems to have schooled very well at home, he’s been in really good form.

“He does go up in trip today but I don’t think that’ll bother him at all.

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Ballyandy was an impressive winner of a competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury

“We aren’t really sure where exactly we want to take him further down the line, today is an important day to learn a bit more about him.

“He’s a great horse, and hopefully he can make a winning debut today.”

Although connections remain unsure of a principal Cheltenham Festival target for Ballyandy, bookmakers have priced him as short as 16/1 for next year’s JLT Novices’ Chase.

Twiston-Davies’ six-year-old will hope to follow in the footsteps of Yorkhill, Vautour and Sir Des Champs which have won the 2m4f event on Gold Cup day.

In today’s Perth contest Fagan looks to be the key rival for Ballyandy. Gordon Elliott’s seven-year-old shares strong Festival form having finished a close second behing Unowhatimeanharry in the 2016 Albert Bartlett.

He has already made a winning start over fences, having won a novice chase at this venue back in July by just shy of a hundred lengths.

Patrick Griffin’s Chitu and Malcom Jefferson also take their place in the contest.

Ballyandy is currently an 8/11 favourite to make a winning debut.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Ruby Walsh's 'horse to watch' Brutal, aims to strengthen Triumph Hurdle claims at Perth

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Ruby Walsh believes Brutal is a horse 'with a future', as Gordon Elliott's top prospect hopes to get back to winning ways at Perth this afternoon after an odds-on flop at Killarney.

Walsh, who rode Gordon Elliot's three-year-old, believed the horse had no concerns about injuries, despite finishing a worrying 36 lengths behind winner Grey Waters.

He travelled strongly throughout the race, but the veteran jockey pushed him on earlier than his main two Joseph O'Brien market rivals who went on to make the placings in the novice event. When Walsh asked questions he found little, and was eased up in the final two furlongs.

He makes his first start since his sixth place finish in Perth's Heineken UK Juvenile Hurdle (3:25) this afternoon, with champion jockey Richard Johnson taking over. Yet former rider Walsh, labelled him as a horse to watch this season.

"He's absolutely fine, we've taken a look at him and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him," said Walsh following Brutal's run in Killarney.

"I don't know why he ran so poorly, he seems totally fine in himself. I think it was a case that today wasn't his day."

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Walsh is a Cheltenham legend, having been named top jockey at the Festival for the last five years

"I know Gordon likes him a lot, and I wouldn't think too much of this run. He's definitely better than what we saw today, and he could be a horse with a future."

Owned by the Qataris, he was named favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after justifying odds on favouritism to win tidily at Cork.

But following his disappointing run in Kerry, Brutal shares favoritism with the likes of Grand Sancy, Espoir D'Allen and Frankel's history-making son Commentariolus, all priced at 25-1, for the Cheltenham's Grade One event.

Gordon Elliot's star comes into jumping after boasting a flat rating of 105 in the UK, and finished fifth in the Group One Racing Post Trophy when trained by Ger Lyons.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Cheltenham Festival fields to be finalised two days in advance

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Punters will now be given an extra day to study the form, as the final declarations for the Cheltenham Festival has been moved to the 48 hour stage.

In most national hunt fixtures the racecards are finalised only a day before the race itself, however the adjustment to the final stage means that racecards are revealed an extra day before.

In a shake-up of the procedures at the Cheltenham Festival, two reserve spots have also been added to the meeting's larger handicaps. This allows more competiton should any horses be pulled-out of the race.

Another change means that no horse can be declared twice for the Festival, unless those declarations are in the six non-novice Grade One races.

The BHA believe their changes will provide a better experience to everyone involved in the meeting.

“We have taken on board feedback from racing fans, the betting public and the media, and we’re pleased to introduce 48 hour declarations for all races at the Festival," said Richard Wayman, Chief Operating Officer at the BHA.

"We believe will have a positive impact on the promotion of the event and be welcomed by the sport’s various customer groups.

“We appreciate that, in some circumstances, this could create an extra challenge for trainers but we want to ensure that the sport is in a position where it can make the very most of what are such an important four days in the British Racing calendar.”

Sunday 10 September 2017

Altior vs Douvan: Nicky Henderson reveals Tingle Creek is first target for Arkle and Supreme ace

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Nicky Henderson's superstar chaser Altior to make his comeback in Sandown's Tingle Creek, where is set to take on the mighty Douvan, before a mouth-watering Champion Chase clash. 

The seven-year-old is a dual Festival winner, having won the Supreme in 2016 before enjoying Arkle success the following year.

He hasn’t been defeated in two years, and was the countries’ leading novice chaser last season when enjoying six victories on the trot.

His Arkle success is one of four Grade One victories to his name, whilst Willie Mullins’ Douvan has eight top level victories to his name. The dual Cheltenham winner hasn’t been seen since finishing lame in the Champion Chase in March.

The Tingle Creek has been a key pointer for Cheltenham, with Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre winning one of Sandown’s feature races in recent years before striking in the Cotswold.

“I'd imagine we'd go straight to the Tingle Creek,” Henderson told the Racing Post.

“He's a big horse, but he's not impossible to get fit at home so we think we'll be able to get him to the track ready to run as well as he can.

“We could go to the Shloer, but it's quite close to the Tingle Creek and, having discussed it with the owners Christopher and Pat Pugh, that's one of the two major targets this year.

“He's beaten most of the two-milers around, with the exception of Douvan.

“Without knowing the plans for him, the only meeting between them before Cheltenham I could possibly imagine would be in the Tingle Creek.”

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Altior extended his unbeaten record to eleven victories in Sandown's Celebration Chase

Henderson reported Alitor to be in top form following his summer break, spending eight weeks at Hilwood Stud where the likes of Sprinter Sacre and Bob’s Worth have also enjoyed their summer holidays.

The master of Lambourn believes he may stick his dual Festival winner to the two-mile trip, with a priority being a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival wins.

“His main target would be the Champion Chase, I see no reason to go up in trip at the moment,” he added.

“Before Cheltenham it's just a case of plotting your way around the same races and keeping the horses in good form.

“Then there's so much in the spring. He could go to Aintree, like Sprinter did, and there's also the Celebration Chase at Sandown, which is a very good prize now.

“People have talked about moving him up in trip, but I thought his best run last year was in the Celebration Chase, where some very quick horses couldn't go fast enough for him.

“He might need a little niggle into the bridle, but he's always been very talented and that's what gets you wondering how much more there is to come.”

Altior is currently priced at 6/4 for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next March.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Jessica Harrington excited as Sizing John eyes a second Cheltenham Gold Cup

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Jessica Harrington will hope her Gold Cup winning Sizing John can create history, as he hopes to land the illustrious triple crown worth £1 million.

The seven-year-old enjoyed a stellar campaign last season, losing only once and landing the Irish, English and Punchestown Gold Cup.

Harrington believes her stable star is well on-track for a Cheltenham return, as he bids to become the first horse to reclaim a Gold Cup since the great Kauto Star in 2009.

"He's still only seven and to win the Gold Cup at such a young age was a remarkable achievement," Harrington told the Racing Post.

"He's had only three runs over three miles or further and has won them all. I can never remember being so excited ahead of a season.

"He developed into a top-class stayer last spring and produced his best performance at Cheltenham.

"It would be great to get back there and defend his crown.

"It's the pinnacle for every staying chaser and he's the champion staying chaser at the moment."

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Sizing John was Jessica Harrington's first ever runner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, Kempton's King George on Boxing Day and jump racing's pinnacle race, Gold Cup, complete the triple crown.

The closest a horse has got to completing the prize is Cue Card, who enjoyed wins at Haydock and Kempton but fell when travelling strongly in the Cotswold.

Sizing John is being targeted towards the Betfair Chase, where he would become the first ever Irish-trained winner of the Grade One event.

"Our aim is to start him off in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 25, he looks fantastic," said the Kildare-based handler.

"We're keen to have a crack at the £1 million bonus for winning the three races at Haydock, Kempton and Cheltenham (Gold Cup).

"It's exciting to have a horse to run in those races, and the triple crown has always been on our minds since he won at Punchestown."

Although a 6/1 favourite for the Festival's feature race, the likes of former winner Coneygree and King George winner Thistlecrack were absent from the race.

This year could include the likes of Festival winners Yorkhill and Might Bite, whilst Harrington's very own Irish National winner Our Duke could be a Gold Cup contender.