Let’s kick on…
Well, big sigh, we can all be thankful that Cheltenham went off smoothly, all the publicity that was generated was of the right kind, let’s hope the gloom of the past few weeks is fast disappearing in the rear-view mirror.
Rachel Blackmore, a godsend to the non-racing media, has long been a superstar in waiting, once she started getting better horses to ride, she was always going to make the top table. You could almost reach out and grasp her disappointment at the finish of last week’s Gold Cup. The look she gave winning jockey Jack Kennedy on pulling up spoke volumes about her personality and will to win. You can’t win em all is an age old saying, but these top sports stars think they can and that’s what sets them apart.
Enough has been written about the Irish superiority in winners but I think the owner of Minella Indo was on the money when he said that the Irish are prepared to shell out big sums and wait for results whereas perhaps elsewhere instant success is the paramount requirement.
It is always good when one of your equine pals is retired in one piece. This week the news came through that a stalwart of Nicky Richards’ yard Guitar Pete was sending his details off to the pension office. This lad started off in Ireland as a three-year-old with Dessie Hughes and went on to finish third to Tiger Roll in the Triumph Hurdle. He didn’t join the Greystoke yard until 2017 when he did yours truly a big favour when winning the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham. He’s always turned up on the big days and deserves a long and happy retirement.
This weekend the flat season kicks into gear but for me always needs leaving well alone until about the end of April when the ground and form settle down. The Lincoln Grand National Spring double was always a big deal back in the day. However, a bit like city centres, it seems a thing of the past. Not a betting race for me but I was interested to note John Gosden is putting up his 7lb claimer Benoit de la Sayette on the well backed Haqeeqy. The young claimer who was a top pony rider in Britain and France seems a star in the making. One to keep on your side in the coming flat season.
None of the chases at the weekend really jump off the page …pun intended… but there are a couple of reasonable Grade Twos, one each at Kelso and Newbury, to have a good look at. Both courses are forecast to have good going so that’s going to make a mess of previous form for a lot of the runners and trying to find a winner becomes more of a puzzle.
Selection: 1:35 Kelso: Paxtons For Kverneland In The Borders Handicap Chase
The Kelso race at 1.35 is over three and a quarter miles and has attracted a field of eight with some interesting entries. Ian Williams’ stable is in good form and his Red Infantry will go well as should Sandy Thomson’s Duc De Grissay who unseated his rider at the last when favourite for the Scottish Borders National in December. Another trainer going well this season is Kim Bailey and he has course and distance winner Dandy Dan making the long trek back to Kelso. This lad had wind surgery in the summer, and it is hard to assess whether this has been a success. Second first time out wasn’t a bad effort but his last in a hot hurdle at Cheltenham in November was disappointing. After the race connections blamed the soft ground saying Dandy Dan needs a better surface which he should get at the weekend. His two visits to Kelso have seen him finish first and second so we know he likes the track. So, trainer in form, horse will like ground course and trip and although he runs off 142, he has form off 145 all the aforementioned added together give the selection a solid chance. At around 6/1 he should give us a run for our money. Where have we heard that before?
1. Dandy Dan
Selection – 4:00 Newbury: BetVictor Handicap Chase
The Newbury race at 4.00pm is slightly shorter at 2m4f and seems to be a slightly better-quality. Disappointingly only six have been declared but the two I had a fancy for both stand their ground. The two seven-year-olds look to be the ones to concentrate on and my preference is for the grey gelding Kalooki. This German bred has only had four starts over fences all in decent races and has performed well if not spectacularly. Come Saturday in his first handicap over a slightly shorter trip than he usual runs over I expect to see Richard Johnson let this lad make the pace from the start hopefully leading to a second course win. His mark at the weekend is142 which is only 1lb higher than he carried for his previous win so like Dandy Dan at Kelso all the right boxes are being ticked. He will probably start around 7/2 or4/1 which is still good value allowing for the small field.
Good luck for the weekend if you must dip a toe into the Lincoln handicap putting your trust in Gosden and young Benoit should at least give you a decent run. Even if he doesn’t come up trumps on Saturday, remember this is a young jockey going places and these are like gold dust once the season gets into full swing.
So best of luck if you relish the flat racing if jumping is your game not long now until the Irish National and Aintree quickly followed by Punchestown. Plus, pub beer gardens opening…. things are looking up.
Enjoy the weekend.
Again, good luck throughout the winter. If you’re interested in racehorse ownership, take a look at the syndicate’s available shares.