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Last Updated

15/4/2013



The 2014 Season

The brochure with details of my services for the 2014 will be despatched over the course of the next few days. The shop is now updated with details about the series of Online Previews I am producing this season, together with other services including a Bulletin Book for Royal Ascot. The first Online Preview of the season will be for the Newmarket Guineas meeting.

Tuesday 15 April

I am travelling south to Newmarket first thing on Wednesday,

My thoughts for the day can be heard now on 0906 150 1555. The line will next be updated on Thursday morning when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Bye for now

***

Monday 14 April

I am planning to travel to Newmarket for the Craven Meeting tomorrow. I am not sure we will see anything to compare with Kingman's scintillating performance in the Greenham, but there is always something hidden away and I will have my notebook at the ready.

I speak quite regularly to Robin Geffen, who owns a number of good horses on the Flat and over jumps including Wonderful Charm and last week's winners GM Hopkins and Western Hymn. The latter caught my eye, both as an individual and with his performance, at Newbury and I know he has hopes for Dorothy B, who runs in the Nell Gwyn Stakes on Wednesday. She will have 14 rivals to beat here, including Sandiva, but John has given his owner reason to believe he could have a 1,000 Guineas filly on his hands. Others to note include Along Again and Folk Melody.

I am also looking forward to seeing True Story in the Feilden Stakes. As a son of Manduro out of a Darshaan mare I have him marked down for top middle-distance honours. The race he won on the July course last season was the best maiden run anywhere last summer.

I will be back here with more thoughts tomorrow before updating this page, subject to signal reception, from Newmarket.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 13 April

The Greenham meeting did not prove as interesting as I was hoping.

The five-day cards promised a large number of unexposed horses to feast upon, but I have to say there were very few which took my eye. The highlight of the two days was John Gosden's superb run of form and the runaway success of Kingman in the Greenham Stakes.

Starting with Kingman, he was visually one of the most impressive winners of a 2,000 Guineas trial I have seen from a colt in recent times. At one stage it looked as if Astaire might have stolen the race from the front, but then once Kingman moved upsides it was all over. I was watching the race on the lawn with Sir Michael Stoute, whose reaction on seeing the colt pull four and a half lengths clear of the second was simply to say "Now that is a good horse."

There was a lot of pre-race confidence behind Night Of Thunder, who pulled over two lengths clear of the third, but it is hard to see him reversing form with the winner even though Richard Hannon believes the colt may improve for the step up to a mile on faster ground.

Kingman had looked fine in the paddock beforehand. He is nothing special as an indvidual, at least not to my eyes, with the look of a miler. Night Of Thunder was trained to the minute. As a son of Dubawi out of a mare by Galileo one would expect him to appreciate a longer trip, but connections say he has a lot of speed. Lat Hawill, who finished fourth, looked as if he would come on for the run and may prefer faster ground. Astaire impressed as the colt with the most scope in the paddock, while Berkshire looked very well and didn't settle.

John Gosden warned afterwards that Kingman would not be risked on fast ground, but the chances of that at Newmarket in three weeks are pretty unlikely with watering likely to counter the effects of a dry spell.

I would be intrigued to learn how the victory was viewed at Ballydoyle, home of the highly-regarded Australia. As is so often the case the market will give us a few clues, with Kingman currently 2.66 on Betfair and Australia 4.7. As for the bookmakers, Ladbrokes now go 6/4 Kingman and 2/1 Australia. The best odds available elsewhere are 7/4 Kingman and 4/1 Australia. Of the others Kingston Hill is a top price of 10/1 and Toormore, who runs in the Craven Stakes on Thursday, can be backed at 8/1.

Kingman won the Greenham in a time almost two seconds faster than J Wonder earlier in the Fred Darling. She is now a top price of 25/1 for the 1,000 Guineas, with Rizeena heading the market at around 6/1.

Elsewhere Elidor won at Thirsk in the manner of a horse for whom handicaps will soon be a thing of the past. He has done very well since being gelded.

On Friday I liked the way Western Hymn went about his business. He still looks to be learning and could give his owner a fair run for his money in the Derby. Nancy From Nairobi is one to keep in mind from Friday's closing maiden. She moved well for a long way before getting outpaced and then staying on again close home.

A couple of people asked about my services for the season at Newbury. My first Online Preview is for the Guineas meeting in three weeks. Full details together with the price for the season will be posted on the shop over the next few days.

Bye for now

***

Thursday 10 April

I am leaving later today for a couple of days at Newbury, where there are some very interesting horses due to run. A number are included in my Dark Horses, so I look forward to telling you more about them when I return on Sunday.

My brochure with services for the new season is being despatched early next week. The first issue of the Online Preview will be out for Newmarket Guineas weekend in about three weeks time. I managed to find the winner of both Classics last season, with the second Just The Judge in the 1,000 Guineas as well.

It proved a very good season for the Online Previews and I am hopeful that we can do as well this year. I must say I have never looked forward to a Flat season as much.

I hope to be back with further thoughts on Sunday. If you want to hear my news then call me on 0906 150 1555 when, as usual, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Sunday 6 April

It proved an informative and entertaining three days at Aintree, even though the poor weather left the horses rugged up longer than usual. This meant I wasn't able to glean the full visual impression of the horses in my mind, but I still saw enough to come away with about a dozen names for next season's National Hunt Guide.

Most of the horses that ran at Cheltenham appeared to have taken their races well. Lac Fontana was just about the pick of the paddock in yesterday's opener, getting the 2m 4f better than I had anticipated. He looks very tough and has the build to make a top novice chaser. Volnay De Thaix, who ran a nice race in fifth, also has the physique to thrive over fences.

One of the best presented horses I saw over the three days was Balder Success. He is more brown than bay, and having missed Cheltenham he came here fresher than most. I loved the way he bounded clear at the second last and I confidently expect him to take high honours over two miles next season. It may not, though, be at Cheltenham because the feeling is he doesn't like it there.

I had not realised that Medodic Rendezvous was such a scopey sort. Now aged eight, he will need to switch to fencing next season if that is the plan. Whisper got in a terrible state beforehand but he has done that before and it didn't stop him running his heart out to beat At Fishers Cross, who was very game in second.

I have not had a chance to study the Grand National in any depth yet, but I was relieved to see Pineau De Re win as he was my third best.

Burton Port came down at the second while my selection Monbeg Dude looked sure to make the frame half a mile from home only to drop away from the second last. Paul Carberry, as expected, had given him an excellent ride - doing well to stay on him on more than one occasion - and he said afterwards that the horse appeared not to stay.

Brintithomeminty finished down the field in the closing bumper but he is a lovely stamp of horse and will be one for next year.

Gentleman Jon will also feature in the book next season. Colin Tizzard's son of Beat All is a chaser through and through on looks. He is a lovely sort and ran very well in Friday's opener until tiring.

Josses Hill would be the horse I would most like to take home from the meeting. He has a touch of quality and given that Glacial Storm is his maternal grandsire he can only improve when he is stepped up to two and a half miles or more. I expect him to become a top-class novice chaser.

Cole Harden is another one I have marked down for novice chasing, while Clondaw Kaempfer confirmed the promise he had shown earlier in the season when left with a lot to do in a couple of handicap hurdles. Cash And Go showed a return to form here, staying on very well into third from off the pace. He is weighted to win a big one.

Carole's Destrier ran better than his finishing position suggests in the last race on Thursday.

My attention now switches to the Flat, with Newbury at end of the week and then the Craven Meeting the week after.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 2 April

I'm not sure what the thinking is at Ballydoyle with Johann Strauss, but I have seldom seen a horse campaigned so bizaarely.

The stewards had a word with Joseph O'Brien following the colt's eye-catching debut run at Newmarket last October, where he was held up well in arrears before making steady late headway to finish a never-nearer fourth. He was then beaten under a similar ride at odds of 2/7 at Naas before showing his potential when running second to Kingston Hill in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.

Then today he appeared in a 1m maiden at Leopardstown, rated 111, but drifted from 2/5 to 4/5 and even more adversely on Betfair. Again held up off the pace, he tried to make headway in the straight before finding his way blocked only to run on into third when the race was over.

I think we have to assume the horse has some kind of problem, but the concern is that certain people with access to Betfair seemed to be expecting him to lose today.

This really is one of the most intriguing profiles I have ever encountered and I would love to know what's going on.

I am away to Aintree this week but you can hear my thoughts by calling me on 0906 150 1555 at 11.00am when, as usual, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Bye for now

***

Monday 31 March

Having approached the week with a degree of uncertainty about Aintree, I now have a clearer idea about a few of the races.

Essentially there will be two trains of thought for this week. There will be those keen to side with Cheltenham form and others who prefer to align themselves to horses that avoided the Festival to be fresh for Aintree. The early indications are that I belong to the latter camp, especially keen to avoid horses that were kept busy on that bottomless ground through the winter.

As for the Grand National I am no longer sure what sort of horse we now need for the race. The evidence from last year, and the races over the fences in the autumn, suggests that horses are now able to brush through the tops without risk of mishap. 

In fact the race has become something akin to a fixed brush hurdle contest, thereby removing one of the prime attributes associated with the best Grand National winners. I am pretty sure that the mistakes made at the 10th and fourth last by last year's winner would have seen him hit the deck in former times.

Anyway the race will still retain it's emphasis on stamina and, with the ground riding on the soft side of good, I expect the pace to be fast and furious.

I have a few other ideas for the Online Previews, which will be available to view on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Part One of my Postal Preview, which includes my analysis of the Grand National, will be despatched tomorrow (Tuesday) with Part Two on Wednesday,

Bye for now

***

Sunday 30 March

It was an interesting day at Leopardstown, with lots of clues for the future.

Dermot Weld has got off to a flyer, with newcomer Kaleef just missing out in the opening maiden and then Fascinating Rock staying on well to land the next. As a son of Fastnet Rock he handled the ground better than expected.

Go For Goal put his fitness to good use to beat Shining Emerald in the 2,000 Guineas but the yard took a reverse in the next when the highly-rated Balansiya found Bracelet too good for her in the 1,000 Guineas Trial. They all finished in a bit of a heap here but she may be worth another chance on better ground. I expect her to be seen in a more favourable light in the summer.

Bye for now

***

Friday 28 March

I have been working away on the Grand National meeting, which starts on Thursday. I have to concede that I don't quite know what sort of horse we now need to win the Grand National. Last year's winner Auroras Encore would have fallen four fences from home had the old-style fences still been in place. Judging from last year's race, and the races over the fences in the autumn, horses can now brush through the tops and get away with slipshod jumping.

This could mean that Long Run, who seldom gets round without making at least one error, could put his undoubted class to good use. As for the ground I expect it to ride good to soft. Rain is forecast for the start of the meeting following a dry and sunny weekend.

I have a little news for a couple of the support races at the meeting, while other bits and pieces will come through to me this weekend.

I caught sight of my Dark Horses Annual this week. I am really pleased with this year's edition and hope it will prove a rich source of winners. I told the publisher that I thought it was the best one for many years and he agreed. I have never known a year when I have had so many unexposed and unraced horses to call upon.

You can hear my thoughts for Lincoln day on Saturday morning when my line will be updated at 11.00am. As always any selections will be given in the first minute of the message (0906 150 1555).

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Sunday 23 March

I am seeing a few good ground horses shaping quite nicely at the moment. The markets are still based on recent form, mostly on testing going, which means there is a little bit of value to be found here or there.

Pulpitarian, now with Lucinda Russell, was a fair performer on the Flat in the States winning three times at trips up to nine furlongs. Since arriving in this country he has run five times over hurdles, twice finishing third.

I thought he was given a considerate ride from a mark of 111 in a modest handicap at Kelso on Saturday and with a drop of around 4/5lb looking likely I suggest we keep on the right side of him. On the form he showed at Aintree in October, when third to Garde La Victoire (now on 138) and Regal Encore (now on 130), with a 125-rated hurdler two lengths behind him, he is looking very well treated indeed.

The Aintree Grand National meeting starts a week on Thursday. As usual I will be writing both a postal and an online preview, so please refer to the shop if you would like to subscribe.

Bye for now

***

Friday 21 March

It's interesting to see the recent market moves for the Classics.

It's often the week after Cheltenham that people turn their attention to the Flat, and it was around this time last year that Ladbrokes virtually shut up shop on Dawn Approach for the 2,000 Guineas. I cannot remember exactly how the price changed, but I think they cut the horse from around 7/2 to 6/4. Anyway this time they have decided they don't want anyone backing Australia for either the 2,000 Guineas or the Derby, offering just 2/1 for Newmarket (elsewhere now 5/2) and 9/4 for Epsom (elsewhere 7/2).

William Hill were 14/1 about the colt landing the double, but that is now down to 6/1. This is all rather frustrating because I have written very positively about the colt in my Dark Horses Guide. At the time he was 8/1 for the Guineas and 6/1 for the Derby but there is precious little value to be had with him now. Mind you if he starts odds-on for either Classic then even today's odds would seem reasonable.

My understanding is that Australia has delighted Aidan O'Brien through the winter and he rates him as good as anything he has trained. Many will say we have heard all this before - and on paper the colt still has much to prove - but market strength is seldom misplaced with this yard and it looks to me as if people closely connected to Ballydoyle have stepped in.

I have to say that I have rarely looked forward to a Flat season as much as this one. The new edition of the Dark Horses is the best ever - as far as content goes - with some truly intriguing unexposed and unraced horses.

Bye for now

***

Monday 17 March

I apologise for not updating this page before now.

Looking back over Cheltenham, the one horse that I believe will progress to even greater heights is More Of That.

Apart from his raw ability he has an attitude to die for. He clearly caught connections unawares when hacking up on the bridle at 20/1 on his racecourse debut at Folkestone in December, 2012. He returned to action this season at Wetherby in November, winning a 2m 4f handicap off 130, before following up three weeks later off 137 at Haydock. I was there that day and, standing by the rails as he powered home, was massively impressed with the way he stuck out his neck to take the lead halfway up the run-in. He then took a step up in class for the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham, beating a rival rated 8lb superior at level weights, before his triumph in last week's World Hurdle.

Ruby Walsh has since said that he did not think there was a gelding around who could concede 7lb to Annie Power, but a line through the third At Fishers Cross and Zarkandar, rated 162, in fourth has the winner running to a mark of around 170.

I don't think anyone can argue that Annie Power didn't stay the trip. She finished five lengths and more ahead of proven top-class performers and, in my opinion, was beaten by a very high class horse. Walsh did suggest that the mare was 'not yet temperamentally suited' to the race, racing a little too keen in the early stages.

It will be interesting to see where Faugheen ends up. Having won a point-to-point my view is that he will be sent chasing next year. He has not been easy to train, but he was always travelling well in the Neptune Hurdle and had the race won a long way from home.

On to other matters and I sent the copy over for the 2014 Dark Horses Annual last week.

After 40 years I tend not to get overexcited about the start of a new Flat season, but this year is an exception. I think the 2014 Dark Horses will prove the best for many years, even though last year's 1,000 Guineas essay nominated the first two home in the 1,000 Guineas - both 16/1 at the time. This year could be all about one horse - but more about that later!

Bye for now

***

Thursday 13 March

I will update this page tomorrow with some reflections.

Bye for now

***

Tuesday 11 March

About the only thing which still annoys me about this business is when you devote hours of time to trying to find the best horse in the race and then, having done so, fail to collect. I suppose that is why there are bookmakers and why there are punters, but I don't think there would be anyone watching today's Champion Hurdle who does not believe that The New One would have won but for suffering interference after the fatal fall of Our Conor.

Our thoughts have to be with the connections of that horse - it left a dark cloud hanging over the track - but The New One lost around five lengths and, more importantly, momentum yet stayed on so resolutely that he would have won in another furlong. He was beaten by less than the amount of ground he lost and, without that, would have run out a clear winner.

At least my Bulletin Book readers had a nice 8/1 winner in the last, with the forecast given in the Supplement, but this was an altogether unsatisfactory day because the best horse in a championship race did not win.

Earlier Sgt Reckless showed he was as good as Mick Channon has long maintained when powering home into fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. This was almost the jumping equivalent of the ride Greville Starkey gave Dancing Brave in the Derby. Sgt Reckless would have been a clear second had he been more up with the pace. Turning out of the back straight he was last, about five lengths behind the horse in front of him. He might even have won.

It was, overall, a frustrating day.

***

Monday 10 March

As expected Tony McCoy has been booked for the mount on Triolo D’Alene in the Gold Cup, for whom the ground may now have come right. McCoy had been expected to ride Teaforthree, but Rebecca Curtis and the horse’s owners were happy to release him when approached by Nicky Henderson.
 

Triolo D’Alene, rated 158, has plenty to find with the likes of Bobs Worth, who is rated 180, but he comes here a fresh horse having not run since the Hennessy and the ground should be ideal for him. I have not been surprised to see the money for him even though, on figures, he has over a stone to find.
 

Sadly Captain Chris, who would have run well, misses the Gold Cup after a scan revealed that he has a suspensory problem in a leg. No surprise either to learn that Kim Bailey has serious misgivings about letting Harry Topper take his chance on Friday. Soft ground is important for the horse and that is now quite clearly not going to happen.


There is no news yet about Last Instalment. Connections have stressed how fragile the horse’s legs are and I expect they will see what conditions are like on the first couple of days before making a commitment.

Looking to tomorrow Ruby Walsh said he had opted for the horse with the proven stamina when favouring Vautour over Wicklow Brave, even though the latter is by far the better work horse at home.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 9 March

This may seem obvious, but my guiding principle for this year’s Cheltenham is to keep on the right side of fresh horses that have form on reasonable ground.

Now that clerk of the course Simon Claisse is predicting good to soft ground for the opening day of the Festival there has been support for Triolo D’Alene in the Gold Cup, who is now a top price of 14/1. By contrast Last Instalment, for whom easy ground is important, is on the drift. Connections will not decide on his participation until nearer the time.

Tony Martin confirmed today that Ted Veale will switch from the Grand Annual to the Arkle. Connections must have given this matter a great deal of thought with their horse looking handily treated on a mark of 146. Martin says Ted Veale will have his ground for the first time and has “a good each-way chance.”

On the subject of the Arkle the drying ground will not suit Trifolium. I am not sure that Hurricane Fly will like it that much either. Jezki could run better with Barry Geraghty – unbeaten on him in four starts – back in the saddle.

Despite concerns in certain quarters over Faugheen’s constitution he is holding steady on Betfair at 3.95 for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle.

Robin Geffen, owner of JLT-bound Wonderful Charm, rang me this morning to say how pleased Paul Nicholls was with the horse. The good ground will suit him also.

I get the feeling that when we see the jockey bookings for the opening race tomorrow Barry Geraghty’s name will be alongside Vaniteux rather than Josses Hill. The view in the yard is that he will probably prove more suited to the Supreme than Josses Hill, who is more a chaser.

***

Friday 7 March

The forecast is for dry weather in the Cheltenham area over the next few days, with a minimal amount of rain on Monday, so although the ground is currently soft I would expect it to be drying out by the start of the meeting.

The key point is that we are not going to face an extreme of going, so I don’t expect any excuses on that account. Having said that, it can get ‘gluey’ when it dries out so that may be a factor.

I was on the panel of two preview nights this week – one for the North West Racing Club at Haydock and the other on Thursday at Cartmel. I will pass on a few thoughts from the panel when I write the Online Supplements next week.

It was an honour to sit with Arthur Moore at Cartmel last night. He has been associated with many great horses, including Cheltenham winners, and I know he is very keen on Foxrock in the NH Chase.

I am beginning to think Hinterland is going to run well in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He does not have the form in the book, but he strikes me as one of those horses that will run his best race in the best company.

With the ground as it is I get the feeling Mouse Morris may run First Lieutenant in the Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair Chase. He feels that the longer trip will suit the horse.

You can hear my early thoughts for Cheltenham by calling me on 0906 150 1555 on Sunday evening (after 6.00pm). This line will then be updated through the week each evening by 8.00pm looking forward to the next day, and then again in the morning by 11.00am when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Thursday 6 March

The news came through late yesterday that My Tent Or Yours is now sound again following the scare on Monday.

Nicky Henderson says the horse did “two good canters” this morning, and the horse “moved beautifully”. This has been reflected in the markets, with the horse now trading at 6 on Betfair.

Other news, and Arvika Ligeonniere has been relatively weak on Betfair for the Champion Chase. He has firmed back up now around 10 but drifted to 28 to lay at one point last night.

I am pleased to report that Rebecca and the team managed to get all the Bulletin Book orders in the mail by mid-afternoon. Many of you will have already received your copy as a number of them went into the mail on Wednesday.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 5 March

Rebecca and I were delighted to see the Bulletin Books arrive this afternoon – a day earlier than expected.

She has the team working hard to get as many out in the post as possible, and those that don’t go today will definitely be on their way tomorrow. If Royal Mail do their job then everyone should have them by the weekend.

The news came through today that Philip Fenton has been cleared by the BHA to run his horses at Cheltenham, which includes Dunguib and notably leading Gold Cup contender Last Instalment. This will be a great relief to the trainer, as he does not get many chances to compete at the top level.

JP McManus’ Captain Cee Bee has been supplemented for the Champion Hurdle to ensure a decent pace for My Tent Or Yours and Jezki, who run in the same colours. It seems to me that the other horses in the race won’t mind a strong pace either, and My Tent Or Yours races so keenly that I’m not sure it will make any different to him anyway.

Tom George has finally opted for the Champion Chase with Module. News came through that Hinterland will also take his chance there. I could see him running very well, for reasons I will discuss next week.

I am just leaving for Haydock shortly to attend a preview evening. I will then be at Cartmel tomorrow for the same.

***

Tuesday 4 March

As I'm sure you are aware My Tent Or Yours has sustained a small puncture wound to the sole of his near-fore foot but trainer Nicky Henderson is still "seriously hopeful" that everything will be all right.

Obviously it is far from ideal for any horse to have a setback so close to a championship race but the players in the world of the exchanges seem to be fairly relaxed about it all, with the horse now trading as I write at 7.2, having drifted to double-figure odds at one point earlier this morning. It seems extraordinary that we now seem to rely more on how a horse moves on Betfair than statements from yards for the true state of affairs, but it is impossible to get 100% security in any situation and it is obviously difficult for certain people to resist the temptation to benefit in some way.

Following the news about Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card, I hope we have seen the last of the big-name setbacks for this year.

The Bulletin Book is now available for Package clients to view - all 40,000 words of it. I am holding back on my Star Bets until tomorrow. I did not want to rush into making a final decision until I had more information to hand, notably about the going.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 2 March

The Bulletin Book has weighed in at 40.000 words - more than any Dark Horses Annual I have ever written, but thoroughly merited given the absorbing nature of this year's meeting.

The news came through this evening that Annie Power will tackle Big Buck's in the World Hurdle rather than take up the option to run in the Champion Hurdle. This was always the more likely of the two races, with the decision possibly swayed by the availability of Ruby Walsh for the mount. On a less positive note there was a slight setback for Willie Mullins when RSA Chase fancy Ballycasey fell while schooling after racing at Leopardstown. It was a very soft fall, and jockey and rider were reunited soon afterwards.

I thought Our Conor looked very well. It seems to me that he is peaking at just the right time and is the one horse in the race that has been prepared solely for the Champion Hurdle. His form is within a few pounds of Hurricane Fly ,even as things stand, and I am confident of more improvement to come.

Marten Julian, 69 Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria. LA9 4ED    Tel: 08448 11 22 96    -    Fax: 08448 11 22 97    -    email: info@martenjulian.com