Friday 20 March
Monday 16 March
I have needed a few days to reflect on last week's events at Cheltenham.
Traditionally horses do not manage to make all the running at this meeting, especially in the championship races, yet last week we saw seven races - including the Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle, Ryanair and Gold Cup - won by horses that led from start to finish.
I would never have believed this possible and, despite pondering the matter over and over again, I still have no idea why this happened. Coneygree, Vautour, Uxizandre, Cole Harden, Windsor Park, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen all ran from pillar to post, finding more than enough to hold off challengers from the last. Even horses ridden prominently that did not lead did well - notably Next Sensation - despite the evidence over decades of Festival racing that a horse cannot win at that level from the front.
Of last week's winners none made a bigger impression than Vautour. I had been hugely impressed by the way he jumped on his chasing debut at Navan in November and from the handful of Gold Cup contenders Willie Mullins has to draw from, Vautour is the one which most excites me.
From a personal viewpoint I was disappointed that a couple more of my long-priced selections didn't win. By the end of the week I was into double figures for placed horses - my best included Eastlake 14/1, Djakadam 10/1, Buddy Bolero 20/1, Unique De Cotte 14/1, God's Own 33/1, Arctic Fire 20/1, Bitofapuzzle 16/1, Horizontal Speed 12/1, Activial 17/2 and Special Tiara 18/1. Windsor Park, Cole Harden, Vautour and Peace And Co won, but any of the placed horses would have made for a great week.
Bye for now
Tuesday 10 March
It proved a challenging first day of Cheltenham given that I set out my stall in opposing the favourites, but Gods Own and Arctic Fire ran well at long odds to reach the frame.
Douvan won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in a time almost 3.5 seconds faster than Faugheen took in the Champion Hurdle, possibly leaving the Mullins team with an interesting dilemma when it comes to deciding on their main contender for next year's Champion Hurdle.
I thought Ruby Walsh was superb on Faugheen, who inevitably made the running once it was clear that nothing else was prepared to go on. He had been even better on Un De Sceaux, settling the hard-pulling favourite in front and finding more after the last to win going away.
There were, though, plenty of disappointments today. The New One, Jezki and earlier L'Ami Serge ran below expectations, especially the last named. L'Ami Serge missed the break but was never travelling at any stage, although he was hampered by a faller down the far side.
Bye for now
Monday 9 March
I have just completed my Online Supplement for day one of Cheltenham and my early preview line is also now available as well (5.30 pm).
Looking forward to the Champion Hurdle, this is a race that could be won or lost on tactics. Now that Dan Skelton has said he does not expect his 200/1 outsider Bertimont to make the running we could end up with something of a farce. Faugheen has successfully made all on three occasions, notably when winning over 2m 3f at Ascot, but in the light of the favourite's occasional sketchy jumping that would not be ideal.
Jezki, a Grade 1 winner over 2m 4f, could prove effective from the front but this is probably not something connections have considered.
It will be fascinating to see how Un De Sceaux tackles the first three fences in the Arkle Trophy. This will be his first experience of an undulating track. Mind you, the last three could also be a challenge if he starts to tire. I reckon at the price there will be more layers than players.
Give me a ring now to hear my early thoughts or tomorrow at 11.00 when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message (0906 150 1555).
Bye for now.
Friday 6 March
As expected it was confirmed today that Don Poli runs in the RSA Chase rather than the longer 4m National Hunt Chase. He will be joined by Very Wood, who is also owned by Gigginstown. Valseur Lido, who runs in the same colours, now goes for the JLT Novices' Chase rather than the RSA, leaving Wounded Warrior and Thunder And Roses to run in the National Hunt Chase.
All the smart money in the Gold Cup today was for Djakadam, who apparently did a sparkling piece of work with Vautour over the weekend. For me he's a doubtful stayer.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse has started watering the track. He internds to put down 3/4mm of water between now and Sunday.
Bye for now
Thursday 5 March
The big mover for the first day has been Pendra in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase. As I said earlier in the week he has been kept fresh for the race and has had a wind operation since his last run. He is now as short as 8/1 having been twice that price a few days ago.
Bye for now
Tuesday 3 March
There was talk last night at Haydock's North West Racing Club Preview evening that Annie Power could switch from the Mares' Hurdle to the World Hurdle. Willie Mullins apparently takes the view that he could win the Mares' Hurdle with current second-favourite Glens Melody, but odds of 23 would not be available for Annie Power on Betfair for the World Hurdle if that were thought to be the case.
The concern is that after so long off the track she could be keen, and that would work against her over the three miles at Cheltenham.
Other news and Cue Card misses the Ryanair Chase after making a noise in his work at home. I believe I am right in saying he had a wind operation last summer, so this is nothing new. Colin Tizzard will be giving him another one in the hope he can get the horse back in time for Aintree.
Gary Moore revealed that Sire De Grugy will be equipped with white shoes for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Apparently he wore them at Chepstow after developing a corn, which has mostly since been cut away.
The Bulletin Book will be available for full Cheltenham Package subscribers to read online this evening. I went to the printer this morning to see the first pages come off the press. It's all looking good.
Bye for now
Monday 2 March
It was a good feeling in the early hours of this morning to see the Bulletin Book laid out and ready for printing. We have a couple of images in the book this year, with an attractive design and full index.
I know that I probably always say this, but I really do feel hopeful about this season's Festival. In the past I have tried to find the winners of some of the week's most difficult races - notably the handicaps - whereas this time I have set myself a less ambitious target.
The Bulletin Book will be available for full Cheltenham package clients to view on Tuesday evening. The copies should be back with us on Wednesday for despatch.
Regarding the latest news for Cheltenham there was sustained support this morning for Sprinter Sacre. I expect he did a useful piece of work over the weekend, although personally I am not sure his fragile constitution will hold out up the hill.
I am leaving shortly to sit on the panel of the North West Racing Club preview evening at Haydock. Then I have another one at my local course at Cartmel on Thursday.
Bye for now.
Sunday 1 March
I have just submitted the Bulletin Book for layout work today and printing tomorrow. It is around 28,000 words and a little more specific regarding selections than in the past. Although I have previewed every race, I have not nominated a selection unless I fell quite strongly about it.
I see that Barry Geraghty has said he will ride The Young Master in the RSA Chase for Neil Mulholland. This progressive horse's way of racing will be well suited to the RSA, which always puts a premium on those two essential attributes for this meeting - stamina and tenacity.
Willie Mullins worked a few of his horses at Leopardstown on Saturday. Vautour, who will be one of my leading fancies for the week in the JLT, went particuarly well. I still regret that he is not running in the Arkle as I think he would win that.
I will be back on Monday with a few more thoughts. The Bulletin Book will be available to view online on Tuesday evening and back in the office for despatch on Wednesday.
Bye for now
Thursday 26 February
I suspect that Noel Fehily is far from certain that he has ended up on the right horse in the World Hurdle after it was announced today he would be riding Zarkandar in the World Hurdle rather than Rock On Ruby, a horse he says he "absolutely loves."
Fehily has a commitment to Zarkandar's owners, for whom he rides Silviniaco Conti, and Sam Twiston-Davies apparently chose to ride Saphir Du Rheu, leaving Noel to step in on Zarkandar. Fehily has ridden Rock On Ruby in each of his last 14 races, including the 2012 Champion Hurdle and then when second to Hurricane Fly a year later.
From a personal perspective I now feel that I am in the right place for Cheltenham. The meeting had a murky look to it a few days ago but I now have three or four horses that I feel strongly about - all at double-figure prices. I finish the Bulletin Book on Saturday evening.
Bye for now
Sunday 22 February
Whenever conditions are virtually unraceable, as they were at Fontwell this afternoon, I like to try and find short-priced horses to oppose. As you may be aware I am no fan of laying, but today was one of those days when I thought there were three vulnerable favourites and they each got beaten. Furthermore they were beaten by horses with proven stamina and form in the mud, so for me the results were not nearly as much of a surprise as the betting suggested.
I am now up to 8,500 words on the Bulletin Book. Cheltenham is becoming a little clearer to me, although it would be even better if we knew the targets for Willie Mullins' novice hurdlers. He has multiple entries for the Supreme, Neptune and Albert Bartlett, but he won't be making his final decisions until declaration time.
I think I know what my *** bet will be, while I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the handicaps. Over the years these have served me quite well and I already have one horse from Ireland which I gather has been primed for the meeting.
My Bulletin Book is out on Wednesday week, and available to read for Package subscribers a week on Tuesday. As always it will be packed with my thoughts and news for every race, together with Star Bets.
Bye for now
Sunday 15 February
I have been busy this last few days writing the Dark Horses Annual. The Derby and 2,000 Guineas are done, and today I have been working on the 1,000 Guineas.
I will assess the Oaks tomorrow and then put the Dark Horses to bed until the first forfeit stage of the Classics at the start of March. The book will then be despatched to the Racing Post. I prefer not to submit my copy until I have had sight of the forfeit entries because, as you may be aware, the Derby entries we have at the moment are pretty meaningles as they were made at the yearling stage.
I enjoyed an afternoon at Haydock on Saturday. I thought At Fishers Cross would return to form, but despite the trainer tweaking with his knees the horse is clearly still out of sorts. One has to wonder if those hard races he had two years ago have taken their toll on him.
Unique De Cotte will probably rise about 10lb, from 125 to 135, following his victory at Ascot on Saturday. There will be a buzz about him if he runs at Cheltenham but, for me, he needs to jump far better to hold his own at that level.
Colin Tizzard has a very useful long-term prospect on his hands with Thistlecrack. The seven-year-old is by Kayf Tara out of a mare by Ardross, so he did extremely well to win over this two miles. He could be more than decent when stepped up to three miles over fences.
Bye for now
Sunday 8 February
I did hear from a well-placed source a few weeks ago that during his time off he had become more aware of the risks of his sport and that he wanted to try and ensure he retired in one piece for his family. My understanding is that he has recently grown very close to his children and that it was a matter of waiting for the right moment to make his announcement. That moment presented itself yesterday, when he rode his 200th winner in the colours of his patron JP McManus. With perfect timing he followed that up at Leopardstown today with a double on Sort It Out and then a typically determined effort to win the Hennessy Gold Cup on Carlingford Lough.
In fairness McCoy was never a great stylist in the saddle, but nobody has been as effective on an old-fashioned plodder at a wet midweek meeting in the depths of winter. It really won't be the same without him, but at least Richard Johnson now has his chance for the title.
Tuesday 4 February
I have to say there is a great deal of uncertainty over the 2,000 Guineas, with Aidan O'Brien having charge of four of the first six in the betting and no news over the wellbeing of the once-raced Faydhan. I gather Flaming Spear, who sustained an injury after winning his maiden for Kevin Ryan in July, is now back in full health. He could prove one of the more attractive outsiders.
Sunday 1 February
Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and possibly Annie Power could give him four short-priced winners, with many punters likely to put them into a multiple combination. History shows that something usually comes to the rescue of the bookmakers and, from a personal viewpoint, I am not sure that I will be keen to encourage support on any of them. Although each of the four horses will be going there, all being well, with sound credentials to their name the Cheltenham Festival is unique, especially regarding the demands it makes in relation to stamina and the track's undulations.
Sunday 25 January
Saturday 10 January
Sunday 28 December
Tuesday 23 December
It weights in at over 5,000 words this time - I think that's an all-time high for word count. It just so happens that there is a handful of horses entered over the holiday that I have either been told about or have been waiting for. There may be rather more horses on Boxing Day than I would prefer, but it just so happens the ones I am interested in are entered. I also have news for the weekend and Monday's racing, together with a few names for the longer term. The Online Preview also has my in-depth analysis of the Coral Welsh Grand National, King George and Christmas Hurdle.
It has been a very good year for us and I hope to end it on a high.
Sunday 21 December
Sunday 14 December
Sunday 7 December
Thursday 4 December
As you may be aware I have written in glowing terms about this daughter of Tamure, who made her hurdling debut at Wincanton this afternoon. A winner of an English point-to-point, she won bumpers at Bangor and Huntingdon last season before beating a strong field on her return at Cheltenham last month. She looked an out-and-out galloper there, which is probably why Harry Fry chose to run her over 2m 6f today. In the end she needed quite hard driving to assert, but she will come on a bundle for the experience and runs next in a Listed race over 2m 4f at Haydock on 20 December.
Sunday 30 November
Sunday 23 November
Monday 17 November
Friday 7 November
Friday 31 October
Sunday 26 October
Friday 24 October
Although last of 10 on his only previous start at Goodwood in August, I had heard beforehand that he was quite well regarded so felt able to pass him on as a selection when he ran this week. As a son of Galileo out of a mare by Danehill, and a full brother to 1m 4f winner The Corsican, he is bred to thrive over middle distances. In fact he did well to win over this sharp mile and it will be interesting to see what sort of mark he receives. I get the feeling black type beckons next year.
Sunday 19 October
The New One did everything expected of him when winning the Listed hurdle at Kempton this afternoon for the second year in succession. There was a point turning for home when it looked like he could find himself short of room, but once extricated for a clear run his turn of foot put the issue beyond doubt. His jumping was not flawless, but then it seldom is, and it never cost him ground or momentum. Most bookmakers left his price for the Champion Hurdle unchanged at around 4/1. There is a race at Haydock for him next.
Looking back to yesterday it proved another good day for the selections, with three winners.
The one that excites me most is Forgotten Rules, who looks a stayer of great potential. There has been talk about this horse for a while now and the 5/1 on offer for the Gold Cup next June, albeit a long way off, could look pretty good value if the ground is not too quick on the day. This is the sort of horse that could dominate that race for a few years to come.
Free Eagle showed that he had the courage to match his talent in the Champion Stakes. The colt was never able to reproduce the turn of foot in the heavy ground that his connections know he has, but it was still most encouraging to see him finish the race so well. At first sight he ran like a horse that needed further, but that would not be a fair appraisal of the horse. He may get a mile and a half next season, but it will be on quicker ground over ten furlongs that we see him at his best. One can never be sure of such things, but on better ground I think Free Eagle would have won the race yesterday.
Earlier Gordon Lord Byron won the big sprint in gutsy fashion, weaving through a narrow gap in the final furlong to go clear.
My Dark Horses Jumps Guide was published on Friday. It is packed with around 35,000 words and at 174 pages is the biggest yet. I hope it proves to everyone's liking.
You can see my range of services for the jumps season in the shop area of this website.
Bye for now.
Tuesday 15 October
I am not sure that anyone can tell you how the ground will be riding for Champions' Day at Ascot on Saturday.
The official description, given late this afternoon, is that it is now 'soft, with heavy patches.' Further showers are expected, together with warmer and drier weather on Thursday and Friday.
Dermot Weld will walk the track on Saturday morning before making a commitment to run Free Eagle in the Champion Stakes. Ladbrokes, who have a line to the Irish scene, offer the longest price of 7/2 about the colt, although my view is that he will be allowed to take his chance. There is no evidence that he will not act on easy ground - his siblings including the progressive Custom Cut handle it well - but we do know that his main rivals, notably Cirrus Des Aigles and Noble Mission, relish soft ground.
I expect Free Eagle to have proved himself a colt of the highest class by this time next year. It may not, though, be until next season that we see him realise his potential.
I am busy working away on both Newmarket's tremendous card on Friday and Champions' day on Saturday, with an Online Preview for Ascot. The service has again recorded a profit to level stakes so I hope to see the run of good fortune continue into the weekend. At this stage my best news is for a horse in the Balmoral Handicap.
Bye for now
Sunday 12 October
It would not surprise me to find that today's 7f maiden at the Curragh proves a source of some useful performers next year.
The 23-runner field attracted a handful of Group-entered two-year-olds including the winner Royal Navy Ship, who has entries for the Racing Post Trophy, next year's Irish 2,000 Guineas and this week's Dewhurst. Intriguingly, Aidan O'Brien had left three of today's runners - the winner, Cradle Mountain and The Happy Prince - in Friday's Dewhurst Stakes, suggesting he was not sure which of his four runners would win. Runner-up Jacobean was the mount of Joseph O'Brien but he was left with a lot to do before finishing strongly into second.
The winner was ridden more handily than the runner-up and I expect him to prove Group class next season, if not before.
I am writing an Online Preview for the big day at Ascot on Saturday. Please refer to the shop for further details.
Bye for now
Monday 6 October
In what had looked one of the most open Arcs for years, Treve would not have been in my first half-dozen to win the race.
This time a year ago, in the aftermath of her deeply impressive victory at Longchamp, she was rightly put up as the long-term ante-post favourite to win the race again. However all the signs this season indicated she had lost her sparkle, although I have to say on her previous start in the Prix Vermeille she had been given anything but a hard race. Only in France would they give a top-class horse such an easy time in a Group 1, but Criquette Head knows more about the mare than anyone and that quiet run probably rekindled the filly's appetite for the game. I am a great believer in giving a horse that has lost its way - or any horse for that matter - the chance to go to the races and enjoy themselves, and this may have made all the difference in the end.
If you had told me that the Arc was going to be won by a horse this easily then I would probably have guessed it was Ectot or one of the Japanese horses. Few horses return to their best after the sort of setbacks Treve has endured, and I would attribute this great success to the trainer. In fairness she never lost faith in the filly, even after Royal Ascot when she looked a shadow of her former self.
I had backed a number of horses for the race over the last few weeks, with Flintshire standing as my biggest winner. Andre Fabre, with seven previous Arcs to his name, did a great job to get this four-year-old in tip-top shape to run the best race of his career. Taghrooda and Kingston Hill, from their wide draws, ran stormers, giving a further boost to this year's crop of three-year-olds.
Of the two I have to put in a good word for Kingston Hill, who looked like being swallowed up two furlongs from home before staying on again with the utmost courage to finish fourth. He could be awesome when he gets the chance to race on soft ground, something he has never really had this season.
The Japanese horses were left too far out of their ground, with Gold Ship being hopelessly placed from flagfall. He plugged on quite well at the finish and has another good race in him.
All in all this will probably go down as a decent renewal of the Arc. Looking ahead, I want to be with Kingston Hill next season.
On Saturday I was most impressed with the performance of Lightning Moon in the Group 3 John Guest Bengough Stakes at Ascot.
Ed Walker has a potential Group 1 sprinter on his hands with this unbeaten son of Shamardal, who had been very impressive when winning a handicap at Haydock in May by six lengths. This was his first venture into Group company and, with just three runs to his name, he looked to me like a colt going places fast.
I believe the plan is to run next in the Champion Sprint in a fortnight's time.
Bye for now
Friday 3 October
I am working on my first live Racing Snapshot for Sunday's Arc. This looks one of the most open renewals of the race for many years, and it would not surprise me to see it develop more into a test of stamina than speed. Refer to the shop if you want to order (£5).
There could be congestion on the inside of the field, allowing horses drawn wide to enjoy an advantage.
I will be back tomorrow with more thoughts on this fascinating race.
Bye for now
Thursday 2 October
I have just been looking at video footage of the three Japanese challengers for Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which I have to say looks one of the most challenging renewals in recent years.
To add further confusion it seems that there may be rain on Sunday, although to what extent is unclear. The one thing that I thought we could rely on was that the ground would be riding good or quicker, but the Bois de Boulogne is prone to heavy showers in the autumn and they could change everything.
The Japanese horses mostly race on quicker ground and, of the three, the one with the proven stamina is Gold Ship.
I am producing a Snapshot for Arc day. Following the trial this is the first time this service is going live, so please refer to the Shop if you want to give it a try.
Bye for now
Tuesday 30 September
There is not even the hint of a drop of rain at Longchamp over the next few days, which may encourage the clerk of the course to water the track. The French authorities are more inclined to water than in this country, so I would expect the ground to ride more good than good to firm at the weekend.
One thing we can be sure of is that the ground will not be soft, which may count against a few of the home team in the Arc. Looking at the support card, the news came through today that neither Tiggy Wiggy nor Muthmir will be supplemented for the Prix de l'Abbaye. There was talk that the latter would take his chance if the ground was quick, but William Haggas prefers to keep him at home for a Listed contest at Ayr on Saturday.
Richard Hannon is tempted to run his top two-year-old Ivawood in the £500,000 Tattersalls Millions 2yr Old Trophy at Newmarket on Saturday. A victory in this race, with the winner getting £165,000, would more than close the gap between him and John Gosden in the Trainers' Championship. Hannon also has entries for the £300,000 Fillies' race this same day.
I hope to produce a Snapshot - our new product - for Arc day on Sunday. Please contact Rebecca if you would like to learn more.
Bye for now
Friday 26 September
Owner Robin Geffen invests heavily in racing, both over jumps and on the Flat, so it was good to see his Gm Hopkins land the Silver Cambridgeshire with such ease this afternoon.
Robin has been a loyal client over the years and he has been kind enough to keep me updated on the progress and plans for this horse. The hope was, of course, that he would run in the Cambridgeshire itself but he was some way adrift of making the cut. There is a valuable handicap for him at Ascot's Champion's Day meeting. As for his new mark, I expect a rise of about 12lb for this comfortable victory, which would put him in the low 100s.
As a son of Dubawi out of a mare by Lomitas there is reason to believe the colt could do even better over a mile and a quarter or more. I expect to see him earn black type next year.
Earlier I was impressed with Lucida in the Rockfel Stakes. I brought this filly to your notice after her first race, since when she has run second in the Dubutante Stakes and then last time a neck second to Cursory Glance, where she may have been a little unlucky. I loved the way she came up the hill here, looking as if the extra furlong of the Guineas will be ideal. At this stage she would be my main fancy for the race, ahead of Cursory Glance.
This looks like another profitable meeting for the Online Preview, By all means give me a ring tomorrow when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.
Have a great weekend and bye for now
Wednesday 24 September
I was keen to get the book out earlier this season as it seems that the better horses appear quicker these days than was once the case. I remember years ago that the hardy professionals never used to think the National Hunt season started properly until the Hennessy meeting. Now, with summer jumping and all-weather gallops for training at home, you are likely to see top-class performers running in October.
Sunday 14 September
There is so much that one could say about the weekend's racing, but the horse I am most keen to bring to your attention - if he is not in your mind already - is Free Eagle, who made a belated seasonal debut at Leopardstown yesterday.
You may remember that this is the colt that started 5/2 on to beat Australia in a Group 3 race at this track a year ago. In the end he was beaten six lengths, having made a tremendous impression when beating Orchestra on his racecourse debut there a month earlier. Dermot Weld left people in no doubt of the high esteem in which he held the colt - he was given a clutch of top-class entries, both in Europe and the States - but he fractured a tibia in the spring and had to have time off.
The way he quickened to win this took the breath away, and his winning time was just a fraction quicker than The Grey Gatsby later in the evening. He also won with more in hand, beating two older horses rated on 106 by seven lengths.
Dermot Weld says the plan is to aim him at the Champion Stakes at Ascot, where he could come up against The Grey Gatsby and Australia, although it would not surprise me to learn that the latter may now be dropped in trip to a mile. Somehow I can't see the Coolmore team wanting to risk him again over a mile and a quarter given that he already has a Group 1 victory over that trip. Free Eagle does, though, look rather special.
Bye for now
Friday 12 September
The main action was at Doncaster today, where Estimate won the Doncaster Cup for the Queen, but keep a close eye on Gm Hopkins, who defied a big market drift to win the 1m handicap at Sandown.
Marten Julian, 69 Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria. LA9 4ED Tel: 08448 11 22 96 - Fax: 08448 11 22 97 - email: email@example.com