Nigel and Sam

Paint the town Red at Haydock

We have some interesting action in Britain today with handicaps the order of the day at both Haydock over jumps and Kempton on the flat and I am sticking with those venues for today’s quartet.  Ansaab was a 4-1 (advised) winner in my previous column on Monday.

Haydock 2.05: OUR MICK (6-1 general)

Donald McCain’s gelding Our Mick promised much as a novice but has had a fairly woeful time of things so far this winter.  There was a better performance at Aintree on Grand National day however and I am hopeful that the drier ground he prefers plus a further drop in the handicap can combine to see him right back to his best today.

After a couple of runs to get his eye in over fences during his novice season, he promised to become too good for handicaps after running up a hat-trick including a Grade 2 contest over 2m4f here.  He went on though to finish a fine third to Alfie Sherrin at the Cheltenham Festival and after a belated start to last term, picked up where he left off.  Unlucky to be knocked over two out at Cheltenham on his return he went on to place second in the same race at the Festival to the runaway winner Golden Chieftain.  Right there until a lack of stamina saw him off over 4m in the Scottish National, it is possible that hard race left its mark.

He ran no sort of race when pulling up on heavy ground at Bangor and although he finished third in a listed chase at Aintree to Unioniste, he jumped deliberately on occasions and blinkers were no help to him when he pulled up on heavy ground at Cheltenham in January.  Sent to the front at Aintree, he was still going strong two out until fading quickly late on over 3m1f.  He is clearly not straight forward, but flat left-handed tracks do seem to favour him and he is now 11lbs lower than for his Festival second last season.

Kempton 2.20: CHILWORTH ICON (8-1 general)

He may be without a win since his 2yo days but Chilworth Icon has been promising better to come in recent weeks and with a reasonable record already on Polytrack he looks weighted to resume winning ways at Kempton today, especially as he will have an edge in fitness on some of his rivals.

Last season was a barren one for Mick Channon’s gelding who perhaps paid for a busy and successful juvenile campaign where he achieved a listed success at Epsom and a Group 3 win in San Siro.  Despite the odd good run last season, he seemed to be in that twilight zone of being short of group race class but too high in the handicap to give away weight.

He did spend part of the winter in Dubai, but could only get into one race where he finished in mid-division on the Tapeta.  However he might well have benefited from warm winter training as he turned in a much better performance when third to the progressive Purcell at Lingfield last month.  Whilst the eyes of most punters were on the principal cards at Ayr and Newbury last week, Chilworth Icon ran an eyecatching race at Thirsk where he was a very unlucky-in-running seventh to Farlow.  Travelling well throughout he could not get a run until it was too late and he is clearly well weighted on a career low mark of 92 at present.

Kempton 3.30: FRASERS HILL (13-2 Sporting Bet)

Although Frasers Hill clearly has his problems, the fact that Roger Varian is persisting with the three times raced 5yo surely suggests he possesses plenty of ability still and he looks worth chancing at Kempton today on a surface he has already run well on.

He raced once as a 2yo, finishing a fair third in an autumn soft ground maiden at Yarmouth, but he clearly met with an injury as we did not see him at all in 2012.  He was ready though for an early start to last term, running in a maiden at the beginning of April where only the 100 rated Queensberry Rules was too quick for him.

Something clearly went amiss at Hamilton next time as he went from cruising 2f out to being eased down within a furlong and the fact he did not run again in 2013 clearly indicates there was a serious problem.  That effort is therefore best ignored and he has presumably pleased at home since to be kept going as a 5yo.  Whilst he might lack experience, he should be a strong horse now and with the Varian yard having made a solid start to the new season, he could be well in here off 85.

Haydock 3.50: RED ROCCO (4-1 general)

Something of an enigma, Red Rocco has performed with great credit is some large sized staying chase handicaps this season, but has not always looked the hardiest under pressure.  I am hoping that a combination of a smaller field that he could find easier to dominate, plus quicker going can see him put it all in for the whole race today.

Stamina is certainly not an issue – he won twice over 3m on heavy going as a novice, making all on both occasions.  He finished the year with a fair fourth in the West Wales National at Ffos Las where his chance was compromised by Carruthers leading them all a merry dance which did not suit this front runner.

He started this year (his first with Nigel Twiston-Davies) well when finishing second over course and distance to Nuts N Bolts, despite not getting to the front early on.  The Welsh and Somerset Nationals were not his cup of tea, pulling up both times in big fields.  However having got to the front in the Grand National Trial here in February, he put in a much bolder show, only giving best two out to Rigadin du Beauchene before unseating his jockey at the last.  A fair fifth in the Midlands National from well out of the handicap last time, he will find this much easier.  One complication is the presence of another pacesetter in Bennys Well in the line-up but this race is a step up in grade for that rival and if Red Rocco can see him off, he has the class and stamina to see this through to the line.



Pipe’s Hunter on the prowl at Haydock


Buywise (5-2) was a winner for us on Wednesday. A relatively quiet Saturday’s racing today although we have plenty to look forward too over the remainder of the Easter Weekend.

Four selections in total today who can hopefully acquit themselves with credit.

At Haydock we have the best of the day’s racing with a number of well contested contests. The 2M 4 F handicap hurdle will likely prove a frenetic betting heat and I will take a chance that David Pipe (pictured) will have Heath Hunter ready to produce his optimum performance today following an absence of two months.The son of Shantou remains feasibly handicapped on the basis of a fine effort in novice company against Amore Alato earlier in the season and there were more positives than negatives about his handicap debut at Ascot last time where he moved well for a long way before tiring late on in a hot contest won by Kaylif Aramis. Today’s better ground should help the horse on the stamina front and provided Tom Scudamore get him settled early on he looks capable of a decent show.

On the domestic front Cork stages a fair card and I am interested in the ten furlong handicap. I often feel the benefit of race fitness is crucial at this time of year especially in Irish handicaps and with that in mind Chapter Seven ought to be not far away. The durable seven-year old has seemingly been on the downgrade since moving to Ger Lyons but there is no denying he is becoming well-handicapped now on the basis of smart form in the UK last summer which included a runner-up finish in a hot Newbury handicap behind Haafaguinea. After displaying little in Meydan, he shaped more encouragingly in the Lincoln at The Curragh most recently, and should have a fitness edge on most of today’s rivals. The horse need cut to produce his best so hopefully the forecast few showers will arrive in Mallow and hopefully Chapter can produce his best run since moving to these shores.

A couple of interesting three-year old handicaps at Nottingham this evening albeit there is always an element of guessing in such races at this time of the season. The Lady Cecil-trained Meteoroid displayed some useful form as a two-year old and ought to be very competitive off a fair mark of 80 in the one mile handicap at 6.45, while The Kid is a dark horse who might be worth a speculative punt in the concluding 10 furlong contest. The son of High Chaparral has hinted at ability in a couple of decent maidens thus far and could be a classic case of a horse stepping up significantly his first handicap. Despite being well beaten in all three starts, he looks a fluent mover and has raced against stronger company than what he encounters this evening. He might go close.

Haydock 2.40: 1 pt win HEATH HUNTER (6-1, General)

Cork 4.05: 1 pt win CHAPTER SEVEN (7-1, General)

Nottingham 6.45: 1 pt win METEOROID (11-4, General)

Nottingham 7.45: 1 pt win THE KID (13-2, Bet Victor)

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 Pipes Hunter on the prowl at Haydock


Buywise a shrewd Cheltenham investment


Thomas Edison (9-2) was a winner for the column on Sunday. The flat season is beginning to gather momentum but arguably the most interesting races today are from Cheltenham where he have a well supported fixture featuring a number of competitive handicaps.

Best bet on the card could well be Buywise who I recorded as possibly the biggest eye-catcher of all at the recent festival. Racing out the back of the field in the 2M 4 F Novices event on the opening day, he spoiled his chance with some sloppy jumping but displayed a fair engine with the manner in which he kept coming back for me between fences and finishing strongest of all up the final hill. A steadily progressive type earlier in the season, his latest effort suggested his present rating is not beyond him and that he has further scope for improvement. Hopefully the smaller field will put less pressure on his fencing here and a clean round should render him hard to beat.

Buywise’s race is immediately preceded by a competitive 2 M 5 F handicap hurdle. The more solid contenders here are Brother Brian and Thomas Crapper, but I will take a chance on The Romford Pele, the representative of the lovely Rebecca Curtis (pictured). The son of Accordion ha struggled with his jumping technique over both hurdles and fences but is not badly treated on the pick of his efforts if able to put together a fluent round.

He started off in a promising manner over hurdles last term with a second to the talented Court Minstrel before struggling a little as the season wore on. Switched to fences this term , he ran a highly promising race on his chasing debut running Balder Success close at Chepstow with the subsequent Paddy Power winner Double Ross back in third a performance which suggests a rating of 126 over hurdles could be exploitable. Similar to last year he has failed to progress as the season has evolved although this is something which affected most of Curtis’ horses all year with the stable having been under a cloud up until recently. Some dreadful jumping has given the horse no chance in recent outings over fences and it is hoped that reverting to the smaller obstacles will give him a level playing field today. If it does, his mark of 126 is reasonable and with Geraghty booked he might step up on recent efforts.

Cheltenham 3.15: 0.75 pts ew THE ROMFORD PELE (11-1, Bet Victor)

Cheltenham 3.55: 2 pts win BUYWISE (5-2, Paddy Power)

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 Buywise a shrewd Cheltenham investment

de sousa

De Sousa to work his Pontefract magic once more

We have some good racing for a Monday with Pontefract in particular staging some strong looking handicaps.  I have a selection from the 0-85 mile handicap there, plus a horse who might well improve for being gelded on his seasonal return at Windsor. Smart Ruler was placed for the each-way bet (advised 8-1) at Wetherby on Sunday.

Pontefract 2.40: ANSAAB (4-1 general)

The ex-Irish trained Ansaab has made a promising start to his new career with Alan McCabe in England and can build on a good run in the Spring Mile at Doncaster this month with jockey Silvestre de Sousa an eyecatching booking.

He made an excellent start with Kevin Prendergast making the first three on each of his first six starts including winning a maiden over 10f at Dundalk and then an early season competitive handicap at the Curragh over the same trip in 2012.  He has had a seriously interrupted career since then, racing just once more that year and he raced only once in the whole of 2013 when finishing in mid-division from a mark of 93 in the Irish Lincolnshire.

He had a couple of runs on the All Weather with McCabe in the winter, and was well backed from a generous looking return mark at Kempton of 85 when finishing second to Dixies Dream.  A combination of factors – a wide draw and possibly the bounce factor meant he finished last of all over 10f at the same track next time.  However he did much better at Doncaster when 6th of 22 behind Brae Hill and his current mark of 85 looks fair.  His winning form is over 10f, but he has raced well over a mile too so this stiff mile ought to be ideal and de Sousa rides Pontefract as well as anybody with a 24% strike rate over the past five seasons.

Windsor 4.50: QUEST FOR MORE (7-2 general)

We learnt plenty about Quest for More in 2013 that he was a horse with a fair degree of talent (winning two out of his six starts) but also showing the odd sign of quirkiness en route, with a tendency to hang under pressure yet finish strongly off a good pace.  Roger Charlton is a trainer with a reputation for bringing his horses on steadily and there should be plenty of room for improvement with the 4yo, especially as he has been gelded over the winter.

He was a course winner last summer over a mile, despite missing the break and then idling in front under pressure.  Despite finishing last on his next run, an All Weather contest at Kempton, he actually ran with a fair degree of credit given he was held up off a slow pace over a mile.  His next run proved as much as he was stepped right up in trip to 12f on a stiff track at Leicester and he responded with victory, although he again wandered about under pressure.

His last two races of 2013 were not run to suit given small fields and a slow pace and he could only manage a pair of third places.  I am sure however there is more in the locker and back to a track on which he has already won and with a fast pace looking likely with a couple of usual pacesetters in attendance he can make a winning return here.


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 De Sousa to work his Pontefract magic once more


Trust Edison to find a spark.

A win for Elidor (10-1) along with two each-way places (12-1, 14-1) gave us a respectable return yesterday.

Just the one race of interest for me today, the 12 furlong handicap at The Curragh.

No doubt this is the day that Truthwillsetufree will get it right now that I am deserting him, but there is little value to be had with him and he has to recover from a hard race on bottomless ground just a fortnight ago. The market has Taglietelle has the main danger, but the candidate to my mind who could be better handicapped than any is Thomas Edison representing Tony Martin (pictured). Something of a talking horse who has failed to really deliver on the racecourse, he is nonetheless rated 132 over hurdles and has to be viewed as well treated off 77 on the level. In a couple of flat conditions events last season he received strange rides tending to be settled miles off the pace giving him no chance of winning the races.

After a fair third over hurdles at Down Royal last Autimn, he was touted as a lively outsider for Cheltenham’s County Hurdle , and despite finding things too hot to handle there, he ought to benefit from the outing which could leave him ready to spark today.Fran Berry needs to settle the horse closer to the pace though and if more positive tactics are employed I can see him going close.
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 Trust Edison to find a spark.

At the prices, Dysios cannot be dismissed. His form is arguably on a par with the two market leaders and yet he is almost 4-5 times the price. Denis Cullen produced him to win first time out at Navan last year and he is capable of a frame finish if in similar form here.

Curragh 3.20: 1 pt win THOMAS EDISON (11-2, Bet Victor); 0.5 pt ew DYSIOS (14-1, be 365)