Discussed this week, the Scottish National, Galvin, Ballysax and the whip rule….should they be thrown out?


We were positively rattling along, had done 46 minutes of this weeks Podcast, when Skype failed, completely shut down and didn’t even save what we had recorded….gutted because it was a good one!

We had a quick five minute chat afterwards (which did record, even though I had not set it to record), and we decided that this week would be text only.

Please find below our verdicts on the races that were being discussed.


3.30pm Ayr (Listed handicap)

Only seven going to post for a first prize of nearly £33k and it’s just so disappointing.

The last five running’s of this race have gone to horses trained by Dan Skelton (3), or Brian Ellison (2) and Ellison actually trained the winner of this in 2-13 too so BEAKSTOWN and last years winner NIETZSCHE have to be top of anyone’s shortlist.

We want to be with horses aged seven, eight or nine here as they have taken eight of the last nine running’s of this but that only rules out Gordon Elliott’s COACH CARTER. The pair already mentioned arrive as nine year olds and I have to honest and say that if I wanted to be pedantic I’d rather be with the younger horses, as they won six of the last eight of these.

Only one of the last nine winners carried more than 11st 6lb and that was a Paul Nicholls trained nine year old, THE KNOXS, in 2012.

Looking at past market positions of the winners it’s pretty clear you do not want to be outside the front four on the tissue because the last six were, as were seven of those nine previous winners.

The horse fitting best is definitely FLIC OU VOYOU, sent all the way up from Ditcheat, and eight year old (they have taken the last two running’s of this), trading front four on the tissue @ 9/2 and with 11st 4lb on his back, it all looks spot on.


There are people out there who love a good handicap and I can see that – if you have the time to focus on one or two races a day and tear them apart horse by horse looking for every intricacy – but those of us having to cover every meeting just do not have that luxury – and we rely on stats, though on this occasion they have told me absolutely nothing. Every horse fits the age profile, the form last time out, the odds, the lot, so all I have left is trainers in my book. Brian Ellison has won with three of his seven runners in this race over the years, making Nietzsche sorely tempting, but Dan Skelton has an even better record – five runners for three winners and two additional places.  Beakstown is his runner this year, and although disappointing when only sixth at Kempton last time out, he clearly didn’t get home over the three miles that day, and ought to be a lot happier dropping back to this trip



Leopardstown 2.35pm

The perils of trying to get a grip on three year olds on seasonal debut, be they the Classic generation, or your Class 6 Handicappers, was very much shown to be impossible last year, when two colts that had finished the juvenile careers near the top of the pops both finished tailed off in the Newmarket 2000Gns.

It’s all a bit like trying to juggle soot, especially as I’m also trying to suss out the thought’s of Aiden O’Brien and his jockey bookings, of which (as I type), I have no clue as to who rides any of his three in this.

The last two running’s of this have been claimed by Jim Bolger, the previous four belonged to Aiden O’Brien and the two before that to Dermot Weld.

In the spirit of Pinata I’ll take a whack at MCTIGUE. Trained by Bolger, ridden by Manning (who rode those two winners for this trainer), and a previous course winner.

I’d never in a month of Sunday’s have a bet on such an event because I value my money but the horse is a previous course winner and if anyone is bonkers enough to play, he’s my 20/80

RON – MCTIGUE – 20/80

Of the last 10 runnings two have gone to Dermot Weld, four to Aidan O’Brien, and the last two have headed the way of Jim Bolger, who won this last year with Poetic Flare, who went on to win the English 2000 Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes as well as placing in numerous other Group One events. Mctique represents the Bolger yard this year, but he needs to step up on what we have seen so far that includes a head win over a furlong further in a maiden and a sixth to Luxembourg in the Futurity Stakes at Doncaster. Using juvenile form to assess races the following season is always a risk business, but Dr Zempf has produced enough on the track to get the vote for now. Second to Ebro River in the Phoenix Stakes here in August and beaten less than three lengths when eighth to Perfect Power in the Middle Park Stakes after pulling too hard, if he has trained on, then he has the form in the book to take this barring exceptional improvement from any of his rivals.


Leopardstown 3.10pm

We had an 80/1 winner of this last season. Oh the joys of trying to unravel 3-y-o events on first run of a new season! It’s why I do not even try unless we discuss them in Podcasts.

When I sat down to prep this I had six of the 12 runners having yet to be  allotted a pilot, no betting so that I could look at how market trends have worked here (obviously not great, seeing we had that 80/1 shot go in last term!), but what I’m seeing is, you ideally want a horse trading a single figure price, drawn either stall two, or stall three….runners from those two stalls have actually won six of the last eight of running’s of this!

Right now they are SEISAI and Henry De Bromhead’s STAR GIRLS AALMAL. At least they have jockeys!

The trainer of SEISAI, Joseph O’Brien, has three in here, the highest officially rated being AGARTHA….drawn in nine.

For nothing more than for the fun of the Podcast I’ll say SEISAI 20/80 but I’ll be stunned and amazed if anyone draws a bean off it.

RON – SEISAI 20/80

With an 80/1 winner last season and just the one favourite and a joint favourite in the last 10 runnings, caution is very much advised. Contarelli Chapel is a bit of an unknown quantity after winning her maiden at Naas before running badly when possibly in season next time out, and she certainly looks the sort to do better at three. Agartha was well placed last season by Joseph O’Brien and won the Group Two Debutante Stakes at The Curragh as well as coming home second in the Group One Moyglare Stakes, but I am on a recovery mission with Sacred Bridge. The daughter of Bated Breath won her first four at up to Group Three level but looked as if she was over the top in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket when only eighth, a long way off the winner despite being sent off the 13/8 favourite. She still holds entries in both the English and the Irish 1000 Guineas and will need to win this to take up either of those engagements, but if she is back to her best, I see no reason why she cannot get back to winning ways.


Leopardstown 3.45pm

The Ballysax, a race farmed by Aiden O’Brien in recent years….he has won the last four of these with BOLSHOI BALLET, NOBEL PRIZE, BROOME and NELSON. This year has chucks two darts at it, BLUEGRASS and SCRIPTWRITER.

Used to be the case that whichever Ryan Moore rode, was the stable “preferred” but two of those previous four winners named were ridden by Killian Hennessey and Donnacha O’Brien so we cannot take anything at face value.

I wouldn’t be advising betting against straight win number five here but it’s the Wayne Lordon ridden SCRIPTWRITER that arrives with the highest official mark from their juvenile days and so with no other evidence to go on, I’ll say 20/80 SCRIPTWRITER.


Whoever wins this will no doubt leapfrog a few rivals in the antepost market for the Epsom Derby, but I remember Bolshoi Ballet being talked about as the next big thing after taking this last year, and although he did win in New York later in the season, he was firmly put in his place in Surrey and was never the horse the hype suggested from the Ballydoyle marketing machine. If there is a star in this line-up he has certainly kept it pretty well hidden so far, with Buckaroo the highest rated after a maiden win at Galway and a solid fourth to El Bodegon in the Criterium De Saint-Cloud last October. I am thinking that is by far the best form on offer and although the going seems likely to be quicker here, he ran well in the Champion Juvenile Stakes here despite no luck in running, and that was on good ground. Although I doubt he is a Derby winner in waiting, I do think he is by far the best horse here, though I will also be keeping a watching brief on Vina Sena who is a bit of a dark horse after one run and one win on the all-weather at Dundalk.


Ayr 2.25pm Listed handicap

Lovely….15 runners going for this and it’s a “proper” race.

Don’t look at anything other than horses aged five, six or seven. Eight of the last nine running’s have gone to those age groupings and six of the last seven have gone to horses aged five, or seven. Seven year olds have won three of the last four.

As with that race we’ve discussed for tomorrow, I do not want anything to do with horses carrying more than 11st 6lb so that rules out FIRST STREET and last year’s winner, MILKWOOD.

Front five on the tissue is just grand as seven of the last nine winners were, and we’ve also seen the last two running’s of this going to the favourite.

Four of the last seven winners of this returned 12/1, 10/1, 12/1 and 25/1 and it’s also interesting to note that four of the last eight winners had claimers on board but the only two horses ridden by claimers here fail the age groupings, although ALQAMAR has been supported 20/1 > 12/1.

The current favourite WEST CORK is also wrong from an age point of view so front five on the tissue, carrying less than 11st 7lb, aged five, six or seven….and probably aged seven given recent trends….all points to ONEMOREFORTHEROAD


Much as I like the race and the runners and connections, I do have to question how it can be called the Scottish Champion Hurdle – and then be a handicap, meaning the best horse is anything but the likeliest to win (Milkwood has to give 20lb to the bottom three, for example, which equates to about a 20 length head start). Last season we saw Milkwood win this off a mark of 142, but he an added 8lb this season which will make his life that bit harder – though I am confident this has been his aim all year. Once again we turn to statistics to see if we can find any pattern, however tenuous, and I note that 15 horses have arrived here having failed to complete last time out without producing a winner – so that waves goodbye to Alqamar who unseated Charlotte Jones at Wetherby last time out. Only one winner has been older than nine in the last 24 years so I will also take out Voix Du Reve, while only two came home outside of the top 10 on their last start, which suggests Kihavah has his work cut out as well. 31 horses have tried to carry more than 11 stone six to success – and none have managed – it so I will begrudgingly put a line through Milkwood, and that’s as far as the numbers will take me, and I am down to the remaining five. Socialist Agenda has to carry 6lb more than his handicap mark thanks to race conditions so I can ignore him (in theory), and it’s time to look make a decision. With Brian Hughes continuing to ride as well as ever, Donald McCain in good form with a 30% strike rate at the time of writing, and Barrichello the youngest of the remaining quartet and open to the most improvement, he will do for me as my each-way play.


Ayr 3.00pm

Just five going to post now for nearly £26k first prize money….what are trainers thinking?

Again it is the five, six and seven year olds that dominate here and I’d definitely not be thinking of the likes of KILTEALY BRIGGS, DO YOUR JOB, or the Be Bromhead runner MINELLA MELODY as a potential bet as they are all eight years olds. Only six have bothered even trying to win this in the last decade and only one of them managed to even place.

I’d say 11st 7lb would be my cut off point here and nothing carrying less than 11st would be entertained either….that one of De Bromhead’s is due to carry 10st 7lb so he’s got two negatives already to overcome.

Market position tells a tale, too….the last nine winners of this were situated 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 1, 1 so if your selection is outside the front two on the tissue, you’ll need divine intervention, if trends hold up.

I’m therefore looking for a horse front two on the tissue, aged five, six or seven (seven year olds have won four of the last six), carrying 11st or more….but not more than 11st 7lb.

It has to be JACAMAR based on trends but as great a season as Milton Harris has had, his are now running to just a 30% RTF figure. Place only JACAMAR.


Same again really – good prize money, perfect jumping ground, sensible entry fees – and just the five runners. Remind me again why owners get so little sympathy when moaning about the lack of opportunities? Paul Nicholls has won three of the nine runnings so far and he sends Il Ridoto on the long journey North after his eighth to Global Citizen in the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival.  I am willing to forgive him that run on heavy ground with his better form on a sounder surface, including his one win over fences at Newbury on good to soft in November. He does have a few pounds to find on official ratings but should be a better horse on this ground and with Bryony Frost riding him for the first time, I do expect a far better performance.


Ayr 3.35pm Scottish National

I wonder why this race is being run nearly three weeks earlier than usual? This usually comes after the Aintree Grand National?

I’ll create a full profile for this on Saturday morning and produce Ratings, too, even though I’ve now officially stopped Rating the jumpers.

I’ve got some Scribblings down though and I’m going to suggest we look for horses aged seven, eight or nine.

Weight ranges are simply all over the place and the last two winners carried 10st 1lb and 11st 1lb, the two years previous saw winners carrying 11st 10lb and 10st 6lb and as for market position, the only thing I’d say is, you want nothing at all to do with the favourite as the last nine of those have produced a form figure of P, P, 6, 6, 5, 1, P, 6, 2….only a pair hitting the frame and three pulling up!

We’ve seen winners in the last decade priced 40/1, 25/1, 33/1 and 25/1, with two others returning lower double figure prices.

For Podcast purposes I’ll suggest an eight year old, carrying low end of 11st and trading a low double figure price and that one would right now be, THE WOLF.

One horse is winking at me….COOL MIX. Ran fifth in this last year off the same weight but officially 5lb lower than last year, and he has attracted a fair bit of support since the market opened 33/1 > 14/1.

His Ayr form figures read 2, 2, 1, 7, 5, 3 and he is always got ready to run at this meeting. This will be his fifth appearance at a Scottish National meeting and his form figures on this day read 2, 1, 7, 5….so definitely worth a place only play.

Much better waiting for full Profiling though as I’ll get down to the nitty gritty then.

RON – THE WOLF – 20/80

Up to 24 runners, 27 fences to jump, and four miles to travel for the Scottish Grand National – a spectacle I agree, but a race for betting purposes – do me a favour! Once again its all about the numbers for me (it doesn’t work every time as we all know, but now and again it throws out a good priced winner), so let’s set the wheels in motion and shovel more coal on the computer to see what the number crunching comes up with.

The first and perhaps most intriguing filter has to be age – 17 six-year-olds have tried to win this in the 24 years of stats I have to hand – and none have been successful (though six have placed). If that trend continues then we can say goodbye to the early favourite Kitty’s Light, which is either an inspired move – or pure stupidity – only time will tell on that one. I hate to put a line though Vintage Clouds, but he is 12 and that is just too old (zero winners from  25 runners – and stats are stats), and we move on, albeit with a heavy heart. Next up I note all bar two of the winners completed last time out and came home in the first six, so we can lose  Streets Of Doyen (pulled up), Strong Economy (fell), Fantastikas (seventh), and One More Fleurie (17th), and now we are down to “just” the 18 to look through – give me strength.

Next stop was official ratings, and only two have won this off a rating lower than 132, so I will dispose of History Of Fashion, Court Master, Ask A Honey Bee, The Ferry Master, El Paso Wood, and Cool Mix, while only two have won off higher than 146, so bye-bye to Hill Sixteen as well. All bar two winners had raced within the last 60 days so I will remove Fidux and Jersey Bean, while all bar two had been in the top 17 in the betting (I am clutching at straws now), getting rid of Prime Venture.

That leaves me with a not so shortlist of eight horses (who knew this was so tricky), and it’s time to look at the form of the horses! Looking at the ratings and the three I like are Ashtown Lad, The Wolf, and Chirico Vallis, and they race off marks the closest to those they have carried to success in the past. Of the trio,  I prefer the chances of The Wolf each way more than the others, if only because he ran on so well when second at Musselburgh and may just have the stamina to go well against these rivals




SEAN – BUCKAROO (Leopardstown 3-45, SATURDAY)

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