Playing the short game

Two winners and three seconds on Thursday meant it was one of those days that presented a good return but one that could have easily been very good. Friday is a brand new day and today, rather than the grey cold skies that surrounded me yesterday, I’m looking out at brilliant blue for the penultimate day of my Finnish getaway. I’m also feeling positive about today’s selections with three short priced favourites at Wexford that all have excellent claims.

First up is Peregrine Run in the 7.15, with the Grade 2-winning hurdler looking to follow up on his first chase win a couple of weeks back. He impressed that day and goes for a Peter Fahey stable in red hot form, with a 50% strike rate over the past 14 days.

Half an hour later Rathvinden is back in action as he continues his comeback after a troubled couple of years. He just found Jessica Harrington’s Modem too good last time, but that was only his second run in three years and so he is entitled to come on for it. Today’s race looks easier and this former second in the Neptune to Faugheen at the Festival can get his head back in front for messrs Walsh and Mullins.

The final piece in the puzzle comes in the bumper where it is significant that Patrick Mullins rides Peacock’s Secret rather than his father’s Smooth River. The Emmet Mullins runner (so still keeping it in the family) has been unlucky so far to have bumped into some decent types, and although you never know what unexposed runners are lurking in these races, unless something unexpected leaps out this should be his day. He was second to Alan Fleming’s Suncroft last time, only narrowly beaten half a length, and I know they think a bit about that one, so this can complete a nice pre-weekend treble for us.

Recommendations (all Wexford):

7.15 – Peregrine Run 13/8 (NB)

7.45 – Rathvinden 6/4

8.45 – Peacock’s Secret 11/8 (NAP)

*singles and all in trixie 

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Kitten Rock will leave you purring

A very brief summary today as I’m on a small Finnish island at a summer house with only enough phone juice to last me the day. But here are my selections, the highlight being the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary where Kitten Rock is well treated by conditions on returning over hurdles for the first time since running in the 2015 Champion Hurdle.

4.10 Perth – noche de reyes 9/4

6.35 Bellewstown – kings wharf 3/1 (NAP)

7.20 Tipperary – kitten rock 6/1ew

7.40 Bellewstown – ask susan 7/1ew

8.10 Bellewstown – twobeelucky 2/1

8.40 Bellewstown – konig hall 9/1ew

8.55 Tipperary – the major general 13/8 (NB)

Beat That the star turn at Perth

Former Grade 1 winning hurdler Beat That continues his comeback on Wednesday at Perth with his second run over fences and on paper should get his head back in front for the first time in over three years. He was just outbattled by Brother Tedd on his chasing debut and his main opposition this time comes from Gordon Elliott’s 2016 Albert Bartlett second, Fagan. He missed most of last season through injury, being pulled up on his one appearance at Fairyhouse in January, and will surely need the run here so Beat That is a confident pick.

Over at Worcester Prettylittlething aims to make it back to back wins following his success at Newton Abbot last week, a win he was tipped up for in this column. He carries a penalty but won with a bit in hand and can follow up here to continue an upward curve from three wins last Autumn. From one Neil Mulholland runner to one formerly trained by him, as Pinkie Brown makes his first appearance for Johnny Farrelly and is tipped to score in the 3.50. He was last seen running a cracker at the Punchestown Festival, where he was narrowly beaten in third in a big handicap won by Jessica Harrington’s Bobabout. Before that, over fences he showed smart form when finishing just two lengths behind Forest Bihan in November and he should be very competitive here despite top weight. 

Elsewhere, two hurdlers are tipped to score on the Flat at Kempton and Fairyhouse. Zubayr couldn’t have been more impressive when bolting up at Kempton in May and his mark of 83 still surely underestimates his potential on the level. Taking into account the five pound claim from Megan Nicholls, he gets over a stone from favourite Gibbs Hill and is taken to follow up here. Meanwhile at Fairyhouse Noel Meade’s Weightfordave can finally get off the mark on the Flat after flattering to deceive the last twice when going off favourite. He’s been dropped to a mark of 51 and has his best chance yet to exploit this lowly rating.

Recommendations:

2.50 Worcester – Prettylittlething 2/1 (NB)

3.50 Worcester – Pinkie Brown 7/1ew

4.40 Perth – Beat That 4/6

7.40 Kempton – Zubayr 7/2 (NAP)

8.50 Fairyhouse – Weightfordave 5/1ew

Nicholls can bag another winner on the Flat

When Zubayr stormed to an impressive win at Kempton in May he became Paul Nicholls’ first winner on the Flat and today the ten-time jumps champion trainer can claim victory on the level again with Moabit running in the last at Chepstow. He’s been seen most recently not really getting the best of starts to his chasing career, but they have been in competitive heats and this 133-rated hurdler can get a confidence boost here with his Flat mark of only 75. He showed good Flat form back in France before coming to Nicholls in 2015 and is taken to resume winning ways today.

Over at Stratford I also like the look of Altiepix in the 7.20 for Kerry Lee. Formerly with Gordon Elliott when running in the Gigginstown colours in Ireland, he has been revitalised since coming to England, winning by 11 lengths two starts ago at this track. He disappointed last time out when managing only third after being raised nine pounds, but today’s affair looks a slightly easier assignment and he’s still on a manageable mark (128). He will need a canny ride from Richard Patrick as he doesn’t always find for pressure when placed in a battle at the finish but gets my vote today.

The final selection is back on the Flat where Wee Jock returns to Hamilton just five days after hacking up at the same venue. He has a 6lb penalty for that win but should be able to defy it if in the same form and rates as a rare five furlong sprint NAP for me.

Recommendations:

5.30 Hamilton – Wee Jock 4/5 (NAP)

7.20 Stratford – Altiepix 15/8

9.10 Chepstow – Moabit 11/4

*Plus all in trixie 

Nervously watching from afar

Greetings from Finland, from where I’m writing this adorned in sunshine looking over a lake, the sound of birdsong filling the air. You may wonder therefore why it is I wish I was in Towcester instead tonight? Well, tonight is the biggest night in the greyhound calendar, Derby final night, and not only that but my very own Julius George runs in the Champion Hurdle. Alas, I’ll be cheering him home via a ropey feed on my iPad while the rest of the Catford Toteboard syndicate give him their all from the track. 

Readers of this blog hopefully have 100/1 tickets in their hands going into tonight’s final, but if not then you can still back George at an incredibly generous 50/1 today and with Skybet offering three places (that’s half the field) at a fifth of the odds I certainly wouldn’t put you off. On paper he shouldn’t make the frame but as I said last week he often saves his best for these big competitions (being in the top three of both the Springbok and Grand National before) and has been trained with the Champion Hurdle in mind by Tony Taylor. He ran a cracker in the semi-finals last week to qualify and is set to run another big race tonight. Whether that is good enough only time will tell, but this is dog racing and anything can happen. The traps go up at 7.16.

In the big one itself, the Derby final, Clares Rocket is aiming to go unbeaten throughout the whole competition and you can get ready for the movie if he does as it would be fairytale stuff coming seven months after being kidnapped by Irish gangsters. I’m opposing him tonight though with another Irish raider – Tyrur Shay. There’s nothing more exciting than a dog than finishes fast (check out the old videos of Westmead Hawk and Scurlough Champ on YouTube) and Shay not only has this in his locker but also the ability to trap out with the pace too. When he did this in the third round he was devastating and if he gets out tonight I can’t see him being beaten. The great thing is that he doesn’t have to do that to hold a chance though as he will be finishing double the speed of anything else down the final straight. If you play him reversed against the field your almost certain to score (unless there’s trouble in running) as it’s very hard to see him finishing outside the first two. You can back him at 9/4 and the judge waves her flag at 8.56.

Horses-wise there are no jumps meetings at all today but there are still two I like on the Flat who have form over obstacles in the past. London Prize has become one of my favourites over the past year or so, being something of a revelation on the all-weather, the turf and over hurdles for Ian Williams. The Imperial Cup winner romped to an eight-length win back on the Flat last month and I can’t see a 5lb penalty today stopping him back on the all-weather at Newcastle. He runs in the Northumberland Plate consolation race having missed the cut for the big one and the fact that he would have been a serious contender for that race tells you everything. Get on!

Concluding the Irish Derby card over at the Curragh is an interesting 2m contest where Willie Mullins seems to hold all the aces. His Laws of Spin and Whiteout head the betting and it’s the latter of the two that I like today. The former Punchestown Mares Champion Hurdle winner, currently 143-rated over timber, exploited a mark of 77 to trounce a field on the Flat over course and distance in May and an 11lb rise for that success may not be enough to stop him today. Mullins’ other runner, Laws of Spin, carries 8lb more but does have Ryan Moore in the saddle as he attempts a four-timer going back to last July. I think Whiteout has more scope for improvement on the Flat though and he gets my vote.

Recommendations:

3.00 Newcastle – London Prize 11/4 (NAP)

6.00 Curragh – Whiteout 3/1

7.16 Towcester dogs – Julius George 50/1ew (Skybet)

8.56 Towcester – Tyrur Shay 9/4 

Riven to Light up murky Friday 

It was frustrating that Dara Tango was a non runner on Thursday but if you don’t already have him in your tracker make sure you add him because I think he’s a winner waiting to happen next time out and is likely to be pointed to something at Galway too, be that on the Flat or back over hurdles.

As for Friday, once again there’s only one bet that appeals and that is Riven Light in the 7.50 at the Curragh. The Willie Mullins runner had a mixed season over hurdles but when last seen was only beaten a neck by Montalbano at the Punchestown Festival. He was the choice of Ruby Walsh that day too, over three other Mullins runners, so is clearly well thought of. He’s already a winner on the Flat, having won over in France before arriving at Closutton, he has Pat Smullen on board and will handle soft ground if the predicted rain arrives. There’s lots to like and he can take this today before moving on to bigger targets, with Galway likely on Mullins’ radar.

7.50 Curragh – Riven Light 9/2ew (Betfred & Totesport both paying four places)