RaceCafe..#1...Tipsters Thread.... Share Your Fancies For Fun...Lets See Who The Best Tipsters Here Are.
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21 hours ago, Gruff said:

What do you reckon, the extra half mile plus looks a stretch if they go to Cheltenham Stodge? Nice performance and great ride all the same

The talk is they are going to swerve Cheltenham and wait for Aintree - a much sharper track and less of a stamina test.

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I'll catch up on Sunday's racing from Leopardstown in due time.

This coming weekend we have more Cheltenham Trial-type races at Newbury and Warwick.

At Newbury we have the Grade 2 Game Spirit over 3200m for which BOOTHILL and EDWARDSTONE are joint favourites at 6/4. Having twice finished second to JONBON, latterly in the Tingle Creek, EDWARDSTONE was stepped up to 4000m for the Silvinaico Conti at Kempton and was a dismal fourth beaten 25 lengths. You could argue he didn't stay the trip but he was too poor for that to be the only explanation.

BOOTHILL has progressed through Grade 3 and won a Grade 2 at Newbury but fell in the Desert Orchid at Kempton. I think I prefer him to EDWARDSTONE back at 3200m. EDITEUR DU GITE looked very good when winning a handicap over course and distance but was beaten miles in the Clarence House at Cheltenham. Back at Newbury, I think we'll see a much better one and I think he might upset the two favourites.

The Denman over 4750m is Newbury's Gold Cup trial and sees the return of SHISHKIN who is 2/5 to atone for an unlucky stumble at the second last in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day. Would he have won? Hard to know but it was a serious effort in Grade 1 company. PROTEKTORAT was no match for L'HOMME PRESSE at Lingfield in the Fleur de Lys and seems to have lost a bit of his edge from last year. 

At Warwick just five have been entered for the  Kingmaker Novices Chase over 3200m. MATATA was second in the Lightning and that's useful form in this grade. He has eight lengths to spare over PEMBROKE and a more likely opponent is the unbeaten mare ARCLIGHT who has won two Listed Mares chases but now goes up in grade against the geldings.

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The second day of the Dublin Racing Festival saw a further four Grade 1 races and little in the way of the Mullins juggernaut it seemed.

With fresh ground and a dry night, conditions had improved to Yielding to Soft on the steeplechase course and Soft on the hurdles track.

The opening Ladbrokes Novices Chase degenerated into farce with three overnight withdrawals leaving just a match and to make matters worse, a match between two horses from the same stable, yes, you’ve guessed it, Willie Mullins. In many jurisdictions, the race would have been scrapped and it’s far from a satisfactory advert for Irish (or British) jump racing when a 90,000 euro race is a match.

GAELIC WARRIOR, winner of the Faugheen over 4000m at Limerick over Christmas, was 4/7 against FACT OR FILE who had won the Beginners steeplechase at Leopardstown over Christmas which GALOPIN DES CHAMPS had won back in 2021.

This was an embarrassing non-event with FACT OR FILE clearly going better than GAELIC WARRIOR from some way out and many thought Paul Townend should have pulled up the favourite before the last (it’s not like the owner needs the money) but instead the horse barely raised a leg and sent Townend out the front door.

That’s not FACT OR FILE’s fault and he looked very good, and he is 10/3 for the 4800m Brown Advisory and 2/1 favourite for the 4000m Turners at Cheltenham. That’s short enough based purely on the evidence and one thing I can say with confidence – it won’t be a match at Cheltenham, and they’ll be going a lot harder and faster from the start which will test the jumping.

The Novice hurdlers had their race in the 3200m Tattersalls Ireland Novices Hurdle. This looked an interesting match between BALLYBURN, who had been an impressive winner at Christmas and FARRON GLORY, who had won the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse and who was travelling strongly in the Formby at Aintree on Boxing Day when crashing at the second last.

BALLYBURN continues to impress – he’s a relentless galloper and I could see him winning a Gold Cup one day. That said, he doesn’t seem sort of tactical speed at 3200m either and Mullins and connections now have to decide whether to go for the Supreme (7/4 favourite) or the Baring Bingham over 4000m for which BALLYBURN is 3/1. I’d personally go for the latter as on quicker ground they’ll go strong over 3200m, and it may just be that the 4000m trip will put the horse more in his comfort zone.

SLADE STEEL did little wrong – he’s 20s for the Supreme and 6s for the Baring Bingham and if BALLYBURN went for the former, the 6s would be a knocking bet for the latter. FARRON GLORY stopped very quickly after the second last and was beaten a very long way.

The third Grade 1 was the Dublin Chase over 3400m and the dominant speed chaser currently, EL FABIOLO, went off at 4/11 to beat four rivals, three of whom were stable companions.

A thoroughly dominant display from EL FABIOLO who has won all six of his steeplechases including four Grade 1 races and is 4/9 for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. While I’m not sure I would judge JONBON solely on his Clarence House defeat, the fact remains EL FABIOLO was superior in the Arkle last spring and there’s little evidence the gap has closed and if anything, it may have widened.

DINOBLUE has been put in at 11/8 for the Grade 2 Mares Chase at Cheltenham and that looks reasonable on this evidence. She’s a talented mare and a proven Grade 1 performer and against all but the very best geldings can more than hold her own.

Finally, we had the Irish Champion Hurdle over 3200m which saw STATE MAN sent off at 2/5 against three opponents including the useful staying hurdler BOB OLINGER, the only non-Mullins runner in the field.

Very few problems for the defending champion – I actually think the further he went the better he went, and I’d love to see him over 4000m at Aintree where I think he has a better evidence of beating CONSTITUTION HILL. STATE MAN is 3s for the Champion Hurdle with CONSTITUTION HILL 1/3 so call it a match if you want. I just think 4000m at Aintree would stretch CONSTITUTION HILL’s stamina.

BOB OLINGER put in a much better effort and ran home strongly. He’s 14s for the Champion Hurdle but the 4800m of the stayers looks a much more interesting option. He could also wait for the 4000m at Aintree but if either of the top two turned up, he’d be chasing their shadow again.

Eight Grade 1 races at the Dublin Racing Festival – all went to horses trained by Willie Mullins and while some of the results on Saturday didn’t perhaps go according to plan, GALOPIN DES CHAMPS, EL FABIOLO, BALLYBURN and STATE MAN all came through their prep races for Cheltenham without any issues and while the last named mat have to settle for second at Cheltenham, the other three all look like Festival winners.

In a week which has seen the Irish dominate the Grand National with 61 of the 94 entries coming from across the Irish Sea, the apparent strength of Irish jump racing looks increasingly built on weak foundations with the total dominance of Willie Mullins at the highest level almost embarrassing.

To be fair, the big handicaps at the Dublin Festival were well contested – 25 in the 90,000 Euro handicap chase over 4200m and 19 in the 60,000 Euro Mares handicap hurdle – and it may well be the betting interest at Cheltenham will be in the big handicaps rather than the championship races.

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After a relatively dry spell, the winter rains have returned with a vengeance. Tomorrow's Warwick card, featuring the Grade 2 Kingmaker, was lost after 36mm of rain fell on the track.

Newbury are expecting to race despite having had 44mm (nearly two inches) of rain since Tuesday but the ground has not surprisingly been downgraded significantly to Heavy, Soft in places.

Five stand in the Denman over 4750m but the rain has caused SHISHKIN to ease from 2/5 to 8/11 and it's a concern. He has form on soft but this trip on heavy ground will be a challenge and it may be PROTEKTORAT can take advantage. We know the ground and trip hold no fears and chasing home L'HOMME PRESSE in the Fleur de Lys at Lingfield was decent if not spectacular. There's been support for SAM BROWN from 20s to 12s and he's a thorough stayer who fell at The Chair in the National. He won a veterans race at Warwick last time but this is much tougher.

Five also stand in the Game Spirit over 3250m and the money has come for EDWARDSTONE against BOOTHILL whose best form is on better ground. Back at this trip, EDWARDSTONE looks the one with the change in ground conditions but he was beaten by EDITEUR DU GITE in the 2023 Clarence House at Cheltenham on soft ground. Apart from the Desert Orchid win at Christmas, EDITEUR DU GITE's form has been moderate and while we can probably excuse EDWARDSTONE for not seeing out the trip last time and going down twice to JONBON in Grade 1 races, there'll be no excuses tomorrow.

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Looking back at yesterday's Newbury action where the ground, although officially Heavy, Soft in places was more wet than holding and the horses seemed to be getting through it well.

The Denman saw SHISHKIN come through his Gold Cup Trial with a convincing win but whether we've seen the Gold Cup winner is debatable. His jumping remains prone to if not errors then leaps which lose ground and momentum but after the self inflicted travail at Ascot and misfortune in the King George you could hear the relief from trainer Nicky Henderson the horse had come through the race and was back on track. HITMAN was second and he ran well until emptying just before the last. He's rated 21 lbs inferior to SHISHKIN and will likely go for the Ryanair and that might now be the plan for PROTEKTORAT who led but ran and jumped with too much exuberance and was beaten after two out. Many now think a drop back in distance is what this free running type needs and with ALLAHO on the sidelines, the Ryanair is shaping up to be the race of the Festival.

In the Game Spirit, EDITEUR DU GITE was a late scratching but this was an impressive performance from EDWARDSTONE on whom the tactics were very different. He was allowed to jump and run and took his fences with much more enthusiasm and with BOOTHILL falling two out, EDWARDSTONE came home unchallenged by 40 lengths. All well and good but this was a million miles from the Champion Chase at Cheltenham where it's likely JONBON will contest the lead with EDWARDSTONE and all that will do is set the race up for EL FABIOLO but we know EDWARDSTONE will be staying on so could be each way value.

Just a note on today's action at Exeter and I wouldn't normally mention a 3650m maiden hurdle but it was won by ABSOLUTE STEEL who returned at odds of 200/1 beating the 4/9 favourite who looked a shade reluctant (the phrase "dodgepot" comes to mind). We've had nine or ten 200/1 winners since the abolition of betting tax, the longest priced winner in the UK was a horse called EQUINOCTAL who won a hurdle at Kelso in 2001 at odds of 250/1 while Ireland has had two 300/1 winners in the past 10 years.

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Another weekend beckons and despite more rain in the weather forecast this week, the three Saturday jumps meetings seem confident of going ahead without problem.

Ascot stages the main meeting but only five have been entered for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 4200m. L'HOMME PRESSE is 4/7 after his triumphant return at Lingfield when he won the Fleur de Lys though I'm not sure his defeat of PROTEKTORAT was all it seemed given the latter now seems more of a speed type. It had been 391 days since L'HOMME PRESSE had unseated in the 2022 King George and he had won that year's Brown Advisory at Cheltenham. He's generally regarded as the main British hope against GALOPIN DES CHAMPS in the Gold Cup and if so he ought to be winning this.

He faces course specialist PIC D'ORHY who won the 1965 in November but in this last year was thrashed by SHISHKIN who is perhaps the other big British Gold Cup hope. PIC D'ORHY has won Grade 1 races at 4000m but he's just below the very best of the staying chasers.AHOY SENOR and FAKIR D'OUDAIRIES have both won Grade 1 races in their time but neither has run well this season and both have a bit to prove in this class of race.

The Grade 2 Reynoldstown is the last significant pre-Cheltenham race for the staying novice chasers. I saw BRAVE KINGDOM win on chase debut at Plumpton and he followed up in a much better race at Newbury. That gives him a chance here but he's only third highest rated among the seven entries. APPLE AWAY was second in a Grade 2 at Warwick in mid January while KILBEG KING arguably has the best form despite being only third last time out as that was in the Kauto Star behind the superb IL EST FRANCAIS. 

Up at Haydock, the ground is Heavy and the two pre-Cheltenham Grade 2 races are for the staying hurdlers. The novices get their go in the Albert Bartlett Trial over 4800m and with fifteen entered this could be quite an open race. LATENIGHTPASS from the Skelton yard catches my eye while the more experienced stayers get their chance in the Rendlesham which isn't a strong heat. BOTOX HAS has plenty of claims as he usually mixes it in the Grade 1 events and I quite like NEMEAN LION who is a tough type for whom the step up in trip could be useful.

At Wincanton, there is currently standing water on the track but the clerk is optimistic they'll be fine to race albeit on Heavy turf for the Grade 2 Kingwell over 3200m for the hurdlers. NEMEAN LION is in this as well but favourite is RUBAUD who was ten lengths inferior to CONSTITUTION HILL in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. Given I thought the track and ground were perfect for RUBAUD, he was brushed aside by the Champion Hurdle favourite with contempt. This is much more his grade but the ground is a concern.

Back on the flat and disappointing news from the European Pattern Meeting today that applications to have the 1400m City of York and the 3200m Champions Day Stayers races elevated from Group 2 to Group 1 were rejected. The big news was the demotion of the Saint Alary from Group 1 to Group 2 while the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot has been put on notice it could lose its Group 1 status. One British Group 3 and two Listed races were removed completely from the Pattern. The issue of good horses being sold from Europe especially to Hong Kong and Australia was raised as a serious concern.

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Not a Group 1 race but a very valuable race is being run at Doha on Saturday morning (UK).

The Amir Trophy over 2400m goes for £1.12 million and has attracted plenty of European and Japanese interest.

Ryan Moore is riding POINT LONSDALE for Aidan O'Brien while Godolphin have two runners - REBEL'S ROMANCE (William Buick riding for Charlie Appleby) and PASSION FOR GLORY (TOm Marquand up for Saeed Bin Suroor). ISRAR is the Shadwell runner having been runner up in the Bahrain Trophy over 400m shorter in November.

Japan has three runners - NORTH BRIDGE was last seen finishing 18 lengths behind EQUINOX in the autumn Tenno Sho while ZEFFIRO ran a fine second in the Hong Kong Vase in mid December. SATONO GLANZ is a top handicapper in Japan and proven at the trip but has never run to Group 1 level.

The locals have their contenders - HAUNTED DREAM was a decent handicapper in Britain last summer but is now with  Al Jehani. Qatar have also recruited the useful French galloper SIMCA MILLE who was runner up in the Ganay and won the Grosser Preis von Berlin. He was last seen when tenth in the Arc only six and a half lengths behind ACE IMPACT. Finally, we have another ex-British galloper JEFF KOONS who was with the Gosdens and has already won the Qatar Derby over 2000m in January.

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Almost spring like in London - 17c in mid February and it's basically removed any doubts about Saturday's meetings proceeding though there have been a couple of abandonments in midweek.

At Ascot, the ground has improved to Good to Soft and just four go in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase which looks a match between L'HOMME PRESSE and PIC D'ORHY. If the former is really a Gold Cup horse, he needs to win this but PIC D'ORHY is very good on this track and the drying ground will suit. 5/2 about the latter looks a decent play.

The Reynoldstown for the staying novice chasers has five runners but it's a closely matched group. APPLE AWAY has eased from Evens to 7/5 as a result of the drying ground and support has come for HENRY'S FRIEND from the in-form Pauling stable who has been clipped from 6s to 9/2. He'll need to improve for the first time cheekpieces in this company but we know the ground will be ideal. I prefer KILBEG KING whose Kauto Star third place reads well in this company.

It's still Heavy and likely to be holding at Haydock where six go in the Rendlesham over 4850m for the hurdlers. Paul Nicholls has supplemented RED RISK who was runner up to BOTOX HAS in the West Yorkshire at Wetherby back in November. That was three months ago and RED RISK was subsequently well held in the Long Walk. BOTOX HAS is joint ante post favourite with BUTCH who won a handicap at Cheltenham on New Years Day and we know loves heavy turf. SOUNDS RUSSIAN was brought down when last seen in the Gold Cup - back over hurdles is interesting but I'd be surprised if he was good enough.

The Albert Bartlett for the staying novice hurdlers over 4850m has 10 runners. LATENIGHTPASS is top rated but his last two runs have been over the cross country steeplechase course at Cheltenham so it's probably best left to ISAAC DES OBEAUX who is untried beyond 4000m but has always looked a relentless galloper.

At Wincanton, the standing water has gone and the ground is now Soft, Heavy in places. Whether that's dry enough for RUBAUD remains to be seen - we know going right handed is his thing as wins in decent company here and at Kempton confirm and a reproduction of his Christmas Hurdle run behind CONSTITUTION HILL will be good enough to win the Grade 2 Kingwell.

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We'll get to the weekend action presently but a quick report from a sunny and warm Doha (no, I wasn't there) where British trained horses walked off with three of the four local Group races on offer.

BRAVE EMPEROR took home £224k for the Middleham Racing Syndicate when winning the Mile for trainer Archie Watson and jockey Luke Morris. The 1200m Sprint went to that old stick EMARAATY ANA who has run well in Group 1 races such as the Nunthorpe and the Haydock Sprint Trophy won £180k for his connections boosting his win and place total to £973k.

The feature £1.2 million Amir Trophy went to a man who doesn't really need the money in the form of Sheikh Mohammad as REBEL'S ROMANCE ran out an emphatic winner under William Buick for Charlie Appleby. This is his biggest pay day since taking the 2022 Breeders Cup Turf but he seems to thrive on flat tracks, fast ground and 2400m. He failed in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park when the track was hit by a deluge of rain.

He was perhaps fortunate as ZEFFIRO was coming to challenge when swerving left up the home straight forfeiting valuable ground and momentum. I couldn't understand this as he runs right handed all the time in Hong Kong but I'd love to see him at Ascot but swerving left could see him ending up in the Royal Enclosure. ZEFFIRO led a 2-3-4 for Japan with SATONO GLANZ and NORTH BRIDGE collecting minor money (not that I would call £120k for finishing fourth all that minor).

The other European horses disapppointed with ISRAR and POINT LONSDALE in the last three along with PASSION FOR GLORY.

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On then to the past weekend in the UK and the feature race at Ascot was the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 4200m which saw Gold Cup hope L'HOMME PRESSE go up against perennial Ascot specialist PIC D'ORHY. Last year, in this race, PIC D'ORHY had been beaten by SHISHKIN and was second favourite behind L'HOMME PRESSE in the betting going off at 7/4 (I got 5/2 on Thursday)..

You could certainly argue this race was won and lost at the start as Harry Cobden poached a five length lead on PIC D'ORHY but this was still an impressive round of galloping and jumping by a horse enjoying optimum conditions - the ground had dried to Good to Soft, Good in places. Cobden kept plenty in the tank off the home turn and in truth was never seriously threatened. L'HOMME PRESSE did his usual party trick of jumping slightly left and Ascot isn't the place to do that. He finished well enough and the Gold Cup trip of 5200m round the left-handed track of Cheltenham will play much more to his strengths but can I see him bothering GALOPIN DES CHAMPS on this evidence? Not really.

This was PIC D'ORHY's Gold Cup and he atoned for defeat in the Silvinaico Conti at Kempton where he couldn't give 3 lbs to the very useful BANBRIDGE. On this better ground, he was imperious but he won't go to Cheltenham. Trainer Paul Nicholls intends to run him at Aintree - if he were mine, I'd be looking at Punchestown which would be ideal as the horse relishes a stiff right hand track on decent ground. Nicholls did opine the King George might be an option next season and the prospect of PIC D'ORHY and IL EST FRANCAIS going over the fences on Boxing Day is already making me look forward to Christmas.

The Reynoldstown was a competitive 4800m novice chase but HENRY'S FRIEND was just a better jumper than KILBEG KING and prevailed by a head in a driving finish. APPLE AWAY was held in third and as at Wetherby I think forcing the pace proved her undoing.

Up at Haydock, conditions were in marked contrast to Ascot with driving rain and Heavy ground. BOTOX HAS earned a 20/1 quote for the stayers at Cheltenham with a commanding nine length win - BUTCH made the pace but BOTOX HAS was always travelling sweetly and picked up the leader easily between the last two. Gary Moore, the trainer and father of champion flat rider Ryan, said BOTOX HAS might make a quick re-appearance in the National Spirit at Fontwell this Sunday.

The Albert Bartlett proved a horrendous slog in desperate conditions and only half the ten runners completed. On a good day for Irish trainer Gavin Cromwell, who had previously won the Grand National Trial with YEAH MAN, the double was completed with NOW IS THE HOUR who relished the slog to win by 17 lengths but isn't even entered for Cheltenham.

Heavy ground also at Wincanton where NEMEAN LION earned a 50/1 quote for the Champion Hurdle with a workmanlike success in the Grade 2 KIngwell. He won't get anywhere near the likes of CONSTITUTION HILL and STATE MAN and in my view he's much more likely to win the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr in mid April.

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Another busy weekend coming up.

A deluge of rain is forecast to hit the three Saturday meetings at Kempton, Chepstow and Newcastle. The ground is currently Soft, Good to Soft in places at Kempton where three Grade 2 races are effectively the final Cheltenham trial races in their respective divisions.

The Adonis over 3200m for the 4-y-o hurdlers has eight entries and Paul Nicholls has the unbeaten KALIF DU BERLAIS who did it very well over the course and distance in mid January but this will be a better race but if you think he's 14s for the Triumph he ought to be winning a race like this. The 4000m Pendil sees the exuberant NICKLE BACK bid to follow up his Scilly Isles success at Sandown. If he takes as well to the fences at Sunbury as he did at Esher, he'll win but Nicky Henderson's unbeaten chaser ARCLIGHT won't make life easy for the Ditcheat horse.

11 have been entered for the Dovecote over 3200m for the older novice hurdlers. This doesn't look a strong renewal on paper - LUMP SUM and FIERCELY PROUD were second and third to a Henderson runner at Doncaster at the end of last month and I'm more interested in the course and distance winner SECRET SQUIRREL.

For the first time, the Group 3 Winter Derby is being run at Southwell in Nottinghamshire. It's been moved up from 2000m to 2200m but old favourite LORD NORTH is 7/4 favourite. He's an 8-y-o who won this last year when it was run at Lingfield and then went on to win the Dubai Turf at Meydan. On that form, he'll win this and last year's runner up TYRRHENIAN SEA looks to have plenty on to reverse places. MILITARY ORDER won the Lingfield Derby Trial and was my idea of the English Derby winner but he ran a shocker behind AUGUSTE RODIN. He was second in the Derby Trial over course and distance and that run should leave him spot on for this.

BOTOX HAS, who won the Rendlesham at Haydock last Saturday, is one of seven entries for the Grade 2 National Spirit at Fontwell which is likely to be run on desperate ground if at all.

Further afield, it's the Saudi Cup meeting at Riyadh on Saturday. The prize money, as you might expect, is stupendous with the Group 2 Turf Sprint going for USD 2 million. The European challenge includes ANNAF, ART POWER and JUMBY but the Japanese have a powerful entry as well. The Bahrain Trophy winner SPIRIT DANCER goes in the Group 2 Neom Turf Cup over 2000m.

The Group 1 Saudi Cup has a first prize of USD 20 million (so slightly more than a R65 in New Zealand). Over 1800m on the Dirt, this has attracted some serious entries from America and Japan including NATIONAL TREASURE. The locals will do well to live with these top Dirt gallopers.

I'll talk about the weekend's action more in the coming days.

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In my rush to preview the Saudi Cup meeting this weekend, I neglected the Meydan card on Friday in Dubai.

Not of the samr standard certainly but a couple of Group 2 races to consider. The Balanchine over 1800m on the grass is for the fillies and mares. Godolphin are well represented as always and SAPPHIRE SEA is the mount of William Buick. The filly improved steadily in the UK last summer moving through handicap company and ending up winning a Listed race. She's clearly got scope for further improvement. Her stable companion ENGLISH ROSE looks a big threat. This will be her fourth outing and having won on turf and on Polytrack in the UK was sent off 4/7 to win the Group 2 Cape Verdi last time only to go down a neck. My recollection of the race was her inexperience got her beaten so this time she'll know more and rates a real threat.

STENTON GLIDER and MYSTIC PEARL are held on that form but I expect a better run from the latter.

14 go in the Singspiel over 1800m on the grass. This looks wide open - the Group 1 Jebel Hatta gets a workout with second placed OTTOMAN PRONCE (the selected of the Godolphin entries by Buick) and third placed SAN DONATO re-opposing. There's very little between them - only half a length last time. NAVAL POWER is a fascinating contender - off for 392 days since winning a Listed event over course and distance early last year, he was once sixth in a Dewhurst behind a subsequent 2000 Guineas winner.

ALFAREEQ was second in this and went on to win the Jebel Hatta (it was run in March in 2023 and the programme changed this season). He was then seventh in the Dubai Turf but hasn't done so much this year and I think time may be catching up. SEAN is another of interest - an ex-Italian galloper, he's done well since moving to Jamie Osborne's yard and was fourth to SAN DONATO in the Zabeel Mile before a second in Group 3 company last time.

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The deluge arrived on time up here and Fontwell's Sunday meeting featuring the National Spirit Hurdle, has already been abandoned.

The ground at Kempton has gone Soft, Heavy in places which is unusual for one of the best draining courses in the country - it's a gravel and sandstone surface.

The Group 2 races now have their final declarations - the Adonis has six runners. KALIF DU BERLAIS is now 5/6 favourite and I think his main threat could be his stable companion, SWIFT HAWK, who won well on hurdling debut at Taunton and is proven on soft ground on the flat. To be fair, GIVEMEFIVE looked good at Warwick on soft ground last month and could be anything.

Six also go in the Pendil over 4000m for the intermediate chasers and this is a trappy little heat. LE PATRON is top rated and won the Tingle Creek on heavy ground before Christmas for which he carries a 5 lb penalty. The Scilly Isles run was poor albeit on much quicker ground. Nicholls runs TAHMURAS and if the ground does dry a little he has claims. BLOW YOUR WAD is disputing favouritism but LE PATRON beat him 10 lengths when they last met and a 5 lb pull doesn't look enough to reverse places. The interesting runner is NIcky Henderson's ARCLIGHT who gets 11 lbs from LE PATRON but leaves mares races to take on the geldings. She's my idea of a bit of an interest and is now 7/2 having been 10s at entries.

The Dovecote has just seven runners - the second and third from the Rossington Main at Doncaster re-oppose and I think LUMP SUM will prefer the slower ground.

Six have been confirmed for the Group 3 Winter Derby at Southwell and LORD NORTH still looks the one over MILITARY ORDER.

Off to Riyadh where wet ground isn't going to be an issue and the USD 20 million Saudi Cup has drawn the best Dirt performers. WHITE ABARRIO won the Breeders Cup Classic having looked imperious in the Whitney at Saratoga. He's not been seen for nearly four months and that's a concern. The top Japanese runner is LEMON DROP who won the Champions Cup at Chukyo in early December - I don't really know the form but it's a serious race with a pot of £775,000. The Pegasus winner NATIONAL TREASURE bids to emulate the likes of ARROGATE and he's my idea of the winner while DERMA SOTOGAKE chased home WHITE ABARRIO in the Breeders Cup Classic and USHBA TESORO, despite only finishing fifth at Santa Anita, did win the Dubai World Cup last year.

LUXEMBOURG is 4/5 to win the Group 2 Neom Turf Cup over 2050m. LUXEMBOURG danced in most of the big dances last summer and was runner up in the Prince of Wales, the Irish Champion and the Hong Kong Cup. A strongly run 2000m looks ideal for this type. SPIRIT DANCER won a big pot in Bahrain but looks to have it to do against LUXEMBOURG while THE FOXES was fifth in the English Derby and fourth in the Juddmonte.

The 1351 Turf Sprint is run pretty much over 1351m. MYSTERIOUS NIGHT is an improving Godolphin type who won the Al Fahidi Fort last time. MATILDA PICOTTE is an Irish filly who improved in the autumn ending up winning the Challenge at Newmarket but her form is all on soft ground. AGURI looks the best of the Japanese but he's a handicapper and this isn't a strong Group 2 but even so I think he has it to do.

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Starting the review of the weekend in Riyadh at the Saudi Cup meeting.

Before dealing with the big race, I'll round up the supporting events. The Group 2 1351 Turf Sprint over 1351m saw British trainer Michael Appleby grab by far his most valuable win as 11/1 shot ANNAF scooped the £945,000 first prize. MATILDA PICOTTE set the fractions from the outise berth while Rossa Ryan stayed on the rail on the eventual winner. In a raide reminscent of those of Ryan Moore in the Breeders Cup, Ryan forced ANNAF through on the inside of the weakening leader and by virtue of having covered less ground than the rest of the field, was just able to hold on.

A remarkable performance by a horse beaten in a 1200m Listed at Lingfield three weeks ago. LA LA CHRISTINE, a Group 2 performer in Japan, was third while BYLINE, who this time last year was running down the field in the Neom Cup (of which more anon) finished third outrunning his 33/1 odds. Hot favourite MYSTERIOUS NIGHT got a little crowded at the start but was well beaten while the likely best of the Japanese, AGURI, looked threatening 300m out but didn't quite get home and was sixth.

The Neom Cup over 2050m saw the top notcher LUXEMBOURG go off odds on favourite in the UK - he had been runner up in the likes of Prince of Wales and the Irish Champion which is serious form. The problem for Ryan Moore on the favourite was the draw - out in the car park in stall 14. To get over meant using vital energy early and while Moore got the horse rolling and got the position, the effort told in the final 150m as LUXEMBOURG couldn't keep up the speed and in the end faded to fourth.

Another remarkable win for a smaller British trainer as Richard Fahey's SPIRIT DANCER (owned by, among others, the former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson) followed up his Bahrain Trophy success with an excellent win here. Held up and going well in midfield, Oisin Orr brought the winner through with a well times effort to prevail and boost his win and place earnings to £1.7 million. His fourth in the Jebel Hatta was also a very decent effort and I wonder if he'll take his chance in the Dubai Turf. On an evening where outsiders outran their odds, the 33/1 second and 66/1 third shouldn't have come as any surprise.

I'm sure we'll see LUXEMBOURG in all the top 2000m races in the UK and Ireland on the back of this effort. THE FOXES was a disappointment - I thought he was in a good position on the home turn but found nothing in the straight and was eased to come home last.

Normal service was resumed in the £1.2 million Red Sea Handicap with Ryan Moore on TOWER OF LONDON just holding off the late challenge of ENEMY with GIAVELLOTTO a close third and the three nicely clear of the others. All three could be interesting contenders in the stayers division this coming summer in the UK and Ireland.

@Black Kirrama has already posted a video of the Saudi Cup which I won't repost. An extraordinary race in which the leaders went too hard - I don't think the Riyadh Dirt is like typical American Dirt. It seems to put a greater premium on stamina and an unconfirmed stayer like WHITE ABARRIO was found out. Both SENOR BUSCADOR and USHBA TESORO came from a mile off the early gallop. The winner had run home well in both the Breeders Cup Classic and the Pegasus without quite getting to the leaders - the Dubai World Cup and a rematch with last year's winner, the runner up here, looks an exciting prospect. SAUDI CROWN tried to make all and was beaten barely a length - I suspect we'll see him at Meydan at the end of next month as well.

Speaking of Meydan, just a quick note on last Friday's main races. A 1-2 for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby in the Balanchine but as I suspected, ENGLISH ROSE was able to upset her more experienced and better fancied stable mate SAPPHIRE ANGEL. ENGLISH ROSE has few miles on the clock and I look forward to seeing her campaigned in Europe this summer. Dewhurst sixth NAVAL POWER continued his return to form with a good win in the Singspiel beating SAN DONATO and SEAN. The winner was once very highly thought of and he wouldn't be the first promising juvenile to return to the top after an extended period in the wilderness. I wonder if he'll be Godolphin's top miler in the UK this summer.

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I see Haggas is bringing over POST IMPRESSIONIST for the Sydney Cup on April 13. Owned by Lloyd Williams.

Bookies have him favourite but his form is nothing flash. 
Also bringing MUJTABA for the Queen Elizabeth which he has a good record in.

Any comment on these two ?

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15 hours ago, Ohokaman said:

I see Haggas is bringing over POST IMPRESSIONIST for the Sydney Cup on April 13. Owned by Lloyd Williams.

Bookies have him favourite but his form is nothing flash. 
Also bringing MUJTABA for the Queen Elizabeth which he has a good record in.

Any comment on these two ?

The absence of DUBAI HONOUR has weakened the British challenge, no question. I believe he was favourite for the Queen Elizabeth and having beaten ANAMOE last year he was well respected by the Aussie punters.

POST IMPRESSIONIST is a 5-y-o gelding rated in the mid 90s. He was four lengths behind ABSURDE in the Ebor and won the Old Borough Cup at Haydock over 2800m. His best form is on Good ground - he's been beaten twice on quick ground and hasn't performed on slow ground but he finally came good late in the autumn after a moderate spring and summer campaign. I'm not sure I'd want to be on him first time up and making him favourite for a race like the Sydney Cup surprises me.

MUJTABA is a different proposition - a 6-y-o gelding rated 114 which is Group 2 class over here. He only ran once last term and was second in the Group 2 Huxley at Chester to POINT LONSDALE who mixed it in top races like the Coronation, King George and Irish Champion though often as the Coolmore second or third string. The long absence would be a concern but if he brings 114-rated form to Australia he'll be a contender. He's won on Good and slow turf - never run on quick ground. He's by Marju out of a Redoute's Choice mare so an Australasian connection even though the dam hasn't produced much up here.

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The big news here concerns Champion Hurdle favourite CONSTITUTION HILL who, along with a number of other Cheltenham hopefuls, attended a public gallop on Kempton's Polytrack this morning.

In a gallop with SIR GINO and a handicapper, CONSTITUTION HILL trailed behind to the shock of owner Michael Buckley and trainer Nicky Henderson and the watching racing media. A scope was immediately sought which confirmed mucus (as we say up here, a "dirty" scope). This was the problem which ruled CONSTITUTION HILL out of a trial race at Sandown three weeks ago and has either re-surfaced or not gone away.

This isn't what you need two weeks before the Champion Hurdle but there's time to administer antibiotics and I suspect we'll have a better idea by Friday where we are. Priced at 1/4 before the gallop, CONSTITUTION HILL is now 5/4 with STATE MAN now 4/7. LOSSIEMOUTH, who is 4/7 for the Mares Hurdle, is 5/1 third favourite currently.

A third of a world away, the main meeting this Saturday isn't in England but at Meydan where what used to be called "Super Saturday" takes place. With alterations to the programme, there are no Group 1 races any longer and the two Group 2 races are the City of Gold over 2000m on the grass and the Al Maktoum Classic over 1850m on the Dirt.

The former has attracted 11 runners with the two top rated SIMCA MILLE and SISFAHAN both looking beatable. CASTLE WAY is the choice of William Buick and his second to TOWER OF LONDON in a Group 3 at Newmarket last July looks even better with the latter's win at Riyadh last Saturday. CASTLE WAY was runner up in the Voltigeur at York but hasn't been seen since. 

In the Dirt race, those who finished second, third and fourth behind KABIRKHAN in the Group 1 version of this race, re-oppose. Very hard to split them as they finished in a bunch behind the winner who is an interesting contender for the World Cup and swerved the Saudi Cup last weekend.

In Britain, understandably, the quality suffers in the run-up to Cheltenham. Kelso in the Scottish Borders stages its big Saturday jump meeting with a Grade 2 hurdle for the novices over 3800m. Early favourite, despite the stable's modest recent form, is JANGO BAIE from the Henderson yard but a strong Irish contingent is among the 23 entries.

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11 hours ago, stodge said:

The absence of DUBAI HONOUR has weakened the British challenge, no question. I believe he was favourite for the Queen Elizabeth and having beaten ANAMOE last year he was well respected by the Aussie punters.

POST IMPRESSIONIST is a 5-y-o gelding rated in the mid 90s. He was four lengths behind ABSURDE in the Ebor and won the Old Borough Cup at Haydock over 2800m. His best form is on Good ground - he's been beaten twice on quick ground and hasn't performed on slow ground but he finally came good late in the autumn after a moderate spring and summer campaign. I'm not sure I'd want to be on him first time up and making him favourite for a race like the Sydney Cup surprises me.

MUJTABA is a different proposition - a 6-y-o gelding rated 114 which is Group 2 class over here. He only ran once last term and was second in the Group 2 Huxley at Chester to POINT LONSDALE who mixed it in top races like the Coronation, King George and Irish Champion though often as the Coolmore second or third string. The long absence would be a concern but if he brings 114-rated form to Australia he'll be a contender. He's won on Good and slow turf - never run on quick ground. He's by Marju out of a Redoute's Choice mare so an Australasian connection even though the dam hasn't produced much up here.

Thanks for that Stodge.

Two other imports, NEW ENERGY and BERKSHIRE SHADOW  are in this weekend,  The latter looks ok.

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12 hours ago, Ohokaman said:

Thanks for that Stodge.

Two other imports, NEW ENERGY and BERKSHIRE SHADOW  are in this weekend,  The latter looks ok.

NEW ENERGY is not to be underestimated. As a 3-y-o up here in 2022 he was very highly tried. After a couple of okay efforts in Listed company, he ran second in the Irish 2000 Guineas to NATIVE TRAIL (who had run second to the ill-fated CORROEBUS in the English version) and outran his 40/1 odds.

They sent him to the St James's Palace at Ascot where, although finishing eighth of nine, was beaten barely three lengths in a bunch finish. He was then seventh in the Jean Prat beaten four lengths. After a break through the summer, he returned on soft ground at Doncaster over 1400m and was a length second to KINROSS in the Group 2 Park Stakes before running sixth to the same horse in the Foret. 

He didn't run so well in two outings in spring 2023 as a 4-y-o and has been gelded since. His European rating is 110 but he's been placed in a Group 1. He seems to go on all ground and it may be 1400-1600m will work for him. He's a very interesting type for Ciaran Maher to take on.

BERKSHIRE SHADOW is a similar type but has run 15 times up here, often in the very best company. As a 2-y-o, he won the Coventry at Ascot and ran second in the Vintage at Goodwood and fourth in the Dewhurst. As a 3-y-o, he was fifth in the English 2000 Guineas and sixth (and a length or so in front of NEW ENERGY) in the St James's Palace. His remaining 3-y-o races weren't so good and I think he had a couple of tough races while still maturing. He was gelded that winter.

As a 4-y-o, he won a couple of valuable races on the Tapeta before running third in the Lockinge which was a seriously good effort. He then ran a fine fifth in the Queen Anne. 

He ended up with a rating of 111 and his breeding also suggests 1600m would be ideal and he has form on quick ground. He could be the type to do very well in Australia.

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4 hours ago, stodge said:

NEW ENERGY is not to be underestimated. As a 3-y-o up here in 2022 he was very highly tried. After a couple of okay efforts in Listed company, he ran second in the Irish 2000 Guineas to NATIVE TRAIL (who had run second to the ill-fated CORROEBUS in the English version) and outran his 40/1 odds.

They sent him to the St James's Palace at Ascot where, although finishing eighth of nine, was beaten barely three lengths in a bunch finish. He was then seventh in the Jean Prat beaten four lengths. After a break through the summer, he returned on soft ground at Doncaster over 1400m and was a length second to KINROSS in the Group 2 Park Stakes before running sixth to the same horse in the Foret. 

He didn't run so well in two outings in spring 2023 as a 4-y-o and has been gelded since. His European rating is 110 but he's been placed in a Group 1. He seems to go on all ground and it may be 1400-1600m will work for him. He's a very interesting type for Ciaran Maher to take on.

BERKSHIRE SHADOW is a similar type but has run 15 times up here, often in the very best company. As a 2-y-o, he won the Coventry at Ascot and ran second in the Vintage at Goodwood and fourth in the Dewhurst. As a 3-y-o, he was fifth in the English 2000 Guineas and sixth (and a length or so in front of NEW ENERGY) in the St James's Palace. His remaining 3-y-o races weren't so good and I think he had a couple of tough races while still maturing. He was gelded that winter.

As a 4-y-o, he won a couple of valuable races on the Tapeta before running third in the Lockinge which was a seriously good effort. He then ran a fine fifth in the Queen Anne. 

He ended up with a rating of 111 and his breeding also suggests 1600m would be ideal and he has form on quick ground. He could be the type to do very well in Australia.

Ratings in Australia are 101 and 60. BERKSHIRE SHADOW waiting for April 13.

NEW ENERGY in the last at Randwick over 1300m with Jason Collett riding. Up against a few smart ones so will be interesting.

Did win a trial recently quite nicely over 1200m against much lower raters.

https://www.racing.com/form/2024-02-12/cranbourne-jumpout/race/21

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An overdue review of last Saturday's jumps action in the UK.

Kempton saw three Grade 2 races on ground deemed Soft, Heavy in places though the times suggested it was nearer the former then the latter.

The Adonis for the juvenile hurdlers saw a fine duel between favourite KALIF DU BERLAIS and GIVEMEFIVE with the former just prevailing by half a length. The winner is a lovely jumping type and trainer Paul Nicholls is already thinking about his novice chase career later this year. He's a very interesting prospect and will miss Cheltenham. He might go to Fairyhouse over Easter but I wouldn't be surprised if they put him away - he looked a little unfurnished to my eye and a summer will bring on tremedously. The second ran very well but I suspect Aintree will be preferable especially after a hard race on slow ground.

The Pendil over 4000m for the intermediate novice chasers went to favourite BLOW YOUR WAD with the runner up TAHMURAS once again not showing much willingness to battle. While I wouldn't go as far as to call him a dodgepot, he's thrown away more than his fair share of races - the talent is clearly there. I'm not sure if BLOW YOUR WAD will go for one of the handicaps at Cheltenham or whether they'll wait for Aintree. ARCLIGHT was another hugely disappointing runner from the Henderson stable which is struggling badly for form - she was well beaten when pulled up three out.

The novice hurdlers went in the Dovecote and the Rossington Main form was confirmed with LUMP SUM again beating FIERCELY PROUD thought a shade more comfortably.  The winner is in both the County Hurdle and the Conditional Jockeys Handicap at Cheltendham but I wouldn't rush to back him in either. I wonder if they'll consider the Imperial Cup at Sandown the weekend before Cheltenham but that may be too soon.

At Southwell, the Group 3 Winter Derby went to MILITARY ORDER who relished the 2200m on the Tapeta which rides a bit slower and is more of a test of stamina than the Polytrack. MILITARY ORDER found plenty 400m out and was always holding LORD NORTH who ran okay but it'll be a big ask for him to follow up in the Dubai Turf on this evidence. The winner won the Lingfield Derby Trial last spring and I wonder if they'll campaign him at 2400m or even further this summer. 

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Final declarations are through for Saturday's races.

At Kelso, the ground has dried to Good to Soft for the Grade 2 Premier Novices Hurdle over 3600m. 12 go to post but the quality isn't high - favourite JANGO BAIE is clear on the ratings but the form of the Henderson yard is a real concern and I wouldn't play at 6/4 even with @scooby3051's money.

PERSONAL AMBITION is my idea of the winner and I've played at 11/2. He won well, albeit in a nothing race at Doncaster and while I'd be worried if the ground went really testing, he handles his surface well and this intermediate distance could be ideal. The Irish raider BRUCIO is a serious threat having won a Mares handicap hurdle at the Dublin Festival four weeks ago. This may be a notch stronger but she gets  4 lbs from my selection and 9 lbs from the favourite.

NIne stand in the Group 2 City of Gold over the 2400m at Meydan and as said before the lightly raced CASTLE WAY looks very interesting against the likes of stable mate OTTOMAN FLEET and the veteran SOLID STONE AL MADHAR has been off the track 707 days but is worth a mention - he was fourth to HUKUM in this race in 2022 and then ran a decent third in the Dubai Gold Cup.

The Al Maktoum Challenge over 1850m on the Dirt has the second, third and fourth from the Group 1 version of this race re-opposing. REMORSE is interesting - he was third in this last year and then ran down the field in both the Saudi Cup and Dubai World Cup but these are somewhat calmer waters. I quite like CLAPTON of those who finished behind KABIRKHAN last time but it's not a race in which to invest.

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Stodge, did you see Cinderella's Dream in the Meydan 1000 Guineas? Saddle slipped, rider William Buick kicked off his irons at 600m, just hung on for dear life and won by 4 lengths. Any word on her starting in English 1000 Guineas? Ladbrokes had her at 17/1. Looks a pretty good filly.

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3 hours ago, Augusta said:

Stodge, did you see Cinderella's Dream in the Meydan 1000 Guineas? Saddle slipped, rider William Buick kicked off his irons at 600m, just hung on for dear life and won by 4 lengths. Any word on her starting in English 1000 Guineas? Ladbrokes had her at 17/1. Looks a pretty good filly.

For everyone else's benefit, this was the 1000 Guineas on yesterday's Meydan card:

CINDERELLA'S DREAM  went off 1/20 favourite in the UK which was a fair reflection of her superiority on paper and I think it was fortunate she had so much in hand of the others - if you look, Buick was in trouble on the home turn and could hardly ride a finish but she still won five and a half lengths.

She is unbeaten in four, two in Meydan and won maidens aty Lingfield and Thirsk last summer. Yesterday's win has put her rating up to 98 but that's a very long way off classic standard at this time. Is she a lot better than she showed yesterday? Yes but she'll have to be. She's 10s with Sky Bet and 20s with Hills but she'll need to win one of the big trials such as the Nell Gwyn or the Fred Darling to become a leading figure. France might be an option or perhaps Germany.

@Augustahas provided a nice lead in to the review of the Meydan card yesterday. Overall, despite a treble, a disappointing day for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin with a few fancied runners not running to expectations. Apart from CINDERELLA'S DREAM, Buick rode LEGEND OF TIME to a facile win in the 1400m Listed for the 3-y-o - he could be anything but again a notch below classic grade at this stage.

The Group 2 City of Gold produced a 1-2 for Appleby but it was BOLD ACT who prevailed and in fairness was always travelling like the winner under Mikhael Barzalona who oozed confidence as he went on 300m out and in the end won a shade cosily from WARREN POINT. CASTLE WAY perhaps was undoen by his inexperience - he went a little keen early and looked rather one paced at the business end. BOLD ACT was a promising juvenile but lost his way a bit early last summer and returned gelded after a break and performed well in Group 3 races in France, America and in the Hampton Court at Ascot. I wonder if he'll be on his travels this summer.

The other Group 2, the Al Maktoum Challenge over 1800m on the Dirt, saw MILITARY LAW roll back the years and overturn Group 1 form from a month ago by defeating WALK THE STARS and CLAPTON. For those with long memories, MILITARY LAW was placed in Group 1 company back in 2020 and got to within a length of BENBATL in the same campaign.  He was rated 111 and now runs off 96 but the 9-y-o gelding showed the fire still burns and while I can't see him winning it, I suspect they'll let him take his chance in the Dubai World Cup.

Finally, the 1000m Group 3 sprint saw hotpot STAR OF MYSTERY turned over at 4/9 by another sublime Barzalona ride on FROST AT NIGHT who has been campaigned at up to 1600m but it's clear on this evidence she's all speed and smashed the track record running the 1000m in 55.41 seconds. I'd love to see her run the 1000m at York or Goodwood on quick ground. To bring the wheel full circle, on her first run at Meydan she was third over 1400m beaten five lengths by a certain CINDERELLA'S DREAM. Both fillies have plenty of potential - strangely I think the sprinter might be the one to follow over the minimum trip and down the line a race like the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint looks ideal. 

 

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No great surprise this morning to hear CONSTITUTION HILL ruled out of next week's Champion Hurdle.

There's no point running the horse if he's not 110% in all honesty so Henderson has been forced after last week's poor workout and dirty scope to abandon Cheltenham.

The options now are 4000m at Aintree on Grand National day, Punchestown or putting the horse away and coming back in the autumn. I suspect they'll do the last named.

STATE MAN is now 1/3 for the Champion Hurdle with LOSSIEMOUTH at 7/2 while Gordon Elliott is considering switching Christmas Hurdle winner IRISH POINT from the stayers and he is now 4s. In truth, they are probably running for places as STATE MAN has been the dominant Irish hurdler this season.

The ground at Cheltenham is currently Soft.

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