Aintree – Day 1

Nick Hardman is back and has cast his eye over the first day of the Liverpool meeting:

Hot on the heels of Cheltenham and the opening day of the flat season comes one of my favourite meetings of the year – the Aintree Grand National meeting.  This is always a cracking three days of racing and features a host of Graded races and top quality horses, many of whom raced at the Cheltenham festival and I will be sharing with you my picks for each and every race.  Many will lose, some might win and who knows, maybe I can land the big one on Saturday afternoon!  As always please feel free to leave any comments.  Before I get started there is a common belief that horses that ran at the Cheltenham festival have a poor record at the Aintree meeting.  This is actually not true and it is worth bearing that in mind when having a bet over the next three days.  Matt Bisogno over at GeeGeez has written an article looking at this and it is well worth a read.

The meeting kicks off with Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle race at 2.00pm which has been won in the past by some smart types; Zarkander, Binocular and Walkon to name but three!  Cheltenham festival horses do well in this with 8 of the last 9 winners having at least placed at the festival.  7 of the last 10 favourites have also won, the notable exception being Orsippus @40/1 in 2010.

I am reluctant to back Broughton after a disappointing effort at the festival, but what is interesting here is that Denis O’Regan has hopped off John Ferguson’s horse in favour of stable mate Commissioned and none other than AP McCoy has been booked to ride Broughton.  Not sure what to read into that but I prefer Commissioned of the two.  Clarcam is interesting as he was leading the Fred Winter before falling two flights from home but he mainly finds one or two too good.  If the fall hasn’t knocked his confidence he could run well at a price.  The winner of that race, Hawk High lines up here as well and 14/1 is tempting, although this is a much stiffer assignment.  The Triumph Hurdle competitors are represented by Guitar Pete (3rd), Calipto (4th) and the aforementioned Broughton.  Calipto heads the market despite finishing behind Guitar Pete, but the jockey lost his irons two out that day and would have finished a lot closer without that mishap.  Of those that missed the festival, Activial and Commissioned have both been targeted at this race and Fox Norton looks an exciting prospect.  It’s a tough one and I certainly won’t be wading in but I have backed Activial @11/2 and Hawk High @14/1.

The second race is the Grade 1 Betfred Bowl Chase over 3m 1f.  Dynaste and Silviniaco Conti need no introduction but I am going to go with First Lieutenant @3/1 to regain his crown.  This is tough as all three of the main protagonists have course and distance form, but at the prices I think there is just a squeak of value in First Lieutenant.  10/3 was available with Coral but I’ve taken the 3/1 with William Hill and their second place refund insurance.

The Aintree Hurdle betting is dominated by The New One who is a best priced 4/9.  With only 7 runners there is not much point in an each-way play with only the first 2 places paying out.  Even the William Hill money back offer for second place makes no appeal, so I will sit this one out.  If a gun was put to my head I would say that Irish Saint could outrun his price @33/1 but this looks like a no-bet race for me.

Next up is the Foxhunters Chase run over the National course.  We had Tartan Snow winning this last year @100/1 and Silver Adonis winning @50/1 in 2010, but apart from these two the last 9 winners have all been in single figures (8/1 or less to be precise).  With that in mind there is no harm in taking one from the top of the market and one at a bigger price down the pecking order.  At the head of the market I have backed Warne @9/2 who ran well in this last year and won a decent race last time out.  Last year’s runner up Cool Friend @20/1 is also worth backing as he took well to these fences last time and is due a big run after a couple of mediocre efforts and I’ve had a couple each-way on him.  If Island Life could reproduce his form of 2012 he would go close in this.  So what are his chances of doing so based on current form?  About 100/1 – which is exactly what his price is.  Just as a fun bet I have to have £1 each-way.  He probably won’t even get around but you never know.

The first handicap of the meeting is the Red Rum Handicap Chase run over 2 miles and this is one of those no-brainers for me.  Yes it’s a bet with the heart again and an each-way punt on Oiseau De Nuit @16/1 – one of my all-time favourites.  Yes I know he is now a 12 year old and I know he is lugging top weight but I would be unable to forgive myself if he defied those odds without the burden of at least carrying a little bit of my cash.  However, he does have form figures of 321 in this race in the last 3 years and defied a weight of 11st 8lb to win last year.  Having said that, it makes sense to back a couple of runners in a race like this.  Novices have a great record in this race and the one that appeals most is market leader Claret Cloak @4/1.  He probably should have won the Grand Annual and has a chance to make amends here.  Anay Turge @20/1 is interesting back over fences and he has two second place finishes from two visits to Aintree.  I’m happy to back him each-way @20/1.  A return to form and he could be a live danger.

Only 5 go to post in the Grade 1 Novice Chase but that does not mean finding the winner will be any easier.  The obvious starting point is Western Warhorse the winner of the Arkle at the Cheltenham festival, but 15/8 looks a bit skinny.  Dodging Bullets and Oscar Whiskey represent two high profile stables but Oscar Whiskey has not jumped that well since being sent over the larger obstacles and Dodging Bullets makes more appeal of the two.  Uxizandre’s 2nd in the JLT Novice’s Chase was over ½ a mile further but if he gets an uncontested lead here he could take some pegging back.  He jumped really well that day and if he can force a good early pace it might just give rise to some sketchy jumping in behind.  Uxizandre @5/1 will do for me, although any one the five could win on the day.

The closing race of Day 1 is the 3 mile Handicap Hurdle.  One at a price that could run well is Josies Orders @16/1, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by AP McCoy.  He finished 22nd out of the 23 finishers in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham at a not unfancied 14/1.  That day he was hampered at the 1st flight, losing ground before getting in touch 3 out and then fading.  Prior to that run he had form figures of 71311 for the season including a course and distance victory in December and I have had a small each-way bet.  Only two favourites have won in the last 12 years and only three winners have returned at single figure odds.  It’s the kind of race where I usually take a couple against the field so I have also backed Jetson @10/1.  He ran a cracker in the Pertemps to finish 5th and ran 2nd in this race last year.  Interestingly, that day he was ridden by AP McCoy but on Thursday McCoy rides Josies Orders and PD Kennedy takes the ride on Jetson (he also rode him in the Pertemps).  The latter’s 5lb claim takes Jetson to an official mark of 140, the same mark as when second in this last year.  They are my 2 against the field.

It’s a tough opening day (and I have been fairly cautious with my stakes) but hopefully I can get a run for my money and some sort of return from what should be a great day’s entertainment.  As always, best of luck if you are having a bet.

Aintree Day 1 selections:

2.00pm Activial @9/2 & Hawk High @14/1 (each-way, 3 places)

2.30pm First Lieutenant @3/1

3.05pm No Bet (token suggestion – Irish Saint to outrun his price of @33/1)

3.40pm Warne @9/2, Cool Friend @20/1 & Island Life @100/1 (both each-way, 4 places)

4.15pm Claret Cloak @4/1, Oiseau De Nuit @16/1 and Anay Turge @20/1 (both each-way, 4 places)

4.50pm Uxizandre @5/1

5.25pm Josies Orders @16/1 & Jetson @10/1 (both each-way, 5 places)

 
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Lincoln Weekend Reflections

Saturday came and went in a flash and it was a thoroughly enjoyable days’ racing.  So let’s reflect on how my wagers fared.  In the Dubai Gold Cup, Cavalryman had his run blocked not once, not twice but three times and by the time he got out and flew home he failed to catch the leader by a head.  Now I know a lot of people who backed Cavalryman may be cursing their luck or criticising the jockey, but this is racing and sometimes the cards just do not fall right.  Was he the best horse in the race?  Yes, undoubtedly.  Would he have won with a clear passage?  Yes, he would.  Was I paid out at 5/2?  No.  These things happen in racing and you have to take the rough with the smooth.  I backed the right horse, but it wasn’t to be.

Graphic showed a steely determination and dug deep to win the Doncaster Mile but this was one race I had decided to sit out from a betting perspective.  A long wait then until my big fancy Jack Dexter ran in the Cammidge Trophy at 2.40pm.  Having watched the Morning Line I was not as confident as I was when I placed the bet on Friday, given that the panel of studio guests were keen to take him on with Richard Hannon’s Maureen and were making a big deal out of his 5lb penalty.  Well, it turns out they were right and wrong!  Jack Dexter ran very, very flat but so did market rivals Tropics and Morning Line fancy Maureen.  It was left to the two outsiders of the field to fight it out and Dinkum Diamond led from pillar to post to land the prize ahead of Captain Ramius.  It will be interesting to see how the form of this race works out in the forthcoming season.

If Jack Dexter was a letdown then Shea Shea was a soul-destroyer.  True he didn’t exactly fall out of the stalls but he wasn’t exactly off to a flyer either.  Not even a horse of his stature can go from last to first when the pace being set up front is truly phenomenal.  In the end he did well to finish as close as he did but no one was catching the winner.  I was very impressed with the winner Amber Sky though.  Three races down and no return.  Would things get any better?

In a simple word yes!  I love Brae Hill as much as he loves Doncaster.  What a horse, what a ride and the 8 year old dug deep when it really mattered.  As a bonus, Farlow grabbed some place money in 3rd @ 14/1 and he is one to follow this season seeing as this was his first crack at 1 mile.  With a 10/1 winner in the bag I can afford to relax a little and really enjoy the rest of the racing.  Just as well really as the Lincoln was a big disappointment with One More Word failing to make it into the stalls, Tres Corons never featuring and Gabrials Kaka folding tamely.  I think Tullius was one to take out of the race and I’ve got him down as one to follow this season.  That was it for the domestic action and a bit of a wait until the Sheema Classic in Meydan, just long enough to see my football accumulator go down the pan.

Even though he only finished second, I think Cirrus Des Aigles was one of my better bets on the day.  Dismissed out of hand on the Morning Line, I thought he ran an absolute blinder sent off at 9/1.  He obviously failed to live up to expectations last season but he still ran some good races and showed in the Sheema Classic he retains all his ability.  The winner, Japanese superstar Gentildonna was a class apart and won a shade cosily.  Magician never threatened and the best horse clearly won the race.

I had already backed Red Cadeaux for the Dubai World Cup at 25/1 and decided to have a couple of quid each way on Ron The Greek at 30s on Betfair (and 7s to place in the top three), only to watch him drift out into the 40s.  I never quite know what to make of it when that happens, sometimes I chuck a couple extra on at the bigger price but I decided instead that it was a sign he was friendless on the exchanges.  Neither horse was ever going to win once African Story and Mukhadram kicked clear and the day’s betting ended rather tamely.  All in all I ended up a few quid in front thanks entirely to Brae Hill and Farlow!  I’ll be back later next week with my selections and thoughts for all 3 days of the Aintree meeting, including the big one itself the Grand National.

 
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From Doncaster to Dubai…

Nick Hardman gives us his thoughts for the first meeting of the flat season:

Some fantastic racing action on Saturday as the UK flat season kicks off with the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster.  As if that wasn’t enough, we also have the world’s richest race meeting in the Dubai World Cup.  I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the top races from these meetings together with a list of my fancies who will be burdened no doubt by carrying my wagers.

First up is the Doncaster Mile at 2.05pm and just 9 entries are set to go to post as I write this.  I think the 4 at the top of the market all have a chance of winning but at 2/1, 11/4, 5/1 and 7/1 there is not much too choose between them.  Marco Botti has had 3 winners from his last 9 runners at this meeting and Guest Of Honour @5/1 could be worth a bet but I will give this one a swerve as in truth I’d be guessing rather than using my better judgement.

The Cammidge Trophy at 2.45pm could well go the way of Jack Dexter and the softer the better for him.  He shoulders a 5lb penalty in an attempt to gain back-to-back victories in this event but I think he is a class act and rarely runs a bad race.  There is not much juice in the price @9/4 but I am happy to take that with William Hill offering 2nd place refunds on all C4 races.

On to the Spring Mile considered the consolation race for those horses that did not make the cut for the Lincoln.  With 22 runners I will be backing 3 against the field.  Richard Fahey has a great record at this meeting with 40% of his handicap runners either winning or making the frame.  He saddles 2 here and I want them both on side.  First up is Brae Hill, a horse who won the Lincoln in 2012 and was 3rd in 2013.  The best time to catch him is early season and with course, distance and going all no problem then I have taken the 10/1.  Fahey’s other runner is Farlow who is stepping up to a mile for the first time.  He signed off 2013 with a good 5th on soft in the Ayr Bronze Cup.  He is an interesting runner and worth a couple of quid each-way @14/1.  Finally we have Global Village who was runner up to Levitate in the Lincoln last year.  He goes well fresh and is suited by the hustle and bustle of a big handicap field.  I have taken the early 12/1 and all three bets have been placed with best odds guaranteed bookmakers.

On to the main event and pre-race favourite Captain Cat is doubtful due to the soft going.  I have read up on some trends and in a race as competitive as this I have used those to pick some likely sorts.  First off I want a horse rated in the 90s but that only whittles the field down to 17.  Second, I’m going for the age angle and focussing on 4 and 5 year old horses who account for 75% of the winners since 1980.  From those making the cut I fancy 2 who I will be backing.  For the win only it will be Richard Fahey’s Gabrials Kaka.  There’s a lot to like about this horse. He is a 4 year old carrying less than 9 stone, is saddled by a trainer with a great record in this race and he actually has form over further than 1 mile which could be an asset if the ground gets even softer.  At a bigger price Charlie Hills’ One Word More has bags of potential and fits the age and weight trend nicely.  One that doesn’t is Tres Coronas who is a 7 year old.  However, he seemed to take a huge leap forward last year and finished 3rd in last year’s Cambridgeshire and 3rd in the John Smith’s Cup.  Interestingly, this horse is stepping down in trip having raced predominantly at 10 furlongs for the past few years.  At 20/1 he is worth a speculative punt as his stamina may see him pick off some weary finishers and grab a bit of place money.

I can’t let the Meydan World Cup night pass without having a few bets to small stakes.  This is always difficult as it is an international event so collateral form is thin on the ground and we have horses racing on the artificial tapeta surface, some for the first time.  Four of the races are on the turf course and the going will most likely be pretty fast!  These will be fun bets more than anything just to give the viewing some additional spice.  I’m going to give the Godolphin Mile a swerve and go straight to the Dubai Gold Cup and the highly unoriginal selection is Cavalryman @5/2.  Last year’s winner loves Meydan and looks sure to make a bold bid to retain his crown.  His form figures at Meydan in the last 2 years read 2311 and I’m sure he will be there or thereabouts.  The UAE Derby is another one I will by-pass as the top two take a chunk of the market at 2/1 and 3/1 and I don’t know enough about the other runners to really be optimistic with an each-way play.

Next up is the Al Quoz Sprint and I’m backing trail-blazing favourite Shea Shea to win.  Apparently he is as good as ever this season and with C&D form he gets the nod over market rival Amber Sky.  I will sit out the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the Dubai Duty Free and have a punt on the penultimate race, the Dubai Sheema Classic which features a cast of stars including Magician, Cirrus Des Aigles, Gentildonna, Dunaden and Mount Athos.  I do fancy Magician’s chances and at 3/1 I have been tempted to have a nibble.  Call me mad but I’m also going to have a few quid on Cirrus Des Aigles.  Clearly he only showed his talent in snatches last season, but he had previously given Frankel a real good race in his swansong at Ascot’s Champions Day meeting in 2012.  That form and his second to Farrh in the same race last year would give him every chance here.  At 15/2 it’s another nibble for me.

Finally on to the world’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup.  This is no-brainer for me.  Red Cadeaux @25/1.  I love this unsung hero who has amassed over £4 million of prize money.  Second in this last year, second in the Melbourne Cup, this globe-trotter has multiple placed finishes in Group races all around the world.  What is there not to like?

So there you go and below are a list of my fancies this weekend.  As ever, if you are having a bet yourself then all the best and be lucky!

 

Doncaster 2.40pm – Jack Dexter @9/4

Doncaster 3.15pm – Brae Hill @10/1, Global Village @12/1 and Farlow @14/1 (all each-way)

Doncaster 3.50pm – Gabrials Kaka 8/1 (win only), One Word More @14/1 and Tres Coronas @20/1 each-way

Meydan 1.45pm – Cavalryman @5/2

Meydan 3.03pm – Shea Shea @11/8

Meydan 5.17pm – Magician @3/1 and Cirrus Des Aigles @15/2

Meydan 6.05pm – Red Cadeaux @25/1 (each-way)

 

 
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Nick’s Cheltenham Final Day Summary

Well that’s it folks and another festival is over.  The final day was exciting but a tad disappointing from a betting perspective.  As is required by tradition, 6 of us descended on the pub right next door to our local Betfred to watch the racing and sink a few pints.  Included in this rowdy bunch were some notable attendees who have graced the pages of my weekly diary in the past.  First up we had Bryn and Steve from levelstakestips.com (LST).  Two of the canniest punters I know, both are willing to put their money where their mouth is as tipsters on their website – and they do it for free with a huge amount of success.  In stark contrast we have my boss Johnny L or Johnny “Hindsight” as we like to call him.  John also has an opinion, but it normally involves telling us our tips and selections are woeful after they have lost.  We also had the conclusion of our annual Cheltenham Challenge where 9 of us pop of tenner in the pot and pick a selection for every race of the festival.  Points are awarded at SP for a winner, 1/2 SP for a second place horse and 1/3 SP for a third place finisher.  The pot is then split between the top three tipsters – £50, £20 and £10.  This makes John uncomfortable as he now has to have an opinion before the event.

I came into Day 4 nicely ahead after a good Day 2 and Day 3.  In fact I placed all my bets for Gold Cup day the night before the racing, knowing I would just about end up all square even if I failed to have any winners on the Friday.  First up was the Triumph Hurdle and my selection Broughton was thoroughly disappointing as he travelled well and then found nothing when asked to pick up, eventually finishing 8th.  In the next, Cheltenian was pulled up but Flaxen Flare plugged on for a never nearer 5th and an each-way pay out at 20/1.  Steve from LST had had a meaty bet on Montbazon @25/1 each-way.  And when I say meaty I mean £200 each-way!  He had also nipped to Betfred and had a “cheeky” £50 each-way on Diakali @25/1 and he duly collected as both horses placed.

In the Albert Bartlett, my each-way picks Deputy Dan and Champagne West ran absolute blinders to finish 2nd and 4th respectively @16/1 and, although Deputy Dan’s tank was empty after jumping the final flight, he landed a nice bit of place money.  The well-backed Kings Palace fell at the last when already beaten.  Bryn and Steve had both backed Apache Jack @33/1 but not one of us had considered Very Wood, the eventual 33/1 winner.

And so to the Gold Cup.  We had all backed Bobs Worth as though he couldn’t lose.  Some of the lads had ploughed in at 2/1 and we were all fairly confident.  The race was a real trends buster with the first three home having SP’s of 20/1, 16/1 and 14/1.  Steve of course had tipped up Lord Windermere on the LST website @40/1 and had also had a few each-way on him.  I must admit that I never even considered Lord Windermere.  In fact I dismissed him outright.  Steve made the very simple observation that he won last year’s RSA Chase and winners of that race have a good record in the Gold Cup.  Sometimes it pays not to over-analyse these things.

On the subject of race analysis, I wrote on Thursday evening that only 2 horses aged 11 or older had won the Foxhunters Chase.  The first three home this year were aged 9, 10 and 9.  I just happened to have backed the wrong youngster as Divine Intavention, who was travelling nicely, blundered 4 out before unseating at the next.

With 2 races to go and the alcohol starting to have an effect, I was hopeful of a big priced winner to round off a really enjoyable festival.  I had backed Une Artiste and The Skyfarmer at big prices each-way to 5 places in the Martin Pipe.  Neither really featured and finished 8th and a 16th respectively and it was all down to the lucky last.

There was no fairy-tale ending as an already beaten Oiseau De Nuit fell 2 out.  French Opera did grab me some place money with a never nearer 5th and the best odds guaranteed meant it paid out @33/1.  However I did think at one point that I would go out on a high as Anquetta (sent off at 50/1) looked to have every chance until a mistake 2 out (the same fence that saw Oiseau De Nuit part company with his rider) saw him lose his place and he folded tamely to finish 10th.  So that was it and we were left to play a bit of pool and darts for spare change before making our way home.

For the record, Johnny Hindsight had no winners and no placed horses on the day.  To be fair though, like me, he had had a good opening 3 days and so he was playing with the bookies money on the final day.  But that did not stop us taking the mickey mercilessly.  Steve won the Cheltenham Challenge with a huge 116 points thanks mainly to 33/1 winner Hawk High, the aforementioned Lord Windermere @20/1 and a few more big priced placers.  Another £50 to add to the already bulging wad of cash he was about to collect from Betfred on our walk home.

And that’s it folks.  All in all a decent festival.  Just the 4 winners but a fair bit of place money and a few second place refunds to boot.  Roll on the next 12 months until we can do it all again!!!

 
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Nick’s Cheltenham Final Day Selections

I have managed to get through the first 3 days of the festival relatively unscathed and nicely ahead thanks to a cracking third day.  Here’s how Day 3 selections fared.  Felix Younger was a tad disappointing and finished a distant fourth in the JLT.  Fingal Bay and Jetson more than made up for it in a cracking renewal of the Pertemps.  Fingal Bay got the decision by a nose and a nice 7/1 payout.  Jetson finished 5th but unfortunately I had been greedy and taken 16/1, 4 places instead of the widely available 14’s and 5 places.  Lesson learned (well, maybe!)   Dynaste was superbly produced late by Tom Scu to give us our 4th winner of the festival @4/1.  In the World Hurdle it was a second place refund on Annie Power and a bit of each-way money for At Fishers Cross.  More place money followed in the Byrne Group Plate with Johns Spirit a never nearer 4th.  No joy in the last as Cause Of Causes opts to run through the final fence instead of jumping it and, despite rallying like a train, had to settle for second place.

And on to my selections for the final day.  We open with the Triumph Hurdle.  Eight of the last nine winners came from the top 4 in the betting with only Countrywide Flame bucking that trend @33/1 in 2012.  One I’ve backed at the top end of the betting is the ex-Mark Johnston trained Broughton @8/1.  He was a decent, tough flat horse and is now trained by John Ferguson.  A head second on his hurdling debut in a Grade 2, he then went on to win a Listed hurdle race.  After just two runs over obstacles he is open to bags of improvement and will be fine on better ground.  So, Broughton @8/1 each-way it is for me.

On to the County Hurdle and more scope for a bigger priced selection with the winners of this race returning at 10/1, 20/1, 10/1, 20/1, 20/1, 50/1 and 12/1 in the last 7 renewals.  This is as tough as it gets.  Cheltenian @10/1 each-way should be there or thereabouts and, with most firms paying 5 places, he is my selection from the top of the market.  Another one who looks sure to run his race is last years Fed Winter winner Flaxen Flare @20/1 and again I’ve backed him each-way, again to 5 places.

Next up is the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle won last year by At Fishers Cross.  Not a bad race for favourite backers with 4 obliging in the last 4 years.  This year’s favourite is Briar Hill, the Champion Bumper winner from 2013 and I’m prepared to take him on.  OK, he is 3 from 3 but his last two wins were in a 3-runner and a 2 runner race and while he could bolt-up here in a canter I’d rather look for an each-way play at a bigger price.  To be honest Kings Palace @4/1 could be an each-way bet to nothing having form figures of 111 this year, all on good ground and who stays further than 3 miles (won over 3m 1 ½ furlongs).  He also has 2 wins at Cheltenham to his name and I’ve taken the 4/1 (win only).  However, I have also had an each-way squeak on Deputy Dan @16/1.  His form ties in closely with Kings Palace and he has beaten Rathvinden this season (OK, Rathvinden fell but a win is a win) who went on to finish 3rd in the Supreme Novice.  In that same race he beat Splash Of Ginge by 16 lengths, who then went on to win the Betfair Hurdle (and then flopped in the Supreme Novice).  Champange West’s form also ties in as he has a 1 length victory over Deputy Dan and has won his last 3.  He is also 16/1.  However, caution is advised as both Deputy Dan and Champagne Fever have done their winning in the mud and are both stepping up in trip (3 furlongs and 2 furlongs respectively)  With that in mind I’ll just be having a couple of quid each-way more out of curiosity than anything else.

On to the Gold Cup and I just don’t think this renewal is as exciting as recent ones.  It’s hard to look past Bobs Worth and this is another race where favourites have excelled, winning 7 of the last 11.  In fact the last 13 winners have all come from the top 3 in the betting.  That does not mean we cannot back a couple though and I remember Mon Mome trotting up the hill to finish 3rd @50/1 in 2010.  The interesting one from that angle is Teaforthree who won the 4 mile Novice Chase here in 2012.  Clearly he is best at further, having placed in last years’ Grand National.  However, if we have one or two fallers or an unseated rider here and there, or they go at too frantic a pace from the get-go, he could possibly come late and pick off a few stragglers up the hill and nick 3rd spot.  That’s the theory.  And at 50/1 it’s worth testing to bare minimum stakes!  So for me it is Bobs Worth @15/8 and Teaforthree @50/1 each-way.  One from the top and one from the bottom, so to speak.

Next up is the Foxhunters Chase and here is an interesting statistic for you that I picked up on the ATR Cheltenham microsite.  Horses aged 11 or older have won just twice in 23 renewals despite making up over 50% of the participants.  A good place to start, but that still leaves 16 runners.  I don’t have much of an opinion on this race so I’m going to back Divine Intavention @20/1 each-way with Sportingbet offering 4 places.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle race is only in its 6th renewal so not much in the way of trends to look at.  For want of spending too much time over this race I have had a couple each-way in Une Artiste @25/1 and Skyfarmer @20/1 as both look overpriced.  Une Artiste has festival winning form in a big field handicap and, although not exactly ripping up trees, there are probably worse 25/1 shots out there.  Skyfarmer has smart form (neck second to Red Sherlock on debut) and all 4 wins have been on good ground.  His latest flop was on heavy and with 888sport paying 5 places @20/1 I’ve got involved.

In the final race of the meeting, the Grand Annual Chase I am going to back four.  Yes four!  Two sentimental bets and another two highly speculative ones.  I have already backed Oiseau De Nuit @25/1 each-way.  It’s a bet with the heart rather than the head as he has been one of my favourite horses over the years and on many occasions he has carried my each-way money.  At 12 years of age it will be momentous should be win.  I doubt he will but I always get a run for my money with him and I am happy to back him again even though I have kept stakes to a minimum.  I’ve also backed top weight French Opera @25/1.  This is another horse that has made me a few quid over the years and this is another bet with the heart.  He loves it around here, has good festival form and might make the frame at a decent price.

Now, after backing the top two weights I can tell you that no horse has won carrying more than 11 stone in the last 14 renewals (and I’ve just backed two at 11st 12lb and 11st 11lb!!!).  So in addition, I will take two carrying under 11st.  First is Nicky Henderson’s Anquetta @33/1.  His recent form is forgettable and I’m just hoping it returns out of nowhere.  He last won off a mark of 137 and he’s in here off 136 with Sam Whaley-Cohen’s 3lb claim.  A speculative bet to say the least.  Finally, I have had a nibble on Shooters Wood @33/1 who also has no recent form but has won 3 times at Cheltenham from 5 visits.  Another speculative punt.  In fact there is a good chance all 4 will be pulled up but you just never know and hopefully one can squeeze out a bit of place money.

 

Nick’s Day 4 Selections:

1.30 Broughton @8/1 each-way

2.05 Cheltenian @10/1 and Flaxen Flare @20/1 both each-way (5 places)

2.40 Kings Palace @4/1 win only and Deputy Dan @16/1 & Champagne West @16/1 both each-way

3.20 Bobs Worth @15/8 & Teaforthree @50/1 each-way

4.00 Divine Intavention @16/1 each-way (4 places)

4.40 Une Artiste @25/1 each-way (5 places) & Skyfarmer @20/1 (5 places)

5.15 Oiseau De Nuit @25/1 & French Opera @25/1 (both each-way 5 places) and Anquetta @33/1 & Shooters Wood @33/1 (both each-way 4 places)

 
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Nick’s Cheltenham Day 3 Selections

Day 2 was an eventful one.  In the opener, Red Sherlock was found wanting when push came to shove and could only finish a distant 9th.  Just like the first race on Day 1 there was no catching the Willie Mullins’ hotpot.  I enjoyed my second tragic comedy of the festival so far when my each-way shout Don Cossack fell, hampering my other each-way shout Many Clouds who shipped the rider out the side door.  Waaheb came nowhere in the Coral Cup and three races in, Day 2 was shaping up to be a poor one.  Thankfully Sire De Grugy impressively won the Champion Chase to give me my first winner, returning 11/4 and I’m finally on the board on Day 2.  The Cross Country Chase was a brilliant race and, having already backed Big Shu and Balthazaar King, I popped a cheeky couple each way on Any Currency.  It’s a an exceedingly rare but gratifying feeling when you have backed three against the field and they end up battling out the finish.  A thrilling finish and a second winner on the board at a nice 7/1.  Normal service resumed as Azza is a no show in the Fred Winter, finishing in the last three home.  In the Champion Bumper finale, Our Kaempfer ran well until 3 furlongs out and then faded out of contention.  All in all a satisfying Day 2 and finally a couple of winners on the board.

And so to Day 3.  We open with the JLT Novices Chase and I’ve backed Felix Younger @9/2.  Many peoples’ NAP of the meeting, Willie Mullins horse has festival form and a preference for better going.  That’s good enough for me and he should be there or thereabouts.

In the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle, I can’t let Fingal Bay go unbacked @7/1 as he could easily outclass this lot.  After being off the track for over 400 days he won his comeback a shade cosily.  He has not been out of the first two in 9 of 10 starts he also boasts a win over Simonsig in his novice days.  Assuming all is fit and well he must have a serious chance here.  Another one I like is Jetson.  He was 2nd in this last year and followed that up with another 2nd at the Aintree Grand National Meeting.  Course form and form on decent ground gives him a squeak here and so I’ve had a small each way on the aforementioned Jetson @16/1 each way.

I really don’t know what to make of the Ryanair Chase and I’m tempted to sit it out and have an additional bet elsewhere.  But this is Cheltenham and I will back course and distance winners Al Ferof @9/2 and Dynaste @4/1 both to half my usual stake, if nothing more than to give me an interest in this race.

This years’ renewal of the World Hurdle looks the best and most intriguing in years.  I am a huge fan of Big Bucks.  I love horses that break records and create history.  He has carried by far my biggest single wagers at the each of the festivals from 2009 through to 2012.  I desperately want him to win this, but he will not be carrying my money.  I actually feel quite guilty making that statement given how often he has bailed me out of festival poverty.  A lot of people are making the point that Annie Power has raced mainly against her own sex and is unproven at the trip.  Fair enough.  I guess Zarkander is the only notable scalp on her CV, but you can only beat what is put in front of you.  This race is a real conundrum.  At Fishers Cross was an impressive C&D winner at last year’s festival but has had jumping issues this year.  Although having said that, he was much improved last time out and the 8/1 is enough to tempt me in each way.  Celestial Halo will run his race without being good enough to win whilst More Of That could be anything having had only 4 runs over hurdles.  Rule The World was beaten by Zaidpour over 3 miles who was then thrashed by 48 lengths by Mala Beach.  Although Mala Beach was also beaten by Zaidpour when he also beat Rule The World!!! In other words I have no idea really so I will back At Fishers Cross @9/1 each way and Annie Power @15/8 under the pretence that if she gets the trip she wins.  Phew!

The Byrne Group Plate is next and only one winner since 1999 has returned at single figure odds.  This race has seen winners at 50/1 (Carrick Boy 2013), 66/1, 33/1, three at 25/1 and the rest between 12/1 and 18/1.  Venetia Williams, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe have, between them, won 7 of the last 9 renewals.   I have run the rule over their runners and nothing really appeals.  In fact I’ve spent a fair bit of time on this race and nothing really stands out.  To be honest this should be a “no bet” race for me but, for the sake of interest, I have backed a couple to small stakes.  The first one is Johns Spirit @ 12/1 each way whose Cheltenham record read 67115.  Those 2 course wins came on good ground and my major concern is that we has gone up 19lbs since after those 2 wins before being thumped by 14 lengths by Double Ross.  He beat Colour Squadron off level weights and he now has a 2lb pull and tops the betting market.  Both may be too high in the weights to win, but with I am hopeful of a run for my money.  I’ve also had a nibble on Sew On Target @33/1 each way.  He has plenty of course experience without winning but might just make the frame.  I’ve placed both these on Betfair Sportsbook as they go ¼ odds, 5 places.

The finale is the Fulke Walwyn Handicap Chase for amateur riders previously won by the likes of Ballabriggs, Junior and Sunnyhil Boy.  Three favourites have prevailed in the last 10 years and the biggest priced winners in that time were 40/1 and 33/1 (twice).  I actually fancy the two at the head of the market, so I have backed them both, Indian Castle @7/1 and Cause Of Causes @7/1.  Highly unoriginal but I don’t think this is as competitive as it looks and both have top notch amateurs on board.  Once again, best of luck whatever you are backing.

Nick’s Day 3 Selections:

1.30 Felix Younger @9/2

2.05 Fingal Bay @7/1 & Jetson @16/1 each-way

2.40 Al Ferof @9/2 and Dynaste @4/1

3.20 Annie Power @15/8 & At Fishers Cross @9/1 each way

4.00 Johns Spirit @12/1 and Sew On Target @33/1 both each-way (5 places)

4.40 Indian Castle @7/1 and Cause Of Causes @7/1

 
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Nick’s Cheltenham Day 2 Selections

Day 1 was spectacular as expected but also tragic with the sad death of Our Conor.  The Liquidator ran well for a long way but faded at the top of the hill in the opener.  However, no one would have beaten the ultra-impressive Vautour, not even Pegasus.  Champagne Fever ran a cracker and was pipped on the run-in but at least my stake was returned.  Like a scripted comedy, Vintage Star and King Massini both fell in the 3 mile Chase, very early on as well!  Jezki left me with egg on my face as he deservedly won the Champion Hurdle, although the New One was a very unlucky loser.  Jezki also stuck the boot in by spoiling all my second place refund bets!

The Mares race was a “no bet” race although I was tempted to plough into Quevega.  Ashamedly I will admit to having a place bet on the exchanges on Glens Melody (a mini-chase if you like, but at odds of 2.78 to finish in the first four it was better value than the 1.77 for Quevega).  The 4 miler was a classic.  Shotgun Paddy put in a woeful round of jumping but still managed to finish a neck-second giving me another second place refund.  Suntiep came from nowhere to pick up some nice place money @16/1 and Day 1 was not the disaster it was looking likely to be an hour or so earlier.  In the finale I thought Attaglance was very unlucky as he had the door shut on his run which may have stopped him winning.  Luckily for me it was more place money @20/1 and yet another 2nd place refund on the win stake.  All things considered, not a bad first day.

On to Day 2 and first up is the Neptune Novices Hurdle or the Minefield Hurdle as I like to call it.  Willy Mullins has a strong hand as expected but so do Nicky Henderson and David Pipe.  I think between them these three probably have half the entries.  So where do you start?  With small stakes is my answer.  I really like Red Sherlock and I’ve taken the early @9/2.  David Pipe thinks he is the best of his lot.  The price is a bit skinny seeing how competitive this race is.  On the other hand the last 5 winners all returned at 7/1 or shorter, so this race has favoured those at the head of the market in recent years.  In fact only 2 outside the first five in the betting have prevailed in the last 29 years!  I had also backed Briar Hill @8/1 Non Runner No Bet and he hasn’t made the final declarations, so I will just stick with Red Sherlock as my sole selection in the opener.

The RSA Chase looks like an absolute belter this year and I think this is the most fascinating race on Wednesday’s card.  AP McCoy once again rides Carlingford Lough who was beaten by Don Cossack who was beaten by Ballycasey.  Not sure if that means anything!  Ballycasey has just two starts over fences and that puts me off a little so, again to small stakes, I’ve had an each-way nibble on Don Cossack to reverse that form @12/1.  Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds may lack the class of some of these rivals but he has finished 1st or 2nd in 9 of 10 starts over obstacles and was second in a Grade 2 on his last start.  Another each-way nibble on Many Clouds @16/1 will do for me.  This is really a race for watching, but then again this is Cheltenham and I feel obliged to get involved!

The Coral Cup has returned winners @33/1, 16/1, 16/1, 14/1 and 14/1 in the last 5 runnings.  So let’s get stuck in!  It will be a miracle if I find the winner but Irish trained horses do have a good record in this race.  Of the various trends I’ve looked at we may be looking at a second season hurdler who has had three or less runs this season and carries less than 11-02.  One that fits the bill is Dermot Weld’s Waaheb @20/1 and I’ve taken that each way.  Unusually for me in such big field handicaps I will make this my only selection as this really could be one for the pinstickers.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase will not be the same without Sprinter Sacre but I do have an opinion on this one so here goes.  I love Sizing Europe, I really do.  But just like me, he is too old.  Somersby would be a popular winner, but again he is too old.  31 of the last 32 winners returned no bigger than 11/1.  Make of that what you will and you may believe that trend will be broken in the absence of the mighty Sprinter Sacre.  Kid Cassidy has beaten Sire De Grugy but was in receipt on 10 pounds that day and Sire De Grugy has since gone on to win the Tingle Creek (in which he thrashed Captain Conan) and 2 more Graded races.  I have backed him at 11/4 with William Hill, best odds guaranteed.  I do think Henderson’s pair, the aforementioned Kid Cassidy and Captain Conan are real threats, despite the latter not running for 95 days since his walloping at the hands of Sire De Grugy and the latter’s flop at Punchestown.  It’s just a nagging feeling that one of these may upset the form book, but I’ll stick with a win only bet on Gary Moore’s stable star.  So there you have it and now Avrika Legionnaire will probably win!

Next up is the Cross Country Chase.  I love to watch this race.  I think it is a real spectacle.  Unfortunately a lot of racing purists disagree.  But then again, I’m a punter not a purist so I’m happy to get involved.  Big Shu was second in the PP Hogan at Punchestown in 2013 before winning this race and the Cross Country race at the Punchestown Festival.  He was second in the PP Hogan again this year.  Will he go on and complete the double for a second successive year?  I don’t know, but what I do know is that there will be worse 4/1 shots or shorter I’ll be backing this week and so Big Shu @9/2 it is.  I also have to back last year’s winner Balthazar King @7/1 with William Hill’s secons place refund concession.  He has raced twice at Cheltenham this year, winning both times and the better ground might also be in his favour.  It’s about as original as magnolia paint, but I’ve backed the top two in the betting.

On to the Fred Winter and the scene of my best ever festival winner, Une Artiste £5 each-way @50/1 back in 2012.  That will almost certainly remain my best ever festival winner even if I was immortal.  I’ll be happy to get a placed horse this year.  This is ultra-competitive so, for better or for worse, I’ve gone for a stats based angle again.  I’m going French and I’m going filly.  That gives me just one who I backed on Monday evening – David Pipe’s Azza @25/1 each way (the only other filly, Willy Mullins’ Adriana Des Mottes, did not make the final declarations).  It may be simple but I don’t want to be up all night trying to decipher this race and end up with multiple unplaced finishers.  I can do that in just 10 minutes.

Finally, the Champion Bumper.  I have no idea and for the same reasons above I am not about to commit 6 hours of my life in trying to find the winner!  I’ve taken one at a huge price in Our Kaempfer @33/1 (again with William Hill and I’m pleased to see they cut him to 20/1).  He was beaten just over a length by Red Sherlock on his second run and that will look like a great piece of form if Red Sherlock wins the Neptune.  Small stakes only and this is a bet just to have an interest in the race (and allowing me to watch it on live steaming assuming C4 have gone home after the Cross Country Chase!).  Day 2 looks really difficult from a punting perspective and in reality the best chance I have of picking a winner is in the Cross Country race and maybe a bit of place money at the very best.

 

Nick’s Day 2 Selections:

1.30 Red Sherlock @9/2

2.05 DonCossack @12/1 & Many Clouds @16/1 (both each way)

2.40 Waaheb @20/1 each-way

3.20 Sire De Grugy @11/4

4.00 Big Shu @9/2 & Balthazar King @7/1

4.40 Azza @25/1 each way

5.15 Our Kaempfer @33/1 each-way

 
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Nick’s Cheltenham Day 1 Selections

What with running multiple tipping services and making my own living from betting, it’s been a long. long time since I was able to devote any time to this blog. I promise I will be giving it more attention in future and, thankfully, I have one of my all time favourite MYBP writers, Nick Hardman, willing to lend a hand for the biggest jumps meeting in the world

Nick will be casting his eye over every race at the festival and letting us know both where his money will be going and what happened to it when it got there!

Over to Nick:

After an enforced exile I am back and writing again for Make Your Betting Pay.  Apologies to everyone (or indeed anyone!) that may have been following my weekly diary.  I never intended to take such a lengthy break.  It’s a long story and one best shared at a later date.  Anyway, what better way to get back into the groove than the Cheltenham Festival?  I’ll be bringing you my thoughts for each and every race, together with the selections I will be backing personally.  These will by no means be “tips”, but they are simply the horses that will be carrying my “hard earned” for better or worse at the festival.  Feel free to cheer them, laugh at them or deride them.  Also feel free to leave a comment or two if you have your own strong fancies or you also fancy the horses I am backing.  As always I will be trying to make the most of the various bookmaker special offers and concessions, so here goes……………

On to Day 1 and the opening race, the Supreme Novice Hurdle.  It has to be a bet with Paddy Power for me as they are offering money back on 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.  For me that means a decent priced outsider who can run into a place giving me a nice return and my win stake back (unless of course it happens to finish first!).  I’ll take The Liquidator at 20/1 thank you very much and as I write this I’ve taken that price on Sunday evening.  He was a decent 4th in the Champion Bumper last year and won over the course in November later that same year.  He was a no-show at Kempton but I do like his course form so at 20/1 I’m hoping for a good run for my money.

The Arkle looks to be a cracking renewal compared to the penalty kicks for Simonsig and Sprinter Sacre in previous years.  I have to go with Champagne Fever @11/4 with William Hill although dangers abound at the top of the market in Dodging Bullets and Rock On Ruby.  I think Grandouet and Ted Veale offer some each-way value but it’s going to be a long 4 days so I will just back Champagne Fever knowing I will get a refund if he finishes second.

Onto the 3 mile Handicap Chase and I love these races as they can throw up big winners such as Golden Chieftain at 28/1 last year and Chief Dan George at 33/1 in 2010 .  Only one winner in the last 10 years has carried more than 11 stone but with the ground having a decent chance of seeing the word “good” in the description we may see that trend bucked.  With this is mind (and the fact I’m often wrong!) I’ll go for a light weight and one off a decent mark as my two against the field to small stakes.  It looks like Golden Chieftain has been aimed at this again and had a nice pipe-opener about a month ago but he is stone heavier here so I’ll give him the swerve.  King Massini has a lot to find but is a course winner and has just 10-02 to carry so I’ve had a small each-way at 33/1.  I also like Sue Smith’s Vintage Star who I have backed @25/1 and I like the early booking of Davey Russell.

And so to the most anticipated race of the year, the Champion Hurdle.  Hurricane Fly v The New One v My Tent Or Yours v Our Conor.  This is a race I should really just to watch as any one from the big four could win on the day (apologies now to Jezki and Melodic Rendevous fans out there).  I was impressed with Hurricane Fly when he out-battled Our Conor at Leopardstown.  He has beaten him twice this year but the forecast faster ground could see that form reversed.  The only time I backed Hurricane Fly he lost (this race in 2012).  I get the feeling it might happen again, call it superstition if you will, but with William Hill offering refunds on 2nd place I will back him @5/2 although most bookmakers go 3/1 and 11/4 without this concession.  I will also back My Tent Or Yours.  I just think he’s a better horse than last year and his high cruising speed will be an asset if the ground is riding good.  True, he doesn’t find much off the bridle but with McCoy in the plate he may just galvanise some improvement up that hill.  I think he offers more value at 4/1 than current market leader The New One.  I will back him with Ladbrokes as I will get a refund if he does not win but Hurricane Fly finishes 1st or 2nd.

The Mares’ Hurdle is a no bet race for me but I will be cheering on Quevega to make history, even if she is not carrying my money.  Next up is the gruelling 4 mile National Hunt Chase.  Shotgun Paddy has a touch of class and a serious chance here and I have taken the 7/1 win only (again with a firm offering a 2nd place refund).  Wille Mullins held three entries on Sunday evening and as I expected, Ballycasey has defected to the RSA chase where he is the favourite.  That has allowed me to back one of Mullins’ other entries Suntiep each-way at 16/1 who is now as low as 8/1 in places. I have read he thinks very highly of this 8 year old and that’s good enough for me at 16/1.  That’s my two against the field.

Finally we have the Novice Handicap Chase and I’ve backed Attaglance with William Hill at 20/1.  A previous festival winner back in 2012 there are plenty of well-respected bloggers and racing people saying this horse will outrun his current price and I’m happy to jump aboard, at a nice each-way price.  Another one at a big price is Ohio Gold @25/1 and I have backed him each-way also.  He is solid if unspectacular and has a good chance of making the frame, although I would be surprised if he won.  He has plenty of course experience and was a good 3rd in this last year.  I’m hopeful for a repeat again on Tuesday.

So there you have it.  At those odds I may well draw a blank on Day 1 and eat my own words as Jezki romps home in the Champion Hurdle, but hey, this is Cheltenham and it’s not so much about making a packet as having a run for your money and enjoying the highlight of the sporting year.  Best of luck whatever you’re backing.

Nick’s Day 1 Selections:

1.30 The Liquidator @20/1 each-way

2.05 Champagne Fever @11/4

2.40 King Massini @33/1 & Vintage Star @25/1 both each-way

3.20 Hurricane Fly @5/2 & My Tent Or Yours @4/1

4.00 No Bet

4.40 Shotgun Paddy @7/1 (win only) & Suntiep @16/1 each way

5.15 Attaglance @20/1 and Ohio Gold @25/1 both each-way

 

 
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Xmas Tipping Competition – Final Day

The final day of the competition is here and the Welsh National is the final obstacle.

In the race to the prizes NickH and Ritz74 have pulled slightly clear of a bunch in 2nd but there really is everything to play for with just just 13 points covering the top 23 entrants. Literally, anyone could win this.

Good luck to all

NickH 5.75 Well Refreshed
Ritz74 5.75 Well Refreshed
JumpingMIck 3.5 Highland Lodge
Mhoughton 3.5 Gooneyella
Tricky Dicky 3.5 Highland Lodge
PhotoFinish 2.25 Well Refreshed
towny254 2.25 Alfie Sherrin
Rugbymoon 2.25 Tidal Bay
brendanelson 2.25 Teaforthree
The Major 2.25 Gooneyella
Ashy73 2.25 Tour Des Champs
shortz 2.25 Merry King
Saddleback 2.25 Vintage Star
Silksuccess 2.25 No Selection
Topman 0 No Selection
jediknight 0 Goulanes
Big Al 0 Vintage Star
Pelly 0 No Selection
WillP 0 Highland Lodge
Kendot 0 Mountainous
bojitoes 0 Goulanes
Devon Donkeys -7.75 Knock a Hand
Coxy -7.75 Mountainous
Aventine -10 Hawkes Point
TopCat -10 No Selection
Nagmenot -10 Highland Lodge
GerryRich -10 Hey Big Spender
seanier -20 No Selection
Bestscp -20 No Selection
cracker56 -20 No Selection
Merlin -20 No Selection
 
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Xmas Tipping Competition Day 2

An exciting start to the competition last saturday with the spoils going to Reve de Sivola – as predicted by the majority of competition entrants. As a result we have a jostling throng at the head of affairs with a bunching group in behind.

Good luck to everybody!

Nickname Points King George Tip
PhotoFinish 2.25 Dynaste
towny254 2.25 Al Ferof
Devon Donkeys 2.25 No Selection
Rugbymoon 2.25 Cue Card
brendanelson 2.25 Dynaste
NickH 2.25 Silviniaco Conti
The Major 2.25 Al Ferof
Ashy73 2.25 Al Ferof
shortz 2.25 Al Ferof
Ritz74 2.25 Silviniaco Conti
Saddleback 2.25 Al Ferof
Coxy 2.25 No Selection
Silksuccess 2.25 Cue Card
Topman 0 Al Ferof
jediknight 0 Dynaste
Big Al 0 Al Ferof
Pelly 0 Dynaste
JumpingMIck 0 Silviniaco Conti
WillP 0 Al Ferof
Mhoughton 0 Silviniaco Conti
Kendot 0 Al Ferof
Tricky Dicky 0 Silviniaco Conti
bojitoes 0 Menorah
seanier -10 No Selection
Bestscp -10 No Selection
cracker56 -10 No Selection
Merlin -10 No Selection
Aventine -10 Cue Card
TopCat -10 Dynaste
Nagmenot -10 Cue Card
GerryRich -10 Long Run

 

 

 
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