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paul nicholls

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Cheltenham Festival Betting

Wherever your allegiances lay, it was hard to hold back the tears after A P McCoy steered Uxizandre to an all-the-way the victory in the Ryanair Chase on the penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The champion jockey will bring the curtain down on a record-breaking career in six weeks’ time and this is his final appearance at The Festival. But the pressure is now off as he has a winner under his belt so he can enjoy the final day of National Hunt racing’s greatest show and maybe sign off with another victory for his adoring fans.

McCoy rides Ned Buntline in the final race of the meeting named in his honour. There is sure to be a flood of money for Noel Meade‘s gelding (5/1 with 888sport, Paddy Power, betway, Boylesports and BetVictor) in the A P McCoy Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup as the seven-year-old has only had two runs since finishing second in the race last year and has clearly been prepared with another challenge in mind. Listen for the roar if the famous green and gold hoops of J P McManus are in front jumping the last! But this is a race in which talented novices fare particularly well and Grumeti, in the first-time blinkers, could be a huge price at the general 25/1.

The feature on the final day is, of course, the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the Blue Riband event looks the most open in many a year. Can Road To Riches (12/1 with the sponsor and BetVictor) complete his remarkable rise from handicapper to superstar by adding the Cheltenham crown to his victory in the Lexus at Leopardstown? Djakadam (a general 15/2) and Many Clouds‘ (9/1 with 888sport) rises have been almost as meteoric and they are others with fighting chances. Will Silviniaco Conti, regarded as the best 3m chaser in England, finally lay his Cheltenham hoodoo to rest? Paul NichollsKing George winner is the 5/1 favourite with 888sport but just didn’t get up the hill last year behind Lord Windermere, On Your Own and The Giant Bolster and I fear it may be a similar story again.

A victory for Coneygree would perhaps be the biggest story of all but it’s hard to find a weakness in the unbeaten novice, apart from his lack of experience. He’s been compared to the great Denman and could shock the old guard at the general 10/1 if he gets his own way on the front end.

It’s going to be very hard finding winners on the rest of the card but Nicky Henderson’s Peace And Co looks the one they all have to beat in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle, though his best odds of 11/4 reflect that.

13th March 2015 / paul - Category: Cheltenham Festival Betting

Cheltenham Festival Betting

Willie Mullins, after his magnificent four winners on the first day, only managed one on day two at the Cheltenham Festival. But Don Poli could be a real superstar in the making after galloping to victory in the RSA Chase and is already only a best 7/1 with Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes and Boylesports to win the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He may not always appear keen but, boy, does he have an engine!

The star of the show among the training ranks on the second afternoon was Paul Nicholls. The champion trainer saddled three winners with the highlight coming in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with Dodging Bullets. He should arguably have been sent off favourite on his form this season which included victory in the best trial, the Tingle Creek at Sandown. But punters went instead for former champions Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy. The latter could only manage fourth after looking in trouble a long way from home while the former was pulled up with connections fearing a recurrence of the injury which has seen him restricted to only two races in the last 18 months – we may have seen the last of the nine-year-old.

Nicholls’ other winners were Aux Ptits Son in the Coral Cup and Qualando in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and it’s another big day on Thursday for the Ditcheat handler. He has the strongly-fancied Saphir De Rheu (6/1 with Paddy Power and Stan James) and Zarkandar (a general 11/2) in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. I would prefer the former but Whisper could also run a big race at William Hill‘s 11/1 as he wouldn’t be the first to win this after failing to take to fences. He won the Coral Cup at The Festival last year and improved again to land a Grade 1 at Aintree ahead of the frustrating At Fisher’s Cross (33/1 with Stan James) and Zarkandar, though Saphir De Rheu did give him weight and a beating in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las earlier.

Nicholls would also have a chance with Ptit Zig (9/2 with Paddy Power) in the JLT Novices’ Chase but Mullins’ Vautour (9/4 with 888sport) looks the one to be on here. Course specialist John’s Spirit could be the value bet in the Ryanair Chase at Paddy Power’s 11/1 and three tough handicaps make up the rest of the day three card. Edeymi should go very close off bottom weight in the Pertemps Network Final at the general 9/1 – most bookmakers are paying up to fifth place in each-way betting in this one – while a big run from Attaglance in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate at the general 12/1 is expected. Crack amateur Jamie Codd has already ridden one winner this week and will get the best out of the well-treated The Package in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase – he’s a general 14/1.

12th March 2015 / paul - Category: Cheltenham Festival Betting

Horse Racing Betting

Of course, all thought are now turning to Cheltenham but there is a Grade 3 chase at Newbury this Saturday which has attracted a decent field, some of which may yet turn up at The Festival.

The Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase is a bit of a mouthful but it must roll off the tongue easily for Paul Nicholls. The master of Ditcheat has trained the winner in three of the last five years and is responsible this time for top weight Sound Investment. The forecast going at Newbury this weekend is good to soft and the seven-year-old won under similar conditions at Sandown in November. He’s won three of his nine starts over fences but was beaten eight lengths over the course and distance of this weekend’s feature two runs ago off the same mark so I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in the general 11/2.

Sound Investment is vying for favouritism with Saint Raph (also a general 11/2), who is among the least exposed of his rivals over fences having had just three starts over the larger obstacles. He won by 34 lengths at Wincanton last month, when Simply Wings (22/1 with Stan James) was only third. But the ground was bottomless that day and we’ve yet to see if he can reproduce that form on a quicker surface and in a higher grade. Seventh Sky (a general 10/1) has been dropped 3lb since his winning run was brought to an end by Traffic Fluide at Plumpton but still looks too high in the weights and Royal Regatta was all out to beat Runswick Royal at Doncaster last time. He’s got another 6lb to carry and hasn’t been entirely convincing over this longer distance in the past – Richard Johnson’s mount is 7/1 with Stan James. Philip Hobbs also runs Ballygarvey (12/1 with betfair, Skybet and betway) but he’s also better over 2m and has never gone close off this sort of mark.

Westward Point hasn’t run for more than a year but I wouldn’t let that put you off. Warren Greatrex‘s team is in great form and it’s unlikely that his gelding will fail through lack of fitness. But he’s only a best 15/2 with Stan James and is unproven in this grade. EASTER METEOR has been a bit of a disappointment this season but the handicapper is finally starting to cut him a bit of slack. It’s only just over a year since he was finishing second to Cantlow at Newbury off a 3lb higher mark and it’s almost unimaginable that David Pipe won’t win a nice prize with him before long – the 10/1 with Skybet certainly looks a decent price for this contest and better value than the upped-in-class Midnight Belle at the same odds and the 15/2 with betway and Skybet for mud-lover Bennys Mist.

27th February 2015 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

Recent rain may not have done any favours to the chances of leading fancies Easter Day (5/1 with Skybet and William Hill) and Fox Appeal (a general 6/1) in this Saturday’s Betbright Chase at Kempton. Easter Day had still to be asked a serious question when falling at Cheltenham last time in a race in which Tap Night (a general 10/1) eventually finished third. But that race was over 2m5f and it’s over shorter trips at which Paul Nicholls‘ lightly-raced chaser has so far excelled. He only beat one home over 3m at Newbury earlier and was well beaten when only tried once over the longer distance over hurdles. Fox Appeal’s credentials are less shaky as he did win twice over 3m over hurdles, though has never tackled the trip in 11 starts over the larger obstacles. However, if he’s going to last home it will be at a track like Kempton. Stamina may also be an issue for Tap Night, who was tailed off over 3m at Limerick in September, though Lucinda Russell‘s charge is ridiculously well handicapped on his best form which warrants a stab at this big prize.

Le Reve (a general 9/1) has won over hurdles at Kempton and is best going right-handed. But both victories this season have come at Sandown, which is completely different in nature, and he’s now on a career-high mark. Rocky Creek is 12/1 with sportingbet and that could be a bit of value given he was second to Cheltenham Gold Cup fancy Road To Riches in the Champion Chase at Down Royal on his reappearance. He was pulled up in the Hennessy at Newbury later but Le Reve and What A Warrior (a general 25/1) suffered a similar fate that day. Bally Legend is only 2lb higher than when a surprise winner 12 months ago but Caroline Keevil‘s 10-year-old has been a long way below that form in three runs this season and there looks no value in the general 16/1 this time.

ARDKILLY WITNESS was only fifth last year and has 3lb more to carry but he wasn’t beaten far and would have got even closer had he not been badly hampered when making his effort turning for home. Though beaten when unseating his rider behind Le Reve at Sandown last time and also finishing behind Lucy Wadham‘s stayer at Ascot in December, he beat the subsequently-impressive Exeter winner Masters Hill over the course and distance of the Betbright Chase in between (when Chartreux was well beaten) and the 20/1 on betfair is dismissive of his overall capabilities. Skybet Chase fourth Renard looks the pick of the remainder at Ladbrokes 25/1.

20th February 2015 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

A maximum field of 24 has been declared for the Betfair Hurdle, formerly the Schweppes and the Tote Gold Trophy, at Newbury this Saturday. The Grade 3 handicap is traditionally one of the biggest betting heats of the jumps season outside of the Cheltenham Festival and has often given Cheltenham pointers itself. Zarkandar and My Tent Or Yours are recent winners but this is very much a race for younger hurdlers. Geos was the only winner aged older than seven in the last 20 years when successful for the second time in 2004 so the likes of Cheltenian (a general 33/1) and David Pipe‘s pair Balgarry and Swing Bowler, third and fifth in the last two runnings, appear to have it all to do and are a best 16/1 (Ladbrokes) and 33/1 (general) respectively.

No winner has carried more than 11st 7lb since 1980 but Nicky Henderson is happy to let Sign Of Victory (a general 12/1) take his chance this weekend, due to a lack of other suitable opportunities. Henderson visited Newbury on Thursday to assess the condition of the ground under the frost-protection covers and while he found it soft it was not testing enough to persuade him against running the six-year-old. The yard has also declared Vasco Du Ronceray (28/1 with Coral and bet365) but his Snake Eyes missed the cut. Of Willie Mullins‘ three possibles only Wicklow Brave (a general 33/1) will make the journey and he is the sole Irish runner.

Paul NichollsCalipto, two from two at Newbury, has been the ante-post favourite since the weights were published and still heads the market at 11/2 with betfair and 888sport. But there isn’t much value in those odds as the five-year-old was beaten at odds-on in his only appearance this season at Cheltenham in October when getting 8lb from the winner, though he does have the beating of Violet Dancer (33/1 with Betfred) on that effort. Nigel Twiston-Davies won the race last year with outsider Splash Of Ginge and will be hoping Ballybolley (a general 25/1) can follow suit. He was a useful bumper horse last season but has proved a slow learner over timber. John Quinn won the Betfair in 2011 and runs both Chieftain’s Choice (20/1 with Ladbrokes and BetVictor) and Forced Family Fun (40/1 in several places) while Jennie Candlish‘s in-form Sleepy Haven could be a big price at the general 33/1.

Fascino Rustico has come in for strong support (now a general 14/1) having won a couple of novice events recently in impressive style and Aso (a general 25/1) won a Grade 2 at Haydock last month, though now has a penalty to carry so Harry Fry may hold the key to this. Jolly’s Cracked It (16/1 with Stan James, Skybet and bet365) chased home the potentially top-class L’Ami Serge in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last month but ACTIVIAL looks the stable’s number one.

Just caught out by the lack of a previous run when third in the Ladbroke at Ascot in December, he’ll be cherry-ripe for this and can reverse that form with runner-up Pine Creek (a general 16/1) on better terms. Only a best 7/1, those odds are unlikely to get any bigger but it’s difficult to envisage him not being in the front rank approaching the last given he was a Grade 2 winner as a four-year-old on soft going.

5th February 2015 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

Paul Nicholls has trained the winner of the Skybet Chase (formerly in the Great Yorkshire) at Doncaster twice in the last nine years and has the favourite for this latest renewal in the shape of Easter Day.

Second in a Grade 1 hurdle back in 2012, he’s only had four runs over fences and one outing this season. He wasn’t beaten far in finishing third over 3m at Newbury and was giving 7lb to the two who finished in front of him but whether that constituted a decent trial for a competitive handicap like the Skybet Chase has to be a matter of concern. There’s a chance he could be well treated off a mark of 142 but he won’t be carrying my money at a best 5/1 with 888sport.

Both Alan King and Philip Hobbs are double-handed. The former has the top two in the weights with the classy Medermit giving 7lb to stablemate Godsmejudge (16/1 with Paddy Power), who was placed in a couple of top handicaps in the spring but hasn’t raced since and might not enjoy soft going. Medermit (a general 9/1) has never won over 3m and it’s getting late in the day to start now. Richard Johnson rides Royal Player (a general 8/1) for Hobbs and he’s on a hat-trick after victories at Ludlow and Musselburgh but has shot up the weights and is playing with the big boys now. If In Doubt is more interesting under claimer Micheal Nolan as he’s the least exposed in the field and nicely handicapped on his best form over hurdles – a recent win at Catterick will have given him some confidence but he’s been backed in to a best 6/1, which is off-putting.

Grandads Horse (16/1 with Ladbrokes and the sponsors) beat Town Moor specialist Night In Milan over the course and distance six weeks ago but you’d expect Keith Reveley’s stayer to reverse the form on 4lb better terms. He was pulled up in the Skybet Chase last year but should do better this time and has each-way claims at the 12/1 with sportingbet. However, Sandown winner Fairy Rath (a general 14/1) and Baileys Concerto (25/1 with Coral) might have stamina issues.

RENARD can give us a run for our money at the general 16/1. He is 10lb better off with Night In Milan than when beaten five lengths over 3m2f here last March and has run well in defeat at Haydock and Aintree this winter. Aidan Coleman tried to make the most of his stamina over 2m4f at Chepstow last time but he probably went too quickly in the heavy ground and tired in the closing stages. If ridden with more restraint at Doncaster, he should be thereabouts on the turn for home and looks overpriced.

23rd January 2015 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

What exactly constitutes value in betting? Is it finding winners or big-priced outsiders that could run well and maybe even pop up at inflated odds? There are no distinctive lines, or rules, and I’ve been in a bit of a quandary for a while over this Friday’s William Hill King George VI Chase.

You see, on all known form and taking everything into account, I really can’t see beyond SILVINIACO CONTI winning a second successive King George but he will start favourite. However, the general 5/2 still seems a decent price to my biased eyes. Exactly 12 months ago, Paul Nicholls‘ classy chaser beat re-opposing rivals Cue Card (15/2 with betway this year), Al Ferof (a general 6/1) and Dynaste (a general 8/1). Menorah (also a general 8/1) was pulled up. The eight-year-old also beat Menorah, Dynaste and Cue Card in last month’s Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock when Double Ross (66/1 with Boylesports, BetVictor, Paddy Power and Coral) was tailed off when pulled up. His trainer was adamant that he’d need his first run at Wetherby when behind Menorah and Double Ross and was wholly justified and I can think of no logical reason why he should be opposed at Kempton this year.

The potential fly in the ointment is Champagne Fever, who was a high-class hurdler and has done well over fences. Just touched off in last season’s Arkle Chase, Willie Mullins‘ grey won a Grade 2 over 2m4f at Clonmel on his latest start but this will be his first try over 3m. Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that Kempton is an easy course and a venue where doubtful stayers have a better chance of lasting home. The King George is always runs at a strong pace and this year will be no exception. Champagne Fever, himself, likes to lead and Cue Card always tries to get to the head of affairs. There will be no hanging about and if the Irish raider doesn’t stay, he will be found out. The general 9/2 doesn’t really incorporate the potential risks regarding stamina.

Johns Spirit (28/1 with Paddy Power) is a Cheltenham specialist and another unproven over 3m while Wishfull Thinking (a general 25/1) and Wonderful Charm (50/1 with William Hill and Stan James) simply aren’t up to winning at this sort of level. It has to be Silviniaco Conti again!

24th December 2014 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

I just wish that, sometimes, the racing authorities would find a name for a race that they are comfortable with and just stick with it. Of course, they can’t because the demands of sponsorship dictate otherwise. Henceforth, the December Gold Cup at Cheltenham this weekend is now the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

Caid Du Berlais won the Paddy Power Gold Cup over the same course and distance exactly four weeks ago, when Edgardo Sol and Ericht finished behind and Easter Meteor was pulled up. Paul Nicholls‘ five-year-old has only had four runs over fences so more improvement should be forthcoming and a second big pay-day isn’t out of the question off a 5lb higher mark at the 7/2 with Coral, Skybet and Paddy Power. Stan James are a stand-out 13/2 about Barakilla, who made a promising reappearance when third at Sandown, but Evan Williams‘ charge still has a bit to prove at this level. Darna bolted up at Sedgefield following a lengthy absence and is a general 14/1 but there are obvious concerns about how he’ll perform here and he’s gone up 10lb since. Quicker ground is a worry for Ascot scorer Niceonefrankie (a general 12/1) but No Buts (8/1 with BetVictor) looks capable of handling any surface. He won nicely at Sandown last time but was behind Barakilla at that track earlier and is actually 10lb worse off.

ATTAGLANCE has run 10 times over fences but is still chasing a first win. That’s a bit of a mystery as he’s run well in some very tough handicaps, including a couple at Cheltenham. Fourth in the 2013 Paddy Power Gold Cup, he only found one too good at The Festival in March and is sure to have benefited from a fifth in a Listed chase at Market Rasen in September where he made up ground hand-over-fist in the closing stages. The handicapper seems reluctant to release his grip but the general 10/1 is a cracking price for each-way punters and it would be no surprise if Malcolm Jefferson‘s eight-year-old finally got his head in front. Splash Of Ginge may be too high in the weights and the general 14/1 is about right while Carrigmorna King seems better on flat tracks. He’s 16/1 in most places, however, which could attract a few given his stable’s good run of form.


11th December 2014 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Horse Racing Betting

Tidal Bay has stood his ground in this weekend’s Coral Scottish Grand National and that hasn’t done the majority of rivals any favours. As the veteran stayer can only carry a maximum of 11st 12lb, 21 of the 32 runners will have to carry more than their allotted weight. Paul Nicholls‘ 13-year-old (a general 14/1) didn’t get far in last week’s Crabbies Grand National so should still be relatively fresh but will again have to produce his very best to defy some more unexposed types.

Nicholls also runs Sam Winner (10/1 with most bookmakers), who has developed into a decent novice this term, though whether he’ll stay this 4m1f trip is anybody’s guess. Green Flag (9/1 in several places), also still a novice, has been fancied for the Scottish Grand National since an excellent run in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham. Locally-trained, he’s taken really well to fences and is definitely one to follow in staying races in coming years but would possibly have preferred an easier surface.

Yes Tom is 14/1 with Betfred, BetVictor and Ladbrokes and another fancied to go well. He’s travelled over from County Antrim and has a good record on the track with two wins and six places from nine previous visits. Roalco De Farges was a comfortable winner at Newbury last time and may still be well treated. He’s a general 14/1 while Mendip Express has impressed this season, though reportedly broke a blood vessel when well behind Sam Winner last time. Harry Fry‘s eight-year-old is only a best 10/1 with Coral and Paddy Power however.

Last year’s winner Godsmeajudge tries again but has been out of sorts this season and is a general 16/1 for a repeat – none have managed that for almost 30 years. Alpha Victor (a general 25/1) was second in the Midlands Grand National and appears to have the beating of general 33/1 chance Fill The Power on that run but had a hard race at Uttoxeter.

TRUSTAN TIMES has only had five runs over fences and has only tackled the larger obstacles once since 2012. His relative inexperience could be a disadvantage in a big field like this but he could be the best handicapped horse in the race. Tim Easterby might well have had this race in mind for a while and he ran a cracking trial over hurdles in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham. He only finished a neck behind subsequent Crabbies Grand National hero Pineau de Re giving that one 4lb.  He’s rated 10lb lower over the fences so the fact that he’s racing from out of the handicap here won’t affect him as much as most. The 73/5 on betfair could look decent odds by off time.

11th April 2014 / paul - Category: Horse Racing Betting

Cheltenham Festival Betting

It was David Pipe and Tom Scudamore‘s afternoon on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. The partnership won the Ryanair Chase with Dynaste and Ballynagour returned to form in spectacular fashion in the Byrne Group Plate, a race in which he had flopped when sent off a hot favourite 12 months earlier.

Scudamore now has three winners to his credit this week having only managed two in previous Festivals and he has high hopes for KINGS PALACE in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on the final day. Only a general 7/2, despite plenty of money for Briar Hill (a general 6/4) who won last year’s Champion Bumper and is unbeaten over hurdles, the six-year-old looks to have everything in his favour as he is proven on good ground and at the track. Kings Palace really attacks his hurdles and has plenty of stamina and, though facing a very strong field of promising stayers, could have most of them on the stretch if he gets into a rhythm.

The JCB Triumph Hurdle opens proceedings and will hopefully see better luck for the Paul Nicholls stable and retained jockey Daryl Jacob. He was almost in tears as he was beaten in a photo finish on board Southfield Theatre in the Pertemps Final and the yard could do with a lift after Big Buck’s eclipse in the World Hurdle. Nicholls went close with Katgary in the Fred Winter on Tuesday but has struggled for winners at The Festival in the last two years. Hopefully CALIPTO can put things right at 9/2 with Boylesports.

Last Instalment (9/1 with bet365) was very impressive when beating several of his rivals in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month and collateral form does suggest he’ll make BOBS WORTH work hard for another victory in the week’s Blue Riband event. But the reigning champion is such a tough individual that he’s likely to find more if challenged and is now a backable price at a general 2/1 – he’s never lost at Cheltenham and has now won at the last three Festivals. Silviniaco Conti was still going well when falling last year and won the King George in December. He ‘s 4/1 with Boylesports but is possibly better suited by a flat track.

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase is now the accepted finale and has 24 runners, just to make sure punters suffer until the very end. NED BUNTLINE could strike a blow for the cause by coming home in front however at 10/1 with Boylesports, BetVictor and Stan James. Novices have a really good record in this 2m handicap and one can just see Paul Carberry creeping quietly into the race on the six-year-old, who is only rated a pound higher than when placed in a Grade 2 over hurdles last season.

13th March 2014 / paul - Category: Cheltenham Festival Betting

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