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Friday, April 08, 2022

2022 Grand National Intelligent Punter's Guide

2022 GRAND NATIONAL INTELLIGENT PUNTER'S GUIDE Neil Clark. Yes, it's that time of the year again. Who's going to win the world's greatest steeplechase? (well, a horse obviously, but which one?) With 40 runners to chose from it might seem a daunting task but if we bear in mind some key factors it can help us narrow down the field. 1. Age. No horse older than 12 has won since 1923; none aged 7 since 1940. The most popular ages for winners in recent years have been 8 or 9, though 10 or 11 year olds did hold sway between 2010-2014. 2. Form in key trials. The Grand National is run over the extreme distance of 4 miles two and a half furlongs so it is usually makes sense to look for horses with form in other long-distance chases, particularly the Irish and Scottish Nationals which take place at the same time of the year. 3. Jumping ability. Yes, the Aintree fences have been modified but they still take some jumping and you ideally wouldn't want to be siding with a horse with too many 'F's in its form figures. 4. Weight. While carrying in excess of 11st isn't as big a negative as it used to be, as last year's race showed it's still an advantage to be somewhere in the 10st bracket. Since the legendary Red Rum in the 1970s only one horse (Many Clouds) has carried over 11st 6lbs to victory. 5. Previous experience of the National fences. Again, it might not be as important as it was back in the days when Bechers Brook was genuinely terrifying, but it is still an advantage as we saw from the Foxhunters and the Topham this week. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th from last year's race all return and you'd expect at least one of them to make the frame this time. Now let's take a closer look at all the runners... **** A likely winner *** Each-way chance ** Outside chance * No hoper 1. MINELLA TIMES. 11st 10lbs Odds: 10-1 *** Last year's impressive winner under Rachael Blackmore, but carries a stone and a half more this time and has failed to complete on both starts this term. Could well revive returned to scene of greatest triumph but at the weights still faces a difficult task attempting to become only second dual winner since Red Rum. 3. DELTA WORK 11st 9lbs. Odds 11-1.*** Trainer Gordon Elliott followed the Cheltenham cross-country -Aintree path with his two previous winners (Silver Birch and Tiger Roll) so no surprise to see this regular Grade 1 performer attract market support since his Festival win last month. While he has to be respected, he may just have his work cut out to win bearing in mind only one horse has carried more than 11st 6lbs to victory since Red Rum. 3. SCHOOL BOY HOURS 10st 5lbs; Odds 18-1. ** A late reserve; has nice weight and was staying on when winning the 3m Paddy Power at Leopardstown at Christmas; enthusiasm tempered though by his run at Cheltenham last time when he almost fell and was pulled up when well-fancied. 4. ANY SECOND NOW 11st 8lbs Odds 10-1.*** and a half Badly hampered last year by a faller at the 12th but still rallied strongly to finish third, 7lbs higher now but laid out for this by shrewd connections (trainer Walsh won with Papillon in 2000 and has had other placed horses); with better luck in running has to go close, very likely to make the frame though his weight may just prevent him winning. 5. RUN WILD FRED 11st 7lbs. Odds 16-1 *** If you wanted to back a horse to finish second you could do far worse than this fellow, as he has finished in the runner-up position in six of his last seven outings, including in last year's Irish National and last time out in the 3m5f NH Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Definite place possibilities again. 6. LOSTINTRANSLATION 11st 6lbs. Odds 80-1 ** Looked the coming force when an impressive winner of the Betfair Chase in November 2019 but it was two years before he won again, talented on his day but will have to step up considerably on recent efforts if he's not going to be lost in this big field. 7. BRAHMA BULL 11st 6lbs. Odds 100-1 ** Third in the Hennessy albeit a long way behind the first two, but poor since then and has failed to complete on last two outings including last time out in the Cross Country at Cheltenham. Better ground may bring an improvement but it's hard to be too bullish. 8. BURROWS SAINT 11st 5lbs Odds: 25-1 ***and a half Well fancied last year and travelled like the winner for much of the way only running out of steam about 2f from home, eventually finishing fourth. 1lbs lower this time so definite place possibilities again, though might have a job reversing the Bobbyjo form with Any Second Now. 9. MOUNT IDA 11st 5lbs. Odds 33-1 ** Won the Kim Muir at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival and generally consistent but below par in the Mares' chase at this year's Festival when she jumped right throughout. Could well bounce back with a good run but others look more solid. 10. LONGHOUSE POET 11st 4lbs. Odds 16-1 ***and a half. Interesting runner for Martin Brassil who won the race in 2006 with Numbersixvalverde, who also came to Aintree having won that year Thyestes Chase at Gowran. His last run, a prep race over inadequate trip over hurdles can be ignored; the only two occasions he's raced over 3m plus over fences he won, staying on well each time and it's likely the longer trip on Saturday could bring further improvement. 11. FIDDLERONTHEROOF 11st 4lbs Odds 16-1 *** Yet to finish out of the first three in ten runs over fences so very consistent, a close second in this year's Hennessy with the front two 28 lengths clear of the field was good form, needs to prove his stamina for this but is the right age (8) and no surprise to see him go well. 12. TWO FOR GOLD 11st 3lbs. Odds 50-1 ** Won valuable Listed race over 2m6f on heavy ground at Lingfield in January, and then second in a Grade 1 at Ascot; clearly in fine fettle and can't entirely dismiss but going into the unknown stamina-wise and may need more rain to be seen at best effect. 13. SANTINI 11st 2lbs. Odds 66-1.** Narrowly failed to win the 2020 Gold Cup when with Nicky Henderson, clearly not the force of old but as a consequence slipped nearly 20lbs in the handicap and his generally safe jumping (has never fallen) means he can't be entirely ruled out. 14. SAMCRO 11st 1lbs. Odds 100-1 * Owner Michael O'Leary was right when he warned us this once over-hyped equine was not the second coming of Jesus Christ, his form has tailed off and would be a real surprise were he to win (though it would be quite a good story!). 15. ESCARIA TEN 11st 1lbs. Odds 18-1.*** Best run for a year was when narrowly beaten in the Bobbyjo by Any Second Now in February, staying-on third in the 2021 National Hunt Chase so stamina shouldn't be a problem, solid place possibilities with a clear round. 16. GOOD BOY BOBBY 10st 13lbs. Odds 40-1. ** Won the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby last Christmas but stamina for this has to be taken on trust as 3m1f is the furthest he's raced over. 17. ROMAIN DE SENAM 10st 5lbs. Odds 150-1.* A late reserve who was always at the rear when pulled up in the Midlands National last month with still a long way to go; that doesn't inspire confidence for this marathon. 18. COKO BEACH 10st 13lbs. Odds 80-1.* Well beaten in the Bobbyjo last time out and we've had no 7-year-old winner of the Grand National since 1940 so hard to be enthusiastic that he'll pay for the summer beach holiday. 19. DE RASHER COUNTER 10st 12lbs. Odds 66-1.** Long absence from 2020 to 2022; comeback run was quite encouraging and is able to run off the same mark as when winning the 2019 Hennessy; has a tough task though on only second run back and the odds are probably against him bringing home the bacon. 20. KILDISART. 10st 12llbs. Odds 50-1 *** One of his best runs was on good ground at Aintree on Grand National Day 2019 when he landed the 3m Handicap chase, staying on strongly; comeback 4th at Newbury was eyecatching; still has to prove he has stamina for this but interesting outsider off nice weight. 21. DISCORAMA 10st 11lbs. Odds 28-1.**** Drying surface will suit last year's 7th who not only will found the ground more suitable but is able to race off a 3lbs lower mark; definitely one for the each-way shortlist. 22. TOP VILLE BEN. 10st 11lbs. Odds 33-1.** Trainer told me in 2019 he thought this smart performer might be a National horse; had injury problems but back in good form this season; a heavy fall when racing prominently in the Becher Chase over these fences in December is the main negative ( good on his day but has fallen in 4 of his 19 races). 23. ENJOY D'ALLEN. 10st 11lbs.Odds 14-1. **** Was a staying on third in last year's Irish National and that makes him very interesting for this stamina-wise, staying on again over 3m on latest run and has to go on the short-list as also ticks weight and age boxes. 24. ANIBALE FLY. 10st 11lbs. Odds 100-1** Has been a regular in this in recent years, 4th and 5th in 2018 and 2019 but pulled up last year and best chance of flying home looks to have gone. 25.DINGO DOLLAR. 10st 11lbs. Odds 40-1.*** His good 2nd in last year's Scottish National when making most of the running makes him of interest; pulled up here in the 2020 Grand Sefton but could well do better on sounder surface and may outperform his odds . 26. FREEWHEELIN DYLAN 10st 10lbs. Odds 66-1 *** Was a freewheelin, shock 150-1 winner of the Irish National last Easter when virtually making all the running; trainer said aftereards summer ground was the key to the horse and if the going continues to dry out he might well be overpriced. 27. CLASS CONTI 10st 10lbs. Odds 150-1. * Tailed off in the race last year and nothing in his three disappointing runs this season suggest he is likely to do much better. 28. NOBLE YEARS. 10st 10lbs. Odds 50-1.* Bids to give retiring amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen a dream send-off to his career; but the stats suggest he's up against it as there has been no 7-year-old winner for 82 years. 29. MIGHTY THUNDER. 10st 10lbs. Odds 33-1.**** Scottish National winner in 2021 who has pulled up in last two starts; but this is his time of the year and his trainer does have a great record at the meeting (won the 2017 Grand National) so has to be shortlisted. 30. CLOTH CAP. 10st 10lbs. Odds 20-1 *** Favourite last year and was travelling well when abruptly pulling up; has had wind op; comes with risks attached but is handicapped to run well on drying ground he'll like. 31. SNOW LEOPARDESS. 10st 9lbs. Odds 10-1 *** Jumped superbly from the front when winning the Becher Chase over the National fences in December, has further to go now but was staying on over 3m6f in the National Hunt Chase last year so reasons to believe she will stay; obvious short-list material but may have preferred a bit more rain. 32. AUGUSTA GOLD. 10st 9lbs. Odds 80-1. Last run, when 2nd at Drogheda best for some time; just touched off over 3m4f once; stamina may be ok but overall profile suggests others more likely. 33. COMMODORE. 10st 5lbs.Odds 22-1. ** A late reserve; impressive 15l winner over 3m2f at Cheltenham on only start this season in December; could go well but lack of a run in same calendar year usually a disadvantage if looking for a National winner. 34. DEISE ALBA. 10st 8lbs. Odds 66-1. ** If this was at Sandown he'd be a contender, was a good 2nd over hurdles at Aintree at 25-1 in 2021 but did pull up on the other occasion and others look more solid. 35. BLACKLION 10st 8lbs Odds 100-1 ** Admirable veteran who was 4th in 2017 and 6th last year at 50--1 and has also won a Becher; while he may well outperform his odds again no teenager has won this since 1923 and drying ground may not help his cause (last three wins on heavy). 36. POKER PARTY. 10st 8lbs. Odds 100-1 * Well beaten (twice) and pulled-up in three runs since returning from a long absence; stamina also unproven so a celebatory party unlikely. 37. DEATH DUTY. 10st 7bs. Odds 50-1.** Awful name but did stay on well when winning over 3m4f at Punchestown on penultimate run; not ruled out off nice weight but overall profile suggests others more likely. 38. DOMAINE DE L'ISLE 10st 7lbs. Odds 100-1.** Did finish a plugging on fourth in the Becher in December as a 66-1 shot, but didn't show up at all in Eider Chase on last run; not entirely impossible he'll outperform his odds but likely that on drying ground it might all happen a bit too quickly for him. 39. ECLAIR SURF 10st 6lbs. Odds 11-1 ***. Was an impressive winner of the Classic Chase at Warwick(won by One for Arthur in 2017) and just beaten by the subsequent impressive Scottish National winner in the Eider; that's good marathon chase form; obvious shortlist material; the only negative is that he has fallen twice. 40. FORTESCUE 10st 6lbs. Odds 18-1.*** Just sneaks in at number 40; progressive over 3m/3m2f; could go well off his low weight if taking to the fences but still stamina for 4m-plus is unproven.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to the 2022 Cheltenham Racing Festival

By Neil Clark After a year racing ‘behind closed doors’ how great it is that crowds will be back at this week’s Cheltenham racing festival, the Olympics of National Hunt racing. The roar from the 60,000 or so spectators will be quite something as the starter lowers his flag to get the Supreme Novices’ underway on Tuesday, with 28 races for punters to look forward to over the next four days. But who are the likely winners and how can we get one over the bookies? To help us tilt the percentages in our favour, it is important to keep in mind the following key factors when deciding what to back. 1. There really is no form like previous Cheltenham Festival form. Year after year we see horses who have won or run well at previous Festivals do the same again.  Even if horses haven’t run before at the Festival, previous course form is a definite advantage. Look at Day One in 2020. Put the Kettle On, our 16-1 Arkle winning tip, had won over course and distance at the November meeting. Then a year later Henry de Bromhead’s mare won the Champion Chase.  Imperial Aura, who won the novices’ handicap chase in 2020, had finished second over course and distance on his previous start. The horse that had beaten him in January, Simply the Betts, went on to win a chase on Day 3 of the Festival. Last year Shiskin followed up his Supreme Novices’ win of 2020 by landing the Arkle, while Honeysuckle who won the Champion Hurdle had won the previous year’s Mares’ Hurdle. In short, the best guide to what’s going to win the top races at the 2022 Festival is to look at races from the 2021 Festival. 2. At modern Festivals, a few big yards tend to dominate especially in the championship races. At the 2018 Festival 60% of the races were won by just three stables: Mullins, Elliott and Henderson. Another trainer to keep on the right side of is Henry De Bromhead who won six races at the Festival last year- and became the first trainer to win the ‘Big Three’, the Champion Hurdle, The Champion Chase and the Gold Cup in the same year. Mid-range English trainers do still pick up the odd race but generally have struggled in recent years with Irish handlers so dominant. Last year it was 23-5 to the Emerald Isle and Saturday’s 1-2 for Ireland in Sandown’s Imperial Cup doesn’t instil confidence that the tide is about to turn this year. 3. Age. These days the Festival’s top races are not usually a place for ‘golden oldies’; there’s been no winner of the Gold Cup older than nine since 1998, and no winner of the Ryanair older than nine since 2011. The stats for the Champion Chase are a little better for the ‘oldies‘ though with three horses older than 9 prevailing since 2014. 4. Going. Nowadays because of watering policy and good drainage you are unlikely to get the extremes might have had in the past with the ground usually the soft side of good or thereabouts. The going for the opening day of this year‘s Festival is good-to-soft with the only forecast rain of the week coming on Wednesday. How much we get will have to be seen, if it is heavy and prolonged as predicted then that’s good news for horses who prefer more testing conditions, if they’re running on Wednesday or Thursday. 5. Don’t forget Fakenham! You don’t have to have a flutter in Festival races if you don’t fancy it, and there will be other, possibly even better opportunities at other jumps meetings taking place this week. So while it’s great to have a winner at Cheltenham, remember, a 5-1 winner there pays no more than a 5-1 winner at Fakenham (even though the boasting rights may not be quite the same). Day One: (Tuesday) The feature race is the Champion Hurdle at 3.30. The intriguing runner is Appreciate It who hasn’t been seen on a racecourse since winning last year’s Supreme Novices’ by 24l. That would normally be a negative but master-trainer Willie Mullins’s record with Quevega shows if anyone’s able to get a horse to win at the Festival after a year’s absence it’s him. That said the 7lbs sex allowance that he has to concede to last year’s winner Honeysuckle does tilt things in the reigning champion’s favour. Henry de Bromhead’s mare has won all fifteen of her career starts and once again is likely to prove very tough to beat although she‘s no working-man’s price at 4-7. Epatante won the race in 2019 and was third last year and given that she also gets the mare’s allowance could be overpriced at 18-1 from an each-way perspective. In the Arkle at 2.10 the each-way value could be Magic Daze, currently available at around 14-1. Henry De Bromhead has won the race twice since 2010 and landed it in 2020 with 16-1 shot Put the Kettle On, which gave our Intelligent Punter’s Guide for that year a great start. Once again his entry gets the valuable 7lbs mares allowance. Willie Mullins has taken this prize four times since 2015 and so you have to put Blue Lord on your shortlist. He‘s unbeaten in three runs over fences and was staying on in second behind Appreciate It when falling at the last in last year’s Supreme Novices. Last year we tipped up Vintage Clouds the 28-1 winner of the Ultima (2.50), citing the Sue Smith trained gelding’s excellent record in the race. He was third in 2018 off a mark of 141, second in 2019 off 144, eighth in 2020 off 151 and won last year off 143. This year he’s back up to 144 so is handicapped to go close again and at 16-1 he makes each-way appeal, though at the age of 12 winning again might just be beyond him. The Irish surprisingly don’t have a good record in this so for once it may pay to focus on the home contingent. The drying ground should suit Tea Clipper who ran very well at last year’s Festival over hurdles when a staying on third in the Coral Cup at 33-1. He’s attracted support from 16-1 to 11-1 following the 48 hour declarations. Day Two: Wednesday In the Champion Chase (3.30), it’s hard to oppose the machine that is Shiskin from a ‘win’ perspective, but with rain forecast on the day then Put the Kettle On, who’s done us a huge favour at the last two festivals does make each-way appeal. ‘Polly’ is 4 from 5 at Cheltenham, like Shishkin has won at the last two Festivals and the 22-1 currently on offer consequently looks too big. In the Cross Country Chase (4.10) Tiger Roll goes for his fourth victory in the race and his sixth Festival success of all. He’s likely to be tough nut to crack again (he won the race last year doing handstands) but that is factored into his current price of 6-4. Win, lose or draw let’s hope he comes back safe to loud cheers on what could well be his last race before retirement. In the Coral Cup (2.50) previous course form is usually a big advantage with 10 of the last 12 winners all having run at Prestbury Park before. Last year Grand Roi was sent off favourite but got checked at a crucial stage when rallying and in first time headgear could be worth chancing again each way at 16-1 for Gordon Elliot who saddled the second in 2020 and the winner in 2016. The Shunter won at the Festival over fences last year and is respected too given his course form. Thursday and Friday to follow….

Monday, August 30, 2021

My new book Champion Jump Jockeys 1945 to Present Day, available for pre-order

If of interest, there's still time to pre-order,(with £5 off the published price),my new racing book, 'Champion Jump Horse Racing Jockeys 1945 to Present Day'. Details here:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How you can Donate to my Anti-Stalker Legal Fund by post

If you would prefer to donate to my AntiStalker Legal Fund by post- you can send donations to P.O.Box 922, OXFORD OX1 9RL. Many thanks to all who've donated so far.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Intelligent Punter's Guide to Champions Day

By Neil Clark

This Saturday at Ascot racecourse in Berkshire, the British Flat season, which began back in March, reaches its finale with a glittering six-race card worth over £4m in prize money.

Some of the best horses (and jockeys) in Europe will be on show, for an event which was first held in 2011.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Support my legal appeal against Oliver Kamm, Rupert Murdoch and the Times newspaper

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to my legal appeal via this blog. I have now also launched  on Crowdfund site My aim is to raise £7,500 there by early January, to get to my £10K target so I can launch legal actions on a number of fronts against my stalker Oliver Kamm and his complicit employers, the Times newspaper and its owner Rupert Murdoch.
Here is my Crowdfund page. All contributions, large and small are gratefully received. If you are unable to donate, please do spread the word! Many, many thanks!

UPDATE: A write-up of this story and Kamm's obsessive stalking campaigns can be read here. 
Kamm and his arrogant employers clearly think they're above the law. Let's prove them wrong!

FURTHER UPDATE: 10th Feb 2017: Over £4k now raised here and via Fundrazr. Please help me get up to £10k ASAP so I can launch my legal actions. Many thanks to all who have contributed so far.

FURTHER UPDATE: 24th April 2017. A very big 'Thank you' to everyone who has helped me reach my £10K target. Your support is hugely appreciated!. Having reached my first target, I have now begun legal action against Oliver Kamm and his employers - who by now will have received letters from my lawyers. It is quite likely that a lengthy court battle will ensue, so until the matter is resolved,  contributions to my legal fund are still gratefully accepted and appreciated. Many thanks again to everyone who has supported me.

FURTHER UPDATE: 12th June 2017. Over £10.4K has now been raised, but matter not yet resolved (still at the pre-court exchange of lawyers' letters stage) and until then, your contributions are gratefully accepted and appreciated. Many thanks again to everyone who has supported me.

LATEST UPDATE: 21st August 2017: Over £13K now raised, which has been an amazing effort. A very big 'Thanks' to everyone who has contributed. It looks very likely that we'll be heading to court as the matter is not yet resolved and so a lot more money will be needed.  The 'other side' will be hoping I drop my case but I won't until I get redress for what I have been put through. So please help me get justice and turn the tables on my stalker/serial defamer and his vicariously liable employers! All contributions, large or small, are gratefully accepted and appreciated. Many thanks again to everyone who has supported me!

LATEST UPDATE: 4th December 2017: Oliver Kamm has now been sued for libel and harassment. My counsel has advised me not to serve the writ- already lodged at the court in the summer- against his employers and instead focus the action on Kamm. He believes this would have a number of advantages. It is advice that I have decided very reluctantly to accept- (given the arrogant way The Times -and News UK- arrogantly ignored all my very reasonable requests),- but I do not rule out Kamm's employers- including Rupert Murdoch- being brought into a legal action at a later date if this matter is not resolved satisfactorily. We now have over £17K raised but legal costs have been high and I will be stepping up fundraising to pay for the court costs which could be considerable. All contributions, large or small, are gratefully accepted and appreciated. Many thanks again to everyone who has supported me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Keep Left Jeremy Corbyn, It's the Key to Your Success

My latest column for Sputnik:

For a man who we're repeatedly told is "unelectable," Jeremy Corbyn seems pretty good at winning elections. He's been an MP since 1983, winning his seat eight times at a general election - and in 2015, he increased his vote in Islington North by 5.8%.

Against all the odds — and all the predictions of the "punditocracy," he was elected Labour leader last summer and increased his vote percentage again when challenged for the leadership this summer. That achievement was all the more impressive when you consider the large number of Corbyn supporting members who were prevented from voting in the poll by Labour's NEC and the party's Compliance Unit.

You can read the whole article here