Thursday, 7 March 2019

Tiger Roll Looking to Create Cheltenham and Aintree History



"Cheltenham Racecourse" by Carine06 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are few horses in training that are more popular than the nine-year-old Tiger Roll, and he is looking to create history over the coming months. After completing a famous Cheltenham/Aintree double by winning the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and following that with a win in the Grand National at Aintree, he is now heading back to try and win both again.

This very likeable horse has a tough task ahead of him if he wants to create history, but preparation for these two races could not have gone any better for him after a smooth success in a Grade Two hurdle at Navan recently. The horse was nowhere near ready that day, and trainer Gordon Elliott estimated that he was 75% fit after the race, with plenty of work still left to do. However, despite that, he cruised to victory in a good race and one that was probably run over a distance too short for him to show he is better than ever before in his quest to complete the double-double.

The latest horse racing odds have Tiger Roll at 12/1 to win the Grand National and at  just evens to win the Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival a month before. He is favourite for them both, and while he does have a tougher task than last year, the way he ran recently at Navan was very impressive.

 

Looking back at his double last year and you could make a case for this wonderful horse making history by winning his third Cheltenham Festival race when landing the Cross Country Chase. Many horses come to life around Cheltenham, and he is certainly one of them, adding the Cross Country Chase to the Triumph Hurdle and National Hunt Chase titles he already has to his name. Winning three times at the festival is enough to make you a hero to many, however, he was not happy with just going to the festival and winning for the third time, he wanted to do more.

Tiger Roll was next out at Aintree, where he contested the Grand National, one of the toughest and most competitive races ran anywhere in the world. He only just held on at the end, but he ran out the winner by a neck, beating another Irish runner in Pleasant Company to land the first prize of £500,000. Red Rum won back to back Grand Nationals and in April, Tiger Roll will be looking to emulate that for his trainer Gordon Elliott.

When we get to Cheltenham, despite the abundance of top quality action taking place on the course, a win for Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase would go down as one of the most popular wins of the week. Then, if he manages to go onto the Grand National at Aintree and pull off this unique double-double, he is sure to lift the rood off the Merseyside racecourse, and have people cheering from living rooms all over the UK and Ireland.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Horse Racing: Gordon Elliott's Success in the American Grand National Could See More European Trainers Follow Suit

Gordon Elliott is fast becoming a trainer to keep an eye on. The impressive horseman can boast multiple winners across the UK and Ireland and his success in the 2018 American Grand National at Far Hills will be viewed as yet another feather in his cap. This historic race still attracts a huge audience despite seemingly playing second fiddle to its UK equivalent and Elliott's recent victory in the contest may prove to be the catalyst which inspires other powerful National Hunt operations to send their charges to the US for this year's renewal.


Source: teaattheritz via Twitter

The County Meath-based trainer wasn't the only overseas handler to take part in the 2018 race but it was the Irishman who came out on top, managing to mastermind a famous victory in the iconic steeplechase. Elliott teamed up with Robbie Power once again and the pair celebrated effusively as Jury Duty helped them clinch the $450,000 prize purse in New Jersey on October 20th. Despite his triumph on US soil, the eight-year-old was swiftly returned to Ireland, while stablemate Clarcam is likely to stay in the country according to connections. Although the French-bred star hasn't fared well in his two previous runs at Saratoga and Belmont Park, Elliott insisted that he'd prefer the much-travelled nine-year-old to remain on the east coast and continue his career on the New York circuit. 
 
 
Gordon Elliott's talented duo were joined by the former-Paul Nicholls-trained runner Hinterland, who finished fourth in the contest. New handler Jack Fisher was pleased with the performance but was disappointed that his charge couldn't build upon a decent performance in the Lonesome Glory Handicap Hurdle at Belmont Park back in September. Ben Pauling's Jaleo also made the journey across the Atlantic but could only finish fifth despite making a very strong start to the contest. Charlie Longsdon is another trainer who isn't afraid to explore alternative opportunities for his runners and he was reportedly feeling confident about Hammersly Lake's chances in the contest – but he was only able to finish in a disappointing seventh place. 
 
 
Last year's race attracted the strongest-ever contingent of UK and Irish runners to the track and that is a trend which looks likely to continue going forward. Jury Duty's success in the contest may just help inspire other trainers to try their luck in the event.
 
 
Jumps racing is nowhere near as popular stateside with just 11 of 50 states hosting steeplechasing events on a regular basis. However, with far less-challenging obstacles and competitive prize pots on offer, it is ideal for trainers who wish to give their newcomers a suitable workout. The American Grand National is held in late October which is a time of the year when many UK and Irish trainers are gearing up for a busy National Hunt season at home and it's understandable that many of these astute operators tend to overlook this opportunity. However, it does appear to be the perfect chance to raise their profile whilst potentially getting their hands of a share of the generous prize purse. 
 
 
Elliott was planning his assault on the historic steeplechase for a number of months and after Jury Duty finished third in the Galway Plate, the trainer immediately sought advice from acquaintances in the USA. After hearing about the probability of good ground, it seemed like a no-brainer for the experienced horseman. He also spoke about Jury Duty's need for a sharper track and Far Hills is one of the few courses which appeared to match that brief. 
 
Source: HRI Owners via Twitter

The American Grand National is still reasonably popular amongst sports fans but it is overshadowed by the UK equivalent which takes place in April at Aintree Racecourse. Prior to his Far Hills-success, Elliott had already finished as the top trainer at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and had also been victorious in the Randox Health Grand National for the second time with diminutive chaser Tiger Roll. Elliott was delighted with his charge, who had also triumphed in the notoriously-tough Cross Country Chase at Prestbury Park just a month earlier and the Gigginstown-owned chaser is likely to return to both tracks in 2019.
 
 
The savvy trainer was also successful in the Irish Grand National on Easter Monday and was delighted to complete a memorable treble. He's in unstoppable form and punters are already backing him to continue where he left off.
 

Despite sharing a name with its US counterpart, the UK race is significantly more taxing. It is contested over the four miles and 514 yards and is an energy-sapping slog through often-muddy conditions. The fences may have been lowered in recent years but they still require a huge amount of skill to negotiate and with forty horses all charging towards the same obstacles, falls and stumbles are part and parcel of this hugely entertaining spectacle. It is not uncommon for fewer than twenty runners to finish the race with many of the participants tending to pull up half-way around the circuit. 
 
 
Experienced National Hunt bettors will often spend hours meticulously studying the form and ante-post wagers on the contest are also incredibly popular. Clues can be obtained throughout the National Hunt season and horses who win impressively in testing contests will often be well-backed for success in the Aintree showdown. Sizing Tennessee could be one to keep an eye on in 2019 and according to Oddschecker, the Colin Tizzard charge is one of the most talked about horses for this year's Grand National following a dominant performance in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. His eye-catching ten-length success has provoked a flurry of wagers and it's Aintree odds have slowly started to shorten as a result. 
 
 
In the US, ante-post wagers are available with some online bookmakers but the majority of the bets tend to be placed on the day of the race, especially with American Grand National attendees being able to place legal bets for the first time in 2018. Organizers believe that should help boost the profile of the contest and subsequently attract bigger crowds to New Jersey over the next five years. The prize money is still significantly lower than many marquee thoroughbred flat races and despite the contest being moved between tracks over the last twenty years, it is still a big deal for steeplechasing enthusiasts and it is always reasonably well-attended. 


Source: Robbie Power via Twitter

Robbie Power isn't the first overseas jockey to enjoy success in this race with Ruby Walsh also prevailing two years earlier. Rawnaq was victorious for US trainer Cyril Murphy with the Irishman on board back in 2016. Walsh was a late replacement for injured jockey Jack Doyle who wasn't able to retain the ride after picking up an injury at Belmont Park earlier in the season. He guided the talented steeplechaser to an impressive three-quarter length victory and he remained in the country for three further rides at the track. It capped off a superb year for the US trainer who fired in 17 winners from 53 runners and the versatile Rawnaq also become a household name as a result. 
 
 
Increased access to online streaming has allowed sports fans to enjoy US racing from the comfort of their own home and many UK enthusiasts have also become recent converts to the American Steeplechase scene. Gordon Elliott's success in the 2018 renewal of the race made headlines in his homeland and many other trainers are likely to have taken note of the Irishman's triumph. Smaller operations may not have the funds to send their charges across the Atlantic but a considerable amount of the UK's most powerful yards may just opt to send their stable stars down this alternative path in 2019 and as a result, it should help this iconic contest go from strength-to-strength. 

Monday, 11 February 2019

Don't Push It


Don't Push It
Don’t Push It was a bay gelding, owned by John Patrick “J.P.” McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill at Jackdaws Castle in Gloucestershire, who won eight of his 28 races under National Hunt Rules and over £750,000 in total prize money. However, the son of top-class jumps sire Old Vic etched his name into the annals of racing history when, on April 10, 2010, he put in a faultless round of jumping to win the Grand National under A.P. McCoy.

Don’t Push It was backed into 10/1 joint favourite, from 20/1, on the day of the race, but McManus – nicknamed the ‘Sundance Kid’ because of his betting exploits – said, “I noticed his odds had come in before the race but I didn’t back him, I was just happy to see him deliver the goods.”

In a race run at an end-to-end gallop, Don’t Push It made headway from mid-division to track the leaders heading out into the country for the second time and, by the time the bold-jumping Black Apalachi took over from the long-time leader Conna Castle at Becher’s Brook on the second circuit, only a handful of horses were left with a realistic chance of winning. Two of them, Big Fella Thanks and Hello Bud, weakened from the second last fence, at which Don’t Push It took second place. He took the lead at the last and stayed on well from the famous “Elbow” to beat Black Apalachi by 5 lengths, with State Of Play, who snatched third place from Big Fella Thanks close home, a further 20 lengths away.

In so doing, he became the first Grand National winner for A.P. McCoy after fifteen attempts. The perennial champion jockey – who retired in April, 2015, with a record 4,358 winners and was knighted in the New Year's Honours in 2016 – said afterwards, “The National is the people’s race and to have won it at last is really special.”

Jonjo O’Neill, who was also winning the race for the first time, later reflected on the occasion, saying, “I think we’ll always remember the magical day he won the Grand National as it was one of the greatest afternoons in the life of myself, J.P. and A.P. as we had all been trying to win the race for so many years.”

Friday, 1 February 2019

Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer
Jamie Spencer is an experienced flat racing jockey, who is still currently plying his trade on the UK flat racing circuit. Born in the Spring of 1980 in Tipperary, he was to date won 4 major classic races with two in his home country of Ireland and two in the UK. Spencer has something of trademark for riding his horses sensibly until the critical moment and then kicking for home, using the sprint to great effect.

Racing has long since been in Jamie Spencer’s blood, as his father was a successful National Hunt trainer by the name of George Spencer, who most notably trained the 1963 Champion Hurdle winner, Winning Fair. Despite the family connection to the sport, the young Jamie Spencer was not involved until late in his childhood years.

When he did start however, he made up for lost time quickly, claiming the first of his classic triumphs on Tarascon in the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 1997. When he did so, he made history, as the youngest jockey ever to win a classic race, before going on to become Ireland’s champion apprentice the next year, riding to 46 victories.

Aidan O’Brien

Spencer’s talents hadn’t gone unnoticed and it led to a short stint as stable jockey at Ballydoyle for Aidan O’Brien. Despite only being in that role for a short time, he managed to become Irish flat racing Champion Jockey for 2004, riding 93 winners.

The success continued for Jamie Spencer after parting ways with O’Brien, as he moved to Britain shortly after to become flat racing Champion Jockey on the British circuit in 2005, riding a not too inconsiderable amount of 180 winners.

Repeat Success

Spencer’s next achievement of note was reclaiming the Britain Champion Jockey mantle in 2007, sharing the honours with Seb Sanders. It was a thrilling season, with Spencer only drawing level with Sanders on 190 winners in the very last race of the season.

Jamie Spencer went on to ride again for Aiden O’Brien, this time as a joint shareholder in Fame and Glory and Cape Blanco. It was to prove a successful reunion, as he rode Fame And Glory to the 2011 Ascot Gold Cup.

Retirement

Jamie seemingly called time on his racing career in 2014, when he cited ‘family reasons’ for walking away to take up a consultancy role with Qatar Racing, but the pull of the saddle would prove too much and he returned to racing soon after. By 2017, he’d managed to clock up 2,000 winners, becoming one of only 4 active jockeys ever to do so and with Spencer still only 38 years of age, there’s still time for him to add to his already impressive tally.