We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Wednesday, February 22, 2017.


Add Thistlecrack (above) to the lengthening list of equine superstars who will not be appearing at next month’s Cheltenham Festival. The King George VI Chase hero has a “small tear” in a tendon and the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite has been ruled out for the season by Colin Tizzard. He joins a list of talent that includes Faugheen, Annie Power, Min, Don Cossack, Coneygree and Sprinter Sacre on the sidelines. Tizzard said: “He had a bit of heat and swelling in his tendon on Monday night and as the vet was in on Tuesday I asked him to scan it. It showed a small tear. We’ve seen it in every yard and it happens every year. It’s not a breakdown and hopefully we’ve caught it before it became any proper damage was done. But it means he’s out for the season. All being well he will be fine for next season.”

Following Thistlecrack’s injury, Hennessy Gold Cup and Welsh National winner Native River is new 3/1 favourite (from 6/1) with MyClubBetting for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stablemate Cue Card is clipped to 7/2 next best.

tom-scudamore-smallTom Scudamore (right), who rode Thistlecrack to victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day said it was “very disappointing for everybody” that Britain’s leading chaser would miss the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the rest of the season with a tendon injury. He said: “Every time you ride these good horses you hope they can be in a position to show just how good they are. He is not going to be able to do that this year and, while hopefully he will be able to bounce back, it is a real sickener for everyone.”

France Galop has suspended jockey Robert Havlin for six months after he tested positive for prohibited substances. The ruling body said the Newmarket-based jockey had returned a positive sample when riding at Saint-Cloud on October 30 and that it would “request the reciprocation” of the imposed sanction by the British Horseracing Authority. “Given the positive result to a narcotic and its metabolites present in the biological sample of the jockey, this is a serious breach of the rules of racing of France Galop,” said a statement.

Robert Havlin will appeal his six-month ban handed down by France Galop. In a statement issued by his French solicitor Florence Gaudilliere, Havlin said: “I am the victim of an outrageous miscarriage of justice and defamation of my character. I have never tested positive for any prohibited substance in my 26-year riding career. I am appealing this verdict and suspension on a number of grounds and the counter analysis proves my innocence. It goes without saying that I am deeply upset and shocked.”

Limini.jpgToday’s clash between Apple’s Jade and Limini (right) in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown will offer more Cheltenham Festival clues. Apple’s Jade won the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, while Limini will make her seasonal reappearance in the Listed contest. Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, trainer Willie Mullins, said: “Limini is in good form, but I’m sure she’ll come on a lot for the run. She’s wrong at the weights with Apple’s Jade and it will be very difficult to beat her, but we’ve got to start somewhere and we’ll see how she goes.”

Paul Nicholls will have a Cheltenham Festival team of “around 18 to 20”, which represents his smallest in years, but hopes are high that Politologue can land the JLT Novices’ Chase. Nicholls said: “He’s one of our leading chances. He’s really progressive and has won three from four over fences. His rating of 152 is very good mark for a novice over fences.”

paul-nichollsThe progressive Dreamcatching  has been earmarked by Paul Nicholls (right) as one of his leading lights for the Cheltenham Festival. Nicholls said: “Dreamcatching won’t be far away in the Fred Winter. He bolted in at Wincanton on Saturday and has a mark of 131. It’s a race we’ve done really well in, with the first and second the last two years. Qualando, who won it in 2015, was off 131, and Diego Du Charmil won it last year off 133. So he’s around about the right mark.”

Jim Bolger is among a number of Irish trainers who feel the Irish Derby should be moved after it was revealed development work at the Curragh would limit the crowd to 6,000 from 18,000 last year. Bolger said: “My preference would have been to move it to Leopardstown or Naas. Leopardstown would probably hold a crowd better and have been ideal for the Derby as opposed to limiting the number of people coming to the Curragh.”

arrogate-smallBreeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup Invitational winner Arrogate (right) seems likely to run in the $10m Dubai World Cup (March 25) after working well at Santa Anita yesterday. The Santa Anita Handicap (March 11) is also under consideration, but Garrett O’Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms, says a trip to Dubai is the front-runner. He said: “If there was any doubt about that, we wouldn’t even consider going. But the horse seems to be in an exceptionally good state physically and mentally. We’ll discuss the case and if Prince Khalid agrees, I think we’ll roll the dice.”

Former Gala Coral COO Neil Goulden has been appointed as chairman designate for a racecourse-run pool betting operation. Betfred’s £265m deal for the Tote gave it an exclusive right over race pool betting, but that deal expires next year. Major racing stakeholders including the Jockey Club and Arena Racing Company wish to take control in future “to ensure participating racecourses will have full control of their on-course pool betting operation”. The project, led by the British Horseracing Association’s Nigel Roddis, saw a “steering board” plump for Goulden, who said: “I hope my experience can assist British racing in developing its thinking on pool betting so it can grow to the benefit of British racing and all its customers.”

The Gambling Business Group (GBG) is behind a new industry-wide body whose core objective is to improve the regulatory environment for all parties in the UK gambling sector. Entitled The Gambling Expert Group, the affiliation of trade and regulatory bodies, will meet on at least a quarterly basis. Invitations have been extended to a total of 15 regulatory bodies. GBG Chief Executive Peter Hannibal said: “The Gambling Expert Group is the outcome of a programme of close collaboration with the Regulatory Delivery Office, part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Membership is made up of stakeholder representatives including Licensing Authorities, regulators and policy makers. One of the objectives is to provide an opportunity for members to raise regulatory issues and identify and address areas where regulation can be improved.”

GambleAware launches its first trial advertising campaign to promote awareness of problem gambling. The online pilot of two adverts, targeted at people aged 16-24, is released in the North West and North East of England on YouTube.

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DONCASTER: 2.10 Mister Whitaker, 2.45 Soldier In Action, 3.15 The Tailgater, 3.45 SAINT ARE (NAP), 4.20 Ardea, 4.55 Monty’s Award

LINGFIELD PARK: 2.20 Hipz, 2.55 Tempuran, 3.25 Wedding Breakfast, 3.55 Arctic Sea, 4.30 Dangerous Ends, 5.05 Steady Major

LUDLOW: 2.00 Ridgeway Flyer, 2.35 Mercian King, 3.05 Woodfort (nb), 3.35 William Money, 4.10 I’m A Game Changer, 4.45 Mr Mercurial, 5.20 Gulshanigans

KEMPTON PARK: 5.45 Cuban Queen, 6.15 Albaster, 6.45 Askari, 7.15 Steelriver, 7.45 Winterlude, 8.15 Delagoa Bay

Lucky 15 selections: Saint Are (Doncaster 3.45), Woodfort (Ludlow 3.05), Delagoa Bay (Kempton Park 8.15), The Tailgater (Doncaster 3.15)

Both the NAP and Next Best selections won yesterday. Three from four in the lucky 15 went in with the other selection finishing second. Bah and humbug.

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.


We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

Newbury Races

Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) plans to contribute a record £22.9m towards prize money this year, an increase of £2.1m on 2016. A total of £45m is earmarked for JCR’s 15 tracks which have 341 fixtures, with £1.4m of the extra funding going to jump racing. Its seven smaller tracks – Carlisle, Exeter, Huntingdon, Market Rasen, Nottingham, Warwick and Wincanton – will see more than £100,000 extra each in prize money and as much as £241,000 in the case of Carlisle. JCR group MD Paul Fisher said: “All levels of British Racing will benefit from the prize money increase, but I hope the clear boost for National Hunt racing and the grassroots of our sport is particularly welcome.”

The announcement of £22.9m in prize-money at Jockey Club Racecourses (JCR) this year has been well received. Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) chief executive Charlie Liverton said: “This announcement from Jockey Club Racecourses is excellent news for owners and horsemen, and I am further delighted that grassroots racing has seen particular focus. This extra support for the middle and lower tier of British Racing is clearly needed and is welcome. That is where it can help the majority of racehorse owners and horsemen and where more investment is needed around the country.”

Bristol De Mai.jpg

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai (right), who flopped in the Denman Chase at Newbury having previously been an impressive winner of the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, is still on course for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. Pushed out to 25/1 for the March 17 showpiece by MyClubBetting yesterday, Anthony Bromley, representing owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, was upbeat. He said: “We’re still going to have a go at the Gold Cup,” but added, “it’s a big roll of the dice. Even the distance is still an unknown and there are some very smart horses in there. He’s a lovely horse but he is an outsider, don’t get us wrong”.

Superb Story has been ruled out of the Champion Hurdle after suffering a tendon injury. He won comfortably on his only start of the season at Musselburgh, but trainer Dan Skelton tweeted: “Superb Story will not be running at Cheltenham. He’s got a small lesion in a tendon and will need time off. Possibly back in December.”

ITV has launched new app, ITV Racing, in a tie-up with developer Monterosa. It features a new £100,000 predictor contest ITV7. ITV Digital Studios online editorial director Sheena Peirse said: “Horse racing is a major priority for us and we see the app as a crucial way to reach new and existing fans of the sport and launch the ITV7 competition.”

The Neil King-trained Lil Rockerfeller will bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the National Spirit Hurdle since Lough Derg after being given the green light for Sunday’s feature at Fontwell. Owner Andy Smith said: “Lil Rockerfeller did a fantastic piece of work on Saturday morning, which Neil was delighted with, so we’re confident he’s over his last run and we go to Fontwell with high hopes.” Nicky Henderson’s L’Ami Serge, second in the Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham and Different Gravey are also among the entries for the Cheltenham Stayers’ Hurdle trial.

Emma Lavelle Getty.jpg

Emma Lavelle (right) is doing a rain dance ahead of Saturday’s Eider Handicap Chase for last year’s runner-up Shotgun Paddy. Lavelle said: “I’ve heard a going report saying ‘lovely drying wind’ – that is no good for him, but there is some rain about so hopefully it hits Newcastle. He’s a solid stayer and he deserves to win one of these big chases because he’s knocked on the door in so many of them.”

When it comes to Forest Bihan’s chances of landing the Racing Post Arkle Trophy, trainer Brian Ellison is a realist. “The favourite looks nailed on – Altior looks like a machine so we’re obviously running for place money, but we’ll see,” he said. Forest Bihan has won three of his four starts over fences and was cut to 20/1 by MyClubBetting after Ellison added: “He’s very well, I actually think he’s a little underrated looking at his price.”

Capitaine is likely to be made favourite Saturday’s Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton, a recognised trial for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old chased home Finian’s Oscar in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last time and heads 12 entries, along with Alan King’s Elgin.

Mutakayyef will have to concede upwards of 5lb to his rivals in the Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday. William Haggas’ six-year-old will face a maximum of 10 rivals, all of whom are rated 9lb or more lower, and is likely to be the MyClubBetting favourite. Former stablemate Battalion, now with Jamie Osborne, is also among the leading fancies with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Convey.

Terry Doherty, stud manager for Watership Down Stud, has been named as Employee of the Year 2017 at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff awards in a ceremony at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in London’s Knightsbridge. The perpetual Godolphin Trophy was presented by Freddy Tylicki, along with a cheque for £40,000, of which £20,000 will be shared amongst the staff at the Stud. It was part of £120,000 in prize money awarded by sponsors Godolphin. Chairman of the Judging Panel Brough Scott said: “The finalists were of a quite exceptional standard and it was really inspiring for the judges to hear their stories. However, in the end, Terry emerged as a clear and very fine winner and I am sure he will be a great ambassador for the sport.” Source:

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SOUTHWELL: 2.10 Log Off, 2.40 Elegantly Bound, 3.10 Vroom, 3.40 Lady Nayef, 4.10 Bounty Pursuit, 4.40 Horseguardsparade

TAUNTON: 2.20 Viking Mistress, 2.50 Lake Shore Drive, 3.20 Verdana Blue, 3.50 Heroes Or Ghosts, 4.20 Top Tug, 4.50 Monsieur Gibraltar, 5.20 My Story

WETHERBY: 2.00 Café Au Lait, 2.30 Money Maid, 3.00 Jerrysback, 3.30 Groomed, 4.00 Modulus, 4.30 Scarlet Fire, 5.00 Our Belle Aime

Today’s Lucky 15 Selections: Monsieur Gibraltar (Taunton 4.50), Bounty Pursuit (Southwell 4.10), Jerrysback (Wetherby 3.00), Elegantly Bound (Southwell 2.40)

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.

MIDWEEK BETTING PREVIEW – MCB’s Champions League Guide

The Champions League returns with four games this week. Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all of them.

Remember, all of the links below are directed to a generic MyClubBetting site. Once you login, you will be redirected to the club betting site that you are registered to.

As always, be sure to share your opinions with us over on the @MyClubBetting twitter page…

If you are not affiliated to a club and wish to take advantage of our great offers or simply have a bet, you can sign up to our Bet4Causes site, where 20% of the bookmaker’s net revenue goes to our chosen charities.

Antoine Griezmann.jpg


Tuesday, 7.45pm

Leverkusen (12/5) saw off Tottenham and SCKA Sofia to reach the last 16, finishing second in the group to Monaco. Two wins and four draws means they are unbeaten in this competition. One of the more organised teams, Roger Schmidt’s side have shown plenty of resilience, without setting the world alight. The issue for us is a lack of goals and modest league form. They are currently mid-table in the German Bundesliga and striker Javier Hernandez is in fair goalscoring form, stop him and you effectively stop Leverkusen.

Atletico (11/8) come into this having topped Group D with five wins from six and having the likes of Bayern Munich behind them. Having lost two Champions League finals in three years, there is a deep determination to prove they can go the distance and while Diego Simeone has not been able to bring in reinforcements because of a transfer ban, the Spaniards are a side who are always capable of scoring.

Antoine Griezmann (above), reportedly on his way to Manchester United in the summer, Fernando Torres, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Kevin Gameiro will give any side fits in and around the penalty area. There are no obvious defensive weaknesses, so we expect them to go through, winning both legs.



Sergio Aguero.jpg

Tuesday 7:45pm

Manchester City’s (8/13) defence continues to look shaky, although John Stones is beginning to blossom after a shaky start to his City career. That is great news for Pep Guardiola and England. City’s home form was a strength in qualifying for the last 16, seeing off Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic, which saw a second-place finish behind Barcelona in Group C.

We do have concerns that Sergio Aguero (above) is unhappy at being replaced by the now-injured Gabriel Jesus, and while you can look at it as a blessing that he will be a hungry player anxious to prove a point, the flip side is his ego has been damaged and he feels disrespected. City look better with Yaya Toure in the starting line-up and in Kevin de Bruyne, they have a world-class midfielder who, for our money, has been consistently the best player in the Premier League since his arrival.

Monaco (17/4) arrive in form and are pushing for a first French title since 2000. Leonardo Jardim’s side were impressive in not only winning Group E (ahead of Beyer Leverkusen and Tottenham), they were also a delight to watch.

The resurgence of Radamel Falcao has been key to their success. He has scored more goals this season than in the last three seasons combined, so the Colombian is a man to be feared. It should be a really interesting battle between Stones and him, and it would not be a surprise should he get on the scoresheet in the first leg.

We see this as being a tight affair, but City’s home form should give them a cushion for the second leg on March 15.



Andre Silva.jpg


Wednesday 7:45pm

Porto (5/2) are a shadow of the side that won this competition under Jose Mourinho in 2004. They finished runners-up in the group behind Leicester and lack experience, which has shown in qualifying. The youngest squad in the Champions League have done well domestically, however, losing just twice all season, so they are no pushovers.

Keep an eye out for striker Andre Silva (above) – the Portuguese international has been in flying form recently and must go on the shortlist of players to score at any time.

It has been relatively plain sailing for Juventus (5/4) in Serie A. The Italians are well placed to follow up last season’s title – their fifth consecutive – and they have been excellent away from home in this competition, winning all three qualifying games on the road. The Bianconeri have the ability to soak up pressure and play on the break, thanks to experienced defenders who have a fabulous last-line of defence in keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

What they have lost in Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, they have made up for in work-rate and guile in the midfield. Up front, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala have formed a formidable partnership. We don’t expect Juventus to slip up.



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Wednesday 7:45pm

Out of the FA Cup and in danger of being relegated, Leicester City (15/2) are in turmoil. The Foxes have been a different animal in the Champions League, though, convincingly progressing to the knockout stage after winning four and drawing one of their opening five matches. Yes, they were thumped 5-0 at Porto, but that was with a second-string team.

Claudio Ranieri (above) is unlikely to employ the same tactics here, but quite what the tactics have been defensively this season is open to argument. They simply do not close down quickly enough and the void left by the departure of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea has been as wide as the Grand Canyon. It is clear he made the team tick, produced his teammates to give that little bit extra which lifted them to the title. Confidence is low and it will be a surprise should they come away with anything in this first-leg tie.

Sevilla (2/5) remain the hunt for the Spanish title and have plenty of experience of Europe, having won the Europa League for the past three seasons. Jorge Sampaoli’s side progressed to the last 16 behind Juventus and they will fancy their chances of building a healthy first-leg lead. Some would say a 2/5 shot does not represent value – in this case we would argue it does.



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We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Monday, February 20, 2017.

Cue Card.jpgColin Tizzard has a stacked deck for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup after Cue Card (above) came through his Ascot Chase prep on Saturday with ease. Cue Card will join stablemates Thistlecrack and Native River in the March 17 showpiece following a foot-perfect display. Tizzard said: “I thought his performance on Saturday was as perfect as you can get. On all known form he deserved to win, but that doesn’t mean they will. He travelled and jumped and came away in his own time, so we were delighted. Every day will be a nervous day for the next few weeks, hoping something doesn’t go wrong.”

Identity Thief missed yesterday’s Flyingbolt Novices’ Chase at Navan and is likely to miss the Cheltenham Festival. Henry de Bromhead’s Grade 1-winning hurdler fluffed his lines in the Irish Arkle and it was hoped he would restore his reputation, but Michael O’Leary of owners Gigginstown House Stud explained: “He pulled out lame after pulling a shoe off himself in the box. The frustrating thing is that it probably rules out Cheltenham. We can’t get a prep race in before Cheltenham and we can’t go to the Arkle after pulling up and falling.”

With Identity Thief missing from the line-up, the Grade 3 Flyingbolt Novices’ Chase at Navan was won by Ball D’Arc, who scored by 19 lengths after 4/5 favourite Ballyoisin fell three out. Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “We might look at the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse for him. Over two miles he definitely needs that ground, but I’d say he might be all right on a bit better ground over two and a half.”

Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary has again hit out at handicapper Phil Smith for framing the Grand National weights higher than his horses’ Irish handicap marks, while outlining his team for Cheltenham. He said: “Don Poli has run three times in Grade 1s (this season) and been beaten in all of them, and yet Phil Smith has him up at 165, 5lb less than Thistlecrack. I think if he runs against Thistlecrack in the Gold Cup he’ll be beaten two furlongs.” Of his Cheltenham team the Ryanair owner added: “If they all arrive fit and well it’s likely we’ll run Outlander and Don Poli in the Gold Cup and probably Sub Lieutenant and Empire Of Dirt in the Ryanair Chase. I think the Ryanair is the logical race for Empire Of Dirt to go in. I would love to win it, I’ve spent 10 years trying to without any great success.” Source:

The Sandra Hughes-trained Acapella Bourgeois may have booked his ticket for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham with an impressive all-the-way win in the Grade 2 Ten Up Novice Chase at Navan yesterday. “He’s in the RSA Chase and you’d have to say after today we would be travelling, but we’ll see what the ground is like. If it came up very good, which you never know at Cheltenham, he might give it a miss. At the moment if it was nice, soft ground we’d have to take our chance.” Acapella Bourgeois is still available at 16/1 with MyClubBetting.

Vieux Lion Rouge is the new 14/1 favourite for the Randox Health Grand National with MyClubBetting after getting the better of Blaklion in the Grand National Trial at Haydock. Trainer David Pipe said: “He’s changed a lot, as he never used to find much at the end of his races. He’s going back to Aintree with experience over the fences and he proved today he doesn’t need soft ground. We can look forward to April now.”

SIS agrees to acquire Newcastle and Sunderland greyhound stadia from William Hill. Picture and data from the tracks will be added to SIS’ existing portfolio of rights from MonmoreCrayfordHove, and Romford. Hills’ retail MD Nicola Frampton says: “Newcastle and Sunderland greyhound stadia are among the best run in the industry and we would like to thank the teams at both tracks for all their hard work and success during William Hill’s period of ownership.” The tracks will be acquired by SIS subject to final agreement and the appropriate regulatory authority approvals.

Cheltenham Racecourse will unveil a statue of Sir AP McCoy on March 14, the opening day of the Festival meeting. The life-size bronze has been crafted by Dublin-based sculptor Paul Ferriter. The 20-times jumps champion said: “His dedication to getting it right was really outstanding, from measuring me to videoing me and when I was standing for him. I thought most people got a statue when they were dead! I guess it will give the birds somewhere to sit.”

The winner of the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival will be in line for a £500,000 bonus in Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on Saturday, May 13. The Challenge, an effort to re-establish the historical transatlantic racing rivalry, will be sponsored by private equity firm TVV Capital of Nashville, Tennessee. TVV Capital founder Andrew Byrd said: “That historical connection is strong, as is our longstanding relationship with the Iroquois. We wish to thank Mike Hankin and Brown Advisory, who first introduced us to the Cheltenham Festival and without whom the Challenge would have been impossible.”

Prolific juvenile Cliffs Of Dover has been ruled out of the Triumph Hurdle and for the rest of the season after “knocking his leg in a schooling session” according to trainer Paul Nicholls. He told his blog: “Cliffs Of Dover will have a nice long break now before he comes back into training in the autumn and we will aim to have him right for the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.”

Major sporting events such as the Grand National, Wimbledon, Olympics, FA Cup and World Cup will continue to be shown on free TV channels under government plans to safeguard the UK’s sporting heritage. Ministers will be given the ability to “future-proof” free-to-air broadcast for certain “at risk” events through a planned amendment to the Digital Economy Bill. “Sport loses much of its ability to deliver positive outcomes for the public when people do not have the ability to watch or experience it,” noted the bill’s author.

Dual American Classic winner and 1999 Horse of the Year Charismatic has died, aged 21. Trained by D Wayne Lucas, he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but suffered multiple fractures in his left front leg just a few strides before the wire in the Belmont. The 21-year-old stallion had only returned to the US from Japan where he had been at stud since 2002, in December. The cause of death is unknown.

The Irish Derby will remain at the Curragh during construction work with a much-reduced capacity of 6.000. “The shortage of sprint tracks, and that the Curragh can cater for up to 30 runners over distances up to a mile, meant that relocating the major Curragh races elsewhere would not be feasible,” explained HRI chief Brian Kavanagh.

Flintham, who was short-headed by Bigbadjohn in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Saturday, will be targeted in the four-mile National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival unless ground is too lively. Sara Bradstock, who trains the eight-year-old with husband Mark, said: “He was really just mugged on the line. The National Hunt Chase would be very much under consideration but the ground would have to be on the soft side of good. We jarred him up running him in the Pertemps Hurdle last year which is why he was off for the rest of the year.”

The Irish Department of Agriculture has been called upon to suspend the sale of Harolds Cross Greyhound Stadium in Dublin until a review has been held into the finances of the IGB. Tipperary TD Alan Kelly was highly critical of the board’s accounts procedure and decisions being made on the basis of financial reports dating back to 2014.

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CARLISLE: 2.00 Front At The Last, 2.30 Strait Of Magellan, 3.00 Take The Cash, 3.35 Thyne For Gold, 4.10 Beg To Differ, 4.45 Midnight Request, 5.15 Flemenskill

LINGFIELD PARK: 1.50 Take To Heart, 2.20 Lac Scare, 2.50 Capilla, 3.25 Hitherjacques Lady (nb), 4.00 Finish The Story, 4.35 Groundunderrepair, 5.05 Big Fella Thanks

WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.10 Sweeping Rock, 2.40 War At Sea, 3.10 Leonard Thomas, 3.45 Judicial, 4.20 Head Space, 4.55 Indian Affair, 5.25 RUTHERFORD (NAP), 5.55 Hochfeld

Today’s Lucky 15 Selections: Rutherford (Wolverhampton 5.25), Hitherjaques Lady (Lingfield Park 3.25), Thyne For Gold (Carlisle 3.35), Lac Sacre (Lingfield Park 2.20)

NAP and Next Best won on Friday.

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The FA Cup returns this weekend and things are hotting up as the final 16 teams fight it out for a place in the quarter-finals!

Can Sutton do the unthinkable and beat Arsenal? Will any manager risk uproar and field a weakened side? Can Manchester United continue their defence of the trophy?

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an exciting few days of action that’s for sure…


Burnley v Lincoln (12:30pm)

This will be the end of the dream for Lincoln. Games are now coming fast and furious for them and they have lost their Cup Talisman Theo Robinson to Southend. Burnley are a well drilled team, especially at home, where they have an excellent record and Dyche will not tinker too much.



Huddersfield v Manchester City (3pm)

Both teams are producing the results in their respective leagues, with both hoping for league honours at the end of the season. This will be an open game with both teams eager to show their flamboyancy.



Middlesbrough v Oxford (3pm)

This will be a dour affair, but with Boro struggling to find consistency and Oxford in a rich vein of form be prepared for an upset!



Millwall v Leicester (3pm)

How do you read Leicester at present? With difficulty I suggest and with Millwall enjoying a long unbeaten run, having already dispatch of two other premiership sides, be prepared for another upset.



Wolves v Chelsea (5.30pm)

Having caused one of the upsets in the last round Wolves will be brought down to earth with a bump at an energetic Chelsea will ensure there will be no slip ups!




Fulham v Tottenham (2pm)

A South London v North London derby always gets the juices flowing. Fulham will be relishing the challenge at their quaint Craven Cottage ground, but Tottenham’s experience should see them through.



Blackburn v Manchester United (4:15pm)

Blackburn are having a torrid season and with the well-oiled Mourinho machine gathering momentum this is a no brainer.




Sutton v Arsenal (7:55pm)

Congratulations Sutton, but sorry this is where it ends. With Arsenal’s rich FA Cup history and Wenger’s desperation for a trophy expect Arsenal to run out easy winners.



Enjoy the action!

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We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day and provide our experts’ racing selections on Friday, February 17, 2017.

Punchestown Races

There is a concerted gamble taking place on Jezki (above) for the Stayers’ Hurdle. Jessica Harrington’s 2014 Champion Hurdle winner is cut to 6/1 with Bet4Causes and is now clear second-favourite to Unowhatimeanharry (6/4). Though he is 8/1 for the Champion Hurdle, his trainer says a decision as to which race he goes for at Cheltenham will be made after his run in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday. A Bet4Causes spokesman said: “Jezki is a class act and if he shines at Gowran, JP McManus will have another big gun to go to war with at the Festival.”

The King George VI Chase may not have to move after all. The Jockey Club is considering alternatives to its controversial plans to sell off Kempton Park for housing, proposals that brought widespread condemnation from racing. Alternative plans are under consideration for a smaller development to the south east of the course that could accommodate up to 1,200 houses, rather than the 3,000 earmarked if the 230-acre site was closed and sold to Redrow.

Don Poli.jpg

Gigginstown House Stud owner Michael O’Leary has slammed BHB handicapper Phil Smith over the weights handed to his Grand National trio and ruled out anti-post favourite Don Poli (11st 7lb), Outlander (11st 10lb) and Empire Of Dirt (11st 8lb). O’Leary said: “If Phil Smith tells us what the rules are, we won’t waste our time entering good horses. If Don Poli (right) had had a reasonable handicap mark, been compressed down 4-5-6lb off his Irish mark, over four and a quarter miles you might consider it, but he is clearly going nowhere.” Referencing Smith’s remark on ATR that bookmakers seemingly felt Don Poli had not been harshly treated, given they made him general 14/1 favourite, O’Leary said: “His justification for this is, ‘I notice the bookies have him as favourite, they are usually pretty shrewd, they obviously don’t think he’s hard done by’. So that’s how you run your handicapping system is it, based on what some ante-post spivs think? He is clearly talking utter drivel.”

Four of the five Irish-trained horses in the handicap for the Grand National will run at Aintree from higher marks than they would in any Irish handicap. BHA Handicapper Phil Smith defended his ratings, insisting: “We spend around an extra 18 hours a week, that’s about three hours a week for each of our six jumps handicappers, to keep [separate] Irish ratings. We do it because we want our handicaps to be as competitive as possible.”


Blaklion (right) will be out to underline his Randox Health Grand National credentials when he bids to land the tomorrow’s Grand National Trial at Haydock. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the National twice with Earth Summit and Bindaree and considers Blaklion as “perfect” for the Aintree marathon. He said: “He’s a very interesting contender and we will learn a lot more on Saturday. We have delayed running him for ages so his weight doesn’t go up. I think he is very fairly weighted. He stays forever and he jumps beautifully.”

Saphir Du Rheu gained his first success for 15 months when easily accounting for three rivals in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso yesterday. “He needed a confidence booster and won as he should have done,” said trainer Paul Nicholls. “He’s in everything – a handicap at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup, the Grand National. He could go back to Kelso on March 4 for another race like that (Premier Chase).”

Mick Channon

The Mick Channon (right)-trained Opal Tiara gained the biggest victory of her career in the Group 2 Balanchine at Meydan yesterday and will now likely head to the Dubai Turf on World Cup night. Assistant trainer Mick Channon junior said: “We are delighted. She improved throughout the second half of last season and she has gone and done that nicely. Something like the Falmouth screams out for her in the summer. It is great to have a good older filly in the yard and she will go to Dubai World Cup night now for the Dubai Turf.”

Jim Crowley5.jpg

Champion jockey Jim Crowley (right) gained a Group 3 success with Ertijaal blitzing rivals in the Meydan Sprint yesterday. After the Ali Al Rayhi-trained 4/7 winner broke the track record, Crowley said: “He is an aeroplane. I’ve had some nice sprinters to ride, but he certainly tops the list.”

French Champion Hurdle hero Ptit Zig will skip the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, with a potential return trip to Auteuil on the cards. Paul Nicholls said: “We took him out of the Stayers’ Hurdle as he is a better horse fresh in the spring. We might go to Sandown again or he could go to Aintree, then do the French races again as there is massive prize-money there.”

Dan Skelton.jpg

Dan Skelton (right) feels Superb Story has “an each-way chance” in a wide open Champion Hurdle. Last year’s County Hurdle hero was last seen winning at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. Skelton said: “We’re heading for the Champion Hurdle. It’s an open race. It’s not packed deep with horses rated 170, but who’s to say one of these isn’t going to go on and win two. He is improving. From turning in, it’s all about how good you are and we don’t know because we’ve never chipped him into graded company.”

Apple’s Jade is set to return to action in the listed Quevega Mares’ Hurdle at Punchestown on Wednesday. The Gordon Elliott-trained three-time Grade 1 winner heads a field of nine entries which also includes Grade 1 winners Limini and Whiteout, trained by Willie Mullins. Elliott said: “She has a number of options at the Cheltenham Festival and we’ll see how she goes on Wednesday first. I’ve been happy with her and the timing of the race suits us so we’re looking forward to getting her out again.”

Decorated Knight, who won the Listed Winter Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield will miss the Winter Derby on Saturday week in favour of a Group 1 bid in Dubai. Tony Nerses, racing manager to owners Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar, said: “Decorated Knight is heading out to Dubai on February 22nd to compete in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta on Super Saturday.”

Qurbaan will be out to claim his Good Friday place in the Mile at Lingfield when he goes in the Listed Prix Saonois at Cagnes-Sur-Mer this afternoon. The 1m Polytrack contest is a Fast-Track qualifier for the race on All-Weather Championships Finals Day. Trainer Francois Rohaut said: “Qurbaan is the perfect horse for these kind of races because he loves the layout and surface of these All-Weather tracks. Hopefully he can win and qualify for the final at Lingfield. We are very happy and expect him to run a good race.”

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Wednesday, February 15, 2017

SANDOWN PARK: 1.40 Centurius, 2.10 Icing On The Cake, 2.40 Colin’s Sister (nb), 3.15 Renard, 3.45 Percy Street, 4.15 Private Malone, 4.45 Mixchievous

FAKENHAM: 1.30 Lake Chapala, 2.00 Mr Mix, 2.30 Cash Again, 3.00 Glengra, 3.35 Movie Legend, 4.05 Wild Bill, 4.35 Potters Sapphire

NEWCASTLE: 2.20 Bowban, 2.50 SUTTER COUNTY (NAP), 3.25 Dolphin Village, 3.55 Codeshare, 4.25 Vogueatti, 4.55 Byres Road, 5.25 Dark Side Dream.

WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.45 Hidden Gem, 6.15 Invincible Man, 6.45 Marshall Aid, 7.15 School Run, 7.45 Blaze Of Glory, 8.15 Heartstone

Today’s Lucky 15 Selections: Sutter County (2.50 Newcastle), Colin’s Sister (2.40 Sandown Park), Heartstone (8.15 Fakenham), Mr Mix (2.00 Fakenham)

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.

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We take a look at some of the top racing stories of the day in our new feature and provide our experts’ racing selections on Thursday, February 16, 2017.

Gordon Elliott.jpg

Gigginstown House Stud, owners of Grand National favourite Don Poli, say he is “doubtful” for the race, after being given too much weight by handicapper Phil Smith. Eddie O’Leary, the stud’s racing manager, says: “Gordon (Elliott, right) has announced Outlander would not run, the simple reason he was given far too much weight – a higher mark than any horse who ran in the race in recent years. We’ll run very, very few in the race. Don Poli is doubtful, while Outlander is ruled out. Empire Of Dirt won’t go.”


Colin Tizzard confirms Cue Card (above) is “in flying form” and the 11-year-old will run in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup after taking him out of the Ryanair Chase. Ahead of his prep in the Ascot Chase on Saturday, Tizzard says: “We had a discussion with Jean Bishop (owner) and didn’t want to have the worry of having to make a late decision – it takes all temptation away and it wouldn’t make any difference winning the Ryanair again.”

Aintree chief John Baker was left “frustrated” with the revamped Grand National weights unveiling at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London on Tuesday evening. The timing of the announcement was too late at 9pm for some media coverage and bookmakers were not given prior sighing of the weights in time for print deadlines. The acoustics were also poor at the drinks reception. “I was at the back of the room trying to shush people,” said Baker. “As much as it was a great event at a great venue, the acoustics were problematical and I can’t avoid saying that people were rude.”

Horse Racing from Punchestown

Willie Mullins has no plans to supplement Neptune Novices’ Hurdle winner Yorkhill (right) for the Champion Hurdle, despite injuries to the winners of the last two renewals, Faugheen and Annie Power. Mullins said: “I’m happy to keep him over fences. It’s his novice year. We could seriously have a think about putting him back over hurdles next season if we want to. But at the moment we’re not thinking like that. At the moment the Champion Hurdle is not part of our plan.”

One-time ante-post favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Housesofparliament will miss Cheltenham and could be ruled out for the rest of the season following an injury at Leopardstown on Sunday. Trainer Joseph O’Brien said: “He suffered a nasty cut to his knee in the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown. It’s quite a bad cut and we will need to give him a few weeks before re-examining it. Hopefully he will be ok but at this stage I would say it is likely that he will be out for the remainder of the season now.”


Kotkikova will miss the Cheltenham Festival. As short as 10/1 for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, she has “done a splint” according to trainer Nicky Henderson. “We have to leave her alone for a bit. She loves soft ground and the plan was to go hurdling this year and then chasing next, but she needs a bit of time out so we’ll re-evaluate when we have her back and make a plan then.”

First season chasers Altior and Thistlecrack head the entries for the six non-Grade 1 championship races at the Cheltenham Festival after the latest scratching stage. Timeform has Thistlecrack top of its weight-adjusted ratings on 186 for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, narrowly ahead of last year’s runner-up Djakadam and stablemate Cue Card (184+) who has been scratched from the Ryanair Chase. A total of 29 entries remain for the Gold Cup. Willie Mullins-trained stars Douvan (193p) and Un De Sceaux (183) head Timeform’s ratings for the 2m Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase for which there are 20 acceptors. Unbeaten Altior (178p) has been left in after his dazzling display at Newbury, but is more likely to contest the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase.

Owner Andy Stewart will let the Old Guard take his chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month, taking on Unowhatimeanharry who beat him 18 lengths in the Cleeve Hurdle. “We’ll probably run him in the Stayers’ Hurdle and I’ll have another go at the race. We know he can’t really beat Unowhatimeanharry, but Old Guard has improved massively for that run. Everybody laughed at me the year Celestial Halo stepped in for Big Buck’s and I said he’d win it – coming to the last it looked like he would, but Solwhit just stayed on better.”

Paul Nicholls

The Paul Nicholls-trained (right) Saphir Du Rheu is likely to head to the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup rather than the Grand National after taking in today’s prep race in the four-runner Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso. Owner Any Stewart said: “I asked Paul what race he was going to run in at Cheltenham and he can’t win a handicap off his mark, so he’s going for the Gold Cup, We know we can’t beat Thistlecrack, but hopefully if he stands up this will be a nice confidence booster. I’d have thought the Grand National is a year too early for him.”

Saeed bin Suroor runs his best two fillies at Meydan this afternoon. Very Special runs in the Group 2 Balanchine while Promising Run, who made a winning return in the Al Rashidiya, takes on the boys in the Dubai Millennium Stakes. “Very Special won really well in the Cape Verdi and came out that race in good order,” said Bin Suroor. “She did a very nice piece of work over the weekend and is ready to go again. I am hoping to see her win again. Promising Run won nicely in the Al Rashidiya and she also looks a stronger filly this year. This trip (10 furlongs) will suit her.”

Cymric, who made a successful debut for Charlie Appleby a fortnight ago after leaving John Gosden, steps up in class for the Group 2 Zabeel Mile at Meydan today. Appleby said: “I was very pleased Cymric’s first start for our stable and he looks to have come out of that race in good order. He was placed in a Group 1 as a juvenile and he is going to be a contender if he can return to that level of form.” Taking him on will be the Hugo Palmer-trained Gifted Master. “He is well drawn in the competitive field of seven and we have our fingers firmly crossed that he can get his Dubai campaign off to a good start,” said Palmer.

Maggio faces a stiff task in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase at Kelso today, a stepping stone to the Randox Health Grand National. He must conceded 6lb to Saphir Du Rheu, despite that rival being rated 6lb superior. Trainer Pat Griffin’s son and assistant James said: “He’s always run above himself when he’s wrong at the weights, like when he won the Premier Chase a couple of years ago. If he runs as well as he seems at home he’ll go very close.”

Champers On Ice, third in last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle is likely to go up in trip at the Festival meeting after being well backed for an ultimately disappointing run in a 2m5f handicap chase at Cheltenham last month. Trainer David Pipe said; “I imagine it will be the four-mile novice chase for him. He’ll be in the handicaps as well. He had cheekpieces on in the Albert Bartlett last season and ran very well. I imagine we’ll look at putting some sort of headgear on him again in March.” He also holds an entry in the Ultima Handicap Chase which the yard won last year with Un Temps Pour Tout.

The Timeform Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso may have attracted a disappointing turnout of four this afternoon, but Nicky Richards is hopeful that last year’s runner-up One For Harry can go one better. He said: “We were second to Top Notch last year and we’re giving it another go. He’s a decent horse when he runs his race and he won at Wetherby last time despite it not being soft enough so the ground should be fine.”


Gold Cup Day, the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival on Friday, March 17, is completely sold out in all enclosures at Cheltenham. A limited amount of hospitality remains for Gold Cup Day, while there is still availability for the first three days of The Festival – Champion Day (Tuesday, March 14), Ladies Day (Wednesday, March 15) and St Patrick’s Thursday (Thursday, March 16). Cheltenham’s Ian Renton said: “We have seen strong demand for badges and tickets across all four days of The Festival, not just Gold Cup Day.”

Jockey Patrick Mullins thinks Deloitte Novice Hurdle winner Bacardys will be competitive in either the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.  He said: “He has just won a Grade 1 over 2m2f and the Neptune will be considered seriously as well as the Albert Bartlett. He will stay three miles as he won a point-to-point over that trip, but I think he is quick enough for the Neptune. I know that the Neptune has been a much luckier race for us than the Albert Bartlett, which we haven’t won, but I think he would be competitive in either race.”

The promising Mount Mews, winning of four of his five races for Malcolm Jefferson, will bypass Ascot this weekend and will wait for the Grade 2 Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle on March 4. He’s a horse I really like and I’m convinced we haven’t seen anywhere near the best of him yet. I’m really keen to see him in a better race because I think the better the race, the better he’ll be,” said Jefferson.

Foxrock is quoted as low as 6/1 in places for the Cross County Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, but owner Barry Connell revealed the horse will not take his chance. “He’s had one run over the banks in Punchestown, but he won’t be going for that,” Connell said. “He’ll run in either the English or Irish National and that would be his last run of the year. He’s better with a cut in the ground.”

Aintree Races

Highland Lodge missed the maximum 40-horse Grand National cut last spring but trainer Jimmy Moffatt is hopeful last season’s Becher Chase winner will get in this time after being handed 10st 6lb, putting him 42nd in the National list. Just beaten in the Becher this time round, Moffatt said: “I believe he’s got a chance to do something. He jumps the fences well and the Becher form looks pretty rock-solid in both years he’s run in it and there’s no doubt about him getting the trip. We’re pretty confident and we dare to dream. It’s a great opportunity for a small yard like ours.”

Four trainers face disciplinary action from the BHA after failing to notify the Racing Calendar Office that horses within their care had been gelded at least five days before they were due to run. Evan Williams (Jinsha Lake), Michael Mullineaux (Shadow Of Hercules), David Evans (Groundskeeperwilly), and Mick Easterby (Joyroo) all face enquiries for the rules violation.

Chester’s appearance money scheme introduced last year has been boosted to £500, which means owners are unlikely to be out of pocket. Chief executive Richard Thomas said: “This year we will be offering £500 to the owners of every horse, along with a sumptuous lunch and wine – they can come for a great day’s racing and know it shouldn’t cost them anything even if their horse is unplaced.”

Qatar Goodwood Festival - Day 5

Goodwood’s popular head groundsman Seamus Buckley, 64, has announced he will retire at the end of the 2017 Flat season. He will continue on a part-time basis while his successor is found. His 50 years in the sport was marked with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Racecourse Association Showcase awards ceremony at the end of last year.

Alary is out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup after suffering a heavy fall at Exeter on Sunday, with connections likely to duck the Festival altogether. The highly-touted French recruit has yet to finish a race in Britain and according to Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, Colin, the seven-year-old needs more time to settle in. Joe said: “He had a horrible fall but he is fine. We are running out of time for Cheltenham. He just deserves to have a clear round, find his feet and acclimatise. There is no panic with him.”

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Thursday, February 16, 2017

KELSO: 1.25 Reivers Lad (nb), 1.55 Spanish Fleet, 2.25 BORN SURVIVOR (NAP), 3.00 Saphir Du Rheu, 3.35 Forty Crown, 4.05 Black Thunder, 4.40 Some Reign

LEICESTER: 2.05 Barton Rose, 2.35 Texas Forever, 3.10 Crosspark, 3.45 Un Prophete, 4.20 Kentford Myth, 4.50 Sybarite

LINGFIELD PARK: 1.45 Moneyoryourlife, 2.15 Porto Ferro, 2.45 Juan Horsepower, 3.20 Critical Thinking, 3.55 Watersmeet, 4.30 Tavener, 5.00 Zabeel Star

CHELMSFORD CITY: 5.50 Celtic Artisan, 6.25 Ahead Of Time, 7.00 Silver Quay, 7.30 Curzon Line, 8.00 Mr Potter, 8.30 Kay Sera

Our Lucky 15 selections: Born Survivor (2.25 Kelso), Reivers Lad (1.25 Kelso), Un Prophete (3.45 Leicester), Critical Thinking (3.20 Lingfield Park)

Bet via Bet4Causes, where 20% of net revenue goes to sporting charities, who include Greatwood and World Horse Welfare.