The Jim Crowley Column: Villain is my hero

Bet4Causes brand ambassador Jim Crowley looks ahead to the Pitman’s Derby in his exclusive Racing Plus and Yahoo Sport UK column, and provides insight into on his rides over the next few days…

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By Jim Crowley

Change is in the air in more ways than one. What the Brexit from the European Union means for racing in this country is unclear.

There is the potential for the economy to have a little bit on a dip initially and I was a little bit sad to see David Cameron resign, as I think he has been a fantastic Prime Minister.

However, things will take time before we see any significant adjustment and it will be business as usual for those buying and selling horses, I should imagine.

There also been a little modification to one of the biggest staying handicaps on the calendar. The Northumberland Plate is now being run on an all-weather surface.

Newcastle’s new all-weather track has been getting very good reviews from those who have ridden on it and, over time, it will be a boon to the northern trainers.

Better known as the ‘Pitmen’s Derby’, the Northumberland Plate was first established in 1833 and it is so known because the local miners were given the day off to go and watch it.

Today, I aptly ride a horse who digs deep when you ask him to.

Arch Villain (4.15) has a plum draw in stall one. Trained by my sister-in-law Amanda Perrett, he has won four of his last six and absolutely loves the all-weather.

He had a tendon injury which kept him off for nine months before he won on his comeback at Lingfield in January (below, right). Then he won a two-mile conditions race off a mark of 98 the following month. He has not run since.

The plan was originally to go for the All-Weather Marathon Championship at Lingfield, but he missed that as he had a minor setback. I would have had a tough choice between him and Moonrise Landing, but I was lucky Arch Villain didn’t turn up and I partnered Ralph Beckett’s horse to victory.

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Arch Villain is very easy ride, Amanda’s horses are running well and I think he’s overpriced at around 16/1, purely because he has not run for four months.

He runs well fresh, he is a prominent racer who stays really well and, if he is going to win a big pot, this could be it.

I’ve also got a ride for Chris Gordon, who is one of the funniest guys I know – he has a terrific sense of humour. He is also not a bad trainer, either.

He does really well with his jumpers, and that is not really a surprise considering he used to be one of the top point-to-point riders in the country.

Chris, whom I’ve known for around 15 years, is based in Hampshire and to my mind, does not get anywhere near the recognition he deserves.

He started off on a small scale buying other people’s cast-offs and building them up. Lightentertainment flew the flag for the stable last season, at one stage winning five of six over hurdles, proof positive that if you give Chris the ammunition, he will get the best out of them and improve them.

He saddles Albahar (3.40) in the in the Northumberland Vase Handicap.

I won on him over two miles off a mark of 78  on the Polytrack at Chelmsford in February and William Buick won a decent handicap on him over the same trip at Goodwood last time off 83. His only runs which were sub-par came on good to firm ground, so you can discount them.

He is an improving horse and likes the all-weather, winning twice in five attempts. He also stays very well, but on the downside, the five-year-old has a bad draw – he’s out in the car park in stall 18.

Despite the trip, a wide draw can have a big impact, particularly at Newcastle. He has also gone up another 9lb for that Goodwood win last month, so will need a career-best to get close. You’d have to be hopeful rather than confident.

We will all have one eye on the Irish Derby. Algometer, my Epsom ride, is not taking part – I think would have been hard to turn the form around with Harzand (5.20 Curragh) – and neither is Us Army Ranger, which is a shame because I felt he was the best horse and it would have been good to see them clash again.

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Harzand goes for a Derby double

One for the notebook

Sometimes you get days when horses you think will run well don’t. Other days, you are nicely surprised. On Thursday, Emmie was a pleasant surprise.

I have been lucky for her owner, Mary-Anne Parker, before. In 2012, I rode a filly of hers called Roz, who won nicely and then was second in the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

Emmie made her debut at Newbury over seven-furlongs at Newbury and I was quite taken with her after she won really well. I told Harry Dunlop that I thought the daughter of High Chaparral could be very smart and had a job pulling her up. She’ll get further.

Let’s hope there are a couple of nice surprises next week.

Windsor is the destination on Monday and Catchment (6.55) is a nice filly. She has been runner-up on a couple of occasions and should go close in a maiden fillies’ race off a mark of 75. She should go close.

I have a few rides at Brighton on Tuesday with the pick of them appearing to be Sixties Love (3.45), who always runs well there. She has been second on her last four visits and we appear to have got her trip right now. Hopefully, she can go one better.

Canford Belle (2.15) should also go close. She was stopped when making her run last time and she is down to a mark of 55, which is just 1lb higher than when last scoring.

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The Jim Crowley Column: Time for Sleepy

Bet4Causes brand ambassador Jim Crowley reflects on the Royal meeting and in his exclusive Racing Plus column, provides insight into on his rides at Ascot on Saturday and over the next few days…

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By Jim Crowley

ROYAL ASCOT 2016 provided some great highlights, particularly for Adam Kirby.

He became a father just hours before riding the first of two Group One winners at the meeting and, understandably, he was emotional in the post-race TV interview.

Adam is a better man than he is a jockey – and he’s a brilliant jockey.

So I don’t think there was one person in the weighing room who wasn’t delighted for him when he came home in front on Profitable for Clive Cox in the King’s Stand (below), just hours after his girlfriend Megan gave birth to their son, Charlie.

Adam is a great lad, always helpful to the media and fans of the sport, and would do anything for anyone. He deserves all the success going.

It could not have been a better week for him when he won his second Group One, again for Clive, aboard My Dream Boat in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday.

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If you did not know it already, that jockey-trainer combination is a match for anyone.

I was pleased for horse as well. Incidentally, I rode his sire, Lord Shanakill, who won the Prix Jean Prat in 2009 for Karl Burke. He is now at stud in Pennsylvania. The horse, not Karl!

Despite the soft ground – you have to feel so sorry for clerk of the course Chris Stickels, who does a tremendous job – there were some startling performances. Lady Aurelia looked a superstar in romping away with the Queen Mary and Ardad scorched home in the Windsor Castle.

Caravaggio looked very impressive in the Coventry and he wasn’t stopping when he hit the front in the easy ground. There is no doubt, even at this early stage, he might develop into Classic material.

Abe Lincoln was the highlight for me. It was a case of so near, but yet so far in the Britannia Handicap as Jeremy Noseda’s colt ran an absolute blinder (below) in ground he did not like, coming alone down the centre of the track. He was in front a stride after the line.

Royal Ascot 2016: Day Three

The ground was very much against Manson in the same race. He was 19th of the 28 runners in the end, but he could develop into a smart handicapper. Dominic Ffrench Davis is planning on sending him to the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington in Chicago in August. He will have his day before too long.

I was also delighted with We Are Ninety, who was beaten just over three lengths in the Ribblesdale. There is more to come from Hugo Palmer’s filly, I am sure.

While I haven’t had a winner at the Royal meeting this week, I still have a couple of chances today.

Not So Sleepy (3.05) will have a good chance in the Wolferton Handicap. Last year I won the Dee Stakes on him in very soft ground at Chester for Hughie Morrison (below) and then he ran well at Windsor when finishing in front of Fascinating Rock, who went on to win the Champions Stakes.

He ran a fine race on his return behind Time Test at Sandown and he would be my best chance of a winner.

Seaside Sizzler (5.35) has run well in the Queen Alexandra for William Knight a couple of times and stays well. He won’t mind any cut in the ground and perhaps he’d have an each-way chance if things fall right.

Salisbury Races

Sunday best

I am up at Pontefract tomorrow, where I partner Pumblechook (2.40) for Lucy Wadham. I’ve been looking forward to riding this full brother to Chinese White, who won the 1m2f Irish Pretty Polly Stakes (Group One) in 2010, since he made his debut when third to Wings Of Desire at Wolverhampton.

It could be a good afternoon, as I also ride Duretto (3.40) for Andrew Balding in a Listed 1m4f handicap. He lost a hind shoe at Epsom and he would have a decent chance of gaining compensation for missing the cut at Ascot this week.

Kindly (5.10) was a winner for Simon Crisford at Chelmsford last time and I hope she can follow up on her handicap debut off a mark of 75. She is a progressive filly and I quite like her.

On Monday I’m at Windsor where I ride Sixties Groove (8.20) for Jeremy Noseda. He won nicely at Kempton when stepped up in trip to 1m3f, but he has gone up 8lb for a length victory which seems a little excessive. He is getting his act together now and hopefully he will go in again, as he doesn’t mind any cut in the ground.

At Leicester on Tuesday I ride Hearty (6.10) for Jeremy Noseda, who won last time out in soft ground at Lingfield. He is quite a lazy horse who will only give you what you ask for, but he could run well.

Rule may take time to bed in

There is a new rule that jockeys feel might take a while to bed in.

With the support of the Jockeys’ Association, Andrea Atzeni and solicitor Rory Mac Neice, on Thursday I went to the BHA to appeal a four-day ban handed down by the Nottingham stewards. They had deemed I had committed an improper riding offence, having angled out to get a run on Aristocles, who won a 1m6f handicap on June 1.

To keep it simple, let’s just say there is a fine line between improper and careless riding. A jockey’s job is to do his best for connections and the betting public.

The BHA found that there was “an important and unfortunate discrepancy between the Rule as drafted, and as set out in the booklet used by officials on the racecourse. Clarification is needed as a matter of urgency so that there is alignment between the Rule Book and the Guide”.

So thanks to Andrea, Rory and the Jockeys’ Association, I am free to ride next week.

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Jim Crowley: A good Selection for the Guineas

We are delighted to announce that top jockey Jim Crowley has become Flat racing Brand Ambassador for Bet4Causes.

You can read his columns in the Racing Plus newspaper every Saturday.

Jim has rides in both Newmarket Classics this weekend and gives us the low-down on his mounts, plus a few horses to follow for the next few days.

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By Jim Crowley

WHERE do you start? Trying to find a chink in the armour of Air Force Blue is nigh on impossible and he is obviously going to be very hard to crack in the 2000 Guineas.

He wears a tongue tie for the first time as he bids to give Aidan O’Brien a seventh win in the race, but he is deservedly a warm order.

Although it is a pity for racing fans that Emotionless was not quite ready to take him on again, if he replicates his Dewhurst-winning form, he should take the honours.

I’m fortunate enough to ride First Selection (3.45 Newmarket) for Simon Crisford. Like Air Force Blue, he is trying new equipment for the first time and we hope the fitting of a hood will help him.

First Selection won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown last August, where he put his stamina to good use and made all. While things didn’t work out for him in Dubai (he pulled too hard in a Listed race) we are very happy with him and he would have a small each-way chance.

While Air Force Blue is going to be very hard to beat, I quite like Marcel at a fair price. His form ties in very well, because he beat Johannes Vermeer in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster and that one subsequently won a Group 1 in France with Stormy Antarctic (currently second-favourite) behind him.

Doncaster Races

Marcel (above) is currently 12/1 with Bet4Causes, and while it could be argued that he may want a little bit more cut in the ground, Peter Chapple-Hyam is a master at training them for the big day.

It is always a thrill to ride on the biggest days at HQ and I kick off the afternoon with Niceofyoutotellme (2.00) for Ralph Beckett. He won this race two years ago and obviously is a little bit higher in the weights now, but seems to be a better horse.

He was third in the Brigadier Stakes at Sandown last May with horses like Tryster and Eagle Top behind him, and is now rated a couple of pounds below that mark. It is a great ride to pick up and Ralph’s horses are in good form.

I’ve ridden Justineo (Newmarket 2.30) for Roger Varian a couple of times. He has his first run for sprint king Robert Cowell in the Palace House Stakes and Robert is very hopeful – he says he’s going very well at home.

Obviously it is a competitive Group 3, but it is another great ride to pick up and I’m pretty sure if he doesn’t hit the target today, he will certainly do so somewhere in the season.

Tomorrow, it is the fillies’ turn on the Rowley Mile. Aljazzi (3.40) is my mount in the 1000 Guineas. She won a very nice 7f maiden here last year which has been won in the past by the likes of The Fugue.

She went to Chelmsford a couple of weeks ago, but running on the all-weather probably wasn’t her cup of tea. In a slowly-run race, she was out of her ground behind Marenko and will probably will be a lot better on the grass.

The Guineas is a big step up for Marco Botti’s filly, but this race can often throw up a surprise.

The attention will be on Aidan O’Brien’s trio of Minding, Ballydoyle and Alice Springs and one of them will probably win, but I think you’ll see a really big-priced horse finishing in the first three.

If not Aljazzi, it could be the William Knight-trained Robanne, who was third to Nathra in the Nell Gwyn, but caught the eye making up ground hand over fist (below, far right). It would be no shock if she hit the frame at a big price – the extra furlong should help her.

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I also ride Forgotten Hero (1.50) for Kim Bailey in the opening 1m4f handicap. Formerly with Charlie Hills, this hard-knocking sort is a decent horse on his day if things fall right, he would have a chance.

Finally, Clear Spring (3.00) won a couple of 6f handicaps last May and John Spearing’s runner has dropped back to a mark 3lb below his last win, so he’d have a small each-way squeak in a competitive handicap.

TIME FOR A NAP

Fellow Bet4Causes Brand Ambassador Emma Lavelle signed off the Jumps season tipping a decent-priced winner in Junction Fourteen last week, so the pressure is now on me to deliver the goods.

While I am at Newmarket today, I will have one eye on Solar Flair (Goodwood 2.50).

Trained by William Knight, he was second on his seasonal debut at Kempton from a bad draw, but he looked very progressive last year and his only blip was at Glorious Goodwood where the race didn’t pan out. It is a competitive 7f handicap, but he is a very nice horse and he will take a bit of beating. Fingers crossed, he’d be my nap of the weekend.

On Monday, I’m at Windsor and ride Niceonecenturion (3.25) in the mile maiden. He is a nice horse who will pay his way through the season and he will be worth following.

And on Tuesday, Monks Stand (Brighton 2.20), trained by Jeremy Noseda, should run very well in the 5f novice stakes. I’m really looking forward to riding him.

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Emma Lavelle – Javert our great white Cheltenham hope

Top trainer Emma Lavelle is Jumps Racing Ambassador for Bet4Causes and columnist for the Racing Plus newspaper. In her brand new column, she outlines her Cheltenham Festival hopes and takes a look at Saturday’s cards.

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By Emma Lavelle

We have always taken the view that having social runners at the Cheltenham Festival was not for us – we only ever wanted to have runners with a chance of being involved at the finish. Hence we have never gone there with a massive team, no matter how many nice horses we may have.

Next week will be no different.

JAVERT runs in the 2m4f novices’ handicap chase on Tuesday and is our great white hope. He is a seriously nice horse who has done very little wrong this season and won at Chepstow on his seasonal debut. He also beat subsequent winner Fairy Rath by 12 lengths at Doncaster.

I still think he is well handicapped. He was even better handicapped before last week when they put him up 2lb for standing in his box.

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Javert: Big hope

Javert, who is owned by the Axom Lii partnership, is definitely the best chance for us. He is a big, strong, laid-back individual and a good traveller. You can lose your race in the paddock at any course and especially at Cheltenham, as it is such an amphitheatre. Horses with a good temperament are at an advantage, because there is a lot of noise and excitement, and we have no worries on that score.

He has been in great order at home and I can’t wait for Tuesday. The ground should be near perfect and I’m expecting a big run.

FOX APPEAL will run in the 3m Ultima Handicap Chase, also on Tuesday, but I don’t know what I have done to upset the handicapper.

He ran at Kempton two weeks ago and ran better than the finishing position suggested. He got low at a few and still managed to get back into the race. The winner, Theatre Guide, dead-heated with Fox Appeal in a Graduation chase 18 months ago at Kempton off level weights.

But at Kempton, we were giving Theatre Guide 11lb – and that was even after he was second in a Hennessy Gold Cup. You do sit there and think ‘what have I done wrong?’

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Hard as nails: Fox Appeal

Fox Appeal is as hard as nails and one of these big handicaps will fall his way at some stage but he does have a very irritating habit of throwing the odd dreadful jump in – hopefully not on Tuesday! Whether he is good enough to go and do that at Cheltenham, who knows? But he definitely deserves to go and win one.

Many of our horses have quicker-ground pedigrees and with the incessant rain this winter, I may as well have gone into hibernation.

MOSSPARK (Sandown 2.35) runs in the 3m handicap chase but he is not the most reliable, despite having plenty of ability. He probably needs the sun to dry the ground a bit and he should be an each-way price. I’d suggest he has an each-way chance but no more than that.

We have FORTUNATE GEORGE in at Plumpton on Monday (2.10) in a novices’ hurdle. He suffered a hairline crack when he whopped a hurdle at Kempton in November, but he has worked very well and is in great nick. He could be worth an investment.

As for Lavelle’s Lucky 15 today, ALACALA (Sandown 2.00) won last time out at Fontwell, defying a penalty and won with a bit in hand. He is expected to improve for that and Paul Nicholls’ runner has a low weight for the EBF Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final.

Gary Moore and Sandown is always a great combination and CLAYTON (3.10) is at the foot of the weights for the Imperial Cup. The ground may be a shade slow but he is one to keep an eye on.

Venetia Williams’ string is in good order and PRESSURIZE (Chepstow 4.45) may be able to land the hat-trick. He made a horlicks of the last at Wincanton in a novices’ chase, but he looks progressive.

Finally, ONE FOR ARTHUR (Ayr 4.05) handled the extended 3m well at Carlisle last time and despite being beaten, he is down another 1lb and if conditions are not too soft, he may go one better for Lucinda Russell.

Say it ain’t so, Joe

It may have been a bolt from the blue to some, but not for those in racing circles. The news that Joseph O’Brien was to turn to a full-time training career at the tender age of 22 was not a complete surprise.

His height was always going to make it difficult to maintain his weight for Flat racing, yet it must be tough to give up what has been a spectacular riding career. His success with the likes of Camelot (a dual-Guineas and Derby winner) and Australia (dual Derby winner) is something most jockeys spend a lifetime dreaming about.

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New career: Joseph O’Brien

Of course, he has ridden Coolmore blue-bloods, but Joseph developed into one of the top jockeys on merit and the way he handled the pressure that came with the job deserves huge credit and is a lesson to many.  His talent is certain to shine through in his new career.

But it is hard enough trying to compete with one O’Brien. Now we have to do it against two. Your sympathy is most welcome. I need a hug.

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