DAILY RACING DIGEST – FRIDAY

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 Friday, March 3, 2017.

cheltenham

Bet4Causes cut The New One to 14/1 for the Champion Hurdle after trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies gave a positive report on the nine-year-old, who will bid to land the race at the fourth time of asking. “It would be wonderful, the highlight of everything if he won and it’s time it happened for him,” the trainer said. “The handicapper tells us he’s always right and if you look at the ratings he should be right there. Himself and Yanworth are the two top-rated ones, and there’s 1lb between them. Cheltenham brings the best out of him and hopefully this is the year when everything falls right for him.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/twiston-davies-this-could-be-the-new-one-s-year/276755
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49482/nigel-twiston-davies-hopes-fortune-can-favour-the-new-one-in-champion-hurdl

Cheltenham Festival - St Patrick's Thursday


Limini (right) is now 7/1 with Bet4Causes, despite owner Rich Ricci appearing to have cooled on her chances of being supplemented for the  Champion Hurdle on Tuesday week. Ricci said: “Susannah (Ricci’s wife who co-owns Limini) and I have discussed it and if Limini had been originally entered, it would be a different matter, but to be supplementing, you really want to be doing that if you think you have a good chance of winning the race. Do you really want to be doing that and just finishing fourth? I’m going to talk to a few experts and see what they say. It’s a possibility but nothing has been decided.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/rich-ricci:-no-limini-decision/40368

bristol-de-mai


Nigel Twiston-Davies was left disappointed after Bristol De Mai (right) followed up his Peter Marsh Chase win at Haydock with a tame effort in defeat to Native River at Newbury. The trainer is becoming increasingly bullish over the grey’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup chance, however. He said: “We thought, ‘Oh dear, he’s not very good’, but we got him back and he was lame for the whole of the next week. He’s come back right now and if he stays sound, he’s very good and I’m very hopeful.”
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2993900/cheltenham-festival-2017-nigel-twiston-davies-looking-forward-to-running-bristol-de-mai-in-the-cheltenham-gold-cup/


When Golden Jeffrey lines up in the Champion Bumper he will be leading Flat trainer Mark Johnston’s first runner at the Cheltenham Festival for almost 20 years. The four-year-old, owned and bred by Swiss-based Markus Graff, won at Ayr on Monday. Johnston said: “Markus Graff bred Golden Jeffrey and he was quite a backward horse early on. He has a small stud in Switzerland which he is trying to make commercial. There have not been any enquiries yet but, if there were, I am sure the owner would be keen to sell him.”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4276396/Mark-Johnston-set-run-Golden-Jeffrey-Cheltenham.html


Nigel Twiston-DaviesSpeaking at his press day ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, Nigel Twiston-Davies (right) confirmed that Ballyandy will run in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He said: “He has got plenty of speed. He won there this time last year, although it was over two miles with no hurdles. We are really looking forward to it and hopefully we will be able to take our revenge on Moon Racer (who beat him in the Supreme Trial in November).”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49488/nigel-twiston-davies-plumps-for-supreme-bid-with-ballyandy
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2995410/cheltenham-festival-2017-nigel-twiston-davies-updates-us-on-his-cheltenham-festival-team-including-betfair-hurdle-winner-ballyandy/


Eddie Lynam has announced the retirement of popular multiple Group 1-winning sprinter Sole Power. The 10-year-old had his last run when sixth in the Meydan Sprint two weeks ago. Lynam said: “We’ve decided to call it a day with him. He was a great horse, but time waits for no man and he’s been retired.” Sole Power won 12 of his 65 starts, was placed on a further 14 occasions and earned over £2m in prize-money. Lynam added: “He’ll have a few months at home to chill and then he’ll head over to Horse Park Stud, where a lot of our retired horses go. Putting him on the horsebox that one last time, that will be the saddest day.”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49477/eddie-lynam-calls-time-on-decorated-career-of-sole-power
https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/five-time-group-1-winner-sole-power-retired/276726


Jockey George Baker remains in intensive care following his horror fall on the ice of St Moritz on Sunday. The Classic-winning rider suffered a severe concussion and was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Chur. His agent Guy Jewell said: “There’s nothing new to report, really. He’s still in intensive care and is much the same as he was a couple of days ago. He’s still resting and sleeping a lot.”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49483/george-baker-continuing-recovery-in-intensive-care-after-st-moritz-fall


Venetia WilliamsAidan Coleman recorded his second successive century of winners when guiding Marcilhac to victory in the Forbra Gold Cup at Ludlow for Venetia Williams (tight) – one of a quartet of winners on the day for the Herefordshire trainer. Coleman notched 129 winners last season and he said: “The goal at the start of year was to get somewhere near 100 winners, to get that and hopefully add to it would be great.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/coleman-reaches-100-winners/40300
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49491/ton-up-for-aidan-coleman-at-ludlow


David PipeDavid Pipe (right)is still mulling over a possible Champion Hurdle tilt with Moon Racer. The eight-year-old, not seen since making it two from two over hurdles at the Open Meeting at Cheltenham in November, also holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Pipe said: “He’s proved on the track that he’s a very good horse and we thought at the time that it was worth entering him in the Champion Hurdle. He’ll be left in that and the Supreme at the five-day stage and we’ll make a decision after that.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/late-call-on-moon-racer-target/40160


Winner of a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham last time, Foxtail Hill has been earmarked by Nigel Twiston-Davies as his ace in the Cheltenham Festival pack. He runs in the Close Brothers’ Handicap Chase and the trainer said: “I think Foxtail Hill is probably our best chance. It is just the way the race turns out, as there is only three or four pounds between the lot of them. He is nearly a JLT horse, but why go for that when you have got a lower-class race? He was very impressive there last time and he managed to stay inside the rating band of 0-140.”
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2995410/cheltenham-festival-2017-nigel-twiston-davies-updates-us-on-his-cheltenham-festival-team-including-betfair-hurdle-winner-ballyandy/


London trainer Andrew Reid has not renewed his licence after sending out one winner from 39 runners last season. The gallop at his Mill Hill yard needs to be replaced and he explained: “Being on London clay, we weren’t going to do that until the summer. I had never had injuries, but I was starting to get them, and the only explanation was the gallop. I sold a lot of horses and wouldn’t think I’ll have runners this year, but it depends on when we can start work on the gallop.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/lawyer-reid-calls-time-on-training-career-with-no-runners-this-year/276780

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Friday, March 3, 2017

DONCASTER: 1.50 Generous Day, 2.20 Wenyerreadyfreddie, 2.50 Tiquer, 3.25 Taweyla (nb), 4.00 Copper Kay, 4.30 Apterix, 5.05 The Wise One

LINGFIELD: 2.00 Remember Me, 2.30 HAVELOCK (NAP), 3.05 Black Dave, 3.40 Intransigent, 4.10 Mullarkey, 4.45 Ulysses

NEWBURY: 2.10 Alcanar, 2.40 Le Breuil, 3.15 Red Devil Star, 3.50 Millanisi Boy, 4.20 Reilly’s Minor, 4.55 Bally Gilbert, 5.25 Athgate Rosalie

NEWCASTLE: 5.15 Persun, 5.45 Fiendish, 6.15 Poet’s Reward, 6.45 Bastia, 7.15 Kinloch Pride, 7.45 Mr Andros

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

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DAILY RACING DIGEST – THURSDAY

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, March 2, 2017.

blacklion


Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies has doubts that son Willy will be able to gain the required number of chase wins by April 6 to ride Blaklion (right) in the Grand National. Willy, who has spent the last five years concentrating on the Flat, has 12 career wins over jumps. His father said: “Willy still needs thee winners over fences. It might quite hard work. I have not got that many young chasers coming up and most of them have gone up the handicap. It is more difficult to find winners at this time of year.”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4271910/Nigel-Twiston-Davies-doubts-son-s-Blaklion-National-ride.html


Michael O’Leary has removed Don Poli, Empire Of Dirt and Outlander from the Grand National, as he said he would, following his displeasure at the weights meted out by official BHA handicapper Phil Smith. Champagne West, Dromnea and Otago Trail have also been scratched, along with several other Gigginstown runners including Clarcam, Tiger Roll and A Toi Phil. A total of 95 entries remain with the weights now headed by Carlingford Lough.
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2983756/2017-grand-national-field-cut-to-95-entries-as-don-poli-outlander-empire-of-dirt-were-among-the-horses-taken-out-at-the-latest-scratchings-deadlines/


cheltenhamBHA senior handicapper Phil Smith his back at critics after unveiling the weights for the 10 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, insisting “there is no semblance of any anti-Irish bias”. In statement he said the BHA’s handicapping approach with Irish horses has provided “greater equality and fairness” after years of what he felt was a “disproportionately high success rate of Irish runners in British handicaps” – most significantly at the Cheltenham Festival.
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49463/phil-smith-insists-no-anti-irish-bias-in-handicap-ratings


Alan King is in the dark over who will ride JP McManus-owned stable star Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle. The Kingwell Hurdle winner is as short as 10/3 for the 2m feature on March 14, but regular pilot Barry Geraghty is nursing six broken ribs and will miss the Cheltenham Festival. King said: “I don’t know who is going to ride him and we need to speak at the weekend, as we do need to find out. Obviously I would like them to come and have a sit on him. No one has ridden him over a hurdle bar Barry Geraghty, so whoever rides him we want to come and school him and possibly ride a bit of work.”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49471/alan-king-eager-to-pencil-in-champion-hurdle-jockey-for-yanworth


Nicky HendersonWith Barry Geraghty ruled out through injury, Noel Fehily is likely to come in for the plum Champion Hurdle ride on the JP McManus-owned Buveur D’Air, who made a successful transition back to hurdles in a Listed event at Sandown. Trainer Nicky Henderson (right) said: “I suspect he will. I saw JP on Monday and I don’t think anybody has really discussed it as there are so many horses involved in the conundrum.”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49471/alan-king-eager-to-pencil-in-champion-hurdle-jockey-for-yanworth


Cheltenham Festival - St Patrick's Day

Though unseating Mark Walsh at the last in the Irish Gold Cup, former Stayers’ Hurdle winner More Of That (right) has trainer Jonjo O’Neill growing in confidence ahead of his Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup run. “We never saw a spark this season until his last run in the Irish Gold Cup,” said O’Neill. “He’d have to be at his best, of course, but the race is open and he loves the track.” More Of That is currently 16/1 (from 20/1) with Bet4Causes.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/racing/2017/03/01/jonjo-oneill-expecting-go-close-gold-cup/


A federal judge has rejected leading Irish horseracing owner JP McManus’s bid to recover the $5.22m he claimed the US government withheld as tax from a backgammon win. McManus claimed that paying a relatively small “domicile levy” in Ireland should leave him exempt from tax taken by authorities, but judge Nancy Firestone denied his request to order the IRS to hand over the money.
Source: http://calvinayre.com/2017/03/01/business/jp-mcmanus-loses-battle-to-claim-5-2m-tax-refund-from-us/


Despite falling at Kempton on Saturday, Nicky Henderson says he intends to run Charli Parcs in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, rather than the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. “I think we were always leaning towards the Triumph and that’s still the case. If he’s in good form, I think he will come here. Divin Bere could also end up going in the same race. We’ll have to see how the weights work out for the Fred Winter.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/March/01/triumph-hurdle-on-the-agenda-for-charli-parcs-after-pleasing-home-spin
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49464/triumph-hurdle-on-the-agenda-for-charli-parcs-after-pleasing-home-spin


Thistlecrack’s younger half-brother West Approach is likely to run in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle rather than taking on his elders in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Trainer Colin Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe said: “We purposely protected his novice status last year and however brave John and Heather Snook (owners) are, throwing a novice in the deep end is tough. I think with this one he has one chance as a novice and he has got a great chance in the Albert Bartlett.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/March/01/west-approach-likely-to-stick-to-novice-company-at-cheltenham
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49468/west-approach-likely-to-stick-to-novice-company-at-cheltenham

Willie Mullins 1


Willie Mullins (right) has won the Cheltenham Champion Bumper nine times and feels Carter McKay could be his brightest chance of landing the March 15 finale again. His is one of five Mullins entries of the 36 remaining and the trainer said: “Carter McKay could look the one on his form of the last day. He’d been doing nice work at home before Naas and his performance was better than I hoped, but you don’t go expecting performances like that. That performance would compare to anything. A horse that can win around Naas doing that is a fair machine.”
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49465/exciting-carter-mckay-leads-champion-bumper-squad-for-willie-mullins


An experiment to monitor the heart rates of some leading figures at the Cheltenham Festival has been organised. Commentator Richard Hoiles, ITV colleague Ed Chamberlin, trainer Ben Pauling and broadcaster Rupert Bell will be tested. Hoiles said: “I would be interested in the results as I did think I was relatively laid-back, but then someone posted a video of me commentating next to John Hunt during the Champion Stakes – I was shocked by just how animated I was getting!”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/pauling-in-the-spotlight-as-high-bridge-aims-to-be-supreme-player/276523


Brian Proctor, former jockey and work-rider for trainer Dick Hern, has died at the age of 75. Legendary jockey Willie Carson said: “He was Dick Hern’s right-hand man and I had some good times with him. He was involved with everything that happened at West Ilsley. If there was a problem Dick and Brian sorted it out. Nothing fazed him, he knew what to do with horses. He was a great man to have in the yard and a great man to deal with a difficult horse.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/herns-right-hand-man-spent-half-a-century-working-with-the-stars/276646

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Thursday, March 2, 2017

TAUNTON: 2.00 Ice Konig, 2.30  Saint Breiz, 3.00 Spiritofthegames, 3.35 Sir Ivan, 4.10 The Unit, 4.45 Jonagold, 5.15 Lost In Lecce

NEWCASTLE: 2.10 Free Code, 2.40 Stoneham, 3.10 Be Perfect, 3.45 Magistral, 4.20 Ms Gillard, 4.55 Bargain Buy, 5.25 Aprovado

LUDLOW: 2.20 MANSION (NAP), 2.50 Some Are Lucky, 3.25 Mixchivous (nb), 4.00 Dusky Lark, 4.35 Miss Spent, 5.05 Invisible Man, 5.35 Centurious

CHELMSFORD CITY: 5.20 Justice Rock, 5.55 National Service, 6.25 Atalante, 6.55 Clement, 7.25 Winning Story, 7.55 Kenstone, 8.25 No Not Again, 8.55 Par Three

Wednesday’s NAP was a winner!

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Adrian Morley – what a start to the Super League season!

 

adrian-morley-leeds

Two rounds in and with the exception of Wakefield and Widnes, everyone has a win to their name. It really does look like being a corker of a season.

Last weekend saw excitement a plenty with Wakefield leading the Giants at half time, Leeds being pushed all the way by a very efficient and physically strong Salford, Wigan given the scare of their life by Widnes who led for almost all of the game, Castleford going to the top of the table after beating Warrington in a belter and the Leigh getting their maiden win over, of all sides, St Helens – and that was just Friday!

On Thursday, Catalan showed the sort of mettle we haven’t seen before and disposed of Hull.

It was just the best round of Super League I can remember. So what have we learned?

  1. Salford don’t make many mistakes and Robert Lui is in fabulous form, and teams up brilliantly with Micheal Dobson with some powerful forwards who create great running room for Junior Sau – they are underestimated in their games
  2. Leeds need to believe in themselves and just be a little more patient. Their defence looks good in the middle but they need to work right across the park.
  3. Huddersfield need to start caring about the ball, complete their sets and they will trouble almost everyone. They just give it up too often.
  4. St Helens have got some early season issues. They really need to find a leader fast.
  5. Leigh can compete with anyone. They have had a tough start and have played really well. They need to avoid injuries but they are really well organised, disciplined and happy. It really looks good on the park.
  6. Catalan look like a team who can win, as long as Luke Walsh stays fit and his team remain as disciplined as they were against Hull. I have rarely seen a performance like this from a French team. Very impressive.
  7. That leaves Warrington and Castleford, and it’s hard to weigh this game up. No bias here but I don’t think the Wolves were at their best with many of their star names out and I think the Tigers were.

I can’t wait for this weekend. We start with Castleford against Leeds on Thursday at the Jungle and whilst Castleford will be the rightful favourites, I just think Leeds are starting to click and Leeds on the handicap seems a great option.

Hull take on The Giants, who are at home for the third straight game with both desperate to win. It’s amazing, it’s only the third round but these points are almost worth double at the moment. If the Giants can hold the ball they could spring an upset.

St Helens take on Wakefield and whilst the Wildcats showed glimpses last week, the Saints should be back to winning ways at home.

Wigan at home should be able to account for Leigh but again Leigh with a 16-point start are very appealing and will be a hard nut to crack buoyed with confidence, as they are after their win last weekend.

Warrington will bounce back against Salford but that doesn’t mean Salford are easy beats, it just means they are up against a very good team, in my opinion the best in the Super League. If the Wolves aren’t the best, then Catalan might be and for that reason they will account for Widnes. You have to give up 18 points on the handicap line but at home with their tails up, they just might defy that mark.

It’s another special weekend of rugby games and they just keep coming.

 

DAILY RACING DIGEST – WEDNESDAY

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, March 1, 2017.

Kempton Races


Champion jockey Jim Crowley (right) may have a new retained role with Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, but insists “I don’t want anyone thinking I won’t be going for the title again”.
Former jump jockey Crowley won his first Flat title after a titanic battle with Silvestre De Sousa last year and the former champ gained his first winner with his first ride at Lingfield yesterday. Crowley said: “If I am still in with a shot when Glorious Goodwood comes round, I am definitely going to give it a go. I don’t want people to think I won’t be going for the title again. You simply can’t have that attitude.”
Source: Press Association


Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle favourite Death Duty has been tabbed by trainer Gordon Elliott as his top gun for the Cheltenham Festival. Unbeaten over hurdles, he will spearhead a strong challenge on March 17, with Lexus Chase winner Outlander and Don Poli both heading to the Timico Gold Cup. Speaking at yesterday’s media day Elliott said: “We’ll have several horses travelling over with decent chances but there’s no getting away from it – Death Duty appears to be our big hope. He’s a very good horse and I’d say the best novice hurdler we’ve had.” Death Duty is currently Bet4Causes’ 11/4 favourite for the 3m event.
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/albert-bartlett-favourite-death-duty-leads-charge-for-rampant-yard/276604

gordon-elliott


Gordon Elliott (right) will send a team of “about 30 horses across” to the Cheltenham Festival in two weeks’ time. While Don Cossack’s Timico Gold Cup victory was the highlight of three winners at the Festival last season, his star has subsequently been retired through injury. Elliott admitted: “On numbers I’d say we have a lot more fancied ones this year, but we had three winners last year and it will be hard to beat that.”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4269496/Gordon-Elliott-send-30-horses-Cheltenham.html


Tombstone will have to come through a satisfactory piece of work at the weekend to book his place in the  Champion Hurdle. Trained by Gordon Elliott, the recent conqueror of former 2m king Jezki needs to be supplemented for the March 14 feature. Elliott said: “If everything goes all right and he works all right at the weekend, the plan is we’ll probably run him in the Champion Hurdle. It’s a very good race, but it’s probably an open enough race. We’ve never had a runner in the Champion Hurdle, so I don’t know what it takes to win one, but why not have a go?”
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4269496/Gordon-Elliott-send-30-horses-Cheltenham.html


Mutakayyef, who missed the  Winter Derby at Lingfield with a foot abscess, is still on course for the Dubai Turf. Trainer William Haggas said: “His foot is fine, it was just very unfortunate timing. He’ll be back ridden tomorrow and there’s no question of it ruling him out of Dubai. We’ll take him away for a gallop somewhere first, that will put him right.”
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2976927/william-haggas-confirms-mutakayyef-still-on-dubai-mission-despite-lingfield-setback/

thistlecrack


Colin Tizzard has ruled King George VI Chase hero Thistlecrack out until Christmas following a second scan on his torn tendon. “Thistlecrack’s second scan came back exactly the same as the first, as we expected it would,” said Tizzard. “As communicated previously, Thistlecrack will not run again this season and all being well we’d expect him to be back at Christmas.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/28/colin-tizzard-confirms-thistlecrack-expected-to-be-back-for-christmas
https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/hes-out-and-thats-it-thistlecrack-will-definitely-not-run/276589


Camping Ground is set to miss the Cheltenham Festival in favour of the Aintree Hurdle, following his demolition job in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. Trainer Gary Moore said: “It was nice for the horse, he did it well and has come out of it pretty good. We just need to work out where to go with him now. I think two miles is too sharp and three miles is too far, so we need to go somewhere in between and we’re better off waiting for Liverpool.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/28/gary-moore-eager-to-pitch-camping-ground-into-aintree-hurdle


The new 2kg (4.4lb) allowance for female jockeys in France starts today at Deauville. Apprentice Alison Massin has seven booked rides. In all, 13 of the 96 runners at Deauville will be ridden by women. France Galop vice president Jean-Pierre Colombu said he was surprised by the level of controversy the new measure has caused. “Debate is always a good thing and perhaps we will be proved wrong, although I don’t think so,” said Colombu. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/international/new-era-starts-at-deauville-as-2kg-allowance-for-women-kicks-in/276559


Racing will be broadcast on ITV1 on Saturday for the first time since its launch on New Year’s Day. Seven races will be broadcast from Newbury and Doncaster. “It was just an opportunity that came up enabling us to do it, so that’s good. We’ve now got 42 days on the main channel,” said Grant Cunningham, ITV’s head of publicity, factual and sport.
Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/horseracing/2975217/terrestrial-coverage-boost-for-horse-racing-as-itv-increases-itv1-racedays-to-42/

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 28, 2017

MUSSELBURGH: 2.00 Major Ridge, 2.30 Dear Sire, 3.00 Improved, 3.30 Pekanheim, 4.00 Superior Command, 4.30 Darwins Fox, 5.00 Miss Barbossa

WINCANTON: 2.10 Fountains Windfall, 2.40 Driftwood Haze, 3.10 Orbasa, 3.40 Apple’s Queen, 4.10 Ruby Russet, 4.40 Chivers

FFOS LAS: 2.20 Bob Mahler, 2.50 DUELING BANJOS (NAP), 3.20 Fille Des Champs, 3.50 Alf  ’N’ Dor, 4.20 Batavir, 4.50 Well Smitten

NEWCASTLE: 5.30 Out Of Order, 6.00 Foie Gras, 6.30 Sandstream, 7.00 Spititofhayton (nb), 7.30 Art Obsession, 8.00 Fiery Spice

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

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YOUR DAILY RACING DIGEST – TUESDAY

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 28, 2017.

Fontwell Races

Racing’s leaders have revealed new plans for boosting field sizes by effectively offering appearance money down to eighth place once the new funding mechanism yields dividends. British Horseracing Authority COO Richard Wayman said: “As funding increases, we must target that money at grassroots and make the experience of owning an average horse far better than it is now,” he said. “One of the things that we are working on is a significant and substantial appearance money scheme that will see payments made to connections of owners down to eighth place. That, in itself, will help reduce the number of owners whose return from the sport is zero.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/new-plan-to-boost-lower-tier/39004
https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/appearance-money-scheme-among-bha-s-possible-innovations/276447


Classic-winning jockey George Baker, who suffered a horror fall on the ice of St Moritz on Sunday, is likely to be moved out of intensive care today after his condition improved. Baker was brought down when two horses fell in front of him at and suffered heavy concussion. His wife Nicola said: “He doesn’t need any surgery and he had a bit of food at lunch. He’s just very sleepy and he’s back to bed. He had a very severe concussion, but his CT scan came back okay and the best thing for him is sleep and time.”
Source: http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd?event_id=24236524&category=0
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/racing/article-4265220/George-Baker-remains-stable-condition-Swiss-hospital.html

Thistlecrack


News that Thistlecrack (right) will have a scan today on his partially-torn tendon prompted a gamble on the exchanges, with his price dropping to 10/1 for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. However, trainer Colin Tizzard all but ruled out the King George VI Chase winner out for a second time, insisting that the scan as to assess the extent of the damage, as opposed to checking for any misdiagnosis. “As far as I am concerned he’s still out,” said Tizzard. “The horse is fine but recuperating.”
Source: http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd?event_id=24236524&category=0


Cue Card could be retired should he win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and make up for a fall at the third last fence when going strongly last year. Now 11, Cue Card won a Grade 1 chase at Haydock and landed the Ascot Chase by 15 lengths last time. Owner Jean Bishop said: “I wouldn’t want to carry on racing him and see him struggle or anything like that. He couldn’t do anything else if he won the Gold Cup and there would be nothing to aim for. It would be a nice way to end his career. He has been on the go for seven years and it would probably be the best thing for him. We will have to see.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/cue-team-eye-dream-swansong/38844
http://www.skysports.com/racing/news/12426/10784140/gold-cup-glory-a-nice-way-to-end-cue-card-career-says-jean-bishop

arrogate-small


Arrogate (right) will contest the $10m Dubai World Cup on March 25 after being given the green light by Juddmonte Farms owner Prince Khalid Abdulla. The Santa Anita Handicap was under consideration for the world’s best Flat horse, but trainer Bob Baffert confirmed: “I just got the word. As long as he keeps working well, he’s going.” Arrogate clocked 1:38.4 in his 1m work on Monday. Baffert added: “He hasn’t regressed or anything, he looked fantastic. He’s enjoying himself, and he did it the right way. I’m really happy with the way he’s going. He’s just holding his form very well,” Baffert said.
Source: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/220100/arrogate-headed-to-dubai-world-cup


The Last SamuraiThe 2016 Grand National runner-up The Last Samurai (right) is set to carry top weight in Saturday’s Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster as he bids to land the 3m2f race for a second successive year off a 12lb higher mark. He could face as many as 12 rivals and trainer Kim Bailey said: “Basically, he needs to run. This has been the plan for some time and we’d just like some nice goo-to-soft ground, but he’ll run whatever.”
Source: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/bailey:-samuri-‘needs-to-run’/38904
http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/the-last-samuri-needs-to-run-says-kim-bailey-1-8412860


Willie Mullins says Douvan “could be the best I have had” ahead of his tilt at the  Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in two weeks’ time. Douvan is currently the 2/7 favourite for the March 15 feature with Bet4Causes. Mullins said: “When you are going to Cheltenham with a favourite like Douvan, it is relief rather than joy when they win. When you have a 25-1 winner, that isn’t expected, that is joy. There is fair bit of expectation with Douvan so you just want to keep him right and get there.”
Source: http://www.hri.ie/News/?news=P-1b15e154-be66-4ba5-b723-40189336e217
http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/willie-mullins-claims-douvan-could-9930895


Sam Twiston-Davies has a strong book of rides at the Cheltenham Festival but has tabbed the Paul Nicholls-trained Politologue in the JLT Novices’ Chase as his best chance of a winner. Politologue is currently a 7/1 chance with Bet4Causes, with the market headed by Yorkhill at 2/1. “I think Politologue has a strong chance. He’s done a lot of things right,” said Twiston-Davies. “It was disappointing to get beaten at Haydock, but I don’t think he lost much in defeat as he gave the winner 3lb. He’ll have a hood and ear plugs and that should help him switch off better. He’s becoming the finished article.”
Source: http://www.racingpost.com/news/live.sd

Willie Mullins 1


Willie Mullins (right) is aiming to get last season’s Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power, currently sidelined through injury, back in time for the Punchestown Festival. He said: “She seems good and we’re very pleased with how she’s responding. I would say we’ll aim for Punchestown with her. We could go to France, but let’s get her back first before we make plans for her.” Faugheen, his 2015 Champion Hurdler, also misses Cheltenham through injury. Mullins added: “I’m sure we’ll see Faugheen again, whether it’s this season or next season. I wouldn’t have any reason to retire him. The problem he has now should be a maximum of 12 weeks (to recover).”
Source: http://www.hri.ie/News/?news=P-32a40018-c975-4622-a726-c44a0749a0cb
http://www.skysports.com/racing/news/12040/10784379/punchestown-comeback-on-cards-for-annie-power


Willie Mullins says it is “50-50” as to whether Limini will be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle on March 14. The six-year-old was impressive on her seasonal return at Punchestown last week and Mullins admitted: “A lot depends on how Vroum Vroum Mag goes between now and then (the supplementary stage), she’s obviously in the Mares’ Hurdle. I think if she’s fine and sparking, we probably might take a punt with Limini. I think Vroum Vroum will go for the Mares’ Hurdle. On her last performance, that’s all I can see her doing.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/27/willie-mullins-indicates-limini-could-be-added-to-champion-hurdle-field
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49429/willie-mullins-indicates-limini-could-be-added-to-champion-hurdle-field


Simon Williams will join Royal Windsor Racecourse as executive director, having previously been employed by Arena Racing Company in a similar capacity at Fontwell Park. Williams said: “Despite the difference in codes, moving from jump racing to flat, many of the initiatives we have implemented at Fontwell Park will translate across to Royal Windsor, and I can’t wait to get started.” Jonathan Acott will replace him in the same role at Fontwell, having joined Arc from Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, where he was head of operations. He added: “I am thrilled to be joining Arena Racing Company. Fontwell Park is a fantastic racecourse in a wonderful part of the world and I am excited to start working with the team and helping them build on their significant recent successes.”
Source: http://www.arenaracingcompany.co.uk/news/story/296


Jockey Alex Birzer became the 174th jockey in the US to win 3,000 races when he guided Numancia to victory at Oaklawn Park on Sunday. The Kansas native Birzer, 43, rode his first winner in 1992. He said: “This is wonderful. I had it in my mind that it would be great to reach this here. I just love Oaklawn. I love the people here. The patrons are just unreal with the way they treat us. It’s a great racing atmosphere.”
Source: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/220091/jockey-alex-birzer-reaches-3-000-wins

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CATTERICK: 2.20 Café Au Lait, 2.50 Life Knowledge, 3.20 Halcyon Days, 3.50 Red Rising, 4.20 Delusionsfgrandeur, 4.50 Turtle Cask

LEICESTER: 2.10 Three Of A Kind, 2.40 Zeroshadsofgrey (nb), 3.10 Rebel Rebellion, 3.40 Paddy The Oscar, 4.10 Miss Oscarose, 4.40 The Highlander

LINGFIELD: 2.00 ANNIE SALTS (NAP), 2.30 Never Folding, 3.00 Dutch Uncle, 3.30 Mise En Rose, 4.00 Pinwood, 4.30 Hold Firm

Monday’s NAP was a winner.

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YOUR DAILY RACING DIGEST –MONDAY

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 27, 2017.

Ascot Races

Barry Geraghty (above) will miss the Cheltenham Festival following injuries sustained in a fall from Charli Parcs at Kempton on Saturday. Geraghty said: “I’ve a collapsed lung and six broken ribs on my right side. I’m obviously devastated to miss the Festival – there were so many good horses to look forward to as JP’s (McManus) team all look in particularly good shape this year. Last night was pretty rough. I’ve broken ribs individually before but never had six go all at the same time. I’ll be in hospital for a few more days but once the lung improves my recovery should be straightforward and I expect to be back for Aintree.”
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/barry-geraghty-to-miss-cheltenham-after-kempton-spill
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/geraghty-out-of-cheltenham/38566


Jockey George Baker woke from an induced coma in intensive care last night after suffering a first-race horror fall in the famous St Moritz snow track in Switzerland. He was riding Boomerang Bob for Jamie Osborne when they fell on a patch of ice and Baker was knocked unconscious. He was flown to a trauma hospital in Chur. Baker’s agent Guy Jewell said: “George has woken up, and with the hospital releasing that news I can only imagine they are pleased with his progress. He’d already had a CT scan and that has come back clear. They will obviously need to check that everything is working properly and his wife is on her way out there.” The rest of the meeting was abandoned.
Source: http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/george-baker-awake-in-hospital-after-horror-fall-in-switzerland
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49400/george-baker-airlifted-to-hospital-after-fall-at-st-moritz
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/baker-‘awake-in-hospital’/38559


Gary Moore has concerns about the  Stayers Hurdle trip for runaway National Spirit Hurdle winner Camping Ground, who led is rivals a merry dance on his stable debut at Fontwell yesterday. Moore said: “We’ve treated him like a good horse. A lot of effort has gone into him, believe me, from the staff at home. I know the owner is pretty keen to go for the Stayers’ Hurdle. I think two and a half (miles) is his trip. He has got a very high cruising speed and he galloped them into the ground. I think three miles would be pushing it in my opinion.” Camping Ground was cut to 20/1 (from 50/1) by Bet4Causes for the Grade 1 feature at Cheltenham on March 16.
Source: http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49408/camping-ground-leads-national-spirit-field-a-merry-dance-at-fontwell
https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/news/camping-pitches-up-in-style/38520

Ascot Races


Cue Card (right) has displaced stablemate Native River at the head of the market for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Bet4Causes going 11/4 (from 7/2), after reporting a string of bets on the Colin Tizzard-trained 11-year-old over the weekend. Native River was weak in the market, forcing Tizzard to issue a report on his wellbeing. He said: “He’s lovely and did a proper bit of work today (Saturday). I couldn’t be any more pleased with him. It’s the same with Cue Card.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/market-turning-in-favour-of-cue-card-as-he-displaces-river/276221


Giggingstown House Stud, owners of the Gordon Elliott-trained Tombstone, have decided to supplement the Gowran Park Red Mills Hurdle winner for the  Champion Hurdle. Elliott said: “It looks an open race this year so we have decided to supplement Tombstone for the Champion Hurdle. He has come out of the Red Mills race in great shape so we are happy to take our chances. Obviously he needs to improve but he hasn’t got many miles on the clock and the turnaround in form with Jezki was very encouraging.” Tombstone is currently 12/1 with Bet4Causes, with Buveur D’Air favourite at 11/4. Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle/276313
http://www.attheraces.com/news/2017/February/26/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle
http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/49406/tombstone-to-be-supplemented-for-champion-hurdle

Michael Scudamore Stable Visit


Trainer Michael Scudamore (right) gained two big staying prizes in two days after Mysteree took the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday, following up success with Kingswell Theatre in the Devon National at Exeter on Friday. Scudamore is eying a third National and explained: “The Midlands National will be too soon for Mysteree, he is a horse who is best when fresh, but we will give him an entry in the Scottish National at Ayr in case it is soft there.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/saturday-reports/mysteree-stays-on-strongest-for-in-form-scudamore/276172


Colin Tizzard will have Thistlecrack’s tendon injury scanned tomorrow “not to make sure we got it right, but to please ourselves”. The ante-post Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite and King George VI Chase hero has been ruled out for the rest of the season. After saddling his 50th winner of the season at Fontwell yesterday, Tizzard said: “There was a little tear there but there’s no heat and no swelling. It’s not like he’s walking around with his leg in a bandage. It’s not very much.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/news/tizzard-to-scan-thistlecrack-tendon-again-to-assess-damage/276319

Chelmsford Races


Sir Michael Stoute (right) gained his first winner of the year when Convey swooped late to land the Group 3  Winter Derby at Lingfield on Saturday, booking his place for All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday. Ante-post favourite Mutakayyef missed the 1m2f contest due to a foot abscess. Winning jockey Andrea Atzeni said: “Convey did it quite well. Obviously, it was his first time over this trip – I wasn’t sure that he would get it but Sir Michael was pretty positive and thought he would stay. It worked out perfectly from a bad draw. He was always doing enough to win his race and saw the trip out really well.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/saturday-reports/atzeni-strikes-late-on-coney-to-land-lingfield-thriller/276171


Following her win over Apple’s Jade at Punchestown, Limini could be supplemented for the Champion Hurdle, according to her owner Rich Ricci. He said: “The Champion Hurdle has to be discussed. We were successful last year with it (with Annie Power). It’s a wide open Champion Hurdle. If you fancy Buveur D’Air you probably have to really think about running. She is much bigger and stronger. It will be a last minute thing. We’ll have to see how she works and what she is working against. We’ll make that call after that work.”
Source: https://beta.racingpost.com/news/cheltenham-festival/ricci-champion-hurdle-option-has-to-be-discussed-for-mare-limini/276176


The BHA has rescheduled the Listed Lady Protectress Chase at Huntingdon for Sunday, following the abandonment of the card last Thursday because of high winds. There will now be an eight-race card and entries for the £30,000 event close at noon today.
Source: http://www.britishhorseracing.com/news-media/press-releases/

Aintree Races


Paul Nicholls has snapped up Katie Walsh (right) for the plum ride on Wonderful Charm for the Cheltenham Foxhunter Chase. Nicholls said: “With Will [Biddick] unavailable for Wonderful Charm we were keen to secure a top amateur and Katie Walsh certainly fits the bill. We enjoyed no end of success at Cheltenham with Ruby Walsh and I am hoping his sister Katie can provide a bit more on Wonderful Charm.” Wonderful Charm is the current 4/1 second favourite to On The Fringe with BetVictor.
Source: https://betting.betfair.com/horse-racing/paul-nicholls/paul-nicholls-cheltenham-festival-news-wonderful-charm-fri-17-march-2017-240217-9.html


The planned semi-finals of the greyhounds Gold Cup, which were to be transferred from Shelbourne Park to Towcester were called off after a row over the distance of the races, with trainer Paul Hennessy allegedly refusing to run his dogs unless the trip was 500m. Organiser Dolores Ruth said: “The Gold Cup was a 480m/525 yard event and everyone was committed to run over 480 metres. We were already down to 11 runners (Burgess Popeye broke a hock in a trial) and it simply wasn’t feasible for the sponsors for only nine dogs to take part.”
Source: http://greyhoundstar.co.uk/trainers-sign-gold-cup-semis-towcester/

Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Monday, February 27, 2017

PLUMPTON: 2.00 Cigarisi, 2.35 Bagging Turf (nb), 3.05 Premier Rose, 3.35 Dragoon Guard, 4.05 Coolking, 4.35 Simply Blessed

WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.20 King Oswald, 2.55 Archie Stevens, 3.25 Jashma, 3.55 Fast Track, 4.25 Ravens Quest, 4.55 Atkinson Grimshaw, 5.25 Celerity

AYR: 2.10 Well Joey, 2.45 Antiopia, 3.15 Las Tunas, 3.45 Nakadam, 4.15 Chidswell, 4.45 Ryedale Racer, 5.15 GOLDEN JEFFREY (NAP)

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MCB’s SUPER LEAGUE BETTING PREVIEW

Six cracking games are in store this week in the Super League. 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.

Danny Washbrook.jpg

HULL FC v CATALAN DRAGONS

Thursday, 8pm
Hull FC will go into this a short-priced favourites following their hard-earned 12-8 win at Wakefield, but in truth they were far from convincing in awful conditions. Josh Bowden is back in the squad after missing out the Wakey clash with an ankle injury, but they will miss half-back Albert Kelly who is suspended. Jake Connor comes in to replace him. Quite how much they will continue to miss Dean Hadley (hip) remains to be seen.
Danny Washbrook (above) should get a fair reception from a large and vocal crowd as he makes his 150th appearance for Hull FC. Hull FC also received a boost this week when half-back Marc Sneyd, who has the highest kick-conversion rate in Super League, extended his contract until the end of 2019.
Catalan Dragons won 20-12 at home to Warrington thanks to a late try from Fiji international Brayden Williame, but they will be without star full-back Tony Gigot after he was suspended by the French Rugby League Federation before the start of the season. The Dragons will also be without winger Fouad Yaha, so the balance appears to be in the hosts’ favour. Not a game to put the house on, in our opinion, but we’ll side with Lee Radford’s side. He’ll make believers out of us yet.
VERDICT: HULL FC TO COVER

Jermaine McGillvary.jpg

HUDDERSFIELD v WAKEFIELD

Friday 8pm
Huddersfield Giants were a little guilty of underestimating Salford and crashed to a 20-30 home defeat last time out. They have also been dealt a major blow with the news that forward Tom Symonds will be out for at least six weeks with a knee injury following their 28-16 opening-night win over Widnes Vikings. Sam Rapira deputised last Thursday and will do so again.
Coach Rick Stone will shuffle his pack and hopes that Dale Ferguson (groin), evergreen winger Jermaine McGillvary (above, knee) – who scored his 125th try for the club last week – and skipper Leroy Cudjoe (knee) will overcome their respective injuries to face Wakefield. The Giants were major underachievers last season and have a point to prove.
Wakefield finished in the top eight last season and put up a decent showing against last year’s Challenge Cup winners Hull FC in their 20-30 defeat at Belle Vue, conceding late on. They possibly need to be a little more savvy in the ruck but there is no question that Chris Chetser’s side have brought in some decent players in the summer.
They are being written off too early by some pundits and while they will start as underdogs here, this will be a good barometer to see exactly where exactly Wakey are. Wakefield on the handicap could be a tempting play for us, but we take the hosts to win.
VERDICT: WAKEFIELD TO COVER

Jamie Jones-Buchanan.jpg

LEEDS RHINOS v SALFORD

Friday 8pm
Leeds Rhinos got off the mark in Super League with a 17-14 win at Leigh Centurions last week but their attack looked tepid and they made very hard work of it. Rhinos’ gave the ball away in their own half far too often for punters’ liking and the kicking game was not all it probably should have been.
The weakness in attack put plenty of pressure in the defence but the goal-line D was outstanding, particularly at the death when Leigh looked like scoring. It was only some quick-thinking from Liam Sutcliffe, to land a late 40-20 that lifted the siege. Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan (above) has been cleared of an RFL disciplinary charge and will play on Friday.
Salford boast a similar record to Leeds, having won last weekend following defeat in the opener. The signing of Todd Carney is a huge one for Salford, although it will take him time to adapt to the style of play. Winger Justin Carney will be missing, though, after he pleaded guilty to a Grade C contact with a match official against Huddersfield. That may tip the balance.
Leeds are no good things, despite playing their first game at home. Headlingley should be rocking but it must be remembered they lost seven games at home last season. Backers will hope that Adam Cuthbertson’s early-season form can give Leeds a lift. They get the tentative vote.
VERDICT: LEEDS TO WIN

Zeb Taia.jpg

LEIGH CENTURIONS v ST HELENS

Friday 8pm
The big news out of St Helens this week was a swap move that sees Zeb Taia joining the club with Joe Greenwood heading to NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans. The 32-year-old Taia returns to Super League on a three-year deal after one season Down Under, having previously had three seasons with Catalan Dragons. It does not look a great swap, as 23-year-old Greenwood is a rising star.
What Taia does bring is big-game experience and a good offload. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is brought in to fill the void left by Greenwood.
Head coach Keiron Cunnigham is still chasing his first trophy since taking over in 2015 and while centre Ryan Morgan and Luke Douglas have also joined from the NRL, the return of Matty Smith can’t come soon enough.
He is still in a boot and it will be a few weeks before he is fit. When he does, St Helens’ halves should be formidable. Jonny Lomax will also be an influential cog this season.
Leigh Centurions were a little unlucky against Leeds last week and they are best judged on that narrow defeat than when opening against Cass, which was never going to be an easy start for the new-boys and that 44-16 walloping should soon be behind them.
Saints would appear too powerful in this one, and a Leigh will have to wait another week or two to get off the mark. We take Saints to cover the handicap.
VERDICT: ST HELENS TO WIN AND COVER

Warington Ben Westwood.jpg

WARRINGTON v CASTLEFORD

Friday 8pm
Daryl Powell has made just one change in his 19-man squad for the trip to Warrington, with Luke Million stepping in to replace Paul McShane, who is serving a one-match ban. Cass looked class in their opening clash with Leigh Centurions, a result put into better light when the Leeds were run so close by the Super League new-boys last week.
Warrington similarly looked very sharp in their World Club Series win over Brisbane, putting the Broncos under a lot of pressure and moving the ball crisply.
It will be intriguing to see how much The Wire left on the field and how much of a different test they will be for the Tigers, who found things coming a little too easy against Leigh.
Head coach Tony Smith has named an unchanged 19-man squad following the stunning 27-18 upset over the Broncos, which saw them congratulated in a motion tabled in the House of Commons.
They were a middle-of-the-pack outfit in our estimations at the start of the season and their loss in Perpignan to an average Catalans side gave credence to that. But last week’s win could be a catalyst for better things and beating dark horses Cass would go a long way to proving their win over the Broncos was no fluke.
VERDICT: WARRINGTON TO WIN

Wigan world club champions.jpg

WIGAN WARRIORS v WIDNES VIKINGS

Friday 8pm
This pundit reckons Wigan are head and shoulders above the rest in Super League. Time should bear this out. After all, they won the Grand Final with half their squad last term and all bar Dom Manfredi will be available this season. Joe Burgess is inarguably the best winger in Super League and captain Sean O’Loughlin is fit again. It is also a major boost to have Tommy Leulaui, one of the best halves in the league, returning. His partnership with George Williams is already blossoming. With the strongest pack, they should go all the way again. Or as near as damn it.
Really, it was not a surprise that they were crowned World Champions after beating the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks 22-6. It was their fourth WWC title and Shaun Wane’s men never looked in danger at any moment.
Widnes come into this one on the back of a 28-16 home loss to Huddersfield and they now face three sides from last season’s top six. Dennis Betts’ boys already look as though they have a mountain to climb. Widnes are struggling for a decent half-back pairing at present and their weakened pack could be exposed. Often.
This one should not be close. Take Wigan to cover.
VERDICT: WIGAN TO WIN AND COVER


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