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 (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.”
Today’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.”
The 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.”
Breeders’ 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.