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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
The 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.”
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.”
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.”
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).”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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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