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 15, 2017.
Outlander (above) has been handed top weight for the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. The Gordon Elliott-trained winner of the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, was allotted 11st 10lb for the April 8 marathon during a ceremony at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London last night. Elliott, who won the race with Silver Birch 10 years ago, has 14 entries in total and three of the top four, with Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli on 11st 8lb and 11st 7lb respectively. Champagne West, impressive winner of the Thyestes Chase last time, has been allotted 11st 9lb and Carlingford Lough is on 11st 6lb in an all-Irish domination of the first five slots.
The Randox Health Grand National will boast the highest-rated field in its history. Handicapper Phil Smith said: “The percentage of horses rated over 135 entered in 2017 is 88%, which is the highest ever. The previous highest percentage of horses in this category was 85%. Significantly, the number of horses rated above 150 stands at a record level, with 34 horses falling into that category. If you go back a decade to 2007, there were only half that number (17) having a rating of 150 or higher at the time the weights were unveiled.”
Brian Ellison says Definitely Red “looks to have a good racing weight” after being allotted 10st 7lb in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. Wetherby’s Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase winner, who unseated Henry Brooke in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last time, is 35th on the weights list. Ellison said: “I am happy with that. He is in great form at the moment and is likely to go to Kelso [Listed Premier Chase] or Doncaster [Grimthorpe Chase] in a couple of weeks. After that, we will give him a school over some Grand National fences and, if he takes to it, he will probably head to Aintree.”
Raz De Maree, who got within a length and three-quarters of leading Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Native River when runner-up last time in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow, will head to Newcastle for the Eider Chase before tackling the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. Having be allotted 10st 4lb for the National, trainer Gavin Cromwell said: “That’s a nice racing weight and hopefully he should get into the race. The horse is in grand form at the moment.” He added: “A little bit of juice in the ground would suit him as he just lacks a gear.”
There will be a new trophy for the 170th Grand National at Aintree. Founder of sponsors Randox Health, Dr Peter FitzGerald, said: “To win the Grand National is one of the crowning achievements in sport and in this our first year of sponsorship, we sought to commission a trophy which would complement this tremendous success. I am delighted with the result, as the trophy captures the heart of both the race and Randox – in the speed of the horses and the strands of DNA.”
Yanworth is on course to have his Cheltenham Festival prep race in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton. “We worked Yanworth this morning (Tuesday) on the grass and it’s all systems go for Saturday,” said trainer Alan King (right), who also has Sceau Royal among 10 entries for the recognised Champion Hurdle trial He added: “Sceau Royal is not a guaranteed runner at the moment – I wouldn’t want to run him on really testing ground. We’ll have to see how the weather holds and how Wincanton dries.” Paul Nicholls is double-handed with Irving and Capitaine, and he said: “Both my horses have dual entries for racing at Wincanton and Kelso. We’ll see how the weather fairs and make a decision later in the week.”
Having had four days off with influenza, Richard Johnson (right) returned to ride an odds-on double with his only two rides at Fontwell yesterday, courtesy of the Philip Hobbs-trained pair Kayf Adventure and Casper King. Of the latter, the champion jockey said: “It was great to get him off the mark last time as he’d had a few seconds and you were starting to think was there anything untoward, but he’d just jumped into some quite nice horses. Now he’s won two novice hurdles, I’m sure the EBF Final is an option, we’ll see what Philip thinks.”
Identity Thief is one of seven entries for Sunday’s Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan. One of three entries for Gigginstown House Stud, along with Noel Meade’s Road To Respect and the Gordon Elliott-trained Ball D’Arc, Henry de Bromhead’s charge bids to get his season back on track after he unseated his rider in the Irish Arkle, having previously been pulled up in a Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
Limini, winner of the Grade 2 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last March, is one of eight contenders for Sunday’s Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park. The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old could take on 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki. Limini’s owner Rich Ricci said: “She has taken a while to come to hand this season, not dissimilar to last year, but is right back to herself now and seems a lot stronger than last year.”
Max Dynamite, a 20/1 chance for the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, may swerve the meeting in favour of Punchestown in April, with the Melbourne Cup a long-term target. Owner Rich Ricci said: “It’s not certain that he won’t get to Cheltenham but it’s probably a bit unlikely, and he should be ready for Punchestown on the way towards getting ready for a Flat campaign. The Melbourne Cup, in which he finished second two years ago, is the ultimate aim. Getting him back to Flemington Park this winter would be an extraordinary thrill.”
Warren Greatrex is confident Western Ryder will be suited by the hurly-burly of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham next month. Part-owned by golfer Lee Westwood (right), the five-year-old was second to Daphne Du Clos at Newbury last time, conceding 21lb. Greatrex said: “Although he had already won a Listed race, the other day was just a test to make sure he was ready to take to Cheltenham and I think that he showed that he is ready. This horse will thrive on the fast-run race.”
Run by the BHA, the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards will be streamed live from the Racing Centre in Newmarket on http://www.studandstablestaffawards.co.uk and http://www.racingpost.com next Monday evening. BHA chief Nick Rust said: “We are delighted we can use live streaming of the event this year to ensure that people who are unable to be there on the night can still share in this fantastic celebration.”
At The Races is celebrating after landing the Best Sports Betting Website gong at the iGB Affiliate Awards held in London. ATR won in the multi-sports category despite offering a dedicated, horse racing only focused service, demonstrating racing’s enduring significance in the sports affiliate betting market. ATR new media director Matthew Taylor said: “Combined with our success at the Broadcast Digital Awards and eGaming Review Awards, it underlines ATR’s achievements in both broadcasting and betting.”
Today’s MCB British Racing selections – Wednesday, February 15, 2017
NEWCASTLE: 2.20 Crackdeloust, 2.50 Chain Of Beacons, 3.20 Floramoss (nb), 3.50 On A Promise, 4.20 Pistol Park, 4.50 Ballasalla
TOWCESTER: 2.10 Brandon Roc, 2.40 What A Diva, 3.10 Krackatoa King, 3.40 Solighoster, 4.10 LUNAR FLOW (NAP), 4.40 Whitley Neill
WOLVERHAMPTON: 2.00 Scrafton, 2.30 See Vermont, 3.00 Pearl Noir, 3.30 Third Time Lucky, 4.00 Dodgy Bob, 4.30 Calvinist, 5.00 Sea Dweller
KEMPTON PARK: 5.20 Moayadd, 5.50 Bookmaker, 6.20 Assertive Agent, 6.50 Franco’s Secret, 7.30 Kyneton, 7.50 Chandon Elysees, 8.20 Little Indian, 8.50 West Leake
Our Lucky 15 selections: Lunar Flow (4.10 Towcester), Floramoss (3.20 Newcastle), Assertive Agent (6.20 Kempton Park), See Vermont (2.30 Wolverhampton)
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