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25th April 2024 4:02 am

“A difference of opinion is what makes horse racing and missionaries."

The 2023 Crackers Report – and ITV Racing tips

These Donors Are AMAZING Thank You

William S – MEJi – Peter N – Nigel B – Ken C – Mark S – James D – William M – Fiona M – Julian A – Jonathan H – Mrs V.M – Pete BN – Gavin C – Thom S – Sarah C – Mark S – Sam H – James R

If you can, spend a few moments on YouTube or Racing TV catching up on the two Irish Christmas racing festivals – especially Leopardstown. Jeepers, they have some excellent animals. Alternatively, look up the last races of these runners who make up my go-to list for winners next March. They all ran and won over the last three days and are, in no particular order:

  • NASSALAM in the Welsh Grand National will now have to be campaigned as a Graded stayer
  • CONSTITUTION HILL – two words that mean the best.
  • The tiny HEWICK, whose size is the antithesis of his trainer’s ebullience. Shark Hanlon must have laughed himself silly that we allowed a Galway plate winner, a Bet365 Gold Cup Winner, and a G2 Sandown winner to go off at 12/1.
  • SIR GINO: As reflected in his price, the drums were already beating for SIR GINO ahead of his debut over hurdles for Nicky Henderson on Wednesday. He must learn to give his hurdles more respect.
  • IRISH POINT gave a brilliant display in the G1 Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle, giving his connections the top two in the Stayers Hurdle market, though IRISH POINT may miss the Stayers for the Aintree Hurdle. Is he better than TEAHUPOO? Possibly
  • GALOPIN DES CHAMPS – An emotional victory and richly deserved. 16 runs – 10 wins – Six G1 victories – Savills Chase – Cheltenham Gold Cup – Irish Gold Cup
  • GAELIC WARRIOR is an athletic monster who jumps fluently and quickly.
  • IL EST FRANCAIS – the best I have seen this year. Jumping. Stamina. Speed. Class. “I’d say that’s another Kauto Star” said Paul Nicholls. Crikey AND Lumme!

Amongst the many moments of bewilderment over the last four or five days was the discovery that a cracker made by the inestimable John Lewis should contain a gift that was so breathtaking in its paucity that it would have cracked the carapace even of Scrooge.

Up to that moment, the cracker had met all the usual qualifications. It looked pretty on the table and was Christmassy. It had a “Snap” that worked. It had a bad joke and an ancillary activity, like a charade suggestion or a quiz question. It had a hat that didn’t fit anyone except a child under 14. So far – so en pointe.

But then the traditional gift appeared. A tape measure? A kaleidoscope? A dice game simulating the game of cricket and including a wicket and a scoring pencil – all gifts I have received before. No. A sheet of 60gsm copier paper fell out of the cracker with Colour Me In written on it. These instructions, one assumes, were to guide the unwary, lest they be tempted to use it as a candle lighting spill, kindling, or even as a paper dart. In all three instances, one would have had either more use or more fun… because the absolute certainty is that there would be no crayons, watercolours or colouring sets on the table at the precise moment the Colour Me In paper dropped out of the cracker. So you, the recipient of John Lewis’s careful thinking, would then – in a fit of artistic frenzy – have to save the piece of paper for another time! The paper was saved and is shown above. There was talk in March of JLP doing an IPO. Based on their cracker – that’s a Sell.

Talking of bewildering, cheaply made advisory notes with little or no merit…

1:15 NEWBURY New ‘Bet-In-Race’ With Coral Hcap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-125) 2m½f ITV4 6 run

The favourite is MARTATOR who seems to be slowly improving its season. He ran a decent 2nd LTO over C&D wearing now-dropped CPs. This looks like an easier task – except for my suggestion, the previous C&D winner, THE RUSSIAN DOYEN. He was returning from a 621-day absence when 14l behind Elixir De Nutz over C&D 28 days ago. He’ll be sharper for that run and will potentially be well-treated if he can build on his latest effort. Harry Cobden, a three-time winner on the 10-year-old, is back in the saddle.


1:25 HAYDOCK Betfred Last Fling Hcap Chase Cl2 (4yo+ 0-145) 3m4½f ITV4 6 run

COLLECTORS ITEM wouldn’t surprise and FORTESCUE ran well in Chepstow’s Welsh National trial when a 6½l 4th to Nassalam.  He’s better over a shorter distance and he needs a crowd around him. That guides me to EAST STREET who can be a sloppy jumper. He looked to be back on the up when winning at Wetherby two starts back and almost repeated the feat with 3lbs extra, at Newcastle 16 days ago. He’s a lazy bugger and he’s priced accordingly – but there is gold in them there hills. You just gotta be patient.

EAST STREET 2½pts e/w

1:50 NEWBURY Coral Racing Hcap Hdl Cl2 (4yo+) 2m4½f ITV4 6 run

NOW OR NEVER makes his stable debut for Venetia, and has won twice over hurdles when trained in France. The 4-year-old returns from a 419-day layoff and is up in distance but could be on a handy mark.

NOW OR NEVER 3 pts e/w

2:10 TAUNTON Byerley Stud Mares’ Nov. Hdl Cl1 (3yo+) 2m½f ITV4 6 run

As I write, it is raining at Taunton, which will not suit the odds-on favourite, high class bumper mare QUEENS GAMBLE. She made it 2/2 over hurdles LTO at Kempton, beating 12 home on decent ground. She’s a much better horse on a sound surface. CASA NO MENTO is the nearest danger – but again, I think she needs good ground. LARCHMONT LASS had Casa No Mento back in second in a Sandown Listed bumper in March, but that success came on heavy ground, which wouldn’t have suited the runner-up as much as the winner. She was nowhere near her smart bumper form when 2nd of 13 over C&D on hurdle debut 16 days ago. Better can be expected and trainer Paul Nicholls has won this four times since 2014. JAMINSKA got off the mark at the second attempt over hurdles when winning at Hereford (soft) in January. Went close on handicap (and seasonal) debut when a 1l 2nd of 14 here (2m 3f) 44 days ago.

JAMINSKA – LARCHMONT LASS 5 pt Dutch (You’ll get approx 3/1 the pair)

2:25 NEWBURY Coral Mandarin Hcap Chase Cl3 (4yo+ 0-135) 3m2f ITV4 12 run

I want CERTAINLY RED who is genuine and consistent – but he’s 5/6 right-handed. That said, he’s down in class here and just 2lb higher than his last winning mark. SHANTY ALLEY looks, by most measurements, to have no chance.  A losing run of 12, 3Ps a 7 and a 5 in his last 8 runs BUT he finished a ¾l 2nd of 13 in last year’s race and is 5lb lower this time. Too well handicapped to dismiss, especially on this ground. LASKALIN was third in this last year and is back with less weight – but less form as well. I quite fancy SURREY QUEST, but his form looks weak. Hmmm… With my magic pin, I’m heading done BOWTOGREATNESS on the assumption he’ll get the distance. He ran well at
Aintree is in the handicap Chase until brushing the last, and he did have Welsh National winner Nassalam behind, so surely…


2:45 TAUNTON Racing TV Hcap Hdl Cl3 (3yo+ 0-130) 3m ITV4 5 run

Now with a non-runner, this four-runner race is a waste of time. What a perfect way to lose a TV audience.


3:00 NEWBURY Coral Challow Nov. Hdl (G1) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m4½f ITV4 9 run

WILLMOUNT has a top-rated Timeform Capital P, as does JOHNNYWHO. The former looked an exciting prospect when beating 12 rivals here (2m ½ f) 51 days ago and is already earning quotes for The Supreme at around 12s. Further improvement over further is expected. JOHNNYWHO made his hurdling debut at Carlisle, sporting a newly applied tongue-tie and confirmed the promise shown in his Taunton bumper, by winning with any amount in hand. He is a half-brother to four winners, notably the useful hurdler and chaser Doing Fine. He was quoted at 16-1 (from 20-1) for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by Paddy Power. Stablemate BRAVE JEN was beaten a head in a Mares’ Only Listed race here (2m½ f) 28 days ago. She needs to improve but those are sexy odds for a Henderson horse. MASACCIO, a winner on hurdle debut at Chepstow, went down by a nose under a penalty over C&D 28 days ago. Up in class but open to improvement and has each-way claims.

MASACCIO 2pts e/w – BRAVE JEN 1 pt e/w

3:35 NEWBURY Coral Nov. Limited Hcap Chase Cl3 (5yo+ 0-140) 2m6½f ITV4 8 run

This is more competitive than it looks. PASSING WELL, a dual winner over hurdles last season has taken well to fences, finishing runner-up on chase debut and then going one place better at Lingfield last month. He is improving and 3lbs is lenient. WALKING ON AIR makes his Chasing and seasonal debut, having won in February and then running a decent 5th in The Pertemps and then ran a shocker at Punchestown. GOLDEN SON is another French-bred, winning hurdler, and showed promise in his stable debut for Paul Nicholls. You have to forgive his LTP Aintree run – perhaps the 1st time tongue tie on his handicap debut explains. BALLYCAMUS will like the distance and I don’t think will mind this softish ground.


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