Sir Michael Stoute: Hanging in There

For readers of a certain age, the name of Sir Michael Stoute will always be synonymous with that of Shergar, whose wonderful, record-breaking display in the Derby in 1981 – under “The Choirboy”, as the late Walter Swinburn was known in his heyday – is an indelible memory. However, 36 years later Sir Michael, who was knighted in 1998 for services to tourism in Barbados, where he was born, is still at the top of his profession.

 

Although overshadowed in recent years by the likes of Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden, it’s worth remembering that Sir Michael Stoute won the Flat trainers’ championship ten times between 1981 and 2009. Sir Michael was resurgent in 2017, too, winning more prize money in Britain than ever before – a total in excess of £3,855,000 – to finish fourth in the Flat trainers’ championship.

The veteran trainer, who turned 72 in October, had his share of heartache, with Ballet Concerto collapsing and dying on the gallops and Expert Eye, odds-on to provide his first Group One two-year-old winner for many a year, going lame in the Dewhurst Stakes. However, the now-retired Ulysses flew the flag for the yard, winning the Coral-Eclipse and the Juddmonte International before finishing an honourable third behind Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and there were plenty of other success stories, too. Sir Michael seems likely to ‘stay respectable’, as he put it, for a while longer just yet.

1.45 Lingfield, Wednesday, December 20

The 32Red.com Nursery Handicap (1.45) at Lingfield on Wednesday is a competitive little heat for the grade, but may provide Motown Mick with an opportunity to open his account on Polytrack. The Intikhab gelding has run respectably on both visits to Kempton, most recently when a never-nearer third of five, beaten 2¾ lengths, in a 0-90 nursery handicap over 7 furlongs six weeks ago. Richard Hannon’s charge will be suited by returning to a mile in due course but, for the time being, 7 furlongs around Lingfield – where late pace is vital – may be sufficient to show him in better light. One or two of his rivals like to race prominently so, hopefully, he should have a decent pace to aim at.

 

Selection: Lingfield 1.45 Motown Mick to win

 

 

Focus on Cheltenham

They don’t call it the sport of kings for nothing, and horse racing really is a big part of the fabric of british sport. With all of the talk of the premier league and so on, it’s easy to forget how much racing goes on, day in, day out in the UK, and the little (and big!) truimphs that take place at courses all over the country. Big events too, like The Grand National, Royal Ascot, Ebor Festival, the list goes on. Surely though, the jewel in the crown has to the the Cheltenham Festival.

 

This national hunt event has been taking place now since way back in 1860, so to say that it’s steeped in history is an understatement. During the Festival racing takes place each March over four days in front of huge on-course crowds and audiences watching at home. Top drawer Grade I races such as the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup draw the crowds and attract the very best horse, jockeys, trainers and owners to the course. Such is the atmosphere on-course during the most anticipated races, that the crowd reaction is known as the Cheltenham Roar. In 2016 there were 28 races in total, starting with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday and ending with the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase on Sunday.

The most popular race of the festival, taking place on the final day has to be the aforementioned Cheltenham Gold Cup. With total prize money last year of over £550,000 last year it’s certainly one not to be missed. This year’s winner was Sizing John, ridden by Robbie Power and trained by Jessica Harrington. If we go way back to 1990, we can see that the race’s winner, Norton’s Coin, won at 100-1. Not a bad day, by all accounts, to be backing outsiders or following big priced cheltenham tips!

As the Cheltenham Festival attracts the cream of the crop of the racing world, it’s perhaps no surpise then, that the jockeys and trainers are eager to stamp their mark on the festival. Paul Nicholls had a memorable festival run having the most winners to 2004 (4), 2006 (3), 2007 (4), 2008 (3) and 2009 (5). In recent years another respected trainer, Willie Mullins, has been a frequent winner of the accolade. The most stunning individual performance though surely goes to jockey Ruby Walsh. Since 2004 Walsh has won the most races for a mind boggling 11 of those years and a total of 46 individual winners over that period of time. I wouldn’t mind his prize money!

The next Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday 13th March 2018 at 1:30pm and ends on Friday 16th March. Be sure to tune in for what is bound to be top horse racing action!

 

2.10 Lingfield, Tuesday, December 12

The Betway Dash Handicap (2.10) at Lingfield on Tuesday is worth £20,000 in guaranteed prize money and it’s a little surprising that it’s not better subscribed. Still, that won’t bother the connections of those horses that have turned up and may present dual course and distance winner Gracious John with an opportunity to return to the winners’ enclosure.

 

David Evans’ 4-year-old wasn’t seen to best effect on soft going at Nottingham in November, but won in this grade at Leicester in October and remains 6lb lower in the weights than when winning over course and distance at around this time last year. The Baltic King gelding is hard to ignore from a handicapping perspective and appears to have every chance of making a winning return to Polytrack under Fran Berry, who has a decent strike rate for the yard at Lingfield.

Selection: Lingfield 2.10 Gracious John to win

Will Singlefarmpayment Deliver Success at Ascot?

Source: BHAPressOffice via Twitter

 

Singlefarmpayment will be aiming to overcome his recent disappointment at the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase when he competes at the Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase. The bay gelding has been a solid operator over the past two National Hunt seasons, although a major victory has eluded him.

 

Tom George’s charge has notched just three wins over the course of his career and will have to put forward an outstanding performance to triumph at Ascot. The seven-year-old is considered the favourite for the meet, despite suffering a fall in his last outing. Therefore, it will be worth monitoring Singlefarmpayment’s odds at Timeform along with the rest of the field before punting on the event.

 

The bay gelding had made his debut in the National Hunt in the 2014-15 campaign, but struggled in the early stages of his career. He placed sixth in his debut at Stratford before suffering a fall in his next outing at Exeter. Singlefarmpayment finally into gear with a strong performance at the Novices’ Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse, finishing second behind Irish horse Monbeg Theatre. The horse came within inches of his first victory at Chepstow in the National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle, but just lacked the closing speed down the stretch to beat out Sidbury Hill.

 

Singlefarmpayment failed to compete in his next two outings, but again came close to a breakthrough in the final meet of the campaign. The bay gelding challenged Fleet Dawn down the stretch at the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber Of Commerce Handicap Hurdle, only to be beaten out by a length. His frustration continued at the start of the new term when he finished second in his debut at Ascot, on this occasion losing out to Masterplan, who upped the ante in the closing stages of the contest.

 

However, he finally notched his first win with jockey Richard Johnson in the saddle easing to a comfortable victory by seven lengths at the Novices’ Hurdle at Southwell Racecourse. Much like buses, his second triumph followed in the bay gelding’s next outing. Singlefarmpayment was considered the favourite for the Handicap Hurdle on his Cheltenham debut and did not disappoint by coming through the field at the precise moment to clinch the victory by three-and-half lengths.

 

 

Source: CheltCountdown via Twitter

 

The bay gelding took a step back by pulling up at Huntingdon to end his campaign, which would be the last with Tom Lacey as his trainer. He returned to action for the start of the 2016-17 season with George in place for his outing Richard Davis Memorial Chase, but struggled for pace down the stretch and could only finish in third. At Ascot, George’s charge came across Beware the Bear, and was made to rue a slow start as he made his surge too late to close the gap on the Irish horse.

 

Singlefarmpayment returned to Cheltenham at the beginning December and did not disappoint with a fine run to triumph in the Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate Novices’ Chase. Jockey Adrian Heskin timed the move to perfection to come through the pack and the bay gelding was able to close out the victory two-and-a-half lengths. George’s charge was considered the joint-favourite for the Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January, only to be brought down at the 12th fence by More Buck’s.

 

As a result, the seven-year-old did not have the greatest preparation for Cheltenham Festival. However, he put forward a fine performance in the Handicap Chase, and he battled Un Temps Pour Tout all the way down the stretch to claim the win, but was just beaten out by a short head by the Irish horse. Singlefarmpayment made his fourth appearance on the bounce at Cheltenham to kick off the new term, but began the season slightly off the boil, finishing four lengths behind Cogry in the Handicap Chase.

 

George’s charge was making good headway in his last outing at Ladbrokes Trophy Chase, only to suffer the first fall of his career three fences from the end of the race. Momentum is not on his side heading into the Lavazza Silver Cup Handicap Chase, but has proven at the least that he can be competitive right until the end of the race. It’s an important meet for George and his charge and he may finally get over the line to secure his first major triumph at Ascot.

 

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