Who would have thought on Wednesday we would have been in the midst of the biggest threat to the UK racing industry since the 2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak, with the Cheltenham Festival less than five weeks away?
At the time of writing this on Friday afternoon. News has come in that one of the Donald McCain runners that ran at Ayr on Tuesday has tested positive for equine flu. And a separate so far unconfirmed but suspicious case has been found from a stable not connected with the McCain runners. This has led to a further 50 odd stables joining the 100+ that were already in lockdown.
There was a hope that racing would resume on Wednesday of next week but the chances of that happening look a million to one after today’s news. It’s really difficult to say when racing in Britain will return again. If you were put a gun to my head, I would think we could be looking at a resumption in three weeks. I hope I am wrong!
All very depressing. But the good news is that Irish Racing is so far unaffected so Saturdays’ meeting at Naas and Sunday’s fixture at Punchestown will go ahead as normal. I was going to be looking at the Punchestown racing anyway but Naas hadn’t been on my radar at the start of the week.
In all truth it’s not the strongest Saturday card you will ever see but I have found a few selections.
Saturday 9th February
1:10 – Now maiden hurdles are not really my favourite betting race. However, I thought Drop The Anchor shaped with some promise when 6th of 20 here 53-days ago. He had looked an interesting recruit to the jumping ranks when winning a Listowel bumper back in September and after that win was bought by J P McManus.
Trainer Pat Fahy has gone 39-days & 21 runners since a winner and is 1 winner from 28 runners at Naas in the past 5-years. Not great trainer stats but on the positive side the 5-year-old looks capable of improvement and the drop back to 2m could suit to as would more rain before post time.
Each way claims and it will be interesting to see what the market makes of his chance today.
Drop The Anchor – 12/1 @ William Hill – each way
1:40 – Another one for J P McManus here in the shape of You Can Call Me Al. The 5-year-old is bred to win races over hurdles and make his debut in the division II of this maiden hurdle. Trainer Edward O’Grady has a good winner at Thurles on Thursday which has to be considered a major positive and Barry Geraghty has been booked for the ride. Like the previous selection the market will be a good guide to what’s expected on this one’s racecourse debut.
You Can Call Me Al – 20/1 @ Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook – each way
3:10 – At last my sort of race a handicap chase with 11 declared to go to post.
Close Shave, trained by Jessica Harrington, was runner-up in this race last year, beaten ¾ length, off 2lb higher. Sadly the 8-year-old hasn’t really gone forward since that effort and his subsequent form figures since are PPPF0. Risky but can’t be ruled out totally.
Velocity Boy, was in the process of running a big race when falling two out in the Cork National back in November. The 10-year-old jumping let him down at crucial times and he also looked a non -stayer when 6th in a better race than this at Fairyhouse 69-days ago. Takes a 1m 1f drop in trip for this race but all this winning form under rules has come at 2m 6f or less. This is more his grade and if he jumps better than he did at Fairyhouse, looks capable of going close here.
Bilbo Bagins, is having his first run since finishing a 1 ¼ length runner-up in Galway handicap chase back on October. That was a career best by the 10-year-old That run came after an even longer lay off so he can go well fresh. The return to 2m 4f will be in his favour and he’s been raised just 2lb since his last run. Might want the ground to ease more, as he won on soft to heavy last year, but he’s still one for the shortlist.
Ask Nile, is very interesting in the first-time blinkers, replacing cheekpieces. You have to go back to May 2017 for the last time the 7-year-old got into the winner’s enclosure. But he ran one of his better races when runner-up at Thurles 20-days ago when sent off the 7/2 favourite. His last three starts have come over hurdles. The step up from 2m should suit and he’s another capable of winning if the change of headgear works.
Verdict: You can’t rule out Close Shave bouncing back to form in a race he almost won last year. If the rain arrives Bilbo Bagins will be bang there. However, the drop-in trip will suit Velocity Boy and hopefully the first-time blinkers will do the trick for Ask Nile. At the prices these are my picks in a tricky handicap chase.
Velocity Boy – 11/2 @ William Hill & Betway and Ask Nile – 8/1 @ Bet365 & William Hill
3:40 – A 2m handicap hurdle for conditional jockey’s and 23 runners are declared to go to post.
Leave Your Mark almost broke his maiden tag on his third start over hurdles at Thurles 89-days ago. Handicap hurdle debut off a workable mark of 107 and hails from the inform Joseph O’Brien stable.
Thereisnodoubt, finally broke his maiden tag over hurdles when running out a 9 length winner of a 17 strong handicap hurdle at Clonmel 30-day ago. Up 11lb for that Clonmel win but the 6-year-old looks capable of following up for a trainer who had a winner at last Weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival.
She’s Made It, like Leave Your Mark, owned by J P McManus comes in to the race with form figures 23223 on her last five starts, including when beaten only a length into 3rd at Clonmel 65-days ago. The 5-year-old is very consistent and wouldn’t be winning out of turn. She’s just 1lb higher than at Clonmel but remains a nine-race maiden.
Glendaars Warrior, put in a career best when runner-up in a big field handicap hurdle at Punchestown last month. He was well backed that day but he’s another long-standing maiden over hurdles. Could go one better here but he will always be vulnerable to any improving horses in this type of race.
Verdict: Not a race to go in to heavy on. Leave Your Mark looks on a winnable mark. The consistent She’s Made It, has to be taken seriously as does Glendaars Warrior. At the prices my selection would be Thereisnodoubt to follow up his recent Clonmel win.
Thereisnodoubt – 7/1 @ William Hill (paying 5 places 1/5 odds) – each way
Always check with an odds comparison service like Oddschecker to get the best prices available
All selections win only unless indicated as each way.
Selections for Sunday will be sent by another e-mail.
Good luck with your bets.