Searching on youtube earlier, I came across this gem. I must have seen this Louis Theroux episode a good four or five times now. Louis is a great documentary maker and so this isn’t a demonising or glorifying documentary on Las Vegas Casinos or gambling. Instead it shows the various shades of grey and the characters you find at casinos, as well as the ups and downs they experience while gambling. This isn’t horse racing specific of course, but it has the ‘wacky’ in wacky races covered, that’s for sure!
In the 2.20 at Huntingdon on Thursday, Messire Des Obeaux carries a 10lb penalty for winning the Challow Hurdle at Newbury on New Year’s Eve, which could open the door for the progressive Keeper Hill. The Westerner gelding has won his last two starts over hurdles, both over 2 miles 3½ furlongs on soft going, and his most recent win has already been franked by the runner-up, Skipthecuddles. He faces far and away his most difficult task to date, but is open to improvement after just five starts in total and favoured by race conditions.
In the 2.50 at Huntingdon, Allee Bleue appeared to improve for the step up to 2 miles 4½ furlongs on heavy going at Leicester eight days ago and, while he drops back a furlong under less testing conditions, may be able to defy a 7lb penalty. Indeed, the Mount Nelson gelding is 3lb well in compared with future engagements, so his quick reappearance is no surprise.
In the 3.20 at Huntingdon, Johns Luck has won his last two starts by a short head and a neck, leaving the handicapper with little room for manoeuvre and, off a mark just 3lb higher, may be capable of completing a hat-trick. In fact, the 3lb rise is negated by Harry reed’s 7lb claim and he seems versatile with regard to underfoot conditions, so he has plenty going for him, despite the welter burden of 12st 2lb.
Selections: Huntingdon 2.20 Keeper Hill, Huntingdon 2.50 Allee Bleue, Huntingdon 3.20 Johns Luck, 1-point Win Patent
Having cruised to victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, Thistlecrack has now been handed the top handicap rating for a novice, with the eight-year-old rated at 171. Despite competing in just his fourth race over fences since making his debut back in October, the reigning World Hurdle winner swept aside stablemate Cue Card at Kempton, with his current ranking five more than Coneygree before his success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup back in 2015. Trainer Colin Tizzard will have undoubtedly been delighted with the performance of his prized asset, with Thistlecrack now expected to have just one more outing before the Gold Cup in March, with this likely to also come at Cheltenham at the end of January.
Ridden by jockey Tom Scudamore, Thistlecrack ran the perfect race at Kempton, pulling away from his more experienced competitors at the home turn, eventually overcoming Cue Card by a margin of three lengths. Scudamore was even surprised with such dominance, with the meeting between the two Tizzard-trained horses having gained much publicity in the build up to the race. Thistlecrack certainly justified his 11/10 pre-race odds and has now unsurprisingly been installed as the early favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 28th.
11-year-old Cue Card was bidding to win back-to-back King George VI victories, however it was Thistlecrack who came out on top in his first real test over fences. With the duo the two standout horses for the race, it came as little surprise that just five entries lined up at Kempton, with Thistlecrack never looking troubled. Tizzard is now 4/1 with Betway to come out on top in the 2016/17 National Hunt Trainers Championship, with Paul Nicholls the overwhelming favourite to defend his crown.
Meanwhile, Thistlecrack’s jockey Scudamore is expected to be out of action for around seven days after a fall at Plumpton on Monday. The 34-year-old was on Bobbits Way for trainer Alan Jones in a two-mile handicap, when he fell at the 11th hurdle. Scudamore was due to be in action at Bangor this week for David Pipe, however fellow jockey David Noonan will now take his place.