Monday, 8 April 2019

Richard Hannon: Good Fathers Make Good Sons

Richard Hannon
As if his father, Richard Hannon Snr., five times Champion Trainer, wasn’t a hard enough act to follow, Richard Hannon Jr. made a rod for his own back by winning the Trainers’ Championship at the first attempt in 2014. Still, having saddled Night Of Thunder to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and Toronado to win the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in that initial season, Hannon has managed at least one winner at the highest level each year since taking over the reins at Herridge and Everleigh Racing Stables in Wiltshire, South West England on New Year’s Day 2014.

Of all his early successes, Hannon singled out Toormore, his first runner in Hong Kong since taking over the training licence, as “one that I remember for the rest of my training days.” Toormore contested the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin in December 2015 and, although ultimately well beaten, Hannon described the 4-year-old as a “real professional”.

More recently, Richard Hannon saddled Barney Roy to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and, in doing so, avenge an arguably unlucky defeat by Churchill in 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket the previous month. On the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, Barney Roy stumbled and became unbalanced on the descent into ‘the Dip’ and, although he stayed on well under pressure, could make no impression on Churchill in the closing stages, going down by a length.

It’s fair to say that Churchill was below par at Ascot, but Barney Roy subsequently failed by the minimum margin to overhaul Ulysses in the Coral-Eclipse, proving himself a top performer over a mile and a quarter. Hannon said of him, “Barney Roy is by far the best colt I have trained and the most athletic horse I have seen. We look forward to seeing his yearlings at the sales.” The Excelebration colt does not, as originally planned, stay in training as a four-year-old and now stands at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket.

Looking forward, Brian Epstein, by the excellent young sire Dark Angel out of Jewel In The Crown – who Richard Hannon Snr. trained to win the Cherry Hinton Stakes as a two-year-old – is just one potentially smart unraced juvenile that Hannon has in his yard for 2018. He’s also recently celebrated his first winner in the United Arab Emirates, with the victory of Oh This Is Usin the valuable Shaista AZIZI Handicap at the Meydan Carnival.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

It's a Grand Time for the Nation to Bet!

There's certainly been no lack of excitement in the racing world of late. From the 12th - 15th March we were treated to the ever popular Cheltenham Festival. This year's four day event saw a number of big odds winners hitting the bookmakers where it hurts, as well as record breaking performances by female jockeys. Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore both won Grade 1 races, with Blackmore doing so on 50-1 shot Minella Indo. The excitement from Cheltenham now rolls over to what most see as the pinnacle of UK racing, The Aintree Grand National. This enthralling three day festival culminates in the show piece Grand National race, this year held on Saturday 6th April 2019. The race will be watched worldwide by TV audiences into the hundreds of millions,as well as by a heaving on-course crowd.

The Grand National is the one racing occasion where even those typically not interested in betting on racing decide to have a punt at picking a winner. Some do so based on name alone, just anything that stands out to them. Others take part in an office sweepstake or have a casual bet with friends. More shrewd types may well be analysing form and looking into the various betting bonuses and Grand National Free Bets on offer by online bookmakers. It's a competitive environment and a staggering £300 million is bet on the Grand National each year. Bookmakers are all looking to stand out from the crowd, and to gain your custom. Some bookmakers offer bet boosts and an increased number of places for place bets too. There are countless betting opportunities and incentives to explore.

So, where then to place your bet on the 2019 Grand National? Well, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention current favourite Tiger Roll (7/2) high on the list. The winner of the 2018 event is looking to become the first horse since Red Rum to win this coveted race back to back. Fresh from winning the Glenfarclas Chase for a second years straight, Trainer Gordon Elliot, hailed Tiger Roll a 'horse of a lifetime' so he clearly has high hopes. Anibale Fly is joint second favourite at betting odds of 10-1 with Rathvinden. The Trevor Hemmings owned Vintage Clouds, available at odds of 14-1 is a decent choice too considering the owners prior successes (Grand National wins with Hedgehunter, Ballabriggs and Many Clouds) For those looking for a more speculative bet Warriors Tale and Ultragold are avaialble at odds of 66-1.

It's not all about form analysis and the like though. With such a broad field and 30 fences to traverse over the 4 miles 514 yards distance, an element of good fortune is needed on the day too. As they say though, 'you make your own luck' and being guided by the right trainer can make a world of difference. The aforementioned Rathvinden stands out for this very reason, since trainer Willie Mullins has won the national twice before, so he's an old hand at the event compared to most. With up to forty runners on the day, whoever you put your money on, it's bound to be a sporting moment that captivates the nation.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins horse trainer
William Peter Mullins, usually known as Willie, has the distinction of being Irish National Hunt champion trainer 11 times and, in an illustrious career stretching back three decades, has won most of the high-profile races. He has saddled 61 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and won the Grand National with Hedgehunter, ridden by Ruby Walsh, in 2005. The one notable omission from his CV was the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he had saddled several well-fancied runners over the years.

In September, 2016, in a shock move, which had a seismic effect on the National Hunt landscape in Ireland and beyond, Gigginstown House Stud removed around 60 horses from Mullins’ County Carlow yard after a row of training fees. Around top-class 20 horses were transferred to Mullins’ arch-rival, Gordon Elliot, but Mullins still managed to secure the trainers’ title after an epic battle that lasted until the penultimate day of the season.

In the 2017/18 season, though, having played second fiddle to Gordon Elliot at the Cheltenham Festival for the second season running, Mullins headed to the Punchestown Festival in April with little, or no, chance of retaining his crown as Irish National Hunt champion trainer. However, after losing out on a winner on day one, when Paul Townend, deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh, inexplicably steered Al Boum Photo around the final obstacle in the Champion Novice Chase with the race at his mercy, Mullins saddled a stunning six-timer, including a one-two in the Punchestown Gold Cup, on day two to keep his title chances alive.

In 2019 Mullins finally found the missing puzzle piece, a Cheltenham Gold Cup, win with 12-1 shot Al Boum, ridden by Paul Townend. The seven year old gelding took control two fences out, battling past Anibale Fly in the process, gifting the 62 year old trainer a memorable victory.

"I had probably resigned myself to the fact I would not win the Gold Cup," said Mullins.

There's a lesson in perseverance there for us all.