Long Run leads to a very long walk for racing ‘expert’ John Hanley

When you’re pretty sure your opinion’s right, rash promises sometimes come back to bite you.  A man in a Guildford pub might offer to eat his hat if proved wrong.  In Liverpool a bloke would probably say ‘I’ll show me arse in Woolies’ window’ (Woolworths is missed in more ways than one).

In leafy Cumbria they do things differently. Before this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, BBC Radio Cumbria’s racing correspondent John Hanley promised on air to walk from Windermere to Carlisle if Long Run won it under the Amateur Sam Waley Cohen.

Barely four hours after Sam rode the horse to victory ahead of all-time greats Denman and Kauto Star, red-faced John was back live on air to keep his promise to walk the length of the Lake District – in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK – but activities like walking as well as a healthy diet and of course early diagnosis through check-ups can help prevent it.

So on September 14 this year, John will be setting off on foot from beautiful Windermere in Cumbria to head 60 miles north through mountainous Lakeland terrain over two days to Carlisle to raise money to fight prostate cancer. He’s putting together a team to help.

BBC TV snooker commentator and former world number three Neal Foulds will be with him every step of the way on the 2011 Windermere to Carlisle Walking the Walk charity event, along with Andy Richmond, a well-respected racing pro backer. Joining them will be James Phillips, sports presenter with BBC Radio Cumbria, on whose programme John made his brash promise and who took great pleasure in reminding him – and their listeners – of exactly what their racing “expert” had said.

Joe McNally, writer and racing fan, will join them to cover the event for readers of his steeplechasing.wordpress.com blog, (and for youtube viewers).

The charity venture is continuing to snowball, with the backing of the Prostate Cancer Charity and the BBC. Support has also come from two of the Lake District’s finest hotels – The Lowwood Hotel at Ambleside and the Hydro Hotel in Bowness. Carlisle Racecourse’s general manager Richard Clements has also agreed to welcome the walkers at the end – the track’s finishing post, with a reception provided for the foot-weary stumblers. They might even jump the last fence.

John said: “A promise is a promise, so there was no way I was going to back out of the walk, not when I’d said it publicly. But it’s incredible the way the whole thing has now grown into a big charity fund-raising event thanks to all the marvellous support we are receiving.

“BBC Radio Cumbria’s intrepid sports team of Paul Newton and James Phillips had stitched me up good and proper by recording my initial promise and they really caught me on the hop when they played it again – to a sniggering audience – when I came back on air after the race on Friday March 18.

“But if you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, and to James’ credit, he will be joining me on the 60-mile hike from Windermere to the finishing post at Carlisle Racecourse, where the legendaryRed Rum was a winner. I’m really looking foward to it and to raising a lot of money for a great cause.”

Here are a few facts about prostate cancer:

  • One in nine men will get prostate cancer at any time
  • Currently a quarter of a million men are living with it.
  • It mainly affects men from the age of 50
  • The average age for a man to be diagnosed with it is 70-74
  • It can strike at any time and can grow slowly or  very quickly.

John added: “It is up to all of us to raise awareness and do something about prostate cancer. No one knows yet how to prevent it but a healthy diet and important changes to your lifestyle can help make a massive difference. Research into prostate cancer relies solely on funding and  we as men need to step up to the plate, and preferably not one with a roast dinner on”

If you want to help in any way, either by walking the walk or offering some help along the way or through sponsorship, then please contact John on at eyeontheball@btinternet.com.

Walking the Walk to beat prostate cancer

You can help by visiting their website, it’ll take the boys around 20 hours to walk ,it’ll take you around 2 minutes to  help out in any way you can and it means a lot to a lot of people.


Why bother studying festival form? Should we just back Ruby and Mullins, lay AP and PFN for a fat profit?

Figures for the past five festivals suggest a cold-blooded approach to profit might well be best served by backing certain jockeys and trainers and laying others. But is it as straightforward as it seems?

Listed below are the records for jockeys, trainers and Ruby/trainer combinations over the past 5 festivals.

In order the list reads:

number of runners/rides

number of winners

strike rate

return on investment at Betfair odds where 100% = break even

cash profit/loss at £100 unit stakes (Betfair commission omitted)

Ruby Walsh







AP McCoy





£3,158 loss


Barry Geraghty







R Johnson







R Thornton







Willie Mullins







PF Nicholls





£4,301 loss


NJ Henderson





£3,530 loss


Alan King





£3,512 loss


D Pipe





£2,559 loss








NB this combination ran at a slight loss before the victory of Final Approach last week








Interesting that the 100 non-Walsh ridden runners for PFN produced just 4 winners and a substantial loss for backers. Also, the 70 (from 100) non-Walsh ridden Mullins horses also managed just 4 winners.

Ruby’s 7 ‘outside rides didn’t provide a winner. Following Ruby when riding for his two main ‘suppliers’ brings this result:






Building a ‘system’ on betting Ruby’s mounts would need to be a long-term strategy.  Had you begun following Ruby on day one of the 2007 festival, you would not have gone into profit until he rode American Trilogy (returned at 22.2 on Betfair) to win the County Hurdle in 2009.

Also, layers will be a shade wiser come next March and Ruby’s mounts will get tighter in price though whether they are ‘overbet’ to the extent that AP’s are (on the basis of these figures) is debatable.

Still, AP backers since 2007 would never have reached profit at any time; the bottom of their punting pit, at £100 stakes, being as low as £4,351 in losses.

A judicious combination of backing Ruby and laying AP might prove the best solution.

Good luck

Albertas Run – 7 from 9 on good ground: can he do the Ryanair double?



Seasonal form figures of 4FP are the type that give a horse a bad name and a big price coming into a Grade One race at the festival. Albertas Run, last year’s Ryanair winner, has had a poor season by his standards; he fell when under pressure against Master Minded at Ascot then pulled up in the King George next time (jockey thought AR had ‘gone wrong’ but the horse finished sound).

An RSA trophy alongside his Ryanair one didn’t prevent the ruthless boys at Timeform giving him the dreaded and thoroughly undeserved squiggle (all they needed to do was check his going requirements).

He has won seven of his nine races over jumps on good ground (Timeform going description used). In the other two he was 2nd to Kauto Star in the King George and 3rd to Madison Du Berlais at Aintree.  Assuming good ground tomorrow as forecast, failure to make the first three would be a career first, yet he can be backed each way at around 6/1.

His Ascot fall was his first ever (he can hit the odd fence) and it might have left its mark mentally, but at 6/1 I am willing to take the chance that his favourite surface and track (won 3 of his 4 races over jumps at Cheltenham) will see him back to his best.

Good luck

22 Celebrity Yankees to choose from in the inaugural Twitter Tipster Trophy charity challenge

We invited the racing professionals on Twitter to send us their best four bets in the form of a Yankee.  The horse nominated first in each group is that person’s nap.

Iain Turner, PR guru for WBX.com and racing manager for horses like Walkon and Mille Chief, very kindly agreed to put up a prize of a charity bet with WBX.com on the John Smith’s Grand National of £250 to the winning tipster – £500 if all 4 horses are successful in the winning Yankee.

So, here they are.  Good luck and thanks to all who entered.

Respected journalist and broadcaster of long standing Mike Vince offers his four:

Hurricane Fly,

So Young

Long Run

I’m Singing the Blues

Four from the man who brought twitter terror to the turf layers with Tenor Nivernais, Richard Hoiles

Tenor Nivernais Fred Winter

Big Bucks Stayers

Big Zeb QM

Habbie Simpson Albert Bartlett

From James Knight, Coral odds guru, racehorse owner and journalist:

Sparky May David Nicholson, Mares Race

Grands Crus World Hurdle

Wymott RSA

Wishfull Thinking Jewson

Head of Communications at the British Horseracing Authority, Paul Struthers offers these . . .

Dunguib Champion Hurdle

Rock Noir Arkle

Kalahari King Ryanair

Get Me Out Of Here County

Simon Rowlands, Timeform’s Head of Research/Handicapping, nominates his four (you’ll note the CAPS on his nap):


Cue Card Supreme Novices’, Tues

Time For Rupert RSA Chase, Weds

Shoreacres J Henderson, Fri.

From Simon Walton, founder and MD of ProForm Racing

Big Bucks World Hdle

Peddlers Cross Champion Hdle

Zarkandar Triumph Hdle

Woolcombe Folly Queen Mother

Phil Taylor, jockey’s valet of 25 years standing, sends us these:

Sparky May Mares

Cue Card Supreme

Medermit Arkle

Peddlers Cross Champion Hurdle

From Ian Robinson, syndicate Supremo who has won wtith 92.7% of the horses he’s bought including Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander.

Sprinter Sacre Supreme

First Lieutenant Neptune

Unaccompanied Triumph

Gagewell Flyer Albert Bartlett

A Yankee from the top team at The Racing Forum

Champion Hurdle – Binocular

Supreme Novices – Cue Card

RSA Chase – Time For Rupert

Ryanair – Albertas Run

Robert Gibbs who authors the Becher’s Brook blog protests ‘I’m not a Celeb!’.  He is in my book having tipped half a dozen or so winners in the past few days, among them 66/1, 20/1 10/1. Robert specialises very successfully in the lower grade racing but happily has agreed to offer us this Yankee for the festival:

Maljimar x country

Cannington Brook NH chase (sub: Williams Wishes in the Grand Annual)

Realt Dubh Arkle

The Giant Bolster RSA

The highly esteemed Graham Cunningham of RUK fame and much battle-scarred elsewhere sends us these:

Big Zeb,



Grand Crus

Steve Mullington, Aintree fanatic, manic tweeter with a huge Blog following sends us his Yankee:

Ghizao Arkle

Kalahari King Ryanair

L’Ami Cross Country

Oh Crick Grand Annual

Cathryn Fry, freelance racing journalist and linch-pin of the Owners & Trainers reception at Aintree, offers these:

Hurricane Fly CH

Big Zeb QM

Plan A Fred Winter

On The Fringe-Foxhunter

Stats superstar Paul Jones, author of Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide

sent us these:



So Young

Dantes Storm

Eight-times champion jumps-jockey, Peter Scudamore tweeted this entry:

Plan A

Khyber Kim

Baby Run

Imperial Commander

Malcolm Boyle odds compiler, author, journalist and current columnist at sportinglife.com and gg.com

Ghizao Arkle

Master Of The Hall RSA

Big Bucks World Hurdle

Imperial Commander Gold Cup

Top blogger Ian Dykes, our Wayward Lad comes into the festival on the back of a 14/1 winner on Saturday – his sole advice

GHIZAO for the Arkle.

PEDDLERS CROSS for the Champion Hurdle

For the Ryanair, POQUELIN


Highly respected trends and stats author and blogger

Ben Aitken, sends his selections:

Loosen My Load Jewson

Divers Centenary Chase

On The Fringe Foxhunters

Sir Des Champs M Pipe Conditional Hdl

Top Flat jock, James Millman has kindly sent us four:

Ghizao Arkle

Dunguib Champion

Kalahari King Ryanair

Grandouet Triumph

Tony Coleman, Paddy Power’s racecourse PRO in the UK and writer for Horse & Hound offers these wine-fuelled selections:

Some Target NH Ch

Great Endeavour Stewart Family Hcap Ch

The Giant Bolster RSA

Junior Kim Muir

Paddy Power’s democratic Studio Team got together to nominate 1 horse each in the following:

Big Bucks

Hurricane Fly

Cue Card

Sizing Europe

Good luck to all entrants and for taking the time to offer these, a big . . .

When the going gets good, do the good get the going?

Cheltenham’s clerk of the course, Simon Claisse has very shaky form with his going descriptions for day one of the festival meeting. Good to soft has been his verdict in four of the past five years (soft in 2008).

Timeform, using race times as well as other information, has disagreed with that description  four times in the same period. Simon Rowlands’, (head of research and handicapping at Timeform), article on this is here.

Many readers know that the going is the key factor for most form students. Millions will be bet on Cheltenham runners over the next four days but until we hear the verdict of the jockeys after the first race each day, no one who is serious about their betting can back a horse with any real confidence.

Accuracy advocates put plenty work into trying to get things changed.

A thread on the Betfair forum, faithfully noted official going descriptions and compared them with time-based ones, publishing the results, for two full seasons.  One of the architects of that thread voted in my blog poll and left the following comment:

“His (Simon Claisse) stick readings defy belief , He has Champion Hurdle day (2010)  as softer than when Grand Crus won the Cleeve!!!!! But until you dig around and find out when a lot of the readings were taken(up to FIVE days old!!) then you are not going to get a lot of sense out of them

Take them 2 hours before the first and an hour after the last if you want them to have ANY meaning”

So, who cares? It’s Cheltenham, the NH season’s X Factor now, with almost all other big races being treated as an extended equine ‘boot camp’ for contenders. Maybe many people don’t care. The ‘holiday’ atmosphere of the festival, tempts them to abandon discipline for the duration and treat their bank as spending money.

A week ago I opened a poll on this blog based on the question Do you agree with festival policy on producing easy ground for day one? I placed a link on my home page, inviting votes. The home page has over 2,000 views yet only 198 people chose to click through to the poll.  Of those 198, just 70 voted.  The top ‘answer’ with just over 31% was “I don’t mind, so long as the going description is accurate”

Only 10% opted for ‘Yes, it’s the best strategy for welfare and safety‘ (You can see all results by clicking here then clicking ‘View results’ on the bottom left of the panel)

I’m no pollster. I intended to be objective in compiling and wording the options though perhaps I missed in that aim thus discouraging people from voting. The result was as I expected – most of those experienced in betting on horseracing, don’t care what the going is so long as it is accurately described.

How much will be bet on the Supreme tomorrow and what percentage of that on Cue Card? He’s seen as a banker by many yet, based on Timeform’s going descriptions, his only hurdles defeat has come on good ground.

Just 70 voters would cut little ice with statisticians, I suspect, the sample size being considered too low.  But isn’t it time Racing for Change started looking seriously at this subject?  Much of RFC’s focus seems to be on attracting newcomers, yet every marketer will tell you that it is much cheaper to retain current customers than to recruit new ones.

Racing’s dilemma here: the more that people learn about horseracing, the less attractive it will seem as a betting medium compared with sports where full and accurate information is available.  A description of the going, which punters can trust, at every track, is essential to the long-term financial health of the sport.  It might not be an easy objective to achieve, but we must find a solution.

For a start, when racecourse execs sit down to compile their list of “stakeholders”, they ought to add, close to the top, “off-course punter”

Eight-times Champ, Peter Scudamore recommends 4 for the festival

Scu is the 16th entrant trying to win a big charity bet from WBX.com with his Yankee recommendation in the first ever Twitter Tipster Trophy Challenge.

You can see Scu’s bet along with all the other entries here. Just scroll down the page to the comments section.

Celebs, you have until midnight to enter and try and win up to £500 for a  charity bet on the John Smith’s Grand National.

How much would Tidal Bay have won with a good Barrister?

Poor old Tidal Bay. If he were human and had a good QC, he’d have won a dozen defamation cases against his detractors.

Many people have a soft spot for him, and I’m one of them. For a ‘villain’ he’s been pretty consistent;  jumps placings:


Not out of the first two in his first 17 NH outings. He’s won at least once each season in all bar his first, and only been out of the first 4 twice in his life. he’s won two Grade 1s and two Grade 2s (three of these Graded victories at Cheltenham) His racing style, with that high head carriage, makes me think something is hurting him. Owner Graham Wylie had his back checked last season and they believed they’d found, and fixed, the problem, but, a bit like the ancient pop group Status Quo, he still keeps turning out the same old performances, his version of the 12 bar blues for supporters.

When he finally pops his platinum plates, I wouldn’t be surprised if an autopsy found some physical defect which will leave racing fans swooning and reflecting ‘if only’. One of the best hurdlers of the ’70s, Birds Nest, used to get called all sorts of names because he’d swerve badly across the course near the finish when under maximum pressure. When he died, they opened him up and found he had a serious heart defect.

I doubt Tidal Bay will win the Gold Cup but I’ll bet the roof comes off the stand if he does. Unfortunately, I don’t think his form with Imperial Commander at Haydock can be taken literally. I had the good fortune to speak to Ian Robinson last night – Ian heads the syndicate that owns Imperial Commander – and he told me that  not only did IC suffer a serious cut during the Betfair ‘chase, they found out later that when they thought they’d had him 90% fit for the race, he was just 75% to 80% fit.

The romantic in me would love to see Tidal Bay blunder his way round in his usual fashion, trade at 999 on Betfair two out, and storm up the hill to win by a nose in a four-way photo-finish. I don’t think he will but with old TB, you never, ever know.

Good luck if you’ve backed him.