Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com presents his weekly column.
This week Tony chats to Ben Aitken from narrowingthefield.com to review last weekend’s races.
I’ve known Ben for six years now. Originally from Scotland, Ben moved to West Yorkshire around two years ago to continue his highly successful narrowingthefield.com website. Ben always attends my Raceday at Beverley for the irishbigracetrends.com handicap and a good catch up.
I asked Ben about the weekend’s racing and what effect if any for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival.
He said: “Newbury is becoming a bit of a bogey track for Willie Mullins and despite throwing the kitchen sink at Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle, he still couldn’t find a winner. Indeed, he couldn’t even find a placed runner.
“Since 2008 he is now 0/20 at Newbury, with none of the 20 even managing to place. OK, that’s not a huge amount to go on but then again this is Willie Mullins we are talking about. The guy that is absolutely dominating this fantastic game of ours.
“On Saturday, he had the red-hot favourite for the Betfair Hurdle in the shape of Blazer. He strolled home a 22-length ninth.
“This isn’t a recent struggle for Mullins though at Newbury. In fact if we take this back to 1997, we get one winner from 32 runners. That winner? Be My Royal in the 2002 Hennessy Gold Cup.
“But he didn’t officially win, did he? He was later disqualified because of a banned substance found in his blood sample. So officially he’s 0/32 at the track.
“Newbury, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to agree with the Mullins team. Remember the Mullins/Newbury stats the next time you fancy backing one of his at 3/1 in a 22-runner handicap.”
I asked Ben for a horse to follow in the coming weeks.
“Philip Hobbs has an extremely exciting bumper horse on his hands and that horse’s name is Westend Story. He’s been sneaking away at the lesser tracks to date, building his confidence and learning his trade, both times under the watchful eye of Richard Johnson.
On Sunday the five-year-old romped away with the closing bumper at Exeter, winning by a comfortable 18 lengths under his penalty. That made it two from two for the Westerner gelding, who won on debut at Huntingdon by six lengths on Boxing Day.
“The horse caught my eye that day at Huntingdon as he was Philip Hobbs’ only runner at the track that day and it was notable that Richard Johnson had also chosen to ride at the track as well, away from higher profile meetings taking place elsewhere.
“The four-year-old is a beautifully bred individual who looks to have a serious future ahead of him and he should make into a well above average hurdler, and potentially chaser, in the coming years.”