A New Year and a new dawn with the launch of Sky Sports Racing – what is high on your 2019 wish list?

Well first of all, let me wish all sportinglife.com readers a very Happy New Year. It was certainly a rather busy one for me in the run up to the launch of Sky Sports Racing on 1st January. Huge credit has to go to the team behind the scenes as they have worked tirelessly to get the programme on air.

Launching a brand new channel (because that’s what it is, despite it being a continuation of sorts of ATR) is a hard job. The people involved are exceptionally talented and their work ethic is astonishing. As a presenter, the last thing you want is for your lack of preparation to have a detrimental effect on the output, so there was plenty of research taking place at Hammond HQ over Christmas!

There was a great deal of relief amongst us that day one went without incident and it’s onwards and upwards now as we try and make the product as good as we can for our loyal viewers and hopefully we can encourage some new fans to get involved with our fabulous sport too. I was particularly impressed with the new shots we have access to.

The slo-mos are a treat and the drone footage of racecourses gives a real feel of the tracks that regular shots just can’t convey. So, to answer the question, what is high on my wish list? Personally, I’m looking forward to getting back out on track, something I really enjoyed earlier on in my broadcasting career, as there’s nothing like being a part of the action at the coal face and meeting the characters involved.

I hope Sky Sports Racing can attract some new fans to the sport as well as continue to provide what you have come to expect from a specialist channel. It’s a fine line to tread, to appeal to long standing viewers at the same time as bringing the minutiae to people who may not be completely au fait with horse racing, but hopefully we will be able to do that. We certainly won’t be resting on our laurels and hopefully that will come across on screen in 2019.

What were the most impressive performances from Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day meeting?

Well as I was otherwise engaged on New Year’s Day, I have had to catch up on the Cheltenham action, but one horse that caught my eye was Lostintranslation. It looks like Colin Tizzard has got another smart staying chaser on his hands judging on his win in the Dipper Novices’ Chase and it will be interesting to see where he ends up at the Cheltenham Festival.

Lostintranslation on his way to victory

Lostintranslation on his way to victory

He’s now 12/1 with Sky Bet for the RSA Chase and 7s for the JLT and it seems as though the latter is his most likely target according to his trainer, although I agree with some race analysts that he seemed to get better the further he went. The RSA isn’t always the best race for young staying chasers though as it can bottom them, so with his long term future in mind, the shorter race (JLT) might be the best option. Tizzard considers him a likely Gold Cup type in time and it would be hard to disagree with a trainer that knows exactly what one of those looks like.

Has Nicky Henderson finally got a Randox Health Grand National candidate in Beware The Bear? Sean Boyce and I discussed that in the Sky Sports Racing studio on Tuesday when we saw the results from Cheltenham. For all Henderson’s achievements, the champion trainer is yet to have any luck in Nationals, but the way this horse stayed to win the three-and-a-quarteer mile handicap chase at Prestbury Park, despite looking like he was running through treacle in the last 100 yards as he understandably got tired in the ground, marked him down as a likely Aintree type. Sky Bet have him as a 33/1 shot for the Aintree marathon.

Beware The Bear responds well to blinkers at Cheltenham

Beware The Bear – can he give Nicky Henderson a first Grand National win?

Sky Bet were the first bookmaker to offer Non Runner No Bet on ALL 28 Cheltenham Festival races. Give us a couple to consider with the offer in mind…

Well, harking back to the previous question, it could be wise to have an investment on Lostintranslation for the RSA Chase as the 12/1 is quite tempting and he may well end up there.

Aux Ptits Soins was impressive when winning the three mile handicap hurdle on the same card on his second start for new trainer Dan Skelton. He is a fragile horse, but a talented one and the aim this season is for the former Coral Cup winner to get to the Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle. He’s 16/1 with Sky Bet for a race that looks pretty open given that some of the market protagonists have other possible targets at the Festival. If this horse stays sound, that could look like good value, and if he doesn’t get there, you get your stake back!

Saturday’s feature is the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle which has produced some class acts down the year. What’s your take on this year’s edition?

It’s great to see a Grade One again so soon after Christmas where we were spoilt for choice with a wealth of top class racing. This race looks up to its status once again and Henderson has a strong entry in a race he has a very good recent record in.

Whatever he runs out of his four entries deserves maximum respect and Rathhill, Epatante and Birchdale (all owned by JP McManus) dominate the ante post betting for the champion trainer. I’m going to go for Elixir De Nutz for Tizzard, the 5/2 second favourite, though.

He had no luck for Philip Hobbs last season in two starts, but his stable were under a cloud at the time and he is now with his new trainer for whom he finished second on his stable debut and has won both his starts since. He’s an efficient jumper and stays the two mile trip well. His long term target is the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for which he is a 16/1 shot with the sponsors. That price is sure to contract considerably if he wins on Saturday.

Elixir De Nutz is clear over the last

Elixir De Nutz – fancied to win the Tolworth

Do you fancy anything else at Sandown – or elsewhere – this weekend?

Well we are all waiting with baited breath to see if Laurina turns up at Sandown for the Listed Mares’ Hurdle. Wille Mullins has had a few chances to get her season underway recently, but we haven’t seen her yet. If she runs, she won’t be any sort of price, but how she fares may well effect the markets for the Unibet Champion Hurdle and OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, so keep your eyes peeled.

Laurina marked herself out as another Mullins superstar

Laurina – will she be back at Sandown?

I’m looking forward to seeing Darius Des Bois in action again and he is entered for the two-and-a-half mile handicap chase at Sandown. Interestingly, he has also been given an entry for the Sky Sports Racing Sussex National on Sunday. He looked to get tired on his seasonal debut at Ludlow last month in a novice chase and looks like a smashing chaser in the making. Off his handicap mark of 127 he should be capable of making an impact wherever he goes.


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