Tuesday Selections: January 23rd, 2018

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3.40 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

This is a pretty deep race for a low grade handicap on a random January Tuesday on the Southwell Fibresand. Any number of horses could easily have a fair shout – but it is the new Michael Appleby recruit Canford Thompson that may hold all the aces.

The five year old gelding remains a maiden on the flat after 11 starts, although he won a maiden hurdle in 2016. Nonetheless, he is a super interesting individual after catching the eye on the last two occasions at Lingfield.

Back from a near year long break back in November over 2 miles, followed up in early December over 12 furlongs – in both races Canford Thompson ran an awful lot better than the bare form suggests, as in both cases he made eye-catching progress from over 4f out on the wide outside. The sectionals back both performances up as quite significant in the context of these moves and are valid excuses for him finishing tired in the final furlong.

The forms of those races, particularly the 12f contest in December, work out really well. They give the form credit and upgrade his performances in both contests in my book. Regardless, the handicapper dropped him 3lb to a career lowest mark.

I believe Canford Thompson is incredibly well handicapped if receiving a more solid & economical ride. Concerns I do have over the surface which he tries for the first time in combination with his habit to start slowly.

This more demanding surface and a hopefully good pace might be what he wants but it easily could not suit him if he finds himself behind early on when blowing the start. We shall see.

However, then he’s of even more interest the next time. It is worth a try, though, and the fact that Alistair Rawlinson is in the saddle, who has a superb record for the Appleby yard at this course, suggests a big run is certainly expected.

Selection:
10pts win – Canford Thompson @ 11/2 Bet365

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4.10 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

Take out the favourite Indigo Princess, who may not be able to reproduce her massive performance from three days ago, and you are left with a race wide open for anyone who is on a “going day” to take it.

Despite four poor performances to date, long-shot Shackles might be the answer here. He hasn’t shown an awful lot, though, with a bit of goodwill there were some positives to take from his comeback run at Wolverhampton in December on his first start for the Nicky Richards yard.

Only four career starts, this here will be his second run in a handicap, and he can do so off a rating lowered to 53 now. There is a fair chance Shackles is a bit better than that. On pedigree the jury is out particularly on the question of the Fibresand surface – though, on the dam side is plenty of hope with the dam’s sire having an excellent record at this track.

Shackles was a late April foal, so turning four now, he may needed the time to mature, so his year long absence before his reappearance last month might actually be a good thing.

Eye-catching jockey booking with Paul Mulrennan who has only two rides on the card while Nicky Richards has only this one runner – Mulrennan has to weight nearly two hours until the final race on the card until he can go home after his initial ride.

Interestingly, Richards had only one runner at Southwell up until now – ridden by Paul Mulrennan. It was a winner.

Selection:
10pts win – Shackles @ 25/1 Bet365

2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

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An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

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A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

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Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

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Monday Selections: January, 22nd 2018

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Shame we didn’t get to see Frozen Lake run today – the gelding was withdrawn under current rules after breaking through the starting gate. One for the tracker, regardless. So, a quiet week finds an unsatisfying ending.

……

7.20 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 1.5f

If a nine year old heads the market at odds of 7/2 you know it’s a wide open contest. That says, one who appears overprices is the Jean-Rene Auvray trained Anif as he has plenty going his way here I feel.

The gelding finished a fine third when last seen over CD 18 days ago – fair to say he had the run of the race from the front, though he wasn’t far beaten in the end and the form already works out well enough.

Anif is still low mileage, it’s gonna be his eight career start, only the third on the All-Weather and the fifth in Handicap company. He remains on the same mark as the other day, drops, though, in class, for the first time in a class 5 Handicap.

There isn’t too much pace on here again, so it is likely that Anif might find himself in front again, as he enjoys generally, or at least up with the pace. What could turn out to me a muddling affair, you surely want to be not too far off the speed, that is for sure.

His sire Cape Cross has an outstanding record with his offspring here at Wolverhampton over this trip – so overall it is possible Anif has found a golden opportunity.

Selection:
10pts win – Anif @ 7/1 Bet365

 

Sunday Selections: January, 21st 2018

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1.55 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

Six year old Frozen Lake hasn’t exactly been firing for his new trainer yet, however, he has plenty going for himself today and could be hard to stop if he hasn’t went sour. Clearly, the son of Elusive Quality deserves his chance in this open, yet very winnable race.

Frozen drops down to a career lowest mark as well as for the first time into a class 6 Handicap. This is the easiest task he faced ever and while his latest forms aren’t reading well, still, his March 2017 run here at Chelmsford over a mile is a very strong piece of form on offer.

A return to anything near it will see him winning easily today, given this is an easier race, he’s 9lb lower and has the aid of a red hot 5lb claimer on board.

The gelding has one issue: the start. He often rears and is on the back foot right away. That can be a problem here at Chelmsford where the kickback can be severe in my opinion.

Nonetheless, he could have too much in hand to use his stamina to pick up one after another in the home straight and hopefully gets there when it matters most.

Selection:
10pts win – Frozen Lake @ 6/1 Bet365

Saturday Selections: January, 20th 2018

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8.15 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

A quiet week so far, and here we go with a horse I’ve already been interested in a week ago, when he ran – and finished poorly, well beaten at Southwell.

Nonetheless, I’m prepared to give Emigrated another chance here, in this pretty poor contest that screams for an upset.

Reasons are pretty much the same as last week – however there is a slight bonus this time: Emigrated returns to a surface he probably likes a lot more, which he showed here in December when running his best race in a very long time over CD.

It was his second start for the Derek Shaw yard, after a promising initial display at Southwell coming off a break. At Chelmsford he backed it up with a fine 5th, only 2¾ beaten despite not having things going his way throughout – form that looks solid enough in the book, also.

Emigrated didn’t run well the last two times. There was little excuse last week other than a fluffed start at an unkind surface that can be hard to recover from a scenario like that – still a run to forget. The penultimate start at Chelmsford over 10f, a third run in quick succession, is easier to forgive when seen in the right context.

However, it has to be said, the five year old gelding did show eye-catching improvement in his first starts for his new trainer Derek Shaw.

 

Now, you don’t want to make too many excuses for a long standing maiden who hasn’t shown a lot his whole life. Nonetheless, those two forms in early December give him a fair shout in this race.

Interesting fact that Emigrated’s sire Fastnet Rock has quite an excellent record over this trip in Chelmsford Handicaps.

Selection:
10pts win – Emigrated @ 50/1 PP/VC/BF

Tuesday Selections: January, 16th 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

4.35 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

I am not a fan of backing mares during the winter months against the boys, however Gorgeous has caught my eye on her comeback run after a near year long layoff at Wolverhampton over 5f back in November as a 66/1 longshot.

She got badly hampered at the start and as a consequence wasn’t in a good position and too far off the pace when it mattered. Nonetheless, she finished in tremendous style, producing a turn of foot from the back of the field picking one after another up, to finish 2nd eventually.

She couldn’t quit back it up three weeks later – possibly the “bounce factor”? Although again she did not have the smoothest of experiences getting out of the starting gates and she didn’t help her cause when hanging badly to the left in the closing stages.

Regardless, both forms look rock solid and have bee franked. She drops a pound down to 55, which looks a very dangerous mark. She moves up to 6f which should very much suit on pedigree as a full-sister to a multiple Kempton course & distance winner.

Gorgeous has a wide draw to overcome which isn’t ideal. However this is a very winnable race in my eyes and ideal chance for her to get back to the winning ways.

Selection:
10pts win – Gorgeous @ 12/1 Bet365

Monday Selections: January, 15th 2018

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33/1 get in Cosmelli! It seemed a long time coming this week, hitting post and crossbar so often. Today was the day; though, I was nervous when Tom Eaves set very fast fractions early on. However, stamina is Cosmelli’s strengths and he clearly outstayed them all in impressive manner! A wonderful end to the week.

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7.40 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 5f

This looks like a battle between the top two in the market. Two potentially very well handicapped individuals, with Fareeq and Waneen – one of them should have too much in the locker for the rest in the field.

Fareeq drops down to a career lowest mark. He looks able to exploit it on the back of a recent 3rd place finish that looks decent form. A further drop of 2lb provides him with a prime chance – however he is drawn wider than ideal and that might swing the pendulum towards Waneen.

Waneen is ideally drawn in five which gives his jockey plenty of options. He also has dropped to a career lowest mark. After a string of mainly poor performances in slightly higher grades and higher ratings, he dropped to 58 the last time, when back off a 158 long break as he reappeared over CD – and the money was clearly down, backed into favoritism before the off.

Issue was a wide draw that day. He made allot to get across as soon as possible from the widest draw to share the lead. He was still in with a fair shout two furlongs out, and only dropped away late paying for his start and potentially his first run in a while. This is a solid piece of form, regardless, as it has been franked multiple times in the meantime.

The handicapper relives him off another pound. That is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Fact is, however, Waneen is a course and distance winner who won off 68 and was 74 rated, which seemed exactly a year ago pretty much alright.

He’s got another 56 days to recover from this big last run – hopefully fit and well, with most things falling his way, he looks sure to go close, as he seems incredibly well handicapped now.

Selection:
10pts win – Waneen @ 10/3 Skybet

 

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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