Sunday Selections: Dublin Racing Festival

Dedigout and Paul Carberry

Big day at Leopardstown today – day two of the Dublin Racing Festival! The Irish Gold Cup is on the menu, serving a fin main dish.

That despite the weather turning for the worse. Saturday was such a lovely, sunny, crisp and clear winter day – 24 hours later it’s rather windy, grey and dirty. Still, there isn’t a lot of water coming down from the sky, which means the ground continued to dry out and remains on the good side.

That has seen plenty of on-runners already, and that in turn makes some of those races on the card today quite interesting betting contests.

So, unusually for me, I’ve found three pretty strong bets!

…….

2.25 Leopardstown: Grade B Handicap, 3 miles

Despite a 7lb raise in his handicap mark, unexposed Cuneo looks ready to follow-up on an impressive Christmas success that came over course and distance. He has the making of a better than 133 rated individual, even though future will clearly be over fences.

The last time at Leopardstown, in massive 28-runner strong field, he travelled always close enough to the pace but showed signs of greenness throughout, making it a tricky ride for Rachael Blackmore.

Nonetheless Cuneo’s eye-catching progress over three out had the making of a talented individual. And even though he nearly messed things up approaching the final fence, he ran on well, while appearing to be doing as much as needed to win the race.

There should be plenty more improvement to come with this fella and if he gets a clear run of things today should be hard to stop. Even more so as he seems to enjoy good ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Cuneo @ 7/2 MB

……..

3.35 Leopardstown: Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup, 3 miles

The flagship contest of the Dublin Racing Festival has been thrown wide open with the drying ground and the withdraws of quite a few interesting runners.

That should make it a clear thing between Al Boum Photo and Road To Respect? Noel Meade’s charges enjoys good ground maybe the little bit better and is proven class – he’ll be tough to beat. On the other hand, despite his overall positive record, he’s one who can also find trouble and get beaten when he shouldn’t – in my mind.

I’m yet to be fully convinced by Al Boum Photo, particularly on this ground. Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill is the more attractive Willie Mullins runner.

As the field is much smaller now than initially thought, this could turn into a tactical contest also. And that’s why I feel this is much more open than the market suggests. Probably more open than it was if anyone would have lined up?

Edwulf will appreciate any drop of rain that’s currently falling. Will it be enough? Remains to be seen.

I am keen at a massive price – though falling all the time already – on the aging Outlander. He’s not getting any younger, his best days may be beyond him. But he ran okayish, without setting the world alight, in three starts this season.

I’m pretty sure this was his target all along. Outlander loves Leopardstown – he’s a different animal here – and he loves a bit of decent ground. He was runner-up in this very race last year. So he must rate a live chance. A better one than 4% in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Outlander @ 24/1 MB

…….

4.10 Leopardstown: Grade A Handicap Chase, 2m 5f

Competitive contest in its nature, but I feel only few are weighted to win, particularly on the rather fast ground. I can make good cases for favourite Speaker Connolly – though it’s a skinny price, really, De Name Escapes Me or Cadmium, but it’s the ever improving Cubomania who catches my eye.

The 6-year-old has been progressive over fences, ever since having a wind operation during the summer. He won five times since then, and has been a highly creditable runner-up in his last two starts.

His latest effort at Fairyhouse in particular proved he still finds more. The favourite had a bit too much speed in the end but Cubomania stayed on very strongly after a good round of jumping.

The grey will enjoy the step up in trip and has quite an excellent record on better ground. So, while he has to defy a career highest mark, there is a good chance he can find the improvement needed – as long as he gets a clear run, which is the worry if he drops in in this big field.

Selection:
10pts win – Cubomania @ 13/1 MB

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Saturday Selections: February, 2nd 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

12.35 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 7 furlongs

Only one ride today, that usually is a sign of confidence if Joe Fanning makes his way down to Lingfield. His mount Port Of Leith may have a future over further, but right now offers still plenty of scope over this 7f trip also.

A cozy CD winner in December off 2lb lower in a good race, which loooks strong form through the runner-up who is now 5lb higher rated than back then, today is only his second All-Weather start.

He couldn’t follow up at Kempton subsequently but you can forgive that run. Master Fanning may be able to dictate matters in this small field today and that could be telling when it matters most in the closing stages.

Selection:
10pts win – Port Of Leith @ 6/1 MB

……..

6.45 Kempton: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Looks a competitive race, but in reality most are in the grip of the handicapper. That leaves space for an unexposed sort. I feel Enzemble could be this. Still generally lightly raced, particularly on the All-Weather.

Gerald Mosse back in the saddle, he steered Enzemble to CD success last summer. The 4-year-old followed up with a strong runner-up performance behind a subsequent Group 3 winner and ran another nice race on Turf.

Changed yard since then, returned to the track after a small break here at Kempton last month. He finished well enough after hitting a flat spot over 2f out. He needs to improve to have a chance today.

But he should be capable of doing so. Enzemble’s mark has dropped below 80 now – given he already ran to higher RPR’s and an 80 TS rating (on turf) there is a fair possibility he is something like a mid-80 rated individual.

Selection:
10pts win – Enzemble @ 7/1 MB

………

8.15 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

In truth, I do not have all that much trust in the ability of Spring Ability – but in a wide open race I feel this lad has a chance to outrun a huge price tag. And there a reasons for it.

First of all, the yard has a fair spell. Furthermore trainer Laura Mongan’s charges excel over longer trips generally and her record with horses stepping up in trip is quite excellent.

So, from that perspective, seeing Spring Ability, who has only his second handicap start, stepping up to 12f after doing most of his races over a mile, until his latest 10f bout at Lingfield, a second run after a long break, gives a bit of hope.

Spring Ability looks quite a big and scopey individual. He’s related to a couple of 12f winners, so clearly bred to go this distance, and you can pretty much draw a line under anything he has done so far.

Whether today is already the day to let the handbreak off, I don’t know. Price suggests no. Mark is still high enough. But then, it seems significant to me to see him running 3rd time after a break, 2nd handicap, for the first time over “his” trip with a good jockey in the saddle also. And not to forget, Spring Ability’s best career run came at Kempton.

Selection:
10pts win – Spring Ability @ 100/1 MB

Thursday Selections: January, 31st 2019

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A 50/1 second yesterday, yet what does it matter – at the moment they simply don’t get their head in front. What a rotten run. Tough start to the year, now the final day of the month, what started out as a fine January, has turned into a nightmare. But then, it’s the game of patience and cool heads….

…….

4.05 Newcastle: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4.5f 

Lopes Dancer dropping down to his preferred trip as well as down in to class 5 should see him having a tremendous chance getting back to the winning ways. He was a CD winner of a mark of 75 in higher grade in the past, so down to a 72 rating now offers an opportunity.

Key piece of form in mind is his December runner-up effort over course and distance in higher grade. An excellent performance up with a fast pace, he fend off everyone, bar the late charging Loud And Clear, who went on to win another race subsequently.

Lopes Dancer did that of 71, so given on most other days he is the winner of that race, the one additional pound today doesn’t make a difference as this is also an easier race.

Selection:
10pts win – Lopes Dancer @ 9/2 MB

Wednesday Selections: January, 30th 2019

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7.45 Wolverhampton: Class 7 Handicap, 8.5 furlongs

As my rotten run continues I don’t have high hopes to change that today. How can you when backing a 50/1 shot?! I’ve been incredibly keen on Blue Harmony the last time she ran at Kempton, though – before finishing a 27 lengths beaten eleventh.

As a consequence the handicapper has dropped her another 5lb. down to 48 now and the filly will contest in the lowest grade for a first time. There is a plot thickening here and it could well be the case Blue Harmony is “gone”.

Nonetheless, for this time, pretty much all I liked about her chance the other day applies today also – with the added benefit of a lower grade and lower mark! So let’s pull out the arguments from the 5th of January again:

“I’m excited as heck because I feel Blue Harmony could be supremely well handicapped in this race!

The equation is a simple one: the filly has been dropped dramatically in her handicap mark, mainly on the basis of a string of poor showings which – in my view – came on the back of marks too high as a result of her maiden win and a couple of subsequent decent handicap efforts. It took a while to get the weight down.

But now, third start for a new yard after a bit of a break, she drops to a more realistic distance plus got another few pounds off thanks her most recent 7th place finish at Wolverhampton.

Looking back at that race, for the first time of a rather realistic mark, but probably a trip still too far, things didn’t go to plan early on when the inexperienced apprentice jockey removed the hood way too late, the filly bumped into a couple of horses and was lit up.

She dropped over the next furlongs back in the field, finding herself turning wider than ideal for home and when attempting to make a run, she lost her footing, stumbling, losing all momentum.

She still managed to finish 7th in quite a hot contest – the form has worked out rather well for that type of low grade race.

Now down to a mark of 53, one has to remember Blue Harmony has been running to a TS 69 rating in the past and to RPR’s over 53 on on six out of nine occasions on the All-Weather.

Even more significantly she gets the assistance of competent 5lb claimer Megan Nicholls and has the additional aid of a good draw. The price on offer is way over the top I feel given how well this filly could be handicapped.”

So, the same 5lb claiming apprentice is on board, but the handicap mark is 5lb lower and the race an easier one. I feel I rarely had a better 50/1 shot.

Selection:
10pts win – Blue Harmoney @ 50/1 MB

 

Tuesday Selections: January, 29th 2019

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6.15 Wolverhampton, Class 5 Handicap, 6f 

At given prices I feel it’s worth siding with Kirby mount Big Time Maybe. The 4yo races second from a break and wind OP and is significantly below his last winning mark. He won of 5,- 11,- and 12 pounds higher in the past – albeit over 5f.

He’ll need to stretch out over this additional furlong, but there is reason to believe he can. His comeback run gives certainly hope he’ll improve from it. A fair race and effort, the winner, travelling at the back of the field, won subsequently. Big Time Maybe set a fair pace and only faded late.

He’s got a good draw today, so should be able to be up there, may even dominate and set a pace that suits him most. With fitness assured and the breathing fine, hopefully, he may be able to take advantage of a slipping mark.

Selection:
10pts win – Big Time Maybe @ 12/1 MB

Thursday Selections: January, 24th 2019

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2.55 Southwell: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 4f

Michael Appleby has a 22% strike rate in handicaps at Southwell with horses running for the first time for him, so that makes High Command an interesting contender.

The latest performances are concerning, though. A long beaten 5/2 four of five in claimer at Wolverhampton is the latest of below-par performances. One has to bank on Appleby’s magic hands.

On the other hand, what also could lead to a change in fortunes is the return to the Southwell fibresand. High Command is 2/2 here, including a CD success and dropped 2lb lelow his last winning mark.

From a good draw, a horse who likes to go forward, he may use his stamina to stretch the field and make use of the good mark, if rejuvenated by the change of yard.

Selection:
10pts win – High Command @ 7/1 MB

…….

6.25 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

New headgear combination for Fink Hill. How that works remains to be seen. He’s drifting in the market, so that’s a negative. He also has an engagement in a couple of days, which is interesting. So is that jockey Charles Bishop comes here for this one ride only, which is a positive.

Since winning a 5f sprint at Southwell in hands of Bishop, Fink Hill has been on a downward curve. A subsequent 6th, 3l beaten at Wolverhampton under a penalty was still a fair effort, but he was a long way down the field the next three times.

A return to this course and distance is interesting: arguably his best career performance came here in a few years ago, when 3rd of a mark of 70, running to a TS rating of 61.

So, dropping down to a mark of 60 over this CD in a weakish class 6 Handicap a return to form isn’t out of question today.

Selection:
10pts win – Fink Hill @ 22/1 MB

Wednesday Selections: January, 23rd 2019

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7.45 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Still a maiden after 18 starts, but Caracas has shown a bit of life here and there, both on turf and the All-Weather. He drops in trip, a somewhat unfamiliar one, as only twice did he contest the 12f distance.

Form wise his 5th from last March over 2 miles at Chelmsford rates a pretty strong piece of form. He came agonizingly close a few months later at Nottingham when only a head beaten. Consistency, though, isn’t Caracas’s game.

Second up after a break today in a poor race, he has a highly successful 3lb claiming apprentice in the saddle – Joshua Bryan comes here for this one ride only today, which looks significant.

Of a mark of 52 Caracas looks rather well handicapped if he can put his best foot forward over this trip that on pedigree should suit.

Selection:
10pts win – Caracas @ 21/1 MB

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