Royal Ascot Wednesday

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

Royal Ascot is upon us…. and I missed day one. Just returned from a three week long trip around Australia, work was calling on Monday right away and left no room for any form study, neither yesterday. Without a proper study I don’t throw bucks on the nags and rather enjoy the replays of the big races.

None bigger than the curtain raiser on the opening Tuesday which is the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes – somehow in my mind  the World Cup final for milers!

Maybe because I call myself Paco Boy’s Nr. 1 fan. His triumph in 2009 was such a special, memorable, eye-catching and simply beautiful performance – it left a lasting mark on me.

So of course I was keen to see who’d get up in this years renewal. Ribchester the big favourite after landing the Lockinge in superb style. Not quite as impressive this time, but in the end with authority, the Godolphin inmate ran all his rivals down.

Only one of many brilliant performances on the day. Lady Aurelia bolting up in the King’s Stand and Barney Roy got his first Group 1 win under the belt, while Churchill found this possibly one too many a race.

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2.30 Ascot: Jersey Stakes, Group 3, 7 furlongs

A hot race that will inevitably end up in a split of the field I believe – pace drawn close to both sides of the rails should ensure a fair enough contest…. hopefully.

It’s hard to make a call what site to favour and what eventually happens in this race, but on pure form you have to very keen on French raider Le Brivido, runner-up in the French Guineas. Drawn in ten he will have every opportunity to make a choice but might early on and no doubt with only two starts to his name he looks bound to improve.

However I fancy second favourite Dream Castle a lot. Drawn in 19 could be a problem, but doesn’t have to be. Fact is this son of Frankel is riddled with talent as he showed on debut when winning impressively, followed up by an incredibly eye-catching performance in the Greenham.

He was argubly unlucky in the 2000 Guineas subsequently and clearly is better than the bare results suggests. He pulled in the first half of the race, was then hampered and a clear run denied at a crucial stage, yet finished strongly.

He has had only three career starts, so there is every chance for more to come as the fast ground and the drop to 7f won’t be a problem, in fact a fast race over this sort of trip should be ideal.

Selection:
10pts win – Dream Castle @ 4/1 Bet365

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4.20 Ascot: Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Group 1, 1m 2f

Despite the trip possibly short of his optimum, Highland Reel from the front over 10f on fast ground at Ascot could be difficult to peg back, I feel. He a high-class individual and bounced back to his best in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

I feel his biggest challange won’t come from Jack Hobbs, who got the better of him in Dubai because the drop in trip in combination of quick ground is a much clearer disadvantage for the 2015 derby runner-up in my mind at least.

Most likely to enjoy these conditions is Sir Michael’s classy Galileo colt Ulysses, though. His seasonal reappearance at Sandown was pleasing and the form franked by runner-up Deauville.

He’s yet to score at the highest level however had his fare share of problems which means after eight career starts he might still be able to find a bit of improvement. I’m slightly concerned about him being too far off the pace in this race, on the other hand – but that’s the risk to take.

Selection: 
10pts win – Ulysses @ 4/1 Bet365

A day at Canterbury Park

What a day here in Sydney – it’s my first day in the big city on the East Coast of Australia; a day literally drowned in rain! So instead of a walking tour and ferry trip along the world renowned Harbour Bridge It’s plan B:  the opportunity to visit local race track Canterbury Park!

Parking on-site, no problem. A gentlemen pulls up beside me. “This the public car park?”…. “Seems so”. We walk together – he tells me he’s English, loves Cheltenham, but lives “Down Under” for a while and comes racing today, on this desperate day, to support a friend, who owns a horse that runs today. Oh, and he went with Martin Pipe to school – same class, he says!

I It’s still raining. In fact it’ll never stop. At least it’s free to get in. The ground upgraded to a Heavy 10  – whatever that means. Heavy is heavy? Anyway, I fight against the weather. Whenever there is only a slight chance of not getting totally soaked in seconds, I jump out, the camera in my hands, and shot, cleaned the lens, shot and back to seek cover.

I have to say it was impressive that the meeting was not abandonment. Ground staff must have be doing some magic with all the rain. Lest we forget the ongoing thunderstorms.

On a day like this, mid-week, atrocious weather conditions, naturally there’ll be only some die-hard racing fans or gamblers making there way to a track. That says there was zero atmosphere, though I’ve been told Friday nights under the floodlights can be pretty special.

Photo Gallery – Canterbury Park, AUS – 7th June 2017; © Florian Christoph:

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Tuesday Racing – May 24th 2017

With a laughing and a smiling eye news were perceived of the retirement of the well beloved grey gelding Sollow today. He hasn’t been seen on a racecourse for over a year now after sustaining a leg injury in spring 2016.

It appears that since his recovery he did not fully find back to his brilliant best in training and therefore the decision was made to send him off to a well deserved retirement.

Pierre-Yves Bureau, Racing Manager for the Wertheimer Brothers said today:

“The horse is well but is not quite at 100 per cent and we don’t want to take the slightest risk with him, so we have decided the prudent thing to do is to retire him.”

My personal highlight of Sollow’s career is his Dubai Turf win – his very first victory on the highest level. What a massive performance it was, beating reigning Irish Champions Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby effortlessly.

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2.50 Brighton: Class 6 Handicap, 7 Furlongs

It might be wise not to judge Sixties Habana too harshly on what he has done on the All-Weather in recent months, though his last run at Kempton actually was eye-catching as the performance was better than the bare form would suggest.

A return to turf will definitely suit here, however. In three runs on turf he has been a 1.5l beaten third on debut where he achieved a RPR of 66 and followed up with a similarly good performance over 7f at Yarmouth when he got a first career win under his belt at the second time of asking

He was out of his depth the next time at Epsom in a big Handicap and then didn’t achieve anything of particular note on the All-Weather over the winter.

As a result his mark has dropped significantly now down to 55 and that makes him dangerously well handicapped on his return to the green grass over a trip, track and ground conditions very likely to suit.

The Phelan/Egan combo also has been quite successful in the last two seasons with a near 20% strike rate despite an average SP of their runners of 19/1!

Selection: 
10pts win – Sixties Habana @ 14/1 Bet365

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3.00 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 2 Miles

Evens favourite Coeur de Lion is clearly the sexy horse in this race and there is a very fair chance that the four year old is well handicapped judged on his hurdle form in a race that looks for the taking.

That says I feel he is overvalued due his decent Triumph Hurdle run and fellow hurdler Dan Emmett is a better choice. He’s three years older, with more form in the book and may hold not as many secrets to the handicapper, however we have not seen him on the flat often in the last number of seasons.

Fact is his recent effort at Pontefract is one to draw a line through. The ground was unsuitably fast and the trip probably a bit too far. Return to 2m with cut in the ground will suit undoubtedly.

In flat races where the word soft appeared in the going description he’s achieved a win (off OR 60 by 12l) and two highly credible placed efforts in four starts. The three times in the money he ran to RPR’s of 79,75 and 76 respectively.

Given we haven’t seen allot of Dan Emmett on the flat lately it’s is a question mark whether he can run to this sort of form as also his last hurdle form looks questionable, however dropped to 66 in his flat rating he appears to have a very real chance to be well handicapped.

There is the added bonus of trainer and jockey going well at this track individually as well as together (limited sample size but 75% place strike rate).

Selection:
10pts win Dan Emmett @ 7/1 Bet365

Classic Glory for Frankel

Classic glory for the almighty Frankel for the very first time – his daugther Soul Stirring landed the Japanese Oaks at Tokyo racecourse in fine style this morning under an excellent ride by French jockey Christophe Lemaire.

The tremendously well bred filly – she is out of 2009 French Oaks heroine Stacelita – was also the first Frankel progeny to win at the highest level when she claimed the Group 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies at Hanshin Racecourse in December.

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2.40 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 5 Furlongs

You’re better off long-term not to make too many excuses for horses if they didn’t live up to expectations multiple times on the bounce. That’s normally a clear sign that something is not right.

Nonetheless I make an exception in the case of the still lightly raced Backinanger. This three year gelding old has been disappointing the last two starts, but mostly on his turf Handicap debut four weeks ago. He was a bad drifter on the day, so there must have been a reason for his poor showing.

Unfortunately I backed him that day when first time cheek-pieces  didn’t work at all for Backinangger. He was never in the race – to my surprise because if you go back and watch his previous starts you’ll see a horse that shows a bit of early speed, but also quite a bit of keenness.

In fact his performances on the All-Weather over the winter were noteworthy as more often than not he caught the eye and ran better than the bare result would suggest.

This son of Royal Applause was a late foal which explains why he often looked raw and unfinished business. Theoretically there should be improvement to come from him with age and experience. He also should enjoy fast conditions.

That’s the reason why I give him one more chance – blinkers are fitted and he drops to the minimum trip, which in combination of the ground and the relive of another couple of pounds could work wonders.

Selection:
10pts win – Backinanger @ 10/1 Bet365

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5.25 Carlisle: Class 5 Handicap, 7 Furlongs

Less than a handful of realistic contenders to land the race in this field in my mind and LTO winner Africa Blessing is the one in this group who is overpriced.

He won over this trip at Doncaster last month – a first time over 7f for him – and he was good for a bit more than the tight winning margin I felt. He might be able to pull out a bit more over this trip, also the uphill finish could suit this Mount Nelson son.

Africa Blessing has been raised a mere 4lb for the latest success, one that looks solid form wise and awarded him an RPR of 76. Provided he doesn’t miss the kick, drawn in four close to the pace can only be an advantage.

Selection:
10 pts win – Africa Blessing @ 4/1 Bet365

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7.35 Leicester: Class 4 Handicap, 10 furlongs

Swaheen shaped well on his seasonal reappearance last month and is expected to strip fitter today. He’s fallen significantly in his handicap mark compared what he raced of mostly last year and that makes him an attractive proposition in this race.

He’s won off 2lb higher, albeit all his major form comes over 12f+, so the drop in trip is a question mark. It might well suit, however, as very soft conditions are likely to be encountered at Leicester.

Swaheen has strong form to offer with cut in the ground despite limited opportunities on this type of ground. Though in genuine soft underfoot conditions he has won of a mark off 84 in the past – so down to 80 with a decent 5lb claimer in the saddle he has a top chance as I feel the emphasis on stamina in this 10f contest will suit him.

Selection:
10pts win – Swaheen @ 11/2 Coral

A Sunday filly for Ripon

Beaten in the dying strides – life as a horse racing punter can be an agonising affair. Cloud Computing got the better of Classic Empire in the Preakness Stakes. The fresher horse, with the better, less aggressive and more economical ride, won in the end.

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4.10 Ripon: Class 3 Fillies’ Handicap, 6 Furlongs

Open enough looking contest and I take a chance on bottom weight Savannah Slew. Other three year old’s in the field are better fancied and this filly has questions to answer given that she already had eight career runs, is a bit temperamental and wasn’t convincing on her seasonal reappearance.

However she should strip fitter now and will enjoy the return to six furlongs, a trip she won two starts back. Ground wise it won’t be a big deal if any cut is left as her two victories came on softish ground although on pedigree better ground is what should be her optimum.

A mark off 78 is stiff enough and she will need to improve, though juvenile form gives her every chance given she already ran to an RPR of 81 and should be home in the conditions encountered here at Ripon.

Selection:
10pts win – Savannah Slew @ 10/1 Bet365

Preakness: Who can beat Always Dreaming?

Two winners today (there’s still one late runner in the lucky last at Doni to come): Paddy Power (advised 4/1) under a wonderfully brave and patient ride by Sammy Jo Bell in the Newmarket finale and exciting prospect Denaar (2/1 SP) did the business.

On the other side I got it horribly wrong in the Lockinge. Were my eyes blinded by love for all things Paco Boy? Did I want the son to emulate daddy too much?

Anyway, hats off to Ribchester. He did it from the front and he could have not been more impressive. Smart tactics from Godolphin as well. Pace maker I heard you saying? Good joke they said. Fooled them all.

On to the big race of the night – the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes! 

Always Dreaming was brilliant the way he won the Kentucky Derby, doing it “the hard way” as by no means he got an easy lead that day. He found plenty when it mattered after gruelling fractions on the front for most parts of the race.

Derby winners have a good record taking the second step along the road toward Triple Crown glory. So Always Dreaming may well be hard to beat today. However conditions are quite different this time around and he’s an odds-on chance – short enough to take on at this point in time given there are two intriguing alternatives at bigger prices.

It’s not difficult to give Classic Empire another chance today. This massively talented colt is quite a character and it wasn’t all plain sailing for him since winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Still he managed to get ready in time for the big one at Churchill Downs, on the way there proving himself to still retain all his class when getting up late in the Arkansas Derby.

Unfortunately things did not work out for him in the Kentucky Derby. A wide draw that day, bumped left and right once the gate opened, he was a long way off the pace and had to make his move widest of all around the home turn, then bumped again, mud in his face, banged up, he still ran on to finish fourth.

It was a tremendous performance, probably as good as the one of the winner, Always Dreaming. If he has recovered in time for the Preakness I really fancy him to turn the form around in a much smaller field with a better chance for a clear run. In my book he’s closer to Always Dreaming than the odds suggest.

That says there is a second horse that I feel is overpriced, by quite a margin, actually. That is Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money. He was qualified for the Derby but connections decided to target the Preakness. So that is certainly something to take note of.

You have to take note of his massively brave performance at Oaklawn Park too. From the second widest draw he crossed over to be right up with the pace and take up the lead halfway through. Put under immense pressure turning for home he fought gamely; headed a good furlong out he went on again to put his head in front…. just to be beaten in the dying strides by Classic Empire.

Now Conquest Mo Money has a wide draw today again, however with only ten runners this is not quite as big a deal. He’s still quite a lightly raced individual, so there is every that he learned a bit more and finds some improvement. At 25’s he’s huge value against the market leader.

Selection:
5pts win – Classic Empire @ 7/2 Bet365
5pts win – Conquest Mo Money @ 25/1 Paddy Power

Saturday Preview: Lockinge Stakes Day

What a finish in the Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) yesterday – nearly four in line going down to the wire with the Queen’s horse Dartmouth getting the better of 2015 St. Ledger heroine Simple Verse – just!

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3.30 Newbury: Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, 1 Mile

The first big clash of the best older milers this season. And what a mouth-watering race in prospect this is. Three 120/+ individuals  head to head – this could go down to the wire!

Or not? All three main contenders – Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear – have to overcome the slight doubts of full race fitness on their seasonal reappearance.

Could that play into the hands of the master that is Aiden O’Brien? Shrewdly he has placed Somehow – a quality filly in her own right – here in the Lockinge. With her sex allowance and fitness assured, she could certainly cause an upset.

Somewhow won twelve days ago a Group 2 at Newmarket – a fifth career success in ten starts – though the jury is still out whether she is a top-notcher.

Dropping down to a mile in soft conditions I can see a scenario unfold where she cruises closely behind Ribchester’s pacemaker, and then from over 3f out takes over with a big move that puts all behind in trouble. With fitness and stamina a given, she could stay on to lead the field all the way over the line.

The 7/1 odds scream value if you believe in the merit of this scenario. I do. But I also have concerns about the fact that Somehow already had three tough races – two in very tough conditions – in the last five weeks. Plus she has to find a bit with the three big guns if ratings are believed.

On ratings there is not a lot between Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear, though. I would still discount David Simcock’s six year old on the basis of the ground that probably does suit him the least. His very best in the past came on fast ground. Plus Lightning Spear is still searching for the elusive first Group 1 victory.

That is different for Ribchester and Galileo Gold. Both have won on the highest level – Galileo Gold even twice. And both have excellent form with cut in the ground.

The score’s equal between the two. On ratings there’s a single pound between them, yet the market has Ribchester a clear 6/4 favourite. Probably on the basis that the son of Iffraaj has still a bit of improvement left.

He might have but he might not. In fact there is only a single career run betwen Ribchester and Galileo Gold.

On balance I would agree that Ribchester is likely to be the better prospect for the season. He looks the type to do better with age and experience, whereas Galileo Gold appears more likely to regress. However at this point in time it is also Galileo Gold’s best chance to win a big race this year, I feel.

Connections will certainly be aware of this. He should be fully wound up, his record as a fresh horse is fine and of all horses in the field he has the best record on soft ground. So given the prices I have to side with Galileo Gold who I would have more like a 5/2 chance in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Galileo Gold @ 9/2 Bet365

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4.05 Newbury: Class 2 Conditions Stakes, 6 Furlongs

All about Richard Hannon’s Denaar here. He was an easy winner under hands and heels in a Chelmsford maiden on debut a mere twelve days ago over the minimum trip. The step up to 6f should suit very well and the change in conditions – at least on pedigree – is no problem; in fact can be beneficial.

The form of his maiden success looks rock solid through the experienced runner-up who on his penultimate start ran well in a race that threw up a handful of winners as well as a subsequent listed placed individual.

Selection:
10pts win – Denaar @ 15/8 Paddy Power

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5.10 Newbury: Class 2 Handicap, 1 Mile

Big field and an open contest, so at a price I give Grand Inquisitor a chance to find back to some sort of form, now returning to turf with cut in the ground off a dangerous mark.

He moved yards during the winter and hasn’t excelled for new connections on the All-Weather the last two starts over seven furlongs, but it might not be wise to judge him too harshly on those efforts.

Back over the slightly longer trip with conditions he’s proven to handle and only 2lb above his last winning mark I see a fair chance for him returning to form Not to forget he ran some massive races off much higher marks last season and knocked on the door in tough Handicaps of marks around 95.

Selection:
10pts win – Grand Inquisitor @ 18/1 Bet365

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5.35 Newmarket: Class 4 Handicap, 5 Furlongs

Richard Fahey’s Paddy Power slipped dramatically in the handicap mark compared to what the four year old ran of last season. Now down to 75 with the benefit of a fine pipe opener on Newcastle’s All-Weather, the gelding seems well handicapped on return to turf.

His win record is dismal, but he raced of up to 10lb higher in good Handicaps last year has performed more often than with credit – in fact on RPR’s he ran 11 times to ratings above his current mark of 75.

Softish conditions should be no problem, he has some okay form on this type of surface. His sire performs decent enough too, and the dam is a Listed winner on soft ground. Added 3lb apprentice allowance is a little icing on the cake.

Selection:
10pts win – Paddy Power @ 4/1 Bet365

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8.50 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6 Furlongs

I give handicap debutante Manshood a good chance to outrun his price tag. He’s had five starts in maiden company so far, placed three times, the two times he ran over today’s trip he was in the money running to RPR’s of 72 and 73.

He’s got a fine pipe opener under his belt last month, that should set him up nicely and didn’t sacrifice his potentially lenient opening mark.

Potentially lenient if he improves for his first handicap start in new conditions. Soft ground, though, should suit quite well on pedigree.  Martin Lane was the other day in the saddle, so got to know Manshood, and has the ride today too. Could be an advantage.

Selection: 
10pts win – Manshood @ 14/1 Paddy Power

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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