All posts by Florian Christoph

Florian - not a cool kid and don't try to be one. I'm a 31 year old photographer and writer, make a living in the land of rain but am German by nationality yet free and cosmopolitan by heart. The camera is my companion at places near and far.

Tuesday Selections: May, 14th 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

“… the Derby trial is quite a poor trial. None of these will go close in the Derby. Will any of these even line up? Anthony Van Dyck certainly won’t… he’ll struggle over this trip in this ground.”

Well, I got that spectacularly wrong with Anthony Van Dyck, I guess. He ran away with the race on Saturday; made my assessment look rather silly. Doubting a Galileo to stay? You fool!

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5.00 Chepstow: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Boycie is worth a try at a price here, even though the trip isn’t ideal for him and if they go hard he may well be found out for stamina. Nonetheless, the 6-year-old looks supremely well handicapped now, particularly with my current favourite apprentice on board, claiming valuable 7 pounds.

The gelding has a dismal record when stretching out beyond 10f, yet on his penultimate run at Wolverhampton over 1m 4f he showed a big improvement, finishing runner-up behind a winner who won multiple times in the meantime.

2lb lower today, plus taking the rider’s claim into consideration, Boycie can run of 4lb lower with fast ground conditions sure to suit, now back on turf.

He also has ran countless times to much higher TS ratings in the past, which suggests if he’s on a going day, this son of my all-time favourite Paco Boy can be in the mix today.

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

!Update: Non-Runner!

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Saturday Selections: May 11th, 2019

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2.20 Nottingham: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Two really interesting horses here in a field where I find those two at the top of the market remarkably easy to oppose: Hawaam over this CD of his current mark can be a huge runner if cheek-pieces have a positive effect.

The fact he was well fancied the other day and bombed out, plus this new headgear as well as his poor overall strike rate suggest he’s a tricky customer nonetheless, hence I leave him alone – though I’d not be surprised to see him run away with it now.

But a ‘safer bet’ to run his race – and give me a run for my money more importantly – is the smartly named Major Pusey. He’s down to a good mark judged on past performances, given he won of higher ratings on three occasions in his career and ran five times to a TS rating of 79+, posting a 80 TS rating only back in September last season.

He returned over 6f at Windsor recently, wasn’t fancied in the betting and ran quite well up until tiring in the closing stages. The drop to 5f will suit with soft ground ideal, plus dropping down in to class 4 is a major boost to his chances as all but one of his career successes came here.

Selection:
10pts win – Major Pusey @ 8/1

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2.30 Lingfield: Listed Derby Trial, 1m3½f

No surprise, the Derby trial is quite a poor trial for the race it’s intended to be a trial. None of these will go close in the Derby. Will any of these even line up? Anthony Van Dyck certainly won’t. He’s the class act in this race, mind, but he’ll struggle over this trip in this ground.

The most intriguing of the lot is Cap Francais, who didn’t do himself any favour at Epsom the last time, but stayed on in promising style. Even though, he still only managed runner-up behind a Ballydoyle horse that’ll have no hope in the Derby and is miles down the pecking order.

I think the step up in trip and flatter track will be a huge help and expect him to win, but at 4/1 I’m in n hurry to back him to continue to progress, though.

The one I’m most interested in is the gelding in the field: Ranch Hand. Connections probably didn’t anticipate this lad to turn up in a Derby Trial, but he showed a lot of good signs in his first two starts at Southwell on the fibresand.

Particularly his second run, when he galloped his opposition into the ground is impressive particularly on the clock it looks strong. He also achieved a TS rating of 84. He did that in a lowly novice contest, on only his second career run on the fibresand – no other horse in this field run to such a high TS rating on either of their first career runs.

He has to translate this to turf and to much better class. The pedigree gives hope with the dam having been a fine stayer in her own right. At a massive price Ranch Hand looks a longs-hot with a fair chance to upset the market.

Selection:
10pts win – Ranch Hand @ 30/1 MB

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3.30 Nottingham: Listed Kilvington Stakes, 6f

On ratings the standout for me is Rock On Baileys who’s ran to career best TS rating of 89 and RPR of 106 which none of her rivals in this field have achieved so far. Whether she can replicate this level of form on her second start for the new yard on soft ground remains to be seen.

On the surface Rock On Baileys seems to be a better All-Weather horse. Certainly her win record says so. But the ratings mentioned above where achieved on turf, they’re generally higher than on the AW in fact.

She ran in hot races on turf, often in handicaps of big weights and did do herself justice on a number of occasions, as when 4th in a hot handicap at Newmarket in October last year; she also won at Chester in the summer over 6f, overcoming trouble.

Her seasonal return at Chelmsford last month looks poor on paper. It needs context, though, as she didn’t get the best of starts and was pushed forward quite hard subsequently to take the lead.

I’d expect Rock On Baileys to come on for the run under her belt and feel the soft ground, albeit that soft an unknown, is intriguing. The times she races with bit of cut in the ground she ran well, and certainly on the dam side is hope for her to take to the ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Rock On Baileys @ 16.5/1 MB

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4.40 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

The handicapper gives Music Seeker a real chance to get his head in front for a third career win today. The 5-year-old ran well at Haydock last time in tough conditions, finishing third in better class.

He remains on the same mark, a career-lowest – he’s never ran of anything as low as 73 in a class 5 Handicap before, so that is of obvious interest given Music Seeker ran twice already to TS ratings of 70+ and six times to RPR’s of 80+.

He’s also 3lb lower than his last winning mark, which came last summer in a 10f Handicap at Wetherby, albeit on fast ground. But cut in the ground is no problem as he won a maiden over a mile and did well last time out in desperate conditions.

The slightly better ground (soft – good to soft in places right now) and half a furlong less to go should be in his favour as well. A competent 7lb claimer – the same as in all his last races since a wind op over the winter –  in the saddle is a bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Music Seeker @ 6/1 MB

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5.10 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

Ignoring the latest Southwell performance, which can be forgiven because it was a very time at Southwell, Ballyquin is a progressive individual who’ll race of a highly competitive mark today, I feel.

He’s had a light campaign until this winter, surely down to issues, but has been progressive on the All-Weather, winning twice, achieving a career best TS rating of 79 at Chelmsford on his penultimate start.

A return to turf is intriguing. His two runs came with cut in the ground in highly competitive maiden races where he finished an excellent 4th on both occasions.

So, there is a fair assumption to be made he can find more improvement for the return to turf, while already having shown on the All-Weather to be able to run to something close- if not even better than his current handicap mark.

Selection:
10pts win – Ballyquin @ 10/1 MB

Friday Selections: May, 10th 2019

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First winner of the week with Lincoln Park (11/2) yesterday. It was a peach of a ride by Silvestre De Sousa, utilizing the good draw in the best possible way; Lincolm Park lead pretty much start to finish, even though he was hard pressed for a while. It looked like some of his rivals were travelling stronger turning for home, but the 3-year-old kept finding.

The listed Dee Stakes were an intriguing contest. The favourite Circus Maximus won it as he was entitled to do. He had the run of the race, in truth. Moving forward I’m much more keen on stable mate Mohawk, the runner-up. I was looking forward to his return this year, and was pleased with this performance.

Wherever he goes next, granted he gets decent ground, he could be value and underestimated I feel, given his profile and achievements to date aren’t quite as sexy as some of his stablemates.

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6.50 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

You need to have ultimate confidence in favourite Group Stage at short odds to find a hell of improvement on handicap debut now as a 3yo. Not impossible, but hard to say 3/1 is a good price.

The one I’m interested on is Michael Stoute’s handicap debutatn El Picador. He’s got a phenomenal record in these type of situations and we know his horses usually improve with time.

El Picador is clearly down the packing order in the yard, although an opening handicap mark of 72 could underestimate him quite a fair bit. He didn’t show a lot in three starts as a juvenile in the second half last year. And his seasonal debut at Wolverhampton last month was also rather poor.

However, he was an 18/1 shot that day, and travelled like an inexperienced horse, who was found out for speed in the home straight, while also looking a bit awkward as his rivals quickened away.

First time blinkered today is interesting, to keep El Picador possibly focused on the job. Stepping up in trip that will suit well on pedigree should also help to see him in much better light today.

That in combination offers enough potential to see this well bred son of Dansili improve enough to overcome a 72 handicap mark, I believe.

Selection:
10pts win – El Picador @ 8/1 PP

Thursday Selections: May, 9th 2019

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The opening day of Chester’s May Festival was intriguing thanks to – surprisingly – clear-cut winning performances in the two features, the Chester Vase and the Cheshire Oaks: Mehdaayih ran away with the race for the fillies, having ran only three weeks ago in a class 4 handicap at Chelmsford.

Her change of gear entering the home straight was a joy to watch. She’s obviously a very good filly. I would say she also benefited very from the way the race was run and got an excellent ride while also the breaks when needed.

Arguably even more impressive to my eyes was Sir Dragonet, who took the Vase home in scintillating fashion. This son of Camelot only made his racecourse debut a fortnight ago as a 14/1 chance in a Tipperary maiden coming to Chester with this single maiden win to his name. Inexperience showed as he didn’t travel particularly well, at some point he seemed slightly detached from the field.

But he found a devastating turn of foot once let loose. Most exciting for me was to see a horse being asked for a move on the outside over 3 furlongs out, and then, while anyone else is hard working come back on the bridle with less than 2 furlongs to go – you just don’t see that very often!

Surely Sir Dragonet has to be supplemented for the Derby? He looks the real deal on the basis of that performance. Which was the perfect follow-up to Tipperary where he won hard on the bridle in the manner of an exciting colt.

But of course, conditions may played a role as well and ideally you want to see it again before believing he’s a favourite for Epsom – the ante-post market he is now leading! On the other hand 5/1 (best price with firms who may lay you €2 if you’re lucky)  could look big in a few weeks time.

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3.00 Chester: Class 2 Handicap, 7.5f

I feel Lincoln Park is the one they all have to beat here with conditions likely to get softer as the days goes on. The Kyllachy colt is ideally drawn to attack today, which will suit him perfectly.

He has shown form on awkward tracks like Pontefract and appeared to be progressive last autumn on rain softened ground landing back-to-back handicaps, while improving his official mark in line with career best RPR’s and TS ratings, including running to TS 87 when winning at Haydock.

He was disappointing in his next two starts, but you could also argue he had excuses both times. Certainly he should improve having a run under his belt now, and dropping down a mark of 85, given he ran to a higher time speed rating already. He’ll need to show that again, of course, now as a 3-year-old.

However, his seasonal reappearance at Musselburgh was a fair performance, finishing 3rd over a fast mile, with the form looking strong as the winner went back-to-back in the meantime.

A softer surface and slight drop in trip at a track favouring his running style, there’ll be no excuses today. Lincoln Park meets ideal conditions and I expect a huge run.

Selection:
10pts win – Lincoln Park @ 11/2 MB

Betting Preview: Cheshire Oaks 2019

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I have some sort of “love/hate” relationship with Chester – certainly from a betting perspective. I rarely get it right. On the other hand I do love the visual spectacle of the ever turning track. It makes for exciting viewing.

As for finding winners, as rare as it is, if they come, they’re more often than not trained by Aiden O’Brien. At this Chester May Festival you can pretty much blindly back his horses in the Group contests and you’d turn a profit – at least that was the case in the past.

Aiden O’Brien has won five of the last ten runnings of the Cheshire Oaks as well – can he do it again?

Certainly this years renewal looks competitive on paper. A couple of exciting- and race-fit fillies for John Gosden as well as the unbeaten Ralph Beckett trained Manuela De Vega make thinks interesting. Aiden O’Brien, though, throws only one dart at this race, and that’s usually a good sign.

There’s little secret about Secret Thoughts. The War Front daughter was a classy juvenile but was always sure to improve with age and when upped in trip. A good seasonal reappearance in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown over 7f should have put her right for Chester.

Under a sympathetic hands and heels ride she finished a decent 5th in a hot race that looks already incredibly strong form, judged through the winner Lady Kaya and the runner-up Happen.

Now stepping up dramatically in distance to 1m3½ furlongs, Secret Thoughts can improve again. The first foal we see on the racetrack of the wonderful former Irish Oaks winner Chicquita, the question won’t be so much about stamina, but more about whether she can settle, handles the track and will be able to show her best on soft ground.

There is plenty of rain on its way according to the weather forecast. I assume Secret Thoughts would prefer a sound surface. However, she has shown to act with cut in the ground as well. So that is encouraging. Possibly the fact she had enough speed to be competitive in 7 furlongs contests will be an advantage here as well, as she is wider drawn than it is ideal. Using early speed to move close to the pace is an advantage at Chester.

I’m slightly surprised by the odds on offer for Secret Thoughts. Given her trainers strong record and her excellent form, which is by far the strongest on offer in this field, odds around 7/2 appear overly generous – with or without rain.

Selection: 
10pts win – Secret Thoughts @ 7/2 MB

First Impressions: The New Curragh

The new Curragh opened its doors for the general public for the first time today. A new era for Irish (flat) racing. A monstrous project in the making for the last four years, associated with a price tag of around €80 million – it’s better be a success!

Whether it’s going to be a long-term success with crowds embracing the new facilities beyond this opening day remains to be seen. Judged by the attendance today the word ‘promising’ may be on the lips of many, though.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for a good few years: finally back at the Curragh! Driving down the N7, get off at exit 12 and there it is, right in front of your eyes, the imposing new grand stand!

Upon arrival my first thought was: WOW! This is spectacular! Stunningly beautiful from an architectural point of view. I didn’t expect it to be that good. No way! After all, this is Ireland where these type of projects rarely go to plan. This project had its own little issues, but the outcome is magnificent – and that is what matters most.

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What’s good? Great views from the parade ring. Plenty of space. Only short walks between parade ring, betting and the grand stand. First class elevated viewing for the regular racegoer from the stand itself. Everything is shiny, new and gives the impression of classiness.

Opportunity for improvement? Getting your hands on a coffee is a tricky adventure. Long ques for food and drink wherever you go. Maybe I missed them, but there were no mobile coffee vans like they used to exist at the old Curragh.

Food prices are not for the fainthearted. But that’s nothing new. Regular ticket prices are €20. A season ticket is €265 – that’s a whopping €90 more than when I bought one the last time in 2015, the year before construction began. This isn’t a cheap place.

I didn’t go racing at the Curragh during the construction years. I was – quite frankly – pissed off. Holding a season ticket for a number of years, I would have expected some concessions to existing members while racing continued at what was effectively a building site – a decision in itself I didn’t like. It showed a lack of regard for the general racegoer.

Whether the new Curragh will be able to attract on regular basis the sort of crowd that came through the turnstiles today for the more low profile days is a question the future will tell. I’m not so sure, unfortunately.

I hope it does, I really do. This new Curragh deserves it. It’s an amazing place to watch horse racing. It’s the perfect stadium for our equine heroes. Having been to many racecourses around the world I can honestly say the Curragh is right up there with the best.

Now they have to work on service for the general public, think about pricing and any further enhancements that could be made to the raceday experience in order to lure punters to the track more often.

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The Curragh Is Back!

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Finally back at the Curragh! Today is the first official race day at the new Curragh. An expensive project, developed over the last number of years, racing continued at the constructionist side in the meantime.

I didn’t got in those years. Having been a member for a number of years before, I didn’t like the idea of racing to continue during the rebuild. I also didn’t entertain the idea that ticket prices remained static and that no offers were made to existing members during the time.

I may not become a member again, even now that the Curragh is a shiny new place. Prices are simply too high.

Nonetheless I can’t wait to be back today! In fact I hardly could sleep because of excitement and woke early. From photos and videos seen, the new Curragh looks stunning. Here’s hoping the real thing lives up to the promise.

It’s not a day to get carried away betting wise. And my record on Irish races is dismal anyway. I found a few interesting selections, still. So fingers crossed it’ll be a triumphant return to the Curragh of Kildare!

I shall come back with a nice little report and a few snaps tonight.

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3.35 Curragh: Group 3 Athasi Stakes, 7f

Hot favourite Happen looks hard to beat if she can improve from a good runner-up performance in the 1000 Guineas trial behind Lady Kaya. Obviously that is the strongest piece of form available, and you would expect her to come on for the run.

However, I strongly believe she will benefit even more from a step up in trip, and that 7 furlongs is plenty sharp enough for her already, particularly if she’d encounter some speedier types.

In truth, there is little in this field to rival her in terms of class. But Dermot Weld’s filly Titanium Sky is clearly the one who could be with further improvement be a big danger.

The grey filly was only seen once last year in a messy Gowran Park maiden where she ran out an excellent 5th given circumstances.

She returned last month at Leopardstown in a 7f maiden which she won in taking style. Always travelling well, she benefited from a strong pace. Nonetheless, it was impresse how she ate up the ground of the leaders in the final two furlongs.

That form already works out well, so the fact Titanium Sky did that so easily suggests she is potentially a Group horse. Dermot Weld said afterwards he certainly hopes to win some blacktype with her, and maybe she can even be an irish 1000 Guineas candidate.

Selection:
10pts win – Titanium Sky @ 10/1 Coral

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4.45 Curragh: 45-70 Handicap, 6f

This looks ultra-competitive, as you would expect for a 30 runner strong field. But in truth only few of these appear in with a fair chance of winning.

No doubt the JOB trained Little Clarinet is a fair favourite. Third up after a break, excellent recent form, she is handicapped to win. However, her overall record is off-putting, given a rather skinny price.

More intriguing at given odds is the rather unexposed Clifftop Dancer. The filly had only five starts to date but certainly returned with a bang on her first run finishing an excellent runner-up at Naas last month behind a supremely well handicapped winner.

If she can repeat that effort, possibly improve just a tiny bit, she’ll be a huge runner today. She ran to a TS rating of 65, so upped by 3lb to 67 gives her every opportunity today as ground and trip should be perfect and the testing finish at the Curragh may be ideal.

Selection:
5pts win – Clifftop Dancer @ 12/1 MB

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5.20 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7f

Fit For Function comes here on the back of an excellent comeback run at Naas in a big field. He finished 5th, tiering in the closing stages.

Stripping fitter for the run, able to run of the same handicap mark, I feel Fit For Function has a huge opportunity today. He’s not that easy to win with, but has ran plenty of credible races in defeat.

As he was an excellent 2nd here at the Curragh over 6 furlongs last summer of a 6lb higher mark than his current 72 rating, which was a follow-up effort after winning at Listowel a few weeks earlier, then over 6.5f of a 74 mark.

Fit For Function looks well handicapped today, based on that and he also has ran four times to TS ratings of 72+ in his career already, two of those performances came only last year and with his recent comeback run still fresh in mind, there is little reason to fear he’s not as good any more.

Selection:
5pts win – Fit For Function @ 12/1 MB