Competitive race but Dandy Dinmont looks potentially the one with the biggest upside. This is a slightly easier race than the one he caught my eye in last time at Beverley.
That day he made good progress throughout travelling notably well for the majority of the race, even though he looked a little bit keen in the first furlong. He had to delay his challenge but eventually made strong progress from 2 furlongs out. It got a bit tight in the final furlong on the inside and he wasn’t knocked about when the race was gone. He also was the only one making a significant impression from off the pace.
It was clear improvement from his seasonal reappearance which was better than the bare form suggest too. He showed a bit of progress as a juvenile but got injured in August and only returned at Doncaster last month after 267 days off the track.
He’s still lightly enough raced and an April foal to think he will progress with time and experience. He should be 100% fit today, is a pound lower than the last time, in an easier race – big chance.
If.… that is a big if: he acts on rain softened ground. With the rain expected to come, the currently fast ground may turn soft. Not sure it’s what he wants. Risk and reward. At given prices I am prepared to run the risk.
The Lockinge Stakes is one of my favourite races of the entire year: a straight mile on decent ground and a field of top-class milers – flat racing at its best.
I also love the Lockinge Stakes because it brings back memories of the “good old times” when my all-time favourite horse Paco Boy won the race in 2010 in the most sensational style.
The moment when Richard Hughes asked him to shift gears after cantering all over the field approaching the final furlong marker….. the turn of foot…. the arrogance – pure horse racing porn.
As for the 2022 edition: we have an overwhelming favourite as we had back in 2010 when Paco Boy was odds-on. This time it’s star miler Baaeed who is expected to win the Lockinge in style. He’s a 4/9 shot. A near certainty.
But is he?
Baaeed is unbeaten in six career starts. He went from strengths to strengths last year: from winning a maiden at Leicester in June to landing the QEII at Ascot in October.
A multiple Group 1 winner, successful in a variety of ground conditions who’s created a stunning visual impression whenever we’ve seen him. There’s no question Baaeed is the righteous favourite today.
He can be beaten, though. Even more so today. This is going to be his first run in 210 days. Yes, the Lockinge is a Group 1, but the Queen Anne next months is most likely the main target. Baaeed may not be fully tuned up today.
The ground is drying. Perfect for racing. And Baaeed won on fast ground. However, his very best performances came with cut in the ground.
Most importantly: even though he’s won two Group 1 races – and doing so visually quite nicely – he’s yet to achieve a topspeed rating worthy of a colt of the highest order.
His career-best came on his second career outing over a mile on good to soft ground – a solid, but not world beating 97 TS rating. He’s ran to 93 and 94 subsequently. With that sort of speed rating he may have struggled to get close in this years 2000 Guineas.
TS ratings aren’t everything and they have their own flaws. But they are a key gauge of class, form and speed. The fact Baaeed hasn’t achieved better ratings despite having ample opportunity suggests to me he’s not quite as good as his form reads.
Or let’s say: he wasn’t last year. Another year older and he may well be a better horse. He could still improve. And he’ll have enough chances to prove he can be a top-class colt also on topspeed.
Saying all that I obviously want to make the case for taking Baaeed on today. Not because he isn’t the most likely winner. He is. But because there are reasons to believe he’s vulnerable today – he’s a very short price and simply not quite as much a certainty as the odds suggest.
Of course it’s only worth opposing him if there’s anything in the field capable of beating him. So: is there?
With Mother Earth and Alcohol Free there are two other Group 1 winners in the race. Last years 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth showed consistency and ran many fine races last year.
She ran to 100 and 101 topspeed ratings, although her form dropped significantly in the second half of the season. Her successful seasonal reappearance at the Curragh wasn’t flashy but you can expert her to come on quite a bit for the run as Aiden O’Brien’s horses tend to do.
She’s dangerous if she can find back to that early season form of 2021.
Alcohol Free is the reigning Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes champion. That’s the mark of a top-class miler. At her best she’s a big danger. But in three subsequent starts she didn’t look anywhere near the filly she was at Goodwood. Her seasonal reappearance left more questions than answers. And the drying ground is far from ideal.
From the rest of the field Chindit and Sir Busker can’t be ruled out at their best form. Nonetheless, both horses struggled in Group 1 company in the past and I reckon a lot has to go wrong for the better fancied horses for either of them to win.
The dark horse in the race is Real World. He’s the one I am really interested in – certainly at the odds on offer.
What sparks my interest is plenty fold: most importantly he’s achieved the fasted topspeed rating in the field. Crucially that performance is pretty recent. He ran to 107 when winning the Zabeel Mile at Meydan in January.
Granted, Meydan form isn’t always the most trustworthy one. Yet it’s a believable progression from what he achieved last season when he ran to 98 (2x) and 102 when he won the Steventon Stakes at Newbury – albeit that was over 10 furlongs.
Real World was a highly progressive 4-year-old once he returned to Europe and turf last season. He won four on the bounce, and brought it to five in a row with the Meydan victory, before trying the dirt at the highest level. He clearly hated the dirt, though, as was evidence earlier in his career already. Therefore I am fully prepared to discount those last two runs.
If you draw a line under those races you see him being unbeaten on turf in five starts. He won over a mile, 9 furlongs, 1m 2f, on very soft to fast ground. This is a top-class horse ready to win a Group 1.
The concern I have is the mile trip on drying ground at this top level. Normally that is. In this field, as alluded to earlier, there aren’t many top-class rivals. With that in mind Real World is a massive price and I couldn’t leave him unbacked.
Two of my eyecatchers run here but the market clearly speaks in favour of Pop Dancer. That’s the one I preferred looking at the race last night anyway. Secretfact will have another day on turf over fast 5f soon, hopefully.
The money has been coming for Pop Dancer all morning, and even though I missed all the big prices, the move gives me confidence today is the day.
The 5-year-old caught my eye in a wild 5 furlong sprint at Epsom last month which Mokaatil won. The form looks good through the winner and third having run well in the meantime.
That day Pop Dancer was one of those who travelled strongly but didn’t find a gap when needed at a crucial stage of the race. He also fell down the camber late, even though the bird was flown at that time anyway.
Pop Dancer hasn’t set the world alight in the last year or so. Consequently he’s a long way down in the ratings. But I feel this most recent run was much better than the bare result. His previous topspeed ratings give him a great chance of his current 67 mark with his wellbeing confirmed.
He handles the All-Weather, is down in class 5 and has a good draw to attack the race from. I never like to see Luke Morris in the saddle and the stable form is a real concern. But there is more to like today than not about his chance with prices still too big.
10pts win – Pop Dancer @ 9/1
4.20 Musselburgh: Class 6 Handicap, 1m
The favourite remains potentially well handicapped and has been given a big chance by the handicapper to make it two wins from his last three runs. But he has to stretch out over a mile and had already three hard runs in about three weeks.
When Rum Going On won at Musselburgh two back Cobra Kai was big eyecatcher for me. He had a horrible race then, hampered in the early parts of the race and severely lit up, not getting a clear run in the home straight too, yet finishing well in third place given circumstances.
That was an excellent follow-up performance from his solid seasonal reappearance at Newcastle. Cobra Kai is certainly in fine form and appears to be improving.
He tackles the mile for the first time. I have not many worries on pedigree. He should stay and should find improvement for it. The key question is whether he can settle. He may burn out early. My hope is Andrew Mullen goes forward from his good draw and let the gelding find a rhythm.
Despite being a maiden, I have a strong feeling Cobra Kai is quite a bit better than a 49 official rating. If he can improve for the trip as I expect him to do he could make a mockery of this mark.
Can you trust Al Aasy? I can’t. No doubt he is – in theory – the best horse in the race. His official rating and 2021 form is testament to this fact. However, it’s undeniable that his sudden form loss toward the end of last season is a major concern.
Possibly dropping down to Listed level on his seasonal reappearance is an ideal pipe opener to build confidence thanks to a relatively easy assignment. If his enthusiasm is back he’ll win this race running backwards.
At the given prices I absolutely must take him on with all the justified doubts, though. In fairness, this field is light in terms real quality. Third Realm has some nice form in the book and ran multiple times to low topspeed ratings of low 90’s, but never beyond TS 92 and all his form comes with cut in the ground.
The only other one who has ran to topspeed ratings of note is Stowell. He’s an obvious choice at given prices. By no means a sexy individual, one who’s more a grinder than flashy accelerator, but one who offers still some upside as a 4-year-old.
Stowell has match fitness on his side after a solid seasonal reappearance at Newbury last month. He’s a course and distance winner and ran with a lot of credit when third in the Queen’s Vase as Royal Ascot. He ran to TS 94 that day, it’s the second best on offer in this field the favourite aside.
I think he’s fast enough for the 1m 4f trip, especially on Listed level against this sort of opposition – if the potential class act Al Aasy isn’t anywhere near as good as he used to be.
This lad strikes me as a rock solid horse and he’s a overpriced in this field today.
10pts win – Stowell @ 4/1
5.15 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 6f
I said after his latest disappointing performance at Wolverhampton to keep faith for the day he returns to turf. – so I’ll stick to my word and continue to have financial interest in Chief Little Hawk.
The gelding messed up at Wolver three weeks ago, though, left the impression that he has more to give if things fall right – once again. But Wolverhampton was never going to be the right track for him. Straight 6 furlongs at Ascot on turf should suit a lot better.
Chief Little Hawk was a big eye-catcher for me at Southwell on his penultimate run. As mentioned then, the way he finished in the closing stages from the back of the field in a race dominated by the two pace setters wasn’t what you normally would see from a 40/1 shot.
He wasn’t even hard ridden in the final stages of the race, yet was the third fastest finisher from two furlongs out, according to sectionals – underlying the visual impression.
Since moving yards away from Aiden O’Brien over to Jamie Osborne Chief Little Hawk has rarely been fancied in the betting. He was long odds most of the time, and still managed to finish 4th, only 1.5 lengths beaten as a 50/1 outsider, in a class 2 Handicap at Newmarket of a mark of 94 last August.
He has fallen significantly in the ratings in the meantime. He is now down to an official rating of 80 and runs in a class 4 Handicap on turf for the first time. Given Chief Little Hawk ran to topspeed 83+ on three occasions in the past, I feel he could be really well handicapped.
Obviously this is a massive field, stall 20 is a question mark and the jockey form is poor. But he’s a price I am prepared to run the risk.
A poor run from selection No Patience at the Curragh on Monday. He didn’t travel, didn’t seem to enjoy the ground, and in hindsight it was a poor selection. Hoping for better today.
The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. And I didn’t take enough note of the proof. No Patience has hardly ever ran well with give in the ground. All his best performances came on decent ground. It was an error of judgement on my side.
I got bamboozled by the sexy handicap mark and the strong visual impression of the most recent run. With that in mind No Patience remains an interesting horse if conditions are right. They weren’t yesterday and nothing annoys me more than money wasted on a poor selection.
Learn from it. Move on. Today is another day.
3.25 Lingfield: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile
This is a competitive race but I really like the bottom weight The Rain King after his recent eye-catching reappearance at Windsor.
It was his first run since November 2021, in the meantime he underwent a wind operation. He wasn’t fancied as a 22/1 shot, yet was possibly unlucky not win.
The Rain King travelled well enough for a long time but had a bit to do from back of the field 3f out. He looked poised while searching for a gap that didn’t open, though. He finished the strongest with a late run eventually (fastest last 3f splits too), beaten only 1.5 lengths.
This was an encouraging reoccurrence and a return to form for the first time since winning a Galway maiden and subsequently leaving Donnacha O’Brien and Ireland for the Alexandra Dunne yard.
The Rain King was an expensive £250k yearling and clearly has ability. He’s a risky proposition, but still relatively low mileage for a 5-year-old with more to offer if his breathing is truly rectified, which seems to be the case.
A mark of 69 could certainly underestimate his potential. And simply on that most recent run, with a clear passage he would have finished much closer and would be a few pounds higher today, perhaps 6lb if he’d have won.
A good draw today should help The Rain King secure a good position. Whether he acts on the All-Weather remains to be seen and is a question mark with a certain risk attached given he failed to fire in two runs on polytrack in the past.
However, he’s related to a number of winners on the All-Weather. In addition: the jockey booking of Daniel Muscat – who retains the ride from Windsor – is quite eyecatching. He’s got only two rides on the card today having a 29% strike rate over the last two weeks.
It’s bank holiday here in Ireland and I am looking to one of the big Handicaps at the Curragh to sweeten the day with winner.
4.40 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7f
Normally, these competitive Handicaps with tons of runners wouldn’t be quite my cup of tea, I have to admit. However, I can’t look past the potentially well handicapped No Patience here.
He was a massive eye-catcher last month in a similarly hot Handicap at the Curragh, then over 6 furlongs. It was his first run since February and for the John C McConnell yard over a trip possibly a touch too sharp these days.
That race was utter carnage and you could pick out a number of unlucky horses. No Patience showed good early speed, then settled in midfield of the main pack on the stands’ side. He was shuffled back from three furlongs out and boxed in without the option to improve his position until about half a furlong from home when he ran on strongly under an easy ride.
He finished really well, proving his wellbeing and you would hope he can improve from the run now stepping up to an ideal 7 furlongs again.
He’s down to a sexy mark of 59 now, given he won of 65 over 7 furlongs at Dundalk last April, ran a good race in a hot Leopardstown Handicap last September from 11lb higher than he’s rated today, and achieved a 71 topspeed rating in the past.
Apprentice Cillian McConnell claims valuable 4lb – it’s the cherry on the cake. He’s riding really well over the last number of weeks and months, albeit with a limited number of rides lately.
There are a few solid dangers in the field but the biggest danger is no getting a clear run. Drawn in stall one is probably not ideal. Patience will be key. If No Patience gets a run for home, he’ll be a big chance, regardless, I reckon. He’s simply so well handicapped now.