Category Archives: Global Racing

Chrome vs. Arrogate 2.0

On a day like this where our beloved sport produced its finest moments just to be followed by  incredible tragedy, it’s comforting that we racing fans can drown our sorrow – at least for a moment – in excitement about the next big race.

It might be fickle, it might feel wrong but this is simply the circle of life in our game of horse racing. Greats come, Greats go, the next star’s just been borne… but that is racing also: legends are never forgotten.

And a legend we’ll never forget is the great Many Clouds, who sadly left us today, after a heroic win at Cheltenham. I had the privilege to see this almighty horse winning the Grand National in 2015 – a historic performance is was. What a warrior, what a star, a true Great of our game. RIP big fella….

many_clouds.jpg

But there it is, the next big race – its protagonists deserve our full attention. This big race is the inaugural Pegasus World Cup. World class prize money on offer, with a purse of $12 million it’s the richest race on earth! although it’s debatable whether the tag “World Cup” is justified, given it’s a race on dirt with no foreign raider in the 12-runner line-up and only two of them truly deserve to be called world class.

Nonetheless this is an intriguing contest like few others, purely because those two world class horses are no less than the recently crowned number one and two of the world rankings: Arrogate and California Chrome!

A single pound between the two in the ratings indicates what a close contest we might witness tonight – effectively a match-race, much like when these two met the first- and last time. That was in November, in the Breeders Cup Classic, a day when the three year old Arrogate prevailed by half a lengths after a thrilling finish down the home straight.


Arrogate won fair and square that day in my humble opinion. In fact he looks special, which became evident to me after his sensational performance in the Travers Stakes. It looked almost unreal the way he demolished his rivals in what was a top notch Grade 1!

However is he really better than California Chrome? The jury is still out, I feel. Let’s not forget Arrogate received a handy little weight for age allowance in the Breeders Cup Classic, and no doubt he endured a much less gruelling season leading up to the big race at Santa Anita than the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner certainly did.

Chrome in contrast travelled the world, ripped the Dubai World Cup field apart and went on to win two more Grade ones, making super mare Beholder look ordinary in the Pacific Classic. Whether he was still at 100% in November, when on go for so long, where one big race followed the next is hard to say.

What is easy to say: Chrome is not slowing down. He’s as good as ever, judged on  an easy prep run at Los Alamitos in the middle of December. Arrogate in contrast didn’t have another race since the Breeders Cup. A disadvantage? I reckon it’s not. For all he’s still the younger horse, with fresher legs and upside.

Tactics will be interesting today. Arrogate is drawn on the inside, Chrome widest on the outside. Two tricky gates to start from. Chrome may need to work to get up with the pace where he usually wants to sit whereas Arrogate has to be careful not to get boxed in.

Nonetheless when it really comes down to it, these two will fight it out. Who’s going to win? Impossible to say. My gut feeling is that Chrome might have a little bit more going for himself here. The run under his belt last month, he meets Arrogate at level weights today and the not insignificant drop to nine furlongs could be more in his favour too.

After all, it’s probably fair to say that this is a coin flip. With that in mind I got to go with California Chrome. He’s a the value price. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets outstayed in thrilling finish by the extra special Arrogate. In less than two hours we’ll find out.

Selection: California Chrome @ 6/4 Skybet

Boonga Roogeta a prime chance at Chelmsford

Iron Major Dundalk

6.40 Chelmsford: Class 4 Handicap, 1m

This looks an uncompetitive affair where only a couple have legitimate credentials to go close. I feel Moonlight Venture is one of those, despite a long losing run. He is down to handy weight though and with blinkers fitted could be ready for a big run.

Fantasy Gladiator has been in excellent form all year long, so can’t be discounted. He hasn’t been quite as good in his last two starts but is the sort to bounce back. That says off his current mark he has not much room for error and needs to have everything fall right.

Only once out of the top three in the last ten starts, Shifting Star has to be taken seriously. He won a Windsor when last seen and now back on the the All-Weather is not an inconvenience. Only 2lb higher today he should go close but strike rate on the AW isn’t quite that exciting and he has to be at his very best to win.

Never underestimate a Richard Hannon Runner, so Steal The Scene as the only three year old in the race is an interesting contender. He has only won over the shorter 6f & 7f trips so far and that means he might be vulnerable over this additional furlong today.

No doubt Boonga Roogeta is the horse to beat here in my mind. The mare has had a fine season with two wins here at the Chelmsford All-Weather. She won a class 4 Handicap over 10f against the boys and landed a valuable class 2 Fillies Handicap over 1m in June.

She is best suited to 10f usually, so the trip is sharp enough. However given that she is a CD winner, and the fact that there is plenty of pace expected in this race, it must not be a problem. It is true that Boonga Roogeta likes to make all but she doesn’t necessarily has to. When she won here the last time she was tracking a brisk pace. The same scenario could happen here today.

With the visor back on, a good apprentice in the saddle, and the mare being on a mark 1lb below when she won here in June, I believe she has an absolute prime chance to win this contest.

Boonga Roogeta @ 5/1 Paddy Power – 10pts Win

————

8.00 Dundalk: 47-75 Handicap, 1m

Plenty of question marks over most runners in this field ad the market reflects exactly that with 10 times maiden Will Excel the 4/1 favourite at the moment. The three year old has been five times placed though and that gives him a prime chance on his handicap debut off a fair mark. The new trip may bring out a bit of improvement as well.

Not a Bad Oul Day has won his last two starts, both over 7f, and hasn’t been seen for roughly half a year. Hard to know what to expect from him off a career highest mark over a trip potentially stretching his stamina.

The only other horse that really makes appeal as a win candidate is Iron Major. The veteran loves Dundalk an won here a similar handicap back in April. He’s 4lb below that winning mark now, although the young apprentice in the saddle who rode him back then and now has lost 3lb of his claim in the meantime.

Nonetheless Iron Major is obviously on a very dangerous mark now and that makes him a prime contender. The question mark is the trip. He’s certainly most effective over 7f and 1m stretches his stamina – but he has winning form over course and distance.

In this poor race I give him a good chance therefore. He certainly will be involved in the finish. If he gets there when it matters, we will find out.

Iron Major @ 6/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Meydan: Torchlighter finds Ideal Opportunity

Laytown4

Got it spot on last night: Hamelin and Missed Call ran huge races. Unfortunately they didn’t quite finish in the way I would have hoped, as Hamelin was outstayed in the final furlong by the filly. Another second place for the betting record…. too many of those in recent weeks.

4.45 Meydan: Handicap, 1m 2f 

Racing at Meydan is back – it kick’s off with a decent card of six races today. The feature this dirt handicap, worth roughly €20k.

It looks a good race on paper. Dough Watson’s Jeeraan is expected to bounce back and tops the betting market. You can see why. He’s won twice at Meydan before and is on fair mark, so should run well from a good draw. But he is a very short price nonetheless taking on stronger rivals than when he won last season.

Stable mate Etijaah makes more appeal from a price point. Progressive last season, he goes well at this track and trip and his mark off 85 is fair, however he is wrong at the weights here and will have to be probably a good deal better than his current rating to win.

I really fancy Torchlighter here, though. He was 92 rated when landing a big class 2 Newmarket Handicap in great style last year and since then hasn’t been disgraced in three starts in the UAE. He tried the dirt twice last season and took well to it in very hot Carnival handicaps.

This is easier and he drops a couple of pounds in the mark as well which brings him down to a potentially lenient rating off 94. Question mark is whether he is ready to go, but with good money on stake, this looks an ideal opportunity to get off the mark.

Torchlighter @ 3/1 William Hill – 10pts Win

Preview: Melbourne Cup

Jockeys Joe O'Brien

Four hours…. then it’s Santa knocking on the door! Well, kind of… at least if you’re a racing fan, like I am. I love the Melbourne Cup to bits, my favourite race of the year. The build-up to the big race is sensational, the atmosphere surrounding a packed Flemington racetrack leaving goosebumps on my neck year after year… quite simply: it’s the race that stops a nation! One day I’ll be there and take it in all in flesh.

Not this year though, that’s for sure. But maybe backing the winner tonight could be a stepping stone to finance the flights for 2016? Let’s wait and see. I never backed the winner, although had a couple of each-way selections placed in the last number of years….

It looks a wide open race in my mind. Nonetheless you see some mad short prices in the betting market. That says I can’t have the Japanese runner Fame Game at all. He may have a good draw and some big form, but how does this translate into the race the Melbourne Cup is? 4/1 or shorter seems a mad price in my mind.

Trip To Paris is second favourite, currently a 7/1 chance. He has not the kindest of draws but it could have been worse. He impressed me in the Caulfield Cup and I really like him. He’s a tough, genuine stayer. But hardly value at his current price. Unfortunately.

I really don’t understand why a National Hunt horse is a short 7/1 third favourite to land the Melbourne Cup. Sorry. Willie Mullins is a great trainer and Max Dynamite an excellent horse under both codes, he has strong form in the book but had an absolute dream run in the Lonsdale Cup – this is a completely different ball game, in my mind. I can’t see it happening.

Last years Victoria Derby winner Prefermant is hot on the machines. I don’t wanna pretend to know him well. Could be anything potentially, depending on whether he stays the trip. Class is there it seems, good draw too. But at 10/1? Not for me.

I absolutely loved the way Almoonqith won the Geelong Cup recently. But that was only a Group 3 and much more is required here. He might be found out for class. Same could apply to The United States. Formerly a Group 3 winner in Ireland, he landed the Moonee Valley Gold Cup. Others are better treated.

Criterion has been in top form lately but the trip should find him out off a big weight. Multiple German Group 1 winner Our Ivanhowe had a great preparation to the big race since arriving in Australia. A wide draw and doubts over this stamina let me shy away from him.

Now, there is one horse that stands out of the crowd in my mind: Bondi Beach. When this lightly raced stayer won a Group 3 at the Curragh earlier this year, a day I was there and saw him in flash battling hard with stable mate Order Of St. George who subsequently landed the Irish St Leger in brilliant style, I thought this lad is the real deal if is about a staying prospect.

He subsequently lost two big races in the stewards room, most importantly the English St Leger after appeal weeks after the actual race. That doesn’t take much away from the fact he is a proper Group 1 stayer, proven in fact. Now he has to take on older horses but you can argue that he weight he receives doesn’t stand in the right context to his class and what he should actually carry.

There aren’t too many proper Group 1 horses in this race, and less than a handful are Group 1 stayers anyway. Bondi Beach is. At 16’s he looks a massive price. Granted he gets a run. The draw isn’t ideal and he’ll need luck. But favoring that into the price I still don’t get my head around this price tag.

Bondi Beach @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Preview: Breeders Cup Classic

DSC_0219

Breeders Cup Classic (Grade 1)

All about American Pharoah of course! Can he end his amazing career with a triumph in the Breeders Cup Classic? Well, he’s the favourite, but surely has to be at his best to see of some strong competition. Mind you he has been on the go for a long time this year.

I’m prepared to take him on. You could say he was a bit unlucky in the Travers where he battled with Frosted from a long way out. nonetheless it might have been also a fact of him having so much racing this season. Did it wear him down?

Honor Code is seen as one of the main dangers. He’s usually spectacular when he wins. But the trip is a question mark today. It could be too far.

Tonalist was more than five lengths beaten in the Classic last year but has been in excellent form lately. He can go close but needs things to fall right for him to win. Keen Ice the Travers winner can’t be expected to follow-on from this success. He profited from the two main contenders making their respective moves way too early.

No doubt Gleneagles is an intriguing contender. It all evolves around his ability to handle the dirt. His fate might be obvious after the first furlong ran in case he struggles then. His ability is there, of course, but I find it hard to have to much believe in that this is the right kind of test for him.

Whether Frosted is good enough to land a major Grade 1 remains to be seen. The jury is still out. He has improved with his racing this year, though, and fought one or another battle with American Pharoah before. That says he is not quite as talented as the Triple Crown winner, but looked excellent when landing the Pennsylvania Derby in excellent style.

One a Grade 2, but it proves Frosted holds his form and must rate a major contender today. For me he is the value in this race and I expect him to outrun his price tag.

Frosted  @ 20/1 Ladbrokes / 5pts Win 

Preview: Breeders Cup Mile

DSC_0294

7.30 Breeders Cup Mile (Grade 1)

Very hot race which becomes even more open since the ground has further dried out. The French have a strong hand in this with Make Believe a clear favourite. The colt has top form in the book and has a good draw at his disposal. However there are a couple others who are likely to join him in a bid for the early pace.

French filly Impassable is a lovely progressive sort and with first time lasix must enter calculations. I fancy her to go well. Another filly, Tepin, makes appeal for the home team. She has been in excellent form lately and I like her, but feel she is a right price, the same as the French filly.

Esoterique and Time Test are top notchers too and should do well if the pace isn”t too hot form them.

There is some value to find here in this race on Grand Arch I feel who is way overpriced. A winner of the Group 1 Shadwell Turf mile here at Keeneland, he has top form and may get the race to his liking. Stalking a strong pace and then kick on when it matters.

Grand Arch @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts Win

Preview: Breeders Cup Friday

DSC_0190

7.30 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (Grade 1)

Aiden O’Brien has two very strong contenders in a race he has won twice in the past. Hit A Bomb is probably the strongest candidate of the two Aiden saddles –  the colt scooted home at Dundalk when last seen after he got off the mark on his debut. Clearly a very talented individual, he would be very hard to beat if he hadn’t been drawn in the car park. Ryan Moore will have to work his magic. It won’t be easy.

Soft ground is detrimental to the chance of Ballydoyle’s second string, Shogun. He drowned at his only try in really soft conditions, however looked special when winning a maiden at the Curragh on good to yielding ground – similar to what is expected at Keeneland’s turf track today.

Whether he can perform on this sort of ground to a level that is required to be competitive in in top race like this remains to be seen – but connections hailed this colt as a special one not so long ago. I really liked his performance at Longchamp earlier this month when he finished  strongly in a race he meat plenty of in-running trouble. He wasn’t far beaten in the end behind Cymric, who finished a close runner-up that day and is one of the leading fancies here again.

Shogun has a good draw and I would hope to see him being ridden positively as the trip shouldn’t be a problem. He looks a colt we haven’t seen the best of yet and I believe he is underestimated.

Shogun @ 12/1 Coral – 5pts Win

————–

8.50 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Grade 1)

A wide open race for the juvenile fillies. Aiden O’Brien saddles the favourite with progressive Alice Springs. There is plenty to like about her: draw is handy, trip will suit this Galileo filly, fine form in the book. Question mark is the ground. It’s likely to be tacky. We have to see if that really suits her.

Harmonize was a nice winner of the Grade 3 Jessamin Stakes here at Keeneland recently. She encountered a wide trip and did well to win from where she came from. Interesting though that the horse beaten in second by half a lengths seemed to have a more ideal run visually, but in fact only saved a neglectable amount of ground according to Trakus figures.

The runner-up that day was Sapphire Kitten. A very lightly raced filly. That was only her second career start and she travelled really nicely. She seemed to be outstayed eventually, but that means the slight drop in trip to 1m will suit today. How she copes with the ground is a question for all in the field – on pedigree she has a fair chance to handle it just fine. At 16/1 she is a nice value play in this field.

John Gosden has brought over talented sprinter Illuminate. Already a Group 2 winner and excellent runner-up in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes, she has obvious credentials to land this race if her stamina lasts. I’m not all that confident in that in the ground conditions.

One that doesn’t seem to get any love is formerly in Ireland trained Last Waltz. She’s having his first start in the US today after showing plenty of promise in his native country. She was a close 3rd in the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes at the Curragh when last seen, where showed plenty of early speed and was just beaten in the dying strides. That encourages me to believe that she can overcome her wide draw here.

The ground won’t be an issue either I believe. Given that it is drying all the time, she should be okay. On pedigree the step up to 1m will suit her well enough too and first time lasix can only be a positive – so at 20/1 she is quite a big price.

One more to mention is Catch A Glimpse. A two times winner on turf, she is likely to be up with the early pace from a good draw and may well improve if she can cope with the ground.

Sapphire Kitten @ 16/1 VC – 5pts Win
Last Waltz @ 20/1 WIlliam Hill – 5pts Win

————–

9.35 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Fillies’ Grade 1)

You can’t fault Wedding Toast – she is the clear and fair favourite to land the Distaff. Two Grade 1’s on the bounce, both in utterly impressive fashion. Only question is: can she bring her top game to Keeneland? She finished 4th in her only start at this track last year and has a clear preference for Belmont.

What are the dangers? Got Lucky has to be one. The dramatic winner of the Grade 1 Spinster won’t mind a poor draw as he usually comes from behind. He’ll need a lot of luck though if he wants to do it again here, this time in an even deeper field.

Classy Sheer Drama has got a poor draw, which could be detrimental to her chances. She won two Grade 1’s this year and clearly has to enter calculations. But with the track an unknown, and the draw against her, others may make more appeal.

The pick of the three year old’s is clearly I’m A Chatterbox. I’m a big fan of her I have to admit. She is gutsy, honest filly, but one who poses tons of talent. She usually travelles well thanks to her ability of an outstanding cruising speed and once in front doesn’t let go.

She won the Grade 1 Cotillion when last seen after finishing second twice as well as third in her last three starts the top level – though if not for a crazy demotion in the American Oaks, she would have two Grade 1’s victories to her name now.

I’m A Chatterbox has been on the go for a while now, and that is a concern. So is the draw. From box one it’s never easy but she showed plenty of early pace in the past so I’m hopeful she can get out of this easily. If she has still something in the tank then it’s hard to see her not being involved when it really matters here, given that she has won at Keeneland before.

I’m A Chatterbox @ 8/1 Paddy Power