Category Archives: Newmarket

Preview: 1000 Guineas

Before a detailed look into the 1000 Guineas, let’s have a quick word about the first classic of the 2016 flat season. One could probably say the 2000 Guineas didn’t finish the way many would have foreseen it. Even though, hailing my own judgement, I called out Galileo Gold as a big runner as long as he handles the track. He clearly did!

Now, I still didn’t selected him to win, but that’s okay because as the world’s biggest Paco Boy fan I just get a thrill out of it solely on the emotional side of things. My beloved all-time favourite horse finally got his first Group 1 winner on the board as a sire. He stands for a small fee at Highclere Stud these days – this will hopefully see him getting some classy mares in the future.

Back to the 2000 Guineas winner, Galileo Gold. He didn’t have it all that easy from his draw, but Frankie gave him a peach of a ride. The horse travelled like a dream throughout and quickened in taking style. You got to be impressed! Next stop Derby? Maybe. Connections believe he could stay the much longer trip

I’m not in the same camp yet, have to see it to believe it. Let’s not forget Paco Boy himself was a star miler, but probably got the trip only because of the patience of his rider, Richard Hughes. In my book he was always a 7 furlong specialist, stretched out to the mile.

The red hot favourite Air Force Blue was brutally disappointing. “Probably overtrained” was the explanation from Aiden O’Brien. Maybe he simply didn’t trained on at all? I’ll give him another chance because in all fairness, when I saw him at the Curragh earlier this year, he looked like a bigger, stronger horse, ready to do some damage in top class company this year.

I loved the run of stable companion Air Vice Marshal. He ran a heck of a race and I expect him to come on dramatically for the run. Once he gets quicker ground I can see him definitely being up to win a big race this year.


Preview: 1000 Gunieas

It’s the fillies’ turn today. The ground has dried out further – we’ve got genuinely good conditions at Newmarket. Again it’s a red-hot favourite from the Ballydoyle camp greeting from the top of the market: Minding.

And rightly so. On her two year old form you can’t oppose her. You can’t! A two-times Group 1 winner, ready to go on any ground, proven to get the trip as well as handling the Rowley Mile. A big, scopey filly, she looked super at the Curragh at the end of March too.

But we’ve seen it only 24h ago, that all can count for nothing. The performance today is what matters. And we don’t know whether she has improved over the winter until we see her showing it on the race track. Also, with these fillies, things are less straightforward than with the colts. I got to oppose her given her super short price-tag, even though I readily admit I may look foolish in a couple hours time.

What else’s in the race? 15 other fillies! A big field, and look no further for exciting opposition than Mark Johnston’s Lumiere. Winner of the Chevely Park Stakes, she’s got talent and speed but should also prove to have enough stamina to get the mile. Only thing is, her dam hasn’t produced anything of note yet.

Aiden O’Brien’s second and third string aren’t taken lightly. Ballydoyle – the filly – took longer than expected to hit full stride last season but finished the year on a high note landing a big Group 1 in France. She looked not quite as good as Minding when the two meat in the Moyglare, but it’s far from impossible that she’s able to turn the form around.

What I don’t like, and I said the same about Air Force Blue yesterday, is the tongue-tie, applied for the first time. There is often a reason for this, and it can be an indicator for some sort of a breathing problem. Doesn’t have to be, but can be and I’d be cautious.

Alice Springs is the least fancied of Aiden’s, though I like her allot! She was busy in the second half of 2015, a bit an unlucky runner-up in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf but clearly talented, scopey frame and there wasn’t much wrong with her return earlier this month; a fair third at Leopardstown in a Guineas trial. In fact it looked a lovely pipe opener in my eyes.

That day, on bottomless ground, it was difficult to make up ground from behind so the bird was flown early on but Alice Springs stayed on nicely. The mile trip doesn’t pose any concern, but the good ground is something she’ll definitely like.

Nell Gwyn winner Nathra is an exciting prospect. She has a run under her belt, has clearly trained on and is open to further improvement. Plus I really loved the way she cruised through the field in the Nell Gwyn, gliding through like a hot knife through butter. But you wonder whether a hotly contested mile is a bit too far for her stamina wise?

The Nell Gwynn looks a key trial nonetheless. Robanne stayed on late in third after being pretty badly outpaced from over three furlongs out. She gives the impression of a filly crying out for a trip. Mix And Mingle was right there too, finished 4th but looked outpaced as well and very much laboured. Both don’t strike me as Guineas winners.

Jim Bolger had plenty of placed runners but no winners for quite some time now. He’s due to win one pretty soon. Can Turret Rocks be the one? She was a smart juvenile – winner of the Group 2 Marry Hill and runner-up to Ballydoyle in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Her current rating puts her right in the mix here, although she’s certainly not a flashy type.

Whether French raider Midweek can transfer her best to drying Newmarket ground is debatable. I’d be concerned. Her best form came on very soft ground up until now. The same goes for Jet Setting. A fine winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas trial, though on heavy ground. Her only other win also came on a very deep surface.

I should mention speedy Zoffany daughter Illuminate. Already a multiple Group winner over 6f, she wasn’t disgraced at the Breeders Cup when stepping up to a mile. That day she seemed to hit a wall in the closing stages and I find it hard to see her getting the trip.

Verdict: On last years form it’s hard to look past Minding. But she is short enough to take her on, particularly with equally exciting stable mate Alice Springs, who certainly overpriced at around 20’s.

I do like Nathra a lot, though the drying ground and step up in trip is a concern and making a second selection here against the hot favourite I prefer the Bolger filly Turret Rocks. She probably gets further in time and seems very much one paced, but at the same time she’s tough and genuine and can outrun her price tag of 25/1.

Preview: 2000 Guineas

The wintry weather of the last couple of weeks has hardly got me into the mood for flat racing. I went to Punchestown on Wednesday and was greeted with a mix of sleet and hail – but hey, here we are, the first classic of the new season right in front of us! Madness!!!

Ground wise it seems Newmarket has done pretty well. It’s good to soft with a dry day expected and given that the Rowley Mile dries up quickly, we can expect fair conditions.

That’s particularly important for red-hot Guineas favourite Air Force Blue. Sure, he’s won on yielding ground before, but he’s also a son of War Front so is probably best on decent ground. That says the conditions today won’t be an issue, I reckon.

What is slightly puzzling is the fact that he’s fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time. Aiden O’Brien has done similar with other good horses in the past, so it’s not necessarily a negative, however it may also imply there is some sort of issue with his breathing.

I personally am not a fan of tongue-ties; sure they don’t look nice on the eye, but – without knowing for a fact myself since I’m not a horse – horses generally don’t enjoy them is the saying from horsemen I trust.

Look, it’s probably all fine and well with him, the vibes are positive anyway and it’s just some assistance Aiden thinks Air Force Blue benefits from on the ground today. Given he’s the best horse in the race on all form we know, it is very hard, if not impossible to oppose him.

That says he is a short price. Rightly so, one can argue. Or not? You can never be quite sure if these beasts really train on until you see them race again. At 4/6 – or whatever he is right now, I’m prepared to take him on with something bigger.

SO: Who else can make a race of it? Racing Post Trophy winner Marcel must be in the discussion. He doesn’t mind cut in the ground and has improved nicely throughout his juvenile season. Truth told though, he was a bit lucky at Doncaster on the day. Whether the form flatters him or not, it leaves me with doubts.

Frankie and Hugo Palmer have been bullish about Galileo Gold. He was supposed to run in the French Guineas, but he’s been wintering and working so well, he’s been re-routed to Newmarket. I can see why. He looks bound to improve as a three year old and showed plenty of promise last season. He’s a son of my all-time favourite Paco Boy – he’ll run a fine if he handles the track.

Will Buratino get the mile? This precocious, speedy juvenile is not sure to have found much improvement over the winter. I find it hard to make a case for him, given he looks more like a sprinter without much scope and definite stamina doubts.

Much more of interest is recent Craven Stakes winner Stormy Antarctic. An excellent runner-up in the Group 1 Criterium International when last seen as a two year old, he looked mightily impressive landing the Craven a fortnight ago. He’s no mug but would clearly prefer the rain clouds to return. Drying ground is a slight concern.

Lightly raced Masaat finished second behind Air Force Blue in the Dewhurst. With a bit of improvement over the winter he should be right there when it matters, given he’s proven to handle this track – with the only question mark the trip. He’s to prove his stamina and I’m worried he’s not getting home.

Aiden O’Brien’s second string Air Vice Marshal is clearly an exciting prospect. Lightly raced, maybe not quite seen to best effect in the Superlative Stakes, he should develop into a nice three year old.The step up in trip is clearly in his favour, though whether the ground is fast enough for him to be seen to best effect is the big question mark.

Jim Bolger has proven in the past that he can get horses ready for the first classic. His Herald The Dawn, a full-brother to 2013 Guineas hero Dawn Approach, didn’t quite fulfill the early promise in the latter part of his juvenile season. But it’s fair to believe he could be a better three year old.

I like the fact that Ribchester has already a run under his belt this season, albeit I’m not sure what to make of it. Hanging badly in France earlier this month, he was subsequently demoted from second to fifth. The step up to a mile poses no problem for him, whether he is good enough is the question.

Verdict: It is probably not wise to oppose Air Force Blue, who looks the real deal on anything we know. He’s as short in the betting as he should be on all we know. However if you’re like me, trying to get these shorties beat, you can find some reasons to do so here. For me it’s the tongue-tie. I’m puzzled why this one would be applied if there isn’t a slight concern about his breathing.

From the bigger prices I’m intrigued by his stable mate Air Vice Marshal who cost a fortune as a yearling and could be much better than what we have seen from him as a two year old. This here might not be the race to see him to best effect, he may need the run and does probably need faster ground. At 40/1 he’s worth a shot nonetheless.

I’m stuck with Herrald The Dawn too. I punted him ante-post roughly eight months ago at 40/1. Doesn’t look all that smart today – it’s the same price you can get this morning. Shows this lad hasn’t improved in the expected way from the moment on I backed him. But as mentioned before there is good reason to believe he has scope to be better this year. The Guineas is his target and if he can find a couple of pounds – he will have to if he wants to feature – I can see him going close.

Agent Murphy’s the type to improve


Buckhounds Stakes (Listed)

Godolphin’s Winter Thunder is expected to progress as a four year old from his all improving three year old campaign. He rounded up last season with an impressive Handicap success at Newmarket over 1m 4f. Though that form doesn’t work out at all. In 23 starts it hasn’t produced a single nto winner. Nonetheless this New Approach son is exciting and the one to beat potentially

His main danger is thought to be the lightly raced Agent Murphy. He was progressive last year, won in good style at Sandown, and followed up with two nice performances in defeat here at Ascot. He cried out for a step up in trip while still looking green when 2nd in July over 10f. Subsequently stepped up to 12f he didn’t quite get the run of the race when last seen but but stayed on nicely in third.

Fractical landed some lower grade races last season. It will be interesting to see if he can transfer this form to a new level now as four year old. Good older h handicapper Rawaki is a fair good measure stick in this race.

Red Galileo’s only win came on the All-Weather. He’s yet to get off the mark on turf in twelve starts. Farquhar was a shock winner of a a Newmarket Herritage Handicap. He may not be suited by the fast ground today.

Selection: Winter Thunder makes plenty of appeal on form and will clearly appreciate the conditions. But I take a chance on the bigger priced Agent Murphy, who appears to be a rather big price, given his profile.

He looks the type to improve as an older horse as it is often the case for Cape Cross offspring, as well as his dam sire’s Dansili. He hasn’t too many miles on the clock and could have still more to offer. He  proved in the past that he can make all when required. Which may be important in a race that could easily end in a tactical affair.

Agent Murphy @ 5/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win