Category Archives: Race Preview

King George 2021

The 2021 edition of the King George has something special in store for us racing fans. The best of the older horses versus a strong classic generation.

Naturally all eyes are on Derby winner Adayar. He romped home at Epsom in stunning fashion. Was that a real performance? The form has been franked through third placed Hurricane Lane, who won races of the highest order in the meantime.

It was a strange race, nonetheless. The aforementioned Hurricane Lane lost a shoe, the favourite Bolshoi Ballet completely misfired and the runner-up was a maiden who was subsequently trounced in the Irish Derby.

Lone Eagle, second in the Irish Derby, is the other 3-year-old in the field. He got first run on his rivals at the Curragh and with two furlongs to go looked like to have won the race. Only in the dying strides was he caught by a fast finishing Hurricane Lane.

It was a thrilling finish and Lone Eagle didn’t lose anything in defeat. In fact, he achieved a 113 topspeed rating, which isn’t far behind the 116 rating Adayar received for his Derby victory. Topspeed-wise those are the two highest ratings on offer in the King George field.

The older generation is clearly lead by Love. The winner of the 1000 Guineas, English Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last year, and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on her seasonal reappearance last month, she’s also joint top-rated, together with Mishriff.

Love won’t mind the the step up to the 1m 4f trip. In fact, her career -best performance was the 2020 Oaks success. Mishriff on the other hand, although a winner of the Sheema Classic earlier this year, may be at his best over shorter distances.

He has to give weight away too. However, Mishriff ran with plenty of credit in the Coral Eclipse where he was third behind brilliant St Mark’s Basilica coming off a break. He should be in perfect shape today.

The ground won’t turn soft enough to provide the sort of deep conditions Wonderful Tonight prefers. She is a multiple Group 1 winner though, and looked in excellent form when landing the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, so can’t be taken lightly, regardless.

Broome was second behind Wonderful Tonight at Ascot. He has since won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He enjoyed the run of the race, though, and I think over 1m 4f he has plenty to find with the market principles.

Conclusion:
I strongly fancy the classic generation to get the better of their elders. That says I’m not fully sure if If trust Adayar’s Derby performance. However, Lone Eagle’s Irish Derby performance appears rock solid. He should be right up with the pace once more and could be able to hold on this time. Hence at prices around 6/1 I’ll go with Loyal Eagle to win it for Frankie and Martyn Meade.

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3:15 York: York Stakes, Group 2

The best form on paper belongs to Armory. The four-year-old drops in class after a fine effort at Royal Ascot when third behind stablemate Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. He is unbeaten in Group races below top level and has been placed in multiple Group 1’s.

His Royal Ascot performance can possibly be marked up due to the way the race developed, which wasn’t quite ideal for Armory. Consequently, he achieved a career-highest 119 Racingpost Rating. He won really well at Chester on his season reappearance back in May as well.

That means, however, Armory has to give weight away to his rivals. No less than 12lb to exciting 3-year-old Mohaafeth.

This son of Frankel is unbeaten in 2021, having progressed with each and every run. From, winning a Novice contest to a first Handicap, to landing the Listed Newmarket Stakes to bag a Group 3 at Royal Ascot.

His Newmarket victories were visually really impressive. In fact Mohaafeth won the Newmarket Stakes in such taking fashion that he was catapulted near the top of the Epsom Derby market.

The ground turning soft that day ended his Derby dream, but he made up for it weeks later at Royal Ascot. He had to start racing earlier than ideal and hang to the right in the closing stages.

He ran to a101 topspeed rating then, the highest any horse has achieved in the York Stakes field. In anticipation of more improvement to come and the weight he receives from his rivals, Mohaafeth looks certainly the one to beat.

Although, Juan Elcano shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. He has found back to the winning ways having responded to wind op. On the other hand it’s hard to see Montatham – likely employed as Mohaafeth’s pacemaker – or the other outsider Bangkok getting involved.

Conclusion:
As long as there isn’t any sufficient amount of rain it’s hard to look past the progressive Mohaafeth. He has things in his favour and looks the sort to improve again.

Coral-Eclipse 2021

Only four runners. Yet the 2021 edition of the Coral Eclipse could easily turn out to be the race of the season. Three colts rated over 120 and the combined class of nine Group 1 victories!

Top rated Addeybb is back on home soil after yet another successful raid on the other side of the world, where he landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia.

It was a dramatic finish as he never gave up in first-time blinkers, answering the challenges from all sides to defend his crown.

The 7-year-old also won the British Champion Stakes in brilliant style last year. There are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon.

The only potential question mark – and that is being overly picky – is whether the ground is soft enough for Addeybb to produce his very best – which certainly will be required this afternoon.

Mishriff was a long way beaten in the 2020 British Champion Stakes, though I feel you can excuse that performance. Particularly given the fact the the four-year-old has only enhanced his claims ever since thanks to some brilliant victories on the international stage.

He got it done on dirt against strong US competition and followed up on turf in the Sheema Classic success at Meydan earlier this year. Mishriff, one could argue, is perhaps the best horse in the world right now.

The 2020 French Derby winner has shown an incredible versatility and ground independence, therefore won’t mind whatever way the ground this afternoon at Sandown.

Ballydoyle’s hopes rest on a single horse: French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica. Last years Dewhurst winner delivered a first Prix du Jockey Club for trainer Aiden O’Brien last month. Visually it was super impressive performance – although the strengths of the form could be questions.

Nonetheless, he clearly enjoyed the step up in trip that day as he travelled all over the field, still very much on the bridle two furlongs from home, and put the race to bed in a matter of strides then.

St Mark’s Basilica achieved a 106 topspeed rating at Chantilly that day, a career best that is also closely matched with the 107 rating Mishriff was awarded for his Sheema Classic victory.

Roger Varian’s colt El Drama completes the four-runner field. But it’s hard to see the Dee Stakes winner landing a blow against the big guns, given he has at least 11lb to find with them on official ratings.

In conclusion:
There is little to chose between the trio of St Mark’s Basilica, Mishriff and Adeybb. What tilts the scale in favour of the three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica -at least in my mind – is the 10lb weight-for-age allowance.

There is a good reason why it’s there. Yet, the Aiden O’Brien trained colt is certainly top-class and this significant weight allowance is a rather huge help against his elders. Hence, St Mark’s Basilica is my selection to win the 2021 Coral-Eclipse.

Lockinge Stakes 2021

There is a special place in my heart for the Lockinge Stakes. The reason is as simple as obvious: Paco Boy.

He’s the one that made me fall in love with flat racing. The most incredible moment of his illustrious career came quite clearly in the 2010 Lockinge Stakes. Visually it was such was such an enormous performance.

Richard Hughes with balls the size of footballs. Paco Boy, overcoming early keenness, still travelling like a dream on the bridle approaching the final furlong marker. Stunning. Beautiful. Unbelievable.

The 2021 renewal of the Lockinge Stakes looks a good one. A competitive one – at least for the minor placings.

Because Palace Pier stands head- and shoulders above the rest of the field. The betting market isn’t wrong when it gives him a 60%+ chance of adding a third Group 1 to his tally.

The four-year-old colt looked as good as ever on his seasonal reappearance last month when making 115 and 116 rated horses look like class 6 handicappers. He left the disappointment of British Champions Day firmly behind. A race he still managed to finish in third place despite losing a shoe.

Palace Pier’s 114 topspeed rating is – not surprisingly – the highest on offer in this field. A performance achieved on heavy ground. Therefore the rain won’t stop him today.

Aiden O’Brien saddles Lope Y Fernandez – the second highest rated horse in the field. Clearly a talented individual, he started the season well with a fine effort in a listed contest at Leopardstown. His overall win record isn’t impressive, though. Yet to win at the highest level, he only found three times the winners enclosure in 13 starts and hasn’t run beyond a 97 topspeed rating. Not good enough.

Progressive Top Rank, a recent Doncaster Mile winner, is six from eight. Not impossible that he can improve again. He’d have to take giant steps to challenge the favourite, though.

Light raced My Oberon is on the up too. The drop to a mile shouldn’t be an issue. The ground is a question mark and the fact remains in six runs he hasn’t been able to achieve an adequate topspeed that in my book is required for this level.

I can only see two horses able to make this a race: Century Dream and Safe Voyage. The latter enjoyed the best year of his career as a seven-year-old in 2020. Three victories, including two Group 2 races and a fine third place in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret.

Even though he won the Boomerang Mile at Leopardstown last autumn, I have a few concerns over the mile trip, particularly in soft conditions.

That won’t be an issue for Century Dream. He posted a career best when winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last year where he achieved a 110 topspeed rating. Clearly the more rain the better for him. He wasn’t able to win a Group 1 yet, though ran with plenty of credit in a number of them.

Century Dream shouldn’t be good enough to pose a real danger to Palace Pier. Nobody in this field is. He is, nonetheless, a huge price and overpriced, certainly from ad an each-way proposition. If the price would drift out further for Safe Voyage he also would become a viable each-way alternative.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible look past Palace Pier. He is in a different league to all the others here. Baring a accident, I can’t see him getting beaten here. Will it be as impressive as Paco Boy in 2010? Unlikely.

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From a pure betting perspective I have a fundamental interest in the King Charles II Stakes (2:40pm) at Newmarket this afternoon. This looks a intriguing contest. You can’t ignore the impression Bellosa made over course and distance four weeks ago.

At given prices I reckon there is significant juice in the price of the Gosden horse Fundamental. He is beautifully bred and has ran to 92 topspeed rating already when landing a strong contest on the Chelmsford polytrack last month. He followed up with another promising display in the Greenham Stakes.

That performance is much better than the bare form may suggest. Fundamental raced rather uneconomical, making a big move on the outside of the field from six to four furlongs out using a lot of energy and buying ground when it wasn’t really advantageous to so in such an aggressive manner.

Whether 7 furlongs is his trip remains to be seen. But Fundamental has shown enough speed and may enjoy the slower ground here. He’s overpriced at 9/2 and above on the exchanges.

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Preakness Stakes: the second leg of the American Triple Crown tonight. Leaving the doping controversy aside, the question from a racing perspective is: can Medina Sprit follow up?

Fair to say he got the run of the race in the Kentucky Derby. A pretty clear run to grab the lead after the start and unchallenged for the lead throughout. While some of the fancied front-runners didn’t have it so easy. He’s one to take on here, no doubt.

Not much made an impression from off the pace that day. The one who did and clearly caught the eye was Midnight Bourbon. He got badly bumped and squeezed right after the gate opened and had his route to a more advantageous position blocked.

He settled well off the pace, forced wide. Whether it was the smartest ride by rider Mike Smith to give so much ground away is debatable. Perhaps no other ride would have made any difference.

It wasn’t plain sailing to fight for space when turning for home either. Midnight Bourbon showed guts and fought for a gap entering the home straight. The bird was flown at that point, nonetheless he ran on well enough until eased in the final furlong.

His Derby trial performances, while not super impressive, where promising and the form franked. He’s a huge runner in the Preakness this evening from a good draw, in a smaller field and a much better chance to be up with the pace. At 8/1 he’s a good price in my book.

Preview: 1000 Guineas

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This years renewal doesn’t appear to be a “vintage Guineas”. However, that makes the contest quite an intriguing one, with so many fillies having so many questions to answer.

The betting is headed by a filly that’ll be outpaced four furlongs out and will struggle to finish fast enough in the end. In saying that I really do think Quadrilateral is a poor favourite and I am more than happy to take her on.

Her Fillies’ Mile victory is clearly a fine piece of form in the context of the Guineas but one had to be blind not to see that she needed every inch of the eight furlongs that day, not to forget on good to soft ground.

She is hardly getting any faster; in fact she is a fine prospect once she steps up in trip and probably more an Oaks contender than a solid Guineas favourite, but certainly an outstanding prospect for Group 1 races over ten furlongs.

Only a few fillies in this field have achieved a topspeed rating of 100 or more. That is disappointing and only proves the point that this year isn’t the strongest 1000 Guineas we have ever seen.

On the other hand, as mentioned in the 2000 Guineas preview, the fact that we’re four weeks behind the usual schedule will surly help those fillies that need time to mature, which in turn means there is the possibility for a big improver turning all the known form on its head.

I have little love for the Aiden O’Brien trained Love to be the one. Seven starts, beaten in four of them, only a career-high topspeed rating of 93 to show – she isn’t good enough.

Millisle has attracted a lot of positive quotes over the recent days and weeks. And rightly so. Her Cheveley Park Stakes success rates top of the queue. Given she is a late May foal you would hope for more improvement this year.

Stamina is the key question, as for many in the race today. She won twice over five furlongs. She has tons of speed. The pedigree gives some hope that she can stay the mile. In my book she is, with this benefit of the doubt, the filly to beat. At given prices she is too short for me to back, though.

The two I like in this field have both plenty to prove. There is the speedy Raffle Prize. It’s fair to say she has the best juvenile form in the book.

Runner-up against the boys in a strong Prix Morny, plus a subsequent runner-up performance in the Cheveley Park Stakes, plus two Group 2 successes early in the season – she achieved consistently high topspeed ratings, including twice of 100+ as well.

Obviously stamina is a massive question for a filly with so much speed. Her sire Slade Power was a classy sprinter but his offspring has done alright over the mile so far: a 12.6% strike rate reads decent enough. The dam side gives a bit hope too, so do the comments from the Johnston yard and the fact she is an April foal with scope.

The other one I like to outrun expectations, certainly judged by the market as a guide, is Richard Hannon’s Cloak Of Spirits. She was highly impressive on debut, subsequently disappointed in the May Hill Stakes, but really ran well in the Rockfel Stakes, when she also achieved a 97 topspeed rating, which in the context of the 1000 Guineas looks good form.

She is expected to progress as a three-year-old, boosts a scopey physique and has a fair chance to stay the distance. Richard Hannon is quite bullish about her chances as well. Not that I take too much note of that usually, nonetheless it’s a bonus if connections are keen and positive on an individual that you expect to progress anyway.

Her best form from last year isn’t far away from the best form of the market principles. So with more to come from her potentially, she is quite a massive price in comparison.

Selection:
6pts win – Raffle Prize @ 9/1
4pts win – Cloak Of Spirits @ 17/1

PREVIEW: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2018

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It’s Enable’s race….. to lose. Can anyone stop the wonder filly? Or can she follow on from a magical Saturday where Winx thundered home to a 28th consecutive success?

The queen of European racing was so impressive twelve months ago when she landed the big one, she’s blessed with an excellent draw this Sunday – surely, she’s more than justifying her 11/10 price tag.

I’m saying that as I find it hard to see her getting beaten here. Enable has clearly shown on her reappearance at Kempton in the September Stakes that she’s hitting top form right when it’s required. As easily as she let a 129 rated Crystal Ocean look like a one paced plodder, one can’t help but be incredibly impressed.

From a betting perspective I wouldn’t want to put anyone off backing Enable. From my own perspective it’s not a price for me – so I’m looking for a bit of “Each-Way Value” in a race that appears to be pretty open if it comes to the minor placings.

Sea Of Class and Waldgeist both make appeal. Form wise they are a clear standout compared to the rest of the field – bar Enable, of course. Though, the draw is a concern, even more so for the filly who’s likely to need a lot of luck from off the pace. The French colt, on the other hand, is the biggest danger to Enable but may get rolling too late, I feel.

Leger winner Kew Gardens should be okay dropping back in trip. He’s got a fair shout, depending on the start of the race where I’d like to see him ridden positively, which might be detrimental to his chances as he’s got to deal with a wide raw also, but it could also play into his hands, making use of stamina reserves at the backend of the race. If ridden with restraint he’s got even less a chance, most likely. At given prices it’s a pass for me, anyhow.

Stable mate Capri, high class as he is on paper, is hard to fancy after his interrupted season and a rusty return to the track in the Prix Foy.

Last year’s runner-up Cloth Of Stars is an interesting individual at a big price, if quirky and hard to know what to get on the day. If he could find some sort of his best form again he can be a fair place chance. So can be defending Breeder’s Cup Turf champ Talismanic. The ground may turn against him, though.

For my selection I’ll look even further down the packing order, still. 50/1 shot Patascoy, the French Derby runner-up, is the one who appeals most to me given this massive price.

The jury is still out whether he stays the trip. This lightly raced colt hasn’t raced beyond 10.5 furlongs yet, the pedigree isn’t exactly screaming “stayer” but isn’t entirely discouraging either.

Certainly in the Derby – not an overly strong form, it has to be said – he was running hard to the line after hitting a flat spot entering the home straight. His return after a bit of a summer break in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano Haras du Logis Saint-Germain was good – although not form you would associate good enough for an Arc winner, to be totally fair.

What I like about Patascoy is the fact he remains open for improvement after only eight career starts and in addition he is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated in the way he can be ridden – from an excellent draw, most likely tracking the pace in the Arc. That should ensure he’s in a good position when it matters most. If I trust him to stay, then he could outrun his price tag to finish in the money, in the end.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way – Patascoy @ 50/1 PP (4 places, 1/5)

A Windstoss sweeping past Cracksman?

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3.10 Epsom: Coronation Stakes, 1m 4f

Cracksman was incredibly impressive in the Prix Ganay last month, following on from his very strong three-year old campaign, winning three on the trot in the latter part of 2017.

The son of Frankel is near to impossible to oppose in the Coronation Stakes on all evidence available. With softish ground conditions likely to be encountered by the 6 runners, and Cracksman being at least eight pounds clear on official ratings, one could assume he has the race in the bag.

He probably has. That says, if you want to be negative, Epsom may not be the perfect track for him to show his best. Yes, he won here and finished 3rd in the Derby. On the other hand he should have won the Derby last year, actually, given he turned out by far the best horse of the race. Also simply the way he travells may not be best suited to the quirks of Epsom.

That’s nitpicking, of course. Cracksman is going to win. But – and that is a big but – if for whatever reason he can not quite put his best foot forward there is at least one compelling choice in the race representing tremendous value in my book.

Let’s first deal with the rest of the field: I’m a fan of Hawkbill, however am firmly of the belief he needs a flat, fast track to be at his very best. He’s vulnerable at Epsom. Idaho is a very good horse without being top class. He’ll give his running, though whether conditions are totally what he likes is questionable.

Yukatan is an interesting one. Still generally lightly raced. He can turn out to be a better four-year old simply needing time and experience. Nonetheless, without having shown quite enough in two starts this season as well as never having raced beyond 10 furlongs he’s one to oppose is my belief.

In saying that, as easily as I discount the chances of mentioned individuals above you can also make good cases for each of them running close to challenge Chracksman and finish at least second.

Now, I am eyeing a big price that is not totally without a chance to chase home Cracksman for victory but who certainly has a cracking chance to finish second hence pays some handsome each-way money. Usually, this isn’t quite my cup of tea.

Yet, without being patriotic, I absolutely do love Marcus Kluge’s Windstoss! The four-year old won the German Derby as well one of Germany’s most prestigious Group 1 prices, the Preis von Europa, pretty much under hands and heels. Things didn’t go his way in either race, yet he found a way to get up, producing stunning turn of foots.

Those two forms are certainly below some of the other top performances produced by Cracksman, Hawkbill and Co., nonetheless, the way he did it is what counts in my mind.

Windstoss is expected to be an even better four-year old…. if that is possible. He had a fair seasonal reappearance in the Gerling Preis: one lengths beaten under a Group 1 penalty and likely short of full fitness.

The Coronation Stakes was the intended early season target all way long. So, thanks to an uninterrupted preparation, good prep run and softish conditions sure to suit, this multiple Group 1 winner must be taken into serious consideration.

The betting market doesn’t reflect that at all. That’s wrong. it may turn out he doesn’t like Epsom or isn’t quite good enough in the end. At this point in time I have to say, though, 33/1 is a massive price.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way – Windstoss @ 33/1 PP

Preview: ARC DE TRIOMPH 2017

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“You are prone to bad luck at Chantilly; often the best horse gets beaten there” – John Gosden

Correct. John Gosden, trainer of wonder filly Enable is rightly concerned if it comes to external influences in today’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The dual Oaks and King George champ is the red hot betting favourite for quite some time. Rightly so. There is little more she needs to do to prove her class. She IS all class.

However a long season, a big field of top class contenders, most of them the opposite sex, tough ground and a course that can throw up strange results – there is a lot to overcome today….

…. and a lot to like about Enable! 

On the positive side of things, Enable could have not get a better draw allotted in the lottery that can kill chances of any horse before the race is even run. She can start from stall 2 – it gives her flamboyant star jockey Frankie Dettori every chance to make a decision whereas other rivals have to take what’s left over.

Enable is an uncomplicated filly, she has no problem to race prominently. I’m sure Dettori will settle her close enough to the pace with every chance to get the clearest of runs. The track will be more of an issue for anyone behind her: no excuses.

So – put the mortgage on? 

If she is in the form she presented herself all year – yes, ’cause she’ll win. Plain and simple. Fillies and three year old fillies in particular have a superb record in the Arc.

But what if a season that started in a Conditions Stake at Newbury back in April has taken a toll? You couldn’t begrudge Enable to lose some percentage of her superb form that saw the three year old land spectacular victories throughout the summer.

Well – Autumn, soft ground and Chantilly can do strange things to horses. So at prices I have to take on Enable. As much as I would love the story of her winning the race, as much I feel ENABLEd to say: this is one too many for her this year.

Bigger odds, Bigger Value!

I like three individuals at much bigger odds: the German raider Dschingis Secret, the recent Leger hero Capri and the French Cloth Of Stars .

Why? The German horse has no issues on the soft ground and usually does his best at the back end of his races. The way he finds another gear in the closing stages, as seen in the Prix Foy and Großer Preis von Berlin, is a trait not too many horses posses.

The way he races does not look sexy. He can get sweaty, be a bit keen but also can appear to be off the bridle earlier than a high class individual should be. But that doesn’t matter. The apparent ease – once hitting top gear – he puts away classy contenders suggest that this lad is hitting top form when it matters most.

The draw isn’t ideal, ten is as wide as you want to be and he will need a bit of luck. But hey, this is horse racing. You’ll always need a bit of ” luck” on the big day. 16’s is a serious price for a serious horse.

But Capri? A Leger winner? Yep. The drop in trip won’t be an issue. He’s an Irish Derby winner with form over shorter too. He travells strongly through his races and simply has an exceptional attitude to keep on going, as seen at Doncaster a fortnight ago. Soft ground doesn’t bother him, in fact the true stamina test expected will rather suit him today.

He’s here’s soon enough with little time to recover plus faces the difficult task to break from stall 15. However that is reflected in the price, and I feel taken into account overly negative. Yes, he is not the likeliest winner of the race, but surely a dual Classic winner has a slightly better than 5% chance with conditions likely to suit him?!

It’s been eight years since Sea The Stars became a legend in this very race. His son Cloth Of Stars is one who has the tools to emulate his almighty daddy. He’s got a good draw, a fair prep run under the belt off a four months long break when runner-up in the Foy behind Dschingis Secret and was unbeaten in 2017 before that.

Stamina is a question mark. He is yet to win over 1m 4f. On the plus side he loves the ground and deserves another crack at this distance after only two tries and with some improvement still possible.

Anything else to say?

Don’t count out Ulysses, either. He will love the track, he’s been a revelation this season and acts on softish ground. That says ground and trip in combination should not play to his strengths, I feel.

There is loads of money coming for Order Of St. George. He’s a sexy contender, I admit. He looked SO good in the Irish Ledger. Ground and trip is fine. A stayer with a turn of foot, Arc 3rd twelve months ago. Yeah, he’s a serious chance, Ballydoyle’s best, no doubt.

I say that because it’s only the 1st October and Winter is not coming – not today. The superstar filly has done it all this season, but this is a step too far. Sure, as a daughter of Galileo all is seemingly possible – but a long year, tough ground, a trip as far as she’s never gone before – too much.

The point is….

….. this is a wide open Arc! Much more open than the betting suggests. We have a star filly in Enable who is likely to take plenty of beating if all goes right for her. But this is the Arc, it’s autumn, it’s Chantilly, it’s tough ground, it’s a high class field…. there is plenty of room for things to pan out in a completely different way. Let’s hope it goes my way.

Selections:
10pts win – Dschingis Secret @ 16/1 Bet365
10pts win – Capri @ 20/1 Bet365
5pts win – Cloth To Stars @ 28/1 Bet365

Preview: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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Arc Day! The most prestigious flat race in Europe, maybe the world, is finally upon us The search for a new champion begins right here.

The Arc, that is a special race for me personally. On one hand it clearly marks the end of the flat season – yes, there is still some racing to go, but let’s make no mistake: the calendar turned to October, the nights are chilly again and the jumpers are out at Gowran Park. Winter is coming….

Arc Day: it’s a special day also because it brings back wonderful memories. Now, I can’t claim to follow the sport of horse racing for decades. Though it’s closing in on ten years actually – time’s flying! But I witnessed Sea The Stars winning the race, bringing the house down on an unbelievable summer of racing that captivated my heart like no other ever did.

Only two years later the German filly Danedream sprinted to a sensational success in Europe’s premier flat race – I had a big ante-post wager on her at massive odds, to this date the biggest monetary win of my illustrious betting career.

Arc 2016: A Decent Renewal?

The general perception leading up to the big race seems one of muted excitement. Some suggest this year’s Arc is a rather sub-standard renewal. I don’t buy that. In fact the 2016 Arc boosts as big a field as ever, with runners from all over world, with more than a handful of those rated at 120+, not for forget a favourite who has won three big Group one races on the bounce this season. Oh the reigning dual English & Irish Derby winner is here too! Not too shabby in my book.

Conditions Today

Reportedly perfect conditions at Chantilly today, where the Arc is run during the re-building process at Longchamp. Chantilly is known as a course that throws up plenty of hard luck stories, so with a big field of 16 runners it seems inevitable that some connections might feel unlucky in the aftermath of the race.

Genuine good ground should provide a level playing field for all horses on that particular front at least, though.

High Draw = Race Lost?

A race over 1 mile 4 furlongs, yet the draw is always a big talking point on Arc day. Of course it is, because if your drawn in the car park it makes your task so much more difficult. On the other hand those horses who need to be dropped in anyway mightn’t be too dramatically inconvenienced. Nonetheless if you’re forced to travel four, five wide throughout a 2.400m contest, chances are you won’t find the extra gear needed for a strong finish.

That says, for those who like to attack a race from the start, the wide draw must not be an issue at all. At Chantilly you have an early left-hand turn, which in theory should mean you can make up ground more easily from a wide draw – if you chose to attempt it.

Two well fancied runners – the Japanese Makahiki and Found – have been drawn rather wide. It makes their bid for glory the bit more difficult.

Found won’t mind it as she is likely to race off the pace anyway, though she is likely to encounter plenty of traffic and given her history (“the most unlucky filly in the world”) I am concerned that she does not get out in time today.

Makahiki, the excellent winner of the Prix Niel, is a more diverse story. Drawn in 14, I would expect jockey Lemaire to try to make a move right from the start in order to get a handy position somewhere in midfield while finding valuable cover as well. Though this could be a difficult thing to achieve, given plenty of jockeys on lower drawn horses will have the same tactics in mind. Therefore I can see a scenario where Lemaire has to commit too much too early or alternatively will end up in a really poor position on the widest outside.

Favourite Postponed will have every chance to find the right spot from stall seven. He has no problem to be ridden positively and he could end up in fifth, sixth position behind the pace. Dual Derby winner Harzand is drawn right beside him. It’ll be interesting to see what Smullen does here. I would certainly hope he tracks Postponed’s every move, which should ensure he ends up in a good position too.

The pace setters might come from team Ballydoyle. Highland Reel often races quite prominent and he’s likely to move forward right from the start. I would expect Dettori on Order Of St George to do the same from his wide draw. Whether both race too hard too early on is a valid question mark. New Bay might follow them closely.

The Winner: 

No doubt Postponed has allot going in the right direction. Draw, pace, form, likely position he’ll find himself in. He’s the most likely winner. However on ratings, official or RPR, this is a closer encounter than one would initially think. 2/1 is the current price, so in and around a 33% chance – a bit too short in my book.

Found, as classy a filly as she is, is more likely to find one or two too good once again I fear. The Japanese Makahiki is more interesting. If he finds himself in a decent position where he didn’t have to over commit in the early stages then he should have an awful lot to give when it really matters.

However in my book the 8/1 for Harzand is a criminal price. On the back of one poor performance, where we know there are valid excuses, bookies are happy to lay him. I imagine the return to 12f will be very much to his liking, the ground isn’t a problem, he’s a good draw and is a three year old with a handy weight for age allowance – if Smullen doesn’t drop too far off the pace, which I see as a slight danger to happen – Harzand will be a tough challenger in the finish.

Not mentioned yet has been New Bay. Last years Arc third. A talented individual, run with credit in the Irish Champion Stakes last month too and has a good draw today. He seems a bit below what is required to win the race in my eyes, though.

From the bigger prices Order Of St George makes plenty of appeal. He’s as highly rated as Postponed, though his shock defeat in the Irish Ledger is a question mark. But then he may find perfect conditions here. Dettori in the saddle will ensue a smooth ride to the front of the pack from the widest, but not necessarily worst draw. If he can get there without doing too much, he might have enough left to kick on turning for home. Given he lasts the trip thoroughly, he could then be hard to peg back.

Selections: 
Harzand @ 8/1 Betfred
Order Of St George @ 20/1 

The Big Race: 2016 Coral Eclipse

thegurkha

ONLY seven go to post, the Derby winner isn’t here, the 2000 Guineas winner isn’t here, yet only two individuals can boast Group 1 success in their CV…. this years Coral Eclipse is a slightly underwhelming affair, I have to say.

But the good thing is: potential superstar The Gurkha lines up in an attempt to make amends for what has to be regarded as a wasted chance when he was beaten in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot roughly a fortnight ago.

The Gurkha went off odds-on in the Group 1 contest, though endured not the best of luck in-running and maybe, only maybe Ryan Moore didn’t have his brightest moment either.

Whatever, it’s the past – the here is now. Aiden O’Brien’s inmate, a son of Galileo (how could it be any different?!) stormed last month to global attention in the Poule D’Essai Poulains – the French 2000 Guineas – where he blew his rivals away with a turn of foot that looked out of this world. Can he do the same today?

Absolutely! This lad is massive talent! Stepping up to 1m 2f should not be a problem at all, if not even bring out further improvement, and the softish ground is no trouble either. As a three year old he receives some handy amount of weight in a race without a clear danger from the brigade of older horses. Right?

Probably. Though the top rated horse is the four year old My Dream Boat. On official ratings The Gurkha has to find two pounds with the winner of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Trained by Clive Cox, My Dream Boat clearly ran to a career best at Royal Ascot, helped by the soft ground that day. He’s a real mud lover, without a shadow of a doubt and will hope Sandown retains as much rain in the turf as possible.

In my view he is clearly the biggest threat to The Gurkha from the older horses, though whether he can give the weight away against a rival most likely to improve another couple of pounds – I find it hard to see.

Widely regarded as the biggest threat in the public opinion is Roger Charlton’s Time Test. What’s in his favour is the relative freshness. He only had one start this season – a successful one, here at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, a Group 3 event. It’s fair to say he may come on for the run and remains with potential to improve a bit for age, now as a four year old.

That says, he’s yet to prove himself on the highest level and probably is better suited to a fast surface. Yes, he does handle cut in the ground, but given a career best is required today, the ground is a worry.

Godolphin’s Hawkbill was a fine winner of the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s unbeaten in his last five starts, so obviously on the up and could still have more to offer. He relishes today’s conditions and his prominent racing style should see him in a good position when it matters most.

We can’t completely rule out Western Hymn. The “senior” in the race, he’s ultra consistent and usually puts his best foot forward here at Sandown. So it would not be a surprise to see him finish in the money. Still, something dramatic would have to happen for him to win.

Verdict: Whenever I side with a hot odds-on favourite, it usually is the kiss of death for the well fancied horse. Nonetheless I can’t look past The Gurkha today and find it surprising to been able to snap up evens odds. He’s more like a 4/6 chance in my book.

Prediction:
1. The Gurkha
2. Hawkbill
3: My Dream Boat

Photo: thoroughbreddailynews.com