Category Archives: United Kingdom

Preview: 2000 Guineas 2020

kingman

The Guineas meeting at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile is an unusual affair this year: it’s staged behind closed doors with no crowds allowed. But it also takes place much later than its usual date at the end of April/beginning of May.

A solid four weeks delay can have a rather profound impact in the world of horse racing, particularly for the classic generation of horses. The reason is that three-year-old colts mature at different rates generally, but start to catch up during their three-year-old campaign with their elders. An individual that was still a little bit behind in the early Spring days may have come on nicely under the sun in June.

The more precocious types can have an advantage early in the season – this certainly shows in facts such as that only few May born colts have tackled the 2000 Guineas in recent times (also notably less April foals).

For example over the last two decades the winners were predominantly born in either January (6), February (6) or March (5), whereas they fall significantly for April (2), while not a single winner was born in May. Obviously not as many born in the later months contested in first place. That in itself already illustrates that the Guineas tends to suit horses that are naturally ahead of younger three-year-old colts.

If we take this a step further then it becomes apparent that a month can make a big difference in the life of a classic horse: the picture changes if you look at those that have won the Derby over the last two decades, run in June.

Compared to the Guineas, Derby winners are significantly less born in January (2) or February (4) but we notice a massive spike in March (10) foals. Also April (3) and and particularly May born colts (4) perform much stronger now.

The Derby is a longer distance and attracts different horses, so this isn’t quite a scientific comparison. usually only few Guineas horses make it to the Derby. But isn’t that a clue in itself as well? Quite clearly the Guineas – in normal circumstances – is suited to those older three-year-olds while the younger ones catch up as the weeks progress.

You frequently hear punters and racing experts say late foals need time to develop therefore the Guineas comes too soon and therefore they can’t be backed – this notion isn’t wrong as illustrated above. At the same it doesn’t apply nearly as much to the the 2020 edition of the 2000 Guineas as it does in most other years.

Pinatubo:

The odds-on and ante-post favourite is right in the sweet spot if it comes to his date of birth. He is also the top rated horse in the field, has been incredibly impressive as a juvenile and posted superb speed figures.

Opposing the son of Shamardal may look extremely foolish come Saturday afternoon. On pedigree the step up to a mile shouldn’t be an issue. Given the fact he ran so strongly to the line at the Curragh in the National Stakes, which has a notable uphill finish, as well as in the Dewhurst in soft conditions at Newmarket, I have little doubt that an additional furlong, particularly on fast ground, will cause any trouble.

On facts and figures based on two-year-old form Pinatubo is nearly impossible to oppose and one can argue should even be a good deal shorter in the betting.

What speaks against him? For a start: his juvenile campaign started in May last year. Quite early, which also points to him being rather precocious which is enhanced by the fact he’s ran six times in 2019.

It’s unlikely he’ll need to improve as he ran to such a high level already. If he would be still as good as last year, and stays a mile, he’d win the 2000 Guineas in most years. Begs the question: can Pinatubo run to the same or at least close to the same level as a 3-year-old? His sire stats are no confidence booster.

Shamardal colts at the age of three over the mile trip have a poor strike-rate, effectively winning only half of as many races as they should (A/E), perform particularly poorly in June, and the drop in performance from two- to three-year-old is – on average – quite significant.

Pinatubo is odds-on right now. Backing him at this price one needs to have full confidence that he’s not one of those Shamardal sons that regress as they get older.

For me there are enough reasons to oppose Pinatubo. As much as I would love to see him being the next superstar. Yet, I feel this is quite a deep 2000 Guineas field and others in the race have a lot of potential to improve in a way that the gap to him can be closed.

Arizona:

Somewhat a similar profile to Pinatubo as he showed plenty f talent as a juvenile – as well as born in February – when he landed the Coventry Stakes. Arizona performed strongly on top level for the rest of the year, including a runner-up performance behind Pinatubo in the Dewhurst, and an unlucky effort at the Breeders Cup.

How much better can Arizona be? His sire No Nay Never is inviting uncomfortable questions. His offspring doesn’t progress too well from two to three – albeit there is only a single season of evidence, to be fair – but there is a significant drop in performances for his 3-year-old colts. It looks particularly dire over a mile, even if we only allow for those that were fancied in the betting.

If I have these concerns about Arizona than it’s only right and fair to say Wichita has the the same sort of question marks to overcome. As an April foal with less mileage on the clock he has a better chance of improving. I don’t see that happening over the mile trip as the dam side is speedy enough.

Kameko:

He’s got a lovely profile. He stays the mile, has proven to deal sufficiently enough with fast ground and won the Futurity Stakes – albeit on the All-Weather – in fine style at the end of last year.

I am most impressed by the consistency of his efforts in four runs as a juvenile, because there is every chance he is going to be a better three-year-old. Kameko ran to topspeed ratings of 97 and 99 (2x) already, which is quite good, if not top class, but certainly a consistent level of strong form.

If he does improve as one would hope he does, the son of Kitten’s Joy is a major player, particularly as I feel he has miler written all over him. Saying that, Kameko will need to improve again in order to feature in this deep field.

Al Suhail:

There is a lot of stamina on the dam side, even though well bred, related to a couple of horses that showed their best definitely beyond a mile. For me that’s a real worry on fast ground, despite Al Suhail having form on it.

He ran a fast time when runner-up to Military March at the Rowley Mile when last seen. I rate that form. But it came on soft ground. I feel he’s more likely to be found out for speed here.

Military March:

He really impressed me in his two starts. Won the Autumn Stakes going away in the closing stages. Excellent topspeed rating awarded for that performance. One to keep an eye on this year.

On the other hand as a full-brother to Clongowes, who stayed two miles and needed well beyond a mile to win, I feel Military March will be outpaced when it matters most.

Royal Dornoch:

He was a surprise winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes. With that he has graded course and distance form to his name which is a big plus. He ran often as a juvenile but given he is an April foal things may simply took time to click. Is a dark horse in my view – if allowed to run on merit and not here on pacemaker duties.

Kenzai Warrior:

One to keep in mind for rainy days. He’ll appreciate the step up in trip, though may need even further to be seen to best effect. Most likely will appreciate significant cut in the ground. Will be taken off his feet on the likely fast ground.

Mums Tipple has sprinter written all over in my book but will be interesting to see what he can do given he posted that rather big 110 topspeed figure at York last summer. Juan Elcano is a solid prospect, likely over further than the mile. Shouldn’t bee good enough here, though.

Hard to see any of Cepheus, Persuasion, Starcat or New World Tapestry feature.

Kinross:

Seven month ago I was super bullish when stating Kinross will win the 2000 Guineas. Didn’t work out that well on that specific day in the Futurity Stakes where I backed him at short odds. Different story on Saturday?

When talking about Kinross one can’t forget this incredible Newmarket performance. Visually stunning. The turn of foot electric. You simply don’t see a newcomer all that often doing what he did that day.

The form looks good on the numbers too: the runner-up, Raaeb, was a 2nd in a Listed race earlier this year, then only behind subsequent, and rather unlucky Group 3 runner-up Malotru, and is now a 97 rated individual. Kinross beat him as easily as it gets by 8 lengths and could have won by more, if needed.

Not surprisingly but still remarkable – let’s not forget it was his very first official racecourse appearance – Kinross was awarded a topspeed rating of 100, which is extremely high for a debut performance.

He went to Newcastle as the hot favourite for the Futurity Stakes where he finished a 6¼ lengths beaten fifth. Disappointing. Big but: the surface probably didn’t suit, he was still seriously inexperienced which showed at the start and he received a huge bump mid-race which knocked him off his stride.

Kinross will have learned plenty that day. Besides, anything he did as a two-year-old was as bonus. He is a May foal and was always one with the next year in mind. The fact that the Guineas takes place in June as opposed to a month earlier can only be a positive for his chances.

Home reports are positive for what will be Ralph Beckett’s first 2000 Guineas runner! The likely fast ground, as well as the additional furlong, open further possibilities for more improvement. This is as exciting a prospect as I’ve seen in a long time.

Verdict:

Even though I make some hard calls on some of the runners, make no mistake: this is a really deep field. Quality colts who have proven to run fast as two-year-olds. Obviously we don’t know how they have trained on. There were no trials and even for trainers it’ll be hard to gauge how their horses measure up at this point in time.

Pinatubo is the right favourite. The best two-year old in a long time, he is a star and could confirm his status as the new superstar of the sport. But I have doubts that he can run to the same high level as he did last year. He’s short enough to take on.

The boys in blue have some interesting contenders, beside the obvious one already mentioned. None of team Ballydoyle excite me, on the other hand. Although, Royal Dornoch could outrun his price tag, if not on pacemaker duties and allowed to run on merit.

Futurity winner Kemko is a rock solid chance to run well and will be suited by the conditions.

My fate is tied to Kinross, naturally. I do feel he offers the greatest potential to make a gigantic step forward. He is a massive price, with the potential improvement not factored in at all.

I was at Newmarket when his sire Kingman was denied by Night Of Thunder (and also when he won the Irish Guineas subsequently). Here’s hoping his son Kinross can go one better.

Selection:
20200606nmk153507 10pts win – Kinross @ 14/1 VC Bet

Racing is Back!

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Racing is back! At least in the UK. We here in Ireland have to wait for another week.

Although it was only sand racing, having full fields at Newcastle this afternoon was certainly welcome… compared to none at all over the last while. Plus it’s only two more days until racing on green, lush turf returns as well.

It’s gonna be a packed schedule with top class racing over the next couple of weeks also. Those Classics are coming thick and fast right, left and center. France and Germany with their Guineas races today. Others will follow soon. Exciting times!

Looking back on the first day of the flat season 2020 I have mixed feelings, nonetheless. One the plus side I’ve also got an intriguing eye-catcher for the tracker for those readers who make it to end of my ramblings.

Racingpost is Poor Value

The sport I love is back: great! The print edition of the Racingpost is back: great! Not so great: one would have thought the editors had plenty of time to think about how to improve their product for when it returns to the shelves in a bid to entice prospective customers to buy a paper that comes with a whopping price tag of €4.20.

I’m afraid there was nothing in the “Bumper Edition” of the Racingpost that inspired me to pay such a steep price for something that would end in the recycle bin only half a day later.

Racing back in the UK. Top class races in France and Germany – there was plenty to cover. Yet the paper felt thin on actual, valuable content.

An interview with Lester Piggott on his remarkable career. That’s alright – I’ve got all respect for the man and his story – though, it’s hardly anything original these days. You can find plenty of similar interviews and articles with him for free (in fact RP published some under the “PR Classics” banner only recently).

A stable tour of Richard Hannon’s. Plus the usual tipsters and some race previews. Add racecards. That’s it.

In the day of online and mobile where everything is a swipe away all the time, publishers face an uphill battle, particularly with a niche print product such as the Racingpost. If you produce a paper that in essence has not changed in two decades and offers little real incentive to buy because of a lack of original content then you’ll struggle even more so.

I really wanted to buy the Racingpost this morning. Really wanted it. But a hefty €4.20 for what you get is simply no value for money. I’m not saying there is no value. Of course there is. For some people more than for others. But is it worth the price? I don’t think so. And that’s a shame.

More Data Please

I have thoroughly enjoyed dipping my toes into Hong Kong racing over the last weeks. Doing so, what becomes blatantly obvious – now that racing returns to more familiar places – what sets their product apart from ours here.

Hong Kong racing is all about providing relevant information, a myriad on data and a level of transparency with the aim of improving customer experience. Data that is freely available and easily accessible to all punters and racing fans alike for them to analyse- and better understand what- and why certain things happen in a race.

Free replays in excellent quality with different angles to chose from. Sectional times as well as every little detail on all the horses – be it their racing weight, injury history, or track work. Heck, even rather accurate Speed maps are produced.

Given the importance of racing for Hong Kong as the HKJC is the largest taxpayer there, this makes perfect sense, of course: if you want punters to come racing and gambling you need to provide an enticing product that people can believe in due to its transparent nature.

Granted there are only two tracks in Hong Kong, a small horse population and fewer variables. That makes it a lot easier to track all these things. It’s unrealistic to copy everything Hong Kong does and bring it over to the UK or Ireland. Still, more can be done and lessons can be learned from Hong Kong if racing over here wants to appeal to new and younger generations.

People these days are much more familiar with looking at- and using data. Many of us do it for work in some form or another. Not only for work, though. In a betting environment think about sports like football, hockey, basketball and so on that offer tons of data – from simple to “advanced stats”. Often available for free, easily accessible. Quite like it’s the case in Hong Kong for their racing product.

For UK and Irish racing data is expensive to get hands on (Flatstats, Proform….) and racing media tends to speak in plain and banal language anyway, as if the general punter would be too stupid to understand anything that goes beyond the numbers associated with naked form.

Baby steps are being made, though. Sectionals and stride data start to become more readily available for certain tracks. This really provides great insights into how races are run and why horses finished a certain way. This has to become a universal thing, though. It’s 2020 not 1985.

Newcastle Eye-Catcher

Ghadbbaan – Race 1 – 7th place: One could easily overlook this well beaten 4-year-old gelding. However this was a fairly decent seasonal reappearance, given he was drawn in gate one, which can be a negative for horses who already have starting issues. So it was no surprise to Ghadbbaan walking out of the gate. Hoe was then firmly driven forward to chase the lead.

He surly did much more than ideal in those early stages of the race and tired over two furlongs out to finish side by side with the pre-race favourite. That’s not the whole story, though.

He switched yards over the winter and was gelded, after two low-key efforts as a juvenile. He didn’t fulfill the hopes connections once had when in care of Michael Stoute.

However, Ghadbbaan is quite nicely bred, although clearly looks to have a future beyond a mile. He is a full-brother to smart 103 rated Listed 1m 2f winner Sound Of Cannons out of a Listed placed- and 1m2f winning mare  and by French Derby winner Intello.

Today was only his first handicap start. A fair pipe opener. Once Ghadbbaan steps up in trip he should improve readily and be able to exploit his current 64 Official Rating.

Tuesday Racing – May 24th 2017

With a laughing and a smiling eye news were perceived of the retirement of the well beloved grey gelding Sollow today. He hasn’t been seen on a racecourse for over a year now after sustaining a leg injury in spring 2016.

It appears that since his recovery he did not fully find back to his brilliant best in training and therefore the decision was made to send him off to a well deserved retirement.

Pierre-Yves Bureau, Racing Manager for the Wertheimer Brothers said today:

“The horse is well but is not quite at 100 per cent and we don’t want to take the slightest risk with him, so we have decided the prudent thing to do is to retire him.”

My personal highlight of Sollow’s career is his Dubai Turf win – his very first victory on the highest level. What a massive performance it was, beating reigning Irish Champions Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby effortlessly.

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2.50 Brighton: Class 6 Handicap, 7 Furlongs

It might be wise not to judge Sixties Habana too harshly on what he has done on the All-Weather in recent months, though his last run at Kempton actually was eye-catching as the performance was better than the bare form would suggest.

A return to turf will definitely suit here, however. In three runs on turf he has been a 1.5l beaten third on debut where he achieved a RPR of 66 and followed up with a similarly good performance over 7f at Yarmouth when he got a first career win under his belt at the second time of asking

He was out of his depth the next time at Epsom in a big Handicap and then didn’t achieve anything of particular note on the All-Weather over the winter.

As a result his mark has dropped significantly now down to 55 and that makes him dangerously well handicapped on his return to the green grass over a trip, track and ground conditions very likely to suit.

The Phelan/Egan combo also has been quite successful in the last two seasons with a near 20% strike rate despite an average SP of their runners of 19/1!

Selection: 
10pts win – Sixties Habana @ 14/1 Bet365

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3.00 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 2 Miles

Evens favourite Coeur de Lion is clearly the sexy horse in this race and there is a very fair chance that the four year old is well handicapped judged on his hurdle form in a race that looks for the taking.

That says I feel he is overvalued due his decent Triumph Hurdle run and fellow hurdler Dan Emmett is a better choice. He’s three years older, with more form in the book and may hold not as many secrets to the handicapper, however we have not seen him on the flat often in the last number of seasons.

Fact is his recent effort at Pontefract is one to draw a line through. The ground was unsuitably fast and the trip probably a bit too far. Return to 2m with cut in the ground will suit undoubtedly.

In flat races where the word soft appeared in the going description he’s achieved a win (off OR 60 by 12l) and two highly credible placed efforts in four starts. The three times in the money he ran to RPR’s of 79,75 and 76 respectively.

Given we haven’t seen allot of Dan Emmett on the flat lately it’s is a question mark whether he can run to this sort of form as also his last hurdle form looks questionable, however dropped to 66 in his flat rating he appears to have a very real chance to be well handicapped.

There is the added bonus of trainer and jockey going well at this track individually as well as together (limited sample size but 75% place strike rate).

Selection:
10pts win Dan Emmett @ 7/1 Bet365

Classic Glory for Frankel

Classic glory for the almighty Frankel for the very first time – his daugther Soul Stirring landed the Japanese Oaks at Tokyo racecourse in fine style this morning under an excellent ride by French jockey Christophe Lemaire.

The tremendously well bred filly – she is out of 2009 French Oaks heroine Stacelita – was also the first Frankel progeny to win at the highest level when she claimed the Group 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies at Hanshin Racecourse in December.

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2.40 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 5 Furlongs

You’re better off long-term not to make too many excuses for horses if they didn’t live up to expectations multiple times on the bounce. That’s normally a clear sign that something is not right.

Nonetheless I make an exception in the case of the still lightly raced Backinanger. This three year gelding old has been disappointing the last two starts, but mostly on his turf Handicap debut four weeks ago. He was a bad drifter on the day, so there must have been a reason for his poor showing.

Unfortunately I backed him that day when first time cheek-pieces  didn’t work at all for Backinangger. He was never in the race – to my surprise because if you go back and watch his previous starts you’ll see a horse that shows a bit of early speed, but also quite a bit of keenness.

In fact his performances on the All-Weather over the winter were noteworthy as more often than not he caught the eye and ran better than the bare result would suggest.

This son of Royal Applause was a late foal which explains why he often looked raw and unfinished business. Theoretically there should be improvement to come from him with age and experience. He also should enjoy fast conditions.

That’s the reason why I give him one more chance – blinkers are fitted and he drops to the minimum trip, which in combination of the ground and the relive of another couple of pounds could work wonders.

Selection:
10pts win – Backinanger @ 10/1 Bet365

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5.25 Carlisle: Class 5 Handicap, 7 Furlongs

Less than a handful of realistic contenders to land the race in this field in my mind and LTO winner Africa Blessing is the one in this group who is overpriced.

He won over this trip at Doncaster last month – a first time over 7f for him – and he was good for a bit more than the tight winning margin I felt. He might be able to pull out a bit more over this trip, also the uphill finish could suit this Mount Nelson son.

Africa Blessing has been raised a mere 4lb for the latest success, one that looks solid form wise and awarded him an RPR of 76. Provided he doesn’t miss the kick, drawn in four close to the pace can only be an advantage.

Selection:
10 pts win – Africa Blessing @ 4/1 Bet365

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7.35 Leicester: Class 4 Handicap, 10 furlongs

Swaheen shaped well on his seasonal reappearance last month and is expected to strip fitter today. He’s fallen significantly in his handicap mark compared what he raced of mostly last year and that makes him an attractive proposition in this race.

He’s won off 2lb higher, albeit all his major form comes over 12f+, so the drop in trip is a question mark. It might well suit, however, as very soft conditions are likely to be encountered at Leicester.

Swaheen has strong form to offer with cut in the ground despite limited opportunities on this type of ground. Though in genuine soft underfoot conditions he has won of a mark off 84 in the past – so down to 80 with a decent 5lb claimer in the saddle he has a top chance as I feel the emphasis on stamina in this 10f contest will suit him.

Selection:
10pts win – Swaheen @ 11/2 Coral

Saturday Preview: Lockinge Stakes Day

What a finish in the Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) yesterday – nearly four in line going down to the wire with the Queen’s horse Dartmouth getting the better of 2015 St. Ledger heroine Simple Verse – just!

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3.30 Newbury: Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, 1 Mile

The first big clash of the best older milers this season. And what a mouth-watering race in prospect this is. Three 120/+ individuals  head to head – this could go down to the wire!

Or not? All three main contenders – Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear – have to overcome the slight doubts of full race fitness on their seasonal reappearance.

Could that play into the hands of the master that is Aiden O’Brien? Shrewdly he has placed Somehow – a quality filly in her own right – here in the Lockinge. With her sex allowance and fitness assured, she could certainly cause an upset.

Somewhow won twelve days ago a Group 2 at Newmarket – a fifth career success in ten starts – though the jury is still out whether she is a top-notcher.

Dropping down to a mile in soft conditions I can see a scenario unfold where she cruises closely behind Ribchester’s pacemaker, and then from over 3f out takes over with a big move that puts all behind in trouble. With fitness and stamina a given, she could stay on to lead the field all the way over the line.

The 7/1 odds scream value if you believe in the merit of this scenario. I do. But I also have concerns about the fact that Somehow already had three tough races – two in very tough conditions – in the last five weeks. Plus she has to find a bit with the three big guns if ratings are believed.

On ratings there is not a lot between Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear, though. I would still discount David Simcock’s six year old on the basis of the ground that probably does suit him the least. His very best in the past came on fast ground. Plus Lightning Spear is still searching for the elusive first Group 1 victory.

That is different for Ribchester and Galileo Gold. Both have won on the highest level – Galileo Gold even twice. And both have excellent form with cut in the ground.

The score’s equal between the two. On ratings there’s a single pound between them, yet the market has Ribchester a clear 6/4 favourite. Probably on the basis that the son of Iffraaj has still a bit of improvement left.

He might have but he might not. In fact there is only a single career run betwen Ribchester and Galileo Gold.

On balance I would agree that Ribchester is likely to be the better prospect for the season. He looks the type to do better with age and experience, whereas Galileo Gold appears more likely to regress. However at this point in time it is also Galileo Gold’s best chance to win a big race this year, I feel.

Connections will certainly be aware of this. He should be fully wound up, his record as a fresh horse is fine and of all horses in the field he has the best record on soft ground. So given the prices I have to side with Galileo Gold who I would have more like a 5/2 chance in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Galileo Gold @ 9/2 Bet365

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4.05 Newbury: Class 2 Conditions Stakes, 6 Furlongs

All about Richard Hannon’s Denaar here. He was an easy winner under hands and heels in a Chelmsford maiden on debut a mere twelve days ago over the minimum trip. The step up to 6f should suit very well and the change in conditions – at least on pedigree – is no problem; in fact can be beneficial.

The form of his maiden success looks rock solid through the experienced runner-up who on his penultimate start ran well in a race that threw up a handful of winners as well as a subsequent listed placed individual.

Selection:
10pts win – Denaar @ 15/8 Paddy Power

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5.10 Newbury: Class 2 Handicap, 1 Mile

Big field and an open contest, so at a price I give Grand Inquisitor a chance to find back to some sort of form, now returning to turf with cut in the ground off a dangerous mark.

He moved yards during the winter and hasn’t excelled for new connections on the All-Weather the last two starts over seven furlongs, but it might not be wise to judge him too harshly on those efforts.

Back over the slightly longer trip with conditions he’s proven to handle and only 2lb above his last winning mark I see a fair chance for him returning to form Not to forget he ran some massive races off much higher marks last season and knocked on the door in tough Handicaps of marks around 95.

Selection:
10pts win – Grand Inquisitor @ 18/1 Bet365

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5.35 Newmarket: Class 4 Handicap, 5 Furlongs

Richard Fahey’s Paddy Power slipped dramatically in the handicap mark compared to what the four year old ran of last season. Now down to 75 with the benefit of a fine pipe opener on Newcastle’s All-Weather, the gelding seems well handicapped on return to turf.

His win record is dismal, but he raced of up to 10lb higher in good Handicaps last year has performed more often than with credit – in fact on RPR’s he ran 11 times to ratings above his current mark of 75.

Softish conditions should be no problem, he has some okay form on this type of surface. His sire performs decent enough too, and the dam is a Listed winner on soft ground. Added 3lb apprentice allowance is a little icing on the cake.

Selection:
10pts win – Paddy Power @ 4/1 Bet365

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8.50 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6 Furlongs

I give handicap debutante Manshood a good chance to outrun his price tag. He’s had five starts in maiden company so far, placed three times, the two times he ran over today’s trip he was in the money running to RPR’s of 72 and 73.

He’s got a fine pipe opener under his belt last month, that should set him up nicely and didn’t sacrifice his potentially lenient opening mark.

Potentially lenient if he improves for his first handicap start in new conditions. Soft ground, though, should suit quite well on pedigree.  Martin Lane was the other day in the saddle, so got to know Manshood, and has the ride today too. Could be an advantage.

Selection: 
10pts win – Manshood @ 14/1 Paddy Power

Preview: Dante Stakes Day

The rain duly arrived today. The ground turned to soft. Desperate conditions, even more so moving forward. Staying with the recent past for now: circumstances made the result of the Musidora Stakes one to take with a pinch of salt, I guess.

Nonetheless Shutter Speed couldn’t do more than what she did: win well and put things to bed in the final furlong, confirming that she is a smart horse – how smart? Another day will tell. The French Oaks that is, most likely.

Eyes turn to Thursday. Dante Day. The warm-up before the big race isn’t shabby. In the Group 2 Middelton Stakes we see the return of last years Musidora heroine So Mi Dar.

She is well fancied to land the odds but first she has to dispatch two higher rated fillies: Breeders’ Cup Filly And Mare Turf winner Queen’s Trust , who returns to the track after a well deserved winter break – though the soft ground is likely against her.

And there is the South African superstar Smart Call. The sensational 2016 J&B Met winner – a day when she beat South Africa’s highest rated horse in training, Legal Eagle, who subsequently went on to land four major Grade 1’s – has been off since early last year due to quarantine and injuries.

The plan was to run her at the Breeders Cup and on the way there give her a spin around Newmarket in October. Unfortunately things did not go to plan and here she is, now in hands of Sir Michael.

Soft ground is a question mark so is the long absence. Personally I hope she runs well and has retained most of her ability, so she has a real chance of improving for the run and be the old force we know she can be.

A good half an hour later it’s time for some serious Derby contenders in the Dante Stakes. Trial winner Cracksman tries to give his Epsom form some substance. Derby “gamble” Crystal Ocean has to live up to all the bookies hype of the last couple of days.

Obviously with my ante-post wager on him here’s hoping he’ll prove his worthiness. That says I highly doubt the reportedly huge gamble is anything more than a handful of 50 quid wagers (like the one I put on at 40’s) which these days can – as we know only too well – mean bookies cut prices shamelessly and talk up horses even where no substantial sums have actually  been placed.

The Irish come over with Rekindling in particular. Young Joseph’s classic contender has the best form in the book, given the Ballysax does not look a bad race in hindsight.

I find it hard to fancy Aiden O’Brien’s Exemplar. And that’s probably the reason why this lad will bolt up…. Godolphin throws four darts. Craven Stakes third Benbatl the best of the lot.

No bet for me in the race – just sit back and hope for Sire Michael’s guy to do the business to be then in with a real chance on Derby day.

…..

8.00 Newmarket: Class 5 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

You have to take note whenever Charlie Appleby and William Buck arrive with lightly raced individuals to the party. The yard is going very well at the moment and they look to have another big chance with Pure Shores here in this big field though not overly competitive race.

Pure Shores makes her Handicap debut after three relatively decent performances in maiden company. Particularly the two starts this year over 10f where eye-catching in my view.

Both times she pulled very hard in the early parts of the race. Despite this keenness she travelled like the winner on both occasions, though same story in the finish: the did not get home.

That might be more down to the energy wasted early on than the trip as on pedigree that looks fine. Still the drop to 1m in a big field with better pace should suit down to the ground. Softish ground – on pedigree at least – seems no problem.

Her opening mark of 76 could easily undervalue her true talent given this will only be her second start on turf and she ran much better than the bare form suggests at Sandown last month when sixth behind winner Serenada, who to some extend gave this form some substance in the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday afternoon.

Selection:
10pts win – Pure Shores @ 6/1 Bet365

Wednesday Tips – Musidora Stakes

4.05 York: Musidora Stakes (Fillies’ Group 3), 1m 2f

On paper it is hard to oppose exciting Shutter Speed on the back of a very impressive performance at York last month. Form that also worked out extremely well with the 3rd Enable winning the Cheshire Oaks subsequently.

However with the ground easing and further rain on its way it might be a little bit more an open contest than the odds-on price tag for John Gosden’s filly suggests, mainly because Jim Bolger brings an intriguing contender in the name of Vociferous Marina over.

This girl has put the “wow look” already twice on my face in her  young career. That was last year at the Curragh when she cantered all over the field to produce a stunning turn of foot to win a 7f maiden.

And that was at Navan in the listes Salsabil Stakes last month when she looked still a bit green and raw but once in the clear power home in tremendous style from the back of the field which in turn earned her a higher speed rating than the one Shutter Speed – albeit eased down in the final 100y – in her last outing.

Vociferous Marina clearly responded for the step up in trip after she bombed out on her seasonal debut run, though she was a big drifter on that day and things went clearly not her way.

She has shown in the past that cut in the ground is not a problem, so the soft conditions won’t bother her I suspect. She clearly is a big danger to Shutter Speed in my book as the turn of foot she has shown on two occasions now looks quite special.

Selection:
10pts win – Vociferous Marina @ 5/1 Bet365

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5.25 Yarmouth: Class 6 Handicap, 6 Furlongs

The jockey booking is eye-catching for handicap debutante Frank’s Legacy. De Sousa in the saddle for trainer Ivan Furtado yielded in significant success in the past – this is in line with a very intriguing runner in this race.

This Aqlaam gelding didn’t show allot in three maiden starts, however stepping up in trip to 6f on his handicap debut should suit allot. His opening mark does not look overly harsh and gives him every chance.

The draw is potentially not ideal, however if Frank’s Legacy is as well handicapped as I would believe then it does not matter. He certainly has scope to improve, given Aqlaam offspring tends to progress significantly with age and experience.

Selection:
10pts win – Frank’s Legacy @ 5/1 Skybet

Windsor’s Watering Disaster

Another winner today – Crowned Eagle (advised @ 2/1) won at Windsor despite never really looking overly comfortable. He certainly seemed not a straightforward ride, yet class got him over the line in a race that had a profound impact on the meeting.

In the grand scheme of things in the world of racing this Windsor Handicap was only a footnote. Though for the raceday itself it was the beginning of the end:

Comrade Conrad, ridden by Harry Bentley, slipped badly on the bend before turning for home which cost him every chance to win the race but ultimately could have resulted in a bad injury to horse and rider.

After the next race a delegation of jockey, trainers and course staff went out to inspect the track and subsequently decided it was not safe to continue.

Remarkably: this is the second year running that this exact meeting – which features a Listed contest – had to be called off halfway through the card for this very same reason!

No coincidence! In fact it is down to the shambolic watering policy of the track which is a common problem. Sure, it’s not easy for the clerks, I’ve all the sympathy in the world for them. However it is their job to provide safe ground. Fair enough, they have to make decisions and sometimes can get it wrong but over-watering happens way too often.

And that was the issue here at Windsor tonight: why watering a track that is good to form the evening before – so perfectly acceptable conditions –  with rain forecast the next day? It’s from my perspective – my armchair perspective that is – plain stupid.

…..

Anyway, on to nicer things: the excellent Beyond The Game TV uploaded a nice little film on the living racing legends in Australia – some of the most popular thoroughbreds of Aussie racing enjoy retirement at the Living Legends facility near Melbourne.

Well worth to watch the film (below) and of course visit these champions if you ever have the chance – I’m going to be “Down Under” next month and have this trip firmly on my agenda:

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2.00 Beverley: Novice Stakes, 5 furlongs

Mark Johnston’s Kodiac colt Go Now Go Now looks an overpriced individual in this race. The colt was very green on his debut last week at Ayr where was sluggish at the start while then very keen during the race and disorganised when it mattered most.

However under a clearly educational ride he finished the race nicely and responded quite well to a tender flick with the whip.

He ended fourth in what appears to be a half-decent maiden against more experienced rivals and should have learned plenty. He’s entitled to improve from that run, particularly for the switch to Beverley where his sire Kodiac enjoys a very good success rate.

Selection:
10pts win – Go Now Go Now @ 11/1 Bet365

Weekend Review

A happy ending to the week thanks to two whopping winners on Saturday – Best Solution (12/1) was a runaway winner in the Lingfield Derby Trial. He clearly was better than the form he showed on Dirt and this success puts him right into the frame for the Epsom showdown.

Though it has to be said this race is not a good predictor for subsequent Derby glory, given since 1998 no winner of the Lingfield trial actually went on to win the big race in June.

In other Derby related news it seems that the world has finally realised that Sir Michael could have a little gem in his yard as the Racingpost headline reads Derby gamble gathers pace on Stoute’s Crystal Ocean – thankfully I jumped on the bandwagon right after his impressive Nottingham victory and got a bit of the 40/1 that was available back then.

Bainne (9/1 SP) made it two winners from four selections on Saturday, when she got her head in front late yet when it really mattered in the Apprentice Handicap at the Curragh – at the same providing young Seán Kirrane a first ever winner under rules.

As far as Classics go, the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas took place at Deauville this weekend. The Poule d’Essai des Poulains went Jean-Claude Rouget’s way with exciting Brametot. The son of Rajsaman fought gamely to get up in a thriller. He looked beaten but somehow had the guts to come back and win the race on the line.

 

The fillies equivalent, the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, was won by long-shot Precieuse with an ultra-cool Olivier Peslier in the saddle who stayed calm in what appeared to be a slowly run race

 

Acapulco got her first win since moving to Aiden O’Brien under her belt. The big filly took a while to hit top gear and achieve separation from the pack but she managed to win by half a lengths in the listed Sprint Stakes.

She’s entitled to improve and we’ll likely see her in the big sprint races this season, though I have the feeling she might find it tough to win against the best, now that she is a four year old.

…….

3.25 Wetherby: Class 4 Handicap, 7 furlongs

Dutch Artist ran a big race in defeat on his seasonal return at Catterick last month. He didn’t enjoy the run of the race and wasn’t ideally positioned, which makes all the difference at this track. So his 3rd place is probably better than the bare form.

Only one win to his name so far, but he remains still low mileage for a five year old and ran a handful of stormers last season, suggesting his turn could come soon. He’s dropped another pound in the mark, which sees him racing of a career lowest mark off 76 now.

Conditions tomorrow should work be fine though the draw is wider than ideal. However with a early pace that he possesses, he should plenty of options.

Selection:
10pts win – Dutch Artist @ 11/2 William Hill

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5.50 Windsor: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Top connections, top entries, to form: Crowned Eagle should be way too good for the opposition in this race. Of course fitness has to be trusted and there is always a question mark whether these young horses have wintered well.

However, I waited for the return of this lad for a while and would have expected him to be odds-on in a race like this, so I’m happy to to take the risk.

Crowned Eagle was third behind Barney Roy on debut – strong form, given that we do know how smart this Barney Roy turned out to be. He got off the mark at the third time of asking at Kempton. A nice piece of form too: the runner-up won subsequently and was thought good enough for a spin around Meydan, is now a 90 rated individual.

With further progression assumed for experience, age and the step up in trip, the current mark of 85 looks potentially well below what Crowned Eagle is capable of. Only slight concern is the fast ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Crowned Eagle @ 2/1 Skybet

Chester Thoughts

The Chester Vase is often a good trial for the Derby, particularly if it comes to horses trained by Aiden O’Brien. He likes to bring his Derby hopes over to this awkward, ever turning track that tends to teach young, inexperienced horses allot.

So it was intriguing to see him running a whopping four in the Vase on Thursday. That implies AOB isn’t sure himself whether one of these actually is a real contender for the big one in June, I suspect.

As it panned out favourite Venice Beach won the race in fine enough style, though far from giving the impression that he’s an upcoming superstar. And that is pretty much in line with what the four times raced son of Galileo produced so far – his highest time speed rating until yesterday was a lowly 72. It’s fair to say, at this point in time, that despite his victory yesterday, he’s probably not the 2017 Derby winner.

Runner-up Wings Of Eagles isn’t a superstar either, however I liked, at least on the visual front, the way he stayed on late despite encountering a troubled run, where he was forced to come wide around in the closing stages.

Despite four runs – so a bit of experience on would think – under his belt before Chester, he still seemed to have quite a bit to learn. The race comments for him in the Vase actually state ” disorganised over 1f out” – you’d hope the experience taught him a good lesson – as it should – and that in itself makes him an interesting horse to monitor for the future I reckon.

Today we see the return of US Army Ranger to the place of his biggest success: he won here the Vase twelve months ago on only his second career outing which as a result catapulted him into the hot seat for the 2016 Derby.

He finished a strong runner-up behind Harzand in the Classic of the Classics, however things have not gone to plan subsequently and it was pretty much the same story on his seasonal reappearance last month.

So with plenty of intrigue I watch him go to post today in the Diamond Ormonde Stakes, a Group 3 contest, which, if he is as good as he promised early in his career, he should win. Would I bet on it? Hell, no!

A good hour earlier on the card we’ll see a horse that’s been talked about aplenty: Cliffs Of Moher. The thee year old is the 8/1 second favourite in the Derby ante-post market right now, based on hype, trainer name and on an impressive second career run, when beating useful stable mate Orderofthegarter at the end of last season, clocking a serious time speed rating of 104.

Can he deliver today? If he does we probably see him shortening dramatically in the betting for the Derby. The fact that Aiden O’Brien does not run another horse here in the Dee Stakes seems significant in terms of confidence he and “the lads” have in the Galileo son.

……..

1.50 Chester: Class 2 Handicap, 7.5 furlongs

Hot race with a potentially well handicapped favourite in lightly raced El Hayem however the James Eustace trained Ice Slice should go close from a good draw for a much better price.

He’s already a CD winner and went close from a poor draw on his only second start here. Ice Slice was a massively improved horse last year winning five races and on form looks capable of running to or even above his current handicap rating of 93.

He probably needed his seasonal reappearance run last month and should strip fitter. Conditions will suit, even if a bit of rain would fall.

Selection:
10pts win – Ice Slice @ 8/1 Bet365