Category Archives: United Kingdom

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

……

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:

……..

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

……

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

Chester Kick-Off

The Chester May Festival kicks off on Wednesday. Traditionally quite an important date in the calendar as more often than not we see potential Oaks and Derby contenders over the three days.

However it is also a meeting that brings certain aspects of the Chester racecourse to the forefront of our mind: the draw advantage or disadvantage in particular. It’s no secret – and numbers do back it up indeed – that low drawn horses perform much better than those drawn wide. This not uncommon, of course, but even more emphasised at this ever turning track.

Particularly over sprint distances, if you are drawn in the high numbers you can basically forget whatever winning chances you dreamed of – it’s not gonna happen. So bear that in mind if you intend to get in involved in the races.

…….

2.25 Chester: Cheshire Oaks (Listed), 1m 4f

Aiden O’Brien has used this race as a springboard for plenty of good fillies in the past, in fact his record is quite sublime and therefore it should be a tip in itself that he brings Alluringly here on the back of a mightily impressive maiden success last month.

The Fastnet Rock filly rocked home at Tipperary in stylish fashion, giving the impression that she could be a very smart individual. She looked, big and scopey, clearly physically improved that day, after two slightly underwhelming runs as a juvenile.

The step up in trip is the question mark. She goes as far as never before and it’s not clear cut on pedigree, however there is Saddler’s Wells in the dam line, so that alone should ensure that she has at least a fighting chance. Also she ran strongly to the line the other day, giving the impression a step up in trip will only see her improving again.

Selection:
10pts win – Alluringly @ 6/4 Skybet

…….

5.05 Chester: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

The final race of the opening card of the Festival. I elaborated above on how the draw plays a huge role here, so going against the bias backing a horse from a wide draw is probably rather dumb.

I still do it. Reason is that I back bottom weight Fast Dancer here, who is drawn in eleven, but who is a hold-up horse and therefore might not  be quite as disadvantaged by the draw as a horse that needs to lead.

Though it is also true that being up with the pace is an advantage at Chester too, it also happens regularly that they go way too fast up on front witch in turn opens up opportunities for those horse ridden more patiently.

Fast Dancer will rely on this fast pace and what encourages me most is his positive course record. Also he dropped to a mark that potentially undervalues his past achievements and therefore a race to suit should see him have a cracking chance here.

Selection:
10pts win – Fast Dancer @ 14/1 Bet365