Taste of Champagne for James at Naas

Naas
This big novice handicap looks wide open with plenty of improving individuals in the line-up. Conditions at Naas are going to be tough today, with plenty of rain falling overnight.

Personally I do fancy one runner in particular. I was already pretty sweet on Champagne James’s chance at Leopardstown last month, but it turned out that things happened a bit too fast for him over 2m 1f on rather decent ground. That was his Handicap debut after he was a good second in a Novice chase at Fairyhouse before where he caught my eye initially.

He’s a big strong horse, made for chasing and hasn’t shown his true potential yet. Rated at 126 he could be exploiting this mark today, stepping up back to 2m 4f in soft conditions. This race is hotter than the last one, but as a result he is on a good weight, much in contrast to the big top weight he had to shoulder lto. I’d expect him to go really well today as he looks still overpriced, despite prices already falling.

2.50 Naas: Champagne James @ 13/2 Betfred – 5pts win

Preview: Ladbrokes Handicap Lingfield


The progressive Shyron looks a very worthy favourite and is chasing a hat-trick today. He won with a bit in hand the last time. But while he’s renewing rivalry with a couple of runners today, and on this last performance looks likely to be up to his revised mark, it also has to be stated that he got the run of the race and bumped into two rivals, which meet him on better terms this time. He looks the likeliest winner, but is a very short price in this strong handicap.

One would expect that Grey Mirage will perform with credit once more, though he may need some assistance from the handicapper to be able to win in this class again. Related didn’t quite get a clear run in the home straight the last time and may get closer to Shyron with a clear passage. Another one who was interfered in the very same race was Brigliadoro. He still finished well enough in the end and run with credit over a mile the next time in a hot race that threw up a nice winner subsequently. Dropping back to 7f again, he may be able to outrun his price tag today.

Money Team is still trying to win a race on the All-Weather but came very close the last time when he stayed on nicely. He goes 2lb up in the mark and tries 7f for the first time. The way he finishes his races suggests that it’s worth a try, also on pedigree it looks not unlikely that he gets the trip. The apprentice on board is well worth his 3lb claim and that should give Money Term every chance to run big today.

Brigliadoro @ 14/1 Coral – 5pts win
Money Team @ 16/1 Coral – 5pts win

Preview: Cleves Stakes


Another tremendously competitive race and even more so over this sprint trip where horses taking each other on on a regular basis, and often enough it only depends on form on the particular day who is going to win. I find it hard to distinguish the more fancied horses here though, and while trying to find out if there is one of the long-shots overpriced, I stumbled across the 20/1 for History Book. I believe if he’d be wearing still the well known blue Godolphin colours today, he might be a shorter price. But he left Charlie Appleby recently and has his first start for a new yard, interestingly with cheek-pieces fitted for the first time too.

History Book is still a rather lightly raced individual, in fact completely unexposed over sprint trips. Bred for something different, he didn’t really take off in his early days, but gradually dropped down in trip until appearing over 6f here at Lingfield last month in a pretty decent class 3 Handicap. He travelled very well and got up on the line with a late push in a thrilling finish. The form of that race worked out well in so far as that the runner-up prevailed subsequently in a very hot race while stepping up in grade.

Going right into Listed class today, this is obviously the toughest test History Book ever faced and it may turn out that he is not good enough. But he must have potential to improve further over this new trip, which seem to suit him well. He is drawn quite well too and may make use of that with more aggressive tactics today, using the bit of stamina he should have to offer. Considering all, he looks a huge price and deserves a chance here.

History Book @ 20/1 Coral – 5pts win

Preview: Winter Derby Trial Stakes

Grandeur is a class act, has done well in hot Graded races over in the US last summer and won this very same race last year off a break. No reason why he shouldn’t go well once more today.

Grendisa won back in December a Listed race over course and distance, is a proven All-Weather warrior over variety of trips while giving weight away today however.

Afonso De Sousa makes his first start for a new yard after break. Won as fresh horse before and usually performed well on Dundalk All-Weather in the past.

Ansaab has done really well at Lingfield over CD last two starts, when beaten by a neck and won by a neck in class 3 Handicaps. More required here but deserves his chance.

Cloudscape hasn’t been seen since 1.5l fourth in Group 3 over 12f at Goodwood. Drop in trip should suit if fit on reappearance. Won fresh last year and on debut on Kempton AW.

Maverick Wave has a 100% record over course and distance, won last month good class 2 Handicap. Fom pick in this field with more improvement likely.

What About Carlo is back off a break, won as fresh horse in the past and over 10f. All-Weather debut. Hard to know what to expect today.

Lamar proved himself an AW specialist. Won the last two in conditions races. Has to prove stamina today though.

Verdict: This is an ultra competitive contest and I’m surprised to see such a huge difference in prices. Yes, Grandeur is a fair favourite for obvious reasons. He’s here to defend his crown and no doubt will be the one to beat. But there are a couple of progressive rivals in the line-up that can be dangerous to underestimate. So I’m happily oppose him today.

I believe John Gosden has a very strong hand in this race. Cloudscape is a very interesting contender for obvious reasons. Still rather lightly raced, he shaped with loads of promise last season and has some excellent form to his name. If he is fit and well and has wintered well, he is a big runner. His price doesn’t really offer value in my mind though. Which looks different for Gosden’s second horse, Maverick Wave. An all the time improving colt, he is unbeaten at Lingfield over 10f and may have a tactical advantage if let loose in front. He deserves a shot on this and the weight he receives from the more fancied rivals, he is in with a big chance as on the ratings he hasn’t to find all that much.

Grendisar is a strong travelling horse, who will need a strong pace and all the luck in the world here. he is a classy individual but I feel the race may not be run to suit him. Afonso De Sousa also wouldn’t like it to be a crawl with all his wins on the All-Weather came over 11f. He is an interesting runner nonetheless on his debut for David O’Meara. Improving handicapper Ansaab deserves a shot at this too, but potentially he is not good enough.

I’m intrigued by bottom weight Lamar. He is really progressive on the All-Weather, won two conditions races over shorter last month and finished a strong fourth over 7f in a very competitive listed race at Deauville. I believe he has more to give and looks extremely overpriced. Question mark is the trip. However it’s only his second try over 10f and he didn’t seem to stop over 9.5f at Wolverhampton, also on pedigree there is a fair chance that he can get thus far. He may be tracking the leader, and if this won’t won’t be run at a mad pace, it could play very much in his hands.

Maverick Wave @ 13/2 VC – 5pts win
Lamar @ 20/1 VC – 5pts win

Cladocera a class act in the Balanchine

The betting said it all beforehand and so it was no surprise when Cladocera surged clear to win the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes with plenty in hand last night.

The lightly raced four year old filly looks to improve nicely with age and followed up in impressive style on her recent Dubai debut. The 1/2 favourite was travelling super well in the rear of the field, but had to go widest around the home turn in order to get a clear shot. She was still able to produce an electric turn of foot and made it look pretty easy in the end.

That are the signs of a talented individual. And while she was surly entitled to win this race in style, it appears that Cladocera has the potential to improve further and that makes her a filly to follow this season. Of course she has to step up in grade now and tackle some stronger rivals to prove how far she can go. But at this stage, a bid for the Dubai Turf must be on the radar of trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré.

Maybe the one to take out of this race besides the winner is runner-up Anahita. She was ridden much closer to the pace than Cladocera, travelled very strongly into the home straight but wasn’t able to match the burst of speed of the big favourite. However she showed plenty of guts, fighting to live and defend her second place. It looks to me, in combination with her pedigree, that she wants further. She looks to have trained on very nicely over the winter and now as a four year she appears to be a much stronger individual. More improvement is likely once she goes up in trip I believe. She finished a gallant runner-up in her only start over 10f last year.

Prize-Money Boost For Irish Racing

It’s not too often that racing writes positive headlines these days, particularly if it comes to prize-money. But credit where credit is due. Horseracing Ireland has done a fantastic job last year to create and execute the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend – which we know now, was a huge success. And even better is the latest announcement from HRI: Prize-Money Increase for Irish Champions Weekend.

There was already an awful lot of money up for grabs last season, but the Champions Weekend has seemingly attracted further support for the high-class two-day long meeting. The total prize-money on offer this year will be a whopping €4.03 million! With the two flagship races, the Irish champion Stakes (up by €100k, now worth €1.1 million) and the Irish St. Leger (up by €50k, no worth €350.000) seeing further increases. But most notably is the increase for the Tattersalls Ireland Super Auction Sale Stakes, which is now worth some €250k!

The Flying Five has been upgraded to Group 2 status, which rates a huge boost for the otherwise rather weak looking Irish sprint programme. The race is now worth €200.000 and is established as the premier sprint race of the Irish racing calendar.

Meydan Preview

Do you feel excited? I certainly do. Why? We have some fantastic racing at Meydan today! There is the interesting looking Listed contest with recently rejuvenated & multiple Group 1 winner Hunter’s Light leading the pack. And there is the hightlight of the night, the Group 2 Balachine Stakes. But don’t dismiss the competitive Handicaps. There usually offer some great drama!

Surely, Cladocera is the star of the day! The French filly is a short price to land the Balachine after a very impressive Meydan debut last month. There is potential so much more to come from her, given her lightly raced profile. She is bound improve and it is hard – if not impossible – to look past her in the Balachine. Only slight worry could be the additional furlong today. She is a very speedy filly, and her stamina will surly be tested. But could someone threaten her if she finds her natural limits approaching the one mile post?

Well, the Turkish filly Suzi Gold is a Group 1 winner in her native Turkey and she is expected to do very well today. With form over further, one would think that stamina won’t be an issue for her. However her local Group success translates “only” into Listed class actually. Means she has a bit to find on form. But she may well do so. Her Turkish jockey Ozcan Yildirim is flying over for only this one race. So there is clearly some confidence that she has what it takes to feature prominently today.

What about the Dubai Millennium Stakes? Hunter’s Light is the odds-on favourite to land this Listed race and as a multiple Group 1 winner there is every reason to believe that he has too much on the plate for his rivals. Most of them are progressive handicappers, at best. The four year old colt Mr Pommeroy looks to me the one who could be leading the chasing pack. He wasn’t disgraced in A Group 2 last month, though more is required her today, and Hunter’s Light should be able to build on his recent Handicap success.

In the very same race the Norwegian trainer Niels Petersen has two runners. They are big prices and hard to see them going close, but it is still great to have races with truly international flair here at Meydan! The bravery of Petersen is respectable and one can only hope that it pays of at some point.

Betting wise, I find all those races not particularly attractive. I find it hard to challenge the short favourites in the big races, while most of the Handicaps are minefields, particularly the ones on the dirt. Fair play if anyone can make them pay. I struggle to distinguish the runners unfortunately. That says there is one race that really intrigues me. It the final race on the card, a big Turf Handicap over 7f:

18.15 Meydan: District One – Class 1 Handicap

This is an ultra competitive looking handicap, and nothing else is expected. The two at head of the market have obvious credentials to take this. Both Eastern Rules and Anaerobio proved themselves in Group class in the past and their return to Meydan in the Group 2 Al Fahidi was promising as well, with Eastern Rules chasing home Safety Check as the runner-up, while Anaerobio was quite unlucky not getting a clear passage, but finished very strongly. These two are very closely matched on previous form, but I would believe Anaerobio with a weight advantage this time could turn around the form. That says, I feel both are fair prices, but not really too big, so I look elsewhere.

You could make a case for plenty in this field, though two horses are stand-out prices in my mind. Music Theory is one of them, even though the big odds are diminishing fast. This lightly raced Godolphin gelding has caught my eye on two occasions now. He usually travelles extremely well and certainly did so on his seasonal reappearance when he finished 3rd behind subsequent Group 2 winner Safety Check. He got an absolute horror run that day though but finished like a train when in the clear. It’s been a different picture two weeks ago, when he stepped up to 1m. He was right up with the pace and travelled like the winner for a very long time. However he faded pretty badly inside the final furlong. That is no surprise to me. He looks like a 7f specialist and the drop to this trip will certainly help him today. An additional pound off his handicap mark won’t do any harm either. One has to keep in mind that Music Theory was a very promising juvenile when he finished once less than three lengths behind Kingman in the Solario Stakes. Talent is there, and there could be still more to come from him.

The second horse I believe has a much better chance than his big price tag, is the experienced Professor. His mark is dropping down to something that could see him go really close today. He returned to track two weeks ago in a hot mile handicap, which potentially stretches his stamina a bit. But he was also pretty badly hampered in the home straight when he was about to make a big move. He still ran on well I felt and that outing could bring him nicely along for today. It has to be said he didn’t have quite as a productive last season as one would have hoped, however a very strong runner-up at Royal Ascot in the big Wokingham Handicap and some decent performances on Group level, proved that he is a very genuine individual. With a clear run today, he could be very dangerous dropping down to the ideal 7f trip.

Music Theory @ 8/1 Coral – 5pts win
Professor @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts win

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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