State Of The Union has left the Richard Hannon yard since winning a Kempton handicap in September last year. He was a very impressive winner on the eye that day when he overcame a very wide draw, using loads of energy early on. He was keen and exuberant and set a strong pace, drew clear entering the home straight and held on when getting a bit tired eventually.
Only upped by 4lb, he must be hard to beat here if he can go on from this run with natural improvement likely for this lightly raced colt. Fitness has to be trusted as he hasn’t been seen since this last Kempton success but this looks an ideal opportunity to score. The drop in trip to 5f shouldn’t pose a problem. He showed good early speed before and pole position should give him every option to make all from the front.
4.05 Wolverhampton: State Of The Union @ 4/1 Bet365
Masamah has been off since August, though done well fresh in the past. Age doesn’t seem to slow him down, he ran with credit in big handicaps last season. Acted on Tapeta at Meydan.
Zac Brown is much improved on the AW this winter. Won with loads in hand at Chelmsford, couldn’t quite follow up at Southwell. 10lb higher now but remains open to further improvement.
Boom The Groom was extremely consistent this winter, and not disgraced last two either since success at Lingfield. 2lb above last winning mark. Probably slightly better over 6f.
Steelriver ran well lately over further. Fair third over 6f last month. May find this minimum distance too short.
Basil Berry went agonizingly close at Chelmsford last month. Up in the mark and career highest required, Can follow-on, but drop in trip a slight worry.
Royal Bajan posted career best when winning at Chelmsford earlier this month. Gutsy 5f specialist on the AW. New career best required again.
Mappin Time didn’t travel well at Chelmsford lto, yet finished race well coming off half year long break. Has never won handicap off mark as high as the current one.
Megaleka ran out a fine 2nd behind Royal Bajan lto, needs to improve again to win off career highest mark.
Long Awaited was third behind Royal Bajan lto on first AW start. Hasn’t won since 2012 and still 1lb higher than last winning mark.
Invincible Ridge is a fair All-Weather performer, ran consistently well in recent weeks, but is 8lb above last winning mark which came in class 5 handicap.
Dynamo Walt improved this winter and won a couple of races. Consistent but loads to find on form with most rivals in this field.
Verdict: As open a race as it gets. Zac Brown may be a fair favourite and has potential to improve further, but now ten pounds above his last winning mark, he to do progress quite allot to overcome a career highest mark in this quality field. He looks short enough in the betting for that reason. You can make a case for most other runners.
Rojal Bajan’s recent success is very strong form and there is no reason why he shouldn’t go well yet again. The second and third of that race, Megaleka and Long Awaited meet the rival on slightly better weight terms today and should go close as well. Boom The Groom has been very consistent this winter, and if the trip isn’t too sharp for him, then he’ll right there when it matters too.
The class act in this field is Masamah. A former Group 2 winner, he has ran well despite his age in big handicaps last season. He may not be quite as good as he once was, but with a slightly slipping mark and a very good 5lb apprentice in the saddle, he must have a very good chance to run a big race today – if he is fit.
That is the main question mark. He has done very well as a fresh horse in the past, though the older horses get, the longer it takes to get them fit. I take a gamble on him, however, that Marco Botti knows how to keep this veteran healthy and fit and I suspect he is not in the race to just make the numbers. He looks a big price and shouldn’t have an issue with the Tapeta surface, since he acted on the All-Weather before and finished in the money at Meydan’s Tapeta track.
The Grade 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan shapes as an intriguing little contest. It may be hard to look beyond the first three in the betting, but that doesn’t make it less interesting, as three big guns, all multiple Graded winners, taking each other on. Effectively it’s a re-match of last months John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle, which took place at Gowran Park in thick fog on bottomless ground over gruelling three miles.
It was Gigginstown’s Dedigout who prevailed that day. In a dramatic finish, he got right up on the line. The Willie Mullins trained Zaidpour and Briar Hill were decisively beaten in third and fourth. Judging by that performance, and the short price in the betting market today, Dedigout is clearly is expected to follow on to land another big prize today. It is his third run after a year long absence and it is obvious that he haven’t lost any of his old ability. He’s been a prolific chaser back in the day, but has really excelled over hurdles.
Question mark is, however, if he can bring his impressive form also to Navan today? Because were race in with significantly different conditions today, than it was the case three weeks ago at Gowran Park. it’s a sharp drop in trip from 3m down to 2.5m and instead of heavy ground it is actually quite decent today – considering what one would normally expect in Ireland at this time of the year. That says Dedigout has form over this trip and conditions, so he may well be happy enough with what he’s likely to find today. But if you want to find some question mark in this short price favouite – well, then this would it be!
Nine year old Zaidpour remains a very good horse. Back in November he won here at Navan a Grade 2 over 2m 4f. Not a particularly good one, but you can only beat what is in front of you. He was without a chance against Dedigout last month, though. Beaten five lengths, and dropped right out when it mattered. Expect him to be more competitive today. The drop in trip will suit and he he’s fine on this ground. Nonetheless, I feel that Zaidpour has always been a better horse with plenty of juice in the ground. Could that make the difference in the end?
In all honesty, I’m more sweet on the other Willie Mullins runner, Briar Hill. He is still only a seven year old and could easily have still some more improvement left. Yes, he has been disappointing in his two starts this season over 3 miles, but make no mistake, there was a reason why he was the favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season. I believe the drop in trip will work wonders for him today.
Those last poor showings exploited his stamina limitations and his best forms came all over shorter trips. Briar Hill was Grade 1 winning Novice hurdler last season here at Navan over 2 miles and 4f. I’m pretty confident with ground and trip to suit today, we’ll see a much improved Briar Hill. Obviously he still has a good deal to find on pure form with favourite Dedigout and it is not a given that he is actually able to find back to his best. But there is a fair chance and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt today.
There are a couple more runners in this field, but realistically they shouldn’t be good enough to put any pressure on the three big guns. Back In Focus used to be a smart individual, but he has been off for a very long time, so he is probably best watched today.
It’s midway trough February – time is really flying! Blink with the eye and we’re almost in May. Then when the run for the roses is upon us… the Kentucky Derby, the myth-enshrouded race along the iconic Churchill Downs twin towers. It’s one of those races I’m always looking forward to. It’s the atmosphere surrounding this event. Staged like the battle of titans. legends are born here. Will we see something special? Or may this even be the start for some colt to merge as a potential Triple Crown winner?
This year, the race is going to be ran on the 2nd of May. As always, the first Saturday in May. Yes, this may seem still almost three months away, but I said it before: time is flying. Qualifying races for the Derby are already under way. In fact some of the ‘thought to be main contenders’ have even shown their class this year.
It’s no surprise that Bob Baffert seems to have a very strong hand for the 2015 renewal – yet again. The two horses at the head of the ante-post market are trained by him. That is American Pharoah – he was mightily impressive as a juvenile last year. Though he missed the Breeders Cup due to a foot injury. He is reportedly back in training and will be back racing, probably next month.The other one is Dortmund, who showed his class this season already.
Indeed, it is this very good looking colt Dortmund who made me go down the ante-post route – which is rather unusual for me these days. But I do really like this horse. He has just started as well into his classic campaign as he ended his juvenile season: With ultimate success, protecting a 100% record!
So what is it about him? Well, Dortmund won his first two career starts by a combined 12 lengths +, including a runaway victory at Churchill Downs – which is the home of the Kentucky Derby of course. He followed on to win the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes in dramatic style at the end of last year. That day he stayed on strongly to win it in a photo, while setting a new 1 1/16 miles course record! Yes you read that right. This two year old colt set a new course record on only his third ever career start!
Dortmund reappeared in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes last week for his first race in the new year. He looked a bit fresh and keen early on, was bang on with the pace, and got himself locked up in a match race from halfway out. Turning for home he seemed beaten when dropping a good lengths behind the then leader Firing Line – who himself is a fancy for the Derby, and finished a narrowly beaten runner-up in the Los Alamitos behind Dortmund. But then Dortmund showed some impressive guts, something you wouldn’t see often in such a young horse. He fought his way back into the race! Close to the line, he eyeballed Firing Line and eventually emerged victorious – clearly on top when it really mattered!
One simply has to be impressed with what Dortmund has done so far in his short career. Keep in mind, according to his trainer, he actually didn’t quite fancies the Santa Anita dirt, but actually prefers the deeper Dirt tracks, like Churchill. And is if not enough, what really impresses me about this colt is his fabulous conformation. He is an absolutely stunning looking individual. He has this huge frame, these mighty long strides, and looks quite mature and very forward at this stage. With that in mind, he has the right profile for the Kentucky Derby. Reportedly he is still a big baby – mentally – but he should have learned plenty from these last tough battles.
After all he ticks almost all the right boxes: He Acts at Churchill Downs, a track that suits him very well. He proved his class and attitude at the highest level. Has the looks of a monster. He set a track record at Los Alamitos over 1 1/16 miles – as a two year old. is it too good to be true? Well, the only question mark is the Derby trip. He is bred more for speed actually, however he is a son of Derby winner Big brown nonetheless and there is stamina on the dam side down the generations. Also the way he finished his races are a fair indicator that he can get further. Given his relaxed character, he should have every chance to stay the Kentucky Derby distance.
Next stop is the Santa Anita Derby. After that we know much more about him. I duly expect him to oblige. If Dortmund wins indeed, you can be sure that he’ll be a very short price on Derby day. So I’ll be going now with the big 16/1 offer. I believe this colt is the real deal, as long as he stays healthy!
The big race of the day was held at Ascot today. Despite only attracting a small field, the Ascot Chase shaped to be a cracker. In the end it was Balder Succes who won a deserved first Grade 1 outside Novice’ company. A good round of jumping, he travelled well throughout and beat smart filly Ma Filleule comprehensively.
Trainer Alan King was quoted afterwards: “He was very good today and since going over fences he has been good all the way through. He’s more mature now mentally. We’ve got to stick to the Ryanair route.”
Ma Filleule is likely to go down the same route. Second favourite Ballycasey was a big disappointing and dropped out as soon as it really mattered to show some fighting spirit. The 6/4 favourite Ptit Zig didn’t complete the race. He was a faller at the tenth fence. Thankfully he was quickly up to his feet and fine after the race
It’s Weekend! Some great racing ahead. Several Graded races in the UK and Ireland. Ascot Chase on Saturday as the highlight of course, but there is also some great action at Gowran Park and Navan, plus some excellent All-Weather racing from Lingfield. Enjoy all the fantastic racing and good luck whatever you bet!
Sovereign Debt has been off for more than a year now and question is how much of his old class he still has. Makes AW debut for new yard. Should be fine on surface but big mark to overcome dropping into handicap.
Don’t Call Me hasn’t won for quite a while but finished well in 3rd in hot race last week, only neck beaten by 105 rated individual on first outing since October. Still career best required to win off current mark. However remains as good as ever and won strong Handicap last summer off 3lb lower.
Tiger Tale finished runner-up on couple of occasions in recent weeks. Mark is increasing without winning since good win at Kempton in autumn. Fine performance lto over CD when short of room in crucial moment. Career best required.
Secret Art is back after a break. Goes well on the All-Weather and ran well the last two starts in Autumn. Career best required today.
Melvin The Grate is much improved since switched to the All-Weather. Won with plenty in hand on penultimate start over CD and ran fine 3rd of revised mark lto when not having run of race. Needs good pace to be able to close from trailing position.
Energia Flavio hasn’t won in UK yet but has been competitive last three start on AW. Looks in the grip of the handicapper though. Claimers allowance sure to help however.
Freud is a French import and hasn’t been seen since August. Seems to act on AW but hard to know what to expect today.
Santefisio doesn’t win often but returned to form at Wolverhampton lto. May need more assistance from handicapper to be winning candidate in this class.
Spiritual Star won with plenty in hand over CD last month when dropped to a mile. Five pounds up looks fair and remains competitive, though more required up in class today.
Mindyourownbusiness finished a gutsy runner-up behind Spiritual Star a fortnight ago. Not too many miles on the clock and may improve again. But need to so as was fair beaten lto off similar mark.
Halation was progressive last season on turf. Placed on AW as well. Now back after break. Fitness a question mark but top jockey in the saddle a bonus.
Stormy Paradise was a fair lengths beaten on seasonal return over CD lto. Would need improve quite a bit for that run to be competitive here.
Verdict: This is a really competitive affair, as one would expect from a big feature Handicap on a Saturday. More than half of the field have the potential to be really competitive in this. There is no doubt that Melvin The Great is a fair favourite. He won with plenty in hand his penultimate start and followed up with another nice performance over course and distance. His running style means that he’ll always need a rattling pace and bit of luck as well. Not sure if he’ll get another clear run today. As he had it all going for him the last two. i would expect Tiger Tale, who finished runner-up behind Melvin The Grate before, and beat him by half a lengths lto then when he was second again. He hit the crossbar a couple of times now and it remains to be seen if he can win off his current mark. Another bold performance wouldn’t surprise though. Halation is a bit a dark horse today. Back after a break, progressive profile as a three year old. He could have still some unlocked potential and has Atzeni in the saddle.
Secret Art has a similar profile to a certain extend. He was competitive before a break and if he is match fit, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him going close today. All those mentioned until now should go well, but I feel they aren’t offering any value if it comes to odds. However the 12/1 for Don’t Call me looks huge. He remains most of his old class and done extremely well in a very good handicap at Wolverhampton last week. He hasn’t won off a mark as high as his current one, but this most recent performance indicates that he is well up to it. He didn’t get quite a clear run in the closing stages lto, but the slight drop to a mile should suit much better today anyway.
Not to underestimate is the chance of recent winner Spiritual Star either. An impressive winner over course and distance two weeks ago, his revised mark looks more than fair, if not even lenient to a certain extend, given with how much in hand he won and how similar winners have been hit with much higher increases. He hasn’t won off a mark as high as this, however was placed over CD off even higher last season. He has the habit of starting slowly from time to time. So that is a risk that he may lose the race already at the start. Yet 9/1 looks a very big price.
Selections: Don’t Call Me @ 12/1 Sportingbet- 5pts win Spiritual Star @ 9/1 William Hill – 5pts win