Godolphin’s exciting Tryster is back on turf after an extremely prolific winter on the All-Weather where he landed the Winter Derby as well as the AW Middle-Distance Championships. Can he be as effective on the grass? We’ll find out soon. He’s to beat some very tough opposition, that’s assured.
Most notably Sir Michael Stoute’s Arab Spring. Progressive last year and successful on his return to the track last month, he took a Group 3 over 12f and is one who’s expected to have a big season ahead. Not sure if the drop in trip to 10f will suit, though. He seemed to need every inch of the 1m 4f trip in the John Porter Stakes.
John Gosden’s Eagle Top was a runway winner of the King Edward VII Stakes last year but subsequently wasn’t in the same mood in the King George. Lightly raced and talented, he remains with loads of potential, but again, the drop in trip seems not to suit. He has never races shorter than 11f in his career.
Western Hymn won the Gordon Richards Stakes over course and distance last month. He beat some really good horses and this form works out well. He may have had race fitness on his side that day but proved that he can cope with a faster than soft surface. He showed guts and class, and seems to have physically improved over the winter.
Tullius was a long way beaten in the very same race and the trip is a big question mark. Niceofyoutotellme shouldn’t be good enough in this class.
Verdict: It may turn out at the end of the season that others have progressed past Western Hymn, but he seems to have found an ideal opportunity to get another Stakes win on the boards here. With race fitness assured, he seems overpriced to my eyes, particularly given that he is a true mile and a quarter horse, which can’t be said about all his rivals.
Not much going on on the domestic front so lets head to South Africa for an intriguing Handicap on the Greyville Polytrack. Some really good horses are going to post there, most notably the top weight Blance Sheet, a 3 year old gelding who tried to take on the best in Graded company recently.
He’s not been disgraced but found it much easier when dropped into Handicap company the last time when landing a good MR98. He’s up in the mark and tries a new trip today – which he failed to stay in the past – so that is a negative for the short favourite.
Lightly raced Krambambuli took on much stronger the last two. He was a fair third in the Cape Derby, but couldn’t back it up. This is easier and he is likely to get the trip, but in truth he has only won a low-grade handicap to date.
De Kock’s Trip To Rio could be interesting if he stays the 1900m trip. He was second in a 1m Listed event on the poly last year but utterly disappointing when last seen in a MR92 Handicap. He could well improve, though definitely has to so as more is required here.
I’m quite interested in four year old Assegai. He is the only course and distance winner in the field and was impressive when landing a MR 90 Handicap over CD on his penultimate run. He wasn’t disgraced when fifth in a very hot Listed event subsequently, taking on seasoned top class graded hoses. He will find this today much easier. He had a little break since then but usually does very well as a fresh horse.
He has to be at his best in order to give weight away to the smart three year olds, though with conditions very much in his favour, might well be able to do so. Top jockey is booked today – at 10/1 he looks overpriced in this field.
Normally this type of race wouldn’t be my cup of coffee. Too much guesswork required who is in it to win and who uses it as a public gallop. This Maiden Handicap is pretty poor, it’s simply the nature of the race. Some lightly raced individuals with low opening marks take dramatic step ups in trip and may well improve for it. Dew Pond is one who jumps out in that regard.
But it is the horse at the head of the weights who clearly is the most intriguing runner. The Cashel Man hasn’t shown allot as a juvenile in Maidens last year. But gelded over the winter, which often works wonders for High Chaparral’s and particularly for trainer David Simcock, he may leave those forms behind, now going handicapping for the first time.
Not only that, but The Cashel Man also takes a dramatic step up in trip, which on pedigree should suit very well and see him improving a good deal. He is a full-brother to decent Handicapper Thunder Pass, who took a similar route last year and improved from maidens to handicaps when stepping up in trip.
An opening mark of 63 is stiff enough for what The Cashel Man has shown so far, but this poor race represents an ideal opportunity to get off the mark with conditions very much to suit him.
The Cashel Man @ 5/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win
8.00 Ballinrobe: Beginners Chase. 2m 1f
A rare trip to the jumps for me in the middle of the flat season. The reason is A Sizing Network. A lightly raced five year old who makes his chasing debut today. I have been waiting for this for a while, basically since he got off the mark in a maiden hurdle back in November. A Sizing Network was always going to be a chaser. He jumps big and bold and has the frame to be one.
It didn’t quite work out over hurdles for him, though he performed with credit in two of his three subsequent starts. He got beaten on the line in a handicap hurdle last month at Punchestown, when he made a big move maybe a bit too early and also seemed to idle in front after jumping the last. His only poor showing, leaving the debut out, came at Leopardstown over 2m 4f in soft conditions.
Two miles on good ground seems ideal and I imagine he can leave his hurdling form easily behind over fences. There should be plenty of improvement to come from this fresh, young individual. He has probably a bit to too find with the other market principles on pure form and ratings, but should be easily capable of doing so.
On the verge of the Irish 2000 Guineas Aiden O’Brien seemed to become overwhelmed by his emotions. He ennobled Gleneagles, hailing him as “the best miler we have ever had”. That is some achievement in its own right, especially given the amount of classy horses passing through his hands year in year out.
This statement came just minutes after Gleneagles completed the 2000 Guineas double. He had to fight hard for it and it was a much closer finish than at Newmarket, where absolutely everything went to plan. This time, Gleneagles, boxed in on the rails, had to show an awful lot of class to win. He did exactly that.
But does it make him the best ever? Well, who am I to object his handlers experienced opinion. He, who has seen it all! Though, one could get the feeling that Aiden uses the term “best ever” a bit too loosely these days. Anyway, Gleneagles is certainly a very good colt. A true miler. A world-class miler.
Pearl Secret Lands A Big One
Sprint races can sometimes be a bit like lotto: Draw a number or throw a pin and wherever it lands that’s the horse to win. Admittedly, now I’m cynical. Yet there is some truth in it! These big sprint races are so much down to day form, it doesn’t always honour the actual form book. Run the same race ten times and you’ll almost certainly get ten different results.
So happened in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday. Pearl Secret was a slightly surprising winner of the Group 2 sprint. Yes, he was runner-up in the very same race last year, but back then on bottomless ground and before Saturday he only managed to win at Listed- or Conditions Stakes level. Now he has “a big one” on his CV!
Pearl Secret was followed home by Jack Dexter, who hasn’t won since November 2013, and 40/1 shot Wind Fire. Favourite Hot Streak finished sixth, but in truth never landed a blow. So much about the Lotto theory…
Jim Bolger The Magician
The County Kilkenny handler had it spot on: he knew his main contender for the 1000 Guineas wasn’t a miler. So he employed two pace makers, to ensure there would be no dawdling around. The good, consistent pace helped Pleascach in a way to relax but also to offset her lack of tactical speed and instead have a race with emphasize on stamina. It worked to perfection.
Pleascach took up the lead from two furlongs out and stayed strongly to line, fending off all challengers, including the one of red hot favourite Found. The stiff uphill finish at the Curragh clearly suited her cause too.
The next Jim Bolger star is already lined up. His Round Two won the Listed Marble Hill Stakes in comprehensive style at the Curragh on Saturday, overcoming question marks about his speed over the minimum trip as well as a wider than ideal draw. The Teofilo son can only get better with time and distance. He seems the ideal favourite for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
Found Is No World-Beater
Hot Irish 1000 Guineas Favourite Found wasn’t able to land the odds in Sunday’s big race and instead had to settle for second. She didn’t get the clearest of runs as she was in a pocket over 2f out. The eventual winner, Bolger’s Pleascach, got first run and fend off Found’s charge gamely in the closing stages.
In the aftermath not everyone thought the best horse won – and I tend to agree to an extend – yes, Found was slightly unlucky, but that says she got out into the clear at the two furlong marker and had all the time in the world to make up the ground. She didn’t quicken rapidly enough, though, needed almost a full furlong to hit top gear. She clearly is no world-beater. At least not over the mile trip.
Compare her run to the one of Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas – he had even less time to finish off his race once in the clear. But he did it in the manner of a true mile champion. He found a way to win, quickened when it mattered.
Nonetheless, Found’s Guineas performance is encouraging. She’ll be better over further. It may turn out that 1m 2f is her optimum, but the Oaks distance is very much possible and she now goes to Epsom as one of the favourites.
Endless Drama A Chaser In The Making
Just kidding. But you’ll laugh, there was more than one person suggesting the idea of giving him a spin over the big fences. And you can see why. He is a very big boy, indeed! I was slightly overwhelmed when this huge thing passed me in the parade ring for the first time.
I mean, there you have all these good looking three year olds walking around, very much looking like three year olds should look like. And then suddenly you have this monster of a horse walking towards you – is this still the Curragh or already Aintree? Guineas or Grand National Day?
In my 2000 Guineas preview I voiced slight disappointment to see Endless Drama running over 1m yet again. He didn’t look like staying thus far in two previous attempts over 6f+. On pedigree he seems a rather dubious stayer too. Add all the early speed he usually shows and you could easily come to the conclusion that he is actually a sprinter.
On Saturday, though, different tactics and better ground seemed to work wonders. He finished the Guineas well enough to suggest he can be a good miler. A close second behind Gleneagles is surly a very strong piece of form. Yet, I’d love to see him over six furlongs. I think he could be a force over that sort of trip.
Al Kazeem’s Second Spring
It’s never been straightforward for him. Al Kazeem lost almost his entire Classic season, but came back stronger than ever the following season, when he beat Camelot in the 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup. That’s now exactly two years ago. He went on to land the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Coral Eclipse the same year and was subsequently retired to stud as potentially hot property for all the lovely fillies in the world.
Didn’t work out in the breeding shed. He was soon back in training and after a couple of respectable efforts he finally muscled his way to another heroic Group 1 victory – Sunday at the Curragh, beating some serious opposition in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
He’s the kind of horse you won’t find enough of in flat racing. But these classy veterans are what the sport is craving for. Fans want to follow horses over more than one or two season. What is part and parcel in jump racing, is much more difficult at the top end of the game on the flat. So it’s great to see Al Kazeem, a seven year old now, as good and happy as ever!
Excellent line-up for the German 2000 Guineas. The home team looks to have a very strong hand and it could be tough for the foreign raiders to land a blow.
Andreas Wöhler trains two exciting colts in Karpino and Making Trouble. The former is trading as the red hot favourite after he won the Dr. Busch Memorial (G3) in excellent fashion on his seasonal debut, which was only his second career start. He drops slightly in trip today, which must not be an inconvenience, but he might be vulnerable against speedier sorts I feel, as he poses a very stamina laden pedigree.
Stable mate Making Trouble has the 1 mile trip written all over as a son of former world class miler Paco Boy. He won a Listed event over 1.500m on his seasonal reappearance in really good style and is expected to come on for the run. He should certainly improve for the step up to 1m and his trainer voiced satisfaction with Making Trouble’s progress prior to the big race.
Brisanto won the Group 3 Preis des Winterfavoriten in horrible conditions when last seen in October 2014. He’s a definite player if race fit, though the better ground is not sure to suite entirely. Agent Provocateur can’t be ruled out with fitness assured. He won a Conditions Race in France earlier this month and should get the additional furlong today but obviously has to raise his game in order to be competitive in this field.
Irish raider Capella Sansevero tries to redeem himself today after a lacklustre performance in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas. The runner-up of last years Coventry Stakes is a very speedy sort and that means he is not a sure stayer. On pedigree it’s certainly doubtful and his last run doesn’t instil much confidence either.
Maroc Botti has a proven track record in this race so it seems significant that he brings progressive Fanciful Angel over to Cologne. He won a Listed event at Lingfield last month and could have easily more to offer. More is needed here today, though, as this form hasn’t really worked out yet.
Verdict: If Karpino fails to fire today then victory can still go Andreas Wöhler’s way. His second string Making Trouble seems overpriced. He was impressive when winning a Listed event recently and should improve for the new trip. He can provide a first classic success for his sire Paco Boy and has clearly inherited a lot from his prominent daddy, most notably the sharp turn of foot.
Found is the talking horse of the week. Rumours circulating that she’s heading for the Epsom Derby if she does well today. We’ll see how much merit these talks have but for now the sights are set on the big race on home soil. She is the overwhelmingly short favourite to land yet another Irish 1000 Guineas for Ballydoyle and Aiden O’Brien, and no doubt she has all the right credentials.
Still lightly raced, but impressive as a juvenile, she was far from disgraced in her seasonal comeback run, albeit punters who backed her were less pleased when she finished only second in the 7f Athasi Stakes.
She faces some stiff competition from the own stable though. Kissed By Angels looked a big baby on her Limerick debut but clearly raised to the occasion when landing the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown on only her second ever outing. The merit of the race is debatable, her performance isn’t.
Despite racing wide, this wonderfully bred Lillie Langtry daugther produced a tremendous change of gear almost effortless from three to two furlongs and scooted clear in horrendous conditions. Better ground should be appreciated today.
One time raced Joailliere is another one to feel a bit excited about. She has only won a poor maiden at Gowran Park on her sole career start, but the way she did it was simply sensational. She clearly looks a pattern performer in the making, has to overcome a lack of experience today, though. That says, in care of Dermot Weld, you would expect her to be ready for the big day.
Vibes around Bocca Baciata have been positive. Jessica Haarrington has clearly a lively Guineas contender on her hands, despite the fact that this experienced filly – today marks her fifth start – has already won over 10f. She won the Listed Salsabil Stakes which is very strong form. It remains to be seen how she handles the drop in trip.
Jim Bolger’s Pleascach was runner-up behind Bocca Baciata at Navan and subsequently won a Group 3 over 10f by eight lengths. She is clearly smart, but has also to deal with the sharper trip. Unlike Raydara, who is already a Group 2 winner, albeit over 7f. She makes her seasonal debut and tries the mile trip for the first time. Hard to know what to expect, as the ground may not quite be fast enough for her.
Malabar was a fair fourth in the English 1000 Guineas, but was still a long way beaten and didn’t have many excuses. More is needed today. Jack Naylor was a good third behind Found in the Group 1 Marcel Boussac at Longchamp last year. If she is fit first time out she could be a very interesting runner.
The rest of the field is very much up against it. However I wouldn’t be surprised if the third Aiden O’Brien inmate Qualify could improve dramatically from her poor Newmarket showing.
Verdict: The favouriteFound is the class act and obviously the one to beat, but very short in the betting, given that it is not clear if she is as good a three year old as she was a juvenile. Others may have stepped up their game too, and the opposition from stable mate Kissed By Angels looks significant. With the recent experience behind, she is expected to know much more what the game is all about and she is open to any kind of improvement. She is the value in the race.
Great to see the Tattersalls Gold Cup finally posing a field worthy its top level status – that wasn’t the case in recent years! But this years renewal makes certainly up for the lack of classy contenders over the last couple of seasons.
Top rated The Grey Gatsby was no match for new emerging French star Solow (taking on Cirrus Des Aigles at Longchamp today) in the Dubai Turf back in March but the 9 furlongs trip was probably a bit on the sharp side for him. He wasn’t disgraced finishing second and is expected to come on for the run.
The stiff Curragh uphill finish may well suit this gutsy grinder – on the other hand, it will ensure that any flaws in his stamina are going to be exploited over the 10.5f trip. His only try over further than 10f ended in defeat. Thay may sound a contradicting given that I sad 9f have been potentially too sharp. But it seems that a flat 10 furlongs is the absolute optimum for The Grey Gatsby.
Nonetheless his heroic Irish Champions Stakes victory is the standout piece of form. No doubt he’s at he head of the market for all the right reasons. He is the horse the others have to beat.
Exactly two years ago it was Al Kazeem who took the scalp of Camelot in this very same race. He went on to win the Coral Eclipse and was initially retired at the end of the 2013 season. He didn’t make it as a stallion in the breeding shed but clearly didn’t lose much of his old ability. He won a French Group 2 back in April and went on to push Cirrus Des Aigles hard in the Group 1 Prix Ganay. That’s very strong form and gives Al Kazeem a very decent shot today!
Progressive Postponed has clearly trained on. He is a big, scopey individual, who impressed on his seasonal reappearance when second in the Gordon Richards Stakes. He’ll relish the stamina test this track and trip will provide, but is it enough?
He seems bit better over further and may need quick ground to be seen to best effect as well. However he has every chance to prove me wrong one this particular perception today. Drying ground is surely a plus.
Dermot Weld’s Fascinating Rock emerged as a lively Derby contender early last season but those dreams didn’t materialize eventually. He was off after two disappointing performances in the English and Irish Derby but looked stronger and more mature first time out at Leopardstown in a Listed race over 1m back in April this year.
He followed up with an impressive display in the Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes over 10f here at the Curragh. Today is is his toughest test to date but he looks improving as an older horse now and may well be up to it.
Parish Hall finished a fair second behind Fascinating Rock last month. He was clearly second best on the day should be found out for class today. Highly Toxic looks very much up against it in this field.
Verdict: Hard to split the big guns. That’s why I go with Fascinating Rock who seems a bit overpriced. He has to prove that he belongs in this class as well as that he can act on better ground alike. But there is every chance for more improvement from him. The way he put the race to bed last month here at the Curragh impressed me and I don’t think that the ground is a real issue. We’ll find out today if he is a proper Group 1 horse, or maybe just slightly below the level required to mix it with the very best.