Preview – Aintree Grand Opening Day 2015

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Day one of the Aintree Grand National Festival. A brilliant card of top class jump racing is awaiting us – four Grade 1 races – that is simply sensational! The Aintree Hurdle in particular shapes as a cracker with the likes of Jezki, Arctic Fire and Rock On Ruby tackling the 2m 4f trip. Probably not a race to bet on, but to simply sit back and enjoy. Betting wise I’ve two selections for the day:

1.40 One Magnificent City Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

The first four in the betting have all been beaten by the same horse at Cheltenham… in fact they have been demolished. A sigh of relive for connections – there’s no Un De Sceaux here today! Josses Hill was the one who fared best last month, he finished a creditable third. He got a very good ride that day but was clearly ridden for a place. Things are different today and for that simple reason he looks short enough in the betting. He may not be able to ride his own race in a way he could do it the last time.

Vibrato Valtat may get closer this time with a different ride. He remains with potential, while Clarcam needs to show big improvement to be competitive. You could pick holes in each of the three better fancied runners here and I feel this might be one for an upset.

If there is a horse that looks potentially capable of causing an upset then it is Cash And Go. He’s been a decent hurdler, finished 3rd in a Grade 3 here at Aintree last season. He improved gradually this season over fences. Unseated his rider on his Chase debut, battled and won well the next time and demolished a small field in a minor race most recently.

He is still learning his game over the bigger obstacles and needs to improve his jumping if he wants to be competitive here. But he is a nice prospect, with more improvement to come and he may well be up to this class. I like to select him as a big price against the better fancied market leaders.

Cash And Go @ 20/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

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3.25 Aintree: Betfred Bowl Chase (Grade 1)

It’ll be interesting to see how much the big guns have still left in the tank after a tough season and Cheltenham in particular. That says I’m surprised how the betting shapes for this race. Holywell looks an exciting prospect, no doubt, and he wasn’t disgraced in the Gold Cup at all. But I feel he is a wrong favourite. And improving sort with loads of potential – yes. But he hasn’t done yet what a Silviniaco Conti has done.

Conti was certainly disappointing at Cheltenham. However this was his only poor performance this season, ignoring his seasonal reappearance. Cheltenham doesn’t suit Conti, but Aintree does. He won this very same race last year, and the fact that he was such an impressive winner of the King George, should give him every right to be the favourite for this race.

The mare Ma Filleule is a consistent individual, always well fancied in the big races with her sex allowance, but she hasn’t been able to get her head in front in her last three races, where she had every chance to do so. She looks just a tick below the very best horses in this field. Don’t underestimate Menorah. On his day he could always spring a surprise. He’s kept fresh and has conditions to suit. But on most occasions he has been beaten by Conti in the past, and that should be the fate here again today.

Silviniaco Conti at 3/1 is a full point too big in my mind. It remains to be seen what damage the Gold Cup has done to him. But he bounced back last year to win this race, so I don’t see a reason why the same shouldn’t happen today again. He’s the class act in the field and I expect a big run with conditions sure to suit.

Silviniaco Conti @ 3/1 Bet365 – 10pts win

Flat Horses To Follow

The start of the flat season is looming…… the ‘real’ start I mean! Yes, the Doncaster Lincoln is the traditional kick-off, but let’s be honest, the focus is still very much on the jumps – thanks to the all overshadowing Grand National. However you’ll see, time is flying.  A blink of an eye later and horses are already thundering down the Rowley Mile at Newmarket on Guineas weekend!

That is reason enough for me to write down my personal “Flat Horses To Follow List”! I have worked myself through a large list of horses in recent weeks – to be more specific: I’ve been actually assessing the more or less promising two year old colts and geldings of the 2014 season. Based on that, I’ve come up with a 12 To Follow list…..

I know, everyone is coming up with ten to follow these days – that’s why I have twelve horses on my list! … Well, no. To be honest, I just couldn’t endure the pain to cut down the list to ten.

Archangel Raphael – 2 Starts, Aiden O’Brien

This lightly races son of Montjeu was unlucky not to win on debut but made amends at the Galway Festival. He looked pretty green on both starts and was outpaced halfway through but was particularly impressive on his second outing when he had many negative factors to overcome but won in the manner of a talented individual. There’s bit lack of stamina on his dam side, but 1m 2f should be possible for him. Much further looks unlikely.

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Christophermarlowe – 2 Starts, John Gosden

Big, powerful, galloping sort with plenty of scope. Was still very much learning the game in both career starts, but looks to have some raw ability that could propel him into a top class performer. He handled Epsom well enough when winning a Conditions race on his second outing. Looks sure to get 1m 2f, could potentially get the Derby trip as well.

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Chemical Charge – 2 Starts, Ralf Beckett

Made a belated debut in October. Was visually impressive and followed up with minor win on the All-Weather weeks later. Showed a nice  turn of foot on Lingfield’s polytrack. He has a lovely middle-distance pedigree which should ensure he gets better with age and distance.

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Consort – 1 Start, Sir Michael Stoute

Impressive runaway winner of a hot Newmarket maiden last autumn. Produced strong turn of foot from the front but should be suited by stiffer test. Step up in trip should suit. He’s very likely to enjoy a mile and may even develop with time into a top class runner over a bit further. Out off the Guineas though as trainer said he need a bit more time.

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Endless Drama – 1 Start, Ger Lyons

Astonishing debut run late in the season when producing serious change of gear. Very well bred out of a Listed winning mare. Looks to have loads of speed and not sure if he would get a mile, but he has potential to do loads of damage over sprint trips if he fails to show enough stamina for further.

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Fannaan – 2 Starts, John Gosden

Utterly impressive in two career outings. Beat 104 rated individual under hands and heels in soft conditions at Newmarket over 7f on second start. Bred to be top class miler who should be even more suited by quick underfoot conditions. Exciting prospect.

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Full Mast – 3 Starts, Head-Maarek

Already a multiple Group winner in France over seven furlongs  in his short career, including the Group 1 Prix Jean Luc Lagardere (actual winner Gleneagles demoted). Lovely bred and sure to improve with age and distance. Exciting middle-distance prospect.

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Golden Horn – 1 Start, John Gosden

Was slowly away and trailing on debut but produced great run to win in the end. Beat smart runner-up (was 2nd on debut behind subsequent Racingpost Trophy runner-up). He is a half-brother to a 10f Listed winner and is bound to excel over middle-distance trips this season once stepping up in trip.

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Giovanni Canaletto – 2 Starts, Aiden O’Brien

A full-brother to Ruler Of The World, he is obviously very well bred. He has been quite green in his two career starts but finished strongly on debut behind a potentially smart winner. He produced a blistering turn of foot on his 2nd start, despite an awkward head carriage. He will improve with experience and distance.

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Mohaayed – 2 Starts, Kevin Prendergast

Very green on both starts. Completely unaware of what his job is supposed to be on debut. Very impressive winner on second start, beating smart Ballydoyle horse in third. Was looking- and wandering around in closing stages but showed some class. Future seems to be over middle-distance on pedigree.

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Highland Reel – 2 Starts, Aiden O’Brien

Very Green and raw and first two starts. Yet run out impressive 12l winner stepping up to one mile on second outing. Third of that race beat exciting prospect JFK subsequently. He went on to win Group 2 over seven furlongs at Goodwood on his last start in 2014. In a rather slowly run race he produced a blistering turn of foot. He should relish a stiffer test over further on pedigree. To my eyes he looks the real deal if he trains on. Serious Guineas prospect.

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Zawraq – 1 Start, Dermot Weld

Gutsy debut winner against potentially smart Sir Isaac Newton. Showed great attitude to fight back when under pressure. Trainer is very upbeat and rates him as best 3yo in the yard. More to come once stepping up in trip. He should get up to 1m 2f but looks to have enough speed for a crack at the Guineas as well.

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It would have been easy to put a list together with all the super sexy Aiden O’Brien prospects. And boy, he has aplenty on his hands! Equally John Gosden, who seems to have some very strong individuals at his disposal. Now, three horses each have made it into my list nonetheless. But I tried to provide a bit of variety and left out the obvious ones like John F Kennedy or Sir Isaac Newton & Gleneagles.

I suppose, if you nail me down to the ONE horse to follow for 2015 – It would be undoubtedly Highland Reel. I was so impressed with his maiden win, where he was more interested in anything else around him, than the actual job he had to do, yet he pulled clear by 12 lengths…. easily….. effortless.

This speaks volumes. He is a hugely talented individual. Mind you, the third of the mentioned maiden race won subsequently a maiden where he beat none less than John F Kennedy. Okay, it’s fair to say JFK needed the run and was green and of course will be better over further. Yet, it is still telling that such an exciting Ballydoyle prospect was a good deal beaten by a horse that was simply demolished by Highland Reel weeks before. Keep the winning margin always in mind: 12l+!

The son of Galileo stepped up in class almost as effortless weeks later at Glorious Goodwood. He dropped down to seven furlongs, right into a race where the pace wasn’t really on, he pulled hard early on, yet when asked for everything, he produced a blistering turn of foot and the race was over.

Highland Reel is the real deal! Yes, there are extremely positive vibes about Gleneagles, who is a short favourite for the 2.000 Guineas. But no doubt, the value lies with his stable mate. Aiden O’Brien confirmed already that HR will go down the Guineas route. And that make sense. From there he may can step up in trip. Coral Eclipse as the most likeliest next target?

But step by step. He’s 12/1 for the Guineas at the moment, and if he starts on the day indeed, he’ll have a much better chance to win. So I backed him ante-post and nominate him as my selection for the race. Highland Reel will win the Guineas.

Preview – Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes

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This intriguing staying contest sees last years St. Leger sixth Forever Now reappearing. The Galileo son is still generally lightly raced and has been progressive throughout his three year old campaign. He won a Listed contest over 1m 6f at Goodwood, following on from a fine third in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy. There is every chance that he has still a bit more to offer.

The only question mark is the ground. He has some sort of form with a bit of give in the ground, but he showed his best on a better surface. Todays conditions at Nottingham are soft, though the good weather may help. One has to consider though that Forever Now is a very short price. On that basis I think it’s possible to oppose him here on his seasonal reappearance.

The filly Island Remede has the benefit of a recent run and finished a very creditable runner-up to Windshear in a Conditions Stakes over 12f on her seasonal reappearance. She clearly loves the mud and that should ensure that she’s in with a good chance to run well today.

The Ralf Beckett trained Cinnilla progressed nicely through the ranks last season, though she was found out in better class on heavy ground in France at the end of the year. Lightly raced Deuce Again has done well on the All-Weather recently, but this is a completely different test and it remains to be seen if she’s suited by it.

Clearly the most interesting runner is Godolphin’s Blue Rambler. Unbeaten in France as a three year old, where he won a Listed race over 12f in softish conditions, he moved yards subsequently but ran only once for Charlie Appleby last season, when he finished a fair third in a hot Handicap. He steps up in trip now but that shouldn’t be a problem on pedigree, and he’ll love the ground today.

First time headgear is interesting and suggests he’s not in it for a public gallop. The yard is going strongly too. While there are question marks about fitness after a long lay-off, he may have still a good deal of improvement left in him. With conditions sure to suit, I expect a big run and he looks overpriced in this field.

3.40 Nottingham: Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes (Listed)
Blue Rambler @ 13/2 Stanjames – 5pts win

National Delight!

Katie Walsh became on Monday afternoon the third female jockey to win the Irish Grand National! It was however the first time that female jockey and female trainer were responsible for the big race winner, as Sandra Hughes trains the horse. Her mount, the seven year old Thunder And Roses, travelled strongly throughout and found plenty when it mattered most. He was never too far off the pace but made gradually progress from five out, to be in with a shout entering the home straight. A strong and determined ride by Katie Walsh sealed the deal eventually.

It’s noteworthy that only nine – yes 9 – horses actually finished the race! There was carnage at an early fence, taking out a couple right away, while others had been pulled up throughout the two circuits. The Gigginstown horses however seemed to excel and finished first, second and fourth.

It’s been a wonderful day on Easter Monday, with splendid sunshine and of course great racing. I had the luck to be at Fairyhouse myself to cheer Katie and Thunder And Roses on – it’s been certainly a sweet afternoon as I made this pair my selection for the National (see Preview on this site). And it got even better when Great Minds got up in Cork to win the Listed sprint contest, where he was my 8/1 selection (see preview on this site)!

Preview – Irish Grand National

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Naturally this is a race where you could pick five horses and still may not pick the right one to win. It is that competitive! The conditions at Fairyhouse will ensure that this is a real test of stamina today, not only because of the long 3m 5f trip, but also very much because of the soft ground.

That says spring is in the air nonetheless, and we should have a cracking race in prospect under the pleasant April sun. I could say allot about each and every runner, but will concentrate on the horses that intrigued me most – I had 11 runners short-listed, and cut it down to three horses to follow today.

Thunder And Roses; Katie Walsh – 25/1 

The seven year old gelding had a fair first season over fences. A mud loving hurdler as high as 135 rated, he was always going to be a better chaser potentially and currently rated 136, he could still have a bit improvement left. He was disappointing at Cheltenham where he fell, was a modest third in Grade 2 company before, but won a 3 mile contest at Fairyhouse in impressive style back in January. Now on his Handicap debut, he looks not out off it with a fair opening mark, and this test today and could be what he really wants.

Dogora; Paul Townend – 33/1 

He is only a six year old and is one I’m sure hasn’t shown us all he has got yet. His performance in the Cross-Country Chase at Cheltenham was really good I felt, even though he got a bit tired up the hill. But he was one of the horses affected by the fallers at the second last but he kept going and was by no means disgraced in 4th. It looks like this kind of test is what he wants, so the big field and trip should suit him. He has done well on soft ground in the past and of a mark off 135 he could be dangerous.

Tammys Hill; BT O’Connell – 25/1 

This hunters chaser had a rather light campaign this season and clearly has been kept fresh for the National. He can race off a very fair mark and has class, as he won the Foxhunter Chase two years ago at the Festival. I believe he has the trip in him and he goes well in these kind of ground conditions. He looks in with a big chance.

All three selections 2.5pts Each/Way

Preview – Cork Stakes

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Despite some lovely sunshine over the Easter weekend, the ground at Cork remains soft. Interestingly, most runners in the 6 furlongs Cork Stakes are actually advantaged by these conditions. That should ensure that we have quite an intriguing contest on our hands.

The mare Aetna deserves utmost respect and is awell  deserved favourite. She won a Listed contest on bottomless ground at Doncaster when seen the last time five month ago. She has done well as a fresh horse in the past and sets a very fair standard here for all the right reasons. That says she is short enough in the betting, though,  and there’re some interesting alternatives.

Gathering Power has won only twice in seventeen starts throughout her career so far, but she loves the mud and ran with credit in some hot races last season. She can go close. Last years Cork Stakes winner An Saighdiur isn’t getting any younger and hasn’t shown too much since this last win, but he gets his conditions and has a recent run to his name, so must clearly enter calculations.

Jim Bolger’s lightly raced Flight Risk looks up against it dropping down to six furlongs, while Big Time was once a smart juvenile but has to overcome a long absence and was disappointing in his two starts last season. Reverted to sprinting may help, though. Veteran Bold Thady Quill won this very same race two years ago but hasn’t been in any sort of form in most of his last starts. He loves the mud but this is a strong renewal and he may find it beyond him at this stage of his career.

Without a shadow of a doubt the most intriguing runner is the lightly raced Great Minds. Already a five year old, he has seen very little racing, but was highly progressive in his two starts last year. He won two big Curragh Handicaps over six furlongs and showed a preference for cut in the ground. On his seasonal reappearance last week in a hot sprint Handicap, he didn’t get the clearest of runs but finished with promise. Up in class again, he could still improve and most importantly improve past his rivals in this race. With conditions sure to suit, he should go well and looks a very big price.

3.30 Cork: Cork Stakes (listed)
Great Minds @ 8/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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