Saratoga Dancer’s ready to strike at Greyville!

I believe odds-on favourite Jet Explorer can be beaten here. He’s a fair Stakes performer, and his 4th in the Queen’s Plate is a big piece of form, though he hasn’t won in a long time and usually stays on from off the pace only beating tired horses, which can sometimes look spectacular from a visual point of view, but doesn’t mean that he is getting any closer to putting his head in front when it really matters. That says this race represents a significant drop in class and theoretically he’s the horse they all have to beat. However he probably won’t be 100%, as this is only a stepping stone and prep for bigger targets down the road.

There are some other good horses in the race here, but without a shadow of a doubt the most intriguing runner is lightly races Saratoga Dancer. He receives loads of weight from most rivals here and that should ensure that he’s well in, as he is clearly a better horse than his current rating of 78 in my mind. This will be his second run after a break as well after being gelded and his reappearance over 1.200m in a hot race was very promising last month.

He finished a fine third that day, less than two lengths beaten by Grade 1 winning Kochka while receiving only 3.5kg from this 105 rated top class individual. Kochka wasn’t 100% that day, but so wasn’t Saratoga Dancer, who also got a very light hands and heels ride but stayed on nicely over a trip short of his best. He clearly got ability and needs further. Up over 1.600m now, he’s got a massive chance to win.

7.15 Greyville: Pinnacle Stakes (3YO plus)
Saratoga Dancer @ 10/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win  

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Preview – Aintree Hurdle

Jezki

I wasn’t sure about this race but seeing how prices develop I find it impossible to not have a small interest in Rock On Ruby. Now available at 4/1, I believe he is too big. This race looks very competitive, and evolves mainly around the first three in the market. It’s hard to distinguish them but I feel that Rock On Ruby is the one who has conditions 100% to suit.

Arctic Fire obviously is very attractive. He shapes as a horse that needs this trip, as he usually runs on strongly over two miles. His runner-up effort in the Champion Hurdle behind Faugheen was visually impressive. However he had a couple of hard races already, and the fact that he usually finds one or two too good, makes is somewhat worrying for – a 7/4 shot at least!

The 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki has been a disappointment this season so far. He has to show much more and I’m not sure if he can suddenly step up big time. He’s a spring horse as we know, and has won a Grade 1 over this trip in the past. That’s the clear positives on the other hand. I rather don’t want to find out with my money if he can find back to his best, though.

Rock On Ruby in contrast, skipped Cheltenham and should be fresh and spot on for this race. He finished a gallant runner-up last year and 2m 4f appears to be his optimum trip these days. Ground conditions are sure to suit and he showed himself in good light this season. A bold bid is very much on the cards today and he looks the value against the other two.

3.25 Aintree: Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1)
Rock On Ruby @ 4/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win

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)!

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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