Preview – Cork Stakes

Cork Racecourse

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

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Preview – Musselburgh Gold Cup

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An intriguing contest which should turn into a real stamina test. Progressive stayer Handiwork looks to have a big shout with Joe Fanning on board. His ability to handle soft ground and to stay two miles are a key combination today. I feel further improvement is already very much reflected in the short odds, though. Top weight Lady Kashaan goes well with cut in the ground, but the trip stretches her stamina and with a very big weight to overcome, she may struggle here. Usually in attacking mode, Be Perfect must have a serious chance if he handles the ground. But despite drying ground, it remains very much on the slow side, and that is a concern.

Streets Of Newyork was in good nick over hurdles this year already and now back on the flat off a fair mark, he should have a good chance, though his best performances on the flat came over shorter trips. The lightly races Royal Signaller could easily have still more to offer. The trip and ground are slight worries. If he handles both, he’ll  be a big runner. Same applies to Braes Of Lochalsh. First start in handicaps & feather weight are an interesting combination, but he’s completely unproven on ground and trip and could be anything.

From a betting perspective I feel Richard Guest’s runner Precision Strike is a very big price. It remains to be seen if the track plays to his strengths, but the five year old clearly handles ground and trip. He was a really progressive stayer last season, culminating back in October in an excellent success in a 2m Handicap at Haydock. He probably needed his recent outing at Wolverhampton and while he was a long way beaten, one would expect him to be much more competitive today. If he can make enough progress entering the home straight to be not too far of the pace, he will have a big shout in this I feel.

3.25 Musselburgh: Musselburgh Gold Cup
Precision Strike @ 22/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

Mr Bossy Boots can make feather weight count

An intriguing race that brings proven top class handicappers with progressive & lightly raced individuals together. At the top of the ratings is classy Outback Traveller who has a huge weight to defy. On pure class he is the one they all have to beat – but I feel the improving Mr Bossy Boots is probably the one they all have to fear most.

He has the benefit of a feather weight because he is the lowest rated horse in the race, but this lightly raced colt looks to have much more on the plate than the ratings suggest. He was very impressive a very impressive winner at Lingfield in January, when he looked still very green and raw, was pulling hard but surged clear with ease in the closing stages. Obviously he has to step up markedly in class today, but the handicapper’s 5lb hike in the mark for this most recent triumph has been lenient in my mind. That says Mr Bossy Boots could be a good deal ahead of this mark and must have a major chance today.

Also improving and an impressive winner was Speculative Bid. He looked in a completely different class than his rivals in a class 4 Handicap here at Kempton. He has been hit with a big hike in the mark, but looks well up to it. Though very much up in class, he may not get a smooth a ride through this time. Same may apply for Ninjago who won well first time blinkered over CD recently, but had it all going for himself.

2.15 Kempton: Class 2 Handicap, 7 furlongs:
Mr Bossy Boots @ 4/1 Coral – 5pts win

Preview: Balmoral Cup Handicap

The rain softened ground, the 1m 8f trip and that we’re just right at the beginning of the new 2015 flat season are the facts responsible for a wide open renewal of the Balmoral Cup.

It looks significant that Gorden Elliott comes over from Ireland with versatile Bayan. A grade 3 winning hurdler, he has also been successful in Handicaps on the flat and is sure to be suited by trip and ground. He has a fine chance to score, but must overcome a career highest mark.

Unexposed Mistiroc could progress further this season. He is on a fair mark, though tries a new trip. He showed some liking for softish ground last year, so if he can stay the trip, he’ll be in with a big shot. Esteaming, Aramist and Suraj all have form on soft ground, but a combination of trip, handicap mark or lack of recent run, are big questions marks.

Formerly an excellent runner-up in the Melbourne Cup, Kelinni is a very interesting alternative here. He hasn’t exactly excelled in the UK, but has a recent run under his belt which should help to bring him along nicely for this. It is also noteworthy that he probably didn’t have his optimum conditions last season, with the one exception, when he finished a very gallant third, less than two lengths beaten, behind Gatewood in a Listed event. The soft ground will suit and the trip poses no problem to him. With Spencer in the saddle, a big run looks on the cards.

2.25 Musselburgh: Balmoral Cup Handicap (Class 2)
Kelinni @ 11/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

All-Weather Championships Day

It’s good Friday, it’s Easter weekend and it is a fantastic day for  top class racing. Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships card is simply brilliant – it brings quality horses together on a surface that is often dismayed by purists. I’m a huge fan of the All-Weather though, and think it is particularly spectacular if good horses competing on it. So it’s a a fantastic day of racing on the tab – let’s hope it’s a profitable one as well!

1.40 Lingfield: All-weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships

A very hot renewal with plenty of interesting runners. I feel that in these kind of Conditions races quality is what matters most, and that should mean horses right at the head of the ratings are often favoured. Plenty of money is coming for Lamar. I’m not sure if the drop in trip suits her and she looks short enough in the betting. Khatiba is progressive, so is Don’t Be. Expect them to be right in the mix.

Overpriced is the French filly Fresles, though. A 4/1 chance, she is a full point bigger than I would have thought she’d be in the betting. This filly has had a strong run over 6f in Listed company here at Lingfield in November when she came agonisingly close. Since then she won a Listed race over 7f in France on the All-Weather and produced a very fine prep  run over slightly shorter earlier this month. She’ll be primed and could have a tactical advantage from her good draw today.

Fresles @ 4/1 Coral – 5pts win

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2.10 Lingfield: All-weather Sprint Championships

The red hot favourite Pretend looks very hard to beat given how easily he beat similar opposition over five furlongs recently. If he can translate the same sort of form to this 6f trip, then he is hard to beat. But it’s a new day and maybe a bit more open this time, if not at least for the minor placings.

I particularly feel that Boom The Groom is massively overpriced. You can get 33/1 with 1/4 odds each-way with some firms and that looks a cracking bet. This colt is a course and distance winner, who holds his form very well this winter and finished a fine third behind Pretend over five furlongs the last time. He has excellent place claims at least here and with the race probably run to suit him, he may get even closer this time.

Boom The Groom @ 33/1 Bet365 – 2.5pts E/W

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2.40 Lingfield: All-Weather 3 Year Old Mile Championships

It’s been a very impressive seasonal reappearance by Lexington Times earlier this month and he is sure to go well with the step up to a mile sure to suit. But it’s the French filly Growing Glory who makes most appeal on prices. A massive 10/1 chance you wonder how that can be. With a handy 5lb sex allowance here, this filly has beaten the boys last month on the French All-Weather over 1m. It was a very impressive display as she was interfered twice in the home straight. Forgive her the recent poor showing on turf, and you see a top class All-Weather miler.

Growing Glory @ 10/1 Coral – 5pts win

Tuesday Night Quickie

Quick Tip

One late selection for the night racing at Turffontein – the last race on the card, a rather poor maiden, looks interesting. The favourite Odd Rob is a very short price here in my mind. One has to assume that he improves dramatically for his recent outing. He finished a good runner-up after a long lay-off and had been gelded before, so indeed he should come on today, but the step up in trip looks a bit of a concern. His lightly raced profile gives him an ideal chance though, if he can find a bit improvement and stay the trip, as the opposition looks weak. But he is still way too short for this sort of race.

Equally lightly raced overcame big odds to run a fair third on debut. He may progress while Woody Glow could improve for the step up in trip. But those races often produce some strange results and longs-hot Twenty Eight Nine might sneak in for the placings here.

He didn’t show anything in his first three starts, but this is his third run after gelding, and sometimes this needs a bit until improvement kicks-in. He tries 2.000m for the first but should relish this new trip on pedigree. Interesting is the jockey booking with Johnny Geroudis who is red hot at the moment and is riding here for red hot trainer Alec Laird. I’ve seen worth 66/1 shots in my life.

8.45 Turffontein: Maiden Plate
Twenty Eight Nine @ 66/1 Bet365 – 2.5pts EW

Preview – Curragh Opener

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I hope your appetite for the start of the Irish flat season is wetted by now and you have had a chance to read my preview for the Irish Lincolnshire – but there is plenty more to come on the opening meeting of the Curragh! There’s some really good Handicaps as well as one intriguing Group 3 on the tab…. so let’s get right into it!

3.10 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs, 3yo plus

Great Minds looks a very short price here. A winner of this very same race last year, he followed up with another big handicap triumph on Guineas weekend, and should relish conditions today. But not only does he have to overcome a lengthy absence, but also a 9lb higher mark. There might be well more to come from him but on prices I believe Focus On Venice makes most appeal in this field. He is still pretty lightly raced and has won on each of his last two seasonal reappearances.

He beat smart Michaelmas on debut in 2013 and won a good Cork Handicap last season, from where he went on to finish a gallant runner-up in Listed company. He was found out for class in Group 3 company subsequently but now dropped into Handicaps as a fresh horse one would think he has a big shout in this race. His mark looks fair and it’s not impossible that there is still more to come from this four year old colt on what is only his sixth start. Only question mark is the heavy ground. He performed well on yielding in the past, so there is an indication that he could be fine.

Focus On Venice @ 13/2 Coral – 5pts win

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3.45 Curragh: Park Express Stakes (Fillies’ Group 3)

Interesting renewal with plenty of possibilities and the heavy overnight rain doesn’t make it any easier to solve the puzzle. Last years runner-up Odeliz is back for another crack and must be a big runner. She has form on soft ground in top class company and the only worry is her habit to find usually one or two too good. This time again?

Aiden O’Brien usually takes a while to get his string going and that certainly is something to keep in mind if assessing the chance of lightly raced filly Easter. However there is plenty to like about her. She looked big and scopy last year, as well as talented with a good attitude when getting off the mark in a Leopardstown maiden towards the end of the year. She should relish the step up to 1m and should handle the ground with plenty of soft ground form on her dam side.

Afternoon Sunlight was an excellent prospect last spring but saw her colours significantly lowered in the second half of last season. If she has improved over the winter, she is in with a good chance, though she has to give weight away. Avenue Gabrial has been progressive last year and showed to handle soft ground. She has two listed wins to her name so far, and while a bit more is required here, she has the right profile do really well.

Alive Alive Oh has never reached the heights one expected in the early days of her career, but a break and first time cheek-pieces may help her to be competitive today. Lightly raced Steip Amach caused a huge upset in the Killavullan Stakes at the end of last season. She could have still more to offer now as a three year old.

Verdict: I usually don’t like backing three year olds against older horses at this early stage of the season, but Easter looked a lovely big, scopy sort, who could have plenty more to come, and she may not be unsuited by todays conditions. The weight for age allowance is a significant bonus and I would have expected to see her right at the head of the market.

Easter @ 4/1 Coral – 5pts win

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The Best Of The Rest: 600k gns yearling The Warrior tries to get off the mark in the 6f maiden. He didn’t live up to his price tag last season but may have more to offer now as a three year old. He should be hard to beat but any flaws may be exploited by the exciting newcomer Mulkeyya. A half-sister to Mustajeeb, she could be a big runner for Dermot Weld.

The Curragh finale is an intriguing one mile maiden with last years Racingpost Tropy fourth Jacobean at the head of the market. This is only his third start and there is surely more to come, but it might not be quite as straightforward as the market predicts. Dermot Weld’s Ashraf looks a very interesting contender, so could be Appeared, who wasn’t far beaten on debut behind Jacobean in a maiden last year.

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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