Preview: Athasi Stakes

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Bank holiday Monday in the UK and Ireland. Some good racing on offer and the sun is out here in Dublin – could be the make-up of a really nice day. So let’s try to find some winners, shall we? I’m intrigued particularly by the Curragh card, where Found, the long-term 1.000 Guineas favourite, is going to start her three year old campaign while missing the assignment in the big race yesterday.

There is also a hot little Listed race on offer, with favourite Endless Drama one of my Horses To Follow. That says with heavy conditions at HQ, I leave him alone as he is short enough in the betting. These kind of conditions can throw up funny results from time…..

3.15 Curragh: Athasi Stakes (Group 3; 7f)

Highly regarded Ballydoyle inmate Found was a top class juvenile last season. She progressed nicely from winning a maiden, to finish a fine third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, ending the year eventually on the highest possible note with a commanding success in the Group 1 Marcel Boussac at Longchamp.

Without the shadow of a doubt Found is the class act in this field today. However, she has had problems during her preparations for the Newmarket 1.000 Guineas, reportedly hasn’t been well, missed work and missed subsequently the big race. Started off in this somewhat lesser event now, she is entitled to win if fully wound up.

On the other side the drop down to 7f isn’t sure to suit entirely, and the heavy ground is something completely new to her. I believe that today is more like a prep race for her – Give her a good day out, if she wins it’s a bonus, but it is more important to get a run in. Bigger targets looming large on the horizon.

Dermot Weld’s debutant winner Shahzeena is thought to be her most feared rival. She won well a maiden in heavy conditions at Leopardstown, so is ground proven. But she needed every inch of the 1m trip and could be found out for speed over the shorter distance here, despite the slow ground conditions.

Alive Alive Oh has never fulfilled what she promised to be earlier in her career. Nonetheless the drop in trip plus blinkers fitted is interesting today. Says she has had so many chances, it’s more likely that she falls short once again. Lightly raced Stellar Glow is an interesting runner. She should improve as a three year old but probably needs further to be seen to best effect.

I used to be a fan of Avenue Gabrial last year. She was a fine maiden winner at the Curragh and was a fair fourth in the Irish 1.000 Guineas. Her 3rd place in the Guineas Trial on heavy ground entitles her to be considered today. Though I’ve to admit she always looked more like a miler to my eyes.

However she should come on for her seasonal reappearance, where she was a big disappointment. However she handles the ground conditions, has form over the trip and I imagine connections revert her back to more positive tactics today. At 14/1, Avenue Gabrial seems overpriced.

Lightly raced three year old Off Limits ran pretty well on her seasonal reappearance in a hot little Conditions Race at Cork last month. This looks a strong piece of form given that the winner went on to win the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes, while the runner-up won subsequently a really good race at Dundalk.

So, a 2½ lengths defeat in third place doesn’t look too shabby, given the fact that she got a very light ride that day. Off Limits travelled actually all over them until the 2f marker and initially quickened nicely on heavy ground but just got a bit tired in the end. The drop to 7f looks fine on that evidence and she clearly handles soft conditions.

As a juvenile she raced twice. She started off with a fine fourth place in a pretty good maiden and followed up to get off the mark at Leopardstown, where she produced a nice turn of foot from off the pace. Both forms came with cut in the ground.

Obviously Off Limits has plenty to find on ratings. She will need to take another step forward to be in with a shout here. But everything is pointing towards her being able to do exactly that. Not to forget that trainer David Wachman is usually doing really well with fillies (not only because of yesterday’s 1.000 Guineas success). All in all I believe Off Limits can be a big runner today.

Summery: If Found is fully fit and well and handles the ground, she won’t be beaten. But it’s worth to take her on. The Weld filly has the potential to progress. But the two overpriced individuals in this field Avenue Gabrial and Off Limits. In a seven runner-race, with a short favourite rather easily to oppose, those two individuals make plenty of appeal as 14/1 and 20/1 shots.

Off Limits @ 20/1 Bet35 – 5pts Win
Avenue Gabrial @ 14/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win

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Marma’s Boy can exploit lenient opening mark

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Intriguing Handicap for three year old’s. I feel there is a wrong favourite at the top of the market, or at least the favourite is way too short compared to the rest.

That says Muqtaser done really well to finish a close 3rd over course and distance last month here. He is proven in these conditions and is sure to give a good account. But on that exact performance he doesn’t appear to be particularly well handicapped off a 1lb higher mark. He had the run of the race that day compared to some others and still wasn’t capable of winning. This here doesn’t look much easier. He’s opposable at short odds.

Godolphin’s Global Force looks more like a good price. He won a CD maiden last month and gave the impression to be a smart individual. I like him and he may well up to pattern class, but he has to be if he wants to overcome a pretty high opening mark of 94. The handicapper has allotted him a pretty tough assignment for a start. He may well be good enough, but not sure if I really want to find that out with my money with better alternatives from a handicapping perspective.

The only positive for Mustard is the jockey booking of Ryan Moore. Otherwise he looks too slow and on a high enough mark considering his handicap debut at Leicester in a lesser race. The step up in trip doesn’t seem to suit Azraff on pedigree. He is a good price but I find it hard to fancy him here off a big mark. Lostock Hall has to prove that he really wants 10f.

The two most intriguing runners are certainly the two bottom weights. Brotherly Company stepped up to 1m 2f in a Redcar maiden last month and won easily on quick ground. He defies his pedigree and that is something I’m slightly worried about. It was not a particularly strong race, he had it all from the front – this is tougher. But off 81 he is one that could be better than the mark if he truly gets the trip.

Without a question Marma’s Boy is overpriced. Yes, he didn’t beat much at Wolverhampton last month when he got off the mark in a 10f maiden on his seasonal reappearance. But he couldn’t have been more impressively. It was only his fourth start, his first over 10f and there is more to come with the trip surely to suit and the switch to turf and quick ground seemingly not an issue judged and last years maiden form. It remains to be seen if he is up to this class, but an opening mark off 79 could be lenient.

5.25 Newmarket: Class 3 Handicap, 1m 2f
Marma’s Boy @ 9/1 Coral – 5pts win

Preview – 1.000 Guineas

Rowley Mile

The ground for Sunday remains quick at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile – perfect conditions for an exciting renewal of the 1.000 Guineas. The field may lack an obvious superstar at this stage, but  maybe there’s a new one born as soon as the horses have been crossing the winning post? We will see. It certainly looks a wide open affair.

The Favourite:

Godolphin’s Lucida is currently at the head of the market. She replaced long-time favourite Found in that particular position. The Ballydoyle filly is out, though, and her abscense has ripped a big hole into the betting market. Lucida is currently trading a 6/1 chance – not exactly a favourite in the true meaning of the word, is it?

The Shamardal filly hasn’t done too much wrong in her career. She was a progressive juvenile, finishing a close second behind Cursory Glance in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, while following up with an impressive success in the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket. Subsequently stepped up to 1m on her final start in 2014, she finished only fourth but the soft ground was probably against her.

One would think that on pedigree the 1m trip is ideal, so is the quick ground. Question mark is – did she train on? We haven’t seen her this season yet and have to find out this afternoon. She is a pretty good chance on her two year old form, though.

The Challengers:

Fadhayyil, currently a 7/1 chance, finished a good runner-up behind Lucida at Newmarket last year in the Rockfel. She has only had three starts to date and won only a maiden, but the step up to 1m looks sure to suit. If she can improve a bit for experience and distance, she is fairly closely matched with Lucida. We haven’t seen her this year either, though.

Lightly raced Jellicle Ball only won a Kempton maiden to date but clearly stepped up to pattern class when she repapered last month in the Fred Darling Stakes over seven furlongs. She is well bred and talented. With the recent run under her belt she’s bound to come on a good deal for an excellent runner-up effort that day. She is supposed to be better over further, so 1m looks a perfect trip for the moment. She is a big runner and money is coming for her.

David Wachman’s exciting Legatissimo won a Listed event over 9.5 furlongs last week. She loves the quick ground and is clearly very talented, but the drop in trip isn’t sure to suit her. However she is the choice of Ryan Moore and has to be respected for that simple reason.

Royal Ascot winner Osaila proved that she trained on thanks to a gutsy success in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes over 7f last month. She has good form over 1m from her only start over this trip when she ran out a fine 3rd at the Breeders Cup. She will need to improve a good deal, though, in order to be competitive today, I feel.

The Raven’s Pass filly Malabar proved her class in hot Group 1 races last year. Good performances in the Prix Marcel Boussac and Moyglare Stud Stakes give her a fair form chance if she has trained on. Recent Fred Darling scorer Redstart is not out of this either. She won well but has to improve for the new trip here again and one would think that runner-up Jellicle Bell is a better prospect, given that Redstart had everything going for herself from the front, which might not be the case here today.

The Outsiders:

There is plenty of money coming for Tiggy Wiggy. She is now into 10’s which is madness in my eyes. Apologies for the harsh words – but I have to be honest here. Maybe I eat my words afterwards, but that’s fine. I simply can’t see her stay. She is all speed on pedigree. She is all speed on visual impression. And she has been a precocious two year old sprinter, who doesn’t look to have grown allot over the winter. Others make simply much more appeal.

UAE Guineas and Derby winner Local Time is an interesting runner. She won at Newmarket over 7f last season but has particularly excelled on the Dirt this year at Meydan. if she can translate this form to turf now, she is not out of it. That says more is required here and others may have more scope.

Aiden O’Brien’s sole runner is Weld Park Stakes winner Qualify. She was a good two year old but has to step up a good deal here, as well as has to overcome a trip that looks like stretching her stamina. Irish Rookie won a Listed race over course and distance last November. Much more is needed today and the ground is a question mark too. Kodiac filly Terror looks up against it over this new trip.

Leaves me with the biggest outsider of them all – Queen Nefertiti. This Galileo filly, trained my David Wachman appears to be pretty overpriced in my eyes. A 33/1 shot at the moment, you can get 1/4 odds and 4 places with Paddy Power – this looks big value. Why? Well, this filly won on her debut last year a good maiden in pretty taking style and was ever since thought to be a Guineas horse.

She made her seasonal reappearance at Dundalk recently, the day when I was there and to be honest I really liked what I saw. She looked excellent in the parade ring, clearly has trained on and finished a nice third in a hot little race while only beaten in a very tight finish. She travelled strongly throughout, but gave the impression of greenness in the closing stages when she seemed to be a bit intimidated by the other horses beside her. She was literally sandwiched in the final half furlong, and didn’t stick her neck out as a consequence.

I would expect Queen Nefertiti to come on a good bit for the run. She should have learned plenty as well and with trip and ground very likely to suit, this extremely well bred filly could be able to outrun her big price tag. She is my selection against the field, in a wide open renewal, where I probably most like the Gosden filly – but can’t see 7/1 as a particularly appealing price.

1.000 Guineas – Newmarket; 1m, Group 1
Queen Nefertiti @ 33/1 Paddy Power – 0.5pts e/w

Educate will relish Newmarket conditions

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A couple more selections for Newmarket’s Guineas card. The supporting races are pretty good, though not overwhelmingly classy. However the last race on the card, the 1m Handicap, looks the pick of them all in terms of future prospects and it’ll be particularly interesting to see how the favourite Mutasayyid fares – he beat my Guineas fancy Intilaaq in a maiden last season in quite good style!

Says this is not a race I want to have a bet in. But there are two other races that do offer some value indeed:

2.00 Newmarket: Suffolk Stakes (Handicap, C2)

In the context of the race I feel Educate is a rather big price. His recent form isn’t all that inspiring, but he ran in hot Group races with credit. He drops back into a Handicap now and with that comes a further slip in the ratings.

In fact he is now down to his last winning mark off 104. Off this mark he was successful in the prestigious Cambridgeshire, back in 2013 over course and distance. That says today’s conditions at Newmarket are no problem for Educate by any means.

He loves fast ground, as he won the Cambridgeshire in similar conditions as another two races on good to firm. With William Buick in the saddle, he is bound to be ready for a big run today.

Educate @ 8/1 PP – 5pts Win

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2.30 Palace House Stakes (Group 3)

This looks a race that should be all about the fast conditions. For that reason I do like the filly Online Alexander. She usually gets beaten when the word soft appears in the ground description but won three times on anything faster than good.

I do like sprinters to improve from three to four years of age and she might be one that has more to offer now as an older filly. Matured and more experienced, there could easily be more to come.

Fresh off a break, she gets her conditions today and could easily improve for that in a way that would see her going close. That says fillies have a horrible record in this race, so I only have a small punt. But on price, she is the one that sticks out to me.

Online Alexander @ 14/1 Stan James – 2.5pts Win

Exciting Intilaaq good enough to win Guineas

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Wide open renewal this year – a shame that my long term ante-post pick Highland Reel isn’t going to run. So I had to look for an alternative. I felt seriously tempted to take the 7/2 available for Gleneagles this morning. He was so much shorter earlier the week, but has now been pushed out to an attractive looking price.

Gleneagles has been a brilliant, precocious juvenile, a winner of five of his six career starts. His trademark turn of foot saw him beating good rivals in in multiple Group races, including the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh – the top 2yo race in Ireland.

He’ll be primed for the race today. It is his big target and he should have a good chance to go close. That says later the year I would expect others to improve past him. And what about today? Well, I feel already in this Guineas field there might be enough rivals able to improve to a level close- if not better. He can be beaten and after all he is a fair price, but there are alternatives.

Stable mate Ol’ Man River is equally a very attractive prospect. He is out of a 1.000 Guineas winning mare. Question mark is his sire: Montjeu. His offspring usually doesn’t quite excel over 1m at the highest level. At 8/1 I can oppose him.

Estidhkaar is the hype horse. I know many like him – I don’t Personally I can’t believe his recent strong seasonal reappearance in the Greenham until confirmed again. Today is his chance to do so. That race was a strange one and I thought he doesn’t look like one likely to improve an awful lotfrom what he has done as a juvenile. The jury is out on him today.

I’m not sure if Ivawood truly stays the trip. He finished okayish in 3rd in the Greenham but more is required here. Elm Park has the Derby on the forefront of his mind and conditions today may not suit.

The one I feel is really overpriced is the exciting Roger Varian inmate Intilaaq. Lightly raced – he had only one start as a juvenile, and repapered at Newbury last month for his second career outing. Always in front, he set a frenetic pace and produced a dramatic turn of foot to win easily. Albeit only a maiden race, ordinary horses don’t do that.

This was a mightily impressive performance and he is bound to improve quite a bit. He is lovely bred and should be able to progress with time and age. That’s what his pedigree is pointing to. It’s a tough ask nonetheless for an inexperienced horse to go to Newmarket and try to win a Guineas. That days Intilaaq seems to be an extremely talented individual and he has a better chance of winning the race than his price suggests.

3.45 Newmarket: 2.000 Guineas
Intilaaq @ 11/1 PP – 5pts win

Azmaam’s overpriced in Newmarket Stakes

Newmarket Rowley Mile

With Aiden O’Brien’s Aloft out, this looks a strange little race. Nothing really sticks out and everything depends on the potential improvement to come from each individual runner. That says on pure form I believe Azmaam is hugely overpriced. This lightly raced Dark Angel colt is bound to run a big race!

His three year old campaign started in the 200k Tattersalls Millions over course and distance last montj. Azmaam was a fair juvenile but went with clear doubts about his stamina into this race. He travelled like a dream though, but didn’t get a run whatsoever until the final furlong marker when he got finally into the clear, albeit only briefly, producing an instant turn of foot which looked like to be a decisive move, just to run out off room again soon after.

It’s fair to say that with a clear run he probably would have won. The winner of the race went on to finish a creditable runner-up in a Group 3 subsequently, so this form looks not a bad one at all.

Same conditions here for this 1m 2f contest at Newmarket and Azmaam must have a big chance to win this if he is in the same kind of form and can get a clearer run this time.

Newmarket Stakes (Listed), 1m 2f
Azmaam @ 7/2 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Amazing Speed can live up to her name

Wet Dundalk Polytrack

Punchestown is truly alive! Some great jump racing all along, though a shame that Hurricane Fly didn’t quite get home strongly enough to beat old foe Jezki in the big 3m Hurdle. He remains a hero nonetheless, but probably deserves his retirement now. Anyway, betting wise I concentrate on the flat these days and there is a very interesting maiden at Lingfield’s All-Weather taking place….

4.10 Lingfield: Maiden 7 furlongs

A hot little race – I’m most interested in Godolphin’s Amazing Speed, though. This big, scopy filly is really well bred and no doubt will get much further in time. She should be good enough to get off the mark in a maiden over the seven furlong trip, however I hope. She really caught my eye in a competitive maiden over the same distance at Newmarket during the Craven meeting.

She didn’t quite enjoy the run of the race from her position further back in the field and was a bit short of room around 2f out. She had to switch in order to get a clear run but showed greenness, which is no surprise on her debut run. But the way she finished the race under a light hands and heels ride was utterly impressive.

Jockey James Doyle has only this one ride tomorrow, and that in itself is telling. They must rate the filly highly and I would hope for a big performance tomorrow, also given the fact that she should relish the All-Weather given her pedigree.

Amazing Speed @ 2/1 Paddy Power – 10pts win

Horse Racing Around The Globe

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