Tag Archives: Aiden O’Brien

Juddmonte International Stakes 2021

I feel like saying this about nearly all the major races this season, but seriously: the Juddmonte International probably is the race of the year!

Seven runners – one could say “only” seven runners – although, this is a select group of top-class equine athletes: not a single horse is rated lower than 110.

Still, only one horse can win the big prize. The two least likely in my view are Juan Elcano and Alenquer. The latter clearly is a classy individual with potential upside now dropped to what should be his optimum trip. But he’s only posted a career-best 96 topspeed rating so far, seems to rely on cut in the ground and is the lowest rated individual here – for a good reason, I firmly believe.

Juan Elcano’s performance in the York Stakes over course and distance, when a close runner-up in a thrilling finish behind Bangkok, is certainly not to be taken lightly. However, I feel he was slightly flattered due to the slow pace and his prominent racing position throughout. With that in mind, he’s not quite Group 1 standard and hard to fancy.

Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney is an interesting horse. His career-highest topspeed rating is not good enough to feature here, but the brilliant juvenile he was, he has proven to have trained on as a three-year-old and the Juddmonte trip could turn out be the ideal test for him. He has to bounce back, though, which isn’t impossible given the magician trainer Jim Bolger is.

The three-year-old filly Alcohol Free has been sensational this year. She has improved dramatically. Her latest victory, a dominant win in the Sussex Stakes, has only enhanced her reputation. At Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes she ran to a 106 topspeed rating, which gives her a prime chance today….. if she stays the trip.

It’s a big “if”, I think. To my eyes the mile looks the maximum for her. Add to that the small question mark around the faster ground and I struggle to see her getting home as strongly as she did over a mile on soft going.

The most intriguing contender today is Mohaafeth. He appeared to be potentially high-class on a number of occasions earlier this year. Connections took their time with him, increasing the difficulty of the test step by step.

Mohaafeth passed his assignments with flying colours, but stumbled for the first time in the York Stakes when upped to Group 2 level three weeks ago. This was perhaps less so his fault than that of race tactics as his pace maker completely failed to do his job. The race turned into a muddling affair which saw Mohaafeth at a major disadvantage given his retrained racing position.

It was hugely impressive, though, the way he made up ground rapidly in the home straight when it was most costly to buy it. A furlong out he seemed to fly home for a breathtaking victory, just to pay for subsequent sub 11 second furlongs in the end. for a half a lengths beaten third place behind Bangkok. In my view Mohaafeth’s credentials have only been enhanced by that performance, nonetheless.

The “super filly” Love drops down in trip after a gutsy third place in the King George, where things didn’t quite work out for her, although in any case, the winner Adayar was too good. Nonetheless, that was a top class race and Love ran to a 109 tospeed rating that day, close enough to her career-highest 110 TS rating, which suggests she is as good as ever.

That was her first defeat in five starts but she lost little in defeat. The Juddmonte trip could be perfect for her, with ground and track no worries whatsoever. She will be a key player today.

The same goes for top-rated Mishriff. Runner-up in the King George, which was a career-best performance, he improved nicely from a fine comeback run in the Coral Eclipse earlier this year.

He’s the favourite today, and has been consistent in the high level of his performances over the last two seasons. Ground and trip are no worries, though I feel, perhaps the Juddmonte trip with a little bit of juice in the ground would be the perfect scenario as opposed to the expected faster surface today. Nonetheless, the strengths and depth of his performances franked by form and ratings gives him a prime chance to land a third Group 1 victory.

In Conclusion:
Mishriff is the right and fair favourite. Top rated and top form in the book, His price is drifting this morning toward odds that could turn tasty. He’s the one beat. Love will run her usual strong race and she represents a safe bet around 10/3 to get as good a run for the money as it gets.

The “X-Factor” is Mohaafeth. He has plenty to find on the ratings but has shown serious talent this year and can improve again – which he has to, though. He’d be a much shorter price today if he’d had won the York Stakes, hence, given credible excuses for not getting over the line there, I feel he is a strong price at 7/1.

Sussex Stakes 2021

The rematch between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free: who can prevail in their third encounter? We’ll find out in the 2021 edition of the Sussex Stakes at picturesque Goodwood this afternoon.

Obviously this isn’t a two-horse race. The reigning 2000 Guineas- and St James’s Palace Stakes champ Poetic Flare is here too and is considered the short-priced favourite for the Sussex Stakes. Given his tremendously impressive CV there is every reason for him to be a key player today.

It was impossible not to be impressed by what he did at Royal Ascot. Some doubts where creeping in after two lower performances in the Irish & French Guineas, albeit he was beaten by exceptional opposition. Poetic Flare was back to his very best slaughtering a strong field in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

However, what is clear now is the fact that Poetic Flare enjoys fast ground and probably needs it to be seen at his best. He’ll handle anything soft but is not at his brilliant best in those type of conditions.

He will have to be at his very best today, I reckon. That is because the aforementioned Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free are improving all the time and can close the gap on Official Ratings with the help of ground they handle a lot better than Poetic Flare.

The evidence is in the book: Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in heavy conditions. She has been on an upward curve ever since the start of this season, kicking off her campaign with success in the the Fred Darling Stakes, after that she wasn’t disgraced as fifth in the 1000 Guineas, and then her big day came at Royal Ascot where she beat smart rivals like Guineas winner Mother Earth and Snow Lantern.

She followed up with another strong performance in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago, where she went down only in the dying stride to Mother Earth and the fast finishing Snow Lantern.

Snow Lantern was arguably the unlucky one in the Coronation Stakes. Her path blocked at a crucial stage, she stayed on in eye-catching fashion. For a moment or two it seemed to be the same story at Newmarket, only this time she got out in time and ran down the leaders in a dramatic finish.

She is still lightly raced with only a handful of runs under her belt while improving with every run as the season progresses. This is crucial now that she goes against older horses as this time of the year is where the WFA allowance can be a major advantage.

There is little between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free on any conceivable measure and both fillies continue to improve. It could come down to tactics: Alcohol Free is less complicated in the way she can be ridden. Snow Lantern needs to be ridden patiently and we saw this can be a problem. Thankfully Goodwood lends itself to hold-up tactics.

I firmly believe the three-year-olds have the advantage in the Sussex Stakes this year. The two fillies have prime chances, thanks to their progressive profile and their ability to handle softish ground really well. Poetic Flare, on the other hand, albeit not quite as good with cut in the ground, remains a formidable challenger.

The older horses are less exciting. Aiden O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez – although a runner-up performance in the Queen Anne Stakes rates fine form – and  Order Of Australia, the choice of Ryan Moore, appear exposed enough and may not be capable of giving weight away to superb younger rivals.

Tilsit has less mileage on the clock and is progressing nicely. He was a good winner of the Summer Mile when last seen. At the same time he locks just below top level and the fact he hasn’t run to a topspeed rating beyond 84 supports this notion.

Conclusion:
I find it hard to separate the two three-year-old fillies. They are incredibly closely matched on form and ratings. What tilts the scale toward Snow Lantern – certainly for me – is that she is progressing all the time with every run at the right time of the year. Goodwood will suit her perfectly, and simply from a price point of view she is a bigger and therefore highly attractive price at about 6/1 on the exchanges.

King George 2021

The 2021 edition of the King George has something special in store for us racing fans. The best of the older horses versus a strong classic generation.

Naturally all eyes are on Derby winner Adayar. He romped home at Epsom in stunning fashion. Was that a real performance? The form has been franked through third placed Hurricane Lane, who won races of the highest order in the meantime.

It was a strange race, nonetheless. The aforementioned Hurricane Lane lost a shoe, the favourite Bolshoi Ballet completely misfired and the runner-up was a maiden who was subsequently trounced in the Irish Derby.

Lone Eagle, second in the Irish Derby, is the other 3-year-old in the field. He got first run on his rivals at the Curragh and with two furlongs to go looked like to have won the race. Only in the dying strides was he caught by a fast finishing Hurricane Lane.

It was a thrilling finish and Lone Eagle didn’t lose anything in defeat. In fact, he achieved a 113 topspeed rating, which isn’t far behind the 116 rating Adayar received for his Derby victory. Topspeed-wise those are the two highest ratings on offer in the King George field.

The older generation is clearly lead by Love. The winner of the 1000 Guineas, English Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last year, and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on her seasonal reappearance last month, she’s also joint top-rated, together with Mishriff.

Love won’t mind the the step up to the 1m 4f trip. In fact, her career -best performance was the 2020 Oaks success. Mishriff on the other hand, although a winner of the Sheema Classic earlier this year, may be at his best over shorter distances.

He has to give weight away too. However, Mishriff ran with plenty of credit in the Coral Eclipse where he was third behind brilliant St Mark’s Basilica coming off a break. He should be in perfect shape today.

The ground won’t turn soft enough to provide the sort of deep conditions Wonderful Tonight prefers. She is a multiple Group 1 winner though, and looked in excellent form when landing the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, so can’t be taken lightly, regardless.

Broome was second behind Wonderful Tonight at Ascot. He has since won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He enjoyed the run of the race, though, and I think over 1m 4f he has plenty to find with the market principles.

Conclusion:
I strongly fancy the classic generation to get the better of their elders. That says I’m not fully sure if If trust Adayar’s Derby performance. However, Lone Eagle’s Irish Derby performance appears rock solid. He should be right up with the pace once more and could be able to hold on this time. Hence at prices around 6/1 I’ll go with Loyal Eagle to win it for Frankie and Martyn Meade.

…………

3:15 York: York Stakes, Group 2

The best form on paper belongs to Armory. The four-year-old drops in class after a fine effort at Royal Ascot when third behind stablemate Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. He is unbeaten in Group races below top level and has been placed in multiple Group 1’s.

His Royal Ascot performance can possibly be marked up due to the way the race developed, which wasn’t quite ideal for Armory. Consequently, he achieved a career-highest 119 Racingpost Rating. He won really well at Chester on his season reappearance back in May as well.

That means, however, Armory has to give weight away to his rivals. No less than 12lb to exciting 3-year-old Mohaafeth.

This son of Frankel is unbeaten in 2021, having progressed with each and every run. From, winning a Novice contest to a first Handicap, to landing the Listed Newmarket Stakes to bag a Group 3 at Royal Ascot.

His Newmarket victories were visually really impressive. In fact Mohaafeth won the Newmarket Stakes in such taking fashion that he was catapulted near the top of the Epsom Derby market.

The ground turning soft that day ended his Derby dream, but he made up for it weeks later at Royal Ascot. He had to start racing earlier than ideal and hang to the right in the closing stages.

He ran to a101 topspeed rating then, the highest any horse has achieved in the York Stakes field. In anticipation of more improvement to come and the weight he receives from his rivals, Mohaafeth looks certainly the one to beat.

Although, Juan Elcano shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. He has found back to the winning ways having responded to wind op. On the other hand it’s hard to see Montatham – likely employed as Mohaafeth’s pacemaker – or the other outsider Bangkok getting involved.

Conclusion:
As long as there isn’t any sufficient amount of rain it’s hard to look past the progressive Mohaafeth. He has things in his favour and looks the sort to improve again.

Falmouth Stakes 2021

An exciting rematch: the best three-year-old fillies battle it out over the mile as the first three home in the Coronation Stake go head-to-head.

Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Royal Ascot race, firmly putting stamina doubts to rest as she stormed home in desperate conditions.

The daughter of No Nay Never clearly confirmed all the promise she showed as a juvenile, having won two of her three starts this season, with the only blip coming in the ultra-competitive 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

As impressive as her Ascot performance was, ground conditions will be completely different today. She has solid form on a faster surface also, nonetheless that is a question mark.

Connections of Snow Lantern had every right to feel a little bit unlucky after the grey didn’t get quite a clear run in the closing stages at Royal Ascot. She clearly settled much better than when beaten as odds-on favourite at York a few weeks earlier, though, and that gave her a chance to finish fast in the end.

Her talent was never in doubt, though, and the supremely well-bred Snow Lantern is still open to any amount of improvement.

The same could be said about Primo Bacio, who got the better of Snow Lantern at York. She quickened in visually impressive manner, following-up on an eye-catching seasonal debut performance in the Fred Darling Stakes.

Can she step up to Group 1 level? We’ll find out today. As visually arresting her last run was, on topspeed ratings she has plenty to find with the market principles.

Aiden O’Brien throws only one dart today. His 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth finished 3rd in the Coronation Stakes and was also a fine runner-up in the French Guineas before that.

She was an excellent juvenile but has stepped up as a three-year-old again and represents consistency of the highest order. She lost nothing in defeat at Royal Ascot. In fact, in my view, she enhancer her claims to be considered the favourite today.

Mother Earth clearly benefited from better ground at Newmarket, and it’s only down to her class that she performs nearly as well on slow going. As impressive as Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern appeared visually in the Coronation Stakes, Mother Earth’s finishing speed % was actually better that day.

Flying the flag for the older generation is Duke Of Cambridge Stakes winner Indie Angel. Although that is good form and she won well, she is well exposed and probably a league below the required standard in order to feature against the strong classic generation.

Lady Bowthorpe was runner-up that day and her consistency gives her a chance on any given day. Nonetheless, she has something to find with the market principles.

Perhaps the dark horse is who could spring a surprise, given her 20/1 price tag, is the Joseph O’Brien trained Pretty Gorgeaus. I feel it’s too early to say she hasn’t trained on after two starts in heavy conditions this year.

it was certainly an improved showing at Royal Ascot, where she can be marked up given she was tracking a fast pace while the first three home were all ridden with a bit more restraint.

In conclusion: There is little to chose between the market principles in terms of form. If Alcohol Free or Snow Lantern can improve again remains to be seen. They will have to, though, as I strongly fancy Mother Earth to run a massive race on the better ground. Given current odds she is overpriced at 6/1+.

……………

2.40 York: G3 Summer Stakes, 6f

A quick selection to throw in here as Last Empire looks a silly price in a wide open race. She has to give weight away and was beaten by Light Refrain earlier this year and was bitterly disappointing when last seen.

Nonetheless, if you can forgive her Haydock run, then she is one the more consistent fillies and mares in this race, and one of the few who has multiple times ran fast enough – judged by topspeed ratings – to feature prominently in a race of this class.

Last Empire has ran multiple times to 90+ topspeed ratings, and her Kilvington Stakes runner-up performance back in May saw her clock a 96 rating once again, showing she is still capable to run a a high level.

The drift in her price is a worry, yet 20/1+ on offer is a silly price which I can’t let go.

Coral-Eclipse 2021

Only four runners. Yet the 2021 edition of the Coral Eclipse could easily turn out to be the race of the season. Three colts rated over 120 and the combined class of nine Group 1 victories!

Top rated Addeybb is back on home soil after yet another successful raid on the other side of the world, where he landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia.

It was a dramatic finish as he never gave up in first-time blinkers, answering the challenges from all sides to defend his crown.

The 7-year-old also won the British Champion Stakes in brilliant style last year. There are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon.

The only potential question mark – and that is being overly picky – is whether the ground is soft enough for Addeybb to produce his very best – which certainly will be required this afternoon.

Mishriff was a long way beaten in the 2020 British Champion Stakes, though I feel you can excuse that performance. Particularly given the fact the the four-year-old has only enhanced his claims ever since thanks to some brilliant victories on the international stage.

He got it done on dirt against strong US competition and followed up on turf in the Sheema Classic success at Meydan earlier this year. Mishriff, one could argue, is perhaps the best horse in the world right now.

The 2020 French Derby winner has shown an incredible versatility and ground independence, therefore won’t mind whatever way the ground this afternoon at Sandown.

Ballydoyle’s hopes rest on a single horse: French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica. Last years Dewhurst winner delivered a first Prix du Jockey Club for trainer Aiden O’Brien last month. Visually it was super impressive performance – although the strengths of the form could be questions.

Nonetheless, he clearly enjoyed the step up in trip that day as he travelled all over the field, still very much on the bridle two furlongs from home, and put the race to bed in a matter of strides then.

St Mark’s Basilica achieved a 106 topspeed rating at Chantilly that day, a career best that is also closely matched with the 107 rating Mishriff was awarded for his Sheema Classic victory.

Roger Varian’s colt El Drama completes the four-runner field. But it’s hard to see the Dee Stakes winner landing a blow against the big guns, given he has at least 11lb to find with them on official ratings.

In conclusion:
There is little to chose between the trio of St Mark’s Basilica, Mishriff and Adeybb. What tilts the scale in favour of the three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica -at least in my mind – is the 10lb weight-for-age allowance.

There is a good reason why it’s there. Yet, the Aiden O’Brien trained colt is certainly top-class and this significant weight allowance is a rather huge help against his elders. Hence, St Mark’s Basilica is my selection to win the 2021 Coral-Eclipse.

Epsom Derby 2021

Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose? Certainly!

The perfect draw, bred for the the unique test Epsom provides, plus the added confidence from camp Ballydoyle – Aiden O’Brien saddling only one runner is unusual as significant – it’s Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose.

This son of Galileo – the super daddy who fathered five Derby winners – remains unbeaten as a three-year-old and shot up the betting market after an almightily impressive 6 lengths romp in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

A performance where visuals were matched by the clock as an excellent 104 topspeed rating showed.

More likely than not Bolshoi Ballet will improve for the step up to the 1m 4f Derby trip. With that in mind, there are very few negatives for his chances and he looks a proper chance to follow in the footsteps of his prominent father.

One could be harsh and point out his wins this year were all achieved on decent ground and a softer surface could spell trouble. On the other hand, he proved last year to handle softer underfoot conditions. Whatever bit of juice is left in the Epsom ground this afternoon is unlikely to pose any issue for Bolshoi Ballet.

If nothing goes wrong during the race it’s hard to oppose him solely for win purposes.

Saying that, there are two other contenders who interest me from a betting perspective a bit more:

One is Mac Swiney. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner. Jim Bolger enjoys a tremendous season so far, landing both the British and Irish 2000 Guineas.

To me Mac Swiney always looked like a prospect better suited to middle distance than the mile. So the drop down to the Guineas trip after opening his season in a Derby trial was a brave move. Though, on the day the heavy going played into his hands, making it more a stamina than speed test.

Mac Swiney has shown his very best with plenty of juice in the ground. Even though he will surely improve for the trip, I have nagging doubts over the ground drying out a bit too quickly for him. Yes, the Derby is a stamina test, but Bolshoi Ballet is likely to stay all day long too and has a good turn of foot as well.

The drift in Mac Swiney’s price makes him an interesting each-way shot nonetheless. Yet, I’ll focus my investment in the Derby on one horse only – I am fairly sure Bolshoi Ballet’s key rival will be saddled by the “boys in blue”.

It’s debatable how much the Dante form is worth. On paper it looks less than exciting form. Nonetheless, Hurricane Lane showed enough to be considered the main rival for Bolshoi Ballet today.

Clearly he will find plenty of improvement for stepping up in trip. Winning the Dante was probably a bonus as much as it brought Hurricane Lane’s excellent attitude to the fore. It was obvious from over three furlongs out that he struggled for speed, appearing flat footed when the pace lifted significantly at York. But he stuck to his guns bravely to run out a gutsy victory in the end.

A topspeed figure of 100 for the Dante success is the second highest on offer in this field. That alone makes him a proper shot today.

The son of Frankel is out of mare who won over 2 miles, and he’s a full-brother to smart 1m 4f winner Frankel’s Storm. Even though we all have Frankel’s turn of foot in mind, as a sire he is a proven source of stamina.

Therefore, in my view, given Hurricane Lane ran so well in the Dante over a shorter trip, a performance backed up by topspeed, with further improvement assured over the Derby trip, he could have less to find with Bolshoi Ballet than the betting may suggest.

The draw isn’t quite where I would want it to be in an ideal world. Perhaps it won’t be too much of an issue, though: I expect Hurricane Lane to be ridden prominently anyway. As long as he settles well, all will be good.

Everything said, Bolshoi Ballet is a strong favourite to give Aiden O’Brien an Oaks & Derby double (Snowfall was a sensational winner on Friday). But at 13/2 Hurricane Lane looks like a viable alternative with more juice in the price for my liking.

Preview: Irish 1000 Guineas

Curragh

The Irish 1000 Guineas will rise and fall with the Jessica Harrington trained Albigna. The only top-level winner in the field has the best form in the book and will be hard to beat with natural improvement.

Albigna’s victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac is the strongest form on offer from last year – by far! Not to forget the classy filly was far from disgraced in the Moyglare or the Breeders’ Cup.

In a weak Guineas field there is no denying that she holds all the aces. The equation is a simple one: if the daughter of Zoffany can run to her juvenile form then she is more than likely to run away with the race this evening.

However – and I may repeat myself in all these Guineas previews over the last week – Albigna is an experienced individual, who saw a racecourse for the first time in May last year. There is every possibility that she was simply ahead of her rivals in terms of mind and body.

And given that the Guineas is held a month later than it usually is, there is a danger that others have been able to catch up with time and age on their side. In saying that that I also feel odds around 2/1 are entirely fair, if not even a tad generous.

Aiden O’Brien appears to have weaker hand than usual in the 1000 Guineas. None of his three fillies tasted success on Group level yet – that is rather unusual. But the lightly raced Peaceful may well be the biggest danger to Albigna I feel, as she caught my eye on a number of occasions last year and she could have any amount of improvement to come.

The most intriguing filly in my eyes, though, seems to be completely overlooked: that is the Michael Halford trained Ridenza. She is a huge price in a race that lacks depth.

The one-time raced Sea The Stars daughter is tremendously well bred, given her dam is the 2014 Debutante winner Raydara. She will probably stay further than the Guineas trip but makes appeal over a mile as well, certainly at the current price.

Ridenza lacks experience. She made a winning debut at Leopardstown in a seven furlong maiden last August and was put away ever since, not helped by an injury she sustained.

That piece of form looks strong: the fourth placed Lemista won a Group 3 earlier this year and the 9th of that race, Peaceful, won a Listed contest and is the 3/1 second favouite today.

In fairness, the Aiden O’Brien filly got a very light ride that day and looked to have tons left. Nonetheless it was really positive sign that Ridenza was able to win on debut, overcoming plenty of greenness over a trip that is possibly on the sharp side.

Trainer Michael Halford noted after the race that this was indeed Ridenza’s very first time away from home and even the first time of her tasting turf. He also mentioned that she has plenty of growing to do, which was probably the reason why we didn’t see her again as a juvenile.

He also described her as “a smart filly, very well bred and she’s always shown plenty at home” in addition to being quite hopeful that there is much more to come when she turns three.

Obviously there is a reason why Ridenza is a 18/1 chance today: how has she wintered? Has she trained on? Is she ready to go? is she over the injury? Is the trip potentially too sharp?

But at the same time, given her fantastic pedigree, that points to excellent form over the shorter distances as well, I’m inclined to give her a better chance than the odds suggest.

Selection:
10pts win – Ridenza @ 18/1

……….

Siskin Delight in Irish 2000 Guineas

It was an incredible victory for Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas last night. The favourite did it the hard way, having to fight for a gap to get out late and thunder home, beating the Aiden O’Brien “football team”.

If you read my race preview you know I had major doubts about his ability to stay the trip as well as actually being good enough as a three-year-old. He proved all doubters wrong. How well Siskin stayed the Curragh mile and ran strongly to the line, no care in the world for the uphill finish?!

There was a lot of love for Ger Lyons as well. For him it was a very first domestic Classic success. A man who always speaks so well, who is open and honest with the public, it was wonderful to see the man reduced to tears in the post-race interview.

Preview: Irish 2000 Guineas

DSC_2598

The Irish 2000 Guineas shapes as an intriguing contest, albeit a wide open one. Can ante-post favourite Siskin reward trainer Ger Lyons with a first domestic Classic success?

The 2020 renewal of the Irish 2000 Guineas, while intriguing, looks hardly a vintage Classic. There is no proven superstar here today – unlike in the English equivalent a few days ago – and given the delay of the season, the race has become an even trickier puzzle to solve.

More than half the field is trained by one man: Aiden O’Brien. While that isn’t anything new, it remains a sad fact that six of eleven runners come from the same yard in an Irish Classic.

Ante-Post Favourite:

The Ger Lyons trained Siskin is the ante-post favourite ever since he ended 2019 unbeaten. Four starts and four wins as a juvenile, with the highlight clearly a first Group 1 success when landing the Phoenix Stakes in August at the Curragh.

On form he is the horse to beat. However, only a week ago we saw that it’s never an easy task to carry over exceptional juvenile form to a classic season – particularly when achieved over shorter sprint distances – when facing rivals that have caught up physically and mentally.

With that in mind one could ask the very same questions as last week when wondering whether a precocious Pinatubo will be able to continue his incredible superiority.

Siskin started his juvenile campaign in May 2019. He raced four times over six furlongs before being put away for the winter after a final victory in the Phoenix Stakes back in August.

The key questions are obvious: Can Siskin improve? Will he stay additional two furlongs?

As mentioned last week in the English 2000 Guineas analysis, the fact that the Guineas is held much later than usual will have a significant impact on what type of horse it’ll suit. It certainly will give the precocious, early foals less an advantage than it does in any normal year. Siskin falls into this category.

On the stamina question: As a juvenile he never left the comfort of the 6 furlongs distance. That doesn’t mean he can’t stay a mile. However his sire First Defence was quite speedy himself and his offspring tends to perform best over shorter distances as well, with a noticeable decline in performance as they step up to a mile – in general terms.

Siskin’s dam stayed a mile, which is encouraging. So is Simon Rowland’s striding analysis that suggests he has a fair chance to stay the new trip.

Probably my biggest issue with Sisikin is that his form is far less impressive than four wins on the trot would usually suggest. He largely beat the same horses over and over again. Most depressingly, even though he had ample opportunity to run fast, he’s never done it.

A career-best 89 topspeed rating is not up to the standard of a top-class colt. Yes, these ratings aren’t the holy grail and have to be taken in the right context, but in my book they do continue to be a fine predictor of class and future success.

Having said that, I simply have to oppose Siskin as the Irish 2000 Guineas favourite. Mind, this isn’t an overly strong renewal. He has a fair chance to go close if he can find answers to the two key questions.

Aiden O’Brien Contenders:

From the comments AOB has made in recent days it feels like that Armory is Ballydoyle’s #1 here. And you can see why.

This son of Galileo was fast enough to win Group races over 7 furlongs, plus was a good runner-up, albeit a long way beaten, behind Pinatubo in the National Stakes and has already Group 1 form over a mile, when finishing third at Longchamp behind subsequent French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum.

He’ll likely stay further than the mile and should have a bit more to come once stepping up in trip. He ran already to a career-best topspeed rating of 95 and certainly wouldn’t mind any more rain (it has been raining a fair bit here in Kildare over the last 24 hours, and continues to do so as of writing).

Royal Lytham with first time blinkers is interesting stepping up to a trip that could suit on pedigree. He showed good form as a juvenile, in particular when staying on strongly to win the July at Stakes at Newmarket.

He got within a lengths of Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes when things didn’t quite worked his way. He’s an interesting horse but needs to find improvement as he’s yet to run particularly fast.

It’s hard to see Monarch Of Egypt to land a blow. He has a lot to find even with his stable mates. Fort Myers as a big price is a more compelling each-way contender if one wants to back one. His juvenile form is solid, if not spectacular. He should stay the mile and will appreciate if he ground stays decent.

Vatican City is an unknown quantity. A disappointing debut at Newmarket, followed by a visually impressive success on Dundalk’s All-Weather – what that form is worth is difficult to evaluate. Aiden O’Brien speaks fondly of the colt and he can improve any amount, so to speak.

In my view the most intriguing horse from team Ballydoyle is Lope Y Fernandez, though. He showed good form as a 2-year-old, in particular when a strong runner-up behind Pinatubo at Royal Ascot and he also stayed seven furlongs already.

He is a full brother to Al Hayyah who competed well in listed company up to the 1m 2f distance and his dam is a Listed placed miler.

Lope Y Fernandez has ran twice to 90+ topspeed ratings already, including a 95 rating, which is joint-best in this field. Although that is still a bit off a proper Group 1 winning horse, he looked like one in the making when winning the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh in excellent style, proving himself to be in a different league to the rest of the field in the Group 3 contest.

Also Running:

The unexposed Sinawann stayed a mile well last year already. He looks interesting given the clear indication that he’ll be a much better three-year-old. The son of Kingman will need to improve quite a bit if he wants to emulate his prominent father, but it’s not impossible that he does.

Jim Bolger’s colt Fiscal Rules lacks experience. It has be pointed out, though, that his runner-up debut behind Wichita reads really well, given how well the Aiden O’Brien trained ran at Newmarket last week. Yet, it’s a tall ask to be pitched right into a Classic with only a single start under his belt.

Also quite unexposed is the Jessica Harrington trained Free Solo. A fine winner on his second start last July, he hasn’t been seen yet. The yard is going strongly, so that is a positive. But it’s total guesswork whether this son of Showcasing is good enough to land a blow.

The Verdict:

Only one horse I am really interested in from a betting perspective: Lope Y Fernandez. The fact that he is an April foal who showed quite strong form as a juvenile already while giving the impression he may need a step up in trip to be seen to best effect, I have reasonable hope that he can find the required improvement to be a major player in the 2000 Guineas.

With that in mind he appears to be a bit overpriced for all that there are so many question marks over the other market principles.

Selection:
10pts win – Lope Y Fernandez @ 5/1 VC

Love is in the Air

Newmarket Rowley Mile

“She isn’t good enough.”

Well, I didn’t have much love for Love leading up to the 1000 Guineas and made that pretty clear in my preview when highlighting her lack of a top-class speed rating as well as the many opportunities she had to produce one. Concluding with the final assessment: “she isn’t good enough”. Some things don’t age well.

One had to love her willing attitude, though. Relentless galloping from the start, never too far off the pace, albeit drawn away from it and racing on the outside of the field wasn’t the most economical thing to do.

Ryan Moore kept it simple and that paid off for a filly bound to stay further. She was going away from her rivals in the final 100 yards, winning with authority in the end.

Albeit I maintain that this wasn’t a particularly good renewal. It’s one we’ll forget nearly as quickly as it took the fillies to finish the eight furlongs of the Rowley Mile.

Love showed little love for my selections. In fact she broke the heart of Cloak Of Spirits when finally passing her half a furlong from the finish. The big filly ran on for second place, but as I backed her win only at 17’s on the Exchanges, that was of no no help from a betting perspective. Raffle Prize was beaten halfway through the race.

……….

Moving forward I won’t post selections on a (near-) daily cadence throughout the flat season as done over the last years here with relative success.

Time doesn’t allow for it as life is really busy and analysing the racing in the way I need to in order to continue making a profit is time consuming alone, plus the added strain of actually finding places to get a sizable stake on in the races that I tend to bet in.

I want to keep focusing more on quality content as (hopefully) seen over the last week already. In saying that here and there I’ll send out a selection if I have enough time and found one I really want to share with the wider world.

……..

4.25 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

Hot race. Plenty of handicap debutants who also step up in trip. The majority have a fair chance to improve quite a bit for age and distance. You never know what you get in these races, who has trained on, who’s 100% ready and who’s truly well handicapped.

Yet I firmly believe Alargedram has a tremendous chance to land a first career victory. An opening mark of 72 could easily turn out to be lenient for this son of Lope De Vega who’s out of a mare who was listed placed over 1m 2f.

He caught my eye on two occasions last year in what appeared decent races. Particularly the Wolverhampton one looks solid, given those ahead of him that day are now rated in the 80’s and followed up with decent performances.

He ran on well under a light ride that day on the wide outside. I also thought he finished with plenty of credit on his final start at Windsor, when the going was pretty deep and he didn’t seem to enjoy that too much, yet finishing well enough. In all three starts he received rather sympathetic or educational rides in my view.

Alargedram looks a big boy with plenty of scope ready to improve rapidly now upped in trip. The fact connections paid 75k for him as 2-year-old after he was only a ten grand yearling shows he has improved quite a bit from what was originally thought of him.

That matches a comment the owners made some months ago, suggesting they think he’s going to be much better than his opening mark. I think so too. Ground will be fine, trip is good – only the wide draw is a slight concern, whether he will get a clear run in a field with twelve runners.

Selection:
10pts win – Alargedram @ 6/1 VC/SP/MB

Preview: 2000 Guineas 2020

kingman

The Guineas meeting at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile is an unusual affair this year: it’s staged behind closed doors with no crowds allowed. But it also takes place much later than its usual date at the end of April/beginning of May.

A solid four weeks delay can have a rather profound impact in the world of horse racing, particularly for the classic generation of horses. The reason is that three-year-old colts mature at different rates generally, but start to catch up during their three-year-old campaign with their elders. An individual that was still a little bit behind in the early Spring days may have come on nicely under the sun in June.

The more precocious types can have an advantage early in the season – this certainly shows in facts such as that only few May born colts have tackled the 2000 Guineas in recent times (also notably less April foals).

For example over the last two decades the winners were predominantly born in either January (6), February (6) or March (5), whereas they fall significantly for April (2), while not a single winner was born in May. Obviously not as many born in the later months contested in first place. That in itself already illustrates that the Guineas tends to suit horses that are naturally ahead of younger three-year-old colts.

If we take this a step further then it becomes apparent that a month can make a big difference in the life of a classic horse: the picture changes if you look at those that have won the Derby over the last two decades, run in June.

Compared to the Guineas, Derby winners are significantly less born in January (2) or February (4) but we notice a massive spike in March (10) foals. Also April (3) and and particularly May born colts (4) perform much stronger now.

The Derby is a longer distance and attracts different horses, so this isn’t quite a scientific comparison. usually only few Guineas horses make it to the Derby. But isn’t that a clue in itself as well? Quite clearly the Guineas – in normal circumstances – is suited to those older three-year-olds while the younger ones catch up as the weeks progress.

You frequently hear punters and racing experts say late foals need time to develop therefore the Guineas comes too soon and therefore they can’t be backed – this notion isn’t wrong as illustrated above. At the same it doesn’t apply nearly as much to the the 2020 edition of the 2000 Guineas as it does in most other years.

Pinatubo:

The odds-on and ante-post favourite is right in the sweet spot if it comes to his date of birth. He is also the top rated horse in the field, has been incredibly impressive as a juvenile and posted superb speed figures.

Opposing the son of Shamardal may look extremely foolish come Saturday afternoon. On pedigree the step up to a mile shouldn’t be an issue. Given the fact he ran so strongly to the line at the Curragh in the National Stakes, which has a notable uphill finish, as well as in the Dewhurst in soft conditions at Newmarket, I have little doubt that an additional furlong, particularly on fast ground, will cause any trouble.

On facts and figures based on two-year-old form Pinatubo is nearly impossible to oppose and one can argue should even be a good deal shorter in the betting.

What speaks against him? For a start: his juvenile campaign started in May last year. Quite early, which also points to him being rather precocious which is enhanced by the fact he’s ran six times in 2019.

It’s unlikely he’ll need to improve as he ran to such a high level already. If he would be still as good as last year, and stays a mile, he’d win the 2000 Guineas in most years. Begs the question: can Pinatubo run to the same or at least close to the same level as a 3-year-old? His sire stats are no confidence booster.

Shamardal colts at the age of three over the mile trip have a poor strike-rate, effectively winning only half of as many races as they should (A/E), perform particularly poorly in June, and the drop in performance from two- to three-year-old is – on average – quite significant.

Pinatubo is odds-on right now. Backing him at this price one needs to have full confidence that he’s not one of those Shamardal sons that regress as they get older.

For me there are enough reasons to oppose Pinatubo. As much as I would love to see him being the next superstar. Yet, I feel this is quite a deep 2000 Guineas field and others in the race have a lot of potential to improve in a way that the gap to him can be closed.

Arizona:

Somewhat a similar profile to Pinatubo as he showed plenty f talent as a juvenile – as well as born in February – when he landed the Coventry Stakes. Arizona performed strongly on top level for the rest of the year, including a runner-up performance behind Pinatubo in the Dewhurst, and an unlucky effort at the Breeders Cup.

How much better can Arizona be? His sire No Nay Never is inviting uncomfortable questions. His offspring doesn’t progress too well from two to three – albeit there is only a single season of evidence, to be fair – but there is a significant drop in performances for his 3-year-old colts. It looks particularly dire over a mile, even if we only allow for those that were fancied in the betting.

If I have these concerns about Arizona than it’s only right and fair to say Wichita has the the same sort of question marks to overcome. As an April foal with less mileage on the clock he has a better chance of improving. I don’t see that happening over the mile trip as the dam side is speedy enough.

Kameko:

He’s got a lovely profile. He stays the mile, has proven to deal sufficiently enough with fast ground and won the Futurity Stakes – albeit on the All-Weather – in fine style at the end of last year.

I am most impressed by the consistency of his efforts in four runs as a juvenile, because there is every chance he is going to be a better three-year-old. Kameko ran to topspeed ratings of 97 and 99 (2x) already, which is quite good, if not top class, but certainly a consistent level of strong form.

If he does improve as one would hope he does, the son of Kitten’s Joy is a major player, particularly as I feel he has miler written all over him. Saying that, Kameko will need to improve again in order to feature in this deep field.

Al Suhail:

There is a lot of stamina on the dam side, even though well bred, related to a couple of horses that showed their best definitely beyond a mile. For me that’s a real worry on fast ground, despite Al Suhail having form on it.

He ran a fast time when runner-up to Military March at the Rowley Mile when last seen. I rate that form. But it came on soft ground. I feel he’s more likely to be found out for speed here.

Military March:

He really impressed me in his two starts. Won the Autumn Stakes going away in the closing stages. Excellent topspeed rating awarded for that performance. One to keep an eye on this year.

On the other hand as a full-brother to Clongowes, who stayed two miles and needed well beyond a mile to win, I feel Military March will be outpaced when it matters most.

Royal Dornoch:

He was a surprise winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes. With that he has graded course and distance form to his name which is a big plus. He ran often as a juvenile but given he is an April foal things may simply took time to click. Is a dark horse in my view – if allowed to run on merit and not here on pacemaker duties.

Kenzai Warrior:

One to keep in mind for rainy days. He’ll appreciate the step up in trip, though may need even further to be seen to best effect. Most likely will appreciate significant cut in the ground. Will be taken off his feet on the likely fast ground.

Mums Tipple has sprinter written all over in my book but will be interesting to see what he can do given he posted that rather big 110 topspeed figure at York last summer. Juan Elcano is a solid prospect, likely over further than the mile. Shouldn’t bee good enough here, though.

Hard to see any of Cepheus, Persuasion, Starcat or New World Tapestry feature.

Kinross:

Seven month ago I was super bullish when stating Kinross will win the 2000 Guineas. Didn’t work out that well on that specific day in the Futurity Stakes where I backed him at short odds. Different story on Saturday?

When talking about Kinross one can’t forget this incredible Newmarket performance. Visually stunning. The turn of foot electric. You simply don’t see a newcomer all that often doing what he did that day.

The form looks good on the numbers too: the runner-up, Raaeb, was a 2nd in a Listed race earlier this year, then only behind subsequent, and rather unlucky Group 3 runner-up Malotru, and is now a 97 rated individual. Kinross beat him as easily as it gets by 8 lengths and could have won by more, if needed.

Not surprisingly but still remarkable – let’s not forget it was his very first official racecourse appearance – Kinross was awarded a topspeed rating of 100, which is extremely high for a debut performance.

He went to Newcastle as the hot favourite for the Futurity Stakes where he finished a 6¼ lengths beaten fifth. Disappointing. Big but: the surface probably didn’t suit, he was still seriously inexperienced which showed at the start and he received a huge bump mid-race which knocked him off his stride.

Kinross will have learned plenty that day. Besides, anything he did as a two-year-old was as bonus. He is a May foal and was always one with the next year in mind. The fact that the Guineas takes place in June as opposed to a month earlier can only be a positive for his chances.

Home reports are positive for what will be Ralph Beckett’s first 2000 Guineas runner! The likely fast ground, as well as the additional furlong, open further possibilities for more improvement. This is as exciting a prospect as I’ve seen in a long time.

Verdict:

Even though I make some hard calls on some of the runners, make no mistake: this is a really deep field. Quality colts who have proven to run fast as two-year-olds. Obviously we don’t know how they have trained on. There were no trials and even for trainers it’ll be hard to gauge how their horses measure up at this point in time.

Pinatubo is the right favourite. The best two-year old in a long time, he is a star and could confirm his status as the new superstar of the sport. But I have doubts that he can run to the same high level as he did last year. He’s short enough to take on.

The boys in blue have some interesting contenders, beside the obvious one already mentioned. None of team Ballydoyle excite me, on the other hand. Although, Royal Dornoch could outrun his price tag, if not on pacemaker duties and allowed to run on merit.

Futurity winner Kemko is a rock solid chance to run well and will be suited by the conditions.

My fate is tied to Kinross, naturally. I do feel he offers the greatest potential to make a gigantic step forward. He is a massive price, with the potential improvement not factored in at all.

I was at Newmarket when his sire Kingman was denied by Night Of Thunder (and also when he won the Irish Guineas subsequently). Here’s hoping his son Kinross can go one better.

Selection:
20200606nmk153507 10pts win – Kinross @ 14/1 VC Bet