Tag Archives: Aiden O’Brien

Breeders’s Cup Turf 2022 Preview

8.40 Keeneland (USA): Grade 1; 1m 4f

This renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Turf doesn’t appear to have the same quality as in previous years. As a consequence it’s wide open. A full field, a tight track and likely fast ground will make for an exciting race, though.

Two horses trained by Charlie Appleby head the betting market. Nations Pride is currently favoured – one can see why. The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a highly successful season, winning four races, and lately went back-to-back in Grade 1 company in the US.

Nations Pride only got beaten this year in the Epsom Derby and in the Belmont Derby when an unlucky runner-up . At the same time he clearly proved versatility, a preference for fast ground and the ability to sit handy and quicken nicely when asked to change gear.

Those are all characteristics that do enhance his chances. He’s a fair favourite in my view. But also beatable. Nations Pride is no superstar.

Otherwise he wouldn’t have been running in the US so often this season. This US form isn’t always easy to quantify, but almost never on par with European top-level competition.

Nations Pride’s European form is solid but hard to be too excited about. Also: in six starts outside the US his career-best speed rating is a modest 89 figure, dating back to his sole run at Meydan.

A #7 gate isn’t ideal here. He may have to spend quite a bit of energy if the aim is a prominent racing position. Otherwise he may be too far back in the field. He’s not always a sharp starter, either. It’s a tricky situation for William Buick in the saddle. At 11/4 I give Nations pride a miss.

Stable mate Rebel’s Romance comes here in red hot form. He landed the two most important Group 1 races in Germany lately, doing so in fine style, as he got the better of German Derby winner Samarko along the way – personally I really rate the German colt.

Unbeaten in his last four starts, he stays the trip and is fine on fast ground. However, his career-best on the rating front dates back to last year, at Meydan; how the recent soft ground form from Germany truly translates to Keeneland is a bit of a question mark. I have some doubts.

A year ago Mishriff would likely have been a red hot favourite in this race. This time he’s a 6/1 shot. Unlucky in the Coral Eclipse at the start of his season, he never looked the same horse again.

Drawn in #11, blinkers on for the first time in his career; this me strike as a somewhat desperate move. I struggle to find him attractive in these circumstances.

Broome has a good draw, in comparison. The six-year-old continues to run well at the highest level. He was an impressive winner of the Hardwick Stakes at Royal Ascot, and wasn’t disgraced in the Arc when last seen on unsuitable ground.

He’ll be a solid place chance if he doesn’t miss the break, which he’s now done a couple of times.

It’s difficult for me to properly assess the form of the home squad. The mare War Like Goddess looked pretty good – although, not brilliant – when landing the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic four weeks ago. She’s likely to be up with the pace from the #2 gate. Hence must rate a competitive chance.

Nonetheless, for betting purposes I’ll stick with the horses I know well enough to make a proper assessment.

With that in mind, the one that I was thinking about all week for this race was the other Aiden O’Brien runner, Stone Age. In truth: generally I am not a massive fan of him, opposed him at every opportunity this year.

However, I have come to the conclusion that he’s going to be a huge runner against this opposition in these circumstances, and certainly appears to be significantly overpriced.

Stone Age has a lovely draw to attack the race from. He’s Ryan Moore’s choice, who knows him well. The 3-year-old colt likes to race bang up with the pace, and can also make it all, as often seen this season. From the #3 gate he’ll be right there towards the front of the race.

I’m pretty sure if you sit more than four lengths off the pace with three furlongs to go your chances are doomed in this race. Stone Age will be right in the mix. He’s not the best horse in the race. But he may well be the one most favoured by circumstances.

He’s been to the US twice this year. On both occasions he ran with plenty of credit, as he had to overcome wide draws. Both Saratoga- and Belmont Derby runs can be upgraded. So can be his last two performances at the highest level against top-class opposition in the Irish- and British Champions Stakes.

He led the field in those races, possibly did too much too soon, but wasn’t all that far beaten in the end, in either instance. I believe he will enjoy the better ground at Keeneland – in combination with the track and his draw, it’s a real positive. And this is a much easier race than the rivals he countered the last two times.

Let’s not forget Stone Age was once a highly fancied Derby shot. Obviously, he’s not that good. Certainly I never thought he was. His speed ratings are consistently not good enough to be considered a proper Group 1 horse in Europe, too.

Yet, here I am: strongly fancying Stone Age. He’s got a proper chance for Group 1 glory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This race will suit him more than most in the field. He has the stamina, the finishing kick, the draw and won’t mind the ground.

10pts win – Stone Age @ 9/1

Dewhurst Stakes Preview

3.00 Newmarket: Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes, 7f

Nostalgia is in the air with Sir Michael Stoute’s exciting colt Nostrum heading the betting market in a bid to land a first Juvenile Group 1 victory for the trainer in nearly two decades.

The son of Kingman has been exciting in his two career runs to date, especially when he followed up on a fine debut with his first Group success in excellent style over course and distance a fortnight ago.

He’s one of the more inexperienced colts in the field, though, and hasn’t set the world alight on speed ratings in those two runs. He’s short enough a price for me to happily take him on.

Much more experienced is the second colt running in the famous Juddmonte colours today: Chaldean. He’s got four runs and a hat-trick of wins to his name, including a visually impressive victory in the Champagne Stakes last month at Doncaster.

A late May colt by Frankel, he is somewhat surprisingly precocious, and is sure to improve again. A career best topspeed rating of 88 is slightly off-putting, given he had ample opportunity to run fast.

Naval Power is Godolphin’s sole chance today. Unbeaten in four starts, he steps up significantly in class, after two recent Listed victories. I can’t help but feel he may be outclassed over this trip against top-class opposition. His best topspeed of 81 is nowhere near good enough – normally; certainly not be fancied to win a Dewhurst.

Aiden O’Brien has won five of the last ten renewals of the Dewhurst. Therefore it’s a little odd when his sole entry Aesop’s Fables appears to be rather ignored in the betting.

Perhaps recency bias is at play here, given the son of No Nay Never disappointed as an odds-on shot in the National Stakes at the Curragh four weeks ago. There is plenty of reason to forgive him that performance, though.

Heavy ground was unlikely to have suited and the run may came too soon after his impressive victory in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes. That day in August Aesop’s Fables was ultra-impressive how he stormed home in the final furlong at the Curragh.

He ran to topspeed 97 and beat two solid stable mates easily. With better ground and more experience he looks open to significant improvement. of At given prices it seems a no brainer to back him, in my view.

From the three outsiders in the field, Royal Scotsman makes some appeal. He won the Coventry Stakes this summer, has experience on his side and could be a big runner if he is back to that sort of form. It’s not impossible that he can stretch out over the additional furlong as his dam won over 7 furlongs. The recent dip in form is worrying, though.

Hence, I’ll stick with Aesop’s Fables. Others may have sexier profiles, but his trainers record speaks for itself. I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt after the most recent disappointment – if solely judged on his first two career run, he looks a huge price to back.

10pts win – Aesop’s Fables @ 7/1

Sunday Selections: 11th September 2022

3.55 Doncaster: Group 1 St. Leger, 1m6½f

New London is the right favourite. I’ve followed his season with joy, given he was one of my 5 To Follow for the season as well. He’s gone from strengths to strengths and will have a good chance to win this Classic.

This isn’t a vintage renewal and New London has got the strongest form in the book, plus has beaten some of todays rivals already – therefore it’s easy to see why he is clear at the top of the betting.

It’s hard to argue that his Gordon Stakes victory is a key piece of form that makes him the one to beat today.

Yet, I have some reservations over the combination of trip and ground. New London has got a fair chance to stay, though stamina isn’t a certainty over the Leger trip.

More so, his best performances came on fast ground. While It won’t be bottomless today, there is going to be significant give in ground, nonetheless. The price suggests there are zero worries about either parameter. I have concerns and with that in mind have to oppose him at this short price.

My clear number two on the shortlist is Hoo Ya Mal. A surprise runner-up in the Derby, he was subsequently third behind New London in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

On the surface he was fair and square beaten that day. Nonetheless, in my view he is much more closly matched with the favourite than the final result of that race and the price difference in the betting today suggest.

In the Gordon Stakes Hoo Ya Mal seriously caught my eye, in fact. He improved in fine style from five furlongs out; he made rapid progress in the home straight and hit the front two furlongs from home. Ultimately, he paid the price in the closing stages for this huge but inefficient effort.

Plenty has been made of Hoo Ya Mal’s subsequent and most recent victory in the March Stakes. It was a workmanlike performance, rather than a fleshy effort against inferior rivals workmanlike style. But he showed enough to enhance his reputation in my book: he produced a solid change of gear and proved his stamina.

It was a lovely Leger prep, I feel.. Everything points to a big run today. The trip will suit. The ground is unlikely to pose an issue. Different ground conditions and the additional distance could easily see Hoo Ya Mal turn the table with New London.

He’s also closely matched on topspeed with the Godolphin horse: 107 for Hoo Ya Mal’s Derby run; 108 for new London’s victory at Goodwood.

I struggle to make a serious case for other horses in the race. The “hype horse” Haskoy has to prove her class significantly up in class. Eldar Eldarov could improve back over this sort of trip. But I don’t rate him a better chance than Hoo Ya Mal.

Emily Dickinson looks a huge price, and has a solid each-way chance I feel. She stays the trip, has the pedigree and clearly talent; with ease in the ground she may find a bit of improvement, and that would make her dangerous.

10pts win – Hoo Ya Mal @ 8.6

……..

1.15 Curragh: Premier Handicap, 6f

Top-weight Power Under must carry a huge weight in this race. The jury is out whether he’s truly as good as his current 110 Official Rating. However, with soft ground sure to suit, I believe in these type of conditions there’s every chance he is that good, and perhaps a few pound better, in fact.

It has to be, if he should go close today. In saying that, if that turns out to be a correct assessment he’ll be a huge runner in this Premier Handicap.

The 4-year-old caught my eye when last seen over this course and distance. He finished third that day but fared best of those up with the pace. The form looks strong, with the winner holding his own in Group races subsequently, and the runner-up winning a Handicap off a big weight.

One can discount his penultimate run in Group 2 class when he welt, but he was strong in the finish landing a Cork Listed sprint. he seems to do well off breaks, so not having run since June isn’t a concern.

Power Under Me has yet to run to a noteworthy topspeed rating. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though. Today he’s got a super chance: a group horse in a Handicap….

10pts win – Power Under Me @ 10/1

……..

2.25 Curragh: Group 1 Flying Five, 5f

As intriguing as this contest is, especially with Highfield Princess and her wonderful success story this season, the market overestimates her chances today, I feel.

She may well struggle after all her recent exertions on the deep ground likely encountered up the Curragh straight. She handles the going, no doubt, but I firmly believe the rain does suit A Case Of You much more.

Especially over the minimum trip, as A Case Of You holds the strongest piece of form in these conditions – his Longchamp victory from last October in heavy going, awarded a 114 topspeed rating, gives him an outstanding chance if he can be in the same form today.

He was an excellent runner-up in the Flying Five 12 months ago, before landing the Prix de l’Abbaye in dramatic fashion. He proved that wasn’t a fluke when winning the Al Quoz sprint at Meydan earlier this year.

Since then two lesser performances raise a few question marks. But with conditions sure to suit today, a fresh A Case Of You should be hard to beat.

10pts win – A Case Of You @ 8.4

Preview: Irish Champions Day 2022

Irish Champions Weekend is here. Always a superb two days of top-class racing. Especially Saturday at Lepordstown on a sunny Saturday is probably one of my favourite days for going racing.

I won’t go myself today, unfortunately. But certainly can’t wait to watch the action later on from the comfort of the living room. The sun is shining here where I live, not all that far from Leopardstown. I envy all those lucky folks who can make their way to the track this afternoon.

As for the racing: naturally my eyes are drawn to the Champion Stakes. It looks a fine renewal on paper. Soft ground isn’t ideal, nonetheless the right horse are here to compete. From a betting perspective I also am keen on the subsequent Solonaway Stakes, precisely because the going is soft.

…….

3.45: Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, 1 mile 2f

French superstar Vadeni is favourite to follow in the footsteps of Almanzor, who won the 2016 edition of the Irish Champion Stakes for Jean-Claude Rouget and Christophe Soumillon.

The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a sensational season to date: runaway winner in the French Derby, and subsequently a dramatic victory in the Eclipse at Sandown.

He enjoyed a break in the meantime and is now back to go and win the long-term target connections set out for the season.

Vadeni’s brilliant ability to change gear in an instant, tactical versatility, ability to handle soft ground and weight allowance he receives from his elders makes him fair favourite in the betting market and also in my book.

Yet, I do wonder whether the soft going may take the sting out of his turn of foot. Yes, he won the French Derby in similar conditions, but he meets much better opposition today and my feeling is he’s a seriously better horse on decent ground.

Also he meets some of the older rivals on worse weight terms than at Sandown. That may not be an issue, as Vadeni should have improved physically too – it’s somewhat nit-picking; you have to be, though. In such a competitive field, when the favourite is such a short price.

This years 2000 Guineas runner-up Luxembourg endured troubled campaign. He missed the Derby and only returned to the track about four weeks ago in a Group 3 at the Curragh. He got the job done, without sparkling, but is expected to come on for the run a lot.

You certainly can bet on seeing a better version of Luxembourg today than in August. Whether it’s going to be enough to win an Irish Champion Stakes is a different matter.

The trip will suit, the ground isn’t ideal but he handles it. Yet, he’s far from outstanding on topspeed, with his career best going back twelve month – 102 in the Beresford Stakes. He’s got a bit to find with most of his rivals today. He could have the ability to do so, mind.

Stable mates Stone Age and Broome are intriguing runners. The feeling is Stone Age has more to offer than what he has shown since landing the Derby Trial over this course and distance back in May.

Broome won at Royal Ascot this summer, was then unlucky when last seen at Saratoga. An easy lead for him would be a dangerous scenario.

Don’t underestimate Alenquer. He was a dramatic winner of what was perhaps the race of the season, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, back in May at the Curragh. He wasn’t disgraced at Sandown in the Eclipse the next time despite finishing last, and comes here fresh.

Grand Prix de Paris winner Onesto provides a second chance for French connections. The drop in trip may not be ideal, but on ground soft it may not be a big deal. He probably can be marked up for his French Derby 6th place finish and seems to improve at the right time of the year.

Underestimate Mishriff at your peril. Now a 5-year-old, he may not be quite as good as he was last season, but he still runs to a seriously high standard. He was arguably the most unfortunate runner-up in the Eclipse back in June. It’s fair to say if the gap doesn’t close for him when it did then, he probably beats Vadeni on the day.

There are valid excuses for his poor subsequent performance in the King George. He’s better judged on his fine runner-up effort behind superstar colt Baaeed in the Juddmonte International Stakes. Mishriff didn’t stand a chance with Baaeed, but who would?

Yet, this second place finish is still the best performance this season by any runner in this Irish Champions Stakes field on ratings: it was worthy of a 111 topspeed rating and 124 Racingpost Rating – both the highest achieved this season.

Soft ground isn’t quite ideal, though. Mishriff’s best performances all come on decent ground. Nonetheless, he handles it. The drop to 10 furlongs is sure to suit.

Selection:

The ground should be the leveler, I feel. There are plenty of reasons to like Vadeni, yet he’s a short enough price in a race with solid alternatives. Fellow French raider Onesto makes plenty of appeal on prices.

But in summary I must give Mishriff the nod. He’s a superb price, given he’s probably the best horse in the race. He showed signs of brilliance and signs of the opposite this season. Let’s hope he can run one more time to his best. His best will be good enough to win.

10pts win – Mishriff @ 5.3

………

4.20: Group 2 Solonaway Stakes, 1 mile

Many intriguing contenders here, without a real standout chance in my view. Even though, I feel Boundless Ocean could be too good in this field if he can show his best on the soft ground.

British raider Jadoomi relishes ease in the ground and improved nicely this season, having won two on the bounce, including the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood when last seen. His best topspeed of 88 doesn’t scream short-price favourite, though.

After 367 days off the track the filly Just Beautiful is back. She was highly progressive as a 3-year-old, won five of her seven career runs and could easily improve to a level good enough to land this race. The question marks of race fitness and ground suitability are off-putting, nonetheless, especially at the current odds.

One who is certain to be seen to his best in these conditions is Raadobarg. I was waiting for him to get another chance in a race with plenty of cut in the ground. He ran better this year than bare form may suggest.

He won two on the bounce at the beginning of the season, was then desperately unlucky in a Listed contest at Longchamp, before finishing well from off the pace in the Celebration Stake at the Curragh when not advantaged by his racing position. He ran a better race than the 5¼ lengths margin behind Boundless Ocean in the Desmond Stakes suggested.

Raadobarg has to improve on ratings to seriously feature. His best 92 topspeed is solid in this field, but no more. However, with the right ground conditions, possibly a positive right from the #1 draw, he could find that bit of extra. If he does he’s quite a bit overpriced.

10pts win – Raadobarg @ 6.8

German Oaks 2022 Preview

There’s every chance a filly is the best horse in Germany’s classic generation this year. And that says something, given Derby hero Sammarco looks a special colt.

Nonetheless, it was the filly Wagnis who took on the colts in the Derby, who seriously caught my eye that day at Hamburg. With Holly Doyle in the saddle she was fancied in the betting but ultimately encountered the most horrible run from the widest draw in stall 20.

She had to race in rear of the field, which was no advantage at all, and had way too much to do turning for home. Just before the home straight entering the final bend Wagnis stumbled badly and nearly threw Holly Doyle off. The pair recovered, made rapid progress toward inside just to find no room to manouver over 1 furlong out.

Given the circumstances Wagnis confirmed the incredible promise she showed weeks earlier in the Group 3 Diane Trial at Hoppegarten. Then she produced a serious turn of foot to win in style, leaving some solid opposition behind.

It was this dazzling performance so that made connections believe she is good enough to take on the boys in the Derby.

Wagnis is clearly a temperamental filly at the same time. Not an easy ride. She can mess up at the start. She can pull hard. She can find trouble.

That’s a real concern today, where we have with Nachtrose a highly talented and uncomplicated filly, who can go from the front and will stay all day and night.

Nachtrose was a fine winner of the Oaks d’Italia. That was only her third lifetime start, after getting off the mark in a maiden at Munich in April.

She is progressing rapidly and has formally the strongest winning form in this field, given the Italian Oaks are a Group 2. There’s every chance she can improve again. And if she does she may be hard to catch.

In addition Nachtrose has been handed a huge advantage with stall #3. She will get the run she wants, most likely prominent, tracking the pace, if not even attempting to make all.

I don’t rate Toy, Aiden O’Brien’s runner. She improved quite dramatically when a good runner-up in the Irish Derby. But it was a decimated field that day and she doesn’t possess the class some others in this field do.

Well Disposed was a fine winner of the Group 3 Mehl Mulhens-Trophy on the Derby card at Hamburg when last seen. She could improve again but was well beaten by Wagnis in the Diane Trial.

From the bigger prices I give Toscana Belle a solid each-way chance. She changed yards recently, after running on quite well n the Diane Trial. The additional furlong will suit today.

But it’s Wagnis I must go with. She is too big a price. She will need some luck, given most likely she will come from off the pace. I imagine there’ll be a good pace, which will suit, though. It’s a smaller field than at Hamburg, which is a positive too. I have no doubt she is the most talented filly in the race. Here’s hoping she can prove it today.

There is a livestream for Düsseldorf here.

10pts win – Wagnis @ 13/2

Saturday Selections: 16th July 2022

2.56 Newbury: Group 3 Hackwood Stakes, 6f

Highly competitive affair. Pace will decide the outcome. My conclusion is the race will likely develop towards the lower drawn horses and that means some of the better fancied runners drawn high would need career-best performances to win.

The obvious choice, drawn in #2 is Rohaan, after his tremendous Royal Ascot performance. He has the form, the topspeed and the draw. He may be able to benefit from trailing a fast pace to be unleashed late with a turn of foot. Not sure whether the scenario today will really suit him, though at this track. Those in front may not stop so quickly. He looks a fair price but nothing better.

Chil Chil is really intriguing. Has top form on the book and ran to topspeed 103 two times in a row when last seen in even hotter class. If close to that form after a long break she’s the one to beat, but it’s exactly the long break that put me off.

Happy Romance is in fine form. She’s been running well all year long. Only 2 lengths beaten in the Jubilee Stakes, she couldn’t follow up at Newmarket, but had the worst draw to overcome that day. #10 today isn’t ideal either; no juice left in the price.

I can’t quite trust Minzaal after two solid but not exciting showings this year, especially with his best form coming on slower ground. Man Of Promise needs to step up significantly to feature. Not impossible but do I want to back a 5-year-old sprinter in the hope he suddenly finds 5-10lb on speed ratings? No.

The one I like against the grain is Saint Lawrence. He caught my eye earlier this year on his seasonal return at Newmarket over the minimum trip after a wind operation during his lay-off.

He finished really nicely that day in a race that looks pretty solid form, even though 5 furlongs is clearly way too hot for him. He stayed over this trip the next two times, neither disgraced at Chantilly and certainly not in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

It was seriously impressive how Saint Lawrence stuck to the task in the final furlong, posting the second fastest final furlong split, even though he looked going backwards from over two furlongs out, given things happened simply too quickly for him.

Fast ground is what he wants and no doubt he’s in top form. Moving up to 6 furlongs is only a positive. I reckon he’s actually best over 7 furlongs, but given his #4 draw, the pace scenario here and good Newbury record I am happy to back him at a big price to outrun the odds.

10pts win – Saint Lawrence @ 17/1

……..

3.10 Curragh: Group 2 Sapphire Stakes, 5f

The top two in the market should fight this out. Mooneista and Equilateral are the clear stand out horses in the field in my view, even though official ratings would make you believe Castle Star and Cadamosto have equal or better chances to feature.

Castle Star certainly has every right to go close after a strong runner-up performance behind Perfect Power at Royal Ascot. But 5 furlongs could be plenty sharp enough, especially on fast ground after a long break, and after seven career starts his highest topspeed ratings stands at 99. Nothing too exciting.

Cadamosto was 4th in the Commonwealth Cup, had no chance in the July Cup and has an inflated Official Rating in my view. His best topspeed is 88. He could take a step forward, of course. It has to be giant one to land a blow here against the well fancied older sprinters.

Mooneista is a class act. Highly consistent, ran multiple times really well this season already, without getting her head in front. This is easier than at Royal Ascot but her poor strike rate doesn’t make me want to back her at a tight price.

As many others I was fuming on front of the telly when Equilateral got the most horrible run at Sandown a fortnight ago. He’s obviously in excellent form, having ran really well in the King’s Stand Stakes on his seasonal reappearance.

He’s the one to beat today. Ground, track and trip will probably suit. He’s short enough a price given I am not sure whether he’s gonna be held up or tracking the pace today. I feel you are going to struggle coming from off the pace today.

The prices tracks into a direction that says “no hope” but it simply is a silly price on offer for New York City. On any measure he isn’t that far away from the market principles.

He was disappointing as 6/5 favourite in a Group 3 at Naas latest. He didn’t travel overly well, looked perhaps a bit distracted too. He won really well at Navan before that though and ran to topspeed 100 that day.

Blinkers on an drop to the minimum trip on fast ground at the Curragh with the stiff finish should suit perfectly. Wayne Lordan on board is not so much a negative given he’s riding plenty of winners at the moment.

New York City is not a superstar and unlikely to develop into a proper Group 1 sprinter. But this is a wide open race if the two market principles don’t fire.

10pts win – New York City @ 18.5