Tag Archives: Aiden O’Brien

Preview: Woodbine Mile

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11.34 Woodbine: Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, 1m

A quick one for the night’s racing in Canada – after contemplating over it the whole day I finally came to the conclusion that Lancaster Bomber is a “good thing” in the Woodbine Mile.

If you draw a line through his Sussex Stakes run on unsuitable soft ground, you see a horse that has performed really well on quick surface this season in particular. An excellent 4th in the Guineas, when less than two lengths beaten by star miler Churchill and a runner-up effort in the St. James’s Palace Stakes qualifies as top class form.

Lancaster Bomber already has proven he does travel well too, as he was a fine 2nd in last years Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

With lightning quick ground a given at Woodbine today, he surly meet his optimum conditions. Slight concerns over the wide draw and the likelihood of rider Wayne Lordan putting up a couple of pounds overweight, as the lowest he has ridden in the last 12 months has been 8st 4lb.

That probably will erode some of the weight advantage, as Lancaster Bomber would otherwise receive up to 12lb by World Approval. Nonetheless, he still will have less to carry than any other individual in the field while potentially being the smartest horse in the race.

Selection: 
10pts win – Lancaster Bomber @ 4/1 William Hill

Chester Thoughts

The Chester Vase is often a good trial for the Derby, particularly if it comes to horses trained by Aiden O’Brien. He likes to bring his Derby hopes over to this awkward, ever turning track that tends to teach young, inexperienced horses allot.

So it was intriguing to see him running a whopping four in the Vase on Thursday. That implies AOB isn’t sure himself whether one of these actually is a real contender for the big one in June, I suspect.

As it panned out favourite Venice Beach won the race in fine enough style, though far from giving the impression that he’s an upcoming superstar. And that is pretty much in line with what the four times raced son of Galileo produced so far – his highest time speed rating until yesterday was a lowly 72. It’s fair to say, at this point in time, that despite his victory yesterday, he’s probably not the 2017 Derby winner.

Runner-up Wings Of Eagles isn’t a superstar either, however I liked, at least on the visual front, the way he stayed on late despite encountering a troubled run, where he was forced to come wide around in the closing stages.

Despite four runs – so a bit of experience on would think – under his belt before Chester, he still seemed to have quite a bit to learn. The race comments for him in the Vase actually state ” disorganised over 1f out” – you’d hope the experience taught him a good lesson – as it should – and that in itself makes him an interesting horse to monitor for the future I reckon.

Today we see the return of US Army Ranger to the place of his biggest success: he won here the Vase twelve months ago on only his second career outing which as a result catapulted him into the hot seat for the 2016 Derby.

He finished a strong runner-up behind Harzand in the Classic of the Classics, however things have not gone to plan subsequently and it was pretty much the same story on his seasonal reappearance last month.

So with plenty of intrigue I watch him go to post today in the Diamond Ormonde Stakes, a Group 3 contest, which, if he is as good as he promised early in his career, he should win. Would I bet on it? Hell, no!

A good hour earlier on the card we’ll see a horse that’s been talked about aplenty: Cliffs Of Moher. The thee year old is the 8/1 second favourite in the Derby ante-post market right now, based on hype, trainer name and on an impressive second career run, when beating useful stable mate Orderofthegarter at the end of last season, clocking a serious time speed rating of 104.

Can he deliver today? If he does we probably see him shortening dramatically in the betting for the Derby. The fact that Aiden O’Brien does not run another horse here in the Dee Stakes seems significant in terms of confidence he and “the lads” have in the Galileo son.

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1.50 Chester: Class 2 Handicap, 7.5 furlongs

Hot race with a potentially well handicapped favourite in lightly raced El Hayem however the James Eustace trained Ice Slice should go close from a good draw for a much better price.

He’s already a CD winner and went close from a poor draw on his only second start here. Ice Slice was a massively improved horse last year winning five races and on form looks capable of running to or even above his current handicap rating of 93.

He probably needed his seasonal reappearance run last month and should strip fitter. Conditions will suit, even if a bit of rain would fall.

Selection:
10pts win – Ice Slice @ 8/1 Bet365

Chester Kick-Off

The Chester May Festival kicks off on Wednesday. Traditionally quite an important date in the calendar as more often than not we see potential Oaks and Derby contenders over the three days.

However it is also a meeting that brings certain aspects of the Chester racecourse to the forefront of our mind: the draw advantage or disadvantage in particular. It’s no secret – and numbers do back it up indeed – that low drawn horses perform much better than those drawn wide. This not uncommon, of course, but even more emphasised at this ever turning track.

Particularly over sprint distances, if you are drawn in the high numbers you can basically forget whatever winning chances you dreamed of – it’s not gonna happen. So bear that in mind if you intend to get in involved in the races.

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2.25 Chester: Cheshire Oaks (Listed), 1m 4f

Aiden O’Brien has used this race as a springboard for plenty of good fillies in the past, in fact his record is quite sublime and therefore it should be a tip in itself that he brings Alluringly here on the back of a mightily impressive maiden success last month.

The Fastnet Rock filly rocked home at Tipperary in stylish fashion, giving the impression that she could be a very smart individual. She looked, big and scopey, clearly physically improved that day, after two slightly underwhelming runs as a juvenile.

The step up in trip is the question mark. She goes as far as never before and it’s not clear cut on pedigree, however there is Saddler’s Wells in the dam line, so that alone should ensure that she has at least a fighting chance. Also she ran strongly to the line the other day, giving the impression a step up in trip will only see her improving again.

Selection:
10pts win – Alluringly @ 6/4 Skybet

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5.05 Chester: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

The final race of the opening card of the Festival. I elaborated above on how the draw plays a huge role here, so going against the bias backing a horse from a wide draw is probably rather dumb.

I still do it. Reason is that I back bottom weight Fast Dancer here, who is drawn in eleven, but who is a hold-up horse and therefore might not  be quite as disadvantaged by the draw as a horse that needs to lead.

Though it is also true that being up with the pace is an advantage at Chester too, it also happens regularly that they go way too fast up on front witch in turn opens up opportunities for those horse ridden more patiently.

Fast Dancer will rely on this fast pace and what encourages me most is his positive course record. Also he dropped to a mark that potentially undervalues his past achievements and therefore a race to suit should see him have a cracking chance here.

Selection:
10pts win – Fast Dancer @ 14/1 Bet365

Racing Weekend Review

A weekend of superlatives – nothing less you can call it. The main dish certainly delivered. Aintree the only place you wanted to be on Saturday quarter past five. But summer racing isn’t far away. Leopardstown staged Guineas trials and Naas saw the return of proper Group 1 stars. Here’s a review of the weekend’s action.

Grand National Delivered the Goods

Touted as one of the widest open National fields in a long time, the biggest horse race on the planet didn’t disappoint. It had it all: great build-up, excellent TV coverage on ITV’s National maiden gig, sunshine weather and a dramatic finish to the race. What more can you ask for?

It was 14/1 chance One For Arthur who eventually stayed on incredibly strongly after a voyage through the whole field in the hands of ultra cool Derek Fox. This big, powerful horse, ready made for the war of attrition the Grand National is. A triumph for Scotland they said, a triumph for Irish breeding it is.

One For Arthur was born and raised on the green island. In fact here it was where he also tasted first racing success.  In an Irish point to point that was, where he – what a nice coincidence that is – beat yesterday’s fourth Blacklion.

There is also Derek Fox, the young rider, who now only 24 years of age instantly became a legend of our game. The Sligo man who kept his nerves throughout, who didn’t panic when he still had a lot of ground to make up two out. Did anyone ever check: he must have balls of steel surely?

Safety First, Spectacle Second

The Grand National the way we know it these days may not hold the same fascination for traditionalists due to the modifications of the fences in recent years. It’s something heard often in the days leading up to the race. It would not be as special anymore. It’s not as much of a test as it used to be. It’s just another staying chase.

Well, to some extend that could well be true. But no one can deny the fact that The Grand National is as safe a race for horses as it ever was. And that can only be a good thing. In fact this was already the fifth year since the most drastic changes have been made and it’s no coincidence that it is also the fifth year running without a fatality. That is not by chance, that#s because of wise decisions made in the last number of years.

Becher's Brook

It’s great. I love it. I feel so much more passionate about the race knowing it’s so much safer. And honestly, is it really so much less of a spectacle? Not at all if you ask me. Those fences are still huge! I’ve been there, two years ago, stood in front of them – believe me when I say they are huge! They still warrant plenty of respect and they still provide a true test of jumping ability.

And that’s why it is still a unique race. One that captivates us racing fans but also many people who aren’t big time into the sport. And that is great. It’s great because we as fans can comfortably talk to our non-racing friends about the race, where they are equally as fascinated by the spectacle – and be it only for this one day a year – but where the talk afterwards is not about animal cruelty but about sport.

Big Performances all round 

A massive performance it was by Cause Of Causes who finished runner-up. He didn’t get the smoothest of runs but last month’s Cross-Country Chase hero at the Cheltenham Festival battled his way through under yet another excellent ride by the “Coddfather”.

If there’s anything like moral winners than Blaklion must go down as one. He was heavily backed into 8/1 favouritism before the off and travelled through the race most powerfully! In fact I’d say he probably travelled to well!

Blaklion pulled his way too the front with quite a bit to go and suddenly lead the field by a couple of lengths with still a good mile to go or so. It was inevitable that he would not get home. In the end he finished fourth, around eight lengths beaten. The same margin he was beaten nearly four years ago in an Irish point to point by One For Arthur…. in the aftermath it all looks so obvious.

The Flat Gains Momentum

Guineas trials took place at Leopardstown on Saturday. Aiden O’Brien took first and second in both the Classic trials for the boys and the girls. Most noteworthy was Orderofthegarter’s success who followed up with another impressive performance on his Naas romp a fortnight ago. He seems to be Ballydoyle’s Nr.1 for the Irish 2000 Guineas  – and after these two highly impressive performances he must have a prime chance.

The one to take out is runner-up Taj Mahal, though. First time tongue tied, he found the pace a bit too hot and didn’t get quite a clear run entering the home straight, but once manoeuvred into open space he stayed on very nicely.

He’s has quite allot of experience already, yet only won a Dundalk handicap of a mark of 86 so far, then finished the year on a positive note with a decent fifth only three lengths beaten in the Group 1 Criterium De Saint-Cloud. He looks physically improved over the winter and the tongue tie seems to help. He might be able to win a nice race this year.

Naas on Sunday saw the highly anticipated return of Alice Springs and US Army Ranger. All looks good with the filly. She ran a nice race in second place behind late sweeping Diamond Fields.

The Ranger is a different cattle of fish and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of him. This race doesn’t help. He appears to be hugely talented but after his excellent runner-up effort in last years Derby things have not gone to plan. Is it attitude, did he turn sour because of being rushed to the Derby, or is he simply not as good as previously thought?

He travelled well enough today but was a bit short of room at a crucial point of the race. So you can make an excuse. He did find not as much as hoped once in the clear though. And while that could be down to lack of fitness the fact that he was more than three lenghts beaten by a Group 3 animal is slightly concerning.

Now that the National is behind us the flat finally kicks in. Monday sees the return of the traditional Windsor meeting while Redcar is on offer too. Regular flat racing is back – oh how I missed it!

That says the jumps make a return to our thoughts once or twice again: The Irish Grand National on Easter Monday is here to mention – I’ll be going if work doesn’t prevent it. And then Punchestown of course is not too far down the road either. Great times to be a racing!

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One interesting selection for Monday – 5.25 Redcar: The top weight Livella Fella makes plenty of appeal dropping back into class five on her turf reappearance. She didn’t ran badly on the All-Weather over the winter but is clearly much better on the green grass and I suspect she’ll enjoy the conditions here.

A fair pipe opener after a break at Newcastle last month means she should be ready to go over a trip she loves. She has form at Redcar too and judged on past form appears to be on a pretty fair mark.

Livella Fella @ 10/1 bet365

The flat is back – Naas Review

The flat is back! The curtain raiser at Naas on Sunday is done and dusted – is has set us up for what should be an exciting season ahead. While HQ at the Curragh is one big construction site at the moment, it was Naas that picked up the traditional Irish Lincoln meeting – it was a perfect race day, so let’s have a quick look back at the action.

People power spoke – a very healthy crowd flocked through the gates on a day of most beautiful sunshine. Spring was clearly in the air – finally one might say.

Naas racecourse itself is in redeveloping mode right now. The little stand overseeing the winning post is gone. Sadly. Possibly my favourite spot to watch racing from in Ireland. But an overhaul is needed if the county Kildare track wants to stage bigger and better race meetings in the future.

Kevin Prendergast’s filly Moonlight Bay kicked off proceedings with an exceptional turn of foot in the opening maiden of the season that only a couple years back produced Dawn Approach.

This Pivotal filly could be quite a smart horse to follow in her own right. Some performances in behind by Power colt Way Back Home and Park Army, finishing respective in 6th and 7th, caught the  eye over a trip possibly too short for them to shine on debut.

The promising three year old filly Alphabet switches stables from retiring David Wachmann to Aiden O’Brien during the winter and got the first winner for powerhouse Ballydoyle under the belt thanks to a commanding performance in the 6f maiden. The ground – but possibly more importantly the first time tongue tie – clearly helped her to put her best foot forward.

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Alphabet storms to victory

Ma Fee Heela, a €200k pick up at the breeze up sales, was gambled into 7/4 favouritism and travelled nicely but couldn’t cope with the acceleration of the winner. Better ground and a step up in trip will see him go much better in the future one would assume.

French recruit Gymkhana got the ball rolling for Ger Lyons and Collin Keane in the saddle as they landed the first handicap of the new flat season. The four year old colt clearly relishes the mud and may move into pattern races after a clear success of a mark of 89.

Fair play to Maarek for finishing third here of what was a tough task having 10st 2lb to carry. The veteran remains nearly as good as ever but will probably find it tough to get his head in front without the help of the handicapper I feel.

Lightly raced bottom weight Gino Severini took the Madrid Handicap. She got a superb ride by Chris Hayes. Hard luck for  Mr Adjudicator and Hansian Prince who both travelled well behind but got hampered multiple times. Both could go well the next time.

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Gino Severini lands the Madrid Handicap

The big disappointment was Jim Bolger’s Vociferous Marina. Sharing favouritism in betting market in the morning she drifted badly to 11/1 on course before the off and ran rotten as the moves in the betting suggested. Judged on last season she is clearly better than this and the run might be best to forget.

English raider Czabo proved hard to pass in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes. A listed winner over a mile as a juvenile, she took the scalp off favourite Somehow in a scrappy finish for the Mick Channon team.

One would expect Aiden O’Brien’s runner-up to come on for the run and be a force in pattern races this season. She looked nice in the parade ring before the race and has clearly wintered well.

Fourth placed Queen Anne’s Lace looked at one point last season potentially smart, she seems to have a habit of travelling powerfully through the race only to find remarkably little under pressure. It was the same story here and it might be interesting to see her fitted with headgear.

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Even the little ones didn’t want to miss the Park Express Stakes

The highlight of the day – the Irish Lincolsnhire – shaped as competitive as always. Previous winner Onenightidreamed and two times runner-up Aussie Valentine tried their luck again. Dermot Weld’s lightly raced Sikandarabad was punted off the boards. The English came over with 94 rated Spring Offensive.

In the end it was the rather unlikely victory of Brandan Brackan who produced a career best to win of the second highest weight in the field. In fact this was the first time the now eight year old has won a race in spring. If Ger Lyons would train the winner, then, according the betting, stable companion Sea Wolf was expected deliver the goods. The 5/1 chance finished a 3 lengths beaten third – a superb result for the Lyons team overall!

And Aussie Valentine? Brides maid yet again! Yes, would you believe it? Runner-up in 2015, in 2016 and now in 2017! Some achievement for Paul Deegan’s inmate. But will he ever get over the line?

The concluding 1m maiden was taken by Aiden O’Brien with two times raced Galileo son Orderofthegarter. The three year old colt couldn’t have been more impressive, romping home by 11 lengths! It’ll be interesting if he can produce that sort of form on better ground too. Given his dam won a really good conditions race on fast ground one would think he can.

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Photo Gallery – Naas 26th March 2017:

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G3 Park Express Stakes winner Czabo

Photos in this article all © FLorian Christoph

Dubai: Longshots of the Day

Year in year out Dubai World Cup night signals the return of the flat – at least to me personally. A great day of racing it usually is, even though not a happy hunting ground betting wise.

The question today really is: by how far will Arrogate win? He’s the red hot favourite to land the World Cup and there is zero reason to oppose him. However there are two turf races that appear much more prone for an upset – here’re my two longshots ofthe day:

2.00: Al Quoz Sprint

Ertijaal seems the right favourite but not the right price. Yes, he is unbeaten in two starts this season and clearly loves Meydan but the majority of those successes came over the shorter 1.000m trip.

If Limato can bring his A-game he’s a big danger with decent ground he relishes to play with. Is he ready? Jungle Cat stepped up to win a good 6f sprint over CD when last seen, he’s sure to give his running but is he good enough?

From the bigger prices you have to consider Hong Kong’s Amazing Kid, a speedy sort who’s better over the minimum trip but the ground and flat finish may suit him. The same could possibly be said about Medicean Man who ran really well in two starts here at Meydan this year, though over 1.000m. But at 66’s could be worth a spunt

Not quite as big in the betting but overpriced in my book is Aiden O’Brien’s Washington DC. A classy, ultra consistent sprinter over both 5- and 6 furlongs. AOB did not enjoy the best of success at Meydan in the past but brings a strong team this time around.

The now four year old is rarely outside the money and ran close in some big sprints last season. Granted he has a bit to find with some of these and his last win came over seven furlongs on the Dundalk All-Weather, this race could be ready made for him.

At least with ground to suit and a trip he’s sure to get every inch of it he is underestimated in the field.

Selection:
5pts win – Washington DC @ 16/1 PP

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3.30 Dubai Turf

This looks quite an open race to me with question marks all over aplenty of runners. That says you can make a case for aplenty of these too!

However I am surprised to see Christophe Ferland’s charge Heshem such a big price in the betting as he is. This horse is poised for a big run in my mind and according to the trainer has travelled extremely well.

Heshem is still a somewhat lightly raced individual after a fine three year old campaign Group 2 company culminating in an excellent runner-up effort on Arc day in the Prix Dollar, when he had today’s race favourite Zarek behind himself.

The fact that connections gave the now four year old colt a spin on the All-Weather in preparation of this race race seems they mean business. Tactically he’s more likely to be closer to the pace, which would make sense utilising a fine draw.

Selection:
5pts win – Heshem @ 22/1 Bet365

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Read also my comprehensive preview of the Sheema Classic 

British Champions Day or the end of the flat

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

British Champions Day is synonymous with the end of the flat season – hard to believe but the end of 2016 renewal is nearly upon us! It certainly passed me in the blink of an eye – or so it felt!

Honestly, I never really got into it. I missed out on many big days. Was just too busy with other stuff. I went to the Curragh just twice. Which is a crying shame.

Take simply: I never got emotionally involved in this season at all.

It didn’t help – I guess – my betting was brutal the first half of the season, slightly improved in the second half, though without ever coming close to making something like a profit.

Gotta to get going in the All-Weather season again, which usually works quite well if I put in the time and the effort. It’s something I enjoy. But for one last time, let’s have a look at those races of British flat season that do stand out.

Thoughts and selections are below – follow them may lead to bankruptcy. So do it on your own responsibility:

2.00 Ascot: Don’t Touch E/W @ 66/1 Coral (1/5, 5places)

Wide open race and Don’t Touch is surely not a prime chance in this competitive race, given he has yet to prove his class beyond listed level. Nonetheless he’s a speedy sort with an impressive record over six furlongs and if the first time blinkers can edge out a bit of improvement then he is in with a shout to content for the placing at least.

2.35 Ascot: Zhukova @ 5/1 Bet365

Potentially a minefield this race, but Dermot Weld’s filly has the right profile to win it.
Still not too many miles on the clock, lightly raced this year while unbeaten in 2016, she usually is not too far off the pace which I feel could be crucial today.

3.10 Ascot: Hit It A Bomb @ 25/1 Ladbrokes

Hasn’t hit the heights of last season in  two starts since his return, but may improve from those two runs and the light season could be an advantage today if he is still as good as he promised to be as a juvenile. Conditions should suit him. Of course he has a bit to find on form and the ratings with the likes of Minding and Galileo Gold.

However one shouldn’t forget they have had a hard and long season that started quite early as well, so they may well run not to their true form today. A bit improvement from HIAB and a bit regression from the key contenders, and the 25/1 looks a huge price.

3.45 Ascot: Jack Hobbs @ 14/1 Ladbrokes

It’s probably a stupid bet trusting a horse that has been pulled up when last seen over half a year ago, running after a long lay-off in a race as deep as this is. But regardless, I feel the price is too big. In theory Jack Hobbs should be getting better the older he gets.

Now more mature after a summer off, John Gosden can get his horses ready first time out and Jack Hobbs won FTO in the past – I like the fact that he should be in the right spot when they turning for home, given he is usually right up with the pace, so does not need in-running luck, which will inevitably play a role today for some of the more fancied runners.

4.05 Catterick: Machine Learning @ 5/1 Bet365

Fine winner on penultimate start, probably should have won under penalty the next time. Still on a fair mark and now heading to Catterick for the first time. Michael Bell has an excellent record here, even better with those he brings here for their first run at this odd track. Fine Apprentice is booked, trainer and jockey enjoy some success together – from bottom weight Machine Learning must have a big chance.