Tag Archives: Aiden O’Brien

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

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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

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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

Race Preview: 2019 Melbourne Cup

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The race that stops a nation…. or the race that stops me sleep. Every year the same procedure: Melbourne Cup Tuesday is nearing and I am excited as a little child on the eve before Christmas. I LOVE the Melbourne Cup, it’s my favourite race.

It helps having backed the winner of the last two editions at rather generous odds, of course. While I love the spectacle of watching the race on TV at half past three in the morning with a blanket and a warm cuppa in my hands, it’s certainly has been financially rewarding as much as it’s emotionally warming – backing a winner or not.

But backing a winner is even more fun. So Let’s do three in a row?

………

This year appears to be a highly compelling renewal – certainly on paper. The field includes Cross Counter, the defending champion; the exciting Japanese rider and Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace; the Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer; last years Irish Derby hero Latrobe; plus a highly competitive home team.

On the other hand, I feel this race is much easier to dissect than in years past. Sure, luck can play its part in the race. A massive field will always produce a hard-luck story…. or two, or three of those stories. Regardless, I can see only a handful of realistic contenders, to be perfectly honest.

You can cross a line through half the field easily on the grounds of the softish going, distance, weight or racing style. The ones I can’t dismiss so easily and who made it on to my shortlist are as follows:

Il Paradiso: fits the trend of recent winners. Still relatively low mileage, some classy form in the book, looks to have the right sort of relaxed attitude, appears to stay and will be fine on any softness left in the ground. His tendency to break slowly is a major negative from draw 17, though. Blinkers may help but the “may” is already reflected in the price, I’m afraid.

Constantinople: you couldn’t watch the Caulfield Cup and not be impressed how he finished despite the fact he came from well off the pace and was significantly hampered at a crucial stage. Ran twice to a 108 topspeed ratings year. Most talented horse in the race?

His racing style is not and advantage. His tendency to sweat and exert energy in the preliminaries neither. Not easy to get things right on him. Needs everything to fall right, which it may well do, but I’m happy enough to let it go for single figure odds.

Vow And Declare: Strong chance for the home team if there wouldn’t be the draw. Classy stayer, form in the book, hits peak at the right time as excellent runner-up performance in Caulfield Cup suggested. Drawn in 21 will make life tough.

Dawndraft: Quite a bit of racing under the belt yet still improving. Good performances in Ireland this summer, including career best Listed success (101 TS) albeit below standard required here.

But two good runs since arriving Down Under. Visually compelling latest victory. But that performance came only 3 days ago which is a major concern.

Mustajeer: Excellent winner of the Ebor. Has improved again this season, ran well in Group races before having the perfect race at York. From the draw to the way the race developed to a clear run: everything worked to perfection.

He is a strong galloping sort who I feel will be suited perfectly by the Melbourne Cup. Had a fine prep in the Caulfield Cup and won’t fear the ground.

But that is the point: everything went to perfection at York. Will it today? He’s uncomplicated, that’s a big plus. I think he will go close. Still, it’s going to be the Ebor 4th Raymond Tusk that my money is riding with on Tuesday morning, 4am Irish time.

Raymond Tusk: On a different day he’d have been the brilliant winner of the 2019 Ebor and would be much shorter in the betting than he is now. Drawn in the car park he was trailing the field still turning for home, a wall of horses in front, yet travelling much the best. He had to weave his way through for a clear run and the bird was flown when he finally did.

Still finished a strong 4th, not far beaten, and running to a career best 107 topspeed rating. He’s 4lb better off with Mustajeer here and has a much better draw to play with.

I have one fear that is Jamie Spencer: we know he likes to come from off the pace with his mounts. I hope the good draw will help to settle on a positive racing strategy. Interviews I heard have given me hope indeed.

Still with low enough mileage, Raymond Tusk is an improving individual, who comes here fresh, which seems to bring the best of him usually. Cut in the ground is a question mark. His best results cam on fast ground. However he didn’t have a lot of chances to race on soft. And he did win a maiden over 1 mile on good to soft. Another pointer to give hope.

Selection: 
10pts win – Raymond Tusk @ 23/1 MB

Super Friday Preview

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Bold prediction: we’ll see the 2000 Guineas winner 2020 tonight. I know, I know….. I hear you shouting the name of the colt the boys in blue own. Fair shout. But…..

6.00 Newcastle: G1 Futurity Stakes, 1 mile

…. Kinross will be the better three-year-old.

Sure enough he still has to show up and run at Newcastle tonight. I have no doubt he’ll beat this field, albeit Kameka looks a fine rival. However, watch the Newmarket debut of Kinross again – this is something you won’t see all that often.

He missed the break, yet travelled supremely well soon after, cruised passed the leaders with ease and won the race effectively in a canter – running to a topspeed rating of 100 on the bridle, on his debut, despite botching the start AND all of that as a May foal.

“Are you kidding me?” That was my reaction when I saw this incredible debut performance.

If Kinross stays healthy and winters well he’ll be the one we’ll talk about as horse of the year in twelve months time. That’s another bold prediction.

As far as tonight goes: Kingman has a fine record on the All-Weather, on the Tapeta surface, with juveniles and over a mile. if Kinross is as good as I believe he is, the switch to Newcastle for the Futurity Stakes is a non-issue.

Hence for once I have backed a short price. Something I rarely do. But I do so today because I firmly belief he’s way too big a price to let go.

Selection:
10pts win – Kinross @ 1.65/1 MB

………..

7.30 Newcastle: Class 5 handicap, 7f

A few here that look handicapped to go close. The likes of Esprit De Corps and Valley of Fire in particular. But the one well-handicapped is Vive La Difference.

I have been keen on the gelding before. At Ayr at the end of September I selected him off 2lb higher than today. He was desperately unlucky today. I didn’t deem circumstances right the next few times and sure enough he continued to make life difficult for himself. Yet here is hoping today is THE day.

Vive La Difference can start slowly and seems to always find ways to get into trouble in-running. He may do so again today. It’s a big field, he’ll need a “lucky” break. But at the same time the 5-year-old is handicapped to slaughter this field, if he finds a way through and doesn’t lose too much early on. What I said back in September still holds largely true today:

“The 5-year-old gelding has been struggling to find his best for a while, certainly starting slowly on pretty much every occasion doesn’t help. At the same time a few performances have been promising this year, when not far beaten in competitive races at Wetherby or Ripon earlier this season.

Vive La Difference has fallen quite a bit in his handicap mark, now 10lb lower than he started the season. He ran twice in his career to topspeed ratings of higher than 70, and a number of times around his current handicap mark of 68, including this year.”

What has changed is he’s now down to a handicap mark of 68 and this is a Tapeta surface and a 7 furlong trip. I don’t think either is a problem. He’s got form over this shorter trip already and being unexposed on the All-Weather may rather be a positive.

Selection:
10pts win – Vive La Difference @ 12/1 WH

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8.12 Santa Anita: G2 BC Juvenile Turf Sprint, 5f

This looks surprisingly uncompetitive in my eyes and even more surprisingly the advantage lies with the home team. The two with prime chances above everyone else are trained by Wesley Ward.

You really have to fear the speed of Four Wheel Drive and he looked still raw when winning the Futurity recently. Drawn in nine is on the edge of becoming a significant issue. His speed can see him getting out of jail. To the detriment of doing too much too soon?

Kimari is the one I side with. She is the favourite and a rock solid one who I’d price around 5/2. She is on the go for a while, was over in Europe came desperately close at Royal Ascot and has won a Listed- and Stakes contest in fine style in her last two starts.

Drawn in seven is fine. She should settle in midfield but hopefully not too far off the pace. She has speed in her own right, anyway. Kimari holds the upper hand over the European raiders given she is the only on the in the field having run to a significant topspeed rating so far (97 at RA).

I’m pretty sure there is more to come from her. The only risk is the long season she is having and the draw possibly seeing her too far back. I’ll take it because in my view she is hands and shoulders above the rest, particularly with the weight allowance.

Selection:
10pts win – Kimari @ 10/3 WH

………..

8.52 Santa Anita: G1 BC Juvenile Turf, 1 mile

Arizona is the standout individual in this race, without a shadow of a doubt. Posted 100+ topspeed ratings multiple times, underpinning his form lines in hot competition. If he can overcome the wide draw he’ll be hard to beat. For all that he is merely a fair price.

The good prices are snapped up for the one I fancy, but there is still a hint of juice left: Structor cost quite a bit of money and so far has proven his buyers right: he won a maiden race on debut in fine style and followed up on his second start with an excellent Grade 3 triumph.

Visually those performances weren’t all that sexy but I like the fact this lad is so simple – he does all the right things, bounces out of the gate, travelles and sticks to the task. With more improvement to come, a perfect draw and racing style he can go all the way today for an upset against AOB’s favourite.

Selection:
10pts win – Structor @ 13/2 WH

………

10.12 Santa Anita: BC G1 Juvenile Fillies Turf, 1 mile

I struggle to trust the Europeans in this contest for a variety of reasons: trip, ground or draw. However, if she takes to the trip, which is a possibility on this fast ground and with all the right visual clues, then Daahyeh is a hot chance. But I can’t quite leave her pedigree out of the equation and feel one of the US fillies has a stronger chance.

That’s Sweet Melania. She’s drawn wide, which isn’t ideal, obviously. However, she has plenty of early speed, connections already mentioned they’ll move forward, and given her experience I trust Ortiz to get the job done.

She’s another one who was quite an expensive yearling, given she is incredibly well bred, obviously. She has been nicely improving all season long and her latest Grade 2 gate to wire success was an impressive performance.

A repeat of that level of form, potentially a bit more improvement still to come, she should go very close today. I don’t mind that she was beaten two back by Christalle. Sweet Melania seems to have move forward since then and was only ran down late over further than today.

Selection:
10pts win – Sweet Melania @ 15/2 WH

Saturday Selections: October, 19th 2019

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

I’m short in time today, hence for now only focus on British Champions Day – Wolverhampton selections maybe later on today. Saying that, still looking for a first winner in October. Tough times…. and as my two selections are massive prices I can’t realistically hope that it’ll change anytime soon!

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2.45:  G1 Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, 1m3½f 

Looks a coin toss on form and ratings between four fillies, namely favourite Star Catcher, Oaks winner Anapurna and the Aiden O’Brien duo Fleeting and Delphina.

You can make solid cases for either of these, but the forgotten horse in this quartet is Delphina. Yes, she is yet to win on the highest level, and only three starts back was beaten in a Group 3 at Cork. The drop in trip may not be totally ideal, but then I think over this course with soft underfoot conditions it might well be.

For a start Delphina is drawn well, so she should be able to settle close enough to the pace which I feel is an advantage here. She will not have to work hard for that, unlike, for example at Longchamp when last seen where was drawn widest.

That performance in the Prix de Royallieu was an excellent performance, given she ran into plenty of trouble in the closing stages. It was also a nice progression from her excellent runner-up performance at Doncaster in the Hill Stakes.

That particular performance is interesting as Delphina ran to a 105 topspeed rating, which is the highest in this field. Granted it came on fast ground, but she proved in France that soft ground is no issue.

Given she has yet to win beyond maiden company she has a little bit to find with the market principles. However on official ratings that is a mere one or two pounds. If she still has something to give after a busy second half of the season I see her going really close today.

Selection:
10pts win – Delphina @ 24/1 MB

……….

3.20: G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, 1m

With the tough going likely to slow down things significantly and the ground potentially suitable – well, certainly a change – I’m quite intrigued by Phoenix Of Spain today, given he also has a new jockey on board.

He was so impressive in the Irish 2000 Guineas, though hasn’t kicked on from there, although you couldn’t say he’s been running poorly, given he contested top class opposition on the highest level, and despite not coming close to win clocked 93 and 94 tospeed ratings in his last three runs.

That is far off the whopping 105 achieved at the Curragh, or the 101 at last years Futurity Trophy (on softish conditions!), but shows Phoenix Of Spain hasn’t gone dramatically backwards.

On the plus side also he might be a little bit fresher than some of the more fancied runners here. I hope he can overcome the wider than ideal draw and settle up with the pace. If so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him outrunning his price tag.

Selection:
10pts win – Phoenix Of Spain @ 25/1 MB

Arc Day Selections: October, 6th 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

Having enjoyed a little break in the sun over the last ten days far away from rainy Ireland today couldn’t be a better day to be back: it’s Arc day!

Enable goes for her historic third triumph in Europe’s premier race. The mare embodies everything I love about flat racing. She is all class, she is versatile and she has proven it time and time again, regardless of race track, country or continent.

There is no bet in the Arc for me today. I don’t need one. I’ll cheer as loud as possible for Enable. She’ll win. Zero doubts.

The rain is in her favour. Her best performances came with cut in the ground. She won an Arc on soft ground two years ago. She ran a 115 topspeed rating this season as well, proving she’s not slowing down whatsoever.

No other horse in this esteemed field comes close to her class. Enable will win. History will be made. Go girl!

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3.55 Longchamp: G1 Prix de l’Opera, 1m 2f

The appeal of Mehdaayih is obvious after her strong runner-up performance at Goodwood. She seems to continue an upward trend and may progress again. Make no mistake, she will have to find more, if she’s ever to win a proper Group 1 contest. So far the filly has yet to run beyond a 98 topspeed rating, which is pretty damn low for a true top class horse.

Her smart trainer has found an excellent opportunity to get a Group 1 on her CV, though, given she may never find a better one ever again. This is a rather weak field for a race of the highest order. In fact only one horse has run to a speed rating of 100 or higher: Pink Dogwood.

At given odds the Epsom Oaks runner-up is an obvious choice. True, she hasn’t exactly kicked on from that excellent effort, that saw her achieve a 101 TS rating. But the Oaks form is a rather strong piece of form, certainly rock solid, so is Pink Dogwood’s Navan win from April, as well as her Pretty Polly staked 3rd place in June.

Things didn’t work to plan the next two times, however it is a big positive that she drops down to 1m 2f again, which is her optimum trip, I reckon. The cut in the ground is another bonus, granted she has winning form on yielding to heavy ground.

So I’m backing Pink Dogwood with my money and Enable with all my heart for an almighty Arc day dominated by the ladies!

Selection:
10pts win – Pink Dogwood @ 16/1 WH

………

1.50 Longchamp: G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, 1m

I hardly ever venture into juvenile racing, but feel this contest offers value for the Aiden O’Brien trained Armory, who appears to be a rock solid individual, likely to give his running while also having fine form already in the book, which ultimately can be enough to win this contest.

Given what Victor Ludorum has done so far he is a skinny price. Sure, unexposed and open to plenty of improvement, that may well come to the fore today. On the other hand this is more than adequately reflected in the odds.

How much more improvement is to come from Armory? As a January foal with five starts under his belt he may be close to a finished article by now. That’s okay because what is is now can be good enough to win this race.

He won three on the trot between June and August, including the Group 2 Futurity Stakes, proving he’s certainly got talent, albeit those forms are nothing to get too excited about.

Armory found his master in superstar colt Pinatubo when last seen. No surprise, anyone else would have looked like a 50 rated class 6 handicapper that day. However, on the positive side, even though things seemed to move a little bit too quickly for him, he fought on gamely, beaten smart stablemate Arizona on the line.

Leaving the winner, who is in a league of his own, out of the equation, Armory ran a highly credible race, given Arizona is the reigning Coventry Stakes winner and has more strong form to his name.

Having ran to a career highest topspeed rating, progressing nicely from what he showed a few weeks earlier in the Futurity Stakes, plus the likelihood of cut in the ground unlikely to stop him, Armory is a strong chance today.

Selection:
10pts win – Armory @ 9/2 WH

Saturday Selections: September, 14th 2019

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3.40 Leopardstown: Group 3 Stakes, 1m 4f

I probably should know better: backing an Aiden O’Brien horse coming back from a lay-off. But by all accounts, if the rumblings are anywhere near true that Mount Everest was considered a proper Derby contender, and if judged by his entries for the rest of the season, he’ll need to show something significant today in order to go on those dates in a few weeks time.

Aiden O’Brien has played down expectations. That’s only fair. And surely Mount Everest won’t be at 100% today. It’s a gamble and you never know how far in their preparation these horses are coming off a long injury break, and whether they ever come back to their best, and in this case whether this particular individual has trained on over the winter.

However, this Group 3 is such a lackluster contest that I am prepared to back the “potential” today. Very few in this field have achieved a topspeed rating over 90 to date. Those that have can be discounted for a variety of reason of trip or ground or legitimacy of that particular posting – in my book at least.

The favourit Buckhurst, despite having three career wins to his name, has never ran faster than 67. The main dangers I actually see in the race are Norway, who has proven to be a rock solid horse and has achieved a career best when last seen, plus long-shot and stable mate Blenheim Palace, who could easily outrun his massive price tag and is a compelling each-way candidate.

But at given odds, Mount Everest is clearly of major interest. When last seen twelve month ago in the Bresford Stakes, he finished second in a tight finish behind Japan, having Sovereign more than three lengths behind. That form looks incredibly strong in hindsight and a topspeed of 94 achieved that day is credible.

No doubt this is the strongest piece of form in this race. Given Mount Everest is a May foal, one would have expected him to be a much better 3-year-old, so it’s plausible that improvement is to come with Mount Everest maturing. How much of that he’ll show today is the question mark.

On the other hand, given a long break and injury to overcome he may never fulfill this potential. He may not be ready to go today either. AOB’s record with those returning isn’t all that strong either. I am prepared to take the game in this particular race, though.

Selection:
10pts win – Mount Everest @ 4/1 MB

……….

4.50 Leopardstown: G2 Boomerang Stakes, 1m

The 6/4 for Lancaster House can only be described as a silly price. Possibly my judgement looks silly in a few hours time, though? I’m puzzled, regardless, because I feel Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller should be a much shorter price than he is.

The 3-year-old colt will need to things to pan out right given his running style, that is a clear concern for me, given that it can prove difficult to peg prominent horses back at Leopardstown if the pace isn’t overly strong.

It’s a risk I take, simply because Space Traveller has overwhelmingly the strongest form in the book. His Royal Ascot success is a tremendous piece of form, given how the race has worked out ever since, and a 106 topspeed rating he achieved that day looks all the more real for it.

Space Traveller stayed 9 furlongs three weeks ago at Haydock, when less than a lengths beaten in a highly competitive of the Strensall Stakes.

Ground and trip will suit today. A good pace looks likely. Now it’s up to WJ Lee to time it right. If he does, Space Traveller should be the one they all see the back of at the finish line.

Selection:
10pts win – Space Traveller @ 11/2 MB

Preview: Irish Derby 2019

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Hello there, it’s Irish Derby Day! Let me tell you: this is an exciting day! Why? Well, the excitement really comes from all angles. Sure, we have the classy racing and the race itself – the Derby, off at 5.20pm – which shapes like a red hot renewal. But probably even more so, I feel, it’s a day when the new Curragh has the chance to delight.

Properly tested for the first time, it’ll be quite exciting to see how this unfolds: tested in a sense of how do facilities hold up when a large crowd is in attendance. Tested in a sense whether a large crowd actually materialise in first place. Attendance figures for Thursday and Friday were low. That was to be expected. Derby Saturday, on the other hand, has always seen a healthy crowd over the years.

Now that the new Curragh is firmly established, the weather – hopefully – balmy and dry in the afternoon, there really is no excuse for not attracting a solid double figure crowd today.

Curragh officials haven’t been particularly outgoing with their own expectations: 6-10.000 is what they are hoping for, officially. I’m sure behind close doors they’d be disappointed if there’ll be not in access of 10.000 in attendance today.

Tickets were €23 if you bought online in advance – that’s a cracking offer, to be fair. I’ve been critical of the Curragh and its pricing policy in the past. Likely will be in the future again. But this is a sensational offer. 23 bucks for what’s going to be an outstanding day of racing action at a modern, top-class venue – unbeatable!

The racing itself, as said there earlier, I feel strong about as well: the Derby aside, which I’ll preview in detail below, the supporting races hold up. Competitive handicaps that certainly offer value, plus some strong stakes races, particularly the intriguing renewal of the Railway Stakes – truth told I’m as keen driving down the N7 to the Curragh as haven’t been for a long time!

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5.20 Curragh: Irish Derby, 1m 4f

An exciting re-match looms large at the Curragh this afternoon as the 2019 Epsom Derby winner, runner-up and close 4th meet again. In those circumstances it doesn’t really matter that five of the eight starters belong to the same yard. This is all about Anthony Van Dyck vs. Madhmoon vs. Broome!

Can Anthony Van Dyck do the Derby double? I’ve never been the biggest fan of his: I opposed him in the Lingfield Derby Trial and even more so for the Epsom Classic. How dare I doubt a Galileo?!

Truth told, Anthony Van Dyck is rock solid – I’ve to concede. He already was a rock solid contender for the Derby. He’s even more so today. Because: he’s done it again and again, particularly taking all the relevant metrics into account: he’s ran three times to topspeed ratings of 100+ and he matched a 110+ RPR on four occasions also. He clearly is rather decent.

Hence the main characteristics of Anthony Van Dyck are “solid” and “consistent”. He usually runs as well, if not better, than expected – leaving a disappointing debut and Breeder’s Cup effort aside. You can also see why it’s difficult for people – like myself – to warm to him and (maybe) give him the full credit he probably deserves: this colt is as unsexy a Derby winner as I can remember for quite some time!

Now, perception aside, as alluded earlier, on ratings (and reputation, given he is the reigning Epsom Derby champ), Anthony Van Dyck is a firm favourite today. Undoubtedly. On the other hand: A 5/4 chance – really? I don’t think so. Sorry. I’ve got to oppose this lad once more.

Reasons are rather obvious: yes, on ratings he tops the field. But he’s not miles ahead of Madhmoon and Broome. He’s consistent, running to the same sort of form over and over again – if any of his main rivals can find any bit of improvement, he’s in trouble because as solid as AVD is, it appears unlikely he’s one with any additional upside.

And the Epsom race itself: Anthony Van Dyck looked a beaten horse two furlong out. He seemed to take full advantage of an opening with less than two furlongs to go, his jockey making a superb decision in the moment of the heat, maneuvering AVD out, sizing the opportunity for a clear passage.

AVD responded strongly and probably profited from the fact that he avoided the ding-dong battle that happened to his right side. The others didn’t quite see or notice him I suspect- they were locked up in their own little battle – while Anthony Van Dyck was too far able to finish his own race with the guidance of the rail.

Well, that’s my interpretation, at least. Anthony Van Dyck is a really good horse, no doubt. He’s certainly no world beater either. Even though he comes out on top in the ratings, his career highest top speed rating is nothing to shout about. If you’d run the Epsom Derby ten times from the moment the field turns for home you’ll probably get a different outcome any time – Anthony Van Dyck wouldn’t be as ‘lucky’ again, I suspect.

Okay, so we have that out of the way, which begs the question: who wins the 2019 Irish Derby? Obviously it would be an emotional victory if Madhmoon could land the big price for his veteran trainer Kevin Prendergast.

Madhmoon travelled much the best over three furlongs out in the Epsom race – travelling surprisingly well, because I have to admit –  I was wrong in doubting this lad to be good enough and/or stay the Derby distance. He duly did!

You can argue Madhmoon was a little bit unlucky, as he travelled so well, but had a rough passage from the three furlong marker on, having to fight for his position, squeezing through gaps, possibly lit up as a consequence – still he fought gamely to the line, and in our hypothetical game of running the race ten times again from the moment the field turns for home, you’d have to give Madhmoon a strong chance to come out on top a number of times.

Two issues I have with Madhmoon, though: despite the fact he is rather lightly, which may see him to progress further, he also had a number of opportunities to run fast already. He didn’t take these chances to run fast. A career highest topspeed rating of 99 – achieved in the Derby – is poor for a supposedly class act.

Further to this: my suspicion is Madhmoon will always show his best on a fast surface. With the rain we’ve got here in county Kildare over the last 15 hours or so, the ground may ride a bit too tacky for him.

While I fo see his potential for additional improvement, I also feel this is already reflected in his odds: 5/2. I can not make a case where I see him a better chance than that, at all.

Before moving to my preferred selection, a quick glance further down the market, to the outsiders in this field: realistically none of the long-shots should have a say here. You could make a case – with a bit of imagination certainly – for Norway to bounce back. At 50’s he’d be a decent each-way shout. But he’s 33’s in the betting. Which is only fair.

Truth told: none of the long-shots is good enough. Of course, it can happen from time to time that a pace setter proves difficult to peg back, particularly at the Curragh. Still, I struggle to make out a viable each-way alternative at given prices.

So, that leaves Broome as the one for me. The negative first: what I said about Madhmoon can be copied and placed here to count against Broome as well: for a supposedly class horse he’s yet to run particularly fast. A TS rating of 97 and an RPR of 117 – he needs to improve today.

Can he? I think if one of this trio is able to break out and move significantly forward it’s him. The reason for this is a simple one: he looked a fair prospect as a juvenile, but was always sure to show his best as a 3-year-old stepping up in trip. And so he did: Broome won the Ballysax and Derby Trial at Leopardstown in fine style, without breaking sweat.

On Derby day Broome was one of the more unlucky sorts. Not massively hampered or anything of that sort, but he was always travelling wider than ideal, covering extra distance and turning quite wide for home as well.

Taking that into account as well as the visual impression of him staying on strongly in the final furlong plus the fact he was beaten by a close margin and hitting the line with full momentum, potentially winning if the race is a few yards longer, is enough for me to believe Broome is the one with the most upside today.

There is a good chance he’s a dour stayer who prefers the Leger trip. On the other hand, with the bit of rain that’s falling, hopefully a strong pace and a stiff uphill finish at the Curragh, I strongly feel the conditions are right for him to shine.

Selection:
10pts win – Broome @ 10/3 PP

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The rest of the Curragh card: I don’t fancy anything as much as that I would back them at my usual stake. I placed some accumulators win and each/way (the bigger priced ones) to keep me entertained for the other races. That includes’s: 

1.45: Twenty Minutes; 2.20 Beckford; 2.55: Old Glory; 3.30: Global Giant; 4.05: King’s Field; 4.40: Fort Myers; 6.00: Mutadaffeq  

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2.35 Chester: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

This is a highly competitive race, but I feel the horse at the bottom of the market is grossly underappreciated, as Wild Eric now drops to the minimum trip for the first time, which I believe will suit this pacey front-runner down to the grounds.

The 3-year-old is already course winner, albeit over a furlong further; he’s been disappointing in three starts this year, but now drops below the 80 rating barrier that sees him racing off a feather weight in this race today.

Wild Eric ran to topspeed 84 last season. If the trip revitalizes him and he can come close to that he’ll be hard to beat today from a top draw, I firmly believe.

Selection:
10pts win – Wild Eric @ 15/2 MB

……..

7.30 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

He’s yet to show any sort of that form that saw him become a mid-90 rated sprinter as a three-year-old, but now dropping to to a handy mark as well as dropping to a class 4 Handicap, Roundhay Park appears ripe for a big run today.

Even though he hasn’t been in the money in four starts this year, I’d argue his 6th place finish at York in an ultra-competitive race back in May shows there remains plenty of ability and appetite for the game.

The good ground will suit at Doncaster today and this is a much easier race than anything he’s encountered this season so far. A mark of 85 with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle will see him go close.

Selection:
10pts win – Roundhay Park @ 13/2 MB