Tag Archives: Aiden O’Brien

Epsom Derby 2022 Preview

2022 is a unique edition of the Derby as there is not a single Group 1 winner in the field. With that in mind the race is a wide open contest and the betting deceptive.

In fairness, that’s probably one of the phrases I (too?) often use. Perhaps it’s down to a simply tendency of mine to take on short-priced favourites. However, I truly feel this Derby is a wide open contest. A huge upset isn’t out of question. One only has to look back at the previous years to find that a long-shot winner isn’t something out of the ordinary, anyway.

That’s not to say Desert Crown – 2/1 favourite at the time of writing – won’t turn out the be the best horse in the race. He could be a superstar in the making.

The fact he won the Dante in impressive style on what was only his second career run and seasonal reappearance, despite uneasiness in the market beforehand, rates as significant in my book.

Will he stay? It’s widely assumed he does. As a son of Nathanial he should posses plenty of stamina. The way he kept going and hit the line in the Date suggests he got every chance to stay the Derby trip.

I’ve got concerns, regardless. Green Desert as the dam’s sire. Yes, some of the dam’s offspring stayed 1m 4f. Nonetheless it’s far from certain Desert Crown truly want’s the trip.

Not to glance over the fact he’s also a highly inexperienced horse, hasn’t encountered anything close to the test Epsom provides, the rain is unlikely to be of any help to him either, and we have a large field with 16 other horses all competing for positions and a clear run once they leave Tattenham Corner behind.

Yet, I’ve come slowly around to the believe he is most likely the most talented colt in the Derby field – once we look back in a few years time. In the context of today and everything that comes with it I have to oppose him at the given price, though. I have him more a 7/2 shot than the 2/1-9/4 on offer this morning.

Aiden O’Brien won the Oaks on Friday and he could do the double today. Stone Age is widely assumed to be his prime chance in the Derby. The Leopardstown Derby Trial winner has got his head in front twice this year after failing to do so as a juvenile in five starts.

He was visually impressive at Leopardstown, although his overall profile doesn’t scream Derby winner to me. Topspeed underlines this notion. He ran to 88 and 91 in those races this year. He has to improve significantly. Not a price to back.

Frankie Dettori’s mount Piz Badile enhanced his Derby claims with victory in the Ballysax. The impression he gave that day was he will stay all day long given how strongly he rallied in the home straight. He may well do. An 81 career best topspeed rating (71 in the Ballysax) means he’s got to improve significantly, though. I’m not convinced he will improve so dramatically for the trip.

The incredibly impressive winner of the Newmarket Stakes was Nations Pride. Godolpin’s first string and choice of William Buick today. He’s an obvious improver on his sixth career run having progressed with each run to date. My concern is the trip, once again. The line through his dam out of Oasis Dream doesn’t scream stamina in abundance.

From the other two Godolphin runners – Nahaani and Walk Of Stars – the latter is the one I would prefer. Last years Derby winning rider is on board Nahaani, but the colt doesn’t appear to have enough class I believe.

Walk Of Stars could have the class, though. Runner-up in the Lingfield Derby trial, he ran to topspeed 99 that day; he’s is still very much learning his trade. Stamina won’t be an issue. I expect him to improve for his fifth career run, the additional half furlong and possibly the emphasis on stamina today, depending how the race pans out. He is a big price at 16/1+. The track is a serious question mark, on the other hand and that makes me waver.

Star Of India won the Dee Stakes at Chester. He ran to topspeed 99 that day. Whatever the ground today, I don’t have too much concern about it, neither over track and trip. But how much more can he improve? The family hasn’t been top-class to the most part yet. He’s a full-brother to S J Tourbillon, these day an ordinary handicapper in Hong Kong.

It’s the question of the day: how much can these horses improve? You can’t be too sure about any of the fancied horses that they have it in them to progress to the level required to land the Derby in the ground, over this trip at this track.

In truth that’s only natural for three-year-old colts. My issue is the potential improvement is taken for granted in the betting for the likes of Desert Crown and Stone Age. I’m much more cynical in only believing what I’m seeing.

Which leaves me with Changingoftheguard. He has been on my mind ever since winning the Chester Vase in brilliant style. Sure, the form can be knocked for its small and rather uncompetitive field on soft ground. The favourite didn’t fire and left the race to win for the Aiden O’Brien trained colt.

Nonetheless, Changingoftheguard did it the “hard way”. Ryan Moore went to the front and pushed on right from the start. The son of Galileo galloped the others into submission. And he didn’t stop in the home straight. He just kept going all the way to the line.

He achieved a 106 topspeed rating for the Chester performance – a strong marker and the best on offer in the field today. With that in mind Changingoftheguard has delivered on multiple fronts unlike many of his rivals today.

However, he’s all stamina and vulnerable if the Derby would become a test of speed rather than stamina. But Wayne Lordan – not the most inspired jockey booking – has a say in how the race pans out. From his double-figure draw he can move forward and dictate, if he wants to. He won’t need to worry about stamina.

The application of cheek pieces is added bonus. This has worked wonders for Aiden O’Brien trained colts in this race before. It can help bring out additional improvement in Changingoftheguard too.

Therefore I feel the prices available, with the ground unlikely to be too fast, are way over the top. Any further rain beyond what hit Epsom this morning already will be a big help. And that’s why this lad is going to be hard to pass once in front.

10pts win – Changingoftheguard @ 10/1

Oaks Friday Selections: 3rd June 2022

4.30: Group 1 Epsom Oaks, 1m 4f

On paper this years Oaks looks not a brilliant renewal, albeit a wide open one, with plenty of potential improvers for the Oaks distance. With that in mind I struggle to warm to short-priced favourite Emily Upjohn.

I understand why she’s well fancied today. Her Musidora victory was impressive. As a daughter of Sea The Stars she appears more than likely to stay the trip and it’s equally reasonable to assume she can improve for her fourth career run.

But she has to. The York performance was only worth a 95 topspeed rating. Solid but doesn’t scream 13/8 favourite. She may well take this crucial next step and can progress to the level the market generally assumes she’ll be capable of running to.

At the same time this can be said about a number of other fillies in this field full of likely improvers. Whether that’s Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June (quite appropriately named), stable mate Tuesday – a full-sister to 2016 Oaks heroine Minding, or Trial Stakes winner Nashwa. I could make a case for half the field.

But the two fillies that caught my eye more than anybody else – and I can’t split them – are Concert Hall and the only Godolphin entry With The Moonlight.

It’s no surprise that a full-sister to previous Oaks winner Was should feature highly on any short-list. Hence I am seriously surprised to see Concert Hall available at incredibly generous odds – I feel.

I was interested in her for the Irish 2000 Guineas, but it turned out the drop in trip didn’t really suit her. She didn’t posses the speed needed and got badly outpaced from over three furlongs out. But, crucially, she ran on strongly to finish 3rd eventually.

Perhaps it wasn’t the deepest Guineas field, nonetheless, the fact she was able to finish so strongly over an inadequate trip is noteworthy. Aiden O’Brien mentioned beforehand the filly thrives on racing and the Curragh outing would be a stepping stone towards Epsom.

In that light it’s even more significant that she won on her seasonal reappearance at Navan in the Listed Salsabil Stakes – form that looks rock solid. She gave the impression that she wouldn’t mind an additional couple of furlongs that day.

Therefore the Oaks trip looks a good match. Whether she handles the track is a different matter. She clearly has Oaks written all over and with a solid draw should be up there when it matters in my view.

With The Moonlight isn’t quite as clear-cut if it comes to stamina for the Oaks distance. Her pedigree points more towards middle-distance 10 furlongs. And yet, the way she finished at Newmarket was so impressive, giving the impression she could stretch out to 12 furlongs. And certainly giving the impression of a seriously talented filly.

I loved everything about that performance. It’s noteworthy also for the fact because that day she achieved the fasted topspeed rating on offer in the Oaks field.

Whether she can translate this speed to Epsom is the key question. As a full-sister to Group 1 winning Dream Castle she will certainly have the class. Her striding patterns, as far as available to me, give the indication that she has a fair chance to see out the trip, though.

Perhaps she will be ridden with a little bit more restraint today than at Newmarket. If she settles well, it should give William Buick plenty of options how to ride the race, given she possesses a lot of cruising speed, that is crucial at Epsom in my view.

Both fillies, With The Moonlight and Concert Hall appear seriously overpriced in the market in my book.

5pts win – With the Moonlight @ 14/1
5pts win – Concert Hall @ 13.5/1

……………

7.16 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

This looks like the ideal race I had in mind for Golden Apollo to get his head in front again. Since his eye catching run at Thirsk he ran another fine race at York in a big handicap over 7 furlongs where he got badly hampered.

He drops down to 6 furlongs, is three pounds lower in the mark than at Thirsk and runs in a wide open class 4 contest. The favourite may well be on the up and could be able to defy his increased mark – Golden Apollo is at this stage of his career vulnerable to any unexposed improving sort.

But at the same time he’s dangerously well handicapped in my view, given his wellbeing is confirmed.

The golden years are obviously behind the 8-year-old but he still performed of marks in the 80s last year and also ran to topspeed 84 when runner-up in a hot Redcar Handicap.

He’s been a shade unlucky a number times too in the meantime, including the last two; as a results his mark is reduced all the time. This looks an ideal opportunity to strike.

10pts win – Golden Apollo @ 9/1

……….

7.37 Goodwood: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

I was very taken with Kimngrace the last time at Sandown when she was seriously unlucky over the minimum trip. Today she steps up to 6 furlongs, which should be the perfect distance for this exciting and potentially well handicapped filly.

At Sandown after a steadied start she settled in rear of the field. She made some smooth progress from over three furlongs out but was stuck behind a bunch of horses and a clear passage denied until very late. She finished well when a bit of racing room opened up in the closing stages.

The winner made all from the front, the runner-up and third raced close to the pace too. Given these circumstances this was a big run on what was Kimngrace’s seasonal reappearance. The form is seriously strong as well.

She looks a filly open to considerable improvement, possibly more so now stepping up to 6 furlongs again. When last seen in 2021 she won a Maiden race at Haydock over 6f and looked at home over the trip. That particular form worked out well with the runner-up having ran a huge race in the Fred Darling Stakes this season.

10pts win – Kimngrace @ 10/3

………

7.51 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Gibside has caught the eye a number of times this year. He’s certainly a tricky sort, can be temperamental, gets upset in the stall and looks a horse doing things in his own time.

There was good money all day for him last time out at Ripon when he stepped up to 12 furlongs for the first time – a trip that he should appreciate.

He ran really well over shorter 10 furlongs on two occasions at Beverley previously, when things didn’t go his way and he ran better than the bare result suggested.

The same can be said about this most recent Ripon run. Of course at some point you’re not unlucky but it’s more what you truly are. Nonetheless, I feel Gibside deserves another chance.

He was unruly in the starting gate, slowly away, trailed the field and raced generally highly inefficient with a move at the halfway stage costing vital energy and another huge move turning for home from 4 furlongs out on the wide outside.

He paid for it in the final three furlongs, yet finished in 3rd eventually. Coming from so far back was a huge disadvantage. The runner-up led the field, the winner raced in midfield.

I feel a more conventional, flat track like Doncaster will suit this big, rangy gelding much more than Beverley, or even Ripon. No excuses today. I must stress though he is on the drift this morning – at the same time it ensures a seriously good price, if he is in it to win it today.

10pts win – Gibside @ 6.8/1

……….

Added after initial post – 12.30:

3.10 Group 1 Coronation Cup, 1m 4f

High Definition has drifted into a serious price to the point I feel he’s so far overpriced I have to add him as a bet today. By no means is he’s a 11/2+ shot in this field.

No question that if on song Pyledriver is the one to beat. A consistent top-class horse, the defending champion which saw him achieve a career best here last year. He ran well at Meydan when last seen. If he’s close to the form he showed twelve months ago he’s probably hard to beat.

I can’t have Manobo around 2/1 at all. He is lightly raced and open to considerable improvement. On the other hand he’s clearly shown to need a trip to be seen to best effect. Dropping back to 1m 4f is a major question mark for me.

Hukum has only once in his career ran to a topspeed rating of 100. That dates back to 2020, or nine runs. It would need some of the others to misfire for him to win.

High Definition backs up quickly. That is my major concern. He has been a disappointing horse ever since showing so much promise as a juvenile. But the level of form he produced last time out at the Curragh in the Tattersalles Cup is right up there with the best of Pyledriver.

He got a superb ride that day, and clearly that has to be taken into account as a source of the improvement. Nonetheless, he made it a true test going from the front and was just beaten in the dying strides in a top-class field.

He ran to topspeed 108 at that day. I feel it’s a genuine performance. If he can show this level of form today he has a major chance.

At given prices he’s clearly overpriced with ground ad trip not really being a worry in my view.

10pts win – High Definition @ 5.8/1

Preview: Irish 1000 Guineas 2022

The first opportunity of Irish Classic glory for fillies looks a wide open affair as 14 go to post at the Curragh this afternoon.

It’s no surprise to see an Aiden O’Brien trained filly heading the betting for an Irish Classic. However, the fact he throws three other fillies into the mix doesn’t scream confidence.

Tuesday, at the time of writing the 11/4 favourite, ran with plenty of credit at Newmarket in the English Guineas, finishing a solid third place behind Cachet, who has franked the form in the meantime. There’s every chance the lightly raced daughter of Galileo will improve.

Yet her career-best topspeed rating of 95 isn’t anything special. Could she meet the same fate as her full-sister Minding, who finished runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016? Well, I think it’s certainly worth to oppose Tuesday today, aynway.

Dermot Weld has a strong chance with Homeless Songs, the winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial. The Frankel daughter produced a nice turn of foot to beat smart runner-up Agartha.

No doubt she can progress and has to be considered a main threat to Tuesday. But to be a true contender she certainly has to improve. At Leopardstown she was a bit slow out of the gates, something you’ll hardly overcome in a Classic; while the performance was visually impressive, the 82 topspeed rating isn’t nearly as impressive.

The aforementioned Agartha was probably a bit unlucky in the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes subsequently. She finished second once again, that day behind History.

History, another filly for Aiden O’Brien, is another obvious improver, who should take another step forward from her really pleasing seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown.

Both fillies – History and Agartha – look solid alternatives to the favourite in my eyes, especially as the stiff Curragh finish should suit them.

William Haggas travels over with his representative Purplepay. She was an excellent third against the boys in the Criterium International when last seen. However, race fitness and most certainly the ground are major question marks for her. It may not be soft enough for her.

Mise En Scene hasn’t been seen since finishing 10th at the Breeders’ Cup. Her Prestige Stakes victory last August would give her a fair form chance to feature today. But hard to gauge what expect from her given she’s been off since November.

I am pretty sweet on the chances of another Aiden O’Brien trained filly: Concert Hall. She has Oaks written all over her, and at first glance a drop to a mile isn’t ideal. But in a Guineas that lacks substance, I feel she’s overpriced.

On pure form terms she has serious claims. She’s also top rated on topspeed – a 97 rating isn’t anything to shout about in top-class company, but that shows the lack of depth in the race today. More importantly though, Concert Hall achieved this career best TS last time out.

The daughter of Oaks winner Was returned as a 3-year-old with a fine victory at Navan last month where she stepped up to 1m 2f for the first time.

Not surprisingly she looked a bit fresh and was pretty keen for the first half of the race, but then travelled strongly on the home straight nonetheless and won in better style than the short winning margin may suggest.

The form has already worked out well, although the caveat is that she simply beat slower horses, given the third has won a Listed race over 1m 5f in the meantime and the fourth a Group 3 over 10 furlongs. Nonetheless, there’s real substance to this form.

Going back to her juvenile season her sixth place finish in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket was better than the bare result, and she was not far behind Cachet and Prosperous Voyage.

Before that she won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes over 7 furlongs at the Curragh, clearly doing her strongest work up the stiff finish at the County Kildare venue.

In my mind this is the key to her chances today: that bit of give in the ground will put additional emphasis on stamina and horses can get really tired when they meet the stiff final furlong finish at the Curragh.

Concert Hall has proven that she has solid cruising speed, so I would not expect her to be seriously outpaced and getting too far behind.

Her future will most likely be over further. Today could simply be a stepping stone toward the Oaks. Aiden O’Brien mentioned this filly thrives on racing. Whether she well and truly enjoys cut in the ground remains to be seen. Others in this field, especially those fillies more at home over a mile may take a big step forward and outpace her.

Those are all dangers. Nonetheless, at given prices she looks significant value in my book given there is solid grounds to believe she will be more than capable to compete in this field at this track over this trip.

10pts win – Concert Hall @ 13.5/1

Preview: Lockinge Stakes 2022

The Lockinge Stakes is one of my favourite races of the entire year: a straight mile on decent ground and a field of top-class milers – flat racing at its best.

I also love the Lockinge Stakes because it brings back memories of the “good old times” when my all-time favourite horse Paco Boy won the race in 2010 in the most sensational style.

The moment when Richard Hughes asked him to shift gears after cantering all over the field approaching the final furlong marker….. the turn of foot…. the arrogance – pure horse racing porn.

As for the 2022 edition: we have an overwhelming favourite as we had back in 2010 when Paco Boy was odds-on. This time it’s star miler Baaeed who is expected to win the Lockinge in style. He’s a 4/9 shot. A near certainty.

But is he?

Baaeed is unbeaten in six career starts. He went from strengths to strengths last year: from winning a maiden at Leicester in June to landing the QEII at Ascot in October.

A multiple Group 1 winner, successful in a variety of ground conditions who’s created a stunning visual impression whenever we’ve seen him. There’s no question Baaeed is the righteous favourite today.

He can be beaten, though. Even more so today. This is going to be his first run in 210 days. Yes, the Lockinge is a Group 1, but the Queen Anne next months is most likely the main target. Baaeed may not be fully tuned up today.

The ground is drying. Perfect for racing. And Baaeed won on fast ground. However, his very best performances came with cut in the ground.

Most importantly: even though he’s won two Group 1 races – and doing so visually quite nicely – he’s yet to achieve a topspeed rating worthy of a colt of the highest order.

His career-best came on his second career outing over a mile on good to soft ground – a solid, but not world beating 97 TS rating. He’s ran to 93 and 94 subsequently. With that sort of speed rating he may have struggled to get close in this years 2000 Guineas.

TS ratings aren’t everything and they have their own flaws. But they are a key gauge of class, form and speed. The fact Baaeed hasn’t achieved better ratings despite having ample opportunity suggests to me he’s not quite as good as his form reads.

Or let’s say: he wasn’t last year. Another year older and he may well be a better horse. He could still improve. And he’ll have enough chances to prove he can be a top-class colt also on topspeed.

Saying all that I obviously want to make the case for taking Baaeed on today. Not because he isn’t the most likely winner. He is. But because there are reasons to believe he’s vulnerable today – he’s a very short price and simply not quite as much a certainty as the odds suggest.

Of course it’s only worth opposing him if there’s anything in the field capable of beating him. So: is there?

With Mother Earth and Alcohol Free there are two other Group 1 winners in the race. Last years 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth showed consistency and ran many fine races last year.

She ran to 100 and 101 topspeed ratings, although her form dropped significantly in the second half of the season. Her successful seasonal reappearance at the Curragh wasn’t flashy but you can expert her to come on quite a bit for the run as Aiden O’Brien’s horses tend to do.

She’s dangerous if she can find back to that early season form of 2021.

Alcohol Free is the reigning Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes champion. That’s the mark of a top-class miler. At her best she’s a big danger. But in three subsequent starts she didn’t look anywhere near the filly she was at Goodwood. Her seasonal reappearance left more questions than answers. And the drying ground is far from ideal.

From the rest of the field Chindit and Sir Busker can’t be ruled out at their best form. Nonetheless, both horses struggled in Group 1 company in the past and I reckon a lot has to go wrong for the better fancied horses for either of them to win.

The dark horse in the race is Real World. He’s the one I am really interested in – certainly at the odds on offer.

What sparks my interest is plenty fold: most importantly he’s achieved the fasted topspeed rating in the field. Crucially that performance is pretty recent. He ran to 107 when winning the Zabeel Mile at Meydan in January.

Granted, Meydan form isn’t always the most trustworthy one. Yet it’s a believable progression from what he achieved last season when he ran to 98 (2x) and 102 when he won the Steventon Stakes at Newbury – albeit that was over 10 furlongs.

Real World was a highly progressive 4-year-old once he returned to Europe and turf last season. He won four on the bounce, and brought it to five in a row with the Meydan victory, before trying the dirt at the highest level. He clearly hated the dirt, though, as was evidence earlier in his career already. Therefore I am fully prepared to discount those last two runs.

If you draw a line under those races you see him being unbeaten on turf in five starts. He won over a mile, 9 furlongs, 1m 2f, on very soft to fast ground. This is a top-class horse ready to win a Group 1.

The concern I have is the mile trip on drying ground at this top level. Normally that is. In this field, as alluded to earlier, there aren’t many top-class rivals. With that in mind Real World is a massive price and I couldn’t leave him unbacked.

Selection:
10pts win – Real World @ 9.5/1

Preview: 2000 Guineas 2022

A mouthwatering prospect. The champion two-year-old versus the ante-post Derby favourite. But there’s more to it. A number of highly promising colts line up for the first Classic of the new flat season.

#1 – Berkshire Shadow: won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. Found out in the Dewhurst Stakes. Dwelt in majority of his races. I am not sold on the mile trip.

#2 – Boundless Ocean: won a maiden earlier this month, albeit over 10 furlongs. Most likely has a future beyond a mile.

#3 – Checkandchallenge: fine winner of the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle recently. Has more to offer on only his third run. Proven match fitness. Has loads to find on topspeed ratings, though.

#4 – Coroebus: a lot of hype about him. Justified? We’ll see. Won the Group 3 Autumn Stakes when last seen. Possibly unlucky in Royal Lodge Stakes. Achieved fine 91 and 96 topspeed ratings. My feeling is he’ll be much better beyond a mile. Course form is a big plus.

#5 – Dubawi Legend: quite experienced with 4 lifetime starts. Dewhurst runner-up. Failed to land a blow at the Breeders Cup. Needs to settle to have a chance over a mile. Tongue-tie fitted for the first time.

#6 – Eydon: race fitness assured after two runs this season. Impressive runaway winner of the Feilden Stakes three weeks ago. May need more of a stamina test when racing at the highest level. Low topspeed ratings are a question mark.

#7 – Light Infantry: unbeaten in two runs as a juvenile, including Group 3 over 7 furlongs. Open to improvement but needs to find loads of it to feature.

#8 – Lusail: precocious as a 2-year-old. Twice Group 2 winner over six furlongs. Fine runner-up in the Geenham Stakes on seasonal reappearance. Questionable stayer.

#9 – Luxembuorg: unbeaten top-class juvenile. Impressive winner of the Beresford Stakes and Grade 1 Futurity Trophy. Already ran to 100 and 102 topspeed ratings. He’s the Derby favourite. Most likely his optimum trip lies beyond a mile. Race fitness and whether he has the speed on fast ground over a mile against the very best are key questions.

#10 – Native Trail: unbeaten champion two-year-old. Impressive Dewhurst winner and excellent successful seasonal reappearance in the Craven Stakes recently. Sets the standard on form. Consistently fast and high-class performances. Ran three times to topspeed 100.

#11 – Perfect Power: two-times Group 1 winner as a juvenile, including the Middle Park. Brilliant comeback run in the Greenham. Achieved highest topspeed rating in this field (105). Stamina is a concern. He looks like a sprinter. 7 furlongs could be the maximum.

#12 – Point Lonsdale: experienced and progressive juvenile. Won four of five last year, only beaten by Native Trail in the National Stakes. Should improve for going up in trip. Career-highest 90 TS means he has a bit to find at this stage.

#13 – Royal Patronage: ran down Coroebus in the Royal Lodge last year. Possible excuses in Futurity Stakes. Should have more to offer, albeit likely needs a longer trip. Could make this a stamina test to suit himself if going hard from the front.

#14 – Tacarib Bay: only win came in a maiden in three starts. Solid runner-up in the European Free Handicap. Could improve if he stays the additional furlong. Has tons to find with better fancied horses, though.

#15 – The Wizard Of Eye: some solid runs in defeat in Group races but ultimately not good enough even on Group 3 level. Impossible to fancy.

Summary:

I may eat my words in a few hours time if I say this: this edition of the 2000 Guineas is a two-horse race.

Native Trail and Luxembourg should lead the way home. Saying that the X-factor could be Perfect Power. If the pace is somehow slow enough for the race to become a sprint home and/or he truly stays the trip no matter what, he’s obviously highly dangerous.

What a about Coroebus? I don’t buy the hype (yet). Charlie Appleby’s second string is obviously a talented colt. But I reckon he will be a much better horse over 10 furlongs (being fully aware there are contrasting opinions available).

In theory the same could be said about Luxembourg. There is a major difference, though: Coroebus didn’t crack the 100 topspeed barrier last year. He has the potential, I’m sure about it. Yet, he didn’t do it last year and with the question mark whether the mile truly brings out the best in him, he slips down the packing order for me.

Perfect Power is most likely the fastest horse in the race. Judged on juvenile form he certainly is, in fact. As much as I adore this colt, he looks a sprinter to my eyes, nonetheless.

A good case can be made for Point Lonsdale to be competitive. Despite ample racing experience as a juvenile, I feel he can still improve this season. Especially tackling the mile trip. Whether he is quite in the category of the market principles is hard to know at this stage.

Conclusion:

On paper there is not much between Native Trail and Luxembourg. What speaks for the Godolphin horse is match fitness and that he encounters perhaps his ideal scenario: 8 furlongs, Rowley Mile. I agree with the market in so far as he’s the most likely winner.

And yet I feel Luxembourg is the much stronger bet with more upside. He had two runs less than native Trail last year and comes fresh to Newmarket. The factors experience and race fitness count against him, but are possibly overrepresented in his price.

The other factor that drives his price is the notion that he’s the Derby favourite and as a son of Camelot sure to do his best work beyond the mile trip. Nonetheless, Luxembourg was mightily impressive over a mile in his three lifetime starts.

He also achieved topspeed ratings that match Native Trail. In fact his Beresford Stakes victory earned him a 102 TS rating, which is better than Native Trail’s best of 100. It’s fair to say there is every possibility Native Trail can run much faster when needed, of course. The same can be said about Luxembourg as well.

Watch the replay of the Curragh race and you see a horse as green as the Irish grass in spring. Luxembourg followed up in the Futurity Stakes. He quickened nicely in soft ground on the outside of the field despite racing without cover for the most part, and held the challengers with ease in the closing stages.

I am pretty certain Luxembourg is the most talented horse in this field. The only question mark is how much have team Ballydoyle left to work with the Derby probably the key target. I am prepared to take the risk.

10pts win – Luxembourg @ 11/2

Sandown Classic Trial Preview

Six exciting colts go to post in the Classic Trial at Sandown on Friday. Could we see the 2022 Derby winner?

Goldspur has the strongest form in the book, no doubt. A winner of the Zetland Stakes in October last year followed up with a subsequent 3rd place in a strong Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

He ran to topspeed 92 on his second lifetime start at Newmarket and the French form has worked out well: the likes of Stone Age and Buckaroo have returned as three-year-olds in promising style.

The clear concern must be Goldspur’s speed. Even as a juvenile he appeared desperately in need of every inch of the 1m 2f trip. He was also beaten for speed in the closing stages at Saint-Cloud. With that in mind over 10 furlongs on fast ground he looks vulnerable in this field.

River Thames is an interesting alternative. I was quite taken how he won on debut at Punchestown. No surprise, he was a still raw and green and a bit flat footed over three furlongs out, but once called on for full effort he rapidly shifted into top gear and ran down the leaders.

Judged on that visual piece of evidence he should enjoy the step up in trip. Although the pedigree is a little bit less clear on that front. It’ll be interesting to watch.

John Gosden can never be ignored, given his more recent successes in this particular race. His Frankel colt Frantastic was an emphatic winner of a Novice contest at Newcastle when last seen in October. It was visually impressive how he put the race to bed, matched by fast sectionals in the closing stages.

On the other hand it was a slowly run race and the horses behind him low-grade standard – the runner-up is a 72 rated individual after an unsuccessful class 5 Handicap debut. The fact he could quicken off a pedestrian pace in such nice style, while you would hope he can easily step up to 10 furlongs, is a big plus, nonetheless.

Franz Strauss was a winner on debut at Newcastle in December. The form is notable for the fact that it has been seriously franked thanks to third placed Eydon who made such a big impression in the Feilden Stakes last week upon his return.

The son of Golden Horn looks sure to improve for the new trip and seems to be a bit overpriced in a race where the majority of colts are such unknown quantities.

Ralph Beckett will hope Westover can take a step forward for the new trip too. The Frankel colt finished never worse than second in three starts over 1 mile last year. To be competitive in this race he’s got to find improvement, though.

Cash is the one I am most interested in. For obvious reasons. He featured on my 5 To Follow list for 2022 thanks to a stunning debut run in a maiden at Newmarket in October.

Visually that was an incredibly taking run, one that is backed up speed ratings and sectionals. The form looks proper as he overcame greenness when beating more experiences rivals, plus the third placed horse was a fine 3rd placed finisher behind New London too, who himself is now a hot Derby prospect.

He is likely to stay well beyond the mile trip given the dam won over 1m 6f, so the step up in trip is a positive here. A negative could be hold-up tactics. Never ideal at Sandown, even more so in a race where there may a lack of pace.

Summary:

A wide open contest, especially if one is prepared to take on short-priced favourite Goldspur. Charlie Appleby’s colt remains the most likely winner on all known form. However, the other five horses have all significant potential to improve.

At this point in time nobody truly knows which horse has trained on and will be able to fulfill their early promise. I hope it’s going to be Cash. The Grey impressed me on debut so immensely with a debut run that to me appeared out of the ordinary.

The pace is question mark, as is tactics. Yet, I can see a scenario where even in a slowly run race he has the turn of foot to quicken past his rivals. He looks to have all the right tools to be a really good colt.

10pts win – Cash @ 7/1