Tag Archives: Ascot

Eyecatchers #7 2022

A list of horses that caught my eye during the last seven days of racing. These individuals look ready to win a race sooner rather than later given the right conditions.

Dancing Tango
06/05/22 – 3.25 Ascot:

Bit slowly away from the gate, then travelled really well into the home straight on the bridle, made progress to 2 furlongs out when a bit short of room, pulled out and stayed on strongly. Solid topspeed 70 rated performance.

Clearly one to improve for going up in trip. Bred for 12 furlongs. Full-sister to good handicapper Dancing Approach. Possibly wants ease in the ground too. Soft 10f on a stamina demanding track may also be a possibility.

One to wait for going handicapping. Showed promise on debut run last month too. Have to monitor the opening mark. Will need on more run to qualify.

Race Replay

Zameka + Kindness
06/05/22 – 4.35 Ascot:

The two aren’t obvious eyecatchers from a pure visual point of view. Though, there is a lot to take from this race for their future chances.

Zameka was disadvantaged right away from the widest outside draw. Travelled okay to the two furlong marker then dropped away quickly. First time blinkers didn’t help much in terms of performance, although he looked a lot more settled and less awkward than in the past.

Ran really well at Lingfield on his seasonal debut in a hot handicap when he hang his chances away in the closing stage but finished well given the circumstances.

He was two times placed and won well on his final start in 2021. Therefore he’s certainly better than this most recent poor showing. He was a $170k yearling, a full-brother to 95 rated Eagle Song, who won twice over 7 furlongs on the All-Weather.

With that in mind, as well as the pedigree, there is plenty of potential upside if Zameka goes back up in trip to 7 furlongs. He’s already won over the trip. The shorter sprint distances are too sharp. Perhaps a return to the All-Weather could be interesting too.

Kindness was drawn the total opposite in the #1 gate. She raced without cover and faded rapidly from two furlongs out, eventually finished last.

This was her seasonal reappearance. My impression is the trip is too short. That’s despite her winning over 5.5 as a juvenile. Back then in September she was quite badly outpaced at the back of the field but stayed on strongly as the leaders went too hard.

On pedigree she should enjoy a step up to 7 furlongs. With a reduced mark and tackling that additional distance she’ll be really interesting.

Race Replay

Mick McHugh
06/05/22 – 5.45 Ripon:

The run itself was not much on the eye. He was outpaced from 3f out, kept up to work for a while but was eventually eased. However, this was a solid comeback run after a 100 day break that should put him spot on.

He showed talent in January on the All-Weather over 5 furlongs, especially when placed at Lingfield finding plenty under pressure despite the minimum trip certainly being an inadequate one.

His breeding clearly points to a mile. that context I feel these three runs are noteworthy and perhaps he didn’t show too much the handicapper. An opening mark of 72 is workable if he steps up in trip to 7 furlongs or a mile.

Race Replay

Shallow Hal
06/05/22 – 6.45 Ripon:

Outpaced at the rear of the field 3 furlongs out, looked poised and dangerous two furlongs from home, travelling behind horses while searching for a gap. Didn’t get a clear run until late, finished strongly with the fastest final furlong split.

Jockey was 1lb overweight here, perhaps the ground not quite soft enough to see Shallow Hal to best effect. Strong run in circumstances. Not for the first time over the last weeks; he’s ran with plenty of credit and not always the best of luck in his races, mostly running to form and mark.

This consistency means he’s in the grip of the handicapper. However, this most recent run shows that he has options of a mark of 73 – he could be really dangerous with a claimer on board, especially with cut in the ground.

Ideally he drops to below 73 before I back him. Ground conditions are non-negotiable for me; I might be tempted on softish ground with a strong apprentice of his current mark, if the price is right.

Race Replay

Makyon
06/05/22 – 6.26 Wolverhampton:

Got a bump early and travelled keenly throughout. Had a lot to do from the back of the field and was rather tenderly handled. Finished in impressive style weaving through the field under hands and heels, posting the fastest last two furlongs.

He has lost his way completely, which is the reason why he has fallen to a basement mark. But he showed the flame is still burning lately. This recent performance is the best to date.

Would be very interesting back on turf over 6 or 7 furlongs, ideally with cut in the ground.

Race Replay

Late Arrival
06/05/22 – 5.35 Nottingham:

Chased early pace, got shuffled back from 3 furlongs out as he didn’t quite possessed the speed to stay close to the early pace. Stuck behind horses and short of room from two furlongs out, while sticking nicely to the task. Gets out late and finishes strongly with second fasted final furlong split.

Best on All-Weather but has ran well on turf last season too, without winning, though. Down to a solid mark. Wouldn’t mind another couple of pounds off. Handicapper would give him a real chance then.

Needs to go back to 7 furlongs, either on the All-Weather, or on turf with cut in the ground.

Race Replay

Wet Wind Blows
06/05/22 – 6.10 Nottingham:

Went out hard in the early part of the race setting some fast fractions. Slowed it down in the middle and kicked on impressively in the home straight to win by 5 lengths.

He defied a penalty for winning on debut at Newcastle but the weight was no issue here, despite meeting some solid opposition. His Newcastle performance was also noteworthy as he overcame greenness and not having the clearest of runs, finishing very strongly.

He’s a quirky sort, still learning on the job, but clearly talented, having ran to topspeed 90 here. Ten furlongs looks fine as a trip. Moving up in distance isn’t out of question. He looks pattern class and will be interesting where he goes next.

Race Replay

One Ruler
07/05/22 – 4.05 Ascot:

Travelled in midfield on the stands’ side really well until about two furlongs from home when he starts to lose his position as a combination of being slightly outpaced over this 7 furlongs distance as well as being stuck behind a wall of horses.

Finds himself about to be relegated to last approaching the final furlong. Switches to the inside rail and finishes under easy hands and heels the joint fasted final furlong split. Impressive.

Seven furlongs and fastish ground racing off near top weight was an incredibly tough assignment. To run so well in these circumstances is especially noteworthy.

Back up to a mile he’ll be a big chance, particularly with ease in the ground.

Race Replay

Ribtide + Eldeyaar
07/05/22 – 7.05 Thirsk:

Ribtide has to content with an outside draw, travels at the rear of the main group really strongly, hard on the bridle all the way to the final furlong marker behind a wall of horses with no way through.

Clearly better than this result and better than the odds of his first four career runs suggested. An opening mark of 67 looks stiff enough for what he achieved so far, although his runner-up performance in March behind Fly To Glory, who is now 83 rated and finished a solid third subsequently behind another 83 rated individual could indicate he’s got a bit more to offer.

This was his handicap debut. He was a 50/1 shot. And the way he travelled looked nowhere near like a no-hoper. Six furlongs looks to be his trip. I’ll be really interested wherever he goes next. He was a January foal and should win races soon. But the market has to be monitored.

Eldeyaar was another hard luck story. He got a heavy bump right after the start. Travelled at the rear end of a small group on the stands’ side. As the groups merged and the race got hot from two furlongs out he appeared slightly outpaced, but kept going nicely.

He had a bunch of horses in front, couldn’t quite quicken fast enough whenever a gap opened for a brief moment. Eventually things opened up late and he ran home strongly.

Clearly a better run than his 50/1 price suggested. This was his handicap debut. He looks to be potentially better than this opening 58 mark. His three qualifying runs where also better than the bare form.

Pedigree matches my visual impression that he wants an additional furlong. He should be a big runner if he steps up in trip. He may be well handicapped enough over 6 furlongs for now – but only with cut in the ground.

Race Replay

Elzaal
0705/22 – 7.35 Thirsk:

Travelled well as part of the smaller of two groups toward the stands’ side. Looked poised for a big challenge over two furlongs out as the groups merged. Was in a tight spot and badly hampered over one furlong out. Had to regain momentum. Impressive how he did it.

The form should be strong thanks to the winner who was still well handicapped.

There are obvious issues and risks with him. He’s a maiden after 20 runs. He’s got close a number of times. Down to a 49 mark at the moment, the right race is there for him to win.

Ideally 5 furlongs on soft ground as otherwise I’m sure he’ll be found out for speed. I would also be curious to see him attempting 6 furlongs again. He tried the distance only once. His pedigree gives him every chance to stay the trip.

Race Replay

Marselan
07/05/22 – 8.35 Thirsk:

Raced as part of a duo isolated on the stand’s side. Pair was lengths behind main bunch and had plenty to do with two furlongs to go. Marselan found plenty to finish much the strongest to grab 2nd place. He also achieved a career best 60 topspeed rating.

This was the first time after a wind operation – he was never going to be a 66/1 shot if his breathing would be fixed. The loss of form last year can most likely be attributed to those issues.

He won of 65 and 67 last summer over 7 furlongs. Now down to 62 he’s obviously well handicapped with the breathing issues rectified. I think 6 furlongs with cut in the ground can work as seen here but the additional furlong and decent ground may well be his optimum.

Race Replay

Arlecchino’s Gift + Salta Resta
09/05/22 – 1.40 Wolverhampton:

Arlecchino’s Gift was caught wide from his wide draw and only dropped in over three furlongs out around the home bend. Travelled much the best entering the home straight but had the entire field to pass.

Appeared to find a small gap over a furlong from home but got badly squeezed eventually. He pulled through but lost momentum. Got quickly going again and finished well – despite the trouble and being eased in the final 100 yards he ran the fasted home straight sectionals.

Starting issues prevented him from a more fruitful juvenile campaign, although he showed some talent. A gelding operation over the winter helped and thanks to being more professional at the start he’s finally winning races. He’s been progressive this year, wining twice and running well a number of other times.

When winning of a mark of 55 at Wolverhampton he appeared to have a bit in hand, which was confirmed by a 59 topspeed rating. There were excuses at Chelmsford subsequently when he was badly bumped at the start and was overly keen in a slowly run race.

This most recent performance adds to the picture that Arlecchino’s Gift continues to improve. Of a mark of 60 he could still be well handicapped given he ran to TS 59 with relative ease and caught the eye so dramatically here.

Salta Resta raced at the back of the field and was quite keen throughout but travelled strongly entering the home straight. Had to delay her effort to wait for space to open on the inside. She finished strongly, despite not having a clear run in the closing stages once again, not being knocked about either, with the second fastest home straight sectionals.

She’s been better than the latest results suggest. Currently only 2lb above her last winning mark from Southwell in January when she also achieved a 56 topspeed rating and beat Arlecchino’s Gift.

I feel anything below 6 furlongs will be too sharp. A step up to 7 furlongs looks possible given the dam side. But she’s always quite keen, so perhaps a fast 6 furlongs with a pace to run at should see her capable of winning another race.

Race Replay

Jumira Bridge
09/05/22 – 2.40 Wolverhampton:

After his usual awkward start he travelled well at the back of the main bunch. Looked poised turning for home but got stuck amongst horses. Had to switch to the inside in a harsh move over a furlong out and finished much the best, although the winner was long gone. Raced 1lb out of the weights.

Excellent follow-up from a good performance in a seller over course and distance when he made eye-catching headway turning for home carrying 10st.

Obviously a tricky customer, who can lose races at the gate and has fallen a long way down in the ratings. These last two performances suggest there is life in the 8-year-old, though.

If he drops down to class 6 he’ll be a big chance sooner rather than later I reckon. All-Weather or fast ground on turf both should work.

Race Replay

Monsieur Jumbo
09/05/22 – 3.40 Wolverhampton:

He lost the race at the gate. Not for the first time. Had to play catch up from early on. Appeared a bit outpaced around the home bend, kept up to work and stuck gutsily to it in the home straight, rattled home once switched to the middle of the track in impressive fashion, very much the strongest visually and also backed up by last 2 furlongs splits. Doing this despite losing his right-fore shoe.

No doubt he was the best horse in the race. He ran much better than the form suggested at Redcar before. After missing the break, he travelled powerfully through the middle part of the race, just got tired in the end doing too much before it really mattered.

He should stay the mile given the stamina on the dam side. I think it’s worth another try as things happen a little slower there. Ideally we see some headgear applied too.

He was a £85,000 as a yearling and has shown at the track he’s got some talent to match the price. He’s yet to run to a TS rating that matches his current mark, but I firmly believe he’s well capable.

Race Replay

Ustath
09/05/22 – 3.30 Catterick:

Grabbed the lead but didn’t find immediate change of gear entering the home straight. Got pressured left and right and badly hampered repeatedly from 2 furlongs out and never had a change to unleash a challenge. Whether he would have found enough to truly challenge is hard to answer.

Catterick as a track wouldn’t totally suit him. He’s best on flat tracks or the All-Weather. He’s down to a good mark having ran with consistency to a higher level last year. He won off 65 and was placed three times of a similar mark on turf and fibresand, and ran five times to topspeed ratings of 58 or higher (3x 61+).

Even though he has fallen down to a 56 rating at the moment, he was already twice placed this year and ran to a 58 TS rating at Newcastle.

Back on 6 furlongs on fast ground he’ll be ripe to win.

Race Replay

Port Noir + Hope Probe
10/05/22 – 2.20 Chepstow:

Port Noir travelled on the outside from a wide draw away from where the pace and race would develop. Going well making fine progress two furlongs out, then bit short of room and in tight spots a couple of times. Runs well to the line under hands and heels.

Fine performance given the circumstances. She is better on the All-Weather but a few pounds too high for my liking. One to monitor for a few more runs.

She won of a mark of 64 last September at Wolverhampton over 7 furlongs. That performances matches her career best 64 topspeed rating. Wait for her to drop down to that mark in those circumstances.

Hope Probe was at a disadvantage from her low draw much like Port Noire. Moved right over to the stands’ side rail but now behind a wall of horses. Switched back to the middle of the track from 3f out and eventually further to the outside in a dramatic move, making rapid progress.

Received two slight bumps in the last two furlongs but continued to finish well to grab 3rd place on the line.

He must have had issues having dropped 15lbs in a year and changed yards twice. He won of 55 over 7 furlongs last April ( 58 TS) and was multiple times placed of higher ratings subsequently.

This was a clear and obvious return to form. He could be well handicapped if stepping back up to 7 furlongs again.

Race Replay

Silver Diva
10/05/22 – 3.20 Chepstow:

Travelled strongly on the inside behind horses, kept up nicely to the task while having to bide time. Some space opened up late in the final furlong and she moved through easily to finish strongly under hands and heels.

She is still a maiden after 17 attempts, but there are mitigating factors. She also showed promise of higher marks last summer, especially with cut in the ground when she finished 3rd at Salisbury and Windsor.

Down to a basement mark at the moment, she has improved nicely with each run since her seasonal reappearance. The fact she ran so well on fast ground over the minimum trip here is noteworthy.

On proper soft ground she’ll be quite interesting over 5f with a stiff finish or otherwise over 6 furlongs, taking also into context her dam was a soft ground horse too.

Race Replay

Kylie Rules
10/05/22 – 3.40 Beverley:

Travelled very strongly approaching the two furlong marker. Had to wait for racing room, switched toward the inside rail but had to keep fighting for space. The race was gone as she reached the final furlong, although she didn’t find much either in the closing stages.

This was a hot race with some well handicapped individuals here, including the strong winner. She ran a big race last time out here at Beverley over 7.5 furlongs, finishing much the strongest visually and on sectionals, confirming the promise of her seasonal reappearance at Redcar.

No question, she is a frustrating mare these days. She hasn’t won for years, often enough caught the eye, none more so last June when an unlucky 4th at Thirsk of a mark of 67 while running to TS 66.

She is down to a 49 mark now. There is still some spark. But she will need ideal conditions: a bit of cut in the ground. Too often she raced on fastish ground, ran well, but I feel she needs a bit of ease in the ground these days. If that’s given over 7-8 furlongs she’ll win soon.

Race Replay

Gibside
10/05/22 – 4.10 Beverley:

Sluggish start, settled in rear, looked not quite to enjoy the sharp track and still seemed green. Bit short of room 3f out, switched widest for challenge and hang in the home straight a bit to his right. Better than the result, finished well on the sections.

Strong follow-up from last time out when he ran a big race as runner-up. That day he made his move too early that day and a more conservative ride would have seen him gone much closer. Ran to topspeed 54 the last two times now.

I think Beverley looks too sharp for him as a track and fast ground possibly not quite ideal. He looks like one who doesn’t want it any faster than good. He’s a poor starter. Can see him move up to 12 furlongs. That should unlock additional improvement. 1m 2f distance isn’t out of question but want to see him on a less sharp course and with cut in the ground in that instance.

Race Replay

Lailah
10/05/22 – 5.20 Beverley:

Settled well in rear and travelled solidly into the home straight, looking potentially poised for a challenge. Kept in a pocket and not clear run from 3f out, eased to finish second last in the end. Was a big drifter in the betting on the day.

Clearly one for handicaps. Inexperienced, only the second career run for the filly, who was an April foal too. She’ll improve with racing and certainly if going up in trip. She’s a sister to solid handicapper Knowing, a 10f winner who stays 12 furlongs.

I suspect Lailah needs to move beyond 10 furlongs to be seen to best effect. That will happen. Give her time, monitor for the next few starts, also with an eye on the opening mark – she’s one for later this season.

Race Replay

Rose Camira + Adjourn
10/05/22 – 7.00 Newcastle:

Rosa Camira travelled nicely in midfield for a long time, made a bit of progress entering the home straight, but not helped by a shifting rival carrying them toward the far side. Eased after not finding much in the closing stages

Lovely return to the track for the filly on her second career start. She didn’t show much on debut over inadequate 7 furlongs. I reckon this piece of form here will work out quite well, though. Certainly she will have learned quite a bit.

She’ll be interesting once qualified for a mark and if stepping up in trip. There’s an awful lot of stamina in the pedigree. She’s a full-sister 1m 4f winning Lady of Shalott and Lady Morgana who was only 1¼ lengths behind Group 1 winning Eshaada in her sole run.

It’s unlikely that this filly will be a star, but she could be underestimated given the naked form doesn’t read too well yet; hence she’s one to wait for later this year when she goes up in trip and hopefully hasn’t shown too much to the handicapper too early to get a nice opening mark.

Adjourn quickly crossed over from his wide draw to be right up with the pace. He clearly made way too much in the first half of the race.He still looked in with a chance entering the home straight but in reality was gradually weakening and fading away.

This was his first run since September, having been gelded in the meantime. When last seen in 2021 he was an excellent 5th, only 2.5l beaten, behind smart Subastar at Newmarket.

He stepped up to 10 furlongs for the first time here at Newcastle. The jury is out whether he truly stays it. The pedigree is not fully conclusive on that question. The reason why he didn’t get home in this race was simply down to pacing, so worth another chance over the distance.

Otherwise a mile with some ease in the ground could be interesting too. That says one has to monitor the opening mark. As mentioned before I feel this was a strong maiden. And his juvenile form may push his mark beyond an acceptable level. He was a £135,000 purchase, though, and should have talent.

Race Replay

All Are Mine
10/05/22 – 8.00 Newcastle:

Was slowly away and clearly inexperienced. Pulling also really hard for the majority of the race in what was a field crawling for the most part. Didn’t get a clear run of things from 2 furlongs out as pace increased, perhaps also a little bit outpaced shortly after, but very impressive how he changed gears inside the final furlong when finding racing room to fly home.

Highly impressive debut despite drifting out to 25/1 from single figure odds in the morning. Fetched €162k at a breeze up sale last year.

Should improve for a trip given his pedigree. Ten furlongs looks no issue on that front. Will be really interesting to see where he goes next and what the market says. Exciting prospect.

Race Replay

Gold Charm
10/05/22 – 7.45 Lingfield:

Perhaps a tiny bit slow out of the gates, she travelled stylishly into the home straight. Didn’t have an immediate change of gear but wasn’t help by a rival hanging into her, pushing her toward the inside. Eventually with some space in front of her, she finished much the best, especially from half a furlong out.

This was her handicap debut after a really solid pipe opener in quite a hot Newbury maiden last month. An opening mark of 73 isn’t a giveaway from the handicapper; however, this run and particularly the way she finished the race is encouraging.

She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree, and matching that with the visual impression here I reckon she can unlock more potential if she moves up in trip. Winning over 12 furlongs of her mark looks realistic.

Race Replay

Wobwobwob
11/05/22 – 2.25 York:

Drawn in stall #1 on the far side, tried to go with the pace early on but soon flat footed and under pressure. Things happened too quickly here. Still found something under pressure and finished okay, isolated on that far rail.

Six furlongs on decent ground is probably too sharp, especially in this class. Ran a number of good races last year, including when winning at York twelve months ago over 7 furlongs. Continued to improve without winning. A third place at Ayr in a highly competitive Handicap of a mark of 88 running to topspeed 86 counts as a career best.

His seasonal reappearance at Thirsk last month was excellent. Both runs this year now confirmed he’s as good as ever. An 85 OR gives opportunities. Any drop in the mark in combination with a step up to 7 furlongs, ideally with a bit of cut in the ground, will be really interesting.

Race Replay

Life’s A Beach + Mr Freedom
11/05/22 – 8.30 Bath:

Life’s A Beach settled in rear after a slightly sluggish start. Was trailing the entire field turning for home. Had to wait for room, which opened up late inside the final furlong when switched to the inside where he finished really well with seemingly a lot in the tank.

This was his seasonal reappearance having been off since disappointing as short priced favourite at Kempton on Handicap debut. The way he travelled and finished from the back of the field suggests he’s certainly well handicapped.

It’s reasonable to expect he can improve with age and experience given he’s an April foal. He can be a slow starter and wasn’t able to quicken when it mattered at Kempton, so I’d be warry of dropping to 7 furlongs and want to see him over a mile.

Mr Freedom also travelled toward the end of the field. Still third last entering the home straight, he was stuck amongst horses, tried different avenues to get out and hang a bit over one furlong out when switched toward the inside again.

This was his first outing this year and first handicap start after showing nothing as a juvenile. He was surprisingly well backed from an early morning 20’s into 10’s SP.

He’s obviously light on experience and also one you definitely would hope to improve with time. There’s also a good deal of stamina that make me believe his future will more likely be over 10 furlongs.

Race Replay

Flying Secret
12/05/22 – 4.18 Salisbury:

Travelled strongly in rear on the inside, having plenty to do with two furlongs to go. Not finding much racing room until finally in the clear approaching the final furlong. Doesn’t have an instant acceleration but eventually stays on well to land 3rd place.

He’s got his issues in the starting gate and looks in the grip of the handicapper. At least over 6 furlongs. He needs the step up in trip, possibly 7 furlongs will suffice, but a mile should work too. Ideally he gets a couple of pounds off his mark too.

Will monitor for the next starts where they go with him. I wouldn’t back him over 6 furlongs.

Race Replay

Jawwaal
12/05/22 – 1.50 York:

Not the best of starts but that’s normal for him these days. Travelled powerfully behind a wall of horses, looming large, whenever he could get a gap to run through. No gap appeared, switched over 1 furlong out but the race was gone by then. Was eventually eased.

Really nice first outing for the year. Should improve from this. Travelled so well to assume he’s in fine nick. Proved to be prolific last season winning twice and achieve a career best 98 topspeed rating.

Currently rated 98. Would like to see a couple of pounds less before I’m seriously interested, which may already be achieved after this run if the handicapper is lenient. 5 furlongs in smaller field at Doncaster or Ascot on fast ground would be the ideal scenario.

Race Replay

Saturday Selections: 7th May 2022

2.20 Ascot: Listed Buckhounds Stakes, 1m 4f

Can you trust Al Aasy? I can’t. No doubt he is – in theory – the best horse in the race. His official rating and 2021 form is testament to this fact. However, it’s undeniable that his sudden form loss toward the end of last season is a major concern.

Possibly dropping down to Listed level on his seasonal reappearance is an ideal pipe opener to build confidence thanks to a relatively easy assignment. If his enthusiasm is back he’ll win this race running backwards.

At the given prices I absolutely must take him on with all the justified doubts, though. In fairness, this field is light in terms real quality. Third Realm has some nice form in the book and ran multiple times to low topspeed ratings of low 90’s, but never beyond TS 92 and all his form comes with cut in the ground.

The only other one who has ran to topspeed ratings of note is Stowell. He’s an obvious choice at given prices. By no means a sexy individual, one who’s more a grinder than flashy accelerator, but one who offers still some upside as a 4-year-old.

Stowell has match fitness on his side after a solid seasonal reappearance at Newbury last month. He’s a course and distance winner and ran with a lot of credit when third in the Queen’s Vase as Royal Ascot. He ran to TS 94 that day, it’s the second best on offer in this field the favourite aside.

I think he’s fast enough for the 1m 4f trip, especially on Listed level against this sort of opposition – if the potential class act Al Aasy isn’t anywhere near as good as he used to be.

This lad strikes me as a rock solid horse and he’s a overpriced in this field today.

10pts win – Stowell @ 4/1

………..

5.15 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

I said after his latest disappointing performance at Wolverhampton to keep faith for the day he returns to turf. – so I’ll stick to my word and continue to have financial interest in Chief Little Hawk.

The gelding messed up at Wolver three weeks ago, though, left the impression that he has more to give if things fall right – once again. But Wolverhampton was never going to be the right track for him. Straight 6 furlongs at Ascot on turf should suit a lot better.

Chief Little Hawk was a big eye-catcher for me at Southwell on his penultimate run. As mentioned then, the way he finished in the closing stages from the back of the field in a race dominated by the two pace setters wasn’t what you normally would see from a 40/1 shot.

He wasn’t even hard ridden in the final stages of the race, yet was the third fastest finisher from two furlongs out, according to sectionals – underlying the visual impression.

Since moving yards away from Aiden O’Brien over to Jamie Osborne Chief Little Hawk has rarely been fancied in the betting. He was long odds most of the time, and still managed to finish 4th, only 1.5 lengths beaten as a 50/1 outsider, in a class 2 Handicap at Newmarket of a mark of 94 last August.

He has fallen significantly in the ratings in the meantime. He is now down to an official rating of 80 and runs in a class 4 Handicap on turf for the first time. Given Chief Little Hawk ran to topspeed 83+ on three occasions in the past, I feel he could be really well handicapped.

Obviously this is a massive field, stall 20 is a question mark and the jockey form is poor. But he’s a price I am prepared to run the risk.

10pts win – Chief Little Hawk @ 9.5/1

Eye-Catchers #4 2022

A list of horses that have caught my eye during the last seven days of racing. These individuals look ready to win a race sooner rather than later.

Tiber Flow
15/04/22 – 3.10 Newcastle:

Slightly impeded at the start, although it may not had a dramatic bearing on the outcome of the race as he has the habit of starting slowly. But as a result of this he found himself settling well off the pace and that, indeed, may have been a disadvantage.

He travelled strongly in the pack but couldn’t quite unleash a clear challenge until two furlongs out. In contrast the eventual winner was always handy and had a clear view at the most crucial stage of the race.

Tiber Flow was slightly switched over a furlong from home to thunder home on the stands’ side and nearly reeled in the winning favourite, who is a 107 rated and vastly more experienced rival.

Visuals and sections as well tell the same story: Tiber Flow was unlucky not to win.

Tiber Flow came here with a progressive profile, but clearly made a dramatic jump, running to a 103 topspeed rating while only rated 94. Surely the handicapper will rectify this gap. That won’t matter because this lad is a Group horse in the making.

How good? We’ll see. Clearly the way he finished here at Newcastle suggests he wants to go back to 7 furlongs, which looks ideal on pedigree too.

Ex Gratia
15/04/22 – 3.30 Lingfield:

From the widest draw she was soon trailing the field, although, different to all her other career runs, she started more alertly this time. Perhaps, the penny starts to drop – albeit slowly.

The race was certainly dominated by the front group with the winner and runner-up always up or close to the pace. The eventual winner kicked away and was way too good, running to an impressive topspeed rating.

In that context, also the horses finishing behind ran to solid TS ratings, giving this form a rock solid look. Ex Gratia never landed a blow, though. But she was in the worst possible position as the pace increased, and also didn’t quite seem to enjoy the sharp home turn.

What caught my eye was how easily she was finishing in the closing stages, though. Passing horses easily and closing to the main bunch without an overly animated Luke Morris in the saddle (especially if one accounts for his normally highly animated and aggressive style of riding).

This filly is obviously a temperamental, backward one. She is already four but only started racing in December. She showed plenty of promise but also plenty of quirks. The way she dismantled her rivals at Southwell – albeit a poor bunch – on her second career start remains a vivid impression.

Connections must have been impressed too as they where throwing her into the deep end at Newcastle against well seasoned high-class sprinters the next time. She faded in the closing stages but wasn’t disgraced.

The handicapper gave her an 80 opening mark which is hard to gauge whether it’s too high or too lenient. My feeling is 6 furlongs is too sharp, despite all the speed in the pedigree – but she is a half-sister to a 10f winner also.

I imagine her rating may drop a couple of pounds and if that is the case I will be interested in her over 7 furlongs. I am not ruling out a mile either. But want to see her at a less sharp track.

Race Replay

Alpha Cru
16/04/22 – 5.15 Nottingham:

From the second widest draw she was hampered early on which meant she couldn’t get close up with the pace, which is the filly’s preferred style of racing. Travelling in rear of the field she made a bit of progress in the home straight but was short of room over 2 furlongs out.

Even with a clear run from that point she wouldn’t have won, given the eventual winner ran away with it here. But it’s reasonable to argue that if things went more here way she would have finished perhaps in the placings. Eventually she finished well enough under hands and heels in my eyes.

Alpha Cru was progressive as a three-year-old last season. She won three times and performed with credit the other two times she raced in 2021. Particularly the final run last year was quite exceptional in my view.

Of her current mark there is not much scope over a mile, however her pedigree and the way she has seen out her races over that trip, gives rise to hope that a step up in trip will bring out additional improvement.

She may drop below a 80 mark now, which, if she goes up to 10 furlongs will be interesting. It’s worth waiting for that and keep tracking her for the day that’ll come probably sooner rather than later.

Race Replay

Ajrad
16/04/22 – 6.00 Lingfield:

Received a bump soon after the start that lit him up. Keen and pulling for much of the race as a consequence, yet travelling much the best approaching the home turn. He’s on the heels of a rival ahead, having to be pulled back, costing momentum.

He takes the shortest route and is brave when going through gaps on the inside finishing the final two furlongs the fastest, but the winner and runner-up had first run and were impossible to catch in the home straight.

He is still a maiden after 13 runs, even though placed on nine occasions. He tends to find misfortune in races, but also doesn’t always help himself when breaking slowly.

He is clearly ripe to win of his current handicap mark, though. Granted the handicapper isn’t harsh after this promising run. He was runner-up of 6lb higher in a class 3 Handicap last summer. A return to turf for a low-grade 7 furlong Handicap will see him with a massive chance.

Race Replay

Pop Dancer
19/04/22 – 1.50 Epsom:

This was a wild finish which could have gone many different ways on the day I feel. Pop Dancer was one of those who travelled strongly but didn’t get the gap when he needed it from two furlongs out. Horses where shifting around and whenever there an opening for a split second it closed as quickly again.

Late on there was space for a challenge but the bird was flown and he wasn’t helped by hanging down the cumber, which meant he finished poorly in the end.

The 5-year-old had a really poor last term, although comes down to a good mark and has shown in the past to be a quality sprinter. His previous topspeed ratings give him a great chance of his current 69 mark, especially as I feel his wellbeing has been confirmed with this run.

Pub Crawl
19/04/22 – 4.30 Epsom:

Travelled in rear always on the inside which would come to bite him in the home straight. When asked to improve his position from 4 furlongs out he made rapid progress but got caught between the leading trio from over 2f out, being slightly short of room and with no other option than to delay his challenge.

He looks a bit flat footed until switched over 1.5 furlongs from home when he hits top gear to thunder home and grab second place.

The way he finished matched the visual impression created three weeks earlier on his seasonal reappearance at Leicester when finishing strongly in the closing stages over 7 furlongs.

There is enough stamina on the dam side to suggest he can stay 10 furlongs. He was hitting the line at Epsom full of running over the 8.5f trip. So I’d be really interested if he steps up in distance and if the handicapper isn’t too harsh, i.e. a hike to 80 and above.

King George 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…………

3:15 York: York Stakes, Group 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

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Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home  Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Preview: Royal Ascot 2020 – Tuesday

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No crowds, no hats, no queen arriving in her carriage at the scene – it’s gonna be a different Royal Ascot to what we’re accustomed to. But then you could say that about nearly everything these days.

Historically I’ve been burnt badly at the Royal meeting. I can’t remember the last time I left the week with the tiniest of profits. I’ll keep a low profile this week, that’s for sure, and instead enjoy the sport for the most part. I can’t help myself, though, and have two selections for day one:

1.50 – Group 1, Queen Anne Stakes, 1 mile

A rather wide open affair where I can make a case for half a dozen in the field which means some of the bigger prices are certainly attractive. Nonetheless I narrowed it down to less than a handful of prime candidates.

The obvious one is Circus Maximus: he has every chance to be an even better four-year-old after a prolific 2019 season. He’s been consistently running well, including when landing the St. James’s Palace Stakes twelve months ago.

He’s clearly the one to beat, although I continue to have a niggling doubt that there are days where h’s finding one or two horses too fast over the mile trip – let’s not forget he was once thought to have a decent shot at the Derby, given his pedigree.

Memories of Terebellum’s impressive Dahlia victory are still fresh. A lightly raced and progressive four-year-old, she should have enough ability to be competitive over a mile, but her price is way too short for me to get involved.

Completely overlooked appears Mustashry, though. Judged on his career-best Lockinge Stakes success from last year he would be the horse they all have to chase home, actually. A topspeed rating of 108 is a standout in this field.

Whether he can run to that sort of level again remains to be seen and his fitness has to be trusted. He ran better than the bare forms suggest in his subsequent defeats last year, before finishing his 2019 campaign on a high note thanks to a fine Group 2 success.

Mustashry is a consistent horse, albeit the oldest in the race, conditions and racing style should be a good fit in this renewal of the Queen Anne. He is certainly overpriced.

Selection:
10pts win – Mustashry  @ 14/1

………

3.00 – Group 2, King Edward VII Stakes, 1m 4f

We will find out if the hype around Mogul is real. Currently as short as 11/2 in the Derby market, he appears to be team Ballydoyle’s prime chance for the Epsom Classic. 

Mogul steps up to the 1m 4f trip for the first time, having raced entirely over a mile as a juvenile. Given his breeding he can be expected to improve significantly for the new distance. On the other hand he has to show significant improvement because he was no more than a fine juvenile, particularly by Aiden O’Brien standards.

He had four runs last year, the highlight a Group 2 success at Newmarket. However, Mogul’s best performance only awarded him a lowly 84 tospeed rating. That doesn’t sound like odds-on favourite to me.

His stable mate Arthur’s Kingdom can’t be underestimated as improvement is likely to come for the new trip as well. Papa Power and Pyledriver have shown good form on the All-Weather and it will be interesting to see how much more there is to come.

Undoubtedly the most intriguing horse in this lineup is Mohican Heights. After a successful debut at Leopardstown in May last year he changed hands for £520k.

Since then he won the Listed Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury finishing really strongly to win by 2 lengths, when having recent Kempton Classic Trial winner Berlin Tango behind in third (who beat Pyledriver fair and square at Kempton.

Word is Mohican Heights has wintered well, progressed physically – which he had to – and with loads of improvement to be expected from stepping up in trip, given his pedigree – which makes it all the more remarkable that as a late may foal he was able to win on debut a hot Spring maiden over 7 furlongs – he has a prime chance in this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Mohican Heights @ 9/2

…….

What else is there to see on the opening Day of Royal Ascot? No further bets for me, but that doesn’t detract from the interest in some fascinating contests.

The King’s Stand Stakes is the obvious to mention. Battaash looks nearly impossible to beat in this. There is no Blue Point this time. He wasn’t quite his brilliant best when a beaten runner-up by that rival in this very race the last two years.

Truth told: Battaash can only beat himself here. A good Battaash is still well ahead of anyone else in this field. He is so much faster. That’s the question of the day: will he finally taste success at the Royal meeting?

The Ribblesdale Stakes is a slightly underwhelming event. Make no mistake, Frankly Darling is exciting on the back of her performance at Newcastle. But there is not much else here, is there?

Although, intrigue is added by the addition of Miss Yoda, who won a rather poor Lingfield Oaks Trial, and steps down in trip. With a good run here she can enhance her credentials.

The one from Team AOB I’m most interested in is Ennistymon. She won a maiden only a week ago, needed every inch of the ten furlongs and looks set to show much more for the additional distance.

I leave you here with the 2019 Nunthorpe Stakes: wetting the appetite, with what was Battaash’s best performance, awarding him a 123 tospeed rating!