Right now it feels like I might never back a winner again. It’s quite absurd what’s happening at the moment. Obviously I have been here before, back in the early summer…. and what followed was the most dramatic turnaround.
Last night, once again everything went wrong that could have gone wrong for my selection. Spring Is Sprung was so desperately keen he was done by the time the field approached the home straight.
Of course, the other horse I fancied on the day – but didn’t back – won 30 minutes later handsomely. It’s just the way it is at the moment. I can’t get it right, no matter what I do.
In any case, here’s hoping for the turnaround sooner rather than later….
2.30 Southwell: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
This could be quite a fast race that ends in a war of attrition. That may suit the first time blinkered Chief Of Staff. I’m not sure he is all that well handicapped over this trip, though.
One I feel is overpriced is Ben Macdui. He ran better than the form suggest on a number of occasions this year, including last time out.
He’s another 5lb down, now 12lb below his last win, a 6f Handicap success at Newcastle in March. He’s never been in the same form again since then – although, his last two runs give some hope.
He’s got a good draw here to make sure he is bang up with the pace and remains pretty unexposed on the All-Weather, actually. Three strong speed ratings, that indicate he’s got a higher ability than his current rating add to the possibility that Ben Macdui could outrun this price.
The yard is in poor form. 0-30 over the last fortnight. However, closer inspection shows the majority of runners were really big prices with about a third having outrun their price, in fact.
In all likelihood Ben Macdui will fade from 2f out and finish second last. He’s overpriced in my book, though; and if he can find some form again, he could land a big surprise here.
10pts win – Ben Macdui @ 50
7.15 Wolverhampton: Class 2 Handicap, 6f
Not many horses in this field make a great deal of appeal to me. Obviously, if freshly gelded Hierarchy could run to level of form he showed earlier this year, he would be hard the one to beat. It’s a big if and he’s got a lot to do off a 102 mark.
Dubai Station really interests me in this race, though. He’s the one on speed ratings they all have to get to, given he’s 2lb lower than winning at Chelmsford in May when running to a 91 TS rating.
He ran to strong levels of form subsequently – at Chelmsford in July and even more so Ascot in September. 3lb lower than when 3rd off 96 in a hot Handicap there last month, he wasn’t seen to best effect the last two times back on the All-Weather.
He messed up at the gates at Chelmsford, also wasn’t all that sharp here at Wolverhampton when last seen; although, that was a strange race how it panned out and I felt he ran better than the 3.5 lengths margin behind the winner suggested.
He’s got a slid draw today, and if he starts well, as he normally does, bar the last two races, he should have a hot pace to aim at sitting somewhere around midfield.
At the same time if he doesn’t get off to a solid start he will have to play catch-up and will likely have too much to do. Nonetheless, he’s got the speed and the class to feature, hence looks a big price.
Pockley has dropped nine pounds in his official mark since he went into my notebook, back in July in an Ayr Gold Cup Trail Handicap. That day he was badly squeezed when coming with a potentially big run.
He ran well on a number of occasions in the meantime, without ever really threatening; although, all his subsequent performances, bare the most recent one, were better than the bare form may suggest.
A concern is how tamely Pockley finished the last two times, even though there were mitigating factors at Pontefract, after a slow start.
He didn’t have a lightning fast start when last seen at Ayr either, when he also bumped into a rival. This could point to the fact that Pockley has some underlying issues or isn’t as happy to be a race horse as he used to be.
At the same time, he has dropped to a seriously dangerous mark, the majority of recent runs were solid at the very least, all the while sliding down the ratings, and he clearly acts on the All-Weather, too.
The 5lb claim of apprentice Mark Winn looks excellent value. It keeps the weight down and provides Pockley an excellent opportunity to score in this easier grade.
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.
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.
10pts win – Vive La Difference@ 12/1 WH
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
There is little to expect from the 3-year-old individuals in this field, hence we can focus on the older horses right away, that makes it much less competitive race overall. Clear top of the list is obviously Make A Challenge, after his impressive 5f romp here at the Curragh.
Ground and tip won’t be a worry, but as he is going up in class he has to progress again…. or not. This is a weak listed contest, hence he is the right favourite and will be hard to beat.
But if one can beat him I feel it will be the undervalued Urban Beat. He was 4th and well beaten behind Make A Challenge in the aforementioned Curragh race, however, given circumstances ran a massive race.
He clearly was disadvantaged by the draw and pace, most importantly, but a clear best from the low drawn horses, therefore one can upgrade his run.
The soft ground today won’t be an issue – he’s won twice on heavy ground; but the step up to 6 furlongs is one that can bring him much closer to the favourite today as I feel that is his optimum trip. Drawn close to the pace Urban Beat should get the perfect race, and as one of only very few in this field he has already ran to a 90+ topspeed rating in the past – 2 times, in fact – which means he’s a huge price in this poor field, in my book.
10pts win – Urban Beat@ 15/2 WH
3.50 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs
Medicine Jack looks handicapped to go really close today, after proving his well being at Navan over the minimum trip only four days ago, when he was probably unlucky to bump into a well-handicapped winner who got first run.
Stepping up to 6f will suit, so does the soft ground and the pace he’ll find around himself to track. The gelding has fallen a long way in his handicap mark, from a 101 at the beginning of the season to 80!
Despite this deep fall, Medicine Jack has a number of decent runs in the book this year; such as two over course and distance in big fields this summer.
This is a much easier contest than those handicaps, and given he has ran to 80 plus topspeed ratings in the past, I am hopeful that with preferred conditions today he can get his head in front again.
I am an admirer of consistent Matterhorn but feel in these conditions he will not be able to show his best, which will be required to beat two others I also quite fancy for this particular contest.
The 3-year-old Feliciana De Vega is obviously the most exciting and intriguing individual here. Lightly raced, showed a lot as a juvenile posting strong figures, and hasn’t been without promise in two starts this season either, while also loving soft ground, he has the ability to improve again and take advantage of WFA.
However, the price has dropped below one I’m prepared to back him, given the potential improvement is well and truly reflected in the odds.
Also dropping in price, but still underestimated is 4-year-old gelding Indeed. Not quite as sexy in profile as the favourite, however, no less with the potential for potential improvement, I feel.
He also remains still generally low mileage, has shown preference for cut in the ground and improved nicely from two to three to four years of age – as you would hope to see from an April foal.
Indeed won twice this year already, including over a mile here at Newmarket (plus a 10f success on the All-Weather), posting a 101 career best topspeed rating. The form looks solid, and even though he couldn’t follow on from there next time out, he clearly had valid excuses at Goodwood.
A little break since then may have freshened him up, and hopefully the Goodwood run hasn’t left any marks on him; if it hasn’t he’ll be a massive player today, one I have much closer to Feliciana De Vega in my book than the bookies still have.
Intriguing contest, but possibly a weak one without a real star? For all what the market principles have achieved form wise, they haven’t run particularly fast yet.
Neither Love nor Cayenne Pepper have come near at least a 90 topspeed rating, despite having ample opportunity. You may give recent 9 lengths winner Quadrilateral the benefit of the doubt, though.
Nonetheless, I feel Powerful Breeze is underestimated in this field. The filly was supplemented after kicking her career off with two impressive runs. A winning debut over 7f here at Newmarket, followed up with an excellent Group 3 success at Doncaster.
That day she ran to a 92 topspeed rating, which is by far the best of what any filly has achieved in this field. There is no reason to doubt its legitimacy, as it was a well run race and Powerful Breeze improved nicely from her debut 87 TS performance.
She looks a filly open to plenty more improvement, being well bred, a March filly and by Iffraay. She gets the trip well, the ground is a slight question mark, given she hasn’t met cut in the ground yet.
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that front, given her dam acted on soft, and Iffraay’s offspring tends to perform well enough also. Certainly if she can run here to the same sort of level – possibly even a little bit better – than in the May Hill this filly has a much better chance than the odds suggest.
Marnie James is clearly the class act in this field and will be hard to beat if he can stretch out to 6 furlongs. He remains unexposed on the All-Weather were he’s one win from one start, but more importantly has proven this season a couple of times his classy speed, particularly compared to what he encounters in this field.
Hi second and third place in big handicaps at York over shorter are tremendous pieces of form as he ran to topspeed ratings of 97 and 99 on those occasions. The latter one over 5.5 furlongs in fact, where he didn’t stop, suggesting another half a furlong may not be that big a deal.
Let’s not forget Marnie James has tried 6 furlongs only three times, the last time in September this year, finishing third in the listed Garrowby Stakes. Not exactly shabby form.
He’ll certainly have superior speed to the rest here if they will dawdle and should this end in a sprint finish.
10pts win – Marnie James @ 10/3 WH
8.10 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
This looks a wide open race given the favourite drops to a trip that looks on the sharp side for him. There aren’t too many one can have on the shortlist for this poor contest, but Alba Del Sole features highly on mine, that’s for sure.
The mare isn’t a frequent winner, however is a course and distance winner and has dropped to a really tasty mark. Twelve months ago she was still a 70 rated individual, is now down to 52, though hasn’t ran all that badly this season, actually. Since switching yards this August her last two performances at Wolverhampton were decent enough, particularly her debut run for the Charlie Wallis yard was rather promising.
The fact Alba Del Sole has ran 8 times to topspeed ratings of 53+ is also encouraging in that context, suggesting she may be quite well handicapped now. Add the 7lb of useful apprentice Sean Kirrane who takes the ride – his only one on the card -and you have a competitive chance in this race.
The draw isn’t ideal, which really is the only negative, beside the obvious point that one has to trust the mare still has the appetite for the game.
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!
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!
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.
JJ Feane may have found a superb opportunity for one of his horses across the pond once again. He’s got a 25% win- and 50% place record with his horses running in UK handicaps over the last number of years. This is poor race which looks a big chance for Fugacious to get his head in front.
The gelding is fitted with first time head-gear, which may bring out a bit of improvement. If it does then he should have too much on his plate for the locals, I reckon. As an April foal he was always likely to get better with time, but he already showed plenty of promise – for this lowly level – this summer.
His Curragh 4th in a highly competitive handicap over 6 furlongs – form that has worked out well since then – is the standout piece of form in this race. Off a 68 handicap mark he finished strongly, only 1¼ lengths beaten, running to a topspeed rating of 65, which is believable.
He followed up with another fine performance at Gowran Park stepping up an additional furlong, though a mile at competitive Galway and a drop to the minum distance didn’t quite saw him to best effect.
Fugacious should, however, enjoy the 6 furlongs with cut in the ground today. The 3lb claim of Harrison Shaw, who has already ridden a winner for this yard, is an additional bonus.
10pts win – Fugacious @ 5.4/1 MB
3.00 Hamilton: Class 6 Handicap, 5 furlongs
If David’s Beauty can find back to form she’ll be a big runner in this poor race. She has been going close twice this season already, most notably when beaten on the line at Chepstow in June.
That day she ran to a career best, in fact, achieving a 59 topspeed rating. Watching the race it’s easy to see why. On the widest outside away from pace she had a lot going against herself from that perspective, but the mare rallied strongly and only got beaten by a strongly finishing horse on the other side she couldn’t see in her blinkers while already for quite a bit in front.
She followed up with another strong performance a few weeks later at Carlisle with a half lengths beaten third. However, David’s Beauty’s last three runs were poor. As a consequence she has fallen in her handicap mark down to 55, which is a pound lower than that massive Chepstow run.
Given she has achieved seven times throughout her career topspeed ratings of 55 and higher, and ran to a career best earlier this year, it is believable that she can turn her form around again. If so she’s the one to beat here.