Tag Archives: Ballydoyle

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

Cork 2022 Flat Opener

Balmy weather and a solid card of seven races on offer – on a quiet Sunday I used the opportunity to drive down to Cork for their flat season opener.

It’s been a while since I’ve been at the Mallow track. So, I was certainly excited for racing on a day with perfect spring weather for flat racing on ground described as good. The card had a solid look as well: a few interesting maiden races, the Listed Cork Stakes and some intriguing Handicaps.

€20 get you in. Given the recent heated discussions about ticket prices in the UK on the back of Cheltenham, thankfully here in Ireland entrance fees are generally fair – particularly for the marquee days and Festivals.

For the card on offer on this Sunday €20 isn’t necessarily cheap, though, it includes a racecard. Coffee was €2.80, a bog standard 99 ice cream €3.00. Can’t complain – that’s fair enough. Let’s not forget Covid has hit racecourses hard over the last two years.

Cork Racecourse is a lovely track. There’s a friendly vibe, short ways from parade ring to betting to the stands. Solid facilities. Good viewing of the action. A cozy place.

My focus on the day wasn’t so much on betting. It rarely is when I go racing. It’s all about the atmosphere, the horses and this time in particular: photos. I was hoping to capture some solid action shots – and left satisfied!

Crispy Cat

Race Review

The opening 7 furlong maiden was perhaps the most intriguing contest of the day. Princess Olly, a daughter of Invincible Spirit, was an expensive 220,000 gns yearling. Quite why she was an 18/1 shot I am not sure, though. She looked fine in the parade ring and won nicely for AMO racing, trainer Adrian Murray and jockey Rossa Ryan, who flew over for the ride. She should get further and looks an exciting prospect.

The runner up Osraige, trained by Joseph O’Brien, travelled best of all for most of the race but didn’t quite get there in the end. She’s an obvious one to keep an eye on.

Princess Olly – winner of the opener

The Listed Cork Stakes over 6 furlongs looks a cracking race on paper. Half the field, at least, had a realistic shot. In the end Power Under Me for Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane got up on the line in a thrilling finish that saw Mooneista only headed in the dying strides.

The 4-year-old gelding continued where he left off, after he finished 2021 with a Listed win at the Curragh. In saying that, I thought Elliptic, back in fourth place, was the eye-catcher of the day. She looks to have trained on well and finished strongly coming from off the pace with a brave move.

Power Under Me lands the Cork Stakes

It was a double on the day for AMO Racing thanks to the Michael O’Callaghan trained Crispy Cat in the five furlong juvenile maiden. He looked ready pre-race and won a shade cozily in the end, having another interesting Ger Lyons expensive newcomer Beauty Crescent in second.

The subsequent 5 furlong Handicap for 3-year-olds was probably the one I was most interested in. Some good prospects lined up, with my money riding on Red Lacewing.

The physical difference between the horses in the parade ring was striking. Pearl Palinka, who was thought to be one of the leading contender beforehand, didn’t look particularly ready for her first outing of the year. Whereas Ernest Rutherford was a reall standout – shiny coat and fit – it was no surprise he won the best turned out award.

Ernest Rutherford

But it was Drombeg Banner who landed the spoils eventually. Well supported in the market, the Ken Condon trained gelding went off favourite, made all and wasn’t for catching.

Runner-up Red Lacewing ran an excellent race in defeat. A slow start didn’t help, and her momentum was stopped half a furlong from home by the left hanging winner. She had to switch and regather momentum but the damage was done.

I believe she is one to watch out for. She looked well physically, although, was quite unruly pre-race when walking from the parade ring to the track. Clearly temperamental, she has a big engine and was an eye-catcher on all occasions last year.

Red Lacewing

It was a rather quiet day for team O’Brien. Only Aiden – with Shark Bay in the lucky last – won a race. Although Osraige for Joseph and Elliptic for Donnacha ran promising races. There are bigger days to come for them.

All photos © Florian Christoph

Coral-Eclipse 2021

Only four runners. Yet the 2021 edition of the Coral Eclipse could easily turn out to be the race of the season. Three colts rated over 120 and the combined class of nine Group 1 victories!

Top rated Addeybb is back on home soil after yet another successful raid on the other side of the world, where he landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia.

It was a dramatic finish as he never gave up in first-time blinkers, answering the challenges from all sides to defend his crown.

The 7-year-old also won the British Champion Stakes in brilliant style last year. There are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon.

The only potential question mark – and that is being overly picky – is whether the ground is soft enough for Addeybb to produce his very best – which certainly will be required this afternoon.

Mishriff was a long way beaten in the 2020 British Champion Stakes, though I feel you can excuse that performance. Particularly given the fact the the four-year-old has only enhanced his claims ever since thanks to some brilliant victories on the international stage.

He got it done on dirt against strong US competition and followed up on turf in the Sheema Classic success at Meydan earlier this year. Mishriff, one could argue, is perhaps the best horse in the world right now.

The 2020 French Derby winner has shown an incredible versatility and ground independence, therefore won’t mind whatever way the ground this afternoon at Sandown.

Ballydoyle’s hopes rest on a single horse: French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica. Last years Dewhurst winner delivered a first Prix du Jockey Club for trainer Aiden O’Brien last month. Visually it was super impressive performance – although the strengths of the form could be questions.

Nonetheless, he clearly enjoyed the step up in trip that day as he travelled all over the field, still very much on the bridle two furlongs from home, and put the race to bed in a matter of strides then.

St Mark’s Basilica achieved a 106 topspeed rating at Chantilly that day, a career best that is also closely matched with the 107 rating Mishriff was awarded for his Sheema Classic victory.

Roger Varian’s colt El Drama completes the four-runner field. But it’s hard to see the Dee Stakes winner landing a blow against the big guns, given he has at least 11lb to find with them on official ratings.

In conclusion:
There is little to chose between the trio of St Mark’s Basilica, Mishriff and Adeybb. What tilts the scale in favour of the three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica -at least in my mind – is the 10lb weight-for-age allowance.

There is a good reason why it’s there. Yet, the Aiden O’Brien trained colt is certainly top-class and this significant weight allowance is a rather huge help against his elders. Hence, St Mark’s Basilica is my selection to win the 2021 Coral-Eclipse.

Epsom Derby 2021

Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose? Certainly!

The perfect draw, bred for the the unique test Epsom provides, plus the added confidence from camp Ballydoyle – Aiden O’Brien saddling only one runner is unusual as significant – it’s Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose.

This son of Galileo – the super daddy who fathered five Derby winners – remains unbeaten as a three-year-old and shot up the betting market after an almightily impressive 6 lengths romp in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

A performance where visuals were matched by the clock as an excellent 104 topspeed rating showed.

More likely than not Bolshoi Ballet will improve for the step up to the 1m 4f Derby trip. With that in mind, there are very few negatives for his chances and he looks a proper chance to follow in the footsteps of his prominent father.

One could be harsh and point out his wins this year were all achieved on decent ground and a softer surface could spell trouble. On the other hand, he proved last year to handle softer underfoot conditions. Whatever bit of juice is left in the Epsom ground this afternoon is unlikely to pose any issue for Bolshoi Ballet.

If nothing goes wrong during the race it’s hard to oppose him solely for win purposes.

Saying that, there are two other contenders who interest me from a betting perspective a bit more:

One is Mac Swiney. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner. Jim Bolger enjoys a tremendous season so far, landing both the British and Irish 2000 Guineas.

To me Mac Swiney always looked like a prospect better suited to middle distance than the mile. So the drop down to the Guineas trip after opening his season in a Derby trial was a brave move. Though, on the day the heavy going played into his hands, making it more a stamina than speed test.

Mac Swiney has shown his very best with plenty of juice in the ground. Even though he will surely improve for the trip, I have nagging doubts over the ground drying out a bit too quickly for him. Yes, the Derby is a stamina test, but Bolshoi Ballet is likely to stay all day long too and has a good turn of foot as well.

The drift in Mac Swiney’s price makes him an interesting each-way shot nonetheless. Yet, I’ll focus my investment in the Derby on one horse only – I am fairly sure Bolshoi Ballet’s key rival will be saddled by the “boys in blue”.

It’s debatable how much the Dante form is worth. On paper it looks less than exciting form. Nonetheless, Hurricane Lane showed enough to be considered the main rival for Bolshoi Ballet today.

Clearly he will find plenty of improvement for stepping up in trip. Winning the Dante was probably a bonus as much as it brought Hurricane Lane’s excellent attitude to the fore. It was obvious from over three furlongs out that he struggled for speed, appearing flat footed when the pace lifted significantly at York. But he stuck to his guns bravely to run out a gutsy victory in the end.

A topspeed figure of 100 for the Dante success is the second highest on offer in this field. That alone makes him a proper shot today.

The son of Frankel is out of mare who won over 2 miles, and he’s a full-brother to smart 1m 4f winner Frankel’s Storm. Even though we all have Frankel’s turn of foot in mind, as a sire he is a proven source of stamina.

Therefore, in my view, given Hurricane Lane ran so well in the Dante over a shorter trip, a performance backed up by topspeed, with further improvement assured over the Derby trip, he could have less to find with Bolshoi Ballet than the betting may suggest.

The draw isn’t quite where I would want it to be in an ideal world. Perhaps it won’t be too much of an issue, though: I expect Hurricane Lane to be ridden prominently anyway. As long as he settles well, all will be good.

Everything said, Bolshoi Ballet is a strong favourite to give Aiden O’Brien an Oaks & Derby double (Snowfall was a sensational winner on Friday). But at 13/2 Hurricane Lane looks like a viable alternative with more juice in the price for my liking.

Preview: Irish 2000 Guineas

DSC_2598

The Irish 2000 Guineas shapes as an intriguing contest, albeit a wide open one. Can ante-post favourite Siskin reward trainer Ger Lyons with a first domestic Classic success?

The 2020 renewal of the Irish 2000 Guineas, while intriguing, looks hardly a vintage Classic. There is no proven superstar here today – unlike in the English equivalent a few days ago – and given the delay of the season, the race has become an even trickier puzzle to solve.

More than half the field is trained by one man: Aiden O’Brien. While that isn’t anything new, it remains a sad fact that six of eleven runners come from the same yard in an Irish Classic.

Ante-Post Favourite:

The Ger Lyons trained Siskin is the ante-post favourite ever since he ended 2019 unbeaten. Four starts and four wins as a juvenile, with the highlight clearly a first Group 1 success when landing the Phoenix Stakes in August at the Curragh.

On form he is the horse to beat. However, only a week ago we saw that it’s never an easy task to carry over exceptional juvenile form to a classic season – particularly when achieved over shorter sprint distances – when facing rivals that have caught up physically and mentally.

With that in mind one could ask the very same questions as last week when wondering whether a precocious Pinatubo will be able to continue his incredible superiority.

Siskin started his juvenile campaign in May 2019. He raced four times over six furlongs before being put away for the winter after a final victory in the Phoenix Stakes back in August.

The key questions are obvious: Can Siskin improve? Will he stay additional two furlongs?

As mentioned last week in the English 2000 Guineas analysis, the fact that the Guineas is held much later than usual will have a significant impact on what type of horse it’ll suit. It certainly will give the precocious, early foals less an advantage than it does in any normal year. Siskin falls into this category.

On the stamina question: As a juvenile he never left the comfort of the 6 furlongs distance. That doesn’t mean he can’t stay a mile. However his sire First Defence was quite speedy himself and his offspring tends to perform best over shorter distances as well, with a noticeable decline in performance as they step up to a mile – in general terms.

Siskin’s dam stayed a mile, which is encouraging. So is Simon Rowland’s striding analysis that suggests he has a fair chance to stay the new trip.

Probably my biggest issue with Sisikin is that his form is far less impressive than four wins on the trot would usually suggest. He largely beat the same horses over and over again. Most depressingly, even though he had ample opportunity to run fast, he’s never done it.

A career-best 89 topspeed rating is not up to the standard of a top-class colt. Yes, these ratings aren’t the holy grail and have to be taken in the right context, but in my book they do continue to be a fine predictor of class and future success.

Having said that, I simply have to oppose Siskin as the Irish 2000 Guineas favourite. Mind, this isn’t an overly strong renewal. He has a fair chance to go close if he can find answers to the two key questions.

Aiden O’Brien Contenders:

From the comments AOB has made in recent days it feels like that Armory is Ballydoyle’s #1 here. And you can see why.

This son of Galileo was fast enough to win Group races over 7 furlongs, plus was a good runner-up, albeit a long way beaten, behind Pinatubo in the National Stakes and has already Group 1 form over a mile, when finishing third at Longchamp behind subsequent French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum.

He’ll likely stay further than the mile and should have a bit more to come once stepping up in trip. He ran already to a career-best topspeed rating of 95 and certainly wouldn’t mind any more rain (it has been raining a fair bit here in Kildare over the last 24 hours, and continues to do so as of writing).

Royal Lytham with first time blinkers is interesting stepping up to a trip that could suit on pedigree. He showed good form as a juvenile, in particular when staying on strongly to win the July at Stakes at Newmarket.

He got within a lengths of Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes when things didn’t quite worked his way. He’s an interesting horse but needs to find improvement as he’s yet to run particularly fast.

It’s hard to see Monarch Of Egypt to land a blow. He has a lot to find even with his stable mates. Fort Myers as a big price is a more compelling each-way contender if one wants to back one. His juvenile form is solid, if not spectacular. He should stay the mile and will appreciate if he ground stays decent.

Vatican City is an unknown quantity. A disappointing debut at Newmarket, followed by a visually impressive success on Dundalk’s All-Weather – what that form is worth is difficult to evaluate. Aiden O’Brien speaks fondly of the colt and he can improve any amount, so to speak.

In my view the most intriguing horse from team Ballydoyle is Lope Y Fernandez, though. He showed good form as a 2-year-old, in particular when a strong runner-up behind Pinatubo at Royal Ascot and he also stayed seven furlongs already.

He is a full brother to Al Hayyah who competed well in listed company up to the 1m 2f distance and his dam is a Listed placed miler.

Lope Y Fernandez has ran twice to 90+ topspeed ratings already, including a 95 rating, which is joint-best in this field. Although that is still a bit off a proper Group 1 winning horse, he looked like one in the making when winning the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh in excellent style, proving himself to be in a different league to the rest of the field in the Group 3 contest.

Also Running:

The unexposed Sinawann stayed a mile well last year already. He looks interesting given the clear indication that he’ll be a much better three-year-old. The son of Kingman will need to improve quite a bit if he wants to emulate his prominent father, but it’s not impossible that he does.

Jim Bolger’s colt Fiscal Rules lacks experience. It has be pointed out, though, that his runner-up debut behind Wichita reads really well, given how well the Aiden O’Brien trained ran at Newmarket last week. Yet, it’s a tall ask to be pitched right into a Classic with only a single start under his belt.

Also quite unexposed is the Jessica Harrington trained Free Solo. A fine winner on his second start last July, he hasn’t been seen yet. The yard is going strongly, so that is a positive. But it’s total guesswork whether this son of Showcasing is good enough to land a blow.

The Verdict:

Only one horse I am really interested in from a betting perspective: Lope Y Fernandez. The fact that he is an April foal who showed quite strong form as a juvenile already while giving the impression he may need a step up in trip to be seen to best effect, I have reasonable hope that he can find the required improvement to be a major player in the 2000 Guineas.

With that in mind he appears to be a bit overpriced for all that there are so many question marks over the other market principles.

Selection:
10pts win – Lope Y Fernandez @ 5/1 VC

Love is in the Air

Newmarket Rowley Mile

“She isn’t good enough.”

Well, I didn’t have much love for Love leading up to the 1000 Guineas and made that pretty clear in my preview when highlighting her lack of a top-class speed rating as well as the many opportunities she had to produce one. Concluding with the final assessment: “she isn’t good enough”. Some things don’t age well.

One had to love her willing attitude, though. Relentless galloping from the start, never too far off the pace, albeit drawn away from it and racing on the outside of the field wasn’t the most economical thing to do.

Ryan Moore kept it simple and that paid off for a filly bound to stay further. She was going away from her rivals in the final 100 yards, winning with authority in the end.

Albeit I maintain that this wasn’t a particularly good renewal. It’s one we’ll forget nearly as quickly as it took the fillies to finish the eight furlongs of the Rowley Mile.

Love showed little love for my selections. In fact she broke the heart of Cloak Of Spirits when finally passing her half a furlong from the finish. The big filly ran on for second place, but as I backed her win only at 17’s on the Exchanges, that was of no no help from a betting perspective. Raffle Prize was beaten halfway through the race.

……….

Moving forward I won’t post selections on a (near-) daily cadence throughout the flat season as done over the last years here with relative success.

Time doesn’t allow for it as life is really busy and analysing the racing in the way I need to in order to continue making a profit is time consuming alone, plus the added strain of actually finding places to get a sizable stake on in the races that I tend to bet in.

I want to keep focusing more on quality content as (hopefully) seen over the last week already. In saying that here and there I’ll send out a selection if I have enough time and found one I really want to share with the wider world.

……..

4.25 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

Hot race. Plenty of handicap debutants who also step up in trip. The majority have a fair chance to improve quite a bit for age and distance. You never know what you get in these races, who has trained on, who’s 100% ready and who’s truly well handicapped.

Yet I firmly believe Alargedram has a tremendous chance to land a first career victory. An opening mark of 72 could easily turn out to be lenient for this son of Lope De Vega who’s out of a mare who was listed placed over 1m 2f.

He caught my eye on two occasions last year in what appeared decent races. Particularly the Wolverhampton one looks solid, given those ahead of him that day are now rated in the 80’s and followed up with decent performances.

He ran on well under a light ride that day on the wide outside. I also thought he finished with plenty of credit on his final start at Windsor, when the going was pretty deep and he didn’t seem to enjoy that too much, yet finishing well enough. In all three starts he received rather sympathetic or educational rides in my view.

Alargedram looks a big boy with plenty of scope ready to improve rapidly now upped in trip. The fact connections paid 75k for him as 2-year-old after he was only a ten grand yearling shows he has improved quite a bit from what was originally thought of him.

That matches a comment the owners made some months ago, suggesting they think he’s going to be much better than his opening mark. I think so too. Ground will be fine, trip is good – only the wide draw is a slight concern, whether he will get a clear run in a field with twelve runners.

Selection:
10pts win – Alargedram @ 6/1 VC/SP/MB

Preview: 2000 Guineas 2020

kingman

The Guineas meeting at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile is an unusual affair this year: it’s staged behind closed doors with no crowds allowed. But it also takes place much later than its usual date at the end of April/beginning of May.

A solid four weeks delay can have a rather profound impact in the world of horse racing, particularly for the classic generation of horses. The reason is that three-year-old colts mature at different rates generally, but start to catch up during their three-year-old campaign with their elders. An individual that was still a little bit behind in the early Spring days may have come on nicely under the sun in June.

The more precocious types can have an advantage early in the season – this certainly shows in facts such as that only few May born colts have tackled the 2000 Guineas in recent times (also notably less April foals).

For example over the last two decades the winners were predominantly born in either January (6), February (6) or March (5), whereas they fall significantly for April (2), while not a single winner was born in May. Obviously not as many born in the later months contested in first place. That in itself already illustrates that the Guineas tends to suit horses that are naturally ahead of younger three-year-old colts.

If we take this a step further then it becomes apparent that a month can make a big difference in the life of a classic horse: the picture changes if you look at those that have won the Derby over the last two decades, run in June.

Compared to the Guineas, Derby winners are significantly less born in January (2) or February (4) but we notice a massive spike in March (10) foals. Also April (3) and and particularly May born colts (4) perform much stronger now.

The Derby is a longer distance and attracts different horses, so this isn’t quite a scientific comparison. usually only few Guineas horses make it to the Derby. But isn’t that a clue in itself as well? Quite clearly the Guineas – in normal circumstances – is suited to those older three-year-olds while the younger ones catch up as the weeks progress.

You frequently hear punters and racing experts say late foals need time to develop therefore the Guineas comes too soon and therefore they can’t be backed – this notion isn’t wrong as illustrated above. At the same it doesn’t apply nearly as much to the the 2020 edition of the 2000 Guineas as it does in most other years.

Pinatubo:

The odds-on and ante-post favourite is right in the sweet spot if it comes to his date of birth. He is also the top rated horse in the field, has been incredibly impressive as a juvenile and posted superb speed figures.

Opposing the son of Shamardal may look extremely foolish come Saturday afternoon. On pedigree the step up to a mile shouldn’t be an issue. Given the fact he ran so strongly to the line at the Curragh in the National Stakes, which has a notable uphill finish, as well as in the Dewhurst in soft conditions at Newmarket, I have little doubt that an additional furlong, particularly on fast ground, will cause any trouble.

On facts and figures based on two-year-old form Pinatubo is nearly impossible to oppose and one can argue should even be a good deal shorter in the betting.

What speaks against him? For a start: his juvenile campaign started in May last year. Quite early, which also points to him being rather precocious which is enhanced by the fact he’s ran six times in 2019.

It’s unlikely he’ll need to improve as he ran to such a high level already. If he would be still as good as last year, and stays a mile, he’d win the 2000 Guineas in most years. Begs the question: can Pinatubo run to the same or at least close to the same level as a 3-year-old? His sire stats are no confidence booster.

Shamardal colts at the age of three over the mile trip have a poor strike-rate, effectively winning only half of as many races as they should (A/E), perform particularly poorly in June, and the drop in performance from two- to three-year-old is – on average – quite significant.

Pinatubo is odds-on right now. Backing him at this price one needs to have full confidence that he’s not one of those Shamardal sons that regress as they get older.

For me there are enough reasons to oppose Pinatubo. As much as I would love to see him being the next superstar. Yet, I feel this is quite a deep 2000 Guineas field and others in the race have a lot of potential to improve in a way that the gap to him can be closed.

Arizona:

Somewhat a similar profile to Pinatubo as he showed plenty f talent as a juvenile – as well as born in February – when he landed the Coventry Stakes. Arizona performed strongly on top level for the rest of the year, including a runner-up performance behind Pinatubo in the Dewhurst, and an unlucky effort at the Breeders Cup.

How much better can Arizona be? His sire No Nay Never is inviting uncomfortable questions. His offspring doesn’t progress too well from two to three – albeit there is only a single season of evidence, to be fair – but there is a significant drop in performances for his 3-year-old colts. It looks particularly dire over a mile, even if we only allow for those that were fancied in the betting.

If I have these concerns about Arizona than it’s only right and fair to say Wichita has the the same sort of question marks to overcome. As an April foal with less mileage on the clock he has a better chance of improving. I don’t see that happening over the mile trip as the dam side is speedy enough.

Kameko:

He’s got a lovely profile. He stays the mile, has proven to deal sufficiently enough with fast ground and won the Futurity Stakes – albeit on the All-Weather – in fine style at the end of last year.

I am most impressed by the consistency of his efforts in four runs as a juvenile, because there is every chance he is going to be a better three-year-old. Kameko ran to topspeed ratings of 97 and 99 (2x) already, which is quite good, if not top class, but certainly a consistent level of strong form.

If he does improve as one would hope he does, the son of Kitten’s Joy is a major player, particularly as I feel he has miler written all over him. Saying that, Kameko will need to improve again in order to feature in this deep field.

Al Suhail:

There is a lot of stamina on the dam side, even though well bred, related to a couple of horses that showed their best definitely beyond a mile. For me that’s a real worry on fast ground, despite Al Suhail having form on it.

He ran a fast time when runner-up to Military March at the Rowley Mile when last seen. I rate that form. But it came on soft ground. I feel he’s more likely to be found out for speed here.

Military March:

He really impressed me in his two starts. Won the Autumn Stakes going away in the closing stages. Excellent topspeed rating awarded for that performance. One to keep an eye on this year.

On the other hand as a full-brother to Clongowes, who stayed two miles and needed well beyond a mile to win, I feel Military March will be outpaced when it matters most.

Royal Dornoch:

He was a surprise winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes. With that he has graded course and distance form to his name which is a big plus. He ran often as a juvenile but given he is an April foal things may simply took time to click. Is a dark horse in my view – if allowed to run on merit and not here on pacemaker duties.

Kenzai Warrior:

One to keep in mind for rainy days. He’ll appreciate the step up in trip, though may need even further to be seen to best effect. Most likely will appreciate significant cut in the ground. Will be taken off his feet on the likely fast ground.

Mums Tipple has sprinter written all over in my book but will be interesting to see what he can do given he posted that rather big 110 topspeed figure at York last summer. Juan Elcano is a solid prospect, likely over further than the mile. Shouldn’t bee good enough here, though.

Hard to see any of Cepheus, Persuasion, Starcat or New World Tapestry feature.

Kinross:

Seven month ago I was super bullish when stating Kinross will win the 2000 Guineas. Didn’t work out that well on that specific day in the Futurity Stakes where I backed him at short odds. Different story on Saturday?

When talking about Kinross one can’t forget this incredible Newmarket performance. Visually stunning. The turn of foot electric. You simply don’t see a newcomer all that often doing what he did that day.

The form looks good on the numbers too: the runner-up, Raaeb, was a 2nd in a Listed race earlier this year, then only behind subsequent, and rather unlucky Group 3 runner-up Malotru, and is now a 97 rated individual. Kinross beat him as easily as it gets by 8 lengths and could have won by more, if needed.

Not surprisingly but still remarkable – let’s not forget it was his very first official racecourse appearance – Kinross was awarded a topspeed rating of 100, which is extremely high for a debut performance.

He went to Newcastle as the hot favourite for the Futurity Stakes where he finished a 6¼ lengths beaten fifth. Disappointing. Big but: the surface probably didn’t suit, he was still seriously inexperienced which showed at the start and he received a huge bump mid-race which knocked him off his stride.

Kinross will have learned plenty that day. Besides, anything he did as a two-year-old was as bonus. He is a May foal and was always one with the next year in mind. The fact that the Guineas takes place in June as opposed to a month earlier can only be a positive for his chances.

Home reports are positive for what will be Ralph Beckett’s first 2000 Guineas runner! The likely fast ground, as well as the additional furlong, open further possibilities for more improvement. This is as exciting a prospect as I’ve seen in a long time.

Verdict:

Even though I make some hard calls on some of the runners, make no mistake: this is a really deep field. Quality colts who have proven to run fast as two-year-olds. Obviously we don’t know how they have trained on. There were no trials and even for trainers it’ll be hard to gauge how their horses measure up at this point in time.

Pinatubo is the right favourite. The best two-year old in a long time, he is a star and could confirm his status as the new superstar of the sport. But I have doubts that he can run to the same high level as he did last year. He’s short enough to take on.

The boys in blue have some interesting contenders, beside the obvious one already mentioned. None of team Ballydoyle excite me, on the other hand. Although, Royal Dornoch could outrun his price tag, if not on pacemaker duties and allowed to run on merit.

Futurity winner Kemko is a rock solid chance to run well and will be suited by the conditions.

My fate is tied to Kinross, naturally. I do feel he offers the greatest potential to make a gigantic step forward. He is a massive price, with the potential improvement not factored in at all.

I was at Newmarket when his sire Kingman was denied by Night Of Thunder (and also when he won the Irish Guineas subsequently). Here’s hoping his son Kinross can go one better.

Selection:
20200606nmk153507 10pts win – Kinross @ 14/1 VC Bet

Preview: Irish Derby 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5.20 Curragh: Irish Derby, 1m 4f

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2.35 Chester: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

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

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

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

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

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7.30 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

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

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

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

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

Preview: Epsom Derby 2019

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No overly dramatic talk is needed about how great a race the Epsom Derby is. We all know it remains the number one in the racing calendar – the one not to miss, the date marked red. Personally I’m more in love with other races but the Derby is the Derby for a simple reason: it’s history defining.

Horses can contest it only once in their life: a chance to write history and following in the footsteps of racing greats such as Shergar, Galileo or Sea The Stars comes once and never again. Derby winners are remembered. The runner-up never is.

As we’re about to find out which colt will make history this year I have to confess: I’m all over Sir Dragonet to be the one remembered! I was delighted when he was supplemented for the race; as if there was ever any doubt after what he did at Chester?

Let me be frank: you don’t see all that often a horse doing what Sir Dragonet did in the Chester Vase last month. It was only his second career start after debuting only a fortnight earlier in a Tipperary maiden.

This fact shows the general inexperience of this son of Camelot. He’s got only two starts to his name to date. He certainly looked in need of the experience at Chester. He better have learned plenty that day.

Another concern is the ground. He’s only proven with cut in the ground. Epsom will ride much faster. hence you also can question the merit of the Chester form.

Those two question marks aside. there is so much more to love about Sir Dragonet. He’s obviously supremely well bred for the job, given his daddy was a Derby winner himself plus he has the legendary Urban Sea in his pedigree as well.

His debut performance at Tipperary was eye-catching. His Chester Vase was victory visually stunning. The way he moved through the early parts of the race, not quite comfortable, very much learning his craft, how he then made smooth progress on the outside from 4f out, turning for home hard on the bridle, and then pushed out a light under hands and heels ride to win by 8 lengths as easy as he liked.

This performance is highly rated on the clock as well. Sir Dragonet ran to a 106 Time Speed figure. Reminder: he did it on what was only his second ever career start and he did did it with ease. Insane.

More importantly: no other horse in this field ran faster so far – only stable mate Anthony Van Dyck ran to a TS rating of 100+ in this field – which he did as a juvenile over 7 furlongs.

That’s not to say the likes of Broome, Telecaster or Bangkok can’t improve for the Derby trip. The fact I merely state is that judged on time speed ratings – which I rate highly, even though they have their own flaws, of course – none of the other market principles has proven yet to be able to ran to anything that matches Sir Dragonet’s Chester run.

Whether he can reproduce such an impressive performance on different ground in a pressurised environment with loads of different sights and sounds is the main question. Of course that’s always the danger with an inexperienced individual as Sir Dragonet is.

Regardless; as unoriginal as it seems, given Sir Dragonet is heading the betting and is trained by Aiden O’Brien, he’s my clear choice for the 2019 Epsom Derby.

Selection:
10pts win – Sir Dragonet @ 3/1 PP

Friday Selections: May, 31st 2019

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It’s been some incredibly busy days lately. Little time to catch up on racing, least to actually study form, analysis the markets and come up with some proper bets. So, even on a massive day as this is today – Oaks Day – I’ll got to keep it short.

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4.30 Epsom: Group 1 Epsom Oaks, 1m 4f

An intriguing renewal which lacks a standout favourite which in turn could lead to a big price landing the odds…. a bit what happened in the 1000 Guineas a few weeks ago? Well, maybe. But unlikely. The winner will come from the top third of the market – I am pretty sure of that.

Obviously the ‘sexy’ individual is John Gosden’s Mehdaayih. What she did at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks was visually stunning. The way she quickened away from the field in the home straight remains a lasting memory.

The Frankel filly clearly followed up on what was an equally impressive victory – on the eye at least – at Chelmsford on the All-Weather back in April. Still only five starts to her name, Mehdaayih is progressive, has proven class and will no doubt stay the trip.

What speaks against her: you got to question the merit of the Chester form. The race was run on much slower ground than what’s likely to be encountered today. Neither has Mehdaayih yet to clock a high enough time speed rating that would put her in the category of a legitimate Oaks favourite.

In my view there is zero juice in the price, even though she clearly has the potential to improve again and I’m not doubting her competitiveness in the context of the race. She’s likely to run well. I simply find too much against her given her current price tag.

Anapurna is the other John Gosden runner, has Frankie Dettori in the saddle, was also pretty impressive at Chester – from a visual point of view, at least. There is more improvement to come, but the stark contrast in ground encountered today versus Chester is a major concern for me.

Progressive Maqsad is well liked by quite a number of smart people, reading through my Twitter timeline this morning. Progressive, looks sure to stay the trip, lightly raced – I can see why. On the other hand, I can not have her. She only won at Newmarket so far and hasn’t encountered anything remotely close to what Epsom offers.

It brings me back to Aiden ‘Brien once more. A few weeks ago, after Pink Dogwood landed the Salsabil Stakes at Naas, I was concluding:

“I think she [Pink Dogwood] will be hard to beat if she remains healthy until Epsom.”

And that remains to be the case. She’s here and she’s healthy. Other prominent stable mates who could have lined up aren’t lining up. A vote of confidence by team Ballydoyle? I think so.

Yes, she only won a Listed race to date and was beaten the only time she stepped into Group 1 class. But the Oaks was always the intended target. She didn’t ran badly in a bunched finish over over a mile – a trip way too short – in the Marcel Boussac back last October.

But she looked so much improved on her seasonal reappearance at Naas, stepping up to 1m 2f for the first time. It was a Listed race in name, however the form looks strong and has already worked out rather well.

The fact Pink Dogwood travelled hard on the bridle 2 furlongs out and then put the race to bed under hands and heels does offset the close winning margin in my mind. She looked well on top that day.

No doubt, as a sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe, she’ll relish the step up to the Oaks distance. There is so much more to come I reckon – frankly there has to be, because she didn’t run particularly fast yet,  judged on TS ratings.

I bank on the fact she can run fast if needed, though. I expect plenty of improvement, and while there are a few question marks, like the ground (too fast?), on all evidence and given prices I am a Pink Dogwood backer, certainly not a layer.

Selection:
10pts win – Pink Dogwood @ 3/1 PP

…….

2.50 Carlisle: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

In tough ground conditions there is little with appeal in this race, but clearly the market speaks in favour, and it makes perfect sense: Across The Sea should have an outstanding chance.

The Dubawi filly steps up in grade after a good effort on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month when 4th of 20 in a hot race against the boys over 6f that has already been franked.

She has won over 5f in softish conditions- and was runner-up on heavy ground last year, while also running to a career best TS rating of 74 that day at Haydock. She remains unexposed over 6 furlongs, but the trip shouldn’t be an issue, given on pedigree she s supposed to stay further and as a sister to useful Big Tour, who stayed up to 1m 2f, with tough ground this trip can bring out more improvement, I feel.

Certainly a mark of 75 with these conditions leaves room for progress, even more so as Dubawi offspring tend to over perform on soft/heavy ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Across The Sea @ 4.2/1 MB