Tag Archives: Curragh

Preview: Irish 1000 Guineas

Curragh

The Irish 1000 Guineas will rise and fall with the Jessica Harrington trained Albigna. The only top-level winner in the field has the best form in the book and will be hard to beat with natural improvement.

Albigna’s victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac is the strongest form on offer from last year – by far! Not to forget the classy filly was far from disgraced in the Moyglare or the Breeders’ Cup.

In a weak Guineas field there is no denying that she holds all the aces. The equation is a simple one: if the daughter of Zoffany can run to her juvenile form then she is more than likely to run away with the race this evening.

However – and I may repeat myself in all these Guineas previews over the last week – Albigna is an experienced individual, who saw a racecourse for the first time in May last year. There is every possibility that she was simply ahead of her rivals in terms of mind and body.

And given that the Guineas is held a month later than it usually is, there is a danger that others have been able to catch up with time and age on their side. In saying that that I also feel odds around 2/1 are entirely fair, if not even a tad generous.

Aiden O’Brien appears to have weaker hand than usual in the 1000 Guineas. None of his three fillies tasted success on Group level yet – that is rather unusual. But the lightly raced Peaceful may well be the biggest danger to Albigna I feel, as she caught my eye on a number of occasions last year and she could have any amount of improvement to come.

The most intriguing filly in my eyes, though, seems to be completely overlooked: that is the Michael Halford trained Ridenza. She is a huge price in a race that lacks depth.

The one-time raced Sea The Stars daughter is tremendously well bred, given her dam is the 2014 Debutante winner Raydara. She will probably stay further than the Guineas trip but makes appeal over a mile as well, certainly at the current price.

Ridenza lacks experience. She made a winning debut at Leopardstown in a seven furlong maiden last August and was put away ever since, not helped by an injury she sustained.

That piece of form looks strong: the fourth placed Lemista won a Group 3 earlier this year and the 9th of that race, Peaceful, won a Listed contest and is the 3/1 second favouite today.

In fairness, the Aiden O’Brien filly got a very light ride that day and looked to have tons left. Nonetheless it was really positive sign that Ridenza was able to win on debut, overcoming plenty of greenness over a trip that is possibly on the sharp side.

Trainer Michael Halford noted after the race that this was indeed Ridenza’s very first time away from home and even the first time of her tasting turf. He also mentioned that she has plenty of growing to do, which was probably the reason why we didn’t see her again as a juvenile.

He also described her as “a smart filly, very well bred and she’s always shown plenty at home” in addition to being quite hopeful that there is much more to come when she turns three.

Obviously there is a reason why Ridenza is a 18/1 chance today: how has she wintered? Has she trained on? Is she ready to go? is she over the injury? Is the trip potentially too sharp?

But at the same time, given her fantastic pedigree, that points to excellent form over the shorter distances as well, I’m inclined to give her a better chance than the odds suggest.

Selection:
10pts win – Ridenza @ 18/1

……….

Siskin Delight in Irish 2000 Guineas

It was an incredible victory for Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas last night. The favourite did it the hard way, having to fight for a gap to get out late and thunder home, beating the Aiden O’Brien “football team”.

If you read my race preview you know I had major doubts about his ability to stay the trip as well as actually being good enough as a three-year-old. He proved all doubters wrong. How well Siskin stayed the Curragh mile and ran strongly to the line, no care in the world for the uphill finish?!

There was a lot of love for Ger Lyons as well. For him it was a very first domestic Classic success. A man who always speaks so well, who is open and honest with the public, it was wonderful to see the man reduced to tears in the post-race interview.

Preview: Irish 2000 Guineas

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

Sunday Selections: October, 13th 2019

DSC_0947

3.15 Curragh: Listed Testimonial Stakes, 6f

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.

Selection:
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.

Selection:
10pts win – Medicine Jack @ 5/1 MB

Friday Selections: August, 16th 2019

DSC_2638

2.25 Newbury: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Medieval is a tricky sort who can make a mess of his chances in a race. But he’s down to a really attractive handicap mark, as was evident when he finished 2nd at Brighton a week ago.

That is a performance you can upgrade as he finished strongest of those that were prominent, while the winner and third came from a long way back, taking full advantage of a generous pace. It didn’t help that Medieval also appeared to hang in the closing stages, which he tends to do frequently.

Nonetheless, he is only 1lb higher for this effort, still well below his last wining mark, while he also ran multiple times to much higher topspeed ratings in the past. With soft ground sure to suit, and the mile trip no issue, I feel in this race today he has a prime chance to get his head in front again.

Selection:
10pts win – Medieval @ 6/1 MB

………

8.20 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs

A lot of rain over night here in Kildare, the ground will be soft and make for tough conditions. Makes this one an even more open race. I think this cries out for a long-shot to upset the market.

The one I am most interested in is Blyton. He hasn’t really kicked on as a 3-year-old since moving to Ireland, however he drops to a pretty low mark for what he has achieved as a juvenile as well as going down to a more suitable trip.

Also quite important: Blyton has good form with cut in the ground, so should not mind the rain whatsoever. In fact the combination of lowered mark, perfect ground and suitable trip can see him being competitive today.

He also achieved topspeed ratings of 80 and 84 last season, suggesting he is capable of running to a level of form required to win here. First time blinkers are an interesting addition, possibly sharpen him up, dropping from a 8.5 furlongs as when last seen at Galway.

Selection:
10pts win – Blyton @ 33/1 MB

Friday Selections: August, 9th 2019

Wet Dundalk Polytrack

Is it winter yet? A nice winner on Newcastle’s’s tapeta last night + the majority of my selections for today come from the Chelmsford polytrack! Who needs grass, anyway? Let’s rip the turf off the tracks and have a lovely fibresand surface everywhere…… alright, now I’m day dreaming, so let’s talk horses…..

…….

5.35 Haydock: Class 6 Handicap, 5f

Who’s the least bad horse in this race? Tough question. One thing is certain: Springwood Drive is a silly price. I may eat my words in half an hour, saying that, but seriously, even though she has good form in the book, she also has work to do to show she is better than what she has shown so far.

Same goes for Sarasota Bay, dropping down to 5f, she at least has match her current OR in terms of TS, but the sharper trip is a worry for me.

Intriguing is the 4-year-old Red Allure. She has work to do against her younger rivals, but there is clear indication she is knocking heavily on the door now. This filly has been a little bit unlucky so to speak. She was heavily bumped at Doncaster when seemingly finding her second wind earlier this season plus a few issues in the starting gates didn’t make life easier.

However, her latest effort in better class is a clear standout piece of form. She showed pace despite having a few issues at the start again, and she showed a lovely attitude battling hard to the line. It seems cut in the ground is what she needs and she gets it today over same course and distance once more.

Red Allure ran to a 51 topspeed rating that day too. So now of an official rating of 50 with a 7lb claimer in the saddle she should go well today.

Selections:
10pts win – Red Allure @ 8/1 MB

……

7.30 Chelmsford: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

Tomily won three races in quick succession in July, until bombing out in soft ground in a very hot York handicap only three days after winning at Catterick. I think that is a piece of form to forgive.

Now back on the All-Weather and racing over the minimum trip, I feel Tomily remains of high interest and could potentially be well handicapped, in fact. That is down to the fact that he is down to his lowest All-Weather mark for quite some time. He may not quite be as good as he once was, but recent form suggests he remains a good horse, with appetite for the game.

Given Tomily  has ran to topspeed ratings of 87+ on six occasions on all surfaces throughout his career, most recently last months, it’s fair to assume, now down to an official rating of 87, he could have a bit in hand, if not enough to run to hid current mark will already be enough to win a race where little else appears to be well handicapped.

Having the added bonus of Jim Crowley in the saddle plus a good draw to operate from I feel he is overpriced in this field.

Selection:
10pts win – Tomily @ 6/1 MB

………

8.35 Curragh: Handicap, 1 Mile

With rain and wind lashing against the windows for the last few hours now with not let up to be expected any time soon, the ground at Curragh will be pretty soft come race time.

There aren’t that many really suited by conditions, nor appear many well handicapped. But this years Irish Lincoln runner-up Trading Point could fall into both categories. He’s has form on fast ground but crucially his career best came at Naas with plenty of cut in the ground this March.

He finished an excellent second in a race that has provided twelve winning performances subsequently. Trading Point hasn’t been able to kick on since then, but has raced in hot contests and was not disgraced when 5 lengths beaten at Galway most recently.

Down to a 87 mark, 2lb lower than in the Lincoln, plus he has already ran to a topspeed rating of 87 this year, now with top man Colin Keane in the saddle, there could be a big performance on the cards today.

Selection: 
10pts win- Trading Point @ 7/1 MB

………

9.10 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 2m

The worst for the last or the lucky last? This a shocking race. But that’s okay with me. I love them all equally. This one is intriguing to some extend though. Barca and Beau Night meet again after a recent tussle over the shorter 1m 6f trip. Barca should be the one who gets the better of the two this time round.

However, both will need to settle for minor placings because it’s the five-year-old gelding Lazarus who has a major shout tonight.

He’s been a winner at this track in the past, albeit over 10 furlongs. He has fallen steadily in his handicap rating, now below 50 which looks significant for his chances. Lazarus has been running to higher topspeed ratings in the past and his most recent effort at Nottingham over 1m 6f was a clear revival. He stayed on quite strongly, suggesting a step up to 2 miles will suit.

Given this longer trip and the switch to the All-Weather, a surface he tends to prefer a little bit more with his lowly mark, I feel Lazarus has a cracking chance to win this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Lazarus @ 14/1 MB

Preview: Irish Derby 2019

DSC_1655

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!

::::::::::

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

::::::::::::::::::

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  

………

2.35 Chester: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

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

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

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

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

……..

7.30 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

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

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

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

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

Preview: Irish 2000 Guineas 2019

DSC_2609

Finally we get the race we wanted: Too Darn Hot vs. Magna Grecia: meant to happen at Newmarket, now taking place at the new Curragh. A match made in heaven?

Probably not. I’m firmly against the chances of Too Darn Hot. All the hype over the winter has evaporated after injuries forced him to miss his early assignments and a recent defeat in the Dante Stakes have connections revert back to a mile.

For a horse that had issues earlier this year, to go back-to-back so quickly, after stretching out to a trip beyond the comfort zone, now travelling over to Ireland, going back to a mile, right up into Group 1 class – there are a lot of arguments against Too Darn Hot.

Certainly at a short price, despite seeing him on the drift that still has him around a 40-45% chance, I can not have him at all.

The market has it spot on, Magna Grecia is the righteous favourite and I have him pretty much a slightly better than 50% chance – so current odds are more than fair.

The English 2000 Guineas champ has – at least in my mind – stamped his authority firmly on the mile division with the Newmarket victory. The much talked about draw bias was more like a pace bias. After all, Magna Grecia won well in the end, and it appeared to me that in any circumstance he would have been the best horse in the race. 

It was his first start in 2019 and he can only improve going forward, is my reckoning. He ran to a time speed rating of 105 that day, in line with previously achieved 102 and 107.

The Newmarket third Skardu remains of high interest. I was sweet on his chances back then. I still like the colt. However he has to find more improvement, which isn’t unlikely given his lightly raced profile, but running subsequently to TS ratings of 90 and 92 is, even though progressive, not quite what’s required here today, I feel.

At around 7/1 he is a fair chance, but nothing more, hence not a bet for me. As I try to refrain from backing below 3/1 usually, I’ll also swerve the notion of “buying money” with Magna Grecia.

The next in line in this Irish 2000 Guineas field are all minority chances. So, anything else with a realistic chance of going close?

Well, the one that I am intrigued by, and always been since his juvenile season, and am delighted to see him here as I would have been interested if he would have lined up at Newmarket, is at a whopping price the other Ballydoyle runner Mohwak.

He’s one that was thought to be a Derby horse. And you could argue that still holds true as he needed a mile to win as a juvenile and ran on well at Chester in the Dee Stakes recently, which is a fine Derby trial in its own right.

Still, in mind stuck is the vision of how he won the Royal Lodge Stakes in rather cozily fashion last season – over a mile on fast ground. He achieved a TS rating of 104 that day – which is close enough to those ratings the two market principles have achieved.

Mohawk seasonal reappearance at Chester earlier this month, when second behind a stable mate who enjoyed the run of the race, in desperate conditions, was an excellent performance, given the circumstances.

I feel, though, the return to a sound surface will see him improve leaps an bounds. And also now fit from his first run in 2019, I can see this son of the almighty Galileo show much more than anything we’ve seen to date.

The mile trip look sharp enough, most likely. The stiff uphill finish of the Curragh can suit, on the other hand.

Whether he is good enough over this trip to battle it out with Magna Grecia remains to be seen. At prices I firmly believe Mohawk is massively undervalued in both win and place market.

Selection:
4pts win – Mohawk @ 27/1 MB
6pts place – Mohawk @ 4/1 MB

Impressions: The New Curragh

The new Curragh opened its doors for the general public for the first time today. A new era for Irish (flat) racing. A monstrous project in the making for the last four years, associated with a price tag of around €80 million – it’s better be a success!

Whether it’s going to be a long-term success with crowds embracing the new facilities beyond this opening day remains to be seen. Judged by the attendance today the word ‘promising’ may be on the lips of many, though.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for a good few years: finally back at the Curragh! Driving down the N7, get off at exit 12 and there it is, right in front of your eyes, the imposing new grand stand!

Upon arrival my first thought was: WOW! This is spectacular! Stunningly beautiful from an architectural point of view. I didn’t expect it to be that good. No way! After all, this is Ireland where these type of projects rarely go to plan. This project had its own little issues, but the outcome is magnificent – and that is what matters most.

DSC_2625-Pano

What’s good? Great views from the parade ring. Plenty of space. Only short walks between parade ring, betting and the grand stand. First class elevated viewing for the regular racegoer from the stand itself. Everything is shiny, new and gives the impression of classiness.

Opportunity for improvement? Getting your hands on a coffee is a tricky adventure. Long ques for food and drink wherever you go. Maybe I missed them, but there were no mobile coffee vans like they used to exist at the old Curragh.

Food prices are not for the fainthearted. But that’s nothing new. Regular ticket prices are €20. A season ticket is €265 – that’s a whopping €90 more than when I bought one the last time in 2015, the year before construction began. This isn’t a cheap place.

I didn’t go racing at the Curragh during the construction years. I was – quite frankly – pissed off. Holding a season ticket for a number of years, I would have expected some concessions to existing members while racing continued at what was effectively a building site – a decision in itself I didn’t like. It showed a lack of regard for the general racegoer.

Whether the new Curragh will be able to attract on regular basis the sort of crowd that came through the turnstiles today for the more low profile days is a question the future will tell. I’m not so sure, unfortunately.

I hope it does, I really do. This new Curragh deserves it. It’s an amazing place to watch horse racing. It’s the perfect stadium for our equine heroes. Having been to many racecourses around the world I can honestly say the Curragh is right up there with the best.

Now they have to work on service for the general public, think about pricing and any further enhancements that could be made to the raceday experience in order to lure punters to the track more often.

DSC_2609

The Curragh Is Back!

DSC_1401

Finally back at the Curragh! Today is the first official race day at the new Curragh. An expensive project, developed over the last number of years, racing continued at the constructionist side in the meantime.

I didn’t got in those years. Having been a member for a number of years before, I didn’t like the idea of racing to continue during the rebuild. I also didn’t entertain the idea that ticket prices remained static and that no offers were made to existing members during the time.

I may not become a member again, even now that the Curragh is a shiny new place. Prices are simply too high.

Nonetheless I can’t wait to be back today! In fact I hardly could sleep because of excitement and woke early. From photos and videos seen, the new Curragh looks stunning. Here’s hoping the real thing lives up to the promise.

It’s not a day to get carried away betting wise. And my record on Irish races is dismal anyway. I found a few interesting selections, still. So fingers crossed it’ll be a triumphant return to the Curragh of Kildare!

I shall come back with a nice little report and a few snaps tonight.

:::::::::

3.35 Curragh: Group 3 Athasi Stakes, 7f

Hot favourite Happen looks hard to beat if she can improve from a good runner-up performance in the 1000 Guineas trial behind Lady Kaya. Obviously that is the strongest piece of form available, and you would expect her to come on for the run.

However, I strongly believe she will benefit even more from a step up in trip, and that 7 furlongs is plenty sharp enough for her already, particularly if she’d encounter some speedier types.

In truth, there is little in this field to rival her in terms of class. But Dermot Weld’s filly Titanium Sky is clearly the one who could be with further improvement be a big danger.

The grey filly was only seen once last year in a messy Gowran Park maiden where she ran out an excellent 5th given circumstances.

She returned last month at Leopardstown in a 7f maiden which she won in taking style. Always travelling well, she benefited from a strong pace. Nonetheless, it was impresse how she ate up the ground of the leaders in the final two furlongs.

That form already works out well, so the fact Titanium Sky did that so easily suggests she is potentially a Group horse. Dermot Weld said afterwards he certainly hopes to win some blacktype with her, and maybe she can even be an irish 1000 Guineas candidate.

Selection:
10pts win – Titanium Sky @ 10/1 Coral

……..

4.45 Curragh: 45-70 Handicap, 6f

This looks ultra-competitive, as you would expect for a 30 runner strong field. But in truth only few of these appear in with a fair chance of winning.

No doubt the JOB trained Little Clarinet is a fair favourite. Third up after a break, excellent recent form, she is handicapped to win. However, her overall record is off-putting, given a rather skinny price.

More intriguing at given odds is the rather unexposed Clifftop Dancer. The filly had only five starts to date but certainly returned with a bang on her first run finishing an excellent runner-up at Naas last month behind a supremely well handicapped winner.

If she can repeat that effort, possibly improve just a tiny bit, she’ll be a huge runner today. She ran to a TS rating of 65, so upped by 3lb to 67 gives her every opportunity today as ground and trip should be perfect and the testing finish at the Curragh may be ideal.

Selection:
5pts win – Clifftop Dancer @ 12/1 MB

……..

5.20 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7f

Fit For Function comes here on the back of an excellent comeback run at Naas in a big field. He finished 5th, tiering in the closing stages.

Stripping fitter for the run, able to run of the same handicap mark, I feel Fit For Function has a huge opportunity today. He’s not that easy to win with, but has ran plenty of credible races in defeat.

As he was an excellent 2nd here at the Curragh over 6 furlongs last summer of a 6lb higher mark than his current 72 rating, which was a follow-up effort after winning at Listowel a few weeks earlier, then over 6.5f of a 74 mark.

Fit For Function looks well handicapped today, based on that and he also has ran four times to TS ratings of 72+ in his career already, two of those performances came only last year and with his recent comeback run still fresh in mind, there is little reason to fear he’s not as good any more.

Selection:
5pts win – Fit For Function @ 12/1 MB

2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

DSC_6633.jpg

An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

DSC_6692.jpg

A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

DSC_6457.jpg

Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

DSC_6772.jpg

 

 

 

DSC_6725.jpg