Tag Archives: Derby

Sandown Classic Trial Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary:

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

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

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

10pts win – Cash @ 7/1

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 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

Saturday Selections: June, 1st 2019

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Read my Derby Preview Here

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4.00 Musselburgh: Listed Fillies’ Stakes, 7f

There is not a lot of depth in this race. Favourite Red Starlight is solid, but nothing more. The forecast favourite Indian Blessing has been drifting all day long. I remain interested in the 5-year-old mare nonetheless.

The ground is the main question mark for me. It may be too soft for her, given her best form is on a faster surface. On the other hand she ran well in a Listed contest in France a couple of years ago with cut in the ground.

The trip looks sure to suit, given Indian Blessing is a winner over 7 furlongs – albeit on the All-Weather – and has been placed a couple of times as well.

She is clearly setting the standard in this race as the highest rated individual who is also a Group 3 winner already. Indian Blessing did perform well in a few graded contests in the US last season – so I do hope her poor seasonal reappearance at the Curragh last month will bring her on quite a bit.

If Indian Blessing runs to to form she’s the one to beat, no doubt. So, even though there are a few doubts, at given prices I’m with her.

Selection:
10pts win – Indian Blessing @ 6/1 MB

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4.55 Musselburgh: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

Requinto Dawn has dropped to a tasty mark largely due to poor showings this season. However, he ran rather eye-catchingly last time out at Redcar, after dwelling in the starting gates, he finished seemingly with a bit in the tank with the pack without ever getting any serious questions asked by the jockey.

The handicapper has given him a major chance now, taking another 3lb off the mark, which leaves Requinto Dawn a whopping 12lb lower than his last winning mark!

He proved competitive of marks in the high 80’s last summer, so with this recent run appearing as if there’s still some life left, Requinto Dawn could be tremendously well in today, also having the added bonus of a fair 5lb claimer in the saddle.

The ground shouldn’t be an issue. His career highest time-speed rating came on soft going. In fact, the bit of cut in the ground may help to slow down things a little bit and put more emphasis on stamina, which will suit, given Requinto Dawn stays further than the minimum trip.

Selection:
10pts win – Requinto Dawn @ 7.8/1 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

Tuesday Selections: May, 14th 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

“… the Derby trial is quite a poor trial. None of these will go close in the Derby. Will any of these even line up? Anthony Van Dyck certainly won’t… he’ll struggle over this trip in this ground.”

Well, I got that spectacularly wrong with Anthony Van Dyck, I guess. He ran away with the race on Saturday; made my assessment look rather silly. Doubting a Galileo to stay? You fool!

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5.00 Chepstow: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

Boycie is worth a try at a price here, even though the trip isn’t ideal for him and if they go hard he may well be found out for stamina. Nonetheless, the 6-year-old looks supremely well handicapped now, particularly with my current favourite apprentice on board, claiming valuable 7 pounds.

The gelding has a dismal record when stretching out beyond 10f, yet on his penultimate run at Wolverhampton over 1m 4f he showed a big improvement, finishing runner-up behind a winner who won multiple times in the meantime.

2lb lower today, plus taking the rider’s claim into consideration, Boycie can run of 4lb lower with fast ground conditions sure to suit, now back on turf.

He also has ran countless times to much higher TS ratings in the past, which suggests if he’s on a going day, this son of my all-time favourite Paco Boy can be in the mix today.

Selection:
10pts win – Boycie @ 13/1 MB

!Update: Non-Runner!