Tag Archives: Derby

Breeders’s Cup Turf 2022 Preview

8.40 Keeneland (USA): Grade 1; 1m 4f

This renewal of the Breeders’ Cup Turf doesn’t appear to have the same quality as in previous years. As a consequence it’s wide open. A full field, a tight track and likely fast ground will make for an exciting race, though.

Two horses trained by Charlie Appleby head the betting market. Nations Pride is currently favoured – one can see why. The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a highly successful season, winning four races, and lately went back-to-back in Grade 1 company in the US.

Nations Pride only got beaten this year in the Epsom Derby and in the Belmont Derby when an unlucky runner-up . At the same time he clearly proved versatility, a preference for fast ground and the ability to sit handy and quicken nicely when asked to change gear.

Those are all characteristics that do enhance his chances. He’s a fair favourite in my view. But also beatable. Nations Pride is no superstar.

Otherwise he wouldn’t have been running in the US so often this season. This US form isn’t always easy to quantify, but almost never on par with European top-level competition.

Nations Pride’s European form is solid but hard to be too excited about. Also: in six starts outside the US his career-best speed rating is a modest 89 figure, dating back to his sole run at Meydan.

A #7 gate isn’t ideal here. He may have to spend quite a bit of energy if the aim is a prominent racing position. Otherwise he may be too far back in the field. He’s not always a sharp starter, either. It’s a tricky situation for William Buick in the saddle. At 11/4 I give Nations pride a miss.

Stable mate Rebel’s Romance comes here in red hot form. He landed the two most important Group 1 races in Germany lately, doing so in fine style, as he got the better of German Derby winner Samarko along the way – personally I really rate the German colt.

Unbeaten in his last four starts, he stays the trip and is fine on fast ground. However, his career-best on the rating front dates back to last year, at Meydan; how the recent soft ground form from Germany truly translates to Keeneland is a bit of a question mark. I have some doubts.

A year ago Mishriff would likely have been a red hot favourite in this race. This time he’s a 6/1 shot. Unlucky in the Coral Eclipse at the start of his season, he never looked the same horse again.

Drawn in #11, blinkers on for the first time in his career; this me strike as a somewhat desperate move. I struggle to find him attractive in these circumstances.

Broome has a good draw, in comparison. The six-year-old continues to run well at the highest level. He was an impressive winner of the Hardwick Stakes at Royal Ascot, and wasn’t disgraced in the Arc when last seen on unsuitable ground.

He’ll be a solid place chance if he doesn’t miss the break, which he’s now done a couple of times.

It’s difficult for me to properly assess the form of the home squad. The mare War Like Goddess looked pretty good – although, not brilliant – when landing the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic four weeks ago. She’s likely to be up with the pace from the #2 gate. Hence must rate a competitive chance.

Nonetheless, for betting purposes I’ll stick with the horses I know well enough to make a proper assessment.

With that in mind, the one that I was thinking about all week for this race was the other Aiden O’Brien runner, Stone Age. In truth: generally I am not a massive fan of him, opposed him at every opportunity this year.

However, I have come to the conclusion that he’s going to be a huge runner against this opposition in these circumstances, and certainly appears to be significantly overpriced.

Stone Age has a lovely draw to attack the race from. He’s Ryan Moore’s choice, who knows him well. The 3-year-old colt likes to race bang up with the pace, and can also make it all, as often seen this season. From the #3 gate he’ll be right there towards the front of the race.

I’m pretty sure if you sit more than four lengths off the pace with three furlongs to go your chances are doomed in this race. Stone Age will be right in the mix. He’s not the best horse in the race. But he may well be the one most favoured by circumstances.

He’s been to the US twice this year. On both occasions he ran with plenty of credit, as he had to overcome wide draws. Both Saratoga- and Belmont Derby runs can be upgraded. So can be his last two performances at the highest level against top-class opposition in the Irish- and British Champions Stakes.

He led the field in those races, possibly did too much too soon, but wasn’t all that far beaten in the end, in either instance. I believe he will enjoy the better ground at Keeneland – in combination with the track and his draw, it’s a real positive. And this is a much easier race than the rivals he countered the last two times.

Let’s not forget Stone Age was once a highly fancied Derby shot. Obviously, he’s not that good. Certainly I never thought he was. His speed ratings are consistently not good enough to be considered a proper Group 1 horse in Europe, too.

Yet, here I am: strongly fancying Stone Age. He’s got a proper chance for Group 1 glory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. This race will suit him more than most in the field. He has the stamina, the finishing kick, the draw and won’t mind the ground.

10pts win – Stone Age @ 9/1

Saturday Selections: 15th October 2022

4.00: Ascot: Group 1 Champions Stakes, 1m 2f

It’s all about Baaeed. Unbeaten in ten career starts, he comes here after that massive performance in the Juddmonte International Stakes. He’s very much expected to win in style this afternoon.

Retirement beckons afterwards, and surely the smartest fillies are waiting for him in the breeding shed next year. That’s for then. It’s a bid for racing greatness here and now.

In truth, though, I have been somewhat reserved in getting overly excited about what Baaeed had done until he demolished a strong field at York in August.

The reason a simple one: I hold topspeed close to my heart as a KPI if it comes to judging race horses. Prior to the Juddmonte, Baaeed’s career-best of 106 was quite good, but far from brilliant – especially given the comparisons to the true greats of the recent past, like his sire Sea The Stars, or Frankel.

Even my beloved Paco Boy achieved much better; yet, I as the most enthusiastic Paco Boy fan in the world, have to admit, he was not one of the greatest the sport had ever seen.

Roll on the 17th August 2022: Juddomonte International Stakes – Baaeed eases into the lead, effortless, floating over the ground, majestically; he quickens in impressive style and slaughters a labouring Mishriff by 6½ lengths.

Nearly as important as the margin of victory: Baaeed achieved a topspeed rating of 124. Finally a superb performance on this measure as well.

Any concerns over the trip were convincingly put to bed. Connections decided against moving up to the Arc distance subsequently, though. Probably a wise decision in hindsight.

Baaeed – a perfect 10 out of 10 – is impossible to oppose today….. or is he? Most likely, I am clearly in the minority: I still question whether he deserves to be called a “true great”. In my view: not yet.

It’s possibly harsh to say he has to prove himself today. Yet, in my eyes he’s got to prove his greatness: a performance similar to York, and I am going to be fully on board.

That says, he faces two real dangers today: the ground and a fresh Adayar.

Softish ground isn’t a big deal, given Baaeed has won in these conditions in the past. However, he never faced a rival as classy as Adayar in these conditions. I firmly believe Baaeed can’t quite produce the same change of gear on this type of ground.

Baaeed is vulnerable: he produced a 94 best topspeed rating on ground when the word soft appeared in the going description. It’s likely he’s a better horse today than the last time he encountered softish ground; nonetheless, it’s a question mark.

That brings me to Adayar. The only serious opposition today. We haven’t seen much of last years Derby and King George hero. You have to worry about his disrupted year.

On the other hand, it gives him the opportunity to arrive fresh, without a hard season in his legs, after a solid, if unspectacular comeback run at Doncaster last month.

If – and it’s a proper if – Adayar is anywhere near as good as he was last season, then he’ll be a formidable danger to Baaeed. Because let’s remember, he produced his two best performances with cut in the ground in the Derby, and subsequently here at Ascot in the King George, then on fast ground. This versatility could be key.

He ran a huge race in the Arc toward the end of last season; one can forgive a subsequent poor run in the Champions Stakes. The drop to 10 furlongs is another question mark I have. On the other hand, given the softish ground, it could prove ideal, especially if William Buick is bold enough to kick on once the field turns for home. Adayar isn’t slow, and one thing is for sure: he will stay all the way to the line.

Tactically it’s going to be intriguing: what’s Crowley’s game plan? From the #1 draw, he may get boxed in, if he doesn’t move forward right away. I doubt he wants to be too aggressive early on, though. That’s a clear danger, especially if the ground takes something out of Baaeed’s turn of foot.

At the given prices, I simply can’t ignore Adayar. I have question marks. But I have them over Baaeed as well. He’ still by far the likeliest winner, mind. And the fan in me wants him to bow out in style. Yet, the punter in me says a fit and happy Adayar has a better than 10% chance to win a third career Group 1 this afternoon.

A shoutout for Royal Champion: a huge price, one who I feel could outrun this price tag (can be backed at 160s on Exchanges). I was hugely impressed with his recent Ayr run. One to keep an eye on for the future, in any case.

10pts win – Adayar @ 9/1

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3.50 Catterick: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

Perhaps it’s the end of the road for veteran Dark Shot after a number of recent below par performances; however, he was earlier this season still running to low 70 ratings, with a really strong run only back in July at Goodwood, when a neck beaten runner-up.

He was rated 69 and ran to topspeed 67 that day – a seasonal best on that measure, although it was especially his Doncaster 4th place finish a few weeks earlier that caught my eye.

He couldn’t back up those runs the last three times, but two came at Southwell on the All-Weather. He weakened badly in all three races, though. A worry.

But: Dark Shot won this very same race 12 months ago. He’s on a lower mark, will enjoy the return to soft ground and has a solid draw to attack the race from.

10pts win – Dark Shot @ 15.5

Saturday Selections: 17th September 2022

10.45 Aqueduct: Group 3 Jockey Club Derby, 1m 4f

This is a rather poor Group 3 turf race even by US standards, which is the reason why two questionable stayers head the market.

Godolphin’s Nations Pride and Classic Causeway have met twice over shorter middle-distance trips as part of the Caesars Turf Triple Series this season, with an even split of victories.

Nations Pride, as a son of Teofilo, is odds-on and expected to stretch out over 12 furlongs after his recent excellent Saratoga Derby success.

On the ever turning Aqueduct inner turf track on firm ground there is a solid possibility he will do get the trip. He’s not unbeatable, though, his price (possibly) still driven by early season reputation when he was an English Derby contender.

I doubt Classic Causeway will find this race distance wise and tactically difficult. On the other hand the German raider Ardakan is probably underestimated here.

Obviously he won’t lack stamina. In fact he’ll relish going up in distance. He won the Derby Italiano over 1m 3f earlier this year where he showed a lot of guts, and then finished like a train in the German Derby.

Especially the Hamburg performance is noteworthy. This was a pretty good renewal but Ardakan had a troubled day. His wide draw didn’t do him any favours. As a consequence he had tons to do turning for home. I reckon, on another day Ardakan would have gone seriously close.

He was not disgraced when third in the Group 1 Großer Preis von Berlin subsequently. I though the race wasn’t quite ran to his liking, with a somewhat muddling pace. More aggressive tactics would have helped.

The firm ground is a concern today, given he has not encountered it before. In contrast some of his best performances came on much softer. On the other hand he did just fine on genuinely good ground. That’s gives hope.

I do hope Andrasch Starke will move forward, utilizing the stamina this son of Reliable Man clearly possesses, making this race a test of stamina, rather than one of speed.

If he does so, and possibly even can get first run hitting the home straight, Ardakan won’t be stopping anytime soon and could be difficult to get to for the rest in this field, as they stamina may run out.

Btw. this race is usually run at Belmont. Due to building works there this race, as others, have moved to Aqueduct. A few years ago I went there on a trip to New York. It was a cold December day. A bit of snow on the ground and in the air. Racing took place on the inner dirt track.

It was one of the bleakest days I’ve ever spent at a racetrack. Aqueduct is a massive place, but it was so sparsely attended on the day. It felt so empty, nearly ghost like – apart from a bustling Casino attached to the stand. It was a completely different sort of atmosphere to the usually much more colourful and interesting atmosphere encountered in the UK and Ireland.

10pts win – Ardakan @ 7/2

Sunday Selections: 31st July 2022

1.20 Munich: Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis, 1m 2f

Intriguing Group 1 action in Germany today as we see the return of Derby hero Sammarco.

As tight as the outcome of the Derby was, I always felt he was the best horse on the day. I am a huge fan of this son of Camelot and backed him to win at Hamburg.

The step up in trip was clearly in his favour, and I maintain that – if connections would go down the route – he could have a legitimate shot in an Arc this year.

Saying that, dropping in distance to 10 furlongs does the opposite to my excitement about Sammarco’s chances – at least today. This doesn’t look the deepest Group 1 and class may prevail, yet the drop in distance doesn’t do him any favours I reckon.

It makes perfect sense to get a Group 1 over 10 furlongs on board for a future stallion career. He probably find many better opportunities than this. Though, simply from a betting perspective I can’t back him today.

The French mare Ebaiyra is the favourite and quite a short price. She sets a very good standard thanks to her close 3rd place in the Dahlia Stakes back in May. She has tons of strong form in Group races to her name, although winning at the top level has eluded her so far.

Today looks an ideal opportunity to rectify this. The good to soft ground suits, the trip fine and she comes here in fine form after a recent Listed success at Chantilly that will put her spot on.

I still think she’s a little bit too short in the betting. Clearly a consistent mare, she’s no superstar and is potentially vulnerable to an improving sort.

The Andreas Schütz trained Dawn Intello is another well-seasoned performer at Group level. Consistent and solid are words to describe him. If the market principles falter he’ll be bang there, though he always looked a bit short of class to land a major one.

Last years fine Unio-Rennen winner Best Of Lips doesn’t appear to be quite the same horse this season. Rubaiyat may not quite stay 10 furlongs well enough against this strong level of opposition. Amazing Grace will only feature if they go a crazy pace.

Leaves Andreas’s Wöhler’s Queroyal, who fits the bill of a possible improver. The 3-year- old colt is still lightly raced and unexposed over ten furlongs. After a light juvenile campaign he won a 7.5f contest at Mülheim on seasonal reappearance before stepping up significantly in distance when landing the Derby-Trial at Baden-Baden in convincing fashion.

He kicked on as the field entered the home turn and never looked back, always holding, seemingly a shade cosily, the opposition. Connections were not surprised afterwards, saying they thought he’d be a smart prospect.

Although not the likeliest to stay the Derby trip, Queroyal was supplemented for the Hamburg Classic. He travelled strongly for a long time that day, but from a high draw he was forced to wide for the entirety of the race and travelled significantly farther than Sammarco, who had a perfect trip on the inside in contrast.

Queroyal flattened out in the final two furlongs, hanging badly in the home straight and eventually wandering around, clearly at the limit of his stamina. Nonetheless he was only 3 lengths beaten in the end.

The drop in trip is key today. Whether he is truly a Group 1 horse remains to be seen. The Derby-Trial form hasn’t worked out particularly well. But he looked a class above the opposition in any case and should be capable of improvement for his sixth career start and only second attempt over 10 furlongs. In my book he is significantly overpriced in this field.

A live stream for Munich can be found on Youtube.

10pts win – Queroyal @ 12/1

German Derby 2022 Preview

2.45 Hamburg: Group 1 German Derby, 1m 4f

The 2022 edition of the German Derby looks an excellent renewal on paper. As German horses have outran their odds on the international stage for a number of years, there is no secret in saying today could be a pointer towards a future Arc winner.

It’s even more exciting as smart filly Wagnis takes on the colts. She was a sensational winner of the Diane Trial over 10 furlongs at Hamburg four weeks ago. She has the assistance of Holly Doyle today. That shows clear intent as does the fact connections go for the Derby.

The way she won the Group 3 Diane Trial was seriously impressive. She produced a lovely turn of foot to come from the back of the field. She is bred to stay the Derby trip and will be a big runner, if she can get a run.

Drawn in #20 is a huge issue at the tight, turning Hamburg course, though. She will have to come from a long way back and that is a tough assignment.

Talking intent, perhaps even more so represents the booking Frankie Dettori. Schlenderhan has been confident So Moonstruck is the real deal for a while and having the big race jockey in the saddle can only be a positive.

He’s drawn in #10. That’s a workable gate, with So Moonstruck expected to go forward. He’ll be in a good position turning for home and is likely to improve from his recent runner-up effort in the Derby Trial at Cologne, should get the trip and should enjoy the decent ground.

The son of former German Derby winner Sea The Moon has been beaten twice this season already, though, albeit on softish ground. He’s one for the shortlist but I struggle to see why he’s the favourite, personally.

Slightly under the radar flies Bavarian Classic winner Lavello. He won handsomely at Munich and was a good third in the Group 2 Prix Hocquart at Longchamp back in May.

He is another one you would think will improve for the trip as a son of Zarak and out of a Montjou mare, plus possibly will enjoy the better ground as well. He’s got a good draw and looks overpriced.

Ardakan is a multiple Group winner already. He landed the Derby Italiano when last seen in May. He showed serious guts and just got there in the nick of time over the 11 furlongs contest.

He is all stamina, not unusual for a German horse, and will love the additional furlong today. Drawn wide isn’t ideal but expect him to close down the leaders coming with a late charge.

Assistent from gate #1 is a compelling each-way shot with Cieren Fallon in the saddle. A listed winner at Hannover over 12 furlongs, he’s is sure to appreciate the trip and has proven to act on decent ground.

Richard Kingscote makes the trip to Hamburg to ride German 1.000 Guineas runner-up Mylady. She has a good draw but may struggle to see out the Derby distance.

The only German female jockey Sybille Vogt in the Derby sits on a live chance with recent Listed winner Nerik, a son of Epsom Derby winner Ruler Of The World, also bred to get the trip and with untapped potential.

German top jockey Eddie Pedroza has the ride on Queroyal, a winner of a Derby Trial at Baden. 10 furlongs may be more his trip, but he can’t be underestimated if he stays.

That brings me to the one I fancied for a while for the German Derby: Sammarco. This lightly raced son of Camelot was learning on the job in all his three lifetime runs. He looked raw and green but improving all the time.

Only one start as a juvenile, he won over 7.5 furlongs. He made his three-year-old debut in the hot Bavarian Classic when things didn’t go his way. He caught the eye with an impressive late finish as a runner-up behind Lavello.

Next stop was the Derby Trial at Munich. he battled it out with So Moonstruck, who got first run. Sammarco found plenty and seemed to relish the fight in the closing stages to win by a head.

He clearly is progressive, has tons of untapped potential, will stay the trip, can go forward from his low draw to be right where you want to be at Hamburg when turning for home and looks potentially the real deal.

This 2022 edition of the German Derby is clearly a highly competitive one. Nonetheless, Sammarco is the one I am siding with at a bigger price than I would have anticipated today.

10pts win – Sammarco @ 11/2

Irish Derby 2022 Review

The 2022 Irish Derby saw a dominant winner in Westover. Arguably an unlucky horse at Epsom, he demolished his seven rivals at the Curragh.

He looked a proper Derby horse on Saturday, and not, as some suggested, a Leger type. There were also question marks over the suitability of the Curragh. Personally I felt the stiff finish and the galloping nature of the track would suit really well.

That turned out to be true. Westover looked extremely comfortable, and the track played to his strengths more than anything else.

Westover

The true merit of the performance will come to the fore as the season goes on. Main rival Tuesday didn’t fire. The filly couldn’t back up her strong Oaks victory. Perhaps she didn’t recover in time, given she also ran in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas earlier this year. This was probably one race too many.

Regardless, the fact is Westover was more than entitled to win even against a peak Tuesday. She had opportunities in the Group 1 races but couldn’t crack the topspeed 100 mark yet. She’s probably much better over 10 furlongs anyway, if given the opportunity.

In the absence of a true rival it was more the visual impression that “wowed” the crowd. Whether Westover would have been good enough to win the Epsom Derby with a clear run is pure speculation.

Nonetheless, I think all racing fans will be hoping that we get a “rematch” with Desert Crown at some point this season. Such a clash looks much more open after the Irish Derby. Not to forget 3-year-old horses improve at a different pace throughout the year, so things can look different the next time these two meet.

Given Westover’s excellent performances at Epsom and the Curragh it makes me wonder how good Cash could be. He was one of my Five To Follow this season and he ran a huge race in the Sandown Classic Trial when runner-up behind Westover.

He didn’t make it to Epsom and neither to Chantilly, having picked up an injury in the meantime. David Simcock said they’ll be patient and target Ascot in autumn. He’ll stay in training next year, most likely. It will be exciting to find out how far Cash can go.

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Eyecatchers:

Some horses caught my eye at the Curragh on Saturday. Want to give a quite shoutout to them (I’m not doing the weekly eyecatchers at the moment due to time constraints) for those interested to keep an eye on them.

Power Under Me
1.25 – 6 furlongs, Listed

Was early on isolated on the stand’s side racing without cover. Chased the fast pace, travelled pretty well until put under pressure from 1.5f out. Battled to the line but had to let two horses pass. Fared best from those close to the pace. First and second came from off the pace.

This is probably his level. Perhaps able to be competitive in Group 3, but found out in higher grade last time out despite some excuses. 6f with a bit of ease in the ground most likely the ideal scenario.

Raadobarg
2.35 – 1 mile, Listed

Raced in midfield most of the race which developed further up field. Had too much do in the home straight but ran on well from his disadvantaged position. He gave the impression would he had tracked the eventual placed horses a bit closer he could have been seriously involved in the finish.

Was desperately unlucky last time out in France when badly hampered in the moment he was coming with his run to potentially win the race. Looks still improving. 7 furlongs to a mile will all be fine, but ideally with ease in the ground. In fact the softer the better.

Boundless Ocean
3.45 – 1m 4f, Group 1

Raced in last position dropped in, was keen at different stages of the race, although a little bit better settled than in other races this year. Had a lot to do from the back of the field turning for home given the race was won at the frontend. Made a good looking move from three furlongs out until emptying in the closing stages.

He’s a difficult colt to ride it seems. Can miss the break and often pulls really hard for his head. But he has clearly talent. Was a bit unlucky in the Gallinule Stakes when short of room at a crucial stage and pulled way too hard over 12 furlongs when runner-up lto. Unlikely to stay 12f with his demeanour but could be underestimated over 10 furlongs.

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Irish Derby day Photos:

©Florian Christoph

Saturday Selections: 25th June 2022

I am currently going through the worst slump of “form” in the last half a decade or so of my serious “betting career”. It starts to become farcical. Even though the first three months of my 2022 betting year (March, April, May) were all green, June wears me down.

It’s just not working. Or something of the process isn’t working. The initial stage of video analysis and identifying potential horses for future opportunities works extremely well. The eye-catchers perform as well as never before, actually. But I don’t back them. It seems right now I have lost the touch for making good decisions.

Some days I am too conservative, others not patient enough. There’s the odd winner here or there, but they don’t offset the losing days. Their prices are too low, or more the fact of the matter is I don’t get “value”.

I never had a high strike rate, often back bigger prices. It’s inevitable that you have dry spells. But if things go so badly wrong for an entire month as they do right now it’s not all down to “bad luck” or variance. It’s down to poor decisions too. Not sure how to rectify this at the moment.

Hopefully things will turn around. But hoping is fearing. And I somehow fear I lost it. I see this also reflected in how the prices I take compare to ISP and BSP. Doesn’t make for good reading. I used to beat them regularly with my selections in the past. Doesn’t happen at the moment.

That’s a little ramble I had to get off the chest. Well, it’s Irish Derby Derby. I am excited going down to the Curragh no matter what. The race looks a compelling edition. Although I stay away from it betting wise. Here’s hoping those betting decision I have made for Sturday will turn out to be good ones, though.

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3.30 Newcastle: Class 2 Handicap, 2m

Bandinelli shaped a lot better at Ascot than the 6.5 lengths beaten performance suggested. He was clearly minded in the closing stages after it became obvious that he couldn’t win.

From a wide draw he moved across quickly to chase the pace but was caught wide around the first bend. He raced wide for the majority of the race. He made a good looking move into the home straight but wasn’t able to sustain it.

Back over two miles on the All-Weather he looks dangerous. Still rather unexposed over the trip, his excellent record on the sand gives him a better chance than the price if he can only find a tiny bit of improvement, which is far from impossible.

A good draw will ensure he can find a good early position somewhere behind the leaders, in fourth or fifth perhaps. I think he will run a massive race and is undervalued in the market.

10pts win- Bandinelli @ 22/1

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2.35 Curragh: Listed Celebration Stakes, 1m

The arriving rain makes this interesting, otherwise this listed contest would be quite a dull and poor renewal. It is a near certainty – unless they absolutely crawl – that Straight Answer doesn’t stay a mile, certainly not up the stiff Curragh finish.

The two standout horses in the field are 4-year old Raadobarg on one side. The more rain the better for him. He’s clearly a rock solid miler at this level and especially dangerous with significant ease in the ground.

At this point in time it’s not quite clear how soft the going will turn out. There’s a status yellow rain warning live for then next 20 hours. It sounds more like some isolated showers are coming, that’s for sure.

The rain brings Irish 2000 Guineas 4th Wexford Native into the equation too. He’s probably best with some ease in the going too and still offers some upside with more improvement to come.

He could be the sort that thrives on racing, given he has improved nearly with each race this season. You can put a line through the Royal Ascot performance. His cause was lost after the first furlong.

After an impressive debut win in March, he was comprehensively beaten by Buckaroo in Listed company, although he ran on well, even after being short of room over 1f out.

In the 2000 Guineas he tracked the pace, got closer with each passing furlong and fought gamely, still challenging Native Trail entering the final furlong. He tired but fared much the best of those closer to the pace and that performance can be marked up in my view.

Wexford Native can be quite keen and fighting for his head. I hope that with experience and maturity he can settle better. He will probably be close to the pace again, given he doesn’t have a turn of foot and looks more a grinder. Probably ridden sooner than most rivals he should be able to grind his way to the line making it a proper test. He has enough class to win.

10pts win – Wexford Native @ 4/1

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4.20 Curragh: Group 3 International Stakes, 1m 2f

Mac Swiney can give Jim Bolger a double on the card. He drops significantly in class here. He was a long way beaten in the highly competitive Tattersalls Gold Cup but that was his comeback run and I would expect him to improve,

He won the Irish 2000 Guineas last year, was a credible 4th in the Epsom Derby, although perhaps not quite staying the trip, and finished a fine 3rd in the Champions Stakes. He’s a proven top level performer.

The rain will surely aid his chances. The more the better, of course. Even if doesn’t turn properly soft, he simply looks a class above the rest in this field.

10pts win – Mac Swiney @ 10/3

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7.15 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Gold Charm took well to the step up in trip to 12 furlongs the last time at Thirsk. She finished the strongest after being briefly flat footed over 2 furlongs out

With that performance she confirmed the promise she showed in her Handicap debut at Lingfield a few weeks earlier. She caught my eye that day when she travelled stylishly into the home straight and finished much the best.

She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree, and matching that with the visual impression of her last two races it’s clear the 1m 4f trip doesn’t pose any problems. The return to the Lingfield polytrack is a positive and this in combination with the trip can unlock improvement.

10pts win – Gold Charm @ 9/2

Epsom Derby 2022 Preview

2022 is a unique edition of the Derby as there is not a single Group 1 winner in the field. With that in mind the race is a wide open contest and the betting deceptive.

In fairness, that’s probably one of the phrases I (too?) often use. Perhaps it’s down to a simply tendency of mine to take on short-priced favourites. However, I truly feel this Derby is a wide open contest. A huge upset isn’t out of question. One only has to look back at the previous years to find that a long-shot winner isn’t something out of the ordinary, anyway.

That’s not to say Desert Crown – 2/1 favourite at the time of writing – won’t turn out the be the best horse in the race. He could be a superstar in the making.

The fact he won the Dante in impressive style on what was only his second career run and seasonal reappearance, despite uneasiness in the market beforehand, rates as significant in my book.

Will he stay? It’s widely assumed he does. As a son of Nathanial he should posses plenty of stamina. The way he kept going and hit the line in the Date suggests he got every chance to stay the Derby trip.

I’ve got concerns, regardless. Green Desert as the dam’s sire. Yes, some of the dam’s offspring stayed 1m 4f. Nonetheless it’s far from certain Desert Crown truly want’s the trip.

Not to glance over the fact he’s also a highly inexperienced horse, hasn’t encountered anything close to the test Epsom provides, the rain is unlikely to be of any help to him either, and we have a large field with 16 other horses all competing for positions and a clear run once they leave Tattenham Corner behind.

Yet, I’ve come slowly around to the believe he is most likely the most talented colt in the Derby field – once we look back in a few years time. In the context of today and everything that comes with it I have to oppose him at the given price, though. I have him more a 7/2 shot than the 2/1-9/4 on offer this morning.

Aiden O’Brien won the Oaks on Friday and he could do the double today. Stone Age is widely assumed to be his prime chance in the Derby. The Leopardstown Derby Trial winner has got his head in front twice this year after failing to do so as a juvenile in five starts.

He was visually impressive at Leopardstown, although his overall profile doesn’t scream Derby winner to me. Topspeed underlines this notion. He ran to 88 and 91 in those races this year. He has to improve significantly. Not a price to back.

Frankie Dettori’s mount Piz Badile enhanced his Derby claims with victory in the Ballysax. The impression he gave that day was he will stay all day long given how strongly he rallied in the home straight. He may well do. An 81 career best topspeed rating (71 in the Ballysax) means he’s got to improve significantly, though. I’m not convinced he will improve so dramatically for the trip.

The incredibly impressive winner of the Newmarket Stakes was Nations Pride. Godolpin’s first string and choice of William Buick today. He’s an obvious improver on his sixth career run having progressed with each run to date. My concern is the trip, once again. The line through his dam out of Oasis Dream doesn’t scream stamina in abundance.

From the other two Godolphin runners – Nahaani and Walk Of Stars – the latter is the one I would prefer. Last years Derby winning rider is on board Nahaani, but the colt doesn’t appear to have enough class I believe.

Walk Of Stars could have the class, though. Runner-up in the Lingfield Derby trial, he ran to topspeed 99 that day; he’s is still very much learning his trade. Stamina won’t be an issue. I expect him to improve for his fifth career run, the additional half furlong and possibly the emphasis on stamina today, depending how the race pans out. He is a big price at 16/1+. The track is a serious question mark, on the other hand and that makes me waver.

Star Of India won the Dee Stakes at Chester. He ran to topspeed 99 that day. Whatever the ground today, I don’t have too much concern about it, neither over track and trip. But how much more can he improve? The family hasn’t been top-class to the most part yet. He’s a full-brother to S J Tourbillon, these day an ordinary handicapper in Hong Kong.

It’s the question of the day: how much can these horses improve? You can’t be too sure about any of the fancied horses that they have it in them to progress to the level required to land the Derby in the ground, over this trip at this track.

In truth that’s only natural for three-year-old colts. My issue is the potential improvement is taken for granted in the betting for the likes of Desert Crown and Stone Age. I’m much more cynical in only believing what I’m seeing.

Which leaves me with Changingoftheguard. He has been on my mind ever since winning the Chester Vase in brilliant style. Sure, the form can be knocked for its small and rather uncompetitive field on soft ground. The favourite didn’t fire and left the race to win for the Aiden O’Brien trained colt.

Nonetheless, Changingoftheguard did it the “hard way”. Ryan Moore went to the front and pushed on right from the start. The son of Galileo galloped the others into submission. And he didn’t stop in the home straight. He just kept going all the way to the line.

He achieved a 106 topspeed rating for the Chester performance – a strong marker and the best on offer in the field today. With that in mind Changingoftheguard has delivered on multiple fronts unlike many of his rivals today.

However, he’s all stamina and vulnerable if the Derby would become a test of speed rather than stamina. But Wayne Lordan – not the most inspired jockey booking – has a say in how the race pans out. From his double-figure draw he can move forward and dictate, if he wants to. He won’t need to worry about stamina.

The application of cheek pieces is added bonus. This has worked wonders for Aiden O’Brien trained colts in this race before. It can help bring out additional improvement in Changingoftheguard too.

Therefore I feel the prices available, with the ground unlikely to be too fast, are way over the top. Any further rain beyond what hit Epsom this morning already will be a big help. And that’s why this lad is going to be hard to pass once in front.

10pts win – Changingoftheguard @ 10/1

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.