With the rain arriving at Windsor turning the going soft Firenze Rosa encounters ideal conditions over the minimum trip today. The handicapper has been kind enough to drop her mark to 53 since her latest – I felt – eye catching run over the same CD.
There she travelled pretty well until about the halfway stage. Was then stuck behind horses. Briefly tracking the initial winner but not getting through on the inside. The inexperienced jockey perhaps wasn’t quite brave enough to take a gap on the stands’ side until very late too.
She was 1lb out of the weights, too. Today is an easier race. She won of a mark of 56 in soft here at Windsor about a year ago and she finished the turf season in October with a really strong runner-up effort of a 57 mark running to a 57 TS rating that day.
The #10 draw will give her every chance to get a clear run on the outside I hope, Mollie Phillips claims valuable 5lb and knows the mare from previous rides.
10pts win – Firenze Rosa @ 14.5
7.30 Pontefract: Class 5 Handicap, 5f
The top three in the market are all vulnerable from their current handicap mark, hence this looks a good opportunity for Van Gerwen to get his head in front as a value alternative.
He was far from disgraced ten days ago over course and distance in a stronger race where he didn’t get an ideal run, only two days after encountering trouble in the closing stages at Ripon that prevented him from potentially winning.
That day he seemed poised for a major move but was repeatedly short of room until nearly the very final moment of the race.
The gives him a real chance having dropped him to a mark of 66. He’s a pound below his latest winning mark with that. He also ran to topspeed 62, 65 and 67 last season. A highly consistent sort, wellbeing confirmed down to a good mark and down to a realistic class.
A list of horses that caught my eye during the last seven days of racing. These individuals look ready to win a race sooner rather than later.
Surrey Territories 30/03/22 – 6.30 Kempton:
The pace slowed dramatically down soon after the start with the field bunching up and a bit of carnage behind the leading pack. Surrey Territories was at a major disadvantage in a position too far back. The winner and runner-up came from close- or up with the pace throughout the race.
Nothing got really involved from behind, the only one finishing strongly was Surrey Territories, thundering down on the outside of the field to claim a courageous 3rd place in the end.
If one is prepared to draw a line through an uncharacteristically poor penultimate run, then Surrey Territories has produced four strong performances this year. His 4th place finish at Wolverhampton in January over 7 furlongs may well be the strongest, with him finishing in impressive style and producing some fast sectionals. That piece of form looks rock solid having been franked subsequently.
A negative aspect to keep in mind is Surrey Territories’s habit to break slowly. But his recent performances suggest to me a win is near. He’s clearly capable of winning off his current mark and has no problems to stay a mile. He’s only raced three times over this trip, so there is potentially some upside.
I would love to see a strong apprentice booked over the 1 mile trip. This would make Surrey Territories a standout chance wherever he goes next.
Artician 30/03/2022 – 7.30 Kempton:
He was unusually fast out of the gates, although soon settled off the pace in a solid run race. He travelled notably well into the home straight but was looking for racing room from 2 furlongs out behind a wall of horses, having to delay his challenge, together with the equally well travelling eventual winner, a 100 rated Listed winner.
Entering the final furlong the eventual winner got an opening to move straight through, whereas Artician had to switch, losing his momentum and having to regain his full effort.
This was a strong performance given the circumstances and opposition. Artician has produced a number of rock solid runs since switching yards and moving over to the UK. After an easy victory over 7 furlongs at Wolverhampton on debut for trainer Simon Dow – albeit against inferior rivals – he was not good enough in a subsequent hot class 2 Handicap over the same CD. When dropped in class four weeks ago he finished a fine 3rd place at Kempton, though, which looks like a good piece of form.
Artician was a highly promising juvenile with placed efforts in the Marble Hill Stakes and Railway Stakes in Ireland. He didn’t quite fulfill that promise, however, now in Handicap company with a significantly lowered mark he seems ready to strike.
I am not fully sold on him over a mile, and envision ideal conditions to be a 7 furlongs handicap below class 2. He seems relatively ground independent on turf and clearly enjoys the All-Weather too.
Active Duty 29/03/22 – 4.35 Navan:
This son of the brilliant Almanzor saw plenty of support in the betting market, although, he was always likely to play second fiddle behind 109 rated and Group 1 placed odds-on favourite Stone Age.
The favourite won from the front giving the form a really solid look, while Active Duty settled well in rear for the majority of the race. Still trailing at the end of the field when turning for home, he soon started to make a big move on the outside once asked for serious effort. Despite showing signs of inexperience, he finished the race in impressive style under a hands and heels ride.
Active Duty was an expensive £260k yearling and at this early stage of his career promises to live up to this lofty price tag. He’s likely to be heavily odds-on wherever he goes next, but beyond that can be an exciting prospect for the season ahead. As an April foal it’s not unlikely to assume that he will improve significantly with time and experience this year.
I also would mention to keep an eye out for the 4th horse Fumata. He looked green and didn’t quite get a clear run in the home straight, but eventually stayed on well enough to suggest there is ability.
He’s related to winners and looks bound to improve once stepping up to 1m 4f – a distance he’s bred for.
Conversant 26/03/22 – 5.21 Curragh:
The seven-year old gelding was quickest out of the gate, using his 5 furlong speed. He joined an isolated small group of six horses on the stands’ side rail, travelling strongly on the bridle to the two furlong marker.
Perhaps he over raced in the early stages – his group was a couple of lengths ahead for the first half of the race as well. He didn’t find much once off the bridle approaching the uphill finish at the Curragh but still managed to finish 8th amongst the second group of finishers behind the first three home.
This was Conversant’s first run since last October after a productive 2021 season. He’s a pound lower rated than his last winning mark from last year when he managed to run twice to a 65 topspeed rating as well.
He can win off his current rating, perhaps a stiff 5 furlong finish like Navan, where he won twice already, with plenty of cut in the ground, will be an ideal scenario. He’s down to a fine mark, but any additional concession from the handicapper will be a huge bonus.
Cold Stare is the obvious eye-catcher as he was travelling sweetly throughout the race. However, trapped behind a wall of horses a gap wouldn’t open in time to get out. He finished easily on the bridle in 6th place in the end.
The 7-year old gelding ran much better on this seasonal reappearance than a 25/1 price tag suggested. Cold Stare has clearly retained all the ability he showed last season when he won twice and also finished 2nd on two occasions. He did so while achieving topspeed ratings of 88 and 91 and caught the eye multiple times.
It is fair to say he’s handicapped close enough to his best. But if he can drop a couple of pounds below a 90 mark again, ideally also moving down in class, he’ll be a big shout in a 6- or 7 furlongs handicap with cut in the ground. A good apprentice on board can only enhance his chances. It’s worth waiting for the right conditions to appear. The wait will be worth it. He’s one to keep any eye on over the next weeks in my book.
Mokaatil isn’t a desperately obvious one at first glance. But this was his first start since October and there was zero expectations for him to run well, judged by odds of 50/1. Even more so over a trip that is not quite his best.
He raced in midfield early on but drifted right to the back of field with three furlongs to go. Instead of flattening out and finishing down the field Mokaatil kept going right to the end for a solid 7th place finish.
In truth, Mokaatil never looked dangerous; yet I quite liked the fight and spirit he showed on a day that was never supposed to be his day anyway. This looked like an excellent pipe opener. This run confirms he’s clearly in good nick after a strong 2021 campaign where he won three times and ran to TS 85 and 80.
He’s already 2lb below his last winning mark but with some additional help from the handicapper, perhaps a return to a mark of 82 and dropped to the minimum trip, he’ll be a big chance, particularly on decent ground. Keep an eye on Mokaatil when these circumstances come together this season.
Desert Land 31/03/22 – 3.50 Lingfield:
First start since a course and distance success in December. He pulled like a train the first part of the race unable to settle in rear of the field. Most likely he ran his race there and then. Even though, jockey Pat Cosgrave never made any attempt to call for an effort while the race developed in front of him from three furlongs out and as a consequence Desert Land was left in no-man’s-land entering the home straight.
If one wants to see it in a positive light then Desert Land was rather tenderly handled in the closing stages and not needlessly knocked about in a finish he had little to gain. One could also have the viewpoint that insufficient attempt was made to obtain the best possible result with the early antics taken as an excuse.
In my view 1 mile is too far for Desert Land in any case. Despite the fact he won over course and distance. It wasn’t the first time he pulled really hard and he got rather lucky in the race he won as a slow early pace resulted in sprint finish playing to his speed – in fairness: as they tend to happen regularly at Lingfield. Regardless, the trip is far from his optimum. His best performances all come over shorter 6 furlongs. Perhaps a fast paced 7 furlongs is fine too these days, too.
Desert Land won of a 66 Handicap mark at Brighton last year over 6 furlongs, and achieved Tospeed ratings of 62 on turf and 68 on the All-Weather. With that in mind he’s down to an attractive mark already. But will be even more so if he drops another couple of pounds combined with moving down in distance. In that context I felt the run here was eye-catching. Because the gelding was clearly minded for a better day to come.
Ebtsama 31/03/22 – 4.10 Lingfield:
Handicap debut for this well bred filly. A £105k yearling and full sister to Group 2 placed Dark Rose, Ebtsama seemingly overcame the widest draw and sluggish start to the race. She travelled much the strongest entering the home straight, looking the likeliest winner. She was clear run denied until it was too late, though. Finally switched to the outside entering the final furlong she ran well to the line but the birds was flown at that point.
She shaped well on her seasonal reappearance over 7 furlongs at Southwell in February where she finished runner-up behind a good winner. I like to see her going up in trip again. Either 7f or a mile – both shouldn’t be a problem on pedigree.
Even though it’s unlikely she’ll hit the heights of her sister, a handicap mark of 75 probably underestimates her ability – that calculation is a simple one: given with a clear run Ebstama would have finished much closer in the Lingfield race, if not even won the race. With improvement likely to come with experience and moving up in the trip she should have a number of pounds in hand, at the very least.
Encouragement can also be taken from last year. As a juvenile Ebtsama showed some smart form in two starts: on debut only 4 lengths down behind the subsequent Lowther Stakes winner and runner-up behind a subsequent Group 3 winner.
I feel like saying this about nearly all the major races this season, but seriously: the Juddmonte International probably is the race of the year!
Seven runners – one could say “only” seven runners – although, this is a select group of top-class equine athletes: not a single horse is rated lower than 110.
Still, only one horse can win the big prize. The two least likely in my view are Juan Elcano and Alenquer. The latter clearly is a classy individual with potential upside now dropped to what should be his optimum trip. But he’s only posted a career-best 96 topspeed rating so far, seems to rely on cut in the ground and is the lowest rated individual here – for a good reason, I firmly believe.
Juan Elcano’s performance in the York Stakes over course and distance, when a close runner-up in a thrilling finish behind Bangkok, is certainly not to be taken lightly. However, I feel he was slightly flattered due to the slow pace and his prominent racing position throughout. With that in mind, he’s not quite Group 1 standard and hard to fancy.
Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney is an interesting horse. His career-highest topspeed rating is not good enough to feature here, but the brilliant juvenile he was, he has proven to have trained on as a three-year-old and the Juddmonte trip could turn out be the ideal test for him. He has to bounce back, though, which isn’t impossible given the magician trainer Jim Bolger is.
The three-year-old filly Alcohol Free has been sensational this year. She has improved dramatically. Her latest victory, a dominant win in the Sussex Stakes, has only enhanced her reputation. At Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes she ran to a 106 topspeed rating, which gives her a prime chance today….. if she stays the trip.
It’s a big “if”, I think. To my eyes the mile looks the maximum for her. Add to that the small question mark around the faster ground and I struggle to see her getting home as strongly as she did over a mile on soft going.
The most intriguing contender today is Mohaafeth. He appeared to be potentially high-class on a number of occasions earlier this year. Connections took their time with him, increasing the difficulty of the test step by step.
Mohaafeth passed his assignments with flying colours, but stumbled for the first time in the York Stakes when upped to Group 2 level three weeks ago. This was perhaps less so his fault than that of race tactics as his pace maker completely failed to do his job. The race turned into a muddling affair which saw Mohaafeth at a major disadvantage given his retrained racing position.
It was hugely impressive, though, the way he made up ground rapidly in the home straight when it was most costly to buy it. A furlong out he seemed to fly home for a breathtaking victory, just to pay for subsequent sub 11 second furlongs in the end. for a half a lengths beaten third place behind Bangkok. In my view Mohaafeth’s credentials have only been enhanced by that performance, nonetheless.
The “super filly” Love drops down in trip after a gutsy third place in the King George, where things didn’t quite work out for her, although in any case, the winner Adayar was too good. Nonetheless, that was a top class race and Love ran to a 109 tospeed rating that day, close enough to her career-highest 110 TS rating, which suggests she is as good as ever.
That was her first defeat in five starts but she lost little in defeat. The Juddmonte trip could be perfect for her, with ground and track no worries whatsoever. She will be a key player today.
The same goes for top-rated Mishriff. Runner-up in the King George, which was a career-best performance, he improved nicely from a fine comeback run in the Coral Eclipse earlier this year.
He’s the favourite today, and has been consistent in the high level of his performances over the last two seasons. Ground and trip are no worries, though I feel, perhaps the Juddmonte trip with a little bit of juice in the ground would be the perfect scenario as opposed to the expected faster surface today. Nonetheless, the strengths and depth of his performances franked by form and ratings gives him a prime chance to land a third Group 1 victory.
In Conclusion: Mishriff is the right and fair favourite. Top rated and top form in the book, His price is drifting this morning toward odds that could turn tasty. He’s the one beat. Love will run her usual strong race and she represents a safe bet around 10/3 to get as good a run for the money as it gets.
The “X-Factor” is Mohaafeth. He has plenty to find on the ratings but has shown serious talent this year and can improve again – which he has to, though. He’d be a much shorter price today if he’d had won the York Stakes, hence, given credible excuses for not getting over the line there, I feel he is a strong price at 7/1.
The 2021 edition of the King George has something special in store for us racing fans. The best of the older horses versus a strong classic generation.
Naturally all eyes are on Derby winner Adayar. He romped home at Epsom in stunning fashion. Was that a real performance? The form has been franked through third placed Hurricane Lane, who won races of the highest order in the meantime.
It was a strange race, nonetheless. The aforementioned Hurricane Lane lost a shoe, the favourite Bolshoi Ballet completely misfired and the runner-up was a maiden who was subsequently trounced in the Irish Derby.
Lone Eagle, second in the Irish Derby, is the other 3-year-old in the field. He got first run on his rivals at the Curragh and with two furlongs to go looked like to have won the race. Only in the dying strides was he caught by a fast finishing Hurricane Lane.
It was a thrilling finish and Lone Eagle didn’t lose anything in defeat. In fact, he achieved a 113 topspeed rating, which isn’t far behind the 116 rating Adayar received for his Derby victory. Topspeed-wise those are the two highest ratings on offer in the King George field.
The older generation is clearly lead by Love. The winner of the 1000 Guineas, English Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last year, and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on her seasonal reappearance last month, she’s also joint top-rated, together with Mishriff.
Love won’t mind the the step up to the 1m 4f trip. In fact, her career -best performance was the 2020 Oaks success. Mishriff on the other hand, although a winner of the Sheema Classic earlier this year, may be at his best over shorter distances.
He has to give weight away too. However, Mishriff ran with plenty of credit in the Coral Eclipse where he was third behind brilliant St Mark’s Basilica coming off a break. He should be in perfect shape today.
The ground won’t turn soft enough to provide the sort of deep conditions Wonderful Tonight prefers. She is a multiple Group 1 winner though, and looked in excellent form when landing the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, so can’t be taken lightly, regardless.
Broome was second behind Wonderful Tonight at Ascot. He has since won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He enjoyed the run of the race, though, and I think over 1m 4f he has plenty to find with the market principles.
Conclusion: I strongly fancy the classic generation to get the better of their elders. That says I’m not fully sure if If trust Adayar’s Derby performance. However, Lone Eagle’s Irish Derby performance appears rock solid. He should be right up with the pace once more and could be able to hold on this time. Hence at prices around 6/1 I’ll go with Loyal Eagle to win it for Frankie and Martyn Meade.
3:15 York: York Stakes, Group 2
The best form on paper belongs to Armory. The four-year-old drops in class after a fine effort at Royal Ascot when third behind stablemate Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. He is unbeaten in Group races below top level and has been placed in multiple Group 1’s.
His Royal Ascot performance can possibly be marked up due to the way the race developed, which wasn’t quite ideal for Armory. Consequently, he achieved a career-highest 119 Racingpost Rating. He won really well at Chester on his season reappearance back in May as well.
That means, however, Armory has to give weight away to his rivals. No less than 12lb to exciting 3-year-old Mohaafeth.
This son of Frankel is unbeaten in 2021, having progressed with each and every run. From, winning a Novice contest to a first Handicap, to landing the Listed Newmarket Stakes to bag a Group 3 at Royal Ascot.
His Newmarket victories were visually really impressive. In fact Mohaafeth won the Newmarket Stakes in such taking fashion that he was catapulted near the top of the Epsom Derby market.
The ground turning soft that day ended his Derby dream, but he made up for it weeks later at Royal Ascot. He had to start racing earlier than ideal and hang to the right in the closing stages.
He ran to a101 topspeed rating then, the highest any horse has achieved in the York Stakes field. In anticipation of more improvement to come and the weight he receives from his rivals, Mohaafeth looks certainly the one to beat.
Although, Juan Elcano shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. He has found back to the winning ways having responded to wind op. On the other hand it’s hard to see Montatham – likely employed as Mohaafeth’s pacemaker – or the other outsider Bangkok getting involved.
Conclusion: As long as there isn’t any sufficient amount of rain it’s hard to look past the progressive Mohaafeth. He has things in his favour and looks the sort to improve again.
It must be a tip in itself that Irish raider Taexali comes over to Brighton to try to get off the mark in a maiden with jockey Shane Foley booked to ride. This Raven’s Pass colt showed nice early speed on debut in a very hot Curragh maiden that works out well form-wise. He faded late and was certainly not disgraced.
Worries are the much different ground today in my mind. It’s fast as it often is at Brighton. The track with its emphasis on stamina may help, but he’s a very short favourite and may be worth to take on in these conditions.
With the Richard Hannon trained filly Jet Setting, there is potentially a dangerous rival. The Fast Company daughter started slowly and looked green on debut earlier this month, but finished fast. She’ll be much better suited to the fast ground today than the softish conditions at Leicester the last time.
She’ll get further in time, no doubt, but the track may well suit perfectly today. Her five pounds sex allowance are certainly a bonus and Sean Leavey booked on his only ride on the day could well be a tip in itself too. This filly could be a big danger against the short favourite and makes appeal at 2/1 in a field where nothing else looks to have a realistic shout to win.