Tag Archives: Epsom Derby

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

Henry II Stakes Preview

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After a recent Sagaro Stakes success Dee Ex Bee is well fancied to go back to back today. It was his first try over two miles and he passed the test with flying colours. This could be more competitive today, though, so is my feeling.

Obviously his Derby run is the standout performance, however, he hasn’t ran anywhere near that form ever since, and judged on form and ratings what he has produced ever since, he is a good horse, but clearly not a top drawer and also his time wasn’t that impressive last time to suggest he’s dramatically better than the rest of the field here, particularly as he has to give weight away.

Strong cases can be made for the two Mark Johnston runners. My preference is for Austrian School simply on the fact he has more often produced high enough time speed ratings to suggest he is defiantly home in this grade, and probably a better horse than stable mate Making Miracles, who was so impressive in the Chester Cup, having the run of the race, on the other hand.

Austrian School was a long way beaten there as a favourite, but bottomless ground and the way the race turned out, are a fair excuse. He is better judged on his impressive Musselburgh win in April over 1m 6f.

A career best performance on TS and RPR, also backing up the strong runner-up performance of the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster from last autumn, confirming he is that good.

Austrian School deserves a crack at this level and will give the favourite a lot to think about in the closing stages I strongly believe.

Selection:
10pts win – Austrian School @ 11/2 MB

Saturday Selections: May 11th, 2019

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2.20 Nottingham: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Two really interesting horses here in a field where I find those two at the top of the market remarkably easy to oppose: Hawaam over this CD of his current mark can be a huge runner if cheek-pieces have a positive effect.

The fact he was well fancied the other day and bombed out, plus this new headgear as well as his poor overall strike rate suggest he’s a tricky customer nonetheless, hence I leave him alone – though I’d not be surprised to see him run away with it now.

But a ‘safer bet’ to run his race – and give me a run for my money more importantly – is the smartly named Major Pusey. He’s down to a good mark judged on past performances, given he won of higher ratings on three occasions in his career and ran five times to a TS rating of 79+, posting a 80 TS rating only back in September last season.

He returned over 6f at Windsor recently, wasn’t fancied in the betting and ran quite well up until tiring in the closing stages. The drop to 5f will suit with soft ground ideal, plus dropping down in to class 4 is a major boost to his chances as all but one of his career successes came here.

Selection:
10pts win – Major Pusey @ 8/1

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2.30 Lingfield: Listed Derby Trial, 1m3½f

No surprise, the Derby trial is quite a poor trial for the race it’s intended to be a trial. None of these will go close in the Derby. Will any of these even line up? Anthony Van Dyck certainly won’t. He’s the class act in this race, mind, but he’ll struggle over this trip in this ground.

The most intriguing of the lot is Cap Francais, who didn’t do himself any favour at Epsom the last time, but stayed on in promising style. Even though, he still only managed runner-up behind a Ballydoyle horse that’ll have no hope in the Derby and is miles down the pecking order.

I think the step up in trip and flatter track will be a huge help and expect him to win, but at 4/1 I’m in n hurry to back him to continue to progress, though.

The one I’m most interested in is the gelding in the field: Ranch Hand. Connections probably didn’t anticipate this lad to turn up in a Derby Trial, but he showed a lot of good signs in his first two starts at Southwell on the fibresand.

Particularly his second run, when he galloped his opposition into the ground is impressive particularly on the clock it looks strong. He also achieved a TS rating of 84. He did that in a lowly novice contest, on only his second career run on the fibresand – no other horse in this field run to such a high TS rating on either of their first career runs.

He has to translate this to turf and to much better class. The pedigree gives hope with the dam having been a fine stayer in her own right. At a massive price Ranch Hand looks a longs-hot with a fair chance to upset the market.

Selection:
10pts win – Ranch Hand @ 30/1 MB

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3.30 Nottingham: Listed Kilvington Stakes, 6f

On ratings the standout for me is Rock On Baileys who’s ran to career best TS rating of 89 and RPR of 106 which none of her rivals in this field have achieved so far. Whether she can replicate this level of form on her second start for the new yard on soft ground remains to be seen.

On the surface Rock On Baileys seems to be a better All-Weather horse. Certainly her win record says so. But the ratings mentioned above where achieved on turf, they’re generally higher than on the AW in fact.

She ran in hot races on turf, often in handicaps of big weights and did do herself justice on a number of occasions, as when 4th in a hot handicap at Newmarket in October last year; she also won at Chester in the summer over 6f, overcoming trouble.

Her seasonal return at Chelmsford last month looks poor on paper. It needs context, though, as she didn’t get the best of starts and was pushed forward quite hard subsequently to take the lead.

I’d expect Rock On Baileys to come on for the run under her belt and feel the soft ground, albeit that soft an unknown, is intriguing. The times she races with bit of cut in the ground she ran well, and certainly on the dam side is hope for her to take to the ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Rock On Baileys @ 16.5/1 MB

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4.40 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

The handicapper gives Music Seeker a real chance to get his head in front for a third career win today. The 5-year-old ran well at Haydock last time in tough conditions, finishing third in better class.

He remains on the same mark, a career-lowest – he’s never ran of anything as low as 73 in a class 5 Handicap before, so that is of obvious interest given Music Seeker ran twice already to TS ratings of 70+ and six times to RPR’s of 80+.

He’s also 3lb lower than his last winning mark, which came last summer in a 10f Handicap at Wetherby, albeit on fast ground. But cut in the ground is no problem as he won a maiden over a mile and did well last time out in desperate conditions.

The slightly better ground (soft – good to soft in places right now) and half a furlong less to go should be in his favour as well. A competent 7lb claimer – the same as in all his last races since a wind op over the winter –  in the saddle is a bonus.

Selection:
10pts win – Music Seeker @ 6/1 MB

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5.10 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

Ignoring the latest Southwell performance, which can be forgiven because it was a very time at Southwell, Ballyquin is a progressive individual who’ll race of a highly competitive mark today, I feel.

He’s had a light campaign until this winter, surely down to issues, but has been progressive on the All-Weather, winning twice, achieving a career best TS rating of 79 at Chelmsford on his penultimate start.

A return to turf is intriguing. His two runs came with cut in the ground in highly competitive maiden races where he finished an excellent 4th on both occasions.

So, there is a fair assumption to be made he can find more improvement for the return to turf, while already having shown on the All-Weather to be able to run to something close- if not even better than his current handicap mark.

Selection:
10pts win – Ballyquin @ 10/1 MB

Thursday Selections: May, 9th 2019

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The opening day of Chester’s May Festival was intriguing thanks to – surprisingly – clear-cut winning performances in the two features, the Chester Vase and the Cheshire Oaks: Mehdaayih ran away with the race for the fillies, having ran only three weeks ago in a class 4 handicap at Chelmsford.

Her change of gear entering the home straight was a joy to watch. She’s obviously a very good filly. I would say she also benefited very from the way the race was run and got an excellent ride while also the breaks when needed.

Arguably even more impressive to my eyes was Sir Dragonet, who took the Vase home in scintillating fashion. This son of Camelot only made his racecourse debut a fortnight ago as a 14/1 chance in a Tipperary maiden coming to Chester with this single maiden win to his name. Inexperience showed as he didn’t travel particularly well, at some point he seemed slightly detached from the field.

But he found a devastating turn of foot once let loose. Most exciting for me was to see a horse being asked for a move on the outside over 3 furlongs out, and then, while anyone else is hard working come back on the bridle with less than 2 furlongs to go – you just don’t see that very often!

Surely Sir Dragonet has to be supplemented for the Derby? He looks the real deal on the basis of that performance. Which was the perfect follow-up to Tipperary where he won hard on the bridle in the manner of an exciting colt.

But of course, conditions may played a role as well and ideally you want to see it again before believing he’s a favourite for Epsom – the ante-post market he is now leading! On the other hand 5/1 (best price with firms who may lay you €2 if you’re lucky)  could look big in a few weeks time.

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3.00 Chester: Class 2 Handicap, 7.5f

I feel Lincoln Park is the one they all have to beat here with conditions likely to get softer as the days goes on. The Kyllachy colt is ideally drawn to attack today, which will suit him perfectly.

He has shown form on awkward tracks like Pontefract and appeared to be progressive last autumn on rain softened ground landing back-to-back handicaps, while improving his official mark in line with career best RPR’s and TS ratings, including running to TS 87 when winning at Haydock.

He was disappointing in his next two starts, but you could also argue he had excuses both times. Certainly he should improve having a run under his belt now, and dropping down a mark of 85, given he ran to a higher time speed rating already. He’ll need to show that again, of course, now as a 3-year-old.

However, his seasonal reappearance at Musselburgh was a fair performance, finishing 3rd over a fast mile, with the form looking strong as the winner went back-to-back in the meantime.

A softer surface and slight drop in trip at a track favouring his running style, there’ll be no excuses today. Lincoln Park meets ideal conditions and I expect a huge run.

Selection:
10pts win – Lincoln Park @ 11/2 MB

Monday Selections: June, 4th June 2018

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A first Derby win for Godolphin. It’s been in the making for far too long, the ultimate dream finally achieved, however. 41 years it took, then Sheikh Mohammed could see his home bred Masar scoot home to land the world’s most prestigious flat race.

A whopping 16/1 chance. How could so many miss the credentials the 2000 Guineas third had, including myself?! My own selecting The Pentagon only proved one thing: not good enough.

Derby Day could have been a super day, regardless. Ana Nerium ran the race of her life in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes if she wouldn’t have had had too much to do from the rear of the field, unfortunately.

The consolation in the evening, at least. The double of Sam Gold and Midnight Blue landed. Off to the winning ways in June…

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6.15 Windsor: Class 4 Novice Stakes, 5f

Hugh Taylor’s selection Queen of Bermuda is backed as if there isn’t a tomorrow. And sure she was super impressive at Thirsk recently. She is well entitled to follow-up here, though all the money coming for here leaves others in the field at tasty value prices.

First and foremost the ride of Derby winning jockey William Buick. Only one ride on Windor’s evening card, he comes over to sit on well bred Leading Spirit.

The colt ran pretty green on debut at Yarmouth in a hot class 3 contest last month. The winner looked incredibly smart there, Leading Spirit faded away in the closing stages to finish a well beaten 3rd in the end.

That form should work out really well, I suspect. Leading Spirit drops to the minimum trip. That’ll suit, he looked sharp out of the gate. His sire has an excellent record here at Windsor as well as in general over 5f plus on fast ground. He’s bound to improve quite a bit and that should see him go close to the favourite, I hope.

Selection:
10pts win – Leading Spirit @ 11/2 VC

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8.30 Ayr: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 7f

An incredibly open race screaming for a long-shot to get his head in front. I do like the chance of In Focus here, despite him seemingly loosing his form and still looking for a first win beyond a mile.

That says, there are fair reasons for his last three forms that read so badly: he was entitled for his seasonal debut run at Wetherby last month and didn’t take to hurdling in his final run in 2017. A combination of very soft ground and potentially a little bit too much racing at the back end of last year may was the combination that saw him fading badly at Catterick on his penultimate run.

Judge on his best performances in 2017 over marathon trips, when twice runner-up in 14f handicaps, suggest he can get the trip and is competitive from his current handicap mark.

I feel the fast ground today could be real deal breaker in a positive sense. He hasn’t encountered anything like it for quite some time. He did win on fast ground twice in the past, however.

 Selection:
10pts win – In Focus @ 14/1 VC

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FYI: If interested, keep an eye on this blog because if the ground dries further at Windsor, I may identify another selection for the evening card there. 

Derby Day Selections: June, 1st 2018

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

Guineas winner Saxon Warrior looks rock solid judged on anything he has done so far. I love his physique, the way he goes through his races… everything, really. But from draw 1, which comes with so many complications, at odds-on it’s not a bet for me.

I stick to AOB, though. The forgotten one, it seems, The Pentagon, is drifting out to a massive price this morning. It’s fair to say he hasn’t lived up to reputation of his sensational pedigree yet, and by any means he isn’t flashy if you see him racing.

The Pentagon was a workmanlike winner of a poor Group 3 last season, enhanced his credentials massively with an excellent 3rd place in the Racingpost Trophy eventually, though. The race wasn’t run to his advantage, he was badly positioned and clearly didn’t have the tactical speed when it was paramount to have. Yet he stayed on eye-catchingly.

This season he’s been disappointing given lofty expectations in two starts: a 3rd place in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown was underwhelming to many. Nonetheless, it was a fair effort in a race that was more about speed than stamina.

Fact is, The Pentagon is all about stamina, nothing about speed. He lacks gears and is a grinder.

He’s high class, I believe, regardless. He needs the right test to show his best. The step up in trip and the usually frantic pace of the Derby might be what he needs to be at his very best. From a good draw he is likely to go forward, he might even be tasked with pacemaker duties.

I don’t mind that at all. In fact it should be to his advantage. The cut in the ground won’t be a problem. It might even help. I can see a scenario where he tracks a fast pace and Wayne Lordan pushes the red button turning for home. It’s a long way home from there but this lad stays all day long….

At 50/1 this looks a cracking each-way bet. The better fancied horses might catch him eventually, but he could stay to the line for some fine place money.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way – The Pentagon @ 50/1 WH

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2.35 Epsom: Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, 8.5f

The 1000 Guineas form has worked out really well already, so seventh placed finisher Anna Nerium should find the drop in grade a big help. Already a Group 3 scorer, she has trained on, proving it when winnig the Free Handicap on her seasonal reappearance in great style.

The Guineas was probably a bit too hot, however in lesser grade she remains a big gun given she is a full sister to smart Piping Rock. First time going against older horses, now is the time when the WFA allowance starts to swing into an advantage for the three year old’s, I feel.

Epsom is a different test and it remains to be seen whether she likes it or not. Ground isn’t an issue, on the other hand. On the plus side: her sire Dubawi has a tremendous CD record here.

Selection:
10pts win – Anna Nerium @ 9/2 PP

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3.45: Class 2 Handicap, 5 furlongs

The ‘dash’ is often a bit of a lottery. In-running luck plays a big part. So there is always a chance for something big to finish in the money. I feel I can enhance my ‘luck’ by selecting a horse that has potential to outrun his price tag.

Storm Over is the one: he won a soft ground 5f handicap at Catterick in his final race of 2017. A massive performance, running to a 4lb higher time speed rating than his then handicap mark. He’s raised for that effort by only five pounds.

He ran with credit on his seasonal debut in April. He should come on for a sixth placed finish in a race that has worked out tremendously well in the meantime.

Cut in the ground works for him. Question will be the track and in-running luck. If both goes his way I anticipate a massive run by this still pretty lightly raced four year old colt.

Selection:
10pts win – Storm Over @ 22/1 PP

……

5.25 Doncaster + 6.10 Lingfield

Sam Gold for Roger Varian ran well in defeat on his seasonal return in a first handicap. The form looks strong with the winner performing with credit in the Guineas. He drops in class and should be hard to beat.

Sir Mark Prescott has identified an easy target for rapidly improving filly Midnight Blue at Lingfield. She won a minor event at Wolverhampton but should be hard to beat under a penalty with the step up in trip a big plus. From a plum draw she’s likely to be up with the pace.

Selection:
10pts win double – Sam Gold + Midnight Blue @ 3.72/1 VC

Preview: Dante Stakes Day

The rain duly arrived today. The ground turned to soft. Desperate conditions, even more so moving forward. Staying with the recent past for now: circumstances made the result of the Musidora Stakes one to take with a pinch of salt, I guess.

Nonetheless Shutter Speed couldn’t do more than what she did: win well and put things to bed in the final furlong, confirming that she is a smart horse – how smart? Another day will tell. The French Oaks that is, most likely.

Eyes turn to Thursday. Dante Day. The warm-up before the big race isn’t shabby. In the Group 2 Middelton Stakes we see the return of last years Musidora heroine So Mi Dar.

She is well fancied to land the odds but first she has to dispatch two higher rated fillies: Breeders’ Cup Filly And Mare Turf winner Queen’s Trust , who returns to the track after a well deserved winter break – though the soft ground is likely against her.

And there is the South African superstar Smart Call. The sensational 2016 J&B Met winner – a day when she beat South Africa’s highest rated horse in training, Legal Eagle, who subsequently went on to land four major Grade 1’s – has been off since early last year due to quarantine and injuries.

The plan was to run her at the Breeders Cup and on the way there give her a spin around Newmarket in October. Unfortunately things did not go to plan and here she is, now in hands of Sir Michael.

Soft ground is a question mark so is the long absence. Personally I hope she runs well and has retained most of her ability, so she has a real chance of improving for the run and be the old force we know she can be.

A good half an hour later it’s time for some serious Derby contenders in the Dante Stakes. Trial winner Cracksman tries to give his Epsom form some substance. Derby “gamble” Crystal Ocean has to live up to all the bookies hype of the last couple of days.

Obviously with my ante-post wager on him here’s hoping he’ll prove his worthiness. That says I highly doubt the reportedly huge gamble is anything more than a handful of 50 quid wagers (like the one I put on at 40’s) which these days can – as we know only too well – mean bookies cut prices shamelessly and talk up horses even where no substantial sums have actually  been placed.

The Irish come over with Rekindling in particular. Young Joseph’s classic contender has the best form in the book, given the Ballysax does not look a bad race in hindsight.

I find it hard to fancy Aiden O’Brien’s Exemplar. And that’s probably the reason why this lad will bolt up…. Godolphin throws four darts. Craven Stakes third Benbatl the best of the lot.

No bet for me in the race – just sit back and hope for Sire Michael’s guy to do the business to be then in with a real chance on Derby day.

…..

8.00 Newmarket: Class 5 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

You have to take note whenever Charlie Appleby and William Buck arrive with lightly raced individuals to the party. The yard is going very well at the moment and they look to have another big chance with Pure Shores here in this big field though not overly competitive race.

Pure Shores makes her Handicap debut after three relatively decent performances in maiden company. Particularly the two starts this year over 10f where eye-catching in my view.

Both times she pulled very hard in the early parts of the race. Despite this keenness she travelled like the winner on both occasions, though same story in the finish: the did not get home.

That might be more down to the energy wasted early on than the trip as on pedigree that looks fine. Still the drop to 1m in a big field with better pace should suit down to the ground. Softish ground – on pedigree at least – seems no problem.

Her opening mark of 76 could easily undervalue her true talent given this will only be her second start on turf and she ran much better than the bare form suggests at Sandown last month when sixth behind winner Serenada, who to some extend gave this form some substance in the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday afternoon.

Selection:
10pts win – Pure Shores @ 6/1 Bet365

Saturday Tips

After three days full of action at Chester our attention turns to Lingfield for the Derby Trial, though whether this really is a meaningful trial for the big race June is debatable. It’s also worth to have a look across the pond as racing at the Curragh is back!

On a day like this, with so much excellent racing on offer, it’s tough to remain disciplined and focused, but I try my best and worked myself through two handful of races and came up with four more or less confident selections for the day.

2.30 Lingfield: Derby Trial, 1m 3.5f

You had to be impressed with Sir John Lavery’s maiden success at Gowran Park last October, but he’s a very short price for a yard that we know doesn’t send their big guns to Lingfield. We haven’t seen him this year yet too, so you got to have allot of trust – which I don’t have and therefore think he’s worth to take on.

John Gosden’s Tartini was a fair 4th on his return in the Epsom Derby Trial, he may well improve for the run and will probably be seen in better light here stripping fitter and hopefully enjoying a bit more in-runging luck.

However for a price I do feel is over the top the bin Suroor’s Best Solution makes most appeal. It’s not ideal that he has to give weight away, but the Kodiac colt is head and shoulders above the rest on 2yo form where he ended the year with an excellent runner-up effort in the Group 1 Criterium de St. Cloud.

His runs in Meydan may be forgiven, he just didn’t take to the dirt. So a return to turf with a bit of cut in the ground could easily see him improving. He has the right profile to be a better three year old and a fair chance to stay the trip.

Selection:
10pts win – Best Solution @ 12/1 PP

…….

3.25 Ascot: Class 2 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

Both three year old’s look intriguing in this contest, however the older Singyoursong is equally a very interesting contender, and in by book a better betting proposition. An improving filly last season, she is still on the up as was evident when she won on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month at Brighton.

That day over 10f she produced a nice turn of foot coming from the rear of the field to get up with plenty in hand. A 5lb rise in the mark could undervalue that success. The drop in trip to 1m isn’t an issue as she has is three from six over this distance.

Furthermore Singyoursong has course form – she won a valuable Handicap here last July in similar conditions.

Selection:
10pts win – Singyoursong @ 11/2 Bet365

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3.50 Nottingham: Kilvington Stakes (Fillies’ Listed), 6f

First time blinkered Pichola Dance could improve for the combination of headgear, drop in trip and drop in class. She found opposition in the Fed Darling on her seasonal reappearance to hot and faded away in the closing stages, however with the rail to aim at from her draw she might use her pace to advantage today.

She’s twice a winner as a juvenile, including a good class 2 Handicap over 7f, and ended the season on a high with 3rd placed effort in Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury. With fitness on her side, ground to suit and potentially conditions to improve for, she can run a better race than the price suggests.

Selection:
10pts win – Pichola Dance @ 22/1 Bet365

…..

5.05 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7 furlongs

Market leader Baine has been knocking on the door a couple of times and her two latest efforts have been massively eye-catching that also stand up form wise.

She is a horse that needs a bit of luck given she usually races at the rear of the field and certainly at Cork last month she did not get a clear run, finding traffic on numerous occasions stopping her smooth progress.

She still finished a strong 3rd behind a well handicapped winner who won subsequently and a runner-up who finished a solid 5th in a Listed contest the next time.

Baine went on to run another big race, then at Leopardstown. From a wide draw she missed the kick and was dead last turning for home. She manoeuvred her way through the whole 18 runner strong field but didn’t quite get there, finishing 3rd for the third consecutive time.

This is another big field today and she will need to get the breaks when needed, however form wise she looks well handicapped. I feel the better ground does suit her allot today and in this slightly weaker contest she must go very close.

Selection:
10pts win – Baine @ 7/1 Bet365