Tag Archives: Epsom

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

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Friday Selections: May, 31st 2019

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It’s been some incredibly busy days lately. Little time to catch up on racing, least to actually study form, analysis the markets and come up with some proper bets. So, even on a massive day as this is today – Oaks Day – I’ll got to keep it short.

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

An intriguing renewal which lacks a standout favourite which in turn could lead to a big price landing the odds…. a bit what happened in the 1000 Guineas a few weeks ago? Well, maybe. But unlikely. The winner will come from the top third of the market – I am pretty sure of that.

Obviously the ‘sexy’ individual is John Gosden’s Mehdaayih. What she did at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks was visually stunning. The way she quickened away from the field in the home straight remains a lasting memory.

The Frankel filly clearly followed up on what was an equally impressive victory – on the eye at least – at Chelmsford on the All-Weather back in April. Still only five starts to her name, Mehdaayih is progressive, has proven class and will no doubt stay the trip.

What speaks against her: you got to question the merit of the Chester form. The race was run on much slower ground than what’s likely to be encountered today. Neither has Mehdaayih yet to clock a high enough time speed rating that would put her in the category of a legitimate Oaks favourite.

In my view there is zero juice in the price, even though she clearly has the potential to improve again and I’m not doubting her competitiveness in the context of the race. She’s likely to run well. I simply find too much against her given her current price tag.

Anapurna is the other John Gosden runner, has Frankie Dettori in the saddle, was also pretty impressive at Chester – from a visual point of view, at least. There is more improvement to come, but the stark contrast in ground encountered today versus Chester is a major concern for me.

Progressive Maqsad is well liked by quite a number of smart people, reading through my Twitter timeline this morning. Progressive, looks sure to stay the trip, lightly raced – I can see why. On the other hand, I can not have her. She only won at Newmarket so far and hasn’t encountered anything remotely close to what Epsom offers.

It brings me back to Aiden ‘Brien once more. A few weeks ago, after Pink Dogwood landed the Salsabil Stakes at Naas, I was concluding:

“I think she [Pink Dogwood] will be hard to beat if she remains healthy until Epsom.”

And that remains to be the case. She’s here and she’s healthy. Other prominent stable mates who could have lined up aren’t lining up. A vote of confidence by team Ballydoyle? I think so.

Yes, she only won a Listed race to date and was beaten the only time she stepped into Group 1 class. But the Oaks was always the intended target. She didn’t ran badly in a bunched finish over over a mile – a trip way too short – in the Marcel Boussac back last October.

But she looked so much improved on her seasonal reappearance at Naas, stepping up to 1m 2f for the first time. It was a Listed race in name, however the form looks strong and has already worked out rather well.

The fact Pink Dogwood travelled hard on the bridle 2 furlongs out and then put the race to bed under hands and heels does offset the close winning margin in my mind. She looked well on top that day.

No doubt, as a sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe, she’ll relish the step up to the Oaks distance. There is so much more to come I reckon – frankly there has to be, because she didn’t run particularly fast yet,  judged on TS ratings.

I bank on the fact she can run fast if needed, though. I expect plenty of improvement, and while there are a few question marks, like the ground (too fast?), on all evidence and given prices I am a Pink Dogwood backer, certainly not a layer.

Selection:
10pts win – Pink Dogwood @ 3/1 PP

…….

2.50 Carlisle: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

In tough ground conditions there is little with appeal in this race, but clearly the market speaks in favour, and it makes perfect sense: Across The Sea should have an outstanding chance.

The Dubawi filly steps up in grade after a good effort on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month when 4th of 20 in a hot race against the boys over 6f that has already been franked.

She has won over 5f in softish conditions- and was runner-up on heavy ground last year, while also running to a career best TS rating of 74 that day at Haydock. She remains unexposed over 6 furlongs, but the trip shouldn’t be an issue, given on pedigree she s supposed to stay further and as a sister to useful Big Tour, who stayed up to 1m 2f, with tough ground this trip can bring out more improvement, I feel.

Certainly a mark of 75 with these conditions leaves room for progress, even more so as Dubawi offspring tend to over perform on soft/heavy ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Across The Sea @ 4.2/1 MB

Sunday Selections: September, 30th 2018

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4.10 Epsom: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

A competitive 7f handicap as you would expect it that leaves it open for an upset. Nonetheless I feel top weight and fancied Dourada could have all the right answers today.

The colt is a two times course and distance winner, who ran well in defeat in a number of races this year. That says his last two efforts – both came over CD – were below par, although he had some fair excuses four weeks ago.

Now down to a mark off 80 again – a rating he came as close as a neck and was arguably a bit unlucky due to his positioning and the way the race was run when runner-up at Goodwood back in May – Dourada will encounter ideal conditions today.

This race also looks slightly easier in terms of rivals encountered compared to most of the other handicaps he contested this season. There is the added bonus of an excellent 3lb claimer on board to steer the four-year-old home today.

Selection:
10pts win – Dourada @ 5/1 PP

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

……

 

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

Gleneagles

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

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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

Friday Selections: June, 1st 2018

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4.30 Epsom: English Oaks, 1m 4f

This looks an intriguing renewal of the Oaks. With soft ground on offer, the race is thrown wide open and cases can be made for- or against anyone in this field.

Guineas fourth Wild Illusion is a fair favourite and she’s probably got a decent chance to follow-on from the Fillies’ Classic as I feel she’s got a decent chance to stay the new trip. The price is rotten, though.

From the market principles Magic Wand is the one I prefer, no question. I liked what she did at Chester and she should have plenty of improvement left. The ground is a slight question.

My money runs with one of the outsiders of the field: Ejtyah. She is inexperienced and had only two starts. That isn’t ideal. She looked raw and green on debut at Chelmsford toward the end of last year and was still very much learning her trade in the Musidora last month.

That was her seasonal debut, she is entitled to come on a fair bit for the run. A good performance that was, finishing third, on ground possibly too firm for her when she was probably shy of full fitness as well.

Ejtyah should have learned plenty that day – she has to, though. Now stepping up to the Derby distance looks a big bonus and so could be the softish ground. Frankel has a remarkable record on soft ground (+12f) with his offspring, actually, so from that perspective it isn’t a negative.

Connections also believe a fast surface isn’t the best for her as she was withdrawn from the Lingfield Oaks Trial for ground reasons.

No doubt, Ejtyah isn’t the likeliest winner. She has quite a bit to find with the market principles on pure form. She may not find enough to go close. That says, she is entitled to improve quite a bit for her seasonal reappearance run, for experience, the trip and potentially the ground.

All of that makes her a compelling bet at a massive price in an open Oaks.

Selection:
10pts win – Ejtyah @ 20/1 WH

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8.40 Doncaster: Class 5 Fillies’ Handicap, 1m 2f

Favourite Maid Up is rock solid and one I do like allot. However, given prices, I do fancy even more long-shot Girls Talk.

You can totally discount her recent Beverly run – a wide draw, she ended up four wide nearly for the entire time of the race and she simply had no chance. Look at what she done before and it gets interesting.

Her seasonal comeback run at Lingfield, albeit 5th and three lengths beaten, is quite a good one. She crossed over from a her draw to lead the field until the final furlong marker when eventually fading away in the closing stages. Given it was her first race since October she was entitled to get tired.

The sectionals aren’t anything special, nonetheless, the fact she led a pretty decent field for that type of race in commanding style for as long as she did from her then 5lb higher mark than the current one, is intriguing. The form of that race works out pretty well, so I rate this performance highly.

She showed flashes as a juvenile, particularly in her second start; however, as an April foal she is due to be a much better horse with experience and age.

Down to a rating off 62, stepping up to 10f for the first time, she seems overpriced, as on pedigree the trip looks very much possible.

Selection:
10pts win – Girls Talk @ 25/1 VC

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9.10 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Handicap debutant Moon Of Baroda looks ripe for a massive run. He showed glimpses of potential in Novice and Maiden company. Now going handicapping, while stepping up to 12f on ground likely to suit, this son of Dubawi is in with a big shout in this race.

Still a colt, connections give him every chance to develop. He didn’t run as a juvenile last year, only made his debut this winter. His future is clearly over longer trips, so stepping up to the longer 1m 4f is a big plus.

Moon Of Baroda hails from a good family, and Dubawi’s stats for three year old handicappers over 12 furlongs are off the charts! Blinkers are fitted for the first time too, hopefully sharpen him up.

Selection:
10pts win – Moon Of Baroda @ 11/2 PP

A Windstoss sweeping past Cracksman?

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3.10 Epsom: Coronation Stakes, 1m 4f

Cracksman was incredibly impressive in the Prix Ganay last month, following on from his very strong three-year old campaign, winning three on the trot in the latter part of 2017.

The son of Frankel is near to impossible to oppose in the Coronation Stakes on all evidence available. With softish ground conditions likely to be encountered by the 6 runners, and Cracksman being at least eight pounds clear on official ratings, one could assume he has the race in the bag.

He probably has. That says, if you want to be negative, Epsom may not be the perfect track for him to show his best. Yes, he won here and finished 3rd in the Derby. On the other hand he should have won the Derby last year, actually, given he turned out by far the best horse of the race. Also simply the way he travells may not be best suited to the quirks of Epsom.

That’s nitpicking, of course. Cracksman is going to win. But – and that is a big but – if for whatever reason he can not quite put his best foot forward there is at least one compelling choice in the race representing tremendous value in my book.

Let’s first deal with the rest of the field: I’m a fan of Hawkbill, however am firmly of the belief he needs a flat, fast track to be at his very best. He’s vulnerable at Epsom. Idaho is a very good horse without being top class. He’ll give his running, though whether conditions are totally what he likes is questionable.

Yukatan is an interesting one. Still generally lightly raced. He can turn out to be a better four-year old simply needing time and experience. Nonetheless, without having shown quite enough in two starts this season as well as never having raced beyond 10 furlongs he’s one to oppose is my belief.

In saying that, as easily as I discount the chances of mentioned individuals above you can also make good cases for each of them running close to challenge Chracksman and finish at least second.

Now, I am eyeing a big price that is not totally without a chance to chase home Cracksman for victory but who certainly has a cracking chance to finish second hence pays some handsome each-way money. Usually, this isn’t quite my cup of tea.

Yet, without being patriotic, I absolutely do love Marcus Kluge’s Windstoss! The four-year old won the German Derby as well one of Germany’s most prestigious Group 1 prices, the Preis von Europa, pretty much under hands and heels. Things didn’t go his way in either race, yet he found a way to get up, producing stunning turn of foots.

Those two forms are certainly below some of the other top performances produced by Cracksman, Hawkbill and Co., nonetheless, the way he did it is what counts in my mind.

Windstoss is expected to be an even better four-year old…. if that is possible. He had a fair seasonal reappearance in the Gerling Preis: one lengths beaten under a Group 1 penalty and likely short of full fitness.

The Coronation Stakes was the intended early season target all way long. So, thanks to an uninterrupted preparation, good prep run and softish conditions sure to suit, this multiple Group 1 winner must be taken into serious consideration.

The betting market doesn’t reflect that at all. That’s wrong. it may turn out he doesn’t like Epsom or isn’t quite good enough in the end. At this point in time I have to say, though, 33/1 is a massive price.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way – Windstoss @ 33/1 PP