Tag Archives: Epsom

Review: 5 To Follow 2022

At the start of 2022 flat season I followed the trend of many racing fans and compiled a personal list of Five to Follow for the new season ahead.

It’s December, and the 2022 flat season belongs to the history books – a good time a look back and check how the five horses have fared this year.

Aldous Huxley

Despite the great name and a highly promising debut on the Kempton polytrack that landed him a spot in my list, Aldous Huxley has not quite fulfilled the early promise.

A fine runner-up behind fellow Godolphin colt New London (more on him later) in a Novice event at Newmarket, followed a neck beaten 2nd place finish in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.

Despite enjoying the run of the race, Aldous Huxley wasn’t good enough to win at that level. No surprise, because he never bettered the strong speed rating achieved on debut (90) either, suggesting he wasn’t really an improving sort.

He hasn’t been seen since this run in May and was gelded in the meantime.

It remains to be seen whether he can find improvement as a gelding next year. I would certainly hope so. He was a May foal, and his dam was a late bloomer as well.

  • Final Official Rating: 101
  • Best Speed Rating: 90

Cash

The David Simmcock trained colt seriously caught the eye when he blasted home in a Newmarket maiden at the backend of the 2021 season.

Unfortunately, he was only seen twice this year. That was at Sandown in the Group 3 Classic Trial. He was a desperately unlucky runner-up behind a certain Westover.

The French Derby and later QEII were targets subsequently, but neither materialised due to injuries. A real shame as he was so impressive on his debut and clearly trained on.

He made a belated comeback on the Kempton polytrack in November where he was a disappointing third of four starters. He travelled sweetly but hang in the closing stages.

I believe he stays in training. At least that’s what the owners mentioned a few months ago. One would hope so. This talented grey deserves a chance to show his very best. And I’d be more than hopeful he’s better than this last run.

  • Final Official Rating: 108
  • Best Speed Rating: 78

Claymore

He made seasonal reappearance at the place that saw him earn a spot in my 5TF list: Newmarket. A good 2nd place behind 2000 Guineas ante-post favourite Native Trail promised something for the season ahead.

The colt, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, subsequently finished last in the French Derby, but that was largely down to being drawn in the car park.

However, he then delivered on the big stage, when next seen, as he went wire to wire to win the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.

This remained the highlight of his season as he was soundly beaten in the Group 2 York Stakes the next- and the last time we’ve seen him this year.

  • Final Official Rating: 111
  • Best Speed Rating: 89

New London

Without a shadow of a doubt the horse that turned out the best from my 5FT list. It didn’t look like it, initially. Even though, he won at Newmarket on his season debut, a subsequent rather lackluster run in the Chester Vase saw his Derby credentials evaporate.

He dropped into Handicap company the next time, obliged duly, proving to be a pattern horse running in a Handicap. He then went on to land the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood as he stepped up in trip.

He was subsequently installed as the new favourite for the final Classic of the season: the St. Leger at Doncaster.

Going into the Leger as the 11/8 favourite, it was clearly an anti-climax when New London only managed to finish third. He had every chance in the home straight, but wasn’t quite good enough on the day. Perhaps the softish ground wasn’t quite ideal, given his very best performance came in much faster conditions than those present at Doncaster that day.

  • Final Official Rating: 111
  • Best Speed Rating: 108

Subastar

Big things were expected after the Roger Varian trained colt impressed on his sole run as a juvenile. However, he got beaten by over nine lengths on what turned out to be his only start this season, when third of four in the Listed Newmarket Stakes in April.

Connections mentioned they would take their time with this “really nice prospect”. He had subsequent entries at Royal Ascot – the Hampton Court touted as the likeliest race to run in the week leading up to the Royal racing event. He was never seen again, though.

This colt by Sea The Stars was a May foal. I would hope we may see him next year as a 4-year-old. He has been gelded in October, which may be a positive sign for a campaign in 2023.

  • Final Official Rating: 101
  • Best Speed Rating: 61

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

………….

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

Thursday Selections: 28th July 2022

1.50 Goodwood: Class 2 Handicap, 1m 2f

A seriously competitive Handicap. I can make a case for a number of horses here. And that’s why I’d rather not get involved in these type of races – usually. But I am too excited about Migdam not to get involved after all.

He is short enough in the betting but I reckon could look like a generous price post race if he turns out to be anywhere near as good as I think he can be.

Leaving his debut firmly behind in when winning his second and third career run last year, he started this season at Doncaster last month. It was his handicap debut as well and he proved to be well ahead of his opening mark.

He travelled well, he was brave, he overcame some bumps and trouble during the race and then kicked away in impressive fasion in the final furlong to leave some decent opposition standing – including next time out winner Adjourn.

This here is much harder and he’s 5lb higher in the mark: he’s yet to run especially fast judged on topspeed. But he looks to have tons of upside, possibly as a stakes horse and should be capable of better than a 95 Official Rating. He was also noted to have been working really well at home too, which gives me additional confidence.

10pts win – Migdam @ 7/2

…….

7.30 Epsom: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Falesia Beach on decent ground over 7 furlongs off a 71 mar? Sounds like the ideal scenario I envisioned when she ran into my notebook at Newmarket six weeks ago.

Back then over 6 furlongs, she was outpaced at various stages of the race but fought really gamely all the way to the line to finish third only half a lengths beaten.

Clearly she needs an additional furlong, as does her pedigree suggest given the stamina on the dam side, plus previous performances indicating that too.

She is still lightly raced enough to see some improvement, certainly over 7 furlongs on decent to fast ground, which, judged by the Newmarket performance, could be what she wants.

She ran to topspeed 71 that day too. So if she can improve for the additional furlong on this type of ground then there is every chance she will be well-handicapped.

10pts win – Falesia Beach @ 7/2

Thursday Selections: 7th July 2022

Third winner for the month last night with Liberty Breeze winning at Catterick in really nice fashion. It couldn’t have been going any better from start to finish. Once she hit the front she put it to bed nicely. Back in green for July, but the month is still fresh.

Mr Marvlos ran a shocker at Kempton after a poor start. My record on the All-Weather over the last twelve months is quite appalling. It’s something I need to be more selective and only back a certain type of horse.

The same goes for class 6 Handicaps. Even though Liberty Breeze was a winner in the lowest grade yesterday, my record is negative over this year and also if looking further back, even if only accounting for turf races. This might be down to the nature of these low-grade races where you never can be sure who’s there to run on merit or who’s on a going day.

I don’t find the same issues even if only one grade higher, in class 5. You would think the difference in class is marginal but it’s not. You regularly see some talented horses run in this lowly grade that can then go on to move up the “food chain”.

………..

6.53 Epsom: Class 5 Handicap, 7f

This is quite a competitive little heat, the favourite Otago certainly a fair one given his course and distance record. Most rivals can’t be discounted, though, hence I feel Otago takes too much space in this market.

The one that interests me most is Hector Loza: for a new yard with a reduced mark, a solid 3lb claimer on board, a good draw to attack the race in his usual front-running style and a track that can favour those with the speed over this trip on fast ground.

There are obvious question marks. His recent performances were poor. A change of scenery needs to sweeten him up. I have also question marks on the fast ground given his best is on the All-Weather and he wore bandages the last time out.

But at the same time Hector Loza is still rather unexposed on turf and has shown in his limited runs on the green grass that he acts on it. His career-best came in a Group 3 on fast ground over 7 furlongs a few years ago.

He stays the trip and ran eight times in his career to topspeeds of 54 plus. The last time matching this when a credible third at Wolverhampton in December when doing way too much in front.

He’s 10lb lower in the ratings today. There are reasons for that but any return to some kind of form, and if he takes well to the fast ground around Epsom, he could be hard to peg back once in front.

10pts win – Hector Loza @ 13.5

Thursday Selections: 30th June 2022

3.00 Haydock: Class 3 Handicap, 7f

A field full of question marks. None more so than behind Monsieur Jumbo after his recent seemingly disappointing effort at Beverley. However, if you can forgive him that particular run you see a pretty consistent horse that ran quite a bit better than bare form suggests.

I think there is good reason to show leniency and forgive the Beverley performance. Beside his customary poor start, he simply didn’t seem to enjoy the sharp, turning track in combination with the fastish ground. He didn’t get the best of runs home, either, and didn’t seem to stay the 8.5 furlongs in its entirety.

Even though the jury is still out whether he really gets home over a mile or slightly above, given on pedigree that looks possible; though at Nottingham before, even though seemingly staying on, he simply slowed a little bit less than some very tired horses in front of him.

In any case 7 furlongs is fine and I imagine ease in the ground may help as well to slow things down just a little bit. Haydock is an easier track and should suit, given Monsieur Jumbo ran really well at similar type of tracks, including once here as a juvenile.

He was only a neck beaten on proper soft ground over 6 furlongs at Ayr in his final start last year. He came back and won quite well over 7 furlongs at Newcastle. He ran with credit in all subsequent races – bar the latest Beverly performance. And was seriously eye-catching at Wolverhampton in May when third coming from behind in a race dominated by the front-runners.

The handicapper hasn’t been lenient at all. Dropped him only a single pound since Beverley. But the Wolverhampton runs suggests he could be better than this mark, especially if he can find a bit of improvement for the trip in these conditions with cheek-pieces on again. It’s Tom Eaves only ride on the day, which may or may not bear any significance too.

It’s obviously a massive price, which doesn’t make any sense from a form perspective. He’s got form that ties in with Skittlebombz, who’s a 11/2 at the time of writing.

He’s got an entry days later. I have an inclination for what might be going on and that may mean I won’t get a run for my money. But this is a silly price for a horse clearly with a much better chance if allowed to run on merit.

10pts win – Monsieur Jumbo @ 20/1

……..

3.30 Haydock: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Any additional drop of rain will be of benefit to Cold Stare. The 7-year-old is more than ready to win, especially as he now gets suitable ground conditions and drops down to class 4 where. The last two times he raced in this grade (last season) he won both times off 85 and 87 marks, including over course and distance and ran to topspeeds 88 and 91.

He’s now down to 85 again, after meeting better opposition lately and not rarely having softish ground conditions. He caught the eye last month over this CD, too, when there was a tiny bit of ease in the ground as he made significant progress from the back of the field in a hot contest before tiering late.

He was a massive eyecatcher at Doncaster on his seasonal reappearance as well when multiple times hampered and short of room in the closing stages. Six pounds lower today than at the start of the season it’s clear Cold Stare is handicapped to win, especially over this CD on softish ground.

He’s got to carry a big weight but that shouldn’t stop him, given he’s the class act in this field and ran incredibly well off heavy weights in the past.

10pts win – Cold Stare @ 11/2

……..

7.11 Epsom: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

Papa Cocktail makes tons of appeal dropping down to 6 furlongs in first-time blinkers. He caught the eye a number of times lately, but gave the indication he wouldn’t mind this drop in trip.

It should be a pretty fast race but stamina more than speed may be the decisive factor in the end. Bowman and Dubai Hope will probably go out hard. All this should suit Papa Cocktail who often travels quite well but was found out over a mile and a bit unlucky last time at Newmarket when short of room at a crucial stage. I reckon that particular piece of form is really strong.

Off a mark off 78 he offers a bit of upside I feel. He ran to topspeed 75 the last time, to 79 in April. He’s still quite unexposed over 6 furlongs. Two runs, both better than the bare form suggests.

Blinkers should help him to focus especially towards the end of the race. Given he stays further but has enough speed for the trip looks an ideal combination for this race.

10pts win – Papa Cocktail @ 9/2

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.

……….

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.

……..

Irish Derby day Photos:

©Florian Christoph

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

Oaks Friday Selections: 3rd June 2022

4.30: Group 1 Epsom Oaks, 1m 4f

On paper this years Oaks looks not a brilliant renewal, albeit a wide open one, with plenty of potential improvers for the Oaks distance. With that in mind I struggle to warm to short-priced favourite Emily Upjohn.

I understand why she’s well fancied today. Her Musidora victory was impressive. As a daughter of Sea The Stars she appears more than likely to stay the trip and it’s equally reasonable to assume she can improve for her fourth career run.

But she has to. The York performance was only worth a 95 topspeed rating. Solid but doesn’t scream 13/8 favourite. She may well take this crucial next step and can progress to the level the market generally assumes she’ll be capable of running to.

At the same time this can be said about a number of other fillies in this field full of likely improvers. Whether that’s Cheshire Oaks winner Thoughts Of June (quite appropriately named), stable mate Tuesday – a full-sister to 2016 Oaks heroine Minding, or Trial Stakes winner Nashwa. I could make a case for half the field.

But the two fillies that caught my eye more than anybody else – and I can’t split them – are Concert Hall and the only Godolphin entry With The Moonlight.

It’s no surprise that a full-sister to previous Oaks winner Was should feature highly on any short-list. Hence I am seriously surprised to see Concert Hall available at incredibly generous odds – I feel.

I was interested in her for the Irish 2000 Guineas, but it turned out the drop in trip didn’t really suit her. She didn’t posses the speed needed and got badly outpaced from over three furlongs out. But, crucially, she ran on strongly to finish 3rd eventually.

Perhaps it wasn’t the deepest Guineas field, nonetheless, the fact she was able to finish so strongly over an inadequate trip is noteworthy. Aiden O’Brien mentioned beforehand the filly thrives on racing and the Curragh outing would be a stepping stone towards Epsom.

In that light it’s even more significant that she won on her seasonal reappearance at Navan in the Listed Salsabil Stakes – form that looks rock solid. She gave the impression that she wouldn’t mind an additional couple of furlongs that day.

Therefore the Oaks trip looks a good match. Whether she handles the track is a different matter. She clearly has Oaks written all over and with a solid draw should be up there when it matters in my view.

With The Moonlight isn’t quite as clear-cut if it comes to stamina for the Oaks distance. Her pedigree points more towards middle-distance 10 furlongs. And yet, the way she finished at Newmarket was so impressive, giving the impression she could stretch out to 12 furlongs. And certainly giving the impression of a seriously talented filly.

I loved everything about that performance. It’s noteworthy also for the fact because that day she achieved the fasted topspeed rating on offer in the Oaks field.

Whether she can translate this speed to Epsom is the key question. As a full-sister to Group 1 winning Dream Castle she will certainly have the class. Her striding patterns, as far as available to me, give the indication that she has a fair chance to see out the trip, though.

Perhaps she will be ridden with a little bit more restraint today than at Newmarket. If she settles well, it should give William Buick plenty of options how to ride the race, given she possesses a lot of cruising speed, that is crucial at Epsom in my view.

Both fillies, With The Moonlight and Concert Hall appear seriously overpriced in the market in my book.

5pts win – With the Moonlight @ 14/1
5pts win – Concert Hall @ 13.5/1

……………

7.16 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

This looks like the ideal race I had in mind for Golden Apollo to get his head in front again. Since his eye catching run at Thirsk he ran another fine race at York in a big handicap over 7 furlongs where he got badly hampered.

He drops down to 6 furlongs, is three pounds lower in the mark than at Thirsk and runs in a wide open class 4 contest. The favourite may well be on the up and could be able to defy his increased mark – Golden Apollo is at this stage of his career vulnerable to any unexposed improving sort.

But at the same time he’s dangerously well handicapped in my view, given his wellbeing is confirmed.

The golden years are obviously behind the 8-year-old but he still performed of marks in the 80s last year and also ran to topspeed 84 when runner-up in a hot Redcar Handicap.

He’s been a shade unlucky a number times too in the meantime, including the last two; as a results his mark is reduced all the time. This looks an ideal opportunity to strike.

10pts win – Golden Apollo @ 9/1

……….

7.37 Goodwood: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

I was very taken with Kimngrace the last time at Sandown when she was seriously unlucky over the minimum trip. Today she steps up to 6 furlongs, which should be the perfect distance for this exciting and potentially well handicapped filly.

At Sandown after a steadied start she settled in rear of the field. She made some smooth progress from over three furlongs out but was stuck behind a bunch of horses and a clear passage denied until very late. She finished well when a bit of racing room opened up in the closing stages.

The winner made all from the front, the runner-up and third raced close to the pace too. Given these circumstances this was a big run on what was Kimngrace’s seasonal reappearance. The form is seriously strong as well.

She looks a filly open to considerable improvement, possibly more so now stepping up to 6 furlongs again. When last seen in 2021 she won a Maiden race at Haydock over 6f and looked at home over the trip. That particular form worked out well with the runner-up having ran a huge race in the Fred Darling Stakes this season.

10pts win – Kimngrace @ 10/3

………

7.51 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Gibside has caught the eye a number of times this year. He’s certainly a tricky sort, can be temperamental, gets upset in the stall and looks a horse doing things in his own time.

There was good money all day for him last time out at Ripon when he stepped up to 12 furlongs for the first time – a trip that he should appreciate.

He ran really well over shorter 10 furlongs on two occasions at Beverley previously, when things didn’t go his way and he ran better than the bare result suggested.

The same can be said about this most recent Ripon run. Of course at some point you’re not unlucky but it’s more what you truly are. Nonetheless, I feel Gibside deserves another chance.

He was unruly in the starting gate, slowly away, trailed the field and raced generally highly inefficient with a move at the halfway stage costing vital energy and another huge move turning for home from 4 furlongs out on the wide outside.

He paid for it in the final three furlongs, yet finished in 3rd eventually. Coming from so far back was a huge disadvantage. The runner-up led the field, the winner raced in midfield.

I feel a more conventional, flat track like Doncaster will suit this big, rangy gelding much more than Beverley, or even Ripon. No excuses today. I must stress though he is on the drift this morning – at the same time it ensures a seriously good price, if he is in it to win it today.

10pts win – Gibside @ 6.8/1

……….

Added after initial post – 12.30:

3.10 Group 1 Coronation Cup, 1m 4f

High Definition has drifted into a serious price to the point I feel he’s so far overpriced I have to add him as a bet today. By no means is he’s a 11/2+ shot in this field.

No question that if on song Pyledriver is the one to beat. A consistent top-class horse, the defending champion which saw him achieve a career best here last year. He ran well at Meydan when last seen. If he’s close to the form he showed twelve months ago he’s probably hard to beat.

I can’t have Manobo around 2/1 at all. He is lightly raced and open to considerable improvement. On the other hand he’s clearly shown to need a trip to be seen to best effect. Dropping back to 1m 4f is a major question mark for me.

Hukum has only once in his career ran to a topspeed rating of 100. That dates back to 2020, or nine runs. It would need some of the others to misfire for him to win.

High Definition backs up quickly. That is my major concern. He has been a disappointing horse ever since showing so much promise as a juvenile. But the level of form he produced last time out at the Curragh in the Tattersalles Cup is right up there with the best of Pyledriver.

He got a superb ride that day, and clearly that has to be taken into account as a source of the improvement. Nonetheless, he made it a true test going from the front and was just beaten in the dying strides in a top-class field.

He ran to topspeed 108 at that day. I feel it’s a genuine performance. If he can show this level of form today he has a major chance.

At given prices he’s clearly overpriced with ground ad trip not really being a worry in my view.

10pts win – High Definition @ 5.8/1

Tuesday Selections: 19th April 2022

After a disappointing run for Chief Little Hawk at Wolverhampton on Monday it’s back to the green grass on Tuesday with a confident selection in the Epsom opener.

Before we look what’s on the menu there let’s take step back and see what happened on Easter Monday in the Irish Grand National. Willie Mullins was sending out exciting Novice Gaillard Du Mesnil, who went off the 11/2 favourite on the late evening as Fairyhouse was basking in sunshine.

The 6-year-old gelding travelled well for most of the race in the hands of Paul Townend, although he was a bit tight for room two fences from home. This didn’t have any impact on the result, though. Because the winner travelled equally well, only to find more than anyone else in the closing stages.

Lord Lariat, a 7-year-old gelding won the Irish Grand National as a 40/1 shot, outrunning those odds in some style. Remarkably he’s done it for the same trainer and jockey as twelve months ago when Freewheelin Dylan claimed an amazing 150-1 triumph for local trainer Dermot McLoughlin and 7lb claiming jockey Paddy O’Hanlon.

For one of the smaller yards this is a near unbelievable achievement. Especially as neither Lord Lariat nor Freewheelin Dylan were supported by the public in the betting at all.

All questions whether Lord Lariat would stay the 3m 5f trip where comprehensively mastered and clearly horse was well managed through the season by McLoughlin. He won like a good thing.

………..

1.50 Epsom: Class 3 Handicap, 5f

This will be fast and furious as races over the minimum distance down the Epsom straight tend to be. Progressive Electric Love is of interest, so is Recon Mission of a reduced mark. Thegreatestshowman appears a touch overpriced back on turf.

But the one I am really keen on is Mokaatil. No surprise, he was on a recent eye-catcher list for his season opening run at Doncaster. That day I felt he looked full of enthusiasm late in the race despite the trip being not quite his optimum.

He ran with credit at Lingfield in a hot Handicap since then but wasn’t fancied and neither was I interested in him that day. It’s a different story over five furlongs at Epsom.

Mokaatil is down another couple of pounds in his rating, drops back into class 3 and down to the minimum trip. He is the reigning Epsom Dash winner from exactly the same 82 handicap mark, followed up at Musselburgh to win of 86 and run to 85 and 80 topspeed ratings in those races.

In combination with the well-being confirmed in the referenced recent races he’s an obvious shout the marked doesn’t miss. Yet, having a highly capable apprentice on board claiming additional 7lb – and looking good value for the weight allowance – Mokaatil is a big chance and still underestimated in the betting.

10pts win – Mokaatil @ 7/2

……….

Chief Little Hawk was a big disappointment today. He missed the break and the race was basically gone from there. He made bit of late progress without ever challenging.

I’ll keep the faith for another day. Ideally on turf. There is a race in him to win, for all the reasons mentioned in the preview.

Five To Follow in 2022

The flat kicks into gear. Here are five three-year-old horses I’m excited to follow throughout the year.

Putting the list together I have been aiming to identify individuals that have shown something significant on debut – visually and on the clock – who can be expected to improve with experience.

Not all of these individuals will go on to achieve great things. The bubble can burst quickly. Hence the list is not to be understood as a “follow to bet” instruction. Circumstances still matter.

However, I am personally intrigued to follow the progress of these horses given the early promise they have shown. No doubt all of them are capable of winning races this year.

Aldous Huxley
3-y-o Colt / John Gosden

90 Topspeed on debut – Soon established himself up with the pace, despite having to travel four wide. Big move to grab the lead halfway through the race as the pace slowed down significantly. Never saw a rival again to land the race hands and heels ridden by 6 ½ lengths beating a bunch of more experienced rivals.

The form is nothing special. However, taking into considerations the obstacles Aldous Huxley had to overcome – including greenness, as was reported by Rob Havlin post-race – this was a fine performance backed up by an excellent FTO topspeed rating.

The overall time looks pretty good in comparison to the Listed Magnolia Stakes over course and distance on the same card. This big, galloping type is a full-brother to a smart Group performer (2022 Al-Maktoum Challenge R2 runner-up Al Nefud).

I reckon a step up to 1m 2f will be ideal next time. He’s got a Dante entry.

Race Video

Subastar
3-y-o Colt / Roger Varian

84 Topspeed on debut – Impressive winner on sole start in September at Newmarket. Inexperience showed at the start, though, he was quickly up with the pace, travelling on the outside and tracking the leader, racing without cover.

Asked to increase his effort from three furlongs out, Subastar responded well to the urgings of Andrea Atzeni in the saddle. He was firmly in control from two furlongs out and was able to win in dominant style.

This form looks strong and has been multiple times franked. The second, third and fourth have won in the meantime and should to be decent horses in their own right.

Subastar is a May foal and has a big frame to fill. He should have tons of scope, particularly if he steps up in trip, given there is plenty of stamina on the dam side. He got entries for the Epsom- and the Curragh Derby.

Race Video

New London
3-y-o Colt / Charlie Appleby

87 Topspeed on debut – quite green throughout the race. After a slow start he never seemed to fully grasp the task at hand. Was still capable to win.

They raced hard from 4 furlongs out. New London looked in trouble and flat footed with three furlongs to go. Once he found his stride, though, he galloped relentlessly to close the gap and get up on the line. The final furlong split was more than half a second faster than the vastly more experienced runner-up.

The form doesn’t look overly exciting but the fact he achieved a fast TS rating on debut, overcoming inexperience over a trip potentially on the sharp side, he’s got to be considered an exciting staying prospect.

New London is a big, imposing sort, seemingly a grinder who gallops all day long without possessing a flashy turn of foot. No surprise, given he is out of a Manduro mare and a full-brother to Queen’s Vase (1m 6f) 3rd placed Al Dabaran. 1m 4f looks the minimum for him. He’s got entries in the Dante and Derby.

Race Video

Claymore
3-y-o Colt / Jane Chapple-Hyam

83 Topspeed on debut – awkward at times, certainly raw when landing a Newmarket maiden over 7 furlongs on debut. After an awkward start he moved rapidly to the front of the field breaking his rivals from the halfway mark with ever increasing sectionals.

Claymore continued to look raw and inexperienced in the closing stages but nothing could get to him. He won easily in the end. The form looks solid thanks to the runner-up.

In the aftermath connections mentioned they gave this lad plenty of time to fill his frame, didn’t rush him as a juvenile, because they expect good things next season.

He’ll have no issues staying 1 mile for sure, even though we may even see the best of him beyond that. He’s got Guineas and Derby entries.

Race Video

Cash
3-y-o Colt / David Simcock

87 tospeed on debut – keen, green and raw, particularly early on. Once pulled to the inside he travelled supremely well and made eye-catching progress through the field.

Still, victory looked rather unlikely two furlongs out. Only when approaching the final furlong marker he finally got a clear run. Once things opened up he never looked back.

Visually stunning. Speed rating matched the visual impression. Sectionals are strong. In addition this was a superb educational ride. The form looks proper having beaten more experiences rivals – the third was a fine 3rd placed finisher behind New London.

Cash was a 100k yearling and subsequently sold for €162k to David Simcock in a Breeze Up Sale. He is likely to stay well beyond the mile trip given the dam won over 1m 6f. Has Dante and Derby entries.

Race Video