Tag Archives: Flat Racing

A Day Out at Los Alamitos Racetrack

Better late than never my piece on Californian racecourse Los Alamitos. Not too long ago I had the chance to visit this racetrack located in Orange County, in the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Truth told I never was US racing’s biggest fan – and maybe never will. It probably doesn’t help that my visits to the racetracks of Aqueduct in New York and Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco turned out to be rather bleak and dreary affairs. Those huge places, with the appearance of ghost towns, a couple of hundred souls spread across the stands – it was sad to see.

So far so bad – but stay with me – this is not another “Europeans bashing US racing piece”.

When I turned into the parking lot of Los Alamitos racecourse my expectations were clearly low. It was a mild winter day, mild for Californian standard, piping hot if you live in Ireland.That clearly helped to lift the initial mood, whatever happens next.

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Now, let me write the most important sentence right here: Los Alamitos rocks. It really does. Okay, it might be easy to exceed expectations if there are none, but seriously, this place just works.

The beautiful historic grand stand with three levels, fine seating and viewing, is not dramatically oversized as I found it  to be the case at Aqeduct. It’s certainly not small, but not overwhelmingly huge either, no danger getting lost inside as it can easily happen at Golden Gate Fields.

What is most important: you’re close to the horses. Saddling area, parade ring, track… all close, easily accessible. So let me use one word to describe this racecourse – and I wouldn’t have thought to ever use this word to describe a US track: beautiful.

Los Alamitos is beautiful. A place where racing comes alive. There was a “feel good” atmosphere in the air, everyone’s relaxing, enjoying a fine day out and – last but not least – watching an exciting sport. I loved it.

But let the photos speak for itself:

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Curragh Opener – Review

And they’re off! The 2016 Irish flat season is under way and it started with an excellent card and some promising performances on Sunday. Here’s a quick round-up of the day and some photos – Find a complete photo gallery here.

Promising Kick-Off: The first race of the new year was a 5f maiden, won by Mister Trader who made all and quickened nicely. Could be a nice type for the early 2yo races but he may not necessarily turn out to be best of this lot.

Callender in third travelled eye-catchingly well off the pace and had loads to do from his position, he wasn’t knocked over but finished with plenty of promise given first and second were the pace setters. He’s extremely well bred and could develop into a nice sprinter.

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Cosy Club

A mentioning also for Cosy Club, the first So You Think son we’ve seen at a racetrack in Europe I believe.

Considering that the 5f trip is probably way too short, he travelled well enough actually, though it was obvious that he wasn’t quick enough when the pace quickened over 2f out.Subsequently he didn’t get the best of runs but also appeared to be green. It was a good debut nonetheless and he should improve once he steps up in trip.

New Star fo Bolger? The 6f maiden was won by an interesting Bolger newcomer in Stenographer. He cost $450.000 as a yearling and impressed physically as a big and scopey type. He was badly outpaced in the middle part of the race but stayed on strongly to get up on the line eventually.

He obviously needs further, given the visual evidence here in combination with his pedigree given he’s  son of Distorted Humor and out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Jim Bolger likes to introduce good ones at this very first meeting, so Stenographer is clearly one for the notebooks.

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Stenographer

Upset the Group 3 Park Express Stakes: Nobody gave a toss about Queen Blossom. She was unfancied in the betting – though in my preview I called her out as a 20/1 value shot for the race – and travelled in rear of the field for most parts of the race.

Favourite Devonshire looked to have things his own way entering the final two furlongs, but then Queen Blossom worked her way through the field and made a fight out of it. The three year old filly eventually piped Devonshire on the line to land the big price. Surprising in a sense, but it has to be said in her two starts as a juvenile last year she already appeared to have some potential. It remains to be seen whether this was a fluke or if she can build on it, whereas runner-up Devonsire continues to find ways to get beaten over one mile.

Irish Guineas for Awtaad: There was some talk about the son of Cape Cross over the winter after he impressed in two starts as a juvenile. Then, a massive drift in the betting before the off of the Madrid Handicap on Sunday was a major worry. Did he not train on?

There was nothing to worry as the top weight made light work of his rivals in what looked a pretty good and deep race beforehand. He was simply too good for this lot, despite possibly still a bit light of fitness, as connections mentioned afterwards.

Awtaad really impressed me with the way he kicked clear against a good bunch of three year old’s and confirmed what I saw in the parade ring before. He looked a nice, athletic and scopey type. According to his trainer the Irish 2000 Guineas is the plan.

Sruthan’s Lincoln Romp: I didn’t fancy him, feeling a mile in soft ground with a big weight on his shoulders in a deep field may just stretch him, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sruthan in hands of Chris Hayes, slaughtered his rivals in the Irish Lincoln. Two furlongs out and you could count your chickens if you backed him, Hayes sat motionless in the saddle.

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Sruthan romps home

Once the button was pressed, Sruthan stepped up a gear and romped home by 4 and half lengths to win the feature of day one. 11/4 favourite Ashraf finished down the field but was found to be wrong afterwards. It’s best to ignore this performance and to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could still develop into a a very good horse.

Intriguing 1m Maiden: The final race on the card shaped as quite a good race on paper and turned out to be exactly that. The winner Embiran looked extremely promising on his sole start in 2015, when he was unlucky not to beat a subsequent listed winner. He didn’t encounter any problems this time. He travelled like a dream until Smullen said “Go” – in a matter of strides the son of Sharmadal put the race to bed.

He’s nicely bred out of Group 3 winning mare Emiyna, and Dermot Weld said it shouldn’t be a problem to drop back to 7f for a bid of black-type in the Tetrarch Stakes in May.

The runner-up Stellar Mass makes a habit of bumping into the “one too good”. He was a one lengths beaten 4th in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last season but still remains a maiden. He travelled very strongly here but was simply beaten by a better horse on the day. That says the son of Sea The Stars appears to have strengthen up over the winter and is not a lost cause.

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Claudio Monteverdi

Eye-catcher of the day was Claudio Monteverdi. Aiden O’Brien’s inmate was well backed but met considerable in-running trouble at a crucial stage. Once in the clear he thundered home to finish an excellent fourth.

He finished similarly promising on his sole run last year and is one of the most exciting prospects for the new season. A full-brother to super filly Lush Lashes, he’s a a candidate for the Derby, no doubt. You can find far worse 40/1 ante-post shots.

I expect him to come on an awful lot for this pipe opener and look massively forward to seeing him next time because the more I watch the replay from Sunday, the better it gets.

Cook Islands a potential star: Another one for O’Brien I really look forward to see racing is Cook Islands. I loved what I saw from him in his two starts last year and he did impress me when working at the Curragh on Sunday. He looks to have strengthen up over the winter, is very athletic, though a bit a tricky character all the same.

Whether or not is was significant, but Pat Smullen was on board for the workout and you’d may want to think for a reason; and if it’s only for a feedback from one of the best in the business. Cook Islands may turn out to more like a French Derby type, one who could really excel over 10 furlongs.

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Cook Island

All photos credit Florian Christoph

The Flat is Back!

Good morning world – the flat is back! Racing never sleeps but Cheltenham was yesterday, the Curragh is today. I’m genuinely excited, going into my fourth year as a Curragh member, a racetrack that is so fucked up that it’s actually great. It’s called charm, I guess. I mean, once the whole thing is revamped, will it still have the same old shabby character which I love so much? Maybe I’m the only one who’s going to miss those power cables waving frighteningly close over racegoers heads in the ever present wind.

Anyway, there’s at least one more year to enjoy it all in it’s full glory. And knowing the Irish by now, after living five years+ in the land of rain, I understand that timetable- and plans are generally nice things to have but nothing to obbey to. Sure, we do that bit different in Germany, but hey, if you don’t like it, you can right feck off! I’m not complaining – I like it exactly that way!

But what I try to say: while there is seemingly a timeline in place to complete the “new Curragh”, the likelihood of it starting on time, never mind the actual completion, is probably slim.

Whatever, that wasn’t the point I wanted to make. Point is: I’m excited. The flat is back! My love – I do like the jumps too – but I like fast horses just a bit more.

The Curragh opener looks pretty decent. Three fair maiden races – some nice types where unveiled here over the last couple of years – quite intriguing handicaps, particularly the 1m one for three year olds with a market leader who’s got an entry for the Derby. The Irish Lincoln is as massive a field as you can get and quite a deep race too. The first pattern race of the new season brings some unexposed and more experienced fillies together. And that all on soft ground – how could it  be any different?! So let’s have a look:

2.10 – 5f Maiden: Jim Bolger won this one on a number of occasions in the past, most notably with Dawn Approach. But the year before his Whip Rule was successful, and that is noteworthy because Intensely Focussed hails from the same family and is therefore not surprisingly the favourite here.

Other individuals to keep an eye on are Terrific Feeling for trainer Michael O’Callaghan, who won this last year. This son of Sir Prancealot has a bit of speed on his side, so could go well. Kieren Fallon is on board. He’s the retained rider of the O’Callaghan yard this season. Prendergast’s Tawaleef and Weld’s Tilly Trotter can go close.

2.40 – 6f Maiden: I’m most intrigued by Jim Bolger trained Stenographer who cost a staggering $450.000 as a yearling. Could be the right type for this race. Though it’s interesting that Richard Fahey brings over the 90 rated Paddy Power, who’s got some fine maiden form from to his name. Also an intriguing contender is The Moore Factor who finished runner-up at Galway with plenty of promise on his sole start.

3.15 – 6f Handicap: Open enough race where favourite Laganore has excellent form in the book yet appears short enough in the betting given he drops markedly in trip and is going to race on really soft ground for the first time.Richard Fahey’s Patrick is an intriguing runner if he acts on the ground.

For a huge price I like to call out Deeds Not Words. Bottom of the weighs, races off a nice low mark, but should enjoy the return to 6 furlongs and has won on soft ground before. Far from disgraced in his last starts at Dundalk. 20/1 is huge.

3.50 – 1m Park Express Stakes: Fair to say Devonshire is the one to beat. She sets a high standard given her 3rd place in last years 1000 Guineas. Her win record isn’t all that positive though. In fact she never won over a mile, though the going is to her advantage.

Joailliere hasn’t been seen since she bombed out in the Irish 1000 Guineas. However she looked very talented when winning a Gowran Park maiden on her debut and she might be the type that gets better with age.

Such a late bloomer could be Aiden O’Brien’s Fluff as well. She’s had only one career start, as she produced a stunning turn of foot at Navan last year. She can be anything but is certainly an exciting. prospect. At 6/1 I like her a lot.

From the bigger prices I feel you can’t fully rule out Queen Blossom. Lightly raced, she looked a scopey sort last year, who appreciates cut in the ground. She surely showed some promise in her two starts.20/1 is too big.

4.25 – 7f Handicap: An intriguing contest with exciting Awtaad leading the betting. The son of Cape Cross looked excellent when winning a 7f maiden last season and subsequently was talked up as a potential Derby horse. In fact he has an entry for the big one in June, so it’s slightly surprising to see him starting his campaign in a handicap.

Albeit it’s a deep one which provides a really tough test. Top weight Awtaad won’t have it all his own way here. Johnny Murtagh’s Newsman is a nice Makfi colt, whereas Ger Lyons’s Roderic O’connor gelding Mint Chai is anotherone worth mentioning.

The biggest challenge could come from a filly though. It took Verbosity a while but the penny finally dropped at Cork in October on her handicap debut. In soft conditions she was able to produce a stunning change of gear and her revised mark is probably on the lenient side. She looks like a filly that’ll do better with age anyway. At 9/1 she’s the one I put up against the classy favourite.

4.55 – 1m Irish Lincoln: A hot renewal where Dermot Weld’s Ashraf looks the class act. The four year old is still unexposed but looked a Group winner in the making last season. Although a mark of 97 is quite a tough task to overcome.

There are plenty of alternatives. Cailin Mor was an impressive winner when last seen in Cork and an 6lb raise might be lenient. Then there is last years Lincoln winner Onenightidreamed. Still lightly raced, he won both his starts in 2015, including the Lincoln and followed up with a Group 3 success. He loves the soft ground but has a huge mark to overcome. Nonetheless at 11/1 he’s a tick overpriced in my book.

Two big prices I also like are Vivat Rex and Lady Giselle. The latter one is 4lb out of the weights but is a real soft ground horse who has a pretty good record over 1m too. Vivat Rex in contrast isn’t quite sure to appreciate the going but is generally unexposed on turf and drops to a fair mark after a pipe opener at Dundalk for new connections earlier this month. Both are 40/1 shots.

5.25 – 1m Maiden: Could we see some future stars in this field? Favourite Embiran could be one. He finished extremely eye-catchingly on his debut and sole start in 2015. Aiden O’Brien’s Bravery is not one to underestimate. He ran on well in a 7f maiden when runner-up behind Awtaad. He looked green but clearly talented that day.

Stable mate Claudio Monteverdi was absolutely clueless on his debut last year but shaped very well in the finish and might be an even better prospect than Bravery I feel. Stellar Mass sets a good standard as he was only a lengths beaten 4th in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last season.

Saturday Selections: Doncaster

Newmarket Rowley Mile tight finish

2.55 Doncaster: Gillies Fillies’ Stakes (Listed), 1m 2f

Considering what form is on offer you wouldn’t believe that this is a listed race. It’s quite a poor renewal in all honesty. I can see three, four with legit claims, but more than half of the field can easily be ruled out.

Two times course winner Blue Waltz makes appeal given she won a good class 2 handicap here and has also form on soft ground, although her disappointing performance subsequently at Newmarket last month is slightly concerning.

Polar Eyes finished with loads of credit in fourth in a Listed event in France the other day, following on from a good handicap success at Haydock. She excels in the mud, so can’t be discounted. Her strike rate isn’t the best, though.

Last years runner-up Princess Loulou is a main contender, if she could find back to her best. She has been below par in two starts in 2015 and can’t be trusted to bounce back today. Marco Botti’s Brandybend was 3rd in a Listed contest Newmarket last month, duely outrunning huge odds that day. She may have more to offer.

Two three year old fillies make most appeal to me: Lahayeb is the first one. Currently trading as the 7/2 favourite, she loves the mud and impressed in a class 3 handicap three weeks ago, looking well above what would normally required to win such a race. The same can be said about Bella Nouf. She was successful over course and distance here at Doni recently and won with plenty in hand, albeit only in a class 4 Handicap.

Both fillies are lightly raced enough and have plenty of scope. They’ll enjoy the conditions and are the main dangers in my book. Though Lahayeb is a rather shortish price compared to Bella Nouf who appears under appreciated here.

Bella Nouf @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

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3.30 Doncaster: November Handicap, 1m 4f

One last go on these big handicaps for the flat season 2015…. and I like a couple of these, actually! Some share recent form with each other, so do Esteem, Green Light and Only Orsenfoolsies when they clashed here at Don in a hot race a fortnight ago. A race of hard luck stories and all three horses where affected by getting stuck in traffic, while all three finished the race well, suggesting they could have gone much closer with a clear run.

On that evidence I am surprised to see Only Orsenfoolsies being the one almost twice the price of Esteem and Green Light today. He finished 4th that day, staying on well without being overly driven, when finally getting a run on the inside.

He enjoys soft ground and is only 3lb above his last winning mark, although it is true that a career best is required today. He may not be up to it, but let’s find out. He’ll certainly find the right conditions here.

Some more contenders to mention: Storm Force Ten is entitled to go close. He’ll enjoy this test for sure, so should be Penhill, who would have a prime chance, if not for being drawn in the car park. .

In general I find all of these hard to distinguish and believe they have all some sort of the same win chance, but Only Orsenfoolsies is a huge 20/1 price and for that reason the best value.

Only Orsenfoolsies @ 20/1 William Hill – 5pts Win

Tuesday Selections: Catterick

Newmarket Rowley Mile tight finish

1.10 Catterick: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 4f

You can discount half of the field on ground concerns pretty easily, and given the nature of the track, usually favouring handy sorts, it brings the list of contenders down to a handful.

I like to go with a type likely to act in the soft conditions, has form on this strange course and is sure to be up with the pace. Multellie jumps out in this field at 9/1, given he has excellent form to offer, if we forgive him his latest run at Chester from a wide draw in better class.

Down here in class 4, he has a handy draw, won really well at Ripon three back, and confirmed his well-being subsequently with another bold bid here at Cattrick over 12f in a very hot race. He’s on a high mark but with conditions sure to suit he’s overpriced in this field.

Multellie @ 9/1 William Hill – 5pts Win

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2.15 Catterick: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Plenty in with a chance here but I’m very much drawn to Woody Bay who drops back to his preferred 7f trip as well as in class and looks still on a pretty good mark. He won here over CD last month in excellent style, beating two well handicapped rivals in second and third. He followed up with a strong performance in a hot Class 2 Handicap subsequently, but was found out for the 9f trip when last seen.

With his course and distance form and the soft ground sure to suit, as well as recent forms all franked, he is a likely sort to go close and certainly overpriced. Only concern is the wide draw obviously. He will need to overcome it somehow. If he can get a good break and is right up with the pace early on he will have a great chance.

That’s the obvious question mark as the race may be already lost after the start. I’m prepared to take the risk as even that factored into the price doesn’t justify 8’s in my mind.

Woody Bay @ 8/1 William Hill – 5pts Win

Betting: Monday Selections

Leicester Racecourse

A really nice performance by Sound Investment at Aintree yesterday afternoon brought the week down – finally a positive one, betting wise. Sound Investment jumped well, travelled well and out battled his rivals in the closing stages, powering home in the final furlong. Some sight, for me in particular, given that my selections haven’t done that all too often in recent weeks.

1.50 Leicester: Class 2 Handicap, 1m

An open looking affair here at Leicester in the mud today, with most of these having no issue with this type of ground whatsoever. Least the favourite who looks well handicapped on old form and will be difficult to peg back should he enjoy an easy lead up on front. So Robert The Painter is certainly the one to beat, but a rather shortish price in this strong field…

Top of the weights Educate has been disappointing since finishing second in a Listed event back in May. He drops to a handy mark though. Question mark is whether he has the form to take advantage of it. Marcret in contrast certainly has been in good form lately and another good run is on the cards, he isn’t all that well handicapped, on the other side.

Veteran Pintura finds the mile trip his limit stamina wise usually, but he’ll enjoy the conditions today. He showed plenty when close runner-up at the Galway festival in an ultra competitive affair back in August and was a shade unlucky not to win at Ayr one month earlier. He’ll be competitive if the sparkle is back.

Not harshly treated by the handicapper has been Jack’s Revenge after a good runner-up effort at Chester recently. His poor strike is a concern, however. Athletic may find this trip a tick too far in soft ground conditions, but has place claims, at least.

Polar Forest is only 2lb above his last winning mark, although has found life difficult whenever he stepped up in class. He loves these conditions, so can’t be ruled out, still. And the same goes for Spirit Of Law, how might prefer it a bit further generally, but will enjoy the slow conditions. Hard to know what to get from Storm Rock today, but he is still lightly raced, so may have more to offer.

Summary: You can’t rule out any of the nine runners, although some have better credentials than others. I really like Robert The Painter but not his price tag. I take a chance on Pintura instead. He hasn’t been in good form lately, but if he finds back some sparkle he can be dangerous. He’ll be competitive off his current mark, given he finished a head beaten second at the Galway Festival. He’s the overpriced runner in this field in my mind.

Pintura @ 25/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

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3.55 Ayr: Novice Handicap Chase (Clas 3), 2m 4f 110y

I feel the favourite Jack Steel is quite a skinny price. I can see why, to an extend: lightly raced and potential for big improvement. But does he look like a chaser? I’m not sure. He is a full-brother to two horses who have achieved zero – I’m prepared to take him on.

I really like the look of the grey Un Noble instead. He is a big, scopey chaser in the making, equally lightly raced. He won a Handicap Hurdle earlier this year in nice style over this sort of trip and any cut in the ground won’t inconvenience him. Un Noble is the type of horse sure to improve for the switch to fences and therefore represents better value than the favourite.

Have to call out Dr Moloney as well, who is likely to benefit from the drop in rip . However I have reservations about the ground and he might be one to keep an eye on for the future.

Un Noble @ 9/2 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Newbury Preview: St Simon Stakes

Newbury

2.25 Newbury: St Simon Stakes (Group 3), 1m 4f

Hard to put much face into any of the nine horses – although Romsdal, judged on his placed efforts, would be an obvious pick. But his strike rate is poor, and the fact that he only won on the Kempton All-Weather and never really excelled in similar races like this today means he is one to oppose.

Favourite filly Koora is a likeable, lightly raced sort with room for further improvement. But given what she has done so far it’s impossible to see any value in her 5/2 price tag.

I like Rawaki from the older horses. He has a profile to do well here, if in the right mood. You definitely can’t rule out progressive three year old filly Melodious either, though she has to prove that she can win on this level over a trip that far.

The most intriguing contender, and clearly the one with the most scope for improvement, is three times raced Moderah. She comes into this race as a relatively fresh individual, having only two starts this season. She made a big impression when getting off the mark last month in a Leicester maiden. Travelling all over her modest rivals, finding plenty when given a tiny bit of reign in the final furlong.

Obviously she has it all to prove, stepping up dramatically in trip. But with the fair chance of improvement this seemingly talented individual makes loads of appeal to me. In the context of the race I believe she is too big a price.

Moderah @ 6/1 Bet365 – 5pts Win