Tag Archives: Flat Racing

The Flat is back!

Newbury

The flat is back! Finally! Yes, I’m very happy about this. I love flat racing. Though, understandably, there will be also plenty of sad faces today, as this means the jump season is pretty much over. Even though the biggest of them all, the Grand National is still to come!

But personally I really happy to have the flat back, as it means spring is in the air and top class racing is approaching thick and fast! The UK flat season kicks-off with the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster, while we have the Dubai World Cup night at Meydan today. It ain’t much better. I don’t want to bore you to death, dear readers, so i hope you enjoy this quick and snappy betting preview of all the big races….

2.35 Doncaster: Cammidge Trophy (Listed)

Wide open renewal. The ground is drying out and that may catch out a couple of these, particularly last years winner Dinkum Diamond. On the other hand the ground may not be quite quick enough for Naadirr, who I actually like allot, but under a penalty could find this too tough. Astaire will find this easier than the top races he contested in last season. He is a worthy favourite, but not more than a fair price.

As the value here, I fancy the filly Perfect Blessings to go well. Still rather lightly raced, she looked promising in spring last year and may do better now as a four year old than her last two results may suggest. If she is fit today, she could outrun her price with conditions to suit. 1/4 odds EW with Coral looks tasty here.

Perfect Blessings @ 33/1 Coral – 2.5pts EW

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3.45 Doncaster: Lincoln Handicap (Class 2)

The feature race on the opening day of the English flat season – the Lincoln is naturally a race with a big field and plenty of runners with realistic chances. Two lightly raced horses heading the market this year, tough current second favourite GM Hopkins makes more appeal than 13/2 favourite Mange All. If you ignore those two slightly below forms when seen last in the 2014 season – where the soft ground may not have been quite suitable – then Gm Hopkins is a rapidly improving gelding with plenty of scope. Still generally lightly raced, he won a big Newmarket Handicap last summer in the manner of a really good horse.

Strong pace is key to him, but that should be ensured today, and the drying ground is a big bonus. It’s more than fair to assume that he has much more to offer from a mark off 99. If he progresses with age as one would hope and actually expect, then 7/1 could be a bit too big a price.

Another runner I fancy, though a much bigger price, is Baraweez. A very impressive winner of a Premier Handicap on Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown, he was progressive last season as well and could have still more to give. He wwas also a good winner at the Galway Festival, both those big wins came over 7f, but he’s equally good over further, as a strong pace is simply key to him. Interesting that Chris Hayes travelled over to ride two mounts for Brian Ellison on the card, but surly this is the one he’s over for. No doubt, Baraweez is overpriced in my mind at 22/1.

Gm Hopkings @ 7/1 Bet365 – 5pts win
Baraweez @ 22/1 Coral – 5pts win

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2.30 Meydan: Al Quoz Sprint (Group 1)

I might be slightly biased here because I really love South African racing and therefore have all fingers crossed for big runs of South African horses at Meydan today. Although, even from a neutral perspective, one has to say that 14/1 for Via Africa must rate as way too big a price. The filly is the best sprinter in her native country, a multiple Grade 1 winner with loads of pace. She impressed me on her Meydan debut when she showed excellent gate speed and stuck well to the task in the closing stages.

She was entitled to fade away, given the gruelling preparation she had to endure, with all the quarantine measurements taken in regards of South African horses, but she finished well enough. Via Africa should come on allot for this, only the bounce factor is a slight worry. But conditions in her favour, I would expect a big run.

Via Africa @ 14/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

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3.40 Meydan: Dubai Turf (Group 1)

Multiple Group winner Sollow is favourite to land this, though this is his first ever crack at the highest level. In contrast proven Group 1 horse The Grey Gatsby makes more appeal on pure form. He lowered the colours of Australia last year and should be a major contender here. Slight concern is the drop in trip, as he looked to need every inch at Leopardstown.

Euro Charline looks the value against the two well fancied favourites. This filly could easily  have still more to offer. She was super progressive last year as she performed very well during spring in top Group races in the UK and won a 1m Listed contest before she travelled over to the US to land a strong renewal of the Grade 1 Beverly D. Stakes in very taking style. She proved that day what a gutsy, genuine and talented filly she is. She missed the Breeders Cup through injury, but vibes are very positive in recent days about her wellbeing and a big run can be expected.

Euro Charline @ 10/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

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4.15 Meydan: Dubai Sheema Classic (Group 1)

Probably the deepest race on the excellent World Cup card – you could make a case for almost every runner. The Japanese have a very strong hand in this once again. Harp Star was unlucky in the Arc last year, and wasn’t disgraced in two subsequent races back home in very hot company. With Ryan Moore in the saddle, she has every chance. Arc runner-up Flinsthire will relish the conditions, and must rate a big danger. His Hong Kong Vase triumph is a brilliant piece of form, after hitting the crossbar on so many occasions before. However he really needs to have everything falling right into place, as otherwise he will surly run well but without crossing the line first once again.

Main Sequence has been utterly impressive since moving to the US. He deserves plenty of respect. But this rapid improvement could easily be down to medication, and I’m not sure if he can run to the same sort of form outside the US. The one horse I feel is the value here, is the French filly Dolniya. She was very progressive last season, ended the year with a creditable 5th place in the Arc and has scope for further improvement. She beat Flintshire in a prep on the All-Weather over shorter last month and in my mind she doesn’t get the credit she deserves here.

Dolniya @ 7/1 Coral – 5pts win

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Dn’t miss the big race preview of the $10 million Dubai World Cup: Read here! 

Jockeys’ Championship – Does It Still Matter?

By now you may have heard about the changes made in terms of the British Flat Jockeys’ Championship. The general perception is rather negative, though I don’t want to get caught up in the discussion whether these changes make sense or not. My question is rather: Does it still matter? I mean does anyone really care about this championship these days?

No. 

Simple answer from my side. I’m sure not anyone does agree with me, and that is fine. But let me explain: Flat racing has developed very much into a global sport. Opportunities are near and far these days – for horses, trainers, owners and jockeys alike. Be it Hong Kong, Australia or the US – the big ride in a prestigious Group race is just one flight away.

Yes, I’m sure to win the title meant allot to Richard Hughes or Paul Hanagan in recent years. And yes, it is still some achievement to ride thousand races a year and lift the trophy at the end of the season for being ‘the best’. But what is it really worth?

The broader context to this is that the best (or most talented) British jockeys simply aren’t competing for the title these days. Much the opposite. They are frequently on the hunt for opportunities elsewhere. Because of the internationalisation of the sport, the best jockeys have now more than ever the opportunities to ride in big races anywhere in the world. And indeed, that is what they do! The Buick’s, Moore’s and Doyle’s are happy enough to miss a whole day in the office at Pontefract or Windsor, for one single ride in the big Grade 1 at Arlington.

And here’s my point: If the best British jockeys deliberately don’t compete for the title, where is the merit of this championship? Yes, someone will win it in the end, because that is the nature of competition. Someone will have the most winners on the plate at the end of the season. But someone is not the best. And shouldn’t the best compete for a jockey’s championship?

Imagine Bayern Munich wouldn’t compete in the Bundesliga anymore because the big games in the Champions League are so much more important. Yes, someone would still win the Bundesliga. But what would it be worth, without competing against the best? I know, this comparison is quite  simplistic (and, admittedly, unrealistic). Jockeys still compete throughout the season in the UK, even if they don’t go all out for the title. But still, it illustrates my point, doesn’t it?

Long story short: The jockeys’ championship is becoming a pointless competition, it lost its appeal and value. Why? Because the currency of modern flat racing is big wins – and those aren’t necessarily the class 5 Handicaps on a Wednesday evening around Kempton…

Gates crash open…

The start – a pivotal point of any horse race. Without it, we wouldn’t have a race. Simple as that, right? Whether a standing start in National Hunt, or out of starting gates on the flat – so many races have been lost right at the beginning.

I still remember beautiful filly Sariska very well. What a talented individual she was. But towards the end of her career, she refused to leave the gates when they would crashed open. She was odds-on, red hot favourite in her last two career starts and almost certain to win – if she would just run – but she lost the race literally at the start and was subsequently retired to the breeeding sheds.

There are numerous other examples of course, where horses stumble out, and are right far behind the field, or there are those of course who jump out as if concerned about their life, mad keen, unstoppable, burning off all energy. Remember Dawn Approach in the Derby?

Saturday Highlights

It’s been a busy Saturday racing wise. Top class National Hunt in the UK, rounded up by excellent Graded action over in the US during the night – can a racing fan ask for more? Well, I don’t think so! But hey, let’s quickly reflect on the key points from yesterday…

Coneygree could win a Gold Cup – sooner or later!

You will have seen my preview of the Denman Chase (I hope!) – a really exciting renewal of this Grade 1 at Newbury yesterday. It shaped to be a cracker beforehand, and it turned out to be quite a noteworthy race in the end, indeed! However, none could have foreseen what really happened.

As I stated in my preview, I was extremely sweet on the chance of Novice Coneygree. Lightly raced, a smart hurdler, taking extremely well to fences. An exciting prospect, that is was he was and after yesterday certainly is. He was so impressive at Kempton, such a good, relentless galloper with big potential, when winning the Kauto Star Novice Chase. But yesterday, he brought it to another level. Taking on some really talented, tough & experienced chasers, he jumped off in front and literally ran them into the ground. Turning for home he had the whole bunch sitting in his neck. They were all poised to take him on. Waiting for him to tire and fade. It was the ultimate real test for his class. What would he have left to offer in the home straight? Well, an awful lot, it turned out! He prevailed. Easily. Jumping well, not slowing down, just galloping strongly to the line. It was a demolition job and resulted in a breathtaking seven lengths success in the end. Coneygree has the “WOW factor”! So question is now: Arkle or Gold Cup – what’s next?

Grugy’s return a jumping error

Staying with jump racing for the moment: Saturday was the day we saw last years Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy back after his long injury absence. He clearly didn’t look his old best unfortunately, his jumping wasn’t good, he blundered badly at the fourth last and jumped the third last even worse, eventually unseating jockey Jamie Moore. That says the Champion Chase is up for grabs now. Grugy disappointed, so did Sprinter Sacre on his respective seasonal debut. Will both improve towards Cheltenham? Sure, they will. Will they be ever as good and dominant as they used to be in the past? Unlikely.  Un De Sceaux. it’s all yours – if you want…

Dortmund plays it well in California

Over to the US and a brilliant card at Santa Anita. Usually at this time of the year, we have to start talking about the Derby – the Kentucky Derby I mean! And I do really wonder: Have we seen the Derby winner at Santa Anita yesterday? Because there is this extremely good looking colt, called Dortmund (how appropriately named, knowing how poorly the once famous German football club of the same named town is playing in the Bundesliga at the moment), who started into his classic season the same way as he ended the last year: with a gutsy performance, landing the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a late surge! This should be a stepping stone for him towards the Derby. Admittedly, I was already mightily impressed with his attitude, presence and long stride when getting up late in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes in December. A son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, he should have the right pedigree and the way he races suggests the Derby trip will suit. He’s currently trading as the 10/1 ante-post favourite….

Not quite #TheRematch

Shared Belief made it look easy in the end, when effectively eased down before crossing the line as the clear winner of what was branded as ‪#‎TheRematch‬. He beat California Chrome by 1 1/2 lengths in the San Antonio Invitational. Shared Belief got a perfect start this time – unlike in the Breeders Cup Classic – tracked Chrome’s every move, and Mike Smith was probably rubbing his hands when Espinoza let Chrome lose – a bit too early I thought actually. That played into the hands of Shared Belief, who, once looming alongside Chrome in the home straight, went easily past him. Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity ran a fine 3rd, but was never really able to challenge the two big guns. Reflecting on this race, I believe both, Shared Belief and California Chrome will come on for this run. Chrome is going to Dubai and will do well there. He has a chance to win the Dubai World Cup. But only if Shared Belief doesn’t go down the same route. Chrome could then be heading for Europe and some of the good turf races in England. Surly it would be interesting to see how he fares over here.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Oh before I forget: It’s nice to have a bit of punting success lately again. Coneygree went off a 15/8 favourite. If you followed me, you would have got 7/2, which turned out to be a huge price, as we know now. Also Shared Belief went off the evens favourite, I got him at 7/4 as advised. It wasn’t quite 3/3 yesterday. Ballista ran a cracker at Lingfield, made all, and would the winning post come a couple of yards earlier, he would have won. A narrowly denied third is what he ended up.

What’s on the tab today

Well, I could write a long essay about what all the great racing today. But I believe, sometimes an image can speak for thousand words. So just look at this below – I don’t think I need to say more!

hennessy