There is little to expect from the 3-year-old individuals in this field, hence we can focus on the older horses right away, that makes it much less competitive race overall. Clear top of the list is obviously Make A Challenge, after his impressive 5f romp here at the Curragh.
Ground and tip won’t be a worry, but as he is going up in class he has to progress again…. or not. This is a weak listed contest, hence he is the right favourite and will be hard to beat.
But if one can beat him I feel it will be the undervalued Urban Beat. He was 4th and well beaten behind Make A Challenge in the aforementioned Curragh race, however, given circumstances ran a massive race.
He clearly was disadvantaged by the draw and pace, most importantly, but a clear best from the low drawn horses, therefore one can upgrade his run.
The soft ground today won’t be an issue – he’s won twice on heavy ground; but the step up to 6 furlongs is one that can bring him much closer to the favourite today as I feel that is his optimum trip. Drawn close to the pace Urban Beat should get the perfect race, and as one of only very few in this field he has already ran to a 90+ topspeed rating in the past – 2 times, in fact – which means he’s a huge price in this poor field, in my book.
10pts win – Urban Beat@ 15/2 WH
3.50 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs
Medicine Jack looks handicapped to go really close today, after proving his well being at Navan over the minimum trip only four days ago, when he was probably unlucky to bump into a well-handicapped winner who got first run.
Stepping up to 6f will suit, so does the soft ground and the pace he’ll find around himself to track. The gelding has fallen a long way in his handicap mark, from a 101 at the beginning of the season to 80!
Despite this deep fall, Medicine Jack has a number of decent runs in the book this year; such as two over course and distance in big fields this summer.
This is a much easier contest than those handicaps, and given he has ran to 80 plus topspeed ratings in the past, I am hopeful that with preferred conditions today he can get his head in front again.
I’m quite interested in the Ger Lyons trained filly Palabres. She ran incredibly well on debut last year in a red hot maiden that has thrown up a few good subsequent winners – Palabres herself running to a 61 TS rating under hands and heels that day.
She didn’t live up to the promise in three more starts, finishing down the field on each occasion. Ger Lyons suggesting the filly was mentally not ready, though:
“Maybe it was immaturity that was preventing her from showing on track what we thought we were seeing at home.”
He also expects her to be ready to go today. Off a lowly handicap mark, Palabres could easily be well handicapped now, also stepping up in trip – if she’s got a mind for racing. Her debut run certainly implies the existence of talent.
Slight worries about the trip and ground and also the wide draw. But if she’s well-in here, as I imagine she is, with also a bit of stamina on the sire side available, Palabres looks an overpriced individual in this open contest.
A few of my images from the Birdcatcher Day at Naas, featuring the similarly named Premier Handicap plus two Listed contests with the Garnet & Bluebell Stakes.
Been a wet day. Desperate conditions made it hard work for horses and jockeys. Still some good performances. Most notably the ones of team Lyons/Keane. Trainer and jockey teamed up for a hat-trick on the card.
The flat is back! The curtain raiser at Naas on Sunday is done and dusted – is has set us up for what should be an exciting season ahead. While HQ at the Curragh is one big construction site at the moment, it was Naas that picked up the traditional Irish Lincoln meeting – it was a perfect race day, so let’s have a quick look back at the action.
People power spoke – a very healthy crowd flocked through the gates on a day of most beautiful sunshine. Spring was clearly in the air – finally one might say.
Naas racecourse itself is in redeveloping mode right now. The little stand overseeing the winning post is gone. Sadly. Possibly my favourite spot to watch racing from in Ireland. But an overhaul is needed if the county Kildare track wants to stage bigger and better race meetings in the future.
Kevin Prendergast’s filly Moonlight Bay kicked off proceedings with an exceptional turn of foot in the opening maiden of the season that only a couple years back produced Dawn Approach.
This Pivotal filly could be quite a smart horse to follow in her own right. Some performances in behind by Power colt Way Back Home and Park Army, finishing respective in 6th and 7th, caught the eye over a trip possibly too short for them to shine on debut.
The promising three year old filly Alphabet switches stables from retiring David Wachmann to Aiden O’Brien during the winter and got the first winner for powerhouse Ballydoyle under the belt thanks to a commanding performance in the 6f maiden. The ground – but possibly more importantly the first time tongue tie – clearly helped her to put her best foot forward.
Ma Fee Heela, a €200k pick up at the breeze up sales, was gambled into 7/4 favouritism and travelled nicely but couldn’t cope with the acceleration of the winner. Better ground and a step up in trip will see him go much better in the future one would assume.
French recruit Gymkhana got the ball rolling for Ger Lyons and Collin Keane in the saddle as they landed the first handicap of the new flat season. The four year old colt clearly relishes the mud and may move into pattern races after a clear success of a mark of 89.
Fair play to Maarek for finishing third here of what was a tough task having 10st 2lb to carry. The veteran remains nearly as good as ever but will probably find it tough to get his head in front without the help of the handicapper I feel.
Lightly raced bottom weight Gino Severini took the Madrid Handicap. She got a superb ride by Chris Hayes. Hard luck for Mr Adjudicator and Hansian Prince who both travelled well behind but got hampered multiple times. Both could go well the next time.
The big disappointment was Jim Bolger’s Vociferous Marina. Sharing favouritism in betting market in the morning she drifted badly to 11/1 on course before the off and ran rotten as the moves in the betting suggested. Judged on last season she is clearly better than this and the run might be best to forget.
English raider Czabo proved hard to pass in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes. A listed winner over a mile as a juvenile, she took the scalp off favourite Somehow in a scrappy finish for the Mick Channon team.
One would expect Aiden O’Brien’s runner-up to come on for the run and be a force in pattern races this season. She looked nice in the parade ring before the race and has clearly wintered well.
Fourth placed Queen Anne’s Lace looked at one point last season potentially smart, she seems to have a habit of travelling powerfully through the race only to find remarkably little under pressure. It was the same story here and it might be interesting to see her fitted with headgear.
The highlight of the day – the Irish Lincolsnhire – shaped as competitive as always. Previous winner Onenightidreamed and two times runner-up Aussie Valentine tried their luck again. Dermot Weld’s lightly raced Sikandarabad was punted off the boards. The English came over with 94 rated Spring Offensive.
In the end it was the rather unlikely victory of Brandan Brackan who produced a career best to win of the second highest weight in the field. In fact this was the first time the now eight year old has won a race in spring. If Ger Lyons would train the winner, then, according the betting, stable companion Sea Wolf was expected deliver the goods. The 5/1 chance finished a 3 lengths beaten third – a superb result for the Lyons team overall!
And Aussie Valentine? Brides maid yet again! Yes, would you believe it? Runner-up in 2015, in 2016 and now in 2017! Some achievement for Paul Deegan’s inmate. But will he ever get over the line?
The concluding 1m maiden was taken by Aiden O’Brien with two times raced Galileo son Orderofthegarter. The three year old colt couldn’t have been more impressive, romping home by 11 lengths! It’ll be interesting if he can produce that sort of form on better ground too. Given his dam won a really good conditions race on fast ground one would think he can.
On the verge of the Irish 2000 Guineas Aiden O’Brien seemed to become overwhelmed by his emotions. He ennobled Gleneagles, hailing him as “the best miler we have ever had”. That is some achievement in its own right, especially given the amount of classy horses passing through his hands year in year out.
This statement came just minutes after Gleneagles completed the 2000 Guineas double. He had to fight hard for it and it was a much closer finish than at Newmarket, where absolutely everything went to plan. This time, Gleneagles, boxed in on the rails, had to show an awful lot of class to win. He did exactly that.
But does it make him the best ever? Well, who am I to object his handlers experienced opinion. He, who has seen it all! Though, one could get the feeling that Aiden uses the term “best ever” a bit too loosely these days. Anyway, Gleneagles is certainly a very good colt. A true miler. A world-class miler.
Pearl Secret Lands A Big One
Sprint races can sometimes be a bit like lotto: Draw a number or throw a pin and wherever it lands that’s the horse to win. Admittedly, now I’m cynical. Yet there is some truth in it! These big sprint races are so much down to day form, it doesn’t always honour the actual form book. Run the same race ten times and you’ll almost certainly get ten different results.
So happened in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday. Pearl Secret was a slightly surprising winner of the Group 2 sprint. Yes, he was runner-up in the very same race last year, but back then on bottomless ground and before Saturday he only managed to win at Listed- or Conditions Stakes level. Now he has “a big one” on his CV!
Pearl Secret was followed home by Jack Dexter, who hasn’t won since November 2013, and 40/1 shot Wind Fire. Favourite Hot Streak finished sixth, but in truth never landed a blow. So much about the Lotto theory…
Jim Bolger The Magician
The County Kilkenny handler had it spot on: he knew his main contender for the 1000 Guineas wasn’t a miler. So he employed two pace makers, to ensure there would be no dawdling around. The good, consistent pace helped Pleascach in a way to relax but also to offset her lack of tactical speed and instead have a race with emphasize on stamina. It worked to perfection.
Pleascach took up the lead from two furlongs out and stayed strongly to line, fending off all challengers, including the one of red hot favourite Found. The stiff uphill finish at the Curragh clearly suited her cause too.
The next Jim Bolger star is already lined up. His Round Two won the Listed Marble Hill Stakes in comprehensive style at the Curragh on Saturday, overcoming question marks about his speed over the minimum trip as well as a wider than ideal draw. The Teofilo son can only get better with time and distance. He seems the ideal favourite for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
Found Is No World-Beater
Hot Irish 1000 Guineas Favourite Found wasn’t able to land the odds in Sunday’s big race and instead had to settle for second. She didn’t get the clearest of runs as she was in a pocket over 2f out. The eventual winner, Bolger’s Pleascach, got first run and fend off Found’s charge gamely in the closing stages.
In the aftermath not everyone thought the best horse won – and I tend to agree to an extend – yes, Found was slightly unlucky, but that says she got out into the clear at the two furlong marker and had all the time in the world to make up the ground. She didn’t quicken rapidly enough, though, needed almost a full furlong to hit top gear. She clearly is no world-beater. At least not over the mile trip.
Compare her run to the one of Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas – he had even less time to finish off his race once in the clear. But he did it in the manner of a true mile champion. He found a way to win, quickened when it mattered.
Nonetheless, Found’s Guineas performance is encouraging. She’ll be better over further. It may turn out that 1m 2f is her optimum, but the Oaks distance is very much possible and she now goes to Epsom as one of the favourites.
Endless Drama A Chaser In The Making
Just kidding. But you’ll laugh, there was more than one person suggesting the idea of giving him a spin over the big fences. And you can see why. He is a very big boy, indeed! I was slightly overwhelmed when this huge thing passed me in the parade ring for the first time.
I mean, there you have all these good looking three year olds walking around, very much looking like three year olds should look like. And then suddenly you have this monster of a horse walking towards you – is this still the Curragh or already Aintree? Guineas or Grand National Day?
In my 2000 Guineas preview I voiced slight disappointment to see Endless Drama running over 1m yet again. He didn’t look like staying thus far in two previous attempts over 6f+. On pedigree he seems a rather dubious stayer too. Add all the early speed he usually shows and you could easily come to the conclusion that he is actually a sprinter.
On Saturday, though, different tactics and better ground seemed to work wonders. He finished the Guineas well enough to suggest he can be a good miler. A close second behind Gleneagles is surly a very strong piece of form. Yet, I’d love to see him over six furlongs. I think he could be a force over that sort of trip.
Al Kazeem’s Second Spring
It’s never been straightforward for him. Al Kazeem lost almost his entire Classic season, but came back stronger than ever the following season, when he beat Camelot in the 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup. That’s now exactly two years ago. He went on to land the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Coral Eclipse the same year and was subsequently retired to stud as potentially hot property for all the lovely fillies in the world.
Didn’t work out in the breeding shed. He was soon back in training and after a couple of respectable efforts he finally muscled his way to another heroic Group 1 victory – Sunday at the Curragh, beating some serious opposition in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.
He’s the kind of horse you won’t find enough of in flat racing. But these classy veterans are what the sport is craving for. Fans want to follow horses over more than one or two season. What is part and parcel in jump racing, is much more difficult at the top end of the game on the flat. So it’s great to see Al Kazeem, a seven year old now, as good and happy as ever!
Dundalk seems to become a happy hunting ground these days – Cape Wolfe travelled all over the opposition and won it quite easily in the end. A nice 12/1 winner… much needed! The Ger Lyons inmate is Royal Ascot bound now.
7.40 Kempton: Class 3 Handicap, 1m 3f
The flat season is in full flight, yet we have some really interesting racing on Kempton’s All-Weather tonight. This intriguing Class 3 Handicap for four year olds and older horses appears to be an open enough contest with seven out of the ten runners having previously won at this venue.
The betting suggests Andre Balding’s lightly raced Smiling Stranger is the one to beat and won’t lack fitness after 291 days off the track. He showed some promise in maidens last year, though was found out for class on his handicap debut. Gelded over the winter, he could be one with plenty of improvement to come, given a fair handicap mark. Personally I wouldn’t like to be on him at 5/2 though. Despite all the positives there are also a couple of question marks and such a short price doesn’t represent value in my eyes.
Equally lightly raced Majeed didn’t show any rustiness to land a Chelmsford Handicap in March coming off a 1½ year long break. The five year old had obvious problems in the past but looked big and strong at Chelmsford. He travelled off the pace and had plenty enough to do 2f out but really motored home in impressive style. Only 3lb up, with a very useful 5lb claimer in the saddle today, he looks a major player with further improvement likely to come off a potentially lenient mark.
From the former course winners, Double Discount can’t be ruled out. He’s weighted to be competitive if he is back to his best. Jacob Cats won a CD Handicap in March and on that form must rate a danger. The Gay Cavalier loves it around Kempton and should be a big runner if he can bounce back from his last poor run. All-Weather specialist Troopingthecolour is rated below his last winning mark but has to find back some form. First time cheek-pieces may help him. All of these have plenty of questions to answer, though.
Verdict: I like the favourite’s profile. If Smiling Stranger is fit after the break, he could be hard to beat off a fair mark now as a gelding. But from a value perspective lightly raced Majeed makes more appeal. He’s also on a very fair mark and has the assistance of a very good apprentice, which effectively sees him racing off 2lb lower than when winning at Chelmsford. I was really impressed with that performance and 9/2 looks a big price in this field.
Pretty good race for a dreary Tuesday night on the Dundalk All-Weather. Some good sorts with top form going to post – a tight finish can be expected!
Interestingly, the well fancied contenders have all one thing in common: They all won over further the last time and drop down to seven furlongs. With the exception of Ishebayorgrey who won over 6f recently and found further trips stretching him.
Against those runners, the Ger Lyons trained Cape Wolfe appears to be overpriced. He performed well in a couple of hot maidens last season and was only beaten in the final strides when last seen at Gowran Park, while travelling really well. This form works out really well and despite a 2lb rise in the mark, on balance Cape Wolf could be a bit better than that.
The switch the All-Weather should be fine and a good draw gives him every chance to be well positioned. He can make his experience count and is a better chance than his price tag suggests.