Tag Archives: Godolphin

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

DSC_0828

Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home  Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Saturday Night Thoughts

DSC_0168

A busy Saturday full of intriguing racing action is behind us. Some thoughts on the things that stood out me.

Kameko Wins 2000 Guineas

He appeared to be a rock solid chance beforehand but turned out to be the very best in a deep 2000 Guineas field: Kameko came late to the party with only the final furlong left to go when finally challenging for the lead. Eventually the son of Kitten’s Joy beat the Ballydoyle “money horse” Wichita… and he did it with a bit of authority.

I felt beforehand that Kameko should be a big player if he improves in a way one would hope he can as a three-year-old, given his consistent (particularly on the clock) and strong performances as a juvenile.

The fast pace surely suited him but that doesn’t mean he got it easy. In fact he had to fight for room and a clear passage. Over two furlongs out Oisin Murphy pulled Kameko out in what was quite a violent move, which in turn hampered Kinross rather significantly, who it seemed to my eyes, was just about to hit top gear and fighting to get through a gap himself.

Once in the clear, though, Kameko stayed on strongly, suggesting he will get further – which puts my suggestion that he has miler “written all over” him pretty much to shame.

What does hold true: he falls into the bracket of late foals that seemingly improve during the summer months exponentially, which rather nicely proves the point I made in my race preview that the later date of this years 2000 Guineas will have a profound impact on what type of horse it suits best.

A first British Classic success for Oisin Murphy – it was coming sooner rather than later. Derby next for Kameko? It would be a shame if not.

As for “my boy” Kinross: he raced a lot closer to a brisk pace – at least early on in the race – than I would have anticipated. He lost ground in the middle part, finding it all a bit too hot.

When it looked his race is over, Harry Bentley seemed to galvanize him once more which meant Kinross started to make progress and was about to be moving through an opening gap with about two furlongs to go.

It was then that the accelerating Kameko suddenly cut across and as a consequence hampered Kinross badly, who lost vital momentum. One could also argue Kameko was simply faster moving through the same gap Kinross wanted to get through too.

The drift in the betting to 20/1 SP was evidence that there was little confidence in his chances. So it looks he may not be quite as good as I have hoped. Nonetheless I still think he can become a top class horse. He finished 6th in a deep 2000 Guineas despite being badly hampered, though possibly need the step up to 10 furlongs to be seen to best effect. I retain hope.

Richard Hughes Calls Out Racingpost

If those from within the industry start to call you out it’s time to finally listen and step up. It’s clear that people are fed up with the substandard product the Racingpost is producing. What were usually disgruntled racing fans, now starts to spread to people from within the sport. That must be a real concern for the Racingpost.

I concluded as much last week that the paper is devoid of original content. If you charge £3.90/€4.20 for a daily paper that operates in a niche segment that is horse racing you better offer tremendous value – i.e. quality content – to justify such a steep price tag.

Tough Times for Ryan Moore

He’s one of the best, if not THE best jockey on the planet. But even Ryan Moore is a human being (seriously!). In fact he’s as human as any other jockey in that he can go through a bad run of form from time to time. Which is what he’s doing right now.

Racing is only back for less than a full week but Ryan Moore has clearly angered a lot punters judging by my Twitter feed.

The numbers look bleak: 21 rides, 1 winner. However, the reason for this may be as simple as he didn’t ride a lot of good horses. In fact, ten of his rides came on horses that went off 9/1 or bigger – some at much bigger odds even. Only one was a favourite: and won.

Hawwaam Is Back

I absolutely loved seeing the almighty South African superstar Hawwaam back (or close to) his best this afternoon. He won the Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes at Turffontein in fine style where he was travelling strongly throughout and putting the race to bed rather easily in the end.

After two defeats in Cape Town where issues of travelling and settling in his new surroundings may have hindered him to show his very best, as trainer Mike De Kock suggested, the four-year-old clearly enjoyed his return to Turffontein, bagging a fifth Grade 1!

Rough Betting Days

Racing is back and been quite successful for me personally from a punting perspective. Three bigger priced winners from six bets before Friday. Brilliant!

Then came Friday. A bit of a shocker. Then came Saturday. Brutal. All bets lost. That in itself isn’t a problem. That’s what naturally happens if you back the big prices I do – 6 losing bets – isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t bother me. Normally.

What does bother me is if I don’t follow my Golden Rules of betting on horses. When I let myself down making poor choices and decisions guided by emotions and “gut feeling” and not by hard facts. When I know full well the horse is unlikely to be well handicapped but still follow through to back the “fancy”. Memo to myself: make better decisions. No bet no problem.

Saturday Selections: November, 2nd 2019

DSC_9731

Friday night started in the worst possible way: me looking like an idiot. Here I am backing a short priced favourite for the first time in ages, touting the horse as the proverbial “good thing” that will go on to win the 2000 Guineas. Yeah, that worked out well….

The winner of the Futurity Stakes is a good horse, make no mistake. He already ran twice to 99 topspeed ratings before last night, is an April foal and clearly is consistent on a high level as another 97 TS performance showed last night.

I continue to retain some faith in Kinross, nonetheless. He was pretty keen early on and once again starting issues made life tricky. Hopefully Ralph Beckett can sort this behaviour out over the winter as I firmly belief the time to shine for this colt is as a 3-year-old.

Before moving on to selections for Breeders Cup Saturday, let me say I’m properly grateful to Jose Ortiz: he gave Structor a superb tactical ride. I needed that winner badly. Particularly as Vive La Difference finished strongly once more but found trouble – obviously – at Newcastle earlier.

I have to admit in my head I was counting the money when I saw the splits and certainly when Sweet Melania turned for home in the Juvenile Fillies Turf…. shame she couldn’t quite hold on. Anyway, plenty on the menu on Super Saturday as well!

:::::::::::::

7.30 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

Big chance for Cashel to get back to winning ways: already a course and distance winner, he has fallen to a super sexy handicap mark, having won of allot higher in the past and having run to topspeed ratings of 59+ three times this year alone! So, now down to 58 he is rather obviously well handicapped.

In my view he clearly proved this point when last seen at Kempton. Cashel had a strange break, nearly lost the jockey and was always trailing the field which isn’t his ideal style. He ran on well to finish third in what was an unusually competitive contest with form that stands the test of time already.

The 1lb drop in his mark since is a nice little bonus in combination with the 3lb claim of Theodore Ladd in the saddle. First time CP will hopefully help early on the race – the draw is bad, and he’ll need to be quick out of the blocks.

If Cashel does he’ll be hard to beat tonight.

Selection:
10pts win – Cashel @ 9/2 MB

………

6.17 Santa Anita: G2 Twilight Derby, 1m 1f

Tricky affair and most market principles have raced each other without conclusive outcomes in the past. I think, however, one who still seems underappreciated is Tapit colt Kingly.

He remains pretty lightly raced and certainly unexposed on turf. On the other hand he showed plenty of promise in three starts on the lush green, much in line with his excellent pedigree.

He showed early promise in spring landing the Listed California Derby at Golden Gates polytrack but couldn’t bring his best to the dirt subsequently. Since the switch to turf he won a grade 3 at Del Mar, beating current favourite Neptune Storm. A 4th and 5th place finish subsequently look questionable but are exceptional pieces of form judged by circumstances.

He was lit up the next time in the Del Mar Derby, bumped right after start by the horse beside him in a bid to overcome the widest draw. He stormed to the lead soon after and that’s where the damage was done. He was less than two lengths beaten in the end.

Next time at Santa Anita, stepping up to open company, he led again, setting off way too fast, going hard all out and nearly led gate to wire in fact, only to be swept by late by the elder horses.

A wide draw doesn’t make things easy today, but there aren’t too many who are likely to compete hard for the lead, so I think he can overcome that.

If Mario Gutierrez can minimize the amount of fuel to be burned in this early phase of the race I think there is a massive chance Kingly will be hard to beg back as he stays the trip, will get a clear run, while some of the other market principles will have to hope for have to weave through traffic.

Selection:
10pts win – Kingly @ 6/1 BF

……….

8.54 Santa Anita: G1 BC Filly & Mare Turf, 1m 2f

It may look foolish to oppose Sistercharlie, given her incredible record. Even more so as I really struggle to fancy the Euro opposition. However, the one who seems to have come back to life and has run to a career best only recently, backing up other good performances from earlier this year is 2018 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook.

She is completely unexposed over this sort of trip, bar one try in the Nassau last year, which was an odd race to some extend and the filly potentially not at her best anyway. Her pedigree however gives her quite a decent chance of staying the distance.

Particularly with conditions she’ll appreciate. I hope Sean Levey is not afraid to utilize the excellent draw and moves instead of settling off the pace, where Billesdon Brook would only find herself around a number of other European contenders who all will be compromising their respective chances.

After a number of disappointing efforts following her superb Newmarket success last spring somehow the 4-year-old found back to her best this summer, winning three times, runner-up another time, starting in Listed company getting confidence back seemingly, all the way up to landing the Sun Chariot – which was a career best judged by tospeed, as she ran to 103, bettering her Guineas best of 101 – she also ran weeks early to 96 in Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood.

What this shows: Billesdon Brook is in the form of her life! Obvious question is whether she can hold it and bring it to Santa Anita. If she can she has a much better chance to go really close today than the big odds suggest. She also gets the added boost of running first time on lasix.

Selection:
10pts win – Billesdon Brook @ 14/1 MB

……….

8.20 Santa Anita: Grade 1 BC Mile Turf, 1 mile

I don’t think the fast ground and turns over this sharp mile will suit Circus Maximus. Two other Europeans I like a lot instead are Space Traveller for one – but the fact he usually settles off the pace plus the small issue of not racing on Lasix is enough to put me off.

The other one is Hey Gaman. This is a consistent horse, running to a high standards usually, if he gets his conditions. So throw the recent soft ground performances out of the window. Leaving those aside,  he won two contests in Listed and Group 3 company and was runner-up in two more hot Group 2 races, all over 7 furlongs.

He achieved topspeed ratings of 99, 100 and 105 in three subsequent races this season. That is quite a high standard I argue not many in this Breeders Cup Mile field have achieved. Furthermore he has the racing style you want for your horse at this track.

Add to that the fact he gets first time Lasix and you have a massive chance. Negative: the draw. However, maybe not as much a negative potentially as this race could turn into affair with little early pace to shout about. Hey Gaman usually breaks well so he should be able to make it over fairly quickly I feel.

The step up to a mile on this lightning fast ground is no issue either. There is enough stamina in pedigree, he is a full-brother to a winner over a mile and himself has some fair form over the trip too.

Selection:
10pts win – Hey Gaman @ 18/1 WH

………

11.40 Santa Anita: G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, 1m 4f

Bricks And Mortar and vulnerable over this trip. AVD has gone backwards since the Derby. Something else may spring a surprise from the front, but I feel eerily confident Old Persian will be able to cover all moves.

He’s not quite superstar status, however he certainly is a high class individual with comparatively low mileage this season, coming here potentially fresher than others.

He’s won the Northern Dancer comfortably when last seen, so had a perfect prep while having ran to topspeed ratings of 110 in the past plus to 104 at Meydan earlier this year, he looks to have the making of what should be the favourite in the race.

The draw isn’t ideal and is my main worry that Buick will “slot in” too far off the pace. I hope he is smart and brave enough to go forward, without being suicidal, and not let the pace go too far away.

If the pilot gets the tactics right then the horse will deliver with everything sure to suit: track, trip, ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Old Persian @ 4/1 PP

Sunday Selections: April, 14th 2019

Iron Major Dundalk

Finally a winning selection! Cappananty Con (8/1) did a nice job to land the spoils at Wolverhampton, albeit in a desperately tight finish. Betting wise I needed that, as it was not a good week and some of my decisions were poor.

Memo to myself: stop backing newcomers, regardless how “sexy” they look on paper. It’s not a viable long-term investment!

It’s a bleak Sunday for racing. Little there to excite. Certainly on the domestic front. All the negative talk about Dundalk’s surface, it seemingly shows to impact field sizes today. At least over in France, the return of Persian King is something to look forward to!

::::::::::

4.15 Dundalk: Handicap, 1m 4f

This looks a poor race on paper and that leaves the door wide open for top weight Construct making a winning debut for his new yard. He was a rather expensive purchase out of Ralph Beckett’s, formerly running in the famous Juddmonte colours.

Construct comes here fresh off a break, in the meantime having been gelded as well, a first time tongue tie spotted is interesting as a bit of money seems to be arriving in the market also.

Form wise he’s the one to beat in my mind. He was well on top winning a minor 3-runner-handicap last summer at Pontefract, but followed up on the All-Weather in two hot contests, finishing creditable runner-up at Chelmsford and Kempton respectively – the form as been upgraded significantly in the meantime.

A mark off 78 doesn’t leave a lot of wriggle room, to be perfectly honest, nonetheless. Construct may still have a bit of improvement left, though – if change of scenery and the gelding has had any positive effect.

Selection:
10pts win – Construct @ 8/1 Coral

……….

5.20 Dundalk: Handicap, 1m2½f

Quite Subunctious is a frustrating sort to follow as, despite looking dangerous on a number of occasions and showing a little bit of promise – his 2.5l sixth-place-finish at Galway off a 59 handicap mark for example – he can’t get his head in front. He came desperately close at Wolverhampton in February, only swooped late to lose the race on the line.

Even though it was a poor race, this performance of a mark off 48 handed him a TS rating of 47, which looks not too far off the mark judged how the race has worked out since then (winner and third have followed up with fair performances next time out).

The 4-year-old gelding hasn’t looked the same in his subsequent starts, however his Newcastle run can be upgraded in my mind. Quite Subunctious made way too much, leading the field by half a dozen lengths turning for home; as the last time, two miles were simply too far.

The drop in trip should suit, given Quite Subunctious showed his best form in and around a mile in the past, even though showing a couple of additional furlongs aren’t an issue.

He’s got the assistance of a 7lb claimer who hasn’t won a race in quite some time; nonetheless, if on a going day, this weight allowance can be quite handy.

I’m under no illusion Quite Subunctious may never win a race, but in this poor contest, I can make a good argument for him being overpriced, judged on above facts.

Selection:
10pts win – Quite Subunctious @ 34/1 MB

Saturday Selections: November, 10th 2018

DSC_8217

3.15 Doncaster: Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f

The November Handicap, one final big one in the soon to be closed chapter that was the 2018 flat season.

It feels like nearly everything Charlie Appleby touches turns to gold these days. Can he wrap up this superb week for him with a success here? I certainly think so! His inmate Wolf Country comes here relatively fresh compared to most others after a recent pleasing return to the track.

That was last month at Goodwood in a competitive race – the form has already started to work out well. Wolf Country was a fine runner-up, leading for most parts of the race. It has to be said he was advantaged by the fact that a he wasn’t hampered by a fallen horse behind him. Most of the field was. So the performance is to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Still, he travelled well, set a good pace and looked comfortable in atrocious conditions, leaving his only other UK start in 2018 well behind, when he last of 15 at Newmarket in May.

His only other piece of form this year came at Meydan. A fine 4th place finish in a pretty strong handicap – he was leading until 300m out against Group class performers.

Things haven’t quite gone the way conditions would surely have hoped for Wolf Country. A Listed winner at three, a creditable and not far beaten 5th in the Dante – he is a talented lad and since being gelded those two of three runs have been very promising.

A mark off 98 gives him a fair chance here today – he could be a better than that. The soft ground conditions are certainly a positive. The wide draw not necessarily for a front-runner. Regardless, I have him down as the favourite here if he can improve from his recent comeback run.

Selection:
10pts win – Wolf Country @ 8.8/1 MB

Preview: Breeders’ Cup Classic 2018

DSC_8993

9.44 Churchill Downs: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s always hard to assess US form properly if you watch the Dirt racing only with one eye. So, when I dismiss the home raiders in the blink of an eye I do so knowing full well it may turn out to be a foolish move in a few hours time.

But if it comes to this years Classic I feel pretty strong about two European runners. For different but then also somewhat similar reasons. In either case, the one of Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, a lot will depend on the start of the race, I believe. It’ll make or break their chances.

Thunder Snow in gate one faces an uphill task. He’s never showed tremendous gate speed, so this is a major risk. However, if experienced Sumillon in the saddle is able to push his mount forward, so he’ll not end up behind a wall of horses entering the first bend, but rather tracking the pace in third, fourth or fifth, then the reigning Dubai World Cup champion is in a position to win the race.

That performance back in March is to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the rail bias that day. However, he beat some excellent dirt horses in tremendous style and ever since the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the goal.

A disappointing effort in the Juddmonte International aside, on his return to the US, for the first time after his disastrous experience in the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow ran a tremendous race in defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

He was more sensibly ridden than the two pace setters, but still was pushed forward rather aggressively from the widest gate. That must have cost vital fuel. Contrast that with the eventual winner of the race, who had pretty much the perfect race and ride and simply picked up the pieces in the closing stages, having the most left in the tank.

Thunder Snow tracked the pace from a long way off in third place throughout the race and was gradually closing in until catching the leaders entering the home straight. He led in the final furlong, eventually beaten on the line by the fast finishing Discreet Lover.

That was an excellent run, the second after a break and only a prep for today – you would think there is still a bit to come from him, hoping he’ll peak when it matters most: today.

His form on dirt reads an impressive 11P21212 – so clearly Thunder Snow is a classy individual. Everything hinges on the start. If he can get through that without getting too far behind, then I’m confident Godolphin has a major shout at celebrating a first Classic Success.

A first one in this regard it would also be for team Ballydoyle. I’m sure there are quite a few who’ve already given up on Mendelssohn at this stage, given in three starts over in the US, ever since producing that sheer unbelievable performance in Meydan, he’s yet to come close to winning.

I see it from a different perspective: today was always the goal. Knowing Aiden O’Brien, you can be sure he’ll have Mendelssohn spot for the race they want to win desperately. Also, something that seems overlooked: Mendelssohn, for whom the way races are run in the US must have been a bit of culture shock, has steadily improved from race to race over there.

You can easily draw a line under the Kentucky Derby; since then 3-2-3, the last two in Grade 1 contests over the Classic trip. I’ve been mightily impressed with this most recent performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Mendelssohn was sprinting forward right from the start, racing for the lead with odds-on favourite Diversify – the two set mad fractions and where more than ten lengths clear halfway through the race! They were caught eventually, but it was Mendelssohn who battled on toe finish a two lengths beaten third in the end.

One could argue, only with some sort of soft lead, steeling the race from the front, Mendelssohn will have a chance to win today. He’s not quite up to the standard to be considered a major contender, otherwise. That is probably an assessment not too far of the truth, by all we know up until now.

I see it from this perspective, though: Mendelssohn is improving. His latest run was a new career best. He’s still not got too many miles on the clock. He’s got an ideal draw to move forward today. He had a pretty ideal preparation, stays the trip and is a returning Breeders’ Cup winner, i.e. he has class!

I might be totally wrong. Overestimate these two Europeans, and underestimate the US horses, like favourite Accelerate, Mckinzie and Catholic Boy. I might overvalue the merit of the Jockey Club Gold Cup performances. And if I fancy the second and third of that race, I should fancy the winner, Discreet Lover at massive odds of 50/1 even more so today, right?

Well, I stick to my analysis, that both Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow didn’t have ideal races that day, ran big despite the factors against them, and both offer significant upside coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today.

Selections:
10pts win – Thunder Snow  @ 14/1 Coral
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 10/1 PP

Monday Selections: June, 4th June 2018

DSC_1062

A first Derby win for Godolphin. It’s been in the making for far too long, the ultimate dream finally achieved, however. 41 years it took, then Sheikh Mohammed could see his home bred Masar scoot home to land the world’s most prestigious flat race.

A whopping 16/1 chance. How could so many miss the credentials the 2000 Guineas third had, including myself?! My own selecting The Pentagon only proved one thing: not good enough.

Derby Day could have been a super day, regardless. Ana Nerium ran the race of her life in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes if she wouldn’t have had had too much to do from the rear of the field, unfortunately.

The consolation in the evening, at least. The double of Sam Gold and Midnight Blue landed. Off to the winning ways in June…

……

6.15 Windsor: Class 4 Novice Stakes, 5f

Hugh Taylor’s selection Queen of Bermuda is backed as if there isn’t a tomorrow. And sure she was super impressive at Thirsk recently. She is well entitled to follow-up here, though all the money coming for here leaves others in the field at tasty value prices.

First and foremost the ride of Derby winning jockey William Buick. Only one ride on Windor’s evening card, he comes over to sit on well bred Leading Spirit.

The colt ran pretty green on debut at Yarmouth in a hot class 3 contest last month. The winner looked incredibly smart there, Leading Spirit faded away in the closing stages to finish a well beaten 3rd in the end.

That form should work out really well, I suspect. Leading Spirit drops to the minimum trip. That’ll suit, he looked sharp out of the gate. His sire has an excellent record here at Windsor as well as in general over 5f plus on fast ground. He’s bound to improve quite a bit and that should see him go close to the favourite, I hope.

Selection:
10pts win – Leading Spirit @ 11/2 VC

……

 

8.30 Ayr: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 7f

An incredibly open race screaming for a long-shot to get his head in front. I do like the chance of In Focus here, despite him seemingly loosing his form and still looking for a first win beyond a mile.

That says, there are fair reasons for his last three forms that read so badly: he was entitled for his seasonal debut run at Wetherby last month and didn’t take to hurdling in his final run in 2017. A combination of very soft ground and potentially a little bit too much racing at the back end of last year may was the combination that saw him fading badly at Catterick on his penultimate run.

Judge on his best performances in 2017 over marathon trips, when twice runner-up in 14f handicaps, suggest he can get the trip and is competitive from his current handicap mark.

I feel the fast ground today could be real deal breaker in a positive sense. He hasn’t encountered anything like it for quite some time. He did win on fast ground twice in the past, however.

 Selection:
10pts win – In Focus @ 14/1 VC

……

FYI: If interested, keep an eye on this blog because if the ground dries further at Windsor, I may identify another selection for the evening card there. 

Friday Selections: May, 11th 2018

DSC_1062

2.15 Lingfield: Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, 1m 2f

The market principles with form on their side haven’t achieved an awful lot. Twice a runner-up, Cosmic Love sets a fair standard but looks vulnerable enough to be opposed.

The look of Godolphin newcomer Duchess Of Berry appeals to me. She is very well bred, related to some smart individuals and given she was a February foal should be – in theory – forward enough at this stage of the season.

The Appleby yard tends to have their newcomers ready for the first day at school. The record, particularly in spring, is excellent. So it’s easy to take a chance on this filly in a winnable race.

Selection:
10pts win – Duchess Of Berry @ 11/2 Matchbook

Wednesday Selections: May, 9th 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

2.25 Chester: Cheshire Oaks, Listed, 1M 3F 75Y

This is not a good renewal. At least on paper it appears rather weakish. So, given his record in this race and the jockey bookings at given prices I’m happy to take a chance with Aiden O’Brien’s Magic Wand.

Only to starts to date, a fair debut as a juvenile, and fair pipe opener at Leopardstown in probably unsuitable ground conditions. She looks like crying out for the trip, though the better ground should be a big help too.

Magic Wand was an expensive purchase, is obviously incredibly well bred and has some fancy entries for later the season. Hence this is hopefully only a stepping stone.

Selection: 
10pts win – Magic Wand @ 7/2 WH

…….

3.35 Chester: Chester Vase Stakes, Group 3, 1m 4f

Open looking contest as it often it is the case at this time of the year: who of these well bred colts turns out best? The answer for today may be found in the recent Sandown Classic trial. Two of the main contenders clash here again: Hunting Horn and Ispolini.

I prefer Goldolphin’s Ispolini today. I like his progressive profile and the fact that he clearly has come on over the winter as we seen when he ran a fine race to finish 2nd at Sandown on his seasonal debut.

That was only his third career start and you saw a bit of inexperience in the closing stages. At the same time he is entitled to come on for the run. From a good draw and with the step up in trip likely to suit, this could turn out to be a real Derby contender for the boys in blue.

Selection:
10pts win – Ispolini @ 7/2 PP

2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

DSC_6633.jpg

An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

DSC_6692.jpg

A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

DSC_6457.jpg

Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

DSC_6772.jpg

 

 

 

DSC_6725.jpg