Tag Archives: Godolphin

Epsom Derby 2022 Preview

2022 is a unique edition of the Derby as there is not a single Group 1 winner in the field. With that in mind the race is a wide open contest and the betting deceptive.

In fairness, that’s probably one of the phrases I (too?) often use. Perhaps it’s down to a simply tendency of mine to take on short-priced favourites. However, I truly feel this Derby is a wide open contest. A huge upset isn’t out of question. One only has to look back at the previous years to find that a long-shot winner isn’t something out of the ordinary, anyway.

That’s not to say Desert Crown – 2/1 favourite at the time of writing – won’t turn out the be the best horse in the race. He could be a superstar in the making.

The fact he won the Dante in impressive style on what was only his second career run and seasonal reappearance, despite uneasiness in the market beforehand, rates as significant in my book.

Will he stay? It’s widely assumed he does. As a son of Nathanial he should posses plenty of stamina. The way he kept going and hit the line in the Date suggests he got every chance to stay the Derby trip.

I’ve got concerns, regardless. Green Desert as the dam’s sire. Yes, some of the dam’s offspring stayed 1m 4f. Nonetheless it’s far from certain Desert Crown truly want’s the trip.

Not to glance over the fact he’s also a highly inexperienced horse, hasn’t encountered anything close to the test Epsom provides, the rain is unlikely to be of any help to him either, and we have a large field with 16 other horses all competing for positions and a clear run once they leave Tattenham Corner behind.

Yet, I’ve come slowly around to the believe he is most likely the most talented colt in the Derby field – once we look back in a few years time. In the context of today and everything that comes with it I have to oppose him at the given price, though. I have him more a 7/2 shot than the 2/1-9/4 on offer this morning.

Aiden O’Brien won the Oaks on Friday and he could do the double today. Stone Age is widely assumed to be his prime chance in the Derby. The Leopardstown Derby Trial winner has got his head in front twice this year after failing to do so as a juvenile in five starts.

He was visually impressive at Leopardstown, although his overall profile doesn’t scream Derby winner to me. Topspeed underlines this notion. He ran to 88 and 91 in those races this year. He has to improve significantly. Not a price to back.

Frankie Dettori’s mount Piz Badile enhanced his Derby claims with victory in the Ballysax. The impression he gave that day was he will stay all day long given how strongly he rallied in the home straight. He may well do. An 81 career best topspeed rating (71 in the Ballysax) means he’s got to improve significantly, though. I’m not convinced he will improve so dramatically for the trip.

The incredibly impressive winner of the Newmarket Stakes was Nations Pride. Godolpin’s first string and choice of William Buick today. He’s an obvious improver on his sixth career run having progressed with each run to date. My concern is the trip, once again. The line through his dam out of Oasis Dream doesn’t scream stamina in abundance.

From the other two Godolphin runners – Nahaani and Walk Of Stars – the latter is the one I would prefer. Last years Derby winning rider is on board Nahaani, but the colt doesn’t appear to have enough class I believe.

Walk Of Stars could have the class, though. Runner-up in the Lingfield Derby trial, he ran to topspeed 99 that day; he’s is still very much learning his trade. Stamina won’t be an issue. I expect him to improve for his fifth career run, the additional half furlong and possibly the emphasis on stamina today, depending how the race pans out. He is a big price at 16/1+. The track is a serious question mark, on the other hand and that makes me waver.

Star Of India won the Dee Stakes at Chester. He ran to topspeed 99 that day. Whatever the ground today, I don’t have too much concern about it, neither over track and trip. But how much more can he improve? The family hasn’t been top-class to the most part yet. He’s a full-brother to S J Tourbillon, these day an ordinary handicapper in Hong Kong.

It’s the question of the day: how much can these horses improve? You can’t be too sure about any of the fancied horses that they have it in them to progress to the level required to land the Derby in the ground, over this trip at this track.

In truth that’s only natural for three-year-old colts. My issue is the potential improvement is taken for granted in the betting for the likes of Desert Crown and Stone Age. I’m much more cynical in only believing what I’m seeing.

Which leaves me with Changingoftheguard. He has been on my mind ever since winning the Chester Vase in brilliant style. Sure, the form can be knocked for its small and rather uncompetitive field on soft ground. The favourite didn’t fire and left the race to win for the Aiden O’Brien trained colt.

Nonetheless, Changingoftheguard did it the “hard way”. Ryan Moore went to the front and pushed on right from the start. The son of Galileo galloped the others into submission. And he didn’t stop in the home straight. He just kept going all the way to the line.

He achieved a 106 topspeed rating for the Chester performance – a strong marker and the best on offer in the field today. With that in mind Changingoftheguard has delivered on multiple fronts unlike many of his rivals today.

However, he’s all stamina and vulnerable if the Derby would become a test of speed rather than stamina. But Wayne Lordan – not the most inspired jockey booking – has a say in how the race pans out. From his double-figure draw he can move forward and dictate, if he wants to. He won’t need to worry about stamina.

The application of cheek pieces is added bonus. This has worked wonders for Aiden O’Brien trained colts in this race before. It can help bring out additional improvement in Changingoftheguard too.

Therefore I feel the prices available, with the ground unlikely to be too fast, are way over the top. Any further rain beyond what hit Epsom this morning already will be a big help. And that’s why this lad is going to be hard to pass once in front.

10pts win – Changingoftheguard @ 10/1

Preview: Lockinge Stakes 2022

The Lockinge Stakes is one of my favourite races of the entire year: a straight mile on decent ground and a field of top-class milers – flat racing at its best.

I also love the Lockinge Stakes because it brings back memories of the “good old times” when my all-time favourite horse Paco Boy won the race in 2010 in the most sensational style.

The moment when Richard Hughes asked him to shift gears after cantering all over the field approaching the final furlong marker….. the turn of foot…. the arrogance – pure horse racing porn.

As for the 2022 edition: we have an overwhelming favourite as we had back in 2010 when Paco Boy was odds-on. This time it’s star miler Baaeed who is expected to win the Lockinge in style. He’s a 4/9 shot. A near certainty.

But is he?

Baaeed is unbeaten in six career starts. He went from strengths to strengths last year: from winning a maiden at Leicester in June to landing the QEII at Ascot in October.

A multiple Group 1 winner, successful in a variety of ground conditions who’s created a stunning visual impression whenever we’ve seen him. There’s no question Baaeed is the righteous favourite today.

He can be beaten, though. Even more so today. This is going to be his first run in 210 days. Yes, the Lockinge is a Group 1, but the Queen Anne next months is most likely the main target. Baaeed may not be fully tuned up today.

The ground is drying. Perfect for racing. And Baaeed won on fast ground. However, his very best performances came with cut in the ground.

Most importantly: even though he’s won two Group 1 races – and doing so visually quite nicely – he’s yet to achieve a topspeed rating worthy of a colt of the highest order.

His career-best came on his second career outing over a mile on good to soft ground – a solid, but not world beating 97 TS rating. He’s ran to 93 and 94 subsequently. With that sort of speed rating he may have struggled to get close in this years 2000 Guineas.

TS ratings aren’t everything and they have their own flaws. But they are a key gauge of class, form and speed. The fact Baaeed hasn’t achieved better ratings despite having ample opportunity suggests to me he’s not quite as good as his form reads.

Or let’s say: he wasn’t last year. Another year older and he may well be a better horse. He could still improve. And he’ll have enough chances to prove he can be a top-class colt also on topspeed.

Saying all that I obviously want to make the case for taking Baaeed on today. Not because he isn’t the most likely winner. He is. But because there are reasons to believe he’s vulnerable today – he’s a very short price and simply not quite as much a certainty as the odds suggest.

Of course it’s only worth opposing him if there’s anything in the field capable of beating him. So: is there?

With Mother Earth and Alcohol Free there are two other Group 1 winners in the race. Last years 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth showed consistency and ran many fine races last year.

She ran to 100 and 101 topspeed ratings, although her form dropped significantly in the second half of the season. Her successful seasonal reappearance at the Curragh wasn’t flashy but you can expert her to come on quite a bit for the run as Aiden O’Brien’s horses tend to do.

She’s dangerous if she can find back to that early season form of 2021.

Alcohol Free is the reigning Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes champion. That’s the mark of a top-class miler. At her best she’s a big danger. But in three subsequent starts she didn’t look anywhere near the filly she was at Goodwood. Her seasonal reappearance left more questions than answers. And the drying ground is far from ideal.

From the rest of the field Chindit and Sir Busker can’t be ruled out at their best form. Nonetheless, both horses struggled in Group 1 company in the past and I reckon a lot has to go wrong for the better fancied horses for either of them to win.

The dark horse in the race is Real World. He’s the one I am really interested in – certainly at the odds on offer.

What sparks my interest is plenty fold: most importantly he’s achieved the fasted topspeed rating in the field. Crucially that performance is pretty recent. He ran to 107 when winning the Zabeel Mile at Meydan in January.

Granted, Meydan form isn’t always the most trustworthy one. Yet it’s a believable progression from what he achieved last season when he ran to 98 (2x) and 102 when he won the Steventon Stakes at Newbury – albeit that was over 10 furlongs.

Real World was a highly progressive 4-year-old once he returned to Europe and turf last season. He won four on the bounce, and brought it to five in a row with the Meydan victory, before trying the dirt at the highest level. He clearly hated the dirt, though, as was evidence earlier in his career already. Therefore I am fully prepared to discount those last two runs.

If you draw a line under those races you see him being unbeaten on turf in five starts. He won over a mile, 9 furlongs, 1m 2f, on very soft to fast ground. This is a top-class horse ready to win a Group 1.

The concern I have is the mile trip on drying ground at this top level. Normally that is. In this field, as alluded to earlier, there aren’t many top-class rivals. With that in mind Real World is a massive price and I couldn’t leave him unbacked.

Selection:
10pts win – Real World @ 9.5/1

Thursday Selection – 14/04/2022

Third day of the Craven meeting. But my eyes are drawn to Bath for an eye-catching betting proposition. Though, I also want to take a look back at the Craven Stakes.

Native Trail was the main act on Wednesday at Newmarket. The way he won the Craven Stakes was impressive. Even though, one could also argue this was expected after what he had done as a juvenile.

Personally I think the performance was impressive for the simple fact that we have seen often enough in the past how these top-class 2-year-olds wouldn’t train on or simply lose their edge as the rest of the pack has caught up physically and mentally.

That sort of fate may still beckon for Native Trail later the year. For now he must be considered the prime candidate for the 2000 Guineas, though, and the betting market says as much. There’s no secret here.

However, the fact he ran out an easy victory yesterday, achieving a topspeed rating of 100 on his seasonal reappearance, is impressive in my eyes. He’s ran three times in a row to TS 100 now. That’s the sign of a quality colt. And I would be more than hopeful that he can improve on that if properly asked for full effort in the Guineas.

My eyes were naturally drawn to Claymore in the Craven. Having called him out as one of my 5 To Follow I was anxious whether the bubble would burst as early as his first run as a 3-year-old.

It didn’t. He finished a gallant runner-up. Clearly still green, raw and what Jane Chapple-Hyam called a “big baby” afterwards – who was also seriously unruly before the race – he’ll learn plenty from this experience. He’s not quite cracked topspeed 90 here, but improved on his debut 83 from last year. Surely there is more to come.

Chapple-Hyam mentioned the French Guineas as the likely target as opposed to the Newmarket classic.

…………

4.20 Bath: Class 6 Handicap, 5.5f

As uncompetitive as this Bath opener looks, as much does experience tell us that these races can be pure carnage and tend to produce many hard-luck stories.

I still have to back favourite Fristel. He was one of my eye-catchers from last week and I feel this test over 5.5 furlongs will represent the ideal race for him. He finished much the strongest last Monday at Windsor on his turf debut while not getting a run until very late.

In this class and of his current mark I feel he is seriously well handicapped, particularly with another 3lb off the weight with apprentice Stefano Cherchi on board – which is his sole ride today.

This is Fristel’s 6th career start, only the third in Handicap company. He caught the eye as juvenile on the All-weather as well and as long as he gets a clear run, which is the main danger more than anything in this field, he will have a major shout.

Money is coming all morning so prices may vanish soon. any additional money is an obvious positive pointer to his chances.

10pts win – Fristel @ 7/2

Five To Follow in 2022

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

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

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

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

Aldous Huxley
3-y-o Colt / John Gosden

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

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

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

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

Race Video

Subastar
3-y-o Colt / Roger Varian

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

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

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

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

Race Video

New London
3-y-o Colt / Charlie Appleby

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

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

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

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

Race Video

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

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

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

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

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

Race Video

Cash
3-y-o Colt / David Simcock

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

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

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

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

Race Video

Epsom Derby 2021

Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose? Certainly!

The perfect draw, bred for the the unique test Epsom provides, plus the added confidence from camp Ballydoyle – Aiden O’Brien saddling only one runner is unusual as significant – it’s Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose.

This son of Galileo – the super daddy who fathered five Derby winners – remains unbeaten as a three-year-old and shot up the betting market after an almightily impressive 6 lengths romp in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

A performance where visuals were matched by the clock as an excellent 104 topspeed rating showed.

More likely than not Bolshoi Ballet will improve for the step up to the 1m 4f Derby trip. With that in mind, there are very few negatives for his chances and he looks a proper chance to follow in the footsteps of his prominent father.

One could be harsh and point out his wins this year were all achieved on decent ground and a softer surface could spell trouble. On the other hand, he proved last year to handle softer underfoot conditions. Whatever bit of juice is left in the Epsom ground this afternoon is unlikely to pose any issue for Bolshoi Ballet.

If nothing goes wrong during the race it’s hard to oppose him solely for win purposes.

Saying that, there are two other contenders who interest me from a betting perspective a bit more:

One is Mac Swiney. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner. Jim Bolger enjoys a tremendous season so far, landing both the British and Irish 2000 Guineas.

To me Mac Swiney always looked like a prospect better suited to middle distance than the mile. So the drop down to the Guineas trip after opening his season in a Derby trial was a brave move. Though, on the day the heavy going played into his hands, making it more a stamina than speed test.

Mac Swiney has shown his very best with plenty of juice in the ground. Even though he will surely improve for the trip, I have nagging doubts over the ground drying out a bit too quickly for him. Yes, the Derby is a stamina test, but Bolshoi Ballet is likely to stay all day long too and has a good turn of foot as well.

The drift in Mac Swiney’s price makes him an interesting each-way shot nonetheless. Yet, I’ll focus my investment in the Derby on one horse only – I am fairly sure Bolshoi Ballet’s key rival will be saddled by the “boys in blue”.

It’s debatable how much the Dante form is worth. On paper it looks less than exciting form. Nonetheless, Hurricane Lane showed enough to be considered the main rival for Bolshoi Ballet today.

Clearly he will find plenty of improvement for stepping up in trip. Winning the Dante was probably a bonus as much as it brought Hurricane Lane’s excellent attitude to the fore. It was obvious from over three furlongs out that he struggled for speed, appearing flat footed when the pace lifted significantly at York. But he stuck to his guns bravely to run out a gutsy victory in the end.

A topspeed figure of 100 for the Dante success is the second highest on offer in this field. That alone makes him a proper shot today.

The son of Frankel is out of mare who won over 2 miles, and he’s a full-brother to smart 1m 4f winner Frankel’s Storm. Even though we all have Frankel’s turn of foot in mind, as a sire he is a proven source of stamina.

Therefore, in my view, given Hurricane Lane ran so well in the Dante over a shorter trip, a performance backed up by topspeed, with further improvement assured over the Derby trip, he could have less to find with Bolshoi Ballet than the betting may suggest.

The draw isn’t quite where I would want it to be in an ideal world. Perhaps it won’t be too much of an issue, though: I expect Hurricane Lane to be ridden prominently anyway. As long as he settles well, all will be good.

Everything said, Bolshoi Ballet is a strong favourite to give Aiden O’Brien an Oaks & Derby double (Snowfall was a sensational winner on Friday). But at 13/2 Hurricane Lane looks like a viable alternative with more juice in the price for my liking.

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

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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