Tag Archives: Group 1

Friday Selections: October, 11th 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile False Rail

3.35 Newmarket: G1 Bet365 Fillies’ Mile, 1m

Intriguing contest, but possibly a weak one without a real star? For all what the market principles have achieved form wise, they haven’t run particularly fast yet.

Neither Love nor Cayenne Pepper have come near at least a 90 topspeed rating, despite having ample opportunity. You may give recent 9 lengths winner Quadrilateral the benefit of the doubt, though.

Nonetheless, I feel Powerful Breeze is underestimated in this field. The filly was supplemented after kicking her career off with two impressive runs. A winning debut over 7f here at Newmarket, followed up with an excellent Group 3 success at Doncaster.

That day she ran to a 92 topspeed rating, which is by far the best of what any filly has achieved in this field. There is no reason to doubt its legitimacy, as it was a well run race and Powerful Breeze improved nicely from her debut 87 TS performance.

She looks a filly open to plenty more improvement, being well bred, a March filly and by Iffraay. She gets the trip well, the ground is a slight question mark, given she hasn’t met cut in the ground yet.

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that front, given her dam acted on soft, and Iffraay’s offspring tends to perform well enough also. Certainly if she can run here to the same sort of level – possibly even a little bit better – than in the May Hill this filly has a much better chance than the odds suggest.

Selection:
10pts win – Powerful Breeze @ 7/1 MB

Winx The Great – But Not The Greatest

 

“Beep, Beep, Beep……” The alarm rings at half past five in the morning – on a Saturday. Autsch!

35 minutes to go until the gates crash open on the other side of the globe: Winx, the Australian wonder mare, is about to bring the house down at Sydney’s Randwick racecourse.

It’s her final final race – number 43, in a career that’s spanning over six years. Quite an astonishing longevity for a horse competing at the highest level of the sport. Even more astonishing: Winx hasn’t lost in 32 consecutive starts.

She’s not letting this one slip – consecutive victory #33. From the widest draw she settles in sixth position, travelling beautifully. The pace isn’t particularly hot, but jockey Hugh Bowman has nothing to fear: three furlongs out he allows Winx to stride on, she’s got to turn four wide, no bother. Once entering the home straight, the star mare hits top gear and sprints home in emphatic fashion.

Impressive: a 25th Group 1 success – no horse won more. Ever. Same goes for the astronomical amount of price money she’s amassed throughout her stellar career.

It was worth getting up early for this wonderful moment of racing history. Winx, now retired, will live on in our memories as one of the great champions of our sport. What she has done, again and again, over such a long period of time – given we know how fragile these creatures are – is simply astonishing.

The Debate: “The Greatest We’ve Ever Seen” ?

Racing fans across the globe arguing for some time about the true merit of her victories. Whether Winx is one of the best – if not even the best ever – or whether she’s merely avoided real competition hence she can’t be “a great”…. the debate is pretty black and white in many quarters.

True, Winx took on the same horses on many occasions. She’s beaten poor Hartnell eight times and Happy Clapper eleven times. We know the competition beyond sprinting trips isn’t quite as deep in Australia as it is in Europe.

Nonetheless, the saying goes: you can only beat what’s put in front of you. And the way she’s done it, backing her performances up on the clock as well, has been pretty sensational.

One number stands out for me: 76 – it’s the number of Group 1 winners she has beaten in her races. It’s hard to argue Winx is not top-class. She is! And with supreme class come expectations that sometimes stay unfulfilled. For example the hope to see her travelling over to Royal Ascot.

I’ve no problem with that. Personally for me it doesn’t diminish her achievements. Seeing them in the right context is vital, though. Because, as mentioned before, the debate tends to be black and white, while the reality rarely is.

In the 2018 Timeform Global Rankings Winx (133) took second place behind Cracksman (134) – there is little evidence to support the notion she’d been worse than that – but also not much better than that – this year. This isn’t a knock on the mighty mare. Winx is a true star of our sport. So is Arc winner Cracksman – greats of their time. But neither is in the category of “the greatest of all time”.

Seeing it this way is a fair and balanced reflection on the achievements of this brilliant mare, in my eyes. It’s what she is – or was; a brilliant, classy and incredibly sound horse, competing at the top level over a variety of trips; outstanding in her part of the world, reigning over any rival who tried to take the crown off her.

Oh so many wonderful moments for the sport of horse racing. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The special bond between horse and human, showing in the affection of the general public for the mare, none more so today at Royal Randwick, where it was – of course – a sellout crowd, and even outside of the racecourse hundreds lined up on the streets lurking through the fences, only to get a glimpse of Winx.

Let’s not argue about good or bad, black and white, best or worst – let’s celebrate the final chapter of a great career of a great mare – Winx, you’re a champion.

…….

Photo Credit: 7HorseRacing

Betting Preview: Champion Stakes

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3.30 Ascot: British Champion Stakes, 1m 2f

On paper this is likely a match between odds-on favourite Cracksman and top rated Crystal Ocean. It’s also the duel of the super sires Frankel vs. Sea The Stars.

Cracksman is the one who’s likely to enjoy the soft going the little more. First time blinkers after a surprising defeat at Ascot when last seen is an interesting move by John Gosden. Personally I judge this as a big minus. One couldn’t help but feel, despite his early season wins, that Cracksman isn’t as good – or shall we rather say focused – as he was last season. The Coronation Cup scare already was a revealing hint, I feel.

On prices I probably would favour Crystal Ocean. He’s 4lb higher rated at the moment. Something to take with a pinch of salt, nonetheless it tells a story of a horse who’s at the top of his game.

In saying that, Crystal Ocean continues to chase the elusive Group 1 victory. While his runner-up performance behind wonder mare Enable at Kempton showed he remains as good as ever, with ground potentially too soft to be ideal and a trip potentially too short to be ideal, I find myself picking plenty of holes not only in to the odds-on favourite, but also the second fancy in the betting.

Capri? An interrupted season, has to be taken seriously still, after a damn good effort in the Arc. He could try to steel the race from the front, utilizing his superior stamina. He’s a fair price, for sure.

However, I’m drawn to a massive long-shot here. Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity, last year’s National Stakes winner. Things didn’t go plan for him afterwards, clearly. And his latest showing in the Irish Champion Stakes is worrisome, despite a more than fair seasonal reappearance weeks earlier.

On the other hand the ground looks ideal for him, unlike at Leopardstown. Whether he can stretch out to 10f on soft going is an entirely different matter. Either way, I feel this lad has a big race in him. Jim Bolger continues to show faith, otherwise he wouldn’t bring him over.

As the only three-year-old in the race at the bottom of the weights, despite a massive price I can see him outrunning this price tag for at least a place.

Selection:
10pts Each/Way – Verbal Dexterity @ 28/1 PP

Preview: Dewhurst Stakes 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile tight finish

Odds-on favourite Too Darn Hot couldn’t have been more impressive in his three career starts. Winning the Champagne Stakes thanks to a deadly turn of foot without making it even remotely look hard work was quite something. He’s hard to oppose on that basis.

On the other hand, analyzing a a metric that I personally hold dearly – time speed ratings – the achievements of those lining up today turn this renewal of the Dewhurst into a more open race than one would have thought, if purely checking the betting market and assessing the left-hand column of the racecard.

Best TS Rating to date: 
Too Darn Hot – 106
Mohawk – 104
Anthony Van Dyck – 103
Advertise – 100

Obviously you can’t take this at face value. There is more to racing and performance. Particularly with these unexposed juveniles, performances can fluctuate, improvement can be sudden and unexpected, also TS ratings depend on circumstances.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting additional layer to interpret performance to date. Certainly what this shows is that TDH is likely to be the best horse in the race on what he’s achieved on the clock to date – but only by a slim margin.

For me the takeaway here is the urge to assess the two O’Brien horses, who ran to career best 103- and 104 TS rating last time out. Anthony Van Dyck’s National Stakes performance certainly rates highly. He’s expected to improve for it and he should make it a race for the favourite. He looks useful type who can progress into a top class individual next year.

In saying that, at given prices, his stable mate Mohawk clearly is a much more interesting individual. Five starts already, he didn’t look anywhere near top level when comprehensively beaten in the Futurity- and National Stakes subsequently.

However, this son of Galileo looked still raw and green to some extend those days. On the other hand, as a January foal, he should be rather forward by now. And he finally turned good last month at Newmarket in the Royal Lodge Stakes.

He looked bigger and better than ever. Granted, it was probably not the strongest of Group 2’s ever ran at HQ, it was still an impressive performance visually, as Mohawk quickened nicely in the closing stages to win a shade cozily. The fact that the visual impression is backed up by the TS rating gives me confidence that this lad has learned and improved, indeed.

The Royal Lodge was over a mile. Dropping back to 7 furlongs, a trip Mohawk was outran in Group company already, isn’t ideal. The rain is coming though, should take the fast out of the ground potentially, and may help to make this race more of a stamina test.

That’s a lot of “could be” and “if’s” to hope for – in saying that, as I am trying to make a case for a 25/1 shot, that’s rather expected. The likely outcome is that Mohawk, with Wayne Lordan in the saddle – which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence – won’t be good enough.

Regardless, the price is too big in a race where we can not predict how these juveniles have progressed since we saw them the last time. Given Mohawk appears to be making significant steps in the right direction I feel he’s got a chance to be competitive today.

Selection:
10pts win – Mohawk @ 25/1 PP

Saturday Selections: September, 7th 2018

Leicester Racecourse home straight

4.15 Haydock: Group 1 Sprint Cup, 6f

Hard to argue against red hot favourite Harry Angel…. if he’s top fit and back to his best. That’s a big if. He’s coming back from an injury here and can easily get fired up. With ground not ideal, I feel he is vulnerable.

That says, he’s the defending champion and won this race last year in similar conditions when quite a few things were staked against him. So he’s the one they all have to beat. What I’m saying is: Harry Angel is beatable here. Certainly at short odds not one to play for me.

Plenty of better options given the odds available here. I’m siding with Jim Crowley’s mount Eqtidaar. An excellent winner of the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot when getting home with a bit to spare despite hanging badly in the final furlong, he looks certainly overpriced here being harshly judged by one poor subsequent outing.

He was comprehensively beaten in the July Cup, so clearly needs to bounce back. But given he showed fine form in his two seasonal starts prior to Royal Ascot could mean Eqtidaar simply had a bad day in the office.

round conditions will be totally different to Ascot. In saying that he has shown to act with cut in the ground. A winner on good to soft and runner-up in the Group 3 Pavilion in Stakes on genuinely soft ground on his seasonal reappearance make me think Eqtidaar is going to be fine.

The draw may not be totally ideal as it may favour those wider drawn given how the race could pan out in these conditions, it’s also where the pace looks like to be. At 28/1 that’s a risk worth taking.

Selection:
10pts win – Eqtidaar @ 26/1 PP/MB

……….

4.50 Haydock: Class 2 Handicap, 5f

Largely consistent top weight Gracious John hasn’t been good in his most recent race but showed multiple times this year already that he is still very competitive in this class and off this type of mark.

He’s been running to higher TS ratings than his current mark in the past and achieved twice this year alone a 93 and 95 TS rating, suggesting he’s as good as ever. Returning to sharp 5f and most importantly with cut in the ground will be a big help for this course and distance winner.

Gracious John has a 40% strike rate in 5f Handicaps, won already two times this year, including a 5f Handicap of a mark off 98 in good to soft conditions. For one who can go forward his draw looks perfect also.

Selection:
10pts win – Gracious John @ 15/2 PP

Saturday Selections: May, 5th 2018

Gleneagles

3.35 Newmarket: 2000 Guineas, 1 mile

You can’t deny the fact he has been massively disappointing in his last two runs, however, there were very valid excuses for Expert Eye to finish last in the Dewhurst when a warm favourite to land it, as well as when a slightly underwhelming runner-up in the Greenham a fortnight ago.

Regardless, Expert Eye possesses tons of talent as he proved in the Vintage Stakes last summer – a Group 2 event he took with so much ease only the really good ones are capable of.

No doubt, his chances hinge on him settling early on. We have seen Expert Eye pulling his chances away before, and if we see the same here, him pulling the arms off Andrea Atzeni over the first few furlongs then his race is over before it really started.

That’s the reason why Expert Eye is as big a price as he is. Still too big, as I trust Sir Michael to teach the horse how to settle and his seasonal debut run should help in that regard as well.

Selection:
10pts win – Expert Eye @ 12/1 VC

…….

6.20 Doncaster: Class 3 Handicap, 1 mile

Some interesting horses at the top of the market, though I do prefer the chance of bottom weight Chingachgook. A son of Eclipse winner Al Kazeem (wonderful memories, I was at Sandown that day to see him romp home), in five career starts he has shown plenty of potential.

After few fine performances on the All-Weather over the winter he made his handicap debut at Newcastle in February – the only time he bombed out up until now. Switched to turf for the first time at the end of March at Musselburgh, Chingachgook returned to form.

In bottomless ground conditions he didn’t have an ideal break from the widest draw and found himself for most parts of the race in the uncomfortable position chasing the pack. That’s never good at Musselburgh, particularly in those type of conditions.

Chingachgook also didn’t get the clearest of runs through the field and the bird was flown once he was in the clear. Still, he ran on well to finish a good second, doing anything as the only horse from those held up. The form has been franked by the winner and fourth subsequently.

Same handicap mark, slightly better ground, upped in grade, however having the chance to race off a featherweight – Chingachgook should be able to outrun his price tag. Whether that is enough to beat the better fancied market principles remains to be seen.

Selection:
10pts win – Chingachgook @ 9/1 WH

Preview – Haydock Sprint Cup

Twilight Son

3.45 Haydock: Sprint Cup (Group 1), 6f

The Sprint Cup is a wide open renewal this year, despite the fact that the last two winner give it another go. The slight ease in the ground may indeed help G Force to find back to something close of his best, but he has been so utterly disappointing this year – it’s hard to fancy him. Gordon Lord Byron is the consistent force he’s ever been. On form he is in with a very fair shout – he’ll be in the shake-up surely but hardly an attractive price.

Adaay is the obvious favourite, though. The three year old has top class form to offer and will relish the conditions. He’s the one to beat. But the most intriguing contender in this field, even more so while being slightly unappreciated in the betting, is scopey Twilight Son.

Unbeaten in four starts, albeit never tested beyond Handicap company, he has made a big impression in his two starts this season, when running out impressive successes at Newmarket and York. Obviously this here is a massive step up in class, however he looks a pattern winner in the making. He has a big, scopey frame; is progressing with each run and it’s fair to assume that we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Twilight Son is pretty ground independent, but potentially will appreciate the drying ground at Haydock. Come race time, there might not be too much soft in the turf any more. He is drawn in five which in theory gives jockey Fergus Sweeney plenty of options.

Twilight Son @ 10/1 VC – 5pts Win