At the start of 2022 flat season I followed the trend of many racing fans and compiled a personal list of Five to Follow for the new season ahead.
It’s December, and the 2022 flat season belongs to the history books – a good time a look back and check how the five horses have fared this year.
Despite the great name and a highly promising debut on the Kempton polytrack that landed him a spot in my list, Aldous Huxley has not quite fulfilled the early promise.
A fine runner-up behind fellow Godolphin colt New London (more on him later) in a Novice event at Newmarket, followed a neck beaten 2nd place finish in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.
Despite enjoying the run of the race, Aldous Huxley wasn’t good enough to win at that level. No surprise, because he never bettered the strong speed rating achieved on debut (90) either, suggesting he wasn’t really an improving sort.
He hasn’t been seen since this run in May and was gelded in the meantime.
It remains to be seen whether he can find improvement as a gelding next year. I would certainly hope so. He was a May foal, and his dam was a late bloomer as well.
Final Official Rating: 101
Best Speed Rating: 90
The David Simmcock trained colt seriously caught the eye when he blasted home in a Newmarket maiden at the backend of the 2021 season.
Unfortunately, he was only seen twice this year. That was at Sandown in the Group 3 Classic Trial. He was a desperately unlucky runner-up behind a certain Westover.
The French Derby and later QEII were targets subsequently, but neither materialised due to injuries. A real shame as he was so impressive on his debut and clearly trained on.
He made a belated comeback on the Kempton polytrack in November where he was a disappointing third of four starters. He travelled sweetly but hang in the closing stages.
I believe he stays in training. At least that’s what the owners mentioned a few months ago. One would hope so. This talented grey deserves a chance to show his very best. And I’d be more than hopeful he’s better than this last run.
Final Official Rating: 108
Best Speed Rating: 78
He made seasonal reappearance at the place that saw him earn a spot in my 5TF list: Newmarket. A good 2nd place behind 2000 Guineas ante-post favourite Native Trail promised something for the season ahead.
The colt, trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam, subsequently finished last in the French Derby, but that was largely down to being drawn in the car park.
However, he then delivered on the big stage, when next seen, as he went wire to wire to win the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.
This remained the highlight of his season as he was soundly beaten in the Group 2 York Stakes the next- and the last time we’ve seen him this year.
Final Official Rating: 111
Best Speed Rating: 89
Without a shadow of a doubt the horse that turned out the best from my 5FT list. It didn’t look like it, initially. Even though, he won at Newmarket on his season debut, a subsequent rather lackluster run in the Chester Vase saw his Derby credentials evaporate.
He dropped into Handicap company the next time, obliged duly, proving to be a pattern horse running in a Handicap. He then went on to land the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood as he stepped up in trip.
He was subsequently installed as the new favourite for the final Classic of the season: the St. Leger at Doncaster.
Going into the Leger as the 11/8 favourite, it was clearly an anti-climax when New London only managed to finish third. He had every chance in the home straight, but wasn’t quite good enough on the day. Perhaps the softish ground wasn’t quite ideal, given his very best performance came in much faster conditions than those present at Doncaster that day.
Final Official Rating: 111
Best Speed Rating: 108
Big things were expected after the Roger Varian trained colt impressed on his sole run as a juvenile. However, he got beaten by over nine lengths on what turned out to be his only start this season, when third of four in the Listed Newmarket Stakes in April.
Connections mentioned they would take their time with this “really nice prospect”. He had subsequent entries at Royal Ascot – the Hampton Court touted as the likeliest race to run in the week leading up to the Royal racing event. He was never seen again, though.
This colt by Sea The Stars was a May foal. I would hope we may see him next year as a 4-year-old. He has been gelded in October, which may be a positive sign for a campaign in 2023.
The first opportunity of Irish Classic glory for fillies looks a wide open affair as 14 go to post at the Curragh this afternoon.
It’s no surprise to see an Aiden O’Brien trained filly heading the betting for an Irish Classic. However, the fact he throws three other fillies into the mix doesn’t scream confidence.
Tuesday, at the time of writing the 11/4 favourite, ran with plenty of credit at Newmarket in the English Guineas, finishing a solid third place behind Cachet, who has franked the form in the meantime. There’s every chance the lightly raced daughter of Galileo will improve.
Yet her career-best topspeed rating of 95 isn’t anything special. Could she meet the same fate as her full-sister Minding, who finished runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016? Well, I think it’s certainly worth to oppose Tuesday today, aynway.
Dermot Weld has a strong chance with Homeless Songs, the winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial. The Frankel daughter produced a nice turn of foot to beat smart runner-up Agartha.
No doubt she can progress and has to be considered a main threat to Tuesday. But to be a true contender she certainly has to improve. At Leopardstown she was a bit slow out of the gates, something you’ll hardly overcome in a Classic; while the performance was visually impressive, the 82 topspeed rating isn’t nearly as impressive.
The aforementioned Agartha was probably a bit unlucky in the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes subsequently. She finished second once again, that day behind History.
History, another filly for Aiden O’Brien, is another obvious improver, who should take another step forward from her really pleasing seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown.
Both fillies – History and Agartha – look solid alternatives to the favourite in my eyes, especially as the stiff Curragh finish should suit them.
William Haggas travels over with his representative Purplepay. She was an excellent third against the boys in the Criterium International when last seen. However, race fitness and most certainly the ground are major question marks for her. It may not be soft enough for her.
Mise En Scene hasn’t been seen since finishing 10th at the Breeders’ Cup. Her Prestige Stakes victory last August would give her a fair form chance to feature today. But hard to gauge what expect from her given she’s been off since November.
I am pretty sweet on the chances of another Aiden O’Brien trained filly: Concert Hall. She has Oaks written all over her, and at first glance a drop to a mile isn’t ideal. But in a Guineas that lacks substance, I feel she’s overpriced.
On pure form terms she has serious claims. She’s also top rated on topspeed – a 97 rating isn’t anything to shout about in top-class company, but that shows the lack of depth in the race today. More importantly though, Concert Hall achieved this career best TS last time out.
The daughter of Oaks winner Was returned as a 3-year-old with a fine victory at Navan last month where she stepped up to 1m 2f for the first time.
Not surprisingly she looked a bit fresh and was pretty keen for the first half of the race, but then travelled strongly on the home straight nonetheless and won in better style than the short winning margin may suggest.
The form has already worked out well, although the caveat is that she simply beat slower horses, given the third has won a Listed race over 1m 5f in the meantime and the fourth a Group 3 over 10 furlongs. Nonetheless, there’s real substance to this form.
Going back to her juvenile season her sixth place finish in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket was better than the bare result, and she was not far behind Cachet and Prosperous Voyage.
Before that she won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes over 7 furlongs at the Curragh, clearly doing her strongest work up the stiff finish at the County Kildare venue.
In my mind this is the key to her chances today: that bit of give in the ground will put additional emphasis on stamina and horses can get really tired when they meet the stiff final furlong finish at the Curragh.
Concert Hall has proven that she has solid cruising speed, so I would not expect her to be seriously outpaced and getting too far behind.
Her future will most likely be over further. Today could simply be a stepping stone toward the Oaks. Aiden O’Brien mentioned this filly thrives on racing. Whether she well and truly enjoys cut in the ground remains to be seen. Others in this field, especially those fillies more at home over a mile may take a big step forward and outpace her.
Those are all dangers. Nonetheless, at given prices she looks significant value in my book given there is solid grounds to believe she will be more than capable to compete in this field at this track over this trip.
A list of horses that caught my eye during the last seven days of racing. These individuals look ready to win a race sooner rather than later.
Main Target 29/04/22 – 7.55 Newcastle:
A touch slow out of the gates, pulled hard in the early stages of the race. Made impressive headway on the outside from 4 furlongs out posting fast sectionals. Contested lead two furlongs from home, then tired in the closing stages and not knocked about.
The way he travelled through the middle part of the race here is evidence that he’s better than the result. It was his first run since being gelded and he dropped down to 6 furlongs as well.
He continues to fall in the ratings, perhaps will do so further. He’s a lovely bred gelding. Even though he’s yet to run fast topspeed ratings I still feel a mark of somewhere around 70 could underestimate him if he can put it all together.
He is still lightly raced enough to hope for better, especially if he steps up in trip. A mile looks highly possible on pedigree. He needs to settle better, though. Headgear would be interesting.
Squeezed right after the start, possibly lit up from the early bump, was keen in phases. Still travelled well enough into the race, albeit away from the pace on the far side where – in my view – it was an advantage to race. In a pocket from three furlongs out, short of room 2 furlongs out. Eased afterwards.
He wasted too much energy early on and raced inefficiently, and wasn’t helped by how the race developed. He is a better colt than this 14/15 finish suggest.
He won the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle in really impressive style on only his second lifetime start after overcoming greenness on debut back in November at Wolverhampton.
Whether he is absolute top-class remains to be seen, but he can win some good races. Perhaps a step up to 10 furlongs would be beneficial, but another try over a mile would be worth a go for the moment, too.
Trais Fluors 30/04/22 – 2.05 Thirsk:
Had to overcome a wide draw and settled in rear after a good start. Travelled well into the home straight behind a wall of horses. Tried to switch to the outside for a clear run from 3 furlongs out but got boxed in. Switched back inside but still no luck. Finished easily on the bridle with seemingly plenty left in the tank.
Was eye-catching last time out at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance when he finished strongly with the fastest final furlong split despite not being overly hard ridden.
The 8-year-old is obviously well in himself and ready for a big run. He’s down to a 87 handicap mark but was able to win of 92 last summer, running to a 91 topspeed rating, which isn’t too far of his best form.
Made good progress throughout travelling notably well for the majority of the race, even though he looked a little bit keen in the first furlong. Was locked behind the leading horses, switched to the inside over one furlong out and finished well despite things being tight. Was the only one making a significant impression from off the pace.
Clear improvement from his seasonal reappearance which was better than the bare form suggest too. He starts to drop toward more realistic handicap marks especially with a claimer in the saddle.
He showed a bit of progress as a juvenile but got injured in August and only returned at Doncaster last month after 267 days off the track. I imagine 5 furlongs will be his optimum. Perhaps the All-Weather could be interesting as he’s a full brother to a Wolverhampton winner over the minimum trip.
Ideally I would love to see a couple pounds off the mark before taking a betting interest in him. A drop in trip and/or switch of surface may also be desired. Regardless, he’s still lightly raced, an April foal and looks one who can still improve.
From her position in midfield toward the far side rail she had to negotiate a lot of traffic from 3 furlongs out, travelling behind a wall of horses. She stuck nicely to the task behind a wall of horses, moved around bravely through tight spaces and finished well giving the impression there as still quite a bit left in the tank.
This was only her second career start as well as her seasonal reappearance after she won on debut last autumn over course and distance. That form was franked by the runner-up Boundless Ocean, who ran last week in the 2000 Guineas.
The filly has been given time and didn’t turn into a Guineas filly as Jessica Harrington hoped she might do, but this highly compelling reappearance over 7 furlongs – a trip possibly a little on the sharp side now – was a great pipe opener and suggested she could be than her opening mark, especially if stepping up to a mile.
Up with the pace early on and seriously keen particularly around the first bend when nearly running away with his jockey having to take a big pull. Comes under pressure from three furlongs out but is a clear run denied to move forward and as a consequence loses his position. Finishes visually well while tenderly handled in the final furlong.
He won last year of a mark of 56 over 7 furlongs, was subsequently placed of 9lb higher. Starts to drop down in the ratings to what could soon be a really good mark.
Especially if he can find a little bit improvement for going up in trip. A mile looks quite possible on pedigree. I’ll be interested if he drops below 60 in the rating and tackles the mile for the first time, ideally not on fast ground, though.
He travelled in rear off the pace where the race would eventually develop thanks to slow early fractions. As the pace increased entering the home straight he got outpaced and looked bound for finishing last. Found another gear late to finish much the strongest visually and backed up by sectionals.
This was a clear return to form after a number of rather poor showings. He performed still quite strongly last year, won of a mark of 67, was placed of 72 and ran to topspeed 73.
Slowly comes down to a fair mark again. All his best form is over 6 furlongs, hence recent runs over 7f have to be seen in that context. It may take one or two more runs, but if he drops to a mark of 67 or lower again, over 6f, and ideally with a bit of cut in the ground, he’ll be of high interest.
Swerved right off the gates, settled in final third but didn’t seem to travel overly well early on in a tight field. Got squeezed and hampered from 3f out an, as many did in a finish that had more to do with bumper car racing than horse racing.
Eventually found a way out with less than two furlongs to go, having to take the scenic route around the entire field on the outside. He still encountered trouble all the way to the line. The fact he finished so well in fourth despite all the trouble is noteworthy.
He was out of the weights here which shows how far he’s fallen as a result of poor form this year. However, there are mitigating factors as he’s never done much on the All-Weather and sprint trips are too sharp these days.
He won of a mark of 47 over 10 furlongs last year, running to topspeed 50. I would argue this most recent performance suggests he’s capable to run to a similar level of form. I wouldn’t be interested in him over shorter than a mile. Anything up to 10f, ideally on fast ground and perhaps a good apprentice on board will be intriguing.
He didn’t look entirely straightforward throughout, perhaps not quite enjoying the track, but also showed keenness in the early stages. Travelled well enough in the middle part but was locked on the inside in a disadvantaged position.
Racing room only opened up late in the home straight. Finished well eventually without being beaten up. He was chanceless with the winner but a lot can be attested to his racing position I feel.
He was a busy enough juvenile showing promise over 6 furlongs, although I feel he can improve going up in trip. The way he finished here in soft conditions supports the idea. He’s got to improve, though, if he wants to be competitive in Handicap company of his current mark or perhaps Listed level.
Cut in the ground seems key to him. Goin up in trip – I envision a mile to be ideal – will make him interesting for me, but his tendency to pull is a concern. Not one I’d be keen to back at short prices.
Bumped heavily right after the start. As a consequence possibly lit up. Never travelled overly well in rear on the inside then, also looked still green, raw and unsure of his job.
Hang around the home turn and hit a flat spot over 2 furlongs out. Once in the clear and asked for full effort the penny dropped and he ran home much the strongest with the fastest last 2 furlong splits without being fully pushed out in the final half furlong.
He’s obviously got a bit of talent but appears to be a tricky customer as well who has still plenty to learn. First-time visor seemed to help in the closing stages. This was his first handicap start and try over 7 furlongs, also second up from a break and gelding operation.
He cost some decent money as a yearling and fetched €115k at a breeze up, likely down to his excellent breeding and being a full-brother to Group 1 placed Rhythm Dancer.
As much as it seems obvious that he is better than a 59 rating, he’s also clearly not a pattern performer. Nonetheless, with experience he should improve significantly. He finished well enough to suggest stamina for 7 furlongs isn’t an issue.
A mouthwatering prospect. The champion two-year-old versus the ante-post Derby favourite. But there’s more to it. A number of highly promising colts line up for the first Classic of the new flat season.
#1 – Berkshire Shadow: won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. Found out in the Dewhurst Stakes. Dwelt in majority of his races. I am not sold on the mile trip.
#2 – Boundless Ocean: won a maiden earlier this month, albeit over 10 furlongs. Most likely has a future beyond a mile.
#3 – Checkandchallenge: fine winner of the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle recently. Has more to offer on only his third run. Proven match fitness. Has loads to find on topspeed ratings, though.
#4 – Coroebus: a lot of hype about him. Justified? We’ll see. Won the Group 3 Autumn Stakes when last seen. Possibly unlucky in Royal Lodge Stakes. Achieved fine 91 and 96 topspeed ratings. My feeling is he’ll be much better beyond a mile. Course form is a big plus.
#5 – Dubawi Legend: quite experienced with 4 lifetime starts. Dewhurst runner-up. Failed to land a blow at the Breeders Cup. Needs to settle to have a chance over a mile. Tongue-tie fitted for the first time.
#6 – Eydon: race fitness assured after two runs this season. Impressive runaway winner of the Feilden Stakes three weeks ago. May need more of a stamina test when racing at the highest level. Low topspeed ratings are a question mark.
#7 – Light Infantry: unbeaten in two runs as a juvenile, including Group 3 over 7 furlongs. Open to improvement but needs to find loads of it to feature.
#8 – Lusail: precocious as a 2-year-old. Twice Group 2 winner over six furlongs. Fine runner-up in the Geenham Stakes on seasonal reappearance. Questionable stayer.
#9 – Luxembuorg: unbeaten top-class juvenile. Impressive winner of the Beresford Stakes and Grade 1 Futurity Trophy. Already ran to 100 and 102 topspeed ratings. He’s the Derby favourite. Most likely his optimum trip lies beyond a mile. Race fitness and whether he has the speed on fast ground over a mile against the very best are key questions.
#10 – Native Trail: unbeaten champion two-year-old. Impressive Dewhurst winner and excellent successful seasonal reappearance in the Craven Stakes recently. Sets the standard on form. Consistently fast and high-class performances. Ran three times to topspeed 100.
#11 – Perfect Power: two-times Group 1 winner as a juvenile, including the Middle Park. Brilliant comeback run in the Greenham. Achieved highest topspeed rating in this field (105). Stamina is a concern. He looks like a sprinter. 7 furlongs could be the maximum.
#12 – Point Lonsdale: experienced and progressive juvenile. Won four of five last year, only beaten by Native Trail in the National Stakes. Should improve for going up in trip. Career-highest 90 TS means he has a bit to find at this stage.
#13 – Royal Patronage: ran down Coroebus in the Royal Lodge last year. Possible excuses in Futurity Stakes. Should have more to offer, albeit likely needs a longer trip. Could make this a stamina test to suit himself if going hard from the front.
#14 – Tacarib Bay: only win came in a maiden in three starts. Solid runner-up in the European Free Handicap. Could improve if he stays the additional furlong. Has tons to find with better fancied horses, though.
#15 – The Wizard Of Eye: some solid runs in defeat in Group races but ultimately not good enough even on Group 3 level. Impossible to fancy.
I may eat my words in a few hours time if I say this: this edition of the 2000 Guineas is a two-horse race.
Native Trail and Luxembourg should lead the way home. Saying that the X-factor could be Perfect Power. If the pace is somehow slow enough for the race to become a sprint home and/or he truly stays the trip no matter what, he’s obviously highly dangerous.
What a about Coroebus? I don’t buy the hype (yet). Charlie Appleby’s second string is obviously a talented colt. But I reckon he will be a much better horse over 10 furlongs (being fully aware there are contrasting opinions available).
In theory the same could be said about Luxembourg. There is a major difference, though: Coroebus didn’t crack the 100 topspeed barrier last year. He has the potential, I’m sure about it. Yet, he didn’t do it last year and with the question mark whether the mile truly brings out the best in him, he slips down the packing order for me.
Perfect Power is most likely the fastest horse in the race. Judged on juvenile form he certainly is, in fact. As much as I adore this colt, he looks a sprinter to my eyes, nonetheless.
A good case can be made for Point Lonsdale to be competitive. Despite ample racing experience as a juvenile, I feel he can still improve this season. Especially tackling the mile trip. Whether he is quite in the category of the market principles is hard to know at this stage.
On paper there is not much between Native Trail and Luxembourg. What speaks for the Godolphin horse is match fitness and that he encounters perhaps his ideal scenario: 8 furlongs, Rowley Mile. I agree with the market in so far as he’s the most likely winner.
And yet I feel Luxembourg is the much stronger bet with more upside. He had two runs less than native Trail last year and comes fresh to Newmarket. The factors experience and race fitness count against him, but are possibly overrepresented in his price.
The other factor that drives his price is the notion that he’s the Derby favourite and as a son of Camelot sure to do his best work beyond the mile trip. Nonetheless, Luxembourg was mightily impressive over a mile in his three lifetime starts.
He also achieved topspeed ratings that match Native Trail. In fact his Beresford Stakes victory earned him a 102 TS rating, which is better than Native Trail’s best of 100. It’s fair to say there is every possibility Native Trail can run much faster when needed, of course. The same can be said about Luxembourg as well.
Watch the replay of the Curragh race and you see a horse as green as the Irish grass in spring. Luxembourg followed up in the Futurity Stakes. He quickened nicely in soft ground on the outside of the field despite racing without cover for the most part, and held the challengers with ease in the closing stages.
I am pretty certain Luxembourg is the most talented horse in this field. The only question mark is how much have team Ballydoyle left to work with the Derby probably the key target. I am prepared to take the risk.
An exciting rematch: the best three-year-old fillies battle it out over the mile as the first three home in the Coronation Stake go head-to-head.
Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Royal Ascot race, firmly putting stamina doubts to rest as she stormed home in desperate conditions.
The daughter of No Nay Never clearly confirmed all the promise she showed as a juvenile, having won two of her three starts this season, with the only blip coming in the ultra-competitive 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
As impressive as her Ascot performance was, ground conditions will be completely different today. She has solid form on a faster surface also, nonetheless that is a question mark.
Connections of Snow Lantern had every right to feel a little bit unlucky after the grey didn’t get quite a clear run in the closing stages at Royal Ascot. She clearly settled much better than when beaten as odds-on favourite at York a few weeks earlier, though, and that gave her a chance to finish fast in the end.
Her talent was never in doubt, though, and the supremely well-bred Snow Lantern is still open to any amount of improvement.
The same could be said about Primo Bacio, who got the better of Snow Lantern at York. She quickened in visually impressive manner, following-up on an eye-catching seasonal debut performance in the Fred Darling Stakes.
Can she step up to Group 1 level? We’ll find out today. As visually arresting her last run was, on topspeed ratings she has plenty to find with the market principles.
Aiden O’Brien throws only one dart today. His 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth finished 3rd in the Coronation Stakes and was also a fine runner-up in the French Guineas before that.
She was an excellent juvenile but has stepped up as a three-year-old again and represents consistency of the highest order. She lost nothing in defeat at Royal Ascot. In fact, in my view, she enhancer her claims to be considered the favourite today.
Mother Earth clearly benefited from better ground at Newmarket, and it’s only down to her class that she performs nearly as well on slow going. As impressive as Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern appeared visually in the Coronation Stakes, Mother Earth’s finishing speed % was actually better that day.
Flying the flag for the older generation is Duke Of Cambridge Stakes winner Indie Angel. Although that is good form and she won well, she is well exposed and probably a league below the required standard in order to feature against the strong classic generation.
Lady Bowthorpe was runner-up that day and her consistency gives her a chance on any given day. Nonetheless, she has something to find with the market principles.
Perhaps the dark horse is who could spring a surprise, given her 20/1 price tag, is the Joseph O’Brien trained Pretty Gorgeaus. I feel it’s too early to say she hasn’t trained on after two starts in heavy conditions this year.
it was certainly an improved showing at Royal Ascot, where she can be marked up given she was tracking a fast pace while the first three home were all ridden with a bit more restraint.
In conclusion: There is little to chose between the market principles in terms of form. If Alcohol Free or Snow Lantern can improve again remains to be seen. They will have to, though, as I strongly fancy Mother Earthto run a massive race on the better ground. Given current odds she is overpriced at 6/1+.
2.40 York: G3 Summer Stakes, 6f
A quick selection to throw in here as Last Empire looks a silly price in a wide open race. She has to give weight away and was beaten by Light Refrain earlier this year and was bitterly disappointing when last seen.
Nonetheless, if you can forgive her Haydock run, then she is one the more consistent fillies and mares in this race, and one of the few who has multiple times ran fast enough – judged by topspeed ratings – to feature prominently in a race of this class.
Last Empire has ran multiple times to 90+ topspeed ratings, and her Kilvington Stakes runner-up performance back in May saw her clock a 96 rating once again, showing she is still capable to run a a high level.
The drift in her price is a worry, yet 20/1+ on offer is a silly price which I can’t let go.
Only four runners. Yet the 2021 edition of the Coral Eclipse could easily turn out to be the race of the season. Three colts rated over 120 and the combined class of nine Group 1 victories!
Top rated Addeybb is back on home soil after yet another successful raid on the other side of the world, where he landed the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia.
It was a dramatic finish as he never gave up in first-time blinkers, answering the challenges from all sides to defend his crown.
The 7-year-old also won the British Champion Stakes in brilliant style last year. There are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon.
The only potential question mark – and that is being overly picky – is whether the ground is soft enough for Addeybb to produce his very best – which certainly will be required this afternoon.
Mishriff was a long way beaten in the 2020 British Champion Stakes, though I feel you can excuse that performance. Particularly given the fact the the four-year-old has only enhanced his claims ever since thanks to some brilliant victories on the international stage.
He got it done on dirt against strong US competition and followed up on turf in the Sheema Classic success at Meydan earlier this year. Mishriff, one could argue, is perhaps the best horse in the world right now.
The 2020 French Derby winner has shown an incredible versatility and ground independence, therefore won’t mind whatever way the ground this afternoon at Sandown.
Ballydoyle’s hopes rest on a single horse: French Guineas and Derby winner St Mark’s Basilica. Last years Dewhurst winner delivered a first Prix du Jockey Club for trainer Aiden O’Brien last month. Visually it was super impressive performance – although the strengths of the form could be questions.
Nonetheless, he clearly enjoyed the step up in trip that day as he travelled all over the field, still very much on the bridle two furlongs from home, and put the race to bed in a matter of strides then.
St Mark’s Basilica achieved a 106 topspeed rating at Chantilly that day, a career best that is also closely matched with the 107 rating Mishriff was awarded for his Sheema Classic victory.
Roger Varian’s colt El Drama completes the four-runner field. But it’s hard to see the Dee Stakes winner landing a blow against the big guns, given he has at least 11lb to find with them on official ratings.
In conclusion: There is little to chose between the trio of St Mark’s Basilica, Mishriff and Adeybb. What tilts the scale in favour of the three-year-old St Mark’s Basilica -at least in my mind – is the 10lb weight-for-age allowance.
There is a good reason why it’s there. Yet, the Aiden O’Brien trained colt is certainly top-class and this significant weight allowance is a rather huge help against his elders. Hence, St Mark’s Basilica is my selection to win the 2021 Coral-Eclipse.
The Irish 1000 Guineas will rise and fall with the Jessica Harrington trained Albigna. The only top-level winner in the field has the best form in the book and will be hard to beat with natural improvement.
Albigna’s victory in the Prix Marcel Boussac is the strongest form on offer from last year – by far! Not to forget the classy filly was far from disgraced in the Moyglare or the Breeders’ Cup.
In a weak Guineas field there is no denying that she holds all the aces. The equation is a simple one: if the daughter of Zoffany can run to her juvenile form then she is more than likely to run away with the race this evening.
However – and I may repeat myself in all these Guineas previews over the last week – Albigna is an experienced individual, who saw a racecourse for the first time in May last year. There is every possibility that she was simply ahead of her rivals in terms of mind and body.
And given that the Guineas is held a month later than it usually is, there is a danger that others have been able to catch up with time and age on their side. In saying that that I also feel odds around 2/1 are entirely fair, if not even a tad generous.
Aiden O’Brien appears to have weaker hand than usual in the 1000 Guineas. None of his three fillies tasted success on Group level yet – that is rather unusual. But the lightly raced Peaceful may well be the biggest danger to Albigna I feel, as she caught my eye on a number of occasions last year and she could have any amount of improvement to come.
The most intriguing filly in my eyes, though, seems to be completely overlooked: that is the Michael Halford trained Ridenza. She is a huge price in a race that lacks depth.
The one-time raced Sea The Stars daughter is tremendously well bred, given her dam is the 2014 Debutante winner Raydara. She will probably stay further than the Guineas trip but makes appeal over a mile as well, certainly at the current price.
Ridenza lacks experience. She made a winning debut at Leopardstown in a seven furlong maiden last August and was put away ever since, not helped by an injury she sustained.
That piece of form looks strong: the fourth placed Lemista won a Group 3 earlier this year and the 9th of that race, Peaceful, won a Listed contest and is the 3/1 second favouite today.
In fairness, the Aiden O’Brien filly got a very light ride that day and looked to have tons left. Nonetheless it was really positive sign that Ridenza was able to win on debut, overcoming plenty of greenness over a trip that is possibly on the sharp side.
Trainer Michael Halford noted after the race that this was indeed Ridenza’s very first time away from home and even the first time of her tasting turf. He also mentioned that she has plenty of growing to do, which was probably the reason why we didn’t see her again as a juvenile.
He also described her as “a smart filly, very well bred and she’s always shown plenty at home” in addition to being quite hopeful that there is much more to come when she turns three.
Obviously there is a reason why Ridenza is a 18/1 chance today: how has she wintered? Has she trained on? Is she ready to go? is she over the injury? Is the trip potentially too sharp?
But at the same time, given her fantastic pedigree, that points to excellent form over the shorter distances as well, I’m inclined to give her a better chance than the odds suggest.
10pts win – Ridenza @ 18/1
Siskin Delight in Irish 2000 Guineas
It was an incredible victory for Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas last night. The favourite did it the hard way, having to fight for a gap to get out late and thunder home, beating the Aiden O’Brien “football team”.
If you read my race preview you know I had major doubts about his ability to stay the trip as well as actually being good enough as a three-year-old. He proved all doubters wrong. How well Siskin stayed the Curragh mile and ran strongly to the line, no care in the world for the uphill finish?!
There was a lot of love for Ger Lyons as well. For him it was a very first domestic Classic success. A man who always speaks so well, who is open and honest with the public, it was wonderful to see the man reduced to tears in the post-race interview.
Well, I didn’t have much love for Love leading up to the 1000 Guineas and made that pretty clear in my preview when highlighting her lack of a top-class speed rating as well as the many opportunities she had to produce one. Concluding with the final assessment: “she isn’t good enough”. Some things don’t age well.
One had to love her willing attitude, though. Relentless galloping from the start, never too far off the pace, albeit drawn away from it and racing on the outside of the field wasn’t the most economical thing to do.
Ryan Moore kept it simple and that paid off for a filly bound to stay further. She was going away from her rivals in the final 100 yards, winning with authority in the end.
Albeit I maintain that this wasn’t a particularly good renewal. It’s one we’ll forget nearly as quickly as it took the fillies to finish the eight furlongs of the Rowley Mile.
Love showed little love for my selections. In fact she broke the heart of Cloak Of Spirits when finally passing her half a furlong from the finish. The big filly ran on for second place, but as I backed her win only at 17’s on the Exchanges, that was of no no help from a betting perspective. Raffle Prize was beaten halfway through the race.
Moving forward I won’t post selections on a (near-) daily cadence throughout the flat season as done over the last years here with relative success.
Time doesn’t allow for it as life is really busy and analysing the racing in the way I need to in order to continue making a profit is time consuming alone, plus the added strain of actually finding places to get a sizable stake on in the races that I tend to bet in.
I want to keep focusing more on quality content as (hopefully) seen over the last week already. In saying that here and there I’ll send out a selection if I have enough time and found one I really want to share with the wider world.
4.25 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f
Hot race. Plenty of handicap debutants who also step up in trip. The majority have a fair chance to improve quite a bit for age and distance. You never know what you get in these races, who has trained on, who’s 100% ready and who’s truly well handicapped.
Yet I firmly believe Alargedram has a tremendous chance to land a first career victory. An opening mark of 72 could easily turn out to be lenient for this son of Lope De Vega who’s out of a mare who was listed placed over 1m 2f.
He caught my eye on two occasions last year in what appeared decent races. Particularly the Wolverhampton one looks solid, given those ahead of him that day are now rated in the 80’s and followed up with decent performances.
He ran on well under a light ride that day on the wide outside. I also thought he finished with plenty of credit on his final start at Windsor, when the going was pretty deep and he didn’t seem to enjoy that too much, yet finishing well enough. In all three starts he received rather sympathetic or educational rides in my view.
Alargedram looks a big boy with plenty of scope ready to improve rapidly now upped in trip. The fact connections paid 75k for him as 2-year-old after he was only a ten grand yearling shows he has improved quite a bit from what was originally thought of him.
That matches a comment the owners made some months ago, suggesting they think he’s going to be much better than his opening mark. I think so too. Ground will be fine, trip is good – only the wide draw is a slight concern, whether he will get a clear run in a field with twelve runners.
This years renewal doesn’t appear to be a “vintage Guineas”. However, that makes the contest quite an intriguing one, with so many fillies having so many questions to answer.
The betting is headed by a filly that’ll be outpaced four furlongs out and will struggle to finish fast enough in the end. In saying that I really do think Quadrilateral is a poor favourite and I am more than happy to take her on.
Her Fillies’ Mile victory is clearly a fine piece of form in the context of the Guineas but one had to be blind not to see that she needed every inch of the eight furlongs that day, not to forget on good to soft ground.
She is hardly getting any faster; in fact she is a fine prospect once she steps up in trip and probably more an Oaks contender than a solid Guineas favourite, but certainly an outstanding prospect for Group 1 races over ten furlongs.
Only a few fillies in this field have achieved a topspeed rating of 100 or more. That is disappointing and only proves the point that this year isn’t the strongest 1000 Guineas we have ever seen.
On the other hand, as mentioned in the 2000 Guineas preview, the fact that we’re four weeks behind the usual schedule will surly help those fillies that need time to mature, which in turn means there is the possibility for a big improver turning all the known form on its head.
I have little love for the Aiden O’Brien trained Love to be the one. Seven starts, beaten in four of them, only a career-high topspeed rating of 93 to show – she isn’t good enough.
Millisle has attracted a lot of positive quotes over the recent days and weeks. And rightly so. Her Cheveley Park Stakes success rates top of the queue. Given she is a late May foal you would hope for more improvement this year.
Stamina is the key question, as for many in the race today. She won twice over five furlongs. She has tons of speed. The pedigree gives some hope that she can stay the mile. In my book she is, with this benefit of the doubt, the filly to beat. At given prices she is too short for me to back, though.
The two I like in this field have both plenty to prove. There is the speedy Raffle Prize. It’s fair to say she has the best juvenile form in the book.
Runner-up against the boys in a strong Prix Morny, plus a subsequent runner-up performance in the Cheveley Park Stakes, plus two Group 2 successes early in the season – she achieved consistently high topspeed ratings, including twice of 100+ as well.
Obviously stamina is a massive question for a filly with so much speed. Her sire Slade Power was a classy sprinter but his offspring has done alright over the mile so far: a 12.6% strike rate reads decent enough. The dam side gives a bit hope too, so do the comments from the Johnston yard and the fact she is an April foal with scope.
The other one I like to outrun expectations, certainly judged by the market as a guide, is Richard Hannon’s Cloak Of Spirits. She was highly impressive on debut, subsequently disappointed in the May Hill Stakes, but really ran well in the Rockfel Stakes, when she also achieved a 97 topspeed rating, which in the context of the 1000 Guineas looks good form.
She is expected to progress as a three-year-old, boosts a scopey physique and has a fair chance to stay the distance. Richard Hannon is quite bullish about her chances as well. Not that I take too much note of that usually, nonetheless it’s a bonus if connections are keen and positive on an individual that you expect to progress anyway.
Her best form from last year isn’t far away from the best form of the market principles. So with more to come from her potentially, she is quite a massive price in comparison.
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
Eight of the first twenty pages on @RacingPost paper today were advertising . It’s a bit disappointing considering its £3.90
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.