A disappointing Saturday. Gioia Cieca and Stay Smart finished 2nd, after they briefly appeared to go one better. Ultimately, both beaten fair and square.
Madame Fenella ran no race after missing the break and both Waipiro and Artistic Star had practically no chance from their position at the back of the field in the Derby.
3.05 Chantilly: Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club, 1m 2.5f
Of course I must back Continuous here. He’s one of my 3-year-olds to follow and certainly one of the more intriguing ones. And how could it be any different with his pedigree.
A son of Japanese sire Heart’s Cry – who was a winner of the Sheema Classic in 2006 – out of Fluff, which was down to pure chance because the mare was supposed to be covered by Deep Impact, who sadly passed away right before she arrived in Japan.
Continues is the only son of Heart’s Cry actively racing in the UK and Ireland (possibly Europe) right now. His sire is well known for stamina in Japan, having sired Japan Cup winners and other multiple international top-class horses over middle-distance.
He won well at the Curragh over 7 furlongs when he made all on his racecourse debut as he kicked on over 2 furlongs out to achieve an 80 speed rating as well, which confirmed he’s possibly a smart one.
Continuous went on to win a Group 3 at Saint-Cloud over a mile. A gutsy performance in a slowly run race that didn’t suit him. I loved the attitude he showed in those first two career runs.
He made his seasonal reappearance in a hot Dante Stakes at York where he ran a lovely race. There were some questions over his fitness: he was supposed to start much earlier, but Aiden O’Brien is on the record that he needed time.
The money came right before the off and he travelled strongly, made good progress in the home straight and finished a good 3rd. He ran to a 99 speed rating. Solid enough, and he’ll have a cracking chance to land a Group 1 if he can, as one would expect, can improve for the rn.
There’s clearly more to come, especially as he didn’t have an ideal first half of the year. It’s all the more impressive that he ran so well in the Dante.
He strikes me as a relentless galloper, who shouldn’t have too many issues at Chantilly, given his #1. If he can move forward to track the pace, he could be in an ideal position to strike. The trip isn’t a worry at all after he showed stamina at York.
10pts win – Continuous @ 4/1
3.15 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 8.5f
Something was clearly amiss with Eponina the last time. She was well backed but beaten way too early to make sense, especially after she showed a different face at Beverley less than a fortnight earlier.
Perhaps that race came too soon in deep ground at Leicester. She had three weeks to recover and returns to Nottingham where she is a multiple CD winner, also has done it on fast ground, and she came agonisingly close to add a third CD success last June in a similar Fillies’ race, however off 6lb higher.
She’s down to 64 now. That’s still not a ton in hand judged on all her more recent efforts. But she ran to consistently solid speed ratings in two of her last three runs, to suggest she’s still close enough to last summers form.
There is little other pace to fear here, so she may be able to stride on. If allowed a soft lead she should have enough in hand to win.
10pts win – Eponina @ 11/2
3.45 Nottingham: Class 2 Handicap, 8.5f
Greatgadian dropped down an intriguing 96 mark on the back of a disappointing effort at Newmarket – on paper disappointing, at least.
I thought he ran a huge race against the pace and draw bias in that race, as nothing from the far side featured in the finish. He also was short of room over two furlongs out, after travelling strongly, ensuring he had zero chance.
He clearly confirmed the promise shown in the Lincoln, as well as over the winter on the All-Weather. Especially his Lincoln run was eyecatching as well, as he had to make a huge effort on the wide outside of the field.
The better going this time should suit, so does the 8.5f trip. Greatgadian’s sole turf victory came over this course and distance at Nottingham on fast ground back in summer 2021.
Even though his record reads better on the sand, his record on grass is good as well. He ran two excellent races in hot Handicap company at Ascot, including a 98 speed rating off a 101 mark in the Shergar Cup mile.
The wide draw is a small concern here. But ground, trip and track are perfect. This looks a winnable race off a 96 mark.
Age Of Sail was a very easy winner on Friday. He always did enough in front, or perhaps only as much as needed, because the rest of the field was kept napping in behind, allowing him an easy lead.
The other two selections from Friday provided a set of mixed emotions: Azaim ran a huge race for 3rd place despite a drift to 28/1 SP. He ran well to the line, and I can take some joy from seeing him outrunning his price. In truth: he was not good enough to win, though.
Capofan was the disappointment of the day. I’d fancy him to go seriously close, despite double-figure odds. But he wasn’t the sharpest away from the gate was beaten at the halfway stage.
All in all, another green day regardless how small the profit. Two days, two winners for June. No complaints.
1.30 Epsom: Group 1 Derby, 1m 4f
A wide open Derby. A puzzle to solve without a “good thing” to back. The Derby this year lends itself for a big price to cause an upset, I feel.
It’s hard to have confidence in the long-time ante-post favourite Auguste Rodin. A classy juvenile, but his poor Guineas performance raises plenty of questions. Sure, he had some excuses that day. Valid ones. But it’s far from an ideal prep.
Military Order is a stronger choice, in my view. He’s got the credentials as a brother of Adayar and he was impressive when he kicked clear in the Derby Trial at Lingfield, albeit on the All-Weather.
But like many in this field today, lingering doubts hang over his suitability for fast ground. The same could be said about Arrest or Sprewell, two who I would find of great interest with any ease in the ground.
White Birch is one who has shown to handle fast ground at York. That forms ties in with The Foxes, the winner of the Dante. Both ran good speed ratings and are prime contenders, if they handle Epsom and the new trip.
The two I feel are severely overpriced in this wide open Derby have their own questions to answer: Waipiro for one – runner-up behind Military Order in the Derby Trial.
He fell away in the final half furlong, but I feel the fact he raced closer to the pace and did more in the fast half of the race could be a fair reason for that. He still ran a superb race.
That performance confirmed his strong Newmarket victory on his seasonal reappearance. He wasn’t expected that day and may have surprised connections, but travelled and kicked on like a colt of significant talent.
He ran to a 97 speed rating at Lingfield, which gives him a fair shot to run well in a Derby. obviously more is needed, and he seems to hit the ground hard as well, so I have questions over his suitability for fast ground.
Whether he stays the trip is another question. He’s a half-brother to one who finished 3rd in a Chester Plate over extended 2 miles. So there’s well grounded hope. In any case, he has talent and his form is good enough to give him a shot at outrunning his odds today.
The other one I’m intrigued about is Artistic Star. He won quite well on his racecourse debut last October. The attitude he showed to keep going all the way to the line was impressive. So was his debut speed rating of 87. Sings of a potentially smart colt.
The notion that is his a smart colt indeed received another boost when he returned at Sandown last month and won going away in the closing stages, answering every call and responding well to pressure. He improved on his debut speed rating also.
He looks like he would definitely enjoy the Derby trip and as a full-brother to two smart ones (both won Group 3) that won over the distance, he shouldn’ have a problem at all.
He’s another one who has doubts over his suitability for fast ground, though. His two career runs came on softish ground. Though, full-sister Forbearance won the Group 3 Royal Staked over 12f on fast ground. His action seems fluid and the knee action isn’t too pronounced.
Clearly he’s been incredibly progressive in his two career runs and deserves a chance to run in a Derby. He can progress again, and if he does act on the ground and track he should be a huge runer.
Gioia Cieca had a troubled run last time at York in a seriously hot Handicap. He didn’t seem to travel overly well and lost ground, before getting stuck behind horses in the home straight and impeded. He fell away rapidly in the last two furlongs.
There’s a danger that he hasn’t recovered from two big efforts in April as it looked like he found form again after a break, where he was gelded and underwent a wind operation.
I’m prepared to ignore the last effort as it simply didn’t seem to be his day at York. However, judged on the first two efforts this season, over this course and distance at Musselburgh, he should be seriously competitive off a lowered mark.
Back off his break in April Musselburgh, off for 235 days, he caught the eye for the way he finished after a less than ideal way the race developed for him from the start.
He was desperately unlucky next time over the same course and distance and that performances warranted an upgrade as the one before, especially as both runs came on softish ground.
No doubt Gioia Cieca is a better horse on decent ground. His two best career performances can on fast ground over 7 furlongs. Therefore the ground should be ideal here today, in what is a wide open contest
10pts win – Gioia Cieca @ 9/1
4.50 Musselburgh: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
Stay Smart could be quite well handicapped today in conditions to suit and a race that looks quite winnable.
He showed a clear return to form last time out at Ayr when he raced from the front and also achieved a good speed rating, the best in over 1.5 years.
That day he moved quickly forward and led the field at a good pace. He travelled well and found plenty for pressure from 2f out. Ultimately he was only beaten inside the final furlong by two ridden with more restraint.
Stay Smart had a tough time since losing his form in early 2022. He changed yards, tumbled down the weights and has been gelded and had a wind operation. He appears to be in good shape now, though, and is dangerous off his current rating.
His best performances on speed ratings are mainly over 6 furlongs, but he won over the minimum trip as well, ideally on fast ground and a fast pace to chase over 5f. That should be the case here. The 3lb of Mark Winn are the cherry on the cake.
10pts win – Stay Smart @ 9/2
5.40 Doncaster: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
Madame Fenella is a filly in serious form. Her last three runs were strong and the way she finished indicated her day to shine is near.
She caught the eye at Bath on her seasonal debut when she finished best from the back of the field and wide draw. It was awkward start for her, as can be often the case, she also wore a hood to post; she’s tricky as the past tells.
Nonetheless, she travelled well and did seriously well to finish as close as she did from her wide draw. She didn’t have the speed over 5f at Wolverhampton the next time, though it was a fine performance, which she confirmed once more with an eyecatching run at Haydock the last time.
That run is the strongest indication for her wellbeing. It was a deep race, the winner well handicapped, and se didn’t get the clearest of runs, but she finished once again with zest.
The filly had limited opportunities on turf in handicap company. Her Ascot run from last September noteworthy. She’s intriguing as she drops down to class 6 on turf, especially on fast ground over 6 furlongs.
Good start to June: Flying Secret got there just in time as he caught he long-time leader.
It was a confident, patient ride by Charlie Bishop, who didn’t panic when the leader established a healthy advantage. The on-screen sectionals said it was a red hot pace, so the front-runner was always going to tire badly, eventually.
The 8/1 SP was no good to me, as always. I felt 11/2 was big value if he is allowed to run on merit, and so it proved to be. Happy enough.
It could have been a super day. Victors Dream was only beaten in a photo. He didn’t have any excuses, though, and every chance to win. It’s always unfortunate to lose in a photo, but these things tend to even itself out over time.
2.50 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
Two I like here: Stormy Pearl is sure to do better in this easier race on fast ground. So should Capofan, who is too well-handicapped to leave unbacked as he drops in trip.
Hence she’s the one I go for, as Stormy Pearl may have another day in her when she’s better to catch.
Capofan was a serious eyecatcher three weeks ago Musselburgh where she took quite a grip for the majority of the race. She clearly did way too much, especially around the home bend.
Nonetheless she made a huge move from 4f out to get to the leaders challenge them in the home straight, before she fell away in the closing stages.
She’s still a maiden and not one to trust too much, as she didn’t achieve a good speed rating yet. However, she seems to cry out for a drop in trip and decent ground should suit as well.
I feel she’s dangerous off a career-lowest mark an may found the ideal opportunity to get off the mark.
10pts win – Capofan @ 10/1
3.25 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f
I backed Azaim the last time which was an incredibly disappointing run when he was beaten before the race got hot. I’m prepared to forgive the performance because Catterick is a specialist track and the application of the hood seemed to backfire as well.
He gets another chance over 6 furlongs, though, which I think is ideal, especially based on his eyecatching run at Musselburgh last month where heshowed plenty of speed in the middle of the race but fell away rapidly from over 2f out.
He can be sluggish at the start, which he was last time but also at Musselburgh. With the difference at Musselburgh he was able to overcome it and then set a red hot pace, before he tired badly. At Catterick he never stood a chance, in contrast.
Musselburgh was also a hot race with first and second probably quite well-handicapped. Hence the performance warranted an upgrade.
He doesn’t stay 7 furlongs, and neither did he have a chance to get home in the majority of his recent races. Still lightly enough raced, he’s an intriguing runner over 6f, though, especially with new headgear to provide a spark, potentially.
10pts win Azaim @ 11/1
3.35 Chepstow: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f
A poor contest and that’s the reason why Dundory appears to be the default favourite as the clear form horse. But all his best form comes with cut in the ground. Fast ground and Chepstow is different gravy.
The same could be argued for Age Of Sail, who ran well on the All-Weather when last seen and who has plenty of soft ground form in his pedigree.
However, at least we know for sure he does act on decent to fast ground as he was placed multiple times in these conditions last season, although never on quite as fast ground as expected here.
In any case, he’s one of my older Handicappers to follow this season and I waited patiently for his return to turf. I liked his two runs this year at Lingfield:
He was outpaced on his season reappearance in a sprint finish travelling off the pace, but he finished best in the final furlong, actually. Up to 1m 5f the next time with a visor applied, he tried to steel it from the front but tired badly in the closing stages for third place.
A slight drop back to 12 furlongs looks fine for this son of Frankel, although there is plenty of stamina present in his pedigree. The visor is retained and he may be able to dominate here once again. Off a 73 mark he looks potentially well-handicapped in this race back on turf. He caught the eye a few times last season already.
Imperial Khan won his race in fine style at Beverley on Wednesday. A no-nonsense ride by Laura Coughlin this time gave the gelding a very first career win.
Soul Seeker, in contrast, emptied quickly and was pretty disappointing, he was also a drifter in the betting beforehand. And yet, if you would have put a gun to my head, he’d have been my NAP today.
No complaints: it was a positive ending to May, no matter what.
170pts profit, 8 winners, 32% ROI.
Third green months in a row. After a shaky start to the 2023 the P/L sheet shows a healthy profit: 470pts.
I changed tack slightly in May: going more aggressively after selections, backing in the work done through the eyecatchers and showing a little less restraint in always waiting for the absolute perfect conditions for the horses I want to back.
53 selections later and a green months means that has worked. Only on the surface, though. Ultimately, I relied on a big price to come in to save the day… or the month, so to speak.
Finding the right balance will decide over success and failure for the rest of the year. I have to reign it in a little bit, without going back to that ultra-conservative approach of the past, which worked, but didn’t capitalise on all the effort that goes into the eyecatchers in first place.
As always it’s a constant process of optimisation. Shaping and re-shaping the process. Learning from the experience of others and being open to new ideas.
The details on all selections can be found as always in the Betting P&L.
3.12 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
Victors Dream was somewhat unfortunate a week ago at Wolverhampton and should be able to make amends off a similar mark here.
That day he had to overcome the widest draw and settled in rear, both a disadvantage in that race. He travelled strongly into the home straight, though had too much to do against front-running winner and also had give ground away all the time.
He finished much the best and achieved a strong 58 speed rating on what was his handicap debut. It was a significant improvement on everything he had done in three starts prior.
In any case, the gelding looks clearly ready to win off a 60 mark, especially with a low draw to attack the race from as he also drops into a slightly easier race.
10pts win – Victors Dream @ 3/1
5.00 Yarmouth: Class 5 Handicap, 7f
How often can a horse catch the eye before you have to conclude he’s just not a genuine type? Let’s find out because Flying Secret is one of those notorious horses that attracts the comment “Eyecatcher” frequently.
It’s fair to say it was another eye-catching run on his seasonal reappearance at Chelmsford last month. He clearly wasn’t there to win but showed plenty enough to suggest he’s in shape.
The only surprise was see him run over 7 furlongs there. It’s a trip I believe is going to prove his optimum when the handbrake is off. He tried a number of times over 6 furlongs last season, when he was sometimes caught out for speed, other times bumped into well-handicapped rivals.
Whether he’s here to try remains to be seen. The Yard has a poor spell and Charles Bishop even gets odds-on shots beaten at the moment.
But if he’s here to win then I think off 71 on fast ground in class 5 over 7f he’s at least a solid win ahead of the handicapper. This is easier than most races he ran so well in over the last twelve month also.
May seems to peter out in a disappointing way. Nogo’s Dream finished last. Lokada checked out pretty early too. Disappointing as surprising. Spartan Fighter a solid 2nd but ultimately not good enough either.
Four of last eight selections placed reads better than it is. No win, and most placed horses didn’t get too close. Given, I rated those chances highly and they were short enough prices I may have been slightly too aggressive and been not critically enough evaluating their chances.
One for the post-mortem to be done for this month, another time.
2.10 Beverley: Class 6 Handicap, 5f
Imperial Khan was arguably unlucky about a fortnight ago at Catterick. A first career win was right take for the taking.
He was in the right spot, tracked the pace throughout and looked like coming with a big challenge from 2f out. However, the jockey kept waiting and waiting to go for it, only riding hands and heels. Suddenly it was too late, things became too tight in the final furlong and the horse was squeezed out.
With a clear run he would have gone seriously close. Has been dropped 1lb in the meantime. Now down to a career-lowest mark he of obvious interest, even in this slightly tougher race – tougher on paper at least.
Obviously the gelding is still a maiden after 15 runs so once can’t make too many excuses. I’m prepared to give him this chance as the low draw should suit, a good pace to track will help to settle and the fast ground likely to suit as his career-best performance came last July on fast five at Hamilton.
10pts win – Imperial Khan @ 5/1
2.20 Hamilton: Class 5 Handicap, 5f
Soul Seeker looks supremely well-handicapped today as he returns to a course and distance he likes on his preferred fast ground.
His two comeback runs after a proper winter break were solid, even though he doesn’t seem to enjoy the sand at all; I was taken by his second run at Beverley last month, though, in conditions far from ideal for him.
He moved quickly forward and crossed over to the far rail, where he led the field, although pressured all the way. He battled solidly before fading badly in the final furlong.
That’s strong form in general, and the run can be upgraded given it came on Softish ground. No doubt, he’s a different horse on better ground.
The last time he enjoyed a fast 5f furlongs was last August when he finished a strong runner-up at Haydock off 77, ran to a 78 speed rating, which was a 78 back-to-back SR performance, preceding a 77. He’s clearly a different animal on decent ground.
He didn’t get going on the All-Weather subsequently, toward the end of last year – those poor showings, coupled with the recent return on turf which the handicapper didn’t rate, he’s now down to a superb mark, 1lb lower than his most recent W.
Spartan Fighter returns to turf off a 10lb lower mark than his current All-Weather rating. He ran with plenty of credit on the sand in recent weeks and is potent on turf as well, so he could be quite well-handicapped today.
He drops to 6 furlongs as well, which is more his trip than when last seen over 7f at Wolverhampton. There he also had to overcome the widest draw and did a lot to get to the front. It was no surprise to see him fading from 2f out.
There’s no doubt he outran his odds more often than not in his last handful or so runs. He caught the eye in no uncertain terms at Newcastle in March when 4th in a hot race. He travelled pretty well, made good progress on the outside and only dropped away late in the day.
He wasn’t as good next time, but it was a strange run, and looked back to decent form in the aforementioned Wolverhampton race.
He also drops in class today and looks seriously dangerous on ground and trip to suit. The 5lb claim of his rider should be useful as well. Obviously he didn’t have many opportunities on grass in the last twelve month, and there is a question as to why that’s the case.
Though, past turf speed ratings give him a huge chance here off his 56 rating in this contest.
10pts win – Spartan Fighter @ 6/1
6.45 Tipperary: Handicap, 5f
Lokada was a strong runner-up at Naas behind Harry’s Hill three weeks ago. She meets this rival, who was seriously well-handicapped then, on better terms today and also may not have to fight the draw bias as was the case at Naas.
That day she was prominent on the far side, while Harry’s Hill enjoyed the advantage of racing against the stands’ side. She travelled strongly, possibly going best and ran on strongly up the hill to get up late for 2nd place to win his group.
He’s 2lb higher today, which is a fair hike by Irish standards. She also ran to 70 speed rating at Naas and an impressive 81 on the AW last year.
The Naas form should be strong and there’s every chance the relatively lightly filly can continue to progress, as her last two runs can be upgraded – Naas, as mentioned, but also her run prior at Dundalk warranted an upgrade.
10pts win – Lokada @ 7/2
8.10 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
Nogo’s Dream drops in class and should find this much easier than the last two times at Newmarket and Ascot. The fast ground is a slight question mark, but you would hope he acts on it.
In any case he looks a progressive sort. He won a maiden over the minimum trip at Wolverhampton in March and caught the eye the next time at Newmarket.
He travelled strongly, made smooth progress from 3f out, on the bridle, went on to press the lead approaching the final furlong but got badly tired eventually.
Perhaps didn’t get home over the stiff 7f. And the same could be possibly said the last time at Ascot. In deep ground 6f maybe stretched him a little it too much.
This race is easier. 6f on decent ground should help. He looks underestimated off his 77 handicap mark as the handicapper raised him only by a single pound for those last two strong efforts.
A list of horses that caught my eye during the recent weeks of racing. Find all previous lists here.
Thaki 08/05/23 – 8.45 Newcastle:
Drawn away from the pace, awkward start, trailed and had a wall of horses to pass over two furlongs out. Picked his way through to field as he quickened nicely, before getting quite tired in the final furlong.
Ran well prior at Ayr as well in a good race where the winner was well-handicapped. Not the best starter. Won off 67 on the All-Weather and a neck beaten off 65 back in March. Ran well nto in hot class 4 race as well, but possibly not quite up to that level.
Down to 63 on a good mark. Has scope on turf, especially on decent ground placed 4 of 6 and may be underestimated there without a W on turf yet, though.
Crossed over quickly from a wide draw to lead, although always pestered and pressured. Travelled well but ultimately beaten by a well-handicapped winner from off the pace.
Two good runs since return from a break. Showed promise as a juvenile, ran to 63 speed rating. Doubtful that he stays beyond 7 furlongs. Full-brother did his best work over 6f and won over the minimum trip as well.
Possibly scope for some improvement if he drops in trip, on fast ground on turf. In other circumstances probably found his ceiling.
Tracked hot early pace. Did way too much too soon and also quite keen. Impressive how he was still able to kick on and challenge for the win, less than two lengths beaten in 3rd eventually.
Bit unfortunate lto at Chelmsford. Strong run there too. Ran 75 speed rating here, which was also a hot race for the grade. May not stay a mile, but looks clearly capable to win off current mark and should be some pounds better.
Settled off the pace, which was a disadvantage. Had loads to do 3f out and finished wide. Came home much the strongest, the only one who ran sub 12s the final furlong.
Must be in good form now. Down to sexy mark. Would be really interesting on fast turf as he may be underestimated there due to his record. However he runs well in those conditions, now 11lb lower than when last seen on turf.
Travelled quite well for a long time. Solid progress from 2f out, challenged the long-term leader. Got pretty tired in the final furlong.
Probably strong form and run due to the winner and second. Left on the same mark. Interesting on better ground. Dam did all her best work on soft but sire was tp-class on fast. He doesn’t seem to have a high knee action.
If the ground can bring out improvement he’ll be well-handicapped. Wouldn’t rule out a drop in trip either.
Tracked the pace throughout. Was going well and looked like coming with a big challenge from 2f out. Jockey seemed to keep waiting and waiting before asking for all, riding hands and heels. Suddenly it was too late as things became really tight in the final furlong and the horse was squeezed out.
With a clear run would have gone seriously close. Has been dropped 2lb in the meantime. Down to a career-lowest and obvious interest the next time.
Tracked the pace closely in second place. Challenged leader from over 2f out and possibly ahead at final furlong marker. Horses from further back got the better of him eventually. Strong run and probably strong form.
Had wind operation prior. Down to good 63 mark and can win in possibly slightly less competitive race. Better over 5f and may prefer AW surface but didn’t have too many opportunity over the minimum trip on fast ground, which bay be ideal.
Traveled strongly behind a wall of horses for much of the race. Waited for room until very late when switched to the inside and ran on easily for third.
Near career-best effort without a clear run. Clearly in peak form. Otherwise not obviously well-handicapped. But interesting if turned out within the next two weeks, ideally on fast ground.
Probably 7f ideal and is then pretty ground independent, but clearly stays a mile too, especially on fast ground if the pace isn’t all out. If he doesn’t return soon under ideal conditions soon, one to keep in mind to see if he can drop a couple of pounds and wait for the money to arrive.
Moved quickly forward to lead, setting a hot pace. Clearly did too much in the first half of the race. Did well to hold on for third.
Strong race and form. Multiple lto winners and horses in strong form in the field. has been given an opportunity by the handicapper as dropped 1lb subsequently. Lightly raced and deserves a chance over 6f.
Move forward from the outside draw to push the pace. Was there until very late in the day.
Perhaps slightly flattered by the way the race developed but it wasn’t an advantage on the day to go from the low gates. Clear return to form. Dropped a pound for this. Chance given over minimum trip and all ground.
No joy on the betting front on Saturday. Can’t fault the effort of any horse I backed. They all ran well, ultimately didn’t quite have the good fortune when needed in their races. Happens.
Regardless of the outcome of the Irish 2000 Guineas from a betting perspective, I still loved the day out at the Curragh on Saturday. My dad was with me, he’s over from Germany for a few days.
He’s no racing fan, but enjoyed it as well, and was certainly delighted to collect a few €€€ from his Each-Way punt on Hi Royal.
The Curragh can be a miserable place when the wind sweeds through it. On the other hand when the sun is out it can be a place of pure magic, as it was on Saturday.
Lovely vibe, happy people, great racing…. and a pint of Guineas for €5.90 is nearly a bargain these days. Do those in charge finally get the hang of things?
The Curragh is a lovely place to shoot racing as well. It’s one of the joys of Irish racing if your a photographer you get unparalleled access to the equine stars. Compare that to the UK where they take your camera away at the entrance….
Two other things I can’t leave unmentioned: The Grade 1 Daily News 2000 took place in South Africa on Saturday. My selection Cousin Casey got a bit of a rough race. I was left wondering “what if”.
Closer to the truth is, possibly, that brilliant winner See It Again was too strong in any case. He won it extremely well, no matter what. “Striker” once again pure class in the saddle. The 3-year-old will shoot to the top of the betting for the Durban July now.
The German 2000 Guineas takes place at Cologne this afternoon. This appears to be a poor edition. Two English raiders head the market and it’s fair to say they wouldn’t have the faintest of hopes to land a Group 1 in the UK or Ireland.
Sadly, the home team isn’t particularly strong. It’s stamina that German bred horses are known for, so this isn’t the biggest surprise. Nonetheless, if British 96 and 92 rated colts are expected to fight this out it’s simply not a good look.
5.40 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 10f
Bollin Margaret looks a rock solid favourite having a good record over 10f on fast ground, having slipped to a good mark and having ran to a fine speed rating recently.
At the same time in over 1.5 years she never achieved a 60+ speed rating, and that makes her still somewhat vulnerable to something else in this field.
In truth, there’s not much in this field. But Streetscape is the lightly raced improver who could have too much to offer on his third handicap run, back on turf and most likely ideal fast ground.
He caught the eye last two times, his only runs in 2023, on the All-Weather, back in March.
On Handicap debut and his seasonal debut at Newcastle I liked the way he travelled when tracking the pace, as he made a nice move to challenged leaders to eventually hit the front soon after. he was gutsy all the way to the line but beaten by a winner and second from rear of the field who possessed a stronger turn of foot.
The next time at Southwell the slow pace didn’t suit him either. He as badly outpaced from three furlongs out but once again showed a superb attitude when he battled back to grab third on the line.
It may be that his optimum is a fast mile on a stiff track. However, on pedigree 10 furlongs seem a pretty realistic option. The way he finished his last two races gives plenty of hope, that’s for sure.
How much he has in hand remains to be seen. As he drops in grade as well, into 0-60, of his 59 mark, in these conditions, he should be a solid W ahead of the handicapper, I feel.
Back-to-back winners: Ventura Express won his race at Pontefract quite comfortably. Everything worked to absolute perfection – that’s not always the case: superb ride, hugged the rail, saved ground, kicked on 2f out and game over.
He was well backed all day too, went off 7/2. So I got a great price, although a little lower than originally thought as I only realised in the morning my full stake wasn’t matched as initially thought it did. Topped up and ended up closer to 7s, which is still lovely.
On to Saturday: it’s Irish 2000 Guineas day. I love this day and will make may way down the N7 to the Curragh, of course. This is usually when Ireland is at its most beautiful – warm, and sunny, everything is blossoming. Plenty of hope is in the air right before the first Classic of the Irish flat season as well.
It’s also another Grade 1 day over in South Africa. One of the premier contests for 3-year-old middle-distance horses shapes as a cracker of a race (potential selection in the morning when there is a market for me to back, to be added here).
I also must say the amount of racing this Saturday – and quite frankly most of the days during the week as well – is simply overwhelming. I struggle to keep up and it takes a bit the joy out of it.
I love turf racing, but enjoy the somewhat quieter pace of the All-Weather season more, as sad as that sounds. The latest news from the reshaped fixture list in the UK doesn’t provide much hope that this is to change anytime soon.
2.12 Greyville: Grade 1 Daily News 2000, 1m 2f
A hot renewal of the key race for the middle-stance three-year-olds in South Africa. The right horses are here to the most part.
See It Again is a pretty short-priced favourite, and you can see why. He was a 40/1 shock winner in the Cape Derby and followed up nicely in the WSB Guineas earlier this month when he ran on well after getting badly outpaced over three furlongs out.
The step up to 2000m will surely suit and he’s clearly the one to beat, simply given the fact he beat Charles Dickens at Kenilworth, who’s the benchmark every three-year-old is measured against this year, and because he finished so strongly when last seen over a trip a bit on the sharp side.
But he’s a tricky horse as well. One who has to be ridden in a specific way. He wears blinkers for a reason and can race sluggishly. I wouldn’t want to trust him at short odds.
Without Question runs in the same colours and was a good third in the Derby, where he faltered late after pushing the pace. He went on to win a Grade 3 over a mile on his comeback run when last seen, doing so against older horses.
He’s clearly talented and may get the run of the race from close to the pace here.
Cousin Casey is probably the most interesting horse here. A son of 2013 Daily News winner Vercingetorix, he was a brilliant 2-year-old and has done well in his 3yo campaign as well, against seriously tough opposition.
After landing a Grade 2 over a mile on his seasonal reappearance he went on to ran a huge race as runner-up behind Charles Dickens in the Cape Guineas. That pushed him near the top of the market for South Africa’s Premier all-age open middle-distance Grade 1, the Met.
From a wide draw he was caught wide, was pulling hard without cover and eventually pulled his way to the front. He only went down late in the day behind the countries best horses, for a strong 5th place. A huge run.
He got a well-deserved break afterwards, before returning with a fine tune-up race at Greyville, before a solid 4th in the WSB Guineas behind Charles Dickens.
That day he made huge progress from the back of the field on the outside from 4f out. he clearly did too much there, going upside with Charles Dickens and fast finishing See It Again. He paid for those exertions, eventually.
Going up in trip isn’t a worry. He should stay the distance on pedigree and the Met run gives plenty of hope. However, he can pull hard as well, and that’s the main worry.
I believe he’s the best horse in the race, though, if he can get his act together. His Met run is clearly the strongest form in the race, this is his third run after a beak, the one he’s had as the target for a while, he should be at his peak now. With that in mind the odds are generous.
10pts win – Cousin Casey @ 4/1
3.05 Curragh: Listed Orby Stakes, 1m4f
Sionnach Eile looked last season like one very much capable of stepping up listed level when he won back-to-back Handicaps in July. He had a long break since then, and with that in mind the recent Cork comeback run can be ignored.
Nonetheless, he travelled pretty well for a long time before getting pretty tired eventually. You would hope he strips fitter here, and one would think connections have had this contest in mind for a while.
He moves up in trip, which is sure to suit, given he won over twice over 1m 4f+, including the hot Guinness Handicap at Galway when last seen off 94.
That was a clear career-best effort as he achieved a superb 97 speed rating, which gives him an excellent chance in this type of race here, if he could run to the same level of form.
The pace could be muddling, but no bother, Sionnach Eile can move forward and could be hard to catch if allowed to stride on.
10pts win – Sionnach Eile @ 5/1
3.40 Curragh: Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas, 1m
A sub-standard edition of the first Classic of the Irish Flat season. This seems to evolve around the British raiders for once because Aiden O’Brien’s horses are a surprisingly poor bunch, certainly judged on what they have done up until now.
Proud And Regal is the one exception, as he’s a Group 1 winner from his juvenile season. However, a mile on decent ground is a completely different test to a mile on heavy going in France at the end of a 2-year-old campaign.
Paddington is Ryan Moore’s choice. He won a Listed trial at Leopardstown after winning a hot Handicap on his seasonal comeback. He’s got potential, though, given he hasn’t run any significant speed rating yet, does appear to be well below Group 1 standard.
It’s fair to say Royal Scotsman enhanced his credentials in no uncertain terms in the English 2000 Guineas earlier this month. He ran on well for 3rd place despite showing early keenness, which can’t have helped.
He’s got a huge engine, as we knew from his excellent juvenile campaign as well. No doubt he does stay the trip and the slight uphill finish at the Curragh will be to his advantage.
For all that, he’s a short price, perhaps fairly so, but his tendency to pull hard is a question mark in a race where the pace may not be red hot.
The obvious for me, although I’m certainly biased as well, is Hi Royal. He was one of those 3-year-old colts I flagged in my 3yo to follow piece before the start of the season.
He certainly confirmed the promise shown as a juvenile when he finished a brilliant runner-up at Newmarket in the English 2000 Guineas. For the most part he even looked like the winner, until hanging a potential Classic success in the final furlong away.
Hi Royal has an engine, a turn of foot and does stay beyond a mile probably. He should enjoy the galloping Curragh and the uphill finish to the line.
Somewhat of a question mark is the likely fastish ground, though. The Guineas was on officially soft ground. His sole career victory came with plenty of cut in the ground.
What gives hope is his debut run, when an excellent third in a hot maiden on fast ground. However, he seems to hit the ground hard and the fact he is probably at his best once he moves up to 10 furlongs is a concern.
Nonetheless, he’s the most solid choice and slightly overpriced, given he has proven his class already, settled well, travelles well and has plenty of upside.
10pts win – Hi Royal @ 11/2
4.10 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
This is a wide open contest on paper, but I feel Big R is potentially hard to beat if he acts on the fast ground.
He was a huge eyecatcher on his seasonal reappearance and handicap debut last time at Salisbury, and despite the massive effort, he has been eased by a pound in the meantime. That won’t make too much of a difference as he’s already extremely well-handicapped off 70, most likely.
At Salisbury he was at a disadvantage from the #8 gate right away. He was caught wide and without cover early on, before settling at the back of the field. hen then made rapid progress on outside from the halfway stage to challenge the leaders over 1f out, before getting tired and beaten by those with better draws and closer to the pace.
It rates a huge performance against the pace and track bias. He showed good early speed last year as well, suggesting sprinting is his game. He may stay 7f on pedigree, but 6f appears to be ideal.
Big R was a cheap yearling, so is not one who has tons of scope, probably. Nonetheless, judged on this most recent run he looks clearly better than a 69 Official Rating.
10pts win – Big R @ 4/1
4.55 Goodwood: Class 4 Handicap, 5f
Huberts Dream looks dramatically overpriced if he’s good to go here. He’s got a good draw to attack the rail and stretch the field, while he may well enjoy the better ground which he didn’t get in those turf starts when expected to run well.
Certainly one can ignore the recent Chester run in deep ground from a #10 draw and he also lost a shoe. He ran with plenty of credit at Lingfield prior in a seriously competitive Handicap.
To continue to run over the minimum trip seems a good idea. He showed signs of severe keenness over 6 furlongs in the past, but at the same time showed that early speed is his biggest asset.
He won well on the All-Weather during the winter notching up a hat-trick of wins achieving multiple speed ratings in the 70s. He’s dangerous here if allowed to run on merit.
Lezardrieux was a nice winner today, despite a drift out to 7/1 SP. He was ridden with a lot of positivity and held on gamely.
I wish the other selections would have ridden with the same positivity. It wasn’t to be, and those horses were all bitterly disappointing. It’s quite an up and down this month.
8.55 Pontefract: Class 4 Handicap, 5f
If allowed to run on merit Ventura Express simply wins this? I certainly think so. A course and distance winner, he drops down to his preferred trip, on ideal ground and a track he enjoys off a good mark.
He was a huge eyecatcher last time at Wolverhampton over 6 furlongs, when he was smartly away but soon restrained from his wide draw. He travelled strongly but was certainly not ridden in a way to obtain the best finish. He still ran on well once asked inside the final furlong.
This looked a horse clearly in strong form. He ran a career best speed rating only a few weeks earlier. He also won last summer off 80 at Beverley.
He’s not dramatically well handicapped off 79 right now but judged on speed ratings is the class act in the race given he meets ideal conditions here.
I have a small question mark over the fact that he hasn’t been since since the end of March and a possibly lack of pace. But this isn’t a strong race, he drops in grade as well and I simply hope he can drop his head tracking whoever is going to do the donkey work in the end. His low draw offers every possibility.