Godolphin’s progressive Dream Child is turned out quickly after failing by the narrowest of margins to get his head in front four days ago over 9.5f here at Wolverhampton. He got hampered that day over 1f out at a crucial stage of the race and as a result had to re-organize himself pretty quickly – which can be a difficult task for an inexperienced horse. He quickened nicely nonetheless and almost got there on the line. He travelled strongly throughout and followed up nicely on a hugely impressive success over 12f at Wolverhampton back in January.
Dream Child is still lightly raced and the fact that he can race off the same mark today as four days ago, makes him a huge chance here. The step up in trip poses no problem whatsoever. He proved his stamina before. Judged on this latest performance, he should be a couple pounds higher rated and potentially goes all the way into pattern class after this in my mind. No doubt Dream Child is the most talented runner in this field.
The main dangers are Noble Gift who’s holding his form well and he should run a good race once more. Luv You Whatever has excellent form and was able to translate his Southwell forms to the tapeta last time out. But has to overcome another hike in the mark, which means a career best is required. I’m usually not for the short favourites, but think in this case that Noble Child should be a good deal shorter. With Adam Kirby booked for the ride I hope he won’t meet trouble in-running this time and then he should simply have too much on the plate for the rest.
This is a Handicap which lacks the competitiveness of what one would have seen in recent weeks in this very similar slot. Not too many of the runners in the line-up give the impression to be either particularly well handicapped or have conditions in favour to achieve a career best performance. That makes Tha’ir a very fair favourite and his last win was rates a big performance, no doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could follow on and he has every chance here, but I’m not sure if he should be much shorter in the betting than what he is now, given that he has to deal with a rise in the mark.
Mushreq is a consistent performer, though doesn’t seem to be as good this season as he was the last years. First time tongue tie fitted doesn’t instil much confidence and as the top weight is one to avoid here today. Berling ran a fine second behind Tha’ir recently, and another bold bid is one the cards. He’s to overcome a wide draw once again and may find one or two too good today. Belgian Bill didn’t quite have the run of the race in the very same race and stayed on nicely. If that is an indication that he gets the trip these days, then he’ll be a big runner. Francis Of Assisi, if fit after a break, is a very interesting runner, now in Godolphin colours, while Star Right may well be able to build on a promising last run.
However the most interesting runner and also the only really overpriced one in my mind, is Mike De Kock’s Flying The Flag. He was a Group 3 winner in Ireland over 10f back in 2013, joined subsequently De Kock’s yard without setting the world alight in two starts in pattern class in the UK. Dropped into handicap company on his seasonal reappearance earlier this month, he travelled very well but had a tough ride turning widest and losing loads of ground. He really stayed on very strongly eventually.
That performance came over 1m but general perception is that he is best over further. The step up in trip should suit perfectly today and his mark of 106 gives him a very nice chance to run big. De Kock was pretty bullish talking about Flying The Flag which is a significant boost for his chances: “He’s catching the eye in his exercise gallops. He ran on well after a rest last time and I fancy he’ll be very competitive here.”
6.15 Meydan: Class 1 Handicap, 10 furlongs Flying The Flag @ 7/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win
This is a really fascinating contest. The betting already reveals that the race is as open as it gets, with almost any of the seven runners in with a very fair chance. Current favourite Trojan Rocket has been nicely improving this winter and won two on the bounce. Can he overcome a new career highest mark? Ballista showed a return to form lately and can race off the same mark as when beaten only on the line the last time. Same applies to Mishaal who improved nicely on the All-Weather and was only beaten in a photo at Lingfield last time out. Quiet Warrior and Golden Amber aren’t out of the equation either. And let’s not make the mistake to rule out classy Chookie Royale, despite a significant drop n trip.
What makes this race particularly compelling from a tactical point of view is the fact that most runners are known to be right up with the pace, if not making all. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. On the deep Chelmsford polytrack this could easily end in a test of stamina, rather than end speed.
I feel that this may play into the hands of Chookie Royale who is a top class performer over seven furlongs. He’s the class act in this field, as a result has to give weight away and the drop in trip to 6f doesn’t look ideal at the first glance. But with the pace in mind and the fine form he showed lately, I think he could be ready to run a big race. Trainer Keith Dalgleish isn’t travelling 383 miles with his top performer to have a good night out. At the current odds, I think he is too big in the market and should be much closer towards the head of it.
Didn’t tip many winners in recent days, but The Hangman went in yesterday at Vaal at advised 10/1 odds! He clearly found something back of his former best and was a rather easy winner in the end. Because it worked yesterday, I gonna stick with South Africa today again
The 1.40 on a rather low grade Kenilworth card looks set up for one of the three year olds to take. The older horses are largely exposed and didn’t show anything that instils confidence in them, neithert hat they’d be able to produce anything better than the level they have performed to so far.
Favourite Sail For Gold looks pretty short though, given the fact that he had nine career starts already without looking all that progressive. He won a maiden race over a mile on his penultimate run and performed with credit on handicap debut and he may have still a bit more to offer dropping to 1.400m, but for all of that he is a good deal too short. Around Not Across makes more appeal on his Handicap debut after winning over 1.200m a maiden in fine form. Opening mark looks fair and stepping up in trip may well suit on only his fourth career start. However he is also a pretty short price.
Fire Master looks a pretty big price in comparison. He is also still lightly raced, won a maiden over 1.200m in good style and followed up with a strong performance in a MR77 Handicap stepping up to a mile, when he was less than two lengths beaten in third in the end. He was disappointing subsequently, but something was amiss in the latest and if he can reproduce his penultimate run, he must be in with a big chance as he is dropping in class today and is the highest rated individual here. He could have still plenty of improvement left, dropping to more suitable 1.400m should work in his favour. The downside is that he has 61.5kg to shoulder which is massive obviously.
But he is not giving too much weight away to the other 3yo’s which are all on big weights here due to the fact that is actually only a MR72 and the older horses a group of poor individuals. On balance, he should be a good deal shorter in the betting in my mind.
A quick trip to South Africa today or the feature Handicap on the Vaal card – a very competitive looking MR92 Handicap. Many runners are of interest here, but I can’t let the top weight go unbacked at a pretty huge price. That is because The Hangman is clearly the class act in this field.
One has to remember that the five year old is a former winner of the big Grade 1 Champion Stakes! He hasn’t been in the winners circle since a Grade 2 triumph back in December 2012, though he was a good third behind subsequent Guineas runner-up Forest Indigo (who was that day then only denied by Triple Crown winner Louis The King) last February.
Since then he hasn’t shown too much. However his second start after rest tomorrow should see him in much better light given that he drops a good deal in class right in higher end of Handicaps. Trip should suit perfectly and rated a career lowest now, he must rate a big chance if he can regain something of his former best.
2.15 Vaal – MR 92 Handicap: The Hangman at 10/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win
Dream Child is on a four-timer and looks rock solid to perform strongly once again in the Wolverhampton feature today. Dropping to 9f shouldn’t be a problem as she has won over this trip before. With a good apprentice booked, the rise in the weight is offset to an extend. However one has to wonder how much improvement is still in her. Also she has a huge weight to shoulder today because of the big difference in ratings. She may well be good enough, but she better be at her best.
As always I try to oppose those short favourites and I feel with Boonga Roogeta there is one mare in the race who has the ability to cause an upset. She has won on the All-Weather in the past was mostly seen on turf in the last couple of seasons. She has slipped to a very handy mark now, as she won off similar or higher three races in the past. The last one at Brighton last May off 9lb higher than today. She likes to go from the front, and with her ability to get further she may well be able to dictate matters, set a strong gallop and fend off all her rivals.
She has been off the track for a while, but has performed strongly as a fresh horse in the past, and this record instils confidence that a big run is on the cards with her regular rider in the saddle too. Paddy Power is offering a huge price in this small field and it looks huge value to my eyes, so I’m bullish with the stake.
The progressive Shyron looks a very worthy favourite and is chasing a hat-trick today. He won with a bit in hand the last time. But while he’s renewing rivalry with a couple of runners today, and on this last performance looks likely to be up to his revised mark, it also has to be stated that he got the run of the race and bumped into two rivals, which meet him on better terms this time. He looks the likeliest winner, but is a very short price in this strong handicap.
One would expect that Grey Mirage will perform with credit once more, though he may need some assistance from the handicapper to be able to win in this class again. Related didn’t quite get a clear run in the home straight the last time and may get closer to Shyron with a clear passage. Another one who was interfered in the very same race was Brigliadoro. He still finished well enough in the end and run with credit over a mile the next time in a hot race that threw up a nice winner subsequently. Dropping back to 7f again, he may be able to outrun his price tag today.
Money Team is still trying to win a race on the All-Weather but came very close the last time when he stayed on nicely. He goes 2lb up in the mark and tries 7f for the first time. The way he finishes his races suggests that it’s worth a try, also on pedigree it looks not unlikely that he gets the trip. The apprentice on board is well worth his 3lb claim and that should give Money Term every chance to run big today.
Do you feel excited? I certainly do. Why? We have some fantastic racing at Meydan today! There is the interesting looking Listed contest with recently rejuvenated & multiple Group 1 winner Hunter’s Light leading the pack. And there is the hightlight of the night, the Group 2 Balachine Stakes. But don’t dismiss the competitive Handicaps. There usually offer some great drama!
Surely, Cladocera is the star of the day! The French filly is a short price to land the Balachine after a very impressive Meydan debut last month. There is potential so much more to come from her, given her lightly raced profile. She is bound improve and it is hard – if not impossible – to look past her in the Balachine. Only slight worry could be the additional furlong today. She is a very speedy filly, and her stamina will surly be tested. But could someone threaten her if she finds her natural limits approaching the one mile post?
Well, the Turkish filly Suzi Gold is a Group 1 winner in her native Turkey and she is expected to do very well today. With form over further, one would think that stamina won’t be an issue for her. However her local Group success translates “only” into Listed class actually. Means she has a bit to find on form. But she may well do so. Her Turkish jockey Ozcan Yildirim is flying over for only this one race. So there is clearly some confidence that she has what it takes to feature prominently today.
What about the Dubai Millennium Stakes? Hunter’s Light is the odds-on favourite to land this Listed race and as a multiple Group 1 winner there is every reason to believe that he has too much on the plate for his rivals. Most of them are progressive handicappers, at best. The four year old colt Mr Pommeroy looks to me the one who could be leading the chasing pack. He wasn’t disgraced in A Group 2 last month, though more is required her today, and Hunter’s Light should be able to build on his recent Handicap success.
In the very same race the Norwegian trainer Niels Petersen has two runners. They are big prices and hard to see them going close, but it is still great to have races with truly international flair here at Meydan! The bravery of Petersen is respectable and one can only hope that it pays of at some point.
Betting wise, I find all those races not particularly attractive. I find it hard to challenge the short favourites in the big races, while most of the Handicaps are minefields, particularly the ones on the dirt. Fair play if anyone can make them pay. I struggle to distinguish the runners unfortunately. That says there is one race that really intrigues me. It the final race on the card, a big Turf Handicap over 7f:
18.15 Meydan: District One – Class 1 Handicap
This is an ultra competitive looking handicap, and nothing else is expected. The two at head of the market have obvious credentials to take this. Both Eastern Rules and Anaerobio proved themselves in Group class in the past and their return to Meydan in the Group 2 Al Fahidi was promising as well, with Eastern Rules chasing home Safety Check as the runner-up, while Anaerobio was quite unlucky not getting a clear passage, but finished very strongly. These two are very closely matched on previous form, but I would believe Anaerobio with a weight advantage this time could turn around the form. That says, I feel both are fair prices, but not really too big, so I look elsewhere.
You could make a case for plenty in this field, though two horses are stand-out prices in my mind. Music Theory is one of them, even though the big odds are diminishing fast. This lightly raced Godolphin gelding has caught my eye on two occasions now. He usually travelles extremely well and certainly did so on his seasonal reappearance when he finished 3rd behind subsequent Group 2 winner Safety Check. He got an absolute horror run that day though but finished like a train when in the clear. It’s been a different picture two weeks ago, when he stepped up to 1m. He was right up with the pace and travelled like the winner for a very long time. However he faded pretty badly inside the final furlong. That is no surprise to me. He looks like a 7f specialist and the drop to this trip will certainly help him today. An additional pound off his handicap mark won’t do any harm either. One has to keep in mind that Music Theory was a very promising juvenile when he finished once less than three lengths behind Kingman in the Solario Stakes. Talent is there, and there could be still more to come from him.
The second horse I believe has a much better chance than his big price tag, is the experienced Professor. His mark is dropping down to something that could see him go really close today. He returned to track two weeks ago in a hot mile handicap, which potentially stretches his stamina a bit. But he was also pretty badly hampered in the home straight when he was about to make a big move. He still ran on well I felt and that outing could bring him nicely along for today. It has to be said he didn’t have quite as a productive last season as one would have hoped, however a very strong runner-up at Royal Ascot in the big Wokingham Handicap and some decent performances on Group level, proved that he is a very genuine individual. With a clear run today, he could be very dangerous dropping down to the ideal 7f trip.
Music Theory @ 8/1 Coral – 5pts win Professor @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts win
Masamah has been off since August, though done well fresh in the past. Age doesn’t seem to slow him down, he ran with credit in big handicaps last season. Acted on Tapeta at Meydan.
Zac Brown is much improved on the AW this winter. Won with loads in hand at Chelmsford, couldn’t quite follow up at Southwell. 10lb higher now but remains open to further improvement.
Boom The Groom was extremely consistent this winter, and not disgraced last two either since success at Lingfield. 2lb above last winning mark. Probably slightly better over 6f.
Steelriver ran well lately over further. Fair third over 6f last month. May find this minimum distance too short.
Basil Berry went agonizingly close at Chelmsford last month. Up in the mark and career highest required, Can follow-on, but drop in trip a slight worry.
Royal Bajan posted career best when winning at Chelmsford earlier this month. Gutsy 5f specialist on the AW. New career best required again.
Mappin Time didn’t travel well at Chelmsford lto, yet finished race well coming off half year long break. Has never won handicap off mark as high as the current one.
Megaleka ran out a fine 2nd behind Royal Bajan lto, needs to improve again to win off career highest mark.
Long Awaited was third behind Royal Bajan lto on first AW start. Hasn’t won since 2012 and still 1lb higher than last winning mark.
Invincible Ridge is a fair All-Weather performer, ran consistently well in recent weeks, but is 8lb above last winning mark which came in class 5 handicap.
Dynamo Walt improved this winter and won a couple of races. Consistent but loads to find on form with most rivals in this field.
Verdict: As open a race as it gets. Zac Brown may be a fair favourite and has potential to improve further, but now ten pounds above his last winning mark, he to do progress quite allot to overcome a career highest mark in this quality field. He looks short enough in the betting for that reason. You can make a case for most other runners.
Rojal Bajan’s recent success is very strong form and there is no reason why he shouldn’t go well yet again. The second and third of that race, Megaleka and Long Awaited meet the rival on slightly better weight terms today and should go close as well. Boom The Groom has been very consistent this winter, and if the trip isn’t too sharp for him, then he’ll right there when it matters too.
The class act in this field is Masamah. A former Group 2 winner, he has ran well despite his age in big handicaps last season. He may not be quite as good as he once was, but with a slightly slipping mark and a very good 5lb apprentice in the saddle, he must have a very good chance to run a big race today – if he is fit.
That is the main question mark. He has done very well as a fresh horse in the past, though the older horses get, the longer it takes to get them fit. I take a gamble on him, however, that Marco Botti knows how to keep this veteran healthy and fit and I suspect he is not in the race to just make the numbers. He looks a big price and shouldn’t have an issue with the Tapeta surface, since he acted on the All-Weather before and finished in the money at Meydan’s Tapeta track.