Tag Archives: Highland Reel

2017 Breeders’ Cup – Selections

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The juggernaut that is the Breeders Cup is nearly upon us! In fact it’s only a couple of hours away. The pinnacle of the US racing season also brings down 2017 for many  of the European equine superstars too.

Del Mar it is this year –  a change from Santa Anita for once, though with that we do stay in California. Racing starts on Friday with ten races on the card. Historically I haven’t done overly well from a pure betting point of view, though I immensely enjoy watching the event on NBC. The TV coverage is all class.

I keep my bets to a minimum this time. Three selections – that is all!

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Friday 9.25: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, 1m

Without the shadow of the doubt Aiden O’Brien’s Happily is the form horse in the field. She won two major Group 1’s on the bounce, including the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere when beating the boys.

Granted, she had a long season with six starts and coming here at the end of the year isn’t easy – if she reproduces anything close to her recent form, she is hard to beat, though. On paper that is.

Question marks are over her pace in the early stages of the race. She has got a perfect draw but will Happily be able to utilize it? Ryan Moore will want to have her settling close to the speed in an ideal world.

She appeared a bit outpaced early on in France the other day, and had trouble catching up with the leaders in the home straight. She grinded it out, more than anything. Fast ground at Del Mar will be not forgiving, if she does not gets quickly out of the blocks.

That says, on pedigree the ground should suit. She’s got more experience now and you would think that Ran Moore, given the clear disadvantage settling off the pace, will be a bit more vigorous pushing her forward, if needed.

Happily should not lack stamina, so once moving, she will keep moving for as long as it’s needed.

There is juice in the price in my mind. I expected her to be good deal shorter, given the opposition in the field is not as good as what she faced in her last two starts.

Selection:
10pts win – Happily @ 4/1 PP

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Saturday 11.37: Breeders’ Cup Turf, 1m 4f

One last hooray for Highland Reel. He’ll go to stud after this – a race he won last year. Or shall we say stole? He got away under a perfect ride by Jamie Heffernan that day.

The globetrotter had another productive season in 2017. Winner of the Coronation- and Prince of Wales’s Stakes. When he gets his preferred conditions Highland Reel is clearly tough to beat.

I feel that’ll be the day here. Trip is perfect, fast ground is what he loves, a perfect draw will enable him to be up with the pace, if not even attempting to make all. The tight, turning track poses no problem to him either.

Main threat is obviously the superb Ulysses. Though the trip is probably slightly on the far side for him and the track configuration may not play to his strengths either.

Best chance for the home team is multiple grade 1 winner Beach Patrol. A wide draw isn’t ideal as Highland Reel, once in front, is unlikely to stop.

Selection:
10pts win – Highland Reel @ 9/4 Bet365

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Sunday 00.25: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s already past midnight when they’re off in the Classic! The question many ask: can Arrogate find back to his best? Since his return from Dubai in two subsequent starts he never looked the same horse that was crowned best in the world in 2016.

Can Gun Runner outgun him? Well, he’s been bloody impressive in his last three wins and deserves the favourite tag. However he never won over the 10f trip and was comprehensively outstayed by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

The answer must lie somewhere else: West Coast? Maybe. Won two Grade 1’s on the bounce. Landed the Travers. Not much wrong with that. He stays the trip, has the right form in the book and is an interesting price.

You can, if you want, knock the form, though. None of those beaten behind him would be fancied to go close in Classic at all. In fact, Travers runner-up Gunnevera is considered a 50/1 shot!

Improving Collected won the Pacific Classic, beat Arrogate that day. So he stays the trip and is still a progressive sort. The wide draw is a concern but he should be thereabouts.

Aiden O’Brien tries his luck once more. He throws Churchill into the ring. It’s unlikely the dual Guineas winner will enjoy this test on dirt I suspect, but I can see why “the lads” do it.

If he runs well if will enhance his commercial value as a stallion. If he doesn’t perform it won’t devalue anything he did the last two seasons.

The seemingly second string is War Decree. A much more interesting case, I feel. From a pedigree perspective he is bred to act on dirt and is a half-brother to Declaration Of War who came quite close to win the BCC some years ago.

Nonetheless the immense test this race is may still come as a shock to the system. Until he runs we don’t know whether he really acts on the dirt or not. It’s more likely he won’t. However I love a couple of facts if it comes to War Decree:

He’s still lightly raced and had a significantly lighter season than most in the field. He demolished a fair field in a Dundalk Group 3 when last season, travelling like a really good horse. Of course he meets different class and a different surface here – still War Decree looks in tip top form.

Taking it all in, he’s no 50/1 chance in a Breeders’ Cup Classic field that is wide open in my mind. With the places paying at 1/4 odds, this looks a tremendous bet.

Selection:
10pts win e/w – War Decree @ 50/1 Bet365

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Highland Reel a good thing in Sheema

Now that Cheltenham is well and truly behind us we can start to look forward again. Though not too far. Only to this Saturday. Dubai World Cup Day. The big one on the other side of the planet.

For the moment I only want to focus on the Dubai Sheema Classic though – the Group 1 on turf over 2.400m, now worth a staggering US$ 6 million!

Why am I so keen to get this race “out of the way” this early? Well, it’s because I feel the market does not reflect the true chances of one major contender. That is Highland Reel.

The Aiden O’Brien trained five year old started his stellar four year old campaign in this very same race last season, followed by brilliant victories in the King George and Breeders Cup Turf.

At this point it probably makes sense to check out last years running of the Sheema Classic, a race won by Postponed:

On that evidence – at least visually – Postponed won fair and square, in fact he was quite impressive the way he sprinted away from his rivals in the closing stages.

But that is only half the truth. Do you see how nicely Postponed is covered up throughout, getting an energy saving, inch perfect ride by Andrea Atzeni? Compare that to Highland Reel, the leader pretty much from the start. Hassled along from a draw less than ideal, the Ballydoyle inmate set decent fractions, leading the field nearly until the final furlong, where eventually he faded away, finishing 4th.

Aiden O’Brien has a dismal record in Dubai and sometimes his horses turn out there under cooked. This was clearly not the reason why Highland Reel faded so badly in the end. Evidence is to be found in the sectionals that do underpin the visual impression:

Highland Reel did more than other horse in the race – probably a bit too much too soon – burning vital energy. The pace he went was not sustainable in the end against high class opposition. Maybe in hindsight Ryan Moore would ride the race slightly different.

That’s the past. What’s the future? Postponed will try to defend his crown. He had a decent prep run, though he was overturned at short odds. I don’t read too much into it. He’ll be near as good as ever I would imagine.

And so will Highland Reel, presumably. On ratings there is a mere pound between the two. Though it’s true Postponed had the the upper hand on two occasions. First here in the Sheema and then in last years Juddmonte International.

Third time lucky? Yes, I do think so! With ground and trip certainly to suit Highland Reel, and possibly with a slightly more energy saving ride, there is every chance that he’ll be able to beat Postponed.

Granted, it’s not all about these two, though its’ likely to be a small field with not an awful lot of top class horses in the line-up, which again will suit Highland Reel probably the little bit more.

Former Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs is an intended runner. He made a pleasing comeback in the British Champion Stakes last season. He’s a danger, no doubt. But only two runs since his third in the 2015 BCS – he has not only a bit too find on the ratings, but also can’t be trusted to be fully ready on his seasonal re-appearance.

The Japanese Satano Crown, who beat Highland Reel in Hong Kong in a tight finish back in December, is unlikely to line up. And if he’d be here I’d fancy HR to turn it around, given how agonisingly close he came in the Vase, doing it yet again the hard way. Prize Money, who beat Postponed in his comeback will probably find it tough to repeat this feast.

Irish and Yorkshire Oaks heroine Seventh Heaven is probably the second runner for team Ballydoyle. An intriguing one, who can easily be a big player.I fear her most, because she is a somewhat unknown quantity, given she is still lightly raced enough with potential improvement to come now as a four year old.

Summary: Highland Reel was unlucky not go closer in the Sheema Classic last year. On ratings there is very little between himself and favourite Postponed. A small field where Highland Reel can dominate will be an ideal scenario. At 5/1 he looks overpriced and I’m rather sure he’ll be half the price on Saturday.

Selection:
10pts win – Highland Reel @ 5/1 Betfair SB

Preview: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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Arc Day! The most prestigious flat race in Europe, maybe the world, is finally upon us The search for a new champion begins right here.

The Arc, that is a special race for me personally. On one hand it clearly marks the end of the flat season – yes, there is still some racing to go, but let’s make no mistake: the calendar turned to October, the nights are chilly again and the jumpers are out at Gowran Park. Winter is coming….

Arc Day: it’s a special day also because it brings back wonderful memories. Now, I can’t claim to follow the sport of horse racing for decades. Though it’s closing in on ten years actually – time’s flying! But I witnessed Sea The Stars winning the race, bringing the house down on an unbelievable summer of racing that captivated my heart like no other ever did.

Only two years later the German filly Danedream sprinted to a sensational success in Europe’s premier flat race – I had a big ante-post wager on her at massive odds, to this date the biggest monetary win of my illustrious betting career.

Arc 2016: A Decent Renewal?

The general perception leading up to the big race seems one of muted excitement. Some suggest this year’s Arc is a rather sub-standard renewal. I don’t buy that. In fact the 2016 Arc boosts as big a field as ever, with runners from all over world, with more than a handful of those rated at 120+, not for forget a favourite who has won three big Group one races on the bounce this season. Oh the reigning dual English & Irish Derby winner is here too! Not too shabby in my book.

Conditions Today

Reportedly perfect conditions at Chantilly today, where the Arc is run during the re-building process at Longchamp. Chantilly is known as a course that throws up plenty of hard luck stories, so with a big field of 16 runners it seems inevitable that some connections might feel unlucky in the aftermath of the race.

Genuine good ground should provide a level playing field for all horses on that particular front at least, though.

High Draw = Race Lost?

A race over 1 mile 4 furlongs, yet the draw is always a big talking point on Arc day. Of course it is, because if your drawn in the car park it makes your task so much more difficult. On the other hand those horses who need to be dropped in anyway mightn’t be too dramatically inconvenienced. Nonetheless if you’re forced to travel four, five wide throughout a 2.400m contest, chances are you won’t find the extra gear needed for a strong finish.

That says, for those who like to attack a race from the start, the wide draw must not be an issue at all. At Chantilly you have an early left-hand turn, which in theory should mean you can make up ground more easily from a wide draw – if you chose to attempt it.

Two well fancied runners – the Japanese Makahiki and Found – have been drawn rather wide. It makes their bid for glory the bit more difficult.

Found won’t mind it as she is likely to race off the pace anyway, though she is likely to encounter plenty of traffic and given her history (“the most unlucky filly in the world”) I am concerned that she does not get out in time today.

Makahiki, the excellent winner of the Prix Niel, is a more diverse story. Drawn in 14, I would expect jockey Lemaire to try to make a move right from the start in order to get a handy position somewhere in midfield while finding valuable cover as well. Though this could be a difficult thing to achieve, given plenty of jockeys on lower drawn horses will have the same tactics in mind. Therefore I can see a scenario where Lemaire has to commit too much too early or alternatively will end up in a really poor position on the widest outside.

Favourite Postponed will have every chance to find the right spot from stall seven. He has no problem to be ridden positively and he could end up in fifth, sixth position behind the pace. Dual Derby winner Harzand is drawn right beside him. It’ll be interesting to see what Smullen does here. I would certainly hope he tracks Postponed’s every move, which should ensure he ends up in a good position too.

The pace setters might come from team Ballydoyle. Highland Reel often races quite prominent and he’s likely to move forward right from the start. I would expect Dettori on Order Of St George to do the same from his wide draw. Whether both race too hard too early on is a valid question mark. New Bay might follow them closely.

The Winner: 

No doubt Postponed has allot going in the right direction. Draw, pace, form, likely position he’ll find himself in. He’s the most likely winner. However on ratings, official or RPR, this is a closer encounter than one would initially think. 2/1 is the current price, so in and around a 33% chance – a bit too short in my book.

Found, as classy a filly as she is, is more likely to find one or two too good once again I fear. The Japanese Makahiki is more interesting. If he finds himself in a decent position where he didn’t have to over commit in the early stages then he should have an awful lot to give when it really matters.

However in my book the 8/1 for Harzand is a criminal price. On the back of one poor performance, where we know there are valid excuses, bookies are happy to lay him. I imagine the return to 12f will be very much to his liking, the ground isn’t a problem, he’s a good draw and is a three year old with a handy weight for age allowance – if Smullen doesn’t drop too far off the pace, which I see as a slight danger to happen – Harzand will be a tough challenger in the finish.

Not mentioned yet has been New Bay. Last years Arc third. A talented individual, run with credit in the Irish Champion Stakes last month too and has a good draw today. He seems a bit below what is required to win the race in my eyes, though.

From the bigger prices Order Of St George makes plenty of appeal. He’s as highly rated as Postponed, though his shock defeat in the Irish Ledger is a question mark. But then he may find perfect conditions here. Dettori in the saddle will ensue a smooth ride to the front of the pack from the widest, but not necessarily worst draw. If he can get there without doing too much, he might have enough left to kick on turning for home. Given he lasts the trip thoroughly, he could then be hard to peg back.

Selections: 
Harzand @ 8/1 Betfred
Order Of St George @ 20/1 

Postponed a brilliant International winner!

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I don’t really feel in the mood to lose too many words about the Juddmonte International after making a fool of myself yesterday, doubting Postponed. Well, hindsight is funny thing, isn’t it?

Nonetheless, credit where credit is due: Postponed is a superstar! I think that is fair to say now, after finally winning a Group 1 over 10 furlongs – and not just a Micky Mouse one – this was quite a decent field.

Andrea Atzeni gave him an excellent ride – for years now Atzeni is one of those no nonsense jockeys, doing more often than not the simple but right things.

He tracked the leaders for most of the time and then pressed the button on Postponed over 3 furlongs – probably slightly earlier than it would be ideal – but it was the right move at the right time. Once hitting top gear, Postponed is always sure to march strongly toward the line.

The form looks legit, given 121 rated Highland Reel ran a stormer, finishing a 1¼ lengths beaten runner-up, with 118 rated Mutakayyek a further lengths behind in third.

On the other hand Wings Of Desire was a total no-show whereas Hawkbill seemingly didn’t act on the fast ground.

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Thursday Selections:

3.40 York: Furia Cruzada @ 20/1 Ladbrokes
6.10 Hamilton: Ss Vega @ 4/1 Skybet

Photo: Skysports

Highland Reel hard to beat in Secretariat

Highland Reel

Arlington: Secretariat Stakes (Group 1), 1m 2f

Today is the day where Highland Reel can pay back – pay back for what I lost on him when being bullish enough before the season to believe he’s the winner of the English 2000 Guineas. He hasn’t quite developed into the superstar I hoped. But he is a very good horse, nonetheless. Runner-up in the French Derby and fair winner of a Group 3 at Glorious Goodwood – he deserves a shot on a Group 1.

Today is the best chance he’ll ever find to win a top level race. The Secretariat Stakes is not a bad race, in fact the field is competitive. But he’s probably the most talented horse in the field – however he’s also on the juice today. What I mean: Lasix!

My stance on lasix is clear. I condemn it. It is performance enhancing. Particularly for those European horses who travel over to the US and are on it for the first time. It can have  a major impact on performance.

If Seamie Heffernan keeps things simple and stays out of trouble, I can’t see how Highland Reel can lose this.

Highland Reel @ 7/4 Paddy Power – 10pts Win

Preview: Gordon Stakes (Group 3)

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2.35 Goodwood: Gordon Stakes (Group 3)

I feel depressed to say it, but I have to oppose Highland Reel firmly. He was the most exciting horse to look forward before the start of the season but he didn’t fulfil the promise he showed as a juvenile. I tend to agree, though, that his Derby performance was too poor to be true and he might be seen in a better light today. Yet he could be vulnerable to some progressive sorts and is not certain to stay thus far anyway.

Medrano is a fair alternative and should run his race, however the drying ground might not be quite what he wants. Disegno would have to take a big step forward to feature, I feel, and he doesn’t look all that likely to do what is required to win.

The two individuals most likely to improve are Scottish and Space Age. Both have improved in recent weeks and deserve a shoot in this company. I struggle to favour one over the other, though. I fancy both and feel they are overpriced. So I go with both.

Scottish is a full-brother to Group 3 winner Royal Empire. He was beaten on his seasonal reappearance by smart Mr Singh but got off the mark subsequently in fine style. Stepped up in trip at Royal Ascot, he was an excellent runner-up behind Space Age but had to delay his run until 2f out at which point Space Age was long gone. He looks clearly on the up.

Space Age’s win at Royal Ascot was freak-like. Overcoming the widest draw, setting a hot pace but held on gamely in the closing stages. He was beaten in 2nd off his revised mark in his next start by a well handicapped individual, but most importantly had to give loads of weight away that day while deploying an aggressive racing style once again.

Both look well up to pattern class in my mind and should run big races with conditions to suit.

Space Age @ 9/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win
Scottish @ 8/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win 

Highland Reel’s a steel

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If you follow me on Twitter or have been reading my Horses To Follow article you’ll be familiar with my love for Ballydoyle inmate Highland Reel. We haven’t seen him racing this season yet, so it’s still unclear how he came over the winter and whether he has matured and improved from two to three.

But as a juvenile he was pure class. I loved the way this inexperienced colt won his maiden at Gowran Park. Unaware of what his job was, interested in anything but not the race, yet pulling clear with so much ease. Poetry in motion. I loved even more how he produced his phenomenal turn of foot in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Obviously he has yet to be really tested but that may change this Sunday in the Prix des Poulains.

Highland Reel missed the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, which was a real shame as I backed him ante-post. Of course Without having seen him this season yet it can’t be said with certainty, but I believe he would have been a real danger for Gleneagles.

Anyway, he’s now going to France to get his classic season under way. The Prix des Poulains is normally a rough race, where in-running luck is very much required. It’s not always the best horse that wins. However Highland Reel is a rather uncomplicated horse who wouldn’t mind being up with the pace. A good draw in stall seven should see him securing a perfect position and therefore he could be able to avoid any possible trouble. Class should tell after all.

With that in mind I’m happy enough to back him at 9/2 which looks big enough and I would expect this price to diminish the closer we get to the race.

Sunday, 10/05/2015: Prix des Poulains
Highland Reel @ 9/2 Racebets – 10pts win