Tag Archives: Ireland

Saturday Selections: Irish Champion Stakes Day 2017

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1.50 Haydock: Ascendant Stakes (Listed), 1m

Some interesting contenders here; soft ground winners Dee Ex Bee and Dark Acclaim make plenty of appeal. I, however, think Godolphin’s Dubhe looks one with a massive amount of improvement to come.

He left a fair debut behind when landing a maiden in soft conditions at Sandown. While that was not a true test and he holding the advantage as the sole front-runner, the fact that he won easily going away in the end in a sprint finish, while it looks abundantly clear that he needs further sooner rather than later, was impressive.

He stays over the mile trip, which in heavy conditions with potentially a quicker pace should suit him down to the grounds to play out class and stamina.

Superbly bred, by Dubawi out of Irish Oaks winner Great Heavens, I feel he takes plenty of beating and therefore Dubhe is a tasty price.

Selection:
10pts win – Dubhe @ 5/1 Bet365

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5.05 Leopardstown: Group 3 Enterprise Stakes, 1m 4f

Eziyra is a fair favourite given her impressive form this season to make it back to back wins for trainer Dermot Wel. Though, Spanish Step has won a Group 3 earlier this season and has a fair shout here too.

That says stable mate and former Derby runner-up US Army Ranger is the x-factor in the race.

He drops in class and trip, and this combination should see him go very close judged on ratings. Yes, he has been a major disappointment ever since coming close to land the big prize at Epsom, however he still ran to a time speed rating of 94 when last seen, which is still the best in this field.

Selection:
10pts win – US Army Ranger @ 6/1 Bet365

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5.35 Leopardstown: Group 1 Matron Stakes, 1m

The class act is Winter. If all goes to plan she wins. She has a top draw and the bit of rain that may leave a bit of softness in ground won’t bother her.

In my mind she can only be beaten if the long season has left a mark on her. Then the French raider Qemah comes into the equation. Her wide draw is an issue, nonetheless she remains a big price and has a better chance.

The winner of last years Coronation Stakes had a light campaign up until now, won at Royal Ascot earlier this season and was an unlucky 4th behind Roly Poly in the Prix Rothschild when last seen.

At her best, and if she can overcome the draw disadvantage with the magic man in the saddle, she has a chance to trouble Winter.

Selection:
10pts win – Qemah @ 7/1 Bet365

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6.45 Leoapardstown: Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, 1m 2f

Twelve months ago it was the race of the races – something we racing fans hope for but see not enough of: the best take on the best. On the flat the best often try to avoid each other, if possible. The Irish Champion Stakes stood true to its name in 2016, though, and saw the best battle it out with the very best.

This year looked for a while a slightly underwhelming race in prospect. The stars of last year are either under performing or retired. However the week leading up to the big enjoyed a timely boost with the conformation of smart Eminent giving it a go against the almighty Churchill.

Eminent has enhanced his credentials with an impressive front-running performance in a Group 2 over 10 furlongs at Deavuille last month, after three winless efforts at the highest level. Is he quite up to the standard required to beat Churchill? We find out today.

The dual Guineas winner proved satisfactory his stamina when runner-up in the Juddmonte International. So neither ground nor trip hold any fear for the highest rated individual in this field.

He’s got the perfect draw and the help of one or two stable mates likely setting a good pace – I find it hard to look beyond him, to be honest. Yes, Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Decorated Night, or stable mate and Derby second Cliffs Of Moher are fine horses in their own right. But this looks all set for another Group 1 victory for Churchill.

Selection:
10pts win – Churchill @ 11/10 PP

Preview: Irish Grand National

Last week we enjoyed a spectacular English Grand National at Aintree. This Easter Monday now all eyes will be on the Irish equivalent which is no less a cracking race to witness!

One of the biggest differences is that unlike the Aintree version, the Irish Grand National has been won by a female jockey – it’s the very same one who came closest to win the English National on Seabass in 2012 when finishing third.

Seabass has sadly passed away last week – may he rest in piece – but Katie Walsh has a ride here – however not on her 2015 winner Thunder And Roses but on the six year old Baie Des Iles. Can she do it again? Well, the odds are against here an it looks a difficult task for this young horse, indeed.

The champs of the last two years will find life difficult too. Thunder And Roses for one hasn’t got his head in front since landing the race in 2015 (and winning me a huge pot!). He was pulled up at Aintree, so was Rogue Angel, who got up in a thriller twelve months ago.

No worries for Gigginstown, though, as the powerful operation has another twelve runners in the race to land them the big prize for a third consecutive year!

That says none of them is particularly well fancied, with Cheltenham winner Tiger Roll  the best of the lot seemingly. However the seven year old has to carry a penalty and is a sketchy jumper who may find this test probably beyond him.

Another seven year old owns the position of red hot favourite. Our Duke, a fairly short 6/1 chance with most firms, comes here with a huge reputation on his handicap debut, after winning two of his three career starts over fences, including a Grade 1 in Novice company.

The only time he did not win, he finished a very gallant runner-up behind Disko at the Christmas Festival – form that looks incredibly strong.

Now, though, he has to bring his credentials to this much more demanding test, against seasoned, experienced animals and in a field as big as he’s ever encountered. Our Duke is a talented horse, but to back him at this short price with all these things in mind? I’d rather not.

The two that I like allot: current second favourite Fletchers Flyer and Gorden Elliott’s Noble Endevour.

Harry Fry hasn’t made a secret of the fact that this race has been the long term plan for Fletchers Flyer ever since he won a big Handicap Chase at the Punchestown Festival last year. He obviously handles this type of fast ground, goes well on a right handed track that is to some extend similar to Fairyhouse and he jumps well in a big field.

This still quite lightly raced chaser has seen a racecourse only twice this season. His comeback run is one to put a line through, however a third place in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in February is a fine piece of form.

He should come here in tip top shape, certainly fresher than most and could easily find a bit of improvement in these conditions which means his mark of 145 could undervalue his real talent.

Noble Endevour is a bit more experienced and very much race hardened. He looked superb when landing the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and he followed up with another huge performance at the Cheltenham Festival when third behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

You always wonder how much energy that must have cost but he had only four starts this season so may well have still something left in the tank. Second highest weight in the race isn’t an easy feast but he should love these conditions as he clearly excels in big fields, his jumping is big and bold, he travelles strongly and the only slight question mark, other than fitness, is maybe the fast ground.

He has shown to handle it in the past, though his very best form comes on slow ground. Given that he usually travelles so strongly through his races I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Selections:
5pts win – Fletchers Flyer @ 11/1 Betfair SB
5pts win – Noble Endeveaur @ 16/1 Bet365

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6.00 Redcar: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Of course with three year old’s early in the season you can’t be quite sure how the race pans out pace wise, also some go with first headgear to post, suggesting there might be change of tactics for some.

However if you only read through the racing comments for most horses in this field you’ll find only very few did ever race close the pace, let alone lead a field. The majority is held up in rear, dwelt, was slowly away and therefore naturally behind, or at most tracking the race from a midfield position.

I feel this might give a horse a chance that forces the matter. Obvious candidate is top weight Chickenfortea, who has decent form in the book too. However of a revised mark he looks vulnerable to an improver.

This one could be Kevin Ryan’s Backinanger. This las has been up with the pace in his last two starts on the All-Weather where he ran with credit. He was incredibly keen when last seen at Newcastle and couldn’t sustain his effort, though the third place looks good form taking all of that into consideration, even more so as the winner backed up the form subsequently.

Backinanger is still winless, but he makes his turf handicap debut here with fast conditions sure to suit. Interestingly connections opted for fitting cheek-pieces for the first time, something that could help him to focus, be sharp in the finish and be easier to handle in general.

He also hails from a decent family, he also was a late foal which explains why he looked still pretty raw in most of his races up to date. It is therefore fair to assume that he could still improve a bit. A low mark of 57 gives him a good chance here.

Selection:
10 pts win – Backinanger @ 7/1 Bet365

The flat is back – Naas Review

The flat is back! The curtain raiser at Naas on Sunday is done and dusted – is has set us up for what should be an exciting season ahead. While HQ at the Curragh is one big construction site at the moment, it was Naas that picked up the traditional Irish Lincoln meeting – it was a perfect race day, so let’s have a quick look back at the action.

People power spoke – a very healthy crowd flocked through the gates on a day of most beautiful sunshine. Spring was clearly in the air – finally one might say.

Naas racecourse itself is in redeveloping mode right now. The little stand overseeing the winning post is gone. Sadly. Possibly my favourite spot to watch racing from in Ireland. But an overhaul is needed if the county Kildare track wants to stage bigger and better race meetings in the future.

Kevin Prendergast’s filly Moonlight Bay kicked off proceedings with an exceptional turn of foot in the opening maiden of the season that only a couple years back produced Dawn Approach.

This Pivotal filly could be quite a smart horse to follow in her own right. Some performances in behind by Power colt Way Back Home and Park Army, finishing respective in 6th and 7th, caught the  eye over a trip possibly too short for them to shine on debut.

The promising three year old filly Alphabet switches stables from retiring David Wachmann to Aiden O’Brien during the winter and got the first winner for powerhouse Ballydoyle under the belt thanks to a commanding performance in the 6f maiden. The ground – but possibly more importantly the first time tongue tie – clearly helped her to put her best foot forward.

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Alphabet storms to victory

Ma Fee Heela, a €200k pick up at the breeze up sales, was gambled into 7/4 favouritism and travelled nicely but couldn’t cope with the acceleration of the winner. Better ground and a step up in trip will see him go much better in the future one would assume.

French recruit Gymkhana got the ball rolling for Ger Lyons and Collin Keane in the saddle as they landed the first handicap of the new flat season. The four year old colt clearly relishes the mud and may move into pattern races after a clear success of a mark of 89.

Fair play to Maarek for finishing third here of what was a tough task having 10st 2lb to carry. The veteran remains nearly as good as ever but will probably find it tough to get his head in front without the help of the handicapper I feel.

Lightly raced bottom weight Gino Severini took the Madrid Handicap. She got a superb ride by Chris Hayes. Hard luck for  Mr Adjudicator and Hansian Prince who both travelled well behind but got hampered multiple times. Both could go well the next time.

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Gino Severini lands the Madrid Handicap

The big disappointment was Jim Bolger’s Vociferous Marina. Sharing favouritism in betting market in the morning she drifted badly to 11/1 on course before the off and ran rotten as the moves in the betting suggested. Judged on last season she is clearly better than this and the run might be best to forget.

English raider Czabo proved hard to pass in the Group 3 Park Express Stakes. A listed winner over a mile as a juvenile, she took the scalp off favourite Somehow in a scrappy finish for the Mick Channon team.

One would expect Aiden O’Brien’s runner-up to come on for the run and be a force in pattern races this season. She looked nice in the parade ring before the race and has clearly wintered well.

Fourth placed Queen Anne’s Lace looked at one point last season potentially smart, she seems to have a habit of travelling powerfully through the race only to find remarkably little under pressure. It was the same story here and it might be interesting to see her fitted with headgear.

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Even the little ones didn’t want to miss the Park Express Stakes

The highlight of the day – the Irish Lincolsnhire – shaped as competitive as always. Previous winner Onenightidreamed and two times runner-up Aussie Valentine tried their luck again. Dermot Weld’s lightly raced Sikandarabad was punted off the boards. The English came over with 94 rated Spring Offensive.

In the end it was the rather unlikely victory of Brandan Brackan who produced a career best to win of the second highest weight in the field. In fact this was the first time the now eight year old has won a race in spring. If Ger Lyons would train the winner, then, according the betting, stable companion Sea Wolf was expected deliver the goods. The 5/1 chance finished a 3 lengths beaten third – a superb result for the Lyons team overall!

And Aussie Valentine? Brides maid yet again! Yes, would you believe it? Runner-up in 2015, in 2016 and now in 2017! Some achievement for Paul Deegan’s inmate. But will he ever get over the line?

The concluding 1m maiden was taken by Aiden O’Brien with two times raced Galileo son Orderofthegarter. The three year old colt couldn’t have been more impressive, romping home by 11 lengths! It’ll be interesting if he can produce that sort of form on better ground too. Given his dam won a really good conditions race on fast ground one would think he can.

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Photo Gallery – Naas 26th March 2017:

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G3 Park Express Stakes winner Czabo

Photos in this article all © FLorian Christoph

The Flat is Back!

Here it is, the first flat meeting of the 2017 Irish flat season! Sun is shining – what a surprise! Ground at Naas after a week of rain is still soft to heavy as the racecourse tweeted this morning. It should be a fantastic day and I’ll be driving down to the county Kildare venue later on.

My main bet of the day is in the Irish Lincoln: Aussie Valentine at 8/1 e/w, already played this a while ago and feeling confident he’s hard to keep out of the money at least. Runner-up the last two seasons when the eventual winners were seemingly very well handicapped, he gets in off a very handy mark this time, 5lb lower than last year and loves the ground.

The first two maidens are quite difficult to solve, I let them run without the burden of my money on their shoulders in the first, but think Invincible Ryker (4/1) is sets a fair standard in the second one through his form from last season behind a subsequent Group placed horse. He also handles soft ground and can improve this year.

The sprint handicap might go to one of those lightly raced sorts at the top of the market. With price in mind I fancy a nibble on Dalgleish’s raider Dark Defender who at least likes the ground and has a favourable draw off an okay mark. at 16’s it seems worth a try.

The Madrid Handicap is intriguing: smart 2yo form meets race fitness. I stick with potential class and do like despite top weight Bolger’s Vociferous Marina (4/1) allot. At second time asking she got off the mark in a competitive Curragh maiden in softish conditions last year and did that in brilliant style. There’s Oaks talks so she’s clearly thought to be a smart girl.

Ger Lyons’s Hansian Prince looks worth a small saver at 14’s.He won a Limerick maiden over 7f in desperate conditions last season and produced a stunning turn of foot. A mark off 82 seems reasonable to play with.

Somehow looks hard to beat in the G3 Park Express but Aiden’s rarely fit this time in year and his Dubai runners were a big disappointment I prefer the look of Weld’s 3yo Queen Anne’s Lace (7/1). Not easy against older horses to run this early in the year but she is better than hare bare form suggests, she travels strongly and will relish the ground.

Good luck everybody and enjoy the racing!

Concordin will love the Navan Mud

3.10 Navan: Handicap Hurdle

An open enough looking contest given the fact that none of the runners has ever won off their current rating or higher. Top weight Grand Partner must be taken serious o has to be fine flat performer Benkei on his handicap debut.

But I take a chance with Concordin who seems to be a bit overpriced. Already a nine year old but for his age with reasonable mileage on the clock. He didn’t really enjoy chasing but has looked as good as ever since reverted to hurdling.

A fine third on his seasonal reappearance in November followed up by a strong staying performance at Leopardstown in a very competitive Handicap at the Christmas Festival. Subsequently he finished a long beaten fourth off a career highest mark in a mud fest at Gowran Park, but the form is better than it reads on paper.

Concordin travelled strongly and was about to make a big move when the field turned for home when suddenly one of the leaders slipped and fell. A miracle it was Concordin didn’t came down too. But he certainly lost all momentum. Not knocked over in the closing stages he finished fourth but his chances were clearly ruined by the incident around the 3f marker.

The drop to 2m tomorrow seems odd, given he looks like a grinder, who needed every inch of the 2m 2f at Leopardstown. But it makes sense given the desperate ground to be expected at Navan, a track that has a very stiff and tough finish where emphasise is definitely more on stamina, particularly in testing conditions. That should really help Concordin’s cause.

Selection:
10pts win – Concordin @ 9/2 WH

PREVIEW: Irish Champion Hurdle Day

It’s Leopardstown’s big day – so it was supposed to be at least – but the absence of two of racing’s biggest stars in Min and Faugheen has diminished the excitement factor of Irish Champion Hurdle day.

Still, two Grade 1’s and another Grade 2 – today is a big deal for Irish racing! The losses of Min and Faugheen due to injury hurt, nonetheless there is some serious racing action o show at Leopardstown. The two big races are intriguing, possibly even slightly more now, given both Min and Faugheen would have been long odds-on to land them.

The ground remains officially good – that should suit certain horses, while others will struggle with the emphasise on speed. That say If I glimpse out of the window I can see some very dark clouds hanging over the “fair City” right now.

The magnificent Hurricane Fly will be honoured with the unavailing of a statue for his lifetime achievements. Emotionally I’m quite attached to him  – quite clearly he is my favourite National Hunt horse. So it’s fantastic that Irish racing and Leopardstown embraces his legacy. ‘The Fly’ will also be paraded today.

2.00 Leopardstown: Novice Hurdle (Grade 2)

One of the main contenders is out with Monalee and that makes it a much easier task for the exciting Willie Mullins mare Let’s Dance. She is a second season novice who was already promising in her first year over hurdles but she appears to have improved significantly over the summer.

She landed a listed price at Punchestown on her seasonal reappearance but looked even sharper when stepped up to 2m 4f at Leopardstown over Christmas when she bolted up in a Grade 3.

She is a slick jumper with gears who’s an incredibly exciting prospect and should have no problems to cope with the good ground here today. She takes the world of beating in my book.

Stable mate Kemboy can’t be discounted. He was a fine winner on debut and has more to offer with the experience under his belt. Noel Meade’s Joey Sasa was an impressive winner of a maiden hurdle here at Leopardstown over Christmas. He enjoys decent ground but has to prove he wants the trip.

Selection: Let’s Dance @ 5/4 Skybet

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2.30 Leopardstown: Arkle Novice Chase (Grade 1)

I totally get why Identity Thief is the “hype horse” here and no doubt his record makes for impressive reading. I also wouldn’t read too much into his last run when pulled up. Nonetheless it is a slight concern, so is the good ground today. I feel he is best suited so rain softened underfoot conditions but then he might easily stuff my mouth if he bolts up today.

Anyway, the Arkle is quite an open and intriguing race and the slight concerns over the favourite do bring the other three rivals right into the game.

De Bromehead’s nine year old Some Plan is two from three over fences and has only 2lb to find on the ratings and the one race he didn’t win he fell and we never know how close he would have gone. Still early days in his chasing career but he already looks a better chaser than hurdler and no doubt there’s more improvement likely to come.

The grey Blue Et Rouge is the youngest challenger in the race and looks to have plenty of ability. A winner of a solid Beginners Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, he left a lasting impression on me. Truth told his jumping wasn’t the best that day, though he was badly hampered two out by a faller and it was impressive how quickly he made up lost ground to jump the final fence on par eventually. Once clearing the last he produced a fine turn of foot to win with plenty in hand.

Willie Mullins also saddles nine year old Royal Cavalier. A solid sort in his own right and a good jumper, but he has a bit to find with his three rivals.

At given prices I do fancy Blue Et Rouge to be thereabouts in the finish. The drop in trip doesn’t concern me personally, given he showed plenty of pace the other day. He acts on track anf ground quite clearly and should have learned plenty from his first outing over fences. He looks an incredibly exciting prospect.

Selection: Blue Et Rouge @ 7/2 PP

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3.30 Irish Champion Hurdle (Grade 1)

A disappointing renewal given Faugheen’s absence, Now this looks pretty much a two horse race, though the younger Petit Mouchoir is firmly fancied. Rightly so, after an impressive Ryanair Hurdle success where he beat today’s most dangerous rival Nicholas Canyon quite easily. But do we get carried away and letrecency bias influence our judgement a bit too much here? Let’s not forget Petit Mouchoir win record is not impressive at all and given he was a 3m point to point winner it might well be the case that he can get into trouble on this good ground against a pacier sort.

Connections couldn’t explain Nicholas Canyon’s rather lacklustre showing at Christmas. Seven lengths beaten in second by Petit Mouchoir seems not a true reflection of his ability. Now, if he is anywhere close to his best – and his seasonal comeback run suggested he is as good as ever – then he should make this a real race for the long odds-on favourite. Obviously he has to improve a good bit to get closer this time, and fact is he’s better with cut in the ground and probably on a right handed track….

Yet, let’s not forget he’s last years Cheltenham Champion Hurdle third, a seven times Grade 1 winner, including two of those here at Leopardstown. On ratings he’s only two pounds to find with Petit Mouchoir and it’s not unreasonable to believe NC can be closer to this rival today.

Hard to make a case for Footpad and Ivanovich Gorbatov, though the later one is the reigning Triumph Hurdle winner nonetheless so can’t be fully discounted.

Selection: Nicholas Canyon @ 11/4 Ladbrokes

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Arrogate romps home in Pegasus

What an anti-climax for the richest race of the world – the inaugural Pegasus World Cup promised a fascinating showdown of the two highest rated horses on the planet…. unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

Only Arrogate showed up and he did what we expected him to do: romp home. A shame that California Chrome never got going. He already looked edgy and not particularly willing in the warm-up. Something was clearly not right. Even before the field turned for home Chrome lost touch. The race was over.

Taking nothing away from Arrogate who still had to go on and win the race. But we know he is so superior to the rest of the field that it was no real surprise that he did what he did in the end. Much more exciting will be to see how he continues in 2017 now as a four year old, most likely with the defence of his Breeders Cup Classic crown as the main target.

For California Chrome it’s the end of a long road. A deserved retirement and daily meetings with some lovely mares await him now – he deserves it and also send a clear signal yesterday: I’ve enough of this game. Happy retirement!

Curragh Opener – Review

And they’re off! The 2016 Irish flat season is under way and it started with an excellent card and some promising performances on Sunday. Here’s a quick round-up of the day and some photos – Find a complete photo gallery here.

Promising Kick-Off: The first race of the new year was a 5f maiden, won by Mister Trader who made all and quickened nicely. Could be a nice type for the early 2yo races but he may not necessarily turn out to be best of this lot.

Callender in third travelled eye-catchingly well off the pace and had loads to do from his position, he wasn’t knocked over but finished with plenty of promise given first and second were the pace setters. He’s extremely well bred and could develop into a nice sprinter.

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Cosy Club

A mentioning also for Cosy Club, the first So You Think son we’ve seen at a racetrack in Europe I believe.

Considering that the 5f trip is probably way too short, he travelled well enough actually, though it was obvious that he wasn’t quick enough when the pace quickened over 2f out.Subsequently he didn’t get the best of runs but also appeared to be green. It was a good debut nonetheless and he should improve once he steps up in trip.

New Star fo Bolger? The 6f maiden was won by an interesting Bolger newcomer in Stenographer. He cost $450.000 as a yearling and impressed physically as a big and scopey type. He was badly outpaced in the middle part of the race but stayed on strongly to get up on the line eventually.

He obviously needs further, given the visual evidence here in combination with his pedigree given he’s  son of Distorted Humor and out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. Jim Bolger likes to introduce good ones at this very first meeting, so Stenographer is clearly one for the notebooks.

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Stenographer

Upset the Group 3 Park Express Stakes: Nobody gave a toss about Queen Blossom. She was unfancied in the betting – though in my preview I called her out as a 20/1 value shot for the race – and travelled in rear of the field for most parts of the race.

Favourite Devonshire looked to have things his own way entering the final two furlongs, but then Queen Blossom worked her way through the field and made a fight out of it. The three year old filly eventually piped Devonshire on the line to land the big price. Surprising in a sense, but it has to be said in her two starts as a juvenile last year she already appeared to have some potential. It remains to be seen whether this was a fluke or if she can build on it, whereas runner-up Devonsire continues to find ways to get beaten over one mile.

Irish Guineas for Awtaad: There was some talk about the son of Cape Cross over the winter after he impressed in two starts as a juvenile. Then, a massive drift in the betting before the off of the Madrid Handicap on Sunday was a major worry. Did he not train on?

There was nothing to worry as the top weight made light work of his rivals in what looked a pretty good and deep race beforehand. He was simply too good for this lot, despite possibly still a bit light of fitness, as connections mentioned afterwards.

Awtaad really impressed me with the way he kicked clear against a good bunch of three year old’s and confirmed what I saw in the parade ring before. He looked a nice, athletic and scopey type. According to his trainer the Irish 2000 Guineas is the plan.

Sruthan’s Lincoln Romp: I didn’t fancy him, feeling a mile in soft ground with a big weight on his shoulders in a deep field may just stretch him, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sruthan in hands of Chris Hayes, slaughtered his rivals in the Irish Lincoln. Two furlongs out and you could count your chickens if you backed him, Hayes sat motionless in the saddle.

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Sruthan romps home

Once the button was pressed, Sruthan stepped up a gear and romped home by 4 and half lengths to win the feature of day one. 11/4 favourite Ashraf finished down the field but was found to be wrong afterwards. It’s best to ignore this performance and to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could still develop into a a very good horse.

Intriguing 1m Maiden: The final race on the card shaped as quite a good race on paper and turned out to be exactly that. The winner Embiran looked extremely promising on his sole start in 2015, when he was unlucky not to beat a subsequent listed winner. He didn’t encounter any problems this time. He travelled like a dream until Smullen said “Go” – in a matter of strides the son of Sharmadal put the race to bed.

He’s nicely bred out of Group 3 winning mare Emiyna, and Dermot Weld said it shouldn’t be a problem to drop back to 7f for a bid of black-type in the Tetrarch Stakes in May.

The runner-up Stellar Mass makes a habit of bumping into the “one too good”. He was a one lengths beaten 4th in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes last season but still remains a maiden. He travelled very strongly here but was simply beaten by a better horse on the day. That says the son of Sea The Stars appears to have strengthen up over the winter and is not a lost cause.

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Claudio Monteverdi

Eye-catcher of the day was Claudio Monteverdi. Aiden O’Brien’s inmate was well backed but met considerable in-running trouble at a crucial stage. Once in the clear he thundered home to finish an excellent fourth.

He finished similarly promising on his sole run last year and is one of the most exciting prospects for the new season. A full-brother to super filly Lush Lashes, he’s a a candidate for the Derby, no doubt. You can find far worse 40/1 ante-post shots.

I expect him to come on an awful lot for this pipe opener and look massively forward to seeing him next time because the more I watch the replay from Sunday, the better it gets.

Cook Islands a potential star: Another one for O’Brien I really look forward to see racing is Cook Islands. I loved what I saw from him in his two starts last year and he did impress me when working at the Curragh on Sunday. He looks to have strengthen up over the winter, is very athletic, though a bit a tricky character all the same.

Whether or not is was significant, but Pat Smullen was on board for the workout and you’d may want to think for a reason; and if it’s only for a feedback from one of the best in the business. Cook Islands may turn out to more like a French Derby type, one who could really excel over 10 furlongs.

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Cook Island

All photos credit Florian Christoph