Tag Archives: Ireland

Preview: Irish Champions Day 2022

Irish Champions Weekend is here. Always a superb two days of top-class racing. Especially Saturday at Lepordstown on a sunny Saturday is probably one of my favourite days for going racing.

I won’t go myself today, unfortunately. But certainly can’t wait to watch the action later on from the comfort of the living room. The sun is shining here where I live, not all that far from Leopardstown. I envy all those lucky folks who can make their way to the track this afternoon.

As for the racing: naturally my eyes are drawn to the Champion Stakes. It looks a fine renewal on paper. Soft ground isn’t ideal, nonetheless the right horse are here to compete. From a betting perspective I also am keen on the subsequent Solonaway Stakes, precisely because the going is soft.

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3.45: Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes, 1 mile 2f

French superstar Vadeni is favourite to follow in the footsteps of Almanzor, who won the 2016 edition of the Irish Champion Stakes for Jean-Claude Rouget and Christophe Soumillon.

The 3-year-old colt enjoyed a sensational season to date: runaway winner in the French Derby, and subsequently a dramatic victory in the Eclipse at Sandown.

He enjoyed a break in the meantime and is now back to go and win the long-term target connections set out for the season.

Vadeni’s brilliant ability to change gear in an instant, tactical versatility, ability to handle soft ground and weight allowance he receives from his elders makes him fair favourite in the betting market and also in my book.

Yet, I do wonder whether the soft going may take the sting out of his turn of foot. Yes, he won the French Derby in similar conditions, but he meets much better opposition today and my feeling is he’s a seriously better horse on decent ground.

Also he meets some of the older rivals on worse weight terms than at Sandown. That may not be an issue, as Vadeni should have improved physically too – it’s somewhat nit-picking; you have to be, though. In such a competitive field, when the favourite is such a short price.

This years 2000 Guineas runner-up Luxembourg endured troubled campaign. He missed the Derby and only returned to the track about four weeks ago in a Group 3 at the Curragh. He got the job done, without sparkling, but is expected to come on for the run a lot.

You certainly can bet on seeing a better version of Luxembourg today than in August. Whether it’s going to be enough to win an Irish Champion Stakes is a different matter.

The trip will suit, the ground isn’t ideal but he handles it. Yet, he’s far from outstanding on topspeed, with his career best going back twelve month – 102 in the Beresford Stakes. He’s got a bit to find with most of his rivals today. He could have the ability to do so, mind.

Stable mates Stone Age and Broome are intriguing runners. The feeling is Stone Age has more to offer than what he has shown since landing the Derby Trial over this course and distance back in May.

Broome won at Royal Ascot this summer, was then unlucky when last seen at Saratoga. An easy lead for him would be a dangerous scenario.

Don’t underestimate Alenquer. He was a dramatic winner of what was perhaps the race of the season, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, back in May at the Curragh. He wasn’t disgraced at Sandown in the Eclipse the next time despite finishing last, and comes here fresh.

Grand Prix de Paris winner Onesto provides a second chance for French connections. The drop in trip may not be ideal, but on ground soft it may not be a big deal. He probably can be marked up for his French Derby 6th place finish and seems to improve at the right time of the year.

Underestimate Mishriff at your peril. Now a 5-year-old, he may not be quite as good as he was last season, but he still runs to a seriously high standard. He was arguably the most unfortunate runner-up in the Eclipse back in June. It’s fair to say if the gap doesn’t close for him when it did then, he probably beats Vadeni on the day.

There are valid excuses for his poor subsequent performance in the King George. He’s better judged on his fine runner-up effort behind superstar colt Baaeed in the Juddmonte International Stakes. Mishriff didn’t stand a chance with Baaeed, but who would?

Yet, this second place finish is still the best performance this season by any runner in this Irish Champions Stakes field on ratings: it was worthy of a 111 topspeed rating and 124 Racingpost Rating – both the highest achieved this season.

Soft ground isn’t quite ideal, though. Mishriff’s best performances all come on decent ground. Nonetheless, he handles it. The drop to 10 furlongs is sure to suit.

Selection:

The ground should be the leveler, I feel. There are plenty of reasons to like Vadeni, yet he’s a short enough price in a race with solid alternatives. Fellow French raider Onesto makes plenty of appeal on prices.

But in summary I must give Mishriff the nod. He’s a superb price, given he’s probably the best horse in the race. He showed signs of brilliance and signs of the opposite this season. Let’s hope he can run one more time to his best. His best will be good enough to win.

10pts win – Mishriff @ 5.3

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4.20: Group 2 Solonaway Stakes, 1 mile

Many intriguing contenders here, without a real standout chance in my view. Even though, I feel Boundless Ocean could be too good in this field if he can show his best on the soft ground.

British raider Jadoomi relishes ease in the ground and improved nicely this season, having won two on the bounce, including the Group 2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood when last seen. His best topspeed of 88 doesn’t scream short-price favourite, though.

After 367 days off the track the filly Just Beautiful is back. She was highly progressive as a 3-year-old, won five of her seven career runs and could easily improve to a level good enough to land this race. The question marks of race fitness and ground suitability are off-putting, nonetheless, especially at the current odds.

One who is certain to be seen to his best in these conditions is Raadobarg. I was waiting for him to get another chance in a race with plenty of cut in the ground. He ran better this year than bare form may suggest.

He won two on the bounce at the beginning of the season, was then desperately unlucky in a Listed contest at Longchamp, before finishing well from off the pace in the Celebration Stake at the Curragh when not advantaged by his racing position. He ran a better race than the 5¼ lengths margin behind Boundless Ocean in the Desmond Stakes suggested.

Raadobarg has to improve on ratings to seriously feature. His best 92 topspeed is solid in this field, but no more. However, with the right ground conditions, possibly a positive right from the #1 draw, he could find that bit of extra. If he does he’s quite a bit overpriced.

10pts win – Raadobarg @ 6.8

Thursday Selections: 14th July 2022

2.20 Hamilton: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Ustath is so desperately ready to win a race…. if the ground stays fast. There is some rain on the way, possibly it won’t be enough to turn the ground to slower than the current good to fast, but Hamilton has watered – of course – so you never know.

I feel he clearly needs solid fast ground to be seen to best effect these days, but I take the risk. Ustath has caught the eye a number of times this year, certainly ran better than bare forms suggest even though his ever falling mark would contradict this notion too.

He’s down to a turf mark of 50 now. He’s ran to topspeeds of 50+ a whopping 18 times in his career on all surfaces, and ran to 50 and 58 on the All-Weather earlier this year, suggesting he’s clearly up- if not a good bit better than this revised Official Rating.

He was not best placed two weeks ago at Thirsk, ran with plenty of credit over the minimum trip at Ripon and was badly hampered at Catterick. The stiff Hamilton 6 furlongs should suit perfectly, especially on fast ground.

10pts win – Ustath @ 4/1

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7.20 Leopardstown: Group Meld Stakes, 9f

You could make a case for anyone and against anyone in this field. The one that I am prepared to give a chance is Boundless Ocean. He seems underappreciated, even though normally he wouldn’t be a bet for me either.

He’s yet to better an 83 topspeed rating in nine lifetime starts, but there are some mitigating factors, hence I am prepared to give him a pass. This Group 3 event over 9 furlongs looks an ideal test that hopefully sees him run a strong race.

He caught the eye a few times this season. I certainly liked his Derby run better than the 6/8 finish would reveal. He was held up in last position and settled better than in previous races, which is not to say he wasn’t keen at different stages throughout the race, regardless.

He had a lot to do from the back of the field turning for home given the race was won at the frontend. He then made a good looking move from three furlongs out until emptying in the closing stages. The trip as beyond him in any case.

He’s a difficult colt to ride it seems. Can miss the break and often pulls really hard for his head. But he clearly got some talent. I felt he was a bit unlucky in the Gallinule Stakes when short of room at a crucial stage and pulled way too hard over 12 furlongs when runner-up subsequently.

A drop to 9 furlongs seems a wise move especially in this lesser company against some beatable rivals. There are no excuses today. I would hope he’s good enough to book himself another opportunity in higher grade subsequently.

10pts win – Boundless Ocean @ 4/1

Sunday Selections: 26th June 2022

5.25 Curragh: Maiden Stakes, 1m 2f

The Aiden O’Brien trained favourite Cougar is unlikely to be anywhere near pattern class, and that throws the race wide open. No doubt I am seriously interested in Active Duty, trained by Ger Lyons – a huge eye-catcher on his racecourse debut back in March.

This son of the brilliant Almanzor saw plenty of support in the betting market on that day, although, he was always likely to play second fiddle behind odds-on favourite Stone Age, who was a couple of months later a highly fancied contender in the Epsom Derby.

Stone Age won from the front giving the form a really solid look, while Active Duty settled well in rear for the majority of the race. Still trailing at the end of the field when turning for home, he soon started to make a big move on the outside once asked for serious effort. Despite showing clear signs of inexperience, he finished the race in impressive style under a hands and heels ride, producing a thunder turn of foot.

Active Duty was an expensive £260k yearling. Right now it doesn’t look like he can live up to this lofty price tag. But he was an April foal, which means it’s a fair possibility he can improve significantly with time and experiencee.

Not to forget this will only be his third career start. For that he drops back to 10 furlongs after a rather disappointing 5th place finish at Navan over 1 mile 5 furlongs. He made a promising looking move from the back of the field swinging around the wide outside turning for home, but the effort petered out. He didn’t appear to stay the trip. That form has worked out rather well already.

The drop in distance should suit I reckon. On pedigree 10 furlongs seem to be the ideal trip. Nonetheless the question mark is why connections felt the need to run him over the longer trip already on his second career start. Perhaps he lacks natural speed.

Although, judged on his debut effort, he seems to possess a turn of foot. Back then he also ran to topspeed 73. Which is pretty solid for a debut performance.

In any case it’s too early to give up on him. This is a winnable race for him. and he looks overpriced.

10pts win – Active Duty @ 6.6

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2.35 Greyville: KZN Breeders Mile, 1m

Nexus stands out as a major chance over in Greyville today in a race he should be touching odds-on in my book. He is the only one that combines class, course and distance form and should enjoy the solid pace that I expect to be set here. He also tops the speed ratings by a country mile in these conditions in this field.

He didn’t set the world alight on his return over shorter but the race developed up front anyways and he was always likely to come on. He’s weighted to win this as the second highest rated horse behind top-class sprinter Battle Force who I reckon won’t see out the trip.

Obviously all eyes will be on former champion jockey Piere Strydom who makes his return on Nexus before his ride in the Durban July next Saturday. His fitness is a slight question mark, but on the other hand I’m sure Nexus will be primed to give the champ a taste for victory today.

This wouldn’t be my race and price normally. But with so many question marks about pretty much everyone else in this field, and Nexus having fitness assured, going well on this track, over his ideal distance with the weights in his favours, can’t pass it.

10pts win – Nexus @ 2/1

Irish Derby 2022 Review

The 2022 Irish Derby saw a dominant winner in Westover. Arguably an unlucky horse at Epsom, he demolished his seven rivals at the Curragh.

He looked a proper Derby horse on Saturday, and not, as some suggested, a Leger type. There were also question marks over the suitability of the Curragh. Personally I felt the stiff finish and the galloping nature of the track would suit really well.

That turned out to be true. Westover looked extremely comfortable, and the track played to his strengths more than anything else.

Westover

The true merit of the performance will come to the fore as the season goes on. Main rival Tuesday didn’t fire. The filly couldn’t back up her strong Oaks victory. Perhaps she didn’t recover in time, given she also ran in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas earlier this year. This was probably one race too many.

Regardless, the fact is Westover was more than entitled to win even against a peak Tuesday. She had opportunities in the Group 1 races but couldn’t crack the topspeed 100 mark yet. She’s probably much better over 10 furlongs anyway, if given the opportunity.

In the absence of a true rival it was more the visual impression that “wowed” the crowd. Whether Westover would have been good enough to win the Epsom Derby with a clear run is pure speculation.

Nonetheless, I think all racing fans will be hoping that we get a “rematch” with Desert Crown at some point this season. Such a clash looks much more open after the Irish Derby. Not to forget 3-year-old horses improve at a different pace throughout the year, so things can look different the next time these two meet.

Given Westover’s excellent performances at Epsom and the Curragh it makes me wonder how good Cash could be. He was one of my Five To Follow this season and he ran a huge race in the Sandown Classic Trial when runner-up behind Westover.

He didn’t make it to Epsom and neither to Chantilly, having picked up an injury in the meantime. David Simcock said they’ll be patient and target Ascot in autumn. He’ll stay in training next year, most likely. It will be exciting to find out how far Cash can go.

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Eyecatchers:

Some horses caught my eye at the Curragh on Saturday. Want to give a quite shoutout to them (I’m not doing the weekly eyecatchers at the moment due to time constraints) for those interested to keep an eye on them.

Power Under Me
1.25 – 6 furlongs, Listed

Was early on isolated on the stand’s side racing without cover. Chased the fast pace, travelled pretty well until put under pressure from 1.5f out. Battled to the line but had to let two horses pass. Fared best from those close to the pace. First and second came from off the pace.

This is probably his level. Perhaps able to be competitive in Group 3, but found out in higher grade last time out despite some excuses. 6f with a bit of ease in the ground most likely the ideal scenario.

Raadobarg
2.35 – 1 mile, Listed

Raced in midfield most of the race which developed further up field. Had too much do in the home straight but ran on well from his disadvantaged position. He gave the impression would he had tracked the eventual placed horses a bit closer he could have been seriously involved in the finish.

Was desperately unlucky last time out in France when badly hampered in the moment he was coming with his run to potentially win the race. Looks still improving. 7 furlongs to a mile will all be fine, but ideally with ease in the ground. In fact the softer the better.

Boundless Ocean
3.45 – 1m 4f, Group 1

Raced in last position dropped in, was keen at different stages of the race, although a little bit better settled than in other races this year. Had a lot to do from the back of the field turning for home given the race was won at the frontend. Made a good looking move from three furlongs out until emptying in the closing stages.

He’s a difficult colt to ride it seems. Can miss the break and often pulls really hard for his head. But he has clearly talent. Was a bit unlucky in the Gallinule Stakes when short of room at a crucial stage and pulled way too hard over 12 furlongs when runner-up lto. Unlikely to stay 12f with his demeanour but could be underestimated over 10 furlongs.

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Irish Derby day Photos:

©Florian Christoph

Saturday Selections: 25th June 2022

I am currently going through the worst slump of “form” in the last half a decade or so of my serious “betting career”. It starts to become farcical. Even though the first three months of my 2022 betting year (March, April, May) were all green, June wears me down.

It’s just not working. Or something of the process isn’t working. The initial stage of video analysis and identifying potential horses for future opportunities works extremely well. The eye-catchers perform as well as never before, actually. But I don’t back them. It seems right now I have lost the touch for making good decisions.

Some days I am too conservative, others not patient enough. There’s the odd winner here or there, but they don’t offset the losing days. Their prices are too low, or more the fact of the matter is I don’t get “value”.

I never had a high strike rate, often back bigger prices. It’s inevitable that you have dry spells. But if things go so badly wrong for an entire month as they do right now it’s not all down to “bad luck” or variance. It’s down to poor decisions too. Not sure how to rectify this at the moment.

Hopefully things will turn around. But hoping is fearing. And I somehow fear I lost it. I see this also reflected in how the prices I take compare to ISP and BSP. Doesn’t make for good reading. I used to beat them regularly with my selections in the past. Doesn’t happen at the moment.

That’s a little ramble I had to get off the chest. Well, it’s Irish Derby Derby. I am excited going down to the Curragh no matter what. The race looks a compelling edition. Although I stay away from it betting wise. Here’s hoping those betting decision I have made for Sturday will turn out to be good ones, though.

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3.30 Newcastle: Class 2 Handicap, 2m

Bandinelli shaped a lot better at Ascot than the 6.5 lengths beaten performance suggested. He was clearly minded in the closing stages after it became obvious that he couldn’t win.

From a wide draw he moved across quickly to chase the pace but was caught wide around the first bend. He raced wide for the majority of the race. He made a good looking move into the home straight but wasn’t able to sustain it.

Back over two miles on the All-Weather he looks dangerous. Still rather unexposed over the trip, his excellent record on the sand gives him a better chance than the price if he can only find a tiny bit of improvement, which is far from impossible.

A good draw will ensure he can find a good early position somewhere behind the leaders, in fourth or fifth perhaps. I think he will run a massive race and is undervalued in the market.

10pts win- Bandinelli @ 22/1

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2.35 Curragh: Listed Celebration Stakes, 1m

The arriving rain makes this interesting, otherwise this listed contest would be quite a dull and poor renewal. It is a near certainty – unless they absolutely crawl – that Straight Answer doesn’t stay a mile, certainly not up the stiff Curragh finish.

The two standout horses in the field are 4-year old Raadobarg on one side. The more rain the better for him. He’s clearly a rock solid miler at this level and especially dangerous with significant ease in the ground.

At this point in time it’s not quite clear how soft the going will turn out. There’s a status yellow rain warning live for then next 20 hours. It sounds more like some isolated showers are coming, that’s for sure.

The rain brings Irish 2000 Guineas 4th Wexford Native into the equation too. He’s probably best with some ease in the going too and still offers some upside with more improvement to come.

He could be the sort that thrives on racing, given he has improved nearly with each race this season. You can put a line through the Royal Ascot performance. His cause was lost after the first furlong.

After an impressive debut win in March, he was comprehensively beaten by Buckaroo in Listed company, although he ran on well, even after being short of room over 1f out.

In the 2000 Guineas he tracked the pace, got closer with each passing furlong and fought gamely, still challenging Native Trail entering the final furlong. He tired but fared much the best of those closer to the pace and that performance can be marked up in my view.

Wexford Native can be quite keen and fighting for his head. I hope that with experience and maturity he can settle better. He will probably be close to the pace again, given he doesn’t have a turn of foot and looks more a grinder. Probably ridden sooner than most rivals he should be able to grind his way to the line making it a proper test. He has enough class to win.

10pts win – Wexford Native @ 4/1

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4.20 Curragh: Group 3 International Stakes, 1m 2f

Mac Swiney can give Jim Bolger a double on the card. He drops significantly in class here. He was a long way beaten in the highly competitive Tattersalls Gold Cup but that was his comeback run and I would expect him to improve,

He won the Irish 2000 Guineas last year, was a credible 4th in the Epsom Derby, although perhaps not quite staying the trip, and finished a fine 3rd in the Champions Stakes. He’s a proven top level performer.

The rain will surely aid his chances. The more the better, of course. Even if doesn’t turn properly soft, he simply looks a class above the rest in this field.

10pts win – Mac Swiney @ 10/3

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7.15 Lingfield: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Gold Charm took well to the step up in trip to 12 furlongs the last time at Thirsk. She finished the strongest after being briefly flat footed over 2 furlongs out

With that performance she confirmed the promise she showed in her Handicap debut at Lingfield a few weeks earlier. She caught my eye that day when she travelled stylishly into the home straight and finished much the best.

She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree, and matching that with the visual impression of her last two races it’s clear the 1m 4f trip doesn’t pose any problems. The return to the Lingfield polytrack is a positive and this in combination with the trip can unlock improvement.

10pts win – Gold Charm @ 9/2

Preview: Irish 1000 Guineas 2022

The first opportunity of Irish Classic glory for fillies looks a wide open affair as 14 go to post at the Curragh this afternoon.

It’s no surprise to see an Aiden O’Brien trained filly heading the betting for an Irish Classic. However, the fact he throws three other fillies into the mix doesn’t scream confidence.

Tuesday, at the time of writing the 11/4 favourite, ran with plenty of credit at Newmarket in the English Guineas, finishing a solid third place behind Cachet, who has franked the form in the meantime. There’s every chance the lightly raced daughter of Galileo will improve.

Yet her career-best topspeed rating of 95 isn’t anything special. Could she meet the same fate as her full-sister Minding, who finished runner-up in the Irish 1000 Guineas in 2016? Well, I think it’s certainly worth to oppose Tuesday today, aynway.

Dermot Weld has a strong chance with Homeless Songs, the winner of the Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial. The Frankel daughter produced a nice turn of foot to beat smart runner-up Agartha.

No doubt she can progress and has to be considered a main threat to Tuesday. But to be a true contender she certainly has to improve. At Leopardstown she was a bit slow out of the gates, something you’ll hardly overcome in a Classic; while the performance was visually impressive, the 82 topspeed rating isn’t nearly as impressive.

The aforementioned Agartha was probably a bit unlucky in the Group 3 Cornelscourt Stakes subsequently. She finished second once again, that day behind History.

History, another filly for Aiden O’Brien, is another obvious improver, who should take another step forward from her really pleasing seasonal reappearance at Leopardstown.

Both fillies – History and Agartha – look solid alternatives to the favourite in my eyes, especially as the stiff Curragh finish should suit them.

William Haggas travels over with his representative Purplepay. She was an excellent third against the boys in the Criterium International when last seen. However, race fitness and most certainly the ground are major question marks for her. It may not be soft enough for her.

Mise En Scene hasn’t been seen since finishing 10th at the Breeders’ Cup. Her Prestige Stakes victory last August would give her a fair form chance to feature today. But hard to gauge what expect from her given she’s been off since November.

I am pretty sweet on the chances of another Aiden O’Brien trained filly: Concert Hall. She has Oaks written all over her, and at first glance a drop to a mile isn’t ideal. But in a Guineas that lacks substance, I feel she’s overpriced.

On pure form terms she has serious claims. She’s also top rated on topspeed – a 97 rating isn’t anything to shout about in top-class company, but that shows the lack of depth in the race today. More importantly though, Concert Hall achieved this career best TS last time out.

The daughter of Oaks winner Was returned as a 3-year-old with a fine victory at Navan last month where she stepped up to 1m 2f for the first time.

Not surprisingly she looked a bit fresh and was pretty keen for the first half of the race, but then travelled strongly on the home straight nonetheless and won in better style than the short winning margin may suggest.

The form has already worked out well, although the caveat is that she simply beat slower horses, given the third has won a Listed race over 1m 5f in the meantime and the fourth a Group 3 over 10 furlongs. Nonetheless, there’s real substance to this form.

Going back to her juvenile season her sixth place finish in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket was better than the bare result, and she was not far behind Cachet and Prosperous Voyage.

Before that she won the Group 3 Weld Park Stakes over 7 furlongs at the Curragh, clearly doing her strongest work up the stiff finish at the County Kildare venue.

In my mind this is the key to her chances today: that bit of give in the ground will put additional emphasis on stamina and horses can get really tired when they meet the stiff final furlong finish at the Curragh.

Concert Hall has proven that she has solid cruising speed, so I would not expect her to be seriously outpaced and getting too far behind.

Her future will most likely be over further. Today could simply be a stepping stone toward the Oaks. Aiden O’Brien mentioned this filly thrives on racing. Whether she well and truly enjoys cut in the ground remains to be seen. Others in this field, especially those fillies more at home over a mile may take a big step forward and outpace her.

Those are all dangers. Nonetheless, at given prices she looks significant value in my book given there is solid grounds to believe she will be more than capable to compete in this field at this track over this trip.

10pts win – Concert Hall @ 13.5/1