Back-to-back winners: Ventura Express won his race at Pontefract quite comfortably. Everything worked to absolute perfection – that’s not always the case: superb ride, hugged the rail, saved ground, kicked on 2f out and game over.
He was well backed all day too, went off 7/2. So I got a great price, although a little lower than originally thought as I only realised in the morning my full stake wasn’t matched as initially thought it did. Topped up and ended up closer to 7s, which is still lovely.
On to Saturday: it’s Irish 2000 Guineas day. I love this day and will make may way down the N7 to the Curragh, of course. This is usually when Ireland is at its most beautiful – warm, and sunny, everything is blossoming. Plenty of hope is in the air right before the first Classic of the Irish flat season as well.
It’s also another Grade 1 day over in South Africa. One of the premier contests for 3-year-old middle-distance horses shapes as a cracker of a race (potential selection in the morning when there is a market for me to back, to be added here).
I also must say the amount of racing this Saturday – and quite frankly most of the days during the week as well – is simply overwhelming. I struggle to keep up and it takes a bit the joy out of it.
I love turf racing, but enjoy the somewhat quieter pace of the All-Weather season more, as sad as that sounds. The latest news from the reshaped fixture list in the UK doesn’t provide much hope that this is to change anytime soon.
2.12 Greyville: Grade 1 Daily News 2000, 1m 2f
A hot renewal of the key race for the middle-stance three-year-olds in South Africa. The right horses are here to the most part.
See It Again is a pretty short-priced favourite, and you can see why. He was a 40/1 shock winner in the Cape Derby and followed up nicely in the WSB Guineas earlier this month when he ran on well after getting badly outpaced over three furlongs out.
The step up to 2000m will surely suit and he’s clearly the one to beat, simply given the fact he beat Charles Dickens at Kenilworth, who’s the benchmark every three-year-old is measured against this year, and because he finished so strongly when last seen over a trip a bit on the sharp side.
But he’s a tricky horse as well. One who has to be ridden in a specific way. He wears blinkers for a reason and can race sluggishly. I wouldn’t want to trust him at short odds.
Without Question runs in the same colours and was a good third in the Derby, where he faltered late after pushing the pace. He went on to win a Grade 3 over a mile on his comeback run when last seen, doing so against older horses.
He’s clearly talented and may get the run of the race from close to the pace here.
Cousin Casey is probably the most interesting horse here. A son of 2013 Daily News winner Vercingetorix, he was a brilliant 2-year-old and has done well in his 3yo campaign as well, against seriously tough opposition.
After landing a Grade 2 over a mile on his seasonal reappearance he went on to ran a huge race as runner-up behind Charles Dickens in the Cape Guineas. That pushed him near the top of the market for South Africa’s Premier all-age open middle-distance Grade 1, the Met.
From a wide draw he was caught wide, was pulling hard without cover and eventually pulled his way to the front. He only went down late in the day behind the countries best horses, for a strong 5th place. A huge run.
He got a well-deserved break afterwards, before returning with a fine tune-up race at Greyville, before a solid 4th in the WSB Guineas behind Charles Dickens.
That day he made huge progress from the back of the field on the outside from 4f out. he clearly did too much there, going upside with Charles Dickens and fast finishing See It Again. He paid for those exertions, eventually.
Going up in trip isn’t a worry. He should stay the distance on pedigree and the Met run gives plenty of hope. However, he can pull hard as well, and that’s the main worry.
I believe he’s the best horse in the race, though, if he can get his act together. His Met run is clearly the strongest form in the race, this is his third run after a beak, the one he’s had as the target for a while, he should be at his peak now. With that in mind the odds are generous.
10pts win – Cousin Casey @ 4/1
3.05 Curragh: Listed Orby Stakes, 1m4f
Sionnach Eile looked last season like one very much capable of stepping up listed level when he won back-to-back Handicaps in July. He had a long break since then, and with that in mind the recent Cork comeback run can be ignored.
Nonetheless, he travelled pretty well for a long time before getting pretty tired eventually. You would hope he strips fitter here, and one would think connections have had this contest in mind for a while.
He moves up in trip, which is sure to suit, given he won over twice over 1m 4f+, including the hot Guinness Handicap at Galway when last seen off 94.
That was a clear career-best effort as he achieved a superb 97 speed rating, which gives him an excellent chance in this type of race here, if he could run to the same level of form.
The pace could be muddling, but no bother, Sionnach Eile can move forward and could be hard to catch if allowed to stride on.
10pts win – Sionnach Eile @ 5/1
3.40 Curragh: Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas, 1m
A sub-standard edition of the first Classic of the Irish Flat season. This seems to evolve around the British raiders for once because Aiden O’Brien’s horses are a surprisingly poor bunch, certainly judged on what they have done up until now.
Proud And Regal is the one exception, as he’s a Group 1 winner from his juvenile season. However, a mile on decent ground is a completely different test to a mile on heavy going in France at the end of a 2-year-old campaign.
Paddington is Ryan Moore’s choice. He won a Listed trial at Leopardstown after winning a hot Handicap on his seasonal comeback. He’s got potential, though, given he hasn’t run any significant speed rating yet, does appear to be well below Group 1 standard.
It’s fair to say Royal Scotsman enhanced his credentials in no uncertain terms in the English 2000 Guineas earlier this month. He ran on well for 3rd place despite showing early keenness, which can’t have helped.
He’s got a huge engine, as we knew from his excellent juvenile campaign as well. No doubt he does stay the trip and the slight uphill finish at the Curragh will be to his advantage.
For all that, he’s a short price, perhaps fairly so, but his tendency to pull hard is a question mark in a race where the pace may not be red hot.
The obvious for me, although I’m certainly biased as well, is Hi Royal. He was one of those 3-year-old colts I flagged in my 3yo to follow piece before the start of the season.
He certainly confirmed the promise shown as a juvenile when he finished a brilliant runner-up at Newmarket in the English 2000 Guineas. For the most part he even looked like the winner, until hanging a potential Classic success in the final furlong away.
Hi Royal has an engine, a turn of foot and does stay beyond a mile probably. He should enjoy the galloping Curragh and the uphill finish to the line.
Somewhat of a question mark is the likely fastish ground, though. The Guineas was on officially soft ground. His sole career victory came with plenty of cut in the ground.
What gives hope is his debut run, when an excellent third in a hot maiden on fast ground. However, he seems to hit the ground hard and the fact he is probably at his best once he moves up to 10 furlongs is a concern.
Nonetheless, he’s the most solid choice and slightly overpriced, given he has proven his class already, settled well, travelles well and has plenty of upside.
10pts win – Hi Royal @ 11/2
4.10 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
This is a wide open contest on paper, but I feel Big R is potentially hard to beat if he acts on the fast ground.
He was a huge eyecatcher on his seasonal reappearance and handicap debut last time at Salisbury, and despite the massive effort, he has been eased by a pound in the meantime. That won’t make too much of a difference as he’s already extremely well-handicapped off 70, most likely.
At Salisbury he was at a disadvantage from the #8 gate right away. He was caught wide and without cover early on, before settling at the back of the field. hen then made rapid progress on outside from the halfway stage to challenge the leaders over 1f out, before getting tired and beaten by those with better draws and closer to the pace.
It rates a huge performance against the pace and track bias. He showed good early speed last year as well, suggesting sprinting is his game. He may stay 7f on pedigree, but 6f appears to be ideal.
Big R was a cheap yearling, so is not one who has tons of scope, probably. Nonetheless, judged on this most recent run he looks clearly better than a 69 Official Rating.
10pts win – Big R @ 4/1
4.55 Goodwood: Class 4 Handicap, 5f
Huberts Dream looks dramatically overpriced if he’s good to go here. He’s got a good draw to attack the rail and stretch the field, while he may well enjoy the better ground which he didn’t get in those turf starts when expected to run well.
Certainly one can ignore the recent Chester run in deep ground from a #10 draw and he also lost a shoe. He ran with plenty of credit at Lingfield prior in a seriously competitive Handicap.
To continue to run over the minimum trip seems a good idea. He showed signs of severe keenness over 6 furlongs in the past, but at the same time showed that early speed is his biggest asset.
He won well on the All-Weather during the winter notching up a hat-trick of wins achieving multiple speed ratings in the 70s. He’s dangerous here if allowed to run on merit.
10pts win – Huberts Dream @ 22.5/1