Tag Archives: January

Monday Selections: 16th January 2023

4.20 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 9.5f

Tricky opener to Wolverhampton’s Monday card: every horse in the field attempts a new trip or is going to make their handicap debut – it’s a somewhat muddy picture.

At the same time I believe there is about three horses with a prime chance: those are Densetsu, Marmara Star and Smooth Ryder.

The two fillies look bound to improve for the trip on handicap debut, so should the gelding, especially back on the All-Weather. If I can, though, I try to oppose fillies and mares during the winter, hence I am more interested in Smooth Ryder.

This US bred son of Smooth Daddy cost quite a bit of money as a yearling and looks clearly bred to excel over this sort of trip on the sand. He’s not fulfilled the promise of his price tag, and has been gelded in November. However, he showed some promise, at least for what’s required on this lowly level, in his first two starts especially, in my view.

Those came on the All-Weather, incidentally. He was green and raw on debut, but made some solid progress in the home straight, after a rough start to his life as a racehorse.

His second run over the same CD – 7 furlongs at Chelmsford – was quite eye-catching, as he jumped quickly and led the field, setting solid fractions and travelling well into the home straight, before fading.

Those horses ahead of him are all much higher rated today – the winner even as high as 98, other in the 80’s.

Given the trip was certainly on the sharp side, Smooth Ryder ran seriously well that day. When last seen on heavy ground he clearly didn’t enjoy the going, and it’s a form best to ignore.

An opening mark of 61 looks more than fair, judged on the Chelmsford performance, especially as he is back on the sand, and goes up to 9.5 furlongs. Franny Norton is in the saddle, for this one ride only today.

Given the gelding has shown alertness from the gate I expect him to move forward from the #1 draw. There aren’t too many concerns about the trip on pedigree, so a positive ride shouldn’t compromise his chances.

A concern is the drift in the betting. But I reckon not many will truly have a grasp on what we get from this bunch today and I happily back him at what looks potentially generous odds.

10pts win – Smooth Ryder @ 6/1

Sunday Selections: 15th January 2023

A rather quiet week on the betting front: only the one selection on Monday; obviously that went as badly as it could. Nothing stood out worthy of an investment ever since.

That’s okay – the week produced a handful of intriguing eyecatchers that will be on the list in the next version (latest eyecatchers here).

One interest today: a small field, but good race this afternoon on the Southwell Tapeta.

……….

2.20 Southwell: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Intriguing contest. Quite open, the betting tells the tale. But only one horse seems to be potentially well handicapped. That is Mogok Valley, who caught the eye when last seen.

That day at Kempton over 6 furlongs he enjoyed a solid start, travelled nicely amongst a group of horses tracking the pace, before things started to heat up from over two furlongs out.

His acceleration wasn’t rapid and he had to switch to his right at the 2 furlong pole, and again when approaching the final furlong marker, in order for clear run. He also appeared to be a tiny bit disorganised, and that cost vital momentum.

The winner, who produced a stunning turn of foot from well off the pace against the inside rail, was long gone before Mogok Valley eventually rattled home in good style for a fine runner-up performance.

This was his handicap debut, and rates as a strong follow-up performance from a recent comeback run over the minimum trip one month earlier.

He is still lightly raced – today is going to be his 6th career start only – and is completely unexposed over the new trip. Moving up to 7 furlongs seems a wise move, given how he ran last time and the pedigree is a solid guide as well: Zoffany’s stamina index is 9.4, while the dam, although a sprinter during her racing career, produced a 1m 5f winner already.

If Mogok Valley can improve for the trip he has a good chance to prove a win or two better than his current rating. He steps up in class, though and obviously has to show that he belongs here. He’s yet to run a speed rating that provides this sort of evidence.

The betting is a bit concerning as he’s drifting a bit this morning. In saying that, he’s pushed out to an acceptable price for me now. I am sweet on him, backing the potential improvement after an eye-catching handicap debut last time out.

10pts win – Mogok Valley @ 3/1

Monday Selections: 9th January 2023

5.30 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Apprentice Handicap, 7f

I’ve got three running from the latest Eyecatcher list. Not ideal. Thankfully I’ve got clear conditions set out for Jupiter Express and Desert Dream, and they aren’t met here.

They should still be fancied runners. In contrast, few in this field I regard as serious contenders. But knowing this race isn’t ideal for either Jupiter Express nor Desert Dream means they aren’t value for the win, in my view.

That leaves Healing Power. This looks a perfect opportunity for the 7-year-old gelding, in comparison. Let’s first review his most recent effort, that got him an entry on the eyecatchers:

Three weeks ago at Lingfield, he lead from the front, albeit pestered by a rival throughout. He set a good, even pace throughout. He was still leading at the final furlong marker, before headed over half a furlong from home by the eventual winner and runner-up, who came from off the pace. He managed to hold on for third eventually.

I believe this is strong form – on an individual level, because speed ratings confirmed an excellent figure of 59; form wise – because winner and second ran to higher than- or equal speed figures to their handicap mark. The winner went back-to-back and followed up with another strong 2nd place afterwards again.

The handicapper has been surprisingly friendly, having dropped Healing Power by 2lb for this strong performance, that at very least was very much in line with his then current rating, actually.

Off 62, in the right race, Healing Power will be handicapped to win in my view. He ran to 64 and 65 speed ratings within the last half year over 7 furlongs on the All-Weather, and this lto effort confirms his excellent current form.

Is this the right race? Yes and no. It’s not because this is Wolverhampton, Tapeta. His best sand performances all came at either Lingfield or Chelmsford on the polytrack. He also has to overcome a wider than ideal draw in #7. The Furtado yard has a poor spell right now, is 0/16 in the last fortnight.

But the positives outweigh all the negatives. He only raced three times on the Tapeta, was placed once in a hot class 5 contest, with the other two runs came over 6 furlongs and a mile, neither an ideal trip, off higher marks as well.

In class 6 over 7 furlongs he’s 1/5 and placed in 3 more, all those runs with Elle-May Croot in the saddle, who is on board here once again, and who maintains her 7lb claim even in this Apprentice race – with that she has a positive weight advantage to some other apprentices in this field, if they would meet in an ordinary Handicap, in fact.

The draw isn’t ideal, yes; thankfully Healing Power is a quick starter and there isn’t too many horses who are likely to charge forward in this field. The only one is Jupiter Express, who is likely to pull for his head over this trip, but at the same time will give Healing Express a nice focus point, something like a lead horse, who will be setting a fast pace that will suit him help to settle, as otherwise he’s known to pull early, as well.

The yard ran a bit better than the bare form suggest. In the last week 3/6 were placed, while the average SP was in the range of 23/1 for all runners in the last 14 days. Context is key, hence, if talking about the form of a yard.

In summary, Healing Power should have a cracking chance and perhaps should be considered the favourite to win the race, in my view.

The prices on the exchanges are total bonkers for the moment (and you can get on a proper stake; there is even bigger available, but I got the price I got). Of course, you never know in these races. There might be a reason for that. But the price doesn’t put me off at all; I doubt at this stage anybody knows who’s going to be on a going day here.

10pts win – Healing Power @ 10/1

All-Weather Eyecatchers #5

A list of horses that caught my eye during the recent weeks of racing on the All-Weather.

Lord Paramount
20/12/22 – 3.55 Southwell:

Moved across from wide draw enthusiastically, probably wasted too much energy fighting for his head early on. Tracked pace four lengths off, going well entering home straight. Looked awkward, then hanging badly from 2 furlongs out. Empty in closing stages.

Won well lto over 7f in Novice company. Would be interesting down in trip, too. Dam did her best over minimum trip. He ran to a 74 speed rating in second career start. Hence opening mark could underestimate him.

Tricky sort. Shown tendency to hang. Still lightly raced and well backed on every occasion. Could be a good deal better than OR 70 if he can get his act together.

Race Replay

The Cola Kid
20/12/22 – 4.30 Southwell:

Moved forward to grab the lead, did a lot in the first three furlongs. Unable to quicken in the home straight, still a solid run, in line with last two performances.

Clearly best over 6 furlongs. Was not expected the last number of times. Comes down to excellent mark. Ran to higher speed ratings last year, and looks capable if on a going day, ideally 6f with a good draw.

Race Replay

Ustath
20/12/22 – 5.00 Southwell:

Off to a quick start, led early on, then as part of duo many lengths ahead of field before fading very badly.

Some return to form, as the enthusiasm for racing is still there. One that’s hard to catch. Comes down to solid mark again. Ran 3x times to speed ratings 54+ last year.

Ran okay nto, but did too much too soon after not starting the sharpest. Ideally would like to see a couple pounds lower in the mark (<62) before getting involved over 6f .

Race Replay

Desert Dream
21/12/22 – 6.30 Wolverhampton:

Was going well for the entire race toward the inside rail, possibly coming with a winning move before badly short of room over 1f out. Got going again. Excellent run.

Consistent 9yo, in the grip of the handicapper right now; still can win, but best speed rating in last half year was only 50. Want to see him down to this handicap mark, too, before getting involved, then over 7 furlongs.

Race Replay

Healing Power
22/12/22 – 11.50 Lingfield:

Lead from the front, albeit pestered by rival throughout. Set good, strong pace early on. Still leading at final furlong, before headed over half a furlong from home. Still managed to hold on for third. Should be strong form, ran to 59 speed rating.

Lenient handicapper dropped him another 2lb. Will be really competitive in similar race over 7f off. Ran tp 64 and 65 speed rating within last half year over this C&D.

Race Replay

O Twenty Boy
22/12/22 – 5.00 Southwell:

Bit outpaced at back of the field on stands’ side from over 2f out. Made nice progress in the final furlong under easy hands and heels, though.

Probably better over 6f, especially now as an 8yo. Ran well a number of times this year, including 4 performances achieving speed ratings of 60+.

Already down to a mark of 60. any further reduction will be interesting, in particular once he goes up in trip again.

Race Replay

Eagle Eyed Freddie
22/12/22 – 6.30 Southwell:

Uncontested lead by a couple of lengths. Set blistering pace, especially in the middle part. Still a few lengths ahead over 1 furlong out but tired rapidly. Huge run, speed rating 58.

Consistent front-runner. NTO performance not so good, should help to get some respite from the handicapper. Anything below OR 55 will be intriguing over a mile with a good draw and not much competition for the lead. A drop to 7f would be incredibly intriguing, too.

Race Replay

Shabs
22/12/22 – 7.00 Southwell:

Tracked pace, travelled much the strongest over 2 furlongs out but found little once again. Same story as lto when he travelled like a winner just to fade badly.

Knocked on the door multiple times but it’s obvious he doesn’t truly stays a mile. Pedigree points toward 6 furlongs, in fact. Will only back him if he drops to 7 furlongs. Then should be a cracking chance, ideally with a good draw. He’s not the sharpest starter.

Ran four times to 50+ speed ratings in the last twelve months, to 51 lto; on a mark of 51 right now, huge chance in the right race.

Race Replay

Proclivity
27/12/22 – 4.30 Wolverhampton:

Restrained at the back of the field travelling seriously well. Stuck in traffic and no chance until late when finishing third under hands and heels.

NTO run over 6f can be ignored as well. Wide draw, travelling on the outside keenly and big drifter on the day. Clearly better than this, and more likely in good nick as well as on a good mark. ideally drops down to 5f as best performances came over minimum trip.

Ran three times to speed ratings 60+ on turf; yet to replicate on the All-Weather. But this performance suggests he’s able to win if the handbrake is off. Has shown ability to move forward in the past as well.

Race Replay

Shark Two One
28/12/22 – 6.25 Newcastle:

Pushing pace on far side, they went a serious pace. Was still right there at the final furlong marker before getting desperately tired. Managed to hold on for 4th place.

Was capable to finish fine runner-up off 80 and running to a 73 speed rating last April. Never been in the same form again, but this was a return to some form, racing off a career lowest mark. Deserves another chance over 6f to see whether he can follow-up.

Race Replay

Billy Dylan
30/12/22 – 5.00 Wolverhampton:

Moved quickly forward and led as part of duo setting good pace. Still ahead as they turned for home before tiring quite badly. Strong race with winner went back-to-back and runner-up in form.

Off small break. Could be bang on next time out, possibly another reduction in his mark. Ideally drops down into 0-50; ran largely in better races this year.

Consistent front-runner over this course and distance. With lower mark and possibly easier race should have every opportunity to go close soon.

Race Replay

Big Bard
31/12/22 – 3.15 Lingfield:

Make good use of #1 gate and moved forward, led the field going solid clip, seemingly really enjoying himself for majority of the race. Tired from 1.5f out, though.

Ran to speed ratings 59 and 60 since September, although on turf, but career best AW SR is 59. Will be on a pretty fair mark soon. Ideally want to see him drop below 60 to become really interested.

He was beaten only by a neck off 60 running to 60 speed rating at Windsor in October with first time headgear (CP); I believe he’s as good on the All-Weather; watch out for application of blinkers potentially and/or drop into 0-60.

Race Replay

Fine Wine
01/01/2023 – 4.56 Southwell:

Quickly out of the gates and led as part of trio by a number of lengths, going a seriously hard pace. Tired badly from over a furlong out and hung to his left, but did best of front-runners holding on for 2nd.

Huge run. Went back to back prior. High mark now, may find it tough in Handicaps. More interesting on Stakes races over minimum trip. kept improving with age and this run confirms he’s as good as his current rating.

Race Replay

Modular Magic
01/01/2023 – 5.26 Southwell:

Led the field, although closely followed. Challenged from two furlongs out, eventually got behind, but stuck to it impressively in the closing stages.

Off a small break, had to carry big weight down in class. Hot race for class 5, though. Should find easier opportunities. On a good mark judged on turf performances in 2022.

Race Replay

Hit Mac
02/01/2023 – 1.53 Lingfield:

Travelled in rear on the outside off the rail, possibly wider than ideal. Moved toward the inside over 2 furlongs out, short of room and momentum stopped around the home bend. Possibly cost him the race.

Unlucky sort. Ran really well but found trouble multiple times over the last weeks. Ran consistently strong speed ratings in line with his mark of 55, 58 and 59.

Put up 2lb in the meantime. Can race more forward than here. Think he is still a win ahead with a clear run, ideally over 6 furlongs.

Race Replay

Smooth Red
02/01/2023 – 5.40 Newcastle:

Got significantly outpaced from halfway on, lost ground, before running on rather well in the final furlong.

Handicap debut off a break and freshly gelded, showed nothing in three starts prior. Should improve, especially up in trip. Looks to be crying out for a return to 6 furlongs. Could be interesting then.

Race Replay

Northern Chancer
02/01/2023 – 5.40 Newcastle:

A tiny step slow off the gate, before quickly moving forward against stands’ side. Led and was fastest over first half of the race but appeared to be hanging throughout. Faded badly in the last two furlongs.

Comeback run and Handicap debut. On a basement mark. Showed enough to suggest he can win a poor race. Family tends to do well on All-Weather. Sire has tremendous record over 5f at Newcastle in Handicaps.

May need to step up tp 6f to be seen to best effect. Headgear possibly needed. Wouldn’t rule out minimum trip with HG applied.

Race Replay

Thomas Equinas
03/01/23 – 2.00 Chelmsford:

Slowly away, quickly pushed forward to bulldoze his way to the front after one furlong. Set what looked a hot pace, and resemble more like an extended 5 furlong sprint, as nobody wanted to really go ahead until he grabbed the lead.

Emptied quickly entering the home straight when put under pressure by dedicated 5f sprinter from 3 furlongs out. Winner eventually came from well off the pace.

Still a maiden after 9 runs, but showed plenty of promise, especially two runs back over this CD when he ran off 57 to speed rating 54. Should get bit more help from handicapper now. Usually moves forward.

Race Replay

Jupiter Express
03/01/23 – 2.00 Chelmsford:

Was quickly out of the gate and briefly led, before rivals took over. Keen in the first half of the race. Didn’t have the pace to match winner and third but ran on well for a 59 speed rating n only his second start on the sand.

Ran an interesting race lto over 5f on debut for the new yard also, then at Wolverhampton after a break. Is still a maiden but knocked on the door a few times and achieved some solid speed ratings.

Want to see him drop below a mark of 60 and race over 6f. Not interested in next weeks 7f entry. Will likely pull too hard.

Race Replay

Another Angel
04/01/23 – 2.50 Newcastle:

Good, quick start, led the field by a couple of lengths setting a seemingly hot pace. Travelled well but eventually caught, headed and quickly beaten over one furlong out.

Doesn’t truly stay beyond the minimum trip (0/13 over 6f). Can be upgraded here and ran better than bare form lto as well. Not getting younger but still capable of running well. Especially interesting down to 5f with any additional help from the handicapper.

Race Replay

Kraken Power
04/01/23 – 3.20 Newcastle:

Travelled smoothly tracking the pace. In a good position over 2 furlongs out, but also in a pocket with no way to really get out. Jockey kept the gelding restraint, pulling back to the rear of the field approaching the final furlong in order to find space. Finished strongly, under hands and heels.

Familiar story. Mostly a similar story to a myriad of previous runs. Obviously ready to win, but needs to have absolutely everything to go right.

Won’t back him on the All-Weather unless he finds a way to drop below a mark of 50. He should be too well handicapped to lose, unless he run backwards. Otherwise wait until turf season, with better opportunities more suitable to his style.

Race Replay

Mogok Valley
04/01/23 – 7.00 Kempton:

Good start, travelled nicely amongst group of horses up with the pace. had to switch 2f out, and again over 1f out in order for clear run, looked bit disorganised, too, lost momentum. Ran on really well.

Handicap debut. Strong follow-up performance from recent comeback over 5f last month. Looks on fair mark but can improve for step up to 7f. Sire stamina index of 9.4, dam, although a sprinter during her racing career, produced 1m 5f winner already.

The Nail Gunner
05/01/23 – 2.15 Wolverhampton:

Grabbed the lead, set solid pace. Was up there for a long time and still fought gamely even after headed in the final furlong. This is strong form, winner and 3rd came from off the pace, and were on going days.

7f is too far, especially off current mark. Is rated right to his best. Ran 64 speed rating over 6f in July. Will be competitive, nonetheless, particularly with a good draw and if not much pace to compete against.

I want him down to 6f again and dropping by a couple of pounds. May need a few runs to get there.

Race Replay

Friends Together
06/01/23 – 6.15 Southwell:

Brilliant start, super quick out of the gates and showed solid early speed, settled well tracking the pace and kicked nicely in the home straight. Tired late.

Was most likely not run on merit in all starts prior. Clearly capable off current mark. April foal with a bit of scope, especially going up to a mile interesting.

Race Replay

Praise Of Shadow
06/01/23 – 8.15 Southwell:

Caught three deep on the outside, close up with the pace from his wide draw. Travelled well into home straight, kept fighting, but slightly hampered in tight race for gaps, before eased; ran home easily.

Put up strong speed rating when winning over CD lto. In line with similar speed ratings in when running really well in defeat. Clearly in superb form.

Possibly a bit too high in the ratings to consider really well handicapped. Drop a couple of pounds and 6f with race to dominate will see him have a big chance once again, though.

Race Replay

Cherryhawk
07/01/23 – 12.35 Lingfield:

Settled in rear, always travelling wide. Switched inside for challenge in the home straight. Ran on nicely, slightly short of room 1f out before going again.

Wasn’t expected in three runs. Should get a low opening mark. Looks one I am only interested if stepping up to 10f. On pedigree a fair possibly, and could unlock improvement. I liked the way she finished and responded late to the jockeys urgings.

Race Replay

Wake Up Harry
07/01/23 – 1.10 Lingfield:

Restrained, travelling smoothly well off the pace. Still going well when turning for home wider than ideal, before unleashing a fine challenge in the home straight. Not quite the speed to get to leaders and came from too far back.

Hasn’t been racing over the right trip the last two runs. Can forgive comeback run after long break too. Clear sign of hitting some form again here, will be interesting if up to a mile.

I’d also be seriously keen to see him up to 10 furlongs again. The two previous tries can be forgiven for various reasons. If he’s turned out in the not too distinct future over 1m-10f he should be a huge runner.

Race Replay

Sun King
07/01/23 – 8.00 Kempton:

Pushed after the start to get into position, travelled a few lengths off pace tracking it throughout, still going okay turning for home, bit flat footed as pace suddenly increased over 2f out; switched inside and ran on well, not knocked about.

Comeback run since Royal Ascot in June, in the meantime gelded and sold out of AOB for GBP120k and now trained in the UK.

Still open to improvement. Well bred and full-brother to some smart mares. Took him a few start to get off the mark. But some strong performances in defeat.

Second in a maiden behind subsequent Futurity runner-up Sissoko. Caught eye at Royal Ascot in hot Golden Gates Stakes when finishing well from the rear of the field over 10 furlongs. Races off the same mark currently. Will improve for the run. A strongly run mile needed, or else a step up to 10 furlongs.

Race Replay

Kenilworth Selections: King’s Plate Day 2023

A brilliant day of racing at Kenilworth today: two competitive Grade 2’s, and two hot Grade 1 contests, including the King’s Plate. Christophe Soumillon is also here, back in the saddle for the first time since THE incident.

We will see the mouthwatering clash of wonder mare Captain’s Ransom going against the up an coming 3-year-old Make It Snappy, with Durban July winner Sparkling Water thrown in for good measure in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes.

Obviously the Queen’s Plate and the return of Charles Dickens is what everyone wants to see. I am desperately exciting to find out whether this colt is the superstar he promises to be.

………..

2.10 – Grade 1 King’s Plate, 1 mile

The race everyone has been waiting for: superstar 3-year-old colt Charles Dickens takes on the best of South Africa’s older horses to find whether he truly is the real deal, the best in a long time, perhaps ever, as he promised to be in his six most scintillating career runs to date.

Before we get to crown Charles Dickens the king – how fitting for the new name of race after the death of the British queen – it must be said this years King’s Plate is packed with superstar older horses. This won’t be a walk in the park.

The Runners:

Jet Dark: won this race the last two years in a row. The best miler/middle-distance horse in South Africa at the moment. Comes here fresher than others not having seen since winning a Grade 3 in early November.

Looked as good as ever there, after winning two Grade 1’s last year and ran a huge race in the Durban July as runner-up over a trip that stretched his stamina to the limits. Would be hot favourite without Charles Dickens in the race.

Kommetdieding – commonly known as the “people’s horse”. The 2021 Durban July winner, and last years Met winner. Didn’t win again since last January’s Met success, but often fought heroically in defeat.

Had a lovely prep run in the Green Point Stakes. Will need this to run at a red hot pace. He’s better over further, could be found out for speed today.

Golden Ducat – won in 2020 the Cape Derby and Champion Cup. Usually competitive but probably just below top level these days, especially over a mile. Solid prep run in the Green Point, though.

Linebacker – Memories of his spectacular 3-year-old season fading fast. In 2021 he won the Guineas, Cape Derby and Daily News. Bit unlucky in the Durban July the last two years, but certainly better over 10 furlongs than a mile against the very best.

Trip Of Fortune – won three of his last four and seems still progressing. Took his form to new heights when landing the slowly run Green Point Stakes last time out, a first success over a mile. Will need it to be a dawdle again to feature.

Also running are last years Guineas winner Zapatillas, who only has been seen once since that May victory. Will find this too hot, most likely. Al Muthana makes more appeal as a place chance if he could run anywhere near last June’s G1 Gold Challenge Cup winning form. Hard to make a case for Russian Rock and Speed Machine.

Charles Dickens:

Unbeaten in six starts, he quickly has become the hottest equine property South African racing has seen in a long time. He’s already compared to the legendary Variety Club, and many think as good, if not potentially better, than the monster that was Horse Chestnut.

You can see why: from 5 furlongs to a mile Charles Dickens managed to win. Bar a slightly scary debut over the minimum trip, when he was still seriously green, he been the most impressive horse ever since.

Certainly since landing the Grade 3 Cape Classic on the bridle he looked to be something special. Last month the son of Trippi stepped up to a mile and up into Grade 1 company in the Cape Guineas. He had to answer two questions: does he stay the trip, and can he prove against the best 3-year-old colts?

He very much did. Even though he was a bit keen early on, he travelled sweetly well off the pace, was covered up until two furlongs from home, before pulled out wide.

What happened then was simply sensational. He destroyed his rivals with a devastating turn of foot to win handsomely by 4¼; but he could have won by the lengths of the straight if ridden out.

Charles Dickens looks a freak. He’s, no doubt the best colt I have seen in a very long time. Obviously I love a good colt from South Africa, have a soft spot for the racing there. This lad is special.

Yes, he’s got to prove it today. He takes on the very best. Jet Dark is a brilliant horse. If he can beaten him, then all the hype will be more than warranted.

I believe with the weight allowance Charles Dickens has in his favour today and the level of performances he has shown so far, he’s nearly unbeatable today. I don’t say this lightly.

Backing him at close to 1/2 isn’t a serious bet, I must say. It’s simply one I want to do because I want to be on this horse. It’s pure emotion…. Fly Charles Dickens…. fly.

10pts win – Charles Dickens @ 1.55

……..

1.00 – G2 Anthonij Rupert Wyne Premier Trophy, 9f

13 go to post. This is super competitive. Not my type of race. There a few that caught the eye in their latest run, and there is, of course, star veteran Do It Again. Can he do it again? He sets the standard, still, but is an 8-year-old now.

Last years Cape Derby win Pomp And Power is probably the most talented individual, though, his behavioural issues are well documented. he ran poorly the last two, and the words from the yard that some of the fire isn’t quite there as it used to, is a concern.

On form Universal is the one to beat. Won over this course and distance in grade 3 company last year, and improved nicely for a tame comeback run when last seen an excellent runner-up in the Grade Green Point Stakes. He’s likely to get an ideal trip. Not much not to like, except that he rarely finishes strong, and could be vulnerable to a fast finisher.

That could be the one I am seriously sweet on: Airways Law. I backed him as a longshot in the Durban July last summer, when he came into South Africa’s Premier race as an unproven, yet exciting improver.

He ran a massive race that day, finishing 6th from off the pace, making fantastic progress in the final 3 furlongs. He ran the 4th fastest split for final 400m, only 0.2s slower than fastest finisher, class act Jet Dark, despite getting quite tiered in the the last 100 yards.

Sure, the low weight helped, but he ran on well against a pace bias, and it showed he can mix it with the best horses.

Leading up to the July he won three on the bounce, mainly on the All-Weather. Doing so in the most exciting style thanks to a devastating turn of foot. He is a strong traveller, who can change gear in an instant. In 7 of his 10 career runs did he clock the fastest final 400m splits.

Still quit unexposed on turf, this will only be his fifth start on grass, although, he’s already a Grade 3 winner on the surface over the 9f trip.

After the July he got a nice break, returned in December in a Grade 2 Handicap over this CD. He made a bit of late headway, but it was clear the run was badly needed.

He should strip much fitter and one would think connections have eyed this race. Jockey Gareth Wright is back in the saddle too – knows this horse really well from riding all five wins.

One could argue Airways Law has a bit to find with the very best here on the weights. However, I think there is good chance he can still improve a bit. He’s a super price to find out whether he’s a good one in this class.

10pts win – Airways Law @ 14/1

……….

1.35 – Grade 1 Paddock Stakes, 9f

Superstar filly Captain’s Ransom is a short price favourite to land her 14th career victory in then 17 starts. An outstanding record, especially against her own sex she is tough to beat. She also loves Kenilworth.

But 9 furlongs is close to her stamina limit. She has won this race last year, but her very best comes over shorter and this looks a strong renewal. In her favour maybe the lack of pace. At prices I am happy to take her on, as she isn’t getting younger, either.

Sparkling Water the reigning Durban July champion hasn’t been quite that good in two runs since, and this trip is on the sharp side for her.

More appeal makes 5-year-old Marina. She is 4 from 7 over this course and distance and had a lovely prep. She is a big runner.

She was beaten back in November, however, in the Summer Bowl by rapidly improving 3-year-old filly Make It Snappy. There is 4.5kg turnaround in the weights, but the younger rival only races for the fifth time today and steps up in trip to 1.900m for the first time.

When last seen, she won the Fillies’ Guineas in fine style, which followed her Summer Bowl victory. She sees out a mile really well and as a daughter of Dynasty should have the required stamina for the additional furlong.

Her dam’s only other offspring won over 9 furlongs as well, so I don’t see an issue with the trip, at all. Her prominent racing style should be an advantage in a race where not many want to move forward, I reckon.

She can kick nicely from the front, as seen in the Bowl, where she ran the final 400m the fastest, despite having made all.

Of course she has to prove that she truly belongs here, now taking on the best older fillies. However, she is improving all the time, is nicely bred for the job, and with the WFA allowance could be hard to beat I believe. I’d make her a 2/1 shot in this field.

10pts win – Make It Snappy @ 7/2

……..

Picture Copyright: CANDIESE LENFERNA

Saturday Selections: 7th January 2023

Sense Of Security ran a lovely race to finish 3rd, about a lengths beaten; ultimately she was way too keen in the early stages. That cost her when it mattered most.

I will leave her alone now, as I believe she will struggle over 6 furlongs to win, and if she doesn’t settle better, will not be much better handicapped than her current mark over 7 furlongs either.

Ustath didn’t have the sharpest of starts, then moved quickly forward and set a pretty fast pace. He was cocked 2 furlongs from home.

I probably would have done better to wait for him to drop a couple of pounds more. In hindsight it’s fair to assume he wasn’t desperately well handicapped off 63 in this race today. The only thing I got right (but can’t buy any bred for) is that the two hot market principles got beaten, as suggested in the preview that they are worth taking on.

Onwards and upwards… we move on to Saturday. And I’m seriously excited. An outstanding day of top-class action awaits at Kenilworth in South Africa: two seriously competitive Grade 2’s and two Grade 1 races, including the mouthwatering King’s Plate, and a certain Christophe Soumillon is also going to be around.

The crème de la crème of South Africa’s older horses is present, as undefeated 3-year-old colt Charles Dickens tries to enhance his status as one, if not the very best colt in a very long time – perhaps, ever? More on that in a seperate post, later.

For now, I’ll focus on the bread and butter on the All-Weather. Not high hopes or expectations, being honest. However, both horses are well capable of outrunning their price tag, if on a going day.

……..

3.30 Lingfield: Class 6 Handicap, 10f

It looks like there could be quite a bit of pace here. In a race where not all of those up there are certain to stay the trip, and very few appear anywhere near well handicapped, it’s set it up for a closer, potentially.

I hope this could be Dashing To You. The gelding seriously caught the eye the last two times, in nearly the same fashion. That’s not entirely positive, because on both occasions he was he slowly away, travelled in rear and had to make up a lot of ground. Which he did in no uncertain terms, meaning he finished best and second best over the last three furlongs in those races.

The step up to 10 furlongs here looks a positive, in my mind. The jury is out whether he truly gets the trip – he is yet to win over this distance. But the pedigree gives hope, and the way he sees out his races, too.

Even though the pace might be hot – for a 10 furlong race – it may still be a bit more comfortable than in the recent races over a mile. He also was much more prominently positioned when racing over 10 furlongs in the past. That’s unlikely to happen here from the #12 gate. He will be ridden for luck, I assume.

In any case, Dashing To You to is clearly well handicapped. This most recent Lingfield effort saw him run to a 56 speed rating. Kindly enough the handicapper dropped him another pound, though. He already has ran 3 times to speed ratings higher than his current mark now.

There are clear question marks and concerns, namely draw, pace and stamina. But there are clear positives too, namely handicap mark, potential improvement for the trip and a slightly slower race as well as lesser opposition she has to face. Worth the risk.

10pts win – Dashing To You @ 15/1

…….

8.30 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m3f

I am tracking bottom weight Special Times since her eyecatching effort at Leicester in June last year and hope to catch her on the right day for a big effort.

Back in the summer she impressed with a solid speed rating over a trip most likely too sharp. There were additional circumstances that made this run worthy of an upgrade.

The pace was on and she was tracking it closely for most of the race. It became all a bit too hot from three furlongs out but she stuck to the task. She was quite one paced in the closing stages, clearly tired too, when it got tight inside the final furlong as well, but she continued bravely to finish the race in a good manner.

She showed some ability in maiden races before as well, especially catching the the eye the way she travelled at Windsor in May.

Special Times was always likely to be more at home over trips beyond a mile. She is out of a German dam who won over 11.5 furlongs in Germany, sire Time Test with a stamina index of 9f has shown to get horses that stay as far as 1m 4f – so plenty of stamina there to believe she can be competitive up in trip.

She returned after 193 days off the track at Wolverhampton last month over 9.5 furlongs. She ran well for a long time but faded badly in the closing stages, entitled to come on for the run.

Going up to 11 furlongs now, with the run under her belt, in this pretty poor race, I think she must have a big chance if allowed to run on merit.

The Cox yard isn’t going too well, but the application of blinkers is interesting, as she didn’t always look the sharpest, certainly not out of the gate on her comeback run, and seemed to lose focus in the closing stages in other races before, too.

10pts win – Special Times @ 15.5/1

Friday Selections: 6th January 2023

Not the outcome I was hoping for today. Was pretty sweet on both Give A Little Back and Ooh Is It. Unfortunately Ooh Is It missed the break and it was race over there and then. I still believe he’s very much ready to strike. Next time.

A Little Back was an interesting betting story as he was punted down to 5/2 last night, before drifting out all the way 15’s on Betfair minutes before the race, until some late money saw him go off SP 15/2.

He briefly looked like coming with a winning move but couldn’t match the speed of the eventual winner – and supposed gamble – Bondy Power; only managed 3rd place in a photo for second, in the end.

The strange betting pattern aside, I still think, having reviewed the race (keen to see the sectionals, though), he probably ran a bit better than his current mark. He had to make up a bit of ground to the winner, ideally would have been a little closer to tracking the pace, and had an ever so slightly interrupted run in the home straight.

…….

1.45 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

Sense Of Security has been in really good form in her last starts. Although I tend to avoid fillies and mares during the winter, as all data points to them underperforming during this period on the All-Weather, this filly ran to near career best speed ratings in her last two runs.

She caught the eye during the flat campaign earlier this year, and entered my list in October when she returned from a wind operation at Kempton over 6 furlongs.

That day she was badly bumped and squeezed right after the start, was keen in the early parts of the race, possibly as a consequence. She made good progress from 3 furlongs out, kicks well in the home straight and found plenty. The winner from the front was not for catching, and well on top, though.

She followed up a fortnight ago at Chelmsford with another huge run, finishing strongly, against the pace bias.

She ran to speed ratings 57 and 58 in those two runs, which means off her 57 handicap mark she is handicapped to go seriously close. The bonus is the step up to 7 furlongs. I believe she always struggles over the shorter trip when the pace is hot.

Obviously as a maiden after 15 runs you never can be quite sure. Also the fact she was a non-runner a few weeks ago is a concern. But I firmly believe that if her wind is okay, she ‘s going to really enjoy this trip and has a tremendous chance.

There is good money coming in the early market already. I hope it’s not a Déjà vu to A Little Back on Thursday. 9/2 would have been nice… I imagine 4’s is gone soon. Hopefully SOS can justify the support. It would be a nice one for confidence too.

Because the shorter priced horses just don’t deliver for me at all. The last time I had a winner at odds below 13/2 was all the way back in July! That’s 36 selections (shortest was 5/2). Autsch.

10pts win – Sense Of Security @ 4/1

………

8.15 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Favourite Praise Of Shaddows looks a rock solid favourite. Judged on his excellent recent win and speed rating achieved he could be still well handicapped, especially as it looks legit thanks to strong performances in defeat in November and December.

However, he won’t get an easy lead here and has to overcome the #10 draw, plus loses the valuable 3lb claim of Grace McEntee. Reason enough for me to looks elsewhere.

Ustath is my natural choice. He would have made it on to the next Eyecatchers list if not for this run before publishing it. His most recent run (to some extend the one before as well) indicated that he’s probably in quite good form.

Last time over this CD he was off to a flying start, led early on, before being joined to push the pace as part of a duo racing a number of lengths ahead of field. Obviously he did way too much too soon and faded badly.

Nonetheless, that was a return to form I believe, as he still managed to finish 5th only 3 lengths beaten in the end, by a winner who was handicapped to win.

The enthusiasm for racing is still there. But he can be one that’s hard to catch. In any case he is down to a solid mark again. He ran 3x times to speed ratings 54+ last year.

In an ideal world I would have loved to see him drop below 53, but let’s not be picky because he’s still good value at current prices in this open race, if one is prepared to take on the two market leaders, especially with a low draw that should enable him to move easily forward.

The other well backed one in the market, Bernard Spierpoint, won a poor race earlier this week. He also was on a recent eyecatcher list, but this race is much hotter and his mark isn’t attractive having to defy a 5lb penalty.

He’s also one likely to be right up with the pace. I hope Ustath can feed of him, drawn right beside him, to relax early, but sit comfortably tracking the pace. That should be the ideal scenario for a big run.

10pts win – Bernard Ustath @ 9/1

Thursday Selections: 5th January 2023

2.15 Wolverhampton: Class 6 Handicap, 7f

Is this the day for Give A Little Back? it was rather obvious how was not ridden to best effect the last few times, so to speak.

Whether the money that saw his price quickly collapse from 9’s down to 5/2 remains to be seen. A few quick can shift these early markets. In any case neither 5/2 nor 9/1 were quite right. Though, I reckon, the shorter price is closer to the truth. He’s come back to a backable price in the meantime, thankfully.

Give A Little Back drops down in class, another 3lb lighter after a suicidal run at Southwell when last seen. He went off way too hard from his wide draw to lead the field for home. No surprise to see him drop away badly in the closing stages, but it was noteworthy how long he was able to stay right in the mix.

He was a massive eyecatcher prior to this as well. That day he was slowly away from his wide draw, trailing and outpaced halfway through, before making serious progress from over 3f out, finished a clear second best, without being asked to fully extend and handled rather tenderly.

It’s fair to assume that he could be better than his current 65 rating on the basis of those performances. He also showed bit of talent when a fine 3rd in a Wolverhampton maiden over 7 furlongs in May; 1.5l behind first and second who are 81 and 83 rated these days.

The projection is for little pace in the race. I hope Charles Bishop moves forward from the #6 draw. He shouldn’t have any issues getting into a nice position.

I wasn’t initially sure whether I want to back him, whether I truly believe this is the day to let him go and run on merit. But the fact is he must be in quite fine form, the way he ran the last two times. This looks an ideal opportunity to strike.

10pts win – Give A Little Back @ 7/2

……….

3.45 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 5f

Seriously competitive race with a bunch of these horses presenting themselves in fine form lately. It should be a fast and furious race.

Pace and a good handy position are usually what decides the races over the minimum trip at Wolverhampton. It’s all about racing as economical as possible as close to or with the pace as possible.

While I could make a positive case for about five runners, the one that ticks pretty much every box is Ooh Is It. He did so a few weeks ago at Southwell as well, when I backed him as he dropped down to 5 furlongs agter a seriously eye-catching effort over 6f at Wolverhampton in November.

I cautiously optimistic that he’d have too much in hand to win the Southwell race. Therefore it was a bit disappointing that he only finished 3rd, over six lengths beaten. He ran well, but well below expectations at the same time, given he ran t a 71 speed rating last time out.

Thankfully the post-race comments revealed the likely cause for his tame finish:

“Vet said gelding had struck into himself on his left fore”

Of course it’s diffult to know whether that truly was the cause and whether the horse is 100% again. I’ll take the risk because everything said leading up to the race still holds true – in fact the handicapper has dropped Ooh Is It another pound, to a mark of 67. He should be tremendously well handicapped now over 5 furlongs.

As mentioned the last time, the November performance over 6 furlongs here at Wolverhampton was a brilliant performance and the one that needs recalling:

That day he started quickly and set the world alight in the first half of the race. No surprise to see him tire rather badly from 3f out. Nonetheless, he still held a 1 lengths advantage at the final furlong marker.

That was seriously strong form. The winner was well handicapped and caught the eye before. Three horses won subsequently already. Ooh Is It ran to a near career-best 71 speed rating as well – in comparison to his current mark that’s seriously intriguing.

The fact he ran so well over 6 furlongs, a trip I believe he doesn’t truly stay, was especially noteworthy. He ran three times to speed ratings 70+, all his best performances over 5 furlongs, in fact.

Clearly he’s rated to win now, especially with a good draw to attack the race from. Others want to move forward too, but have a wider draw to overcome.

This is a seriously competitive race, though, as mentioned before. He could be well handicapped and still finds one or two too good. But as I got my full stake matched at 5/1 (Smarkets) I know this is a tremendous value bet, whatever happens on the day. Having the assistance of 5lb claiming Jordan Williams is simply the cherry on the cake.

10pts win – Ooh Is It @ 5/1

Wednesday Selections: 4th January 2023

2023 started with a bang as Toplight won in comfortable style his race at Wolverhampton in the evening.

The 10/1 looked massive in the end; in fact, he went off the 5/2 favourite. 10’s were still widely available in the morning, before the money came in truckloads.

He was obviously on a going day and the race itself couldn’t have worked out any better. I mentioned as much in my preview:

We likely know well in advance of the race whether he’s in it to win it. If he is, the early price should be tremendous value in my book.

In contrast to the smooth run Toplight enjoyed, my second selection – Expert Opinion – didn’t get the race he needed. He was well backed, but was slightly hampered soon after the start, was lit up and looked once again awkward around the bend.

……

1.50 Newcastle: Classified Stakes, 7f

Less than a handful of horses have a realistic chance in this poor Classifified Stakes. One of those is the short priced favourite Inaam. Although, he makes the least appeal of those better fancied runners.

Of course if the money is on you have to take notice, the handbrake may be off and he could improve dramatically. But he’s a 10 year old. Happy to take him on.

Hardy sets the standard thanks to his course and distance win from last October. He’s been poor ever since but will find this horrible race much easier.

Nonetheless, better value as double the price is Lucky Lucky Lucky. I backed him two runs ago at Southwell after he showed glimpses of enthusiasm at Newcastle prior.

This Southwell 7f performance is the strongest most recent and relevant performance in this field and gives him a cracking chance in a much easier contest to land a first victory.

He finished really well that day, not being favoured by his racing position as the race was dominated by those in front of him. He was the only one who really made significant progress from those travelling off the pace.

Possibly ridden too aggressive the next time as a countermeasure, he had no chance to stay a mile at Southwell when last seen, and dropped out badly. I rather judge him on the penultimate effort, as he drops down to 7 furlongs once again.

The pace scenario could work out really nicely for him I feel, not much will get in his way from his #13 draw, and he can get a nice lead into the final two furlongs by those that want to blast from the front.

10pts win – Lucky Lucky Lucky @ 9/1

……..

2.50 Newcastle: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

I am delighted to see Tricky Business dropping down to six furlongs. I hope that is a sign that he is allowed to run on merit, on what will be his second run for the Dalgleish yard.

Last month on his debut for the yard he finished 17 lengths beaten but showed a lot of positive signs, actually. His enthusiasm was evident as he bounced out of the gate happily, rapidly moved forward to grab an uncontested lead, setting pretty good fractions.

He was beaten 2f out and fell completely away in the closing stages. Nothing that ran close to the pace was able to sustain an effort, though; everything came from off the pace .

He had no hope to stay a mile. Even 7 furlongs most likely is a stretch (despite his sole career win over the trip) . 6 furlongs is going to be his optimum.

He drops also significantly in class. From 0-65 into an 0-55. The right trip, lesser rivals, probably not too much other pace to fight off: he’s got to have a much better chance than the price.

Slight concern over the huge weight. Obviously he is top weight. His best performances came off lower weights and he doesn’t look to have the biggest frame from what I can tell. I am prepared to roll the dice, though.

10pts win – Tricky Business @ 12/1

………

5.30 Kempton: Class 6 Handicap, 1m

John The Baptist caught the eye significantly last time out, which represented a return to some sort of form, after finishing in his last nine races either last or at best second last.

In fact since his maiden victory on debut, this was his first proper finish since summer 2021, then still trained in Ireland.

Nonetheless, the December run at this venue, then over 7 furlongs, was noteworthy for a variety of reasons:

He was under a drive early on to get into position, became outpaced from 4f out, lost many positions in the home straight when completely flat footed, until he rallied strongly in the final furlong to finish 4th, somewhere out of nowhere.

He is clearly a difficult sort, as evidence by headgear combination. But back up in trip to a mile, another 2lb lower, and dropping into 0-60 class there aren’t many in this field that appear well handicapped. John The Baptist clearly could be, as the handbrake goes off.

An #11 draw is not ideal, but he should be capable to overcome it and only two or three others want to be on the pace. The price is skinny, just about backable. Wouldn’t want to take a punt much shorter.

10pts win – John The Baptist @ 7/2

……….

8.00 Kempton: Class 5 Handicap, 7f

Lost In Time was one the most impressive eyecatchers this winter, when he finished under light hands and heels ride much the fastest in a hot Handicap at Kempton in November.

That day he reared in the stall and as consequence was slowly away, settled in rear, and had loads to do from off the pace in a race where the pace wasn’t really on. He sliced his way through the field in impressive manner, without being hard ridden and then the last three furlongs fastest of all.

Second run off a break and for a new yard, showing a revival of form. However, the next two runs are a clear concern, especially the latest one, even though that was a somewhat strange race.

Hard to gauge whether he “lost confidence” as the trainer brought forward as explanation lately, or something else. In any case, he’s been dropped another 4lb in the ratings. On past performances he is absolutely well handicapped.

He achieved three 77+ speed ratings, although these date back some time now, but more recently, he ran to 66 and 68 speed ratings, which would give him an excellent shot to win here, if in the same sort of form.

10pts win – Lost In Time @ 14.5/1

Tuesday Selections: 3rd January 2023

2.00 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Quite a competitive and wide open race. You can’t easily discount too many of the nine runners. A possible lack of clear front-runner doesn’t help the picture, either.

Nonetheless, the one I am most interested in is Expert Opinion. He drops down in class, and looks ripe off a 64 handicap mark with a capable 3lb claimer in the saddle.

He should be a bit better than his current mark; at this stage of his career he’s possibly got a solid win left in him, in my view. He’s shown it a number of times in 2022. He put up two big performances at this course over 5 furlongs in November – his third place two runs back represented a career best on speed ratings as well.

Four times in his career (three of those runs in2022) he achieved speed ratings of 64+; he was placed off OR 70 at Newmarket in May and has largely been consistent.

That says, Expert Opinion is a tricky sort. His poor strike rate tells a tale. There is a positive and a negative side to the fact that’s he’s been placed 3 of 4 over this course and distance – albeit without winning. His overall course record reads 11-1-7.

The application of blinkers didn’t help last time out at Southwell. It was an uncharacteristically poor run. That’s a question mark, but I am prepared to forgive that off day.

I probably would have preferred to see him over the minimum trip here at this track, though. Nonetheless, he stays 6 furlongs, and the possible lack of pace means he may be able to travel right at the front of the field, which is always and advantage around Chelmsford.

His possibly superior speed could see him hard to beat in this class.

10pts win – Expert Opinion @ 9/1

…….

7.30 Wolverhampton: Classified Stakes, 5f

A poor race and you can’t trust anyone of the market principles to deliver. That brings Toplight right into the mix, if he’s on a going day and allowed to run on merit. Jockey booking suggests that should be the case.

Toplight was well backed in most of his runs since changing yards, now in the care of Tony Carroll. He also ran quite well more often than not.

His most recent run, only four days ago is a concern, on the other hand. He was backed into 7/2, but made a bit of a mess at the start and hung badly around the home bend, never appearing happy at all.

I’ll take the risk and hope they wouldn’t run him so quickly again, if all is well. In any case, his penultimate performance sets the standard in this field, in my view.

He was an excellent runner-up behind Waverley Star, who was clearly well handicapped on the day, given he followed up with another huge run subsequently off 7lb higher.

That day Toplight tried to go with the speedy front-runner, and paid for it in the final furlong, but held on for second.

His overall strike rate is poor. He hasn’t won since November 2021. However, he’s got a fine course and distance record (8-2-3). Over the last 12-13 months he only ran 4 times at Wolverhampton, 3x over CD and ran strongly on all bar the most recent occasion.

I hope Clifford Lee makes use of the perfect #2 draw. Others want to grab the lead, but he could set handily, tracking the pace, without wasting too much energy, if all goes to plan.

There’s every chance Toplight is drifting during the day. We likely know well in advance of the race whether he’s in it to win it. If he is, the early price should be tremendous value in my book.

10ts win – Toplight @ 10/1