Tag Archives: Jim Bolger

Juddmonte International Stakes 2021

I feel like saying this about nearly all the major races this season, but seriously: the Juddmonte International probably is the race of the year!

Seven runners – one could say “only” seven runners – although, this is a select group of top-class equine athletes: not a single horse is rated lower than 110.

Still, only one horse can win the big prize. The two least likely in my view are Juan Elcano and Alenquer. The latter clearly is a classy individual with potential upside now dropped to what should be his optimum trip. But he’s only posted a career-best 96 topspeed rating so far, seems to rely on cut in the ground and is the lowest rated individual here – for a good reason, I firmly believe.

Juan Elcano’s performance in the York Stakes over course and distance, when a close runner-up in a thrilling finish behind Bangkok, is certainly not to be taken lightly. However, I feel he was slightly flattered due to the slow pace and his prominent racing position throughout. With that in mind, he’s not quite Group 1 standard and hard to fancy.

Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney is an interesting horse. His career-highest topspeed rating is not good enough to feature here, but the brilliant juvenile he was, he has proven to have trained on as a three-year-old and the Juddmonte trip could turn out be the ideal test for him. He has to bounce back, though, which isn’t impossible given the magician trainer Jim Bolger is.

The three-year-old filly Alcohol Free has been sensational this year. She has improved dramatically. Her latest victory, a dominant win in the Sussex Stakes, has only enhanced her reputation. At Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes she ran to a 106 topspeed rating, which gives her a prime chance today….. if she stays the trip.

It’s a big “if”, I think. To my eyes the mile looks the maximum for her. Add to that the small question mark around the faster ground and I struggle to see her getting home as strongly as she did over a mile on soft going.

The most intriguing contender today is Mohaafeth. He appeared to be potentially high-class on a number of occasions earlier this year. Connections took their time with him, increasing the difficulty of the test step by step.

Mohaafeth passed his assignments with flying colours, but stumbled for the first time in the York Stakes when upped to Group 2 level three weeks ago. This was perhaps less so his fault than that of race tactics as his pace maker completely failed to do his job. The race turned into a muddling affair which saw Mohaafeth at a major disadvantage given his retrained racing position.

It was hugely impressive, though, the way he made up ground rapidly in the home straight when it was most costly to buy it. A furlong out he seemed to fly home for a breathtaking victory, just to pay for subsequent sub 11 second furlongs in the end. for a half a lengths beaten third place behind Bangkok. In my view Mohaafeth’s credentials have only been enhanced by that performance, nonetheless.

The “super filly” Love drops down in trip after a gutsy third place in the King George, where things didn’t quite work out for her, although in any case, the winner Adayar was too good. Nonetheless, that was a top class race and Love ran to a 109 tospeed rating that day, close enough to her career-highest 110 TS rating, which suggests she is as good as ever.

That was her first defeat in five starts but she lost little in defeat. The Juddmonte trip could be perfect for her, with ground and track no worries whatsoever. She will be a key player today.

The same goes for top-rated Mishriff. Runner-up in the King George, which was a career-best performance, he improved nicely from a fine comeback run in the Coral Eclipse earlier this year.

He’s the favourite today, and has been consistent in the high level of his performances over the last two seasons. Ground and trip are no worries, though I feel, perhaps the Juddmonte trip with a little bit of juice in the ground would be the perfect scenario as opposed to the expected faster surface today. Nonetheless, the strengths and depth of his performances franked by form and ratings gives him a prime chance to land a third Group 1 victory.

In Conclusion:
Mishriff is the right and fair favourite. Top rated and top form in the book, His price is drifting this morning toward odds that could turn tasty. He’s the one beat. Love will run her usual strong race and she represents a safe bet around 10/3 to get as good a run for the money as it gets.

The “X-Factor” is Mohaafeth. He has plenty to find on the ratings but has shown serious talent this year and can improve again – which he has to, though. He’d be a much shorter price today if he’d had won the York Stakes, hence, given credible excuses for not getting over the line there, I feel he is a strong price at 7/1.

Sussex Stakes 2021

The rematch between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free: who can prevail in their third encounter? We’ll find out in the 2021 edition of the Sussex Stakes at picturesque Goodwood this afternoon.

Obviously this isn’t a two-horse race. The reigning 2000 Guineas- and St James’s Palace Stakes champ Poetic Flare is here too and is considered the short-priced favourite for the Sussex Stakes. Given his tremendously impressive CV there is every reason for him to be a key player today.

It was impossible not to be impressed by what he did at Royal Ascot. Some doubts where creeping in after two lower performances in the Irish & French Guineas, albeit he was beaten by exceptional opposition. Poetic Flare was back to his very best slaughtering a strong field in the St James’s Palace Stakes.

However, what is clear now is the fact that Poetic Flare enjoys fast ground and probably needs it to be seen at his best. He’ll handle anything soft but is not at his brilliant best in those type of conditions.

He will have to be at his very best today, I reckon. That is because the aforementioned Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free are improving all the time and can close the gap on Official Ratings with the help of ground they handle a lot better than Poetic Flare.

The evidence is in the book: Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in heavy conditions. She has been on an upward curve ever since the start of this season, kicking off her campaign with success in the the Fred Darling Stakes, after that she wasn’t disgraced as fifth in the 1000 Guineas, and then her big day came at Royal Ascot where she beat smart rivals like Guineas winner Mother Earth and Snow Lantern.

She followed up with another strong performance in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket three weeks ago, where she went down only in the dying stride to Mother Earth and the fast finishing Snow Lantern.

Snow Lantern was arguably the unlucky one in the Coronation Stakes. Her path blocked at a crucial stage, she stayed on in eye-catching fashion. For a moment or two it seemed to be the same story at Newmarket, only this time she got out in time and ran down the leaders in a dramatic finish.

She is still lightly raced with only a handful of runs under her belt while improving with every run as the season progresses. This is crucial now that she goes against older horses as this time of the year is where the WFA allowance can be a major advantage.

There is little between Snow Lantern and Alcohol Free on any conceivable measure and both fillies continue to improve. It could come down to tactics: Alcohol Free is less complicated in the way she can be ridden. Snow Lantern needs to be ridden patiently and we saw this can be a problem. Thankfully Goodwood lends itself to hold-up tactics.

I firmly believe the three-year-olds have the advantage in the Sussex Stakes this year. The two fillies have prime chances, thanks to their progressive profile and their ability to handle softish ground really well. Poetic Flare, on the other hand, albeit not quite as good with cut in the ground, remains a formidable challenger.

The older horses are less exciting. Aiden O’Brien’s Lope Y Fernandez – although a runner-up performance in the Queen Anne Stakes rates fine form – and  Order Of Australia, the choice of Ryan Moore, appear exposed enough and may not be capable of giving weight away to superb younger rivals.

Tilsit has less mileage on the clock and is progressing nicely. He was a good winner of the Summer Mile when last seen. At the same time he locks just below top level and the fact he hasn’t run to a topspeed rating beyond 84 supports this notion.

Conclusion:
I find it hard to separate the two three-year-old fillies. They are incredibly closely matched on form and ratings. What tilts the scale toward Snow Lantern – certainly for me – is that she is progressing all the time with every run at the right time of the year. Goodwood will suit her perfectly, and simply from a price point of view she is a bigger and therefore highly attractive price at about 6/1 on the exchanges.

Epsom Derby 2021

Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose? Certainly!

The perfect draw, bred for the the unique test Epsom provides, plus the added confidence from camp Ballydoyle – Aiden O’Brien saddling only one runner is unusual as significant – it’s Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose.

This son of Galileo – the super daddy who fathered five Derby winners – remains unbeaten as a three-year-old and shot up the betting market after an almightily impressive 6 lengths romp in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.

A performance where visuals were matched by the clock as an excellent 104 topspeed rating showed.

More likely than not Bolshoi Ballet will improve for the step up to the 1m 4f Derby trip. With that in mind, there are very few negatives for his chances and he looks a proper chance to follow in the footsteps of his prominent father.

One could be harsh and point out his wins this year were all achieved on decent ground and a softer surface could spell trouble. On the other hand, he proved last year to handle softer underfoot conditions. Whatever bit of juice is left in the Epsom ground this afternoon is unlikely to pose any issue for Bolshoi Ballet.

If nothing goes wrong during the race it’s hard to oppose him solely for win purposes.

Saying that, there are two other contenders who interest me from a betting perspective a bit more:

One is Mac Swiney. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner. Jim Bolger enjoys a tremendous season so far, landing both the British and Irish 2000 Guineas.

To me Mac Swiney always looked like a prospect better suited to middle distance than the mile. So the drop down to the Guineas trip after opening his season in a Derby trial was a brave move. Though, on the day the heavy going played into his hands, making it more a stamina than speed test.

Mac Swiney has shown his very best with plenty of juice in the ground. Even though he will surely improve for the trip, I have nagging doubts over the ground drying out a bit too quickly for him. Yes, the Derby is a stamina test, but Bolshoi Ballet is likely to stay all day long too and has a good turn of foot as well.

The drift in Mac Swiney’s price makes him an interesting each-way shot nonetheless. Yet, I’ll focus my investment in the Derby on one horse only – I am fairly sure Bolshoi Ballet’s key rival will be saddled by the “boys in blue”.

It’s debatable how much the Dante form is worth. On paper it looks less than exciting form. Nonetheless, Hurricane Lane showed enough to be considered the main rival for Bolshoi Ballet today.

Clearly he will find plenty of improvement for stepping up in trip. Winning the Dante was probably a bonus as much as it brought Hurricane Lane’s excellent attitude to the fore. It was obvious from over three furlongs out that he struggled for speed, appearing flat footed when the pace lifted significantly at York. But he stuck to his guns bravely to run out a gutsy victory in the end.

A topspeed figure of 100 for the Dante success is the second highest on offer in this field. That alone makes him a proper shot today.

The son of Frankel is out of mare who won over 2 miles, and he’s a full-brother to smart 1m 4f winner Frankel’s Storm. Even though we all have Frankel’s turn of foot in mind, as a sire he is a proven source of stamina.

Therefore, in my view, given Hurricane Lane ran so well in the Dante over a shorter trip, a performance backed up by topspeed, with further improvement assured over the Derby trip, he could have less to find with Bolshoi Ballet than the betting may suggest.

The draw isn’t quite where I would want it to be in an ideal world. Perhaps it won’t be too much of an issue, though: I expect Hurricane Lane to be ridden prominently anyway. As long as he settles well, all will be good.

Everything said, Bolshoi Ballet is a strong favourite to give Aiden O’Brien an Oaks & Derby double (Snowfall was a sensational winner on Friday). But at 13/2 Hurricane Lane looks like a viable alternative with more juice in the price for my liking.

Preview: Irish 2000 Guineas

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The Irish 2000 Guineas shapes as an intriguing contest, albeit a wide open one. Can ante-post favourite Siskin reward trainer Ger Lyons with a first domestic Classic success?

The 2020 renewal of the Irish 2000 Guineas, while intriguing, looks hardly a vintage Classic. There is no proven superstar here today – unlike in the English equivalent a few days ago – and given the delay of the season, the race has become an even trickier puzzle to solve.

More than half the field is trained by one man: Aiden O’Brien. While that isn’t anything new, it remains a sad fact that six of eleven runners come from the same yard in an Irish Classic.

Ante-Post Favourite:

The Ger Lyons trained Siskin is the ante-post favourite ever since he ended 2019 unbeaten. Four starts and four wins as a juvenile, with the highlight clearly a first Group 1 success when landing the Phoenix Stakes in August at the Curragh.

On form he is the horse to beat. However, only a week ago we saw that it’s never an easy task to carry over exceptional juvenile form to a classic season – particularly when achieved over shorter sprint distances – when facing rivals that have caught up physically and mentally.

With that in mind one could ask the very same questions as last week when wondering whether a precocious Pinatubo will be able to continue his incredible superiority.

Siskin started his juvenile campaign in May 2019. He raced four times over six furlongs before being put away for the winter after a final victory in the Phoenix Stakes back in August.

The key questions are obvious: Can Siskin improve? Will he stay additional two furlongs?

As mentioned last week in the English 2000 Guineas analysis, the fact that the Guineas is held much later than usual will have a significant impact on what type of horse it’ll suit. It certainly will give the precocious, early foals less an advantage than it does in any normal year. Siskin falls into this category.

On the stamina question: As a juvenile he never left the comfort of the 6 furlongs distance. That doesn’t mean he can’t stay a mile. However his sire First Defence was quite speedy himself and his offspring tends to perform best over shorter distances as well, with a noticeable decline in performance as they step up to a mile – in general terms.

Siskin’s dam stayed a mile, which is encouraging. So is Simon Rowland’s striding analysis that suggests he has a fair chance to stay the new trip.

Probably my biggest issue with Sisikin is that his form is far less impressive than four wins on the trot would usually suggest. He largely beat the same horses over and over again. Most depressingly, even though he had ample opportunity to run fast, he’s never done it.

A career-best 89 topspeed rating is not up to the standard of a top-class colt. Yes, these ratings aren’t the holy grail and have to be taken in the right context, but in my book they do continue to be a fine predictor of class and future success.

Having said that, I simply have to oppose Siskin as the Irish 2000 Guineas favourite. Mind, this isn’t an overly strong renewal. He has a fair chance to go close if he can find answers to the two key questions.

Aiden O’Brien Contenders:

From the comments AOB has made in recent days it feels like that Armory is Ballydoyle’s #1 here. And you can see why.

This son of Galileo was fast enough to win Group races over 7 furlongs, plus was a good runner-up, albeit a long way beaten, behind Pinatubo in the National Stakes and has already Group 1 form over a mile, when finishing third at Longchamp behind subsequent French 2000 Guineas winner Victor Ludorum.

He’ll likely stay further than the mile and should have a bit more to come once stepping up in trip. He ran already to a career-best topspeed rating of 95 and certainly wouldn’t mind any more rain (it has been raining a fair bit here in Kildare over the last 24 hours, and continues to do so as of writing).

Royal Lytham with first time blinkers is interesting stepping up to a trip that could suit on pedigree. He showed good form as a juvenile, in particular when staying on strongly to win the July at Stakes at Newmarket.

He got within a lengths of Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes when things didn’t quite worked his way. He’s an interesting horse but needs to find improvement as he’s yet to run particularly fast.

It’s hard to see Monarch Of Egypt to land a blow. He has a lot to find even with his stable mates. Fort Myers as a big price is a more compelling each-way contender if one wants to back one. His juvenile form is solid, if not spectacular. He should stay the mile and will appreciate if he ground stays decent.

Vatican City is an unknown quantity. A disappointing debut at Newmarket, followed by a visually impressive success on Dundalk’s All-Weather – what that form is worth is difficult to evaluate. Aiden O’Brien speaks fondly of the colt and he can improve any amount, so to speak.

In my view the most intriguing horse from team Ballydoyle is Lope Y Fernandez, though. He showed good form as a 2-year-old, in particular when a strong runner-up behind Pinatubo at Royal Ascot and he also stayed seven furlongs already.

He is a full brother to Al Hayyah who competed well in listed company up to the 1m 2f distance and his dam is a Listed placed miler.

Lope Y Fernandez has ran twice to 90+ topspeed ratings already, including a 95 rating, which is joint-best in this field. Although that is still a bit off a proper Group 1 winning horse, he looked like one in the making when winning the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh in excellent style, proving himself to be in a different league to the rest of the field in the Group 3 contest.

Also Running:

The unexposed Sinawann stayed a mile well last year already. He looks interesting given the clear indication that he’ll be a much better three-year-old. The son of Kingman will need to improve quite a bit if he wants to emulate his prominent father, but it’s not impossible that he does.

Jim Bolger’s colt Fiscal Rules lacks experience. It has be pointed out, though, that his runner-up debut behind Wichita reads really well, given how well the Aiden O’Brien trained ran at Newmarket last week. Yet, it’s a tall ask to be pitched right into a Classic with only a single start under his belt.

Also quite unexposed is the Jessica Harrington trained Free Solo. A fine winner on his second start last July, he hasn’t been seen yet. The yard is going strongly, so that is a positive. But it’s total guesswork whether this son of Showcasing is good enough to land a blow.

The Verdict:

Only one horse I am really interested in from a betting perspective: Lope Y Fernandez. The fact that he is an April foal who showed quite strong form as a juvenile already while giving the impression he may need a step up in trip to be seen to best effect, I have reasonable hope that he can find the required improvement to be a major player in the 2000 Guineas.

With that in mind he appears to be a bit overpriced for all that there are so many question marks over the other market principles.

Selection:
10pts win – Lope Y Fernandez @ 5/1 VC

Betting Preview: Champion Stakes

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3.30 Ascot: British Champion Stakes, 1m 2f

On paper this is likely a match between odds-on favourite Cracksman and top rated Crystal Ocean. It’s also the duel of the super sires Frankel vs. Sea The Stars.

Cracksman is the one who’s likely to enjoy the soft going the little more. First time blinkers after a surprising defeat at Ascot when last seen is an interesting move by John Gosden. Personally I judge this as a big minus. One couldn’t help but feel, despite his early season wins, that Cracksman isn’t as good – or shall we rather say focused – as he was last season. The Coronation Cup scare already was a revealing hint, I feel.

On prices I probably would favour Crystal Ocean. He’s 4lb higher rated at the moment. Something to take with a pinch of salt, nonetheless it tells a story of a horse who’s at the top of his game.

In saying that, Crystal Ocean continues to chase the elusive Group 1 victory. While his runner-up performance behind wonder mare Enable at Kempton showed he remains as good as ever, with ground potentially too soft to be ideal and a trip potentially too short to be ideal, I find myself picking plenty of holes not only in to the odds-on favourite, but also the second fancy in the betting.

Capri? An interrupted season, has to be taken seriously still, after a damn good effort in the Arc. He could try to steel the race from the front, utilizing his superior stamina. He’s a fair price, for sure.

However, I’m drawn to a massive long-shot here. Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity, last year’s National Stakes winner. Things didn’t go plan for him afterwards, clearly. And his latest showing in the Irish Champion Stakes is worrisome, despite a more than fair seasonal reappearance weeks earlier.

On the other hand the ground looks ideal for him, unlike at Leopardstown. Whether he can stretch out to 10f on soft going is an entirely different matter. Either way, I feel this lad has a big race in him. Jim Bolger continues to show faith, otherwise he wouldn’t bring him over.

As the only three-year-old in the race at the bottom of the weights, despite a massive price I can see him outrunning this price tag for at least a place.

Selection:
10pts Each/Way – Verbal Dexterity @ 28/1 PP

Friday Selections

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So, the much anticipated return of Hit It A Bomb ended in third place. Not really surprising; it unfolded very much like I thought it would. He was clearly not fully wound up, with bigger fruits to chase in the next couple of weeks.

The general perception of many of those I follow at the highly credible social media platform Twitter was a slightly underwhelming one. He didn’t train on, not only a few voices argued.

That could well be possible. But this run doesn’t tell us whether he did or did not. In fact this run doesn’t tell us an awful lot. That says I feel less negative about it, actually rather upbeat. In my eyes this was a very respectable reappearance.

Hit It A Bomb travelled like the winner for a very long time, he even showed a nice bit of pace coming around the home turn where he made his move – which was not the winning move because he got tired in the closing stages – but after a long lay-off that’s fair enough.

In the end he got beaten by two lengths, which is not that much. Let’s not forget it was a Group 3 against some half decent opposition, and the winner, an improving Jim Bolger horse, was already placed in Group  company as a juvenile with a profile to do better this year.

It’s also noteworthy that the winner and runner-up both were held up for much longer than Hit It A Bomb, even appearing to not being able cope with the pace Hit It A Bomb and Custom Cut set when these two poured it on from 3f out. But they simply stayed on stronger in the end.

So all in all, it’s been a fine return in my murky eyes. Hit It A Bomb should improve having a run under his belt and then when stepped up in class the next time we will see what he really is about, now as a three year old.

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Friday Selections:

3.35 Newcastle: Awesome Quality @ 2/1 Skybet
6.10 Catterick: Forster Square @ 5/2 WH
7.10 Newmarket: Blue Gernaium @15/8 Coral

Leopardstown Preview: Juvenile Stakes

Aiden O'brien

4.05 Juvenile Stakes (Group 3), 1m

Tricky renewal with some hot prospects in the line-up. Bolger’s Sanus Per Aquam makes plenty of appeal with excellent form in the book and the step up in trip sure to suit. He’s a very short price though in a race where plenty of potential is still unlocked.

Ballydoyle has a strong hand in this renewal, which Aiden O’Brien won with John F Kennedy last year. Shogun looked smart when he got off the mark at the Curragh earlier this year, but didn’t enjoy soft ground subsequently. So the overnight rain is a big concern, as the inside track is unlikely to dry out enough to suit him.

Seemingly second string, albeit you never really know with this yard, is Johannes Vermeer. Equally an exciting prospect, he impressed me with his nice action and change of gear at Killarney. He put stamina questions to bed as he never seemed to stop in the 1m 100y contest. He may not be too inconvenienced by the ground, given his pedigree.

Dermot Weld’s True Solitaire is another one to like. A big winner at the Galway Festival, he doesn’t mind rain softened ground and is sure to respond well to the step up to 1m.

Restive for Ger Lyons looked a bit lazy, albeit smart enough to held off his opposition in a Curragh maiden recently. He’s a scopey individual, but may not run due to the ground. His other charge Waipu Cove has been in excellent form lately and could do still better, however is more exposed than others here.

Conclusion: Hard to predict what happens. Nonetheless I believe the 7/1 for Johannes Vermeer is rather over the top. I like his pedigree, he’s bred to be precocious, gets the trip, has a good draw and should be okay on the ground.

Johannes Vermeer @ 7/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Flight Risk can surprise again

Jockey

3.10 Curragh: Minstrel Stakes (Group 3), 7f

Gordon Lord Byron could be hard to beat here. He has been in fine form lateley and finds perfect conditions at the Curragh. British raider Home Of The Brave won’t go down with a fight, though. He has shown some excellent form this year and seven furlongs looks his optimum. It remains to be seen how he acts on the ground.

Sovereign Debt was an impressive winner on Irish Derby Day here at the Curragh. That day everything fell into place for him. The drop to 7f will surely suit, though. Ramone is a tough mare but may need a stiffer test. Dark Emerald was progressive in Meydan, nonetheless a career best is required today.

Jim Bolger’s Flight Risk was a surprise winner of the Gladness Stakes back in April. This form has worked out very well, while the four year old colt has proven his class since then too. Some creditable efforts in Group company subsequently, rounded up with an unlucky runner-up effort in the Celebrations Stakes behind Sovereign Debt last month.

The race wasn’t run at a suitable pace for him, but turning for home he made good progress on the inside and looked to mount a big challenge, but got stuck on the rails with no room to go. Kevin Manning switched wide, which cost ground and momentum, yet Flight Risk flew home late.

Ground and trip will suit today. There should be a good pace ensured, and while it is not easy to give weight away, he is clearly in excellent form and can go close.

Flight Risk @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

Bolger Colt Algonquin Well In On Handicap Debut

2000 Guineas Field going to post

8.00 Curragh: Handicap (60-100), 1m 2f

With top weight Royal Navy Ship out, this race takes a different shape. Nonetheless it doesn’t change much in terms of my initial feeling, that Bolger’s grey colt Algonquin is overpriced.

I would expect him to be ready and fit for his seasonal debut, and if he is he’ll take all the beating in a mediocre field. Given that his Dundalk maiden win works out very strongly, he could be well handicapped with an opening mark off 87. That assumes he takes another step forward with the 10f trip very much to suit this extremely well bred colt.

Main danger could be Pullman Brown who finished 2nd in a very competitive Handicap over course and distance recently. He’s to overcome a rather hefty rise in the mark though.

Algonquin @ 5/1 Boylesports – 5pts Win

Talking Points Irish Guineas Weekend

Gleneagles is “The Best Miler Ever” 

On the verge of the Irish 2000 Guineas Aiden O’Brien seemed to become overwhelmed by his emotions. He ennobled Gleneagles, hailing him as “the best miler we have ever had”. That is some achievement in its own right, especially given the amount of classy horses passing through his hands year in year out.

This statement came just minutes after Gleneagles completed the 2000 Guineas double. He had to fight hard for it and it was a much closer finish than at Newmarket, where absolutely everything went to plan. This time, Gleneagles, boxed in on the rails, had to show an awful lot of class to win. He did exactly that.

But does it make him the best ever? Well, who am I to object his handlers experienced opinion. He, who has seen it all! Though, one could get the feeling that Aiden uses the term “best ever” a bit too loosely these days. Anyway, Gleneagles is certainly a very good colt. A true miler. A world-class miler.

Pearl Secret Lands A Big One

Sprint races can sometimes be a bit like lotto: Draw a number or throw a pin and wherever it lands that’s the horse to win. Admittedly, now I’m cynical. Yet there is some truth in it! These big sprint races are so much down to day form, it doesn’t always honour the actual form book. Run the same race ten times and you’ll almost certainly get ten different results.

So happened in the Temple Stakes at Haydock on Saturday. Pearl Secret was a slightly surprising winner of the Group 2 sprint. Yes, he was runner-up in the very same race last year, but back then on bottomless ground and before Saturday he only managed to win at Listed- or Conditions Stakes level. Now he has “a big one” on his CV!

Pearl Secret was followed home by Jack Dexter, who hasn’t won since November 2013, and 40/1 shot Wind Fire. Favourite Hot Streak finished sixth, but in truth never landed a blow. So much about the Lotto theory

Jim Bolger The Magician

Round Two
Round Two

The County Kilkenny handler had it spot on: he knew his main contender for the 1000 Guineas wasn’t a miler. So he employed two pace makers, to ensure there would be no dawdling around. The good, consistent pace helped Pleascach in a way to relax but also to offset her lack of tactical speed and instead have a race with emphasize on stamina. It worked to perfection.

Pleascach took up the lead from two furlongs out and stayed strongly to line, fending off all challengers, including the one of red hot favourite Found. The stiff uphill finish at the Curragh clearly suited her cause too.

The next Jim Bolger star is already lined up. His Round Two won the Listed Marble Hill Stakes in comprehensive style at the Curragh on Saturday, overcoming question marks about his speed over the minimum trip as well as a wider than ideal draw. The Teofilo son can only get better with time and distance. He seems the ideal favourite for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.

Found Is No World-Beater

Hot Irish 1000 Guineas Favourite Found wasn’t able to land the odds in Sunday’s big race and instead had to settle for second. She didn’t get the clearest of runs as she was in a pocket over 2f out. The eventual winner, Bolger’s Pleascach, got first run and fend off Found’s charge gamely in the closing stages.

In the aftermath not everyone thought the best horse won – and I tend to agree to an extend – yes, Found was slightly unlucky, but that says she got out into the clear at the two furlong marker and had all the time in the world to make up the ground. She didn’t quicken rapidly enough, though, needed almost a full furlong to hit top gear. She clearly is no world-beater. At least not over the mile trip.

Compare her run to the one of Gleneagles in the 2000 Guineas – he had even less time to finish off his race once in the clear. But he did it in the manner of a true mile champion. He found a way to win, quickened when it mattered.

Nonetheless, Found’s Guineas performance is encouraging. She’ll be better over further. It may turn out that 1m 2f is her optimum, but the Oaks distance is very much possible and she now goes to Epsom as one of the favourites.

Endless Drama A Chaser In The Making

Endless Drama
Endless Drama

Just kidding. But you’ll laugh, there was more than one person suggesting the idea of giving him a spin over the big fences. And you can see why. He is a very big boy, indeed! I was slightly overwhelmed when this huge thing passed me in the parade ring for the first time.

I mean, there you have all these good looking three year olds walking around, very much looking like three year olds should look like. And then suddenly you have this monster of a horse walking towards you – is this still the Curragh or already Aintree? Guineas or Grand National Day?

In my 2000 Guineas preview I voiced slight disappointment to see Endless Drama running over 1m yet again. He didn’t look like staying thus far in two previous attempts over 6f+. On pedigree he seems a rather dubious stayer too. Add all the early speed he usually shows and you could easily come to the conclusion that he is actually a sprinter.

On Saturday, though, different tactics and better ground seemed to work wonders. He finished the Guineas well enough to suggest he can be a good miler. A close second behind Gleneagles is surly a very strong piece of form. Yet, I’d love to see him over six furlongs. I think he could be a force over that sort of trip.

Al Kazeem’s Second Spring

It’s never been straightforward for him. Al Kazeem lost almost his entire Classic season, but came back stronger than ever the following season, when he beat Camelot in the 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup. That’s now exactly two years ago. He went on to land the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and Coral Eclipse the same year and was subsequently retired to stud as potentially hot property for all the lovely fillies in the world.

Didn’t work out in the breeding shed. He was soon back in training and after a couple of respectable efforts he finally muscled his way to another heroic Group 1 victory – Sunday at the Curragh, beating some serious opposition in the Tattersalls Gold Cup.

He’s the kind of horse you won’t find enough of in flat racing. But these classy veterans are what the sport is craving for. Fans want to follow horses over more than one or two season. What is part and parcel in jump racing, is much more difficult at the top end of the game on the flat. So it’s great to see Al Kazeem, a seven year old now, as good and happy as ever!

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Photo Gallery – Irish 2000 Guineas