Tag Archives: Kenilworth

The Good, Bad & Ugly – Week #1:2019

It’s a new year – the time for a New Year’s Resolution: be more active on the blog again! Plain and simple.

The last year in particular I’ve focused on the betting side neglecting the other rather important side of why I initially started this blog a good eight years ago: to write about all the things I love about horse racing – the sport, the horses, the global aspect of the game!

So, with the new year still fresh, I gonna try to be a bit more (pro-) active: a few more insightful (hopefully!) columns, opinion pieces, educational stuff and so on – starting with the introduction of a new weekly column right here:

The Good, Bad & Ugly – a short review of all the good and not so good things in racing that caught my eye and lit up my emotions during the past week. Let’s get started with Week #1:2019!

good.pngThe Good:

Do It Again – he did it again, indeed! This imperious looking son of the great Twice Over and reigning Durban July champion, has followed up on his biggest triumph with another massive success.

On Saturday he was one of nine starters in South Africa’s premier 1 mile race, the Queen’s Plate, that took place at Kenilworth racecourse.

The powerful gelding overcame a slow pace and produced another stunning performance to get his head in front when it mattered most:


The Candy Man
– What a lovely name for a horse, isn’t it? The performance of this lad in a Handicap on Sunday at Australia’s Sunshine Coast was certainly as sweet as candy!

The grey missed the start completely, still standing in the gates while the others flew out to race. He was trailing the field by half a dozen lengths for half the race, until making a swift move to the rear of the field as the pace slowed. He then unleashed a devastating turn of foot in the home straight – WOW!

Watch a replay of this unreal performance here.

First winner of 2019 – It was the perfect start: first bet, first winner! Paparazzi strolled home on Wednesday in a Newcastle handicap to win as easy as he liked, despite a 12/1 price tag.

It’s those magic moments when the picture you painted in your mind beforehand comes to fruition in reality, as I concluded in the preview:

“This is the poorest opposition Paparazzi will encounter for quite some time. If a slow start doesn’t see him falling back too far too early he should run a huge race today.”

bad2The Bad:

Racing’s Staff Crisis – Becomes one of the biggest threats to the industry. It was reported over the weekend that there’s an estimated shortfall of around 1,000 staff in the UK. Brexit fears enhance the feeling of uncertainty in relation to employing foreign staff to offset the shortfall in yards.

Often long hours, not enough off-days and low pay – those are the main concerns brought forward. Understandably so: the stable staff is preparing the horses day in day out, hence they play a pivotal role in the industry.

If they can’t be retained in numbers enough to keep the show going, plus if the jobs aren’t attractive enough for new people to join, then the game is in incredible danger. Falling prize-money surely isn’t helping, particularly for smaller yards it adds even more pressure.

A viscous cycle: working long hours, physical work, often starting very early in the morning, ordinary pay at best – that isn’t attractive to a lot of young people these days.

Stable staff does it for the love of horses. Without this love and duty of care for the welfare of our equine athletes these wonderful people show any given day, horse racing would be long gone.

Add to this the rather low pay at times where everything else becomes more expensive and the possibility of Brexit which could make it harder for yards to employ foreign staff – there you have an existential crisis.

It was surprising to see it so blatantly called out by the biggest names in the sport over the weekend. Nicky Henderson commented that the threat is no longer only a threat but  it “has already become a reality”.

Now, not everything is black and white. Not all staff are impacted by issues the same way. Plenty love their job, enjoy their day to day doing, are paid well enough and feel treated fairly.

Not all, though, and there is, no doubt, a balanced and fair discussion needed right now – a solution oriented one that addresses issues. Because the issue of staff shortage is at the heart of the game.

badThe Ugly:

 A Bad Loss – “I’m excited as heck because I feel Blue Harmony could be supremely well handicapped in this race!”

I got that spectacularly wrong. Blue Harmony finished nearly last, never went a yard. There was zero confidence in the market either. The filly was obviously not as well in as I felt she is.

Well, that’s racing. Can happen. It was a 16/1 shot. But it hurts. Particularly if you go and shout it so loud as I did in my preview.

Irish racing video archive – Gone. Since Racing TV has taken over the rights to show Irish racing, the complete video archive of all races prior to 1st January 2019 are no longer accessible – neither on ATR, the Racing Post- and Sportinglife website and certainly not on the RTV site.

You couldn’t make it up, could you? They had months and months time to prepare for this transition. But they didn’t seem to think about this rather important piece – or shall we say didn’t care – which shows a complete disregard for the racing public.

Please also read my latest opinion piece on the matter: Racing’s Problems bigger than ATR vs RTV

Got your own ideas of what was good or not so good in the the last week? Want to share feedback? Let me know in the comments! 

Saturday Relfections: Oooooh Susannaaaa!

The losing run (12) broken – 2 winners, both sweet in their own right. Fiery Breath (9/2), backed before the off as if defeat was out of question, got there in a thriller. No doubt, the highlight of the day was Oh Susanna (5/1), running away with the Met at Kenilworth!

When this 3-year old filly won the Paddock Stakes three weeks ago, I thought she’s got the making of a superstar, if stepping up in trip. Connections duly obliged, entering her in the Grade 1 Sun Met – I could not wait to get a price for her in that race!

It was a long wait as European bookies didn’t price the race up until Saturday morning. But with so many things speaking in her favour, as outlined in my preview, I thought the price offered was too generous. In fact, she even went off 6/1SP!

Oh Susanna Makes History

Oh Susanna made history: a three year old filly winning the Met – that didn’t happen for over a 100 years. It’s an incredibly difficult task, in South Africa’s richest race, for a young horse to prevail against, hardy, experienced top-class rivals.

It shows what special talent she is. You only have to watch the replay to see it with your own eyes. She is still so raw, babyish, making life tough for her rider.

Halfway through the race, still pulling hard, then, when the pace increases over three furlongs out she seems to hit a flat spot. Seemingly, but not really, as moments later she hits sixth gear and simply runs away with it. Leaving Grant Van Niekerk once again celebrating long before the winning post!

Unbeatable Gun Runner

It didn’t turn out to be profitable for me personally, as Sharp Azteca completely flopped, however as a racing fan you couldn’t be not in awe with the performance Gun Runner put up in his final race in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup.

The freshly crowned American Horse of the Year overcame his wide draw – what many thought to be a death trap – with ease to be up with the pace without using too much energy right before the first turn.

The supposed early speed from Sharp Azteca was taken out as Collected moved forward quickly, while the star miler got also hindered in his own way forward by the crossing Gun Runner. That killed pretty much his chances – and my money went down the drain.

Second favourite West Coast was right there as well, however, when the money was down, was once again no match for the superstar that Gun Runner is – not only winning the richest horse race on earth, but also setting off to a new career after winning six Grade 1 races on the bounce. WOW! Simple as that.

Preview: Kenilworth – 2018 Sun Met

Amid controversy around leading owner Marcus Jooste it seems increasingly difficult for South African racing to focus on what matters most: the sport. Regardless, the Sun Met remains a special race and a special contest we’re sure to have on our hands on Saturday!

Reigning horse of the year and hot favourite Legal Eagle couldn’t be in better form after an incredible run in the Queen’s Plate over a mile at this track earlier this month.

Legal Eagle is widely regarded as one of the best milers South Africa has seen in a while and that is also the question mark: the step up to 2.000 meter. It is true that he has won over this trip – five runs, two wins, three runner-up efforts – two of them came in the Met the last two years, though!

So, the Eagle has no problem stretching out to 10 furlongs, but is certainly vulnerable, especially in top class company. The draw hasn’t been kind to him – 15 is a tough ask. However he has obvious gate speed and if there isn’t too much pace on in the early parts of the race it’ll certainly help him more than anyone.

We know Legal Eagle is high class, we know he will bring his best to the table, he is the highest rated horse in the country and could make it third time lucky on Saturday – still I have to take him on.

Last seasons Durban July winner Marinaresco has been dealt a 13 draw. He finished fifth in the Met last year but had a nice prep recently when staying on really well in the Queen’s Plate. He could come with a late burst to finish at least in the money. He’s no more than a fair price in my book, though, as he simply might come too late the party from a long way back.

Lightly raced and fast improving Last Winter is an intriguing contender. He made an easy transition from Handicaps  right into Grade 2 company when last seen, however  to be drawn in the car park is a massive blow to his chances. He has to be exceptional in order to win from stall 20.

African Night Sky operates at a 50% strike rate and won three Grade 3 contests last year. Fair comeback run in the Queen’s Plate, but is he good enough to land a top-class middle-distance contest? I doubt it.

The one I’m interested for a while is the light-weight in the race; with low mileage on the clock, Oh Susanna raced seven times today, having won two of them. She looked, however, different proposition when stepping up to 1.800m in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes on Queen’s Plate Day earlier this month.

She had a good draw in five and was therefore in a good position early on, however, at the same time, she was literally tanking her way forward, being a handful for her jockey. She continued to pull for most parts of the race, which made it even more impressive how easily she won in the end, leaving van Niekerk to celebrate early.

Now stepping up against the boys – on Handicap terms she would have a bit to find with some of the top rated horses in the race. A light weight of 51.5kg with potential improvement for experience and trip could easily offset that, though.

On pedigree a step up to 10f should certainly suit. She is quite well bred with plenty more to come over this new trip. Question mark is how she will settle over this longer distance, when there is little pace early on. If she finds an early rhythm from a good draw, then, I believe, she has enough quality to go all the way.

Selection:
10pts win – Oh Susanna @ 5/1 Bet365

Speed Limit exceeded at Kenilworth

brilliant_crimson-cts-jul

3.55 Kenilworth: MR 85, 1.600m

An open enough looking contest, though you have to give the advantage to the three year olds, given they receive and handful of weight and are seemingly more talented than the majority of older horses in this contest.

The two top rated older horses Mountain Master and Waiting For Rain are dropping in the ratings though and if they run up to their best have excellent chances to feature.

However the 91 rated 3yo colt Fifty Cents is very much favoured to take the step up in trip in his strides. He’s a fair chance on pedigree and seemed to stay 1.400m thoroughly the last time.

I very much like the other three year Speed Limit, though, who has already won over course and distance and stayed 1.60om very strongly when getting off the mark in a maiden the last time.

His opening mark off 83 is stiff enough, but Speed Limit has the assistance of top drawer Anthony Delpech today. That in itself seems a vote of confidence. At 7/1 he is the value in the race in my mind.

Speed Limit @ 7/1 William Hill – 5pts Winner

Preview: 2016 Queen’s Plate

finishding

Fasten your seatbelt – the 2016 Queen’s Plate will take you for a ride! It’s gonna be fast and furious! South Africa’s best milers; no hiding place as they’re all there to land the big price!

Last years brilliant winner Futura, currently the highest rated horse in the country, is trading as the favourite at this point in time. That doesn’t come a shock, given Futura seems well in himself after an excellent prep run in the Green Point Stakes.

He finished second behind eventual winner Captain America that day, who himself will have a good crack at it today. The son of of Captain Al used to be headstrong and keen earlier in his career, but wiser and more settled now, he’s become a proper Grade 1 horse. He’s likely to attempt to make all.

The outcome of the race could very much evolve around 2014 Durban July winner Legislate. The former horse of the year had a troubled 2015 season, but is reportedly in good shape at the moment. His record as a fresh horse is notably strong and talent wise he’s probably the best horse in South Africa; he has the speed to be a world-class miler, plus the stamina to stay and win over the demanding July trip.

Last years Derby winner Legal Eagle can’t be taken lightly either, although he’s best suited to distances beyond 1.600m and his trainer didn’t make a secret of the fact that this race is a stepping stone towards the J&B Met. However Anton Marcus jumps on board, which is a significant move.

This comes a bit a surprise given that Marcus is also associated with another leading contender, Act Of War. It’s certainly not a vote of confidence in last seasons Cape Guineas winner. Future prospects may have to do with that, so could have the bad draw that AOF has to deal with today. From a similar unkind scenario he stayed on well in the Green Point the last time, though.

Not fully to be ruled out is Summer Cup winner Mister Sabina, who overcame a troubled passage in the big Grade 1. He’s better over further ,however, and may need this run. The Met is his main target.

Only one three year old tries to take on the best in class – Mike De Kock’s Noah From Goa has been a big surprise in recent weeks and month, improving dramatically from race to race. The Dingaans and Cape Guineas winner receives plenty of weight from the older rivals, however it usually is a tough task for three year olds a to be competitive in this type of race t this point of the year.

Prediction: There should be plenty of pace in the race given that a handful of runners want to be up with the speed. Expect Captain America to cross over from his wide draw pretty soon after the start. Legislate on his heels most likely, followed by Noah From Goah. That says Futura shouldn’t be too far off either.

The set-up of the race and the longer straight on the outer course could help those having to hope to feature from off the pace. Still, I expect the race to be won by those close to the speed. That means all the top contenders are likely to be in contention when it really matters and that should make for an exciting finish.

If Legislate is at his best, and he can be as a fresh horse with his record, he’s the winner and hard to beat. In my view, if Futura and Legislate are both 100%, the later one wins. But there are the questions marks about his soundness, given he was lame only three month ago.

So is it wise to go against Futura then? Maybe not, however he’s a short enough price given the competitiveness of this race. Yes, he won this making handstands last year, but value wise I can’t ignore the fact that he has to give 5kg to exiting three year old Noah From Goa.

De Kock supplemented the gelding for the race; you simply have to take notice then. Also he seems to grow fast. I liked the look of him at the Guineas, and his performance was superb that day, finding more once hitting the front. He looks more like a grinder, but that should be a perfect fit for the way I expect this race to be run. At 9/1 Noah From Goa is too big a price to ignore for me.

Noah From Goa @ 9/1 William Hill – 5pts Win

Fire Master can overcome big weight

Didn’t tip many winners in recent days, but The Hangman went in yesterday at Vaal at advised 10/1 odds! He clearly found something back of his former best and was a rather easy winner in the end. Because it worked yesterday, I gonna stick with South Africa today again

The 1.40 on a rather low grade Kenilworth card looks set up for one of the three year olds to take. The older horses are largely exposed and didn’t show anything that instils confidence in them, neithert hat they’d be able to produce anything better than the level they have performed to so far.

Favourite Sail For Gold looks pretty short though, given the fact that he had nine career starts already without looking all that progressive. He won a maiden race over a mile on his penultimate run and performed with credit on handicap debut and he may have still a bit more to offer dropping to 1.400m, but for all of that he is a good deal too short. Around Not Across makes more appeal on his Handicap debut after winning over 1.200m a maiden in fine form. Opening mark looks fair and stepping up in trip may well suit on only his fourth career start. However he is also a pretty short price.

Fire Master looks a pretty big price in comparison. He is also still lightly raced, won a maiden over 1.200m in good style and followed up with a strong performance in a MR77 Handicap stepping up to a mile, when he was less than two lengths beaten in third in the end. He was disappointing subsequently, but something was amiss in the latest and if he can reproduce his penultimate run, he must be in with a big chance as he is dropping in class today and is the highest rated individual here. He could have still plenty of improvement left, dropping to more suitable 1.400m should work in his favour. The downside is that he has 61.5kg to shoulder which is massive obviously.

But he is not giving too much weight away to the other 3yo’s which are all on big weights here due to the fact that is actually only a MR72 and the older horses a group of poor individuals. On balance, he should be a good deal shorter in the betting in my mind.

1.40 Kenilworth – MR72 Handicap:
Fire Master @ 6/1 Sportingbet – 5pts win

PREVIEW: Cape Derby

One of the biggest race days of the South African racing calendar kicks off with the Cape Derby, which historically throws up some legendary winners. Last year it was Legislate, who moved on to win the Daily News and of course the Durban July, which in turn brought him the honour of becoming the 2014 horse of the year. Potentially we have a similar star on our hands in this years renewal, the question is only who is it? Checking the betting, this looks a one-horse race. But is it?

Well, Act Of War, currently trading a 1/5 favourite to land the Derby, looks certainly the real deal as he’s going for seven in a row today! The son of legendary sire Dynasty was only beaten on his racecourse debut, and then only by the narrowest of margins. Since then he never looked back, nicked in a couple of Graded races, with his biggest triumph to date, a decisive victory in the Cape Guineas. All those forms have also worked out very strongly, with plenty of subsequent winners. He looks right now a world class miler. Can he take this form to the next level over an additional two furlongs? That is the main question. Being a son of Dynasty surly helps, so he has enough stamina on his sire side for obvious reasons. Small doubts coming from his dam side though, with that line effectively never having anything produced over further than a mile. So far Act Of War looked special over trips ranging from 1.200m to 1.600m. He’ll be hard to beat if he’s taking well to the longer distance, that is for sure.

Realistically, there is only one real danger for Act Of War in this field , and that one is coming of course from Mike De Cock. His lightly raced Ertijaal is equally as exciting a colt as it gets. He had only three starts to date after having an injury troubled 2yo old career, and has been rather rushed to get here. He had three starts in the last two month, and one has to see how the takes this amount of racing. However he has been rapidly improving all the same.

Ertijaal

He was far too good on debut and second start, winning by a culminating 16 lengths those two races. Stepping into Listed company earlier this month, he turned on things in the final furlong to get up on the line. He was always going to win once in full flight and finished this task nicely. He looked green an immature all the same though, and will have learned plenty. He’s a nice, scopy colt who has already proven his stamina over 2.000m and going back to this trip today, will be a bonus, since he is bred for middle-distance.

Verdict: It is not worth to look anywhere else, trying to find the winner of this race. The rest of the field should simply not be good enough and it would be a major surprise to see any of those go even close. It seems rather a lottery to determine who else could make the frame. So concentrating on the two fancied runners makes sense. That says I’m going to have a nibble on Ertijaal. Simply for the reason that he has plenty of improvement left in him on what is only his fourth start. With a steep learning curve, and a trip to suit perfectly, he should be a close match for hot favourite Act Of War, as long as he takes the recent starts well. That says, Act Of War looks a special horse and if he stays the trip, will not be beaten. But odder things have happened in racing than a proven star miler fading over the additional two furlongs.

Ertijaal @ 7/2 Ladbrokes – 5pts win