Tag Archives: Leopardstown

Preview: Irish Champions Day 2022

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

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

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

…….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection:

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

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

10pts win – Mishriff @ 5.3

………

4.20: Group 2 Solonaway Stakes, 1 mile

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

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

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

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

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

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

10pts win – Raadobarg @ 6.8

Friday Selections: 15th July 2022

Boundless Ocean won the Group 3 contest at Leopardstown in fine fashion today. The faith paid off, he was too good for this field. The significant drop in class and distance helped. He was certainly less keen – by his standards – travelled like a dream and won in the manner of a horse with bigger targets on the horizon.

Ustath didn’t quite make it a perfect day. A solid 2nd place, beaten by half a lengths. Went off too fast I reckon and then got into trouble up the stiff Hamilton finish. He’s one to keep an eye on in terms of handicap mark. If the handicapper doesn’t react too harshly then he remains of interest over 6 furlongs on fast ground.

……..

3.18 Newbury: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 4f

Vaynor goes for a hat-trick and I back him to be able to win his third race in a row. The penny has dropped and the gelding looks vastly improved from run to run ever since returning to turf this year.

He won a poor class 6 Handicap over 1m 6f at Bath in early June, although in fine fashion and running to a 4lb better topspeed than his mark then. He followed up in better grade next time at Newmarket, although dropping in trip. He won going away and with a bit in hand, also finishing much the fastest on sectionals over the last three furlongs.

He ran to a 67 topspeed rating off a 67 handicap mark and that looks pretty good given how commanding the performance was. His revised mark of 73 is more than fair and potentially on the lenient side. He could easily have more to offer and can improve again given he was also a May foal and needed time to mature.

Pace seems crucial to him. There should be enough in the race to make it a solid test. But he’s versatile enough to make his own race too. Even though he races against better rivals, there isn’t really another well handicapped individual in the field.

10pts win – Vaynor @ 7/2

……..

7.10 Newmarket: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 4f

Pub Crawl is a horse I am monitoring since the start of the season. His seasonal reappearance at Leicester was eyecatching but it was his subsequent Epsom Handicap debut that got me seriously interested in the 3-year-old gelding.

That day plenty of things went wrong but he finished incredibly strongly once out in the clear giving the impression of potentially being ahead of his mark, especially if going up in trip.

He’s clearly a tricky sort as sluggish starts are his “trademark” and he can find trouble during races as well. He put all those bad traits on show the next two times.

Although he looks regressive and hasn’t gotten any help from the handicapper, he wasn’t disgraced in his last two runs in my view. Those were competitive affairs over ten furlongs and things didn’t go his way.

He now steps up to 12 furlongs. A trip he’s not certain to stay. On the other hand things happen a whole lot slower here and that will suit. It’s not impossible on pedigree and he can run on strongly in the closing stages, which suggests he stays.

Interestingly Pub Crawl has been noted in the Weekender paper Newmarket Gallops section to have worked really well on two occasions since his Sandown flop. He’s got the assistance of excellent 5lb claiming Benoit De La Sayette in the saddle. This is also a wide open contest. He must have a strong chance to get his head in front if he stays.

10pts win – Pub Crawl @ 5/1

Thursday Selections: 14th July 2022

2.20 Hamilton: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

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

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

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

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

10pts win – Ustath @ 4/1

………

7.20 Leopardstown: Group Meld Stakes, 9f

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

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

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

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

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

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

10pts win – Boundless Ocean @ 4/1

Monday Selections: 2nd May 2022

It’s bank holiday here in Ireland and I am looking to one of the big Handicaps at the Curragh to sweeten the day with winner.

4.40 Curragh: Apprentice Handicap, 7f

Normally, these competitive Handicaps with tons of runners wouldn’t be quite my cup of tea, I have to admit. However, I can’t look past the potentially well handicapped No Patience here.

He was a massive eye-catcher last month in a similarly hot Handicap at the Curragh, then over 6 furlongs. It was his first run since February and for the John C McConnell yard over a trip possibly a touch too sharp these days.

That race was utter carnage and you could pick out a number of unlucky horses. No Patience showed good early speed, then settled in midfield of the main pack on the stands’ side. He was shuffled back from three furlongs out and boxed in without the option to improve his position until about half a furlong from home when he ran on strongly under an easy ride.

He finished really well, proving his wellbeing and you would hope he can improve from the run now stepping up to an ideal 7 furlongs again.

He’s down to a sexy mark of 59 now, given he won of 65 over 7 furlongs at Dundalk last April, ran a good race in a hot Leopardstown Handicap last September from 11lb higher than he’s rated today, and achieved a 71 topspeed rating in the past. 

Apprentice Cillian McConnell claims valuable 4lb – it’s the cherry on the cake. He’s riding really well over the last number of weeks and months, albeit with a limited number of rides lately.

There are a few solid dangers in the field but the biggest danger is no getting a clear run. Drawn in stall one is probably not ideal. Patience will be key. If No Patience gets a run for home, he’ll be a big chance, regardless, I reckon. He’s simply so well handicapped now.

10pts win – No Patience @ 15/2

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.

Saturday Selections: September, 14th 2019

DSC_5262

3.40 Leopardstown: Group 3 Stakes, 1m 4f

I probably should know better: backing an Aiden O’Brien horse coming back from a lay-off. But by all accounts, if the rumblings are anywhere near true that Mount Everest was considered a proper Derby contender, and if judged by his entries for the rest of the season, he’ll need to show something significant today in order to go on those dates in a few weeks time.

Aiden O’Brien has played down expectations. That’s only fair. And surely Mount Everest won’t be at 100% today. It’s a gamble and you never know how far in their preparation these horses are coming off a long injury break, and whether they ever come back to their best, and in this case whether this particular individual has trained on over the winter.

However, this Group 3 is such a lackluster contest that I am prepared to back the “potential” today. Very few in this field have achieved a topspeed rating over 90 to date. Those that have can be discounted for a variety of reason of trip or ground or legitimacy of that particular posting – in my book at least.

The favourit Buckhurst, despite having three career wins to his name, has never ran faster than 67. The main dangers I actually see in the race are Norway, who has proven to be a rock solid horse and has achieved a career best when last seen, plus long-shot and stable mate Blenheim Palace, who could easily outrun his massive price tag and is a compelling each-way candidate.

But at given odds, Mount Everest is clearly of major interest. When last seen twelve month ago in the Bresford Stakes, he finished second in a tight finish behind Japan, having Sovereign more than three lengths behind. That form looks incredibly strong in hindsight and a topspeed of 94 achieved that day is credible.

No doubt this is the strongest piece of form in this race. Given Mount Everest is a May foal, one would have expected him to be a much better 3-year-old, so it’s plausible that improvement is to come with Mount Everest maturing. How much of that he’ll show today is the question mark.

On the other hand, given a long break and injury to overcome he may never fulfill this potential. He may not be ready to go today either. AOB’s record with those returning isn’t all that strong either. I am prepared to take the game in this particular race, though.

Selection:
10pts win – Mount Everest @ 4/1 MB

……….

4.50 Leopardstown: G2 Boomerang Stakes, 1m

The 6/4 for Lancaster House can only be described as a silly price. Possibly my judgement looks silly in a few hours time, though? I’m puzzled, regardless, because I feel Richard Fahey’s Space Traveller should be a much shorter price than he is.

The 3-year-old colt will need to things to pan out right given his running style, that is a clear concern for me, given that it can prove difficult to peg prominent horses back at Leopardstown if the pace isn’t overly strong.

It’s a risk I take, simply because Space Traveller has overwhelmingly the strongest form in the book. His Royal Ascot success is a tremendous piece of form, given how the race has worked out ever since, and a 106 topspeed rating he achieved that day looks all the more real for it.

Space Traveller stayed 9 furlongs three weeks ago at Haydock, when less than a lengths beaten in a highly competitive of the Strensall Stakes.

Ground and trip will suit today. A good pace looks likely. Now it’s up to WJ Lee to time it right. If he does, Space Traveller should be the one they all see the back of at the finish line.

Selection:
10pts win – Space Traveller @ 11/2 MB