Tag Archives: Leopardstown

Saturday Selections: September, 14th 2019

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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

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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

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Preview: 2000 Guineas 2019

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Let’s get this out of the way right away: Ten Sovereigns will not stay. He’ll be a super exciting sprinter for the season to come, though.

Now that we’re clear on this rather important piece of the 2019 2000 Guineas puzzle, let’s focus on finding the winner of the race. I’ve three horses on my short-list.

The second Aiden O’Brien trained colt isn’t on the list: Magna Grecia is rock solid, mind. But I give him a pass at 7/2, as with fast conditions expected at the Rowley Mile today, I feel he’ll likely appreciate an additional couple of furlongs.

The other well fancied Irish runner Madhmoon is intriguing. You could argue it’s a tip in itself Kevin Prendergast sends his star colt over to Newmarket. He’s not doing it very often. His record in the UK is dismal, but one can be forgiving because the average SP’s of his UK runners tell its own story of outcome vs. expectations.

Madhmoon will surely improve for the better ground today. He’ll improve having a run under his belt. He’ll improve stepping up in trip again. Yet I’m not fully on board ad don’t quite feel excited about his chances.

In truth, he probably didn’t beat all that much in the Champions Juvenile Stakes last August. He also ran, despite looking imperious that day, only to a TS rating of 78. As a key piece of form, this isn’t enough for me to invest.

I’ll do happily invest – and could be called a hypocrite calling Madhmoon form average – in Skardu. Recency bias? Am I still “wowed” by his incredible (visually at least) seasonal reappearance in the Craven Stakes? Possibly.

Nonetheless, I do like a multiple course and distance winner, who looked scintillating on return over the Guineas CD, who has clearly proven to have trained on over the winter.

Skardu’s turn of foot is a thing of beauty. He produced a superb debut performance over 7f at Newmarket last September, leaving a subsequent UAE Derby winner standing still. You would hope there is much, much more to come. Only two runs on the clock, an April foal who’s shown an appreciation for fast ground also. I’m hugely excited!

The only thing I am slightly worried is whether he’ll get a clear run and gets going soon enough, if this would turn into something of a sprint finish, given his racing style.

I’ve got a small saver on a massive long-shot: Emaraaty Ana. The betting says there’s no hope. And the market could be right. But could also underestimate this lad. He was a late May foal, but showed sparkle as a juvenile regardless, landing the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes, a Group 2, at Newbury last August.

That was over 6 furlongs. a trip rather on the sharp side one would think given his pedigree. It was no surprise to see him taken off his feat in the Middle Park Stakes subsequently.

Emaraaty Ana is bred to stay a mile, in fact to improve for the step up in trip. He is related to a couple of winners over the 1 mile trip. He’s proven to act on fast ground and ran a career best TS rating not dissimilar to what most other leading contenders in this field have achieved to date. Age is on his side, I feel – one way or another he’ll be ‘one to follow’ this year.

Selections:
9tps win – Skardu @ 9/1 MB
1pts win – Emaraaty Ana @ 139/1 MB

Saturday Selections: April, 6th 2019

Aintree parade ring

Preview for the Grand National: Read Here

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3.40 Aintree: Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle, 3m½f

It’s unusual for me to get involved in a hot favourite. The times I do it? It usually backfires. So this should be the kiss of death for Apple’s Jade today.

Nonetheless, I simply can not let the 6/4 odds on offer go, for this supreme mare in a race that’s at her mercy, as long as she turns up back in form – in my book she’s a much bigger favourite and I would expected her touching odds-on.

She probably would be a long odds-on favourite if not for her ‘flop’ in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Recency bias is a funny thing: only a few weeks ago Apple’s Jade was deemed nearly unbeatable – that was the opinion of some smart racing experts.

Today, in a weaker contest, she’s deemed merely a 40% chance. Seriously? I’m puzzled. True: the seven-year-old was disappointing at Cheltenham. On the other hand she had fair excuses for an uncharacteristic performance, as we found out afterwards. Right from the start the mare didn’t travel and it was obvious she wasn’t right on the day.

You’d bet connections wouldn’t let the superstar mare run today if she wouldn’t have shown to be back on song at home. So, trusting she’s fine from a physical standpoint today, she’s the best horse in this race by a country mile.

Further to this: personally I had my doubts whether Cheltenham as a track could see Apple’s Jade to best effect. We still don’t know, but suspicion remains it may not. Hence a return to a flatter track, like Aintree, will be to her advantage. In fact she is a course winner already.

The step up in trip, on what looks fair ground today, is no issue. She’s won over 3 miles this season – in fact she is 2 from 2 over 3 miles – the additional distance will not bother her either, I believe.

So, if back to the form Apple’s Jade showed all season long, bar the most recent run, she is hard to oppose today and should convert this penalty kick.

Selection:
10pts win – Apple’s Jade @ 6/4 WH

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3.50 Leopardstown: Group 3 Ballysax Stakes, 1m 2f

Another rare occurrence: a bet on an Irish race. Over the last 14 months I’ve had only five bets, despite calling this little island my home. Betting wise it’s a tough place for me, though. Can fortunes change today?

Obviously the Ballysax is a wide open race, with little recent form on offer and you have to go by juvenile form, without knowing how it truly translates to this new season with a winter in between.

That says I figure Sydney Opera House looksover priced here. He’s a small drift in the market, to a handy price, I feel. He’s the one who ran to the highest time speed rating and joint highest RPR last season. And that despite conditions not always favouring him.

The son of Australia is obviously supremely well bred, a half-brother to a Melbourne Cup winner and Irish Derby second. He showed a lot of promise in a handful of starts as a juvenile, including a close runner-up effort in the Criterium De Saint Cloud when last seen.

Sydney Opera House looks bound to improve as a 3-year-old, even more so when stepping up in trip. But I also have the feeling a softer surface will see him to much better effect.

So, if ready today, he should run a big race on the rain softned Leopardstown ground. And in doing so, he could put himself firmly into the Derby pciture.

Selection:
10pts win – Sydney Opera House @ 7/2 MB

Sunday Selections: Dublin Racing Festival

Dedigout and Paul Carberry

Big day at Leopardstown today – day two of the Dublin Racing Festival! The Irish Gold Cup is on the menu, serving a fin main dish.

That despite the weather turning for the worse. Saturday was such a lovely, sunny, crisp and clear winter day – 24 hours later it’s rather windy, grey and dirty. Still, there isn’t a lot of water coming down from the sky, which means the ground continued to dry out and remains on the good side.

That has seen plenty of on-runners already, and that in turn makes some of those races on the card today quite interesting betting contests.

So, unusually for me, I’ve found three pretty strong bets!

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2.25 Leopardstown: Grade B Handicap, 3 miles

Despite a 7lb raise in his handicap mark, unexposed Cuneo looks ready to follow-up on an impressive Christmas success that came over course and distance. He has the making of a better than 133 rated individual, even though future will clearly be over fences.

The last time at Leopardstown, in massive 28-runner strong field, he travelled always close enough to the pace but showed signs of greenness throughout, making it a tricky ride for Rachael Blackmore.

Nonetheless Cuneo’s eye-catching progress over three out had the making of a talented individual. And even though he nearly messed things up approaching the final fence, he ran on well, while appearing to be doing as much as needed to win the race.

There should be plenty more improvement to come with this fella and if he gets a clear run of things today should be hard to stop. Even more so as he seems to enjoy good ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Cuneo @ 7/2 MB

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3.35 Leopardstown: Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup, 3 miles

The flagship contest of the Dublin Racing Festival has been thrown wide open with the drying ground and the withdraws of quite a few interesting runners.

That should make it a clear thing between Al Boum Photo and Road To Respect? Noel Meade’s charges enjoys good ground maybe the little bit better and is proven class – he’ll be tough to beat. On the other hand, despite his overall positive record, he’s one who can also find trouble and get beaten when he shouldn’t – in my mind.

I’m yet to be fully convinced by Al Boum Photo, particularly on this ground. Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill is the more attractive Willie Mullins runner.

As the field is much smaller now than initially thought, this could turn into a tactical contest also. And that’s why I feel this is much more open than the market suggests. Probably more open than it was if anyone would have lined up?

Edwulf will appreciate any drop of rain that’s currently falling. Will it be enough? Remains to be seen.

I am keen at a massive price – though falling all the time already – on the aging Outlander. He’s not getting any younger, his best days may be beyond him. But he ran okayish, without setting the world alight, in three starts this season.

I’m pretty sure this was his target all along. Outlander loves Leopardstown – he’s a different animal here – and he loves a bit of decent ground. He was runner-up in this very race last year. So he must rate a live chance. A better one than 4% in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Outlander @ 24/1 MB

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4.10 Leopardstown: Grade A Handicap Chase, 2m 5f

Competitive contest in its nature, but I feel only few are weighted to win, particularly on the rather fast ground. I can make good cases for favourite Speaker Connolly – though it’s a skinny price, really, De Name Escapes Me or Cadmium, but it’s the ever improving Cubomania who catches my eye.

The 6-year-old has been progressive over fences, ever since having a wind operation during the summer. He won five times since then, and has been a highly creditable runner-up in his last two starts.

His latest effort at Fairyhouse in particular proved he still finds more. The favourite had a bit too much speed in the end but Cubomania stayed on very strongly after a good round of jumping.

The grey will enjoy the step up in trip and has quite an excellent record on better ground. So, while he has to defy a career highest mark, there is a good chance he can find the improvement needed – as long as he gets a clear run, which is the worry if he drops in in this big field.

Selection:
10pts win – Cubomania @ 13/1 MB

Preview: Irish Champion Stakes 2018

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This years renewals of the Irish Champion Stakes wins in excitement purely on the basis of the renewed clash between Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior. Both met several times in big races over the last two seasons and it has been interesting to see how each individual progresses differently.

One could argue that since the 2017 Racingpost Trophy Roaring Lion has been the more progressive one; certainly since Saxon Warrior landed his own early season target with the 2000 Guineas, Aiden O’Brien’s charge has been playing second fiddle on three occasions behind “The Lion”.

The last time, in the Juddmonte International, the gap was at its biggest ever since these two dated each other for the first time. 5 lengths Roaring Lion had to spare that day. Will it be different today?

It’s been a long year for both horses now and it probably comes down who’s able to hold his form.

On paper Roaring Lion is poised to win another battle today. Ground and track should suit him, and the fact AOB seems to throw the kitchen sink at him reminds me a little bit of 2009 when the same happened taking Sea The Stars on.

Regardless, taking prices into account, I find it impossible to back the favourite, even if he is the most exciting horse of 2018 and he’s likely to win today. Odds-on is a no go for me. And this particular race has proven over the last number of years it can be a bit of a minefield for short priced favs.

So I settle happily with Ballyoyle’s second string: Rhododendron. Her Lockinge Stakes win earlier this year rates as a superb piece of form and as she has proven in the past to stay 10 furlongs she would be a much shorter price if not for an abysmal run of form.

I bank on her to find back to her best today, for the simple fact the AOB yard wasn’t right for some time this summer and her runs were simply too bad to be true.

The setup of the race today could suit her well. In saying that, she has to find with the two market principles, of course. But then, she is a massive price, and on her best form she should be half of the odds available today.

Selection:
10pts win – Rhododendron @ 22/1 PP

2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

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An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

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A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

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Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

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Photos & Review: Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle Day

Beautiful day for racing it was today. Went down to my local track here in Naas to watch a couple of races. The 2m Novice Chase and the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle were of obvious interest.

Next Destination was the class act on the day, winning the Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle in fine style. Jumped well and was well on top in the closing stages. Visually probably not as impressive as many would have hoped, but lest we forget it was heavy ground and a Grade 1, after all.

Next stop is Leopardstown and the Dublin Racing Festival – if all goes well, said Willie Mullins afterwards.

Willie Mullins unveiled French recruit Demi Sang in the Novice Hurdle half an hour earlier. The five year old looks a nice prospect, staying on nicely to deny three years older Avenir D’Une Vie. He needs further, in my mind.

The Arkle route is the one Mullins wants to pursue, though. Not sure if that is what this lad wants, given he already won over 2m 3f as a hurdler in France.

Some of my photos from the two feature races:

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