Tag Archives: Melbourne Cup

Tuesday Selections: 1st November 2022

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn…. I am very, very happy this morning. Gold Trip landed the Melbourne Cup, giving me a much needed 21/1 winner!

This was the best possible start to November, after the most horrible number of weeks in the last while on the punting front.

It couldn’t have gone much smoother for the top-weight: a relaxed start, he settled well, and then brilliantly maneuvered through the field by jockey Mark Zahra, to be in the perfect position entering the home straight.

Gold Trip quickened nicely, and stayed on strongly all the way to the line. I mentioned beforehand that he’s the class horse in my view – and so it proved. Thankfully, once in a while things do work out the way envisioned.

At least it did for Gold Trip. Stockman ran a huge race to finish 8th, after encountering plenty of trouble around the home turn. He was never given a real chance to challenge.

No complaints, though. It doesn’t happen often that I back a winner these days, let alone a 20/1+ winner. A much needed booster for the P/L sheet.

…………

5.00 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 6f

Captain Vallo drops down to class 6 with another 2lb off his back. He is seriously well handicapped if anywhere near the form he showed on turf this season when he got his conditions.

I look back especially to his Redcar run three back, where he nearly got his head in front off 68. He ran to speed ratings in the 60’s a number of times this year, including to 68 and 69.

I don’t think he’s a lesser horse on the All-Weather. In fact, his record is 6-1-2 and his career best speed rating was achieved at Newcastle.

The jockey booking and form of the yard isn’t a confidence booster, but I hope he’s on a going day and can take advantage of running in poor contest that’s there for the taking off 7lb lower than his last winning mark.

A lot of money has been coming for him this morning too. I missed the big prices. But he’s still good value if there’s no handbrake on.

10pts win – Captain Vallo @ 7/1

Melbourne Cup 2022 Preview

The race that stops A nation suffers from a lack of international runners this year. Consequently this is a comparatively weak edition of the Melbourne Cup.

And yet, it’s still the one race that I’m so excited about that I get up 3am in the morning during the week – voluntarily – to watch it live: every year the first Tuesday in November; and so it’s going to be in about six hours from now.

The Melbourne Cup is a race that has been kind to me on the betting front, too. Right now I could do with a bit of kindness from the betting gods, anyway. It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn….

In any case, the 2022 edition of the Melbourne looks wide open – if you are prepared to take on the red hot favourite Deauville Legend.

Best price 3.7 at the time of writing, he’s a seriously short price and widely expected to become the first favourite to win the race since Fiorente in 2013.

The James Ferguson trained gelding certainly looks to posses all the right attributes for the Cup: he can travel through his races, can kick and shouldn’t find the distance an issue. There’s enough stamina in his pedigree and the race won’t be ran at a frantic pace, one would think, either.

He’s a full-brother to Sea La Rosa, a Group 1 winning mare in deep ground over 14 furlongs. With the ground likely turning soft, given there’s plenty of rain expected throughout the day at Melbourne, the indications are positive toward the likelihood that he does act on the ground.

There’s very little not to like about Deauville Legend, actually. Except the price. He’s just such a short price, in a race with twenty plus other horses, where you need a bit of luck to get the breaks at the right time.

Also: yes, he is more likely than not to act on the soft ground. But all his turf form came on decent to fast ground. He’s unproven on anything slower. That has to be a small question mark at the very least. Enough for me at this short price to look somewhere else.

The other international runner Without A Friend is of interest, too. Especially since he’s three times the price of Deauville Legend in the betting.

The five-year-old gelding won the Silver Cup at York in brilliant style in July, skipped the Ebor in favour of a prep run at Newmarket – a solid runner-up performance there – before heading Down Under.

He’s rated to go close, with a good weight and has ran to solid enough speed ratings over the last two years to see him go close. How will he cope with the hustle and bustle that he’ll encounter at Flemington? Connections opt for ear-plugs pre-race.

The fact he often raced in small fields, and tends to be keen over the longer trips, is a serious concern. If he gets worked up too early he will struggle to get home in the soft ground. I feel there are better alternatives to back in the field.

Hoo Ya Mal, now based in Australia with Gai Waterhouse, was regressive ever since his huge Derby run. He makes little appeal to me.

The best chances for the home team seem to evolve especially around those horses that ran well in the Caufield Cup and Cox Plate in the last fortnight.

Montefilia got a troubled run but finished much the best from the back of the field. She loves it soft and could come with a big run late, if she gets the extra distance. It’s a big if in my book, as she will need luck for a clear run.

That goes for a number of horses. Another mare often favourably mentioned by the locals is Duais. She came from off the pace at Caufield as well and seems to be tracking in the right direction lately, getting better with each run this year. The trip in combination with ground is a question mark, but she could be peaking at the right time. I like her at a big price, more so than Montefilia, that’s for sure.

Knights Order is a strong front-runner and impressed in the Caulfield Cup. Already a Group 1 winner over two miles, he also acts on the ground. He’s got the widest draw and will have to work a bit to get to the lead. That’s far from ideal.

I loved the run of Realm Of Flowers in the Metropolitan where she hit the line incredibly strong, indication she wants to go further. She’s an intriguing mare and definitely will love the soft ground. Stamina for the 2 miles look a given and she’s got a good draw for a relaxed start.

She will need a bit of luck for a gap to open on the inside turning for home, though. If it does happen, she is a great chance to run away with it off a really low weight.

She is a backable price but I have a major concern that puts me off: she missed her most recent engagement, which is a bit of a worry. is she 100%?

2019 Melbourne Cup hero Vow And Declare ran well in the Caufield Cup. Probably this is beyond him these days, but he can feature in the money. The same can’t be said about surprise 2020 Epsom Derby winner Serpentine. He’s improved for blinkers lately, but has a lot to find and should struggle from a #23 gate.

Talking of formerly trained classy European horses: 2020 Arc 4th Gold Trip has to carry top weight. The winner of only a single race in 15 career starts hasn’t set the world alight in Australia since moving there last year. The locals think 57.5kg is a lot to carry, and it probably is.

But: he looks like to really get going lately. He was an agonisingly close runner-up in the Caufield Cup (see video above), having raced less efficient than the eventual winner. And he got a highly trouble passage in the Cox Plate when last seen- Some of that was his own making as he jumped badly with first-time blinkers – yet finished nicely on the eye and can be upgraded for the run.

He’s clearly the class act in the field. Not only because of his Arc performance – which is probably too long ago now to really count as recent form anyway – but he followed up next season with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the Group 1’s prix Ganay and Grand Prix de St. Cloud.

He only had five start in Australia since his permanent move, improving with each run and he clearly enjoys rain softened ground. The more rain the better, in fact.

The trip is a question mark. But his class, tactical speed and change of gear should see him being really competitive in my view, especially as the #14 draw gives jockey Mark Zahra plenty of options to find a good position.

At an even bigger price one of the home team caught my eye: Stockman. Connections were quite bullish, and I can clearly see why. Ignore his most recent 8th place finish; it was an obvious prep run and the gelding ran on nicely under an easy hands and heels ride.

The two preceding performances were of serious note, though. Two back he won the St. Leger Stakes over 2600m at Randwick is fine style, making an impressive move from over 600m out. He was always in charge in the home straight.

Two weeks earlier he was only 1¼ lengths beaten in 4th in the Group 1 Metropolitan Handicap, finishing strongly yet again, even though not getting the clearest of runs from 400m out.

He’s 1.5kg better off on the weights with Realm Of Flowers today in comparison, who was a strong third that day. That’s noteworthy, given I rate her chance highly, as mentioned before.

Crucially, he loves soft ground. In fact, it’s key to his chances. Therefore, the more rain the better. He also got a good draw to move forward from, so has a lot going his way.

I believe his price is driven by his disappointing run in the Sydney Cup – his only try over 2 miles. He was quite fancied that day, but had too much to do from a wide draw and the back of the field. He’s clearly better than that, as he’s shown more often than not in recent weeks.

Summary:

If all goes to plan, Deauville Legend could be too good in this field. He has the form, the speed ratings, the stamina and possibly the ground versatility. But he’s an awfully short price. Unbackable for me.

The mare Realm Of Flowers is next likeliest winner in my book. 12/1 looks even a good price. But the worry whether she is 100% puts me off, because there are two strong alternatives at bigger prices.

Stockman is seriously underappreciated in the betting market, especially with every additional drop of rain to benefit his chances. He’s got form and a solid chance to stay the trip.

Top weight Gold Trip is undervalued because of his poor strike rate. But he’s the class act in this field, has improved with each run and will love the ground.

5pts win – Stockman @ 30/1
5pts win – Gold Trip @ 21/1

Video Game: Frankie Dettori Racing

The Grand National takes place this Saturday. On the eve of the National ITV will run the “Virtual Grand National”.

An obscure event it may be, yet in 2020 – when the VGN replaced the real race due to Covid – it was watched by about 5 million people.

Now in its seventh iteration, the VGN has grown in popularity over time. One of the reasons for the increased popularity are the increasingly realistic animations.

Earlier this week the Virtual Grand National Twitter account previewed some of the CGI powered animations and received praise for the realistic nature of their animations.

Alongside it where many comments of people asking to leverage these graphics for a horse racing video game.

Over the years there have been a number of racing games available. The Japanese G1 series comes to mind in particular. This tweet also reminded me of my favourite horse racing game – which, believe it or not, the kid inside me still plays from time to time – which seems to be relatively unknown, or certainly forgotten whenever there’s a discussion on video games in a horse racing context.

The game I’m talking about is the legendary Frankie Dettori Racing, or also widely known as Melbourne Cup Challenge on the other side of the globe. Back in the day – we’re talking 2006 – this game was available for PC and the PS2 and it portrayed the world of horse racing rather well. Mainly because it had official licenses for many of the worlds most popular racecourses.

Personally I don’t know anyone who played it. Although I for one wasted plenty of hours, days and also many nights on the addictive career mode which is the core piece of the game.

In the career mode you can play up to ten consecutive years. You would start with a small budget to buy your first horse. You then build from there to create an empire of luxuries stables with your own breeding operation and racing the offspring of your past stable stars in the major races of the internal flat racing calendar: the Epsom Derby, Arc De Triomphe or Dubai World Cup.

There is a pretty accurate racing calendar where you have to register your horse – pending their eligibility – and then it’s up to you steering them around the “realistically modelled” racetracks.

Realistic to the point of what was graphically possibly at that time. Although, even for 2006 the graphics weren’t exactly a strong point of the game. Yet, the racetracks looked like they do in rea-life, actually. The Curragh looks like the Curragh. Epsom like Epsom. And Nad Al Sheba like the actual Nad Al Sheba. Including the dirt surface. That was impressive for the time and I haven’t seen in any of the other racing games to date.

A neat little feature is that at the start of the game you could decide whether you want your career aligned to the European or Australian season. Based on this choice the game would include more racecourses and races of one or the other region.

As for the gameplay itself: it’s a steep learning curve at the beginning. Once you figure it out the racing becomes much easier. Still, on the highest difficulty level you have to get your tactics and moves spot on. The game feels rather realistic in that sense. Particularly around the tight, ever turning Australian tracks winning from the back of the field with a hold-up horse is challenging but makes for a thrilling and rewarding experience if successful.

I feel that is exactly what makes the game special. Yes, the graphics are rather poor, outdated and the gameplay is not overly sophisticated. But at the same time you can really get a feeling for how it feels like to be Jamie Spencer – sharing in the frustration or elation to ride like him: sit in last position, trailing a fast pace and either finding a gap to go through, producing a late turn of foot and get up on the line… or getting stuck in traffic, losing the race there and then.

When you get it right it feels like dancing on water!

With that in mind it’s fair to say Frankie Dettori Racing isn’t a pure arcade game. You have to get your tactics right and you have to know your horse, ride it how it wants to be ridden – some from the front, other middle of the pack, others from behind. Some have a turn of foot. Others purely grind it out. There are those that respond to the whip. Yet some won’t find anything off the bit.

External factors like the going, course layout, size of the field and draw all play a vital role too. And you need to adapt how to ride the race. Much like in the real world.

In the career mode you can influence some of the preferences horses have later in the game once you got your breeding operation up and running. It’s certainly the most rewarding part. Unfortunately, and that is a real bummer, you don’t have enough time to really reap the benefits of breeding long-term. Simply because the game stops after ten seasons. There is no way to prolong it. A real shame.

Of course this game isn’t a simulation either. But it strikes a great balance between realism and arcade. Something I personally always missed in the G1 series.

For anyone interested in giving the gem of a horse racing video game a try: I believe you’ll find it somewhere for free on the internet to download. Otherwise I’m sure on Ebay or similar you’ll find a cheap copy for PS2.

But be warned: it can be highly addictive. Day and night fly by as you attempt to win this elusive Hong Kong Cup. Or as you try to get the get the first offspring you bred yourself, but turned out not as good as hoped, nonetheless some blacktype.

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

DSC_0828

Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home  Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Race Preview: 2019 Melbourne Cup

DSC_8164

The race that stops a nation…. or the race that stops me sleep. Every year the same procedure: Melbourne Cup Tuesday is nearing and I am excited as a little child on the eve before Christmas. I LOVE the Melbourne Cup, it’s my favourite race.

It helps having backed the winner of the last two editions at rather generous odds, of course. While I love the spectacle of watching the race on TV at half past three in the morning with a blanket and a warm cuppa in my hands, it’s certainly has been financially rewarding as much as it’s emotionally warming – backing a winner or not.

But backing a winner is even more fun. So Let’s do three in a row?

………

This year appears to be a highly compelling renewal – certainly on paper. The field includes Cross Counter, the defending champion; the exciting Japanese rider and Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace; the Ebor Handicap winner Mustajeer; last years Irish Derby hero Latrobe; plus a highly competitive home team.

On the other hand, I feel this race is much easier to dissect than in years past. Sure, luck can play its part in the race. A massive field will always produce a hard-luck story…. or two, or three of those stories. Regardless, I can see only a handful of realistic contenders, to be perfectly honest.

You can cross a line through half the field easily on the grounds of the softish going, distance, weight or racing style. The ones I can’t dismiss so easily and who made it on to my shortlist are as follows:

Il Paradiso: fits the trend of recent winners. Still relatively low mileage, some classy form in the book, looks to have the right sort of relaxed attitude, appears to stay and will be fine on any softness left in the ground. His tendency to break slowly is a major negative from draw 17, though. Blinkers may help but the “may” is already reflected in the price, I’m afraid.

Constantinople: you couldn’t watch the Caulfield Cup and not be impressed how he finished despite the fact he came from well off the pace and was significantly hampered at a crucial stage. Ran twice to a 108 topspeed ratings year. Most talented horse in the race?

His racing style is not and advantage. His tendency to sweat and exert energy in the preliminaries neither. Not easy to get things right on him. Needs everything to fall right, which it may well do, but I’m happy enough to let it go for single figure odds.

Vow And Declare: Strong chance for the home team if there wouldn’t be the draw. Classy stayer, form in the book, hits peak at the right time as excellent runner-up performance in Caulfield Cup suggested. Drawn in 21 will make life tough.

Dawndraft: Quite a bit of racing under the belt yet still improving. Good performances in Ireland this summer, including career best Listed success (101 TS) albeit below standard required here.

But two good runs since arriving Down Under. Visually compelling latest victory. But that performance came only 3 days ago which is a major concern.

Mustajeer: Excellent winner of the Ebor. Has improved again this season, ran well in Group races before having the perfect race at York. From the draw to the way the race developed to a clear run: everything worked to perfection.

He is a strong galloping sort who I feel will be suited perfectly by the Melbourne Cup. Had a fine prep in the Caulfield Cup and won’t fear the ground.

But that is the point: everything went to perfection at York. Will it today? He’s uncomplicated, that’s a big plus. I think he will go close. Still, it’s going to be the Ebor 4th Raymond Tusk that my money is riding with on Tuesday morning, 4am Irish time.

Raymond Tusk: On a different day he’d have been the brilliant winner of the 2019 Ebor and would be much shorter in the betting than he is now. Drawn in the car park he was trailing the field still turning for home, a wall of horses in front, yet travelling much the best. He had to weave his way through for a clear run and the bird was flown when he finally did.

Still finished a strong 4th, not far beaten, and running to a career best 107 topspeed rating. He’s 4lb better off with Mustajeer here and has a much better draw to play with.

I have one fear that is Jamie Spencer: we know he likes to come from off the pace with his mounts. I hope the good draw will help to settle on a positive racing strategy. Interviews I heard have given me hope indeed.

Still with low enough mileage, Raymond Tusk is an improving individual, who comes here fresh, which seems to bring the best of him usually. Cut in the ground is a question mark. His best results cam on fast ground. However he didn’t have a lot of chances to race on soft. And he did win a maiden over 1 mile on good to soft. Another pointer to give hope.

Selection: 
10pts win – Raymond Tusk @ 23/1 MB

Wednesday Selections: November, 7th 2018

DSC_8293

WOW! What more can you say??? Quite a bit, actually! So, a few more words on Tuesdays Melbourne Cup: a tremendous victory for Cross Counter. The three-year old came from last to first, producing a tremendous turn of foot at the end of a 3.200 meter long race!

I felt his chances were gone right after the start as Kerrin McEvoy steered his mount to the back of the field – which in hindsight seems a smart move, given the wide draw and the way things worked out as the gates crashed open didn’t really allow him to do anything else that wouldn’t have been even more detrimental to his chances; i.e. rushing forward.

In my race preview I hoped things would pan out slightly different regarding the early parts of the race. Regardless, I couldn’t have been happier with the eventual outcome of the race!

As for the second year running I’ve made a winning selection for the Melbourne Cup – granted, neither last year with Rekindling, nor this year with Cross Counter were those selections particularly thought-provoking.

Let’s be honest: a classy 3yo, with good chances to stay the trip, having ideal ground conditions and a low weight to carry…. the type of race the Melbourne Cup in essence is these days, it wasn’t exactly rocked science to select Cross Counter.

……

2.50 Nottingham: Class 4 Handicap, 5f

Bread and butter today: Show Palace is the one I want to be with. He has dropped to a tasty mark, having produced big performances off much higher ratings in the past, achieving consistently high time speed ratings as well.

Clearly he needs the right conditions: with rain falling, the going may not turn quite soft enough. Nonetheless, good to soft should be okay, even more so off his 74 handicap mark. Hes also in fine order, judged on his latest effort over CD.

He was not ideally positioned on the inside rail, far away from the pace. He finished best of his group, nonetheless – a 5th place that looks good given the form already works out well.

Selection:
10pts win – Show Palace @ 6/1 MB