Tag Archives: Meydan

Preview: Breeders’ Cup Classic 2018

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9.44 Churchill Downs: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s always hard to assess US form properly if you watch the Dirt racing only with one eye. So, when I dismiss the home raiders in the blink of an eye I do so knowing full well it may turn out to be a foolish move in a few hours time.

But if it comes to this years Classic I feel pretty strong about two European runners. For different but then also somewhat similar reasons. In either case, the one of Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, a lot will depend on the start of the race, I believe. It’ll make or break their chances.

Thunder Snow in gate one faces an uphill task. He’s never showed tremendous gate speed, so this is a major risk. However, if experienced Sumillon in the saddle is able to push his mount forward, so he’ll not end up behind a wall of horses entering the first bend, but rather tracking the pace in third, fourth or fifth, then the reigning Dubai World Cup champion is in a position to win the race.

That performance back in March is to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the rail bias that day. However, he beat some excellent dirt horses in tremendous style and ever since the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the goal.

A disappointing effort in the Juddmonte International aside, on his return to the US, for the first time after his disastrous experience in the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow ran a tremendous race in defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

He was more sensibly ridden than the two pace setters, but still was pushed forward rather aggressively from the widest gate. That must have cost vital fuel. Contrast that with the eventual winner of the race, who had pretty much the perfect race and ride and simply picked up the pieces in the closing stages, having the most left in the tank.

Thunder Snow tracked the pace from a long way off in third place throughout the race and was gradually closing in until catching the leaders entering the home straight. He led in the final furlong, eventually beaten on the line by the fast finishing Discreet Lover.

That was an excellent run, the second after a break and only a prep for today – you would think there is still a bit to come from him, hoping he’ll peak when it matters most: today.

His form on dirt reads an impressive 11P21212 – so clearly Thunder Snow is a classy individual. Everything hinges on the start. If he can get through that without getting too far behind, then I’m confident Godolphin has a major shout at celebrating a first Classic Success.

A first one in this regard it would also be for team Ballydoyle. I’m sure there are quite a few who’ve already given up on Mendelssohn at this stage, given in three starts over in the US, ever since producing that sheer unbelievable performance in Meydan, he’s yet to come close to winning.

I see it from a different perspective: today was always the goal. Knowing Aiden O’Brien, you can be sure he’ll have Mendelssohn spot for the race they want to win desperately. Also, something that seems overlooked: Mendelssohn, for whom the way races are run in the US must have been a bit of culture shock, has steadily improved from race to race over there.

You can easily draw a line under the Kentucky Derby; since then 3-2-3, the last two in Grade 1 contests over the Classic trip. I’ve been mightily impressed with this most recent performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Mendelssohn was sprinting forward right from the start, racing for the lead with odds-on favourite Diversify – the two set mad fractions and where more than ten lengths clear halfway through the race! They were caught eventually, but it was Mendelssohn who battled on toe finish a two lengths beaten third in the end.

One could argue, only with some sort of soft lead, steeling the race from the front, Mendelssohn will have a chance to win today. He’s not quite up to the standard to be considered a major contender, otherwise. That is probably an assessment not too far of the truth, by all we know up until now.

I see it from this perspective, though: Mendelssohn is improving. His latest run was a new career best. He’s still not got too many miles on the clock. He’s got an ideal draw to move forward today. He had a pretty ideal preparation, stays the trip and is a returning Breeders’ Cup winner, i.e. he has class!

I might be totally wrong. Overestimate these two Europeans, and underestimate the US horses, like favourite Accelerate, Mckinzie and Catholic Boy. I might overvalue the merit of the Jockey Club Gold Cup performances. And if I fancy the second and third of that race, I should fancy the winner, Discreet Lover at massive odds of 50/1 even more so today, right?

Well, I stick to my analysis, that both Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow didn’t have ideal races that day, ran big despite the factors against them, and both offer significant upside coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today.

Selections:
10pts win – Thunder Snow  @ 14/1 Coral
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 10/1 PP

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Preview: Kentucky Derby 2018 – A Spring Night’s Dream?

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After contemplating the whole week whether it’s a smart or not so smart decision, yet after listing to some beautiful Mendelssohn on this balmy spring Saturday, I decided the time has come: at 5/1 I’m IN!

A lot has been said about the UAE Derby winner’s performance at Meydan by people who are far more knowledgeable than I am: quite a few experts are of the opinion Mendelssohn was riding the “golden highway” on the inside rail and what did he beat anyways after Rayya bombed out in the Kentucky Oaks last night.

There is certainly merit to it. Figures based on that UAE Derby performance have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, what remains with me at least is the fact Mendelssohn not only won that day, but he annihilated a half-decent field with incredible ease (18½ to the runner-up Rayya) while doing so in a record winning time.

But there is more to like about him than only this one freakish performance: Mendelssohn won the Breeder’s Cup turf at the end of his two-year old campaign at Del Mar.

Given he was  a late May foal, he achieved far more as a juvenile than one could usually expected, as he also ran out a fine 2nd in the Dewhurst.

In summary: Mendelssohn has proven to travel well internally (so the slight issues around his arrivel may not be a big deal at all), he acts on any sort of surface and his best is (probably) yet to come.

Coolmore also seems rather bullish about his chances, Ryan Moore makes the trip across the pond, missing out on the 2000 Guineas, and while Mendelssohn’s wide draw could theoretically spell trouble it’s in practice no problem – as long as he breaks well (which he would need from any stall anyway).

So, c’mon Mendelssoh, make it A Spring Night’s Dream!

Selection:
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 5/1 Matchbook

Saturday Selections: March, 31st 2018

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Good Friday washed out – both selections non-runners thanks to the severe ground conditions at Bath yesterday. Let’s see if today – on Dubai World Cup day (one fancy for the Sheema Classic) – things go more to plan.

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3.00 Musselburgh: Class 2 Handicap, 1 mile

Some of the lesser exposed individuals are interesting, particularly Paco Boy son Fake News. The one I fancy, though, is hardy sort Indomeneo, who has seen plenty of racing as a juvenile.

He is vulnerable to an improver, and will have to overcome a wide draw. However, he has proven himself over this sort of trip and ground last year. He looked good winning two on the bounce at Ripon and Redcar, and he already ran to a TSR of 82 – so of his current mark off 84 he looks a rock solid option.

I like the fact that he is usually up with the pace. Something that is of massive advantage at Musselbourgh particularly in these type of conditions today, I feel. He will need to be sharp at the start, on the other hand – as drawn in 10 is not an easy task.

Selection:
10pts win – Indomeneo @ 7/1 VC

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4.45 Musselburgh: Class 5 Handicap, 5 furlongs

Question marks all over, so I go with one who’s proven to enjoy the ground and might not have shown his best over this sort of trip in these conditions yet: Richard Fahey’s Geoff Potts has a poor win record, however, looked an improved horse last season, particularly with cut in the ground.

He was very consisted in the second half of last season, winning a 6f Handicap on soft ground and going close enough in a handful of races subsequently. A good piece of form over the minimum trip is missing, however only twice in Handicaps did he have the chance and was very much unfancied those times.

With more rain to come, this should turn into a grind and that will suit those who act on this type of ground and stay a bit further. Geoff Potts fits the bill.

Selection:
10pts win – Geoff Potts @ 9/1 Matchbook

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8.45 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 6 furlongs

Money is already pouring in, yet top weight Fareeq looks still a tasty price. He’s a tricky sort who can make a mess of things at the start and can hang violently in the finish, however judged on his two last CD runs here at Chelmsford he should be bang there when it matters.

He won here in January in fine style, running to a time speed rating of 61 and finished subsequently a good runner-up off a revised mark, when things did not go his way as he missed the break from a widish draw and travelled always wide mostly off the bridle.

Pretty much the same story at Kempton the last time, now back at Chelmsford, a kinder draw and a mark of 60 should give him a big chance with a good 5lb claimer in the saddle.

Selection:
10pts win – Fareeq @ 12/1 VC

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5.10 Meydan: Sheeema Classic, 1m 4f

The Japanese Rey De Oro and Arc runner-up Cloth Of Stars head the market, and probably rightly so. However, at given prices, I do fee Hawkbill is the forgotten horse and way too big.

He had a fine comeback run here at Meydan earlier this months. Overcoming a wide draw and travelling wide throughout, he grinded it out eventually. This is much tougher today, obviously, but that was as good a reappearance as you could expect and shows Hawkbill is still close to his best form.

William Buick is in the saddle of the five times Group winner, including the 2016 Coral Eclipse. I hope he will have Hawkbill close enough to the pace. Stall seven is wide enough but Hawkbill has the pace to get across quickly.

He is not the best horse in the race, but if he gets an ideal run, he could be hard to pass, given race fitness is ensured.

Selection:
10pts win – Hawkbill @ 11/1 PP

Dubai: Longshots of the Day

Year in year out Dubai World Cup night signals the return of the flat – at least to me personally. A great day of racing it usually is, even though not a happy hunting ground betting wise.

The question today really is: by how far will Arrogate win? He’s the red hot favourite to land the World Cup and there is zero reason to oppose him. However there are two turf races that appear much more prone for an upset – here’re my two longshots ofthe day:

2.00: Al Quoz Sprint

Ertijaal seems the right favourite but not the right price. Yes, he is unbeaten in two starts this season and clearly loves Meydan but the majority of those successes came over the shorter 1.000m trip.

If Limato can bring his A-game he’s a big danger with decent ground he relishes to play with. Is he ready? Jungle Cat stepped up to win a good 6f sprint over CD when last seen, he’s sure to give his running but is he good enough?

From the bigger prices you have to consider Hong Kong’s Amazing Kid, a speedy sort who’s better over the minimum trip but the ground and flat finish may suit him. The same could possibly be said about Medicean Man who ran really well in two starts here at Meydan this year, though over 1.000m. But at 66’s could be worth a spunt

Not quite as big in the betting but overpriced in my book is Aiden O’Brien’s Washington DC. A classy, ultra consistent sprinter over both 5- and 6 furlongs. AOB did not enjoy the best of success at Meydan in the past but brings a strong team this time around.

The now four year old is rarely outside the money and ran close in some big sprints last season. Granted he has a bit to find with some of these and his last win came over seven furlongs on the Dundalk All-Weather, this race could be ready made for him.

At least with ground to suit and a trip he’s sure to get every inch of it he is underestimated in the field.

Selection:
5pts win – Washington DC @ 16/1 PP

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3.30 Dubai Turf

This looks quite an open race to me with question marks all over aplenty of runners. That says you can make a case for aplenty of these too!

However I am surprised to see Christophe Ferland’s charge Heshem such a big price in the betting as he is. This horse is poised for a big run in my mind and according to the trainer has travelled extremely well.

Heshem is still a somewhat lightly raced individual after a fine three year old campaign Group 2 company culminating in an excellent runner-up effort on Arc day in the Prix Dollar, when he had today’s race favourite Zarek behind himself.

The fact that connections gave the now four year old colt a spin on the All-Weather in preparation of this race race seems they mean business. Tactically he’s more likely to be closer to the pace, which would make sense utilising a fine draw.

Selection:
5pts win – Heshem @ 22/1 Bet365

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Read also my comprehensive preview of the Sheema Classic 

Dubai World Cup Night – Preview

Flat racing’s really got into my mind by now – and reason for that is the Dubai World Cup is just around the corner! On Saturday it’s raining money and whether you like the meeting or not, it certainly has its place in the international racing calendar, attracts good horses every year and provides excellent racing.

So let’s have a look at some of the big races on the night. I’ve put some thoughts and selections together, however I leave most of the dirt races out since I don’t really get a handle on them. With one exception…

Dubai World Cup: The richest race on earth is also one of the strangest Group 1 races on earth. Touted as the “World Cup”, the prize money is clearly worthy of a world champion, yet the winner usually isn’t anywhere close to be a superstar.

That little fact aside, this years renewal looks compelling on paper. There is California Chrome of course, who – you could argue – wasn’t 100% when he finished runner-up behind Prince Bishop in this very same race twelve month ago.

He had a light campaign since then, with success coming easy in a Grade 2 at Santa Anita back in January after a good break; followed up with an impressive victory on his return to Meydan, however only in a Handicap.

Nonetheless California Chrome appears to be a different horse this time around, “five lengths better” so the words of his trainer. He’ll be big runner on Saturday despite having to deal with a desperately unkind draw I suspect.

Yes, he’s got to start in the car park and that isn’t easy given horses simply don’t win a World Cup from there, but this is no ordinary horse, this is. California Chrome. If there’s a horse able to overcome this hurdle then it could be him.

Most likely the biggest danger is his US mate Frosted. He chased after the almighty American Pharoah last year, but seems to have improved big time from three to four. He looked a monster on his Meydan debut in Round 2 of Al Maktoum Challenge when slaughtering a decent field.

Frosted has been allocated a poor draw too, though slightly better than California Chrome. He showed good early speed in the past, so did Chrome, which means I can see both being able to overcome this disadvantage, however at the expense of burning quite some fuel right at the start.

Given the very short price for California Chrome, and the fact that in essence we know what he is, I’d be rather against him, and would favour Frosted to do better, who in contrast may actually improve again – or let’s say is more likely to have significant improvement left in him.

I believe that despite the draw Frosted is the classiest horse and most likely winner of the Dubai World Cup – but at 5/2 is certainly a price where any possible improvement is already factored in times two. That begs the question – what else is in the race?

Mubtaahij! He’s been disappointing on two occasions this Carnival. Though valid excused can be made. In fact trainer Mike De Kock is unusually bullish. So you have to listen and think about it. De Kock’s bullishness is often warranted and not just a blow in the wind.

He’s adamant that with a more aggressive ride Mubtaahij will be a huge runner. And I think so too. But: he’s not going to stay the trip in a truly run race where he’s aggressive early on in an attempt to grab the lead. No way. I’m bullish about it myself! He’ll be a big runner until 250m out and than start to fade away.

What else? You have to take Special Fighter serious. Yes, there was a dramatic track bias when he romped home in the Maktoum Challange R3, but his finishing speed was still mightily impressive and faster than of sprinters on the same card.

If people want to ignore this particular form – fine. But it’s hard to ignore the facts. This lad, since switched to the dirt, has shown nothing but big time improvement. He’s thrived throughout the carnival on this Meydan dirt track. He’s an improving horse, with only six starts on this surface and a 50% strike rate to date.

Sure, he was well and truly beaten by Frosted in the Maktoum Challenge R2, but he had a bad draw that day, in contrast to Frosted, and travelled wide the whole time. You can make, if you want, excuses for that. This time Special Fighter has a better draw. He goes from box five, which gives him every chance to be up with the early speed, which is so vital.

The Hong Kong runner Gun Pit, who finished second behind Special Fighter the last time, is one with a lively chance too, if he gets home. He’s got an excellent draw and can’t be easily discounted.

The two other US runners, Hopertunity and Keen Ice are strange horses. Are they good enough? Maybe. Hoppertunity once finished a close runner-up in the Santa Anita Gold Cup. So the trip might not be beyond him. But he’s got to overcome a bad draw.

Keen Ice had excuses here on his Meydan debut and should come on for the run. But is he quick enough to be up with the pace? He doesn’t strike me as a particularly quick horse and let’s not forget he beat American Pharoah with a big challenge from off the pace, in what is to date his only graded success.

Recent Grade 1 scorer Mshawish makes more appeal. He’s taken well to the dirt but his stand out performance is a third place behind Sollow in last years Dubai Turf. He has a serious chance if he can get home over the 10f trip.

Verdict: Despite the draw Frosted appears to be the most likely winner. But nine of the eleven runners are rated within six pounds of each other, so there shouldn’t be an awful lot between the individuals. Nonetheless Special Fighter remains underappreciated. He may not be good enough in the end and flattered by his recent win, but his progressive profile is very likeable and from a decent draw he’s got every chance. He still can be backed at 14/1 which is tremendous value in my book.

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Al Quoz Sprint: Can old boy Sole Power do it again? His recent return to action here at Meydan was certainly encouraging and he’s in with a good chance in this field. Though you wonder if some younger legs may eventually get the better of him.

If it comes to the winner of this particular race don’t look further than Ertijaal. The former All-Weather-Championship winner-now-turned-sprinter has thrived at Meydan since dropped to the minimum distance. Sure enough, racing against lower opposition in handicaps, but the way he did it is jaw dropping.

Off top weight, off marks 105 and 113 respectively the last two times, yet oh so easily – this lad looks the part, physically nicely developed into a real sprinter, with a lovely turn of foot who’s perfectly suited to the flat heavenly cushioned five furlong track at Meydan. He’s not only the most likely winner of the race, but also looks a big price at 10/3.

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Dubai Turf: Can anything beat Tryster? Probably not. It’s going to be very hard. He’s produced twice at Meydan’s turf which seems to suit him perfectly well. His trademark turn of foot has seen him jump right at the head of the betting and it’s clear to see why.

Only one thing could beat him: having too much to do from off the pace turning for home. That’s always a worry with this type of horse, particularly at Meydan where in my mind you’re better of being not travelling too far off the pace.

The one horse I really like here is Mike De Kock’s Forries Waltz. He’s a bit the sexy contender, generally lightly raced, improving all the time, with further progress likely to come. He was really impressive in winning the Group 2 Al Rashidiya when last seen.

He has a good draw for the Dubai Turf which should enable him to get into a nice early position. I also feel he might be racing over his optimum trip at nine furlongs. Mike De Kock also really likes this fella, is full of praise and that in itself is a bonus.

Others to mention are obviously Intilaaq. Lightly raced and progressive last season, culminating in a Group 3 success, there is most likely more to come from him. Though the worry is not only a lack of recent run, but a lack of run at Meydan. Horses can overcome this, but you’ve better be a superstar to do that.

Euro Charline was 4th in this here last year. She could run a race for a price. Hard to know what to expect from the Japanese runner Real Steel. On paper certainly classy, but does he have the speed for this trip?

Another one I like and would consider as overpriced is Ertijaal, the South African Ertijaal, not the sprinter. He won the Cape Derby last year beating a really good horse in Act of War that day and was also placed in a huge 3yo Grade 1 the Daily News 2000. He’s done well over the winter here in Meydan, was placed behind stable mate Forries Waltz as well as a fine third behind Tryster the last time. He’s a bit to find but could finish in the money. At 33/1 he’s worth a chance.

But as the main selection I’ve got to go with the other De Kock’s horse Forries Waltz who is overpriced at 14/1. There is plenty to like about him and he’s got to go very close.

Meydan: Torchlighter finds Ideal Opportunity

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Got it spot on last night: Hamelin and Missed Call ran huge races. Unfortunately they didn’t quite finish in the way I would have hoped, as Hamelin was outstayed in the final furlong by the filly. Another second place for the betting record…. too many of those in recent weeks.

4.45 Meydan: Handicap, 1m 2f 

Racing at Meydan is back – it kick’s off with a decent card of six races today. The feature this dirt handicap, worth roughly €20k.

It looks a good race on paper. Dough Watson’s Jeeraan is expected to bounce back and tops the betting market. You can see why. He’s won twice at Meydan before and is on fair mark, so should run well from a good draw. But he is a very short price nonetheless taking on stronger rivals than when he won last season.

Stable mate Etijaah makes more appeal from a price point. Progressive last season, he goes well at this track and trip and his mark off 85 is fair, however he is wrong at the weights here and will have to be probably a good deal better than his current rating to win.

I really fancy Torchlighter here, though. He was 92 rated when landing a big class 2 Newmarket Handicap in great style last year and since then hasn’t been disgraced in three starts in the UAE. He tried the dirt twice last season and took well to it in very hot Carnival handicaps.

This is easier and he drops a couple of pounds in the mark as well which brings him down to a potentially lenient rating off 94. Question mark is whether he is ready to go, but with good money on stake, this looks an ideal opportunity to get off the mark.

Torchlighter @ 3/1 William Hill – 10pts Win

Professor can bounce back at Haydock

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Open looking contest. Not many make appeal on their current Handicap rating. Some of the bigger prices are interesting, so is Lincoln expected to run bigger dropped in trip. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Emell improved either. But a chance is taken on Professor.

The Michal Attwater inmate was disappointing at Meydan in recent month, but performed with loads of credit last season in hot races off higher higher marks. He dropped down to a rating of 101 now and judged on old form should be very competitive here over trip and ground to suit.

He loves the Haydock track, has won three times from five runs here including a CD success. Professor was a strong winner of a Conditions Stakes race last summer, having some fair pattern class performers behind him. He also was placed the Wookingham Handicap of a mark off 108. Anything close to those performances, and he has a big chance today.

3.30 Haydock: Handicap (Class 2) 7f
Professor @ 12/1 Bet365 – 5pts Win