Tag Archives: Newbury

Preview: Lockinge Stakes 2022

The Lockinge Stakes is one of my favourite races of the entire year: a straight mile on decent ground and a field of top-class milers – flat racing at its best.

I also love the Lockinge Stakes because it brings back memories of the “good old times” when my all-time favourite horse Paco Boy won the race in 2010 in the most sensational style.

The moment when Richard Hughes asked him to shift gears after cantering all over the field approaching the final furlong marker….. the turn of foot…. the arrogance – pure horse racing porn.

As for the 2022 edition: we have an overwhelming favourite as we had back in 2010 when Paco Boy was odds-on. This time it’s star miler Baaeed who is expected to win the Lockinge in style. He’s a 4/9 shot. A near certainty.

But is he?

Baaeed is unbeaten in six career starts. He went from strengths to strengths last year: from winning a maiden at Leicester in June to landing the QEII at Ascot in October.

A multiple Group 1 winner, successful in a variety of ground conditions who’s created a stunning visual impression whenever we’ve seen him. There’s no question Baaeed is the righteous favourite today.

He can be beaten, though. Even more so today. This is going to be his first run in 210 days. Yes, the Lockinge is a Group 1, but the Queen Anne next months is most likely the main target. Baaeed may not be fully tuned up today.

The ground is drying. Perfect for racing. And Baaeed won on fast ground. However, his very best performances came with cut in the ground.

Most importantly: even though he’s won two Group 1 races – and doing so visually quite nicely – he’s yet to achieve a topspeed rating worthy of a colt of the highest order.

His career-best came on his second career outing over a mile on good to soft ground – a solid, but not world beating 97 TS rating. He’s ran to 93 and 94 subsequently. With that sort of speed rating he may have struggled to get close in this years 2000 Guineas.

TS ratings aren’t everything and they have their own flaws. But they are a key gauge of class, form and speed. The fact Baaeed hasn’t achieved better ratings despite having ample opportunity suggests to me he’s not quite as good as his form reads.

Or let’s say: he wasn’t last year. Another year older and he may well be a better horse. He could still improve. And he’ll have enough chances to prove he can be a top-class colt also on topspeed.

Saying all that I obviously want to make the case for taking Baaeed on today. Not because he isn’t the most likely winner. He is. But because there are reasons to believe he’s vulnerable today – he’s a very short price and simply not quite as much a certainty as the odds suggest.

Of course it’s only worth opposing him if there’s anything in the field capable of beating him. So: is there?

With Mother Earth and Alcohol Free there are two other Group 1 winners in the race. Last years 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth showed consistency and ran many fine races last year.

She ran to 100 and 101 topspeed ratings, although her form dropped significantly in the second half of the season. Her successful seasonal reappearance at the Curragh wasn’t flashy but you can expert her to come on quite a bit for the run as Aiden O’Brien’s horses tend to do.

She’s dangerous if she can find back to that early season form of 2021.

Alcohol Free is the reigning Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes champion. That’s the mark of a top-class miler. At her best she’s a big danger. But in three subsequent starts she didn’t look anywhere near the filly she was at Goodwood. Her seasonal reappearance left more questions than answers. And the drying ground is far from ideal.

From the rest of the field Chindit and Sir Busker can’t be ruled out at their best form. Nonetheless, both horses struggled in Group 1 company in the past and I reckon a lot has to go wrong for the better fancied horses for either of them to win.

The dark horse in the race is Real World. He’s the one I am really interested in – certainly at the odds on offer.

What sparks my interest is plenty fold: most importantly he’s achieved the fasted topspeed rating in the field. Crucially that performance is pretty recent. He ran to 107 when winning the Zabeel Mile at Meydan in January.

Granted, Meydan form isn’t always the most trustworthy one. Yet it’s a believable progression from what he achieved last season when he ran to 98 (2x) and 102 when he won the Steventon Stakes at Newbury – albeit that was over 10 furlongs.

Real World was a highly progressive 4-year-old once he returned to Europe and turf last season. He won four on the bounce, and brought it to five in a row with the Meydan victory, before trying the dirt at the highest level. He clearly hated the dirt, though, as was evidence earlier in his career already. Therefore I am fully prepared to discount those last two runs.

If you draw a line under those races you see him being unbeaten on turf in five starts. He won over a mile, 9 furlongs, 1m 2f, on very soft to fast ground. This is a top-class horse ready to win a Group 1.

The concern I have is the mile trip on drying ground at this top level. Normally that is. In this field, as alluded to earlier, there aren’t many top-class rivals. With that in mind Real World is a massive price and I couldn’t leave him unbacked.

Selection:
10pts win – Real World @ 9.5/1

Monday Selection – 18/04/2022

A busy weekend of flat action is behind us. Some exciting prospects were unleased at Newbury in particular. Non more so caught the eye than the return of Perfect Power.

No doubt: it was the performance of the weekend. It was impossible not to be impressed by Perfect Power’s Greenham Stakes victory. Perfect it was. Powerful too! He was a top-class juvenile, so it was even more pleasing to see him having trained on.

Perfect Power has inherited all the blistering speed of his lightning fast dad Ardad, but has the stamina to stretch out over 7 furlongs. He settled well on Saturday and finished strongly.

The run was worth a fine topspeed rating of 97. And he did that as easy as you like, I felt. Christophe Soumillon didn’t have to get too serious: two light flicks of the whip to keep Perfect Power focused in the final 200 yards.

With that in mind, this performance is probably close to equal to his strong Group 1 victories last year (101 and 105 TS respectively).

2000 Guineas – yes or no? I lean toward “no”. He simply shows so much speed. Can he conserve that for an additional furlong? Maybe. You have to run to find it out. It sounds like connections are leaning toward finding it out at Newmarket next month.

Perfect Power is as low as 8/1 for the Guineas. Though, he would have to ride without my money. Over six or seven furlongs, though, he’s gonna be a key player this season, I reckon.

A quick word on All-Weather Champions Day. It took place at Newcastle on Friday. The novelty has worn off, for sure. And Newcastle, albeit a nice and pretty fair track, is visually just not that exciting. The way the races develop is basically all the same.

It didn’t spark my interest this time. Nonetheless, it’s worth reviewing some of the performances. And none more so than the run of Tiber Flow in the 3 Year Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes.

The William Haggas trained colt ran to a 103 topspeed rating without having the clearest of runs. The way he finished – visuals are backed up by incredibly strong sectionals, and the overall race time was faster than the Sprint Championships on the same card too – suggests a huge engine, which will have more to offer when he steps up in trip again.

Tiber Flow is still unexposed and lightly raced – this was only his fourth lifetime start. I am so excited to see what the son of Caravaggio can do next. He looks a Group 1 horse in the making.

I will write in more detail on that particular race and Tiber Flow in the next edition of Eye-Catchers.

………

4.11 Wolverhampton – Class 4 Handicap, 6f

A competitive field of eleven horses, but also one where not too many appear to be well handicapped at all. The one that is down to a rather sexy mark on past form is Chief Little Hawk, though.

He was a big eye-catcher for me at Southwell last time out. As mentioned then, the way he finished in the closing stages from the back of the field in a race dominated by the two pace setters wasn’t what you normally would see from a 40/1 shot.

He wasn’t even hard ridden in the final stages of the race, yet was the third fastest finisher from two furlongs out, according to sectionals – underlying the visual impression.

Since moving yards away from Aiden O’Brien over to Jamie Osborne Chief Little Hawk has rarely been fancied in the betting. He was long odds most of the time, and still managed to finish 4th, only 1.5 lengths beaten as a 50/1 outsider, in a class 2 Handicap at Newmarket of a mark of 94 last August.

He has fallen significantly in the ratings in the meantime. He is now down to an 82 OR and drops down to class 4. He showed some promise on the All-Weather this winter, without ever getting close. But this most recent run is the key sign for me to suggest he’s ripe to win.

Six furlongs looks the ideal trip I believe. Whether Wolverhampton is the ideal track remains to be seen. He can be awkward out of the gates, and I firmly believe you don’t want to be too far behind in a big field around this track.

Nonetheless, there is a bit of positivity in the betting market today, with money coming this morning. Highly capable Saffie Osborne takes the ride and claims valuable 3lb. That should help with defying top weight from a good draw in gate 4.

You can never expect a big run with these type of horses that have fallen from early heights. But I am rather hopeful for a big run because this lad is more likely than not well handicapped.

1opts win – Chief Little Hawk @ 7/1

Falmouth Stakes 2021

An exciting rematch: the best three-year-old fillies battle it out over the mile as the first three home in the Coronation Stake go head-to-head.

Alcohol Free was a superb winner of the Royal Ascot race, firmly putting stamina doubts to rest as she stormed home in desperate conditions.

The daughter of No Nay Never clearly confirmed all the promise she showed as a juvenile, having won two of her three starts this season, with the only blip coming in the ultra-competitive 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

As impressive as her Ascot performance was, ground conditions will be completely different today. She has solid form on a faster surface also, nonetheless that is a question mark.

Connections of Snow Lantern had every right to feel a little bit unlucky after the grey didn’t get quite a clear run in the closing stages at Royal Ascot. She clearly settled much better than when beaten as odds-on favourite at York a few weeks earlier, though, and that gave her a chance to finish fast in the end.

Her talent was never in doubt, though, and the supremely well-bred Snow Lantern is still open to any amount of improvement.

The same could be said about Primo Bacio, who got the better of Snow Lantern at York. She quickened in visually impressive manner, following-up on an eye-catching seasonal debut performance in the Fred Darling Stakes.

Can she step up to Group 1 level? We’ll find out today. As visually arresting her last run was, on topspeed ratings she has plenty to find with the market principles.

Aiden O’Brien throws only one dart today. His 1000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth finished 3rd in the Coronation Stakes and was also a fine runner-up in the French Guineas before that.

She was an excellent juvenile but has stepped up as a three-year-old again and represents consistency of the highest order. She lost nothing in defeat at Royal Ascot. In fact, in my view, she enhancer her claims to be considered the favourite today.

Mother Earth clearly benefited from better ground at Newmarket, and it’s only down to her class that she performs nearly as well on slow going. As impressive as Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern appeared visually in the Coronation Stakes, Mother Earth’s finishing speed % was actually better that day.

Flying the flag for the older generation is Duke Of Cambridge Stakes winner Indie Angel. Although that is good form and she won well, she is well exposed and probably a league below the required standard in order to feature against the strong classic generation.

Lady Bowthorpe was runner-up that day and her consistency gives her a chance on any given day. Nonetheless, she has something to find with the market principles.

Perhaps the dark horse is who could spring a surprise, given her 20/1 price tag, is the Joseph O’Brien trained Pretty Gorgeaus. I feel it’s too early to say she hasn’t trained on after two starts in heavy conditions this year.

it was certainly an improved showing at Royal Ascot, where she can be marked up given she was tracking a fast pace while the first three home were all ridden with a bit more restraint.

In conclusion: There is little to chose between the market principles in terms of form. If Alcohol Free or Snow Lantern can improve again remains to be seen. They will have to, though, as I strongly fancy Mother Earth to run a massive race on the better ground. Given current odds she is overpriced at 6/1+.

……………

2.40 York: G3 Summer Stakes, 6f

A quick selection to throw in here as Last Empire looks a silly price in a wide open race. She has to give weight away and was beaten by Light Refrain earlier this year and was bitterly disappointing when last seen.

Nonetheless, if you can forgive her Haydock run, then she is one the more consistent fillies and mares in this race, and one of the few who has multiple times ran fast enough – judged by topspeed ratings – to feature prominently in a race of this class.

Last Empire has ran multiple times to 90+ topspeed ratings, and her Kilvington Stakes runner-up performance back in May saw her clock a 96 rating once again, showing she is still capable to run a a high level.

The drift in her price is a worry, yet 20/1+ on offer is a silly price which I can’t let go.

Lockinge Stakes 2021

There is a special place in my heart for the Lockinge Stakes. The reason is as simple as obvious: Paco Boy.

He’s the one that made me fall in love with flat racing. The most incredible moment of his illustrious career came quite clearly in the 2010 Lockinge Stakes. Visually it was such was such an enormous performance.

Richard Hughes with balls the size of footballs. Paco Boy, overcoming early keenness, still travelling like a dream on the bridle approaching the final furlong marker. Stunning. Beautiful. Unbelievable.

The 2021 renewal of the Lockinge Stakes looks a good one. A competitive one – at least for the minor placings.

Because Palace Pier stands head- and shoulders above the rest of the field. The betting market isn’t wrong when it gives him a 60%+ chance of adding a third Group 1 to his tally.

The four-year-old colt looked as good as ever on his seasonal reappearance last month when making 115 and 116 rated horses look like class 6 handicappers. He left the disappointment of British Champions Day firmly behind. A race he still managed to finish in third place despite losing a shoe.

Palace Pier’s 114 topspeed rating is – not surprisingly – the highest on offer in this field. A performance achieved on heavy ground. Therefore the rain won’t stop him today.

Aiden O’Brien saddles Lope Y Fernandez – the second highest rated horse in the field. Clearly a talented individual, he started the season well with a fine effort in a listed contest at Leopardstown. His overall win record isn’t impressive, though. Yet to win at the highest level, he only found three times the winners enclosure in 13 starts and hasn’t run beyond a 97 topspeed rating. Not good enough.

Progressive Top Rank, a recent Doncaster Mile winner, is six from eight. Not impossible that he can improve again. He’d have to take giant steps to challenge the favourite, though.

Light raced My Oberon is on the up too. The drop to a mile shouldn’t be an issue. The ground is a question mark and the fact remains in six runs he hasn’t been able to achieve an adequate topspeed that in my book is required for this level.

I can only see two horses able to make this a race: Century Dream and Safe Voyage. The latter enjoyed the best year of his career as a seven-year-old in 2020. Three victories, including two Group 2 races and a fine third place in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret.

Even though he won the Boomerang Mile at Leopardstown last autumn, I have a few concerns over the mile trip, particularly in soft conditions.

That won’t be an issue for Century Dream. He posted a career best when winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last year where he achieved a 110 topspeed rating. Clearly the more rain the better for him. He wasn’t able to win a Group 1 yet, though ran with plenty of credit in a number of them.

Century Dream shouldn’t be good enough to pose a real danger to Palace Pier. Nobody in this field is. He is, nonetheless, a huge price and overpriced, certainly from ad an each-way proposition. If the price would drift out further for Safe Voyage he also would become a viable each-way alternative.

Nonetheless, it’s impossible look past Palace Pier. He is in a different league to all the others here. Baring a accident, I can’t see him getting beaten here. Will it be as impressive as Paco Boy in 2010? Unlikely.

…………

From a pure betting perspective I have a fundamental interest in the King Charles II Stakes (2:40pm) at Newmarket this afternoon. This looks a intriguing contest. You can’t ignore the impression Bellosa made over course and distance four weeks ago.

At given prices I reckon there is significant juice in the price of the Gosden horse Fundamental. He is beautifully bred and has ran to 92 topspeed rating already when landing a strong contest on the Chelmsford polytrack last month. He followed up with another promising display in the Greenham Stakes.

That performance is much better than the bare form may suggest. Fundamental raced rather uneconomical, making a big move on the outside of the field from six to four furlongs out using a lot of energy and buying ground when it wasn’t really advantageous to so in such an aggressive manner.

Whether 7 furlongs is his trip remains to be seen. But Fundamental has shown enough speed and may enjoy the slower ground here. He’s overpriced at 9/2 and above on the exchanges.

…………….

Preakness Stakes: the second leg of the American Triple Crown tonight. Leaving the doping controversy aside, the question from a racing perspective is: can Medina Sprit follow up?

Fair to say he got the run of the race in the Kentucky Derby. A pretty clear run to grab the lead after the start and unchallenged for the lead throughout. While some of the fancied front-runners didn’t have it so easy. He’s one to take on here, no doubt.

Not much made an impression from off the pace that day. The one who did and clearly caught the eye was Midnight Bourbon. He got badly bumped and squeezed right after the gate opened and had his route to a more advantageous position blocked.

He settled well off the pace, forced wide. Whether it was the smartest ride by rider Mike Smith to give so much ground away is debatable. Perhaps no other ride would have made any difference.

It wasn’t plain sailing to fight for space when turning for home either. Midnight Bourbon showed guts and fought for a gap entering the home straight. The bird was flown at that point, nonetheless he ran on well enough until eased in the final furlong.

His Derby trial performances, while not super impressive, where promising and the form franked. He’s a huge runner in the Preakness this evening from a good draw, in a smaller field and a much better chance to be up with the pace. At 8/1 he’s a good price in my book.

Friday Selections: August, 16th 2019

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2.25 Newbury: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Medieval is a tricky sort who can make a mess of his chances in a race. But he’s down to a really attractive handicap mark, as was evident when he finished 2nd at Brighton a week ago.

That is a performance you can upgrade as he finished strongest of those that were prominent, while the winner and third came from a long way back, taking full advantage of a generous pace. It didn’t help that Medieval also appeared to hang in the closing stages, which he tends to do frequently.

Nonetheless, he is only 1lb higher for this effort, still well below his last wining mark, while he also ran multiple times to much higher topspeed ratings in the past. With soft ground sure to suit, and the mile trip no issue, I feel in this race today he has a prime chance to get his head in front again.

Selection:
10pts win – Medieval @ 6/1 MB

………

8.20 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs

A lot of rain over night here in Kildare, the ground will be soft and make for tough conditions. Makes this one an even more open race. I think this cries out for a long-shot to upset the market.

The one I am most interested in is Blyton. He hasn’t really kicked on as a 3-year-old since moving to Ireland, however he drops to a pretty low mark for what he has achieved as a juvenile as well as going down to a more suitable trip.

Also quite important: Blyton has good form with cut in the ground, so should not mind the rain whatsoever. In fact the combination of lowered mark, perfect ground and suitable trip can see him being competitive today.

He also achieved topspeed ratings of 80 and 84 last season, suggesting he is capable of running to a level of form required to win here. First time blinkers are an interesting addition, possibly sharpen him up, dropping from a 8.5 furlongs as when last seen at Galway.

Selection:
10pts win – Blyton @ 33/1 MB

Saturday Selections: July, 20th 2019

Newbury racecourse

3.00 Newbury: Group 3 Hackwood Stakes, 6f

Fantastic renewal – you can make a case for more than half in the field, predominantly I have high on my shortlist the well backed Donjuan Triumphant, who will enjoy conditions, as well as the two 3-year-old s Khadeem and Oxted. Plus, probably a fair favourite, The Tin Man.

He’s a short price and you can see why. With cut in the ground, he takes a significant drop in class and has a high strike rate. Is he still the force of old, though? Maybe. But this is a super deep race and I can easily oppose him.

On prices, the one I like most now is last years runner-up Projection. He hasn’t shown the same level of form in two runs this year, but I like the fact he comes here with low mileage this season and he ran better than the bare results suggest in the Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He also drops in grade and will love the underfoot conditions today. There is a slight question mark whether all is well with him, given he dropped out tamely the last two races. A tongue tie is applied now. That is concerning, at the same time intriguing.

If the tongue tie does have any positive impact, it is easy to see Projection making a 16/1 price tag look foolish in the closing stages. So, there is risk attached here, but at given odds I’m prepared to take it.

Selection:
10pts win – Projection @ 16/1 MB

…….

5.00 Newmarket: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

I really like the look of both Durrell and Ironclad. Both met at Chelmsford recently and fought out first and second. Durrell had the upper hand that day and he is a fine prospect, though I wonder whether he will turn out to be a much better horse on the All-Weather.

Ironclad in contrast, who ran to a topspeed rating of 83 at Chemsford, has already proven his effectifness on turf, as he landed a minor race at Beverly in the meantime. That’s not form to shout about, and Ironclad still appeared plenty green enough, but it was probably a good learning experience.

This April foal is obviously well bred and through his pedigree offers plenty of upside, having every chance to be a better horse than an 81 rated handicapper. This imposing lad could be well handicapped of this opening mark I feel.

Selection:
10pts win – Ironclad @ 4/1 MB

……

5.15 Ripon: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

Two I’m keen on here from the lower end of the betting market: Alqaab stepping up to 6 furlongs for the first time is one of these. He’s a 4-year-old, so has to give weight away. But he’s a compelling horse over the new trip after a pretty decent effort over the minimum distance at Doncaster lately.

That was a super hot contest, and the fact he finished close enough, also posting a 61 topspeed rating, but has fallen to a 60 handicap mark now, is intriguing. He ran well in a couple of Novice races also, but now on a potentially good handicap mark, he can go well in this open contest.

The other one is the filly Sophia Maria in first time blinkers. She drops in trip, which should suit. She has some fine performances already in the book actually, finishing in the money on three occasions over 5- and 6 furlongs.

She also drops to a potentially tasty mark of 62 now, given she matched a 62 TS rating on her final start as juvenile already. There might be a bit more to come from her over this distance in handicap company I feel. Interesting jockey booking with Andrew Elliott, who has a superb record when having only one ride at Ripon in the Summer season!

Selections:
5pts win – Sophia Maria @ 21/1 MB
5pts win – Alqaab @ 17/1 WH

……

7.00 Haydock: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Quick turnaround for Indomeneo, who ran well here at Haydock only 24 hours ago. He looked a little bit awkward in a race where he tracked a hot pace over a mile.

Upped to 10 furlongs, which looks fine on drying ground, a trip, even though he has a poor strike rate, he posted a career best topspeed rating in the past, won’t be an issue I reckon.

Indomeneo as fallen down to a sexy mark, having ran well of around ten pounds higher last season and is now 9lb lower than his last winning mark.

An excellent 3lb claimer is in the saddle – significantly it is Connor Murtagh’s only ride today.

Selection:
10pts win – Indomeneo @ 11/2 MB