Tag Archives: oaks

Friday Selections: May, 31st 2019

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It’s been some incredibly busy days lately. Little time to catch up on racing, least to actually study form, analysis the markets and come up with some proper bets. So, even on a massive day as this is today – Oaks Day – I’ll got to keep it short.

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4.30 Epsom: Group 1 Epsom Oaks, 1m 4f

An intriguing renewal which lacks a standout favourite which in turn could lead to a big price landing the odds…. a bit what happened in the 1000 Guineas a few weeks ago? Well, maybe. But unlikely. The winner will come from the top third of the market – I am pretty sure of that.

Obviously the ‘sexy’ individual is John Gosden’s Mehdaayih. What she did at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks was visually stunning. The way she quickened away from the field in the home straight remains a lasting memory.

The Frankel filly clearly followed up on what was an equally impressive victory – on the eye at least – at Chelmsford on the All-Weather back in April. Still only five starts to her name, Mehdaayih is progressive, has proven class and will no doubt stay the trip.

What speaks against her: you got to question the merit of the Chester form. The race was run on much slower ground than what’s likely to be encountered today. Neither has Mehdaayih yet to clock a high enough time speed rating that would put her in the category of a legitimate Oaks favourite.

In my view there is zero juice in the price, even though she clearly has the potential to improve again and I’m not doubting her competitiveness in the context of the race. She’s likely to run well. I simply find too much against her given her current price tag.

Anapurna is the other John Gosden runner, has Frankie Dettori in the saddle, was also pretty impressive at Chester – from a visual point of view, at least. There is more improvement to come, but the stark contrast in ground encountered today versus Chester is a major concern for me.

Progressive Maqsad is well liked by quite a number of smart people, reading through my Twitter timeline this morning. Progressive, looks sure to stay the trip, lightly raced – I can see why. On the other hand, I can not have her. She only won at Newmarket so far and hasn’t encountered anything remotely close to what Epsom offers.

It brings me back to Aiden ‘Brien once more. A few weeks ago, after Pink Dogwood landed the Salsabil Stakes at Naas, I was concluding:

“I think she [Pink Dogwood] will be hard to beat if she remains healthy until Epsom.”

And that remains to be the case. She’s here and she’s healthy. Other prominent stable mates who could have lined up aren’t lining up. A vote of confidence by team Ballydoyle? I think so.

Yes, she only won a Listed race to date and was beaten the only time she stepped into Group 1 class. But the Oaks was always the intended target. She didn’t ran badly in a bunched finish over over a mile – a trip way too short – in the Marcel Boussac back last October.

But she looked so much improved on her seasonal reappearance at Naas, stepping up to 1m 2f for the first time. It was a Listed race in name, however the form looks strong and has already worked out rather well.

The fact Pink Dogwood travelled hard on the bridle 2 furlongs out and then put the race to bed under hands and heels does offset the close winning margin in my mind. She looked well on top that day.

No doubt, as a sister to Irish Derby winner Latrobe, she’ll relish the step up to the Oaks distance. There is so much more to come I reckon – frankly there has to be, because she didn’t run particularly fast yet,  judged on TS ratings.

I bank on the fact she can run fast if needed, though. I expect plenty of improvement, and while there are a few question marks, like the ground (too fast?), on all evidence and given prices I am a Pink Dogwood backer, certainly not a layer.

Selection:
10pts win – Pink Dogwood @ 3/1 PP

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2.50 Carlisle: Class 3 Handicap, 6f

In tough ground conditions there is little with appeal in this race, but clearly the market speaks in favour, and it makes perfect sense: Across The Sea should have an outstanding chance.

The Dubawi filly steps up in grade after a good effort on her seasonal reappearance earlier this month when 4th of 20 in a hot race against the boys over 6f that has already been franked.

She has won over 5f in softish conditions- and was runner-up on heavy ground last year, while also running to a career best TS rating of 74 that day at Haydock. She remains unexposed over 6 furlongs, but the trip shouldn’t be an issue, given on pedigree she s supposed to stay further and as a sister to useful Big Tour, who stayed up to 1m 2f, with tough ground this trip can bring out more improvement, I feel.

Certainly a mark of 75 with these conditions leaves room for progress, even more so as Dubawi offspring tend to over perform on soft/heavy ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Across The Sea @ 4.2/1 MB

Betting Preview: Cheshire Oaks 2019

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I have some sort of “love/hate” relationship with Chester – certainly from a betting perspective. I rarely get it right. On the other hand I do love the visual spectacle of the ever turning track. It makes for exciting viewing.

As for finding winners, as rare as it is, if they come, they’re more often than not trained by Aiden O’Brien. At this Chester May Festival you can pretty much blindly back his horses in the Group contests and you’d turn a profit – at least that was the case in the past.

Aiden O’Brien has won five of the last ten runnings of the Cheshire Oaks as well – can he do it again?

Certainly this years renewal looks competitive on paper. A couple of exciting- and race-fit fillies for John Gosden as well as the unbeaten Ralph Beckett trained Manuela De Vega make thinks interesting. Aiden O’Brien, though, throws only one dart at this race, and that’s usually a good sign.

There’s little secret about Secret Thoughts. The War Front daughter was a classy juvenile but was always sure to improve with age and when upped in trip. A good seasonal reappearance in the Guineas Trial at Leopardstown over 7f should have put her right for Chester.

Under a sympathetic hands and heels ride she finished a decent 5th in a hot race that looks already incredibly strong form, judged through the winner Lady Kaya and the runner-up Happen.

Now stepping up dramatically in distance to 1m3½ furlongs, Secret Thoughts can improve again. The first foal we see on the racetrack of the wonderful former Irish Oaks winner Chicquita, the question won’t be so much about stamina, but more about whether she can settle, handles the track and will be able to show her best on soft ground.

There is plenty of rain on its way according to the weather forecast. I assume Secret Thoughts would prefer a sound surface. However, she has shown to act with cut in the ground as well. So that is encouraging. Possibly the fact she had enough speed to be competitive in 7 furlongs contests will be an advantage here as well, as she is wider drawn than it is ideal. Using early speed to move close to the pace is an advantage at Chester.

I’m slightly surprised by the odds on offer for Secret Thoughts. Given her trainers strong record and her excellent form, which is by far the strongest on offer in this field, odds around 7/2 appear overly generous – with or without rain.

Selection: 
10pts win – Secret Thoughts @ 7/2 MB

Friday Selections: June, 1st 2018

Curragh

4.30 Epsom: English Oaks, 1m 4f

This looks an intriguing renewal of the Oaks. With soft ground on offer, the race is thrown wide open and cases can be made for- or against anyone in this field.

Guineas fourth Wild Illusion is a fair favourite and she’s probably got a decent chance to follow-on from the Fillies’ Classic as I feel she’s got a decent chance to stay the new trip. The price is rotten, though.

From the market principles Magic Wand is the one I prefer, no question. I liked what she did at Chester and she should have plenty of improvement left. The ground is a slight question.

My money runs with one of the outsiders of the field: Ejtyah. She is inexperienced and had only two starts. That isn’t ideal. She looked raw and green on debut at Chelmsford toward the end of last year and was still very much learning her trade in the Musidora last month.

That was her seasonal debut, she is entitled to come on a fair bit for the run. A good performance that was, finishing third, on ground possibly too firm for her when she was probably shy of full fitness as well.

Ejtyah should have learned plenty that day – she has to, though. Now stepping up to the Derby distance looks a big bonus and so could be the softish ground. Frankel has a remarkable record on soft ground (+12f) with his offspring, actually, so from that perspective it isn’t a negative.

Connections also believe a fast surface isn’t the best for her as she was withdrawn from the Lingfield Oaks Trial for ground reasons.

No doubt, Ejtyah isn’t the likeliest winner. She has quite a bit to find with the market principles on pure form. She may not find enough to go close. That says, she is entitled to improve quite a bit for her seasonal reappearance run, for experience, the trip and potentially the ground.

All of that makes her a compelling bet at a massive price in an open Oaks.

Selection:
10pts win – Ejtyah @ 20/1 WH

……..

8.40 Doncaster: Class 5 Fillies’ Handicap, 1m 2f

Favourite Maid Up is rock solid and one I do like allot. However, given prices, I do fancy even more long-shot Girls Talk.

You can totally discount her recent Beverly run – a wide draw, she ended up four wide nearly for the entire time of the race and she simply had no chance. Look at what she done before and it gets interesting.

Her seasonal comeback run at Lingfield, albeit 5th and three lengths beaten, is quite a good one. She crossed over from a her draw to lead the field until the final furlong marker when eventually fading away in the closing stages. Given it was her first race since October she was entitled to get tired.

The sectionals aren’t anything special, nonetheless, the fact she led a pretty decent field for that type of race in commanding style for as long as she did from her then 5lb higher mark than the current one, is intriguing. The form of that race works out pretty well, so I rate this performance highly.

She showed flashes as a juvenile, particularly in her second start; however, as an April foal she is due to be a much better horse with experience and age.

Down to a rating off 62, stepping up to 10f for the first time, she seems overpriced, as on pedigree the trip looks very much possible.

Selection:
10pts win – Girls Talk @ 25/1 VC

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9.10 Doncaster: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f

Handicap debutant Moon Of Baroda looks ripe for a massive run. He showed glimpses of potential in Novice and Maiden company. Now going handicapping, while stepping up to 12f on ground likely to suit, this son of Dubawi is in with a big shout in this race.

Still a colt, connections give him every chance to develop. He didn’t run as a juvenile last year, only made his debut this winter. His future is clearly over longer trips, so stepping up to the longer 1m 4f is a big plus.

Moon Of Baroda hails from a good family, and Dubawi’s stats for three year old handicappers over 12 furlongs are off the charts! Blinkers are fitted for the first time too, hopefully sharpen him up.

Selection:
10pts win – Moon Of Baroda @ 11/2 PP

The World’s Best Racehorse in 2017

The news broke on Tuesday afternoon and Twitter went wild: Arrogate was crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2017.

Australia’s wonder mare Winx finished second, Cracksman and Gun Runner joint third. And Enable? The Arc, dual Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and QE II champion?

Fifth. Let that sink in….

“Are you kidding???” my initial reaction. A couple of angry tweets later I remind myself how these self-proclaimed world thoroughbred rankings are compiled.

Arrogate landed the Dubai World Cup in most scintillating fashion, flopped on three subsequent occasions afterwards – however, this doesn’t matter for the rankings. One might wonder why? It all makes sense if you know what BHA handicapper Phil Smith explains:

“We look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.
With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from January 1 to December 31.”

Long story short: the World’s Best Racehorse is awarded to the horse that ran the single best race in the given year. It probably would be more appropriately titled “World’s Best Racing Performance in 2017”.

Plenty of wise racing folks are of the opinion Arrogate’s stunning Dubai win was, indeed, the single biggest performance of the entire year. So there must be some merit to it – who am I to argue?

Because his performance in the DWC was deemed so outstanding, it didn’t matter what else he did in 2017. In the eyes of the panel (that came up with the rankings), that day Arrogate repeated performances from the past, hence the performance was deemed sustainable.

Well, racing and judging performances is subjective – the world thoroughbred rankings are highly subjective as well. An esteemed panel comes up with these ratings – still it is a subjective way of assessing performances. There is no other way in racing, though.

Personally, I do not agree with the rankings. Plenty others do. And that is okay, too. I believe, nonetheless, to crown the best horse of any year based on one single performance – in this case achieved in March – while not taking into account the rest of the year and therefore subsequent performances, is flawed.

I find it hard to accept that a filly like Enable, who won five top class Group 1 races in 2017, doesn’t even get into the top 3 of these rankings. Mind you, The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was named the best individual race of 2017… but the horse who won it, who clearly repeated her big performances time after time, finishes in the so called World’s Best Racehorse rankings only in 5th place.

It’s not right. In my eyes, at least. I think, if you want to ensure that this award is a serious reflection of achievement in a given year, you have to be able to reflect and look back on the entire year in order to decide what performance(s) reflect the very best of this given year. That has its own flaws, mind. Still, it would be a fairer way, in my opinion.

That doesn’t take anything away from Arrogate. He was – deservedly so – crowned the World’s Best Racehorse in 2016. He clearly was not the best in 2017, though. His DWC victory remains a sensational piece of achievement, nonetheless.

So does Enable’s Arc win, beating eleven other Group 1 winners that day. Doing at at the end of a long season. Doing it after landing four other big Goup 1 prizes during her 2017 campaign.

So is a third consecutive Cox Plate win by Winx. Who did it after winning nine other graded races in 2017, including 5 more Group 1’s.

That’s class. Class that has been repeated over and over again. An exceptionally high level of performance that is sustainable. As 2017 proved.

Friday Selections: 25th August 2017

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That was special, wasn’t it? Yet again. Enable keeps giving and giving and giving. What a star filly once more in the care of John Gosden. Sure, she was entitled to win and to win with something to spare. Still, to demolish her high class rivals in the way she did – you simply have to be impressed.

All systems go for the Arc now. She is a short favourite to land the biggest of them all. If she turns up in top form she will take plenty of beating. That says we know the Arc is a unique race in its own right and in a big field the draw can alienate chances in the blink of an eye.

Anyways; that’s for another day. For now, sit back and enjoy racing at its best:

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6.20 Salisbury: Class 5 Nursery, 1m

27 alerts in my tracker this morning – yet only one single selection remains after a long morning of intense study. This week has not been a lucky one so far. Can a Richard Hannon trained colt turn the table?

Galactic is his name and he is quite a well bred son of Roderic O’connor. Three obligatory starts in maidens, now first time in a Nursery and upped to a more suitable 1 mile trip – off a pretty handy opening mark, I reckon Galatctic can go really well in this very winnable race.

Selection:
10pts win – Galactic @ 11/2 Bet365

 

Preview: Dante Stakes Day

The rain duly arrived today. The ground turned to soft. Desperate conditions, even more so moving forward. Staying with the recent past for now: circumstances made the result of the Musidora Stakes one to take with a pinch of salt, I guess.

Nonetheless Shutter Speed couldn’t do more than what she did: win well and put things to bed in the final furlong, confirming that she is a smart horse – how smart? Another day will tell. The French Oaks that is, most likely.

Eyes turn to Thursday. Dante Day. The warm-up before the big race isn’t shabby. In the Group 2 Middelton Stakes we see the return of last years Musidora heroine So Mi Dar.

She is well fancied to land the odds but first she has to dispatch two higher rated fillies: Breeders’ Cup Filly And Mare Turf winner Queen’s Trust , who returns to the track after a well deserved winter break – though the soft ground is likely against her.

And there is the South African superstar Smart Call. The sensational 2016 J&B Met winner – a day when she beat South Africa’s highest rated horse in training, Legal Eagle, who subsequently went on to land four major Grade 1’s – has been off since early last year due to quarantine and injuries.

The plan was to run her at the Breeders Cup and on the way there give her a spin around Newmarket in October. Unfortunately things did not go to plan and here she is, now in hands of Sir Michael.

Soft ground is a question mark so is the long absence. Personally I hope she runs well and has retained most of her ability, so she has a real chance of improving for the run and be the old force we know she can be.

A good half an hour later it’s time for some serious Derby contenders in the Dante Stakes. Trial winner Cracksman tries to give his Epsom form some substance. Derby “gamble” Crystal Ocean has to live up to all the bookies hype of the last couple of days.

Obviously with my ante-post wager on him here’s hoping he’ll prove his worthiness. That says I highly doubt the reportedly huge gamble is anything more than a handful of 50 quid wagers (like the one I put on at 40’s) which these days can – as we know only too well – mean bookies cut prices shamelessly and talk up horses even where no substantial sums have actually  been placed.

The Irish come over with Rekindling in particular. Young Joseph’s classic contender has the best form in the book, given the Ballysax does not look a bad race in hindsight.

I find it hard to fancy Aiden O’Brien’s Exemplar. And that’s probably the reason why this lad will bolt up…. Godolphin throws four darts. Craven Stakes third Benbatl the best of the lot.

No bet for me in the race – just sit back and hope for Sire Michael’s guy to do the business to be then in with a real chance on Derby day.

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8.00 Newmarket: Class 5 Fillies’ Handicap, 1 mile

You have to take note whenever Charlie Appleby and William Buck arrive with lightly raced individuals to the party. The yard is going very well at the moment and they look to have another big chance with Pure Shores here in this big field though not overly competitive race.

Pure Shores makes her Handicap debut after three relatively decent performances in maiden company. Particularly the two starts this year over 10f where eye-catching in my view.

Both times she pulled very hard in the early parts of the race. Despite this keenness she travelled like the winner on both occasions, though same story in the finish: the did not get home.

That might be more down to the energy wasted early on than the trip as on pedigree that looks fine. Still the drop to 1m in a big field with better pace should suit down to the ground. Softish ground – on pedigree at least – seems no problem.

Her opening mark of 76 could easily undervalue her true talent given this will only be her second start on turf and she ran much better than the bare form suggests at Sandown last month when sixth behind winner Serenada, who to some extend gave this form some substance in the Musidora Stakes on Wednesday afternoon.

Selection:
10pts win – Pure Shores @ 6/1 Bet365

Chester Kick-Off

The Chester May Festival kicks off on Wednesday. Traditionally quite an important date in the calendar as more often than not we see potential Oaks and Derby contenders over the three days.

However it is also a meeting that brings certain aspects of the Chester racecourse to the forefront of our mind: the draw advantage or disadvantage in particular. It’s no secret – and numbers do back it up indeed – that low drawn horses perform much better than those drawn wide. This not uncommon, of course, but even more emphasised at this ever turning track.

Particularly over sprint distances, if you are drawn in the high numbers you can basically forget whatever winning chances you dreamed of – it’s not gonna happen. So bear that in mind if you intend to get in involved in the races.

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2.25 Chester: Cheshire Oaks (Listed), 1m 4f

Aiden O’Brien has used this race as a springboard for plenty of good fillies in the past, in fact his record is quite sublime and therefore it should be a tip in itself that he brings Alluringly here on the back of a mightily impressive maiden success last month.

The Fastnet Rock filly rocked home at Tipperary in stylish fashion, giving the impression that she could be a very smart individual. She looked, big and scopey, clearly physically improved that day, after two slightly underwhelming runs as a juvenile.

The step up in trip is the question mark. She goes as far as never before and it’s not clear cut on pedigree, however there is Saddler’s Wells in the dam line, so that alone should ensure that she has at least a fighting chance. Also she ran strongly to the line the other day, giving the impression a step up in trip will only see her improving again.

Selection:
10pts win – Alluringly @ 6/4 Skybet

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5.05 Chester: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

The final race of the opening card of the Festival. I elaborated above on how the draw plays a huge role here, so going against the bias backing a horse from a wide draw is probably rather dumb.

I still do it. Reason is that I back bottom weight Fast Dancer here, who is drawn in eleven, but who is a hold-up horse and therefore might not  be quite as disadvantaged by the draw as a horse that needs to lead.

Though it is also true that being up with the pace is an advantage at Chester too, it also happens regularly that they go way too fast up on front witch in turn opens up opportunities for those horse ridden more patiently.

Fast Dancer will rely on this fast pace and what encourages me most is his positive course record. Also he dropped to a mark that potentially undervalues his past achievements and therefore a race to suit should see him have a cracking chance here.

Selection:
10pts win – Fast Dancer @ 14/1 Bet365

Rachel Alexandra – A Filly for the Ages

CONGRATULATIONS! Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta – two of racing’s most spectacular equine superstars of the past –  have been inducted into racing’s hall of fame (to be precise: the ‘National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga’).

These two female racehorses, both at the peak of their craft in the one memorable year of 2009, never actually met at the race track, yet their stories are so closely intertwined as both captured the imagination of racing fans across the globe at the very same time.

Unfortunately the eagerly anticipated duel of the two greats never materialised – never at a race track at least. Now, there’s a saying, though, you’re either in one or the other camp; a Rachel fanboy/girl or a Zenyatta fanboy/girl… it’s the ever ongoing discussion, the human battle of arguments for and against: who’s been the better one?

You can’t have not an opinion. To say “ah well both are great horses” doesn’t cut it. So here’s my view on it.

The short answer is: there can’t be a doubt Rachel Alexandra was the better horse!

The long answer is: it’s not so easy. Zenyatta won plenty of races, won in awesome style and landed the Breeders Cup Classic – and take nothing away from her – she was an outstanding race horse.

Yet, if it comes to sheer brilliance, resilience, determination, will power and of course the all important looks – Rachel wins hands down!

2009: it was her year: Unbeaten in eight races, five Grade 1’s, beaten the boys in the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward as a three year old filly – this unparalleled campaign is probably only matched by all-time legend Sea The Stars!

I can’t state enough that this is only my opinion. In this debate, I guess, there is no right and wrong.

And I totally accept others in their view, claiming Zenyatta’s longevity of a career spanning over 20 races, with 19 victories, most of them in Grade 1 company, only marred by an agonisingly close defeat on the very last day of her career, give her the nod – and I agree, this was an outstanding career from an outstanding horse….

…. yet purely from an emotional point of view I never quite warmed up to her in the same way as I did to Rachel Alexandra. And isn’t that what racing is about? Beside everything else of course. But it’s not all about the betting, and the dream of making some bob on the nags – no, it’s also the sheer beauty of the sport when you witness these special creatures producing special moments.

This special moment – when I fell in love with Rachel Alexandra – it was the first May of 2009, a hot summers day. It’s was been only a bit more than a year that I followed closely the sport of horse racing and back then I was still living in Germany.

Still, I remember it vividly, sitting in front of the laptop, the grainy Racebets stream open – there was this ridiculously short priced favourite in the big race so I threw some Euros on Flying Spur, the second favourite.

Not the wisest investment. Soon it become clear why there was this one filly, called Rachel Alexandra, three to one on in the betting – she slaughtered the field!

She turns for home and Calvin Borel glimpses over his shoulder, the rest of the field is labouring hard but his filly’s still hard on the bridle…. and then…. the ‘WOW’ moment I’ll never forget…..

Still hard held, with every ease in the world she finds another gear, suddenly, so smoothly, she puts the whole world between herself and the rest of the field. WOOOOWW!!!

Horses are special – Rachel Alexandra is extra special. She went on to produce more memorable moments the same year. In the Woodward, the Preakness and the Haskell, then against the boys, fighting through some gruelling finishes she came out always on top.

It took a toll on her. The next season she clearly wasn’t the same. But who can begrudge her? She’s done it all, she showed the world how good she is, Rachel had nothing to prove. She gave us enormous pleasure – to ask her for even more would be greedy.

And so she retired, as the one filly that I’ll keep close to my heart as a racing fan forever and ever.

I want to end this piece with a recommendation to sit back, relax and enjoy this wonderful video below, showing all her big wins – it still gives me chills, even after watching it probably a hundred times by now. Rachel Alexandra: a filly for the ages!

 

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Saturday Selections:

3.20 Newmarket: Fashaak @ 20/1 Coral
2.30 Newbury: Frankuus @ 4/1 Skybet

Photo: Copyright Daily News

Preview: Irish Oaks

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5.50 Curragh: Irish Oaks (Group 1), 1m 4f

Ribblesdale Stakes winner Curvy sets a strong the standard in the Irish Oaks. She is progressive, has strong course form and couldn’t have done more to impress at Royal Ascot. But there are plenty of dangers in this field so it certainly won’t be a walk in the park for the 5/2 favourite.

Aiden O’Brien’s cavalry consists of “only” three runners, after Qualify pulled out. Munster Oaks winner Words is the most fancied one of the trio. Only two starts to date, she can improve again and is clearly poised for a big run. Stable mate Together Forever was well beaten in the Epsom Oaks. She was up with a strong pace, got hampered 2f out and tired subsequently. She deserves another chance.

So does Kissed By Angels. An impressive winner of a hot 1m Leopardstown maiden earlier this year, she was last seen at Newmarket in the 1000 Guineas. After stumbling out off the gate, she probably made a bit too much early on, yet travelled quite strongly a most parts of the race – though didn’t find anything when it really mattered. Jockey booking is a big negative but the step up in trip should suit.

Jack Naylor wasn’t quite suited be run of the Epsom Oaks. She was a big eye-catcher in the Irish 1000 Guineas though and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her bounce back today. Jessica Harrington’s charge remains clearly with potential.

Three English raiders try their luck: James Fanshawe’s progressive Speedy Boarding faces arguably her toughest test. She is an intriguing contender, nonetheless. The same could be said about John Gosden’s Gretchen. She was thrown into deep water at Royal Ascot. On the back of a good maiden win, she run her heart out in the Ribblesdale Stake. Although caught wide in the home turn, she lost an awful lot of ground subsequently, She’ll have learned plenty on that day.

Hugo Palmers ships over Covert Love. This filly is still unbeaten in three starts this year and she may improve again as she steps up to 12f for the first time today.

Verdict: Intriguing contest. Curvy is a fair favourite but there is plenty of opposition in this race capable of taking her scalp. Together Forever with less aggressive tactics could be the main danger. But price wise I believe stable mate Kissed By Angels is massively overpriced. Still lightly raced, she travelled well in the Guineas and this new trip could see her in much better light.

Over the top is also the price on offer for Gretchen. She was green at Royal Ascot and didn’t have the run of the race. The galloping Curragh will suit down to the grounds and with natural progression she is a huge runner.

Gretchen @ 12/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win
Kissed By Angels @ 33/1 Betfred – 5pts Win

Preview: Epsom Derby

Big surprise in the Oaks today – 50/1 shocker Qualify got up to deny Legatissimo the Guinas & Oaks double. That says, if you would have been brave enough, you could have got easily 100/1 for the winner this morning…. I didn’t, that is for sure, completely dismissed this filly. I got it wrong. But it helps to know that most got it wrong.

My filly Together Forever had not too many excuses. Up with the pace, which wasn’t a strong one, she got bumped 2f out, but I felt she was already out of it at that point anyway. Lady Of Dubai finished a fine third. I’m somewhat happy she didn’t win. I was very fond of her beforehand was slapping my face this morning when I saw the money pouring in for her, knowing I left 14/1 on the table the night before

Anyway, that’s the Oaks. History now. Let’s concentrate on what’s in front of us: The Derby!

4.30 Epsom: English Derby, Group 1, 1m 4f 10y

Golden Horn: Favourite, impressive winner of the Dante Stakes. as the key trial. I marked him as one to follow in my Horses To Follow article. Hard to oppose on form but question mark is the trip. I have him down as a 10f horse, though he might be able to stretch out to the Derby distance. Whether he stays the trip is not really the question, though, it’s more whether he’s able to stay it in a way that enables him to beat horses who are certain to get it.

Jack Hobbs: Runaway winner of a Sandown Handicap. Proved his class in Dante with good runner-up effort. Clearly not yet the finished article and fair chance to stay the trip. That says his dam hasn’t produced a winner over 12f yet. Likely to improve again but has to do so if he wants to go close.

Elm Park: Racingpost Trophy winner. Didn’t do anything wrong when third in Dante on seasonal reappearance. He’ll come on for that and I expect him to finish much closer to Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs this time. He clearly stays, will get the trip, but has to prove he can be top class on better ground. However if there is anything soft in the ground come 4.30 Saturday afternoon he must have a prime chance.

Giovanni Canaletto: Another one from my Horses To Follow list. Lightly raced, this lack of experience may count against him. But he looked smart when winning a minor race as a juvenile and his comeback run a fortnight ago was promising the way he finished from a poor position. He’s a full-brother to 2013 Derby winner Ruler Of The World and should improve for the trip. Like his big brother, he’s fitted with cheep-pieces for the Derby.

Epicuris: Group 1 winner in heavy conditions as a juvenile. Form doesn’t really work out, and not too exciting on seasonal reappearance when only 2nd in Group 3. Known for his problems in the preliminaries of a race and unclear if he can be fully effective on better ground.

Hans Holbein: Lightly raced Chester Vase winner. Probably needs soft ground and more of a Leger type. Big question mark whether he’s quick enough to win the Derby.

Kilimanjaro: Witnessed with my own eyes when this lad got the mark in a Dundalk maiden back in April. Won the Derby Trial at Lingfield since then. Fair type but I find it hard to see him good enough to win a Derby.

 Moheet: Looked exciting as a juvenile but hasn’t fulfilled promise in couple of starts this year. He may improve with time and experience but the Derby distance looks very ambitious.

Storm The Stars: One of the more experienced individuals, yet he looked still a big baby in his races. Took him a while to get off the mark but clearly progressing and the trip is in his blood. Might be up with the pace and wouldn’t mind making all if needed. Very dangerous if allowed an easy lead.

Success Days: Progressive and impressive in Ireland this year. Likely needs it soft to be seen to best effect and very dubious stayer on pedigree.

Rogue Runner: German raider who won two minor races in his native country. May improve for the step up to Derby trip but very hard to see him good enough to land a blow.

Carbon Dating: Still a maiden, big chance to finish last.

Verdict: Ground seems key. If there are any soft patches in the ground I believe Elm Park must go really close. But with the ground probably drying out over night, I feel there are others races later the year which are likely to suit better. Golden Horn is top class and will go close if he truly gets the trip. But given his very short price is easily opposable.

I admit I’m not getting warm with Jack Hobbs and don’t see why he is shorter than a couple of others. He’s a good horse and may even develop into top class, but for now I have Elm Park higher in the packing order.

However it’s clearly Giovanni Canaletto who gets the nod from me. I have a 16/1 ante-post bet on him, but he’s still a 9/1 chance, which strikes me as too big – therefore I nominate him as my selection for the Derby. He’s clearly classy, has the right credentials on pedigree and first time headgear should help to settle and focus when it matters.

Giovanni Canaletto @ 9/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win