Tag Archives: Paco Boy

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

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.

Favourite Horse: Rachel Alexandra

Favourite Horse: over the next weeks I am writing a series of articles about horses I hold dear to my heart. Classy miler Paco Boy kicked off proceedings in part I – next up is a “filly for the ages”. 

Normally US racing on dusty dirt isn’t quite my cup of tea. Yet here on dirt it happened: a race I’ll never forget. It’s the 1st of May 2009, an unusually scorching hot day – I remember it vividly, sweating in front of the laptop in a stuffy living room.

Late evening, I’ve got a grainy stream from Churchill Downs: post parade for the Kentucky Oaks. This ridiculously short priced favourite heads the field – I throw a bit of money on Flying Spur, the second favourite. Not the wisest investment as it turns out.

Rachel Alexandra is three to one on in the betting. Little did I know about her at this point in time. Minutes later the whole racing world will know about her. Hard on the bridle she destroys her six rivals by 20 lengths – the widest winning margin in the Kentucky Oaks ever:

The “super filly” goes on from here proving this otherworldly performance wasn’t a fluke. She takes on the boys in the Preakness Stakes. Odds are staked against her: no filly has won the second leg of the Triple Crown since 1924. Rachel Alexandra usually enjoys to run from the front but has been dealt the widest draw on this day.

Yet jockey Calvin Borel gets Rachel Alexandra across to lead wire to wire: “And the filly did it!” screams an excited Tom Hammond in the commentators box. The first filly to win the Preakness Stakes, doing so she’s defeating Kentucky Derby champion Mine That Bird.

Rachel Alexandra becomes a star that shines beyond the boundaries of horse racing. She features in “Vogue” magazine and a legion of fans follow her every move – so do I, although from far away. Still, those Saturdays in the summer of 2009 – “Rachel Saturdays” – are cherished memories to this day.

Only six weeks after the Preakness she romped home in the Mother Goose – only three rivals in her way, though leaving a multiple Grade one winner more than 30 lengths behind, nearly breaking Secretariat’s track record, if not for being heavily eased in the final furlong.

Another almighty performance against the boys in the Haskell Invitational Stakes – she makes it look so easy, beating Belmont Stakes champ Summer Bird by six lengths on a muddy track, again running an incredibly fast time, despite the conditions, becoming the second filly in history to win the race,

A final ‘hallelujah’ in September saw Rachel Alexandra write history – once more – as the first filly to land the Woodward Stakes. This time in a dramatic finish, holding off the late charges from high class rivals after setting grueling early fractions from the front in her usual style. It leaves commentator Tom Durkin stunned as he concludes his call “She is, indeed, Rachel Alexandra The Great!”.

2009 was her year: Unbeaten in eight races, five Grade 1’s – each for every month from May to September. She beats the boys in the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward – her spectacular three-year campaign is probably only matched by Sea The Stars on the other side of the globe!

That intense year took a toll on Rachel Alexandra. The next season she clearly wasn’t the same filly. Five more races, three of them end in defeat. She never reached the same heights again. After another shock defeat in August 2010 Rachel Alexandra is retired to become a broodmare.

She produced a colt and a filly but it turned out she wasn’t suited to the breeding game. She nearly died in the aftermath of the delivery of her second and final foal, Rachel’s Valentina.

To this day Rachel Alexandra has a loyal fanbase and they come to visit her at Stonestreet Farm. Once a year the “See Rachel Day” provides opportunity to those who are lucky enough to win a ticket to be invited to spend some time with the “Super Filly”.

There was something special about Rachel Alexandra as a race horse that made me follow her with passion throughout her career, but especially that magic summer of 2009: the white blaze across the face, you could easily make her out among a bunch of other horses. An athletic, strong body and beautiful bay colour; alert and all heart when it mattered most, galloping her rivals into submission from the front.

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

Favourite Horse: Paco Boy

Favourite Horse: over the next weeks I’ll write a series of articles about horses I hold dear to my heart. Let’s start with my all time favourite! 

2008 was the year that my interest in horse racing became serious. In my memories these are the good old days – a time when betting on horses was neither financially rewarding nor sought out to be, although it was a great time of learning something new about the sport every single day.

What coincided with this time, and it probably was one of the main reasons why I became so fascinated by horse racing, was the emergence of a number of legendary horses. To this day I do become a little bit emotional if I hear their names, to be honest.

Possibly not quite in the league of legends, yet the horse I well and truly fell in love with, was in his early days very much doubted whether he could become what he ultimately became: a top class miler. He showed plenty of speed and a dazzling turn of foot but may well be short of the required stamina?

It was exactly this incredible change of gear – the moment when a motionless Richard Hughes pressed the button, when the response was instantaneous – something that was visually so impressive and outlandish, certainly not observed in any other sport I have ever watched – that made me fall in love with Paco Boy.

Paco Boy was a promising juvenile, however he took his career to new heights in his classic year, particularly in the summer and autumn months.

He landed a number of graded races and finished the season with an exciting first Group 1 victory in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp. It’s a shame Paco Boy didn’t get the chance to run in the 2000 Guineas that year, but at that stage he was still an immature horse with question marks over this stamina.

A year older and wiser, after a disappointing reappearance in Dubai, Paco Boy then proved his class thanks superb victory in the Queen Anne Stakes, when an ice cool Richard Hughes showed his trademark patience, delivering Paco Boy late in the race to produce his own trademark turn of foot.

The partnership of Richard Hughes with a horse like Paco Boy, who needed to be ridden with patience and confidence and delivered late, turned out to be an irresistible combination. It didn’t always go to plan – on the days where it did it turned out to be as spectacular as racing can be.

To this day for me personally the most spectacular, visually exciting and explosive demonstration of an instant acceleration and manifestation of pure class is the one Paco Boy produced in the 2010 Lockinge Stakes:

Richard Hughes completely motionless, with two furlongs to go still sitting behind all his rivals, ever so slightly edging closer while calmly steering Paco Boy through an opening gap; approaching the final furlong marker and everything else around him is hard at work – “Paco Boy is laughing at them”, screams an astonished Richard Hoiles in the original track commentary!

Once asked to win the race Paco Boy puts it to bed in a matter of strides. Mind, this is a Group 1 race!

Extended footage can be found here – including a few shots of an emotional Richard Hannon, who shed a few tears that day and also is quoted saying “I’ve got pictures of him all over the house”!

A career spanning over four seasons – 24 races, 11 victories, 9 in pattern class, three Group Ones, including the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

On the rating front: Paco Boy ran twelve times to a Tospeed Rating of 100 or higher (six times >110). That is an incredible level of consistency for successive seasons. Not many horses are capable of achieving this. In his prime on fast ground when tracking a decent pace Paco Boy was nearly unbeatable.

Yes, one could potentially point out: “what did he beat?”. The form of is Queen Anne and Lockinge Stakes victories didn’t work out all that great in hindsight. Nonetheless he beat and fought it out with the best of the best among the milers of that era and made some really good horses look rather ordinary.

Ultimately, when do you ever see a horse in a Group 1 contest cantering all over his rivals, hard on the bridle, approaching the final furlong marker? It’s a rare feat and something special.

And not to forget: he chased the almighty mare that is Goldikova on more than one occasion home. I maintain to this day he was the better horse in the 2010 Queen Anne Stakes and Richard Hughes, on that day, left it simply a little bit too late (as a matter of fact Paco Boy recorded a higher Topspeed rating than Goldikova that day).

Put simply: Paco Boy was the most exciting horse I have ever followed as a fan of the sport. He was my first real “love” in the world of horse racing. Although he is closely followed by possibly the greatest racehorse of all time. More on that in the next part of this series.

Saturday Preview: Lockinge Stakes Day

What a finish in the Yorkshire Cup (Group 2) yesterday – nearly four in line going down to the wire with the Queen’s horse Dartmouth getting the better of 2015 St. Ledger heroine Simple Verse – just!

…….

3.30 Newbury: Group 1 Lockinge Stakes, 1 Mile

The first big clash of the best older milers this season. And what a mouth-watering race in prospect this is. Three 120/+ individuals  head to head – this could go down to the wire!

Or not? All three main contenders – Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear – have to overcome the slight doubts of full race fitness on their seasonal reappearance.

Could that play into the hands of the master that is Aiden O’Brien? Shrewdly he has placed Somehow – a quality filly in her own right – here in the Lockinge. With her sex allowance and fitness assured, she could certainly cause an upset.

Somewhow won twelve days ago a Group 2 at Newmarket – a fifth career success in ten starts – though the jury is still out whether she is a top-notcher.

Dropping down to a mile in soft conditions I can see a scenario unfold where she cruises closely behind Ribchester’s pacemaker, and then from over 3f out takes over with a big move that puts all behind in trouble. With fitness and stamina a given, she could stay on to lead the field all the way over the line.

The 7/1 odds scream value if you believe in the merit of this scenario. I do. But I also have concerns about the fact that Somehow already had three tough races – two in very tough conditions – in the last five weeks. Plus she has to find a bit with the three big guns if ratings are believed.

On ratings there is not a lot between Ribchester, Galileo Gold and Lightning Spear, though. I would still discount David Simcock’s six year old on the basis of the ground that probably does suit him the least. His very best in the past came on fast ground. Plus Lightning Spear is still searching for the elusive first Group 1 victory.

That is different for Ribchester and Galileo Gold. Both have won on the highest level – Galileo Gold even twice. And both have excellent form with cut in the ground.

The score’s equal between the two. On ratings there’s a single pound between them, yet the market has Ribchester a clear 6/4 favourite. Probably on the basis that the son of Iffraaj has still a bit of improvement left.

He might have but he might not. In fact there is only a single career run betwen Ribchester and Galileo Gold.

On balance I would agree that Ribchester is likely to be the better prospect for the season. He looks the type to do better with age and experience, whereas Galileo Gold appears more likely to regress. However at this point in time it is also Galileo Gold’s best chance to win a big race this year, I feel.

Connections will certainly be aware of this. He should be fully wound up, his record as a fresh horse is fine and of all horses in the field he has the best record on soft ground. So given the prices I have to side with Galileo Gold who I would have more like a 5/2 chance in my book.

Selection:
10pts win – Galileo Gold @ 9/2 Bet365

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4.05 Newbury: Class 2 Conditions Stakes, 6 Furlongs

All about Richard Hannon’s Denaar here. He was an easy winner under hands and heels in a Chelmsford maiden on debut a mere twelve days ago over the minimum trip. The step up to 6f should suit very well and the change in conditions – at least on pedigree – is no problem; in fact can be beneficial.

The form of his maiden success looks rock solid through the experienced runner-up who on his penultimate start ran well in a race that threw up a handful of winners as well as a subsequent listed placed individual.

Selection:
10pts win – Denaar @ 15/8 Paddy Power

…..

5.10 Newbury: Class 2 Handicap, 1 Mile

Big field and an open contest, so at a price I give Grand Inquisitor a chance to find back to some sort of form, now returning to turf with cut in the ground off a dangerous mark.

He moved yards during the winter and hasn’t excelled for new connections on the All-Weather the last two starts over seven furlongs, but it might not be wise to judge him too harshly on those efforts.

Back over the slightly longer trip with conditions he’s proven to handle and only 2lb above his last winning mark I see a fair chance for him returning to form Not to forget he ran some massive races off much higher marks last season and knocked on the door in tough Handicaps of marks around 95.

Selection:
10pts win – Grand Inquisitor @ 18/1 Bet365

……

5.35 Newmarket: Class 4 Handicap, 5 Furlongs

Richard Fahey’s Paddy Power slipped dramatically in the handicap mark compared to what the four year old ran of last season. Now down to 75 with the benefit of a fine pipe opener on Newcastle’s All-Weather, the gelding seems well handicapped on return to turf.

His win record is dismal, but he raced of up to 10lb higher in good Handicaps last year has performed more often than with credit – in fact on RPR’s he ran 11 times to ratings above his current mark of 75.

Softish conditions should be no problem, he has some okay form on this type of surface. His sire performs decent enough too, and the dam is a Listed winner on soft ground. Added 3lb apprentice allowance is a little icing on the cake.

Selection:
10pts win – Paddy Power @ 4/1 Bet365

……

8.50 Doncaster: Class 4 Handicap, 6 Furlongs

I give handicap debutante Manshood a good chance to outrun his price tag. He’s had five starts in maiden company so far, placed three times, the two times he ran over today’s trip he was in the money running to RPR’s of 72 and 73.

He’s got a fine pipe opener under his belt last month, that should set him up nicely and didn’t sacrifice his potentially lenient opening mark.

Potentially lenient if he improves for his first handicap start in new conditions. Soft ground, though, should suit quite well on pedigree.  Martin Lane was the other day in the saddle, so got to know Manshood, and has the ride today too. Could be an advantage.

Selection: 
10pts win – Manshood @ 14/1 Paddy Power

Friday Selections – Sandown

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4.40 Sandown: Class 3 Handicap, 1m

Bartholomew Fair has been pretty disappointing this season as he has never fulfilled the promise he showed as a juvenile. You could make excuses for Derby Trial performance where he was potentially found out for class and stamina, which was also his seasonal reappearance. But his subsequent Haydock performance left many scratching their head.

This is an extremely well bred colt, who won a Yarmouth maiden in very taking fashion last year. Subsequently he was far from disgraced in the G3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket where he ran much better than the bare result suggests as he was always wide without cover and it didn’t help that he was unable to handle Newmarket’s undulations either.

He’s had a bit of a break now and has been gelded in the meantime. Shame because of his pedigree, but something wasn’t right with him as physically he looks top notch, very athletic and scopey. Hopefully this will help him to find his true form. Down to a mark off 87 in this class 3 Handicap, he must rate a big chance if the gelding op has an impact. It usually works well for Dansili’s and trainer Cumani has a good track record with geldings first time out.

Bartholomew Fair @ 8/1 Stan James – 5pts Win

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5.15 Sandown: Class 5 Handicap, 1m

I loved Paco Boy – my all time favourite. He’s done well so far with his offspring. Pacolita might not be the best daughter he has produced, but she is reasonably talented and has a massive chance to give her prominent daddy a good winner today.

Pacolita was seriously unlucky in her last run at Wolverhampton. Travelling super strongly, she never got a run until late, her jockey had to take hard pulls several times but she stayed on strongly to the line, suggesting she can cope with another furlong. She gave this indication as well when winning in a dramatic finish at Epsom before over 7f.

Pacolita @ 10/3 Paddy Power – 10pts Win