Tag Archives: Preview

Preview: 2018 Melbourne Cup

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A cocky headline: “Here’s Your Winner!” – that was it for the Melbourne Cup preview exactly twelve months ago. Oh how good that felt, when half a night of sleep later Rekindling landed the big pot at 14/1!

Now, up until then it had been a solid decade of failed attempts to find the winner in the race that stops a nation. So I can hardly claim of having magic power if it comes to making a winning selection. But sometimes you have this feeling of certainty. You simply know it…. the 6th November of 2017 it was exactly that.

Do I know this time as well? No. Plain and simple.

This year is incredibly competitive. There are a good seven or eight horses on my shortlist. Three from the list I fancy significantly more than the others. And two of them I’m most confident will be in the money, granted they get a run for it.

It certainly isn’t my cup of tea punting the favourite. Less so in the Melbourne Cup. Guess what? Yucatan is my selection. As he’s on the drift throughout the day already, his price finally reached a point where I have to conclude: too big!

I get why there is increased negativity around the once-Derby-fancy. Suddenly the commentary of “it’s been only a single good run” become much louder, as all the experts get their opinions out there with the race approaching ever so slowly. The wide draw has done the rest. Oh, and the ground. Rain is coming. How much? How will it impact the going conditions? Hard to say. This bit of uncertainty doesn’t help.

What is certain: Yucatan never lived up to the 12-1 quotes he received for the Epsom Derby more than a year ago. He never had the chance to do so, missing the big one, but also endured issue after issue ever since. Aiden O’Brien alluded as much in recent days:

“Yucatan was a horse we couldn’t really get 100 per cent right through the whole year.”

In honesty, judging him by this 2018 European form he’s not a Melbourne Cup favourite. A Group 3 success over 1m 2f and a Group 3 third place finish over 1m 4f behind smart Eziyra can be considered decent form, yet it’s far from exciting.

Nonetheless, Yucatan always remained a talented individual, who only would need to get a clear run of form and the right conditions – that what connections always felt. For some horses this day never comes. For Yucatan it did. And boy, it id!

First start in Lloyd Williams colours Down Under at Caulfield in the Herbert Power Stakes  last month: it seemed Yucatan is a different horse to what he was only a few weeks earlier in Europe. Was it the sun? The ground? The change of scenery? Maybe a bit of everything.

The dramatic mid-race-move from the back of the field, while always travelling three wide, to take it up from 3f out, leaving the rest of the field standing still, jockey James McDonald pulling him up with half a furlong to go….  visually this was one of the most stunning performances you’ll ever see in Group company.

The question is, of course, what is it worth? I’d argue it’s worth more than some people want to make us believe.

True, those in second and third are no world beaters. But the third, Prince Of Arran, was a 111 rated individual in the UK, who ran a massive race when runner-up in the Northumberland Plate earlier this year, and who followed up on his third behind Yucatan with a fine victory in a Group 3 at Flemington earlier this week! Dismissing this rival so easily rates as pretty significant in my book.

Significant also the comments by Aiden O’Brien – usually not the type of character who’d give a lot away beyond the “he’s well” mantra. For him it’s rather bullish stating:

“The way it fell, it looked like he was going to really suit the Melbourne Cup but he was too low in the weights, so we he had to win to get in, and we saw what happened. … He looks on a very good mark.”

He looks indeed! A nice weight, not a nice draw, though. Statistics say it’s near impossible to win from gate 23. This year might be different. Pace is drawn close to him and might give him a nice lead to follow early in the race. Obviously you don’t wanna burn too much fuel early on either, given we aren’t sure whether he truly stays the new trip. On the other hand, drifting back into the pack will mean he’d need all the luck in the world – something you surely don’t want to rely on if you’re on the best horse in the field.

In saying that, whether he’ll appreciate the extra furlongs is the main question mark for me. I never looked like he’s crying out for, to be honest. But he’s by Galileo. So there is always a fair chance he does get the distance. So, if his chances aren’t ruined after the start hen I’m fairly confident we will see Yucatan go extremely close in the 2018 Melbourne Cup.
I mentioned at the beginning of this preview that there are two horses I feel extremely positive about. Yucatan is one. Cross Counter is the other one. A lightly raced three-year-old finding his way into the race with the benefit of a featherweight. Where have we heard this story before? Yep, right – Rekindling!

It’d argue this lad is at least as good as last years winner. For a start, he’s achieved the second highest time speed rating of all in this field. Only Cliffs Of Moher bettered this – last year in the Derby. I’m not sure if I trust that particular figure, nor whether COM is able to reproduce anything like it ever again; however, Cross Counter has run to 106 and 107 subsequently in his last two starts. Surely this guy is on the up and still improving, if not already top class.

His Gordon Stakes success at Goodwood over the summer was scintillating; overturned as a short-priced favourite the next time in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, he was staying on strongly to be only beaten by a head eventually. Not a bad race either, given the third, Kew Gardens, followed up with an impressive success in the Doncaster St. Leger!

No doubt, Cross Counter was still learning his craft. He often looked a little bit raw; but he’s approaching his eight lifetime start now – he should have learned plenty.

Trip and draw are the main question marks. He’s also wider drawn than ideal. Hopefully, like with Yucatan, he can get a nice lead by the pace around him to tow him toward the front of the field. Trip wise, of course, you never find out until you run them – in saying that, the way he ran on in the closing stages at York are a positive indicator that the trip might be within his range.

Given his official rating of 114, he isn’t far off the best European raiders already, however his featherweight off eight stone should be a tremendous advantage.

 

So, there we have it: two selections for the race that stops a nation. I’m not as confident as last year. Simply because of the draw situation and because there are few others in the field you have to take quite serious: last years co-favourite Marmelo and Chester Cup hero Magic Circle are dangerous. The main threat, though, should be impressive Ebor winner Muntahaa. He’s top class and will run big if his temperament holds up.

Selection:
10pts win – Yucatan @ 6.2/1 MB
10pts win – Cross Counter @ 8.4/1 MB

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PREVIEW: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe 2018

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It’s Enable’s race….. to lose. Can anyone stop the wonder filly? Or can she follow on from a magical Saturday where Winx thundered home to a 28th consecutive success?

The queen of European racing was so impressive twelve months ago when she landed the big one, she’s blessed with an excellent draw this Sunday – surely, she’s more than justifying her 11/10 price tag.

I’m saying that as I find it hard to see her getting beaten here. Enable has clearly shown on her reappearance at Kempton in the September Stakes that she’s hitting top form right when it’s required. As easily as she let a 129 rated Crystal Ocean look like a one paced plodder, one can’t help but be incredibly impressed.

From a betting perspective I wouldn’t want to put anyone off backing Enable. From my own perspective it’s not a price for me – so I’m looking for a bit of “Each-Way Value” in a race that appears to be pretty open if it comes to the minor placings.

Sea Of Class and Waldgeist both make appeal. Form wise they are a clear standout compared to the rest of the field – bar Enable, of course. Though, the draw is a concern, even more so for the filly who’s likely to need a lot of luck from off the pace. The French colt, on the other hand, is the biggest danger to Enable but may get rolling too late, I feel.

Leger winner Kew Gardens should be okay dropping back in trip. He’s got a fair shout, depending on the start of the race where I’d like to see him ridden positively, which might be detrimental to his chances as he’s got to deal with a wide raw also, but it could also play into his hands, making use of stamina reserves at the backend of the race. If ridden with restraint he’s got even less a chance, most likely. At given prices it’s a pass for me, anyhow.

Stable mate Capri, high class as he is on paper, is hard to fancy after his interrupted season and a rusty return to the track in the Prix Foy.

Last year’s runner-up Cloth Of Stars is an interesting individual at a big price, if quirky and hard to know what to get on the day. If he could find some sort of his best form again he can be a fair place chance. So can be defending Breeder’s Cup Turf champ Talismanic. The ground may turn against him, though.

For my selection I’ll look even further down the packing order, still. 50/1 shot Patascoy, the French Derby runner-up, is the one who appeals most to me given this massive price.

The jury is still out whether he stays the trip. This lightly raced colt hasn’t raced beyond 10.5 furlongs yet, the pedigree isn’t exactly screaming “stayer” but isn’t entirely discouraging either.

Certainly in the Derby – not an overly strong form, it has to be said – he was running hard to the line after hitting a flat spot entering the home straight. His return after a bit of a summer break in the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano Haras du Logis Saint-Germain was good – although not form you would associate good enough for an Arc winner, to be totally fair.

What I like about Patascoy is the fact he remains open for improvement after only eight career starts and in addition he is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated in the way he can be ridden – from an excellent draw, most likely tracking the pace in the Arc. That should ensure he’s in a good position when it matters most. If I trust him to stay, then he could outrun his price tag to finish in the money, in the end.

Selection:
5pts Each/Way – Patascoy @ 50/1 PP (4 places, 1/5)

Preview: Irish Champion Stakes 2018

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This years renewals of the Irish Champion Stakes wins in excitement purely on the basis of the renewed clash between Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior. Both met several times in big races over the last two seasons and it has been interesting to see how each individual progresses differently.

One could argue that since the 2017 Racingpost Trophy Roaring Lion has been the more progressive one; certainly since Saxon Warrior landed his own early season target with the 2000 Guineas, Aiden O’Brien’s charge has been playing second fiddle on three occasions behind “The Lion”.

The last time, in the Juddmonte International, the gap was at its biggest ever since these two dated each other for the first time. 5 lengths Roaring Lion had to spare that day. Will it be different today?

It’s been a long year for both horses now and it probably comes down who’s able to hold his form.

On paper Roaring Lion is poised to win another battle today. Ground and track should suit him, and the fact AOB seems to throw the kitchen sink at him reminds me a little bit of 2009 when the same happened taking Sea The Stars on.

Regardless, taking prices into account, I find it impossible to back the favourite, even if he is the most exciting horse of 2018 and he’s likely to win today. Odds-on is a no go for me. And this particular race has proven over the last number of years it can be a bit of a minefield for short priced favs.

So I settle happily with Ballyoyle’s second string: Rhododendron. Her Lockinge Stakes win earlier this year rates as a superb piece of form and as she has proven in the past to stay 10 furlongs she would be a much shorter price if not for an abysmal run of form.

I bank on her to find back to her best today, for the simple fact the AOB yard wasn’t right for some time this summer and her runs were simply too bad to be true.

The setup of the race today could suit her well. In saying that, she has to find with the two market principles, of course. But then, she is a massive price, and on her best form she should be half of the odds available today.

Selection:
10pts win – Rhododendron @ 22/1 PP

Big Race Preview: St. Leger 2018

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A wide open St. Leger – I’m saying that despite the betting telling a different story. It’s a foolish price for John Gosden’s clearly exciting filly Lah Ti Dar. But so exciting to believe 7/4 is the right price? Surely not. Not for a filly that, albeit totally unexposed, has yet to run to a time speed rating of 100 or more.

She may well be the one to beat here, she may well be proving her class and stamina today – at this incredibly short price I rather look elsewhere.

I have not to look far. My eyes set firmly on what Aiden O’Brien brings to the table. And that is so much more than Kew Gardens. He’s clearly a classy individual. He should enjoy the Leger trip. But can he improve again? Does he even have to? Probably not. He’s setting the standard here, in my mind.

But he’s well exposed. We know what we get. And that may or may not be good enough. At given prices it’s nothing more than fair. And the fact team Ballydoyle brings a handful of runners here doesn’t scream confidence in Kew Gardens.

Two other runners have caught my eye. Not for the first time this is The Pentagon. A promising juvenile last year, he also showed continued promise earlier this year; I quite liked his 3rd placed finish in the Derrinstown Derby Trial and subsequently saw him as a fair each-way chance in the Derby.

He was a long way beaten that day eventually, though that run was better than the bare form may suggest. He’s been beaten in the Irish Derby and the Great Voltiger subsequently – but both runs showed there is some class. Particularly his Curragh performance, where he made a lot of ground from the back of the field is interesting.

Stepping up in trip could suit. The Pentagon has no turn of foot, he’s more of a grinder, I feel. That may well suit the Leger and he can outran his big price tag.

So can be stable mate Southern France. Less exposed and a huge individual in physical presence, his return from a small break in the Irish St. Leger Trial last month was hugely promising.

He clearly wasn’t well placed trailing the field and had a lot of ground to make up in the home straight. Which he did pretty easily. He wasn’t beaten up to finish closer to those in front of him who also either set the pace or rode close to it for most parts of the race. It was a lovely prep for the big one, I feel.

Selections:
5pts Win – The Pentagon @ 26/1 MB
5pts Win – Southern France @ 17/1 MB

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

Preview – Musselburgh Gold Cup

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An intriguing contest which should turn into a real stamina test. Progressive stayer Handiwork looks to have a big shout with Joe Fanning on board. His ability to handle soft ground and to stay two miles are a key combination today. I feel further improvement is already very much reflected in the short odds, though. Top weight Lady Kashaan goes well with cut in the ground, but the trip stretches her stamina and with a very big weight to overcome, she may struggle here. Usually in attacking mode, Be Perfect must have a serious chance if he handles the ground. But despite drying ground, it remains very much on the slow side, and that is a concern.

Streets Of Newyork was in good nick over hurdles this year already and now back on the flat off a fair mark, he should have a good chance, though his best performances on the flat came over shorter trips. The lightly races Royal Signaller could easily have still more to offer. The trip and ground are slight worries. If he handles both, he’ll  be a big runner. Same applies to Braes Of Lochalsh. First start in handicaps & feather weight are an interesting combination, but he’s completely unproven on ground and trip and could be anything.

From a betting perspective I feel Richard Guest’s runner Precision Strike is a very big price. It remains to be seen if the track plays to his strengths, but the five year old clearly handles ground and trip. He was a really progressive stayer last season, culminating back in October in an excellent success in a 2m Handicap at Haydock. He probably needed his recent outing at Wolverhampton and while he was a long way beaten, one would expect him to be much more competitive today. If he can make enough progress entering the home straight to be not too far of the pace, he will have a big shout in this I feel.

3.25 Musselburgh: Musselburgh Gold Cup
Precision Strike @ 22/1 Bet365 – 5pts win

Dream Child Can Make Amends Today

Godolphin’s progressive Dream Child is turned out quickly after failing by the narrowest of margins to get his head in front four days ago over 9.5f here at Wolverhampton. He got hampered that day over 1f out at a crucial stage of the race and as a result had to re-organize himself pretty quickly – which can be a difficult task for an inexperienced horse. He quickened nicely nonetheless and almost got there on the line. He travelled strongly throughout and followed up nicely on a hugely impressive success over 12f at Wolverhampton back in January.

Dream Child is still lightly raced and the fact that he can race off the same mark today as four days ago, makes him a huge chance here. The step up in trip poses no problem whatsoever. He proved his stamina before. Judged on this latest performance, he should be a couple pounds higher rated and potentially goes all the way into pattern class after this in my mind. No doubt Dream Child is the most talented runner in this field.

The main dangers are Noble Gift who’s holding his form well and he should run a good race once more. Luv You Whatever has excellent form and was able to translate his Southwell forms to the tapeta last time out. But has to overcome another hike in the mark, which means a career best is required. I’m usually not for the short favourites, but think in this case that Noble Child should be a good deal shorter. With Adam Kirby booked for the ride I hope he won’t meet trouble in-running this time and then he should simply have too much on the plate for the rest.

7.45 Wolverhampton: Class 2 Handicap, 12 furlongs
Dream Child @ 11/10 Coral – 10pts win