Tag Archives: Prix de lArc De Triomphe

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.

2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

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An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

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A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

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Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

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Preview: ARC DE TRIOMPH 2017

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“You are prone to bad luck at Chantilly; often the best horse gets beaten there” – John Gosden

Correct. John Gosden, trainer of wonder filly Enable is rightly concerned if it comes to external influences in today’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The dual Oaks and King George champ is the red hot betting favourite for quite some time. Rightly so. There is little more she needs to do to prove her class. She IS all class.

However a long season, a big field of top class contenders, most of them the opposite sex, tough ground and a course that can throw up strange results – there is a lot to overcome today….

…. and a lot to like about Enable! 

On the positive side of things, Enable could have not get a better draw allotted in the lottery that can kill chances of any horse before the race is even run. She can start from stall 2 – it gives her flamboyant star jockey Frankie Dettori every chance to make a decision whereas other rivals have to take what’s left over.

Enable is an uncomplicated filly, she has no problem to race prominently. I’m sure Dettori will settle her close enough to the pace with every chance to get the clearest of runs. The track will be more of an issue for anyone behind her: no excuses.

So – put the mortgage on? 

If she is in the form she presented herself all year – yes, ’cause she’ll win. Plain and simple. Fillies and three year old fillies in particular have a superb record in the Arc.

But what if a season that started in a Conditions Stake at Newbury back in April has taken a toll? You couldn’t begrudge Enable to lose some percentage of her superb form that saw the three year old land spectacular victories throughout the summer.

Well – Autumn, soft ground and Chantilly can do strange things to horses. So at prices I have to take on Enable. As much as I would love the story of her winning the race, as much I feel ENABLEd to say: this is one too many for her this year.

Bigger odds, Bigger Value!

I like three individuals at much bigger odds: the German raider Dschingis Secret, the recent Leger hero Capri and the French Cloth Of Stars .

Why? The German horse has no issues on the soft ground and usually does his best at the back end of his races. The way he finds another gear in the closing stages, as seen in the Prix Foy and Großer Preis von Berlin, is a trait not too many horses posses.

The way he races does not look sexy. He can get sweaty, be a bit keen but also can appear to be off the bridle earlier than a high class individual should be. But that doesn’t matter. The apparent ease – once hitting top gear – he puts away classy contenders suggest that this lad is hitting top form when it matters most.

The draw isn’t ideal, ten is as wide as you want to be and he will need a bit of luck. But hey, this is horse racing. You’ll always need a bit of ” luck” on the big day. 16’s is a serious price for a serious horse.

But Capri? A Leger winner? Yep. The drop in trip won’t be an issue. He’s an Irish Derby winner with form over shorter too. He travells strongly through his races and simply has an exceptional attitude to keep on going, as seen at Doncaster a fortnight ago. Soft ground doesn’t bother him, in fact the true stamina test expected will rather suit him today.

He’s here’s soon enough with little time to recover plus faces the difficult task to break from stall 15. However that is reflected in the price, and I feel taken into account overly negative. Yes, he is not the likeliest winner of the race, but surely a dual Classic winner has a slightly better than 5% chance with conditions likely to suit him?!

It’s been eight years since Sea The Stars became a legend in this very race. His son Cloth Of Stars is one who has the tools to emulate his almighty daddy. He’s got a good draw, a fair prep run under the belt off a four months long break when runner-up in the Foy behind Dschingis Secret and was unbeaten in 2017 before that.

Stamina is a question mark. He is yet to win over 1m 4f. On the plus side he loves the ground and deserves another crack at this distance after only two tries and with some improvement still possible.

Anything else to say?

Don’t count out Ulysses, either. He will love the track, he’s been a revelation this season and acts on softish ground. That says ground and trip in combination should not play to his strengths, I feel.

There is loads of money coming for Order Of St. George. He’s a sexy contender, I admit. He looked SO good in the Irish Ledger. Ground and trip is fine. A stayer with a turn of foot, Arc 3rd twelve months ago. Yeah, he’s a serious chance, Ballydoyle’s best, no doubt.

I say that because it’s only the 1st October and Winter is not coming – not today. The superstar filly has done it all this season, but this is a step too far. Sure, as a daughter of Galileo all is seemingly possible – but a long year, tough ground, a trip as far as she’s never gone before – too much.

The point is….

….. this is a wide open Arc! Much more open than the betting suggests. We have a star filly in Enable who is likely to take plenty of beating if all goes right for her. But this is the Arc, it’s autumn, it’s Chantilly, it’s tough ground, it’s a high class field…. there is plenty of room for things to pan out in a completely different way. Let’s hope it goes my way.

Selections:
10pts win – Dschingis Secret @ 16/1 Bet365
10pts win – Capri @ 20/1 Bet365
5pts win – Cloth To Stars @ 28/1 Bet365

Preview: Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

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Arc Day! The most prestigious flat race in Europe, maybe the world, is finally upon us The search for a new champion begins right here.

The Arc, that is a special race for me personally. On one hand it clearly marks the end of the flat season – yes, there is still some racing to go, but let’s make no mistake: the calendar turned to October, the nights are chilly again and the jumpers are out at Gowran Park. Winter is coming….

Arc Day: it’s a special day also because it brings back wonderful memories. Now, I can’t claim to follow the sport of horse racing for decades. Though it’s closing in on ten years actually – time’s flying! But I witnessed Sea The Stars winning the race, bringing the house down on an unbelievable summer of racing that captivated my heart like no other ever did.

Only two years later the German filly Danedream sprinted to a sensational success in Europe’s premier flat race – I had a big ante-post wager on her at massive odds, to this date the biggest monetary win of my illustrious betting career.

Arc 2016: A Decent Renewal?

The general perception leading up to the big race seems one of muted excitement. Some suggest this year’s Arc is a rather sub-standard renewal. I don’t buy that. In fact the 2016 Arc boosts as big a field as ever, with runners from all over world, with more than a handful of those rated at 120+, not for forget a favourite who has won three big Group one races on the bounce this season. Oh the reigning dual English & Irish Derby winner is here too! Not too shabby in my book.

Conditions Today

Reportedly perfect conditions at Chantilly today, where the Arc is run during the re-building process at Longchamp. Chantilly is known as a course that throws up plenty of hard luck stories, so with a big field of 16 runners it seems inevitable that some connections might feel unlucky in the aftermath of the race.

Genuine good ground should provide a level playing field for all horses on that particular front at least, though.

High Draw = Race Lost?

A race over 1 mile 4 furlongs, yet the draw is always a big talking point on Arc day. Of course it is, because if your drawn in the car park it makes your task so much more difficult. On the other hand those horses who need to be dropped in anyway mightn’t be too dramatically inconvenienced. Nonetheless if you’re forced to travel four, five wide throughout a 2.400m contest, chances are you won’t find the extra gear needed for a strong finish.

That says, for those who like to attack a race from the start, the wide draw must not be an issue at all. At Chantilly you have an early left-hand turn, which in theory should mean you can make up ground more easily from a wide draw – if you chose to attempt it.

Two well fancied runners – the Japanese Makahiki and Found – have been drawn rather wide. It makes their bid for glory the bit more difficult.

Found won’t mind it as she is likely to race off the pace anyway, though she is likely to encounter plenty of traffic and given her history (“the most unlucky filly in the world”) I am concerned that she does not get out in time today.

Makahiki, the excellent winner of the Prix Niel, is a more diverse story. Drawn in 14, I would expect jockey Lemaire to try to make a move right from the start in order to get a handy position somewhere in midfield while finding valuable cover as well. Though this could be a difficult thing to achieve, given plenty of jockeys on lower drawn horses will have the same tactics in mind. Therefore I can see a scenario where Lemaire has to commit too much too early or alternatively will end up in a really poor position on the widest outside.

Favourite Postponed will have every chance to find the right spot from stall seven. He has no problem to be ridden positively and he could end up in fifth, sixth position behind the pace. Dual Derby winner Harzand is drawn right beside him. It’ll be interesting to see what Smullen does here. I would certainly hope he tracks Postponed’s every move, which should ensure he ends up in a good position too.

The pace setters might come from team Ballydoyle. Highland Reel often races quite prominent and he’s likely to move forward right from the start. I would expect Dettori on Order Of St George to do the same from his wide draw. Whether both race too hard too early on is a valid question mark. New Bay might follow them closely.

The Winner: 

No doubt Postponed has allot going in the right direction. Draw, pace, form, likely position he’ll find himself in. He’s the most likely winner. However on ratings, official or RPR, this is a closer encounter than one would initially think. 2/1 is the current price, so in and around a 33% chance – a bit too short in my book.

Found, as classy a filly as she is, is more likely to find one or two too good once again I fear. The Japanese Makahiki is more interesting. If he finds himself in a decent position where he didn’t have to over commit in the early stages then he should have an awful lot to give when it really matters.

However in my book the 8/1 for Harzand is a criminal price. On the back of one poor performance, where we know there are valid excuses, bookies are happy to lay him. I imagine the return to 12f will be very much to his liking, the ground isn’t a problem, he’s a good draw and is a three year old with a handy weight for age allowance – if Smullen doesn’t drop too far off the pace, which I see as a slight danger to happen – Harzand will be a tough challenger in the finish.

Not mentioned yet has been New Bay. Last years Arc third. A talented individual, run with credit in the Irish Champion Stakes last month too and has a good draw today. He seems a bit below what is required to win the race in my eyes, though.

From the bigger prices Order Of St George makes plenty of appeal. He’s as highly rated as Postponed, though his shock defeat in the Irish Ledger is a question mark. But then he may find perfect conditions here. Dettori in the saddle will ensue a smooth ride to the front of the pack from the widest, but not necessarily worst draw. If he can get there without doing too much, he might have enough left to kick on turning for home. Given he lasts the trip thoroughly, he could then be hard to peg back.

Selections: 
Harzand @ 8/1 Betfred
Order Of St George @ 20/1 

Arc Review: Golden Horn spoils the party

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That’s not the result we all wanted. Record bidding wonder mare Treve beaten. A rather disappointing fourth place – it ends the career of the two-times Arc champion on a slightly sour note – given the immense hype in the build-up to the race. Her scintillating turn of foot – not there. Instead she looked a tricky ride and Thierry Jarnet never comfortable.

The French jockey has been slated in some corners for this ride on Sunday afternoon. Rightly so, to an extend at least. He wasn’t aware of the pace scenario and the fact that the quick ground can make all the difference to bring back classy contenders who are up with the speed.

On the other hand he rode Treve exactly the same way as he did when she was so utterly impressive in the 2013 Arc. With the difference that this time she didn’t make ground on the outside in the same impressive way as she did back then. She looked a tricky ride for Jarnet in the closing stages too. He could never get her organised for a big finish.

Maybe she peaked a couple of weeks too early? Remember her stunning performance in the Prix Vermeille weeks before. Maybe it was the ground though. On the quick side of good, which seemed to inconvenience her in the past, seemingly didn’t suit on Sunday yet again.

But: she remains a two time Arc winner. A fantastic mare, one we’ll remember for a long time. An all-time great? Who knows. Let’s put away with this rubbish of comparing horses from different generations with the purpose to establish who is great and who isn’t. Treve has been a brilliant race horse. That is what matters and that is the way we shall remember her.

What a brilliant ride by Frankie, wasn’t it? He may not be quite as strong in the saddle as he used to be 15 years ago, but his brain works as well as ever. It was pure genius to mitigate the obvious disadvantages of Golden Horn’s wide draw; moving forward right away, on the far outside of the field. He avoided any hassle, kept the colt relaxed, got right to the top of the field without any problems and only seconds after the race started Golden Horn was suddenly in the best possible position.

The fast ground clearly helped him to float over the grass easily and effortless. The pace was good, kept him at ease, interested, but wasn’t too quick either. We know Golden Horn stays, and after the first quarter of the race I said to myself: he’ll be hard to peg back once he kicks on in the home straight. That’s exactly what happened.

The conditions clearly helped Golden Horn but it also helps if you’re the best horse in the race, I guess.

Credit where credit is due: John Gosden has done a phenomenal job with Golden Horn. He kept him well and fit throughout the season, campaigned him bravely and didn’t duck away from challenges. Now a Derby, Eclipse, Irish Champion Stakes and Arc winner – Golden Horn deserves the tag of a superstar. Next stop Breeders Cup?

ARC Preview: All to lose for Treve…?

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Treve bids for a historic third Arc – yes, that’s a third one….. on the bounce! But you probably know that already. Anyway; she’s going to win? Possibly. The wonder mare is hard to oppose. Her form stands up to all scrutiny. She was utterly impressive in her prep. She has a fair draw. Only in-running trouble can spoil the party. Or the ground? Maybe. It’s slightly quicker than ideal for her.

So, what to make of the race? Treve is going to win if all goes to plan. However every horse has only a certain chance by percentage after all and with the favourite over-bet, there is value elsewhere to find.

Tapestry: A super filly. Now four years old, she returned from an almost year long absence last month at the Curragh where she finished an excellent runner-up behind smart Ribbons in the Group 2 Blandford Stakes. She was beaten for speed but fought gamely. She’ll be better over the 1m 4f Arc trip.

The Ballydoyle filly was second in last years Irish Oaks but made no mistakes when lowering the colours of supper filly Taghrooda in the Yorkshire Oaks. A long, hard season was telling, though, when she finished down the field in the 2014 Arc.

I expect her to improve big time for her comeback run, which in itself was a strong performance. But fitness wise she’ll be better today, and she’ll certainty enjoy the sound surface- the good draw is a bonus. Tapestry is a smart, genuine filly, not the likeliest winner, of course, but has plenty of good things on her side, so at 40/1 I have to say she is more likely to outrun her price tag than not.

Erupt: A three year old colt with strong course and distance form; he is the reigning champ of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris….. and you get 25’s? WOW! I guess he was an even bigger price earlier this week, nonetheless, this us huge, considering that this price tag is seemingly based on a poor showing in the Prix Niel.

Okay, he was easily beaten by New Bay that day, but the ground was very soft. It’s a different scenario today. The good ground will surely make all the difference to Erupt’s performance and with a perfect draw in 4 he’s very likely to find himself in an excellent position when the field turns for home.

Once he hits top gear, he can be difficult to peg back. He may not have shown his absolute best yet, either. There is a possibility for him improving, again. That says I’m pretty confident to see him finish at least in the top five.

What else? Well, Golden Horn, of course! The Derby and Irish Champion Stakes winner is an intriguing contender. Personally I’m worried about the draw. He’ll have to be extra special to overcome it and to beat Treve.

French Derby winner New Bay is touted to be the biggest danger for Treve. But is he? The fast ground is a clear question mark in my eyes. He has a super draw, though. I do look forward to see whether he can translate his excellent form and talent to this different surface. No excuses being drawn in five, that’s for sure. But honestly, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Summery: Treve will win. I want to see her doing it. Make history, love. I don’t think the ground is too much of an inconvenience. She’ll be fine. If she gets a clear passage, she’s pulverizing this field. If not, well, then I hope quite selfishly, one of my two fancies can sneak in.

Erupt @ 25/1 Betfred – 5pts Win 
Tapestry @ 40/1 Racebets – 5pts Win