Tag Archives: Review

2017 Melbourne Cup – When You Get It Right!

And so it happened: “…screams of joy when Rekindling strolls over the line as the winner of the 2017 Melbourne Cup!”

This warm feeling deep inside when you get it right. For once. Finally. Pure joy. Well, in the grand scheme of things it’s just another race. Money in, money out of the bank. But then it isn’t. Cause it’s the Melbourne Cup!

The race that stops a nation.

It really does. Take a look at this incredible graph. Money simply stops flowing during the time the horses thunder down Flemington Racecourse.

The buildup to the race was massive. It always is. it soaks me right in. Goosebumps. They do it so well over there. It feels special. Feels like you witness a World Cup Final.

That’s the thing: the Melbourne Cup is not the best race in the world. Far from it. It’s a glorified Handicap after all. But know what? It FEELS like it’s the one and only race that really matters on the planet!

The perfect ride…

Corey Brown you star! Here you saw why it pays off to have a local jockey booked. True, Rekindling had the perfect draw and got all the breaks when needed. Others didn’t. But that’s also credit to the man on board. He’s got to make the crucial decisions.

He could have hurried Rekindling up right after the start. He didn’t. He let him settle, wasted as little energy as possible. Knowing he was in a good spot, right on the rail. Saving valuable meters while safely covered by the field. He let the colt go with the flow.

Rekindling didn’t seem to know he was in a race until approaching the home turn, when Brown steered him through an opening gap, following the incredibly well travelling Johannes Vermeer.

Once in the clear, asked for full effort, Rekindling was never going to stop. He stays the two miles, chasing down Johannes Vermeer who went into unknown territory. He stayed too, mind you. But was maybe a tick too early in front. And of course the weight. He carried 3kg more. At the end of a premier staying contest this can and did make all the difference.

For a three year old to win the Cup – particularly for a pony that Rekindling is, compared to some other much more imposing rivals in the field – it was a special achievement. Not a surprise to me. Cause I told ya!

Can he do it again?

Enough the self-praise. It’s fair to say Rekindling got the run of his life. Everything worked. Everything! Pinch perfect. Can he do it again? Honestly I doubt it.

If he attempts to defend his crown – and why wouldn’t he – he’ll have to do it with an awful lot more weight on his back.

As mentioned before, Rekindling is rather smallish in stature. There is not a massive frame to fill any further. No WFA for him next year. The handicapper will put him up. Probably not as perfect a draw as this year? Gaps may not open when he needs it? It’ll be a difficult task.

The unlucky ones…

Arguably two individuals I feel were incredibly unlucky not to finish closer were Max Dynamite and  Nakeeta. Willie Mullins’ raider had a lot going for himself in terms of draw and position throughout the race.

The runner-up of the 2015 Cup, however, was asked for a big effort turning for home, in an attempt to get first run on the chasing pack. That move seemed smart, yet came to an abrupt end approaching the home straight. For a couple of strides Max Dynamite had nowhere to go, lost valuable momentum and ground.

Would he have won with a clear passage? Maybe not. But he sure would have gone closer than he already did. Finishing in third.

Obviously the case of Nakeeta is an easy one. A rather poor draw, far back in the field, still way closer to trailing the entire field than winning with 500 meters to go – he really had to work his way through the field and maneuvering around tiring horses. An impossible task.

The fact he finished 5th speaks volumes of how far this years Ebor winner has come. Honorary mention also to the 6th finishing Thomas Hobson. He was another one who had an awful lot to do – too much.

Have a look here: This birds-eye-view tells the story of the race in the most compelling way. It shows impressively how and why the first the first four home were all drawn between stall two and five. It shows how difficult if not impossible it was to make up ground from the back of the field and how a wide draw compromised chances to a minimum.

It shows why Rekindling enjoyed the run of his life. A first Melbourne Cup success for Joseph O’Brien. Something his father never achieved and was denied once more – this time only by his own son.

Photo Credit: RTE.ie

Cheltenham Festival 2015 – As It Happend…

It is over! Yes, Cheltenham is over, indeed. We have to wait another (loooong) twelve month until it is alive again. But see it this way: If Cheltenham would be on every week, it wouldn’t be as special as it is. And boy, was this last week special, wasn’t it?! It had it all: Memorable triumphs, dramatic finishes, outstanding horses, magical rides and real Championship races. Relieve the action again – as it happened…..

Day 1 – Tuesday: All about the roar of the crowd – it’s the opening day of the Festival! Four Grade 1’s on the card, probably the finest day of racing the whole year. The big story of course was the potential Willie Mullins four-timer which would have resulted in a major loss for bookmakers. This wasn’t a long-shot. In fact it looked very likely to happen when Annie Power approached the last obstacle in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Punters and bookies alike were holding their breath. Annie was clear and just needed a decent jump to win. But as we know now, she crashed! She got seemingly confused by the shadows and jumped them instead the real obstacle. A fall literally at the last hurdle, saved the bookies millions, and cost punters dearly.

Earlier that day, Douvan opened the Festival with an authoritative triumph in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Un De Sceaux followed with an impressive success in the Arkle. Faugheen landed Tuesdays feature, the Champion Hurdle – living up to all the hype surrounding him. It was a clean sweep for the Irish and Willie Mullins, as not only did he train the winner, but also the runner-up Arctic Fire and of course world-record breaking Hurricane Fly, who finished a gallant third! The New One in contrast wasn’t quick enough. Jezki not good enough.

Day 2 – Wednesday: The readily improving Windsor Park provided renowned flat trainer Dermot Weld with a Cheltenham win in the Neptune Novice’s Hurdle. Davy Russell with a brilliant front-running ride. Don Poli, thought to be one of the bankers of the meeting, obliged duly in the RSA Chase and was rapidly installed as favourite for next years Gold Cup.

The Champion Chase was all about Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre – even or maybe because both didn’t run to their formerly best and were beaten a long way. Sprinter Sacre in particular looked a finished horse and retirement is looming. Sire De Grugy’s legs weren’t quite quick enough and the form horse Dodging Bullets landed the odds.

Day 3 – Thursday: What can you say…. Vautour on a different planet! He demolished classy opposition in the JLT and proved all doubters wrong. His jumping was spot on, maybe the best round of jumping around the testing Cheltenham course we’ve seen in a long time. Gold Cup next year for him.

A winner for AP McCoy is a winner for racing. A perfectly judged front-running ride on long-shot Uxizandre meant McCoy wouldn’t end his Festival career without a winner. It was emotional for anyone involved and just what was needed. A long-shot also got up in the World Hurdle. Cole Harden made all from the front too. Clearly improved since a wind operation, he fend off the challenge from favourite Saphir Du Rheu.

Day 4 – Friday: Gold Cup Day, and it’s all about the big race, indeed! Paul Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti was the favourite – he had the form in the book thanks to his impressive King George triumph. But his failures at recent Festivals made him look vulnerable. Willie Mullins saddled progressive stayer Djakadam; former Galway Plate and Lexus Chase winner Road To Riches was another Irish runner with fine chances. Hennessy winner Many Clouds and novice Coneygree were well fancied UK rivals.

The race itself turned into a procession of jumping and determination. They said novices can’t win the Gold Cup. Well, they can! Connections of Coneygree were bold in making the decision to let him take his chance in the biggest race of the Festival – and that proved to be the right one. The rapidly improving novice made all from the front. He out-jumped his more experienced rivals and he galloped relentlessly, having more than half of the field on the stretch a long way before the finish. Jumping the last with his ears pricked, this Coneygree was jumping for fun and out-battled the few rivals which were still with him on the legendary Cheltenham hill toward the finish line.

A simply sensational performance. But credit to Road To Riches as well, who was never to far off Coneygree and stuck well to the task. He finished a very creditable 3rd while Djakadam stayed on in second. Silviniaco Conti was beaten when the leading pack turned for home, five runners had to be pulled up, including last years winner Lord Windermere. That shows how ferocious the pace was, set by Coneygree.

Number of the week: 13 – A draw between England and Ireland. Thirteen winners apiece. Though Willie Mullins was responsible for the majority of the Irish winners. He could celebrate a record eight times in the winners circle.

Ride Of the week: Davy Russell on Rivage D’or in the Cross Country Chase – A super confident ride and perfectly judged by the former Irish Champion jockey on the 16-1 outsider. Russell sat quietly on his mount, making up ground gradually, patiently waiting to ask Rivage D’or for everything when it really mattered. Not many can ride Cheltenham better than Russell.

Betting: If you would have followed all bets on this blog throughout the Festival week, you would be a whopping 132pts in the green! To give this figure some context: If one point of your betting bank would be €10, you’d have made €1320.00 this week with my selections. Not too shabby for a week’s work in the office! Highlights were of course Martello Tower on Friday, who got up at 14/1 SP in a dramatic finish. As well as Rivage D’or in the Cross Country, which was tipped at 20/1.

Future Outlook: What a massive Gold Cup we could have on our hands next year. Vautour and Don Poli looked both very special and are heading the ante-post market already, with Coneygree expected to try and defend his crown. Throw in Djakadam and Road To Riches who could both still improve a bit, and we have a race for the ages!

Willie Mullins was the utterly dominating force during the week and quotes of 20/1 are out for him to take all four major races at the Festvial next year – that’s the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, World Hurdle and the Gold Cup. I’ve seen worse long-shots to be honest!

Saturday Highlights

It’s been a busy Saturday racing wise. Top class National Hunt in the UK, rounded up by excellent Graded action over in the US during the night – can a racing fan ask for more? Well, I don’t think so! But hey, let’s quickly reflect on the key points from yesterday…

Coneygree could win a Gold Cup – sooner or later!

You will have seen my preview of the Denman Chase (I hope!) – a really exciting renewal of this Grade 1 at Newbury yesterday. It shaped to be a cracker beforehand, and it turned out to be quite a noteworthy race in the end, indeed! However, none could have foreseen what really happened.

As I stated in my preview, I was extremely sweet on the chance of Novice Coneygree. Lightly raced, a smart hurdler, taking extremely well to fences. An exciting prospect, that is was he was and after yesterday certainly is. He was so impressive at Kempton, such a good, relentless galloper with big potential, when winning the Kauto Star Novice Chase. But yesterday, he brought it to another level. Taking on some really talented, tough & experienced chasers, he jumped off in front and literally ran them into the ground. Turning for home he had the whole bunch sitting in his neck. They were all poised to take him on. Waiting for him to tire and fade. It was the ultimate real test for his class. What would he have left to offer in the home straight? Well, an awful lot, it turned out! He prevailed. Easily. Jumping well, not slowing down, just galloping strongly to the line. It was a demolition job and resulted in a breathtaking seven lengths success in the end. Coneygree has the “WOW factor”! So question is now: Arkle or Gold Cup – what’s next?

Grugy’s return a jumping error

Staying with jump racing for the moment: Saturday was the day we saw last years Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy back after his long injury absence. He clearly didn’t look his old best unfortunately, his jumping wasn’t good, he blundered badly at the fourth last and jumped the third last even worse, eventually unseating jockey Jamie Moore. That says the Champion Chase is up for grabs now. Grugy disappointed, so did Sprinter Sacre on his respective seasonal debut. Will both improve towards Cheltenham? Sure, they will. Will they be ever as good and dominant as they used to be in the past? Unlikely.  Un De Sceaux. it’s all yours – if you want…

Dortmund plays it well in California

Over to the US and a brilliant card at Santa Anita. Usually at this time of the year, we have to start talking about the Derby – the Kentucky Derby I mean! And I do really wonder: Have we seen the Derby winner at Santa Anita yesterday? Because there is this extremely good looking colt, called Dortmund (how appropriately named, knowing how poorly the once famous German football club of the same named town is playing in the Bundesliga at the moment), who started into his classic season the same way as he ended the last year: with a gutsy performance, landing the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a late surge! This should be a stepping stone for him towards the Derby. Admittedly, I was already mightily impressed with his attitude, presence and long stride when getting up late in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes in December. A son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, he should have the right pedigree and the way he races suggests the Derby trip will suit. He’s currently trading as the 10/1 ante-post favourite….

Not quite #TheRematch

Shared Belief made it look easy in the end, when effectively eased down before crossing the line as the clear winner of what was branded as ‪#‎TheRematch‬. He beat California Chrome by 1 1/2 lengths in the San Antonio Invitational. Shared Belief got a perfect start this time – unlike in the Breeders Cup Classic – tracked Chrome’s every move, and Mike Smith was probably rubbing his hands when Espinoza let Chrome lose – a bit too early I thought actually. That played into the hands of Shared Belief, who, once looming alongside Chrome in the home straight, went easily past him. Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity ran a fine 3rd, but was never really able to challenge the two big guns. Reflecting on this race, I believe both, Shared Belief and California Chrome will come on for this run. Chrome is going to Dubai and will do well there. He has a chance to win the Dubai World Cup. But only if Shared Belief doesn’t go down the same route. Chrome could then be heading for Europe and some of the good turf races in England. Surly it would be interesting to see how he fares over here.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Oh before I forget: It’s nice to have a bit of punting success lately again. Coneygree went off a 15/8 favourite. If you followed me, you would have got 7/2, which turned out to be a huge price, as we know now. Also Shared Belief went off the evens favourite, I got him at 7/4 as advised. It wasn’t quite 3/3 yesterday. Ballista ran a cracker at Lingfield, made all, and would the winning post come a couple of yards earlier, he would have won. A narrowly denied third is what he ended up.

What’s on the tab today

Well, I could write a long essay about what all the great racing today. But I believe, sometimes an image can speak for thousand words. So just look at this below – I don’t think I need to say more!

hennessy