Tag Archives: Royal Ascot

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.

Royal Ascot Wednesday

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

Royal Ascot is upon us…. and I missed day one. Just returned from a three week long trip around Australia, work was calling on Monday right away and left no room for any form study, neither yesterday. Without a proper study I don’t throw bucks on the nags and rather enjoy the replays of the big races.

None bigger than the curtain raiser on the opening Tuesday which is the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes – somehow in my mind  the World Cup final for milers!

Maybe because I call myself Paco Boy’s Nr. 1 fan. His triumph in 2009 was such a special, memorable, eye-catching and simply beautiful performance – it left a lasting mark on me.

So of course I was keen to see who’d get up in this years renewal. Ribchester the big favourite after landing the Lockinge in superb style. Not quite as impressive this time, but in the end with authority, the Godolphin inmate ran all his rivals down.

Only one of many brilliant performances on the day. Lady Aurelia bolting up in the King’s Stand and Barney Roy got his first Group 1 win under the belt, while Churchill found this possibly one too many a race.

……

2.30 Ascot: Jersey Stakes, Group 3, 7 furlongs

A hot race that will inevitably end up in a split of the field I believe – pace drawn close to both sides of the rails should ensure a fair enough contest…. hopefully.

It’s hard to make a call what site to favour and what eventually happens in this race, but on pure form you have to very keen on French raider Le Brivido, runner-up in the French Guineas. Drawn in ten he will have every opportunity to make a choice but might early on and no doubt with only two starts to his name he looks bound to improve.

However I fancy second favourite Dream Castle a lot. Drawn in 19 could be a problem, but doesn’t have to be. Fact is this son of Frankel is riddled with talent as he showed on debut when winning impressively, followed up by an incredibly eye-catching performance in the Greenham.

He was argubly unlucky in the 2000 Guineas subsequently and clearly is better than the bare results suggests. He pulled in the first half of the race, was then hampered and a clear run denied at a crucial stage, yet finished strongly.

He has had only three career starts, so there is every chance for more to come as the fast ground and the drop to 7f won’t be a problem, in fact a fast race over this sort of trip should be ideal.

Selection:
10pts win – Dream Castle @ 4/1 Bet365

……

4.20 Ascot: Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Group 1, 1m 2f

Despite the trip possibly short of his optimum, Highland Reel from the front over 10f on fast ground at Ascot could be difficult to peg back, I feel. He a high-class individual and bounced back to his best in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

I feel his biggest challange won’t come from Jack Hobbs, who got the better of him in Dubai because the drop in trip in combination of quick ground is a much clearer disadvantage for the 2015 derby runner-up in my mind at least.

Most likely to enjoy these conditions is Sir Michael’s classy Galileo colt Ulysses, though. His seasonal reappearance at Sandown was pleasing and the form franked by runner-up Deauville.

He’s yet to score at the highest level however had his fare share of problems which means after eight career starts he might still be able to find a bit of improvement. I’m slightly concerned about him being too far off the pace in this race, on the other hand – but that’s the risk to take.

Selection: 
10pts win – Ulysses @ 4/1 Bet365

Preview: 2017 Hong Kong Derby

Sunday morning 8.35 – it’s time for the 2017 renewal of the Hong Kong Derby. The winner will net a cool £1,1 million! Local horses are favoured to land the odds with a red hot favourite seemingly unbeatable – yet I do strongly fancy a fresh UK import.

The favourite: Odds-on and very well fancied – with some experts claiming he’s nearly unbeatable in the Derby – the exciting Rapper Dragon ticks plenty of the right boxes, indeed.

Still unbeaten this season and a winner of both the Classic Mile and the Classic Cup as part of the Four Year Old Classic Series, he created a big impression and build up a reputation of being incredibly versatile and owning a trademark turn of foot.

The form book says Rapper Dragon is probably hard to beat tomorrow, even more so as he has been allotted a perfect draw. But he is a very short price and has yet to prove his stamina over the 2.000 meter trip.

His sire Street Boss is not necessarily known for stamina so if there is at least a small home in Rapper Dragon’s chance then it must be this one. However that only has a real impact if the race is a strong run one, which we can’t be sure of.

Main Contenders: Nonetheless there is some fair opposition on hand to make life difficult for the favourite. Exciting Pakistan Star is a real crowd favourite. An honest, fast finishing son of Shamardal out of a 1m2f Listed race winning mare, he may improve for the step up in trip, but will need to have things fall right for him from a wide draw.

Eagle Way had a rough ride in the Classic Cup and might be better than the fourth place finish. Former UK based Booming Delight has excelled in Hong Kong since his move last summer. He won three on the trot lately. Ex-Australian Beauty Generation has a bit too find on recent form but could easily improve for the trip.

The one I do strongly fancy is another UK import, however, one who’s still a somewhat unknown quantity in Hong Kong: Gold Mount (ex-Primitivo). He was always ahead of the handicapper in Britain, winning impressively at Royal Ascot a strong Handicap.

He showed versatility during his time in Britain, given he won from 1 1/2m to 1m 4f on soft to good to firm ground and particularly in his last two starts at Sandown and Ascot he produced a nice turn of foot, though hanging badly in the closing stages.

Clearly a raw talent, he moved subsequently to Hong Kong where he was relatively unfancied on debut in a hot handicap over seemingly too short 1.600m. He was outpaced on the home turn an then got stuck in traffic, switched by Mosse to the inside rail, a move that cost momentum, but regained control quickly and thundered home in impressive style.

There is no doubt that he should come on leaps and bounds for the run and more improvement is expected for the step up to a more suitable trip like the Derby’s 2.000 meter.

He’s got a half decent draw but his running style means he may need a bit of in-running luck. Granted he gets a run through I’m hopeful he’s good enough to be thereabouts.

Longshot: Far below the pecking order but a horse not to underestimate is Helene Charisma at odds around 33’s – a huge price for a French Group 1 winner, though in three starts he hasn’t quite fired at Hong Kong yet. That is somehow explainable over trips too short and on unsuitable fast ground.

There are positives taken from his last start though, when upped to 2.000m for the first time in Hong Kong and only a lengths beaten in fifth by Booming Delight. He encountered an absolute nightmare run but still finished as well as he did.

The ground is likely not going to be all that fast as it was the last two times, that must be a positive. His wide draw may or may not be  negative, as he may encounter a less troubled passage actually, with the opportunity to come with a sweeping run on the outside to catch the leaders making his stamina in abundance count.

Selection:
10pts win – Gold Mount @ 11/1 Unibet
5pts win – Helene Charisma @ 33/1 Unibet

Big Race Preview: Juddmonte International

Wings-of-desire

It shouldn’t feel easy to oppose a horse with an ultra impressive record reading something like 11-111 for the last five starts. Even more when those wins came in either Group 1 or 2 company. It shouldn’t be easy…..

But it is! Postponed, red hot favourite to land the Juddmonte International today, developed into a serious world-class horse, no doubt. He’s going to be a prime contender to win an Arc this year,should connections opt to go down this route.

That’s the future – but what about today? Well, I’m leaning wide out of the window – potentially making a fool of myself – nonetheless I have to say Postponed should not be clear cut favourite today. He really shouldn’t!

See it this way: except for a maiden success, Postponed has actually never won below 11 furlongs – in fact all his wins on Group level came over one mile and half a furlong!

He’s not a slow horse. And yes, given his impressive performances lately, it appears that he could well have enough pace to be competitive over 1m 2f – yet he simply hasn’t shown it in the past – or at least it was never good enough to get his head in front.

Now, he looked super impressive in the Coronation Cup at Epsom. Naturally that form should give him a major chance. One the other hand I feel the drop down to 10 furlongs at flat York on fast ground is an entirely different test. He’s meeting some speedier sorts and I suspect he’s get rolling way too late.

So if not Postponed, who then? Well, Globetrotter Highland Reel must play a big role. He is not a flashy superstar by all means, but developed into a consistent top level performer.

He’s excelled over 12 furlongs lately, though I believe he has enough pace to ensure a drop in trip is no big deal. Let’s not forget Highland Reel won the Goodwood Vintage Stakes over seven furlongs as a juvenile, where he produced a stunning turn of foot.

However the most likely winner of the race is Godolphin’s Hawkbill. His Coral Eclipse success, subsequently franked by The Gurkha in the Sussex Stakes, is the strongest piece of form on offer in this field over the 10 furlongs trip.

As a three year old with weight for age advantage he must have a tremendous chance – as long as he acts on fast ground. As a son of Kitten’s Joy you would think he’s got no issues with that.

However looking closer, Kitten’s Joy offspring actually has not been all that successful on fast ground in the UK over the years. Only 9.6% of his daughters and sons won races and even less of those won on fast ground over 10 furlongs.

John Gosden’s Wings of Desire gets another chance today to prove he is a proper Group 1 horse. The Dante Stakes winner and Derby fourth was far from disgraced in second place behind Highland Reel at Royal Ascot but seemed not to get home over 12 furlongs – so dropping him back in trip is a positive.

I feel this is his best chance to win a Group 1 to date. In fact today he really has to show what he’s made of. No excuses. He has to improve a bit, of course, but with conditions very likely to suit, he has every chance to find the bit of improvement needed to challenge hard.

Interesting side note: Wings Of Desire is a son of Pivotal, whose offspring performs incredibly well over this trip and ground at York – a small sample size it is, but a 60% win- and 100% place strike rate in pattern races seems significant.

Anyone else with a chance? Well, you can’t rule out Mutakayyef. He won two on the bounce and tries to bring this form to the highest level now. Dariyan has been disappointing lately, but on his best, could finish in the money.

That says at the prices, I think Wings of Desire is the most compelling bet in the race. I really do expect him to run a huge race.

Selection: Wings Of Desire @ 12/1 Ladbrokes

———-

Best of the Rest:

2.20 Chepstow: Island In The Sky @ 7/4 Skybet
2.30 York: Courage Under Fire @ 7/1 Bet365
2.45 Carlisle: Senator @ 5/6 Skybet
2.55 Chepstow: Hidden Stash @ 11/4 Bet365
3.30 Chepstow: Curriculum @ 11/8 Coral
4.55 York: Kamra @ 16/1 Bet365
7.40 Kempton: Certified @ 9/1 Bet365
8.40 Kempton: Saborido @ 14/1 Bet365

Photo: Britishchampionseries.com/Racingfotos.com

Preview – Pretty Polly Stakes Day

DSC_0745

No, that wasn’t the most enjoyable day at the Curragh yesterday. No luck with my selections; in addition the lashing rain, wind and not enough bartenders in the members bar…. nonetheless it was good to be there to see the star that is Jack Hobbs. It was only appropriate that he produced a magical performance to win the 150th Irish Derby.

What’s on the tab today? Of course the Pretty Polly Stakes. A deep field for this years renewal, maybe an even better race than the Irish Derby? A bit disappointing that the Group 3 International Stakes attracted only three runners; in general it is a quality day of racing, though.

3.20 Curragh: Handicap (60-90), 7f

I would duly expect Aiden O’Brien’s Cenotaph to show dramatic improvement for the drop in trip. This War Front son has pace but didn’t stay 10f the other day. He’s potentially on a lenient mark. But this is very much reflected in the short price, and therefore I’m pting for a bit of value, which is to find in another potentially well handicapped horse.

Doc Holliday is probably not the most prolific horse but he drops to a handy mark today. He wasn’t disgraced in two starts on the All-Weather this year, although a mile seems to stretch his stamina. That says his 1½ fourth in a ultra competitive 1m Handicap here at the Curragh last October rates extremely strong form.

The drop to 7 furlongs is today seems perfect. He has been successful over course and distance last season of a 1lb lower mark. But with the apprentice allowance of 5lb in hand, he’s certainly well in at the weights.

Doc Holliday @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

————

3.55 Curragh: Grangecon Stud Stakes (Fillies’ Group 3), 6f

An exciting and hot race for juvenile fillies. The first four in the market are all top class prospects. David Wachman’s Most Beautiful made a big impression at Naas the other day when beating subsequent Norfolk Stakes winner Waterloo Bridge. He’s pacey and may try to make all.

Never underestimate Richard Hannon’s two year olds; his Great Page looks an exciting individual indeed. Same can be said about Miss Katie Mae. Trainer Ger Lyons is particularly sweet on her.

Don’t understimate Miss Elisabeth. Probably not quite as sexy as the other three fillies, she was a cheep purchase and hasn’t the impressive looks; she could be the real deal nonetheless.

I loved the way she beat the boys the last two times. On her debut at Fairyhouse, cool as a cucumber going through the narrowest of gaps. And impressive the next time, when despite missing the break and giving loads of ground away, she was still able to produce a stunning turn of foot to win easily. It’s excellent form, given that the runner-up did beat Royal Ascot winner Washington Dc earlier this year…

So, while I find it difficult to split the four mentioned fillies, the prices dictate my decision. On that basis it’s Miss Elisabeth who is overpriced here.

Miss Elisabeth @ 7/1 Bet365 – 5pts Win

————

Pretty Polly Stakes (Fillies’ Group 1), 1m 2f

In short: I struggle to see how Legatissimo can be beaten if things go normal. If she isn’t over the boil after being on the go for while, there are no excuses today and she’ll win. She is by far the best horse in the race. As the impressive 1000 Guineas winner and unlucky runner-up in the Oaks, the drop to 10f will be ideal, in fact it is probably her optimum trip.

Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Pleascach looks not quite in the same league, and didn’t have much time to recover from Royal Ascot, anyway. It’s a tough ask. Diamondsandrubies shouldn’t be quick enough over this trip.

From the older horses, of course rapidly improving Brooch is an exciting rival. She could be Group 1 class, but may struggle to give an awful lot of weight away to the other three year olds, in particular Legatissimo. That should decisive in the end.

 Legatissimo @ 13/8 – 10pts Win

————

5.00 Curragh: Handicap (3YO plus), 5f

Progressive Kimbay gets the nod in this ultra competitive sprint handicap. This filly is clearly on the upward this year. She didn’t quite get home on her seasonal debut her at the Curragh over 6f but didn’t make any mistake subsequently when dropped to fife furlongs at Tipperary.

She has a 100% record over this trip (4/4) and might be able to pull out a bit more once again in order to overcome a new career highest mark.

Kimbay @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

————

5.30 Curragh: Curragh Cup (group 3), 1m 6f

Favourite Forgotten Rules takes all the beating over this trip which will suit better than Royal Ascot last week. The overnight rain will have helped his cause too, as quick ground is not what he wants. But it’s drying once again today, so that is a slight concern as well the hard race he had only last week.

Bondi Beach looks the biggest danger. He has a fair chance to improve for this new trip which he is entitled to stay. Still very lightly raced, he is open to any kind of progress. He was unlucky when last seen at Leopardstown in a Listed event over 12f as he didn’t get a clear run locked on the inside rail.

But only on his third ever career start today, he deserves a shot at this Group 3. I feel he’s a bit of a price against the red hot favourite – too big a price to ignore.

Bondi Beach @ 9/1 Coral – 5pts Win

————

6.00 Curragh: Handicap (60-90), 1m 2f

Maskoon hasn’t exactly been in sparkling form this year but he looks seriously well handicapped today judged on his best. He tries 10f for a second time in his life, a trip he should stay on pedigree, although he found 12f too far and 1m with big weights too fast.

So today’s test might be inch perfect, given he is now down to a mark off 83 plus the additional advantage of a 5lb claimer in the saddle. he was a strong third off 92  in a big Curragh handicap last season and showed already some form off 88 this year.

Maskoon @ 14/1 Betfred – 5pts Win

Due Diligence to conquer the Diamond Jubilee

Due Diligence

Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)

The Aussie colt is a big runner for obvious reasons. He may well be too good. But Due Diligence looks a tasty price, given that he is the one in this field with the real potential of massive improvement in him. We clearly haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Due Diligence was runner-up in this very same race last year. It’s not an easy task for three year olds to race against seasoned top class sprinters, so this was a massive performance. Off the track until his reappearance at the Curragh in April, he didn’t run particularly well but wasn’t right that day as it turned out soon after.

Back to sprinting, with quick ground and a fast pace very likely to suit, one can expect him to peak here today, given how Aiden’s run this week. If he can improve from his three year old form, he has a massive chance to go as close as it gets.

Due Diligence @ 13/2 Coral – 5pts Win

Preview: Royal Ascot – Friday Selections

Home Of The Brave

King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2)

Ol’ Man River is hugely talented but something has been amiss this year; tongue-strap is fitted now. He looked like as horse with breathing problems, so this gear can help sometimes. But I’m concerned, and not prepared to back him at short odds.

Favourite Stravagante was seriously well handicapped at Epsom, steps up in Grade here and has surely more to offer. Not so sure, though, whether he really wants this trip. Ballydoyle’s second string Father Christmas is seriously well bred but not for 12f. That says he looked slow over shorter. Festive Affair and Balios may not appreciate the step up in trip. Magic Dancer should have the stamina but also has loads to find on form.

I give John Gosden’s Mr Singh another chance. He looked potentially smart when winning a hot Handicap at Newbury. Subsequently disappointing at Goodwood, which was a strange race. He was green that day, and the form looks good with the winner a subsequent Derby third. He needs pace and fast ground. Second point is given, first one unclear. Trip looks fine.

Mr Singh @ 12/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win 

———–

Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)

Couple of fascinating runners here. Obviously speedy Hootenanny is well fancied. Won at Royal Ascot last year and proved to stay a mile at the Breeders Cup. How good he’s coming back as a three year old dropping back in trip, we’ll see. His prep run against very poor opposition didn’t tell us anything. Tongue tied for the first time, I’d be slightly concerned.

Another clash between Anthem Alexander and Tiggy Wiggy. Both with good form this year. I feel the Hannon filly is the slightly better one. Her 1000 Guineas run is a massive performance, given the sectionals she clocked. She might be fighting with Hootenanny for the lead though. Let’s see how that works out.

I restrict myself to one bet in this race and that has to be Home Of The Brave. Mentioned him as an unlikely eye-catcher after the 2000 Guineas. He failed to stay the mile which is no surprise given his pedigree but ran with loads of credit. He confirmed his excellent Listed success over 7f on his seasonal reapperance when he clocked a very fast time. He run the last three furlongs in hand stopped 33.80s and did that easily – this lad has serious speed!

Drawn towards the rail in box two, have to wait and see how it pans out with so much pace on the other side. But I’ve no concerns about the in trip and think there is a huge performance due.

Home Of The Brave @ 18/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

———–

Coronation Stakes (Fillies’ Group 1)

People makes excuses for Found; a bit too many for my liking. This is tougher than the Irish Guineas in my mind and she is a silly price in my book.

The French filly Ervedya was a second behind her last year in a big Group 1, but ridden differently now and more mature, I’m sure she’s the better one. She won the French 1000 Guineas in utterly impressive style. Ground is the issue, though. Nothing in her form nor pedigree suggests that she wants it fast.

That’s the opposite for Bolger’s Lucida. Her runner-up effort in the 1000 Guineas was a monster performance. She fell out out of the gates but travelled well, made a bit too much too early and therefore hit the front too early. Nonetheless she went just down to Legatissimo, no disgrace to finish 2nd, well clear of the rest of the field. The winner in contrast had the run of the race, covered all the time, with gaps opening at the right time.

The sectionals confirmed how strong Lucida’s run was. On another day when things are not working to the textbook for the winner, she’s going to prevail easily. If she can follow on from the Guineas, here with conditions to suit, she’s hard to beat.

Lucida @ 7/2 Ladbrokes – 5pts Win

———–

Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 Handicap)

Dabadiyan is a huge price and rightly so judged on his recent form – but less than 12 month ago he was still able to be competitive in Listed company. Before that he had a rather decent stint at Meydan. He was competitive in Handicaps of big marks and even finished with loads of credit in two Group 2’s.

Quick ground and 12f seems ideal for him judged on his best. A mark of 100 looks still high enough but if he can find back to form he’s able to run a race. I expect him to overcome his draw and to be very prominent. Since he stays a bit further as well he might be still there when others are really hurt. He might as well finish stone last.

Dabadiyan @ 66/1 Ladbrokes – 2.5pts E/W

———–

Queen’s Vase (Listed)

Very hard to know who’s going to stay this trip, However I’m pretty certain that Star Rider won’t lack the stamina for 2 miles; she might however lack class. But lightly raced she is, done well to win a Chelmsford maiden over 13.5f, found the drop in trip not what she needs at Goodwood subsequently. On rating she has loads to find, but there is stamina all over her pedigree.

Star Rider @ 66/1 Ladbrokes – 2.5pts E/W