Yep, it’s hard to believe, but it’s March again and Cheltenham is literally just around the corner! Next week were’ already discussing the big races, fallen favourites and hopefully some surprising & heart-warming stories. It’s a shame, I can’t make it this year. I broke my Cheltenham maiden tag last year, and it was absolutely amazing. Tuesday with club enclosure was the perfect race day. Top class racing action, big crowd but not that it felt uncomfortable, and some lovely warm spring sun shining down into this natural amphitheatre . It’ll be a shaky stream at work this time, and replays on TV afterwards (no need to cry for me – I’ll be going to the Grand National instead!).
VIEW: Our Photo Gallery – Cheltenham Festival 2014
The formerly in Ireland trained Designs On Rome has rapidly become one of the best middle distance horses in the world. Since he left Pat Flynn’s yard to start a new career in Hong Kong, he has nothing but improved. Now a three time Group 1 winner in overseas, he’ll be one of the favourites for the Sheema Classic on Meydan’s World Cup night. And rightly so. He won the prestigious Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup in very taking style on Sunday morning UK time. Having it all to do turning for home, he had come from the widest travelling welloff the pace for most parts of the race, but was simply too good for his rivals, mainly old foe Military Attack.
It was Gauteng Guineas day at Turffontein, South Africa, on Saturday. You may have seen my previews for both the fillies’ and boys’ races. They promised allot and didn’t disappoint, though it was slightly surprising to see both races won by very convincing winners – that says it wasn’t the usual bunched up finished! Siren’s Call took the Fillies Guineas in style of a really good horse. She’s a hardly filly with the touch of class. Harry’s Son overcame all troubles in preparation to the big race and proved far too good for the opposition in the boys’s Guineas. Last seasons champion two year old will now try to go on to win the Triple Crown before he’ll be on the move to Dubai for next years Carnival.
Gauteng Guineas – Winner: Harry’s Son:
Gateng Fillies Guineas – Winner: Siren’s Call:
It’s not news to readers of this blog that I‘m a big fan of Bob Baffert’s colt Dortmund – who is my pick for the Kentucky Derby. It was pleasing, though also kind of odd to a certain extent,to hear Baffert talking about Dortmund, following a workout at Santa Anita: “His last two works have really been his best works. I think the light finally went on. I think he’s finally figuring out how he’s supposed to do it.” Mind you Baffert is talking about a Grade 1 winner, who is currently trading as the co-favourite for the Derby. One has to wonder, if Dortmund has been able to win all these races before without ‘the light on’, how much more improvement could potentially come from this extremely good looking colt?!
Eye-Catcher of the Weekend
Sundays card at Geyville, South Africa, was largely low grade stuff. With the exception of a fair Graduation plate, which saw 2013 champion two year old Kochka back on track for his second run after a long injury related lay-off. The four year old colt ran on well on his comeback run and has clearly grown physically into a brute of a horse. He was the clear favourite today to beat rivals below his natural class and for that reason he was our banker of the day. As expected, Kochka finished the job, even though it was slightly more thrilling than I as a punter would have like it. Which was very much the down to the very confident and light ride the big colt was given. Kochka itself is a horse to keep in mind when he steps up in trip again. 1.200m is too short against better opposition, but he is clearly back and should be a force over a mile.
My eye-catcher of the week ran in the very same race. The three year old Saratoga Dancer Saratoga Dancer, officially rated a low 78 rated, finished a fine third, less than two lengths beaten by Kochka, who is 105 rated, and runner-up Nineteen Fourteen who is a fair measure stick at 88 and clearly ran to form. Saratoga Dancer only received 3.5kg and 0.5kg respectivelly by these much higher rated individuals, yet he was able to finish so close. He is still lightly raced, was back from a break today and probably needs further. Not to mention that he got an odd ride, was never touched and still finished as close as he did. Let’s see what the handicapper does next But I suspect that Saratoga Dancer, once up in trip again, will be a big runner regardless of where he pops up next. .