With the rain arriving at Windsor turning the going soft Firenze Rosa encounters ideal conditions over the minimum trip today. The handicapper has been kind enough to drop her mark to 53 since her latest – I felt – eye catching run over the same CD.
There she travelled pretty well until about the halfway stage. Was then stuck behind horses. Briefly tracking the initial winner but not getting through on the inside. The inexperienced jockey perhaps wasn’t quite brave enough to take a gap on the stands’ side until very late too.
She was 1lb out of the weights, too. Today is an easier race. She won of a mark of 56 in soft here at Windsor about a year ago and she finished the turf season in October with a really strong runner-up effort of a 57 mark running to a 57 TS rating that day.
The #10 draw will give her every chance to get a clear run on the outside I hope, Mollie Phillips claims valuable 5lb and knows the mare from previous rides.
10pts win – Firenze Rosa @ 14.5
7.30 Pontefract: Class 5 Handicap, 5f
The top three in the market are all vulnerable from their current handicap mark, hence this looks a good opportunity for Van Gerwen to get his head in front as a value alternative.
He was far from disgraced ten days ago over course and distance in a stronger race where he didn’t get an ideal run, only two days after encountering trouble in the closing stages at Ripon that prevented him from potentially winning.
That day he seemed poised for a major move but was repeatedly short of room until nearly the very final moment of the race.
The gives him a real chance having dropped him to a mark of 66. He’s a pound below his latest winning mark with that. He also ran to topspeed 62, 65 and 67 last season. A highly consistent sort, wellbeing confirmed down to a good mark and down to a realistic class.
Two selections for a busy Saturday of compelling flat racing that I am keen to watch for future eye-catchers. Having a winner would be nice too.
1.30 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 6f
After John was a massive eye-catcher earlier this month when he nearly overcame tons of trouble at Thirsk to thunder home much the fasted in the closing stages, clocking in the last three furlongs at least a full second faster than the rest.
But that was only good enough for second place on the day. He’s up a pound for the run, which could or possibly should be more. He clearly is going really well for his new yard and judged on past performances is potentially well handicapped having won of 71.
He was competitive – if a bit unlucky – last year of slightly higher marks than the current one once it slipped to a manageable rating. Particularly his 4th place finish at Ayr in September rates a strong piece of form.
He has ran four times to topspeed ratings of 65+, while his most recent performance awarded him a 63 rating, suggesting he is in great shape.
Obviously it’s a big field and in-running luck is required. I think pace won’t be an issue with a number of horses happy to lead but the chart is all over the place and could be a bit messy. I hope he ends up following the right line.
10pts win – After John @ 5/1
3.15 Haydock: Class 5 Handicap, 1m
Cloch Nua looks to have a massive chance here if in a mediocre race – IF the hood helps the hot gelding to settle. He’s got his issues and that’s the reason why he didn’t get off the mark yet.
Beaten last time out a short priced favourite at Southwell was certainly disappointing. But the run itself was better than the bare form suggest. The pace was slow, he was travelling off the pace, pulling really hard really long for his head. What looked liked a serious challenge two furlongs appeared to fiddle out rapidly.
Yet, looking at the sectionals, he still finished the race quite nicely, given the position he came from., actually. Which gives me hope he retains the good form he showed earlier this year.
I took serious note of him after his penultimate run, a 7f Novice contest at Southwell, where he travelled like a horse with some talent and finished pretty easily despite hanging badly, leaving the impression there was plenty left in the tank.
This will be only his second handicap start. A mark of 67 could be on the lenient side if he puts it all together. What makes this an outstanding chance for me is the jockey booking. Benoit De La Sayette is an excellent apprentice who is taking invaluable 7lb off the weight.
The Grand National is still THE race. Whatever the talk of the race having become a “glorified Cross-Country Chase”, the National continues to dominate headlines and has people talking in positive terms about racing.
Perhaps it isn’t the race it used to be. Perhaps it’s not quite the same challenge for horse and rider as it used to be. Perhaps for some people it’s not the unique spectacle it once was. Doesn’t matter. Because it’s still the biggest race in the calendar.
Why? People talk about it. People who’d have no clue what the Cheltenham Gold Cup is. Mainstream media is talking about. Mostly in positive terms. This is racings shopping window. The race that proves the sports relevance to a wider public.
Nothing of that concerns pure racing fans. But it concerns the long-term health and future of the sport.
Therefore a Grand National that bridges the gap between safety and spectacle can continue to write great stories that capture the imagination of racing fans and people outside the bubble in equal terms – as opposed to stories about fatality numbers. This is crucial to any survival of the race and the sport of jump racing.
It’s surprises me again and again how many people inside the industry don’t grasp this correlation.
As for positive stories: the 2022 edition didn’t disappoint. All horses were reported to be back in their stables post-race. Zero fatalities is a win for the safety and for the sport. And a loss for the radical animal welfare brigade who had their social media campaigns ready to launch wit the click of a button.
The story of the race, though, is of course the fairytale victory of Nobel Yeats. The first 7-year-old to win the national since 1940. A rather inexperienced horse with only seven chase runs up until today. He went jumping a hurdle under rules only 13 months ago. This was a 50/1 shot, one who preview articles awarded a 1* star rating out of five possible – basically a no-hoper.
And there’s the rider. Sam Waley-Cohen. An amateur. A hugely successful one, mind. Who announced his retirement before the race. Cohen’s final ride and he finishes his career with a Grand National! Fairytale stuff. Stories only the National can write. Or at least the one race where those stories resonate outside of the racing world, too.
On a personal note: looking back at my shortlist of ten horses and comparing with the eventual first ten horses home I’ll give myself a pad on the back for not having been too widely off the mark:
1st: Noble Yeats 2nd: Any Second Now 3rd: Delta Work 4th: Santini 5th: Fiddlerontheroof 6th: Longhouse Poet 7th: Freewheelin’ Dylan 8th: Coko Beach 9th: Escaria Ten 10th: Romain De Senam
Truth being told, though, I wouldn’t have given the winner Noble Yeats neither and Santini – despite all his former class – nor Romain De Senam any chance whatsoever to win or even finish close to the placings.
My two selections Fiddlerontheroof finished 5th and Longhouse Poet 6th. These where fine, fine runs. Longhouse Poet appeared a bit more dangerous for most parts of the race. Ultimately both horses didn’t quite get home in the end.
No shame in that. I’ll got great runs for my money. And the horses have done themselves proud. If I’d have been an each-way player they would have paid handsomely for their placings. I am not, of course.
What matters to me, though, is I that feel correct in my assessment that prices around 20’s where underestimating their chances, hence they where value odds – and the fact both went off a good deal shorter confirmed the notion.
In conclusion I can only say I seriously enjoyed this years Grand National. Great field, great race, great performances from horses and jockeys, everyone’s home safe and we got a fairytale winner. What’s not to like?
Edit: It has just emerged that #21 Discorama has sadly been lost post-race. He was sensibly pulled when things went wrong during the race but couldn’t be saved. Devastating news.
I feel like saying this about nearly all the major races this season, but seriously: the Juddmonte International probably is the race of the year!
Seven runners – one could say “only” seven runners – although, this is a select group of top-class equine athletes: not a single horse is rated lower than 110.
Still, only one horse can win the big prize. The two least likely in my view are Juan Elcano and Alenquer. The latter clearly is a classy individual with potential upside now dropped to what should be his optimum trip. But he’s only posted a career-best 96 topspeed rating so far, seems to rely on cut in the ground and is the lowest rated individual here – for a good reason, I firmly believe.
Juan Elcano’s performance in the York Stakes over course and distance, when a close runner-up in a thrilling finish behind Bangkok, is certainly not to be taken lightly. However, I feel he was slightly flattered due to the slow pace and his prominent racing position throughout. With that in mind, he’s not quite Group 1 standard and hard to fancy.
Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney is an interesting horse. His career-highest topspeed rating is not good enough to feature here, but the brilliant juvenile he was, he has proven to have trained on as a three-year-old and the Juddmonte trip could turn out be the ideal test for him. He has to bounce back, though, which isn’t impossible given the magician trainer Jim Bolger is.
The three-year-old filly Alcohol Free has been sensational this year. She has improved dramatically. Her latest victory, a dominant win in the Sussex Stakes, has only enhanced her reputation. At Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes she ran to a 106 topspeed rating, which gives her a prime chance today….. if she stays the trip.
It’s a big “if”, I think. To my eyes the mile looks the maximum for her. Add to that the small question mark around the faster ground and I struggle to see her getting home as strongly as she did over a mile on soft going.
The most intriguing contender today is Mohaafeth. He appeared to be potentially high-class on a number of occasions earlier this year. Connections took their time with him, increasing the difficulty of the test step by step.
Mohaafeth passed his assignments with flying colours, but stumbled for the first time in the York Stakes when upped to Group 2 level three weeks ago. This was perhaps less so his fault than that of race tactics as his pace maker completely failed to do his job. The race turned into a muddling affair which saw Mohaafeth at a major disadvantage given his retrained racing position.
It was hugely impressive, though, the way he made up ground rapidly in the home straight when it was most costly to buy it. A furlong out he seemed to fly home for a breathtaking victory, just to pay for subsequent sub 11 second furlongs in the end. for a half a lengths beaten third place behind Bangkok. In my view Mohaafeth’s credentials have only been enhanced by that performance, nonetheless.
The “super filly” Love drops down in trip after a gutsy third place in the King George, where things didn’t quite work out for her, although in any case, the winner Adayar was too good. Nonetheless, that was a top class race and Love ran to a 109 tospeed rating that day, close enough to her career-highest 110 TS rating, which suggests she is as good as ever.
That was her first defeat in five starts but she lost little in defeat. The Juddmonte trip could be perfect for her, with ground and track no worries whatsoever. She will be a key player today.
The same goes for top-rated Mishriff. Runner-up in the King George, which was a career-best performance, he improved nicely from a fine comeback run in the Coral Eclipse earlier this year.
He’s the favourite today, and has been consistent in the high level of his performances over the last two seasons. Ground and trip are no worries, though I feel, perhaps the Juddmonte trip with a little bit of juice in the ground would be the perfect scenario as opposed to the expected faster surface today. Nonetheless, the strengths and depth of his performances franked by form and ratings gives him a prime chance to land a third Group 1 victory.
In Conclusion: Mishriff is the right and fair favourite. Top rated and top form in the book, His price is drifting this morning toward odds that could turn tasty. He’s the one beat. Love will run her usual strong race and she represents a safe bet around 10/3 to get as good a run for the money as it gets.
The “X-Factor” is Mohaafeth. He has plenty to find on the ratings but has shown serious talent this year and can improve again – which he has to, though. He’d be a much shorter price today if he’d had won the York Stakes, hence, given credible excuses for not getting over the line there, I feel he is a strong price at 7/1.
The 2021 edition of the King George has something special in store for us racing fans. The best of the older horses versus a strong classic generation.
Naturally all eyes are on Derby winner Adayar. He romped home at Epsom in stunning fashion. Was that a real performance? The form has been franked through third placed Hurricane Lane, who won races of the highest order in the meantime.
It was a strange race, nonetheless. The aforementioned Hurricane Lane lost a shoe, the favourite Bolshoi Ballet completely misfired and the runner-up was a maiden who was subsequently trounced in the Irish Derby.
Lone Eagle, second in the Irish Derby, is the other 3-year-old in the field. He got first run on his rivals at the Curragh and with two furlongs to go looked like to have won the race. Only in the dying strides was he caught by a fast finishing Hurricane Lane.
It was a thrilling finish and Lone Eagle didn’t lose anything in defeat. In fact, he achieved a 113 topspeed rating, which isn’t far behind the 116 rating Adayar received for his Derby victory. Topspeed-wise those are the two highest ratings on offer in the King George field.
The older generation is clearly lead by Love. The winner of the 1000 Guineas, English Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last year, and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on her seasonal reappearance last month, she’s also joint top-rated, together with Mishriff.
Love won’t mind the the step up to the 1m 4f trip. In fact, her career -best performance was the 2020 Oaks success. Mishriff on the other hand, although a winner of the Sheema Classic earlier this year, may be at his best over shorter distances.
He has to give weight away too. However, Mishriff ran with plenty of credit in the Coral Eclipse where he was third behind brilliant St Mark’s Basilica coming off a break. He should be in perfect shape today.
The ground won’t turn soft enough to provide the sort of deep conditions Wonderful Tonight prefers. She is a multiple Group 1 winner though, and looked in excellent form when landing the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month, so can’t be taken lightly, regardless.
Broome was second behind Wonderful Tonight at Ascot. He has since won the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. He enjoyed the run of the race, though, and I think over 1m 4f he has plenty to find with the market principles.
Conclusion: I strongly fancy the classic generation to get the better of their elders. That says I’m not fully sure if If trust Adayar’s Derby performance. However, Lone Eagle’s Irish Derby performance appears rock solid. He should be right up with the pace once more and could be able to hold on this time. Hence at prices around 6/1 I’ll go with Loyal Eagle to win it for Frankie and Martyn Meade.
3:15 York: York Stakes, Group 2
The best form on paper belongs to Armory. The four-year-old drops in class after a fine effort at Royal Ascot when third behind stablemate Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. He is unbeaten in Group races below top level and has been placed in multiple Group 1’s.
His Royal Ascot performance can possibly be marked up due to the way the race developed, which wasn’t quite ideal for Armory. Consequently, he achieved a career-highest 119 Racingpost Rating. He won really well at Chester on his season reappearance back in May as well.
That means, however, Armory has to give weight away to his rivals. No less than 12lb to exciting 3-year-old Mohaafeth.
This son of Frankel is unbeaten in 2021, having progressed with each and every run. From, winning a Novice contest to a first Handicap, to landing the Listed Newmarket Stakes to bag a Group 3 at Royal Ascot.
His Newmarket victories were visually really impressive. In fact Mohaafeth won the Newmarket Stakes in such taking fashion that he was catapulted near the top of the Epsom Derby market.
The ground turning soft that day ended his Derby dream, but he made up for it weeks later at Royal Ascot. He had to start racing earlier than ideal and hang to the right in the closing stages.
He ran to a101 topspeed rating then, the highest any horse has achieved in the York Stakes field. In anticipation of more improvement to come and the weight he receives from his rivals, Mohaafeth looks certainly the one to beat.
Although, Juan Elcano shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. He has found back to the winning ways having responded to wind op. On the other hand it’s hard to see Montatham – likely employed as Mohaafeth’s pacemaker – or the other outsider Bangkok getting involved.
Conclusion: As long as there isn’t any sufficient amount of rain it’s hard to look past the progressive Mohaafeth. He has things in his favour and looks the sort to improve again.
The perfect draw, bred for the the unique test Epsom provides, plus the added confidence from camp Ballydoyle – Aiden O’Brien saddling only one runner is unusual as significant – it’s Bolshoi Ballet’s to lose.
This son of Galileo – the super daddy who fathered five Derby winners – remains unbeaten as a three-year-old and shot up the betting market after an almightily impressive 6 lengths romp in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.
A performance where visuals were matched by the clock as an excellent 104 topspeed rating showed.
More likely than not Bolshoi Ballet will improve for the step up to the 1m 4f Derby trip. With that in mind, there are very few negatives for his chances and he looks a proper chance to follow in the footsteps of his prominent father.
One could be harsh and point out his wins this year were all achieved on decent ground and a softer surface could spell trouble. On the other hand, he proved last year to handle softer underfoot conditions. Whatever bit of juice is left in the Epsom ground this afternoon is unlikely to pose any issue for Bolshoi Ballet.
If nothing goes wrong during the race it’s hard to oppose him solely for win purposes.
Saying that, there are two other contenders who interest me from a betting perspective a bit more:
One is Mac Swiney. The Irish 2000 Guineas winner. Jim Bolger enjoys a tremendous season so far, landing both the British and Irish 2000 Guineas.
To me Mac Swiney always looked like a prospect better suited to middle distance than the mile. So the drop down to the Guineas trip after opening his season in a Derby trial was a brave move. Though, on the day the heavy going played into his hands, making it more a stamina than speed test.
Mac Swiney has shown his very best with plenty of juice in the ground. Even though he will surely improve for the trip, I have nagging doubts over the ground drying out a bit too quickly for him. Yes, the Derby is a stamina test, but Bolshoi Ballet is likely to stay all day long too and has a good turn of foot as well.
The drift in Mac Swiney’s price makes him an interesting each-way shot nonetheless. Yet, I’ll focus my investment in the Derby on one horse only – I am fairly sure Bolshoi Ballet’s key rival will be saddled by the “boys in blue”.
It’s debatable how much the Dante form is worth. On paper it looks less than exciting form. Nonetheless, Hurricane Lane showed enough to be considered the main rival for Bolshoi Ballet today.
Clearly he will find plenty of improvement for stepping up in trip. Winning the Dante was probably a bonus as much as it brought Hurricane Lane’s excellent attitude to the fore. It was obvious from over three furlongs out that he struggled for speed, appearing flat footed when the pace lifted significantly at York. But he stuck to his guns bravely to run out a gutsy victory in the end.
A topspeed figure of 100 for the Dante success is the second highest on offer in this field. That alone makes him a proper shot today.
The son of Frankel is out of mare who won over 2 miles, and he’s a full-brother to smart 1m 4f winner Frankel’s Storm. Even though we all have Frankel’s turn of foot in mind, as a sire he is a proven source of stamina.
Therefore, in my view, given Hurricane Lane ran so well in the Dante over a shorter trip, a performance backed up by topspeed, with further improvement assured over the Derby trip, he could have less to find with Bolshoi Ballet than the betting may suggest.
The draw isn’t quite where I would want it to be in an ideal world. Perhaps it won’t be too much of an issue, though: I expect Hurricane Lane to be ridden prominently anyway. As long as he settles well, all will be good.
Everything said, Bolshoi Ballet is a strong favourite to give Aiden O’Brien an Oaks & Derby double (Snowfall was a sensational winner on Friday). But at 13/2 Hurricane Lane looks like a viable alternative with more juice in the price for my liking.
Merry Christmas to all readers of this site! Hope you are having a wonderful time surrounded by family and friends.
I am in the middle of my very own winter “break”, with overseas travel as well as spending Christmas at home in Germany. A busy year, an even busier few weeks…. but now it’s certainly time to sit back and relax for a few days at the very least.
Nonetheless, I can’t help but have a quick look at what’s going on in the world of racing. I have no real interest in the jump races today – not from a betting perspective at least. Thankfully the Tapeta track at Wolverhampton is open for business….
4.25 Wolverhampton: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 4f
Favourite Renardeau looks to be too high in the mark now after his two victories on the bounce. A better case can be made for Dream Magic who was so impressive over course and distance when last seen, who also matched his revised handicap mark on topspeed that day.
However it was clearly a career best and you have to wonder if that one run should overshadow the evidence of a gelding who has been seen 30 times before and only once ran to anything remotely close to that level of form before. He can go close again, and one can argue at 7/1 is a fair price to find out, but I am more inclined to give the runner-up of aforementioned Wolverhampton contest a big chance here today.
Bottom weight Fayetta is still a maiden after 19 starts and was well beaten in second place at Wolverhampton behind Dream Magic. On the other hand there is a significant turnaround in the weights today, in favour of the filly. She ran at Southwell in the meantime, didn’t follow on from the good form shown at Wolverhampton, though.
Possibly down to the fibresand, now back on Tapeta will be more suitable. On this surface she has achieved topspeed ratings of 61 and 67 this year over the 12 furlong trip. So now down to a 61 official rating the case can be made for Fayetta having a prime chance taking advantage of a slipping mark.
Harry Hurricane steps back into more suitable territory after being outclassed at Goodwood. Given he had been a non-runner on a vet’s cert and a poor showing at Bath before that he’s got some questions to answer – but the majority of his performances earlier this season have been good and to quite a high standard.
In fact, he achieved twice a topspeed rating of 79+ this season already. So, now down to a mark of 79, with a further 5lb claim of highly useful apprentice Cieren Fallon, he looks ripe for a big run.
Granted, Harry Hurricane isn’t a frequent winner and hasn’t done so since the 2016 season. But I feel this track, his racing style, an uninspiring field or rivals to beat, a supr dangerous handicap mark and a classy apprentice in the saddle are a winning combination, as long as he’s right.
Medieval is a tricky sort who can make a mess of his chances in a race. But he’s down to a really attractive handicap mark, as was evident when he finished 2nd at Brighton a week ago.
That is a performance you can upgrade as he finished strongest of those that were prominent, while the winner and third came from a long way back, taking full advantage of a generous pace. It didn’t help that Medieval also appeared to hang in the closing stages, which he tends to do frequently.
Nonetheless, he is only 1lb higher for this effort, still well below his last wining mark, while he also ran multiple times to much higher topspeed ratings in the past. With soft ground sure to suit, and the mile trip no issue, I feel in this race today he has a prime chance to get his head in front again.
10pts win – Medieval@ 6/1 MB
8.20 Curragh: Handicap, 6 furlongs
A lot of rain over night here in Kildare, the ground will be soft and make for tough conditions. Makes this one an even more open race. I think this cries out for a long-shot to upset the market.
The one I am most interested in is Blyton. He hasn’t really kicked on as a 3-year-old since moving to Ireland, however he drops to a pretty low mark for what he has achieved as a juvenile as well as going down to a more suitable trip.
Also quite important: Blyton has good form with cut in the ground, so should not mind the rain whatsoever. In fact the combination of lowered mark, perfect ground and suitable trip can see him being competitive today.
He also achieved topspeed ratings of 80 and 84 last season, suggesting he is capable of running to a level of form required to win here. First time blinkers are an interesting addition, possibly sharpen him up, dropping from a 8.5 furlongs as when last seen at Galway.
I usually don’t like backing last time out winners, but make an exception for Fantasy Keeper here. He won really well at Sandown over the shorter 5 furlongs in soft conditions, being really well backed.
A little break since then, now back, moving up to 6f, only 3lb higher in the mark, which could underestimate him today. Fantasy Keeper loves cut in the ground and then it doesn’t matter if five- or six furlongs.
He ran to a topspeed rating of 83 at Sandown, before that over an additional furlong to 81. So, given he finds ideal conditions today, he looks on a fair handicap mark, potentially being able to pull out a bit more, as he’s had only three starts on soft or heavy going to date, with a win and two placed efforts to his name then.
10pts win – Fantasy Keeper @ 5/1 MB
7.55 Ayr: Class 5 Handicap, 7f
The chips are down for Chaplin Bay today, I feel. He’s backed all day long and that makes perfect sense with conditions sure to suit. He’s somewhat of a 7f specialist, who definitely enjoys cut in the ground and has a 50% place SR over course and distance as well.
He hasn’t been winning for a while, so as a consequence dropped rather dramatically certainly in his turf mark. Down to 50 now, he looks supremely well handicapped in a race like this.
Judged on form this year, he still has appetite for the game and didn’t ran too badly on a number of occasions, actually. One to keep an eye out: he’s got an entry here at Ayr for Monday also.