Tag Archives: UK

Henry II Stakes Preview

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After a recent Sagaro Stakes success Dee Ex Bee is well fancied to go back to back today. It was his first try over two miles and he passed the test with flying colours. This could be more competitive today, though, so is my feeling.

Obviously his Derby run is the standout performance, however, he hasn’t ran anywhere near that form ever since, and judged on form and ratings what he has produced ever since, he is a good horse, but clearly not a top drawer and also his time wasn’t that impressive last time to suggest he’s dramatically better than the rest of the field here, particularly as he has to give weight away.

Strong cases can be made for the two Mark Johnston runners. My preference is for Austrian School simply on the fact he has more often produced high enough time speed ratings to suggest he is defiantly home in this grade, and probably a better horse than stable mate Making Miracles, who was so impressive in the Chester Cup, having the run of the race, on the other hand.

Austrian School was a long way beaten there as a favourite, but bottomless ground and the way the race turned out, are a fair excuse. He is better judged on his impressive Musselburgh win in April over 1m 6f.

A career best performance on TS and RPR, also backing up the strong runner-up performance of the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster from last autumn, confirming he is that good.

Austrian School deserves a crack at this level and will give the favourite a lot to think about in the closing stages I strongly believe.

Selection:
10pts win – Austrian School @ 11/2 MB

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Preview: 2000 Guineas 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile tight finish

Let’s get this out of the way right away: Ten Sovereigns will not stay. He’ll be a super exciting sprinter for the season to come, though.

Now that we’re clear on this rather important piece of the 2019 2000 Guineas puzzle, let’s focus on finding the winner of the race. I’ve three horses on my short-list.

The second Aiden O’Brien trained colt isn’t on the list: Magna Grecia is rock solid, mind. But I give him a pass at 7/2, as with fast conditions expected at the Rowley Mile today, I feel he’ll likely appreciate an additional couple of furlongs.

The other well fancied Irish runner Madhmoon is intriguing. You could argue it’s a tip in itself Kevin Prendergast sends his star colt over to Newmarket. He’s not doing it very often. His record in the UK is dismal, but one can be forgiving because the average SP’s of his UK runners tell its own story of outcome vs. expectations.

Madhmoon will surely improve for the better ground today. He’ll improve having a run under his belt. He’ll improve stepping up in trip again. Yet I’m not fully on board ad don’t quite feel excited about his chances.

In truth, he probably didn’t beat all that much in the Champions Juvenile Stakes last August. He also ran, despite looking imperious that day, only to a TS rating of 78. As a key piece of form, this isn’t enough for me to invest.

I’ll do happily invest – and could be called a hypocrite calling Madhmoon form average – in Skardu. Recency bias? Am I still “wowed” by his incredible (visually at least) seasonal reappearance in the Craven Stakes? Possibly.

Nonetheless, I do like a multiple course and distance winner, who looked scintillating on return over the Guineas CD, who has clearly proven to have trained on over the winter.

Skardu’s turn of foot is a thing of beauty. He produced a superb debut performance over 7f at Newmarket last September, leaving a subsequent UAE Derby winner standing still. You would hope there is much, much more to come. Only two runs on the clock, an April foal who’s shown an appreciation for fast ground also. I’m hugely excited!

The only thing I am slightly worried is whether he’ll get a clear run and gets going soon enough, if this would turn into something of a sprint finish, given his racing style.

I’ve got a small saver on a massive long-shot: Emaraaty Ana. The betting says there’s no hope. And the market could be right. But could also underestimate this lad. He was a late May foal, but showed sparkle as a juvenile regardless, landing the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes, a Group 2, at Newbury last August.

That was over 6 furlongs. a trip rather on the sharp side one would think given his pedigree. It was no surprise to see him taken off his feat in the Middle Park Stakes subsequently.

Emaraaty Ana is bred to stay a mile, in fact to improve for the step up in trip. He is related to a couple of winners over the 1 mile trip. He’s proven to act on fast ground and ran a career best TS rating not dissimilar to what most other leading contenders in this field have achieved to date. Age is on his side, I feel – one way or another he’ll be ‘one to follow’ this year.

Selections:
9tps win – Skardu @ 9/1 MB
1pts win – Emaraaty Ana @ 139/1 MB

Sunday Selections: April, 28th 2019

Newmarket Rowley Mile Winning post

5.40 Salisbury: Class 6 Lady Amateur Handicap, 7f

Normally this isn’t my type of race and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable watching it later on; but I dearly hope Miss Imogen Mathias won’t fall off Winklemann, who has a cracking chance otherwise.

The Italian import hasn’t exactly taken British racing by storm. As a consequence he remains a maiden in this sphere and tumbles down the weights. Down to a mark of 59, the son of Rip Van Winkle has shown glimmers of hope here and there in the past, though, of much bigger marks and in better races.

He was an agonisingly close second at Windsor last summer off 70, running to a TS rating of 69 that day; the form looks rock solid, so does a 4th place finish in September at the same place when even 3lb higher.

Winklemann also seems to be racing himself into a bit of form, judged by a good runner-up performance at Chelmsford at the end of March, even though he couldn’t quite kick on from there days later at Southwell, when receiving a shocking ride by Miss Mathias.

Dropping down to 7f on fast ground, with a good draw to play with – granted he doesn’t bottle the start, which he can from time to time – Winklemann has a big chance to run well in a poor contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Winklemann @ 13/1 MB

…….

5.55 Wetherby: Class 6 Handicap, 5.5f

Two selections in this open contest for me: the mare Dandilion dropped to a handy mark as well as finding herself back in a class 6 handicap on the turf. She’s right home here and 5lb below her last winning mark.

She had a wind operation last autumn and subsequently ran well in two starts on the All-Weather earlier this year. Her return to the turf at Pontefract recently after a two months long break was merely a pipe opener and I happily draw a line under that poor performance.

Ground will be fine, the trip may stretch her a little bit, but given she is so well handicapped on past form, running five times to a higher TS rating than her current mark, I hope the additional 110y won’t be an issue today.

The other one potentially well in here is Roaring Rory. He’s got form over both 5- and 6 furlongs, and will enjoy any further drying of the ground.

Racing off 3lb lower than his last winning mark, and 5lb lower than his last turf winning mark, with good 3lb claimer Jamie Gormley in the saddle, he can run a big race, given he achieved a TS rating higher than his current handicap mark on seven occasions already.

A recent pipe opener at Thirsk after a little break  was a fair performance in a big field. Though, I do expect him to come on quite a bit for it today.

Selection:
5pts win – Roaring Rory – 14/1 Coral
5pts win – Dandilion @ 17/1 MB

Safety First: Grand National still a Great Race!

Every year at this exact time the same debate: no – I don’t mean the one the hypocrites from PETA try to stir up; I mean the fiery debate around the challenge – or perceived lack of it – the Grand National provides for horses and jockeys these days.

There seems to be an ever increasing, certainly rather vocal minority of racing fans, that do feel the Grand National has been reduced to a “glorified hurdle”, a race that’s not “what it used to be” and not all that tough to win any more – in summary: the “welfare brigade” has changed the Grand National beyond recognition to a point where it doesn’t provide sufficient spectacle.

Let this sink in: the fact fallers have been greatly reduced in the last number of years – and with that casualties avoided completely up until this year – is cited as a reason to conclude the Grand National has lost its appeal as a spectacle.

Guess what? Nearly 10 million tuned in on Saturday to ITV’s coverage of the Grand National –  peak audience was up by more than a million viewers compared to last year. Sure, those numbers – as always with viewing figures – can’t be taken at face value, but they are a fair indication for the fact that the audience for the Grand National isn’t turned off by the perceived “lack of spectacle”. Much the opposite, it seems.

Racegoers didn’t mind either: a sell-out 50.000 crowd flooded through the gates on Saturday.

Let’s get the most important point straight – from my perspective anyway: yes, the Grand National has changed. Fences have have been altered. They are easier to jump, more forgiving and the race has become much safer for horse and rider. Those in charge of the sport – often slated recently, and more often than not rightly so – made drastic decisions after the infamous 2012 Grand National.

Those safety changes have had the desired outcome: only one fatality (Up For Review, 2019), plus 84% of fences have produced the same or lower rate of fallers/unseated/brought downs since then. Also only seven fallers/unseateds/brought downs in yesterday’s Grand National was one of the smallest numbers ever.

This is good news! The race has become safer. But has it taken away from the spectacle? Absolutely not! Not in my view.

I’m still looking forward to the Grand National every single year. I still rate it as the pinnacle of jump racing. I still adore all those 40 horses and jockeys for their bravery and skills.

And I firmly believe the Grand National remains a fabulous test: a distance of 4 miles & 2 furlongs (6.907 km) & 30 fences of different heights to be negotiated – no exactly a walk in the park.

Mind you, even though the race is safer and slightly “less of a challenge”, it stills is a tough race to complete. Despite all safety measures of recent times, there was one casualty -and less than half the field finished the race on Saturday. So, it clearly isn’t without its challenges, still.

And that brings me to Tiger Roll. The fact he’s completed back-to-back victories in 2019 and not in 1979 doesn’t make it less a remarkable achievement. It IS a remarkable achievement!

I didn’t back the little horse. But as soon as was clear none of my selections wouldn’t get near winning, I was roaring the Tiger home. What a true champion he is. A safer National it might be, but the fact remains it is a tough race to win, let alone do it twice – even in this day and age. Tiger Roll is the king of National Hunt racing!

Preview: Dewhurst Stakes 2018

Newmarket Rowley Mile tight finish

Odds-on favourite Too Darn Hot couldn’t have been more impressive in his three career starts. Winning the Champagne Stakes thanks to a deadly turn of foot without making it even remotely look hard work was quite something. He’s hard to oppose on that basis.

On the other hand, analyzing a a metric that I personally hold dearly – time speed ratings – the achievements of those lining up today turn this renewal of the Dewhurst into a more open race than one would have thought, if purely checking the betting market and assessing the left-hand column of the racecard.

Best TS Rating to date: 
Too Darn Hot – 106
Mohawk – 104
Anthony Van Dyck – 103
Advertise – 100

Obviously you can’t take this at face value. There is more to racing and performance. Particularly with these unexposed juveniles, performances can fluctuate, improvement can be sudden and unexpected, also TS ratings depend on circumstances.

Nonetheless, this is an interesting additional layer to interpret performance to date. Certainly what this shows is that TDH is likely to be the best horse in the race on what he’s achieved on the clock to date – but only by a slim margin.

For me the takeaway here is the urge to assess the two O’Brien horses, who ran to career best 103- and 104 TS rating last time out. Anthony Van Dyck’s National Stakes performance certainly rates highly. He’s expected to improve for it and he should make it a race for the favourite. He looks useful type who can progress into a top class individual next year.

In saying that, at given prices, his stable mate Mohawk clearly is a much more interesting individual. Five starts already, he didn’t look anywhere near top level when comprehensively beaten in the Futurity- and National Stakes subsequently.

However, this son of Galileo looked still raw and green to some extend those days. On the other hand, as a January foal, he should be rather forward by now. And he finally turned good last month at Newmarket in the Royal Lodge Stakes.

He looked bigger and better than ever. Granted, it was probably not the strongest of Group 2’s ever ran at HQ, it was still an impressive performance visually, as Mohawk quickened nicely in the closing stages to win a shade cozily. The fact that the visual impression is backed up by the TS rating gives me confidence that this lad has learned and improved, indeed.

The Royal Lodge was over a mile. Dropping back to 7 furlongs, a trip Mohawk was outran in Group company already, isn’t ideal. The rain is coming though, should take the fast out of the ground potentially, and may help to make this race more of a stamina test.

That’s a lot of “could be” and “if’s” to hope for – in saying that, as I am trying to make a case for a 25/1 shot, that’s rather expected. The likely outcome is that Mohawk, with Wayne Lordan in the saddle – which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence – won’t be good enough.

Regardless, the price is too big in a race where we can not predict how these juveniles have progressed since we saw them the last time. Given Mohawk appears to be making significant steps in the right direction I feel he’s got a chance to be competitive today.

Selection:
10pts win – Mohawk @ 25/1 PP

Wednesday Selections: August, 1st 2018

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3.35 Goodwood: Group 1 Sussex Stakes, 1m

On the face of it this is not a vintage renewal of the Sussex Stakes. As always the three year old’s hold an advantage thanks to WFA and that’s not different this time. But you can pick big holes into their form today. After all there is little between the top four or five in the betting market, in my mind.

Given that I can discount both Without Parole and Expert Eye purely for price reasons. The latter one returning to a mile seems not ideal despite a recent impressive success over 7f. Without Parole is clearly a fair favourite, however hasn’t beaten allot to this day, if we’re honest. Andre Fabre always needs to be respected but Orbaan has a lot to find. Gustav Klimt isn’t good enough on this level.

Leaves me with a decision who of the older horses is the best bet. Beat The Bank leads the way. Unlucky in the Queen Anne, he ran into trouble in the Summer Mile at the same venue weeks later again, though found a way to get his head in front.

Lord Glitter is closely matched but I feel he had every chance the other day at Ascot, so even at a big price he’s not one I fancy. While I fancy Beat The Bank to do damage today, at prices I think he’s close to what he should be.

Unlike veteran Lightning Spear. Now a seven year but as good as ever, he’s chasing the elusive first Group 1 victory. Today could be the day. He is as good as ever as proven in his two starts this year when a tight runner-up in the Lockinge Stakes and an excellent third in the Queen Anne.

He is an uncomplicated type who is a CD scorerm multiple Stakes winner and seven times placed on the highest level. Lightning Spear is the ultimate pro who will run his race which might be enough to finally get his head in front.

Selection:
10pts win – Lightning Spear @ 12.5/1 MB

……

3.55 Redcar: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 2f

Lightly raced Nathanial colt Global Style drops back to 10f here as well as down in a class 5 Handicap. He didn’t look exactly like a truly well handicapped horse the last couple of starts, however had ran well enough all the same and in my eyes those performances looked slightly better than the bare form.

He clearly has a race in him, particularly one like this here, a rather uncompetitive affair, that is for the taking.

He’s not a speedy horse by any means. So pace will be key. You’d be hopeful there is a bit here today. That should allow Global Style to grind his way to the front when it matters.

He clearly is up to his current mark, and potentially a tad better. His third in a good class 3 contest over 12f at Thirsk, behind two good horses, proved it. A fair runner-up over CD back in June saw him only beaten for a turn of foot in the closing stages. Given he’s also an April foal means he may simply needed a bit of time to find his way also.

Selection:
10pts win – Global Style @ 5/1 MB

Tuesday Selections: January 23rd, 2018

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3.40 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1m 4f

This is a pretty deep race for a low grade handicap on a random January Tuesday on the Southwell Fibresand. Any number of horses could easily have a fair shout – but it is the new Michael Appleby recruit Canford Thompson that may hold all the aces.

The five year old gelding remains a maiden on the flat after 11 starts, although he won a maiden hurdle in 2016. Nonetheless, he is a super interesting individual after catching the eye on the last two occasions at Lingfield.

Back from a near year long break back in November over 2 miles, followed up in early December over 12 furlongs – in both races Canford Thompson ran an awful lot better than the bare form suggests, as in both cases he made eye-catching progress from over 4f out on the wide outside. The sectionals back both performances up as quite significant in the context of these moves and are valid excuses for him finishing tired in the final furlong.

The forms of those races, particularly the 12f contest in December, work out really well. They give the form credit and upgrade his performances in both contests in my book. Regardless, the handicapper dropped him 3lb to a career lowest mark.

I believe Canford Thompson is incredibly well handicapped if receiving a more solid & economical ride. Concerns I do have over the surface which he tries for the first time in combination with his habit to start slowly.

This more demanding surface and a hopefully good pace might be what he wants but it easily could not suit him if he finds himself behind early on when blowing the start. We shall see.

However, then he’s of even more interest the next time. It is worth a try, though, and the fact that Alistair Rawlinson is in the saddle, who has a superb record for the Appleby yard at this course, suggests a big run is certainly expected.

Selection:
10pts win – Canford Thompson @ 11/2 Bet365

…..

4.10 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

Take out the favourite Indigo Princess, who may not be able to reproduce her massive performance from three days ago, and you are left with a race wide open for anyone who is on a “going day” to take it.

Despite four poor performances to date, long-shot Shackles might be the answer here. He hasn’t shown an awful lot, though, with a bit of goodwill there were some positives to take from his comeback run at Wolverhampton in December on his first start for the Nicky Richards yard.

Only four career starts, this here will be his second run in a handicap, and he can do so off a rating lowered to 53 now. There is a fair chance Shackles is a bit better than that. On pedigree the jury is out particularly on the question of the Fibresand surface – though, on the dam side is plenty of hope with the dam’s sire having an excellent record at this track.

Shackles was a late April foal, so turning four now, he may needed the time to mature, so his year long absence before his reappearance last month might actually be a good thing.

Eye-catching jockey booking with Paul Mulrennan who has only two rides on the card while Nicky Richards has only this one runner – Mulrennan has to weight nearly two hours until the final race on the card until he can go home after his initial ride.

Interestingly, Richards had only one runner at Southwell up until now – ridden by Paul Mulrennan. It was a winner.

Selection:
10pts win – Shackles @ 25/1 Bet365