Tag Archives: USA

Jockey Cam Winner!

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I love jockey cams. We need more of them. They provide incredible insight into how a race is run and what it looks and feels like from jockey’s perspective.

As the armchair jockey I am, I do relish those rare insights immensely. So all the happier I was when this incredible footage of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies race emerged – uploaded by the official Breeders’ Cup Youtube Channel!

Ride with Mike Smith and win the race on Caledonia Road – a 20/1 upset – how he gets rolling from the back of the field to make progress on the outside and eventually brings the bacon home.

For full context: the race replay can be watched here. Fair to say it was a hell of a ride!

2017 Breeders’ Cup – Selections

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The juggernaut that is the Breeders Cup is nearly upon us! In fact it’s only a couple of hours away. The pinnacle of the US racing season also brings down 2017 for many  of the European equine superstars too.

Del Mar it is this year –  a change from Santa Anita for once, though with that we do stay in California. Racing starts on Friday with ten races on the card. Historically I haven’t done overly well from a pure betting point of view, though I immensely enjoy watching the event on NBC. The TV coverage is all class.

I keep my bets to a minimum this time. Three selections – that is all!

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Friday 9.25: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, 1m

Without the shadow of the doubt Aiden O’Brien’s Happily is the form horse in the field. She won two major Group 1’s on the bounce, including the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere when beating the boys.

Granted, she had a long season with six starts and coming here at the end of the year isn’t easy – if she reproduces anything close to her recent form, she is hard to beat, though. On paper that is.

Question marks are over her pace in the early stages of the race. She has got a perfect draw but will Happily be able to utilize it? Ryan Moore will want to have her settling close to the speed in an ideal world.

She appeared a bit outpaced early on in France the other day, and had trouble catching up with the leaders in the home straight. She grinded it out, more than anything. Fast ground at Del Mar will be not forgiving, if she does not gets quickly out of the blocks.

That says, on pedigree the ground should suit. She’s got more experience now and you would think that Ran Moore, given the clear disadvantage settling off the pace, will be a bit more vigorous pushing her forward, if needed.

Happily should not lack stamina, so once moving, she will keep moving for as long as it’s needed.

There is juice in the price in my mind. I expected her to be good deal shorter, given the opposition in the field is not as good as what she faced in her last two starts.

Selection:
10pts win – Happily @ 4/1 PP

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Saturday 11.37: Breeders’ Cup Turf, 1m 4f

One last hooray for Highland Reel. He’ll go to stud after this – a race he won last year. Or shall we say stole? He got away under a perfect ride by Jamie Heffernan that day.

The globetrotter had another productive season in 2017. Winner of the Coronation- and Prince of Wales’s Stakes. When he gets his preferred conditions Highland Reel is clearly tough to beat.

I feel that’ll be the day here. Trip is perfect, fast ground is what he loves, a perfect draw will enable him to be up with the pace, if not even attempting to make all. The tight, turning track poses no problem to him either.

Main threat is obviously the superb Ulysses. Though the trip is probably slightly on the far side for him and the track configuration may not play to his strengths either.

Best chance for the home team is multiple grade 1 winner Beach Patrol. A wide draw isn’t ideal as Highland Reel, once in front, is unlikely to stop.

Selection:
10pts win – Highland Reel @ 9/4 Bet365

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Sunday 00.25: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s already past midnight when they’re off in the Classic! The question many ask: can Arrogate find back to his best? Since his return from Dubai in two subsequent starts he never looked the same horse that was crowned best in the world in 2016.

Can Gun Runner outgun him? Well, he’s been bloody impressive in his last three wins and deserves the favourite tag. However he never won over the 10f trip and was comprehensively outstayed by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

The answer must lie somewhere else: West Coast? Maybe. Won two Grade 1’s on the bounce. Landed the Travers. Not much wrong with that. He stays the trip, has the right form in the book and is an interesting price.

You can, if you want, knock the form, though. None of those beaten behind him would be fancied to go close in Classic at all. In fact, Travers runner-up Gunnevera is considered a 50/1 shot!

Improving Collected won the Pacific Classic, beat Arrogate that day. So he stays the trip and is still a progressive sort. The wide draw is a concern but he should be thereabouts.

Aiden O’Brien tries his luck once more. He throws Churchill into the ring. It’s unlikely the dual Guineas winner will enjoy this test on dirt I suspect, but I can see why “the lads” do it.

If he runs well if will enhance his commercial value as a stallion. If he doesn’t perform it won’t devalue anything he did the last two seasons.

The seemingly second string is War Decree. A much more interesting case, I feel. From a pedigree perspective he is bred to act on dirt and is a half-brother to Declaration Of War who came quite close to win the BCC some years ago.

Nonetheless the immense test this race is may still come as a shock to the system. Until he runs we don’t know whether he really acts on the dirt or not. It’s more likely he won’t. However I love a couple of facts if it comes to War Decree:

He’s still lightly raced and had a significantly lighter season than most in the field. He demolished a fair field in a Dundalk Group 3 when last season, travelling like a really good horse. Of course he meets different class and a different surface here – still War Decree looks in tip top form.

Taking it all in, he’s no 50/1 chance in a Breeders’ Cup Classic field that is wide open in my mind. With the places paying at 1/4 odds, this looks a tremendous bet.

Selection:
10pts win e/w – War Decree @ 50/1 Bet365

Sunday Preview: Naas

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La Coronel did the job in the QE II – wire to wire as they say over there. 6/1 – finally a winner again!

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On the menu today, Naas! For the first time since moving to the county Kildare town I have the chance to go racing as a local! Really looking forward to it. Always enjoyed coming here in the past, but of course it’s even sweeter if you just have to walk to this beautiful track, instead of slogging through Dublin’s traffic.

Selections for Naas, 15th October 2017:

1.20: Lost Treasure @ 9/2 Bet365

Superbly bred as expected bred from this yard and might have advantage over most here as an early January foal.

1.50: Cheering @ 9/1 Ladbrokes

From family of derby winner Pour Moi, so trip is short enough. However could easily be good enough on debut in an open field.

2.25: Zeb City @ 12/1 Bet365

Bottom weight who looked progressive in maidens. Now handicapping off fair mark with top jockey in the saddle could see him go close.

3.00: Cocohulababy @ 14/1 Bet365

Excellent run on second start in hot Leopardstown maiden when turning widest but finishing well. Put experience to good use at Dundalk last time and won well. More to come.

3.35: Pocketfullofdreams @ 16/1 Ladbrokes

Well exposed and does not strike as a likely winner. However if the better fancied horses fail to strike, he could be there to pick up the pieces given ground and trip should be fine and he has some fine form in the book from earlier the season, which gives him a chance.

4.10: Remembered Joy @ 22/1 Skybet

Still a maiden after five career starts, however goes handicapping for the first time now and that might make a difference. A lowly opening mark gives her a chance over trip and ground possibly to suit. It is a poor race that does not take allot to win.

4.45: Giorni Felice @ 13/2 Bet365

Nicely off the mark at Roscommon, overcoming all sorts of trouble. He may have looked impressive because he beat poor opposition and therefore an opening mark off 80 is stiff. However there is not allot in the race to fear here and conditions should suit.

5.20: Jet Streaming @ 8/1 Bet365

Superb win at Galway when overcoming near impossible circumstances. Cried out for a trip and not disgraced when five lengths beaten in a big Curragh Handicap subsequently and when fifth in a Group 3 at Newmarket when last seen. This is easier – she remains with potential.

Saturday Selections: Cesarewitch & more

Rowley Mile

3.40 Newmarket: Class 2 Cesarewitch Handicap, 2m 2f

The lottery that is the Cesarewitch stampede along the Rowley Mile – can’t remember I ever backed a horse that came even near the eventual winner. Could it be different today?

I have a sneaky feeling Mark Johnston’s tough colt Time To Study is undervalued in this contest. The only three year old in the race, despite a 4lb penalty for a gritty success at Doncaster last month, looks well in off his low weight thanks to WFA.

How much difference that can make in a 2m 2f contest is a fair question, however the lightly raced colt has been on the upward curve all year long and still had ‘only’ five starts this year – for a Mark Johnston horse that’s on the low end of the scale.

Time To Study is rather smallish in size, however is all heart as proven in the Mallard Handicap against some tough older opposition a good four weeks ago. Stamina is no issue, the ground, though, may be quick enough.

Tactically I would be surprised if jockey PJ McDonald doesn’t move forward to settle Time To Study close enough to the pace – that should ensure a fair run, if anything.

Selection:
10pts win – Time To Study @ 14/1 Bet365

…….

4.50 Newmarket: Listed Boadicea Stakes, 6f

A biggish field but not many in it appear to be any better than the grade. The one who is is clearly Queen Kindly. It’s true that she has to carry a 3lb penalty and also has been slightly disappointing all year.

However her latest effort a very creditable 5th in the Group 1 Abbaye at Longchamp is by far the best in this field. The step up to 6f will surely be a help while the drop down into Listed company means she is the one to beat.

Fast ground does not pose any problems for her – she won a Group 2 on quick ground as a juvenile. I feel she is overpriced judged on the extra weight she has to carry, which I do believe does not make that much of a difference, though.

Selection:
10pts win – Queen Kindly @ 5/1 Bet365

…….

10.30 Keeneland: Grade 1 QE II Challenge Cup Stakes, 1m 1f

Open contest but I feel La Coronel has plenty of upside on her third start back home after a decent outing at Royal Asccot where she was only a good five lengths beaten by Winter.

She needed her home reappearance, though was much better last month in the Sands Point, when narrowly denied in the closing staged by Uni. She was pulling quite hard early on and looked a bit awkward in the home straight – so I feel if things go more to plan, she can clearly turn the form with Uni today.

Belmont Oaks winner New Money Honey has an excellent turf record, and back on this surface she is a major player. Also German 1000 Guineas Unforgettable Lady can run a big race.

Selection:
10pts win – La Coronel @ 6/1 Skybet

Preakness: Who can beat Always Dreaming?

Two winners today (there’s still one late runner in the lucky last at Doni to come): Paddy Power (advised 4/1) under a wonderfully brave and patient ride by Sammy Jo Bell in the Newmarket finale and exciting prospect Denaar (2/1 SP) did the business.

On the other side I got it horribly wrong in the Lockinge. Were my eyes blinded by love for all things Paco Boy? Did I want the son to emulate daddy too much?

Anyway, hats off to Ribchester. He did it from the front and he could have not been more impressive. Smart tactics from Godolphin as well. Pace maker I heard you saying? Good joke they said. Fooled them all.

On to the big race of the night – the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes! 

Always Dreaming was brilliant the way he won the Kentucky Derby, doing it “the hard way” as by no means he got an easy lead that day. He found plenty when it mattered after gruelling fractions on the front for most parts of the race.

Derby winners have a good record taking the second step along the road toward Triple Crown glory. So Always Dreaming may well be hard to beat today. However conditions are quite different this time around and he’s an odds-on chance – short enough to take on at this point in time given there are two intriguing alternatives at bigger prices.

It’s not difficult to give Classic Empire another chance today. This massively talented colt is quite a character and it wasn’t all plain sailing for him since winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile. Still he managed to get ready in time for the big one at Churchill Downs, on the way there proving himself to still retain all his class when getting up late in the Arkansas Derby.

Unfortunately things did not work out for him in the Kentucky Derby. A wide draw that day, bumped left and right once the gate opened, he was a long way off the pace and had to make his move widest of all around the home turn, then bumped again, mud in his face, banged up, he still ran on to finish fourth.

It was a tremendous performance, probably as good as the one of the winner, Always Dreaming. If he has recovered in time for the Preakness I really fancy him to turn the form around in a much smaller field with a better chance for a clear run. In my book he’s closer to Always Dreaming than the odds suggest.

That says there is a second horse that I feel is overpriced, by quite a margin, actually. That is Arkansas Derby runner-up Conquest Mo Money. He was qualified for the Derby but connections decided to target the Preakness. So that is certainly something to take note of.

You have to take note of his massively brave performance at Oaklawn Park too. From the second widest draw he crossed over to be right up with the pace and take up the lead halfway through. Put under immense pressure turning for home he fought gamely; headed a good furlong out he went on again to put his head in front…. just to be beaten in the dying strides by Classic Empire.

Now Conquest Mo Money has a wide draw today again, however with only ten runners this is not quite as big a deal. He’s still quite a lightly raced individual, so there is every that he learned a bit more and finds some improvement. At 25’s he’s huge value against the market leader.

Selection:
5pts win – Classic Empire @ 7/2 Bet365
5pts win – Conquest Mo Money @ 25/1 Paddy Power

Saratoga Preview: Test Stakes

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Speed-ball Kareena is hot favourite for this intriguing Grade 1 for three year old fillies, but you wonder whether she stays the 7f trip in what shapes like a race sure to be run at a red hot pace.

Mother Goose winner Off The Tracks appears to be a more dependable candidate over the distance. She clearly stays all the way and doesn’t lack speed – yet the drop to this shorter distance is something that puts me off.

Lewis Bay ran out a fine runner-up behind Off The Tracks at Belmont after bottling it at the start. Given he won over further, I also slightly wonder about the drop in trip.

At the prices Lightstream makes most appeal. A three times winner over 7f on dirt and turf, she lost her unbeaten record in the Mother Goose but was far from disgraced. She encountered a bad trip on the far outside around the home turn and just didn’t have enough left to challenge in the end.

The drop back to 7f will certainly suit, and this filly is tremendously talented in my mind. She often leaves it late, which could make things very nervy here, given Off The Tracks and Lewis Bay will go hard to the line. Still, at 15/2, she is the value in this contest.

 Saratiga – Test Stakes: Lightstream @ 15/2 Coral

A Day Out at Los Alamitos Racetrack

Better late than never my piece on Californian racecourse Los Alamitos. Not too long ago I had the chance to visit this racetrack located in Orange County, in the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Truth told I never was US racing’s biggest fan – and maybe never will. It probably doesn’t help that my visits to the racetracks of Aqueduct in New York and Golden Gate Fields in San Francisco turned out to be rather bleak and dreary affairs. Those huge places, with the appearance of ghost towns, a couple of hundred souls spread across the stands – it was sad to see.

So far so bad – but stay with me – this is not another “Europeans bashing US racing piece”.

When I turned into the parking lot of Los Alamitos racecourse my expectations were clearly low. It was a mild winter day, mild for Californian standard, piping hot if you live in Ireland.That clearly helped to lift the initial mood, whatever happens next.

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Now, let me write the most important sentence right here: Los Alamitos rocks. It really does. Okay, it might be easy to exceed expectations if there are none, but seriously, this place just works.

The beautiful historic grand stand with three levels, fine seating and viewing, is not dramatically oversized as I found it  to be the case at Aqeduct. It’s certainly not small, but not overwhelmingly huge either, no danger getting lost inside as it can easily happen at Golden Gate Fields.

What is most important: you’re close to the horses. Saddling area, parade ring, track… all close, easily accessible. So let me use one word to describe this racecourse – and I wouldn’t have thought to ever use this word to describe a US track: beautiful.

Los Alamitos is beautiful. A place where racing comes alive. There was a “feel good” atmosphere in the air, everyone’s relaxing, enjoying a fine day out and – last but not least – watching an exciting sport. I loved it.

But let the photos speak for itself:

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