Tag Archives: USA

Saturday Selections: November, 2nd 2019

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Friday night started in the worst possible way: me looking like an idiot. Here I am backing a short priced favourite for the first time in ages, touting the horse as the proverbial “good thing” that will go on to win the 2000 Guineas. Yeah, that worked out well….

The winner of the Futurity Stakes is a good horse, make no mistake. He already ran twice to 99 topspeed ratings before last night, is an April foal and clearly is consistent on a high level as another 97 TS performance showed last night.

I continue to retain some faith in Kinross, nonetheless. He was pretty keen early on and once again starting issues made life tricky. Hopefully Ralph Beckett can sort this behaviour out over the winter as I firmly belief the time to shine for this colt is as a 3-year-old.

Before moving on to selections for Breeders Cup Saturday, let me say I’m properly grateful to Jose Ortiz: he gave Structor a superb tactical ride. I needed that winner badly. Particularly as Vive La Difference finished strongly once more but found trouble – obviously – at Newcastle earlier.

I have to admit in my head I was counting the money when I saw the splits and certainly when Sweet Melania turned for home in the Juvenile Fillies Turf…. shame she couldn’t quite hold on. Anyway, plenty on the menu on Super Saturday as well!

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7.30 Chelmsford: Class 6 Handicap, 1 mile

Big chance for Cashel to get back to winning ways: already a course and distance winner, he has fallen to a super sexy handicap mark, having won of allot higher in the past and having run to topspeed ratings of 59+ three times this year alone! So, now down to 58 he is rather obviously well handicapped.

In my view he clearly proved this point when last seen at Kempton. Cashel had a strange break, nearly lost the jockey and was always trailing the field which isn’t his ideal style. He ran on well to finish third in what was an unusually competitive contest with form that stands the test of time already.

The 1lb drop in his mark since is a nice little bonus in combination with the 3lb claim of Theodore Ladd in the saddle. First time CP will hopefully help early on the race – the draw is bad, and he’ll need to be quick out of the blocks.

If Cashel does he’ll be hard to beat tonight.

Selection:
10pts win – Cashel @ 9/2 MB

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6.17 Santa Anita: G2 Twilight Derby, 1m 1f

Tricky affair and most market principles have raced each other without conclusive outcomes in the past. I think, however, one who still seems underappreciated is Tapit colt Kingly.

He remains pretty lightly raced and certainly unexposed on turf. On the other hand he showed plenty of promise in three starts on the lush green, much in line with his excellent pedigree.

He showed early promise in spring landing the Listed California Derby at Golden Gates polytrack but couldn’t bring his best to the dirt subsequently. Since the switch to turf he won a grade 3 at Del Mar, beating current favourite Neptune Storm. A 4th and 5th place finish subsequently look questionable but are exceptional pieces of form judged by circumstances.

He was lit up the next time in the Del Mar Derby, bumped right after start by the horse beside him in a bid to overcome the widest draw. He stormed to the lead soon after and that’s where the damage was done. He was less than two lengths beaten in the end.

Next time at Santa Anita, stepping up to open company, he led again, setting off way too fast, going hard all out and nearly led gate to wire in fact, only to be swept by late by the elder horses.

A wide draw doesn’t make things easy today, but there aren’t too many who are likely to compete hard for the lead, so I think he can overcome that.

If Mario Gutierrez can minimize the amount of fuel to be burned in this early phase of the race I think there is a massive chance Kingly will be hard to beg back as he stays the trip, will get a clear run, while some of the other market principles will have to hope for have to weave through traffic.

Selection:
10pts win – Kingly @ 6/1 BF

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8.54 Santa Anita: G1 BC Filly & Mare Turf, 1m 2f

It may look foolish to oppose Sistercharlie, given her incredible record. Even more so as I really struggle to fancy the Euro opposition. However, the one who seems to have come back to life and has run to a career best only recently, backing up other good performances from earlier this year is 2018 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook.

She is completely unexposed over this sort of trip, bar one try in the Nassau last year, which was an odd race to some extend and the filly potentially not at her best anyway. Her pedigree however gives her quite a decent chance of staying the distance.

Particularly with conditions she’ll appreciate. I hope Sean Levey is not afraid to utilize the excellent draw and moves instead of settling off the pace, where Billesdon Brook would only find herself around a number of other European contenders who all will be compromising their respective chances.

After a number of disappointing efforts following her superb Newmarket success last spring somehow the 4-year-old found back to her best this summer, winning three times, runner-up another time, starting in Listed company getting confidence back seemingly, all the way up to landing the Sun Chariot – which was a career best judged by tospeed, as she ran to 103, bettering her Guineas best of 101 – she also ran weeks early to 96 in Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood.

What this shows: Billesdon Brook is in the form of her life! Obvious question is whether she can hold it and bring it to Santa Anita. If she can she has a much better chance to go really close today than the big odds suggest. She also gets the added boost of running first time on lasix.

Selection:
10pts win – Billesdon Brook @ 14/1 MB

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8.20 Santa Anita: Grade 1 BC Mile Turf, 1 mile

I don’t think the fast ground and turns over this sharp mile will suit Circus Maximus. Two other Europeans I like a lot instead are Space Traveller for one – but the fact he usually settles off the pace plus the small issue of not racing on Lasix is enough to put me off.

The other one is Hey Gaman. This is a consistent horse, running to a high standards usually, if he gets his conditions. So throw the recent soft ground performances out of the window. Leaving those aside,  he won two contests in Listed and Group 3 company and was runner-up in two more hot Group 2 races, all over 7 furlongs.

He achieved topspeed ratings of 99, 100 and 105 in three subsequent races this season. That is quite a high standard I argue not many in this Breeders Cup Mile field have achieved. Furthermore he has the racing style you want for your horse at this track.

Add to that the fact he gets first time Lasix and you have a massive chance. Negative: the draw. However, maybe not as much a negative potentially as this race could turn into affair with little early pace to shout about. Hey Gaman usually breaks well so he should be able to make it over fairly quickly I feel.

The step up to a mile on this lightning fast ground is no issue either. There is enough stamina in pedigree, he is a full-brother to a winner over a mile and himself has some fair form over the trip too.

Selection:
10pts win – Hey Gaman @ 18/1 WH

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11.40 Santa Anita: G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, 1m 4f

Bricks And Mortar and vulnerable over this trip. AVD has gone backwards since the Derby. Something else may spring a surprise from the front, but I feel eerily confident Old Persian will be able to cover all moves.

He’s not quite superstar status, however he certainly is a high class individual with comparatively low mileage this season, coming here potentially fresher than others.

He’s won the Northern Dancer comfortably when last seen, so had a perfect prep while having ran to topspeed ratings of 110 in the past plus to 104 at Meydan earlier this year, he looks to have the making of what should be the favourite in the race.

The draw isn’t ideal and is my main worry that Buick will “slot in” too far off the pace. I hope he is smart and brave enough to go forward, without being suicidal, and not let the pace go too far away.

If the pilot gets the tactics right then the horse will deliver with everything sure to suit: track, trip, ground.

Selection:
10pts win – Old Persian @ 4/1 PP

Preview: Kentucky Derby 2019

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11.50pm Irish time: gates crash open for the 145th Kentucky Derby! The Run for the Roses is the longest running sporting event in the United States. This years edition appears to be particularly wide open in the absence of recently withdrawn ante-post favourite Omaha Beach.

As a consequence you can make a case for plenty of horses. Bob Baffert remains to have a strong hand, of course. Though, I fancy two horses that seemingly sail a little bit under the radar at the moment.

War Of Will – his stock has significantly fallen since a disappointing effort in the Louisiana Derby. Disappointing only on paper, though. Watch the start of the race and you see how he looses his footing soon after leaving the stalls, pulling a muscle as a result.

That aside, since switched to the dirt, he won three races on the bounce, including two graded contests. He did so in fine style, running away with the races once entering the home straight.

He’s been a high class juvenile on turf last year, runner-up in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes and finishing  good fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

If you’re willing to excuse the last run – he was 4/5 favourite, telling something about the expectations for this colt – you’ll see a classy, progressive individual, who’s taken really well to the dirt – and who has, as a little bonus, local form as well as form on a sloppy track.

Drawn right next to the rails can be a struggle, however he has early speed to overcome this task. Obviously, a different question is whether he can make the step up to Grade 1 company and has the stamina to stay the Derby trip.

We’ll find out. Crucially, the talking of the track is he’s flying at the moment, having worked really well leading up to the big race. At a big price he’s a rather easy choice for me today.

Maximum Security – By no means I am an expert if it comes to US racing, nonetheless I struggle to understand why this colt isn’t closer to the top of the market than he is. Sure, he started his career in a cheap claiming race, but ever since winning on debut he’s kicked on to new heights, culminating in the Grade 1 Florida Derby victory.

Unbeaten in four starts, it seems his recent top level success is questioned because Maximum Security lead from the front, setting slow fractions. That certainly is true and will be different today, but on the other hand, simply from a visual perspective, one could hardly been more impressed with the way he put the race to bed in the end.

On the clock he ran the last three furlongs in less than 36 seconds – easily. According to Beyer Speed Ratings, he’s ran twice to a rating o 100 or higher already. Not other horse in this years Kentucky Derby lineup has shown that sort of speed.

Early speed will lead Maximum Security to the front or near to it from a good draw. Once he’s there, how he’ll react being hard pressed, going potentially fast for a long period, over a trip he’s uncertain to stay – we’ll find out turning for home whether he’s a Derby horse.

On the plus side: Maximum Security has shown in the past he doesn’t need to lead, and he has form on a sloppy track as well.

Selections:
5pts win – Maximum Security @ 9/1 Coral
5pts win – War Of Will @ 20/1 MB

This Is Turf Paradise

I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, so I took the opportunity to pay the local race track – Turf Paradise – a visit!

Now, this is the fourth track I have been able to see here in the United States: Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos the others. In comparison with those three, Turf Parade is small. In fact, much smaller. Why? No casino!

Turf Parade is quite a compact race track, located on the outskirts of Phoenix, easy to get to because of its proximity to Interstate Highway 17.

In saying that, at the other tracks I felt lost… and the day became dull after the first few races. Well, mid-week racing, few people are keen to come racing on a Wednesday – it can be lonely onsite. Casino-race-tracks are often huge places: wide and open spaces add to the feeling of emptiness.

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Turf Paradise is different: smaller, compact, short ways from parade ring to betting to food, drink and good viewing options. I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere on the day.

Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it a truly wonderful day out.

There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it did at bigger tracks I’ve been to.

The racing was nothing to shout about. Low-grade claimers and maiden races. In saying that, most horses turned out looked fantastically well presented. Nice in their coat, clean and fit!

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Unlike recent controversy accompanying the Breeders Cup and a certain French jockey (and something I certainly notice turning in for a bit of US racing in the evening on At The Races), there was no excessive whip use to be seen here – in fact, I felt the whip was used pretty sparingly and a lot of hands and heels riding was going on – to my surprise.

Unlike Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos, If I ever have the chance again I’ll definitely go racing at Turf Paradise – I absolutely loved the day, where a card packed with 8 raced didn’t feel dull at any moment!

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Preview: Breeders’ Cup Classic 2018

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9.44 Churchill Downs: Breeders’ Cup Classic, 1m 2f

It’s always hard to assess US form properly if you watch the Dirt racing only with one eye. So, when I dismiss the home raiders in the blink of an eye I do so knowing full well it may turn out to be a foolish move in a few hours time.

But if it comes to this years Classic I feel pretty strong about two European runners. For different but then also somewhat similar reasons. In either case, the one of Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, a lot will depend on the start of the race, I believe. It’ll make or break their chances.

Thunder Snow in gate one faces an uphill task. He’s never showed tremendous gate speed, so this is a major risk. However, if experienced Sumillon in the saddle is able to push his mount forward, so he’ll not end up behind a wall of horses entering the first bend, but rather tracking the pace in third, fourth or fifth, then the reigning Dubai World Cup champion is in a position to win the race.

That performance back in March is to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the rail bias that day. However, he beat some excellent dirt horses in tremendous style and ever since the Breeders’ Cup Classic was the goal.

A disappointing effort in the Juddmonte International aside, on his return to the US, for the first time after his disastrous experience in the Kentucky Derby, Thunder Snow ran a tremendous race in defeat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

He was more sensibly ridden than the two pace setters, but still was pushed forward rather aggressively from the widest gate. That must have cost vital fuel. Contrast that with the eventual winner of the race, who had pretty much the perfect race and ride and simply picked up the pieces in the closing stages, having the most left in the tank.

Thunder Snow tracked the pace from a long way off in third place throughout the race and was gradually closing in until catching the leaders entering the home straight. He led in the final furlong, eventually beaten on the line by the fast finishing Discreet Lover.

That was an excellent run, the second after a break and only a prep for today – you would think there is still a bit to come from him, hoping he’ll peak when it matters most: today.

His form on dirt reads an impressive 11P21212 – so clearly Thunder Snow is a classy individual. Everything hinges on the start. If he can get through that without getting too far behind, then I’m confident Godolphin has a major shout at celebrating a first Classic Success.

A first one in this regard it would also be for team Ballydoyle. I’m sure there are quite a few who’ve already given up on Mendelssohn at this stage, given in three starts over in the US, ever since producing that sheer unbelievable performance in Meydan, he’s yet to come close to winning.

I see it from a different perspective: today was always the goal. Knowing Aiden O’Brien, you can be sure he’ll have Mendelssohn spot for the race they want to win desperately. Also, something that seems overlooked: Mendelssohn, for whom the way races are run in the US must have been a bit of culture shock, has steadily improved from race to race over there.

You can easily draw a line under the Kentucky Derby; since then 3-2-3, the last two in Grade 1 contests over the Classic trip. I’ve been mightily impressed with this most recent performance in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Mendelssohn was sprinting forward right from the start, racing for the lead with odds-on favourite Diversify – the two set mad fractions and where more than ten lengths clear halfway through the race! They were caught eventually, but it was Mendelssohn who battled on toe finish a two lengths beaten third in the end.

One could argue, only with some sort of soft lead, steeling the race from the front, Mendelssohn will have a chance to win today. He’s not quite up to the standard to be considered a major contender, otherwise. That is probably an assessment not too far of the truth, by all we know up until now.

I see it from this perspective, though: Mendelssohn is improving. His latest run was a new career best. He’s still not got too many miles on the clock. He’s got an ideal draw to move forward today. He had a pretty ideal preparation, stays the trip and is a returning Breeders’ Cup winner, i.e. he has class!

I might be totally wrong. Overestimate these two Europeans, and underestimate the US horses, like favourite Accelerate, Mckinzie and Catholic Boy. I might overvalue the merit of the Jockey Club Gold Cup performances. And if I fancy the second and third of that race, I should fancy the winner, Discreet Lover at massive odds of 50/1 even more so today, right?

Well, I stick to my analysis, that both Mendelssohn and Thunder Snow didn’t have ideal races that day, ran big despite the factors against them, and both offer significant upside coming into the Breeders’ Cup Classic today.

Selections:
10pts win – Thunder Snow  @ 14/1 Coral
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 10/1 PP

Preview: Kentucky Derby 2018 – A Spring Night’s Dream?

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After contemplating the whole week whether it’s a smart or not so smart decision, yet after listing to some beautiful Mendelssohn on this balmy spring Saturday, I decided the time has come: at 5/1 I’m IN!

A lot has been said about the UAE Derby winner’s performance at Meydan by people who are far more knowledgeable than I am: quite a few experts are of the opinion Mendelssohn was riding the “golden highway” on the inside rail and what did he beat anyways after Rayya bombed out in the Kentucky Oaks last night.

There is certainly merit to it. Figures based on that UAE Derby performance have to be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, what remains with me at least is the fact Mendelssohn not only won that day, but he annihilated a half-decent field with incredible ease (18½ to the runner-up Rayya) while doing so in a record winning time.

But there is more to like about him than only this one freakish performance: Mendelssohn won the Breeder’s Cup turf at the end of his two-year old campaign at Del Mar.

Given he was  a late May foal, he achieved far more as a juvenile than one could usually expected, as he also ran out a fine 2nd in the Dewhurst.

In summary: Mendelssohn has proven to travel well internally (so the slight issues around his arrivel may not be a big deal at all), he acts on any sort of surface and his best is (probably) yet to come.

Coolmore also seems rather bullish about his chances, Ryan Moore makes the trip across the pond, missing out on the 2000 Guineas, and while Mendelssohn’s wide draw could theoretically spell trouble it’s in practice no problem – as long as he breaks well (which he would need from any stall anyway).

So, c’mon Mendelssoh, make it A Spring Night’s Dream!

Selection:
10pts win – Mendelssohn @ 5/1 Matchbook

Preview: Pegasus World Cup

Can newly crowned 2017 American Horse Of The year, Gun Runner, finish his career in the most lucrative fashion? He certainly is the red-hot favourite for the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.

Whether even money is a good or a bad price depends on individual perspective. Undisputed is, however, that the reigning Breeders’ Cup champ has all the credentials to win a fifth consecutive Grade 1.

He drops down a furlong from his impressive Del Mar success, which isn’t a problem given his excellent record over 9 furlongs. SO, can he beaten?

Absolutely! Drawn wide, he’s got to be at his very best to prevail in a deep field. He’s had a tough campaign last season, including a trip to Dubai. That can take a toll on horses, as we have seen in this very same race only twelve months ago, when California Chrome flopped spectacularly.

Is he going to be at his very best coming off a near three months lay-off? Possibly – Steve Asmussen knows the horse best and will ensure his star is ready for one final big performance.

Nonetheless, at even money I have to oppose him, simply from a betting perspective, with other exciting options available to back against the favourite.

Pacific Classic winner – inflicting a painful defeat to Arrogate – and BCC runner-up Collected rates a big danger on that form. He has no problems with the trip, usually travells well and is gutsy.

He flopped in a Grade 2 at the back-end of the 2017 season; some recent reports from the US suggest he did not impress in his workouts. That’s not to say he can’t be back to his best when it matters most – but maybe those big runs have left a mark?

West Coast looks more likely to cause the ‘upset’. Impressive Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby successes, followed by a third placed- and far from disgraced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

A drop to 1m 1f should suit this horse down to the grounds. From a perfect draw he should be in a perfect position when it really matters. Castellano gets the leg up. He is still only four, so could potentially improve. He’s a big player here and one I like allot. 7/1 looks a good price.

That says, 10/1 for Sharp Azteca looks even better in my book. The speedball has a perfect draw to suit his running style, though could face competition for the lead. He proved versatile, on the other hand, and seems to have no problem tracking the pace either.

He landed a first Grade 1 success at Aqueduct in the Cigar Mile in most impressive style despite carrying top weight. If the Pegasus would be run over a mile, Sharp Azteca would be hard to beat. It isn’t, though. Hence the additional furlong is the key question.

Plenty are of the opinion he won’t stay the trip. Once taken on by the big guns in the home straight he will falter. You can point to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile where exactly that happened. Though there were some slight excuses, possibly, that day.

On the plus side: even though only on Grade 3 level, he won the Monmouth Cup over 1m 1/2f by more than seven lengths back in July last year. He didn’t appear to be stopping – and albeit better opposition awaits here – I do not see how Sharp Azteca is down as not staying 9f in the book of so many.

On pedigree there is certainly every chance he could even stretch out to 10 furlongs. Furthermore, Gulfstream Park is a track he already won twice at; it is a course to favour his running style in general. So I think there is every chance that Sharp Azteca is in the right place when it matters.

At 10’s I feel he is overpriced. Yes, he is not the most likely winner in the race. But he is the biggest value being fully unexposed over the trip, coming here in the form of his life, with a perfect draw and conditions to suit.

Selection:
10pts win – Sharp Azteca @ 10/1 PP/BF

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!