Friday, 7 August 2020

Saturday 8th August 2020: Dani a Winner All Ova

There is some top action at Haydock Park this weekend, where short-priced favourite Veracious and Global Giant are rock-solid in the Dick Hern Stakes and Rose of Lancaster Stakes respectively.

However, in terms of grabbing some good value, we are concentrating on two races each from Ascot and Newmarket where the early odds offered by layers simply don’t seem to give enough credit to a quartet of horses who should go very well in the forecast fast conditions.

1.15 Ascot (Nursery Handicap) – LINE OF DEPARTURE

It could be an excellent start to the day for us, as long as Roger Varian’s experienced Line Of Departure can prove to be ahead well handicapped.

I do think that’s the case for the son of Mehmas, one who has been out four times already but hasn’t had an overly hard time.

He has close form with Alkumait, a good Glorious Goodwood winner who now looks like a Group horse, and his easy win last time in a small race made it appear that a mark of 79 would not be accurate so it appears he is ahead of the assessors.

Challenging him in the market should be Jadwal who also looks solid, with the two appearing to be clear of First Prophet and Et Tu Brute who has form with Jadwal from Newmarket.

2.25 Ascot (Handicap) – GAME PLAYER

The draw once again shouldn’t be an issue here on the straight course for this one-mile handicap, as only ten line up and not all have a winning chance.

Former Sheikh Hamdan horse Ejtilaab is perhaps overpriced while Shelir can go well again here for the David O’Meara yard.

The likely favourite is Godolphin’s Jalaad, trained by the resurgent Saeed bin Suroor.  A winner last time at York, he is no doubt in great form but the flat track there is different to what he’ll face here and he had to put in a proper shift to get the job done, meaning he doesn’t have loads in hand and his 5lb rise in the weights could be enough to anchor him.

The interesting one is the returning five-year-old of Roger Varian’s, Game Player.  Based on modern training techniques, Varian’s past and the horse’s own profile I’d have little worries about this son of Dark Angel being at his best after a long break.

If he is, then he has weight in hand here even off 95 based on his improving performances at Lingfield, Goodwood and Ayr last term, especially given that he was blocked in his run twice.

Assuming no traffic problems this time, we should see a mature horse quickly reaching his peak this summer and with that could come another win for Andrea Atzeni and this time at a very nice price.

3.20 Newmarket (Sweet Solera Stakes – Group 3) – DANILOVA

Off to the July Course at HQ now and a nice-looking renewal of the Sweet Solera.  It’s understandable that Richard Hannon’s first-time-out winner Fly Miss Helen is put up as favourite having been well backed to score from Sarsparilla at Newbury on debut.

The form of the race is OK, perhaps nothing special, and while it remains possible for Fly Miss Helen to improve we know that from this yard they can be fully ready first time out (this one was, hence the odds) meaning less progression to come than the price here would suggest.

Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain is solid after three runs but it is germane that she put up her best show on very different ground to this, while Setarhe could be a little behind the main trio.

The value in the race is Charlie Appleby’s Danilova who has a very bright future indeed.  Having been given a handicap mark she is rated 10lbs behind Dubai Fountain, however she is way better than that and could have hosed up in a nursery.

Instead she goes for this Group 3 and she has the capabilities to win it.  She’s an improver; not much was expected on debut at 6/1 against four rivals but she ran on nicely to separate Wedding Dance, since second in a Group 3 and rated around 100, and Nash Nasha who was an easy winner at Lingfield on Wednesday.

She beat a promising type of John Gosden’s called Senita just a week ago with the minimum of fuss and can take a big stride forward in this race before being aimed perhaps at the top level by the end of the year.

5.10 Newmarket (Handicap) – EMISSARY

A fair shout for a podium finish in The Derby, Hugo Palmer’s colt indeed took his chance at Epsom but like many he was ridden incorrectly in a very unsatisfactory race behind the admittedly good Serpentine.

I was very much of the opinion that the race he took part in at Goodwood before his Classic tilt was a good one and that he could reach at least the 110 sort of level, something backed up by the fact that his very narrow conqueror Khalifa Sat went on to finish second in the Derby and is now rated 111.

The son of Kingman, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, gets in here off a mark of 98 and he is clearly ahead just now.  He’ll be a Group horse in good time and may well have too much in hand for this particular opposition.

The best of the rest may well be John Gosden’s Harrovian.  A three-time winner already, this four-year-old is still getting better and his jockey takes off a handy 7lbs, but that’s only a good thing if Oliver Stammers’ inexperience doesn’t count too much against him and he still has a lot of weight to carry round.

Cognac and Data Protection look best of the rest in this mile-and-a-quarter event but it would be no surprise to see Khalid Abdullah’s horse win this well under Harry Bentley before moving on and up over this trip, as well perhaps as 1½ miles.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Friday 31st July & Saturday 1st August 2020: Stoute to Have the Last Laafy at Goodwood

It’s been a terrific Glorious Goodwood this week.  And, while old-timers and nay-sayers will continuously take to social media to impress on is that somehow every horse in a previous era was better than what we see now, we truly witnessed a belter in the Sussex Stakes won by our favourite Mohaather.  He’s a proper miler.

Now we head into days four and five and there are more value bets to be had.  Look out on Saturday for where Godolphin’s priorities lie, and we have information on that below, while Sir Michael Stoute can finish the festival on a real high with one of his improving handicappers.

Friday 31st July 2020

2.15 Goodwood (Thoroughbred Stakes – Group 3) – TILSIT

It is ard to accurately handicap the main contenders in this decent event, Khaloosy because of his apparent liking for slower ground after an Ascot romp and My Oberon and Tilsit because of how easily they’ve beaten inferior opposition.

The one with the most potential though, and yet coming in as the biggest priced runner of the three, is indeed Charlie Hills’ horse.  True, Tilsit done his best work on Newcastle’s tapeta track so far but there’s every reason to believe he will love it round here and now has the assistance of Ryan Moore who will get every last inch out of him.

He won by the proverbial country mile at Gosforth Park last time out and while he was given a rating of 98, it really does seem that it underestimates him and he has further improvement to come.  Anything above 3/1 or so would represent value, though he may yet be a good deal bigger than that on Friday morning.

3.45 Goodwood (Glorious Stakes – Group 3) – ALOUNAK

Andrew Balding has a very interesting contender on his hands here for the rest of the season at around about this Group 3 level.

Alounak, trained previously in Germany, was bought by King Power and sent to Balding for this summer and it seems the change in routine will bring out the best in him.

The son of Camelot was consistent last season when winning at Group 3 level, finishing second to Desert Encounter in the Grade 1 Canadian International and then running a close fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (also Grade 1) to finish off the year.

Those last two runs were his 8th and 9th of the season though and if he’d been trained properly, he could well have achieved more.  Now with Balding, he’s run a good second behind Fanny Logan in the Hardwicke but probably wants this faster ground and is good value in the market.

The aforementioned Desert Encounter is next best, ahead of Pablo Escobarr and Communique who may just want it softer now but has great form.

Saturday 1st August 2020

1.00 Deauville (Prix du Carrousel – Listed Race) – GHOSTWATCH

It’s very hard to know at the time of writing what sort of price we should expect for Ghostwatch, given that while he travels and will be well-fancied he does indeed have competition this time in the shape of Alkuin, Ashrun and Time Shanakill.

After an injury ruled out Charlie Appleby’s gelding for around 20 months, he made a very underwhelming reappearance in June which made many think his racing days may already be over.

However, having been well backed at Newmarket the son of Dubawi ran a stormer in soft ground to finish second in a 1m6f handicap last time.  He’ll be fitter now, is heading in the right direction and will like this better ground.  He has a huge chance.

In behind the main danger could well be Alkuin who is on a four-timer, though it’s tough to know after a wide-margin win last time whether he really is that good or whether he’s simply been getting things his own way.

An important thing to keep in mind here in connection with Ghostwatch, and indeed Wedding Dance who has a big chance in a Group 3 on the same card, is that William Buick has chosen to stay at Newmarket instead of travelling to France to ride them, leaving that honour to James Doyle.

Be on the lookout then for any significant money at HQ for Danilova, Expressionism or Moonlight Spirit who are all ridden by Buick for Appleby and Godolphin.

2.25 Goodwood (Handicap) – LAAFY

Sir Michael Stoute, as we well know, is a dab hand at improving these four-year-old handicappers and in Laafy he has one that arguably should be coming into this race as a winner.

Last time out at Haydock, having already won easily at Newbury, the Noble Mission gelding seemed to dislike the very soft ground over the mile-and-a-half trip but stayed on nicely anyway to run a close second to Deja, another well-handicapped type.

Now going up to 1m6f, on much faster ground and having had four weeks off we should see a different Laafy and a new career best, something that will help him comfortably bely his mark of 101.

Improvement from Hochfeld is expected and he rates as the main danger, while Platitude and Indianapolis can go well but hopefully without landing a blow on the selection.

3.00 Goodwood (Lillie Langtry Stakes – Group 2) – ENBIHAAR

Enbihaar is a super mare, and while she may have occasionally been inconvenienced by softer than ideal going she has largely been very consistent.

In fact, John Gosden’s daughter of Redoute’s Choice improved enough last year to land a career best in this very contest, before going on to pretty much match it in the Park Hill Stakes.

She is arguably a Group 1 filly, if only there were enough opportunities at this trip for her, and has the advantage of wanting the trip over this ground unlike at least a couple of her rivals.

Enbihaar could be short in the betting on Saturday but is rock solid, with Ralph Beckett’s runner-up from last year Manuela De Vega expected to fill the same spot again ahead of Snow and Cabaletta.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Saturday 25th July 2020: Elar Can in York Stakes

It’s King George day at Ascot on Saturday, and many have expressed their vilification that even at the five-day stage only two trainers held entries for the midsummer showpiece.

Just three horses ultimately take on Enable, all from Aidan O’Brien’s yard and while it’s hoped the best horse wins, she is too short in the market considering the Ballydoyle plan is likely to box her in at the crucial stage.

As we approach Glorious Goodwood there is somewhat of a dearth of Pattern races, but some competitive handicaps are taking place, some top novices are due to run and at York the big Group 2 event can go to last year’s winner.  These four all look fair betting value: 

1.50 Ascot (Pat Eddery Stakes – Listed Race) – NAVAL CROWN

This is a decent Listed event for the juveniles, the type in which those who haven’t raced in Pattern company and yet hold a chance tend to be last time out winners but our selection is an exception to that.

Charlie Appleby’s Naval Crown was just third on his debut at Newmarket, while main rival Saint Lawrence was a decent fourth in the Superlative Stakes (Group 2) last time out.

The Superlative winner, Master Of The Seas, is just about the top rated two-year-old to have run as yet this season and so Saint Lawrence’s form is rock solid, and yet our horse ran to a very similar speed figure on debut  behind two horses with experience and would clearly have a lot more to give now coming out of novice company.

John Gosden brings Saeiqa here who ran third at Royal Ascot, while Woodcote Stakes winner Twaasol completes the shortlist but it’s hard to know just how much improvement these horses have in them now moving up to seven furlongs.  In any event, the unexposed son of Dubawi who gets the vote.

2.40 York (York Stakes – Group 2) – ELARQAM

This year’s York Stakes is a tight-looking Group 2 affair, all of the six other runners holding some sort of chance if the selection isn’t on top form.

However, Elarqam does have plenty in his favour.  Mark Johnston’s runner beat a few of these home in the Group 1 Juddmonte International over this course and distance last season, the best piece of form on offer by some way with his profile suggesting he can repeat or even better that yet.

He also has close form this term from Haydock with Lord North who has since been raised to a mark of 124 having taken the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in fine style, while the son of Frankel also won this race last season ahead of subsequent dual Group 1 winner Addeybb who had his ideal racing conditions that day.  He looks set fair for another massive run.

In behind things appear quite close.  Juddmonte International fifth Regal Reality of Sir Michael Stoute’s yard retains plenty of potential and could be booked for a place here, while Andrew Balding’s Fox Chairman can yet improve.

Last year’s Dante winner and conqueror of Too Darn Hot, Telecaster, makes his British return having won in France and could be dangerous while King Of Comedy has been rated high enough in the past to have won this, but hasn’t been at his best for some time.  A return to form could be on the cards for the Gosden colt.

3.00 Ascot (Handicap) – TSAR

It’s a shame prize money is so pathetically low in Britain at the moment, especially for races such as this one.

Run over Ascot’s straight mile, this handicap is for the three-year-olds only and there could well be one or two future Group performers in the field.

I reckon this race can be whittled down to three key runners, beginning with The Queen’s horse Evening Sun.  Trained by Roger Charlton, the son of Muhaarar was a good winner over seven furlongs at Newmarket last time at the third attempt, with huge improvement having come in between runs so far.

The one with arguably the strongest form so far is William Haggas’ Johan.  Having taken a huge step forward when winning first time up for the season at Newbury, the Zoffany colt announced himself as one with a decent future but his 8lb rise could prove to be a tad harsh for a horse who won narrowly, if fairly comfortably.

The one to side with all things considered though is likely to be John Gosden’s Tsar.  Only just coming to himself after four career runs spread over twelve months, the beautifully bred son of Kingman out of a 100+ rated King’s Best mare stepped up to score at Yarmouth last time in the style of a horse with a lot more to give.

He’s been raised 6lbs for that but frankly a handicap mark of 94 should be nowhere near reflective of his true ability and so he is taken to score under Frankie Dettori.

3.15 York (Handicap) – ELWAZIR

There could be some real value in this one-mile contest, at small stakes and/or if strong money comes in the morning for Owen Burrows’ Elwazir.  At the time of writing, the five-year-old is available at 12/1 in places and that looks crazy.

Elwazir was really going places a season or two ago, being aimed at Group 3 level and being expected to run to a mark of 110+ at least.  He is in this handicap off 103, had a pipe-opener after his gelding operation at Newmarket but is down in trip now, is much fitter and could well do himself justice.  The son of Frankel therefore is simply overpriced and is worth a nibble.

In behind things are close with the likes of Hartswood, Orbaan, Tadleel and Al Erayg all capable of landing blows.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Friday 17th & Saturday 18th July 2020: Dancing in the Moonlight at York

We can almost feel a little cheated that there isn’t a Group 1 being run in Britain for once this weekend after the headrush that has been this concertinaed season so far.

That said, it’s Irish Oaks day over at the Curragh on Saturday and in the States the Haskell Stakes can hand out very important Kentucky Derby clues with Bob Baffert’s Authentic on the comeback trail.  Indeed, he is my early fancy for the big one on September 5th.

We’re about trying to find good value betting options however and so with that in mind, these five appeal most beginning with two at Haydock’s Friday evening meeting.

Friday 17th July 2020

6.25 Haydock (Tapster Stakes – Listed Race) – EL MISK

We have some small fields at Haydock on Friday night including in this race, but the weather is set fair and conditions should be ideal for the always promising El Misk of John Gosden’s yard in this 1½-mile Listed event.

Seemingly always running in small fields, the son of Dansili has shown generally progressive form and there’s no reason his advancement should stop now with this race set-up looking ideal.  Rab Havlin travels to ride.

In behind things are tight; Ispolini isn’t at his best but remains a place threat, as does Trueshan while both Mountain Hunter and recent all-weather winner Alignak can also get involved at some stage.

6.55 Haydock (Conditions Stakes) – D’BAI

A fascinating conditions race featuring plenty who were initially aimed at Pattern races elsewhere.  The overall quality of the race is equal to a Listed or Group 3 event and while on private ratings it’s close, I’d say D’bai may prove best of them just ahead of Happy Power.

The betting, with Happy Power at the head of it, is shaped around the fact that several of these ran behind Space Blues over the course and distance last month, but D’bai needed the run there and did much better behind the same horse in France next time.

He’s a solid proposition for Charlie Appleby and he can get the better of the Balding horse, Mubtasim, Snazzy Jazzy and Ostilio.

Saturday 18th July 2020

1.55 York (Silver Cup – Group 3) – MOONLIGHT SPIRIT

While on official ratings Mark Johnston’s Communique comes out on top here and he’s obviously in great form, the 1m6f trip is a question mark for him and so seldom do runners from that stable put up their very best performance twice in a row.

David Simcock’s Universal Order is another in with a fair shout, but the one to concentrate on could be the horse Charlie Appleby clearly thinks can enter the proper staying ranks and challenge Stradivarius at some stage and that is Moonlight Spirit.

Second to Technician last season in a French Group 2 on ground that clearly suited his rival, he is progressing nicely and should be able to reach a new level now after the 2½-mile trip and the very soft ground in the Gold Cup at Ascot didn’t suit him last time on his first start since being gelded.

3.05 York (City Walls Stakes – Listed Race) – EQUILATERAL

Looking at the prices here, it may well simply have been forgotten that Equilateral ran second to Battaash over his favoured five-furlong trip two runs ago and he can prove to be the best of this bunch.

In chasing his stablemate home at Royal Ascot, many were surprised but readers of this column shouldn’t have been after he was recommended as an alternative to the very short-priced champion there.

Now bought from Khalid Abdulla by Fitri Hay, Charlie Hills’ five-year-old can actually still reach a career high this season and while that is not necessarily needed here, he may well achieve it anyway and that would of course be good enough under James Doyle.

Alpha Delphini, albeit coming off a long break, can also make his mark while Que Amoro still has a little way to go yet despite potentially going off favourite for this race.  Old favourites El Astronaute and Major Jumbo may prove to have just a little bit too much to do in what looks a pretty hot race for a Listed event.

4.00 Newbury (Hackwood Stakes – Group 3) – SHINE SO BRIGHT

If this race goes to a six-furlong specialist then it would naturally prove to be no surprise, however at the likely prices a chance can be taken on Andrew Balding’s Shine So Bright.

A generally progressive four-year-old, the son of Oasis Dream just went far too fast over seven furlongs last time at Epsom but still ran a solid race, making this event look just about ideal.

A Group 2 winner only last summer ahead of Laurens at York, a race of this nature is well within Shine So Bright’s compass and so it makes sense to me that retained rider Silvestre De Sousa chooses to come here rather than go to Haydock to ride the likes of Happy Power.

In what promises to be a fast-paced event, we can now see the very best of this animal.

Another improver is three-year-old Repartee of Kevin Ryan’s yard, though he may just find this race a little hot, while Tabdeed is also overpriced for Owen Burrows and should not be discounted.

Dakota Gold travels here instead of going over five furlongs at York, Mums Tipple is a total enigma and I cannot believe that at this stage and in these conditions The Tin Man and Judicial are being advertised as the top two in the market.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Friday 10th & Saturday 11th July 2020: Kingdom in Seventh Heaven at Newmarket

Even after a very busy Thursday featuring some potential Group 1 types, the next two days of racing stand out with Newmarket and Ascot taking centre stage.

The July Cup is the feature race but it is tough to call, though Threat and Equilateral both look overpriced, so we stick to these special few who look to provide some great value.

Friday 10th July 2020

12.10 Newmarket (Handicap) – SPECTRUM OF LIGHT

It’s an early start on Friday and a prompt chance for Charlie Appleby to carry on his terrific form at Newmarket with Spectrum Of Light.

His ratings so far in finishing second, third and first in three starts, official or otherwise, look to grossly underestimate him given that he’s been keeping company with some good horses.

On a line through those other horses this beautifully bred gelding, a son of Golden Horn out of a Shamardal mare, could well be a 90+ horse by now but gets in this handicap off a mark of just 80 and so with conditions in favour he is taken to score.

Of those in behind preference is for John Gosden’s Grand Bazaar, while Wise Glory and Group One Power are also capable of landing blows.

2.25 Newmarket (Duchess of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – MORE BEAUTIFUL

A fine event for the young fillies and formerly the Cherry Hinton Stakes, and this year’s race is one that can go to the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien team with their representative More Beautiful.

The majority of cash floating around is bound to be going the way of Karl Burke’s Newcastle and Royal Ascot winner Dandalla, while the improving Time Scale is another who can go well for Ralph Beckett after a taking Listed success over on the Rowley Mile.

In winning a maiden at Naas upon the resumption of racing in Ireland though, More Beautiful marked herself out immediately as a potential top-notcher and in the process clocked the best time figures available in this field despite it being first time out.

4.10 Newmarket (Falmouth Stakes – Group 1) – NAZEEF

This is a potentially tight Group 1 race for the fillies and mares, with former Guineas winner Billesdon Brook remaining capable and yet being a little way down the list.

One Master retains plenty of ability but may well just be regressing overall, while Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand is considered rock-solid after an easy Group 2 win and a fine fourth to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse so far this season.

What wouldn’t surprise however is if the event came down to two of John Gosden’s string, a man at the very top of the worldwide racing game who truly excels with fillies.

Terebellum has been in brilliant form this term having won a good Group 2 race before going on to be a close second to Circus Maximus in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.  As good as that form is, she remains vulnerable to one who can progress past her and that is where Nazeef comes in.

A winner now of five races in a row, she overcame unfavourable conditions on her seasonal debut to win at Kempton in Listed company before going on to score nicely at Royal Ascot in a Group 2.  She can carry on moving up the racing ladder and looks a ready-made victor at the top level.

Saturday 11th July 2020

1.50 Newmarket (Handicap) – EASTERN WORLD

There are a couple of angles to look at in this three-year-old race; the proven handicap form of Finest Sound and the novice potential of the likes of Haqeeqy and Eastern World.

Finest Sound is bound to go well while Haqeeqy’s easy win on the Rowley Mile marks him out as a good one, but the way in which Eastern World was able to lay up with the pace on the same course and still pull clear at the death wins it.

His mark for that run of 90 looks to significantly underestimate him and so it could be yet another HQ win for Charlie Appleby and Will Buick.

3.00 Newmarket (Superlative Stakes – Group 2) – SEVENTH KINGDOM

There’s plenty of talent in here as you’d imagine, with three colts in particular standing out on potential based on their respective debut efforts.

Aidan O’Brien sends Curragh scorer and son of Galileo Hudson River for this and while he is bound to improve a ton as most from the yard do, he will really have to given this test is not necessarily where his real talents are bound to lie and he ran just 13 days ago.

Godolphin’s Master Of The Seas also made a winning start in a four-runner race, something that makes his form hard to judge, but while he is second on the list based on how well his stable is going and how much he may have come on in three weeks he doesn’t quite match up to Seventh Kingdom.

John Gosden’s son of Frankel made a quite brilliant debut at Doncaster, and having been treated properly and left alone for a month it would be no surprise were we to see a Group 1 showing here in all but name.

3.15 Ascot (Summer Mile – Group 2) – MOHAATHER

The once hot hope for the 2000 Guineas may not have won the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot without trouble in running, but would surely gave finished third and that would have been some result first time up after a layoff.

Mohaather drops in class here, goes round a bend and has the advantage for once of race fitness.  With those things in mind he should now reach a new peak and that’s something that should ensure he’s good enough to take this race before he inevitably moves back into Group 1 company.

Just ahead at Ascot was Marie’s Diamond who challenges again, while at a similar level all things considered are Skardu, Lord Tennyson and Dukes Of Hazzard.  Sir Michael Stoute’s Zaaki will be supported, but needs a big step forward from recent runs.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th July 2020: English to be Crowned King on Derby Day

We have a truly massive weekend of top-class action, frankly too much to write about in fact, but these six over Saturday and Sunday look the strongest bets on what is a Classic weekend.

Saturday 4th July 2020


1.50 Epsom (Woodcote Stakes) – MODERN NEWS


Modern News may be no Pinatubo, but he is trained by the same trainer and is by the same sire (Shamardal) and could well emulate his stable companion by taking the Woodcote.

A winner on debut at Newmarket over five furlongs, Charlie Appleby’s colt was on the outer that day but swept by to claim victory over a trip that would be a little short for his liking. He has beaten subsequent winners and can improve plenty now, putting him at a good level despite his reversal in the Chesham Stakes.

Modern News’ run at Ascot was no disaster and we can’t forget he was well fancied at 4/1 that day, so plenty can be expected here as he goes up against likely main rival Twaasol as well as Mutazawwed and Inhaler.

3.40 Epsom (The Oaks – Group 1) – FRANKLY DARLING


Fillies get their few pounds’ allowance from colts because of the bare fact that they are a little weaker, so asking them to tackle the same track and trip as the Derby has always put more emphasis on stamina than it has in the colt’s race and this is why John Gosden’s Frankly Darling is so well fancied.

Runner-up on unsuitable heavy ground last year, she was a taking winner at Newcastle before routing her Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes field at Royal Ascot over the full 1½ miles and is sure to see out this trip better than many others for the same sire/trainer/jockey combo as last year’s winner Anapurna.

The yard could yet have a great value filly with a place chance in the shape of another impressive Newcastle winner, Tiempo Vuela. Stamina is the main issue and she didn’t run well on her seasonal bow, but it’s clear she has the talent and will be a force at this level at some point.

1000 Guineas winner Love has been the one for money and there’s no doubt she is talented, however Aidan O’Brien’s filly does have more of a look of a miler about her and so despite the nice way she opened up at Newmarket, a chance is taken on her just not seeing out this extra four furlongs.

Ribblesdale runner-up Ennistymon is probably best of the rest, but there are plenty of big prices floating around and with good reason as the Gosden horse has a more and more solid look about her every time the race is previewed.

4.55 Epsom (The Derby – Group 1) – ENGLISH KING


A decent renewal of the Blue Riband, one in which my own long-term fancy is still the one to be on and that is Ed Walker’s English King.

His win at Newcastle in great fashion last back end, a place that is now a veritable breeding ground for top-class talent, went rather under the radar and so it was no surprise when he was backed from 9/2 to 9/4 when landing the gamble for this column in the Derby Trial at Lingfield last month.

He has balance, he is a proven stayer, has obvious class and on both his wins he has shown an impressive turn of pace right at the death to put his races to bed. As a bonus, it must be pointed out that he beat Berkshire Rocco with ease at Lingfield who went on to run second to Santiago in an Ascot Group 2 before that horse subsequently took the Irish Derby last weekend. Frankie Dettori takes the ride.

All the talk about impressive Guineas winner Kameko has been about whether he will stay, but on his running style, his breeding as well as on a line through Roaring Lion who Oisin Murphy thinks he is a lot like, he may just not.

He’s got the best form, there’s no doubt about that, and is a good alternative to English King at the prices but I can’t help thinking he’ll be seen to better effect in races such as the Juddmonte International or the Champion Stakes later in the campaign.

The big each-way value is Ralph Beckett’s all-weather winner Emissary. He was beaten last time and has some learning to do and at around 33/1 he is overpriced.

Aidan O’Brien sends his usual battalion with for my money Mogul and Russian Emperor being hard to split as the best of them despite very strong money for the former, while also overpriced for potential place money are Mohican Heights and Max Vega.

Sunday 5th July 2020


1.50 Sandown (Coral Charge – Group 3) – LAZULI


Set to thrive now down to the minimum distance, Godolphin’s Lazuli was a winner for us last time in the Listed Scurry Stakes and in taking that event before coming here he is following the same career path as a certain Battaash.

Looking well capable of burning off Liberty Beach, Maid In India, Dakota Gold and A’Ali William Buick’s mount gets the nod to carry on his progression with Group 1’s on the agenda later on.

2.25 Sandown (Henry II Stakes – Group 3) – CROSS COUNTER


Rather unusually, these have all been priced up in the exact order I’d had them on private ratings which gives the race a rock-solid look.

The most likely winner is Godolphin’s Cross Counter who may be heading back to the Melbourne Cup later in the year, with Dashing Willoughby considered next best ahead of Spanish Moon, Withhold and finally Summer Moon.

3.35 Sandown (Eclipse Stakes – Group 1) – GHAIYYATH


Despite Lord North coming out and the Derby and Oaks both being run this weekend, this could be the race of the season.

I love Enable as much as anyone, but she is so often just on the cusp with her fillies’ allowance when up against the boys and this time she has a proper challenger in the tearaway Ghaiyyath.

Charlie Appleby’s bullet train has truly earned his high rating and broke the Newmarket track record last time in the Coronation Cup, while it’s easy to see this being his career best over a trip he may well excel at.

The queen of the turf is next on the list ahead of the overpriced Regal Reality who will come good at some point, while Japan seems a level below the big two but may well make a fist of it given that Ghaiyyath’s pace may help the stayers a little.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Saturday 27th June 2020: Look Around for the Value at Newcastle

It’s Irish Derby day on Saturday at the Curragh, while the ever more popular Tapeta track at Newcastle takes centre stage in England on what is a very different looking and extended Northumberland Plate Day.

There are some interesting contenders running at Newmarket too in both the Criterion and the Fairway Stakes while Churchill Downs hosts a very valuable Grade 2 contest, but we have ultimately settled on four value bets beginning at Gosforth Park in a competitive Group 3 race:

1.50 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – MUBAKKER

There are plenty of good and well-established six-furlong sprinters in this race, none with a higher rating than Brando of course and on his first start on the all-weather he is bound to go well.

Peaks and troughs are expected but overall, he is understandably going a little bit backwards now and he may not be up to his very best form for the admittedly hot Kevin Ryan.  He is most likely good for a place, but that career best form may be what is needed if he is to deny Sir Michael Stoute’s recent course and distance scorer Mubakker here this time.

Improving sharply all the time, Mubakker won a strong handicap in very taking style here upon the resumption of racing and was actually clear favourite for the Wokingham Stakes last week at Ascot before being pulled out in favour of this event.

Fellow Hamdan Al Maktoum runner Shabaaby and Judicial can both go well, but may well be running for place money if Dane O’Neill’s mount doesn’t run into any trouble.

3.00 Newcastle (Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – LOOK AROUND

The Hoppings itself may not be allowed on the Town Moor in Newcastle this year, but the race named after it certainly is and while it has been moved from its now regular Friday night slot alongside the Gosforth Park Cup, it simply adds to the quality of Saturday afternoon.

The one for money here is the unbeaten Aloe Vera of Ralph Beckett’s yard, though caution is urged given that she’s been off the track for more than 400 days and has only gone on quicker turf so far.  These conditions are very different and, on a line through others with close form, she may not quite be good enough to get to our horse anyway.

That horse is the one representing the bang in form Classic winning yard of Andrew Balding, Look Around.  There are several bits of form from her second to Duneflower and third to Lavender’s Blue last year that point to her being a few pounds better than these, so having had a freshener at Newbury and coming from a red-hot yard she looks the most solid option and is fair value.

Both William Haggas’ Nkosikazi and Ed Dunlop’s Virgin Snow are interesting stepping up in class, but they may have a way to go yet to reach the level required.

7.15 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – SANTIAGO

While understandable to a degree given the change in schedules required on both sides of the Irish Sea, this is a desperately disappointing Irish Derby and one that on paper at least, isn’t even worth the title of Group 1 let alone Classic.

That said, something could yet prove to be above average and whatever happens, something has to win it too and it seems the solid one all things considered is Aidan O’Brien’s Queen’s Vase winner Santiago in what looks like a Coolmore/O’Brien family benefit race.

Others may step up their form over this distance, such as Sherpa, Iberia and Arthur’s Kingdom, but in these strange times it could be the one coming back in distance from 1¾ miles who simply outstays if not outclasses them.

In all fairness Santiago handled seven furlongs and a mile quite well last year as a juvenile and it may be that his ability got him home at Ascot, making this trip ideal, so he is backed on the day but probably not again when he meets the best middle-distance types later in the season.

Should Santiago win this, considering he beat Berkshire Rocco last time, look out for English King’s odds shortening even further for the Derby at Epsom next week.

10.47 Churchill Downs (Stephen Foster Stakes – Grade 2) – BY MY STANDARDS

A quality race, and it’s a pleasure to see horses running for £200,000+ instead of the majorly reduced prize funds in Britain at the moment.

The strong favourite on most boards will be Tom’s D’Etat, a winner when last seen in April.  Before that the now seven-year-old had racked up some fine performances last term, including landing a Listed Race, a Grade 2 and the Grade 1 Clark Stakes easily from today’s rival Owendale.

We of course have had some joy in backing Owendale before and in receipt of 4lbs he could well turn the tables on his old foe here, especially after that fine prep run here at Churchill Downs recently, but they may both struggle at the weights to keep up with today’s selection.

By My Standards, a four-year-old trained by Bret Calhoun, is in the unusual position for an American horse of having been on the Triple Crown trail last year when winning the Louisiana Derby and entering the Kentucky Derby, while still very much being on the improve now.

His Oaklawn Handicap win in May was a definite career high and everything about his profile says he’ll go further, making him on the numbers and upon further investigation the best of this bunch so without any bad luck in running he should land this event before going on to contest the better Grade 1 races over the Classic distance.