Friday, 20 November 2020

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st November 2020: Join the Clan at Haydock

It’s Lancashire Chase day at Haydock on Saturday, or Betfair Chase day as we know it now. The huge Grade One event will be handing us not only the joy of seeing some of the best chasers in the business strut their stuff in tough conditions, but also some major Cheltenham Festival clues too with the Gold Cup already in focus.

We begin on the flat on Friday at Newcastle however with a couple of horses who look decent value to land their respective events.

Friday 20th November 2020

4.45 Newcastle (Handicap) – WITH RESPECT

Hughie Morrison sends his With Respect up to Newcastle for the second division of this one-mile handicap on the Tapeta track and he has a fabulous chance of landing the odds.

He’s been on the go for a while now having had six runs since August, but as a three-year-old there is bound to be improvement to come from him yet and he might just unlock it on this surface.

Newcastle takes some getting and a look at the profile of this colt suggests that this is exactly what he needs now having run two solid thirds at Newbury and Doncaster. Ray Dawson rides and takes off a very handy 3lbs.

His main market rivals look like the biggest threat with both Perfect Swiss and Daniel Deronda having solid each-way chances on the book.

5.15 Newcastle (Nursery Handicap) – ALBERT CAMUS

John Gosden has a fantastic record at Newcastle, but while sending the Enable’s and the Without Parole’s to Gosforth Park is done simply to get the best racing conditions for a horse on its debut, travelling only one 75-rated juvenile for a Class 5 nursery suggests he’s doing so because he knows it has an outstanding chance.

The selection is of course based on more than that. Albert Camus ran well enough on debut at Sandown when third to the smart Maximal to be worthy of at least this handicap mark and that was back in September. Consider then that he will undoubtedly have improved plenty since then, he can be expected to run a good 5-7lbs better than his mark. He has the excellent PJ McDonald up top to help him along.

His rivals are strong, Mark Johnston’s Annandale being a last time out winner who has the potential to improve, though it wouldn’t necessarily make him better handicapped than the selection and runners from this stable don’t always go on from race to race.

William Haggas is another Newmarket trainer with a good record here and his Currency Exchange isn’t out of this considering his gelding operation and the addition of cheekpieces, but again improvement is not guaranteed with him.

Saturday 21st November 2020

12.10 Haydock (Newton Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – DO YOUR JOB

A good quality listed race over what will prove to be a tough enough two miles on this track, one which even while flat is very, very testing when the rain gets in.

The presence of Paul Nicholls’ Flic Ou Voyou, on a four-timer here, has kept the price on our horse very respectable and we have to take advantage of that here.

Officially rated 4lbs inferior to his main rival, Do Your Job’s latest run when winning ever so easily at Ayr was worth more than that and he has been improving in absolute lumps in between races.

To top it off, the horse he beat with ease, Dan Skelton’s useful Cadzand, came out himself next time and won comfortably. The up and coming Severance is next on the list

1.45 Lingfield (Novice Stakes) – TOUCHWOOD 

The likely favourite here is Richard Hughes’ Elektronic who was fourth on debut at Kempton Park recently. While that form is solid enough in the context of this juvenile race, he leaves him vulnerable as a favourite and I’d say that a similar run at the same track from Touchwood was better and he may prove that here.

Charlie Hilles’ Invincible Spirit colt made a slow start to his racing career at Ascot but greatly improved last time. He is better bred than his main rival, has Kieran Shoemark on board and possesses the pace needed at this track to get into position when and where it counts.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – CLAN DES OBEAUX

I seem to remember being really sweet on Lostintranslation when he won this race last year, finally defeating Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai who reopposes once again.

Bristol is a wonderful horse and not done with yet, but in stepping back and taking a wider looking at his bare form, his ratings, his ups and his downs, he’s not a horse who seems likely to run to his very best and that would have been what was required here.

Lostintranslation was terrific in this race last season and ran third in the Gold Cup no less, but on the books both performances were of a similar standard and if that’s how good he is then he is top-notch, but not unbeatable.

It may also be worth pointing out that this is his seasonal debut. Two seasons who, he was a beaten 13/8 favourite on seasonal debut and last year he won an easier race at Carlisle before coming here making his chances this year look a little less certain.

Step forward Clan Des Obeaux. The 2018 and 2019 King George winner actually does appear, overall at least considering the understandable peaks and troughs, to be getting better. He loves a flat track, goes well on soft ground and is back nice and fresh for the season having had a breathing operation.

Even when he was fourth in this race back in 2018, statistically it was his career high to that point. Paul Nicholls’ runner is no certainty, but between the three principals he is easily the best value.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Saturday 14th November 2020: Stoute to Be Jovial at Lingfield

It’s a huge weekend of National Hunt action, but while Cheltenham’s November meeting is making us all look forward to the Festival in March it isn’t necessarily throwing up too many betting opportunities.

There are two good value shouts at Wetherby to get stuck into, while the all-weather presents us with more opportunities on the flat despite the time of year.

We begin at Lingfield, where it seems that all-time great Sir Michael Stoute may be on for a very profitable day indeed.

12.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – ASTRO KING

Assuming Richard Fahey’s Irreverent and William Stone’s Dashing Roger are genuine contenders for this Class 2 event, which I think they are, then Sir Michael Stoute’s Astro King begins to look very smart indeed in the context of this event.

While the other two have solid credentials and are bound to be rightfully well-backed, Lingfield so often comes down to speed and the one with the best figures in that sphere is indeed the three-year-old son of Kingman, Astro King.

In fact, Astro King put in a display on the all-weather a couple of runs ago that would make him a genuine favourite for this, despite being a beaten favourite on the day, so considering he is down to the mile trip now and switches from Kempton Park to Lingfield we can expect even more from him under Andrea Atzeni.

We all know that this top Newmarket yard continues to improve their horses at this sort of age with Astro King looking the type to move into Listed or Group 3 company early next season, so off 87 he is well handicapped for this race and should be backed with reasonable confidence.

1.13 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – SHALL WE GO NOW

This is a decent quality race, one which is very tight not only in the handicap but in the betting market as well.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Miah Grace should attract support but her standout run was over at Doncaster last season and although it may have been described as a pipe-opener, her return at this track last month was reasonably solid but nothing to particularly write home about.

Miah Grace’s rate of improvement isn’t astounding overall, while there are also questions to answer for Ian Williams’ Speed Company and Sam Thomas’ Mario De Pail.

The one to be on instead could well be Shall We Go Now for Noel Fehily’s racing syndicate. A maiden hurdle winner at Taunton back in January, the seven-year-old has come nowhere near to his best as yet and so his handicap mark is way off.

We can use that to our advantage, while the gelding is also race fit having had a spin on the turf at Nottingham to get him ready for this. As an added bonus, it’s noted that Harry Fry sends only this horse to Yorkshire on Saturday and he is also the only ride for jockey Dave Crosse. Watch out for strong money coming in for him in the build-up to the race.

1.48 Wetherby (Handicap Chase) – ROSE SEA HAS

Dr Richard Newland sends his five-year-old grey Rose Sea Has to Wetherby and he has moved to book champion jockey Brian Hughes for the ride, something that could prove crucial in what is a competitive handicap chase.

Although an unfancied 28/1 shot, he was fifth and staying on nicely last time out at Market Rasen when he fell and it appears that overall, he has the profile of an improving horse.

Perversely, he is gradually going down the weights having not won since last November but he’s never really lost his form and could have been grossly underestimated by the bookmakers here.

The competition, on paper at least, is plentiful with Fanzio, Johnbb, Louis’ Vac Pouch and Schiehallion Munro all possessing enough form to make them contenders but at around 5/1 or 6/1 Rose Sea Has is priced well enough for us to take a chance on him.

3.40 Lingfield (Golden Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – JOVIAL 

Sir Michael Stoute has arguably struggled to find the right conditions for Jovial since she last won, though it’s perhaps germane that the win in question was indeed over this course and distance. A lot has happened since then and, even in defeat, Jovial has proven that she is of Listed class at the very least.

Six furlongs looks like being her trip and it seems she can peak now that speed is very much of the essence, not just because of the trip but because of this track as well.

At a very tasty price she can be backed at small stakes to get the job done here under the excellent Tom Marquand, while the in-form Good Effort and Godolphin’s On The Warpath also rate highly with Judical potentially popular with punters on the day.

8.00 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – LEAFHOPPER

Not a major race, but one perhaps worth waiting until 8PM for. The favourite here is the Crisford’s Last Surprise, but while she sets a good standard having run regularly to form and earning her rating of 95, she is far from infallible.

After seeing her win her first two races easily I seem to remember being quite sweet on John Gosden’s Leafhopper for a Listed race last time out.

She was only 6/1 to win that event and it is always worth remember that, while remaining ambitious, Gosden never throws these fillies into Pattern events unless he thinks they have a genuine chance of winning.

Leafhopper is a Godolphin purchase by Dark Angel and she is one who remains on track to compete in Listed events at some stage, making this grade well within her compass. The seven-furlong trip looks ideal and she will appreciate the Tapeta surface, so at around 4/1 she looks perfectly backable under the reliable Nicky Mackay.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Friday 6th & Saturday 7th November 2020: Head North to Kentucky

We have a real clash of the codes this week, with the Elite Hurdle taking place at Wincanton in which Sceau Royal’s speed between flights might prove crucial, while on the flat in the States it’s the $31million Breeders’ Cup in Kentucky.

Friday 6th November 2020 

8.10 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – Grade 1) – CADILLAC

Friday evening, UK time, is Future Stars Friday at the Breeders’ Cup as the five two-year-old races take place on a quality card.

While there are some strong locals here including Gretzky The Great and especially the main danger to the selection Mutasaabeq, it could be a familiar European turf win with Jessie Harrington’s Cadillac favoured.

Only 4/1 to win the Dewhurst last time on unsuitable ground, he has form with Mac Swiney and he demolished Van Gogh and looks a real Group 1 type. New Mandate, Public Sector and Battle Ground are also possibilities.

10.15 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

It was my belief that but for injury, Godolphin’s Maxfield would have won this race last year and possibly the 2020 Kentucky Derby too.

This year, their Essential Quality is following the same path having landed the Breeders’ Futurity over this course and distance and has remained in one piece!

The grey’s win last time on just his second start was expert and, unlike many Group/Grade 1 types even as juveniles in the States, he has improvement to come at this stage. Favourite Jackie’s Warrior is solid and is feared most, ahead of Rombauer.

Saturday 7th November 2020

2.05 Doncaster (Gillies Stakes – Listed Race) – BORN WITH PRIDE

This is a competitive fillies’ race on paper over the mile-and-a-quarter trip, one that at Doncaster is fair for all and so even in soft conditions should ideally allow the cream to rise.

With that in mind, last year’s Listed race debut winner Born With Pride could belatedly prove how good she can be as a three-year-old. William Haggas’ Born To Sea filly can handle this ground and should appreciate being brought back in trip.

This season she has rather let connections down, but it could be that this is her time of year and in ideal racing conditions she looks far too big a price. Trefoil, Moll Davis, Freyja, Chamade, Anna Nerium and Zahratty are all very close in behind so places are very much up for grabs.

6.18 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – Grade 1) – ART COLLECTOR

Every horse is allowed one blip, and so Art Collector being available at around 8/1 seems crazy anyway and even more absurd when you consider his latest fourth place was achieved in the Preakness Stakes.

Previously, the son of Bernardini was showing plenty of improvement over nine furlongs in winning the Ellis Park Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes here. This mile now appears to be ideal.

Art Collector has beaten top three-year-old yardsticks Swiss Skydiver, the subsequent Preakness winner and second-favourite for the Distaff on this card, and Attachment Rate both easily and has a huge chance here.

Likely favourite Complexity is next best along with Knicks Go and last year’s Preakness winner War Of Will who is also overpriced.

6.57 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1) – TEREBELLUM

The home team is strong here, Rushing Fall and Mean Mary fancied every bit as much as Aidan O’Brien’s Irish Guineas winner Peaceful, but it could be that it isn’t Ballydoyle but Clarehaven that produces the main European challenge.

John Gosden runs his solid Group 1 filly Terebellum in this race, and with the trip down to 1m1½f this year in quick conditions the race could be ideal for the Dahlia Stakes winner.

Terebellum was excellent against the boys when just being run out of the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, while the ground beat her when she was third to stablemate Nazeef in the Falmouth Stakes. Her class may truly tell here under Frankie Dettori at a tempting price.

8.15 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Mile – Grade 1) – KAMEKO

This is one of the properly elite races on the card with One Master, Ivar and Uni all possessing real top-level form and all can have their say.

The best one-mile European form often comes to the fore in this race though, and it’s unlikely this year that Siskin, Circus Maximus and Kameko will all be run out of it and so the winner should come from that trio.

Siskin has a great turn of foot and the Irish 2000 Guineas winner and Sussex Stakes third should enjoy things here. Ahead of him that day was Queen Anne winner Circus Maximus who will have his say again, but the unlucky horse at Goodwood as we know was Kameko and he has long been targeted at this event.

Winner of the 2000 Guineas in a quick time, Kameko is at his best now after a taking Joel Stakes win giving away weight. Even without Pinatubo and especially Mohaather this is tough, but he would be a fitting winner of this race for Andrew Balding and he backed to be so.

9.33 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – LORD NORTH

John Gosden knows how to get the job done in the Breeders’ Cup, the former California trainer realising that European-trained horses so often stay just a little further here than at home.

As such, look at the bare form of Lord North’s wins in the Brigadier Gerard, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Juddmonte International over 1¼ miles rather than the race distance here (1m4f) and you can see how I think class will tell.

Lord North has an excellent turn of foot which will be crucial in these conditions around tight turns on firm ground, and he can beat home the arguably overworked Magical, her stable companion Mogul and the unbeaten in 2020 Tarnawa.

10.13 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE

The $6million showpiece event. So often, three-year-old’s only win this race when they are genuinely top-class Triple Crown winners and/or are trained by Bob Baffert, but this year leading sophomore Tiz The Law is garnering lots of support.

The brilliant Belmont Stakes winner is second-favourite for this, stuck in between three Baffert horses at the top of the market and while he has no doubt had a rest and been prepped really well, he may just have bumped into an improving, genuine top-quality four-year-old in the shape of Improbable.

Baffert’s colt was tipped up you may remember right here for the Awesome Again when he was second-favourite behind stablemate Maximum Security who is in opposition again, but while he has to step up another furlong at Keeneland his class should get him home as he is obviously becoming the best dirt horse in the world.

The third of Baffert’s runners is Authentic, another winner for us in the Kentucky Derby no less, with Tom’s D’Etat being the other who statistically has a decent chance.

Friday, 30 October 2020

Saturday 31st October & Sunday 1st November 2020: Cyrname Too Good to Miss in Charlie Hall

It’s a massive weekend of action over both codes as the flat and jumps seasons continue for a while to intersect.

Ascot hosts Sodexo Gold Cup day while on the level we are racing at headquarters which is where we begin on Saturday.

Saturday 31st October 2020

12.55 Newmarket (Nursery Handicap) – BRANWELL

We have heavy ground at Newmarket on a long and yawning Rowley Mile which takes some getting at the best of times. So, for these let’s say ‘less than the usual quality’ Newmarket juveniles going over nine furlongs this race really is a true stamina test.

That said, the right yards are represented and the pace should be honest with Mark Johnston’s Reams Of Love in the field, one who at the weights I think is very close on the book with John Gosden’s Side Shot and Brian Meehan’s Mojandil.

The one single horse who stands out on potential though is Branwell and he is the value call. On the all-weather last time Charlie Appleby’s horse ran very green and lost plenty of ground at the start. He is several pounds better therefore than that bare form, has been gelded since which will calm him down and can improve again on what he should have achieved last time.

If he reaches the level that is expected of him, then he’s well-in in the handicap here under Will Buick.

2.05 Newmarket (Montrose Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ZEYAADAH

This will be another tough event for the runners, the juvenile fillies going over the mile this time.

Alba Rose will be rightfully well fancied for a number of reasons. She is the highest rated filly in the race to this point, she is trained by Mark Johnston whose horses are notoriously tough and she has improved in lumps from race to race so far.

That said, she hasn’t had to run on ground quite this deep and that could blunt her progression, so the other improver Zeyaadah is given the nod at a better overnight price.

Roger Varian’s Tamayuz filly is unbeaten in two starts having won when slowly away at Chelmsford, before winning easily at Beverley. Frankly though she has looked on both occasions as though she is in need of a great test and so this particular mile, let alone the heavy ground, should be ideal and she will be boxing on when others have given up I feel.

The only other horse that on paper I can see getting seriously involved is George Boughey’s Mystery Angel, for whom he has booked Frankie Dettori, but in the conditions anything could happen and so nothing can be completely ruled out with any certainty.

3.15 Newmarket (Ben Marshall Stakes – Listed Race) – ZAKOUSKI

The one-mile Ben Marshall Stakes has been won by some quality types in the past and the roll of honour could be topped by Zakouski, a four-year-old with a bright future if Sheikh Mohammed decides to keep him in training.

After a very successful time at the Dubai Carnival before lockdown where he won a valuable handicap and a Group 2 race, he had a well-deserved long rest and we can safely ignore his last run when he was slowly away and ran over the wrong trip. He still finished OK that day to be fair too.

We don’t know what fellow Godolphin and Charlie Appleby runner King’s Command can do as the three-year-old is somewhat of a talented enigma, but despite him getting the blue cap we know William Buick gets first choice and he is siding with Zakouski.

Stormy Antarctic should enjoy this and will go well, while Epic Hero will be well fancied but conversely may just struggle a little on the ground.

3.20 Wetherby (Charlie Hall Chase – Grade 2) – CYRNAME

While there is always the possibility of something going wrong in this game, there is precious little to dislike about Cyrname’s chances in this race on paper.

True, his last two runs leave a little to be desired, however all good horses are entitled to a bad patch and this eight-year-old is very far from finished. He is usually a strong jumper, likes to be out on or near the lead which is a good tactic for Wetherby and at his best he is well clear of this field.

If we can expect Paul Nicholls’ charge to be back to his true form then he looks like an odds-on shot who is priced at 2/1+ and that has to be taken.

Some people think Cyrname’s very high official rating is inflated and false, but he has ran to it on several occasions and that’s not a coincidence.

Up and comer Vinndication is next on the list and he remains a chaser going places, while Sam Spinner can improver over fences but even at the weights, he may well just have too much to do in this contest.

Sunday 1st November 2020

2.00 Naas (Athasi Stakes – Group 3) – WITH THANKS

We jump to Ireland on Sunday for just the one bet but it could be very much worth waiting for.

The basics are that I have always thought a lot of With Thanks and that she will be a Group winner, so to see William Haggas sending her over to Ireland gives me plenty of confidence.

A proper look at her profile does nothing to dampen enthusiasm for her either. Her best form is over this seven furlongs and on heavy ground, meaning she is proven in these particular race conditions while there is a little bit of guesswork involved for the trainers of some of her chief opposition.

She is getting better with every run which is always a good sign, and last time out at Goodwood in October she was only just touched off by the now-retired Onassis in a good Listed race.

She’s ready for this and her draw in stall 14 is not an issue at Naas, given that she’ll have plenty of time after they jump to get herself in position before the turn and she has some very fine help up top to achieve that in the shape of Chris Hayes.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Saturday 24th October 2020: Appleby to Rule Juvenile Group 1’s

As we transition between the flat and jumps seasons, betting opportunities in theory become thinner on the ground. Tired flat horses and underprepared jumpers should be avoided where possible.

While Cheltenham and the Old Roan Chase mean National Hunt fans have plenty to keep them going, we stick with the flat where we should watch the run of Laneqash in the Horris Hill. He’s a short price this time, but assuming the conditions are OK he could put in a performance that keeps him in the 2021 Classic hunt.

Stakes can be kept to a minimum this week, spread over five bets and with typical end of season weather meaning results can vary.

1.10 Doncaster (Handicap) – CEPHEUS 

This is a tight old handicap at first glance, but we should be looking for ability, some proven form in the conditions or at least the potential for improvement in them.

With that in mind, the name that keeps getting to or near the top of whatever list I compile is Brian Meehan’s Cepheus.

This three-year-old is already decent, rated 100 now, but the style of both his win under today’s jockey William Buick and his runner-up effort at Ascot behind Shandoz marked him out as one with plenty more to come.

We will ignore his last run and take a punt on him now, though the competition in behind is plentiful. Tulip Fields could be overpriced, Fishable stands a chance, Johnny Drama could now come back to form while Iconic Choice and likely favourite Laafy remain capable.

1.35 Saint-Cloud (Criterium International – Group 1) – LA BARROSA

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have two excellent one-mile Group One prospects in the juvenile ranks, and with the ideal schedule in Europe this week he has the chance to split them up with One Ruler going to Doncaster.

There are no odds available at all at the time of writing for this event, though it is hoped that the presence of Van Gogh, Normandy Bridge and Policy Of Truth in the field will be enough to keep them honest.

La Barrosa, a son of Lope De Vega out of a Montjeu mare who should love these conditions, is two from two now after wins at Ascot and Newmarket and he looks every inch a classic contender for next season.

He wasn’t as fluent as many expected in his Group 3 last time, but the ground was not entirely for him that day, he showed inexperience and he is thought to be a good few pounds better than what he showed there. James Doyle is in France to take the ride.

1.45 Doncaster (Doncaster Stakes – Listed Race) – ZAMAANI 

This is a decent six-furlong juvenile race, one in which Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner, Simon & Ed Crisford’s Zamaani and Les Eyre’s Just Frank have been close at the top of the betting all week.

Just Frank was an impressive winner of the £150,000 auction race at Newmarket at the start of the month, but those events suit certain types and this event will be very different.

Lipizzaner has experience now after six runs and is improving, but he’s won only a maiden at this point giving himself the look of a horse whose level we know.

He leaves the door open therefore for Zamaani, another with experience but one who is moving forward a little quicker from run to run. He seems to do it on any ground and can comfortably stay up with the pace, something that at Doncaster this week should stand him in good stead.

2.55 Doncaster (Futurity Trophy – Group 1) – ONE RULER

Regular readers may remember how sweet I was on Kameko for this race last year, both in the Doncaster event when he was set to take on the Coolmore battalion, and at Newcastle in the rearranged race he won.

This year I have similar feelings about Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler who should be winning Group 1 races next year, whether they be classics or not.

He was a decent second on debut on unsuitably quick ground, while he was third in a good Listed race here at Doncaster over seven furlongs when unlucky in running.

In beating Maximal on his second run he announced himself as a potential star, but it was the way he took the Group 3 Autumn Stakes on soft ground over this trip at Newmarket that really made him stand out.

After taking care of a good field including Van Gogh with the minimum of fuss, he stood out as a colt who has plenty more improvement to come hence Charlie Appleby’s decision to go here and not put him away for the year.

His main rival should be Aidan O’Brien’s ante-post favourite Wembley, one with solid form but usually in behind. Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest is next on the list while the constantly improving Megallan cannot be ruled out, at least for a place.

3.00 Newbury (Radley Stakes – Listed Race) – LITTLE KITTEN

We have a go in another Listed race for the two-year-olds here, this time the seven-furlong fillies’ event at Newbury.

Among the main hopes are Roger Charlton’s Love Is You, a nice enough debut winner, and Roger Varian’s Setarhe who has been busy this year and reached a high official mark of 98.

The latter-named is down to 93 now with no guarantee of moving back up, meaning this race is very winnable and it could be John Gosden’s Little Kitten who proves to be the best value.

The Godolphin filly is a daughter of Sea The Stars out of a Dynaformer mare, one who should get better and better the more of a test she gets.

In an under-par renewal of this race, a once-raced John Gosden filly is bound to catch the eye and so with much improvement expected from a filly with her profile, Little Kitten could prove to be a couple of lengths better than this bunch. Nicky Mackay is up top with Rab Havlin at Doncaster to ride Megallan.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Saturday 17th October 2020: Lord Holds Champion Stakes Power

Saturday is Champions Day at Ascot, Britain’s richest race day.

Yet again the day looks set to be staged on unsuitably soft ground, typical now of Ascot, prompting many to argue the meeting should be moved back to Newmarket and I can’t disagree with that.

That said, it’s an intriguing day of Group One action and while I love the chances of Stradivarius and Palace Pier, they cannot be backed at the prices and as for the rest of the card; I kind of hope Frankie Dettori has got his choices wrong!

1.55 Ascot (British Champions Sprint Stakes – Group 1) – OXTED

The likely conditions have of course been factored into this, but sometimes we have to trust the trainer’s confidence and there’s no doubt about how good Roger Teal thinks Oxted is.

A winner at Newmarket upon racing’s resumption in the early summer, this tough and improving four-year-old also put in a huge performance to land the July Cup on a day when he marked himself out as one of the best sprinters in the world.

While he hasn’t been tested in deep conditions yet, his July Cup win showed off his ability to see things out up the hill right to the line and considering his rating, his recent breathing operation and the fact that he should handle the ground OK here he should prove to be the best of this bunch.

It’s tight in behind, with Dream Of Dreams having finally delivered on his promise of late and Sir Michael Stoute’s entrant is indeed next best, while King Power’s pair of Art Power and Happy Power are closely matched with the former favoured for some place money.

The likes of Sonaiyla, One Master and Lope Y Fernandez are all within 4-6lbs of the selection on private ratings and all deserve a mention, but young Cieren Fallon could be set for another huge day and may land this massive £221,000 first prize at very fair odds.

2.30 Ascot (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – Group 1) – FRANKLY DARLING

This is the first race in which I hope wrong choices have been made by connections and let’s face it, it has happened many times before.

The underestimated selection, Frankly Darling, has been apparently overlooked as first choice by both her owner and her usual rider.

Of the two Anthony Oppenheimer fillies, Ed Vaughan’s Dame Malliot carries the first colours while of the two John Gosden-trained runners Frankie has chosen last year’s Nassau Stakes runner-up Mehdaayih.

Of course, those people are better placed to judge how things have been going at home, but often such horses cannot be compared accurately on the gallops and the fact is that neither Oppenheimer nor Gosden run fillies such as Frankly Darling in races like this if they don’t believe they have a serious chance of winning.

To the form book we go then, and we see a filly who demolished a fair maiden field at Newcastle back in June. She followed that up with a taking success at Royal Ascot in the Ribblesdale Stakes, not only winning at Group 2 level but also doing so in a testing enough mile-and-a-half which displayed the battling and staying qualities she’ll need this weekend.

On a line through Star Catcher for the same connections, as well as many a Frankel filly, we can reasonably estimate her level of improvement. So, if all is well it seems she is pretty likely to get to the sort of level needed to beat the aforementioned Dame Malliot and Mehdaayih, as well as fellow overpriced sort Manuela De Vega.

3.40 Ascot (Champion Stakes – Group 1) – LORD NORTH

Last year brilliant filly Magical led soft ground specialist Addeybb home and I was thinking at a glance that it would come down to these two again. In terms of their private battle, I like the latter named here.

Rarely do these horses reach an absolute peak twice in a row. It’s little to do with any deficiencies in training technique of course, it’s just an unfortunate fact that athletes cannot physically do it every time they go out.

It was Ghaiyyath’s turn to falter in Ireland when Magical turned him over, but with some tough mileage behind her it could be her turn now to come up a little short with the fresher Addeybb perhaps taking advantage in perfect conditions.

But, they may both be beaten here. John Gosden runs two including second-favourite and French Derby winner Mishriff, the choice of Frankie Dettori.

The soft ground holds no fears and he has been improving, however the outright level he has reached is not that of Lord North and he is preferred.

The son of Dubawi put in a sparkling run to land his first Group 1 at Royal Ascot in a performance that marked him out as one of the best around, and even in these conditions there’s no real reason to doubt him now.

4.15 Ascot (Balmoral Handicap) – RAAEQ

This is a tough old contest on paper; a full 20-runner field of handicappers going in soft conditions.

It could be that the lower-drawn horses may just hold sway this time given the conditions, and as such it is no surprise that there has been money for likely improvers Raaeq, Tempus and Njord.

The first named, a Kingman colt trained by Brian Meehan, has proven his liking for Ascot and indeed for soft ground as well.

The only chance we take on him really is his ability to see out the mile having watched him demolish a small field over seven furlongs last time but on that score, there shouldn’t be too many worries as the further he went last time the better he looked.

He could be generously ahead of the assessors at this point and looks like being the archetypal Group horse in a handicap, meaning any sort of price above 4/1 looks decent despite the big field.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th October 2020: Alk Our Betting Mait in Dewhurst

A big weekend of flat action starts for us on Friday at Newmarket with two value punts in Group races.

Friday 9th October 2020

3.00 Newmarket (Challenge Stakes – Group 2) – ZAKOUSKI

It’s a busy Group One day at Newmarket, and while we resist the temptation to bet in the Fillies’ Mile, there is a value punt to be had in this Group 2 event.

Favourite Khaloosy is not as good as his rating suggests for me, Daahyeh is returning from a break and Happy Power may want just a slightly faster event.

Glorious Journey returned to form last time for Charlie Appleby and ranks very high on the list, but William Buick rides Zakouski instead and he is fancied to carry on the sharp improvement he was showing in Dubai early in the year.

Having beaten Headman on debut and won a Group 2 at Meydan on only his fourth start, it’s clear this is a horse who is expected to win Group 1’s eventually so if he handles the ground, he is a big price.

4.45 Newmarket (Pride Stakes – Group 3) – FRANCONIA

On paper this is a very competitive fillies and mares’ race, with Magic Lily being no mug and the likes of Anna Nerium and Angel Power still capable at this level.

Franconia however was a genuine classic contender earlier in the season and should return to form now. John Gosden’s filly was a good winner of the Abingdon on only her second start before winning at York, though even in scoring that performance and her defeat in the Yorkshire Oaks perhaps showed a dislike for that course and/or quicker ground.

This will be more the test she needs, she’s capable of a Group One win making this look almost a drop in class, and over the straight 1m2f being drawn 13 of 14 is a good thing with the stalls on the near side.

Saturday 10th October 2020

1.45 Newmarket (Zetland Stakes – Group 3) – KYPRIOS

makes Kyprios the one to be on. Aidan O’Brien’s colt has already reached for me a similar level to his rivals, most of which are more experienced, and he did so on heavy ground over an extended mile.

Given that, plus his being by Galileo, he should stay on best of all with Lone Eagle perhaps proving to be best of the rest. Recovery Run, Fabilis and Mystery Angel are all in contention.

2.20 Newmarket (Autumn Stakes – Group 3) – DHAHABI

The likely favourite here is Aidan O’Brien’s Van Gogh, however I feel he’s been overestimated somewhat.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Maximal could prove to be very useful yet and rates highly, while fellow Derby entry Megallan could outrun his odds for John Gosden now he gets different conditions.

It may yet come down to the Godolphin pair however, though this time we ignore William Buick’s choice One Ruler.

Rated 102, One Ruler is an obvious choice for Buick and he has already beaten Maximal before. He’s an improver for sure, but he was pretty much beaten fair and square in Listed company last time out and there’s no guarantee this test will suit.

Charlie Appleby’s other horse, Dhahabi, is more fascinating. An extremely expensive purchase, he has already run to a very similar level as his chief rivals after just two runs, with his breeding (Frankel x Fleche D’Or) suggesting he’ll see this out very well under James Doyle.

2.55 Newmarket (Dewhurst Stakes – Group 1) – ALKUMAIT

Britain’s premier juvenile event was taken in the last two years by exceptional two-year-olds Too Darn Hot and Pinatubo, though it’s a race that often catches out the one’s we believe to be top of the tree.

That could well be the case in the prevailing conditions for Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon, though he is of course very good, while fellow Irish entrants Cadillac and Wembley can go just as well.

Richard Hannon has been very, very bullish about his unbeaten Champagne Stakes winner Chindit after some apparently exceptional homework of late.

While he is obviously good, he looks as though he has been best for a test of pace while this change of venue and ground will test his stamina a little. It must also be said that had things worked out a little differently at Doncaster, he may well not have beaten Albasheer.

Albasheer reopposes and has plenty of improvement in him, however he has been quite rightly passed over by Jim Crowley in favour of Alkumait and he rates the best value bet in the race.

Improving in lumps, Alkumait put his debut fourth behind him when impressing in a maiden at Goodwood before landing the Mill Reef last time in great fashion for this column at 8/1.

He needs to prove his stamina here, but he is a lot like fellow Showcasing colt Mohaather, also trained by Marcus Tregoning, who got the mile really well this year as a three-year-old and it remains possible we could be seeing the emergence of a real star.

4.50 Newmarket (Darley Stakes – Group 3) – DARAIN

Based on the conditions, which plenty of the main contenders have not necessarily excelled in, it could be down to the two exciting three-year-olds to fight this out.

The likes of Epic Hero, Marie’s Diamond, Posted and Dream Castle are of course all capable, however in Highest Ground and Darain there may be two later-maturing three-year-olds who can yet win at the top level next season.

Highest Ground, trained by Sit Michael Stoute, was the gamble of the race in the delayed Dante Stakes at York, though a lot of that was about reputation. If it was about form, then beating the then highly regarded Waldkonig doesn’t look so hot now and he was ultimately beaten fair and square at York too.

John Gosden’s Darain cost a fortune and won in the style of a very good horse on debut at Newbury in July. Things were a little too easy for him next time when winning at HQ, while it’s clear that the trip was no good for him when he was beaten in the Great Voltigeur. This should be ideal and he is expected to prove how good he can be.