Thursday, 8 April 2021

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th April 2021: Candy a Sweet Bet in Grand National

It’s Grand National weekend at long last, and we have a solid selection in the big race as well as plenty of other flat and jumps information across both Friday and Saturday.

Friday 9th April 2021

3.25 Aintree (Melling Chase – Grade 1) – FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES

For many of us, it feels as though Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies has been around forever but he’s still only a six-year-old, is improving, and can come of age now in this top-grade two-and-a-half-mile race.

After the crushing success of Clan Des Obeaux in Thursday’s Betway Bowl, many will be on Paul Nicholls and Politologue who to be fair has proven himself to be of the highest quality in the past.

Over this trip however, it is easy to see Fakir D’oudairies improving past him now having chased home Chacun Pour Soi and Allaho the last twice.

3.55 Leicester (Novice Stakes) – KNIGHT’S TOWN

It could be worth a quick betting trip over to Leicester for their flat meeting during the excellent Aintree action, as there should be a price available about Charlie Appleby’s Knight’s Town in the 1½-mile novice race.

The Godolphin first colours are on John Gosden’s Law Of The Sea, a Derby entry who is by Golden Horn. He’s run twice so far and is now a winner, but his bare form doesn’t entitle him to be a short-priced favourite and he has to give fully 7lbs to our horse.

Knight’s Town, ridden by William Buick who is back on these shores, wasn’t great first time up at Kempton but he went off 2/1 favourite for his debut and should be much better on turf. Should he run to the sort of level so often seen by Appleby horses in such races, he should be good enough at the weights.

4.40 Aintree (Sefton Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME

Several people connected to the Paul Nicholls yard have said for some time that their Bravemansgame is the real deal and, while he couldn’t quite prove it at Cheltenham, he should be fitter now and can do himself justice.

That en vogue big break between Christmas and the Cheltenham Festival is not something I like and it was a break Bravemansgame was forced to take. He eventually finished third behind Bob Olinger in the Ballymore but he should be 100% now, this looks much more to his liking, and frankly he looks well clear of his opposition.

Chief among that opposition is Cape Gentleman, a Grade 2 winner at Kempton for Emmet Mullins, and Bothwell Bridge who may challenge for the places but may prove to be not good enough to get to Harry Cobden’s mount.

Saturday 10th April 2021

2.25 Aintree (Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – MY DROGO

Dan and Harry Skelton look to be in pole position to begin Saturday in the perfect way, with their My Drogo on a four-timer and ready to land his first Grade 1 race.

This 2½ miles is a new trip for him, but he seems to get better the further he goes. He was impressive over two miles in the Supreme Trial at Ascot in December (Grade 2), before looking even better over 2m2f in the same grade at Kelso when winning by 9½ lengths last month.

He looks to be well clear of Ballyadam, who does come with a big reputation considering he is trained by Henry De Bromhead and is ridden by Rachael Blackmore, while Dreal Deal and Minella Drama look good enough to fight for places.

3.35 Aintree (Liverpool Hurdle – Grade 1) – THYME HILL

Many of us waited for months to back Thyme Hill in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, on the basis at least that he looks sure to improve past Paisley Park once and for all.

On this flat track and with the ground not too deep, he can certainly do that now and there is no Flooring Porter in the line-up this time around.

In behind Thyme Hill, Paisley Park himself, Roksana and Lisnagar Oscar all look capable of challenging but are all at a similar level all things considered, but the selection is still getting better and has been trained to reach a peak right now having missed the Festival in March. Tom O’Brien rides for Philip Hobbs.

5.15 Aintree (Grand National Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – KIMBERLITE CANDY

We have a fascinating and long-awaited Grand National this time around. Having waited two years, witnessed controversy over the weights (mainly unfair and driven by the O’Leary’s), seen the withdrawal of Tiger Roll and been aghast at the price of the favourite the race is set up brilliantly.

Cloth Cap is that favourite and, at around 4/1, would be one of the shortest priced favourites ever. He is well clear at the weights, but this is a unique race and it feels like the bookmakers are trying to begin a pattern here of squeezing the top of the Grand National market for all it’s worth.

Against him is Kimberlite Candy, a long-term candidate for this. Twice runner-up in the Becher over these fences, Tom Lacey’s runner jumps well, stays brilliantly and is set to peak in the biggest race of all so he gets the nod to land the £375,000 first prize.

The likes of Mister Malarky and Lord Du Mesnil can also go well, while it’ll be interesting to see whether the still well handicapped Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve can get a run being second reserve at present.

11.03 Keeneland (Jenny Wiley Stakes – Grade 1) – MICHELINE 

Over in the States late on Saturday night, Keeneland runs the top-level Jenny Wiley Stakes over the extended mile on the turf track for fillies and mares.

It’s close in the betting market, with Godolphin’s Micheline, Juliet Foxtrot, Etole and Tamahere all ensuring we have a competitive betting event.

On very best form the six-year-old Juliet Foxtrot would be the one, Brad Cox’s runner being ridden first time out this season by the excellent Tyler Gaffalione.

Four-year-old Micheline is improving however, is race fit and looks well capable of landing this event and so is backed to do so from gate 1 on the inside.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Friday 2nd April 2021: Good Friday for the Gosdens

We do have a full weekend of racing action, but frankly it’s all about Good Friday. Lingfield hosts the All-Weather Championships Finals with every race worth at least £38,000, while Newcastle’s Burradon Stakes may throw up a three-year-old Group performer.

Later in the weekend, look out for Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality running in the Blue Grass Stakes en route to the Kentucky Derby, but we start at Gosforth Park with a great value shout.

2.15 Newcastle (Handicap) – DULAS

This is an ordinary-looking seven-furlong handicap and one that is eminently winnable. That’s what Charlie Hills, who has just the one runner on the card, and former champ Paul Hanagan will be thinking as they team up with four-year-old Dulas.

He’s been troublesome in the past and required a stalls test, but his best run as a juvenile was definitely on this track. He’s a Raven’s Pass so perhaps that’s not a surprise, while he has also been gelded over the winter which should have settled him down plenty.

If he returns to his best then he is well-in here, and in fact he should improve further if he’s matured and is the only four-year-old on a shortlist that also includes Broctune Red and Kapono. Big chance.

2.35 Lingfield (All-Weather Fillies’ & Mares’ Championships Conditions Stakes) – INDIE ANGEL

Our first foray into the AW finals day is with the seven-furlong fillies’ and mares’ race. John and Thady Gosden have had a terrific start to the year and it looks sure to continue on Friday, their Indie Angel being the first of three to recommend from the yard.

Arafi may improve, Shimmering Dawn has a place chance and Fizzy Feet looks decent value to put up a bold show, but the Gosdens’ Dark Angel filly must surely be the one to be on.

An almost constant improver having started from a low base, Indie Angel reached a peak last time out when winning at this track last October over a mile. This seven-furlong trip looks ideal for her though, and so a new career high is on the cards which would make her half-a-stone better than the rest.

3.25 Newcastle (Burradon Stakes – Listed Race) – MEGALLAN

A £100,000 race before coronavirus hit the industry, the Burradon Stakes looks sure to attract plenty of top three-year-olds as the years go on.

This time around we looked on for a very juicy renewal when Mostahdaf, Secret Protector and Quintillus were all entered up, however that trio now have assignments elsewhere. It leaves us with a small field, but it’s one that the Gosden-trained Megallan can now dominate.

Megallan was very well backed last time out at Lingfield and Rab Havlin was visibly annoyed when crossing the line a close second. The truth is though, that the faster surface over just seven furlongs on a tight track just wasn’t in the favour of a horse who has run fourth in an Autumn Stakes behind One Ruler on soft going.

These conditions are much, much better for him and he should take some stopping, with Legion Of Honour his biggest rival.

Megallan might be a very restrictive price, but this is an important step. It was a strong Autumn Stakes he took part in and it may yet be that he has an outside squeak of being involved in one or more classics later in the season.

Regardless, I couldn’t put you off throwing him into a double with Indie Angel at around 2 or 3/1 as both horses hold a very strong chance.

3.45 Lingfield (3-Year-Old All-Weather Championships Conditions Stakes) – MIGHTY GURKHA

What was noticeable above all when handicapping this race was that a host of contenders were very much of a muchness on the numbers. While all being good, Diligent Harry, Victory Heights, Yazaman, Zamaani and Apollo One are very tough to separate and that often means there is something in the race which is simply better.

That horse may well be Mighty Gurkha. Archie Watson’s runner was impressive several times last season; on debut, when running fifth at Royal Ascot and when landing the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes at Kempton.

He has quality, was a winner last time out and should peak now with Hollie Doyle up top.

4.15 Lingfield (Easter Classic All-Weather Middle-Distance Championships Conditions Stakes) – FOREST OF DEAN

While Bangkok is very much respected in the most valuable race on the card, he seems to be constantly over bet and a little overestimated these days.

We’ve taken Andrew Balding’s horse on before, successfully too, in the Winter Derby last year against Dubai Warrior when he was 8/13 favourite and now, we do so again with a horse we backed in this year’s Winter Derby over course and distance.

That horse is John and Thady Gosden’s Forest Of Dean. Improving gradually having come back into training in the Godolphin colours, Forest Of Dean landed the big race at Lingfield last time out over 1¼ miles and he looks set to do so again with James Doyle on board this time.

In a small field for the money on offer Bangkok rates as his biggest danger, with Assimilation next on the list.

4.45 Lingfield (All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes) – KHUZAAM

We finish our busy Good Friday with one more bet on the All-Weather Championships card. This time it’s the mile race, one in which there are some lively contenders.

The now French-trained Silver Quartz has been well touted by his current trainer, while Fox Duty Free is no mug for Ralph Beckett.

Intuitive should be on the premises and Mums Tipple seems to have come right back to himself, but they may all have to go some to get to Roger Varian’s Khuzaam.

The five-year-old handles the surface well and was runner-up in three Listed races in a row late last year. He’s since been gelded and ran a stormer to win over at Chelmsford last time out, so with any natural improvement on the cards from that race to this, he’ll be too strong.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Saturday 27th March 2020: North on Our Compass in Dubai

The flat is back, and it’s back with a bang! This Saturday sees Doncaster host the Lincoln Handicap meeting, Kempton puts on some smart events while there is Group action galore on Dubai World Cup day over at Meydan.

3.30 Rosehill (Ranvet Stakes – Group 1) – ADDEYBB 

Look out for the early start down in Australia, as Rosehill hosts several big Group 1 events. One of them is the Ranvet Stakes, a mile-and-a-quarter event won last year by William Haggas’ Addeybb.

Addeybb had a great time down under last year and ended his European season with a career best in the Champion Stakes, when his performance in winning put him among the best in the world and now Tom Marquand can partner him to another valuable top-level win.

With conditions in his favour, he can get the job done again and there is no shortage of bookmakers offering odds. While Verry Elleegant is consistent she doesn’t seem at Addeybb’s level, though she’s being backed which could help the price rise for our horse. Colette and Sir Dragonet also made the list.

1.30 Meydan (Al Quoz Sprint – Group 1) – SPACE BLUES

We have a large and pretty high-class field for the Al Quoz, a six-furlong Group 1 event worth £438,000 to the winner.

Khaadem has always shown quality, Final Song has ability and it will be fascinating to see how well Equilateral gets on over this trip.

American runner Extravagant Kid is rather overpriced, as too is Royal Crusade and that horse could be part of the key here. Given his form with Threat, Glen Shiel and others, Royal Crusade has always looked like he may get to the top at some stage but still Charlie Appleby and William Buick’s top choice is the classy Space Blues.

A Lennox Stakes and Prix Maurice de Gheest winner, Space Blues ran more or less within himself last time for a valuable win in Saudi Arabia and will strip fitter now.

2.00 Doncaster (Doncaster Mile – Listed Race) – MONTATHAM

Part of Doncaster’s opening card of the season is the Doncaster Mile, a Listed event. There are a number of potentially high-grade horses looking to bounce back here; Jersey Stakes winner Space Traveller and 2000 Guineas fifth Juan Elcano being among them.

Father Of Jazz tries turf having been beaten when favourite for the Winter Derby and the filly Bounce The Blues will attract plenty of money. The one to be on however may well be Montatham.

Trained by William Haggas for the late Hamdan Al Maktoum, Montatham is five now and should peak over a mile this term. He took three handicaps at Newmarket, Sandown and York last season beating some very strong fields and looks more than ready for Listed or Group 3 races now.

2.15 Kempton (Roseberry Handicap) – ALMIGHWAR

Hamdan Al Maktoum’s team have another strong hand in this 1m3f handicap. William Haggas’ Al Zaraqaan is favourite and he comes into this race on a hat-trick having won over this course and distance last year, as well as in a handicap at Lingfield.

His form is strong and he carries the first colours, however the better value is in Almighwar under the same ownership. Now trained officially not just by John Gosden but also by his son Thady, Almighwar himself won a pair of 1½-mile races at Kempton last year but was put away after disappointing slightly on handicap debut.

Ready to go again now, there’s nothing in his profile to suggest he wouldn’t improve as much as, or more than Al Zaraqaan while his speed figures are also far superior. Rab Havlin takes the ride.

3.30 Meydan (Dubai Turf – Group 1) – LORD NORTH

This is a cracking race and a proper Group 1. We should see most of this field closer to home later on in the year at the likes of Ascot, Sandown and York so regardless of whether you bet or not, this is an important race to keep an eye on.

Court House can once again make a bold bid from the front and ensure we get a proper pace here though ultimately, he shouldn’t be good enough to win.

Regal Reality is still with Sir Michael Stoute but under different ownership and has been and done it at this level, while good old Lord Glitters has had a cracking carnival and should be a short price to grab a place.

The horse who was favourite to beat Lord Glitters last time out was Al Suhail and he is fancied more. A good juvenile, it was felt he’d trained on well last year and was hastily shipped across for the 2000 Guineas. That didn’t go well, but he monstered his Listed field at Newmarket and still looks capable of a Group 1 win as he matures.

The big dog here though is Lord North and the Gosden’s runner should be able to confirm the fact. The 2019 Cambridgeshire winner improved last year to win the Prince of Wales’s Stakes in fine style before finishing third to Ghaiyyath in the Juddmonte International.

He’s top-class this lad, and so given that the pace should be strong here we can see him at his best and he can start an important year in the best way possible.

3.55 Kempton (Handicap) – TAWLEED

There may just be one more opportunity for John and Thady Gosden, as well as Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell team, to grab a winner in this seven-furlong, Class 3 event.

Tawleed was second to Alkumait on debut and then to Naval Crown thereafter, both now top-class animals, before he finished his juvenile season with a simple win at Leicester.

He looks worthy of a rating somewhere in the mid-90’s at least now and should get even better than that as his season progresses, so starting him off in a handicap off 86 looks like a good move and he can land the spoils under Rab Havlin before moving onto bigger and better things later on.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Saturday 20th March 2021:  Back Hughes’ Mount with No Regrets

It really is the calm after the storm this Saturday. After the high-octane Cheltenham Festival is over, we await more madness at Aintree as well as the start of the flat season which is very nearly upon us.

We do have plenty of information for this weekend though, five horses standing out as betting material in fact across two jumps meetings during Saturday afternoon and an all-weather affair in the evening.

2.25 Uttoxeter (Novices’ Handicap Chase) – SHANTY ALLEY 

It’s Midlands Grand National day at Uttoxeter but the best betting opportunity may well be earlier on the card in this three-mile, Class 2 novices’ handicap chase.

St Barts is very interesting in the Santini colours, this time for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, but the one who seems to be comfortably ahead of his handicap mark is Ben Case’s Shanty Alley.

The seven-year-old was raised 13lbs for an easy win at Doncaster in January, and having been beaten last time it may be felt that the handicapper has quickly got to him.

However, his Wincanton race was never quite right for him, he was sent off at 8/1 on the heavy going and he did well to finish second so now in this event he can continue his rise up the ranks. 3lb claimer Bryan Carver rides once again.

3.10 Newcastle (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – NO REGRETS 

There should be plenty of money in this event for Phil Kirby’s Bushypark, winner of five of his last 6 races including last time out.

His win at Haydock last time was admittedly impressive, however a 12lb rise for a win gained on a flat track can never be swept aside when assessing chances of horses, and Bushypark’s only defeat in his last six runs, a heavy one, was indeed at Newcastle.

Enter No Regrets. Trained in Cumbria by Nicky Richards, the seven-year-old gelding has been improving slowly and steadily over hurdles with his best run being a narrow defeat at Musselburgh over three miles last time out.

He’s had a rest since then and has wisely been placed over this 2¾-mile trip on a stiff course, something that should be just about ideal. Champion jockey-elect Brian Hughes takes the ride which is an important piece of the puzzle.

6.00 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – FUTURISTIC 

Things should be fast and furious here with a decent Class 3 field having been assembled over Wolverhampton’s six-furlong course.

There should be some money floating around for Robyn Brisland’s Power Over Me who’s won four of his last five races but may find things much hotter here, while Ed De Giles’ Treacherous and Richard Fahey’s Gabrial The Devil will also be popular.

The one to be on however should be Futuristic of the Marco Botti yard. A Shamardal gelding, he came back from 15 months off the track with close second at Newcastle before finishing third at Kempton and winning around this course and distance last time in a Class 3 race.

Having gone up only 3lbs there are no worries as regards weight here, while his most impressive speed figures were recorded at Newcastle which is also a Tapeta track. With that in maind, one feels there is more to come back over a track and trip he’s already been successful on with Ben Curtis on board again to do the steering.

The horse he beat last time, Sun Power, was on a sharp upward curve which gives the form a solid look, while the third-placed Alminoor has also come out and franked the form further.

7.00 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – GARRUS 

This just a small race, a 4-runner affair, but it is a Class 3 conditions event and in fact has attracted some notable participants. Among them is Charlie Hills’ Garrus and that’s the one we want to be on.

Garrus caught the eye when winning at both Newmarket and Newcastle back in 2018 and looked destined for big things. As a three-year-old he was at it again, winning at Nottingham before taking down a good Listed contest at York for Jeremy Noseda before he changed hands and then injury struck.

These days he gets to train in a stable that also houses Equilateral and Battaash, one that by default really knows its sprinters, and they retain hope even after 575 days off the track that this son of Acclamation can win Group races this season with this event being simply his starting off point.

There is always the danger of a slower than ideal pace in a race like this, however that may help Garrus just to settle back into racing and if it turns into a sprint within a sprint, we know he possesses the turn of foot to be able to put the race to bed.

Blue De Vega and Justanotherbottle are both decent but give Garrus 4lbs in weight, while Rayong is a little out of things on ratings.

7.30 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Handicap) – HEPTATHLETE 

There are seven runners confirmed for this 0-90 fillies’ handicap, but it really may not take a lot of winning. With that in mind any sort of decent price about Heptathlete should be taken as we attempt to catch her on her winning run.

A six-year-old mare, she had raced some 33 times there before being bought and has now won three in a row on these shores.

Once rated in the 80’s, she began her British racing career on a mark of only 54. Having won twice at Wolverhampton, sandwiching a success at Lingfield, she’s gone quickly to a mark of 70 but has not reached her ceiling yet.

In fact, her last win was her most comfortable and while this is a step up in class, she is on such a low mark and carries such a light racing weight that she cannot be ignored for trainer Kevin Philippart De Foy and jockey Laura Pearson who takes off a very handy 5lbs.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Saturday 13th March 2021: Natural History to Be Created in Imperial Cup

We have somewhat of a quieter than normal Saturday on our hands, although that is to be expected so close to the Cheltenham Festival. That’s not to say there are no betting opportunities of course, and we have four of them this week.

Our concentration has been on the two main meetings; Wolverhampton on the all-weather where two of the track’s best races of the year are staged, and Sandown’s Imperial Cup meeting.

We have two from each track this week, all four set to go off at good value prices.

2.05 Wolverhampton (Lady Wulfruna Stakes – Listed Race) – HIGHLAND DRESS

Traditionally Wolverhampton’s best race, the Listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes takes place over seven furlongs and features nine interesting runners this time around.

Godolphin have the lightly-raced Raaeb in here, though the four-year-old is hard to judge. Clearly, we’ve not seen the best of him yet although on all known evidence he’ll need to take a big step forward if he is to challenge.

Karl Burke’s Lord Of The Lodge is solid, runaway 2019 York winner Mums Tipple is coming back to himself and once again has the assistance of Ryan Moore, while Kevin Frost’s Documenting is more than a little interesting coming back from a break.

The one we like best of all however is Highland Dress of Archie Watson’s. A five-year-old Shamardal out of a Street Cry mare, he should love it around here and has so far shown himself to be pretty versatile as far as ground conditions go.

On the turf his best runs were on rain-softened ground while on the all-weather so far, he’s won at Southwell and continued his progress on faster tracks at Lingfield and Kempton.

On the numbers he looks a few pounds clear of these, so with little doubt that he’ll take well to Wolverhampton’s Tapeta surface he seems about a solid a bet at these prices as you’re likely to get. Kieran Shoemark takes the ride.

2.25 Sandown (Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – NATURAL HISTORY

Sandown’s Imperial Cup has a very rich history and has provided many a Cheltenham Festival follow-up contender. This time around there are four of the 15 runners who stand out, beginning with the overpriced Highway One O Two.

Chris Gordon’s six-year-old’s best run was arguably over a year ago now, but he has only run six times over hurdles and could well get better yet. In fact, in his three runs since January he has improved in lumps each time and looks set to at least repeat his best level, something that off a mark of 137 makes him very competitive.

Also in with a shout at a nice price is Paul Nicholls’ top weight Miranda, though her best quality may also prove to be her biggest negative. That quality is her consistency.

Miranda has run to very similar levels on her last three starts, all of them impressive in their own way, but now that she is handicapped appropriately the lack of significant improvement in her profile means she may just be pegged back by her weight.

There has been some good support for Langer Dan for the Skelton team and while he has a clear chance, he has also not won any of his last six which isn’t great in the context of this event and that leaves us with one clear choice.

Gary Moore, who will be as nervous as hell going into Tuesday’s Champion Hurdle with Goshen possessing a proper chance, saddles Natural History in this race and he is very much the one to beat.

Having started off with a couple of runner-up efforts in novice events, the six-year-old showed how well handicapped he is when he blitzed his opposition 12 days ago at Plumpton. He’s gone up a full 16lbs for that, but really it doesn’t quite look enough while there is also further improvement to come from him.

2.40 Wolverhampton (Lincoln Trial Handicap) – TADLEEL

Many of the top contenders for the Lincoln will no doubt just head straight to Doncaster, but the trial at Wolverhampton has proven to be very competitive indeed.

While that makes the race hard to call, it also offers us some tasty prices and the most mouth-watering of all is that attached to Richard Fahey’s Tadleel.

Now six years old, Tadleel is really hitting his stride having won his last two races. Both of those wins came at Newcastle over seven furlongs which is particularly interesting as far as conditions here goes.

Wolverhampton race on the same Tapeta surface as Newcastle, though the finish is easier so given the way he’s seen his races out there up the hill it seems he’ll have no trouble going the extra furlong in this event. He keeps inching up the weights, but by no more than he has been improving so he looks solid.

Karl Burke’s Born To Be Alive is interesting as is the overpriced The Gill Brothers, while potential favourite Mission Boy has a chance but may only hold his place at the head of the market due to the booking of Ryan Moore for the ride.

4.45 Sandown (Handicap Chase) – FIVE STAR GETAWAY 

Back to Sandown we go for their final race, a decent two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase. There are three standouts in the nine-runner line-up, with Go Steady of Dan Skelton’s and Golden Whisky for Evan Williams each making the shortlist.

The one to be on however looks to be Christian Williams’ Five Star Getaway. Although running only ten days ago, he should be able to cope with this given the ease with which he went around Wincanton en route to a simple six-length success.

The handicapper has raised him 11lbs for that run, a rise that for our money doesn’t quite hit the stop in terms of judging his real ability and so with yet more improvement almost inevitable, he looks the best in of this bunch at the weights. A price of around 3/1 would be great value for this fella.

Friday, 5 March 2021

Saturday 6th 2021: March Any News is Good News

We have a fine mix of pre-Cheltenham jumps racing and top-class flat action on Saturday, and we are getting stuck into quite a bit of it.

There are some nice prices available on a few of these selections, so it’s a mouth-watering Saturday of racing action and we begin out east in the heat of the UAE:

12.35 Meydan (Dubai City of Gold – Group 2) – DUBAI WARRIOR

It’s Super Saturday in Dubai, the last of Meydan’s Carnival meetings before Dubai World Cup day at the end of the month.

This is a valuable mile-and-a-half Group 2 race, one in which at the prices we can take a chance on the talented Dubai Warrior for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori.

Last year’s Winter Derby winner has so far shown himself to be better on the all-weather than on turf, but has only run on the grass twice making that too small a sample of his form. His second turf run was decent, a fifth at Listed level and while he bombed out on the dirt last time, he remains a horse of some considerable promise.

He was a close-up third not so long ago behind Sangarius and Bangkok, he will be well-ridden and can perhaps get the better of Walton Street and Dubai Future at nice odds.

1.30 Kelso (Premier Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – ANY NEWS

This is an interesting novices’ hurdle over 2¼ miles, one in which there may be an underestimated contender. That contender is Neil Mulholland’s Any News and he is backed to score at what looks an attractive price.

His main rivals have had as many chances as he has now, he has shown better speed figures than they have and so considering he’s done that on softer ground he may well prove to be the class act. He’s also highest rated and yet gets a weight from a couple of his competitors.

He was beaten last time when favourite, hence his place in the market, but that was at Cheltenham and the form should hold up well, while he can also improve further himself.

In with a chance but skinny in the market is My Drogo for the Skelton’s, while Lucky One is not out of this and Bareback Jack remains in great form.

2.00 Lingfield (Spring Cup – Listed Race) – MEGALLAN

A nice race for the three-year-olds, one in which it was a pleasant surprise to see the name Megallan listed.

John Gosden’s colt is by Kingman but out of a Champs Elysees mare and he was trained more for stamina as a juvenile. An improver, he was a little unlucky not to get closer to the smart One Ruler when a close-up fourth in a good renewal of the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket which shows the level he is at.

His trainer is far too good and far too patient to bring a horse out for an experiment, so it may well be that this chap has been showing more speed in his work than expected, something that happens to Kingman’s. If he carries on his upward curve over this quick and tight seven furlongs, he could be too good for them.

Yazaman is a speedy type who could get involved here, while Ryan Moore’s mount Thank You Next is in the mix along with To The Bar.

2.20 Meydan (Jebel Hatta – Group 1) – AL SUHAIL

As a team overall, Godolphin know what is needed to win this Group 1 race and Will Buick as a jockey is certainly in red-hot form already this year. They get together with Charlie Appleby’s Al Suhail and it could be that we are seeing the emergence of a truly top-class type.

A close third in the Solario just behind subsequent Guineas winner Kameko, Al Suhail worked incredibly well last spring and was brought back in a hurry and supplemented into the Guineas with a chance.

That didn’t work out, but in winning the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes in July easily he showed himself to be a very smart colt indeed, and while he’s had a problem and has been off the track since, he can take a quick leap to the top of the racing ranks now.

The consistent Court House can pinch a place along with Lord Glitters, while Art Du Val needs to improve but can show up well.

3.30 Meydan (Nal Al Sheba Turf Sprint – Group 3) – ROYAL CRUSADE

The closing race at Meydan is this Group 3 sprint over six furlongs, one in which Royal Crusade can now come of age.

Always talented, the four-year-old Shamardal colt has had his problems to deal with resulting in him being lightly raced. He became a Group 3 winner in France last season though and is nowhere near his peak, so this could be another one for Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick.

Behind him, the three-year-old Acklam Express can go well along with Godolphin’s second-string Man Of Promise, though he has a wide draw to overcome.

12.30 Santa Anita (Santa Anita Handicap – Grade 1) – MAXFIELD

Over in California, one of the biggest races of the year for older horses is taking place, affectionately known as Big ‘Cap. The Santa Anita Handicap, a top-level event over a mile-and-a-quarter, has attracted a decent field although it’s unusual to see no major Bob Baffert contender among the principals.

Idol and Express Train are interesting, while one-time Triple Crown contender Independence Hall realised his potential last time with a fine effort behind Knicks Go in the Pegasus World Cup.

The one we like, and have always liked, is Maxfield. Once favourite for the Kentucky Derby before one of two injury’s struck, he remains unbeaten in his career and now finally gets to prove how good he is with a race in genuine Grade 1 company.

The Breeders’ Cup Classic is his ultimate goal, and this will go a long way towards telling us what sort of chance he has in that event later in the year.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Saturday 27th February 2021: Gosden to Land Winter Derby Again

It’s Eider Chase, Winter Derby and Close Brothers Chase day on Saturday as the flat and National Hunt action comes at us thick and fast.

There are plenty of good value betting opportunities for us as we head to Lingfield, Kempton and even the USA in search of profit this weekend. We make an early start with one in the 11.45 at Lingfield, Ryan Moore looking once again to be the start of the show.

11.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – CONVERTIBLE 

Ryan Moore has been brilliant at Lingfield of late, despite his constant and unnecessary criticism in some quarters, and he has another strong book of rides once again on Saturday.

We’re backing him to make the perfect start on Hugo Palmer’s Convertible in the early mile-and-a-quarter handicap. Just a four-year-old, Convertible is still improving and ran a career best here under Moore last time out.

The gelding looks well capable of defying a rise in the weights, has easily the strongest speed figures and now gets standard going as opposed to standard-to-slow which will help him along from stall 3.

2.40 Lingfield (Winter Derby Stakes – Group 3) – FOREST OF DEAN

We have only a small field for this year’s Winter Derby, and it can once again go to the John Gosden team courtesy of their Forest Of Dean.

Off the track all of last season, the team retain plenty of faith in the now five-year-old who is in the care of Godolphin these days.

Just feeling his way back with two third-placed efforts, he is the strongest traveller of this bunch when at his best and has been prepared to peak now.

He’s good value to beat impressive handicap winner Father Of Jazz, Felix and Johnny Drama, and can prove he is up to this sort of class under Rab Havlin.

3.00 Kempton (Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – CALICO

The top three in the market, Atholl Street, Calico and Cape Gentleman have only six runs between them at this point and all are capable of tons of improvement.

Atholl Street has been the one for money in the build-up to the weekend, however the one who has more to come on better ground is the Skelton five-year-old and so he represents the best value.

In winning on his hurdle debut at Ludlow last month Calico was almost as quick between the flights as Atholl Street was last time, so considering he had to do that on heavy ground it seems we can see the sort of performance on this surface that may well have this lot beaten off before they hit the last.

It may yet be significant that Emmet Mullins brings Cape Gentleman over from Ireland for this event and he too can go well, but there’s a lot to like about Calico and he gets the vote this time.

4.25 Newcastle (Handicap Chase) – ASCOT DE BRUYERE

This is a decent two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase featuring just the eight runners, and it seems the weather has turned out perfectly for James Ewart’s Ascot De Bruyere.

The ground was good when he won very impressively at Newcastle three months ago, so the fact that it has been sunny and a little windy all day on Friday on Tyneside the advertised good-to-soft may turn to just about the good going he had when winning over the track and trip.

He’s only gone up 7lbs for winning by miles, has had plenty of time to recover, is clearly on the improve and has the services of Brian Hughes up top. He seems like a very sound selection.

Seemorelights and Clan Legend look best of the rest, but a nice clean round of jumping should see Ascot De Bruyere go in at Gosforth Park once more.

10.58 Oaklawn Park (Southwest Stakes – Grade 3) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

This is the delayed $750,000 Southwest Stakes in Arkansas, a key early Kentucky Derby prep race. Bad weather put paid to the latest showdown between Essential Quality and Jackie’s Warrior two weeks ago, but the delay may have helped in terms of their training and readiness for the season ahead.

There was dismay flying around from the Jackie’s Warrior camp that they didn’t win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last season, however regular readers will know how confident I was about Essential Quality that day in November and the Godolphin horse duly won in big style to become America’s champion two-year-old of 2020.

He has been a very worthy winter Kentucky Derby favourite and really should win this race too, though the presence of his old rival means he has been available at 6/5 here and has a morning line price of 6/4 in the States.

Just shop around to get the best odds you can on a horse who will have one more prep after this before heading to Churchill Downs on May 1st for his date with destiny.