Thursday, 23 May 2019

Spring Bank Holiday Weekend: Newmarket Trainers to Be Too Darn Good In Ireland

We have a wonderful weekend in store on the flat with Calyx running again in the Sandy Lane at Haydock and possible participation from the likes of Wild Illusion in the Prix d’Ispahan over at ParisLongchamp.

Our bets are spread across three days and four tracks, starting with a horse really going places this summer running in Listed company at Goodwood.

Friday 24th May 2019

3.30 Goodwood (Cocked Hat Stakes – Listed Race) – PRIVATE SECRETARY

John Gosden has taken two surprising decisions regarding this horse this week; to call him a Derby candidate but then to leave him in this race with just 8 days to spare before Epsom.

As it turns out the horse will now skip Epsom and wait for the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot instead but even so to take a hand there he simply has to win this.  What he showed in winning his handicap at Sandown is that he’s well above average and this should be within his wheelhouse.

Stablemate Alfaatik ran better than the bare form would suggest behind Derby hopeful Bangkok at Sandown and can come on again, making him a definite second choice.

Saturday 25th May 2019

1.55 Goodwood (Festival Stakes – Listed Race) – VINTAGER

Nothing much would give me more pleasure than seeing Elarqam get back to his best and become the Group 1 horse we all thought he was a year ago, but even after his wind op he still has plenty to prove and while a Listed race is well within his grasp, he may just be bumping into a live one here.

Vintager was a winter purchase for Godolphin out of David Menuisier’s yard and, given that the four-year-old is a gelding, they haven’t done that for breeding purposes.

The Boys in Blue clearly think Vintager is a group performer and so do I, so considering he is just reaching a peak about now he should have too much quality here following on from his encouraging UK comeback third in the Spring Lodge Handicap at Newmarket.  Extra Elusive is considered best of the rest.

3.05 York (Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stakes) – ENBIHAAR

As always there are a whole bunch of fillies here who could show extreme improvement, but on all known evidence this Enbihaar looks to be the one with most to offer.

She beat a really solid filly in the shape of Klassique last time out in a Listed race at Goodwood without really looking the finished article and so with natural improvement expected from that race to this, she should have too much for her opposition.

Pilaster is a very good yardstick in this division, though her best form would only put her on a par with what is expected of Enbihaar and she didn’t run well on her seasonal debut, while Maid Up has a few more pounds to make up on the pair but looks a solid selection for place money.

3.35 Curragh (Irish 2000 Guineas – Group 1) – TOO DARN HOT

Last year’s brilliant champion two-year-old makes a quick reappearance having shown himself not to stay in the Dante Stakes at York when on trial for the Derby.

His freshness after a layoff, the quick early pace, his failure to get 1m2½f and then his being eased slightly at the end mean the performance can be upgraded significantly and even a repeat of his Dewhurst run, let alone showing any improvement, would mean he can take this.

Magna Grecia did absolutely nothing wrong in winning the Guineas at Newmarket but he was on the best strip of ground for sure and may well just be up against a superior colt.  Skardu is decent but is clearly looking to simply be best of the rest in this line-up.

3.40 Goodwood (Tapster Stakes – Listed Race) – MIRAGE DANCER

Sir Michael Stoute’s Mirage Dancer won this race last year, albeit having had the benefit of a run, and a repeat of that performance would be good enough to score once again here.

While this is the five-year-old’s seasonal debut, his trainer has a great habit of improving these types and is in terrific form of late, so despite the obvious qualities of Barsanti and Danehill Kodiac he really doesn’t have an awful lot in the way of excuses and should land the race comfortably before perhaps going up in grade.

4.00 Haydock (Temple Stakes – Group 2) – BATTAASH

The brilliantly speedy Battaash used this race to kick-start his season a year ago and he can do so again.  He was slowly away twelve months ago and had plenty to do going into the final furlong but still got there, and frankly it’s amazing how he only managed one more win.

He’s had another wind op now and is reported in good form making him a simple selection as long as he stays at odds-against.  Despite some support for Michael Dods’ Abbaye and Palace House winner Mabs Cross it seems that, given her penalty, all-weather star Kachy may be the main danger to the selection.

Even if Kachy can run up to his best back on turf he looks at least 7lbs behind what we expect to see from Battaash though while Alpha Delphini can challenge for place money too.

Sunday 26th May 2019

4.25 Curragh (Irish 1000 Guineas – Group 1) – QABALA

It’s really encouraging to see the ambitious Roger Varian yard supplement this lovely filly into this race to have another crack at her Newmarket 1000 Guineas conqueror Hermosa and she may just come out on top this time around.

There were around 3lbs separating them at HQ so, given that this is only Qabala’s fourth career run and she is entitled to improve most, she was checked in her action just as the race was picking up going into the dip and she had to come widest of all to challenge, it’s far from a stretch to envisage her turning the tables at the Curragh.

Hermosa still ranks as the main danger, while Iridessa has some top class form as does East with both of those fillies looking dangerous at nice prices.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Saturday 18th May 2019: Time to Beat the Bank at Newbury in Lockinge

Flat racing fans are in for a major treat on Saturday with some top class types out across several meetings.

The Group 1 Lockinge Stakes is the highlight while even this late in the day we may get more Derby and Oaks clues with races at Newmarket and Newbury giving the three-year-olds one last chance to impress before Epsom.

We begin in Berkshire with a nice Listed race, one in which we have a potential value bet to kick our Saturday off.

1.50 Newbury (Carnarvon Stakes – Listed Race) – MOYASSAR

Not all of Roger Charlton’s horses improve much having made smart debut’s, so while this Red Impression remains a very big danger in the race it seems she may have been slightly overestimated by the odds-makers.

A more likely winner and potentially at a good price is Richard Hannon’s Moyassar, the choice of Jim Crowley in the race ahead of Sheikh Hamdan’s other contender Khaadem who also makes the shortlist.

Moyassar has come through the handicap route but he’s done it so convincingly, beating the decent Mawakib at Newmarket last time in good style and with plenty more improvement to come it’s easy to envisage him bursting clear at the death to take this race before going into group company later on.

2.05 Newmarket (Fairway Stakes – Listed Race) – AL HILALEE

By ten past two, prices quoted on Friday of around 3/1 might look a little silly about this Al Hilalee, a colt genuinely fancied for the 2000 Guineas and the Derby by the Godolphin team.

He did well to win at Listed level on only his second start as a juvenile in France before being put away and then his work in Dubai a few weeks ago was enough for the Boys in Blue to supplement him for the Guineas at a huge cost, though he ran badly that afternoon.

This trip is better for him, the level is fine and he really should prove too good for the improving Raise You as well as Khuzaam and Eightsome Reel who appear to be further behind.

3.40 Newbury (Lockinge Stakes – Group 1) – BEAT THE BANK

This is a competitive Group 1, mostly due to the fact that there’s no real star in this race and so many of them would be expected to run to a broadly similar level.

That said, Beat The Bank has been knocking on the door for a couple of years now and his reappearance win at Sandown in the Group 2 Bet365 Mile was a great starter for the season and he looks ready now to grab that previously elusive Group One win.

There are some unknown factors in the race, especially past Royal Ascot winners Le Brivido and Without Parole who could yet get back up to this level while the ever-popular Laurens will be there or thereabouts.

Look out for improvement to from Mythical Magic at a big price and he is the each-way play in the race, but at the quoted prices Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank looks great value for his maiden win at the top level and it would be a very popular result.

4.15 Newbury (Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes) – WELL OF WISDOM

This 6f two-year-old race is basically a pattern event in everything other than name.  Wesley Ward brings over Joker On Jack who showed the usual blistering pace we’ve come to expect of runners from this yard when taking a 4½ furlong maiden at Keeneland but this demands more and he has a 2lb penalty to carry.

Aidan O’Brien’s Fort Myers was impressive enough on debut over this trip at Dundalk and will undoubtedly improve from that, but the presence of these two horses has only served to give us a backable price about Well Of Wisdom and we have to take advantage of that.

Despite being bred for further and looking the least likely winner of Godolphin’s four runners on paper in a maiden, he was the choice of Will Buick and after getting the hang of things late on powered past the field to score impressively over Newmarket’s five furlongs.

He’s up in trip here which is perfect and he could win what might prove to be one of the best 2yo races thus far en route to a crack at the Coventry Stakes at Ascot next month.

4.50 Newbury (Fillies’ Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – STAR CATCHER

While the form shown by Queen Power is solid enough, Star Catcher remains the one in this line-up with the most potential and if anything she should be even better on this sounder surface.

On the soft ground round here 36 days ago, she won her race very well indeed and looked to be a filly heading for the Oaks which may still be the plan if she were to win this and recover quickly enough.  Wherever she goes next, John Gosden’s filly looks good value to score in this under Frankie Dettori.

11.48 Pimlico (Preakness Stakes – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE

With no Country House, Maximum Security, Code Of Honor, Tacitus or Game Winner the race has an unfortunately weak look about it this year, somewhat poignant too given that we may be witnessing the penultimate Preakness at Pimlico as the facilities are left to go to rack and ruin.

The class act in the field for me is Improbable, a colt who looked the real deal at the end of his juvenile season when scoring in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity.  He was beaten in both of his preps as well as finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, but the sloppy tracks have not been to his liking and this drop back to 1m1f+ is ideal too.

With conditions fine and his gate position a good one, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith get the nod ahead of the overpriced Bourbon War who represents this season’s strong Florida form and is a fresh horse having missed the Derby.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Saturday 11th May 2019: Take a Glorious Journey to an Ascot Payout

We have a ton of action to keep us entertained this weekend on the flat and over the jumps, Haydock in fact hosting Swinton Hurdle day which is a mixed card featuring racing over both codes.

Several Oaks, Derby and Irish Guineas contenders attempt to book their places in the upcoming classics too as Lingfield and Leopardstown host yet more trials while Sunday sees the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place over at ParisLongchamp.

This week there are four bets, whittled down from many options around Britain, Ireland and France, with Lingfield definitely seeming to be the place to take advantage of some fair pricing.

1.55 Lingfield (Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ANAPURNA

There has been a lot of attention aimed at Frankellina over the winter with a view to her being a top class filly in her three-year-old season, but while I am in no way saying she won’t be (she’s certainly bred to get there) the form of her winning debut last year at Yarmouth doesn’t really blow one’s skirt up.

While it’s obviously true that she’ll improve plenty from that performance, the same can be said for John Gosden’s Anapurna and he is a master at moving these fillies forward and helping them to realise their full potential.

Frankie Dettori’s mount, another daughter of Frankel, shot clear in good style in her maiden win at Lingfield in January (standard to slow track) and that day she looked a filly of some significant promise.  She gets the nod to see these rivals off with King Power and Tauteke both in the running for place money.

2.30 Lingfield (Derby Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – ANTHONY VAN DYCK

Aidan O’Brien has already taken several Derby trials and clearly has a very strong hand going into the second colt’s classic at Epsom on June 1st.  Broome runs in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on Sunday at Leopardstown and is odds-on to add to the tally, and while I’d be worried about taking too short a price this Anthony Van Dyck can provide Ballydoyle with yet another trial winner.

There has been some talk of this horse being a far from guaranteed stayer but, while he is out of an Exceed And Excel mare, he is by Galileo which alone is encouraging and a closer look at his very strong juvenile form gives further cause for optimism on that front.

Despite all his good form being over seven furlongs as a two-year-old, he was rather taken off his feet on fast ground in the Dewhurst by Too Darn Hot and co. but he won on the yielding before that at the Curragh and his best run was a runner-up effort behind the excellent Quorto in the National Stakes.

Given that Quorto’s trainer Charlie Appleby says his colt is a middle-distance type in waiting, it’s easy to believe that stamina played a part that day and with this solid Group 1 form he should be too good here although we can expect significant improvement from Cap Francais and Eagles By Day and they look good for the places.

3.40 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – PRETTY BABY

Given that we are suddenly awash with soft ground around the country we will have to temper enthusiasm (and stakes perhaps) as not all selections are proven in the mud.  That’s certainly the case with Pretty Baby, a rather nice type who has been off the track since winning a Group 3 at Glorious Goodwood last August.

That success, along with an excellent second at York and three other wins, was achieved on fast ground but her debut second was on good-to-soft and the sire, Orpen, managed a Group 1 win in the Prix Morny on the same sort of surface.

Given that he is unafraid to pull horses out, if trainer William Haggas allows this filly to take her chance then he clearly feels the ground is not a problem and thus she can be expected to have come on over the winter, making her a solid selection.

The value in the race behind her could be Dean Ivory’s Eirene, an improving filly with some good soft ground form, while Devant and Perfection, who is now with David O’Meara, will both attract support from various corners.

4.00 Ascot (Victoria Cup Heritage Handicap) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

This is a viciously competitive seven furlong race but for once, unlike in the Grand National and certain other recent Saturday handicaps, the odds look fair and we could be going 10/1 the field by the off.

When a race like this has such a wide open look, many punters believe it’s a total lottery but that is simply not the case.  Certain horses still stand out with the likes of Cape Byron, close up in several similarly valuable and competitive races last season, and the lightly-weighted Presidential both making the shortlist and appearing certain to go well if handling the ground.

Kynren is another regular in these events, a horse who was a 2-length fifth in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day in October and who kicked off this season by finishing runner-up to Auxerre in the Lincoln.  He likes this ground but is arguably better over a mile which is the only doubt about him.

I’d like to think that on a line through Auxerre, Charlie Appleby knows where he stands with Kynren and so his putting this Glorious Journey into a tough handicap, given of course that he is a bona fide pattern performer now having finished third and first in French Group 3’s last season, speaks volumes and he will like this surface too.

He is improving all the time, will love going over seven on this ground with a fast pace guaranteed and can put up a new personal best now, something that even off 109 would be good enough to take the £65,000 first prize.  Will Buick rides.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Tippin’ Jimmy's Flat Horses to Follow 2019

With the British flat season now underway, thoughts turn to all the big summer meetings such as Ascot and Goodwood as well as the classics, so here we have listed some key horses to keep on your side as things get going in earnest on the level for 2019.

Al Hilalee (Charlie Appleby)

By Duawi out of an Authorized mare, this three-year-old Godolphin colt is a sure-fire improver over middle-distances this season and is in fact a fair fancy for the Dante and the Derby.

Having won his maiden in fine style at Newmarket back in July, Al Hilalee went on to win a Listed race at Deauville without looking remotely the finished article and plenty more is expected of him this term.

Broome (Aidan O’Brien)

Having won the Ballysax Stakes Aidan O’Brien’s decision to campaign him over middle-distances is already paying off and he could be a real Derby type.

He’s by Derby winner Australia who is going to prove to be an amazing sire and there could be plenty of fun to be had with Broome this year for the Ballydoyle team.

Calyx (John Gosden)

Having won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer from completely the wrong side of the track, it seemed this horse would be the star of the juvenile season until Too Darn Hot came along but after he suffered a setback and had the rest of the year off many had forgotten him.

A Kingman colt who shows plenty of natural speed, connections have toyed with the idea of keeping him at sprint distances this season but he could yet be on track for the Guineas and all the other top mile races over the summer and if staying that distance will take some stopping at the top level.

Chasing Dreams (Charlie Appleby)

Sent off at 4/9 for her debut at the Craven meeting, it was no surprise when this two-year-old daughter of Starspangledbanner roared home by five lengths and she seems perfect for the Queen Mary Stakes.

Dubai Warrior (John Gosden)

John Gosden is willing to give so many of his three-year-olds a crack at the trials to see whether or not they are good enough to contest classics, but in Dubai Warrior he has one sure to feature in the top rank in terms of middle-distance races this season.

He won his debut race very easily at Chelmsford back in November and has been kept off the track since.  The horses in behind have done very well since and he gave them a pounding so is expected to be right in the top rank.  His entries include the Derby.

Entitle (John Gosden)

Enable’s half-sister arrived at the track with a reputation, but so far in two runs she hasn’t set the world alight in truth.

An ordinary debut was followed-up by a win at Lingfield and one thing is for sure and that is she looks like an improver, so whatever level she achieves first time up in 2019 will be bettered time and again one would feel.

First Eleven (John Gosden)

A proper maturing four-year-old, First Eleven really took his time to get going but began to peak last summer and was a frightfully unlucky loser at Royal Ascot before going on to win back at that track in September.

Those runs were over a mile-and-a-half but it looks as though the Ebor Handicap could be the main aim this time around for the son of Frankel and as long as they don’t let his handicap mark get too big he’d stand a major chance on the Knavesmire.

Ghaiyyath (Charlie Appleby)

Once thought of as a Derby horse, injury put paid to that but even as an immature type with only three juvenile runs under his belt, after his comeback win at Longchamp in September thoughts turned to the Arc although connections eventually thought better of it.

He is four now, made a very, very good return to the track in Paris in April and can take some stopping in mile-and-a-half races as the season goes by before he reaches his main target, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which this time he will contest.

Glorious Journey (Charlie Appleby)

This one could prove to be a typical Dubawi in that he may keep improving throughout his four-year-old career, something there was evidence for when despite taking a while to get going he won nicely at Group 3 level in France last August.

He’s been gelded over the winter and so thoughts are solely about success on the track now, something he can achieve especially if allowed to go up in trip to a mile-and-a-quarter.

Jash (Simon Crisford)

There is no doubting this colt’s level of form having finished an excellent close second to Guineas favourite Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1) last summer on only his third racecourse start, but his profile poses as many questions as answers.

Being by Kodiac, it’s possible that sprint distances could be his thing and that he may have been such a precocious two-year-old that we may not see the level of improvement from two to three as we may ordinarily expect.

However the lumps of improvement he showed between races last season would make it hard to believe that he won’t go forward again this term and if settling could be a live one for the Guineas, if not the Jersey Stakes at the very least.  He does retain the option to go sprinting however with the Commonwealth Cup a possible target.

Lah Ti Dar (John Gosden)

With Enable on course to go for an unprecedented third Arc and last year’s runner-up Sea Of Class ready to reappear, I feel many are forgetting the ability and promise shown last year by Lah Ti Dar and we would ignore her at our peril in the fillies’ mile-and-a-half division.

Winning three from three between April and August culminating in a demolition job in the Galtres Stakes at York, she looked a filly of the very highest order but did not like the 1m6f trip when finishing third in the St Leger and nor did she take to the sticky ground when third to Magical at Ascot on Champions Day.

Given a fair surface and with another winter on her back, she’ll take some pegging back this term and could herself end up in the Arc at the end of the year and/or at the Breeders’ Cup.

Laraaib (Owen Burrows)

A genuine, improving older horse, Laraaib put in his best career performance on his first outing this season despite being beaten by Marmelo.  He was not 100% ready and had to give away 3lbs making the performance seem all the better, and even though he’s done well thus far over a mile-and-a-half he could end up stepping up in trip again and might be a Group 1 performer in Cup races.

Le Brivido (Aidan O’Brien)

Having moved to Ballydoyle last Christmas from Andre Fabre’s yard, his owners now have an eye on the breeding sheds for this five-year-old of course but he is a Jersey Stakes winner for his former handler and there are definitely races to be one with him this year, potentially at the top level.

Given the strength of the three-year-olds in the mile and mile-and-a-quarter division this season it may be that he stays over six or seven furlongs and his trainer clearly feels he has the pace to do that.

Line Of Duty (Charlie Appleby)

Line Of Duty could well be Charlie Appleby’s number one Derby horse as he looks to quickly follow-up the achievement of training the first Blue Riband winner for the Godolphin team with Masar last year.

Line Of Duty had already taken a Group 3 in France over 1m1f before stepping back to a mile and scoring at the top level in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs and as a Galileo there’s no doubt he wants a trip.  The Dante could be first on his list before heading to Epsom where he is a serious contender.

Mythical Magic (Charlie Appleby)  

A four-year-old gelding who had reached a reasonable level, second in two Group 2 races, before eventually winning one in Dubai in February in fine style and it seems more improvement is on the cards.

He is from a real top-class family and his sire Ifraaj just kept getting better over a mile at four, and even five years old, so we can expect this horse to remain on an upward curve and contest some of the top mile races around Europe this year.

Quorto (Charlie Appleby)

Injured and now out of the Guineas and the Derby, this beautiful son of Dubawi will come back stronger and I’d like to see him contest mile-and-a-quarter races when he’s ready.

A very good winner of both the Superlative Stakes and the Group 1 National Stakes in Ireland last season, he is already rated 121 which is some level to reach by September of a juvenile season and it would be no surprise to see him run in something like the Juddmonte International and/or the Irish Champion Stakes later in the campaign.

Sergei Prokofiev (Aidan O’Brien)

Regardless of breeding, though he is by Scat Daddy, this horse has shown serious natural speed and although likely comfortable over five furlongs as the season goes on he could be perfect for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June.

Some three-year-olds show their best when stepping up in trip as they get older, but this horse will improve over sprint distances this season and I can see the Nunthorpe Stakes at York being a target of his in August.

Star Catcher (John Gosden)

John Gosden is great with fillies and can bring them along nicely before coaxing all of their potential out of them, and in Star Catcher he has a young filly who could be good enough to contest the Oaks all being well.

An ordinary debut was followed by an easy win on poor ground at Newbury and a spin round Chester or York in May would tell us more about what level she’s at, but I expect it’ll be a high one eventually.

Well Of Wisdom (Charlie Appleby)

In a strong renewal of the five furlong novice race at the Craven meeting Godolphin had four runners, two of them trained by Appleby, with the Kodiac colt Full Verse expected to be the one on the day.

William Buick had instead chosen this son of Oasis Dream out of a Sunday Silence mare and it seemed that on breeding he should be outpaced, but despite racing keenly he got the hang of things with a furlong or so to go before taking off and landing the contest.

A sixth furlong at least for now will be to his liking and he looks a proper prospect for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th May: Call Me Al at Newmarket on Classic Weekend

It’s a massive weekend for this year’s crop of three-year-olds as the 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place at Newmarket while Louisville hosts the 145th Kentucky Derby over in the States.

We have five good value bets encompassing Saturday and Sunday’s racing this week, beginning with a good quality fillies’ Listed race at Goodwood.

Saturday 4th May 2019

2.05 Goodwood (Daisy Warwick Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ENBIHAAR

With the ground described as good and given the possibility of more rain before racing on Saturday, this mile-and-a-half test may not suit one or two including perhaps Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Moonlight but it should be ideal for the John Gosden filly Enbihaar.

Having improved on her second start last season to win a standard-to-slow novice race in taking fashion at Kempton, she was upped in trip and grade when running fourth to a decent filly in Ghostwatch over 1m6f and having put another winter behind her one guesses she will have improved a fair bit now.

The tissue favourite is William Haggas’ Klassique, higher rated than Enbihaar but also more experienced and in effect more exposed and so she will need to have improved a lot.

2.20 Newmarket (Palace House Stakes – Group 3) – SERGEI PROKOFIEV

While I wouldn’t usually advise backing a three-year-old against the older horses at this time of year, not least when they are favourite, this Sergei Prokofiev looks a real sprinting star in the making and could even mix it with these on level weights if he had to.

Given that, unlike the mile and middle-distance types, Sergei couldn’t begin his career at an ideal trip as he’s really all speed and so whatever he did at five and 6 furlongs last year will naturally be improved upon this term.

He comes into this as a Group 3 winner at Newmarket and a horse who was third to Calyx, while after his Listed warm-up win at Navan he is also match fit and ready to do his thing.  One of these times Equilateral is going to take off and prove how good he is too, so he rates as the danger.

3.35 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – AL HILALEE

After the injuries to Calyx, Quorto, Too Darn Hot and Mohaather as well as the decision by Andre Fabre to keep Persian King in France, this year’s 2000 Guineas has gone from being perhaps the race of a generation to being wide open and while whatever wins this will have to be a proper colt, they won’t have to be a world-beater.

With that in mind, we take a chance at attractive odds on Godolphin’s Al Hilalee.  This race is effectively being used as a trial for the Derby by trainer Charlie Appleby, something he did successfully with Masar last season, but in this case his horse has a serious chance of landing this race en route to Epsom.

Having made a very, very good debut last summer this son of Dubawi was sent straight into Listed company over a mile and while it seemed to stretch him and he gave the look of an inexperienced colt, he still went on to win that race before being put away.

Having worked extremely well over in Meydan a week or so ago, the decision was made to supplement him into this race for £30,000 and with another serious contender in this race in the shape of Royal Marine, Godolphin did not do that out of any form of desperation and so a big run is expected.

Of Aidan O’Brien’s two, Magna Grecia looks the main danger to the selection after his narrow win in the Futurity last season (Group 1), a path taken by last year’s winner Saxon Warrior though this one doesn’t look quite in the same class.

Fellow O’Brien runner Ten Sovereigns looks brilliant but perhaps won’t stay this distance on all known evidence while Kick On should appreciate the drop in trip and can go well.  Royal Marine was a tad unlucky in the Craven Stakes and is already notorious for improving in lumps from race to race so rates a big danger, while Madhmoon perhaps wants further and may well be drawn on the wrong side.

Skardu’s win in the Craven was fair enough but Royal Marine would be fancied to overturn that now, while Advertise is another who on close inspection reached a very high level rather quickly last year but didn’t necessarily improve a lot as the year went on and again may not see out this mile to best effect.

11.50 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby – Grade 1) – TACITUS

Much like the 2000 Guineas at home, the Kentucky Derby is wide open this year with no real prospect of another Justify as yet.  Many are in with chances including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner, his stablemates Improbable and Roadster and also Florida Derby winner Maximum Security.

Doing things more quietly in prep, ironically perhaps, is the highest point scorer in the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the only horse to win two major prep races and that is Bill Mott’s Tacitus.

Unlike many others in this race, who have to put in huge efforts in Grade 1 races in order to secure their place in the field, Tacitus won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes in the style of an improving colt with more to come so from a good position in gate 8 he can show his high tactical speed to stay in touch before leaving plenty of energy for the stretch.  He is good value too.

Sunday 5th May 2019

3.35 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – QABALA

The fillies’ classic is also open enough, especially in behind the selection where there is precious little to choose between the likes of Iridessa, Skitter Scatter and even the overpriced Angels Hideaway.

Aidan O’Brien’s Just Wonderful may well be one to come out of the pack and prove to be the biggest danger after her Rockfel Stakes win here last year, but the one with easily the most potential is Roger Varian’s Nell Gwyn winner Qabala.

Having only her second career run, the daughter of Scat Daddy didn’t get the best break but travelled sweetly last time under David Egan before showing a fine turn of foot to win the Grade 3 trial going away.  She can come on a fair bit from that and it’s possible she is right out of the top drawer and so gets the vote to land this.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th April 2019: Alfaatik to Enter Derby Calculations with Sandown Win

Given that Saturday is Sandown Park’s jumps finale, the flat boys take centre stage on Friday and there are some right types coming out too.  The Esher Cup, Gordon Richards Stakes, Classic Trial and bet365 Mile are all run during the afternoon with plenty of clues on offer for later in the season.

A Group 1 winner makes his return in Listed company at Leicester on Saturday too and we fancy him to score, but we begin this week with the colts attempting to put themselves in the Derby picture by taking Sandown’s Group 3 trial over a mile-and-a-quarter.

Friday 26th April

3.00 Sandown (Classic Trial – Group 3) – ALFAATIK

John Gosden isn’t afraid to run his decent three-year-olds in trials to get a proper idea of just how good they are, so Alfaatik being in this race isn’t in itself a sign that he is a potential top-notcher.

However, in winning on debut in December he did incredibly well.  Very slow out of the stalls, Alfaatik ran green the whole way round at Chelmsford looking a million miles from the finished article but got up to lead a furlong out and held on well for the win.

He is by Sea The Stars whose progeny reach such a consistent level from their debut runs at 2 to this time of year, giving us a fair idea of where this Derby entrant ranks and so we can deduce he is a few pounds better than Bangkok and Persian Moon at this stage, all things being well.

3.35 Sandown (bet365 Mile) – ADDEYBB

The main concern here for most people is bound to be the fact that Addeybb is a confirmed lover of soft ground, his trainer has said as much in fact.

But, while he is bound to be even better when the rain comes, perhaps even a Group 1 winner, Addeybb is no slouch on faster going as a look at his profile suggests.  Progressing to be a level above today’s opposition for sure when winning the Lincoln and indeed this race early last season, he was given time off and after a bad run at Ascot was tasked with taking on the all-weather for the first time at Lingfield last backend.

Lingfield is a quick enough track, faster than his apparent ideal conditions, yet he ran a cracker in a Listed race there when not getting much racing room and giving 7lbs to 106-rated Master The World, being beaten in the end by just a length.

He can go well in this and may win it at the expense of the improving Sharja Bridge and crack Group 2 performer Beat The Bank, as long as the latter can prove he goes well fresh of course which he didn’t do last season.

4.35 Sandown (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – SPARKLE ROLL

King Power could yet be decent and there are a couple of noteworthy debutants in the field, however John Gosden knows his stuff with these fillies and given her progress to date it’s easy to see that there is plenty of improvement t come from Sparkle Roll and she is taken to carry this penalty to victory before moving up in grade.

She was a very comfortable winner of her novice race at Haydock in September and was then put away for the year, while it is also worth noting that as a Kingman she probably wasn’t in love with the softer going she encountered that and will appreciate conditions here much more.  She is a half-sister to a Derby winner and may yet enter Oaks calculations if taking this.

The aforementioned King Power finished fifth on debut for Andrew Balding last year and is bred to be decent over middle-distances, while any money for Sea Of Faith should be noted in the run-up to the race with the William Haggas yard a real force to be reckoned with.

Saturday 27th April

2.45 Leicester (King Richard III Stakes – Listed Race) – EQTIDAAR

Having won the Group 1 Commenwealth Cup last year at Royal Ascot, we could have seen Eqtidaar come out in a Listed race and be an odds-on favourite but that is not proving to be the case at the time of writing with 2/1 available about Sir Michael Stoute’s colt.

The reason for this may be that at a glance, it seems he never puts in two good runs in a row but save for his fourth at Newbury last May when he was slowly away, it seems he has always given his all unless there have been genuine excuses which there were in the July Cup and on heavy ground in the Haydock Sprint Cup.

Having won the Commonwealth, he is a Group 1 winner who was even thought of as a type to challenge the likes of Blue Point last year but he can handle this extra furlong and so this opposition should simply not be in his class.  Laugh A Minute and Hey Gaman are feared most with the ground seemingly too quick for Donjuan Triumphant.

3.15 Haydock (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – FABULIST

Another fillies’ novice event, another John Gosden runner to note in the shape of Dubawi daughter Fabulist.  She was slower than expected when making her debut at Newcastle in December, the same route Enable took of course, but nothing much was lost as she ran on for fifth and did not look fully furnished at the time.

She was then beaten at odds-on at Newbury earlier this month when the ground went completely against her, although she still managed to improve upon what she had done before and that’s to her credit.

With better ground here the Oaks entry can truly show where she is at right now and, although more is expected from them, the 7lb pull she gets from the likes of Dashed and Robotique Danseur means she should be able to take this before perhaps stepping back up in trip next time and taking on better opposition which I’m sure is the plan.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Easter Weekend: Daarik to Take All the Beating at Gosforth Park

With Newmarket now out of the way until the Guineas meeting we have seen things change in the big race markets over the past week and simply await in anticipation the first classics of the season.

Before all that though we have a valuable Good Friday card with both Newcastle and Lingfield putting up huge prize money, the latter of course hosting its All-Weather Championships Finals Day with £1million up for grabs but there are precious few betting opportunities at the Surrey track as short-priced favourites appear to dominate some races.

We have two Saturday bets too as Kempton Park attracts some decent three-year-olds for its conditions races, but we begin with Friday’s meeting at Newcastle and another potential improver for master trainer John Gosden:

Friday 19th April 2019

3.20 Newcastle (Burradon Stakes – Listed Race) – DAARIK

This £100,000 event is growing in popularity already and if it weren’t for Easter being so late this year, we may well have been witnessing a 2000 Guineas and/or a Kentucky Derby candidate in the field.

It seems there’s nothing quite up to that standard in this year’s event, but there is a lot to like about John Gosden’s course winner Daarik who in time could prove to be a Group horse and should be able to take this Listed event en route to better things.

Having come back lame from his racecourse debut run at Nottingham last year, his Newmarket handler was patient with him and is seeing the benefit of that now as his son of Tamayuz has gone on to win at this track over 6f as well as at Kempton over seven and this one mile test will suit him even more.

While the likes of Marie’s Diamond and Magic J are strong and there could be much more to come from Bayroot, not many in this line-up would appear to want a very stiff mile at this stage of their careers and that’s not an area Daarik should struggle with and so these conditions look ideal for Jim Crowley’s mount.

3.55 Newcastle (Class 2 Handicap) – BIG KITTEN

This is a strong handicap and with £54,000 to the winner you can bet that these horses have been prepared with today in mind and not simply the future, so we should see a very fair race and a quick enough gallop.

Money will be around in the ring in abundance for Roger Charlton’s Forbidden Planet and he certainly makes the shortlist alongside Bartholomeu Dias, but all things considered they may be vulnerable to one improving quickly and that brings in course winner Big Kitten.

William Haggas sent the son of Kitten’s Joy to Newcastle to win a mile-and-a-quarter handicap very easily back in November and he has been gelded since then which could bring about more improvement.  He could be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper right now and will appreciate this extra distance so rates a fair bet under Daarik’s jock Jim Crowley who could have a very good half an hour.

4.05 Bath (Lansdown Stakes – Listed Race) – HEARTWARMING

After beginning her career in flying fashion as a juvenile, just as Heartache did the year before for the same connections, Heartwarming’s form appeared to tail off last season but a closer look at things reveals something a little different and more encouraging.

Having won at the second attempt before running a very good second in a Listed race at Newbury, Clive Cox’s three-year-old filly looked at first glance to be out of her depth when finishing 11th of 14 in the Cornwallis Stakes in October but that run was far from smooth for her.

Having been consistently denied a clear run, Frankie Dettori simply let her idle home but it’s worth noting that she was deservedly the 13/2 fourth choice in the market for that race behind among others Sergei Prokofiev, a leading sprinting light for Aidan O’Brien this year, and she is certainly capable of taking a race like this.  Queen Of Desire and One Last Night are next on the list.

Saturday 20th April 2019

2.35 Kempton (3yo Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – RAINBOW HEART

Oisin Murphy and William Haggas could be on for a very productive day at Kempton Park on Saturday with their three-year-olds, beginning with this daughter of Born To Sea who should really appreciate this step up from the seven furlong trip she encountered when scoring easily at Newmarket in October.

Form-wise, she not only has that run in the bag but it’s also worth mentioning she was a good third behind Qabala on debut and that filly is now clear favourite for the 1000 Guineas having run a stormer in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at the Craven meeting earlier this week.

Rainbow Heart doesn’t have any fancy entries at this stage but she could prove herself to be a very decent filly in this, perhaps at the expense of Canton Queen and Gospel who head a number of those in opposition with very similar ability and potential.

3.10 Kempton (3yo Conditions Stakes) – SENZA LIMITI

The same trainer/jockey combination, albeit for a different owner, can be successful in the colts and geldings version of this race with Senza Limiti, a son of tremendous up-and-coming sire Lope De Vega.

Making his racecourse debut at Salisbury in October, this colt travelled well before grabbing the lead and kicking clear of some decent rivals including one who was subsequently second to Azano and is now rated 88.  That win was visually impressive but also showed him to be a horse with bags of improvement to come and we expect him to show that today.

Not too many others, on what information we have regarding these inexperienced types, really looks capable of landing a major blow against him other than Chairmanoftheboard for Mick Channon although even that horse will need to recover from a poor run on the soft at Newbury if he is to figure.