Friday, 3 December 2021

Saturday 4th December 2021: Nube Negra to Pour it On

It’s a big Grade 1 weekend over the jumps in both England and Ireland. The latter hosts the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown on Sunday, while Sandown stages both the Henry VIII Novices’ and the much-anticipated Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday afternoon.

We begin there before moving on to Aintree where the Grand National fences are given an airing and there could be some Gold Cup clues to found too in the Many Clouds Chase.

1.50 Sandown (Henry VIII Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – MINELLA DRAMA

A fascinating renewal, one in which speed may well play a big part over two miles if the weather and the decent ground both hold up.

The short-priced favourite is Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki who is now a perfect two from two over fences following a simple win in the Grade 2 during the November meeting at Cheltenham.

On that form alone he is the rightful favourite and he could prove tough to beat. Before that he made a successful chasing debut when impressive back at Cheltenham in October, but Sandown presents a slightly different challenge for him.

Dan Skelton often has his horses ready to go and so while there should be some natural improvement to come, he may not take the giant leap forward many expect which just may leave the door open.

Sneaking through it could be Donald McCain’s Minella Drama. The excellent Brian Hughes has come south for a good book of rides but is of course primarily at Sandown to ride this one.

After finishing his hurdle career with a second to My Drogo, he took to chasing in brilliant style when winning easily at Uttoxeter at the end of October. I reckon his second run, when a close runner-up to the reopposing War Lord at Carlisle, just came a bit quick for him and he is much better than that.

His overall ability doesn’t look to be too far behind Third Time Lucki, if at all, and he may just have the speed to serve it up to the favourite and put him under pressure. He’s certainly very good value at 6/1 and bigger at the time of writing. Edwardstone has some good form and is also in the reckoning.

2.25 Sandown (Tingle Creek Chase – Grade 1) – NUBE NEGRA

This time the big dog in the market is Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi who could yet go off at odds-on in this belting two-mile contest.

The winner of this will be a strong fancy for March’s Champion Chase and it was in that race this year that Chacun Pour Soi was beaten at odds-on by Put The Kettle On and Nube Negra, with the last named perhaps well placed to beat him again.

Dan Skelton’s runner is absolutely top class and crucially there is little doubt that he has more improvement to come yet.

After beating Altior in the Desert Orchid last Christmas he was left off the track in preparation for the Champion Chase, the sort of routine now all too familiar with British jumps trainers. It may be then that he was a little undercooked for the big one at Cheltenham where he was only beaten a half-length, with his better form coming more recently.

On his seasonal return at the November Meeting, he beat Politologue and Put The Kettle On very easily and with three weeks between the races he should be 100% now.

He has the class and the speed for this race and can now put in a career best, one that should be good enough to see off his high-profile main rival.

Paul Nicholls runs two of his own here with Greaneteen probably the best of them, Bryony Frosts’s mount being the one we fancy to nick third.

2.05 Aintree (Many Clouds Chase – Grade 2) – IMPERIAL AURA

Most of the talk this week has been about Nicky Henderson electing yet again not to run his stars, in this case Champ while Shishkin was also ruled out of the Tingle Creek. We’ll choose to say nothing more about that.

Champ’s omission is a disappointment, but there is a good value bet to be had here anyway in the shape of Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura. Many will worry seeing form figures of UP-F, but that doesn’t tell the full story.

He was going OK when falling behind A Plus Tard at Haydock with the race still a good pipe-opener for him, while he bled from the nose when pulling up at Cheltenham.

Before all that he was the epitome of improvement. Second to Pym and then to Simply The Betts in a race that produced two subsequent Festival handicap winners, him included, he went on to win a Listed race and a Grade 2 in good style this time last year and can reach the very top.

Protektorat is favourite for Dan Skelton, but he’s far from infallible and worth taking on at the odds. The aforementioned Simply The Betts is next on the list, it will be fascinating to see how Tiger Roll gets on while Native River is still class but doesn’t have time on his side.

2.40 Aintree (Becher Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – SNOW LEOPARDESS

We’re going over the Grand National fences for the Becher Chase and the event has attracted a competitive field of 22 runners.

There may be some scrimmaging for position early on in that case and in a race of this nature you’re always taking a chance, but even as one of the market leaders there is some value at 5/1 and over about the grey mare Snow Leopardess.

Charlie Longsdon’s runner was a close second in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day last year before finishing fourth to Galvin at the Festival.

She began this season by taking care of Windsor Avenue in fine style at Bangor, jumping very well all the way which is an important factor here and winning in the style of a horse that shouldn’t be bothered by a 5lb increase in the weights.

Mac Tottie is another who could prove to be well handicapped, while track favourite and two-time Becher runner-up Kimberlite Candy was also considered.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th November 2021: Fighting Fifth to Be a Royal Encounter

On a busy weekend of horse racing action, the ever-popular Paisley Park looks to win again in Friday’s Long Distance Hurdle.

He has a battle on his hands with Thomas Darby, Lisnagar Oscar and Indefatigable in the line-up so we’ll be leaving that one alone, though we do have seven other value bets to go through across two brilliant days.

Friday 26th November 2021

12.40 Newbury (The Berkshire Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PIC D’ORHY

There are just the four runners for this 2½-mile Grade 2 novice chase, but there is still some value to be had.

The likely favourite is Alex Hales’ Millers Bank after his easy chase debut win at Aintree at odds of 80/1. That was a good performance, as was the success of Tea Clipper on his first chase start at Chepstow although he has to carry 7lbs more, but I feel Paul Nicholls’ runner Pic D’Orhy has been overlooked by a few.

True, he’s already had five goes over fences, but after a slow start, a bit of hurdling and some time off, he is a different prospect now and proved it with an impressive win at Ffos Las last month.

He made all that day against three rivals to win easily and there is no doubt that he has more to come.

12.55 Lingfield (Handicap) – ENFRANCHISE

The consistent Trevolli and Bearwith will be popular in the market and both have strong place chances, but the hope is that their presence simply allows us to grab a tasty price about Mark Johnston’s Enfranchise.

The three-year-old is having only her fourth start in this race, with her win at Pontefract on good to firm ground holding up very well in the context of the other form on offer here, especially at the weights.

She was sent off favourite for a decent race at Newcastle last time but seemed to get rather tired on the Tapeta in trying to lead the field, but with that experience behind her and on this quicker surface, she may be able to bounce out from stall 2, hit the front and be very hard to catch.

Saturday 27th November 2021

2.25 Newbury (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – CAPTAIN MORGS

Nicky Henderson’s Captain Morgs may have had a touch of luck last week when rival Garry Clermont veered at the last flight allowing him a simple path through to victory at Ascot. For his part, he did win the race with very little fuss and that visual impression is backed up by the fact that he is being turned out again quickly.

A close look at the form of his seven hurdle races to date reveals a nice pattern. The five-year-old appears to be a horse with lots more to give from this point and he certainly has the speed to kick on where it counts at the business end of a race.

He, in what is yet another small field, may well be able to make that speed count and has certainly been undervalued and overpriced given that there are only four horses going for this prize.

Soaring Glory is topweight and likely favourite for Jonjo O’Neill, he’s also the main rival to the selection, with Onemorefortheroad fancied to see of Gowel Road at the back.

3.00 Newbury (Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – EKLAT DE RIRE

It looks like a cracking renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy, this hugely valuable 3¼-mile chase throwing together 21 high-class runners including last year’s winner Cloth Cap.

Jonjo O’Neill’s very smart stayer is once again fancied to go well after a decent prep run at Cheltenham, while there has been a ton of money during the week for the Cheveley Park runner Ontheropes, trained by Willie Mullins.

That horse has form with Monkfish and is obviously smart, however there may have been a right old plot organised here with Eklat De Rire and he is taken to win.

Henry De Bromhead is about as a good a jumps trainer as you are likely to see, while jockey Rachael Blackmore is having the time of her life in the saddle.

As for the horse; he’s an improver anyway but also won last time out when finishing tired at Wexford, something he’s been given more than four weeks to recover from. His form stands up to scrutiny and he’s not done yet, he jumps well and basically has no obvious weaknesses given the better ground and his handicap mark.

3.15 Newcastle (Fighting Fifth Hurdle – Grade 1) – SCEAU ROYAL

On the face of it, this race is all about last year’s winner and 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante. She remains high class of course and she gets 7lbs from the boys, but she’ll need to be at her absolute best I feel and that is not guaranteed.

Instead of even thinking about backing her at a short price, the value really is in Sceau Royal for the Alan King yard.

On the forecast good ground (it’s cold and dry in Newcastle this week), he may have the ideal conditions to prove that he’s a Grade 1 type over hurdles.

A good chaser, he returned to the smaller obstacles to win a Listed race at Kempton before taking the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle easily last time and he definitely has what it takes. Monmiral was the other on the shortlist.

5.00 Wolverhampton (Nursery Handicap) – AL JADDAF

We’re taking in a little bit of Tapeta action at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening too, as Godolphin and Charlie Appleby show no signs of wanting their amazing year to end prematurely.

They have Al Jaddaf in this extended one-mile nursery, who after a gelding operation can properly get back to business.

He looked the type in August and September to get up to a mark in the mid to high 80’s before disappointing, but now he’s had his mind put firmly on racing he can make his actual rating of 78 look generous.

Ammolite is a danger, as are Park Street and Superior Force.

5.30 Wolverhampton (Novice Stakes) – DARAKAH

This one is a little chancier, but if going off at 3/1 or above there may be some value in Charlie Hills’ debutant.

Darakah is a very well-bred filly of Shadwell’s and is sure to have a decent amount of ability. The point here is that those with experience forecast to be near the top of the betting do not set a high standard at all, meaning it won’t take much to win the race.

It would be disappointing if she didn’t go well on her racecourse bow, with fellow newcomer Misscall also in the mix.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th November 2021: Goshen to Go the Right Way

It’s a mixed bag this week, with Flat and jumps action coming across Friday and Saturday’s racing.

We have seven very interesting, potentially great value selections across the cards too as trainer Gary Moore looks to make the most of enigmatic star hurdler Goshen’s apparent need to go right-handed.

Friday 19th November 2021

1.00 Sakhir (Bahrain International Trophy – Group 3) – ZAKOUSKI

There’s more big money still available on the international Flat racing scene, as these Group 3 runners go over a mile-and-quarter for just about as much money as the Cheltenham Gold Cup runners were chasing back in March.

There’s a first prize of around £262,000, and it can go the way of 2021’s undisputed top dogs Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick.

Their Zakouski has always been held in high regard and despite some problems along the way, the five-year-old son of Shamardal has won six races out of 9 included a pair of Group 2’s.

He made a terrific reappearance at Newmarket three weeks ago to win his second Ben Marshall Stakes in very easy fashion, he has strong form with Group 1 types and looks booked for a career best which would be good enough.

The Boys in Blue also have classy French runner Magny Cours and former top-class type Barney Roy who both hold place chances, while Fev Rover is a very fine filly and can go well once more.

2.40 Ascot (Handicap Hurdle) – CAPTAIN MORGS

The likes of Leoncavallo, Garry Clermont and Method Madness can all go well in this two-mile handicap hurdle, but Captain Morgs looks to be potentially the best handicapped horse of the lot and so is supported.

Not very many Nicky Henderson runners with genuine talent are rated 125, so one has to think there is a lot more this horse can give and the signs are all there.

His only hurdle win came over this course and distance, while he did well to run third at Cheltenham in October over a trip that was undoubtedly too far for him. A repeat of that would give him a chance, but the very much expected improvement over this trip would make him sufficiently well in at the weights.

Saturday 20th November 2021

12.35 Lingfield (Fillies’ Handicap) – TAAWFAN

After her demolition job when beating Godolphin horse Toromona by 12 lengths at Wolverhampton 40 days ago, it was no surprise to see William Haggas’ Lady Rockstar at the top of the betting.

She has a top-class trainer, terrific form, the potential for further improvement and is ridden by Derby-winning jockey Adam Kirby, so there’s nothing to dislike at first.

That said, she’s been given a mark of 85 now which isn’t overly generous at first glance, a rating gathered by winning on a very different surface (Tapeta) so there’s always the chance she will find things a bit quick here.

She also has to come from gate 8, while just inside her in 6 is the more suitable Taawfan at a much bigger price.

Owen Burrows’ four-year-old filly is rated only 79 yet has for my money already run to a mark much higher than that, while she will also appreciate the conditions at Lingfield.

Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and he’s exactly the sort of jockey needed to ensure we get the best out of the filly. Isola Rossa also made the shortlist.

1.10 Lingfield (Conditions Stakes) – DOCUMENTING

Moore could be on for a quick double at Lingfield, something he’s done before, with Kevin Frost’s Documenting in the seven-furlong conditions race.

It would be fair to say that the eight-year-old isn’t getting any quicker, but on the balance of his form, even recent form, he should be too good for a field containing Lord Of The Lodge, Highland Dress and Spycatcher.

2.25 Haydock (Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – BASS ROCK

It’s a fascinating Betfair Hurdle with 16 runners declared, all in with some kind of chance on the book and all fighting for an impressive £100,000 prize fund.

While it’s hard to be certain in a race as competitive as this, at least we know that we are likely to get the best out of the genuine contenders and one of those undoubtedly is Sandy Thomson’s Bass Rock.

Bass Rock has had a couple of breathing operations in his career, but he is seemingly always improving and comes here on the back of an impressive-looking success at Carlisle where he beat great yardstick Teescomponents Lad. He’s fit, only a five-year-old, and brings very strong form into the race.

The other horse in the field to have recently beaten Teescomponents Lad is Jonjo O’Neill’s Flight Deck. His win at Wetherby wasn’t as impressive, but it puts him on my shortlist especially when the horse that connects these two challengers won on Thursday.

2.40 Ascot (Ascot Hurdle – Grade 2) – GOSHEN

After his past Cheltenham shenanigans, much has been made of Goshen’s temperament. Not many doubt his class and ability however, while his trainer Gary Moore has been adamant that he prefers to go right-handed and so after missing his intended race at Wincanton he now tackles Ascot which should be perfect for him.

He’s up against Buzz here, a short-priced favourite of Nicky Henderson’s who gets 6lbs from the selection, but if Goshen brings his A-game then he really will be hard to beat.

He was a wide-margin winner both here and at Sandown a couple of seasons ago, before performing a complete destruction job on his Kingwell Hurdle field at Wincanton in February.

If he gets to something like that form again, not a far-fetched ask considering his age and that he can actually still get a lot better yet, then he can land this at odds that just like at Wincanton, can be made to look too generous.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – ROYALE PAGAILLE

This selection for the big Grade 1 at Haydock is a little chancier for a couple of reasons, but given the price we can afford it.

Firstly, Royale Pagaille is not a certain runner, as connections think the ground may be a bit too quick, but if he does run then he will be a big price against some of the best in the business.

The other reason is that on top of predicting how well Royale Pagaille can run, we have to also expect one or two others to not be at their best.

Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard is one of them, but history tells us he often needs the run first time out, while a constant in this race, Bristol De Mai, is another but again he is just a tad regressive which is now to be expected.

Waiting Patiently is an interesting runner and can reach the required level, while so in theory can Imperial Aura who is heading the right way.

If the classy Royale Pagaille is allowed to take his chance however, that tells us connections think the ground is OK as they won’t risk him if it’s not, so he’s worth a bet at around 8/1+.

Friday, 12 November 2021

Saturday 13th November 2021: Harrovian to School Them at Lingfield

As the form only just begins to settle down at the beginning of the jumps season proper, many of our betting opportunities still come on the Flat where we know far more about the current well-being of each contender.

It was a great weekend for us at the Breeders’ Cup last week, and while this time around the races are less auspicious, they are still there for the taking as we get stuck into all-weather action at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, along with a little jumping action at Wetherby.

Nb: For jumps racing see my coverage of the November Meeting here.

11.40 Lingfield (Maiden Stakes) – UNTOLD MYSTERY

Charlie Appleby has had the most amazing year and luckily, we’ve gone along for the ride on many occasions.

It can’t all be about Adayar, Hurricane Lane and Native Trail though, as even his supposed lesser-lights can often be worth backing.

He has a chance in both divisions of the opening mile-and-a-quarter maiden stakes at Lingfield on Saturday, with Untold Mystery interesting especially if he is reasonably well supported in the market.

Army Sergeant ran OK on debut for Saeed bin Suroor, but at 22/1 not much was expected and so a huge improvement also doesn’t seem very likely at this stage.

Golden Disc is in a similar position, while Three Start has the best form after two runs including a runner-up effort on the soft at Redcar. On breeding this isn’t guaranteed to suit him, which leaves the door open for Untold Mystery.

His debut at Nottingham wasn’t quite what was hoped for either, but it’s up there with those of his rivals and should he just reach the level now that was expected of him on his first start he’d have enough to win this under William Buick who is now back from the States.

12.10 Lingfield (Maiden Stakes) – INDEPENDENT ACT

Park Street is the one with form here, and though improvement could now be forthcoming after a gelding operation, it isn’t guaranteed and he doesn’t set the highest form standard for the debut runners to chase.

The two to concentrate on represent Godolphin. Saeed bin Suroor’s Game Master will be supported under Hollie Doyle, but based on the trainer’s debut runners, those of sire Postponed and even based on the admittedly good winning debut at this track of dam Sundrop he wouldn’t be reaching the sort of level to overly trouble the typical Charlie Appleby debutant unless he’s well above average.

Independent Act is that runner. He is out of a Manduro mare, so this trip looks ideal, while he is also a Dubawi meaning the quick nature of the track should also suit.

Should he be fit enough to do himself justice first time out, which is almost always the case with runners from this stable, then he is likely to be good enough to challenge.

3.05 Lingfield (Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – GOOD EFFORT

In the first of two Listed races at Lingfield to round off their card, it could be worth sticking with last year’s Rose Stakes winner Good Effort to double up.

Ismail Mohammed’s runner was landing a five-timer when taking this race twelve months ago, but his form hasn’t dropped overall and in fact he was a winner at Deauville in August.

It’s best that we draw a line under his disappointing run at Belmont in New York last month, but the fact they event sent him all that way to challenge for a Grade 2 shows you what they think of this horse.

He still has it, and his speed around Lingfield should be too much for Bahrain Pride, who could surprise, Fivethousandtoone who remains capable, Exalted Angel and The Last Lion who returns after fully five years off the track having had an ultimately unsuccessful spell on the stud roster.

Harry’s Bar is an obvious danger and is well represented in the market, but may just not have the speed to live with the selection if all goes well under Jim Crowley.

3.10 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – FIRST IMPRESSION

We make a little foray to the jumps for this Class 3 handicap hurdle, one in which we can take advantage of a well handicapped and fit runner in the shape of First Impression.

John Quinn’s runner was a course and distance winner last November as a juvenile before finishing a good fifth in a strong race at Ascot thereafter.

He’s been running on the Flat since then and in fact was a strong second to Dubai Souq on unsuitable soft ground at Redcar just under two weeks ago.

He’s fit, he has Brian Hughes up top, he’s well handicapped and he is already proven over the track and trip, so there’s nothing not to like.

In terms of his key rivals, Saint Arvans and Champagne City stand out from the others. Both have solid profiles in the context of this race, but ultimately aren’t as far ahead of the assessors as the selection which is the main consideration in a handicap race.

3.40 Lingfield (Churchill Stakes – Listed Race) – HARROVIAN

This is all about the return of Pyledriver. William Muir and Chris Grassick’s four-year-old has some big international targets ahead of him, making this all about prep.

A good winner of the Great Voltigeur last season, he took down Al Aasy in the Group 1 Coronation Cup back in June and while that is obviously top-class form, he does have challenges to overcome.

He can’t be 100% wound-up for this you’d have thought, he is also likely to need more of a test than 1¼ miles around Lingfield. He carries a 7lb penalty as well which is nothing to scoff at and he also drifted in the market as soon as prices were released.

The one who may take advantage is Harrovian. The Gosdens, both with Frankie Dettori and today’s jockey Rab Havlin up top, have often judged such races at Lingfield to perfection.

Harrovian himself is no mug either. A one-length third to Solid Stone in Group 3 company this year was followed-up with a win in a strong conditions race at Doncaster where he beat Sinjaari off level weights.

There’s more to come from him and he can reach 110+ for sure, something that would leave Pyledriver needing to effectively run to a mark of 118 which is far from guaranteed in these circumstances.

7.00 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – WEDDING DANCE

A small but interesting conditions race over seven furlongs, one in which Charlie Appleby has yet another outstanding contender.

His Wedding Dance was climbing the ladder quickly last season, finishing a close runner-up in France at Group 3 level before encountering a problem.

After nearly 14 months off the track, her form appeared to have held when she returned at Newmarket with a decent sixth in Listed company, with natural improvement from that race putting her in the clear here.

Tomouh is consistent and may once again run well, while Rising Star may go off favourite and can also challenge.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Friday 5th & Saturday 6th November 2021: Breeders’ Cup Special

Although the jumps season is about to get into full swing, the worldwide Flat season is rounded off by what looks like a fabulous two days of action at Del Mar for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup.

We have tons of information across both days in California, as well as some from the last day of Flat turf action at Doncaster.

Friday 5th November 2021

On Future Stars Friday Hierarchy may prove to be too big in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Koala Princess is interesting in the Fillies Turf, but these three stand out more.

10.30 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – Grade 1) – HIDDEN CONNECTION

The unbeaten Echo Zulu is likely to go off favourite here, but the money is beginning to come in for Hidden Connection and it’s easy to see why.

These runners, and many more in this contest in years gone by, have followed a similar path of progression from race two to race three (or to their first Grade 1), and in the case of Hidden Connection there is enough in her profile to suggest she can improve past her rivals.

She simply destroyed her Grade 3 field in the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs and looks more than ready for this test.

11.50 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Grade 1) – CORNICHE

Champagne winner Jack Christopher is the big dog here on known form, while Commandperformance remains solid.

It’s all eyes on Bob Baffert this year though, and regardless of past mishaps he will still be in there pitching for many of these prizes.

He saddles Pinehurst, who is not without a chance, and Corniche who is the selection. A good winner of the American Pharoah Stakes, Corniche would have been a confident choice had he not been drawn out wide, but this race can often be a fight to the line and its down the stretch where I think his qualities can show.

12.30 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – Grade 1) – MODERN GAMES

The likes of Dakota Gold, Glounthaune and Dubawi Legend are all in with place chances here. Charlie Appleby has had the most wonderful year though and he holds the key to this race.

His Albahr has as much chance as any of the aforementioned runners, but is comfortably behind his stablemate Modern Games on form and ability and it’s William Buick’s choice who gets the nod.

Experienced enough to handle the conditions, Modern Games is a strong traveller, will love the quick conditions and his latest Group 3 win showed him up to be potentially top-class.

Saturday 6th November 2021

Saturday is the big one in California. Bella Sofia has a chance in the Filly & Mare Sprint against champ Gamine, Jackie’s Warrior is a class act in the Sprint if a little too short and Eight Rings can go well at a price in the Dirt Mile. We begin however at Doncaster.

12.55 Doncaster (Gillies Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – BASHKIROVA

William Haggas’s runner Bashkirova is three from three now and improving in lumps. She jumps into Listed company for the first time but won with absolutely no fuss last time and handles soft underfoot conditions just fine.

She may prove to be the class act here, with Glenartney, Zawara, Vesela and Via Sistina all competitive.

2.40 Doncaster (November Handicap – Class 2) – FIRST LIGHT

Traditionally the last big betting race of the season, the November Handicap can go the way of a Gosden runner once again.

This time around there may still be a competitive price to grab about First Light, a double winner with plenty more left to give. Only a three-year-old, he was well beaten in Listed company last time but this is more up his street and he can make a mockery of his handicap mark.

7.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – Grade 1) – EMARAATY ANA

Favourite here should be Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal, but while he was an easy Grade 2 winner last time there are loose threads to pick at.

The horse he beat latest was regressing, while he was also market leader for the Nunthorpe at York when somewhat predictably finishing down the field. Last year’s winner Glass Slippers has a tougher task now, and at the odds I’d much rather be with Emaraaty Ana.

Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old is not only getting better, but quicker. Second in the Nunthorpe before landing the Sprint Cup at Haydock, he is proven at this level and can land another biggie.

8.59 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1) – OCEAN ROAD

Audarya won this last year and will be pitching again, Love is class but could be going a little backwards, Rougir may want it softer, Loves Only You has chased home Mishriff and War Like Goddess has a great chance.

At prices of around 40/1 however we can take a small chance on Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road. Thought of as an Oaks filly, she’s never had the right conditions, came back to action with a good prep run last time and is in a race that favours three-year-olds.

10.20 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Mile – Grade 1) – MASTER OF THE SEAS

Once again, Charlie Appleby holds the key. Space Blues looks made for this race, although as a perceived seven-furlong specialist he still needs to prove he can stay.

I couldn’t put anyone off backing him and he is the choice of Buick, however it’s hard to ignore the call of Master Of The Seas at double-figure prices.

He won the Craven from an impossible position before just being touched off in a strong 2000 Guineas. After an enforced break, he was an unlucky-in-running third in the Joel Stakes as the Newmarket track record was broken and it’s his turn of foot that could be decisive as he reaches the stage of his career at which he is likely to peak.

11.00 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Distaff – Grade 1) – MALATHAAT

Letruska has done precious little wrong and deserves to be favourite, however I’ve been with Malathaat all year and there’s no reason at all to ditch her now.

Although she stays and battles well, her speed figures in the States have progressed for every one of her seven runs. The Kentucky Oaks winner is great value to prove she is a champion.

11.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – YIBIR

A whole bunch of these high-profile horses could prove capable; Domestic Spending, Tarnawa, Rockemperor, Walton Street, Teona et al.

Yibir however may be different class. A Great Voltigeur winner and an impressive scorer in New York for Charlie Appleby, his connections thought during the spring trials that he may be up there in ability with Adayar and Hurricane Lane.

His gelding operation has been the making of him and he can reach a new high.

12.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY 

The biggest event of them all and Brad Cox is in the enviable position of having the two market leaders.

Last year’s Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go has been imperious at around nine furlongs this year, though his trainer thinks he’ll stay. Cox did mention that he wants Knicks Go to break well and hit the front, feeling that will give him the best chance of victory.

Speed figures for the Classic however are perennially way below other well-regarded ratings. The reason is that the race takes some getting, and it’s the powerfully-built Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality who can excel – his teammate may even set it up for him.

Juvenile winner at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, the Godolphin colt finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, covering around 8½ lengths more than the potentially disqualified winner Medina Spirit for a 1¼-length defeat after being bumped out wide. He went on to win the Belmont over 1½ miles before battling all the way to the line to land the Travers Stakes.

He has reportedly strengthened up even more, gets a weight pull which in his case will be very handy, is a proven stayer (by Tapit) and has the form in the book.

He is undoubtedly a better horse than Medina Spirit, who is now four gates wider, while he has also beaten Hot Rod Charlie at Grade 1 level more than once and those two are also in the first four in the betting.

Friday, 29 October 2021

Friday 29th & Saturday 30th October 2021: Raffles the Prize Ticket in Charlie Hall Chase

We’ve got an exciting mix of Flat and National Hunt action this weekend, as the Charlie Hall Chase and the Bateaux London Gold Cup highlight the jumps action.

Newmarket hosts its popular ‘Final Meeting’ on the level providing one last chance for a few horses to grab some Listed glory too, and it’s in Suffolk where we start with Friday’s action and a fine juvenile fillies’ sprint race.

Friday 29th October 2021

2.30 Newmarket (Bosra Sham Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – BENEFIT

As a sprinter trained by Clive Cox, owned by Cheveley Park, ridden by Ryan Moore and with a 2-from-2 record, you’d expect Acclamation daughter Benefit to be a strong favourite.

Instead, she’s behind the experienced Desert Dreamer in the market, but she has more than enough going for her to justify a bet.

A closer look at her form and that of the horses she’s beaten makes her profile look very strong, she’s been winning with plenty in hand, has tons more progression to come and is in the right hands.

3.15 Wetherby (Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle – Listed Race) – PORTICELLO

It goes without saying that three-year-old hurdlers can be hard to assess, but in Porticello Gary Moore has a horse that could run into the 130’s based on his form with others, making him the likely strongest horse in this line-up even giving away weight.

Too Friendly and Oceanline have solid form together, but neither looks likely to reach Porticello just at this stage. Sacre Pierre needs to improve quickly.

3.40 Newmarket (Handicap) – NEPTUNE SEAS

Fireworks is well drawn for William Haggas and is usually strongly backed, while Godolphin’s Moving Light is very solid if improving as expected from his all-weather run.

Their apparent second choice however looks the one to be on. Charlie Appleby’s Neptune Seas ran in similar conditions when beating Jasmine Joy in good style in August, that filly winning well since.

He was also favourite to beat Moshaawer and led the market again in an Epsom handicap over the extended mile, but as a son of Sea The Stars he probably needs this mile-and-a-quarter and he can resume his progression now under James Doyle.

7.30 Kempton (Handicap) – RUN TO FREEDOM

Henry Candy’s Run To Freedom won nicely over the course and distance last time, but pulled a little behind a slow enough pace.

Here, Enduring will surely want the lead but could be challenged by Corinthia Knight, meaning a much stronger pace is likely which Run To Freedom can sit behind and pounce on when it counts. Mishal Star may end up being the biggest danger.

Saturday 30th October 2021

1.48 Newmarket (Nursery Handicap) – SPINAROUND

There are a number of runners far from guaranteed to want the nine-furlong trip at this stage of their careers, and on breeding you’d have thought the Gosdens’ Spinaround would be one of them.

However, this big improver by Kodiac just got better and better the further he went at this track over seven furlongs in September and much more is expected now. Frankie Dettori is on hand to ride, his only planned mount of the day.

New Mission is a likely type, while Teddy’s Profit can improve to run a place also while Lawful Command probably wants it softer underneath.

2.23 Newmarket (Handicap) – NOBLE DYNASTY

Greatgadian threatens to win a nice race and State Occasion will have to be watched, but Godolphin’s Noble Dynasty has always been well regarded.

A look at his form with the likes of Modern News and Rifleman makes him look better than his mark of 95 and he can go some way to proving that here.

2.58 Newmarket (Montrose Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – WITH THE MOONLIGHT

This isn’t the deepest Listed race overall, so while the likes of Oheka, Siamsa and Almohandesah have talent they should prove to be vulnerable.

Ed Walker’s Kawida has run three solid races in and around the early 80’s in terms of a handicap mark, but that doesn’t tell her full story. She was a very easy winner last time and on a line through some of the horses she’s beaten, she can prove to be more like a 95 filly which gives her a strong chance here.

Better than that arguably however is hat-trick seeker With The Moonlight. Charlie Appleby’s Frankel filly has shown steep improvement between races so far and she can climb another rung up the ladder today.

She was an easy winner at Wolverhampton last time and, on breeding, eight furlongs up the Rowley Mile should bring the best out of her.

3.05 Wetherby (Charlie Hall Chase – Grade 2) – FUSIL RAFFLES

As a top Grade 2 chase over three miles, many look to the Charlie Hall as a potential early Gold Cup trial.

There are some top names here too, but last year’s winner Cyrname is arguably regressing overall and has to give away weight this time.

Clondaw Castle’s best run was on a flat three miles on good ground which is encouraging, but he needs to improve, while Shan Blue isn’t always at his best first time out for the year.

Fusil Raffles is the interesting one at the prices for Nicky Henderson. A strong traveller, natural progression makes him very competitive here at the weights given his most recent form and potential, so as long as he stays the trip, he may grab a big win.

3.20 Ascot (Bateaux London Gold Cup Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – SOJOURN 

Another big three-mile chase is this competitive handicap at Ascot. Vinndication is class but has a lot of weight to carry, Johnbb may or may not stay and One More Fleurie is pitched in deeper but is getting better all the time.

Sojourn however has some top form and hasn’t reached his peak yet. There is plenty in the eight-year-old’s favour and he may be even better after a recent breathing operation.

3.33 Newmarket (James Seymour Stakes – Listed Race) – BAY BRIDGE

Although there’s precious little between this whole quintet on official ratings, in reality Sir Michael Stoute’s Bay Bridge could be head and shoulders above them and may finish the season unbeaten after wins at Newcastle, Newbury and York.

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

Zakouski, already a winner of this event on heavy ground last season, has had his troubles but he is very classy.

He’s better than a Listed horse, no doubt at all, and runs so well fresh that his not having been seen since winning a Group 2 in Dubai in February doesn’t bother me at all. Dante’s Pass is the main danger as long as he handles the drier ground, with Jadoomiu third choice.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th October 2021: Don’t Miss Carol Ann at Newbury

We’ve reached that part of the season during which the worlds of Flat and National Hunt racing collide. There is some fine action at Cheltenham and Aintree over the jumps, while there is Group 1 activity across three countries for us to get stuck into on the level.

Saturday 23rd October 2021

7.10 Moonee Valley (Cox Plate – Group 1) – PROBABEEL

We have an early start on Saturday once again as Australia’s huge $5 million Cox Plate gets the show underway at Moonee Valley.

In an often-tricky contest to handicap, especially given that there are both Northern and Southern Hemisphere-bred horses on show, I’ve taken real and exact ages into account when assessing the runners.

Godolphin’s Anamoe for example, the second-favourite here, gets lumps of weight and comes into the race on the back of a win in the Caulfield Guineas. He’s not yet three years old however and over this trip may find things very tough against the older horses.

Favourite Zaaki was never a Group 1 horse in Europe, a subject always controversial for Australian fans, though he did win well for Annabel Neasham in the Underwood Stakes in September when beating Probabeel.

Probabeel turned the tables the last time they faced off and the son of a former Cox Plate winner has a great chance at the weights to confirm the form at a very nice price.

Verry Elleegant is often exposed these days at the top level despite her past exploits, while Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest has plenty to do and star former French runner Gold Trip is now a non-runner.

1.33 Saint-Cloud (Criterium de Saint-Cloud – Group 1) – GOLDSPUR

Charlie Appleby has had a stunning season and the British champion trainer-elect still has time to land more Group 1 races in France and America before the year is out.

His Goldspur was a very impressive winner on debut at Sandown over a mile on soft ground. That was an excellent staying performance, and the yard attempted to sneak into the Derby for free by winning at Epsom a short time later but the son of Dubawi was withdrawn at the start there.

He then came out over this mile-and-a-quarter trip in the Zetland at Newmarket, fighting on to get the best of a bobbing three-way finish with Unconquerable and Hafit.

He can take another step forward in this race, is proven over the trip and on softer ground and could yet make up into a classic horse for next season. Stone Age, El Bodegon and the aforementioned Unconquerable are probably the main threats.

3.10 Newbury (Radley Stakes – Listed Race) – MISS CAROL ANN

It’s gone heavy at Newbury and that may lead to a few funny results, but there is confidence behind Roger Varian’s Miss Carol Ann.

She was a very good winner of her debut race at Newmarket in September, and the team have been patient with her since then.

That result was achieved on fast ground, but plenty of the better Kingman progeny including Palace Pier, King Of Comedy, Persian King, Roseman and others have gone well on soft ground so there are no real concerns in that regard.

Jumbly has been solid and can go well again, while Eidikos has more to offer too.

3.15 Doncaster (Vertem Futurity Trophy – Group 1) – BAYSIDE BOY

Although the selection of Bayside Boy is based on genuine form factors, we can afford to take a risk anyway at around 4/1 given that Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg is dominating the market and will potentially go off at odds-on.

For his part Luxembourg has done nothing wrong so far. He’s won both of his starts in Ireland, including in a Group 2, but it’s hard to assess how much more there is to come from him.

At a similar level is Roger Varian’s Bayside Boy which makes him a better betting prospect. In the seven-furlong Champagne Stakes he toppled Reach For The Moon, the pair both shaping as though they need further before the season’s out and that’s high-class form.

Despite that, he was thrown into the Dewhurst Stakes in which he ran a blinder to finish a 2½-length third to Native Trail but he can be all the better for this extra furlong. Royal Patronage has done precious little wrong too and could complete the placings.

Sunday 24th October 2021

2.50 Longchamp (Prix Royal-Oak – Group 1) – KEMARI

We’re backing Charlie Appleby, William Buick and Godolphin once again here as there is no end in sight for their huge success at the top level.

Their Kemari was a good winner of the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, showing off his staying ability, while he was a little blocked in his run when just losing out by under a length to stable companion Manobo on Arc weekend.

That run was over this same course and 1m7f distance that he tackles here, while it has to be noted that three-year-olds have an excellent recent record in this race leading to thoughts that the weight allowance may be generous.

Mares Valia and Search For A Song are the main dangers, while it would be no surprise to see Scope run a big race.

3.00 Aintree (Old Roan Chase – Grade 2 Handicap) – KILLER CLOWN

We’re having our first proper bet of the National Hunt season at Aintree on Sunday, Emma Lavelle’s Killer Clown looking great value at the early prices to lower the colours of some high-profile rivals.

Those rivals have each chased Shishkin home, Allmankind and Tamaroc Du Mathan, but at the weights they are both vulnerable and there could be a mini shock on the cards.

Killer Clown is a big improver. A winner at Kempton, he’s gone off favourite for a couple of nice races since then including at graded level and so now after a break and a second wind operation, the seven-year-old can continue his sharp progression in conditions he will absolutely relish under jockey Tom Bellamy.