Friday, 2 June 2023

Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd June 2023: Military the Order of the Day in Derby

It’s a Classic weekend at Epsom as the Oaks and the Derby take place. We have info for those and plenty of other races besides.

Friday 2nd June 2023

2.00 Epsom (Woodcote Stakes – Conditions Race) – BALON D’OR

Hugo Palmer’s Balon D’Or made what I consider to be the best debut of this bunch. Considering that it was on softer going and way back in April there should also be more improvement to come from him.

He’s well drawn, which some of the principals in this race aren’t, and he has experience having gone to Chester for the Lily Agnes which was run on very bad ground. Haatem is most likely the main danger.

3.10 Epsom (Coronation Cup – Group 1) – HURRICANE LANE

There are just the five runners for this year’s Coronation Cup, but it remains a most fascinating and high-class contest.

I can’t understand Point Lonsdale challenging the big three in the market at all and Aidan O’Brien will have to work some magic on him, which of course he could, while there ground concerns for the German-trained Tunnes.

The 2021 and 2022 Derby form is represented, alongside last year’s Oaks form. Westover is very good and has strong course form but it could be argued that he has slightly plateaued. If that’s true, then he is behind Emily Upjohn and Hurricane Lane for me.

The former was unlucky in the Oaks and has been excellent since. If she’s ready for this, her 3lb allowance gives her serious claims.

As long as the ground doesn’t also jar Hurricane Lane up, then the multiple Group 1 winner, Arc and Derby third remains the class in this race and can be backed. He was right back to form last time and can even step up a gear.

3.45 Epsom (Handicap) – HONITON

A horse that for a long time has threatened big things won for us last time and he can go in again. Honiton has not stopped improving yet and he looks well treated for at least one more handicap win. Marhaba The Champ and Toshizou are next.

4.30 Epsom (The Oaks – Group 1) – SOUL SISTER & ETERNAL HOPE

Another fascinating Oaks, a race in which they really have to stay well.

While hot favourite Savethelastdance saw out 1m3½f on soft ground at Chester, it was perhaps the ground beating the others that made her 22-length win look so impressive. Here, she’ll need to see out this course and that is tough. Plenty of Cheshire Oaks winners have gone backwards on their next start too.

Soul Sister saw things out well in the Musidora and is by Frankel who has Oaks and St Leger winners to his name, so there are few worries about her and her form is outstanding.

Stablemate Running Lion doesn’t really have this trip in her pedigree and while she won well last time, she’s had a few more chances than many others and may not improve as much.

Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Eternal Hope remains of interest. Her breeding doesn’t scream Oaks either, but she saw out the full mile and a half at Lingfield and looks like she’ll relish this. There is lots of improvement to come from her, which she’ll need.

Soul Sister and Eternal Hope are about proven form and potential respectively. At the time of writing, their prices are 9/4 and 12/1. The suggestion is to dutch your stakes, meaning spending £20 in total would mean backing them to £16 and £4.

5.40 Doncaster (Novice Stakes) – EMBESTO

31 days ago, debut winner Embesto scored by six lengths at Yarmouth, running to a mark of approximately 100-105. That is some level for a debutant and it would be a big surprise if he were not to go in again on good ground at a fair track.

6.45 Doncaster (Handicap) – EDUCATOR

William Haggas’ Educator held some high-class form last spring and much has been expected since. While he hasn’t always delivered, this should be his year. He can come out fighting now ahead of Aimeric and Wor Willie.

Saturday 3rd June 2023

12.50 Epsom (Diomed Stakes – Group 3) – HIGHLAND AVENUE

Three-year-old Kolsai may just struggle, while Regal Reality and Escobar have been around the block. Highland Avenue has plenty of class however and still has his best days ahead.

1.30 Epsom (The Derby – Group 1) – MILITARY ORDER

This should prove to be quite a deep Derby and strong money will be around for several horses.

Arrest was impressive at Chester but didn’t improve a whole lot from his Group 1 second to Dubai Mile in France last autumn. Both horses are solid with the quicker ground a concern.

Auguste Rodin went off a hot favourite for the 2000 Guineas but flopped. It’s hard to come back from that, but he did win the Group 1 Futurity Trophy last year. The Coolmore team is desperate for a Deep Impact to win the Derby but this horse is not guaranteed to flourish here and is way too short.

Sprewell was impressive in his trial in Ireland, but he isn’t bred to stay this far in truth while he is also another soft ground winner that we can’t be sure about.

As ever, the Dante form should be looked at closely. Passenger was an unlucky loser in that, maybe, and he has been supplemented for this. He, White Birch and The Foxes are all solid but that wasn’t a brilliant Dante and it leaves them all vulnerable.

That brings in Military Order, the Lingfield Derby Trial winner. For a big and inexperienced horse, he showed nimble footing there to nip through a gap and put his race to bed. When runner-up Waipiro challenged, he pulled out more and will love Epsom.

Military Order is a full brother to 2021 winner Adayar and they are at a scarily similar level at this stage of their respective careers. On top of that, Charlie Appleby says he mentally and physically a little sharper than his brother too.

2.10 Epsom (Princess Elizabeth Stakes – Group 3) – POTAPOVA

Potapova was runner-up in this race last year and she went on to land a Group 3. She pulled up last time with an irregular heartbeat but assuming she’s fully back, she can be too good for Prosperous Voyage, Roman Mist and Shaara.

3.20 Epsom (Epsom Dash – Heritage Handicap) – CLARENDON HOUSE

Robert Cowell is excellent with sprinters. His Clarendon House is definitely classier than the 100 mark he gets into this race off, he’s fast enough to cope and he could be too hot. Look Out Louis could be the one to follow him home.

3.55 Epsom (Lester Piggott Handicap) – TORITO

John & Thady Gosden’s Torito, second in a classy novice last time, is improving nicely and comes into this very well handicapped. He can get home ahead of Balance Play and last-time-out winner Fox Journey.

Friday, 26 May 2023

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th May 2023: Garrus to Score on Irish Guineas Weekend

Irish Guineas weekend is the highlight this week, along with excellent meetings at Haydock, Goodwood and York among others.

Friday 26th May 2023

2.05 Haydock (Handicap) – MAGHLAAK

This looks like a good opportunity for Charlie Hills’ lightly-raced Shadwell colt Maghlaak to score. He has been improving nicely race by race and conditions look ideal for him now. Tamarama and Spirit Of The Bay look likely to give him most to do.

3.00 Goodwood (Height of Fashion – Listed Race) – VEIL OF SHADOWS

A busy-looking Listed race over 1¼ miles, though few of the 11 runners are proven at this sort of grade.

Blue Missile is the likely favourite and she could be well capable, but there’s not enough evidence for that yet. Inner Space too really needs to improve quickly, as does Understated.

Araminta and Heavenly Breath are two we can concentrate on. The former has a major chance if handling fast ground, but she has only run on very soft going so far and Gleneagles’ best progeny also favoured that.

Veil Of Shadows is close after two runs to the required level and looks more likely to get there in the conditions. A Frankel-Kingmambo cross, she is a half-sister to Impulsif who didn’t want it too soft in France.

Form-wise, she stayed on nicely over a mile behind Queen For You, now rated 100, and may have beaten her over this trip while she also conceded 9lbs that day.

3.15 Haydock (Cecil Frail Stakes – Listed Race) – GET AHEAD

Both Makarova and Kape Moss need to improve, though both might, while Gale Force Maya is the class in the race but is getting older and needs to give away weight.

The most interesting filly is Clive Cox’s Get Ahead. I really fancied her on her seasonal debut at Bath and she ran very well. She did suffer all sorts of bad luck however then perhaps didn’t like the ground last time.

She is ready to get up to around the 105 level now and that should be enough to win this race. Richard Kingscote takes the ride.

3.35 Goodwood (Handicap) – AUTUMN FESTIVAL

Though being drawn 9 of 9 is far from ideal, had it been 9 of 20 we wouldn’t care too much so Autumn Festival may not be too inconvenienced.

David O’Meara sends this four-year-old down to Goodwood and he looks the best handicapped horse in the race. Improving overall but having had a fairly quiet start to the season, he is coming to his peak now and has the right jockey on board in William Buick.

Nizaaka, Ropey Guest and Lyndon B may all challenge for places.

Saturday 27th May 2023

1.30 Goodwood (Festival Stakes – Listed Race) – KING OF CONQUEST

El Drama is solid enough in this mile-and-a-quarter contest, while most of the attention will go on Francesco Clemente.

The Gosden runner racked up three easy wins last year and looked to be heading to the top. He may yet get there and has an entry in a Royal Ascot Group 1, but much like the stable’s Without Parole and other runners in the past, he won’t be asked for too much in his prep after a long time off.

He can of course go well, but at the odds it’s worth taking a chance on King Of Conquest stepping out of handicap company. He is improving hand over fist for Charlie Appleby and may be tough for the favourite to beat.

1.50 Haydock (Hell Nook Handicap) – MOUNTAIN ROAD

Just the seven runners for this two-mile handicap, but there is plenty of competition.

Carzola could be a short price. He may well win this, but his price is based on an easy win last time on soft ground. He took a big step forward on that surface and such progress could be halted in these conditions.

Firstman cannot be dismissed lightly at all, while Law Of The Sea was really eye-catching in the Chester Cup and looks ready to win now.

The value however could be Mountain Road. He has been undervalued after his all-weather success, he is improving fast and he’ll love these quick conditions too.

2.05 Goodwood (Handicap) – TAFREEJ

While Dark Thirty, Yacowlef and Bresson are all perfectly solid, William Haggas’ Tafreej is most definitely better in. His season opener wasn’t the best, but he was favourite and it is accepted now that he’ll be significantly better on fast ground.

2.25 Haydock (Silver Bowl – Heritage Handicap) – COVEY

John & Thady Gosden’s Covey, a Juddmonte colt by Frankel, has won his last two races ever so easily and should head this market.

Last time out at Newcastle in fact, though admittedly the competition was sub-par, he won his race in an absolute hack canter. Based on the ratings of those in behind, he ran closer to a mark of 97 or 98 there rather than the 90 he’s been given. He could have achieved more that day and he’s improving, so he could be very well handicapped indeed now.

2.30 Curragh (Greenlands Stakes – Group 2) – GARRUS

Garrus is really maturing as a sprinter. He’s quick enough and could have stayed close to home to contest the Temple Stakes this weekend, but six furlongs at the Curragh is much more to his liking and he should go very well here.

If he runs to his best or, as is expected improves a little, he should prove to be better than Twilight Jet, Art Power, Coachello and Moss Tucker.

3.40 Curragh (Irish 2000 Guineas – Group 1) – ROYAL SCOTSMAN

There is rock-solid form running right through Royal Scotsman’s profile and connections of the 2000 Guineas third seem really bullish about him being a better animal than at Newmarket three weeks ago.

On all known evidence he is the best horse in this race, and he can take the Irish Classic ahead of Proud And Regal, Charyn, Hi Royal and Cairo.

4.20 Goodwood (Fillies’ Handicap) – SUNSET POINT

Though it wasn’t discussed in advance, it appears Sunset Point was in the Lingfield Oaks Trial to make the running for winning stablemate Eternal Hope. She lost three places at the death in that race and is worth a good 7lbs more than her official rating when allowed to do her own thing. Good Morals, Rikona and Crystal Estrella can all make their presence felt.

Friday, 19 May 2023

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th May 2023: Games Time at Newbury

It’s a busy one this week, cracking straight on with Newmarket and York.

Friday 19th May 2023

2.15 Newmarket (Maiden Stakes) – HIDDEN STORY

There are plenty of three-year-olds at this meeting and at Newbury with potential for the season, but the way Hidden Story ran on debut was pretty eye-catching and it would be a surprise if the Dubawi/Galileo cross didn’t go close. James Doyle rides.

2.25 York (Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – SILVER LADY

There are a few fillies here with plenty of potential; Queen For You, Fakhama and Silver Lady being chief among them.

Arguably, Queen For You’s debut performance was a tad better than Silver Lady’s, but it was the manner in which she won that stands out and given how green she was that day you’d have to say there’s more improvement to come from her than the others.

2.50 Newmarket (Handicap) – HONITON

Gosden/Godolphin runner Honiton was disappointing on his return to action, but the ground was horrific and the turnout can be excused.

Based on his form from last season and his obvious potential, he may be particularly well handicapped now, more so certainly than Howth, Qaasid, Dual Identity and the rest. James Doyle is up top again.

3.35 York (Yorkshire Cup – Group 2) – SISKANY

After Stradivarius, this feels like a new era. The Cup division is a densely populated and competitive one this year, with this race offering the first real clues as to who the real players are.

St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov is classy and tough, but he carries a penalty here and his trainer has already stated that he will come on for the run and will be ripe for the Ascot Gold Cup.

Quickthorn is solid and goes very well here, while Broome improved for going up in trip in Dubai and got the better of Siskany there, only just.

He too now carries a penalty which Siskany does not, while going back down to 1¾ miles is also in the Godolphin runner’s favour. There is clearly some improvement to come, too. William Buick is on board.

4.10 York (Novice Stakes) – ZIRYAB

A most interesting novice race over a mile. New Business went off 5/4 for the Wood Ditton, though owner’s representative Bruce Raymond was very honest in saying it was guesswork and that he may simply have looked more forward than the others.

He was beaten home that day by Kathab who has potential and Jim Crowley has elected to ride him instead of Mostabshir. True, the Gosden runner carries a 6lb penalty, but his debut last year was better than Kathab’s and it wouldn’t surprise me if the second Shadwell colours got home first.

It may well be another Gosden runner who scores though. Ziryab was green and hung across the course when well fancied on debut but stayed on well to run fourth. He is a full brother to King Leonidas who had a similar profile and he looks more than capable of getting to the required level at a nice price.

Saturday 20th May 2020

3.00 Newbury (London Gold Cup – Handicap) – BOLD ACT

The form of the London Gold Cup, a 1¼-mile handicap, is always important. A future Group horse is often what’s required to win this race and, while it’s better to have such a horse further down the handicap, topweight Bold Act may be the one this time.

After a promising debut last July, Bold Act won four in a row. At Chelmsford he beat future Group 3 winner Brave Emperor and was then favourite for the race won by Canberra Legend. He has since been gelded and can reach a mark of around 110 now.

Desert Hero has been excellent on soft ground so may find this a little quick, while Exoplanet and Bertinelli are obvious dangers too.

3.15 Newmarket (Handicap) – CHANGING COLOURS

Charlie Appleby must feel like he has a pretty good handle on this race. His Striking Star is likely to go off favourite and his form is pretty good. Adam Kirby is the right man to have on board, too.

The first colours are in fact on Changing Colours and at a price, it’s the other Dubawi son I fancy most. He was a strong favourite for a race here last month but he lost his position then and, over six furlongs, didn’t have time to improve.

Now he’s fully ready, this seven-furlong trip can bring out the best in him and top apprentice Harry Davies takes off a valuable 3lbs. Chartwell House and Havana Blue are best of the rest.  

3.35 Newbury (Lockinge Stakes – Group 1) – MODERN GAMES

Mutasaabeq is finally reaching his potential, he’s overpriced and he may be pretty hard to peg back from the front.

On the downside for Charlie Hills’ runner, he has won weaker races from the front end and will no doubt be chased up a little in Group 1 company. If something is to catch him and sweep by, the most likely runner is Modern Games who has been there, seen and done it well.

A multiple Group 1 winner around the world, Modern Games was disappointing in the States last time but at least he’s had a run and he should be at his best on Saturday.

My Prospero is excellent but may be better at ten furlongs, Laurel is a lovely filly who will win at this level at some point while Jadoomi and Light Infantry are also capable.

4.10 Newbury (Handicap) – UNFORGOTTEN

Once a very serious Lincoln Handicap contender, Unforgotten is chanced to continue his overall improvement after a below-par run last time out.

I fancied Kingdom Come last time when he was a non-runner and if he takes to the turf he can go well, as can last-time-out winner Outbreak.

4.45 Newbury (Fillies’ Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – QUEEN OF FAIRIES

After Lingfield and York we still have one more chance for the fillies to stake their Oaks claim. Lmay and Inner Space have work to do, while Warm Heart and Crack Of Light also need to improve.

Bluestocking is well thought of and is a danger, but Queen Of Fairies is impressive and can put her soft ground disappointment at Newmarket well behind her under William Buick.

12.01 Pimlico (Preakness Stakes – Grade 1) – FIRST MISSION

Kentucky Derby winner Mage takes up his engagement here, a win putting him ever so close to being the next Triple Crown star.

He may be vulnerable to Godolphin’s First Mission though. He was striking in his Grade 3 Lexington Stakes win over a mile and who has been primed for this after not qualifying for Kentucky. Blazing Sevens and National Treasure were also considered.

Friday, 12 May 2023

Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th May 2023: Back Kingdom Come to the Death

After Chester comes the Derby and Oaks trials at Lingfield, as well as the Victoria Cup at Ascot. The Flat season moves fast, we’re at York for a biggie during next week, while we’ll be back here for the Lockinge next weekend. Ascot is our first port of call on Saturday.

Saturday 13th May 2023

2.05 Ascot (Fillies’ Handicap) – TIMELESS MELODY

Charlie Appleby’s Mountain Song did it nicely at Southwell last time, is improving and should appreciate this test being a Sea The Stars filly. There is just the chance that, as a three-year-old on this ground, she may struggle against the older fillies.

Step forward William Haggas’ Timeless Melody. There’s no doubt that she is well handicapped given the way she won last time at Leicester. She did that on heavy ground too so there are no worries about conditions, while if anything she should be better again over this mile and it’s hard to ignore her chances off a mark of 80.

2.25 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – SACRED

This important Lingfield card has been moved from the turf to the all-weather track due to waterlogging and that could be a real piece of luck for Sacred.

When conditions have been quick, she’s been seen to her best effect and, though it feels like she’s been around forever, her best is yet to come. She can scuttle clear here under the top-class, bang in form Ryan Moore who rides Lingfield perfectly.

Sandrine and Queen Aminatu are sure to be the best of the others.

2.40 Ascot (Victoria Cup – Heritage Handicap) – KINGDOM COME

This is a tough old betting race. Plenty of money will be going the way of Baradar in these conditions, and a special horse can win from the far side of the track but Baradar may well not be in that category quite.

Others handicapped to go well are Safe Voyage, Biggles, Vafortino and Totally Charming but the one to watch is Kingdom Come.

Clive Cox trains this four-year-old who is massively improving. He’s racked up a hat-trick on the all-weather with the form working out really well, while plenty of Kingman’s other progeny don’t go backwards for running on soft ground so I don’t mind that either. He’s drawn OK in 18 under Kieran Shoemark.

3.00 Lingfield (Oaks Trial – Listed Race) – ETERNAL HOPE

This is not a strong Oaks trial by any means, at least not on paper, which is why it may pay to take a chance on second-favourite Eternal Hope.

Aidan O’Brien’s Be Happy is the market leader, but she had to give her all in a Group 3 when last seen, putting in a performance rating her 99 and so she doesn’t set a big standard at all.

Bright Diamond will be dangerous if staying, but Charlie Appleby has no doubt left plenty for Eternal Hope to find after an easy win 77 days ago and we should see a different filly now.

3.10 Ascot (Novice Stakes) – OCEAN RUNNER

This five-furlong juvenile event is always one to watch. It was won by Aqabah (rated 105), Blown By Wind (102), Expressionist who went to the Norfolk Stakes, top-class Go Bears Go and most recently by Noble Style who is a Group 2 winner and ran in the Guineas last week.

He was trained by Charlie Appleby who could win it again with Ocean Runner. This horse is one of the Blue Point progeny. He loved Ascot and his horses are making lightning starts, which Harry Davies’ mount may too.

3.35 Lingfield (Derby Trial – Listed Race) – MILITARY ORDER

In the hope, just the hope, that he goes off at a backable price, Military Order is the confident selection in the Derby Trial.

He’s beautifully bred, in fact he’s a full brother to 2021 Derby winner Adayar no less, he ran by reckoning to a mark of around 110 last time and will improve again now. If he does, he creeps to three-year-old Group 1 class already and shouldn’t be beaten despite the potential of Circle Of Fire and Inquiring Minds.

Military Order is third-favourite for the Derby as we speak, but a convincing win may even see him lead the way come Saturday night.

3.45 Ascot (Handicap) – WESTERTON

I backed Westerton when he made his seasonal debut for Alan King at Doncaster. He was second there, but under par and it may just be that he needed the run.

He is well handicapped, of that there is no doubt at all, so with some doubts about one or two others truly getting home here he is more than worth another shot. Shahbaz and Maasai Mara are best of the rest.

3.50 Haydock (Spring Trophy – Listed Race) – AL MUBHIR

Angel Bleu was rated 115 at his peak, but that peak was a year and a half ago now. True, he’s only four, but there have been no real signs of his top form for a while including this year.

Our favourite Al Mubhir, who I thought would win the Lincoln but did win very well last time, can get beyond the 110 mark now and that should be enough to win this for William Haggas and Tom Marquand. Escobar and Mums Tipple are solid in behind.

8.07 Belmont Park (Man o’ War Stakes – Grade 1) – WARREN POINT

This is no Grade 1 gimme for the Charlie Appleby team, but he and Godolphin’s willingness to travel can pay off once again with their improving middle-distance runner Warren Point who is now ready for this.

Frankie Dettori has travelled across to New York to take the ride, though he got a couple wrong last summer so he’ll need to be at his best this time.

Sunday 14th May 2023

2.50 Longchamp (Poule d’Essai des Poulains – Group 1) – KNIGHT

Though he’s no certainty, Knight is a ridiculous price at the time of writing for the French 2000 Guineas.

Touching 20/1, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Horris Hill winner was ahead of all of his opposition on Sunday at the same career stage which shows his talent.

True, he ran no race in the Greenham, but that happens to the best of them, his team won’t send him to France if he’s useless and his odds now allow a small punt. James Doyle rides.

4.10 Longchamp (Prix Saint-Alary – Group 1) – BRIDESTONES

Another overpriced type is Bridestones, a filly I backed in the Fred Darling. She was nowhere near winning that, but was steadily staying on to get to within five lengths and, having won very smartly over a mile as a juvenile, it seems that the seven-furlong trip was against her.

The daughter of Teofilo is put straight up to ten furlongs here and looks excellent value for the Gosden team and jockey William Buick.

Friday, 5 May 2023

Friday 5th, Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th May 2023: Appleby in Pole Position Once Again

This weekend’s action is undoubtedly highlighted by three key races; the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas and the Kentucky Derby. There is so much more going on too but we begin at HQ for Friday’s racing:

Friday 5th May 2023

1.15 Newmarket (Newmarket Stakes – Listed Race) – CASTLE WAY

This is usually an important race with the future in mind and Charlie Appleby may win it again with Castle Way. His Victory Dance also has a chance if staying, while Salt Bay has Group 1 form. Circle Of Fire can improve and will also be an interesting watch.

2.25 Newmarket (King Charles II Stakes – Listed Race) – MAJESTIC PRIDE

Iconic Moment may challenge even giving weight, while Arabian Storm was a let-down last time but will be better at seven furlongs.

The one that catches the eye is Majestic Pride. Although a winner at the Craven meeting, more was expected but the soft ground held him back. His form is good enough while conditions should bring about plenty of improvement.

9.04 Churchill Downs (La Troienne Stakes – Grade 1) – SECRET OATH

This is a $750,000 race features some top-class fillies and mares, not least the one who won the Kentucky Oaks for us last year, Secret Oath. She remains in top form, she loves it here, is well drawn and is more than capable of landing another Grade 1. 

D Wayne Lukas’ runner has competition with the likes of Played Hard and Search Results appearing to be overpriced.

10.51 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Oaks – Grade 1) – WET PAINT

Brad Cox has a strong hand here. His Botanical racked up some impressive figures when winning a Listed race at Turfway Park on the Tepeta, but this is a very different task.

Stablemate Wet Paint, owned by Godolphin, looked really good when landing the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn after breaking slowly. Flavien Prat was in no hurry then, understanding what he had underneath him and the pair should be sharper today.

Southlawn can also go well, while Pretty Mischievous is drawn wider than ideal.

Saturday 6th May 2023

2.15 Newmarket (Ellen Chaloner Stakes – Listed Race) – HEREDIA

Now freshened up and down in trip, Heredia looks interesting for Richard Hannon. After winning her two races as a juvenile, she did exceptionally well to keep that going at York last spring. She went in yet again at Royal Ascot and reached a mark of 106 by then.

Though she’s won over a mile, this sprint trip can reignite her and we should see a filly capable of beating Gale Force Maya, Azure Blue and Queen Olly.

3.05 Goodwood (Handicap) – HONITON

Honiton showed a ton of potential last year. In April he was third to My Prospero (Group 1 rated 121), and Britannia Stakes winner Thesis. In May he was second to Secret State (Group 2 second) before running third to Eldar Eldarov (St Leger winner, rated 116).

He then won as easily as he liked and should be rated comfortably above 100 now, so gets in here very lightly. Another improver Maghlaak is best of the rest.

4.00 Newmarket (Palace House Stakes – Group 3) – TWILIGHT CALLS

Assuming everything is OK on seasonal debut, and he has won first time out before, Twilight Calls should prove to be the best of this bunch. Though he hasn’t been seen since a big run in the King’s Stand, he remains of major interest and has the assistance of Ryan Moore.

4.40 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – SILVER KNOTT & NOBLE STYLE

The first Classic of the season is upon us.

Strong favourite Auguste Rodin (Aidan O’Brien) is highly thought of and may attempt the Triple Crown. He won the Futurity at Doncaster, stays the mile well and will go for the Derby. He’s excellent, but he’s not in superstar territory yet so we have to take him on at the odds.

Stablemate Little Big Bear is one of three for whom stamina is a worry. He was extraordinary at the Curragh last season, while Sakheer (Roger Varian) was a very good winner of the Mill Reef. Noble Style (Charlie Appleby) was an excellent winner of the Gimcrack too and all three sprinters have more to come.

The best backed British-trained horse is Chaldean (Andrew Balding). The Dewhurst winner, he is solid but many think he should have been beaten by Royal Scotsman (Paul & Oliver Cole) who is in opposition again – form we’ll come back to.

Charlie Appleby’s Silver Knott is a proper type. Like stablemate Coroebus (2000 Guineas winner) he won the Autumn Stakes here and has no ground, trip, course or class worries.

After jumping on the plane last minute, Silver Knott was too far back at the Breeders’ Cup but did very well indeed to almost win. He beat Epictetus last season, the same horse was second to Auguste Rodin.

Noble Style is the headscratcher. He has drifted from 10/1 to 20/1 this week. He didn’t work too well in public last month, while James Doyle mentioned that on a podcast with the bookmakers reacting. He might also be a dead-set sprinter.

On the slip side; he didn’t work well before his outstanding debut last May. He also covered well over six furlongs when running round and drifting before slamming Marshman at York (top form). There are few doubts he would have stayed seven after that, meaning the trip wouldn’t have been a debate.

Given the massive drift, confidence can’t be high on Noble Style. At the odds, the advice is to split the stakes on Charlie Appleby’s two runners, the man who landed the 1-2 last year.

5.04 Churchill Downs (Derby City Distaff – Grade 1) – MATAREYA

Breeders’ Cup winner Goodnight Olive is the odds-on but while Chad Brown’s mare is very good, she’s not a certainty and remains vulnerable to improving four-year-olds.

Hot And Sultry is one, but a better option is the peaking Wicked Halo. She beat Matareya last time and if you fancy her, you have to like the horse she narrowly beat who was making her comeback. Brad Cox’s filly possesses the past form and the likely progression to see this field off and she’s a nice price to do it.

11.57 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby – Grade 1) – KINGSBARNS 

Another competitive Kentucky Derby features form lines from California, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and New York.

Comparing that isn’t easy, while we also have to take into consideration improvement shown by some runners, the draw and breeding.

Favourite Forte has rock-sold Grade 1 form, but he doesn’t appear to be improving and he’s stuck in gate 15. Tapit Trice is now a Grade 1 winner, while Practical Move took the Santa Anita Derby but only just.

Japanese runner Derma Sotogake, Confidence Game, Mage and Skinner are all interesting too.

The improvers could be Angel Of Empire and Kingsbarns. The former, trained by Brad Cox, won the Grade 2 Risen Star before comfortably landing the Arkansas Derby (G1) but the form may not be great.

Kingsbarns, trained like Forte and Tapit Trice by Todd Pletcher, made a strong debut as recently as January. He followed that up well and posted a good time figure when winning at Tampa Bay before looking like an easy winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2).

That was back in late March which is clever from Pletcher. He could have raced again, but it was decided that three runs in 12 weeks put enough mileage in his legs. Now, he’s been allowed to freshen up, strengthen and improve at home.

For good measure, Kingsbarns is a second foal which is a good stat in the race, and is also by Derby winner Nyquist’s sire Uncle Mo.

Sunday 7th May 2023

3.40 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – DREAM OF LOVE

Strictly speaking, this one is more of an ante-post tip as at the time of writing the final declarations aren’t complete. The main contenders should run however and we are set for a fine renewal.

Dermot Weld’s Tahiyra is very good, this we already know, but it may be that we know the Group 1 winner’s level. Meditate was behind her last time and can perhaps push her even closer, at least Aidan O’Brien seems to think so.

Fairy Cross is a very solid each-way play at around 40/1. Her form is good and she was very unsuited by how things worked out at Newmarket last time.

There are stamina doubts about Lezoo and Mawj while Remarquee has to improve, but the intriguing one is Dream Of Love.

A big improver, she goes on any ground and will stay this mile no problem. She was shuffled way out the back and seemingly had absolutely no chance in Dubai against Mawj last time, only to finish with a rather stunning late rattle to only just lose out.

On that run and based on her rate of progression, she is good enough to win this and is a tempting price too.

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Friday 28th & Saturday 29th April 2023: Flying to Take Trial Honours

On a mixed weekend of action at Sandown, the Flat takes precedence on Friday before the Jumps Finale is staged on Saturday.

In the Gordon Richards Stakes, Anmaat is a big threat to the returning Adayar and both may win Group 1’s this season. Anmaat has to give 5lbs away too, so his performance is of particular interest as he begins his season.

We begin with an improving handicapper in the Esher Cup.

Friday 28th April 2023

1.50 Sandown (Esher Cup Handicap) – LOCAL DYNASTY

Taking a very short price about Godolphin’s Local Dynasty may not seem the wisest move, but as long as Charlie Appleby’s runner in the Esher Cup is a backable price he’s worth it.

His form last season was progressive, impressive and was achieved on varying ground conditions including soft. He is Listed winner and would have been a more impressive one had he not had to see out a tough mile at Pontefract on his fourth start in two months. Fresh now, he can reach a new level.

Legend Of Leros is interesting, while Physique looked a decent animal when starting off last year and is higher up the shortlist than Saxon King who doesn’t look value.

3.00 Sandown (bet365 Mile – Group 2) – MUTASAABEQ

This is another good renewal of the Group 2 Sandown Mile. Potapova is somewhat of a mystery but she has real quality and gets 3lbs from the boys. Checkandchallenge, Imperial Fighter, Migration and Angel Bleu are all solid too.

Light Infantry is the one for money. He’s returned from a stint in Australia and is a Group 1 runner-up. He’ll be tough to beat, but even with a 3lb penalty Mutasaabeq looks good value.

He handles this ground and has looked classy from day one. He may yet land a Group 1 and let’s not forget that the Charlie Hills team said from the start this year that they would be targeting the Lockinge as they feel he is at the right level.

3.35 Sandown (Classic Trial – Group 3) – FLYING HONOURS 

The all-important Sandown Classic Trial can offer us some major Derby clues. This is the race Adayar was an eye-catching runner-up in two years ago in fact before scoring at Epsom.

The potential improvers are Circle Of Fire and Relentless Voyager and neither can be confidently discounted. Salt Bay was third in a French Group 1 on only his second start too which is obviously good form.

Arrest, of the Gosden yard, was also placed last season in a French Group 1 and is the likely favourite in the race. His profile is solid and there should be more improvement to come, but he has already had to show us what he’s worth while there is highly likely to be much more to come from Flying Honours.

Charlie Appleby’s runner has strong form already having followed to easy novice wins with a success in the Zetland over 1¼ miles. In between, he was odds-on to win the Royal Lodge (Group 2) too.

He’s a Sea The Stars who should cope better than most with conditions at Sandown and he’s also a shorter price for the Derby than Arrest which may tell a story.

4.00 Doncaster (Handicap) – WESTERTON

This is a one-and-a-quarter-mile handicap for the three-year-olds and as such, there are improvers in the field. The one with the most potential though is Alan King’s Westerton.

Although he hasn’t won in three, he’s shown a very good level of form for a horse rated 82 and he’s now been gelded. He looks capable of reaching a mark close to triple figures soon so should be very well in. David Probert rides.

4.10 Sandown (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – QUEEN OF FAIRIES

This is the race Emily Upjohn won last year and it now offers automatic entry to the Oaks for the winner. We can guarantee that fact will make this a quality race featuring some exciting fillies.

The four key contenders Infinite Cosmos, Queen Of Fairies, Sumo Sam and Tarjamah have each run once so far.

Tarjamah (J&T Gosden) ran similarly to Emily Upjohn on debut. It’s also worth remembering before this “win and you’re in” affair that Gosden and Aidan O’Brien between them have won the last 9 Oaks at Epsom.

The one for money is Sir Michael Stoute’s Infinite Cosmos. She was promising on debut, will improve plenty and gets fully 6lbs from the others but she was ultimately beaten while Queen Of Fairies won with ease.

Their performances were so similar, other than we don’t know how much more Queen Of Fairies could have produced if needed and so she gets the vote at a nicer price than the favourite.

Saturday 29th April 2023 

2.15 Sandown (bet365 Gold Cup – Premier Handicap Chase) – REVELS HILL

Scottish Grand National winner Kitty’s Light makes a quick and interesting reappearance, while the Goffer’s Cheltenham form and that of Coolvalla are of interest. That said, Revels Hill is on the up, is on a nice weight and has the experience and stamina to be shown to best effect in this £160,000 race.

3.05 Leicester (King Richard III Cup Handicap) – AL MUBHIR

William Haggas’ one-time 2000 Guineas hope and Lincoln favourite Al Mubhir gets another chance to show what he can do.

He has shown flashes of very good talent and, though he didn’t quite get home as well as expected when fourth on heavy ground in the Lincoln, he can shape better here. Newcastle winner Notre Belle Bete is interesting back in a handicap too.

4.20 Haydock (Handicap) – CONSERVATIONIST

This is a Class 3 event, run over the mile. Back last autumn Clive Cox’s Conservationist was, quite rightly after her second run, sent off second-favourite for the Listed Montrose Stakes at Newmarket.

She just flattened out after attempting to make all that day in a race which includes hot 1000 Guineas prospect Dream Of Love.

She gets in here off just 84 and we know already that she’s way better than that. Rossa Ryan takes the ride.

Friday, 21 April 2023

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd April 2023: Bridestones to Stack them Up in Fred Darling

After taking on board some valuable clues during the Craven Meeting at Newmarket this week, the Flat roadshow now moves on to Newbury and their important Greenham Stakes weekend.

It’s also Scottish Grand National Day at Ayr on Saturday and we have a pair of bets from the west of Scotland, but while we’re not taking on Chaldean in the big one, we begin in Berkshire on Friday:

Friday 21st April 2023

2.40 Newbury (Maiden Fillies’ Stakes) – SHINING JEWEL

This may be a maiden race, but it is chock full of quality. Several of these are engaged in the Oaks and one or more of them is bound to get to Epsom on Friday, June 2.

Hughie Morrison’s Mistral Star travelled powerfully when second on debut and she could be the surprise package in the race, while Value Added made a nice start to racing life on heavy ground.

The Gosdens run a few here with Frankie Dettori’s mount Shiva Shakti the best of them. The Siyouni filly has potential but she was beaten fair and square at Yarmouth, whereas Shining Jewel had her excuses a month earlier at Nottingham.

Sent off favourite, Charlie Appleby’s filly was slowly away and was hampered at a crucial time. Another Siyouni, she’d have found the ground quick enough on debut too and she will be a very different proposition here.

4.25 Newbury (Handicap) – TAFREEJ

This seven-furlong handicap is likely more competitive than the betting would have it look, though hopefully it’ll only be close in behind Tafreej who does look the best of these at the weights.

This is a Class 2 event and that’s probably where William Haggas sees his gelding, though he’s in here of only 84 so has plenty in hand.

Lord Uhtred is a live danger for Charlie Hills, while Caragio is also interesting at the top, but there could just be a little more zip about the Shadwell horse and he’s taken to score.

4.55 Newbury (Maiden Fillies’ Stakes) – FAKHAMA

This particular fillies’ maiden, run over seven furlongs, is for the newcomers only. While the betting will remain interesting and should be watched, it seems that the whispers are that the best three are Fakhama (William Haggas), Gentle Light (Sir Michael Stoute) and Mother Margaret (Roger & Harry Charlton).

The latter two trainers may be inclined to show more patience with such horses, while the Haggas filly is also a Kingman and his progeny often make lightning starts.

6.25 Bath (Lansdown Stakes – Listed Race) – GET AHEAD

The popular Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes is back, the five-furlong dash which has attracted yet another big field of 16.

Bath is notoriously difficult for punters, but not for the reasons many think. Though they’ll be on the turn almost all the way here, it’s gradual and doesn’t mean an outside draw is a big disadvantage as previous runnings of this race have shown.

What is more important is pace. Many get going too far out here. Though I could see White Lavender and Designer having big chances on bare form, they may be up there battling with the likes of Cuban Breeze early. 

The solid value selection, who may also be coming from the back when the pace collapses, is Clive Cox’s Get Ahead and it’s she and Hollie Doyle who are given the vote.

Saturday 22nd April 2023

1.30 Newbury (John Porter Stakes – Group 3) – ISRAR

Officially known as the Finest Surprise Stakes, this is still registered as the John Porter and it’s doing what it’s always done; providing a springboard for middle-distance horses and stayers to go on Group 1 journeys.

First thing’s first; I’d love to see Hurricane Lane get back on track and whatever happens today we are sure to see him win over a mile and a half at Group 1 level again. Charlie Appleby is working back from the Arc with him and this is only his first step on a long journey.

It could suit staying types more, but Mojo Star is bound to be rusty too. Step forward Israr who again will get better from today but he’s already the improver in the field.

The Gosdens have given him entries in the Chester Cup and the Yorkshire Cup meaning that a) they think he has stamina and b) they think he’s classy. I do too and he’s worth taking a chance on at the price.

2.05 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes – Group 3) – BRIDESTONES

It’s good to see a field of 14 entered here for a key 1000 Guineas trial. Being picky, you’d say this is more about quantity than quality as regards Guineas contenders goes but there are a couple who could come out of this well.

Magical Sunset and Olivia Maralda have experience, while Soul Sister did it on soft on debut and it’s hard to know what she’ll achieve going forward.

Remarquee made an impressive debut but overall, perhaps it wasn’t as impressive as that of Bridestones for the Gosden team and she could yet prove to be very good.

3.00 Ayr (Future Champion Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – BALCO COASTAL

Though it’s all about the fast and furious Flat action now, it would remiss of us not to take a look at Ayr on Scottish Grand National Day.

In the Future Champion Novices’ Chase it seems that Balco Coastal has reached a similar, probably better level than main rivals Thunder Rock, Datsalrightgino and Unexpected Party.

The fact that he has done it in fewer chases and represents not only a top yard in Nicky Henderson’s but also a bang in form one, makes him hard to oppose.

3.35 Ayr (Scottish Grand National – Premier Handicap Chase) – MONBEG GENIUS

Having won three races in a row over the winter before finishing third at Cheltenham, chasing him Grand National winner Corach Rambler, the form of Monbeg Genius is rock-solid.

Kitty’s Light is popular and may do enough to stop our horse from going off favourite, meaning a nice price to get stuck into as well.