Friday 29 June 2018

Friday 29th & Saturday 30th June: Never Back Down To Battle To Chipchase Glory

We’re taking in some of Friday’s live action here as well as Saturday as terrestrial TV covers only its second ever live evening racing programme at Newcastle Racecourse in the middle of what is the Northumberland Plate festival.

The quality is high, as is the quantity this weekend, as the Irish Derby takes centre stage at the Curragh while numerous pattern races are run in England.

We have five good value punts for you to get stuck into this time, starting at High Gosforth Park with the feature handicap on Friday’s card:

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Friday 29th June 2018

7.30 Newcastle (Gosforth Park Cup Handicap) – HOLMESWOOD

This is a typically competitive sprint handicap featuring a number who could potentially be ahead of the assessor when taking everything into account, such as Dakota Gold, Orvar and Atletico.  Then of course there is the spectre of Goldream who would have run rings around these a few years back and could come back to somewhere closer to his best form all we know.

The most interesting one for me though is Mick Dods’ runner Holmeswood.  Only a four-year-old and with 14 runs under his belt, we have not seen the best of him yet and a close look at his profile suggests we might be about to see his best run to date.

Not usually at his best when the ground is too fast, he should like this tapeta surface now he’s maturing and in fact he scored well at Newcastle over six furlongs in November 2016.  His very best performances though have come over the minimum trip and as a son of Mayson out of an Acclamation mare he also rates as one of the better bred types in this field.

8.05 Newcastle (Hoppings Stakes – Group 3) – MAGNOLIA SPRINGS

In many ways this race revolves around the Sir Michael Stoute runner Smart Call who was a Group 1 winner over in South Africa and was sent here by the owners to achieve similar things.  Unlike in the southern hemisphere however, the older horses don’t tend to keep improving and after eight attempts this mare has not looked like reaching her previous heights.

Her top yard are in good form though and so a decent run should be expected, however given the weight for age this race has fallen to improving three-year-old fillies plenty of times and I would not be surprised should Magnolia Springs and Four White Socks fight out the finish.

Luca Cumani’s Four White Socks was behind Agrotera on debut and her connections were correct in thinking that the race was underestimated by the handicapper, her conqueror scoring easily at Royal Ascot.  Having weight in hand in a handicap and winning a Group 3 are quite different things however and so her form for me doesn’t quite live up to what Eve Johnson Houghton’s horse has achieved.

One of the best 2yo debut performances of last season marked this horse out as special and the way she won the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes last time would appear to confirm it.  She is taken to score at a nice price.

Saturday 30th June 2018

12.20 Newcastle (6f Handicap) – EKHTIYAAR

This is usually a tremendously competitive handicap and one which looks up to its usual standard according to the betting, though in truth there are many contenders in this who look like not appreciating this track and so things could be left wide open for the improver in the pack, Ekhtiyaar.

Roger Varian’s colt hasn’t run for two months but had been gradually getting back to his 3yo level of form and is very much expected to put his best foot forward from this point of the season.

A couple of good wins at Newmarket last year marked him out as an improving handicapper and one who could eventually move up to pattern company and its easy to see this test playing to his strengths.  Raucous and   Summerghand are feared most.

12.55 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – NEVER BACK DOWN

A fascinating race if not the strongest Group 3 you’ll ever see, with formers winners and improving types competing over what is a tough six furlongs to get.

In-form Sir Michael Stoute sends Dream Of Dreams north for the challenge and the four-year-old former Kevin Ryan inmate would certainly seem to have some improvement in him.  Although beaten in the this grade on his seasonal debut at Newmarket, the son of Dream Ahead seemed to relish the softer conditions last backend and it’s perhaps thought he will dig in and enjoy this surface.

For me though the three-year-old Never Back Down is perhaps a deal better than his published rating and given his age and experience, he’s bound to come on again.  A win at Wolverhampton in December (same surface) was a big step forward but was proven to be no fluke when he dominated last time out to score in Listed company at Newbury.

That comfortable front-running performance will lead many to say he had the “run of the race”, on the contrary however these sort of wins show that a horse has been able to dictate terms to his opposition and dominate proceedings, something often only done by a pretty useful type.

3.30 Newmarket (Fillies’ Handicap) – MORNING BEAUTY

There aren’t too many in this field who are either bred for the mile-and-a-half trip, or who look up to it based on past performances and so those who can stay on best as well as those who may be ahead of the handicapper will hold sway.

That makes this a very short list and although I like the chances of Ed Dunlop’s Fabulous Red, the one to be on could be handicap debutant Morning Beauty of Hugo Palmer’s yard.

This three-year-old daughter of Dawn Approach may not have appeared a stayer on paper, however she dominated her novice race at Haydock last time over almost this trip and has plenty more to give.

Friday 22 June 2018

Royal Ascot (Sat 23rd June): Price Of Appleby Horse Simply Beyond Reason

It’s been a wonderful week of racing and we’ve managed to land a few nice bets on this column, so a big finish would round things off nicely and we have a mix of two-year-olds, sprinters and dour stayers to choose from on Saturday.

The juveniles are acting as our amuse bouche and the two chosen at the Royal meeting look like going off at very tasty prices indeed.  Here’s the best of the action from both Ascot and Newmarket:

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2.10 Newmarket (Novice Stakes) – ENTITLE

The name may have already provided a clue of course but for info, John Gosden’s runner is a half-sister to stable superstar Enable and like her close relative she has a reputation already.

A daughter of Dansili and more precocious than Enable, she is ready to run but it’s been a wise move to begin her career over seven furlongs and hopefully by the time they hit the rising ground and most are tiring this one will be doing her best work.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – BEYOND REASON

Not that it always works out and certainly not when we have so little to go on, private ratings here pitch two of these horses ahead of the rest and given the potential involved and the much larger price, Beyond Reason is just favoured ahead of Natalie’s Joy.

Mark Johnston has spoken publicly about how strong his smallish team of two-year-old fillies is and it would be no surprise to see his favourite win this, though having been readied first time up she is bound to find less improvement than the Godolphin one and so we’ll go for the value.

Don’t discount French horse On A Session who has followed the exact same path as last year’s 20/1 Albany Stakes winner and can run a place.

3.40 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – MUTAWAFFER

Jim Crowley finally landed a big one on Friday for retainer Hamdan Al Maktoum when Ektidaar won the Commonwealth Cup and he could be on for another Royal success with this Mutawaffer, a recent impressive Goodwood scorer for Charlie Hills.

The same connections were a little disappointed to miss out on the King’s Stand with Battaash and the Hunt Cup with Afaak earlier in the week and it may well be that compensation is truly coming in the shape of this son of Kodiac.

He has to step back in trip having won so well over six furlongs in Sussex, however he has tons of natural speed and if anything being allowed to bowl along at a faster clip will be up his street and he may be good enough at a nice price to see off the likes of Sabre, Van Beethoven and flying filly Queen Of Bermuda.

4.20 Ascot (Diamond Jubilee Stakes – Group 1) – D’BAI (each-way)

Godolphin truly hold a good hand in the feature race with the solid favourite Harry Angel bound to go well again despite some being worried that he does not put in his best shifts at Ascot.

There is limited evidence for this but, in a truly competitive race, it’s evidence enough to perhaps not play on a horse so short in the market considering the Australian raider Redkirk Warrior will also carry significant confidence and the likes of Bound For Nowhere and Merchant Navy also looking up to the job at this level.

Our horse though is put up each-way simply because he looks vastly overpriced having come from a different route to the others, all of his best work to date in his career having been done over seven furlongs or a mile.

Last time out at Haydock though (7f) he did look the part and I think managed to win that Group 3 race fairly cosily with a view to him finally going up the racing ranks for Charlie Appleby, potentially at this distance.

He ran OK in the spring over six furlongs in Dubai behind Jungle Cat who has since won a Group 1 over this trip and the trainer thinks things didn’t go right for him then and that he is a different horse now.  At 25/1 and over, he looks a great value place prospect.

5.35 Ascot (Queen Alexandra Stakes – Conditions Race) – THOMAS HOBSON

This won’t be a surprise selection for most people, Thomas Hobson looking a class apart on the book at these weights on all known evidence and especially over marathon distances.

His easy win in the Ascot Stakes at last year’s meeting and his impressive second in the Doncaster Cup in September (Group 2) are the highlights in terms of recent or relatively recent form in this line-up and so another valuable win is simple to envisage.

A word has to go however to John Gosden’s charge Glencadam Glory who looked a real prospect last year before things went wrong after which he was put away and then gelded.

He has shown definite signs of improvement since coming back into action and is officially rated 108, 2lbs lower than Thomas Hobson but was given a rating of 110 as a younger horse having finished 5th in the King Edward VII Stakes here last term and of course he carries a pound less than the Irish horse.

Thomas Hobson is the safe play but at a huge price Glencadam Glory has to go on the shortlist for each-way purposes.

Royal Ascot (Friday 22nd June): Friday Heartache For The Ascot Bookies

If we can grab a couple of wins on day four of the Royal meeting we’ll be doing very well as value for money is very much the forte of Friday’s action.

Runners for Charlie Appleby and Tim Easterby are overpriced in the opening races while speedy types for Clive Cox and Mark Johnston look to have great each-way chances later in the day as we reach a Group 1 crescendo.

Complementing the 8/1 win (well backed) of Expert Eye is the order of the day and whatever happens we can have some fun in what are some very competitive betting markets.

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2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – LA PELOSA

We need to take somewhat of a leap of faith here with this horse, but then that would be the case with almost any filly you choose in this race as we know so little about them at this stage of their respective careers with most having only their second or third racecourse starts.

Charlie Appleby’s runner made a very taking debut at Kempton 30 days ago and whatever tool you use to rate performances; times, sectionals, published ratings etc, you can almost always upgrade them from the all-weather tracks as so often the races are not given enough credit.

She dominated from the front that day and while for some that means having the run of the race and therefore being in her comfort zone, in fact to completely control a race on debut usually points to serious talent and her being bustled along by a field of much better horses can bring about serious improvement.

There is plenty to come from this daughter of Dandy Man who already stays the six furlongs well and she may be good enough to see off Fairyland and Main Edition underneath top pilot William Buick.

3.05 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – WELLS FARHH GO

We’ve known for a good while now that Tim Easterby has a very classy type on his hands in the shape of Wells Farhh Go and it may now be time for him to show the world just how good he is.

His price in the market going into this week has not reflected his talent overall, more it represents his underwhelming run behind Roaring Lion in the Dante in May and he has wisely been put away and prepared for this rather than having been given an engagement in the Derby at Epsom.

His eye catching debut and good win in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes, both at York, are much more reliable pointers as to how good he is and he may well improve significantly now stepped up in trip to a mile-and-a-half.

He’ll get a really good tow going into the closing stages of this race and may be good enough to overhaul the likes of Delano Roosevelt and Old Persian who represent bigger connections and who are feared most of all.

3.40 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – HEARTACHE (each-way)

Last year’s impressive Queen Mary winning filly was disappointing on her seasonal debut for Clive Cox at Haydock Park but she is bound to bounce back at some point and if doing so at the scene of her most visually devastating performance then she holds a genuine winning chance.

The fact that she is priced up at around the 20/1 mark gives us a chance to back each-way and add some insurance to our selection, though the fact she is running on genuinely fast ground means there will be plenty of confidence behind her for sure.

She was simply brilliant on debut at Bath last season on firm ground before winning the Queen Mary here, and despite improving slightly to score in the Group 2 Flying Childers later in the season she has not since had her ground and it makes such a big difference to her.

Aidan O’Brien’s Sioux Nation is bound to put up a bold show while the unexposed Equilateral could be anything at this stage and could come out of the pack to announce himself as a genuine Group 1 prospect over this trip.  For now though, the filly deserves another chance.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – THREADING (each-way)

Genuine each-way opportunities appear to be like buses at Royal Ascot!  Hot on the heels of our Heartache punt, we can do something similar at big prices at the time of writing regarding Mark Johnston’s filly Threading who came back to form with a bang last time out in winning a Listed race at York by 7 lengths.

Overall form is hard to compare in a race featuring a Group 1 winner at 2 (Clemmie) and the winners of the English, Irish and French 1000 Guineas however a peek at what they all achieved in their first couple of runs marks Threading out as a horse who could still prove to be a class above these in time.

She has speed but sees out this trip well and may well be afforded the chance to hit the front early in a “catch me if you can” sort of tactic, hence the each-way tip at the likely price given that she may or may not be collared late in the affair by horses staying on.

The aforementioned Clemmie is the solid one who has form at this meeting, while the unexposed types Aim Of Artemis and especially Veracious may yet improve past the Group 1 winners in the field and go on to big things in the fillies’ mile division.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Royal Ascot (Thursday 21st June): Stradivarius To Call The Tune On Day Three

Quality Group 1 action is presented to us on day three of this year’s royal meeting where we could see a new staying champion crowned in the Gold Cup at 4.20, but not before the classy middle-distance fillies have strutted their stuff in what is essentially the Ascot Oaks.

Not looking too far from those at the top of the market could be the key on Thursday as the big hitters look to flex their muscles.  Here are three of the best:

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3.05 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – KEY VICTORY

Charlie Appleby has firmly cemented his place among the top rank of trainers now and he can further enhance that reputation with another Royal Ascot winner in this race hot on the heels of his Group 1 winning sprint achievement with Blue Point courtesy of Key Victory.

In a competitive race for three-year-old’s we cannot be very confident, however I can’t get away from the fact that I feel Key Victory reached a level comparable with the best of these having only had two runs, meaning natural improvement should take him past his competition today.

His third run was a slight letdown when failing to shine in the French Derby, though the racing style there as well as the very soft ground would not have been to his liking and so we look at his classy Newmarket Stakes win in May as the main piece of evidence when assessing his chances.

An unfurnished horse then, he readily pulled clear of Old Persian who went on to frank the form and it seems a mile-and-a-quarter on good, fast ground is right up his street.

Appleby’s other runner, Nordic Lights, may yet be able to help the boys in blue to a 1-2 in this race though Hunting Horn and the scopey looking Wadilsafa are obvious dangers too.

3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 1) – WILD ILLUSION

Bearing in mind the utter demolition job Sir Michael Stoute’s Sun Maiden did when breaking her maiden last time, as well as the untold amounts of improvement set to come, it’s easy to see why the bookies have been running scared of the daughter of Frankel and to coin an old racing phrase; she could be anything.

She didn’t beat much at Salisbury of course, however the margin of victory (12 lengths) could have been almost anything she wanted it to be and it’s very hard for us, or the BHA for that matter, to assess the performance.

Whatever happens today she’ll go on and win big races (she’s in the Irish Oaks) but on this occasion rather than get swept up with the prospect of what might be, we should maybe be a little bit clever and play safe with a filly we already know is good and that’s Guineas fourth and Oaks second Wild Illusion.

Charlie Appleby, who else, guided the Dubawi filly to those placings and he is adamant she is ready to go again having come out of Epsom perfectly well.  The jury is still out on whether she truly stays this trip and my feeling is that whatever happens today she will drop to 1m2f in time, however the point is that she stayed it well enough on a tricky and testing course such as Epsom to have enough confidence that she can cope at Ascot.

Magic Wand and Perfect Clarity may be a couple coming out of the pack but I’d like to see Appleby and Goldolphin get a deserved Group 1 win into Wild Illusion before others, possible Sun Maiden, take over the fillies’ middle-distance division for the rest of the year.

4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS

John Gosden’s talented young stayer can truly announce himself in this division with a famous win over Aidan O’Brien’s stout champion Order Of St George one feels, so long as he doesn’t find the trip too much at this stage of his burgeoning career.

For most the two-and-a-half miles is an unknown, however there is confidence behind his stamina and in all fairness it’s usually class that gets a good Gold Cup horse home at Ascot and Stradivarius certainly has that.

Winning at this meeting last year when very inexperienced, Stradivarius followed that victory up with a very good win against the older, established stayers in the Goodwood Cup when in receipt of weight and in taking care of the likes of Big Orange put himself in an early poll position to be the latest staying superstar.

The fact that he readily stepped up to two miles last summer to beat seasoned horses when very much an immature horse tells you that the distance is probably not a stumbling block, so all things being equal we should see his best performance here.

He couldn’t quite win the St Leger when stepping back down in trip to 1m6f last autumn, but kicked off his four-year-old campaign with a very taking win in the Yorkshire Cup over what would not be an ideal trip these days and having been not fully wound up by his trainer for his seasonal reappearance.

With his season so far revolving around this, he will no doubt be in tip-top condition for the big day and I fully expect him to improve past the admirable six-year-olds Order Of St George and Vazirabad of France.


Tuesday 19 June 2018

Royal Ascot (Wednesday 20th June): Cracksman And Expert Eye To Show Their Star Quality

We started day one of Ascot with a 33-1 shocker so who knows what day two will have in store!  Aidan O’Brien could well be on for a very successful day and we have a couple of his tipped up here, along with an expected return to form for a potential superstar to perhaps complement the performance of an undoubted one.

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3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – NELSON

After what has happened in recent big races it would be very unfortunate for Ryan Moore to pick the wrong Aidan O’Brien horse and leave the winner for trainer’s son Donnacha once again, however I feel that is exactly what may have happened here and the recent double classic winning rider can pilot another group winner home in the shape of Nelson.

Seemingly only the third string of the Coolmore runners here, the son of Frankel was only beaten a neck by Roaring Lion as a two-year-old before recording easily the best form in this line-up when winning the Ballysax Stakes in the spring.

He disappointed when on trial for the Derby next time and there is a feeling he needs soft ground, however his breeding suggests otherwise and I’d say he’ll stay this trip and do so much more comfortably in the quicker conditions.  He can get home ahead of John Gosden’s Stream Of Stars and fellow O’Brien inmate Kew Gardens.

3.40 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) - HYDRANGEA

Given that she carries a 5lbs penalty in this race Aidan O’Brien’s filly is no good thing but she can show her class to defy the burden of extra weight and take another valuable group prize for this powerful yard.

Having come back to the track in slightly underwhelming fashion at the Curragh in May when losing as even-money favourite, we are reliant on this daughter of Galileo showing that she can get back to her best over this one mile trip, bearing in mind she is a British Champion Filly over 1m4f on soft ground.

She was wonderful in a good ground Matron Stakes over the mile last year at Leopardstown though and still has the speed to see these off; more to the point in fact she’ll be staying on best when others are running out of puff on the uphill finish.  Arabian Hope and Aljazzi represent the biggest dangers most likely.

4.20 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – CRACKSMAN

OK, he’s a very prohibitive price, but we can just enjoy him or back him, the choice is ours.  One thing is for sure though; if Cracksman had won his intended last engagement by 7 lengths then he would be coming into this race as a 1-4 shot so we must be mindful that prices of 4-6, should they be on offer, are actually good value.

Cracksman would have been better suited to Ireland and was due to go there at the end of May to contest the Tattersalls Gold Cup, however he was rerouted to Epsom for the Coronation Cup after John Gosden’s other superstar Enable was ruled out of the race.

He bumped his head leaving the stalls that day which made him miss the break and from there had to use up energy playing catch up going uphill and with a dazed head before then embarking on his least favoured racing endeavour – a downhill run, and then had to go right to his maximum trip of a mile-and-a-half to just about get his head in front.

He is a far, far better horse than that and barring any other freak accidents he simply cannot get beaten here should all things be equal.

5.35 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – EXPERT EYE

It could be time to give the precocious, even troublesome Expert Eye one more go.  Getting the negatives out of the way first; he utterly flopped in the Dewhurst last season when appearing a good thing on paper, ran an under-par race in the Greenham this season then blew up again in the Guineas.

He has problems in terms of his mental state by all accounts and is a very, very hard horse to get in the right headspace come race day.  However there are positives, plenty of them, and he may well end up looking incredible value on Wednesday.

He exploded past a very good Vintage Stakes field at Goodwood last season (Group 2) and was subsequently given a BHA rating of 118 after only two runs as a two-year-old.  Average horses simply don’t achieve this and there is no doubt that there is a racing superstar under than skin somewhere.

Sir Michael Stoute described him as his most precocious colt for many a year and it may well be that he ran superbly on instinct when still very much a baby and perhaps simply didn’t want to do it once he knew what racing was about.

He didn’t stay the mile in the Guineas and now more and more work has been done on him at home to help him grow up a bit, and if he should get back to the form of his second run, let alone show natural improvement from two to three, he wins this.

Emaraaty is a horse I’ve been watching for a long time and in truth is probably a safer bet, though with less improvement to come than Expert Eye and he represents the biggest danger here ahead of Could It Be Love and the Charlie Appleby pair Symbolization and Glorious Journey.


Royal Ascot (Tuesday 19th June): Parole To Keep Punters Out Of Jail On Day One

An amazing start to this year’s Royal Ascot action greets us on Tuesday with three Group 1 races being the highlight, though in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes we look certain to see one or two future champions too.

There is a mouth-watering clash between speedsters Battaash and Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand, the reputation of well-touted Without Parole to live up to for John Gosden and John Gunther in the St James’s Palace Stakes and a chance to see improving four-year-olds go up against each other in the closing Wolferton Stakes.

We kick off though with the Queen Anne Stakes over a mile, potentially with a juicy value first bet of the festival:

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2.00 Ascot (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) - BENBATL

Saeed bin Suroor has done the right thing in freshening Benbatl up since romping home in the Dubai Turf back in late March at Meydan and it seems they truly know what is right for this classy Royal Ascot winner now.

He won the Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) at this meeting last year over 1m2f having run fifth in Derby, but he has essentially been running over the wrong trip the entire time.  Winning in the extreme heat over 1m1f in Dubai means a mile should be about right for him over here, especially the stiff mile presented at this track.

He can take this ahead of favourite Rhododendron of Aidan O’Brien’s yard, the filly’s 3lb allowance perhaps not quite enough to see her double-up having been well-backed to win the Lockinge at Newbury in May.

It would not surprise me to see Beat The Bank come back to form and take a hand in this, while fast ground may not be ideal for classy French raider Recoletos and the mile trip surely being too much yet again for Limato, whose owner may need a rethink.

3.05 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – CALYX

Aidan O’Brien once again saddles the favourite here going into the meeting in the form of the speedy and well regarded son of Scat Daddy, Sergei Prokofiev, and while there is no doubt during most other years he’d come into this almost unbeatable there may be one ever more special colt in the line-up.

John Gosden’s Kingman colt Calyx put in a startling debut performance at Newmarket ten days ago, on the figures even better than his sire’s first outing, a run which put him only a few pounds behind the favourite with only one run in the bag.

Although Aidan O’Brien gets improvement from these types, the step up to six furlong isn’t guaranteed to be right up Sergei Prokofiev’s street just yet and Mr. Gosden doesn’t sent his horses into races like this unless they have come back fit, fresh and ready to step forward.  Calyx has a massive future over a mile as a three-year-old.

3.40 Ascot (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH

Don’t get me wrong, even on my ratings I get this incredibly close between the runaway Prix de l’Abbaye winner Battaash and last year’s King’s Stand winner Lady Aurelia, however I feel Charlie Hills’ runner may just have the edge.

Lady Aurelia is an improving four-year-old filly with low mileage and her trainer Wesley Ward has been bullish about her chances this week, however given Battaash’s mental state we have not yet seen the best of him either and if he were to get to his Abbaye form, let alone improve on it, then he should do what was expected of him at York last year and lower the colours of the American filly.

4.20 Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – WITHOUT PAROLE

A quality renewal, albeit with a surprise market leader given that those who have not come through the English or Irish 2000 Guineas route do not usually command the kind of respect Without Parole has garnered.

His reputation is well deserved though and he’s a horse who would have gone on to win or place in the Guineas had it not been for a heel problem, something which also had a knock-on effect when it came to his next run.  He arrived at the Heron Stakes having recovered but having only managed one piece of fast work at home, not ideal prep, before encountering ground far too soft for his liking.

He still showed a nice turn of foot to get up that day and we should be seeing a very different animal this time around, something trainer Roger Teal clearly didn’t want to consider when making his remarks that Tip Two Win would have been favourite had he belonged to a larger stable.

He retains a place chance alongside Irish Guineas winner Romanised and last year’s Dewhurst hero US Navy Flag, however I’ll be disappointed if the son of Frankel does not go on to win this before heading for the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.

5.00 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – LARAAIB

It’ll be interesting to witness what Mirage Dancer can do at this trip after a couple of impressive performances at this level this season over 1m4f, however with tons of improvement to come fellow four-year-old Laraaib could be the one to be on in the day one closer.

Starting off with three wins from three last season, including beating subsequent Royal Ascot scorer Atty Persse, Laraaib finished the season as favourite for the Group 3 Rose of Lancaster Stakes but a combination of factors went against him there and he was put away for the season.

Reappearing with a much-improved second in Group 3 company behind the classy Poet’s Word at Sandown this term, Laraaib confirmed his well being and should move forward sufficiently to take this en route to better things.  Sharja Bridge and Monarchs Glen may be other dangers.

Friday 15 June 2018

Saturday 16th June: Grab Some Koditime At Sandown

With Royal Ascot right around the corner it’s slightly more about quantity than quality on Saturday, though some of the Listed races and handicaps are providing us with some lovely bets to help build the Ascot betting bank before Tuesday.  Here are the best bets of the weekend:

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2.05 Sandown (Scurry Stakes – Listed) – KODITIME

We have some very fast three-year-olds strutting their stuff here and Clive Cox’s son of Kodiac hasn’t been rushed into things at this level but is very deserving of his chance in a Listed race and gets the vote this time around.

He actually comes into this race having been beaten in a handicap last time out however he was carrying a burden weight that day and was only just pipped off a mark of 95.  Having been raised to a mark of 100 it would seem he has a better shot in Listed company than in the handicap ranks and his rate of improvement would suggest he’s far from out of place against these types.

The quick five furlongs at Sandown will be right up his street and it’s easy to see him getting the better of Mokaatil on this occasion.  Godolphin’s Sound And Silence would be right up there too if it weren’t for the five-pound penalty he carries for winning a Group 3 at Maisons-Laffitte last autumn, though his class may yet tell.

2.25 York (7f Handicap) – SPANISH CITY

Ryan Moore is an interesting participant in York’s action on Saturday and the globetrotting first jockey to Aidan O’Brien has been snapped up by Roger Varian to ride his improving five-year-old Spanish City in the seven-furlong handicap.

Moore should be confident aboard the son of Exceed And Excel who, after a long break, won cosily at Newcastle in May but could not show his best having been turned out only 8 days later at Ascot, albeit in a very competitive race in which he was sixth.

He resumed his improvement last time out at Doncaster in similar conditions to this however with a nice win under regular jockey Andrea Atzeni – the Italian is due at Sandown – and can come on again for the run.  He may not even need to improve to take this race though and should have too much for Squats and The Feathered Nest to announce himself as a potential pattern-race horse in the months to come.

3.00 York (Grand Cup Stakes – Listed) – WEEKENDER

Ryan Moore must once again feel he is on a winner with Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo and he will certainly be staying on when others have given up the ghost, but I can’t get away from the fact that we have not seen the best of Weekender yet and so of the superstar jocks on show here it could be Frankie Dettori who has the last laugh this time.

Weekender has already achieved the same BHA rating (114) as Marmelo from seven fewer races and as a four-year-old under the care of John Gosden, there is very little doubt that there is plenty of improvement still to come from him and so it seems logical that he could improve past his main rival.

The trip and ground here appear to be up his alley and so he may be value to get the better of the Deauville Group 2 winner as well as David Simcock’s Algometer who may yet have more to come in this sphere.

3.50 Sandown (7f Handicap) – MUTAKATIF

Jim Crowley has been in the wars rather this week but will hope to sign off on Saturday with a winner or two and his ride Mutakatif for main retainer Hamdan Al Maktoum looks interesting to me.

Charlie Hills’ runner closed his two-year-old season with a simple win in a novice event at Chester for which he was raised only 2lbs by the handicapper meaning he makes his handicap debut off a mark of 87, though he looks like being a good deal better than that.

He ran well first time up last season when finishing second at Haydock and in fact went off 2/1 favourite for that race so his being fresh would not seem to be a worry and his turn of pace could see him kill off this opposition before moving up the ranks.

Richard Hannon’s Rum Runner could grab a place and among others could have competition from Tadbir and likely favourite Flavius Titus for minor honours.

4.25 Sandown (1m1f Handicap) – IBRAZ

Roger Varian’s Farhh colt Ibraz, who was a Derby entrant of some promise going into the winter months, has been slightly slow to come to hand but is improving plenty for experience now and can continue on an upward curve to take this handicap.

He won a novice race at Nottingham over the extended mile back in May in the style of a horse with plenty more to give and it would seem that having been given a mark of 86, he may well have been somewhat underestimated by the assessor.

A colt of Martyn Meade’s (Infrastructure) who finished in behind at Nottingham was given an ambitious mark of 82 for his handicap debut and he was only just beaten in a good race at Sandown off that mark, lending more weight to the theory that Ibraz’s form is solid enough before we even consider his potential improvement.

It wouldn’t surprise me too much to see Roger Charlton’s Kassar grab a place in this at a good price, while the slightly more experienced Bathsheba Bay and Simply Breathless may have a say in matters too.

Friday 8 June 2018

Saturday 9th June: Reverend And God Given To Head Our Betting Order Of Service

After the Derby and Oaks jamboree last weekend its back down to earth for us between now and Royal Ascot, though Haydock Park does provide three good pattern races and we have a good value bet in each.

Musselburgh and Newmarket also back things up with good cards, the troubled Scottish track being where we start with an improving type in the opening handicap:

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1.55 Musselburgh (1m4½f Handicap) – REVEREND JACOBS

The owner/trainer combination of Bernard Kantor and William Haggas didn’t luck out in the end with their Young Rascal in the Derby last weekend, however they could gain just a little compensation on the east coast of Scotland with this Reverend Jacobs.

The four-year-old son of Nathaniel has proven his liking for this sort of track, trip and ground and so on the face of it has no obstacles to running his best.  With that in mind thoughts turn to the opposition and while plenty will have prepped their horses to peak form, the likes of Western Duke, Lycidas and Theglasgowwarrior simply don’t look as well handicapped as our horse given how much improvement he may have to come.

Although it’s unclear whether he will or will not want further than this mile-and-a-half trip in time, the fact that he holds an entry in the £150,000 Northumberland Plate at Newcastle at the end of the month gives us some sort of clue as to what level his connections think he can reach.

2.50 Haydock (Pinnacle Stakes – Group 3) – GOD GIVEN

There are certain risks attached to backing this filly; the jockey is good if overrated and likewise the trainer, unexposed improvers can always come out of the woodwork in such races and thus far all of her best form has been on softer going.

However, God Given looks a class above these and she herself can still improve further while without having witnessed her run on fast ground we cannot say she won’t handle it, therefore we must trust the trainer as far as underfoot conditions are concerned.

Her sire, Nathaniel, did OK on faster going while the damsire Dubai Destination was very good on it so given that on balance she seems to have a few pounds in hand of her rivals on all known information, she’s worth taking a chance on.

Not one single filly really stands out as the best alternative which further strengthens God Given’s claims, though the tough and experienced Titi Makfi may provide some opposition, along with German raider Fosun.  What A Home was expected to reach a fair level last time and still may be a 100+ rated filly in time.

3.25 Haydock (Achilles Stakes – Listed Race) – JUDICIAL

Very few things over this weekend would give me a greater pleasure than seeing Muthmir get his head in front again at this level, and he is likely to go off favourite too.  However, at eight years of age he is not getting any better and we cannot guarantee he will reach the form required now to beat Elite Racing’s charge Judicial.

Julie Camacho’s six-year-old ran a stormer last month in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes on Guineas weekend at Newmarket and nothing about that was a fluke.  He has enough pace to mix it with William Haggas’ aforementioned Muthmir as well as speedy 7yo Alpha Delphini and so could be decent value to get his head in front.

The trip and ground are right up Judicial’s alley and it would be no surprise to see him score a narrow victory before perhaps stepping back up to Group company before long.

3.40 Newmarket (1m6f Handicap) – QULOOB

Owen Burrows’ progressive four-year-old Quloob looks a real stayer to reckon with this season and, although typically in a competitive handicap he doesn’t exactly come out miles clear on ratings, it’s clear that we’ve got nowhere near to the bottom of him yet and he looks set to compete in Listed or Group races at some point later in the season.

Of the main contenders in the race, alongside Alqamar, Mary Hopkins, Golden Wolf and Addicted To You, he is the highest rated already and with only seven runs in the bag thus far he seems sure to run to a mark of 100-plus and can make his class tell.

Fast ground would appear to be his forte and if it hadn’t been for softer ground only just scuppering his chances when last seen in August he would be opening his season up looking for a five-timer here.

4.00 Haydock (John of Gaunt Stakes – Group 3) – D’BAI

A huge group photo at Moulton Paddocks showed the sheer joy even a huge organisation experiences when Masar landed the Derby and this week, the combination of Charlie Appleby, William Buick and Godolphin could be celebrating again albeit in a rather more muted way.

Their D’bai has had plenty of goes but is still only a four-year-old and hasn’t reached his racing peak yet.  Seven furlongs on quick ground looks ideal for him and the step up in trip from his narrow defeat in a Windsor Listed event could now mean him putting up his best performance yet.

If that were to be achieved then the son of Dubawi is likely to land his first Group race at the main expense of Richard Hannon’s Tabarrak and Godolphin’s admirable Lockinge Stakes fourth Dutch Connection.

The unknown quantity in the race is Roger Varian’s four-year-old and likely favourite Emmaus, though despite the rapid improvement shown it would appear the ground is not in his favour.  Not only has he shown his best form on very soft ground, but most of Invincible Spirit’s other good offspring seem to take a dip in form when they can hear their hooves rattling.

Friday 1 June 2018

Saturday 2nd June: Young Rascal To Scamper Home And Spoil Saxon’s Party

Saturday is a busy racing day but it’s one which revolves totally around the Derby at 4.30 and we have a great value bet up against the favourite.

We can get the afternoon off to a great start on the Downs in the opening mile-and-a-quarter handicap with one of John Gosden’s while we also take in the Listed race up at Musselburgh as they celebrate Ladies’ Day.  Here’s the best of Saturday’s bets:

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2.00 Epsom (1m2f Handicap) – COURT HOUSE

Competition is not exactly in short supply on Derby day and in that regard, this race is no exception.  Both Ship Of The Fen and Indomeneo can take a step forward and as such most hold place chances at least, however John Gosden’s charge has been slightly underestimated I feel and is clearly on the upgrade.

The form of his seconds to Kentucky Derby hopeful Gronkowski and to Old Persian at Newmarket can be upgraded now Court House gets a chance to stretch out in a faster paced race, along with the evidence of his racing profile which shows a horse improving leaps and bounds and it’s enough to suggest he can win this.

2.35 Epsom (Princess Elizabeth Stakes – Group 3) – ANNA NERIUM

Likely favourite Lincoln Rocks is a good target to aim for, however having reached a mark of 105 with plenty of history behind her she is definitely there to be shot at by smart three-year-old Anna Nerium and the Hannon filly is taken to score.

The weight-for-age received by the classic generation doesn’t benefit as much at this time of year as you may think, however that is taken into consideration here and I can’t get away from the toughness as well as class that this filly showed when winning the European Free Handicap at Newmarket in April.

She was not disgraced in the 1000 Guineas next time out either and should handle rain-softened ground well enough, making her fair value to beat the aforementioned Lincoln Rocks and fellow 3yo Dance Diva to claim the Group 3 prize.

3.25 Musselburgh (Ladies’ Day Gold Cup – Listed Race) – BESHAAYIR

This is a race which seems to revolve around the three-year-olds and I would be surprised if Roger Varian’s Madeline is not favourite on the day.

Having already won at Listed level and been placed in a Group One, Madeline will have plenty of supporters but she didn’t really improve an awful lot at the back end of last season and simply maintained her form before a below-par reappearance this term, albeit in the 1000 Guineas itself.

Beshaayir is at the other end of the scale in that she is only just starting out in her career and was not extended at all to win an all-weather novice race in April but is capable of so much more now up against quicker types.

On a line through the horses she beat that day it would seem she is right up to this level, plus she is bound to have improved plenty during her 54-day break from the track.

4.30 Epsom (THE DERBY – Group 1) – YOUNG RASCAL

Don’t get me wrong – anyone with eyes would have been impressed with Saxon Warrior even before the race at Newmarket so when he went on to land the 2000 Guineas his status as another O’Brien superstar appeared to be confirmed.

If he stays well enough, he should win and that remains the case now however he is no value at all and may not appreciate the ground after the rainfall at Epsom during the week.

Assuming he doesn’t step forward as the Coolmore team would wish given the conditions, then for me William Haggas’ runner Young Rascal is the most likely to take advantage.

A rarity in this field; the Chester Vase winner is already proven over his trip as well as having run well on softer ground.  Natural improvement from a trial to the big day, as well as taking a line through his lineage, would mean he can run right up to a mark of around 120 now which makes him a proper Group 1 horse and in with a shout of a Derby win.

The money has come this week for Hazapour but he doesn’t quite come here with as much proven talent as similar types Sinndar and Harzand for owner the Aga Khan and so despite liking the conditions, he may just lack a touch of class.

Well fancied types Masar and Roaring Lion have drifted since the rain came and it’s easy to see why, though outsider Sevenna Star may have a say in the finish and should not be ignored given these conditions.