Friday 31 August 2018

Saturday 1st September: Time To Laugh Aloud At Bookies Misfortune

We’re spreading ourselves far and wide this week with runners from France to England, early afternoon to late evening all on the betting shortlist with everything from lowly staying handicaps to Group 3 sprints on the go. 

Sandown takes most of the attention on Saturday with potentially top class colt Too Darn Hot a strong favourite for the Solario Stakes, though he may not have things his own way there and so we’ve skipped that race for betting purposes.

We have five value bets in total, starting with a Gallic scuttle featuring a number of British runners: 

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1.20 Chantilly (Prix d’Arenberg - Group 3) - QUEEN OF BERMUDA

Don’t worry about the location as it’s easy for us to get a bet on these good French races online these days and it could pay to side with William Haggas’ Exceed And Excel filly.  Winner of a decent Listed race at Deauville last time, France seems to agree with her and she could well follow up.

Although she quickly polished off six races between May and August her overall profile is one of a filly improving sufficiently for her age and so a first win in Group company could be on the cards at the main expense of Soldier’s Call, another UK runner.

3.00 Sandown (Atalanta Stakes - Group 3) - LAUGH ALOUD

We have an odds-on favourite to try and beat here in the shape of Group 1 Nassau Stakes third Veracious, however all things considered John Gosden’s Laugh Aloud could be just too big a price.  Off the track with a leg injury since last year’s Derby meeting, she looks a risk but certainly one worth taking.

Having stormed clear to win the Princess Elizabeth Stakes she looked every bit a Group 1 filly before her career was halted and with training techniques the way they are today, especially where Mr Gosden is concerned, it’s worth chancing at these odds that she’s ready to resume her forward momentum.

Veracious is obviously good but has to step back down in trip here while Awesometank appears next on the list but really shouldn’t be good enough to trouble the big two with all things being equal.

3.15 Chester (Chester Stakes - Listed Race) - HOCHFELD

Don’t get me wrong, likely short priced favourite Duretto has every chance on the book and is clearly the number one danger, but there’s something about Mark Johnston’s Hochfeld that tells me he could be great value in this contest.

Johnston tends not to believe in giving them too much of a break and with that lots of punters forget that his horses are no more or less likely to improve than others of a similar age.  Crucially, Hochfeld ran his best race to date last time out when running fourth of 16 at York and there is clearly more to come from him as the season wears on.

His conqueror at York, Here And Now, is worth shortlisting too along with the aforementioned Duretto of Andrew Balding’s yard.

7.00 Lingfield (2m Handicap) - TWISTER

A rare foray into the evening racing and low grade handicaps for us but it could be worth it to back Sir Mark Prescott’s Twister.  This trainer is well known for improving these rather gimcrack staying types and for once we may have even found one at a backable price.

The gelding is 0 from seven so far but importantly is improving and will be better suited by today’s task than when third in a small field at Chelmsford last time out.

8.15 Chelmsford (6f Nursery Handicap) - TOPICAL

Superstar trainer John Gosden has Marhaba Milliar in this race who is 2/2 in his career to date which almost certainly means he’ll attract the most cash in the ring.  I can’t help feeling though that Richard Hannon’s runner is much better than he needed to show us at Thirsk and will pull out a bit more this time.

The Queen’s runner is coming along nicely in his three runs to date and now that he’s in handicaps one assumes connections aren’t too bothered about throwing the kitchen sink at him if it appears he has a winning chance, so with that in mind the booking of Ryan Moore is another major positive.

Friday 24 August 2018

Saturday 25th August: Leave It To The Expert At York

It’s a busy old day on Saturday with top class action all over the UK and Ireland.  York wraps up its Ebor meeting but the Knavesmire doesn’t have the monopoly on pattern action with top class races taking place at Goodwood, Newmarket, Windsor and the Curragh.

We have five value selections on an absorbing day of racing, starting in Yorkshire with a quality Group 3 but look out for a bonus bet overseas late on Saturday evening:

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1.50 York (Strensall Stakes – Group 3) – MUSTASHRY

It’s well documented how good a season the maestro Sir Michael Stoute has had, his flag bearer Poet’s Word improving hand over fist as a 5yo and it will be no surprise if we see the best run yet from another of his from the same generation in this son of Tamayuz.

Having reappeared to win a Listed race at Sandown last month, he has things in his favour here and can take care of the well punted Lord Glitters who probably rates as second best ahead of record-breaking Mark Johnston’s Threading, who remains capable of adding to her impressive tally yet.

The Queen’s runner Seniority has been thrown into this company having won well in handicap grade last time but looks a few pounds short of the very best in what is a strong enough renewal of this race.

2.50 Newmarket (7f Handicap) – HIGHLIGHT REEL

Given that we still have quick conditions around the country including at HQ it wouldn’t surprise me if those at the top of the handicap dominate here, Michael Bell’s Highlight Reel the best of them at the weights for my money.

This horse has been on my mind for such races since his appearance at Newcastle last summer despite him being a beaten favourite that day and so it was no surprise to see him romp home by three lengths over course and distance last time out.

He’s gone up 6lbs for that win but he’s only just showing what he was always capable of and still has a bit in hand, he may prove just too good for the likes of Citron Major and Bullingdon under more than useful 5lb claimer Cameron Noble.

3.00 York (City of York Stakes – Group 3) – EXPERT EYE

I’m sure Sir Michael must be still tearing his hair out regarding this super-talented individual.  A quite brilliant winner of the Vintage Stakes (Group 2) on his second career start as a juvenile, he was an early favourite for the 2000 Guineas however a flop in the Dewhurst last backend followed by two under-par runs this term had him marked by some as a monkey.

He blitzed his rivals in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot however, tipped on this column at 8/1, and on the book that rates as his best performance yet as far as I’m concerned so we can’t say he hasn’t trained on as a three-year-old.

His trip was fiddled with again when he went back up to a mile to contest the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and a fine second there proved further what a good horse he is, though the drop in trip to seven furlongs in this race is as important as the drop in grade.

It would be a big disappointment if he were not to win under Frankie Dettori with the admirable Suedois perhaps next best ahead of solid 5yo Tabarrak of Richard Hannon’s yard.

6.15 Windsor (Winter Hill Stakes – Group 3) – FABRICATE

Although we’re trying to get one of the Queen’s horses beaten up at York in the Strensall we are right behind Her Majesty in this 1m2f contest with Fabricate looking too good for this lot, all things being equal.

Not over-raced for a 6yo, he showed his best form earlier this season when beaten only narrowly by King George runner-up Crystal Ocean but was outclassed by Stoute’s other star Poet’s Word next time and after that simply didn’t get his ground (he has a particular liking for quick going).

A poor showing at Royal Ascot can always be forgiven, though there may have been a problem anyway as he has remained off the track since then but is ready to return and could make a mockery of this.

Global Giant and First Sitting probably rate as the main dangers though there is likely to be support on the night for Convey who remains capable of getting in the money at this level.

10.44 Saratoga (Travers Stakes – Grade 1) – GRONKOWSKI

With four in the bag for the domestic action we can treat this as a bonus.  The Travers is one of America’s biggest races and usually features runners from the early season Triple Crown events as well as acting as a key trial for the upcoming Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Former English-trained runner Gronkowski was due to contest the Kentucky Derby having booked his place with a win in the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle this spring however he took an injury and could not run.

He has since moved to be trained permanently in the States by Chad Brown who prepared him superbly for his comeback run, a find second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes and it is thought this trip is his ideal.

He sits as a general second-favourite for the Travers behind Good Magic however we’ve seen almost the best of that one already whereas our horse still has a few pounds of improvement to come and could announce himself as a proper Classic contender here.  His gate 3 position is a help too.

Aidan O’Brien sends Mendelssohn over as he did for the Derby in Louisville and he will be desperate for the colt to show what he can do, but with the yard yet to fully get over the bug they had he has it all on to get past the principles from gate 8.

Friday 17 August 2018

Saturday 18th August: Gustav Klimt To Brush Aside Hungerford Opposition

With York’s Ebor meeting just around the corner we have a slightly quieter than normal Saturday this week, at least in terms of quality anyway, but what quality we do have is covered here with value bets for Newbury’s three pattern races plus a well-bred juvenile filly set to reward our support.

There may be a great value bet down at Newmarket too as Richard Fahey sends a filly down there to contest the seven furlong nursery, but we start in Newbury where Charlie Appleby looks to get a busy weekend off to a flying start:

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1.50 Newbury (Denford Stakes – Listed Race) – GOOD FORTUNE

Charlie Appleby has a very busy weekend ahead of him on both sides of the English Channel and his exciting juvenile Good Fortune must rank as one of the biggest improvers in his whole yard.

Having made a below-average debut the son of New Approach took a wee step forward when third in a novice race at Newmarket before destroying his opposition by an eased-down 10 lengths last time out at Lingfield, a run which earned him a mark of 96.

Whatever the value of that form, he could win a nursery handicap off that mark no problem and so Appleby throwing him in here at Listed level is a sure sign he has improved yet again and he could get the better of impressive debut winners Boitron and Antonia De Vega.

2.15 Doncaster (Fillies’ Maiden Stakes) – MEHDAAYIH

As a filly, trained by John Gosden, foaled in April, by Frankel and not out until August it should go without saying that a whole lot of improvement from race one to race two is expected and I’m sure those at Clarehaven Stables will be very disappointed if she doesn’t come back with the spoils.

Although sent off favourite at Glorious Goodwood, she ran really very well in staying on into sixth place behind Accordance on her first outing and although that form alone gives her a chance here she is very likely to leave it well behind and kick on now under Rab Havlin.

Mark Johnston’s newcomer Quintada is one to watch in the betting and will be feared if the money comes, though our horse’s experience will count for plenty in this race and she ranks a fair bet.

2.25 Newbury (Geoffrey Freer Stakes – Group 3) – HAMADA

Despite being a Group 3 this race has consistently churned out very good winners, most of them Group 1 types in time and although it’s uncertain whether we will see anything of that quality come out of this year’s renewal we certainly have a decent little contest on our hands.

There are a few in here with chances, no doubt, with Raymond Tusk and Godolphin’s Walton Street certainly leading hopes however it’s the first choice of the boys in blue who looks the most likely winner.

The 4yo Hamada earned a rating of 107 last time after an improved display when winning a handicap but seems to be a deal better than that.  He’s not over the top having been off the track a while and then having just three runs this term, he handles softer going and no doubt has more in his locker so must be kept on side for now.

3.35 Newbury (Hungerford Stakes – Group 2) – GUSTAV KLIMT

On paper this is a very good Group 2 in terms of quality with four runners rated 113 or higher, however the ratings are the very angle I’ve taken and are why I’m backing Aidan O’Brien’s runner.

On the balance of things a run of somewhere between 115 and 118 is very likely from the Coolmore horse, something which puts him at good Group 2 or even Group 1 level, while the others in this race don’t look anywhere near guaranteed to run to their best mark in these conditions.

Sir Dancealot is currently on 116 but has hovered consistently around the 111-mark until the ground went fast, something he won’t get here, while Librisa Breeze’s similar rating seems false given that he achieved it primarily having won a Group 1 at Ascot in very soft conditions in a race which cannot be taken literally.  112 (ish) seems to be his real level.

Breton Rock remains consistent at around the 111/112 mark for the most part and the others are behind so all in all the numbers alone tell you what a solid chance the son of Galileo has.

Aside from all the other compelling reasons for backing Gustav Klimt this weekend we also shouldn’t lose track of a very simple fact; that this horse was the winter favourite for this season’s 2000 Guineas and remains the only horse in this field of Group 1 or at least potential Group 1 quality given a level playing field and good conditions.

3.55 Newmarket (Fillies’ Nursery Handicap) – AMBER SPARK

Richard Fahey doesn’t mind staying in the north and farming the races around York and Haydock and he is very good at it, so when he ventures down to HQ he doesn’t do it simply for the ride.

His 78-rated Amber Spark then looks to be great value in this fillies’ nursery given that many in the line-up would like things a little sharper; be it the trip, the course or the ground but there are no such worries for the daughter of Fast Company.

A constant improver since her debut in May, Amber Spark produced her best yet when staying on very nicely up the hill at Newcastle on standard to slow going over seven furlongs in a four-runner nursery, outstaying a Mark Johnston favourite in the process meaning few will be battling on as well as her at the business end of this race.

She is well up to this handicap mark and so should go close with Star Terms and Roxy Art perhaps giving her most to do.

Friday 10 August 2018

Saturday 11th August: Cali To Burn Off Rivals At HQ

Ascot’s annual Shergar Cup takes place this weekend but as usual it’s a watching brief for most serious punters given the fact that almost none of the runners will have the assistance of their regular riding partners, though we do one have value bet in the international showpiece however in the stayers’ race

Mostly we turn our attentions to Haydock and Newmarket where there is a mix of pattern races and competitive handicaps, one including the well regarded Caliburn who as a son of Camelot is expected to reach a high level before too long.

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1.40 Ascot (Shergar Cup Stayers) – CLEONTE

All of these races are competitive but in the case of Cleonte we have a rock solid contender who most likely just needs to churn out another performance to a similar level as his others efforts this term and he’ll go very close to winning.

Ultra consistent this term without getting his head in front as yet, Cleonte has a liking for this track and stays the trip really well meaning he could give Per-Anders Graberg a much appreciated victory.  Jukebox Jive, Lord George and Hassle are chief among the competition.

2.30 Haydock (Dick Hern Stakes – Listed Race) – LA FIGLIA

Although to this point she hasn’t quite reached the heights we all expected, all is far from lost for the daughter of Frankel and on just her second run for Peter Chapple-Hyam she can show what she is made of at this level.

Beaten only a length and three-quarters in Listed company on her second ever start, La Figlia was expected to move up into Group company this year but after four runs the owners decided a change of scenery was in order and so she was moved out of Jeremy Noseda’s yard like so many others this term – though the exact reason is not known.

Her first run for her new yard was very encouraging; a comfortable novice race success under James Doyle marking her out as a future pattern winner having beaten the filly who was second to John Gosden’s well regarded Highgarden on debut.

Unforgettable Filly is one who could provide the biggest danger to our horse, while likely hot favourite Agrotera is far from a forlorn hope although the nature of her Royal Ascot handicap win was very different to this race and has perhaps led to her being overrated a tad, though she is capable of improvement.

3.05 Haydock (Rose of Lancaster Stakes – Group 3) – ELWAZIR

Owen Burrows’ son of Frankel has always been highly thought of but never rushed and having won in style on only his fourth racecourse start last time out he is a warm order to complete a hat-trick for the season in this race.

Despite his season opening victory Elwazir took a fairly big leap forward when scoring at Ascot last time and its notable that he did that when the ground got quicker.  Today’s fast going should be very much to his liking and it’s easy to see him getting a nice lead from one or two of these before quickening well to land a third consecutive victory and a first at Group 3 level.

Zaaki and Fajjaj look to be the biggest dangers this time while Mark Johnston’s improving colt Communique can come on again, however his latest rating of 103 may slightly flatter him and at any point he could blow up and put in a bad run before regaining his improvement.

3.10 Newmarket (1m2f Handicap) – CALIBURN

Always well regarded at home by Hugo Palmer, this improving three-year-old colt has been running over further and easily landed his novice race at Haydock at the third attempt before having his sets set a little too high in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy last time out.

Not only the level of the race but also the 1m5f+ trip got him comfortably beaten at Newmarket but it’s easy to see a) progress being resumed now he is down in grade and b) a much happier horse over 1m2f on softer ground in a faster run race.

While it’s true that his sire Camelot contested the St Leger, the fact remains he had the speed to win the 2000 Guineas at the start of his 3yo career and a look at the average distance covered by his progeny suggests that this trip is ideal for most of them and that can include Caliburn, so being asked to cover 1m4f+ so early in his career has likely blunted his performance thus far.

The fact he has been thought of as a group horse and yet comes into a handicap getting weight from chief rival Kaanoon means he could prove to be pretty well in and should be capable of landing this under Tom Marquand.

3.45 Newmarket (Sweet Solera Stakes – Group 3) – LA PELOSA

This is a well regarded filly of Godolphin’s who was so close to winning at Royal Ascot.  She was beaten over this trip at odds-on last time and flopped before that on this course however connections have not lost faith in her and neither have I.

She has some pretty lofty targets for later in the season and trainer Charlie Appleby thinks seven furlongs is ideal for her, something she may finally get the chance to prove today.

Inexperienced fillies Ejrar and Pennywhistle both have tons of potential but may lack a little something up against Brett Doyle’s mount, while Mark Johnston’s Ascot winner Main Edition has an obvious chance although she did not go well when asked to run here before and her 3lb penalty hardly helps matters either.

Friday 3 August 2018

Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th August: Eminent To Return To Best In Glorious Stakes

With the Goodwood festival still very much in full swing there are arguably more betting opportunities on Friday than there are on Saturday, so with that in mind we start there on the Sussex Downs with four value punts before moving on to Saturday’s racing:

Friday 3rd August 2018

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1.50 Goodwood (Glorious Stakes – Group 3) – EMINENT

This looks trappy in that the principals all look like running within a few pounds of each other, however we always look for potential improvement when judging a future winner and on that score we could take a good price about this being the return to prominence of Eminent.

Last year’s Craven winner and Derby fourth had a great 3yo season but started off in dreadful fashion this term when running stone last in the Huxley Stakes at Chester.  He improved to run 5th of seven in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot before stepping down to a mile and running slightly better still in his four-length defeat behind Beat The Bank at Group 2 level.

He is coming to himself all the time and with the same rate of improvement he can reach a level close to what he achieved last season in this race, Sir Michael Stoute’s Mirage Dancer being the obvious danger.

2.25 Goodwood (Thoroughbred Stakes – Group 3) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

The chances of both Mark Johnston’s Threading and Aidan O’Brien’s Threeandfourpence are obvious, but in the hunt for value it’s hard to get away from Charlie Appleby’s contender Glorious Journey in this.

Looking like a leading juvenile after his Group 3 win at Saint-Cloud last backend, there was hope that this son of Dubawi would be a Guineas contender this term though his classic chances were dashed pretty early when he was well beaten in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket.

After that however he was only just run out of a Group 3 in France behind horses who have shown top class form since then and it seems that once he finally gets the conditions he prefers he will record a pretty impressive rating of somewhere over 112, enough perhaps to win this race at a good price.

3.35 Goodwood (King George Stakes – Group 2) – BATTAASH

A good winner of this race last year as a 3yo before going on to smash the opposition in the Abbaye on Arc day, Battaash can sometimes let you down but no more than most sprinters and only when conditions aren’t quite 100%.

That was the case at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stand when he was once again a little lit up and on the very fast ground his searing pace only ended up setting the race up for others, though back here it’s that lightning turn of foot which is in fact required.

In terms of ratings a run approaching the mid-120’s is on the cards and so even with a Group 1 penalty to carry, there should be nothing in this race to touch him unless he does something silly or falls foul of a bad trip.

4.40 Goodwood (Oak Tree Stakes – Group 3) – POETIC CHARM

It could be close between several of these improvers, One Master, Sequilla and Pretty Baby all being in with a live chance however the Godolphin filly Poetic Charm is the one who has always been thought of as a one for this level at least and can score.

With the benefit of hindsight this filly was a handicap blot when winning off 96 at Newmarket last time out and she’s worth a lot more than that now that she is maturing – something she can prove in this race at a nice price here.

Saturday 4th August 2018

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2.05 Newmarket (Chalice Stakes – Listed Race) – CRIMSON ROSETTE

I’m loathe to go against John Gosden’s filly Highgarden who, as expected given her breeding and her yard, is improving however I think there’s much more to come from Charlie Fellowes’ filly and she is definitely the value in this race this time.

Her close second to God Given at Haydock at Group 3 level now reads very well and her run last time can be significantly upgraded; the slow pace in a four-runner race definitely not to her liking and now she’s back in a more competitive environment the daughter of Teofilo can take a step forward and show her class in this field under Stevie Donohoe.

3.00 Goodwood (Gordon Stakes – Group 3) – SUN MAIDEN

In many ways this race revolves around Mark Johnston’s Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee, especially given his as usual great form at this meeting however his run at Epsom perhaps gives an unrealistic impression of his overall ability.

The bare fact is that he achieved a rating of 118 in the Derby and we can’t deny it, however that track can make or break horses and another fact is that in five outings this season he has not won a single race as yet.

On the balance of things he isn’t quite as good as the rating he received after Epsom and remains vulnerable should something improve – case in point Sir Michael Stoute’s filly Sun Maiden.

Having routed a maiden field she was kept for Royal Ascot where she ran extremely well to be placed in the Ribblesdale Stakes, only her third ever run, and looks like reaching a very similar level to the Johnston horse about now so with the 3lb fillies’ allowance she seems like a very good value second favourite.

Yet another classy filly could be added to the Yorkshire Oaks reckoning if she takes this race, so watch out for her and for what Sir Michael says after the contest.