Friday 26 October 2018

Saturday 27th October: Turgenev To Put Derby Credentials On The Line

We’re smack bang between Champions Day and the Breeders’ Cup and in the midst of the crossover between Flat and jumps racing, but that doesn’t mean we are running out of betting opportunities on the level quite yet.

Saturday brings worldwide action starting in Oz and ending with Derby contenders for 2019 running at Doncaster.  Here’s the best of the action:

7.00 Moonee Valley (Cox Plate – Group 1) – BENBATL

You’ll need to be up early to catch this one, the Cox Plate being one of Australia’s richest races and things have been stirred up somewhat down under on the lead-up to this race.

Wondermare Winx is going for her 29th consecutive win and a 22nd straight Group 1 success and is therefore rightfully a very short priced favourite indeed.  The feeling for some time though in the UK is that while Winx is undoubtedly a high class mare, what she has been beating in Australia leaves a lot to be desired.

Well known racing pundit Matt Chapman  has been in Australia and brought up this very subject and, while his comments and questions can be close to the bone at times, Winx’s trainer Chris Waller won nothing with his response on radio when he called Chapman a ****head for even suggesting that her opposition had been inferior.

In truth, Winx at her very best wins this but the evidence suggests that the level she is running at over the last year makes her vulnerable to a proper Group 1 horse and Benbatl is that, without being one of Europe’s very best of course.

His easy win in the Dubai Turf for almost £2.7 million was high class and he warmed up with a Group 1 win at Caulfield two weeks ago in the Ladbrokes Stakes, a run which will put him spot on for a tilt at this race.  At these prices we don’t need to bet big to take a chance on a famous win and that’s why with value in mind we take on the champ.

1.45 Doncaster (Doncaster Stakes – Listed Race) – GARRUS

Jeremy Noseda’s horse made a very good impression when stepping up on his debut effort to score at Newmarket in the summer and won very, very easily at Newcastle on his third start.

Things didn’t go to plan when he was stepped up to Group 2 company but he’s been allowed time to recover from that and comes here looking every bit a Group performer, though one that tackles just Listed company this time.

Garrus can prove too good here at a very fair price, with nice type San Donato next on the list ahead of Heartwarming and Canton Queen.

2.20 Newbury (Royal British Legion Stakes – Group 3) – YOUNG RASCAL

This fellow landed the odds for us on his reappearance from a break when getting up close home to win the Arc Trial last month and he can continue his improvement to take this race as well.

Having won the Chester Vase back in May he was rightfully thought of as a genuine Derby contender, though things didn’t go his way at Epsom and he was given some time off before his Newbury success for which he would have been a little undercooked.

The three-year-olds look the way to go in this race so with that in mind, Mark Johnston’s Communique who has done nothing but improve in recent weeks and will see out this trip nicely, is one to keep a close eye on.  Quite how much more he really has to offer is still open to question as his trainer tends to leave nothing out on the pitch, but he certainly rates a danger at these weights.

Of the older horses John Gosden’s Weekender looks just about best but in truth could fall some way short of what is required if Young Rascal is near the top of his game which is what I expect, while Morando too looks just a little way short of the jolly’s level.

3.55 Newbury (Radley Stakes – Listed Race) – CERATONIA

Although I was quite taken with the way Hugo Palmer’s Zofelle won on her debut back in July, it was no more impressive than Ceratonia’s first effort around the same time at Ascot and she has gone on to prove she is a filly worth of this and perhaps even a higher level.

Not suited by things in Group 1 company last time around in Paris, she still put up a good display and any forward momentum taken from that run would see her score comfortably in this ahead of the aforementioned Zofelle and Mick Channon’s Gospel.

4.05 Doncaster (Futurity Trophy Stakes – Group 1) – TURGENEV

I do like this horse a lot and have commented before that he’s been underestimated to this point, not just in terms of opinion but on the numbers as well.

He comes into this race rated 101 having won a couple of novice races, but the figures and times don’t tell you just how easily he won those races and how quickly he’s improving and there’s never been a doubt that he can mix it at this level.

To accentuate that point he was second to a race-fit Royal Marine on debut, the horse who went on to score at Group 1 level on Arc day in Paris and all he’s done since is get better.  Turgenev is not in the Derby at present but can be entered and looks just the type to head to Epsom next summer.

He can improve enough to get the measure of Aidan O’Brien’s Magna Grecia who looks a strong prospect.  Of the others, Phoenix Of Spain and John Gosden’s second string Kick On look like types who can run into the money.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Saturday 20th October (Champions Day): Stradivarius And Lah Ti Dar To Call The Tune

It’s Champions Day at Ascot this weekend and just like last year the rain has arrived, much to the delight of certain trainers as we will find out.

John Gosden rather fittingly has a very strong hand but there’s plenty of competition for him.  I’ve taken a view on all six of the races starting with one of this season’s hero’s Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup.

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1.25 Ascot (British Champions Long Distance Cup – Group 2) – STRADIVARIUS

Unfortunately the staying star of the last two years is a short price for this one, as expected, however there has been too much talk of a long season which could prove to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Stradivarius has run four times this term; easing to a classy-looking victory in the Yorkshire Cup at the start of the year before reaching new heights with his 2m4f battling win the Gold Cup at Ascot.

A repeat win in the Goodwood Cup when not receiving all the weight-for-age advantage he had last year was impressive and then he gave away weight again successfully in the Lonsdale Cup to take the £1 million bonus on offer for the first time in the stayers championship.

He comes here apparently fresh and full of himself and despite the softer ground should make his superiority count in this division, though Flag Of Honour, Thomas Hobson and Sir Eric can all hope for place money.

2.00 Ascot (British Champions Sprint Stakes – Group 1) – HARRY ANGEL

Easily the best sprinter in this line-up at his best, the risk involved is in deciding whether or not he’s the same horse since cutting himself at Royal Ascot this year.

The angle I’m taking here though is that challengers The Tin Man, Limato, Librisa Breeze, Brando, Tasleet and arguably even Bacchus are all of a very similar level whereas our boy is the one with real star quality.

If he’s back to his best on ground we know he likes as well then he should be capable of pulling clear of this field and adding a cool £358,000 to his already impressive career earnings.

2.40 Ascot (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – Group 1) – LAH TI DAR

The second of four John Gosden hotpots and the second I think will score too.  Lord Lloyd-Webber’s filly was favourite for the Oaks before injury but came back in the Galtres at York to devastating effect when slamming her opposition by 10 lengths.

She was a leading fancy for the St Leger but appeared not to stay and should be back to her best here over this mile-and-a-half trip.

Almost all of the best Dubawi progeny have produced their best runs on a variety of ground so underfoot conditions are not expected to be an issue and if she’s refreshed after her Doncaster exertions she rates as a very confident bet ahead of Kitesurf and Coronet.

3.15 Ascot (Queen Elizabeth II Stakes – Group 1) – ADDEYBB

William Haggas must have been licking his lips as the rain fell over Ascot this week and we may now eventually see Addeybb graduate to Group 1 success on the ground he loves.

Having progressed well from three to four, Addeybb was as easy a winner of the Lincoln Handicap as you’ll see back in the spring before claiming a most impressive Group 2 success.

He didn’t fire in the Lockinge with the fast ground definitely a factor but is expected to have improved again since his last win in April and that would make him very hard to beat.

Roaring Lion has been fantastic this season but mostly on the quicker ground and definitely for the step up to ten furlongs, though he’s be rerouted to this from the Champion Stakes apparently because of the going.

I think we all know the real reason is the presence of Gosden’s other star Cracksman in that race and I can’t help thinking this race won’t suit him.  French star Recoletos is a genuine Group 1 type for my money and may be the other to perhaps fill a place.

3.50 Ascot (Champion Stakes – Group 1) – CRACKSMAN

I really don’t want this to read like a rant, but this chap always has doubters and I simply don’t know why.  This week I’ve heard professionals talking about the level he has run to this season in terms of ratings, then tip Capri to win this who on ratings is way, way behind.

This horse, not that he should have to, will prove his value to the sport in a few years’ time when his progeny are racing but he has one last shot to show how good he is on the track, especially in these conditions.

The level of his form when bumping his head at Epsom and when tackling ground he didn’t like and pulling away from a top quality field with Poet’s Word at Ascot was higher than anything else in this field and with the ground now to his liking we may see another 130+ run here, truly outstanding stuff.

Crystal Ocean is in the next bracket and should give him most to do while the aforementioned Capri can run on for a place.

4.30 Ascot (Balmoral Handicap) – ARGENTELLO

It really could be a memorable day for John Gosden who saddles this Argentello, a recent winner at Kempton where he completed his fourth victory in 5 runs.

The 6lb penalty he received for that win essentially got him a run in this race, but his usually careful trainer suggested he may not run again so quickly unless he was absolutely right within himself – something the horse must be telling the trainer now having been declared.

This son of Intello is a rapid improver and will love underfoot conditions on the straight mile here and so can score at reasonable odds ahead of the likes of Kynren - for which William Buick has been booked - Sharja Bridge and Mitchum Swagger.

Friday 12 October 2018

Friday 12th & Saturday 13th October: Sangarius To Prove Too Hot In The Dewhurst

We’ve got another great weekend of Group action at Newmarket and in France starting on Friday but with the action reaching fever pitch at 3PM on Saturday when this year’s champion two-year-old is crowned.

Our six selections are all well known to us and all look to have been trained to their peak for this weekend so confidence is high with some going off at very juicy odds.

We start at HQ on Friday with a couple of excellent fillies taking their chance in Group races with a view to the Guineas and the Oaks next season:

Friday 12th October 2018

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2.25 Newmarket (Oh So Sharp Stakes – Group 3) – HIDDEN MESSAGE

This Hidden Message of William Haggas’ yard looks a proper filly and she can take both the step up in trip and the climb in grade well in her stride.

Aidan O’Brien’s Frosty won well on debut at Dundalk and will undoubtedly improve, however strictly speaking her early form doesn’t match up to our girl or John Gosden’s penalised Angel’s Hideaway who remains capable of more despite a busy season.

2.40 Chantilly (Prix le Fabuleux – Listed Race) – RED MIST

As always with these French races we have no idea of what price to expect until much nearer race time, however it’s hoped that given Charlie Appleby’s well deserved reputation over there that Symbolization will go off favourite leaving our horse at much more appealing odds in this one.

Simon Crisford’s runner has had a couple of Gallic near-misses this season already and didn’t quite run to his best on home soil last time out, though he remains probably the best of these on a look at his profile overall and he is taken to score under Pierre-Charles Boudot.

3.35 Newmarket (Fillies’ Mile – Group 1) – BEYOND REASON (each-way)

We put up this filly for Arc weekend last time and she ended up not running however she has seemingly been underestimated all over again in the Fillies’ Mile and could go off at a very attractive price in what is a very early Oaks trial.

I get her top of my ratings but that is with the expectation over further improvement, something that isn’t 100% guaranteed, so given that we can expect 10/1+ she is backable each-way ahead of Hermosa and Pretty Pollyanna who is going up markedly in trip.

Saturday 13th October 2018

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2.50 Maisons-Laffitte (Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte – Group 2) – QUEEN OF BERMUDA

She’s been highly tried this season and had a longish campaign, but William Haggas’ filly who scored for us at Ayr now has softer ground once again and at the weights looks to have a few pounds in hand on the likes of Legends Of War and Sporting Chance.

Stephane Pasquier is just the right man to have on board the daughter of Exceed And Excel who won at Deauville in similar conditions earlier in the year and who can add one more Group win to her CV before perhaps being put away for the season.

3.00 Newmarket (Dewhurst Stakes – Group 1) – SANGARIUS

The idea each year is that the Dewhurst should be seen as the ultimate Group 1 race for juveniles, ideally crowning this season’s champion two-year-old.  Despite the injury to Calyx and Quorto having been put away for the season, this year’s renewal is red hot and may indeed show us where these colts rank going into the winter.

As for the four main contenders left in this rank, Advertise is stepping up in trip from his impressive Phoenix Stakes win in Ireland but it’s not certain to suit him, while Aidan O’Brien’s Anthony Van Dyck has already tackled this distance but was put in his place by Charlie Appleby’s Quorto.

Too Darn Hot is the one for money and has been carefully handled by John Gosden, winning nicely at Group 3 and Group 2 level already, remaining unbeaten and at the head of the market for next year’s 2000 Guineas back over this course in May.

The one who could improve most however is Sir Michael Stoute’s impressive Doncaster winner Sangarius who is likely to appreciate the fact that he is getting to race on quicker ground.  Kingman is already making a name for himself as a sire and it’s easy to see why, this horse and Calyx looking mightily impressive this term.

He was a couple of seconds slower at Doncaster than Too Darn Hot, but that was his second ever start, on slightly slower ground, in an easier grade and in an easier fashion and he is value to beat the favourite when it truly counts.

5.25 Newmarket (Darley Stakes – Group 3) – GABR

Although one of our old favourite’s Beshaayir runs here and definitely has a chance stepping up in trip to 1m1f at a course we know she likes, I can’t get away from the improving Sir Michael Stoute three-year-old at these weights.

The son of Intello went up against Without Parole at the start of the season and was still entrusted by his top yard to represent them at Group 1 level at Royal Ascot where he ran admirably in sixth behind the same horse.  He’s been dropped to Listed level since then and got back to winning ways last time out at Goodwood and could take another step forward here.

I’d say he’s just about the best horse in this race and may go off at a reasonable price, Hathal perhaps being a danger for the places.

Friday 5 October 2018

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th October: Ready, Willing And Enable For Arc Glory

Other than at Royal Ascot in June, it’s rare we have a couple of days of racing quite this high in quality with Group 1 races all over the show.

Ascot, Redcar and Newmarket all have great pattern action over Friday and Saturday but the main focus this weekend is on ParisLongchamp where the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the highlight of a brilliant championship meeting.

Top filly Enable will look to perform the rare feat of winning the race twice and will go off favourite, however we start with domestic action and a young colt definitely going places.

Saturday 6th October 2018

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2.40 Newmarket (Class 4 Novice Stakes) – TURGENEV

What sort of price we can expect for John Gosden’s horse is in the lap of the gods until Saturday rolls around, but in giving 6lbs away to a very well bred and exciting field means perhaps the layers will look to take our horse on.

This race is chock full of sons of Dubawi, some with Derby entries, and whatever happens this will be a race to watch for the future.  There will be money on Saturday morning for several of them but they will need to run to Listed or Group 3 level on debut which hardly ever happens and it should pave the way clear for our boy to follow up his Newcastle win and set up a Group 1 date at Doncaster in the Futurity at the end of the month.

3.15 Newmarket (Sun Chariot Stakes – Group 1) – VERACIOUS

This is a good fillies’ Group 1 and we can’t really argue with the form in the book posted by French raider Wind Chimes, Irish trained I Can Fly and Clemmie as well as the more than admirable Laurens of Karl Burke’s yard, however none of them have a whole lot of improvement left to come unlike Sir Michael Stoute’s Veracious.

The Frankel filly has been brought along slowly in typical Stoute fashion and, having already run third to bona fide top level stars Alpha Centauri and Wild Illusion as an inexperienced horse, she was given a lovely prep when taking a one mile Group 3 contest last time and will come on a ton for all that.

Frankie Dettori’s mount has plenty in her favour and can topple the big guns in the market to land a first Group 1 victory and a very valuable one for Cheveley Park Stud in terms of her broodmare value later down the line.

Sunday 7th October 2018

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1.10 Longchamp (Prix Marcel Boussac – Group 1) – BEYOND REASON (each-way)

A top quality juvenile fillies’ event and one in which we may see a true improver stay on for a huge victory.  Charlie Appleby is a tip-top trainer, albeit with some of the best bred horses in the world at his disposal, and his Beyond Reason has got better with each run this season reaching a peak with a fine Group 2 win at Deauville in August.

Being by Australia out of an Azamour mare she surely wants this step up in trip now from 7f to a mile and at the projected odds at the time of writing (8/1+) she is worth an each-way bet.  Aiden O’Brien may field Zagitova but it’s another one of his who rates the bigger danger in the shape of Hermosa.

3.05 Longchamp (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – Group 1) – ENABLE

Europe’s premier race bar none and with £2.5 million to the winner you’d expect all the main challengers to be prepared superbly.  That being said we have no English or Irish Derby winner in the line-up, no King George winner and no Eclipse winner so it has to be said that it has opened up somewhat.

With that in mind, last year’s heroine Enable could probably just run to what for her is an ordinary level and still win this.  Some are concerned about the injury that forced her off the track this year until last month, however regardless of the grade and the opposition her own performance was as good as ever at Kempton and she should have too much once more.

St Leger winner Kew Gardens may well be best of the opposition if as effective over this shorter trip while the well-touted Sea Of Class is a terrific three-year-old filly but not one as good as Enable was last year and who may just come up short.  Watch out for Defoe putting in a big performance at a massive price for each-way backers.

3.50 Longchamp (Prix de l’Opera – Group 1) – WILD ILLUSION

Having won on this card last year as a juvenile in the Prix Marcel Boussac Charlie Appleby’s lovely filly could repeat the trick in taking this prestigious race.

Having been outstayed in both the Oaks and the Ribblesdale Stakes in the summer, the latter time by Wagic Wand who rates the biggest danger here, she was dropped to this 1m2f trip for the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood where she put in a top class performance to beat a quality field in great style.

There is more to come from the daughter of Dubawi and so she can take this ahead of the O’Brien horse and local challenger With You.

4.35 Longchamp (Prix de l’Abbaye – Group 1) – BATTAASH

Much like with Enable we have to play at shorter odds here, but also like her if Battaash shows up in the same form as when winning either the King George Stakes this year or even this very race twelve months ago then this lot cannot hold a candle to him.

He is the speediest horse on the planet and can do it on any surface, something which from a risk point of view negates the fact that he can be a monkey sometimes.  As he gets older, he’ll get more consistent and can take care of City Of Light who has progressed into a fine sprinter along with Mab’s Cross who did so well at York.