Thursday 25 April 2019

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th April 2019: Alfaatik to Enter Derby Calculations with Sandown Win

Given that Saturday is Sandown Park’s jumps finale, the flat boys take centre stage on Friday and there are some right types coming out too.  The Esher Cup, Gordon Richards Stakes, Classic Trial and bet365 Mile are all run during the afternoon with plenty of clues on offer for later in the season.

A Group 1 winner makes his return in Listed company at Leicester on Saturday too and we fancy him to score, but we begin this week with the colts attempting to put themselves in the Derby picture by taking Sandown’s Group 3 trial over a mile-and-a-quarter.

Friday 26th April

3.00 Sandown (Classic Trial – Group 3) – ALFAATIK

John Gosden isn’t afraid to run his decent three-year-olds in trials to get a proper idea of just how good they are, so Alfaatik being in this race isn’t in itself a sign that he is a potential top-notcher.

However, in winning on debut in December he did incredibly well.  Very slow out of the stalls, Alfaatik ran green the whole way round at Chelmsford looking a million miles from the finished article but got up to lead a furlong out and held on well for the win.

He is by Sea The Stars whose progeny reach such a consistent level from their debut runs at 2 to this time of year, giving us a fair idea of where this Derby entrant ranks and so we can deduce he is a few pounds better than Bangkok and Persian Moon at this stage, all things being well.

3.35 Sandown (bet365 Mile) – ADDEYBB

The main concern here for most people is bound to be the fact that Addeybb is a confirmed lover of soft ground, his trainer has said as much in fact.

But, while he is bound to be even better when the rain comes, perhaps even a Group 1 winner, Addeybb is no slouch on faster going as a look at his profile suggests.  Progressing to be a level above today’s opposition for sure when winning the Lincoln and indeed this race early last season, he was given time off and after a bad run at Ascot was tasked with taking on the all-weather for the first time at Lingfield last backend.

Lingfield is a quick enough track, faster than his apparent ideal conditions, yet he ran a cracker in a Listed race there when not getting much racing room and giving 7lbs to 106-rated Master The World, being beaten in the end by just a length.

He can go well in this and may win it at the expense of the improving Sharja Bridge and crack Group 2 performer Beat The Bank, as long as the latter can prove he goes well fresh of course which he didn’t do last season.

4.35 Sandown (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – SPARKLE ROLL

King Power could yet be decent and there are a couple of noteworthy debutants in the field, however John Gosden knows his stuff with these fillies and given her progress to date it’s easy to see that there is plenty of improvement t come from Sparkle Roll and she is taken to carry this penalty to victory before moving up in grade.

She was a very comfortable winner of her novice race at Haydock in September and was then put away for the year, while it is also worth noting that as a Kingman she probably wasn’t in love with the softer going she encountered that and will appreciate conditions here much more.  She is a half-sister to a Derby winner and may yet enter Oaks calculations if taking this.

The aforementioned King Power finished fifth on debut for Andrew Balding last year and is bred to be decent over middle-distances, while any money for Sea Of Faith should be noted in the run-up to the race with the William Haggas yard a real force to be reckoned with.

Saturday 27th April

2.45 Leicester (King Richard III Stakes – Listed Race) – EQTIDAAR

Having won the Group 1 Commenwealth Cup last year at Royal Ascot, we could have seen Eqtidaar come out in a Listed race and be an odds-on favourite but that is not proving to be the case at the time of writing with 2/1 available about Sir Michael Stoute’s colt.

The reason for this may be that at a glance, it seems he never puts in two good runs in a row but save for his fourth at Newbury last May when he was slowly away, it seems he has always given his all unless there have been genuine excuses which there were in the July Cup and on heavy ground in the Haydock Sprint Cup.

Having won the Commonwealth, he is a Group 1 winner who was even thought of as a type to challenge the likes of Blue Point last year but he can handle this extra furlong and so this opposition should simply not be in his class.  Laugh A Minute and Hey Gaman are feared most with the ground seemingly too quick for Donjuan Triumphant.

3.15 Haydock (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – FABULIST

Another fillies’ novice event, another John Gosden runner to note in the shape of Dubawi daughter Fabulist.  She was slower than expected when making her debut at Newcastle in December, the same route Enable took of course, but nothing much was lost as she ran on for fifth and did not look fully furnished at the time.

She was then beaten at odds-on at Newbury earlier this month when the ground went completely against her, although she still managed to improve upon what she had done before and that’s to her credit.

With better ground here the Oaks entry can truly show where she is at right now and, although more is expected from them, the 7lb pull she gets from the likes of Dashed and Robotique Danseur means she should be able to take this before perhaps stepping back up in trip next time and taking on better opposition which I’m sure is the plan.

Thursday 18 April 2019

Easter Weekend: Daarik to Take All the Beating at Gosforth Park

With Newmarket now out of the way until the Guineas meeting we have seen things change in the big race markets over the past week and simply await in anticipation the first classics of the season.

Before all that though we have a valuable Good Friday card with both Newcastle and Lingfield putting up huge prize money, the latter of course hosting its All-Weather Championships Finals Day with £1million up for grabs but there are precious few betting opportunities at the Surrey track as short-priced favourites appear to dominate some races.

We have two Saturday bets too as Kempton Park attracts some decent three-year-olds for its conditions races, but we begin with Friday’s meeting at Newcastle and another potential improver for master trainer John Gosden:

Friday 19th April 2019

3.20 Newcastle (Burradon Stakes – Listed Race) – DAARIK

This £100,000 event is growing in popularity already and if it weren’t for Easter being so late this year, we may well have been witnessing a 2000 Guineas and/or a Kentucky Derby candidate in the field.

It seems there’s nothing quite up to that standard in this year’s event, but there is a lot to like about John Gosden’s course winner Daarik who in time could prove to be a Group horse and should be able to take this Listed event en route to better things.

Having come back lame from his racecourse debut run at Nottingham last year, his Newmarket handler was patient with him and is seeing the benefit of that now as his son of Tamayuz has gone on to win at this track over 6f as well as at Kempton over seven and this one mile test will suit him even more.

While the likes of Marie’s Diamond and Magic J are strong and there could be much more to come from Bayroot, not many in this line-up would appear to want a very stiff mile at this stage of their careers and that’s not an area Daarik should struggle with and so these conditions look ideal for Jim Crowley’s mount.

3.55 Newcastle (Class 2 Handicap) – BIG KITTEN

This is a strong handicap and with £54,000 to the winner you can bet that these horses have been prepared with today in mind and not simply the future, so we should see a very fair race and a quick enough gallop.

Money will be around in the ring in abundance for Roger Charlton’s Forbidden Planet and he certainly makes the shortlist alongside Bartholomeu Dias, but all things considered they may be vulnerable to one improving quickly and that brings in course winner Big Kitten.

William Haggas sent the son of Kitten’s Joy to Newcastle to win a mile-and-a-quarter handicap very easily back in November and he has been gelded since then which could bring about more improvement.  He could be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper right now and will appreciate this extra distance so rates a fair bet under Daarik’s jock Jim Crowley who could have a very good half an hour.

4.05 Bath (Lansdown Stakes – Listed Race) – HEARTWARMING

After beginning her career in flying fashion as a juvenile, just as Heartache did the year before for the same connections, Heartwarming’s form appeared to tail off last season but a closer look at things reveals something a little different and more encouraging.

Having won at the second attempt before running a very good second in a Listed race at Newbury, Clive Cox’s three-year-old filly looked at first glance to be out of her depth when finishing 11th of 14 in the Cornwallis Stakes in October but that run was far from smooth for her.

Having been consistently denied a clear run, Frankie Dettori simply let her idle home but it’s worth noting that she was deservedly the 13/2 fourth choice in the market for that race behind among others Sergei Prokofiev, a leading sprinting light for Aidan O’Brien this year, and she is certainly capable of taking a race like this.  Queen Of Desire and One Last Night are next on the list.

Saturday 20th April 2019

2.35 Kempton (3yo Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – RAINBOW HEART

Oisin Murphy and William Haggas could be on for a very productive day at Kempton Park on Saturday with their three-year-olds, beginning with this daughter of Born To Sea who should really appreciate this step up from the seven furlong trip she encountered when scoring easily at Newmarket in October.

Form-wise, she not only has that run in the bag but it’s also worth mentioning she was a good third behind Qabala on debut and that filly is now clear favourite for the 1000 Guineas having run a stormer in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at the Craven meeting earlier this week.

Rainbow Heart doesn’t have any fancy entries at this stage but she could prove herself to be a very decent filly in this, perhaps at the expense of Canton Queen and Gospel who head a number of those in opposition with very similar ability and potential.

3.10 Kempton (3yo Conditions Stakes) – SENZA LIMITI

The same trainer/jockey combination, albeit for a different owner, can be successful in the colts and geldings version of this race with Senza Limiti, a son of tremendous up-and-coming sire Lope De Vega.

Making his racecourse debut at Salisbury in October, this colt travelled well before grabbing the lead and kicking clear of some decent rivals including one who was subsequently second to Azano and is now rated 88.  That win was visually impressive but also showed him to be a horse with bags of improvement to come and we expect him to show that today.

Not too many others, on what information we have regarding these inexperienced types, really looks capable of landing a major blow against him other than Chairmanoftheboard for Mick Channon although even that horse will need to recover from a poor run on the soft at Newbury if he is to figure.

Friday 12 April 2019

Saturday 13th April 2019: Vega to Dance into Guineas Contention

While the jumps season is still going strong with superb action up at Ayr featuring among other things the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Scottish Grand National, we turn our attentions squarely to the flat now as classic hopefuls make their return at Newbury.

Some top betting propositions are on offer at the Berkshire track, beginning with the opening John Porter Stakes at 1.40 where some notable types making their seasonal reappearances:

1.40 Newbury (John Porter Stakes – Group 3) – DEFOE

We should be on the lookout for any significant money coming for likely second favourite Young Rascal, William Haggas’ charge being thought of as a Derby type last year having won at Chester’s May meeting and then going on to progress well and he’s won here of course on soft ground too.

The selection though, Defoe, was also thought of as a Group 1 type in the past and although he’s just missed out on top level success thus far, Roger Varian’s horse does want this ground and the 3lb pull he gets with his main rival could be crucial.

This race could be quite a test first time up over the mile-and-a-half on this going and that is something that may suit Laraaib, a progressive 5yo but one at these weights who has it to do for win purposes.

2.10 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes – Group 3) – DANCING VEGA

Ralph Beckett’s daughter of Lope De Vega puts her 1000 Guineas and Oaks credentials on the line today having made a stunning debut at Doncaster last backend as a juvenile, and while the seven furlong trip may look a little sharp, the softish ground may help to counter that giving her a great opportunity to register a first group success.

She won her debut race ever so impressively, taking the lead on the bit before putting daylight between herself and the rest with the runner-up coming out next time and taking a Listed contest giving the form a rock solid look.

It seems then that we have a bona-fide Group 1 candidate here with Harry Bentley’s mount most likely having Star Terms and So Perfect to beat, though we never rule out significant improvement from a John Gosden trained filly which may bring Muchly into the equation as well.

2.40 Newbury (Greenham Stakes – Group 3) – MOHAATHER

Too Darn Hot’s defection due to an injury setback has opened up not just the 2000 Guineas in May, but more immediately this race and as such it is now a betting proposition where before it was simply a watching brief.

It remains competitive with several having chances on the book; Tom Dascombe’s Great Scot having top form last season with Line Of Duty and Al Hilalee as well as finishing fifth in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity but it seems he needs more of a test than this and so is passed over this time.

Hello Youmzain is another with great form but he may prove to be more of a sprinting prospect as the season goes on with the Commonwealth Cup a potential target at Royal Ascot, while Boitron has done little wrong up to this point and may go off favourite.

The one with clear improvement to come though is live 2000 Guineas outsider Moohather, a surprise 33/1 Group 3 winner last season over this course and distance when being hampered more than once.  He will stay well enough but clearly has a turn of foot, a combination not every horse in this race can boast.

3.15 Newbury (Spring Cup Handicap) – IBRAZ

This is a frightfully competitive race and one in which we have to deal with the spectres of a large field, the draw and soft ground as well as the typical bunch of improving handicappers beginning their year.

The fit and ready Ripp Orf should go well after his fifth in the Lincoln, though his best form is arguably over seven furlongs, while Exec Chief is a lively contender having finished second in the Spring Mile at Doncaster and has shown he can handle softer ground.

They may both have to go some however to catch former Derby hopeful Ibraz, running first time out this season for Roger Varian.  He progressed well last term on fast ground but there is enough in his breeding to suggest he’ll be fine on this surface and he has a ton of improvement to come.

Ibraz was a lively contender for the Lincoln two weeks ago before defecting, possibly because of the presence of Auxerre, but today could be the day for Roger Varian’s son of Farhh.

4.00 Naas (Gladness Stakes – Group 3) – LE BRIVIDO

There’s lots of close form around this Group 3 and Listed level featured here in the likes of Romanised and Imaging, but it’s incredibly interesting to see the 2017 French 2000 Guineas runner-up and Jersey Stakes winner Le Brivido transferred from Andre Fabre’s yard to Aidan O’Brien’s and he can get him back to his best this term.

Conditions are ideal in this contest and it’s easy to envisage him getting a nice toe into the race before using his turn of foot to see them off.  At the time of writing no odds are published and it’s hoped he’s not too short a price, but a betting forecast of 9/4 looks very tempting.

Although his future stud value will of course be at the forefront of the Coolmore team’s collective mind and the five-year-old is coming back from a year off, he has the ability to make this a procession and he will surely have Group 1 targets later in the campaign.

Friday 5 April 2019

Saturday 6th April 2019: Apple’s To Bear Fruit on National Day

It’s Grand National day this Saturday and with all eyes on Aintree we have come up with four belting value bets from Liverpool to get stuck into.

We should be mindful also that a whole bunch of Irish classic contenders make their seasonal reappearances over at Leopardstown too in their trials, one of which looks value against the likely favourite, while the Kentucky Derby prep races over in the States continue and we could just see a real contender for the big one in Louisville take his prep at great value odds.

We begin at Aintree though with a solid bet in the first of three Grade 1 races on the card:

2.25 Aintree (Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ANGELS BREATH

The selection and main rival Brewin’upastorm are each rated the same at 148 in the handicap but in truth, there is more to come from Angels Breath in the near future so given that the soft ground is fine and he’s crying out for this 2m4f trip there is plenty of value in backing Nicky Henderson’s gelding today.

Although second in a Grade 2 in February, his key piece of form is his Ascot win back in December when he stayed on up the hill really well and has found things a little dry and a little sharp since then. Nico de Boinville should be able to sit pretty this time before kicking away from the field when it counts.

3.00 Aintree (Maghull Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – US AND THEM

Despite how popular Lalor was in the ante-post market for the Arkle and how good he looked early doors this season, he may just not be of the very highest order on this sort of ground while other major challenger Clondaw Castle really has to improve again having been well beaten fair and square at Cheltenham, albeit this track should suit him better.

Ahead of them both in the Arkle at the Festival was Joseph O’Brien’s Us And Them and despite having been beaten four times in a row now into second place, his form has held up very well and he continues to improve a tad between runs so should have enough to finally grab that Grade 1 win with no real superstar there this time to stop him.

3.40 Aintree (Stayers’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – APPLE’S JADE

Given her clear dislike for Cheltenham, Apple’s Jade is expected to improve significantly from her disappointing run in the Champion Hurdle and having already shown a liking for this trip she looks too good given her weight concession for the likes of Sam Spinner and If The Cap Fits.

Gordon Elliott’s awesome mare had begun the season by winning four on the bounce before her Prestbury Park flop, which wasn’t unexpected in many quarters, and if anything could put up a new career best in this which would be more than good enough under Jack Kennedy.

She is bound to be extremely popular on the day so it may be worth taking an early price, especially if your bookmaker is offering best odds guaranteed.

3.50 Leopardstown (Ballysax Stakes – Group 3) – SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Ryan Moore has chosen one of the other Coolmore horses in the shape of Broome for this race, the obvious danger to the selection, but it must have been a hard decision what with the two colts having such similar form as juveniles.

Moore’s mount was second not only to the impressive Madhmoon, a strong favourite earlier on this card, but also to Royal Marine in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc last backend but one could argue that Donnacha O’Brien got a slightly better tune out of the horse during last term.

He rides Sydney Opera House in this who was himself second in a French Group 1 at the end of a busy season and could be much better now rested properly. Both colts are sons of Australia but with that Galileo line they should handle the soft ground well and stay on right to the line over this mile-and-a-quarter trip.

5.15 Aintree (Grand National – Grade 3) – WALK IN THE MILL (each-way)

An impressive winner of the Becher Chase around here over the winter, for which he was very well backed down from big prices, Walk In The Mill has always been targeted at this race and it may pay dividends in the £1million showpiece.

Robert Walford’s horse has had a couple of runs over hurdles to keep him straight in the lead-up to this race, a very wise move one feels, so he won’t be too fresh and is not badly treated at all by the handicapper.

He jumps, he stays, he won’t mind the softer ground and has the bare form to take a major role in the biggest betting race anywhere in the world so at prices like 25/1 on the eve of the race he can be taken each-way with many bookies offering five or even 6 places.

11.00 Aqueduct (Wood Memorial Stakes – Grade 2) – HAIKAL

The Road to the Kentucky Derby continues apace with three major preps taking place on Saturday night including this valuable Grade 2 contest.

Given the disappointment last week of Hidden Scroll in the Florida Derby, Bill Mott and Juddmonte will be pleased they still have Tacitus to call on but he may be vulnerable here even after his Tampa Bay Derby win and this trip to New York may prove to be relatively fruitless in the end.

Step forward Gotham Stakes winner Haikal, a colt who knows this track inside and out and who hasn’t been totally extended yet. Despite winning his Grade 3 last time when in receipt of weight, he looks the one with most progress to offer in this line-up and it has to be said he won with a bit in hand last time out so must be upgraded ratings-wise.