Thursday 30 May 2019

Friday 31st May & Saturday 1st June: Mad Not To Go For Moon in Epsom Derby

What a fantastic weekend we have in store at Epsom and all of our selections come across the Surrey track’s two brilliant days of action.  We have solid, value selections in both the Oaks and the Derby on Friday and Saturday with top owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum potentially in line for a classic clean sweep.

Friday 31st May 2019

2.00 Epsom (Woodcote Stakes – Conditions Race) – PINATUBO

There is no shortage of competition for the selection here; Rayong could yet improve for the step up in trip, Oh Purple Reign represents good connections and Misty Grey ran a corker on debut at Ripon but the latter two are less likely to improve than the Godolphin colt and that makes him the standout.

Charlie Appleby’s son of Shamardal ran in snatches on debut at Wolverhampton but got the hang of things from a wide draw to score decisively from two subsequent winners, will improve a fair bit and the run may have been underestimated on the figures.

3.10 Epsom (Coronation Cup – Group 1) – DEFOE (each-way)

Although he hasn’t quite managed to reach the top level yet, it is still very much hoped that Defoe can claim a Group 1 win at some point but at these prices we don’t have to back him on the nose.

Roger Varian’s admirable five-year-old gelding is actually still getting better which is something we need to take into careful consideration, this season in fact he has improved markedly from race one to race two and it’s expected he’ll do so again.

At around the 16/1 mark he’s a great each-way bet, given that despite their obvious quality there are holes to pick in the profiles of Kew Gardens, Old Persian and Lah Ti Dar.

4.30 Epsom (The Oaks – Group 1) – MAQSAD

It’s the second fillies’ classic of the season and it looks a belter.  The Oaks is competitive, not short of quality and provides very good betting value this year with all the usual suspects represented.

Despite prices at the time of writing ranging from 9/4 to 16/1, the realistic best performances expected from Pink Dogwood, Mehdaayih, Anapurna, Manuela De Vega and Frankellina are all within a pound or two of each other for me with the only one looking potentially a step above being William Haggas’ Maqsad.

Having started the season with a hard fought win at Newmarket’s Craven meeting over a mile, she really stepped up her form with a commanding five-length win over 1m2f in the Pretty Polly Stakes and shapes as though she’ll appreciate this mile-and-a-half trip even more.

Having checked out daughters of Siyouni as well as granddaughters of Galileo, it seems that we should expect 7-8lbs of improvement from her at this stage of her career and that’s something that would make her competitive in any Oaks, though she may prove even better than that.

5.15 Epsom (Surrey Stakes – Listed Race) – ANGELS HIDEAWAY

Given the fillies’ allowance, John Gosden’s Angels Hideaway has an outstanding chance of landing a well deserved win here albeit at more prohibitive odds than I’d hoped for.

Having run so well in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, it is possibly still hoped that she will one day get her Group 1 making this Listed event appear well within her compass and she has the speed to go down to seven furlongs for sure, though she’s not without solid rivals in the shape of Urban Icon and the improving Space Blues.

Saturday 1st June 2019

2.35 Epsom (Princess Elizabeth Stakes – Group 3) – VERACIOUS

Although possibly favourite for this which is never ideal, there’s a strong feeling that we should strike while the iron is hot where Sir Michael Stoute’s horses are concerned, his better runners in the last fortnight running to marks of around 5lbs better than their previous highs.

Veracious and Ryan Moore more or less gave up when her chance had gone at Newmarket but she’ll be 100% ready for this race and can score at the expense of Nyaleti.

4.30 Epsom (The Derby – Group 1) – MADHMOON

On paper this isn’t hottest Derby seen in recent years, but then again the point of this race is that we don’t know truly what sort of quality it will throw out until the race is over with the likes of Sir Dragonet, Broome and Bangkok capable of much improvement having won trials.

Aidan O’Brien has an apparent stranglehold on the race with the top two in the market in the shape of Sir Dragonet and Broome complemented by no fewer than five others but his team this time probably smacks of slightly more quantity than quality and therefore his top two don’t look terrific value.

Dante winner Telecaster has been supplemented into the race and as such an inexperienced horse he is entitled to improve, but that York race usually takes some winning and never more so than this year so scorers in that tend not to improve as much as other trial winners and his gruelling task was undertaken only 16 days ago.

There are a couple of real value shouts in the race though, firstly a massive potential each-way opportunity with Godolphin’s Line Of Duty.  Having won at Grade 1 level in America last year, beating the likes of Anthony Van Dyck and Preakness Stakes winner War Of Will easily, he is one of precious few in this line-up that has conclusively proven he can handle the top level so assuming we can put a line through his Dante run then 50/1 looks a complete steal.

The other with proven quality and crucially much better recent form is Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon and he gets the nod at a nice 10/1 at the time of writing.

He’s only had four runs in his life and a close look at them reveals he’s done virtually nothing wrong so far.  He beat Sydney Opera House (rated 109) very easily on debut before serving up a similar beating to Broome, now second favourite for this race.

The seven furlong trip and very soft ground were obviously not to his liking when he ran second on his seasonal reappearance before he ran fourth in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket from stall 1, quite literally the worst draw by some way.  He was only beaten by 4 lengths at HQ, a gap potentially explained in its totality by the fact he was situated a full 16 stalls away from the winner so the fact that he wants this mile-and-a-half trip means we can expect another proper Group 1 performance from him.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Spring Bank Holiday Weekend: Newmarket Trainers to Be Too Darn Good In Ireland

We have a wonderful weekend in store on the flat with Calyx running again in the Sandy Lane at Haydock and possible participation from the likes of Wild Illusion in the Prix d’Ispahan over at ParisLongchamp.

Our bets are spread across three days and four tracks, starting with a horse really going places this summer running in Listed company at Goodwood.

Friday 24th May 2019

3.30 Goodwood (Cocked Hat Stakes – Listed Race) – PRIVATE SECRETARY

John Gosden has taken two surprising decisions regarding this horse this week; to call him a Derby candidate but then to leave him in this race with just 8 days to spare before Epsom.

As it turns out the horse will now skip Epsom and wait for the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot instead but even so to take a hand there he simply has to win this.  What he showed in winning his handicap at Sandown is that he’s well above average and this should be within his wheelhouse.

Stablemate Alfaatik ran better than the bare form would suggest behind Derby hopeful Bangkok at Sandown and can come on again, making him a definite second choice.

Saturday 25th May 2019

1.55 Goodwood (Festival Stakes – Listed Race) – VINTAGER

Nothing much would give me more pleasure than seeing Elarqam get back to his best and become the Group 1 horse we all thought he was a year ago, but even after his wind op he still has plenty to prove and while a Listed race is well within his grasp, he may just be bumping into a live one here.

Vintager was a winter purchase for Godolphin out of David Menuisier’s yard and, given that the four-year-old is a gelding, they haven’t done that for breeding purposes.

The Boys in Blue clearly think Vintager is a group performer and so do I, so considering he is just reaching a peak about now he should have too much quality here following on from his encouraging UK comeback third in the Spring Lodge Handicap at Newmarket.  Extra Elusive is considered best of the rest.

3.05 York (Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stakes) – ENBIHAAR

As always there are a whole bunch of fillies here who could show extreme improvement, but on all known evidence this Enbihaar looks to be the one with most to offer.

She beat a really solid filly in the shape of Klassique last time out in a Listed race at Goodwood without really looking the finished article and so with natural improvement expected from that race to this, she should have too much for her opposition.

Pilaster is a very good yardstick in this division, though her best form would only put her on a par with what is expected of Enbihaar and she didn’t run well on her seasonal debut, while Maid Up has a few more pounds to make up on the pair but looks a solid selection for place money.

3.35 Curragh (Irish 2000 Guineas – Group 1) – TOO DARN HOT

Last year’s brilliant champion two-year-old makes a quick reappearance having shown himself not to stay in the Dante Stakes at York when on trial for the Derby.

His freshness after a layoff, the quick early pace, his failure to get 1m2½f and then his being eased slightly at the end mean the performance can be upgraded significantly and even a repeat of his Dewhurst run, let alone showing any improvement, would mean he can take this.

Magna Grecia did absolutely nothing wrong in winning the Guineas at Newmarket but he was on the best strip of ground for sure and may well just be up against a superior colt.  Skardu is decent but is clearly looking to simply be best of the rest in this line-up.

3.40 Goodwood (Tapster Stakes – Listed Race) – MIRAGE DANCER

Sir Michael Stoute’s Mirage Dancer won this race last year, albeit having had the benefit of a run, and a repeat of that performance would be good enough to score once again here.

While this is the five-year-old’s seasonal debut, his trainer has a great habit of improving these types and is in terrific form of late, so despite the obvious qualities of Barsanti and Danehill Kodiac he really doesn’t have an awful lot in the way of excuses and should land the race comfortably before perhaps going up in grade.

4.00 Haydock (Temple Stakes – Group 2) – BATTAASH

The brilliantly speedy Battaash used this race to kick-start his season a year ago and he can do so again.  He was slowly away twelve months ago and had plenty to do going into the final furlong but still got there, and frankly it’s amazing how he only managed one more win.

He’s had another wind op now and is reported in good form making him a simple selection as long as he stays at odds-against.  Despite some support for Michael Dods’ Abbaye and Palace House winner Mabs Cross it seems that, given her penalty, all-weather star Kachy may be the main danger to the selection.

Even if Kachy can run up to his best back on turf he looks at least 7lbs behind what we expect to see from Battaash though while Alpha Delphini can challenge for place money too.

Sunday 26th May 2019

4.25 Curragh (Irish 1000 Guineas – Group 1) – QABALA

It’s really encouraging to see the ambitious Roger Varian yard supplement this lovely filly into this race to have another crack at her Newmarket 1000 Guineas conqueror Hermosa and she may just come out on top this time around.

There were around 3lbs separating them at HQ so, given that this is only Qabala’s fourth career run and she is entitled to improve most, she was checked in her action just as the race was picking up going into the dip and she had to come widest of all to challenge, it’s far from a stretch to envisage her turning the tables at the Curragh.

Hermosa still ranks as the main danger, while Iridessa has some top class form as does East with both of those fillies looking dangerous at nice prices.

Saturday 18 May 2019

Saturday 18th May 2019: Time to Beat the Bank at Newbury in Lockinge

Flat racing fans are in for a major treat on Saturday with some top class types out across several meetings.

The Group 1 Lockinge Stakes is the highlight while even this late in the day we may get more Derby and Oaks clues with races at Newmarket and Newbury giving the three-year-olds one last chance to impress before Epsom.

We begin in Berkshire with a nice Listed race, one in which we have a potential value bet to kick our Saturday off.

1.50 Newbury (Carnarvon Stakes – Listed Race) – MOYASSAR

Not all of Roger Charlton’s horses improve much having made smart debut’s, so while this Red Impression remains a very big danger in the race it seems she may have been slightly overestimated by the odds-makers.

A more likely winner and potentially at a good price is Richard Hannon’s Moyassar, the choice of Jim Crowley in the race ahead of Sheikh Hamdan’s other contender Khaadem who also makes the shortlist.

Moyassar has come through the handicap route but he’s done it so convincingly, beating the decent Mawakib at Newmarket last time in good style and with plenty more improvement to come it’s easy to envisage him bursting clear at the death to take this race before going into group company later on.

2.05 Newmarket (Fairway Stakes – Listed Race) – AL HILALEE

By ten past two, prices quoted on Friday of around 3/1 might look a little silly about this Al Hilalee, a colt genuinely fancied for the 2000 Guineas and the Derby by the Godolphin team.

He did well to win at Listed level on only his second start as a juvenile in France before being put away and then his work in Dubai a few weeks ago was enough for the Boys in Blue to supplement him for the Guineas at a huge cost, though he ran badly that afternoon.

This trip is better for him, the level is fine and he really should prove too good for the improving Raise You as well as Khuzaam and Eightsome Reel who appear to be further behind.

3.40 Newbury (Lockinge Stakes – Group 1) – BEAT THE BANK

This is a competitive Group 1, mostly due to the fact that there’s no real star in this race and so many of them would be expected to run to a broadly similar level.

That said, Beat The Bank has been knocking on the door for a couple of years now and his reappearance win at Sandown in the Group 2 Bet365 Mile was a great starter for the season and he looks ready now to grab that previously elusive Group One win.

There are some unknown factors in the race, especially past Royal Ascot winners Le Brivido and Without Parole who could yet get back up to this level while the ever-popular Laurens will be there or thereabouts.

Look out for improvement to from Mythical Magic at a big price and he is the each-way play in the race, but at the quoted prices Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank looks great value for his maiden win at the top level and it would be a very popular result.

4.15 Newbury (Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes) – WELL OF WISDOM

This 6f two-year-old race is basically a pattern event in everything other than name.  Wesley Ward brings over Joker On Jack who showed the usual blistering pace we’ve come to expect of runners from this yard when taking a 4½ furlong maiden at Keeneland but this demands more and he has a 2lb penalty to carry.

Aidan O’Brien’s Fort Myers was impressive enough on debut over this trip at Dundalk and will undoubtedly improve from that, but the presence of these two horses has only served to give us a backable price about Well Of Wisdom and we have to take advantage of that.

Despite being bred for further and looking the least likely winner of Godolphin’s four runners on paper in a maiden, he was the choice of Will Buick and after getting the hang of things late on powered past the field to score impressively over Newmarket’s five furlongs.

He’s up in trip here which is perfect and he could win what might prove to be one of the best 2yo races thus far en route to a crack at the Coventry Stakes at Ascot next month.

4.50 Newbury (Fillies’ Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – STAR CATCHER

While the form shown by Queen Power is solid enough, Star Catcher remains the one in this line-up with the most potential and if anything she should be even better on this sounder surface.

On the soft ground round here 36 days ago, she won her race very well indeed and looked to be a filly heading for the Oaks which may still be the plan if she were to win this and recover quickly enough.  Wherever she goes next, John Gosden’s filly looks good value to score in this under Frankie Dettori.

11.48 Pimlico (Preakness Stakes – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE

With no Country House, Maximum Security, Code Of Honor, Tacitus or Game Winner the race has an unfortunately weak look about it this year, somewhat poignant too given that we may be witnessing the penultimate Preakness at Pimlico as the facilities are left to go to rack and ruin.

The class act in the field for me is Improbable, a colt who looked the real deal at the end of his juvenile season when scoring in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity.  He was beaten in both of his preps as well as finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, but the sloppy tracks have not been to his liking and this drop back to 1m1f+ is ideal too.

With conditions fine and his gate position a good one, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith get the nod ahead of the overpriced Bourbon War who represents this season’s strong Florida form and is a fresh horse having missed the Derby.

Friday 10 May 2019

Saturday 11th May 2019: Take a Glorious Journey to an Ascot Payout

We have a ton of action to keep us entertained this weekend on the flat and over the jumps, Haydock in fact hosting Swinton Hurdle day which is a mixed card featuring racing over both codes.

Several Oaks, Derby and Irish Guineas contenders attempt to book their places in the upcoming classics too as Lingfield and Leopardstown host yet more trials while Sunday sees the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place over at ParisLongchamp.

This week there are four bets, whittled down from many options around Britain, Ireland and France, with Lingfield definitely seeming to be the place to take advantage of some fair pricing.

1.55 Lingfield (Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ANAPURNA

There has been a lot of attention aimed at Frankellina over the winter with a view to her being a top class filly in her three-year-old season, but while I am in no way saying she won’t be (she’s certainly bred to get there) the form of her winning debut last year at Yarmouth doesn’t really blow one’s skirt up.

While it’s obviously true that she’ll improve plenty from that performance, the same can be said for John Gosden’s Anapurna and he is a master at moving these fillies forward and helping them to realise their full potential.

Frankie Dettori’s mount, another daughter of Frankel, shot clear in good style in her maiden win at Lingfield in January (standard to slow track) and that day she looked a filly of some significant promise.  She gets the nod to see these rivals off with King Power and Tauteke both in the running for place money.

2.30 Lingfield (Derby Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – ANTHONY VAN DYCK

Aidan O’Brien has already taken several Derby trials and clearly has a very strong hand going into the second colt’s classic at Epsom on June 1st.  Broome runs in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on Sunday at Leopardstown and is odds-on to add to the tally, and while I’d be worried about taking too short a price this Anthony Van Dyck can provide Ballydoyle with yet another trial winner.

There has been some talk of this horse being a far from guaranteed stayer but, while he is out of an Exceed And Excel mare, he is by Galileo which alone is encouraging and a closer look at his very strong juvenile form gives further cause for optimism on that front.

Despite all his good form being over seven furlongs as a two-year-old, he was rather taken off his feet on fast ground in the Dewhurst by Too Darn Hot and co. but he won on the yielding before that at the Curragh and his best run was a runner-up effort behind the excellent Quorto in the National Stakes.

Given that Quorto’s trainer Charlie Appleby says his colt is a middle-distance type in waiting, it’s easy to believe that stamina played a part that day and with this solid Group 1 form he should be too good here although we can expect significant improvement from Cap Francais and Eagles By Day and they look good for the places.

3.40 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – PRETTY BABY

Given that we are suddenly awash with soft ground around the country we will have to temper enthusiasm (and stakes perhaps) as not all selections are proven in the mud.  That’s certainly the case with Pretty Baby, a rather nice type who has been off the track since winning a Group 3 at Glorious Goodwood last August.

That success, along with an excellent second at York and three other wins, was achieved on fast ground but her debut second was on good-to-soft and the sire, Orpen, managed a Group 1 win in the Prix Morny on the same sort of surface.

Given that he is unafraid to pull horses out, if trainer William Haggas allows this filly to take her chance then he clearly feels the ground is not a problem and thus she can be expected to have come on over the winter, making her a solid selection.

The value in the race behind her could be Dean Ivory’s Eirene, an improving filly with some good soft ground form, while Devant and Perfection, who is now with David O’Meara, will both attract support from various corners.

4.00 Ascot (Victoria Cup Heritage Handicap) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

This is a viciously competitive seven furlong race but for once, unlike in the Grand National and certain other recent Saturday handicaps, the odds look fair and we could be going 10/1 the field by the off.

When a race like this has such a wide open look, many punters believe it’s a total lottery but that is simply not the case.  Certain horses still stand out with the likes of Cape Byron, close up in several similarly valuable and competitive races last season, and the lightly-weighted Presidential both making the shortlist and appearing certain to go well if handling the ground.

Kynren is another regular in these events, a horse who was a 2-length fifth in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day in October and who kicked off this season by finishing runner-up to Auxerre in the Lincoln.  He likes this ground but is arguably better over a mile which is the only doubt about him.

I’d like to think that on a line through Auxerre, Charlie Appleby knows where he stands with Kynren and so his putting this Glorious Journey into a tough handicap, given of course that he is a bona fide pattern performer now having finished third and first in French Group 3’s last season, speaks volumes and he will like this surface too.

He is improving all the time, will love going over seven on this ground with a fast pace guaranteed and can put up a new personal best now, something that even off 109 would be good enough to take the £65,000 first prize.  Will Buick rides.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Tippin’ Jimmy's Flat Horses to Follow 2019

With the British flat season now underway, thoughts turn to all the big summer meetings such as Ascot and Goodwood as well as the classics, so here we have listed some key horses to keep on your side as things get going in earnest on the level for 2019.

Al Hilalee (Charlie Appleby)

By Duawi out of an Authorized mare, this three-year-old Godolphin colt is a sure-fire improver over middle-distances this season and is in fact a fair fancy for the Dante and the Derby.

Having won his maiden in fine style at Newmarket back in July, Al Hilalee went on to win a Listed race at Deauville without looking remotely the finished article and plenty more is expected of him this term.

Broome (Aidan O’Brien)

Having won the Ballysax Stakes Aidan O’Brien’s decision to campaign him over middle-distances is already paying off and he could be a real Derby type.

He’s by Derby winner Australia who is going to prove to be an amazing sire and there could be plenty of fun to be had with Broome this year for the Ballydoyle team.

Calyx (John Gosden)

Having won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer from completely the wrong side of the track, it seemed this horse would be the star of the juvenile season until Too Darn Hot came along but after he suffered a setback and had the rest of the year off many had forgotten him.

A Kingman colt who shows plenty of natural speed, connections have toyed with the idea of keeping him at sprint distances this season but he could yet be on track for the Guineas and all the other top mile races over the summer and if staying that distance will take some stopping at the top level.

Chasing Dreams (Charlie Appleby)

Sent off at 4/9 for her debut at the Craven meeting, it was no surprise when this two-year-old daughter of Starspangledbanner roared home by five lengths and she seems perfect for the Queen Mary Stakes.

Dubai Warrior (John Gosden)

John Gosden is willing to give so many of his three-year-olds a crack at the trials to see whether or not they are good enough to contest classics, but in Dubai Warrior he has one sure to feature in the top rank in terms of middle-distance races this season.

He won his debut race very easily at Chelmsford back in November and has been kept off the track since.  The horses in behind have done very well since and he gave them a pounding so is expected to be right in the top rank.  His entries include the Derby.

Entitle (John Gosden)

Enable’s half-sister arrived at the track with a reputation, but so far in two runs she hasn’t set the world alight in truth.

An ordinary debut was followed-up by a win at Lingfield and one thing is for sure and that is she looks like an improver, so whatever level she achieves first time up in 2019 will be bettered time and again one would feel.

First Eleven (John Gosden)

A proper maturing four-year-old, First Eleven really took his time to get going but began to peak last summer and was a frightfully unlucky loser at Royal Ascot before going on to win back at that track in September.

Those runs were over a mile-and-a-half but it looks as though the Ebor Handicap could be the main aim this time around for the son of Frankel and as long as they don’t let his handicap mark get too big he’d stand a major chance on the Knavesmire.

Ghaiyyath (Charlie Appleby)

Once thought of as a Derby horse, injury put paid to that but even as an immature type with only three juvenile runs under his belt, after his comeback win at Longchamp in September thoughts turned to the Arc although connections eventually thought better of it.

He is four now, made a very, very good return to the track in Paris in April and can take some stopping in mile-and-a-half races as the season goes by before he reaches his main target, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe which this time he will contest.

Glorious Journey (Charlie Appleby)

This one could prove to be a typical Dubawi in that he may keep improving throughout his four-year-old career, something there was evidence for when despite taking a while to get going he won nicely at Group 3 level in France last August.

He’s been gelded over the winter and so thoughts are solely about success on the track now, something he can achieve especially if allowed to go up in trip to a mile-and-a-quarter.

Jash (Simon Crisford)

There is no doubting this colt’s level of form having finished an excellent close second to Guineas favourite Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1) last summer on only his third racecourse start, but his profile poses as many questions as answers.

Being by Kodiac, it’s possible that sprint distances could be his thing and that he may have been such a precocious two-year-old that we may not see the level of improvement from two to three as we may ordinarily expect.

However the lumps of improvement he showed between races last season would make it hard to believe that he won’t go forward again this term and if settling could be a live one for the Guineas, if not the Jersey Stakes at the very least.  He does retain the option to go sprinting however with the Commonwealth Cup a possible target.

Lah Ti Dar (John Gosden)

With Enable on course to go for an unprecedented third Arc and last year’s runner-up Sea Of Class ready to reappear, I feel many are forgetting the ability and promise shown last year by Lah Ti Dar and we would ignore her at our peril in the fillies’ mile-and-a-half division.

Winning three from three between April and August culminating in a demolition job in the Galtres Stakes at York, she looked a filly of the very highest order but did not like the 1m6f trip when finishing third in the St Leger and nor did she take to the sticky ground when third to Magical at Ascot on Champions Day.

Given a fair surface and with another winter on her back, she’ll take some pegging back this term and could herself end up in the Arc at the end of the year and/or at the Breeders’ Cup.

Laraaib (Owen Burrows)

A genuine, improving older horse, Laraaib put in his best career performance on his first outing this season despite being beaten by Marmelo.  He was not 100% ready and had to give away 3lbs making the performance seem all the better, and even though he’s done well thus far over a mile-and-a-half he could end up stepping up in trip again and might be a Group 1 performer in Cup races.

Le Brivido (Aidan O’Brien)

Having moved to Ballydoyle last Christmas from Andre Fabre’s yard, his owners now have an eye on the breeding sheds for this five-year-old of course but he is a Jersey Stakes winner for his former handler and there are definitely races to be one with him this year, potentially at the top level.

Given the strength of the three-year-olds in the mile and mile-and-a-quarter division this season it may be that he stays over six or seven furlongs and his trainer clearly feels he has the pace to do that.

Line Of Duty (Charlie Appleby)

Line Of Duty could well be Charlie Appleby’s number one Derby horse as he looks to quickly follow-up the achievement of training the first Blue Riband winner for the Godolphin team with Masar last year.

Line Of Duty had already taken a Group 3 in France over 1m1f before stepping back to a mile and scoring at the top level in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs and as a Galileo there’s no doubt he wants a trip.  The Dante could be first on his list before heading to Epsom where he is a serious contender.

Mythical Magic (Charlie Appleby)  

A four-year-old gelding who had reached a reasonable level, second in two Group 2 races, before eventually winning one in Dubai in February in fine style and it seems more improvement is on the cards.

He is from a real top-class family and his sire Ifraaj just kept getting better over a mile at four, and even five years old, so we can expect this horse to remain on an upward curve and contest some of the top mile races around Europe this year.

Quorto (Charlie Appleby)

Injured and now out of the Guineas and the Derby, this beautiful son of Dubawi will come back stronger and I’d like to see him contest mile-and-a-quarter races when he’s ready.

A very good winner of both the Superlative Stakes and the Group 1 National Stakes in Ireland last season, he is already rated 121 which is some level to reach by September of a juvenile season and it would be no surprise to see him run in something like the Juddmonte International and/or the Irish Champion Stakes later in the campaign.

Sergei Prokofiev (Aidan O’Brien)

Regardless of breeding, though he is by Scat Daddy, this horse has shown serious natural speed and although likely comfortable over five furlongs as the season goes on he could be perfect for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June.

Some three-year-olds show their best when stepping up in trip as they get older, but this horse will improve over sprint distances this season and I can see the Nunthorpe Stakes at York being a target of his in August.

Star Catcher (John Gosden)

John Gosden is great with fillies and can bring them along nicely before coaxing all of their potential out of them, and in Star Catcher he has a young filly who could be good enough to contest the Oaks all being well.

An ordinary debut was followed by an easy win on poor ground at Newbury and a spin round Chester or York in May would tell us more about what level she’s at, but I expect it’ll be a high one eventually.

Well Of Wisdom (Charlie Appleby)

In a strong renewal of the five furlong novice race at the Craven meeting Godolphin had four runners, two of them trained by Appleby, with the Kodiac colt Full Verse expected to be the one on the day.

William Buick had instead chosen this son of Oasis Dream out of a Sunday Silence mare and it seemed that on breeding he should be outpaced, but despite racing keenly he got the hang of things with a furlong or so to go before taking off and landing the contest.

A sixth furlong at least for now will be to his liking and he looks a proper prospect for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th May: Call Me Al at Newmarket on Classic Weekend

It’s a massive weekend for this year’s crop of three-year-olds as the 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place at Newmarket while Louisville hosts the 145th Kentucky Derby over in the States.

We have five good value bets encompassing Saturday and Sunday’s racing this week, beginning with a good quality fillies’ Listed race at Goodwood.

Saturday 4th May 2019

2.05 Goodwood (Daisy Warwick Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ENBIHAAR

With the ground described as good and given the possibility of more rain before racing on Saturday, this mile-and-a-half test may not suit one or two including perhaps Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Moonlight but it should be ideal for the John Gosden filly Enbihaar.

Having improved on her second start last season to win a standard-to-slow novice race in taking fashion at Kempton, she was upped in trip and grade when running fourth to a decent filly in Ghostwatch over 1m6f and having put another winter behind her one guesses she will have improved a fair bit now.

The tissue favourite is William Haggas’ Klassique, higher rated than Enbihaar but also more experienced and in effect more exposed and so she will need to have improved a lot.

2.20 Newmarket (Palace House Stakes – Group 3) – SERGEI PROKOFIEV

While I wouldn’t usually advise backing a three-year-old against the older horses at this time of year, not least when they are favourite, this Sergei Prokofiev looks a real sprinting star in the making and could even mix it with these on level weights if he had to.

Given that, unlike the mile and middle-distance types, Sergei couldn’t begin his career at an ideal trip as he’s really all speed and so whatever he did at five and 6 furlongs last year will naturally be improved upon this term.

He comes into this as a Group 3 winner at Newmarket and a horse who was third to Calyx, while after his Listed warm-up win at Navan he is also match fit and ready to do his thing.  One of these times Equilateral is going to take off and prove how good he is too, so he rates as the danger.

3.35 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – AL HILALEE

After the injuries to Calyx, Quorto, Too Darn Hot and Mohaather as well as the decision by Andre Fabre to keep Persian King in France, this year’s 2000 Guineas has gone from being perhaps the race of a generation to being wide open and while whatever wins this will have to be a proper colt, they won’t have to be a world-beater.

With that in mind, we take a chance at attractive odds on Godolphin’s Al Hilalee.  This race is effectively being used as a trial for the Derby by trainer Charlie Appleby, something he did successfully with Masar last season, but in this case his horse has a serious chance of landing this race en route to Epsom.

Having made a very, very good debut last summer this son of Dubawi was sent straight into Listed company over a mile and while it seemed to stretch him and he gave the look of an inexperienced colt, he still went on to win that race before being put away.

Having worked extremely well over in Meydan a week or so ago, the decision was made to supplement him into this race for £30,000 and with another serious contender in this race in the shape of Royal Marine, Godolphin did not do that out of any form of desperation and so a big run is expected.

Of Aidan O’Brien’s two, Magna Grecia looks the main danger to the selection after his narrow win in the Futurity last season (Group 1), a path taken by last year’s winner Saxon Warrior though this one doesn’t look quite in the same class.

Fellow O’Brien runner Ten Sovereigns looks brilliant but perhaps won’t stay this distance on all known evidence while Kick On should appreciate the drop in trip and can go well.  Royal Marine was a tad unlucky in the Craven Stakes and is already notorious for improving in lumps from race to race so rates a big danger, while Madhmoon perhaps wants further and may well be drawn on the wrong side.

Skardu’s win in the Craven was fair enough but Royal Marine would be fancied to overturn that now, while Advertise is another who on close inspection reached a very high level rather quickly last year but didn’t necessarily improve a lot as the year went on and again may not see out this mile to best effect.

11.50 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby – Grade 1) – TACITUS

Much like the 2000 Guineas at home, the Kentucky Derby is wide open this year with no real prospect of another Justify as yet.  Many are in with chances including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner, his stablemates Improbable and Roadster and also Florida Derby winner Maximum Security.

Doing things more quietly in prep, ironically perhaps, is the highest point scorer in the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the only horse to win two major prep races and that is Bill Mott’s Tacitus.

Unlike many others in this race, who have to put in huge efforts in Grade 1 races in order to secure their place in the field, Tacitus won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes in the style of an improving colt with more to come so from a good position in gate 8 he can show his high tactical speed to stay in touch before leaving plenty of energy for the stretch.  He is good value too.

Sunday 5th May 2019

3.35 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – QABALA

The fillies’ classic is also open enough, especially in behind the selection where there is precious little to choose between the likes of Iridessa, Skitter Scatter and even the overpriced Angels Hideaway.

Aidan O’Brien’s Just Wonderful may well be one to come out of the pack and prove to be the biggest danger after her Rockfel Stakes win here last year, but the one with easily the most potential is Roger Varian’s Nell Gwyn winner Qabala.

Having only her second career run, the daughter of Scat Daddy didn’t get the best break but travelled sweetly last time under David Egan before showing a fine turn of foot to win the Grade 3 trial going away.  She can come on a fair bit from that and it’s possible she is right out of the top drawer and so gets the vote to land this.