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.

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