Saturday, 29 June 2019

Saturday 29th June 2019: Madh About Prenderghast’s Chances in the Derby

It’s a packed day of flat action either side of the Irish Sea on Saturday as Newcastle host their biggest annual meeting, the Northumberland Plate Festival, while over at the Curragh it’s also Irish Derby day.

Competitive handicaps and pattern races are also being held at Newmarket, Windsor, Chester, York, Lingfield and Doncaster and frankly there is a plethora of proper summer racing producing between it some fine betting opportunities up and down the country.

We’re going for a mixture of great betting value and what we hope are as close to racing certainties as you can get on a Saturday, beginning with the Group 3 at Gosforth Park which features one of the sprinting stars of the season so far: 

2.25 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – LAUGH A MINUTE

With Glorious Journey now out of the way (see below), this six furlong sprint on paper is dominated by Curragh Group 2 scorer Mr Lupton of Richard Fahey’s yard and previous Diamond Jubilee favourite Invincible Army of James Tate’s.

In terms of being turned out quickly, running on what will be standard-to-slow Tapeta because of the heat, racing under a penalty and the very stiff six furlongs to be encountered there are enough doubts about the top two in the market and it could be the progressive Roger Varian horse that scores here instead at a nice price.

The form of Laugh A Minute’s win at Doncaster last summer along with his second at Deauville reads very well, and while he hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this season he has been running OK and is sure to peak in this race given the stable’s form.  He gets the vote at around 9/2 under the excellent Andrea Atzeni.

3.10 Chester (Class 2 Handicap) – MAWAKIB

Roger Varian’s improving colt seems to go on any surface and he is well drawn in this race to continue his progression over his favourite intermediate trip of seven furlongs.

He skipped Royal Ascot to come here but still has some fancy handicap entries for later in the summer, though it may not be too long before connections are forced to think about going for some black type with him if he continues winning, something I see as a major probability on Saturday.

3.15 Newmarket (Criterion Stakes – Group 3) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

After he was sandwiched between The Tin Man and Dream Of Dreams at Windsor on his last outing, yours truly was desperate to back Glorious Journey at Newcastle in the Chipchase Stakes but instead Charlie Appleby has sent him to this seven furlong race on the turf.

I’ve no reason to doubt Appleby’s expertise and so the money will still go down, despite the fact that on paper this looks more competitive.  There are doubts about many rivals though including Limato, so given that this horse is on the upgrade he really should be good enough under James Doyle to register another Group 3 success.

3.30 Curragh (International Stakes – Group 3) – ADDEYBB

The hero of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot is turned out quickly to avoid what looks to be a prolonged spell of very dry ground in England, and while it is not as soft as ideal at the Curragh and we perhaps can’t expect him to peak once again, the fact is he may not need to.

A run to within 4 or 5 pounds of his best should suffice here and clearly connections think he can deliver that, with the improving three-year-old Buckhurst of Joseph O’Brien’s fancied to give him most to do ahead of his father’s entrant Blenheim Palace.

Addeybb is in the form of his life and the plan would seem to be to get one more pattern win into him before putting him away for an autumn campaign during which he may yet grab his maiden Group 1.

5.20 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – MADHMOON

Aidan O’Brien said publicly that he was a little easier than normal on his Derby hopefuls during the trials in May, so there may be more to come from them which was evident in the performances of Circus Maximus and Japan last week at the Royal meeting.

In performing the way they did though both in prep runs and in the Derby itself, Broome and Anthony Van Dyck look as though they are open now to slightly less improvement so while the Ballydoyle master once again dominates this field, he may not win it in the end.

Preference is for 87-year-old Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon.  Having beaten Broom comfortably last season and again when running second at Epsom, a track he appeared not to handle like so many, it seems on form he only has the favourite to beat and that is more than possible now.

His run in the 2000 Guineas when racing on completely the wrong part of the track reads well and over this more conventional layout he looks good value to turn the tables on Anthony Van Dyck and provide his trainer with a long overdue Irish Derby success.

5.50 Newcastle (Class 4 Handicap) – HOWMAN 

With any luck the combination of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni will already be on the board on this card but they may also end their day in good style in the closing handicap over a mile-and-a-quarter.

Howman hasn’t been seen since finishing seventh at the glorious meeting at Goodwood last summer but before his problem he’d been a most progressive type, winning at Lingfield and Yarmouth in the style of a horse really going places.s

There is little doubt his trainer will have him spot-on for his belated return to the track and also that, given time at least, he will prove to be capable of far more than his current handicap mark of 81 meaning he looks potentially very well-in against a field of similarly aged but more exposed handicappers.

Windsor Cross and Rose Tinted Spirit are among those who could chase him home for minor prize money.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Five: Space to Give Jersey Opposition the Blues

The last day of Royal Ascot features one more Group 1 race and it’s a fascinating one with Blue Point looking to follow up Tuesday’s King’s Stand win, however it is hugely competitive with around five horses hard to split for me so that one is a watching brief.

Suddenly today the Oaks/Derby card three weeks ago seems to be what we need to concentrate on with Coronation Cup, Woodcote Stakes and Surrey Stakes form lines being potentially crucial and they’ve provided us with three value bets.

They are complimented by a selection from Newmarket where a real progressive novice has a chance to get his head in front on a day when Godolphin could rule.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – PINATUBO

Another competitive renewal of the Chesham Stakes here, a race in which we have to keep an eye on breeding as much as form given that this stiff seven furlongs will take some getting for these two-year-olds at this stage of the season.

Paul Cole’s Highland Chief was brilliant on debut back in April at Newbury, and while winning over five furlongs back then seemed a real achievement given his lineage, it may be that the very soft ground was to his advantage and the form hasn’t really stood out.

Aidan O’Brien has had a typically good week and there has been a big word the whole time for this Lope Y Fernandez who is said to be the real deal.

The son of Lope De Vega made a very impressive debut at the Curragh and at the rate of progression we usually see with these juveniles he would arguably be the one here, however that progress can sometimes be slower with potential middle-distance types and so he may not be as good as that quite yet.

The value in the race most likely sits with Godolphin’s double winner Pinatubo.  Charlie Appleby’s Shamardal colt will love it here and has the form in the bag. Having won very well on debut he followed up in the Woodcote Stakes on Oaks day while never really being happy on the track, also winning much more snugly than the winning distance would suggest and he could just prove to be a class above.

3.05 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – SPACE BLUES

With any luck it’ll be a quick double for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby who also runs King’s Stand winner Blue Point later on the card in the Diamond Jubilee, their Space Blues being probably the most likely winner of the Jersey Stakes.

Another winner on Oaks day, he too probably didn’t like the track too much at Epsom and he was a mightily impressive handicap winner at York before that.  His progression is huge and it’ll keep coming which suggests he should win this given that it is not as competitive a renewal as we’ve been used to.

John Gosden’s Angels Hideaway has been tried at all sorts of levels and distances, but ultimately we know she is a Group 3 winner over six furlongs while she also finished fourth in the Guineas, so her quality at this level is undeniable.  The fact she was put in her place last time by Space Blues though only heightens my confidence in the selection.

3.20 Newmarket (Novice Stakes) – WINGS OF TIME

At forecast prices of 7/2 and 9/2, I can’t help thinking that Charlie Appleby’s horse could go off a little overpriced here under his 6lb penalty.

Having been gelded over the winter he was always going to improve plenty but needed the run at Wolverhampton, where he didn’t enjoy it and had his run blocked yet still got there cosily enough.  He will be a different proposition here and under the excellent Kerrin McEvoy he can see of Cadre Du Noir and Majaalis.

3.40 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – DEFOE

Despite being a Group 2 this race always produces high quality, quite often when Sir Michael Stoute decides to run one in advance of the King George which is back here at the end of July.

They can’t all be Harbinger’s and Crystal Ocean’s though, so while Mirage Dancer has just the right profile for this race he wasn’t the Newmarket maestro’s number one contender as he apparently thought long and hard about sending Crystal Ocean to this race once more before rerouting him to the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, so a chance is taken that he is not quite a top level horse which he’d need to be to win this.

Last year’s Derby winner Masar is a more than welcome addition back to the ranks.  Charlie Appleby did a great job to get him to win the Blue Riband, something that shouldn’t have been a great surprise after he routed a good Craven Stakes field but we occasionally get funny results at Epsom and it could just be that he’s actually a few pounds lower down the ranks than the numbers would suggest.

He’s having his first run for 385 days as well so while it’s great to see him back, I couldn’t back him at 3/1 against such a quality field.  That field includes John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar who gets the 3lb fillies’ allowance.  Her form against Rawdaa this season reads just OK in the context of this race and she was well beaten last time so she too is just about passed over.

Defoe was tipped on this column for the Coronation Cup at Epsom and so his win there was obviously no surprise to us.  That Group 1 victory had been coming for a long time and he could get even better yet with different tracks, ground and running styles never being much of a concern to him.

He’s the versatile one in the field, he’s the one with the highest-class recent form and he remains good value at around 4/1 so he is backed to follow-up with another prestige success for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Four: Private Secretary to Be Our Private Betting Aide

It’s double Group 1 delight on day four of Royal Ascot as the Commonwealth Cup and the Coronation Stakes take centre-stage.

The unofficial ‘Ascot Derby’, the King Edward VII Stakes, is very interesting as well as we get to see a clash between one high up in the Derby and one who was due to run but bypassed the race.  We have four great value bets in total, starting with one at a huge price in the opener:

2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – LAST SURPRISE

Wesley Ward once again has the favourite here in the shape of the lightening-quick Nayibeth, but while she is by a mile-and-a-quarter winner it’s always worth bearing in mind that Ward gets most of his success here at five furlongs, this horse winning over 4½ on debut in the States meaning this six could prove to be too far.

Roger Varian’s Daahyeh won well at Newmarket on debut, beating Raffle Prize there who came out and won the Queen Mary Stakes this week.  That form is rock solid but it’s also possible she had to put in quite a shift to win that and therefore won’t improve as much as one or two others, something always worth keeping in mind.

Godolphin’s Silent Wave put in a very similar performance herself at Goodwood but gave the impression she would definitely move on and up more significantly than Daahyeh so she is the main danger, but a chance is taken at a big price on Last Surprise who I feel has been underestimated.

Winners at Lingfield are usually not rated as highly as they should be so Last Surprise may be better than most people think anyway, while having had to race wide before very stylishly putting his race to bed showed the daughter of No Nay Never to be a very good filly and with Frankie now on board she can go very well from a good draw.

3.05 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – PRIVATE SECRETARY

A small and select field featuring a mix of proven Group 1 form and plenty of top-level potential.  From the former category is Japan, placed third in the Derby for Aidan O’Brien and sure to be a short-priced favourite here.

The positives are that his form from Epsom is by far the best on offer in this race and, given that his run in the Dante was just to bring him on, he in theory could progress to be the best of the Ballydoyle horses from that classic in time.

That said, he had a hard enough race there and they don’t always react well to that in this contest, so his form for now may just about level out which brings in the potential of John Gosden’s colt Private Secretary.

Gosden had originally intended to leave the son of Kingman in the Derby but it was decided he needed more experience before hitting that level, hence his run in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes.  The bare form of his win there is nothing special, but he cruised into it on the bridle to win it cheekily eased down and we will see a very, very different horse here.

Pondus could prove to be the real deal eventually and has been entered in the King George by James Fanshawe, so at a fair price he could grab a place.

3.40 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – JASH

This race is badly missing Calyx who would have been electric to watch, but that doesn’t mean it’s short of quality at all.

Advertise was a very good two-year-old and it was always clear to most of us that he wasn’t a Guineas horse, so he can perhaps get back on track over this trip although the company he’s keeping here may prove too hot.

Hello Youmzain is undoubtedly very good but he’s priced up partly on having beaten Calyx at Haydock, a small race in which John Gosden’s star was injured and so there is still actually something for Kevin Ryan’s colt to prove.

The race may come down then to last season’s Middle Park Stakes 1-2, Ten Sovereigns and Jash.  The former won that day, just, with both horses having their third run.  He too was never right for the Guineas but ran well enough, and on a line through the likes of Skardu and Madhmoon we can guess what sort of level he can reach now that he has his correct trip.

Jash can go forward from his seasonal reappearance over an unsuitable seven furlongs having scraped home at Newmarket.  He is primed to peak here and his profile is very much one of a Group 1 horse, while we can’t ignore that if this field stays down the usually favoured near-side then he is essentially six stalls better off than his main rival and is around 4 times his odds.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – JUBILOSO

Aidan O’Brien’s Hermoso has been excellent for the yard and is now a dual-1000 Guineas winner.  The level she reached at Newmarket was little better than she’d already achieved during a busy juvenile season though and while she seemed to improve at the Curragh, she did benefit from getting the run of the race and the best draw, just as Phoenix Of Spain did in the colt’s race who failed here the other day.

She may not be as hard to beat as some may think, with French 1,000 Guineas winner Castle Lady being of a similar standard and retaining the potential to improve a little on better racing ground.

The most interesting one in the race for certain is Sir Michael Stoute’s very easy novice winner Jubiloso.  She’s impeccably bred, looks made for this race and is well rested having had 32 days off since winning at Newbury.  She needs to take a big step forward but she almost certainly will and her great stable has been doing what they do best this week, peaking them for Royal Ascot.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Three: Gosden Glad to Have Star and Strad

Given the fantastic way Ascot drains after heavy rainfall, we should not expect genuinely soft ground for Gold Cup day and as such the various pieces of form in each race should hold up to close scrutiny.

The draw is as important as ever in certain races and the top trainers and jockeys are in blinding form this meeting, so with some confident views taken we can get stuck into these four bets on day three of the Royal meeting.

2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – EXPRESSIONIST

We have another speed feast on our hands here featuring what are currently the fastest juveniles anywhere in Britain or Ireland currently.

If the soft ground did happen to hold up then likely clear favourite Sunday Sovereign would have an outstanding chance, not just because of underfoot conditions but because he also beat Coventry Stakes winner Arizona comfortably on his second start.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt improved a lot after than run though and needed the sixth furlong on Tuesday, so Paddy Twomey’s colt looks a little short in the market with the form not to be simply taken at face value.

The one to appeal most of all is Charlie Appleby’s Expressionist, a winner over this course and distance on good-to-soft ground some 40 days ago who is certain to improve a ton in this race.

He was lightning that day, comfortably beating a horse who is now a double winner and under James Doyle he can defy both his low draw and his rather high price.

3.05 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – SANGARIUS

We’ve some great form to assess in this race and there are simply too many horses to mention who all have thoroughly decent chances on the book, but the reality of a situation like that is when there are so many with good profiles you can’t help thinking that they can’t all be outstanding and so it’s best to stick with the one’s who’ve already done it at a high level.

Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Of Good Hope won the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom earlier in the season and came on a little bit from that when running fourth in the French Derby (Group 1).  Further improvement would of course see him go very close here and his stable are flying, but there’s a nagging feeling that we’ve already just about seen what he has to offer for now and so others could improve past him.

John Gosden’s Kick On didn’t enjoy his own trip to France and it’s better to draw a line under that run, as before that he’d shown plenty of good early season form.

A good winner from the front in the Feilden Stakes, he stepped down in trip but up in ability when running 7th in the 2000 Guineas from the wrong side of the track, beaten only a length by Skardu (4th in the St James’s Palace Stakes this week) and half a length by Madhmoon (second in the Derby).

His form for me is the best in the race on that evidence, but he won’t necessarily come on much more having had to put it all in there and this will be his fourth run in just over 60 days.

The standout with an eye on the (hopefully very near) future then is Sir Michael Stoute’s Sangarius.  Touted as a Group 1 horse and originally aimed at the Guineas, he swept clear at Doncaster last year to win a Listed event on just his second start and hated the ground on his reappearance behind King Ottokar.

Since then he has run third to King Of Comedy in the Heron Stakes, a race in which he hung badly and was most likely inconvenienced by the very quick ground and mile trip, so remembering that King Of Comedy really should have won the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes here on Tuesday his form is spot-on and he has loads of improvement to come at this trip which has been the plan since the start of the season.

3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – STAR CATCHER

Sparkle Roll went off favourite for the Musidora, Fanny Logan ran very well in the Cheshire Oaks and Anapurna (not entered here) won the Oaks so it’s fair to say John Gosden still has a very strong hand when it comes to three-year-old middle-distance fillies.

In Star Catcher he may have one who can give him another Royal Ascot winner too; far from the finished article and lightly raced, she scored nicely in April on her second start before improving markedly to run today’s rival Queen Power close at Newbury.

She will go on again from that and could prove to be the best of this bunch, especially as the logical two against her have a negative factor in common.

Time and time again, those who’ve run in the Oaks take a backwards step when coming out so quickly and so while Fleeting and Frankellina are both lovely fillies, they may secretly be feeling the effects of the efforts needed at Epsom to run third and sixth respectively and might not be at their best.

4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup Stakes – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS

The big race of the day but the simplest one to assess.  Given the quality involved and the extreme distance, if Stradivarius is as good as ever then he has to win this so any price odds-against is fair and he can be taken.

In winning the Yorkshire Cup for the second time he was better than ever visually, and on the numbers he was actually a couple of pounds better off year-on-year before heading to this race.

Dee Ex Bee is definitely the main danger but his form leaves a lot to be desired when examined closely, while French raider Called To The Bar rather than the well-touted Cross Counter may be next best and is great value for a place.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Two: Sir Michael To Be King of Day 2

With the Royal Hunt Cup and Windsor Castle Stakes set to be entertaining if complete basket cases for betting purposes, we focus on the day’s other four races as day two of the Royal meeting brings us more value punting opportunities.

Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer here and he could be in for a very big day, but we start with an American speed freak who may be able to get us off to a flying start in more ways than one.

2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – KIMARI

Naturally this is an incredibly difficult race to solve on the face of it; 28 runners, 5/1 the field, little form to go on and pace spread across the track.  Tons of these fillies look capable of running within a few pounds of each other here with Divine Spirit and Anna’s Fast bound to be especially popular in the ring.

Kerrin McEvoy’s riding style suits Ascot and a fast-run race and so it’s hoped he can get the best of out Divine Spirit, the Godolphin filly having looked particularly good when winning on debut at Windsor recently and seemingly having plenty of improvement to come on her second start.

Wesley Ward is already a past master in these juvenile races and his Anna’s Fast is sure to go well under Tyler Gaffalione having made a great debut at Keeneland over 4½ furlongs, but it could be the American’s other horse who proves to be a class above.

Taking a line through Lady Aurelia, Shang Shang Shang and others we can take a leap regarding how much improvement is shown from these American debuts when they hit the track at Ascot, and if it happens again to the same extent then Kimari could be on another level and she is taken to score at a nice price.

3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – WESTERN AUSTRALIA

While we should see some improvement from Jalmoud after his French success and Mark Johnston’s Nayef Road is rock solid and should keep the field honest, this race looks fairly likely to go to Aidan O’Brien and in fact he has two outstanding candidates.

Ryan Moore has been given the job of riding Norway, a Galileo colt who won the 1m2f Zetland Stakes last season and seems sure to stay.  He was well beaten by Sir Dragonet at Chester and finished 8th in the Derby so is a little way down the Ballydoyle pecking order, but he can go forward from here over this trip and can yet reach a good level.

He may have it all to do to get past his stablemate Western Australia though.  Like Norway he is a Listed winner, but he was also close up with Magna Grecia last season at Group 1 level, has more improvement in him and has not had the hard race in the Derby that his pal has had.

Donnacha O’Brien takes the ride and should get a good toe into the race before being likely to have enough in the tank late on to see the race out.

3.40 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – CRYSTAL OCEAN

The feature race has been moved forward by 40 minutes to ensure that Japanese viewers can watch the race before midnight, but I’m not sure their representative Deirdre can take a hand in the finish.

The market for this has been all about the fillies, even without the presence of Enable who waits for Sandown, with Aidan O’Brien’s Magical topping the list having landed a hat-trick for the year already when scoring easily in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup.

She had no real credible opposition that day though and has in fact beaten the same horse three times and could be found wanting against the colts despite her 3lb sex allowance.

Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up Sea Of Class looks a genuine stayer to me, so despite her obvious ability trying to beat a good field over this trip first time out could be really tricky and she is also passed over.

Prix Ganay winner Waldgeist is no forlorn hope in this race for Andre Fabre but he too has often been found wanting when up against proper Group 1 types, and all this could leave the way clear for Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean to land a first top level success.

Second to Cracksman in the Champion Stakes, the son of Sea The Stars was pulsating in the Gordon Richards Stakes before scoring in the Aston Park and will have been prepared to peak specifically at this meeting.

He could have gone for a second Hardwicke Stakes buts it’s very prevalent that his masterful trainer wants to go for this race instead with a career best performance on the cards, something that would ensure victory.

4.20 Ascot (Duke of Cambridgeshire Stakes – Group 2) – RAWDAA

Before we even mention form it speaks volumes that, with Crystal Ocean well fancied in the Prince of Wales’s and Veracious very much a leading contender for this event, Sir Michael Stoute has nominated Rawdaa as his best winning chance of the week.

Pretty Baby was workmanlike at Lingfield but hated the ground at Lingfield and will come on a ton, the aforementioned Veracious is reaching a peak and could just about turn the tables on Epsom scorer Anna Nerium, but they have already shown roughly what level they can get to and therefore may not show as much progression as the selection.

Frankie Dettori has been booked to ride the Teofilo filly and he is ideal for her; a versatile runner who since her debut second has never been beaten by more than 1¾ lengths and that was behind Agrotera at Listed level around Kempton.

She stepped up markedly on that form when a close second to Lah Ti Dar at York in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes and this stiff mile will be even better for her.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day One: Barney to Turn Opposition to Rubble

Day one of Royal Ascot features three Group 1’s and two more races likely to be won by future Group 1 types, so the quality is absolutely sky high.  There is value to be had too which is relatively unusual for events at this level allowing us to get stuck into five races on the opening day.

2.30 (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) – BARNEY ROY

Whether or not this is a vintage renewal will become apparent only after the race, but on paper it has the potential to be the best Queen Anne for many a year with the competitive nature proving difficult for handicappers, while at the same time offering great value.

Aidan O’Brien’s Le Brivido is hard to assess, knowing as we do that his yard will expect a fair amount of improvement from a horse who has won at Royal Ascot before and was unlucky in the Lockinge.  His basic form doesn’t entitle him to win this though and so as favourite he is avoidable.

Mustashry was a good winner of that Lockinge but had the run of the race and was primed for the event by Sir Michael Stoute, meaning his form may level out or even move back a slight step.

That leaves us with the formerly top class Barney Roy, a 5yo having been unsuccessful at stud who made a nice reappearance here before scoring cosily in France in a race not run to suit.  He’ll be at his best now, whatever that is, and in a strongly-run race will show us what he can achieve for Charlie Appleby and I think it’ll be enough.

Beat The Bank is overpriced while Hazapour and Sharja Bridge have definite ability and can run well at more than fair odds.

3.05 (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – GUILDSMAN

Naturally these two-year-olds are hard to judge, but based on past renewals and breeding we can get some sort of handle on what is expected of the main contenders.

Threat was impressive at Newmarket but that was over five furlongs and he is perhaps drawn in the wrong place today, while Well Of Wisdom is bang in with a chance but I would have liked to have seen him win last time out.

Arizona is on paper the most solid of the lot and is a worthy favourite after his demolition job for O’Brien at the Curragh, but if the ground retains just enough juice then Guildsman is at least as good as the Coolmore runner and so at a much bigger price is the one we can take a chance on.

His soft ground win at Goodwood on debut was really impressive and he is bound to improve from that, so while the conditions here are dryer, he looks terrific value for a trainer who for now is still underestimated in the shape of Archie Watson.

3.40 (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH

Battaash always comes with risks attached but he was far too free when being turned over in this race by Blue Point last year and looked much more relaxed and mature when running as well as ever in the Temple Stakes last month.

He’s more likely to run to his best this time and, if he does, he wins so it’s a rather simple equation.  Blue Point is still the main danger, especially from a potentially better draw, while Mabs Cross has close form with these and is a solid each-way shout.

Soldier’s Call, Sergei Prokofiev and Equilateral all have further improvement in them but as things stand they are in the next division down from the selection who can win what amazingly would be just his second Group 1 race.

4.20 (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – TOO DARN HOT

Circus Maximus is an interesting addition at this trip though he has to improve a fair bit to win, while Phoenix Of Spain had the run of the race in the Irish 2000 Guineas from the best draw and may not go on quite as expected.

King Of Comedy takes the same route as last year’s winner Without Parole for John Gosden and he has a ton of improvement in him.  He was way too good for Roseman in the Heron Stakes and that horse may come out later in the week and be a real contender at a good level, a Group 1 win coming along soon enough no doubt.

He is the one to be on if the selection fails, but Gosden was rather candid last week in saying that Too Darn Hot was 80% fit for a Dante Stakes in which he didn’t stay and had the race run unsuitably, while he should never have gone to Ireland but was still second.  He can show something like his champion juvenile form now and if he does he can win this ahead of his stablemate.

5.35 (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – ELARQAM

Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand has a fair level of form and can go well, while Godolphin’s First Nation can also take a hand at a big price if going on from his return race in the UK at Newmarket.

Had the ground stayed softer then Addeybb would have been the rightful favourite for this race and he retains a solid chance, the conditions not being suitable on three of his last 4 runs while before that he was a high class Group 2 winner.

We all thought Elarqam was going to be a superstar though and his time at the top level may still come.  He was fourth in a very hot race at the start of the season, one that has produced two Group 1 winners, and he came away from his field strikingly last time and can improve again from that outing.

He’s penalised but could be simply too good for this field, the assignment being a more sensible one considering he was pencilled in for the Group 1 Prince of Wale’s Stakes originally.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Friday 14th, Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th June: Gosden Entitled to Claim Another Oaks

We’re spread across two countries and three days this weekend as we take in some fascinating races on Friday and Saturday before getting stuck into a great value bet in the French Oaks on Sunday afternoon.

There’s no pre-Royal Ascot lull for us with seven bets still possible, though hopefully we don’t have the bad luck of what turned out to effectively be four non-runners last weekend after the deluge took trainers by surprise.

Friday 14th June 2019

2.35 Sandown (Class 4 Maiden Stakes) – RIOT

Mark Johnston is capable of unleashing really good two-year-olds so any significant money for King’s Caper should be noted, while Godolphin’s Visible Charm can improve from his debut and may well go off a short-priced favourite.

Breeding lines don’t come much better than Riot’s though; by Kingman out of a King’s Best mare and he was originally due to contest the same race Calyx won at HQ last year before taking the Coventry Stakes.  This is seven furlongs and the ground isn’t the best, but a lot will be expected of this colt and a winning debut could be on the cards.

3.45 Sandown (Waterloo Handicap) – HERCULEAN

Tralee Hills is dangerous given that he has shown that he can handle softer conditions in the past, but really this is a great opportunity for Herculean who was a colt of some promise at two and three.

He’s potentially very well handicapped now as he gets older and settles down (has been gelded), and while he didn’t take up his last engagement due to very heavy ground, he does handle soft and should be fine in these conditions.

For the same owner, trainer and sire, Headman improved when put into strong handicap company to take the London Gold Cup at Newbury and this horse remains just as capable.  C Note, if running here rather than elsewhere, and Allegiant are likely to prove best of the rest.

4.05 York (Ganton Stakes – Listed Race) – WADILSAFA

Wadilsafa and Herculean are old rivals and so it’s rather fitting they should both be in action on the same afternoon, though more mystery surrounds this horse now after his poor showing at Ascot in the Queen Anne Trial.

It’s a concern that he is here at Listed level considering his trainer hoped he would be good enough by now to compete in a Group 1, however in rating him I have taken a good 7lbs off of what he could achieve to this point and, even with a 3lb penalty, that leaves him a few clear of the field.

Oh This Is Us and Sir Dancealot are solid while it’s difficult to know what three-year-old Happy Power can achieve, but they are rather similar in ability right now meaning this could be a good opportunity for Owen Burrows’ charge.

Saturday 15th June 2019

3.00 York (‘Race to the Ebor’ Grand Cup Stakes – Listed Race) – MEKONG

Not as many are turning up for this as expected given that the winner gets a ticket to this year’s extremely valuable Ebor Handicap, and while Mekong has close form with one or two he is more likely than they are to have improved and is liable to stretch away from them under Ryan Moor for Sir Michael Stoute.

Trusty types Raheen House and Austrian School can go well but on all known evidence it’s Mekong who should be able to win this before his trainer decides whether carrying a big weight back here in August or going for the Irish St Leger in September is best for him.

3.50 Sandown (Class 3 Handicap) – KARNAVAAL

We shouldn’t forget just how heavily Karnavaal was backed in a handicap at the Craven meeting, though he didn’t perform as expected that days.  The same happened behind Space Blues last time but he has been gelded since and remains just the type to improve in lumps as this season goes on.

There is just enough soft ground form in his breeding to give encouragement that he can handle conditions, with Wise Counsel and Pesto probably leading the charge behind him for places.

4.25 Sandown (Class 3 Handicap) – NEW KING

Not a valuable handicap and one that has only six runners, but this remains a race featuring three-year-olds who can all improve plenty with the quality one on breeding, including his lineage offering some evidence of a liking for softer ground, is John Gosden’s New King and he is taken to score.

It would be no surprise to see good money for Mubariz or Absolutio and they are fair each-way shouts.

Sunday 16th June 2019

3.05 Chantilly (Prix de Diane – Group 1) – ENTITLE

The Prix de Diane, or the French Oaks as we know it, may offer John Gosden the chance to train yet another Group 1 winner here with his Musidora Stakes second Entitle bound to improve loads in these conditions under Frankie Dettori.

The ground should be fine for her, as should the mile-and-a-quarter distance, and given the similarities in her profile to greats past and present from the same yard such as The Fugue and Enable (her half-sister), it seems the yard’s confidence in her will not be misplaced and she looks a huge price at a general 12/1 to score.

The favourite is local filly Siyarafina and she does have a good level of form, though on closer inspection it seems possible that Commes may improve past her at this trip which starts to make them look much of a muchness, the English filly perhaps having more scope.

Nausha actually won the Musidora ahead of Entitle but is not as certain to want this ground and definitely not as sure to improve quite so much, though she still rates a danger for trainer Roger Varian.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Saturday 8th June 2019: Mankib to Reign in John of Gaunt

We’re jet-setting everywhere from Haydock to New York this week and it’s a busy one; plenty of selections and tons of good value about.

Look out for the Hilary Needler Trophy at Beverley, often a good pointer towards the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot but we start with Haydock and a competitive handicap.

1.45 Haydock (Class 3 Handicap) – GANTIER

There could be some value on offer in this race, since we’re not sure what to expect from Mark Johnston’s easy all-weather winner Mind The Crack and the softer ground perhaps far from ideal for the likes of Prejudice and Alhaazm.

With that in mind, look out for a solid performance from Paradise Boy and an even better one from John Gosden’s Gantier.  Frankie Dettori’s mount is ultra-consistent; never out of the places in seven goes since his debut, he stays this trip well and on breeding is one of few who may relish the conditions.

2.25 Haydock (Pinnacle Stakes – Group 3) – HIGHGARDEN

It’s not often that we see John Gosden responsible for two potentially great value selections, especially away from Newmarket, but it could be the case here at Haydock given that as well as Gantier he saddles the improving filly Highgarden.

She did not hit the heights expected of her early in her three-year-old career when she was an Oaks hopeful, but as the season wore on she came to herself and reached a really good level in winning the Group 3 Nayef Stakes at HQ.  She’ll be better again this term and should handle conditions better than most.

We’re looking for value here so while Highgarden is the one, I’m fully aware that Willie Mullins’ True Self could make the selection look daft if she is on top form, but what that form is can be hard to judge given that of her three Listed wins her best was easily when she went down to 1m2f.  Klassique is best of the rest.

3.20 Newmarket (2yo Novice Stakes) – OTTOMAN COURT

Naturally there’s little more than breeding to go on here, but while Ryan Moore has been booked by Mark Johnston for Visinari we know it’s no guarantee of success and John Gosden’s Daily Times is well bred but ridden by third choice jockey Nicky Mackay with Rab Havlin opting to head to Chelmsford.

Ottoman Court however ran poorly on debut but was 4/9 to win that day and plenty was expected.  That was a good race too so if they are right that he should have been winning that, then he’d be capable of using his experience and taking this en route to Royal Ascot.

3.35 Haydock (John of Gaunt Stakes – Group 3) – MANKIB

There are some solid performers in this large Group 3 field, with Sir Dancealot a worthy favourite on paper after his effort in the Lockinge while Safe Voyage has won twice over this very course and distance on rain-softened ground already this season, the latter effort when beating the selection.

Mankib though was not as fit as Safe Voyage last time, will improve as this season goes on and is very much seen by connections as the real deal so it would be no surprise to see him win this before being aimed at something like the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Group 1 level.

5.25 Chelmsford (Maiden Stakes) – SWIFT WING

As mentioned earlier, Rab Havlin is happy to skip his Newmarket rides for boss John Gosden and have an away day at Chelmsford, primarily to ride this very well-bred colt.

He ran a terrific race on debut when second at Ascot, with both the mile-and-a-half trip and the very soft ground against him and so the level of performance expected here could be almost Group standard.

9.46 Belmont Park (Metropolitan Handicap – Grade 1) – THUNDER SNOW

Saeed bin Suroor’s globetrotting high-earner has a chance to add even more riches this weekend when he goes in search of this £500,000+ first prize.

True, the trip in the Met Mile would be something he hasn’t encountered for a while, but Belmont is deep and will take some getting for most of the main contenders.

The likes of Mitole, McKinzie and Firenze Fire are better over shorter distances and/or on faster tracks so given that Thunder Snow has proven his pace, such as when bursting out from a horrible draw to hit the lead before winning his second Dubai World Cup in March, he will lay-up with this field no problem from gate 4 and clearly has the stamina to see the race out under Christophe Soumillon.

11.37 Belmont Park (Belmont Stakes – Grade 1) – BOURBON WAR

This fantastic card reaches its highlight with the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown following the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with the winner of the latter, War Of Will is attracting plenty of support.

If this were a Kentucky Derby we could be talking about strong favourites being the ones to concentrate on, but the Belmont has a habit of throwing up big priced winners and it could happen again given that the two at the head of the market, War Of Will and Tacitus, are drawn widest of all in gates 9 and 10.

War Of Will looks quick to me while Master Fencer ran the fastest two furlongs in the field on a compacted Churchill Downs track in the Derby, so none of these things point to stamina which is certainly needed on Big Sandy around a mile-and-a-half.

The one who could be huge value is Bourbon War.  Representing this year’s strong Florida form, he was never in with a chance when beaten narrowly by Code Of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (since second in the Derby), and again the race didn’t work out his way when he was fourth to the impressive first past the post in Kentucky, Maximum Security in the Florida Derby.

His family boasts easily the most stamina within this field and his daddy Tapit has sired three of the last 5 Belmont winners, the other two being Triple Crown heroes, so given that his best work will be done late on, at morning line odds of 12/1 he looks a huge bet to give trainer Mark Hennig a massive win.