Thursday 25 July 2019

Friday 26th July & Saturday 27th July 2019

The flat action comes thick and fast at this time of year.  This weekend we get to see a classic renewal of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and with barely enough time to digest that, Glorious Goodwood is right around the corner.

In the King George I feel like despite the quality of Defoe, Anthony Van Dyck, Waldgeist and especially Crystal Ocean, if superstar mare Enable is on her game then she should not be beaten but of course she will not be allowed to go off at a backable price.

Look out also for a great clash between Regal Reality, Elarqam and Addeybb in the York Stakes with that one too close for me to call, while Sir Michael Stoute sends Derevo up to Newcastle to their mile-and-a-half handicap on ladies day.

For us it’s all about Newmarket on Friday and Ascot on Saturday for betting purposes with Jim Crowley and James Doyle, retained riders for Sheikh Hamdan and Godolphin respectively, undoubtedly the riders to follow.

Friday 26th July 2019

7.10 Newmarket (Class 3 Handicap) – ALMASHRIQ

Just a small one-mile handicap but one featuring a fair amount of quality on the July Course, and if tactics don’t ruin the contest then we should see more improvement from the well thought of Almashriq of John Gosden’s yard and he can record a second career win in his first-time visor.

A scorer on debut last year at Newcastle, he was backed heavily on his seasonal return over the Rowley Mile when thought of as a potential runner in the 2000 Guineas, though he failed to fire that day.  He improved plenty to take second at Chelmsford in a novice race before not enjoying the 1m2f trip last time, with this course and distance much more to his liking.

William Jarvis’ Arigato is next on the list with Baba Ghanouj also likely to attract support.

Saturday 27th July 2019

1.50 Ascot (Princess Margaret Stakes – Group 3) – SUMMER ROMANCE

We have a big enough field of 12 for this and naturally it’s packed full of unexposed fillies, but it’s a contest that invariably goes to a horse of real quality and so I’m not anticipating a massive shock.

While the Irish filly Punita Arora looked good two weeks ago when winning at Navan and Ultra Violet did incredibly well to score on debut after missing the kick by four lengths (still won it by eight), they are not guaranteed to be top class and so look to have a fair bit to find with Charlie Appleby’s Summer Romance.

The daughter of Kingman was very impressive on debut and yet still left that form well behind when monstering a Listed field at Newmarket last time out, a performance that marked her out as an almost definite future Group 1 winner.  This could be the ideal way for James Doyle to start his afternoon on a day when he rides Crystal Ocean in the big one for Sir Michael Stoute.

2.25 Ascot (Class 2 Handicap) – WINGS OF TIME

We’ve gone for Wings Of Time a couple of occasions before, the gelding obliging last time out, and that’s because he started from a really low base but could yet be a Group horse and as such remains very well-handicapped given that he is bound to improve yet more as time goes by.

Once again the combination of Charlie Appleby and James Doyle are at play here, their son of Invincible Spirit looking sure to enjoy these conditions and potentially being too strong for Richard Hannon’s in-form Motakhayyel who won at Newmarket last time out and could be set to go off favourite for this race.

Flashcard, second to the Hannon horse at HQ, and Prince Of Harts are next on the list in this valuable mile handicap but the Godolphin runner looks to be the one with the most potential and gets the nod to score at a fair price.

3.00 Ascot (International Stakes – Handicap) – MUBHIJ

Mubhij has been thought of as a horse going places for some time now and he is fast becoming the sort of strong travelling type Roger Varian always thought he would be.

Bearing in mind that this race was always the plan and he won’t have been trained to the minute for his last outing, to watch the way he came into the contest at Newcastle on his last run before powering clear and seeing out the seven furlongs up the hill was really pleasing and it seems he is now spot-on for this hot contest.

Arbalet, ridden by James Doyle today, was a close second in this race last year and remains in top form while Fanaar, in the same ownership as the selection, looks a three-year-old who is going places and is another with an outstanding place chance under Tom Marquand.

Roger Varian’s other horse Spanish City looks solid and Ripp Orf cannot be without a chance, but it’s the potential of Mubhij that catches the eye the most and he could land the £93,000 first prize under Jim Crowley.

4.15 Ascot (Pat Eddery Stakes – Listed Race) – AL DABARAN

Unfortunately at the time of writing I have no idea what sort of price to expect about this Godolphin juvenile, another selection trained by Appleby and ridden by Doyle who must be incredibly excited about their weekend.

There is nothing not to like about him though; a son of Dubawi who won impressively on debut with another Godolphin horse back in second, one who stays this trip well and will not be phased by the camber or the stiffness of the track and who has been off 28 days which will mean he hasn’t had the edge taken off him and should come on a ton.

At the normal rate of improvement for a colt of this type, Al Dabaran should have five or so pounds in hand on the likes of Buhturi, Maxi Boy and Ropey Guest and may take this before going on to better things later in the year.

Friday 19 July 2019

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th July 2019: Frankie the Star Catcher at the Curragh

It’s Irish Oaks weekend and we have a value punt in the big Group 1 race at the Curragh, though it’s backed up by plenty more opportunities across both Friday and Saturday as Newbury, Newmarket and Hamilton all host top class action.

Friday 19th July

3.40 Newbury (Rose Bowl Stakes – Listed Race) – AL AAKIF

As always it’s hard to know what to expect with these two-year-olds given that they have precious few miles on the clock at this stage, but while the likely favourite Repartee represents good connections and created a very favourable impression on debut, it could be argued he got the run of the race at York and may not come on as much as people think.

While he is clearly the main danger, he may not ultimately be as ready for this level as Al Aakif, William Haggas’ Acclamation colt who unseated his rider on the way to post before his debut and was then bumped at the start on his second racecourse appearance.

Despite this, he has recorded two very impressive wins already and clearly has a lot more to give as he matures, so in this good company a proper performance can be dragged out of him and it may prove to be another winning one.

8.10 Hamilton (Glasgow Stakes – Listed Race) – MACKAAR

Plenty of attention will go the way of Mark Johnston’s Persian Moon given that the Glaswegian trainer has won this race plenty of times in the past and is likely to have sent one he fully believes can get the job done once more.

Persian Moon is rated 101 and while that’s not too bad a level for a Listed race, it is eminently beatable and so given that his improvement appears to have stopped for now he looks vulnerable to a middle-distance improver.

Roger Varian won this race a couple of years ago with subsequent Group winner Defoe and he may do so again with this Mackaar, that potential improver in the field.  Rated lower than Persian Moon but progressing well, the son of Cape Cross was tried out as a potential classic hope and retains an entry in the Irish St Leger Trial next month and while he is unlikely to be a Group 1 horse, he may be good enough to win this.

Saturday 20th July

2.40 Newmarket (Aphrodite Stakes – Listed Race) – KESIA

We’re taking a bit of a punt here, partly based on value but also based on jockey bookings and potential.

On private ratings, John Gosden’s Sparkle Roll unsurprisingly comes out best among the fillies we can evaluate fully after her third behind Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Her trainer has two in the race though with the other, Kesia, very much a lesser-known quantity having had just the one outing.

She did win that race very easily though and Gosden only puts these fillies in at this level when he knows they can handle it.  The real guessing game is regarding the jockey situation.

Kieran O’Neill and Nicky Mackay have both deputised to great effect for Frankie Dettori and Rab Havlin, but given that Mackay has ridden Sparkle Roll before and is based permanently at this yard one presumes he could have ridden the favourite had he wanted.  Instead he rides Kesia and it may well be a tell-tale sign that she is about more than just potential and in fact we could see some serious ability here today at a nice price.

5.10 Curragh (Irish Oaks – Group 1) – STAR CATCHER

Despite the O’Brien camp dominating the English classics in recent years, it is in fact English-based trainers who have done the same in this race and it could be the case once again in this year’s Irish Oaks.

Having said all that, our selection is not one born out of a preference for which territory the filly is trained in but more her obvious ability and potential for further improvement.

Star Catcher should have won at Newbury in May according to Frankie Dettori who just didn’t make enough use of her that day, something that was confirmed when she turned the tables on Queen Power in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot when she stretched away nicely to score for this column (advised at 10/1).

Staying is her forte, she has reached a level that for me is similar to that achieved by Pink Dogwood and Iridessa and given that she has improved in leaps and bounds and may go on again, she is the value call in this race.

The aforementioned Pink Dogwood was second in the Oaks behind yet another of John Gosden’s fillies, Anapurna, so he knows exactly where he stands in this division and it is, I feel, why Star Catcher has been supplemented.  The best home chance then may fall with Pretty Polly winner Iridessa for Joseph O’Brien though she is not a guaranteed stayer.

5.35 Newmarket (Class 3 Handicap) – QUTOB 

Richard Fahey sending a horse down to Newmarket and teaming it up with Hayley Turner makes for an intriguing combination, however in the case of Right Action he’s having the 37th run of his career and we know what to expect of him, his profile suggesting he’s a leading contender but not one with lots to spare in the handicap.

Glenn Coco and Daddy’s Daughter are both obvious dangers too and any money coming for them may be significant, however the one who is now (belatedly) on the right path is Charlie Hills’ Qutob.

Having been given six chances, the son of Acclamation was always consistent but had not won a race.  He was gelded in early June though and returned to the track earlier this month a different animal, scoring comfortably at Chelmsford City.

That run, had he been asked more of a question, could have marked him up as a horse rated around 86/87 and with plenty more improvement to come, so running in this off 84 makes him a well handicapped individual.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Friday 12th & Saturday 13th July 2019: Besh the Bookies in the Falmouth

We have a very busy weekend of action in store with pattern races at Ascot, Chester and York while Newmarket closes its July meeting on Saturday with the Group 1 July Cup.

The big one features just too many variables for us to have a bet, though Ten Sovereigns could come back to form and Glorious Journey is way over-priced each-way, but we start with Friday’s action and four quality bets across three premier tracks.

Friday 12th July

2.25 Newmarket (Duchess of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – DIVINE SPIRIT

An important juvenile fillies’ race, formerly known as the Cherry Hinton Stakes, and one in which it may pay to take a chance on a filly who didn’t enjoy herself at Royal Ascot in the shape of Godolphin’s Divine Spirit.

She made what for me was easily the best debut of these, and being by Kingman and trained by Charlie Appleby there’s no reason to think she won’t progress at the rate we expect of juveniles at this level and if she does, she can prove to be better at this six furlong trip than likely favourite Daahyeh.

Roger Varian’s runner won the Albany Stakes last time and so is a justifiable jolly on paper, but we know how good she is now and I feel she’s at a level that can be overtaken, as are Raffle Prize and Celtic Beauty.

3.15 York (Summer Stakes – Group 3) – ARCHER’S DREAM

At first glance this race looks like a complete basket case for a Group 3; hugely competitive with 17 improving fillies that are all capable of showing more than they have thus far.

Given the flat track and quick ground here, the race should really suit James Fanshawe’s unbeaten Dream Ahead filly Archer’s Dream though who looks the real deal and wasn’t suited by conditions last time, despite dead-heating for a win at Salisbury.

Again with the conditions in mind we should see a solid run from Perfection who rates second-best, while Shades Of Blue remains of interest and can run into a place.

3.25 Ascot (Class 3 Handicap) – AMERICAN GRAFFITI

Apart from the fact that he has won two in a row and is clearly improving, the interesting thing about American Graffiti is that he was also entered up overnight at Newmarket and Charlie Appleby could have easily kept him at home.

He instead comes here to a race which is eminently winnable for him.  His success at HQ last time out was way easier than it looked and he could really be heading places, while Pontefract winner Hortzadar may appreciate this stiff test and both Breath Caught and Wafy are solid enough candidates too.

3.35 Newmarket (Falmouth Stakes – Group 1) – BESHAAYIR

A competitive Group 1 affair and one in which we may get some slightly false value.  I Can Fly is decent but is probably priced-up based on her stable (Aidan O’Brien), while favourite One Master has had more chances than her younger rivals and could be slightly flattered by her Group 1 third last time.

Veracious continues to edge towards a top-level victory and Qabala can prove herself eventually having just been denied in the 1,000 Guineas, but there’s no arguing with the level of form Beshaayir has shown and she can keep getting better yet, especially given more of a test which she has here under Frankie.

Saturday 13th July

2.40 York (Silver Cup – Group 3) – WEEKENDER

It’s a big day at York and given the quality of the handicaps, this high-grade Group 3 race could almost go under the radar.

Some may not want quick ground so could perhaps be blunted somewhat, leaving the likes of Gold Mount, Raheen House and Sea The Lion all as genuine contenders but maybe not at their very best which could play into the hands of John Gosden and Rab Havlin.

Their Weekender has rock solid course and distance form and won ever so easily at Chelmsford last time.  It’s clear he is getting better and is set fair for a career-best now, something that if it indeed arrives would make him too good for this field.

2.55 Newmarket (Superlative Stakes – Group 2) – KING’S COMMAND

A fascinating juvenile contest with precious little form on offer, but it’s not form in the book we tend to look at in these races as much as roar ability and potential.

Many at this stage look of very similar quality such as Year Of The Tiger, Juan Elcano, Mystery Power and Maxi Boy but the one that may just prove to be a class above is Charlie Appleby’s King’s Command.

Making his debut on the July course over six furlongs, he led from out wide with little cover before being headed two out, didn’t get a clear run and then ran on superbly to re-take the lead close home.  He will have matured, will come on a ton and will love this extra furlong so rates a fairly confident bet.

4.00 Ascot (Summer Mile – Group 2) – WADILSAFA

Another of this weekend’s hugely competitive races, but while there are plenty in with chances on the book our horse looks like the one who hasn’t yet shown us his best form and can take his career up to the next level now.

Wadilsafa is a Frankel colt who has always been held in high regard and who crept through the ranks to eventually take a Listed race in great style last season.  He’s gone on again since then and was second on unsuitable soft ground last time at York and is now ready to put in his best work, hoping to prove he can be a Group 1 performer.

Matterhorn has serious ability and can do some damage, Beat The Bank has an obvious chance but is penalised, Accidental Agent is a Group 1 performer, Zaaki is two from two this year and Tip Two Win may yet win another race at this sort of level showing how competitive an affair this is, but at around 12/1 our horse is good enough value to be backed to smallish stakes.

Friday 5 July 2019

Friday 5th & Saturday 6th July: Take Note of the Hidden Message at Sandown

It’s Eclipse day on Saturday and, even given the belated reappearance and step down to ten furlongs, Enable should be a few pounds better than Regal Reality and Magical but is not a backable price given the circumstances.

We begin our betting journey on Friday however as a couple of value selections have presented themselves at the Esher track, beginning with a well-touted juvenile.

Friday 5th July 2019

2.20 Sandown (Dragon Stakes – Listed Race) – EXPRESSIONIST

The Godolphin colt was well fancied for his assignment at Royal Ascot but didn’t shine on that occasion, something that has led to him being a better price in this than he should be by rights.

His debut run at Ascot is the best early form on offer here and he’s entitled to go on from that, so he is forgiven his run in the Norfolk given that he missed the break and didn’t get a clean run.

Mark Johnston’s Makyon is interesting coming down in trip but it remains to be seen whether or not that’ll bring about any improvement, while Al Raya can also go well for trainer Simon Crisford.

3.25 Sandown (Gala Stakes – Listed Race) – ELARQAM

Having backed him on the day and always been a fan of his, I would not be sorry to see Royal Line come back and win this after his heroics in the November Handicap when last seen at Doncaster.

The truth is though that I’m surprised to see so many people tipping him up given that the softer conditions and the mile-and-a-half trip were both up his back ally then, while the testing nature of Epsom had also helped him previously so this sharper mile-and-a-quarter looks against him.

Elarqam, as we’ve pointed out here before, is heading close to the level he should be at with his run behind Addeybb at Royal Ascot a very good one albeit rather blunted given the soft ground.

He’ll be better this time for a faster surface and can take this ahead of Royal Line, with Extra Elusive and Oasis Charm also likely to be involved at the business end of the contest.

Saturday 6th July 2019

1.50 Sandown (Coral Charge – Group 3) – GARRUS

As time wears on it is increasingly confusing to see Aidan O’Brien’s Sergei Prokofiev so over-bet, because while he comes from a brilliant stable his numbers simply don’t add up to his prominence in the market and it looks the case once again in this speed event.

Instead the value call is Garrus, a former Jeremy Noseda charge now with Charlie Hills who has a good grasp of what it takes to win the best five-furlong races right now given that he oversees Battaash’s prep each day.

His two wins this season haven’t even shown him to best effect yet, but this likely faster pace should and he can take this under James Doyle from old-timers Caspian Prince and Muthmir.

2.40 Haydock (Lancashire Oaks – Group 2) – ENBIHAAR

An interesting contest and one in which it’s no surprise to see John Gosden with a strong hand given that he’s won the race seven times since 1997.

His Highgarden has a fair chance and, given the fast conditions, could even have the beating of likely favourite Dramatic Queen over this trip having won a Group 3 at the end of last year and she clearly looks as though there is more to come as time goes on.

Her stablemate Enbihaar is even more interesting though.  Her form behind Ghostwatch last year reads well, though she was inexperienced and that was over 1m6f, she beat Klassique on her reappearance rather easily at Listed level this term and was narrowly denied by Dramatic Queen at York last time.

She shapes as though she’ll improve more than her narrow conqueror and will want this drop in trip, so she looks fair value to make this John Gosden’s 8th Lancashire Oaks.

3.00 Sandown (Coral Distaff – Listed Race) – HIDDEN MESSAGE

It goes without saying that Beyond Reason is very interesting on her comeback, though she may need it, while Andrew Balding’s Encapsulation can continue to improve and will be justifiably very popular in the betting ring.

John Gosden’s Muchly is another filly on the up and is one who beat the selection well at Ascot earlier in the season, but race conditions could be just right for our filly now and she looks a very big price to land the odds.

Back at Ascot she wasn’t fully ready and got way too far back before staying on very eye-catchingly into fourth place, three lengths behind Muchly.  In France last time she took a step forward but in a typically slowly-run French race she again couldn’t show her true worth, though was beaten just 1¾ lengths at Group 2 level.

These eight runners, importantly including Main Edition and Beyond Reason who like to go forward, should ensure the pace is at least reasonable and so we should see the true Hidden Message this time and given her expected greater maturity she can come out on top under jockey Oisin Murphy.

4.45 Sandown (Coral Marathon – Listed Race) – MEKONG

We went for this fellow on his last run but he was never happy that day at York and is worth another shot at odds that if anything offer us more value this time.

He has close form with Ghostwatch and chased home Dee Ex Bee over this course and distance back in May, with a repeat of that form let alone natural improvement meaning he’d be a few pounds too strong for this line-up.

Dermot Weld’s Falcon Eight could head this market and there’s no doubt he has a good profile; an improving four-year-old who has had only four runs.  His third in a Group 3 in September and second last time out at Listed level both read OK but they don’t scream that he’s strong enough to beat Mekong yet.

Royal Ascot winner Cleonte is next best as another who could have further improvement in him.