Thursday 29 August 2019

Friday 30th & Saturday 31st August 2019: You Can Call Me Al at Sandown

Those punters looking for early Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe clues should cast an eye over the Grosser Preis von Baden on Sunday in which Ghaiyyath takes his chance, but closer to home there are some good value betting opportunities across Friday and Saturday starting with day one of Sandown’s classy meeting.

The winner of the Solario Stakes has traditionally gone on to be top class with recent winners including Too Darn Hot, Kingman, Fantastic a Moon and Ravens Pass, so that race has to be the main focus although we could find even more value in the fillies and mares event.  Here’s the best of the action: 

Friday 30th August

3.15 Sandown (Maiden Stakes) – DISCOVERY ISLAND

This really does look like your atypical notebook race; a maiden event chock full of potential with Group 1 entrants galore meaning the scouts will be out in force!

Sir Michael Stoute runs early Derby hopeful Mars Landing although he will surely be a work in progress, liable to improve over time, his stablemate My Frankel being a much more likely type for the yard on this occasion.

Regally-bred newcomers Palace Pier (John Gosden) and Lord Campari (Roger Varian) are both in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes among other things and should be forward enough to go very well on debut, but they could be up against an equally promising colt by the same sire whose experience could just make the difference on this occasion.

The horse in question is Godolphin’s Discovery Island, who was well fancied on debut at Newmarket but was just about touched-off in what looked a very hot race indeed.  At the rate of improvement usually seen by Charlie Appleby’s runners on their second outing he should be good enough to see off even these good looking rivals to make his mark.

3.50 Sandown (Handicap) – MARHABAN

A small and select three-year-old handicap, one in which we should witness a resumption in improvement from Charlie Appleby’s Marhaban, a two-time winner on the all-weather at the start of the year.

This will be his second run since being gelded and he can be expected to reach a whole new level now, potentially making him well-handicapped for this race and able to beat the likes of Gin Palace, Lyndon B and Reeth who made the shortlist too.

7.45 Newcastle (Future Stayers Novice Stakes) – CAPE PALACE

This horse and the aforementioned Palace Pier (Sandown, Friday) mark the first time that Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum has had horses trained away from Mark Johnston’s yard now that they under his banner rather than Godolphin’s, and this one makes perfect sense given that he is by Golden Horn.

John Gosden’s recruit begins a long journey towards hopefully emulating his sire in next year’s Derby in this breeding restricted race, one in which he has more potential to carry 9st 5lbs on debut on standard-to-slow ground across a testing enough seven furlongs than the rest seem to have and can be backed if not going off at prohibitive odds.

Saturday 31st August

2.25 Sandown (Handicap) – COUNTRY

This looks like a decent quality mile-and-a-quarter handicap in which, at the five-day stage at least, the three-year-olds dominated entries and either way it seems that it will need to be an improving type that wins it regardless of age.

William Haggas’ Dubawi gelding Country, himself a lightly-raced 3yo owned by Sheikh Ahmed, comes into this on a four-timer having scored in good style at Redcar (twice) and Ripon, his Newmarket trainer having had two possible races this weekend to aim him at.

He’s chosen this one and I think it’s a wise move given that this taking bay seems well ahead of the handicapper at this point and should be good enough to see off both Solid Stone of Sir Michael Stoute’s and Migration of the David Menuisier yard and keep his winning sequence going.

3.00 Sandown (Atalanta Stakes – Group 3) – DUNEFLOWER 

A decent renewal of this fillies and mares event, one that has been won by some very good types in the past although mostly when Sir Michael Stoute gets involved.  The crack Newmarket handler this year he has decided to run Jubiloso who looks set to go off a short-priced favourite, which is fair enough given her form.

She’s a filly I really like and she’s bound to come good at this level, but on this occasion she could be overtaken by the sharply improving Duneflower who is a much more tempting price at around 5/2.

I’ve written plenty of times about the fact that John Gosden, famously very good with fillies of course, doesn’t put them up in these races unless they’ve got a serious chance and in his daughter of Dubawi he has another who can reach a new level here under Frankie Dettori.

Jubiloso is of course next best on the list, with the others looking to potentially just have too much to do.

3.35 Sandown (Solario Stakes – Group 3) – AL SUHAIL

This is a race that has been won by some very serious juveniles in the past, often also when they’ve exhibited as much stamina in their breeding and form as speed meaning that is a crucial thing to keep an eye on here as regards the main competitors.

Charlie Appleby’s Al Suhail, by Dubawi out of a Shirocco mare, has just the right profile and it’s similar to the trainer’s winner of two years ago, Masar, who of course went on to win the Derby in good style at Epsom.

A very good debut at Newmarket when runner-up was followed by a bloodless win at Yarmouth by Al Suhail and it seems he has been put spot-on for this by his excellent trainer, Clive Cox’s likely favourite Positive and Mark Johnston’s lively Visinari showing up next on the list for minor honours.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th August 2019: Manuela to March to Goodwood Glory

With York’s fantastic Ebor Festival still going strong, we take in racing on both Friday and Saturday this week although given the prices we cannot possibly play in the Lonsdale Cup, suffice it to say that it would be brilliant for Stradivarius to do what Enable did on Thursday and get the job done at odds-on.

We are on a couple at the Knavesmire though and during Saturday’s excellent global action there are a number of good value bets to be had across a variety of tracks.

Friday 23rd August 2019

3.00 York (Gimcrack Stakes – Group 2) – THREAT

Richard Hannon’s colt is the obvious choice based on the formbook, but usually there is something in the profile of rivals to give us some encouragement but in this case, unless the son of Footstepsinthesand fails for any reason, they look to have far too big a hill to climb to get to him.

Despite the Hannon yard being tried and tested themselves at the top level, you can’t help but feel that had Threat been trained by John Gosden or Aidan O’Brien he’d be an even-money shot here, so at prices up to 2/1 he simply looks too big to ignore.

Having made an impressive debut Threat followed it up with a very good second in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot before going down narrowly again in the Richmond, but now he’s on a less quirky track we may see even more improvement from him which probably leaves the likes of Dubai Station, Pistoletto and Spartan Fighter with too much to do.

3.35 York (Nunthorpe Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH

This is a most intriguing Group 1, a five-furlong dash worth £400,000 and betting wise it appears to come down to Battaash, Ten Sovereigns and Mabs Cross.

Based on history as well as recent form, it remains possible that Ten Sovereigns could reach the very top of the sprinting game after stepping back in trip to great effect when winning the July Cup at Newmarket.  Aidan O’Brien pulled the same trick with Mozart and Stravinsky who both scored at HQ before taking this race and this son of No Nay Never has been priced up accordingly to repeat the feat.

Excellent mare Mabs Cross comes from a stable in great form, especially with sprinters, and as a Group 1 winner in her own right has to be considered.

Battaash on the other hand, as much of an enigma as he is, remains the fastest thing in the world on four legs and despite two past failures here there is no logical reason why he should dislike York as a venue.

He’s more mature now, so over this flat five furlongs we should see the Battaash that was rated 127 after winning the King George Stakes last year and that would be good enough to win this.

Saturday 24th August 2019

3.00 York (City of York Stakes – Group 2) – EQTIDAAR

Laurens will be all the rage here but I think she has it to do in these race conditions, while Speak In Colours and Shine So Bright are solid and have to be considered.

Eqtidaar though, a Group 1 Commonwealth Cup winner who has admittedly been disappointing since, has had a wind op and been freshened-up before returning.

Not only does Sir Michael Stoute improve horses plenty over time, but Sheikh Hamdan does not keep a talented colt in training all this time who could have gone to the breeding sheds unless they think there is more success to come on the turf and given time we should see more big performances from this son of Invincible Spirit who is overpriced.

3.50 Goodwood (March Stakes – Group 3) – MANUELA DE VEGA

This is a small field, but a good-looking one and while usually we’d be all over a John Gosden filly thrown into a pattern race, his Promissory really does have to reach a whole new level to take a hand here.

Sir Ron Priestley of Mark Johnston’s yard of course has to be considered and is, but Ralph Beckett’s Oaks fourth Manuela De Vega is the clear best of this field at the weights for me with the 1¾-mile trip looking right up her street.  She can take this before going back into Group 1 company, perhaps even in the St Leger at Doncaster over this distance in September.

6.20 Windsor (August Stakes – Listed Race) – WALDSTERN

John Gosden may fear the three-year-olds in the upcoming Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for his superstar mare Enable given the generous weight allowance they receive, but it’s something that he could use to his advantage here with Waldstern the beneficiary.

The visored gelding is a son of Sea The Stars and so while he didn’t perform too well over a rather extreme trip recently, he has continued to progress nicely at a mile-and-a-quarter and should take this extra furlong-and-a-half very well around Windsor.

Big Country, Crowned Eagle and with potentially more to come Lucius Tiberius are all very close ability wise and it could even be a lottery as to which of them is the most likely to challenge the selection.

10.44 Saratoga (Travers Stakes – Grade 1) – TACITUS

This is the best three-year-old race in the States bar the Kentucky Derby, and even without the presence of Game Winner or Maximum Security it’s a race that could produce the age group’s best challenger to the likes of McKinzie and Thunder Snow in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Tacitus has done incredibly well in Grade 1 races this year without winning, but we have to bear in mind that as a large framed horse he has more improvement in him than his rivals and he has blown the start a few times and yet still gone close.

He wears blinkers for the first time, which he wore in his work this week, which should see him sharpen up and we could see a big performance.  Main rivals would seem to be Mucho Gusto, Code Of Honor and Tax.

Friday 16 August 2019

Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th August 2019: A Divine, Wild and Glorious Message

It’s another terrific weekend of racing this week, if you look far enough afield that is!  With Glorious Goodwood behind us and York’s Ebor meeting very much around the corner we don’t get to see too many tip-top thoroughbreds running, but with pattern action in England, Ireland, France and the USA this weekend there is no shortage of quality.

Newbury stage the Geoffrey Freer Stakes on Saturday in which Morando and Sextant should have a good battle, but there’s no bet for us in that race.  Instead we spread our bets over two days, three countries and two continents in the search for value, begging with a juvenile of some promise at Newbury.

Saturday 17th August

1.50 Newbury (Denford Stakes – Listed Race) – JUAN ELCANO

Despite notable improvement from race one to race two when runner-up in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes over this seven-furlong trip at Newmarket last time on fast ground, Juan Elcano’s debut on a heavy surface at Haydock showed him capable of ploughing through a rain-softened surface and he will get home better than most of this field.

On top of that, he’s frankly the best horse in this race anyway with the contest representing a genuine drop in class for him, surely the idea being that he can grab a win here before perhaps being aimed at a Group 1 race at some point later this term.

Richard Hannon’s Sun Power and Thunderous of the Mark Johnston yard may prove to be best of the rest, though they’ll need to improve or rely on the selection being under-par.

3.25 Deauville (Prix de la Nonette – Group 2) – DIVINE IMAGE

Charlie Appleby loves a trip to France, usually getting a good deal of success and here we find out for sure whether this filly can handle group company on the turf by the French coast.

After a very taking debut on the all-weather at Chelmsford back in December, the daughter of Scat Daddy was sent to Meydan to contest races on the dirt track during the Dubai carnival where she improved greatly over the course of three runs, winning a Listed race and a Group 3 before things went wrong on Dubai World Cup night in the UAE Derby.

She has not reached her ceiling yet and will no doubt be brought into the race at just the right time from stall 7 under Will Buick, likely being good enough to see off Suphala and Etoile while John Gosden’s Terebellum is interesting and can show some serious improvement should the pace be sufficient.

3.35 Newbury (Hungerford Stakes – Group 2) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

This chap may be a big price but he is potentially worth chancing to smallish stakes in what is a winnable Group 2.

I’d wanted to back him in the Group 3 Chipchase at Newcastle (may have got away with that one given the performance of Invincible Army), but instead he was sent to the seven-furlong Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in which he was beaten narrowly by Limato, a career best performance.

He was then given an assignment in the July Cup and I don’t believe it was frivolous entry, however in being on the wrong part of the track James Doyle had to try something different and decided to blaze a trail up the stands side, even going clear three from home before weakening out of the race.

Given the circumstances that day we can significantly upgrade his performance there, where he was beaten 5¾ lengths by Ten Sovereigns but more eye-catchingly in the context of this race, 3 lengths by Advertise who subsequently won the Prix Maurice de Gheest and had previously taken the Commonwealth Cup, both Group 1 events.

With the trip here arguably more to his liking, Glorious Journey is way over-priced to go well with Safe Voyage, Hey Gaman and Sir Dancealot all solid types at this level who represent the main dangers to the selection.

2.00 Del Mar (Del Mar Oaks – Grade 1) – HIDDEN MESSAGE

Yes, this is 2AM!  I’d recommend just waiting for the result on Sunday morning rather than watching live of course, but Hidden Message is worth a punt anyway.

When trained in England by William Haggas I liked this filly a lot; she made a decent seasonal debut when running on late and ran in a similar fashion next time out over in France.  With things much more to her liking for the Coral Distaff at Sandown on Eclipse day she was tipped again here and was extremely strongly backed for that Listed race.

Having gone clear of the field she had put the race to bed that day before just idling a little, so we can upgrade the bare performance and rating and with more improvement to come she’d compare well with most fillies in the States, certainly on turf.

Having moved over to Simon Callaghan now she will love the faster pace Stateside and she can prove her point right off the bat in this $300,000 race despite having to come wide from gate 14, Flavien Prat being just the right jockey to get her into a position to challenge.

Sunday 18th August

3.25 Deauville (Prix Jean Romanet – Group 1) – WILD ILLUSION

Strictly speaking and although they have the potential to improve, the likes of Worth Waiting and Red Tea don’t appear up to the task of winning a Group 1 while I Can Fly and With You possess the quality but have been beaten by the best fillies around, of which one is Wild Illusion when she is on her game.

Coronet is proven at this level but of course she is a recognised mile-and-a-half horse, whereas the selection has proven time and again that this 1¼-mile trip is right up her alley.

Wild Illusion has been a little disappointing this season in two starts but she’s been freshened up and remains a filly of some serious potential for the rest of the year, with hopefully another Prix de l’Opera targeted at ParisLongchamp.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th August 2019: Light Blush to Leave Backers in the Pink

Another major festival has come and gone and now the bandwagon rolls onto York as their Ebor festival fast approaches, in the meantime though there remain some solid betting opportunities on the flat.

The Arlington Million and Shergar Cup meetings are staged this weekend but neither has been kind in offering us a bet, Haydock and Newmarket on the other hand have and we kick off with the Listed Dick Hern Stakes and the return of a potentially very smart filly before we move to Sunday’s action across the Channel.

Saturday 10th August 2019

2.30 Haydock (Dick Hern Stakes – Listed Race) – FELICIANA DE VEGA

William Haggas’ Miss O Connor has been very well touted in advance of this race, understandably so having registered two wins from 2 since making her debut at Gowran Park.  Since transferring to Newmarket she has improved plenty, scoring by 11 lengths last time but there’s no guarantee she will improve sufficiently to win at this level.

John Gosden knows what it takes to get a filly up to scratch in Listed company and so his Muchly is respected every bit as much as the favourite, though they may both end up trailing in the wake of one who is potentially a bit special and goes well on the forecast soft ground.

The filly in question is Feliciana De Vega, Ralph Beckett’s three-year-old who made a great impression on debut last year.  She backed that up with a Listed race win at Deauville and now makes her eagerly anticipated return in a race she can take before moving up a level or two, perhaps even contesting Group 1’s before the year is out.

3.05 Haydock (Rose of Lancaster Stakes – Group 3) – WADILSAFA

Addeybb is one of our old favourites and he will go off a short price for this race.  I’d still like to see him gain further Group race success, and his defeat on his favoured soft ground last time at York was as much about the class of Elarqam as it was about any of his own deficiencies.

That being said, he is a very short price against a competitive field and one that may be just as good, if not better in this ground and is a great value price to play at small stakes is this Wadilsafa.

Owen Burrows’ 4yo is rated only 4lbs lower than the jolly and has so far put in two performances that would make him competitive in this race, so bearing in mind that on slower ground he has the potential yet to improve even further he is great value to win this contest.

John Gosden’s Wissahickon is classy but is unproven on this ground and, while being by Tapit who gets plenty of success in the Belmont Stakes meaning he may want this extra test, there is no evidence to suggest he’s as good on turf as he is on the sand and so he’s passed over this time too.

3.45 Newmarket (Sweet Solera Stakes – Group 3) – LIGHT BLUSH

As is often the case with these juvenile races, a number of horses in this line-up are within a pound or two of each other in terms of private ratings, with West End Girl (Mark Johnston), Soffika (Sir Michael Stoue) and Dark Lady (Richard Hannon) all potentially capable of similar things.

The one for money will undoubtedly be Ed Vaughan’s Ultra Violet after her startling debut on this track over six furlongs in late June when she lost 4 lengths at the start, yet still managed to win the race by 8 at the line and comfortably too.  That is fantastic on paper, but she didn’t beat an awful lot and the performance doesn’t guarantee that she is Group class just yet.

Charlie Appleby’s Light Blush on the other hand is coming along nicely.  A very satisfying debut over this course and distance in mid-July was followed up a fortnight ago by a nice second in Listed company at Sandown, a race in which the daughter of Kodiac gave the impression she would come on again and that’s what I expect her to do under Will Buick, something that should make her good enough to score.

Sunday 11th August 2019

1.35 Deauville (Prix Francois Boutin – Listed Race) – KING’S COMMAND

Charlie Appleby does very well with his forays to France and this latest trip could yet be rewarded handsomely, firstly in this Listed juvenile race where the team’s King’s Command runs again under James Doyle.

After looking beaten on debut at Newmarket under Kerrin McEvoy having had a bad trip, the son of Dubawi rallied very well to win on the line.  He was beaten in the Superlative Stakes, though he was favourite to win that Group 2 event and if he’d even been placed that form would have been enough to win this.

So, with a return to form very likely he should have too much for the form horses here; Happy Bere and Coolmore’s Arapaho.

3.25 Deauville (Prix Jacques le Marois – Group 1) – LINE OF DUTY (each-way)

We’re stressing the each-way angle here, simply because at the anticipated double-figure odds we can play safe on Line Of Duty and at the end of the day this is a Group 1 and will not be easy to win.

What is not forgotten though, despite the disappointments of the Dante and the Derby where this horse ran poorly, is that Line Of Duty is a Grade 1 winner have taken the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs in fine style last November.

The drop back to this trip is in his favour, he’s been freshened up and will only have been thrown in at this level for his comeback if he’s still showing signs that he belongs in the top grade and let’s face it, he’s in a yard run by a guy who would know.

Watch Me, Romanised, Shaman and Study Of Man are all capable and will be among his challengers, but a place will be expected by the Godolphin team.

Friday 2 August 2019

Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd August 2019: Gosden’s Girls to the Fore

A brilliant racing week ends with Glorious Goowood’s finale, including the Stewards’ Cup of course, and the end of the Galway festival with punters also reminiscing about another brilliant week for racing’s biggest personality, Frankie Dettori.

It’s the return of another top jock though in the shape of William Buick that’s the best news and he may be welcomed back into the fold with a winner or two for Godolphin, something we can piggyback on here.

Friday 2nd August 2019

1.50 Goodwood (Oak Tree Stakes – Group 3) – JUBILOSO

Sir Michael Stoute is more renowned for getting improvement out of his four and 5-year-olds, but even at three they can take steps forward and it’s thought that’ll be the case with this impressive daughter of Shamardal.

Jubiloso made a fine debut then destroyed an ordinary field at Newbury but proved she can sit at the top table when running a fine third over a mile at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes, this step back to seven furlongs looking right up her street making her the standout in the field.

The admirable Angel’s Hideaway looks a big price to get in on the act and must be a very solid each-way bet, while Frankie rides Royal Intervention instead of the Gosden filly and again has place chances in a decent-looking race.

2.25 Goodwood (Thoroughbred Stakes – Group 3) – ART DU VAL

In rating this race I found it very close, something reflected in the early odds which showed 11/2 the field and no bigger than 9/1 down to the eighth horse in the market, but within that there could be some value so while there are many solid types in the line-up, the one who could prove in time to be a little bit better than Group 3 level is Art Du Val.

Charlie Appleby’s colt has won over almost a mile-and-a-quarter but seemed to improve plenty for going down to a mile in a four-runner, slowish race in France.  This faster mile again could really play to his strengths and he could just burst clear with a race-winning turn of foot.

The rock-solid Turgenev may miss out yet again but can go close, while Duke Of Hazzard can go well once more for Paul Cole.

6.25 Newmarket (Novice Stakes) – LAZULI

Will Buick makes his return after a worrying bout of post head-injury syndrome and it’s not thought Charlie Appleby would give him a terribly hard time if possible.

Lazuli’s three main rivals are likely to run to marks somewhere in the high 70’s to early 80’s, whereas a typically well-prepared horse from this yard with breeding as good as this one could be a good deal better than that.

Saturday 3rd August 2019 

2.05 Newmarket (Chalice Stakes – Listed Race) – SHAMBOLIC

This is another competitive and open race on paper but reading between the form lines somewhat reveals one who may be just a shade better than the others over this sort of track.

The likes of Spirit Of Appin and Love So Deep will no doubt be popular in the market, rightly so too after their recent performances while Bella Vita comes into this on a five-timer.

John Gosden though is very well regarded as a trainer who improves fillies no end and does not enter them in these races unless they have a proper winning chance.  His Shambolic has put in two outstanding performances versus the rest of her runs, both over on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, but seemed to not like conditions elsewhere.

Should she not only come back to form after her second at Goodwood and 8th at Ascot but also show natural improvement for a filly at her age and stage, she can prove to be a cut above here under Rab Havlin and seems a fair price.

3.15 Newmarket (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – AMBER ISLAND

Buick’s return continues on Saturday, and he has a similar chance on this Amber Island to that he has on Lazuli in as much as some of her rivals look bred to be gradual improvers, their trainers perhaps happy for just a reasonable performance on debut.

This Amber Island though is by Exceed And Excel, will have been readied for a big run first up and so looks much better equipped to do the business over this trip right now than the others, something that may prove crucial on the day regardless of where they all end up in the future.

3.00 Goodwood (Lillie Langtry Stakes – Group 2) – ENBIHAAR

This fillies’ Group 2 is pretty deep, with various form lines coming from all sorts of angles.  Aidan O’Brien’s South Sea Pearl is a big price but won her race in Ireland very easily and could also improve, while the Oaks form is represented by Manuela De Vega, her fellow three-year-old.

Given her overall profile it may be that Ralph Beckett’s filly was slightly flattered by her rating of 108 after that Epsom run, but if that was because she wanted an outright test of stamina then this move up to a mile and six furlongs could prove to be a masterstroke by her handler and so she is far from ruled out.

The battle many are expecting is between two older fillies, old rivals Enbihaar and Dramatic Queen.  The latter named won their first battle of the season at York, but she was race-fit that day and was put in her place somewhat when the pair went down to a mile-and-a-half at Haydock.

True, they’re back up in trip now and Enbihaar carries a 3lb penalty, but this track seems far more likely to suit the Gosden filly and she should show the sort of progress required to confirm her superiority here before perhaps even being allowed a crack at a Group 1 event.

Should our fillies win and Angel’s Hideaway also scores, we would be in the very strange situation of seeing three top John Gosden horses win and each without Frankie Dettori on their back.