Friday 26 June 2020

Saturday 27th June 2020: Look Around for the Value at Newcastle

It’s Irish Derby day on Saturday at the Curragh, while the ever more popular Tapeta track at Newcastle takes centre stage in England on what is a very different looking and extended Northumberland Plate Day.

There are some interesting contenders running at Newmarket too in both the Criterion and the Fairway Stakes while Churchill Downs hosts a very valuable Grade 2 contest, but we have ultimately settled on four value bets beginning at Gosforth Park in a competitive Group 3 race:

1.50 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – MUBAKKER

There are plenty of good and well-established six-furlong sprinters in this race, none with a higher rating than Brando of course and on his first start on the all-weather he is bound to go well.

Peaks and troughs are expected but overall, he is understandably going a little bit backwards now and he may not be up to his very best form for the admittedly hot Kevin Ryan.  He is most likely good for a place, but that career best form may be what is needed if he is to deny Sir Michael Stoute’s recent course and distance scorer Mubakker here this time.

Improving sharply all the time, Mubakker won a strong handicap in very taking style here upon the resumption of racing and was actually clear favourite for the Wokingham Stakes last week at Ascot before being pulled out in favour of this event.

Fellow Hamdan Al Maktoum runner Shabaaby and Judicial can both go well, but may well be running for place money if Dane O’Neill’s mount doesn’t run into any trouble.

3.00 Newcastle (Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – LOOK AROUND

The Hoppings itself may not be allowed on the Town Moor in Newcastle this year, but the race named after it certainly is and while it has been moved from its now regular Friday night slot alongside the Gosforth Park Cup, it simply adds to the quality of Saturday afternoon.

The one for money here is the unbeaten Aloe Vera of Ralph Beckett’s yard, though caution is urged given that she’s been off the track for more than 400 days and has only gone on quicker turf so far.  These conditions are very different and, on a line through others with close form, she may not quite be good enough to get to our horse anyway.

That horse is the one representing the bang in form Classic winning yard of Andrew Balding, Look Around.  There are several bits of form from her second to Duneflower and third to Lavender’s Blue last year that point to her being a few pounds better than these, so having had a freshener at Newbury and coming from a red-hot yard she looks the most solid option and is fair value.

Both William Haggas’ Nkosikazi and Ed Dunlop’s Virgin Snow are interesting stepping up in class, but they may have a way to go yet to reach the level required.

7.15 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – SANTIAGO

While understandable to a degree given the change in schedules required on both sides of the Irish Sea, this is a desperately disappointing Irish Derby and one that on paper at least, isn’t even worth the title of Group 1 let alone Classic.

That said, something could yet prove to be above average and whatever happens, something has to win it too and it seems the solid one all things considered is Aidan O’Brien’s Queen’s Vase winner Santiago in what looks like a Coolmore/O’Brien family benefit race.

Others may step up their form over this distance, such as Sherpa, Iberia and Arthur’s Kingdom, but in these strange times it could be the one coming back in distance from 1¾ miles who simply outstays if not outclasses them.

In all fairness Santiago handled seven furlongs and a mile quite well last year as a juvenile and it may be that his ability got him home at Ascot, making this trip ideal, so he is backed on the day but probably not again when he meets the best middle-distance types later in the season.

Should Santiago win this, considering he beat Berkshire Rocco last time, look out for English King’s odds shortening even further for the Derby at Epsom next week.

10.47 Churchill Downs (Stephen Foster Stakes – Grade 2) – BY MY STANDARDS

A quality race, and it’s a pleasure to see horses running for £200,000+ instead of the majorly reduced prize funds in Britain at the moment.

The strong favourite on most boards will be Tom’s D’Etat, a winner when last seen in April.  Before that the now seven-year-old had racked up some fine performances last term, including landing a Listed Race, a Grade 2 and the Grade 1 Clark Stakes easily from today’s rival Owendale.

We of course have had some joy in backing Owendale before and in receipt of 4lbs he could well turn the tables on his old foe here, especially after that fine prep run here at Churchill Downs recently, but they may both struggle at the weights to keep up with today’s selection.

By My Standards, a four-year-old trained by Bret Calhoun, is in the unusual position for an American horse of having been on the Triple Crown trail last year when winning the Louisiana Derby and entering the Kentucky Derby, while still very much being on the improve now.

His Oaklawn Handicap win in May was a definite career high and everything about his profile says he’ll go further, making him on the numbers and upon further investigation the best of this bunch so without any bad luck in running he should land this event before going on to contest the better Grade 1 races over the Classic distance.

Friday 19 June 2020

Royal Ascot Day Five: Pinatubo to Erupt in St James’s Palace

Our two juvenile champions were both placed in their respective Guineas’ this season yet both disappointed, but with those runs under their belts they can prove to be very different propositions now and could light up the last day of Royal Ascot 2020.

1.50 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – CREATIVE FORCE

It would be no surprise if, after what we’ve seen not just in the past but even this week, the Aidan O’Brien runner Admiral Nelson or Mark Johnston’s charge Qaader proved to be too good at this stage but at the odds a chance can be taken on Godolphin’s Creative Force instead.

Charlie Appleby hasn’t had as many contenders for the two-year-old races as we’d expect with only the very best of his early bunch considered, but when looking back at the likes of La Pelosa and Quorto it seems a ton of improvement comes from them at this time of year after their first run which in the case of this horse was 16 days ago.

That is not a gap enjoyed by his two main rivals and so a little less of an upward trajectory may be expected from them, with this son of Dubawi therefore very much in the mix having made a hugely pleasing debut at Newmarket under today’s jockey William Buick.

2.25 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – QUADRILATERAL

Last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner was a little below her best when third in the 1000 Guineas, but it’s more than possible that she needed the run at Newmarket and that the quicker ground wasn’t totally ideal for her.  She still looks every inch a potential champion three-year-old filly and will come good.

Quadrilateral was very fresh in the Guineas and took a keen hold so a different performance is expected now, that difference if it comes about putting her at least back up to the level she achieved as a juvenile which would be enough to win this you would feel.

American raider Sharing is fascinating, but she would like it quicker and in truth she hasn’t got to Quadrilateral’s level, while Alpine Star comes into the event off a long break with no guarantee of her being a Group 1 filly over a mile.

3.00 Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – PINATUBO

There has been a lot of talk of horses not “training on”, especially Pinatubo, but it doesn’t happen as often as many believe and it often simply means no further improvement rather than actual regression.

Looking at Pinatubo’s profile overall, it’s more than possible that he simply doesn’t like Newmarket and he wasn’t at his best in 2000 Guineas on the fast ground either, but much like Too Darn Hot it remains probable he will get back to the same level he achieved last year as champion juvenile (if no better) and even being a few under would get him home here.

With the freshness now run out of him, coming back onto what by Saturday afternoon will just be fair racing ground and going round a bend, this will be a little more of a speed test than Newmarket so facing this bunch rather than Kameko in this particular environment can get him some more Group 1 glory.

While Wichita was ahead of him at Newmarket and may run well again, he may not appreciate the change in conditions as much as the selection which could leave Newcastle handicap winner Palace Pier as the main danger given that plenty more improvement is to come and he could yet be a Group 1 winner himself.

3.35 Ascot (Diamond Jubilee Stakes – Group 1) – DREAM OF DREAMS

This has all been about Sceptical since the declarations came out, but it niggles that he may well be better over five furlongs than this six and especially here.

Now the highest rated sprinter in Ireland after bolting home in a Listed race at Naas to make it four in a row, there was talk of the King’s Stand but it appears Denis Hogan and his team were rather put off by Battaash and this race was their second choice.

Hello Youmzain has been well backed, but had this race been at somewhere similar to Haydock and/or the ground had been even softer he’d more fancied more, while Khaadem and One Master both look quality without perhaps being good enough.

With so many holding place chances the field has rather a ‘much of a muchness’ look about, which points us towards the proven quality of Sir Michael Stoute’s Dream Of Dreams instead.

A close second in this race last year behind Blue Point, the ground should hold no fears and despite having finished last year disappointingly a lot is still expected of this six-year-old who has now been gelded and can return to his very best under Ryan Moore.

10.42 Belmont Park (Belmont Stakes – Grade 1) – SOLE VOLANTE

An important race, this is the first leg of the Triple Crown this year due to the delays in getting the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes on and it has also been reduced in distance from 1½ miles to 1m1f.

Maxfield has been injured again, as have the Bob Baffert pair Charlatan and Nadal who would all have held chances so the race has broken up badly in recent weeks.

After solid wins in the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby the market has been dominated by Tiz The Law, also a Belmont winner in the Champagne Stakes, but he keeps producing similar performances without really going on.

Enter the well-drawn Sole Volante then who is just coming to himself now having made a belated debut.  A winner at Gulfstream last time out, his form stands up well but there is clearly plenty more to come and he looks good value against the favourite, Tap It To Win and Dr Post to land the $1million event.

Royal Ascot Day Four: El of a Bet in Hardwicke

Despite being run behind closed doors, this Royal Ascot meeting is absolutely flying by and we have seen some devastating performances from the likes of Battaash, Lord North and Stradivarius.

There could be at least one more proper top-level showing on Friday’s card too, though it may well not come in the Group 1 race.  Everything looks good value today, beginning with one in the Albany for the two-year-old fillies.

1.50 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – WILLABELL

John Gosden horses carrying unusual colours and those having not won a race who come into a juvenile event here may lead to some tasty prices, and that appears to be the case with this filly Willabell.

The truth is though that this daughter of War Front is owned by St Elias Stable, a leading American owner with connections to Gosden who previously trained in California, and the race she was a close runner-up in probably represents the best form on offer here.

War Front’s progeny, as we discovered yesterday, don’t need top of the ground as much as many think and with natural improvement from her Yarmouth outing to now she can prove to be the best of these.

It’s close in behind with the likes of Golden Melody, Flying Aletha and Mother Earth all capable but Frankie Dettori’s mount is the value in the race.

2.25 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – LIPIZZANER

These are the quickest juveniles around at the moment, albeit from a smaller sample than usual following the late resumption of racing, which means normally it would be easy to go along with short-priced favourite Eye Of Heaven after his impressive debut at Newmarket.

That run was on fast ground however and things are different now, while Mark Johnston will have also had him wound up fully for that first race and there may not be as much improvement to come as we’d like.

The Lir Jet broke the course record for juveniles at Yarmouth but that was on very quick ground and he has since been sold to Qatar Racing, but the smart money may well come the way of Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner.

The Ballydoyle juveniles are running well and considering he made an early debut in March before lockdown, this Uncle Mo colt has the rare benefit of having had two runs and will be super fit.  He hasn’t won in two tries, but his debut was very good on soft ground and he was unsuited by the faster going last time.  He has a huge chance.

3.00 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – ELARQAM

Despite being a Group 2 this race usually throws up a proper top-level type and often they are putting up a career best en route to the King George back here in late July.  In the shape of Elarqam we have one from a stable in form who loves this ground, wants this trip and has the recent form in the book.

Fourth in a Guineas at three, Mark Johnston’s horse slammed Addeybb on his favoured soft ground before running a relatively unlucky third in that strong Juddmonte International at York last year and he was always fancied to hit the top given his breeding – he is by Frankel out of the yard’s stunning Group 1 mare Attraction.

Elarqam began this season with a staying-on second behind the impressive Group 1 winner Lord North over 1m2f at Haydock and now this looks ideal.

The big danger is Coolmore’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, but he hasn’t won since Epsom and was probably flattered just a bit in the Coronation Cup when flying late off Ghaiyyath’s blistering pace.

Morando and at the weights Fanny Logan both have place chances, the latter was never ridden close enough to challenge last time and will do better, while Defoe won it last year but just doesn’t seem the same and this is a better renewal.

3.35 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – ROYAL CRUSADE

Just a small bet here as we’re taking a little bit of a chance at big prices, but Charlie Appleby does believe this Royal Crusade has a chance and I’d have to agree.

Taking the favourite first of all for reference; Pierre Lapin is two from two having landed first a maiden and then the Mill Reef last year, bringing him into this season rated 110 and with the ground an unknown.

Our boy, who really wants this drop in trip and can improve, reached that same 110 mark during the same month with a good second behind Threat at Doncaster before being sent off favourite for a Group 3 at Saint-Cloud.  Both horses are running first time out, but their prices are vastly different.

There are plenty in behind with place chances including Wooded, who was behind Royal Crusade last year but is also a shorter price, Lope Y Fernandez and Millisle.  Kimari looks one of many who is too short for what she has actually achieved.

4.10 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – AL DABARAN

A tough staying race for these inexperienced horses over a mile and six furlongs, this will take some getting but it is high quality.

As someone who has backed English King at 66/1 for the Derby a good run from Berkshire Rocco wouldn’t go amiss after his runner-up performance behind Ed Walker’s horse at Lingfield, while Santiago and Nobel Prize from Aidan O’Brien’s yard both need to improve and are probably close in ability.

William Haggas’ Born With Pride won first time out in Listed company and thus has been favourite for three races in a row now, one in which she didn’t run, but she may not be as good as many think.

Godolphin’s Al Dabaran however should have no trouble staying, handles softer ground and on a line through some of the horses he was keeping company with last season he can climb now to a mark of somewhere between 110-115 which should be enough.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Royal Ascot Day Three: Stoute Horse Just Regal in Wolferton Stakes

Day three throws at us a mix of some up-and-coming stars in the Chesham Stakes as well as the Jersey, the proven superstar quality of Stradivarius in the Gold Cup and even some genuine top-class form in the Wolferton Stakes.

How the surface truly behaves is anyone’s guess after Ascot started the week on ‘good’ ground, changed it to ‘good to soft’ despite some quick times and then back again.  Whatever, the very best horses in their division should be able to handle what is basically fair racing ground and we go in confidently with another clutch of royal bets.

1.50 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – REGAL REALITY

This is a very competitive Listed event in which, at first glance at least, there are at around 10 contenders who all appear good enough to win a race of this nature.

Considering not just ground conditions – which are sometimes exaggerated as a factor anyway – but also expected rates of improvement or regression, the one who stands out is Sir Michael Stoute’s Regal Reality of the Cheveley Park Stud.

Competitively priced for this event, this son of Intello was brought along at the usual Stoute pace to the point that last year he showed very high-class form indeed.  A Group 3 winner, placed in Group 2 and Group 1 races, he is probably the class act here and should be primed for this run.

The one for money has been Andrew Balding’s Fox Tal having finished third and fourth in Group 1 races in the past, but so often horses get dragged along to keep up in such events and the fact this one is running first up having had had only three runs in 20 months doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Sir Dragonet, a former Derby favourite, is likely to be overbet on what he has achieved in recent times and if it weren’t for the 6lb penalty he carries Winter Derby winner Dubai Warrior may well have been the one to be on, but Regal Reality looks value at the weights given his class.

2.25 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – KING LEONIDAS

It’s an interesting Jersey Stakes, one in which we should back the potential of King Leonidas over the proven Pattern form of Molatham and Monarch Of Egypt.

In Moltham’s case he reached a good level when winning a strong Listed race last season, beating Guineas second Wichita no less, but that horse has improved immeasurably and it’s unfair to compare him to that one.

On a line through Visinari and Berlin Tango who were both close up he’d probably look like a 110 horse give or take, which is decent but doesn’t make him a shoo-in for a Jersey.

Monarch Of Egypt for Aidan O’Brien is rated 111 based on a runner-up effort to Irish 2000 Guineas champ Siskin as a juvenile, but in three runs since he hasn’t got back to that level despite being highly tried.  French raider Celestin is possibly also overrated unless he finds improvement at this trip.

King Leonidas, one of a bunch of supremely talented runners sent to John Gosden by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed last season, won at Newmarket in comfortable fashion last time but a combination of going down in trip, coming on for the run and his obvious quality could just send him to a level above his main rivals here under Frankie Dettori. 

3.00 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – MODERN NEWS

This is the race taken by Pinatubo last year in great fashion, and it could be won by the same connections of Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick once more as their Modern News seems best placed at this stage among this particular bunch.

His rivals include Battleground, only fifth on debut (second string) for Aidan O’Brien, and while he will improve it will take a very big leap to call him a Listed horse just yet although it of course remains possible given where he comes from.

Mark Johnston’s Golden Flame was good on debut but that was in defeat and his horses are usually pretty wound up first time leading to the potential for less improvement on a second run, while Bright Devil of Andrew Balding’s looks just one level below the required rate on what scant evidence we have to date.

Modern News however, up against a stablemate costing a few million pounds among others, showed the best speed figures of anything in this line-up to win on debut at Newmarket, flying by to win in good style and on breeding he will relish this extra furlong.

3.35 Ascot (Gold Cup – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS

could wish to do all week, but he deserves a mention here for a couple of reasons.

First of all, he is sheer class within his particular division and we can’t let the race go by without writing about it, but also there may yet be a betting opportunity.

Just as Battaash has nothing to lay up with him in the sprinting ranks, Stradivarius is the undisputed king of the stayers’ division and unless he’s had a hard season and is on very soft ground it is unlikely something will go wrong.

So, whether like Battaash in the King’s Stand he drifts up towards even-money and becomes backable, or whether you throw him in with a handicap gimme like African Angel for example thus making him part of a win double, he can still be used in wagers which can make this race worth watching even more.

He is a true marvel and it’s hoped he lands an incredible third Gold Cup under Frankie Dettori, with his main rivals this time for info being Technician who may improve, and Godolphin’s Cross Counter.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Royal Ascot Day Two: Head the Man to Upset Japan

We’ve already seen some excellent performances at this year’s Royal Ascot and there is a lot more to come.

A fairly obvious type may be the one to be on in the Hampton Court, and while it’ll take an above average performance to beat Coolmore’s Japan in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes it seems there is one in the field that can indeed pull that out of the bag.

There are just three non-handicap events on day two despite the elongated day, however all provide good betting opportunities beginning with a horse who has produced an excellent display in what was clearly a better than midpoint 2000 Guineas and now has race conditions to suit even more.

1.50 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – JUAN ELCANO

We’ve seen before with the likes of Benbatl, though that was after a Derby rather than a 2000 Guineas, that tougher types can come out of the classics and reach a new level in this race when finally getting the mile-and-a-quarter they want as three-year-olds and Kevin Ryan’s Juan Elcano can add his name to the honours board.

A winner on very soft ground on debut as a juvenile in a race that has worked out well over time, he followed up with a very fine effort when runner-up in the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket in conditions that would have been a lot quicker than ideal for him.

Even quicker was the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster where he was close-up again in third, but at 66/1 the son of Frankel began this season with a new career high when landing fifth place in the Guineas behind the likes of Kameko and Pinatubo and now he can fulfil his potential under Andrea Atzeni.

The likely favourite is the Queen’s horse First Receiver, admittedly one with a big chance for Sir Michael Stoute and Frankie Dettori after a taking maiden win at Kempton, though he seems too short given what he’s actually achieved while the other on the shortlist is Roger Teal’s Kenzai Warrior.

3.00 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – HEADMAN

In fairness this race does revolved around Aidan O’Brien’s Japan and on bare form he has nothing at all to prove.

Third in the Derby last year before winning the King Edward VII at this meeting, the Galileo colt then went on to land the Grand Prix de Paris as well as a very good renewal of the Juddmonte International at York before finishing a great season with a fourth behind Waldgeist and Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

While that is top-notch, he has managed those wins with a variety of class and guts and has never really stamped his authority on a first-grade race in the manner of a horse marking himself out as the undisputed number one.

Enter Headman then, a Kingman who has always been highly thought of and made a debut at Newcastle to rival some of the best.  After taking the London Gold Cup last spring, he won two Group 2 races in France before being thrown into the Irish Champion Stakes and it was always felt that he may not be ready.

Despite that, as well as hitting trouble at the start and not enjoying the day, he ran a solid Group 1 effort in a very good field and would seem to be the heir apparent at this distance making him look value in the betting here.

Last year’s Cambridgeshire winner Lord North beat the likes of Elarqam at Group 3 level last time, is climbing the ranks quickly and can land a blow at this level, while soft ground specialist Addeybb won at the meeting last year and has taken out two Group 1’s in Australia this year already.

Neither former top-class miler Barney Roy nor top filly Mehdaayih can be discounted in a race of very high quality, but it would be no surprise if we’re looking back later in the year on some top battles between Headman and Kameko at this distance who I think are the best two from the older and younger generations.

4.10 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – MIGHTY GURKA

Even in a normal year you’d be hard pressed to say you have a cert in the Windsor Castle, and this year there is even less evidence to go on.

Plenty are in with chances but knowing that on the straight track here it may pay to be towards the stands side, impressive Lingfield winner Mighty Gurka comes into the equation and for some reason looks like being allowed to go off at a double-figure price.

Archie Watson’s Sepoy colt is stepping down in trip here but if anything, it seems that will suit him, while Tactical and Aidan O’Brien’s Chief Little Hawk are also bound to be popular.

Look out for an improved performance from Yazaman too, who’s effort at Yarmouth may have been underestimated leading to him being somewhat overpriced for this affair.

Monday 15 June 2020

Royal Ascot Day One: Tregoning Colt to Mo Down Queen Anne Opposition

Day one of Royal Ascot has a very strange feel about it with no crowd and no morning attire, however these five horses all represent great betting value.

1.50 Ascot (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) – MOHAATHER

This is a very competitive Queen Anne Stakes.  There may be no obvious superstar, at least not one we know of yet, but many seem capable of running to a similar ability while improvement can come from the likes of Skardu, Terrebellum and most of all from our overpriced selection.

After winning last year’s Greenham in good style, Mohaather was a genuine fancy for the 2000 Guineas but suffered a setback.  Having reappeared after that on totally unsuitable heavy ground in the QEII here, Marcus Tregoning’s colt proved his worth with a good fifth.

Now fully fit and with conditions to suit, the obvious visual clues he provided with taking wins in the Horris Hill and Greenham aligned with the form he has with strong yardsticks such as Hello Youmzain, King Of Change and Veracious, he would appear to be ready to run to the required level to take a Group 1.

Last year’s St James’s Palace winner Circus Maximus remains strong but might now want to go up in trip to be at his very best, while Billesdon Brook can up her game again to get involved.  Mustashry completes the shortlist but it could be very germane that Jim Crowley has sided with our horse.

2.25 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – FRANKLY DARLING

John Gosden has such a great stranglehold on these big fillies’ races.  As well as having trained major stakes winner such as Enable and Taghrooda, he gets plenty in this sort of race including last year’s winner Star Catcher and Oaks scorer Anapurna.

With Frankly Darling apparently being ahead of Franconia in the pecking order and having seen what she did in the Abingdon Stakes on Saturday, allied with the stable having Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Miss Yoda in this line-up as second choice, it seems the daughter of Frankel is well set up to land this event, perhaps en route to Epsom.

Trefoil should run well without being good enough to win, while I also have similar sentiments about Aidan O’Brien’s Passion who is turned out quickly.

3.00 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – MOHICAN HEIGHTS

Aidan O’Brien has two big hitters in what is an unsatisfactory running of the King Edward VII on paper, both current Derby fourth-favourite Mogul (Ryan Moore) and Arthur’s Kingdom (Frankie Dettori) looking capable of landing what is now a fully-fledged trial for Epsom.

However, under his third jockey in three starts and in his third lot of racing colours, David Simcock’s Mohican Heights may well just announce himself on the Derby scene too.

A very good winner on debut last year at Leopardstown for Fozzy Stack, this son of Australia was promptly bought by Qatar Racing and sent to Simcock in Newmarket.  When reappearing in a Listed race in August, he easily swept aside his field over a mile in great style and was then put away for the year.

His turn of foot was excellent in both races and there is clearly a lot more to come, but considering he is by Australia out of a Shirley Heights mare it seems all of that was a bonus and he is capable of great things over this mile-and-a-half.

Andrea Atzeni’s mount should be a very good price with Mogul expected to be odds-on, but he may yet prove to be the best of this particular bunch.

3.35 Ascot (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – EQUILATERAL (*place only) 

Even taking into consideration the fact that the wonderful Battaash is often a few pounds below his best at Ascot, he still comes out comfortably on top on private ratings here.

To be brutally honest, I hope he smashes the field as he still gets a bad time of it from some social media commentators, however he is no price at all without Blue Point in the field and he cannot be classed as a betting prospect.

With three places to fight for the place market is alive and, given the prices quoted for the fairly solid but not spectacular Glass Slippers and Liberty Beach, the circa 12/1 about Equilateral looks an absolute steal.

At his best he has already run well enough to be placed in this sort of race anyway, so given that conditions are fine for him, he is getting better all the time and as sprinters so often do will be dragged along by a quality field to reach his best form, he is a fair alternative to Battaash and could run a mighty race.

4.10 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – JUBILOSO

Many a punter has made hay already with Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old handicappers this season, but improving horses at that age is not restricted to the lower ranks for the master of Freemason Lodge Stables.

Just as he did with another Juddmonte filly in the shape of Sun Maiden, Stoute can coax a few more pounds out of last year’s Coronation Stakes third Jubiloso and if he does it should be enough to take this race, Ryan Moore is on board too who is just the right man for the job.

John Gosden’s recent all-weather Listed race scorer Nazeef is next on the list as her own improvement can continue too and she has the benefit of race fitness, while Magic Lily remains a class act but has to give weight away to the rest of the field and that should just about be enough to stop her.

Franky Dettori takes the ride on the French trained filly Wasmya and that partnership will be of interest, however it would be no surprise to see Jubiloso go on to score at the top level this year in something like the Falmouth Stakes with this race being a great starting point.

Thursday 11 June 2020

Saturday 13th June 2020: Comedy to Have Us Laughing at Newbury

We have some high-quality action around the country on Saturday, despite the racing taking place only three days before the start of Royal Ascot.

Information for Newbury, Sandown and Doncaster is all strong as we steam into some good value types, including at least one that should be winning a Group 1 race before the end of this season.

2.25 Newbury (Maggie Dickson Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – FARZEEN

This is an interesting race over the seven-furlong trip, one in which we can expect Foxtrot Lady to get back to being close to her best having been dropped in trip after her seasonal bow ten days ago.

Miss Celestial, Preening and Mubtasimah rank very close to each other with all things taken into consideration, however there may be some real value to be had with Roger Varian’s Farzeen instead.

The four-year-old, making her seasonal reappearance here, had five runs last year with the highlights being wins on her second and third starts in the summer.

On a line through the horses she has beaten, easily I might add, she can be considered to be potentially the best of this particular bunch.  Also, she was blocked in her run and stumbled the day she finished three lengths behind Breathtaking Look in a Doncaster Group 3 with that horse having now finished second in the Abernant this term.

She can be thought of then as a Group 3 filly for sure, and may well prove to be too good for this field as long as this trip is still right for her.

2.40 Sandown (Scurry Stakes – Listed Race) – LAZULI

We won’t always find a Battaash, who broke the minute barrier in this race in 2017, but the Scurry Stakes is known for unearthing good types finding their feet at five furlongs and Charlie Appleby’s Lazuli fits the bill nicely.

A lot of Dubawi’s get quicker as they get older, so considering this horse won over six on his first two starts last year as a juvenile it won’t be a surprise if he has wanted the minimum distance all along – he is also out of a Fasliyev mare too.

Having had a wind op he needed the blowout on seasonal debut just a week ago, but he put in a mighty handicap performance in finishing second to a well-handicapped type at Newmarket over six furlongs and on that, as well as on a line through the horses he’s previously kept company with, he can reach a level good enough to see these off.

Sunday Sovereign, Al Raya, Dream Shot and Orlaith are all very close on the book in behind.

3.15 Sandown (Class 2 Handicap) – SOLID STONE

We’re always taking a slight chance when betting in handicaps, but in the shape of Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone we have as rigid a contender as we’re likely to see.

Looking at the opposition, we more or less know what to expect from The Gill Brothers, Modern Millie and Elegant Light and that means we also know what is required from our horse.

A reproduction of his narrow defeat behind Maamora over course and distance a year ago would do it, so considering the son of Shamardal looks every inch the typical Stoute four-year-old improver it is very easy to see him having a good few pounds in hand with Listed and Group 3 races on the agenda eventually.

3.25 Doncaster (Class 3 Handicap) – JOYFUL MISSION

Two bites of the cherry is always better than one, so here’s another Stoute four-year-old handicapper!  In theory, Joyful Mission could have even more in hand than Solid Stone but we do have only last year’s form and reputation to go on for now.

Dealing with the opposition; a number are very closely handicapped all things taken into consideration.  Keith Dalgleish’s Caustic Love could be overpriced for a place, while Mark Johnston’s Asdaa is rock solid but not necessarily an improver.

Michael Dods can never be underestimated so his Byron’s Choice is considered, but they may all have it to do to beat Juddmonte’s son of Noble Mission.

After a slowish start simply typical of a three-year-old from this yard, Joyful Mission sprung into life when romping home in a maiden at Pontefract.  He was a little disappointing in a small but hot four-runner event after and was then put away for the year.

Back now, reinvigorated and wearing a hood for the first time as well as with the assistance up top of man-of-the-moment Oisin Murphy, he is taken to get his season off to the perfect start.

3.35 Newbury (Diomed Stakes – Group 3) – KING OF COMEDY

It’s probably a good thing for our selection that this rearranged Diomed is at Newbury rather than Epsom, a track I think that will suit John Gosden’s potential star four-year-old much better.

In terms of form, Zaaki is the main danger for Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore but while the jockey will get the best out of this five-year-old former Diomed winner, that best is not likely to be quite of the required standard and especially not so when considering the 3lbs he has to give away.

King Of Comedy’s form is outstanding in this context.  An easy winner of the Heron Stakes from the likes of Roseman, Sangarius and Dark Vision, he went on to be a very unlucky loser when having to go wide in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

After that he was a close-up fourth in a hot renewal of the Juddmonte International at York behind Japan, Crystal Ocean and Elarqam and should only get better as this year goes on.

Put simply, King Of Comedy is a Group 1 horse in a Group 3 race and so as long as he’s not completely ring rusty, he should be a fair way ahead of this bunch.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Friday 5th, Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th June 2020: Welcome to the Candy Shop!

Even in taking only the Pattern races across just Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there has been simply too much to write about this week on our belated return to UK racing.

Look out for support for Lake Lucerne in the Oaks Trial, Oxted should go very well in the Abernant, Ghaiyyath can prove he is a class act in the Coronation Cup, Sangarius in entered on Friday and Sunday, Moss Gill has a big chance in the Palace House and Waldkonig should win the Newmarket Stakes before going on to the Derby.

Even with all of those scrubbed off, some simply because they are too short in the betting, we have a mammoth TEN tips to start the British flat season proper.

Friday 5th June 2020

3.15 Lingfield (Derby Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – ENGLISH KING

A number of these are of broadly similar ability on known evidence; Berkshire Rocco, Sound Of Cannons and Dark Heart all fall into that category, while it will be interesting to see how much King Carney improves.

The one who’s performance I thought was very taking last year at first glance, and has perhaps subsequently been underestimated, is that of English King at Newcastle.

Winning over 1m2f as a juvenile showed he has the stamina for this, but what was impressive is how the son of Camelot easily got himself into that race before clearing off close home.  He may well win this and put himself into genuine contention for the Derby in four weeks’ time.

Saturday 6th June 2020

2.25 Newmarket (Dahlia Stakes – Group 2) – MAGIC LILY

The top three in the market are likely to dominate here; the Godolphin pair of Terrebellum and Magic Lily as well as Queen Power with the former two preferred.

In terms of breeding, it seems Terrebellum should be more comfortable on softer ground, something backed up by her form, while all of the best New Approach fillies (Magic Lily’s sire) have been stayers, adding more proof to the fact that Charlie Appleby’s runner can be much better over this mile-and-a-quarter trip.

Magic Lily is fit after a couple of wins in Dubai and could be a Group 1 mare this season with the Nassau surely in her sights.  Despite the 3lbs she gives away, she should be good enough to score.

2.40 Newcastle (Sagaro Stakes – Group 3) – ROYAL LINE

This is a competitive rearranged Sagaro, one in which plenty have place chances.  Mildenberger, Ispolini, Nayef Road and Prince Of Arran all look solid while Northumberland Plate winner Withhold has to be considered too.

Rainbow Dreamer, 5/5 on the all-weather, could step up but the one who has a real chance at some glory over staying distances is John Gosden’s Royal Line and he is the call at a fair price.

The Metropolitan Handicap, November Handicap and Group 3 September Stakes winner is getting better as he gets older and looks ready to peak now.

3.35 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – PINATUBO

This is a very competitive Guineas should Pinatubo not turn up, but to be frank nobody who truly cares about horse racing wants that to happen.

Given the bold noises made by various trainers other than Charlie Appleby, it may well be that Pinatubo is allowed to go off at a backable price come off time so keep in mind that, even if the unbeaten son of Shamardal runs a couple of pounds below his best from last season’s juvenile form, he still wins.

He likes faster ground, he handles Newmarket, he’s fresh, he’s the highest rated juvenile since Frankel and according to those within his stable he has grown and strengthened up over the winter.  He could be one of the best ever.

In behind the pick is impressive Vertem Futurity winner Kameko who is on for a fine season, while Charlie Appleby’s Al Suhail is on trial for the Derby and could run a very big race.

Aidan O’Brien’s Arizona and Wichita are closely matched, while the quicker ground may be against Military March.  Juan Elcano and Persuasion could outrun their prices but Kinross may have been overrated in truth, but anyway this is (hopefully) all about Pinatubo and it is hoped he wins, and wins well.

Sunday 7th June 2020

1.50 Newmarket (Buckhounds Stakes – Listed Race) – FIRST IN LINE

Yet another competitive race at the beginning of this delayed season, and a fine quality one too for a Listed race.  A number are in with chances; Trueshan has been touted but may be better on softer ground, Dashing Willoughby is too big a price now that he’s been gelded, Communique is proven but may need the run and Ghostwatch is back after a long absence but may end up being the best of this bunch.

The one for today is most likely to be John Gosden’s First In Line.  Like a few of these he stays more than this mile-and-a-half, handles this ground and the track and ended last season going the right way.  He could be better than Listed class and will be ready to do the job first time.

2.05 Haydock (Pinnacle Stakes – Group 3) – FANNY LOGAN

This could go to yet another John Gosden horse in the shape of Fanny Logan, a four-year-old looking for her fifth win in 6.

Having finally come to herself she was labelled last year as a mile-and-a-quarter filly and/or one who needs softer ground, but I think neither is true.  She simply needs a slight test, as proven by her admirable but ultimately under-par run at the Breeders’ Cup, and so this 1m3½f should be ideal now.

Old rival Manuela De Vega heads the resistance, while Vivionn and Shailene are both decent but could come up short.

2.40 Haydock (Brigadier Gerard Stakes – Group 3) – ELARQAM

At the time of writing the excellent Sangarius is entered in this race, however it is believed the Paradise Stakes at Newmarket on Friday is his actual target.

A few of these may well be of a similar ability now; improving Cambridgeshire winner Lord North, outstanding Winter Derby Trial scorer Bangkok and Dante Stakes winner and conqueror of Too Darn Hot, Telecaster.

Elarqam however, despite some problems, has always been seen as a top-class horse in the making and he went some way to proving it last season.  A winner at Listed and Group 2 level, he ran a close and arguably unlucky third in a good renewal of the Group 1 International at York behind Japan and Crystal Ocean and could be on for a very big season at the top level.

3.00 Newmarket (Pretty Polly Stakes – Listed Race) – TIEMPO VUELA

Godolphin’s Alpen Rose and Roger Varian’s Queen Daenerys have solid form while it is almost impossible to know what is to come from Sir Michael Stoute’s Snow Shower or Charlie Appleby’s Endless Echoes.

John Gosden runs three; Moonlight In Paris who has most to prove along with Run Wild who we already know has a mark of 105, so it is interesting that their Tiempo Vuela is considered first choice.

A winner at Newcastle in good style, she was 5/1 and nowhere near as fancied as most Gosden runners at the track which tends to suggest she improved fast and has probably done so again.  She could be a genuine Oaks contender.

3.15 Haydock (Spring Trophy Stakes – Listed Race) – SPACE BLUES

Charlie Appleby’s Space Blues went into another gear when dropped back in trip last spring and, had it not been for the stiff finish at Ascot, would have been a royal winner this time last year.

He went on to finish second and third in two Group 1’s, will love the race conditions here as a flatter and faster seven furlongs is ideal and could prove to be the best of them.

To add to the confidence, I get Mubtasim and D’bai pretty high up on the list here alongside Happy Power, so considering the first two named are stablemate’s of Space Blues but are very much second and third choice, it shows that the yard believe he is their best shout under James Doyle.

3.35 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – QUADRILATERAL

A fascinating renewal of the first fillies’ classic of the year, one that revolves around Quadrilateral almost as much as the 2000 Guineas does around Pinatubo.

Frankly, she should win and may or may not go on to contest the Oaks, with only her far side draw being a potential disadvantage.

Roger Charlton’s filly was always coming straight to this race and so has not been disadvantaged by the lack of a prep run unlike some in the race, and given the level she reached on only her third start when taking the Fillies’ Mile here she has arguably already run well enough to win a Guineas.  The track and trip are perfect and there are few excuses.

Aidan O’Brien’s Love is the best in opposition but has already been beaten by Quadrilateral and should not reverse the placings, while Summer Romance could be a danger for Charlie Appleby.  Of the Cheveley Park form I reckon Raffle Prize will see this out better than winner Millisle but really, it should be Frankel quickly adding another classic to his list after last year’s successes for Anapurna and Logician.