Friday 28 August 2020

Saturday 29th August 2020: Benbatl to Win the War on Comeback

This week is somewhat of a “calm before the storm” scenario, given that the next two weekends encompass the rearranged Kentucky Derby and the St Leger at Doncaster.

That said, despite the lack of Group 1 action in Britain there are some flashy types on show and we are banking on their class to bring us some profit at Newmarket, Goodwood and Windsor.

12.20 Newmarket (Nursery Handicap) – LOST IN SPACE

The opening race at HQ is a tight little seven-furlong nursery, one in which on paper several have a winning chance.

At the bottom of the weights In Paradise is one of three entries on the card for Richard Fahey, and while she appears to be well enough handicapped, she may just lack a little bit of class.

Godolphin’s Last Sunset is interesting, but she’s done her work so far on the Polytrack at Kempton and one can never be sure of how that form will transfer to the turf.

John Gosden’s Lost In Space however was a very cosy winner last time at Lingfield and should see this out well.  Cieren Fallon’s mount for his new retainer as second jockey to Qatar Racing has the unique benefit of being ahead of the handicapper, and yet having more experience than all bar one in this field.  Huge chance.

1.50 Goodwood (Prestige Stakes – Group 3) – POMELO

The Prestige is often a very good stepping stone for a Group 1 type, and the one filly in the line-up who looks like making it to the very top is Pomelo of Ralph Beckett’s yard.

A very easy winner on debut at Newbury, she recorded a performance that few would beat in a given year for a first time out run and it was obvious from the off that connections believe she is a Group One type.

By Dubawi, should Harry Bentley’s mount score here in good enough style she will be given skinny quotes for next season’s 1000 Guineas and while that is far from certain at this stage, it does go to show what sort of filly we are dealing with here.

Chief opposition comes from last week’s valuable sales winner Happy Romance.  In taking the £89,000 first prize at York, Richard Hannon’s girl took her prize money up to £177,000 already but that has served to somewhat elevate unnecessarily her reputation in my opinion.

She’s good, but whether she can be as explosive over seven furlongs and beat a potential top-notcher who has been given 41 days to strengthen and improve remains a doubt.

2.05 Newmarket (Hopeful Stakes – Listed Race) – JASH

A solid six-furlong sprint race at Listed level, this is one in which plenty is expected of the six-year-old Summerghand who actually achieved a career best last time out when winning the Stewards’ Cup for David O’Meara.

He is good, there’s no doubt there, but in these specific race conditions I cannot see him being at his very peak and that lets in one or two, notably Sunday Star and Jash.

Sunday Star is an improving filly of Ed Walker’s who holds every chance, though may not quite see out this particular six furlongs as well as hoped, while Jash was once considered top class and may yet reach that level once more.

A close second to the brilliant Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park two years ago, he returned last season with a win but got injured and missed a chunk of his career.  He simply blew up on his return after a breathing operation at Newcastle earlier in the month and more is expected of him now, Jim Crowley choosing the one-time 118-rated horse ahead of Shabaaby and he looks a tempting price.

2.40 Windsor (August Stakes – Listed Race) – ALOUNAK

There is also a Group 3 race on this card, but the one throwing up a betting opportunity is this Listed affair in which David Simcock’s Desert Encounter looks likely to go off favourite.

The eight-year-old is certainly very solid, but in these conditions (with some juice in the ground) and at this age he will almost certainly not be at his best which leaves him more than a little vulnerable.

Hughie Morrison’s Le Don De Vie is one who could challenge him, but if returning to something near his best it should be Andrew Balding’s Alounak putting his best foot forward.

A German import for King Power Racing, Alounak has run just OK on faster ground but a repeat of his second to Fanny Logan at Ascot would be more than enough to take this.

3.35 Goodwood (Celebration Mile – Group 2) – BENBATL

The feature race, while competitive enough, may turn out to be a battle up the home stretch between Regal Reality and the returning Benbatl.

Both high quality, the former came right back to himself for Sir Michael Stoute last time when hosing up in the Sovereign Stakes at Salisbury.  A repeat of that is not guaranteed on ground perhaps a little juicier than ideal, so even in receipt of weight he may not be a match for the excellent Benbatl.

A versatile type, Benbatl was outstanding on the dirt in Dubai before finishing an excellent third to Maximum Security in the Saudi Cup, but he hammered King Of Comedy over a mile on the turf at Newmarket last season and was second to Winx in Australia before that.  A genuine Group One type.

Friday 21 August 2020

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd August 2020: The Only Way is Up for Yazaman at York

There are still two more days of top class racing to go at York during the Ebor meeting, and it may pay to take a good look at Jim Crowley’s rides for Sheikh Hamdan on Friday.

Alfaatik, Enbihaar, Minzaal, Tawleed, Asiaaf and of course Battaash all have genuine winning chances, and I like two of them myself at the prices.  There are also a couple of fair bets on Saturday afternoon.

Friday 21st August 2020

1.45 York (Handicap) – ALFAATIK

Friday’s opener is a competitive handicap, at least on paper, however when taking a closer look at the contenders it became clear to me that there are a few who cannot be guaranteed to run up to their mark.

Dark Jedi, Zabeel Champion and Restorer are probably the best of the challengers, but none look particularly well handicapped.

The returning Alfaatik of John Gosden’s yard however was expected to have reached a mark of anywhere between 100 and 110 when he went wrong as a three-year-old, so now he’s been put back together and given how well the yard can prepare them after a break he looks particularly well in now off 94.

2.15 York (Lonsdale Cup – Group 2) – ENBIHAAR

We should hope against hope that this race is run on turf as it looks on paper, as so many of them are of such a broadly similar ability.

Nayef Road, Dashing Willoughby, Eagles By Day and Enbihaar are all potentially very close and if the race is run that way, the mare’s allowance received by the selection should be the deciding factor.

A winner of three Group 2’s this time last year, the five-year-old was back to near her best at Goodwood last time out and there is plenty of hope that she will handle this extra couple of furlongs, especially on a flat track.

Any further drying out overnight would be appreciated and some sun on Friday afternoon would definitely do the trick for Jim Crowley’s mount, so do keep an eye on the weather.

2.45 York (Gimcrack Stakes – Group 2) – YAZAMAN

A decent Gimcrack without being a classic on paper, but one in which the favourite may have been strangely overestimated.

Nowhere else will you read about improvement in horses more than right here, and so ordinarily I would be on board with Minzaal being the rightful favourite after his impressive debut win at Salisbury.

A closer look though reveals that, while he did nothing wrong and he pulled nicely away from his field, that field was decidedly weak and so while a Listed race may have been without his grasp, he perhaps just shouldn’t be favourite for a Group 2 just yet.

One overpriced runner who has a strong place chance is Andrew Balding’s Mystery Smiles, while Youbettabelieveit remains solid enough.

One who’s been worth watching all year though is William Haggas’ Yazaman and he may just have been slightly overlooked here at the odds.

A winner on debut at Yarmouth, he did extremely well at Royal Ascot from completely the wrong side of the track to almost get to Tactical, while the step up in trip at that stage with juice in the ground may not have been to his liking when he was just touched off again by the same horse at Newmarket in the July Stakes.

Finishing second to Supremacy in the Richmond, Yazaman has plenty of Group 2 form already and arguably he could have won more than one of them.  He is the strongest proven horse in the line-up by some way and so is overpriced at around 5/1.

Saturday 22nd August 2020

4.10 York (Roses Stakes – Listed Race) – BEN MACDUI

On a flat track such as this, over five furlongs and on a warm day this race should be all about speed and so with that in mind, the one to concentrate on should be Ben Macdui.

Others in the line-up have fairly solid form, including Politics, Acklam Express and Lauded should the latter not take up his engagement in the Gimcrack, however Kevin Ryan’s runner looks a cut above at least at this stage.

A winner on debut at Hamilton, he took a huge step forward and proved that he was all about pace when finishing a fine second to the well-backed Steel Bull in the Group 2 Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and there is little reason to think he’ll go backwards here.

Kevin Stott once again takes the ride, a jockey doing particularly well recently, with the hope being that he will sit close to the pace once again before pouncing in the final furlong and a half or so.

4.40 York (Handicap) – CAPE CAVALLI

This is a really good-looking mile-and-a-quarter handicap, one that much like our first covered race on the column looks competitive at a glance but slightly less so when digging into the field a little.

Maydanny was incredibly impressive last time, but an 11lb rise for Mark Johnston’s horse seems a little harsh to be honest.

Fifth Position remains solid in these handicap races but is handicapped more or less correctly for me, while likely favourite Sinjaari is a last time out winner over this course and distance.

The latter has been put up 8lbs, and considering the type of race it was he is sure to have had to put it all in to win that day and so the likelihood of lots of improvement coming now seems less likely than first thought.

The two to concentrate on more are likely to be Sir Michael Stoute’s Derevo and Simon & Ed Crisford’s Cape Cavalli.  Derevo is getting there slowly but surely, not unusual for one from this yard, and so while you can be sure he has a race like this in him you couldn’t say with certainty it will be this very event.

Cape Cavalli on the other hand won so well over this course and distance in July it seems certain he’ll put in another performance of note, one that should see him confirm he is better than his mark of 91.

Friday 14 August 2020

Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th August 2020: Marple to Solve Handicap Puzzle

It’s another high-class weekend with Group 1 events taking place in France, Germany and the USA as old favourite Barney Roy looks to add to his enviable record.

Back on British soil Newbury takes centre stage and there is some great action planned, two of their races providing us with good value punts while Deauville must not be missed either.

Saturday 15th August 2020

1.50 Newbury (Denford Stakes – Listed Race) – DHAHABI

While the likes of Jumby and Saint Lawrence are decent, we can only hope this race becomes a duel between two very exciting prospects for the future in Guru and Dhahabi with the latter preferred.

Four weeks ago, John Gosden’s Guru made a most pleasing debut at Newbury when taking care of Sir Michael Stoute’s Derby entry Maximal over today’s seven furlongs.  That was a good race, but Guru looked straight forward enough and perhaps won’t have as much improvement in him as the selection.

Godolphin’s Dhahabi, a very expensive purchase and beautifully bred, also scored on debut at HQ.  This time the Frankel colt dwelt at the start and needed rousting along early, before showing good speed to hit the front in the style of a horse that will come on in leaps and bounds for the run.

3.25 Deauville (Prix de Lieurey – Group 3) – ALTHIQA

Over to France now where a chance can be taken on Charlie Appleby’s Althiqa.  Riding plans aren’t really much to go on for this stable over the weekend; William Buick happy to take one ride in Germany (he’s on Barney Roy in a Group 1) while James Doyle rides Dhahabi.

The fact Mikael Barzalona rides this filly then doesn’t tell us that much other than it certainly won’t hinder her chances.

Third in a Group 3 last time, she was a winner at Deauville the time before over seven furlongs and is improving enough to make us think that she can take car of Fooraat, Simeen and Cloak Of Spirits and what will hopefully be a nice price.

5.00 Newmarket (Handicap) – JANE MARPLE

Rarely does it work out so well, so caution is advised, but it could well be that there has been a total anomaly in the handicap mark given to John Gosden’s Jane Marple and at the time of writing it has not been spotted by the bookmakers.

Chucked in at around 4/1 on Friday, Jane Marple could be the one for money at HQ in her handicap debut given that she beat National Treasure last time and has been handed a mark of just 82.

That has been given to her by the assessor due apparently to the fact that the horse she beat is rated 81, however he outran that figure most likely with Jane Marple’s real performance that day worth around 85-88 in reality.

Given that she will almost certainly improve now on her third run, especially as a filly coming from this yard, a performance somewhere approaching the mid-90’s is possible now making her mark of 82 look incredibly generous.

Should she get the trip OK she looks very backable indeed, with Godolphin’s top-weight Expressionism next on the list just ahead of the in-form Believe In Love who is looking for a three-timer.

Sunday 16th August 2020

2.50 Deauville (Prix Jacques le Marois – Group 1) – PALACE PIER

A higher quality Group 1 race than the version Romanised won last year, and it seems likely the defending champ will be taken off his feet this time around.

Local hero Persian King has won his last two and rates a danger, however despite scoring in seven out of 10 career races has hasn’t shown lumps of improvement at any time and so it seems we now know his level.

That level is very similar to what we can expect from Aidan O’Brien’s Circus Maximus, though while his form this season is once again red hot, he always looks vulnerable to a real good one as he was when facing Mohaather at Goowood and it could be the case again with this Palace Pier.

John Gosden’s taking St James’s Palace Stakes winner looked top class at Royal Ascot, showed a terrific turn of foot in beating Pinatubo and has been left alone to recover and improve since.

The son of Kingman, the mount of Frankie Dettori who will now miss York next week due to the need for him to quarantine on return, looks every inch a mid-120’s horse at least and that sort of level makes him too good for the aforementioned rivals, along with Alpine Star.

3.35 Newbury (St Hugh’s Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – MISS JINGLES

Once again we are backing potential over proven ability here, as Charlie Appleby’s Miss Jingles needs to prove that being rated 4lbs behind favourite Caroline Dale only serves to underestimate her current ability.

On the numbers, she doesn’t have a lot to fear anyway.  Miss Jingles has run one race less than her main rival and in terms of published speed figures she is already on a par with David Loughnane’s runner.  With more improvement likely from the slightly lighter-raced runner, those facts would actually have made James Doyle’s mount a fair favourite had the bookmakers installed her as such.

A closer look at the profiles of the big two however strengthens confidence even more.  Caroline Dale has done well to reach a mark of 98, but her two standout runs were at Ascot in Group company.  The finish at Ascot clearly suits this filly, especially considering she ran third in the Princess Margaret last time over six furlongs and it could be that this quicker five furlongs will not suit at all.

Miss Jingles on the other hand is a classic improving type.  An average debut was followed up by a decent win at Sandown, with another big step forward coming last time at Glorious Goodwood.

In a conditions event, the daughter of Exceed and Excel did well to get the better of the argument and she now looks a Group filly without any doubt.

Friday 7 August 2020

Saturday 8th August 2020: Dani a Winner All Ova

There is some top action at Haydock Park this weekend, where short-priced favourite Veracious and Global Giant are rock-solid in the Dick Hern Stakes and Rose of Lancaster Stakes respectively.

However, in terms of grabbing some good value, we are concentrating on two races each from Ascot and Newmarket where the early odds offered by layers simply don’t seem to give enough credit to a quartet of horses who should go very well in the forecast fast conditions.

1.15 Ascot (Nursery Handicap) – LINE OF DEPARTURE

It could be an excellent start to the day for us, as long as Roger Varian’s experienced Line Of Departure can prove to be ahead well handicapped.

I do think that’s the case for the son of Mehmas, one who has been out four times already but hasn’t had an overly hard time.

He has close form with Alkumait, a good Glorious Goodwood winner who now looks like a Group horse, and his easy win last time in a small race made it appear that a mark of 79 would not be accurate so it appears he is ahead of the assessors.

Challenging him in the market should be Jadwal who also looks solid, with the two appearing to be clear of First Prophet and Et Tu Brute who has form with Jadwal from Newmarket.

2.25 Ascot (Handicap) – GAME PLAYER

The draw once again shouldn’t be an issue here on the straight course for this one-mile handicap, as only ten line up and not all have a winning chance.

Former Sheikh Hamdan horse Ejtilaab is perhaps overpriced while Shelir can go well again here for the David O’Meara yard.

The likely favourite is Godolphin’s Jalaad, trained by the resurgent Saeed bin Suroor.  A winner last time at York, he is no doubt in great form but the flat track there is different to what he’ll face here and he had to put in a proper shift to get the job done, meaning he doesn’t have loads in hand and his 5lb rise in the weights could be enough to anchor him.

The interesting one is the returning five-year-old of Roger Varian’s, Game Player.  Based on modern training techniques, Varian’s past and the horse’s own profile I’d have little worries about this son of Dark Angel being at his best after a long break.

If he is, then he has weight in hand here even off 95 based on his improving performances at Lingfield, Goodwood and Ayr last term, especially given that he was blocked in his run twice.

Assuming no traffic problems this time, we should see a mature horse quickly reaching his peak this summer and with that could come another win for Andrea Atzeni and this time at a very nice price.

3.20 Newmarket (Sweet Solera Stakes – Group 3) – DANILOVA

Off to the July Course at HQ now and a nice-looking renewal of the Sweet Solera.  It’s understandable that Richard Hannon’s first-time-out winner Fly Miss Helen is put up as favourite having been well backed to score from Sarsparilla at Newbury on debut.

The form of the race is OK, perhaps nothing special, and while it remains possible for Fly Miss Helen to improve we know that from this yard they can be fully ready first time out (this one was, hence the odds) meaning less progression to come than the price here would suggest.

Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain is solid after three runs but it is germane that she put up her best show on very different ground to this, while Setarhe could be a little behind the main trio.

The value in the race is Charlie Appleby’s Danilova who has a very bright future indeed.  Having been given a handicap mark she is rated 10lbs behind Dubai Fountain, however she is way better than that and could have hosed up in a nursery.

Instead she goes for this Group 3 and she has the capabilities to win it.  She’s an improver; not much was expected on debut at 6/1 against four rivals but she ran on nicely to separate Wedding Dance, since second in a Group 3 and rated around 100, and Nash Nasha who was an easy winner at Lingfield on Wednesday.

She beat a promising type of John Gosden’s called Senita just a week ago with the minimum of fuss and can take a big stride forward in this race before being aimed perhaps at the top level by the end of the year.

5.10 Newmarket (Handicap) – EMISSARY

A fair shout for a podium finish in The Derby, Hugo Palmer’s colt indeed took his chance at Epsom but like many he was ridden incorrectly in a very unsatisfactory race behind the admittedly good Serpentine.

I was very much of the opinion that the race he took part in at Goodwood before his Classic tilt was a good one and that he could reach at least the 110 sort of level, something backed up by the fact that his very narrow conqueror Khalifa Sat went on to finish second in the Derby and is now rated 111.

The son of Kingman, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, gets in here off a mark of 98 and he is clearly ahead just now.  He’ll be a Group horse in good time and may well have too much in hand for this particular opposition.

The best of the rest may well be John Gosden’s Harrovian.  A three-time winner already, this four-year-old is still getting better and his jockey takes off a handy 7lbs, but that’s only a good thing if Oliver Stammers’ inexperience doesn’t count too much against him and he still has a lot of weight to carry round.

Cognac and Data Protection look best of the rest in this mile-and-a-quarter event but it would be no surprise to see Khalid Abdullah’s horse win this well under Harry Bentley before moving on and up over this trip, as well perhaps as 1½ miles.