Friday 25 September 2020

Friday 25th & Saturday 26th September 2020: Franconia to Bounce Back at HQ

It’s another huge few days of racing on the flat, with Newmarket very much taking centre stage during what is Cambridgeshire weekend. Here are our best bets: 

Friday 25th September 2020

1.50 Newmarket (Rosemary Stakes – Listed Race) – CLOAK OF SPIRITS

If she’s back to something like her best, Cloak Of Spirits could provide us with one of the value bets of the weekend in this Listed contest.

She hasn’t won in five tries this season, in fact not in seven since a winning debut last summer. However, her overall level of form stands above the others in this race and today’s race conditions should bring out the best in her.

The 1000 Guineas runner-up looks more than capable over this mile on decent ground of holding off the likes of Ummalnar, Fooraat, Bounce The Blues and the potential improver Bizzi Lizzi.

2.25 Newmarket (Princess Royal Stakes – Group 3) – FRANCONIA

From one filly looking to return to best to another. John Gosden’s Franconia is priced up all wrong on Thursday for a filly who was a very genuine contender for the Oaks, can still take a Group 1 and is having only her fifth career start.

On seasonal debut she put in a very green but very taking performance when landing the Abingdon at Newbury, and with the Oaks discounted on the grounds of inexperience she did win again next time at York.

True, she was well beaten last time in the Yorkshire Oaks but she clearly wasn’t right that day and in these conditions she can if anything regain her upward momentum. Alpinista, Katara and Antonia De Vega may all be of a similar level by now and can challenge.

3.35 Newmarket (Joel Stakes – Group 2) – BENBATL

Regular readers will know that I’ve marked up Kameko and Regal Reality before who both bring in genuine Group 1 form, while Tilsit is another we’ve backed successfully here and he is on the way up.

Sometimes however, we can look for change just for the sake of it but this time it may well be worth sticking with the proven class act in these conditions and that is last year’s winner Benbatl.

Saeed bin Suroor’s six-year-old may well have a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Classic and he’s gone well on dirt, mixing it with the best, but he took this by five lengths last year in similar conditions.

2000 Guineas winner Kameko has been campaigned disappointingly for me and he is better than he showed when being boxed in at Goodwood or when being sent over 1¼ miles at York, however he is giving 5lbs away to Group One types and that should be just too much for him.

Tilsit, at today’s weights, can reach a similar level to Kameko and is definitely going places but Benbatl is the percentage call with Frankie Dettori on board this time. 

Saturday 26th September 2020

2.25 Newmarket (Cheveley Park Stakes – Group 1) – SACRED

Things are close for me in the two big juvenile Group 1’s, though both are worth taking a chance with. Firstly, in the Cheveley Park the talk has been all about Dandalla and there is so much to like about how she’s been prepared as well as her form.

Three from three and held back for this race, a quick glance at the form book would have you backing Karl Burke’s filly for sure and she may yet prove to be just too good for them.

Sacred though is very interesting at a price. William Haggas’ runner has form figures of 1222 which usually would put me off, given that she has tried and failed to beat three other fillies and this is a Group 1.

However, all of those fillies were top class and it may well be that she’s not had conditions to her liking. That changes here, she wears headgear for the first time to straighten her up and now that she’s back over six furlongs it’s easy for me to see her improving past Miss Amulet and getting to Dandalla.

3.00 Newmarket (Middle Park Stakes – Group 1) – MINZAAL

Another close one potentially, though I’ll be backing the improvement of Minzaal over the proven ability of Lucky Vega who are my top two.

Method is favourite for this and Supremacy has been touted no end, but actually I’m just not certain either has very much more to give at this stage of their careers.

Jessie Harrington’s Lucky Vega was a brilliant winner of the Phoenix Stakes back in August and this step back to six furlongs you’d think is in his favour. However, whether it was the trip or not, the fact that Lucky Vega didn’t go on at the Curragh might suggest that while he’s obviously top class we pretty much know how good he is.

Minzaal on the other hand has more to offer yet. Readers of last week’s piece will know I think a lot of Alkumait, and it was interesting to hear Jim Crowley speak of this horse in the same regard.

Fourth on debut, Minzaal was a good winner at Salisbury before stepping forward significantly again to destroy a decent Gimcrack field at York. Going over this six at Newmarket can bring about more improvement and if that happens, he’ll be very tough to beat.

01.00 Santa Anita Park (Awesome Again Stakes – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE 

This is a late one, but it could be worth watching. Bob Baffert, having inherited Maximum Security from Jason Servis, has both of the main contenders here but while all attention will be on the horse who has won six in a row and nine of 11 (ten if not for disqualification from the Kentucky Derby) we are backing his stablemate.

Maximum Security is obviously good, but his form has maintained while Improbable’s keeps getting better. Only a four-year-old himself, he won his Grade 1 race so easily last time and will reach new heights here if needing to get into a battle. Drayden Van Dyke takes the ride.

Friday 18 September 2020

Friday 18th & Saturday 19th September 2020: Lazuli the Call in World Trophy

With a bumper weekend of Group 1 action now behind us, it’s back to slightly more normal matters.

While the status of many of this weekend’s races are maybe a grade lower than last time, they do offer us plenty of betting options across both Friday and Saturday, Newbury in particular looking hot.

The Ayr Gold Cup takes centre stage north of the border, but further south we kick off in Berkshire with a potential Derby horse looking to overturn the favourites on Friday.

Friday 18th September 2020

3.40 Newbury (Conditions Stakes) – MEGALLAN

This looked a strange betting heat late on Thursday as the market began to settle down.  Of the five runners, four are very close in the market with Yibir being the one for money after coming in from 3/1 to 2/1.

While the Godolphin runner looks like an improving young horse, he isn’t really at the level yet that should make him favourite ahead of Baradar or Jumby, let alone Megallan who is the selection at a fair price.

Fancied by some for next year’s Derby, Anthony Oppenheimer’s Kingman colt made an impressive debut before perhaps not being suited by the all-weather track last time at Kempton.  John Gosden’s representative is potentially top class and will appreciate conditions here this time under a jockey in Martin Harley who is very belatedly getting some good chances.

4.15 Newbury (Dubai Duty Free Cup Stakes – Listed Race) – JOVIAL

This is an interesting seven-furlong Listed event, one in which several crack types at the distance are out in Glorious Journey and D’Bai, both representing Charlie Appleby.  Those two are strong of course, though the former may prefer things softer underfoot while the latter has just lost form a little bit.

The once top class Jash has plenty to prove now having never got back to his two-year-old form, and it remains to be seen just how good the 2000 Guineas sixth Kinross is over this distance.

The one who stands out at the weights however is Sir Michael Stoute’s young filly Jovial.  In similar conditions to this, she was a close second in a Listed race already this term and she should appreciate the way things look here.

She has bags of improvement to come and her stable is in top form too, giving us plenty of reason to believe she can improve past the main players in the market for this event under Ryan Moore.

Saturday 19th September 2020

1.40 Newbury (World Trophy Stakes – Group 3) – LAZULI

I’m a big fan of Charlie Hills’ Equilateral and it would be great to see him win this race, however his standout run behind Battaash when he was second in the King’s Stand was achieved at least in part because of his stablemate who dragged him along and in lesser company he may just about run his usual race.

His usual level is still decent, but perhaps is not high enough to repel a real improving sprinter and in Lazuli he may have met his match now.

Charlie Appleby’s three-year-old ran a blinder to open up and win the Scurry Stakes a few runs back, and now he has conditions to suit we should see him reach a new level under William Buick.  He really could be going places at this trip and it would be disappointing if he failed again with no reasonable excuse this time.  Wise Words is best of the rest.

2.50 Newbury (Legacy Cup Stakes – Group 3) – ELARQAM 

Mark Johnston’s Elarqam has had loads of chances, but he has also put in several top-level performances over the past few seasons and remains of interesting from a betting point of view.

Despite not winning any of his last five, he’s been a close third to Japan in the Juddmonte and second to Lord North at Haydock while he is a former winner of four Pattern events.

In the case of this race, a small four-runner affair, it’s possible that Jim Crowley will be able to bounce him out and attempt to make all which is what I can see him doing.  The other three all seem of a similar ability all things considered; Extra Elusive, Desert Encounter and Gifts Of Gold all hopefully fighting it out for second.

3.25 Newbury (Mill Reef Stakes – Group 2) – ALKUMAIT 

We’re taking a bit of a chance here in this juvenile Group 2, but at smaller stakes it could well prove to be worth it when siding with Marcus Tregoning’s son of Showcasing.

A number of those at the top of the market appear to want softer ground than what is on offer here, including Fivethousandtoone, Rhythm Master and Bahrain Pride.  This could leave Line Of Departure and Devilwala as the biggest challengers among those higher up in the betting, but this Alkumait is worth chancing.

Fourth on debut, this horse always looked an improving type and in fact did register a good time figure on debut.  Unsurprisingly, he won next time out at Glorious Goodwood and looked impressive.  He’s been left alone for the best part of two months and will be a different animal now, something we can take advantage of at around the 16/1 mark.

4.50 Ayr (Handicap) – MAKE MY DAY

Ralph Beckett brings just a couple of his horses up to Ayr from Hampshire on Saturday and the trip could be rewarded by Make My Day winning this one mile, five furlong handicap.

A lightly-raced four-year-old, Make My Day is a former John Gosden horse who was gelded before heading off to Beckett and began his career there by landing a mile-and-a-half handicap at York in good style.

He was beaten last time over an unsuitable two miles, but he is undoubtedly still improving overall and should handle the likely conditions absolutely fine to rack up a third win in 6 starts.  Rob Hornby rides.

All five of his rivals are capable of mounting challenges in what looks a particularly tight race, with Andrew Balding’s three-year-old Bronze River arguably being the best of them under Oisin Murphy.

Friday 11 September 2020

Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th September 2020: Godolphin to Master the National Stakes Again

Last weekend was big enough with a Sprint Cup and a Kentucky Derby to entertain us, but this weekend is simply huge with Group 1 action galore across three countries.

Watch out for the brilliant Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, while Stradivarius puts his Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe credentials on the line over 1m4f in the Prix Foy in Paris on Sunday.

The St Leger takes place at Doncaster on Saturday but isn’t a betting race for me, with Pyledriver, Santiago and Hukum all close should conditions be to their liking.

We still have plenty to get stuck into however, with four Saturday bets and two Sunday wagers to look forward to.

Saturday 11th September 2020

1:50 Doncaster (Champagne Stakes - Group 2) - ALBASHEER

This is a race that often throws up a genuinely top-class juvenile, and Owen Burrows’ Albasheer looked just that when landing the odds over course and distance on his debut in July.

He’s a proper sort, a son of Shamardal, with extra confidence coming from the fact that the solid third-favourite Mujbar has been overlooked by Jim Crowley in favour of this horse and so he’s bound to carry plenty of confidence from his yard.

2:40 Chester (Handicap) - MAYDANNY

David Simcock’s Prejudice is solid enough at the top of the market for this 1m2f handicap, but in Maydanny it’s felt we have a horse who could bounce back in typical Mark Johnston fashion having been down the field on soft ground at York last time.

Given that he won at Yarmouth at the start of the season then monstered his Glorious Goodwood field it’s clear this horse is ahead of the handicapper overall, and it’ll be no surprise if he is to bounce out, hit the lead and never lose it around this track.

3:00 Doncaster (Park Stakes - Group 2) - WICHITA

I’m slightly surprised by the overnight odds being offered on Aidan O’Brien’s Wichita in this Group 2 race, especially given that he has already proven himself to be a genuine Group 1 horse on several occasions.

A winner in the Tattersalls Stakes last season at Newmarket by seven lengths, Wichita began this season by splitting Kameko and Pinatubo in what was a good quality 2000 Guineas, form that arguably makes him one of the better three-year-old colts in Europe.

He repeated that level of form when finishing just behind Palace Pier and Pinatubo in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot which puts him a cut above his rivals here for certain, even the likes of Limato and One Master who are more used to this seven furlong trip.

He has his conditions now, he’s been better rested and should go very strongly indeed under Frankie Dettori at a value price.

3:20 Lingfield (Conditions Stakes) - EL MISK

Others, including Sextant who I feel may be the one for money in this near 1m4f event, have the ability to make their mark but in these particular race conditions El Misk looks the one to side with.

Previously thought of as potentially top-class, John Gosden’s four-year-old Dansili colt has taken down races at Newcastle and Kempton and narrowly failed in an unsuitably small race at Newmarket recently. 

He was ahead of subsequent Group 3 winner Pablo Escobarr that day though and will be better suited by how this race looks to be shaping up, meaning it would be no surprise should he be coaxed into contention by Rab Havlin before kicking clear late on.

Sunday 13th September 2020

2:55 ParisLongchamp (Grand Prix de Paris - Group 1) - ENGLISH KING

It’s an important day in Paris with various Arc trials taking place.  This race is of course a top level event in its own right and it’s one in which the Derby form is finally truly tested.

English King, who looked a star when winning at Newcastle and at Lingfield in the Derby Trial, simply got too far back at Epsom like many others with Frankie Dettori inexplicably allowing the same thing to happen again in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

He remains a colt of some promise however, a Group One type who would have stood a huge chance in the St Leger had he gone to Doncaster instead, and if ridden closer to the pace this time he is very capable of turning the tables on Derby winner Serpentine who may well be making the running once more.

4:10 Curragh (National Stakes - Group 1) - MASTER OF THE SEAS

This is a well trodden path for Charlie Appleby and the Godolphin team, though I’m not necessarily saying at this stage that Master Of The Seas is a Quorto or a Pinatubo.

That said, he was very impressive in winning the Superlative Stakes (Group 2) at Newmarket last time on the track and really looks like a proper horse.  He should stay the trip better than the admittedly very good Lucky Vega and already appears to be up to his level.

It’ll be close in the betting market between the two aforementioned runners and Aidan O’Brien’s Battleground, but it’s the well-bred son of Dubawi who comes out on top for us and that’s there the money will be going.

Saturday 5 September 2020

Saturday 5th September 2020: Art to Power to Haydock Sprint Glory

We have a massive Group One double to get stuck into either side of the Atlantic this week, with both the Haydock Sprint Cup and the delayed Kentucky Derby taking place.

Both races provide the distinct possibility of winners coming at good value prices, while elsewhere in England another three juicy bets can be taken on what looks like being a decent punting day ahead.

1:20 Ascot (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) - MONSOON MOON

Of course, we cannot know for certain what to expect from these young fillies but in the shape of Monsoon Moon there may be an ideal candidate for the Fillies’ Mile in the field.

Trained by John Gosden for the Khalid Abdullah team, Monsoon Moon is a daughter of Kingman out of a Daylami mare and so could hardly be better bred for the job.

A half-sister to Logician among others, she’s got that wonderful Juddmonte pedigree and is pretty much expected from the off to be top class and yet she may barely challenge for favouritism along with Love Is You.

That fully, another unraced type trained by Roger Charlton, provides the main opposition along with the race-fit Last Sunset for Godolphin but it’s worth taking a chance on a filly who could prove to be very, very good indeed.

1:45 Haydock (Superior Mile Stakes - Group 3) - KHALOOSY 

While Ed Walker’s Stormy Antarctic is rock-solid in these conditions for sure, it’s no surprise that Roger Varian’s Khaloosy has been very well backed overnight for this Group 3 affair.

Coming into the season with a second and a win under his belt, the powerful son of Dubawi simply demolished his Royal Ascot field in the Britannia Stakes to mark himself out immediately as a Group performer.

Going off favourite for the Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood, I never felt the race would suit and regular readers will remember we instead took a punt on 10/1 winner Tilsit that day.

Going over this mile on soft ground however could bring the best out in him, a new best no doubt, making him too good for the likes of My Oberon and Top Rank as well as Stormy Antarctic.

2.00 Kempton (Sirenia Stakes - Group 3) - CLOUDBRIDGE

On a card dominated by Enable, running in the September Stakes on what will be her British finale before heading off for one last Arc, the best best may be Godolphin’s Cloudbridge.

Previously an 8/1 shot miles behind likely favourite Mystery Smiles for Andrew Balding, there should be money for Cloudbridge as he is known to be better than what he achieved last time.

A very smart winner on debut, Charlie Appleby’s colt ran no race at all when evens favourite for the Acomb Stakes at York but he can reach the top eventually with this race perhaps being an ideal stepping stone.  James Doyle rides.

3.25 Haydock (Sprint Cup Stakes - Group 1) - ART POWER

Don’t get me wrong; I like facts and evidence, but sometimes you see a horse win and you just know it’s top class.

That was the case when I watched Art Power scorch home at Newcastle on the first day of racing’s resumption this year as he looked every inch a Group 1 winner of the (near) future.

The Tim Easterby team sensibly elected to go the handicap route with their three-year-old at Royal Ascot over five furlongs instead of taking in the Commonwealth Cup, a decision which was rewarded with a fantastic showing on similar ground to that which he’ll face at Haydock.

He stepped up to win in Group 3 company easily enough at Naas before disappointing in the Nunthorpe last time, but he was a leading hope against Battaash and conditions there didn’t suit so today he has a major chance of bagging his Group 1.

In behind the competition is very strong.  Dream Of Dreams, Hello Youmzain, Golden Horde and Lope Y Fernandez are all capable in a deep contest, however 3yo’s do well in this and it’s an ideal chance for Silvestre De Sousa’s mount.

12.01 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby - Grade 1) - AUTHENTIC

They’ve dropped like flies this year, many defections and injuries meaning that at a glance this looks like the perfect chance for the very good Tiz The Law to stay on track to be the 14th Triple  Crown winner.

Nadal would have been a major shout, while my own view is that Maxfield was the best sophomore in the States this year, but both are out now with knocks.

Dr Post has been rerouted, so it looks on form to come down to Tiz The Law, Honor AP and the selection, Authentic.

The race has been given a strange look since the three top contenders it seems will have to come from the widest three gates, however since they’re all in the same boat and we’re now down to 16 runners (usually 20) connections won’t be too phased.

Tiz The Law has been scintillating in winning the Florida Derby, the Belmont Stakes and the Travers, but it must be remarked that he has had a hard enough season and has failed to fire around Churchill Downs before.

He may be vulnerable on this track at odds-on to one still improving, and that is certainly the category into which Bob Baffert’s Authentic fits.

A comfortable winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe from Honor AP, he was turned over by the same horse next time in the Santa Anita Derby but was slightly injured in the process.

Back to fitness, he was a narrow winner of the Haskell Stakes last time with many unimpressed by the margin at the line, but the truth is that the performance was a good one and he can now improve plenty from that race to this.