Friday 30 October 2020

Saturday 31st October & Sunday 1st November 2020: Cyrname Too Good to Miss in Charlie Hall

It’s a massive weekend of action over both codes as the flat and jumps seasons continue for a while to intersect.

Ascot hosts Sodexo Gold Cup day while on the level we are racing at headquarters which is where we begin on Saturday.

Saturday 31st October 2020

12.55 Newmarket (Nursery Handicap) – BRANWELL

We have heavy ground at Newmarket on a long and yawning Rowley Mile which takes some getting at the best of times. So, for these let’s say ‘less than the usual quality’ Newmarket juveniles going over nine furlongs this race really is a true stamina test.

That said, the right yards are represented and the pace should be honest with Mark Johnston’s Reams Of Love in the field, one who at the weights I think is very close on the book with John Gosden’s Side Shot and Brian Meehan’s Mojandil.

The one single horse who stands out on potential though is Branwell and he is the value call. On the all-weather last time Charlie Appleby’s horse ran very green and lost plenty of ground at the start. He is several pounds better therefore than that bare form, has been gelded since which will calm him down and can improve again on what he should have achieved last time.

If he reaches the level that is expected of him, then he’s well-in in the handicap here under Will Buick.

2.05 Newmarket (Montrose Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ZEYAADAH

This will be another tough event for the runners, the juvenile fillies going over the mile this time.

Alba Rose will be rightfully well fancied for a number of reasons. She is the highest rated filly in the race to this point, she is trained by Mark Johnston whose horses are notoriously tough and she has improved in lumps from race to race so far.

That said, she hasn’t had to run on ground quite this deep and that could blunt her progression, so the other improver Zeyaadah is given the nod at a better overnight price.

Roger Varian’s Tamayuz filly is unbeaten in two starts having won when slowly away at Chelmsford, before winning easily at Beverley. Frankly though she has looked on both occasions as though she is in need of a great test and so this particular mile, let alone the heavy ground, should be ideal and she will be boxing on when others have given up I feel.

The only other horse that on paper I can see getting seriously involved is George Boughey’s Mystery Angel, for whom he has booked Frankie Dettori, but in the conditions anything could happen and so nothing can be completely ruled out with any certainty.

3.15 Newmarket (Ben Marshall Stakes – Listed Race) – ZAKOUSKI

The one-mile Ben Marshall Stakes has been won by some quality types in the past and the roll of honour could be topped by Zakouski, a four-year-old with a bright future if Sheikh Mohammed decides to keep him in training.

After a very successful time at the Dubai Carnival before lockdown where he won a valuable handicap and a Group 2 race, he had a well-deserved long rest and we can safely ignore his last run when he was slowly away and ran over the wrong trip. He still finished OK that day to be fair too.

We don’t know what fellow Godolphin and Charlie Appleby runner King’s Command can do as the three-year-old is somewhat of a talented enigma, but despite him getting the blue cap we know William Buick gets first choice and he is siding with Zakouski.

Stormy Antarctic should enjoy this and will go well, while Epic Hero will be well fancied but conversely may just struggle a little on the ground.

3.20 Wetherby (Charlie Hall Chase – Grade 2) – CYRNAME

While there is always the possibility of something going wrong in this game, there is precious little to dislike about Cyrname’s chances in this race on paper.

True, his last two runs leave a little to be desired, however all good horses are entitled to a bad patch and this eight-year-old is very far from finished. He is usually a strong jumper, likes to be out on or near the lead which is a good tactic for Wetherby and at his best he is well clear of this field.

If we can expect Paul Nicholls’ charge to be back to his true form then he looks like an odds-on shot who is priced at 2/1+ and that has to be taken.

Some people think Cyrname’s very high official rating is inflated and false, but he has ran to it on several occasions and that’s not a coincidence.

Up and comer Vinndication is next on the list and he remains a chaser going places, while Sam Spinner can improver over fences but even at the weights, he may well just have too much to do in this contest.

Sunday 1st November 2020

2.00 Naas (Athasi Stakes – Group 3) – WITH THANKS

We jump to Ireland on Sunday for just the one bet but it could be very much worth waiting for.

The basics are that I have always thought a lot of With Thanks and that she will be a Group winner, so to see William Haggas sending her over to Ireland gives me plenty of confidence.

A proper look at her profile does nothing to dampen enthusiasm for her either. Her best form is over this seven furlongs and on heavy ground, meaning she is proven in these particular race conditions while there is a little bit of guesswork involved for the trainers of some of her chief opposition.

She is getting better with every run which is always a good sign, and last time out at Goodwood in October she was only just touched off by the now-retired Onassis in a good Listed race.

She’s ready for this and her draw in stall 14 is not an issue at Naas, given that she’ll have plenty of time after they jump to get herself in position before the turn and she has some very fine help up top to achieve that in the shape of Chris Hayes.

Friday 23 October 2020

Saturday 24th October 2020: Appleby to Rule Juvenile Group 1’s

As we transition between the flat and jumps seasons, betting opportunities in theory become thinner on the ground. Tired flat horses and underprepared jumpers should be avoided where possible.

While Cheltenham and the Old Roan Chase mean National Hunt fans have plenty to keep them going, we stick with the flat where we should watch the run of Laneqash in the Horris Hill. He’s a short price this time, but assuming the conditions are OK he could put in a performance that keeps him in the 2021 Classic hunt.

Stakes can be kept to a minimum this week, spread over five bets and with typical end of season weather meaning results can vary.

1.10 Doncaster (Handicap) – CEPHEUS 

This is a tight old handicap at first glance, but we should be looking for ability, some proven form in the conditions or at least the potential for improvement in them.

With that in mind, the name that keeps getting to or near the top of whatever list I compile is Brian Meehan’s Cepheus.

This three-year-old is already decent, rated 100 now, but the style of both his win under today’s jockey William Buick and his runner-up effort at Ascot behind Shandoz marked him out as one with plenty more to come.

We will ignore his last run and take a punt on him now, though the competition in behind is plentiful. Tulip Fields could be overpriced, Fishable stands a chance, Johnny Drama could now come back to form while Iconic Choice and likely favourite Laafy remain capable.

1.35 Saint-Cloud (Criterium International – Group 1) – LA BARROSA

Godolphin and Charlie Appleby have two excellent one-mile Group One prospects in the juvenile ranks, and with the ideal schedule in Europe this week he has the chance to split them up with One Ruler going to Doncaster.

There are no odds available at all at the time of writing for this event, though it is hoped that the presence of Van Gogh, Normandy Bridge and Policy Of Truth in the field will be enough to keep them honest.

La Barrosa, a son of Lope De Vega out of a Montjeu mare who should love these conditions, is two from two now after wins at Ascot and Newmarket and he looks every inch a classic contender for next season.

He wasn’t as fluent as many expected in his Group 3 last time, but the ground was not entirely for him that day, he showed inexperience and he is thought to be a good few pounds better than what he showed there. James Doyle is in France to take the ride.

1.45 Doncaster (Doncaster Stakes – Listed Race) – ZAMAANI 

This is a decent six-furlong juvenile race, one in which Aidan O’Brien’s Lipizzaner, Simon & Ed Crisford’s Zamaani and Les Eyre’s Just Frank have been close at the top of the betting all week.

Just Frank was an impressive winner of the £150,000 auction race at Newmarket at the start of the month, but those events suit certain types and this event will be very different.

Lipizzaner has experience now after six runs and is improving, but he’s won only a maiden at this point giving himself the look of a horse whose level we know.

He leaves the door open therefore for Zamaani, another with experience but one who is moving forward a little quicker from run to run. He seems to do it on any ground and can comfortably stay up with the pace, something that at Doncaster this week should stand him in good stead.

2.55 Doncaster (Futurity Trophy – Group 1) – ONE RULER

Regular readers may remember how sweet I was on Kameko for this race last year, both in the Doncaster event when he was set to take on the Coolmore battalion, and at Newcastle in the rearranged race he won.

This year I have similar feelings about Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler who should be winning Group 1 races next year, whether they be classics or not.

He was a decent second on debut on unsuitably quick ground, while he was third in a good Listed race here at Doncaster over seven furlongs when unlucky in running.

In beating Maximal on his second run he announced himself as a potential star, but it was the way he took the Group 3 Autumn Stakes on soft ground over this trip at Newmarket that really made him stand out.

After taking care of a good field including Van Gogh with the minimum of fuss, he stood out as a colt who has plenty more improvement to come hence Charlie Appleby’s decision to go here and not put him away for the year.

His main rival should be Aidan O’Brien’s ante-post favourite Wembley, one with solid form but usually in behind. Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest is next on the list while the constantly improving Megallan cannot be ruled out, at least for a place.

3.00 Newbury (Radley Stakes – Listed Race) – LITTLE KITTEN

We have a go in another Listed race for the two-year-olds here, this time the seven-furlong fillies’ event at Newbury.

Among the main hopes are Roger Charlton’s Love Is You, a nice enough debut winner, and Roger Varian’s Setarhe who has been busy this year and reached a high official mark of 98.

The latter-named is down to 93 now with no guarantee of moving back up, meaning this race is very winnable and it could be John Gosden’s Little Kitten who proves to be the best value.

The Godolphin filly is a daughter of Sea The Stars out of a Dynaformer mare, one who should get better and better the more of a test she gets.

In an under-par renewal of this race, a once-raced John Gosden filly is bound to catch the eye and so with much improvement expected from a filly with her profile, Little Kitten could prove to be a couple of lengths better than this bunch. Nicky Mackay is up top with Rab Havlin at Doncaster to ride Megallan.

Saturday 17 October 2020

Saturday 17th October 2020: Lord Holds Champion Stakes Power

Saturday is Champions Day at Ascot, Britain’s richest race day.

Yet again the day looks set to be staged on unsuitably soft ground, typical now of Ascot, prompting many to argue the meeting should be moved back to Newmarket and I can’t disagree with that.

That said, it’s an intriguing day of Group One action and while I love the chances of Stradivarius and Palace Pier, they cannot be backed at the prices and as for the rest of the card; I kind of hope Frankie Dettori has got his choices wrong!

1.55 Ascot (British Champions Sprint Stakes – Group 1) – OXTED

The likely conditions have of course been factored into this, but sometimes we have to trust the trainer’s confidence and there’s no doubt about how good Roger Teal thinks Oxted is.

A winner at Newmarket upon racing’s resumption in the early summer, this tough and improving four-year-old also put in a huge performance to land the July Cup on a day when he marked himself out as one of the best sprinters in the world.

While he hasn’t been tested in deep conditions yet, his July Cup win showed off his ability to see things out up the hill right to the line and considering his rating, his recent breathing operation and the fact that he should handle the ground OK here he should prove to be the best of this bunch.

It’s tight in behind, with Dream Of Dreams having finally delivered on his promise of late and Sir Michael Stoute’s entrant is indeed next best, while King Power’s pair of Art Power and Happy Power are closely matched with the former favoured for some place money.

The likes of Sonaiyla, One Master and Lope Y Fernandez are all within 4-6lbs of the selection on private ratings and all deserve a mention, but young Cieren Fallon could be set for another huge day and may land this massive £221,000 first prize at very fair odds.

2.30 Ascot (British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes – Group 1) – FRANKLY DARLING

This is the first race in which I hope wrong choices have been made by connections and let’s face it, it has happened many times before.

The underestimated selection, Frankly Darling, has been apparently overlooked as first choice by both her owner and her usual rider.

Of the two Anthony Oppenheimer fillies, Ed Vaughan’s Dame Malliot carries the first colours while of the two John Gosden-trained runners Frankie has chosen last year’s Nassau Stakes runner-up Mehdaayih.

Of course, those people are better placed to judge how things have been going at home, but often such horses cannot be compared accurately on the gallops and the fact is that neither Oppenheimer nor Gosden run fillies such as Frankly Darling in races like this if they don’t believe they have a serious chance of winning.

To the form book we go then, and we see a filly who demolished a fair maiden field at Newcastle back in June. She followed that up with a taking success at Royal Ascot in the Ribblesdale Stakes, not only winning at Group 2 level but also doing so in a testing enough mile-and-a-half which displayed the battling and staying qualities she’ll need this weekend.

On a line through Star Catcher for the same connections, as well as many a Frankel filly, we can reasonably estimate her level of improvement. So, if all is well it seems she is pretty likely to get to the sort of level needed to beat the aforementioned Dame Malliot and Mehdaayih, as well as fellow overpriced sort Manuela De Vega.

3.40 Ascot (Champion Stakes – Group 1) – LORD NORTH

Last year brilliant filly Magical led soft ground specialist Addeybb home and I was thinking at a glance that it would come down to these two again. In terms of their private battle, I like the latter named here.

Rarely do these horses reach an absolute peak twice in a row. It’s little to do with any deficiencies in training technique of course, it’s just an unfortunate fact that athletes cannot physically do it every time they go out.

It was Ghaiyyath’s turn to falter in Ireland when Magical turned him over, but with some tough mileage behind her it could be her turn now to come up a little short with the fresher Addeybb perhaps taking advantage in perfect conditions.

But, they may both be beaten here. John Gosden runs two including second-favourite and French Derby winner Mishriff, the choice of Frankie Dettori.

The soft ground holds no fears and he has been improving, however the outright level he has reached is not that of Lord North and he is preferred.

The son of Dubawi put in a sparkling run to land his first Group 1 at Royal Ascot in a performance that marked him out as one of the best around, and even in these conditions there’s no real reason to doubt him now.

4.15 Ascot (Balmoral Handicap) – RAAEQ

This is a tough old contest on paper; a full 20-runner field of handicappers going in soft conditions.

It could be that the lower-drawn horses may just hold sway this time given the conditions, and as such it is no surprise that there has been money for likely improvers Raaeq, Tempus and Njord.

The first named, a Kingman colt trained by Brian Meehan, has proven his liking for Ascot and indeed for soft ground as well.

The only chance we take on him really is his ability to see out the mile having watched him demolish a small field over seven furlongs last time but on that score, there shouldn’t be too many worries as the further he went last time the better he looked.

He could be generously ahead of the assessors at this point and looks like being the archetypal Group horse in a handicap, meaning any sort of price above 4/1 looks decent despite the big field.

Friday 9 October 2020

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th October 2020: Alk Our Betting Mait in Dewhurst

A big weekend of flat action starts for us on Friday at Newmarket with two value punts in Group races.

Friday 9th October 2020

3.00 Newmarket (Challenge Stakes – Group 2) – ZAKOUSKI

It’s a busy Group One day at Newmarket, and while we resist the temptation to bet in the Fillies’ Mile, there is a value punt to be had in this Group 2 event.

Favourite Khaloosy is not as good as his rating suggests for me, Daahyeh is returning from a break and Happy Power may want just a slightly faster event.

Glorious Journey returned to form last time for Charlie Appleby and ranks very high on the list, but William Buick rides Zakouski instead and he is fancied to carry on the sharp improvement he was showing in Dubai early in the year.

Having beaten Headman on debut and won a Group 2 at Meydan on only his fourth start, it’s clear this is a horse who is expected to win Group 1’s eventually so if he handles the ground, he is a big price.

4.45 Newmarket (Pride Stakes – Group 3) – FRANCONIA

On paper this is a very competitive fillies and mares’ race, with Magic Lily being no mug and the likes of Anna Nerium and Angel Power still capable at this level.

Franconia however was a genuine classic contender earlier in the season and should return to form now. John Gosden’s filly was a good winner of the Abingdon on only her second start before winning at York, though even in scoring that performance and her defeat in the Yorkshire Oaks perhaps showed a dislike for that course and/or quicker ground.

This will be more the test she needs, she’s capable of a Group One win making this look almost a drop in class, and over the straight 1m2f being drawn 13 of 14 is a good thing with the stalls on the near side.

Saturday 10th October 2020

1.45 Newmarket (Zetland Stakes – Group 3) – KYPRIOS

makes Kyprios the one to be on. Aidan O’Brien’s colt has already reached for me a similar level to his rivals, most of which are more experienced, and he did so on heavy ground over an extended mile.

Given that, plus his being by Galileo, he should stay on best of all with Lone Eagle perhaps proving to be best of the rest. Recovery Run, Fabilis and Mystery Angel are all in contention.

2.20 Newmarket (Autumn Stakes – Group 3) – DHAHABI

The likely favourite here is Aidan O’Brien’s Van Gogh, however I feel he’s been overestimated somewhat.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Maximal could prove to be very useful yet and rates highly, while fellow Derby entry Megallan could outrun his odds for John Gosden now he gets different conditions.

It may yet come down to the Godolphin pair however, though this time we ignore William Buick’s choice One Ruler.

Rated 102, One Ruler is an obvious choice for Buick and he has already beaten Maximal before. He’s an improver for sure, but he was pretty much beaten fair and square in Listed company last time out and there’s no guarantee this test will suit.

Charlie Appleby’s other horse, Dhahabi, is more fascinating. An extremely expensive purchase, he has already run to a very similar level as his chief rivals after just two runs, with his breeding (Frankel x Fleche D’Or) suggesting he’ll see this out very well under James Doyle.

2.55 Newmarket (Dewhurst Stakes – Group 1) – ALKUMAIT

Britain’s premier juvenile event was taken in the last two years by exceptional two-year-olds Too Darn Hot and Pinatubo, though it’s a race that often catches out the one’s we believe to be top of the tree.

That could well be the case in the prevailing conditions for Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon, though he is of course very good, while fellow Irish entrants Cadillac and Wembley can go just as well.

Richard Hannon has been very, very bullish about his unbeaten Champagne Stakes winner Chindit after some apparently exceptional homework of late.

While he is obviously good, he looks as though he has been best for a test of pace while this change of venue and ground will test his stamina a little. It must also be said that had things worked out a little differently at Doncaster, he may well not have beaten Albasheer.

Albasheer reopposes and has plenty of improvement in him, however he has been quite rightly passed over by Jim Crowley in favour of Alkumait and he rates the best value bet in the race.

Improving in lumps, Alkumait put his debut fourth behind him when impressing in a maiden at Goodwood before landing the Mill Reef last time in great fashion for this column at 8/1.

He needs to prove his stamina here, but he is a lot like fellow Showcasing colt Mohaather, also trained by Marcus Tregoning, who got the mile really well this year as a three-year-old and it remains possible we could be seeing the emergence of a real star.

4.50 Newmarket (Darley Stakes – Group 3) – DARAIN

Based on the conditions, which plenty of the main contenders have not necessarily excelled in, it could be down to the two exciting three-year-olds to fight this out.

The likes of Epic Hero, Marie’s Diamond, Posted and Dream Castle are of course all capable, however in Highest Ground and Darain there may be two later-maturing three-year-olds who can yet win at the top level next season.

Highest Ground, trained by Sit Michael Stoute, was the gamble of the race in the delayed Dante Stakes at York, though a lot of that was about reputation. If it was about form, then beating the then highly regarded Waldkonig doesn’t look so hot now and he was ultimately beaten fair and square at York too.

John Gosden’s Darain cost a fortune and won in the style of a very good horse on debut at Newbury in July. Things were a little too easy for him next time when winning at HQ, while it’s clear that the trip was no good for him when he was beaten in the Great Voltigeur. This should be ideal and he is expected to prove how good he can be.

Friday 2 October 2020

Saturday 3rd October 2020: Authentic to Enable Top-Level Win Double

We have a simply huge weekend of racing across Saturday and Sunday, with 16 Group or Grade 1’s being staged in England, France and the USA alone.

There are also some very important Grade 1 races in Australia on Saturday morning, races which can help shape the betting market for the upcoming Melbourne Cup, but we stick a little closer to home on this occasion.


12.30 ParisLongchamp (Prix Chaudenay – Group 2) – MAX VEGA

This 1m7f race for three-year-olds gets Arc weekend under way, and it’ll be some slog for these young animals in the conditions.

There seems to be some confidence behind Alain De Royer-Dupre’s Valia, a Listed winner back in July. However, the bare form of that race and the fact that she’s been beaten fair and square twice since doesn’t entitle her to be any better thought of than Mykiss at a bigger price.

Better than both could be Max Vega for Ralph Beckett and Frankie Dettori. While he wasn’t particularly good at Kempton on the all-weather or in what was a very strange Derby at Epsom, he did look the part when beating Miss Yoda easily on soft ground in the Zetland last year, showing real staying qualities.

Max Vega also returned to form last time out when upped to 1m5½f in the Geoffrey Freer, finishing second to Hukum in the end and it seems he will be able to dictate things here.

2.45 Newmarket (Sun Chariot Stakes – Group 1) – NAZEEF

There’s no doubt that on my private ratings this race is tight with 8 fillies and mares being within 6lbs of each other.

However, given the conditions and with a few other variables taken into consideration I’d be fairly confident that Billesdon Brook, Feliciana De Vega, Veracious, Champers Elysees, Peaceful and Half Light may just be a little way behind John Gosden’s pair of runners.

Of course, Terebellum and Nazeef have met before at Newmarket when the latter beat the former over on the July Course in the Falmouth Stakes. Having backed Nazeef her win was no shock to me, though Mr Gosden expressed his surprise that favourite Terebellum didn’t prove to be best.

Once more the Godolphin horse is ahead of the selection in the market, but Nazeef has an improving profile overall and it’s not up to us to say she’s finished getting better yet.

Even a similar effort to her battling Falmouth win, her third run in only 44 days and achieved on soft ground, for me would be good enough to get her in the frame once again at least so should she improve she could be a few pounds clear of the field.

3.25 ParisLongchamp (Prix Daniel Wildenstein – Group 2) – MAAMORA

While it’s a shame there aren’t more betting opportunities for us on Arc day itself, Longchamp’s Saturday card may have thrown another our way here with Maamora potentially overpriced.

Favourite is The Revenant and while his form is undoubtedly best, he’s been off for a year and there can be no guarantee at all he’ll be on his ‘A’ game – if there was, you’d feel he would be in a Group 1.

Shaman is decent as is Motamarris, however surprise Sandown Group 3 winner Maamora has been treated as a fluke which is very unfair.

Leading all the way in the Atalanta Stakes, the Crisfords’ filly battled on brilliantly to the line to beat Billesdon Brook and she looks the type to fight best in the soft ground here, with the chance to dictate the pace under Frankie perhaps being there again.

10.24 Keeneland (Breeders’ Futurity – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

Godolphin are taking the same route with this two-year-old Essential Quality as they did last year with Maxfield, winner of this race and the one I strongly believed but for injury would have won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Essential Quality recorded a similar speed figure to his main rivals when winning on debut at Churchill Downs, and considering that was over six furlongs and he is by Tapit, he is bound to perform way better over this extended one-mile trip.

He’s heading to the top alright, so with suitable race conditions and given the fact his morning line is 2/1 in the States and he is around 3/1 here, he is worth a bet. If he wins this, he’ll return to the course and distance in November for the Breeders’ Cup.

Saturday & Sunday Double

Preakness Stakes & Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Double – AUTHENTIC & ENABLE

The two most important races of the weekend are undoubtedly the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday (3.05) and the final leg of this year’s Triple Crown in the States, the Preakness Stakes at 10.36PM on Saturday at Pimlico.

Having tipped up Authentic in the Kentucky Derby, it’s obvious I’ve always been a fan of this horse. He’s truly top class. Despite a hard race at Churchill Downs, he should prove too good again here with no Tiz The Law to push him, though I expect Ellis Park Derby winner Arc Collector to get to the top level too.

As for the Arc, the weather has meant the race is nowhere near as good as it could have been. This race has gone from a potentially vintage renewal to, in terms of standard, being no better than many European Group 1 races.

While the weather and the bigger field may well mean that star stayer Stradivarius can come into his own, he really shouldn’t beat stablemate Enable here for the erudite John Gosden.

True, this is not her best ground as we saw last year, but there’s no Waldgeist here, she is fitter and better prepared than twelve months ago and will appreciate a bit of a test herself.

These two selections are both at around the 5/4 mark so, while they are a little short, the confidence is there and at around the 4/1 mark they make a very good-looking win double bet in the two major races.