Thursday, 26 November 2020

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th November 2020: Weekend to Begin in McFabulous Fashion

This weekend sees Newcastle host the Fighting Fifth, the number one Champion Hurdle trial in which Epatante will be a hot favourite.

While first time out and in drier conditions than when she won at Cheltenham she looks somewhat vulnerable to Silver Streak, there is not enough in it for us to have a bet.

We do however have information from elsewhere on the Newcastle card, as well as Newbury and over in the States.

Friday 26th November 2020

2.25 Newbury (Handicap Chase) – SULLY D’OC AA

This is a competitive 2½-mile Class 2 chase, one in which the names you’d expect to be close together on private ratings are.

Clondaw Castle, Oldgrangewood, Fidux and San Benedeto are hard to split, but I really loved the way up and coming chaser Sully D’Oc AA won his race last time at Ascot and I thought right then that there is plenty more to come.

Anthony Honeyball’s former French runner should show up better here than he did last time for a number of reasons. The better ground, different fences on a fairer and more conventional track, plus having the benefit of that last run after a break and a wind operation.

Richie McLernon’s mount is worth a fair bit more than his current mark of 135 so at some very juicy overnight prices, he definitely gets the nod.

3.00 Newbury (Long Distance Hurdle – Grade 2) – McFABULOUS

On an emotional level it’s fair to assume we’d all love to see Paisley Park win again, for both Emma Levelle and his owner Andrew Gemmell, but under his 3lb Grade One penalty and given how laboured he was at this stage last season he may not be a genuine favourite.

In terms of what McFabulous achieved in bumpers it always looked likely that he would head to the top. True, it took him some time to get going over hurdles, but if it turns out that it was a trip he needed then he may reach his peak at staying distance, which he hasn’t got to yet.

In fact, the way in which he won his Grade 2 novices’ hurdle last time out suggested he had put in a career best and yet it appeared nothing but a warm-up for what was to come, leading me to believe that he could be value to take this for Paul Nicholls.

Given the rates of improvement and another penalty for the latter named, both Thyme Hill and Summerville Boy may go well but just fall short.

10.27 Churchill Downs (Clark Handicap – Grade 1) – CODE OF HONOR

This is a high-quality race over nine furlongs around Churchill Downs, one in which bookmakers on either side of the water can barely split Shug McGaughey’s Code Of Honor and Bret Calhoun’s By My Standards.

On private ratings, I initially got them dead together too but in these conditions the son of Noble Mission could be the one to be on.

We must also consider that, when using the numbers which is a reliable thing to do in the States, Code Of Honor has been rated higher than By My Standards at the same age and when using speed figures he comes out on top again given his 2lb pull.

On top of this, By My Standards will have to race wide in a fast-paced event from gate 12 and concedes even more, leaving us with a fair value punt on last season’s Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup winner.

Owendale, Aurelius Maximus, Bodexpress and Mr Freeze were all considered but look to be some way behind.

Saturday 27th November 2020

2.25 Newbury (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – MARIE’S ROCK

There is of course always some element of risk about backing a mare who hasn’t seen a racecourse for a year but the rate of her improvement, style of her wins and the form of some of those she’s beaten potentially put Marie’s Rock into a different league here at these weights.

Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old daughter of Milan really looked the part in two hurdle wins last season, and will be better and stronger now.

She is taken to get this season off to a winning start before going into better things, with Thyme White, Milkwood, Botox Has and Sebastopol all hard to split in behind.

3.15 Newcastle (Rehearsal Handicap Chase – Listed Race) – PYM

Assuming he runs to form, this race revolves around Nicky Henderson’s Pym.

At his lowest realistic form level, he is no better than, but still up with the pace of, Cool Mix, Brave Eagle, The Butcher Said and Whatmore at these weights.

However, if he outruns that which, based not only on his chase career trajectory but also on the form of the horse’s he’s beaten, he could be anything from 2-10lbs better than this opposition and that hands us enough evidence to feel confident in backing him.

The near three-mile trip and the ground are both fine for Daryl Jacob’s mount and so he is taken to land this high-quality event.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st November 2020: Join the Clan at Haydock

It’s Lancashire Chase day at Haydock on Saturday, or Betfair Chase day as we know it now. The huge Grade One event will be handing us not only the joy of seeing some of the best chasers in the business strut their stuff in tough conditions, but also some major Cheltenham Festival clues too with the Gold Cup already in focus.

We begin on the flat on Friday at Newcastle however with a couple of horses who look decent value to land their respective events.

Friday 20th November 2020

4.45 Newcastle (Handicap) – WITH RESPECT

Hughie Morrison sends his With Respect up to Newcastle for the second division of this one-mile handicap on the Tapeta track and he has a fabulous chance of landing the odds.

He’s been on the go for a while now having had six runs since August, but as a three-year-old there is bound to be improvement to come from him yet and he might just unlock it on this surface.

Newcastle takes some getting and a look at the profile of this colt suggests that this is exactly what he needs now having run two solid thirds at Newbury and Doncaster. Ray Dawson rides and takes off a very handy 3lbs.

His main market rivals look like the biggest threat with both Perfect Swiss and Daniel Deronda having solid each-way chances on the book.

5.15 Newcastle (Nursery Handicap) – ALBERT CAMUS

John Gosden has a fantastic record at Newcastle, but while sending the Enable’s and the Without Parole’s to Gosforth Park is done simply to get the best racing conditions for a horse on its debut, travelling only one 75-rated juvenile for a Class 5 nursery suggests he’s doing so because he knows it has an outstanding chance.

The selection is of course based on more than that. Albert Camus ran well enough on debut at Sandown when third to the smart Maximal to be worthy of at least this handicap mark and that was back in September. Consider then that he will undoubtedly have improved plenty since then, he can be expected to run a good 5-7lbs better than his mark. He has the excellent PJ McDonald up top to help him along.

His rivals are strong, Mark Johnston’s Annandale being a last time out winner who has the potential to improve, though it wouldn’t necessarily make him better handicapped than the selection and runners from this stable don’t always go on from race to race.

William Haggas is another Newmarket trainer with a good record here and his Currency Exchange isn’t out of this considering his gelding operation and the addition of cheekpieces, but again improvement is not guaranteed with him.

Saturday 21st November 2020

12.10 Haydock (Newton Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – DO YOUR JOB

A good quality listed race over what will prove to be a tough enough two miles on this track, one which even while flat is very, very testing when the rain gets in.

The presence of Paul Nicholls’ Flic Ou Voyou, on a four-timer here, has kept the price on our horse very respectable and we have to take advantage of that here.

Officially rated 4lbs inferior to his main rival, Do Your Job’s latest run when winning ever so easily at Ayr was worth more than that and he has been improving in absolute lumps in between races.

To top it off, the horse he beat with ease, Dan Skelton’s useful Cadzand, came out himself next time and won comfortably. The up and coming Severance is next on the list

1.45 Lingfield (Novice Stakes) – TOUCHWOOD 

The likely favourite here is Richard Hughes’ Elektronic who was fourth on debut at Kempton Park recently. While that form is solid enough in the context of this juvenile race, he leaves him vulnerable as a favourite and I’d say that a similar run at the same track from Touchwood was better and he may prove that here.

Charlie Hilles’ Invincible Spirit colt made a slow start to his racing career at Ascot but greatly improved last time. He is better bred than his main rival, has Kieran Shoemark on board and possesses the pace needed at this track to get into position when and where it counts.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – CLAN DES OBEAUX

I seem to remember being really sweet on Lostintranslation when he won this race last year, finally defeating Haydock specialist Bristol De Mai who reopposes once again.

Bristol is a wonderful horse and not done with yet, but in stepping back and taking a wider looking at his bare form, his ratings, his ups and his downs, he’s not a horse who seems likely to run to his very best and that would have been what was required here.

Lostintranslation was terrific in this race last season and ran third in the Gold Cup no less, but on the books both performances were of a similar standard and if that’s how good he is then he is top-notch, but not unbeatable.

It may also be worth pointing out that this is his seasonal debut. Two seasons who, he was a beaten 13/8 favourite on seasonal debut and last year he won an easier race at Carlisle before coming here making his chances this year look a little less certain.

Step forward Clan Des Obeaux. The 2018 and 2019 King George winner actually does appear, overall at least considering the understandable peaks and troughs, to be getting better. He loves a flat track, goes well on soft ground and is back nice and fresh for the season having had a breathing operation.

Even when he was fourth in this race back in 2018, statistically it was his career high to that point. Paul Nicholls’ runner is no certainty, but between the three principals he is easily the best value.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Saturday 14th November 2020: Stoute to Be Jovial at Lingfield

It’s a huge weekend of National Hunt action, but while Cheltenham’s November meeting is making us all look forward to the Festival in March it isn’t necessarily throwing up too many betting opportunities.

There are two good value shouts at Wetherby to get stuck into, while the all-weather presents us with more opportunities on the flat despite the time of year.

We begin at Lingfield, where it seems that all-time great Sir Michael Stoute may be on for a very profitable day indeed.

12.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – ASTRO KING

Assuming Richard Fahey’s Irreverent and William Stone’s Dashing Roger are genuine contenders for this Class 2 event, which I think they are, then Sir Michael Stoute’s Astro King begins to look very smart indeed in the context of this event.

While the other two have solid credentials and are bound to be rightfully well-backed, Lingfield so often comes down to speed and the one with the best figures in that sphere is indeed the three-year-old son of Kingman, Astro King.

In fact, Astro King put in a display on the all-weather a couple of runs ago that would make him a genuine favourite for this, despite being a beaten favourite on the day, so considering he is down to the mile trip now and switches from Kempton Park to Lingfield we can expect even more from him under Andrea Atzeni.

We all know that this top Newmarket yard continues to improve their horses at this sort of age with Astro King looking the type to move into Listed or Group 3 company early next season, so off 87 he is well handicapped for this race and should be backed with reasonable confidence.

1.13 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – SHALL WE GO NOW

This is a decent quality race, one which is very tight not only in the handicap but in the betting market as well.

Jedd O’Keeffe’s Miah Grace should attract support but her standout run was over at Doncaster last season and although it may have been described as a pipe-opener, her return at this track last month was reasonably solid but nothing to particularly write home about.

Miah Grace’s rate of improvement isn’t astounding overall, while there are also questions to answer for Ian Williams’ Speed Company and Sam Thomas’ Mario De Pail.

The one to be on instead could well be Shall We Go Now for Noel Fehily’s racing syndicate. A maiden hurdle winner at Taunton back in January, the seven-year-old has come nowhere near to his best as yet and so his handicap mark is way off.

We can use that to our advantage, while the gelding is also race fit having had a spin on the turf at Nottingham to get him ready for this. As an added bonus, it’s noted that Harry Fry sends only this horse to Yorkshire on Saturday and he is also the only ride for jockey Dave Crosse. Watch out for strong money coming in for him in the build-up to the race.

1.48 Wetherby (Handicap Chase) – ROSE SEA HAS

Dr Richard Newland sends his five-year-old grey Rose Sea Has to Wetherby and he has moved to book champion jockey Brian Hughes for the ride, something that could prove crucial in what is a competitive handicap chase.

Although an unfancied 28/1 shot, he was fifth and staying on nicely last time out at Market Rasen when he fell and it appears that overall, he has the profile of an improving horse.

Perversely, he is gradually going down the weights having not won since last November but he’s never really lost his form and could have been grossly underestimated by the bookmakers here.

The competition, on paper at least, is plentiful with Fanzio, Johnbb, Louis’ Vac Pouch and Schiehallion Munro all possessing enough form to make them contenders but at around 5/1 or 6/1 Rose Sea Has is priced well enough for us to take a chance on him.

3.40 Lingfield (Golden Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – JOVIAL 

Sir Michael Stoute has arguably struggled to find the right conditions for Jovial since she last won, though it’s perhaps germane that the win in question was indeed over this course and distance. A lot has happened since then and, even in defeat, Jovial has proven that she is of Listed class at the very least.

Six furlongs looks like being her trip and it seems she can peak now that speed is very much of the essence, not just because of the trip but because of this track as well.

At a very tasty price she can be backed at small stakes to get the job done here under the excellent Tom Marquand, while the in-form Good Effort and Godolphin’s On The Warpath also rate highly with Judical potentially popular with punters on the day.

8.00 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – LEAFHOPPER

Not a major race, but one perhaps worth waiting until 8PM for. The favourite here is the Crisford’s Last Surprise, but while she sets a good standard having run regularly to form and earning her rating of 95, she is far from infallible.

After seeing her win her first two races easily I seem to remember being quite sweet on John Gosden’s Leafhopper for a Listed race last time out.

She was only 6/1 to win that event and it is always worth remember that, while remaining ambitious, Gosden never throws these fillies into Pattern events unless he thinks they have a genuine chance of winning.

Leafhopper is a Godolphin purchase by Dark Angel and she is one who remains on track to compete in Listed events at some stage, making this grade well within her compass. The seven-furlong trip looks ideal and she will appreciate the Tapeta surface, so at around 4/1 she looks perfectly backable under the reliable Nicky Mackay.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Friday 6th & Saturday 7th November 2020: Head North to Kentucky

We have a real clash of the codes this week, with the Elite Hurdle taking place at Wincanton in which Sceau Royal’s speed between flights might prove crucial, while on the flat in the States it’s the $31million Breeders’ Cup in Kentucky.

Friday 6th November 2020 

8.10 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – Grade 1) – CADILLAC

Friday evening, UK time, is Future Stars Friday at the Breeders’ Cup as the five two-year-old races take place on a quality card.

While there are some strong locals here including Gretzky The Great and especially the main danger to the selection Mutasaabeq, it could be a familiar European turf win with Jessie Harrington’s Cadillac favoured.

Only 4/1 to win the Dewhurst last time on unsuitable ground, he has form with Mac Swiney and he demolished Van Gogh and looks a real Group 1 type. New Mandate, Public Sector and Battle Ground are also possibilities.

10.15 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

It was my belief that but for injury, Godolphin’s Maxfield would have won this race last year and possibly the 2020 Kentucky Derby too.

This year, their Essential Quality is following the same path having landed the Breeders’ Futurity over this course and distance and has remained in one piece!

The grey’s win last time on just his second start was expert and, unlike many Group/Grade 1 types even as juveniles in the States, he has improvement to come at this stage. Favourite Jackie’s Warrior is solid and is feared most, ahead of Rombauer.

Saturday 7th November 2020

2.05 Doncaster (Gillies Stakes – Listed Race) – BORN WITH PRIDE

This is a competitive fillies’ race on paper over the mile-and-a-quarter trip, one that at Doncaster is fair for all and so even in soft conditions should ideally allow the cream to rise.

With that in mind, last year’s Listed race debut winner Born With Pride could belatedly prove how good she can be as a three-year-old. William Haggas’ Born To Sea filly can handle this ground and should appreciate being brought back in trip.

This season she has rather let connections down, but it could be that this is her time of year and in ideal racing conditions she looks far too big a price. Trefoil, Moll Davis, Freyja, Chamade, Anna Nerium and Zahratty are all very close in behind so places are very much up for grabs.

6.18 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile – Grade 1) – ART COLLECTOR

Every horse is allowed one blip, and so Art Collector being available at around 8/1 seems crazy anyway and even more absurd when you consider his latest fourth place was achieved in the Preakness Stakes.

Previously, the son of Bernardini was showing plenty of improvement over nine furlongs in winning the Ellis Park Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes here. This mile now appears to be ideal.

Art Collector has beaten top three-year-old yardsticks Swiss Skydiver, the subsequent Preakness winner and second-favourite for the Distaff on this card, and Attachment Rate both easily and has a huge chance here.

Likely favourite Complexity is next best along with Knicks Go and last year’s Preakness winner War Of Will who is also overpriced.

6.57 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1) – TEREBELLUM

The home team is strong here, Rushing Fall and Mean Mary fancied every bit as much as Aidan O’Brien’s Irish Guineas winner Peaceful, but it could be that it isn’t Ballydoyle but Clarehaven that produces the main European challenge.

John Gosden runs his solid Group 1 filly Terebellum in this race, and with the trip down to 1m1½f this year in quick conditions the race could be ideal for the Dahlia Stakes winner.

Terebellum was excellent against the boys when just being run out of the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, while the ground beat her when she was third to stablemate Nazeef in the Falmouth Stakes. Her class may truly tell here under Frankie Dettori at a tempting price.

8.15 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Mile – Grade 1) – KAMEKO

This is one of the properly elite races on the card with One Master, Ivar and Uni all possessing real top-level form and all can have their say.

The best one-mile European form often comes to the fore in this race though, and it’s unlikely this year that Siskin, Circus Maximus and Kameko will all be run out of it and so the winner should come from that trio.

Siskin has a great turn of foot and the Irish 2000 Guineas winner and Sussex Stakes third should enjoy things here. Ahead of him that day was Queen Anne winner Circus Maximus who will have his say again, but the unlucky horse at Goodwood as we know was Kameko and he has long been targeted at this event.

Winner of the 2000 Guineas in a quick time, Kameko is at his best now after a taking Joel Stakes win giving away weight. Even without Pinatubo and especially Mohaather this is tough, but he would be a fitting winner of this race for Andrew Balding and he backed to be so.

9.33 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – LORD NORTH

John Gosden knows how to get the job done in the Breeders’ Cup, the former California trainer realising that European-trained horses so often stay just a little further here than at home.

As such, look at the bare form of Lord North’s wins in the Brigadier Gerard, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and the Juddmonte International over 1¼ miles rather than the race distance here (1m4f) and you can see how I think class will tell.

Lord North has an excellent turn of foot which will be crucial in these conditions around tight turns on firm ground, and he can beat home the arguably overworked Magical, her stable companion Mogul and the unbeaten in 2020 Tarnawa.

10.13 Keeneland (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE

The $6million showpiece event. So often, three-year-old’s only win this race when they are genuinely top-class Triple Crown winners and/or are trained by Bob Baffert, but this year leading sophomore Tiz The Law is garnering lots of support.

The brilliant Belmont Stakes winner is second-favourite for this, stuck in between three Baffert horses at the top of the market and while he has no doubt had a rest and been prepped really well, he may just have bumped into an improving, genuine top-quality four-year-old in the shape of Improbable.

Baffert’s colt was tipped up you may remember right here for the Awesome Again when he was second-favourite behind stablemate Maximum Security who is in opposition again, but while he has to step up another furlong at Keeneland his class should get him home as he is obviously becoming the best dirt horse in the world.

The third of Baffert’s runners is Authentic, another winner for us in the Kentucky Derby no less, with Tom’s D’Etat being the other who statistically has a decent chance.