Friday 30 April 2021

Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd May 2021: Mutasaabeq the One in Open 2000 Guineas

The flat season truly kicks off this weekend with a veritable classic and Triple Crown bonanza. It’s Guineas and Kentucky Derby weekend, and here are the best bets.

Saturday 1st May 2021 

2.05 Goodwood (Conqueror Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – MAAMORA

Lilac Road may well be favourite here, but she’s only a three-year-old and an all-weather winner who could be vulnerable. Maamora, off the track for a while, can still improve and goes well fresh so appears a better option than the Haggas horse and Agincourt.

2.25 Newmarket (Palace House Stakes – Group 3) – LAZULI

Sometimes these sprinters are a work in progress, so while at 4 and 5 respectively they’ve always shown serious talent, it may have taken until this season for us all to see what Lazuli and Garrus are truly about.

The former is backed this time to give away 3lbs to his older rival who himself will win his share of big price money this year.

3.40 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – MUTASAABEQ

Richard Hannon’s Greenham winner Chindit can improve plenty, but may want a different track, Naval Crown can be dragged along by good horses so can improve again at a big price while Van Gogh is classy but needs a real test and is a shorter price for the Derby than this for a good reason.

The key piece of form is last season’s National Stakes. There, Master Of The Seas was too free, pulled badly for his head and then raced wide with no cover. Although finishing fourth, he was only swamped very late on by Thunder Moon and Wembley who have been vying for favouritism here.

It’s felt that in these conditions Master Of The Seas can beat his old rivals now. He showed some fine pace to win the Superlative, did well in the circumstances in Ireland, then after a pipe-opener in Dubai did even better to win the Craven last time.

Despite being blocked on numerous occasions, he got himself out of trouble to win that prep in nice style over the course and distance, William Buick in the end choosing him over previous favourite One Ruler.

One Ruler has gone a tried and tested route having run well to be runner-up in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity on unsuitable soft ground, while before than he won the Autumn Stakes. He has the form in the bag, but it may well be prevalent that Buick has gone for the other horse as he rarely gets it wrong.

Thunder Moon won the National Stakes and was not suited by the ground in the Dewhurst. He is the winner of the race with the key form, but given how that race shaped up it would be no surprise to see both Master Of The Seas and Wembley turn that form around.

Wembley is the choice of Ryan Moore from the Coolmore team and he’s very classy indeed. His form puts him in the mix, but one win from 6 doesn’t scream “Guineas winner”. He was beaten by Mac Swiney last season who has close form with One Ruler, and in turn with Master Of The Seas which is yet another example of how close and muddled the form lines are.

We could be left looking for something else, and the new kid on the block Mutasaabeq looks to be the one. Charlie Hills’ Shadwell colt made a great debut last year despite the bad ground, then made all against three rivals in a conditions race at the Craven meeting to win in very fine style.

He didn’t beat much and had the rail, but he was forced to dictate, ran a faster seven furlongs than anything else at the meeting despite carrying more weight and put up easily the best speed figures of any horse at the meeting.

What many may have missed is that after he passed the line, he saw things out right up the hill so that – and his being out of 1000 Guineas winner Ghanaati – tells us plenty about the likelihood of him seeing out the mile.

4.50 Newmarket (Newmarket Stakes – Listed Race) – MOHAAFETH

This four-runner Listed race may yet prove to be a valid Derby trial. One horse who is engaged at Epsom is Mohaafeth, a course and distance handicap winner at the Craven meeting who is a big improver and looks well capable now of getting to, and surpassing, the level of Godolphin’s likely favourite Secret Protector.

11.57 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

On the face of it, there’s not as much depth to this Kentucky Derby as there has been in recent times. We should know about it too, as so often we know where each horse stands by now on the basis that they’ve had to put up strong performances, often in Grade 1 races, to qualify for the event.

With that in mind, our old pal Essential Quality looks to be comfortably ahead of this field. A Grade 1 winner at Keeneland last autumn, he returned to the track and trip for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November where he beat Hot Rod Charlie and become the 2020 champion two-year-old.

Winning his Grade 3 and Grade 2 prep races this term, the Godolphin grey remains unbeaten and, unlike many Derby candidates, hasn’t been asked for his very best effort yet so his peak has not been reached.

He was workmanlike last time in the Blue Grass, but much like in the Juvenile he got better the further they went which is no surprise for a son of Tapit.

Over this mile-and-a-quarter at Churchill Downs, in Grade 1 company off an obvious fast pace and from gate 14 (which is actually ideal), he can raise his game to more than the required level for Brad Cox under Luis Saez and become the latest Run for the Roses champion.

Rock Your World, Known Agenda, Highly Motivated and Hot Rod Charlie may well prove to be best of the rest in Louisville.

Sunday 2nd May 2021

1.15 Newmarket (Handicap) – WESTERN SYMPHONY

Charlie Appleby’s Western Symphony, a thrice-raced son of Shamardal, has plenty of talent but has been a bit wayward so far. He’s straightening up gradually, has now been gelded, is getting better all the time and can now prove to be very well handicapped.

2.25 Newmarket (Pretty Polly Stakes – Listed Race) – A’SHAARI

It’s noteworthy that A’Shaari was available at bigger prices this week and has shortened plenty, and it’s certainly no surprise. In unsuitable conditions (seven furlongs, soft) she ran a terrific debut last year, but now over this mile-and-a-quarter on faster ground she can move into contention for the Oaks.

3.40 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – SACRED

There’s been much talk of how open the 2000 Guineas is this year, but despite there being a general 5/4 favourite one could argue the fillies’ race is even more competitive.

Difficult to split were Thunder Beauty, Fev Rover, Statement, Saffron Beach, Alcohol Free who looks more of a sprinter, the favourite Santa Barbara and her stablemate Mother Earth.

That favourite, trained by Aidan O’Brien, may well prove to be a world-beater. She may monster this field, but backing her at such short odds having only won a maiden that hasn’t even worked out very well is not the work of a pro.

So, with Santa Barbara taken on, the value in the race is with the Nell Gwyn winner Sacred. William Haggas and Tom Marquand are in great form and both think the stamina doubts surrounding this daughter of Exceed And Excel will be dispelled.

Sacred is a strong traveller and should have plenty in reserve at the end of this race, and can get the job done in an open year.

Friday 23 April 2021

Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th April 2021: Yibir to Add to Appleby Classic Crop

It’s a very busy weekend, with most of the top action at Sandown. Friday is Classic Trial Day on the flat, while Saturday is Jump Finale Day.

During the latter, Irish Prophecy looks a big price in the bet365 Gold Cup, Frodon is odds-on, the Select Hurdle is very tight and there is a fascinating clash between Put The Kettle On and Altior.

The value may well lie elsewhere however, with these eight being where our money is going over the two days: 

Friday 23rd April 2021

1.50 Sandown (Esher Cup Handicap) – QUINTILLUS

A competitive handicap as always, but it’s one that the current hotshots at Charlie Appleby’s yard can take to add to their ever-growing haul this season.

Their Quintillus, having just his fourth race and first in a handicap, is improving all the time yet was never likely to have been suited by things when running fourth behind Fundamental at Chelmsford last time.

By Dubawi out of a Nashwan mare, he is beautifully bred, can take another leap forward here and off this mark looks likely to get his head in front with Tawaareq, Dingle and Buxted Too preferred to shorter-priced Ilza’Eem.

2.25 Sandown (Gordon Richards Stakes – Group 3) – WALDKONIG

There was a rather major move with the sponsors for Sir Michael Stoute’s Highest Ground on Thursday, but it’s partly due to him that Waldkonig looks more backable now.

Always thought to be very high class, the now four-year-old of John & Thady Gosden’s was a strong favourite to beat Highest Ground at one point last season and frankly he should have done.

He demolished a handicap field at Pontefract last time and seems to be coming of age, so while Thunderous and Highest Ground appear close based on their Dante form of last season and Waldkonig was always considered better than they are, his match fitness should give him a clear edge. Hukum is well fancied but may need the run.

2.50 Doncaster (Handicap) – SIDE SHOT

In the grand scheme of things considering this weekend’s action this tight-looking £9,000, 66-85 handicap doesn’t seem all that important.

However, when assessing the form of this field it seemed entirely reliable and so the numbers really appear to stack up. Those numbers, by my reckoning, have John & Thady Gosden’s Side Shot a few pounds clear of this field and so he’s worth a bet.

His main rival is Colonel Faulkner, but his best form is not guaranteed in the conditions while Taravara has a little more to find.

3.35 Sandown (Classic Trial – Group 3) – YIBIR

While Martyn Meade’s Lone Eagle remains of interest, this could be all about the Godolphin runners and it’s unlike William Buick to pick the wrong one (though Frankie has to ride Trawlerman).

On a line through Megallan, as well as Adayar and Trawlerman who Yibir beat to the first-choice Godolphin colours, it would appear that the Dubawi colt has enough ability to see off this field and add his name to Charlie Appleby’s growing classic team, perhaps heading to York next.

Both Adayar and Trawlerman are improving nicely, however Yibir has the look of a real Derby candidate, hasn’t been overly pressed as yet, and having been off since September is likely to have improved a hell of a lot since last seen on the track.

4.10 Sandown (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – CHIASMA

We don’t advise too many newcomers, especially when they’re not big prices. Because of Chiasma’s pedigree, she won’t be massive either but there is a ton of evidence to suggest she shouldn’t struggle when making her debut here on good, fast racing ground.

Chiasma is a full sister to Frankel, the only sister he’ll ever have now that dam Kind has passed away, and the whole family tend to be at or very near three figures in terms of ratings by this age.

With that in mind, Royal Harmony (by Shamardal out of a Dubawi mare) is well bred but statistically unlikely to be at the same level, while Nash Nasha for Godolphin has arguably run to a level of around 65 and 75 so far, so even with improvement and giving away 7lbs, she shouldn’t get near the Juddmonte mare who will have all eyes on her on Friday afternoon.

Saturday 24th April 2021

2.10 Leicester (King Richard III Stakes – Listed Race) – MUMS TIPPLE

An interesting wee Listed race over seven furlongs. Lord Campari has been a little over bet considering his achievements so far and that he may not be at his best in the conditions, while the 112-rated Pogo naturally remains of strong interest.

The value in the race comes with Richard Hannon’s Mums Tipple however. Spectacular in a sales race at 2, he’s been slowly getting close to his very best and didn’t want the full mile behind a very good rival last time. This should suit a lot more and he’s backed to give away 3lbs.

2.50 Haydock (Handicap) – PERSUASION 

A thoroughly decent price for this Class 2, seven-furlong handicap is Charlie Hills’ Persuasion with William Buick on board.

Although not really going on last year, Persuasion was an excellent debut winner at 2 during Glorious Goodwood and also finished second to Wichita in a Group race. He finished the year well on soft ground however and looks set for a better season now.

This is a quicker race than he’s had for a while which is exactly what he appears to need, so we can now see the best of him. Dreamloper and the bang in form Gobi Sunset also made the shortlist.

5.55 Doncaster (Handicap) – THIBAAN 

Assuming in this five-runner race that he’s not forced down to a silly price, which is doubtful, then Thibaan is worth a small bet.

A four-year-old of Sir Michael Stoute’s, he’s almost guaranteed to improve plenty this season. Having finished a fine second to Frankly Darling last June, his best run was over this course and distance on similar ground and now having had a breathing operation, he can comfortably outrun was now looks like a lenient mark of 87.

Friday 16 April 2021

Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th April 2021: Alkumait to Advertise Guineas Credentials

It’s yet another huge weekend of racing, but we have to wait until Sunday to see most of the big-hitters.

The Scottish Grand National card at Ayr and Newbury’s Greenham Stakes day have been moved to accommodate the funeral of Prince Phillip on Saturday.

We have a (very) early bet from Australia on Saturday morning, with all of our other information saved for the two big Sunday meetings.

Saturday 17th April 2021

6.50 Randwick (Queen Elizabeth Stakes – Group 1) - ADDEYBB

This is the fourth battle between William Haggas’ Addeybb and Australian “wondermare” Verry Elleegant. The score currently stands at 3-1 to Addeybb with the mare winning last time out, but there are few things that need to be picked up on here.

First of all, Verry Elleegant is no wonder mare. She is decent, good in the context of Australian Group races, but no wonder.

Addeybb had a foot problem last time out and perhaps should not have run. He’s working a lot sharper now, as you’d expect, wears different headgear and Tom Marquand is happy with him.

At anywhere near his best, he wins this race without any problem. The only worry is the drying weather, but with any ‘soft’ listed in the going description he should manage to win his fourth Group 1 race before we’ve even woken up on Saturday morning!

Addeybb beat his big rival twice last season. While she has remained at pretty much the same level according to the clock and the numbers, Addeybb actually improved quite a lot to ultimately win the Champion Stakes in October. If’s near his ‘A’ game, we should see him get back on track.

Sunday 18th April 2021

1.35 Newbury (John Porter Stakes – Group 3) – AL AASY

Al Aasy had a problem last year which curtailed his improvement as a three-year-old, but should come back to the track with a bang.

Both of his main rivals, Deja and Without A Fight, are coming off similar layoffs and so there is no disadvantage there, and we must remember that Al Aasy was thought of by the William Haggas team as a potential Group 1 horse last campaign.

This particular mile-and-a-half should be ideal and he can win this before being aimed at bigger targets later in the season, the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot perhaps being what the team has in mind.

The highest rated horse here officially is Deja (112). It is interesting to note that Al Aasy reached 108 as far back as last July when winning the Bahrain Trophy (Group 3), and so even with basic and natural progression from three to four, he’d be a fair bit better than 112 now.

2.25 Ayr (Scottish Champion Hurdle – Grade 2 Handicap) – THYME WHITE

At these prices, a chance can be taken on Paul Nicholls’ runner Thyme White. His form figures this season of 1U90 would have the casual observer believing he’s out of form and/or has lost his way, but that is not the truth at all.

His 9th was in the Betfair Hurdle against 22 rivals in what was a solid performance, while his 0 was actually a 12th of 25 in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

His form remains solid in fact, but in a slightly easier race, on this track, against fewer rivals and on quicker ground we can see Thyme White’s superior pace between flights of hurdles kick in and he looks on that basis to be very good value indeed.

Milkwood, who is favourite for Neil Mulholland, and Calico of Dan Skelton’s yard are both fancied and indeed rate as Thyme White’s biggest dangers.

2.45 Newbury (Greenham Stakes – Group 1) – ALKUMAIT

This is an interesting one and a genuine 2000 Guineas trial. Chindit has some of the best form in the book, but at around 2/1 he seems mightily short in the market.

Fundamental could improve for having had a run this season and may sneak a place, but there are some interesting links between Alkumait and Mujbar to look more closely at.

Both are Shadwell horses, with Alkumait having the better form and being shorter in the market. Strangely, Jim Crowley appears to be saddled up on Mujbar but even with his Horris Hill form, on ground he didn’t like, he just doesn’t seem to be at the same level as Alkumait.

That colt was an excellent juvenile and was brilliant at this track when landing the Mill Reef from out wide. He is by Showcasing, who was also the sire of the awesome Mohaather who won this race for the same trainer, Marcus Tregoning.

I think his pace will win this but he’ll be able to see it out, with Dane O’Neill able to take the plaudits this time before Crowley no doubt takes over in the Guineas in two weeks’ time.

3.35 Ayr (Scottish Grand National – Grade 3) – DINGO DOLLAR

This is a very tough race, naturally, but there are logical reasons to believe that Sandy Thomson’s Dingo Dollar will be very well handicapped for the event.

Having joined from Alan King’s stable, Dingo Dollar came right back to his best first time up for Thomson when winning easily at Newcastle. Given how facile the win was and that it was his first for the yard, it is very hard to believe that it was as good as it’s going to get for the nine-year-old.

Dingo Dollar will stay, he’ll appreciate the dry ground and has the assistance up top of Brian Hughes who is still fighting Harry Skelton for the jockey’s championship.

Of the others, there are plenty in with chances of course. Eider Chase winner Sam’s Adventure could go well having been given time to recover from his exploits, while Aye Right is very consistent and is a relatively short-priced favourite for the race.

Somewhat of a Grand National specialist now is Lucinda Russel’s Mighty Thunder, while at a bigger price there may be some great each-way value in Coup De Pinceau. Dingo Dollar it is who gets the vote however, hopefully at something close to a double-figure price.

Thursday 8 April 2021

Friday 9th & Saturday 10th April 2021: Candy a Sweet Bet in Grand National

It’s Grand National weekend at long last, and we have a solid selection in the big race as well as plenty of other flat and jumps information across both Friday and Saturday.

Friday 9th April 2021

3.25 Aintree (Melling Chase – Grade 1) – FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES

For many of us, it feels as though Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies has been around forever but he’s still only a six-year-old, is improving, and can come of age now in this top-grade two-and-a-half-mile race.

After the crushing success of Clan Des Obeaux in Thursday’s Betway Bowl, many will be on Paul Nicholls and Politologue who to be fair has proven himself to be of the highest quality in the past.

Over this trip however, it is easy to see Fakir D’oudairies improving past him now having chased home Chacun Pour Soi and Allaho the last twice.

3.55 Leicester (Novice Stakes) – KNIGHT’S TOWN

It could be worth a quick betting trip over to Leicester for their flat meeting during the excellent Aintree action, as there should be a price available about Charlie Appleby’s Knight’s Town in the 1½-mile novice race.

The Godolphin first colours are on John Gosden’s Law Of The Sea, a Derby entry who is by Golden Horn. He’s run twice so far and is now a winner, but his bare form doesn’t entitle him to be a short-priced favourite and he has to give fully 7lbs to our horse.

Knight’s Town, ridden by William Buick who is back on these shores, wasn’t great first time up at Kempton but he went off 2/1 favourite for his debut and should be much better on turf. Should he run to the sort of level so often seen by Appleby horses in such races, he should be good enough at the weights.

4.40 Aintree (Sefton Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – BRAVEMANSGAME

Several people connected to the Paul Nicholls yard have said for some time that their Bravemansgame is the real deal and, while he couldn’t quite prove it at Cheltenham, he should be fitter now and can do himself justice.

That en vogue big break between Christmas and the Cheltenham Festival is not something I like and it was a break Bravemansgame was forced to take. He eventually finished third behind Bob Olinger in the Ballymore but he should be 100% now, this looks much more to his liking, and frankly he looks well clear of his opposition.

Chief among that opposition is Cape Gentleman, a Grade 2 winner at Kempton for Emmet Mullins, and Bothwell Bridge who may challenge for the places but may prove to be not good enough to get to Harry Cobden’s mount.

Saturday 10th April 2021

2.25 Aintree (Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – MY DROGO

Dan and Harry Skelton look to be in pole position to begin Saturday in the perfect way, with their My Drogo on a four-timer and ready to land his first Grade 1 race.

This 2½ miles is a new trip for him, but he seems to get better the further he goes. He was impressive over two miles in the Supreme Trial at Ascot in December (Grade 2), before looking even better over 2m2f in the same grade at Kelso when winning by 9½ lengths last month.

He looks to be well clear of Ballyadam, who does come with a big reputation considering he is trained by Henry De Bromhead and is ridden by Rachael Blackmore, while Dreal Deal and Minella Drama look good enough to fight for places.

3.35 Aintree (Liverpool Hurdle – Grade 1) – THYME HILL

Many of us waited for months to back Thyme Hill in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, on the basis at least that he looks sure to improve past Paisley Park once and for all.

On this flat track and with the ground not too deep, he can certainly do that now and there is no Flooring Porter in the line-up this time around.

In behind Thyme Hill, Paisley Park himself, Roksana and Lisnagar Oscar all look capable of challenging but are all at a similar level all things considered, but the selection is still getting better and has been trained to reach a peak right now having missed the Festival in March. Tom O’Brien rides for Philip Hobbs.

5.15 Aintree (Grand National Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – KIMBERLITE CANDY

We have a fascinating and long-awaited Grand National this time around. Having waited two years, witnessed controversy over the weights (mainly unfair and driven by the O’Leary’s), seen the withdrawal of Tiger Roll and been aghast at the price of the favourite the race is set up brilliantly.

Cloth Cap is that favourite and, at around 4/1, would be one of the shortest priced favourites ever. He is well clear at the weights, but this is a unique race and it feels like the bookmakers are trying to begin a pattern here of squeezing the top of the Grand National market for all it’s worth.

Against him is Kimberlite Candy, a long-term candidate for this. Twice runner-up in the Becher over these fences, Tom Lacey’s runner jumps well, stays brilliantly and is set to peak in the biggest race of all so he gets the nod to land the £375,000 first prize.

The likes of Mister Malarky and Lord Du Mesnil can also go well, while it’ll be interesting to see whether the still well handicapped Welsh Grand National winner Secret Reprieve can get a run being second reserve at present.

11.03 Keeneland (Jenny Wiley Stakes – Grade 1) – MICHELINE 

Over in the States late on Saturday night, Keeneland runs the top-level Jenny Wiley Stakes over the extended mile on the turf track for fillies and mares.

It’s close in the betting market, with Godolphin’s Micheline, Juliet Foxtrot, Etole and Tamahere all ensuring we have a competitive betting event.

On very best form the six-year-old Juliet Foxtrot would be the one, Brad Cox’s runner being ridden first time out this season by the excellent Tyler Gaffalione.

Four-year-old Micheline is improving however, is race fit and looks well capable of landing this event and so is backed to do so from gate 1 on the inside.