Thursday 26 August 2021

Friday 27th & Saturday 28th August 2021: Mutasaabeq to Create a Celebration

We have another fantastic weekend of flat action coming up right across the racing world.

Goodwood hosts the March Stakes and the all-important Celebration Mile, Beverley stages its most important race of the year (the Bullet), there is Listed action at Newmarket and Windsor hosts the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes.

We have Group 1 action in Australia, while over in the States it’s Travers Day at Saratoga meaning we should get more clues for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November.

We begin at HQ on Friday before looking forward to the evening meetings at Hamilton and Goodwood.

Friday 27th August 2021

2.55 Newmarket (Handicap) – ZAGATO

Cosmos Raj should prove to be popular here. Coming into the race on a hat-trick, the gelded son of Ifraaj is trained by Yorkshire-based David O’Meara and has James Doyle on board.

There are a number of punting ‘signposts’ then, however the truth is Doyler has been on board for both of those recent wins, which were narrow, and he doesn’t look particularly well in unless there is suddenly plenty more ability is unearthed.

Headingly remains of interest for Mark Johnston as does Marcus Tregoning’s Tasfeeq, but the most fascinating contender is Zagato.

John & Thady Gosden’s runner, still a colt and with plenty of improvement to come, showed when beaten narrowly behind Irish Legend and Siam Fox that a run into the 90’s is within his compass.

He took a novice race easily in June while his last run can be ignored, so off a mark of 85 he looks nicely handicapped.

6.40 Hamilton (Lanark Silver Bell Handicap) – MAHRAJAAN

There are five last time out winners in the Lanark Silver Bell, First Impression being the only horse not at least placed last time out in what looks at a glance to be a competitive field.

As well as John Quinn’s horse, who despite being the odd one out has a good place chance here, Dash Of Spice (Adrian Keatley) and Big Kitten (Mark Johnston) can go well but this looks like a great opportunity on handicap debut for William Haggas’ Mahrajaan.

The Shadwell gelding, by Kitten’s Joy, has done nothing wrong so far. Third on debut behind Wood Ditton winner Peter The Great, he won ever so easily next time over 1¼ miles at Leicester.

Upped to this mile-and-a-half trip at Ripon, he took care of Oscillates by a comfortable and yawning 9½ lengths, a horse who went on to win a handicap next time by well over three lengths.

Paul Hanagan jumps on here, who rode Oscillates in the aforementioned race, and this chap looks to be a minimum of 10lbs well in and potentially over a stone.

6.53 Goodwood (Fillies’ Handicap) – LOLA SHOWGIRL

A reasonable fillies’ handicap over the mile. Stunning Beauty is likely to be all the rage, the horse who was famously left behind when fancied at Royal Ascot before pulling up. Either side of that, she won at Doncaster and finished third at Newmarket so she’s obviously still in good form.

The filly that actually won the Royal Ascot race was Lola Showgirl, her second win in a row, and she can go in once more.

Improving nicely before meeting defeat last time out, she faced a particularly soggy Haydock Park and will appreciate Goodwood and the faster ground much more. Dalanijujo is best of the rest.

Saturday 28th August 2021

1.50 Goodwood (Prestige Stakes – Group 3) – TINDERBOX

The Gosden filly Tinderbox ran second on debut to Value Theory, a good yardstick and in opposition again here, before showing plenty of improvement in her 2½-length win at Kempton Park.

That was done in the style of a good filly and she’s up to this sort of level at a value price for Godolphin and Frankie Dettori.

Value Theory, Hello You, Daneh and Mise En Scene may all be of a similar ability.

2.25 Goodwood (Handicap) – PERSUASION

Charlie Hills’ Persuasion is the classic forgotten horse in many ways, but he clearly has plenty of ability.

He was excellent on debut at two at Goodwood, finished second to the likes of Wichita and Threat in Group company and won in style for this column at 8/1 back in April.

He loves this track and trip and is potentially still well ahead of the handicapper.

Aratus has only been beaten once and has gone up only 4lbs for his latest win, while Al Rufaa is returning after the best part of a year out and may just need the run.

2.45 Newmarket (Hopeful Stakes – Listed Race) – ROYAL CRUSADE

Tabdeed will be a short priced fancy here and he has strong form - fourth and third in Group 3’s, he is six now and not guaranteed to hold his form.

The value is in Royal Crusade. Godolphin have always kept the faith in him. He won on debut here and in a Deauville Group 3, beating Glen Shiel no less.

He’s been in and out this season, but he’s recently gelded and with his mind fully on the job in hand he can carry on moving upwards.

3.35 Goodwood (Celebration Mile – Group 2) – MUTASAABEQ 

Very surprisingly, Benbatl runs here instead of at Windsor as he makes an eagerly-awaited return to the track.

I’d have been all over him there, but my feeling is that he may need all of the mile-and-a-quarter trip the Winter Hill Stakes would have offered rather than this sharp mile.

The value then is in Mutasaabeq. His eye-catching performance in a Conditions race in April put him in line for the Guineas, but he didn’t stay in that race.

He was on the wrong side of the track on horrible ground in the Jersey Stakes, but came back with an easy Conditions Stakes win at Haydock last time and he’s ready for this. 

He could come of age in Group company, ahead of Benbatl, Perotto and Chindit.

Friday 20 August 2021

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st August 2021: Marshall the Plan in Melrose

This weekend sees favourites Stradivarius, Trueshan, Spanish Mission, Zeyaadah and plenty more looking for success, while the admirable Malathaat looks to get back on track at Grade 1 level in the States.

For us, it’s all about York, Sandown and even California over Friday and Saturday with these little beauties: 

Friday 20th August 2021

3.00 York (Gimcrack Stakes – Group 2) – ORAZIO

The Gimcrack is always a high-quality juvenile race, though this time around it could be one of the outsiders which proves to be the best of the bunch.

The outsider in question is Orazio, trained by Charlie Hills and ridden by the excellent William Buick. His winning debut at Windsor in June was as good as anything else in this field managed first time up, while his defeat in third place at Newbury last time can be easily forgiven.

He was bumped at the start that day and was found to have a wound near his knee, with a fully fit son of Caravaggio now expected to reach the level we all know he’s capable of. Coventry winner Berkshire Shadow is next best ahead of Fearby and Lusail.

3.35 York (Nunthorpe Stakes – Group 1) – SUESA

There’s plenty of talk about Coolmore’s American-trained runner Golden Pal, and while he will have been wound up for this superb five-furlong contest his form so far does not back up his position at the head of the market.

Favourite really should be the French filly Suesa. I was as guilty as anyone in naively believing that she needed six furlongs and/or softer ground before she went to Goodwood. There, she destroyed her King George Stakes field over the minimum distance and looks as though she’ll relish this particular speed test even more.

She could be simply too hot for them on the day under that man Buick, with young filly Winter Power perhaps her biggest danger alongside fellow three-year-old Dragon Symbol.

The latter seems to be consistent in various conditions, while the former is two from two over the course and distance this year and will no doubt have had her best form held back for this very race by the wily Tim Easterby.

There’s quality in behind of course, with Chil Chil, Emaraaty Ana and Moss Gill not ruled out for places.

5.10 York (Handicap) – ROYAL FLEET

Completing our trio of Knavesmire bets on Friday is Godolphin’s Royal Fleet in this classy one-mile handicap.

As coincidence would have it, we’re relying on William Buick once again in the saddle, but this is really all about an improving three-year-old son of Dubawi.

Three from three in his career now, Royal Fleet took a Newmarket handicap last time producing some good sectionals despite having to race all on his own for large parts. He’ll appreciate being in behind a more competitive field around the bend here and can now reach a new level.

Wishaah and Dejame Paso are also getting better, while Rifleman should prove to be popular in the ring. Aldaary remains very capable, but doesn’t look the best handicapped horse in the line-up this time.

Saturday 21st August 2021

2.25 York (Melrose Handicap) – MARSHALL PLAN

This is a hugely competitive race over the Ebor course and distance. Dhushan remains on an upward curve and can go well yet again, while old rivals Valley Forge and Moshaawer have plenty more to give.

King Of The Castle is interesting at the top of the weights for Aidan O’Brien, but the overpriced one in the field is definitely Marshall Plan.

John & Thady Gosden’s young colt has close form with some smart types on the all-weather, not least Mandoob who could yet make the top level.

He’s only run once on the turf when finishing 4½ lengths back in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot having endured a bad trip, and now this step up in trip to 1¾ miles looks ideal.

2.40 Sandown (Atalanta Stakes – Group 3) – POTAPOVA

Potapova has been ready to go for some time but her chances have been limited because of the unseasonably soft ground.

Assuming there is no deluge at Sandown Park, Sir Michael Stoute’s classy three-year-old filly can finally take her chance again and can prove to be too good at this level.

An easy and impressive winner of a novice race at Redcar in May, she was thought of as a Group 1 filly and contested the Coronation Stakes at the royal meeting. It didn’t go well there, mainly because of the going, but she’s overpriced to gain compensation in a lower grade.

Indigo Girl is an obvious danger, while the likes of Saffron Beach, Maamora, Auria and Waliyak may also attract some support.

3.00 York (City of York Stakes – Group 2) – SPACE BLUES

The unusual schedule means that many trainers had to decide on whether to go for the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes last weekend over seven furlongs, or wait for this one at York.

This race was always Charlie Appleby’s plan for Space Blues and he should really prove to be simply too good in faster racing conditions.

Next on the list is stablemate Glorious Journey, while Safe Voyage and Primo Bacio may also contest the places.

2.30 Del Mar (Pacific Classic – Grade 1) – ROYAL SHIP

There is yet more fantastic Grade 1 action on both coasts in the States this weekend, but while I very much hope to see Malathaat get back to winning ways in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga en route to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, she’s not a betting proposition.

The Pacific Classic however, a major mile-and-a-quarter event leading towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic, provides a little bit of betting value.

Express Train managed to beat Royal Ship last time they met, but it seems the shorter distance was very much in Express Train’s favour at Del Mar and so a turnaround is expected over this trip with Richard Mandella’s Royal Ship now favoured.

Two runs ago Royal Ship was beaten only a head in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1m2f giving away 2lbs, Express Train some 4¼ lengths behind on that occasion. Tripoli and Independence Hall are also worth considering.

Thursday 12 August 2021

Friday 13th & Saturday 14th August 2021: Hail Al in Hungerford Stakes

Sunday afternoon sees a potentially explosive Group 1 battle taking place in France, as a now fit Palace Pier takes on Poetic Flare and Alpine Star in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

For us, it’s mostly about the domestic action however as we kick off a weekend featuring eight value bets beginning with a Newmarket handicap on Friday night.

Friday 13th August 2021

7.38 Newmarket (Handicap) – HYDROS 

An otherwise relatively underwhelming card at HQ finishes off on Friday with this fairly classy one-mile handicap on the July Course.

Sir Michael Stoute may hold the cards here, his Thibaan still looking potentially ahead of the handicapper and holding a chance here however it’s the more lightly-raced Hydros from his camp that gets the vote.

Richard Kingscote is on hand to take the ride on a four-year-old who made a fairly pleasing comeback over the course and distance recently following a long break during which he had wind surgery, the son of Frankel doubtless being very comfortable in these conditions and able to now show his very best.

Saturday 14th August 2021 

1.45 Newbury (Denford Stakes – Listed Race) – BAYSIDE BOY

After chasing home Native Trail in the Superlative Stakes last time out, it’s not surprising to see Andrew Balding’s Masakela at the top of the market.

That was a tough race for him, his third to date, and it may be that he doesn’t take the step forward right now that many would expect. Even if he does, he’s up against an impressive pair of first-time-out winners here who could reach a high level.

Seattle King is one of those for the Ralph Beckett yard, but easily the most intriguing horse in the line-up is Bayside Boy who is counted on here.

Roger Varian’s colt was 9/1 on debut, but cruised into his race over course and distance after a tardy start to win in very impressive fashion. Given his prep and the way in which he won, lots of improvement from race one to race two is expected and he already holds entries in Group 2 and Group 1 races later in the season.

2.00 Newmarket (Fillies’ Handicap) – QUENELLE D’OR

Goolwa, Midrarr and Eileendover will all be fancied for this, but frankly I was very surprised to see Hugo Palmer’s Quenelle D’Or open up at such a big price on Thursday.

The Golden Horn filly, with a record of two wins and three thirds in 8 races, has run by my reckoning to ratings of at least 90+ recently. She’s improving overall, hasn’t always had the rub of the green, and on a line through some of her past rivals can reach a mark closer to 100 now.

She gets in here off only 88 and so seems obviously well handicapped to me and too good to miss at the potential odds.

2.55 Newbury (Handicap) – ARATUS 

Ajyaall has the potential to improve further yet, while Sunset Bay comes into this race on a hat-trick and obviously cannot be dismissed lightly. The credentials of Aratus are just too impressive to ignore, however.

Clive Cox’s three-year-old, still a colt and having only his third ever run, opened up last season by being narrowly beaten by the now 103 rated Oo De Lally. He won very easily next time out before an enforced break and a breathing operation.

Upon returning to the track at Doncaster last month, Aratus destroyed his field by a very comfortable 7½ lengths which to my eye should have handed him a rating of around the 105 mark. He was given only 94 instead, so given that and the likelihood of further improvement coming in conditions we already know suit him, he really should make short work of this field at the weights.

3.25 Deauville (Prix Guillaume d’Ornano – Group 2) – DERAB

It’s all about Sunday and the Marois for most British raiders, however the Palace Pier combo of Frankie Dettori and the Gosdens may well strike as early as Saturday in this very valuable Group 2 race.

More than £200,000 is up for grabs to the winner of this event, and it’s Derab who has the best profile. A very taking winner at Newmarket back in May, the Derby was even talked about for this Sea The Stars colt but he was ultimately held back for the French version.

Things didn’t go his way that day, but he ran extremely well in defeat behind Real World last time, strong form indeed, and with more progression likely he looks a few pounds ahead of the likes of Millebosc, Pretty Tiger, Highland Avenue and the rest.

3.30 Newbury (Hungerford Stakes – Group 2) – AL SUHAIL

This is a very intriguing contest. Despite being worth around a quarter of a race run at the same level five minutes earlier in France, it is far more competitive which says a lot about British racing right now both on the positive and negative sides.

D’bai is no forlorn hope, Dreamloper has every chance, Sacred won the Nell Gwyn this season and now gets her trip and ground while the Shadwell team run Laneqash, Danyah and Motakhayyel who could all be very similar in terms of ability.

The one to be on however should be Godolphin’s first choice Al Suhail. Supplemented for last year’s 2000 Guineas, this chap has always been held in high regard and despite flopping in the classic came back to register a devasting Listed-class performance thereafter.

Having been gelded, he’s returned to Britain from Dubai and has already posted a very strong 1¾-length third behind Tilsit which is great form, with a new career peak now likely and the seven furlongs looking perfect for him. He’s still thought of as a potential Group 1 horse, something we shouldn’t forget.

3.40 Newmarket (Handicap) – BANDINELLI 

A small Class 4 handicap over a mile-and-a-half, this isn’t the sort of race in which we’d usually find a potentially classy runner who remains well handicapped by this point of the season.

Bandinelli however is just that type. Having already won at Wolverhampton in January, his very close form giving away 7lbs to Marshall Plan, now rated 92, and Golden Flame who is now rated 91 shows you where he most likely stands for real.

Here, he runs off a mark of only 85 and now that he’s been gelded, he can get right back on track.

4.00 Newbury (Handicap) – CAMELOT TALES

Tawaareq is getting better and Arctic Vega has a chance, but Camelot Tales is still climbing the ladder quickly himself and was only defeated last time because of running too freely. Buick knows him now and can guide him to his third win.

Friday 6 August 2021

Friday 6th & Saturday 7th August 2021: Stoute to Pot at Haydock in Dick Hern

Our shouts this week are rather Godolphin heavy, but such is their dominance of racing in various territories these days.

The Boys in Blue have some outstanding chances across the world this weekend, and we’re going for a number of theirs to score alongside a Cheveley Park filly who could finally come of age.

Friday 6th August 2021 

6.08 Newmarket (Newcomers’ Maiden Stakes) – HAFIT

The market is bound to be informative here, as you’d expect so keep that in mind, but one horse very much stands out on paper.

Based on breeding, relations and price tag allied with what is usually expected of one of Charlie Appleby’s better juveniles on debut, Hafit is the most obvious winner.

One of the most expensive buys anywhere in Europe last year, Hafit is related to Attraction, Thibaan, Brundtland, Hukum and Baaed. Money for Just Wonder, Laasudood or Millennial Moon would be of interest.

10.39 Saratoga (Troy Stakes – Grade 3) – LAZULI

Lazuli is a sprinter I’ve followed for some time, one that is a Listed and dual Group 3 winner yet has been handled patiently by Charlie Appleby.

He hasn’t been thrown in at the top level yet, indeed even this $200,000 event is run at Grade 3 standard, but he has terrific ability and has been sent to the States to take part in this fantastic Saratoga summer meet in order to get his preferred fast ground.

The turf is firm at Saratoga currently which will be ideal, and this chap definitely has the pace to see off the locals, with the only slight negative being his draw in gate 10. He would have been a more confident shout from an inside berth, but with a local morning line price of 8/1 we can afford to take a chance.

Saturday 7th August 2021 

2.25 Haydock (Handicap) – ROYAL MEWS

Rain is expected before racing at Haydock on Saturday, but as long as there is no Goodwood-style deluge then it shouldn’t bother Royal Mews who can score for the Gosdens.

Dubai Mirage, Fantastic Fox and Thibaan all have solid credentials, but none are any significant way ahead of the handicapper and so this selection is all about potential.

Sandwiched between two poor runs was a rather nice win at Lingfield on a fast surface for Royal Mews, an easy 6½-length success and one that even without improvement makes him potentially well in here off 91.

He’s ready to go again, and it’s noted that the top three rated offspring of Siyouni; St Marks Basilica, Sottsass and Le Brivido, all went very well on rain-softened ground so if the clouds do open up it should play into his hands.

3.35 Haydock (Dick Hern Stakes – Listed Race) – POTAPOVA

Assuming good to soft ground or better, we should finally see the sort of performance we’ve been waiting for from Sir Michael Stoute’s Potapova.

There is some quality around in this line-up, Maamora is especially expected to go well in a first-time visor, but Cheveley Park have far from given up on this filly being a Group 1 horse and she can win en route to bigger and better things.

Potapova hated the ground went thrown into top company at Royal Ascot, but other than that she’s two for two after winning very easily on debut and in a novice at Redcar and now she is ready for new heights under a jockey, Richard Kingscote, who could ride a winner at Haydock with his goggles blacked out.

4.00 Newmarket (Handicap) – KOMACHI

This is just a small race, only four go to post, but it’s full of quality as a Class 2 event and all of the quartet have a chance on the book.

Far Hope is perhaps the worst handicapped, Zagato after him, while Storm Damage is likely to be fancied to carry on Saeed bin Suroor’s terrific run. That horse’s Godolphin team mate, Komachi, is the one taken to score however.

Charlie Appleby’s runner has been in some good company, chasing home Oo De Lally on debut and Baeed last time with a win thrown in between, and looks capable of running to mark some 7lbs or more above his first handicap mark.

4.30 Newmarket (Handicap) – QUINTILLUS

I liked Quintillus at a big price at Ascot where he was third, and again for his intended run last weekend before he was pulled out on account of the ground.

He’s ready to win alright, and can prove it over a seven-furlong track which is likely to suit under William Buick with Fame And Acclaim and Lexington Dash next on the list.

10.10 Saratoga (Saratoga Derby Invitational – Grade 1) – SECRET PROTECTOR

Saratoga’s meet continues and there could be more success in New York for Charlie Appleby after Althiqa’s pair of Grade 1 wins recently.

There is a strong European challenge, Jessica Harrington’s Cadillac looking good and last-time-out American winner Bolshoi Ballet being likely to go off favourite for Aidan O’Brien.

Bolshoi Ballet was a strong fancy for the Derby and has now scored at the top level, but his actual form isn’t as strong as you might imagine and he was suited by the wider turns at Belmont last time.

Secret Protector however is ready to step up and may improve past him now. His form with Highland Avenue and Mohaafeth reads well, he’s getting better all the time and has the speed for this contest at a potentially very juicy price. Mike Smith takes the ride.

10.48 Saratoga (Whitney Stakes – Grade 1) – MAXFIELD

The feature race on ‘Whitney Day’, this 1m1f contest is worth a cool $1 million and the bulk of that can go the way of Maxfield.

Coming out top on my private ratings, Maxfield has also consistently been voted among top American handicappers as the no.1 contender for the Breeders’ Cup Classic this year, yet comes into this race as second favourite despite receiving 2lbs in weight from Knicks Go.

His main market rival, as well as Swiss Skydiver, can make him work for sure but Maxfield is the real deal and can finally land his second Grade 1 win after a taking success in the Stephen Foster last time out.