Thursday 25 November 2021

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th November 2021: Fighting Fifth to Be a Royal Encounter

On a busy weekend of horse racing action, the ever-popular Paisley Park looks to win again in Friday’s Long Distance Hurdle.

He has a battle on his hands with Thomas Darby, Lisnagar Oscar and Indefatigable in the line-up so we’ll be leaving that one alone, though we do have seven other value bets to go through across two brilliant days.

Friday 26th November 2021

12.40 Newbury (The Berkshire Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PIC D’ORHY

There are just the four runners for this 2½-mile Grade 2 novice chase, but there is still some value to be had.

The likely favourite is Alex Hales’ Millers Bank after his easy chase debut win at Aintree at odds of 80/1. That was a good performance, as was the success of Tea Clipper on his first chase start at Chepstow although he has to carry 7lbs more, but I feel Paul Nicholls’ runner Pic D’Orhy has been overlooked by a few.

True, he’s already had five goes over fences, but after a slow start, a bit of hurdling and some time off, he is a different prospect now and proved it with an impressive win at Ffos Las last month.

He made all that day against three rivals to win easily and there is no doubt that he has more to come.

12.55 Lingfield (Handicap) – ENFRANCHISE

The consistent Trevolli and Bearwith will be popular in the market and both have strong place chances, but the hope is that their presence simply allows us to grab a tasty price about Mark Johnston’s Enfranchise.

The three-year-old is having only her fourth start in this race, with her win at Pontefract on good to firm ground holding up very well in the context of the other form on offer here, especially at the weights.

She was sent off favourite for a decent race at Newcastle last time but seemed to get rather tired on the Tapeta in trying to lead the field, but with that experience behind her and on this quicker surface, she may be able to bounce out from stall 2, hit the front and be very hard to catch.

Saturday 27th November 2021

2.25 Newbury (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – CAPTAIN MORGS

Nicky Henderson’s Captain Morgs may have had a touch of luck last week when rival Garry Clermont veered at the last flight allowing him a simple path through to victory at Ascot. For his part, he did win the race with very little fuss and that visual impression is backed up by the fact that he is being turned out again quickly.

A close look at the form of his seven hurdle races to date reveals a nice pattern. The five-year-old appears to be a horse with lots more to give from this point and he certainly has the speed to kick on where it counts at the business end of a race.

He, in what is yet another small field, may well be able to make that speed count and has certainly been undervalued and overpriced given that there are only four horses going for this prize.

Soaring Glory is topweight and likely favourite for Jonjo O’Neill, he’s also the main rival to the selection, with Onemorefortheroad fancied to see of Gowel Road at the back.

3.00 Newbury (Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – EKLAT DE RIRE

It looks like a cracking renewal of the Ladbrokes Trophy, this hugely valuable 3¼-mile chase throwing together 21 high-class runners including last year’s winner Cloth Cap.

Jonjo O’Neill’s very smart stayer is once again fancied to go well after a decent prep run at Cheltenham, while there has been a ton of money during the week for the Cheveley Park runner Ontheropes, trained by Willie Mullins.

That horse has form with Monkfish and is obviously smart, however there may have been a right old plot organised here with Eklat De Rire and he is taken to win.

Henry De Bromhead is about as a good a jumps trainer as you are likely to see, while jockey Rachael Blackmore is having the time of her life in the saddle.

As for the horse; he’s an improver anyway but also won last time out when finishing tired at Wexford, something he’s been given more than four weeks to recover from. His form stands up to scrutiny and he’s not done yet, he jumps well and basically has no obvious weaknesses given the better ground and his handicap mark.

3.15 Newcastle (Fighting Fifth Hurdle – Grade 1) – SCEAU ROYAL

On the face of it, this race is all about last year’s winner and 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante. She remains high class of course and she gets 7lbs from the boys, but she’ll need to be at her absolute best I feel and that is not guaranteed.

Instead of even thinking about backing her at a short price, the value really is in Sceau Royal for the Alan King yard.

On the forecast good ground (it’s cold and dry in Newcastle this week), he may have the ideal conditions to prove that he’s a Grade 1 type over hurdles.

A good chaser, he returned to the smaller obstacles to win a Listed race at Kempton before taking the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle easily last time and he definitely has what it takes. Monmiral was the other on the shortlist.

5.00 Wolverhampton (Nursery Handicap) – AL JADDAF

We’re taking in a little bit of Tapeta action at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening too, as Godolphin and Charlie Appleby show no signs of wanting their amazing year to end prematurely.

They have Al Jaddaf in this extended one-mile nursery, who after a gelding operation can properly get back to business.

He looked the type in August and September to get up to a mark in the mid to high 80’s before disappointing, but now he’s had his mind put firmly on racing he can make his actual rating of 78 look generous.

Ammolite is a danger, as are Park Street and Superior Force.

5.30 Wolverhampton (Novice Stakes) – DARAKAH

This one is a little chancier, but if going off at 3/1 or above there may be some value in Charlie Hills’ debutant.

Darakah is a very well-bred filly of Shadwell’s and is sure to have a decent amount of ability. The point here is that those with experience forecast to be near the top of the betting do not set a high standard at all, meaning it won’t take much to win the race.

It would be disappointing if she didn’t go well on her racecourse bow, with fellow newcomer Misscall also in the mix.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th November 2021: Goshen to Go the Right Way

It’s a mixed bag this week, with Flat and jumps action coming across Friday and Saturday’s racing.

We have seven very interesting, potentially great value selections across the cards too as trainer Gary Moore looks to make the most of enigmatic star hurdler Goshen’s apparent need to go right-handed.

Friday 19th November 2021

1.00 Sakhir (Bahrain International Trophy – Group 3) – ZAKOUSKI

There’s more big money still available on the international Flat racing scene, as these Group 3 runners go over a mile-and-quarter for just about as much money as the Cheltenham Gold Cup runners were chasing back in March.

There’s a first prize of around £262,000, and it can go the way of 2021’s undisputed top dogs Godolphin, Charlie Appleby and William Buick.

Their Zakouski has always been held in high regard and despite some problems along the way, the five-year-old son of Shamardal has won six races out of 9 included a pair of Group 2’s.

He made a terrific reappearance at Newmarket three weeks ago to win his second Ben Marshall Stakes in very easy fashion, he has strong form with Group 1 types and looks booked for a career best which would be good enough.

The Boys in Blue also have classy French runner Magny Cours and former top-class type Barney Roy who both hold place chances, while Fev Rover is a very fine filly and can go well once more.

2.40 Ascot (Handicap Hurdle) – CAPTAIN MORGS

The likes of Leoncavallo, Garry Clermont and Method Madness can all go well in this two-mile handicap hurdle, but Captain Morgs looks to be potentially the best handicapped horse of the lot and so is supported.

Not very many Nicky Henderson runners with genuine talent are rated 125, so one has to think there is a lot more this horse can give and the signs are all there.

His only hurdle win came over this course and distance, while he did well to run third at Cheltenham in October over a trip that was undoubtedly too far for him. A repeat of that would give him a chance, but the very much expected improvement over this trip would make him sufficiently well in at the weights.

Saturday 20th November 2021

12.35 Lingfield (Fillies’ Handicap) – TAAWFAN

After her demolition job when beating Godolphin horse Toromona by 12 lengths at Wolverhampton 40 days ago, it was no surprise to see William Haggas’ Lady Rockstar at the top of the betting.

She has a top-class trainer, terrific form, the potential for further improvement and is ridden by Derby-winning jockey Adam Kirby, so there’s nothing to dislike at first.

That said, she’s been given a mark of 85 now which isn’t overly generous at first glance, a rating gathered by winning on a very different surface (Tapeta) so there’s always the chance she will find things a bit quick here.

She also has to come from gate 8, while just inside her in 6 is the more suitable Taawfan at a much bigger price.

Owen Burrows’ four-year-old filly is rated only 79 yet has for my money already run to a mark much higher than that, while she will also appreciate the conditions at Lingfield.

Ryan Moore has been booked to ride and he’s exactly the sort of jockey needed to ensure we get the best out of the filly. Isola Rossa also made the shortlist.

1.10 Lingfield (Conditions Stakes) – DOCUMENTING

Moore could be on for a quick double at Lingfield, something he’s done before, with Kevin Frost’s Documenting in the seven-furlong conditions race.

It would be fair to say that the eight-year-old isn’t getting any quicker, but on the balance of his form, even recent form, he should be too good for a field containing Lord Of The Lodge, Highland Dress and Spycatcher.

2.25 Haydock (Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – BASS ROCK

It’s a fascinating Betfair Hurdle with 16 runners declared, all in with some kind of chance on the book and all fighting for an impressive £100,000 prize fund.

While it’s hard to be certain in a race as competitive as this, at least we know that we are likely to get the best out of the genuine contenders and one of those undoubtedly is Sandy Thomson’s Bass Rock.

Bass Rock has had a couple of breathing operations in his career, but he is seemingly always improving and comes here on the back of an impressive-looking success at Carlisle where he beat great yardstick Teescomponents Lad. He’s fit, only a five-year-old, and brings very strong form into the race.

The other horse in the field to have recently beaten Teescomponents Lad is Jonjo O’Neill’s Flight Deck. His win at Wetherby wasn’t as impressive, but it puts him on my shortlist especially when the horse that connects these two challengers won on Thursday.

2.40 Ascot (Ascot Hurdle – Grade 2) – GOSHEN

After his past Cheltenham shenanigans, much has been made of Goshen’s temperament. Not many doubt his class and ability however, while his trainer Gary Moore has been adamant that he prefers to go right-handed and so after missing his intended race at Wincanton he now tackles Ascot which should be perfect for him.

He’s up against Buzz here, a short-priced favourite of Nicky Henderson’s who gets 6lbs from the selection, but if Goshen brings his A-game then he really will be hard to beat.

He was a wide-margin winner both here and at Sandown a couple of seasons ago, before performing a complete destruction job on his Kingwell Hurdle field at Wincanton in February.

If he gets to something like that form again, not a far-fetched ask considering his age and that he can actually still get a lot better yet, then he can land this at odds that just like at Wincanton, can be made to look too generous.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – ROYALE PAGAILLE

This selection for the big Grade 1 at Haydock is a little chancier for a couple of reasons, but given the price we can afford it.

Firstly, Royale Pagaille is not a certain runner, as connections think the ground may be a bit too quick, but if he does run then he will be a big price against some of the best in the business.

The other reason is that on top of predicting how well Royale Pagaille can run, we have to also expect one or two others to not be at their best.

Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard is one of them, but history tells us he often needs the run first time out, while a constant in this race, Bristol De Mai, is another but again he is just a tad regressive which is now to be expected.

Waiting Patiently is an interesting runner and can reach the required level, while so in theory can Imperial Aura who is heading the right way.

If the classy Royale Pagaille is allowed to take his chance however, that tells us connections think the ground is OK as they won’t risk him if it’s not, so he’s worth a bet at around 8/1+.

Friday 12 November 2021

Saturday 13th November 2021: Harrovian to School Them at Lingfield

As the form only just begins to settle down at the beginning of the jumps season proper, many of our betting opportunities still come on the Flat where we know far more about the current well-being of each contender.

It was a great weekend for us at the Breeders’ Cup last week, and while this time around the races are less auspicious, they are still there for the taking as we get stuck into all-weather action at Lingfield and Wolverhampton, along with a little jumping action at Wetherby.

Nb: For jumps racing see my coverage of the November Meeting here.

11.40 Lingfield (Maiden Stakes) – UNTOLD MYSTERY

Charlie Appleby has had the most amazing year and luckily, we’ve gone along for the ride on many occasions.

It can’t all be about Adayar, Hurricane Lane and Native Trail though, as even his supposed lesser-lights can often be worth backing.

He has a chance in both divisions of the opening mile-and-a-quarter maiden stakes at Lingfield on Saturday, with Untold Mystery interesting especially if he is reasonably well supported in the market.

Army Sergeant ran OK on debut for Saeed bin Suroor, but at 22/1 not much was expected and so a huge improvement also doesn’t seem very likely at this stage.

Golden Disc is in a similar position, while Three Start has the best form after two runs including a runner-up effort on the soft at Redcar. On breeding this isn’t guaranteed to suit him, which leaves the door open for Untold Mystery.

His debut at Nottingham wasn’t quite what was hoped for either, but it’s up there with those of his rivals and should he just reach the level now that was expected of him on his first start he’d have enough to win this under William Buick who is now back from the States.

12.10 Lingfield (Maiden Stakes) – INDEPENDENT ACT

Park Street is the one with form here, and though improvement could now be forthcoming after a gelding operation, it isn’t guaranteed and he doesn’t set the highest form standard for the debut runners to chase.

The two to concentrate on represent Godolphin. Saeed bin Suroor’s Game Master will be supported under Hollie Doyle, but based on the trainer’s debut runners, those of sire Postponed and even based on the admittedly good winning debut at this track of dam Sundrop he wouldn’t be reaching the sort of level to overly trouble the typical Charlie Appleby debutant unless he’s well above average.

Independent Act is that runner. He is out of a Manduro mare, so this trip looks ideal, while he is also a Dubawi meaning the quick nature of the track should also suit.

Should he be fit enough to do himself justice first time out, which is almost always the case with runners from this stable, then he is likely to be good enough to challenge.

3.05 Lingfield (Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – GOOD EFFORT

In the first of two Listed races at Lingfield to round off their card, it could be worth sticking with last year’s Rose Stakes winner Good Effort to double up.

Ismail Mohammed’s runner was landing a five-timer when taking this race twelve months ago, but his form hasn’t dropped overall and in fact he was a winner at Deauville in August.

It’s best that we draw a line under his disappointing run at Belmont in New York last month, but the fact they event sent him all that way to challenge for a Grade 2 shows you what they think of this horse.

He still has it, and his speed around Lingfield should be too much for Bahrain Pride, who could surprise, Fivethousandtoone who remains capable, Exalted Angel and The Last Lion who returns after fully five years off the track having had an ultimately unsuccessful spell on the stud roster.

Harry’s Bar is an obvious danger and is well represented in the market, but may just not have the speed to live with the selection if all goes well under Jim Crowley.

3.10 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – FIRST IMPRESSION

We make a little foray to the jumps for this Class 3 handicap hurdle, one in which we can take advantage of a well handicapped and fit runner in the shape of First Impression.

John Quinn’s runner was a course and distance winner last November as a juvenile before finishing a good fifth in a strong race at Ascot thereafter.

He’s been running on the Flat since then and in fact was a strong second to Dubai Souq on unsuitable soft ground at Redcar just under two weeks ago.

He’s fit, he has Brian Hughes up top, he’s well handicapped and he is already proven over the track and trip, so there’s nothing not to like.

In terms of his key rivals, Saint Arvans and Champagne City stand out from the others. Both have solid profiles in the context of this race, but ultimately aren’t as far ahead of the assessors as the selection which is the main consideration in a handicap race.

3.40 Lingfield (Churchill Stakes – Listed Race) – HARROVIAN

This is all about the return of Pyledriver. William Muir and Chris Grassick’s four-year-old has some big international targets ahead of him, making this all about prep.

A good winner of the Great Voltigeur last season, he took down Al Aasy in the Group 1 Coronation Cup back in June and while that is obviously top-class form, he does have challenges to overcome.

He can’t be 100% wound-up for this you’d have thought, he is also likely to need more of a test than 1¼ miles around Lingfield. He carries a 7lb penalty as well which is nothing to scoff at and he also drifted in the market as soon as prices were released.

The one who may take advantage is Harrovian. The Gosdens, both with Frankie Dettori and today’s jockey Rab Havlin up top, have often judged such races at Lingfield to perfection.

Harrovian himself is no mug either. A one-length third to Solid Stone in Group 3 company this year was followed-up with a win in a strong conditions race at Doncaster where he beat Sinjaari off level weights.

There’s more to come from him and he can reach 110+ for sure, something that would leave Pyledriver needing to effectively run to a mark of 118 which is far from guaranteed in these circumstances.

7.00 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – WEDDING DANCE

A small but interesting conditions race over seven furlongs, one in which Charlie Appleby has yet another outstanding contender.

His Wedding Dance was climbing the ladder quickly last season, finishing a close runner-up in France at Group 3 level before encountering a problem.

After nearly 14 months off the track, her form appeared to have held when she returned at Newmarket with a decent sixth in Listed company, with natural improvement from that race putting her in the clear here.

Tomouh is consistent and may once again run well, while Rising Star may go off favourite and can also challenge.

Thursday 4 November 2021

Friday 5th & Saturday 6th November 2021: Breeders’ Cup Special

Although the jumps season is about to get into full swing, the worldwide Flat season is rounded off by what looks like a fabulous two days of action at Del Mar for the 2021 Breeders’ Cup.

We have tons of information across both days in California, as well as some from the last day of Flat turf action at Doncaster.

Friday 5th November 2021

On Future Stars Friday Hierarchy may prove to be too big in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and Koala Princess is interesting in the Fillies Turf, but these three stand out more.

10.30 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies – Grade 1) – HIDDEN CONNECTION

The unbeaten Echo Zulu is likely to go off favourite here, but the money is beginning to come in for Hidden Connection and it’s easy to see why.

These runners, and many more in this contest in years gone by, have followed a similar path of progression from race two to race three (or to their first Grade 1), and in the case of Hidden Connection there is enough in her profile to suggest she can improve past her rivals.

She simply destroyed her Grade 3 field in the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs and looks more than ready for this test.

11.50 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile – Grade 1) – CORNICHE

Champagne winner Jack Christopher is the big dog here on known form, while Commandperformance remains solid.

It’s all eyes on Bob Baffert this year though, and regardless of past mishaps he will still be in there pitching for many of these prizes.

He saddles Pinehurst, who is not without a chance, and Corniche who is the selection. A good winner of the American Pharoah Stakes, Corniche would have been a confident choice had he not been drawn out wide, but this race can often be a fight to the line and its down the stretch where I think his qualities can show.

12.30 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – Grade 1) – MODERN GAMES

The likes of Dakota Gold, Glounthaune and Dubawi Legend are all in with place chances here. Charlie Appleby has had the most wonderful year though and he holds the key to this race.

His Albahr has as much chance as any of the aforementioned runners, but is comfortably behind his stablemate Modern Games on form and ability and it’s William Buick’s choice who gets the nod.

Experienced enough to handle the conditions, Modern Games is a strong traveller, will love the quick conditions and his latest Group 3 win showed him up to be potentially top-class.

Saturday 6th November 2021

Saturday is the big one in California. Bella Sofia has a chance in the Filly & Mare Sprint against champ Gamine, Jackie’s Warrior is a class act in the Sprint if a little too short and Eight Rings can go well at a price in the Dirt Mile. We begin however at Doncaster.

12.55 Doncaster (Gillies Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – BASHKIROVA

William Haggas’s runner Bashkirova is three from three now and improving in lumps. She jumps into Listed company for the first time but won with absolutely no fuss last time and handles soft underfoot conditions just fine.

She may prove to be the class act here, with Glenartney, Zawara, Vesela and Via Sistina all competitive.

2.40 Doncaster (November Handicap – Class 2) – FIRST LIGHT

Traditionally the last big betting race of the season, the November Handicap can go the way of a Gosden runner once again.

This time around there may still be a competitive price to grab about First Light, a double winner with plenty more left to give. Only a three-year-old, he was well beaten in Listed company last time but this is more up his street and he can make a mockery of his handicap mark.

7.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint – Grade 1) – EMARAATY ANA

Favourite here should be Wesley Ward’s Golden Pal, but while he was an easy Grade 2 winner last time there are loose threads to pick at.

The horse he beat latest was regressing, while he was also market leader for the Nunthorpe at York when somewhat predictably finishing down the field. Last year’s winner Glass Slippers has a tougher task now, and at the odds I’d much rather be with Emaraaty Ana.

Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old is not only getting better, but quicker. Second in the Nunthorpe before landing the Sprint Cup at Haydock, he is proven at this level and can land another biggie.

8.59 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1) – OCEAN ROAD

Audarya won this last year and will be pitching again, Love is class but could be going a little backwards, Rougir may want it softer, Loves Only You has chased home Mishriff and War Like Goddess has a great chance.

At prices of around 40/1 however we can take a small chance on Hugo Palmer’s Ocean Road. Thought of as an Oaks filly, she’s never had the right conditions, came back to action with a good prep run last time and is in a race that favours three-year-olds.

10.20 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Mile – Grade 1) – MASTER OF THE SEAS

Once again, Charlie Appleby holds the key. Space Blues looks made for this race, although as a perceived seven-furlong specialist he still needs to prove he can stay.

I couldn’t put anyone off backing him and he is the choice of Buick, however it’s hard to ignore the call of Master Of The Seas at double-figure prices.

He won the Craven from an impossible position before just being touched off in a strong 2000 Guineas. After an enforced break, he was an unlucky-in-running third in the Joel Stakes as the Newmarket track record was broken and it’s his turn of foot that could be decisive as he reaches the stage of his career at which he is likely to peak.

11.00 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Distaff – Grade 1) – MALATHAAT

Letruska has done precious little wrong and deserves to be favourite, however I’ve been with Malathaat all year and there’s no reason at all to ditch her now.

Although she stays and battles well, her speed figures in the States have progressed for every one of her seven runs. The Kentucky Oaks winner is great value to prove she is a champion.

11.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – YIBIR

A whole bunch of these high-profile horses could prove capable; Domestic Spending, Tarnawa, Rockemperor, Walton Street, Teona et al.

Yibir however may be different class. A Great Voltigeur winner and an impressive scorer in New York for Charlie Appleby, his connections thought during the spring trials that he may be up there in ability with Adayar and Hurricane Lane.

His gelding operation has been the making of him and he can reach a new high.

12.40 Del Mar (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY 

The biggest event of them all and Brad Cox is in the enviable position of having the two market leaders.

Last year’s Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go has been imperious at around nine furlongs this year, though his trainer thinks he’ll stay. Cox did mention that he wants Knicks Go to break well and hit the front, feeling that will give him the best chance of victory.

Speed figures for the Classic however are perennially way below other well-regarded ratings. The reason is that the race takes some getting, and it’s the powerfully-built Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality who can excel – his teammate may even set it up for him.

Juvenile winner at last year’s Breeders’ Cup, the Godolphin colt finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, covering around 8½ lengths more than the potentially disqualified winner Medina Spirit for a 1¼-length defeat after being bumped out wide. He went on to win the Belmont over 1½ miles before battling all the way to the line to land the Travers Stakes.

He has reportedly strengthened up even more, gets a weight pull which in his case will be very handy, is a proven stayer (by Tapit) and has the form in the book.

He is undoubtedly a better horse than Medina Spirit, who is now four gates wider, while he has also beaten Hot Rod Charlie at Grade 1 level more than once and those two are also in the first four in the betting.