Friday 28 January 2022

Friday 28th & Saturday 29th January 2022: Lafan All the Way to the Bank

For open-minded horse racing fans, this weekend is real treat. We have top-level Flat race on both turf and dirt from as far west as the USA to as far east as Dubai.

There is also an excellent jump racing card at Doncaster where the Sky Bet Chase is featured, while it’s also Trials Day at Cheltenham as plans are firmed up for the Festival in March.

Friday 28th January 2022 

2.00 Huntingdon (Handicap Hurdle) – LEGAL RIGHTS

The weather is apparently drying the course out ahead of this two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle. With that, the superior speed shown by Gary Moore’s Legal Rights versus the rest of the field at the weights could come in more than handy.

He’s in fine form anyway and is in fact on a hat-trick, one more win not being beyond him here. Present Value and Sherborne were also considered.

2.35 Meydan (Graduate Stakes – Conditions Race) – EASTERN WORLD 

After winning a handicap in good style at this meeting last year, Eastern World went off as favourite for the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster.

Now with Ahmad bin Harmash having moved from Charlie Appleby and Godolphin, he’s been switched to dirt and could be about to reach a whole new level.

On his dirt debut in December, he was a very good second, but was too highly tried in a Group 2 last time. His best performances have been when he runs close to the pace, leading from at least three furlongs out before, which will suit the way this track has been riding of late. Ray Dawson rides.

3.50 Lingfield (Handicap) – ENFRANCHISE 

Some of us managed to claw in a nice chunk when Enfranchise was inexplicably allowed to go off at 20/1 when winning last November. Now, after two fine recent runs, she looks ready to win again.

She’s improving overall, likes it at Lingfield and has the speed to cope, making her the selection ahead of Classy Dame and Fountain Cross.

4.20 Meydan (Zabeel Turf – Listed Race) – WIRKO 

Star Safari is the hot favourite here having chased home runaway winner Dubai Future two weeks ago, form that is important in the earlier 3.10 in which Kemari is a hot favourite. The pair are both six-year-olds however and it may be that the race wasn’t as good as we first thought.

Star Safari now steps down to a mile-and-a-quarter, which isn’t guaranteed to suit, and gives away 7lbs to Wirko and ten to Dubai Mirage.

Dubai Mirage ultimately may prove simply not to be good enough, however Wirko deserves another chance especially at the likely odds.

A good winner over Technique at Epsom last season, much was expected of the Kingman gelding and was showing up well at home alongside Kemari, Hurricane Lane, Adayar and Yibir.

He didn’t perform at all here last time, but his jockey reported him to be far too free at more than one point in the race. He should have blown that out of his system now, steps down to a suitable 1¼ miles and was described by Charlie Appleby as a horse who would improve as the Carnival goes on.

6.05 Meydan (Dubai Sprint – Listed Race) – LAZULI 

Lazuli is being aimed at the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup Night in March and there is no doubting how good his team thinks he is. He has proven it in part; winning the Group 3 Palace House Stakes last year and reaching a mark of 112.

He is capable of better than that for sure and, just like last autumn’s Group 1-winning stablemate Creative Force, is just learning to sprint properly now.

He goes well fresh and could be value in what looks on paper to be a competitive Listed race. Mutaraffa, Man Of Promise and Line Of Departure are also interesting.

Saturday 29th January 2022 

3.20 Doncaster (Sky Bet Handicap Chase – Listed Race) – KAPCORSE 

Seventeen horses line-up for this ultra-competitive handicap, one in which a number of the class horses at the top are also two or 2½-mile specialists meaning the pace should be very strong.

With that, we can expect this three-mile affair to be tough going. While several are interesting including Hurricane Harvey, Grand Sancy and Fusil Raffles, the one I like best is JP McManus’s horse Kapcorse.

Lightly raced having had problems, Paul Nicholls’ runner came back from a year off to score in very fine style over 2m6½f at Newbury in November. He shaped as though this trip will suit, the ground is fine and he should prove to be a good deal better than his current handicap rating.

6.00 Kempton (Handicap) – LAFAN 

Kempton’s evening card has a couple of decent events on it, this one providing us with a betting opportunity in the shape of Lafan.

Richard Hannon’s four-year-old has shown a consistent level of speed, appears to be moving a few pounds ahead of his rating and recorded his last win over this track and trip last October.

Kempton should bring about his A-game you’d feel, putting him in pole position to beat Alhammaamm, Stately Home and Espresso Fredo.

9.49 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Turf – Grade 1) – COLONEL LIAM 

Florida hosts the Pegasus World Cup and its associated events, the Filly & Mare Turf and this nine-furlong turf race for the colts.

Having looked at the quality, I can’t help thinking a number of British-trained horses would have made light work of the majority of this field, with the best one being Colonel Liam who should have too much on the day.

The combination of Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz Jr is a fine one too and they can land the £400,000 first prize, possibly at the expense of the ex-Richard Fahey runner Space Traveller.

10.34 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup – Grade 1) – LIFE IS GOOD 

The big one on the dirt is worth more than £1.3 million and it really does come down to the very good winners of two races at November’s Breeders’ Cup.

Knicks Go was super-impressive in taking the Classic, while Life Is Good took the Dirt Mile in very easy fashion.

It’s tough to choose between them, but Life Is Good can still draw out more I feel and could just be value if all the money goes onto his rival, something that in the States can drive the odds for our horse up significantly.

Friday 21 January 2022

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd January 2022: Take the Right Avenue to Punting Success

It’s Shishkin versus Energumene at Ascot this week, though who wins out of those two is anyone’s guess.

There is excellent Grade 2 action at Haydock too though it doesn’t present a betting opportunity, so we’ve mixed the jumps and Meydan’s excellent Flat card as we run through a busy betting weekend.

Friday 21st January 2022

2.35 Meydan (Jumeirah Derby Trial – Conditions Race) – NEW KINGDOM

Not just Godolphin, but Charlie Appleby specifically is sure to more or less dominate the Dubai Carnival given the supreme ammunition he has at his disposal. He could grab another winner here in the shape of New Kingdom.

There are a few unknowns in the contest of course. This is a three-year-old event over nine furlongs, but his Dubawi-Galileo cross already has form that matches up to the rest though he possesses significantly more potential.

After an average debut, he still looked green when winning on his second start at Haydock. The form of that race is good, he was nowhere near the finished article and given that it was back in September it’s almost certain that he’s improved plenty since.

The 800,000-Guinea buy can see off the likes of Sed Maarib, Mr Professor and Island Falcon to score under Will Buick.

3.00 Lingfield (Novices’ Chase) – FANTASTIKAS 

Part of Lingfield’s Winter Millions series, this novice chase can go the way of Fantastikas. He has shown impressive speed on very soft ground which will help here, while his best hurdling performance was also on very wet going.

He will handle the heavy conditions no problem and might just have too much for the favourite Broken Halo.

3.10 Meydan (UAE 2000 Guineas Trial – Conditions Race) – ALBAHR 

Appleby’s Albahr is a fascinating contender for this seven-furlong dirt race. Given that he represents this yard, comes into the race on a five-timer, did nothing but improve last year and even won a Grade 1 race at Woodbine, you could be forgiven for thinking he should be odds-on.

There are a couple of reasons he isn’t. Firstly, he is trying dirt for the first time. Many see this as a total unknown and he is a son of turf master Dubawi.

Plenty also remember his antics at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf when he was withdrawn in a race ultimately won by his stablemate, Modern Games.

But, Albahr has done nothing wrong other than that. He also has a full brother called Imperial Empire who similarly made the switch to dirt from the turf last November, going on to win twice and improving by about 20lbs in the process.

It is thought then that Albahr should have no worries and if that’s true, the race is all about him. Chief rivals are the Uruguayan-trained Kiefer and the Brazilian runner Quality Boone.

3.45 Meydan (Al Rashidiya – Group 2) – HIGHLAND AVENUE

Old-timer Lord Glitters continues to impress and has done nothing wrong of late. David O’Meara’s nine-year-old won a similar race this time last year before going on to finish third in this contest behind Zakouski.

But there could be another Appleby machine in the pack. While Art Du Val has talent and has been chosen by William Buick, he is six now and very often needs his first run of the year. That could leave the door open for Highland Avenue who has been someone forgotten about.

After two easy wins at Kempton last year, Highland Avenue completed a great hat-trick by winning in Listed company at Newmarket. He then gave away 3lbs to Mohstadaf in the Heron Stakes, losing out by only a half-length to a horse who went on to win the Darley Stakes with what was a near-Group 1 performance.

Highland Avenue himself was tried at Group 1 level in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot, and was only two lengths behind the top-class Dubai Honour in France.

He was a little too busy at the time but has been freshened up now and with the classy Mickael Barzalona up top, we could just see a fancy performance by a horse with a future.

James Doyle rides Royal Fleet and Frankie Dettori is on Cambridgeshire winner Bedouin’s Story in what is a very good race.

4.20 Meydan (Al Fahidi Fort – Group 2) – NAVAL CROWN

Another fine race here at Group 2 level. Shadwell’s Alkaamel is fighting the Godolphin battalion, four of the blue boys looking strong.

Storm Damage and Land Of Legends hold similar chances for Saeed bin Suroor, while Charlie Appelby has a chance with La Barrosa and certainly with Naval Crown.

Naval Crown is the horse who beat Master Of The Seas at the Carnival last year. He went on to finish fourth in the 2000 Guineas and chased home the top-class Creative Force in the Jersey Stakes.

Seven furlongs is his trip, his trainer excels at that distance too, and William Buick is the final piece of the puzzle.

5.30 Meydan (Aliyah By Azizi – Rated Conditions Race) – REBEL’S ROMANCE

We’re always hearing how you can’t trust the UAE Derby form, but you can’t ignore it either! Rebel’s Romance landed that event in fine style last March but hasn’t been seen since.

He may need his first run for a while, but he may also have improved with time. Whatever the case is, he looks like he could be a Group/Grade 1 performer on the dirt and may be aimed at the Dubai World Cup. Layers know his ability, as he is a general 10/1 chance for the big one and will be shorter if he lands this.

Saturday 22nd January 2022

1.20 Lingfield (Handicap) – MARCH LAW 

Interrupting the Winter Millions at Lingfield is a fine Flat card. This Class 2 handicap may well go the way of Charlie & Mark Johnston’s March Law.

The four-year-old has done very well of late, but probably found the Tapeta a little slow for him at Newcastle last time and will appreciate this track. Stablemate Living Legend is next best ahead of Aced It and Celtic Art.

2.20 Ascot (SBK Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – MY SISTER SARAH 

Willie Mullins warms up for watching Energumene by sending out My Sister Sarah. Both she and Molly Ollys Wishes have similar form and have even both beaten Midnightreflection at Kempton.

The Mullins mare’s beating of that horse was more impressive for me, and I reckon she wants the ground she’ll get here and so could prove to be very good value.

2.35 Haydock (Peter Marsh Handicap Chase – Grade 2) – EMPIRE STEEL

A fascinating race. Royal Pagaille is back for another go, while Lake View Lad would be a very popular winner.

I really liked Empire Steel for the Rowland Meyrick over Christmas and he was easily going best before falling four out in that. He’s well handicapped and will relish the soft conditions, so is to be backed ahead of Remastered.

3.40 Lingfield (Winter Oaks Fillies’ Handicap) – MISS MARBLE 

The Class 2 Winter Oaks is a competitive affair, with 14 mostly in-form fillies lining up and most likely ensuring that this is a properly run race.

Umm Hurair is interesting under Ryan Moore if going as well on this fast surface, but Simon & Ed Crisford’s Miss Marble is a big improver over all and is way better than her mark of 92.

Friday 14 January 2022

Friday 14th & Saturday 15th January 2022: Time to Get to Wirko

Racing over Friday and Saturday is a real chalk and cheese affair for us.

The weekend kicks off with the opening race day of the Dubai Carnival at Meydan. This supremely rich meeting winds up towards Super Saturday and Dubai World Cup Day in March, while on Saturday the Silviniaco Conti Chase is one of several high-profile jumps races at Warwick and Kempton.

We begin in the Emirates on the Flat, where Charlie Appleby should have a successful start to the new campaign.

Friday 14th January 2022

3.10 Meydan (Dubai Racing Club Classic – Listed Rated Conditions Race) – WIRKO

The Classic is worth £44,000 to the winner which actually represents a low-key start to the Carnival. It’s still a decent chunk however, with this mile-and-a-half turf race handing Godolphin and Charlie Appleby the chance to get Wirko back on track.

The son of Kingman is being aimed at Super Saturday in a couple of months’ time and Charlie Appleby thinks he’ll improve throughout the Carnival. He has been gelded and been given plenty of time off to freshen up so he may need this, however he is much better than what we’ve seen so far.

In winning the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom last spring he beat both Technique and Uncle Bryn which is fine form, while he went off favourite for the Chester Vase won by Youth Spirit.

He was in that group of excellent middle-distance three-year-olds in the stable at the time which included Yibir, Hurricane Lane and Adayar, all now Group 1 winners, and can reach at least Group 2 level himself.

At the weights he should have too much for Passion And Glory, Star Safari, Dubai Future, Alignak and Global Heat and can make a good start to his four-year-old season.

3.45 Meydan (Jumeirah Classic Trial – Conditions Race) – SOVERIEGN PRINCE

We’re now up to £66,000 to the winner in this seven-furlong race for three-year-olds. There’s plenty to like about debut winner Kiwano who scored well for David Simcock at Kempton last September, while Razeen Dubai and Home City also have talent.

The one that stands out however is Sovereign Prince. Representing the all-conquering Godolphin/Appleby/Buick combo, this son of Dubawi is only rated 94 at present but that doesn’t represent his true ability.

Consistently on the upgrade since a low-key debut, he was given five races as a juvenile in order to get his act together and improved to the tune of some 30lbs or more from a third at Newmarket in May to winning a nursery at Epsom in September.

He’s now had four months away from the track and will have strengthened up significantly, though with even natural improvement from his last run he can prove to have too much for his opposition.

5.30 Meydan (Dubai Dash – Listed Rated Conditions Race) – ROYAL CRUSADE 

We’re going for a third and final runner for the famed aforementioned combo in this five-furlong sprint. This time Royal Crusade is the horse in question and the now five-year-old has been given a handy draw in gate 2.

Rated 105 officially, Royal Crusade actually hasn’t shown us his best yet but has already been rated higher. He was rated 109 last summer and finished his year with a simple win at Kempton which all bodes well.

Again, he is being aimed at Super Saturday by Charlie Appleby and will run in five and six-furlong races between now and then, but he has arguably the most dash in this field on current ability and may just be able to skip clear in the straight.

Saturday 15th January 2022

1.50 Warwick (Hampton Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – MINT CONDITION 

There are five entered in this Grade 2, three-mile novice chase with three of them holding obvious chances on the book.

Doyen Breed is not out of this for Sandy Thomson at a nice price, the odds-on favourite is Threeunderthrufive who is on a four-timer for Paul Nicholls, but I think Mint Condition is too big and can be taken a chance on.

Threeunderthrufive has won his last three chases and convincingly so, while he also represents a powerful yard. We don’t know how much he has in hand however and he is also penalised, giving away 5lbs to the rest in the field.

Jennie Candlish’s Mint Condition is very interesting against him. A winner last time, he saw things out very well when the entire field looked tired and may well appreciate the slightly better conditions now. He has plenty more to give having had only two runs over fences and can serve it up to the market leader under Henry Brooke.

2.25 Warwick (Leamington Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – PARTY BUSINESS 

It could be tight at the top of the market between Party Business (Ian Williams) and Surrey Quest (Nicky Henderson) and they indeed top my private ratings too.

Both are rated similarly, but despite having something in hand it can be argued that Surrey Quest may not have fully earned his rating of 135, perhaps his trainer’s reputation has something to do with that, while the 134 Party Business has been given if anything underestimates him.

He may just simply be the better hurdler at this point and gets the vote.

2.40 Kempton (Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – GREEN BROOK

Though we skip the Silviniaco Conti owing to a lack of value in the race, we do have a go at Kempton’s other big race of the day, the ultra-competitive Lanzarote Hurdle over 2m5f.

Plenty are in with chances including On My Command, Quinta Do Mar and Marie’s Rock, but Green Brook may be the one in the field with most in hand at the weights and has to be backed.

Venetia Williams’ runner won at Haydock in December and even without improvement would have a chance now off his new mark of 130. Since then though he was given the easy task of scoring at Ludlow which he did with the minimum of fuss.

He’s fit, in form, is improving and is potentially significantly ahead of the assessors. Just for good measure, Ned Fox is back on board and claims 10lbs.

3.00 Warwick (Classic Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – GERICAULT ROQUE

The Classic Chase has been won by some classy types in recent times, partly with the Grand National and similar events in mind.

It’ll be a slog once again over 3m5f on soft ground meaning as well as being able to see out the trip, runners will need to have some weight in hand on the handicap to be able to see off the opposition.

The horse that ticks the most boxes for me is Gericault Roque of David Pipe’s. Throughout 2021 his hurdle and chase form figures were 131322 and despite not winning over fences yet, he’s been impressive enough and most importantly has been improving each time.

He looks made for this test and can now outrun his handicap mark under jockey Tom Scudamore. Jerrysback can go well, while No Rematch and Corach Rambler are also in the mix.

Friday 7 January 2022

Saturday 8th January 2022: Back the Mack at Sandown

It’s Tolworth Hurdle Day at Sandown Park this Saturday, but while we’re all interested to see how well Constitution Hill goes and whether he can be beaten, the betting value lies elsewhere.

Our bets come from Sandown, Lingfield and Kempton in what is tantamount to a Surrey Special – who said we don’t move racing around the country enough, eh? We begin with a front-runner who can hopefully gallop the finish out of his rivals.

1.50 Sandown (Handicap Chase) – NUMITOR

Heather Main’s Numitor is terrific when being allowed to stride out in front and it’s hoped the grey can get back to winning ways by rider Tom Scudamore using that tactic this weekend.

Third around Sandown on heavy ground last February, Numitor began this season with an all the way success at Wetherby, beating a horse on a hat-trick into fifth with the third and fourth both coming out to win subsequently.

That’s strong form and he nearly followed it up at Newbury six weeks ago. Having got to the front early, he wasn’t allowed to lead the rest of the way and ultimately battled on valiantly for second place.

If he can get back to the front today and hold that position, which looks likely, he could be too strong for this field. He’s now 7lbs higher-rated than at Wetherby, which shouldn’t trouble him too much as he can continue to improve.

The main dangers appear to be likely favourite Gunsight Ridge and Up The Straight, who looks to be fair value in the market.

2.20 Lingfield (Handicap) – CHANCE 

Skipping across to Lingfield for their all-weather Flat card, this mile-and-a-quarter handicap looks good quality. Staged at Class 2 level and worth £10,000 to the winner, the race has attracted just five horses and you’d have to give every one of them a chance on paper.

There is one standout for me though, and that’s the Crisford’s runner Chance. A six-year-old now but arguably still improving, Chance comes into this as a last-time-out winner having been successful over a mile at Kempton.

He only just got there by a neck that day, but in truth he had a little something in hand. Based on his old turf form, I’d say there’s a good few pounds worth of improvement still to come from him and these racing conditions should prove to be ideal.

His main challenger in the market is Alexander James who also rates as the chief danger to the selection, while Headingley, Habit Rouge and Deal A Dollar were all hard to separate and can all challenge the big two at various points in the race.

3.30 Lingfield (Handicap) – SEA OF CHARM

It’s a very rare day when I look to have a bet in a Class 6 race on the all-weather, but this event is fascinating for one reason and the reason is indeed the selection, Sea Of Charm.

Harry Dunlop’s four-year-old filly had raced ten times in her career up to November with no real inkling that she’d be anything better than a mid-50’s horse, give or take. But, over this course and distance she then routed her field in her 11th race, scoring very easily and being kindly treated in the final 100 yards or so.

That was off a mark of only 54 and she’s off 67 now, but she was already going the right way before being sent into battle in the Listed Quebec Stakes in December, again over this track and trip.

In that race she was up against the likes of Dubai Warrior, Felix and Regal Reality, rated 108-110. She was dragged along by those better types admittedly, but ran a blinder in sixth at 200/1, ultimately beaten just six lengths and running to a mark closer to 90.

Now, I don’t expect her to put up a 90 performance this time. What that run showed us though is that she is much better than a 67 filly, it will have got her in peak condition and she must be worth backing now in such lowly company. Just for good measure; jockey George Rooke can now claim his 3lbs again, something he was denied in the Listed race.

3.35 Sandown (Handicap Hurdle) – MACK THE MAN 

Closing the Tolworth Hurdle card at Sandown is this Class 2, two-mile handicap hurdle and it’s one in which Jane Williams’ Hermes Boy has been popular all week.

It’s easy to see why. The five-year-old was a decent winner of a novice hurdle at Exeter back in early December and has been handed a mark of 124, not too harsh you would think. The form of that novice race is a little in and out however and there’s definitely more quality in the profile of Mack The Man.

Evan Williams’ eight-year-old gelding still has plenty to give having had only 14 career races, indeed he is a last time out winner.

He was close to winning the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle when being brought down at the last two years ago off today’s mark of 130. Before that, he beat Protektorat and Song For Someone over this course and distance.

Having taken some retrograde action for a while, he’s now back on form having began this season with a handicap win at Exeter. He’s been given eight weeks to recover and can now reach a new level under jockey Adam Wedge. Hermes Boy and Volkovka were next on the list.

6.45 Kempton (Conditions Stakes) – LORD OF THE LODGE 

Edraak is bound to be hugely popular after a recent course win for Michael Appleby, but he has to go back to six furlongs now and could be a little vulnerable.

Higher rated by 3lbs, in good form and with superior speed figures is Lord Of The Lodge and he may be better value for the win. He too has won most recently over seven furlongs, but just held on when doing so with this six looking right up his street.

Fernando Rah is a silly early price and can get involved, while Fivethousandtoone and Apollo One have work to do to.