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.

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