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Plenty also remember his antics at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf when he was withdrawn in a race ultimately won by his stablemate, Modern Games.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