Friday 25 March 2022

Saturday 26th March 2022: Mo Haafeth the Skills in Dubai

The flat is back and it’s back with a rather large bang!

It’s Dubai World Cup night on Saturday and the quality of some of the races on the card is exceptional. Unbeaten Manobo goes in the Dubai Gold Cup, while Hod Rod Charlie can step up and put some pressure on the excellent Life Is Good in the big one.

It’s the first day of the British turf flat racing season too. The Brocklesby gets us under way and early indications are that Richard Hannon’s Persian Force is fancied. The Lincoln is the main feature, also Guineas winner Mother Earth makes her reappearance in Ireland.

We’ve a bust afternoon of punting, beginning with a long shot in the UAE.

12.20 Meydan (Godolphin Mile – Group 2) – DESERT WISDOM 

The Godolphin Mile is run on the dirt and is worth well over £400,000 to the winner.

Former Charlie Appleby horse Al Nefud can take another step forward and Soliste Thunder looks fair value, but locally-trained four-year-old Desert Wisdom is just way too big at around 16/1 and can be chanced to small stakes.

Drawn OK in 6, the son of Dubawi can lay up which is often needed on this track, but was excellent last time too from off the pace and there should be plenty of that in this high-quality event. Adrie de Vries rides.

1.35 Meydan (Al Quoz Sprint – Group 1) – MAN OF PROMISE 

It says a lot when Jersey Stakes and Group 1 British Champions Sprint winner Creative Force is Godolphin’s second choice, but there is good reason for that. Their Man Of Promise is rather making up for lost time just now and he’s doing it with great aplomb.

After beating the smart Lazuli easily in January, Man Of Promise monstered a very high-quality field on Super Saturday last time and now looks one of the leading six-furlong turf sprinters in the world.

He’s on the right side of the track under William Buick and can see off his pal, along with Happy Romance, Suesa and Emaraaty Ana.

1.50 Doncaster (Cammidge Trophy – Listed Race) – GARRUS 

Charlie Hills is excellent with sprinters and his Garrus is a high-class one indeed.

Versatile, he can win in various conditions and over five or six furlongs but the latter is the distance for the Cammidge Trophy and it looks ideal for him now.

The form of his Group 3 win in France is impressive. Based on the horses he beat an argument can be made for him being rated 115+ in time. Marco Ghiani takes the ride who is an outside chance for the jockey’s title this year.

Diligent Harry is feared most, ahead of Bielsa and the filly Mo Celita who may just want it a bit softer.

2.40 Kempton (Queen’s Prize Handicap) – BANDINELLI 

On a big day for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin in Dubai, they have various runners with big chances back home including this Bandinelli in a competitive Class 2 handicap.

Drawn on the inside under Jack Mitchell, Bandinelli can get into a good position and he’s also a course and distance winner with very, very solid and progressive form overall.

Auriferous is of some interest too, as is Moliwood.

2.45 Meydan (Dubai Golden Shaheen – Group 1) – EASTERN WORLD 

Charlie Appleby, the main man on the flat these days, may well be left to rue what might have been with this Eastern World.

Favourite for last year’s Lincoln, he didn’t quite hit the expected heights on the turf and was sent to Dubai’s Ahmad bin Harmash over the winter.

Eastern World took well to dirt from the off, running well over a mile but after some under-par efforts he was dropped to six furlongs in a Group 3 on Super Saturday and won very well.

The form is good and there is no reason why he won’t continue to improve, something that if it happens will see his numbers look good enough to challenge Meraas, Red Le Zele, Wondrwherecraigis and Al Tariq in this Group 1 event at a very nice price. It’s a big chance for Ray Dawson too.

3.20 Meydan (Dubai Turf – Group 1) – MOHAAFETH 

Make no mistake about it; this race and the mile-and-a-half Sheema Classic are of the very highest order.

Alfareeq is no mug, the Japanese are here in force and have Vin De Garde, Panthalassa and Schnell Meister all in with chances, while American challenger Colonel Liam has solid form and the consistent speed to stay competitive.

The race was run last year by Lord North for the Gosdens and he goes again after a decent reappearance in the Winter Derby having previously suffered a throat infection, while the impressive Saffron Beach is proven at this level and has a valuable weight pull with the colts.

Mohaafeth however is easily the most interesting. After winning brilliantly last May he was a leading contender for the Derby before being pulled out. He won at Royal Ascot too, but rather disappointed at York with William Haggas and many others left scratching their heads.

As it turns out, the unfortunate chap has been discovered to be a rig rather than a colt and has been running with a compressed testicle!

With that issue resolved, he can reach his full potential this season and is great value to begin his year the right way.

3.35 Doncaster (Lincoln Handicap) – MODERN NEWS 

The first big betting handicap of the turf season. The Lincoln is always competitive in nature, but it does take a certain type to win it which means attempting to second-guess potential improvement levels, mostly with four-year-olds.

Irish Admiral is a big price for the Haggas yard. He always had promise and the form of his Redcar win is good. The yard also runs favourite Mujtaba who could improve no end from last year, but there’s a chance he prefers it a little softer than it is forecast to be.

The better horses all seem to be drawn on the far side and that includes Modern News. The Appleby horse did well last and year and based on the usual progression from then, as well as his good run under the circumstances in Dubai recently, means he has an outstanding chance.

It’s a big day for Harry Davies too and he can be valuable aboard Modern News, being value for a fair few of his 7lb claim.

3.55 Meydan (Dubai Sheema Classic – Group 1) – YIBIR 

This really is a very deep race. Hukum, Authority, Dubai Honour and Shahryar all have some sort of a chance here and are to be taken seriously.

Glory Vase brings in some excellent form from Japan too, while there is no doubt that Alenquer is a Group 1 horse.

Great Voltigeur, Jockey Club Derby and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir however is outstanding and can add another big race success to his increasingly impressive CV.

Friday 18 March 2022

Saturday 18th March 2022: Haynes Horse no Absent-Minded Professor

The usual comedown from Cheltenham is hard to take, but Saturday is packed full of racing action of all types.

Uttoxeter hosts its hugely popular Midlands Grand National day, there is action on the all-weather, we sneak over to France for one bet and for those interested there is a huge morning of Group 1 racing down in Australia.

We begin in Staffordshire with a handicap hurdle wager.

1.50 Uttoxeter (Handicap Hurdle) – SERIOUS CHARGES

Anthony Honeyball brings a small team of three horses to Uttoxeter on Saturday afternoon, his Serious Charges coming into the three-mile handicap hurdle on a hat-trick.

I think he can land the three-timer under Rex Dingle as well, given the way he scored at Exeter and Fontwell earlier in the year.

Beautifully trained, Serious Charges has been given plenty of time between his races in order for him to recover, strengthen up and improve. He comes into his first handicap off a mark of 120 and he looks better than that to me.

He should handle the surface, he stays very well and he looks to have enough in his locker to take care of No Word Of A Lie and Pulling Stumps.

2.50 Saint-Cloud (Prix Omnium II – Listed Race) – MR PROFESSOR 

Interestingly, Newmarket trainer Alice Haynes has sent Mr Professor over to Paris for the €55,000 Prix Omnium, a Listed contest run over a mile.

Mr Professor is a tough type. He ran eight times as a juvenile last year and has already run three times in Dubai since the start of the year.

Such types still improve with time and not just with racing though as they grow, so there is room for improvement yet and it may well be that he has now got his ideal soft ground conditions for the first time since winning a Listed race at Pontefract last October.

Despite conditions probably being a little quick for him in the UAE, he has remained consistent and has got to within 1¼ and 1¾ lengths of Sovereign Price in two runs, a nice horse potentially going into big Group races.

From the evidence I could gather, it seems that on this sort of ground he has a better turn of foot than the locals and he has the assistance of Christophe Soumillon up top.

I got excited when I saw a tissue price of 25/1, but I noted that at least one French bookmaker was going 4.6 (36/10) on Friday and that is much more realistic.

Dreamflight is the local favourite and he is next on my list too, ahead of My Fancy.

3.00 Uttoxeter (Handicap Hurdle) – BOOTHILL 

Rider Sean Bowen has a fairly busy day ahead of him at Uttoxeter, but his best chance is surely on Harry Fry’s Boothill.

The seven-year-old comes into this two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle having been highly tried in two runs since his debut success at Taunton back in December.

Such was his dominance at the Somserset track that he was sent off 5/2 favourite for the valuable Bateaux London Gold Cup, eventually running a solid race in third behind subsequent Christmas Hurdle third Soaring Glory.

He was then sent to Newbury for the Betfair Hurdle in which he took a strong hold before understandably weakening, but he’s down in grade now and should be all the better for his experiences.

He’s been dropped back down to a mark of 132 off which he would likely have won the London Gold Cup, so given natural improvement he has to have an outstanding chance in a race which is nowhere near as deep.

3.35 Uttoxeter (Midlands Grand National – Listed Race) – HEWICK 

At £84,000 to the winner, this race is more valuable than a number of races at the Cheltenham Festival this week.

Last year’s stylish winner Time To Get Up is back for more, but if he’s backed and he is to win then it will have to have been some plot by JP McManus and Jonjo O’Neill.

He remains favourite, but he was in better form before last year’s renewal and he’s now 4lbs higher in the handicap.

De Young Warrior is too big a price given that he stays well and handles soft ground, but the most interesting runner is the Irish trained Hewick.

The excellent Jordan Gainford has been booked to ride and it may well be that he is full value for his 3lb claim which could make all the difference in the end.

Hewick was sent to Perth in September where he finished second, but much better was his comfortable win in the Durham National at Sedgefield and that run should not be underestimated.

3.43 Newcastle (Handicap Hurdle) – KAYF HERNANDO 

This 2¾-mile novices’ handicap hurdle is just a four-runner affair, but it is worth £18,000 and is run at Class 2 level so should draw out one or two decent performances.

It’s been breezy, fairly warm and sunny all week in Newcastle and that has had an effect on the ground. It’s officially ‘good’ going into the weekend, and so on that sort of surface and in a potentially tactical race perhaps not run at a strong end-to-end gallop a turn of foot could prove to be crucial.

The one I reckon has the best speed on offer is Dan Skelton’s Kayf Hernando. He won at Carlisle on good ground back in October but hasn’t been too hot since.

He’s been given a wind operation and the team have certainly not lost faith in him; in fact he is the only horse making the 454-mile round-trip from Warwickshire on Saturday.

Jack Andrews takes 5lbs off him too and he is around a 7/2 chance on Friday which is more than fair.

6.30 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – HIGHFIELD PRINCESS 

This five-furlong conditions race is a Class 3 event, but that does not tell the full story.

Horses rated 95, 99, 103, 105 and 106 take part and in fact it could be that we see a big performance from the filly Highfield Princess.

John Quinn’s horse is dropping right down from last week’s seven furlongs to the minimum trip now, but she has the speed and in fact finished a very impressive 3¼-length sixth to Creative Force in the Group 1 sprint on Champions Day at Ascot last backend. 

Friday 11 March 2022

Saturday 11th March 2022: Eabha to Be Our Saving Grace

It’s another mixed bag this week as Sandown hosts its all-important Imperial Cup card over the jumps, while there’s a Listed race and the Lincoln Trial on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton.

We begin there, though opportunities await in Surrey.

2.05 Wolverhampton (Lincoln Trial Handicap) – HAFEET ALAIN 

It’s not certain how well the eventual winner of the Lincoln Trial will go in the big race itself at Doncaster in two weeks’ time, but in its own right this extended mile event can present a good betting opportunity.

In some ways the race revolves around a horse we’ve successfully backed before. La Tihaty, trained by Roger Varian, has been on the drift this week but still presents a huge danger given that he is a fast-improving four-year-old from a top yard who is now unbeaten in four.

It remains to be seen how he goes on this surface having done his winning so far at Lingfield, Chelmsford and Kempton, though he did it nicely last time when beating Misty Grey who is favourite for the Listed race on the card.

His main rival is six-year-old Hafeet Alain and he represents good value. Also an improver, Ed Walker’s gelding was just a length behind La Tihaty at Kempton in January and ran very well at Wolverhampton before that.

He’s now 7lbs better off with that horse and was a comfortable winner last time out. Richard Kingscote rides.

3.00 Sandown (Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – EABHA GRACE 

Though most of his concentration quite rightly goes on Cheltenham at this point, Willie Mullins sends a mare over to Sandown for this event and she should not go overlooked at the odds.

Though poor last time out in a Grade 2, Eabha Grace was excellent on her bumper debut before that and there is clearly a lot more to come from her.

Based on how well she won at Thurles and assuming natural improvement from December to now, she’s at least at the same level at these weights as Flirtatious, Mullenbeg and Lucia if not better and so rates as a bet.

Mullenbeg and four-year-old Lucia have been the ones for money, but they do look a little short in the market now.

3.31 Lingfield (Handicap) – TADREEB 

Over at Lingfield, it’ll be very interesting to see how shortie King Of Time gets on in the novice stakes over a mile for Charlie Appleby, with Will Buick back from Dubai to take the ride. We concentrate betting-wise on the 3.31 however, a Class 2 handicap over seven furlongs.

Bowman is the rank outsider here, but all of the other four are challenging to be market leader with Papa Stour, Stone Soldier and Intuitive all clearly capable.

Michael Attwater’s Tadreeb however has a nicer profile. The only four-year-old of the main quartet, he is improving as he should be at this age and comes into the race as a last-time-out winner over course and distance.

Since moving from Mark Johnston’s yard Tadreeb has run a good fourth at 100/1 before winning at 18/1 and his progression is easy to see. At these weights, another step forward should see him home and that looks pretty likely.

3.35 Sandown (Novices’ Handicap Chase – Listed Race) – DANNY KIRWAN 

In this small but high-quality Listed handicap chase over 2½ miles, the speed that Danny Kirwan is capable of in between fences could prove absolutely crucial on the drying Sandown ground.

Each of Danny Kirwan’s three chase runs to date have provided encouragement and for various reasons. On the numbers, his debut second to Annual Invictus at Cheltenham is his best run and gives him a chance here anyway before improvement is considered.

Second time out he was soundly beaten at Kempton but was clocking some speed figures that mark him out as being above his rivals here. Last time he beat nothing, but did it very easily indeed in a race that will have put him spot-on for this contest. Paul Nicholls’ runner is the one for us then under Harry Cobden.

The main dangers would appear to be Scene Not Herd who is on a four-timer here, and Colin Tizzard’s last-time-out winner Killer Kane.

7.30 Kempton (Conditions Stakes) – EARLOFTHECOTSWOLDS 

Kempton’s evening meeting has among other things a Fast Track Qualifier for All Weather Championships Finals Day on April 15.

There will over £1 million in prize money at Newcastle on Good Friday between AWC Finals Day races and the Burradon Stakes, and one that can book a ticket to the jamboree is Earlofthecotswolds.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ eight-year-old has former Sagaro Stakes winner Nayef Road to beat. The Sagaro in question, it mustn’t be forgotten, was staged on the all-weather at Newcastle in 2020.

Nayef Road is rated 109 but hasn’t been at that level for a little while. He also has to give 3lbs to Earlofthecotswolds and that could prove to be decisive on the night.

Rated 139 over hurdles, Earlofthecotswolds has finished 2nd, 3rd and 1st on the all-weather so far and is getting better on these surfaces. His form behind Sleeping Lion gives him a chance here, while he also won very, very easily last time and can reach new heights now under Liam Keniry.

10.23 Tampa Bay Downs (Tampa Bay Derby – Grade 2) – CLASSIC CAUSEWAY 

We’re back on the Kentucky Derby trail on Saturday night and it’s the turn of the Tampa Bay Derby to try to produce a real Derby contender.

There are 50 points offered to the winner of this race, a number that would most likely guarantee the victor a place at Churchill Downs on May 7.

While all horses can be forgiven a bad run now and then, should no disasters befall Classic Causeway then he should make short work of this field.

The likely second favourite Major General doesn’t look good enough just yet, while the third horse in the market Shipsational was comfortably beaten by Classic Causeway last time.

This will be the last chance we get to see a Giant’s Causeway offspring at this sort of level and he has a major chance in the Derby. He’s a 16/1 and 20/1 chance for the Derby here, but shorter in the States where he is quite well fancied.

Friday 4 March 2022

Saturday 5th March 2022: A Hypothetical Saturday Wager

Those interested in all forms of the game are in for a busy one on Saturday.

We’re racing all around the world from before dawn until well into the night, as Group/Grade 1 action is hosted in the USA, Dubai and Australia on the flat.

The highlights of the jumps action closer to home are Kelso’s huge day which includes the £100,000 Morebattle Hurdle featuring Metier, Buveur D’Air et al as well as the Premier Chase, Doncaster which hosts the Grimthorpe Chase and of course Newbury too.

We bet right across the world from 5.20AM right up to 10.42PM, beginning down under with a major Group 1 event.

5.20 Flemington (Australian Guineas – Group 1) – PROFONDO 

Both the Randwick Guineas and the Australian Guineas are run on Saturday morning. Godolphin’s Anamoe is a heavy favourite for the former, and it’s his form with Hitotsu which makes Ciaron Maher & David Eustace’s colt a warm order for this $1 million Flemington event.

Hitotsu won the Victoria Derby over 1¼ miles around here in late October and really appears to need that sort of trip, indeed he is fancied to go on to the Melbourne Cup in November.

Better suited to this mile however may well be impressive Spring Champion Stakes winner Profondo. He is lightly raced, appears to have been a few pounds better than Hitotsu at a similar career stage, has tons of improvement in him and can make light of a wide draw by keeping out of trouble there before sweeping past.

1.32 Kelso (Premier Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – RICHMOND LAKE

It’s a marked shift going from a mile race in Australia to this soft ground hurdle at Kelso, but the event is absolute quality.

Alan King sends North Lodge and he is very well fancied, indeed the five-year-old is 2-2 having won a Grade 2 at Cheltenham.

That was on good ground however, while old rival Richmond Lake is definitely suited to this surface. He has a big weight turnaround now and only found Jonbon too good for him last time on the track.

Donald McCain and Brian Hughes are a feared duo and they can score once again.

1.55 Meydan (Al Maktoum Challenge R3 – Group 1) – HYPOTHETICAL 

Off to Dubai this time for round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge. In truth, this is a very weak Group 1 but that just makes it all the more winnable for last year’s runner-up Hypothetical.

Hypothetical is strong in the context of this race; he is getting better on the dirt while his conqueror from last year Salute The Soldier is arguably going the other way.

He is drawn wide, but he looks like the top dog in this race and Mikael Barzalona’s mount can book his ticket for the Dubai World Cup in three weeks’ time.

3.30 Meydan (Jebel Hatta – Group 1) – ZAKOUSKI 

At the prices, we can take a small chance on Godolphin’s six-year-old Zakouski.

It’s well known that there is very close form between several of these runners. Lord Glitters can go well yet again, though some quite understandably fancy Barney Roy to get upsides or even turn the tables on him.

William Buick however has chosen Zakouski over Barney Roy and I reckon he’s got it right. He’s had his pipe-opener for the season when finishing just 1¾ lengths behind Lord Glitters three weeks ago and he should be at his best now.

3.37 Newbury (Handicap Hurdle) – DORKING BOY

This is a competitive 2½-mile handicap hurdle at first glance, but there’s plenty to like about the rock-solid Dorking Boy.

Tom Lacey’s gelding is more consistent than progressive, but it’s how his speed figures read on very soft ground that catches the eye and it could be that he just handles these conditions much better than the rest.

In terms of his out-and-out form, he was a winner two outings back and then found only one well-handicapped horse too good last time. He remains on the same official mark himself, Stan Sheppard rides.

4.19 Lingfield (Spring Cup – Listed Race) – CANONIZED

Much like with Zakouski, there is nothing certain about Canonized’s chances but we can afford to take a chance on her.

She is a very tough, consistent filly. William Haggas’ runner was given no fewer than 12 runs as a juvenile, taking them all in her stride and winning four times. She has scored at Group 3 level and at Listed level in the Rockingham.

She kicked off her season at Newcastle just ten days ago and was soundly beaten by El Caballo who reopposes today. However, her speed figures are nothing special for a sprinter and it appears it has been guts and class that have got her home in the past rather than out-and-out speed.

With that in mind, this quick surface and a seventh furlong for the first time should be right up her street. It would be no surprise to see her have more left in the tank having been allowed to bowl along at a slower pace, potentially allowing her to turn around the form with El Caballo and confirm it with Witch Hunter from the Rockingham.

9.40 Gulfstream Park (Gulfstream Park Mile – Grade 2) – NY TRAFFIC

It’s a big Grade 1 day over in Santa Anita but we concentrate on Florida, firstly with this Grade 2 mile event.

Speaker’s Corner is undoubtedly well fancied for Bill Mott, but the classy NY Traffic can get back to his best and land this $200,000 race.

Saffie Joseph’s five-year-old had close form in the past with the likes of Maxfield and Authentic, but won’t need to reach that level to win this. He warmed up by landing a six-furlong event very easily last time and is primed for a big run now under the excellent Irad Ortiz Jr.

10.42 Gulfstream Park (Fountain of Youth Stakes – Grade 2) – EMMANUEL 

We’re on the Kentucky Derby trail now with both this event and the Florida Derby often providing very strong contenders for Churchill Downs.

Simplification is the morning line favourite in the States, though I note that the first British-based bookies to offer odds favoured Emmanuel and that could be smart.

Two from two now, Todd Pletcher’s More Than Ready colt somewhat toyed with his opposition last time and has clocked some impressive figures. He can win this, then go onto the Florida Derby before taking a crack at the Run for the Roses. In Due Time and Rattle N Roll can also go well.