Thursday 23 June 2022

Friday 24th & Saturday 25th June 2022: Piz Badile to Give Rivals a Mountain to Climb

There is much talk about field sizes at the moment, and that’s affected betting this weekend. Should Newmarket’s meeting really be a three-day one? 

Newcastle’s own three-day meet is a traditional affair and with the Seaton Delaval Handicap over with, attention turns there to the Gosforth Park Cup, the Northumberland Plate and a pair of Group 3 contests.

Will Buick is missing several good rides to stay at Newmarket, perhaps for Rebel’s Romance who could yet reach the top, while we can’t guarantee any value about Boosala at Newcastle but that one is interesting too.

It’s also Irish Derby weekend at the Curragh, a race in which we have a value punt, but we begin with Friday evening’s action at Gosforth Park.

Friday 24th June 2022

6.35 Newcastle (Gosforth Park Cup – Handicap) – FERNANDO RAH 

The five-furlong Gosforth Park Cup is perhaps not the race it once was, but this year’s renewal looks a competitive affair at around 7/1 the field. Bearing in mind that field is only 14 strong, you can see why this will be a keen betting heat.

Instantly recognisable names such as Stone Of Destinty, Dakota Gold and Venturous will attract support, while City Walk could be better than this but might just not get through this surface so well.

Copper Knight remains of interest and Saluti is a solid second choice, but Fernando Rah stands out.

Clive Cox’s gelding is just four and has not reached his peak yet. He’s kept close company with the likes of Run To Freedom and Lord Of The Lodge and he handles the Tapeta just fine.

He’s had a break since he was a beaten favourite in January and can now resume his progress.

7.10 Newcastle (Hoppings Stakes – Group 3) – POTAPOVA 

William Haggas is having a wonderful time and his hot-pot My Astra will go off a very warm order in this race.

There’s no doubt she could be a top-class filly, though after her demolition job at Ayr last time they could have taken up an engagement in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh this weekend but have decided to revert to the all-weather.

Her worst performance came on an artificial surface, and while she may yet prove too good, she is worth taking on at these odds.

Rogue Millennium was a good trial winner and represents the Oaks form, but the genuine improver in the bunch is Cheveley Park and Sir Michael Stoute’s Potapova.

Her form is solid and getting better, while she was initially aimed alongside her Epsom conqueror Bashkirova at the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot (Group 2) but needed more time. If she starts well, a familiar caveat with her, she has an outstanding chance under Derby-winning rider Richard Kingscote.

Saturday 25th June 2022

2.25 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – SENSE OF DUTY

Although we’re taking on one Haggas filly, we stick like glue to another in the shape of Sense Of Duty.

We perhaps can’t take the form of her Listed Haydock win too literally. Runner-up Flotus (third in Ascot Group 1) and third-placed Benefit (easy Listed winner) were always going to improve from there, although then again so too is Sense Of Duty given her age and stage.

She gets a handy fillies’ allowance, while her dam ran well at Newcastle on the Tapeta despite blowing the start. She should have enough to see off the All-Weather Championships Finals form of Edraak and Spycatcher, with Ebro River potentially getting there too as he looks to emulate last season’s successes.

3.15 Newmarket (Criterion Stakes – Group 3) – LANEQASH 

This is a small, but quality Group 3 seven-furlong race.

Pogo is solid but doesn’t appeal for win purposes this time, while Art Du Val can still take one step forward at least despite being six with William Buick on hand to ride.

Sunray Major is getting there all the time and he was arguably unlucky behind Laneqash last time.

Roger Varian’s runner however is making up for lost time. He has more improvement to come which should keep him ahead of Sunray Major and he ticks too many boxes to ignore, not least speed which at some stage he may use here to put the race to bed.

3.20 Windsor (Midsummer Stakes – Listed Race) – MODERN NEWS 

A good-quality Listed event over the mile at Windsor and certainly one to keep in mind for future betting purposes.

Tyrrhenian Sea is decent, progressive on the all-weather certainly, while Chindit doesn’t quite appeal this time under his penalty.

My Oberon is solid for the William Haggas team. He has plenty of ability for sure, but he could just be vulnerable to a good one.

Modern News is definitely a Group horse. Charlie Appleby’s runner was fancied to win the Lincoln in March and while he didn’t manage that, he did take a valuable handicap next time.

He then came here to this course and distance, winning ever so easily at Listed level which has now earned him a penalty. He showed much better speed but was outfought by Megallan at Epsom last time, but he wouldn’t have loved things there and is generally progressing quickly.

He’s engaged at Group 2 level and looks at least that good, something he can prove by giving weight away and winning this.

3.45 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – PIZ BADILE 

All the talk this week has been about Rob Hornby losing the ride on Derby runner-up Westover here, Colin Keane now taking over.

It’s always great for the Derby form to be fully franked and many think Westover was an unlucky loser at Epsom, though in truth he wouldn’t have beaten Desert Crown even with a clear run.

A day earlier, Tuesday took full advantage of Emily Upjohn’s early slip to win the Oaks narrowly and she is a fascinating contender here against the colts. In fact, she is likely to now go off favourite.

Hannibal Barca and Lionel can improve, but the best value in the race by miles lies with Piz Badile.

Some horses just don’t do the job at Epsom, but Donnacha O’Brien’s colt was about an impressive a trial winner as any other in the field before that and looks every inch a Group 1 horse. He gets the chance to prove it now under Gavin Ryan.

Saturday 18 June 2022

Royal Ascot Day Five: 18th June 2022 - Creative a Major Force in Platinum Jubilee

Royal Ascot has absolutely flown by as we head into the final day already.

The Platinum Jubilee is the highlight, while we also see the return of multiple Group 1 winner Hurricane Lane in the Hardwicke Stakes.

We’re not betting in the last. Trueshan is declared, but may not run again which muddies the waters a little. We begin with a race that is becoming more and more important as they years go on with a view to the following season’s mile and middle-distance races.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – ONE WORLD (place) 

Alfred Munnings of the Aidan O’Brien hard is the hot pot here, and he was certainly impressive on his racecourse debut five weeks ago at Leopardstown.

If he improves as we all expect he’ll be tough to beat, but he’ll still need some speed to land this and it’s not certain how much he has.

The Chesham tends to be won by horses from mile to mile-and-a-quarter families. Alfred Munnings is a Dubawi/Galileo cross and he will get better as the season goes on, so he may be worth taking on at such short odds.

Sea The Stars can sire terrific milers as well as middle-distance types and his One World is worth a second look here at big odds.

Frankie Dettori appears to have chosen Alzahir over him, though he’s not having the best week by any means, and with Colin Keane on board One World will not lack for help from the saddle.

The each-way, cover bet and place markets appeal after his tough win on debut in soft ground at Haydock, with today’s quicker conditions likely to bring about plenty of improvement. One World should be flying at the end.

3.05 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – NOBLE TRUTH 

There are plenty of nice types in here as usual, and the Jersey Stakes is often won by a Group 1 horse so look out for the winner on their next run whichever horse it may be.

Audience has talent, as does Samburu, while Star Girls Aalmal is of some interest. Rocchigiani nearly saw off Maljoom in the German Guineas and Dubawi Legend was a classy juvenile, but three others stand out.

Owen Burrows’ Alflaila comes from the handicap route. He was a very smart winner over this course and distance back in May and he’s certainly improving.

Shadwell’s retained rider Jim Crowley however favours Monaadah, as do I. A striking winner in Dubai on debut for Saeed Bin Suroor in March, he won easily at Newcastle next time. Monaadah then saw off Audience at Kempton to prepare for that race and it’s clear he has class.

Above them though is Alflaila’s conqueror in last season’s Flying Scotsman Stakes, Noble Truth.

Noble Truth beat highly-rated Ehraz last season, was short of room behind Royal Patronage in the Acomb Stakes and beat Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal at Doncaster.

He was thought of as a Group 1 horse even then, but got rather stuck in the mud when second to Angel Bleu at the top level in France before the same thing happened at Newbury.

Noble Truth romped away with the Listed King Charles II Stakes back in April, has been gelded since, and looks tailor-made for this.

3.40 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – MOHSTADAF

This is the return of Dante, Irish Derby, Grand Prix de Paris and St Leger winner as well as Arc third, Hurricane Lane.

He is a beast at this mile-and-a-half distance and it would be terrific to see him win, but he could be a little rusty and as usual this is a very tough race.

Up against him is the supplemented Solid Stone, Broome, Third Realm and Mostahdaf and it’s the last-named I fancy at a prices.

John and Thady Gosden’s Frankel colt is getting closer to a Group 1 win, and a top-level performance in this race would be enough.

Always highly thought of, Mostahdaf won a couple of Listed races last year and was close to top class when taking his Group 3.

He was even smarter in the Gordon Richards Stakes this year and was 6/5 favourite to beat Bay Bridge too. This trip looks fine for him and, with race fitness on his side, he could give Hurricane Lane plenty to do.

For betting options; he’s around 7/1 – 8/1 as a cover bet and around 6/4 for a place if you don’t want to take a risk.

4.20 Ascot (Platinum Jubilee Stakes – Group 1) – CREATIVE FORCE 

An excellent Group 1, much like the King’s Stand earlier in the week.

Like the five-furlong race, Australian trainer Chris Waller has the favourite in Home Affairs but he is worth taking on.

There are too many class horses to give a mention to, but look out for Sacred coming down in trip and Naval Crown too who Charlie Appleby says is just learning to sprint.

One that had to so a similar thing for that trainer was Creative Force, last year’s Jersey winner. He is of course a Group 1 course and distance winner now.

While there are lots of variables here, the key form is October’s British Champions Sprint Stakes. The pace shown in that by Creative Force was excellent, with Minzaal not far away either. Both of those horses will love this fast ground and Minzaal is the main danger.

5.00 Ascot (Wokingham Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – BLACKROD 

A typically tough Wokingham Stakes, in which First Folio, Rohaan, Fresh, Tabdeed and Silver Samurai will all be popular.

The one I like best is Michael Dods’ Newmarket winner Blackrod. He has the class, the pace, the toughness and is improving all the time.

5.35 Ascot (Golden Gates Stakes – Handicap) – HONITON 

Much has been made of the form lines involving Eldar Eldarov, Post Impressionist, Honiton and Secret State, including on these pages.

Eldar Eldarov won the Queen’s Vase earlier in the week and Secret State was a winner too. It may be that Honiton actually proves to be the best of that bunch and he can take a race that Godolphin have a stranglehold on, with Charlie Appleby’s improver Falling Shadow next on the list.

Thursday 16 June 2022

Royal Ascot Day Four: 17th June 2022 - Inspiral On Course for Coronation

The warm weather and the fast ground continue at Royal Ascot, but while we love conditions it has been a wide-open affair this week with many different trainers and jockeys hitting the board.

It may well be Newmarket as a collective that dominates this time, John and Thady Gosden in particular being backed to have a great day.

2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – FULLY WET

By my reckoning, the market has got this largely right with Fully Wet, Mawj, Sydneyarms Chelsea, Queen Olly and Meditate all to the fore.

It’s interesting however to note that of those five, three of the big hitters are drawn in single figures. True, the stalls are in the centre and we have an 18-runner race, but the near side is still the place to be for the most part which gives Queen Olly and Fully Wet an advantage.

I like the latter of that pair best. On her debut for the Gosden team she had to overcome a slow start, plenty of greenness and likely unsuitable soft ground but won nicely all the same.

As a daughter of Kodiac she should love conditions this time around and a big improvement from race one to race two looks to be on the cards.

3.05 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – SLIPSTREAM 

It hasn’t gone completely to plan for the American raiders so far, but they may notch a famous Group 1 win here with their Slipstream. He’s very fast, handles firm ground, should stay up the hill and is most progressive.

Of the home team, there are many to note but I fancied things to be close again between El Caballo and Tiber Flow, with Go Bears Go who likes it here being right up there with them.

On a line through Twilight Gleaming, it appears Slipstream may have the beating of Go Bears Go which adds to confidence.

In a very competitive race Perfect Power of course cannot be ruled out, nor can Twilight Jet or Zain Claudette, while Ehraz isn’t for me over this particular six furlongs.

The one to keep on side as an each-way interest is definitely Group 1 runner-up Flotus. She began badly this season but is coming to herself now and has the form to get involved.

3.40 Ascot (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes – Handicap) – TRAWLERMAN 

This is another hugely competitive handicap, though there is enough to like about Trawlerman at the odds to merit having a small bet.

The Gosden runner, by Golden Horn out of a Monsun mare, is crying out to go back over this mile-and-a-half trip that he beat King Frankel by 8½ lengths over back in April. That horse went on to run second to Bay Bridge no less and was rated 91.

Trawlerman comes into this on the back of a win over a mile-and-a-quarter on the all-weather and is primed for a massive run. Moktasaab, Candleford and Brilliant Light may also go well.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – INSPIRAL 

On the face of it at Group 1 level, this is a very tough start for the year for Inspiral after 252 days off.

There is plenty of quality on show, but things look mighty close between no fewer than ten of them which begs the question; are they all that good?

Any one of Prosperous Voyage, Guineas winner Cachet, Breeders’ Cup winner Pizza Bianca, Mangoustine, Spendarella, Discoveries, Grande Dame, Sandrine or Cheveley Park winner Tenebrism could give the selection most to do, but she is the standout and can remain unbeaten.

Wild Beauty was genuinely too good for Pizza Bianca last year in North America, and Inspiral has put that one in her place twice. She was also a very solid favourite for the Guineas ahead of a number of these and is the standout filly over this sort of trip.

5.00 Ascot (Sandringham Stakes – Handicap) – INVIGILATE 

This is a tough handicap to bet in, a straight and fast mile, and the selection carries the second-choice colours of Juddmonte behind Crenelle.

Crenelle’s credentials are obvious of course and in fact she was second on my list, but I reckon Sir Michael Stoute didn’t have Invigilate fully revved-up for her seasonal debut when she was second to Washraa who is also on the list.

Invigilate will come on a ton and has the speed to see off those already mentioned, as well as Heredia, Persist and Zanbaq.

5.35 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – OTTOMAN FLEET

The 110-rated Changingoftheguard is an obvious type for this and he represents the Derby form.

He was fifth at Epsom in the big one and was a very good winner of the Chester Vase before that, but his best performance was when being allowed to dominate on softer ground and he’s backing up quickly after a tough race.

Lysander may or may not improve significantly for going on quicker ground also, but the improvement in Ottoman Fleet is too impressive to ignore. Charlie Appleby’s twice-raced gelding is by Sea The Stars, and actually shares some of his famous sire’s attributes.

Good on debut, he was most impressive when winning a Listed race at Newmarket last time over a mile-and-a-quarter despite stumbling badly at the start. He showed speed as well as guts that day and will absolutely relish this step up in trip.

6.10 Ascot (Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes – Handicap) – CANONIZED (place or each-way) 

We finish with a five-furlong cavalry charge and it’s mightily close to call, so keep stakes low.

Canonized has been very busy in her short career and also very consistent for Chevely Park and trainer William Haggas. These types get better with age though, not just for racing, and she can still outdo the 100 rating she achieved last year.

She’s in here off 98 and has a fair chance at a big price, so take the ¼ odds each-way or back her outright for a place.

The many contenders against her include Loves Me Likearock, Nymphadora and Latin Lover.

Royal Ascot Day Three: 16th June 2022 - Stradivarius to Play One Last Gold Cup Tune

It’s Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot on Thursday, providing us all with one last chance to see the great Stradivarius at his favourite venue before he retires at the end of the season.

It’s another seven-race card, but we’re not betting in the Hampton Court Stakes this time in which the Queen’s Reach For The Moon runs.

The Gosdens will want a royal winner and will have prepared their colt to perfection no doubt, and I wouldn’t bet against him, but nor will I be playing him at odds on.

2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 3) – WALBANK 

David Loughnane is doing very well as a trainer and is no stranger to the big occasion.

His Walbank is the most impressive juvenile in this line-up for me and there’s no reason why he can’t use his impressive raw pace to see off this field over five furlongs.

Amo Racing’s son of Kodiac chased home Noble Style on debut, the horse I feel would have won the Coventry on Tuesday had he been able to take his chance.

Next time at York he was simply blistering in winning at York by seven lengths and he may be very hard to catch here.

The biggest danger on my book is Aidan O’Brien’s The Antarctic who is two from two in Ireland, while Andrew Balding’s Bakeel made a very pleasing debut and represents another each-way chance.

3.05 Ascot (King George V Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – SECRET STATE 

We have a brilliantly competitive renewal of this mile-and-a-half, three-year-old handicap and it features so many excellent form lines.

It’s hard to know what to expect now from Mandobi, Franz Strauss, Schmilsson, Savvy Knight, Flying Dolphin and Deauville Legend – and they didn’t even make my shortlist!

Aidan O’Brien’s Newfoundland could be dangerous, while Inverness has form some top types. Surrey Mist chased home Israr last time in the London Gold Cup, a race which has produced the likes of Communique, Defoe, Headman and of course Bay Bridge.

Post Impressionist will be well backed having separated Eldar Eldarov and Honiton last time and he was second choice for me, just behind Charlie Appleby’s Secret State.

Secret State was second in the Wood Ditton first time up, the winner now being rated 99 after another easy win, before beating the aforementioned Honiton easily by 3¾ lengths and that horse is now at 99 and rising.

Last time the Dubawi colt took care of another subsequent winner at Nottingham and there’s no way his mark of 93 gets near to what his true ability is.

3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – LIFE OF DREAMS

The Ribblesdale is often known colloquially as the ‘Ascot Oaks’ and even without Emily Upjohn in the line-up, it has the look of a Group 1 about it.

This is a tight race at first glance, with the different form lines represented by Mukaddamah, Sea Silk Road, History, Magical Lagoon and Life Of Dreams all difficult to tie up. With that in mind, we really have to look for something to separate one filly from the rest and there just may be something.

In the case of Life Of Dreams, she was very inexperienced when she went up against Emily Upjohn in the Musidora Stakes but ran very well behind her in second place.

There was officially 10lbs between the pair at York, so given that the Gosden filly in reality is a 120 horse now after her slip-up at Epsom (117 officially), it makes Life Of Dreams a 110 filly at least and she could be better given that this is only her third start.

It’s not all about the numbers of course, but Charlie Appleby is a top-class trainer who knows how to get the job done at the highest level.

4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS 

Three of them stand out in the Gold Cup on fast ground; three-time winner Stradivarius, the impressive-looking Kyprios and last year’s Derby runner-up Mojo Star.

It’s close between them on paper, while we also don’t know whether Strad is going backwards and/or whether Kyprios has more to offer at this extreme trip following a facile win over 1¾ miles recently.

On a mixture of private ratings, official ratings and speed ratings Stradivarius is the most consistent for me. On this ground, it could be that the great horse’s turn of foot will prove decisive in the straight and we may see an emotional fourth Gold Cup win for him on his farewell tour.

5.00 Ascot (Britannia Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – KING OF TIME

This is another fantastic Britannia Stakes. A 30-runner cavalry charge up the straight mile on fast ground and featuring an entire field of improving three-year-olds will be some spectacle.

The Queen’s Saga, Thesis, Jimi Hendrix and Yonafis were all considered, but Charlie Appleby has a strong hand here and may well go two places better than he did last year with his 28/1 shot Quintillus.

His Tranquil Night has a big chance. James Doyle’s mount is clearly going the right way and has form with the right horses. He is undoubtedly a fair way ahead of his handicap mark, and yet is second choice for the yard and quite rightly so.

Stablemate King Of Time (Will Buick) looks even better placed to score after his Newmarket success last time. He has the speed and the class, is three from three and looks like the proverbial Group horse in a handicap.

Both Godolphin horses are drawn high too, which is a bonus.

6.10 Ascot (Buckingham Palace Stakes – Handicap) – SILENT FILM

Yet another tough handicap, this time over the seven furlongs.

Some of the top horses here have ground issues, some have questions to answer over the trip and some don’t appear to be well drawn.

Montassib is potentially a blot, but he has some the issues listed. Silent Film however has plenty in his favour, especially given his form in Dubai and Bahrain earlier in the year.

His wins in the Middle East put him way ahead of his current official handicap mark. I’d be worried if he hadn’t done it in Britain before, but last year he was also a winner at Sandown ahead of Run To Freedom who is now rated 103 and he should prove more than capable.

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Royal Ascot Day Two: 15th June 2022 Head North to Group 1 Glory

It seems that fast ground remains for day two of Royal Ascot and that is exactly what we want to see.

We’re going right through the card again, beginning with the two-year-old speedball fillies in the Queen Mary.

2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – LOVE REIGNS 

American sprint specialist Wesley Ward has done it all before with the likes of Lady Aurelia, and he may have another special one on his hands in the shape of Love Reigns.

The better horses seem to be spread across the track here, so I’m not overly concerned about the draw.

Love Reigns will break from stall 5 and if she’s in the same mood as when simply monstering her debut field over 5½ furlongs at Keeneland in late April then she’ll be very hard to catch under Irad Ortiz. While the jockey is inexperienced on these shores, he’ll be able to keep things simple and go for gold up front.

Dramatised is the main danger for a team that had more than one filly to choose form for this race, her win at Newmarket looking pretty special.

The others I liked for place money were all at bigger prices, including Miami Girl, Yahsat and All The Time.

3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – ELDAR ELDAROV 

We’ve mentioned it before, but don’t allow official ratings and time to let you undervalue results achieved on Tapeta surfaces. One who won nicely in decent company on such a floor last time was Eldar Eldarov and he is fancied to prove his Group quality now.

Roger Varian’s colt put up a debut performance last autumn that would live with the best of those achieved in 2021.

On only his second start, he showed class and guts to beat a nice field at Newcastle three weeks ago which included third-placed Honiton. He was around a stone better than that horse, who has since come out and won a maiden by nine lengths and is rated 94.

Allowing for natural improvement, Eldar Eldarov can get to and surpass the level achieved by last year’s winner Kemari and that should be good enough.

Big-priced filly Emotion should not be ignored, while the Derby form is quickly being tested as Nahanni backs up quite quickly and can also go well ahead of team mate Hafit.

3.40 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – LORD NORTH 

John and Thady Gosden’s globetrotter Lord North won this race back in 2020 and while he’s not quite the same animal now, he could just win it again to cause a mini shock.

The very strong favourite is Bay Bridge, Sir Michael Stoute’s runner having now won five races in a row. He looked the real deal last time and if indeed he is still improving, he’ll be hard to beat. However, that’s not guaranteed and it could be that he’s better with juice in the ground.

Lord North, even at six, showed he still has it when winning the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March for the second time and this race could play to his strengths.

It’s a close one, with State Of Rest, Shahryar and Grand Glory all capable too, but a fully fit and ready Lord North has everything needed and hopefully he’ll put it all together.

4.20 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – BASHKIROVA 

We won this race last year with a very big priced Cheveley Park filly, and we’re looking for those owners to do it again.

Cheveley Park had Sacred, Potapova and Lights On in the race as well as Bashkirova, but for various reasons this filly is the best of the bunch.

It’s tight on paper, but Saffron Beach is heavily penalised, Sibila Spain is penalised and has ground worries, the going is the doubt for Novemba too while Mother Earth remains solid if not absolutely top class these days.

Bashkirova is underrated after her Epsom win, will stay every yard of the trip, handles the ground and has the speed for this too.

5.00 Ascot (Royal Hunt Cup – Heritage Handicap) – LEGEND OF DUBAI 

The Royal Hunt Cup is naturally a very hard race to win, not just for punters but for trainers and jockeys as well.

A full field of 30 go to post, led by last year’s runner-up Astro King for the Stoute team. He was also favourite twelve months ago and won the race on the near side, only subsequent Group 1 performer Real World proving to be better on the day.

He’s in very similar form this time around but is 4lbs higher in the handicap, is drawn differently, and now has improving four-year-olds up against him.

One of those four-year-olds is Legend Of Dubai who looks to be the best of the bunch. Roger Varian’s runner was second to Lone Eagle as a juvenile and won his only race last year.

He came back this season to win a Newmarket handicap very easily indeed and we don’t know where his ceiling is.

Another cause for optimism is how well Greatgadian showed up when I handicapped this race and he is second choice for the Varian yard, with Rebel Territory and Godolphin’s unknown quantity Desert Peace also interesting.

5.35 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – LITTLE BIG BEAR

I will point out that this is a tentative selection and stakes should be kept to a minimum, but Little Big Bear would appear to have the speed and class necessary to win a typical Windsor Castle Stakes.

Aidan O’Brien’s runner was beaten narrowly on debut in a very high-quality maiden. He didn’t want the six furlongs there, and when brought back to five he was way, way too good at Naas and will love the quicker ground this time.

The Gosden runner Far Shot went off at only 1/2 on debut and won nicely. He too will prefer the faster ground, but that run was only seven days ago and the extra experience of Little Big Bear may be too much for him to cope with.

6.10 Ascot (Kensington Palace Stakes – Handicap) – FARHH TO SHY 

This is another busy handicap, one in which Improvised is officially well in, but there is a lot to like about the profile of Farhh To Shy and she gets the nod.

It’s a long time since Tom Queally was burning up this track aboard Frankel and this would be a very welcome win for the jockey.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Royal Ascot Day One: 14th June 2022 - Plenty of Promise in King’s Stand

Day one of Royal Ascot 2022 looks fittingly like an absolute bonanza.

No fewer that three of the seven races on Tuesday are Group 1 affairs, all of them containing at least one genuine potential superstar.

There are betting opportunities galore on the opening day as we attempt to go through the card.

2.30 Ascot (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) – LIGHTS ON (each-way) 

It’s hard to believe that leading miler Baaeed has only been on the scene for a year. The Lockinge winner is tip-top class, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s certainly the most likely winner of the opener.

Naturally, he’s not a betting proposition at the prices but there is still an opportunity here by using Sir Michael Stoute’s mare Lights On.

She’s a five-time winner, including last time against Mutasaabeq and Alcohol Free, and she’s one that most definitely has more to offer.

Using one bookmaker as an example, she’s 28/1 in the win and each-way market with ¼ odds for the first two. She was also 11/2 for a place and 4/1 without the favourite.

With a theoretical £20 budget, should she finish placed we’d get £130 in the place market and £100 in the w/o favourite market.

I’m loathe to bet each-way, but a £10 e/w bet would land £80 should she finish second, not far behind the other two options, with the spectre of a shock win for a further £290 always being there so that’s the sensible play for a mare who may prove to be better at the weights than Real World, Chindit and Order Of Australia.

3.05 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – BLACKBEARD 

I reckon Noble Style is the best around at this sort of trip, so his late omission is a big blow to the Coventry.

The action may be near the stands side in this renewal, where I expect to see Aidan O’Brien’s first string Blackbeard go very well indeed under Ryan Moore. He has experience having run three times already, we know he gets the trip and he’s full of class.

Blackbeard is the selection on merit, but I also expect plenty from Age Of Kings (second choice) who is the second string for the yard, strengthening confidence, while further back Persian Force can go well as can York winner Bradsell if he sees it out.

3.40 Ascot (King’s Stand – Group 1) – MAN OF PROMISE 

American runner Golden Pal and Australian contender Nature Strip are top class and may yet be genuine Ascot superstars, but I’m willing to take them on in these conditions.

We should have a breakneck speed on here, one that may suit the closers as it did last year. One such runner may be six-furlong Group winner and improver Man Of Promise for Charlie Appleby and William Buick.

He was truly excellent in Dubai back in March, although he disappointed in the Group 1 on Dubai World Cup night, but his turn is coming at the top level.

Much like in the Coventry, his case is strengthened by the fact that another improver at this trip, Lazuli, has had this race as a target all year and yet William Buick ditches him to ride the selection and that could prove to be wise.

In their own back yards Nature Strip and Golden Pal have done nothing wrong at all, while Mooniesta looks too big a price for a place challenge.

4.20 Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – COROEBUS 

Very strangely, I’ve read people knocking the 2000 Guineas form recently which I take to be them simply looking to cause upset in order to make a name for themselves.

In fact, the Guineas form is rock-solid and winner Coroebus can begin in earnest his likely summer challenge of Baaeed for top miler honours.

He has the class for this, we already know that, while getting away from Newmarket and going round a bend for the first time will also be in his favour. He has won without settling and turning the taps on at exactly the right time so far, but the turn here will help him do that and he should be hard to beat.

He’s not a big price, but he started off even skinnier so he may be creeping towards backable odds, especially for your multiples.

My Prospero is the big danger on paper, but it could be that his stablemate and German 2000 Guineas winner Maljoom is a better alternative. 

5.00 Ascot (Ascot Stakes – Class 2 Heritage Handicap) – MARSHALL PLAN 

I was at Newcastle when Marshall Plan so narrowly failed to overhaul Earlofthecotswolds on All Weather Championships Finals Day and let me tell you that, strangely for him, Frankie Dettori did not look happy when returning and I think more was expected of the Gosden runner.

Still, he’s improving overall and despite creeping up the weights without winning he still looks well handicapped to me.

I say that as the better all-weather form is still not valued highly enough. He was given 97 for finishing second at Newcastle but in reality, that was more like a 102-103 performance and he can get better yet.

In a tight race Rock Eagle, Bring On The Night, Coltrane, Pied Piper, Proschema, Going Gone and Arcadian Sunrise all showed up well on the numbers.

5.35 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – JUAN ELCANO 

The Wolferton is a very tight race on paper this year and they’re going at least 7/1 the field at the time of writing.

Time to apply Occam’s Razor then; all things being equal, the simplest solution is best and last year’s winner Juan Elcano can do the job again.

Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old gelding has only had 13 runs and can outdo the mark he ran to in similar conditions twelve months ago. He’s also had a pipe-opener this time which will have blown the cobwebs away.

6.10 Ascot (Copper Horse Stakes – Handicap) – STOWELL 

The Gosden team may yet land both staying handicaps on the card, the second with Stowell.

He was a pretty unlucky loser in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase here last year so we know he handles this track fine. He looks too classy to be running off 104 and he can see off the likes of Okita Soushi and Chester Cup winner Cleveland, while Bandinelli has more races in him but isn’t well off at the weights just now.

Friday 10 June 2022

Friday 10th & Saturday 11th June 2022: Kem Looks Grand at York

You’d be forgiven for expecting a quiet weekend as we go hurtling towards Royal Ascot, for which we’ll have plenty of information next week. Luckily however, that is not the case!

Between Friday and Saturday’s key British meetings, along with a stunning card over at Belmont in New York featuring many Grade 1 races, the action remains relentless and we have a very busy betting weekend on our hands.

Friday 10th June 2022

1.45 Sandown (Maiden Stakes) – ONE NATION

The betting here will be interesting as there are some dangerous-looking newcomers, notably than Hannon horse Forca Timao who you’d think will be ready to rock and roll.

Natural improvement however should see One Nation home and in fact he was expected to win the hot novice event in which he was third on debut.

3.30 York (Ganton Stakes – Listed Race) – MOHAAFETH 

This is a very interesting little Listed race. Godolphin pair Art Du Val and Valiant Prince can go well, especially the latter who is better than he showed at Ascot last time, while Brunch will be backed too.

The excellent William Haggas team however have quite rightly not given up on Mohaafeth, and neither have I. After finding out he was a rig and not a colt, causing him discomfort, he has had his ailments solved.

He didn’t enjoy Dubai in March, but even on last year’s form he would arguably be too good for this field. There is still more to come from a Royal Ascot winner, one-time Derby hope, and a horse whose ‘worst performance’ as described by his trained came when he was fourth to Mishriff in a Group 1.

3.55 Sandown (Handicap) – TRUE ACCOLADE

There are a few unknowns as far as the main contenders here are concerned, especially regarding pedigrees in the context of seeing out Sandown’s mile and a quarter.

Roger Varian’s First Officer is by Galileo and has the Coolmore connection, though he needs to improve plenty which remains possible.

True Accolade though has been keeping company with, and doing well against, winners such as Salvator Mundi and Deciduous, as well as London Gold Cup runner-up Surrey Mist and can prove to be well handicapped.

9.42 Belmont Park (Belmont Gold Cup – Grade 2) – OUTBOX

On Belmont’s spectacular card Archie Watson sends his popular seven-year-old Outbox to the valuable two-mile Belmont Gold Cup and he has an outstanding chance for he and rider Hollie Doyle.

This trip and the firm ground should be ideal, though there will be challenges from Germany’s Loft and the Todd Pletcher-trained Abaan.

One tissue price here matches NYRA’s 2/1 morning line odds, while another has Outbox at 6/1, so it’ll be interesting to see what price we get come post time.

Saturday 11th June 2022

3.05 York (Grand Cup Stakes – Listed Race) – KEMARI 

This is a good quality race, make no mistake about that, so look out for its influence on 1½ to 2-mile races during the rest of the campaign.

I love Mandoob, I did when he was owned by Shadwell, and he’s beginning to peak now but is no longer a dark horse.

Queen’s Vase winner Kemari simply has a better mixture of speed, stamina, class and scope and looks good value to take this ahead of Brian Meehan’s challenger. Without A Fight, John Leeper and Euchen Glen will all have support.

4.00 Sandown (Handicap) – GOLDEN VOICE 

This is a competitive three-year-old handicap over the seven-furlong trip, but it’s one I can envisage going to Derby-winning owner Saeed Suhail, top trainer William Haggas and excellent jockey Tom Marquand.

In terms of his handicap mark, speed, potential for improvement and likelihood to go well in these conditions, Golden Voice looks the most probable winner and rates as a bet.

Windseeker is interesting, as is Odisseo, while there is likely to be money for Lethal Nymph.

4.35 Sandown (Maiden Stakes) – HONITON 

I wanted to back red-hot John & Thady Gosden’s Honiton in a good handicap last week, though he was pulled out there and it’s interesting that they go for a maiden race this time instead.

We have a big enough field here however and hopefully a proper pace, and I’m looking for Honiton to see them off well and pay a good compliment to Eldar Eldarov before next week’s King Edward VII Stakes having run well behind him at Newcastle.

5.33 Belmont Park (Acorn Stakes – Grade 1) – MATAREYA 

This looks like a two-horse race on the book, with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Echo Zulu sure to be all the rage ahead of the up-and-coming Matareya.

I wanted to back Matareya for that very race, though as it turns out she took a little longer to get going for Brad Cox and was showing more speed than stamina back then.

She has come into her own this year in no uncertain terms and was scintillating on Kentucky Oaks day. She can now land her first Grade 1.

8.05 Belmont Park (Ogden Phipps Stakes – Grade 1) – MALATHAAT 

This is a potentially close race. Letruska has been brilliant and is still in winning form, but she’s not getting any younger and is vulnerable against Clairiere and Search Results.

The one who stands out for me is last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat. She didn’t win at the Breeders’ Cup as I expected her to do, but she’s still improving and can yet again prove her class.

11.44 Belmont Park (Belmont Stakes – Grade 1) – WE THE PEOPLE 

We won’t see a Triple Crown winner this year, though the last leg of the series is always fascinating and there is one stand out horse who may improve past the rest.

It looks close to me between Preakness third Creative Minister and Kentucky Derby winner and fifth Rich Strike and Mo Donegal, though hopefully that’s the battle for place money.

We The People is hard to judge having won so easily in lesser company to this point, but you don’t have to dig too deep into those he’s beaten and his past times to know he may be the best of this bunch. His granddaddy is Tapit, who has a fantastic record in this tough one-and-a-half-mile race.

Friday 3 June 2022

Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th June 2022: Have Some Nations Pride on Jubilee Weekend

It’s Oaks and Derby weekend and what a fantastic spectacle it should be. We are betting across both days at Epsom Downs.

Friday 3rd June 2022

2.00 Epsom (Woodcote Stakes) – ESTATE 

Commander Straker is favourite for the Woodcote, but the more experienced horse didn’t have Andrew Balding’s Estate far behind at all last time and the latter now has a good weight pull. He’ll also improve plenty.

Legend Of Xanadu, Blatant and Self Praise all have place chance too.

3.10 Epsom (Coronation Cup – Group 1) – MANOBO 

We have a small but high quality field for the first of our three Group 1 races at Epsom.

We know how good last year’s winner Pyldriver is and he comes into this in top form, though he does face tougher opposition this time around.

High Definition eventually did what was expected of him last time, albeit in defeat, though is a mile-and-a-half truly to his advantage?

Hukum has been beaten at the top level before though if it comes up particularly soft, he’d go well, but Manobo is potentially the best of the bunch.

Based on what Manobo should have achieved when favourite to win the Dubai Gold Cup had he got the trip, along with the relative levels of other Sea The Stars colts at this stage of their careers, he may be a little ahead of the rest.

4.30 Epsom (The Oaks – Group 1) – WITH THE MOONLIGHT 

Much like the Derby, this looks very much an up to par renewal.

Emily Upjohn has been all the rage for this race and it’s easy to see why. Unbeaten in three starts, she was outstanding at Sandown and then again in the Musidora at York. She is also by Sea The Stars, almost guaranteeing she’ll stay, and is trained by John and Thady Gosden.

Up against her is the overpriced With The Moonlight for Charlie Appleby’s yard. She’s a little more experienced, but is a heavy improver and we can’t lose sight of that.

Her win in the Pretty Polly over Guineas weekend was as good as anything I’ve seen within this field, while her pedigree and style of running suggests that the trip won’t be a problem either. Big chance in the third Classic of the year.

Of the others Concert Hall is solid, Tuesday has Classic form but needs to improve, Nashwa can help Hollie Doyle make history if she carries on the same trajectory, though she isn’t the most likely stayer, and Tranquil Lady has a place chance too.

5.10 Epsom (Surrey Stakes – Listed Race) – DAWN OF LIBERATION 

It’s easy to see why Oscula is favourite for this race, but the fast-improving Dawn Of Liberation has already usurped the filly on ratings and has more to give yet. Ever Given should also be watched closely.

6.41 Doncaster (Handicap) – DHAHABI 

Dhahabi was third in the Autumn Stakes as a juvenile and has close form with some Group 1 performers.

After his injury, he returned at the Guineas meeting and ran a solid race and could be ready to pounce ahead of Bullace, Magical Morning and Swiss Ace.

Saturday 4th June 2022

2.00 Epsom (Handicap) – BLUE TRAIL

I really wanted to back Honiton for this race, but connections have pulled him out. They do still have Charlie Appleby’s Blue Trail in here though and on this sort of ground, he could prove to be the best handicapped horse.

Mr Big Stuff and Sweeping are also considered in what is a very competitive event.

2.35 Epsom (Princess Elizabeth Stakes – Group 3) – BASHKIROVA

Cheveley Park run two very nice fillies here in the shape of Potapova and Bashkirova. It’ll be interesting to see who the owners favour, and which one nabs top spot in the market too.

Potapova’s rating may be wrong. Her form with Saffron Beach and more recently with Roman Mist and My Astra gives her a great chance here.

Bashkirova however has been stopped in reaching her full potential by fast ground and this may be better for her. On a line through Madame Tantzy, as well as with Zanbaq and likes on unsuitable ground, she is worthy of a mark of somewhere between 110-115 now and that will be good enough. Technique is best of the rest.

4.30 Epsom (The Derby – Group 1) – NATIONS PRIDE 

The 2022 Derby really is some spectacle. The crowds are fully back on the Downs, the race is part of the country’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations and it will be run in memory of the late, great Lester Piggott.

To top it all off, this looks like an above average renewal too.

There are many things to look at when picking a Derby horse. Trends, basically, are nonsense, though there lots of variables to consider.

We need to take into account class and evidence of staying ability which can come from pedigree and/or recent form.

We attempt to work out rates of improvement, keep an eye on the clock as speed is still a factor, while also bearing in mind any info available on stride patterns and the like.

A Derby runner won’t have it all, but everything is taken into consideration.

The Guineas form is often important. Eydon is now out, though Royal Patronage represents that form, having beaten Coroebus last year before running second to Desert Crown in the Dante.

Five-time Derby winner Sir Michael Stoute looks like he’s rather crashing an O’Brien/Appleby party! His Desert Crown was a good winner on debut last year before his master trainer got him ready just in time to race in the Dante, only his second career start.

He put up the single best performance so far of any horse in this race at York and, with some improvement expected, is now an obvious favourite.

Donnacha O’Brien has booked Frankie Dettori for his Piz Badile, a tough winner of the Ballysax Stakes back in April, though he’s not certain to stay or improve as much as some others.

Father Aidan O’Brien saddles Dee Stakes winner Star Of India, Chester Vase scorer Changingoftheguard and impressive Derby Trial winner Stone Age. All are by Galileo. The last-named is the best in my book and he’ll stay.

Godolphin won the race last year with Adayar and they have three in the race this time; Nahanni, Walk Of Stars and Nations Pride.

Nahanni won the Blue Riband Trial around this track in April and hasn’t been spotted since, though he will have improved plenty since then and definitely stays the trip.

Walk Of Stars was beaten in the Derby Trial at Lingfield, but so too was Adayar and this horse is of a similar size and weight to the 2021 hero, though perhaps not improving as quickly in what is a better-looking renewal.

Nations Pride is a different animal all together. Not originally entered, Charlie Appleby’s colt improved after losing out on debut last year to score twice at the back end.

He went to Dubai for the winter and was impressive in winning a conditions race in February, before heading home and taking in the Newmarket Stakes.

In that race, he absolutely smashed it. The son of Teofilo travelled very comfortably, handled the Dip well and stayed balanced, hit the front easily and then pulled away to win by seven lengths, recording an impressive time figure.

He has now been supplemented into this race at a cost of £75,000, is almost guaranteed to stay and could yet prove to be the class horse in the race despite the presence of Desert Crown, who remains second choice.