Friday 27 January 2023

Friday 27th & Saturday 28th January 2023: Hill To Give Them the Boot at Donny

Cheltenham takes centre stage this weekend with an extended Trials Day taking place, with Doncaster also backing up jumping HQ with some fine racing including the Sky Bet Chase.

For those with an eye on the Flat season, especially the Classics Friday is particularly important, especially for Charlie Appleby. Two races we’re involved in feature some of his hopes for the top level this year, while Naval Power also runs in Dubai.

He also runs one against fine debut winner and Derby entry Nazymbek at Lingfield, as well as a nice filly at Wolverhampton.

We begin at Doncaster over the jumps.

Friday 27th January 2023

2.40 Doncaster (Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle – Listed Race) – ARCLIGHT

Juvenile races are notoriously difficult as the horses are lightly raced and improving at different rates, but if the price holds on Nicky Henderson’s Arclight then she really should be too good for this opposition.

Calico and Komedy Kicks were next on the list, ahead of Greyval and Libby.

3.45 Meydan (Jumeirah Fillies Classic) – DREAM OF LOVE

This is an intriguing seven-furlong race on the turf for the three-year-old fillies, one in which most of the concentration is on Mawj, Glory Lily and Dream Of Love.

The Appleby pair of Dream Of Love and Glory Lily have some ground to make up on Saeed bin Suroor’s Mawj on ratings, though the likely odds-on favourite is drawn wide while the other two have major improvement in them.

Mawj was fourth in the Lowther and third in the Cheveley Park last season and she is a general 25/1 and 33/1 shot for the 1000 Guineas. Her speed is impressive, but she’s not guaranteed to stay the seventh furlong, especially from out wide, while we already have an idea of where her ceiling is for now.

Glory Lily made a nice debut at Lingfield in December, but a likelier winner is stablemate Dream Of Love, herself as low as 25/1 for the Guineas in May.

After winning on debut, she was a little stuck in the mud on her second start at Newmarket in the Montrose. She was favourite that say, so based on what was expected, the actual speed she showed despite the ground, her breeding (Shamardal x Secret Gesture (Galileo)) and her expected rate of improvement she looks like the value in this race.

4.20 Meydan (Zabeel Turf Handicap) – FALLING SHADOW 

There are some solid types here. Brilliant Light, White Wolf and Dubai Legend certainly fit into that category, while there is most certainly a lot more to come from Blue Trail who has a big handicap in him this year.

William Buick could have ridden him, but instead goes for Falling Shadow who has a little more pace I’d suggest and can swing off the bend well here and collar them if ready first time up.

Falling Shadow is rated only 4lbs lower than the top-rated horse in this race, but as a four-year-old with only six starts under his belt it is certain that we are not even close to knowing his true ability.

Saturday 28th January 2023

1.35 Doncaster (Lightning Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – BOOTHILL

Most will concentrate on the big two here; Harry Fry’s Boothill and Ann Hamilton’s Tommy’s Oscar who has won the hearts of many for his stable in recent times.

Tommy’s Oscar does get 5lbs and he’s rated another five more than his main rival, but in truth what he’s achieved so far over fences doesn’t really match up to Boothill who may also have more toe. He’s taken to score therefore for jockey Jonathan Burke.

3.15 Doncaster (Sky Bet Handicap Chase) – MISTER COFFEY

Ga Law has been very well backed at the top of the market, while Undersupervision was pretty eye-catching two runs ago when staying on after a bad start.

The one for value is Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey. Seemingly always second and not improving, a closer look reveals that he was definitely climbing the ladder and showing speed on good ground, but rather getting stuck in the mud more recently on softer ground.

These conditions may be right up his street and he can now land a major handicap, his first over fences. Nico de Boinville takes the ride as expected.

9.05 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 3) – SHANTISARA

This may be a Grade 3, but it’s worth some $500,000 and as a valuable turf race it’s a shame to see no British or Irish interest.

Dalika is 5/2 on the morning line in the States but may find it tough to give weight away, while Queen Goddess and Wakanaka are solid enough.

If a reasonable price can be found about Chad Brown’s Shantisara however then she would be the one. Race fit now after a spin in November following a long spell out, her past form (and speed) entitles her to be favourite for this race.

9.40 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Turf – Grade 1) – LADY SPEIGHTSPEARE

There’s an even million at stake in this one, a race staged over nine furlongs in Florida. Again, no European interest and I can’t help thinking this prize would have been there for the taking.

Ivar has some top-level form and will be well fancied, while Speaking Scout and Master Piece are also of some interest.

At these weights however the one to concentrate on is the five-year-old mare Lady Speightspeare. Third to Tuesday at the Breeders’ Cup, her form is among the best on offer and she is ideally drawn too. Luis Saez takes the ride.

10.40 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup – Grade 1) – ART COLLECTOR

Though due to changes to this day’s racing the Pegasus quickly lost its title as the world’s richest horse race, it still carries a purse of $3 million.

While those at the top of the market have often done well in this race before, often being younger and improving types, I feel that Bill Mott’s six-year-old Art Collector is way overpriced for this and can do some damage.

Defunded, Cyberknife, Proxy and White Abarrio were also shortlisted.

Friday 20 January 2023

Friday 20th & Saturday 21st January 2023: Edward to Be Our Prince at Ascot

The weather is doing some damage, notably to Friday with Lingfield cancelling the opening day of their Winter Million over the jumps.

Their valuable Saturday Flat meeting should survive, while the contrasting climates of Dubai and Newcastle ensure we have selections to begin our betting weekend with.

At the former, we see among other things the return of Master Of The Seas. A 2000 Guineas runner-up, he’s had his problems but will be in all top mile races in the UK this year. He goes in the Zabeel Mile (4.20), but we begin with Newcastle.

Friday 20th January 2023

5.15 Newcastle (Handicap) – MEGAN MOON

In this small, four-runner handicap the hat-trick seeking Glorious Angel has an obvious chance, while the form of Brownlee and Sugar Hill Babe is linked and comes on Tapeta.

Roger Varian’s Megan Moon however has already been unlucky not to win here and she is very well handicapped on this surface, so it’s no surprise the trainer sends her to Newcastle solo in expectation of getting the job done.

5.30 Meydan (Handicap) – BAY OF HONOUR

We have a seven-furlong handicap to close out the latest Dubai Carnival card.

It’s fascinating to see a Gordon Elliott trained runner in this, though his Coachello may lack a little speed. Edraak has some good form, as does Spangled Mac, but based on form, expected progression and speed Charlie Appleby has the top three in the race for me.

Silent Film very nearly did wonders for these pages last year when going down so narrowly at 40/1 and he is ridden here by Mikael Barzalona. Ahead of him in the pecking order is New Kingdom (James Doyle) who also has a big chance, but the no.1 is Buick’s mount Bay Of Honour.

On what we know he can prove to be the best handicapped horse here, though he is drawn wide. Counteracting that is the fact that when he last won, it was so easy that we really don’t know where his ceiling is but it’s bound to be some way north of what the bare figures suggest.

Saturday 21st January 2023

1.30 Haydock (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – PEMBROKE

Also known as the Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle, this race has been won in the past by Sea Pigeon and most recently by Jonbon.

Given that Cheltenham often comes up softer than many plan for, the result of this race may yet prove to be crucial as regards the Festival in just over seven weeks’ time.

While Paul Nicholls’ Toothless was very impressive last time and Chasing Fire clearly has a lot more to give, it seems Pembroke has already achieved more and has just as much improvement in him.

Though his huge 16-length win last time was just on good to soft, his easy win the time before was on heavy going so he should be able to see this out very well.

1.37 Lingfield (Winter Oaks – Fillies’ Handicap) – AL AGAILA 

Part of Lingfield’s Winter Million fixture, the Winter Oaks is worth £100,000 with over £51k of that going to the winner. Despite that, only twelve were attracted at the initial entry stage, eight of which now stand their ground.

So many can be described as being ahead of their current handicap marks, but none more so than Simon and Ed Crisford’s Al Agaila who won the trial for this race four weeks ago in very easy fashion.

Overall, the form of that race is the strongest form line on offer. Second and third Makinmedoit and Tequilamockingbird are back in opposition, but Al Agaila is well ahead of them.

Purple Ribbon’s form is very noteworthy and she rates as the main danger, while Morgan Fairy and former Gosden horse At A Pinch are not as well off in the handicap I’d say.

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

Only six are left in the Peter Marsh this year which is an extreme disappointment. It won’t be the first time the ground has been heavy, though whether work has been missed for some contenders owing to the frost is a separate question.

Old-timers such as Bristol De Mai and Blaklion known their way around here of course, but in the end it may just come down to Venetia Williams’ Fontaine Collonges and Sandy Thomson’s Empire Steel.

Both can go in his heavy ground, indeed Empire Steel probably really wants it, and can prove to be ahead of the handicapper when given these conditions. Ryan Mania rides.

2.47 Lingfield (Handicap) – SILKY WILKIE 

The some remain in solid form, three of these runners are aged 6, one is aged 7 and three are aged 8.

It’s hardly surprising then that the recent form, and certainly the pace, shown by four-year-old Silky Wilkie betters their efforts and he should have the toe to see the older boys off, especially over the minimum trip.

3.35 Ascot (Clarence House Chase – Grade 1) – EDWARDSTONE

Only three were declared for the Clarence House, a crucial Grade One two-miler. If this is a sign of things to come, given the recent pattern concerning field sizes, then the sport is in trouble. That is certainly the case within jumps racing for sure.

We are grateful for small mercies here too, in that third wheel Amarillo Sky has held his ground up against the big dogs Energumene and Edwardstone.

The former had a big dual in this race last year when he was outfought by Shishkin, while this time around he takes on Arkle and Tingle Creek winner Edwardstone who is the improver at the top level of the division.

When considering past and recent form, the form of the horses they’ve been and, in the case of Edwardstone progression too, I get these horses only 2lbs apart right now which is quite fitting.

I get those numbers in Edwardstone’s favour so, should his price of around 7/4 hold, he is worth backing even in a race of such small numbers. In any case, it should be quite a spectacle.

Friday 13 January 2023

Friday 13th & Saturday 14th January 2023: Dream to Paint a Picture at Kempton

This weekend there is graded at Warwick, where the Classic Chase is also run, as well as at Kempton park which we’re involved in.

We can first have some fun on the sand on Friday, as in Dubai we see the return of Wild Beauty and potential top-class types Ottoman Fleet and Valiant Prince.

Friday 13th January 2023

11.45 Sakhir (Al Adiyat Cup) – BYLINE

For those who aren’t sure, Sakhir is situated at Equestrian City in Bahrain, the venue for the valuable Bahrain Trophy.

This race is not officially a Group race, but is a ‘Local Grade 2’, essentially a conditions event worth £36,000 to the winner.

1m1f is the trip and the European betting should be interesting. Those prices may overestimate Marie’s Diamond and What’s The Story, though admittedly George Baker’s Lucander is rock-solid and is the likeliest winner if the selection fails.

That selection is Paul Hanagan’s regular mount Byline. Many at home will look down on this sort of race, but Byline is genuine quality and the form of his recent runs is bombproof.

The Covex Kid is on a good unbeaten run for a top local owner and trainer, but would have to step up markedly to win.

2.50 Sedgefield (Handicap Chase) – SIR APOLLO 

This class 4 event is run over the same course as, though just a couple of furlongs shorter than, the Durham National.

In it, Forpaddytheplumber needs to up his game massively over fences, while Onestepatatime and Morozov Cocktail remain fully capable.

Ten-year-old Morningside is interesting after a wind operation now he’s gone down in the weights, but the solid option for certain is Sam England’s Sir Apollo.

A course and distance winner in November on soft ground, he has been and done it all before here with natural improvement taking him beyond the capabilities of his rivals if indeed it is forthcoming.

5.15 Newcastle (Conditions Stakes) – EXCEL POWER

This is a straight, one-mile conditions race and an important fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day back at Newcastle in early-April.

Five of the six runners are rated 93+ and three of them are still rated over 100. Many forget to differentiate between the form shown on Polytrack and the form shown on Tapeta, but when you do figure it all out it’s hard not to say that Archie Watson’s Excel Power is the best of this bunch.

Looking at the speed this pack have been capable of on Tapeta or slower turf, the three 7-year-olds and Chichester look to be lacking on that front, that turn of foot being the final thing which may see Excel Power spring to success if he’s ridden properly on this track. Under Luke Morris, that shouldn’t be in doubt.

5.30 Meydan (Handicap) – SENSE OF WISDOM

The final race at Meydan on Friday’s Dubai Carnival card is a one-mile turf handicap.

Charlie Appleby has his usual strong hand, William Buick being on likely favourite Echo Point. At this time of year however, Buck is often on the “wrong one”. That has more to do with sharing the good rides though and prepping certain horses for bigger tasks later on.

With that in mind, jockey bookings don’t bother me with regards to Sense Of Wisdom (James Doyle) who has a great chance at these weights.-

He’s only two runs into his career, has some solid form already and will be a 100+ horse in no time at all, meaning off 91 he is particularly well in. Ouzo and Positive Impact are also worth a look.

Saturday 14th January 2023

1.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – TOLSTOY

As a class 2, six-furlong sprint round around Lingfield I’d expect outright speed will play a major part in this. With that, Tolstoy looks good value to get off the mark for Stuart Williams.

Often when a horse leaves a major yard for a so-called lesser one, the horse in question is going backwards. In the case of Tolstoy however he was sold after Robert Ogden sadly passed, with the new owners sending him to Williams.

Work has been done on finding out what he’s about at that yard and/or getting his handicap mark down, but either way he’s in the perfect race conditions now and can see them off under Rob Hornby.

Silky Wilkie was next on the list, followed by Tyger Bay.

2.05 Kempton (Silviniaco Conti Chase – Grade 2) – PAINT THE DREAM

It’s understandable that in a graded race at Kempton it’s Paul Nicholls who has the favourite.

His Pic D’Orhy however is far too short in all honesty and he could be vulnerable, not least to Fergal O’Brien’s Paint The Dream.

Though it was a handicap he was last seen winning at Newbury in November it was a terrific performance and I reckon he’ll skip beautifully around Kempton on Saturday.

2.32 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – RAFFERTY’S RETURN

Among the apparent big-hitters in this near-2½-mile handicap hurdle are Iroko, Rafferty’s Return and Foster’sisland.

Of the three, the one who has got through very slow ground in much the best fashion in the recent past, including at Wetherby, is Rebecca Menzies’ Rafferty’s Return and it’s the eight-year-old who is backed to score again. Sean Quinlan takes the ride.

2.40 Kempton (Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle) – WEST BALBOA

Camprond’s past exploits make him very interesting in this £100,000 race, while at a similar price Scarface has it in him if only he can put in his best performances somewhere other than at Ascot.

Harry Fry’s runner Dubrovnik Harry has been very well backed going into the weekend, but I can’t get away from Dan Skelton’s runner West Balboa who is taken to score.

Having had his troubles, he’s only run three times under rules for this yard. While his runner-up efforts in December ’21 and December ’22 were perfectly decent, they were on very soft ground. It was his debut win on ground similar to what he is set to encounter here that gets the brain ticking.

He’s worth plenty more than his mark of 130 and so connections may well look to try and win this before heading to Cheltenham.

Friday 6 January 2023

Friday 6th & Saturday 7th January 2023 - Court to End Our Betting Session the Right Way

We have a very mixed weekend this time around. There is Grade One action over the jumps as we take in the Tolworth Hurdle, though the Dubai Carnival also begins on the Flat over at Meydan.

Friday 6th January 2023

2.35 Meydan (Dubai Racing Club Classic – Handicap) – WALK OF STARS

As usual in early Dubai Carnival races, the top contenders are all owned by Godolphin though for me, it says just as much about the lack of ambition from others owners given the prize money on offer.

In this case, a mile-and-a-half handicap on the turf, the five biggies are trained by Saeed Bin Suroor; Marching Army and Nader, and Charlie Appleby; Walk Of Stars, First Ruler and Dhahabi.

All have different profiles and all are decent, but given what was expected of Walk Of Stars last season allied with the form of his run behind Deauville Legend, he seems well treated off 107 and he’s nicely drawn too for Will Buick.

3.10 Meydan (Dubawi Stakes – Group 3) – MOUHEEB

The top stallion and great son of Dubai Millennium may not have done very well in the race named after him, but it is a decent event for the sprinters over six furlongs on the dirt track.

In it, Michael Costa trains Mouheeb for Sheikh Ahmed who won a Listed race over the course and distance four weeks go and he may go in again. The form is good and his turn of foot on this surface was excellent.

Lasy year’s Golden Shaheen winner Switzerland may top the market but he’s getting no younger and may lack the speed to cope with the selection, with the former Michael Stoute-trained Mubakker a better alternative.

3.45 Meydan (Jumeirah Classic Trial) – COURAGEOUS KNIGHT

This seven-furlong turf event is not graded, but it’s a good conditions race. The Jumeirah Classic itself, run next month, is over a mile and can produce Guineas horses which makes this contest potentially much more important than many think.

Bay Of Plenty represents some decent Irish form, while Highbank may be second choice for Charlie Appleby but he made a terrific debut last season and could yet be top class.

William Buick however rides Courageous Knight and while he has taken a while to get going, he is capable of running into the 105-110 sort of category and he has the speed and toughness to land the odds.

4.55 Meydan (Al Fahidi Fort – Group 2) – NOBLE TRUTH

Though he’s not been seen since landing last summer’s Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot for Charlie Appleby, Noble Truth has the pace, power, class and of course the form to take care of this field.

True, it’s a grade up for him in theory, but the form of the likes of Al Fareeq, Misty Grey, Fast Raaj, Al Suhail, Dubai Mirage and Bouttemont doesn’t quite match up and he can make light of his absence and get back on track.

5.30 Meydan (Dubai Dash – Listed Race) – MAN OF PROMISE

This five-furlong event has drawn some pretty recognisable, and pretty good, turf sprinters.

Khaadem and Raasel represent strong British form from last summer, while Logo Hunter and City Walk have been excellent on the all-weather.

Lazuli has done well here in the past, though he was comfortably beaten this time last year by Godolphin’s first string, Man Of Promise.

That race was over six furlongs but Man Of Promise was fancied to go very well in the King’s Stand and weakened late on in a very fast Sprint Cup at Haydock, so the distance here may be perfect for him.

Saturday 7th January 2023 

2.05 Wincanton (Handicap Chase) – NOT AVAILABLE

A potentially tight handicap chase, but one in which Not Available seems very solid in most areas and so has the appearance of a reliable type from a punting point of view. He’s slipping down the handicap but is generally in decent form, which is a good combo in such races.

Midnight Midge is solid in behind, while Desque De L’Isle and Interne De Sivola are at opposite ends of their careers.

2.25 Sandown (Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ARCTIC BRESIL

Paul Nicholls’ Tahmuras has just a little more experience over hurdles than his main rivals for this Grade One, but he is most certainly vulnerable to a couple of big potential improvers.

Authorised Speed is most certainly one to be feared, but Henry De Bromhead’s Arctic Bresil won with any amount in hand on his debut at Cork and looks certain to go to the top. Rachael Blackmore comes over to Sandown for the ride.

3.00 Sandown (Veterans’ Chase Series Final – Handicap) – BROKEN QUEST

Initially I had no intentions of having a bet in this race, a three-mile chase in which all horses are aged 11 or older.

Having looked into it out of fascination however I came upon Broken Quest of the David Dennis yard who, on my numbers, has a cracking chance.

He has been running on faster ground for a long time and far be it from me to tell a trainer what’s best, but he is happy to run him now and it may just be that the old boy appreciates some cut at this stage of his career and he’s definitely capable.

At the advertised odds of up to 33/1 at the time of writing, he is worth backing if only to small stakes.

8.00 Kempton (Handicap) – COURT OF SESSION

There are some interesting types in this London Mile Series qualifying race.

Aussie Banker may improve, while Sun King is a potentially good recruit from Ireland for Michael Appelby. At four years old however, the Crisfords’ Court Of Session has more to give and he already has strong form.

In fact, in going down narrowly last time out to King Of Conquest he has put himself right in line to win a race like this, so considering the surface wasn’t right for him and he will be much happier here on Polytrack we can expect an even bigger performance.