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.