Friday 24 February 2023

Friday 24th & Saturday 25th February 2023: Go Solo at Kempton Park This Weekend

What a weekend of action we have this time around.

It’s a truly international affair on the Flat. At the Dubai Carnival there are some notable entries on Friday as we head towards Super Saturday, Dubai World Cup night and the European turf season.

Across and Friday and Saturday there is over $37 million on offer at the Saudi Cup meeting, while there are 50 points on offer to the winner of the Rebel Stakes on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

Domestically, the £100,000 Winter Derby has attracted some good entries and over jumps there is huge action at Newcastle, Kempton and elsewhere.

Friday 24th February 2023

1.30 Lingfield (Hever Sprint Stakes - Listed) - MISS NAY NEVER

This is a competitive Listed event over the minimum trip. Tone The Barone, Exalted Angel, Arecibo and Alligator Alley may all be of a similar ability these days, but one horse stands out.

John Quinn’s Miss Nay Never has been in great form, has been improving and doesn’t look ready to stop yet.

She’s a class above these at the weights and can handle her wide draw.

3.10 Meydan (Handicap) - SILENT FILM

Charlie Appleby’s Silent Film kind of needed the run last time out and should be much sharper in readiness for this task.

A decent fifth, he raced wide and stayed on at the one pace just behind Spirit Of Light who reopposes and New Kingdom who has won impressively since, as has Coachello was behind him that day.

He has a kinder draw now and should be able to use what I think is superior pace to the aforementioned Spitit Of Light, as well as Bay Of Honour and Major Partnership who were also shortlisted, to skip away and score.

3.45 Meydan (Jumeirah Fillies Guineas) - FAIRY CROSS

Mawj is rated 5lbs higher than Fairy Cross officially, but their profiles are very different and it would be of zero surprise to see the Dubawi filly improve past her over the mile.

Saeed bin Suroor’s runner has Group 1 form in England but she did look like a sprinter as a juvenile, while Fairy Cross took the Prestige Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and looks ready-made for this sort of event.

Saturday 25th February 2023

1.50 Kempton (Adonis Juvenile Hurdle - Grade 2) - SCRIPTWRITER 

Although he was beaten last time for the first time in his three runs to date, Milton Harris’ runner looks to be above the others here, even when giving away weight. 

That’s not to say that this will be an easy task of course, with Nusret and Rare Middleton in opposition, but he still looks the one to be on and remains a backable price at the time of writing. Paddy Brennan rides.

2.25 Kempton (Pendil Novices’ Chase - Grade 2) - SOLO

An interesting race as ever. Boothill is an obvious one for the Harry Fry team, while Jamie Snowden’s Datsalrightgino is another worthy of strong consideration. 

Slightly unusual for a novice race, both of those runners’ profiles show steady and admirable consistency but not huge improvement from race to race.

Solo was showing something similar, but is very clearly capable of more and has now had a breathing operation. Paul Nicholls’ horse can now regain his elevation up the ranks which at these weights would make him the likeliest winner. 

2.05 Riyadh (Neom Turf Cup - Group 3) - MOSTAHDAF

This may be a Group 3 contest, but it’s worth £750,000 to the winner and it has attracted at least one very high class individual.

That individual is not the likely favourite Missed The Cut, although George Boughey’s four-year-old is a real improved, but rather the Gosden runner Mostahdaf.

This horse has done well for us before and in fact I thought he had a live outside chance in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October.

His best performances put him at Group 1 level for me, he’s in the right hands and the extended ten-furlong trip should be to his liking. 

3.25 Riyadh (Red Sea Turf Handicap) - TRAWLERMAN 

Charlie Johnston’s Subjectivist hasn’t been seen since a mightily impressive Ascot Gold Cup-winning performance in June 2021, and while he has the class to carry top weight here it’s very hard to do it successfully after such a long layoff.

Japanese runner Echt is very keenly weighted, while Silver Tonic similarly could have been sneaked in here. 

The suggestion however is Trawlerman. Always threatening to be a classy stayer, he eventually came of age last August when winning the Ebor at York.

He was a fine third at Group 2 level after that and there was also talk of a Melbourne Cup tilt. 

He can take this for Godolphin, the Gosdens and Frankie Dettori.

3.25 Newcastle (Eider Handicap Chase - Class 2) - THE GALLOPING BEAR

This race goes off at the same time as the above event in Saudi Arabia, so do keep that in mind. 

The marathon that is the Eider is as competitive as ever, despite Kitty’s Light being backed into a very short price this week. 

Yes, she’s slipping down the weights and so looks well handicapped, but it rarely works out as regression can still be quicker than the handicapper is willing to match up to. 

The solid one and a potential improver at ten years old is The Galloping Bear. 

Ben Clarke’s runner has plenty going for him and he’s a nice price too. 

3.40 Kempton (Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle - Grade 2) - RUBAUD

Paul Nicholls may well win another Kempton Grade 2 here, this time with his Rubaud in the two-mile Dovecote.

This race may be all about speed in the end and I reckon that, among this particular bunch, Rubaud has the most of it. 

Fair enough, I did expect more from him at Newbury last time out, but before that he was climbing the ladder fast and in fact most likely was only beaten around here because of the unsuitable soft ground. 

In these conditions, he’d be a much more confident bet. 

Friday 17 February 2023

Friday 17th & Saturday 18th February 2023: Shishkin to Paint a Much Better Picture

It’s another diverse assortment of racing this weekend.

Internationally, Dubai continues the Carnival on Friday, it’s a big day in the States on Saturday at Fair Grounds and Laurel Park, while there’s big money on offer in Qatar.

Closer to home we see Grade One jumping action at Ascot on Saturday, a big day at Haydock which hosts the Rendlesham Hurdle and the Grand National Trial, while Wincanton stages the Kingwell Hurdle.

Friday 17th February 2023

2.35 Meydan (Handicap) – SILENT SPEECH 

You could argue the form is a little all over the place with these contenders. Boomshalaa may want things softer, City Walk seems to have one big standout performance on his record while Open Mind is perhaps the most solid.

Silent Speech is the one with all the potential, but we don’t know if he’ll need the run. He got injured here last year then was last at Ascot in September after a break.

They’ve persevered with him though so from a high draw, at nice odds and with a very taking course and distance win behind him, he could be worth chancing.

3.45 Meydan (Lord Glitters Handicap) – NEW KINGDOM

I would stick my neck out and say that, on known form, this race would come down to Tranquil Night, New Kingdom and Aegean Finale on a level playing field.

Turkish runner Aegean Finale could improve on his fine second five weeks ago, but his race was run at a proper pace and it may have exaggerated the numbers a little.

Tranquil Night has all sorts of talent but was terrible last time which i13s a worry, so on balance the fact that William Buick ditches him and rides New Kingdom is a decent pointer.

New Kingdom was favourite up against subsequent Derby performer Nations Pride this time last year (runs later on the card), won a decent handicap at Doncaster and was taking on his year-opening third here last time out.

Saturday 18th February 2023

1.15 Doha (The Amir Trophy) – WARREN POINT

There are a few valuable races early on at Doha, Qatar on Saturday. Many British and Irish trainers and jockeys are involved.

There is over £1.1 million up for grabs in this race, a mile-and-a-half event won by Outbox last year when it was worth £420,000.

There are a few solid ones who’ve been better and are now regressing slightly, such as Russian Emperor and Broome, while Senor Toba and Romagna Mia are interesting.

The two to concentrate on, having no idea what odds will be produced, are Aidan O’Brien’s Stone Age and Charlie Appleby’s Warren Point.

Stone Age has been rock-solid in behind some good horses but always that, in behind. He ran to a mark of 118 behind Rebel’s Romance at the Breeders’ Cup but there’s no guarantee he’ll do it again and if anything it gives Appleby a good sighter.

His Warren Point is the suggestion. He beat Blue Trail in the summer and then the 108-rated Wild Crusade comfortably at Kempton over the winter. He grabbed an easy win for us in Bahrain last time, running to around 115 without breaking too much of a sweat and he’s a definite improver who is race fit.

2.40 Haydock (Grand National Trial – Premier Handicap Chase) – OMAR MARETTI

There are 15 horses in the Grand National Trial, about half the number of British horses left in the National itself.

How this race will affect the market for April 15 I don’t know, but on the day there may be some value in backing Omar Maretti and that’s good enough for me.

Alex Hales’ nine-year-old is ripe for this. I like what he did at Catterick a year ago and he will be sharp after his run at Ayr last time. Grumpy Charley, Quick Wave and Fontaine Collonges are others to consider.

3.35 Ascot (Ascot Chase – Grade 1) – SHISHKIN

Nicky Henderson has been itching to try star chaser Shishkin out over longer trips, so the two-mile, five-furlong distance here should be theoretically ideal.

True, he’s had his problems since battling to a scintillating Clarence House Chase victory last January, but he’s been given some rest, a breathing operation and new and refreshing task.

He is the best horse in this race by some way, and we may be able to get second-favourite odds about him. He is taken to get back on track at Grade 1 level and score ahead of last year’s winner Fakir D’Oudairies and Pic D’Orhy.

6.30 Newcastle (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – REFLECTIVE STAR 

It may only be £9k to the winner, but it’s unusual anywhere to see these three-year-old novice races at Class 3 level and worth £18,400 in total. There’s another of them at Newcastle for the males during the week, and given Gosforth Park’s recent track record they are worth keeping an eye on as a star could be lurking.

Juddmonte filly Floating Spirit was engaged here although she has been sent to Lingfield on Saturday instead. Charlie Appleby also had a few entered up, but it was always clear Reflective Star was heading north as Jack Mitchell was booked to ride at the five-day stage.

Charlie Johnston’s Alpina Express (Sea The Moon) and Richard Fahey’s Bosc Girl (Zoffany) make their debuts, while the aforementioned Reflective Star (Dubawi) and the Gosden runner Queen Regent (Roaring Lion) have a little more experience.

Queen Regent is likely to go off favourite. She was third on debut at Kempton, running to a mark in the mid-70’s by my reckoning. She can improve into the 80’s now, but she had no excuses in finishing just behind a pair of Charlie Appleby fillies meaning the top trainer knows where he stands.

His Reflective Star was absolutely shocking on debut last November, running no race at all. She then stepped up to finish fourth at 66/1 in December at Southwell, running into the 70’s after having to make the running.

She now has experience, was never the finished article before and is an obvious big improver, so she gets the nod.

Friday 10 February 2023

Friday 10th & Saturday 11th February 2023: Hitman to Take Them Out at Newbury

For our part this weekend we have a very even split. Though the Flat action takes centre stage on Friday afternoon, Saturday is all about the jumping action.

It’s a big day for Warwick on Saturday although we’re not involved there, while Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle card is the highlight of the weekend for most.

The Dubai Carnival gathers pace on Friday, while just down the road from Meydan Jebel Ali hosts its valuable Group 3 Mile.

We begin in Godolphin’s back yard as Charlie Appleby looks to keep his amazing run going.

Friday 10th February 2023

2.00 Meydan (Handicap) – FALLING SHADOW

The form is very much settling down on the turf at the Dubai Carnival, as evidenced by last week’s results.

There is better yet to come, but this 1m2f handicap is a decent event in its own right in which Charlie Appleby and Will Buick must have had a difficult choice to make.

Their Falling Shadow and Blue Trail both disliked the unexpected soft ground last time out, and while Blue Trail has strong form Falling Shadow is a real improver and I reckon Buick has made the right choice in going for him.

Brilliant Light and New Comedy are best of the rest.

4.20 Meydan (Blue Point Sprint – Group 2) – LAZULI

Just a note on the 3.10 before we get into this race; odds-on favourite Dasim was beaten by Princeville on what was the Appleby horse’s second ever run. It may be that the market leader has simply improved faster, but it’s worth bearing in mind at the prices as Princeville’s trainer is happy to give this a crack.

This race is a fine Group 2 five-furlong sprint. Showing true quality in the past were Khuzaam, Equilateral, Khaadem and Acklam Express. There is work do be done by Ponntos and Raasel, while Logo Hunter and especially Ladies Church are very capable.

The consistent speed of Man Of Promise will always give him a chance also, but the most solid one for sure is recent winner Lazuli who appears to still be improving at six and may yet make his mark in Group 1’s over the minimum distance.

5.30 Meydan (Business Bay Challenge – Listed Race) – MODERN NEWS

Modern News really needed the run last time after being off since August, while he was asked to make the running in a race featuring Master Of The Seas into the bargain. He will be fitter today and if he is 100%, he can prove he’s the best horse in this race.

Ex-Aussie runner I Am Superman should come on a bit, Land Of Legends is solid enough, Shining Blue needs to improve from handicaps and Spanish runner Rodaballo also needs to take a step forward.

Those rivals are also drawn 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively, while Modern News has the chance to nip round the inside from gate 1 which is ideal for him and it’s easy to envisage him winning this early in the straight.

Saturday 11th February 2023

1.50 Newbury (Handicap Hurdle) – JAY BEE WHY

Given the spectre of fast ground, a few races at Newbury may or may not throw up some funny results. In any case, and with the going taken into account in this three-mile hurdle race, Alan King’s Jay Bee Why is too big a price and so a chance can be taken on him to score at modest stakes.

He was rattling along nicely last spring and despite the fact that his two wins came on soft ground, he has shown consistently better speed ratings on faster ground that most in this field.

Annual Invictus, West To The Bridge and Barbados Buck’s may all challenge for places.

2.25 Newbury (Denman Chase – Grade 2) – HITMAN

At the time of writing Hitman is 7/4 almost right across the board. Should that price hold then it is a very fair one for a horse that, at these weights and in the conditions, should really be significantly better than main rivals Eldorado Allen and Fanion D’Estruval.

An improving chaser, Hitman followed Fakir D’Oudairies home at Aintree in Grade 1 company last spring, while at the same venue at the start of this season he ran a stormer under top weight in the Old Roan when narrowly missing out. The form of that race has been well boosted since and Hitman it could be argued has even improved.

Hitman has won easily since then and was pulled up on soft ground last time out, this being much more up his street. He looks a genuine Grade One contender at around three miles.

2.45 Uttoxeter (Handicap Chase) – GUETAPAN COLLONGES

In this competitive-looking three-mile chase Mister Coffey is a consistent type, Jimmy The Digger still has plenty to offer and Burrows Diamond has the potential to offer more.

Bangers And Cash (Ben Pauling) is on an upward trajectory, he is the joint-youngest of the main contenders at seven and so as a horse who’s winning his level of improvement could get him home.

The same things can be said however for Charlie Longsdon’s Guetapan Collonges. The ground was not right for him last time but based on past performances, his rate of improvement and what was expected last time when he was sent off favourite, he looks the best in here according to handicap ratings. Brian Hughes rides.

3.35 Newbury (Betfair Hurdle – Premier Handicap) – RUBAUD

There has been money for Hacker Des Places, Monviel, Icare Allen and especially Filey Bay this week and it’s easy to see why.

It is a race which has been won by fast-improving five-year-olds in the past, in fact many will be able to remember Essex, Heathcote, Zarkandar, Agrapart, Pic D’Orhy and others.

Given that stat, I’m willing to take at face value the fact that on the numbers I got Paul Nicholls’ Rubaud fairly well clear of the rest and while he’s not a massive price, he is pretty decent value given the money that’s come in for some of the others. Harry Cobden rides.

Friday 3 February 2023

Friday 3rd & Saturday 4th February 2023: El to be Fabiolo in Irish Arkle

While Friday is all about the Flat, including some intriguing contests in the Middle East, Saturday is about quality jumps action and we have info for both.

Friday 3rd February 2023

11.45 Bahrain (Anchorman Cup Handicap) – KING OF CONQUEST

Charlie Appleby doesn’t get too many trips wrong. He’s involved in this handicap, worth £36,000 to the winner, with his King Of Conquest who to my mind is the best handicapped horse in the race.

Only a four-year-old, the very well bred Lope De Vega-Teofilo cross has only had since runs, winning well last time out. Richard Mullen takes the ride.

12.45 Bahrain (Al Khalifa Cup – Listed Race) – WARREN POINT

A good Listed race over 1¼ miles, the first prize being worth well over £70,000.

Many have shown a very similar level of form recently, while if Port Lions is anything like the same horse as before he’d have a chance.

More likely is The Covex Kid who is doing well, but on known evidence the Appleby runner Warren Point could be too strong for them.

He has great handicap form from last season, was terrific in a Kempton Listed race in the autumn and he’s still on the up.

2.35 Meydan (Vazirabad Handicap) – FIRST RULER

A decent mile-and-a-half handicap on the turf, one in which Al Nayyir is of some interest, as is Global Heat who may or may not now prefer a little further.

Charlie Appleby’s pair of Dhahabi (William Buick) and First Ruler (James Doyle) went up against each other on their seasonal bow, both running on very nicely late in the race.

They are well prepped now and it comes down to those two in my eyes, the choice of Buick perhaps pushing many to go the way of Dhahabi. It is close though, and I rather like the chances of First Ruler instead.

Adjusted for today’s handicap marks, First Ruler was probably only around 4lbs behind Dhahabi last June when running only his second ever race while his team mate had run five.

By September, I get First Ruler a couple of pounds ahead of Dhahabi after his 5th run (Dhahabi’s 7th), so given he has a year on the topweight his rate of improvement could see him home.

2.50 Lingfield (Handicap) – UNFORGOTTEN

There is an interesting contender in this one-mile handicap. Godolphin have persevered with their gelding Unforgotten, who is exactly that.

The Gosden runner had had only three starts spanning December 2020 to April 2021, not being seen since then some 22 months ago. There’s a betting risk in that, but we can compare him to a couple of likely market rivals.

Firstly Brains. He has had 33 all-weather runs and is in good form, but he’s seven now and he’s rated 12lbs higher than two runs ago. Another contender is Starshiba who has run 33 times in total, is in decent form, but is handicapped about right.

Consider then that Unforgotten has been entered in the Lincoln (this is a Class 4), he was a close second to Mohaafeth (rated 112) on his second start and was a very easy winner when last seen at Newcastle when making his own pace.

He beat an 84 horse very easily that day, a run worth 90+ for definite, and he gets in here off 86 under Rab Havlin.

3.45 Meydan (Cape Verdi – Group 2) – WITH THE MOONLIGHT

This is a decent bunch of Group 2 fillies and mares, the field unsurprisingly dominated by Godolphin who’ve won this six years in a row.

The three-year-olds tend to avoid this race and have done again but the four, five and six year olds are strong and it should be an informative race.

Soft Whisper and White Moonlight both represent Saeed bin Suroor and both are solid, as is juvenile Group 1 winner Wild Beauty whose jockey James Doyle has won this race for the last three years running.

Trainer Charlie Appleby may win a fourth Cape Verdi on the trot, but most likely with former Oaks hope With The Moonlight.

The four-year-old was excellent in the States last year and she should be great over this one-mile trip. Her general form level is some way above the others.

4.55 Meydan (Singspiel Stakes – Group 2) – OTTOMAN FLEET

Valiant Prince w15as ever so impressive at York last summer and returned to action here last time with another win. He’s very close to top class, but his 4lb penalty in a hot field could be the killer.

Not surprisingly, William Buick has chosen the equally talented Ottoman Fleet who perhaps wasn’t ready last time and failed when expected to beat Valiant Prince. He has no excuse this time and has rock-solid form.

Saturday 4th February 2023

1.20 Leopardstown (Novice Hurdle – Grade 1) – WEVEALLBEENCAUGHT

This is a good way to begin the Dublin Racing Festival, a meeting which will offer us the best Cheltenham Festival clues of all.

A lot has been made of the fact that few British-trained runners take part here, but Nigel Twiston-Davies has a cracking chance here with his recent Cheltenham maiden winner Weveallbeencaught.

American Mike is dangerous, as is Grangeclare West at a bigger price.

2.26 Lingfield (Kachy Stakes – Listed Race) – ANNAF

The Kachy has brought together a decent Listed field; Diligent Harry, Summerghand and Vadream to name three all being very capable at this level.

King Of Bavaria is a useful recruit for Mick Appleby, but the standout for me is his Annaf who could be creeping towards Group 2 level.

The four-year-old is on a hat-trick now and, even is pressured, should reach a new level today above his current official mark of 108. Rossa Ryan rides.

2.30 Leopardstown (Irish Arkle – Grade 1) – EL FABIOLO 

It’s been well noted that Willie Mullins has lots of Arkle options for Cheltenham and he’s running four of them here to find out the pecking order.

The Paul Townend-ridden Appreciate It is remembered as the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, but potentially better over fences is the once-raced Dysart Dynamo.

Another debut winner and a somehow more impressive one is El Fabiolo and it’s Daryl Jacob’s mount I reckon will prove to be the best of this bunch.

3.01 Lingfield (Tandridge Stakes – Listed Race) – MANAAFITH

In this Listed event over a mile, Tempus and Sir Busker are rock-solid and highly rated and it would be no surprise if either were to win.

The thing with the filly Manaafith however is that she is just four, is very well bred and is improving quickly.

She’s rated only 95 but in truth her last run was more like 100, which she will no doubt improve on, while she also gets a 5lb allowance putting her right at the level she needs to be.

Roger Varian trains and Jim Crowley rides for his Shadwell retainer.