Thursday 27 April 2023

Friday 28th & Saturday 29th April 2023: Flying to Take Trial Honours

On a mixed weekend of action at Sandown, the Flat takes precedence on Friday before the Jumps Finale is staged on Saturday.

In the Gordon Richards Stakes, Anmaat is a big threat to the returning Adayar and both may win Group 1’s this season. Anmaat has to give 5lbs away too, so his performance is of particular interest as he begins his season.

We begin with an improving handicapper in the Esher Cup.

Friday 28th April 2023

1.50 Sandown (Esher Cup Handicap) – LOCAL DYNASTY

Taking a very short price about Godolphin’s Local Dynasty may not seem the wisest move, but as long as Charlie Appleby’s runner in the Esher Cup is a backable price he’s worth it.

His form last season was progressive, impressive and was achieved on varying ground conditions including soft. He is Listed winner and would have been a more impressive one had he not had to see out a tough mile at Pontefract on his fourth start in two months. Fresh now, he can reach a new level.

Legend Of Leros is interesting, while Physique looked a decent animal when starting off last year and is higher up the shortlist than Saxon King who doesn’t look value.

3.00 Sandown (bet365 Mile – Group 2) – MUTASAABEQ

This is another good renewal of the Group 2 Sandown Mile. Potapova is somewhat of a mystery but she has real quality and gets 3lbs from the boys. Checkandchallenge, Imperial Fighter, Migration and Angel Bleu are all solid too.

Light Infantry is the one for money. He’s returned from a stint in Australia and is a Group 1 runner-up. He’ll be tough to beat, but even with a 3lb penalty Mutasaabeq looks good value.

He handles this ground and has looked classy from day one. He may yet land a Group 1 and let’s not forget that the Charlie Hills team said from the start this year that they would be targeting the Lockinge as they feel he is at the right level.

3.35 Sandown (Classic Trial – Group 3) – FLYING HONOURS 

The all-important Sandown Classic Trial can offer us some major Derby clues. This is the race Adayar was an eye-catching runner-up in two years ago in fact before scoring at Epsom.

The potential improvers are Circle Of Fire and Relentless Voyager and neither can be confidently discounted. Salt Bay was third in a French Group 1 on only his second start too which is obviously good form.

Arrest, of the Gosden yard, was also placed last season in a French Group 1 and is the likely favourite in the race. His profile is solid and there should be more improvement to come, but he has already had to show us what he’s worth while there is highly likely to be much more to come from Flying Honours.

Charlie Appleby’s runner has strong form already having followed to easy novice wins with a success in the Zetland over 1¼ miles. In between, he was odds-on to win the Royal Lodge (Group 2) too.

He’s a Sea The Stars who should cope better than most with conditions at Sandown and he’s also a shorter price for the Derby than Arrest which may tell a story.

4.00 Doncaster (Handicap) – WESTERTON

This is a one-and-a-quarter-mile handicap for the three-year-olds and as such, there are improvers in the field. The one with the most potential though is Alan King’s Westerton.

Although he hasn’t won in three, he’s shown a very good level of form for a horse rated 82 and he’s now been gelded. He looks capable of reaching a mark close to triple figures soon so should be very well in. David Probert rides.

4.10 Sandown (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – QUEEN OF FAIRIES

This is the race Emily Upjohn won last year and it now offers automatic entry to the Oaks for the winner. We can guarantee that fact will make this a quality race featuring some exciting fillies.

The four key contenders Infinite Cosmos, Queen Of Fairies, Sumo Sam and Tarjamah have each run once so far.

Tarjamah (J&T Gosden) ran similarly to Emily Upjohn on debut. It’s also worth remembering before this “win and you’re in” affair that Gosden and Aidan O’Brien between them have won the last 9 Oaks at Epsom.

The one for money is Sir Michael Stoute’s Infinite Cosmos. She was promising on debut, will improve plenty and gets fully 6lbs from the others but she was ultimately beaten while Queen Of Fairies won with ease.

Their performances were so similar, other than we don’t know how much more Queen Of Fairies could have produced if needed and so she gets the vote at a nicer price than the favourite.

Saturday 29th April 2023 

2.15 Sandown (bet365 Gold Cup – Premier Handicap Chase) – REVELS HILL

Scottish Grand National winner Kitty’s Light makes a quick and interesting reappearance, while the Goffer’s Cheltenham form and that of Coolvalla are of interest. That said, Revels Hill is on the up, is on a nice weight and has the experience and stamina to be shown to best effect in this £160,000 race.

3.05 Leicester (King Richard III Cup Handicap) – AL MUBHIR

William Haggas’ one-time 2000 Guineas hope and Lincoln favourite Al Mubhir gets another chance to show what he can do.

He has shown flashes of very good talent and, though he didn’t quite get home as well as expected when fourth on heavy ground in the Lincoln, he can shape better here. Newcastle winner Notre Belle Bete is interesting back in a handicap too.

4.20 Haydock (Handicap) – CONSERVATIONIST

This is a Class 3 event, run over the mile. Back last autumn Clive Cox’s Conservationist was, quite rightly after her second run, sent off second-favourite for the Listed Montrose Stakes at Newmarket.

She just flattened out after attempting to make all that day in a race which includes hot 1000 Guineas prospect Dream Of Love.

She gets in here off just 84 and we know already that she’s way better than that. Rossa Ryan takes the ride.

Friday 21 April 2023

Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd April 2023: Bridestones to Stack them Up in Fred Darling

After taking on board some valuable clues during the Craven Meeting at Newmarket this week, the Flat roadshow now moves on to Newbury and their important Greenham Stakes weekend.

It’s also Scottish Grand National Day at Ayr on Saturday and we have a pair of bets from the west of Scotland, but while we’re not taking on Chaldean in the big one, we begin in Berkshire on Friday:

Friday 21st April 2023

2.40 Newbury (Maiden Fillies’ Stakes) – SHINING JEWEL

This may be a maiden race, but it is chock full of quality. Several of these are engaged in the Oaks and one or more of them is bound to get to Epsom on Friday, June 2.

Hughie Morrison’s Mistral Star travelled powerfully when second on debut and she could be the surprise package in the race, while Value Added made a nice start to racing life on heavy ground.

The Gosdens run a few here with Frankie Dettori’s mount Shiva Shakti the best of them. The Siyouni filly has potential but she was beaten fair and square at Yarmouth, whereas Shining Jewel had her excuses a month earlier at Nottingham.

Sent off favourite, Charlie Appleby’s filly was slowly away and was hampered at a crucial time. Another Siyouni, she’d have found the ground quick enough on debut too and she will be a very different proposition here.

4.25 Newbury (Handicap) – TAFREEJ

This seven-furlong handicap is likely more competitive than the betting would have it look, though hopefully it’ll only be close in behind Tafreej who does look the best of these at the weights.

This is a Class 2 event and that’s probably where William Haggas sees his gelding, though he’s in here of only 84 so has plenty in hand.

Lord Uhtred is a live danger for Charlie Hills, while Caragio is also interesting at the top, but there could just be a little more zip about the Shadwell horse and he’s taken to score.

4.55 Newbury (Maiden Fillies’ Stakes) – FAKHAMA

This particular fillies’ maiden, run over seven furlongs, is for the newcomers only. While the betting will remain interesting and should be watched, it seems that the whispers are that the best three are Fakhama (William Haggas), Gentle Light (Sir Michael Stoute) and Mother Margaret (Roger & Harry Charlton).

The latter two trainers may be inclined to show more patience with such horses, while the Haggas filly is also a Kingman and his progeny often make lightning starts.

6.25 Bath (Lansdown Stakes – Listed Race) – GET AHEAD

The popular Lansdown Fillies’ Stakes is back, the five-furlong dash which has attracted yet another big field of 16.

Bath is notoriously difficult for punters, but not for the reasons many think. Though they’ll be on the turn almost all the way here, it’s gradual and doesn’t mean an outside draw is a big disadvantage as previous runnings of this race have shown.

What is more important is pace. Many get going too far out here. Though I could see White Lavender and Designer having big chances on bare form, they may be up there battling with the likes of Cuban Breeze early. 

The solid value selection, who may also be coming from the back when the pace collapses, is Clive Cox’s Get Ahead and it’s she and Hollie Doyle who are given the vote.

Saturday 22nd April 2023

1.30 Newbury (John Porter Stakes – Group 3) – ISRAR

Officially known as the Finest Surprise Stakes, this is still registered as the John Porter and it’s doing what it’s always done; providing a springboard for middle-distance horses and stayers to go on Group 1 journeys.

First thing’s first; I’d love to see Hurricane Lane get back on track and whatever happens today we are sure to see him win over a mile and a half at Group 1 level again. Charlie Appleby is working back from the Arc with him and this is only his first step on a long journey.

It could suit staying types more, but Mojo Star is bound to be rusty too. Step forward Israr who again will get better from today but he’s already the improver in the field.

The Gosdens have given him entries in the Chester Cup and the Yorkshire Cup meaning that a) they think he has stamina and b) they think he’s classy. I do too and he’s worth taking a chance on at the price.

2.05 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes – Group 3) – BRIDESTONES

It’s good to see a field of 14 entered here for a key 1000 Guineas trial. Being picky, you’d say this is more about quantity than quality as regards Guineas contenders goes but there are a couple who could come out of this well.

Magical Sunset and Olivia Maralda have experience, while Soul Sister did it on soft on debut and it’s hard to know what she’ll achieve going forward.

Remarquee made an impressive debut but overall, perhaps it wasn’t as impressive as that of Bridestones for the Gosden team and she could yet prove to be very good.

3.00 Ayr (Future Champion Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – BALCO COASTAL

Though it’s all about the fast and furious Flat action now, it would remiss of us not to take a look at Ayr on Scottish Grand National Day.

In the Future Champion Novices’ Chase it seems that Balco Coastal has reached a similar, probably better level than main rivals Thunder Rock, Datsalrightgino and Unexpected Party.

The fact that he has done it in fewer chases and represents not only a top yard in Nicky Henderson’s but also a bang in form one, makes him hard to oppose.

3.35 Ayr (Scottish Grand National – Premier Handicap Chase) – MONBEG GENIUS

Having won three races in a row over the winter before finishing third at Cheltenham, chasing him Grand National winner Corach Rambler, the form of Monbeg Genius is rock-solid.

Kitty’s Light is popular and may do enough to stop our horse from going off favourite, meaning a nice price to get stuck into as well.

Thursday 13 April 2023

Friday 14th & Saturday 15th April 2023: A Pair of National Treasures

It’s Grand National weekend. We are covering one race on day two, Friday, and a couple on the big day including of course the Grand National itself for which we have two selections.

On the Flat, it’s quiet domestically as we head towards the Craven meeting next week before the Greenham get together at the weekend.

It is a big weekend internationally however, as Sydney’s autumn carnival continues and Charlie Appleby sends a pair to contest Grade 1 races in the States.

Modern Games runs for Appleby in the Grade One Maker’s Mark Mile on Friday night, while he looks to double up with a filly I reckon should win at the same track on Saturday.

We begin over the jumps on Ladies Day at Aintree: 

Friday 14th April 2023

3.30 Aintree (Marsh Chase – Grade 1) – PIC D’ORHY

Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’Oudairies has won this race twice in a row and by my reckoning at least, still rates as a very solid chance and the one for any improvers to beat.

Pic D’Orhy is the obvious potential improver and he has a big chance to get past the dual winner now for trainer Paul Nicholls. Second to Shishkin in February with conditions not ideal, Pic D’Orhy was well ahead of Fakir D’Oudairies that day and should be all the better now.

Paul Nicholls’ other runner Hitman has a strong place chance as well.

Saturday 15th April 2023

3.00 Aintree (Mersey Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – HERMES ALLEN

Before his defeat in a stamina-sapping Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, Hermes Allen was improving in lumps. He remains a horse going the right way overall and conditions here will be a little more to his liking.

Willie Mullins can never be discounted when sending a horse to a Grade One and his Dark Raven is next on the list, ahead of Letsbeclearaboutit and You Wear It Well.

3.35 Aintree (Liverpool Hurdle – Grade 1) – HOME BY THE LEE

There is lots over overlapping form in this stayers’ race. Experienced types Sire Du Berlais, Flooring Porter, Dashel Drasher and Champ as well all know have very strong form and can all beat each other given ideal conditions.

Mare Marie’s Rock is solid at the weights too, but the one to improve past them all may be Home By The Lee who was impressive in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown. He couldn’t win the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, but that doesn’t suit everyone and he ran well in fifth.

5.15 Aintree (GRAND NATIONAL – Premier Handicap Chase) – GAILLARD DU MESNIL & MINELLA TRUMP

It’s usually daft to pick only one horse in the Grand National as you will need a little bit of luck in the race. The usual 40-runner line-up means things are tricky, but of course we want to be involved.

The first, solid-looking selection is Willie Mullins’ Gaillard Du Mesnil. His weight and rating aren’t restrictive for a modern Grand National horse and he is a proven stayer in great form.

His Grade 2 win at Cheltenham was done in fine style and I don’t think he had a hard race there which is crucial. I also don’t think that was even his best performance so there’s certainly more to come and he may be well handicapped.

The bigger-priced pick is Donald McCain’s Minella Trump. The nine-year-old really picked up last April and May at Perth when he was allowed to stretch out over three miles for the first time.

No doubt meticulously prepared at home since then, he has had a spin over hurdles which is a well-trodden route for good National horses and he could be seriously overpriced.

6.00 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Novice Stakes) – TRANQUIL ROSE

We’re playing in this race on the basis of our horse, Tranquil Rose, potentially being a reasonable price but we don’t know for certain until the market opens up.

Gold As Glass (at the weights), Maid In London, Amazing and Sail On Silverbird are all very similar but can improve at different rates.

Mischievous Madame is an interesting newcomer for a strong yard, but Tranquil Rose for he has already shown more than the others and was very green on debut, suggesting plenty of improvement to come on race two.

10.16 Keeneland (Lexington Stakes – Grade 3) – FIRST MISSION

A mile and half a furlong is the distance for these three-year-olds, all of which are Kentucky-bred.

With natural progression, this could be another good result for the Godolphin team, this time with one trained by Brad Cox.

First Mission, a Street Sense colt, was good on debut when runner-up but much, much better when winning easily last time.

The likely favourite is Disarm, who finished second to Kingsbarns in the Louisiana Derby who for what it’s worth is who I like for the Kentucky Derby, but perhaps a closer challenger to First Mission this time is Empirestrikesfast who won on debut, but did have to dig in.

10.48 Keeneland (Jenny Wiley Stakes – Grade 1) – WITH THE MOONLIGHT

Charlie Appleby’s second runner of the weekend is the filly With The Moonlight and this race has been the plan for her for some time.

The likely favourite is the consistently good In Italian who chase Tuesday home at the Breeders’ Cup. She is solid, but With The Moonlight reached a similar level in Dubai last time, doing it ever so easily, and she has good experience of the States having run very well in New York three times last summer.

Queen Goddess is next best, followed by Speak Of The Devil and Pizza Bianca.

Friday 7 April 2023

Friday 7th & Saturday 8th April 2023: Obelix the Pillar of Class at Newcastle

It’s All-Weather Finals Day at Newcastle on Friday. Between the six Championship races and the Burradon, over £1 million is on offer while Lingfield hosts the Vase races. There are Group/Grade 1 races of significant importance in Australia and the USA too.

We have a very busy weekend indeed, beginning in the Toon.

Friday 7th April 2023

1.15 Newcastle (Burradon Stakes – Listed Race) – OBELIX 

This is a very competitive Burradon. The race has produced Gronkowsi and Megallan among others, and we might just see a smart performance from a well-bred colt here.

John & Thady Gosden train Obelix for KHK Racing, owners of Eldar Eldarov, and the son of Sea The Stars has a ton of talent.

He has won over this course and distance ever so easily and looks the type to progress markedly now. He is also still entered in the 2000 Guineas and the Dante.

Arabian Storm has won similarly at Newcastle and also looks good, though in his case a look through the form from that race shows it was not at all impressive, even if his turf form from a strong novice race was. Others to watch include Galreon, Flight Plan and at a big price, Dark Thirty.

1.50 Newcastle (All-Weather 3yo Championships) – SHOULDBEBEENARING

Based on all known factors, I rather feel the early market got this one right.

Richard Hannon’s Shouldvebeenaring (Sean Levey) has the ability to win this and she has the form if you look closely enough and compare form lines.

The big danger is Julie Camacho’s Shaquille, a colt with a 3-4 record who has won over 6 on Tepeta in good style, while solid enough in behind the two are New Definition and Hello Queen.

2.05 Lingfield (All-Weather Vase Marathon) – MR ESCOBAR

Rare one for Willie Mullins. He sends his new recruit to Lingfield to be ridden by Ryan Moore. Mr Escobar has had some time now with Mullins, he is in hotter company, it’s only his fourth run and he is stepping up from 1¼ to two miles which is perfect.

2.25 Newcastle (All-Weather Marathon Championships) – FLEURMAN

Based partly on actual form but also on rates of progression in these conditions, Fleurman looks a fair bet in the two-mile race Olly Murphy’s five-year-old is rated 91 and is on the way up, giving the impression he’s worth a good bit more. 

David O’Meara’s Barenboim is a danger, as are solid types Berkshire Rocco and Rainbow Dreamer. This may be tough for last year’s winner Earlofthecotswolds and up-and-coming Nolton Cross.

2.40 Lingfield (All-Weather Vase Mile) – BREWING

William Haggas’ Brewing is unbeaten, with all three runs coming on the all-weather but it’s about more than that. The four-year-old gelding can reach a much higher level and at the weights, has an outstanding chance under Ryan Moore.

3.00 Newcastle (All-Weather Middle-Distance Championships) – FOREST OF DEAN

Also known as the Easter Classic, this is a £200,000 contest over the mile and a quarter.

John & Thady Gosden have a strong hand here with their solid, Group-performing seven-year-olds Forest Of Dean and Harrovian. Though the latter was once considered the better horse, Forest Of Dean is in terrific form just now, beat his pal on this course not so long ago and can do so again under James Doyle.

Base Note, Freescape and Notre Belle Bete will need to improve.

3.35 Newcastle (All-Weather Mile Championships) – SAN ANDREAS

Joseph O’Brien’s may be on bigger things (see Saturday’s information), but he has a big shout of another large pot here with his San Andreas.

Berkshire Shadow has the form to win this and is in form having won last time out on Tapeta, but is a very short price and could be vulnerable to an improver.

San Andreas has been running to marks over 100 consistently, but last time reached a new level with an easy win at Dundalk and there is even more to come from him. James Doyle rides.

4.10 Newcastle (All-Weather Fillies’ and Mares’ Championships) – MANAAFITH

This race really does come down to William Haggas’ Queen Aminatu and Roger Varian’s Manaafith. It’s a tight call and at the time of writing Manaafith is a short price, but she just about gets the vote.

She’s gone from odds-on at the start of the week to 6/5 on Thursday. In the hope that she drifts further, which I have no problem with, she can be a backable price in what is a two-horse race if they run to their merits.

4.25 Lingfield (All-Weather Vase Fillies’ Handicap) – SPRING PROMISE

While James Doyle is at Newcastle, William Buick is at Lingfield to ride this filly, Spring Promise. She is a three-year-old taking on the older fillies, but she is very well treated and the team know it well. 

4.45 Newcastle (All-Weather Sprint Championships) – VADREAM

The well-backed Annaf represents top all-weather trainer Michael Appleby and multiple Group 1-winning jockey James Doyle. He is on a four-timer on the all-weather and has been freshened up, so a big run could be on the cards.

Diligent Harry is another in with a big shout, but Vadream is class and gets a 5lbs fillies’ allowance.

The manner of her victory last Saturday at Doncaster showed her to be not only in great form, but still improving overall. According to Charlie Fellowes she thrives on her racing and would rather this than a break, while the level of her form is above most others in this race. Hollie Doyle gets the ride.

Saturday 8th April 2023 

6.15 (AM) Randwick (Sydney Cup – Group 1 Handicap) – CLEVELAND

Cleveland was a revelation for Aidan O’Brien last May when winning the Chester Cup. Since moving to Joseph O’Brien, he has kept improving quietly.

After taking in the Tancred Stakes over an inadequate trip he is as sharp as he can be right now and he’s getting better. We should remember that, as it stands, he is the best horse in this race at the weights and this is his big target so we should see the best of him.

King Frankel is improving and can go well, as can Arapaho, Nerve Not Verve, High Emocean and Surefire in a hugely competitive Group 1 handicap. Melbourne Cup winner Gold Trip may continue to struggle at the weights.

Later on the card is the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the clash between Anamoe and Dubai Honour. We’ll see both horses back in England soon, but for what it’s worth I couldn’t take the prices offered when Cascadian and Montefelia have a strong chance too.