Friday 26 May 2023

Friday 26th & Saturday 27th May 2023: Garrus to Score on Irish Guineas Weekend

Irish Guineas weekend is the highlight this week, along with excellent meetings at Haydock, Goodwood and York among others.

Friday 26th May 2023

2.05 Haydock (Handicap) – MAGHLAAK

This looks like a good opportunity for Charlie Hills’ lightly-raced Shadwell colt Maghlaak to score. He has been improving nicely race by race and conditions look ideal for him now. Tamarama and Spirit Of The Bay look likely to give him most to do.

3.00 Goodwood (Height of Fashion – Listed Race) – VEIL OF SHADOWS

A busy-looking Listed race over 1¼ miles, though few of the 11 runners are proven at this sort of grade.

Blue Missile is the likely favourite and she could be well capable, but there’s not enough evidence for that yet. Inner Space too really needs to improve quickly, as does Understated.

Araminta and Heavenly Breath are two we can concentrate on. The former has a major chance if handling fast ground, but she has only run on very soft going so far and Gleneagles’ best progeny also favoured that.

Veil Of Shadows is close after two runs to the required level and looks more likely to get there in the conditions. A Frankel-Kingmambo cross, she is a half-sister to Impulsif who didn’t want it too soft in France.

Form-wise, she stayed on nicely over a mile behind Queen For You, now rated 100, and may have beaten her over this trip while she also conceded 9lbs that day.

3.15 Haydock (Cecil Frail Stakes – Listed Race) – GET AHEAD

Both Makarova and Kape Moss need to improve, though both might, while Gale Force Maya is the class in the race but is getting older and needs to give away weight.

The most interesting filly is Clive Cox’s Get Ahead. I really fancied her on her seasonal debut at Bath and she ran very well. She did suffer all sorts of bad luck however then perhaps didn’t like the ground last time.

She is ready to get up to around the 105 level now and that should be enough to win this race. Richard Kingscote takes the ride.

3.35 Goodwood (Handicap) – AUTUMN FESTIVAL

Though being drawn 9 of 9 is far from ideal, had it been 9 of 20 we wouldn’t care too much so Autumn Festival may not be too inconvenienced.

David O’Meara sends this four-year-old down to Goodwood and he looks the best handicapped horse in the race. Improving overall but having had a fairly quiet start to the season, he is coming to his peak now and has the right jockey on board in William Buick.

Nizaaka, Ropey Guest and Lyndon B may all challenge for places.

Saturday 27th May 2023

1.30 Goodwood (Festival Stakes – Listed Race) – KING OF CONQUEST

El Drama is solid enough in this mile-and-a-quarter contest, while most of the attention will go on Francesco Clemente.

The Gosden runner racked up three easy wins last year and looked to be heading to the top. He may yet get there and has an entry in a Royal Ascot Group 1, but much like the stable’s Without Parole and other runners in the past, he won’t be asked for too much in his prep after a long time off.

He can of course go well, but at the odds it’s worth taking a chance on King Of Conquest stepping out of handicap company. He is improving hand over fist for Charlie Appleby and may be tough for the favourite to beat.

1.50 Haydock (Hell Nook Handicap) – MOUNTAIN ROAD

Just the seven runners for this two-mile handicap, but there is plenty of competition.

Carzola could be a short price. He may well win this, but his price is based on an easy win last time on soft ground. He took a big step forward on that surface and such progress could be halted in these conditions.

Firstman cannot be dismissed lightly at all, while Law Of The Sea was really eye-catching in the Chester Cup and looks ready to win now.

The value however could be Mountain Road. He has been undervalued after his all-weather success, he is improving fast and he’ll love these quick conditions too.

2.05 Goodwood (Handicap) – TAFREEJ

While Dark Thirty, Yacowlef and Bresson are all perfectly solid, William Haggas’ Tafreej is most definitely better in. His season opener wasn’t the best, but he was favourite and it is accepted now that he’ll be significantly better on fast ground.

2.25 Haydock (Silver Bowl – Heritage Handicap) – COVEY

John & Thady Gosden’s Covey, a Juddmonte colt by Frankel, has won his last two races ever so easily and should head this market.

Last time out at Newcastle in fact, though admittedly the competition was sub-par, he won his race in an absolute hack canter. Based on the ratings of those in behind, he ran closer to a mark of 97 or 98 there rather than the 90 he’s been given. He could have achieved more that day and he’s improving, so he could be very well handicapped indeed now.

2.30 Curragh (Greenlands Stakes – Group 2) – GARRUS

Garrus is really maturing as a sprinter. He’s quick enough and could have stayed close to home to contest the Temple Stakes this weekend, but six furlongs at the Curragh is much more to his liking and he should go very well here.

If he runs to his best or, as is expected improves a little, he should prove to be better than Twilight Jet, Art Power, Coachello and Moss Tucker.

3.40 Curragh (Irish 2000 Guineas – Group 1) – ROYAL SCOTSMAN

There is rock-solid form running right through Royal Scotsman’s profile and connections of the 2000 Guineas third seem really bullish about him being a better animal than at Newmarket three weeks ago.

On all known evidence he is the best horse in this race, and he can take the Irish Classic ahead of Proud And Regal, Charyn, Hi Royal and Cairo.

4.20 Goodwood (Fillies’ Handicap) – SUNSET POINT

Though it wasn’t discussed in advance, it appears Sunset Point was in the Lingfield Oaks Trial to make the running for winning stablemate Eternal Hope. She lost three places at the death in that race and is worth a good 7lbs more than her official rating when allowed to do her own thing. Good Morals, Rikona and Crystal Estrella can all make their presence felt.

Friday 19 May 2023

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th May 2023: Games Time at Newbury

It’s a busy one this week, cracking straight on with Newmarket and York.

Friday 19th May 2023

2.15 Newmarket (Maiden Stakes) – HIDDEN STORY

There are plenty of three-year-olds at this meeting and at Newbury with potential for the season, but the way Hidden Story ran on debut was pretty eye-catching and it would be a surprise if the Dubawi/Galileo cross didn’t go close. James Doyle rides.

2.25 York (Oaks Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – SILVER LADY

There are a few fillies here with plenty of potential; Queen For You, Fakhama and Silver Lady being chief among them.

Arguably, Queen For You’s debut performance was a tad better than Silver Lady’s, but it was the manner in which she won that stands out and given how green she was that day you’d have to say there’s more improvement to come from her than the others.

2.50 Newmarket (Handicap) – HONITON

Gosden/Godolphin runner Honiton was disappointing on his return to action, but the ground was horrific and the turnout can be excused.

Based on his form from last season and his obvious potential, he may be particularly well handicapped now, more so certainly than Howth, Qaasid, Dual Identity and the rest. James Doyle is up top again.

3.35 York (Yorkshire Cup – Group 2) – SISKANY

After Stradivarius, this feels like a new era. The Cup division is a densely populated and competitive one this year, with this race offering the first real clues as to who the real players are.

St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov is classy and tough, but he carries a penalty here and his trainer has already stated that he will come on for the run and will be ripe for the Ascot Gold Cup.

Quickthorn is solid and goes very well here, while Broome improved for going up in trip in Dubai and got the better of Siskany there, only just.

He too now carries a penalty which Siskany does not, while going back down to 1¾ miles is also in the Godolphin runner’s favour. There is clearly some improvement to come, too. William Buick is on board.

4.10 York (Novice Stakes) – ZIRYAB

A most interesting novice race over a mile. New Business went off 5/4 for the Wood Ditton, though owner’s representative Bruce Raymond was very honest in saying it was guesswork and that he may simply have looked more forward than the others.

He was beaten home that day by Kathab who has potential and Jim Crowley has elected to ride him instead of Mostabshir. True, the Gosden runner carries a 6lb penalty, but his debut last year was better than Kathab’s and it wouldn’t surprise me if the second Shadwell colours got home first.

It may well be another Gosden runner who scores though. Ziryab was green and hung across the course when well fancied on debut but stayed on well to run fourth. He is a full brother to King Leonidas who had a similar profile and he looks more than capable of getting to the required level at a nice price.

Saturday 20th May 2020

3.00 Newbury (London Gold Cup – Handicap) – BOLD ACT

The form of the London Gold Cup, a 1¼-mile handicap, is always important. A future Group horse is often what’s required to win this race and, while it’s better to have such a horse further down the handicap, topweight Bold Act may be the one this time.

After a promising debut last July, Bold Act won four in a row. At Chelmsford he beat future Group 3 winner Brave Emperor and was then favourite for the race won by Canberra Legend. He has since been gelded and can reach a mark of around 110 now.

Desert Hero has been excellent on soft ground so may find this a little quick, while Exoplanet and Bertinelli are obvious dangers too.

3.15 Newmarket (Handicap) – CHANGING COLOURS

Charlie Appleby must feel like he has a pretty good handle on this race. His Striking Star is likely to go off favourite and his form is pretty good. Adam Kirby is the right man to have on board, too.

The first colours are in fact on Changing Colours and at a price, it’s the other Dubawi son I fancy most. He was a strong favourite for a race here last month but he lost his position then and, over six furlongs, didn’t have time to improve.

Now he’s fully ready, this seven-furlong trip can bring out the best in him and top apprentice Harry Davies takes off a valuable 3lbs. Chartwell House and Havana Blue are best of the rest.  

3.35 Newbury (Lockinge Stakes – Group 1) – MODERN GAMES

Mutasaabeq is finally reaching his potential, he’s overpriced and he may be pretty hard to peg back from the front.

On the downside for Charlie Hills’ runner, he has won weaker races from the front end and will no doubt be chased up a little in Group 1 company. If something is to catch him and sweep by, the most likely runner is Modern Games who has been there, seen and done it well.

A multiple Group 1 winner around the world, Modern Games was disappointing in the States last time but at least he’s had a run and he should be at his best on Saturday.

My Prospero is excellent but may be better at ten furlongs, Laurel is a lovely filly who will win at this level at some point while Jadoomi and Light Infantry are also capable.

4.10 Newbury (Handicap) – UNFORGOTTEN

Once a very serious Lincoln Handicap contender, Unforgotten is chanced to continue his overall improvement after a below-par run last time out.

I fancied Kingdom Come last time when he was a non-runner and if he takes to the turf he can go well, as can last-time-out winner Outbreak.

4.45 Newbury (Fillies’ Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – QUEEN OF FAIRIES

After Lingfield and York we still have one more chance for the fillies to stake their Oaks claim. Lmay and Inner Space have work to do, while Warm Heart and Crack Of Light also need to improve.

Bluestocking is well thought of and is a danger, but Queen Of Fairies is impressive and can put her soft ground disappointment at Newmarket well behind her under William Buick.

12.01 Pimlico (Preakness Stakes – Grade 1) – FIRST MISSION

Kentucky Derby winner Mage takes up his engagement here, a win putting him ever so close to being the next Triple Crown star.

He may be vulnerable to Godolphin’s First Mission though. He was striking in his Grade 3 Lexington Stakes win over a mile and who has been primed for this after not qualifying for Kentucky. Blazing Sevens and National Treasure were also considered.

Friday 12 May 2023

Saturday 13th & Sunday 14th May 2023: Back Kingdom Come to the Death

After Chester comes the Derby and Oaks trials at Lingfield, as well as the Victoria Cup at Ascot. The Flat season moves fast, we’re at York for a biggie during next week, while we’ll be back here for the Lockinge next weekend. Ascot is our first port of call on Saturday.

Saturday 13th May 2023

2.05 Ascot (Fillies’ Handicap) – TIMELESS MELODY

Charlie Appleby’s Mountain Song did it nicely at Southwell last time, is improving and should appreciate this test being a Sea The Stars filly. There is just the chance that, as a three-year-old on this ground, she may struggle against the older fillies.

Step forward William Haggas’ Timeless Melody. There’s no doubt that she is well handicapped given the way she won last time at Leicester. She did that on heavy ground too so there are no worries about conditions, while if anything she should be better again over this mile and it’s hard to ignore her chances off a mark of 80.

2.25 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – SACRED

This important Lingfield card has been moved from the turf to the all-weather track due to waterlogging and that could be a real piece of luck for Sacred.

When conditions have been quick, she’s been seen to her best effect and, though it feels like she’s been around forever, her best is yet to come. She can scuttle clear here under the top-class, bang in form Ryan Moore who rides Lingfield perfectly.

Sandrine and Queen Aminatu are sure to be the best of the others.

2.40 Ascot (Victoria Cup – Heritage Handicap) – KINGDOM COME

This is a tough old betting race. Plenty of money will be going the way of Baradar in these conditions, and a special horse can win from the far side of the track but Baradar may well not be in that category quite.

Others handicapped to go well are Safe Voyage, Biggles, Vafortino and Totally Charming but the one to watch is Kingdom Come.

Clive Cox trains this four-year-old who is massively improving. He’s racked up a hat-trick on the all-weather with the form working out really well, while plenty of Kingman’s other progeny don’t go backwards for running on soft ground so I don’t mind that either. He’s drawn OK in 18 under Kieran Shoemark.

3.00 Lingfield (Oaks Trial – Listed Race) – ETERNAL HOPE

This is not a strong Oaks trial by any means, at least not on paper, which is why it may pay to take a chance on second-favourite Eternal Hope.

Aidan O’Brien’s Be Happy is the market leader, but she had to give her all in a Group 3 when last seen, putting in a performance rating her 99 and so she doesn’t set a big standard at all.

Bright Diamond will be dangerous if staying, but Charlie Appleby has no doubt left plenty for Eternal Hope to find after an easy win 77 days ago and we should see a different filly now.

3.10 Ascot (Novice Stakes) – OCEAN RUNNER

This five-furlong juvenile event is always one to watch. It was won by Aqabah (rated 105), Blown By Wind (102), Expressionist who went to the Norfolk Stakes, top-class Go Bears Go and most recently by Noble Style who is a Group 2 winner and ran in the Guineas last week.

He was trained by Charlie Appleby who could win it again with Ocean Runner. This horse is one of the Blue Point progeny. He loved Ascot and his horses are making lightning starts, which Harry Davies’ mount may too.

3.35 Lingfield (Derby Trial – Listed Race) – MILITARY ORDER

In the hope, just the hope, that he goes off at a backable price, Military Order is the confident selection in the Derby Trial.

He’s beautifully bred, in fact he’s a full brother to 2021 Derby winner Adayar no less, he ran by reckoning to a mark of around 110 last time and will improve again now. If he does, he creeps to three-year-old Group 1 class already and shouldn’t be beaten despite the potential of Circle Of Fire and Inquiring Minds.

Military Order is third-favourite for the Derby as we speak, but a convincing win may even see him lead the way come Saturday night.

3.45 Ascot (Handicap) – WESTERTON

I backed Westerton when he made his seasonal debut for Alan King at Doncaster. He was second there, but under par and it may just be that he needed the run.

He is well handicapped, of that there is no doubt at all, so with some doubts about one or two others truly getting home here he is more than worth another shot. Shahbaz and Maasai Mara are best of the rest.

3.50 Haydock (Spring Trophy – Listed Race) – AL MUBHIR

Angel Bleu was rated 115 at his peak, but that peak was a year and a half ago now. True, he’s only four, but there have been no real signs of his top form for a while including this year.

Our favourite Al Mubhir, who I thought would win the Lincoln but did win very well last time, can get beyond the 110 mark now and that should be enough to win this for William Haggas and Tom Marquand. Escobar and Mums Tipple are solid in behind.

8.07 Belmont Park (Man o’ War Stakes – Grade 1) – WARREN POINT

This is no Grade 1 gimme for the Charlie Appleby team, but he and Godolphin’s willingness to travel can pay off once again with their improving middle-distance runner Warren Point who is now ready for this.

Frankie Dettori has travelled across to New York to take the ride, though he got a couple wrong last summer so he’ll need to be at his best this time.

Sunday 14th May 2023

2.50 Longchamp (Poule d’Essai des Poulains – Group 1) – KNIGHT

Though he’s no certainty, Knight is a ridiculous price at the time of writing for the French 2000 Guineas.

Touching 20/1, Simon and Ed Crisford’s Horris Hill winner was ahead of all of his opposition on Sunday at the same career stage which shows his talent.

True, he ran no race in the Greenham, but that happens to the best of them, his team won’t send him to France if he’s useless and his odds now allow a small punt. James Doyle rides.

4.10 Longchamp (Prix Saint-Alary – Group 1) – BRIDESTONES

Another overpriced type is Bridestones, a filly I backed in the Fred Darling. She was nowhere near winning that, but was steadily staying on to get to within five lengths and, having won very smartly over a mile as a juvenile, it seems that the seven-furlong trip was against her.

The daughter of Teofilo is put straight up to ten furlongs here and looks excellent value for the Gosden team and jockey William Buick.

Friday 5 May 2023

Friday 5th, Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th May 2023: Appleby in Pole Position Once Again

This weekend’s action is undoubtedly highlighted by three key races; the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas and the Kentucky Derby. There is so much more going on too but we begin at HQ for Friday’s racing:

Friday 5th May 2023

1.15 Newmarket (Newmarket Stakes – Listed Race) – CASTLE WAY

This is usually an important race with the future in mind and Charlie Appleby may win it again with Castle Way. His Victory Dance also has a chance if staying, while Salt Bay has Group 1 form. Circle Of Fire can improve and will also be an interesting watch.

2.25 Newmarket (King Charles II Stakes – Listed Race) – MAJESTIC PRIDE

Iconic Moment may challenge even giving weight, while Arabian Storm was a let-down last time but will be better at seven furlongs.

The one that catches the eye is Majestic Pride. Although a winner at the Craven meeting, more was expected but the soft ground held him back. His form is good enough while conditions should bring about plenty of improvement.

9.04 Churchill Downs (La Troienne Stakes – Grade 1) – SECRET OATH

This is a $750,000 race features some top-class fillies and mares, not least the one who won the Kentucky Oaks for us last year, Secret Oath. She remains in top form, she loves it here, is well drawn and is more than capable of landing another Grade 1. 

D Wayne Lukas’ runner has competition with the likes of Played Hard and Search Results appearing to be overpriced.

10.51 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Oaks – Grade 1) – WET PAINT

Brad Cox has a strong hand here. His Botanical racked up some impressive figures when winning a Listed race at Turfway Park on the Tepeta, but this is a very different task.

Stablemate Wet Paint, owned by Godolphin, looked really good when landing the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn after breaking slowly. Flavien Prat was in no hurry then, understanding what he had underneath him and the pair should be sharper today.

Southlawn can also go well, while Pretty Mischievous is drawn wider than ideal.

Saturday 6th May 2023

2.15 Newmarket (Ellen Chaloner Stakes – Listed Race) – HEREDIA

Now freshened up and down in trip, Heredia looks interesting for Richard Hannon. After winning her two races as a juvenile, she did exceptionally well to keep that going at York last spring. She went in yet again at Royal Ascot and reached a mark of 106 by then.

Though she’s won over a mile, this sprint trip can reignite her and we should see a filly capable of beating Gale Force Maya, Azure Blue and Queen Olly.

3.05 Goodwood (Handicap) – HONITON

Honiton showed a ton of potential last year. In April he was third to My Prospero (Group 1 rated 121), and Britannia Stakes winner Thesis. In May he was second to Secret State (Group 2 second) before running third to Eldar Eldarov (St Leger winner, rated 116).

He then won as easily as he liked and should be rated comfortably above 100 now, so gets in here very lightly. Another improver Maghlaak is best of the rest.

4.00 Newmarket (Palace House Stakes – Group 3) – TWILIGHT CALLS

Assuming everything is OK on seasonal debut, and he has won first time out before, Twilight Calls should prove to be the best of this bunch. Though he hasn’t been seen since a big run in the King’s Stand, he remains of major interest and has the assistance of Ryan Moore.

4.40 Newmarket (2000 Guineas – Group 1) – SILVER KNOTT & NOBLE STYLE

The first Classic of the season is upon us.

Strong favourite Auguste Rodin (Aidan O’Brien) is highly thought of and may attempt the Triple Crown. He won the Futurity at Doncaster, stays the mile well and will go for the Derby. He’s excellent, but he’s not in superstar territory yet so we have to take him on at the odds.

Stablemate Little Big Bear is one of three for whom stamina is a worry. He was extraordinary at the Curragh last season, while Sakheer (Roger Varian) was a very good winner of the Mill Reef. Noble Style (Charlie Appleby) was an excellent winner of the Gimcrack too and all three sprinters have more to come.

The best backed British-trained horse is Chaldean (Andrew Balding). The Dewhurst winner, he is solid but many think he should have been beaten by Royal Scotsman (Paul & Oliver Cole) who is in opposition again – form we’ll come back to.

Charlie Appleby’s Silver Knott is a proper type. Like stablemate Coroebus (2000 Guineas winner) he won the Autumn Stakes here and has no ground, trip, course or class worries.

After jumping on the plane last minute, Silver Knott was too far back at the Breeders’ Cup but did very well indeed to almost win. He beat Epictetus last season, the same horse was second to Auguste Rodin.

Noble Style is the headscratcher. He has drifted from 10/1 to 20/1 this week. He didn’t work too well in public last month, while James Doyle mentioned that on a podcast with the bookmakers reacting. He might also be a dead-set sprinter.

On the slip side; he didn’t work well before his outstanding debut last May. He also covered well over six furlongs when running round and drifting before slamming Marshman at York (top form). There are few doubts he would have stayed seven after that, meaning the trip wouldn’t have been a debate.

Given the massive drift, confidence can’t be high on Noble Style. At the odds, the advice is to split the stakes on Charlie Appleby’s two runners, the man who landed the 1-2 last year.

5.04 Churchill Downs (Derby City Distaff – Grade 1) – MATAREYA

Breeders’ Cup winner Goodnight Olive is the odds-on but while Chad Brown’s mare is very good, she’s not a certainty and remains vulnerable to improving four-year-olds.

Hot And Sultry is one, but a better option is the peaking Wicked Halo. She beat Matareya last time and if you fancy her, you have to like the horse she narrowly beat who was making her comeback. Brad Cox’s filly possesses the past form and the likely progression to see this field off and she’s a nice price to do it.

11.57 Churchill Downs (Kentucky Derby – Grade 1) – KINGSBARNS 

Another competitive Kentucky Derby features form lines from California, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and New York.

Comparing that isn’t easy, while we also have to take into consideration improvement shown by some runners, the draw and breeding.

Favourite Forte has rock-sold Grade 1 form, but he doesn’t appear to be improving and he’s stuck in gate 15. Tapit Trice is now a Grade 1 winner, while Practical Move took the Santa Anita Derby but only just.

Japanese runner Derma Sotogake, Confidence Game, Mage and Skinner are all interesting too.

The improvers could be Angel Of Empire and Kingsbarns. The former, trained by Brad Cox, won the Grade 2 Risen Star before comfortably landing the Arkansas Derby (G1) but the form may not be great.

Kingsbarns, trained like Forte and Tapit Trice by Todd Pletcher, made a strong debut as recently as January. He followed that up well and posted a good time figure when winning at Tampa Bay before looking like an easy winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2).

That was back in late March which is clever from Pletcher. He could have raced again, but it was decided that three runs in 12 weeks put enough mileage in his legs. Now, he’s been allowed to freshen up, strengthen and improve at home.

For good measure, Kingsbarns is a second foal which is a good stat in the race, and is also by Derby winner Nyquist’s sire Uncle Mo.

Sunday 7th May 2023

3.40 Newmarket (1000 Guineas – Group 1) – DREAM OF LOVE

Strictly speaking, this one is more of an ante-post tip as at the time of writing the final declarations aren’t complete. The main contenders should run however and we are set for a fine renewal.

Dermot Weld’s Tahiyra is very good, this we already know, but it may be that we know the Group 1 winner’s level. Meditate was behind her last time and can perhaps push her even closer, at least Aidan O’Brien seems to think so.

Fairy Cross is a very solid each-way play at around 40/1. Her form is good and she was very unsuited by how things worked out at Newmarket last time.

There are stamina doubts about Lezoo and Mawj while Remarquee has to improve, but the intriguing one is Dream Of Love.

A big improver, she goes on any ground and will stay this mile no problem. She was shuffled way out the back and seemingly had absolutely no chance in Dubai against Mawj last time, only to finish with a rather stunning late rattle to only just lose out.

On that run and based on her rate of progression, she is good enough to win this and is a tempting price too.