King George 2012 Preview

26th December 2005 was the first time the family really had to face up to the fact they had lost me to racing. The whole extended family on my mum’s side gathered at the local carvery for what was becoming a traditional Boxing Day lunchtime meal- everyone that is except me; I was sat in the car park with a handheld radio listening to Impek finish a distant third to the King of Kicking. Still not sure why I didn’t back him each way… I may have returned in disgrace halfway through the starters but I had made my point – Boxing Day was from now on about Kempton (or as was the case in 05- Sandown) and not much else.

The recent King George roll of honour is dominated by that famous dressage horse Kauto ‘Five Kings’ Star and his regular partner in Christmas cheer Ruby Walsh. A glance at Kauto’s winning distances for the race – 8L, 11L, 8L again, 36L and finally 1.25L as an 11yo – confirm just how superior to the rest our favourite dancing horse was at the Sunbury venue. Kauto’s tally of five Boxing Day wins is one ahead of the four earned by Dessie in the late 80s and a look back through the past winners of the race shows a number of dual and triple winners- fact is there have been just 18 different victors in more than 30 races since 1978. Some horses just love Kempton.

Pre-Kauto, the early 2000s saw some real deserving winners of the contest:

2001: “Can Florida Pearl win the King George??” Simon Holt asked as the Irish raider and Best Mate approached the last in the second renewal of the new millennium- he could, finally securing top honours after a number of placings in Britain’s best staying chases.

2002: Ridden with more confidence in his stamina than the previous year, Best Mate got his revenge on Florida Pearl to add the George to his first of three Gold Cups secured in March. Matey needed every last drop of staying power in a gruelling race, beating off Marlborough after an almighty scrap after the second last. A true chasing great!

2003: French raider Jair Du Cochet fluffed his lines in a big way as 2000 Champion Chase winner Edredon Bleu made all in a below-par renewal. In some cases though it’s not the strength of form that matters – in ’03 the rousing performance of a hugely popular veteran made the race a truly memorable one.

2004/05: Kicking King was good enough to win two King Georges and a Gold Cup, but with Best Mate’s hat-trick at Prestbury Park proceeding his efforts and the Kauto/Denman rivalry following not long after his retirement Tom Taffe’s champ will probably not get the recognition he deserves in future. He ran a quite outstanding time in ’04 in beating strong stayer Kingscliff and won despite being below par at Sandown in ’05.

This season’s renewal of the race is typically intriguing despite the loss of a potentially key player in Al Ferof this week. The Paddy Power has thrown up Gold Cup winners Imperial Commander and Long Run in recent years and John Hales’ grey looked a live contender to further enhance the standing of the Cheltenham handicap. Instead we are left with the winners of a King George and Gold Cup (Long Run), a Champion Chase and a Melling (Finian’s Rainbow), a Ryanair (Riverside Theatre), the Gold Cup second (The Giant Bolster) and a couple of 2012 Grade One novice winners (Sir Des Champs and Menorah) – this without mentioning Grade One winners Grands Crus, Captain Chris and Kauto Stone. Oh and Hunt Ball. And Cue Card, who is around the 4/1 mark despite never winning at the top level…

dark blue, light blue hoop, checked sleeves and capCAPTAIN CHRIS (Philip Hobbs): Stamina and no shortage of class won him the Arkle in 2011 after which he was considered a real contender for the top staying chases in future- Hobbs was inclined to mention the King George of 2011 straight after his Cheltenham victory. Well beaten behind Kauto that year but went straight from tipping up at the last in the Haldon Gold Cup – this time he’ll line up off the back of a fairly smart effort when winning at Ascot. Hard to make too much of the form of that race considering the ground and the fact none of the quartet would’ve been happy on it, and with Chris running a bit of a “Tidal Bay” type race in the Ryanair it’s not set in stone that he truly gets home. Has about a stone to find with an in-form Long Run.

black, purple sleeves, red spotsCHAMPION COURT (Martin Keighley): Rarely runs away from Prestbury Park. Returned at Ascot last month over a little more than two miles and time may tell that he ran an absolute screamer giving lumps of weight to William’s Wishes over a trip short of his best. That run came on heavy ground – the fact he appeared to handle things okay will be in his favour but the extra mile would be of much more concern. His trainer mentioned the King George straight after finishing second to Silviniaco Conti at Aintree in April and also felt his horse wasn’t operating at 100% at Liverpool. Taking that into consideration he’s clearly a smart, progressive horse having also chased home the re-opposing Sir Des Champs at the Festival. Question is whether he can improve the stone+ that he may well need to from that Cheltenham effort? A massive ask, however there will certainly be worse 25/1 shots than this seven-year-old should he truly stay.

royal blue, pink star on body and cap, royal blue sleeves, pink starsCUE CARD (Colin Tizzard): No disrespect meant but Cue Card at (at biggest) 9/2 for a King George? Can he stay three miles in what could be desperate ground come Boxing Day? It would certainly be a surprise to me as he appears to be a 2 1/2 miler, albeit one with a huge amount of natural ability- giving Bobs Worth 7lbs and being beaten a short head was some effort over 20 furlongs at Newbury last year. That natural ability means that I’m loathe to totally write him off but I’m very much of the opinion that these conditions will not see him at his best, and as a front-runner it is vital jockey Joe Tizzard does not get things wrong pace-wise. He also has Junior to bother him up front- I imagine Pipe’s horse isn’t going to be taking things slowly either. I would want him to be a fair bit bigger than double the price of guaranteed stayer Long Run before entertaining him as a betting proposition.

white, black capFINIAN’S RAINBOW (Nicky Henderson): If Cue Card isn’t going to stay then what to say about Finian’s? Just a couple of quotes from Nicky Henderson –
“When he is really good he is a two miler” – after the Champion Chase this year
“… we haven’t learnt anything at all except not to run him on soft ground again” – after finishing last of four on heavy ground at Ascot.
Errrr what more to say about a race on probably heavy ground over three miles? Ton of ability, huge engine… deep ground stayer? Unlikely, although Henderson did allude to the fact the horse was ‘learning how to race’ after winning over 2 1/2 miles at Aintree. Would he be running in this race if it wasn’t for Sprinter Sacre? Unlikely, and despite his obvious talents I imagine he will struggle to finish in the top two of the runners from his own stable on Boxing Day.

red, pink hoop and armlets FOR NON STOP (Nick Williams): When I rang The Duke this morning bemoaning my failure to find a confident selection for the race he gave this horse a mention but he’s another who may be treading water come the second or third last. Like Champion Court he is by no means a rank outsider having hosed up at Aintree in October and with form in the past that doesn’t put him too far behind Cue Card or Al Ferof. Does though have a lot of ground to make up on Sir Des Champs based on their running at Chelts in March and his form and the opinion of his trainer suggests that he’ll not be happy in the guaranteed soft ground. Ran well enough in the mud behind Captain Chris at Ascot but that form may well be worthless in hindsight with none of the runners enjoying conditions- nice horse who appears to have progressed over the summer though looks likely to be found wanting up in trip in the wet.

purple, yellow triple diamond, yellow sleeves, red armlets, red capGRANDS CRUS (David Pipe): My idea of the winner after his round in the Feltham last season. A year on and that confidence has been severely dented, if not by an expected reverse in the RSA then by the pretty lifeless effort in the Paddy Power on ground he will meet again at Kempton. Back when the Pond House license was in the name of M.C. Pipe there would be a lot less concern about a horse arriving for a big race on the back of being pulled up – Our Vic, Paddy Power, 2005. Now though the Pipes are not ahead of the game with getting their horses fitter or better prepared than the rest and Grands Crus’ only win in genuine soft ground came in a novice hurdle at Plumpton back in 2010. Another though with a huge amount of ability and unlike a fair few of these he has form over three miles round here- form which has been strengthened by the subsequent exploits of Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti, two of the favourites for the Gold Cup. The ground is the nagging doubt, and the addition of Junior from the same stable is likely to be more of a hindrance than a help to Grands Crus considering he has been entered to make the most of his stamina. Needs to improve on his Feltham form and whether has or not is anyone’s guess considering he’s not had his ideal conditions – has had a breathing op.

red, yellow hoops, light blue sleeves, red capHUNT BALL (Kieran Burke): His progress last season has been well documented, as have the exploits of his owner who appears, quite frankly, to be a bit of a wazzock! Pulled up alongside Grands Crus in the Paddy Power and connections were adamant that the ground was to blame – if so then he’s another who will be going nowhere fast come the business end in the King George. Did prove he was deserving of a place at the top table when rounding off an incredibly busy season by being Grade One placed at Aintree but that race doesn’t really compare too well with this line up. Likely to give his best but come up short.

light blue, orange epauletsJUNIOR (David Pipe): On the face of it Junior is well out of his depth in a King George but on closer inspection there have been far worse examples of tilting at windmills. Likely that he’ll go to the front and try and stay there, and should his young jock get things right in front it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have one or two of the more fancied runners in a lot of trouble. Unlikely, however, that he will have all of his opponents still trailing him come the winning line as despite him being able to handle conditions and be a stone cold guaranteed stayer he has been operating at a much lower level than these over fences. With the number of dubious stayers/horses disliking the ground he could possibly, maybe, potentially hold on for fourth but any closer would be a major surprise.

light blue, dark blue chevrons and sleeves, dark blue and light blue quartered capKAUTO STONE (Paul Nicholls): Nicholls’ only representative has the enviable job of stepping up to take the place of his half brother now that Al Ferof is out of the contest. A good horse in his own right, he’s still only six-years-old and appeared to see out the trip well when winning the JNwine in Ireland- until then he had been very disappointing after chasing home Sizing Europe in the Tingle Creek over a year ago, and the fact he went off 4/1 for the Irish race despite form figures of 7F7 suggests it wasn’t a particularly strong Grade One. Along with the vanquished First Lieutenant running a strong race in the Hennessy, what is in his favour is the race was over three miles on soft ground – unlike a large proportion of his opponents he has proven he is at home in such conditions. An interesting contender whose form suggests he’s an early season horse.

brown, orange sleeves, quartered capLONG RUN (Nicky Henderson): As desperately dull as this selection is, in my opinion 5/2 Long Run is an outstanding price. In the last two seasons Long Run has run to marks of 181 at Kempton after a slightly below-par reappearance effort – after a similar return to action in the Betfair Chase last month the horse (still only seven years old) should be primed to run to a similar figure come the big day. Despite my feeling that Long Run has turned into a bit of a grinder in comparison to the sparkling novice we saw three years ago he would not need an exceptional performance to win this race and would almost certainly not need to improve on his last two King George runs. It boils down to the fact that one of his opponents is likely to need to run to 178+ in order to beat him- I am struggling to find a rival who is likely to do so.

dark blue, light blue hoop, checked sleeves and capMENORAH (Philip Hobbs): Made a sketchy start to his fencing career having been good enough to go off 3/1 for the Champion Hurdle in 2011, failing to complete twice in his first four novice chases before being beaten miles when third to Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham. Did win the Grade One novice chase at Aintree but has been disappointing again twice since. Out of his depth on first try over three miles on ground he won’t enjoy.

red and white diamonds, white sleeves, red armlets, red capRIVERSIDE THEATRE (Nicky Henderson): Ran a horror race last time out at Aintree on his third appearance in under two months – Henderson has since said it is important to keep him fresh to see him at his best. Chased home Long Run in the “2010” running of this race but was a long way behind and hasn’t improved on the figures since. Won a competitive Ryanair Chase in March without needing to find that improvement and will be vulnerable to a 100% Long Run on all the evidence but has a solid each way chance as a 170-rated horse with form on soft ground.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starSIR DES CHAMPS (Willie Mullins): Hugely exciting Irish novice last season when he won at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals- the Punchestown Grade One was a poor excuse for a top level race but he’s obviously got a proper engine the way he won the Jewson. A five-length defeat to Flemenstar on his reappearance saw his unbeaten record go west over a trip that suited his highly talented opponent, although the major concern with this race in mind would be his preference for a sound surface. Three miles looks like it will bring out further improvement from the son of Robin Des Champs Like a couple of others in the line-up Sir Des Champs has the raw ability to scale the heights, however taking on Long Run in conditions favourable for Nicky Henderson’s horse he is going to need to extract every ounce of potential if the prize is going to head back over the Irish Sea. [NON RUNNER 22/12/12]

red and white check, black and white check sleeves, royal blue capTHE GIANT BOLSTER (David Bridgewater): Appeared to show his Gold Cup effort was no fluke by finishing fairly close to Silviniaco Conti and Long Run at Haydock. His RPR over three miles on soft ground in that race suggests he is a much better bet than his 14/1 price suggests- that’s even without considering that he should improve for the run. Did show improvement with every run last season and is still only seven-years-old – a real cliche but if he were trained by a household name then it’s unlikely he’d be nearly twice the price of Kauto Stone and three times the price of Cue Card! A cracking each way bet at the prices.

dark blue, light blue hoop, checked sleeves and capWISHFUL THINKING (Philip Hobbs): Completes the trio of Hobbs/Whateley horses and will probably finish second of the three while some way behind the rest. First try at three miles having never been further than 2m5f before and it’s very unlikely to unlock enough improvement to win this. Likely to be taken on for the lead by Junior and possibly Cue Card as well.

VERDICT: Incredibly difficult to oppose LONG RUN on the basis that he has improved for his reappearance in his last two campaigns and the unexposed horses in the race all appear to have probable issues with either the trip or the potentially deep ground. The Giant Bolster appears to have been underrated in the market at 14/1 in comparison to several horses quoted in single figures and looks an excellent each way bet if backing the 5/2 favourite is not your thing. It would be no surprise to see For Non Stop or Champion Court outrun their odds but the most likely to complete the tricast would be Riverside Theatre, while Grands Crus and Sir Des Champs have the ability to win this but there are doubts about fitness and the ground respectively about the best folding rowing machine.

[notification_box]Advice:
Win: LONG RUN at 2-1 with Bet365, PaddyPower, StanJames
EW: THE GIANT BOLSTER at 12-1 with PaddyPower [/notification_box]

 

Arima Kinen 2012 Preview

With Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Japan Cup runner up Orfevre not taking to the field this weekend in Nakayama, the 57th Arima Kinen will be lacking a little in ‘big names’ especially if you take into account that Fillies Triple Crown winner, and Japan Cup victor Gentildonna doesn’t make the line up either.

However the Arima Kinen is “The Grand Prix” in Japan, and is the season finale for the Japan Racing Association which has arguably the highest turnover of any race in the world alongside the Grand National at Aintree in April. Despite the lack of Orfevre and Gentildonna, the Arima Kinen has still managed to attract a stellar group of horses including high-class three year olds Rulership and Gold Ship.

The race was originally known as the Nakayama Grand Prix, founded in 1956 by then president Yoriyasu Arima. The inaugural running of the race was held over about thirteen furlongs and was renamed the following year to the Arima Kinen after founder Yoriyasu Arima died in January. The race has been held at its current distance of 12.5 furlongs since 1966, and began accepting foreign-bred entries from 1971. In 2007 the Arima Kinen received International Grade 1 status which opened the door to a maximum of six horses of overseas to run in this prestigious race.

The record for the race was set by Zenno Rob Roy in 2004, running the distance in 2 minutes 29.5 seconds.

 BEAT BLACK – Winner of the Tenno Sho (Spring) back in April, the five-year-old son of Miscat has failed to trouble the judge in his three most recent starts, culminating with a seventh place finish in the Japan Cup on his most recent start. Usually hard on the pace, the shorter home straight at Nakayama will work to his advantage unlike Tokyo and should come into this race in top order after two recent runs a month ago.

 DAIWA FALCON – Usually thereabouts on the front-end, Daiwa Falcon comes into this off the back of victory in the Grade 3 Fukushima Kinen in the middle of November. The five-year-old son of Jungle Pocket has won 5 races from 13 tries around the Nakayama circuit and always come to form around this time of year. It’ll take a career best from the Hiroyuki Uehara trained entire and based on his run in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) he is likely to struggle in this grade.

 DARK SHADOW – The five-year-old son of Dance In The Dark comes into this race in search of his first Grade 1 success after backing up with two impressive performances in both the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and Japan Cup finishing fourth in both races, just 0.4sec off the pace. The Noriyuki Hori trained entire has a bit of a reputation for being a Tokyo specialist and the longer straight obviously plays to his strengths so it has to be a bit of a worry coming to Nakayama with his only previous run here yielding an unplaced effort.

 EARNESTLY – The Shozo Sasaki trained seven-year-old comes into this Grade 1 completely out of form, with two recent heavy defeats in both the Kinko Sho (G2) and Tenno Sho (Autumn, G1) and realistically doesn’t have much chance against quality opposition here.

 EISHIN FLASH – Winner of the 2010 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) returned to winning ways in October to lift the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) in what would be his first victory since landing the Tokyo Yushun two years ago, blasting through the final three furlongs in 33.1 under talented big race jockey Mirco Demuro. Second in this race last year to Orfevre, Eishin Flash is a free going sort so will need all the strength of Mirco Demuro to settle him in the early stages of what could be a tactical affair but he seems to have hit form lately and looks to be a major player this year without the likes of Orfevre of Gentildonna in the line-up.

 GOLD SHIP – Winner of the Kikuko Sho (Japan St Leger) in 3 minutes 2.9sec back in October, this impressive son of Stay Gold also has the Satsuki Sho (Japan Guineas) on his resume having won that back in April. The only blot on his copybook coming when beaten on the middle leg of the Japanese Triple Crown in the Tokyo Yushun, but he was unlucky that day and is clearly the best of the three-year-olds based on what I’ve seen. This is an impressive colt and his only previous run at Nakayama yielded an impressive success in the Satsuki Sho (Grade 1), and given that he will be staying the distance strong he looks the one they all have to beat.

 LELOUCH – A four-year-old son of 2004 Arima Kinen winner Zenno Rob Roy, Lelouch recorded a first graded success in the Copa Republica Argentina (Grade 2) on his most recent start. A late maturing start who only has eleven starts to his name he comes into this race in the form of his life, and could pick up the pieces in the place market if one or two of the main protagonists fail to run to form, but looks very much a horse for next year to me with another winter to strengthen up.

 NAKAYAMA KNIGHT – A very attractive chestnut son of Stay Gold, this four-year-old has a big liking for this Nakayama circuit winning three and placing twice from just five attempts. Ninth in the Tenno Sho Autumn (Grade 1) he had previous returned to Nakayama in style to record a ready success  in the Sankei Sho (Grade 2) over eleven furlongs. His failure to Tokyo can be excused though and the return to this trip will certainly help this deep-closing sort – place chances.

 NEVER BOUCHON – The veteran of the race at the grand old age of 9, he comes here off a fifth placed effort in the Nippon Sho (Grade 2) last time out. He isn’t getting any younger though and has been well beaten off in decent races this season and it is seriously hard to imagine him laying a glove on the main contenders here.

 OCEAN BLUE – Comes into this race after winning the Kinko Sho (Grade 2) at Chukyo on his most recent start, he seems to win every other start looking through his most recent form. That said it is hard to imagine him being good enough against some of the better quality of rivals here and looks another just making up the numbers.

 OKEN BRUCE LEE – Hasn’t got the best record at either this distance or around the track, and isn’t getting any younger either at the age of seven. He comes here off a tepid display in the Japan Cup and in all seriousness I couldn’t envisage him playing a hand in the finish here.

 ROSE KINGDOM – A very good three-year-old this now 5yo son of King Kamehameha has appeared to lose his way over the last two years and will need to rediscover that 3yo form to feature here. Well beaten in this contest last year I can see him plugging on into mid-division but that looks about it really after a disappointing display in the Japan Cup latest.

 RULERSHIP – A top class operator at around this level, but although he landed the QEII Cup in Hong Kong back in April, the 5yo has yet to win a Grade 1 on home soil. With both Orfevre and Gentildonna out of the way this could be the time for Rulership to shine, with placed efforts in all three of the main races on lead up Takarazuka Kinen, Tenno Sho Autumn and Japan Cup. The son of King Kamehameha has shown a tendency to be slow to break from the gates in his races and this has ultimately proved his undoing this campaign. However trained Katsuhiko Sumii has a plan in place to combat this problems judging by reports I’ve read, and he gets the assistance of Aussie Craig Williams in the plate – live contender.

 SKY DIGNITY – A good late-finishing second to Gold Ship in the Kikuka Sho on his most recent start, this three-year-old looks the type who could improve further next year. A winner of a maiden and allowance race from just 9 starts this could be a step too soon for the son of Brian’s Time but I can imagine him staying on through beaten horses late.

 TO THE GLORY – A fair four-year-old last year who finished third in this race last year with a big late closing effort. He has disappointed on majority of his starts this campaign but that has probably been over trips short of ideal. Also placed in this race in 2010, he has shown a clear liking for this track and distance and although it would be hard to see him having the class to take this, would be my idea of one of the big outsiders getting into the frame at a price.

 TRAILBLAZER – Winner of the Kyoto Kinen before a stint in the United States which yielded a fourth-placed finish in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, this five-year-old son of Zenno Rob Roy is a winner of his sole attempt around the Nakayama circuit although in general his form isn’t quite good enough to secure victory here.

COMMENTS FROM CONNECTIONS:

Beat Black (5yo, horse)

Hitoshi Nakamura
“I thought he’d run it in 56 seconds, but he did it in 54. I think he’s in very good form. Before he won the Tenno Sho (Spring), he worked a lot faster than we expected him to. We’ll have to see about where we travel but we do want to be out in front fairly early.” 

Kodai Hasegawa (assistant trainer)
“He was in pretty good shape (for the Japan Cup) but he’s just as good as he was then. I get the impression he has an easier time racing at Nakayama than Tokyo. Now all we need is for the turf to hold up.”

Daiwa Falcon (5yo, horse)

Hiroyuki Uehara (trainer)
“Everything’s been like clockwork. He’s done all the training we planned for him. He always picks it up at this time of the year and judging by his last performance (first, Fukushima Kinen) I’d say he’s in excellent condition at the moment. He should have no problem with the distance so we’ve got a lot to look forward to here.”

Dark Shadow (5yo, horse)

Ryan Moore
“Judging by what I saw in the workout and looking at his fur today, he seems like he’s in pretty good condition. I could tell right away that he’s got a lot of quality, that he’s a very good horse. He just went through the motions today but I’m really pleased with where he’s at. I think he should be able to run clockwise just fine, on a tight track, too. You never know how a race will turn out but I’m in this to win it. Hopefully I can deliver a Christmas gift to all the fans.” 

Noriyuki Hori (trainer)
“For his last two starts, we worked him hard on a Wednesday, trying to get his weight down. But this time he was ready to go last week which is why he put in his work today. The big concern for us last time (in the Japan Cup) was the distance but we know now he can handle it. He traveled at the back and we had to make our move early but he was still accelerating on the straight. We got a lot out of his last race.”

Earnestly (7yo, horse)

Shozo Sasaki (trainer)
“Considering what the track was like today, he gets passing marks from me for the way he finished the workout. His movement offers more hope than disappointment. You can never say never…”

Eishin Flash (5yo, horse)

Mirco Demuro
“He was focused yet relaxed. I think he was very good today. When I won the Arima Kinen two years ago (with Victoire Pisa), I won the Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes (with Grand Prix Boss) the week before. I hope I can do the same with Flash this time, too.” 

Hideaki Fujiwara (trainer)
“He was very impressive. I think it’s safe to say he’s ready. This will be his fourth start of the fall so I am keeping an eye out to make sure he doesn’t suffer from exhaustion. But he’s a tough horse who always responds when you ask for it. He knows how to work himself into top form and sustain it once he’s there. (Christophe) Lemaire does a wonderful job of riding him, but I just think the horse hits it off slightly better with Demuro. He made his comeback in the Tenno Sho (Autumn), and I hope he can win this one now after he came so close last year.”

Gold Ship (3yo, colt)

Hiroyuki Uchida
“He got a lot stronger over the summer. He’s more sure of himself now and knows what he’s doing during a race. He can take the race to the opposition while remaining in control. You have to be a good racehorse to be able to do both. We could’ve positioned ourselves closer to the front (in the Kikuka Sho) but the horse didn’t exactly jump out of the gate; maybe he knew we were in for a long one so I just decided to sit back until the time was right. But to produce the performance he did takes not only talent but toughness. There’s no telling how the race will unfold but I want to make sure he leaves every bit of horse out there. This race will tell a lot, whether he can be one of the best racehorses in the country or not. There’s a lot on us here. I’ve been told by the trainer that he’s stronger than ever before which almost worries me because I’m not sure if I can control him if he does become too strong. I was watching the race on TV a year ago so to be back riding in the Arima Kinen with such a special horse is just an unbelievable feeling. I’ll ride Gold Ship with confidence and there’s not much more I can do than that. A bunch of 3-year-olds have won the Arima Kinen before and even when they lost, I remember them having pretty good races. I don’t see much of a gap between the older horses – if at all. I hope I can bring some hope and excitement to all the racing fans.” 

Naosuke Sugai (trainer)
“We wanted to get his lungs going today and crack the whip a little bit, to remind him we’ve got a big race coming up. I think on the day of the race, he’ll be 10 kg bigger than he was for his last race – 10 kg of muscle, too – and that’s the way we wanted it because we asked the farm to add around 20 kg to his frame. He’s built up, really broad across the chest and you’ll notice it. You need power at Nakayama unlike a marathon in the Kikuka Sho. We’re leaving everything in Uchida’s hands now. We’re going up against the big boys but I want him to ride with the utmost confidence. We’re challengers here.”

Lelouch (4yo, colt)

Norihiro Yokoyama
“His time wasn’t especially fast but he’s coming along fine. I’m just glad he’s managed to get this far without any issues. With him, it was never a case of filling out but staying injury free. I thought he had something special from the moment I rode him in his debut. He’s just a very easy ride. The competition will get tougher here, but he doesn’t take a backseat in terms of potential.” 

Kazuo Fujisawa (trainer)
“He has the pace to race near the front and the stamina to leg it out. We’re going up against horses who run regularly at Grade 1. It’ll be interesting and anxious to see how he does here. His whole future is still ahead of him next season.”

Nakayama Knight (4yo, colt)

Yoshitomi Shibata
“His breathing has improved even from a week ago. I was careful not to overwork him but at the same time, you want to make sure he puts in the necessary work because it is a huge race. 

Yoshitaka Ninomiya (trainer)
“The jockey himself worked the horse last week and we went at it pretty hard, but he wanted to work him again this week so we obliged. There’s nothing wrong with him; all systems are a go. He doesn’t struggle running counterclockwise but he does seem to get his legs better underneath him running the other way around. He’s won at Tokyo, but his wins at Nakayama are probably more impressive. I think he’ll be even better next year but I’m pretty happy with his progress at this point in time. He continues to mature physically, and I’m really excited to see how he does against the best horses in the country. It’s not too often that you get to race a horse in the Arima Kinen in the shape he’s in right now.”

Never Bouchon (9yo, horse)

Masanori Ito (trainer)
“He’s got a lot of motivation for a horse his age. He doesn’t seem to be tired, and he’s in good shape. Not bad for an old-timer. He’s starting to show the form of his peak years. He suffered a broken bone at a relatively old age and that was really stressful for him. But he’s back, finally. No one can predict how a race will turn out. I mean, a 10-year-old won the Stayers Stakes. I hope he has his moment and gets the fans involved. I’m really happy with the inside draw; we’ve got less of a distance to cover.”

Ocean Blue (4yo, colt)

Christophe Lemaire
“He’s in extremely good condition, very relaxed as well.” 

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“He looked good. He’s just as fit as he was for his last race. He’s relaxed and I was happy with the way he responded. Hopefully, we can stay on the tail of the pacesetter and travel along the rail.”

Oken Bruce Lee (7yo, horse)

Hidetaka Otonashi (trainer)
“He looked good to me. He’s not in bad shape by his standards.”

Rose Kingdom (5yo, horse)

Yasunari Iwata
“He was running in a straight line down the last furlong. He didn’t show any signs of losing his handle. I hope I can get the most out of my horse.” 

Kojiro Hashiguchi (trainer)
“I was hoping for an inside draw and we got what we wanted. I hope he leaves from the No. 1 post and ends up No. 1. Leaving from this gate, he should be able to save himself for when it matters most. It’s definitely not a disadvantage.”

Rulership (5yo, horse)

Craig Williams
“He’s improved from last week. He seems motivated, and is responding much better. His form dipped a little after the Japan Cup but he’s on the way back up now. A good trainer knows how to prepare a horse in best condition for the race. Mr. Sumii knows what he’s doing; the horse has been perfect this week. I know how much the fans love him. He’s definitely among the favorites and would love to help him win a Grade 1 race in Japan. The crowd is massive at the Arima Kinen and I really hope we can win.” 

Katsuhiko Sumii (trainer)
“He worked among a party of three but he settled fine and was moving really, really well out there. Physically, I’d say he’s the same as he was for his last race – if not a little sharper. Again, he’s going into another race in really good form. We were worried about how he might hold up inside the gate in the Japan Cup and things didn’t turn out well. Since then, we’ve been trying a number of things to make sure he starts properly. We’re still not sure if he’ll be wearing any kind of equipment for the race. I think the only thing standing in our way is the start of the race. I pray we draw an even number. We’ve been doing everything we can for him, especially so that he breaks properly. I hope we can have a good Christmas.”

Sky Dignity (3yo, colt)

Christophe Soumillon
“He was relaxed and he responded really well. It’s tough to compare how he is in real life to the horse I’ve been watching on film, but he is an easy ride for sure.” 

Yasuo Tomomichi (trainer)
“We were thinking about racing him in either the Stayers Stakes or the American Jockey Club Cup after the new year so the farm had been prepared. He’s in good condition and after Orfevre pulled out, we decided to give him a shot. I think his footwork has improved since the Kikuka Sho, and there’s no wear and tear on his body. He doesn’t have a huge stride so a tight course like Nakayama should work to his favor.” 

Yusuke Oe (assistant trainer)
“An inside barrier is definitely better than outside. The weather nor the turf conditions will be an issue for him. He’s such a diligent racehorse. He used to be physically weak and couldn’t keep up in the workouts but that’s no longer the case. He’s always had the quality but he’s added toughness to it now. He’s gotten really, really strong. Given the quality of the field we’re going up against, we can’t sit here and brag about our chances. But he does have lots of stamina and has never had an issue settling, which bodes well for this race. We’re looking forward to it.”

To the Glory (5yo, horse)

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“It’s only been two weeks since his last start so we took it easy on him. I think the workout he had today was just fine. I didn’t see the immediate effect of the cheek pieces in training but I certainly don’t think it will take away from him. I hope he remembers the way he ran the race last year.”

Trailblazer (5yo, horse)

Yutaka Take
“He was in really good condition for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. I was surprised how good he was during the workouts. He came around that next to last turn so smoothly and that’s usually the way he wins races. I was betting on it. He didn’t back down against the world’s best racehorses, and I’m happy we were able to show what he’s made of. I hope we can go back next year – but as a Grade 1 winner. Even when he was an assistant trainer, Yasutoshi and I used to always talk about American racing because he spent time over there learning the trade. I think the distance and the layout of the Arima Kinen suit him because he’s a pretty crafty horse. It’s probably better if he travels toward the front but not on the lead. He can get a bad jump out of the gate from time to time so I want to make sure he gets off to a smooth start. It was never a concern in the States because we always had someone at the gate. The only thing that worries me is his physical condition because he spent a long time in America to come back for this. But he did finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf so as long as he’s in halfway decent shape, we should have a chance here. I’ve only won the Arima Kinen twice, aboard Oguri Cap and Deep Impact. It would be nice to win the Arima Kinen because it’s been a while.” 

Yasutoshi Ikee (trainer)
“His action wasn’t very good, even taking into account how bad the course was today. The horse has a history of nose bleeds when he trains too hard so we’ll just have to see what kind of an effect this workout will have on him. He hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue. We worked him to the limit (for the Breeders’ Cup Turf) and we’ve got to admit he’s not close to being in that form right now.”

VERDICT
In years gone by the Japan Cup has proven to be a poor form guide to use in the Arima Kinen with a win ratio of just 8.8%, and place of 17.6% it has often paid to look elsewhere. Rulership comes into this off the back of three decent placed efforts in top races this campaign but his bid depends on his start and taking that into account I couldn’t possibly advise him here.

Of 10 winners in the last 10 years all (apart from Dream Journey in 2009, 5yo) have been aged four or younger, and it generally pays to side with quality with those having already won a Japanese Grade 1 in the same year doing well. If you extend that to having won a JRA G1 over 12 furlongs or less, you are talking about a 40% top two finish ratio, which augurs well for GOLD SHIP who comes into this race with all the form in the book to add to his impressive campaign here, and take the season finale for connections.

[notification_box]2pts win Gold Ship @ SP [/notification_box]

 

Drinmore Novices Chase 2012

Along with the Royal Bond Novices Hurdle and the Hatton’s Grace this Sunday, Fairyhouse has a Grade 1 chase on a quality packed card. Won last year by Bog Warrior, owners Gigginstown Stud will be hoping to keep the race in their possession for another year, sending out another Tony Martin trained runner in the shape of Dedigout.

pink, light green spots, pink sleeves & cap ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE – Has had his injury problems which saw him sidelined throughout the whole of 2011 but made a seriously impressive comeback on chasing debut with an unextended victory at Punchestown. Thrashed a horse in Giblin who wasn’t beaten much further by Hidden Cyclone since then and all the form suggests this horse could be the one to be on in this competitive Grade 1 chase. I always thought this horse would make into a cracking chaser and although it is embarking on that career a season or two later than I expected he still showed signs of that ability when winning when last seen.

emerald green, yellow chevron & sleeves, red cap BUCKERS BRIDGE – Remains unbeaten and connections wasted no time in going chasing after a successful bumper campaign yielding two impressive wins. A winner in the point-to-point sphere he made a winning chasing debut when beating Sword Of Destiny (impressive winner since). He looks the type to continue improving over longer distances and has plenty of time to shape himself into a decent staying chaser but I think this could be a step too soon here.

maroon, white star, armlets and star on cap DEDIGOUT – A wide-margin winner on chasing debut but on the face of it, it was pretty much an egg-and-spoon race so he was entitled to win by such a distance. A very good novice hurdler, culminating with a good victory in Grade 1 conditions at the Punchestown Festival last spring he is certainly an interesting sort for the powerful owners Gigginstown and will be very popular with the betting public on the day I feel.

red, black seams, striped sleeves & cap PRIDE OF THE ARTIC – Has certainly improved on his hurdles form since being sent chasing, culminating with a victory in the Grade 3 Like A Butterfly Novices Chase at Tipperary when last seen. Has been awarded a rating of 144, and although is another likely to run his race I think he’ll struggle against the main contenders in this race and could perhaps pick up a place if something happens to either Arvika Ligeonniere or Dedigout.

orange & emerald green chevrons, orange sleeves, striped cap TEXAS JACK – Wasn’t as good as these over hurdles but made a winning chasing debut when edging out Make A Track at Naas. He will once again need to improve and the general feeling is that he has a task at hand to try and serve it up to the more likely rivals in this race and perhaps the experience is the best he can hope for at the moment.

VERDICT
In what looks a tight race, the bookmakers aren’t giving much away but I feel the value in the race certainly lies with ARVIKA LIGEONNIERE who at around 100/30 looks a cracking price against the ‘hype’ of Dedigout. Willie Mullins has his string in cracking form, has the best jockey in Ruby Walsh in the plate and ground conditions to suit.

[notification_box]1pt win Arvika Ligeonniere @ 10-3 with Ladbrokes [/notification_box]
 

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below what you think will win, and why!

Royal Bond Novices Hurdle 2012

A race named after the Arthur Moore trained Royal Bond, a successful national hunt horse in the early 1980’s; the race itself was established in 1994 and has held Grade 1 status throughout its history. It is usually staged on the same afternoon as the Drinmore Novices’ Chase and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and is run over two miles.

A brief look back through the history of the race tells a story of some impressive champions have etched their name into the roll call of winners before moving onto bigger and better things.

Names like Istabraq, Moscow Flyer, Like A Butterfly, Hardy Eustace, Newmill and Hurricane Fly are amongst past winners and it is a race that both Noel Meade and more recently Willie Mullins have farmed over the last decade.

Once again we have a small but select field lining up for this prize, and this is one of the best renewals I’ve seen in recent years.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starALLY CASCADE – Looks to have ground to find on all known form but has to be respected hailing from the Noel Meade stable. A facile winner of a bumper before finishing second to Jezki on his hurdles debut. Jezki already had the benefit of a recent run on the flat and has since gone on to further success in fine style to suggest Ally Cascade is no back number in this contest and has to be respected. The only thing that would concern me is that all ten of the recent winners of this race had all won over hurdles prior to winning the Royal Bond.

pink, light green spots, pink sleeves & capCHAMPAGNE FEVER – Winner of both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Champion Bumpers (first horse since Dunguib (who won this race) to do the double). He is a winner of four of his five races and made a successful debut over hurdles two weeks ago. Let’s not get carried away though, that race he won was an egg-and-spoon race as far as hurdles go and his pedigree is absolutely laden with stamina. I actually thought he’d make into a fairly nice staying chaser in the future and thus could find this trip on the sharp side against a better quality of opposition and is far too short for me at the prices.

dark blue, dark blue & orange hooped sleeves, orange cap, dark blue starCLONBANAN LAD – A winner at the first time over hurdles after switching from a bumper campaign which yielded two victories from four attempts. He was well beaten by Champagne Fever in both the Cheltenham and Punchestown bumpers and quite whether he has the class necessary to take this prize remains open to question. If he were to win this though he’d be only the third horse aged over 5 to win this race, with Like A Butterfly (2001) and more recently Dunguib (2009) being the two before him.

orange, black star , black & orange hooped sleeves, orange cap, black starJEZKI – A very likeable honest sort from the Jessica Harrington outfit, and a winner of four of his six races. Held by Champagne Fever in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March he made a workmanlike debut over hurdles to edge out Ally Cascade when the pair made their debut over timber at the end of October. Jezki has followed that up with a recent success when fairly un-extended to thrash a couple of fair 135+ rated individuals in Un Beau Matin and Pageboy, with the 143 rated Hisabaat a further 22L back in fourth (although he arguably run below form).

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starMIDNIGHT OIL – Another entrant from the Willie Mullins stable who looks to have very little chance of winning this race on hurdles form shown thus far. Beaten by Bat Masterson (a fair 130’s rated performer) on hurdles debut before readily put away by Burrenbridge Lodge when last at Fairyhouse in April, his peak flat form would give him a chance in this but on what we’ve seen thus far he couldn’t enter considerations.

yellow, dark blue sash, dark blue cap, yellow starMINSK – A four-year-old with a huge reputation who came very close to make a winning debut over hurdles when getting edged out by Burrenbridge Lodge in a mad dash to the line. He made amends though on his next start over hurdles when thumping previously unbeaten bumper performer Glens Melody from the powerful Willie Mullins stable. He is a tricky horse to assess as he is no doubt better than his debut over hurdles but his proximity to Burrenbridge Lodge (now rated 129) is a slight concern, but I think it’s fair to say he would have beaten him had he landed faster over the last flight.

royal blue, light blue star, white sleeves, royal blue stars, white cap, royal blue starZUZKA – The third runner and probably second string for the Willie Mullins stable. This daughter of Flemensfirth was a fair performer in the bumper sphere before taking a while to get the hang of hurdling. Bred for stamina it was no real surprise to see her step up when upped in distance last time, and a return to the minimum trip looks sure to work against her and looks out of her depth in this grade to me.

VERDICT:
In what looks a typically tough renewal of a race which in recent years has gone the way of the favourite (last 4 renewals) I’m going to go against the grain and try and get Champagne Fever beaten. Adding to the mixture is the flat spice of Minsk who still holds his huge reputation, and got off the mark over hurdles last time but he will be over bet such is his reputation. I also think he takes a little too long in the air over his flights for my liking, and that could prove his undoing if it comes down to a battle over the last flight.

With Clonbanan Lad, Zuzka and Midnight Oil not appearing to have the class to win this grade of race it looks to be left between old adversaries Ally Cascade and JEZKI, with the latter coming out on top for me after a very authoritative success over decent horses last time. The gelded son of Milan will no doubt improve for going up in trip like a few of his rivals here but I like the way he gets things done in his races and he thrashed some fair 130 rated rivals with utmost disdain last time.

[notification_box]2pts win Jezki @ 9-2 with Boylesports and PaddyPower[/notification_box]
 

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below what you think will win, and why!

Hennessy Gold Cup Preview 2012

It is fairly obvious to anyone with half an idea about horse racing that this year’s Hennessy Gold Cup is a fascinating and high quality renewal. It looks like there is going to be a star-studded line up going to post on Saturday afternoon, with the headline act sure to be Bobs Worth should Nicky Henderson give him the ‘green light’ on Tuesday afternoon.

Last year’s RSA Chase hero makes his seasonal return off a mark of 160, although is so far untested on ground softer than ‘Good to Soft’ so it remains to be seen if he can handle conditions if they worsen throughout the week – he has already had a breathing operation last season.

Alongside Bobs Worth is the current top-weight and ‘character’ that is Tidal Bay who comes into this off the back of an impressive victory in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his seasonal return. I’ve always had Tidal Bay down though as the sort of guy you’d see at school who would lure kids into a false sense of security that he was their friend before coaxing them towards the nearest alleyway and taking their lunch money – he has done that to me a few times (Tidal Bay that is)!

Roberto Goldback and The Package come into the race off the back of impressive victories last time, and First Lieutenant ran a very brave race to fill second to Kauto Stone when the pair met in Ireland a month ago.

A quick check of the weather suggests Newbury shouldn’t be getting too much rain during the week, so the ground should be fairly similar to what is currently being described ‘Soft’ and generally Newbury does drain fairly well for a jumps track so we shouldn’t be dealing with bottomless conditions come raceday.

black and beige (halved), chevrons on sleeves, beige capTIDAL BAY – Has recently put together the first back-to-back success since his novice chasing campaign in 2008 when recently landing the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his seasonal return. He rounded off his previous campaign with a rousing victory when absolutely slamming the field in the Bet365 Gold Cup in soft ground off a mark of 154. Is now up to 166 and I think that’s too much of an ask for this old boy against these rivals. He has failed to beat both Midnight Chase and Neptune Collonges off this mark both off level weights and in receipt of weight and I couldn’t see either of those horses winning a Hennessy off a mark of 166, so even though Ruby Walsh has already been declared he wouldn’t be for me.

emerald green, dark green sleeves, dark green and emerald green quartered capROBERTO GOLDBACK – Put in a quality return to action on debut for Nicky Henderson when slamming the field by nine lengths at Ascot last time (Duke Of Lucca in-behind), and in the process removed all thoughts that he was just a small-field specialist when beating home 13 rivals. He was kept wide throughout and kicked on turning for home to score a strong success, but has been handed a 12lb raise by the official handicapper and competes here off a mark of 162. It looks a difficult task for the gelded son of Bob Back who despite looking impressive last time will have to give away weight to better horses here, and it would be hard to imagine him being good enough to do that in all honesty.

royal blue, red stripe, red capBOBS WORTH – Arguably the horse the race pretty much revolves around for me, and the definite class angle. He returns to action off a mark of 160 which looks fairly lenient given the impression he made when winning a strongly contested RSA Chase last season. He is untested on ground this soft though so that could be a concern, but he is bred to handle conditions and he is also unbeaten in five attempts going left-handed and has won at Newbury previous. Whatever way you look at his form it holds up to the closest inspection and he is a worthy favourite.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starFIRST LIEUTENANT – A horse I’ve been waiting to go back up in distance after ending last season over two miles and returning over two and a half this campaign. A solid run when second to Kauto Stone in a Grade 1 when last seen a month ago has seen him raised 4lb in the weights to a mark of 159. Was beaten 2.5L by Bobs Worth off level weights at Cheltenham so I can’t see 1lb doing much to reverse the form in truth but he is a horse I like a lot, and one worthy of respect in this race.

light blue, orange epauletsJUNIOR – Is a better horse on quicker ground and later in the season when able to get such conditions. He has struggled really since winning at Cheltenham off 134 two seasons ago, and a brief solid run when second to Ikorodu Road at Doncaster has been backed up with two failed attempts to complete and has to be off the list of contenders for me.

purple and white (halved), sleeves reversed, light blue capPLANET OF SOUND – Isn’t getting any younger and is the horse I backed in this race last season when finding Carruthers too good in the closing third of the race. He usually goes fairly well fresh so that lacklustre effort at Wetherby has to come of somewhat of a concern. He is 6lb lower in the weight this time round though, and although he’ll probably be able to reverse form with Carruthers it is hard to see him being good enough to win this at his age, and is best passed over in my opinion.

emerald green and white check, halved sleeves, emerald green capHOLD ON JULIO – Is on many people’s shortlists for this race this season, and made a pleasing return to action when third at Cheltenham in October. Lightly raced and scope for further improvement he wouldn’t be out of it here off a mark of 148 and is certainly one of the more likely types for a yard in decent form.

red & black halved, diabolo on sleeves, quartered capLION NA BEARNAI – This one’s improvement came from seemingly out of nowhere when landing a Grade 2 Novice Chase off a mark of 108 at 50-1, but he duly followed that success up with a win in a valuable handicap chase off 27lb higher on his next start. He has now been handed a further 12lb rise for that success and my punting history has taught me to steer clear of these types, and it’d be hard to imagine this one defying a further rise in the weights against this calibre of opposition.

white, black diamond, red sleeves and capCARRUTHERS – Has looked seriously out of sorts since winning this race 12 months ago, and is able to return here off a 2lb lower mark than he won off last season. His form hasn’t been anything to write home about this season and although he goes well around Newbury I’d be very surprised if this one won again.

black and white (halved), red sleeves and capTATENEN – Trainer Richard Rowe apparently ‘can’t wait’ for the Hennessy with his charge but from what I’ve read in the form book his entrant doesn’t really have the class to be winning such a contest from his rating. A better horse around Ascot he will need somewhat of a miracle to win this race off a mark of 147, and isn’t one I can entertain for any great length of time.

royal blue, emerald green sleeves, white cap, emerald green spotsTHE PACKAGE – Returned as good as ever to take out the Badger Ales Trophy around Wincanton on seasonal return, and did so with a rather authorative display. The ground looks like being ideal for the David Pipe trained gelding but with just two weeks between the Hennessy and his previous race, I can see this race coming a little too soon for the son of Kayf Tara, who had quite a hard race last time.

dark blue and white stripes, halved sleevesTEAFORTHREE – A stoutly bred son of Oscar, Teaforthree always requires a run or two to come right after a layoff so I wouldn’t be too concerned by a below-par showing at Cheltenham on seasonal return in October. He previously ran out a good solid winner of a competitive National Hunt Chase over four miles at the Cheltenham Festival in March beating Harry The Viking by 2 lengths and he could well be in the shakeup here off this sort of rating after a recent run.

dark green, royal blue diamondFRUITY O’ROONEY – Has looked the type to do well in this race based on what I’ve seen of him so far. Solid placed efforts off 140 at both Doncaster and Cheltenham before finishing fifth off this mark in the Scottish National. A comeback over hurdles should have put him right for this contest, but he wouldn’t want the ground too soft despite winning on heavy over hurdles, majority of his better chase runs have came on decent ground – has his chances at these weights.

light green, yellow inverted triangle, yellow sleeves, red diamonds, yellow cap, red diamondsSAINT ARE – A very interesting contender for this staying handicap chase and one which could be well handicapped in this sort of grade. He has had a lot of his racing at Cheltenham and it is clear to see from his form figures that he hates the place (754U0) whereas away from Cheltenham his form improves to (2F310221) and has shown a liking to the flatter left handed tracks of both Aintree and Newbury. He is certainly bred to relish the stamina test he will face at the weekend, and the Hennessy is usually run at a searching pace throughout which will play to this horses strengths. Any juice in the ground will be a bonus and he has shown a tendency to go well fresh and finished second on his comeback last year beaten 4.5L over an inadequate trip to Champion Court (now rated 155) so you’d think there could be room for manoeuvre off his rating of 145.

red, black star, striped sleeves, yellow cap, black starDUKE OF LUCCA – Whilst I find it hard to imagine this horse winning the Hennessy I found it hard to remove him from my final shortlist. A good second to Roberto Goldback at Ascot last time you’d have to think he might have got a little closer had he not been crossed by Nataani and his slow jump at the last. A rating of 144 certainly looks workable and a return to a left-handed track ought to be an extra positive for ‘The Duke’ and I can see him going fairly close in this contest at a very decent price.

white, red triple diamond, royal blue sleeves, white stars, white cap, red diamondsDIAMOND HARRY – Has failed to complete on his last three starts and this former top-class chasing prospect appears to have seen better days. Has been coming down in the weights and did win this race in 2010 for Nick Williams off 13lb higher but he looks on the downgrade these days, and couldn’t entertain this one sadly.

maroon, white star & armlet, maroon cap, white starMAGNANIMITY – A tricky horse to assess with a very in-and-out profile but would have to be respected if Dessie Hughes decides to make the trip across the pond. From what I have seen he wouldn’t be well handicapped off a mark of 143 so he has questions to answer and wouldn’t be one I’d be rushing to back.

red, white stars on sleevesHARRY THE VIKING  – Beaten by Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and has since failed to complete in two starts after that effort. Has questions to answer and a mark of 142 looks stiff enough really to me given I think Teaforthree held a definite advantage at Cheltenham and is only 4lb higher in the weights than Paul Nicholls’ gelding.

dark blue, pink diamond, armlets and diamond on capIKORODU ROAD – Came to hand last season over fences winning a couple of decent staying handicaps and going up 10lb in the weights in the process but I have a feeling this one’s improvement may have reached a plateau, and is coming up against some decent rivals here and hard to see him reaching the frame.

brown, orange seams and sleeves, quartered capFRISCO DEPOT – On a line through their run at Punchestown this one has the beating of Magnanimity and has the advantage of a further 5lb coming off his back thanks to Sam Whaley-Cohen’s allowance. His jockey has his knockers for his rides aboard Long Run but he isn’t the worst jockey I’ve seen and didn’t do much wrong at Haydock last weekend IMO. Was still travelling fairly well at Ascot when coming to grief last time behind Roberto Goldback but I don’t think he’d of won and I can’t see him being good enough to win here either.

dark blue, royal blue chevrons, dark blue cap, royal blue starSOLL – Has switched from Willie Mullins to Jo Hughes and is very much the unexposed aspect to this race. Is certainly bred for the job and was unlucky when brought-down at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen. Could be a stone well in off his rating of 139 but I’d of much preferred the horse to still be with Willie Mullins and it’s hard to know what the plans are for this one, so I’m leaving this as a watching brief for now until I’ve seen for myself what they plan to do with this horse.

white and black stripes, royal blue sleeves, white capALFIE SPINNER – Third behind Roberto Goldback and Duke Of Lucca at Ascot last time and he wasn’t closing the gap at any real pace when the line came, so it would be hard to imagine this gelded son of Alflora getting into the frame in this big handicap. Has dropped 2lb in the weights for that run but that shouldn’t be enough to feature here and is another I’m leaving alone.

VERDICT
All in all this is a fairly tough race to assess as one would come to expect given its history, and chances are we won’t be left amazed and open mouthed like we were when Denman retained his Hennessy off top weight back in 2009. However it looks a class race on paper and provided the main protagonists line up at the weekend we should be in for a cracking renewal.

On form Bobs Worth could be absolutely thrown in off a mark of 160, and you’d have to think there will be more to come from him this season in higher grade chases. The only problem I have is you aren’t going to get rich at the 7/2 on offer, and although he is the most likely winner for me I usually try to look elsewhere for a value alternative.

First Lieutenant is another I expect a good run from (if he lines up), and Mouse Morris will be making a decision during the week on his participation but a repeat of his run when second to Kauto Stone last time out would put him bang into contention and looks a better priced alternative to Bobs Worth at around 14/1.

However the two which catch my eye are Duke Of Lucca who looks tailor-made for this sort of test, has been given a pipe opener last time at Ascot and a return to a left handed galloping track should coax out further improvement from this likeable sort, and SAINT ARE. The latter of which I find very interesting off this mark of 145, is bred for the distance and is fairly unexposed over this trip if you forget his races around Cheltenham where he clearly doesn’t act – I think he is a cracking price to be honest and whilst he might necessarily come up short against Bobs Worth and perhaps First Lieutenant he is sure to run his race.

[notification_box]1.5pts each-way Saint Are @ 14-1 with Betfred, Boylesports, SportingBet
0.5pts each-way Duke Of Lucca @ 20-1 with Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor, PaddyPower
Both horses 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 [/notification_box]
 

What do you fancy? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts on the race and what you are backing!

Coral Hurdle (Ascot Hurdle) Preview 2012

A small and select field for the 2012 renewal of the Coral Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on Saturday, with just the four runners going to post.

Won last year by the Donald McCain trained Overturn who has now embarked on a novice chasing campaign, so won’t be around to try and defend his crown so it’ll be going with a horse that will be winning this race for the first time.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/GMOOH.png” href=””][/frame_right]1. GET ME OUT OF HERE
A very likeable son of Accordion, who is very likely to be the pace in this race under champion jockey Tony McCoy. He has put together back-to-back successes in his two recent runs and given he usually comes on plenty for his first run you have to take note of that victory last time out over Brampour, in the William Hill Hurdle. He has high class form but was held by Oscar Whisky whilst in receipt of weight (8lb) when second in the Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) at Cheltenham last year.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/oscar.png” href=””][/frame_right]2. OSCAR WHISKY
Without doubt the class horse in the race, and many would argue he was coming to win the race last year when taking a tumbling fall when overstepping the final flight. He is a small field specialist with form reading: 111F1111 (8 runners or less), and has a killer burst of acceleration which will be his great strength in this sort of battle. I think he is the one to beat and is likely to sit behind likely pace-setter Get Me Out Of Here, stalking him into the straight and then easing clear over the last.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/brampour.png” href=””][/frame_right]3. BRAMPOUR
Has always been held in some regard at Ditcheat and in some ways has yet to reach the lofty heights he was touted for early on in his career, however last year showed somewhat of a resurgence to form; winning a handicap hurdle at Ascot before taking down the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham off 149. Came up short in both The International and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham since, and was held by Get Me Out Of Here on return at Kempton on his most recent start. The step-up in trip ought to suit this stamina laden sort and that could bring out more improvement but he seems a horse better in larger fields where there is a true pace and could be undone by a tactical affair likely here.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/raya.png” href=””][/frame_right]4. RAYA STAR
Hails from the Barbury Castle outfit of Alan King and has shown improvement through the handicapping ranks, rounding off with a good success in a decent handicap at this track last time out (off 149). Is certainly bred to improve over further even though his only start over the longer distance yielded a defeat to Premier Grand Cru (now rated 133), but I think Raya Star is a much better animal now than he was back then. He will need to improve again and I don’t think the small field will be of great help to him either given he likes to take cover in races and is likely to come up short against this opposition in these conditions.

VERDICT:
On paper this race looks between OSCAR WHISKY and Get Me Out Of Here and I think that is what we’ll get, with the Nicky Henderson trained gelding confirming Relkeel Hurdle form with Jonjo’s charge. These two last locked horns in the Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) at Cheltenham last December and given that they now race off level weights you’d have to expect Oscar Whisky to confirm his 1.75L superiority over Get Me Out Of Here given the fact he is 8lbs better off at the weights.

If the ground got any softer it would be a concern for Brampour who has shown a liking for a little juice but not too much, but that wouldn’t hurt Raya Star’s chances who won a decent handicap around here last year in testing conditions and Alan King’s charge could sneak into third behind the main two if this is the case.

[notification_box]3pts win Oscar Whisky @ 5/6 with StanJames & Coral [/notification_box]

 

Elite Hurdle 2012 Preview

A highly competitive renewal of the Grade 2 handicap hurdle on Saturday see’s the return of Zarkandar for a trainer with such an impressive record in the race (Paul Nicholls has won 3 from the last 9 renewals). A faller at Aintree when last seen, the gelded son of Azamour has been set quite a task for his seasonal return and given that he’ll have to shoulder top weight against some quality young opposition even the most optimistic person would have to be reserved about his chances of winning.

That said Celestial Halo did managed to win off both 160 and 165, so it can be done.

Owner details1. ZARKANDAR
A class horse who showed everyone how good he was when winning the Triumph Hurdle off the back of one previous run. He followed that up with a gritty display at Aintree and a came back a year later off a lay-off to win a competitive Grade 3 handicap off a mark of 151. Things didn’t exactly go to plan thereafter with a staying on fifth in a strong Champion Hurdle, and then falling when tried over longer this looks a tough spot to come back at, and looks more like he is making the race for another one of the Paul Nicholls in-mates. He is no doubt a class horse but it will take some performance to win this off a mark of 163, and conditions likely to worsen it looks a near impossible task to me.

Owner details2. LOCAL HERO
This gelded son of Lomitas has shown improved form recently and is 2/2 on right-handed tracks in the national hunt sphere. His last victory off 147 in a handicap reads fairly well but although he has won a race on soft ground over hurdles, that was an egg-and-spoon race in reality and he has shown a liking for decent underfoot conditions, which if the weather goes the way I think, he’ll suffer tomorrow.

Owner details3. BALDER SUCCESS
Made quite the impression when springing onto the Juvenile Hurdling scene last season, racking up a couple of authoritative successes in soft ground. However his two most recent efforts put a dampener on his two prior victories. Falling in the Triumph Hurdle at the fourth, and then unseating at the first at Punchestown he can be called somewhat unlucky as neither mistake was really his fault as such. His jumping will have been worked on extensively by Alan King over the summer months, and with the yard in superb form to kick-start the campaign, any further juice in the ground will suit this son of Goldneyev.

Owner details4. PROSPECT WELLS
I am convinced this horse is a class act, but he needs a strong paced race to show his best and therefore he probably won’t be seen at his best until the championship races in the spring. He also looks to have a preference for decent ground and with around 11mm forecasted to fall overnight/morning it could become too soft and too tactical for the son of Sadler’s Wells and despite being well handicapped and getting lumps of weight from his stable-mate he could be scuppered by the underfoot conditions and make-up of the race.

Owner details5. ESCORTMEN
Hasn’t taking to chasing but showed enough on return over fences last time that the fires still burn brightly so a switch back to hurdles could bring about further improvement. The prospect of softer ground than advertised tomorrow is very likely at Wincanton, and his victory over Frascati Park at Kempton in soft conditions reads fairly well, that said I struggle to see him being good enough to trouble the judge off these terms.

Owner details6. BABY MIX
Imported from France and rustled a few feathers when bolting up on UK debut and promptly went to the head of the Triumph Hurdle market. Was turned over next time and returned to winning ways in a Grade 2 hurdle at Kempton before disappointing once again, this time in the Triumph Hurdle. A disappointing return when well beaten behind Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham suggests he has plenty to do to feature here, and any heavy rainfall would be seen at a disadvantage.

Owner details7. TOPOLSKI
Made a really pleasing start over hurdles for David Arbuthnot culminating in the John Smith’s Top Novice (Grade 2) Hurdle at Aintree, but hasn’t really gone on since then and has been well beaten in some fairly similar class races since. His latest effort when well beaten off 144 gives him a hopeless task against this field, and with the form of that graded win not really working out it is difficult to envisage this gelded son of Peintre Celebre getting involved.

 

VERDICT
I think before I looked at the weather forecast for this race tomorrow I’d of sided fairly strong with Prospect Wells but with up to 12mm of rain due over the next 15hrs it could become very testing and the horse best coped and weighted to capitalize on this would be the classy BALDER SUCCESS who’s yard has had a brilliant start to the season and he bids to continue that success. He is reasonably priced in the market, is more than capable of winning off 147 and although historically 4yo’s haven’t got the best record in the race (Well Chief last 4yo to win in 2003) he is worth chancing on the hope that the heavens open.

[notification_box]1pt win Balder Success @ 9-2 with StanJames. [/notification_box]

 

Melbourne Cup 2012 Preview

Not long now until the Melbourne Cup 2012 and one horse will add itself to racing history winning the biggest race in the whole of Australia. Question is though, who will it be?

It has been six years since Makybe Diva made it a historic third win in consecutive years, and she was the first horse since Think Big back in 1975 to retain the Melbourne Cup after winning it the previous year. The Alain Royer-Dupre trained Americain made history in 2010 becoming the first French trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, although he sadly failed to defend his crown last year but finished a very gallant fourth in the process – going out on his shield.

It seems that you wait all those years for the French to win one, and then they come back the following year and take it again as Dunaden edged out Red Cadeaux in a thrilling finish, and both horses return to do battle again, but it is now Dunaden’s turn to try and defend his crown. Can he do it?

Owner detailsDunaden – Has been a revelation since switching to the talented Mikael Delzangles, and bids to retain the Melbourne Cup and make it back to back victories after winning the race last year. Craig Williams has taken over in the saddle after several lacklustre efforts from Christophe-Lemaire, and Williams wasted no time in getting acquainted with his new partner when steering him to success in the Caulfield Cup. Dunaden bids to become the first horse to win the Melbourne Cup off top weight, and before that the last horse to do so dates back to the legendary Rising Fast in 1954, a tall order. That said Dunaden has looked a different animal in Australia, going 3-3 unbeaten and it would be very unwise to write him off despite the weight.

Owner detailsAmericain – Has seen heavy support over in Australia over the last 24hrs and has been backed into favouritism over there to do what no horse has done since Peter Pan in 1934, and that is to regain the Melbourne Cup after losing it. His run last year when fourth was massive off top weight but he is getting on in years, and personally I don’t think Damian Oliver will do a better job than Gerald Mosse did on this lovely staying type. The ground is also likely to be on the quick side for this big son of Dynaformer after heavy rain forecast failed to hit Flemington overnight. I would love him to go and win it again (after backing him 2yrs ago) but I think a place at best is what they can hope for here.

Owner detailsJakkalberry – This was my idea of the winner earlier in the year and although he didn’t run totally as I expected in the Caulfield Cup (Group 1 Hcp) his run translates a lot better than it seems. Ridden on the outside rounding for home, he lost his position after getting outpaced before meeting trouble and then staying on again near the finish. The longer straight of Flemington will work to his advantage as will the step-up in trip. Jockey booking has to be a worry as Colm is either all or nothing but with such a big pot on offer you can expect him to be giving it his all. A winner of the American St Leger with serious ease on his previous start, his form in Dubai reads well and his run at Ascot off level weights with Red Cadeaux gives him hope of going close off these revised terms, and looks overpriced.

Owner detailsRed Cadeaux – Came within a width of a cigarette packet of lifting ‘The Cup’ last year narrowly losing out to Dunaden. He came wide into the stretch and was making laboured progress until Michael Rodd dropped his hands at the ‘Clock Tower’ where Red Cadeaux found an extra gear and put in a resilient late surge at the wire. He is better off at the weights with Dunaden this year and from a similar position has to have a big chance. Has gone well fresh in the past and Ed Dunlop is one of the very best in prepping a horse for a big international race and I expect him to be thereabouts at the finish again.

Owner detailsWinchester – A three time Grade 1 winner in America back in 2010 but hasn’t really done it since coming to Australia. Generally the American turf division are quite weak thus it is very likely he isn’t up to this sort of grade. Failed to run down the likes of Zabeelionaire three days ago in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) off a strong pace and would literally need utter carnage in the run to be in with a shout, and even then is likely to be beaten by the milk man on his daily rounds.

Owner detailsVoila Ici – Started off well in his new career in Australia, with solid runs in both the Underwood Stakes (Group 1) and Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) but bombed out emphatically in the Caulfield Cup on his latest run. Given that both he and Glencadam Gold both ran so below par suggests to me they went too quick in front, and talk from the Moody camp is that he’ll be ridden with more restraint this time but even so it is difficult to envisage this ageing grey getting into the thick of things.

Owner detailsCavalryman – Will go down in history as being the last ride Frankie Dettori has for Godolphin at the end of a glorious partnership but that is all it will be. Has regressed significantly since his third place finish to Sea The Stars in the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, so much so they’ve tried to reinvent him as a stayer. The problem is he hasn’t exactly been beating anything of note over longer distances either and it would take a sheer miracle from Saeed Bin Suroor and Dettori himself to put this old boy’s head in-front.

Owner detailsMount Athos – Has turned a corner this season and comes into the Melbourne Carnival unbeaten this campaign signing off his domestic season with a win in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Group 3) at Newbury. Luca Cumani loves to have a runner in the Melbourne Cup and gets the services of excellent international race pilot Ryan Moore to steer home to son of Montjeu.  There is a slight question to what he has actually beaten this season but the Australian handicapper has given him every chance here getting 11lb from Dunaden and 9lb from Americain (the UK handicapper has him rated 1lb inferior to Dunaden) – solid chance if handling the hustle and bustle of the race.

Owner detailsSanagas – In a similar mould to Winchester but nowhere near as good, the form of the American turf staying division really is suspect in the greater terms of the discipline and has shown nothing under the tutelage of Bart Cummings to suggest he’ll get anything out of this runner on the greatest stage of Australian racing.

Owner detailsEthiopia – This for me has to be the number one hope for the Aussies this year and has impressed me with his attitude throughout his campaign. Is still a very lightly raced horse and I’m not entirely sure they are doing the right thing in running him here so soon into his career. Closed savage well at Randwick to take the Australian Derby (Group 1) on the nod from miles out the back, and followed that up with a solid effort in the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) before a really eye-catching run in the Cox Plate (Group 1) last time. A change of equipment and tactics saw the blinkers on and him setting a searching pace. After being passed by the main protagonists on the home bend he rallied well to press the high-class Pierro for third after looking like dropping out and looks tailor-made for this step up in distance. Rhys McLeod has ridden him expertly so far throughout his career and I genuinely rate this one’s chances of getting in the money, perhaps even winning it!

Owner detailsFiorente – Has always promised to do much more than he actually has, and was held in high esteem at Freemason Lodge in his early three-year-old days. Gai Waterhouse purchased him just over a month ago and thus wouldn’t have had enough time to ready him for this test, and looks very much like a run with a view to the future. The extra distance ought to suit and that run at Newmarket two starts ago reads well, but once again I don’t think this year will be his year.

Owner detailsGalileo’s Choice – An intriguing runner from Ireland from a trainer that has done so well in this race, in the shape of Dermot Weld. Galileo’s Choice has solid form both over hurdles and on the flat, and his latest victory reads well in that second placed Massiyn since went very close in the Irish St Leger (2nd). Historically it tends to favour those that have had a prep-run in Australia before tackling the Melbourne Cup but Vintage Crop came here and won without having prepped so Dermot knows what he is doing, and has to have solid claims in a very open renewal.

Owner detailsGlencadam Gold – Was unbeaten in Australia before bombing out in the Caulfield Cup last time, and in truth he set too brisk a gallop on the front end. He doesn’t look the easiest to settle out in front and I remember from his days in England he wasn’t the most genuine of sorts either. Chances are he’ll be ridden on the sharp end again and his ability to see out the trip at a true pace will be exposed once more, given he nicked the Metropolitan Handicap off a soft lead – couldn’t back with stolen money, and is reported to have missed some work recently with a bruised foot.

Owner detailsGreen Moon – Won the Turnbull Stakes (Group 1) two starts ago but was heavily beaten when sent off favourite for the Cox Plate last time. Trapped wide throughout but still covered up, he made laboured late progress and judging by his run in the Turnbull Stakes I can see this trip stretching him and he’ll fade right out of it in the final half mile.

Owner detailsMaluckyday – This is another of the horses I like and thought there was plenty to like about his run in the Geelong Cup (Group 3 Hcp) when fifth behind Gatewood. His finishing position doesn’t tell half the story given they went a crawl throughout (he was held up practically last). He began his challenge from the same position as both Tac De Boistron and Exceptionally and beat them both by 4.5L at the line but was unable to peg back those whole stole a march on the field, over what would be an inadequate mile and half. Came second to Americain two years ago (getting 7lb) and has had injury problems since but looks to be tuned up to perfection for tomorrow, and will be 3lb better off with that rival and providing he gets a good pace, and a good passage he should be rolling home large as they reach the ‘Clock Tower’.

Owner detailsMourayan – Was well fancied for this race last year after a solid second placing in the Mackinnon Stakes but was found to be lame post race and thus missed the Melbourne Cup. Faces a tough draw on the inside in box 3, and will need to jump running to get a prominent position from that draw. Keeps on grinding in his races and won the Craven Plate (Group 3) last time out but will need to step up on that form to figure here, and in all honesty doesn’t look good enough to trouble the ‘big guns’.

Owner detailsMy Quest For Peace – Has a really difficult draw in the 1 box and will take a serious effort to win from there I reckon. Is no better off with those that beat him in the Caulfield Cup and he wasn’t finding anything for pressure late in the day either. Ability to stay the distance has to questioned based on that run, and I couldn’t say an extra 400m was what I thought he needed when watching that run, so another I’m passing over.

Owner detailsNiwot – Age really is against him this year and hasn’t really shown any sort of form that would give him a chance in this big prize. Finished 8th in this race last year but has looked slow and laboured in his runs to date this Spring comeback and his Caulfield Cup run did little to aide his cause and is looked over in favour of those with better scope for improvement.

Owner detailsTac De Boistron – Was ridden from a very disadvantageous position in the Geelong Cup but even so it was a very disappointing run from the son of Take Risks, and given he is only a small horse it has to be a worry how he’ll back up after a run so quickly. Has good form with both Shahwardi and Brigantin who have both run so well this Spring (neither run in the Melbourne Cup) but his record on ground quicker than soft is to be blunt, abysmal and has to be overlooked here against strong opposition.

Owner detailsLights Of Heaven – Ran well to finish third in the Caulfield Cup behind both Dunaden and Americain, and the impression I got off that run was that was as good as she is, and nor do I think she’ll improve from going up in trip either. She travelled extremely well from a perfection position in the race but flattened out in the straight and the longer straight of Flemington looks sure to work against her. Winner of the Brisbane Cup over twelve furlongs earlier in the year but is not really better off in the weights with either Dunaden or Americain and the extra distance is assured to suit them better than Peter Moody’s mare.

Owner detailsPrecedence – This son of Zabeel tried and failed in the big race last year (finished 11th) and from what I’ve seen this campaign he looks seriously out of his depth and will do well to beat home the American imports. Bart Cummings historically has a good record in this race, and has pulled off shocks in the past but this will require a work of god to get this seven-year-old in front, and it won’t be happening.

Owner detailsUnusual Suspect – Even worse than Precedence based on form in Australia, and this one will be leading home the charge for the wooden spoon. Finished 9th last year but is getting on in years now and his chances went long ago and faces a hopeless task.

Owner detailsZabeelionaire – A tough horse to get a firm handle on. Ran the rails at Caulfield and ran above his ability to finish sixth to Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup, and followed that run with a solid enough effort in the Mackinnon Stakes (Group 1) coming from far back to run fifth. 6lb better off with Winchester doesn’t sound good enough to place in the Melbourne Cup, let alone win it but I do like this horse and I feel the distance will bring out the best in him, small place claims off a low weight but not one I’m backing.

Owner detailsKelinni – Winner of the Lexus Stakes (Group 3 Hcp) last time and from what I saw he got potentially luck given that both Ibienco and the eventual second Dare To Dream were both stuck on the inside rail for a sustained period of the home straight. His previous run when second to Glencadam Gold (GC got an easy up front) reads fair, and as a lightweight could be running on through beaten horses late on and is certainly bred for this distance but once again I struggle to see this horse having the class to win this prestigious prize.

 

Verdict:
Another  very open and competitive renewal this year of the Melbourne Cup, it is quite intriguing as to trying to fathom which horse it will go to. With the likes of Mount Athos, and Galileo’s Choice have yet to race in Australia, it is difficult to gauge how they will perform ‘Down Under’. From what I have seen so far this campaign, it looks to be a tough and open heat where the best way to play it will be to side with value and hope for the best. Two of my selections come from the home guard in the shape of Ethiopia and Maluckyday. Both horses have run really strong preps and with the support of the majority behind the European’s after their recent success means both these horses have drifted to backable prices.

My final selection comes from the Europeans in the shape of Jakkalberry who should be suited stepping back up to this distance and his run in the Caulfield Cup last time was a lot better than it looked. He is a massive price given his general form and can see the hustle and bustle of the big race suiting him down to the ground.

Likely Result:

Owner details1st – Dunaden
Owner details2nd – Ethiopia
Owner details3rd – Maluckyday
Owner details4th – Jakkalberry

[notification_box]My Bets:
1pt each-way Maluckyday @ 14-1 with Ladbrokes, StanJames, WillHill
1pt each-way Ethiopia @ 20-1 with Bet365, Boylesports, BetVictor, Ladbrokes
0.5pt each-way Jakkalberry @  70-1 with Bet365

All bets are 1/4 odds 1-2-3-4 [/notification_box]

 

King George VI & QE Stakes 2012 Preview

Sea Moon winning at Ascot

The King George, the mid-season highlight of the British flat season, has arrived amidst the unseasonal rains and many racing enthusiasts will just glad for the meeting to go ahead. Heavy ground and abandonment have become the norm for the past few weeks, and while Sandown survived the threat of the weather it’s show piece event the Eclipse was still run on very testing going. The July Cup may well be one of the most forgettable Group Ones in recent times, due to a threadbare field which was mostly dictated by the weather but also due to the lack of depth in British Sprint racing. Fortunately this weekend’s King George looks to be offering a glimpse of what the 2012 flat season could still become.

Ascot’s mile-and-a-half Group One is one of the most prestigious all-age flat races in Europe, along with the Arc. Unlike many of Britain’s famous races the King George (full title, if you so wish, “The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes”) does not have a history stretching back into the 19th century, but in the race’s 61 year history it has been won by some of the greats of the turf. Just a few are listed here…

1956 – Ribot
1970 – Nijinsky
1971 – Mill Reef
1972 – Brigadier Gerard
1975 – Grundy (beating Bustino in one of the great races of all time)
1981 – Shergar
1986 – Dancing Brave
1989 – Nashwan
2000 – Montjeu
2001 – Galileo

Recent winners may not have quite the same reputations as the above named, but have still produced some great races. in 2006 Hurricane Run followed up his Arc success of 2005 with a gutsy success under fine ride from Christophe Soumillon, and Harbinger put up a visually stunning display when routing the field in 2010 – unfortunately the true level of his ability was impossible to gauge as he never raced again.

Last year’s renewal of the race was instantly forgettable. The death of Rewilding cast a shadow over the event, although it did allow an opportunity for the winning horse’s trainer John Gosden to give one of the finest interviews I’ve personally witnessed. The winner of course was Nathaniel, who returns fresh from his determined success in the Eclipse looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Swain in the late 90s. He and his opponents are covered below…

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/NathanielBig.jpg” href=””]Nathaniel winning the 2011 renewal bids to defend his crown…[/frame_center]

BROWN PANTHER – Better from him last time after a hugely disappointing return at Chester, but on the face of it that Listed race form would have to be built on considerably to take a hand in a race like this. Showed a huge amount of potential last season when running away with the King George V handicap at Royal Ascot and running second to Masked Marvel in the Leger. Will appreciate the give in the ground (by Shirocco, Listed success was on soft) and not a forlorn hope if he can build on that Pontefract form, but his price is about right.

DUNADEN – Soft ground over 1m4f around Ascot is a very different proposition to the Melbourne Cup that Dunaden won, but showed he’s far from just a stayer when following up in the Hong Kong Vase. What this horse does need is an end to end gallop, something which he didn’t get when beaten at odds-on at Chantilly but enjoyed when second to Sea Moon over course and distance in the Hardwicke. I think he would’ve given Sea Moon something to think about if he have managed a clear run that day, as he was almost stopped to a walk when coming with a strong run up the centre. Prices are not as different as I thought they might be however and while he is likely to get the strong pace he requires, he has less scope to improve than Sea Moon.

MASKED MARVEL – St Leger winner last season when they went a brutal clip and he stayed the strongest of the field. Dropped back in trip and finished last in the Arc, second last in the Jockey Club at Newmarket and finally showed something like good form when third (beaten a long way) behind St Nicholas Abbey in the Coronation Cup. Will need them to go Nunthorpe pace up front if he’s to pick them off, and as such he’s very likely to be outclassed. Strange to see the horse still running in mile-and-a-half group races when he looks ripe for a staying campaign.

NATHANIEL – Got me into trouble when I seriously questioned his chance in the Eclipse last time, but I am still convinced the only reason he won the race was because of the soft ground. The renewal of this race he won last year was borderline farcical, although the guts he showed when winning the Eclipse cannot be questioned and he is a runner who is certain to appreciate the likely soft going in this race. Comes up against a much stronger field than at Sandown, but is also running over a more suitable trip himself. Should he win this race then I may finally have to accept he’s as good as I’ve been informed he is (Fred) but until then for me the jury is still out on Nathaniel.

RELIABLE MAN – Won the French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) last year and maintained an unbeaten record in doing so. Not so good since then (although that may be underestimating his run in the Prix Niel) until an excellent effort when fourth to So You Think in the Prince Of Wales’ at Royal Ascot. In between he was well beaten in the Arc and first time out this season in the Prix Ganay, but there were definite positives from Ascot as he was given a lot to do on ground that would have suited others more than him. Soft ground is preferable but whether or not he truly wants a mile-and-a-half in it is unproven, despite being by Dalakhani out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. His sire’s best two sons both improved with age (Conduit and Duncan) and there’s a feeling we are yet to see the best of Reliable Man – definitely of some interest at around 20s.

ROBIN HOOD – Unlikely to enhance the reputation of the character Kevin Costner did proud in Prince of Thieves. Pacemaker.

SEA MOON – The type of horse he trainer has excelled with in the past, Sea Moon stepped up on his return at Goodwood to run up to his best in the Hardwicke where he had the re-opposing Dunaden in second. As I’ve said I do feel his 3 1/4 length advantage would’ve been cut down considerably had Dunaden had a clear run, but Sea Moon is still lightly raced enough to improve and his two runs in Group company with give in the ground have been his best performances on the book. Still not certain genuine soft ground would be exactly what he wants, but has some of the best 2012 form in the book and any improvement would have him in contention. Personally think he’s still behind St Nicolas Abbey as things stand.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY – A horse I think Joey O’Brien has taken a while to get to know. Regularly ridden by his young jockey as if he had an instant turn of foot, he’s been made to look a little naive on a couple of occasions (in this race last year and in the Sheema Classic at Meydan) although his electric performances at Epsom last time and in the Breeders Cup Turf probably go some way to show why Joseph has that faith. I do think that he does need to be asked for his effort slightly earlier than O’Brien has asked him on occasions in the past, but at the same time I also think he’s the best horse in the field and if given the best opportunity to win I think he will. A bit of a concern is that since winning the RP Trophy he’s run four times with ‘soft’ in the going description and not won. Holds Sea Moon on Breeders Cup form, and while Sea Moon has apparently improved since the same can be said about St Nicholas Abbey. Major chance.

WINDSOR PALACE – Had his moment when beating St Nic in the Mooresbridge, but his stablemate was considerately handled and is a certainty to reverse placings on the big day. Pacemaker.

DANEDREAM – Any filly that wins an Arc by five lengths has got to be taken very seriously, but she has been pretty disappointing since. Finished sixth in the Japan Cup on ground that to be fair would have been on the fast side for her, but more worryingly she was last at Saint-Cloud in her prep for this race which was far from ideal. What is in her favour is the ground, as in her last race before the Arc she won the Grosser Preis Von Baden on very soft going, and would probably be the only one of the principles to really relish it should the Ascot ground not dry out. Probably not as good as her Arc performance makes her look, but the going brings her into calculations should the Berkshire venue continue to see rain.

SHARETA – Second in what wasn’t a reliable renewal of the Arc, but got closer to Danedream out in Tokyo and isn’t devoid of ability. Fact she’s only won at Group Three level and been beaten in every race since the Arc doesn’t suggest she’s about to win a King George, but the fact she’s bred to stay and will handle soft ground means she’s not a total no-hoper. Still feel that connections would be delighted should she beat more rivals than beat her.

DEEP BRILLANTE – Comes over to Europe to attempt what his famous sire couldn’t manage and try to win a European Group One. Despite not being at the same level as Deep Impact on the track, the colt won the Japanese Derby last time out and the increasingly impressive record of horses travelling from Japan for major races means he has to be considered. Does look to have plenty to find in a race like this though, and on ground that he’s unlikely to have experienced (won on soft as a 2yo but unlikely this soft). Has the 3yo allowance but will need to improve if he’s to get close to the likes of St Nic and Sea Moon.

After a couple of below-par Group Ones in recent weeks it’s great to have such a competitive looking field lining up for the George. The winners of the Arc, Breeders Cup Turf/Coronation Cup, Melbourne Cup, St Leger, Jockey Club and Japanese Derby will all be present at Ascot, as well as the defending champion and Eclipse winner. Personal preference would be for St Nicholas Abbey, who produced a performance as good as anything we’ve seen from him at Epsom last time and I believe if ridden right that he’s the best horse in the race. However with the ground the way it is SEA MOON could turn the tables on Aidan O’Briens runner having shown he handles at least a certain amount of give in the ground. Reliable Man and Danedream will both need considering, with preference at the prices for the former.

[notification_box]
Prediction:
1. Sea Moon
2. St Nicholas Abbey
3. Reliable Man [/notification_box]
 

Coral Eclipse 2012 Preview

The Eclipse, named after one of the great 18th-century racehorses, is the first opportunity for the Classic generation to take on their elders at the top level. The race’s roll of honour is littered with the of greats of the turf- Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerrard in the 70s, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave and Nashwan the decade after, and more recently names like Daylami, Giant’s Causeway and Sea The Stars flow through it’s history as a reminder of what it takes to compete in such a prestigious event.

Since Giant’s Causeway’s typically pulsating win in 2000 only three three-year-olds have managed to serve it up to their elders, which immediately highlights the challenge ahead of the younger horses, namely Andrew Balding’s Dante winner Bonfire. When comparing Bonfire to Hawk Wing (brilliant on his day), Oratorio and the champion Sea The Stars the immediate reaction is to discount him on grounds of not being in the same class, but this may go down as one of the weaker Eclipse fields in recent years and it’s not easy to ignore any of the line-up.

This year’s renewal has lost some of it’s appeal with the late withdrawal and subsequent retirement of Ballydoyle’s So You Think, a horse who may not have lived up to his giant reputation gained down under but who’s performances in the Northern Hemisphere probably haven’t received the credit they deserve. The loss of the slight odds-on favourite has left Godolphin’s Farhh as the market leader, and he has really split opinion in the racing community after his luckless passage in the Prince Of Wales’ Stakes. Rivalling him as the jolly was John Gosden’s Nathaniel until Gosden himself looked to lower expectations by suggesting the colt was not fully would up and would be seen to better effect in the King George. Twice Over dances at almost every dance when Group One’s over 10 furlongs are concerned, while Cityscape put up a serious visual performance in the Dubai Duty Free at Meydan and Monterosso’s last run/win was in the nothing less of a race than the Dubai World Cup. We’ll have a look at the field in a bit more detail…

CITYSCAPE – For a horse who started out over a mile at two and was second to the strong-staying Jukebox Jury in the Royal Lodge, it’s maybe a surprise that it’s taken so long for Cityscape to run over 10 furlongs. As a half brother to Bated Breath out of a mare who won two seven furlong Listed races the pedigree suggests otherwise, however on the Selkirk colt’s only run over further than a mile he won the Dubai Duty Free by four-and-a-half-lengths. However from experience form in Dubai is almost impossible to take literally, and it’s likely that Cityscape still has a couple of lengths to find from somewhere to be involved at the business end judged on his form over a mile.

CITY STYLE – This gelding improved by about a stone in Dubai over the winter, and finished third behind Cityscape in the Duty Free after getting a far worse trip throughout the race. His five-length beating in the Prince Of Wales’ can probably be cut in half after he found trouble, and that performance showed he was capable away from Godolphin’s back yard. In a far from vintage renewal it’s quite surprising to see him as big as 40/1

CRACKERJACK KING – The unknown quantity of the race, the Shamardal colt won the Italian Derby but a month later trailed in second last at Chantilly when travelling to France for the Jockey Club. He otherwise has a perfect record of seven from seven in Italy, a country responsible in recent years for Ramoni, Electrocutionist and Rakti all of whom had the ability to have a major chance in this renewal. Unwise to write off, although a concern that the only time he left Italian shores/encountered soft ground he was beaten a long way. Now trained by Marco Botti who on balance will have needed to find a few lengths improvement if he’s to win.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/9433.jpg” href=””][/frame_right]FARHH – Not sure i’ve got anything left to say about Farhh after pouring my heart out on Twitter, but I believe he would have won the race at Ascot had anything gone right for him. That’s just a personal belief, can’t make any defining statements on why he would’ve won and not saying for sure he would have, but this colt in my opinion is the real deal and has done absolutely nothing wrong in his four races to date. It’s worth remembering that going into Ascot he’d run three races in his life, and has got so much potential it’s frightening. No matter how many lengths he may or may not have lost through interference at the Royal meeting the fact that such an inexperienced horse put his head down and flew right to the line cannot be ignored. Visually and on the clock he could go all the way to the top, and I will be gutted if he doesn’t win what is a below-par Eclipse.

MONTEROSSO – Monterosso did what we’ve seen several Godolphin horses do in recent years and raised his game considerably on World Cup night. The fact he won the World Cup itself suggests it was either a substandard renewal (likely) on the basis of his previous form or that he’s just a better horse over in the desert- in my opinion probably both. The fact he’s 12/1 for this race despite having won the world’s richest event suggests that the layers agree with at least one of those scenarios, and although it can’t really go down as a huge shock if he’s good enough to play a part in the finish, from experience it’s rare for Meydan form to stand the test of time.

NATHANIEL – Nathaniel is a horse who I strongly believe wants a mile and a half (preferably around Ascot), as I think he lacks the tactical pace for a 10 furlong Group One. Again because of the nature of this line up he may well get away with it, but I think that after John Gosden’s comments suggesting he wasn’t fully tuned up I would be surprised/disappointed if he was good enough to win even a weaker G1 over ten this weekend. I believe that the King George that he won should be ignored totally as a race due to A) Rewilding breaking down B) Workforce only wanting to run sideways and C) St Nicholas Abbey receiving a poor ride and not running to form anyway. That left Nathaniel to basically run around to win, and until he’s shown that he’s better than a 121/122 horse I cannot consider him at the prices to win a race like this. Strong opinion that may well look very silly tomorrow afternoon…

SRI PUTRA – An absolute enigma in that he seems to run his best races at the top level and cannot take advantage of easier opportunities in lesser races. Drop to a mile saw him but that right to some extent at Kempton in May, but followed that up with a tame effort in Italy behind Crackerjack King before a typically better performance at Royal Ascot. Yet to win at the top level but was second in this two years ago, and while he may again run a big race compared to his price he is an unlikely winner.

TWICE OVER – Most five-time Group One winners have a higher profile than Twice Over, but the races he’s won in the highest grade tend to have been short on depth. This is another such contest to be fair, and his last run can be ignored considering the ground was atrocious at best so he wouldn’t be without a chance of running better than his 16/1 price suggests. Depends how you view his form in beating Midday in the Juddmonte last year – personally don’t think its particularly good but still may give him a squeak in this if he can reproduce the goods in a race he won two years ago.

BONFIRE – Represents the Classic generation, but comes into the race having been stuffed by Camelot in the Derby. Won the Dante but had a pretty hard race in the process, while connections and some respected judges commented that Epsom on Derby day did not play to the colt’s strengths. While that’s possibly true I get the impression that despite the weight-for-age scale being very much in favour of the three-year-olds he is likely to come up short in his first race against his elders. The three-year-old crop looks weak at the top end (bar Camelot) and I don’t get the impression that this son of Manduro is about to change that idea. Again this is not a strong collection of four-year-olds but he is another that I would be very disappointed if Farhh couldnt beat.

COGITO – Ran a cracker to win what looked a warm listed race here at the end of May on fast ground, and wasn’t beaten that far behind Most Improved in a messy running of the St James’ Palace. Not really the profile of a Group One winner waiting to happen, especially against his elders, and the three-year-old miling crop looks even weaker than the mid-distance performers. A real surprise if he goes close for me, and not sure why he’s a shorter price than City Style.

Conclusion: A disappointing field for a race with such a fine history, but the presence of Farhh and Bonfire in particular still make this a very interesting race to take in. As i’ve said I’d be very disappointed if Farhh got beaten, but the price doesn’t appeal to me and with Nathaniel drifting I don’t particularly fancy laying him either. At bigger prices I wouldn’t mind having City Style running for me the way he performed at Ascot and with him priced at 40/1- I think that him being 10 times Nathaniel’s price despite City Style’s form being maybe only a couple of pounds off him is wrong. Twice Over has shown he is capable of winning sub-standard looking Group Ones and could be thereabouts, but he is getting on in years and isn’t sure to produce his best form, so I personally will be watching Farhh with everything crossed while having a small each-way bet on City Style at the 40s, although further rain will temper any enthusiasm in that wager.

Ambant Gala Stakes Preview

Friday’s Listed race attracts a reasonable field of 9, with Jet Away being the most notable runner, who was last seen trailing in third of four runners behind Brown Panther in Listed company at Pontefract in very bad ground, but a return to a sounder surface should see him run to a better vein of form. Though he hasn’t really lived up to what was originally thought of him, he is a solid horse in at around this grade, and one can see him running another bold race under these conditions.

Winter Derby joint-favourite Junoob hasn’t been the same force as he was on the Polytrack over the winter months and on paper this looks a much tougher race than what he has contested the last twice on turf and his price reflects his chance.

Globetrotting Afsare ran the race of his life last time out in Italy when finishing a respectable second on his first start in Group 1 company. Though all three of his wins which came as a three year old came on Good to Firm, he shows there’s still fire in his belly and with a drastic drop in class, he looks more than capable of taking this.

Another globetrotter and Godolphin second string, Biondetti hasn’t been the same since taking a Group 1 win in Italy at 2010. Disappointing on both of his starts this year at Meydan (both over 10f), the return to England might go to his benefit, but the trip obviously doesn’t suit him so he looks likely to struggle here.

Cai Shen has always been consistent aside from a blemish over course and distance last August. Fortunately, he bounced straight back at Doncaster on his last run for the year before finishing a respectable second at Lingfield in the Winter Derby, before going on at the finish to come 6th of 30 runners at Ascot last month. Back up in trip again to 10f, he should run a cracking race and will be thereabouts.

Songcraft started his racing career for Andre Fabre in France, where he racked up a double before being switched to Saeed Bin Suroor by the Godolphin operation. He managed to make it four from four until disappointing on his third start at Meydan in what was a slowly run Dubai City Of Gold (Group 2). His next start came in the Dubai Sheema Classic which was a similarly stop-start event, only this time he sported first time headgear in the shape of visors (which seemed to have a negative effect). Running on British soil for the first time tomorrow, and with the visors dispensed with – if there is a true pace in this race I couldn’t run him out, but is one to play in-running.

Tazahum hasn’t quite lived up to what was expected from him as a three-year-old after he won a Listed race on his second run as a three-year-old, and has somewhat struggled to land any sort of blow in races of similar level. The extra two furlongs looks to be against him here, as in my eyes he is a miler but he does have a perfect record of 2 wins from 2 at Sandown.

The veteran of the race, Cill Rialaig started off a promising National Hunt career when winning two bumpers before being switched to the flat, she’s had a successful flat career, racking up six wins of her 22 starts. She is a distance winner and more then capable of holding her own, but this looks much tougher against more improving sorts and she’ll need to improve on her recent Ascot running to figure here.

Finally, lightly raced Farhaan for John Dunlop makes his second start this season after a reasonably lucrative juvenile campaign. A winner of a maiden and novice contest he was sent off favourite for the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, but couldn’t run down Daddy Long Legs who set the pace, and his exertions told in the closing stages weakening into fifth. His comeback run when fourth to Thought Worthy and Noble Mission at Newmarket reads well, and he is likely to have come on for that run, and is very much a ‘dark horse’ in a hot race.

All in all I think this race is Afsare‘s for the taking, but couldn’t rule out a big run from both Farhaan and Songcraft at bigger prices.

Prix Du Jockey Club 2012 Preview

The format of the race was inspired by the English Derby, and it was named in homage to the Jockey Club based at Newmarket in England. It was established in 1836, and it was originally restricted to horses born and bred in France. Its distance was initially 2,500 metres, and this was cut to 2,400 metres in 1843. It was switched to Versailles during the Revolution of 1848, and it was cancelled due to the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

The race was abandoned in 1915, and for three years thereafter it was replaced by the Prix des Trois Ans. This took place at Moulins in 1916, Chantilly in 1917 and Maisons-Laffitte in 1918. The first two running’s after World War I were held at Longchamp.

A substitute race called the Prix de Chantilly was run at Auteuil over 2,600 metres in 1940. The Prix du Jockey Club was staged at Longchamp in 1941 and 1942, and at Le Tremblay over 2,300 metres in 1943 and 1944. It returned to Longchamp for the following three years, and on the second occasion it was opened to foreign participants.

The present system of race grading was introduced in 1971, and the Prix du Jockey Club was classed at the highest level, Group 1. The first foreign-trained horse to win was Assert in 1982. The distance was shortened to 2,100 metres in 2005.

Nine winners of the Prix du Jockey Club have subsequently won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. The first was Ksar in 1921, and the most recent was Dalakhani in 2003.*

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/albion.png” href=”#”]Albion[/frame_right]ALBION – A lovely big son of With Approval who looks to have progressed nicely as a three-year-old after a ‘nothing special’ juvenile campaign. He picked up a narrow verdict over Lunayir on his comeback run, and improved rapidly on that success with a close second to Kesampour at Saint-Cloud on his most recent effort. It was noticeable throughout his most recent race how well he travelled just in-behind Kesampour but his jockey was unsure whether to try and edge out around Kesampour (he was blocked in by Saonois) and opted to go for a gap up the inside by the weakening pacemaker. Albion stuck on well inside the final furlong, changing his legs half a furlong out and battled all the way to the line with Kesampour. It is difficult to tell whether he would have run down Kesampour had he got the gap to the inside, or whether Kesampour was just idling in-front and holding Albion all the way to the line? Frankie Dettori replaces a jockey I’ve never heard of which has to be a positive and he is an absolutely huge price at 20-1.

AMARON – Enjoyed pretty much a trouble free run in the Poulains and didn’t really have any excuses in finishing fourth. This requires another step up and although he has won over nine furlongs in his native Germany he shapes to me like a miler, and as such I can’t really consider backing him over this longer distance, nor do I think he has the class.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/ektihaam.png” href=”#”]Ektihaam[/frame_right]EKTIHAAM – Looked an absolute nutcase on the Knavesmire but ran a massive race to finish second to Bonfire (sixth in today’s Epsom Derby) in a really good time. He race keenly throughout and held every chance to deep inside the final furlong, where his earlier exertions had taken its toll and he just had nothing left. His form prior to that was when convincingly handing out a beating to Wrotham Heath who returned to form in fine style at Epsom today, winning a good handicap fairly convincingly, and all round his form is working out. Slight concern with his attitude but he is a decent price at around 9-1, and I can certainly see him hitting the first three.

FRENCH FIFTEEN – A tough one to get a handle on, he was the one to get closest to Camelot and made a sustained run to the line only to be narrowly denied by the excellent son of Montjeu. By Dubawi and winner of the Prix Djebel before his run at Newmarket,  he won a Group 1 over a mile at two and although you’d hope he’d get this longer distance I certainly don’t think it’s a given and he is plenty short enough at 4/1 with that in mind, I’d rather take my chances elsewhere – he’s a classy prospect though.

GREGORIAN – Ran better than expected to take fifth in the Poulains on his most recent start. A winner of a Newbury handicap in soft ground the time before, he improved beyond all recognition to run as well as he did. I have my reservations about that form though, and the quicker ground might not be as ideal for this son of Clodovil, and although he’ll improve for the step up in distance, he is hard to fancy.

HARD DREAM – Was another to benefit from racing up on the pace in a slowly run race in the Prix Naolies, and strictly on that form holds Tifongo. I can’t see him being good enough to play a hand in the finish here as his wins just don’t stack up to much, and is plenty short enough for me at around 16-1. I have plenty more in this race I’d turn to first before coming to this fellow, and I envisage a mid-to-rear finish for the son of Oasis Dream.

HIDDEN FLAME – Related to both Memphis Tennessee and Royal Bench by Barathea so you’d imagine the better ground and extra distance will suit this lightly raced maiden. He’ll need to improve massively though and this is a big leap up in the class, and I can’t possibly recommend him.

IMPERIAL MONARCH – Bred to be better over further than this distance, so it is a rather interesting and I think costly move to switch him here instead of allowing him his chance at Epsom. A race like the Irish Derby would have been better for him, and I see this lovely son of Galileo as more of a St Leger prospect so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him get beaten tomorrow. I think his current industry price is ridiculous and is based around the recent exploits of Aidan O’Brien this season, and I’m passing him over – very nice horse though.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/kesam.png” href=”#”]Kesampour[/frame_right]KESAMPOUR – Clocked a really good figure at Saint Cloud when grimly hanging on to repel all challengers in the Prix Greffulhe (Group 3) a race won a year earlier by Pour Moi who went on to conquer all at Epsom in the Derby. It was one of only a couple of truly run races on the card that day but I hold a very strong rating for Kesampour, in fact he tops my figures for the race and he did it the hard way chasing a strong pace, and being asked to win his race from some way out. He is priced about right at around 7-1, and is one of the most likely winners in my eyes.

LUNAYIR – The second string for the Aga Khan won a conditions race at this track in the middle of May. He beat Telstar (held on form by Saint Baudalino), Last Train (a well regarded Andre Fabre horse) and The Best Lawyer (who was beaten further by First Date) so every way I look at this he is held by a number of horses, and imaging his winning chance to be rather minimal.

MOST IMPROVED – A lovely individual who as subject of a massive gamble for the 2000 Guineas before being pulled out a week before with lameness issues. He was third in the Dewhurst on his final start at two, and is the sort to be much the more finished article at three. He is bred to handle this sort of test (sire Lawman won the race) and I expect a good run from him, but it is a tough ask to ask a lightly raced individual to make his seasonal debut in a race like this, where his main rivals all have the benefit of a recent run.

NUTELLO – Has won three of four minor events in his native France, and was third on his other start to Pouliches third Topeka but none of his other form has really worked out. He improved on the figures with a recent tenth in the Poulains and even with the cheek-pieces applied it is hard to get enthused about his chances in this ultra-competitive renewal.

SAINT BAUDOLINO – I must admit this is a horse I don’t know much about, and one I’m coming around to rather late. This improving son of Pivotal rounded off his preparation with an impressive victory in the Prix de Guiche, quickening up and getting past Sofast in the closing stages when Olivier Peslier had already given the Freddy Head trained colt a beautiful ride. He was given a hard ride to win though, and a quick look at his form suggests he is held by Kesampour and Albion based on Saint Cloud running on a line through First Date – it could be the Andre Fabre colt has improved since then, but the time wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in the Prix De Guiche and he is short enough at the prices.

SAONOIS – Winner of the Prix La Force earlier in the season before a good solid fourth to Kesampour at Saint Cloud. He holds Tifongo, Hard Dream on the Prix La Force running, and his recent fourth to Kesampour reads favourably with me. He was the only horse to finish close enough to Kesampour in a race run at a true pace, and only weakened in the last 50 yards. He is overpriced at 25-1 but is held by a few of these on formlines, and will outrun his odds but won’t be good enough to take this.

SILVER NORTHERN – Held on form by both Sofast and Saint Baudalino and has nothing really to recommend it at this sort of level, and is quickly passed over in favour of something with more of a chance.

SIR JADE – Held on form by Top Trip based on their Prix Hocquart running and with no real excuses as to why he should reverse that form. He has looked a little suspect under pressure in his races, and I don’t think he has the required stamina for this trip, and he is also held by Saonois on earlier form.

SOFAST – Has good juvenile form having won the Prix La Rochette (Group 3) and finishing a good second in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagadere (Group 1) to top two-year-old of 2011 in Dabirsim. He hasn’t looked as potent on return as a three-year-old and looks held on form by Saint Boudalino who came from a real unpromising position to run him down late, and is another I’m not overly keen on, especially at a skimpy 14/1.

TIFONGO – Had the run of the race when setting a slow pace at Longchamp last time, and is held on that run with Hard Dream. It is hard to imagine the winner of this coming from out of that race, so I can’t entertain this horse any longer than I have to, and I fear he’ll struggle with the ground if it gets any quicker than its current state.

TOP TRIP – Graduating from the Deauville all-weather surface onto the turf. Top Trip won on heavy ground at Saint Cloud before a second placing behind Kesampour on his next start. He wasn’t gaining on Kesampour in the closing stages and was being run down by Valdo Bere at the line, so it is tough to see him reversing placings with either. His next performance at Longchamp reads well, having beaten the well regarded Masterstroke who was being prepped for this race at the time of his defeat in the Prix Hocquart. I don’t think Masterstroke really ran to the level his homework suggested he was capable of, and thus feel Top Trip is flattered by this performance and I’m passing him over in favour of something else.

VALDO BERE – Looks a little bit of a big price at around a general 66-1. His run in the listed race won by Kesampour reads better than the bare form suggests, and given he was held up last off a fairly modest pace (ridden to suit the winner) he closed really strongly into the straight to almost run down Top Trip for second. Beaten into third behind both Hard Dream and Tifongo on ground I think was much softer than he’d like, a return to a sounder surface will bring out improvement in this colt, and I really think he’ll run better than his odds imply, but is likely to lack the required class.

VERDICT
This is a really tough race to get a handle on as it is a really good renewal, but if I was pressed I would probably see the most likely winner being Kesampour. The unbeaten son of King’s Best likes to race prominently which will put him in good stead in this race, goes well for Christophe Lemaire and clocked a really good time at Saint Cloud on his most recent effort to suggest he’ll play a hand in the finish here.

My idea of a value selection would be the Andre Fabre trained Albion who ran really well in the Prix Greffulhe last time behind Kesampour, and ought to improve for the booking of Frankie Dettori. He improved nicely off his comeback effort, and it is possibly (given the way Fabre trains) he has improved again off the back of that, and as such is a massive price at around 20-1.

Ektihaam looks likely to run a massive race on the form, will have no problems staying this trip and gets an inside birth which could be seen as a negative if he doesn’t get out the gates well. He is a good price at 9-1, and I couldn’t put anyone off.

[notification_box]1ST – Kesampour
2ND – Albion
3RD – Ektihaam [/notification_box]

 

*Information gathered from Wikipedia.

Investec Derby 2012 Preview

The Derby dates back to 1780, and is still ranked the greatest flat race in the world (although the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe quickly assuming that mantle of late).  With winnings of £1.25m, the Investec Derby has one of the biggest prize in money in UK racing, matched only by the prestige that victory brings.  It remains the race that everyone wants to win, as horses and jockeys push themselves to the limit around the unique and challenging cambers of Epsom Downs.

The Investec Derby race boasts an unrivalled roll of honour, from legendary names such as Seabird, Nijinsky, Mill Reef and Shergar, right up to 2011 hero Pour Moi who won in famous fashion under Mickael Barzalona, who stood erect in his irons yards before the winning post in celebration.

In the 2012 renewal majority of attentions are fixed solely on Camelot, the unbeaten son of Montjeu and supposed next ‘superhorse’ to come into the racing scene. Question is though can he add the Epsom Derby to his already impressive 2000 Guineas haul?

A few trends for you to chew over, and are worth considering ahead of the big race.

[list type=”arrow_right”]

  • 9 of 10 winners achieved an RPR of 118+ last time out
  • 10 of 10 winners finished in the first 3 on all starts that season
  • 10 of 10 winners had won at least 50% of their career starts
  • 10 of the last 10 winners had run within 35 days of the Derby.
  • 10 of 10 winners by a sire with a stamina index of 8.6+
  • 10 of 10 winners were born before 7th April

[/list]

ASTROLOGY – Clocked a fairly reasonable time for this sort of race when a facile winner at Chester in the Dee Stakes. That win came in bottomless ground and it’ll be a lot different here today at Epsom. I also think he’ll be sacrificed as a pacemaker for hot favourite Camelot, and with that in mind I can’t put him forth as a betting proposition, but he may hang onto a place if they go slow enough early.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/bonfire.png” href=”#”]Bonfire[/frame_right]BONFIRE – Tops my ratings based on his win in the Dante over Ektihaam. I was very impressed with that performance, and he seems able to handle the undulations he’ll experience later on this afternoon. I am  a little worried about his ability to stay the extra trip as he is bred to be quicker than a mile and half horse, but I have hopes he might get away with it, being by Manduro who got ten furlongs well, and did win a group 2 over twelve furlongs, with the sire line of Monsun.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/camelot.png” href=”#”]Camelot[/frame_right]CAMELOT – Regarded as a class above his opposition that he’ll face today, he is a typical Ballydoyle talking horse in that although he has won a Racing Post Trophy and 2000 Guineas he hasn’t really proven what he is capable of doing on the racetrack. Perhaps this will be today, but strictly on my ratings he has it to find with a few of these, although the extra half mile is likely to play massively to his strengths – that said his current price of 4/6 is ludicrously short in a race like this, and brings back memories of Tenby in 1993 who went off 4/5 and got beat.

CAVALIERO – Is overpriced at 66/1 and has a good dosage profile fit for this race. His ratings aren’t too bad for a horse of his price and one would imagine he’ll beat a few home, but he is held on form by Main Sequence with quite an authorative performance on Lingfield Derby Trial running and it is impossible to see him reversing form here.

[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/mainsequence.png” href=”#”]Main Sequence[/frame_right]MAIN SEQUENCE – A lovely chestnut three-year-old son of Aldebaran, who remains unbeaten in four starts on the racecourse, most recently with a big performance to run down the classy maiden Shantaram in the Lingfield Derby Trial. I have the time for that race being seriously big, and one which gives him solid place chances in this classic, and I really expect a big run from David Lanigan’s charge.

MICKDAAM – An all out winner of the Chester Vase on bottomless ground on the Roodee on his latest start. He’ll need to improve rapidly on all form he has shown to date so far, and he looks more likely to be towards the rear of the field than towards the fore, and is priced accordingly at 33/1, although I’d have more around the same price as Cavaliero.

MINIMISE RISK – Comes out bottom rated on my figures and was beaten at Chester by Mickdaam, and on all known formlines really shouldn’t be up to reversing form with that rival, even on much quicker ground here at Epsom. The form of his two previous races haven’t worked out either and it is hard to imagine him finishing anywhere but last.

RUGGED CROSS – Needed the run on debut when fifth at Newbury but soon made amends with an authorative display at York winning a maiden in a really good time. He made his return at Newmarket when third to Thought Worthy in the middle of May and although he ran a really eye-catching race he wasn’t really going on at the finish. Which presents two problems to me, did he not get the trip? Or was he left with plenty to work on? My instinct is that ten furlongs is probably as far as he wants to go judging by his pedigree which will make this extra two furlongs here pose a problem to this son of Cape Cross, and is likely to go well until they hit the two furlong marker, and gradually drop back through the field.

THOUGHT WORTHY – A lovely big horse, and full brother to St Leger winner Lucarno. Following the same route as his brother in winning the Fairway Stakes at Newmarket last time he comes into this race with an almost perfect dosage fit for this race. He has the class to be competitive at this sort of level, but the tightness of the track and cambers of the course are likely to play against him and although I’d love to see him make the frame at a good price, I think he’ll be looking at around 4th-5th place at best.

THE DUKE SPEED RATINGS
Bonfire (126), Main Sequence (120), Camelot (117+), Cavaliero (114), Astrology (111), Thought Worthy (111), Rugged Cross (110), Mickdaam (109), Minimise Risk (103).

VERDICT
Although almost every man and his dog fancies Camelot, I think there is some value to be had with Main Sequence for David Lanigan who readied Meeznah to an excellent second in the Oaks back in 2010. The son of Aldebaran comes into this race with his unbeaten record on the line, and looks a strong stayer at this sort of trip which will be an advantage with so many probable ‘non-stayers ‘in the race.

The more I look at the race though the more I’m thinking Camelot probably is the good thing everyone is calling him out to be. I’ve already layed him in the win market and intend to keep that bet, but he has a perfect dosage pedigree for the race, did amazingly well to win the 2000 Guineas from his position in the field, and will improve leaps and bounds for going up in trip.

Bonfire is top rated on my figures but I do worry about his ability to stay the extra two furlongs in the Derby, and I can see him throwing it down at the two furlong pole, but just running out of petrol into third or fourth inside the final furlong as Camelot and Main Sequence go on.

1st – Main Sequence
2nd – Camelot
3rd – Bonfire
4th – Astrology
5th – Thought Worthy
6th – Cavaliero
7th – Rugged Cross
8th – Mickdaam
9th – Minimise Risk

Coronation Cup 2012 Preview

First run in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of a new monarch in King Edward VII, the Coronation Cup has tended to attract small but high class fields over the years.

Three of the most famous fillies in thoroughbred history won this race twice: Pretty Polly (1905-06), Petite Etoile (1960-61) and Triptych (1987-88). Those three fillies make up part of an elite band consisting of five horses to have won the Coronation Cup more than once: The White Knight (1907-08) and Warrsan (2003-04) make up the remainder.

The Aidan O’Brien trained St Nicholas Abbey is bidding to join these elite band of thoroughbreds to have completed the double, having won the race last year. He is currently a hot favourite to retain his crown in what is a small but select field, and looks to have every chance in doing so.
The leading jockey in this race is the great Lester Piggott with 9 wins: (Zucchero (1953), Nagami (1959), Petite Etoile (1960, 1961), Park Top (1969), Roberto (1973), Quiet Fling (1976), Sea Chimes (1980), Be My Native (1983)).

Andre Fabre heads the top trainer in this race with 6 victories: (Saint Estephe (1986), In the Wings (1990), Apple Tree (1994), Sunshack (1995), Swain (1996), Shirocco (2006)).

Bustino still holds the fastest time on record in winning this race, clocking 2:33.31 when winning the 1975 renewal.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/bup.png” href=”#”]Beaten Up[/frame_right]
BEATEN UP
This is a very smart horse indeed who wasn’t seen to best effect when far too keen in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan. He was only having his fourth start of his career up against battle-hardened sorts, and he threw his race away in the early stages. Johnny Murtagh gets on him again at the weekend, he has a clear liking for faster ground and talk is the Melbourne Cup is a likely option in the future. His speed rating at Newbury was massive when winning the St Simon Stakes (Group 3) and the form of that has worked out since. The track is a slight worry given his size but I expect a big run given the form of the William Haggas yard.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/mm.png” href=”#”]Masked Marvel[/frame_right]
MASKED MARVEL
Had done plenty of work prior to a disappointing comeback in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket. He had the run of the race in what was a tactical affair before dropping out of things at the two pole. His pedigree suggests to me the he is a stayer, and not a mile-and-half horse, and I can see a similar thing happening here. When the race quickens in earnest he doesn’t possess the necessary turn of foot to take him into his races, and I can’t contemplate backing him until he goes back up in distance. He would be a potent force over two miles and possibly further given his high cruising speed (for that distance) and copious stamina reserves, I just hope they step him back up sooner rather than later.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/qfp.png” href=”#”]Quest For Peace[/frame_right]
QUEST FOR PEACE
A former stable-mate of both St Nicholas Abbey and Robin Hood, Quest For Peace improved leaps and bounds on his first run for Luca Cumani when lowering the colours of the previous year’s St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos at Ascot. He never really stood any sort of chance at Woodbine on his next start coming from the rear of the field in a steadily run affair, he was stopped in his run at a vital stage before keeping on at the finish. He made his return and debut as a four-year-old at Newmarket at the Guineas meeting when second to Al Kazeem in the Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2). He’ll need to improve plenty on that performance from what I’ve seen, but the forecast quicker ground will play to his strengths and he wouldn’t be totally out of it.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/rcad.png” href=”#”]Red Cadeaux[/frame_right]
RED CADEAUX
A really likeable horse who has done nothing but improve with racing, and most notably so when finishing a massive second (beaten a nose) in the Melbourne Cup last November, and returning at York in style to readily account for a decent field in the Yorkshire Cup. The time of that race was really good, and one which gives him a chance in this sort of race. I have my worries though given he is a big horse that the cambers and idiosyncrasies of Epsom may go against him, as could the distance. He appeared to want every yard of the mile and six furlongs at York last time, and dropping back in trip on this sort of track has to be seen as a negative.
[frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/rhood.png” href=”#”]Robin Hood[/frame_right]
ROBIN HOOD
Looks to have been deployed as a pacemaker for stable-mate St Nicholas Abbey, and gets a switch of headgear with the visor replacing the blinkers. He is a free-going sort which is perfect for pacemaking duties around this sort of track, and he should enable they go a true and honest gallop throughout.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY
A really likeable horse who probably hasn’t lived up to the hype that was billed before him at the start of his classic campaign, but went some way to make amends last season when securing Ormonde Stakes (Group 3), Coronation Cup (Group 1), and Breeders Cup Turf (Group 1). His most recent run can be forgotten as Joseph O’Brien overplayed the waiting tactics in what was an awful ride, and his run before that in a steadily run Dubai Sheema Classic was nothing short of remarkable. The fact he was held up off the steady fractions, was on the back foot when one of the best turf horses in the world in Cirrus Des Aigles kicked clear 1.5F out, and almost managed to run him down was something to behold. [frame_right src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/sna.png” href=”#”]St Nicholas Abbey[/frame_right]That powerful long stride devoured into the ground and almost pulled off the unthinkable. He has an eye-catching ability to run left handed tight-sharp tracks scarily well with form reading (111) according for two group 1’s and a group 3 in those three victories. He is a very short price to retain his crown at the weekend but he is the clear class angle in the race, and with Robin Hood and Masked Marvel likely to set a solid pace between them he can unleash that powerful stride that saw him run down Midday in the race last year.

THE DUKE SPEED RATINGS
St Nicholas Abbey (130), Beaten Up (127), Masked Marvel (122), Red Cadeaux (120), Quest For Peace (109), Robin Hood (93).

VERDICT
A race which to my eye looks St Nicholas Abbey‘s to lose on paper. He should get a decent pace set from pacemaker Robin Hood, and given the fact Masked Marvel is also likely to sit handy and press the pace once Robin Hood drops through the field like a lead weight in water he should be able to wind up down the outside and use that powerful grinding stride to maximum efficiency. He is unbeaten on sharp (tight) tracks in three tries and did well to win in a slowly run affair here last year, and has improved since.

Beaten Up is the potential ‘fly in the ointment’ as that run at Newbury last backend was a massive speed rating. He wasn’t at his best in Dubai and can be forgiven that effort, I’m slightly worried about how he’ll handle the uniqueness of Epsom but he should get a true pace throughout and looks certain to go close.

1st – St Nicholas Abbey
2nd – Beaten Up
3rd – Red Cadeaux
4th – Quest For Peace
5th – Masked Marvel
6th – Robin Hood

Investec Oaks 2012 Preview

The Oaks is the third of Britain’s five classic races to be held during the season, and the second of two restricted only to fillies. It is also the middle leg of the Fillies Triple Crown, preceded by the 1000 Guineas and followed by the St Leger, although the feat of winning all three is rarely attempted these days, with the allure of better prize money and racing abroad.

In a race of this nature is pays to follow a few basic rules, and by following these a winner can usually be sourced.

[list type=”arrow_right”]

  • 9 of the last 10 winners achieved their highest RPR on their most recent run.
  • 9 of the last 10 winners were born between February 1st – April 31st (Casual Look only exception).
  • 10 of the last 10 winners had all previously won over 1M+
  • 10 of the last 10 winners had run within 35 days of the Oaks.
  • The last 8 winners had finished in the first two of a recognised Oaks Trial (Musidora, Pretty Polly, Sweetenham, Height Of Fashion, Lingfield Oaks, Cheshire Oaks).

[/list]

[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/betterbetterbetter.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Clocked a really fast time on debut when second to Princess Highway (who has since gone on to further success in the Blue Wind Stakes) but appeared to be beaten on merit at Chester in the Cheshire Oaks last time out. The winner and third have both run since and have been beaten out of sight, and whilst I can see this one performing more a ‘forcing of the pace’ role for her yard, I don’t think she possesses the necessary class to take out a classic.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/colima.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Stable-mate to Cubanita, Ralph Beckett should have a line on where he is at in regards Betterbetterbetter on his running of Cubanita in the Cheshire Oaks, the latter named has since been stuffed in the Italian Oaks after holding a provisional entry in this race, and given the ease in which Vow beat her in the Lingfield Oaks Trial last time it is hard to imagine this one troubling the judge. That said she was held up off a slow pace, and quickened into the teeth of the race as all those quickened in-front of her, so she could finish in the top six.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/coquet.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
From the first crop of Sir Percy, she took out the same race Snow Fairy did prior to winning the 2010 Oaks, when landing the Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood on her most recent start. Once again ridden by Rab Havlin who gave this small compact filly a beautiful ride at Goodwood last time however I fear she lacks the necessary class to play a hand in the finish at this highest level, and she is passed over this time.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/devotion.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
This is a filly in which I’m struggling to get a real handle on. On the bare face of her form she has it all to do with the remainder of this field, but on her speed rating when second to Yellow Rosebud 19 days ago she isn’t as far behind as you’d think. The remainder of races on that card suggest it wasn’t a case of 1 quick, 6 slow races on the day and thus putting forward a rogue time, so I’m led to believe it’s a genuine reflection. The winner Yellow Rosebud bombed out in the Irish 1000 Guineas at the weekend (ground faster than ideal) which tempers enthusiasm a little, but wouldn’t be a surprise were this one to sneak into it at around 50/1 – in much the same way that Peeping Fawn improved back in 2007.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/kailani.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
A nice horse who is bred to want two miles on dosage, her pedigree is laden with stamina. It was nice to see this half-sister to Dubai Sheema Classic winner Eastern Anthem return in fine fettle at Newmarket to take out the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Guineas weekend, and the daughter of Monsun has since been supplemented into the race at the final acceptance stage. She has it to find on figures but she won really easily at Newmarket last time and although she’ll have to improve rapidly to have a shout here – it wouldn’t be beyond the wildest realms of the imagination were she to sneak into the frame.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/kissed.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
It has been stated by Annemarie O’Brien on Twitter that this choicely bred individual will only run if there is any rain. She has a rounded action and wouldn’t appreciate running at a track such as Epsom Downs with its various undulations on ground faster than ideal. She remains a very smart prospect that looks certain to win her share of Group prizes along the way, being a half sister to Pour Moi (2011 Derby winner) amongst others.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/maybe.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
The antepost favourite for ‘The Oaks’ Maybe returned to the racecourse at three with a distant third to stable-mate Homecoming Queen in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. Both winner and second placed have since been soundly beaten (4th placed The Fugue won Musidora next time). She is plenty short enough in the betting and I hold nothing on ratings to suggest she should be double the price she is, let alone 11/4. I will be looking to take her on as she looks to buck the trend that 9 of the last 10 winners of the race clocked their highest RPR on their most recent start.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/nayarra.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Has seen the track a total of 12 times already in her short career, and the form of her races this season aren’t working out at all. The Nell Gwyn at the time looked a modest event, and with Esentepe and Starscope since coming out and getting beaten in Listed grade, Lady Gorgeous beaten in a handicap off 90 and a few other defeats for other runners it is hard to see why this daughter of Cape Cross can get competitive in this grade of field, and her run at Goodwood behind Coquet last time gives her plenty to do.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/shiroccostar.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
A nicely bred daughter of Shirocco who improved upon all form with a massive comeback second on her return at Newbury last time out, and a very close one at that. She travelled best of all throughout the race and Darryll Holland was happy to keep her in-behind horses for as long as possible thus allowing eventual winner Momentary a slight advantage in bagging the inside rail, but was just held at the line. She is bred to appreciate the step up to twelve furlongs, and looks a really well balanced individual that should have no problems negotiating the quirky track that is Epsom.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/thefugue.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Based on all the information I have before me, this filly tops the charts. The John Gosden trained filly has never been renowned as a ‘flashy’ worker at home, but she has been coming on leaps and bounds as a three year old, and most notably when readily accounting for her field in the Musidora Stakes at York. Prior to that she finished an eye-catching fourth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket from an unpromising position, on ground softer than ideal and after a delayed start which wouldn’t have suited her. She fits almost all notable trends for the race, and is a lovely small compact type that will have no troubles handling the cambers of Epsom Downs and will absolutely relish the likely quicker ground forecast.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/toptempo.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Off just a rating of 85, it looks an almost impossible task for this daughter of Halling who on the form holds some fairly decent bits and pieces that would allow her to take a big hand in the right grade (handicap). However this is a tall order and her 200/1 price tag reflects her chance, and this is a case in point of ’tilting at windmills’.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/twirl.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
A full sister to multiple group 1 winning racemare Misty For Me, she was beaten on debut when green and quickly made amends on her next start – in a very good time for the grade. She was then beaten on return to the track by Chrysanthemum (a horse who had previously clocked good times) and you’d have to think she’d of been left with plenty to work on. Her most recent effort at York in the Musidora (a track where Aidan O’Brien appears to struggle) is better than the form suggests. Joseph O’Brien appears to ride the Knavesmire circuit too attackingly for what is required, and I wouldn’t write her off after seemingly being well beaten by The Fugue – as she went too quick in the early half of the race, and had nothing left at the business end.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/vow.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Won a maiden at Newbury in a quick time when coming from the rear of the field to beat Everlong (4th in Cheshire Oaks since) on her debut. The way she won that race suggests she was well above average and confirmed that impression when winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial on her most recent start. She still looked green in winning her most recent race, and her wayward tendencies have cause for concern given the nature of the track she plans to run around on Friday. That said William Haggas is looking to defend his 100% record in the Epsom Classics (being 2-2 with Shaamit & Dancing Rain) and he wouldn’t be sending her here if he didn’t think she was up to the task.
[frame_center src=”http://www.ohracing.net/images/oaks/was.png” href=”#”][/frame_center]
Won her debut well at the Curragh in a decent time at the back end of her two-year-old campaign, and returned in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas to finish third behind Princess Highway. She was beaten 1.75L by Aaraas though (who was beaten 8.5L by Kissed) which suggests although she’ll improve for the run, she had plenty to do here – and when you add to the fact that only one horse has won the Oaks in the last 10 years born later than 31st April (she’s a May foal) she becomes even harder to fancy.

THE DUKE SPEED RATINGS

The Fugue (119), Devotion (118?), Twirl (114), Shirocco Star (114), Maybe (108), Vow (106+), Kissed (106+), Kailani (104+), Betterbetterbetter (104), Coquet (103), Colima (103+), Nayarra (100), Was (88), Toptempo (80).

VERDICT

For me this is a race which revolves around the John Gosden filly THE FUGUE. She was available at much larger prices earlier in the season, and after two really impressive runs in both the 1000 Guineas and Musidora Stakes has been backed accordingly. She is bred to relish the step-up to a mile and a half, is a lovely small compact filly and most importantly well-balanced and will relish the decent ground currently on offer.

I think at the prices Maybe is chronically underpriced based on what I’ve seen and clocked, I wouldn’t be backing her at 11/2 let alone 11/4 and will be laying her on the day (she’ll probably gag up now!).

Of the more fancier priced types, I hold a large rating and probably unreliably so for Devotion who if according to my figures will massively outrun her 50/1 price tag. I am far from convinced on this one, but will be playing a small win stake at the price. Twirl has every chance based on what I’ve seen and clocked, she shouldn’t be 40/1 and ought to run better here than at York but stamina is a worry given she is a full sister to Misty For Me who didn’t get the trip last year. The only other one I like is Shirocco Star who travelled so well at Newbury last time, will come on heaps for the run and will have no problems with the extra yardage here, and looks overpriced at 20/1 – I think the Queen’s racing manager is potentially missing a trick not running the Royal filly Momentary in this.

1st – THE FUGUE
2nd – DEVOTION
3rd – SHIROCCO STAR
4th – TWIRL
5th – VOW