Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Takarazuka Kinen preview

Stepping out into Japanese racing this weekend for one of the biggest races on the international calendar. Established in 1960, the 18-horse field for the 2,200-metre race is chosen largely by fan ballot like the year-ending Arima Kinen (the Grand Prix) at Nakayama in December. The top 10 vote-getters receive an automatic place in the field; 17 horses had been nominated before Vincennes pulled out.

From the top 10, only four are set to run this year - the race's two-time defending champion Gold Ship (first), Lachesis (third), Toho Jackal (seventh) and One and Only (eighth).

Once again, casting an eye over the cream of international racing is racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.

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Takarazuka Kinen
G1 2200m Turf 3yo+
Race 11 Hanshin (Japan) G1
290,860,000 Yen (approx £1.5m)
1540 local time, 0740 BST


Formguide
History and Trends
Japanracing Preview
Market

1 Shonan Pandora: Winner of one of Japan’s biggest 3YO Fillies events last year in the G1 Shuka Sho. Since then she’s run sixth in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup and ninth in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, both races won by rival today Lachesis. Finished eighth in the G1 Victoria Mile last time. Hardest test is today.

2 Tosen Stardom: Two runs this year have been in Australia running creditably with a second in the G1 Ranvet Stakes to Contributer and a fifth to Criterion in the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. This looks even tougher however.

3 Neo Black Dia: Big run when fifth to Gold Ship in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) last time. Could surprise again but best form is over longer trips than this.

4 Admire Spica: Had been running in, and winning some, conditions races before last start when midfield in the G2 Meguro Kinen. Much tougher task today.

5 Curren Mirotic: Only had three runs since finishing 2nd in the race last year. They were a good fiftth to Flintshire in the G1 HK Vase, fourth in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten and third in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring), on both occasions behind Gold Ship. Will be in the shakeup.

6 Denim And Ruby: Hard horse to find. Used to miss the start and get well back in her 3YO days and that’s arguably what cost her the 2013 Japan Cup. Hasn’t run to that ever since however, but is consistent enough. Doubt it today however.

7 One And Only: Last year’s Japanese Derby winner who disappointed in the Japanese St. Leger and Japan Cup before getting no luck in the Arima Kinen. Run very well in his only run this year in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic when third to Dolniya and Flintshire. That pair were a little disappointing running only second and third in the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom off a false pace in a small field. Both run against Treve at Saint-Cloud later on Sunday. However this horse should acquit himself very well, especially if at his brilliant best.

8 Dia De La Madre: Third to Lachesis and Nuovo Record in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November. She’s since won a G3 and seventh in a mile G2 and ran seventh to Straight Girl in the G1 Victoria Mile. Not the worst but would surprise.

9 Toshin Monstera: Won a conditions race four runs ago, has since run eighth in two G2s and sixth in a G2. They were good races but it would be a surprise if he was competitive.

10 Ocean Blue: Almost stole the 2012 Arima Kinen but was eaten up late by Gold Ship. Has finished well back in his last couple at big odds against similar opposition and he would shock.

11 Nuovo Record: Last year’s lucky Japanese Oaks winner, over Harp Star. Two narrow seconds against Shonan Pandora and Lachesis in the G1 Shuka Sho and G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup late last year. G2 winner on seasonal debut in the Nakayama Kinen, beating strong opposition and then the 1600m was too short for her in the G1 Victoria Mile. Good chance.

12 Red Davis: Has been quite lightly raced over the last couple of years, only five runs since April 2013. Hasn’t disgraced when running 4th and 6th in the G2 Kyoto Kinen and G3 Naruo Kinen behind Lovely Day in his last two runs. Would surprise

13 Lachesis: Been in absolutely brilliant form. A bit lucky when she won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in November over Nuovo Record and Dia De La Madre but confirmed that was no fluke at all when a superb sixth in the Arima Kinen and resumed beating Kizuna in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, Spielberg in fourth. Has top form to be extremely hard to beat.

14 Toho Jackal: Hasn’t run, due to setbacks, since winning the Japanese St. Leger in October, beating some of today’s rivals. Third to One And Only prior to that over 2400m in a G2. Has the ability but there must be concerns as he’s going into an extremely strong race such as this first-up and will the trip be too short to see him at his brilliant best? For those reasons I’m prepared to take him on.

15 Gold Ship: This is his big goal for the first half of the year. Aiming for a third win in a row in this race (2014 replay). As we know he can sometimes put in the very ordinary run but he’s only ever been beaten once here at Hanshin, as a 2YO when second in a G3, so he usually runs brilliantly at this track. An extraordinary victory, for many many reasons, in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) last time when defying all odds. The one to beat.

16 Lovely Day: Five runs this year for three wins with a sixth and eighth in the G2 Hanshin Daishoten over 3000m and the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) over 3200m but his victories have been at G3 and G2 level over these types of trips. Has drawn pretty ordinary in 16 but with a bit of luck can make his presence felt.

Superb field for the Takarazuka Kinen with it being, as usual, one of the strongest races anywhere on the planet yearly. (15) Gold Ship was freakish when winning the Tenno Sho (Spring), if he runs to that again he’ll do the hat-trick. (7) One And Only is getting back to his best and was third in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic last time so he can run well obviously. (13) Lachesis has been in fantastic form of late and will certainly be in the finish. (5) Curren Mirotic ran secnd in the race last year and has been consistent since. (11) Nuovo Record and (16) Lovely Day have brilliant form, especially over these trips. (2) Tosen Stardom ran well in Australia but this is tougher. (8) Dia De La Madre usually runs honestly, it looks tough for (1) Shonan Pandora and (14) Toho Jackal has the ability but has some queries against him.

Selections
(15) Gold Ship - (7) One And Only - (13) Lachesis - (5) Curren Mirotic - (11) Nuovo Record - (16) Lovely Day (2) Tosen Stardom - (8) Dia De La Madre - (1) Shonan Pandora - (14) Toho Jackal.

The Bet
It’s more than likely that (15) Gold Ship will bring his A-Game so just simply back him.

Irish Derby preview

It's Ireland's turn for the Flat classic, it's Derby Day at The Curragh!

Preview provided by international race-calling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.

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150th Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby
12f Turf €1,250,000 3yo Group 1
The Curragh
R7 1830 local, 0330 AEST


1 Carbon Dating (150/1) (Ireland): Five starts for no wins, and never within ten lengths of the winner. Didn’t run a horrible race at all at odds of 150/1 in the Derby at Epsom when finishing eighth. Prior to that he finished last in the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas, third to Success Days in the Derrinstown and last of five in the Derby Trial at Epsom. Looks outclassed. A jumping career awaits.

2 Giovanni Canaletto (12/1) (Ireland): He’s always had a bit of hype this horse. Two runs as a 3YO include a closing second to subsequent G2 Ribblesdale Stakes winner Curvy in the G3 Gallinule Stakes and a fourth in the Derby (beaten ten lengths) behind two of today’s rivals in Jack Hobbs and Storm The Stars. I doubt he’ll reverse the form with them but can run well.

3 Highland Reel (4/1) (Ireland): Looked a world beater when easily winning the G2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last year. Then disappointed in the G1 French 2000 Guineas but bounced back to form with a fighting second to New Bay in the G1 French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club). He’s the pick of Ryan Moore of the four Aidan O’Brien runners and should prove hard to catch if he runs to the ability of last start.

4 Jack Hobbs (10/11) (United Kingdom): Second in the Derby and G2 Dante Stakes to Golden Horn which looks brilliant form for this. 2400m around the Curragh should suit him perfectly. Has the best form and is the one to beat.

5 Kilimanjaro (33/1) (Ireland): Winner of the Lingfield Derby Trial in fair fashion and wasn’t disgraced when sixth in the Derby. Will need to lift a lot though to be competitive for the blue ribbon in this.

6 Radanpour (20/1) (Ireland): Is clearly the X Factor of the contest. Has had three starts for three wins and is the mount of Pat Smullen for Dermot Weld and the Aga Khan. Last start LR winner in the King George V Cup at Leopardstown, and the runner-up backed up the form last night by bolting in to win its maiden. Impeccably bred, a half-brother to French G2 winner by Sea The Stars. Having only made his debut in April, you'd think he's been a bit backward and is a rung below the highly-rated stablemate Zawraq. Still a big step up in class. Doubt it in all honesty but each-way might appeal.

7 Storm The Stars (9/1) (United Kingdom): Continues to improve with a second in the G3 Chester Vase to Hans Holbein, he then won the LR Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood before a game third to Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs in the Derby. Doubt he’ll reverse form with Jack Hobbs but he looks a good horse for the future and should continue to get better and is one to keep an eye on for later in the season, particularly the St Leger.

8 Qualify (11/1) (Ireland): Well beaten in the 1000 Guineas at both Newmarket and The Curragh before causing a major shock when grabbing Legatissimo right on the line in the Oaks at Epsom. That gained her free entry into this race. Maybe she’s a dead set 12f horse but I’ll be very surprised if she’s in the finish here. Worth noting that before the Epsom classics, there was debate about whether the colts were as good as the fillies, but that argument seems to be blown out of the water now. It’s also another rise in class for her that she’s likely to find tough and in all honesty 11/1 looks unders.

It’s good to see a fair field of eight for the race this year for the 150th running of the race after there was lots of discussion last year what the future of the race was going to be due to small fields especially, in recent years, in 2012, frankly because of the Camelot dominance, and last year, frankly because of the Australia dominance. However it looks just about a one horse race for mine again as (4) Jack Hobbs looks clearly the best horse in the race. It’s hard to see the horses he beat home at Epsom that line up again today turning the form around so (3) Highland Reel I think will be the horse that gives him the biggest scare, if any. (7) Storm The Stars is going to make a really good horse one day but I would be a tad surprised if he won today’s contest. (2) Giovanni Canaletto looks best of the rest. (5) Kilimanjaro, (6) Radanpour, (8) Qualify and (1) Carbon Dating look outclassed.

Selections
(4) Jack Hobbs - (3) Highland Reel - (7) Storm The Stars - (2) Giovanni Canaletto - (5) Kilimanjaro - (6) Radanpour - (8) Qualify - (1) Carbon Dating.

The Bet
10/11 looks pretty nice odds actually for (4) Jack Hobbs so load up on the win.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

AFL Round 13 previews

More AFL action from Down Under, we move onto Round 13.

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AFL Round 13 Preview by aflratings.com.au via @aflratings

Only three of six favourites were successful in the AFL last week, here are our thoughts for Round 13.

Fremantle 10-1 v Collingwood 8-3

Fremantle were outstanding in the first half of the year with a 10-1 record, they are ranked first conceding 63.7pts per game and are on track for a top two finish that would guarantee a first-up home final. Interestingly the two worst results of the year for Freo were the two games leading up to the bye, a loss to Richmond in Perth & a narrow win against an injury-riddled Gold Coast team has many doubting their premiership credentials. Collingwood may have overachieved in a very good opening 11 games to their season, the Magpies find themselves once again at an 8-3 record and face a litmus test in the coming weeks. Collingwood are ranked no.1 for scoring in the AFL since Round 7 averaging 114.6pts per game during this period and have achieved 100pts or more in seven games this season which is also top ranked. The last time these teams matched up in Round 1 last year Fremantle were far too big & far too strong for Collingwood. Fremantle are -3 vs the betting line in their last five games, the Magpies should be able to at least challenge the current line of -26.5.

Sydney 9-2 v Richmond 6-5

If ever a team didn’t need a bye it was Richmond as shown by their loss last week in which they were very poor early against a quality team, the Tigers had won four straight up until last week and will be up against it this Friday Night against the Swans at the SCG. Richmond are the worst-ranked team for scoring of any current top eight team with 84.5pts Ave per game, in the last eight games that average drops to 77.6pts per game. This will be no push over for Sydney, the Tigers are 4-1 when starting as underdog in 2015 and are every bit a chance to improve on that record. Sydney have been outstanding this season, a solid 9-2 record has set them up for potential home finals and a shot at redemption from their 2014 Grand Final loss. The -25.5 Betting Line does seem a little high considering the Tigers ability to throw in the unexpected win, both teams are even against the Betting Line in 2015.

Hawthorn 7-4 v Essendon 4-7

Only 10 weeks ago Essendon were able to defeat Hawthorn in a thriller at the MCG, both teams have taken very different paths since then and the ability for the Bombers to cause another upset is highly unlikely. Hawthorn are overwhelming favourites and should be full of desperation to record as many wins as possible in order to secure a top four position at the end of the Home & Away season, Essendon are just searching for a game plan that will hopefully improve on their 52.7pts scoring average from their last three games. This one could get ugly for the Bombers if they are unable to stop the Hawks early, Essendon have won only one quarter in their last two games.

Brisbane 2-9 v Adelaide 6-5

Adelaide are short-priced favourites heading up to Brisbane to play the Lions at the Gabba, since starting 3-0 the Crows are 3-5 from their past eight games. Adelaide are 6-1 when starting favourite and have lost only once to a team with a losing record this season, defensively the Crows have struggled in their last eight games conceding 96.4pts per game but should be able to hold off a Lions team devoid of any key forwards. Brisbane did win two games coming off the bye last year but it is a difficult argument to project an upset here, the Lions have conceded 100pts or more in seven of 11 games this year which is ranked 17th in the AFL.

St Kilda 4-7 v Western Bulldogs 6-5

If the Western Bulldogs could have a mulligan half this year they would choose the Round 6 second half against the Saints in which they gave up a 55pt lead early in the third quarter to lose by seven pts, that loss could be costly especially if the Dogs fall short of a finals spot in September. Both teams are matched evenly despite the head to head market suggesting otherwise, the Bulldogs are only 1-2 when starting as favourite and the Saints are 3-7 when starting as Underdog in 2015. The Bulldogs are a very good starting team this season, they have won sevn of 11 first quarters with a +88pts differential, they are prone to give up late scores so a check in at 3QT which may provide an opportunity if their lead is small.

Carlton 2-9 v Gold Coast 1-10

Carlton are a completely different team as witnessed last week with a win over Port Adelaide at the MCG, the Blues have averaged 100.0pts in the last two weeks and have been highly competitive. Despite not recording a win in recent weeks, Gold Coast were very competitive in their lead up games to their bye last week. The Suns are finding it difficult to score, they have averaged only 46.6pts from their last five games and will need to find more avenues to goal if they are to challenge Carlton at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Team selection could change this market dramatically, we already know Gibbs will be out for the Blues and Ablett could be a game time decision for the Suns.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Diamond Jubilee Stakes preview

The final day of Royal Ascot is the big one for the sprinters. Just how good is this field? Has the Commonwealth Cup stripped some of the quality from it? Are the Aussie stars a class above or is it genuinely wide open? Returning to the blog after a bit of a hiatus is astute judge Dave Stevens, @davestevos.

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DIAMOND JUBILEE STAKES
GROUP 1, 6 FURLONGS
£525k
Part of the Global Sprint Series
1620 local, 0120 AEST


Some of the best six furlong horses on the planet on show in Saturday's feature race at Royal Ascot, and a fascinating contest with a case to be made for many of the contenders. This hasn't been a great race for favourites in recent years, with only three obliging in the last decade. Past winners include the likes of Slade Power, Starspangledbanner and the Aussie super mare Black Caviar, a truly impressive selection of horse. This year sees challengers from Ireland, the UK, Australia and the USA, and below is my preview of a race that no racing fan will want to miss.

ANSGAR Sabrina Harty/James Doyle (Stall 5)

Seven year old gelding that has been an absolute superstar for his trainer Sabrina Harty. Tasted success at both Group 3 and Group 2 level last season before finishing off with a gallant run behind Olympic Glory in a Group 1 at Longchamp. Made no impact on his return at Haydock last month, but is entitled to improve with that outing under his belt. However, the big worry has to be the trip, seeing as all his best form has come over 7F and today will be his first crack at 6F. It is doubtful that he will have the necessary speed to trouble the best of these, and his current odds of 33/1 look to be a fair reflection of his chance.

ASTAIRE Kevin Ryan/Jamie Spencer (Stall 3)

Already a Group 1 winner having tasted success in the Middle Park at Newmarket back in 2013. Has failed to hit those dizzy heights again since though, and his first and only victory since then came when he was dropped back into a Group 3 at the same track this year back in April. That was on fast ground, but his best form at the top table has come with a bit of cut in the ground. He has had two runs since then at Group 2 level, including on his preferred ground at The Curragh last time out, and has come up short on both occasions. I can see a similar scenario unfolding here. He likes to get on with things in front so at least he will ensure the race is run at a proper gallop. Not for me at 25/1.

BRAZEN BEAU Chris Waller/Craig Williams (Stall 15)

The first of two Aussie raiders, and this one would appear to be their main hope. Hacked up in the Newmarket Handicap (Group 1) at Flemington last time out in March, and according to his trainer that was just a stepping stone towards today. He is currently favourite at a best price of 11/4. He is a dual Group 1 winner, and has won his last three starts over 6F. He has also finished a head 2nd in a Group 1 over 8F, which bodes well for his ability to handle the stiff Ascot straight 6F. However, there are always doubts about how horses that travel a long way for the first time will handle the journey and adapt to their new surroundings, so that has to be a slight negative. Whilst a big run is probably on the cards, 11/4 is perhaps a little bit skinny, and there is better value to be found elsewhere from a betting perspective.

CASPAR NETSCHER David Simcock/Andrew Mullen (Stall 2)

Quadruple Group 2 winner, including a valuable event at Woodbine last year, who has run with credit in two of three starts this year including a close 4th In the Clipper Stakes at York at 25/1. The only blip came on his sole start at Group 1 level in Meydan in March, where he finished a well beaten fifth behind Sole Power. That was over 5F though, and today's trip will suit better. Andrew Mullen, who knows the horse inside out, retains the ride, and his trainer David Simcock has been bullish about this horse since his return from Meydan. Back in April he said 'I like to think this will be his year-it is the first time I have had a clear run with him'. His subsequent run in The Clipper indicates that Mr Simcock wasn't just waxing lyrical. He is currently priced up at 33/1, but that is nothing to worry about, as on his last two close calls he was sent off at 18/1 and 25/1 respectively. Definitely one to be interested in each way, and no back number despite his price.

DUE DILIGENCE Aidan O'Brien/Ryan Moore (Stall 12)

For those who like to follow owners/trainers/jockeys in form, then look no further than this horse. Ryan Moore has been on fire this week, and bar one blip on Kingfisher he hasn't put a foot wrong all week. Aidan O'Brien has been in none too shabby form either, and is firing out the winners at a relentless rate for Coolmore. Due Diligence was a good second to Slade Power in this race last year, and doubtless has been aimed at the race again this year. His reappearance was disappointing, of that there is no doubt, but his yard was in the doldrums when he ran, it was over 7F on soft ground and in all honesty it is probably best to put a line through that run. Returned to today's trip on fast ground I am sure we will see a different animal. He has a fair few lengths to find with the favourite on official ratings, and that is reflected in his current price of 8/1. However, that run here last year remains fresh in the memory and I can see the money coming for this one. 8/1 is a cracking price in my opinion, and an each way bet is definitely in order. I can't see him finishing out of the first four, and if he brings his A-game he could be hard to beat.

GLASS OFFICE David Simcock/Jim Crowley (Stall 11)

The second of two entries for David Simcock, and he will be partnered by his usual pilot Jim Crowley. Sprang a massive shock at 40/1 on his second run this season in The Clipper at York, where he had his stable-mate and today's rival Caspar Netscher 3/4 of a length behind in a blanket finish. Priced up at 25/1 today, shorter than his stable companion, but there is reason to believe that Caspar can turn the tables. Simcock reckoned that Glass Office was fitter that day and he also received 3lbs from his rival. This will be his first start at the highest level and he is probably best watched for that reason. Place prospects at the very best.

GORDON LORD BYRON Tom Hogan/Wayne Lordan (Stall 7)

Admirable globe-trotting seven year old, who has been a grand servant to connections over the years. Triple Group 1 winner, including one in Australia last year, and effective from 6F to 8F. Wayne Lordan, so cruelly jocked off Curvy earlier this week, retains the ride. He has not been at his best so far this year, and worryingly his best form has come with cut in the ground. It will be fast ground today, and unfortunately this horse just hasn't got the turn off foot on that type of surface. If there was to be an unforeseen deluge before the start of the race and the ground turned soft then he would be a lot shorter than his current odds of 20/1. However, with no rain forecast and conditions likely to remain as they are, Gordon Lord Byron won't be troubling the quickest of these. Best left alone until encountering a softer surface later on in the year.

MOVIESTA Eddie Lynam/Paul Mulrennan (Stall 13)

Ex-Bryan Smart gelding, now in the care of the Irish sprint king Eddie Lynam who trained Slade Power to victory in this last year. A Group 2 winner over 5F back in 2013 at Goodwood, and yet to get his head in front since. However he has run some big races at Group 1 level in that time, including an excellent 3nd in the Prix L'Abbaye at Longchamp (5F) on his final start last year when he was denied a clear run at a crucial stage. The worry is though that all of his best form has come over the minimum distance of 5F, and he has been well below par on his most recent attempts at 6F. He has won over the trip, but that was in a Class 3 Handicap off a mark of 83. It is a much hotter race today. He is currently priced up at 20/1, and that is probably an accurate representation of his chance. Over 5F he would be a much more interesting contender, and he is one to take note of when he drops back down to that trip. Until then though he is best left alone.

MUSIC MASTER Henry Candy/Fergus Sweeney (Stall 13)

Group 3 winner last season at Newbury over this distance, and represents the yard that hit the crossbar with Limato in yesterdays Commonwealth Cup. He is another that took his chance in this race last year, and he lost no caste in defeat with a creditable 4th place finish only a length behind Due Diligence. Has undoubtedly been campaigned this year with this race in mind, and made a satisfactory reappearance behind Astaire in a Group 3 (6F) at Newmarket. Dropped back to 5F last time out and was a well beaten favourite, a run that is more than likely the reason he is available to back at 25/1 today. His trainer stated that he wasn't right for that run, and had trouble breathing due to the type of bit that he used. I think those odds are too big, and I can see a much better performance forthcoming today returned to fast ground and 6F. Another with each way claims at the very least.

MUSTAJEEB Dermot Weld/Pat Smullen (Stall 4)

A winner at the meeting last year over 7F in the Group 2 Jersey Stakes. Has come up short on both tries at the highest level so far, but both those attempts came over a mile, a trip that undoubtedly stretches his stamina, even though he did manage to bag a Group 3 at the trip on his seasonal return last year. Returned to action this season with an excellent victory over reliable sprinting yardstick Maarek, and had Gordon Lord Byron and Astaire well behind. That showed his aptitude for today's trip, and it was also on easy ground which makes it an even more impressive performance, as Weld has always maintained he is best on a quick surface. He is the current scond favourite at a best price of 5/1, and I can see him shortening up tomorrow. Weld has already tasted victory this week and also saw Forgotten Rules running a huge race in the Gold Cup so the well being of his horses is assured. This son of Nayef should run a big race, and is definitely one of the main protagonists.

PEARL SECRET David Barron/Andrea Atzeni (Stall 14)

Six year old that has won twice at Listed level and grabbed his first success at Group level in the Temple Stakes at Haydock (Group 2) this season. Ran a cracker here in the King's Stand on Tuesday, a run that proved quick ground holds no fears. However, it is difficult to be confident that he will be at his best for today's race having run just three days ago, and he looks to be up against it with his rivals being a lot fresher. Has been campaigned over 5F in the main, but ran a decent race on his only attempt over 6F at Haydock last year behind G Force. He is currently available to back at 16/1, and if he was coming straight to this race and hadn't run on Tuesday he would definitely be more of interest. A break of just three days is not long enough at this level in my opinion, and he is best watched.

TROPICS Dean Ivory/Robert Winston (Stall 8)

Seven year old that is a triple listed winner and has also tasted success at Group 3 level, a win that came over today's track and trip. The apple of his trainer's eye, who was absolutely delighted with him after his Listed reappearance win at Windsor earlier this month, unsurprisingly so as he is a horse that usually takes a few runs to come to hand. Has some strong Group 1 form in the book, including a good 2nd to Slade Power last Summer in the Darley July Cup, and there is no doubt that he deserves his place in this field. He goes on any ground, so he should have no problem with today's underfoot conditions. Robert Winston, who is Tropics regular partner, takes the ride and it would be an amazing story of redemption if he was to bag a Group 1 at Royal Ascot given his chequered past. Capable of a big run, but will probably come up a bit short at odds of 20/1.

UNDRAFTED Wesley Ward/Frankie Dettori (Stall 6)

The sole American representative that hails from a yard that has had a winner already this week. This five year old gelding is a Group 3 winner over this trip back in his own country, but he proved he could mix it with Europe's best on his sole start on these shores last year, a good 4th behind Slade Power and Tropics in the July Cup. He will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, who also partnered him at Newmarket last year. He has run twice this year in Group 3 contests back home, and his second run was much more encouraging than his first when he was a fast finishing 2nd over 5F on fast ground at Churchill Downs. His trainer is typically bullish about his gelding, and is expecting him 'to run unbelievable'. He will need to if he is to get his head in front, and I can see him finding a few too good on the day. Best watched at 14/1.

WANDJINA Gai Waterhouse/Damien Oliver (Stall 10)

The second of the Aussie raiders, this three year old colt has improved beyond recognition this year, winning a Group 3 (7F) on his reappearance before following up over a mile in a Group 1 at Flemington. He again ran with credit last time out, also in a Group 1 over a mile, but was beaten a head in to 2nd on easy ground that would have been far from ideal. He won his maiden over 5f, but the fact that he has found so much improvement after being stepped up in distance means that dropping back in trip today has to be seen as a big negative. His half brother Inspiration was a crack sprinter though, so it is no surprise that connections fancy having a crack at this race. Worth keeping an eye on, and could make a bold bid, but at 12/1 there are too many doubts about the suitability of the trip, and he is another best watched for today.

LUCKY KRISTALE George Margarson/Tom Queally (Stall 9)

The sole filly in the field, and has gotten her career back on track this year after failing to impress during her three year old season after being stepped up in trip. Just failed to reel in Tropics last time out at Windsor after the winner got first run on her. Her reappearance at Newmarket (6F) in a Group 3 was also very encouraging, but her run in the Clipper at York, where she was behind a few of today's rivals, was very disappointing. The ground had a little bit of juice in it that day, and this filly needs it like the road to be seen at her very best. She managed a couple of Group 2 wins as a two year old, and lowered the colours of Rizeena on the first occasion. However, overall her form looks a little bit short of what is required in this race, and she will need to put in the performance of her life if she is to be competitive. She is currently available to back at 33/1, and that is probably an accurate reflection of her chance. One to be interested in when pitched into action against her own sex.

CONCLUSION

This is a truly fascinating and competitive Group 1 sprint, and as was stated earlier and has been illustrated above, there are a good few of these with chances. Brazen Beau is the current favourite, but looks a bit skinny at 11//4 given that it is his first run outside his home country. A similar sentiment applies to his Aussie compatriot Wandjina, who also has to prove this trip suits.

The Coolmore operation has a live contender in Due Diligence, and he should leave the form of his seasonal reappearance well behind. Mustajeeb is another at the head of the market that needs to be considered having shown that 6F suits him well on his last outing. Music Master cannot be discounted with much confidence either having run so well here last year.

However, the one that really catches the eye and looks way overpriced is CASPAR NETSCHER for David Simcock and Andrew Mullen. This is his trip, his trainer predicted big things for him at the start of the year, and his run last time out showed he is coming to hand at just the right time. At his current odds of 33/1 he is the each way selection in a wide open race.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Ribblesdale Stakes preview

Time for me to step up to the plate today at Royal Ascot, no other brave souls have stepped up (one big negative about consecutive days of racing, when do you get the time to bet, enjoy the racing and then research the following day?). My choice for the day is the fillies' race, it's an Oaks by another name, run at a track not originally designed for goats.

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The Ribblesdale
£160k, 1m4f
Group 2 for 3yo fillies
1540 local, 0040 AEST


Brandybend - nice Galileo filly for Marco Botti but 25lbs behind the favourite on official ratings. Several lengths behind Pamona last time at Newbury, perhaps unsuited by leading on that day but previous form only in maidens. No.

Curvy - impressive formline, beating the colts last time at The Curragh, including Coolmore first pick for the Derby, Giovanni Canaletto. Ryan Moore jumps on board (beaten by her last time so must have been impressed) and rides for David Wachman rather than the usual O'Brien runners within the same ownership. Her half-sister won this a decade ago. Maiden as a 2yo, has won all three this season. Big chance.

Entertainment - handy filly, weighed in light at Newbury last time when beaten several lengths. Keeps seeing the backside of Pamona, several lengths behind her each time, no reason to expect any change here.

Forte - struggles to settle, has to be a doubt on staying the trip on that quirk but is a sister to recent Oaks winner Talent. Long way short of what is required here.

Gretchen - 'Well f£$% me if I'm wrong, but isn't your name Gretchen?' is a well-used pickup line, but the thoroughbred version has a far more likely chance of success. Impeccably bred Galileo filly (he's sired half the field here), a half-sister to Irish St Leger winner Duncan. Strong win on debut, trained by a genius in John Gosden. Lacks race experience but not much else.

Pamona - Cumani-trained filly who bypassed the Oaks for this. Unlucky last time at Newbury, not seeing daylight when it mattered behind Crystal Zvezda who later disappointed in the Epsom classic. Still open to improvement and in the right hands.

Pandora - another Galileo filly who will relish the step up in trip. Unraced at two, she won on debut then was thrown in the deep end at York, being outpaced by future Prix de Diane winner Star of Seville in a small field with variable pace. Further improvement would put her right in this and a genuine pace would suit her better. Trainer already has a winner with a 3yo this week.

Pleascach - Irish 1000 Guineas winner who stands out as a clear favourite here. Purchased by Godolphin since that victory, that was a step back in trip after two runs this season at 10f, winning the latter one by a comfortable 8.5 lengths. By Teofilo, not the obvious staying blood of Galileo or Halling, but can't really mark her down on that given the ease of victory at Naas.

Wedding Vow - still a maiden after four starts, beaten as odds-on favourite in the Lingfield Oaks trial, but was runner-up to Legatissimo in her run preceding her 1000 Guineas win. Blue-blood who needs some black type to add to her pedigree page, Ryan Moore has looked elsewhere, so should we.

Zamoura - ran third in the Cheshire Oaks, well beaten and there's only so much switching to a bigger track can do. She was behind Entertainment who is making up numbers here too. This won't be the next Royal Ascot winner for Frankie.

VERDICT

Pleascach sets the obvious standard but I'm in no rush to back her at close to evens with so many of her rivals in form and with considerable scope to improve further. Any time a filly beats the colts, I like to take notice. Ryan Moore is unstoppable at the moment, riding five winners from 12 races so far, taking 7/1 each-way on Curvy seems a no-brainer to me (make sure you get 1/4 1-3, terms not offered by all firms). Improvement to come from Gretchen as well.

Selections
Curvy
Gretchen
Pleascach
Pandora


AFL Round 12 previews

Not only are we amidst the bye rounds, but the AFL has decided to start playing matches on Thursday night in the middle of winter, while I'm focused on Royal Ascot! So apologies for missing the first game of the round which has just gotten underway.

Once again, previews provided by the smart chaps at @AFLRatings.

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AFL Round 12 Preview by aflratings.com.au via @AFLRatings

Last week five favourites were successful from six games in the AFL, here are our thoughts for Round 12.

Adelaide 6-4 v Hawthorn 6-4

The Crows opened the 2015 AFL home & away season 3-0, since then a 3-4 record has them precariously located inside the top 8. Adelaide has won only one game vs a team currently residing in the top 8 (R2 Collingwood), they have scored 80.0pts per game between Rounds 8-10 and are 0-3 when starting as underdog this season. If you get the sense our thoughts here are swayed towards selecting Hawthorn then you are correct, the Hawks are the no.1 scoring team in the AFL again this season which has been their simple formula for success. Since the beginning of 2013, Hawthorn are 39-0 when scoring 100pts or more & only 9-12 when scoring fewer than 100pts. Adelaide are going to have to shutdown Hawthorn for four quarters, but the Hawks with a relatively healthy playing list are going to be very difficult to defeat.

Richmond 6-4 v West Coast 8-3

The Tigers have rebounded extremely well from a poor start to the year to be inside the top 8 with a 6-4 record, more importantly in the last four weeks they have been able to take control of games and tempo whenever they have wanted which is a sign of a very good team. Richmond did lose coming off the bye 12 months ago so this will be a great test for their maturity as an emerging team, defensively the Tigers have conceded just 57.3pts Ave from their last three games and that will be tested against the no.2 scoring team in the AFL this season. Interestingly, West Coast has played only two top 8 sides so far in the 2015 home & away season and seven of their wins have been by 50pts or more. This will be a brutal game from the Tigers, the Eagles have a 3-2 travel record so far this season.

Carlton 1-9 v Port Adelaide 5-6

Be aware, be very aware that Carlton has adjusted their game. The Blues racked up 410 disposals vs Adelaide two weeks ago in a narrow loss at the MCG, prior to that they were averaging only 332.9 Disposals per game. Opinions needs to change quickly as Carlton are +2 vs the Betting Line in their last two games, despite a poor 1-9 record the Blues are highly likely to challenge the Power all the way at the MCG on Saturday. Port Adelaide have had their own struggles this season failing to provide any type of consistency similar to that of last year which nearly led them in to a Grand Final spot, the Power are scoring 17.4pts less per game compared to last season. This one could be a very close contest, a loss to Port Adelaide will be disastrous to their finals chances in 2015.

GWS Giants 7-4 v Nth Melbourne 5-6

Regardless of the result last week, GWS were well in control of their own destiny of playing finals in 2015. Two quarters of footy may have taken away any chance of September action with critical injuries to arguably four of their better players, the Giants will be well short of quality defenders and may have to adjust their game style as a result. All is not lost this week for the Giants however as the Kangaroos have their own injury problems to deal with, midfield numbers are way down for Nth Melbourne this season resulting from long term injuries to Wells & Dal Santo along with the departure of Greenwood to Collingwood. The Kangaroos have averaged only 340.7 Disposals from the last six games and do not have a player ranked in the top 50 for average disposals in 2015. This game might be for viewing only for future knowledge, but if you must the Giants might be a great small value investment at game time considering all the money that will come for the Kangaroos this week.

Western Bulldogs 5-5 v Brisbane 2-8

Brisbane won their opening two games coming off the bye last year, they have been hit hard by injuries this year and are lacking key forwards & defenders on their playing list and as a result are conceding 107.3pts per game (Ranked 17th). Throughout this year the Western Bulldogs have been very impressive but they can also turn it up when expectations are high, the Bulldogs have a 0-2 record when starting as favourite & a 5-3 record when starting as Underdog this season. The Bulldogs are overwhelming favourites, be aware they have a -138pt differential in last quarters this season.

Geelong 6-5 v Melbourne 3-8

In the only AFL Sunday game Melbourne will do their best to be competitive against Geelong at Simonds Stadium, the Cats are very good in first quarters this year with an 8-3 record so an expected fast start is quite possible. Geelong are getting it done defensively in the last two weeks conceding only 61.0pts Ave, Melbourne are ranked 17th scoring only 71.3pts per game in 2015 but have averaged 84.0pts in the last two weeks. Not expecting an upset in this one, but the Demons would be still hurting from conceding a late winner against the Saints last Sunday. Keep an eye on the coin toss as forecast high winds will assist scoring to one end of the ground, a check of weather conditions is highly recommended as there may be better offers available at quarter-time.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Prince of Wales's Stakes preview

Nursing a sore head and still bemoaning Medicean Man being beaten a nose in the King's Stand Stakes yesterday, it's time for me to post some more Royal Ascot action. Day One was fantastic, and the rest of the week ain't bad either.

Today's feature is the Prince of Wales's Stakes, a race which bizarrely wasn't run between 1940-1967 because there was no male heir to the throne (so?). With the preview, it's international race-calling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @WorldRacingLuke.

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Prince of Wales's Stakes
G1 1m2f
£525,000
1620 local, 0120 AEST


1 California Chrome (United States of America):
Very unfortunate that he doesn’t take his place due to a foot abscess. Horrible luck. Non-Runner.

2 Cannock Chase (8/1) (United Kingdom):
Has his fair share of ability and won the G3 Tercentenary Stakes at the meeting last year. However in his two runs this year he was third, to rival Western Hymn, in the G3 Gordon Richards Stakes and only second to Maverick Wave in the G3 Huxley Stakes. Now one would imagine that only placings in those races wouldn’t be good enough to be competitive in this, however Telescope (Also trained by Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore) was a tad disappointing in those two races last year and then he went bang at this meeting last year, and also very strangely after Ryan Moore was confirmed the rider of The Grey Gatsby, he switched to this horse on Monday in a very interesting turn of events. So that’s certainly a plus for this horse. I like the horse, but I don’t think his form is good enough.

3 Criterion (12/1) (Australia):
Started his international forays with a fantastic third in the G1 Hong Kong Cup in December. He was then third and second, over unsuitable trips, in the G1 Canterbury Stakes and G1 George Ryder Stakes during the Sydney Autumn. He then got his day in the sun (albeit on a soft track) when an extremely dominant winner of the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Most thought he was a tad disappointing in the G1 QEII Cup in Hong Kong last time, and were critical of the ride from Craig Williams, but I thought he performed as well as he could and Craig was unlucky to lose the ride. Great to see an Australian-trained horse coming to Royal Ascot for a race like this. I think he’ll come up a tad short, but he won’t disgrace himself.

4 Ectot (11/2) (France):
He has all the ability in the world but he’s a bit of a headcase as well. Pulled extremely hard but still won the G2 Prix Niel in September, when letting down extremely strongly at the 2f but then only falling in. He then got too stirred up in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, big crowd with lots of runners etc, and never ran on at all. He missed his return runs in the G1 Prix Ganay and G1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp in May due to small setbacks. So he comes into this fresh which is a concern in two ways, 1) Will he be fit enough? 2) Will he be too fresh and pull his ring off, get stirred up etc. The small field will certainly help him settle a bit more but he can really pull and I wouldn’t expect a hot speed which could work against him. Has he positives but he also has he negatives. Each-way is the safe way but I would be happy to lay him, due to his quirks.

5 Free Eagle (3/1) (Ireland):
Fragile horse but he is another that has all the ability on the planet. Missed most of last year due to injury before blowing away his rivals in the G3 Enterprise Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend and then ran a promising third in the G1 Champion Stakes on British Champions Day at this track in October. Now there’s certainly a fitness concern, as he missed his preparation race in the G1 Tattersall’s Gold Cup in May at The Curragh, but he has the necessary ability to be very competitive in this.

6 Gailo Chop (11/1) (France):
Nice horse that could be good odds. Easy winner of the G2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano last year and his only run since was a blinder behind Solow, world’s best miler and yesterday’s Queen Anne winner, where he led the field and was only beaten 1.5 lengths in the G1 Prix d’Ispahan. That form looks pretty good, especially after yesterday, so he’s certainly one not to forget about. Part-owned by the Australian venture OTI Racing.

7 Spielberg (8/1) (Japan):
This horse is amazingly over the odds. Has his injury problems, was sidelined for 18 months between May 2012 and August 2013, but is very good. He was a brilliant winner of the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) coming from well back in November, in front of Gentildonna and Epiphaneia etc. He then in my humble opinion should have won the G1 Japan Cup when coming from a long way back to storm home and run third, best career run to date. And was fantastic in his seasonal reappearance in the G2 Sankei Osaka Hai, behind likes of G1 winners Lachesis and Kizuna, where he hated every second of the soft ground but tried valiantly for fourth place, coming from last. Christophe Soumillon has a great record on Japanese trained horses as well. Best value bet of the whole entire meeting. The one to be on.

8 The Corsican (25/1) (United Kingdom):
Strong winner of the LR Festival Stakes at Goodwood last time but will need a career best to get involved here and in all honesty he should be more like 100/1 than 25/1.

9 The Grey Gatsby (6/1) (United Kingdom):
Always loved the horse but he’s been a jury in/jury out horse this season. Fantastic winner of the G2 Dante Stakes, G1 Prix du Jockey Club and G1 Irish Champion Stakes last year. I thought he was a bit mystifying in the G1 Dubai Turf when 2nd, but after Solow yesterday it was a perfectly respectful run, but he was a confusing run last time when only fourth in the G1 Tattersall’s Gold Cup. And Ryan Moore has chosen Cannock Chase ahead of him too after confirming to ride this horse! I don’t think he liked being without cover in Ireland and he wouldn’t have liked the ground either. The fast ground and 2000m will suit and if they run a strong pace and he’s out the back smoking the pipe, he’ll be swamping them late. I personally don’t think Jamie Spencer is the best rider for him, due to his big action with the whip etc, and Richard Hughes would be a good rider for him, I also think a pacemaker for him would be a good idea, but I think if things go his way he’ll be in the finish.

10 Western Hymn (8/1) (United Kingdom):
Was defined as a soft ground horse last year but he can go on any ground. Has had two strong G3 victories at Sandown this year in the good form races such as the Gordon Richards Stakes and Brigadier Gerard Stakes. Not a true G1 horse in my eyes yet but the two races he’s won produce good horses so he can certainly run well.

VERDICT
A fantastic renewal the Prince of Wales’s with four local runners, two from France and one each from Ireland, Australia and Japan. Even with California Chrome unfortunately out it’s an awesome race and on a year-to-year basis this race is my favourite of the year at the meeting. (7) Spielberg looks extraordinary odds and he looks perfectly suited to everything and in the last couple of days has been 14/1 to 8/1 so make sure you get on this horse as he’s still amazing odds and is the value bet of the meeting. (6) Gailo Chop could prove hard to catch if he finds the top and his form looks good. (9) The Grey Gatsby is on his last chance but his best form is way too good to dismiss him. (5) Free Eagle has a fitness concern for mine, (3) Criterion might not be good enough and so too (10) Western Hymn. (4) Ectot I think might get too ahead of himself. (2) Cannock Chase is the pick of Ryan Moore, rode a treble yesterday, but in all honesty looks outclassed and (8) The Corsican looks completely outclassed.

Selections
(7) Spielberg - (6) Gailo Chop - (9) The Grey Gatsby - (5) Free Eagle - (3) Criterion- (10) Western Hymn - (4) Ectot - (2) Cannock Chase - (8) The Corsican

The Bet
Straight win bet on (7) Spielberg.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Windsor Castle Stakes preview

Ending day one is the Windsor Castle Stakes, a Listed race for the juveniles. It mightn't be as classy as the Coventry or the Norfolk, but it still says Royal Ascot winner in the history books and it doesn't make it any easier to win or find the winner!

Stepping up to the challenge is astute racing punter James Moore, @jamesracing1. It's his first appearance on the blog and you can read more of his work on his site.

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Windsor Castle Stakes
Listed, 5f for 2yo
£60k
1735 local (0235 AEST)


1. Aragon Knight - Looks to be running for the 'Owner's Badges', second in an easy ground Salisbury maiden last time out, nothing to encourage support.

2. Archimedes - Flopped on easy ground when short priced favourite for fair Lingfield maiden on second start, bounced back on faster ground to win ordinary Bath maiden in a moderate time. Plenty to find, despite a potentially good draw.

3. Ard San Aer - Has run in two good maidens (winning the second of them), but upped to 6f that day. Unproven on better than good to soft ground, in a race where Irish runners have a poor win record.

4. Areen - Well backed winner of a good York maiden first time out (in receipt of 10lbs from Ravenhoe), but an early bump from a wide draw in the National Stakes seemed to 'light him up' and he over-raced, undoubtedly capable of better, but has it to prove from a potentially tricky draw in three.

5. Halsall - Narrow winner of a poor Redcar maiden on third start, easily overlooked from form and times perspective.

6. Harvard Man - Winner of a good Newbury maiden over 5f in a fast time on first start, but disappointed when favourite for a 6f conditions race next time. This is not historically a race for horses beaten over 6f to bounce back in. Has it to prove now.

7. Hot Stuff - Little obvious promise behind Archimedes last time out for a race like this. Maidens and horses at big prices can 'pop-up' in this race, but this would require a massive leap of faith.

8. It's In The Rain - First runner in the UK for his trainer. Easily off the mark at the fourth attempt (first time blinkers) in a 5 1/2f maiden in the French provinces. Showed a lot of pace and time was good, but hardly a typical winner of this race.

9. Just Glamorous - Comfortably held behind Sahreej in a moderately run Chepstow maiden last time out. I hope the owners enjoy their lunch.....

10. Lathom - Prominent racer who ran a decent second in the 'Brian Yeardly' at Beverley. The Fahey yard have won this race before, but the suspicion is that this stiff 5f might find him wanting in the closing stages.

11. Nelspruit - Showed pace to lead in the 'Woodcote' at Epsom on Derby day when second to Buratino, but was ultimately easily dismissed. Took a long time to master subsequent winner Secret Tale to land odds of 4/11 in a 5f Goodwood maiden. Doesn't look good enough in a race connections have never won. (Was in the auction on Monday, strange if the owners thought it was up to this class)

12. Orvar - Apparent Hannon stable first string, comfortably won his maiden at Salisbury in good time (second well beaten on reappearance on Sunday). Could be anything, but with yard's poor win record in the race, it is likely he will be overbet and and represent little value.

13. Ravenhoe - Sixth run not the normal profile of a winner of this race, but has a potentially beneficial high draw and a 10lb pull with Areen for 1.5L on their York running. One of the more likely outsiders.

14. Roll On Rory - Comfortable winner of poor Carlisle maiden second time up (second and third both well beaten favourites on their next starts) showing signs of temperament. The booking of Dettori would infer better is expected, but can't be selected on form.

15. Sahreej - Off the mark last time out (third attempt) when comfortably accounting for Just Glamorous in a moderate time at Chepstow (third there ran a good second on Sunday at Salisbury), open to improvement, but another with lots to find on both form and the clock.

16. Silver Wings - Should help to force the pace along amongst the low drawn horses and very honest. Has already beaten Archimedes and 3lb better in with Soapy Aitken on Windsor running, but unlikely to reverse that form. This stiff 5f is probably beyond him, but appears one of the better 66/1 chances.

17. Sir Theodore - Second in a moderate Nottingham maiden last time (that is not working out well) and yard without a 2yo winner in the last five years. Potential 'plot' draw in 27 appears the only positive.

18. Soapy Aitken - Has appeared green, despite winning, in both starts so far (dwelt on second start) which is something of a concern, but has a fabulous, fluent, fast ground action and travels supremely well and looks likely to improve again, especially in a stronger run race. Described as 'special' by his jockey Adam Kirby, he represents the Clive Cox yard who are no strangers to success with 2yos at this meeting. With pace amongst the low drawn horses he looks the one to beat as long as his draw is not an insurmountable hindrance and Sunday's heavy watering of the straight course has not turned the ground against him.

19. Stamp Hill - Well beaten in 2 good quality 6f maidens so far on easy ground (behind Ard San Aer first time). Nothing to recommend here.

20. Steady Pace - Covered up when an impressive course and distance winner in good time on his debut (beating Norfolk Stakes favourite King Of Rooks) he was made 7/4 favourite for the National Stakes at Sandown on his second start, but a mediocre draw in six saw him have to race wide with no cover and he faded tamely to be a well beaten third. He could easily bounce back here if ridden with more restraint in a race where winning form last time out is not essential, with course and distance form a definite plus. Big player.

21. Washington DC - Comes here with the best piece of form in the race with a 2nd place to Coventry favourite Round Two. Forced to race wide that day with almost no cover, he is another that can improve for the bigger field, however, this is not a race that his powerful stable have seemed to target and his appearance here may signify that he is not held in the highest of regard. Another with the potential to be overbet due to connections and with a potentially tricky low draw to overcome, he can win, but appears little value at around the 5/1 mark.

22. Wedge - Made all to land a 5f all weather maiden at Chelmsford last time out, but with the moderate record of the yard's runners in this race he can be easily overlooked.

23. Caledonia Gold - I hope the owners enjoy lunch.......

24. Dream Dreamer - Flopped last time out when turned out quickly after a facile Windsor maiden win in good time, she is clearly better than that. Should help to force the pace amongst the low drawn horses and not a totally forlorn hope at 40/1 for a yard who have won the race before.

25. Opal Tiara - 2nd to expensive Godolphin purchase and Queen Mary second favourite Easton Angel in the 'Hilary Needler' at Beverley last time out in good time with the third well held she has shown herself capable of handling a stiff 5f run at a strong pace. Her yard have won the race 3 times before (2 with fillies) and for all the boys have dominated this race in recent years, we shouldn't forget that fillies won this race five years in a row at the end of the last century. With a potentially advantageous draw in 24 she looks a rock solid each-way play at 20/1 with many bookmakers paying 4 places.

26. Ruby Nation - Represents last year's winning trainer (has won this race twice) Wesley Ward. Winner of a claimer at Churchill Downs (where she could have been claimed for $40k) it is impossible to know how good she might be. It may be significant that the trainer is quoted as saying she is not among his better raiders and that she “will have a decent chance if the race comes up decent. If the race comes up with a lot of really nice two-year-olds then she’s going to have a tough time getting it done.” . At the moment, she looks a likely drifter.

27. Socialite Red - Well held behind Opal Tiara on both starts to date, I can see no particular reason to think she will get any closer this time.

VERDICT

The Windsor Castle is traditionally not one of the better 2yo races at Royal Ascot with winners in recent years ranging from 15/8 favourite to 100/1. Those winners have ranged from Hootenanny who went on last year to take the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf to Elhamri who ended his career rated just 58.... Of late a high draw here has been a distinct advantage, although there is no shortage of pace amongst the low numbers and it would perhaps be wise to see any if any draw advantage emerges from the Kings Stand earlier in the afternoon.

It is almost unfathomable that the Hannon yard has failed to win this race despite firing many bullets at it, their runners are therefore overlooked for win purposes as they will, most likely be overbet in a race where history does not justify this. The poor record of Aidan O'Brien's yard (and Irish runners in general) means that, despite having the best single piece of form in the race, Washington DC is also unlikely to be much value at the price available in a race they just don't seem to target.

For these reasons Clive Cox's Soapy Aitken look the most likely winner if his low draw is no disadvantage, however the percentage call at this time would appear to be to play Opal Tiara each-way 4 places at 20/1 given that she has already recorded a good time over a stiff 5f and seems to have the best of the draw and hails from a yard with an excellent record in the race and Steady Pace (same terms) at around 10/1 in the hope that he is ridden with more restraint and can return to his previous course and distance form.

Queen Anne Stakes preview

Here we go, it's Royal Ascot! What a meeting ahead, international raiders galore from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States and of course, the rest of Europe. As always, the meeting gets off to a bang with one of the highlights of the week, the Queen Anne Stakes. Those in Asia (and much of Australia) won't hear of Able Friend getting beaten, the French love Solow and then there are the locals who believe Night of Thunder doesn't get the credit he is due (understandable given the recently-departed shadows of Frankel and Kingman).

Padding up for the home team is Ian Mallard, @ianmallard.

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Queen Anne Stakes
Royal Ascot 1430 (2330 AEST)
Straight Mile, Group 1
£375k

The usual curtain-raiser to the meeting gets us underway with what is a gateway to the breeding sheds if past winners are to go by. To say the race has an illustrious role of honour is an understatement, in fact it now looks like a stallion's "Who's Who"! Barathea, Intikhab, Cape Cross & Kalanisi lead the role of honour from the nineties followed through by the likes of Dubai Destination, Paco Boy & no-one will ever forget the 2012 demolition job by Frankel when he simply broke Excelebration's heart with the minimum of fuss. Reminiscing about years gone by won't find us tomorrows winner though so here's your runner by runner guide to this year's renewal.

ABLE FRIEND

The Beast from the East!! Or so we've been led to believe? Sometimes it's very difficult to get a handle on international form so I try & treat it as literally as possible. Well we know he acts around Sha Tin but what does the form amount to? Looking at it you have to say on his last six starts (four G1 victories) he seems to pretty much beat the same horses over & over again. The fact is he's beaten Beauty Flame three times whose previous best performance was winning a handicap from the former Juddmonte-owned Dundonnell who whilst being a decent yardstick, is far from a superstar (Beauty Flame also won the Brittania Stakes here in 2013 as Roca Tumu, Ed.). It's enough to plant a seed of doubt & at the current prices I'd have to look elsewhere for some value as we also don't know how he'll travel either. Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup replay

COUGAR MOUNTAIN

Clutching at straws with this one & I'm not to sure that they know what his right trip is to be truthful. He looked a future sprinter last year when finishing a close-up fifth on only his second start in the July Cup but it sort of went south from there. Unless they plan to attach him to a train, this mile trip looks to stretch his stamina to breaking point. I'm not a fan of these Fastnet Rock offspring (sacrilege! Ed.) if I'm really honest and am yet to be convinced. The one thing backers can cling to is a return to lightning-quick ground which he encountered on debut but that form is way below what's required here. The form out of that is pretty weak.

GLORY AWAITS

His form amounts to Listed level maybe bordering on G3 at a push but that's as good as he is to be honest. His presence in the field is important as he looks the only pace in the race & should take them along at a good clip though. He did win a G2 last year in some far-flung corner of outer Mongolia or somewhere like that but even that run only amounts to about a conditions race over here in the UK, wouldn't be carrying my cash.

HERE COMES WHEN

Connections will be desperate for some rain for this lad but I doubt it will come & even if it does it then only gives him a marginal chance as opposed to none on quick ground. Has plenty to find with both Night of Thunder & Toormore on their Lockinge running and the level of form he's shown so far simply isn't good enough.

NIGHT OF THUNDER

Now it starts to get interesting, last year's 2000 Guineas winner strolls into town like an old-style gunslinger after restoring his reputation in the G1 Lockinge at Newbury (Toormore, Here Comes When & Cougar Mountain all well held). He's never been out of the first two over a mile & that 2000 guineas form is of the highest order with multiple G1 winners to come from the race & are still coming. The lightning-quick ground won't suit them all but this lad won the Guineas when it was like a road. The going stick reading that day varied from 7.7 > 7.9 depending on which side of the course you were on but how he zig-zagged through that final furlong he probably covered every bit of ground anyway! The only two horses to beat him over a mile are Kingman & Charm Spirit who have the small matter of seven Group One victories between them & everywhere you look his form stacks up against the very best.

SOLOW

Slow this fella certainly is not & has been very impressive taking two Group Ones on the bounce but he won't have experienced ground as quick as this yet. You would have to be worried looking at his action that it will suit. He has a very rounded action when galloping & that usually means they want a bit of dig which is backed up by simply looking at his form. If he does handle the surface the way he despatched The Grey Gatsby in Meydan was breathtaking & he's a danger to all if doing so.

TOORMORE

The fallen idol who hasn't won in over a year since last year's Craven Stakes & another who you have to be concerned about the surface. The two times he's faced quick ground were in last year's Guineas behind Night Of Thunder where he was comprehensively beaten & then when turned over in a weak G2 at Goodwood. OK he was only beaten a neck that day but he went into the race as a G1 winner getting weight from the whole field. If he was ever going to win another race you would have felt that was it. as a G1 winner you would think there would be a stallion job waiting for him somewhere but as a son of Arakan the chances of making it to the breeding sheds are slim. There may be a small stallion job for him in Turkey or somewhere like that but in general any country where they print horse pedigrees in the native language would have reservations about taking him. Did go some way to repairing his reputation in the Lockinge but never really looked like beating Night Of Thunder that day although Arod has come out & won at the Derby meeting to give the form a solid look going forward.

ESOTERIQUE

not too sure what there trying to prove with this mare shes a G1 winner & classic placed so the fact she hasnt been whisked away to the paddocks is surprising unless theres been fertility problems. did beat subsequent sun chariot heroine integral on quick ground in last years dahlia stakes at newmarket but could only manage fourth place herself that day. facts are shes raced against the boys four times in her career & come up short every time & i dont see any reason for that to change tomorrow.

OVERVIEW:

Solow would be bang there if handling the surface but the strength of Night of Thunder's Guineas form is too strong to ignore & he looks outstanding value at around 5/1 currently available. It does look pretty much between the front three in the market but with doubts over #TheBeastFromTheEast & the ground for Solow, we will play..

1pt win NIGHT OF THUNDER 5/1 (widely available)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

AFL Round 11 preview

With the mighty Richmond ON FIRE at the moment, unfortunately we enter the bye rounds where every side will get a week off sometime over the next three weeks. That leaves only six matches to profit from this weekend.

As always, with the previews, it's the sharp blokes from @AFLRatings.

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AFL Round 11 Preview by aflratings.com.au via @AFLRatings

Last week 7 favourites were successful from 9 games in the AFL, here are our thoughts for Round 11 with only 6 games on tap.

Port Adelaide 5-5 v Geelong 5-5

With two consecutive wins Port Adelaide are back in the mix for a finals spot in 2015, they have had one of the more difficult draws to begin the season. The Power have averaged 107.5pts in their last two games albeit against the Western Bulldogs & Melbourne and have cleared their betting Line comfortably in both games, Geelong have struggled with a 2-6 record in travel games dating back to the beginning of the 2014 home & away season. The Cats generally start games well, they have an excellent 8-2 record in first quarters this season.

Gold Coast 1-9 v Fremantle 9-1

This will probably be one of the bigger mismatches in the 2015 home & away season, not by pure margin of victory by Fremantle but certainly the Suns' inability to trouble a very experienced team with themselves very much full of inexperienced talent. Gold Coast are devoid of a midfield, off-field issues have plagued the club for the better part of the season & in the last four weeks they have a miserly percentage of just 46.8%. The Dockers won’t lose this one, but be aware the Suns have cleared their decent sized betting lines in the last two weeks against the Hawks & Swans.

West Coast 7-3 v Essendon 4-6

If the Bombers bring the same effort & intensity as they did last week then……… they will clearly be smacked by the Eagles in Perth at Domain Stadium, rain is forecast therefore slippery conditions are likely to impact this game. West Coast are Ranked 2nd in the AFL scoring 107.6pts per game and have held opponents to 80pts or fewer in 7 of 10 games this season, the Bombers have averaged only 56.0pts in their last 2 games. The Eagles are 4-0 and do have a 76.0pt winning margin against interstate teams in Perth this year, the Betting Line of -32.5 does look a little light on especially if Essendon move the ball very slowly as they have done for many weeks now.

Nth Melbourne 5-5 v Sydney 8-2

The Kangaroos are coming off probably their best win of the year last week in windy conditions in Hobart against the Eagles, there won’t be any wind to deal with at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night only one of the most dangerous forward lines in the AFL this year. Nth Melbourne will have an immense task of restricting Franklin/Goodes/Tippett & co. for much of the game, the Kangaroos have conceded 100pts or more in five of ten games this year and they are unlikely to match the midfield depth of Sydney if the game turns into a shootout. The Swans have a 13-2 travel record dating back to the start of last year, there is no reason to go against them in this one.

Collingwood 7-3 v GWS Giants 7-3

Have GWS hit the wall in 2015? The Giants' last two weeks have been the complete opposite of what we became accustomed to through the first eoght games of the year with hard running through the middle of the ground and scoring quite comfortably, their scoring is down and so it seems their effort. It was two years ago when a much younger Giants team were giving it to the Magpies in the first half at the MCG, Cameron kicked seven goals in a losing effort but the Giants lost no friends that day. This is an even match-up more so than what the current market suggests, the Magpies might just have their hands full containing the Giants especially if they can recapture their hard-running style of footy.

St Kilda 3-7 v Melbourne 3-7

There are a couple of long standing streaks that will be broken if Melbourne can defeat St Kilda on Sunday, the Demons have not defeated the Saints in their last ten games plus Melbourne has not won at Etihad Stadium since Round 19, 2007 (20 games). Recent form suggests this will be a close contest regardless of the venue, both teams have improved again this year despite being in the bottom part of the AFL ladder. Giving Melbourne every chance in this one, the Saints have conceded 117.0pts from their last four games. Don’t forget to go light on with betting units with two rebuilding teams, the difference between their best & worst can be a sizeable margin.