Tuesday, 15 April 2014

IPL 2014 preview

In case you hadn't had enough T20 cricket with the World T20 tournament in Bangladesh, it's IPL time again. The first couple of weeks will be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then back to India for the remaining month. It's a tiring event of cricket fans and traders alike, so it's handy to have some base knowledge to begin with. Thrashing out a preview is the sharpest cricket punter in Ireland, Stephen Maher, @GamblerFalls. (I'm not sure that's a particularly big compliment, but he'd rank pretty highly amongst cricket punters elsewhere too!).

The original article can be found here on his blog.

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Indian Premier League 2014

The circus has arrived for 2014 and just think 47 days from Wednesday cricket traders will be able to leave their house again, although there might be an English domestic game on that day so I wouldn’t bet on it. Anyway, its sure to be as mental as ever and I’m sure lots of shit will happen throughout the tournament but hopefully we all come out winning at the end of it. We have a team less this year, with only eight teams taking part and looking at the fixtures we have less double headers too, we also had the auction this year too so plenty of player movement and it will be interesting to see how the teams play in the early weeks. I’ll go in betting order and give a few thoughts on the squads.

Chennai Super Kings – best priced 9/2.

As always Chennai come in as favourites, or joint favourites, and who can really argue given their record, they have reached the final every year since 2009, won twice and lost twice – I said this last year but as an outright punt they really do seem “good for a trade” as its hard to see them not being involved at the death, especially compared with Bangalore who they are currently joint favourites with as they haven’t managed to get out of the group stage the last two years. All the usuals come back, Dhoni, Raina, Ashwin, Bravo, Du Plessis and Jadeja - with good additions of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum - they have a couple of options, but personally I’d go with those four already mentioned as my foreigners in the team, interesting to see who they go with to open the batting, they have a couple of options – we’ll have to see where they go with that. As always, a very strong team on paper, consistent, and sure to be involved at the death. I wouldn’t be laying them.

Royal Challengers Bangalore – best priced 9/2.

Before you even look at the team, you have to remember that they are highly likely to play their home games on a road, and at something like 3000ft above sea level where the ball will fly to all parts, not to mention the relatively small boundaries, that naturally brings in an element of lottery to their home games, and they haven’t travelled too well in the past either. Having not got out of the group stages the last twice I personally wouldn’t touch them at 9/2 based on their bowling. I don’t see anyone in their lineup that could stop runs on a typical Bangalore road, indeed they scream going around the park – Starc, Rampaul, Aaron, Morkel and Dinda – no thanks. Can they chase 200? Well, yeah. Gayle, Kohli and AB de Villiers head up the batting, they’ve added Yuvraj too but looking at the T20 World Cup final you’d wonder is that a negative rather than a positive, other than them though the batting isn’t much to write home about bar maybe Morkel and they’ll pretty much have to do all the work, granted they are scary but at the same time I can see their bowling giving up so many that the pressure is always on type thing. Not for me at 9/2.

Hyderabad Sunrisers – best priced 11/2.

A pretty strong team on paper this year, the top three in the batting stick out – Warner, Finch, Dhawan and if things are going tits up you always have Sammy down the order to smack a few sixes – I’m probably picking holes but you might have a really poor four and five coming in to bat some games and that might be an angle to look at once we get going in the games. The bowling is strong, headed up by Dale Steyn and Amit Mishra, and they’re backed up by some hit and miss types in Sharma and Irfan/Sammy, who can have OK games or go around the park, its such a bonus though having Steyn to bowl the last few overs, as you know hes highly unlikely to go around the park, and can also win a game defending six runs needed in the over etc. A lot will depend on how their batting goes, they were let down a lot of times last year by it, and if the top three find form they surely have as good a chance if not more than Bangalore. Solid enough team.

Mumbai Indians – best priced 6/1.

Looking at the market purely you’d think they come in underrated given they are defending IPL Champions and also Champions League T20 Champions, but they just lack one star batsman to me, and seemingly will be heavily reliant on Hussey and Sharma to get the main bulk of the runs, granted though I suppose they are two you could rely on, but Hussey is retired now so its hard to know if he’ll be as prolific as last year and bar Rayudu, Pollard and maybe Corey Anderson I think they could easily collapse a few times if Hussey and Sharma go cheap – it’ll be interesting to see how that pans out. The bowling is, as always, headed up by Lasith Malinga but you’d have to question them getting Zaheer Khan, seemingly always injured and getting older, I’d have rather spent the money on another batsman and relied on the likes of Ojha etc. I think their price is fair, but no more, and I wouldn’t be rushing out to back them. Very much a see how they go early on in the tournament team, compared to the top three, they could be great or shit.

Kings XI Punjab – best priced 7/1.

Just when you think, fantastic no more mugs clogging up balls at the top of the order, they bring in Sehwag, and while he can be dangerous, he seems past his best these days. Pujara is a poor buy too, he just isn’t a T20 player and was a failure at Bangalore. Marsh is slow to get going too, I can see them wasting loads and loads of balls early and then getting bailed out by Maxwell and Miller towards the death – only problem is they aren’t gonna bail you out every time you know. Interesting to see Thisara Perera in the squad too, he probably won’t get a game but he can hit a long ball towards the death too. The bowling is headed up by Mitchell Johnson and you can see him getting all sorts of wickets early and that will surely help their cause – not mad keen on the rest of them though but if Johnson gives them a good start then they can build on that. My problem with them is I see them starting slow when it comes to their batting a good percentage of the time, and unless they play Maxwell at number three I wouldn’t have much interest in backing them to be honest.

Delhi Daredevils – best priced 8/1.

I hope they go well and KP gets on well because the English media really have it in for him, and I don’t want to read them gloating. Looking through their squad, they possibly have the biggest trouble with picking the four foreigners to get into the team. KP is captain so thats an obvious, and then if you want to bulk up the batting you pick De Kock, JP Duminy and Ross Taylor, but then that basically leaves an all Indian attack, and I’m not sure thats what I’d want. That said, the best option outside an Indian is probably Nathan Coulter-Nile, which doesn’t set the bar high really does it. I can certainly see their bowling struggling on paper, god help them at Bangalore would be a thought that comes to mind. To me they will be relying on their batting to carry them, and while it might, they wouldn’t interest me much at 8/1.

Kolkata Knight Riders – best priced 12/1.

Probably the least impressive batting on paper. Gambhir and Kallis shouldn’t be your go to men in T20, and I’m not sure how they get the big scores needed with them clogging up balls. Chris Lynn would be my favourite in their batting lineup, and at 11/1 he might be worth a few quid top batsman, although I’m not sure where he’ll bat. The bowling is headed up by Narine who will again go well on the slow pitches you’d imagine they’ll get at KKR, I reckon though away from there, or even at home, if batsmen can play him out, the rest of the bowling is very hittable and I suppose a lot will depends on how teams play Narine, if it was me I’d be happy with 4 or 5 an over off him, no big shots or high risks, and attack the rest. A lot of their batsmen will be easy to tie down too. Can’t have them on paper personally.

Rajasthan Royals – best priced 12/1.

I wouldn’t be so harsh on their batting, but if Watson goes early, I think you’ll need Steve Smith to be in fantastic form during the tournament for them to win a few games, however he did very well in the Big Bash. Rahane and Hodge are the only other two of any real note to my eyes, but Faulkner and Cutting especially and Southee (at times) can smack a few sixes down the order. I’m not sure if Cutting or Southee will get a game though. Their bowling is light to my eyes bar Faulkner, I think they’ll play a few good games along the way but really and truly shouldn’t be good enough, I’d have them a lower price than KKR all the same, but I wouldn’t be keen backing them either.



BETS

Chennai Super Kings to win outright at 9/2 general – this seems the best play looking at the outright prices to me, if unoriginal I suppose, they have the best squad on paper, they are the most consistent, they’ve added well to the squad and they know how to win. I think they’re sure to trade lower and I think its mental they are the same price as Bangalore and not outright favourites themselves, for me they are the best team by quite a bit.

Bangalore Royal Challengers most sixes at 5/2 with Stan James – there have been two teams competing in this market for the last two years, Mumbai and Bangalore, and I think Mumbai are much weaker this year. The only danger I see to Bangalore is Chennai, but Bangalore have the advantage of the best six hitting conditions and because I’m happy to be against Mumbai this year, I would have Bangalore clearer favourites than 5/2.

Glenn Maxwell Top Punjab Batsman at 4/1 with Bet Victor – I suppose I can’t really be mega confident about this because I don’t really know where he will bat in the order, but in my opinion if he bats at three, he wins this by some margin. He is by far the most naturally talented batsmen in the team and he scores his runs so quickly, he might not have to bat long in each game, to be competing. If you think about how many balls Marsh will take to “get in” he always nearly needs 20 balls to score 30, therefore more chance of getting out, Maxwell can score 30 in 10 balls as we’ve seen many times in the past. Happy enough to take on Sehwag too. Miller might not bat long enough to get a chance to win coming in down the order, but I’d rather him at 8/1 than the other two mentioned.

Mitchell Johnson Top Punjab Bowler at 7/4 with Stan James – I’m surprised he's this big. He is many, many leagues above the other bowlers in the team.

James Faulkner Top Rajasthan Bowler at 9/4 with Stan James – For much the same reasoning as above. He went really well in the IPL last year too.

Sunil Narine Top KKR Bowler at 2/1 with Stan James – I know this is obvious and boring but he really should be no bigger than 13/8.

Chris Gayle Top Batsman at 8/1 E/W with Paddy Power – Last year he was top price 3/1, and a lot of the firms were shorter, he traded heavy odds on until late on in the tournament. I know hes been hit and miss this year, but he always comes alive for the IPL, he hit 180 sixes last year, the most by a huge distance, and while Kohli is in great form and batting like god, Gayle gets first go before him in the batting order and that swings me. Its also highly likely will have good batting conditions at home every game.

Glenn Maxwell Top Batsman at 33/1 E/W with Ladbrokes – 33/1 is too big for a man with his talent, and for the same reasoning as I highlighted for backing him top Punjab batsman, he doesn’t need long to score his runs, and that is a huge plus. If he bats long he scores very high too. Again, not sure where he bats in order, but at 33/1 its worth the risk.

Glenn Maxwell to hit the most sixes at 6/1 with Stan James – Chris Gayle is 4/7 here, for an obvious reason, and pity theres no E/W allowed in the market, because I really think Maxwell is the only danger. Maxwell deals in 6s, not 4s, and I think this will be closer than the odds suggest, although granted I’m probably pissing in the wind going against Gayle here.

KKR to finish bottom at 7/2 with Coral – To me they have the worst batting on paper, and bar Narine literally carrying them through I can’t see how they can be competitive enough to not be in contention to be bottom, I’d have them clear favourites here.

Best of luck for the tournament and hopefully we all come out ahead!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Scottish Grand National preview

As the National Hunt season rolls to a close for another year, it goes out with several big finales Cheltenham, Aintree, Ayr and finally Punchestown. It's Scotland's turn to get into the action this weekend with the running of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. Sharing his wisdom on the marathon of the north is regular contributor Chris Day, @chrisday100.

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The Scottish National

When I look at the field for Saturday’s big race, the Scottish National, I am reminded that the majority of the big staying races of the season have been won by fresh horses who, in the most part have been under rated and over priced against some who’ve been plodding round five or six times in heavy ground trying to find some form.

No surprises then that this will be my angle for the weekend.

Tidal Bay tops the weights and could conceivably travel on the bridle into the straight against these, such is his class edge and I admit to chucking 20 quid at the 20-1 available just after Paul Nicholls said he’d be declared for this as the race should be his last before an honourable retirement. He’s off the same mark as when dividing Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant in last season’s red hot Hennessy and must be thereabouts if avoiding the fate which befell him at the Canal Turn at Aintree last week. On reflection, though, I think he’ll just come up short when the chips are down conceding so much weight.

Next in the weights is stablemate, Sam Winner, who must have some sort of chance from 147, having been mixing it with the best novices all season. He and another novice, Mendip Express, have similar chances although they’re both passed over as the market has hardly missed them, a comment which applies to Green Flag, who had a hard race in fourth in a very strong Cheltenham handicap, winner and second won at Aintree last week and third ran well in the National.

Barry Geraghty has taken all before him at the two big spring Festivals but he’ll need to be at his best to keep the errors from his partner, Hadrian’s Approach, to a minimum. If this had been the case before, we could well be looking at a CV littered with big race successes but, as it is, I’ll swerve him again although the slightly slower pace and better ground could be to his advantage.

Godsmejudge won this last season but has never seemed right since and I prefer his stable companion, Midnight Sail, who ran a good race in fourth in the Betbright Chase when last seen and should appreciate the extra yardage here.

Yes Tom must be considered well in by shrewd connections but his efforts on the track don’t really stack up in this context and, of those out of the handicap, I’d give some sort of chance to Alpha Victor (if his Midlands National second has not left its mark), Edmund Kean, who I thought looked ideal for Chepstow in December when I saw him win at Leicester, Roalco De Farges, who has a Bet365 Chase runner up on his CV and looked an improver when trotting up at Newbury last time, Mister Marker, who was third in this last year but comes here in better form and Pertemps Final fourth, Trustan Times, who bids to become the second National winner in seven days to have prepped in that race.

However, as we speak, the other two I fancy the most are Rigadin De Beauchene and Roberto Goldback.

The former was pulled up on fastish ground last year but had been on the go for a while whereas this season he won his only race, the Haydock Park Grand National Trial by a long way eased down in his favourite heavy ground and has seen his mark rise as a result. What we do have here, though, is a guaranteed stayer, a relentless galloper in top form and a horse who was aimed at this race as soon as he passed the post at Haydock, which presumably means the trainer didn’t think the track was to blame for him not running well last season. At 20-1, he ticks a lot of boxes and has far fewer negatives than some much shorter in the betting.

Roberto Goldback is also in good form, having stayed on too late in third behind Spring Heeled in the Kim Muir. He’s 18lbs lower than when sent off favourite behind Wyck Hill and Katenko, conceding each nearly two stone at Ascot 15 months ago and is possibly the best handicapped horse in the field. If the ground quickens up he’d be my choice but, if it rains, I’ll stick with Rigadin De Beauchene.

As ever, I’ll combine Tidal Bay, Rigadin De Beauchene and Roberto Goldback in forecast and tricast combinations and wouldn’t put anybody off putting them in each way doubles with Montbazon, who I thought was ideal for the Scottish Champion Hurdle after seeing him fade on the hill into third in a red hot County Hurdle.


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Doncaster Mile preview

The first week of The Championships takes place at Royal Randwick on Saturday, and congratulations to the Australian Turf Club/Racing NSW for generating such a high quality day over a very short run-up. 2015 and 2016 will be the years it really should start to see international influence. I hang it on Sydneysiders regularly, so credit where credit is due...

The Doncaster has always been a fantastic race, while an honour roll including greats such as More Joyous, Haradasun, Sunline, Super Impose, Emancipation, Gunsynd and Tobin Bronze, while at the same time, the beauty of a handicap allowing the likes of Racing To Win, Grand Armee, Sprint By, Skating and Lawman win on the way to far greater ratings. This year it is worth three million dollars and what a cracker of a race it is!

Taking the reins for this preview is frequent contributor Kieran Fitzgerald, @kjob85.

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Doncaster Mile – 1600m
$3M Group 1 Open Handicap
At time of publication, the track was rated Slow 7.

1. Boban (19)
Arguably the star of last spring with an unbeaten prep including two Group 1 wins, Boban resumed this Autumn with two disappointing starts, followed by a strong win showing his powerful turn of foot in the Chipping Norton Stakes, where he defeated champion galloper It's A Dundeel. That win showed Boban to be one of the country's great milers, which would seem to make him ideally suited here. However, he has struggled in the wet (his last start on a slow track producing a disappointing seventh), and is likely to be scratched if the track is heavy as expected. If he runs, he will need to find his best form, running on a wet track from a wide barrier. He has drifted significantly in the odds and while his past ability to get out of trouble might make him look an attractive proposition at such a price, it is simply asking too much of him to win here. Save him for the Queen Elizabeth next week.

2. My Kingdom of Fife (7)
Formerly a very strong horse for trainer Chris Waller, this 9 year old gelding was injured in 2011 and only resumed two starts back in the Canterbury Stakes after an 18 month break. His two starts this run have been inglorious and nothing like his past form, finishing at or near the back of the field. While he has won on a heavy track before, due to his past form he has been allocated a big weight and in light of his current form, this puts him out of contention.

3. Streama (21)
A bonny mare who loves this track, quite likes this distance, and is a proven performer in the wet. Those elements would seem to make her one of the top contenders here, but counting against her is a big weight (although one she carried to win the George Main here in spring over 1600m), a wide barrier and reasonably indifferent form this prep. Her runs have been solid enough but she hasn't looked like threatening at any time, and comes up here against some horses in red hot form. It would require a career best performance for her to win, but you could certainly do worse at big odds.

4. Sacred Falls (14)
Winner of last year's Doncaster Mile (on a heavy track) where he defeated the champion Pierro, Sacred Falls has run okay since without breaking through. He carries 4kg more than last year's 53kg and on his form, I would not expect him to go back to back. The wet will be to his advantage but he has not done enough since winning last year to indicate he is up to the task.

5. Hawkspur (8)
Has been average this prep, with his best start being a third place in the Chipping Norton won by Boban. He has shown his trademark ability to make solid ground from the back, and I would expect him to do the same here. However, in a crowded field on a wet, chopped up track (the Doncaster being the second last race of the day), it may be difficult for him to make enough ground late. Reports are that he has been soaring in trackwork, but I can't have him – for mine this just doesn't look like his race.

6. Toydini (3)
Toydini has not placed in three starts this prep, but last spring had a strong campaign including a third place in the Epsom and a win in the Crystal Mile on Cox Plate day. This is the right distance for him, but the wet track puts a question mark over him and, like Hawkspur, he likes to run on from the back and may find that a tough ask here.

7. Speediness (1)
The little horse that could, it would be a great story for small stable trainer Colin Scott if Speediness (one of just four horses in his stables) won this race. He is a strong miler, and has winning form on slow tracks. He ran superbly in his last start, just being pipped at the post by Irish raider Gordon Lord Byron. His form indicates that he can do this – he ran third in the Epsom last year to Boban and then second to Toydini in the Crystal Mile, and he has been running well this prep. The rails barrier can be a trap so he will need to jump well, but the horse has done enough for me to rate him as a live chance at big odds.

8. Mouro (5)
Mouro's two starts this prep have produced a first place and a seventh. His form in the spring was strong, however the quality of horses he has beaten is largely nowhere near what he faces here. He will be fit for this and likes the distance. While I don't rate him as a top chance he won't disgrace himself and should run on well, but this is too tough for him.

9. Royal Descent (20)
Winner of last year's ATC Oaks which was her last victory. This distance is probably better suited for her, and the wet won't hurt, as she is one of a handful of horses in the race to have won on a heavy track before. I wouldn't overlook her entirely, but her inability to break through since the Oaks victory is unlikely to change here. At decent odds, a place bet is worth a look.

10. Monton (4)
A real warhorse, this seven year old gelding just keeps going – his last complete spell was a year ago but he still managed a handful of wins in the summer. His last two starts in the Ajax and the Chipping Norton (against many of the horses running here) produced two fifth placings. Monton is far from the best horse running in this race and the markets have completely written him off but he always runs so honestly and just keeps going so I might throw a few bucks on at a ridiculously big place price.

11. Dear Demi (2)
Winner of the 2012 VRC Oaks and The Roses over 2000m in Doomben last May, Dear Demi had a solid campaign last spring without winning anything. Her last start in the Coolmore was weak but two runs back she was third to a brilliant Catkins in the Wiggle Stakes. She has won at this distance, at this track and in the wet before and while she undoubtedly has ability, this seems too tough for her.

12. Fat Al (15)
After winning the Epsom in 2012, Fat Al didn't break through again until a few weeks ago in the Golden Mile at Bendigo, having changed trainers in the interim from Gai Waterhouse to Peter Moody. That was a great win over this distance, with the gelding running on strongly to win by a length. However, stepping up from that run to the Doncaster Mile, against a very strong field, is a big ask. His last start disappointment can be forgiven after he was galloped on, but he has not performed strongly enough when faced with such strong competition in the past.

13. Slow Pace (22)
Having his second start in Australia after a career in France. Slow Pace finished second when he was first-up in the Newcastle Newmarket, and has good second-up form. Unfortunately for him, he has drawn the car park barrier, although how that plays out won't really be known until the day. The soft ground won't hurt him, and while his performance in Australia is at this stage largely a matter of speculation, I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish strongly, with a very good price available. Definitely one for the exotics.

14. Hana's Goal (16)
Japanese horse who has come over for the Championships, she disappointed in her last start after jumping poorly and never recovered. While we can expect improvement from that run and she likes this distance, her second-up form is weak and she has no form on wet tracks. I'm happy to put a line through her in this.

15. Lidari (6)
Ran third to Fiorente over a mile last spring in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes, and won the Blamey Stakes at Flemington over the same distance two starts back, but was poor at his other two starts in that time, his last start in the George Ryder being particularly disappointing. He should handle the soft ground and is well weighted, and while I think he is over the odds I would be surprised if he finished in the placings.

16. Dissident (11)
Has had a strong prep, with a second placing and two wins including the Randwick Guineas. He was a disappointing sixth last time in the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) but finished solidly. This is more his distance. He is near the bottom of the weight scale and while this is a big ask, on his recent form it is certainly achievable. The main question mark is his ability against the older horses, but he is definitely one to include in the exotics.

17. Messene (18)
The early favourite for the race following a brilliant win last start in the Ajax Stakes, where he just ran away to win by almost three lengths from Weary. Having won his last seven starts and coming from the Hawkes stable who are flying at the moment, the favourite status is justified. The query would be the quality of fields that this Lonhro gelding has beaten, with the Ajax being the first time he really stepped up against opposition of the kind he is meeting here. Based on the outcome of that race, you would expect Messene to be right up there in this race, although the expected heavy track is an unknown quantity, with the horse having no form in the wet.

18. El Roca (17)
El Roca has had a strong prep, with one win and three placings. In fact, the only race of the young colt's career where he did not place was last year's Caulfield Guineas. He is well weighted, always goes close and has been running well. Being up against the older horses in such a strong field will test him, but I would rate him as an each way chance.

19. Weary (13)
Absolutely starred in winning the last race on Golden Slipper day, the Doncaster Prelude, on a chopped up track. Carrying a light weight and with two wins from two starts on heavy tracks, it is not hard to see why this horse has moved so dramatically in the markets over the last few days. He was second to Messene (albeit by some distance) in the Ajax, and is a big chance here. While he has never run at Randwick, with top jockey Tommy Berry on board he is a big chance and should run a great race.

20. Ninth Legion (12)
His wins have mostly not been against much, certainly not the quality of the field assembled here. While he ran third at Warwick Farm two starts back against some decent opposition, he is too outclassed here to expect much.

21. Malavio (9) 1ST EMERGENCY
This Snitzel gelding ran fourth in the Doncaster Prelude last week, and prior to that a third place in the Ajax to Messene and Weary. The mile is not his distance however, with three starts and no placings. I wouldn't expect him to disgrace himself, but he will find it too tough here.

22. Gypsy Diamond (10) 2ND EMERGENCY
The second emergency, although likely to run as a heavy track will result in some scratchings. While well weighted, this is a big ask for this three year old filly. Her last run in the Coolmore was disappointing, and while she can perform well against horses her own age, I haven't seen enough to convince me she can perform strongly against this field.

Suggested Bet This is a tough race, with a big field of high quality horses including multiple Group 1 winners. For mine the markets have it pretty accurate at this stage, with Messene and Weary on top. However, my pick of the crop at big odds is Speediness. Sometimes you have to stick your neck out - he has done enough to tell me he can win (his last start was excellent) and I will be cheering him on at what is likely to be a very wet Randwick. After those three there is a host of chances – Streama, El Roca, Dissident and Slow Pace are all chances. Being so open, there is a lot of value to be had in this race so have a look at some place bets and go wide in your exotics.

Speediness
Messene
Weary
Streama

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Red Rum Handicap Chase preview

It wouldn't be the Aintree Grand National Festival without a race in honour of Red Rum. Kieran Kenneally, @kierankenneally runs through the card.

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Red Rum Handicap Chase

Whenever I look at races at Aintree the first thing I look for is a fresh horse or one that might have been laid out for a race. In the Silver Cross Red Rum Handicap Arnaud ticks all the boxes!

Arnaud hasn't raced for 68 days and this exuberant jumper brings excellent form into the race. Second to Valdez last time out, the winner that day has since gone on to run an excellent close up 5th in the Arkle at Cheltenham to give the form a mighty boost. Arnaud has also beaten Rebel Fitz over fences and that horse has won six races since that defeat including a Grade 3 Chase. Those two pieces of form give Arnaud an outstanding chance back in handicap company and this young chaser still has plenty of improvement left in him.

Claret Cloak was a good third in the Grand Annual and along with Sound Investment they have some Class 3 wins to their name. Linking their form through horses like Next Sensation, Grandouet and Valdez suggests to me they may have a bit to find on the selection.

Oiseau de Nuit may pose a bigger danger. The winner of this race last year has some excellent form this term behind Sire de Grugy. He would have a fair chance if running to his best form but his age and his falling at Cheltenham slightly put me off.

Off The Ground doesn't strike me as a horse who will appreciate a drop in trip.

Dare Me, Anquetta and Changing The Guard are all held by Claret Cloak on Cheltenham running.

Of the horses behind Claret Cloak that day, Astracad is a bit interesting. If you look back far enough this horse has some interesting form and he has a habit of beating Oiseau de Nuit most times they meet.

Kings Grey seems fully exposed and is held by Off The Ground.

Anay Turge is interesting back over fences but may struggle at the weights.

Turn Over Sivola has never won a chase but keeps going up in the weights. On a line through Next Sensation he's not good enough.

Parsnip Pete is well held by Astracad.

Gus Macrae has been out of form for a while.

Last Shot looks out of his class and is not the choice of the stable jockey.

There is one piece of form behind Far West that makes Bullet Street interesting to me and this young horse may be worth a bit of each way interest off a low weight.

Selections:

1. Arnaud 6/1
2. Astracad 16/1
3. Bullet Street 25/1

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle preview

The three-day Grand National Festival gets underway tomorrow with a mix of high quality small fields and lower quality large fields, with no middle ground. The richest race of the day is the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, sponsored by the magnificent Doom Bar ale from Sharp's Brewery in Cornwall #mmmbeer! Unfortunately they were bought out by that multinational brewer known for pumping out tasteless crap, Molson Coors, three years ago. May they never be allowed to tinker with one of the finest drops you'll ever taste.

Anyhow, back to the racing. Can anyone beat The New One after all and sundry thought he was robbed in the Champion Hurdle? Let's read what blog regular Jon da Silva, @CreamOnTop, has to say about it...

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Aintree Hurdle

The New One 4/9
The New One (TNO) was unlucky to an extent at Cheltenham and is the best horse in this race. Indeed prior to Cheltenham I rated him clear of My Tent, The Fly, Jezki, Annie Get Your Gun, Un Der Trois and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. In the Champion he suffered a serious interference having just lost his position on the far side. The slow pace allowed him to be right there at the top of the hill and from there they kicked away from him. He then finished with a rattle albeit his hurdling looked rushed and was further behind My Tent Or Yours than at the top of the hill. How much effect that bad luck had, how much of the decision to let them kick away was directed by a rational decision for a breather for a horse who had had just made up ground, jockey brain atrophy or being outpaced was not asked of a visibly rattled Sam Twiston-Davies afterwards. Point is the race was not run to make his loss of ground by the fall of a rival necessarily fatal to his chances - it is a matter of guessing frankly not if he was unlucky but by how much. It's still form that has him well in over these.

In terms of the distance and this race well The New One has been beaten two out of three times at 2.5 miles - easily excused but still beaten nonetheless. His defeat in this race to Zarkandar looks less good in light of that one's form since and indeed the blowing away of previous year's form by TNO, My Tent and Jezki this year. He's also been beaten every time he has made a swift reappearance as a hurdler albeit running to form on the last occasion at Kempton that is good enough here.

Rock On Ruby 10/1
At peak was a 170 3 above TNO's current mark. Thrown into the Arkle after effectively beating 1 rival each in 2 races and looking as natural a chaser as a 300 pound man with a side strain. 2nd in Champion just over a year ago. Twice beaten over course and distance. Can see why people are making a case but seems the wrong trip, track, prep and on the decline to boot. I can see why many will EW him I just feel that this is not ideal and he is not as good as he was.

Diakali 10/1
Up to 158 after a fourth in the County. Has won over the trip in a Grade 1 in France beating Ptit Zig. Having led all his races was held up in the County and arguably ran a career best. Further progress gives him a chance to beat the rest if TNO is not at or near his best. It will be interesting if they front run here. Mullins' English raids often seem half-hearted but similar sort Thousand Stars went close in this three times.

Ptit Zig 14/1
Improved from loss to Diakali to win a French Grade 1. You could make an argument he is marginally better than Diakali and is OR 159. His win was in much slower ground in France than loss to Diakali -> 17 secs slower over the same course and distance. Has progressed via handicaps and a Grade 2 this year but out of his depth in the Champion.

Grandouet 12/1
Another returning from not being quite as good over fences. Well beaten in this last year and brought down in contention the year before. My feeling his time is past and again not sure in retrospect what his form is truly worth. Was 166 at peak, just 1lb off TNO.

Irish Saint 25/1
Progressive handicapper but still only 151. Has been kept fresh but was well beaten at Aintree last year and one who would likely need a deluge to be competitive. He needs all the above to run below form and to improve for me whatever the conditions.

Grumeti 40/1
Best novice form at Aintree when he reversed placings with Triumph winner Countrywide Flame two years ago. I have him as a pure two miler. 153 at best. I don't think he is quite good enough nor progressive before we get to trip questions.

Conclusion

Most likely result is a win for The New One and maybe an easy win. Nonetheless his erratic hurdling, having been beaten here last year, any trauma he suffered being balked at Cheltenham, the quick turnaround (which trainers of Annie Power, Jezki and My Tent Or Yours are not attempting it) makes me think at 4/9 he can be taken on. I'll probably not lay TNO as I don't have an overwhelming negative just a series of quibbles and questions.

If he is beaten I quite like Diakali and prefer 10s to 5/2 w/o TNO. Still progressing and feel his County was against well handicapped rivals and was his first start for 3 months not to mention he may have been unlucky not to be closer taking a bump before the last.

1pt Win Diakali at 10s.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

London marathon preview

They say variety is the spice of life and I'm never afraid to post previews of other sports, so long as there is genuine expertise to read. The London Marathon is just around the corner and Ian from Sportsbettingindex. You can read more from his site via Twitter as well, @SBIdotcom. I'd been saving this until closer to the race (originally posted to SBI subscribers Mar 27) so there's been a bit of price movement.

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London Marathon preview

The last two years of the London Marathon has been kind to me getting decent bets down on both winners - Kipsang @ 7/1 and Kebede @ 8/1 and I remember with fondness hammering the price of Ndereba from 9/1 into 7/2 when winning the World Championships in 2007. My background is mainly in golf betting and in that field bookmakers know who is going to be backed most weeks as based on course and current form the punters pile in to what generally speaking are artificially low prices. The books know who they will lay no matter what price they go and this is often the basis of how they make their money week in week out. However in some events this can backfire and I think this years London Marathon is a case in question.

We are in an unusual position this year as with Mo Farah running books are all up a few weeks early as there is extra interest and the bookmakers know home interest will see a lot of bets placed. Farah varies in price from 5/2 to 9/2 and that to me says a lot but in all honesty I would make him no lower than 8/1. We have to remember this is his first marathon, many great athletes have failed before him when making the step up in distance. His prep run in New York in the half marathon will have done him no favours as he “fell” during the race and collapsed after the line.

Another runner who I think is artificially short but will have his supporters is Stephen Kiprotich - the World and Olympic Champion has a great pedigree with those wins but they were summer marathons run over very different courses. He would have to run several minutes faster than he has ever done before and last year he could only finish sixth.

Last year's renewal was run at a fast early pace and Kebede came through to win by conserving his energy and I can see this year's race being run in much the same way. We have the great Haile Gebrselassie setting the pace as they go for a world record and it will be interesting to see who can grind it out.

Personally I think the books have it right making Wilson Kipsang favourite and I make him around 2/1 as well - he is a prolific winner but showed he was vulnerable to last years fast pace when he could only manage fifth - strange as later last year he set a new World Record when winning in Berlin.

I think the huge each way value lies with last year's winner Tsegaye Kebede who goes for his third win in the event. It is not easy to defend but Martin Lel did it when he went on to win his third title in 2008. Looking at his recent running history one can see that he rarely runs in any other road races and I think that sets him up well for full marathons - his body knows what’s coming! In the last six years he has run in 14 of them, finished them all, won 6 of them and finished on the podium in an amazing 12 - that is incredible consistency in what is one of the toughest sports in the world. I would make him more of a 3/1 shot and anything over 4/1 with books paying ¼ the odds three places you have to say with his podium finish record that is a fine price especially when you build in his overall London record of 2nd, 1st, 5th, 3rd and 1st.

Of the others - Emmanuel Mutai often finds one or two too good for him and his 2011 victory here remains his only major title. Stanley Biwott is still a bit of a dark horse but he blew up last year and I find it strange that people are backing him quite heavily. The only other one I quite like is Geoffrey Mutai who went off a short price last year but picked up a leg injury during the race and retired. He has shown that that injury has been shaken off by winning the New York Marathon in the Fall (beating Kebede into second with Biwott fifth) and then went on to win the New York Half Marathon from Mo Farah a few weeks ago.

It is great to see an event with prices all over the place and I expect to see a lot of further movement before the gun goes - to summarise my bets are as follows:

Tsegaye Kebede 2pts ew 7/1 (price long gone, but as mentioned above, bet down to 4/1)

Geoffrey Mutai 0.25pts ew 8/1 or better (took 10/1 myself)


Friday, 28 March 2014

Lincoln Handicap preview

The UK Flat season traditionally opens with the Lincoln meeting, featuring a straight mile handicap, a declared field of 22 and most of them first-up off a winter break. Good luck!

Not phased by the challenge is Chris Day, @chrisday100, and you can read his fine work below.

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William Hill Lincoln
Heritage Handicap (Class 2)
£100,000
Straight Mile course
Likely Track Condition - Soft


For those who love the Jumps, as I do, the next couple of weeks are the culmination of another great season but for those who love the Flat, as I also do, they signal a new start where we look forward to crowning new champions and trying to find the winner of some unfathomable big field handicaps where the draw can be more important than the form of the horses.

The Lincoln Handicap kicks off the season on Saturday and the job of the punter in recent seasons has been made even more difficult with the plethora of All Weather form needing to be taken into account against horses who’ve been rested since last Autumn plus the odd horse who’s wintered and possibly been got fit in Dubai.

Richard Fahey, a trainer whose charges are invariably ready to go straight away, supplies the favourite, Gabrial’s Kaka, in the absence of Roger Charlton’s Captain Cat due to unsuitably soft ground. A four year old by Jeremy, he finished second of 11 over nine furlongs at York in October but races from a 3lb higher mark, has no soft ground or big field form and went off 16-1 last time, whereas he now trades at single figure prices. Not for me but I respect connections.

Next in the betting is another unexposed four year old from the Tim Easterby yard in Off Art, who will find this a more searching test than small field wins he gained against three year olds on better ground last season and is passed over due to the price.

A case can be made for Tullius, who plied his trade in pattern races last season but has won a straight nine furlong handicap at Newmarket and ought to go well. Defying a mark of 109 will take some doing for any horse.

Whispering Warrior strikes as an improver, racing from the same mark as when winning The Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton but most of his form is on All Weather surfaces and I’d want to see him do it on grass considering the odds on offer.

Bronze Angel is a former Cambridgeshire winner from only an 1lb lower mark and clearly loves big field handicaps on straight tracks, having also finished third in a Britannia. He made no show last year in three attempts and it takes a leap of faith to expect him to win this off such a preparation although I think he may be a Royal Hunt Cup type for this year.

Last season’s victor, Levitate, is 16lbs higher and races from a mark of 106. Shrewd trainer but that would be some performance were he to win this and I’m pretty sure there’ll be others better in even though he did win off 98 over the track in soft ground in November. He’s almost guaranteed to run his race, though.

Another horse to have contested last year’s renewal, Jack’s Revenge, is now 4lb higher than when fifth and 14lb higher than his last win so needs to find something to have a say at the business end.

Charlie Hills was a trainer who showed excellent placing of his horses last season and One Word More is interesting, having won first time up at Kempton last season before running in The German 2000 Guineas and Jersey Stakes and his best handicap form came when a ½ length second to Breton Rock, conceding 2lb over 7f of this track in soft ground. The winner franked the form by winning a 50 grand Ascot handicap the following month and the form is strong. Tom Queally was booked early and I think a good run is expected.

However, flying in the face of the trends boys, who all know horses older than six don’t win Lincolns, I’m about to tip a seemingly exposed nine year old who won this race three years ago from a 6lb higher mark. Sweet Lightning has always been a strong traveller who needs cover and these type of races, where his turn of foot can be played late, invariably see him run his best races. First time up last year, when trained by Johnny Murtagh, he won The Irish Lincoln by 3 ¾ lengths in heavy ground from a mark of 100, strong form when subsequent performances of the placed horses are taken into account. Afterwards he had little chance in small fields or fast ground and tomorrow he will have everything in his favour. Wintered in Dubai, his last time out seventh could be viewed as a step in the right direction and he has the aid of a tongue tie tomorrow.

What really interests me is that Middleham Park Racing, who’ve won the race before, bought him from Murtagh at the end of last season, presumably with this in mind and have sent him to David O’Meara, a man who’s regularly proven his mettle with older seemingly exposed horses. The course had 18mm of rain overnight and the conditions should be A1 so all we need now is the hard bit but I have to admit to throwing 30 quid at him at 33-1 when the decs were made and can’t see anything else I’d rather back.

For forecast and tricast purposes I’ll go with Tullius and One Word More but there’s only one horse I’ll be shouting for tomorrow.

Dubai World Cup night preview

The Dubai World Cup meeting is always a fantastic card, a championship meeting across different ages, distances and surfaces. To help find a winner, Dubai-based racing writer Trent Masenhelder, @tmase04, has worked his way through the card and whittled down the chances for us.

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Dubai World Cup meeting

Odds quoted from William Hill, prizemoney in USD.

RACE 1 – Kahayla Classic (for Purebred Arabians)
Group 1 - $250,000 - 2,000m (All-Weather)
Versac PY was second behind Al Mamun Monlau in this race last year and can go one better here. He’s had a good prep and was just nailed by Raaziq last time. Mushrae is the highest rated horse and is right in the mix, while Raaziq rates highly on his last start win. Rabbah De Carrere, Djainka Des Forges and Al Mamun Monlau should be respected, despite wide gates.
Tips: 1. Versac PY, 2. Mushrae, 3. Sahib Du Clos

Race 2 – Godolphin Mile
Group 2 - $1,000,000 - 1,600m (All-Weather)
Soft Falling Rain (7/2EF) is back to defend his title but isn’t going as well as last year. His last two starts are a real concern. At his best he’s brilliant but I’m prepared to risk him until he shows something. Elleval (20/1) looked a million dollars at trackwork Thursday morning and can run a cheeky race at odds. Variety Club (5/1), a two-time South Africa Horse of the Year, has stacks of ability, and won as he liked first time out at Meydan last month. He had his colours lowered last time, however. He’s won 15 of 21, but gate 15 is a worry. Will be hard to hold out if he doesn’t cover too much ground. Shuruq (7/2EF) is flying this prep and loves the Tapeta surface, while Flotilla is an underrated filly. She’s also impressed on the track this week.
Tips: 1. Variety Club, 2. Shuruq, 3. Elleval

Race 3 – Dubai Gold Cup
Group 2 - $1,000,000 - 3,200m (Turf)
Cavalryman (11/4F) is surely the best on the card. He’s the defending champion, Godolphin have won all five renewals of the race, and he won his prep race by 5.5L earlier this month. Reckon he just wins. The Boys in Blue can quinella the race with Songcraft (9/1). He’s been impressive in two Carnival runs (first and second) and he’s drawn to get a lovely run from six. Ernest Hemingway (13/2) is very talented but he’s not raced since September and that’s a concern. Although, Aidan O’Brien knows a lot more about the caper than I. Star Empire (11/1) and Sheikhzayedroad (16/1) are both good each-way value. Watch for the latter flashing home late.
Tips: 1. Cavalryman (BEST), 2. Songcraft, 3. Sheikhzayedroad

Race 4 – UAE Derby
Group 2 - $2,000,000 - 1,900m (Tapeta)
Former Peter Snowden runner Long John (7/4f) is short but deserving of his quote. He has the best credentials and couldn’t have been more impressive at his local debut, strolling home by 4.25L in the 2,000 Guineas. It was his first try on the Tapeta and he took to it like a duck to water. His failure over 2,040m in the Cox Plate has to be a slight concern, but speaking with trainer Charlie Appleby during the week, he’s very confident he’ll see it out. He’s bred on staying lines - by Street Cry out of a Night Shift mare. The Group 1 Caulfield Guineas winner has drawn perfectly in four and should get a sweet run. If he stays, he wins. He’s not been seen since last month but Appleby assures me he’s come on and done very well. The Englishman is very bullish. Aidan O’Brien’s pair, Giovanni Boldini (11/4) and Sir Jack Hawkins (14/1), are highly talented and the trainer has won the past two renewals of the race. Importantly, the former has won twice on the All-Weather and his second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November was brave. Cooptado (14/1), who’s done all of his racing in Argentina and has strong Group 1 form there, is the wildcard. Paximadia (20/1), another former Aussie, was slightly disappointing behind Long John, but on his day, he’s very good and should be thereabouts. Asmar’s (5/1) 6L win last time, which saw him deservingly break his maiden status, was full of merit and he’s horse on the up.
Tips: 1. Long John, 2. Giovanni Boldini, 3. Asmar

Race 5 – Al Quoz Sprint
Group 1 - $1,000,000 - 1,000m (Turf)
All the pre-race talk suggests it’s a match race between Hong Kong speed sensation, Amber Sky (3/1), and reigning champion, Shea Shea (11/8F). Amber Sky is one of the fastest horses you will see – some of the racing folk from Hong Kong who are in town claim he’s as quick, if not quicker, than Silent Witness. Trainer Ricky Yiu told me he’s settled in well. Shea Shea, meanwhile, has a lot in his favour, too. As well as winning the race last year, he loves Meydan, is the track record holder, and is ideally drawn out in 12, given his liking for the rail. Sole Power (7/1), runner-up to Ortensia in 2012 and fourth last year, is as honest as they come. He beat Shea Shea at Royal Ascot in the King’s Stand in June. Evergreen sprinter, Joy And Fun (20/1), is yet to miss a place in three goes in the race and it’d be fitting for him to run a blinder at his final start before setting off into retirement in New Zealand.
Tips: 1. Amber Sky, 2. Shea Shea, 3. Joy And Fun

Race 6 – Dubai Golden Shaheen
Group 1 - $2,000,000 - 1,200m (All-Weather)
Another speedy customer from Hong Kong in the way of Sterling City (11/4F) lines up here. He’s got very good form around some of the best sprinters in the world, including Lord Kanaloa. He’s trained by John Moore, one of the best in the business, and the Australian is very happy with him. Moore says the Tapeta won’t be a problem but until he proves it, there’s always an element of doubt. Reynaldothewizard (4/1) won this race last year and trainer, Satish Seemar, couldn’t be any more confident. Seemar expects the horse to win and win more convincingly than he did 12 months ago. Rich Tapestry (3/1) won his prep race impressively, while Bello (25/1) and Complicate (12/1), two Godolphin recruits from Australia, should be competitive.
Tips: 1. Sterling City, 2. Reynaldothewizard, 3. Complicate

Race 7 – Dubai Duty Free
Group 1 - $5,000,000 - 1,800m (Turf)
The best race on the card for mine. Incredibly competitive race with a great blend of seasoned Group 1 performers and young guns on the rise. The Fugue (3/1F) is a consistently brilliant mare and drawn ideally in gate four. Dank (6/1) is another mighty mare who’s proven she can travel, winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in November. She’s won seven of 12. Plenty of talk this week at Meydan about Japanese contender Just A Way (7/2). She’s won her last two starts by a combined 7.5L, including a 4L decision over two-time Japan Cup winner, Gentildonna, in the Tenno Sho in October. Rates very highly. Mshawish (6/1) looked a ball of muscle at trackwork on Thursday, is drawn one, has Frankie Dettori on top, and is trained by the astute Mikel Delzangles. He was very good in winning the Zabeel Mile by 2.5L last month. What do we make of Vercingetorix (13/2)? He’s a perfect six from six, but has drawn 11 and faces his stiffest test here. Mike de Kock knows what it takes to win the race, having won it twice, and he’s been very bullish about the son of Silvano ever since he landed in the UAE.
Tips: 1. Dank, 2. Just A Way, 3. Vercingetorix

Race 8 – Dubai Sheema Classic
Group 1 - $5,000,000 - 2,410m (Turf)
The toughest race on the card, but a great one, nonetheless. Cirrus Des Aigles (6/1) is a grand old campaigner who won the race in 2012. He’s probably past his best but will give a great sight and is a solid place chance. Denim And Ruby (7/1) has been one of the standouts at trackwork during the week. Her form in Japan is enormous and she’s drawn to get a gun run from gate three. If there’s enough pace on she’ll take holding out, especially with her allowance. She can unleash a scintillating finishing burst. Gentildonna (4/1), who beat Denim And Ruby last time, is one of the best mares in the world…two japan Cups tell you that. Mount Athos got home well last time and looked a treat at trackwork. Can run a big race. Empoli, Dubday and Magician all could win without surprising.
Tips: 1. Denim And Ruby, 2. Gentildonna, 3. Mount Athos

Race 9 – Dubai World Cup
Group 1 - $10,000,000 - 2,000m (Turf)
A terrific renewal of the richest race in the world with plenty of chances. Hong Kong pair Military Attack (13/2) and Akeed Mofeed (8/1) rate highly. They’ve had some great battles in recent times and according to connections, both have settled in well. The Tapeta could pose a problem for the, though. Military Attack has had one go on the All-Weather and was beaten 12L at Kempton, although it was back in 2011. Trainer John Moore is convinced he’ll handle it. Four runners for Godolphin, with Prince Bishop (8/1), who’s absolutely flying, their best chance. Sanshaawes (12/1) is in great form and has plenty of upside. He’s proven on the surface, drawn perfectly in gate five and was so game in defeat last time out. Happy to risk Ruler Of The World (4/1) at the price, given his wide gate (12) and fact he’s untried on the All-Weather. Plenty of other chances, including; Belshazzar (12/1), the Group 1-winning Japanese stayer, who’s worked impressively during the week, Mackinnon Stakes winner, Side Glance (33/1), and Hillstar (12/1), who’s a cracking sort. Red Cadeaux (25/1) is as brave as the day is long and was so good in this race last year (runner-up to Animal Kingdom), but gate (14) makes it tough.
Tips: 1. Military Attack, 2. Sanshaawes, 3. Prince Bishop

N E Manion Cup preview

Aquatics day at Rosehill tomorrow kicks off with the N E Manion Cup, a Group 3 staying contest over 2400m. Returning to the blog to cover this traditional prelude to the Sydney Cup is regular NSW racing contributor, Colleen Goth, @colleengoth.

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N E Manion Cup

Good Evening Punters

I am enjoying the rain falling on the Breadalbane Plain here today but I am hoping the trough that stretches down from Rosehill in Sydney will clear for tomorrow’s racing. The big wet this week means a heavy track for Rosehill Guineas day but the card should bring us some great racing nevertheless.

I would like to get punters off to a good start in the first race, the Ambassador Travel N E Manion Cup for the stayers over 2400m. There are only seven horses still in the field following the scratching of Vaquera and I find them a fairly evenly matched bunch of stayers. They have raced each other previously and are seasoned and fit. Race tactics will play an important part in the outcome – and all the jockeys know their craft well.

But my top pick is Desert Jeuney. He is fit, hard and ready to win. He does have some opposition though:

1. Permit. This 7 year old imported gelding by leading European stallion Dansilli has solid credentials for this race. Forget his last start on 1 March when he pulled up last but also lame. He will be sound tomorrow – he would not be started by Chris Waller if he wasn’t - and he won this race last year – along with the Chairman’s Handicap that followed in April. He has the services of Hugh Bowman which is a plus but the big negative I see is that he has to lug the top weight of 58 kg. For that reason he does not figure in my top three.

2. Junoob. The stable mate to Permit produced an impressive run to win at Randwick on 15 March and had previously run and won at Rosehill. He shows great determination in his runs and he is tough - and the one to beat. Has a great young gun jockey in James McDonald.

3. Opinion. The third of the Waller runners trying to make it a Waller trifecta. Has a great mature gun jockey in Jimmy Cassidy and in my opinion no one rides Rosehill as well as the Pumper! This Opinion has a classic pedigree, being by Oasis Dream out of a Sadler’s Wells mare. He is raced by the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing operation in Australia and is bred to make light of the heavy going. He was second to stablemate Junoob at Randwick on 15 March and won the Parramatta Cup at Rosehill over 1900m back on 1 March. I expect him to be in the first four across the line.

4. Gondokoro. This mare loves wet tracks – the wetter the better – and she was good enough to win the Queensland Oaks. She has a classic Australasian staying pedigree as her sire is the legendary Zabeel and her dam is by the Arc winner Carnegie who appears in the pedigrees of many top tough stayers in this country. I was lucky enough to see Carnegie at the end of his stallion career and my lasting impression was of his tremendously strong hind quarters! He passes this strength onto his stock and with 54.5 kg I would expect this mare to be very competitive. Trainer Pat Carey knows how to prepare a stayer and whilst she was a tad disappointing last start, I am expecting to see improvement tomorrow.

5. Tremec. Another Zabeel, this five year old gelding also enjoys 54.5 kg in weight. He will handle the heavy track on pedigree and past form but he is not racing as well this year as previously. A good horse but I think he will find this field quite daunting.

6. The Offer. This well bred gelding is getting better with his two runs since resuming in March. He has the right pedigree for the distance and the expected going – being by Montjeu out of a Darshaan mare and trainer Gai Waterhouse will have him primed to win. He has the in-form and indomitable Tommy Berry on board and so it is little wonder that he is right up at the top of the market. I would expect him to place and would not be surprised if he won. But he is not my top pick.

7. Desert Jeuney. My top pick is this Desert King gelding out of a Jeune mare. It’s a Melbourne Cup pedigree and I have noticed how runners out of Jeune mares seem to find something extra on very heavy tracks. This is a horse on the up, steadily improving under the well-tuned guidance of Nigel Blackiston. I confess to following this four year old gelding from the beginning of his career and may therefore be biased in my selection of him as the winner in a tough contest tomorrow. But I see how he is improving with each run and the backup from a gallant third last week over 1900m suggests that he is hard fit and ready to give his best. He is nice odds too.

Selections:

Desert Jeuney
Junoob
The Offer
Opinion

Dubai Golden Shaheen preview

The premium sprint race of Dubai World Cup night is the Golden Shaheen on the synthetic Tapeta surface. Tasked with the preview is international racing shrewdie Calum Law, @calumswanlaw. If you remember his last preview on the blog, you're probably still celebrating!

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Dubai Golden Shaheen

Balmont Mast- Consistent sprinter under these conditions and ran a blinder in this contest last year when he was a neck runner-up behind Reynaldothewizard. His poor strike rate remains a concern though and his only win in his last 12 runs came in a modest listed event at the Curragh. A possible to pick up some prize money but has to rate an unlikely winner

Bello- Ex-Australian sprinter who hasn't looked up to this level in his two runs at Meydan. The white cap of Godolphin can often be misleading but looks fully justified here

Complicate- A ready winner of a listed contest at Caulfield on his last start in Australia and has looked a sprinter of promise in his two runs over this C&D. Yet has the tendency to hit a flat spot in his races and that is likely to cost him dear against this level of competition. Look for him flying late, probably too late

Jamesie- Improving six year old gelding who has gained two victories this carnival over this C&D and was an eyecatcher last time when hitting the line strongly when fourth in the Mahab Al Shimaal. These connections have been having the time of their lives this carnival and are always feared around here, but it would be disappointing should he prove good enough

Krypton Factor- Winner of this in 2012 when besting the legendary Rocket Man but winless since and was well beaten in the trial for this race. Has been falling out of the gates of late and looks up against it to reclaim his title

Nawwaar- Much improved this season but has done all his winning at Abu Dhabi over further. Has been disappointing on his last three trips to Meydan and looks outclassed against the specialist sprinters

Reynaldothewizard- Defending champion and arrives here having ran a solid race in the trial for this. His trainer has been making bullish noises about reversing the form with the winner that day Rich Tapestry, but for me the winner was much the best horse and i feel at 8 thewizard has it all to do to defend his crown

Rich Tapestry- Hong Kong sprinter who was an easy winner of the recognised trial for this race on Super Saturday. His jockey that day could be seen taking a cheeky pull 300 metres out and such was his dominance it is hard to see those in behind bridging the gap. He brings an unbeaten record off turf and is an obvious threat to all

Russian Soul- Super-consistent Irish sprinter for the on-fire Mick Halford team. He has hit the board in 18 of his 24 runs to date, yet was a little disappointing last time when never getting involved in the Mahab Al Shimaal. Was similarly consistent at the carnival last year before being found out at the big dance and although this race does lack depth it is likely to be the same story this year

Sterling City- Top class Hong Kong sprinter who has been mixing it with some of the best sprinters around of late. Was unlucky not to beat the world class Lucky Nine at Sha Tin last time when he was blocked at a crucial time before rattling home to finish a close up third, beaten only half a length. Gets the assistance of the magic man in the saddle and has stronger form than Rich Tapestry in his homeland. If he translates his turf form to the Tapeta he will be mighty hard to beat in a weak enough renewal

United Color- Fifth in this race last year and looked a sprinter to follow when taking the Dubawi Stakes on his first run of this campaign. He would have went close next time when nearly put through the rail in the Al Shindagha but seemed to have no excuses when a disappointing 10th behind Rich Tapestry on super Saturday. If you are willing to forgive that run he could be a touch of each way value

Zee Bros- US raider who ran a sneaky good race on his local debut when fourth behind Medicean Man over this C&D. Wasn't so good on the turf next time in the Meydan Sprint, but connections were forced to run there due to his rating not being good enough to get into the Al Shimaal and these conditions are much more likely to suit. Still unexposed and could have more to give under Dettori. Over priced and has place credentials

My Catch- Group 3 winning juvenile when trained by David Brown but not so good since joining his current stable. Won arguably the weakest race of the carnival when taking the Meydan Classic over seven furlongs and even with his weight break he looks out of his depth

Summary- A race that looks at the mercy of Hong Kong with Rich Tapestry and Sterling City appearing to tower over their rivals. Rich Tapestry is proven under these conditions having readily won the trial for this but Sterling City has superior form back in Hong Kong and can strike for the dream team of Moore and Moreira. The rest make limited appeal as win prospects but United Color and zee Bros are capable of fighting out minor honours

Selection- Sterling City