Saturday, 30 June 2012

Newmarket - Criterion Stakes preview

Good day of racing around the British and Irish Isles today, weather permitting, and speed figures expert Steve Lines, @sjlone1, has singled out the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket for his analysis. It's always worth a read.

John Sunley Memorial Criterion Stakes

A Group 3 race containing a Group 1 horse; Hoof It was arguably unlucky not to win the Betfred Sprint Cup when third behind Dream Ahead at Haydock. That was over 6f; today he tries further for the third time in his career - his form figures read 8, 4, and 18 beaten 11, 13 and 16 lengths respectively! The pace set up is likely to be ‘honest’ with Libranno, Bannock, Firebeam and Majestic Myles to the fore; testing any stamina doubts. Any softening of the ground would also be to the detriment of Hoof It. This is surely a ‘scouting’ mission for the July Cup and I can’t imagine he will want a hard race a fortnight before the ‘cup final’. The only other available ‘pipe opener’ would have been the Sprint Stakes on Eclipse day – a mere 7 days before the July Cup. He is nearer a 3/1 chance, rather than the currently trading 2/1, for me.

Mister Green and Sos Brillante, the two outsiders, will be hoping to pick up the pieces and fall in for some prize money; which goes down to sixth.

Bannock is the each-way or back to lay play. Form figures of 6, 13, 6, 14, 11 and 15 coincide with fields of more than 12 runners. Compare those with 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 2, 1, 3, 2, and 2 in small fields and his preference is obvious. A likely front-runner he will need to set the fractions perfectly to repel classier rivals.

The runner likely to benefit from a strong gallop is Edinburgh Knight. A high class handicapper he is best coming off the strong pace generated by large fields; he has yet to win with in a race with less than 11 runners. A winner of a Listed contest on the all-weather it is unlikely the gallop will be strong enough to suit his hold-up run style.

Firebeam has, so far, fallen short when stepped up above class 2. A good looking individual, he seems a bit one paced so he will need to be ridden aggressively. Further drying of the ground won’t be in his favour. There is a chance he could be best ‘bossing’ lesser rivals and there are plenty of tough, hardened performers who are unlikely to roll over. He is priced on potential rather than proven ability.

Libranno is a tough individual proven over course and distance. The winner of the race in 2011 he is best in small fields on good or faster ground; combining these conditions below Group 2 level have seen him win his last 3 runs. Versatile in terms of pace he will trade shorter than the 9/2 currently on offer.

Majestic Myles is closely matched with Firebeam and Libranno. He needs fast going to be at his best so any showers will be to his detriment. A winner of a Listed contest he seems to always find one too good but is another likely to trade shorter than his current price of 6/1.

A competitive race which revolves around Hoof It; I will be laying him, although as a gelding, there is no stud value to be gained by winning a Group 1 - I’m guessing Mick Easterby will be aiming for the £226k of the July Cup…….. Bannock has to be a back to lay play with his unblemished record in small fields. I will play Libranno and Majestic Myles pre-race with a low priced lay in place on both as I find it difficult to separate them and luck in running could well decide the final outcome.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Wimbledon R1 Tuesday

A quick look at three matches, now posted on TheShark.com.au website.

Pleased to say the early morning weather in London is quite pleasant, max temp of around 21C expected, with small chance of a shower during the afternoon.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Wimbledon outright previews

This fortnight, all of my content can be found on TheShark.com.au, but not all of the content will be posted online - the website owner's wife will be having a baby any moment, so he might have better things to do than post my tips! So if they don't go up, I'll try posting them here...

MEN'S DRAW PREVIEW

As unique as grass court tennis in the Grand Slams, it's probably the least likely to throw up an odd result. It has been donkey's years since anyone other than Federer, Nadal or Djokovic won it, and most recently, we have had a year of Slam finals fought out between the latter two, Wimbledon's top two seeds.

Having such an elite trio at the top of the game is fabulous to watch, but it gets a bit dull after a while - any sign of some new blood breaking into their domain? Laying the top four in the Betfair market (well, after all, you can't barrack for Murray to win it can you?) gives you about 7/1 the rest of the field.

A big serve, a forehand grip capable of playing low/irregular bouncing balls and aggressive game are vital ingredients in the composition of a Wimbledon champion. Sadly, the ability to volley is nowhere near as vital as it once was.

Running through the chances...

1 Djokovic - the defending champion who seems a little more human in 2012. This time last year, he simply wasn't losing. While he will start the tournament as favourite, if he doesn't go back-to-back there's a real chance Rafa will claw back the top spot. Got through to the final in Paris by the seat of his pants, any similar struggle against a big server on grass is unlikely to be salvaged, but his draw looks smooth enough.

2 Nadal - back to his best on clay this season, can it be marked down to fewer injuries, a new zest for life or a reaction to the frustration of finishing runner-up at the three previous Slams? Tricky draw with Tsonga (check h2h) pencilled in for the quarters followed by Murray or Raonic.

3 Federer - multiple champion but his last win here was back in 09 and he's only reached one Slam final in the last nine. The glory days are gone, he is no longer capable of sustaining five sets of high tempo tennis against the elite, round after round. Draw looks comfortable enough, Isner in the QF then Djokovic in the semis.

4 Murray - same old story, best player yet to win a major, unfortunate to play in same era as three of the best of all time, ooh the pressure of the British press, very few players win their first major aged 25 or more, three losses in finals yada yada yada. Tough draw - once he gets past the crook in R1, he potentially faces Karlovic, Anderson, Raonic/Cilic and del Potro, all 6'5" and beyond, and a real test of Murray's patience. If a big server hits their range perfectly, break point opportunities could be as rare as one per set, and we know how grumpy the Scot can get if things aren't going his way.

It doesn't get tougher than that, although the first two opponents are shadows of their former selves.

5 Tsonga - the man the big four all fear, as shown by his win over Federer here last year, coming back from two sets down. Unbelievable stamina from a guy with such a big frame, and when his serve is firing and the momentum is on his side, he's virtually unstoppable. Threatened Djokovic here last year at the height of his powers, and should be able to overcome Aussie challengers in Hewitt and Tomic before reaching the quarters. Draws Nadal in the QF and he is more than capable of winning that. Their last four clashes have been split 2-2, with both of Big Willie's being in London (Queens and World Tour Finals 2011).

Keep reading for the full preview and the recommended bets...

WOMEN'S PREVIEW

Six different major title winners in a row, and you have to go back to Wimbledon 2010 to see a Williams on that list. The guard is definitely changing but perhaps there's another dominant force taking over….

1. Sharapova - dream draw for her combined with being in the form of her life. Pironkova R2 (form can be poor all year but picks up remarkably at SW19), Lisicki R4 (inconsistent but good record here), Clijsters (walking wounded, making one last valiant effort to play in her farewell season)/Kerber (genuine top 10 player now) QF will test her but she has the weaker half overall.

2. Azarenka - semi-finalist last year and has since clinched her first Slam title. Didn't play a lead-in tournament but that's not such a big deal on the women's tour. Ivanovic R4, Wozniacki/Bartoli QF before Serena/Kvitova in the semi. Tricky.

3. A.Radwanska - defensive styles aren't suited on grass, and with Venus Williams awaiting in R2, she could be in trouble early. Also has Hantuchova, Petrova/Pennetta and Li Na in her path. Not likely.

4. Kvitova - defending champion, but she has landed the difficult quarter with Serena. The slate stands at 0-2 against the four-time champion stands at 0-2 but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since those matches in 2010. Don't be afraid of backing her.

5. Stosur - awful record at Wimbledon, which I put largely down to her extreme topspin grip and preference to be hitting balls from shoulder rather than knee height. Has told the Aussie press she will try a more aggressive game plan but I doubt there is much she can do to stop the tide.

6. Serena Williams - quadruple champion here but is the sun starting to set on her career? She was awful in Paris and hasn't played since, although a lead-in grass event hasn't featured often on her schedule. Shouldn't have too many worries in the first week, Zheng Jie in R3 followed by Errani or Safarova R4, but then it gets serious - Kvitova followed by Azarenka to reach the final. I think she'll fall along the way, but one thing to note in-running, never be afraid to back her if behind a set and a break or worse - you know there'll be a fightback you can trade profitably.

7. Wozniacki - hardly recognisable as the player who was number one not that long ago. Recent record is 5-5 and first up she faces Tamira Paszek who won Eastbourne last week.

8. Kerber - has already won more matches on grass this season than in any other year, and leads the women's tour with 40 match wins this calendar year. Could test Sharapova in the quarters, I see this girl securing a top five ranking soon and staying there. Makarova R2 will be a solid test on this surface.

9. Bartoli - finalist here several years ago and always capable of an extended run here…but just as capable of bombing out early. R3 will be tricky, facing the winner of Vinci and U.Radwanska, then she could face Wozniacki, followed by Azarenka. When she blows hot, none of those are unbeatable.

10. Errani - not on grass, her lack of power will count heavily against her.

11. Li - no warmup event this year but she is solid on every surface. Strikes the easiest quarter on paper, looks a decent trade to reach the semis.

14. Ivanovic - nuisance value/eye candy for the London tabloids. Goerges R3, Azarenka R4 - won't get past both of those.

15. Lisicki - quarter-finalist and semi-finalist at her last two appearances here, but hasn't won a match at her last four tournaments. Cetkovska R3, Sharapova R4 - she'll be gone early unless fit and firing 100% again.

18. Jankovic - long gone as a winning chance at Slams, only interest here is that she faces Clijsters first up.

21. Vinci - the longshot with a hope of going places. Plays a very different style to most women and ideally suited to grass. Hasn't done a huge amount here before, but with a bit of luck in the draw, she could go a few rounds.

Venus Williams - would love to see her back to her best here but doubt her body will ever allow that again.

Clijsters - admits her body isn't up to the strain of playing at the elite level anymore, she just wants to play at Wimbledon one last time. Might even be worth opposing in R1.

Pironkova - semi-finalist and quarter-finalist here in her past two appearances, beating, amongst others, Venus Williams both times. Not much form to show for her season, but that's not stopped her before. I backed her at 200/1 a few weeks ago, disappointed she is likely to meet Sharapova R2.

I like three bets here. Very keen on Sharapova for the title, I think she just might make the number one ranking her own for a while now.

Li Na looks tradeable at her current Betfair price of 38, with Serena & Kvitova in the same quarter, a big chunk of percentage in the market will have to go. Back now, lay back for a profit at the quarters or semis stage.

Roberta Vinci is the one at a huge price who could give a good run for your money. A few gold coins at 500+ might turn into several more if her quarter of the draw thins out as expected.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Duke of Edinburgh preview

It wouldn't be a feature meeting without a decent handicap thrown in, and there's only one man to call on in those circumstances, Dan Kelly - @muffinmannhc

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5:00 Ascot SAT 23 JUN 2012 Duke of Edinburgh Handicap

Another fiendish handicap to look over, but with the favourite 13lbs higher and in a far better race this time around, I think it may pay to look away from the market leaders in a race that has had double figure payouts over the last three years.

Mark Johnston has already struck in handicaps this week with Fennell Bay, and I feel he has a good chance this time around with Eternal Heart. Recent form doesn't look too inspiring, however I have been waiting to see him return to 1m4f since his Chester Cup run. 4 time winner on turf, 3 of those wins have came over this trip, recent one being a Conditions Stakes win over King Of Wands, but he also has an Edinburgh Cup to his name, where likes of Namibian, Mulaqen and this years Colour Vision were behind him. Admittedly Musselburgh does favour those up with the pace, but in a big field handicap that could be beneficial here too, as we saw in King George V Handicap, very easy to find trouble in a 16+ runner race at Ascot. Third in last years Queen's Vase, course won't be an issue and at 20s Generally he's a bigger than expected price.

Stand To Reason has been racing on Soft ground through the "Summer" so far, and looked to have been handling it better than most with a win, 2nd and 4th to his name this season. Came away readily to win a Newbury Handicap on seasonal debut, it was his effort in defeat at the hands of Resurge which is arguably best form to date, and puts him in with a great shout here. Resurge loves the turning tracks and easy ground, and when he gets both of these circumstances with a falling handicap mark, he's very hard to beat, Stand To Reason did everything but beat him. Still looking the type to improve, he was 4th in a muddling race back at Chester on last run. Coltish beforehand, he threw his chance away by being keen in a very slowly run affair which saw Licence To Till make all. Confirmed on the ground, and with the step up to 12f more than capable of bringing about further improvement, he has to be on your shortlist.

Finally I got back to my trusty Monsun line with the last pick, Midsummer Sun. Looked to be a handicapper going places when accounting for Ithoughtitwasover at Lingfield by 2 lengths (giving him 3lbs, in receipt of 4lbs today) it is a surprise he hasn't progressed since then, but there has been mitigating circumstances. I was at Ripon when he was beaten out of sight by Dawn Twister (has a great chance in Queen Alexandra), but everything went wrong for him, he reared at the start, and in my opinion shouldn't have ran, but was allowed to take chance and ran no sort of race. Newmarket last time out he looked the likely winner 2 out but was found out late on when meeting rising ground. Given a break, back over this 12f trip and he could cap off a fine week for Sir Henry Cecil.

0.5pt Win Eternal Heart @ 20s Generally
0.5pt Win Stand To Reason @ 14s Generally / 16s in places
0.5pt Win Midsummer Sun @ 16s Generally

Friday, 22 June 2012

Hardwicke Stakes preview

Speed ratings expert Steve Lines, @sjlone1, got it spot on with his lay of Astrology on Friday, is there more success to follow?

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Hardwicke Stakes

Hopefully the weather will be kind to Black Caviar. A bog, where the draw may be a factor, is not what her sporting connections deserve, although the new straight course doesn’t get as soft as the older round course. This year, as last, being close to the rail on the round course seems to be a disadvantage; Astrology and Homecoming Queen, both short price favourites, failed to make the frame after racing close to the inside yesterday. In 2011 all the runners on the Saturday raced way from the rail.

The reasoning above makes Memphis Tennessee a risky proposition for today’s race. The likely pacemaker is ideally drawn in stall 1. Although he won on soft ground at Chester his previous form had all been on better ground; with Brown Panther running poorly (not seen since) at Chester he had only handicappers to beat. His run style means he is likely to go forward and unless Joseph O’Brien steers a wide course he’s an in-running place lay for me.

Aiken stole his Group 2 in France (Dunaden behind) when making all. Fast improving, he has some lofty entries; John Gosden has plenty of ammunition with which to compare him so he is likely to be competitive. He will have no trouble with conditions but he will have to improve again. He is likely to run well but at 4/1 he is priced up on connections rather than form. He has yet to post a speed rating which would see him winning a competitive Group 2.

Dunaden adds some lustre to the race. The 2011 Melbourne Cup winner has plenty of air miles and seems to handle any conditions. He is likely to be disadvantaged by the lack of pace; he has yet to win over 12f with less than 13 runners. Further rain or a positive ride is his best chance of success.

Hunter’s Light has form figures 1, 1, 1, 1, 2 when racing in Listed class or below; compared to 3, 6, 6, 3, 8 when in Group class. No brainer! The same sentiments apply to Calico Cat.

Ascot’s short straight will not aid Fiorente who takes an age to get rolling. Beaten into second by Nathaniel in last year’s King Edward VII he is well regarded but regularly gets outpaced.

Allied Powers is another unlikely to be suited by the lack of pace in the race. He is 0-5 in Group races in Britain.

The betting doesn’t suggest Testosterone (20/1) can be the first filly to win the Hardwicke since 1983. She will be suited by trip and going but has yet to show she’s up to this class.

Ed Dunlop’s other runner is the ultra-consistent Red Cadeaux; usually campaigned over further he has finished behind Dunaden twice. There seems no reason why he should reverse the placings. Although second in a weak Coronation Cup on his latest start he picked up the pieces behind easy winner St Nicholas Abbey.

Quest For Peace is difficult to read. He has yet to prove he handles soft ground and the fact he was purchased from the John Magnier empire infers he isn’t that good.

Jakkalberry was last seen when third behind Cirrus Des Aigles and St Nicholas Abbey in the Sheema Classic. The form reads well but he was never in with chance of winning. A tough campaigner he will be suited by conditions and could be place material if cherry ripe after an 84 day layoff. He has front run successfully on a couple of occasions and with Silvestre De Sousa booked there is a chance Marco Botti may be trying to take advantage of the lack of pace.

Saving the best for last: Sea Moon. He would be a confident selection had he not had such a hard race on his seasonal debut when beating Dandino at Goodwood. He showed his class to repel a couple of challenges up the straight but it was not the gentle workout the Stoute team would have been hoping for. Suited by some cut he travels strongly and showed progressive speed figures throughout 2011.

The likelihood of a moderate pace set by Memphis Tennessee could compromise many of the field. The advantage of being able to settle close to the pace with the ability to quicken nearing the home turn will be vital. Aiken doesn’t travel particularly easily but finds plenty when asked so I will be backing him in running when Buick starts to push. I will look to lay Memphis Tennessee in running if he sticks to the rail – hopefully Quest For Peace, Fiorente or Dunaden will look to be ridden more prominently; pressuring Memphis Tennessee. I will back Sea Moon pre-race but will have a short price lay in place as insurance for the Goodwood ‘bounce’ factor.

My look at Royal Ascot Saturday

Didn't want to steal any of my guest blogger's thunder, but since I'm heading to the track and most of Australia will be tuning in to watch the Black Caviar show, I feel duty bound to leave a few notes at least....

Chesham Stakes

Odd race, restricted to 2yo sired by horses which won over at least 1900m in their careers. The favourite is the impressive Move To Strike from the Jim Bolger stable in Ireland, who earlier in the week won the Coventry with Dawn Approach. He bolted in by 9L last time at The Curragh on soft ground. That form should make him exceptionally hard to beat here, but he will start quite short.

The value could be one of the Godolphin runners in Lovely Pass. Very impressive but incredibly green (immature) on debut at Lingfield when she won easily. De Sousa retains the ride, not necessarily because she is second string, possibly because his knowledge of the horse will be an asset. If she has learned a bit more about what to do in recent weeks, she will give this a shake at about 8 or even 10/1. Jalaa was impressive on debut at Leicester and is priced accordingly.

15 Lovely Pass - 4 Move To Strike - 3 Jalaa

Hardwicke Stakes

When I see classy stayers at Royal Ascot, I start thinking of Melbourne Cup prospects, and there are plenty in here. Aiken was very impressive winning at Chantilly last start, defeating Dunaden. It was a five horse race and he received 7lb from the Melbourne Cup winner in a muddling tempo. Six wins from seven is an impressive CV, but this is his toughest test yet. The Gosden/Buick combination was on fire on Friday, I can see him starting under the odds.

The connections of Dunaden are debating whether to aim him at the Arc or another Melbourne Cup so it's time for them to get serious. We know he takes a while to come to hand, and with a more genuine pace anticipated at level weights, I rate him as the one to beat.

Sea Moon will probably start favourite but I reckon he's unders as well. He was pushed to the line by Dandino on resuming at Goodwood in a listed race, and there are some seriously tough stayers he needs to beat here.

4 Dunaden - 1 Aiken - 7 Jakkalberry

Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Black Caviar followed by daylight, then something running third, it's as simple as that. This field is no better than the 'ordinary' G1/G2 fields she has been treating with contempt at home. Moonlit Garden and Society Rock are the best of the rest, but if you are looking at roughies for the trifecta or placepot, throw in Bogart and Soul as well for a bit of value. I hope something tries to serve it up to Black Caviar in this so that we can really see her unleash. It won't be 11L like Frankel, but six or seven will leave us salivating. It's a shame the track won't be dry as she really could have smashed the clock with some phenomenal sectionals. Victory 22 here we come.

11 Black Caviar ------------ 9 Soul - 13 Bogart

The Wokingham

Very, very hard race and I'll be swayed by Ronan Groome's preview on my blog, plus stable confidence from Jeremy Gask. Medicean Man loves the Ascot straight, was fourth behind Little Bridge in the King's Stand and gets his chance here. Stable apprentice Raul da Silva goes back on the horse and claims three pounds. He should position behind the speed nicely and fly home. Stablemate High Standing is a high-class sprinter with a few attitude issues but Jeremy seems to have them in hand at the moment. Scarf is a former Aussie sprinter-miler by the mighty Lohnro, he'll relish a race like this.

Seriously hard race, few don't have some chance of winning, and that's why it's double-figure odds the field.

11 Medicean Man - 13 Scarf - 18 High Standing - 2 Elusivity

No idea in the last two, awaiting previews from my experts...

Saturday summary from Jack Milner

Need a quick summary of Saturday's Royal Ascot card? Then take a look at this....

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The fifth and final day of Royal Ascot, and thankfully we are in the fortunate position of not having to chase profits, so no desperate lumping, we hope anyway, unless the dreaded thought of not a bean from the first five races, but that doesn’t even bare thinking about! It has been intense so far, and the pressure has been on, hopefully if you’re reading this, you’ve made a few quid and are either playing with Billy Hills, Joe Coral, Paddy Power or Mr Ladbrokes money!

The Chesham Stakes is a listed race over the specialist seven furlongs open for two year old colts and fillies. The race has a long history of going over to the Irish Sea, and they have the favourite once more with the Jim Bolger trained Move to Strike. She hacked up in a six furlong maiden at The Curragh last time out and is respected, but she looks plenty short in a race where many others are open to further improvement. Such is my way, that I like to pick two in these open stakes races, and the first one I like is JALAA for the newly established Richard Hannon and Sheikh Hamdan partnership. He looked very promising on debut at Leicester and is bred to improve the further he goes, he is a half brother to a Dewhurst winner and carries maximum respect. Similarly CHILWORTH ICON, who I backed when winning a similar event at Epsom when going off around the 10/1 mark. Mick Channon two year olds are generally overpriced for seemingly ‘unfashionable’ connections, but she warrants respect. She looks a gutsy sort who would be fine in a battle, as seen last time out, and stable jockey Martin Harley opts for him of the stable’s five horses.

The Hardwicke Stakes is one of my favourite races at the meeting, and there is a horse I have been waiting all week to see in AIKEN for the ever successful George Strawbridge, John Gosden and William Buick team. He hacked up last time out at Chantilly, retaining his unbeaten record in a Group Two contest on soft ground. He is a course and distance winner at Ascot, going the right way; he looks open to further improvement. Four year olds have a terrific record in the race, with the last two being Harbinger and Await the Dawn, and on breeding, he should relish the test of conditions, unlike many of his rivals such as Sea Moon, Dunaden, and Quest for Peace. Memphis Tennessee could be the biggest danger after hacking up around Chester last time out, but the form doesn’t look much on paper.

I don’t want to talk about the Diamond Jubilee too much, because much like the Queen Anne Stakes, just admire and revere the sight of a superstar in full flight. BLACK CAVIAR is the best sprinter in the world, and looks for twenty two wins on the bounce bringing her immortal reputation with her. She looks different gravy to anything we have to challenge her with and she WILL hack up. Moonlight Cloud’s best form comes over seven furlongs, and the best of the rest looks to be SOCIETY ROCK trained by James Fanshawe. He won this race last year and will thrive on the soft conditions. He ran a good third at York on his reappearance, and will improve for the run, and the more testing conditions.

The Wokingham is the feature handicap on Saturday, and with £120,000 in the prize pool, it has brought out some top quality horses. Those towards the front end of the market generally have a good record, with the last three winners all being 15/2 or shorter, but I am looking elsewhere this year. Jonny Murtagh has a good record in the race, winning it the last two years, and he rides GRAMERCY for the Kevin Ryan. He looks to have a live each way chance, starting off his season over an inadequate trip at York, and that run has seen him lowered 2lb in the handicap and is now just 1lb higher than his fifth in this race last year. Winner Deacon Blues went onto win four group races in a row after that, with Hoof It, Anne of Kiev, Fathsta and other good horses in behind, the form looks strong. Similarly WAFFLE, another who ran well last year, narrowly edged out by Deacon Blues, has progressed with three runs so far this year, getting better with every one. The last was a solid second at York, and with the predicted good to soft ground, should give him his ideal conditions. The David Barron yard are in good form, and perhaps significantly, Fran Berry is booked to ride. Macs Power looks likely to give another strong account, similarly High Standing, but both looked handicapped to high evens, and although I think they should run well, not well enough.

The Duke of Edinburgh Handicap, wow; where to start? This looks beyond tricky, this is The Crystal Maze after eight pints; good luck. This is usually a bad race for those at the head of affairs; the pesky bookmakers have never had it so good. Camborne is up 10lb for a recent win, and is likely to be underpriced due to the recent stable success, especially if Aiken hacks up in The Hardwicke Stakes, similarly Harrison Cave and Anatolian will both suffer similar fates. Fiery Lad, Midsummer Sun, Cill Rialaig and Harlestone Times have little form on soft ground, and are unbackable. The two I prefer are MULAQEN and STAND TO REASON. Mulaqen ran in a really good race at HQ two weeks ago, running a good fourth, with good form in behind. It wasn’t the best ride that day, Paul Hanagan deputising for T O’ Shea and the softer conditions, he may have a better chance off an untouched mark. Similarly Ted Durcan gave Stand to Reason a lot to do last time out, and he stayed on well, but came up short. He is up in trip here, and that could bring the best out of him, he has form on soft ground which should further aid him, along with Jimmy Fortune booked to ride. At around the 33/1 mark CLASSIC VINTAGE could run a big race at a huge price. He usually runs well after a break, and has good form in big handicaps on good to soft or soft ground. Jim Crowley is in cracking form at the minute, and has won on the six year old before.

The last race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, is a gruelling two and three quarter mile slog, and where you would assume it would be National Hunt connections that dominant, you would be surprised to learn they have a poor record. Therefore we look to avoid Simeon and Overturn at the head of the market and instead focus on PETARA BAY for Robert Mills and Jimmy Fortune. From a seemingly unfashionable stable, most of his horses go off at decent prices, but the stable has a profit of +£5 from just eleven runners this month, and Petara Bay has good claims. The eight year old goes best fresh, and running with a 329 day break is a positive. He ran a good fourth in the Northumberland Plate last year and then went on to win at Goodwood. He looks to be a dark horse in a field full of big names and big reputations.

2.30 Ascot – Chilworth Icon & Jalaa
3.05 Ascot – Aiken (Nap)
3.45 Ascot – Society Rock (Betting without Black Caviar) (NB)
4.25 Ascot – Waffle (Ew) & Gramercy (Ew)
5.00 Ascot – Mulaqen (Ew), Stand to Reason (Ew), Classic Vintage (Ew)
5.35 Ascot – Petara Bay


The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner @JJMSports

Wokingham Stakes preview

For me Saturday will be all about Black Caviar, but she's not really a betting option, so we need to look a bit wider. Examining the conundrum which is the Wokingham Handicap is a first-previewer on my blog, Sunday Independent writer Ronan Groome. You can follow him on Twitter @ronangroome20

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If, by the time the Wokingham Stakes comes round, you’re still looking for your first winner at this year’s Royal Ascot meeting, there is a good chance you’re not going to find it in this 29-runner field. On the flip side if you do manage to unlock the code, there is every chance your punting week could be turned right around.

Double figure odds the field, with most firms offering ¼ the odds first five each way terms, there is some cracking value to be found in this the last big handicap race of the week.

By far the most interesting runner in the race is ex-Aussie sprinter Scarf. This son of Lonhro moved to Godolphin earlier this year and started his campaign with a couple of decent efforts in Meydan. He was slightly disappointing on his first two starts in Britain in listed company but then put up a cracking effort to finish second to Tariq Too at Doncaster over seven furlongs. That effort means that he is 6lbs well in here, and back over six furlongs on his desired soft ground, he looks well capable of outrunning his best odds of 25/1. We all know how successful the Aussie sprinters have been at Ascot, and this fellow may well be able to follow in his compatriot’s footsteps.

It’s difficult to gauge which side you want to be on, so if you’re going to back two or three here, perhaps the best strategy is to split them across the track. High Standing, the choice of Ryan Moore, will reside in stall one and the 2009 winner of this race looks interesting here. Of course, a lot has changed since Jeremy Gask’s horse came into this race as a progressive four-year-old with just 10 starts to his name, but there was so much to like about his latest effort to finish fourth in a decent six-furlong handicap at Newmarket.

The son of High Yield was held up in the last pair before finishing really fast and just failing to pick up the leaders. He was best of those who were held up and the three who finished ahead of him raced as the front trio throughout the race. For that reason he deserves a lot of credit and he is worth playing as well at 20/1. I’m not a fan of backing more than two horses in a race so that is where my betting interest will finish, but I wouldn’t put anyone off High Standing’s stablemate Medicean Man. He’s an Ascot specialist, he handles soft ground and he ran a cracker to be fourth in the King’s Stand on Tuesday. Providing there are no ill-effects from that run, he should make a bold bid.

Others on my shortlist were Mac’s Power, Colonel Mak and King Of Jazz. The first-mentioned is just the type for a big-field handicap and ran a cracker in this race last year when he “won” the race on his side of the track. Colonel Mak has put in two cracking efforts lately and looks in good heart, while King Of Jazz is the most interesting of those unexposed and ran really well previously on soft ground on this track.

Queen's Vase preview

A two mile race for horses only midway through their three-year-old season seems a bit early for me, but what would I know? It's called the Queen's Vase and Dan Kelly, @muffinmannhc, cast a close eye over the field and came up with this....

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17:00 Queen's Vase (Group 3) 3yo only, 2m

A race that has been farmed by Mark Johnston in recent years it is strange to see a field without a runner of his, but this years field does look a high class renewal.

1(12) 13-4153 Athens (IRE) A P O'Brien J P O'Brien
Closely related to Admiralofthefleet, he has looked to be shy of Group class on starts so far back in Ireland and France where he has yet to place in 5 attempts, once as a juvenile, and 4 times at 3yo. A confirmed front runner he looks like he could get all his own way up front which could be dangerous, but if you delve further through pedigree isn’t laden with stamina. Admiralofthefleet was tried over 6f on second last run, and Dam Rafina hasn’t produced a 1m4f of note, and Grand Dam Coupe De Foile spat out milers after milers, Exit To Nowhere and Machiavellian.

2(10) 1117 Ed De Gas Rae Guest C Catlin
A rare debut winner for Rae Guest, he has improved run on run, but what is noteworthy is his style of running. On all tries on the All Weather he didn’t seem to travel too kindly and looked best late on in both his wins. Disappointed in the Derby Trial last time out, but if track wasn’t going to suit, only a matter of time he’d get found out in better class race and so it proved; wide throughout, pushed wide home bend and eased. What I am drawn to though is his run at Catterick. Even though Catterick is a fairly sharp track, he travelled so much kindly for Catlin and powered away to win by 15l from a 87 rated sort in Bordoni, and Naseem Alyasmeen who is a confirmed mudlover. Track is more galloping of nature today, so I expect him to return to that Catterick form today and his pedigree does give the impression he should stay the trip. Out of Peintre Celebre, Dam half bro to Bravo Maestro, out of unraced sister to Ascot Gold Cup Winner Chief Contender.

3(7) 431-412 Flying Trader (USA) Jane Chapple-Hyam R Hughes
Improving sort, but in 0-80 races rather than a race of this stature. Has shown a fondness for quicker ground when racing on turf, did show improvement for step up to 14f last time out, not enough to get excited about.

4(6) 43-142 Macbeth (IRE) K J Condon J P Murtagh
Form ties in closely with Athens on their running in the Gallinule where finished a nk behind, he has shown a fondness for easy ground which is likely to bold well today. 3/4l behind Tower Rock on second start at 2, he improved for the step up to 12f when accounting for Chicago readily, post race connections were quick to mention this race as a possible target. Both this and his 2nd last time out to Backbench Blues was on easy ground, Gallinule was on Good ground which suggests that Macbeth is more than capable of reversing places today. Has shown ability to make the running if need be, but also fondness to sit just off it so won;t be inconvenience by a tactical affair.

5(4) 2157 Minimise Risk A M Balding J P Spencer
410,000gns yearling, 12f trips and upwards were destined to be his game given half brother to Darasim and the likes, Grand Dam, Dararita half sister to Dar Re Mi and Rewilding so that should paint the picture as to why he was so expensive, but he’s not impressed on the race course as yet. Pleasing enough debut when behind Zaina at Doncaster, he then ground out a win over Uriah Heep at Newbury on easy ground. Stepped up in class for the Chester Vase again struggled on the easy ground, and outclassed in the Derby. Questions to answer regarding ability to handle this easier surface, but on paper should relish the trip.

6(2) 12-63 Perennial C Hills M Hills
Sent off favourite for the Fielden Stakes, was keen early and struggled to build on what were impressive performances at 2. Half brother to Redwood the slow pace of that race would not have suited, and nor would it have in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood, but to his credit he did step up on his seasonal debut to finish a fair 3rd, 1.75l behind Michelangelo but that Fielden run does linger and yet to be sold that he’s anywhere as good as his half brother.

7(11) 172122- Repeater Sir Mark Prescott L Morris
Long campaign at 2, and he improved for every run. Loose before start, he finished a good 3rd on debut so should have no issue coming here fresh, and as said runs had a progressive nature about them ending with 2 sound efforts; a hd defeat at hands of Rougement off levels and a 3/4l 2nd to Mojave at Newmarket on final start, with Rougement back 6 lengths behind in 3rd. This Montjeu gelding has stamina on Dam side, Time Over a half sis to Time Ahead and Time Away (both placed in French Oaks), and further down line classic form aplenty, no surprise for a Cheveley Park sort. If fully wound up, no reason to think not to be, he could very well be a decent type for these trips, Issue is a slow pace and ground.

8(1) 452-318 Singalat J G Given Jim Crowley
Exposed gelding, run of race at Chester when making all running, so a possible pace angle, but exposed all the same.

9(5) 433231 Somemothersdohavem J Ryan A Kirby
Improved for better ground, to win off 66, has chances off 71 back in handicap company so not too close please.

10(3) 662-241 Spanish Wedding M Botti William Buick
Hernando gelding has looked a stayer, and has improved for each run, and laterly the application of blinkers. Competed in run of mill maidens last summer at Sandown, he was given time off and came back in December to complete his 3 runs before handicap mark. Gelded following that run, he improved for the step up in trip, staying on well on seasonal debut at Kempton, doing so again at York. Application of blinkers seemed to have had desired effect and won a run of mill handicap at Goodwood. Missed the cut in King George V Handicap, and will be back of interest in that company.

11(9) 31 Yazdi (IRE) B J Meehan L Dettori
Nice run on debut at Newmarket where he stayed on after looking like he was going to be well beat to finish 3rd behind two decent sorts in Model Pupil (2nd in Chester Vase) and Shantaram (2nd in Derby Trial and runs in King Edward VII). Followed up with a win at Thirsk but that form doesn’t look the strongest, and he didn’t look the easiest of rides in the race by hanging in behind runners and into them on the straight. Meehan stated on his website he has decent prospects of him staying trip, but Dam a 6f-7f winner, and out of Pivotal it’s not screaming two miler.

12(8) 7-1 Estimate (IRE) Sir Michael Stoute R L Moore
Best chance that Queenie has of a winner this week at Royal Ascot. Breeding screams stayer, Monsun filly out of Ebaziya, so she’s half sister to likes of Enzeli, Ascot Gold Cup winner and Ebadiya an Irish Oaks winner and being out of Monsun, any ease underfoot shouldn’t be an issue. Form has a good look to it also, fluffed lines on debut and looked to need it, she was relatively unfancied and seen as second string at Salisbury. Travelled very kindly through her race after breaking on terms, she looked to have benefitted greatly form a winter, but taking comments into accounts looked as though the experience wouldn’t go amiss, but she won this with ease. The 2nd had form with Derby hope Cavaleiro and Thomas Chipendale who is in the King Edward VII today, 3rd has came out and number of placed efforts of those behind at around 70-80 mark so form is fairly solid look about it.

The Irish pair arguably have best form coming into the race, with preference for Macbeth, but based on possible improvement and prices it’s hard to get away from Estimate, Ed De Gas and Repeater for differing reasons. Estimate is bred for this test and created a favourable impression last time out, Ed De Gas should revel likely conditions and Repeater has look of a typical Sir Mark Prescott improver, but with him not running on ground this easy as yet in career, has to be a worry.

1pt Win Estimate @ 5s Generally
1pt Win Ed De Gas @ 12s Generally


Thursday, 21 June 2012

King Edward VII Stakes preview

One of the features on Friday's card is "Ascot's Derby", and covering it for the blog is speed ratings expert, Steve Lines - @sjlone1

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King Edward VII Stakes

The Friday of Royal Ascot will be the first time the media and journalists have to ‘engage brain’. The previous headlines have written themselves: Timeform have achieved their aim of rating Frankel the best horse of all time. That’s another tick off their ‘bucket’ list; the ratings will be invaluable next time Frankel lines up against Brigadier Gerard……… So You Think continued to prove what we all know – he’s good but not great. Frankie won the Gold Cup; so copy submitted and back in the bar in time for the football.

Noble Mission would help provide some copy due to being Frankel’s brother. A resolute galloper he will be suited by further softening of the ground, being 2 from 2 on ground with soft in the description. He doesn’t do anything quickly, and although he will be suited by the step up to 12 furlongs the short Ascot straight could be his undoing. He has yet to race around a bend in public and I’m sure he will trade higher in the run than his current price of 9/2.

Astrology is the short priced favourite. A winner on soft ground at Chester, beating handicappers, he then had an easy lead as pacemaker in Camelot’s Derby. Seemingly exposed last year when beaten in Group races at Newmarket and the Curragh his recent runs flatter him. He is likely to be pestered for the lead by Thought Worthy who attempted to pressure him at Epsom but didn’t handle the camber and now will be more at home on this easier surface. O’Brien’s At First Sight, Black Bear Island and Yellowstone all followed the Derby/King Edward VII route with no success. I expect Astrology to drift from his current 11/8.

William Buick has chosen Shantaram over stablemate Thought Worthy. Collateral form with Derby second Main Sequence (Lingfield Derby Trial) matches him very closely with Astrology. He made hard work of winning a Newmarket maiden but John Gosden knows geese from swans and has triumphed in this contest twice in the last ten years; his recent St Leger winners Lucarno and Arctic Cosmos have also performed credibly. Obviously very well regarded he could be a trading vehicle as I expect him to travel well even if he’s not tough enough to finish the job.

Thought Worthy has a verdict over Farhaan and Noble Mission in Newmarket’s Fairway Stakes. Proving himself a tough individual after being headed and then repelling all challenges after regaining the lead, he has now had three hard races this year. As a prominent runner he may be compromised if battling with Astrology but Dettori has no stable retainer to guard so may ride his own race; which may not aid Shantaram!

Thomas Chippendale will be suited by the way the race is run. A hold-up performer, he is taking a major step up in class from a Newmarket maiden. He showed a good turn of foot after travelling smoothly. He is another who can be played as a back-to-lay; whether he is tough enough, has the class or will stay is unknown, but his cruising speed should keep him in the contest long enough to take a small bet to nothing.

Farhaan showed the best turn of foot when fourth behind Thought Worthy and Noble Mission at Newmarket. This ability and no evidence of acting on soft ground don’t suggest these are his ideal conditions. Entered in the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes he obviously has some talent but he can’t be backed today.

The same applies to Initiator. An easy winner of a Windsor maiden, only connections know if he will be suited by the conditions.

Speed ratings show no surprises with Astrology coming out top through his Derby run but Shantaram's run at Lingfield shows him to be competitive at this level.

The market leaders are solid, tough performers who will make this a test of courage as well as ability. Likely prominent runners Astrology and Thought Worthy are likely to be pushed by Noble Mission from Swinley Bottom; he will have to be well in touch approaching the home turn if he’s not to get outpaced on entering the straight. This scenario is likely to set up for a finisher; whether the ‘pretty boys’ Shantaram and Thomas Chippendale have the talent or determination to get past leads me to back both as back-to-lay plays. I will lay Astrology, although I could be in trouble if Frankie decides to not to press the lead, I still have four worthy rivals running for me.

King George V Stakes preview

Dan Kelly waited for the overnight rain, now he follows up with the tricky handicap which ends the day. @muffinmannhc

5:35 Ascot THU 21 JUN 2012 King George V Stakes (Handicap)

Best 3yo handicap of the season so far, and it's no surprise we are looking at 8s the field. Rougemont running has caused changes all over the places, with nothing rated within 10lbs on ratings, it has resulted in many trainers looking around for jockeys. Using Gabrial The Great and Commitment as examples, last year and 2010 a mark of 85 would see a weight of 8-7, today 8--1, so that has seen Franny Norton get the ride on Gabrial as Jamie Spencer can only do 8-5. JP Guillabert and Fallon can only do 8-6, so Commitment is ridden by Darren Egan.

The pace of the race is likely to be sound enough, going has not eased considerably so it won't be such as slog as they thought it'd be after looking at forecast on Tuesday morning when declaring. Seen the likes of Rocktherunway (1), Samba King (11), Anomaly (14), Fennell Bay (17) and Open Water (20) make all or attempt too in recent starts, so I think it's fair to say we are going to see a solid gallop be set. Which is a plus for my 3 against the field.

Prussian has been known to sit front rank through her races which is a general plus on the round course, and bar a hiccup at Nottingham where combination of the ground and her quick reappearance following a good Musselburgh win, she has a good progressive profile about her. Related to stayers, Dam a Group 2 winner over 13f in France, it has been a surprise to see her run, and win convincingly, at rather sharp tracks. Her Musselburgh form has a very strong look to it. Second was Silver Blaze who in turn has finished 2nd to a decent sort in Valiant at York recently, Clayton placed in both London Gold Cup and Edinburgh Cup since, Act Your Shoe Size dual winner since, Satanic Beat in fifth has even came out since and won. Her run at Redcar was encouraging also, sitting handy, she was able to repel all challengers in the straight, one of them Ruscello a stablemate of Nicholascopernicus. Joe Fanning has chosen Fennell Bay however he;s not shown enough over 10f to suggest this trip is withing his compass, so Martin Dwyer has picked up a nice spare ride here.

Another Redcar winner on shortlist is Cameron Highland(withdrawn). Improved for the experience to win a 9f maiden very comfortably, talk of the Dante and the Derby soon followed. Disappointed in the Epsom Derby Trial won by Goldoni, but I do think there was a number of mitigating circumstances being ground and also the track. Been off a while since, trainer has stated it was due to the ground taking so much of him, and it is interesting hood is applied today, as if there was one plus about Epsom was his improvement in settling during the race, but obvious Roger is thinking there's more to come. His Redcar win suggested more than just a handicapper, and getting 15lbs off top weight here is more than enough to tempt me in.

Finally I can't help but be impressed by Gabrial The Great's run at Chester. A big individual he looked as though he was hating the game from the off. Keen, hugging into the left, Spencer making a premature move on the outside, and hanging again in the straight. The form of that race has been franked with Montaser running out a game winner since at Haydock. Bell has stated this is his best chance of week and everything suggests that will be the case, a small rise in the weights from that race not enough to get Spencer in the saddle, so Franny Norton comes in for the ride, slight worry being 0-40 in last 5 seasons but not many fancied mounts. He looked the type to improve for a bigger field, and a more galloping track, well anything away from Chester is more galloping in nature and there isn't a bigger 3yo handicap than the King George V Stakes.

1pt Win Gabrial The Great @ 10s Ladbrokes (8s Generally)
0.5pt Win Prussian @ 16s Generally

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

In-running analysis for Royal Ascot

If you fancy some in-running trading on Royal Ascot, or are just keen to get an idea of how the pace will pan out, then you must read Andy Richmond's daily In-Running Guides being posted on the PatternandProfiles website. Andy's a good mate of mine, we used to run the Betfair Academy training seminars and now he's a pundit on Racing UK.

Here's the link for a selection of races on Tuesday.

Here's the link for a selection of races on Wednesday.

Here's the link for a selection of races on Thursday.

Norfolk Stakes analysis

A new contributor this week, Sam Preen, owner of the impressive Soft in Places blog, with plenty of his own content. You can also follow him on Twitter - @sampreen

Norfolk Stakes (Royal Ascot - 2:30 Thursday)

A small but select about of 2 year olds line up for the Norfolk Stakes, with impressive maiden winner Ahern heads straight to Group 2 company after winning a small field conditions stake at Musselburgh earlier this month. A clear winner over similar conditions, this looks much tougher but he can't be ruled out of a place.

One of the more experienced runners in the field, Annunciation heads the market for Richard Hughes and Hannon. Last seen hosing up in a small field maiden at Windsor last month, he appreciated the new tactics of making all the running after breaking well from the stall and didn't see another rival. This looks tougher but with an inside draw and the experience, he should be difficult to beat.

Second favourite and course & distance winner Cay Verde comes here with an obvious chance after running on well in testing ground on his last start here. He went to follow up his success on better going at the Curragh in Listed company, and back at his favoured course, he could be thereabouts.

Outsider Complicator heads to Group 2 company after disappointing in his maiden last week over 6 furlongs. Back down in trip and on better going, this still looks a big ask and he's just here to fill the numbers.

Irish Maiden winner Gale Force Ten improved from his first run when taking a 6 furlong maiden in stamina sapping ground earlier in the month. He didn't show much on his first run over 5 furlongs but improved over further, so he might need an extra furlong to be a serious threat.

Ian's Dream made a pleasing debut when keenness got the better of him in an ordinary maiden earlier this month. With an envious inside draw where he'll be nearest the rail, he will have a clear run and should be thereabouts if he stays focused.

Jubilee Brig's connections skipped the Coventry Stakes so he could try his luck here. Last seen when he won well at Kempton on all weather earlier this month when making all the running. He has been in the frame in all three of his starts (all in maiden company) but looks outclassed here.

Mister Marc runs over 5 furlongs for the first time after finishing a respectable second in horrible going at Naas when finishing behind Dawn Approach in Listed company. Down in trip and on much better ground which he has won on before, he looks difficult to beat with a good run.

Morawij made a good start to his career when taking a 6 furlong maiden at Haydock last time out. Stepping down in trip for his second run and a massive step up in class, this might look a bit too difficult for him to follow up his maiden win.

Ocean Applause disappointed on his first start in maiden company when veering right at the start and blowing it right from the beginning. He came on for the run at Sandown on his last run in Listed company when putting up his best run finishing an unlucky fourth behind Sir Prancealot, though this is much tougher.

Reckless Abandon already has the upper advantage over Annunciation when finishing 2 lengths in front of him at Doncaster in May in a huge field. Taking a keen hold, he made pretty much all of the running in the centre of the track and went on to quicken, though he did end up drifting left and managing to keep on well. This is a massive step up in trip but he can't be ruled out.

Storm Moon racked up two wins in April in smaller company at Southwell and Musselburgh before disappointing in firmer going at Sandown when fading into fifrth on his first start in Listed company. This looks much tougher then a conditions race and will need to seriously improve to win this.

Tercentenary Stakes preview

Late in the day we have Group 3 stakes race and a distance handicap, both restricted to 3yo and both wide open in the betting. Best we call in our handicap specialist, Dan Kelly. Follow him on Twitter @muffinmannhc

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The Tercentenary Stakes, Group III, 1m2f.

Crius - Richard Hughes / Richard Hannon
Form: 11221-26

Had a decent looking profile at 2 where arguably should have won first three starts but he's paying for that end of season win in the Tattersall Stakes with both his last run and this being run under a penalty. Disappointed at the Curragh after racing so keenly and with only Goldoni the other confirmed front runner in the field, chances are he may fail to settle again. Craven run possibly flattered by having the rail, others preferred.

Cavaleiro - Hayley Turner / Marcus Tregoning
Form: 33211-39

Improving 2yo profile which ended with a win over Harvard N Yale at Newbury on Good to Soft ground. Tregoning thought that he would be a late developing type, and campaigned as such at 3 with his last two runs coming in Lingfield Derby Trial and the Derby itself. Lingfield run was a solid one given he was coming into the race without the benefit of a prep run. Tracked leaders, he was unable to quicken 4f to 2f out shuffled back as a result, but stuck to the inside bar passing Hajras and he was flattered to finish so close to Shantaram and Main Sequence. Put in his place in the Derby, has a lot to find as price shows.

Energizer - Adrie de Vries / Jens Hirscherger
Form: 145-24
Link to German Form & Video Replays

I'd normally be excited to see a German raider, and I am to a point, but with regards to chance of winning, I have my doubts. First two runs, he was out from the stalls swiftly and looking to make the pace, but following defeat on second start he was held up on final start, and held up since. He has proven that he has trained on at 3, with a hd defeat at hands of French 2000Gns 4th Amaron, and finishing 4th himself in the German version. Both runs suggest he is not the most straight forward of characters with the hood been on for both starts. Far better colts back in Germany, so should at least give a pointer to how good their Classic crop is this year.

Goldoni - David Probert / Andrew Balding
Form: 592147-216

Took a while to break his maiden tag, but you get the feeling he's held in high regard given he raced in the Chesham on his second start, and it didn't take long for him to break his maiden tag. His best run at 2 was in a Listed event at Salisbury where unlucky not to be a lot closer in slowly run affair as was blocked at vital point. Disappointed on last run at Haydock but that was his 6th run of season so could have been over the top. Returned in decent form when 2nd to Kingsdesire at Doncaster where that race has shown to be decent with Kingdesire himself being tilted at a Derby Trial and Conditions Stakes when beaten by Starboard since, 4th and 5th Ex Oriente and Montaser. Disappointed in the Lingfield Derby Trial, Andrew Balding was disappointed with the switch to the All Weather and he stated post race he didn't handle it one bit, and this race or King Edward VII Stakes been targeted since. Not the flashiest of types on paper, but foolish to overlook readily.

Grandeur - Frankie Dettori / Jeremy Noseda
Form: 21-412

Not many of Noseda's win on debut, and when they do take note, this one did everything but and has improved considerably since. Failed to act on the Heavy ground at Sandown, he accounted for a good sort in Trader Jack (Runs in the Brittania 4.25) readily and at Epsom thought he was unlucky. Held up off an ordinary gallop, he didn't look in love with the track in the straight, changed his legs at the wrong time and just couldn't reel in Wrotham Heath in the closing stages. Any rain would be a negative and I am not as sweet on the Diamond Jubilee Handicap form as I have been in previous years.

Mukhadram - Paul Hanagan / William Haggas
Form: -21

Late maturing type, didn't see course until this season when second in what is turning out to be a very hot Wood Ditton. Winner, Mariner's Cross, has come out and finished a good 2nd to Noble Mission who runs in the King Edward VII Stakes tomorrow and 5 others have come out of the race and won since. Mariner's Cross had benefit of the rail throughout and Mukhadram was keen early. For his next start he was wearing a cross haired noseband to help him settle, and he duly did winning comfortably. That form has been franked also with 2nd and 5th winning since. Bred to appreciate this step up in trip, dam being a half sis to Mastery and Kirklees, he could very much well be anything. Missed engagements at Doncaster due to ground, so rain would be off putting if ground was to ease considerably, but he does look a smart colt and slightly overlooked in betting at 7s.

Rewarded - Kirsty Milczarek / James Toller
Form: 21-114

Improving son of Motivator, he has the potential here to blow an attractive handicap mark of 90. Was the beneficiary of a walkover at Sandown on debut, he was given much more of a task by Archibishop at Newmarket. Keen early, he rallied once hitting the rising ground to account for Archbishop, another to blow handicap mark by runnign a good 2nd in Group race in France. Better was still to come at Newbury in the London Handicap where hampered twice in the straight his chance was gone and Expense Claim hand flown. Expense Claim has since ran good races in higher grade, however both haven't been run to suit. Thomas Chippendale a ready winner at Newmarket and Clayton running well in Edinburgh Cup.

Starboard - William Buick / John Gosden
Form: 61-21

Attractive entries suggest he's held in high regard, but I have been disappointed with what I've seen this year. Buick was outpointed by Hughes at Newmarket in what was nothing but a match race, however Hughes did start Fort Bastion was probably best chance of week before being pulled from Jersey, his run at Doncaster has a few holes in it too.
Expense Claim is best when coming off a pace and putting race to bed two furlongs out, so doing donkey work himself is a neg and Kingdesire is similar in that he has shown keeness in his races and at Doncaster he looked to be wanting to go a fair bit quicker early on. In book he has a win at Redcar, a defeat in match race and ground out victory over opponents with circumstances against them.

Stipulate - Ian Mongan / Sir Henry Cecil
Form: 143-142

Tales Of Grimm - Ryan Moore / Sir Michael Stoute
Form: 1-3

Cover the above two together due to their latest run being the Heron Stakes at Sandown, but first previous form.

Stipulate shown throughout 2yo days a keen going tendency, and again it was apparrent at Newmarkey in the Feilden Stakes, but he ran away with that race. Keen and fighting for head, he pulled himself to front 1f out and powered away. Excuses at Sandwon on Heavy ground.

Tales Of Grimm winner of a Newbury maiden, which has thrown up 3 other winners, is related to some ok sorts, full brother Do It All a Gr3 winner in Meydan over a mile, and Stupendous Miss, Dam, a Gr3 winner in US over 9f and a winner over 10f in France so trip should be ideal.

Both ran in the Heron Stakes, with differing paths. Stipulate settled far better this time around sitting just off the pace in 4th throughout and just caught on the line by Cogito. Tales Of Grimm was held up wide and made move 3 furlongs out without ever looking to land a blow. Wouldn't be surprised to see Tales Of Grimm reverse the form today, however he's very skinny at 5s.

Wrotham Heath - Tom Queally / Sir Henry Cecil
Form: 71-261

Broke maiden tag at the second attempt over a mile at Nottigham on easy ground and was disappointing on first two starts this year. At Newbury he was unsuited by the Heavy ground even though his action suggested he should relish it, and was slightly keen. At Newmarket he travelled powerfully through the race but stopped to nothing suggesting the trip was beyond him.
Everything came right for him at Epsom, but as said early I'm not blown away by the strength of that form and didn't scream to me Group winner.

Overview
William Haggas looked to be short of decent 3yo looking at his crop last year, but I think it has transpired that the better one's were late types and Mukhadram is an example of this. With lots to liek about both runs, and with so much more still to come, then he is very much one I'm interested in seeing. Handicap form is well represented here and once again the London Handicap looked to be as strong renewal as usually is, and anything around 12s is on the big side. Even though Juddmonte have 3 runners here, this could still turn into a trappy affair, and if doing so would not surprise to see Goldoni outrun his price and has to be one to look at if able to get 40s+ on the machines.

1pt Win Mukhadram @ 7s
0.5pt Win Rewarded @ 12s
0.2pt Win Goldoni @ 33s

Gold Cup preview

The feature on Thursday's card at Royal Ascot is the Gold Cup for Europe's best stayers. Regular contributor James Jack, @materialista27, returns with a detailed look at this great race.

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The Gold Cup

The Gold Cup is a Group 1 race open to horses aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs. It is Britain's most prestigious staying race. Contrary to popular belief the actual title of the race does not include the word "Ascot".

The Gold Cup is the first leg of Britain's Stayers‘ Triple Crown, followed by the Goodwood Cup and the Doncaster Cup. The last horse to win all three races in the same year was Double Trigger in 1995.

The Gold Cup is one of three perpetual trophies at the Royal Ascot meeting, along with the Royal Hunt Cup and the Queen‘s Vase, which can be kept permanently by the winning owners. A number of horses have won it more than once, and the most successful is the majestic Yeats who recorded his fourth victory in 2009 at the age of 8. The most successful trainers in the race are Sir Henry and Aidan O’Brien the latter looking to add to his haul this year. 4 year olds carry 9 stones and 5 year olds and older carry an extra 2lbs. £198,485 to the winner, £75,250 to the runner up and £37,660 to the third.

1. Askar Tau
7yo
OR - 110
George Baker for Marcus Tregoning
Won the Sagaro Stakes last year, but none of the other runners have won a race, and neither has Askar Tau. He also won two legs of the Stayers’ Triple Crown in 2009, but again, beat nobody. Seems to be a consistent beast as he’s hovered between 102 and 110 on the official ratings for the last 3 years. He would need a Ben Johnson like effort to win this one, and in an Olympic year, who knows.
Best Odds: 50/1 (SkyBet)

2. Bridge Of Gold
6yo
OR - 102
Ryan Moore for Mikael Magnusson
I have no idea what this horse is doing in this field. Furthest he’s been is 1m6f in the Ebor 2 years ago. He hasn’t won since taking a 10f handicap in January 2010. Looks like the only horse you could ever see be outpaced in a marathon. Donkey, priced as such.
Best Odds: 125/1 (Stan James)

3. Caucus
5yo
OR - 104
William Buick for John Gosden
Erm, well at least he’s not a maiden. That’s pretty much it.
Best Odds: 100/1 (Bet365)

4. Fame And Glory
6yo
OR - 120
Jamie Spencer for Aidan O’Brien
Finally some Group 1 horses for this race. Defending champion, and reigning BCS Long Distance champion, he was sluggish in his seasonal reappearance at Navan although he still won despite conceding 10lbs to Unaccompanied. Beat Opinion Poll on his last two appearances at Ascot and will appreciate stepping back up in trip. It’s unfortunate that he ran into Sea the Stars in his Derby and he’s been vastly overshadowed by two of the greatest of all time this week in Frankel and Black Caviar. Any other year and he’d be the star attraction his former stablemate Yeats was. He could yet emulate the old fella, but in order to win 4 gold cups, you must win your second. The rest of the field will be closer to F&G this year and some of the younger additions to the field will truly test him, so if he can get his head in front the should get the attention he deserves.
Best Odds: Evens (William Hill)

5. Nehaam
6yo
OR - 110
Paul Hanagan for John Gosden
Was a not-too-distant 4th in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day last year at Ascot. His last win was in a 1m4f handicap here last July off 99 and although I’m sure he’s worth more credit than that, I don’t see how he’ll challenge over 2m4f against two of the three horses that beat him over 2m last Autumn and three 4yos who are getting their first chance to run in these length of staying contests. He might run a giant run for a place, but I wouldn’t put anything serious on him.
Best Odds: 40/1 (Stan James)

6. Opinion Poll
6yo
OR - 116
Mikel Barzalona for Mahmood Al Zarooni
A creditable second in this contest last year and followed that effort up with victory in the Dubai Gold Cup and Henry II Stakes at Sandown, both over 2 miles. In fact hasn’t been out of the front two since finishing 4th in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier at Longchamp last May. He was a disappointing 2nd in the Doncaster Cup to Saddler’s Rock but he did concede 17lbs to his younger rival that day and despite that 4 length defeat I still make him 7lbs better off in this race, and that’s without taking into account the allowance he should be afforded for carrying Frankie Dettori in that race. Let’s not forget he’s a two time Lonsdale Cup winner and should he be given a professional ride, he could go pretty close in this.
Best Odds: 11/2 (William Hill)

7. Colour Vision
4yo
OR - 117
Frankie Dettori for Saeed Bin Suroor
This year’s Sagaro winner and finished 3rd in the Cesarewitch last year. His run in the LDC at the tail end of last season looks flattering as he loses 9 of the 11lbs he received from Fame and Glory and Opinion 
Poll that day. He’s also moved from Mark Johnston to Saeed bin Suroor this winter and although he should still be respected as a trainer, he’s not as good as he used to be. Although it was unthinkable 5 years ago, I believe he is now 2nd string trainer to Al Zarooni. I’m not sure this horse will be the phenom Godolphin and particularly Fraudie Dettori thinks, but in time he could be a winner of this race. He beat Red Cadeaux in that Sagaro Stakes and he went on to win the Yorkshire Cup, so although he’s not to be sniffed at, I don’t think he’s the winner of this race.
Best Odds: 5/1 (Bet365)

8. Gulf Of Naples
4yo
OR - 107
Silvestre De Sousa for Mark Johnston
Another handicapper masquerading in a Group 1 race. 6 length 3rd to Ile De Re in the Dr. Marwan Koukash Cup at the start of May followed by another 6 length defeat by Cavalryman in a Listed contest at York. Despite going up 9lbs in the official ratings in those two races, he still looks woefully outclassed and isn’t good enough to win this race.
Best Odds: 50/1 (SkyBet)

9. Saddler’s Rock
4yo
OR - 114
Johnny Murtagh for John Oxx
The other great Irish hope. Last season’s Doncaster Cup winner as a 3yo, that form flatters him. He was 3rd in a Listed contest over 1m6f at the Curragh last August, but he finished a length and a quarter behind Fame and Glory despite receiving 17lbs. As previously mentioned, he beat Opinion Poll in that Doncaster Cup in receipt of 17lbs, but finished 2nd to Midnight Soprano in the Saval Beg in heavy conditions less than a fortnight ago, so it is a big question mark how much that took out of him and what he has left for a 2 and a half mile slog round Ascot in much quicker conditions and racing up in class. The only good line to take from that run in he finished a length in front of Unaccompanied despite giving the Weld horse 10lbs. Given that performance, you’d think he’d be well in with Fame and Glory, but no, as the Saval Beg was only a fortnight after the Vintage Crop that Fame and Glory won by a neck Saddler’s ideal trip may be two miles, and if John Oxx is as shrewd as he looks, he might put the cotton wool on this won and send him to Flemington. Don’t fancy his chances in this but I’ve been wrong before, only once or twice but still, it’s happened.
Best Odds: 9/2 (Ladbrokes)

ADVICE
6pts Fame and Glory @ Evs (Hills)
1pt EW Nehaam @ 40/1 (Stan James)
1pt RFC Fame and Glory with Opinion Poll (Whoever the hell you like:)

Ribblesdale Stakes preview

One of the highlights of the Thursday card at Royal Ascot is always the Group II fillies' race over a mile a half. Jon Thompson, @jaytee6666 previews the Ribblesdale Stakes.

The Ribblesdale has long been a favourite race for yours truly at the Royal meeting and a race that has thrown up a surprise package or two over the years yet has been dominated by the front end of the market for the past 5 years. Not since Mont Etoile in 2006 and Thakafaat a year earlier has the winner returned a double digit SP.

There are some interesting trends to observe when assessing the race. Godolphin have featured heavily in the winners enclosure with success 5 times in the past 15 years. Kailani represents the 'Boys In Blue' this year from the Al Zarooni yard with Mickael Barzalona again getting the nod over Frankie Dettori. Kailani remains unexposed but she will need to step forward from her 7th in the Oaks where she was never a real threat to the main contenders.

John Gosden is another trainer whose fillies run well in the race but the same can be said of just about any Group race that the Clarehaven maestro targets - he simply does not make entries for fun! He sends out the certain favourite for the race this year in The Fugue who was many peoples idea of the Epsom Oaks winner early in June until she met more traffic problems a mile from home than on the M25 on a Friday evening! There can be no doubt that The Fugue was incredibly unlucky that day and she appears a worthy market leader.

Another interesting factor is that Sir Michael Stoute has won the race only once in 2003 with Spanish Sun and Aidan O'Brien is yet to win it! (Yes that is NOT a typo!) Stoute is not represented in this year's renewal while Ballydoyle run Twirl who would appear to be well held on Oaks form.

Others with Oaks form to examine are the Epsom 2nd Shirocco Star and Vow who finished 4th. The step up into Classic company was a huge ask for both fillies and one that they both appeared to take in their strides however I am not keen on either's chances at Royal Ascot. It will be interesting to note where Shirocco Star finishes in relation to Momentary who holds her by a short head from their tussle at Newbury in a trial stakes on good to soft going. There will no doubt be a large following for Momentary as she bids to become another winner on home soil for Her Majesty The Queen! The fact that racing's own 'Princess' Hayley Turner takes the ride will surely only apply more pressure to the Bookmakers should Michael Bell's filly triumph.

Princess Highway is another worthy of a mention due to connections alone. Racing in the Moyglare Stud colours and trained by Dermot Weld she has always been very highly thought of and her reputation was not lost in spite of a rather disappointing debut at Leopardstown last October. That was all that was required of the Street Cry filly in her 2 year old career and it wasn't until her reappearance in late March when she defeated Oaks 8th Betterbetterbetter comfortably that we were able to view her racecourse ability. A Group 3 victory at Naas followed that with Epsom winner Was back in 3rd place making Princess Highway a very interesting runner.

The final filly that I am going to focus on is the most interesting of all from a betting opportunity. Pink Damsel is owned by Fitri Hay and trained by Roger Varian and will be ridden by the Hay's retained jockey Jamie Spencer. Her price tag was a 'meagre' 600,000 Guineas when she paraded through the Tattersalls ring back in October 2010 so as you can probably tell she is a 'looker' as well as being rather well bred by Galileo out of Riskaverse who was a high profile performer in the USA. Pink Damsel has been highly thought of all year but her preparation for her 3 year old season was severely affected by the weather and the soft/heavy ground that featured so prominently during March and April ruling her out of a 1000 Guineas opportunity. But if there is a young trainer that you want to rely on for patience then it is surely Roger Varian and there is no better educator of a young horse than Jamie Spencer as was evidenced when Pink Damsel made a winning debut at Newmarket in May. After a sluggish start Spencer showed her the lead four furlongs from home and she gamely held her rivals to the line in spite of a few glimpses of greeness. There are supporting trends too...previous Maiden winners always apply themselves well in the Ribblesdale and the late Michael Jarvis won this race back in 2007 with Silkwood trained of course from Kremlin House.

As seems to be the case with all British racing these days I am forced to add a weather warning! There is severe rain forecast for Ascot on Friday and Saturday. Let us pray that it doesn't get as bad as forecast and does not appear on Thursday at all! I would imagine that if the word "good' disappears from the going report that Pink Damsel will be saved for another day.

The 2012 Ribblesdale Stakes promises to be another cracking race but at 16/1 available that price is too tempting for Pink Damsel over some higher profile contenders.

other races for today, Day 2 Royal Ascot

Not out at the track today and limited time for the form, so just a couple of short mentions below. As always, these races are mighty hard - when the best come to town, it doesn't get any easier.

15.05 - Nahrain - really rate this horse, got me out of jail so to speak on Arc day. Undefeated in Europe, reckon she will win this race.

17.00 - Ceiling Kitty - one of Bert Black (Betfair founder)'s horses and she is pretty quick. Have won on her before and there's still more left in the tank. Tough field though, Andy Richmond, Racing UK expert was very keen on Mironica in our preview panel on Sunday.

and naturally, I'll be cheering So You Think in the Prince of Wales, despite what Jack Milner said in his preview.

Jersey Stakes preview

The very insightful Calum Madell takes the reins for today's opening event.
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JERSEY STAKES


A huge field lines up for this race and although it lacks a little depth in places, it is still a cracking race with a number of extremely exciting rivals taking.

None fit in that category more than Sentaril who has caught the eye in a huge way on her first two starts to date. She was a hugely impressive maiden winner at Newbury although the form has taken a bit of a knock with the runner-up failing to win his last two starts and nothing else coming out of it. She then readily thrashed Silverheels who since finished last in the King Charles II Stakes won by ALJAMAAHEER.

Roger Varian's colt is seriously well regarded at home and after a poor run on terrible ground on his reappearance, a race won by today's St James's Palace third Gregorian. He was then a taking winner of the King Charles when showing a really smart turn of foot to readily run away from the ill-fated The Nile who sadly had to be put down today after going badly wrong. It's desperately tough to split the two as I think one of them will win but preference just goes to Aljamaaheer as the ground has now dried out sufficiently and his form has worked out far better.

Joining those two at the head of the market is Reply for Aidan O'Brien who unusually for this race brings good Classic form to the table. He sowed he had trained on from last year when a good third in the Irish 2000 Guineas where he ran on well off a ridiculously strong pace. The form of that has taken a knock on day 1 though 7f should suit him (1/1 at the trip) and on ratings he is the one to beat at the moment. O'Brien also runs Ishvana who also brings classic form to the table with a second in the Irish 1000 Guineas last time. That form and strength of that race though is very questionable and more will be needed.

Also at a single figure price is Valbchek who is clearly well regarded by Jeremy Noseda, just seen by the fact Jonny Murtagh made the trip to ride him on debut. He backed it up hen running on well to take a valuable sales race at Newmarket at the Craven meeting. Although bred for a bit of speed, 7f should be right up his street and again improvement is needed, the form has worked out nicely and he must come into consideration. Swiss Spirit is just one of those horses to frank the form and she has gone in since but more will be needed.

Sovereign Debt is an improving type who is entitled to run here. He was very impressive last time on soft ground here, meaning he is unbeaten on his two tries at Ascot. More however is needed as he is nearly a stone below the top rated.

Moving into the outsiders, Boomerang Bob bounced back from his Guineas performance to run a solid second to Smarty Socks last time out but a repeat of that run would see him come up short. Red Duke looks a big price as he ran okay in the 2000 Guineas and then improved for it when 3rd behind Casper Netscher in the German 2000 Guineas. There should be an improved run from Talwar on better ground while Telwaar also has a poor run to overcome. Saigon should find a few too good and the same can be said for others such as Bannock, Eastern Sun, Justineo, Laffan and Redact.

Instead, one horse that always seems to be overpriced is PTOLEMAIC and I really think he is worth a chance in this. It seems that everybody feels his good runs in the Craven and notably the Guineas were a fluke but that may just not be the case. He is rated 109 which gives him a chance for a place and he clearly didn't stay 1m2f in the Dante as his pedigree suggested. But at 40/1 he is too big to resist an each way bet.

One who hasn't been mentioned is Producer who is now ridden by Richard Hughes after Fort Bastion was pulled out late. He completed his fourth win at Epsom last time when beating Justineo comfortably in a listed contest. He needs to prove he handles other courses though and this would be much tougher but he has been reported to be going well at home.

Verdict

A great race here and i'm finding it hard to split Sentaril and ALJAMAAHEER but preference is for the latter who now gets his much needed good ground while the form of his races have worked out far better than Willie Haggas' filly. Both remain extremely useful types though and should go well. Reply and Ishvana both bring Irish classic form from the O'Brien yard but both races have taken knocks already and may not have been the strongest of classics. Valbchek is one who must come into consideration as he's done very little wrong so far. Moving into the outsiders, Sovereign Debt, who has won his only two starts at the track, is worth his chance. Producer has a chance on form but hasn't won away from Epsom yet. Talwar, Telwaar and Red Duke have shouts at prices, with the first two needing to bounce back form poor runs though. However I can't ignore PTOLEMAIC at a huge price. He just seems too big with many feeling his Craven and Guineas runs being flukes but he hasn't proven they weren't and he didn't stay the Dante trip last time. This will settle the matter but before that he's worth a saver at 40/1. The rest have nothing to suggest that they can win this and would need to improve rapidly. At least types like Laffan, Lethal Force, Boomerang Bob and Justineo have the scope to do that though.

Advice - Aljamaaheer 3pts win @5/1 generally
Ptolemaic 1pt e/w @40/1 generally


You can read more of Calum's great prose on his blog - TheYoungRacegoer or by following him on Twitter @calummadell

Prince of Wales Stakes preview

Jack Milner returns with a look at the feature race on Day 2

The Prince of Wales Stakes is the centrepiece around the dinner table that is day two on Wednesday, and has an absolute abundance of talent at disposal, and a field that looks a minefield is the race slips into another one of these ridiculous crawl, then sprint tactical affairs.

Aidan O’ Brien has a good record in this race, and has the hot favourite, So You Think, who I did my absolute coconuts on in this last year, when a narrow second to Godolphin’s Rewilding, under a stellar ride from Frankie Dettori, whip bans notwithstanding. Last year he had Jan Vermeer used as a pacemaker, who quite frankly did a shocking job, and this year, Seamie Heffernan does the duties on Robin Hood this time, look after them fractions son. I am still financially and emotionally burnt by that, at a shade of odds-on, I have to oppose him.

Carlton House looks an interesting prospect, as we stumble another ante post disaster for me, after finishing third in The Derby, and fourth in The Irish Derby at The Curragh. He had a pleasing reappearance at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes and looks to be back on track, despite the lack of form with Sir Michael Stoute.

Godolphin look like a stable in anarchy, too many jockeys, not enough good horses, it seems a bit of a mess at the moment. The horses they inherit from overseas, particularly from Andre Fabre don’t seem to train on, see Mandean this year, and Dubawi Prince and Casamento last year, I can’t have Rumh or City Style.

Looking back through the trends, you have to have class to win this, (go figure eh) which takes out all of the horses who have not won at Group One level. This immediately takes out Wigmore Hall, Sri Putra, Colombian and Big Blue Kitten. Trends aside as well, none look good enough in such a competitive field.

The two French raiders could have live chances if back to their best after both disappointing last time out. Reliable Man was hugely disappointing in the Jockey Club Stakes last month when seventh and never travelling. He won a good French Derby last year, following that up with a Prix Neil win to set up a crack at The Arc, but suffered a setback and missed out. Planteur is a good yardstick, but is often the bridesmaid, and rarely the bride. On his CV he has places in a French Derby, Dubai World Cup and Grand Prix De Paris to his name; questions are still to be asked over his attitude. As said at the top, I can’t bring myself to follow So You Think off a cliff again, after having my proverbials on him in this last year, The Champion Stakes and The Arc, he is too inconsistent. Carlton House looks back down to a more suitable trip and distance, and looks a decent price to lower the colours of the versatile Irish/Australian/New Zealander.

3.45 Ascot – Carlton House
3.45 Ascot – Carlton House/So You Think & Carlton House/Planteur F/C’s.


The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner, @JJMSports

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

quick look at Day 1's other races

Royal Ascot comes upon us once more and it is the first real test of the ‘classic generation’ going up against the big boys, their older, more experienced rivals. The pageantry, the spectacle, and most importantly Her Majesty, who will no doubt fully immerse herself in the Jubilee celebrations, with a sherry or two during the week. She has couple of interesting runners herself, including Set to Music, Momentary, and her most fancied runner, Carlton House in the Prince of Wales Stakes.

The meeting kicks off with the Queen Anne Stakes, they don’t mess around, and it goes off with quite the bang. The race is steeped in history, and the last two winners were Canford Cliffs and Goldikova, two of the best milers in decades. A horse even better will saunter home in this; FRANKEL, officially the greatest horse currently on the planet. The only question mark is over who will chase him home, with Excelebration likely to do the honours ahead of Strong Suit, for only what, the umpteenth time in the last year or so?

The King’s Stand Stakes is a race for arguably the fastest horses in the world. Over the straight five furlongs, the race has been farmed by the Australian sprinters coming over from down under, with the likes of Choisir, Takeover Target, and Miss Andretti all winning in under a minute. Blink and you’ll miss it. They have another raider this year in the form of ORTENSIA, the mare who won the Group 1 sprint in Dubai, coming from last to first in double quick time. She has been stationed over here for the best part of six weeks to get acclimatised, staying with Jane Chapple-Hyam in Newmarket. She looks to be one of the top sprinters around on the basis of her Australian form alone. The majority of the challengers have all beaten each other in round robin style in the past couple of seasons, and it is hard to make a strong case for any of the home challengers on that basis alone.

See my article for the St James's Palace Stakes

The Ascot Stakes is one of the most competitive handicaps of the week, and is usually one dominated by national hunt trainers, with the two and a half miles being a gruelling battle, and quite the tactical affair. Last year it was won by Veiled for Nicky Henderson and Eddie Ahern, and ran creditably at Cheltenham, before disappointing at Aintree, but she is 7lb higher than her winning mark last year. Stable mate Sentry Duty carries top weight, and looks to have far too much weight off 9-10. David Pipe has Ashbrittle and Fiulin, both neither looks appealing, similarly Simenon, who will go off shorter than he should, purely because he is trained by W P Mullins. The most interesting in the field looks to be COSIMO DE MEDICI for the Hughie Morrison stable with Darryl Holland aboard. The five year old ended last season with wins at Newmarket over a mile seven furlongs on soft and at Haydock over two miles and a quarter on good ground, he is a model of versatility. On a career high mark of 89, however he had his comeback run last month at Goodwood, and ran a cracker, staying on well to snare fourth in a good race behind Life and Soul and Grumeti, and he looks to have been laid out for this and is the best each way bet on the card of day one.

The Coventry Stakes is the strongest race for two year olds up until now, and pits some of the best juveniles in the country against each other. It is another race that the Richard Hannon stable generally over perform in, including Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit. Aidan O’ Brien won the race last year with Irish Guineas winner Power, who was very impressive that day, and combined, the two mentioned connections have six runners, and it is hard to know what runner is the standout from either stable. Compare that however to Jim Bolger, and his thoughts on DAWN APPROACH, who has gone on record to saying the New Approach colt is one of, if not the best juvenile he has ever trained. He made it 3 from 3 in a listed event last time out at Naas, barely breaking sweat, in a very impressive manner. I have personally backed him for next years 2000 Guineas after seeing the manner of his novice stakes win, beating a good looking field by five lengths on his second career start, and I think this horse will go on to be an absolute superstar, and is in the right hands. Or check out Scott's preview here.

The Richard Hannon trained Lyric Ace will be all the rage in the last race of the day, The Windsor Castle Stakes, and as such, can see him going off a very skinny price indeed. He has done steadily improved in his three career starts but there is value in opposing him, and I have two against the field. The first is COSMIC CHATTER for the David Barron stable, a very under-rated trainer based in Malton, North Yorkshire. Cosmic Chatter won a good looking maiden at Haydock over five furlongs, winning coming away, and has been subsequently snapped up by Highclere Thoroughbred Racing on the back of that win. He showed bags of speed, and beat horses from the Noseda, Hills and Hannon yards in the process, if he were from a more fashionable stable, he would be half the odds. Similarly PAY FREEZE, who is trained by Mick Channon, and has had a particularly fruitful year with his juveniles, most notably recent group winner Laugh Out Loud. Pay Freeze absolutely bolted up at York in a six furlong maiden after previously showing promise on good to soft to finish second at Newbury. Pay Freeze was very impressive that day and again, has been expensively bought, this time by Qatar Racing Limited. Both won impressive maidens and can hopefully bring the prize up north, irrespective which one, stay on the safe side and get out of jail Tuesday by backing both.

2.30 Ascot – Frankel/Excelebration F/C
3.05 Ascot – Ortensia (Nb)
3.45 Ascot – Born to Sea (Ew) & Born to Sea/Power RFC
4.25 Ascot – Dawn Approach (Nap)
5.00 Ascot – Cosimo De Medici (Ew)
5.35 Ascot – Cosmic Chatter & Pay Freeze


The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner (@JJMSports)

Coventry Stakes preview

My turn to have a go and I do love the juvenile races at Royal Ascot. So many horses coming in off one or two very promising runs, and you know there will be several being backed. I doubt there have been many ordinary 2yos win the Coventry Stakes. To do the form properly on 2yos, I strongly urge you to watch replays - you can get them all for free on AtTheRaces.com for their tracks, and SportingLife.com for the Racing UK courses.

Coventry Stakes

Artigiano- third on debut behind Funk Soul Brother at York, then took a significant step forward with a facile win at Leicester. Not sure what he beat, but it was impressive. In three seasons of training in Britain, Mahmood Al Zarooni's record with 2yos is top notch - strike rate of 19% with a level stake profit of £82.79 (344 runners).

Baddilini - not up to these, as noted in his price.

Cristoforo Columbo - Ballydoyle hype horse, decent win on debut but they did run very slow time for a good track. First choice from a stable with great juvenile stocks, but I don't see value in the price on what I've seen.

Dark Emerald - marked improvement from his debut when running second to Olympic Glory at Goodwood recently. Not from a big stable, will be a massive price, could sneak a place.

Dawn Approach - boom colt from Ireland, and the best advertisement a new stallion (New Approach) can have with his first crop. Hard to line up the quality of what has been behind him, last time he beat Mister Marc, one of Richard Hannon's fleet who is nominated for the Norfolk later in the week. The margin was 2.75L over a horse who beat the aforementioned Dark Emerald by 8L at his previous run. Tennessee Wildcat has run third behind him twice, and he is nothing flash. Drawn the middle, should be ideal.

Englishman - sensational win on debut at Newbury back in April, weaving his way through the field and flying home. Five different winners coming out of that race since, and the second horse, Smoothtalkinrascal runs in the Windsor Castle later in the day - keep an eye on him. This colt was the most impressive of this field from the tapes, but the 60 days off is a concern - surely he'd want a lead-up run for such a high pressure race? Apparently he had a slight setback a few weeks ago, but he still has the stable number one aboard. However, there's a rumour going around that move is a foil to hold up the price on the stablemate...

Funk Soul Brother - wouldn't you love to hear the Royal Ascot racecaller trying to throw in the same lines as Stewart Machin at York... "Right about now Funk Soul Brother makes his challenge...." He won with a bit in hand that day, and the stable have a high regard for him. The runner-up has since flopped, but the third horse was Artigiano who has since gone out a donkey-licked a reasonable field.

Heavy Metal - dual winner (from four starts) by Aussie sire Exceed and Excel. I recall one of James Pyman's theories last season about this breed batting above their average down the Ascot straight. Might have been a shade unlucky at Epsom in the Woodcote, it's a hard track to adapt to, especially if away from the rail and as he was moving up alongside Chilworth Icon down the straight, the other horse was wobbling like a drunken sailor, which could distract an inexperienced colt. Big price.

Indian Jade - has won two from two and trained by the 2yo king of the north, Kevin Ryan. Handy, but can't see him adding another picket to the fence here.

Jubilee Brig - only a length behind Ceiling Kitty at Kempton on debut, but hasn't progressed since. Not for me.

King Dragon - 25/1 on debut, running third in an average maiden. Big step up here.

Leitir Mor - the Irish benchmark, having run second to one of Aidan O'Brien's colts each time. Close up behind Lines of Battle two starts ago, but doubt this one has as much scope to improve.

Lines of Battle - was pushed by Leitir Mor on debut but always looked to have something in reserve. Booking of Ryan Moore suggests they aren't really sure which is the better horse between Lines of Battle and Cristoforo Columbo. This one's a better price.

Living Desert - beaten at Yarmouth on debut in very slow time. No chance.

Master of War - won very easily at Haydock at his second start. Just another of the multi-pronged Richard Hannon attack, this one is no slouch and the price of 100 on Betfair looks ridiculous.

Mrs Brown's Boy - £5k yearling purchase whose owners will be here for a good time, not a long time. No hope.

New Pearl - beaten at 1/6 last time, by Indian Jade in a three-horse race. That was a Class 2 at Pontefract though, decent for this level, but has a lot to improve to be in the finish here.

Olympic Glory - impressive at Goodwood, forging through the field along the stands rail to win clearly. Jockey bookings would suggest he is stable third string.

Party Royal - decent run on debut when didn't like Chester too much, then won with plenty in hand at Ayr. Form not particularly strong out of that, but had a lot left in the tank. One for exotics (if they were available in the UK!).

Sir Prancealot - was hoping this one would line up in another race as I'd found something else in this one, and I seriously rate this colt. Very, very impressive at Sandown, boxed in behind the leaders then found a gap and exploded clear. Drawn the grandstand side if any bias emerges.

The Taj - easy win at Doncaster on debut in quite blustery conditions. Looked impressive, but time slow, probably due to the headwind. Close to Sir Prancealot on the stands rail.

Top Boy - well beaten by Sir Prancealot last time at Sandown, can't see him reversing the form here.

Whitfield - was backed from 4/6 into 1/2 on debut in a Cl6 Auction Maiden race at Newcastle but could only finish third, beaten 5.5L. Have to assume it has been showing something better at home from this stable, but asking a lot here.

SELECTIONS

I nominated Funk Soul Brother at a preview luncheon on the weekend, and despite the inclusion of Sir Prancealot, I'll stick to my guns. Happy to take on the Irish runners, and if you are looking for value in the placepot, Heavy Metal, Master of War and Party Royal could knock a few tickets out.

Funk Soul Brother
Sir Prancealot
Englishman
Heavy Metal
Master of War
Party Royal
The Taj
Lines of Battle
Dark Emerald