Monday, 27 August 2012

US Open women - quarters betting

Most of my content for the next fortnight will be exclusive to TheShark.com.au - men's preview found here, so here's an extra piece to savour...

QUARTERS BETTING

With Serena Williams touching odds-on in places, then it's worth taking a look at the quarters betting to find some alternative betting options.

Q1:

Main seeds - Azarenka, Lisicki, Li, Clijsters, Stosur.

Potential surprises: Zheng, Goerges, Cirstea, Watson, Dellacqua

The main seeds should control this one. Azarenka won the Australian Open and will be desperate to retain her number one ranking. She also comes off low points - her record here in the past is terrible, only once into the fourth round, but there's no logical reason why that is the case. 6/4 is unders with that record.

Lisicki is enigmatic, best result of R4 here last year, potentially so much better but injuries often get in the way.16/1 is about right, certainly wouldn't want to be taking anything less.

Li has the best hardcourt form of anyone coming into this - she won Cincinnati and was runner-up in Montreal, the traditional Tier I lead-up events. She has employed a new coach recently after a string of poor results (R4 French, R2 Wimbledon, R1 Olympics) but is much, much better than that. The relief of a new coach also means a happier personal life as the strain of being coached by her husband was overwhelming at the end. 5/2 is a bet.

This is the last goodbye for Kim Clijsters before she retires for good (allegedly). She has only been a part-timer on the circuit this year and that has a big bearing on her results. Her body can no longer handle the demands of professional tennis and at around 6/1, I think she is unders in this market - will have to face Li, Stosur and Azarenka to win this section.

Sam Stosur faces a big drop in ranking if she doesn't go a long way here. This season she is 31-17, but only 4-5 since the end of the clay season. Her form was a lot stronger last season, and from this draw, she has a lot of work to do. 7/1 represents no value at all.

BET

1pt Li Na to win Q1 at 5/2 (BetVictor, Pinnacle)

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Q2

Main seeds: Sharapova, Kvitova

Surprise options: Safarova, Bartoli, Pavlyuchenkova, Wickmayer

I'd be shocked if the winner of this section doesn't come from Sharapova and Kvitova. Bartoli is the only other one in this quarter with the ability and form to string more than a couple of wins together. I'll be looking to oppose some of the other seeds in the section as early as R1.

Sharapova's form has been great this year, hopefully the embarrassment of the Olympic final won't play on her mind too much. Would prefer to have seen her play a hardcourt tournament in the lead-up, hasn't played a competitive match on it since March.

Kvitova has found a solution to her asthma problem which has hampered her in North America previously. She won Montreal, reached the semis in Cincinnati then won last week in New Haven. Lost R1 here last year, her worst Slam result of the past two years. I think she's the main danger to Williams for the title, and thus should be favourite in this section.

BET

1pt Kvitova to win Q2 6/4

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Q3

Main seed: Serena Williams

Surprise options: anyone else

Only way Serena loses this is if she breaks down. 1/7 or so is appropriate.

NO BET

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Q4

Main seeds: Kerber, Radwanska

Surprise options: V.Williams, Paszek, McHale, Errani, Cibulkova, Barthel, Vinci, Jankovic

Kerber sets the standard here, defending a semi-final result last year (defeating main danger Radwanska along the way), and reaching the final in Cincinnati recently (defeated Serena and Kvitova, lost to Li after leading a set and a break). Unknown a year ago, now she is feared by all.

Venus Williams has shown signs of form again in recent weeks, but does anyone really think she can string together five wins to reach the semis? I don't. Facing Kerber R2 will make her task very tough.

Paszek has started to realise the potential she has shown for many years, but hasn't had a great leadup with consecutive R1 losses. One was blamed on a migraine.

McHale retired in Cincinnati with a gastro problem, but has made great strides forward this year. Beat Bartoli here last year, could work the local media into a frenzy by cracking the second week. Has reached R3 in her last four Grand Slams, befitting her current ranking.

In light of Lance Armstrong's doping issues, it's worth mentioning the concern over Sara Errani. Her friendly doctor Luis Garcia Del Monal was the team doctor for the US Postal Service cycling team during the era of Lance Armstrong! Read here for more. The diminutive Italian's record this year has improved markedly, raising suspicions from several parties. The spotlight is now on her, will her results suffer under the pressure?

Cibulkova hasn't set the world alight this season, standing 31-22 for 2012. Take out the +9 differential from clay and she is treading water. Could be gone early.

Mona Barthel has slipped out of the seeded rankings with a few poor results in the big tournaments (R1 French Open, Wimbledon and Olympics) and gave a walkover at New Haven last week with a gastro illness. But her recent hardcourt results aren't bad at all - losing in a final set tiebreak to Radwanska in Montreal and 7-5 in the third to Kvitova in Cincinnati. This is a quarter she is capable of winning with a little bit of luck, 25/1 is juicy.

Roberta Vinci has been in solid form of late, handing out a couple of double bagels (Ivanovic and Jovanovski), beating Kerber in Montreal and then winning the (rather weak) Dallas event defeating Jankovic in the final. Her recent R4 result at Wimbledon was her best ever performance in a Grand Slam, this is the peak of her career. 50/1 with Ladbrokes is overs.

Jelena Jankovic is just a non-winner. Her run to the final at Dallas might raise a few people's hopes, but she bet only one player in the top 40 to get there, and immediately before that won one match in nine! Won't last long.

Aggie Radwanska had trouble with a shoulder injury at New Haven last week, not a good omen coming into this. She doesn't have any stars to beat in this quarter, but there are quite a few decent players who will exploit her if unable to do much more than roll her arm over. Record here is poor - 4x R2 and twice out in R4 so I doubt she should have been favourite for this quarter even if she was fit.

BETS

Some value to snip here, this could easily be the shock quarter.

0.5pt Barthel 25/1 general
0.25pt Vinci 50/1 Ladbrokes

I'll have a proper outright preview for TheShark.com.au tomorrow, it will mostly centre around the backing/laying prospects on Serena Williams.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

the guys are on fire!

Hope you've been following my guest tipsters this week at York, take a look at the results of the last three races previewed!

Ebor (Calum Madell) - top pick Willing Foe, 14/1 WINNER

Melrose Hcp (Jack Milner) - lands the tricast in order - Guarantee (9/1), Biographer, Cardinal Walter - £413 tricast (£220 trifecta, a rare low div for the Totepool - I reckon some of them followed the Yorkshireman!)

Nunthorpe Stakes (Jack Milner) - Ortensia 7/2 fav WINNER, and his third pick, Spirit Quartz ran second at 14/1.

brilliant advice on betting discipline

Can't really be said much better than this article from Stephen Maher. I only wish I could follow his suggestions so rigidly!

http://gamblerfalls.com/gambling-discipline/

Friday, 24 August 2012

the Lance Armstrong links collection

Need a place to find the links to investigations and evidence against Lance Armstrong? This is the one.

It's Not About the Lab Rats - his charity work doesn't seem quite so angelic now

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/athletes/lance-armstrong/Its-Not-About-the-Lab-Rats.html

The myth of Armstrong's "I've been tested 500 times and always negative" defence

http://www.cyclismas.com/2012/07/the-legend-of-the-500/

The charge sheet from the United States Anti-Doping Agency, outlining the charges against him, and the evidence behind them

http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/armstrongcharging0613.pdf

Journalist David Walsh, a long-time accuser, has his say on the charges

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/david-walsh-on-armstrong-and-usadas-charges

Has he simply conceded to keep the details quiet?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/aug/24/how-lance-armstrong-strongarmed-cycling?CMP=twt_fd&CMP=SOCxx2I2

I haven't got time to write much on the subject now, but I did make this comment on Facebook this morning:

Lance Armstrong: "I am tired of defending these allegations, I am innocent and have never failed a drugs test".....
Or in plain English....
"I invested in the best chemists in the world for a decade who develop the best undetectable (with current testing methods) masking agents. How can I possibly be guilty?".

Piss off cheat. Nice to know Yanks aren't above the law every time.

and....

It's a near certainty that many, probably most, of his Tour de France rivals were also doping in some shape or form. He's not Robinson Crusoe there. But it's the holier than thou hypocrisy like an adulterous TV evangelist that really riles me.

Ebor Handicap preview

The biggest staying handicap in Europe is the Ebor Handicap at York, it's still a great race in its own right and definitely not a procession for favourites. Calum Madell, @calummadell, analyses the race from a trends, rather than form, angle.

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The Ebor Handicap

One of the toughest handicaps of the year but in what will be a different types of preview, I will try and eliminate as many as I can for different reasons, mainly on trends and then on form, ground, trip, draw etc.

1. Ignore front runners and prefer closers

Virtually every one of the last ten winners of the this race have raced off the pace, sometimes well off. The pace is so strong usually in the Ebor that front runners go off too quick and the complexion of the race always changes dramatically. For that reason I'd be against horses such as Bob Le Beau, Sense Of Purpose, Crackentorp, Area Fifty One, Icon Dream (sometimes doesn't), Hurricane Higgins, Hammerfest, Dreamspeed and Royal Diamond.

2. Aged 4-6 years

This takes out Blue Bajan who is 10 and would have to put up something special to win, and Crackentorp, aged 7. All the rest fit this though I would have slight preference for the 5 and 6yos as the extra year can make a big different in a handicap like this. Only two 4yos have won in the past ten years, those being Saint Alebe who was somewhat of a trend breaker and the smart Purple Moon who has a fairly similar profile to Qahriman.

3. Weight no bigger than 9-4

Camborne, Steps To Freedom and Bob Le Beau are all negatives for this reason. Purple Moon and Mephisto both won off 9-4 but there has been no weighted higher since Sea Pigeon in 1979.

After those three factors, we are left with a field of Willing Foe, Alkimos, Number Theory, Tominator, Rock a Doodle Do, Motivado, Harrison's Cave and Qahriman

4. Draw

Although you'd think it wouldn't be a factor, the draw actually is quite significant and the higher the better so that no trouble can be found. 8 of the last 10 winners have come from the top 7 of the high draws. Rock A Doodle Do, Alkimos and Willing Foe all have good draws and that is a real bonus.

5. Betting

Favourites haven't done too well with Purple Moon being the only victor since 1999 while winners have strung from 7/2 to 100/1. Motivado backers cannot be confident with this stat.

6. Form, Trip and Suitability

There's no doubting that favourite Motivado must have a great chance and he comes into the race off a really easy win at Goodwood. However I thought that race was really weak and this is far tougher although with just a 4lb penalty here, he is 6lb well off. I couldn't be backing at the price unless he drifts to around 6/1 then I may be interested. Luca Cumani is a master of York and knows how to get one for a big handicap but it would need to be another stroke of genius for Qahriman to win and his price has disappeared. Number Theory has been specifically running at Haydock lately but did well to just hang on in the Old Newton Cup. He may not be done with his improvement and all ground is fine while the extra 2 furlongs should be okay. I think he can go nicely. Conditions look good for Tominator but I'm not sure he can cope with this mark in this grade as he was beaten in a similar race last year here off 97 too. Godolphin's pair both meet the criteria and both also have good draws and so I'm going to back both WILLING FOE and ALKIMOS. Willing Foe has been thereabouts in big handicaps already and this has looked to be the aim for quite a bit. He was a beaten favourite last time but the winner got a slip on them and he may not have been 100% fit. He will be for this and conditions are ideal. Likewise Alkimos is slipping on to a decent mark and he wasn't beaten far behind Camborne at Ascot and again last time here in the John Smith's. He seems to stay 1m4f well enough and the extra two furlongs shouldn't be much of a problem. If it improves him then he has a big chance while cheekpieces are now also tried. I'm not keen on Harrison's Cave who I find very hard to place and instead the last one to fit trends is the complete outsider ROCK A DOODLE DOO and I must have a tiny e/w on him. He has always promised a big handicap and despite winning at Kempton 3 starts ago, he has been poor the last twice. He is now back onto that winning mark already though. A hood is tried by connections while even though he was beaten here on his last try at 14f, he was hampered and did go off favourite for that race. He can take a hand off this mark with an ideal draw and hopefully a hood to make a big difference. Of the others that didn't pass the criteria, I may be being a little unfair on Icon Dream who doesn't have to race in the rear and is well drawn and not badly treated. Similar could be said for Hammerfest while Camborne fits the bill of a lot of the trends but his weight is a worry. He still looks a group horse in the waiting so it wouldn't be a surprise if he won but he isn't straightforward and could either win or bomb out.

Advice -

Willing Foe 1.5pts e/w @14/1 generally
Alkimos 1pt e/w @33/1 Boylesports
Rock A Doodle Doo 0.5pts e/w @50/1 generally

Read more of Calum's work on this blog, TheYoungRacegoer

Melrose Stakes preview

Plenty of quality racing to finish off the Ebor, including three staying races. Jack Milner, @JJMSports, returns to preview the 3yo distance contest.

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Melrose Stakes (Handicap)

The 2.30 at York on Ebor day is an absolute crackerjack of a race, and the very fact there are only three geldings, as opposed to thirteen colts shows that there is a lot of untapped talent, with the calibre of unexposed possible group horses being potentially extremely good.

Gospel Choir heads the weights running off 98, and is up 8lb for a defeat of Sir Graham Wade last time out at Haydock, who is dealt a similarly 4lb hike, and 17lb overall for his last three runs. Gospel Choir received what I like to call ‘the Ryan Moore treatment’ last time out to win, and the rise seems steep. Similarly with Sir Graham Wade, the handicapper seems to have now caught up with Mark Johnston’s charge.

Guarantee has only three runs to his name, stepping up from a second on debut to win a mile and a half maiden and a handicap in similarly facile manner and the step up to a mile and six furlongs should suit the Authorized colt. The step up should similarly help Biographer for David Lanigan and Ted Durcan, who will be looking to make amends for Main Sequence’s narrow defeat in The Great Voltigeur. He stayed on well over a mile and five furlongs to come home strongly and finish second at Lingfield, and was game late on to win over a mile and half at Ffos Las, commanding late on to win well. Up 7lb, he could still be a threat.

Gabrial the Great, Rule Book and Beyond Conceit are all colts with inconsistent form this year, although have shown glimpses. Gabrial The Great loves the soft ground, Rule Book looks to be have weighted to high heavens, similarly Beyond Conceit, who was last seen chasing home Suraj before he flopped at York.

Monshak is an unexposed sort for Sir Michael Stoute, and the Monsun filly won well over the trip at Chester last time out, but the fact she has raced exclusively on heavy ground shows that she is a precocious filly. As is Ace of Valhalla for Sir Henry Cecil, who is doubtful to even run, but would not like the good going.

Cardinal Walter is a Cape Cross colt for Mrs Fitri Hay and the in form David Simcock stable, and is up 2lb for giving Sir Graham Wade 4lb at Goodwood, and is now weighted to reverse the placings. That could still give him work to do, although he did stay on to take third, and the step up in trip should suit. As it should with Future Security for Godolphin and SDS in the plate, who stayed on well to win over the extended 10 furlongs last time out at Bath. That was his first run of the season, and the Dalakhani colt is entitled to come on for the run, he is a potential sleeper. Gabrial’s Star is like many in terms of trying the mile and three quarters for the first time, stepping down from previously being upped to two miles last time out, but a 9lb rise for a second place finish, seems harsher than harsh.

Mysterious Man shed the maiden tag at the fifth attempt and an opening mark of 83 seems plenty stiff against horses with are less exposed and have stronger possibilities. Courtesy Call has been on the go since March, and although coming into a rich vein of form lately in lesser company, a long season and up 24lb since his run of 11211 back in May, looks to have seen the weights catch up with him, in the same manner that the Christmas and New Year period does with my waistline.

Cockney Sparrow was last seen finishing sixth in the soft ground at Chester in The Cheshire Oaks, and that form has worked out beyond dire, and a mark of 81 looks daylight robbery. As are the marks for the three at the bottom of the weights in Daneking, Choisan and Flashman, who have form patchier than a tramp's satchel, and are up against it against some potential and eventual group winners towards the top of the weights.

So there we have it, a field of eighteen, seventeen if Ace of Valhalla stays home, an excellent race, and some potential Ebor horses in there for next year. Gospel Choir is the favourite on merit, completing the hatrick last time out, but yet another hike could have finally got to him, and he was fortunate to get Ryan Moore on him when he is in ‘will not die’ frame of mind. Sir Graham Wade chased him home, and has been raised, and Cardinal Water chased him home prior at Goodwood, although he is the most lightly treated at the weights. Gospel Choir’s stablemate Monshak would need the rain to come, and for it to come as should Gabrial the Great, Rule Book and Ace of Valhalla. Andrew Balding’s Mysterious Man and Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Cockney Sparrow are still lumbered with stiff opening marks and Daneking, Choisan and Flashman towards the bottom of the pile are up against much classier and stoutly bred rivals. Future Security has a lot more potential than he has yet to show, and he could be a massive dark horses, but the fact L Dettori isn’t in the plate is a head scratcher.

The two I expect to be fighting out the finish are the two unexposed colts of BIOGRAPHER and GUARANTEE, with the latter just edging it. Biographer has been hinting that a mile and three quarters could be his optimum trip, but the manner of Guarantee’s maiden and handicap wins are still etched in my memory. I backed him for his maiden win, and he was green and struggled until the last furlong and a half when really motoring late on. He made a mockery of his opening mark, dotting up by four lengths, and although incurring an 8lb rise, he is going the right way, and will have outstanding claims if fulfilling potential.

Guarantee Biographer Cardinal Walter Gospel Choir

The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner - @JJMSports

Nunthorpe Stakes preview

Bit slow off the mark today, the weather up north hasn't helped. Here's Jack Milner's look at today's highlight, the five furlong dash of the Nunthorpe Stakes!

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The Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is the highlight of Friday’s card, and has a maximum field of twenty runners battling for the £140,000 first prize, in what is truly an international field. Four runners from Ireland and one from down under have come to compete, and whilst an international feel, Yorkshire are incredibly well represented, accounting for more than half of the home runners. Unfortunately, they have a poor record, with the exception of Bordelescott, there has only been two winners for ‘Gods Country’ in the last fifteen years, both of whom were trained by Dandy Nicholls, who doesn’t have a runner.

Although Sole Power was a 100/1 winner two years ago, he was still an unbeaten colt, and it was more of a shock that he could step up from an unknown quantity, as opposed to running so badly and suddenly turning it on. Kingsgate Native returned from firing blanks in the covering shed to finish fourth last year, but looks nowhere near the force of old from winning this race in 2007, and has not won since May 2010. Although Bogart won at the meeting last year, his form has dipped this year, and was disappointing when finishing last in The Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. Humidor, has only placed in one start from six so far this season, and despite running at group level on his last two runs, is still way off the class required for even placing at this grade.

The Irish sprint division as a whole seems to be lacking, and nothing strikes as being a real out and out challenger. Nocturnal Affair, Sole Power, Dandy Boy and Invincible Ash have patchy form this year, and although Sole Power has been running consistently, he has room to make up on horses he has finished behind this season in Bated Breath and Ortensia. As does Confessional for Ted Easterby, Beyond Desire for Roger Varian and Angels Will Fall, who does gets a weight concession being a three year old filly, but rated 104, she has work to do.

There are some horses thrown in here for reasoning that only the owners will know, presumably a jolly up in the Champagne Lounge. Secret Witness is rated 105 and is a hardened handicapper, and has placed once in Group 3 company, that being his highest achievement. Hamish McGonagall and Monsieur Joe are old sparring partners in northern listed races, and both have a victory in that level to their name thus far this season, and could have place claims if getting the run of the race up front.

Spirit Quartz is a four year old gelded son of Invincible Spirit, and has shown consistent form this season. Fifth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, and placed in races behind Bated Breath and Ortensia, he is improving and could spring something of an upset. Masamah is rated 1lb higher, and was behind Spirit Quartz and Ortensia, provided he can step up, he is also a contender. Tangerine Trees won the Prix De L’Abbaye last year in something of a blanket finish, but rated 115, is a classy sprinter. The seven year old has been finding his feet so far this year, but like most of these sprinters seemingly in the line up, was behind Ortensia and Bated Breath in the Group 2’s at Haydock and Goodwood. Tiddliwinks won The Duke of York Stakes over six furlongs, and finished seventh in this race last year. Although a perennial bridesmaid at the top level that is usually at six furlongs, and his record over five reads 7105 and his only win was in a conditions race.

The big three that head the market are Bated Breath, Ortensia and Pearl Secret, and without overly stating the obvious, the race pivots around those three. Bated Breath is a horse that needs good ground, and Rogers Charlton’s charge should get perfect conditions, and although a multiple group winner, he has been unlucky at the top level. His form in Group One sprints reads 529222, and he has run behind horses such as Dream Ahead, Regally Ready and Little Bridge, some decent animals. Rated 118, he is the leading player, and should run close.

Pearl Secret is an unbeaten three year old colt, and trainer David Barron has gone on record saying that the chestnut colt is the best horse he has ever trained, quite lofty praise indeed. He is taking a massive step up from winning listed races at odds on though, and given his form and action, he looks like a horse who appreciates cut in the ground. He is a twice course and distance winner however, and is fiercely respected.

Save the best ‘til last; the Aussie mare ORTENSIA looks to have the added touch of class in this field, and the seven year old mare came good last time out at Goodwood, trouncing the field in style, with a good deal in hand than the two length winning margin suggested. She gave the field 4lb that day, and will be running with 3lb in her favour come Friday, and she sets the standard, being a multiple Group One winner herself. She has been running Black Caviar to 5 lengths in Australia, and can be excused her runs at Ascot and Newmarket on ground less than ideal. The quicker it is, the quicker she will run, and having already beaten almost half of this field last time out, they shouldn’t be a bother with weights reversed. Bated Breath should run her close with ground to his liking, but he will have to settle for another second place rosette, with the progressive Spirit Quartz my idea of bronze.

1, Ortensia
2. Bated Breath
3. Spirit Quartz


The Yorkshireman - Jack Milner, follow him on Twitter - @JJMSports

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Gimcrack Stakes preview

It's a great card at York on Friday with the juvenile race taking some of the spotlight. Dissecting the form for this contest is a newcomer with some very impressive penmanship (or should it be keyboardship these days?). Anyway, please welcome Gary Savage, @chesneywold, to the blog!

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The Gimcrack Stakes at York looks a less than stellar renewal this year, and the race has not had a really top-class winner since Rock of Gibraltar, nevertheless a competitive race is in prospect with eight runners going to post.

Heavy Metal of Mark Johnston is the highest rated horse going in to the race due to his last time out success in the Richmond Stakes. Like last year’s winner Caspar Netscher, Heavy Metal is a highly-experienced colt having already had six runs this year starting with the Brocklesby way back in March. Horses running in that race doesn’t usually end up in late summer Group races but like a lot of his trainer’s charges Heavy Metal is incredibly tough and there is no argument that his last performance, in readily seeing-off Master Of War at Goodwood, was his best yet. Earlier defeats in the Coventry and July Stakes seemed to demonstrate his limitations but the son of Exceed and Excel has won on good to firm going and York’s long straight may well suit his battling front-running style.

Kevin Ryan had a host of five-day entries so his sole entrant Blaine must be taken seriously. The colt is a winner of his only start so far which came over this course and distance a month ago. Ryan took this with Amadeus Wolf in 2005 although that one had more experience than Blaine, but the fact that his trainer has chosen this half brother to Bogart as his representative here may speak volumes, and his course form will stand him in good stead.

Mick Channon’s Cay Verde is another with plenty of experience having had five starts so far in his career. The Qatar Racing colt has shown good form in all of those runs including a defeat of Windsor Castle Stakes winner Hototo on his second start, a Listed win at the Curragh and a decent showing behind Reckless Abandon in the Norfolk (where the reopposing Morawij finished just ahead of him). Last time out Cay Verde was third behind Heavy Metal at Goodwood after hanging throughout much of the latter stages of that race. It could be that that quirky track didn’t suit Channon’s colt and he’s certainly not out of this.

Richard Fahey’s Euxton Hall was fifth in the Richmond, 3 and ¾ lengths behind Heavy Metal and 1 ¼ lengths behind Cay Verde, and is another who has had plenty of experience. He has won twice from five starts and is a freegoing sort who is likely to be at the head of things here, although how long he can stay there is open to doubt. The fact that he was about the same distance behind Richmond runner-up Master of War in his last two starts indicates that he may not be improving and thus may not be able to bridge the gap to Heavy Metal and Cay Verde here.

Noel Quinlan’s Lewisham is the only maiden in the field but is likely to be near the head of the market as he is the second highest-rated in the field. His low-key placed efforts in Newcastle and Doncaster maidens meant that he was sent off at 25-1 for the July Stakes at Newmarket last time. Noel Quinlan’s decision to throw him into a Group Two was justified in some style as his colt was a fast-finishing second to Alhebayeb. Despite the winner’s disappointing effort at Deauville at the weekend the July Stakes run puts Lewisham right in the mix here, although it should be noted that the soft going at Newmarket enabled him to make up ground after a sluggish start and that may not be the case on York’s different track and quicker surface.

Morawij has always been held in high regard and has gone off favourite for three of his four starts. Roger Varian’s colt has won two of those starts and has shown plenty already without quite living up to his billing. Despite two victories and a second place Morawij’s best run was probably his fourth in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot where he had Cay Verde behind him. Last time out Varian’s colt was just caught in the Molecomb by Bungleinthejungle, with the pair readily coming clear of a decent field including Hototo (winner at York Thursday), Dylanbaru and Jadanna. Morawij is clearly a very speedy animal but whether he can hang on at the Knavesmire on his first outing over six furlongs has to be open to doubt.

William Haggas has been the most successful trainer in this contest in recent years with two winners since 2006 and a runner-up in 2009. All of those were more experienced than his entrant this year Odooj, who has only had two starts to date. He won a maiden at Chester very nicely first time and then just got touched off in a tremendous tussle with Flyman at Nottingham last week. Provided he is still improving, and Haggas usually knows what he’s got in this type of contest, then Odooj could get himself into the reckoning here. Nevertheless he is priced up on stable record here (25% with juveniles) rather than form in the book.

Last and almost certainly not least is Richard Hannon’s chosen runner here, Pearl Acclaim. Let’s hope he makes the line-up as his trainer stated after his win on Ripon on Saturday that he wished he had waited for the Gimcrack instead. The win on Saturday was a great performance and Pearl Acclaim was well on top at the line after getting the better of Roger Varian’s previous winner Ashaadd with useful types King Dragon and Luck well beaten. The fact that he is the only runner from the stable that has a handle on pretty much all juvenile form in Britain is tempered only by the knowledge that Hannon has not won the Gimcrack since 2000. The East Everleigh handler has rarely run a good one in this race though and Pearl Acclaim’s liking for top-of-the-ground and recent good form make him a top contender for this race.

Conclusion

This race is being contested by horses with a lot of overlapping formlines and it may be that the one who runs best on the day will come out on top. Heavy Metal’s 3lb penalty won’t make his bid to follow-up his Richmond Stakes win any easier although his style of racing is well suited to this test. William Haggas’ good record in this race makes Odooj worth a second look, but he will have to improve a lot on what he has shown so far, while Blaine is an unknown but highly-respected quantity. Morawij looks very speedy but again looks like going off at a price too short for what he has achieved, while Cay Verde may be able to produce his best form back on a flatter track than Goodwood and outrun his odds (16-1). But the selection has to be the one who has the potential to be a fair bit better than he has shown so far in Pearl Acclaim. His form is already not far behind what is required, and as long as the possible rain does not slow the surface up too much between now and race time Hannon’s colt looks the one to be on.

Pearl Acclaim is 5/1 with BetVictor at time of writing

Strensall Stakes preview

More quality action from York, this time previewed by Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007. If you'd like to read more of his great work, try his blog.

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Strensall Stakes preview

Friday sees day three of the Ebor Festival at York, and a cracking card which includes the Sky Bet Group 3 Strensall Stakes run over 1 mile and 208 yards (effectively nine furlongs). The race – named after a village to the North of York – is open to three year olds and upwards, with previous Group 3 winners carrying a 4lb penalty, fillies receiving a 3lb weight concession from colts and geldings and three year olds receiving a 7lb weight concession from older horses.

Analysis

The sole pair of three year olds in the contest are no strangers to each other. Stipulate and Tales of Grimm have met recently on two occasions, with Sir Henry Cecil’s colt Stipulate coming out on top on both occasions. Stipulate was a well supported 6/1 shot when finishing fourth behind the dead heaters Archbishop and Trumpet Major in the Group 3 RSA Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood. Tales of Grimm could only finish seventh and reopposes on the same terms. Furthermore, Stipulate also appears to hold Tales of Grimm based upon their respective second and fifth placings in Trecentenary Stakes behind German winner Energizer at Royal Ascot in June. The trip at York should be ideal for Stipulate who has won twice from eight career starts including over nine furlongs at Newmarket in April. On the other hand, connections still seem to be searching for a trip with Tales of Grimm. A winner of a seven furlong maiden at Newbury last August, he’s been tried over a variety of distances upto 10f since. Barry Simpson racing manager to Sir Robert Ogden has indicated that the one time 2000 Guineas hopeful “needs to grow up mentally and be more professional in his races”. However, York is expected to suit the Sir Michael Stoute colt given his preference for a flat track, and he’ll receive plenty of assistance from Keiran Fallon up top. However, based upon the clear evidence on the racetrack to date, one would expect Stipulate to win the battle of the younger horses.

Barefoot Lady not only represents the fillies in the contest, but also provides the hopes of a Yorkshire winner, and the sole chance of keeping the prize in the North. The superbly named Footstepsinthesand filly has been mixing it in good company all year, including behind Izzi Top in the Musidora at York in May, Clinical in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom in June, Joviality in the Windsor Forest at Royal Ascot, and more recently when sixth in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in July. Since the Falmouth Stakes, she has appeared on the Knavesmire at York in late July landing a richly deserved success in a listed contest. Although stepping back up in grade here, as her schedule testifies she’s clearly a tough and honest filly, with an ability to handle an extended 10 furlong trip. This suggests she’ll be doing her best work at the business end of the Strensall Stakes.

William Haggas landed this race in 2011 with Green Destiny. He relies upon Fury to repeat the dose this year. Fury has been on the go since early doors when finishing a fine third to Brae Hill in the Lincoln. Furthermore he’s no stranger to York, and this trip. After landing the Betfred Hambleton Stakes Handicap over C&D in May when seeing off Prince of Johanne in a thrilling battle, he was a shade disappointing in Group 3 company at Chantilly behind Vagabond Shoes in the grandly named Prix du Chemin de Fer du Nord. Most recently he met another of today’s rivals Dubai Prince in a four runner Class 3 Conditions contest at York in mid July. Although sent off at odds of Evens, he was beaten four and a half lengths by the Godolphin horse. This was a fine effort by the talented Dubai Prince on his first UK start of the year. He’s clearly been given time to get over his exertions at the Dubai carnival at Meydan in March and this represents his third start in just over five weeks. After York, he could only manage sixth of seven behind Quest for Peace over 12 furlongs at Goodwood. This trip clearly stretched his stamina, and he’ll be suited by a drop back to nine furlongs. Furthermore, Godolphin have a good record in this contest over the years, so their entrant must be given maximum respect.

Questioning represents the powerful John Gosden and William Buick combination. The colt has been twice the best man to Pentinent early in 2012, most notably in the Group 2 Bet 365 Mile on Heavy ground at Sandown. Since then he’s faced some difficult assignments when fourth of seven over ten furlongs at Chantilly behind Marco Botti’s Marcret, and when seventh of eight in the Summer Mile at Royal Ascot behind shock winner Fanunalter. This Group 3 contest is arguably his best winning opportunity of the season, and coming into the race off the back of a break, he should go well. Tazahum a four time winner at a trip of eight furlongs at shorter on both turf and all weather is strictly speaking well held by Questioning on their meeting at Newmarket earlier in the season (April) when the latter was victorious. However, Tazahum at least brings recent winning form into the contest, having justified favouritism in a small field recently at Newmarket accounting for Balducci. Additionally, he’s been lightly campaigned and neither trip nor ground at the Knavesmire will hold any fears.

Side Glance is the oldest horse in the race and we all know plenty about Andrew Balding’s admirable five year old gelding. He earns a Group 3 penalty for this contest, having landed the Diomed Stakes at Epsom in June from Dance and Dance. He’s best judged on this contest, and it gives him an outstanding chance here at York. Since Epsom, he had the misfortune to meet the indestructible Frankel in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, but performed as well as could be expected in finishing third. Most recently, he ran well at York, when perhaps finding the 1m2f+ trip a shade too far behind Sri Putra and Afsare in the Sky Bet Stakes (Group 2). Side Glance has earned his penalty for this contest, and must surely be on the premises back at this level.

Verdict

A fascinating contest run over somewhat of a specialist distance. Although proven milers should see this extra furlong out on a flat track such as York, there are horses with proven form over further who will put this theory to the test. Although up in class, I like the chance of Barefoot Lady at reasonable odds. Clearly she has something to find with the likes of Side Glance and the improving three year old Stipulate, but she’s worth a small interest nevertheless. On the other hand, I’d be happy to take on Fury who has been on the go now for a number of months and seems to have left his better form behind as the ground has began to dry up more recently. There is no evidence to suggest that he can reverse the form with recent conqueror Dubai Prince.

Yorkshire Oaks preview

Thursday's feature race is for the females, a rare Oaks race open to more than just the 3yo fillies. Regular contributor James Jack, @materialista27, attacks the form.

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Darley Yorkshire Oaks
The Yorkshire Oaks is a Group 1 race, run over a mile and a half, and is open to fillies ans mares aged 3 or older.
3yo carry 8st 11lb while 4yo+ carry 9st 7lb.
We have no previous winners in the field, Sir Michael Stoute is the leading trainer in the race, though gladly he doesn't saddle an entrant this year.

1. Bible Belt (4yo)
Fran Berry for Mrs John Harrington
Group 3 winner last summer over 1m1f, and finished a creditable 2nd to Dancing Rain in the BCS Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot last year. Sadly this year has not been so promising, finishing a distant 4th of 5 in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and a poor third in the Ballyroan Stakes less than a fortnight ago. I think she'll run a decent race, but to be in the frame against this opposition, she needs a lot better than decent.
Best Odds: 16/1 (Betfred)

2. Shareta (4yo)
Christophe Lemaitre for Alain De Royer-Dupre
Won a straightforward Group 3 last summer in France and followed that up with 3rd in the Prix Vermeille and 2nd in the Arc beating many a fine horse. However Meandre whom she beat at Longchamp beat her in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in the summer and she flopped on her first overseas trip finishing 7th in the Japan Cup, albeit on firm ground. The jump over the channel should be a bit easier to overcome and if we get the Arc runner up, she's too good for the rest of this field. The Good to Firm ground is a concern as she's never made the frame when firm is in the going description. The other nagging doubt is that older horses haven't been too successful in this race in the past, but she should have the quality to beat the best of what is arguably a poor 3yo crop.
Best Odds: 7/2 (Bet365)

3. Wild Coco (4yo)
Tom Queally for Sir Henry Cecil
Winner of the Lillie Langtry (G3) at Goodwood, she's yet to show she can really compete with the rest of the field. She's seen Good to Firm a couple of times, and clearly doesn't have a problem with the trip, however last time she was seen on the Knavesmire was a disaster finishing nearly 20 lengths behind Set To Music in a Listed contest at last year's Ebor meeting. She fell away towards the end of her 3yo season, so despite an encouraging reappearance, I'm not convinced how progressive she is and this is a big step forward at a ridiculous price so not for me.
Best Odds: 8/1 (Betfred)

4. Coquet (3yo)
Robert Havlin for Hughie Morrison
Won a pair of Listed races at a mile and mile and a quarter, but struggled on the step up to this distance finishing 6th in the Oaks. This looks too far, and against too good a field, I don't give her a chance. I can't see her magically overturning three that finished in front of her in the Oaks, so not for me.
Best Odds: 14/1 (BetVictor)

5. Shirocco Star (3yo)
Richard Hughes for Hughie Morrison
An enigma, 2nd in the Oaks, 2nd in the Irish Oaks. 3rd in the Ribblesdale between those runs, yet hasn't won a race beyond a Class 4 maiden. She has only beaten a short head by The Fugue at Ascot and gave Was a good beating at the Curragh, so why 10/1? Dunno, but I'll have some of it. Richard Hughes on board certainly adds to appeal, and even if she can't compete with The Fugue she has the ability to challenge Shareta for 2nd, and that's good enough for me.
Best Odds: 10/1 (Boylesports)

6. The Fugue (3yo)
William Buick for John Gosden
Unlucky in her pinball race at Epsom, so will be happier with this field and a return to the scene of her glorious Musidora win. She won the Nassau Stakes very well against a class field, and I expect her to frank that dominance on this field. She's beaten each of them she's faced and with doubts over Shareta on ground and travel, this race is her's for the taking. Easily the pick of the field for me, and for once I agree with the bookies on her.
Best Odds: 7/4 (Boylesports)

7. Was (3yo)
Seamie Heffernan for Aidan O'Brien
Sad to say, but looks like a fluke winner of the Oaks, miserable performance in the Irish Oaks and the Nassau. The only shred of comfort Aidan has over her is that Seamie's back on board after Jospeh rode her at the Curragh and Ryan Moore had a go at Goodwood. Sure she won the Oaks and should be respected, but the mess behind her and the fact Shirocco Star has clearly improved while Was has regressed slightly doesn't bode well for this contest. If there had been 8 runners, I may have had a cheeky each way, but I don't think she's better than 5 of these opponents. I'd love to be proved wrong, but I don't see her doing it.
Best Odds: 7/1 (Paddy Power)

ADVICE
2pts EW Shirocco Star @ 10/1
4pt win The Fugue @ 7/4
1pt RFC The Fugue and Shirocco Star
(Place them all with Boylesports)

Betfair Handicap preview

More from the Yorkshireman, this time the main handicap of the day....

The 3.05 at York may not be the flashiest on a card that includes The Lowther Stakes and The Yorkshire Oaks, but from a punting point of view, it is potentially the best race on an exquisite card. A twenty runner handicap over York’s infamous mile, a decent kitty has brought out a fair few100+ rated horses, and it looks a field of class.

The trainer who has enjoyed August like no other is Mark Johnston, and he goes mob handed at this race, with three runners. Stable jockey Joe Fanning opts for Switzerland, running with a 6lb penalty, Crown Counsel runs after a good second at Ayr last time out with Luke Morris on board, and Nicky Mackay takes the leg up on Lady Macduff. It could be folly to rule out, but none looks like being major players.

There are a further number of horses who are running out of the handicap, or due to be lowered a few pounds. In one of these big fields’ handicaps you need everything to go your way, and as such, can’t let any advantage slip, that for my money would rule out Al Muheer, Santefisio, Diamondhead and Strictly Silver.

Unlike Cheltenham, and national hunt horses in general, you rarely see horses go from festival to festival year in year out and run well, and I couldn’t conceivably see the horses that were down the field in the race last time do well, let alone the winner. Navajo Chief. He won this last year, but has had patchy form this year, his only win coming over nine furlongs here on soft ground. Up 2lb and a year older, his time may have gone again lesser exposed rivals. Similarly Invisible Man and Vainglory, who were both down the field last year behind the six year old.

That’s cut the field by half; that seemed pretty simple, wonder if the latter half will be just as simple? I doubt it.

As mentioned at the top of the article, those at the head of the weights are more likely to be the ones to be fighting out the finish, such is the competitiveness of the race, and the quality of the field, you need a bit of class to win this. Postscript won over a mile at Haydock in May and August, but is up 12lb now for those two wins, and the handicapper seems to have caught up with him. Indian Jack seems to be in the same mould, and is still on his way down to a workable mark, having not won since September last year, although the Cumani stable are in good nick. Trade Storm ran a good race in The Shergar Cup, finishing second behind Boom and Bust, but has got himself a 4lb rise for those troubles and that has likely scuppered his chances. Imperial Djay won two quick handicaps at Chester in May and June, but copped an 8lb rise for that, and is still working those pounds off, so to speak, for the Ruth Carr team.

Sandagiyr was a listed winner for Andre Fabre in France before going to Meydan, winning a Group 3, when the stable’s supposed third string, and managed to sneak home under Sylvester De Sousa. On his comeback run since then however he finished beaten twenty lengths in a German Group 2, and there are arguably more questions than answers surrounding him. Lord Aeryn is an interesting runner for Richard Fahey, winning a competitive affair last time out at Thirsk, and not overly penalised, only receiving a 2lb rise for his short head victory margin.

The remaining four will probably hold the majority of answers, with Excellent Guest being fancied in his last two runs at Ascot and Goodwood in similar contests. Going off 8/1 2f last time out at Goodwood, he was beaten by just under three lengths, finishing fifth of twenty runners to the well backed and seemingly well in Mark Johnston trained Fulbright, and given his form and consistency, he has strong plain claims. As does Prince of Johanne, a classy animal rated 105, who has dropped down to a mile this year after running over (and winning) decent events last year, his highlight and claim to fame winning The Cesarewitch last year. Dropping back to a mile, lost by a nose to Fury over course and distance off 98, and then won The Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot. Fifth in a listed race at Pontefract, and beaten five lengths behind Excellent Guest in The Betfred Mile, he should be a leading player, although a 7lb rise since his run over course and distance in may scupper him.

Aneriego is coming back after two course and distance victories for the David O’ Meara yard and the four year old possesses a very progressive profile. A well bred son of Invincible Spirit, he lost his way and came to the stable from Dermot Weld at the start of the season, and has been revitalised. Form figures of 4725211 suggest he is getting better, and although a 13lb rise, may still be unexposed. Kahruman has been well backed already, and he could be the stereotypical group horse hiding in an open handicap field. The William Haggas Mr Greeley colt was thrown in at the deep end after winning a Kempton maiden and wasn’t disgraced finishing fourth in a good looking race, before a game sixth of twenty nine in The Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Quite the conundrum then eh? Four year old’s have had a cracking record in the race, as seen with Navajo Chief last year, and they will hold the answers here again. Postscript, Indian Jack and Sandagiyr are all unexposed, and if the money were to come, they would be worth another look. Kahruman is off the same ilk, but given the connections of Sheikh Hamdan, Haggas and Hanagan, will likely be punted into next week. Given how well that man Fallon rides around The Knavesmire, and the two facile course and distance winner Anderiego won around here, he looks the one to side with. Up 13lb, but with a shrewd stable, and won with plenty up his sleeve, eased down, he could have upwards of 7lb in hand for my money, and with the pace up front in abundance, he will likely have the race set up for him.

Anderiego
Kahruman
Lord Aeryn
Prince of Johanne

The Yorkshireman - Jack Milner - @JJMSports

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

in-running pointers for York this week

Racing UK pundit and former Betfair colleague Andy Richmond (@bickley14) is providing free in-running notes for York this week, all the more important as this is a meeting on terrestrial TV rather than the several seconds delay on ATR or RUK. Remember to switch off the HD though if you want to trade with the fastest pics possible! But that's not the only option, in-running pointers such as these can provide you with the basis to make your own back-to-lay (or vice-versa) trades you can set up before the race and let them go.

Today's guide can be found here. (Free registration required)

Thursday's guide can be found here.

Friday's guide can be found here.

Saturday's guide can be found here.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Acomb Stakes preview

The Group 3 juvenile race mightn't be a big field but it's very competitive.. plus one horse running for £1,480 prizemoney for fifth. TheYoungRacegoer, Calum Madell (@calummadell), returns to the blog with his detailed analysis of this contest.

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Acomb Stakes

Afonso De Sousa
Contested two decent maidens, including when fourth in the same maiden Dundonnell was third in at Newmarket. Did have two attempts at breaking his duck but clearly improved for better ground when a comfortable winner when last seen, beating a 78 rated rival (beaten since) by 9 lengths. Clearly a decent prospect for a good yard and has to be respected.

American Impact
Well beaten third in a Yarmouth 6f maiden on debut and did show good speed latest when just getting home dropped to 5f at Musselburgh. Beat a 70 rated rival by a short head that day and the fact he went off evens shows it was a pretty below par maiden. Officially rated 72 and has to improve by far the most of these to take a hand even though 7f should be okay for him.

Dundonnell
Made good ground when third behind Ghurair in a soft ground Newmarket maiden but it was tough to make up ground and it helped to also be on the stands side. However made no mistake at the second attempt when a 1/4 favourite, beating a newcomer and an okay enough yardstick in third (not disgraced in good company before that) and breaking a course record that has stood since 1978. Clearly a colt of significant potential and interestingly the only progeny of First Defence to be running at the moment in the UK. Step back down to 7f not particularly a positive but he could be absolutely anything and he warrants considerable respect.

Ebn Arab
Very smart winner of a C&D maiden on debut, beating a subsequent winner into 2nd. Showed good attitude and looks straight forward while the fact he went off favourite showed he had been showing something at home and it was expected Nothing else in particular was behind but it was still a pretty smart performance. More probably needed now into a race like this but it's hard to know how good he is and he also cannot be ignored.

Steeler
Runner-up to a well thought of Tom Dascombe colt and although slightly flattered by the margin (winner eased down) he came on notably for it when finishing late to get up in what looked a well above average Goodwood maiden, running on really well to get on top near the line. The third had beforehand finished ahead of both Dundonnell and Afonso De Sousa on soft at Newmarket and although that form can't be taken literally, it shows that he shouldn't be dismissed. Interestingly is virtually the only horse from the Johnston stable to hold big entries and he is nicely placed to run a big race even taking into account Johnston's record at York.

Verdict
A fascinating renewal which makes up in potential what it lacks for numbers. American Impact looks likely to struggle but all four other competitors cannot be discounted at all. Ebn Arab is already a C&D winner and has had his form boosted with the runner-up of his maiden going in subsequently. Afonso De Sousa improved rapidly for fast ground when a 9 length winner at the Curragh though DUNDONNELL got the better of him when they both met at Newmarket and although that was on soft ground, he has since hacked up at Lingfield in course record time. He could be extremely smart and he's the one to beat. I couldn't have too much confidence in backing him as a single though because I'm `lso finding it hard to oppose STEELER. I really liked his performance at Goodwood in what was an above average maiden and in a form line with Improvisation he must come right into the reckoning. Both selections are going to get further in time but have the best futures of the lot for me and a forecast is advised.

Advice - Dundonnell/Steeler 1pt reverse forecast (quinella)

Frankel, Best Ever Miler.....

It's time for York says Jim Gilchrist, @jimgilch. You may not agree with him, but at least it's nice to read a contrary view from time to time!

Juddmonte International Stakes
(British Champions Series) (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+)
Winner £411,148
9 runners, 1m2f88y, Good To Firm

"....AND 88 YARDS"

It's time for York. Frankel is to grace the Juddmonte on Wednesday, and follow in the hoofprints of Sea the Stars in appearing on the Knavesmire.

As everyone knows, 12 career starts, 12 wonderful victories have made FRANKEL perhaps the greatest miler of all time, certainly in my 40+ years as a racing fan. Nothing has got near him and as he has learnt to settle, and strengthened up, he has just become scary good, dare I say an unbeatable miler.

For good measure, those calling for the horse to stop smashing Excelebration and take on some new challenges, the latter bolted up in France to Frank(el) all the form. Poetry in Motion, Power, Grace.... but I won't go on with the cliches, because they've all been said.

The Plan:

And so he arrives at York. After all that, he's invincible, surely? Bullet Train will go off in front, and last until early in the home straight, when multiple Group One winner TWICE OVER hits the front and goes on for as long as possible, and somwhere around 2f out Frankel will cruise past and go away for another fantastic win. And we will all get blurry eyed and lyrical again....

....it's all so simple, and the cognoscenti will tell us how they cleaned up at 1/7, 1/9, 1/12 or whatever the bookies offered.

The Flaws:

How can there be, it's written in the stars, by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, there's surely stamina enough? Job done.....

Well, I'm NOT looking forward to accusations of being attention seeking or a drama queen (here it comes....) BUT there are flaws in my opinion, ultimately potentially serious enough too - at least to be heard.

Bullet Train (I spent an enjoyable Monday evening poring over videos of past performances of 'The Champ') just had to be rousted to get to the front at Goodwood, and maybe has had enough of the front-running role.

Would be party-pooper Aidan O'Brien hasn't just entered St Nicholas Abbey, but Robin Hood and Windsor Palace as well. First time out this season, Robin Hood shot off in front and never saw another horse. This horse just might mess up the pace angle early on. St Nicholas Abbey needs further than this and so here's the first flaw.

'Frankel may get a race run at a different tempo, over a different trip, from usual.' Infact it could be a mess of a race, with Windsor Palace likely to continue the relentless pace when the front two give way.

Pacemakers can sometimes be ignored, so it's not a critical flaw, but it's the first nagging question mark here for me.

There are others. The trip is the obvious one. 10 furlongs - and 88 yards to boot.

Much discussed by far greater minds than mine, the overwhelming verdict is that Frankel will stay and Sir Henry would never take the risk if he had the slightest doubt. I've mentioned the pedigree which is a positive. That mid to later race pace is so impressive at a mile, regularly doing three successive furlongs in 11 seconds and change, from the four pole to the one, before being eased close home. indeed at Ascot this season from 3f out to 2f out, threw in a devastating 10.58 split.

Assuming Tom Queally can hold on to that acceleration for long enough, again, there might be no problem. The one scare Frankel had was at Royal Ascot last year when Queally started racing a very long way out and Frankel was dying in the last 100 yards of that stiffish mile.

The next question is the track. It's a long enough home straight, and there is a tendency for horses to start racing a long way from home. Indeed, the great Sea the Stars had a momentary wavering here when just for one moment almost lugging in behind, before making up its mind. Some horses do seem to hate the place, no reason to think Frankel will or won't, but it's another reason not to offload at 1/7.

And then, the clock, which is such a positive, well actually, it's not entirely convincing re the trip. The last furlongs of his races have been slower (albeit when eased), but it was desperate at Royal Ascot when under pressure in 2011. Another 30% of ground to cover (those pesky 88 yards are 4/10ths of a furlong for good measure) than usual, so I have no doubt that there is scope for things to go wrong, and if Frankel is ever to lose a race, this is the one.

It is that run-style, that fantastic acceleration, which raises my doubts about the extra distance. Just as electric sprinters, going away at the end of 6f, find the more specialist 7f beyond them, so Frankel just might be caught out.

Danehills have a 15-16% strike rate at 7-9 furlongs, dropping slightly to 14% over this trip.The ground is probably going to be on the quick side (Frankel did hang slightly first time on it but was untested second time) but I'm sure the York executive will ensure it's not uncomfortably firm. Should be no excuse on that score.

Madness that the Champ might even have the slightest flaws? Ok, maybe, but logical too.

But is there anything good enough to take advantage? That becomes the key question. Now, Let's look at the others.

BULLET TRAIN: Early, possibly reluctant, pacemaker. No Chance here.

FARHH: Massive improver, progressed from handicap company to shaking up So You Think (tremendous speed figure) at Ascot and Nathaniel at Sandown. Brushed aside by Frankel last time. Outside chance of making the frame. Just wonder if these races may have left their mark.

PLANTEUR: Beat Sarafina to win her Group One at Longchamp, but been unable to repeat the performance in several attempts since. If the ground came up soft, would have a chance of picking up some bits and pieces to make the frame, especially were the pace suicidal.

ROBIN HOOD: Pacemaker for St Nicholas Abbey and spoiler in chief. Will try to make this as messy as possible for as long as possible up front. No chance though.

SRI PUTRA: Group Two winner last time out, but this is far tougher, and should run an honest race but maybe not quite good enough to make the three.

ST NICHOLAS ABBEY: After three wins at a mile at the start of its career, has benefitted from the step up in trip to 12 furlongs and ran a blinder at Royal Ascot when a close third to Arc winner Danedream, after being exaggeratedly held up. Would need a relentless end to end gallop though to score at this shorter distance. Will get plenty pace to run at, and if there is an upset, the one on paper most likely to cause it. It's interesting that he is as short as 9/2 in places.

TWICE OVER: Course form is 3,2,1,1, and stays this trip thoroughly, having finished second and first in this race in the last two years. So there's no reason (unless sacrificed on the altar of a Frankel win at all costs) why this tough horse won't make the frame again after a decent run last time out. A winner of four Group Ones, but never run into Frankel before (except at home!). On quick ground and at 20/1 the best betting angle in the race to make the frame.

WINDSOR PALACE: Caused a 66/1 sensation when beating St Nicholas Abbey in May on soft ground at the Curragh, and another who might force the pace when Bullet Train and Robin Hood give way. Very much doubt will be able to keep up the gallop to create another amazing result though, as the Cecil Superstar looms up alongside.

VERDICT:

When Sir Henry saw the entries, I imagine a small sigh of relief. St Nicholas Abbey is the obvious classy threat, but Twice Over is the one best suited by the trip of all the contenders. And I availed myself of 20/1 on Monday for some each way. Was a close second in the race two years ago and won it last year.

I think Farhh's turn of foot might be blunted by the likely searing pace, and that just leaves Planteur to pick up the pieces if there's a cloudburst.

At 1/7 Frankel is too short, simply because there are questions about the trip and nature of the way the race will be run.

Of course he is the likeliest winner. The odds say so, and I don't ask or expect readers to agree with me, they will point to Frankel winning as a 2yo at a mile and indicate that it is a sure sign a horse will get further in time. it's a strong argument and I respect it.

However what I envisage is a desperate lungbursting final furlong, with Frankel all out in front and tiring, and St Nicholas Abbey getting there with every stride. Even the 88 yards will make a difference, 5 or so critical extra seconds at the end of a fast run 10 furlongs.

Will this Irish raider get there? I seriously do think he has a puncher's chance, if they both bring their A-Game to the race.

I can't back St Nicholas Abbey at 5/1 to do it, just too short, (over a furlong further i would back it with no hesitation), but equally I think the money-buyers will be having collective coronaries in that agonizing last 5 seconds.

My only bet in the race simply has to be Twice Over each way, 20/1 as above. I wouldn't want too much rain for confidence in this bet. It has rained on Tuesday and at the time of going to press should not be an issue, but if there really is a deluge, then Planteur does come back into the e/w equation.

Also a deluge might not help a horse, who Tom Queally has said won't be ridden to get the trip....

For fun, but I can really see an outside case for it happening....

RESULT:.............

1) St Nicholas Abbey 2) Frankel 3) Twice Over

Head, 5l. Weighed In.

Whatever else enjoy what should be a wonderful race!

Between you, me and the bedpost, I hope I'm wrong and Frankel wins by 10 lengths! ;)

Great Voltigeur preview

Making a rare foray into stakes class is blog regular Dan Kelly, @muffinmannhc.

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The Great Voltigeur is a confirmed St Leger Trial, and recently we have seen an increase in quality with Rewilding and Sea Moon taking the 2010 and 2011 renewals. Those winning connections are represented this year in the form of Encke, Energizer, and Noble Mission. This year's Derby second, Main Sequence, and fourth, Thought Worthy, and Royal Ascot winner Thomas Chippendale complete the field.

This has the potential to turn into a bit of a dawdle with Thought Worthy the only confirmed front runner in the field, but Encke as shown by winning at Sandown can take it up a long way from home, and without the hood, could Noble Mission be lit up here? I can only see this being a hindrance to one horse if they don't go a gallop and that is Thomas Chippendale. Keen on seasonal debut in the London Cup, he was wide throughout also which didn't help, but that keenness has never gone away. No surprise to see him get away with it at Newmarket against inferior opposition off 87, and Ascot is a course where the short straight and turning nature of the round course can ensure that if not pulling riders arms out then can get away with it, and I think that was the case then. He's yet to run on ground with Firm in the description, so that's an unknown and happy to oppose him due to the pace make up of the race also. That said I think he is the better of the two Sir Henry Cecil runners.

Thought Worthy has to go improve somewhat to live up to his brother, Lucarno, who won this in 2007, but his form has a solid look to it. Opened the season with a good second to Imperial Monarch at Sandown, he confirmed that run with a win over Noble Mission at Newmarket, giving the impression that the sooner he saw 1m4f the better. He did see 1m4f, but he didn't see eye to eye with Epsom Downs, and wandered under pressure. He wandered again under pressure when finish 0.75l to Thomas Chippendale and is becoming a worrying trend. You could give him the benefit of the doubt on both runs, at Epsom it's no surprise to see a horse wander under pressure, and at Ascot there's every chance he was still feeling that race and the softer ground may not have been to his liking, return to galloping track and quicker ground should see improvement, and an Autumn campaign looks like has been the plan given his absence since Ascot.

Noble Mission and Encke fought out a great finish at Goodwood, and it's hard to split them today. Encke will likely sit prominent waiting to take challenge 2 out, and Noble Mission will look to follow him through, however I'm not blown away by either of them. Noble Mission, a full brother to Frankel, has improved with each run, winning two close finishes, and losing out on two also, latest win being that Goodwood run. Connections are happy that he is improving mentally as well as physically and are running him without a hood for the first time today. Be interesting to see if he wears ear-plugs as a bigger crowd will be in attendance, Frankel Factor, and ear-plugs do not have to be declared. Either way, I am not blown away by his form, and less so by Encke. Winner of a Sandown Handicap courtesy of an astute ride by Barzalona, improvement is no doubt likely given that Goodwood was only his fourth start, but I can't be having him here.

Two who I think are overpriced are Main Sequence and Energizer.

Main Sequence, even though 5/2 favourite at time of writing, has a fair bit of juice left in that price given what we have seen him do over recent months. Winner of a handicap off a slow pace when held up, he went on to account for Shantaram in Lingfield Derby trial, winning it with a turn of foot and a flash of his tail. He improved again when posting a good second to Camelot, 6l ahead of Thought Worthy, showing that he got the trip no bother and was an unlucky loser in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. His last three runs formwise are head and shoulders above anything anyone else has posted in the field, and I would have him priced up closer to 6/4 for this contest. The race is likely to be ran to suit, as shown by wins at Newmarket and Lingfield he can quicken, and his Derby run points to this trip being his optimum. The St Leger trip is for another day.

I keep looking at Energizer and his price of 7/1 or 8/1 and I keep singing Black Eyed Peas - Where Is The Love. When previewing the Tercentenary Stakes for this very site, I stated that Energizer would be a good marker for where the German 3yo crop stand compared to the UK & Ire counterparts, and in short they are head and shoulders above the majority of the classic crop. Previous trainer was very bullish, citing a return possible for a tilt at Group 1 in England or return to Germany, Godolphin duly stepped in and purchased this Monsun colt, so the Group 1 may be the St Leger. He looked like a middle distance sort when campaigning over a mile earlier this season, and the ease in ground played into his hands at Ascot, with further improvement to come for the step up to 12f, I rate him as a bigger danger to Main Sequence than anything else and at the prices is more than worthy of a saver.

2pt Win Main Sequence @ 5/2 Ladbrokes (9/4 Generally)
1pt Win Energizer @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes, BetVictor, Stan James)


Monday, 20 August 2012

York - Betvictor.com Hcp preview

The Ebor Festival gets underway at York later this week, four days of fantastic action and for a change, it's unlikely we will be too worried about the weather!

Our regular Yorkshire-bred contributor, Jack Milner, @JJMSports, is first up to the plate, with a look at Wednesday's tricky staying handicap.

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Betvictor.com Handicap

The two mile (and 88yds) handicap is one of, if not the most open and exciting handicap of the meeting, barring the Ebor itself. Never mind some of the sprints, this takes tactical aplomb, and will be a game of craft and guile. Full of illustrious pedigrees, handicap plots, and National Hunt animals, it is the proverbial minefield. The only real and thorough way to assess the field, is to go through it runner by runner. Officially titled the BetVictor.com Handicap, hopefully it brings me a bit of an omen, and gives me something of a home field advantage.

Dazinksi won the race last year for Mark Tompkins, who excels with these ong distance handicaps, and Dazinski is just 1lb higher than his winning mark from last year. Paul Hanagan is once again booked, and he has steadily improved his form as the season has gone on, but the quality of that form has him wanting in a classier field than last year. Tompkins also has Mystery Star, but it is hard to fancy him, he has not won over the course, nor the distance, and without a win to his name for nearly two years.

Deavuville Flyer was behind Dazinski that day, and can’t see him reversing the form, after a lacklustre season. He was laboured when running in a race that featured Eagle Rock, Itlaaq, Herostatus, Reem Star and French Hollow last time out, and the form of that race on paper, looks poor, with all five subsequent runners being unplaced. I can’t see the winner coming from any of those runners.

It is hard to fancy horses from stables that are out of form, and as such I can’t fancy any John Dunlop horse over the festival, operating this season at an 8% strike rate, and not a single place from four runners at York this season, Downhiller can be eliminated. Although, I think I said the same about taking Brian Meehan runners on at Royal Ascot, and although a poor one, he still got Most Improved to somehow win the St James’s Palace Stakes.

Very Good Day is a course and distance winner, but seems well held by the handicapper. Raised 7lb for a course and distance win last month seemed to have halted his progression when last of fourteen runners in a mile and six furlongs handicap at Goodwood, and based on that run, and his mark, there are others better off. Similarly poorly handicapped is High Office, who although finished a career-best fourth in the Northumberland Plate, has patchy form over inconsistent distances and conditions, and looks open to unexposed rivals. One of which is Olympiad who is a rare runner for Dermot Weld, and has impressive form as a two year old ahead of subsequent group winners Quest for Peace and Saddlers Rock. He was all out to win a mile and a half Gowran Park maiden, winning by a nose; however that was his first run for nearly a year. He flopped next time out on heavy going at Galway. He does however remain unexposed, and could get better on decent ground.

Western Prize has solid form behind Montaser, Mount Athos and others, and stayed on well in his first foray over two miles last time out to suggest more improvement is to come. However a 4lb rise and the stable form dropping off is a worry, operating at a strike rate of 17% in May to July has slumped to 10% so far in August. Never Can Tell ran an eye-catching race last time out behind Hurricane Higgins at Goodwood, and that could have put the Cesarewitch winner spot on for this, although rated 100, he has the burden of top weight on 9'7.

The three horses left are all from the National Hunt sphere, and it is usually the stereotype that those horses come here fitter and tougher than their flat counterparts, we shall see. Nicky Henderson’s Cape Express was behind Never Can Tell at Goodwood, but didn’t seem to handle the pace of the race, and struggled to get home over the extended trip. That being said, the seven year old has won his last three novice hurdles, over the simmer, admittedly at short prices. Ashbrittle returns from finishing eighth in The Ascot Stakes that should have sharpened him up after a 94 day absence, and was slightly hampered turning for home, so improvement could be on the cards. However his best form has come on soft and the form of that race at Ascot has had only three runners placed from twenty four subsequent runs. Countrywide Flame is a very interesting runner for John Quinn, and the Triumph Hurdle winner has a lenient weight of 84. Never unplaced last season, his form over hurdles read 1212312, the last four runs in Grade 1 level.

A real mixed bag, and with a field this strong, there will be a lot of pace in the race, which will mean there will be an emphasis on stamina and jockeyship. Never Can Tell immediately makes the shortlist given his ability to handle big fields with strong pace in, and Frankie Dettori, while not the force of old, excels at big meetings and big occasions. Olympiad could have lots of improvement to come, and will surely come on for better ground, given his pedigree, and how unexposed the colt is with only four starts to his name. Countrywide Flame is the real dark horse, with his old sparring partner Grumeti doing well when switching codes earlier in the summer. What is encouraging is how the yard are hitting form at the right time, and with stamina proven, will be there or thereabouts at the finish, providing he is fit and fresh.

Never Can Tell
Olympiad
Countrywide Flame

The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner, @JJMSports

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Great St Wilfrid Handicap preview

The biggest sprint handicap of the north takes place today at the lovely Ripon track. Lining up to attack this difficult race on his blog debut is Marco Makaveli, best known as@Sir_Back2lay. I think you'll agree it's comprehensive!

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Great St Wilfrid Handicap Preview 2012

As some of you many know from my Lincoln preview back in March, I do use trends when previewing big handicaps no matter what the distance. I don’t follow them religiously or make them my only port of call but they can be a great way to filter out a large field.

· Aged 4 to 7
· Carrying 8-10 to 9-6
· Officially rated 91 to 100
· Run at least 3 times this season
· Won a race this season (or placed in Stewards' Cup)
· Ran in last 20 days in class 3 or higher
· Ran at Newmarket, Goodwood or Haydock last time out
· Won over 6F or further
· CD winners do well
· Drawn 1 to 10
· Trained by Dandy Nicholls (& ridden by A Nicholls), Henry Candy or Clive Cox

So let’s start with the first one … Age 4-7 ….that knocks out Bosun Breeze, Tax Free, Johannes and Regal Parade.

Weights and Ratings can be a funny trend because horses' ratings (Especially RPRs) get higher every season. But sticking to the OR trend that would cancel out Our Jonathan, Secret Witness, Es Que Love, Regal Parade and Colonel Mak.

Course winners and course & distance winners can be vital since Ripon is a very unique course with its undulations but I will go into that in more detail. Anyway this would be a positive for last year’s winner Pepper Lane 3-8, Bosun Breeze 1-3 (only over 5f), Elusive Prince 3-4, Johannes 1-4 and Singeur 1-2.

Won over 6f, now this is a must trend to follow and we can knock 3 off the list instantly. Barnet Fair 0-8 (only placing 8%), Captain Ramius 0-2 (placed 0%) and Singeur 0-16 (placed 19%). If we take Barnet Fair who is currently the 8/1 favourite, he has never won or placed at the track. If we look at his current place market price of 3.5 he would make an excellent place lay.

The draw trend might confuse people because it states most winners have come from stalls 1-10, this may be true but you must remember that the stall numbers have been switched since Ripon is a right handed track just like Ascot or Goodwood. So low numbers are actually high numbers now which leads me nicely into the race….

The main thing to focus on when previewing a sprint at Ripon is to highlight those likely to run from the front run or are usually prominent and up with the pace. So sticking to this angle usually serves well when selecting your bets in large field sprint handicaps at Ripon. Let’s highlight the likely pacesetters in this line up; we have Bosun Breeze (stall 2), Lexi's Hero (stall 20), Louis The Pious (stall 7) and Es Que Love (stall 9).

Now to the negatives with Bosun Breeze who is he is a 5f furlong specialist, so over 6f I don’t really think he will be able to last out the trip but he will however set the pace for those drawn low. Es Que Love is a 3yo but has been holding his form very well in older company; unfortunately he has not been winning and going up the handicap due to his consistency. I believe he is a Group horse but not until next season so he can be passed over even though the Johnston yard have been going so well.

Barnet Fair is a 5f furlong specialist just like Bosun Breeze and he really requires fast ground to be seen at his very best, so I am quite happy to skip on him for reasons given above. Singeur won nicely LTO over the course but that was competing in a 5f contest which was weaker than todays but he does hold some very strong course form, however I do feel he is better over 5f, again this is backed up by the stats above.

Carrying on with the pace angle, at Ripon and especially the St Wilfrid, the rails, either side that is, hold the greatest advantage with those drawn middle having the biggest disadvantage to overcome. As sated earlier Bosun Breeze will make the running for those drawn low which includes Alben Star, who many believe is a Group contender (I am yet to be convinced on this matter), but obviously holds a strong chance, the price is enough to put me off.

Let’s move on to the positive notes and discuss Lexi's Hero who I personally believe holds a strong chance in this race. He ticks all the boxes with weight, draw, running style, handicap mark, ground and trip. After contesting in some competitive races I feel that Lexi's Hero has been set up for such a race, now back down to a winnable mark. From stall 20 I see no reason why he can’t adopt his usual front running tactics and make all down the stands side.

He has no real competition for that role with stable mate Our Jonathan being a hold up type and being slightly too high in the handicap (rated 108) in my opinion and in the trends opinion. Also the 10yo Tax Free who has adopted the front running role before, seems to be too long in the tooth now, again backed up by the trends.

Pepper Lane won this contest last season after racking up a fine run of wins, mainly over the course and distance, but even though she wears a first time hood after a break (classic plot job tactics) her mark is still high enough to be truly competitive.

So who is next, Bertiewhittle has been slowly coming to hand all season but frankly is badly in at the weights with plenty of these, none more so than Lexis Hero! From stall 1 I am more than happy to skip on him.

Secret Witness carries too much weight with Regal Parade being classy in his day but surely getting on now. So we are left with? Seal Rock, well he needs it to be like a bog, Klynch has had a long season and Captain Ramius is too high in the weights.

Johannes won nicely LTO at Goodwood but can he replicate that run again under the same jockey? He is by no means fully out of this at the weights but is not gone to rely on putting good runs back to back. Also the price is not that tempting considering Louis The Pious is better off at the weights.

So which form is strongest? Hawkeyethenoo or Johannes, well they are actually very closely matched so Grissom, who got no sort of run behind Hawkeyethenoo LTO, is massive at 28/1 to place at the very least.

Conclusion:
Lexi's Hero ran on the stands side LTO at Goodwood, which ended up being a disadvantage, but still showed up well for most of the way. This horse is a moody front runner which means he likes his own way up front. With very little competition for the lead I feel he can kick on and hold on for the win or a place. If anything he is a great back to lay option for in-running traders after hitting at least 50% of his SP a massive 16-21 times.

Grissom was blocked several times LTO and is a few pounds better off with the market principles so he has to come into the reckoning. He has a poor record of 0-3 at Ripon, placing 33% of the time but at his current price of 28/1 I feel he is worth chancing for the place alone.

Dangers come in the shape of Colonel Mak who has not had a mention as of now but is a strong contender with his likeable attitude. Louis The Pious has a big race in him but his attitude has to come into question after watching some of his runs. Currently 12/1 I feel he is too short to take a gamble on but must be strongly considered along with Alben Star.

A tricky and competitive sprint handicap contest with several trends to consider, but as always I am going for the value play.

Plays:
15:30 Ripon – Lexi's Hero @ 14/1 (back to lay option) & Grissom @ 28/1 with a saver on Louis The Pious @ 12/1

Breeders Crown 2yo races

The Breeders Crown is such a special day in Australian harness racing, it deserves more than just one preview. Aspiring sports writer Blake Redden, @1stPTPRacing, has a crack at the pair of 2yo races on the elite card.

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Melburnians have had to suffer through an insanely cold winter, but just like our English counterparts have had Frankel, there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel.

The Blue Chip Farms Breeders Crown series has become a traditional curtain call for the harness racing season.

Run on a Sunday afternoon in late August, the series is a culmination of heats, semi-finals and repechages right across Australia and New Zealand in the preceding months.

The last of the warriors left standing after a long season are set to do battle in nine separate Group 1 events, three for trotters and six for pacers worth in the vicinity of $1.4 million (AUD).

There are many a headline act with a raft of New Zealand trained and owned standardbreds hitting the east coast of Australia for the trans-Tasman rivalry.

The intense focus is on the juvenile standardbreds with the Group 1 races catering for two, three and four-year-old horses. The two richest races on the card are the Rock N Roll Heaven Breeders Crown Final for two-year-old colts and geldings (3.13pm Melbourne Time Sunday 17 August) and the American Ideal Breeders Crown Final for two-year-old fillies (5.32pm Melbourne Time), both worth $303,000(AUD).

For those wanting to have a punt, or just interested in the potential superstars of Australian harness racing, here's my take on the two races.

The boys:

1. Franco Nelson $2.80 – super in his only Australian start, raced greenly on the home bend and should be better for the run. Is likely to find continued support in the market due to his decided upside. Has a comfortable win over the race favourite in NZ. He will most likely be behind the leader when they turn for home, I just doubt whether he has the killer punch given his inexperience.

2. Flaming Flutter $12.00 – slowly improving and Border Control couldn’t fully shake him off in the semi-final. Flying under the radar and may end up locked away in between horses, if he gets any luck from there he is one for the multiples.

3. Border Control $2.00 – rising star whose only recent defeat was to a bonafide star who doesn’t line up here. He will be in front for most of the race and I would be more than surprised if anything managed to get passed him.

4. The Apache Kid $12.00 – been a fraction unlucky in his two Victorian starts. He is likely to get buried from the draw though and even if he isn’t I’m not sure he is as classy as a few others here.

5. Lennytheshark $31.00 – Semi-final winner who is well over the odds. He is really hitting his straps at the right time of the season and with any luck in running he is capable of a strong placing.

6. Ginger Bliss $51.00 – had every chance in his semi-final when he was well beaten. Drawn awkwardly and he just can’t be a factor in this race.

7. Palmisano $101.00 – he wasn’t terrible from a bad draw in the semi but in saying that he was beaten further than Ginger Bliss. In a head to head market with Ginger Bliss I’d be on this guy but unfortunately he isn’t value even at 100/1.

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8. Lochinver $9.00 – ran pretty well without much luck in his semi (5th beaten 17 metres) and was in fine form prior to that. He is likely to end up 3 back the pegs and although not impossible to do at Melton, it will be a mighty effort to win from there. A place chance at best.

9. Must Be Nice (emergency) SCRATCHED

10. Major Star $31.00 – super talented Kiwi who got a nice run behind the favourite in his semi and battled on well for fourth. He will have to have some luck from back here but I wouldn’t fall over if he ran into it at some stage.

11. No Ah Saint $41.00 – went into his semi-final with a bit of a wrap but he wasn’t overly impressive. From the awful draw you have to risk him.

12. Bit Of A Legend $7.00 – Terribly unlucky Kiwi who raced roughly just before the start of his semi. He was well backed for the series and for that race but is now forced to line up from the outside of the second line. It was a mighty effort to circle them and run second in the semi. If he is saved for one run at them he could do some serious damage. Despite the disastrous draw which has cruelled his winning chances, he is the main danger for mine.

The girls:

1. Quick Jet (emergency) $31.00 – unlikely to gain a start and even if she does her well beaten sixth in her semi doesn’t inspire confidence.

2. Bit Of A Babe $12.00 – drawn to get a soft run on the speed given she has some gate speed. Was a solid fourth in her semi but she would need to improve to be considered a serious winning hope.

3. Its Onlyforyou $1.85 – Kiwi filly that was dominant from a tricky second row draw last week. Her form prior to that was good without being dominant. I suspect she will look the winner at some stage but she is far too short in the market for mine.

4. Rogers Passion $51.00 – likely to find herself awkwardly placed after a few hundred metres with the two outside her pushing forward. She just battled for fifth in her semi and she won’t trouble them here.

5. Glenferrie Shuffle $3.40 – Filly who can be lethal off the mobile. She was fantastic when winning her semi from back in the field but I can see her pushing on early. Untapped with plenty of upside, the one to beat in my opinion.

6. Frith $7.50 – quick filly that was nailed by Glenferrie Shuffle last week. She will probably either have to sit parked or work hard for the lead, if she finds some cover and luck she is a place chance.

7. Victree Bonita $51.00 – not terrible when third without a lot of luck in her semi. The draw hurts and class-wise she is probably a level off this lot.

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8. Our Femme Fatale $9.50 – Underrated filly that battled hard for second in her semi behind Its Onlyforyou. The draw is a dilemma depending on the scratching of the emergency and the early pace from the two. I fancy her as the main danger with any luck but her fate could be sealed either way after 400 metres.

9. Snow Cone $101.00 – Talented filly but it may pay to follow her as a three-year-old when she has had time to mature. She ends up with a nice draw and she isn’t the silliest 100/1 shot I’ve ever seen. That said place best.

10. Chanelle Bromac $35.00 – Kiwi who was pretty good when fifth in her semi last week. If she can get a trail into the race she will travel into it nicely but expect her to struggle late.

11. Ohyouluckything $10.00 – drew well and had first shot at the sprint lane when third in her semi-final. She won’t have nearly as good a run in transit this week and I’d be happy to risk her.

12. Getya Wings Out $51.00 – pretty classy filly that will need obvious luck from the draw. If they go silly up front and she can get into the running line she may be able to finish off into fourth or fifth.

There is plenty of interest in the other races as well. Blitzthemcalder is one of the shortest priced favourites for the afternoon. He will likely go off just into the red but questions abound about his ability to trot truly under pressure. He has only lost three of his 12 starts and he broke in all three.

His driver Chris Alford will finish as the leading reinsman in Victoria this season and he explained to me early in the week that Ross Payne (trainer) has done a lot of work with the juvenile squaregaiter. He went on to say that he was as confident as you could be that he will trot safely.

The other likely short priced favourites for the day are Bellas Delight - who goes in with a picket fence of wins beside her name - and the Kiwi trotter Cyclone U Bolt who has only tasted defeat in Australia once from his four attempts. He will have to do it from the middle of the second row draw which makes it harder.

With the big day just under 2 days away Australia is gearing up for what is sure to be a memorable Breeders Crown series.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Australasian Breeders Crown preview

It's the biggest race day of the year for Australian harness racing on Sunday at Melton, just outside the world's greatest city, Melbourne. I'm always keen to post coverage of the best betting events around the world, and as a harness racing buff, it's the perfect week to bring it on board. I wouldn't normally allow a plug for a bookie at the same time, but Ben is a quality judge and his employer is one of the very few corporate bookies in Australia which hasn't (yet) been bought out by a European firm.

Preview for Breeders Crown Day
By Ben Krahe (Harness Racing Manager Betstar)

This day has grown tremendously in stature in the few years it has been run. There are nine Group 1s and is now known as Super Sunday. The interest is now bigger than any other full day of harness racing on the calendar. The Kiwis have invaded us with their best and are expected to win as many as five of the nine finals. Not sure we can do anything about that as they may simply be too good. Below is a quick race by race analysis with some of my prices.

R1 – Elegant Image (1.40) should be too good for these with victories not so long ago in open class. The up and coming Aleppo Midas (4.50) was huge last time and may well provide punters with a popular exacta. For the bronze look for Enjoy A Coldie (21.00), Stoned I Am (8.00), Livingstonelovell (51.00) and Theywannacallmesue (51.00)

R2 – If Blitzthemcalder (1.40) doesn’t gallop it will win this very easily For those that want to lay one today though this may be it as it has a tendency to gallop especially from inside draws. In saying that, if it does gallop it can still win its that good. The Boss Man (4.50) is an improving type who, if the favourite does gallop, can definitely win this. For Trifecta players look towards the well drawn Yankeeiron (10.00), Redy To Race (10.00), Hilltown Yankee (17.00) and Bonechip (17.00)

R3 - The favourites will just keep rolling on with what looks the safest of them all today in Bellas Delight (1.35). She is a multiple Group 1 winner and hard to see getting beat again. For exotic players, look towards Dream Verdict (21.00), Tiger Tina (5.00), Aussie Made Lombo (26.00), Miss Moonlite (14.00), Little Red Cloud (10.00) and Victors Delight (8.00).

R4 - The 3YO Trotters Final looks a great betting race with three chances in Aldebaran Shades (3.20), Triumphant Monarch (4.00) and Cyclone U Bolt (1.90). Lets tip the Aussie in AS to beat the Kiwis. These three should fill the quinella with other First 4 hopes being Amore Stride (17.00), Kyvalley Rap (51.00) and Zedalite (34.00).

R5 - Tipping with the great draw Franco Nelson (2.50) to beat the very heavily pre-post backed Border Control (2.20). The unlucky runner was the ultra impressive Bit Of A Legend (5.50) - who I took $16 prepost for- it has been banished to the outside draw for galloping last time. FN could be the bet of the day for me so let's cheer it home. Others with chances are Flaming Flutter (21.00), Lennytheshark (21.00), Lochinver (12.00).

R6 - Going to tip the well drawn Beauty Secret (4.80) here to roll which will be the leader and hot favourite Shake It Mama (2.50). Hopefully SIM will take it right into the sprintlane where BS will go whoosh.. Sensational Gabby (8.00) was huge last time and has only not saluted the winning post twice in its 20 odd start career. Marquess De Posh (6.00) has drawn the carpark and its hard to see it winning from there. Cheer The Lady (8.00) was the early prepost favourite but after a lacklustre run last time is friendless. Twist and Twirl (3.50) is the other great hope but from the second row draw will be need to be super tough.

R7 - My roughie of the day is Soho Valencia here (5.00), Hopefully we can roll top Kiwis again in Texican (2.10) and Fly Like An Eagle (4.00). Another Kiwi in Lets Elope (10.00) is hoping to emulate its namesake (Caulfield and Melbourne Cup winner of 1991 for the younger generation/international readers) but I cannot see that happening. The rest can't win.

R8 - Only three possible winning chances here in Mustang Mach (2.50), Excel Stride (2.80) and Caribbean Blaster (3.20). I'm not going to fall for McCarthy's antics last time in the score up and with a victory over Australasia's best racehorse in Smoken Up, I'm expecting the much maligned McCarthy-trained Excel Stride to show its true colours from MM and CB. Bettor Bet Black (21.00) is well drawn to run a place. The other place chance is Abettorpunt (14.00)

R9 - The last of the Group 1s looks like going over the Tasman with Itsonlyforyou (1.65) appearing the likely winner. Glenferrie Shuffle (4.4) has been great lately but expect it to be going for the minor placings. Others include Frith (10.00) who was early favourite for the series, Our Femme Fatale (10.00) and Getya Wings Out (16.00).

Best of the Day – Franco Nelson
Best Lay – Blitzthemcalder
Best Roughie – Soho Valencia


GOOD LUCK and happy punting
Ben Krahe
Harness Racing Manager
www.betstar.com.au

I'll have a preview from another fine judge focusing on the pair of 2yo Breeders Crown races going up on the blog later today.