Saturday, 29 June 2013

John Smith's Summer Cup preview

It's the time of the year where the National Hunt scene is rather quiet, however we have an intriguing running of the John Smith's Summer Cup at Uttoxeter to get our teeth stuck in to. It's a race I have bittersweet memories of. Back in the days when England had the occasional genuinely hot bout of weather, I was running the Betfair trailer on site at Uttoxeter at this meeting in 2006. People with long memories may recall it as the day the racing was held up for nearly two hours because of a fire on course - due to a design fault, the generator caught fire and it (slowly) burned to the ground. It was not a fun day, and by the time the Summer National as it was called back then came around, it had been raining quite heavily! The happier part of the day was backing McKelvey to win the big race thanks to a gem of a ride from AP McCoy.

Run over over 3m2f this listed handicap chase has attracted a field of 18 runners. Simon from CheltenhamZone has a look at the leading contenders.

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John Smith's Summer Cup

As I write this, the market is headed by Victrix Gale. Irish trainer Tony Martin isn't shy when it comes to sending his horses over to England for the better ground, and Victrix Gale looks to have plenty going for him off joint bottom weight. He was beaten just under a length last time at Perth, however the front two pulled a good twenty lengths clear of the third-placed horse. He races off the same weight today, which could well mean he's ahead of the handicapper.

Pineau De Re comes next in the market, making his first start for new connections after a near three month break. He was last seen blitzing his rivals in the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick, coming home a full twenty-three lengths clear. That was the first time he tackled further than 3m and he still rates as unexposed over these longer distance races. Sam Twiston-Davies is a good jockey and he's sure to be in the mix.

Problema Tic also comes in to this race off the back of a good victory, having landed the Perth Gold Cup on his last start. He won well that day so an 8lb rise in the weights might not stop him, however his form prior to the Perth victory was very poor. Second guessing David Pipe runners in handicaps is no easy task, but I'd say the handicapper has probably got this one under control again.

Fans of Champion Jockey Tony McCoy will be taking a close look at his mount Lost Glory. Wearing the famous green and gold hoops and trained by Jonjo O'Neill, we can be confident that they'll have this horse ready to strike. On the face of it this looks a tough ask, raised 5lb for winning by a neck at Wetherby in May, however there may be more improvement forthcoming. He's won five of his last seven races so it could be foolish to ignore his chances.

Pure Faith comes into this race in good heart, having won a decent race at Worcester at the start of the year (Problema Tic twelve lengths behind that day). That race was run over 2m4f however, and this trip will certainly be outside of his comfort zone. He backed up that Worcester run with a good 2nd a week later off a 7lb higher mark, however his mark now looks tough enough given the stamina doubts.

Paul Nicholls launches a two-pronged attack on the race as he bids to bring the prize back to Ditcheat. Prince Tom is the pick of new stable jockey Daryl Jacob, and there's every chance we haven't seen the best of him yet. He was going well on his return at Taunton when brought down at the last and should put up another bold showing if none the worse for that. He's had plenty of time to recover. The other Nicholls runner is Deireadh Re. He showed pretty useful form over hurdles, and belatedly got off the mark over fences at the fifth time of asking at Fontwell in May. There's not many miles on the clock and he has Harry Derham claiming 5lb. On hurdles form he's entitled to go very close but it's not quite as simple as that unfortunately.

At a slightly bigger price is another Jonjo O'Neill horse (he has three in the race in total) in the shape of Galaxy Rock. You have to go back to late 2011 to find his last win which was in a decent handicap at Cheltenham. He's been expensive to follow since then, however he looks well treated if he can rediscover his best form.

At an even bigger price is the classiest horse in the race which is Weird Al. He's clearly a very fragile horse, however he is still a dual Grade 2 winner. The most recent of those Grade 2 wins was the 2011 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. That form puts him head and shoulders above those rivals, however he's been well and truly out of sorts of late. His last three runs reads PPP, which tells you all you need to know really. He was rated 164 when finishing 4th in the Betfair Chase in November, therefore racing off 151 today suggests he could be very well treated.

Verdict:

We'll be here all day if covering all the runners, so I've covered the market principals and some of the interesting horses at bigger prices. Victrix Gale looks a worthy favourite for the shrewd Tony Martin, however in what looks a competitive affair it could be worth having a small bet on Weird Al who is absolutely thrown in if able to rediscover his best form.

Menangle Super Sunday preview

Harness racing gets the occasional mention on the blog, I've always loved it - it was my first introduction to betting as a little tacker. Those days are long gone and the sport in Australia have moved ahead in leaps and bounds, onto bigger, faster tracks, but not necessarily greater prizemoney. Tomorrow is one of the great days for the sport in Australia - SEVEN Group 1 races, featuring the Len Smith Mile.

Lining up with the preview is harness racing expert, Ben Krahe, @benkrahe.

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Preview for Super Sunday at Menangle (Len Smith Mile Day) on Sunday 30 Jun 2013

R1 – NSW Rising Stars Series – 1609m
Good quality race here. The prepost favourite COURAGE TO RULE is obviously the one to beat but at the current odds on quote I’m making it my lay of the day. Horses to venture into NSW such as FREYBERG (a kiwi who has been most impressive since crossing the Tasman), BEAUTIDE (one of Tassie’s best horses) and BALLOCHBUIE (unbeaten in 2 starts since coming north from Mexico) all have great chances. Another with a great chance is ESSBEE DOUBLEYOU who is likely to be behind the leader. I could get off on the wrong foot here, but I will be taking on the fave and betting around it.

Suggested Bet – Lay the fave COURAGE TO RULE if you can in the red.

R2 – Breeders Challenge 2YO C&G Final – 1609m
First of a few races today where there will be a dominant favourite. LETTUCEROCKTHEM will be very short and justifiably. It will be finding the front and just winning. Belinda McCarthy’s second stringer IMAGE OF COURAGE looks to be the main, if only danger. Those fighting out 3rd will be the likes of ULTIMATE ACE (gets soft run), WHATCHAMECALLIT (could look for the pegs early) and THEARTOFCONFUSION.

Suggested Bet - First Four 4/12/1,3,5/Field

R3 – Breeders Challenge 2YO Fillies – 1609m
SPICY STRIDE is the prepost favourite here but this may be the first time it doesn’t get its own way here with DARK DIVA likely to come out fast. I’m happy to take the fave on at the even money quote, and IF you can manage to lay this odds on , I’d be getting stuck into it. I prefer to look at horses like OCEAN DIVA and MAJESTIC AMY (which will both find the lead hard if there’s speed on), or LUDA (which may head for the pegs early).

Suggested Bet – OCEAN DIVA E/W

R4 – Trotters Monte – 1609m
The Monte is for horses ridden under saddle and will provide an entertaining spectacle. This particular version will feature international drivers and is a great addition by HRNSW. ANDYS FAVOURITE is arguably the best performed Monte horse in the field having won several of these events and if it trots away well from the tapes it will be up vying for the lead early. BEAT THE MONARCH is a newcomer to this type of event and even off the 20m hcp , it will be extremely hard to beat with the guidance of Seryn Adams. The others in contention are HEZA BOY STAR, MODERN MISTAKE and TOPNOTCH DREAM . Beware – If PRINCE EDDIE gains a start it will be in the top 2 selections.

Suggested Bet – Back 2 horses to win – BEAT THE MONARCH and ANDYS FAVOURITE

R5 – Breeders Challenge 3YO Fillies – 2300m
The rest of the Breeders Challenge races are over 2300m and this makes things a little more interesting. The longer distance around Menangle can really test some horses with its long sweeping bends and long straights. FRITH is a superstar having recently won Group 1s at Melton (VIC Oaks) and Gloucester Park (WA Oaks), and will be adding this trophy to her mantelpiece. It’s a matter of how far here and the rest are running for the exotics. MARRIED TO THE MOB has been around the money lately and is improving, and Tarelle will be getting a nice soft run from the 1 barrier. The run on horses such as LAAGANOOSH and GETTING LUCKY will be flying home to possibly fill the minor placings.

Suggested Bet – First Four – 9/1,5/1,5,6,12/Field

R6 – Breeders Challenge 3YO C&G – 2300m
BEBRAVE deserves to be favourite here after a good win in the semi but this is arguably the most open race of the day. with other winning chances being ULTIMATE ART, BLISSFUL GUY, ALMOST EL EAGLE, TAMAHAY and HOME OF THE BRAVE. I’m sticking with HOME OF THE BRAVE here, which came with a withering burst in its semi. Its Track:8-4-1-1 and Distance 8-4-1-3 stats are just too consistent and although drawn the carpark I think he’s a great ew chance. I also expect a big run at good odds from TAMAHAY who will be coming home hard and is just hitting form.

Suggested Bet – HOME OF THE BRAVE E/W

R7 – Breeders Challenge 4YO Mares – 2300m
Not many chances here with the only winning chances being LOUVRE, LIGHT IN EVERY DAY and OBAHMA JOY. I’m going with LIGHT IN EVERY DAY (approx. $5) - although drawn the carpark, it looks like the horse that can go forward and be in front for a long way. LOUVRE is the best performed horse in the race with nearly $400k in prizemoney but will need some speed on to win . It’s a better sit sprint horse for mine than when it won in the death seat last time. OBAHMA JOY is airborne at the moment having won its last two including a win in the Semis.

Suggested Bet – LIGHT IN EVERY DAY to WIN (quietly confident)

R8 – Breeders Challenge 4YO C&G – 2300m
Limited winning chances here with MACH BEAUTY and GRAND STRIDE the main contenders and HEZA PRESIDENTE and CONDAGEN the only others with winning chances. The likely speed map looks like HP leading early with MB taking over in front. GS will more than likely have to death seat which means trouble for it. If MACH BEAUTY runs along like it did last time it will be hard for anything other than a pegs runner to beat it. I’m very confident that if MB can get away with a cheap quarter it can salute here. At worst, this horse will be in front for a very long way . Remember MB was an emergency for the Miracle Mile – how many others here will ever even get to those heights?

Suggested Bet – MACH BEAUTY to WIN (VERY CONFIDENT)
also First Four – 11/7,9/4,7,9,10,12/Field

R9 – Len Smith Mile – 1609m
The main race of the day?? Interesting here because of the draws. Can EXCEL STRIDE hold the lead from the 1 pole? Will Lauren Panella send GAIUS CAESAR out humming and try to cross? Will there be a change of tactics announced similar to the Miracle Mile to throw a spanner in the works? What about GARNET RIVER? More than likely will cross them all then hand up – but will Excel Stride get there first? This race poses a lot of problems for speed mappers and I would tread warily. But if you must have a bet (and that’s most of us!) then I’m sticking with EXCEL STRIDE , although I’d like at least $3. I can see GR leading and letting stablemate ES take the lead off it. It does its best work by far when in front , and if it does find the lead then it will run 1.51 or better and that will probably be good enough. Those looking for value could do worse than backing GR for a place as it will probably be behind the leader.

Suggested Bet – EXCEL STRIDE to win (with no confidence)

R10 – Where Horses Fly Series (C0-C1) 1609m
Great races these last two gives country qualified horses a chance to race at Headquarters and for $25k prizemoney. Jack Painting could be winning both of them too. I think MACY SUPREME is the best horse in the race and will be winning. Those looking to fill the placings include AFTERBURN (for the inform Tritton stable and should appreciate Menangle while quietly driven), PARISOLOGY (ran 2nd in a similar race here 2 starts ago sitting in the death) and DARK DEFENDER (going ok for Jason Proctor).

Suggested Bet – MACY SUPREME to WIN (VERY CONFIDENT)

R11 – Where Horses Fly Series (C3-C4) 1609m
Hopefully we don’t NEED a winner by now, but the get-out stakes will be providing us with one. This is LIVING LORD's day having headed to Menangle three times before without success. Looks to be the class horse of the race and won’t be missing a place. SKIPPERS CANYON seems to own the 1 or 2 barrier and with a soft run looks the obvious danger as it loves to run next to the pegs. NICKEL PLATED TABMAN won easy last time at Newcastle with the inform Lauren Panella in the bike and can definitely look to fill a placing.

Suggested Bet – LIVING LORD to Win , and SKIPPERS CANYON to place

BEST BET FOR THE DAY – R8 MACH BEAUTY
WINNING BUT SHORT (for multis?) – R2 LETTUCEROCKTHEM, R4 FRITH
BEST ROUGHIE – R6 TAMAHAY

LAY OF THE DAY – R1 COURAGE TO RULE

QUADDIE (Races 6-9) 3,4,5,10,11,12/7,11,12/7,11/1,6,8,11

GOOD LUCK AND GOOD PUNTING
BEN KRAHE - @benkrahe

Friday, 28 June 2013

Irish Derby preview

After the conjecture over the strength of the 'Epsom' Derby, sights are turned towards Ireland for their version of the time-honoured classic. The racing world seeks clarification of the three-year old pecking order - will Ballydoyle extend their winning run to eight in a row or is there a new colt in the pack ready to emerge?

Making his debut on the blog is one of the guys behind the Dublin Racing Club, Stephen Cass. You can also follow him on Twitter,@CassStephen

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Irish Derby

Don’t overlook the obvious…………

Ireland’s premier flat race has been accused of being something of a snore-fest in recent years. Since 1999 it has produced five winning odds-on favourites. This, coupled with the fact that Aidan O’Brien has monopolised the contest with the last seven winners has taken the competitive gloss off when compared to its Epsom counterpart.

However an argument can be made the lack of competitiveness is not so much down to the quality of the field, but the fact that the 3yo pecking order has reached a clearer perspective following the running of the English race. Sinndar, Galileo, High Chapparal and Camelot all started at least four times their price at Epsom. What the Irish Derby lacks in competitiveness, it generally does not want for in quality. Apart from that star quartet, horses of the calibre of Alamshar, Hurricane Run and Dylan Thomas have also written their names into the annals of Irish racing folklore in recent runnings. Make no mistake, the Irish Derby is a special race and is won by a special horse more often than not.

Given its illustrious history and lack of punting angles in recent years, the 2013 renewal is a Derby to savour. When the first three home from Epsom are all involved the quality element speaks for itself. And the English Derby is the logical place to start when assessing the contenders.

Ruler of the World clearly had his problems at two given he did not see a racecourse until this April. His half-brother Duke of Marmalade was a horse with his own share of issues in his early career. But just like his illustrious sibling his career has exploded once allowed to take flight. His 6L win in the Chester Vase hinted at big promise but nothing more than that. Mister Impatience, a 97 rated horse, looked to have Ruler of the World in trouble on the bend, but once seeing daylight the son of Galileo’s class told and he relished the 12f trip.

There is no doubting his next outing in the Epsom race was a messy affair. However Ruler of the World showed excellent tactical pace to get into the race from a wide position, and the manner in which he drew away from his rivals was most impressive. On only his third run he could have been excused showing greenness and finishing a decent third or fourth but he demonstrated the grit and class that epitomises a Derby winner and given his profile and pedigree there is no reason he should not improve again.

The muddling pace meant there was plenty of hard luck stories in behind but we hear this every year and it is not something I pay a great deal of attention to. Going through the last twenty Epsom winners it would be hard to argue that at least sixteen or seventeen of them were not the best horses in their respective years at the trip. Alamshar was unlucky against Kris Kin; Sir Percy’s race was devoid of general quality, and Dubai Millenium would surely have beaten Oath again if trying the extended trip subsequent to his Derby defeat, but by and large the Derby winner is a deserving winner.

As Nick Mordin pointed out in his Weekender column, of the last 25 Epsom winners to attempt the Irish equivalent, 15 have gone on to victory at the Curragh. This represents a 60% strike rate and would make Ruler of the World a 4-5 shot on that basis alone. Scope for improvement, a proven blend of speed (Derby) and stamina (Chester Vase), perfect ground, and being the effective sole representative of the race’s master trainer only serve to bolster the case for the favourite. His current odds of 6/5 are worth taking.

However I would suggest waiting until the morning of the race before backing him as bookmakers will more than likely offer at least 6/5 and don’t be surprised to see 6/4 or even 7/4 dangled in some quarters to limited stakes. Many punters dismiss these offers as €25 or €50 is the standard maximum stake but personally I am very happy to take 6/4 about a 6/5 shot to a small stake if I think it is a big price.

Libertarian is second favourite and rightly so. A Dante winner and Derby second he is the obvious danger. At Epsom he was tracking Ruler of the World coming down the hill, but became visibly unbalanced and it took him an awful long time to sort himself out in the straight. While he flew home he gave me the impression that he did not have the speed to go with the pace that Ruler of the World injected after Tattenham corner.

He shapes like a St Leger horse (he is a half brother to hurdler Ned Buntline) and will need a thunderous gallop to have any chance of overturning the form. His new owners Godolphin have supplemented Cap O’Rushes at a cost of €100,000 to undertake pacemaking duties. Libertarian is a very good horse but his pace limitations were exposed at Epsom and will be again in what is effectively an away leg for the horse.

Epsom third Galileo Rock is held by Trading Leather, Sugar Boy, Libertarian and Ruler of the World on various bits and pieces of form. He was a big price on Betfair all week and as I write is almost twice his price with the books on the exchange, available at 15. Trainer David Wachman began a quote at the five-day stage with “the owners want to run and he’s in good form so he might run”. Uninspiring to say the least.

If there is to be a fly in the ointment it may come in the shape of the Jim Bolger trained Trading Leather. A Group 3 winner at two he began this season with a good second in the Dante. Following this came a cracking third from the front in the Irish 2,000 Guineas; and then a win over 1m2f on good to firm ground in a listed race at The Curragh. He has been tried twice at Group 1 level and come up short on both occasions. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility he will improve markedly for the step up in trip but at around 5/1 the value in his price has disappeared at this stage.

Sugar Boy will be popular with each-way backers as he had Galileo Rock and a below-par Libertarian in behind when winning a Sandown Derby trial. Everything about his pedigree screams that a step up to 12f will suit but he was getting 5lb and was still well beaten by Battle of Marengo previously; and that horse has since proven to be below top class. If taking the Sandown form literally he will have a great chance, but there is a suspicion the race may have flattered him. This is a horse that was winning a Tipperary nursery as a 2yo, and while one nursery winner (Treasure Beach) has won the Irish Derby in recent years, he hardly fits the common profile and is discounted. If the money comes for him tomorrow he would rate a strong place lay.

If forced to have an each way stab Little White Cloud appeals most at 33/1. He got within three lengths of the aforementioned Battle of Marengo on only his third start. He ran very well when second to subsequent Ascot scorer Leading Light over 10f on good to firm ground at the Curragh last time; giving the impression there was more to come. He is from the family of Irish Oaks second Roses for the Lady and there can be little doubt on pedigree he will improve for the step up in trip. In the last 10 years John Oxx has sent only four horses to the Irish Derby finishing 1342. The question is whether 12f or 14f will be the optimal for him in time but Little White Cloud is worth a small investment if backing a short priced favourite is not your bag.

Australia v British & Irish Lions Second Test preview

Occasionally the guest previews stretch to other sports and this weekend it's to cover the next Test of the Lions tour. Occasional blog contributor Jim Gilchrist, @jimgilch, dons the head bandage to assess the next contest in this thrilling series. You can read more of his excellent penmanship on his blog.

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Will the Pride Roar? Lions 2nd Test...

Following the first test success, a mixed bag of brilliance, nerves and ultimately no small slice of luck, the Lions are one game from glory, and a first series win since 1997. Can they do it against a wounded Aussie side, a side who missed 14 points with the boot, and probably feel they should have won?

There are so many fascinating features that make this second match so tough to call, but hopefully the blog will find some answers and a few worthwhile bets on the match! That this game gives the Lions a chance of history is undeniable, and can't be understated.

The occasional 'snipe' that this tour is more about commercialism (seven warm up games and three tests every four years) can be binned easily. Plenty sports events are open to attacks on that score these days, but Lions tours should be clear of such criticism. Anyone reading Ryan Grant's comments this week about what it means will understand! Indeed Gatland is on record as saying the Lions could have done with MORE warm up matches.

Firstly, the Lions have made five changes from the first match. That's unusual to start with for a winning side. Phillips pays the price for a stuttering performance from number nine last week. Perhaps he was struggling with a shoulder injury, but his half breaks were meat and drink for an Aussie back row who chewed him up. by the time a surprisingly one paced Lions back row arrived in support, the ball was turned over. Youngs will bring quicker distribution to Sexton and it's certainly encouraging that the two times he has played against his opposite number Genia, England beat Australia and Youngs was a catalyst.

Elsewhere injury sees Jamie Roberts drop out. His strength in midfield will be missed, while Tommy Bowe replaces Cuthbert, despite a fine try for the winger last week. Cuthbert might be unlucky, however Bowe brings added attacking dimensions, his lines of running are thrilling to watch and he certainly provides another attacking option for the Lions. Geoff Parling, five lineout steals already on tour, replaces O'Connell (injury), but the most controversial selection is with Vunipola replacing the unavailable Corbisiero in the front row.

I've not been impressed by Vunipola on this tour. Yes he is an exciting ball carrier and hits the gainline aggressively, but his scrummaging has been exposed, and Ryan Grant would have offered greater stability to the front row. Grant has been in fine form for Glasgow all year and is unlucky to miss out. Indeed he won the penalty against Alexander that saw the Scots record a famous win in Australia last year.

Of course it's not all about the Lions changes. Christian Lealiifano returns to the centre after being carried off last week. he will resume goalkicking duties and this time round i don't expect the Aussies to be as profligate with their goal-kicking as last week. O'Connor retains the number 10 jersey, however should he not fire, then at some stage Beale will move from full back into the role. It's worth remembering that Beale's game management in the final quarter last week was very good from 10, even though all people will remember are the two misses with the boot at the end.

Aussie skipper James Horwill is free to play having been cleared of a serious stamping offence by the citing Commissioner. Personally I am not surprised that the International Rugby Board have taken the unusual step of appealing the decision to clear him. In Union, yes people get rucked out of the way if the referee does not act on occasion, but the Head is sacrosanct and i thought that Horwill had ample opportunity not to make contact in the way he did.
I just hope no Lion risks a card this week by exacting revenge!
A yellow card might well be enough to swing a very finely balanced match either way.

FEATURES AND BETS:

Firstly, the roof is to be closed. Generally that adds to the number of points, as it takes out, rather obviously, bad weather. It makes a more stable atmosphere for goalkicking, and can reduce handling errors from a greasy ball. Anyone who saw my tweet on Wednesday suggesting over 42.5 points at 5/6 is already sitting pretty as the spread now is around 45. That said, Paddy Power's 6/5 for 36-50 match points, which takes out needing to call a winner, looks a strong play indeed.

The referee is Craig Joubert. That will lead to a lot of scrum penalties if his performance in the Scotland v Wales game earlier this year is anything to go by. A pernickety, fussy, performance that frustrated both sides in equal measure that day, Joubert's interminable delays and difficulties getting a scrum to even set made the game a real forgettable turn-off for spectators.

If the Lions can gain equality at the set piece, I believe they will win, however that's not a given in my book. Certainly the dry surface will assist Vunipola to keep the scrum stable, but early penalties against him would be a signal of trouble ahead.
Parling can disrupt the Aussie lineout, while Lydiate has been brought in primarily to, in football terms, man-mark Genia's blindside breaks.

Both sides have gifted matchwinners. Folau and Genia combined for that wonderful opening try last week, while George North showcased his marvellous talents in response, and O'Driscoll can still cut open any defence on his day. Leigh Halfpenny's goalkicking ultimately clinched the day last week, while the Lions themselves need greater discipline at the breakdown, where they were repeatedly pinged for minor and needless offences.

VERDICT:

A Lions win, but this will be another nailbiter. Before the start of the series this was logically the game the Lions seemed most likely to win, but arriving on eve of kick-off, injuries and a stuttery first Test performance have me less confident. The roof being closed undoubtedly favours the home side in terms of a more successful goalkicking performance, and should reward whichever side is more prepared to show courage in attack. Hopefully the referee will not wreck this match as he did at Murrayfield.

I think the Aussies will use the open side more this week, and Will Genia anytime tryscorer is too big at 5/1 with Ladbrokes. Folau is another to think about but he has been found in the market, so I prefer to look for a Lion and any Lions replacement (7/4 Hills) makes plenty of appeal. Bear in mind with the number of injuries that you could end up with someone, in that bet, on the field for almost the whole game.

Plenty people shy away from first score markets, on the grounds they think they are random. Infact they are anything but, most Test Matches start with a penalty, and even though the try has been lucrative on this tour, largely because of imbalance between the teams in early games, a home team penalty is generally a cash cow. I'm not going for it in this match but may well return to it next week.

Lions by 1-12 around 6/4 is the likeliest outcome in my view, but personally prefer the 15 point spread mentioned earlier of 36-50 at 6/5 with Paddy Power (which takes who wins out of the betting equation) and that would be my top bet this week.

Nervous, but excited... Let the Lions Roar!

Premium cycling tips

With the start of the Tour de France just 36hrs away, it's time to point you in the right direction of a very shrewd cycling judge. For excellent in-depth previews of major cycling events, @wheelie1977 is the man to follow.

Alongside his regular stage and race outright previews, his latest extension into h2h betting has started with great results, +25% ROI for June from the Dauphine Libere and the Tour de Suisse. Check out his website for more details. All bets and previews are sent out to subscribers well before they go up on the website. Cycling markets are not deep in liquidity, it really is the early bird catches the worm. Thankfully there's regularly enough room for decent price moves before the value is completely gone. Tour de France previews across most markets are already out to Members but most won't go on site for the public for a few more days.

Anyone signing up to Wheeliebets and mentions this blog gets a 12.5% discount as well and first 10 get the remainder of the season for €47.50 which works out at about €14 per month until October 31st and includes

The Vuelta
World Championships
Classic races - Lombardy, San Sebastian, GP Quebec & Montreal
Stage races such as Eneco Tour


Cycling betting isn't just about the Tour de France these days, it's so much more!



*DISCLAIMER* I do receive this service at a considerable discount, but after backing Gerrans at 33/1 to win Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under this year, I'd still be in front even if I'd paid full price.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tour de France preview

The first post-exposure of Lance Tour de France should be an interesting one. Are riders all clean? Will Brits be as interested now that a) Wiggins has won the race and b) withdrawn due to illness? Is it the dawn of a new era? Taking to the keyboard in the first of a few Tour de France previews I'll have over the next few weeks is Kieran Kenneally, @kierankenneally, who turns out to have been a bit of a lycra addict himself...

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Tour de France

I once had a friend follow me in his car while I cycled an old racer bicycle. It was a flat road about half a mile long. I told him I would increase speed gradually "in the saddle" up to slightly over 30mph. At this point I would sprint out of the saddle flat out for as long as I could ( approximately 200yrds) and could he tell me what speed I hit? I know, it's not exactly the most accurate method of doing it but at the time I had no other. The answer I got was 43mph!

It's the late 80s, I'm in my early twenties and we're coming to the end of the golden era of Irish cycling. I'm testing myself! I cycle 25 miles distance in less than an hour just to prove to myself that I can average 25mph for longer distances. I cycle up Patrick's Hill ( steepest in Cork ) just to prove to myself I can, and because it's there. I work in a pub that's about six miles from where I live. I sometimes make the trip four times a day ( split shifts ). It's nothing to me because I'm the fittest I will ever be in my entire life!

So let's go back ten years to where it all began. I cycle to school, cycle to town, cycle to the betting office to do my football coupon and every Friday my Mom gets me to cycle to the chipper for burgers and chips for the family. The bag hangs from the handlebars as I tear home. The food is never cold!

As a young teenager I have heroes in many different sports but Sean Kelly and Stephan Roche are Irish and the Tour de France is a massive event in world sport. I watch it every year and follow the results in other events like the Giro d'Italia, Roche 87. Paris-Roubaix Kelly 84 and 86, the Tour of Spain, Kelly 88 and Paris-Nice, Roche 81, Kelly 82-88. When you go through the winners of Paris-Nice it's a list of the most famous names the sport has produced: Jacques Anquetil (5), Eddy Merck (3), Miguel Indurain (2), Alberto Contador (2) and as recently as 2012, Bradley Wiggins. A race of huge standing in the sport so let me say it again in case you missed it, Sean Kelly won it seven years in a row!

These were amazing times for me as a kid, if I could get over to France for the race I'd be one of those nut cases who run up the mountains after their favourites and write their names on the roads in paint. I'm a fan and Kelly and Roche are my Gods!

The similarities between that era and the one Britain is experiencing today are fascinating. Where we had Kelly, they have Cavendish. Where we had Roche they have Wiggins and Chris Froome. In truth Kelly, early on in his career thought of as a sprinter was actually more of an all-rounder.

Mark Cavendish is already the finished article. At time of writing he has already won five stages of this year's Giro d'italia and also the points leader's Red jersey. When his career ends he will quite rightly (in my opinion) be regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time!

Wiggins and Froome are different. These are men who can compete for top honours in GC (general classification). In other words they can win big races. There are certain qualities needed to win major Tours and sprinting is not one of them. Climbing, time trialling, descending and an obvious level of fitness to last weeks of gruelling racing are what are required. Some of you looking at this will be thinking, descending? Surely they are all going the same speed going down the mountain, flat out! Well there is something that enters the equation going downhill off a mountain that not every rider can cope with, fear! Sean Kelly's highest recorded descending speed was 124kmh!

In the 1987 Tour de France on the stage to La Plagne, Roche was attacked by Pedro Delgado on the final climb. At one point near the summit he was as much as 1min 30sec behind. That descent and the commentary by Phil Liggett is the stuff of legend in the Tour and in one poll was voted the 3rd best stage in Tour history! You can watch that famous clip here.

Roche knew at the top of the mountain the Tour was slipping away from him and it was a now or never situation. He descended like a madman, so fast that he lost the motorcycle cameraman. That combined with a misty day meant that he was lost to commentary for a brief period.

Phil Liggett: " just who is that rider coming up behind? Because that looks like Stephen Roche! It's Stephen Roche who's coming over the line! He almost caught Pedro Delgado! I don't believe it! What a finish by Stephen Roche! Stephen Roche has risen to the occasion so, so well! He almost caught Pedro Delgado on the line! Surely now Stephen Roche is going to win this Tour de France!" The deficit on the line was 3 seconds. This remains to this day for me the greatest televised sporting drama I have ever seen!

As a teenager I didn't quite understand the intricacies of the Tour and how it all worked. I always wanted Kelly to win but it's a bit like wanting Cavendish to win today. He's a sprinter and it's not going to happen. The Green jersey is the best he can hope for and understanding that is understanding why they have the different categories of Yellow jersey (overall winner), Green (points or sprinting) and Polkadot (climbing). The rivalry and tension in Team Sky between Wiggins and Froome is nothing new. You always get competition within teams because at the end of the day it's not a team sport! Some of that can be put down to the media's need to "create a story!" You even have a situation at the moment where the wives of those men are been quoted from Twitter which I haven't seen before. The most high profile spat between teammates that I can remember in recent years was Bernard Hinoult and Greg Le Mond in 1986. That really was compulsive viewing!

Bradley Wiggins is rightly lauded as the first British winner of the Tour de France but he should also recognise the set of circumstances that allowed that to happen. The Tour was set up last year in a way that suited his strengths and he also had the help of a very powerful, well-run team behind him as Team Leader! Chris Froome was a major contributor to his success and instead of making statements along the lines of wanting to defend his title, which can only cause division in the team, he should have been thanking Froome and got behind the new team leader for this year's Tour! There are experts out there with more knowledge than me will tell you that Froome could have dropped Wiggins on more than one climb in last year's Tour but instead did his job for his team leader. Not that it really matters for this year with Wiggins now out of the Tour after a poor performance early in the Giro and subsequent withdrawal due to illness.

With Froome given his head this year, I didn't expect Wiggins to be able to stay with him in the mountains anyway and without the massive team support he received in 2012 he would have struggled for a decent placing on GC!

Froome is the much younger of the two and if he can win this year could be the type to run up a sequence of wins. I would be surprised if Wiggins were to win another Tour de France. He has since said that he may not compete in the race again.

From a betting perspective Chris Froome is the obvious winner but is now trading at a shade of odds-on! This doesn't offer great value but he might drift closer to the race start as bookies take on the strong favourite. He is still very much the likely winner, so if you can afford to get involved at small prices I wouldn't put you off.

Alberto Contador at 11/4 would be a danger to all if performing to the standard shown as a previous multiple winner. He would also be a very controversial winner for a rider whose career has been marked by doping allegations. For me he carries too much baggage and with a bunch of new doping-related arrests in Spain recently, too risky!

Andy Schleck at 25/1 has struggled to recover from injury problems and again makes no appeal.

I can honestly say I haven't looked forward to a Tour de France this much in a very long time, not only because of the drama that has unfolded at Team Sky and to see Cavendish sprinting but also for the emergence of Irishman Dan Martin.

Martin from the Garmin-Sharp team turned professional in 2008, was an excellent U23 rider and has progressed to become an outstanding all-rounder. Always thought of as a rider of enormous potential 2013 has been a breakthrough year for him winning Volta a Catalunya and then becoming the first Irish winner of a Classic in 21 years when winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège! In an open year with questions to be answered by many of the main contenders Martin at 200/1 offers quite a bit of value. Other markets like King of the Mountain 33/1 for this rider are also worth exploring and he is currently available at 9/4 with for a top 10. If you shop around I would be surprised if that price is the best available. For those of you thinking this is simply a patriotic wager, you may be right but Martin is the world ranked No 3 on current UCI rankings. At 200/1+ you don't need a big investment.

It's almost impossible to write anything on professional cycling these days without mention of doping but I would like this instead to be more of a story about kids having heroes growing up. It's a new generation now with a new set of heroes and my hope would be when people from Britain look back in twenty years, the discussion won't be about doping. Instead it will be about the achievements of a special group of riders and who knows, maybe Daniel Martin will be one of them.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

State of Origin Game 2 preview

From the top blokes at ReadingThePlay, @readingtheplay, here's a look at game two of this year's State of Origin series.

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STATE OF ORIGIN – QLD V NSW GAME 2 – FREE PREVIEW

Brisbane, Lang Park 8pm Wednesday

A few facts and figures

- QLD have won 7 of the last 9 games at Lang Park

- Only once in the last 7 occasions have NSW successfully gone to Lang Park with a series lead and then won

- QLD lead the overall counts – Series 17-12 and individual Games 51-44

- Likely ground conditions damp and slippery under foot following recent wet weather and ground use (Broncos, Wallabies Test)

QLD

Outs: Shillington, Harrison
Ins: Papalli, Cherry-Evans

NSW Outs: Hayne, Ferguson, Tamou
Ins: Dougan, Merritt, Woods

Tip: NSW

As I was for the opening game in Sydney I’m surprised again at the market pricing here with NSW as good as $2.72 through recent days where off their domination in game 1 and the then team changes I have had them marked a $1.95 chance.

QLD have made some positive changes (Parker to start – and the advantage of his offload game) but I expected more and am also surprised at the likely team balance that they are to play with, with just the one specialist front rower in Scott and questionable centre-field specialists. I find the exclusion of Hannant most surprising especially off the back of his very good effort first up last Monday week.

My view prior to game 1 was that NSW held an advantage through the middle which I then through that they then dominated with both yardage, up tempo speed of play and the negating of QLD defensively. By half time NSW had made 357 more metres than their opponents, a telling stat yet only led 14-0 and couldn’t go on with converting that to further scoreboard advantage in the second half. Yet QLD will now attempt to match NSW through this mid field battle on the back of makeshift front rowers (Nyles and Thaiday) and up tempo back rowers. They are also looking to do this with a shortage of centre-field specialists which I expect will have to take its toll later into the second half with Te'o (right), Papalii (right) and Gillett (left) specialist edge players.

As it has been since Adam played 7 for Nazareth what unfolds through the mid field battle will set the tone for the rest of this game. On the back of the yardage and physical advantage that NSW played to in game 1 QLD’s back 7 saw little clear room or ball and what little they did they did so playing off their back foot. Inglis for example only touched the ball 11 times, Slater other than the obvious kick returns something very similar. QLD are going to need something very special from Smith, Thurston, Inglis or Slater – and that’s well possible given the champion qualities of each of those players, but they are going to need some room and a near perfect error free contribution from their forwards to make this happen.

NSW are not without their question marks, notably the loss of Hayne’s brilliance and the obvious pressure that Dugan will play under (and I wouldn’t have picked him if I’d have had 5 goes at it). Pearce will need a near perfect offering, in particular with the accuracy of his short kicking game, Origin is not a game of multiple chances. They also have a number of players facing their first big time Origin game at Lang Park.

For mine NSW hold significant advantage through the middle and if played correctly with little error the series result is now theirs to lose. With an even share of possession (limited errors) and a smart kicking game then they should be able to play to this physical advantage and let it then lead to points. Should they do so then I expect big games from Gallen and Farah leading their troops to victory. NSW by 8.

Betting Interests: I’ll be playing NSW H2H $2.72 or you can take possible the insurance of the line at +5.5. For Man Of The Match I have backed Farah $9 and Gallen $13.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Wimbledon preview - women

Unfortunately this year I don't have the time to write comprehensive Slam previews anymore so I'll sum this one up pretty quickly - it's all about Serena.

1 - Serena Williams. In incredible form. Since bombing out in R1 of the French Open last year, she has lost just three times - to Kerber (Cincinnati QF), to Stephens (Aus Open QF) and to Azarenka (Doha final). She has won three of the last four Wimbledon finals plus the Olympic gold last year where she dropped just 17 games in six rounds, against opponents which included four former world #1s.

All that considered though, I can't have her at 1/2 (1.50) on Betfair. She just has to be opposed. I can't put a finger on who is going to beat her, but I have to side with her prospective opponents.

If you want a smokey to put some small change on, try Maria Kirilenko. Her record in the Slam isn't so great but it has been improving - a best result of R4 last year beaten by finalist Radwanska 7-5 in the third, and beaten the previous two years by Serena and Clijsters. Last August she reached the semis of the Olympic tournament, losing to Sharapova (and Azarenka in the bronze playoff) after beating former champion Kvitova. She's in Serena's quarter, and faces Robson first off so it won't be easy for her, but at 200 on Betfair, it's worth a gold coin or two.

Wimbledon preview - men

The committee at the All-England Club made the bizarre decision last week not to upgrade the seeding of a former champion and long-time world no.1 over a player with one quarter-final appearance here in 10 years. Oh, he'd won the rubbish grass tournament at s'Hertogenbosch before so that's more important. What a farce. Or was it a failed attempt by the club to produce a soft draw for Andy Murray? After all, either he or Djokovic had to be the beneficiary... Anyway, we now have Djokovic trading at evens with most bookies which spoils much of the fun.

1. Djokovic - as mentioned above, gets the very soft draw. Might face Haas in R3, Gasquet or Berdych R4, and Ferrer/Dolgopolov/Nishikori/Dimitrov/del Potro in the semi-final. Biggest risk for him is that he doesn't get a hard enough test before the final. Only injury will stop him playing on Sunday week.

2. Murray - on the harder side of the draw but only has to face 'one' of Federer and Nadal in the semi before a likely final against Djokovic. That is, of course, assuming he gets past Tsonga in the quarters. In good nick after winning at Queen's, and curiously, it looks like he will play three of those opponents again here. I reckon he can win the lot but his price is higher because of the harder draw.

3. Federer - wrote him off a few years ago re winning another Slam and proved me to be the fool this time last year. This time, he'll have to beat Nadal, Murray and Djokovic to win the title. Reckon I'm fairly safe to say it can't be done unless he gets breaks in the draw.

4. Ferrer - ridiculous that he is seeded four here and that he has copped a very soft quarter to boot. His biggest scalp ever here has been del Potro who was seeded ninth last year. No guarantee he gets through this section though, Dolgopolov, Kohlschreiber, Nishikori, Dimitrov and del Potro all have a shot to again deny him the complete set of Slam semi-finals.

5. Nadal - has been tuning up in the Hurlingham exhibition, can't see him having too many worries before a QF clash with Federer. Never doubt the ability of Nadal to string big wins together.

6. Tsonga - forever touted as the danger outside the big four and has made successive semi-finals here. Would need to beat Murray to stretch that run to three but hasn't beaten the Scot since 2008, with a record of 2-8. Worth noting in four of the five times he has faced Murray on grass, he has won the first set.

7. Berdych - finalist here back in 2010 but also bombed out R1 last year. That sums him up really. Needs to overcome a 2-13 record against Djokovic to get any further than the quarters.

8. del Potro - gets the 'soft' quarter and has his chance of winning it. But he could also go as early as R3 against Dimitrov. Never past R4 here, that's his level on grass.

That's it for winning chances, and probably three more than I needed to write up.

Not keen on an early bet, I like Murray this year but since he'll be odds-against in the final anyway, I don't see any great rush to get on him early and take all the risk that goes with it.

Murray to win but worry about betting on him late in the second week.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Wokingham Stakes preview II

I did say this was a bastard of a race to solve, so I've brought in a second opinion. And wouldn't you know it, a completely different set of selections. Good luck finding a winner with this one! Making sense of the race is yet another talented new addition to the blog - Stephen Boardman, @ste_b85, in a preview which was originally posted at TheRacingGuru.

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Wokingham Stakes

HITCHENS
Winner of a Grp3 at the Curragh on latest start and only blip this season when down the field in HQ 6f h'cap (Gabriel's Lad 2nd; Shropshire 4th). Should love the quick conditions and Murtagh 1-1 on him; bit to find with some of these though.

ARNOLD LANE
Used quite a lot in his career so far and seeks a hat trick here after landing a conditions event and German Grp3 on last two starts. Creeping up and up the weights as a result though and muddling middle draw hinders chances too.

ELUSIVITY
Shown a fair level of form this term so far since joining the O'Meara team and was midfield in this last year from 3lbs higher. May need to be dropped further still before getting his nose in front once more and last two wins on Soft.

ROYAL ROCK
Another with a solid looking Ascot record having won two Grp3 contests here in the past. First handicap start for five years and probably in the twilight of his career now, so others appeal more.

MASS RALLY
Quirky sort who landed the Ayr Silver Cup last season and comes here off the back of a win in a hot contest at York (Nocturn 2nd). Career high mark to defy now though and mostly raced under softer conditions.

REGAL PARADE
Another grand old timer and a Grp1 winner in his day. Did win h'cap from this mark last October and was 2nd in the Ayr Gold Cup but he's another who prefers easier conditions and likely others have more to offer.

MORACHE MUSIC
Excellent record at Ascot and finished a fine 4th in this last year off a 2lbs higher mark. No recent rain hinders his chances greatly though as all runs on quick ground have been disappointing.

OUR JONATHAN
Has contested a lot of big handicaps during his career and finest hour came when taking the Ayr Gold Cup in 2011. He wears a visor for the first time today. Rarely seen when ground is fast, so any rain will help, but looks exposed anyway.

DUKE OF FIRENZE
Improving all of the time and weaved between horses to land the Epsom Dash in dramatic fashion on latest start. Needs another step up to take this but has bags of talent and deserves plenty of respect for Stoute/Moore.

PRODIGALITY
Never out of the first three, since going sprinting, at any track bar Doncaster. Finished 3rd in hot h'cap won by Mass Rally at York in May and better off at the weights today with 1st, 2nd and 4th who all re-oppose again. Claims.

SECRET WITNESS
Has run in a plethora of races during his career but has gone off the boil of late. Usually saves his best for the flatter tracks and remains 7lbs above last winning mark. Hard to fancy.

PALACE MOON
Not seen to great effect since landing Newbury h'cap last May and he's another that can't be improving now he's an 8yo. Drawn right on the far side and hard to envisage him being better than 27 of his rivals today.

YORK GLORY
Very consistent this year and has been bang in contention at the finish in three excellent sprint h'caps (form worked out well). Entitled to go close despite highest ever turf mark but could find a few too good again.

LOUIS THE PIOUS
Flirted with different distances throughout his career but his record over 6f is good. Only fourth start for new stable today and should strip fitter for sixth behind Mass Rally at York in May. On a high mark but can compete here.

DINKUM DIAMOND
Came home third in the frantic renewal of the Dash this year and no doubt has the ability to take a handicap at some stage. This is a tough ask though over a trip that may stretch him on a stiff course.

SHROPSHIRE
As game as they come this year and placed in three really competitive sprint handicaps so far. Up 3lbs since March though and no claimer on board this time makes things very tough. A CD win a positive though.

NOCTURN
Rock solid form this year that ties in with a number of runners today. Up 5lbs for a narrow HQ win over Enrol, he can give a good account once again. Any rain will help his chances and he deserves the utmost respect.

ZERO MONEY
Last win was back in Sept 2011 and he's often difficult to place these days. Lots to find with Nocturn on latest running and it'd be a shock if he came home ahead of the rest.

REX IMPERATOR
Now 3lbs ahead of the handicapper after a decent 2nd at Doncaster recently and has been supported during the week for this. Off the same mark as when he won last year at Windsor; potential for trainer who won this in 2009.

KHUBALA
Most progressive last year for Ed Dunlop and resumed the same way this year for Hugo Palmer. Dettori booking is a positive and arrives in form after Windsor triumph. He won't want it too quick, so any juice in the ground throws him into the mix.

CHANDLERY
Superb 2yo but missed all of his 3yo campaign last year and has come back with some woeful efforts this time around. Impossible to make a case for him in current heart.

LADYSHIP
Interesting runner from the Stoute team; first foal from a dam who improved with age. Wasn't in her coat when midfield on seasonal début at HQ, so progress likely, and first time hood a potential help too. Hughes booking a positive and not dismissed.

GABRIEL'S LAD
Only out of the first three once in ten career starts. Nursed into this race by low profile trainer and gets on well with Fallon. Form ties with a whole host of quality horses and deserves his place near the head of the market. Leading player.

GLASS OFFICE
Ran in the UAE 2000 Guineas back in Feb and appears more at home on an artificial surface (no wins on turf). Never competed in a big field handicap before and likely others have more to offer today.

BAPAK CHINTA
Decent as a 2yo and very lightly raced during career. Shown nothing special so far this term and a drop further down the weights might be required before he visits the winner's enclosure once more.

REBELLIOUS GUEST
Another that seems to be on a downward spiral at present and this one of the toughest races to bounce back in. Hard to fancy.

ANCIENT CROSS
Hardy Northern handicapper that's paid his way over the years. Can still mix it with the best, as proved when winning at York in May. Never won over 6f though and used to the flatter tracks of late. Hanagan booking a plus but too many question marks.

POOLE HARBOUR
Has placed in four excellent sprint handicaps so far this year. Form ties in with a number of these and with young Twiston-Davies taking 5lbs off it puts him right in the mix. Best of those drawn low.


SUMMARY

As always here there are plenty of questions that need answering and it remains a very tough nut to crack. Those aged four or five have the best record of recent times so it's from that age bracket where the selections will lie. Most of the fancied runners seem to be drawn high, leading one to believe that is where the winner will come from. It often pays to have at least one choice on the opposite side though, just in case. With it being unclear at this stage if any rain will fall it's usually wise to look for those who won't mind it whatever happens. Considering all of the factors above it's very tricky for me not to side with my original ante post selection GABRIEL'S LAD (20/1 AP; 11/1 now). He's progressed really well throughout his career and has been handled beautifully by little known trainer Denis Coakley. The 3yo handicap he contested and came third in at York last September is a superb piece of form, with Heeraat (first), Hamza (second) and Jack Dexter (fourth) all since advertising how good a race that was. He's had a nice fitness boost when he chased home Hamza at Newmarket in May and has been saved for this since.

Searching for a bit of value further down the field it's worth taking a chance on another two in a race of this nature, with one drawn high and one drawn low. The first of those is PRODIGALITY (33/1 EW). He's quite high in the weights now but his trainer likes him and feels he's matured a lot going into this season. The only time he throws in a bad race is at Doncaster and he's better off with Mass Rally, Nocturn and York Glory from their meeting at York two starts ago. He was just touched off into second at Goodwood on his latest start when Wentworth (Britannia fourth here on Thursday) was behind him. He probably doesn't deserve to be so big a price. The second and final selection to hopefully chase home Gabriel's Lad is POOLE HARBOUR (25/1 EW). He's just snook into the bottom of the card here after the top weight has declared a non runner but he's right up there with the best of them here. It's extremely useful that Willy Twiston-Davies takes 5lbs off his back as that gives him a much better chance based on his form with some of these already this season. He'll have a 10lbs swing with Nocturn for just a nose defeat at Windsor in April and he's closely matched with Gabriel's Lad on the Newmarket run too. He's definitely the best of those drawn low in my opinion and, again, probably shouldn't be such a huge price. One final one that deserves a mention is Ladyship, we haven't seen the best of her yet but she'll improve with racing and age and she's one to keep an eye on, even if today isn't her day.

The Chesham Stakes preview

The final 2yo race of the week provides one last chance to combine breeding, scope and limited exposure to form on largely immature and inexperienced racehorses. Time to call in the specialist - making his debut on the site is @twoyearoldtips. You'll enjoy reading his quality analysis and he's just started a blog you can find here

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The Chesham Stakes

The Chesham Stakes is a two year old listed contest for horses sired by stallions that have won over one mile two furlongs. It is generally considered the weakest of the juvenile races at Royal Ascot and whilst this is probably fair, it is not to say it cannot produce a decent horse. Group One winner Maybe won it in 2010 and multiple Hong Kong group winner Zaidan the year before. This years race doesn't look the strongest renewal and despite the massive field of 20 can be safely narrowed down to a few protagonists.

Berkshire- By Mount Nelson out of group one winning Mare Kinnaird, he cost £60,000 and is a half brother to two winners. He ran a very promising race on debut, finishing third in a traditionally strong Newbury maiden. Only beaten 1 length by Coventry flop Championship, he had some decent sorts behind. His trainer has done okay with his juveniles this year operating a profit of £7.88. Has place possibilities in a race with loads of dead wood

Bunker- Yet another recent juvenile purchase by the Sheikh Al Thani operation. Bunker is a son of Arc and King George winner Hurricane Run. He impressed on debut, when ridden by Jimmy Fortune, easily winning by 2.5 lengths from a horse who had already shown decent form. The third that day Zeshov has since won and a few in behind give the form a solid look. Bullish noises are being made from the Hannon camp, who have won the race twice in the past five years. Must go close and in my opinion the one to beat

Calrissian- A son of German Stallion Lando who is making his debut for the Alan Jarvis team. He is in very deep and will need some god-like assistance from the saddle to make the frame. No chance

Citizen Kaine- Another debutant by a German stallion, this time Manduro. From a stable that does have first time out winners often at big prices. Not cheap at £40,000 there may well be other days for this one. Another that can be confidently written off

Flying Author- No chance on all known form

Freedom Square- respected on connections alone but did struggle to see out the seven at Gowran Park on his second start, admittedly on soft ground. Better last time when winning over six on good to firm ground at the Curragh and connections seem certain he will get further. Will have to improve on what he has shown so far, but would be foolish to write off for his master trainer

Friendship- The only representative from Ballydoyle and from their super Sire Galileo out of a Grade one winning mare who has produced nothing of note from her seven foals thus far. This one made a promising enough start on soft ground at Listowel finishing third beaten three lengths. O Brien's two year old's are on fire this season but I just feel there are enough negatives in this one's profile to be able to give him the swerve

Khee Society- The first of three representatives from the David Evans yard. Whilst known as a trainer of juveniles Evans has been responsible for a better class of winner this year, picking up a few decent maidens recently. This one has yet to get his head in front and won't be doing so here either

Know Your Name- This son of Halling caused a 40/1 shock when scoring in a Nottingham maiden, stepping up massively on his first two runs. Will be a similar price here, but will not be winning this

Lone Warrior- picked up the pieces in a messy Salisbury maiden on debut - favourite swerved interfering with the second and third horses, both of whom could be considered unlucky. Will have to step up on that form but Tom Queally has a good strike rate when teaming up with David Evans. Looks the best of the Evans triumvirate and might go well at big odds

Master Carpenter- A son of promising freshman sire Mastercraftsman. He has been targeted at this race by connections ever since his debut win over subsequent winner Beau Nash. Readily outpaced over five furlongs on his second run by Windsor Castle third Anticipated he then went to Pontefract and floored a Hannon hotpot winning quite easily and looking strong at the line. In my opinion the runner up that day is nothing special and for mine Master Carpenter has to improve a fair bit if he is to take this prize

Scargill- Beaten two lengths by Master Carpenter in the aforementioned Pontefract race. He showed improved that form that day, having previously been beaten in a seller at Bath. Has Ryan Moore on board, which is about the only positive I can find. No chance

Shepherd Gate- By Ken Ramsay's US turf stallion Kittens Joy, this one owned and trained by Stan Moore is surely there for the day out

Sir Jack Layden- trained by David Brown, who in my opinion is a vastly overrated trainer of two year old's. This one finished midfield in a York maiden on debut behind an impressive sort of Kevin Ryan's. Then was very well backed next time and ran a creditable second to a well touted Hannon newcomer. Much more on his plate here and has to improve again to be in the shake up

Somewhat- This son of Dynaformer was touted as Mark Johnston's Chesham horse prior to his debut at Musselburgh 8 days ago. Backed off the boards he duly won by 7 lengths from a potentially decent Richard Fahey newcomer. As you would expect from a horse related to a host of middle distance horses, the best being French Derby 4th Art Deco, he had no problems getting the seven furlongs and ran right to the line. If the race hasn't come too soon he has to be a massive runner. The main danger to the selection

Street Force- From a trainer renowned for throwing his horses in at the deep end and on the face of it this would appear to be another example. However there are positives to gleam from his profile. He has jockey of the moment James Doyle on his back, his trainer has had a juvenile winner at Ascot already this week, and sampled success in this race in 2010. He is also very well bred being a Street Cry half brother to Group three winner Laaheb from the further family of Luso, Warrsan and Needle Gun. Was noted to have been very green in the preliminaries on debut at Sandown and in the circumstances ran a good race to finish a never nearer 4th. A potential improver and one of the more likely outsiders to make an impression

Autumn Lily- Another progeny of Darley Stallion Street Cry and a half sister to Godolphin globetrotter Alexandros. Impressive on debut at Haydock winning easily at odds on by almost three lengths. Looking quite green early on before knuckling down to her job, suggesting improvement is probable. However that did look a weak enough maiden and she will need to find a few lengths if she is to be a win contender here

Bureau- Backed at huge odds on debut, she ran a blinder from the front before being ran down late beaten a 1/4 of a length by Zeshov, with Street Force behind. Well bred being by Halling out of a Cheveley Park winner she is a promising sort for the future but this will possibly come too soon. A decent second string to Mark Johnston's bow but an unlikely winner

Ihtimal- Has finished runner up on her two starts. Both fillies to have beaten her franked the form in today's Albany stakes. Ran a big race,seemingly well fancied, on debut. Beaten 1.75 lengths by Kiyoshi who had the advantage of experience with the consistent Memory Styx a further seven lengths back in third. On the face of it her second to her white capped stablemate at 6/4 may look a touch disappointing but the winner may be useful. Another plausible each way contender

Tinga- A rare Galileo to have escaped from Tipperary. She ran a very promising race to finish a fast finishing third on debut over six furlongs at Doncaster. Needs to improve on the bare form, the winner runs in the Albany, the runner up since well beaten by a promising sort at Leicester. She looks a surefire improver over the extra furlong but will definitely need to

Verdict
A massive field but could possibly be a match with Bunker and Somewhat looking the two to concentrate on. Although the Mark Johnston charge possibly has the better form he only ran eight days ago and I fancy Bunker who has been laid out for this to take the prize and give Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes their third winner in this race in the last six years

1 Bunker
2 Somewhat
3 Ihtimal

Hardwicke Stakes preview

A classy middle-distance contest to round off the week, look for a few of these heading to Melbourne later in the year for the Cups. In charge of the analysis for this hot contest is Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Hardwicke Stakes

Another Group 2 springboard to the Group 1s in July that may alternately turn out to be the height of a second tier horse's career. Generally gets improving or unexposed types that duck the O'Brien Coronation at Epsom. Winners a mixture of never was' and the odd Harbinger of better things to come.

Aiken
by the lovely Selkirk and runs in the same Strawbridge colours. Won 6 straight including beating Maxios as Buick sat in front and kicked on in a false run race. Won a listed race here 10 lengths last year. Hence went off 4s 2nd fav to Sea Moon in this last year - finished behind Sea Moon, Dunaden and Red Cadeaux. Beaten since but not forlorn. Mostly raced with cut in the ground and seems not quite top class. 2nd in the Champions Series stayers event here. The three in front last year are not here and a case can be made back at 12 furlongs even with the fast ground.

Dandino won a course and distance handicap three years ago. Connections long fancied him a stayer and have run him in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin as well as the Canadian International where he made eye catching ground from the rear. Nearly beat last years winner Sea Moon in a prep last May. My read on him is this is ideal a 12 furlongs on fast ground. Prefer the track was flat but the run in could be ideal. I thought he was beaten because instead of being ridden for a turn of foot Murtagh kicked for home last time at Newmarket and Universal re-passed him. Clearly will need everything to fall right and now six. Switched from Fanshawe to Botti since last year after being purchased by Australian Bloodstock and aimed at a Melbourne Cup campaign.

Ektihaam Won a listed race here by six lengths last start from rival Thomas Chippendale - Aiken won it 10 lengths last year so no mortal lock off that. Nonetheless was impressive muellering Thomas Chippendale who had finished in front of him when Al Kazeem opened the season with a nice win in the 10 furlong Gordon Richards. I assume given his history of being troubled in running and the positive results last time he will go to the front. Entered in the Group 1 King George.

Mount Athos Improving with age. Mostly campaigned over further. Six of seven wins on flat tracks. Fifth in the Melbourne Cup and 10th in the Japan Cup when upped to Group 1. Best on official ratings and 2nd on RPR. Entered in the King George. Won his last four UK races since the start of last season and tuned up with a stroll at Chester from star Chaser Mad Moose.

Noble Mission beaten twice by Universal this season last time by three lengths behind Dandino. Half brother to Bullet Train and a full brother to Frankel so attracts plenty of attention, trained by Lady Cecil! Always seems a little one paced to me. Beat the useful Encke a neck in a Group 3 last year and won a listed race last time. Beaten 1/2 length in the Edward VII 2012 over course and distance by stablemate Thomas Chippendale who re-opposes here.

Sir John Hawkwood won two handicaps last one off 103 and well worth a tilt here. Only had seven lifetime runs. Won on soft and good to firm. Has Ryan Moore... back in the day (Pilsudski all time favourite - the tough of the track) Stoute four year old stepping up to group races would have me hurrying to the bet queue.

Songcraft seemingly exposed runner who has been behind several of these in races. Won a listed race over 14 furlongs last time. Seems a bit short and more exposed than most. Once rated 115 and now 105.

Thomas Chippendale won the three year old equivalent last year from Noble Mission. Humped six lengths by Ektihaam (finished in front of him on seasonal debut) who one can argue was gifted the lead. To me looks like he would need the ground to soften.

Universal won his last 3 races in single figure fields by sitting prominent (he is a Mark Johnston colt after all) including a narrow verdict over Dandino who he was passed by and fought back. Quiz Mistress who split him from Noble Mission has done nothing for the form since. Could play spoiler up front with Ektihaam.

Denoument

Thomas Chippendale is a slight preference over Noble Mission who he beat course and distance last year but neither inspires. Sir John Hawkwood but he is fairly priced ~ 7s. Aiken is tempting at 10s but this is his seasonal opener and entries imply further would suit plus his wins mostly on worse ground. Mount Athos won well at York last year from some dear old stayers and is probably correctly highest rated by the BHA/WTR. Songcraft looks exposed and not good enough on what he has done so far. I love Dandino but not sure anyone else does - I do think if his jockeys ride him for a late turn of foot he has a chance but they don't seem to agree. Universal will grind away and can't be discounted. Ektihaam is entered in a Group 1 and on the improve being visually impressive last time.

I'll bet Ektihaam 10/3 albeit not for a big bet as I think he is the only one who truly threatens to be more than a Group 2 horse in the middle distance. Forecast him with Aiken.

Diamond Jubilee Stakes preview

The final Group I of the week and it doesn't look the strongest encounter. The Aussie mare is a decent horse but I wouldn't put her up as one of the best we've sent across. But then again, this isn't an inspiring field. What does Lara Pocock, @lara_pocock, have to say about it? Read on....

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Diamond Jubilee Stakes

The final Group One of the Royal Ascot meeting, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, looks to be a rather open contest, with no hot favourite and a number of leading contenders sure to make it a great race. Run over six furlongs many horses have gone to run in this race after running in the Group One King’s Stand Stakes on the opening day of the meeting and it is surprising none are backing up this year in such an open race. Last year's renewal was a hotly awaited race as it was the British public's only chance to catch a glimpse of the great Black Caviar, who just held on to win.

The expected rain has not arrived at the Ascot course and so Saturday's ground is going to be quicker than expected and predicted to be good to firm, with possibly some firm patches, however it is looking unlikely that this race will be run at record time.

1. Dandy Boy - Winner of the Wokingham Stakes handicap at this meeting last year and recorded another Ascot success in May 2010 when winning over seven furlongs. Recent form suggests you look elsewhere.

2. Gammarth - French raider who has won a Listed race but is likely to be outclassed.

3. Gordon Lord Byron - The second favourite won the Group One Prix de la Foret last year, with his last success coming in a conditions race at Dundalk in March. He was third to Society Rock in the Group Two Duke Of York Stakes at York in May but was down the field in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last year, his only start at Ascot to date.

4. Havelock - Trained in the USA by Darrin Miller, Havelock is looking to add to the fine record of international-trained horses in this race and certainly has the credentials to do so. He has won at Grade Two level in the States and will be partnered by Frankie Dettori, who has something to prove.

5. Hawkeyethenoo - Veteran campaigner who will have his 40th start today. Was fourth in the Duke Of York Stakes and fourth to Tickled Pink in the Group Three Abernant Stakes and although he is fancied others should finish in front of him.

6. Krypton Factor - Sixth to Black Caviar last year, this Bahrain-trained five-year-old has been out of the headlines this year but with a win in the Group One Golden Shaheen under his belt he should not underestimated. He put in two good performances in Dubai this year and could run a big race at a big price.

7. Lethal Force - Dark Angel colt who was second in the Duke Of York and could be a major danger here. Beat Strong Suit, who has since gone to America, in last year's Group Two Hungerford Stakes and has only been out of the frame in four of his 13 starts. He looks to be improving but his only start in Group One company to date yielded a disappointing tenth in the Prix de la Foret to Gordon Lord Byron.

8. Maarek - Winner of The Group Two British Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance last October on soft ground. The six-year-old has put in some solid performances this season, winning the Listed Woodlands Stakes at Naas in April and second in another Listed race on Sunday at Cork. Outside chances of a place.

9. Reply - Listed winning son of Oasis Dream who was fifth over seven furlongs on his last start to Leitir Mor, who was disappointing earlier this week in the Group One St James's Palace Stakes. Has already had five starts this season but dropped back in trip may suit.

10. Sirius Prospect - Outsider who should finish down the field.

11. Slade Power - Lightly raced four-year-old who was only out of the frame once in seven starts, in last year's British Champions Sprint Stakes when he finished eighth. Form does not go higher than Group Three level but in this race that should not be a hindrance.

12. Society Rock - Winner of the Group Two Duke Of York Stakes and the winner of this race in 2011. He is likely to go off the favourite but has suffered two defeats in the race, last year to Black Caviar and then to Starspangledbanner in 2010. The quick going will suit him, he could only manage fifth in the Champions Sprint on soft, but still needs to bring his A-Game in order to secure victory in this large field.

13. Soul - Australian-bred who won the Group Three Hackwood Stakes by four lengths. He was fourth in this race last year and if he can reproduce that form could be a lively outsider.

14. Intense Pink - Listed winner who was third in a Group Three over seven furlongs on soft ground, the same conditions of her stakes win. This course and going may not suit her and she will surely find the going too tough in this field.

15. Mince - Won the Group Three Bengough Stakes last year, beating Soul, but could only manage tenth behind Society Rock in the Duke Of York earlier this year. Will probably have to settle for another unplaced run.

16. Sea Siren - Triple Group One winner for the yard of John O'Shea. She was disappointing in Hong Kong on her only international start to date and it looks to have taken a while to find her form again. Was second in the Group One Doomben 10,000 on her final Australian start and when I went to see her gallop last week she looked in fine form so a big run is expected.

17. Zanetto - Three-year-old Listed winner who won the Tattersalls 3YO Sprint earlier this season. This is a big step up in class for him and he looks unlikely to figure.

18. Rosdhu Queen - An interesting runner. The three-year-old was third in the Group Three Fred Darling Stakes after an unbeaten run and the step back in trip is interesting. The Haggas team thought a lot of her last season and it will be interesting to see what they make of her.

Verdict:
Although many of these are evenly matched on form there are only five Group One winners in the field and no many have form above Group Three level. Many of the field are open to improvement but I think it will be the seasoned performers who could lead proceedings. If Sea Siren has travelled in better form than she did in Hong Kong I think she is major danger. She looks in fantastic order and is a beautiful looking filly with a giant rear-end and if she stays in Europe this season, as planned, it will be interesting to watch her progress. Rosdhu Queen stepped up in trip on her last start and could be a forgotten horse here. She was a Group One winner over six furlongs last year and her stable hold her in high regard. Society Rock proved himself earlier this season and although he will run a big race again he may have to settle for another placing behind an international runner. Favourites do not have a good record in this race, with only two taking the honours since 1998, Black Caviar and Starspangledbanner.

Wokingham Stakes preview I

Several decent races tomorrow to complete Royal Ascot week but the biggest handicap of the week to most is the Wokingham. A right bastard of a race if you ask me, so tough I've had to draft in two previews! This one from regular contributor Kieran Kenneally, @kierankenneally.

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The Wokingham

I used to love a big handicap back in the day. The Stewards Cup, Ayr Gold Cup and the Epsom Dash were my big three. It seemed to me back then that there was more form lines per horse in the old Sporting Life and all interconnecting. That could also just be nostalgia for an old friend.
The Wokingham handicap, 29 runners across the track, what a challenge!

Let's start with Dinkum Diamond. 3rd behind Duke of Firenze over 5f at Epsom he is now 7lb better off for a half length beating. You could argue that Dinkum Diamond is even better off as he was very badly drawn that day and also had trouble in running. Duke of Firenze had a perfect draw. Although 19 of his 22 career runs have been at the minimum trip he also has good Listed form over 6f as a 3yr old against Genki and that horse has run with considable credit in Group 1 races across Europe. Older now, this strong travelling sort can improve into the top class sprinter a lot of people thought he was earlier in his career. Drawn right in the middle in15 can be a bonus as his jockey can follow whichever side the pace comes from.

Duke of Firenze himself looked as if another furlong would be no problem as he finished very strongly at Epsom and he has the added bonus again of Ryan Moore in the saddle and an excellent draw in 31.

Rex Imperator beaten just over a length by Duke of Firenze over 6f last July is 20lb better off for that defeat. This lightly raced runner dropping back in distance from his most recent runs is a very big player and could be one of the few runners In the race capable of progressing to Group level.

York Glory unlucky behind Kingsgate Choice on his most recent run had Duke of Firenze back in fifth that day and is weighted to confirm that running.

Louis The Pious is closely matched with York Glory on form and has the excellent Daniel Tudhope in the saddle but is not weighted to reverse form with that rival.

Regal Parade is too old, prefers cut in the ground and is probably better over further these days.

Hitchens won a Group 3 in Ireland on his most recent run but carries a lot of weight and may be vulnerable to some younger rivals in this contest. Has Johnny Murtagh in the saddle.

Elusivity is another David O'Meara runner but the stable jockey prefers Louis the Pious.

Royal Rock an old friend of the family is drawn badly in 3 but would have an outside chance on his best form and his first run of the season was very encouraging.

Arnold Lane seems to eventually have found the knack of winning and his trainer had a Royal Ascot winner yesterday. He's not a horse who strikes me as will prefer this drop in trip and would also appear to like some cut in the ground.

Mass Rally has an excellent chance on his most recent run and is taken to confirm that running with a few of today's rivals including Nocturn who was second in the same race.

In conclusion, it's no harm to have a few strings to your bow in a race of this nature. There is no logic to Duke of Firenze being 6/1 favourite when a horses like Dinkum Diamond is available at 25/1. After going through the form it's also impossible to ignore the obvious form chance of Rex Imperator at the weights.

Selections :
1 Rex Imperator 9/1
2 Dinkum Diamond 25/1
3 Mass Rally 20/1

Coronation Stakes preview

Prolific blogger Calum Madell, @calummadell has attacked several races today on his blog, here's his look at the feature of the day for the 3yo fillies.

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3:45 - Coronation Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1)

A really interesting renewal of the Coronation which sees the form of the English and Irish Guineas put to the test. Just The Judge of course ran in both, finishing runner-up in the former and taking the latter in decent style. Again she must go close if the pace up front isn’t too gruelling and though this is the first time on a proper round course (Curragh has a long straight), she should do just fine even with a wide draw which is a slight inconvenience.

The ground though is ideal for Sky Lantern, who beat her at Newmarket after a brilliant ride by Richard Hughes. She is beatable but very consistent and though she may need to settle better to confirm that form and does also have a wide draw (less off a problem than the favourite as she is usually held up), she again should be thereabouts. Of those that ran in the Newmarket Guineas to return here, Snow Queen went closest but she’s since run a flat race in the Irish renewal.

Maureen was just in behind but just looks a cut below this level and the same can be said for Roz, Masarah, Agent Allison and Ollie Olga who were all well beaten that day. The Irish race is worth a lot more concentration on as there didn’t seem to be that much pace which suited the winner. It wouldn’t have suited the runner-up REHN’S NEST who had to make up a lot of ground from the back but quickened up well to just take second on the line. This was a career best by some way but also one of her first runs on genuinely quick ground which may have been the key to her. I think she is well worth a chance to prove that that was no fluke and I think she is a good price.

The fourth that day also returns, Big Break who did well as a two-year-old and could improve from that first run back where it may have also not suited her to have got no cover and she is a major player. There’s a few coming into this from other form ties which needed respecting as well, including the unbeaten Pavlosk who won nicely at York last time though I think this may come a little bit too soon for her. Viztoria was meant to run in the Irish classic but was pulled out late. All her form is with cut in the ground tomorrow so that is something she needs to prove but she comes into it.

Siyenica also could be anything as she’s only run twice, the last time over 10 furlongs and you get the suspicion a truly run race like this could suit her. Lovely Pass has been plying her trade in Meydan and beat the decent Shuruq on her first start in what was a farce of a race and that rival comfortably beat her stepped up in trip. She has to find a good deal more, while Purr Along was a smart filly last year who bar her last run (in season) mixed it with some of the best. She could come on for this but if ready then she could go very nicely and is certainly not a 33/1 shot. Kenhope needs to improve for better ground while Mizzava finished fifth in the Irish Guineas but others look likely to have more scope.

Advice – Rehn’s Nest 1pt e/w @16/1

King Edward VII Stakes preview

The previews kept rolling out, this one for another option for the classic generation, the King Edward VII Stakes. The favourite's rather short but he might just have plenty on these if he has recovered from his Derby exertions. Taking up the reins for the preview is one-time regular contributor, James Jack, @materialista27.

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King Edward VII Stakes

The King Edward VII Stakes is a Group 2 run over a mile and a half exclusively for 3 year old colts and geldings. It has traditionally been viewed as Ascot's version of the Derby, but this year only includes one runner from the Epsom field in fourth placed Battle of Marengo. Previous winners include Ella-Mana-Mou who went on to triumph in the Eclipse and King George the following year, and more recently Dubai World Cup winner Monterosso, and King George and Eclipse winner Nathaniel. This year looks like a weak renewal, with only Battle of Marengo carrying the extra three pounds for his win in the Derrinstown in May. Everyone else carries 8-12 and the winner will walk away with £99,242.50, though I guess the Coolmore boys won't be too worried about the 50p.

1 Battle of Marengo (5)
Joseph O'Brien for Aiden O'Brien - OR 117
As I mentioned, winner of the Derrinstown Derby trial and fourth in The Derby at Epsom behind stablemate Ruler Of The World. He beat Loch Garman at Leopardstown who finished a disappointing 10th in the Prix du Jockey Club and Little White Cloud who finished second behind O'Brien's Leading Light in the Gallinule Stakes. His Derby form is a little more exciting, obviously beating Dawn Approach who won the St James's Palace Stakes on Tuesday, but more importantly, he finished two lengths in front of Mars, who finished third on Tuesday, and as he should be suited by the extra half mile, even without a Ballydoyle pacemaker, and should be too good for this field. O'Brien's horses are in good form this week, and Joseph has ridden a couple of winners himself. Look for a more restrained ride than he was given in The Derby, as he set off for home too early, and was caught in the last half furlong or so. If Joseph can stay put until the last furlong then this race is his to lose.

2 Contributer (6)
Frankie Dettori for Ed Dunlop - OR 101
Not as impressive form as Battle of Marengo, as he finished a well beaten second in the Dee Stakes at Chester behind Magician and although Magician cruised home in the Irish 2000 Guineas, he was out of touch in the St James's Palace. Contributer was also well beaten by Disclaimer in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood while not seeming to stay over 11f, and although some of that could be explained by the undulating nature of Goodwood, yet he didn't respond when asked to finish inside the final furlong. It remains to be seen whether further improvement will be seen, and a return to Listed company later in the season may be a better option.

3 Fantastic Moon (7)
Kieren Fallon for Jeremy Noseda - OR 102
The best form for Fantastic Moon is his 5th, just a neck behind Derby 2nd and Godolphin new boy Libertarian at Sandown in his last run. He did beat Tha'ir in a Group 3 as a two year old, winning the Solario Stakes but he clearly hasn't progressed from there and after finishing 5th in the Royal Lodge and a nine length 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he looks to have actually regressed as a three year old. I don't see him suddenly finding form, despite having nearly two months off to freshen up. A return to a mile looks like a better fit, but he's not of the class to compete in this one.

4 Greatwood (2)
Richard Hughes for Luca Cumani - OR 103
His best run came at Newmarket in the Tattersalls Millions 3-y-o trophy when just touched off by Newmarket specialist Windhoek. It was a grinding run, gradually wearing down the winner, but for better luck in-running, could've won. It didn't appear that he enjoyed his run at York where he finished 7th in the Dante behind Libertarian. On the balance of that run, he shouldn't trouble Battle Of Marengo although he may appreciate the step up in trip. Look for Hughes to hold him up and try and pick off tired horses in the home straight. He has a place chance, but has yet to win a race on grass, and this shouldn't be his first.

5 Havana Beat (3)
William Buick for Andrew Balding - OR 100
Finished a mile behind Ruler Of The World in the Chester Vase (7½ lengths, but as good as a mile) and a length and a half behind Mister Impatience who was subsequently beaten by Tha'ir in a Listed Race at HQ a month ago. Hard to see him get anywhere near winning this as he plugged home a length and a bit behind Greatwood at Newmarket. I don't see him staying the trip and is still questionable even at a mile and a quarter. He may turn out to be a decent handicapper, but Group races certainly look beyond him.

6 Hillstar (8)
Ryan Moore for Sir Michael Stoute - OR 95
A glorified handicapper, and has disappointed on his last two runs, finishing second as a short priced favorite. Although he has progressed up the weights, he hasn't shown much to suggest he'll crack Group level. High Troja beat him at Newbury on his latest outing, but that form looks poor, as High Troja finished 3rd in a Class 2 event behind Soviet Rock who also beat Hillstar at Newmarket in April. It remains to be seen how much Hillstar has to give in this event, but trying this new trip (2f further than his previous couple of runs) may provide more improvement. If that doesn't do the job, then a return to handicapping and a drop in trip may follow.

7 Mutashaded (4)
Paul Hanagan for Roger Varian - OR 88
A thoroughly unexposed beast, he comes into this having only run twice. He beat the aforementioned High Troja in his debut at Yarmouth, unfortunately, none of the other horses he beat that day have gone on to do anything significant. In his second start, he won a Class 3 handicap at Sandown in a more impressive style. Sadly, every other horse he beat that day disappointed at last week at Sandown. So, although we have no concrete form to go on, his sire, Raven's Pass excelled later in his career, and it's reasonable to expect some improvement as he continues his career. Stamina is also unproven, but the step between a mile and a mile and a quarter didn't seem to bother him, so we may have to wait and see how he progresses. Looks like a main competitor for second, and could be one to follow next season.

8 Tha'ir (1)
Silvestre De Sousa for Saeed bin Suroor - OR 100
The most exposed of the field, he ran seven times as a two year old, the highlight of which being his victory in the Chesham at the Royal festival last year. That was however his last win and although he was just touched off by a head by Fantastic Moon at Sandown in the Solario Stakes last September, he was beaten on his seasonal reappearance by Hoarding in a Listed contest over a mile and a quarter at HQ. He did however flop when in Group 1 company at Longchamp in the Grand Criterium, though that may be excused due to the heavy ground. He seemed to appreciate the step up in trip at Newmarket and would certainly enjoy quick ground on offer at Ascot. Still, there are too many questions to be answered to have an investment this time, though a return to Listed company on fast ground may be ideal later in the summer.

VERDICT
BATTLE OF MARENGO is a class apart from the rest of the field, and on the face of it, should win this easily. If he can replicate anything like his form from The Derby, he'll be OK in this. Joseph O'Brien needs to be patient with his ride and allow his horse to show it's class close to the finish. It looks like any early pace will come from Hillstar, but it's hold-up horses for the most part in this race, so if any of these pilots fancy taking a flier and stealing this from the front, they may find themselves in the money at the line. Mutashaded looks like a prospect and could make a jump in form stepping up in trip, while Greatwood will benefit from plenty of room and one of the best hold-up riders in the business.

ADVICE
4pts Greatwood without Battle of Marengo
2pts Mutashaded without Battle of Marengo
1pt EW Mutashaded
1pt trifecta 1-7-4
1pt trifecta 1-4-7

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Queen's Vase (in memory of Sir Henry Cecil) preview

The tearjerker of the day is likely to be this race, renamed to honour the great Sir Henry Cecil. Estimate won it last year so it has a lot to live up to. Making his blog debut is Dan Briden, @DanBriden. You can read more of his excellent work over at SBB Columns.

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5.00 Royal Ascot – The Queen's Vase (in memory of Sir Henry Cecil)

The Queen’s Vase is almost always a interesting race, it annually bringing together a mixed big of three-year-olds in terms of ability, and this year’s renewal sees a couple with form at this level taking on a host of improving handicappers/promising maiden winners – notable winners of this contest in recent times include Mamool, Patkai, Mikhail Glinka and Estimate.

Dashing Star, trained by David Elsworth, is a son of Teofilo who came good at the third time of asking when landing a 1m maiden at Nottingham last backend, travelling well throughout and seeing it out strongly. He was too keen for his own good when only fifth in a good 10f handicap at Sandown on his return, and was outclassed when last of eight behind Libertarian in the Dante Stakes at York next time. However, he bounced back to form when landing a 12f handicap at Musselburgh earlier this month, waited with at the rear of the field and still having plenty to do when ridden over two furlongs out, staying on well for pressure from over a furlong out to lead close home and win going away by 2 lengths from Naru. It was a real staying performance from this sizable colt, who has always been held in high esteem by his veteran handler, and it isn’t hard to see why he has been brought here given the way he finished off his race; absolutely no surprise to see him find the necessary improvement needed to land this prize, with the extra half a mile likely to suit on the evidence of last time.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Leading Light is a son of Montjeu who stepped up on a low-key debut effort to land a heavy-ground 1m 1f maiden at Tipperary last autumn and, after returning with a win in a 10f contest at the Curragh, landed the hat-trick with victory over Little White Cloud in a 10f Group 3 at Navan last month, making just about all and sticking on gamely. He shapes as though he will be suited by a stiffer test of stamina and is clearly a colt of considerable potential, but quite whether this sort of test will suit remains to be seen (dam a Queen Mary winner); penalised for his latest success and doesn’t make much appeal at his current price.

Lady Cecil’s Disclaimer failed to live up his home reputation at two, albeit signed off with victory in a 1m 1f maiden at Redcar, but he has improved no end for a gelding operation and stiffer test of stamina this term, landing a pair of handicaps at Doncaster (10f) and Kempton (11f) in smooth fashion. He completed his hat-trick in a two-runner Listed affair over 11f at Goodwood last month, going well in front but appearing held by sole rival Contributer when that one challenged under two furlongs out, but he rallied well to quickly regain the lead entering the final furlong and kept on well to score by 2½ lengths. He progressive at a rapid rate and certainly shapes as though a potential stayer, and his pedigree certainly lends hope that he will prove effective at this trip, his dam a winner over 1m 6f and a full sister to a 1m 6f Listed winner and a half sister to Yorkshire Cup winner Manifest; would be a most poignant winner of this race and certainly not wishful thinking that it could happen.

Mark Johnston’s Mister Impatience came good in style when landing a 1m maiden at Nottingham on his third and final outing at two, and he fairly routed the opposition when making a winning return to action in a heavy-ground 10f handicap at Doncaster on the opening day of the season, putting 9 lengths between himself and the rest. He disappointed up in grade on much better ground when fourth behind Mirsaale in the Derby trial at Newbury, and had the run of things before being left behind by subsequent Derby winner Ruler Of The World in the Chester Vase next time. He shaped last time in a 10f Listed contest as though in need of a stiffer test, outpaced initially before staying on again inside the final furlong to finish fourth of five behind Hoarding; stable has enjoyed success in this race in recent times and, for all a slower surface would have suited better, no surprise to see this colt show improved form for this stiffer test of stamina.

Stablemate Royal Skies has hit form in no uncertain terms these past couple of weeks, stretching clear to put 9 lengths between himself and Duke Of Perth in a 10f handicap at Pontefract, and he easily saw off his only remaining rival (stablemate unseated three furlongs out) in a three-runner affair over an extended 12f at Musselburgh last weekend. He is clearly going the right way and represents a stable that does well in this, including with progressive handicappers; withdrawn from yesterday’s King George V Handicap (drawn wide).

The John Gosden-trained Nichols Canyon shaped with promise in a pair of decent maidens at Sandown (7f/1m) before coming good at the third time of asking when landing a 1m 1f maiden at the expense of yesterday’s King George V Handicap winner Elidor, seeming to relish the extra furlong and ease in the ground. He has run a couple of solid races in defeat so far, finishing ahead of the keen-going Dashing Star in a 10f handicap at Sandown on his return before hanging away victory at Newbury last month, staying on powerfully once straighten up to run Prairie Ranger to a short head. He would have won but for hanging persistently right, perhaps feeling the ground (similar conditions here), but he has shaped as though stamina is his forte and this race looks a good fit for him; no surprise to see him very much involved here.

Stablemate Feel Like Dancing looked a promising sort when staying on well to land an 11f maiden at Newbury on his debut outing in April, but he still looked rough around the edges when last of four behind Ruler Of The World in the Chester Vase (Mister Impatience second). He simply looked devoid of pace when fifth of sixth behind Maputo in a 10f handicap at Newmarket (July) a fortnight ago; step up in distance may help matters and now tried in cheekpieces, but plenty more needed and no surprise to see William Buick stick with Nichols Canyon.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Baihas is a Nayef son of Doncaster Cup winner Allegretto (herself the daughter of a Doncaster Cup heroine), and he shaped with plenty of promise when just failing to overhaul Deira Phantom in a 12f maiden at Salisbury back in May. He duly went one better in a three-runner 14f maiden at Yarmouth 17 days ago, niggled along on the approach to the home straight and ridden three furlongs out, responding two furlongs out and staying on well inside the final furlong to see off Enaitch by 2½ lengths. It was a far from convincing performance in what looked a very winnable contest, but it was only his second career outing and the fact he is brought straight here speaks volumes about the improvement expected from him over this trip; bred to make his mark in good staying races and comes from a stable that took this with a similarly unexposed sort 12 months ago, so not ruled out with cheekpieces now tried.

The Hughie Morrison-trained Nearly Caught is a New Approach half brother to smart middle distance stayer Pink Mimosa who caused something of a shock when landing a 10f maiden at Windsor on his debut in April, making smooth progress on the outer over two furlongs out and sealing matters in stylish fashion, scoring by 2 lengths from Punditry. Time has shown he achieved just a modest level of form on that occasion and a whole lot more will be needed over this new trip and up in grade, but he hails from a stable that rarely has them ready to strike on debut, so that he did marks him down as potentially useful; interesting contender.

VERDICT - DASHING STAR (nap)