Friday, 27 June 2014

Glasshouse Handicap preview

By Mitch Fenton, @weekndkngracing

The Sunshine Coast’s annual feature sprint race, the listed $175,000 Glasshouse Handicap over 1400m, is our focus this week as the Winter Carnival heads to lovely Caloundra, where weather “experts” are predicting fine sunny conditions and racing on what should be a good to dead rated surface. Some good horses have won this race back over the years... including most recently Group 1 winner Woorim, who went back to back in the event.

As has been the case with most of this years Winter Carnival, the feature race again lacks any depth at all and bar a couple, it’s a case of the ‘usual suspects’ - Billy Aucash, Steel Zip, Startsmeup, Phelan Ready….

The traditional lead up race to the Glasshouse is the Eye Liner Stakes run on Ipswich Cup day over 1350m. The rise is distance is only 50m but the main difference is going from a tight, turning, short run home, track at Ipswich to a wide open track at the Sunshine Coast with a long straight that see’s almost every horse get it’s chance.

The rail goes into the true position, but jockeys just don’t want to get within cooee of the fence - wet or dry - with the crown of the track right down the middle usually the best spot to be. But all in all it’s one of the fairest & best tracks in Australia and hands down the best track in Queensland.

Nine of the runners out of the Eye Liner are engaged here;
Alma’s Fury - 1st
Playitsraight - 3rd
Jetset Lad - 4th
Billy Aucash - 5th
Steel Zip - 6th
Startsmeup - 7th
Ellawisdom - 10th
Black Cash - 12th
Phelan Ready - 13th

Class shone through in the end with Tony Gollan’s Alma’s Fury narrowly holding of Masthead trained by Chris Waller - who has a decent opinion of his galloper. Alma’s Fury was second up that day and certainly looked like he would derive plenty of improvement from the run. He meets all those behind him worse off at the weights but the one’s he does face again here, he did beat soundly. Drawn awkwardly but veteran hoop Jim Byrne is in near career best form and the 1400m start at Corbold Park isn’t to disadvantageous to those drawn out. The stable is flying, no doubt he’ll be right in the mix.

Jetset Lad was terrific closing off, late in the piece, after finally getting into clear galloping room. And the way he ran right through the line suggested he’d be spot on come this race. Although the run was very good, it was fairly typical of the horse, who has only won 5 of his 47 career stars - an unflattering win strike-rate in anyone’s terms. He’s some hope but I’m risking him at the $6.50 quote currently on offer.

Forget Black Cash ever went around in the race, he ran into severe trouble on two occasions and featured heavily in the stewards report & their was money for the horse (an astute punting yard) to suggest it’d run a race. In fact you can ignore all three of his runs this campaign, in his first and second up runs he never got on the track from bad barriers but still managed to run well. He’s run a race at Flemington Melbourne Cup week (albeit the restricted grey race) so class isn’t an issue. He gets a good gate here so he’ll go a soft run and is very capable on his best form, down on the minimum weight.

As for the usual suspects out of the Eye Liner, (Phelan Ready, Startsmeup, Billy Aucash, Ellawisdom, Playitstraight) well they’ll be running on again - like they always do. Wouldn’t shock me if one of them did something stupid and lobbed at a price, but honestly how could you tip a horse like Phelan Ready, as grand an old warrior as he is, to win his first race in nearly six years? I’d love to see him add to his tally of two wins - the Magic Millions & Golden Slipper - before he’s done!

As for the runners coming here through different form lines, they are;

Belltone who comes here off the back of three average runs, albeit in tougher grade - the latest in the Stradbroke…But he’s been poor and the stable can’t buy a winner this Carnival. There’s more than a little whisper around Eagle Farm (where Kelso Wood trains) that his stable has been struck down by a mystery virus. Results support that rumour undoubtedly.

Muir is having his first run back for 433 days & prior to that he’d had a 700 day+ lay-off. Is 200-1 should be 2000-1. All I can hope is he doesn’t get in the way of a winning hope….Although ditto Phelan Ready, he’s a Gr1 winner - the 2011 Adelaide Cup.

Escoffier is on a quick back up after running 3rd last week. Solid enough form. But outclassed here. That’llbgood, Auguste & Noogurra Burr are all simply out of their depth and are only here to stake a claim at the minor end of the prize money scale.

That leaves Kiwi mare Spitfire Lady, who ran in the Gai Waterhouse Classic, 1350m on Ipswich Cup day as well. It was her first run in 4+ weeks after coming across the Tasman where she’d been running fairly well. Was wide, wide then wider but still ran home gamely behind Jazz Song - who was far from disgraced when backing up in last weeks Gr1 Tatts Tiara at Eagle Farm. Very interesting to note that in the Gr1 Easter Handicap in NZ on the 12th of April, when she finished 9th beaten 2L. She beat home Jetset Lad by a length. In this race one is $17 and one is $7. No sense in that for mine!

I’ve narrowed it down to three hopes. But I can’t split them.

With a gun held to my head and made to pick one I’d go Alma’s Fury, purely on his class & with the in form yard. But I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

My betting strategy off a $100 bank is;

$30 win ALMA’S FURY $4.00
$25 each way BLACK CASH $7.50 & $2.50
$10 each way SPITFIRE LADY $17 & $4.40

My best bets for the day (28/06) are;

R4 - 3 MISS COVER GIRL*. Filly who has won 3 from 3 in explosive fashion. Her last start sectionals in winning at Doomben where astonishing for a 2 year old.

R1 - 3 WINX. Just wins. Extremely talented, was enormous winning on debut and the form out of that race is super!

R4 - 5 SACRED FLYER. Great effort last start to win overcoming traffic in the straight. Looks a similar task here.

Monday, 16 June 2014

No Royal Ascot coverage

Just a short post to say I won't be covering Royal Ascot this week on the blog, having a break during the World Cup...

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Derby preview

Known simply as the Derby, the time-honoured English classic has been run at Epsom since before Australia was settled. Tomorrow, Australia is the clear favourite to win the race.

In case you haven't heard the story of how the race got its name, and then spread around the world for 3yo staying classics, according to Wikipedia:

The Derby originated at a celebration following the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after either the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby, or one of his guests, Sir Charles Bunbury. According to legend the decision was made by the toss of a coin, but it is probable that Bunbury, the Steward of the Jockey Club, deferred to his host.

Will it rain tomorrow at Epsom? It might - weathermen are talking about a short, sharp storm earlier in the day, but living only a few miles from the course, I can tell you that could just as easily blow right over. Bookies will fight to outdo each other with offers tomorrow - William Hill will offer 5/2 Australia at 8.30am for limited stakes, someone will no doubt offer money back etc. 5/2 seems an amazing price considering he was odds-on just a matter of days ago (my opinion rather than that of the previewer...)

Charged with the preview, and yes, it's comprehensive, is Adam Webb, @adamwebb121.


The Derby

1. AROD - Peter Chapple-Hyam - Jamie Spencer

Peter Chapple-Hyam is no stranger to Derby success having trained Authorized back in 2007 and saddles this son of Teofilo. He went off favourite on debut back in November at Kempton over a mile on his only two year old start and had a nice enough experience without being forcibly ridden for maximum effort when third behind Elite Army. He then returned at Windsor where he romped away from Sea The Bloom to win easily by five lengths. The early stages were a cause of concern as he threw his head around before Jamie Spencer allowed him to go to the front.

For his most recent run in the Dante, connections changed the tactics with him being held up. He travelled well through the race however when asked for his effort, he showed signs of greenness before staying on nicely to finish second behind The Grey Gatsby who has since come out and won the Prix du Jockey Club in impressive style.

I don’t think the track will be an issue or the distance but the main concern would be his greenness which he showed at both Windsor and York. He will definitely win a big race somewhere this year when he has matured more but he has place claims here.
Rating – 6/10

2. AUSTRALIA - Aidan O’Brien - Joseph O’Brien

Almost without fail every season, Aidan O’Brien repeats the immortal words of “This is the best horse I’ve ever trained.” and it is getting pretty tiresome to hear. However, when you look at the pedigree of Australia, by a Derby winner and champion sire in Galileo out of an exceptional mare in Quija Board who herself won an Oaks, on paper this looks a match made in heaven for the undulations of Epsom.

With his tall reputation, his career began with a blip when missing the break by several lengths at the Curragh over seven furlongs before flying home just to be denied by Renaissance Art. He made no mistakes over course and distance in July when winning a shade cosily before stepping up to a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes in which he easily dismissed Free Eagle and stablemate Kingfisher who re-opposes here to emerge as a lively candidate for this race. As good as the performance looked visually, Free Eagle was looked after by Pat Smullen when he realised he was beat.

Instead of going for a Derby Trial, connections decided that the first port of call of Australia’s season this year would be the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas and opinions were divided. Some thought he would lack the tactical speed to lay up in a Guineas whilst others were convinced he was the real deal. His run definitely won over some of his critics when finishing a brilliant third behind Night Of Thunder and Kingman in what was the best Guineas of my lifetime. He won his race of the nearside group and showed a really taking attitude with him running straight the whole way, especially compared to Night Of Thunder who was all over the track in the last hundred yards. The form of the race so far is working out extremely well with Kingman winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Shifting Power chasing him home and The Grey Gatsby winning both the Dante and the Prix du Jockey Club.

Even though he is a short priced favourite, I certainly wouldn’t want to be taking 5/4 on a horse that will have question marks and doubts hanging over him. How will he handle softer ground? Will he come out of the stalls ok with this being an issue during his two year old career? Whilst there is plenty of stamina in the pedigree, he has shown plenty of speed in his races which surprised a lot of people in the Guineas and could also suggest that he may be better over shorter than the Derby distance. With all these doubts slowly stacking up against him, I’m looking elsewhere for the winner although my rating shows how much respect he deserves.
Rating – 8/10

3. EBANORAN - John Oxx - Declan McDonough

To see this horse lining up in the Epsom Derby underlines how highly trainer John Oxx rates him and with his record of two wins and a third from only three runners, Ebanoran deserves plenty of respect.

He won on debut on his only start as a two year at the Curragh showing good battling qualities to see off Table Rock. He returned in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in which he was held up last and made up plenty of ground late on and shaped like a step up in trip would suit perfectly. This was the case in the Derrinstown Derby Trial however he was disqualified and placed second behind Fascinating Rock. It was understandable why he was thrown out with the interference he caused but it was a likeable performance with him again showing his toughness and he used his fitness to his advantage.

For Epsom, he looks a well-balanced horse so the track shouldn’t be an issue, his trainer’s record in the race is top notch and the extra two furlongs will help with the amount of stamina on his dam’s side. Big chance of becoming John Oxx’s third Derby winner after Sea The Stars in 2009 and Sinndar in 2000.
Rating – 10/10

4. FASCINATING ROCK Dermot Weld Pat Smullen

With all the big races that Dermot Weld has won around the world from the Melbourne Cup to the Hong Kong Mile to the Irish Derby and the Ascot Gold Cup, one race missing from a highly impressive CV is the Epsom Derby. After a maiden at Leopardstown in August, he looked to have an ideal candidate in Free Eagle who was then beaten by Australia and has since met with a setback which is a shame as he was my original fancy for this race. His stable companion Fascinating Rock is a more than capable substitute for him.

His only run as a two year old was slightly disappointing when fifth in a Leopardstown maiden behind Adelaide. However, the improvement shown on his first start at a mile and quarter when he won a shade cosily from Adjusted before going to Navan and taking the Ballysax Stakes convincingly from Answered.

He was then awarded the Derrinstown Derby Trial in the stewards’ room after Ebanoran caused interference. He wasn’t given the best ride that day by Pat Smullen who had him quite far back off the pace and it took him some time to reach top gear. Behind the 2,000 Guineas, this is probably the second strongest piece of form leading towards the Derby and I fully expect Fascinating Rock to improve for twelve furlongs and be a key contender especially as he won’t mind ground conditions.
Rating – 9/10

5. GEOFFREY CHAUCER Aidan O’Brien Ryan Moore

As is most often the case in Classics, Aidan O’Brien brings a horse that could be considered good enough even if Australia wasn’t running in Geoffrey Chaucer who went unbeaten as a two year old when winning a three runner maiden on debut beating big Oaks fancy Tarfasha over a mile. He then went on to win the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on his final two year old start beating his very useful stablemate Oklahoma City quite comfortably.

His return in the Derrinstown Derby Trial wasn’t exactly Joseph O’Brien’s finest hour as he went for a gap only to be hampered by Ebanoran before running into more bother inside the final furlong. Although he finished full of running that day and is definitely entitled to come on for the run, he doesn’t strike me as a horse that will stay a mile and a half.

Whilst his sire Montjeu was a multiple Group One winner over the trip, the dam Helsinki by Macchavellian gives me the concern about him staying, especially as through his races so far he has shown plenty of pace and with softer ground forecast, I’d be very worried even with the jockey booking of Ryan Moore.
Rating – 6/10

6. IMPULSIVE MOMENT Andrew Balding David Probert

One of the outsiders for Oaks winning trainer Andrew Balding and David Probert who is having his first ever ride in the Derby and whilst he is a big price, he wouldn’t be the worst 100/1 shot to line up in the race.

His first two runs wouldn’t exactly strike as a Derby contender when he was beat on debut at Newbury when fifth behind Strait Run before winning at Lingfield in December. For his return this season, he was stepped up in trip and class in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown and he certainly wasn’t disgraced when second to Western Hymn beaten less than two lengths with the extra distance playing to his strengths. He will definitely handle the ground but would need a few of the main contenders to run badly to get a place.
Rating – 5/10

7. KINGFISHER Aidan O’Brien Colm O’Donoghue

The likely pacemaker for Ballydoyle with him being fourth string behind Australia, Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra. He is one of the more experienced runners in the race having had six starts with two victories including last time out in the Dee Stakes at Chester and it would be highly surprising if he were to figure at the finish.
Rating 3/10

8. KINGSTON HILL Roger Varian Andrea Atzeni

The market support for Kingston Hill over the past few days hasn’t been surprising with the forecast rain due to hit Epsom on Derby day and with his performances seen last season on a softer surface. When Free Eagle was ruled out for the first half of the season, Roger Varian’s colt became my Derby fancy based on his impressive win in the Racing Post Trophy in which he beat Johann Strauss by four and a half lengths which makes him the only Group One winner in the field.

Whilst the form of that race is a bit sketchy, the manner of his success was very taking. His only start this season was in the 2,000 Guineas where some doubted whether he would have the pace on fast ground. Although he did get outpaced, he still ran a race full of promise only beaten five lengths in the end by Night Of Thunder. The step up in trip will help however the main concern would be the draw as stall two towards the inside of the track is not the place you want to be with the field coming in on you. If he can overcome that issue, he has an excellent place chance.
Rating – 9/10

9. ORCHESTRA Aidan O’Brien Seamie Heffernan

The third string of Ballydoyle definitely deserves his place in the field and has had solid each way support over the last few days. The race he ran in on debut at Leopardstown has already been mentioned above with stablemate Kingfisher however he fared better when finishing second to Free Eagle beaten five and a half lengths. He then stepped back to seven furlongs for his first win at Tipperary beating Lungarno Price by two lengths.

His return this season brought him to the Chester Vase over the Derby trip and whilst winning, he showed signs of greenness when only just beating the supplemented Romsdal. Whilst we know the distance isn’t an issue and that he will improve for the run, the feeling is that he needs more time to develop and could be a St Leger horse further down the line.
Rating – 6/10

10. OUR CHANNEL William Haggas Silvestre De Sousa

This horse was the winner of the Derby Trial at Epsom back in April but the form doesn’t look strong enough to win a Derby and he was all out that day to repel Marzocco. Although we know he handles the track, he will struggle to feature.
Rating – 2/10

11. PINZOLO Charlie Appleby James Doyle

Pinzolo is a first Derby ride for rising star of the weighing room James Doyle who was originally going to ride Snow Sky for Sir Michael Stoute before he knocked himself earlier in the week.

The son of Monsun showed plenty of promise on his first two starts when winning a good Newmarket maiden over a mile beating stablemate Sudden Wonder before taking a conditions race at Newbury where he just beat another of today’s rivals in Red Galileo. He then went to the Racing Post Trophy where he was one of several fancied runners to majorly disappoint behind Kingston Hill and although he has won on soft, the going that day was desperate and his performance can be forgiven.

He returned on 2,000 Guineas day in a Listed contest where he was third behind Barley Mow but looked to need the run that day which he proved when reappearing over course and distance two weeks later and getting the better of Master Carpenter who is very useful in his own right. Stamina was his strong suit that day and if ridden handy, he could outrun his odds with the ground no issue.
Rating – 7/10

12. RED GALILEO Ed Dunlop Oisin Murphy

The son of Dubawi is the first ride in the Derby for another up and coming star in Oisin Murphy who definitely deserves this opportunity. As a two year old, he suffered a case of seconditis for his first three starts at Newmarket, York and Newbury before finally getting off the mark at Kempton.

His two efforts this season have suggested that he isn’t good enough for the Derby when fourth behind Western Hymn at Sandown and sixth to Snow Sky in the Lingfield Derby Trial.
Rating - 3/10

13. ROMSDAL John Gosden Richard Hughes

Supplemented for a cost of £75,000 last weekend, Romsdal wasn’t seen as a two year old and has been given time by John Gosden to develop. His debut wasn’t spectacular when third behind Hymenaios at Doncaster over a mile and a quarter before winning very easily at Kempton by five lengths from Big Orange before taking the huge step up to run in the Chester Vase where he would have probably won with an extra fifty yards.

The concerns I have about the son of Halling is whether he has enough experience and comments after being supplemented haven’t been positive with him not working well last Friday. Richard Hughes takes the ride and will have his supporters on the day but he isn’t for me although Gosden is in excellent form having won the Oaks with Taghrooda.
Rating – 5/10

14. SUDDEN WONDER Charlie Appleby Kevin Manning

Charlie Appleby’s second representative who definitely needs to step up if he is to have a say in the finish however it wouldn’t be the biggest shock if he were to as he has looked a strong stayer in his previous races including when given a strange ride in the Lingfield Derby Trial when third to Snow Sky.

Before that, all of his runs had been at Newmarket including wins last season in a conditions event over a mile where he was impressive when winning by eight lengths and the Tattersalls Bobis race in April. It could be possible that he is the pacemaker for True Story and if this is the case, he could be difficult to peg back especially with how the Oaks was ran today.
Rating – 6/10

15. TRUE STORY Saeed Bin Suroor Kieran Fallon

Godolphin’s main chance in the betting and earmarked himself as a Derby contender when winning the Fielden Stakes over nine furlongs at Newmarket’s Craven meeting in April however he disappointed when favourite for the Dante when third to The Grey Gatsby, form that now looks better with Kevin Ryan’s grey winning the Prix du Jockey Club. But what was most concerning about the York run was his action which certainly wouldn’t suit the undulations of Epsom plus he is drawn in stall one which is a huge negative and even with the experience of Kieran Fallon in the saddle, I think he will struggle to feature. Any rain that falls would be a negative as well.

Rating – 5/10

16. WESTERN HYMN John Gosden William Buick

The final competitor in this year’s Derby is the only entrant that is currently unbeaten in Western Hymn who is trained by John Gosden who won today’s Oaks with Taghrooda so confidence from the stable will be high going into tomorrow’s race. William Buick has also chosen him over Romsdal in search of his first Derby win.

He won his maiden last December nicely enough at Kempton before making his proper mark on the Derby when impressively shrugging off Snow Sky in a conditions event at Newbury back in April when John Gosden’s horses were absolutely flying. His win in the Gordon Richards wasn’t as flashy but was still a professional enough performance. One negative for Western Hymn is that on his gallop at Lingfield in preparation for the Derby, he looked uneasy on the undulations and hung left. Even with a stable companion for another gallop for Breakfast with the Stars at Epsom, he still hung left although not as badly.

Another worry would be whether he would want twelve furlongs as he has shown plenty of pace in his races and he could be one who is an out and out ten furlong horse.
Rating – 6/10

Derby 1-2-3

Good luck if you are having a bet!

Joseph O'Brien feature

In Classics week at Epsom, it's a prime opportunity to post something more than just race previews. From Irish correspondent, Tony McCormick, @TonyMacRacing, a feature piece on Joseph O'Brien, rider of favourites in both the Derby and the Oaks. This was written earlier in the week.


The Long And Short Of It Now, Joseph Is Just Too Tall

‘’Rubbish, that kid. Rubbish!’’ ‘’He only gets the rides, coz of his father!’’

Just two of the priceless musings of standing jockeys, I have had the pleasure of hearing in bookies around the area.

Let’s take the first statement - ‘’Rubbish, that kid. Rubbish!’’

By the end of May 2014 Joseph O’Brien had amassed a staggering £9,323,038.42 in career winnings, 4.8m in Ireland and 4.4m in Britain, add to that his placed prize money, you get a total figure round the value of £12.3 million.

Now to - ‘’He only gets the rides, coz of his father!’’

If young O’Brien simply wasn’t good enough, Messrs’ Magnier, Tabor and Smith would have taken the decision to inform O’Brien snr to find a new Ballydoyle jockey. These three astute businessmen were thought worthy of taking on by Manchester United legend Sir Alex Ferguson – Big mistake!

Coolmore, the breeding side of the operation is valued at £4 Billion, so having your trainers son, taking the reins on valued horse flesh, just for the hell of it, is a serious misconception.

He is the youngest winning jockey in the history of the Breeders' Cup and, at 18, had already won Classic races on both sides of the Irish Sea. But for his size, O'Brien would surely have been set for a golden career in the saddle. At six foot and weighing nine stone, he dwarfed those around him in the winner's enclosure at Naas last Monday (2nd June), after a double for his father.

He knows he faces a difficult battle with the scales and said in 2012: 'I am tall and not going to get any lighter. I'll be riding on the Flat as long as possible but I'm not going to kill myself to keep doing the weight.'

Dad Aiden has said: 'From before Joseph could walk he has been involved in this. He has never known anything different.'

The oldest of four children, Joseph has been riding at Ballydoyle for years and won a bronze medal at the European pony championships in 2009. He rode his first winner in May 2009, four days after his 16th birthday. He became joint champion apprentice in Ireland in his second season and is one of the favourites to be champion jockey in Ireland this year – for the third time.

'I'm always trying to improve and I'm not too bad with nerves,' he said.

He does not drink or smoke and controls his weight with regular exercise. Joseph was only 17 when he rode his first Classic winner, Roderic O'Connor, in 2011 Irish 2000 Guineas and has over 20 Group 1 victories across the globe. During his time as Ballydoyle’s trainer, O’Brien has employed Christy Roche, Mick Kinane, Jamie Spencer, Kieren Fallon, and Johnny Murtagh. Apart from Roche, in the very early days, they were never regulars in riding out each morning. From time to time, their presence was requested, but generally they were not part of the day-to-day regime.

With Joseph, it is completely different. He is there 24/7, and from first-hand reports, his detailed knowledge of every horse is called upon by his father. “It is a help, living and working with them [the horses] every day,” Joseph said.

“We don’t talk about the horses all day, every day, but it would be right to say we have discussed, say, Camelot, over and over. There have also been discussions with Mr and Mrs Magnier, Mr and Mrs Tabor, and Mr and Mrs Smith, and Paul Smith.”

O'Brien will soon have more competition for rides from within his own family. Joseph's sisters, Sarah and Anna, have already had a taste of racecourse action and his younger brother, Donnacha, will receive his riding licence in the near future.

Ireland's reigning champion jockey added: "Donnacha is well able to ride and I might have to give up when he starts as he's a better rider than I am.

"He's been riding work as long as I have. He gives me plenty of stick and he'll get plenty when he starts riding."

For me, when evaluating a race, the Joseph O’Brien factor is now near the top of my study.

Joseph is a brilliant horseman, a gentleman in the paddock, a gracious and well-mannered young man when interviewed and a son any father would be forever proud.

But – here we go – he is simply, now, too tall, to be perfectly balanced at over 6ft.

By perfectly balanced, I mean, perfectly balanced in the hustle and bustle of Britain’s biggest and richest flat race, around the country’s most unique and undulating course, where mistakes are unforgiving.

I have to counter my admiration for any Ballydoyle runner, with the view that, at Epsom, when the heat is on, in a race where winning connections receive over £750,000, that somewhere at some time in the race, young Joseph is likely to get unbalanced. At Tattenham Corner, perhaps, or when it is time to catch one of the stables ‘pacemakers’. These factors, tied with the strength, determination and better balance of the likes of Ryan Moore, William Buick, Pat Smullen and three times Derby winning jockey Kieran Fallon, won’t have me rushing to back the one-time odds-on jolly.

From a trends perspective, the last eight winners have had an SP no bigger than 7/1, all came from the first three in the betting and finished in the first two last time out.

Seven of the last eight winners had an official rating of 108 or more, had run in a Group 1 or 2, contest last time out and were running within 30 days of their last outing. Those figures bring the well fancied Australia in to play along with, stablemates’, Geoffrey Chaucer and Orchestra, while Racing Post Trophy winner Kingston Hill and Arod also make the shortlist.

The profiles of past Derby winners are vital to the outcome of the race, given the undulating and unique track. Geoffrey Chaucer has the best profile, similar to 2010 victor, Workforce, with Arod and Orchestra next best.

Another angle to look at is a runner’s performance when running left handed. Of the last 16 winners to have a previous run on a left handed track, 12 had a 100% record, while two had a 75% strike rate with the remaining two winners clocking 50%. This angle bodes well for Australia, Kingston Hill and Western Hymn.

At the time of writing Australia was odds-on in some places (10/11) so there is plenty of value to be found from the rest of the runners I have shortlisted.

I will be interested to see the draw near to race day as seven of the last eight winners were drawn between three and 10. The final subject of interest come Saturday, for my betting direction, is which Ballydoyle runner, jockey Ryan Moore gets the leg up on.

Tony McCormick is Owner of G1 Racing Trends and Editor-In-Chief of Horse Racing Ireland

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Stradbroke Handicap preview

It's a long weekend for most of Australia (note - we don't say it's just for the banks!) and that always means the running of the nation's best 1400m race - the Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm in Brisbane. It's a great old track but unfortunately it is in dire need of repair. Any race day with a bit of rain and the track starts falling apart. Great on a dry day though. A massive crowd attends every year, and this year's race is typically hard.

Tasked with the preview is Joshua Langdon, @Wenin_Rome. You can read more of his work on his website, ThePuntRoadEnd.


Stradbroke Handicap 1400M G1

Unlike some of the other Group 1s over the Winter Carnival, the Stradbroke has produced some surprising results in the past with the average winning price being $15. Only two times over the past 20 years has a last start winner won the race, with the most recent being last year's winner in Linton. So what does this mean? Well it might pay to look for value on Saturday in Queensland’s richest race.

The key lead-up races to the Stradbroke are the Doomben 10,000 (won by Spirit of Boom) and the BTC Cup (won by Famous Seamus). The 10,000 has produced 6 of the past 10 winners. Both the 10,000 and the BTC Cup are under WFA conditions, and with the Stradbroke a handicap, it’s little surprise that there have been some surprise results over the years with horses dropping in some cases severely in weight for this race.

All runners should get their chance on Saturday despite what barrier they draw, with five of the past 10 winners starting from worse than barrier 16.

Rated Runners

Largely unknown until this year's carnival, Srikandi’s rise has been something to behold and she has progressed brilliantly in each step up in class. She’s been able to overcome every obstacle, with her most recent being a step up from 54kg to 57kg in the Glenlogan Park G3 against her own sex; however, this is a completely different beast. She’s had the benefit of running on a very leader-biased track in her past two wins, but won’t get the same advantage this weekend. This is a massive step up and she will have to be very, very good to win and from the wide gate she will now have to push forward rather than take the early sit as planned. Will be a wonderful training effort if she does win and hopefully we have unearthed another star here for the future regardless.

Rebel Dane was absolutely massive last start in the 10,000, from a very wide gate where he was made to do plenty of work, yet he was able to finish a super impressive 4th and looks to be very well placed here. History could be repeating here as he has once again drawn very poorly and it will be a very tough ask for him to overcome this. The All Aged performance was below expectations, but likely due to the gut buster the start prior against Lankan Rupee in the T.J. Smith on a heavy track. The 1400m will suit as will the drop in weight from the 59kg in the 10,000 to 56kg, but the gate is an absolute killer and you can tell how much so just from the reaction of the trainer. They deserver much better than this.

Scratched from the Guineas to concentrated on this, Hucklebuck having the one run already under his belt the Qld way around, should be right to go here and word on the street is that his last start was simply a blow out, so forget taking too much of note from that. He gets in with the bare minimum here and if ridden colder as expected then will be charging home late and very hard to hold out. From gate one, he should get every opportunity to do this and his spring form says that he is well and truly in this.

Spirit of Boom has been absolutely flying and for a significant time now, including a second in the Newmarket and first in the Doomben 10,000. His final 400m sectional times in the Newmarket were identical to that of Lankan Rupee and that’s lightning. However, history is a bit against him here, with only two prior winners at the maximum weight, but he has drawn very favourably again and with heap of speed on early, he should be making plenty of ground late. He is worse off at the weights than a few from 10,000, but you simply can’t knock him based on recent form and the 1400m will suit. As long as it stays dry, he will be in this up to his neck in his final race prior to stud. Go the Boom!

Knoydart was super to the line in the 10,000 and will appreciate the big 6kg weight drop here. His last 200m there was in 11.60, which was the fastest in the race. His 3rd in the Newmarket was very impressive, finishing behind the two best sprinters in the country in Lanken Rupee and Spirit of Boom. He meets Spirit of Boom much better at the weights here from both of those occasions, with the Boom carrying 55kg in the Newmarket, 59kg in the 10,000 and now 57.5kg on Saturday. He is a massive chance with the 53.5kg and from barrier 14, should hopefully be able to settle mid-field and leave his run to the final few hundred metres.

Red Tracer has finished second in an Epsom, but largely her best performances have been against her own sex, so this will be very tough and no doubt would appreciate some given in the track. However, she flies first up, winning four from eight and placing in the other four. You must respect the stable, he is on fire right now, with a plethora of winners in both Brisbane and Sydney last weekend. Barrier not helpful, but she is a champion.

Very surprised at the odds on offer here for Temple of Boom as his recent form has been the equivalent of his more favoured half-brother. He was .2L off Spirit of Boom in the 10,000 and then 1.4L off them in the BTC Cup, gets a very nice weight pull on his brother here dropping by 3.5kg from 59kg to 55kg. He will be in the mix as he has been over this carnival, but the wide gate is going to be a pain for him, but he started from gate 14 in both the Victory G2 (won) & the BTC Cup (fourth).

Famous Seamus surprised with a G1 victory in the BTC Cup, but ran to his normal rating in the Doomben 10,000 and I am happy to think that that is more his level.

Massive fan of Smokin Joey and he has been very competitive since joining the Wez Hunter stable. He finished second in the Emirates last year by 0.2L and then flew home to win the Goodwood over 1200m most recently. He trialled on the 25th of May, finishing third when ridden very cold, and should be fitter for this. The 1400m will suit and there will be speed on so watch him late, and I mean very late. This is close to a mirror image of the preparation leading into his win in the TAB.COM.AU Hcp last year prior to his second in the Emirates, with close to a month between runs there also. He would have loved to have drawn further outside, but from gate three and with a heap of others forced to push forward early, he should be able to drop back.

You can make a case for a heap of these, but my numbers are as follows in a typically tough Straddie.

1. Knoydart

2. Hucklebuck

3. Spirit of Boom

4. Smokin Joey

Belmont Stakes preview

Horse racing has its moment in the spotlight in the US, with potentially the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and a fairy tale story to boot. Dan Munn, @chalkbeater, steps up to preview the Belmont Stakes, run Saturday night UK time.


The Belmont Stakes

History beckons at Belmont Park on Saturday as California Chrome bids to end a thirty six year wait for an American Triple Crown winner, and the Cal-bred son of Lucky Pulpit has every one on tenterhooks hoping that the wait will finally come to an end.

Many have got this far in the last thirty six years, twelve to be exact, and all bar I'll Have Another have failed. I'll Have Another was prevented from running in the Belmont Stakes in 2012 after an eleventh-hour injury but thus far California Chrome has reportedly thrived at Belmont Park in his works, with trainer Art Sherman stating that he feels the colt enters the race in a better state than his last race - the Preakness Stakes.

However, this is a toughest test, a monumental ask for California Chrome, who looks to race against a field of ten talented rivals on his quest for the final jewel to complete his crown, and I personally feel he will fall agonisingly short.

Expected to be sent off around a price of 8/11, California Chrome is plenty short enough and it may pay to side with Jimmy Jerkens' Wicked Strong, who is back in New York having skipped the Preakness Stakes in favour of this race.

History traditionally states that a potential Triple Crown victor has most to fear of the Kentucky Derby 'also-rans' compared to anything else, and Wicked Strong's performance when finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby was nothing short of exceptional.

Drawn in the widest post of all in the Kentucky Derby, Wicked Strong found every kind of trouble you could imagine in the stretch at Churchill Downs, yet still got up to finish a strong fourth. To many, myself included, I feel he would've been challenging for second if given a clear run and a better post and as such he has to be considered over Commanding Curve as the main danger.

Dallas Stewart's Commanding Curve produced a freakish display in the Kentucky Derby to finish second, but my concern is over the lack of consistency in the performances of horses at the top level from Stewart's runners (See Golden Soul for reference). Late runs such as those produced by Commanding Curve often deceive the eye, with many late-running second placed finishers in the Kentucky Derby over bet before failing to hit the board in this race, and Commanding Curve figures - for me - to be just another one of those.

Tonalist has been raved about since his victory in the Peter Pan Stakes at Aqueduct, and indeed he would've been an intriguing runner in the Kentucky Derby with a strong level of form particularly when winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Park full of highly respected individuals, but the record of Peter Pan Stakes winners is particularly bad in this race. A chance of a place, yes, but a chance of a win seems a lot to ask.

Ride on Curlin has to be respected after his monumental performance in the Preakness Stakes, but I can't help but feel that was the best performance Ride on Curlin was capable of. With that in mind, given that he couldn't get past California Chrome at Pimlico despite Rosario throwing the kitchen sink, the mother in law and the Empire State Building at him, his chance to turn the form around again with California Chrome looks limited.

Without doubt that leaves Wicked Strong as our best alternative to the favourite, and at a UK price of 9-1 at the time of writing. Wicked Strong may have only won two races in his lifetime, but this son of Hard Spun is perfectly progressing towards the top in the manner that you would expect of a likely mid-season superstar.

Third behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince as a two year old, in one of the hottest races of that year, Wicked Strong has mixed it with the very best as he has progressed through the ranks and if he were to reproduce the finishing effort of his Wood Memorial victory - entirely probable, if we can get the pace set up - then there is no way he can be outside of the top three.

Of course, we hope that history is on the cards at Belmont Park on Saturday, but from a value perspective, betting Wicked Strong each-way at 9-1 seems to be a no-brainer.

Undercard The undercard at Belmont Park on Saturday is nothing short of exceptional, with five Grade One races preceding the Belmont Stakes and three further Graded races opening the card.

For those looking to play a few exotic bets, the Pick 4 sequence running from the Just A Game through to the Belmont Stakes, or indeed the Ogden Phipps to Met Mile Pick 3, are ones that I'd highly suggest.

The star on the undercard is undoubtedly Palace Malice - Todd Pletcher's 2013 Belmont Stakes winner that has taken the country by storm since being dropped back in trip - and he figures to be hard to beat in the Met Mile two races before the main event despite a poor draw on the rail.

The Manhattan Handicap - sandwiched between those two races - sees the return to New York of Grandeur with Gary Stevens booked to ride after less than complimentary reports from the Noseda camp on Julien Leparoux's ride in the Man O' War Stakes. He looks to have a good chance, but I'd be looking to chance Rookie Sensation at an each way price.

In the Just A Game, I really like the chances of Somali Lemonade, who has been progressing with each race since Luis Saez inherited the mount on the mare. Her speed figures also look to be steadily improving and in a race which remains very open, her prospective odds of around 8-1 look to be embarrassingly large.

Finally, The Ogden Phipps sees an exciting match up between Breeders' Cup Distaff champion, Beholder, and the exceptional duo of Princess of Sylmar and Close Hatches. Close Hatches is progressing at a rate of knots, and will likely be third choice of the books, but she is my choice of play here on a track which is likely to favour her.