Thursday, 30 April 2015

Kentucky Derby preview

The first Saturday in May means Guineas action at Newmarket but even bigger action in the States. The international racing spotlight heads to Churchill Downs and the famous Run for the Roses. One of the world's great races and a day that needs to be on your bucket list.

On the mound with the preview is another fan of international racing, @brettfrompv.

-----------------

The 141st Kentucky Derby presented by Yum Brands
Churchill Downs
Group 1, 2000m, US$2,000,000
1834 local, 2334 BST, 0834 (Sunday) AEST
Market


Saturday sees the running of the 141st Kentucky Derby. The first leg of the American Triple Crown, the Derby is the most famous race in the US. Qualification is achieved through a tiered points system consisting of 35 races that was introduced in 2013, replacing the previous graded stakes system. Interestingly, since its introduction the two leading points earners, California Chrome and Orb, were both successful in the Derby. For those wishing to follow that lead this year’s leading points gatherer was International Star who accumulated one point more then Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund.

18 of the 35 races in this year’s series were won by favourites with another seven favourites running second. Along with the fact the race will have five horses that have already crossed the million dollar prizemoney threshold and some, in my opinion, above average ratings for some non-traditional lead ups gives this year’s Derby tremendous depth. Of course beyond the great spectacle this also makes it a great challenge for punters. Here is a rundown on this year's runners, in order of points earned:

International Star - Only two horses have completed the Louisiana-Kentucky Derby with Grindstone most recently in 1996, before that you have to go back to 1924. An excellent performance in the Louisiana Derby registering some nice closing splits makes International Star a genuine threat. He is all heart and doesn’t have the speed of some of his rivals but will be as tough as any down the stretch. The one question being does he have the class to win the Derby. SCRATCHED.

Dortmund - The undefeated Dortmund will certainly have plenty of admirers come Derby day on the basis of his strong Santa Anita Derby win. The Santa Anita Derby, since reverting back to Dirt in 2011, has produced two Derby winners in I’ll Have Another and California Chrome. I think Dortmund rated slightly below these two performances. Strong wins in the Lewis and San Felipe stakes prior to the Santa Anita Derby over Derby rivals will make him one of the favoured runners. A horse with high cruising speed, Dortmund can settle in the lead or just off the speed and looks a big chance.

Carpe Diem - A last winner of the Blue Grass Stks which has been a poor Derby guide in recent years. Since Street Sense won the Derby off a second in the Blue Grass in 2007, 25 subsequent Derby runners coming through the Blue Grass have only managed two placings. I find him a bit hard to line up given the Blue Grass was back on Dirt for the first time since 2006 and the new Keeneland track therefore hasn’t provided meaningful measurable performances. On face value I think he would have to improve to win the Derby though a win wouldn’t surprise.

American Pharoah (Yes, they have spelt Pharaoh wrong) - Stablemate of Dortmund and American Champion two year old last year. After being defeated on debut , American Pharoah recorded back-to-back Group 1 victories before missing the Breeders Cup juvenile with an injury. Certainly has recovered from that, scoring two outstanding wins as a three year old in the Rebel Stakes and an easing up 8 length win in the Arkansas Derby. Clearly the best Arkansas Derby performance, in my view, since Afleet Alex in 2005 (who won the Preakness and Belmont after being desperately unlucky running third in Kentucky). An amazingly talented horse with a beautiful action and untapped potential, for mine he is clearly the horse to beat.

Frosted - Winner of the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct last start, Frosted, who runs under Godolphin ownership, came off an ordinary performance in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and a subsequent throat operation and some riding tactic changes to put in a strong performance to win the Wood. The Wood hasn’t produced a Derby placegetter since 2004, I do however feel this year’s running can be rated higher then in recent years. Is it going to be enough though, given the quality and depth of this year’s Derby field? Among the second tier of chances.

Mubtaahij - Trained by arguably the world's best trainer in Mike De Kock, Mubtaahij comes off a win in the UAE Derby on World Cup night in Dubai. Aided by a perfect run in transit he proved too strong for a field that included 3 well regarded Japanese horses and a couple of European group winners. Think it’s fair to say the UAE Derby certainly had greater depth than the collection of US lead up races. Brings a bit of the unknown to the race but is a genuine winning chance.

Materiality - Looking to become the fourth in ten years to complete the Florida-Kentucky Derby double, Materiality would also break one the races biggest hoodoos with no horse having won the Derby without having a start as a two year old since 1882. Having made his debut in January, Materiality has come a long way in a short time. The plus is he should still have improvement in him, the downside for me is that the track was noted as racing slow on Florida Derby day. I’m not convinced that his figures are good enough to be a Derby winner.

El Kabeir - Last start third in the Wood Memorial. El Kabeir continued his consistent three year old form which includes wins in the Group 2 Gotham and Jerome Stakes. In the Wood he was always well back and finished the race off ok. Though difficult seeing him improving enough to win, he has some notable things in his favour - he will appreciate the extra trip, has a Group win as a two year old at Churchill Downs and significantly has three time Derby winning jockey Calvin Borrel aboard, replacing CC Lopez who came in for some criticism after his ride in the Wood. Not the roughest. SCRATCHED.

Upstart - Ultra-consistent galloper who boasts three Group 1 placings, a Group 2 win and Group 2 second, albeit after being relegated after causing interference in the Fountain of Youth Stakes back in February. Runner up in the Florida Derby and as noted I’m slightly dubious over that race. However you certainly can’t knock his consistency.

Far Right - Runner-up to favourite American Pharoah in Arkansas. He sat back at the rear of the field a made a sustained run but still finished eight lengths behind American Pharoah. Prior to that scored nice wins in the Smarty Jones Stakes and Southwest Stakes. In his nine starts he has finished no further back then fourth. Has some experience also at Churchill Downs including a win. Hard to see him winning but another with an outside place chance.

Itsaknockout - Was second across the line in Fountain of Youth but was promoted to first after Upstart caused interference in the run home. Went to the Florida Derby undefeated but was beaten out of sight into fourth. Could not have him based on that performance.

Firing Line - After two close seconds to Derby rival Dortmund, including leading him in the home straight at Santa Anita only for Dortmund to kick back and overhaul him in the Lewis Stakes, Firing Line made short work of his Sunland Derby rivals last time out in brilliant fashion. A track record and margin of 14 lengths over his six rivals brings him into serious Derby contention. Though Sunland is not usually a guide to Kentucky (Mine that Bird who won the Derby at 50-1 after fourth in Sunland Derby being the only meaningful reference) and he beat six questionable rivals in terms of quality, there is a lot to like about Firing Line. An on speed runner with a strong finish his jockey, three time Derby winner Gary Stevens, seems to have a lot of confidence in this horse. A big player.

Danzig Moon - Chased home Carpe Diem at his last two starts with a fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby and a three length second in the Blue Grass. Finished off well his last two starts and should appreciate the extra distance of the Derby. Will get home hard and if the race produces a break neck speed. A sneaky chance to run into the placings at good odds.

War Story - Chased home International Star his last three starts including a third in the Louisiana Derby last start. Hard to see him turning the tables and appears to be a little bit off the best chances in the race.

Tencendur – The Derby will be the first run away from Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial runner up Tecendur. Was no match for Frosted over the concluding stages in the Wood where he started at 20-1. Did make a sustained run which Frosted was able to tag on to before pulling out and going past him. Was competitive without looking a winner before that in the Withers and Gotham Stks. Suspect he has a nice future but difficult to see him winning here.

Stanford - Made the pace in the Louisiana Derby and was overhauled by International Star. Did like the fight he showed in the straight. He previously had run second to subsequent Florida Derby winner Materiality in the Islamorada also after making the pace. Looks like a horse on the up and will race handy to the speed. He should give a good sight.

Mr Z - Has been placed to a number of his Derby rivals including Carpe Diem, Dortmund, Far Right and American Pharoah. Honest but would need to dramatically improve to turn the tables on his rivals here.

Ocho Ocho Ocho - A disappointing three year old debut finishing eighth in the San Felipe Stks behind Dortmund that was followed by a third in the Blue Grass Stakes where he was six lengths behind Carpe Diem. Would need a significant improvement to win here.

Bolo -Earns his shot at the race after running third to Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby. Was ok in the Santa Anita Derby after not having the best of runs. Is a stakes winner on grass and the thought seems to be that will be his best surface going forward. If he can handle the Dirt at Churchill Hill Downs though, I suspect he has the talent that could make him a good long shot.

Keen Ice - Makes the field having run fourth and third at his last two starts to International Star. Bred to not have any trouble with the distance but it’s difficult to get enthusiastic about his chances beyond that.

Summary
In what’s shaping as a classic Derby with tremendous depth and talent, it’s a difficult race to find the winner. I keep coming back to American Pharoah. Won’t be taking silly short odds about him though in such a strong field and after drawing barrier 18. We've seen in the past though horses can overcome wide draws in this race. Firing Line looks to be on the up and will be a nice each-way price currently quoted at 12s. Bolo and El Kabeir look the best longshots.

AFL Round 5 match previews

Time for the regular weekly contribution from @AFLRatings, it's the Round 5 preview of the greatest sport in the world!

-------------------

AFL Round 5 Preview
aflratings.com.au
@aflratings


With four favourites biting the dust last week in a very competitive Round 4 of AFL, what will Round 5 deliver this week? Here are our thoughts for all nine games.

Carlton v Collingwood
Will the fantasy of a milestone match get the Blues over the line against their arch rival Magpies, unlikely! Carlton have struggled in the early part of 2015, they have conceded 100pts or more in three of four games and look fragile at best up forward. On the flip side, Collingwood have impressed defensively conceding only 69.8pts average per game which is ranked third in the AFL. Punters are yet to get a grip on the form line for Collingwood as they are +2 vs the betting in in 2015, the weather looks ok for Friday night football and so should the Magpies.

Richmond v Geelong
A battle of two teams with differing paths in recent years, the Cats appear to be on the decline after a stellar decade delivering three premierships and the Tigers in which no punter can trust or has been burnt before for failure to live up to the promise in big games. A different theory may apply in this one, could it be the AFL team under the most media scrutiny this week (Richmond) rebound with a win?

Sydney v Western Bulldogs
Prior to last week this would have been a formality for the Swans, if you missed the Bulldogs demolish the Crows in Round 4 then you missed a young team transition the ball with ease through the middle of Etihad Stadium. But can the Bulldogs continue the good form against a far superior opponent at the SCG on Saturday? Our rule for the Swans this year was never to tip against them in any game throughout the 2015 Home & Away season, we altered that with success last week against a red-hot Fremantle team in Perth. Sydney should be good for 17-18 wins this year, this is highly unlikely to be one of those losses in what looms as possible wet conditions.

Gold Coast v Brisbane
Where do we even begin to start with these two poor performing Queensland teams? Brisbane are ranked 18th in quite a few statistical categories and Gold Coast are not much better, the Lions have no key forwards/defenders and the Suns have little to no recognisable midfield. This is seriously a toss of the coin pick, even with a coin toss you may not like either result. With a small interest a suitable result could be a draw at healthy odds or you might find the knowledge of no Lion player having kicked more than two goals in a game this year in your favour in a variety of markets. Good luck if your investing in this one, you are going to need it.

Nth Melbourne v Hawthorn
Are the Kangaroos genuine contenders in 2015 or not? Is it possible the Hawks can actually start the season 2-3 with a loss in this one? This game will surprise most, Nth Melbourne can compete against quality opposition as represented by their 63% win rate v Final 8 sides in 2014 (ranked second). Make no mistake about it for the Kangaroos in this one, this will be a statement game. For all the big statements about Nth Melbourne, the best one is about Hawthorn. They did not lose a game last year when scoring 100pts or more, in a shoot-out you have to go with the defending champion Hawks.

West Coast v GWS Giants
With three wins already in 2015 the Giants are ready to separate themselves from the pack to become a genuine Finals contender, there is no other way to put it except to say GWS have a better list than West Coast and this could become very evident after Saturday night in Perth. The Eagles are more heavily favoured than we thought when the market opened early this week; the Giants have firmed a little during the week. Are punters convinced on the Giants, Saturday night may just change a few opinions if they can pull off an upset.

Melbourne v Fremantle
These 2 teams that can absolutely play lockdown football, Fremantle are the masters at it and Melbourne are the junior version of what the Dockers can do. Melbourne appear to be up against it in this one, they have impressed this year but the Dockers are the real deal. The only crack for Freo in this one is that they are travelling after a tough game against the Swans in Perth and will likely have a 50% record when travelling in 2015. The Dockers will lose games on the road and have been known to drop a shocker, but mainly this happens late in the season when preparing for Finals. Fremantle are +4 vs the betting line in 2015.

St Kilda v Essendon
The Saints got the Bombers in the corresponding match early last season when no-one expected it, St Kilda have started well in games this year as represented with a 3-1 Qtr time record. You may find quite a few markets that suit the early part of the game for St Kilda that have value, other than that the Bombers should run away with this one with a healthy win. Essendon can ill afford to drop this game.

Adelaide v Port Adelaide
The Crows were embarrassed last week against the Bulldogs and are out for redemption but they are up against one of the better teams in the AFL and their home state rival in Port Adelaide, Adelaide has averaged only 79.3 Pts FOR in their last three games whilst Port Adelaide has averaged 106 Pts FOR in their last two games against quality opponents. The Power have had the toughest draw to open the season in the AFL this season, they will be battle ready for anything the Crows can throw at them in what should be a cracking match.

Australia vs New Zealand League test preview

It's Rep weekend in the NRL which means Australia versus New Zealand which until recently was called the ANZAC Test. Calling in some north-of-the-Murray expertise here from the sharp guys at @ReadingThePlay. For more of their insight, check out their website.

---------------------

AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND
Brisbane Friday 1st May

Played 129; Australia 95, New Zealand 31, drawn 3.

Of the 15 early season Test matches Australia have won 14, the Kiwis just the one – that being back in 1998. NZ have though won the last two match ups in the 4 Nations Series last October / November.

While Australia have a great long term record with this annual April Test Match, and have won eight of the last 11 H2H contests the Kiwis have in fact won the last two and now look up to their eye balls into this contest.

The Kiwis have been reshaping their Test list for some 12 or more months now bringing through their next generation (no debutants here), netting some nice results late last year in the 4 Nations Series winning their first match-up against Australia 30-12 and then the final 22-18. I think they actually line up a little stronger here with the key inclusions of Tuivasa-Sheck at the back and importantly up front the inclusions of Moa and Matulino. Australia also look stronger with Thurston and Scott positive ins (but have four debutants – Dugan, Johnson, Chambers and Merrin) but have also gone with some who might be a little leg weary – all of which leads me to a handicap of 5.5 short of the 8.5 on offer across the markets.

The key issue here has to be the battle through the middle where I think the Kiwis may well have a physical advantage and greater bench depth. Bromwich, Moa, Taupau, Eastwood and Matulino can all provide plenty of grunt, go forward and defensive physical muscle that should take them a long way into this contest. Scott and Merrin are class at this level but I’m not a fan of Woods (for mine there’s more to being a quality rep front rower than just ticking over metres with ball carry) while Tamou’s form can blow with the wind. I think Australia could well be at least one quality middle forward short while if Cherry-Evans is carried as a utility off the bench that could well only further weaken the forward strength and offering across a tough physical 80 minutes.

Luke can be very creative out of dummy half in conditions like this, especially if the game is to be dominated by forward play, while Matulino’s ball play and off load skill will be to advantage (the best ball playing off loader in the NRL).

Further to the visitors' advantage will be the likely weather conditions with up to 200 mm of rain forecast for Brisbane across Thursday and Friday (most of it to drop on Friday). Suncorp Stadium holds the wet well and drains quickly, but if it's wet and raining through the playing time it will negate Australia’s likely advantage down their edges and shorten up their passing and attack options playing into the hands of the Kiwis in the middle.

The key question over the visitors will be the performance of their halves, Johnson and Foran. Johnson comes through some indifferent form through recent months as he and the Warriors struggle, however I expect that he might not be as anchored with as much structure here as he has been with his club formations, and he’s certainly at his best when given more freedom to play right across the field (as opposed to just the left edge for the Warriors). Foran has been hampered with a hamstring injury across recent months but with two games back can only be on the improve. Anywhere near their best behind a big pack of forwards these two can certainly dominate. For the Australians Thurston has been in rare form dominating his club games, he can turn a game on its head quickly given his outstanding read of game and play making skills. The question he faces here is will he get to play with as much latitude as he has behind the Cowboys' powerful roll forward.

While Australia have dominated this early season contest for years I expect this to be different, and very tight and close. Are the likes of Parker, Bird and Lewis on the wrong side of their career for a contest such as this? Can the Kiwis dominate through the middle? Does Johnson have some magic on offer to reignite not only this game but his seasons form? Is the weather likely to roll out the red carpet for the Kiwis big boppers down the middle of the park?

Looks a ripper contest, one that will be nice and tough up front. The Kiwis can win, they’ll have confidence and belief off their most recent two victories and the likely conditions will give them a healthy leg up. The Kangaroos have a stronger side than late last year, Thurston is in rare form but I’m not convinced they have the forward youth or strength to dominate here as in years past, especially if its nice and wet. Going with the upset, Kiwis to sneak home, and take the 8.5 start while it lasts.

Tip: Kiwis
Bet: Kiwis +8.5 $1.90


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle preview

The Willie Mullins, I mean Punchestown Festival, rolls on tomorrow with three more Grade 1 races, all of which have Mullins runners at the top of the market. Mind you, on day one, he might have swept the feature races, but only one of them was favourite.

After his success at Sandown on the weekend, Sam Tribe, @samtribe87, extends his astute analysis across the Irish Sea.

--------------------------

Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle
Grade 1, 3m Hurdle, €95,000
1655 local time


So on Saturday Sandown hosted the final day of the British Season and we said goodbye to the greatest jockey of all time. Tears were shed by many but focus is now on the Punchestown Festival; five days of thrilling racing that draws the curtain on the Irish season. Willie Mullins dominated at the festival last year and if Cheltenham is anything to go by, he probably will again this year.

I’ve decided to take a look at the 3 mile novice hurdle as it has been used in the past as a step towards becoming a long distance chaser. RSA winner Don Poli was second in this last year and Gold Cup third Road To Riches ran in this the season before, albeit disappointingly. There are some decent prospects from Britain coming over and having a crack at it as well this year and will be buoyed by the fact Nicky Henderson trained Beat That won last season’s encounter. With ten top novices entered, this should be an enthralling race and not an easy one to call. The race is still quite young, with the first being run in 2008, and since then there has only been two favourites that have won, making this race all the more intriguing.

1. Arctic Skipper (Non-Runner)

2. Binge Drinker 16/1
I really like this horse and that has nothing to do with my alcohol consumption! He first caught my eye in a bumper at Chepstow early last year as he found the front and battled hard to win. Has won four out of six this season but was twice disappointing when pushed up to Grade Two Company and will find this very tough. That isn’t beyond him though. He comes in fresher than some and Curtis is currently in very good form (on a 50% strike rate for the past two weeks).

3. Fine Article 25/1
Can go the trip and finishes his races well when others start to fade. He has been runner-up on the previous three occasions though, having been the favourite for one of them as well. The ground could be a concern as well as both his wins have come on heavy. Stamina to burn though and has fairly decent each way claims.

4. Fletchers Flyer 10/1
Here’s another horse that has had a good first season over hurdles, especially when upped in trip from 2m 4f. He probably should’ve won last time out but was beaten by a great driving ride by Dickie Johnson on Definitely Red and can be forgiven for being beaten by half a length. Shows he can stay and fight doggedly to the end, the ground is a concern as he would like a bit more cut.

5. High Stratos 50/1
Won a maiden hurdle back in March but is seemingly out of his depths in grade 1 company here.

6. Killultagh Vic 10/1
Won the Martin Pipe Conditional’s edging out Noble Endeavour by a head in a thrilling finish up the Cheltenham hill. Another who seems to go better when the conditions are a little more challenging as wins have come on soft ground. Stays all day though and could be in the mix come the end.

7. No More Heroes 3/1
His performance in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham festival was impressive especially as Bryan Cooper had to switch him from the rail as the gap closed on the run up the hill. Gordon Elliot resisted the temptation to go to Aintree earlier in the month ensuring he was fresh for a stab at this.

8. Roi Du Francs 14/1
Disappointingly pulled up last time out at Aintree where he never really got going and probably found the race was far too quick for him and the trip didn’t suit either. Has an entry for the Champion Novices Hurdle on Friday, which is run over 2m 4f and would suit better.

9. Shaneshill 6/4
The third of Willie Mullins’ entries and without shadow of doubt the star of the show. Chased home Douvan in the Supreme Novices Hurdle before going on to win comfortable over 2m 4f last time out at Fairyhouse. Stepped up in trip again but suggests that improvement is inevitable.

10. Sub Lieutenant 20/1
Won a grade two at Thurles back in February beating the impressive Milsean on bottomless ground over 2 miles 4 furlongs. Stepped up here for the first time and question marks over whether he can stay the trip.

11. Thistlecrack 7/1
Stepped up to this trip last time out at Aintree and proved a decisive winner by 13 lengths. However Alpha Des Obeaux would’ve pushed him close had he not have fallen at the last hurdle. Still, has had an impressive season and is proven over the trip. Can go close.

Conclusion
A number of these have the credentials to move onto the larger obstacles next season and become decent novice chasers. The best of those could be Shaneshill however, who really looks the sort to become a Gold Cup horse. If No More Heroes goes in this one then he could definitely have a say but my each way option has to be Binge Drinker. Proven at the trip and off a nice win at Bangor, he can certainly find his way into a placed position at the end.

Selections:
Shaneshill to win.
Binge Drinker each-way.

BoyleSports Champion Chase preview

The wonderful Punchestown Festival kicks off today in Ireland, an hour or so south of Dublin. A great event, not quite as chaotic as Cheltenham, but one to put on your list of race meetings to visit at least once.

Today is Champion Chase day and taking the reins for the preview is astute local and blog debutant Daithi MacStiofain, @DaveStevos. You can read more his work on his blog.

---------------------

BoyleSports Champion Chase
Punchestown, Grade 1
2m Chase, €120,000.
Ground: Good to Yielding
1730 local time, 0230 AEST

A cracking renewal, with ten runners in the field and a case to be made for most of them. The evergreen Sizing Europe is back to defend his crown at the grand old age of 13, in a race he has won two of the last three years. However, there is no shortage of potential challengers to the champion and below is a quick summary of their form and prospects.

Baily Green
A triple Grade 3 Novice Chase winner on deep ground in 2012, including one at Punchestown. However, his form has dipped noticeably this year, and even a repeat of his last run, where he finished second to Gold Bullet, would not suffice in this much stronger race. He has repeatedly come up short at the highest level, and although he managed to grab fourth place in last years race his odds of 40/1 accurately reflect his chances.

Champagne Fever
On his day this horse is a joy to watch. A spectacular jumper with no shortage of pace, if the real Champagne Fever turns up he will make his presence felt. However, his form figures this season read 14F14, and this would seem to suggest that consistency is not his strong suit these days. He was given a very strange ride by Ruby Walsh last time at Aintree, who decided to hold him up rather than race prominently, which I don't think suited at all. He is a better horse than he showed that day, and back down to two miles I think Ruby will go out all guns blazing this time and return to the aggressive tactics that have been so successful in the past. If his jumping holds together he will go close. The best price available at the time of writing is 5/2, which in my opinion is way too short. He was well beaten at last year's festival at 5/4. It is a price based on the reputation of his connections, not on the horse's recent form, so for me he is one to swerve.

Felix Yonger
The second of three runners for Willie Mullins, this horse will be ridden by Danny Mullins. He is a very interesting candidate on the form he has shown this year. He got the better of today's opponent Mallowney in a thriller at Cork by the slimmest of margins, before going on and winning a hurdle race easily at Leopardstown followed by another Grade 2 chase last month at Navan, where he beat the re-opposing Flemenstar out of sight. The worry for me is the trip of two miles. He only barely got up to beat Mallowney over the trip in Cork, and stepped up in trip won easily on his next two runs. He has won over the course and distance before, but that was back in 2013, and I just wonder if he has the speed for a test like this. He will need them to go a good early clip so his stamina comes into play. 7/1 is probably a fair price, and if things fall right it would be no surprise to see this horse rattling home late on and runing into the money.

Flemenstar
A triple Grade 1 winner back in 2012/13 before a bad injury interrupted his progress and kept him out of action for almost two years. He made an encouraging enough return to action for new trainer Tony Martin last month at Navan behind Felix Yonger, and Keith Donoghue didn't knock him about and let him finish in his own time. The question has to be whether this horse retains his old ability, and until he shows more on the track he is not a betting proposition and I won't be tempted at his current price of 16/1.

Hidden Cyclone
Another triple Grade 2 winner, he is yet to win at the highest level. Dotted up in a two mile chase here in February on heavy ground, before running a decidedly average race behind Uxizandre at Cheltenham in the Ryanair Chase. He also chased home Twinlight in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over 17f in December on heavy ground, beaten by almost five lengths. Back on decent ground today he could easily reverse that form, but the big worry has to be his jumping, which has let him down on too many occasions, including in this race last year when a 10/3 favourite. The 7/2 available at the moment looks a bit skinny to me, and he would only be of interest if he drifts out to an each way price, not a likely scenario if the Shark fancies him!

Mallowney
This horse has been a revelation this year, progressing at a rate of knots. Won a handicap chase at this meeting last year off a mark of 139, and is now rated 162. Ran a cracker in a Grade 2 at Cork, losing out to Felix Yonger despite looking the winner everywhere bar on the line. Found the step up to Grade 1 company too much at Leopardstown over Christmas, when finishing down the field behind Twinlight. However, he won easily on his next two starts, accounting for Bright New Dawn in a strong handicap at Fairyhouse off 148 and followed that up with a facile victory in a Grade 2 at Naas, reversing the Leopardstown form with Twinlight in no uncertain terms. Twinlight came out on top in their next meeting in a tactical three runner race (Savello a well beaten third) on soft ground at Fairyhouse earlier this month. The ground will probably be the liveliest he has faced since going chasing, but it is encouraging that his half brother, Granite Man, did all his winning on a sound surface. Looks attractively priced at 15/2, and definitely worthy of consideration, particularly each way.

Oscar Hill
A rare Irish runner for David Bridgewater. However, rated just 144, and will have to improve massively to take a hand here. Difficult to see him making an impact and his odds of 33/1 reflect that.

Savello
Cheltenham festival hero in 2014, when winning the Grand Annual for Tony Martin, and followed that with an excellent run in this race when finishing third behind Sizing Europe. Since then he has been a bit of a disappointment. He could only manage fourth off a mark of 131 behind Katie T in a handicap hurdle in January, after bombing out on his previous run when finishing last behind Twinlight in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown. He was well beaten on his return to Cheltenham behind Dodging Bullets in March, before running a lifeless race behind Mallowney and Twinlight last time out. The return to decent ground might help bring about some improvement, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that this race has been the aim all season, after his good run in it last year. However, on all recent form he is up against it, and he will need to produce a lifetime best to get involved at the business end. Odds of 25/1 a fair reflection of his chances.

Sizing Europe
Now a 13 year old, he is the defending champion. Showed he still had the old spark with a gutsy win over Road To Riches in Gowran on his comeback run back in November. His next two runs were not as good, and his effort at Cheltenham was particularly worrying, given his imperious record at the track. Last year's win came after two of the most fancied horses, Hidden Cyclone and Module, fluffed their lines, and he picked up the pieces. Another year on, and in arguably a stronger race than last year, it is difficult to see the old boy repeating his heroics if all his competitors run to form. A place is probably the best he can hope for, and I'm sure there will be plenty having a sentimental few quid each way on him at the current price of 14/1.

Twinlight
The third of three Willie Mullins entries. Enjoyed his finest hour in the Grade 1 Paddy Power at Leopardstown in December, when accounting for a few of today's rivals. He was ridden by Paul Townend that day, and he keeps the ride today. He is closely matched with the likes of Hidden Cyclone and Mallowney on form, but the big worry for me has got to be the underfoot conditions. He has shown all his best recent form on bottomless ground, and unless there is a downpour overnight it will be decent ground tomorrow. He was a well beaten sixth in the race last year, on good ground, and he has not won on that type of surface since 2011. In fact he has only raced on ground better than soft three times in his career, which suggests that Mr Mullins also believes that soft ground is key for him. He will only be a betting proposition for me if the rain comes, and if it does the 6/1 currently available is a good price.

Conclusion
This race revolves around one horse, and that is Champagne Fever. If he turns up at the peak of his powers he could absolutely demolish this field. However, given his inconsistent form this season I am willing to take him on. I am hoping Ruby goes forward on him and ensures it is a truly run race. If this happens the emphasis will be on stamina rather than speed, and the two horses that should suit best are Felix Yonger and Mallowney. Preference is for the latter, as his pedigree suggests he should relish decent ground and I think he has every chance of reversing that Cork form with Felix Yonger, who will be finishing strongly. If there is a deluge overnight it will bring Twinlight into the reckoning, but if it stays dry I think Savello might be the one to come home in third. Hidden Cyclone is just too unreliable a jumper for me, and I think olkd Father Time has finally caught up with Sizing Europe.

Selections:
1. Mallowney
2. Felix Yonger
3. Savello

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Hong Kong Sprint Cup

The April international meeting at Sha Tin mightn't be quite as big as the December meeting, but it still attracts class racehorses from around the world, which can create a bit of uncertainty in the betting markets as locals struggle to line up foreign form.

Making his blog debut this weekend is international racing aficionado Jason Lincoln, @the_racing_wiz

---------------------

The Sprint Cup
Sha Tin, 1200m, Group 1.
1600 local time, 1800 AEST, 0900 BST

Form guide

The second of the features is the G2 Sprint Cup, a race won last year by Charles The Great. Most of these have met at some stage already this year and the form does appear to be fairly well exposed.

GOLD FUN – This horse has primarily done his racing at 1400m – 1600m in Hong Kong, but with the almost unbeatable Able Friend destroying everything in his path at that distance range, Richard Gibson was forced to find alternatives. It came up trumps when he took out the G1 back in February beating recent Japanese winner Aerovelocity for Christophe Soumillon. Christophe is unavailable this weekend, but he loses nothing in picking up the old master Olivier Peslier to pilot him around. He had every favor beating Aerovelocity that day due to gate one, and tactically he will find this tougher from gate seven. He was OK last time when third to Able Friend at 1400m and his class will carry him along way here.

LUCKY NINE – Has been a wonderful sprinter in HK for the past five seasons and was second in this race last year to Charles The Great. You can put a pen through his last start effort in Dubai where he didn’t go a yard on the dirt. His run prior was a solid third in Gold Funs G1 after having every possible. Not showing the same zip for me this term and that could be all the travelling (Singapore, Australia, Dubai, Japan) starting to catch up with him. I’ll be prepared to risk him in this returning after yet another overseas jaunt.

PENIAPHOBIA – Along with Aerovelocity, he would be rated the best sprinter in Hong Kong at the moment. He was a game the International race here in Decenmber having brilliantly won the trial. He ran 55:49 to beat Bundle Of Joy in the first leg of the speed series before an unlucky fourth to Gold Fun in the second leg. I say unlucky but Douglas Whyte was outridden pure and simple by Brett Prebble on Lucky Nine, who basically just pinched his spot and that ultimately cost him the race. He was excellent in Dubai just being picked up late by Sole Power and now he returns to what many believe to be his best distance. The alley is awkward but he does have gate speed and there isn’t mad pace in the race so Douglas has a chance of slotting into a very prominent spot. With even luck, he looks the winner.

CHARLES THE GREAT – Winner of this race last year but had been ‘in the wilderness’ until recent throat surgery saw him come back to life with a slashing first up fifth to the speed machine Rad. I'd suggest the form prior can be written off given how he has come back from the throat op, but even at face value those performance have merit having come home in quick sectionals albeit from soft runs. The draw is key; from gate two Berry can have him three pairs back, coiled up, and ready to produce that big finish he has. Big player and likely to start over the odds.

DUNDONNELL – Richard Gibson is trying the same trick here as with Gold Fun in trying to get a 1400m-1600m horse firing over 1200m. He wasn’t too bad first try at it either; after missing the kick he was being bustled along and never really got it into a rhythm before staying on OK behind Gold Fun. He lost no admirers with his last start fourth to Able Friend after sitting wide the trip and he might not be hopeless here.

GOLDEN HARVEST – Had absolutely no luck last start and was eventually eased out of it so go on his previous form when assessing his chances. That previous form indicates that he usually just finds one of two better at this level. Has a nice turn of foot but from that alley he will have to go back to last and circle the lot of the them.

FREDERICK ENGELS – Not good enough and not going well enough.

SMART VOLATILITY – The most likely runner to belie his recent form and win. Pre-International meeting he was not only holding his own with the best sprinters in HK but was very unlucky being beaten by them. He turned in one of the performances of the season when beaten by Aerovelocity in the Trial after sitting four and five wide the trip!!! He had to then go too far back in the International Sprint itself before making solid ground late. Should have finished closer when third to Peniaphobia in the first leg of the Sprint Series, and then had a torrid trip when a better-than-it-looked eighth to Gold Fun. His last run is a mystery; he raced keen outside the speed and punctured horribly a long way out. Too hard to tip him off that run as he is normally so consistent and that may be a sign he’s had enough this time in.

TOUR DE FORCE – Good bread and butter horse that isn’t up to this level.

TEOFILO CALVA – Lightly raced 5yo that exploded up the ratings earlier in the year in good fashion but has found it hard to win of late. He was hugely advantaged by drawing the stands rail last start in his graded debut, and his form prior isn’t good enough for this on pure facts and figures. However, he has a a good draw and John Size has a knack of being able to squeeze more out of those that you think are on their marks

TIPS
1- Charles The Great
2- Peniaphobia
3- Dundonnell
4- Gold Fun

Friday, 24 April 2015

Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase

The National Hunt season winds up tomorrow at Sandown but the greater attention will be paid to the final rides for the legend that is AP McCoy. A sellout crowd for a non-Festival race meeting is pretty rare in the UK, but the Sold Out sign went up this morning. The feature race of the meeting is the Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase, and surprise, surprise, it's a big handicap race and near on impossible to isolate the winner.

Sam Tribe, @samtribe87, makes a welcome return to the blog for the preview, he's not afraid of the tough ones!

------------------

BET365 GOLD CUP CHASE
Grade 3 Class 1 Handicap
3m 5 1/2f
1550 local time
Going: Good


Form link

No AP. No problem. I decided to focus on this race because AP wouldn’t be riding in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the champ as much as the next racing fan but when writing a preview of a race, it’s hard to not get wrapped up in McCoy Mania and tell everyone to re-mortgage their house and lump on Mr Mole. I hope he does win his final two races but my focus is on this beaut of a chasing challenge; The Bet365 Gold Cup Chase. Won by some fairly impressive (sic) horses in the past; Desert Orchid, Arkle and more recently the evergreen Tidal Bay to name but a few. This is a physically demanding test usually on fast ground and has been a favourites’ graveyard, which makes it all the more intriguing.

I will quickly run through the line-up and then give my conclusion at the end (please note, all odds correct at time of publishing.)

1. Rocky Creek 11st 12lb 16/1
The drying ground will be a concern as will the fact he completed the Grand National a fortnight ago. Considering that was the aim for this horse you start to wonder if this is a bit of a consolation run.

2. Bobs Worth 11st 8lb 11/1
Pulled up in the Gold Cup, the lightly raced 10 year old will have to improve considerably to have a chance of winning this one. However this drop in grade and first handicap appearance since 2012 makes an intriguing prospect. Henderson will no doubt have him ready and the ground will suit.

3. Unioniste 11st 8lb 14/1
The second of four for champion trainer Nicholls who, like Rocky Creek, went in the National only two weeks ago but should be fresher than his stablemate after falling five fences in. Usually a sound jumper and staying on strong for sixth in the Hennessey last November when all around were struggling suggests he can go the distance.

4. Wonderful Charm 11st 8lb 16/1
Another of Nicholls’ string and further proof of how strong his yard has been this past season. Has struggled this season in Grade 1 company but showed signs of class when narrowly beaten in his handicap debut at Aintree two weeks ago off of top weight. A rallying finish there in a hotly run race could have taken its toll and this latest test could be too soon.

5. Grand Jesture 10st 10lb 8/1
The first of the Irish raiders and tipped to do well after his impressive second to The Druid’s Nephew at the Cheltenham Festival. Will be fresher than some of the leading contenders but the quick ground could be an issue.

6. The Package 10st 10lb 9/1
A mightily impressive performance in the Kim Muir saw this 12yo win by twelve lengths and pulling away, surprising many, including me. Tongue tie and blinkers did the trick that day and with the same gear in place, if the same horse turns up he could be very hard to beat.

7. Le Reve 10st 10lb 8/1 Has been the favourite all week and this race has been the plan for a long time. There are concerns over the quick ground though as his trainer, Lucy Wadham pointed out earlier in the week. Has strong course form but doubts over this extended distance suggests looking elsewhere in this race.

8. Bally Legend 10st 5lb 20/1
Tenth in this last year but efforts this spring suggest that he could improve on that performance. Third behind Rocky Creek and La Reve in February was followed up by a creditable four length sixth at the Cheltenham Festival gives this 10 year old a decent each way chance.

9. Vics Canvas 10st 5lb 14/1
Falling at the first but bouncing back up last time out hopefully hasn’t had too much effect on this twelve year old. Never really shown anything in Britain but the booking of a certain Ruby Walsh is interesting.

10. Lost Legend 10st 4lb 25/1
AP has seemingly not chosen to ride in this race (make of that what you will) and Richie McLernon will take the ride instead. Not a bad effort last time out at the Festival but made no impression on the horses in front of him.

11. Just A Par 10st 3lb 18/1
The last of Nicholls’ entries and for me the most intriguing. It has been a break-through season for Sean Bowen and will be looking to strengthen his grip on the conditional jockeys’ championship with a win here. Although he was a beaten favourite last time out, Just A Par responded well when Bowen asked him to and there was enough there to suggest an improved performance this time round over a longer trip.

12. Grandads Horse 10st 3lb 40/1
It’s been a long old season for this tough competitor, making his 13th appearance on Saturday. A couple of wins on soft in December were impressive but pulled up last time and this is asking a lot of him.

13. Royale Knight 10st 2lb 18/1
Very impressive sixth in the Grand National but as with Rocky Creek, you wonder how much that will have taken out of him. Is in good form though and connections will hope to cap an impressive campaign with a win.

14. Ely Brown 10st 2lb 40/1
100/1 shot in the National and fell at the first. Not much suggesting he will fare any better this time round. Ground a major concern as well.

15. Roalco De Farges 10st 1lb 20/1
seventh in this last year but held on to second place gamely last time out from eventual Scottish Grand National winner, Wayward Prince. With Dickie Johnson choosing Duke Of Lucca, Michael Nolan picks up the ride and has place hopes at best.

16. Return Spring 10st 1lb 33/1
Frustrating one for me because I was at Cheltenham when he had form figures of 1-2-1 over hurdles around there. He seemed such a willing horse, a real battler but hasn’t found anywhere near that sort of form since switching to fences. The ground is also a concern as he likes it soft.

17. Duke Of Lucca 10st 14/1
Cracking performance last time out and really showed guts to retain the Betfred Handicap Chase at Aintree. Not been the greatest of campaigns before that win but will go on the ground and hard to dismiss.

18. Paint The Clouds 10st 8/1
What a season Warren Greatrex is having, epitomised by the impressive Cole Harden in the World Hurdle. His hope, Paint The Clouds, has a cracking chance in this and teams up with Sam Waley-Cohen again (who can claim 3lbs). A little disappointing at the festival but the ground was a bit on the soft side for him that day and the conditions should suit him in this one.

19. Guess Again 10st 16/1
An intriguing one this. Now with his fifth trainer in Tony Martin, Guess Again was travelling well before falling at Cheltenham in his debut for the yard. Showed good form on quick ground for the Pipe stable last summer before disappearing for nine months, switching stables and reappearing at the Festival. Worth watching to see how he fares in this race. Paul Townend a notable booking too.

20. Algernon Pazham 10st 20/1
Interesting novice who will carry a full two and a half stone less than Rocky Creek with 7lb claimer, Jamie Bargary on board. Bit of a quirky character who refused the final fence in the race before last, but has good form, placing three out of four times over the larger obstacles. Bit of hurdling form sticks out for me as well, having beaten the impressive Silsol at Leicester last season. The fast ground is a concern though.

Verdict
It’s a lottery but that is why we all love these big field handicaps. I can easily make claims for 80% of the field but I will try and pick out three that I think have the best chance of winning. Special mentions should be made for Bobs Worth who definitely has a chance of recapturing form by winning this and for Duke Of Lucca who seemingly turns up in the spring. My first pick is The Package. David Pipe has had an exceptional season and could cap it off with a win here and Tom Scudamore will certainly hope so as he attempts to beat Richard Johnson into second place in the champion jockey table. My second pick is Paint The Clouds. Conditions will suit this horse and I’m sure he will run a big race. And finally, out of the strong Nicholls’ contingent, Just A Par gets my vote. What a story it would be with the reigning champ retiring, 17 year old Sean Bowen could steal the show and be touted as a future champion jockey by winning this. If he goes on to achieve half of what AP has done it would be a remarkable feat.

1st Just A Par, 2nd Paint The Clouds, 3rd The Package

Hong Kong - Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup

The April international meeting at Sha Tin mightn't be quite as big as the December meeting, but it still attracts class racehorses from around the world, which can create a bit of uncertainty in the betting markets as locals struggle to line up foreign form.

Making his blog debut is international racing aficionado Jason Lincoln, @the_racing_wiz.

--------------------

Audemars Piguet QEII Cup
Sha Tin, 2000m, Group 1.
1635 local time, 1835 AEST, 0935 BST

Form guide

Sunday at Sha Tin sees the 40th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes; a truly International Group 1 that boasts a rich history.

International visitors have been successful in 11 of the past 20 runnings of the Group 1 feature, with South Africa and Japan having been the most successful at three apiece. South Africa are not represented this year, but Japan has a runner as do the UK and France. Both of those Nations have been responsible for winners of the race previously, whilst the sole other International runner is from Australia. No Australian-trained horse has been successful in the race, nor have they been represented for quite some time - Grand Armee and Elvstroem two of the higher- profiled horses to have failed in Hong Kong's Autumn Championship.

Last year's winner Designs On Rome is bidding to become just the third multiple winner of the race, and the just the second to have won it back to back (Eishin Preston 2002/2003, Viva Pataca 2007/2010). Military Attack narrowly failed in his bid to win back to back QE2's last year when he was touched off by Designs On Rome in a classic renewal.

SPEED

Stablemate to Designs On Rome, Same World, will ensure they at least go along at an even speed. He has no business being in the race other to ensure it isn’t turned into a sit and kick affair so expect him to lead but not at a break-neck tempo. Helene Super Star is another pace angle, but he does have a propensity to be slow away on occasions. Military Attack and Criterion will be kicking up to use their good alleys and both should settle in the first half of the field. Blazing Speed is the horse most affected by his draw. He'd prefer to be handy but can get quite keen when racing without cover so Callan has a decision to make very early to ensure he gets best possible position. Designs On Rome is unaffected by a wide draw.

FORM and MARKET ANALYSIS

DESIGNS ON ROME - The reigning HOTY in Hong Kong got off to a slow start this campaign but he has dominated the local scene since returning to form with a slashing win in the Hong Kong Cup at the International meeting in December. Given 6 weeks off after that run, he returned in a G3 Handicap and scored a 'typical Design On Rome' victory; essentially just wanting it more than the horse next to him. He powered away to win the Gold Cup from a ‘Military Attack-less’ field before heading to Meydan for his second attempt at 2400m. Whether he gets it or not will remain up for debate for he had no hope sitting out the back in a 'pedestrianly' run race, and lost no admirers with a game fourth to Dolniya. He has put on body weight since returning to HK which is a great sign and his work has been first class.

Champion with a tremendous will to win. Huge value at the 9/4 that is currently on offer with some firms given he started 9-10f beating Military Attack and Criterion in December. Will start 'odds on' on the HK tote and is clearly the one to beat

MILITARY ATTACK - Has met Designs On Rome on 4 occasions (3-1 to DOR), gaining the nod over him in a star studded Sha Tin Trophy 1600m earlier in the season. The margins in two of the three defeats was a nose and short half head, and would quite easily have been wins against a horse with lesser courage than DOR. His most recent failure behind him was his most heavy, however, there were excuses. Jumping well from a good alley, Purton sat outside Same World through a slower than standard first and second section and appeared to have plenty in reserve on the turn, But having raced a little keen with the blinkers on early, and having not started for 10 weeks, he was found wanting and stayed on for a soundly beaten fourth. Has since trialed in good fashion and gets a plum draw.

Whereas Designs On Rome went to Dubai, this horse has been saved and set for this race. Casper has him bang on and he looks an each way pinch at the 11-2 available. Will start closer to half that in HK.

BLAZING SPEED - Very much under-rated horse who has wins over both Designs On Rome and Military Attack. His form this preparation is much better than it reads on paper. He resumed in the aforementioned Sha Tin Trophy and was a super run to finish fourth less than a length from the winner (Military Attack). He then beat that horse a head (Designs On Rome unplaced) in the G2 Jockey Club Cup before being forced to sit three- and four-wide the trip when last in December's 'big dance' to Designs On Rome. Subsequently ran a nice fourth to champion miler Able Friend, before a very unlucky third to Designs On Rome in the Gold Cup. Would never have beaten the winner but surely would have run second and finished much closer to him had Rispoli navigated clear passage between the 200-400m.

Outrageous value at the 20/1 with some firms. I would have him just about my 'on top' selection had he drawn a better gate but I am concerned about him slotting in somewhere.


CRITERION - Much improved horse since joining the Hayes/Dabernig combination prior to his third in the HK International at the end of last year. Although he was a Derby winner at three, he looked to be a rung below the very best WFA horses in Australia during the spring but has quickly put lie to that form and was one of the benchmark horses of the recent Sydney carnival. He was a great first up third in a good quality sprint race at Randwick before a game, albeit every chance, second to Real Impact in the G1 George Ryder Stks. His win last start in one of the feature races of the Sydney Autumn Championships, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, was visually very impressive. However a few points need to be made. He is a superior wet tracker and conditions were made to order for him on that occasion, whilst it was the exact opposite for his main dangers To The World, Tosen Stardom and Adelaide who all detested the ground and ran well below their best. He beat Red Cadeaux, who by his trainer’s admission was only in that race and not the Sydney Cup (3200m) because he felt that 2000m on testing ground would see him better suited than most of his higher rated rivals, and Royal Descent - a prolific placegetter in big races who rarely wins but loves the mud. His third to Designs On Rome and Military Attack in December on firm ground show him to be a good horse regardless of the ground, but that is a better measure of his form for this particular race than what we saw last start on a surface which suited him above all others.

Started 39/1 in December and you're being asked to take 7/4 - 2/1 now. Couldn't possibly have him at that price and whilst he has drawn well and will get a good run in the race, he is no better than a 6/1 chance. To put it another way, he was 4/1 last start on his home track with track conditions A1, and now he’s away from home on firm ground in arguably a better race. No thanks.

RED CADEAUX - One of the real marvels of international racing in the past 30 years. He is a previous winner in Hong Kong having won the Vase at the International meeting in December 2012, and most recently finished 2nd in the Queen Elizabeth behind Criterion over The Championships in Sydney. He was unlucky not to have finished a little closer on that occasion but for me that isn't the right form for this race. Has never won at 10f/2000m and I can't imagine he will start on quick ground against a couple of the best horses seen in Hong Kong in recent times.

Couldn't win and is anorexic at 9/1 - 12/1, but he will give his all and hopefully can earn again for his very sporting owners.

HELENE SUPER STAR - Former UAE Derby winner when trained by Aidan O'Brien (racing as Lines of Battle) who has arguably over-achieved this year. He was only beaten 2.75L behind Blazing Speed in the Jockey Club Cup and then only 2L to Designs On Rome in the 'big dance' in December. Had his chance to beat DOR in the Centenary Vase where he received 20lbs from him, again came up short, but then ran that horse to a 1.5L second(Blazing Speed unlucky third) at level weights in the Gold Cup.

Around 80/1 with most firms which seems fair. I could certainly entertain him in place betting at around $15 but it would be a shock if he won.

SMOKING SUN - French visitor who looks to be just making up the numbers whilst getting ready for another tilt at the Singapore International Cup; a race in which he ran second last year beating home Military Attack. His run first up in the Prix d'Harcourt was awful on a surface softer than he prefers, but his overall form is short of G1 standard.

12/1 - 16/1 is far too short for mine, there are much better options at similar or better odds.

CALIFORNIA MEMORY - Great old campaigner who has unfortunately lost form altogether.

100-1 is unfortunately correct.

STAPHANOS - This is the most interesting International runner in this year’s event. He is a lightly raced 4yo son of Champion racehorse and sire Deep Impact and he comes to Hong Kong having just had the one run since winning a G3 at Tokyo back in October. His first up effort was full of merit when a 1.8L third over 1800m behind last year’s Japanese Oaks winner Nuovo Record (Harp Star second) . He was held up briefly turning for home but did best of the closers on a surface that did appear to be quite chopped out and shifting. He is a typically strapping Deep Impact colt who should be much better for the run, and for a firmer surface. He has previously shown himself to be G1 standard in Japan by running a game 2.3L fifth in the Japanese 2000 Guineas to Isla Bonita, and a 1.5L fourth to Isla Bonita in a strong St Leger lead up in September. That horse finished behind him first up and the Japanese don’t travel for the fun of it.

10/1 - 20/1 . You'd be mad not to have something on at the 20s if you can get it. He has a typical improving Japanese horse's profile and he looks to be a main player here.

HELENE HAPPY STAR - A 4yo bought by John Moore for this year's Derby where he came up short finishing foutth to a horse that sat 3W the trip in one of the quickest Derbies in recent times. Raced as Barley Mow in the UK where he appeared talented but limited, and much the same impression has been left since he came to HK. Never too far away but never in the finish either, he is still a Hong Kong maiden and it is inconceivable that he will be good enough here.

25/1 - 50/1. Looks under the odds to me, couldn't win all things being equal.


SAME WORLD - Pacemaker only. Will run last unless something else goes amiss.

100/1 - 200-1 but Im sure you could write your own ticket.

PACKING LLAREGYB - Nice horse but not up to G1 standard let alone an International G1.

66/1 - 100/1

TIPS
1 - DESIGNS ON ROME
2 - MILITARY ATTACK
3 – BLAZING SPEED
4 – STEPHANOS

VRC St Leger preview

ANZAC Day for racing in Australia have never traditionally been a strong day, perched in between the autumn and winter carnivals, but one race which always takes place on this day is the VRC St Leger. Investment into staying races by Racing Victoria might eventually have the desired effect of raising the level of this race.

With the preview, it's the guys from Premium Racing Services, @PremiumRacingS. You can check out their services on their website.

---------------------

VRC St Leger
Flemington, 2800m, Listed race
R6 1600 AEST, 0700 BST

Form guide

PRS Speed Map



Pace rating we have on this is well above par for a staying trip like this. Both Authoritarian & Zatopaz led at very slow tempos last start (both producing slow time ratings) so it will be only a matter of who show their intention desperately early to lead outright. They will not fight each other hard at all as both jockeys know it would be extremely detrimental to their chances of running out the trip.

As our map highlights the three outside gates look the most disadvantaged runners as they will find it difficult to not be caught wide if they intend on attempting to settle in their desired positions. Colour Of Money gets an excellent run just off the speed two wide with cover without exerting any early energy.

Our Market:



This market is of our system's ‘raw’ prices which is set to 100% with every runner rated >$21 eliminated. PRS clients get a market <100% on a wagering sheet which also blends in the public price of each runner to find a wagering edge.

As you can see, our raw market is extremely open but does have some overlays present on the early corporate markets.

Colour Of Money - Ride queried last time at Gosford when just off a crawling tempo, was expected by analysts to go towards the rear but was clear jockey McEvoy just identified that there would be a lack of speed in the race (which was correct); just should’ve advised stewards. Good map here just parking off the pace again. Has plenty of fitness on his side which will be beneficial over this trip and like Dunn now riding. Can produce some improvement and threaten.

General James - Disappointing here last start when a significant drifter in betting and lost by 9L. Efforts prior rated superior. Has two major queries into this being that the map looks a problem early and whether he will stay the trip. If drifts late in the betting we will ignore him.

Cuban Fighter - Too strong for them on Sunday, raced clear in maiden on heavy surface. On back up off that large PB coming onto drier surface interesting, certainly looked outclassed in three earlier runs in campaign but this gelding is an out and out stayer. Positive rider change with Craig Williams on does help. Likely to be our most significant overlay present.

Zatopaz - Led at crawling speed and was able to kick clear and win in style at Gosford, was well backed late that day. Will have to work much harder if wants to lead but am confident if Hall digs up early and shows his intentions he will be able to cross and then switch off. Hard to see him holding that rating here but in this race he isn’t required to. Tough to run down.

Recommended Bets: We will be advising clients to use our wagering software to back the overlays present. If No.2 drifts significantly late in betting then would be happy to ignore that overlay.

AFL Round 4 previews

Time for a bit of variety on the blog, some match previews for the greatest sport on the planet - Aussie Rules footy! Cheers to the guys at @aflratings for the preview.

----------------------

AFL Round 4 Preview
By aflratings.com.au via @aflratings

Last week was a very comfortable week for punters as 9 favourites were victorious; this week is a completely different story with as many as 8 games providing varied opinions. Weather is likely to play a factor in Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra games this week, here are our Round 4 thoughts.

Melbourne v Richmond
Melbourne were highly competitive against a very good Adelaide team a week ago in heavy conditions in Adelaide, they are unlikely to get blown out of the water but have again struggled to score averaging 55.5pts FOR in their last 2 games. Richmond were clinical against a poor Brisbane team at the Gabba in Round 3, it is hard to put a form line on the Tigers as they have not played anyone decent as yet. Defensively Richmond has conceded only 73.7pts AGA from their first three games, this one shapes as a low scoring contest even more so if wet weather hits the MCG on Friday night.

St Kilda v Carlton
The Saints have been very competitive in Wellington games in the last two years with narrow losses, both games were played at night and provided low scoring contests. Carlton are a mess on and off field right now with mixed messages, one could assume the players are also confused but don’t be caught off guard especially considering the Blues are coached by one of the all-time greats. The Line does seem a bit high for the Blues considering the quality of players that will be missing from their team, but the Saints are also missing some stars.

Essendon v Collingwood
The Bombers appeared to be a little flat in the second half v Carlton last week, the legal proceedings against them are likely long gone but at some stage they will put in a stinker. Collingwood have started the year ok apart from a 1st half capitulation v Adelaide in Round 2, the Magpies have conceded only 76.7pts AGA from their opening three games. The Bombers are also in good defensive form, expect the ANZAC Day classic to be a low scoring affair especially if rain hits on Saturday afternoon.

GWS Giants V Gold Coast
The Giants pushed the Swans for the most part last week at the SCG, they have improved again this year scoring an average of 92.7pts FOR per game. The Suns narrowly missed out on a win at Geelong last week, the most important piece of information heading in to the game against the Giants this week is that this will be a back to back travel game for the Suns and also a 6 day break. Gold Coast won only three of 10 (30%) travel games and one of two (50%) six-day break games in 2014. The Giants are 2-0 in all travel games in 2015.

Port Adelaide v Hawthorn
If the Power can manage a victory against the Hawks on Saturday night in Adelaide, their Home & Away draw will open up playing only four games v Final 8 teams from a year ago between Rounds 5-20. Port Adelaide have had a brutal early season draw, a 2-2 split will likely set up a high Ladder finish at the end of the year. Hawthorn demolished the Bulldogs last week with class; Jordan Lewis has stepped up his game again and is likely to figure in Brownlow Medal contention if he continues on this pace. As for this game, sit back and enjoy a great contest. Even in light weather conditions this may be a high scoring game.

Fremantle v Sydney
You must have been sitting under a rock if you have not noticed Fremantle in the opening rounds of the AFL season, they literally have been awesome. Sydney are also in good form with a 3-0 start and have won the most Qtrs (9) for the year of any AFL team, both teams are defensive minded so expecting a tight low scoring contest. A win for Fremantle can set up a Top 2 position at the end of the Home & Away season, this is a must win for the Dockers as they have never finished Top 2 under coach Ross Lyon.

Brisbane v West Coast
Brisbane has conceded 135.0pts average in their last two games, Josh Kennedy and Marc LeCras must be licking their lips for a goal fest at the Gabba on Sunday. Both the Lions and Eagles have been hit hard by injuries in the early part of the season. West Coast won 11 of 13 games (85%) v Non-Final 8 teams in 2014, both teams will be keen for a victory but the Lions could be up against it if Kennedy and LeCras receive a fair few scoring shots up forward for the Eagles.

Geelong v Nth Melbourne
No longer are teams afraid of travelling to Geelong despite a remarkable win rate at Simonds Stadium by the Cats in recent years, Nth Melbourne are a strong offensive team and could open up the Cats on their home turf in Geelong. The Cats have conceded 107.7pts AGA average per game and Nth Melbourne have scored 100.3pts FOR so far in 2015, if not for Joel Selwood last week the Cats would be 0-3. Geelong has won only three of 12 Qtrs in three games and are struggling to contain teams, this is a great opportunity for the Kangaroos this week.

Western Bulldogs v Adelaide
The Crows love a fast track and Etihad Stadium will provide that late on Sunday afternoon, Taylor Walker will be a key target for the Crows up forward and could enjoy a day out if Adelaide can dominate through the middle of the ground. The Western Bulldogs won only one game v Final 8 teams in 2014, they are not yet ready to provide this type of upset. Expect the Crows to score over 100pts in this game, they are also only conceding 60.3pts per game in 2015.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The Crabbies' Grand National preview

No volunteers to plough through the field in detail this year so I'll point you towards a previous contributor who now works for Timeform, Calum Madell, @calummadell. Might be a bit ambitious to expect him to tip the winner two years in a row, but there's plenty to work with inhis preview.

Aintree Grand National 2015 Horse-by-Horse Guide

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Sires Produce Stakes preview

Sydney racing's day in the international spotlight on Saturday was ruined by persistent rain which forced the postponement of the meeting by 48 hours. It was a controversial call in some camps, but do they honestly think a premier race club would call off its most lucrative day of the season unless absolutely necessary? It was pissing down, was set to continue all day and nothing ruins a track more than heavy rain during a race meeting, where the track gets chopped up and those divots then get filled in with water. It wasn't safe and the right call was made. The participants, both equine and human, must come first, the days of racing and potentially putting lives at risk (in an environment where every race ride carries at least some element of risk) are thankfully long behind us.

The programme goes ahead on Monday, weather permitting. It will be wet, probably in the Heavy 9 region, but it won't be raining throughout the day and deteriorating further by the minute. Race times have all changed AND eastern Australia has ended daylight savings (summer) time, so if you need revised race times against the earlier previews, look here and take away nine (9) hours for UK/Ireland.

Analysing the two year old race, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @worldracingluke

-----------------

Inglis Sires Stakes Preview
G1 1400m 2yo
Randwick R6 1425 local 0525 BST
(Europeans please note - the clocks have gone back in Australia since Saturday)


1: PRIDE OF DUBAI: Awesome winner of the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes last start after having absolutely no luck at all and still winning. He’s a monster of a horse. His only run on a wet track was in his last trial, good secoond on March 27 on Soft ground, and he handled it fine. It will be a Heavy10 track at Randwick but he was awesome in the Diamond and probably is looking for further too. The one to beat.

2: MISHANI HONCHO: Consistent Queenslander but probably a tad below the real good ones. Good third two starts ago in the G2 Silver Slipper Stakes before a plugging fourth in the G2 Todman Stakes. Should enjoy the wet track although it can miss the start sometimes. If it begins well it could go towards the lead. Place at absolute best.

3: READY FOR VICTORY: Fantastic debut when winning a LR contest up the straight 1000m at Flemington before an excellent fourth in the G1 Golden Slipper, after drifting to the outside of the track. After drifting out in the Slipper, it’s no surprise to see him wearing a Lugging Bit for the first time. The concern is how will he go on a Heavy10 track? And is he still a bit green? Wouldn’t want to take short odds.

4: ODYSSEY MOON: This horse is a bit tricky to work out but in my opinion he needs to be saved for one run and needs a wet track. The one time he had that he was a very good second to Exosphere in the G2 Skyline Stakes. He was a great run in the G1 Golden Slipper, given every chance by Ryan Moore, and showed he needed further. Damien Oliver should be perfect for him and so should the track. In it.

5: TARQUIN: Nice horse. Probably wants it wet than fast when it comes to ground and that’s what he gets today. Very good winner of the G2 Pago Pago Stakes and has showed in his two starts that he wants further. Over 1400m today and with a wet track, it should suit him. Not out of it.

6: RAGEESE: Nice horse who had no luck on debut and then got home strongly for a second to Tarquin in the G2 Pago Pago Stakes. His last two trials have been very promising also. I think he’d prefer it on the faster side when it comes to the ground however. Not the worst. Each-Way.

7: ENGLISH: Very smart filly who was a good second to Vancouver in the G1 Golden Slipper after a good win in the G2 Reisling Stakes, which pointed out to me she’s looking for further than 1200m. Should be fine on the ground, if her soft ground trial win is anything to go by. Very nice chance.

8: PASADENA GIRL: Victorian filly that is so far two starts for two wins and has shown a good will to win in both runs up the straight course at Flemington. I’m not sure if barrier two, going around a bend, is the best draw for her, as she was a bit quirky when close to the running rail in her second trial at Cranbourne, but she could surprise. The question is the ground, will she handle it? The trip should be no problem.

9: ALWAYS ALLISON: Very smart filly in the care of Chris Waller that has been very impressive in every trial and race she’s contested and should be three starts, three wins, if it wasn’t for a horrible ride from Glyn Schofield in the G2 Magic Night Stakes when she was seventh. After that, she now gets “Magic Man" Moreira who will give her every possible chance. Nice Each-Way hope.

10: PERIGNON: Scratched.

11: QUEEN OF WANDS: Is probably a bit of an unlucky horse. Had no luck when fifth in the G2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes last start after a good first win at Sandown. This trip suits her perfectly. Whether the ground does or not is a big question mark. And whether she’s up to this level is another query. Place.

Summary
This is actually a hard race to assess when doing the form. There are some very nice horses and some nice horses. (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI had absolutely no right to win the G1 Blue Diamond but his heart, class and very high ability got him home. He’s got speed as well, evidenced by his run in the G3 Blue Diamond Prelude. 1400m should be perfect and I expect him to handle the ground. (4) ODYSSEY MOON needs luck in he’s races but this looks like a nice race for him and just continues to improve and Damien Oliver looks a perfect jockey for him. (7) ENGLISH was fantastic when second in the G1 Golden Slipper, but I just think (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI is a better horse and (4) ODYSSEY MOON has more improvement in him stepping up to 1400m at this point in time compared to her, she’s right in it however. There probably the main three chances in my eyes. (9) ALWAYS ALLISON looks a really nice filly and gets that nice jockey Joao Moreira. (5) TARQUIN continues to improve. So does (6) RAGEESE. I’m laying (3) READY FOR VICTORY, I’m just not sure how he’ll go on the ground and is he still a bit babyish? I’m not sure running him in the Sires’ after the Slipper, knowing his greenness, could be the best thing either. (8) PASADENA GIRL has been very good in her two runs up the straight at Flemington but barrier one and going around a bend concerns me a bit and is she up to this class? (11) QUEEN OF WANDS is very consistent but I don’t think she’s good enough. So too (2) MISHANI HONCHO.

Selections
(1) PRIDE OF DUBAI – (4) ODYSSEY MOON – (7) ENGLISH - (9) ALWAYS ALLISON

Ratings
1 / 4 / 7 / 9 / 5 / 6 / 3 / 8 / 11 / 2.

The Bet
Straight win bet on (1) PRIDE OF DUBAI and a saver on (4) ODYSSEY MOON Each-Way.

Irish Grand National preview

It's not just the English National this time of year, Easter Monday see the traditional running of the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

Making his debut for the blog with the preview is Denis, @carvillshill.

--------------

BoyleSports Irish Grand National Steeplechase
Fairyhouse, 3m5f
1700BST


Since the time it provided cover for an overthrow of those nasty Britishers almost 100 years ago the Irish Grand National has been an Easter Monday fixture in the fabric of Irish life. I’ve been attending it at a track five miles from where I grew up since I was having 20p on the Tote. My standard bet size has increased fivefold since.

If In Doubt Has a similar profile to last year’s winner in that you’d be inclined to put a line through him on jumping grounds over these notoriously stiff fences. Tough mark to overcome as well. If he were to put in a clear round he wouldn’t be the biggest shock.

Alderwood Looks on downgrade and massive stamina doubt

Grand Gesture Good jumper, has course form and ran a cracker at Cheltenham- can go well for a long way but surely a few better treated?

Rule the World too many physical issues won’t jump well enough.

My Murphy First time blinkers interesting, chance on pick of form but doesn’t look that well handicapped.

Perfect Gentleman Good run in the four-miler at Cheltenham when trip looked to stretch him but can’t help thinking price is more to do with high profile connections than actual chance.

The Job Is Right Represents the white hot Thyestes form and 3rd in the 4 miler ahead of Perfect Gentleman so a mystery why he’s a bigger price. Closely weighted with Vic’s Canvas on Paddy Power Chase form. In the mix.

Pass The Hat Second in the Kerry National, must be a stamina question and possibly want better ground.

Los Amigos One of my bets- highly progressive, ran a belter in last year’s Thyestes. Loved his reappearance when he won despite the slow pace and the trip. Coming from where he does this was surely a long term target. Must go well.

Lots Of Memories Has been my long term fancy for the race. Very well treated on pick of hurdles form including a good win at this meeting last year. That came crucially on good ground and needs every bit of drying between now and 5pm Monday. On good to soft was an all in job, softer ground a slight question.

Vics Canvas Good winner off a lenient mark in the Cork National then a fine 3rd in the Paddy Power. 20lbs higher than Cork now and these stiffer fences a concern. Underpriced.

Cantlow If Vics Canvas is underpriced this is fantasy land. Undoubtedly well treated but a serial disappointer- price solely on jockey booking, swerve.

Thunder And Roses Jumping a massive concern

Dogora Well named

Lion Na Bearnai Previous winner but old enough to smoke.

Rivage D’Or Theoretical chance if Cross Country romp has rekindled fire in belly but not for me.

Tammy’s Hill Fascinating runner- was well fancied for the race last year off the same mark and beatings of On The Fringe make him theoretically very well in. Light season due to setbacks- if comes here fully ready is a player.

Usual Smurfer Fine win over hurdles at Christmas, course winner but overall form not up to it and stamina doubt.

Band Of Blood In theory well in on a beating of Lots Of Memories but poor form since.

Empire Of Dirt Perhaps the best each way bet in the race with the place concession- gorgeous horse who cost a fortune and is made for extended trips. Naas win is solid form and should improve for the extra distance. Only quibble is the price, take any 16/1 you see.

No Secrets Not well enough treated for me.

Silver Tassie No.

The Crafty Butcher A sneaky longshot- could be well enough treated on earlier novice form and blinkers might spark a revival- can’t let go at a huge price.

Champagne James a bit of a champagne Charlie- loves the good life loitering around travelling well, doesn’t enjoy grafting out the wins- can see him placing for sure.

Alpha Victor Only if we get an overnight deluge.

Rogue Angel If he’s had unreported surgery for his wind or something it’s just possible- noted travelling well many times including in this race last year but not finishing off- trainer form is poor however.

She’s Got Grit Course winner, stamina must be a doubt.

Sizing Coal Not good enough

Clar Na Mionn My pick of the longshots. Travelled well for a long way last year, good form in staying novice chases. Stamina is the doubt but a possible now better treated.

Daring Article Unlikely, 2/16 chasing and looks exposed.

Bets:
Lots Of Memories on the day if yielding to soft or better
Empire Of Dirt each way with five places
Los Amigos each way
Clar na Mionn and The Crafty Butcher on Betfair.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

Early Grand National preview

Just seven days to the Crabbie's Grand National, the team from OLBG have provided this early preview.

---------------

Early Grand National Preview

The attention of jumps racing enthusiasts turns from Cheltenham to the Grand National this week. Sam Darby from Mares' Hurdle sponsors OLBG takes a look at the Grand National a week ahead of the race. For Grand National Tips check out the site, www.grand-national-guide.co.uk.

The Grand National is as wide open as ever and it looks as though we are going to get a good idea of the strength of last year's form with seven of the first eight home still entered in the race. The problem for those that run well in the race the previous year is the handicapper makes it almost impossible for them to win the next year. Only dramatic improvers and those who were not seen to best effect the previous year have a real chance and we do have a couple of runners that fit that bill this year.

Paul Nicholls' Rocky Creek has been well backed for this year's race and understandably so. He was effectively too young and too inexperienced last year to win the race yet he still ran extremely well in fifth. He won the Betbright Chase by six lengths on his latest start making him well handicapped but a question mark remains over his stamina. He will apparently be ridden with more restraint this time around which could be key to him seeing out the trip. More of a problem is his current price, at around 10/1 the value has gone for a horse that was beaten by 19 lengths last year. He should run well but we can live without backing him.

Just a short head behind Rocky Creek last year was Chance Du Roy and whilst he doesn't have the scope for improvement that the Paul Nicholls runner has, he does have a very solid profile. He finished second to course specialist Always Waining in the 2012 Topham, he won the 2013 Becher Chase and again ran well in that race this season, finishing a relatively close fifth. The ground at Aintree this year may well be slightly softer than last year and that could see Chance Du Roy improve on last year's performance. At four times the price of Rocky Creek he simply represents better value.

Shutthefrontdoor is perhaps one of the most exciting favourites in the race in recent years. He boasts a record of nine wins from 14 races and should still be ahead of the handicapper. His jumping is more than sound and he should have the assistance of Tony McCoy, having his final ride in the race. The stories are already being written but there are some negatives. He's as inexperienced as Rocky Creek was in the race last year and has had just one run this season, back in November. At the moment it's difficult to see the ground being too fast on Grand National but it's also worth noting that Shutthefrontdoor does want plenty of cut so a dry, warm week wouldn't help him at all if that's the way the weather goes.

Cheltenham winners coming here a few weeks later don't have the best of records so The Druid's Nephew and Cause of Causes are overlooked whilst Unioniste is surely too young at seven to win this. Spring Heeled would be interesting on summer ground but there is a good chance he won't get that.

Perhaps one of the most interesting runners this year is Soll. It seems he's had almost as many trainers as races but David Pipe seems to be getting a good tune out of him this season with the horse winning both races for the man who trained the 2008 Grand National winner Comply Or Die. Soll's return to action this season seems to have been timed to ensure he remains ahead of the handicapper and it's worth remembering he's previously completed over these fences twice (seventh in the 2013 Grand National) and is a better horse than ever this season. He's not yet guaranteed a run (needs nine to come out) but is a well handicapped horse if he does get in.

I could mention endless other horses in with a chance but as this stage it's all about finding likely runners who should run very well at a price. There is also a slight question mark over the going with rain forecast a week before and then a fairly cold week leading up to the race. Therefore the two selections at this stage have to be runners who are fine on decent ground but wouldn't mind a bit of rain and they are:

Chance Du Roy 40/1 each way 5 places
Soll 20/1 each way 5 places


Randwick racing postponed until Monday

Too wet today, won't be much drier in 48 hours but at least it will be safe. Hang onto the advice from the previews....

Friday, 3 April 2015

Australian Derby preview

Yet another Group 1 on The Championships schedule tomorrow, this time the Australian Derby. There's cream at the top, but as Ben says below, not sure about the depth. Preview from astute Sydney racing judge, Ben McDermott, @BTMcDermott.

------------------------

2015 BMW Australian Derby
Group 1, 2400m, Royal Randwick
R7, 1550 local, 0550 BST
Preview by Ben McDermott

Twitter - @BTMcDermott

Form guide
Odds comparison

Be careful betting tomorrow at Randwick as it’s the first time we’ve had a wet track this Autumn carnival and therefore is likely to throw up an odd result. Don’t be afraid to back a horse from a wide gate, more than likely runners will come a few horses wide off the fence and avoid the rail. I feel that this Derby field is very weak in depth and there are horses in the market that shouldn’t be close to Preferment’s current price of $3.5. Preferment should be closer to $2.5-$2.2 in this.

Preferment (Oliver/ Waller)
There’s a really good sense of timing about Preferment. Similar to the spring carnival, he is fourth up at 2400m and his last run at 2000m in the Rosehill Guineas has put the writing on the wall. This is a horse that excels at 2000m+ and I feel he may be able to join Mahogany in winning both Melbourne and Sydney 3yo Derbys. I doubt that he’s the best 3yo stayer we’ve seen in a while but what he does have is an ability to stay a long trip and this will be particularly important on a bog track tomorrow. He’s out of Zabeel and a Flying Spur mare so he should get through the ground well enough. From what I’ve seen he is clearly the one to beat and will take an awful amount of beating!

Volkstok’n’barrell (Williams/ Logan)
Won the Rosehill Guineas two weeks back in a great finish just edging out Preferment. I believe this form reference will stack up well and feel the race Hauraki won last week won’t prove to be as strong. This horse had race fitness and sharpness on its side when it lined up two weeks ago against Preferment but in this situation I feel Preferment gains the advantage. There has been suggestions that he has been treated for an issue during the week which isn’t a good sign either.

Mongolian Khan (Bosson/ Baker)
After winning his last five starts in New Zealand he contested the Rosehill Guineas. That race was a fair test over 2000m as the pace was solid so it can’t be classified as a “sit and sprint” affair. Given this, I feel he was really disappointing and beaten a long way – he raced liked he’s had enough for the preparation. He would have to be a seriously good mud lark to come out and win.

Hampton Court (Parr/ Waterhouse)
He hasn’t shown me anything this prep which suggests that he can be a danger. Hasn’t done anything since his sensational win over 2000m at Randwick in the Spring Champion Stakes Group 1 race in the spring. Should be in the spelling paddock!

Hauraki (McDonald/ O’Shea)
I’m really struggling to work out how this guy is favourite with some agencies! Like c’mon he’s not a $3.4 chance. Probably the Godolphin factor is influencing his price significantly – they have been unstoppable of late. His win last week was visually impressive but was against a very weak, second tier group of horses. He’s a place chance but I will take him on at his current price.

Quick Strike (Angland/ Waller)
Has had a solid preparation but he’s outclassed in this. Maybe he will roll forward and set the pace?

Omeros (Moreira/ Sargent)
Only lightly raced and has a nice pedigree being by High Chaparral. I think this is too new for him all and I feel the more seasoned horses are advantaged. However he is a horse on the up and has improvement to come. Also doesn’t hurt that the best jockey in the world goes on.

Ruling Dynasty (Berry/ B & J Cummings)
Another lightly raced horse but is really outclassed here. Would prefer him in much weaker class.

Bikila (Schofield/ Carey)
I can’t get excited about this horses chances in this and it’s reflected in his huge odds. Should have stayed in BM70 grade.

Brogue (Reith/ Englebrecht)
Has progressed from a maiden at Hawkesbury to a Group 1 race at Randwick in a month. His run last week didn’t indicate he would be any chance in the Derby. No thanks.

Selections
1. Preferment
2. Volkstock’n’barrell
3. Hauraki
4. Mongolian Khan

Suggested Bet
Keen on Preferment to out-stay them. Double him up with Terravista in the following race!

TJ Smith Stakes preview

A newer addition to the Sydney autumn for The Championships, at this level of prizemoney at least, is the TJ Smith Stakes, honouring the greatest trainer in Australian racing history. Another quality field has been assembled, as you'd expect for $2.5m in prizemoney, but the wet conditions throw a bit of a spanner in the works. It didn't stop Lankan Rupee last year though.

Taking the preview is Australian racecalling prodigy Luke Humphreys, @worldracingluke.

----------------------------

T J Smith Stakes
Randwick, 1200m
$2.5m G1 WFA
R8 1630 local 0630 BST

Form guide
Odds comparison

1: LANKAN RUPEE: Could only manage sixth when trying to defend his title in the G1 Newmarket Handicap but was found to have an inflamed pectoral muscle, so it’s best to forget the whole run. Before that he was his awesome best when winning the G1 Lightning Stakes and of cause he smashed them to pieces in this race last year. If at his best, he’ll be very hard to beat, but has he been a bit rushed to get to the event? Each-way at worst.

2: TERRAVISTA: Third in the G1 Newmarket Handicap, was first-up, and there’s no doubt he’ll be better for the run. Fantastic winner of the G1 Darley Classic last November and he should be cherry-ripe for this. Great chance.

3: CHAUTAUQUA: Unlucky second to Brazen Beau in the G1 Newmarket Handicap, when held up and then storming home late. I think the bend will suit him a bit better than the straight six at Flemington and he gets Tommy Berry for the first time and I think Tommy could be getting instructions saying keep him in the clear. Mind you he probably needs to be held-up in his races so it will be interesting to see what they do with him, regarding how he’s ridden. He deserves a G1 and with a tad of luck, he’s clearly the one to beat.

4: TIGER TEES: Tricky horse. Disappointed when a clear last in the G1 Canterbury Stakes first-up but his Soft ground form is pretty good including a victory in the G2 Warwick Stakes and a second to Lucia Valentina in the G2 Tramway Stakes. 4th in the race last year. Each-way at the very best but a place would be more likely.

5: FAMOUS SEAMUS: Had absolutely no luck at all last start in the G1 William Reid Stakes when never getting a clear run and storming home. Great horse for connections and he defines consistency. Not sure if his as good on Soft ground but he won’t be far away. Place.

6: FONTELINA: Didn’t have the best of runs in the G1 William Reid Stakes first-up and two starts ago was a nose second in that race last year. Soft ground could be a concern. Consistent but place the very best.

7: FAST ‘N’ ROCKING: Massive run in the G1 Galaxy Handicap when storming home for fourth behind Sweet Idea. Prior to that was third in the G1 Oakleigh Plate. Rarely runs a bad race and certainly consider him for the minor end of multiple bets.

8: RAIN AFFAIR: Kicked for fourth in last week’s G3 Star Kingdom Stakes. There’s no doubt he’ll be going straight to the lead. If this race was three years ago, he could stay there, but he’ll most likely get run down. Past his best. Not for me.

9: LORD OF THE SKY: Great run in the G1 Newmarket Handicap when doing the work and holding on for fourth, did have a very nice weight however. He’ll be looking for the lead, but it’s tougher going back to WFA. Tough.

10: SWEET IDEA: G1 Galaxy Handicap winner in great style. This is harder, however, she does get that jockey that can get horses to run “Magic Man Moreira” so that has to be an advantage. Joao Moreira beat the big three, Lankan Rupee, Terravista, Chautauqua, in the G1 Newmarket Handicap, because he was too smart. On ability Sweet Idea will struggle, but, that jockey can increase horse's ability. Soft ground form is okay. Right in it.

11: PRESS REPORT: Brilliant win last start at Warwick Farm but that was in a Benchmark 80 Handicap. This is a lot tougher. Not for me.

Summary
The top three sprinters in the world from last year clash again and what a race this year’s T J should be. (3) CHAUTAUQUA has been unlucky in both the G1 Darley Classic and G1 Newmarket Handicap, up the straight six at Flemington, but going around a bend here could suit him better and this is his chance to get G1 success. (2) TERRAVISTA was the winner of the G1 Darley Classic and was very good, considering his was first-up, in the G1 Newmarket Handicap, he’s right in it. (10) SWEET IDEA gets that half-decent jockey called Joao Moreira and was brilliant in the G1 Galaxy Handicap. She’s right in it. (1) LANKAN RUPEE had a problem in the G1 Newmarket Handicap but has probably been a tad rushed to get to today’s race. If in last year’s form he’s right in it. Would be safe to put (4) TIGER TEES, (5) FAMOUS SEAMUS, (6) FONTELINA and (7) FAST 'N' ROCKING in the minor spots of multiples.

Selections
(3) CHAUTAUQUA – (2) TERRAVISTA – (10) SWEET IDEA – (1) LANKAN RUPEE

Ratings
3 / 2 / 10 / 1 / 5 / 7 / 6 / 4 / 8 / 9 / 11.
The Bet Probably wouldn’t make too much out of this race if we bet Win or Each-Way or Place so Multiples are probably the way to play.
First 4
2, 3, 10 / 2, 3, 10 / 1, 2, 3, 10 / 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10. $56 gets 100%.
OR
Straight Win bet on Chautauqua