Saturday, 26 March 2016

Dubai Sheema Classic preview

The second biggest race of the night in Dubai, at least pursewise, is the Sheema Classic on the turf. Lining up for another preview is international racing aficionado Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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Dubai Sheema Classic presented by Longines
Group 1, US$6,000,000
Turf, 2410m
2020 local, 1620 GMT, 0320 AEDT


This is a two-horse race. The rest are in town for the place money or for diplomatic reasons.

Postponed was aimed at this race the day after it was clear he could not compete at last’s Arc. Duramente may be the better horse, but one suspects Postponed has been more finely tuned for this race. In every ante post multiple I have placed I have chosen to alternate between the two. It promises to be a duel. I cannot split them, so the reverse forecast is the logical bet advice.

The Race for Third

I am not convinced Highland Reel is fully wound up for this race. The Irish are not afraid to pick up decent place money and move on. It’s hard to bet against Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, particularly when the two have served one so well in the past, but Highland Reel has just stepped out of the Tipperary winter and could hardly be expected to give two prime time rivals — each coming off serious Group 2 winning preps — a run for their money. This should leave the door open for another to swoop for third place. The likely candidate is Dariyan. Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupré expressed exactly such hope this morning when interviewed by French racing broadcaster, Equidia. A place is the best he could hope for, or words to that effect. Dariyan looked powerful and occasionally looked capable of competing with Postponed in the Dubai City of Gold on March 5th, but was ultimately not as efficient over the ground. That performance was, however, enough to suggest to me he could edge Highland Reel out of the placings.

Last Impact ran a courageous second as a long shot in the Japan Cup with Ryan Moore aboard. He could give the main protagonists something to consider down the homestretch. The Magic Man Moreira is riding and one suspects a third or fourth place finish could be conjured up.

One and Only was the Japanese Derby winner in 2014, but has done nothing significant since.

Gailo Chop could force the pace and attempt to cling on for sixth place — the 81,000 UK Pounds would be gracefully accepted by his syndicate.

Sheikhzayedroad belong in the same place-chasing prize money category.

The Blue Eye does not need the prize money, fresh off his four length win in the Listed Emir’s Trophy in Doha earlier this month. You could do worse than a small stakes each way flutter on this horse at 66/1.

Selections
1 Duramente
2 Postponed
3 Dariyan
4 Last Impact

Duramente 10/3 - Bet365
Dariyan -12/1 William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Paddy Power

Advice: Reverse Forecast Duramente and Postponed.

Dubai Golden Shaheen preview

Next up on Meydan previews is the Golden Shaheen, the G1 sprint for dirt racers. Once again with the preview, it's international racing guru Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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Golden Shaheen
Group 1, US$2,000,000
Dirt, 1200m
1845 local, 1445 GMT, 0145 AEDT


Ten go to post in the Golden Shaheen. XY Jet has been a winning machine at Gulfstream Park. Super Jockey, second in the race last year and ridden by the João “Magic Man” Moreira, returns with a shot. As does, Rich Tapestry, third last year, with the seasoned Gerard Mosse aboard. The Maktoum brothers are each throwing respectable speed into the mix.

The market suggests it is a one horse race. And it promises to be so for at least four or five furlongs. Can anyone catch XY Jet? I 'bet the farm' on the Florida beast a few weeks ago. His latest win over 6.5 furlongs has only cemented my conviction.

XY Jet has been portrayed as an obscure Florida-bred, winning Grade 3 and Conditions races. A closer look at his pedigree on the dam’s side reveals the big hearted beast, Secretariat, to be among the ancestors. XY Jet is no rags to riches story. He is bred for big time glory. The XY Jet team arrived in Dubai with a equine scientist as part of the team. I spoke with the said scientist yesterday. Her readings show XY Jet has never been more relaxed and happy. But if you don’t yet trust the science of horse happiness, then stick with what you know. And this much you should know: Venezuela jockey Emisael Jaramillo has been booked for the ride. He has ridden XY Jet to victory on his last four starts. Jaramillo is no stranger to big race wins, winning the Clásico del Caribe (Carribbean Derby) on four of the last six occasions. And also don’t forget the wisdom of the trainer, Jorge Navarro who said of his charge yesterday, “You see that backside. That’s all the other horses are going to see on race day. That backside!”

The Hong Kong Quartet

On paper Super Jockey is probably the most likely to prevail should XY Jet not find Meydan on race day to his liking. Ryan Moore was aboard last year. João Moreira takes the ride this year. Connections like to give their horse the best possible chance. But how prepared is Super Jockey? He has not run on dirt since his second at Meydan last year. Picking him to pick up the pieces could be construed as a lazy pick based purely on the jockey booking.

Rich Tapestry took advantage of Marking ejecting his rider to win first time out at Meydan, but was woefully exposed beaten 6.5 lengths by Muarrab next time out. I am inclined to pass on both the Hong Kong charges with the name recognition and esteemed jockeys.

This leaves Domineer and Master Kochanwong. On historic race form, Domineer would be the logical next best option, especially with Frankie Dettori booked. But a closer look at the goings on at Sha Tin is always important. They run trials which are often akin to full blown races. Recently, Master Kochanwong and Domineer went at it and if you had seen this contest and the ease in which Master Kochanwong glided to victory, you will be left in no doubt that Master Kochanwong with the old champ Douglas Whyte riding is the value bet in the race. The 20/1 on offer from Paddy Power and Betfair is superb each way value.

The Maktoum Speed

Sheikh Hamdan has the best shot of an upset here with Muarrab. Muarrab went in to notebook with blistering wins up the hill at Jebel Ali late last year. He has taken time to adjust to the level required at Meydan, but his latest victory by six lengths over Kifaah in track record time was super impressive, even if the opposition was weak. Rich Tapestry was clearly not prepared for that race. Nevertheless, Muarrab has done it against the clock and cannot be discounted. Confrontation is a mile horse, but probably a cut or two below Marking. The decision to run him in this race is political. It is hard to advise a bet on the horse in such circumstances. Kifaah will run a respectable race, but he is in here to make up the numbers.

Forget About It

It pains me to include Reynaldothewizard in this category. He was once the wisest of all wiseguy horses, but he’s now a 10 year old, and rightly priced at about 14/1. He won this race back in 2013 and had shown bits of strong winning form between injuries since. Some sentimental punters may be still punt this son of Speightstown, but to be drawn 10 from 10 suggests they would be wise to leave the wizard alone. Morawij brings respectable Jebel Ali form to this. This 6 year old gelding by Exceed and Excel could spring an outrageous surprise and land a place, but too many of the others would have to have off days and there’s too much money at stake for that to happen.

Selections
1 XY Jet
2 Master Kochanwong
3 Muarrab
4 Super Jockey

XY Jet 2/1 - William Hill
Master Kochanwong 20/1 - Paddy Power, Betfair

Advice:
Bet XY Jet to win, Bet Master Kochanwong to win.
Include XY Jet in all Yankee, Canadians and Heinz bets
Include Master Kochanwong in multiple each way parlays.
Trifecta XY Jet, Master Kochanwong, Muarrab

Dubai World Cup preview

The blockbuster card at Dubai concludes with the big shebang, the $10m Dubai World Cup. With the return to the dirt surface last year, organisers have got their wish - a star-studded batch of American horses, joined by a bunch of other internationals, few of whom have ever run on the surface.

Taking up the challenge is Calum Law, representing @EIBloodstock.

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Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline
Group 1, US$10,000,000
Dirt, 2000m
2100 local, 1700 GMT, 0400 AEDT


California Chrome- 2014 KY Derby and Preakness hero who was second behind surprise winner Prince Bishop in this contest last year. He has had a different preparation this time around and has been given time to acclimatise to Dubai, taking in a prep race in the process when giving 7kgs and a beating to a field of local handicappers four weeks ago. That is a big positive for his chances here and he is an obvious chance.

Candy Boy- Sixth placer in the 2014 Breeders Cup Classic before being transferred to Doug Watson for whom he ran a decent fourth in last year's edition of this race. He hasn't been seen since, but his trainer can do no wrong on this surface here and he could show some cheek at odds. Still a stretch to see him finishing top of the pile in this company mind.

Frosted- Durable son of Tapit who danced almost every dance in his 3yo campaign last season. Winning the Wood Memorial and Penn Derby and finishing in the frame in the Belmont and the Travers. Was visually stunning on his local debut in the second round of the Al Maktoum Challenge and has been a hot tip for this race ever since. Comes here relatively fresh and possible he is a stronger horse this year. Ticks a lot of boxes and a powerful presence in this field.

Gun Pit- Champion dirt horse in Hong Kong where he is 7/7 on the Sha Tin sand but well beaten in a recent foray to Japan and seemingly had no excuses when second behind Special Fighter in round three of the Al Maktoum Challenge. Needs a big leap forward and one of the roughies of the field.

Hokko Tarumae- Prolific winner on the dirt in Japan who makes his third assault on this race today. Blazed a trail before fading, when only fifth last year and no reason to think he has improved since. Looks up against it.

Hoppertunity- Grade One winner in the US but a step behind the very best in his homeland. Has never finished outside the top four in 18 trips to the track but his last time out victory in the G2 San Antonio Stakes, when ridden by the excellent Flavien Prat for the 1st time, was his first visit to the winners circle in ten. Consistent sort and could run into the money but he will need a career best if he is to take the $10 million prize.

Keen Ice- Inconsistent but extremely capable son of former DWC winner Curlin. Only 2/15 lifetime but has a victory over American Pharoah on his slate and carries a rating of 120 into this race. Was beyond poor in his trial, but was fanned out wide throughout and didn't come home too badly in the circumstances. Connections decided to press straight on after that effort and Ryan Moore retains the ride. If putting his best foot forward he is in this and his penultimate run in the Donn was perfect for the demands of this race. It takes a leap of faith to forgive his trial run, but at mammoth odds he is worth chancing in a race where the form book often goes out of the window.

Mshawish- A former winner of the Zabeel Mile here and a horse who has delivered G1 victories on Turf and Dirt in the US. This will be his third try on World Cup night having already finished third and fourth in the last two editions of the Dubai Turf. Connections have resisted the temptation to point that way again after Solow was ruled out and that brave decision would appear unlikely to pay off with victory here.

Mubtaahij- UAE Derby winner on this day last year but doesn't appear to be the same horse this time around. It is possible that his US Triple Crown excursions have taken something from him and he needs to bounce back from two below par runs this campaign. If able to rebound back to his classic form he would be right in this, but it takes a leap of faith and not hard to look elsewhere.

Special Fighter- Former Mark Johnston inmate whose last run in the UK resulted in a last-place finish off of 87 in a Ffos Las handicap. Has improved beyond recognition since then and his shrewd trainer has had an incredibly high opinion of him all season. Was stuffed by Frosted in Round Two of the Al Maktoum Challenge but rebounded with an easy victory in the G1 Round Three. He got loose on the lead that day and if his DWC winning jockey can repeat the tactics here then he might be tough to peg back.

Teletext- Former Pascal Bary-trained beast who placed in the Grand Prix De Paris and Prix Niel as a 3yo when campaigned in France. Didn't turn up in the Arc and instead was next seen in a Meydan handicap last year, when finishing down the field behind Songcraft. Two placed efforts in France preceded his switch to Saudi Arabia where he is 3/4 and took out a local G1 on his last start. He remains lightly raced for his age and remains unexposed as a dirt project. Looks capable of outrunning his market position and should not be underestimated.

Vadamos- G2 winner in Germany last summer but put in his place behind Fascinating Rock in the Champion Stakes at Ascot. Resumed with a decent second behind Solow, but doesn't look up to this class and makes his first dirt start here. I am loathe to put a line through any Andre Fabre horse but I am willing to do so here with some confidence. Massive outsider.

Verdict- Frosted and California Chrome bring the best credentials into the race and with both having impressed in their respective trials have obvious claims. However this race has proved somewhat of a graveyard for the fancied horses in the past and I am willing to chance Keen Ice, despite him running stones below his best form in his prep for this. He is only 1lb inferior to California Chrome on official ratings and his penultimate run in the Donn was full of merit for this challenge. With Ryan Moore aboard he rates as a sporting wager to upset the apple cart here. Teletext was a classy 3yo when trained in Europe and shouldn't be underestimated for his new connections and he appeals as another who is overpriced.

1 Keen Ice
2 Frosted
3 Teletext

Friday, 25 March 2016

Dubai Gold Cup preview

World Cup Day in Dubai is one of the world's great race meetings. With an obscene amount of money on offer and some of the finest horseflesh, trainers and jockeys in the world present, it's got to be followed.

Previewing the big staying race of the day is regular international racing contributor, Davy Lane, @loscharruas.

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Dubai Gold Cup
Group 2, US$1,000,000
Turf, 3200m
1655 local, 1255 GMT, 0055 Sun AEDT


The defection of Sheikhzayedroad in the pursuit of fourth or fifth place prize money in the Sheema Classic means only 11 go to post, four fewer than each of the last two renewals of the race. This is an easier race to find the winner than in years past.

In Sheikhzayedroad’s defence, the Aga Khan’s Vazirabad had been a strong and worthy ante-post favourite and probably one best avoided. The connections of Sheikhzayedroad had not, however, counted on the four year old colt being denied a window seat on the flight from Paris. Vazirabad has been swishing his tail in annoyance ever since he arrived in Dubai. Although his trainer reported his weight has since returned to optimal levels, he has missed most of his intended pre race training. That most bookies remain 11/8 and that some have shortened him to 5/4 is absurd. The horse can win, but he is no longer primed to win. The Aga Khan has bigger more prestigious targets ahead in the summer and maybe in the Melbourne spring. If the horse is agitated in any way, Christophe Soumillon knows enough to preserve his integrity for future battles.

There are two second favourites floating around. Big Orange who has been receiving Pavlovian endorsements from Anglo-centric media and the Andre Fabre beast, Manatee. My advice is to avoid Big Orange. I followed his work during the week and neutral non-English commentators all reported as to how washy he appeared. Manatee is more interesting. He was supplemented. He looks fantastic. And his trainer Andre Fabre is in town as opposed to getting a final polo match in in South America.

Of the top three market, Manatee at 9/2 is the safest bet.

Who can you toss?

Suegioo is a Dr. Marwan Koukash horse. Richard Fahey gave the proverbial wink to the punter when interviewed during the week saying the owner wanted him here. Somehow, Suegioo won a Chester Cup once, but that was all about Ryan Moore and an inside draw. Perhaps Koukash has more Chester Cup aspirations given Suegioo's respectable third in the Doncaster Cup and sixth in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot last year, but Suegioo like Vazirabad also did not travel well. Paul Hanagan maybe a great jockey, but he is not an ambulance driver.

Certerach ran a respectable second last time at Meydan after showing nothing all through the carnival. He did win this race as a 33/1 shot two years ago. UAE Champion, Tadhg O’Shea, is aboard. These are all plusses. But Certerach has a past his sell by date feel about him and this courageous character by Halling seems sure to be running in place down the homestretch. Save your money.

Star Empire exceeded expectations when winning earlier in the carnival, but Dubai Racing TV commentators have hinted at this being his last race. This is going to be his lap of honour. Keep your coin.

Meadow Creek has place form in early in his French career and place form recently at Meydan. The Watson-Dobbs combination has served many punters well at this carnival. One could be tempted to him to tip each way. The horse racing cognoscenti would be full of praises post race, but there are no winnings to be had for picking a gallant fourth place.

Neo Black Dia has no chance per the Japanese media in Dubai. And who I am to argue with them?

Who can spring a surprise?

Haafaguinea winning would not be a surprise. He is a talented middle distance handicapper, but one who would have been out of his depth in the Sheema Classic. This is an experiment to see if he has the stamina to go further. I suspect this is also about keeping Saeed bin Suroor relevant on the night. Haafaguinea’s breeding suggests he will fade turning for home. James Doyle would a handsome sight crossing the finish line and that possibility will influence more than a few punters. You don’t have to be one of them.

Paradise is only a four year old filly, but is already proven at the distance. She gets a significant weight allowance. One could not fault a punter for taking a flyer on her. I am always inclined to punt a German-bred horse, but this is a big step up in class and I suspect the filly may get muscled out of the race. A respectable top six performance may influence an Australian buyer or two, however.

Who will spring a surprise?

Tellina at 25/1. The Mike de Kock trained 6 year old by Silvano finished a close third in South Africa’s premier race, the Durban July last year. Connections may have initially aspired to a more prestigious middle distance championship race when shipping the 6 year old gelding to Dubai, but recent efforts bare all the hallmarks of a horse being wound up for a longer distance race. This is the target. The booking of Ryan Moore when available last time out suggested as much. It has been reported Telling was unlucky not to have third. But that was more about Moore preserving the horse. Some bookmakers are still offering 25/1. Fools! I noticed the shrewd cats over Corals cut the horse to 16/1 earlier in the week. You should also be so shrewd and bet Tellina in as many ways as possible before the horse’s price gets slashed in the hours before the race.

Selections
1 Manatee
2 Tellina
3 Vazirabad
4 Meadow Creek
Manatee 9/2 - William Hill, Bet365, Coral
Tellina 25/1 - William Hill, BetFred, Paddy Power

Advice:
Bet Manatee to win, Bet Tellina to win.
Include Tellina in multiple each way parlays.
Reverse Forecast Manatee and Tellina.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Golden Slipper preview

It's Sydney's big race, the hell-for-leather juvenile sprint for a huge amount of money in front of a typically mediocre crowd in the western suburbs...and whaddyaknow, it's raining again!

With the preview, it's Aussie racing expert Mitch Fenton, @weekendkingrace. Read more of his work via his Facebook page.

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Longines Golden Slipper
Group 1, 2yo, 1200m
AU$3.5m, Rosehill Gardens
1630 local, 0530 GMT


CONDITIONS
With rain expected in Sydney all week it’s almost certain to be a rain-affected track on Saturday @ Rosehill Gardens. That always throws a spanner into the works of any race but even more so with two year olds of which most have had no race exposure to anything but a good track.

We’ve done the form for the race based on a Slow (7) / Heavy (8) track. (Note - Soft 5 as at 2pm Friday)

SPEEDMAP



I think the way the race looks there will be a faster than average tempo in the race set up mainly by Extreme Choice who possesses brilliant mid race speed. Others may push forward to put pressure on the race favourite to try and ensure he doesn’t get it his own way. This would further increase the pace.

Extreme Choice won’t get a picnic in-front but that said he’s shown at all three career runs he can burn the candle both ends.

The fast pace will ensure that every horse in the race will get it’s opportunity to win.

In conclusion I think there is an advantage to those off the speed who will be running on.

THE RUNNERS

EXTREME CHOICE
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $3.30

The undefeated $20 million boom colt who brilliantly won the Group 1 Blue Diamond last start to advance his career record to 3/3.

He debuted at Randwick in December when defying a big drift in betting to score an impressive win, running a slashing time which rated a massive 9L faster than the 2yo class average. He proved he possessed lightning fast speed with his sectional times. He ran the 200m between the 800m mark and 600m mark in an astronomically fast 10.12 seconds. That’s elite. The most important thing to come out of the win was the fact he’d proven himself the Sydney way of going being a Melbourne-trained colt. The youngsters are always suspect going the reverse way the first time and tend to gain huge benefit from the experience from it gives.

Second start he returned home to Caulfield for the G3 Chairmans over 1000m and again he won with ease smashing the clock. He went 6L faster than the 2yo class average this time and again his 800m to 600m split was scary, doing it in 10.14. This is where he’s winning his races putting his foot down mid-race and then still being able to sustain a very high speed at the finish.

Last time out he bought up the hat-trick with another win in dashing time in the G1 Victorian 2yo feature the Blue Diamond, going 7L faster than average. Again it was the 800m-600m section where he won the race doing it in 10.60 this time, taking into account this was 1200m not the 1000m he’d raced over previously.

Some were of the belief that barriers were the only difference between Extreme Choice and Flying Artie, claiming in fact that Flying Artie was the better run. The figures don’t support that theory though, they suggest that Extreme Choice was extremely superior. He won the race by nearly 2L and Flying Artie did make up a couple of lengths on him from the 600m to the 400m but in the final 200 he only took 0.3L off Extreme Choice, so he was very safely held, it wasn’t as though in another stride or two he would have got beat. Flying Artie would have to match motors early and mid-race with Extreme Choice in this and stay within a length or two to turn the tables, but I doubt after spending that much fuel to keep up though he’d be able to finish off like he did in the Diamond.

This colt's ratings and figures are unbelievable and on par with champion colt Pierro who won the 2011 Slipper. His Blue Diamond winning time was just .30 off Sepoy’s record Blue Diamond winning time, the fastest 1200m 2yo time in the history of Caulfield.

Extreme Choice will go forward and lead or be outside the lead most likely and so he’s the one they’ve all got to beat. He only needs to reproduce any of his three career runs to date here to win. I can’t find a knock!

Some are suggesting he may have peaked in his Diamond win, but listening to Mick Price the Golden Slipper has always been on the radar so it’s even possible that he peaks here, that’s kind of scary! The $3.50 on offer is good shopping. He’s my top pick in the race and if not the best horse in the race he’s not doubt the fastest over 1200m.

2. FLYING ARTIE
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $13.00

Debuted in the G3 Maribyrnong Plate at Flemington Melbourne Cup week with a very narrow second behind Power Trip who led all the way. He settled back in the run but really powered through the line suggesting that he’s crying out for more ground.

He then went for a 12 week spell, before returning in the G3 Blue Diamond prelude for colts/geldings over 1100m at Caulfield. Again he jumped awkwardly but quickly found his stride to land just about midfield 4.5L off the lead. He ran home very hard to beat Star Turn in an impressive performance that stamped him as one of the best 2yos in Melbourne. His final 600m was run in 33.86, that’s a massive 5.2L faster than the 2yo class average. Clearly had the fastest 600, 400 and 200m splits in the race and up with the fastest of the card.

He then went to the Blue Diamond where he was highly fancied despite coming up with a bad gate. He had very solid support on track firming from $7 to SP at $5. He drifted back from the gate and couldn’t get much cover in the run. Was 13th on the bend, 3.7L off the eventual winner Extreme Choice, but unwound with a terrific finale to beat all bar winner, with the stablemate beating him home by 1.8L in the end. His last 600m sectionals were very impressive, he ran home his last 600m in a race fastest 34.58 vs Extreme Choice who was fractionally slower in 34.88. Flying Artie did take 2L off the winner from the 600m to home but on the line, but he was being well held with the winner strong to the line despite having done all the work in the run.

He looks a star colt. His Diamond run was terrific but it was also suggestive that he’s looking for further than 1200m. That said he might be able to position closer to the speed from a good gate in this and be closer to his stablemate. Has a definite winning chance.

Champion jockey Damien Oliver who had ridden Extreme Choice and Flying Artie both in the lead up to the Blue Diamond had a pick of rides in the G1 Diamond and sided with Flying Artie, suggesting he thinks it’s better than Extreme Choice. If you take anything from that it’s worth backing him.

I still think he’ll be better suited at 1400m in the Sires and will be almost unbeatable in it, but that’s not to say class can’t win this for him. Mick Price has a huge opinion of him and still says there’s plenty to come.

3. DEFCON
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $201

Peter and Paul Snowden-trained colt who debuted in the G3 Canonbury Stakes at Rosehill over 1100m on a heavy track. Got back to the last of the half dozen in the race but hooked wide and hit the line well to finish second a length off winner Tessara. It was a very pleasing debut effort by the colt and importantly if the track come Saturday is rated as heavy, we know he handles it well. One of the only two horses in the race to have had exposure to heavy ground. That might be a crucial point pending the prevailing weather in Sydney.

Went to the G2 1100m Silver Slipper at this track and again ran a very bold race, running on hard to narrowly go down to undefeated Godolphin colt Astern. Astern has won both race starts quiet impressively and is definitely the forgotten horse, he’s Godolphin’s #1 seed here. So the form from Defcon to run it to a half length is very good.

For his final Slipper lead up he went to the nation’s capital in Canberra for feature 2yo event the G3 Black Opal. He was slowly out and went back to the tail of the 10 runners on the inside. Inconvenienced on the bend when carted wider than he already was but soon balanced up and unwound a powerful finishing burst to score a commanding 1L win going away from them. It was an impressive victory, even though the class of those behind him is questionable.

Highly talented colt in a very good juvenile stable. He’s a real knockout chance and probably the best roughie in the race especially if the track deteriorates down to a heavy 9 or 10 come Saturday as that could likely slow his opponents and benefit him. Each-way hope.

4. KISS AND MAKE UP
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $3.30

Gai’s looking for her record breaking seventh win in the race. She’s a master of the babies. This aptly-named colt was so named after the infamous bust up between Waterhouse and the colt's owner John Singleton. This is the pair’s first horse after their business “divorce”.

On debut he jumped well and won a midweek 1200m Canterbury maiden riding the pace the whole way. The overall time was only fair, some 1.7L slower than the 2yo class average but her closing 600m split of 35.56 was pleasing, it rated 1.2L faster than the class average. That’s indicative that the colt got a soft run but zipped home.

Went straight to G2 level in the Todman Stakes at Randwick and repeated the dose leading the whole way to down ex-Slipper favourite Capitalist, who had every chance, with ease by 2.5L. The winning time was ok rating just a half length off average. However it was much quicker than the G2 fillies 1200m race on the same card by about 6.5L. He shows a good ability to cruise at a good speed and still accelerate, it’s a good sign in a horse.

This is his first racing prep so it’s all come pretty quickly for him so you’d expect him to further improve here. Drawn 9 so he’ll roll forward and sit up on the speed. On a steep upward spiral and we really don’t know yet how good he might be? Gai will have him primed we can be certain of that she’d love to win another Slipper for “Singo”. Definite winning hope.

5. ASTERN
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $61

Medaglia D’Oro, Godolphin-owned colt who hasn’t been beaten yet in two race starts and three barrier trials. He goes into the race as the #1 chance for Godolphin which sees him get the services of their #1 jockey James McDonald.

Debuted at Randwick in a 2yo handicap in early December and was heavily backed ON course from $4.6 to start $3.5. He sat outside the lead to the home bend and then quickly put the race away with an explosive turn of foot to score by 2.5L. His closing 600m split was 1.2L faster than average and his overall winning time was 1.7L faster than the 2yo class average. It was an impressive debut and shot him high up the Golden Slipper betting markets.

He was immediately tipped out to the paddock for a nine-week spell and showed further improvement straight away with an impressive barrier trial win. He resumed his racing prep in the 1100m G2 Silver Slipper Stakes with another terrific on pace win. Fill-in jockey Hugh Bowman shot the $1.55 favourite out of the gates to the front and that was the end of the section. He ran the fastest 800, 600, 400 & 200m sectionals in the race, his 600m time an impressive 2.4L faster than the average very good for a horse who led. That really shows he can run along at a good clip and still have another couple of gears to find. The overall winning time was very good 1.4L faster than average.

On March 4, the colt’s trainer John O’Shea advised that a blood test of Astern had revealed a high white blood cell count, forcing the colt out of his schedule run in the Todman Stakes. O’Shea said the colt had not missed any work and had been eating well so the stable intended to continue his preparation towards the Golden Slipper. That’s not ideal but it’s not disastrous at the same time. He bolted in a barrier trial on 10/03 at Warwick Farm by 4L and that confirmed what O’Shea had said about not missing work and it justified his decision to push on to the Slipper.

The Godolphin colt was dealt a blow at the barrier draw though coming up with gate 17, meaning even with scratchings he’ll start from the extreme outside gate. This will probably force McDonald’s hand in pushing forward. He does have one of the fastest average start time ratings in the field so there is some chance he’ll be able to lead or at least sit outside of the leader, the begging question is how much petrol will he spend getting into that spot. Slippers are never run at a dawdle though so there’s a good chance McDonald will have to burn him up to get there.

Luck in running for him is the key, but if he gets that luck there’s little doubting he’s got the quality to win. Definite winning chance.

6. STAR TURN
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $201

Trialled twice before starting his racing career in a 2yo Randwick maiden over 1000m. Bookies put him up at $1.55 on track on the virtue of his big trial win leading into the run. Punters weren’t keen to take silly odds about him though and he drifted right out to $2.05 at the jump. He was slowly away but mustered to sit within a few lengths of the lead. The leader Conchita kicked away and won running very good time (5.8L faster than average). Star Turn ran home well time wise recorded splits 2.6L faster than the average for his last 600m, but that wasn’t good enough to see him make headway on the winner and he wound up third beaten 2.3L.

A fortnight later he lined up in the 2yo handicap, the $150,000 Pierro Plate at Randwick over 1100m on a slow track. He was again a drifter in betting going from $2.10 to start $2.90, and again he was slowly away, it was like deja vu. In the small field he was able to muster quickly though and take the lead, as had been the failed intention on debut. He co-led with Chipanda the Godolphin filly on debut who was a $1.75 favourite, and they crawled along in front and set a speed to please themselves. Star Turn showed no great acceleration in the last 600m recording a split 2.1L slower than average, but he ‘slowed the slowest’ probably handling the ground better than the others. He easily won by 3L in the finish.

After a brief break he returned to the races in the colts/gelding Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield. He sat very handy to a hot speed getting cover right in behind the leaders. He eased around the leaders heels and hit the front just on straightening. He looked the winner at the 200m but was cut down on the post by an airborne Flying Artie right on the post. No shame in defeat here.

In the Blue Diamond he jumped well finally but drifted back to beyond mid-field out deep on the course. He was unable to slot in and cornered wide as well. The tough run took its toll inevitably though and he faded out to finish fifth, 7.2L off Extreme Choice. A decent run given he had not luck in running but you’d be hard pressed making a case for him to turn the tables on the Price pair here.

Has ability. Certainly not the worst here but I couldn’t see him breaking into the top four or five even if he does get favourable wet conditions which he appears to enjoy.

7. CAPITALIST
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $41

Boom colt who bolted in the Magic Millions and was a long-time favourite for this race before the bubble well and truly burst last time. Commenced his career on the opening day of the Sydney 2yo season last October is the listed 1000m Breeders' Plate at Randwick. He was sent out a dominant $1.65 favourite after winning two trial sin impressive fashion leading into the race. He jumped well and slotted in off the speed and travelled well in the run before Shinn eased him into clear running and quickly put paid to his rivals, streaking away to win by an ever-widening 4L. He appeared to do it with plenty up the sleeve. His overall winning time was 57.09, 7.3L faster than the 2yo average and that ties in well with Extreme Choice who won his debut over the same distance, same track and same conditions albeit on a seperate day. He ran 56.86 overall, so 0.23 seconds faster than Capitalist in winning.

After a nine-week break, he resumed in the Wyong Magic Millions and his win was reflective of his $1.28 starting price.The winning time for the 1100m affai r was very slow however with his last 600m sectional 4.6L slower than average and his overall time 7L slower than average. The 2nd horses overall time was a giant 10L below par. These substandard times accurately reflect the quality of the race, as it stands to fact that none of the eight horses behind Capitalist have won since running in this race, evermore none have even be able to place in subsequent races. The form is terrible out of this race!

It was then onto the $1.9 million Magic Millions 2yo Classic on the Gold Coast where he was a raging hot $1.40 favourite for the race, the shortest-price favourite in the 20+ year history of the event. He didn’t disappoint those who took the shorts though, as he strolled in for another easy victory, this one by a margin of 2.5L. Again though his winning time was pedestrian, rating 8.6L slower than the 2yo average. His last 600, 400 and 200m times ranked only third in the race and his 600m split was 5.4L slower than the 2yo average. Very few of the runners behind him have run since but of those who have none have won. Again the form is highly questionable.

He had a brief let up to freshen for the Golden Slipper which had always been in the back of Team Snowden’s mind for the classy colt. Again he trialled like a bomb in preparation for his next run in the Gr2 1200m Todman Stakes at Randwick where he was sent out a prohibitively short $1.20 quote. He jumped well and landed on the outside of Gai’s colt Kiss and Make Up who dictated the terms. The first 600m was run 2.7L slower than the average for the 2yo class, so neither leader spent any juice in the run. Upon straightening Kiss and Make Up kicked up a gear and immediately Capitalist was flat out chasing him. Whilst never shirking the task the further they went the further Kiss and Make Up got away. He was vetted post race and it was declared he was mildly lame by RNSW Stewards. Paul Snowden refuted the claim though saying he was with the colt straight after the race and again the next day and no such problem existed. His reasoning for the run was lack of fitness, although their have been lingering issues of muscle soreness in the colt since the run that keep persisting.

He’s a talented colt no doubt but he hasn’t beaten any top line horses in his three wins, in fact he’s beaten up on third and fourth graders. Outside his debut win his times have been only fair at best. That thrown in with lingering issues over his fitness and it makes it very hard to back him even though he did look like a million dollars early on. He’s drawn well but I can’t see him winning now after deep analysis of each of his runs, as he’s beaten nothing, hasn’t run good times and was thrashed by Kiss and Make Up fair and square last start, who I can’t possibly see him turning the tables on.

Have to respect the Snowden stable that they’ve still got him running here, so they must be very happy with him and he must be 100% ready and fit, but he would need to run a clear career best and probably need the main hopes to be below par.

Risking.

8. GOOD STANDING
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $101

Debuted in a 2yo handicap at Rosehill in November where he went around at the big odds of $19. He led and ran along at a pretty good clip, just outside the average for the first 600m. He was able to dictate term out in front and shot right away to seemingly have put the race too bed. He was 3L clear of his nearest rival and 4.6L clear of eventual winner Yankee Rose at the 200m mark, but got mown down in the last few strides. Good Standing didn’t stop and walk late, in fact his last 200m ranked third fastest in the race, with his last 600m run in 2.1L faster than average. The fact that he ran good times throughout and got mown down by a fily who was 4.6L off him at the furlong pays huge testament to the winner more so than it casts doubt over his effort. Post race, Rider Glyn Schofield explained that over the final 200m, under pressure, the colt was inclined to race greenly and shifted its ground. A post-race veterinary examination revealed an old laceration and also swelling to the offside of the hock.

He went out for a brief let up and trialled on two occasions before resuming in the Gr2 1200m Skyline Stakes at Randwick. He wasn’t big odd this time though starting a well backed $3.30 second favourite. From the inside barrier he landed in the box seat right in behind the tempo, which was slow (first 600m 5.2L slower than average). He bumped trying to get into clear galloping room and laid out under pressure in the straight but still put in a terrific finale to score an authoritative 0.8L victory. He was able to sprint home off a very slow tempo in 33.84 for his last 600m, 3.8L faster than average. That’s a very good effort considering just how slow they went. Of the seven horses he was up against in the event, three have started again and hve really shown the form out of the race to be high class.

He’s a class colt with plenty of upside no doubt. Has drawn around the centre of the line and looks likely to slot in around mid field or just better in the run. A genuine tempo should make sure he gets his chance in the straight and if can unleash a finishing burst similar to that in his last start and can win.

Each-way contender.

9. TELPERION
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $201

Beaten by Yankee Rose on debut and came back after a break to win the Listed Lonhro Plate.

Last start at Randwick in the G2 1200m Skyline Stakes he was again sent out a short priced $2.35 favourite. This time he was able to begin better but wasn’t rushed early as he settled off the speed in fifth 4L off the pace. He straightened up and came the widest of the eight-horse field and again raced greenly when put under pressure. This time however there was no dash and he battled away to the line for fourth, 3.4L off the winner Good Standing. Stewards launched an inquiry to the below par effort but connections and jockey were at a loss to explain the run, as was the vet who examined the horse and found nothing amiss. He just doesn’t quiet know what it’s all about yet and still does plenty wrong but he no doubt does has good ability, it will just take a bit of maturity for us to see him at his best.

The blinkers have been applied here and that could be vital to switching the horse on and making him concentrate on the task at hand. Don’t be surprised if he improves sharply here with the blinkers, but I don’t think he’s any more than a very rough place chance.

10. FRENCH FERN
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $13

Started her race career in a 2yo handicap at Rosehill and the punters who backed her from 80-1 to start 40-1 were cheering as she ran third and collected the big each way price. The race was very slow and has failed to produce any quality form.

She broke through second up in a Canterbury 2yo handicap at the Saturday metro meeting leading all the way. She pinched the race from the front getting away with murder in front with the first 600m run in a time a whopping 8.5L slower than average. This allowed her to kick off the corner and zip home in a quick time for the last 600m which made it impossible for anything to come from behind and beat her.

Got black type last run when winning the G2 Reisling Stakes at Randwick. There’s no knocking her for winning the race as she pocketed connections a cool $182,000, but it really was a midweek class field. The lead time was slow, the run home was slow and the overall time was very slow (6.4L slower than average). She was the best of a bad bunch. That doesn’t say much for the hopes of Honesty Prevails and Quick Feet who finished behind her here and also get a Slipper run. Outclassed.

11. SCARLET RAIN
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $51

Commenced career with an all of the way win in an 1100m 2yo handicap at Rosehill Gardens in early January. From the pole position Tommy Berry bounced her out and went straight to the front where he was allowed to dictate a slowly run race that suited him to perfection. She extended well in the straight and set up a big lead that was good enough to see her hold on despite Cudabeen flying home late. Scarlet Rain’s 600m sectional was 0.2L faster than average, a decent effort, but she was entitled to probably zip a bit quicker given the soft lead (first 600m 2.7L slower than average).

Went to Randwick for a 1000m 2yo set weights + penalties race on what was a heavy track. She sprung out of the gates to lead comfortably. But as opposed to her debut run there was no loafing in front today as she ran the first 600m a lightning fast 6.3L faster than the par. She tired a bit in the straight as could be expected after her lead time, but was still far to good and saw it out to win by 1.8L in fast overall time (5.5L faster than average).

She stepped up to G2 grade in the 1200m Sweet Embrace Stakes at Randwick next. Many doubted her running a strong 1200, but again she jumped out like a rocket to lead easily. She got away with a cheap lead in a time that rated 3.7L faster than average. So it was little wonder she was again able to see it out and win by a length. Questions of her running a strong 1200m were mostly dispelled as her closing 200m split of 11.96 was fourth fastest in the race. Any why I say only ‘mostly’ dispelled is because she enjoyed a soft, soft lead and was probably entitled to zip home a bit faster, especially if she was the be competitive in a Golden Slipper because she’ll have to burn rubber to lead this from the bad gate.

Hard to knock winners but the form shows she hasn’t raced a single horse that she competes against today in her previous 3 wins. That suggest Gai has placed her very well, avoiding the best horses to pick up a G2 win. You can never 100% dismiss a Gai Waterhouse Golden Slipper runner but I’ll 99% dismiss her as a winning hope.

She’ll be up on speed but will have to work hard to get across from the bad draw. Good filly but this looks a bit beyond her on what we’ve seen to date.

12. CALLIOPE
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $81

She was an early running two year old, taking little time to prove she was high quality. After winning her first and only trial by 4L in devastating fashion she went to the Gimcrack Stakes, the annual opening Sydney 2yo fillies race on Epsom Day, Randwick in early October. Starting odds on, her backers would have been sick after she bungled the start and went back to a clear last, before mustering to settle with only a few behind her. She over raced in the run and had to switch wide after running into heels. However once she straightened she sprinted very quickly and put the result beyond doubt in a very impressive display. Only the good one’s win after having so much go wrong.

After a four month spell she was switched to Melbourne to run in the G2 Blue Diamond Prelude for fillies. Again she struck trouble at the start when she was badly bumped by one who shifted out sideways into her. Then on the turn she had to be restrained to avoid clipping heels with eventual winner Samara Dancer. This cost her any momentum, but she still picked up well and got within 2.5L on the winner. It was again a very solid showing just without any luck.

She came back to Sydney and was scratched at the gates a fortnight ago before running in the Magic Night Stakes last week and winning to book a ticket into the Slipper. She was heavily backed and had no troubles holding off a fast finishing Omnei Sword.

She’s a talented filly who still does plenty wrong and will no doubt improve even further in time. Can put on a bold showing here but I doubt she can win. Place at best.

13. YANKEE ROSE
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $201

Debuted in an 1100m 2yo handicap at Rosehill late October last year and sat midfield before unleashing an impressive sprint to get over the top and win. She ran the fastest 600, 400 and 200m splits running home and her 600m time was a very impressive 4.6L faster than the class bench mark figure. That’s a very decent effort on debut.

Second start in a race was over the same track and trip was as impressive as her winning debut. Same track, same distance and same result. She ran home her last 600m in a time (33.72) a devastating 6.6L faster than the 2yo class average. That’s very, very good and it proves genuine quality when they can do something like that, so don’t underestimate the win.

Whilst the form out of her first ran could be questioned by pundits as not being good enough for top grade, the form out of her second run couldn’t be questioned at all. Good Standing was the runner-up to Yankee Rose at her second start. Good Standing was on debut that day but after being immediately spelled he resumed with a dominant win in the G2 Skyline Stakes at Randwick a field that included last week’s Pago Pago winner Souchez and Telperion who runs here. I digress, all that demonstrates in how good Yankee Rose’s second win was!!! Yankee Rose is $41 here, Good Standing is $16.

She’s had two trials to get her ready to run fresh and has come up with an ideal gate in the form 3. Zac Purton jets in from Hong Kong to take the ride and as he has proven in winning races like the Caulfield Cup and riding the favourite in the Melbourne Cup, he doesn’t come back to Australia very often and when he does it’s only for good horses who are genuine chances…He’s not after an appearance fee.

The blinkers have also been applied for the first time and many a 2 year old has exploded for the first time when the shades go on! She’s 100% under the radar this filly.

Many may laugh when I say this, but she can win and I’ll be definitely be having the 40-1 each way as it’s such huge value! I think she should be the 15-1 quote Good Standing who she beat magnificently is.

14. SWEET SHERRY
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $201

Scored a debut win in the listed Maribyrnong Trial Stakes at Flemington which is Melbourne’s annual kick off race for the 2 year olds. That form simply hasn’t produced though, with none of the horses including Sweet Sherry winning a race since. Tenth beaten 4.5L in the Inglis Banner at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day went a fancied $7 hope. Was spelled following the poor run.

Resuming was 3.5L sixth in the Blue Diamond Prelude for fillies at Caulfield before running sixth again, this time 6.7L off winner Extreme Choice in the Blue Diamond itself. The latter was a different effort in a hot race but she was in a different post code to this race winner. She’ll find the going very tough here.

15. HONESTY PREVAILS
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $101

Impressive winning two trials at Randwick in the lead up to her race day debut. Kicked off straight into G3 grade in the Widden Stakes at Rosehill. She settled down just of the speed and enjoyed a good run in transit before dashing quickly and really asserting her dominance, living up to the promise she’d shown in her trial wins. She ended up winning by 2.5L but the race has proven to be weak form wise, with the horses behind her failing to flatter in subsequent runs. The race was however run on a slow track so if those conditions prevail here we know she’ll be right at home.

Stepped up to G2 grade at Rosehill in the Reisling Stakes over 1200m and was sent out a $2.40 favourite to make it two from two. She got a lovely run on the fence and didn’t spend an ounce of petrol in the run. When asked to dash in the straight however she failed to find that next gear she’d shown on debut and only whacked away to the line to finish 4th of the 6 runners beaten 1.7L. Stewards queried the poor run of the filly and a post race vet examination revealed that the filly was suffering from a poor post race recovery rate. That explains her below par effort, but even so she was well beaten by a horse that starts 300-1 here so it sums up the quality of that race.

Could run well at a big price if you go off her debut win and forget her performance last start when she did have an excuse. Can’t see her figuring in the placing but she could be top 6 with luck.

16. QUICK FEET
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $61

Trialled well before stepping out on debut and winning a Warwick Farm 2yo maiden. The form out of that win has been average at best. Then went for a 9 week spell before again trialling very well in preparation for a tilt at the feature Melbourne 2yo races.

Resumed in the 1100m G2 fillies Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield. Got a gun run sitting in the box seat the whole way but once straightening he failed to produce any zip and only battled to end up seventh beaten 4L. Sixth in that same race was Sweet Sherry and fifth was Calliope, both of which run here in the Slipper. All in all it was an average effort.

Returned to Sydney after Melbourne failure for the Gr2 Reisling Stakes and dfinitely enjoyed being back in his home town. He jumped awkwardly but soon recovered, but still settled down last in the small field of six. Hooked to the outside in the straight and she ran on well picking up all bar the winner of the race French Fern who runs here and is a 300-1 shot. Notably this fillies division race of the 2yo’s was run 6.5L slower than the boys over the same distance, the same day.

Pretty handy type of a filly but she’s out of her depth in the Slipper and connections would be thrilled if she cracks the top 10.

17. MOQUEEN
“SUPER COMPUTER” ASSESSED PRICE: $61

Debuted with a solid fourth in a 2yo Rosehill maiden behind Omnei Sword who was terrific last week in G2 grade. Settled back last in the 1100m event but ran on very well in the straight to get within 0.6L of the winner.

Jumped straight to G2 grade in the 1200m Reisling Stakes at Randwick. Went around an unfavoured 25-1 chance but put in a very respectable effort and managed to get the black type by running third. He settled midfield and found the line well, getting going well late on in the piece.

Needs a scratching to gain a run. Whilst she’s not a winning chance in this definitely worth keeping an eye out for him if he goes around in the Sires or Champagne later in the Autumn as it looms as though the 1400/1600 will be much better suited than the 1200.

TIPS
1.EXTREME CHOICE
13.YANKEE ROSE
4.KISS AND MAKE UP
2.FLYING ARTIE
8.GOOD STANDING

I just can’t ignore the times and margins Extreme Choice has put up at his three wins to date, they’re nothing short of superstar material. He goes on top and is the one I’m very keen to back. Have taken the $3.50 on offer with the rating for him being $3.30, so that suggests the price on offer is good. If bookies want to gamble with him I’ll happily go again as the price winds out.

Yankee Rose is the forgotten horse. It’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. Her two wins to date though have been explosive and her sectional times are of a G1 standard. Knock out hope for sure if she unleashes the sprint that saw her run down Good Standing.

Kiss and Make Up has the Gai polish and that’s worth a mint. Having third start in first prep so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll have come on even more since his last win and if that’s the case he’s right in the mix.

Flying Artie can’t be ignored we all saw his Blue Diamond run.

Good Standing probably wants it a touch further but with a hot tempo will be steaming home and could be the winner.

SUGGESTED BETS
#1 EXTREME CHOICE THE WIN @ $3.50
#13 YANKEE ROSE EACH WAY @ $41 / $11

Trifecta Box my top five.

It’ll cost a bit but if the better priced horses like Good Standing and especially 40-1 shot Yankee Rose can run into the placings or even win the dividend with big pools on offer is sure to be healthy.

Gold Cup preview

The racing highlight (perhaps not the PR one this year thanks to Ms Pendleton) of the final day is always the Gold Cup, this time sponsored by super bookmaker...no, big brewery ...no, major international brand....no, it's a b2b telco nobody's ever heard of but the owner has a few horses so he's happy to put his name it - Timico. Good luck to them, I hope it's more than just a stop-gap measure while the Authorised Betting Partner saga continues.

Making his second appearance on the blog this week to cover the blue riband classic of the chasing circuit is Paddy Savage, @paddysav.

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

Timico Gold Cup
Grade 1, £575,000, 3m2f70y, New Course
1530 local, 0230 AEDT


"And this is the race now to the last fence. It's Arkle on the stand side for Ireland and Mill House for England on the far side."

"As they come to the line, she's made it. Dawn Run has won it"

"He's beginning to get up, Desert Orchid is beginning to get up as they race towards the line."

"Denman is destroying them."

"And now the hill for the novice. Coneygree; the jumping's behind him"

The Gold Cup is a race which echoes through the ages. Wherever National Hunt races are run or the magic word "Cheltenham" is uttered, memories will blossom of the glorious Gold Cups of the past. Though the Grand National may be richer and the Champion Hurdle faster, there can be no doubt that it is the Gold Cup which decides which gelding is the greatest.

As always, this year's Friday feature is intriguing to the point of mystifying. While the field may be smaller than normal, it is very much a case of quality over quantity with the presence of steeplechasing's elite discouraging many of those with only outside chances. Though the likes of Turpin Green, Neptune Collonges, Mon Mome and The Giant Bolster have all hit the frame in recent editions at odds of in excess of 25/1, this year's renewal is so hot as it surely excludes the chances of Irish Cavalier, O Faolain's Boy and On His Own, despite the latter pair's impressive record at the venue.

Though Smad Place is likely to cut a distinctive figure blazing a trail out in front, his moderate performance in the same race last year, as well as the seeming disinclination of connections to confirm for this task until the latter part of the season, mean that he cannot be strongly fancied. Carlingford Lough was one place behind Alan King's charge in last year's renewal and that was sufficiently detached from the 2015 principals as to suggest that this year's Irish Gold Cup winner is unlikely to add the British version.

We are now down to four but this quartet undoubtedly deserve special recognition. Don Cossack is the highest rated horse in training. A horse of the highest class, this Gigginstown star was captivatingly brilliant in last year's Melling Chase before following that effort up with Grade One glory at Punchestown. A three time graded winner this term an unfortunate fall when looking a possible victor in the King George is one of few blots on his impressive copybook. Yet the failure to turn infinitive potential into festival success in previous years, as well as a doubt around stamina for this extended test, means that a favourite's price can be readily passed over.

There would be few more popular winners of any major race than the irrepressible Cue Card but history is not on his side. No horse with an age in double digits has captured this blue riband of steeplechasing this century and although the apple of Colin Tizzard's eye had sufficient stamina to catch Vautour on the line at Kempton over Christmas, a nagging doubt remains that he could be caught out by the Prestbury Park hill and an additional two and a half furlongs. Though this week has shown that fairytales sometimes do come true, I can only conclude that this will be one step too far and that those insuring the million pound bonus will breathe a sigh of relief later this afternoon.

Djakadam produced a heroic display in last year's renewal but failed to complete the same course on Festival trials' day. When you also consider that the Gold Cup has never been won by a horse beaten in the race on its first attempt, that suggests that this is one prize which could remain beyond the grasp of Rich Ricci and Ruby Walsh for another year.

This author believes that three key characteristics define a Gold Cup winner; abundant stamina, prowess at Prestbury Park and a liking for a decent surface. And one horse running this afternoon fits that bill impeccably. Don Poli is a dual festival winner, the hero of the 2014 Martin Pipe and the 2015 RSA. He has been beaten only once over fences and that was surely a Punchestown aberration after a long and successful season. Three times he has entered the winners' enclosure after Grade One chases and on both times he tasted Cheltenham glory, it was good ground which prevailed. His trainer actively considered opting for the four mile test of the National Hunt Chase last season and given that the Grand National remains a possibility this year, we can infer that stamina is no object to this son of Poliglote. Though the Gold Cup can prove a stiff examination of jumping, Don Poli is yet to hit the deck in his career and can hopefully be relied upon for a clear round.

I find it difficult to pick holes in the mount of Davy Russell and at odds of around 9/2, he may well represent an each way bet to nothing. Don Poli jumps, he stays, he goes on good ground and he loves Cheltenham. It may well be that he is the horse which finally brings jump racing's most prestigious prize back to the Closutton home of WP Mullins.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Ryanair Chase preview

Festival Thursday - always the day which annoys the traditionalists. Does it dilute the quality of the meeting? You can certainly argue that case with the Gold Cup favourite changing target in favour to this race, not to mention the budget rather than blue-chip nature of this sponsor!

To serve it up to those making the decisions with little regard for the punting public, it's over to regular blog contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Ryanair Chase
Grade 1, £300,000, almost 2m5f New Course
1450 local


Vautour owner Rich Ricci may be a genius as he just leaves it to Willie and Ruby and lets them set their priorities much as he and Bob Diamond claimed to run a bank - shocked, shocked to hear of wrong doing they were. Whereas say Gigginstown and Wylie and Potts may insist Willie do what they say. The most credible reason for Vautour's switch seems with Wylie insisting Felix Yonger run in the Queen Mother Ruby did not have a ride in this and lo. This sounds a bit like a butterfly flapping its wings and Leicester City winning the English Premier League.

The main downside to Ricci's supine behaviour is that Willie and Ruby view a winner as a winner at Cheltenham. For Ricci it should be like New Zealand Rugby 7s winning the Plate consolation to take the Ryanair with Vautour.

Vautour is apparently 90% fit to which the cynic in me says why is he 8/11 on the exchanges? That is clearly nonsense. Annie Power had not worked the house down and drifted. Clearly the stoolies at Willie's missed those bad workouts.

My main issue is the next two in the market are not laid out for this and their trainers surely aimed them at Gold Cup too. Valseur Lido has improved every step up in trip and his third in the JLT if you take Vautour out is mostly form that especially at 2.5 miles has been smashed. Valseur Lido and Road To Riches also had a hard bottoming race last time but it was 40 days ago.

If there is a 2.5 mile specialist it is Al Ferof who towers over the rest but even fresh on good ground was put to the sword by Don Cossack at Aintree and has been beaten in this spot by lessers. The record times today probably mean he is For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Annacotty is a nice enough horse off a career high mark who makes no appeal as I think he has won soft handicaps over course and distance. May also like slow ground.

Captain Conan could not win this three years ago when won by a 147 OR, Dynaste as well, and he's been injured since and thrashed on his comeback.

Champagne West seems to be a dodgy jumper and not within 10 pounds of some of these. Best form giving a ton of weight when beaten by Village Vic.

Dynaste's form this year has been poor. Won this 2 years ago but this is a tougher renewal - Al Ferof was behind him when he won BTW.

Gilgamboa is a giant barge of a horse. Pushed home by McCoy to put last year's JLT form in perspective with Valseur Lido and Apache Stronghold (& Smashing) behind over 2.5 miles last Easter. Flopped over course before and a combo of not that good, good ground and track enough to pass.

Josses Hill - Completely out paced over hurdles by a young Vautour and somehow lumbered round to be third in the Arkle. Improved finally for more schooling than a PhD has had at Kempton last time. On an upward curve and with God's Own running creditably this week backing up his recent win without franking it.

Oscar Rock, you can argue been held back for better ground. Equally can argue winter form better than summer ground form. Seemingly exposed handicapper for me.

Smashing Lovely Super. Jim Bowen would have loved him and on an upward curve with three wins. Looking impressive in small fields. Up 12 to 159 so ballpark. Not out of the question but Arkle seventh a red flag. Also beaten by Gilgamboa at Fairyhouse last year although would accept better now.

Taquin Du Seuil back to some form last time. Won a JLT from last year's winner but that is only sort of ballpark on ratings this year.

Vibralto Valtat started season with a win off 150 but seemingly exposed by Group 1 horses since. Soft ground preference may be offset by longer trip but failed to beat Clarcam at Aintree after fourth in Arkle. Never beaten a field of greater than five. One that nags at me but cannot make a case he is a Grade 1 horse.

Village Vic has made all to win two handicaps and advanced to 157. If Claisse has not gone crazy (with the watering) and Vautour is not ridden aggressively a back to lay could pay off. At least like Smashing on an upward curve. Front runner.

Conclusion

Vautour for me shapes as a three-miler but at seven years of age, dropping back here against horses barely within a stone of his King George win, it may not be a problem. Nothing but Ricci's rationalisation says he has a problem here. Nonetheless he is odds-on vs several Grade 1 winners in Taquin de Seuil, Valseur Lido, Road To Riches, Al Ferof and Dynaste. Of the outsiders, I could only seriously consider Josses Hill but the run of the race could help Village Vic and Smashing on the up.

Road to Riches shapes like this cut back be less of an issue than some. Hard run last time but it was only his second of the season. Latest drift just decides me against a lay of Valseur Lido.

Road to Riches w/o Vautour 10/3 or better
Josses Hill EW

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Ryanair World Hurdle

The liver might be considerably well lubricated, the head might be thumping and the wallet might be significantly lighter, but we're only halfway through the Cheltenham Festival - it's time to get back on the horse and out there again for Day Three!

Making his blog debut to cover the longest championship event over the minor obstacles, it's Paddy Savage, @PaddySav.

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Ryanair World Hurdle
Grade 1, £300k, Three Miles (+/- 10 yds)
1530 local time


Ted Walsh may have been correct that "nobody ever bred a horse to win a World Hurdle" but that detracts little from the glory to be bestowed upon winners of this championship race. Maligned though it may occasionally be, the Day 3 feature has been responsible for many of the great Cheltenham memories in recent times, whether they be the scenes of joy which greeted Warren Greatex's first Cheltenham festival winner last term or the drama which unfolded as Big Buck's denied an inspired ride from Andrew Lynch on Voler La Vedette to claim a fourth World Hurdle in 2012.

This year's renewal appears to revolve around one horse. Colin Tizzard's Thistlecrack was an absentee at last year's festival but his Imperial Cup fifth was succeeded by Grade One glory at Aintree and an unlucky second to Killutagh Vic in top class company at Punchestown last April. Novice potential has very much been fulfilled this season with the mount of Tom Scudamore claiming each of the major staying hurdle trials at Newbury, Ascot and then at Prestbury Park in January. There appear to be few chinks in the armour of this son of Kayf Tara who enters the fray having shown himself to be the best staying hurdler of the season and who boosts form at Spring festivals in the book.

But the likely prices of around even money make little appeal in a competitive heat so it may be worth searching for the value elsewhere. Drying ground is unlikely to suit the Irish challenge of Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Lieutenant Colonel, while a sad Kilcooley can probably be excluded on similar grounds. The best form of both Bob's Worth and Knockara Beau is sufficiently distant as to render them unlikely challengers while last year's second Saphir Du Rheu has endured another mishmash of a campaign as connections struggle to identify his most suitable challenge. The other Paul Nicholls runner, Aux Ptits Soins, hasn't been seen on a racecourse since winning the Coral Cup on his British debut in last year's Coral Cup and it is surely too much to ask to be competitive in this exalted company.

The three which make most appeal at each way prices are At Fishers Cross, Cole Harden and Whisper. Each share two significant characteristics; a likeness for decent ground and form in open company at the Spring festivals. At Fishers Cross has been third and fourth in the previous two renewals of this race but although odds of 40/1 make some appeal, it is perhaps asking too much to suggest that Rebecca Curtis' charge could bridge a three-year gap since last visiting the winner's enclosure.

The chance of Cole Harden is obvious; the reigning champion in a division which has lent itself to repeat successes, he has a notable preference for the drying ground likely to prevail on Thursday afternoon. With front running tactics likely to be employed, there is little doubt that Waren Greatex's charge may prove difficult to catch but, despite the trainer's notable confidence, at 7/1 and facing a strong field, the value appears to be gone.

Of more interest is a horse which had 3 1/2 lengths to spare over Cole Harden in last year's Liverpool Hurdle. That excellent effort was WHISPER's second such triumph in that Grade One event and it followed a very creditable World Hurdle fifth on his seasonal debut. With the stable fresh from excellent performances in Tuesday's grade one hurdles, it is possible that a less interrupted preparation will allow Nicky Henderson to get this son of Astrabad to the festival in ideal condition. Form this season could hardly be less inspiring but at twice the likely odds of Cole Harden, it is perhaps worth taking a chance that Whisper's spring extravaganza may come a month earlier in 2016.

So whilst it would be no surprise to see Thistlecrack's connections rejoice, a quiet word to your bookmaker about Nico De Boinville's mount could possibly yield a profit.

Recommendation: Back Whisper each way at a general 14/1

RSA Chase preview

The Festival rolls on and one of the more intriguing contests is the RSA Chase. It only just qualifies for a three-place each-way race, but it's not clear cut at the top and cases can be made for several others. After just missing on the each-way on yesterday's tip, Dave Stephens, @davestevos returns....

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RSA Chase
Grade 1, £150k, 3m 1/2f Old Course
1410 local


The feature race on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival is the Champion Chase, but the RSA Chase is another cracking Grade 1 contest and although only eight will go to post it still looks an exceedingly tricky puzzle to solve. No trainer has dominated this race since Paul Nicholls won it for two years in a row back in 2006/7, and last year saw Willie Mullins claim the prize with this season's big Gold Cup hope Don Poli.

Don Poli was the first favourite to oblige since 2008 and there has been a fair few double figure priced winners in that period. Jonjo O'Neill and Gordon Elliott will supply the two market leaders in More Of That and No More Heroes, but it is far from a two horse race and it looks a very open renewal this season. A case can be made for most of them, and you can find out what I think their chances are by reading my in depth preview below.

BLAKLION

This 7yo son of Kayf Tara has been an admirably consistent performer for connections and his local yard will be hoping for a bold show on Wednesday. He has won twice around here, a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle back in 2014 (24f good to soft) and a Class 2 novice chase (25.5f soft) back in December.

He warmed up for this with a superb win in a Grade 2 chase at Wetherby when he beat useful yardstick Definitly Red by 8L. He has raced twice in Grade 1 company, both hurdling, and he made the frame on both occasions. However, while he didn't get his head in front he wasn't far away, and he looks as though he has improved a huge amount this season.

He has plenty of course form and he has won on ground ranging from heavy to good, so the forecast decent ground will be no worry to him. Nigel Twiston Davies has been bullish about his chances and he couldn't be coming here in much better form. Blaklion has every chance of picking up some place money at the very least and I wouldn't put anyone off backing him each way at his current odds of 9/1.

LE MERCUREY

This 6yo son of Nickname is currently priced up at 33/1 and on all known form he has it to do in this field. He was beaten 4L on his last run by the re opposing Vyta Du Roc at Ascot (24f soft) and there is no reason to think he can turn that form around here.

He was 23L behind Seeyouatmidnight when they met here back in January (21f heavy) and he had no excuses that day either. Even the switch to the forecast better ground doesn't inspire optimism as all his wins have come on soft or heavy ground, and he was pulled up on his sole run on good ground at Doncaster. It is always hard to write off a Paul Nicholls horse at Cheltenham, but I just can't see how Le Mercurey can win this race.

MORE OF THAT

This 8yo son of Beneficial is jostling with No More Heroes for favouritism and More Of That is just shading it at the moment at 2/1. It is no surprise to see him at the head of the market given that he has won his last three visits to the track, including a thrilling win over super mare Annie Power in the World Hurdle back in 2014 (24f good).

Even with the O'Neill yard going through a very lean spell earlier this season he still managed to win his last two starts, a class 2 novice chase here (20.5f good) and a similar heat back in December again here over 21f soft. It is an outstanding track record and it usually pays to follow horses that are proven on the legendary Cheltenham hill.

He goes on any ground, he stays well, he has been put away since his last win presumably to keep him fresh for this and judging by his price JP's money is down. Geraghty will be keen to make a big impact at his first festival as McManus' retained jockey, and in More Of That he looks to have a realistic chance of landing a valuable Grade 1.

NO MORE HEROES

This 7yo son of Presenting has been a useful hurdler (Grade 2 winner) for Gigginstown and Gordon Elliott, and given his owner's propensity for buying potential chasers it comes as no surprise that No More Heroes has taken his form to a different level over the bigger obstacles. He has yet to taste defeat since tackling fences, and two of his three wins have come at Grade 1 level.

It is no surprise to see him near the top of the market and he can currently be backed at 9/4. He has course and festival form in the book after finishing a close third behind Martello Tower in the Albert Bartlett last season (24f soft), and he was won on yielding ground so the forecast good to soft ground should be fine.

If the handicapper is to be believed he has 5lbs in hand on his main market rival, and on the figures he should win this pretty easily. However, this is Cheltenham and he has more than just the O'Neill horse to be worrying about. He looks to hold every chance, but at 9/4 he looks just a tad skinny and in such a competitive race there is probably better value to be found elsewhere.

ROI DES FRANCS

The trainer/jockey combination that is most feared by the bookies at Cheltenham will team up with Roi Des Francs for this race, and the 7yo son of Pogliote should not be written off. He is currently a 12/1 shot and given the manner of his last two wins he is a horse that will not be short on confidence for the trip to Cheltenham.

This is another Gigginstown horse, and Bryan Cooper has plumped for No More Heroes rather than this fella. Perhaps Roi Des Francs hasn't achieved the same level of form over either hurdles or chasing, but he is 2 from 3 since sent over the bigger obstacles and he also has solid Cheltenham form in the book after a good third behind Killultagh Vic in the Martin Pipe last year.

The big worry would have to be decent ground, as this horse has produced his very best when the ground has been bottomless. He was worryingly pulled up behind Thistlecrack on decent ground at Aintree, and though he won his bumper on good ground he seems to be a much better animal on soft/heavy. Probably best watched given doubts regarding the ground and the owners look to have a better chance with No More Heroes.

SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT

This dashing 8yo son of Midnight Legend is the pride of the North, and his small yard will be loving every minute of the build up to this race. Thomson has only a handful of horses compared to the other trainers in this contest, and he will be hoping his pride and joy comes back safe and sound after running a big race.

He was a useful hurdler (Grade 2 winner) and he signed off over timber with a gallant effort in the World Hurdle behind Cole Harden (beaten 12L) on ground that was much quicker than ideal. His trainer had always talked of him as a chaser in the making, and this season Seeyouatmidnight has justified his optimism.

He was beaten on his seasonal reappearance (20f heavy) by Silsol but he badly needed the run and he reversed that form in no uncertain terms back up in trip at Kelso (23.5f heavy). He was stepped up to Grade 2 level here at the New Year meeting (21f heavy) and he had a few of these behind when beating Blaklion by 3L. He warmed up for this with a workmanlike win at Newcastle, and I must admit I backed him for this race at the start of the season. The big worry is if the ground dries out too much, but he is sure to make a bold bid from the front and his stamina is assured. Definite each way claims at 12/1.

SHANESHILL

The Mullins' second string according to jockey bookings and the bookies' odds of 20/1, but as ever it is dangerous to discount anything from those quarters. This 7yo son of King's Theatre hasn't got a whole lot to find on the ratings, and until his heavy defeat at Doncaster last time he had looked an extremely promising recruit to chasing. He was a very useful hurdler and bumper performer, twice runner up at the festival, and he undoubtedly is a classy type.

The trip is something of an unknown, but he looked like 3m stretched him on his only start at the trip at Punchestown (24f good/yielding). He was mightily impressive on his first two chase starts and he won with plenty in hand on both occasions (18f soft, 16f heavy). However, his run at Doncaster looks too bad to be true (16f good) and he is definitely a better horse than he showed that day.

He has that all important course form in the book, he has run his best races on decent ground and he has always been held in high regard by his trainer. His lack of chase experience at a high level is an obvious worry, but his runs in the bumper and Supreme Novice last year will have prepared him well for the hustle and bustle of this race. He looks a big price at 20/1 and he could easily run into a place.

VYTA DU ROC

This 7yo son of Lion Noir is the lowest rated runner in this field, but that hasn't put off his supporters and he is just 10/1 having been put up by Pricewise a few weeks ago. He was a very useful hurdler and he found only Thistlecrack too good in the staying hurdle at Aintree (25.5f good to soft). He had previously run a very nice race behind Windsor Park here in the Neptune, when an awful late mistake cost him a winning chance.

He has never been out of the first four since coming to England from France and his consistency is a big positive. Nicky Henderson was talking about the four miler as a possible alternative so stamina is obviously his strong suit. However, on decent ground he might get outpaced by the speedier types in the race, and it will be interesting to see if he can get to the front and dictate the pace.

Those who snapped up the fancy odds available when Tom Segal tipped him up will be sitting pretty, but he is now only 10/1 and seeing as he would be getting weight from all of these in a handicap he will need to produce a career best to win. He will be staying on when others have cried enough though, and he is another that has realistic place claims.

CONCLUSION

As can be seen from the above it is hard to discount almost all of the horses in the field for what looks an extremely competitive RSA Chase. The two at the top of the market, No More Heroes and More Than That are sure to be popular, but the value is gone from those two and with eight runners in the field there is plenty of each way value to be found elsewhere.

I have been in the Seeyouatmidnight camp all year, but I was praying that there would be plenty of rain before the race and on quick ground he just mightn't have the toe to go with the best of these. The same applies to Vyta Du Roc who looks an out and out stayer, and usually to win an RSA you need the right mix of stamina and speed. Blaklion is another that can't be discounted, though his odds of 9/1 look a shade skinny.

One horse that fits the bill is SHANESHILL who had the pace to take second in a Champion Bumper here and again behind Douvan in the Supreme Novice when he was a staying on second. He looks too big a price at 20/1 and while he looked a doubtful stayer at Punchestown, he is a year older and stronger now and his pedigree suggests that 3m should be within his compass. He is the each way suggestion in what should be a cracking race, though I will be shouting home Seeyouatmidnight in the hope that he can land a Grade 1 at Cheltenham for his tiny yard.

STEVOS' SELECTION: SHANESHILL E/W 20/1

Monday, 14 March 2016

Supreme Novices' Hurdle preview

Await the Roar! Day one of Cheltenham is just hours away and it traditionally opens with the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. It's been a Willie Mullins benefit in recent years, will bookmakers cop another early battering with a superb Irish novice hurdler at the top of the market?

David Stephens returns to the blog with his sharp assessment of the opening race of the Festival, you can follow him on Twitter @DaveStevos

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SKY BET SUPREME NOVICES´ HURDLE
Grade 1, £120,000, 2m 87y, Old Course
1330 local 0030 AEDT


With just a day to go until National Hunt Racing's showpiece meeting gets underway the excitement and anticipation is almost at fever pitch. All the tension and nerves will be released with an almighty roar when the runners in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle come under starter's orders at 1.30 on Tuesday afternoon, and it looks to be an intriguing race. The opener sees the first of a raft of Willie Mullins' hotpots in Min taking his chance, and he will be looking to follow in the famous hoof steps of stable mates Champagne Fever, Douvan and Vautour and make it a four timer for Mullins and Ricci in this race.

The last two winners, Douvan and Vautour, were heavily hyped and even more heavily backed, and they both obliged at 2/1 and 7/2 respectively. However, prior to the recent Mullins domination of this event there was no shortage of double priced winners, and Mullins himself sent out Ebaziyan to score at odds of 40/1 back in 2007. All the big owners and trainers will be represented and there are plenty of potential dangers to Min, some of whom will go off at very nice prices. You can read what I make of their chances in an in depth preview below.

MIN 2/1

This 5yo son of Walk In The Park has looked sensational on his two Irish starts so far. He didn't pull up any trees in a couple of runs back in France as a 3yo, but Willie Mullins obviously saw something he liked and Rich Ricci did what he does best and got his chequebook out. He has looked a different animal on these shores, and after two facile wins at Punchestown he has been backed into 2/1 favourite for this, and he could end up going off even shorter.

He was sent off at 4/11 in a 21 runner maiden (18f soft) on his Irish debut and won as he liked. The second home that day, Gurteen, is no superstar but he won his next two starts so there is some substance to the form. Min was stepped straight into Grade 2 company on his next run at the start of January, again at Punchestown (16f heavy) and he again demolished the field, beating subsequent Listed and Grade 2 winner Ball D'Arc by 11L.

Being by the same sire as Douvan he should have no problems with better ground, though the fact remains that we won't know until he actually runs on it. It is no surprise that he has been heavily backed given his connections and the impressive manner of his two wins, but he looks very skinny now at 2/1 and for a horse that is unproven on the likely going I couldn't be backing him at that price. Those that snapped up the double figure odds about him early in the season will be sitting pretty, but for me there is better value to be found elsewhere now and he won't be seeing any of my hard earned.

ALTIOR 4/1

This 6yo son of High Chapparal is the current second favourite for the Supreme and he has looked a high class animal on his four starts this year. His trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race twice, but his last victory came all the way back in 1992. It has been a long time between drinks for Henderson, but he sent out the second and third home in 2014, and the runner up in 2013 too, so it is not as though he doesn't try and target the race.

This gelding has some serious form in the book, and most importantly he has shown he is effective on decent ground and at the track. He took the trial for this race here back in November (15.5f good to soft) by half a length from Maputo, and he followed that up with a 13L hammering of Open Eagle at Kempton off level weights. He was eighth behind Bellshill, beaten 8L, at Punchestown in the Irish Champion Bumper last season (16f good/yielding), but he is unbeaten this season and he looks a much stronger horse this year.

His sires' progeny usually improve over time and there is no shortage of decent jumpers on the dam side of his pedigree. He is proven on the likely ground, he has shown he likes the track and he looks like a serious challenger to the favourite. At odds of just 4/1 though the value has definitely gone, and I would only get involved if he was to drift out to an each way price before the race. Nico De Boinville will ride.

BUVEUR D'AIR 7/1

5yo son of Crillon who is another in the care of master trainer Nicky Henderson. He has had just the two runs this season, in a maiden hurdle (16.f soft Newbury) and a novice (16f good to soft Huntingdon), and he made mincemeat of the opposition on both occasions. The form of his maiden win worked out alright, with the second home (beaten 11L) Wait For Me going on to score on his next two starts.

He had decent bumper form last season, finding only Barters Hill too good by less than a length in a Listed heat at Newbury on soft, but he was over 14L behind that horse when they met again in the Grade 2 bumper at Aintree on better ground. His bare form leaves him with a fair bit to find with his stable mate Alitor, but he is completely unexposed over timber and a big run wouldn't come as a massive surprise.

He is bred to be a Grade 1 jumper, and his half brother Punchestowns was a magnificent servant to Henderson, winning a Long Walk hurdle and a Grade 1 novice chase, and he also put it right up to Big Bucks in the World Hurdle back in 2009. Noel Fehily has been booked for the ride and he was on Buveur D'Air's back for his last two wins. He has a bit to find on the form book, but he is an each way price at 7/1 and it would be foolish to write him off.

TOMBSTONE 14/1

There was plenty of talk about this 6yo son of Robin Des Champs earlier on this season and he was sent off at prohibitive odds to land a bumper by 11L on his comeback run at Down Royal back in October (16f yielding/soft). That was followed by an authoritative win in a pretty weak maiden at Fairyhouse, and the hype looked like being justified.

However, his bubble was burst by Long Dog when stepped into Grade 1 company next time at Leopardstown (16f heavy) but he didn't enjoy the clearest of runs and was beaten less than a length. He was kept to Grade 1 company last time, again on heavy at Leopardstown (18f) and this time he again finished second, beaten 3L by Bleu Et Rouge (Bellshill 15L behind in third).

After those two defeats he comes here as something of a forgotten horse, but it would be folly to write him off. His dam, Connaught Hall, had a distinct preference for good ground and Tombstone has yet to encounter anything better than yielding/soft. He will likely get good ground for the first time in his career at Cheltenham, and it could be the making of him. He can currently be backed at odds of 14/1 and I think that represents outstanding each way value. Bryan Cooper rides.

SILVER CONCORDE 16/1

High class flat bred son of Dansili who won the Champion Bumper on good ground here back in 2014 at odds of 16/1. Followed that up with a second in the Irish equivalent at Punchestown (good to yielding) but he remains a maiden over hurdles, finishing runner up in two heavy ground maidens and finishing fourth behind Nichols Canyon (beaten 15L) in a Grade 1 on yielding ground at Leopardstown.

He was campaigned on the flat late last summer and landed a high class 15f handicap off a mark of 91 at Leopardstown (good to yielding). His last run came when he trailed in a 13L second behind the re-opposing Supasundae in a maiden hurdle at Leopardstown on heavy (16f). However, he has yet to encounter his favoured good ground over timber, and if there is no soft in the ground description at Cheltenham on Tuesday he will go there with every chance.

He has a lovely flat pedigree and his dam is from the family of the top class Ridgewood Pearl. He has shown that he has no problems with the track and the weather forecast would suggest that he is in with a good shout of getting his ground. If it does come in his favour he won't go off at 16/1, and he is also a Pricewise selection for the race so if you are going to back him you should do it sooner rather than later.

SUPASUNDAE 16/1

Henry De Bromhead trains this 6yo son of Galileo and he is another with a very attractive flat pedigree. He was produced as a 4yo by shrewd handler Tim Fitzgerald to win a bumper on his first run, and he changed hands soon after. He was next seen in the care of Andrew Balding and he put in a mightily impressive performance to lower the colours of Yanworth at Ascot (15.5f soft) in December 2014. He was then picked up by the Potts family, and he finished 6th behind Moon Racer on his first run for current connections in the Champion Bumper here.

He was fifth behind Stone Hard on his first run over timber at Gowran (16f soft) but he left that effort well behind when slamming Silver Concorde by 13L on bottomless ground at Leopardstown. However, I think that Silver Concorde has a lot more potential for improvement on better ground than Supasundae, and if it comes up good on the day I would be firmly in the Weld horse's camp. They are currently the same price at 16/1 but I think Supasundae has outside place claims at the very best.

BEST OF THE REST

Charbel is an interesting contender at long odds, and the Kim Bailey 5yo has been ultra consistent. He was less than 3L behind Yanworth on his penultimate run at Ascot (15.5f soft) and he dotted up at Musselburgh last time. He showed in the Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown last year when fourth, just 6L behind Bellshill, that he belongs at this level and he is another with outside place claims at 25/1 for those seeking a bit of each way value.

CONCLUSION

As can be seen from the above this is a mightily competitive race this year. Min is the favourite but he looks plenty short now at 2/1, and I would much rather be a layer than a backer at that price. The two Henderson horses go there with every chance, and I would have a slight preference for Buveur D'air of those two. Silver Concorde will also come into the reckoning if the ground dries out enough and should not be discounted. However, I think it is worth chancing that TOMBSTONE will improve hugely for the switch to good ground for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown, and at odds of 14/1 he is the each way suggestion.

STEVOS' SELECTION: TOMBSTONE E/W 14/1

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Fancy writing a preview yourself? Drop me a line or write a comment below, there are plenty of races still available and it's a great way to collate your research into a proper finished work. #showcaseyourtalent

Friday, 11 March 2016

Coolmore Classic preview

Sydney gets in on the act of big autumn racing this week as we move closer to the Golden Slipper and The Championships. Making his first appearance on the blog is Sydney racing aficionado, Liam Power, @laz3liam.

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Coolmore Classic
Rosehill
G1, AU$600,000, 1500m.
1610 local, 0510 GMT


Group 1 racing returns to Rosehill for the first time since the Golden Rose in September as the Fillies and Mares do battle in the time-honoured Coolmore Classic. With hot weather and windy conditions expected in Western Sydney on Saturday, we are likely to be racing on a Good 3 surface. The rail will be in the True position, meaning horses situated two or three of the fence should be best suited.

Former Winners and SP
2015: Plucky Belle - $16
2014: Steps in Time - $8
2013: Appearance - $11
2012: Ofcourseican - $13
2011: Aloha - $6
2010: Alverta - $17
2009: Typhoon Tracy - $4.75
2008: Eskimo Queen - $21
2007: Tuesday Joy - $7.5
2006: Regal Cheer - $9

By taking a look at winners of the race over the past 10 years, we can see that the race has been a tough one for favourite punters, with superstar mare Typhoon Tracy the last favourite to win the race. Despite the poor record of three year-old fillies in the race, punters have backed Ghisoni in early markets, with the filly now holding $4.6 favouritism over Melbourne mare Azkadellia and tough Sydneysider Azkadellia.

Runner-by-Runner
1. Lucia Valentina 5m 58kg (J McDonald, K Lees)
The tough Savabeel mare boasts a fantastic record first-up, with her last two first-up runs over 1400m resulting in a 1.6L sixth to Hooked in the Tramway, and a 2L fourth to star import Contributer in the 2015 Apollo Stakes. Although she definitely saves her best form for rain-affected ground, that first-up form is proper WFA form against some of the nation’s top class gallopers. After drawing barrier seven, it looks likely that she will take up her usual running pattern of dropping right out the back and having one run at them down the straight. In previous first-up runs Lees has had her flashing home with an eye-catching run, however being first-up over 1500m this time, she will have that little bit extra time to catch them on the post. Despite lumping top weight of 58kg, I feel she is right in this and believe the current $21 quote at Sportsbet is terrific value.

2. Politeness 5m 57kg (T Berry, R Smerdon)
What a tough mare Politeness has turned out to be. Last year’s Myer Classic winner and Emirates runner-up was one of the most in-form horses in the country last spring, stringing together three straight wins to start her prep before being bloused by Turn Me Loose on the final day of the Flemington carnival. Although she is yet to register a win this prep, her record is hard to ignore and the form around Turn Me Loose is top WFA form as seen by his big win in the Futurity a fortnight ago. The big factor against Politeness is that she has drawn awfully in barrier 13 so will need a lot of luck from the barrier as well as a good ride from Tommy Berry to have any winning chance. Her weight of 57kg isn’t exactly encouraging either for a mare who is conceding weight to in-form rivals such as Solicit and Azkadellia. I think she will find it tough but wouldn’t be surprised to see her fill a placing.

3. Solicit 5m 56kg (K McEvoy, G Ryan)
If it wasn’t for a mare called Winx, you would have to say that Solicit would be one of the most in-form mares in Australia. A one-length defeat to Winx at level weights in the Apollo was followed up by a dominant last-start win in the G2 Guy Walter where she broke the track record in the process. Solicit gets her chance to break the “Group 1 Duck” today and has drawn absolutely perfect in barrier six. I ecpect McEvoy to be positive from the gate and to hold out Ghisoni and Peeping from their outside barriers. The key to her chances today is how much of an easy-time she can get up front. So many mares races are a battle for the lead and if she can get some cruisy mid-race sectionals, she will be incredibly hard to hold out. The one they have to beat.

4. Amicus 4m 55.5kg (T Clark, C Waller)
I was really hoping for Amicus to draw a nice barrier today, as I believe her last run behind Solicit was a big forgive run given the ride she was given and track bias on the day, however she has come up with barrier 12 and will find it tough to get an ideal run again today. If Clark can manage to get a trail behind Slightly Sweet over into a two wide/three wide with cover position, she may have enough for one last crack at them. It must be remembered that she gets a 2.5kg swing from the Guy Walter against Solicit and must be respected given her trainer’s record at this track and in Group 1 races. Probably prefer the place, and think she is a little under the odds at the moment.

5. Tinto 5m 55kg (D Browne, R Lipp)
For a group 1 winning mare Tinto is really well weighted here, however all of her best runs have come over 1600m or further. Although wide, she has drawn a barrier which really suits her running-style and if the pace is hot enough, I can see her charging home late to fill a placing. The big race to look at her from a form perspective is the Villiers in December when she ran one length behind Happy Clapper despite conceding 3kg to him. Happy Clapper has since run well at WFA against the likes of First Seal and Kermadec which means this is serious form which shouldn’t be ignored. I think her ideal race this Autumn is the Queen of the Turf later in the Autumn, but wouldn’t surprise me if she ran really well here. I have her marked closer to $12 so feel the $17 on offer (at time of writing) at Crownbet is certainly appealing.

6. Peeping 4m 53.5kg (S Clipperton, R Quinton)
What a tough little mare Peeping is. For a mare that has only had 13 career starts, Peeping has endeared herself to Sydney racing fans as a mare who always tries her guts out. Although I think she is poorly weighted, the fact Peeping has only been beaten at Rosehill once in her four starts here (the day she pulled up with Cardiac Arrhythmia) means she has to be respected in this field. Wins against top mares such as Catkins and Arabian Gold in the Golden Pendant in September show that Peeping is certainly no slouch and must be respected here. Barrier 10 means Clipperton is going to have to be really smart with the first 400 metres of the race so she still has enough energy at the end, but if she can sit two or three pairs back with cover, she is a definite winning chance for mine.

7. Azkadellia 4m 53kg (B Prebble, C Maher)
Azkadellia was one of the biggest improvements in the Melbourne Autumn carnival, as she went from racing in a BM70 at Ballarat in September, to running third in the Myer Classic behind Politeness on derby day. Azkadellia gets a 3.5kg swing from Politeness on that day, and gets the booking of gun Hong Kong-based rider Brett Prebble today so certainly should be respected. It may sound strange given she has drawn barrier four, but I would much prefer her to draw an outside barrier to stay out of trouble and get clear running room at the back end of the race. Those familiar with the Mare know her racing pattern can be extremely painful viewing for punters, however when things go right and she gets a bit of luck, she is a breathtaking horse to watch. I want to be on her today and think she is probably the one in this field with the most upside; however the barrier has disappointed me and will mean she needs absolutely everything in the run to go right for her to win.

8. Telepathic 5m 52kg ( J Collett, C Waller)
Although all of her best form has been over a mile and longer, Telepathic surprised many people to run second behind First Seal at this track last start. First Seal has well and truly franked that form running 2nd in the Canterbury Stakes at WFA last weekend so Telepathic definitely demands Respect. She gets an extra 2kg off that weight this weekend and looks to get a lovely run in behind them from barrier three. For mine, she is one of the best value chances in the race and looks like she will get the best run possible from that gate so should certainly be worth including in one way or another.

9. Zanbagh 5m 51kg (K O’Hara, J Thompson)
One of the biggest training performances in Australia over the past six months has been that of John Thompson to get Zanbagh back to her best following a barren stretch of form which included just 1 placing out of 11 starts since her second behind Rising Romance in the 2014 ATC Oaks. It would be a fantastic story if Zanbagh was to salute in the Coolmore, however given her inside draw and the fact she all of her best form has been on rain-effected going; I can’t have her this weekend. Being as low as $12 with some bookmakers is just puzzling to me and she will be one of the runners I will be looking to LAY if conditions stay the same.

10. Slightly Sweet 4m 51kg (J Ford, J Coyle)
Despite a fruitful 3yo campaign where she won the G3 Keith Nolan Classic and was 2.7L off Fenway in the Vinery, Slightly Sweet has really failed to go on with it in open age class and has to be another runner in this field who looks to be outclassed. She comes through the same form race as many with a 2.5L sixth behind Solicit in the Guy Walter; however she has failed to run a place in all her starts as a 4yo despite having every chance in most of them. I think the $18 is probably about the right price but I would have to see her parade well and see a positive betting move for her on the day before thinking about backing her.

11. Vergara 5m 51kg (D Moor, A Cummings)
I’m a big fan of Anthony Cummings as a trainer. As far as getting rising 3yos to run well and placing them in the early stages of their career, he is one of the best in Sydney. However, he continues to place his horses really poorly in Group 1s. This race is no exception as despite her lovely draw in barrier five, Vergara looks to be no chance at all. I understand she chased home a fast Solicit last start and battled on quite gamely, but she is going to have to improve a few lengths to be any chance in winning this.

12. Ghisoni 3f 50kg (C Brown, J O’Shea)
What a lovely little filly Ghisoni is turning out to be. A well-bred daughter of Lonhro who’s dam Portillo also won the Grp3 Surround Stakes brings in a different form line in the shape of the Surround Stakes a fortnight ago, where she was victorious against top fillies Stay With Me, Ambience and Honesta. I was quite against her that day but she won pretty well in the end and clearly looks to be one of the main chances here. I think the $4.5 she is with some bookies is big unders however and I will certainly be looking around her on the day before having a bet. Although she did beat those big names in the Surround, I feel with race fitness and luck-in-running she probably should have put a bigger margin on them in the end. Three year old fillies have had a pretty ordinary record in this race over the last few years, with superstar Typhoon Tracy the only three year old to win the race over the last 10 years. For this reason also, I’m happy to bet around Ghisoni on Saturday.

13. Pearls 3f 50kg (W Costin, J O’Shea)
Another blueblood Godolphin filly, Pearls looks to turn around an average start to her campaign here against the Mares. Being out of the great broodmare Accessories (Dam of Helmet and Epaulette), there is no doubt this filly is possessed with plenty of talent, but I don’t think this is the race she will get to showcase it. Her two best performances in my opinion have both been on rain-effected ground and she is not going to get that here. She has drawn ideally in barrier 1 and I expect her to get a nice run camped behind the speed as the race unfolds. I am a really big fan of the horse but I can’t have her in this.

Verdict and Tips: I think the big factor in this race is how much of an easy time Solicit gets up front. With not a huge amount of speed drawn inside of her I expect her to sit just off Vergara who has drawn inside of her, and to have Ghisoni camped just behind that pair. If McEvoy really wants to be aggressive and lead on Solicit, I have a feeling she might come a little unstuck in the latter stages of the race with known swoopers such as Lucia Valentina and Azkadellia coming hard late. Telepathic is the horse who I think is the best each way bet in the race but I would have to see her parade well and see if she has come on since her last run before backing her. Waller in a Group 1 race has to be respected.

1. Solicit
2. Lucia Valentina
3. Telepathic
4. Azkadellia

Win bet Solicit 1 unit @ $6 (Sportsbet)
Each way bet Lucia Valentina 0.5 units ew @ $21 (Sportsbet)
Each way bet Telepathic 0.5 units ew @ $15 (bet365)
Lay Ghisoni place to lose 2 units @ $1.90 or less
(Available prices as at Wednesday evening)