Sunday, 15 May 2016

Poule d'Essai des Poulains preview

Some of France's top races have been moved aronud this year due to the redevelopment of Longchamp. The Guineas has moved to Deauville and I've had a crack at deciphering the form for the 3yo colts.

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Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas)
Group 1, 3yo colts,
approx €500,000
1600m
1620 local, 1520 BST, 0020 AEST


Zarak - largely favourite on his breeding, and could you blame them? By Dubawi out of super filly Zarkava, he's two from two and still untapped. In the Prix de la Croix de Chavaux, he was pushed out hands'n'heels by Soumillon to beat George Patton by a neck. Both were making their seasonal debuts and the margin between was about the same as it was throughout the race, Zarak went right to make his challenge, the runner-up went to the left (and kept throwing his head to the left). Priceless breeding, the combination of de Royer-Dupre and Soumillon, and scope for improvement. Tough to beat.

Taareef - ran a close second to Dicton at Chantilly in the G3 Prix de Fontainebleu, seemingly having every chance. Both of them will start around 16/1 which suggests that race wasn't a strong one. No stars in his preceding wins either. Jean-Claude Rouget has three runners here, and looks to be the clear third string.

First Selection - seventh in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket at 66/1, won't start much shorter than that here. Has a 'shit or bust' profile, four wins from eight races with no other placings.

Zelzal - they haven't got near him in two starts to date, but neither of them have been on turf. Ran 22.88 for his last 400m on the Chantilly polytrack last time out, and was held up for some of that. Has a stunning turn of foot and won't have to do much work from the perfect gate of two - his only concern will be getting that gap at the right time. The head of the triumvirate from the J-C Rouget stable. Huge show.

George Patton - ran a close second to Zarak last time out and you could mount a reasonable case for him being able to overturn that. Threw his head around a bit, wasn't stretched out fully and today's track will be firmer (soft last time). Has won here on the turf, has been well supported at double figure odds.

The Gurkha - only made his debut five weeks ago, with a third at Leopardstown swiftly followed by a nine-length romp at Navan, both on wet tracks. Ballydoyle have sent him over as their only runner, which means either a) he wasn't remotely close to Air Force Blue at home, or b) he was too immature to be ready for Newmarket in time. By Galileo, you'd think they might have sent him down the Derby route, but either he's not up to US Army Ranger or the dam side suggests he won't stay. I think this is more a throw at the stumps from O'Brien rather than a genuine winning chance, so to make him equal favourite is dubious. Happy to take him on.

Birchwood - narrowly beaten in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf, beaten by Air Force Blue and Galileo Gold at his previous starts. Godolphin runner looking for place money at best.

Jimmy Two Times - the only runner for Andre Fabre. Beaten over 6f by English-trained horses at last two starts, would need a massive leap with the extra two furlongs and seeing a dry track for the first time to triumph here.

Crazy Horse - undefeated colt from the Gosden stable, winning both starts by a matter of inches, swooping home late. Seems to be a significant step up in class, but Dettori is getting home on broomsticks at the moment, so don't rule him out.

Dicton - busy colt, has won six out of 10 starts, after being diabolically bad in his first three starts. Has a few intertwining formlines - beat Barwod by a short neck at Saint-Cloud, who then ran 1.75L third to Zarak and George Patton. Before that, at Compeigne, he beat King Malpic by six lengths, who later ran second (beaten 4L) to Zelzal. Last two wins have been at Listed and G3 level. Not out of it, but the most exposed of all the contenders.

Moon Trouble - looked out of it at first glance, but perhaps it's not so bad. Ran an upgraded third in the Prix Djebel behind Cheikleljack and Attendu, but had a clear run. It was a heavy track that, the first he'd seen, so perhaps earns some forgiveness there. Last year, he beat Honiara in a maiden here at Deauville, and on debut, started favourite but ran second to future Lagardere winner Ultra. Freedy Head trained, ridden by Barzalona, if you can forgive the heavy track run, then 25/1 might be overly generous.

Alignement - no hope, way out of his depth.

Attendu - don't overlook this one. Has Guyon aboard, the pick of the Laffon-Parias pair. Third over the line last start in the Prix Djebel on a heavy track but suffered interference from both who finished in front of him (winner held the race, second was relegated). Back in November, he ran third in the G1 Criterium International behind Johannes Vermeer and Stormy Antarctic, and then a month earlier in the G1 Lagardere, he wasn't far behind Galileo Gold and Johannes Vermeer.

CONCLUSION
Tough race this, and bookies agree. I can't have any of the UK/Irish visitors. Zelzal has a magic turn of foot and looks hardest to beat.

Zelzal
George Patton
Attendu
Zarak

Back Zelzal at 4/1 or better.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

York Thursday - Betfred supports Jack Berry House Stakes preview

The Dante Festival is underway at the glorious York racetrack. Day One went to the punters with a swathe of favourites winning but we all know that can soon turn sour. Thursday's card opens with a tricky little sprint, and it's a welcome return to Stephen Boardman, @ste_b85, casting an eye over this highly competitive field.

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BETFRED "SUPPORTS JACK BERRY HOUSE" STAKES
Class 2 Handicap, Five furlongs, 0-105 rating
£25,000
1410 local 2310 AEST


Toofi
Placed in both the Stewards'' Cup and Ayr Gold Cup last season when with Varian and no reason why he can''t continue same level of form for yard known for their sprinters. First try at 5f today (worth a crack); respected despite top weight; chances.

Desert Law
Enjoyed a solid campaign last year winning the Epsom Dash for his new yard. Has shot up the weights now; though did run well here off 3lbs higher in August. Balance of factors suggest other days beckon for him.

Red Baron
Just touched off in this race last year and won Scottish Sprint Cup during fruitful campaign; now races off 7lbs higher than for that win. Sure to be race fit and no shock to see him run with credit on track he''s excelled on in the past.

Shamshon
Very lightly raced and hard to assess after having only one run in the last two years and switching stables over the Winter. Likeable 2yo however and sure to show his ability once he finds his feet again; positive jockey booking; one to note.

Son Of Africa
Very much dropped off the boil since runaway success in June last year at Newmarket off 10lbs lower. Last of 11 on reappearance and hard to enthuse about his chances despite booking of Doyle.

Brando
Got the job done very nicely at Newmarket last month on return to 5f. Now up 9lbs as a result but looks like continuing on upward curve. Ideally needs juice in the ground; has to enter calculations if any rain is significant enough; most appealing.

Arctic Feeling
Pops up during most seasons with some classy performances and has already struck in 2016 when winning at Beverley on debut. Quite high in the weights now though and majority of wins have come on soft or worse; passed over today.

Fast Track
Didn''t sparkle last year as a 4yo but has returned in fine heart this time around with a couple of placed efforts on the AW to his name. Might need to drop a pound or two to be seen at his best but has solid form in the book and can go well.

Royal Birth
Conqueror of Fast Track on their recent meeting in March and has proven himself very effective on the AW during the Winter. Last turf win was off 21lbs lower though and doesn't appear the type to land a prize of this nature.

Doctor Sardonicus
Looked a sprinter to follow last year with a string of fine efforts on the AW, the last of those when winning on first try over 5f. If can continue the upward curve back on turf he is a major player for yard in good form; jockey booking a bonus too.

Meadway
Overall record rather patchy and while he has a CD win to his name his last turf win was over two years ago off 14lbs lower than today. Easy to make a case against him winning today.

Thesme
Interesting runner in that she was highly progressive last season and won both her starts over CD during the Summer. Bombed out on reappearance (soft ground excuse) so needs to bounce back; right up there if she does though; chances.

Duke Of Firenze
Dropped down the weights after a season to forget last year meaning he is now below the mark of his last three victories. Showed he''s coming to the boil recently and should get the strong pace he loves; jockey in form; definite EW chances.

Distant Past
Has won first time out twice in three seasons but starts this campaign in a competitive affair. All ground comes alike to him but likely to have to settle for minor honours at best today against some classy opponents.

Lucky Beggar
Has shown signs of a revival since the heady heights of his powers in 2014 when he was rated 18lbs higher than today. His impressive young rider takes a further 5lbs off to assist even more but he''s one to steer clear of in his present mood.

Normal Equilibrium
Remains on a workable mark and has the services of the champion jockey here today. A recent win at Epsom gives hope but he''s never landed a contest in this grade; the scales tip in favour of others today.

Adam's Ale
The nearly horse last year having placed in no fewer than six different contests. Certainly has claims off this mark judged on those efforts but last win was three grades below this and he''s not getting any younger.

SUMMARY
A fast run race is expected with pace all across the track in the shape of Red Baron, Thesme and Doctor Sardonicus. Toofi could have a good season ahead for Robert Cowell and is respected on his first try at 5f. However, BRANDO looked a sprinter to follow at Newmarket and should be rated 100+ before long. He ideally needs the rain but can stalk the pace and pounce late for Spencer. If it proves too lively for him then Duke Of Firenze is the EW choice given that he loves to come off a fast pace, is hitting form and remains on a very winnable mark.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Kentucky Derby preview

The Kentucky Derby blows everything away in the US as far as racing coverage goes, it's all about this race (unless there's a Triple Crown on the line). Churchill Downs is the place to be, and in his inimitable style, regular US racing correspondent Jon da Silva, @creamontop, has provided his preview. Links to key race replays included below.

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Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands
1m2f Grade 1 Dirt
US$2,000,000 1834 local 2334 BST


Free Timeform Past Performances/Form Guide

Yes once again we can be thankful to the owners of Kentucky Fried Chicken for their kind and generous sponsorship. Next time you have a Zinger Tower Burger you are supporting this fine institution. Indeed if you're a racing fan you should probably consider eating more. Indeed Yum! is owned by Pepsi and also has Pizza Hut and Taco Bell under its banner. Your heart attack and girth is all in a good cause.

My personal plan of attack is to favour forward runners but not necessarily pace horses. Nyquist enters the race with a formidable record and is an obvious favourite. Here are the profiles in post order, morning line prices provided.

1. Trojan Nation Aaron Gryder 50-1
Closer who could catch Outwork in the Wood Memorial after that one had run stupidly fast early. Previously had failed to win four maidens out West [California]. This tends to suggest the best horses come from the West. The final furlong of the Wood Memorial was 14 seconds FWIW.

2. Suddenbreakingnews Luis Quinonez 20-1
3. Creator Ricardo Santana Jr. 10-1
Suddenbreakingnews is a stone closer who gives impression if the race was long enough he'd win. Stayed on remorselessly in the Arkansas Derby to be second to Creator. Prior fifth in the Rebel to Cupid who set the fast pace he closed into in the Arkansas Derby. Creator won the Arkansas Derby coming from five behind Suddenbreakingnews to beat him by a length and a quarter. Creator had previously been third in the Rebel Stakes too also coming from further back to pass Suddenbreakingnews by a length and 3/4s. Both score well for the distance in Brisnet's numbers. Suddenbreakingnews was coming back again but Creator the classier.

4. Mo Tom Corey Lanerie 20-1
5. Gun Runner Florent Geroux 10-1
Gun Runner beat an unlucky Mo Tom last twice. Gun Runner put 4.5 lengths into that field in the Louisiana Derby. Mo Tom has been checked in those two starts making his ability and progress hard to track. As a compulsive avoider of unlucky horses not for me and another closer. Gun Runner wandered in the straight before putting the Louisiana field to the sword which was the only worry I have.

6. My Man Sam Irad Ortiz Jr. 20-1
Closed well in the Bluegrass at Keeneland and that was a big step forward. Another late runner who will only be having his fifth start and has shown progression.

7. Oscar Nominated Julien Leparoux 50-1
Ken Ramsey's son of Kitten's Joy and Ramsey gave an Oscar Nomination worthy piece of phishing for idiots when he suggested that he'd split triple crown prizemoney if someone put up the 200K supplemental for this turf bred. His trial win was on synths in the Spiral at Turf Paradise. Never run on dirt. Animal Kingdom won Spiral and came here off only one dirt run (second) but no evidence he's quite in that league so far.

8. Lani Yutaka Take 30-1
Someone suggested if they created a three mile dirt race he'd win. Won the UAE Derby but did not separate from the locals there which to my mind is a negative.

9. Destin Javier Castellano 15-1
Ran down Outwork in the Tampa Bay Derby. Good Beyers in steadily run races. Prior handed a beating by Mo Tom at the Fairgrounds. Impossible to write off but equally to fancy strongly.

10. Whitmore Victor Espinoza 20-1
Another closer. Run down last by Suddenbreakingnews in the Southwest having made a big move. Third to Creator and Suddenbreakingnews in a closerfest Cupid set up. Second in Rebel ahead of those two. Other two from those races appeal more.

11. Exaggerator Kent Desormeaux 8-1
The racing porn was this one's move in a sloppy Santa Anita Derby eventually coming six clear having come from last. Given his last race another likely to try and come from the back.

12. Tom’s Ready Brian Hernandez Jr. 30-1
Second to Gun Runner in the Louisana Derby and seems no angle to him changing that form. Folded badly two times he encountered hard pace early.

13. Nyquist Mario Gutierrez 3-1
Has built a 1111111 record including the Breeders Cup Juvenile where he overcame a poor trip. Trained by the only man to be insulted as he was presented with a Breeder's Cup winners trophy - by Bo Derek no less. Yep trained by everyone's favourite Doug 'Drug' O'Neill. Can lead or press and overcome trouble. Negatives poor speed ratings especially beyond a mile. However has beaten Exaggerator, Brody's Cause and Mohayman. Way Euros do form should be clear top rated.

14. Mohaymen Junior Alvarado 10-1
Was favourite until eclipsed by Nyquist in the Florida Derby when hung wide whole way. You can make excuses but has had some nice trips building his record. With all the hold up horses could get a nice stalking trip here. Last time was a regression mind however you paint it.

15. Outwork John Velazquez 15-1
Blasted off like a scalded cat and won the Wood from a maiden. Previously beaten by Destin in Tampa Bay. His wide draw may make it interesting for others as he will probably charge for the lead.

16. Shagaf Joel Rosario 20-1
Unable to run down Outwork in the Wood and will have to pass more horses here. Some suggestion it did not go his way but unable to get within four lengths of Outwork despite that one's hard fractions earlier. Nothing suggests to me he can leap forward here but only had four runs so not forlorn.

17. Mor Spirit Gary Stevens 12-1
Undone by Exaggerator by six lengths having chased a hard pace on an off track. Prior second to unopposed speedster Danzing Candy over a mile and half a furlong with Exaggerator behind. Last run hard to say if he went backwards or stopped going forwards chasing a hard pace on a sloppy track and beaten six lengths by Exaggerator.

18. Majesto Emisael Jaramillo 30-1
Second in the Florida Derby to Nyquist with Mohaymen fourth. Prior had only won a maiden in fourth start. Unexposed to a degree.

19. Brody’s Cause Luis Saez 12-1
Classy closer third to Nyquist in the Juvenile and after an ordinary comeback won the Bluegrass. Beat progressive My Man Sam last time and they will be two more in the closer queue at the back.

20. Danzing Candy Mike Smith 15-1
This is the pace of the race. He and Outwork will be breaking from wide but should have the toe to clear this field unless Nyquist is sent.

Conclusion
Two obvious pace horses so you have to consider one gets loose and wins or hangs on in the exotics, especially as Danzing Candy 33s and Outwork 20s. Of the closers Exaggerator and Creator appeal to me as potential winners. Of the pressers I could make a better case for Nyquist, Mor Spirit, Mohaymen & Gun Runner.

Occam's Razor on winner Gun Runner and Nyquist have fewest questions and issues in the run. Nyquist is 3s and maybe bigger on the PMU. Personally like Gun Runner at 12s.

Friday, 6 May 2016

The Kentucky Oaks

It's Run for the Roses week at Churchill Downs but it's not just about the Derby. Friday's card traditionally features the Oaks, oddly run over a slightly shorter distance, and piping up with the preview, it's regular US racing correspondent, Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Longines Kentucky Oaks
Grade 1, 3yo fillies
1m 1f 1749 local, 2249 GMT


This race was due to have one a monster filly in Songbird the imperious winner of all her races but with her scratch this preview is somewhat longer. Note all trials over a mile and sixteenth bar the Gazelle which is over the full classic trip.

Run Style E= Early Pace P=Presser and sadly S=Sustainer or plodder in TimeformUS parlance - late runner. The number indicates the amount of speed the horse has. Bear in mind these are lightly raced horses so run styles can change. Thus a P5 will be up there but not try for lead. An E8 is a stone lead horse who will likely contest the lead with another E8 but see off an E7 or less. Numbers run from 0 to 8. Expect S0s to run late if they get into it at all.

Terra Promessa Best Beyer 88 Last 86 Run Style E/P 6 Drawn 1 Slow horse on figures with early toe and most qualifying points coming in. Won 4 straight inc a maiden at Churchill before 3 straight at Oaklawn Park.

Lewis Bay Best Beyer 99 Last 99 P5 Dr 3
Bounced back from a seven length striping by Cathryn Sophia to win the Gazelle G2. Impressive burst to the front off a wide trip on a muddy track. She ran like a turfer... wide, unhurried, kicked and let down. Most of the others have finished trials on fumes bar Weep No More who is much more a stone closer. Way they finished looked like a trial but times solid and Brisnet pace numbers too.

Land Over Sea BB93 LB92 S1 Dr 13
The grim reaper except for the fact she ran into Songbird. A brutal late runner who won the Fairground Oaks 4.5L after being Songbird's bitch for five races. Only shocker/poorer result was in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies and only other time she faced nine or more opponents. Bigger field worries for me. So far not as quick as some.

Weep No More BB 95 LB95 S0 Dr 2
Closer who ripped dying horses down the stretch last time in the Ashland G1 - those possible non stayers included favourites here Cathryn Sophia and Rachel's Valentina. Beyer's only a guide but had four races 68 77 89 95. Horses she beat are the favs and she's at a bigger price. Downside track may have favoured closers that day and was 6.5L back top of the stretch and upside a neck in front when it counted.

Go Maggie Go BB92 LB92 E/P 6 Dr 4
Only had two races and won the Gulfstream Oaks last time on an off track. Hard to throw out completely. One you like or don't?

Cathryn Sophia BB102 LB94 E/P5 Dr 12
Beyers have regressed with distance. neck and neck behind Weep No More and Rachel's Valentina last time. Piled seven lengths into Lewis Bay prior. Clearly not without a chance but enough doubts to throw out as second fav?

Mo d'Amour BB89 LB89 E/P6 Dr 7
Beaten 8.5L in a muddy Gazelle by Lewis Bay and numbers seem shy. Possible pace on Brisnet classification

Venus Valentine BB89 LB80 S0 Dr 10
A seemingly slow plodder. Beaten 10L by Land Over Sea last time. On a better track some hope but think there are faster closers here.

Mokat BB89 LB87 P2 Dr 6
Dual Songbird victim also beaten 3.5L by Land Over Sea.

Rachel's Valentina BB 95 LB 94 E/P8 Dr 11
Pacy daughter of one of the greatest Oaks winners of all time Rachel Alexandra who beat the colts and the older colts. Carries some sentimental money but also some ability. Run down late in the Ashland by Weep No More and potentially this track might help and mitigate the extra half a furlong. Second to Songbird prior in the Juvenile Fillies. Only one run this year so a bounce forwards or backwards cannot be ruled out. The one run worries me. Wide draw albeit not a race packed with burners. Probably the right favourite but if in front of the others not so far she could overcome a poor trip or pace pressure?

Royal Obsession BB 97 LB97 P2 Dr 8
Closing second to Lewis Bay in fastest time over more than a mile by Beyers. Improving runs 75 81 87 97 as distance has increased. That was a muddy track and Lewis Bay looked the classier but certainly not a toss out in the under of the exotics.

Dream Dance BB90 LB86 S1 Dr 5
Exposed closer in her 10th race. OK similar logic probably factored into California Chrome being a toss a few years ago but does not have the numbers speed or form. Beaten by fellow plodder Land Over Sea the best part of 5 lengths. Some judges likes this as an outsider me not so much.

Taxable BB89 LB86 E/P4 Dr 14
If Terra Promessa has a chance then she does I guess beaten a neck last time by her. Fourth run so unexposed to a degree.

Dothraki Queen BB94 LB77 S0 Dr 15
Third in the Juvenile Fillies but has scraped in here on points. Connections must want a day out with this plodder who appears to have regressed to insignificance here?

Paola Queen BB90 LB90 E8 Dr 9
Her main role I suspect is that she is another pace horse in this race. Second to Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Oaks.

Conclusion

Nearly half the field are plodders and there is some pace albeit not packed. For me two trials stand out the Gazelle (mainly on numbers and style of winner) and the Ashland. Land Over Sea has the form as well over the piece but was uncompetitive in the Juvenile Fillies and is a toss at a shortish price. Go Maggie Go cannot be ruled out but I prefer hardened warriors. I am calling Cathryn Sophia distance challenged. Rachel's Valentina is best priced 7/2 UK books and I could not quibble with that but was beaten by Weep No More who came like she entered the race 2f out and is double the price. Lewis Bay's Gazelle looks like a stroll but was seemingly run at a strong pace and she flew and the 2nd Royal Obsession looked a huge green grey boat that day but stayed on well.

1. Lewis Bay
2. Weep No More
3. Rachel Valentina
4. Royal Obsession
5. Go Maggie Go

Win Lewis Bay 7/1 and 8/1
Best EW Royal Obsession 25/1

Worth noting on Morning Line estimates Lewis Bay is 8s PMU so may pay more and exotics with the Gazelle pair may be underrated.