Friday, 25 November 2016

The French Furze Novices Hurdle preview

One of the highlights of National Hunt racing in the northeast each year is the Fighting Fifth meeting. Unfortunately the three main hurdle races of the day have only attracted 15 horses between them, but that doesn't mean they're uncompetitive.

Choosing the rising stars of novice class over the established Grade 1, it's a warm welcome to the blog for aspiring racing writer Liam Hedgecock, @therealhedgy. You can read more of his work on Final Flight Publications.


Weatherby's Racing Diaries "The French Furze" Novices Hurdle
Class 2, £20,000, 2m6f
1345 GMT, 0045 AEDST

The ‘French Furze’ is a novice hurdle that has been ran at Newcastle racecourse for the last eight years. The inaugural running of ‘The French Furze’ was in 2007 after the race was named after ‘The French Furze’. He was a racehorse who was owned by Jim Ennis and trained by Nicky Richards. His most notable win came in 2003 when he won the Fighting Fifth hurdle at long odds of 25/1. Tomorrow’s edition features just the four runners, though it is an intriguing renewal nonetheless.

Get On The Yager

The first horse and favourite in the race tomorrow is ‘Get On The Yager’ who is trained by Dan Skelton and will be ridden by David England. A six year-old who fetched a meagre sum of £3,800 pounds as a three year-old. He won both of his two starts in the Point-To-Point sphere and could not have made a deeper impression on his first start under rules when he sailed home in a maiden hurdle at Market Rasen at the start of the month, beating Willoughby Court by thirteen lengths, and Druid’s Folly a further twelve lengths. That form has been franked by Druid’s Folly who won yesterday at Towcester in a novice hurdle and Willoughby Court is evidently well thought of as he ran and was fifth in the Weatherby’s Bumper at Aintree back in April. This horse has done absolutely nothing wrong so far in his short career and will be very hard to beat tomorrow if turning up in the same form as he did last time out. It is worth noting that Dan Skelton has a 50% strike rate at Gosforth Park.

Spirit Of Kayf

This son of Kayf Tara is a horse I have a lot of time for. He makes up for his lack of size with the guts and determination that he has, and displayed at Hexham two starts ago when winning his novice hurdle at the first attempt. The form is nothing to shout about, the second has since come out and won a weak race at Ayr by eight lengths. However, he ran at Sedgefield in a stronger race last time out and dived at the second hurdle, unfortunately coming to grief. I hope that fall has not dented his confidence too much as he is an animal who is tough as nails, and I really admire horses that have that rare attribute. He ran four times in bumpers last year, winning once on his second career start. The task was way too much for him when Sandy Thomson sent him down to Cheltenham to run in the Champion Bumper but as I have stated, this horse should certainly not be underestimated tomorrow, particularly if allowed to dominate. He also has the help of being ridden by the hottest jockey around at the moment in Brian Hughes!

Wyfield Rose

The most exposed in the lineup tomorrow is Wyfield Rose who has run twenty-nine times to date, compared to the twelve races that her three opponents have ran in all together. She has become accustomed to winning races recently though, notching her fifth handicap win since May at Sedgefield last month. However, this seven year-old bay mare does have a question to answer back on softer ground tomorrow afternoon. It would be easy to assume that she does not have a chance against her three rivals, but you can never say never in these small field events.


This lightly-raced young horse would certainly be a very popular winner at Gosforth Park tomorrow, as he is owned by local businessman Dave Armstrong who I suspect has thought long and hard all week about running this horse. In my opinion, I believe this King’s Theatre gelding is more of a long-term prospect for handicaps, but the jockey booking of Danny Mullins is a rather interesting one.

To conclude, I believe that Get On The Yager will be very tough to beat tomorrow and should win this contest before possibly being stepped up in class later in the season. I also think that he will be given a race by Spirit Of Kayf who should run an honest race as he always does.

Winterbottom Stakes Preview

This year's 'summer' carnival in Perth has been stretched out to three Saturdays under the moniker of the Ascot Racing Masters. The premier sprint race of this carnival is the Winterbottom Stakes, which in recent years has been won by star sprinters in Buffering, Miss Andretti, Ortensia and Takeover Target - all of whom have won Group races abroad. It takes a good'un to win it, and this year's field has plenty of those.

I've brought in a star recruit for this preview, WA racing specialist Terry Leighton. You can follow him on Twitter @PerthRacingGuru. And he's tipping up some juicy odds on his debut...


Winterbottom Stakes
Group 1, WFA, 1200m
1700 local time, 2000 AEDST, 0900 GMT

The second of WA's three group one events promises to be the pick of the bunch. While the Terravista v Malaguerra showdown might not quite be the Apache Cat v Takeover Target of 2008, it definitely has parallels.

What adds so much intrigue to the 2016 running of the Winterbottom is the form of some of the locals who are yet to be tested against quality group one horses. It promises to be some type of race.

1. Terravista - This race and this campaign was to some degree an afterthought by trainer Joe Pride which does make you worry a little. After an indifferent autumn campaign, this son of Captain Rio has by Pride's own admission been given these two runs (his previous effort was a solid 2nd in the listed Mumm Stakes at Flemington) as he didn't want him to have a full year off racing before attacking the 2017 Lightning Stakes. There is enough knocks on him before looking at how the travel from over East may have affected him. In saying this, if he is anywhere near his best the locals won't get near him.

2. Malaguerra - The slight, but deserved favourite after a strong win in the Darley Classic. Is third up here so this race was clearly a plan rather than an after thought and he has drawn the inside marble. This should work to his advantage if he can find a spot on the leaders back, but with only a 294m straight he wouldn't want to find himself a couple back on the fence in unfamiliar surroundings. These top two have panels on the rest of the field and if both have normal racing luck, have travelled well and are both at their best then this will be the quinella.

3. Takedown - Not only is the $617,500 on offer for this Stratum gelding but a trip to Hong Kong will be on the cards if he can cause a mini upset. I personally don't like a horse that is down in distance (from 1400m) and may be a little dour. You cannot bring a horse from the East for this race unless it is 100% the initial target. To me that doesn't appear the case. The speed map suggests he may have to work to Sheidels outside and may even be caught deeper if young Jake Casey has a desire to lead on the speedy Vega Magic. Will be taking him on.

4. Rock Magic - One of only two genuine local WFA sprinters in this field. His win over the 1000m in the Prince Of Wales after a short let-up proven to be no fluke when he came out and topped that effort with a slashing second in the Colonel Reeves. Meets Vega Magic 3.5kgs better for that run and should sit a lot closer to that galloper from the better draw. Looked to be a major player in this event until the dreaded bar shoes were added to his gear only 2 days before the race. How much confidence can you really have when that happens?

5. Keen Array - Perhaps didn't handle the straight at his last two after a super impressive effort to comfortably knock off the in form Illustrious Lad. Has drawn well here but this is his 6th run this campaign. A lot for a sprinter. Cannot beat the top 3 who have also travelled over for this race barring a miracle.

6. First Among Equals - WA's best WFA sprinter. This will be disputed with the current form of Rock Magic, but First Among Equals would be unbeaten this campaign had he got any type of luck at his two runs. (Last start replay here, he's in blue with a yellow sash) Met Rock Magic last campaign three times where he was successful twice and only missed on the final occasion as he was on the wrong part of the track. For me he has nearly a length on Rock Magic, all things being equal. If they go mad here as expected and Military Reign or Takedown lead up a three wide line if may well leave the likes of Terravista and Malaguerra hemmed away while the three wide line is the place to be (a little bit of wishful thinking but not out of the question). Brad Parnham is a disappointing jockey appointment with the suspension of Paul Harvey. The instructions should be simple - find the three wide line and get wide on straightening. This horse has a devastating turn of foot if saved up for one 250m sprint. Can win.

7. Battle Hero - Trialled in superb order, before racing outside a reasonably hot pace first up and running a credible third. Something looked to have gone very much amiss second up when beaten a long way in the key lead up. Barrier ten ruins any chances he may have had of causing an upset here.

8. Vega Magic - Boom sprinter who is probably a year away from winning a race like this. Young Jake Casey retains the ride in what can only be described as blind family loyalty. The kid is a struggling apprentice in Western Australia and I expect him to be bullied by the stronger Eastern States jocks. Lacks the strength in a close finish and tactically if they take him on early may get a little lost. Horse very good. Jockey very bad.

9. Regal Commander - Making up the numbers.

10. State Solicitor - Another I am going to knock. Pike has said he is sure he will beat all the locals home. I can't quite understand that confidence after he only just scrambled past a very mediocre Lenience at his most previous outing. I have no doubt he could be something special but from barrier 11, Pike will have to be back somewhere near last or risk being caught wide. At weight for age I think it is an impossibility for him.

11. Sheidel - You'd love to bring a horse back to a track where she boasts 9 wins from 10 starts. Has gone to another level over East and will probably need to go to another level yet again. Boasts a super record in Perth and is another reason this race is just so intriguing. The appointment of D Oliver doesn't hurt either.

12. Military Reign - The only interest in this mare is where she will speed map. Couldn't win no matter what gate she drew, but barrier 12 cruels any hopes. Corey Brown will no doubt spear forward but I can see her being caught three deep and leading up that line. For the sake of the horses behind her, I hope she can stick on gamely to give them a decent cart up on straightening.

I will preface this by saying I am purely a Western Australian horse racing analyst. My Eastern States knowledge is by no stretch in depth, so I may have a little bias towards out local nags. In saying that, I have absolutely no doubt the top 2, in particular Malaguerra are simply better than all of ours. Comfortably. But it isn't about who is a better overall horse. If it was, this race would already be over. It is about who is the best horse in the conditions on that particular day. For that reason I am happy putting the Simon Miller trained First Among Equals on top. If the track is playing fairly I can see no reason he isn't the one putting the big strides in late. The $5.50 the place is probably the area I would attack a little harder, but he is well over the odds. He should be the same price (if not shorter with the addition of bar plates) as WA's best hope Rock Magic.

1. First Among Equals (currently 20/1 in places)
2. Malaguerra
3. Terravista
4. Sheidel

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Hennessy preview

This is the highlight of the National Hunt season outside of Cheltenham for me - a top grade handicap full of Graded winners. The defending champ Smad Place returns, 11lb higher than last year, but undoubtedly with a chance to repeat. It might be irrelevant but one indicator of field strength is recent form - just three of the 20 acceptors haven't recorded a win in their last five starts. No dicking around to beat the handicapper here - this is a classy race.

Returning to the blog to cast a magnifying glass over this fine field is astute form student Chris Day, @chrisday100. Prices valid at time of publishing.


Hennessy Gold Cup Chase
Grade 3, Class 1 Handicap, 3m2f
1510 GMT, 0210 AEST

Run on the final Saturday in November, the Hennessy Gold Cup is always one of the season’s best known handicaps, seen as a trial for the best long distance handicap chasers who may have on their agenda races like the Grand National or even Cheltenham’s Gold Cup.

Not surprisingly you’re usually looking for one of last season’s top novices or a horse yet to show its true potential for whatever reason as your fancy is likely to need upwards of 7lbs in hand to land this prize.

Personal highlights from a betting point of view include Strong Flow, Paul Nicholls’ first win as a trainer in 2003, Diamond Harry going by Denman on the bridle, admittedly in receipt of a huge weight concession, in 2010 and Bobs Worth holding off Tidal Bay and Burton Port in a stirring finish in 2012.

In recent times, as trends have become increasingly important in assessing races, especially those with established Ante Post markets, last season’s top novices have come to the fore in the betting and this year sees three of them occupy the top three slots.

Favourite is Colin Tizzard’s Native River, who looks nailed on to run his race, having beaten Un Temps Pour Tout at this meeting last year, finished runner-up in the National Hunt Chase at the festival and then getting a great front running ride from Richard Johnson to win Aintree’s Grade 1 over 3 miles in April. He’d looked laboured behind another of Saturday’s opponents, Blaklion in between at Wetherby on heavy ground but, on the likely prevailing ground, he has a solid look. If he has a weakness he seemed to get outpaced in a bigger field at Cheltenham before staying on again over 6 furlongs further and he won’t get away with that here.

The aforementioned Blaklion, a Graded novice hurdle winner, took his form to another level last season, his first over fences, winning at Cheltenham in December, Wetherby in February and the RSA Chase in March where he improved for the better ground according to his trainer and demonstrated that he could jump in among horses when coming through up the hill to outstay Shaneshill, who subsequently ran Thistlecrack to 7 lengths at Aintree before falling when looking likely to land the Grade 1 3 mile staying hurdle at Punchestown. The only question mark for me is the small fields he has beaten but that can be said about most second season novices as there is a dearth of horses who can compete in open company.

The third top novice from last season is Un Temps Pour Tout, who got to the top via the William Hill Chase where he waltzed in from a mark of 148 after disappointing in his earlier efforts. A Grade 1 winning hurdler in France, he has a superb overall record and won on his reappearance in a small field conditions hurdle at Aintree over 2 ½ miles although he did look like coming off second best to Zarkandar when that one departed at the last. He has to concede weight to the other two and, whilst he may not have been at his best in his races before the festival, his form overall suggests he’ll need to improve again to do so. Both he and Blaklion finished behind Native River at Aintree although the suspicion remains that neither were at their best after arduous efforts at Cheltenham.

Vyta Du Roc, from the stable of Nicky Henderson, a man who knows what it takes to win this race, appears well weighted on his Reynoldstown win and some of his hurdles form is strong but he was comprehensively beaten at the festival by Blaklion and I can’t have him turning that form around here. He prepped for this in the hurdle race won by Un Temps Pour Tout and has been strongly backed, suggesting those who know more than me feel he has a very good chance of doing so.

The other runner from last year’s novices to consider is Henri Parry Morgan from the excellent stable of Peter Bowen, a man who knows how to get horses to show their best form on big days. This one came through lower grade races but improved to split Blaklion and Un Temps Pour Tout at Aintree and is therefore entitled to go well here. His Uttoxeter victory from a mark of 135 has not exactly been franked though and I think he may be just short of the required class when the heat is turned on in the straight.

Last year’s impressive winner, Smad Place, finds himself 22lbs worse off with Saphir Du Rheu on running in this race last year and each has reappeared with solid efforts in readiness for Saturday. He stayed on in eye catching fashion behind Third Intention in the Old Roan Chase over 2 ½ miles at Aintree and Nicholls’ chaser, who has undeniably promised more than he has delivered over fences so far but remains well weighted compared to his peak for over hurdles, filled third spot in a warm Ascot contest to tee himself up for this. Both are short enough in the betting for me and I fancy something better handicapped to finish ahead of them here although Alan King’s grey will doubtless be carried out on his shield.

Vicente doesn’t look too badly in here, just 5lbs higher for his Scottish National victory but the suspicion is that he’ll improve for the run and has targets later in the season. Unusually Nicholls does not use any of his claiming jockeys here, presumably they’ll be trying to win the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle for the champion trainer up at Newcastle on a day where the two big staying chases clash.

Tizzard’s other runner, Theatre Guide, who ran second in this last year and reappeared with a 2 ½ length second at Wetherby recently, is reported to be working well and has had a wind operation to help him with his breathing. A winner of the old Racing Post Chase at Kempton in February, big fields clearly hold no fears for him and he looks sure to be right there on the turn for home.

Very few of the outsiders make much appeal but I do think Aubusson worthy of a mention. Always thought of as a chaser who would improve for decent ground, he won the same Fixed Brush Handicap the stable won with their previous Hennessy winner, Diamond Harry, and his owner, the trainer’s wife, has always said he’s not for sale as they consider him top class. His sole victory over fences in England came this time last year at Uttoxeter and a look at the subsequent ratings of those in behind reveals that finishing clear with his head in his chest was a smart effort. He went off a shorter price than Blaklion for the Dipper Chase on New Year’s Day but was pulled up having apparently hated the heavy ground. The stable have had a number of very useful horses over the years and, while this one seems to be a little fragile, he’s been keeping top company over hurdles in the meantime presumably to preserve his mark for this and I make him the pick of the prices at 33-1.

Blaklion 2pts win @ 8-1
Aubusson 1pt each way @ 33-1

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Breeders Cup Classic preview

Classic preview from @creamontop, Jon da Silva in the raw format. Sorry, haven't the time to edit it properly before this evening!


Breeders Cup Classic

2016 Turf seasons had been pretty much a snore fest till late on. This race was to feature the performers of the 3 most eye-popping races of the year. Then bang Winx goes and wins the Cox Plate by 8 wickets. Fans of Almanzor be doing that tutty thing right now too. Anyway 3 of the 5 best performances of the year by ratings line up here. That's not true either! A Shin Hikari technically [actually] 3rd on Timeform's Sept' list. Thus I give up on narrative and discuss value which is a nebulous concept and I am told inedible and crucially unfalsifiable, by a single result.

California Chrome possibly the best loved horse in the world this side of Chinese provincial racing. An absolute star who's got better in some respects with each race. There was an observation that California Chrome despite winning The Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands and The Preakness had never passed a horse in the home straight. He did remove that record in passing Lea in the 2015 Dubai World Cup only to lose his reputation with some as enigma Prince Bishop (who!) blew by him late. Then a trip to Royal Ascot was aborted with a bruise and he started to seem, mmm well, old news. He had been eclipsed by Shared Belief and later American Pharoah. A comeback run merely asserted he was a similar horse with less upside than Dortmund to primitive yardstickers. A steady win at Meydan hardly had the hairs standing up. Then bang. Espinosa rides him in same wide throttle out way as 2015 and instead of dying he just killed them in the World Cup. This has been followed by 3 runs featuring stupefyingly easy dismissals of animals like Beholder (who just bested Songbird in the Ladies Classic) and Dortmund. He stands shy at ~137 of a Timeform 140 which generally speaking only the greats and Harbinger have achieved but his ease of wins has suggested he can hit that.

Arrogate had some form in the West looked a decent horse with 3 straight wins before the Travers. Then in the Travers on his 5th start he went super nova. Winning the Travers by a scarcely believable 13 lengths in under 2 minutes. Really not much more to say he routed the 3 year old classic form. He mullered them. Indeed Timeform's 132p may be taken as a cautious rating as it's based on 1 performance. Globeform have him clear of Chrome even. Both will be on or near the lead most likely.

This would be a classic immovable object v irresistible force match but Frosted adds the unreliable but brilliant 3rd force. American Pharoah's shadow whose pushing of Pharoah may well have led to the Triple Crown winner's only defeat in 2015. Frosted produced his own WTF performance in the Met Mile winning by a barely believable 14 wickets. Best of all the top 2 and some others threaten to get into a burn up here in front of him. Downside is his own stamina in a hard 10 furlongs is questionable but hey this is California where Bayern won! Frosted actually rates above Arrogate on Timeform numbers. Frosted did follow up his Met Mile win in the Whitney but looked a hard ride and a weak finisher when beaten in the Woodward over a furlong less than here. Questions about his ability at the Classic distance seemed borne out there too. 10s probably too large as we over react to a negative on distance but just seems a bit soft like the horse who won the Mile for the Godawful boys who own Frosted.

Effinex was once so up and down at times Effin Effinex really should have been his name before a consistent run of with 7 of last 8 Beyer speed figures over 100. However it's worth noting and H/T to Mark Milligan of Timeform here his numbers are better when Mike Smith rides - 1 below 100 Beyer in those 8 was an 88 no Smithy. Caught late by Hopportunity when probably the best horse in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Gets Flavian Prat here. 2nd to the Phantastic Pharoah in last year's renewal and will get a stalking trip again with the top 2 burners.

Probably the grit in the works of a perfect race is Melatonin who has won 3 of his last 4 (defeat by Effinex) and figures to be part of the pace situations with Chrome and Arrogate. Maybe they do something incredible and every horse runs badly but he figures to get a hard trip and is not as good as the favoruites.

Keen Ice the only horse to down the Pharoah after his debut loss. This time last year one might have expected a burn up to find him in clover but has appeared to have lost what speed he had and is hard to fancy on this year's form. Not even an optional claimer could get him near a winner's circle.

Hopportunity is a complete grinder but comes here in form. Collared Effinex last time and will pick up the pieces of really silly pace duels. His shot relies on others shooting their bolt and not just the favourites for me. Definitely an exotic play in tris and supers?

Shaman Ghost won the race where Frosted found nil late and another to consider in the big price EW. Grade 2 and Grade 1 wins sandwich a loss to Effinex. Again I think we would need to see a pace duel I've not seen on this track for him to win.

War Story won a Non Losers of 3 Allowance. Tried a grade 1 and got beaten 22 by Chrome. Rearrange these words into a popular and well known saying "Hoper No". Hope the entry was cheap and the seats and buffet worth it.

Win The Space has seen California Chrome's arse from a distance last 3. 2 hopes for him, Hope Solo and No Hope.

Summary ========

In terms of pace Arrogate does break from wide and if Espinosa lets Chrome stride on ala the Pacific Classic he may be 3 wide with Melatonin between them. I will though chance Arrogate whose Travers was staggering and he has been put away since. Chrome is the most likely winner but at 11/4 I prefer the performance that was conservatively rated by some and included 0 points for style of win. If you can get 40/1 Effinex and don't believe in jockey hexes I think that is the value EW or underside of the Exotic play - Hopportunity and Shaman Ghost also have claims on the bottom spots in the Tri and Super. Frosted is a big price at 10s but sometimes you just can't put a finger on a horse and I reckon this race is not what he needs.

What we learned was 1st day track played fair and whilst I fear a pace burn up for Arrogate he can from stall 10 make decisions much as Stevens' did on Beholder. Even in the Mile the 2nd chased the burning pace 3 wide and was passed by one who was already in position top of the stretch so not an extreme track either way only Runhappy's fractions and Beholder's courage were extreme.

Breeders Cup Turf preview

The two-day Breeders Cup meeting takes place at the glorious Santa Anita racecourse in suburban Los Angeles. Had the pleasure of visiting Santa Anita for another race meeting last year, it is absolutely stunning when the sun is out with the mountains in the background. And this weekend, it's the best of US racing with a few international raiders trying to steal some of the big prizemoney on offer.

Stepping up to preview the Turf and the Classic is regular US racing contributor, Jon da Silva, @creamontop, with his inimitable style.


Breeders Cup Turf
US$4,000,000 1 1/2m, Grade 1
Saturday 1522 PDT, 2322 GMT, Sunday 1022 AEDST

With the front two from the world's best [rated] flat race*, the Arc, this should be an O'Brien benefit?

* According to Timeform, based over last five years.

Found - or as I used to say, Found Wanting Whenever Speed Is Required. She is clearly faster than I credit. Her easy Arc win in 2.23&change and following up with a second at Ascot. I still feel unless we get unusual ground like Keeneland she is vulnerable to a degree unless it's an end-to-end gallop - she may outclass them but has been beaten enough not to be odds-on. Her seconds are mostly to horses I'd back 2s-on here but they are bar the yielding ground of Leopardstown not close and her Yorkshire Oaks defeat was not to a fast horse. Sure she has beaten the rest of the poor crop of 3 and 4 year olds being rustled off to stud before we notice but three genuine G1s all murdered her late (Almanzor, Fascinating Rock and Postponed). Her winning form in last year's race is a length win over Big Blue Kitten and a bit more back to The Pizza Man should not be good enough and the course will likely be a road - and a cause for tedious Euro whining. This is the best horse in the race clearly but not one with a wins to runs record that makes 2/1 appeal. Counter arguments it's her time of year and big fields drag the best out of her and these Galileos love it fast.

Highland Reel - second in the Arc and winner of the King George. Euro form that would normally make him a fav here but for stablemate Found and Flintshire. Beat Flintshire in last year's Hong Kong Vase to boot. Good second in the Juddmonte too. Strong case to be second best in this race. Possibly more tactically pliable than Found but won't have Moore and slight chance may be used to set race up for Found?

Flintshire - has taken well to US racing losing once on a wet track to unchallenged front runner Ectot and in this race two years ago to late flier Main Sequence. Thrice Arc runner up. Second in Hong Kong Vase to Highland Reel having won it in 14. Flintshire has surprised me in the States as he seems well suited to a last two furlong burst. His last loss on wet ground is forgivable given Fabre spent his whole career till five avoiding any juice and maybe connections ducked Keeneland because of that last year. Whacked in a 22 and 4/5ths last 2 in the Sword Dancer. A bit like Found before the Arc, the top level seconds could put you off but has a case given conditions and no out-and-out pace here to be jt fav.

Anyway that's the big 3 and they are at best prices with a half decent bookie 1/5 - ~83% of the book. All are horses who are seemingly beatable. They could run 1,2 & 3 but what else is there?

Next in UK markets is Ulysses who appears Group 3 at best. Gets Frankie but not the precious juice [Lasix] which does not give me a reason to even suggest a Black Swan. Suggestions of 12/1 leave me baffled. Will be a big surprise if he steps up and not sure even the great Stoute any longer warrants such respect.

Ectot - probably the most talented horse I have ever seen for the first 7/8ths of a race. Effortless turn of foot in the Prix Niel only to seemingly finish on fumes to be a busted flush after in Europe. Two horrible defeats even on the juice in the States and then bang he puts 5L into Flintshire and Money Multiplier. You can explain this by the ground but no evidence from his European form he cares what ground. Chance of an easy lead here too unless Ashleyluvssugar or Highland Reel grabs him. Some doubts but finished off last race better than ever and dangerous to assume it was an off track. A wild card.

Ashleyluvssugar - not forlorn and some suggestion could lead if Ectot reverts to hold up tactics and Highland is not sent. Won a couple of grade 2s on way in here but now faces some of the top horses in the world here. No evidence of massive improvement just a 11 record. He has beaten the three rank outsiders here.

Da Big Hoss - a US horse for whom the distance is no problem and a prolific winner but beating some Willie Mullins plodder in the American St Leger nothing like he faces here with top Euros and ex-Euros. Sixth last year and no obvious reason to suggest something different will happen.

Money Multiplier - lives up to the name is a wild UK price ignoring wet tracks been on an upward curve and locally only Flintshire definitively superior.

Mondialiste - has won two group 1s in North America including the Arlington Million, Was second to my long term pick Time Test who is not running over 10.5f at York. If this race is slow run expect last year's runner up in the mile to be there. 12F on juice in USA might easily be within this one's comfort zone and a big price for a horse who handles US turf and the tracks and is superior to Ulysses..

Twilight Eclipse - has run and been beaten by many of these this year and needed to drop back into allowance company for a win. Not impossible for a place but needs to be his best ever and that may not be good enough here. Metaboss has a slightly worse chance than Ashleyluvssugar who's beaten him last twice and that is almost certainly short here. Texas Ryano see Metaboss. Ralis see Texas Ryano. Metaboss is a NR to boot!


Of the big three I'd probably like Highland Reel at slightly longer price and he could be bigger PMU. However as said the three take out so much of the book in a race that does not always go to plan. Facing them are Grade 1 horses in Mondialiste and arguably Ectot. The former is 25s and the latter 16s. That seems like some nice dutching action for me albeit I prefer Mondialiste who has won a full field US Grade 1 turf race, two in fact.

Best Fav: Highland Reel at 7/2 or PMU
Best Value: Mondialiste
Best Crazy: Ectot
Best might grab a place longy: Money Multiplier
Galileo Super': Mondialiste Found Highland Reel Ulysses
Rains: Ectot
Horses I formerly called slow Ex: Flintshire Found
Pace Get Loose At Price: Ashleyluvssugar
Best Horse: Found

Friday, 4 November 2016

November Handicap preview

It might be Cup week in Melbourne and Breeders Cup weekend at Santa Anita, but it's the finale for the British Flat season tomorrow at Doncaster. Previewing the dastardly deep November Handicap is shrewd handicap specialist @RightJudgeIam.


Betfred November Handicap
£80,000, Class 2, 1m4f
Saturday 1535 GMT, Sunday 0235 AEDST

The last big handicap run on the last day of the flat Turf season on Town Moor. A decent prize just shy of £50,000 will ensure a competitive race as will the maximum field of 23 runners. This is a high class handicap with the top weight, and last year's winner, Litigant running off an Official Mark of 110. This is the last chance to land a decent pot for many of these runners this year and for punters, like me, who specialise in large field, good quality turf handicaps.

In most years, given it takes place in November in the North of England, we can expect the going to be on the soft side of good. The last two renewals have been run on heavy going. However, following a prolonged dry spell and with no rain predicted as I write on Thursday 3rd, the race is set to go on good to firm going which many trainers may not have factored into calculations.

In these races I'm always trying to answer the question: what type of horse wins this kind of race? In this case, the race is typically won by a 3 or 4 year old coming in on the back of a lifetime best effort, probably in a class 2 or 3 handicap at around 10 to 12 furlongs. If I have it correctly,last year's winner was the first since at least 1980 to be over six years old when winning this race.

It appears you also need at least some class and a win in at least a class 3 handicap would seem essential for the typical November winner. As in many races recent form, a good placing last time out or maybe the time before, is crucial with those who have been struggling to get near the leaders in recent races unlikely to be landing this prize.

I'll have a look at the runners and then create my short list as usual. Here we go in race card order:

Litigant: very high class handicapper, won this and the Ebor in 2015, loves cut in the ground as he is considered fragile. I wonder whether he will be risked if the going is quick. Just had two starts this year and looks an unlikely winner. 16/1

Tawdeea: Typically progressive handicapper from the O'Meara academy, started 2016 on 87 and now runs here off 106 having won last time out. Earlier won the Old Newton Cup at Haydock off 11lb lower and on soft ground. Will need to improve a fair bit again to prevail here. 16/1

Cymro: Won a class 2 handicap first time out this season off 99 and another two starts ago off 100 so could be well handicapped still here off 101. The trainer has been quoted on numerous occasions saying he prefers soft ground so that raises a question mark with all five career wins on good or softer. 25/1

Prize Money: Godolphin-owned 3 year old with only six career starts only one of which in a handicap off 12lb lower. Stiff task off 107 for me but should like quick ground. Trainer applies a first time hood and booked a decent 5lb claiming jockey. A lay off of over 100 days is a big turn off for me though. 14/1

Fabricate: lightly raced, 4yo, won last time out at this trip in a career best effort, should make him a contender right? He will need to improve a fair bit to win here. 14/1

Dashing Star: only made 2016 debut 12 days ago, was third in the 2014 renewal of this off 2lb lower, 17lb higher than only win in a handicap 3 years ago and looks to face a monumental task here 20/1

What About Carlo: last time out winner, yard having tremendous season and this in form horse is hard to dismiss, however never won on anything faster than good and can hardly be described as 'lightly raced' after 30 career starts. 16/1

Not So Sleepy: was highly tried as a 3yo in 2015 after winning the Listed Dee Stakes then running in a series of Group races showing no form; ran best of 2016 when 3rd in a handicap at Newbury, stayed nicely from rear in a steadily run race. Could he now be ready to show what the trainer thought he might? Won twice in small fields on soft. 20/1

Montaly: decent 5yo handicapper, not won since 3 year old season, went very close over 1 mile 6 furlongs penultimate start on soft then tried in a Group 1 in France. 7lb higher than last win in a handicap. 20/1

Soldier In Action: 11lb higher than when winning his latest start and now off 105 which seems a stiff mark. 12/1

Mirsaale: Been hurdling the last four times and won twice, 8lb higher than last winning mark and not the typical profile for a winner of this. 25/1

Mistiroc: ran in this in 2015 finishing 4th which is a fair indicator but two down the field efforts of late are off putting. 33/1

Fattsota: 8yo with 44 flat starts, ran OK latest but thoroughly exposed and a very unlikely winner 25/1

Erik The Red: Progressed well in 2015 but unable to win in 2016 so far and still 10lb higher than last winning mark. Having his first try at 12 furlongs, could that bring about the 5 or so lbs he needs to find? Went close off this mark in a weak race at Ayr over a mile earlier this year.14/1

Sir Chauvelin: progressed well from start of the year when he won a hurdle race, back to back wins at Hamilton on both soft and fast ground but now 12lbs higher than for the last win and was last in the Ebor on final start. Been a long year and a lot to ask to produce a career best here. 33/1

Cape Cova: Gosden has won this race twice before and he puts blinkers on this 3yo for the first time after he appeared sluggish despite winning last time. If the blinkers have a positive effect he looks a major player. Didn't make it to the racecourse until June 2016 and may now be progressing and will be one of those that will like the fast ground. 7/1

Qassem: Ex-Andre Fabre 3yo making UK debut and also makes zero appeal 16/1

Trendsetter: consistent handicapper, 4th over C&D last time out, goes on fast going, trainer employs 7lb claimer in place of 3lb one in attempt to find a bit. 33/1

Mukhayyam: 8lb higher than when winning class 4 two starts ago, got a strange ride when down the field over C&D last time (stayed alone far side). Hard to know what to expect. Mark looks beyond him. 33/1

Green Light: often highly tried by previous trainer, having first run for Ellison. Seems to prefer going on the easy side. Tailed off in this last year. 25/1

Buonarroti: managed to win his first handicap this year at the age of five, ran in this race last year and was a creditable second off 2lb lower. Fully exposed and a surprise winner if he does it. 22/1

William Hunter: only had eight turf starts, won in class 4 and 3 but found class 2 on fast a struggle last time. Trainer puts Hollie Doyle up claiming 5lbs and he'll be carrying just 7st 10lbs 25/1

Wrangler: very lightly raced 5 year old who was a massive eye catcher last time out over C&D on only second start after a two year absence. Running here off 87, beat Montaly two years ago giving weight, now 18lb better off. Trainer says he needs soft ground but he could be thrown in here. 7/1

My Short List:

I really hope to have the winner on my list in the majority of races I investigate. Included in the final analysis is my own assessment as to whether the runners are capable of winning from the mark they are running off. Again in race card order, I reckon one of these will win:

Not So Sleepy
Erik The Red
Cape Cova
William Hunter

There are a few trends that I'd apply here now. For instance, most winners of this ran in a class 2 or 3 handicap on their previous start and had won a handicap in the previous 12 months. Montaly fails on both counts and I'll pass on him. I prefer those running from marks less than 100 in here and so Cymro and Not So Sleepy who both want softer ground are eliminated for me.

Looking at the draw and the going it is likely that the middle to low numbers will be favoured; high draws have been favoured on soft & heavy going. I also looked at the winners and the majority had won a large field handicap, probably with at least 14 runners.

Wrangler may well be extremely well handicapped on 87 and could theoretically overcome the fast ground, wide draw and lack of experience in large field races but at 7/1 I'm prepared to 'take it on the chin' if he does.

Erik The Red also has a high draw and is trying the trip for the first time. I'm also not certain he wants it fast either. He too has not won in a large field, in fact a nine-runner race is the largest field he's managed to beat.

William Hunter has only had 8 starts on turf so I am inclined to forgive him for not running in any large field races. He has a nice draw in 11, will go on the ground, has won at the trip and has no weight. At around 25/1 he might be worth a small bet

Cape Cova ticks every single one of my boxes in terms of draw, age, liking the going, handicap mark and field size experience. His trainer has won this race twice from two attempts and puts blinkers on which might make a huge difference and I'm expecting him to be a major player.


This race is likely to be run either at a very strong gallop or there could be a false pace in the first half mile if Mukayyam for example is allowed to lead with no pace pressure. I tend to think though that there will be pace on with the size of the field. That will be ideal for my play on the race.

I am concerned about Wrangler as he could be on a very lenient mark. However, my concerns over the going, draw and his long lay off mean I can't really recommend a bet on him.

Therefore, despite a significant rise for a narrow win I am going to having my main bet on John Gosden's CAPE COVA who has just about everything in his favour.

I am also going to have a smaller bet at 25/1 on WILLIAM HUNTER who also has potential to rate significantly higher after only eight turf starts and has a good draw.

Advised Bets

CAPE COVA 2 points each way 7/1
WILLIAM HUNTER 0.5 points each way 25/1

Darley Classic preview

The sprinting highlight of the Flemington carnival, at least for the older brigade, is the Darley Classic, which has existed under several different names in the past, such as the Patinack Stakes and the Linlithgow. This year's field might lack the superstar quality of Black Caviar or Chautauqua, but it's a great betting contest with no horse simple to dismiss.

Taking on the assessment is keen Melbourne form student Callum Gogerly, @_gogs10.


Group 1, 1200m, WFA
Flemington 1700 AEDST, 0600 GMT

1. Lankan Rupee- A little unlucky first up at Caulfield with the big weight, he was stuck behind the leaders while his rival here Our Boy Malachi had clear air down the outside. I doubt he would have beaten him, but we at least know that he has come back from injury as well as he could have. With no Chautauqua or any gun 3YO sprinters, he probably only needs to be somewhere near his best to win this.

2. Turn Me Loose- Was slow from the gates and stuck out the back first up in a read hot pace. I prefer him over 1400-1600 where he can really dictate terms and be strong on speed. 1200m down the straight in a field of strong sprinters presents another challenge all together.

3. The Quarterback- Having a really good prep. He put away a much weaker field easily first up. I thought he put the writing on the wall last start at Moonee Valley, those conditions and track are never where he is able to do his best work. He is back at "home" today where he performs best. Has been set for this, certainly one of the hardest to beat.

4. Japonisme- Having a bit of a strange preparation. His first two runs were absolutely horrid, but he seemed to bound back to something like his best form last time out in the Manikato. He was well supported that night as well. I'm a little concerned about his patchy form, but if you think he is back with a vengeance after last time then I wouldn't talk you out of him.

5. Fell Swoop- Super consistent. Rebel Dane crept up on the inside and nabbed him last time (unfortunately!). He has proven over the last six months that he is more than capable at Group 1 level. The only slight query would be it is his first run up the straight.

6. Our Boy Malachi- Added another string to his bow last start when he was ridden back and it worked to great effect, he loped down the outside and picked them up very convincingly. He has been pretty good when he has been thrown in the deep end at Group 1 level with a fantastic effort in the TJ Smith particularly. It's also his first look up the Flemington straight under race conditions.

7. Malaguerra- Came of age last campaign culminating in him winning the Group 1 BTC Cup. His first up run for the very excitable Gelagotis brothers was excellent. He beat Fell Swoop home and and we all know Fell Swoop nearly won the Manikato. Four weeks between runs doesn't seem to be an issue as he has had gaps between runs previously and performed well. You have to think that he is right in this race.

8. Holler- Failed to fire first up after his European venture, finishing last albeit only beaten 3.6L. Has his fair share of ability and I would expect improvement from that run, but it would be hard to see him as a winning prospect.

9. Keen Array- Was beaten last week down the straight (when the stable were confident) in a much inferior race. Would need to improve lengths to be competitive here. Have to pass.

10. Spieth- Stable has said he is on a reconnaissance mission for the Newmarket Handicap next year in this race. One of the better wins you would see first up, he absolutely blew the start but weaved his way through the field to score. Hard not to be impressed by that and how he is progressing. It might be a bridge too far to win a race of this nature at his ninth start, but he certainly has our attention.

11. English- Have expected much more from her this time in, much more. You would have hoped that she would be able to pick up at least one of the weaker group races in Sydney before coming to Melbourne. Gave her a good chance in the Manikato and disappointed again. She has drawn barrier 1 which isn't ideal in straight racing generally. Happy to risk.

12- Sheidel
- Wouldn't you love to own a horse who won 14 of 24!? She is absolutely flying and has won her last two, being well supported on both occasions. Clearly this is her toughest test to date, but she has earned the right to have a crack. Watch.

Tips: Relatively open race, but I'm pretty keen on The Quarterback. He had red flashing lights on last run when everything was against him. Provided he is able to weave a clear passage through the field, I expect him to be hard to beat. Lankan Rupee seems to have come back at a high enough level and we know he is quality. Fell Swoop, Malaguerra and Our Boy Malachi all go in the Quaddie.

1. The Quarterback
2. Lankan Rupee
3. Malaguerra
4. Fell Swoop