Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview (Group1) 6f Ascot Saturday

andre fabre sheikh

French maestro Andre Fabre and Sheikh Mohammed have a fine chance with Inns of Court

First run in 1868, the contest achieved its Group1 status in 2002 and is the last top level event in what I hope has proved to be a successful week for the punting fraternity. Since it’s elevation to Group1 status, two trainers, James Fanshawe and Aidan O’Brien have hit the target twice, and the former will be hoping his 2017 winner, The Tin Man, can go in again.

Now seven, the son of Equiano has been a marvellous servant to connections, winning 9 of his 22 starts, 3 of them at the top level, and netting nearly £1.2 million pounds in prize money. He showed that he was still capable of doing it at the top when winning Haydock’s Group1 Sprint Cup last September (6f Heavy) keeping on strongly to beat Brando by a length. He has an excellent record at Ascot, winning 3 of his 8 races over Saturday’s course and distance and despite a troubled passage in last year’s renewal (Good/Firm) ran an excellent race to finish 4th, 1 1/4L behind the winner, Merchant Navy. He had a nice pipe opener (3rd, 6f Good Windsor) 5 weeks ago and with his talented trainer in form is one to be interested in, particularly if he gets his preferred soft ground.

james tate trainer

James Tate saddles Invincible Army

 

Another who will handle soft ground is the current market leader, Invincible Army. Trained by James Tate, the 4yo colt had a moderate strike rate of 3/11 in his first two seasons, but has a 100% record from his two runs this term, including an impressive win on the Knavesmire last time, winning The Group2, Duke Of York Stakes by a very comfortable 2 1/2L from the useful Major Jumbo. Testing conditions shouldn’t be a problem as he won over Saturday’s course and distance on soft ground when taking  the Group3 Pavillion Stakes on his 3yo debut from the now 110 rated Eqtidaar, and was a good second in the 5f Molecombe Stakes as a 2yo in similar conditions. He is by the excellent stallion Invincible Spirit out of the Group1 winning mare, Rajeem, and like his sire, looks a real tough type, and deserves his place at the top of the market.

Having landed The Kings Stand Stakes over 5f with Blue Point, Godolphin will be hoping for further Group1 sprinting success with either Tuesday’s winner, or their French trained Inns Of Court. I’ve no doubt that Blue Point would be at least as well suited by Saturday’s extra furlong and if turning out again would have to be seriously considered, but the Andre Fabre trained Inns Of Court has also plenty to recommend him. Another son of Invincible Spirit, the 5yo has won 7 of his 17 starts and showed that he has speed to burn when cruising up in Group3 Chantilly heat over the minimum distance 20 days ago winning by 2 1/2L and 1/2L from Sestilio and Major Jumbo in a fast time. Considering that he has lost out by only a Short Head in two Group1s at a mile and seven furlongs, this was a pretty remarkable performance. His breeding also wouldn’t suggest that he should possess such speed as the distaff side of his pedigree is all about stamina. His dam, Learned Friend, failed to win any of her 3 starts but is a daughter of the middle distance mare, Lune D’Or, dam of the Japanese Group1 winning two miler Fierement, and Inns Of Court’s half brother, Age Of Wisdom, has won over 2miles on the flat and 2 1/2miles over hurdles. Wherever his speed comes from, he has it in abundance and he will be a potent threat to all on Saturday.

Wesley Ward won this for the US in 2015 and will be hoping that last year’s 3rd,
Bound For Nowhere can go two places better this time. The 5yo entire has continued to thrive and was just pipped by Imprimis, (6th in The Kings Stand on Tuesday) on his reappearance in a Keeneland Group2 11 weeks ago. He raced alone in last year’s renewal and was only beaten 3/4L so given some company may do better.

Last year’s runner up, the French trained City Light may have been a little unlucky as he lost ground at the start with an awkward stalls exit and was only beaten a Short Head. The son of Siyouni made a satisfactory seasonal debut when going down by 1/2L to Inns Of Court, (also making his seasonal debut) in a 6f Listed race at
Maisons-Laffitte 8 weeks ago which puts him firmly in the mix.

The Richard Fahey trained 4yo colt, Sands Of Mali ran the race of his career when landing the Group1 Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance on soft ground last October. He also ran a great race to finish 2nd, 1/2L behind Eqtidaar in last year’s Group1 Commonwealth Cup On much faster ground, again over course and distance. He had an abortive trip to Meydan in March, but had a satisfactory pipe opener (3rd, 4 3/4L behind Brando) at Hamilton 16 days ago, and back at Ascot, where he has done so well, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him play a very prominent part.

Selection. :   Inns Of Court      Danger : Invincible Army
EW.            :      Sands Of Mali

John Gray

Advertisements

Kings Stand Stakes (Group1) 5f Royal Ascot Tuesday

battaash horseInaugurated in 1860 The Kings Stand Stakes regained it’s Group1 status in 2008 and with a pot of over £300,000 going to the winner is always one of the most keenly contested heats of the week. The first three home in last year’s renewal, Blue Point, Battaash (pictured), and Mabs Cross, are all in contention again and connections of the former will be hoping their son of Shamardal can confirm the form.

Trained by the excellent Charlie Appleby, the 5yo entire has continued to progress and last time out, (80days ago) landed a Meydan Group1 over six furlongs. He won last year’s renewal impressively by 1 3/4L and a neck from Battaash and the strong finishing Mabs Cross, and a repeat performance would make him the 12th animal to double up in the long history of the race. However, he has been campaigned over a furlong further in his last two races, and his previous two attempts at 5f were unsuccessful. He was only 3rd in York’s 5f Nunthorpe Stakes last August, a nose and 2 1/4L behind Alpha Delphini  and Mabs Cross, and was beaten 5L at odds of 1/4, again over the minimum distance at Meydan in February. I just wonder if he retains the blinding speed that won him last year’s race.

Battaash wasn’t the most consistent horse last term, he could only finish 4th when odds on for the Nunthorpe and again finished in the same slot when sent off a 11/10 shot for Longchamp’s Prix De L’Abbaye. However, following wind surgery and a 230 day break, the apple of trainer Charlie Hill’s eye, made an impressive seasonal debut when winning Haydock’s Group2 Temple Stakes by 2 1/2L and 3/4L from Alpha Delphini and Mabs Cross in a time 1.3 seconds faster than standard. By the excellent sire of sprinters, Dark Angel, Battaash is a genuine five furlong horse and if his wind operation has really worked the oracle, he will be hard to beat on Tuesday.

The terrific mare, Mabs Cross continued to progress for the rest of last season, and following a defeat in York’s Group1 Nunthorpe by the narrowest of margins, ended the season in a blaze of glory landing The Group1 Prix De L’Abbaye on “Arc” Day. She made a winning seasonal debut in Newmarket’s Palace House Stakes, getting up in the shadow of the post to beat Tuesday’s opponent, Equilateral. Her run last time in the Temple Stakes behind Battaash was disappointing but she will meet the Hills horse on 5 lbs better terms on Tuesday and her cause at Haydock wasn’t helped by losing a shoe.

oddsguru Royal AscotThis is by no means a three horse affair and Aidan O’Brien with 7 entries at the time of writing seems to be making a determined effort to land one of the few Royal Ascot
Group1s to have escaped him. All his seven are from the Classic generation and the two that catch the eye are the colt Sergei Prokofiev, and the filly, Fairyland. The former is by that phenomenal source of speed, Scat Daddy, and this top stallion has certainly injected plenty of speed into Sergei Prokofiev as 3 of his 4 wins have come at the minimum distance, and the 4th at 5 1/2f. His best performance as a 2yo came in Newmarket’s Group3 Cornwallis Stakes, when despite not getting the clearest of passages, he quickened inside the final furlong to win very comfortably by 1 1/4L. Slowly away, he could only finish 4th, 2 1/2L behind Mabs Cross in The Palace House Stakes 45 days ago, but plenty of improvement can be expected from the 3yo in the meantime, and with all this rain about its worth noting that he won his second race by 7 1/2L on soft ground.

The filly Fairyland, won 4 of her 5 starts as a 2yo, including the Group2 Lowther Stakes
(6f Gd/Fm York) and the Group1 Chevely Park Stakes (6f Gd/Fm Newmarket) but she didn’t seem to get home in either the English or Irish 1000Guineas this term, and now reverts to sprinting. She is by that strong influence for speed, Kodiac, and is out of an unraced daughter of that speedy mare Land Of Dreams, (won Doncaster’s 5f speed test, The Flying Childers) who also is the mother of the triple Group1 winning sprinter, Dream Ahead. So it is a pedigree packed full of speed and if she takes up Tuesdays engagement, (also entered in Friday’s 6f Commonwealth Cup) could be interesting at her current odds of 20/1

archie watson oddsguruThe Archie Watson (pictured) trained 3yo, Soldiers Call, did marvellously well for a 2yo to finish 3rd in the Prix De L’Abbaye, just a neck behind the winner, Mabs Cross. But for a fruitless trip to the Breeders Cup this would have been a terrific end to a 2yo season that included wins in the Windsor Castle Stakes over Tuesday’s Course and Distance, victory in a Chantilly Group3 (on soft) and a win in Doncaster’s Group2 Flying Childers Stakes. He made a satisfactory start to his 3yo career finishing a close 3rd in a York Listed race 33 days ago which should have put this son of Showcasing spot on.

Charlie Hills 2nd string, Equilateral, is not without a chance as he took a definite step forward when finishing 2nd to Mabs Cross in the Palace House Stakes 45 days ago. He was beaten a neck but looked the winner everywhere but on the line. This was an excellent effort and if the speedily bred son of Equiano has continued to progress could get involved.

Selection : Battaash     Danger: Sergei Prokofiev
EW.           : Fairyland.    (If Abs)  Soldiers Call

John Gray

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes (Group3) 7f Haydock

william haggas john o gaunt

William Haggas must have a great chance with Mankib on Saturday

Around 4.45 last Saturday afternoon, followers of The Oddsguru Blog will have been on pretty good terms with themselves when our selection, Anthony Van Dyck, landed Epsom’s Blue Riband. In what was a pretty rough race, the Ballydoyle understudy,
Seamie Heffernan, gave the son of Galileo a terrific ride, keeping his cool when denied a run on the outside at the furlong marker. He switched left and come home with a wet sail down the camber of the track to win by 1/2L. It was a great win for Seamie but it was perhaps an even greater success for Anthony Van Dykes dad, Galileo. The amazing stallion was not only the sire of the winner, but the great, great grandad of the runner up, Madhmoon, the dam sire of the 3rd home, Japan, and he also sired the 4th, Broome and the 6th, Circus Maximus. Still doing the business at the age of 21, Galileo’s progeny are going to continue to dominate international racing for some time to come. The great stallion has no sons or daughters running in Saturday’s John Of Gaunt Stakes but there are plenty of well bred animals contending, not least the son of Tamayuz, Mankib.

The 5yo is out of that top class mare, Natagora, who won the Group1 Chevely Park Stakes at 2 and landed the 1000 Guineas the following year. Mankib hasn’t yet quite lived up to his exalted pedigree, but has shown a steadily progressive profile. Having his first run of the season 4 weeks ago, he ran an excellent race to finish 2nd to Saturday’s opponent, Safe Voyage, over course and distance. He was beaten 1 1/4L but meets the winner on 3lbs better terms and his top trainer, Willie Haggas, who won with Suggestive 15 years ago will be hoping that his contender, who acts on an easy surface, ( plenty of rain in the forecast) will have come on enough to reverse the placings with the John Quinn trained Safe Voyage.

Mind you that won’t be easy as Quinn’s upwardly mobile Handicapper  has a very progressive profile, (up 20lbs in the last 13 months) and he is 3/3 over Saturday’s course and distance, all on soft ground. This will be the 6yo’s first run in a group race, but this late developer may prove up to the task over a track that clearly suits.

haydock races map
The Mark Johnston trained 4yo, Cardsharp, has scored at Group level, (won Newmarket’s Group2 July Stakes for 2yo’s) but has failed to win in Group Class since. However he did finish a length behind the talented Anna Nerium (7f Soft) in a Goodwood Group3 last August and looked in great form when winning a York Handicap (7f Good-Firm)off a mark of 107 a fortnight ago. He took it up after 2 furlongs and ridden clear, stayed on strongly to beat the 105 rated So Beloved by 2 1/4L. The runner up is no slouch so if Cardsharp is as effective on the likely easier ground, he could easily add a second Group success to his CV.

The Mick Channon trained, Dan’s Dream has won once at Group3 Level, (Newbury’s Fred Darling Stakes for 3yo Fillies 2018) and went extremely close to landing a second when beaten a Shd by the Aidan O’Brien trained Happen in The Athasi Stakes at The Curragh 33 days ago (7f Good/Yielding Fillies and Mares). As that was the 4yo’s first run for 211 days, progress can be expected, and as she likes to get her toe in, could find conditions very much to her liking at the weekend.

Second in last year’s 2000 Guineas, the Roger Teal trained Tip Two Win has been pretty disappointing in his subsequent 3 runs but was a respectable 4th, (beaten 4L) in  the
St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He hasn’t been seen since finishing 6th in the 10f Qatar Derby in December at Doha, but has run well after a break. By Dark Angel out of the sprinter, Freddie’s Girl he may do better returned to 7f.

The David O’Meara trained Suedois with earnings over£1.2million has been a real
money spinner for his talented trainer, and the evergreen 8yo may not be finished yet. He was only beaten a Shd by Saturday’s opponent, Sir Dancealot in Goodwood’s Group2 Lennox Stakes last July (7f Good) and finished a respectable 4th behind Safe Voyage and Mankib at Haydock 4 weeks ago. He needs to improve on that, but if the ground dried out would be a danger to all.

Selection. : Mankib
EW.            : Cardsharp

John Gray

Investec Derby (Group1) 1 1/2Miles Epsom

oddsguru derbyI hope many of you were on last week’s EW selection, Phoenix Of Spain, in Ireland’s 2000Gns. The son of Lope De Vega, made all, and came home 3L clear of the joint 6/4 favourite, Too Darn Hot at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The time was fast, and it will take a good one to lower his colours in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, (currently available at 9/4). Interestingly, Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last October, has now produced the winner of the English 2000Gns, Magna Grecia, 1st at Donny, and the Irish equivalent with Phoenix Of Spain, who finished a slightly controversial 2nd, all of which has to make the close 4th home in that heat, Circus Maximus Of interest on Saturday.

Another inmate of The Ballydoyle Academy, Circus Maximus is a son of the great stallion Galileo, (sire of 2 Epsom Derby winners, Ruler Of The World, 2010 and Australia 2011) and is one of 8 entries from the yard at the time of writing. Put away for the season after that good Doncaster effort, he reappeared in The 1m2 1/2f Dee Stakes at Chester, (Soft) 23 days ago, and stayed on well inside the final furlong to comfortably hold his stable mate, Mohawk, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s trip should be well within his compass. He is out of the top class miler, Duntle, (placed 3 times at the top level) and has plenty to recommend him, including his price, currently trading around 20/1, but would probably like to see some rain in the Epsom area.

There are no stamina doubts about stablemate, and current market leader,
Sir Dragonet either. He hosed up in the 1m4 1/2f Chester Vase on soft ground 24 days ago. It was a remarkable performance as it was only his 2nd time on a racecourse, (easily won a Tipperary Maiden 13 days earlier) and as he didn’t turn a hair in the pot boiling atmosphere of The Roodeye, he seems to have the temperament to cope with the demands of Derby Day at Epsom. If he handles the likely faster ground on Saturday, the son of Camelot, out of a daughter of that fabulous mare, Urban Sea, he could easily justify his position at the top of the market, (and his late entry fee of £85,000).

One Ballydoyle entry who shouldn’t be inconvenienced by fast ground on Saturday is Anthony Van Dyck as he won a Leopardstown Group3 by 4 3/4L on Good/Firm last July. Another son of Galileo, he showed plenty of reserves of stamina when winning Lingfield’s 1m3 1/2f Derby Trial on soft ground 3 weeks ago.

obrien investec

Aidan O’Brien knows there’s nothing sketchy about Anthony Van Dyck’s chances

He is out of the Exceed and Excel mare Believe’N’Succeed, whose best previous offspring, is the talented Australian sprinter, Bounding, so I’m sure the Coolmore connections, must have been delighted to see at Lingfield that their great stallion had yet again, come up with the
“Stamina” goods, and it wouldn’t surprise if Anthony Van Dyck provided Aidan with a 7th, record equaling victory, in Epsom’s Blue Riband.

There has been plenty of money for Broome in the markets, and the son of the 2011 winner, Australia, has won both starts this term pretty comfortably, Group3 heats at Leopardstown.  However, his best 2yo performance came when beaten a Neck in the Group1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère at Longchamp, a race that hasn’t really worked out. He was also well beaten in his only 2 runs on fast ground so may find conditions against him.

England’s best chance of retaining the Crown would seem to lie with the Hughie Morrison trained, Telecaster. Unraced as a 2yo, the son of the 2008 winner New Approach, made a promising racecourse debut in a Doncaster Maiden at the end of March, where, sent off an unconsidered 20/1 shot, he was beaten 1 1/4L by Saturday’s opponent, Bangkok, who was having his 4th race and started the even money favourite. He hacked up in a Windsor Class5 Novices 16 days later, and 3 weeks ago took a giant step forward when landing York’s Group2 Dante Stakes by a length from Too Darn Hot. The runner up may not have quite got home that day, but Saturday’s opponent, the O’Brien trained Japan, (winner of his 2 previous races and a full brother to the top level performers, Isaac Newton and Secret Gesture) was 5 3/4L back in 4th. He is out of the top class mare Shirocco Star, who only lost out by a Neck in the 2012 Oaks to Was, so he is certainly bred for Saturday’s trip, might even improve for it, and justify connections huge £85,000 late entry fee.

The Kevin Prendergast trained Madhmoon will be attempting to give his veteran handler a first victory, and his owner Sheikh Hamdan, a third, (Nashwan 1989, Erhaab 1994) and the way the son of Dawn Approach finished for 4th place in The 2000Gns they must both be feeling pretty hopeful. Racing in the unfavoured group, down the middle of the track, he was outpaced over a furlong out, but finished best of all in the group looking as if further would definitely suit. There is plenty of encouragement on his sire’s side that he will get the trip, but the distaff is slightly more problematical. However, having trained  the dam, Araas, (stayed 10f and is by Haafhd who gets plenty of middle distance horses) the grand dam Adaala, and most of their offspring to win plenty of races, the Co Kildare trainer knows this family inside out, and he is optimistic that Madhmoon will get the trip. It’s also worth noting that 2yo’s that stay a mile, usually stay middle distances at 3, and Madhmoon made short work of Broome in last September’s  Group2 Champions Juvenile Stakes over a mile at Leopardstown, running on well to win by 2 1/2L on the Good/Firm ground.

Selection  : Anthony Van Dyck
Danger          : Telecaster

John Gray

Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) 1 Mile Curragh

oddsguru curraghFirst run in 1921, Saturday sees the 98th renewal of the first Classic of the Irish flat racing season, and coming 3 weeks after its English counterpart, usually attracts many of the contenders from the Newmarket Race. Starting with Right Tack in 1969, nine animals have brought off the Newmarket-Curragh double and Aidan O’Brien will be hoping to make it ten with this year’s Rowley Mile Hero, Magna Grecia.

The son of Invincible Spirit certainly won the Newmarket heat on merit, coming home  2 1/2L clear of the 66/1 outsider, King Of Change, (sole success came in a Nottingham
Class5 Novices) but it did seem as if the winner and runner up did have a distinct advantage racing against the stand rails. The time, nearly 2 seconds slower than standard on Good ground, wasn’t great for a Classic, and it won’t be the greatest surprise if the 3rd Skardu, who raced up the middle of the course, finishes a lot closer on Saturday.

The Willie Haggis trained Skardu had previously won the 2000Gns Trial, The Craven Stakes, over The Rowley Mile in workmanlike fashion, a race that hasn’t worked out particularly well, but the winner of last year’s Longchamp Group1, The Prix Jean-Luc Legardre, Royal Marine, (13th in The Guineas) was 2 3/4L back in 4th. Skardu came home best of all of the group of 16 racing up the middle in The Guineas, beating the talented Madhmoon by a head, and should finish a lot closer to Magna Grecia on Saturday.

The Charlie Hills (pictured) trained, Phoenix Of Spain may have been an unlucky loser of Doncaster’s Group1 Futurity last Autmn when beaten a head by Magna Grecia. oddsguru charlie hillsIn a strongly run race on the Gd/Sft surface he was pushed left when challenging inside the final furlong and his cause wasn’t helped either by quite a severe bump with 50 yds to go. He had no answer to Too Darn Hot when beaten 1 3/4L in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes, (Good) in his previous race but looked an improved horse in The Futurity, and having easily won York’s Acomb Stakes on Gd/Fast ground, looks as if he handles most conditions. Lack of an outing this term is a concern but the yard is in excellent form.

John Gosden’s sole success in The Irish 2000 Guineas came with Kingman 5 years ago and he looks to have serious prospects of landing a second with his surprise late entry,
Too Darn Hot. Last year’s top rated juvenile, (cruised up in the Dewhurst from the 112 rated Advertise and earned an impressive rating of 126) was thought to be too backward to run in the 2000Gns, but took up his engagement in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes at York 9 days ago, where despite running well, didn’t seem to get home over the trip and could only finish 2nd to Telecaster, whose sole previous success had come in a lowly 3yo Class5 Windsor Novices. Too Darn Hot is by the outstanding Stallion Dubawi out of the triple Group1 winning mare Dar Re Mi, (won twice over 12f at the top level) and his full sister, Lah Ti Dar, was 2nd to Kew Gardens in The St Leger, so it must be very disappointing to connections if indeed it was a lack of stamina that was the cause of his defeat at York. If that is the case however, Saturday’s race represents his last chance of getting that much sought after Classic victory on his CV, and a repeat of his performance in The Dewhurst would bring him close.

Operating at a current strike rate of 75%, Cashel handler, Paddy Twomey must be nursing hopes of a first Classic victory with his progressive colt, Decrypt. A son of Dark Angel, he made his racecourse debut in a Curragh Maiden (6f) last May, finishing a very encouraging second, and went one better at the same venue (6f)13 days later, winning by 1/2L in a good time. Given plenty of time, he was put away for the season and reappeared 5 weeks ago. Racing over 7f for the first time he won a Cork conditions event with his head in his chest. He would need to improve considerably more to figure on Saturday, and there isn’t much encouragement from his pedigree that he will get a mile, but he certainly wasn’t stopping in that Cork heat, and I’ve no doubt that we have yet to see the best of Decrypt.

Ballydoyle’s €1.6 million purchase Old Glory is worth a mention. A son of Frankel, he made a winning debut at Naas last September. He failed to score in his other two starts but finished a respectable 3rd when attempting to make all in a Leopardstown Group3 in October. A half brother to the useful Australian horse Assign, he may do better with
a more patient ride, (a view endorsed by our respected follower, Alan from Anglsea) and is an interesting addition to the O’Brien challenge,
(Attempting to win the race for the 12th time).

Selection : Too Darn Hot
EW.           : Phoenix Of Spain

John Gray

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Group1 1Mile Newbury

varian lockinge

Roger Varian sends out Sharja Bridge on Saturday

I hope some readers of the Oddsguru blog were on last week’s EW selection, Le Patriote, who landed The Swinton Hurdle under a great ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, at the tasty odds of 20/1. Our Win selection, Fiesole didn’t run badly either, finishing 4th in the 17 runner handicap also at 20/1. Indeed, but for a blunder at the last, this strong finisher would have been a lot closer. There will be no obstacles to get in the way of the runners in Saturday’s Lockinge, but with a field of 17, and 14 of them rated within 3 lbs of each other, it’s clearly a contest that’s going to take some winning. Aidan O’Brien won last year’s renewal with the filly, Rhododendron, (Oddsguru’s selection) and will be hoping to make it two in a row with the ex-Andre Fabre trained 5yo, Le Brivido.

The son of Siyouni has only been on a racecourse 6 times, 5 of them in France, and has been in the winners enclosure 3 times, but his best performance came in defeat when runner up in the French 2000Gns in 2017. In a race where the first two finished 3L clear of the field, he just lost out by a Short Head to the subsequent French Derby winner, Brametot. He went one better next time, winning the 7f Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, but was soundly beaten in his only other run for Fabre, a 6f Newmarket Group3 in April 2018. Following his move to Ballydoyle 2 months ago, and 369 days since that Newmarket race, he made a satisfactory debut for his new yard 4 weeks ago, finishing 3rd in the 7f Group3 Gladness Stakes at Naas. He reared up in the stalls, and was slowly away, but came home strongly to finish 1 1/4L behind the 105 rated Imaging. Plenty more will be required on Saturday but in the hands of the Ballydoyle Genius, it could well be forthcoming.

Kevin Burke’s wonderful filly Laurens, has scored a hugely impressive 5 times at the top level, but only against her own sex, and she did come up short when tackling the colts for the first time in last Autumn’s Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes. newbury mapShe certainly didn’t give her true running, finishing 8th, 11 1/2L behind Roaring Lion, and her poor performance can be put down to the effects of a long season and the soft Ascot surface. Back on good ground it will be interesting to see how she gets on against the boys. Her trainer reports her to be 95% fit but points out that she improved for her first run of the season last year,(2nd 1000Gns).

Sir Michael Stoute has won The Lockinge 7 times, and will be hoping the 6yo gelding Mustashry, can land him an 8th. The son of Tamayuz has progressed from being a 95 rated Handicapper in his early 3yo career to winning two Group2’s in the space of a fortnight last Autumn, and is now rated 115. He had a nice pipe opener, finishing 3rd in a Newmarket Group3, 30 days ago, and I’m sure that Sir Michael, who does so well with these older horses, will have him primed for a race he clearly loves to win.

The Roger Varian trained 5yo entire, Sharja Bridge confirmed that he was better than a Handicapper when hosing up in the Listed Doncaster Mile first time out in March. 27 days later, he was beaten a 1/2L by Saturday’s opponent, Beat The Bank in a slowly run Sandown Group2, but back racing over a straight mile, and with plenty of pace guaranteed I fancy the Varian horse to come out on top.

Godolphin with 8 wins in the contest, are far and away the leading owners, so their sole representative this year, Mythical Magic, has to be of interest. The 4yo son of Iffraaj, was quietly impressive last time when winning at Group2 level for the first time. Taking it up at the 2f marker he ran on well to easily beat the 116 rated Century Dream at Meydan in February, and a strict interpretation of that form would make him look the one to beat on Saturday. However caution is advised, as the runner up has failed to fire in his 2 subsequent races, albeit at Group1 level. However Mythical Magic is clearly improving at a rate of knots, and a winter basking in the Arabian sun, won’t have done his chances any harm.

The Simon Crisford trained Ostilio, (in the same ownership as Sharja Bridge) ended his 3yo career with 2 excellent front running performances, hacking up in a Doncaster Handicap, and then taking a serious step up in class to win a Longchamp Group2. He may not be good enough to win on Saturday but should guarantee plenty of pace which can only benefit the co-owned, Sharja Bridge.

The only other animal besides Laurens, who has won at the top level, is the 25/1 winner of last year’s Irish 2000Gns, Romanised. A son of Holy Roman Emperor, he failed to score in his subsequent 3 races last year, but made a promising seasonal debut in the same heat at Naas as Le Brivido, where despite being short of racing room, he kept on well to finish couple of heads behind the O’Brien runner to whom he was giving 5lbs. Trained by the excellent Kevin Condon, it wouldn’t surprise to see him involved at the business end, particularly if the ground is on the fast side.

Selection : Sharja Bridge
EW.           : Mythical Magic

John Gray

Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle (Grade3) 2Miles Haydock Saturday

oddsguru haydock ringHaving won the race four times in the last six years, including the last twice, any contender from the Llancarfan yard, in the Vale of Glamorgan, of Welsh Maestro, Evan Williams, needs a close look, and his two contenders this time, Court Royale and John Constable, are certainly of interest.

The former, a 6yo, has won 3 of his 9 starts over hurdles including last time out, when he outbattled the useful, Snapdragon Fire to win a Class3 Ludlow Handicap by 1 1/2L 23 days ago, racing off a mark of 121. He has been put up 5lbs for Saturday’s contest which looks fair, but still needs 10 above him in the handicap to come out to get a run. Another slight concern would be that all his wins have been on right handed tracks, and indeed he has done most of his racing going clockwise, so perhaps Evan’s best chance of landing a 5th victory lies with the 8yo John Constable.

By Montjeu, he is a full brother to the St Leger and Ascot Gold Cup winner, leading light, and he won The Swinton 2 years ago by an impressive 14L off a mark of 134. Raised 16lbs for his next run, he comfortably won the valuable and competitive Summer Handicap Hurdle at Market Rasen 3 months later, but has failed to fire in his subsequent 14 starts, (was a respectable 7th off a mark of 156 in last year’s renewal). There was little encouragement to be drawn from his last run 4 months ago either, finishing down the field in a Cheltenham Handicap in January off a mark of 134, but if the man from Llancarfan has been able to get this talented individual back to anywhere near his best, he is an extremely well handicapped animal on his mark of 132. Interestingly if Mr Williams did land the race with the 8yo, it would complete a striking sequence for Evan, winning the contest with a 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8yo.

Nicky Henderson has won this twice, (Eradicate in 2010 and 2011) and must have serious prospects of landing a 3rd with his course and distance winning Novice,
Mister Fisher. He won The Grade2 Rossington Main Novices Hurdle in January, from the now 149 rated, Bright Forecast by 2 1/2L, (3rd in the Grade1 Ballymore at The Cheltenham Festival) which does make Saturday’s mark of 145 look reasonable. He has to be forgiven a poor showing in the Supreme Novices at The Festival, (8/16) but back on a flat track on better ground can make his presence felt.

oddsguru richard newlandThe Dr Richard Newland (pictured) trained 7yo, Le Patriote is 5/14 over hurdles and has looked an improved performer in his last 2 races. He won an Ayr Class2 (2Miles Good) in November off a mark of 135 and following a 165 day break won a Cheltenham Class2 (2m4f Good) off a 7lbs higher mark 25 days ago. A 3lbs rise looks very fair, and with Sam Twiston-Davies who is riding better than ever in the Plate, The Newland horse is definitely one to be interested in.

A Swinton victory is one of the few big Hurdle races missing from the CV of Paul Nicholls, but the master Of Ditcheat will be hoping that his 4yo, Christopher Wood can get his head in front on Saturday and fill in the gap. 4yo’s, with only 2 wins in the last two decades, don’t have a great record in the race, but they do get a valuable 4lbs age allowance, and the Nicholls horse looked much more the finished article when coming 3rd in the Grade1 Anniversary Novices Hurdle at Aintree last time. This was only the ex flat racers third race over hurdles, and he travelled well throughout keeping on well to finish 6 1/4L behind the winner, Pentland Hills. Rated 142, with his 4lbs age allowance, he has the nice racing weight of 11-2 and could be interesting.

Talented flat racer, Sofia’s Rock, achieved a rating of 106 when trained by Mark Johnson, and promises to be just as good over hurdles. He joined Dan Skelton’s yard last September and has won 2 of his 3 races over hurdles. He was quite impressive last time winning a Ludlow Novices by 13L from the previous winner Good Man Jim. With plenty of experience in big handicaps on the flat, Saturday’s large field shouldn’t be a problem, and he looks well treated on a mark of 140.

The Seamus Mullins trained Arthington ran the best race of his career three weeks ago when just failing to get up to beat Saturday’s opponent, Cubwin, over course and distance. In a very competitive 16 runner field, he finished much the strongest and was an unlucky loser. On the same terms he should finish in front of Cubwin and there could be plenty more to come from the 6yo.

olly murphy oddsguruThe Olly Murphy (pictured) trained Fiesole is another who put in a career best performance last time, winning a Plumpton Class2 by a long looking 9L from Saturday’s opponent Legal History despite being impeded at the 2nd last. A hike of 12 lbs looks severe but at the very least he should confirm the form with the runner up, (10lbs better off) and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if the talented Murphy’s charge, landed the spoils.

Selection : Fiesole
EW.           : Arthington.      Le Patriote

John Gray