Investec Derby (Group1) 1m4f Epsom Saturday

With no stand out performance coming from any of the established trials, this years renewal has a very open look to it, and indeed only one contender, Permian, with a Racing Post Rating of 114 comes anywhere near the 117 average rating achieved by all the winners of the Blue Riband in their previous race over the last quarter century. However even in the most open looking years, the market has proved a good guide, and Ruler Of The World’s starting price of 7/1 was the longest recorded this millennium.

Heading the market at the time of writing is the John Gosden trained Cracksman, and the Master of Clarehaven is hopeful that the son of the great Frankel, will deliver him a third success, following Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015). Cracksman won a mile Newmarket maiden on his debut last October, and kept his 100% record when getting up in the last stride to collar Permian in Epsom’s 10f Derby Trial in April. He just got the better of the subsequent Dante Stakes winner, looking as if he needed every inch of the 10f trip, but it’s worth noting that the time was nearly six seconds slower than standard, and on pedigree, Cracksman isn’t guaranteed to stay the extra two furlongs on Saturday. His sire Frankel never raced beyond 10 1/2f, and Cracksman’s half brother, Fantastic Moon, having won the 7f Solario Stakes as a 2yo, was never even placed in his subsequent six races, all run at around a mile. His dam Rhadegunda, by Pivotal, was very consistent, but never won beyond 11f, ( a listed race at Fontainebleau at the end of her 3yo career). With only the two runs under his belt the Gosden colt is very inexperienced, and with those doubts about his stamina, I’m not sure he deserves his position at the head of the market.

The short head runner up to Cracksman at Epsom, Permian, certainly isn’t short of experience. He is already the veteran of ten contests and to say the least has had a most unconventional preperation for a “Derby Horse”. A winner of a Windsor Nursery off a lowly 83 as a 2yo, he was beaten in a Bath handicap off a mark of 100 on his reappearance, but has been on a strong upward curve ever since. He followed his narrow defeat by Cracksman at Epsom by winning a listed 10f Newmarket contest with his head in his chest, and then took another significant step forward when winning that good Derby Trial, the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes, putting in all his best work at the finish. He is by that strong influence for stamina, Teofilo, a son of the great Galileo. Teofilo has already sired the winner of the Group1 Irish Derby, Trading Leather, and Pleascach, the winner of the 12f Group1 Yorkshire Oaks. He is also the sire of Quest For More who won a Chantilly Group1 over 2m4f. Clearly a strong influence for stamina there is also plenty of encouragement on the distaff that stamina won’t be a problem. He is out of the dual listed winning mare, Tessa Reef who has produced Samana Cay and Second Wave, both of whom have been placed at listed level over 10f. His top connections have supplemented this rapidly improving colt at a cost of £85,000 and come 4.45pm on Saturday it could look money well spent.

Aidan O’Brien is seeking a 6th win in the race, and fielding six sons of Galileo, who won in 2001 and has already sired three winners of the great race, New Approach, Ruler Of The World and Australia, has got a very strong hand indeed. Joint favourite at the time of writing, Cliffs Of Moher, looked a really exciting prospect when winning his second race, a Leopardstown Maiden, last October. He was more workmanlike than brilliant when winning the 10 1/2f Dee Stakes on his reappearance, but having coped well with the unique demands of the Roodeye, and the proximity of the huge crowds, it should make Epsom seem less daunting. His sires offspring stay well and there are stamina influences in the dams pedigree as well. He was putting in his best work at the finish at Chester and could find Epsom’s mile and a half right up his street.

The Martyn Mead trained Emminent made his racecourse debut a winning one when landing a Newmarket Maiden last September, and even then his style of running suggested that he would be suited by further. He reappeared in the Craven Stakes and, putting in all his best work again in the last furlong, he won well. He was sent off a 5/1 shot for the 2000gns but in a steadily run race finished 6th, 3 1/2L behind Churchill, which in view of the latter’s subsequent win in the Irish equivalent wasn’t a bad performance at all. On pedigree there are solid grounds to expect plenty of improvement from Emminent with a step up in trip. He is by Frankel whom himself is a son of Galileo and from the limited evidence his offspring do seem to stay well. On the distaff, Emminent’s dam, You’ll Be Mine, is a daughter of Kingmambo, and she looked a staying type when finishing 3rd in the Group1 Fillies Mile as a 2yo. She is a half sister to Diamondandrubies, winner of the Group1 10f Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, and they’re both out of Quarter Moon, who was second in the 2002 Oaks. Considering his pedigree and his style of racing it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Emminent became Frankels first classic winner.

Selection: Cliffs Of Moher

E.W. Emminent

John Gray

Betting Preview Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes (Group2) 5f Haydock Saturday

What an impressive winner last week’s selection, Ribchester, was! Despite his intended pacemaker, Toscanini, fluffing his lines, pilot Buick was very positive, and gave the son of Iffraaj a great ride from the front. Nothing could live with him in the closing stages and he came home 3 3/4L clear of the runner up, Lightening Spear. Richard Fahey’s charge looked as if a mile and a quarter would be well within his compass but his immediate target is the eight furlong Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal Meeting. As all surfaces seem to come alike to this exceptionally talented colt the 15/8 available for the Queen Anne doesn’t look bad value.
Saturday’s market for the Temple Stakes is headed by the flying filly Quiet Reflection, and having bagged two Group1s last year, The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and The Sprint Cup here at Haydock, she fully deserves her position. However both those top level wins were over 6f and it remains to be seen how she will cope with the drop back to five, a distance she hasn’t raced over since her win in the Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot back in 2015, and that was on soft ground. Her excellent trainer, Karl Burke, is fully confident that she has the speed to cope over five furlongs, but he is worried about fast ground, which if the current forecast proves correct seems likely, so a watching brief is advised.
There are no such fears regarding the Tom Dascombe trained Son of Kyllachy, Kachy, who finished second to Quiet Reflection, beaten a length, in the Commonwealth Cup and now meets her on 5lbs better terms. He disappointed in his next three races but put up an eye catching performance on his reappearance in the 5f Palace House Stakes three weeks ago where very slow out of the stalls, he flew home to finish 4th. Three times a winner over the minimum trip he is well worth considering.
Aidan O ‘Briens Washington D.C was third, 1L and 1/2L behind Quiet Reflection and Kachy in The Commonwealth Cup, but was ahead of Tom Dascombe’s contender when finishing second in the Palace House Stakes three weeks ago and coming from this powerful yard has to be considered. However, the son of Zoffany does seem to just miss out at this level, so perhaps O’Brien has a better chance with the ex American filly, Acapulco. Previously trained by American handler, Wesley Ward, she made quite an impression when beating Easton Angel 1 1/2L on only her second racecourse appearance at Royal Ascot in 2015, and went on to put up another noteworthy performance for a two year old when finishing second to Mecca’s Angel in the 5f Group1 Nunthorpe Stakes. Having her first run for O’Brien thirteen days ago, the filly, who is in foal to Galileo, and now owned by the Coolmore operation, won a 5f listed race at the Curragh by 1/2L from Ardhoomey. A real 5f specialist she will love the forecast ground and unpenalised has to be on the shortlist.
Another who will relish the likely conditions is the Charlie Hills trained 5yo Cotai Glory. He lost his race at the start when slipping over in the Palace House Stakes, and Jamie Spencer did really well to stay in the plate but the horse’s chance was gone. However he did keep on and finished well and trainer Hills is quite bullish about his chances. He was only beaten a neck by Profitable in last years Kings Stand Stakes, (at odds of 33/1) on a least preferred soft surface, so this son of Exceed and Excell definitely has what it takes to win at this level, and given fast ground at the weekend could easily find himself in the winners enclosure.
Selection : Cotai Glory

E.W. : Acapulco 

John Gray

Racing Tips Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes ( Group1 ) 1m Str Newbury Saturday – Having won twenty one of the last thirty renewals, 4yo’s are clearly the dominant age group, and so it proved again last year, when the Roger Varian trained Belardo came home in front. The Oddsguru’s selection, he was returned at the tasty odds of 8/1, so here’s hoping we can point you in the right direction again. Group1 form, particularly at a mile, has been most important with sixteen of the last twenty one winners boasting success over 8f at the top level. Any runner sporting the Blue of Godolphin is worth a second glance as they have won seven of the last nineteen renewals. Mind you, the Red and White of the Cheveley Park operation haven’t done too badly either with four wins since the dawn of the new millennium. Both 2000gns winners who contested this in the last decade have won, so last years Newmarket Hero, Galileo Gold, has to be of considerable interest.
A winner of a Goodwood Group2 as a juvenile, he started his 3yo career in the best possible style, winning the Newmarket Classic on his seasonal debut. He couldn’t quite match Awtaad in the Irish equivalent, but put up a sparkling display next time, winning the 1m Group1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (Sft) where he had his Irish conqueror 1 3/4L back in third. A close second in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes followed, but he was disappointing in his last two races, finishing behind Saturday’s opponent, Ribchester on both occasions. However the first half of his season was impressive and racing in the colours of Saturday’s Sponsor, Al Shaqab, on ground which is likely to be soft, he has to be on the shortlist.
Having won the 6f Group2 Mill Reef Stakes over the course as a 2yo, the Richard Fahey trained 4yo Ribchester went from strength to strength in his 3yo career. He finished second at Maison-Laffitte on his reappearance before belying his odds of 33/1 to finish third in the 2000gns, 3 1/2L behind Galileo Gold. He went on to win the 7f Group3 Jersey Stakes on soft ground at the Royal Meeting, and confirmed his progress when, finishing best of all, he was only beaten a neck and short head by The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in the 1m Group1 Sussex Stakes. He made no mistake next time, winning the Group1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, where Galileo Gold was 3 1/4L back in eighth, and put up another very solid performance when going down by 1/2L to the brilliant filly Minding, in the Group1 QE.11 Stakes at Ascot in October. He made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Meydan in March over 9f, finishing third, (and pocketing over 3/4 of a million pounds for his trouble). Back over 8f, on the likely soft ground which he handles so well, and with stablemate Toscanini to guarantee a truly run race, this very progressive colt must have serious prospects of providing “the boys in blue” with their eighth win in the race.
Aidan O’Brien won this with Hawkwing fourteen years ago, but has drawn a blank with his ten runners since. He tries again this year with the beautifully bred 4yo daughter of Fastnet Rock, Somehow. She is out of that fabulous mare Alexandrova who won the English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks in 2006. Somehow, only had the one run as a 2yo and won three of her six races at three, but this year seems to be improving at a rate of knots. She made her seasonal reappearance, in a Naas Group3 on holding ground where she went down down by 1/2L, but made no mistake 5weeks, later bolting up in a Gowran Park Listed event over 9 1/2f on soft ground. Last time, thirteen days ago, she won the 9f Group2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on good/firm ground with her head in her chest, and looked a filly going places. Somehow, has never won over shorter than 9f but her marvellous dam, despite her strong stamina credentials, had plenty of speed, and it will come as no surprise to see her involved at the business end on Saturday, particularly If conditions are testing.
Martin Meade’s Aclaim is another who won’t mind if the ground is soft at the weekend. The 4yo son of Acclamation has raced twice on easy ground and won both times, and he looks a very progressive type. He won a 1m Ascot Handicap off a mark of 97 at the beginning of last September, and two weeks later hosed up in a 7f listed contest at Newbury on soft ground. In his final race of the season he took the step up to Group2 level in his stride, winning the 7f contest comfortably from Lumiere with Saturday’s opponent Cougar Mountain 3 1/4L back in fifth. Clearly progressive we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Selection : Ribchester 

E.W. : Somehow 

John Gray

Betting Tips Swinton Handicap Hurdle

Pertemps Network Swinton HandicapPertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle 2m Haydock Saturday – Paul Nicholls has yet to add a Swinton Hurdle to his outstanding C.V. but went close last year with the 5yo, Set To Go who finished second to Paul Webber’s Gwafa. He tries again with two likely looking types, the 5yo Zubayr, and the year older High Secret, and both have plenty to recommend them. The former looked an unlucky loser of The Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, where despite meeting the last all wrong, he was only beaten a short head. Only 4lbs higher on Saturday compensation may well await.

The year older Novice, High Secret, is a very solid performer on the flat, winning six of his seventeen starts at distances from 12f to 17f. He finished a close 4th in the 14f sixteen runner handicap, The Old Borough Cup over the course in 2015, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. He is beginning to look just as talented over the smaller obstacles. He has won two of his four starts, and last time put up a noteworthy performance when finishing 4th in an Aintree Grade1. The handicapper hasn’t exactly been generous giving him a mark of 141 and a racing weight of 11-9 but the 6yo has plenty of pace and will be well suited by a fast run contest at the weekend. I feel that there will be plenty more to come from this very genuine animal in his new discipline and is shortlisted.

Last years Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch’Tibello, could only finish third in last years renewal, but Master Trainer Skelton looks to have a very strong hand this time with his three 5yo’s, Optimus Prime, Red Tornado, and Mohaayed.

dan skelton swinton

Trainer Dan Skelton has a strong trio for Saturday’s race

The former, a six figure purchase from France where he was a dual winner over hurdles, including at Listed level looked as if he might justify his purchase price when finishing a close second in a Huntingdon Class2 on his debut for the stable. However he disappointed at Musselburgh three months later when pulled up but we got an idea of what he might be capable of next time in the very valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury seven weeks ago. Fitted with a tongue strap for the first time he was travelling strongly coming to the second last only to be badly hampered by a faller. It is hard to say what the probable outcome may have been but it is fair to say that he would have at least been involved in the finish. He comes here a fresh horse and racing off the same mark as Newbury has to be considered.

Stable companion Mohaayed is a very likeable type who always seems to run his race but unfortunately pays the price. He has gone up 2lbs for finishing 2nd in last months Scottish Champion Hurdle and is 3lbs higher than his mark in the County Hurdle at The Festival where he finished 7th. He deserves to win a decent prize but looks handicapped to the hilt.

The talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams has won this twice in the last five years so certainly knows what is required and is represented by the 10yo, Court Minstrel, and the 6yo John Constable. The former races off a mark of 144 making him joint top weight with 11-12 but he did win the Chepstow Silver Trophy off a 5lbs higher mark in 2015. He has failed to hit the back of the net in his subsequent ten races but ran well last time, beaten only 4 3/4L in the County Hurdle when finishing 10th. He races on Saturday off a 1lbs lower mark and is worth a second look.

John Constable fell at the last having been headed at Aintree last time and off a 5lbs higher mark on Saturday is hard to fancy.

Nicky Henderson won this twice with Eradicate in 2010 and 2012 and with the 6yo Peace And Co has a very well handicapped animal to go to war with. The French bred son of Falco looked destined for the top when winning the 2015 Triumph Hurdle but was a bitter disappointment in his second season. However the Handicapper has taken note and dropped him from a high of 159 to Saturday’s mark of 144. Following a 13 month break he reappeared in the Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, and ran a race full of promise. He travelled really well throughout and despite losing a shoe finished 6 3/4L behind in 10th. His owners  Munir and Souede are great supporters of the Winter Game and have had a great season. Peace And Co might just put the icing on the cake.

Selection : High Secret
E.W.          : Peace And Co