Tattersalls Irish 2000Gns 1 Mile Curragh Tips Saturday

First run in 1921, The Irish 2000Gns has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien who has won the Classic an amazing eleven times, and indeed has hit the back of the net eight times in the last ten renewals. Nine animals have brought off the Newmarket and Curragh 2000Gns double, including the O’Brien trained Churchill last year, but with this year’s Newmarket Hero, Saxon Warrior, staying in his box we won’t be seeing a tenth this weekend. However, the Master Of Ballydoyle, with five declared runners at the time of writing, holds his usual strong hand, and while it is dangerous to ever ignore a contender from the yard, the two to concentrate on appear to be Gustav Klimt and US Navy Flag.

Gustav Klimt was disappointing in The 2000Gns, finishing 6th, 3 3/4L behind his impressive winning stablemate, Saxon Warrior, but in his previous race, The Leopardstown 2000Gns Trial, he had impressed when beating Saturday’s opponent, Imaging, by a comfortable 1 3/4L, and he had also done well to overcome difficulties to win last year’s Group2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket. (7f Gd/Fm). He is a real Blue Blood, by Galileo out of The Danehill mare Massarra,(a cross much favoured by Coolmore) and his Grand dam, Rafha, has produced the two outstanding Stallions, Invincible Spirit and Kodiac so a victory in Saturday’s Classic would certainly hugely enhance Gustav Klimt’s value and guarantee his future as a stallion.

US Navy Flag’s record of 4 wins from 12 starts, isn’t that impressive at first glance, but two of them were achieved at the top level last Autumn, when he won the 6f Middlepark and the 7f Dewhurst both at Newmarket. He was always in command in the latter, making all, and staying on strongly, to beat his stablemate, Mendelssohn by 2 1/2L, but then disappointed badly three weeks later, when attempting similar tactics in The Breeders Cup Juvenile on Dirt (1m100yds). Well beaten behind Gustav Klimt at Leopardstown on his reappearance he was more convincing next time in The French 2000Gns when leading inside the 3f marker he stumbled badly, but regaining his balance kept on but was headed over 1f out, and faded into 5th place. This was a decent effort in the circumstances, and it won’t surprise if this son of Warfront, whose dam, Misty For Me won four times at the top level including the Irish 1000Gns in 2011, is involved at the business end at the weekend.

The Dermot Weld trained Imaging, having been put in his place by Gustav Klimt at Leopardstown, was quite impressive next time when winning the 7f Listed Tetrarch Stakes at Naas on better ground. Short of space from 1f out, and denied a clear run, he quickened well between horses to win going away by 3/4L from Would Be King. By Oasis Dream, out of a mare who was a Listed winner at 1m2f, Imaging will be well suited by the step back up to a mile and is considered.

CURRAGHJames A Stack, (Fozzy) is the son of Tommy, who steered the Immortal Red Rum to his third Aintree victory and would love to make his own bit of racing history with his rapidly improving son of Choisir, Zihba, on Saturday. A winner of his only start as a 2yo,(Dundalk AW Maiden) he won again at the same venue on his reappearance, but there was little to suggest that we had seen a future Classic winner. However 51 days later he took a giant step forward when winning The Group3 Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown. He took it up inside the final furlong, and kept on well to win by 1 1/2L. Further progress will be required to get involved on Saturday, but this son of Choisir, out of a Galileo mare, is clearly improving at a rate of knots.

Our selection for the Newmarket 2000Gns, Elarqam was a little disappointing in only finishing 4th but his hugely talented trainer was not dismayed feeling that his inexperience and freshness hadn’t helped his cause. He did suffer some slight interference, and seemed to hesitate coming out of Newmarket’s Dip, but then ran on again. He had been impressive in both starts prior to the 2000Gns, particularly in the Group3 Tattersalls Stakes last September where he beat the subsequent 2000Gns runner up Tip Two Win by 2 1/2L. The son of Frankel is out of the wonderful mare Attraction who can count victory in the Irish 1000Gns in 2004 amongst her five top level success’s, and with The Mark Johnston operation firing in the winners, Elarqam looks the one to beat.

Selection: Elarqam

EW. : Imaging

John Gray

Advertisements

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Tips (Group1) 1Mile Newbury Saturday

It is fifteen years since Aidan O’Brien has won The Lockinge (with the brilliant Hawk Wing) and indeed he has drawn a complete blank with all eleven contenders, failing to even secure a place, but he mounts a serious looking challenge this year with four entries at the time of writing, War Decree, Deauville, Lancaster Bomber, Rhododendron. Of the four, if the vibes are correct, the two to concentrate on are the the son of War Front, Lancaster Bomber, and the daughter of Galileo, Rhododendron.

Despite having only a single victory from his sixteen starts, a Leopardstown Maiden in August 2016, on his C.V. Lancaster Bomber has managed to amass prize money approaching £1000,000 from some excellent performances at Group1 level. He was only 1 1/2L behind stable companion, Churchill, when finishing 4th in last year’s 2000Gns, and finished a length second to Barney Roy, putting in a top class effort in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot. He could also count seconds in The Woodbine Mile and The Breeders Cup, together with a close fifth in the Hong Kong Mile, all Group1 contests, amongst last terms achievements so is a proven Group1 player. He disappointed at Meydan on his reappearance, but drawn 12, had to race wide the whole way and is easily forgiven. A son of War Front the key to Lancaster Bomber is the ground and given a fast surface at the weekend must have serious prospects of getting win number two on the scoreboard.

Rhododendron_oddsguruHaving won twice at the top level, and finished second in both the 1000Gns and Oaks last year, Rhododendron (pictured) is clearly out of the top drawer, and put in another excellent effort when runner up in the Breeders Cup over a mile last November. Probably needing the run, she put in a satisfactory performance when finishing 5th behind Cracksman at Longchamp on her reappearance 20 days ago over 10 1/2f which should have put her spot on for Saturday. She won the Group1 Dubai Fillies Mile as a 2yo on Good/Firm ground very comfortably from stable companion Hydrangea so should find Saturday’s test ideal and looks the one to beat.

The Henry Candy trained 6yo, Limato has won nine of his nineteen starts, two of them at the top level. His first Group1 success was in the 2016 July Cup at Newmarket and he followed up by winning the 7f Group1 Prix De La Foret at Chantilly the same year. Reported to be fit and well and with ground conditions likely to be in his favour the big question mark concerning Candy’s speedster has to be his failure to ever win over a mile. However he was 4th behind Belardo in the 2016 renewal and the way he has won over 7f does suggest that Saturday’s trip should be within his compass.

Having won five of his seven starts, the Andrew Balding trained 4yo, Beat The Bank’s career is clearly on a sharp upward trajectory. Unraced as a 2yo, he won his first race, a lowly Dundalk Maiden on the All Weather in February 2017, and six months later found him in the Newmarket Winners Enclosure having won his fifth race, the Group2 Shadwell Joel Stakes by 5L from The Aidan O’Brien trained Sir John Lavery. Having been on the go for seven months he can be excused his poor run in the Queen Elizabeth 11 a month later, and if the son of Paco Boy has maintained his progress over the Winter, Beat The Bank will be a threat to all.

Another animal whose best days are probably ahead of him is the Roger Varian trained 5yo Zabeel Prince. Very lightly raced, he has only had the six starts, and was quite impressive in the last of them, winning the Listed, Doncaster Mile, pretty comfortably from the front, eight weeks ago. Having his first run for 154 days, he made all, and pulled clear in the final furlong to register his fourth success. While Saturday’s test is a big step up, Roger, who won with Belardo two years ago, feels that it is only now, as a 5yo that Zabeel Prince is reaching his full potential, and it won’t come as a surprise to see him involved on Saturday.

Connections of the 4yo Addeybb, clearly knew they had a Group horse in the making when he trotted up in The Lincoln, landing a substantial gamble, and so it proved five weeks later when the son of Pivotal won the Group2, bet365 Mile at Sandown quite impressively. He is now on a mark of 117 which puts him right in the mix for Saturday but firm ground would be a concern. Four of his five victories have been achieved with soft in the going description, and the fifth, (Ascot July 17 Good) was won in a time suggestive of a slower surface. However he looks to be an animal going places, and while plenty of horses by Pivotal do handle soft ground really well, it is by no means a prerequisite for his offspring.

Selection: Rhododendron

E.W. : Lancaster Bomber

John Gray

Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle Tips 1m7 1/2f Haydock Saturday

As Welsh Maestro, Evan Williams has won three of the last five renewals of this valuable contest, his two contenders, John Constable, and Silver Streak, have to be of particular interest. The former won last year’s race by an impressive 14L racing off a mark of 134, and went on to defy a 16lbs higher mark in Market Rasen’s Summer Hurdle next time out. Raised another 6lbs to Saturday’s mark of 156 has seen him confined to conditions events with little success, including last time, when he finished 41L behind Buveur D’Aire in The Champion Hurdle in ninth place. Considering a mark of 141, ( Nicky Henderson’s Eradicate in 2011) is the highest rating of any winner in the last twelve years, John Constable clearly has a mammoth task on his hands, so perhaps Evan’s best chance of landing a fourth Swinton lies with the 5yo, Silver Streak.

A winner of three of his ten starts over hurdles, his highest winning mark to date has been 122, but he did run really well when finishing 2nd off a mark of 130 in the very valuable Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last December. If top weight and stable companion, John Constable, takes up the engagement, Silver Streak will only have the featherweight of 10-2 to carry and with his preferred good ground at the weekend almost assured, has to be worth considering.

Nicky Henderson won back to back runnings of The Swinton with Eradicate in 2010 and 2011 and fields two strong looking candidates, the 6yo mare, Verdana Blue and the 7yo Whatswrongwithyou this time around. The mare has been unplaced in her last two races but was a decent 3rd in that Racing Welfare heat at Ascot in December, and is 3lbs better off with the runner up that day, Silver Streak. Nevertheless, she looks high enough on her mark of 143, and preference is for the year older Whatswrongwithyou.

Lightly raced, he has only run four times over timber, finishing 2nd on his debut in December, winning a Novices next time from the useful Ok Corrall, and then winning his first venture into handicap company very easily off a mark of 133. He was beaten last time at Sandown off a mark of 139 but there were excuses as he was caught behind a wall of horses turning in, and did run on to finish 9L third of fifteen. We are unlikely to have yet seen the best of the 7yo, but a concern would be the likely top of the ground conditions at the weekend as he has never won on a surface with good in the going description before. However the messages from his pedigree are positive as his sire, Bienamado, won three times at the highest level on either Firm or Good to Firm, and his half brother, Gvs Irportensa has won and been placed on Good.

Philip Hobbs won the Swinton with Dreams end way back in 1994, and doubled up three years ago with War Sound, so certainly knows what is required, and he fields a likely looking candidate in the tough handicapper, Sternrubin. Mixing the flat, chasing and hurdling, the 7yo has won four of his sixteen starts over timber, (including a 4L victory over John Constable in Nov 2015) but has only raced four times over the smaller obstacles since beating Instant Karma in a Class1 Ascot Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 142 in October 2016. His last two runs have been quite promising, 10/24 in The County Hurdle, and 3/15 last time at Aintree, 11L behind Havana Beat, Racing off a mark of 140. Competing in large field handicaps holds no fears for the 7yo, who should have his preferred ground on Saturday, and running off a mark of 139, with the Hobbs operation firing in the winners at present, is well worth a second look.

Having fallen in The Henry V111 Novices Chase behind Sceau Royal in December, the Paul Nicholls trained Capitaine reverted to hurdles 130 days later, and finished a respectable 5/15 at Cheltenham in April, racing off a mark of 139. The 6yo has been dropped to a mark of 137 (12lbs below his Chase mark) which looks pretty generous for an animal that won an Ascot Grade2 in December 2016. He likes good ground and has form over the course so could just fill in a significant gap in the P. Nicholls C.V.

Another reverting to hurdles following a highly successful stint steeplechasing is last year’s runner up, Optimus Prime. Since then the Dan Skelton trained 6yo has made serious progress over fences, winning three of his four starts, and finishing runner up, albeit at a respectful 12L, to superstar Footpad, at The Punchestown Festival. He is now rated 147 in that discipline and if he has made similar progress over hurdles would look very well treated on Saturday’s mark of 140.

Having been held up off the pace in last year’s contest, the Alan King trained William H Bonney started to improve from before the third last, and but for having to swerve to avoid a faller at the last, might have been placed. His last four races have been disappointing, although he did look as if he might deliver at Cheltenham in November in the Greatwood Hurdle, when he looked a possible winner at the last, but faded up the hill to finish 6th off a mark of 137. His master trainer has always felt that the 7yo has what it takes to win one of these valuable handicaps and has certainly been given a chance by the handicapper, racing off a mark 4lbs lower than last year, and 8lbs lower than for the Greatwood. Odds of 33/1 available at the time of writing.

Selection: Capitaine

E.W. : Sternrubin and William H Bonney

John Gray

Qipco 2000Gns Tips 1mile (Rowley) Newmarket Saturday

Rock The Kasbah gave us a good run for our money in last week’s bet365 Gold Cup but the ground had gone against him, and he did well to hold onto second place behind the runaway winner Stepback to whom he was conceding a stone. The dreadful weather has had a huge influence on results all through this winter so let’s hope the forecasters have got it right, and the first Classic of the year on Saturday is run with the Sun shining on a decent racing surface.

Aidan O’Brien, with an astonishing eight wins in the race, (an all time record), won four of the five British Classics last season, including the 2000gns, (with Churchill) and will be hoping to get off the mark again this year at the first time of asking. Of his quartet of entries at the time of writing, the two to concentrate on are Gustav Klimt, and last year’s Group1, Racing Post Trophy Victor, Saxon Warrior.

The former has won three of his four starts, including the Group2 Superlative Stakes (7f Gd/fm) over The July Course, where despite being hampered and losing his place at the 2 furlong marker, he battled back to win by a head from the useful Nebo. He was quite impressive on his reappearance, winning The Leopardstown 2000gns Trial (7f Hy) putting 1 3/4L between himself and the runner up, Imaging, in the last 150yds. By super stallion, Galileo, out of the Danehill mare Massarra, (a cross much favoured by Coolmore) Gustav Klimt hasn’t had the opportunity to race at the top level yet, (withdrawn from the Group1 National Stakes because of a stone bruise last September),but his full brother, Mars, was placed at the top level and finished 6th in the 2013 renewal of Saturday’s contest. Of further interest from a breeding point of view is that the grand dam, Rafha has produced the two outstanding stallions, Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.

Saxon Warrior has raced three times and won all of them, including last time, when he won the Group1 Racing Post Trophy from Saturday’s opponent, Roaring Lion last October. He was headed by the Gosden horse, who tended to hang left inside the final furlong but gamely fought back to win by a head. There are mixed messages from his pedigree as he is by the very successful Japanese stallion, Deep Impact out of The Galileo mare Maybe, who didn’t seem to train on after a terrific two year old career. She won all five of her starts as a 2yo, including at the top level, but never beyond 7f. She was beaten 10L, finishing third behind Homecoming Queen in the 1000gns and never again troubled the judge in her career. Her only other offspring, Saxon Warrior’s full brother, Pavlenko, has only managed a single maiden victory from eleven starts.

While the Charlie Appleby trained Masar did win two of his six starts as a 2yo, including the Group3 Solario Stakes at Sandown, his overall form didn’t suggest that he might win a 2000gns, an impression reinforced by his first run as a 3yo, where he finished 10th on the dirt at Meydan in March. However, last time he put up a real eye catching performance in The Craven Stakes, Racing over Saturday’s course and distance, he made all to come home 9L clear of White Mocha, with the Racing Post Trophy runner up, Roaring Lion, the 8/13 favourite, another 1/4L back in third. While visually very impressive it’s worth remembering that the runner up was rated 13lbs inferior to masar and the time, 3.1 seconds slower than standard on good ground, was nothing to write home about. However his winter in the sun has obviously done him good and he’s worth a second look.

We can only assume that Roaring Lion didn’t run his race in The Craven but based on his Racing Post form, and his win over Aidan O’Briens’ talented Nelson, in The Royal Lodge last September, he has to be of interest. However that poor performance last time is a serious concern, so perhaps Gosden’s best chance of landing a first 2000gns lies with the lightly raced son of Frankel, Without Parole.

He didn’t see a racecourse until last December when he dotted up in a lowly Class5 on the AW at Newcastle, and was again impressive when winning another Class5 at Yarmouth eleven days ago. The form doesn’t amount to much and Saturday represents a huge step up in class, but it’s worth noting that half brother Tamarkuz has had a hugely successful career, albeit on the AW, winning at the highest level, and banking more than £1.2 million in prize money.

Since winning with Mister Baileys in 1994, Mark Johnston has drawn a blank in the 2000gns but must entertain serious hopes of landing a second with his talented son of Frankel, Elarqam. He is out of that wonderful mare, Attraction, who won five Group ones, including the 1000gns in 2004 for Johnston, and Elarqam has been impressive in winning both of his starts, at York and Newmarket. The form of his win at Headquarters has been franked, with the runner up, Tip Two Win, easily winning his next two races, including a local Group2 in Doha last time. Elarqam not only has his inexperience to overcome, as well as the rest of the field, but coming from this yard, it won’t surprise if he does.

Selection: Elarqam

E.W. : Masar

John Gray