Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate (Class2 Handicap) 2m1/2f (AW) Newcastle Saturday Preview by Oddsguru

newcastle races

Last week’s selections in The Commonwealth Cup did the Oddsguru Blog proud. Our first choice, Merchant Navy, came home in front at odds of 4/1, and our E.W. suggestion, Bound For Nowhere, held on for 3rd at the generous odds of 16/1. Mind you Wesley Ward’s charge did his best to spoil the party, hanging left and carrying our selection with him, but for which I’m sure Merchant Navy would have won a little more comfortably. Hopefully the son of Fastnet Rock will stay in training but with top level successes now, in both hemispheres on his CV, it’s more likely that a future at Stud awaits him. For most of next Saturday’s field, which is largely made up of geldings, no such happy retirement is in prospect, with the possible exception of the beautifully bred entire, The Grand Visir.

The Willie Haggas trained 4yo is by the mighty Frankel, out of the Montjeu mare piping whose own dam Saganeca, produced the wonderful Sagamix who won the Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe in 1998, an impressive blood line indeed. If continuing to improve on the racecourse, The Grand Visir could hold some attraction as a future stallion. Unraced as a 2yo, he won first time up as a 3yo, a Yarmouth Maiden, (12f May 2017) and then ran well in his first attempt handicapping, finishing 1 1/2L behind the useful Duke of Bronte, (now rated 104) in a Newbury Class3, Racing off a mark of 85, and giving the winner 4lbs. He won a Newmarket Class3 Handicap racing off the same mark next time out, staying on stoutly over the 12f trip. He drew a blank in his next three starts, but stepped up to two miles for the first time at Haydock five weeks ago, he showed that stamina was his forte when staying on resolutely he got the better of Saturday’s opponent, Byron Flyer by 1/2L. He meets the runner up on 2lbs worse terms at the weekend but has the greater potential for improvement, and if handling the (AW) surface, his half brother, Phedre does, has to be worth considering.

The 5yo Withold, trained by Roger Charlton, who won with Quest For More three years ago, is another with an upwardly mobile profile. Unraced as a 2yo, he made steady progress in his 3yo campaign, winning two of his eight starts, to achieve a rating of 87, but it was only following a gelding operation, and a transfer to the Charlton Yard in May 2017 that his form took a serious leap forward. He only had the two runs last term, finishing 3rd in a 12f Newmarket Handicap  in September, and then the following month, having been backed in to 5/1 fav he won the hugely valuable 2m2f Cesarewitch by 3 3/4L from the very talented, but alas, late lamented, London Prize from whom he was receiving 8lbs. There is probably more to come from the son of Champs Elysee but there will need to be, as not only is he 12lbs higher on Saturday, but he will be having his first run for nearly eight months and his single run on an (AW) track was inconclusive, (2nd of 5, 3L behind the winner Blakeny Point in a Class4 Kempton Handicap).

A contender who isn’t short of match practice on the (AW) is the Karen Mc Lintock trained Dubawi Fifty. He has raced nine times on it, winning three, (twice at Newcastle) and he put in a sterling effort last time, finishing second, a length behind Saturday’s opponent, Lagostovegas, in last week’s 2 1/2m Ascot Stakes at The Royal Meeting. Probably outstayed at Ascot Saturday’s trip should be more suitable, and on 3lbs better terms with the Mullins horse, must have a serious chance of reversing the Ascot placings.

Another animal who took a definite step forward last time is the Ed Dunlop trained 5yo Amazing Red. Racing off a mark of 93, 4lbs higher than for his previous win, he won the Class2 John Sunley Memorial Handicap over 1m6f at Headquarters three weeks ago. Travelling strongly he challenged over a furlong out and won going away by 3 1/2L from the Useful Golden Wolf. Raised to a mark of 102 for this facile win he actually races off a 4lbs lower mark in Saturday’s early closing event. With plenty of (AW) experience, including a win over two miles on Kempton’s similar surface,(Tapeta) Ed Dunlop’s son of Teofilo has plenty to recommend him.

The James Fanshawe trained Higher Power won last year’s renewal off a mark of 107 and is only 1lb higher on Saturday. He came there cruising at the furlong marker and looked as if he would win easily but in the end struggled to hold on. He has had a wind operation since and ran well last time, finishing second in a Chelmsford conditions event on only his second run since his surgery last October. If indeed the operation has been a success he comes firmly into the mix.

Selection : Amazing Red
E.W.          : Dubawi Fifty

John Gray

The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group1) 6f Ascot Saturday, a preview from Oddsguru

When run in it’s previous incarnation, as The Cork and Orrery Stakes, the contest was a happy hunting ground for Irish yards, with the names, John Oxx, Noel Meade, Dermot Weld, and Vincent O’Brien figuring regularly on the board of honour. However since it’s elevation to Group1 status in 2002, and renamed The Golden Jubilee, and ten years later, The Diamond Jubilee, trainers from across the Irish Sea have only managed to hit the back of the net on two occasions, a stat that Tipperary Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, (won with Starspangledbanner in 2010) will be hoping to improve on with recent Australian import, the 4yo son of Fastnet Rock, Merchant Navy.

This talented and improving young animal won five of his first six starts including at Group1 level when taking the 6f Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington last November, when despite appearing to have plenty to do one and a half furlongs out, he came with a wet sail to beat the useful Invisible Star by a head. Beaten a Shd and a Nk in a Group2 over an inadequate 5 1/2F in February next time out, he put up a terrific performance a month later in his last race down under, when finishing a close third to Saturday’s opponent, Redkirk Warrior in the Group1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington (6f Good March 18). Held up, he finished really strongly to go down by a rapidly diminishing Shd and a Hd. He moved to the Northern Hemisphere to the Ballydoyle academy a month later, and showed that he had rapidly acclimatised when winning the Group2 Greenlands Stakes by 1L from stablemate Spirit Of Valor, with the joint favourites, Tasleet and Brando a further 1 1/2L and a Nk behind. Merchant Navy meets the winner of that Flemington Newmarket Handicap, the 7yo Redkirk Warrior on 12lbs worse terms on Saturday, and on paper looks to have it all to do, but foaled in November 2014, he is still five months shy of his 4th birthday so has much the greater potential for improvement, and it won’t come as a great surprise if placings are reversed.

Heading the market at the time of writing is the Clive Cox trained Harry Angel, and a repeat of his defeat of Brando in last months Duke of York Stakes at the eponymous course, would see him go close. Taking it up 2f out he kept on well to beat Kevin Ryan’s excellent yardstick by 2L, giving him 5lbs. Twice a winner at the top level, (Newmarket’s July Cup Gd/fm and Haydock’s Sprint Cup Hvy) the son of Dark Angel clearly handles most ground, and the only slight reservation one might have is that none of his four visits to the track have yet yielded a victory. Indeed in view of his subsequent exploits at Newmarket and Haydock his 3rd in The Commonwealth Cup to the O’Brien trained Caravaggio at last year’s meeting was disappointing.

Third in that heat was Tuesday’s King’s Stand winner, (5fGd/Fm) Blue Point, and if turning out again over Saturday’s one furlong longer trip would have to be considered. He has two course and distance wins to his credit including a 1 1/2L victory over Harry Angel in the Group3, Pavilion Stakes in May last year when in receipt of 5lbs. Having won The King’s Stand so impressively he will be a potent force if fully recovered from his exertions only four days later.

The James Fanshawe trained, The Tin Man, won last year’s renewal by a Nk and 3/4L from Tasleet and Limato in what was a pretty rough contest where none of the first three home had a straightforward passage, but perhaps Limato was the most sinned against. The Tin Man was well beaten in all three of his subsequent starts last term but made a bright start to this year’s campaign four weeks ago, when readily beating D’bai in a Listed Windsor heat. The runner up’s win in the Group3, John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock next time out does the form no harm at all, so with the likely fast ground in his favour, and a very solid record at the track the Fanshawe 6yo is another to consider.

In view of American trainer, Wesley Wards excellent record at the Royal Meeting his lightly raced, Bound For Nowhere is worth a second look. He was a respectable 4th in last year’s Commonwealth Cup over Saturday’s course and distance on only his third racecourse appearance, and well beaten in The Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville was retired for the season. He is two from two in both races this year and last time was impressive when winning a Grade2 at Keenland by 4L from Bucchero who finished 4 3/4L behind Blue Point in Tuesday’s King’ Stand. He looks an improved performer.

Selection: Merchant Navy

E.W. : Bound For Nowhere

John Gray

Queen Anne Stakes (Group1) 1mile Str Royal Ascot Tuesday

royal ascotOur selection last week, God Given, stayed on well, and found plenty to give Luca Cumani his second Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock, and another success for the Oddsguru team, so here’s hoping we can keep the ball rolling in the opening heat of next week’s Royal Ascot Jamboree, The Queen Anne Stakes. First run as The Trial Stakes in 1840, it was renamed in 1930 in honour of Queen Anne who founded the Berkshire Track way back in 1711, and her race was belatedly given Group1 status in 2003. Prior to receiving it’s top level status, Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin operation won the contest four times, and since becoming a Group1 race, they have registered a similar number of victories, all of which has to make their contender next Tuesday, Benbatl, of particular interest.

Unraced as a 2yo, Benbatl won two of his seven starts as a 3yo, including the 10f Group3 Hampton Court Stakes at last year’s Royal Meeting, but it is only since turning four and being campaigned in Dubai, that he has really begun making hay. He has won three of his four race in the Emirate, beginning with a smooth victory in January in the Group3 Singspiel Stakes, followed by another facile victory in the Group2 Al Rashidiya Stakes at the beginning of February. He followed this with a good second to Blair House in The Group1 Jebel Hatta Stakes, five weeks later, but it was his performance last time, when winning the hugely valuable Group1 Dubai Turf (worth well over £2.5 million pounds to the winner) that stamped him out as a very serious animal indeed. He won the 9f heat very easily by 3 1/4L from the Japanese horse Vivlos and had his previous conqueror, Blair House 12L back in 10th. Beautifully bred, by the great Dubawi, out of the top class mare, Nahrain, ( won twice at the top level, The Prix De Lopera 2011 and Belmont Park’s Invitational in 2012), Benbatl has had a nice 11 week break since his Dubai exertions, and if handling the one furlong drop in trip will make them all go.

Aidan O’Brien has won the race three times and his best chance of landing a fourth would seem to lie with his 4yo daughter of Galileo, Rhododendron. She needed every yard of Newbury’s straight mile to win the Group1 Lockinge Stakes four weeks ago, (Oddsguru’s Selection), mounting a strong challenge entering the final furlong she got up to beat the gallant Lightning Spear in the shadow of the post. This was the filly’s third Group1 success, two of them achieved over a straight mile, (won The Dubai Fillies Mile over Newmarket’s Rowley Mile as a 2yo) so despite a second in The Oaks, and a win in the 10f Group1 Prix de L’Opera Longines, her optimum trip does seem to be a strongly run mile. Her dam, Halfway To Heaven who won the Irish 1000gns in 2008 and the Group1 Sunchariot Stakes over a mile at Newmarket was certainly best at the trip and her full sister, Magical was best at seven furlongs.

Following a good 3rd to stable companion, Rhododendron (beaten 2 3/4L) in The Lockinge, the much travelled, Lancaster Bomber, got off the mark at the top level for the first time when winning the 10f Tattersalls Gold Cup from stablemate Cliffs Of Moher twenty three days ago. Having made all he found plenty for pressure and ‘won by 2L, and had the hot favourite, Defoe, a further 1 1/2L back in 3rd. A cautionary note is added as he did have his own way out front and the time was slow for the conditions but as a son of Warfront he thrives on fast ground, and it’s worth remembering that he was only collared inside the final furlong by Barney Roy in last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes when attempting to make all.

The French trained filly, Recoletos has won six of her ten starts, including last time, when she was quite impressive winning the 9f Group1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp, where she beat the 113 rated Almodoran easily by 1 3/4L. This talented filly was only beaten a length in last year’s 10f Group1 Prix Du Jockey Club where she was only headed 50yds from the post, and in her first race this term she put up an excellent performance winning the Group2 Prix Du Muguet very readily from the proven Group2 performer Jimmy Two Times. The C Laffon-Parias trained 4yo does seem to have progressed over the winter and it wouldn’t take much more to put her in the mix. A slight concern would be that she has never raced on anything faster than good.

The American trained Yoshida would be an interesting contender if turning up. Lightly raced with only eight runs under his belt the 4yo son of the very successful Japanese stallion, Hearts Cry didn’t exactly set the world alight in his first six races, and it was only at the seventh time of asking that he was successful at Graded level. He won the Grade3 Hill Park Stakes at Belmont Park last October and then seemed to have significantly improved over the winter when winning the 9f Grade1 Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on his reappearance in May. He beat the three times Grade1 winner Beach Patrol” by 3/4L in the style of an improved performer and could be interesting for his hugely successful trainer, William Mott.

Selection: Benbatl.  If abs Rhododendron
E.W.         : Yoshida

John Gray

Betway Pinnacle Stakes (Group3) 1m4f Haydock Saturday

Following the heady brew of last Saturday’s Derby this weekend’s offerings are of a much thinner beer, but nevertheless, Haydock’s Pinnacle Stakes looks an interesting and competitive heat, so let’s hope we can find the winner. The race was first run in 2003 as a Listed contest for fillies and mares, but was elevated to Group3 status in 2012 when it was won by Roger Varian’s 5yo mare, Shimmering Surf. The 2004 renewal was won by Luca Cumani with the 4yo Pongee, and he will be hoping for a second success with another filly of the same age, the beautifully bred, God Given.

By Nathaniel out of the Dubai Destination mare, Ever Rigg, she is a half sister to the fantastic, Postponed, (winner of almost £5,000,000 in prize money). It’s a safe bet she won’t be climbing similar heights but she has won three of her eight starts, including at Group3 level, at Deauville last August, when winning the Prix Minerve over 1m4 1/2f. She made all and found plenty when pressed at the furlong marker and won going away by 1 3/4L and a Nk from Calayana and Lady Montdore, with the well backed favourite, Elas Ruby a further Hd behind. In the context of Saturday’s race this was pretty strong form as the John Gosden trained Elas Ruby had previously got to within 1 1/4L of the Group2 winning Strathspey. Upped to Group1 level in the last race of her 3yo career, God Given wasn’t disgraced finishing 6th, 7 3/4L behind Bateel, in The Prix Vermille at Chantilly. She made her seasonal debut following a 35 week break, in The Buckhound Stakes, (Ascot May 12 1m 4f Gd/Fm) where, racing very freely she faded in the final furlong to finish 4th, 4 1/2L behind the winner, Barsanti, but it’s worth noting, was only 2 1/4L behind Salouen, who so nearly stole last week’s Group1 Coronation Cup. With the weather set fair for the weekend a serious concern would be the ground as God Given has done all her winning on a soft surface, although she did seem to handle Good/Firm in the Buckhound at Ascot, and her half brother, Postponed was fine on it.

A winner of six of her twenty starts, The Marc Johnston trained Titi Makfi has largely been campaigned at distances shorter than Saturday but she looked as if a step back up to 1m4f would suit when a staying on 3rd in the 10f Rothesay Stakes at Ayr seventeen days ago. Perhaps her best performance to date was indeed over 1m4f when running the useful Isabel De Urbina To half a length in the Listed Warwick Fillies Stakes at the beginning of May. She handles most surfaces and coming from this yard has to be worth considering.

The Roger Charlton trained Cribbs Causeway has won five of her thirteen starts and ran well last time tackling Group3 company for the first time. In the 1m6f Dubai Bronte Cup Fillies Stakes at York, she appeared to have every chance at the furlong marker but edged left, and finished 3rd, 2L behind the winner, Precious Ramotswe. This was a very promising run on her first outing for 205 days as she had Isabel De Urbina 2L behind in 4th. The drop back in trip to 1m4 1/2 furlongs could well be in her favour, as she impressed when winning a valuable Class2 Newmarket Handicap over 1m4f from the useful Teofonic last October, and her half brother, Voyager Blue is best at around a mile.

The Kevin Ryan trained 5yo, Company Asset has never raced beyond 1m2 1/2f but looked ready for a step up in trip when finishing 4th in The Rothesay last time. Having her first run for 213 days she was slowly into her stride and made some progress over a furlong out but despite not having the pace to challenge, did keep on well.

The Keith Dalgleish trained 4yo, Euro Nightmare, won the 10f Rothesay pretty comfortably with Titi Makfi and Company Asset, as we saw, well held, but I’m not so sure she can repeat the performance over Saturday’s trip. While she has been placed over 13 and 14 furlongs at a lower level, her optimum distance does seem to be 10f.

The Willie Mullins trained 5yo, Law Girl, with only a single modest victory from nine starts on the flat in France, was purchased by The Ricci’s with a hurdling career in mind. However with just one win in a Roscommon Maiden from her five starts over hurdles the future didn’t look particularly bright until, coming back from a 226 day winter break, she ran a promising race to finish 3rd in a modest contest at Killarney (May15 1m6f) and confirmed connections hopes nineteen days later when winning another modest affair at Listowel, very easily indeed. Saturday represents a huge step up in class but coming from this yard I suppose anything is possible.

Selection : God Given (if abs) Cribbs Causeway

E.W. : Titi Makfi

John Gray