King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group1) 1m4f Saturday

ascot king george saturday.jpgThis middle distance, mid summer highlight of the racing calendar, was first run in 1951,  as a Top level contest open to all ages. Historically the classic generation, with 30 victories have had the better of the argument, (including last year with the John Gosden trained Enable) but with only the five wins since the dawn of the new millennium their star has become slightly tarnished. Training honours, with an impressive five victories apiece, are shared by Saeed Bin Suroor, and veteran Newmarket Maestro, Sir Michael Stoute, and the latter, with the two market leaders, Poets Word and Crystal Ocean, in his care at the Freemason Lodge Academy, must fancy his chances of landing a sixth success.

Poet’s Word has won six of his fifteen starts, accumulating an impressive, near £2,000,000 in win and place prize money but has only managed to bag a single top level success. However that was achieved in his last race, the 10f Group1 Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot where he put the 2/5 fav, Cracksman firmly in his place. A slight concern is his lack of success at the top level over Saturday’s trip, but his canny trainer is in no doubt that he will be equally effective over a mile and a half, and a quick glance at the 5yo’s pedigree would suggest that he might even improve for it. By Poets Voice, out of the Nashwan mare, Whirlybird, who was a winner herself at 11f, and is the dam of two animals who were best at two miles. Poets Word is a late maturing animal, the type The Master Of Freemason Lodge excels with, and a repetition of his Ascot effort will make him hard to beat.

His stable companion, Crystal Ocean has yet to score a top level success, but the 4yo put up a tremendous effort in his sole attempt at a Group1, when going down by a battling 1/2L to Capri in last year’s St Leger. crystal oceanThe son of Sea The Stars (pictured) may have been found out by the trip at Doncaster, but back at Saturday’s distance, over which he’s won on three occasions, including last time out, when taking the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at The Royal Meeting (over Saturday’s course and distance Good/Firm) is bound to prove a very live contender. Beautifully bred, he is a half brother to the Group2 winning mare, Crystal Capella, and the Group1 winning stallion, Hillstar. All in all he has plenty to recommend him at the weekend.

With five entries at the time of writing, Aidan O’Brien is mob handed but if the markets have got it right, his best chance of landing a 5th win in the race lies with his improving, 3yo, Kew Gardens. Always well thought of at Ballydoyle, he finished of his 2yo career in some style, beating the subsequent Derby runner up, Dee Ex Bee by 3 1/2L in The Zetland Stakes at Newmarket last October over 1m2f. Disappointing in his first four races this term, he came good at the fifth time of asking, winning the 14f Group2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot by 4 3/4L and a neck from his stable companions Southern France and Nelson. The drop back to 12f proved no obstacle next time, when he won the Group1 Grand Prix De Paris by 1 1/4L from Neufbosc, with Dee Ex Bee 4 1/4L back in 3rd. The son of Galileo is improving at a rate of knots and it wouldn’t take a lot more to see him in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Despite winning the Group1, Prix Ganay on his reappearance with his head in his chest, the John Gosden trained Cracksman has looked less than enthusiastic in his last two races. While it is dangerous to dismiss such a talented animal, the Gosden yards best chance of landing a 4th King George may lie with the 4yo filly Coronet. A daughter of Dubawi, she performed with plenty of credit as a 3yo, but her two runs this campaign would suggest that she is an improved filly. She won the Group2 Middleton Stakes at York on her reappearance over 10f, and four weeks later only lost out by a nose in a bobbing finish to the Andre Fabre trained Waldgeist in the 12f Group1 Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud on Good/soft ground. Fabre has withdrawn his talented colt from Saturday’s contest because of the likelihood of a fast surface, but the Gosden filly will relish a return to such ground.

Selection : Kew Gardens
E.W.          : Coronet

John Gray

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188bet Summer Plate 2m5 1/2f Chase Market Rasen Saturday, a preview by Oddsguru

alcala summer plate

Alcala with trainer Paul Nicholls

First run in 1995, The Summer Plate has come home to the Ditcheat yard of Paul Nicholls on two occasions, when Dorans Gold won in 2001, and last year, when Oddsguru’s, 9/1 selection, Alcala, brought home the bacon. Last year’s Victor is joined this time by the 7yo, Bagad Bihoue, and the ex Point to Pointer, Monsieur Gibraltar, to mount a pretty serious looking challenge for this year’s renewal by the Somerset stable.

Alcala, on a mark of 148, is only a pound higher than last year, which seems quite lenient, as this winner of six of his fifteen starts over fences, went on to win his next two contests, and might well have made it three but for slipping up on the bend before the straight just after taking it up in a Listed race at Chepstow next time. He always seemed to be travelling well within himself in last year’s contest and beat the Peter Bowen trained Wadswick Court, (also entered on Saturday) by 3/4L giving him 21lbs. The runner up went on to win a valuable Uttoxeter heat a week later, and meets Alcala on 9lbs worse terms at the weekend. Alcala has had a pretty similar preparation for this as last year, and should be primed to give it his best shot on Saturday.

Stablemate, Bagad Bihoue, has won five of his nine starts over fences and beat Alcala last time by 3 1/2L at Newton Abbot 26 days ago on his first start for seven months. He meets Alcala on 4lbs worse terms at the weekend which should bring them closer together, and it’s worth remembering that Bagad Bihoue has won after a long break in the past. He may just have had a fitness edge on his stable companion and with Sam Twiston-Davies, (has won two of the last five renewals) in the plate, Alcala is preferred.

The third Ditcheat contender, the Hunter Chaser, Monsieur Gibraltar, has won four times in that discipline and gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark of 128 but a race like Saturday’s looks a big ask on his first attempt handicapping.

Peter Bowen has won The Summer Plate a record five times and is mob handed on Saturday, but the markets would seem to suggest that his best chance of landing a sixth win, lies with his 8yo, More Bucks. A winner of four of his thirteen starts over fences, including last time when coming home 21L clear of Pickamix off a mark of 119 in a Class3 Perth Handicap four weeks ago. He is 8lbs higher on Saturday but has won of this mark in the past, (Sandown 3mGd Dec 2016), and it wouldn’t surprise to see the son of Presenting involved.

market rasen summer

The finishing post at Market Rasen

JP McManus has seen his colours carried first past the post on two previous occasions, (No strings attached 2009 and It’s a Gimme 2014) and he will be hoping for a third win with the Rebecca Curtis trained Geordie Des Champs. A winner of two of his five chases, he could only finish 5th of 18 in Uttoxeter’s Summer Cup three weeks ago, but probably found the 3m2f trip beyond him, and will find Saturday’s trip more suitable. Rated 2lbs higher over hurdles we have probably yet to see the best of the son of Robin Des Champs over the larger obstacles and is worth considering.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Calett Mad has been plying his trade over the smaller obstacles for his last seven races, but has plenty of form over fences that makes him of interest in Saturday’s Chase. His 6L victory over Roc D’Apsis at right handed Taunton in a three mile Chase off a mark of 138 in January 2017 would suggest that he may well be suited by Market Rasen’s clockwise circuit and could also be well handicapped off his mark of 143. An excellent run in the 18 runner, 4miles, 2017 National Hunt Chase, where he was in contention until the 3rd last but didn’t last home, demonstrated his ability to cope with the demands of a large field. Only six, there could be plenty more to come from the ex French son of Axxos.

The Colin Tizzard trained Vicente Du Noyer finished 3rd, 3 1/2L and a nose behind Bagad Bihoue and Alcala in that Newton Abbot heat 26 days ago and meets the winner on 4lbs better on Saturday which must give him a squeak, but it has to be noted, that the 9yo veteran of 33 races under rules, has never won going right handed.

The Peter Niven trained 7yo, Brian Borhana is already a much better chaser (130)than hurdler (114) after only five outings over the larger obstacles, and showed how progressive he is last time, when winning a Class3 Southwell Handicap comfortably from that good yardstick, Ballyboker Breeze four weeks ago. The runner up went on to win his next race and is now rated 140, which makes Peter Niven’s son of Brian Boru, look pretty well treated on 130 giving him a very nice riding weight of 10-8.

Selection : Alcala
E.W.             :  Calett Mad      Geordie Des Champs

Darley July Cup (Group1) 6f Newmarket Saturday. A Preview by Oddsguru

First run in 1886, the race acquired it’s Group1 status in 1978, and while plenty of handlers have trained multiple winners in it’s long history, the record of five victories is held by the great Vincent O’Brien whose successor at Ballydoyle, the eponymous Aidan, with ten entries at the time of writing, seems intent on improving his score of three previous wins. How many of these will go to Post is anyone’s guess but there seems to be a general consensus that his best chance of landing a fourth win lies with the 3yo, US Navy Flag.

At first glance, the son of Warfront’s record, with just four wins from fifteen starts isn’t exactly inspiring, but it’s worth remembering that he is the first colt for thirty five years to have brought off the Middlepark(6f)and Dewhurst(7f) Double at Headquarters, and while there has been nothing wrong with some of his performances over further, (5th in The French Guineas and 2nd in The Irish Guineas) it may be that sprinting is his true metier. Indeed last time, in The St James’s Palace Stakes at The Royal Meeting, trying to make all, he didn’t seem to get home, so this beautifully bred animal, out of the triple Group1 winning mare, Misty For Me, could yet carve a future for himself in the covering sheds if his sprinting career takes off.

O’Briens Sioux Nation was very disappointing when sent off favourite for The Commonwealth Cup, but the son of Scat Daddy had looked high class when beating stable companion, Fleet Review, in the Lacken Stakes at Naas 33 days earlier. This winner of the Group1 Phoenix Stakes as a 2yo, if turning up on Saturday would certainly merit attention.

michael stouteVeteran handler, Sir Michael Stoute,won this three times way back in the 1980’s, (Marwell1981, Green Desert1986, Ajdal1987) and while he has drawn a blank since, he has a very live contender this time with his Group1, Commonwealth Cup winner, Eqtidaar. Making only his 5th racecourse appearance, twenty two days ago in The Commonwealth Cup, and starting at odds of 12/1 he raced midfield, progressed two furlongs out, led inside the final furlong, and kept on gamely, to hold Saturday’s opponent, Sands Of Mali by half a length. Considering that his only previous success had come in a Class5 Nottingham Maiden, this was a huge step forward, and there should be plenty more to come from the son of Invincible Spirit. Sands Of Mali didn’t have the run of the race at Ascot and it could be close between them but I feel the Stoute horse has the greater potential, and must have a serious chance of ringing up win number 4 for The Master of Freemason Lodge.

The Henry Candy trained Limato won this two years ago, was an excellent 2nd to Harry Angel in last year’s renewal, and finished off last season with a 3 1/2L win over Eqtidaar’s half brother, Massaat, in a Newmarket Group2 last October. Campaigned over a mile in both starts this term, he has been disappointing, but reverting to 6f, and reunited with his usual pilot, Harry Bentley, (won the 2016 renewal) we could see the tough 6yo add to his already substantial winnings of £1.2 million.

The Charlie Appleby trained 4yo, Blue Point heads the market, and following an excellent win in the 5f King’s Stand at Ascot, probably deserves to. A winner of York’s Gimcrack Stakes at two, he got his 3yo career off to a flying start beating Harry Angel by 1 1/2L in an Ascot Group3 and followed up with an excellent 3rd to Caravaggio in The Commonwealth Cup. Well beaten in Haydock’s Group1 Sprint he finished off the season with another Group3 Ascot victory. He seems equally effective at 5 or 6 furlongs and handles most ground so the only slight reservation would be that he does seem to reserve his best for The Berkshire track.

The Australian trained 7yo, Redkirk Warrior was disappointing in The Diamond Jubilee at The Royal Meeting but he had previously taken the scalp of the winner of that heat, Merchant Navy, (Oddsguru’s selection), giving him 12lbs in a Flemington Group1. A winner of three top level events in Australia he may just have taken time to acclimatise and if this is the case will be a danger to all.

Following the very lightly raced, Dream Field’s, excellent effort in the 28 runner Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot the John Gosden trained 4yo has to be of interest. For an animal making only his 4th racecourse appearance, it was surprising to say the least, to see him backed as if defeat was out of the question in one of the most competitive handicaps of the season. Starting at odds of 2/1 he looked like bringing home the bacon until the very last stride when nabbed by the 33/1 shot, Bacchus. A beautifully bred colt, by Oasis Dream out of the two times Group1 winner, Izzi Top, (Won the Group1 Pretty Polly Stakes at The Curragh and the Group1 Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, both in 2012), Dream Fields best days are surely in front of him.

Selection : Eqtidaar

E.W. : Sioux Nation (if abs) Redkirk Warrior

John Gray

bet365 Old Newton Cup 1m4f Handicap Haydock Saturday, a preview by Oddsguru

The oldest established contest at the Merseyside track, with prize money of over £100,000 is invariably, a hotly contested heat, and with a large field and fair weather in prospect, I’m sure Saturday’s contest won’t prove to be an exception. While horses rated over 100 (including last year’s winner, Dylan Mouth, rated104) have won in the past, they are the exception, and a mark in three figures proves difficult to defy. With two victories apiece, Marco Botti and Mark Johnston share the training honours, and the former, handler of last year’s above mentioned winner, will be hoping to land a third success with his 4yo, Crowned Eagle.

The son of Oasis Dream has won three of his thirteen starts and put in a decent effort last time when finishing 6th of 17 off a mark of 102, 6L behind the winner, Dash Of Spice, in the 1m4f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot. He races off the same mark on Saturday, which seems on the high side, but it’s worth noting that Dylan Mouth did win for the yard off a 2lbs higher mark last year.

Of Mark Johnston’s four entries at the time of writing, the one that catches the eye is the filly Titi Makfi. A winner of six of her twenty two starts, she put in her usual solid effort last time, going down by 2L she finished 4th off a mark of 99 to Isabel De Urbina, (Pontefract Gd/Fm) thirteen days ago. Mark Johnston is a great believer in keeping his horses busy when in form, and off a 1lb lower mark, on ground that she handles, it’s not difficult to see the daughter of Makfi being involved at the business end at the weekend.

Sir Michael Stoute, whose fortunes have taken a serious turn for the better this season, won this way back in 1984 with Bishop Ring, and he will be hoping that his current run of excellent form continues with his 4yo Melting Dew. A quietly progressive type, the son of Cacique, has won three of his twelve starts, including last time (10F AW) when winning a valuable Class2 Chelmsford Handicap off a mark of 90, seventeen days ago. The handicapper has been lenient, only raising him 3lbs and he will go to Post with a very nice racing weight of 8-8.

The Tom Dascombe trained 4yo, Teodoro, has won five of his ten starts on turf and he looked an improved performer eleven days ago when winning a Class3 Newbury, Handicap, (1m4f Gd/Fm) by 6L from the favourite Tuff Rock off a mark of 95. Twice a course winner (1m2f), both times on fast ground, he will have the assistance from the plate of Haydock specialist, Richard Kingscote, so even off his new mark of 101, the son of Teofilo has plenty to recommend him.

The Roger Charlton trained Atty Persse looked a bit special when winning two of his first three starts, (2nd in the other here at Haydock) and the impression was confirmed on his fourth outing when he hacked up by 3L in last year’s King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot. However it has been all downhill since, trailing in last when favourite for a Group3 at Headquarters and again finishing a distant last in the Group2, Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August. There has been plenty of interest in him in the markets and a reproduction of that Royal Ascot form would make the son of Frankel look very well handicapped on his mark of 99.

The Richard Hughes trained Golden Wolf, having finished 2nd in his last four starts, and indeed runner up in seven of all eleven of his races, must be a very frustrating type for his owners who despite not winning see him racing of an ever increasing handicap mark. However it was a decent effort last time off a mark of 89, so connections will be hoping that with the benefit of the talented Nicola Curries claim in the Plate, he can defy his new mark of 90.

The Richard Fahey trained, Society Red, has won four of his nineteen starts on turf including last time when he was quite impressive winning a Class3 Handicap at York off a mark of 86,(1m2 1/2f Gd/Fm June 2018) by 3L from Mafaaheem. This was the longest that he has raced over but the way he finished that day, strongly suggests that Saturday’s trip should be within his compass. He has been raised 8lbs for that York victory but is probably justified, and indeed he mightn’t have got into Saturday’s race without it.

Selection: Teodoro

E.W. : Melting Dew. If abs Titi Makfi

John Gray