Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group1) 1mile 4 furlongs Curragh

the curragh oddsguruVarious versions of The Irish Derby have been run on The Curragh since 1817, but it only assumed it’s present format in 1872. It remained a pretty local affair until 1962 when The Irish Hospital’s Sweepstake took up sponsorship of the event and virtually overnight became one of the major heats in the international racing calendar. The standout statistic in the race is undoubtedly Aidan O’Brien’s 12 victories (starting with
Desert King in 1997) a truly fantastic record, but spare a thought for Curragh trainer, Dermot Weld who with considerably less ammunition at his disposal has landed the prize 3 times, (last win Harzand 2015) and he goes to war this time with the beautifully bred Rakan.

irish hospitals sweepstakeHe is by the 2009 Derby winner, Sea The Stars, out of the top class mare, Tarfasha who besides winning at Group2 level finished 2nd to Taghrooda in the 2014 Oaks, and her half brother, Galileo Light, finished 2nd in the 2013 Irish Derby, and 3rd in
The Doncaster St Leger, a pretty impressive pedigree guaranteeing, if nothing else, that Rakan won’t fail for lack of stamina. Indeed it was only when stepped up to 12f last time that he showed his true colours, winning by 3/4L from last week’s Royal Ascot runner up Barbados, (beaten 1/2L in the Group2 Queen’s Vase). He runs in the same colours as Sheik Hamdan’s other runner, the better fancied, Mahdmoon, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t running just to make up the numbers.

The Derby Hero, Anthony Van Dyck, (Oddsguru’s selection) and stable companion,
Broome, who finished 4th at Epsom, 3/4L behind the winner do look the best of the Ballydoyle runners, and Ryan Moore, who needs a win in The Irish Derby to complete a clean sweep of all the English and Irish Classics will be hoping he picks the right mount this time, (rode the 5th home, Dragonet, at Epsom).

anthony van dyck horseAnthony Van Dyck (pictured), is by Galileo, out of the Exceed And Excel mare, Believe N’Succeed, whose best previous offspring is the talented Australian sprinter Bounding, so connections must have been relieved when he demonstrated stamina aplenty, to win the Lingfield Derby Trial on soft ground. He had to call on similar reserves when winning The Derby, and like most of the best horses, he seems to handle any ground. It  will come as quite a surprise if Ryan isn’t aboard this time, and he should confirm his superiority over Broome.

Whether that superiority is confirmed over the Epsom runner up, Madhmoon, though, is certainly open to conjecture. He was only beaten 1/2L and one has to wonder how much his chance was compromised when he clipped heels and stumbled 4 furlongs out. He did really well to regain his balance on Epsom’s difficult camber and battled on with great reseloution to pip the impressive winner of last week’s Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, Japan, for 2nd Place. Veteran handler, Kevin Prendergast, has won 7 Classics on the Curragh but unlike his famous Dad, “Darkie” who won the Irish Derby on 4 occasions has yet to score in Ireland’s premier Classic. There would certainly be no more popular winner if Madhmoon does manage to bring home the bacon.

That other veteran on the Irish Racing scene, Jim Bolger, has won two Derby’s on the Curragh in his stellar career and certainly won’t be without hope of landing a third when his son of Teofilo, Guaranteed, goes to post on Saturday. Campaigned mostly around a mile he showed his best form to date when beating the 111 rated 7yo,
River Light over 10f at The Curragh 22 days ago. There are mixed messages from his pedigree as his dam, Gearani, who was pretty useless on the racecourse, has produced 3 decent offspring all of whom have been best at distances short of 12f but his sire, Teofilo, (trained by Jim) gets plenty of middle distance winners including Mr Bolger’s winner of the 2013 renewal of Saturday’s contest, Trading Leather. Guaranteed needs to improve but there are indications in his pedigree that the step up in distance might well bring about a serious step forward.

Selection.   : Anthony Van Dyck

EW.              : Rakan

John Gray

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

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