Betway Solario Stakes (Group3) 7f Sandown Saturday

sandown racingFollowing the withdrawal of Oddsguru’s selection, Royal Line, for last week’s Ebor Handicap on the Thursday, (presumably because of the likelihood of fast ground) I hope that many of you focused on our EW selection, Mustajeer, who did the blog proud by winning at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The Ger Lyons trained 6yo was given a great ride by the Irish Champion Jockey, Colin Keane, who sticking to the rails from his low draw, made smooth headway from the 3f marker, took it up a furlong out, and despite a spirited challenge from the runner up, never looked like being passed. This was the 5th winner in the last 11 runnings from The Emerald Isle, a stat well worth bearing in mind come next year’s renewal. There are no contenders from across The Irish Sea in Saturday’s Solario Stakes, a heat yet to be won by a horse from that quarter, but the man who landed the race for the 5th time last year, with the subsequent triple Group1 winning Too Darn Hot, John Gosden, runs two likely looking types in Encipher and Eshassy.

The former (runs in the same colours as Al Suhail) made a satisfactory racecourse debut, finishing 2nd in a Haydock Novices to the subsequent Nursery winner, Path Of Thunder, and he showed the benefit of the experience 15 days later when comfortably beating Native Tribe, (won next time out) by 2 1/4L in a Newbury Class 4 on Good-Soft ground. There is nothing special about the form but all he could do was beat what was put in front of him, and if similar conditions prevail at the weekend, could be interesting.

trilby sandownGosden’s second runner, Eshassy, was an unconsidered 22/1 shot on his racecourse debut, and finished down the field in a Newmarket Maiden in which Saturday’s opponent, Al Suhail was runner up. He showed the benefit of the outing when winning  a Kempton Class4 24 days ago. Again the form was only ordinary, but his pedigree is interesting. By Oasis Dream, he is out of the Galileo mare, Galicuix, which makes him a half brother to the 2000gns and St James’s Palace Stakes winner, Galileo Gold, and he has an entry in the Group1 Dewhurst Stakes. John can count the multiple Group1 winning animals, Ravens Pass, Kingsman, and Too Darn Hot, amongst his 5 previous winners of The Solario Stakes, so the Master of Clarehaven Stables is definitely a man to keep on the right side of.

Charlie Appleby won the 2017 renewal with the 2018 Derby Hero, Masar, and his regally bred, Al Suhail, currently heads Saturday’s market. He was only beaten a neck when a strong finishing 2nd to Al Madhar on his debut, in that Newmarket Maiden referred to above, (Eshassy). It was a strongly run heat,  in a very good time, and the form was given plenty of substance when the 8th horse home, (6L behind Al Suhail) Tammani, beat a Gosden Hotpot, Riot, next time out. Al Suhail hadn’t much more than an exercise gallop when landing a Yarmouth Novices 16 days ago, and beautifully bred, by Dubawi, out of the top class mare, Shirocco Star, who finished runner up in both the English and Irish Oaks, looks the one to beat on Saturday.

Clive Cox has never won The Solario, but his twice raced son of Dutch Art, Positive, is attracting plenty of interest in the markets. He was confidently backed to make a winning debut, and duly obliged, winning a Salisbury Maiden by 5L in a good time. Sent off a 12/1 chance for Goodwood’s Group2 Vintage Stakes 5 weeks later, he didn’t help his cause by missing the break, but ran on with some purpose to finish 2nd, albeit at a distance of 5L, to Pinatubo. Run on drying ground, in a time 3 seconds slower than standard, it’s difficult to know what to make of the form as neither the 3rd,
Lope Y Fernandez, (beaten 10L) Nor the 4th, Visinari, (beaten 13 1/2) seemd not to run their races, but that said he did do well to recover from that slow start, and he was impressive at Salisbury.

Having come within a neck of winning Newmarket’s Group2 July Stakes (6f Gd/Fm) in his previous race, Visinari was a particular disappointment,  but with entries in the Group1 7f National Stakes, and the Group2 1m Royal Lodge Stakes, Trainer, Mark Johnston ( has won The Solario twice so knows what is required) doesn’t seem to be blaming a lack of stamina for Visinari’s poor performance at Goodwood. He is a tall leggy type who may have found the combination of questionable ground, and Goodwood’s sloping undulations, against him. By the Derby winner Sinndar, his 4 siblings all stayed at least a mile, and with Ryan Moore, ( won on him first time out) taking over steering duties, it will be interesting to see how he performs on Sandown’s more conventional track.

Selection.   : Al Suhail.    (If abs) Visinari

EW.              : Eshassy

John Gray

Sky Bet Ebor Handicap 1mile 6 furlongs York Saturday

york eborFirst run in 1843, with the exception of the war years, 1914-18 and 1940-42, it has been run continuously on York’s historic Knavesmire. It was abandoned in 2008 due to a waterlogged track, but a substitute race was run at Newbury. It is Europe’s richest Handicap, and this year carries a prize fund of £1000,000, with £600,000 going to the lucky winner. With prize money of this order on offer, and 22 closely handicapped horses in contention, it is, unsurprisingly, a difficult heat to predict, and only a single
“Jolly” has obliged in the last 20 years. Long priced winners are certainly not a rarity and a 100/1 shot won 13 years ago. The 1958 winner of The Ascot Gold Cup, the great mare Gladness, won the Ebor for the legendary Vincent O’Brien in the same year, and remained the sole Irish trained winner of the race, until Willie Mullins ended the drought in 2009. The flood gates haven’t exactly opened for raiders from across The Irish Sea, but they have won a further 3 times in the last 9 years, and one that catches the eye from that quarter is the Ger Lyons trained Mustajeer.

The 6yo son of Medicean ran well in last year’s renewal where he finished 4th, 5 1/4L behind the winner. Held up in the rear from his wide draw by pilot Gary Carroll, he was left with too much to do but kept on well under pressure in the final furlong. He only raced once more last season, winning a Naas Listed race with consumate ease in November. His 4 runs this term have all been in Group races, and he acquitted himself well last time, finishing 3L 5th in a Curragh Group2 8 weeks ago. He was only a head behind the 113 rated favourite, Southern France and a strict interpretation of that result would suggest that Saturday’s mark of 108 looks very fair. The Lyons yard is going great guns at present, and with Ireland’s Champion Jockey, Colin Keane doing the steering he has plenty to recommend him.

the knavesmire

York’s historic Knavesmire

The Roger Charlton trained 6yo Withhold has won 5 of his 13 starts and considering it was his first run for 269 days, ran a particularly fine race last time making all in Newbury’s Marsh Cup with the steadier of 9-10 on his back,(2m1/2f Gd-Sft). A similar front running performance saw him land last year’s Northumberland Plate in stylish fashion. He is 6lbs higher than last time, and the drop back in trip is a concern, but his relentless galloping style should serve him well and if he gets to the front could be difficult to peg back.

With a win, a second, and a third, from his three course appearances, there can be little doubt that the William Haggas trained Raheen House feels at home on
The Knavesmire. He was only having his second start for the yard when beaten a neck, finishing 3rd, in a group 3 over course and distance 6 weeks ago. He is making his handicap debut on Saturday, off a mark of 111, which seems high enough, but he does meet Saturday’s opponent, Weekender, with whom he virtually dead heated, (got the race in a subsequent inquiry) In an Ascot Listed race 22 months ago on 5 lbs better terms. He didn’t seem to have much left in the locker last time, and there has to be some doubt about his ability to last 14f in a race like The Ebor, but there are some positives from his pedigree as his full brother, Shraaoh, won the 2mile Group1 Sydney Cup at Randwick in April.

Since joining the Mark Johnston operation last February, the ex German/French 5yo, Kings Advice, has won an amazing 8 of his 9 starts, and is now rated 42lbs higher than for his first run for the Middleham yard, at the beginning of March. Last time out he again showed real battling qualities, to get the better of the useful Outbox in a driving finish to Goodwood’s Summer Handicap off a mark of 108. Kings Advice is 5lbs higher on Saturday, but the son of Frankel doesn’t seem to know when he’s beaten, and it won’t come as a great surprise if he lands Mark a second Ebor, to go with Quick Ransom’s win 27 years ago.

Mind you Mark’s second string, Baghdad, is no back number either. Another son of Frankel, he has responded well to the Johnston tutelage, winning 5 of his 10 starts since joining the Middleham Academy, and improving from an initial mark of 74 to 109. He held on bravely at Royal Ascot to land the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes by a short head from Saturday’s opponent, the fast finishing Ben Vrackie, (has disappointed since). Baghdad has run moderately in his last two races both over 12f and there has to be some doubt about his ability to stay Saturday’s trip but that said, Frankels do stay well, and he has an entry in the Irish St Leger.

John GosdenThe regally bred, Royal Line, (by Dubawi out of a daughter of the fabulous Urban Sea) has yet to live up to his regal pedigree, but did look a talented individual when winning Doncaster’s November Handicap last Autumn off a mark of 105. He gave the impression that there could be more to come over further, and having had a nice pipe opener over an inadequate 10f at the beginning of July, Mr Gosden (pictured) can seriously contemplate the prospect of becoming the first handler in the modern era to train back to back winners of The Ebor, (won last year with Muntahaa).

Selection : Royal Line

EW.          :  Mustajeer
John Gray Sweet Solera Stakes 2yo Fillies 7f Group3

newmarket july course viewNewmarket July Course –  Saturday

The race is named after the unfashionably bred Sweet Solera, who won the 1000gns and Epsom Oaks in 1961, and became Timeform’s top rated filly of the year. Irish bred, she was foaled in the Emerald Isle in 1958, but we have yet to see a filly that hails from her country of birth win the race named in her honour, a situation that Irish trainers, Jessica Harrington and Joseph O’Brien will be keen to correct at the weekend.

Jessica Harrington
Photo: Patrick McCann 24.02.2017Jessica runs the daughter of Poets Voice, One Voice, and she certainly looked capable of further progress when winning a 7f Leopardstown Maiden by 3L 16 days ago, on only her 2nd racecourse appearance. She beat the debutant Auxillia who went on to win her next race by 5L, and while there is nothing special about the form as it stands, Jessica’s contender, is a nicely bred filly, by the highly promising young Stallion, Poets Voice, who sadly died last year. Mrs Harrington, now in her seventies is still a superb trainer and if her filly takes up Saturday’s engagement, (also entered at The Curragh on Friday) is well worth considering.

Joseph O’Brien is no mug either and his contender, Unforgetable, ran a solid race 16 days ago to finish 2nd in a Leopardstown Group3. She was beaten 3 1/2L by his fathers filly, Love, but there was no disgrace in that, as the daughter of Galileo had won her previous race, and may prove to be yet another high flyer from The Ballydoyle Academy. Back in 4th at Leopardstown was the 2/1 favourite, Precious Moments, who had run well in the Group3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished a close 2nd in a Curragh Group2, giving plenty of substance to the form.

The Richard Hannon trained daughter of Invincible Spirit, Cloak Of Spirits, made a very pleasing racecourse debut 15 days ago, when winning a Fillies Novices Stakes at Ascot. She won by 3 1/2L despite running a little green, but a word of caution as the well backed favourite, Dubai Paradise, was leading at the 2f marker when weakening quickly and was eased right down.

charlie appleby lincolnThe Charlie Appleby trained daughter of Kodiac, Light Blush, made a winning debut over Saturday’s course and distance, (July13 Good-Firm) And was sent off favourite for a Sandown Listed race 12 days later. In a heat where Frankie Dettori, riding Saturday’s opponent, Walk In Marrakesh, was able to dictate things from the front, the Italian Maestro got first run, and managed to cling on from the closing Light Blush by 1/2L, with another of Saturday’s contenders, West End Girl, a further 1 1/2L back in 4th. It is quite possible that the Sandown form can be reversed, ( West End Girl was also keeping on when not getting a clear run and was hampered inside the final 60 yards). It’s worth noting that Light Blush is out of the Listed winning mare, Marsh Daisy, who’s best form was all on soft ground so if it does come up on the easy side at the weekend, confidence would be increased.

Despite losing 4L at the start, the Ed Vaughan trained Ultra Violet made a stunning start to her career, hacking up by 8L in a 6f Maiden Fillies Stakes over Saturday’s course 7 weeks ago. The form hasn’t really been franked and the time was ordinary, but she couldn’t have been more impressive, and being by the highly successful dual 2000Gns winner Gleneagles out of a mare that stayed 10f the trip on Saturday can evince further improvement.

It is 27 years since Sir Michael Stoute last won The Sweet Solera but runs a likely looking type in the Sir Evelyn De Rothschild owned and bred Soffika. By the miler, Zoffany, she has won her only start, a 6f Fillies Novices Stakes at Pontefract with a minimum of fuss and as a half sister to Dubka, (also trained by Sir Michael and stayed 14f) she will be well suited by further. Improvement will be required but with these connections it won’t come as a great surprise if it’s forthcoming.

Selection : Light Blush

EW.           : unforgetable if abs, Soffika

John Gray