Aidan O’Brien’s Yucatan For Racing Post Trophy Glory

Last week’s selection, Almanzor, proved himself the best 3yo around when winning last week’s Champion Stakes, probably the best race run anywhere on the planet this year. He is to be kept in training as a 4yo, and with that electrifying change of gear, may well go on to prove himself one of the all time greats.

This week’s contest was originally conceived of by the founder of the Timefom organisation, Phill Bull, and was first run as The Timeform Trophy in 1961. It continued in various guises until The Racing Post took over in 1989. Plenty of top class animals, such as Ribocco, Vaguely Noble, and High Top, came from the early days of the contest but it wasn’t until Refefence Point, in the hands of Pat Eddery scooted home by eight lengths in 1986 that we saw a future Derby winner. Four future winners of the Epsom Classic have prevailed since, with the Aidan O’Brien trained Camelot in 2011 the last. O’Brien, with 21 Grade1 victories to his credit already this year, is within touching distance of the great American trainer, Bobby Frankels, all time record of 25, so victory in this  Group1, which he has already won seven times, would be particularly sweet. He is most likely to be represented by three sons of the great Galileo, who has been so significant in the success of the Ballydoyle operation in recent years, and it’s difficult to choose between two of them.

Capri made his racecourse debut at the Curragh in July, and, easy to back in the market, finished second at 6/1. He made no mistake 2weeks later, taking an 8 1/2f Galway maiden, and only 7 days after that, easily won a 7 1/2f Tipperary listed affair. Stepped up to Group2 level at the Curragh next time, (1mile heavy Sept 25) he beat his two stable companions, Yucatan and Exemplar by 3/4L and the same, with the fourth horse 16L behind. Clearly the form looks pretty strong, but I just wonder if the runner up, (went off at 10/1 behind the strongly fancied winner, 8/11) is the one to take out of the race. Yucatan was a very late foal, (May 17) which actually makes him more than 3 months younger than his stable companion, and little was expected of him when making his racecourse debut, (August 7th) as he went off at 10/1. Again three weeks later, when a seemingly unfancied 4/1 shot behind his 7/4 stablemate, Taj Mahal, he won a Curragh mile maiden cleverly. His last run, in that Group 2 behind Capri at the Curragh, was another step forward, and this son of Galileo, whose dam, Six Perfection’s, won the 2003 Breeders Cup Mile, and whose own dam Yoga, was a half sister to the two times Breeders Cup Mile winner, the immortal Miesque, is clearly bred to be a champion, and it will come as no surprise if he improves past his talented stablemate.

Young handler, David Merusier, is beginning to make his presence felt in the training ranks, and has an interesting contender, Contrappasto, who showed promise when finishing second to Rivet in the Convivial Stakes at York on only his second outing. Described by his trainer as a “big baby” he ran green but once he got the hang of things ran on strongly to get within 3 1/4L of the Haggas horse. Given plenty of time by his talented trainer he showed the benefit when comfortably taking a Nottingham Maiden seven weeks later. Much more will be required at the weekend but this son of Cacique is clearly going the right way.

Contrappasto’s York conqueror, Rivet took a big step forward in his next race when winning the 7f Group2 Champagne Stakes over Saturday’s Course three weeks later, but then disappointed when only 5th in the 7f Dewhurst Stakes. By the Australian champion sprinter Fastnet Rock he may be best at distances short of a mile. However he is due to be ridden by Andrea Atzeni who has partnered the last three winners of the contest, for three different trainers, so who knows.

Brian Meehan runs his Sea The Stars colt, Raheen House, and this well bred animal, (dam is a half sister to the Queen Mary winner, and 1000gns third, Maqassid) is quietly progressive on the racecourse. Second in his first two races he won his last, a 1m York Maiden Auction in workmanlike style. Plenty of improvement is required but his able trainer won this in 2008 with Crowded House, so knows what is required. This well bred animal is on an upward trajectory and is worth considering.

Selection: Yucatan

E.W.     : Raheen House

Betway Lincoln Handicap Tips

Betway Lincoln Handicap 1m Str Doncaster Saturday – Run as the Lincolnshire Handicap at the county town’s venerable racecourse for over one hundred years until its closure in 1964, the race was transferred to Doncaster and became known as “The Lincoln”, where it has thrived as the first leg of the “Spring Double” ever since.

Historically, winners have come from all sections of the handicap, but recent renewals have seen a definite increase in the class of competitors, and last year a handicap mark of 96 was required to even get a run. The winner, the Richard Fahey trained Gabrial was the third of the last five winners to have been rated at 100 or above. However, despite these higher rated animals winning, big weights still have proved a serious bar to success, with Babodana in 2004, carrying the steadier of 9st10lbs the last to win with more than 9st4lbs in the plate.

Read our 2014 Lincoln Handicap preview.

Over the past decade training honours, with two wins apiece, have been shared by Messrs Quinn, Fahey,and Haggas, and the latter was also responsible for the 1992 winner. The draw has been significant with only one winner emerging from a draw higher than 17 in the last twelve years. Good form on straight tracks, particularly Newmarket has been a definite pointer. Plenty of previous winners had the benefit of a race under their belt,but thanks to modern conditioning methods, we have seen seven of the last ten winners come home in front on their seasonal debuts. So what of this years renewal?

One that immediately catches the eye is the David O’Meara trained 5yo entire, Lord Of The Land. Previously trained in France by the great Andre Fabre, for whom he won five of his ten starts, including over a straight 1m1f at Maison-Laffite. He makes his debut here for the hugely talented O’Meara, racing off a mark of 102, giving him a tough looking 9st5lbs to shoulder. However the son of Shamardal does look a highly versatile type having had the speed to win over 6 1/2f on the all weather at Deauville, and the stamina to win that 9f contest at Maison- Laffite. O’Meara has already sent out a winner with his first runner of the turf season from his new base in the village of Upper Helmsley, and looks set for another great innings, so Lord Of The Land looks one for the shortlist.

Ed Mc Mahon’s 5yo by Dylan Thomas, Express Himself, looked a progressive type until finishing out the back from a midfield draw in last years Cambridgeshire. However he got back on track three weeks later when putting up a top notch performance at Haydock. Having missed the break he came home with a wet sail and got up to beat the very useful Mitchum Swagger off a mark of 93. As the runner up went on to earn a 15lbs rise, for his close second in a listed contest, Express Himself’s new mark of 101, just 8lbs higher, looks more than reasonable. With decent form at Newmarket, and being by a sire whose offspring often improve with age, Mc Mahon’s 5yo has plenty to recommend him.

Representing the three times successful Haggas yard, the very lightly raced 5yo Mitraad looks interesting. A winner of his only two races on turf, both at Newmarket, he was last seen, on the all weather at Chelmsford last August, where he finished a close second in a Class3 handicap off a mark of 95. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend he may have got in lightly and if handling the cut and thrust of a 22 runner handicap could be involved at the business end.

The 4yo Udodontu ran a great race in last years Brittannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. Trained by Richard Guest he finished a close second off a mark of 88. Now in the hands of Saeed bin Suroor he wasn’t seen again until trotting up off a mark of 94 at Meydan in January. Raised another 8lbs to 102 he was only headed inside the last 50yds at the same venue four weeks later. He races off the same mark on Saturday and sure to have benefited from his winter holiday in the Dubai sunshine he is another well worth considering.

Harry Dunlop’s lightly raced 4yo Storm Rock won a Leicester handicap off a mark of 87 last October and nine days later nearly defied a 15lbs rise when going down by a neck to the year older You’re Fired. He meets the winner on 2lbs better terms at the weekend and as considerable improvement from three to four can be expected he is another who looks well handicapped.

Selection : Lord Of The Land

E.W. : Storm Rock

Grimthorpe Chase handicap 3m2f Doncaster

As a Grand National trial the Grimthorpe has been pretty significant, providing three winners of the Aintree Spectacular, Ben Nevis, Corbiere, and Amberleigh House. It requires a touch of class to carry big weights with only two winners, the very talented duo, Cloudy Lane and Grey Abbey managing a burden over 11st in recent renewals. All recent winners have boasted decent form in their penultimate contests, with the exception of last years victor, the 11yo Wayward Prince, who had the unflattering figures of F-6PP before his name. Age isn’t a significant factor with winners coming from the 8-11yo age bracket over the last decade, but stamina has been of paramount importance. Doncaster on the face of it isn’t a testing course but these handicap chases tend to be run with the throttle out, and if they go for home from the four furlong marker it takes a strong stayer to win. Previous successful protagonists with contenders at the weekend are Kim Bailey, who won way back in 1994, Paul Nicholls (2000) and Nicky Henderson (2010). Having been in the racing Doldrums for many years, since the halcyon days of March 1995, when taking the Champion Hurdle on the Tuesday with Alderbrook and the Gold Cup two days later with Master Oats, Kim Baileys fortunes have taken a very welcome turn for the better in recent seasons, and he fields the likely favourite for Saturday’s contest.

His 8yo The Last Samurai was no slouch when trained by Donald McCain, last year winning three of his fives starts, and he has continued to progress under his new handler. He is now on a mark of 149, 12lbs higher than when leaving the Cheshire yard. Last time out (27 Dec Kempton 3m Gd-soft) he showed a nice blend of speed and stamina when quickening nicely after the last, he ran on well to win comfortably off a mark of 140. This was a £25,000 contest run at a decent clip so despite the form not working out I suppose the 9lb rise to 149 is justified. He is certainly prominent in most ante post markets for the Aintree Spectacular so should be to the fore off his new mark.

Charlie Longsdon’s 8yo stayer, Drop Out Joe is another on a sharp upward trajectory, and is now on a mark 18lbs higher than when winning off 133 at Chepstow (2m7 1/2f Good) last October. He went on to take the Badger Ales chase in November at Wincanton (3m1f soft), staying on well to beat Royal Palladium by 1/2L off a mark of 143. He is obviously a much improved performer since coming second in this last year, off a mark of 132, when a well backed 9/2. He does seem to have it all to do off a 19lbs higher mark, but in his favour he has won on all three occasions following a decent break, and with the Longsdon stable going well is considered.

The stable also runs the 7yo Coologue and if turning up, this will be his fourth consecutive course appearance. He has run well on all three previous occasions particularly last time when going down by 3 1/2L, off a mark of 139, to the useful Ziga Boy, who was receiving 6lbs (3m Good). He was staying on nicely that day and had that good yardstick Buywise 1/2L behind in third, so on only a 2lbs higher mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st9lbs is well worth considering.

Alan King’s 8yo Sego Success was an impressive winner over the course (3miles) off a mark of 139 in December, indeed he looked as if he could go around again, and was subsequently sent off the 7/1 fav for the Gd3 3m5f chase at Warwick five weeks later. In what was a ludicrously fast start for such a marathon he came a cropper at the second. His shrewd trainer wisely avoided a marathon slog in the Haydock mud a few weeks ago so comes here a fresh horse only 7lbs higher than for that impressive win on his last visit.

Nicky Henderson’s Bears Affair is well suited by a flat left handed track on good ground and a repeat of his Aintree win (3m1f) last May would make him interesting. He had Drop Out Joe 3 3/4L back in 4th and meets him on a stone better terms. The winner did have the benefit of Freddie Mitchell’s 7lbs claim, and the fourth horse has improved since, but the Henderson runner still looks reasonably treated.

Paul Nicholls Grand National hope, the 8yo Wonderful Charm will be well served by better ground than he raced on at Cheltenham last time out (Dec11 3m 2f Soft). He was a well beaten 2nd off a mark of 159, 17L behind the winner Aachen, to whom he was conceding 31lbs. As the winner was just pipped off a mark of 146 next time, and considering Wonderful Charms preference for a drier surface, the run can be considered in a very positive light, so Saturday’s mark of 158 looks fair. Three times a winner at Gd2 and Cl1 level, he has that touch of class that may enable him to become the first since Grey Abbey in 2004 to defy top weight of 11st12lbs.

Selection : Wonderful Charm

E.W. : Sego Success

November Handicap Tips 1m4f Doncaster Saturday

Brian Ellison

Brian Ellison, another trainer enjoying a great season, has won the race twice, Batswing (2000) and Carte Wing (2004), and he runs the lightly raced four year old Seamour.

Run on the last day of the British Turf flat racing season, it is usually contested on a pretty unforgiving surface, so stamina and an ability to handle testing conditions have usually been a prerequisite,and Saturday’s renewal is unlikely to prove an exception. Mixed messages have come from the Market over the last twenty years. Only two favourites have obliged, but the same period has seen only four winners come home at odds of 20/1 or longer. Good current form has been the rule with virtually all of the last twenty winners registering a top four finish in their penultimate race, the Gosden trained Zuider Zee in 2011 being the most recent exception. Historically three year olds have performed well, registering eleven success’s in the two decades between 1987 and 2007, but have drawn a blank since. The reason for this has been the paucity of the classic generations representatives surviving the cut in recent renewals.

If a three year old is to prevail at the weekend the most likely candidate would appear to be the Ralph Beckett trained Argus. Beckett, who is enjoying such a fine season, certainly knows what is required, having trained the three year old, Come On Jonny to win in 2005. Argus who was unraced as a two year old has made steady progress in his five races, culminating with a workman like victory over course and distance two weeks ago in the race which has produced two of the last three winners. Set to race off a mark only 3lbs higher at the weekend, this well bred, and expensively bought colt, has to be on the short list.

Mark Johnston, who won with the five year old Quick Ransom in 1993, and the six year old, Yavana’s Place in 1998, tries for a third success with another seasoned campaigner, the five year old ex French gelding, Zand. A winner twice over the distance on soft ground in the French Provinces, he showed some decent form over an inadequate 10f at Newbury in September, finishing a close fifth off a mark of 92. His next two runs, both on the All Weather, at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford, were far from conclusive, as he met trouble in running on both occasions. He races on Saturday off a mark only 1lb higher than Newbury, so hailing from this yard is definitely one to keep on the right side of.

Luca Cumani’s very game four year old, Penhill, who will love the ground, ran another fine race at Haydock Park eight weeks ago when getting the better of Buonarroti off a mark of 95, getting up to win by a hard fought 1/2L. It is no certainty that the form will be confirmed on 5lbs worse terms on Saturday, and the Cumani gelding may just find his new mark of 100 a touch beyond him.

Andrew Balding’s four year old Shirocco gelding, Storm Force Ten won like a horse going places at Chester in May. Racing over 12 1/2f on soft ground he won easily, and as the third and fourth have both won four races each in the meantime, the form looks gold plated.

Off for nearly six months, he finished a disappointing 7 1/2L behind Argus a fortnight ago, but can be expected to improve for the run. He meets Argus on 3lbs better terms on Saturday, so the 20/1 available at the time of writing may represent some value.

Brian Ellison, another trainer enjoying a great season, has won the race twice, Batswing (2000) and Carte Wing (2004),and he runs the lightly raced four year old Seamour. Stamina will not be a problem as he has won twice over 16f, and neither should pace, as he showed loads of it when winning at Haydock in May.

We tipped Ellison’s Totalize for the Northumberland Plate. The soft ground he encountered when winning at Ascot seemed a positive and his sixth in the 2m2f Doncaster Cup in his most recent race can be blamed on his failure to get the trip. Only 6lbs higher than his Ascot win he does seem to have a lot in his favour and it will be surprising if he isn’t involved at the business end on Saturday.

Selection: Seamour.

E.W. : Zand.

Betting Preview Racing Post Trophy (Group1) 1m Str Doncaster

Doncaster

Deauville, a good looking bay colt, he is by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, Walklikeanegyptian, is our selection.

Originally called The Timeform Gold Cup, it was first run in 1961 under the sponsorship of the Halifax tipping service. It was given Group1 status when the current race grading system was introduced in 1971 and assumed it’s present title when first sponsored by the Racing Post organisation in 1989. It is the last Group1 of the British flat racing season and having five of the last eighteen Derby winners on it’s roll of honour can certainly be considered a good guide to a horses Epsom prospects. So is there a putative Epsom hero lurking in Saturday’s field? Well if so the likelihood is that it will be trained by A.P.O’Brien, who has been responsible for seven winners of The Racing Post Trophy since 1997, two of whom (High Chaparall, and Camelot) have gone on to Epsom glory. At the time of writing he is responsible for half the ten runner field and if the market is to be believed, Deauville represents his best chance.

A good looking bay colt, he is by Galileo out of a Danehill mare, Walklikeanegyptian, and unusually for a Ballydoyle potential high flyer, made his racecourse debut in a Listowel maiden over 7f on heavy ground at the end of May where he duly obliged. He next appeared eight weeks later in a Leopardstown Group3, again over 7f where starting at 9/2 he beat the long odds on favourite (and subsequent Dewhurst third) Sanus Par Aquam by 1/2L in a workman like fashion. His jockey, Joseph O’Brien was pushing along from halfway but stayed on stoutly at the finish, strongly suggesting that a step up to a mile was required. He duly reappeared two months later in the Group1 Royal Lodge Stakes over a mile at headquarters and was beaten 3/4L by Saturday’s opponent, Foundation. On the face of it the Gosden horse should confirm the form, but I wonder if the Newmarket race played to Foundation’s strengths. The way the race was run, at a very steady pace and in a slow time, where Deauville, for whatever reason, lost a couple of lengths mid race, but then ran on stoutly, you would have to say undoubtedly favoured the speedier Gosden runner. Saturday’s race is invariably won by a staying type and there would have to be some doubt if Foundation’s pedigree, (by a miler, out of a miler) fits that particular bill. Deauville on the contrary is more stoutly bred and with a strong pace almost guaranteed at the weekend their second meeting could be very interesting.

Foundation didn’t see a racecourse until the beginning of August when taking a lowly Cl5 maiden at Haydock Park. Great strides forward have been taken since, winning a listed race, again at the Lancashire venue, and culminating in that impressive win in the Royal Lodge. Obviously out of the top drawer, he looks the one to beat.

The all conquering Hugo Palmer yard has a very interesting runner in Menghil Khan. He made a promising debut only four weeks ago where despite running green he finished third in a Newmarket maiden, and showed the benefit, when trotting up at Nottingham on soft ground over 1m 1/2f a fortnight later. He is very well bred, being by the first season sire, Lope De Vega ( winner of the French 2000gns and Derby) and out of a Danehill mare who is a half sister to two Group1 winners. He did seem to relish the soft ground at Nottingham so if a similar surface prevails at the weekend this 150,000gns yearling might just cap a ‘superb season for his highly talented trainer.

The penny seemed to drop late on in the group1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on “Arc” day for another O’Brien blue blood, Shogun. Having been pushed along in midfield for most of the race he seemed to get the message late on and finished with a flourish, and despite coming sixth, was only 1 1/2L behind the winner. By the Australian stallion Fastnet Rock, who is doing so well with his European runners, and out of a Galileo mare who was second in the Group2 1m6 1/2f Parkhill stakes he is another who could be well suited by Saturday’s contest and is one to keep on the right side of.

Selection: Deauville

E.W. : Shogun