November Handicap (Class2) 1 mile 4 furlongs Doncaster

donny races handicapSaturday sees the final major handicap of the flat racing season when a maximum field of not more than 23 go to post for what is always a highly competitive affair. Never an easy heat to predict, only a single Jolly, (the David O’Meara trained, Open Eagle, 5 years ago) has managed to win since Snow Princess passed the post in front 24 years ago. However, on a more positive note, in recent renewals, winner finding has not been impossible, and the last 6 victors have been returned at an SP of 10/1 or less. At the time of writing the current favourite, Deja, is trading around the 5/1 mark and has the profile of one laid out for the contest.

A 4yo colt, Deja, is trained by the dual Derby winning handler, Peter Chapple-Hyam, (Dr Devious 1992, and Authorised 1997) and the son of Youmzain, in his 5 race career, has shown a very progressive profile. He has won all of his last 4 starts, and racing over 12f for the first time 129 days ago, when making his seasonal debut, he put up his  most impressive performance to date, coming home 3 1/2L clear of the decent yardstick, Soto Sizzler, on Kempton’s AW track, off a mark of 93.  He showed that he is equally adept on turf, and can handle the demands of a big field handicap, when easily winning a 17 runner Pontefract heat over 10f in October 2018. He hasn’t been seen since Kempton, (Have his Uber shrewd connections been protecting his handicap mark?) but racing off a mark of 100 he looks really well handicapped, and with his proven ability to act on soft ground looks one to be very definitely interested in.

Saeed Bin Suroor won with the 3yo, Prize Money in 2016 and has another likely looking type from the Classic generation with the 3yo, Passion And Glory. Unraced at two, he has won 2 of his 5 starts, both at 10f, but the manner of his latest win at Doncaster on heavy ground, 15 days ago, suggests that Saturday’s trip should be within his compass. Driven clear over a furlong out, he ran on resolutely to hold the challenge of Saturday’s opponent, Dark Lochnagar by a neck. Stoutly bred, by Cape Cross, sire of Derby and Arc winners Sea The Stars and Golden Horn, he beat the now 105 rated
El Misk by 1 3/4L in August, and looks very fairly treated on Saturday’s mark of 93, giving him the flyweight of 8-3 to carry.

Mind you the runner up in that Doncaster heat, Dark Lochnagar, meeting the Bin Suroor Horse on 2lbs better terms, has to enter calculations. It’s unlikely that his talented trainer, Keith Dalgleish, has had too many better bred animals than Dark Lochnagar in his care as he is by the Derby winner Australia, a son of the great Galileo, and is out of the 2005 1000gns winner, Virginia Waters. The yard is in top form and it wouldn’t surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday if getting into the race, ( needs 4 above him to come out).

2015 November Handicap.

There seems to be plenty of interest in the markets in Hugo Palmer’s 4yo son of Frankel, Collide. A winner of 4 of his 10 starts he made his first attempt at 12f a winning one when winning a Kempton Class3 on his seasonal debut in April off a mark of 96. He followed up with two respectable efforts at York, 4/18, and Royal Ascot 5/19, but finished out the back last time over 14f at Headquarters in July. Twice a winner on soft, Hugo has booked the excellent 3lbs claimer, Ciaran Fallon, and  he looks set for a big run on his mark of 98 at the weekend.

If the Mark Johnston trained, Bo Samaraan gets into the race, (needs 3 above him to come out) he could be interesting. The 3yo son of Sea The Stars failed to win in his first 8 starts but has come good the last twice, winning a 12f Catterick Class4 on heavy ground 11 days ago off a mark of 85, with a dour staying performance. Mark has won this twice before so knows what is required and Bo Samaraan, an improving 3yo is just the type the Middleham trainer excels with.

Irish trainers have had a fair old time harvesting top English handicaps this season, and Tony Martin will be hoping to add to their haul with his 4yo filly, Melburnian.
A daughter of Zambezi Sun, she has a relatively poor strike rate of 3/21 but demonstrated in emphatic style 14 days ago how well suited by a big field 12f handicap run on testing ground she is. Racing off a mark of 77 in Leopardstown’s October Handicap on heavy ground, she took it up at the furlong marker and stayed on strongly to win easily by 2 3/4L. She is a half sister to the very talented Heartbreak City,
(also trained by Tony) who improved with age (was only beaten a head in the
Melbourne Cup as a 6yo) and Melburnian may prove to be a similar type. The old adage to follow a filly in form this time of the year could be well worth remembering.

Selection.  : Bo Samaraan   if abs  Deja

EW.              : Melburnian.   If abs Passion And Glory

Saeed

John Gray

Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes (Group1) 1m (Str) Ascot Saturday

ascot moetThe Queen Elizabeth II Stakes is the big international centrepiece of British Champions Day on Saturday, and while the overall record of Gallic invaders hasn’t been that impressive, they have won two of the last five renewals, courtesy of the Freddy Head trained duo, Charm Spirit in 2014 and Solow the following year. The legendary Jockey/Trainer is unrepresented at the weekend, but fellow French handler, the upwardly mobile, Francis-Henri Graffard, looks to have serious prospects of again taking the prize across the Channel for France with his rapidly improving 4yo gelding, The Revenant.

The son of Dubawi has won 8 of his 10 starts, the first two, (at a pretty modest level) when trained at Newmarket by Hugo Palmer. Transferred to Chantilly handler, Graffard, for his 3yo campaign, he won 3 of his 4 starts, again at a fairly low level, ending the season with a win in a Saint-Cloud conditions event. Gelded over the Winter, he returned to action at a higher level, winning all his first 3 starts, culminating with a Group2 Victory at Baden-Baden at the end of May. A real soft ground specialist, he took a 128 day Summer break, (presumably avoiding the faster ground) and put in a really scintillating effort on his reappearance in Longchamp’s Group2, Prix Daniel Wildenstein, on very soft ground a fortnight ago, beating the Group1 winning Olmedo, by 4 1/2L. With plenty of rain in the forecast he looks likely to get his ground, and with riding phenomenon, Pierre-Charles Boudot, doing the steering, the son of Dubawi, has plenty to recommend him.

Aidan O’Brien has won the race 4 times and both his Magna Grecia, and Circus Maximus, look interesting. The former, was landing his second Group1 from 4 starts when winning The 2000gns by 2 1/2L from King Of Change at the beginning of May but then was a major disappointment when sent off a 6/4 chance for the Irish equivalent 3 weeks later. He failed to make any impression and finished a well beaten 5th. However that was on fast ground and his only other defeat came on a similar surface. The going for his Guineas victory was described as Good but the time would suggest that there was plenty of juice in the ground so it’s probably safe to assume that the son of Invincible Spirit needs to get his toe in to perform to his optimum. Indeed his dam, Cabaret, a daughter of the great Galileo scored her only two wins on soft and his half brother, Invincible Ryder was also at his best when the mud was flying.

Aidan O’Brien’s Yucatan For Racing Post Trophy GloryCircus Maximus was landing the second top level success of his 10 race career when winning the Group1 Prix Du Moulin by the minimum distance from Romanised 6 weeks ago. Headed at the furlong market he really had to battle for it, demonstrating what a tough individual he is. A strict interpretation of the form through the 4th home in The Moulin, Olmedo, leaves him with something to find with The Revenant, but the son of Galileo is out of that classy mare Durtle who was progressive throughout her career, and was at her best on easy ground, suggesting that her son’s career may be following a similar pattern.

Saeed Bin Suroor, with 5 wins to his credit, has the best record in the race, and will be hoping to make it 6 with his top rated, globe trotting, 5yo, Benbatl. The son of the exceptional Dubawi has top level victories in Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, and Dubai on his c.v. and connections would love to add Great Britain to the list, and following an impressive win in Newmarket’s Group2 Joel Stakes 22 days ago it certainly looks possible. Racing over a mile for the first time since June 2018, champion elect, Murphy, sent Benbatl straight into the lead, and dictating the pace throughout, cleared away for an impressive 5L victory. Campaigned over further for most of his career, connections must have been delighted with the performance and are surely looking forward to Saturday with plenty of optimism. A word of caution though, their Super Star, has never won with with the word soft in the going description.

With 2 wins, and 3 seconds, from 6 starts at the Berkshire track, the David O’Meara trained 6yo, Lord Glitters, clearly loves Ascot, and ran his best race ever at the track when landing the Group1 Queen Anne Stakes over Saturday’s course and distance in June. He seems to handle any ground and I’m sure the talented Irishman will have his stable star primed for maximum effort on Saturday.

The Richard Hannon trained King Of Change, was a 66/1 shot when runner up in
The 2000gns, but showed there was no fluke about it 137 days later, when comfortably beating the 112 rated Turgenev, at Sandown 31 days ago. His half brother,
Century Dream ran a great race in this last year beaten only 3/4L in 3rd when an unconsidered 25/1 shot on soft ground.

Selection.  : The Revenant

EW.             : Magna Grecia

John Gray

Emirates Cesarewitch Stakes (Handicap) 2m2f (Rowley) Newmarket Saturday

Cesarewitch guruI hope plenty of followers of The Oddsguru Blog took our advice and rowed in with our EW suggestion, Waldegeist in last Sunday’s “Arc”. Available at some very fancy prices when first advised last Wednesday, Andre Fabre’s, Longchamp specialist was always travelling well within himself at the back of midfield, and when asked by his outstanding rider, Pierre-Charles Boudot, made up ground with consummate  ease from 1 1/2f out, and went past the 1/2fav, Enable, 50yds from the post to win by 1 3/4L, recording his 5th course victory in the process. There will be nothing in the Waldegeist class lining up for Saturday’s Cesarewitch, but in a heat, 2m2f in length, contested over 2 counties, (starts in Suffolk, ends in Cambridgeshire) that is always run with the choke out, some of the French Star’s stamina will not go amiss, and the current market leader, Buildmeupbuttercup, shouldn’t fail on that front.

Trained by top Irish trainer, Willie Mullins, (won last year’s renewal with Low Sun) Buildmeupbuttercup proved her stamina for this when a running on 2nd in Royal Ascot’s 2m4f eponymous Handicap in June. The 5yo daughter of Sixties Icon, showed that she wasn’t short of pace either when taking a 12f Galway Maiden next time out, and following a 45 day break, put up another excellent performance 4 weeks ago, when failing by a neck to concede 15lbs to the rapidly improving 3yo Kastasa over 13f. As the winner has gone on to win a Curragh Group3 and is now rated 109, a strict interpretation of the form would make the Mullins mare look like something of a good thing on Saturday off her mark of 94, but it has to be remembered that Kastasa is a rapidly improving 3yo so perhaps that conclusion is a little tenuous. Nevertheless, however you look at it the Mullins mare looks very well handicapped, and proven on soft ground, (won a Bumper on soft when trained by Mick Channon) she is well worth considering.

prescott newmarketThat uber shrewd master of getting a horse well handicapped, Sir Mark Prescott has never won The Cesarewitch but goes to war on Saturday with two contenders, both of whom look very well in, Timoshenko and Land Of Oz. The former, a 4yo, won all 5 starts at 3, and carried on the good work on his seasonal debut, following a 355 days break, he landed a Goodwood Handicap over 2m4 1/2f, 73 days ago. Clearly still improving, he is only 5 lbs higher on Saturday, and the main concern would be soft ground, as he has never won, or been placed on anything slower than Good. On the other hand, Sir Marks’ second runner, Land Of Oz, looked very much at home on soft ground when winning over 2m1 1/2f at Ayr in July, and this improving 3yo son of Derby winner Australia, has been very shrewdly placed to sneak into Saturday’s heat at the bottom of the handicap. He won his first run in a handicap, back in July, off a lowly 58, and despite winning 4 of his next 5 starts, still needed to win Newmarket’s Cesarewitch Trial over Course and Distance 3 weeks ago to get into Saturday’s race, a feat he accomplished in some style, winning comfortably by 1 1/2L. Top lightweight pilot David Egan, takes the ride, and could be the one to Land Sir Mark, his first Cesarewitch.

Another upwardly mobile 3yo is the Andrew Balding trained Ranch Hand, and he revelled in the Haydock mud when landing a valuable 14f Handicap 5 weeks ago. By The Melbourne Cup winner, Dunaden, out of the High Chaparral mare Victoria Montoya who stayed 2 miles well, he is bred for the job, and with champion elect, Oisin Murphy, doing the steering has plenty to recommend him.

It isn’t often that the master of Ballydoyle has runners in a race like The Cesarewitch, so it’s worth taking note when 4 of them appear in the declarations, and the one that catches the eye is the 3yo colt, Barbados. Beautifully bred by Galileo out of the Danehill mare, Sumora, he has only won one of his 8 starts, a Navan Maiden, but undoubtedly his best performance came when racing on soft ground for the first time, he was only beaten 1/2L, by the now 109 rated Dashing Willoughby, in Royal Ascot’s 14f Group2 Queens Vase, where the subsequent St Leger 3rd, Nayef Road, was a further 1/2L back in 3rd. He has done little since, and indeed finished last of 17 last time out, but coming from this quarter, it is premature to write him off, and if the ground does come up soft on Saturday, it could well spike a revival in the fortunes of this well bred colt.

If the going does get testing don’t ignore Alan King’s Chester Cup Hero,
Coeur De Lion as he came home 5L clear of his rivals over The Roodeye’s 2m2 1/2f on heavy ground. He ran well without troubling the judge in his following 3 races, so top handler King has given him a nice 78 day break, and he will strip one of the freshest in the field.

Selection.  : Land Of Oz

EW.             : Ranch Hand

Qatar Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe 1mile 4furlongs Longchamp

waldgeist arc

Waldgeist represents cracking value at his current odds of 12-1

The big question facing racing fans on Sunday is whether Khalid Abdullah’s fabulous mare can enable, (forgive the pun) his owner to become the winning most in the 99 years of Europe’s premier contest. With 6 victories he currently shares that distinction with the legendary Marcel Boussac, and on all known form it is rather difficult to envisage Enable failing to deliver the goods on Sunday. If she does, she will be carving her own niche in the history books, as the first to win the great race 3 times, and will be giving Jockey, Frankie Dettori a seventh success, and trainer, Gosden a fourth. Having won the last 2 renewals, and achieving the fantastic record of winning all 10 of her races at the top level, it can be argued that her current odds of 8/11 still represent some value, but I’m not so sure. Last year’s win at Longchamp was her only appearance at The Paris track, (the 2017 renewal was run at Chantilly) and despite having the best of the draw in stall 6 she only got home by a short neck from Sea Of Class, drawn out in 15. Her first 2 wins this year were hard fought, particularly that epic struggle against Crystal Ocean in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and while her win in The Yorkshire Oaks 46 days ago was more comfortable, it’s worth remembering that plenty of “good things” have met their Waterloo on the Paris track.

obrien investec

The Master of Ballydoyle will be hopeful of Japan’s chances and so are we

It has been a good race for improving 3yo’s, (have won 6 of the last 10 renewals) and the Aidan O’Brien trained Japan, certainly falls into that category. Ignored in the market for the Derby, he started a 20/1 shot, but belying his odds finished best of all and despite pilot, Wayne Lordan, dropping his “persuader” was only beaten 1/2L in 3rd. It has been a case of upwards and onwards since, and he is unbeaten in his last 3 races.  I felt he was particularly impressive last time over an inadequate 10 1/2f in York’s
Juddmonte International, where, headed inside the last 50 yards by the hot favourite,
Crystal Ocean, (rated 127) he battled back heroically to get up on the line. By the great Galileo out of the Danehill mare Shastye, (won over 13f) he has won over Sunday’s course and distance, (Group1 Grand Prix De Paris in July) is improving at a rate of knots and looks great value at his current odds of 6/1.

Another 3yo taking serious steps forward is the Pau based handler, J-C Rouget’s Sottsass. By the very successful sire, Siyouni, (stud fee €100,000) he kept on strongly to win the 10f Group1 Prix Du Jockey Club, (French Derby) at the beginning of June and stepped up to 12f, readily won the good Arc trial, The Prix Neil, over course and distance 3 weeks ago. In a heat run in a time 3 seconds faster than standard, he overcame difficulties in running to win comfortably. He is out of the Galileo mare, Starlets Sister, which makes him a half brother to the top American mare, Sistercharlie, who has won 6 Grade1 events, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if the winners share of Sunday’s €5,000,000 pot were to end up down in the lovely Pyrenean town of Pau.

Godolphin have won the race twice, and trainer, Charlie Appleby will be hoping to make it three with the lightly raced 4yo, Ghaiyyath. A winner of 5 of his seven starts, he struck at the top level for the first time when landing Germany’s Group1 Grosser Preis Von Baden in Spectacular fashion 36 days ago. Tackling 12f for the first time, he took it up 3f out, went clear, and won by an impressive 14L. With a 19/1 shot finishing second the form is difficult to weigh up but the Group1 winning favourite, Laccario, was a further 4 1/2L back in 3rd. Beautifully bred, he is by the exceptional, Dubawi, out of the 2006 winner of The Irish 1000gns, Nightime, which makes him a half brother to the top class mare, Zhukova, and I’m sure there is plenty more to come from the Godolphin colt.

With 7 wins, French genius, Andre Fabre, is by some distance the most successful handler in the race, and his 5yo, Waldgeist, who finished 4th last year, is no forlorn hope. A real Longchamp specialist, he has won 4 of his 6 starts at the track, and perhaps even more significantly, the only time he was beaten in his 4 heats when racing over 12f at the course, was when finishing 4th in last year’s Arc. Badly drawn in 13, he was held up at the back of midfield where he met plenty of trouble and couldn’t get a clear run. When he did get out, the bird had flown, but the son of Galileo is a real pro, and he stayed on strongly to finish 4th, 1 3/4L behind Enable. He looked in great form when winning the Prix Foy over course and distance 3 weeks ago under a hands and heels ride, and current odds of 16/1 look generous.

Selection.      : Japan

EW.                 : Waldgeist

John Gray

Bet365 Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket (Rowley) Saturday

rowley course oddsWith a pot of just under £100,000 for the winner, and with a maximum field of 35 closely handicapped horses, the race, up the straight 9f of Newmarket’s Rowley course,  is always run with the choke out, putting a premium on stamina, and is often won by an animal that stays beyond 9f. Inevitably, in a race like The Cambridgeshire, there have been the occasional big price winners, but in the main, the victors have not gone unconsidered, and 15 of the last 20 successful animals have returned an SP of 16/1 or less.

Three year olds have won 2 of the last 4 renewals, and two from the Classic generation, Good Birthday and Desert Icon, who fought out the finish of the 10f William Hill Silver Cup Handicap at Beverly 29 days ago, certainly demonstrated their ability to stay beyond 9f. In a strongly run heat, the Andrew Balding trained Good Birthday, despite a very tardy start, prevailed by 1/2L. He made good headway over 2f out, and bravely squeezed through on the inner entering the final furlong, and collared the Willie Haggas trained, Desert Icon, in the last 50 yards. The runner up meets Good Birthday on 2lbs better terms on Saturday, so it should be close between them, but that said, the Balding horse looks to have the better profile for a race like The Cambridgeshire. A winner of 3 of his 8 starts, he has performed with credit in the three large field handicaps he has contested, and the Beverly contest came after a 50 day break. There is plenty of rain in the forecast so the  son of the French Stallion, Dabirism’s, proven ability on soft ground, could prove a very definite plus. With a lovely racing weight of 8-8, he will have plenty of assistance from the saddle in the shape of Champion Elect, Oisin Murphy, and he certainly looks one for the short list.

Another 3yo that fits the bill on the stamina front, is Roger Varian’s Son Of Dark Angel, Fifth Position. He has only won once from his 5 starts, but has performed creditably in his last three races, including last time, when finishing 5th in a Sandown Group3, 58 days ago. 4 weeks prior to that, racing over 10f, he had finished 5th, 3 1/4L behind the talented Elarqam in a Listed contest at the same venue. There is plenty of stamina on the distaff side of his pedigree as his dam won over 1m7f, and she has bred a 3 mile Irish Chase winner. However, despite his top connections, his overall profile doesn’t convince as a potential Cambridgeshire winner.

Hughie Morrison won The Cambridgeshire 10 years ago with the 6yo Supaseus, and must be hopeful of landing a second with his very progressive 3yo, Le Don De Vie. A  son of top class US turf winner, Leroidesanimaux, he has won 3 of his 7 starts, including last time, when winning a 10f Goodwood Class2 Handicap, 5 weeks ago. Always travelling well within himself, he stayed on to win very comfortably from the 96 rated Great Example. Clearly very progressive he races on Saturday off a mark of 101, 20lbs higher than he was at the start of the season, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him end the year on a still higher mark.

John Gosden has won The Cambridgeshire 4 times, and will be hoping for further success with one of his 2 contenders this year, Star Of Bengal or Lord North. The former, a 4yo son of Oasis Dream, has won 2 of his 6 starts, both successes coming on The AW. He has yet to win on turf and there wasn’t a lot of encouragement that he was going to break his duck soon, when finishing last of 5 in a Windsor Group3 36 days ago. However he does stay 10f well on The AW, and at the time of writing is the chosen ride of Frankie Dettori.

Three of Gosden’s previous winners were from the Classic generation, which makes his second contender, the 3yo, Lord North, more interesting . The son of Dubawi has won 2 of his 4 starts and looked as if he would be suited by further when a staying on 2nd in a 1mile Ascot Handicap following a 106 day break, 23 days ago. There are positive messages from his pedigree too, as his dam stayed a mile, his half brother, Chronicles, won over 10f, and his exceptional sire, Dubawi, gets plenty of top class middle distance winners.

jeds okeefe oddsThe Jed O’Keefe (pictured) trained 4yo,Jazeel, won last year’s consolation race, (The Silver Cambridgeshire) and again showed his liking for the track when going down by 1/2L over course and distance on his reappearance this year. He ran another excellent race in July, going down by 1/2L, to the Good yardstick Fayez at Goodwood, and while totally genuine, he has been done no favours by the Handicapper, and has to race off a 3 lbs higher mark on Saturday. However with that master tactician, Jamie Spencer, doing the steering, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him pull off yet another one of those “miracle finishes” for which he is rightly so famous, and one can just imagine him putting Jazeel’s head on the line where it matters.

One trainer who would be quite happy to see the rain arrive at Headquarters is Aidan O’Brien, as his contender, Amedeo Modigliani, revelled in soft conditions when landing his sole success to date, a Galway Maiden by 5 1/2L on soft in August 2018. A 4yo, son of the great Galileo, he has only raced 4 times and hasn’t been seen since finishing 4th, 1 3/4L behind the now 107 rated Imaging at Leopardstown in April. His mark of 98 on Saturday looks pretty fair and if taking up the engagement, (also entered in The Joel Stakes on Friday) looks good value at the generous looking odds of 20/1 available at the time of writing.

Selection : Good Birthday

EW.           : Amedeo Modigliani,  Jazeel

John Gray

William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (Handicap) 6f Saturday

ayr gold cupWith only 3 “Jollies” obliging in the past 40 years, one could be forgiven for thinking that The Ayr Gold Cup isn’t a particularly punter friendly heat, but the fact that 2 of the 3 (including last year’s dead heating favourite, the first Irish trained winner of the race, Son Of Rest) have come in the last 4 years, gives a rather different impression, and has to make the current market leader, Buffer Zone, of particular interest.

The 4yo son of the high class sprinter, Bated Breath, spent his first two seasons with Beckhampton handler, Roger Charlton, winning 2 of his 7 starts and left Wiltshire with a Handicap rating of 86. Transferred to the Co Meath yard of the talented, Ger Lyons last May, the 4yo has made rapid progress in his 4 runs for his new stables, and following an impressive victory last Sunday, in a valuable 24 runner, 6f Curragh Handicap, off a mark of 99, looks very well treated with just a 5lbs penalty to carry on Saturday. A rapidly improving type, (well entered up in Group races) who thrives in  these big field handicaps, he will make them all go at the weekend if fully recovered from last Sunday’s exertions, and must have bright prospects of becoming the second challenger from across The Irish Sea, to score in the long history of the race.

With 4 wins in the race, Kevin Ryan has the outstanding record in the contest, and he will be hoping to improve it further with his well handicapped 4yo, Hey Jonesy. The son of Excelebration’s strike rate of 1/16 is hardly impressive, but he has done most of his racing at listed/Group level, generally acquitting himself well, and has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He put in a particularly good effort in a Haydock Conditions event, (7f Gd-Sft) in July going down by 1/2L to the now 107 rated Marie’s Diamond,
(Rec 7 lbs). He didn’t seem to get home over Ascot’s stiff 7f eight days later and his shrewd handler has put him on the easy list for the past 8 weeks. Racing off an attractive mark of 103 on Saturday, and back over his best trip, he will strip, one of the freshest horses in the field. Coming from a yard going great guns at the moment and with such a good record in the race, he looks good value at his current odds of 25/1.

David O’Meara, who won with the 6yo, Louis The Pious 5 years ago, is mob handed at the time of writing, and the one that stands out for me is the very consistent 5yo son of Lope De Vega, Summerghand. Last time out he ran his usual game race, where despite being drawn on the wrong side, he kept on strongly to finish 2nd to Dakota Gold in Ripons Great St Wilfrid Handicap. The Handicapper has been unrelenting and raised him another 2 lbs for Saturday, but while his lack of generosity tempers confidence, Summerghand is one of those tough types who will be in his element in a race like Saturday’s, and it will not surprise to see him involved at the business end.

The Paul Cole trained 6yo, Baron Bolt, who shared the spoils with Son Of Rest in last year’s renewal, is attempting to become the first back to back winner of The Ayr Gold Cup since Heronslea in 1931. The omens aren’t exactly propitious however as it looks unlikely that he will get the testing conditions that seemed to suit so well last year, and his current form isn’t nearly as good as last term. However, as a result he is 6lbs lower, and presumably has been trained all season, targeting a repeat, so is worth bearing in mind, particularly if the rains arrive.

Andrew Balding has won this twice, and fields an interesting contender in the ex Richard Fahey trained Don Juan Triumphant. Now a 6yo, he was trained for his first two seasons by The Malton Maestro, and as a juvenile, he not only won an Ayr nursery over course and distance, but also landed a Group2 at Maison-Laffite, and ran with credit in a 7f St Cloud Group1. Failing to build on his excellent 2yo career at three, he moved to Kingsclere where he has won only 2 of his 19 starts for Mr Balding. However he has run some excellent races in defeat including a good 3rd of 14 in last October’s Group1 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot, and was a good 2nd to top sprinter, Brando, at Hamilton in June. Another who is best with some cut, he would be worth considering particularly if we get some rain. An entire horse, he is owned by the powerful King Power Racing Co, who presumably hope to stand the well bred son of Dream Ahead as a stallion, and a victory on Saturday wouldn’t go amiss on his CV.

The Sir Michael Stoute trained 3yo, Alkaraama will need quite a few above him in the handicap to come out to get a run but if he does he could be interesting. A son of the top class American Stallion War Front, he was unraced as a juvenile but has looked progressive in his 3yo career, winning three of his six starts. Despite being beaten last time, he took a further step forward, finishing 2nd to another upwardly mobile  3yo, Swindler. He was conceding 4lbs to the 3/4L winner and had Saturday’s opponent, Open Wide, whom he meets on 5 lbs better terms on Saturday a head back in third.

Selection. : Buffer Zone

EW.             : Summerghand  Hey Jonesy

John Gray

William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group1) 1m 61/2f Doncaster Saturday

doncaster racesDoncaster stages the final Classic of the British racing season on Saturday, and historically, York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes has been the best guide. Run over 1m4f at The Ebor Meeting, 13 winners of the Group2 event have gone on to Doncaster glory starting with Premonition who landed the double in 1953. Saturday’s hot favourite, the John Gosden trained, Logician, will be hoping to extend the sequence, but caution is advised as it is 12 years since the double has been landed, (by Lucarno, also trained by Gosden) and the only animal to have even run in The York race, and collected at Doncaster since, was last year’s Hero, Kew Gardens, (Finished 3rd at York). That said, Mr Gosden has won Doncaster’s Blue Riband on 4 occasions so certainly knows what is required and logician has plenty to recommend him.

The son of Frankel, unraced as a 2yo, began his career at a pretty low level, in a Class4 10f Newbury Maiden in May, which he won with ease, and followed up with 2 facile Handicap victories over 10 and 12 furlongs. Taking a huge step up in Class for the Great Voltigeur, he justified his short price of 10/11, keeping on strongly to beat the 110 rated, Ballydoyle hope, Constantinople by 1 3/4L. If he is as effective over Saturday’s extra 2 1/2f, he must have a great chance of giving Mr Gosden a 5th win in the Classic, but it’s worth remembering that The St Leger is all about stamina, and there are mixed messages coming from Logician’s pedigree. He is out of the Daylami mare Scuffle, whose dam never raced beyond 7f, and his full brother, Collide failed to stay on his only attempt at 14f. The furthest any of his other 3 half siblings have won over is 9 1/2 f so breeding would, at the very least, raise questions about the Frankel colts ability to grind it out up Doncaster’s long unforgiving strait on Saturday.

Having finished a close 3rd to Stradivarius and Dee Ex Bee in York’s 2mile Lonsdale Cup 22 days ago there are no stamina doubts about Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt
Il Paradiso, and beautifully bred, he is out of the Danehill Dancer mare, Famous, whose mother, Starlight Dreams, is the Dam Of the top class, Mastercraftsman. Prior to York he had hacked up by 12L in a 2m Curragh Handicap and he handles soft ground so any rain would have to help his chances.

Besides Il Paradiso, the Ballydoyle yard are mob handed at the time of writing, but Derby 5th, Sir Dragonet, (only beaten 3/4L and ridden by Ryan Moore) looks by far the most likely of them. Unraced as a 2yo, he has only run 4 times, and won his first two in the style of a stayer, cruising up in a 12 1/2f Tipperary Maiden in April, and then making short work of some decent animals in the 12 1/2f (Gd-Sft) Group3 Chester Vase, where he had Saturday’s opponents, Norway and Dashing Willoughby 8L and 3/4L back in 2nd and 3rd. Connections were perfectly happy with his 4th in a 10f Curragh Group 3 following a 76 day break 4 weeks ago and report him in fine fettle for Saturday’s Heat. He is by the St Leger runner up Camelot and his grand dam was a daughter of the great Urban Sea, (Dam of Galileo and Sea The Stars) so there are plenty of positives there. It will be interesting to see if Ryan chooses to take the ride again and if he does,take the hint!

The all conquering Middleham yard of training Maestro, Mark Johnston, will be hoping to land a first St Leger with their improving son of Australia, Sir Ron Priestley, and the style in which he won Goodwood’s 14f March Stakes 3 weeks ago, suggests that it may not be a forlorn one. Making all, under a canny ride from Saturday’s excellent pilot, Franny Norton, he stayed on strongly to win by 1 1/2L from Promissory with the 105 rated Manuela De Vega, (rec3lbs) another 1 1/2L back in 3rd. It has been a long time between drinks as far as Classics are concerned for such a top trainer, as Mr Johnston,
(Attraction 1000gns 2004 and Mr Baileys 2000gns 1994) and Im sure that most racing fans would agree that a third success is long overdue.

The Martyn Meade trained Technician improved for the step up in trip when taking Newbury’s 13f Geoffrey Freer Stakes 4 weeks ago in eye catching fashion. The son of Mastercraftsman stayed on well to beat the 113 rated favourite Morando on soft ground and would be worth considering if similar conditions prevail at the weekend.

Selection  : Sir Dragonet

EW.            : Sir Ron Priestley

John Gray

Betfair Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

haydock betfairThe Merseyside track hosts the only Group1 action anywhere in Britain or Ireland this weekend and Wiltshire trainer, Martyn Meade, will be hoping that his son of Showcasing, Advertise, can continue the good recent record of The Classic Generation
(3yo’s have won 4 of the last 5 renewals) in Saturday’s heat.

He has won 5 of his 9 starts and was scoring at the top level for the third time when landing Deauville’s Prix Maurice De Gheest, (6 1/2f Good) 34 days ago. Finishing strongly, he held on to win by a head from Saturday’s opponent, Brando. Mind you, the runner up kept on really well, and thanks to the fluctuating weight for age scale, is 2lbs better off on Saturday. Advertise’s other Group1 successes came in The Phoenix Stakes, (6f Gd Aug 2018) and Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup (6f Gd-Sft) in June. The form of The Phoenix Stakes hasn’t worked out with the runner up, So Perfect, (Btn 1/2L) only managing to win a Naas Group3 in his next 8 races. There are mixed messages coming from The Commonwealth Cup, with the well beaten 4th, Ten Soverigns (Btn 2 3/4L), dramatically reversing the form next time out, coming
home in most impressive fashion, to land Newmarket’s Group1 July Cup, where he had Advertise 2 3/4L back in second.

The Sprint Cup is one of the few top level events to elude The Master of Ballydoyle,
and Aidan will be hoping that the poor run of Ten Soverigns, following that impressive victory at Newmarket, in York’s 5f Nunthorpe Stakes last time, was either down to the drop in trip, or as is quite often the case at York, an inability to handle the surface on The Knavesmire. If he turns up in the same form as at Newmarket, and handles the likely soft ground, (his dam won on heavy) he might just fill that gap in the O’Brien CV.

Ballydoyle’s second string, the 3yo filly, Fairyland, has been disappointing since winning last year’s Chevely Park Stakes last Autumn, but it’s possible that this is her time of year, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see a big run from this well bred daughter of Kodiac.

michael stoute darleyVeteran handler, Sir Michael Stoute has won The Sprint Cup twice, but that was way back in 1986 and 1987. He runs the late developing 5yo entire, Dream Of Dreams, who has yet to score at the top level, but looked unlucky not to break his duck in Royal Ascot’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes in June. Finishing best of all, he was only beaten by a rapidly diminishing head, by the 123 rated Blue Point, and he was in front a stride past the post. The son of Dream Ahead was a big disappointment in The July Cup, finishing out the back, but he is clearly a difficult horse to get right, and if Sir Michael, who does so well with these late maturing types, has him at his peak, he must have a serious chance of landing a belated third victory for the master of Freemason Lodge.

Brando’s good run in The Prix Maurice De Gheest has been referred to above, and with plenty of rain about, the son of Pivotal’s chance, can only be enhanced. Trained by the talented Yorkshire trainer, Kevin Ryan, who is no stranger to top level success, Brando was only beaten 1/2L by The Tin Man (disappointing since) in last year’s renewal on heavy ground, and has won three times on soft. As demonstrated by that good run at Deauville, he is clearly as good as ever, and if the ground does turn testing has to be worth considering.

img_7619Kevin (pictured) also runs the upwardly mobile 3yo, Hello Youmzain who has won 3 of his 6 starts, and emphasised his soft ground credentials when winning a Maison-Laffitte Group2 last Autumn on holding ground. He won a Group2 over course and distance, (6f Gd-Fm) in May, and last time finished 3rd to Advertise in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup. Further improvement is required, but the son of Kodiac has a progressive profile, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him involved.

The Charlie Hills trained son of Dark Angel, Khaadem, has won 4 of his 7 starts, and the 3yo looked a pretty serious animal when hosing up in Goodwood’s Stewards Cup 5 weeks ago. Surprisingly for such an inexperienced animal, he was backed as if defeat was out of the question, and justified the confidence, winning in the style of a top class Group horse. Saturday presents a very different test but khaadem looks a really progressive type and has to be on any shortlist, and I’m sure Charlie would love to emulate Dad, Barry, who won with Red Club in 2007.

The James Tate trained Invincible Army seems to be the forgotten runner in the race. He looked a horse going places when cruising up in a York Group2 in the Spring but disappointed in the Diamond Jubilee and The Prix Maurice De Gheest on Good/ Firm
and Good ground. However he did easily win a Group3 on Newcastle’s AW in between, and it’s quite possible that a return to easier conditions could spark a revival.

Selection   : Dream Of Dreams

EW.             : Brando

John Gray

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