Tattersalls Irish 2000Gns 1 Mile Curragh Tips Saturday

First run in 1921, The Irish 2000Gns has been dominated by Aidan O’Brien who has won the Classic an amazing eleven times, and indeed has hit the back of the net eight times in the last ten renewals. Nine animals have brought off the Newmarket and Curragh 2000Gns double, including the O’Brien trained Churchill last year, but with this year’s Newmarket Hero, Saxon Warrior, staying in his box we won’t be seeing a tenth this weekend. However, the Master Of Ballydoyle, with five declared runners at the time of writing, holds his usual strong hand, and while it is dangerous to ever ignore a contender from the yard, the two to concentrate on appear to be Gustav Klimt and US Navy Flag.

Gustav Klimt was disappointing in The 2000Gns, finishing 6th, 3 3/4L behind his impressive winning stablemate, Saxon Warrior, but in his previous race, The Leopardstown 2000Gns Trial, he had impressed when beating Saturday’s opponent, Imaging, by a comfortable 1 3/4L, and he had also done well to overcome difficulties to win last year’s Group2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket. (7f Gd/Fm). He is a real Blue Blood, by Galileo out of The Danehill mare Massarra,(a cross much favoured by Coolmore) and his Grand dam, Rafha, has produced the two outstanding Stallions, Invincible Spirit and Kodiac so a victory in Saturday’s Classic would certainly hugely enhance Gustav Klimt’s value and guarantee his future as a stallion.

US Navy Flag’s record of 4 wins from 12 starts, isn’t that impressive at first glance, but two of them were achieved at the top level last Autumn, when he won the 6f Middlepark and the 7f Dewhurst both at Newmarket. He was always in command in the latter, making all, and staying on strongly, to beat his stablemate, Mendelssohn by 2 1/2L, but then disappointed badly three weeks later, when attempting similar tactics in The Breeders Cup Juvenile on Dirt (1m100yds). Well beaten behind Gustav Klimt at Leopardstown on his reappearance he was more convincing next time in The French 2000Gns when leading inside the 3f marker he stumbled badly, but regaining his balance kept on but was headed over 1f out, and faded into 5th place. This was a decent effort in the circumstances, and it won’t surprise if this son of Warfront, whose dam, Misty For Me won four times at the top level including the Irish 1000Gns in 2011, is involved at the business end at the weekend.

The Dermot Weld trained Imaging, having been put in his place by Gustav Klimt at Leopardstown, was quite impressive next time when winning the 7f Listed Tetrarch Stakes at Naas on better ground. Short of space from 1f out, and denied a clear run, he quickened well between horses to win going away by 3/4L from Would Be King. By Oasis Dream, out of a mare who was a Listed winner at 1m2f, Imaging will be well suited by the step back up to a mile and is considered.

CURRAGHJames A Stack, (Fozzy) is the son of Tommy, who steered the Immortal Red Rum to his third Aintree victory and would love to make his own bit of racing history with his rapidly improving son of Choisir, Zihba, on Saturday. A winner of his only start as a 2yo,(Dundalk AW Maiden) he won again at the same venue on his reappearance, but there was little to suggest that we had seen a future Classic winner. However 51 days later he took a giant step forward when winning The Group3 Amethyst Stakes at Leopardstown. He took it up inside the final furlong, and kept on well to win by 1 1/2L. Further progress will be required to get involved on Saturday, but this son of Choisir, out of a Galileo mare, is clearly improving at a rate of knots.

Our selection for the Newmarket 2000Gns, Elarqam was a little disappointing in only finishing 4th but his hugely talented trainer was not dismayed feeling that his inexperience and freshness hadn’t helped his cause. He did suffer some slight interference, and seemed to hesitate coming out of Newmarket’s Dip, but then ran on again. He had been impressive in both starts prior to the 2000Gns, particularly in the Group3 Tattersalls Stakes last September where he beat the subsequent 2000Gns runner up Tip Two Win by 2 1/2L. The son of Frankel is out of the wonderful mare Attraction who can count victory in the Irish 1000Gns in 2004 amongst her five top level success’s, and with The Mark Johnston operation firing in the winners, Elarqam looks the one to beat.

Selection: Elarqam

EW. : Imaging

John Gray

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Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Tips (Group1) 1Mile Newbury Saturday

It is fifteen years since Aidan O’Brien has won The Lockinge (with the brilliant Hawk Wing) and indeed he has drawn a complete blank with all eleven contenders, failing to even secure a place, but he mounts a serious looking challenge this year with four entries at the time of writing, War Decree, Deauville, Lancaster Bomber, Rhododendron. Of the four, if the vibes are correct, the two to concentrate on are the the son of War Front, Lancaster Bomber, and the daughter of Galileo, Rhododendron.

Despite having only a single victory from his sixteen starts, a Leopardstown Maiden in August 2016, on his C.V. Lancaster Bomber has managed to amass prize money approaching £1000,000 from some excellent performances at Group1 level. He was only 1 1/2L behind stable companion, Churchill, when finishing 4th in last year’s 2000Gns, and finished a length second to Barney Roy, putting in a top class effort in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot. He could also count seconds in The Woodbine Mile and The Breeders Cup, together with a close fifth in the Hong Kong Mile, all Group1 contests, amongst last terms achievements so is a proven Group1 player. He disappointed at Meydan on his reappearance, but drawn 12, had to race wide the whole way and is easily forgiven. A son of War Front the key to Lancaster Bomber is the ground and given a fast surface at the weekend must have serious prospects of getting win number two on the scoreboard.

Rhododendron_oddsguruHaving won twice at the top level, and finished second in both the 1000Gns and Oaks last year, Rhododendron (pictured) is clearly out of the top drawer, and put in another excellent effort when runner up in the Breeders Cup over a mile last November. Probably needing the run, she put in a satisfactory performance when finishing 5th behind Cracksman at Longchamp on her reappearance 20 days ago over 10 1/2f which should have put her spot on for Saturday. She won the Group1 Dubai Fillies Mile as a 2yo on Good/Firm ground very comfortably from stable companion Hydrangea so should find Saturday’s test ideal and looks the one to beat.

The Henry Candy trained 6yo, Limato has won nine of his nineteen starts, two of them at the top level. His first Group1 success was in the 2016 July Cup at Newmarket and he followed up by winning the 7f Group1 Prix De La Foret at Chantilly the same year. Reported to be fit and well and with ground conditions likely to be in his favour the big question mark concerning Candy’s speedster has to be his failure to ever win over a mile. However he was 4th behind Belardo in the 2016 renewal and the way he has won over 7f does suggest that Saturday’s trip should be within his compass.

Having won five of his seven starts, the Andrew Balding trained 4yo, Beat The Bank’s career is clearly on a sharp upward trajectory. Unraced as a 2yo, he won his first race, a lowly Dundalk Maiden on the All Weather in February 2017, and six months later found him in the Newmarket Winners Enclosure having won his fifth race, the Group2 Shadwell Joel Stakes by 5L from The Aidan O’Brien trained Sir John Lavery. Having been on the go for seven months he can be excused his poor run in the Queen Elizabeth 11 a month later, and if the son of Paco Boy has maintained his progress over the Winter, Beat The Bank will be a threat to all.

Another animal whose best days are probably ahead of him is the Roger Varian trained 5yo Zabeel Prince. Very lightly raced, he has only had the six starts, and was quite impressive in the last of them, winning the Listed, Doncaster Mile, pretty comfortably from the front, eight weeks ago. Having his first run for 154 days, he made all, and pulled clear in the final furlong to register his fourth success. While Saturday’s test is a big step up, Roger, who won with Belardo two years ago, feels that it is only now, as a 5yo that Zabeel Prince is reaching his full potential, and it won’t come as a surprise to see him involved on Saturday.

Connections of the 4yo Addeybb, clearly knew they had a Group horse in the making when he trotted up in The Lincoln, landing a substantial gamble, and so it proved five weeks later when the son of Pivotal won the Group2, bet365 Mile at Sandown quite impressively. He is now on a mark of 117 which puts him right in the mix for Saturday but firm ground would be a concern. Four of his five victories have been achieved with soft in the going description, and the fifth, (Ascot July 17 Good) was won in a time suggestive of a slower surface. However he looks to be an animal going places, and while plenty of horses by Pivotal do handle soft ground really well, it is by no means a prerequisite for his offspring.

Selection: Rhododendron

E.W. : Lancaster Bomber

John Gray

Qipco 2000Gns Tips 1mile (Rowley) Newmarket Saturday

Rock The Kasbah gave us a good run for our money in last week’s bet365 Gold Cup but the ground had gone against him, and he did well to hold onto second place behind the runaway winner Stepback to whom he was conceding a stone. The dreadful weather has had a huge influence on results all through this winter so let’s hope the forecasters have got it right, and the first Classic of the year on Saturday is run with the Sun shining on a decent racing surface.

Aidan O’Brien, with an astonishing eight wins in the race, (an all time record), won four of the five British Classics last season, including the 2000gns, (with Churchill) and will be hoping to get off the mark again this year at the first time of asking. Of his quartet of entries at the time of writing, the two to concentrate on are Gustav Klimt, and last year’s Group1, Racing Post Trophy Victor, Saxon Warrior.

The former has won three of his four starts, including the Group2 Superlative Stakes (7f Gd/fm) over The July Course, where despite being hampered and losing his place at the 2 furlong marker, he battled back to win by a head from the useful Nebo. He was quite impressive on his reappearance, winning The Leopardstown 2000gns Trial (7f Hy) putting 1 3/4L between himself and the runner up, Imaging, in the last 150yds. By super stallion, Galileo, out of the Danehill mare Massarra, (a cross much favoured by Coolmore) Gustav Klimt hasn’t had the opportunity to race at the top level yet, (withdrawn from the Group1 National Stakes because of a stone bruise last September),but his full brother, Mars, was placed at the top level and finished 6th in the 2013 renewal of Saturday’s contest. Of further interest from a breeding point of view is that the grand dam, Rafha has produced the two outstanding stallions, Invincible Spirit and Kodiac.

Saxon Warrior has raced three times and won all of them, including last time, when he won the Group1 Racing Post Trophy from Saturday’s opponent, Roaring Lion last October. He was headed by the Gosden horse, who tended to hang left inside the final furlong but gamely fought back to win by a head. There are mixed messages from his pedigree as he is by the very successful Japanese stallion, Deep Impact out of The Galileo mare Maybe, who didn’t seem to train on after a terrific two year old career. She won all five of her starts as a 2yo, including at the top level, but never beyond 7f. She was beaten 10L, finishing third behind Homecoming Queen in the 1000gns and never again troubled the judge in her career. Her only other offspring, Saxon Warrior’s full brother, Pavlenko, has only managed a single maiden victory from eleven starts.

While the Charlie Appleby trained Masar did win two of his six starts as a 2yo, including the Group3 Solario Stakes at Sandown, his overall form didn’t suggest that he might win a 2000gns, an impression reinforced by his first run as a 3yo, where he finished 10th on the dirt at Meydan in March. However, last time he put up a real eye catching performance in The Craven Stakes, Racing over Saturday’s course and distance, he made all to come home 9L clear of White Mocha, with the Racing Post Trophy runner up, Roaring Lion, the 8/13 favourite, another 1/4L back in third. While visually very impressive it’s worth remembering that the runner up was rated 13lbs inferior to masar and the time, 3.1 seconds slower than standard on good ground, was nothing to write home about. However his winter in the sun has obviously done him good and he’s worth a second look.

We can only assume that Roaring Lion didn’t run his race in The Craven but based on his Racing Post form, and his win over Aidan O’Briens’ talented Nelson, in The Royal Lodge last September, he has to be of interest. However that poor performance last time is a serious concern, so perhaps Gosden’s best chance of landing a first 2000gns lies with the lightly raced son of Frankel, Without Parole.

He didn’t see a racecourse until last December when he dotted up in a lowly Class5 on the AW at Newcastle, and was again impressive when winning another Class5 at Yarmouth eleven days ago. The form doesn’t amount to much and Saturday represents a huge step up in class, but it’s worth noting that half brother Tamarkuz has had a hugely successful career, albeit on the AW, winning at the highest level, and banking more than £1.2 million in prize money.

Since winning with Mister Baileys in 1994, Mark Johnston has drawn a blank in the 2000gns but must entertain serious hopes of landing a second with his talented son of Frankel, Elarqam. He is out of that wonderful mare, Attraction, who won five Group ones, including the 1000gns in 2004 for Johnston, and Elarqam has been impressive in winning both of his starts, at York and Newmarket. The form of his win at Headquarters has been franked, with the runner up, Tip Two Win, easily winning his next two races, including a local Group2 in Doha last time. Elarqam not only has his inexperience to overcome, as well as the rest of the field, but coming from this yard, it won’t surprise if he does.

Selection: Elarqam

E.W. : Masar

John Gray

Preview 32Red Lincoln Handicap 1mile Doncaster Saturday

Three 6yo’s have won this in the past decade, two of them trained by master trainer, Richard Fahey, (Gabrial 2015, and Brae Hill 2012) and it’s not impossible that the Malton genius will bring up the treble with his son of Clodovil, Third Time Lucky. The 6yo showed that he stays beyond a mile, (always a useful attribute in The Lincoln) and can cope with the demands of a large field handicap, when winning the Cambridgeshire in 2015 (1m1f) Of a mark of 95, and indeed finishing 4th in the following years renewal. Since returning from a 218 days break last November, he has been campaigned exclusively on the All Weather, and put up a decent performance last time, when unsuited by the steadily run contest, he finished a respectable 3rd in Wolverhampton’s Lincoln Trial a fortnight ago, racing off a mark of 95. Arguably a better horse on turf, he will be much better suited by Saturday’s pillar to post gallop on ground that will suit, and off a mark only 2lbs higher than for that Cambridgeshire victory, has to be of interest. (25/1 available at the time of writing).

While experience counts for plenty in The Lincoln, the three times winning trainer (from only seven runners), Willie Haggas, has won on two of those occasions with animals that had raced fewer than six times. This has to make his sole entry, the lightly raced 4yo Addeybb, of interest. Unraced as a 2yo, he has won three of his five starts, winning his first Handicap, last July (Ascot 1m Good) off a mark of 88. Failing to see out the 1m2f trip next time (Goodwood Soft) he only finished 3rd, but dropped back to 9f for a Class2 Newmarket Handicap eight weeks later he won by 1/2L and a Short Head from Saturday’s opponents, Affak, and Fire brigade. He hasn’t been seen since, (176 days ago), but as seven of the last ten Lincoln Winners were making their seasonal debuts, it shouldn’t be a problem, and the vibes from Newmarket are all positive. The Haggas yard is in form and as a son of Pivotal whose offspring thrive in soft ground, Addeybb has plenty going for him.

The Michael Bell trained Fire Brigade meets his Newmarket conqueror on 2lbs worse terms at the weekend, but he did show improved form when taking a Class2 Leicester Handicap off a 4lbs higher mark a month after that Headquarters heat, and intriguingly, Ryan Moore has deserted Addeybb to take the ride on The Bell horse. Fire Brigade is much the more experienced of the two, and likes it soft (has won over Newmarket’s testing mile on soft), so perhaps Ryan has made the right choice, and might just add a first Lincoln Handicap victory to his C.V.

Top handler, David O’Meara won last year’s renewal with the 20/1 chance, Bravery, and his talented 5yo, Lord Glitters has the ability to go close for David again this year. A winner of four of his nine starts in France, he was purchased for €270,000, and came to the Upper Helmsley yard last October. He has collected nearly £200,000 pounds in prize money from his three starts in England ( a win, and runner up twice) since his arrival, and showed an impressive change of gear to get up in the final strides at Ascot on soft ground (1mile) to collect a monster £155,000 first prize. He is now on a 5lbs higher mark leaving him with top weight of 9-10 to shoulder, a burden last carried to victory by Babodana twenty years ago and obviously faces a stiff task, but I feel we have yet to see the best of this son of American sire, Whipper.

Another French import who has done well since leaving his homeland is the Henry Spiller trained 6yo Leader Writer. Transferred to the Spiller yard last July he won a Class2 Ascot Handicap last September (1 Mile Soft) off a mark of 92. Following a 133 day break he made a satisfactory reappearance on the All Weather at Lingfield, finishing two lengths behind the winner in fourth, off Saturday’s mark of 97. A son of Pivotal he thrives in soft conditions, and there is nothing, up and coming young trainer Henry Spiller, (took over from veteran trainer, Willie Musson at Saville House Stables in 2016) would enjoy more, than victory in such a high profile heat.

The last time a horse older than six prevailed in The Lincoln was when the 8yo Hunters Of Broara won twenty years ago, but if the Robert Eddery trained 7yo Donncha manages to get his head in front on Saturday, he won’t be winning out of turn. He was only beaten a neck in the Doncaster Mile in 2016, and he finished best of all in last years renewal of The Lincoln to come 3rd. He had to be switched at the furlong marker, and flew home, only to be denied by a couple of necks. He only ran four more times after Doncaster, and has been off the racecourse since last July. The handicapper has been generous and dropped him 3lbs, leaving him with a nice racing weight of 9-0. He suffered “the unkindest cut of all” last November, which hopefully has had a beneficial effect, and left the son of Captain Marvellous a more tractable animal, ready to strike a blow for the older horse.

Selection : Fire Brigade

E.W. : Third Time Lucky and Leader writer

John Gray

Racing Post Trophy Stakes (Group1) 1m Str Doncaster Saturday

The all conquering Aidan O’Brien, requires just a single further success at the top level to secure his place in the record books as the trainer of most Group1/Grade1 winners in a season, and looks to hold a strong hand in Britain’s Final Group1 of the season, The Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Saturday. He equalled the record last weekend, with the daughter of Galileo, Hydrangea, and another scion of the great sire, The Pentagon, looks to have plenty to recommend him on Saturday.

Like many O’Brien youngsters this year he was beaten on his introduction in June, (7f Curragh Soft) but looked a different animal five weeks later winning his maiden (7f Gd-fm) in good style, and progressed again last time at the end of July to take a Leopardstown Group3 (7f Good). His pedigree strongly suggests that a step up to a mile will bring further improvement as he is out of the Unfuwain mare Vadawina who won three of her four starts for French Maestro, Andre Fabre, including at Group1 level over 1m2 1/2f. None of her five previous offspring have been successful in a Group1, but half brother Vadamar has won at distances from 11f- 14f including at Group2 level, and was an honourable seventh, 4 1/2L behind Pour Moi in the 2011 Derby. Stamina shouldn’t be a problem and further improvement is the more likely outcome for the step up to a mile.

At the time of writing, O’Briens, Saxon Warrior heads the market, and this son of the outstanding Japanese stallion, Deep Impact, (winner of seven Group1’s and sire of over thirty individual Group1 winners) is unbeaten in his two outings. He is out of the outstanding Galileo mare, Maybe, who was undefeated in her five races as a 2yo in 2011, including the 1mile Group1 Moyglare Stakes and was awarded the title of Champion 2yo European Filly. Her 3yo career was less successful but nevertheless managed a third in the 1000Gns and a fifth in The Oaks. She has only produced the two foals to date and unlike his full brother, Pavlenko, who only managed a single success from ten starts, Saxon Warrior’s career has started on a much more positive note. Starting at odds of 8/1 on his debut, (7f yielding Aug 27 Curragh) he looked in trouble two furlongs out, but taken to the outside he fairly found his stride to lead a hundred yards out and went clear to win impressively by 3 1/4L. Four weeks later he again impressed when winning a Group2 over a mile at Naas by 2 1/2L from stable companion Delano Roosevelt on soft ground. Looks the one to beat!

Andrea Atzeni has ridden the last four winners of The Racing Post Trophy, and up and coming trainer, Martyn Meade, was quick to snap him up for his promising colt Chilean. A winner of two of his three starts, the son of Iffraaj was particularly impressive last time when winning a Listed race at Haydock (1m Heavy) by 3 1/2L and 1/2L from Learn By Heart and Dee Ex Bee. As the latter won next time out and then finished 3 1/2L behind the O’Brien trained Kew Gardens in The Zetland Stakes the form has a solid look to it and could get involved particularly if the ground gets testing.

Jim Bolger has never won The Racing Post Trophy but his son of Vocalised, Verbal Dexterity, seems to have plenty of the attributes required to give him a first. A winner of a Curragh maiden (7f Soft) on his racecourse debut in June, he was a good second to the very useful Beckford when dropped back to an inadequate six furlongs next time, and completely reversed the form ten weeks later in a Curragh Group1 (7f Sft-Hvy) winning by 3 1/2L from the same animal. By first season sire, Vocalised, who was best around seven furlongs, out of a mare who was only rated 68 the Bolger colt is certainly not bred on the Classic lines of some of the opposing “Blue Bloods” but the man is such a genius, it wouldn’t surprise to see him break his duck on Saturday.

Sir Michael Stoute has an interesting contender in his twice raced contender, Gabr. He is by another first season sire, Intello, a son of Galileo, who won the French Derby in 2013 and was crowned top French 3yo. He is out of the Group2 winning mare, Spacious and was expensively bought at 300,000gns. He showed plenty of promise on his debut in that very valuable York maiden (7f good) worth over £43,000 finishing second and he gained some further valuable experience five weeks ago when winning a minor contest over a mile at Yarmouth at odds of 4/9. He arrives on Saturday as something of an unknown quantity, but maiden winners, with ten success’s from the last forty renewals, have a respectable record and is worth considering.

Selection : Saxon Warrior

E.W. : Chilean

John Gray

Qipco Champion Stakes Tips (Group1) 1m2f Ascot Saturday

Followers of The Oddsguru blog should have been on good terms with themselves following last week’s Cesarewitch Handicap. Our selection, Withhold came home in front with our E.W. suggestion, London Prize a gallant second, keeping on well at the rewarding odds of 16/1. The winner was backed in from around 10/1 on the day to 5/1 favourite but I hope some readers availed of the much fancier odds available when first advised. The winner won with plenty in hand and is one to keep in mind for next years Cup Races, while the runner up on this performance must still be a well handicapped horse over hurdles, and is one to keep on the right side of in that discipline.

With the market going 3/1 the field at the time of writing, Saturday’s Champion Stakes has quite an open look about it, and there must be at least half a dozen contenders with realistic chances. Sir Michael Stoute with two wins is the most successful handler at the weekend, although we have to rewind seventeen years to the last time he was in the winners enclosure, when his 4yo Kalinisi, came home in front. He is represented at the time of writing by the brilliant Ulysses, winner of this year’s Eclipse Stakes, (Oddsguru’s Selection) and Judmonte International, and an excellent third in The Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe a fortnight ago. He does seem to have an excellent chance on paper, particularly if the rain stays away but with his main objective being The Breeders Cup in just two weeks time it wouldn’t surprise if he didn’t run and Sir Michael relied on his second string, Poets Word.

This 4yo son of Poets Voice, with only eight runs under his belt, has made giant strides this term, and could prove to be a more than able substitute. He started the season winning a Class2 Chelmsford Handicap off a mark of 104, and followed up with a good second in a Chester Group3(10 1/2f Good). He won a Goodwood Group3 (12f Soft) next time, forging clear in the last furlong, and put up a career best last time, when running Decorated Knight To 1/2L in The Irish Champion Stakes. Out of the tough Nashwan mare, Whirly Bird, who won five of her seven starts, Poets Word is on a strong upward trajectory and is well worth considering, particularly if the going is soft.

Since the race was transferred to Ascot The Classic generation have only had a single success, Almanzor last year, but overall the three year olds have a respectable record with eighteen wins since 1980, and the market at the time of writing is headed by one of that age group, John Gosden’s 3yo colt, Cracksman. As a son of the great Frankel out of the Pivotal mare Rhadegunda who was best at distances around a mile, Cracksman is bred to be a miler but has looked to need every yard of 12f when winning his last two races. He might just find himself tapped for a bit of toe up Ascots short straight.

The Richard Hannon (pictured above) trained, Barney Roy kicked off his season winning the 2000gns Trial, The Greenham Stakes, at Newbury in April and could have been an unlucky loser of the Guineas itself as he stumbled going into the dip and lost his action. He recovered, and fought back to go down to Churchill by a length. He went on to win The St James’s Palace Stakes by 1L from Lancaster Bomber and when stepped up to 10f put up a superb effort when going down by a rapidly diminishing nose to Ulysses in The Eclipse. He didn’t get the best of rides when finishing 2L and a neck behind Ulysses and Churchill in the Juddmonte International next time and connections are confident that he will be much closer this time. While the two in front of him that day have been kept busy he has had a nice nine week’s break and will strip a much fresher animal on Saturday.

Surprisingly, a victory in The Champion Stakes is missing from the C.V. of A O’Brien, but with eight entries at the time of writing you would have to think that he is pretty serious about correcting the deficit this time around. A further incentive needless to say is that record of Bobby Frankels which he is so close to breaking. (25 Group1 victories in a season). His best chance probably lies with the doughty Highland Reel. The 5yo son of Galileo has already won six races at the highest level and banked more than six million quid. It will need to stay dry however as he has never won on anything slower than good.

The prize has gone across the Channel four times in the last eleven years and

Jean-Claude Rouget, who won with the 3yo Literato in 2007 looks to have a live contender with another 3yo, Brametot. Quite cheaply bought he must have delighted connections when winning the French 2000Gns and followed up in The Prix Du Jockey Club. Given a 73 day holiday he finished fifth at Deauville in a prep race for The Arc and then ran well to finish fifth again in the Chantilly showpiece itself despite a difficult passage. Probably best at 10f he could be involved at the business end on Saturday.

Selection : Barney Roy

E.W. : Poets Word

John Gray

Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap 1m1f Newmarket Tips (Row) Saturday

Sadly, last week’s Ayr Gold Cup was lost to the weather, but happily it has been reincarnated as the 32Red Gold Cup, albeit with a maximum of only seventeen runners, and will be run at Haydock Park on Saturday. I would be perfectly happy that both of last week’s selections, Shanghai Glory and Johnny Barnes, should still have decent chances at the rescheduled venue, but perhaps the Merseyside track will favour the former.

Saturday also sees the 136th renewal of the first leg of the Autumn Double, The Cambridgeshire Handicap, and with the great open spaces of Newmarket Heath at their disposal a maximum field of 35 can be accommodated. Usually run with the throttle full out from flagfall, the contest is invariably won by an animal with a high cruising speed, and has the stamina to last every last inch of the punishing Rowley course, so not surprisingly it is often won by a contender with proven form over further than 9 furlongs. Weight as always is a very significant factor with only six animals in the last forty years winning with more than 9-4 in the plate. Indeed five of the last seven winners carried 8-9 or less. With good recent form a prerequisite, and a proven track record over a straight course, a definite positive, last week’s Newbury winner Brorocco certainly fulfils plenty of the necessary criteria.

Trained by Andrew Balding (pictured) the 4yo son of Shirocco, travelled supremely well in midfield in the 10f Newbury contest, until pilot David Probert asked him to quicken two furlongs out, and he came with a very smooth run to win very comfortably indeed from co/favourite Fidaawy. He is only 4lbs higher on Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 8-7, and so long as the ground doesn’t go against him, (has never won on anything softer than good) must have a great chance.

Should conditions deteriorate Andrew’s other runner, Naval Warfare shouldn’t be too inconvenienced. The 3yo son of Born To Sea thrived on the good/soft ground when winning a 1mile Class2 Newmarket Handicap on the July course in August off a mark of 92, and again looked a useful individual, who needed further, when beaten less than a length in a 1m Sandown Listed race ten days ago. He races on Saturday off 93 giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and is worth considering particularly if conditions deteriorate.

The David Menuisier trained Thundering Blue has gone up 17lbs on official figures over his last three races, and judging by the way he stormed home in the last hundred yards at Sandown four weeks ago there is probably plenty more to come from the 4yo son of Exchange Rate. A slight concern would be that he seemed to need all of the 10f at Sandown but this should be negated by the likely greater pace and softer ground on Saturday. He races off 93 at the weekend only 6lbs higher than Sandown, giving him a racing weight of 8-7 and looks a worthy favourite.

The David Simcock trained 3yo, Bless Him, won the Britannia Stakes over Ascot’s straight mile in June, but wasn’t seen again until contesting a Goodwood Group3 over an inadequate 7f where he made little impact, five weeks ago. However the colt’s win at the Royal meeting was impressive, and as a son of Sea The Stars out of a Refuse To Bend mare, the extra furlong on Saturday May well bring further improvement, and even on a 10lbs higher mark than Ascot is worth considering.

The willie Haggas trained 3yo, Novoman won a 10f York Handicap off a mark of 86 in July, and six weeks later won a 10 1/2f Goodwood Handicap off an 8lbs higher mark. Clearly progressive the son of Sir Prancealot doesn’t look badly treated off a five pounds higher mark and could get involved.

The Michael Appleby trained Big Country put up a very solid performance when running the talented Ballet Concerto To 3/4L in a Twenty runner York handicap in July as the winner won his next two races, both at Group3 level. Very well bred, by High Chaparral out of a Danehill mare he could make his presence felt.

Unraced as a 2yo, The Sir Michael Stoute trained El Hayem won his maiden over Doncaster’s straight mile on his second racecourse appearance as a 3yo, at odds of 25/1, and has put up some decent handicap performances including beating that useful yardstick, GM Hopkins by a neck off a mark of 92 in July (1m). He was only fifth last time in a York handicap (1m) but certainly didn’t help his cause by dwelling in the stalls at the start. Given plenty of time by his canny trainer he looks well treated on a mark of 96 giving him a racing weight of 8-10 and is well worth considering.

Selection: Brorocco

E.W. : Thundering Blue

John Gray