Almanzor Primed For Qipco Champion Stakes Glory

almanzor-eyes-qipco-champion-stakes-glory
Almanzor looks the one in Saturday’s Qipco Champion Stakes
– A race first run in 1877 in which, over the next one hundred and forty years, the classic generation have had more than their fair share of success, but since the race was transferred from headquarters to Ascot in 2011 no three year old has managed to get his head in front. Sir Michael Stoute with two winners, Pilsudski 1997, and Kalinisi in 2000, has been the most successful of Saturday’s trainers, but one name, most conspicuous by its absence from the roll of honour, is one, Aidan Patrick O’Brien. However the Ballydoyle maestro, with four entries at the time of writing is attempting to fill in this glaring gap in his amazing CV, and as his 1000gns and Oaks winner, Minding, is more likely to run in the Qipco Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes, his best chance would seem to lie with the “Arc” heroine of 13 days ago, Found. She was probably a little unlucky when finishing second in this to Fascinating Rock last year, but it is significant that she was again beaten, fair and square over 10f, in the Irish Champion Stakes by Almanzor, prior to that superb Arc victory, and it may be that she now needs a full 12f to show her best. Indeed the French race, which was run in a really fast time strongly played to her undoubted stamina. However she is a really tough animal, as she showed last year when, having finished second in this and the Arc, she went on to take the 12f Breeders Cup Turf only two weeks later, and as this is her time of year, her chance is certainly not easily dismissed.

The Dermot Weld trained Fascinating Rock won last year’s renewal by 1 1/4L and 1/2L from Found and Jack Hobbs, and indeed the score between the Weld 5yo and the filly stands at 2-1 in his favour, emphasizing what a top class animal the son of Fastnet Rock is. He is a big gross horse who needs to get his toe in and if he gets his conditions at the weekend he must have serious prospects of adding to his master trainer’s impressive Ascot record.

Having won his only 2yo race, and hacked up by 12L on his reappearance as a 3yo, Jack Hobbs looked like an animal going places, and so it proved, finishing second in the Derby and winning the Irish equivalent by 5L. Following that honorable third in last year’s Champion Stakes he was put away for the season and reappeared in a 12f Newmarket Group 2 in April where he was sent off the 8/15 fav. He was pulled up, and a stress fracture to his pelvis was diagnosed. His hugely talented handler John Gosden, was firmly of the opinion that the son of Halling was immature as a 3yo, and that he would be more the finished article with another year on his back, so obviously that Newmarket setback was a blow. However on the positive side, horses do make full recoveries from this particular injury, and as he is an animal who obviously goes well fresh, the enforced holiday could prove to have been a blessing in disguise.

Sir Michael Stoute attempts to add to his two previous successes with the very lightly raced 3yo son of Galileo, Midterm, and it would come as no surprise at all if this beautifully bred animal figured very prominently on Saturday. He is out of that marvellous mare Midday who won six Group 1s, including an unprecedented three timer in Goodwoods 10f Group1 Nassau stakes, in her fabulous racing career. An impressive winner of both 2yo starts, Midterm confirmed the promise shown, when winning a Sandown Group3 on his reappearance and was sent off a warm order for the Dante Stakes. Unfortunately he sustained an injury during the course of the race, but for which he may well have started favourite for the Derby itself. However he showed that no lasting damage had been caused when finishing a close second in a Chantilly Group2 four months later. This beautifully bred animal’s career has yet to seriously take off but Saturday could well see him in the departure lounge.

J.C. Rouget’s 3yo Colt Almanzor is a hugely progressive animal. He won the French Derby, (10 1/2f) as an unconsidered 20/1 shot at the beginning of June, and followed up with a comfortable win in a Deauville Group2 eleven weeks later. It was last time though, which showed what giant strides he had  taken, when he cruised to success in the highly competitive Irish Champion Stakes 33 days ago. Second last of the 12 runner field  at the two furlong marker, he was switched to the outer, and made rapid headway to get to the leader, Found, and effortlessly went past the filly inside the last 100yds. With strong reservations on breeding, (his sire Wotton Basset never won beyond 7f) he didn’t take up his engagement, in the Prix de L’Arc, quite rightly in my opinion. He should arrive at the start on Saturday a fresh animal, and is going to be hard to beat.

Selection: Almanzor

E.W.       : Midterm

Temple Stakes Betting Tips

Temple Stakes Betting Tips 5f Group2 Haydock Saturday.

I hope you were on last week’s selection, Belardo, the 8/1 winner of the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. Slowly out of the gate, he went left and was soon behind. However Andrea Atzeni always had the field covered, and when he pressed the button inside the final furlong the response was immediate, and he took the lead in the style of a top class animal. This was reminiscent of his victory in the Group1 Dewhurst as a 2yo, when Atzeni was also on top, and he does seem to have an excellent rapport with the horse. Belardo’s action does require some give in the surface for him to perform to his optimum, and given such conditions on the first day of Royal Ascot, he would definitely appeal in the opening heat, The Queen Anne Stakes.

Mecca’s Angel is another animal who loves to get her toe in, and I’m sure connections would love to see the heavens open in advance of Saturday’s Temple Stakes at Haydock. Last year she made her seasonal debut in a Longchamp Group3, winning comfortably on easy ground. She was found out ten weeks later at the Curragh on good ground, going down by a neck to the useful Stepper Point, but next time, back on good-soft ground she covered herself in glory winning the Group1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in some style. The flying American 2yo filly, Acapulco, who had earlier won the Queen Mary Stakes at the Royal, meeting was sent off the 13/8 favourite, but even in receipt of 24lbs she couldn’t resist Mecca’s Angel’s devastating late burst inside the last 100 yards and was beaten 2L. She didn’t run in the Prix D’Labbaye because of the fast ground and was put away for the season. Having won in the Spring in all three of her campaigns, and indeed finished in front first time out for the last two seasons, she is clearly a mare who comes to hand early, so with plenty of wet weather forecast, she has to be fancied and it may be worth availing of the 3/1 currently on offer.

Top trainer of sprinters, Robert Cowell, is mob handed with five entered at the time of writing. They include the 2013 winner Kingsgate Native and it would be wonderful to see this 11yo veteran do it again, but realistically his best chance lies with the 7yo Oasis Dream gelding, Goldream. Another proverbial “Fine Wine” he didn’t try his hand at group class until last May when he won the Group3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. Better was to come with two Group1 victories, in the Kings Stand at Royal Ascot, and The Prix D’ Labbaye at Longchamp. He has been disappointing in his two outings so far this term, both in Dubai in March, but his trainer now reports him back to his best. However he is another who is ground dependant, needing a fast surface to show his best and the current forecast is not in his favour. Also he has a Group1 penalty to carry so perhaps he is one for later in the season.

Clive Cox’s 4yo Invincible Spirit colt, Profitable demonstrated that he is a sprinter on the “up” last time when winning the Palace House Stakes in taking fashion where he stayed on strongly to get the better of Jungle Cat, and Waady. As the Cox horse drifted from 16/1 to 20/1 and Waady was backed in to 9/2 favourite it is reasonable to suppose that Profitable has the greater scope for improvement and is likely to confirm the form. Partnered again by Adam Kirby, who has been in the plate for all three of his victories he is well worth considering.

Edward Lynam’s super old warrior Sole Power won this five years ago and judging by his run at Meydan at the beginning of March it wouldn’t come as a great surprise to see him do it again. As always held up he came with a great run and only failed by a nose and a short head to get up to beat Fityaan and Jungle Cat. Both subsequent efforts have been less encouraging but given good ground you ignore this 5f specialist and winner of over £2,000,000 in prize money at your peril.

The 7yo entire, Pearl Secret, having been second to Hot Streak in this in 2014, he took the main prize last year. He failed to hit the back of the net in his next six races but put in some great efforts in defeat, not least when finishing 4th in the Prix D’Labbaye at Longchamp in October. Drawn out with the washing in stall fifteen jockey Atzeni had little choice but to drop him in and he travelled in last place until approaching the final furlong where he finished well to finish fourth. Oisin Murphy is in the plate at the weekend and his chance is respected but it is worth noting that this is his first run of the season and his previous win and second in the event were preceded by a race. Is he match fit?

Selection : Mecca’s Angel

E.W.      :  Profitable

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.

Cesarewitch Handicap Newmarket 2m2f (Rowley) Saturday

Low Key

The market for this year’s renewal is headed by the David Pipe trained 8yo Low Key and he certainly has plenty to recommend him.

It takes a true stayer to succeed in this unique stamina test, as most of the race is run in a straight line, affording little if any opportunity to get a blow into your animal during the relentless pillar to post gallop. Having exited the stalls in Cambridgeshire, the field takes a sharp right turn and makes it a hell for leather charge across Newmarket Heath to eventually join the Rowley mile and pass the winning post in the adjoining county of Suffolk. Winning form over at least two miles on the flat, or good winning form over hurdles is highly desirable.The race is often targeted by National Hunt stables, with such names as Pipe, Revely, Fitzgerald, Henderson, Martin, and Hobbs figuring on the roll of honour in the last quarter century. Indeed Philip Hobbs has figured twice in the last decade, with Detroit City (2006) and last year with Big Easy. His candidate this year, the ex French Golden Doyen, would be worth a second look, but needs nine above him in the handicap to come out to get a run.

The market for this year’s renewal is headed by the David Pipe trained 8yo Low Key and he certainly has plenty to recommend him. He won the Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago with the very promising 3lbs claimer Tom Marquand in the plate, racing off a mark of 82. He stayed on strongly to beat another of Saturday’s contenders, Encrypted Message by 3 1/2L and should confirm the form at the weekend. He has now won five times, (twice over hurdles) for the Nicholshane Maestro, who clearly has discovered the key to this eight year old, who only joined the team last year. He has already improved by at least 25lbs since joining the Pipe Academy so Saturday’s mark of 86 looks highly doable and with young Marquand again claiming 3lbs his prospects look decidedly rosy.

Another National Hunt trainer, Lucy Wadham, has an interesting contender with her 6yo gelding Noble Silk, partnered by Oisin Murphy. He ran a fine race over 2m4f at Royal Ascot keeping on well to finish 4th to Clondaw Warrior to whom he was conceding 5lbs. Following a nine weeks break, he disappointed at York but ran a more promising trial for this last time at Doncaster, going down by 3L over an inadequate 14f off a mark of 94. Bound to be much better suited by Saturday’s trip and racing off 94 again, the current odds of 40/1 look generous, and having had a light campaign is one for the short list.

Tony Martin’s Quick Jack who finished a close third last year, tries again off a 7lbs higher mark and this tough competitor, who won the hugely competitive Galway Hurdle at the end of July merits maximum respect. He was a gallant second in the Chester Cup in May going down by 3/4L to the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris to whom he was conceding 6lbs. After his Galway triumph he never got going when favourite for the Ebor Handicap at York seven weeks ago. Badly drawn over an inadequate trip the York form can be ignored, but in view of his run in this last year, and his second in the Chester Cup, I wonder if he quite gets home over 18f. Certainly off a 7lbs higher mark than last year he has it all to do.

There is the whiff of a “Prescott plot” about the way Sir Mark’s William Of Orange has been campaigned. Placed over 14f in his first two races this year, he ran his best race of the season when upped to 16f at York in July, running on strongly to take second at the post, 3/4L behind Eshtiall after a troubled passage. Subsequently tried over 21f at Goodwood he didn’t seem to quite get home, and then, having been sent to the front for the first time, in an attempt to make all,in his last race, the Doncaster Cup, he faded from two furlongs out to finish seventh behind stablemate Pallasator. He races off a mark only 5lbs higher than that promising run at York, so it would be no surprise to see him involved at the finish.

Roger Varian’s 4yo Montjeu gelding Steve Rogers looked well suited by the step back up in trip when taking a two mile Cl3 Chester handicap four weeks ago off a mark of 83. There was nothing special about the form, but he did travel really well throughout and went about his business very professionally when asked. A winner of five of his seven races since January and racing off a mark of 87 this very genuine animal may well live up to merit his Captain America pseudonym*.

*Steve Rogers was the alter-ego of Captain America.

Selection: Low Key

E.W. : William Of Orange

Cambridgeshire Handicap Tips Newmarket (Rowley) 1m1f Saturday

Cambridgeshire Betting Preview.

Sir Michael Stoute’s 5yo gelding Abseil is our tip to land Saturday’s big one.

I suspect it may be some time before F. Berry gets the leg up on another Chapple-Hyam horse after the ride he gave last week’s selection, Buckstay, in the Ayr Gold Cup. Held up out the back with the washing, he had to come from an impossible position, but finished best of all, going down by less than a length in fifth place. Not one of Fran’s greatest rides! Having got that off our chest let’s have a look at Saturday’s cavalry charge at Newmarket.

Weight as we know is a great leveller, and only one horse, (Educate, 9st9lbs, 2013) has defied a burden above 9st5lbs since Cap Juluca won with the steadier of 9st12lbs twenty years ago. Indeed thirteen winners in the same period carried less than 9st. As always in these big handicaps, plenty of experience of racing in large fields is a must. An ability to stay further than Saturday’s nine furlongs is a definite plus with many previous winners having form over ten furlongs and further on their C.V.’s. A decent performance in their most recent outing has been of paramount significance, with hardly any of the last thirty five winners failing to perform in their penultimate race. With thirty five runners spread across Newmarket Heath you would expect the draw to be of some significance, but this has rarely been the case, and indeed in last years renewal the shd second was drawn on the other side of the track to the winner.

That winner, the now 6yo Bronze Angel, tries for an unprecedented third win in the one hundred and seventy six years old handicap. The 2012, and 2013 winner, does thrive in the Autumn, and showed his treble aspirations were no forlorn hope when winning a Doncaster handicap last time off a mark of 104. Ridden by 3lbs claimer, Louis Steward, he won by 1 1/2L from that good yardstick Man Of Harlech. As his two previous wins were achieved off 95 and 99 he does seem to be up against it off his new mark of 108, but the Newmarket race does seem to bring out the best in him, so this 6yo warrior is not easily passed over.

Sir Michael Stoute’s 5yo gelding Abseil catches the eye. He looked a tad unlucky last time at Epsom in June over 1m1/2f when racing off a mark of 99 he finished a nk and 3/4L behind Grazie, and Andrew Baldings filly Merry Me. As the Balding filly has gone on to aquit herself well at listed and pattern level, the lightly raced Abseil, who meets Merry Me on 4lbs better than Epsom, doesn’t look badly treated off a mark of 100. His run at Epsom suggested that further would suit, and as he clearly goes well after a break, is short listed.

Michael Halford’s 3yo Teofilo colt Portage won a Cl2 Ascot handicap in July off a mark of 90 (1m sft) and ran a decent race last time at the Curragh, finishing second to the 5yo Hint of a Tint, with the useful Brendan Bracken back in fifth, off a mark of 98. Set to race off the same mark at the weekend, giving him a nice racing weight of 8st7lbs, and with William Buick in the plate he looks another well worth considering.

David O’Meara’s 5yo Dylan Thomas gelding, Earth Drummer ran well when finishing 6th in a 1m2 1/2f, fifteen runner, York handicap last time out. He looked to have a chance at the furlong post but probably didn’t quite get home and went down by 4L. In his previous race at Ascot over 8f he was beaten a half length by Halation, whom he meet on a pound better terms on Saturday. His very talented trainer may well feel that Saturday’s intermediate trip will suit,and with stable jockey Tudhope up, is another well worth considering.

Can Richard Fahey cap a great season by winning with his progressive 3yo gelding Third Time Lucky? Rated 91 after a close fourth in a Goodwood handicap at the end of July he probably needed to win at Thirsk three weeks ago to get into Saturday’s contest and did so in style. Leading on the bit over a furlong out, he went clear, and despite being heavily eased in the closing stages was still 3 1/2L clear at the line. Saturday’s examination will obviously be rather more rigorous, but clearly the Fahey gelding is on a sharp upward curve and with his light weight of 8st4lbs, it will be no surprise if he adds to the Malton Maestro’s burgeoning C.V.

Selection : Abseil.

E.W. : Third Time Lucky.

Temple Stakes Betting Tips 5f Group 2 Haydock Park Saturday

Hot Streak trainer Kevin Ryan.

Hot Streak won this for top handler Kevin Ryan, last year, and a repeat would come as no surprise. He reappeared last year in the Palace House Stakes, finishing third before taking this.

Unfortunately, our 10/1 E.W. Suggestion, Toormore, in last week’s Lockinge Stakes, couldn’t quite get past his stable companion Night of Thunder, but going down by a fast diminishing neck, he covered himself in glory. He seemed to get slightly unbalanced when pressure was applied, but once straightened, ran on with great resolution, so hopefully our selection for Haydock on Saturday will enjoy a more trouble free passage.

Heading the market at 4/1 is Edward Lynam’s evergreen 8yo, Sole Power. He demonstrated his well being when winning a Group1 at Meydan on March 28th, bringing his career winnings to a staggering £1,924,956. Two reservations about his prospects at the weekend would be ground conditions, and the man doing the steering on top. While He handles most surfaces, He has never won with the word soft in the ground description, so with the weather unsettled, a waiting brief is advised. Jamie Spencer takes over riding duties from Richard Hughes, who knows the horse so well, and who has given this “hold up” animal some magnificent rides, not least last time out at Meydan. Certainly the way Hughes produced him to win last years Group1 Nunthorpe, will live long in the memory. However Spencer himself is no mug when riding a hold up horse, so given decent ground at the weekend Sole Power must have strong prospects of bringing up the £2,000,000 in winnings.

That very talented handler of sprinters, Robin Cowell, runs two, the 6yo Oasis Dream gelding, Gold Dream, and the 10yo veteran Kingsgate Native. They both ran in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, three weeks ago, with Gold Dream winning, and Kingsgate Native finishing third. Gold Dream, if coming on for the Newmarket race, would certainly be on my shortlist but he is another who likes good ground. He may also be better suited by a stiffer track when racing over the minimum trip.

Hot Streak won this for top handler Kevin Ryan, last year, and a repeat would come as no surprise. He reappeared last year in the Palace House Stakes, finishing third before taking this. This year he reappeared in a Longchamp Group3, acquitting himself well, finishing third. Bound to improve for the run, Hot Streak who is not ground dependant, has to be on the shortlist.

Charlie Appleby’s 4yo Invincible Spirit gelding Pretend looks interesting. Campaigned almost exclusively over five and six furlongs on the all weather, He has been eye catchingly successful, .winning six of his nine races. Equally effective at five or six He took a big step forward in his last two races, where showing an impressive turn of foot easily accounted for Alben Star on both occasions. If this rapidly improving animal transfers his ability to turf, they can all look out on Saturday.

David Barron saddles last years runner up, Pearl Secret, and 8lbs better off for the 1/2L He was behind Hot Streak, you would have to fancy his chances in this years renewal. However the 8lbs was the weight for age allowance ( Hot Streak was only three) so the more pertinent piece of form is perhaps that Group3 at Longchamp two weeks ago when the Barron horse was well behind Hot Streak, who indeed will be 2lbs better off on Saturday.

If the ground does come up soft at the weekend, Evanna Mc Cutcheon’s 8yo gelding Maarek would be worth considering. Winner of the Prix de L’Abbe in 2013, He ran well in Hot Streak’s recent Longchamp race, finishing 3/4L behind the Kevin Ryan runner. However He had had the benefit of a run, so on 2lbs worse terms it may be wise to stick with Hot Streak.

Selection: Hot Streak.

E.W. Pretend.