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

Darley July Cup Stakes Group1 6f Newmarket (July Course)

vincent obrien guruThe immortal Vincent O’Brien (pictured), won Saturday’s feature a record equalling 5 times, and his successor at Ballydoyle, the eponymous Aidan, (no relation) will be hoping that one of his contenders at the weekend can land The July Cup, enabling him to join his illustrious predecessor, with win number 5 in the event. Aidan, who won last year’s renewal with the 3yo, US Navy Flag, is mob handed at the time of writing, but his best chance of landing a fifth success would seem to lie with either, Ten Sovereigns or the filly, Fairyland.

The former, a son of the top sprinter, No Nay Never, was unbeaten in his 3 races as a 2yo and and rounded off his juvenile career with a splendid victory in Newmarket’s Group1 Middle Park Stakes. Sent off the 9/4Fav for The 2000Guineas he didn’t stay and finished 5th, 4 3/4L behind stable companion, Magna Grecia. He reverted to 6f last time for Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup where he started favourite but could only finish 4th, 2 1/2L behind Saturday’s opponent Advertise. There didn’t seem to be any excuses that day, but it was the softest ground he had raced on and back on a firmer surface (won The Middle Park on Good/Firm) it could be closer between them.

The 3yo filly Fairyland (pictured below cost £925,000 as a yearling) won 4 of her 5 starts at 2, including The Marble Hill Stakes at The Curragh, York’s Group2 Lowther Stakes and Newmarket’s Group1 Chevely Park Stakes, all on Good/Firm ground over 6f. fairyland fillyShe didn’t seem to get home in either the English or Irish 1000Guineas and reverted to 5f for Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes last time. Starting at 16/1 she ran well enough to finish 5th but probably found the trip too sharp. By that strong influence for speed, Kodiac, she is out of an unraced daughter of that speedy mare, Land Of Dreams, (won Doncaster’s 5f speed test, the Group2 Flying Childers, and is the dam of the triple Group1 winning speedster, Dream Ahead) and it won’t come as the greatest surprise if  Fairyland should emulate those two outstanding 3yo Fillies, Marwell And Habibti, who landed the spoils back in the eighties.

Sir Michael Stoute is seeking his 4th win in the race and current market leader,
Dream Of Dreams must have serious prospects of providing it. michael stoute darleyThe 5yo son of
Dream Ahead has looked a much improved performer this term, landing 2 conditions races, at Chelmsford and Windsor, before putting in a career best effort last time when failing by a fast diminishing head to catch Blue Point, (now retired) in Royal Ascot’s Group1 Diamond Jubilee. Indeed he would have landed the spoils in another few strides and is definitely worth his new rating of 120, 9lbs higher than his previous best. Despite a poor performance in his only other race over the course, (10/11 nearly two years ago following a break) he will be difficult to beat.

Top handler, Roger Varian has yet to get his name on the roll of honour, but the way his son of Shamardal, Cape Byron, demolished a field of 26 handicappers to win The Wokingham at the Royal meeting last time it may not take too long. Campaigned at 7f and above, it was his first attempt at Saturday’s trip in his 13 race career, and the way he cruised into the lead a furlong out and went on to win so comfortably, connections must have been asking themselves why it had taken them so long to work out that 6f is clearly the 5yo’s trip. Saturday presents a different challenge with the step up to Group1 Class, but now that he has found his optimum distance he could well be up to it.

The Martyn Meade trained 3yo Advertise won 3 of his 5 starts at 2 including the Group1 Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh, his only defeats coming, when out stayed by Too Darn Hot over 7f in The Dewhurst, and when racing on the wrong side in The Coventry, he was beaten a length by the talented Calyx.

trainer martyn meade

Newmarket handler Meade saddles Advertise

He failed to stay in The 2000Guineas but showed that sprinting is definitely his game when comfortably landing The Commonwealth Cup last time and the son of Showcasing must have excellent prospects of maintaining the good recent record of the Classic generation,
(have won 3 of the last 4 runnings).

Despite an honourable 2nd in The Irish 1000Guineas, the filly Pretty Pollyanna, has failed to stay in her last three races, all over a mile, and she now reverts to 6f, a trip she had top class form over as a 2yo. She won Newmarket’s Group2 July Stakes over course and distance by an impressive 7L from Angel’s Hideaway, collected Deauville’s Group1 Prix Morny against the boys, and finished 4th, 1 3/4L behind Fairyland in The Chevely Park. Her excellent trainer, Michael Bell is in top form, and the daughter of Oasis Dream could get involved at a nice price.

Selection   : Dream Of Dreams

EW.             : Fairyland

John Gray

Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview (Group1) 6f Ascot Saturday

andre fabre sheikh

French maestro Andre Fabre and Sheikh Mohammed have a fine chance with Inns of Court

First run in 1868, the contest achieved its Group1 status in 2002 and is the last top level event in what I hope has proved to be a successful week for the punting fraternity. Since it’s elevation to Group1 status, two trainers, James Fanshawe and Aidan O’Brien have hit the target twice, and the former will be hoping his 2017 winner, The Tin Man, can go in again.

Now seven, the son of Equiano has been a marvellous servant to connections, winning 9 of his 22 starts, 3 of them at the top level, and netting nearly £1.2 million pounds in prize money. He showed that he was still capable of doing it at the top when winning Haydock’s Group1 Sprint Cup last September (6f Heavy) keeping on strongly to beat Brando by a length. He has an excellent record at Ascot, winning 3 of his 8 races over Saturday’s course and distance and despite a troubled passage in last year’s renewal (Good/Firm) ran an excellent race to finish 4th, 1 1/4L behind the winner, Merchant Navy. He had a nice pipe opener (3rd, 6f Good Windsor) 5 weeks ago and with his talented trainer in form is one to be interested in, particularly if he gets his preferred soft ground.

james tate trainer

James Tate saddles Invincible Army

 

Another who will handle soft ground is the current market leader, Invincible Army. Trained by James Tate, the 4yo colt had a moderate strike rate of 3/11 in his first two seasons, but has a 100% record from his two runs this term, including an impressive win on the Knavesmire last time, winning The Group2, Duke Of York Stakes by a very comfortable 2 1/2L from the useful Major Jumbo. Testing conditions shouldn’t be a problem as he won over Saturday’s course and distance on soft ground when taking  the Group3 Pavillion Stakes on his 3yo debut from the now 110 rated Eqtidaar, and was a good second in the 5f Molecombe Stakes as a 2yo in similar conditions. He is by the excellent stallion Invincible Spirit out of the Group1 winning mare, Rajeem, and like his sire, looks a real tough type, and deserves his place at the top of the market.

Having landed The Kings Stand Stakes over 5f with Blue Point, Godolphin will be hoping for further Group1 sprinting success with either Tuesday’s winner, or their French trained Inns Of Court. I’ve no doubt that Blue Point would be at least as well suited by Saturday’s extra furlong and if turning out again would have to be seriously considered, but the Andre Fabre trained Inns Of Court has also plenty to recommend him. Another son of Invincible Spirit, the 5yo has won 7 of his 17 starts and showed that he has speed to burn when cruising up in Group3 Chantilly heat over the minimum distance 20 days ago winning by 2 1/2L and 1/2L from Sestilio and Major Jumbo in a fast time. Considering that he has lost out by only a Short Head in two Group1s at a mile and seven furlongs, this was a pretty remarkable performance. His breeding also wouldn’t suggest that he should possess such speed as the distaff side of his pedigree is all about stamina. His dam, Learned Friend, failed to win any of her 3 starts but is a daughter of the middle distance mare, Lune D’Or, dam of the Japanese Group1 winning two miler Fierement, and Inns Of Court’s half brother, Age Of Wisdom, has won over 2miles on the flat and 2 1/2miles over hurdles. Wherever his speed comes from, he has it in abundance and he will be a potent threat to all on Saturday.

Wesley Ward won this for the US in 2015 and will be hoping that last year’s 3rd,
Bound For Nowhere can go two places better this time. The 5yo entire has continued to thrive and was just pipped by Imprimis, (6th in The Kings Stand on Tuesday) on his reappearance in a Keeneland Group2 11 weeks ago. He raced alone in last year’s renewal and was only beaten 3/4L so given some company may do better.

Last year’s runner up, the French trained City Light may have been a little unlucky as he lost ground at the start with an awkward stalls exit and was only beaten a Short Head. The son of Siyouni made a satisfactory seasonal debut when going down by 1/2L to Inns Of Court, (also making his seasonal debut) in a 6f Listed race at
Maisons-Laffitte 8 weeks ago which puts him firmly in the mix.

The Richard Fahey trained 4yo colt, Sands Of Mali ran the race of his career when landing the Group1 Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance on soft ground last October. He also ran a great race to finish 2nd, 1/2L behind Eqtidaar in last year’s Group1 Commonwealth Cup On much faster ground, again over course and distance. He had an abortive trip to Meydan in March, but had a satisfactory pipe opener (3rd, 4 3/4L behind Brando) at Hamilton 16 days ago, and back at Ascot, where he has done so well, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him play a very prominent part.

Selection. :   Inns Of Court      Danger : Invincible Army
EW.            :      Sands Of Mali

John Gray

Qatar Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe 1m4f Longchamp preview

arctriomphe

Dancing Brave swoops to the victory of all victories in 86 under Pat Eddery

Worth £2,528,319. to the winner, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is the most valuable race on turf run anywhere on the planet, and the most successful trainer, by a country mile, in this fantastic contest, is the French Maestro, Andre Fabre. With seven victories to his credit, he is four clear of his nearest pursuer, Aidan O’Brien, and represented this time by the upwardly mobile, 4yo, Waldgeist, and the talented 5yo Talismanic, has to have decent prospects of landing an eighth.

Waldgeist, a son of the great stallion, Galileo, has won 6 of his 13 starts but, it was only two outings ago, at the beginning of July, that he struck at the highest level.

WaldgeistGuru

The Oddsguru fancies Waldgeist to make a bold charge this weekend

 

Sent off the 4/5 favourite for the Group1 Grand Prix de St Cloud (1m4f Gd-Sft) he only got the better of the Gosden filly, Coronet, in the shadow of the post, but 77 days later was much more impressive when easily beating stable companion, Talismanic by 2 1/2L, over Saturday’s course and distance in the good “Arc” Trial, The Prix Foy, and to give further weight to the form, he had last year’s St Leger winner, Capri, a further 4L back in 5th. Talismanic, having won last year’s Breeders Cup Turf at Del Mar, and finished 2nd to the excellent Highland Reel in The Group1 Hong Kong Vase, is no slouch, so this looks a serious step up by the Fabre 4yo. He is out of the Monsanto mare Walderche, who was a Group3 winner on soft and won on heavy, so the weekend forecast for rain in the Paris region shouldn’t present any problems.

Since it’s inception nearly 100 years ago 7 horses have managed to win the great race a second time, but in the last 60 renewals, only two have managed the double, Alleged in 1978, and the fantastic filly Treve 4 years ago, which helps to put into some perspective, the challenge facing John Gosden’s super filly, Enable, on Sunday.

longchampboisdeboulogne

The great race returns to its rightful place in the Bois de Boulogne this year

The injury she sustained to her knee last May and kept her off the course for 342 days, can’t have helped her cause either, but that said, she was pretty impressive when making her belated reappearance on the Kempton AW (1m4f) 29 days ago. In a 4 runner affair, she made all, and running on strongly, easily got the better of the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes runner up, Crystal Ocean, (gave 8lbs). This
5 times Group1 winner, including last year’s renewal at Chantilly, (has never run at Longchamp) deserves her position at the top of the market, and if successful, would give Mr Gosden a third winner in the race, and enable (forgive the pun) her owner, Prince Khalid Abdullah, to equal the longstanding record held by Marcel Boussac since 1949 of 6 victories in the contest. However her current odds, in a heat with it’s fair share of hard luck stories, look decidedly skinny.

Unraced as a 2yo, the Willie Haggas trained filly, Sea Of Class, has done nothing but improve in her 4 races since making her debut in a 1mile Maiden at Headquarters in April. Showing her inexperience, the 3yo was beaten a neck in that Newmarket heat, but stepped up in trip, this stoutly bred filly, (by Sea The Stars, who was runner up in the 2009 Arc, out of the Hernando mare, Holy Moon) has remained unbeaten in her subsequent 4 races, and was particularly impressive the last twice, winning the Irish Oaks under a hands and heels ride from the Epsom Oaks Victor, Forever Together, and 5 week’s ago running away with The Group1 Yorkshire Equivalent. Held up at the back at York, she made smooth progress at the 2f marker, led inside the final furlong, and left the Gosden trained Coronet, trailing in her wake. The 2 1/4L margin of her victory could easily have been considerably more, and she had the useful Irish filly, Eziyra, (won a Curragh Group2 easily next time out) a further 1L back in 3rd. She has never run on anything worse than good but her dam was a winner on heavy, and her three most successful siblings, Charity Line, Final Score and Thierry Collect, all thrived on plenty of give, so the forecast for rain isn’t a worry, and indeed, if it does come up soft on Sunday, it may enhance her prospects.

We have to rewind 60 years to 1958 to find the last winner of the St Leger to win
“The Arc” when the great Ballymoss prevailed for Vincent O’Brien, and while Nijinsky was an unlucky loser in 1970, and many think that Alleged should have won The St Leger in 1977 prior to his “Arc” success, none of the above, speaks terribly strongly in favour of the chances of this year’s Doncaster Hero, Kew Gardens. However on the plus side, he won The Group1 Grand Prix de Paris over course and distance in July, in a time nearly 2 seconds faster than standard, and there was no fluke about his win over the talented Iah Ti Dar in the St Leger.

Roger Varian’s old boss, the sadly deceased, Michael Jarvis, won with the unconsidered, Carroll House in 1989, and Roger will be hoping for a similar outcome with his 50/1 shot Defoe. The son of Dalakhani won the Group2 Jockey Club Stakes at Headquarters in May and following a 98 days break the 4yo put up a career best performance last time, going down by a neck to Best Solution in Germany’s Top all aged contest, The Group1 Grosser Preis Von Baden, a contest incidentally, the above mentioned Carroll House won in 1988. Clearly progressing nicely, Defoe stays well, and could play a prominent role at the weekend.

Selection : Waldgeist
E.W.          Kew Gardens

 

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

Betting Tips King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes 1m4f Ascot Saturday

Paul Nicholls won his first Summer Plate at Market Rasen last Saturday in fine style with the very progressive 7yo, Alcala. The grey travelled really well throughout and looked the most likely winner a long way from home. There was only a neck in it at the post, but I feel that jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies had a bit to spare, and there could be more to come from this likeable grey. Bringing home the bacon at the rewarding odds of 9/1 he certainly left followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves, so here's hoping we can keep the momentum going in Saturday's Ascot showpiece.

First run in 1951 as a Group1 open to all ages, the Classic generation, with twenty nine wins on the scoresheet have historically had the best of the argument, but it has to be said that with only four victories since the turn of the new millennium, their record hasn't been nearly so impressive. Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor share the training honours with five victories apiece closely pursued by the Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O'Brien, with four.

Sir Michael's best chance of taking the outright lead lies with recent Eclipse winner,
(and Oddsguru's selection) Ulysses. Typical of the slow maturing type that Maestro Stoute excels with, Ulysses, who had been a tad disappointing as a 3yo, showed that the penny was beginning to drop when winning the Group3 Sir Gordon Richard Stakes over Sandown's demanding 10f on his reappearance in April, and confirmed that he was indeed on an upward track eight weeks later, when finishing third in the 10f Group1 Prince of Wales Stakes to Highland Reel and Decorated Knight, beaten 1 1/4L and a Shd. Probably needing the race after his two months break, he took a very strong hold, and mounted his challenge too early in the straight, giving the winner a target to aim at, but seventeen days later looked much more the finished article when winning the 10f Group1 Eclipse Stakes. Always travelling well, he again came with his run a little too early and had to hold off the late challenge of 2000gns runner up Barney Roy, who clearly improved for the step up in trip. Ulysses won Goodwood's 12f Gordon Stakes as a 3yo and as a son of Galileo out of the Oaks Heroine, Light Shift, Saturday's trip could prove ideal. A concern would be testing conditions. Although he has performed on easy ground in the past, connections are hoping the rain stays away.

The Ballydoyle operation is represented by one of the toughest and most genuine animals on the planet, the 5yo Highland Reel, and by his year younger full brother, Idaho. The former, yet another son of the great Galileo is attempting to become only the third horse to win back to back runnings of the contest, and boasting six Group1 victories on three continents, must have serious prospects of bringing off the double. However he does like to hear his hooves rattle so with so much rain about a waiting brief is advised.

His younger sibling, the 4yo Idaho, was certainly not winning out of turn when taking Royal Ascot's Group2 Hardwicke Stakes last time out. He was an unlucky loser of last year's St Leger, unseating Seamie Heffernan when coming down the straight on the bridle, and again the fates were against him when making his seasonal debut in the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting in June, where due to some cock up in the flying arrangements, he only got to the course an hour before the race. Third in Last year's Derby, and second in the Irish equivalent, this beautifully bred animal may only now, as a 4yo be beginning to realise his full potential, and as he seems to handle most ground is one for the short list.

John Gosden, a two times winner of the race, is represented by dual Oaks winner, Enable, and 5yo Jack Hobbs. The former, a daughter of Nathaniel, has looked a real class act when winning both the English and Irish Oaks. She won at Epsom by 5L from O'Briens Rhododendron, and was equally impressive at The Curragh, winning by 5 1/2L from Rain Goddess. It has to be a concern that it is only two weeks since her stunning Curragh victory, but very much in her favour is the fourteen pounds she will be receiving from most of her older rivals.

Second to Golden Horn in the 2015 Epsom Derby, and winner of the same year's Irish Derby, Jack Hobbs has had his problems since, but looked to have put them behind him when winning at Meydan on his reappearance in March, (yielding ground) but then was a major disappointment at Royal Ascot. He was sent off the 2/1 fav for the Prince of Wales Stakes but finished last of the eight runners behind Highland Reel. The fast ground and very hot day were blamed for the poor performance. However the horse has continued to attract plenty of support in the market, and with nothing faster than good ground likely at the weekend, is worth considering.

David Simcock would love to see the heavens open over the Berkshire track as his 5yo Desert Encounter revels in soft ground. The son of Halling is a little short of the required standard but he did run a decent race last time to finish third, 3 /12L behind Ulysses in the Eclipse, and as we all know, heavy ground is a great leveller.

Selection : Idaho

E.W. : Ulysses

John Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection: Yucatan

E.W.     : Raheen House

Investec Derby Betting Tips

Investec Derby Betting Tips 12f Epsom Saturday

The 237th renewal of the Derby looks to be one of the widest open for many years and it would come as no surprise to see the winner returned at double figures. Both Sir Michael Stoute and Aidan O’Brien are seeking an amazing sixth success in the great race so their contenders are worth serious consideration.

O’Briens Galileo colt U.S Army Ranger was prominent in the ante post market, even before making his racecourse debut, which was in the same Curragh maiden in April that Aidan had introduced his 2013 Derby winner Rule The World. Unraced as a 2yo, U.S Army Ranger was only second choice in the market behind Dermot Weld’s 11/10 favourite, Aasheq, and ran very green. However the penny dropped late on and he showed an impressive turn of speed to collar the Weld horse close home in this 10f contest which was run on an unsuitably heavy surface. Mixed messages have come from the form of the contest, but the winner did impress with that change of gear. Many were not impressed by his next performance over 12 1/2f at Chester when holding on by a short head from stable companion, Port Douglas, but his trainer didn’t share this view, pointing out how far ahead of the third the two Ballydoyle colts finished. Pilot, Moore, was also very positive, saying that the horse was still pretty green and would have learnt a lot from the contest. His dam, Moonstone, won the 2005 Irish Oaks, so with the promise of a lot more to come U.S Army Ranger has plenty to recommend him.

Read the Oddsguru’s 2015 Epsom Derby preview.

If Aidan chooses to run his French Guineas winner, The Gurkha, and Moore transfers his allegiance, punters take note, because that performance in France was far and away the most impressive of any 3yo colt this year. Unraced as a 2yo,he finished third on his debut over 8f at Leopardstown in April, and then won easily at Navan eleven days later. Sharply up in class next time in the Group1 Poule D’essai des Poulains, (French Guineas May 15th) he destroyed a high class field, accelerating clear inside the final furlong to win going away by 5 1/2L. The question about him is will he stay? By Galileo, who has already sired three Derby winners, there is no problem, but on the distaff there are questions to be answered. His dam Chintz, by Danehill Dancer was best at 7f and neither of her two previous offspring by Galileo stayed beyond a mile. However The Gurkha certainly wasn’t stopping at the end of that 1600m race in France and it was a stunning performance.

Sir Michael Stoute’s colt Ulysses, has been all the rage in recent weeks and we have seen his price plunge from 50/1 to 7/1. It would be great to see the veteran trainer, whose star has been in decline in recent years, bring up the six timer, and with this very progressive son of Galileo it is certainly possible. Out of the 2007 Oaks winner, Light Shift he is certainly bred to win a Derby but there were few signs of future glory in his first two races, at Newbury last October, and at Leicester in April. Last time however at Newbury, May 13th he looked a bit special when trotting up by 8L at odds of 4/11. Saturday represents a huge step up in class, but in the hands of maestro Stoute it will come as no surprise to see this colt involved at the business end.

Jim Bolger, who won with New Approach in 2008, is quite bullish about his Cape Cross colt, Moonlight Magic. He won both starts as a 2yo and was sent off at 3/1 for his seasonal debut, but unsuited by the heavy ground finished 5th of seven. Four weeks later he was sent off at 6/1 for the Derrinstown stud Derby trial at Leopardstown and in a battling performance got the better of the O’Brien pair, Shogun and Idaho. The “Derrinstown” has provided three previous winners of the Derby, High Chaparall, Galileo, and Sindar, and last years winner, Fame and Glory, finished second at Epsom. Bolger compares his well balanced colt favourably with his previous “Derrinstown” winner St Jovite (1992) at this stage of his career, high praise indeed! His breeding leaves nothing to be desired as his sire Cape Cross has already got the winner of 21 Group1 races worldwide, including the Oaks and multiple Group1 winner, Ouija Board, and the two Derby winners, Sea the Stars (2009) and Golden Horne last year. The dam, Melikah, is a real blue blood. She is a daughter of the 1995 Derby winner Lammtara and out of that brood mare celebrity, Urban Sea, dam of Galileo and Sea the Stars. Given decent ground at the weekend Jim Bolger’s Colt is well worth considering.

John Gosden is trying for two in a row with his Pivotal colt Wings of Desire, and he is another unraced as a 2yo. Only third on his racecourse debut in April, he won a Class5 contest on the all weather at Wolverhampton ten days later, hardly the preparation you would expect for an aspiring Derby winner. However his Epsom prospects took a giant leap forwards when winning the Dante Stakes at York nineteen days later, beating Deauville and Foundation who had fought out the finish of last years Royal lodge. It is worth noting that Midterm, the 5/4 favourite sustained an injury during the course of the race and was never in contention. Stamina shouldn’t be a problem as the dams two previous foals by Pivotal stayed really well, The Lark won the 14f Parkhill stakes, and Eagle Top won the Group2 12f King Edward V11 Stakes.

Selection : U.S Army Ranger

E.W.    : Moonlight Magic

St Leger Stakes 1m6f 132yds Saturday

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien’s contender, Order Of St George, wouldn’t have impressed as a potential Leger winner when finishing second to Parish Boy at Leopardstown last October, but has really come into his own as a three year old.

Our E.W. Selection, Magical Memory, certainly belied his odds of 14/1 when finishing third in last week’s Gp1 Sprint Cup at Haydock Park. Always travelling very well within himself, he looked the most likely winner for most of the race, but probably got to the front just too soon. If he goes to Longchamp for the Prix de L’Abbe on Arc day his style of racing would be well suited to the furlong shorter trip, and is one to keep in mind. Saturday’s final English classic, the St Leger provides a test at the other end of the distance spectrum, and looks a fairly open contest.

Aidan O’Brien who has already bagged four St Leger victories (but has someway to go to match the nineteenth century handler, John Scott, who trained an amazing sixteen winners between 1827 and 1862) is triple handed, and all three go there with chances. Interestingly all three are by the outstanding Coolmore stallion, Galileo, and two of them, Bondi Beach and Fields of Athenry, boast an even closer relationship, both being out of Danehill mares. All three have won over 1m6f at either listed or group level so stamina shouldn’t be an issue.

Despite being drawn out with the washing, Fields of Athenry ran a decent race in the Ebor handicap. Drawn 22 and racing off an eye watering mark of 118, he finished a respectable fifth, despite not getting the greatest of rides from his 5lbs claiming pilot. He did have a hard race on the Knavesmire, but a reproduction of the form he showed the previous time he tackled the distance, at Leopardstown in July, when coasting to victory over the useful four year old Silwana would certainly put him firmly in the picture.

A winner of two of his four races, Bondi Beach is showing the benefit of his patient handling by the master of Ballydoyle. Unraced as a 2yo he made his racecourse debut at Leopardstown in May and under a hands and heels ride from Seamie Heffernan, won by a short head from the hot favourite Bantry Bay. He was a slightly unlucky second over 1m4f four weeks later, but upped to 1m6f next time he won a Gp3 by a short head from stable companion Order Of St George. Reverting to 1m4f in the Gp2 Great Voltigeur seven weeks later he looked an unlucky looser. Backed in to 11/4 favourite he was making steady progress over the last three furlongs when taking a bump one hundred and fifty yards out from Storm The Stars, who then carried him continuously to the left. He went down by 1/2L and in the subsequent controversial stewards inquiry, despite the jockey being stood down for three days the Haggas horse was allowed to keep the race. To this observer the best horse was second, and with an extra two and a half furlongs to travel at the weekend has excellent prospects of reversing the placings.

The third O’Brien contender, Order Of St George, wouldn’t have impressed as a potential Leger winner when finishing second to Parish Boy at Leopardstown last October, but has really come into his own as a three year old. On his reappearance, he ran stable companion Bondi Beach, who had the benefit of two previous runs to a shd, and then had little more than an exercise canter when winning at Down Royal four weeks later. On his latest appearance, Gp3 1m6f sft at the Curragh, he looked most impressive, winning by 7L and 8L from Seamoon and Kingfisher. He has clearly thrived since upped in trip and looks the one to beat on Saturday.

Storm The Stars who has accumulated £535,000 in win and place money must be a lovely animal to own. He ran two marvellous races when coming third in The Derby, and second in the Irish Equivalent. He demonstrated his toughness when coming third in a Longchamp Gp1, only seventeen days after his Irish Exertions and showed no signs of tiredness when collecting at York. He is a thoroughly genuine and likeable horse, but has had a very demanding season, and with some stamina doubts on the distaff, is passed over.

The French colt Vengeur Masque is bred to stay all day and ran a decent race last time at Deauville, 1m4 1/2f, finishing 4th. Unless the step up in distance elicits abnormal improvement it’s hard to see him being involved,

Selection: Order Of St George

Danger. : Bondi Beach

Ebor Handicap Betting Tips 1m6f York Saturday

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien provides the favourite for this year’s renewal with his 3yo Galileo colt Fields Of Athenry, and judging by his last two runs deserves his position as market leader.

Neither of our selections in last week’s Gp2 Hungerford Stakes got a run in a contest that cut up badly due to ground conditions. As the race was won in a time only four seconds slower than standard the going can’t have been that bad, so perhaps some were over hasty in withdrawing their runners. Having said that the winner, Adday, won in taking fashion, and may well progress to win at the top level. Hopefully there won’t be any dramatic changes to the York surface resulting in a similar mass withdrawal from Saturday’s feature, The Ebor Handicap.

Aidan O’Brien provides the favourite for this year’s renewal with his 3yo Galileo colt Fields Of Athenry, and judging by his last two runs deserves his position as market leader. He didn’t make his racecourse debut until last October, where he finished seventh in a seven furlong Cork maiden. He reappeared on the all weather at Dundalk in May and duly won an 11f maiden easily. Given a rating of 99 and conceding 22lbs to the winner he was beaten 1L in a valuable Down Royal handicap over 1m4f. He started joint favourite for a 1m6f listed race at Leopardstown four weeks later and won impressively, beating the useful Dermot Weld trained filly, and joint favourite, Silwana by ten lengths. Dropped back to 1m4f for a Gp3 three weeks later, he put another useful Weld inmate, the progressive Edelpour to the sword. Three year olds don’t figure in recent renewals of this great handicap, being unexposed they fail to get sufficient weight to qualify, but it is worth noting that O’Brien is the one trainer to have bucked this trend. He handled the last three year old winner, Mediterranean, in 2001,and went close with Changingoftheguard, (2009) the last of the classic generation to get a run in the race. Fields Of Athenry looks a highly progressive animal who will be particularly well suited by Saturday’s trip, and despite his burden of 9st7lbs is short listed.

Tony Martins 6yo gelding Quick Jack showed plenty of pace when winning The Galway Hurdle three weeks ago, and will be well served by, what is likely to be a strongly run race, here on the Knavesmire. He was beaten only 3/4L by the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup winner, Trip to Paris, to whom he was conceding 6lbs, in this year’s Chester Cup. As he went down by a similar distance in last year’s Caesarawich it may be that he has not been quite getting home over these extreme distances and could be suited by Saturday’s trip. A slight reservation would be the poor record of horses older than five but coming from this yard it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

Amanda Perrett, who won with Give The Slip in 2000, and whose father, Guy Harwood won it twice in the eighty’s, fields a likely type in the 4yo Sea The Stars colt, Astronereus. He ran two fine races over 1m4f this year at Newmarket and Royal Ascot, but it was his performance over course and distance in July that really catches the eye. Racing off a mark of 102 he was headed inside the final furlong, but digging deep, he was actually going away at the finish. Last time at Goodwood, (1m6f) a course that doesn’t suit him, he finished a very satisfactory third, beaten a couple of necks, again finding plenty at the finish of a mark of 107. This thoroughly genuine horse would be a most deserving winner if managing to defy the same mark at the weekend, and is another for the shortlist.

Hughie Morrison’s 4yo gelding, Fun Mac has been given an easy time of it since his gallant defeat by Clondaw Warrior at Royal Ascot. He was outstayed by the Mullins horse over the extreme 2 1/2 mile trip going down by 1/2L, and is now 4lbs better off. As Clondaw Warrior went on to collect a valuable 1m4f at Galway off a 7lbs higher mark the form looks good, so expect a top showing from the Morrison horse, who will be well suited by Saturday’s trip.

Luca Cummani’s 5yo Dubawi gelding, Ajman ran well on his first attempt at the trip when finishing a nose behind Astronereus in the Goodwood race. Despite not getting the run of the race he was staying on well at the finish. As he meets the Perrett horse on similar terms on the Knavesmire we can expect it to be close between them, but perhaps Astronereus’ course form may prove decisive.

Selection: Fields Of Athenry

EW: Astronereus