888Sport Grimthorpe Handicap Chase 3m2f Doncaster Saturday

doncaster grimthorpeWith trainers having to make multiple declarations due to the wretched weather, it’s hard to know how many of the 23 five day runners declared for Doncaster’s feature will stand their ground, but on paper the heat looks a cracker, so let’s hope the wet weather doesn’t deter too many of them. On the face of it, the beautifully level track at Town Moor doesn’t look a particularly testing course, but Handicap Chases here tend to be run with the choke out, and if runners go for home turning into the long straight, which they nearly always do, its a long way to the finishing post, and usually it is the strongest stayer who prevails, so sufficient stamina to see out the trip is most important. Neither of the two previous winners in Saturday’s field, Definitely Red (2017) and last year’s Hero, Chidswell, should fail on this front, and of the two, the former looks the better equipped to handle the likely testing conditions at the weekend, and is preferred.

Racing off a mark of 149, Brian Ellison’s stable star, ran a marvellous race to win the 2017 renewal, never touching a twig the whole way round he came home 14L clear of the subsequent Grand National runner up, The Last Samuri. He races off a mark 7 lbs higher on Saturday but having put in some classy performances in the intervening three years, he has been rated as high as 167, and the evergreen 11yo, showed there is still plenty left in the locker when finishing 2nd to Vintage Clouds (rec 13lbs) in Haydock’s Grade2 Peter Marsh Chase last time, off Saturday’s mark of 156.

Paul Nicholls (main picture) sole victory came 20 years ago with one of the few 7yo’s to have ever won the race, Knights Templar, who won with the featherweight of 10-0 on his back, and the master of Ditcheat will be hoping to pull off a similar trick on Saturday with another 7yo, Worthy Farm, who has just 10-4 to carry. The son of Beneficial made little impression in his first two runs over fences but demonstrated in pretty convincing fashion in his last two that what is required is a trip, 3 miles+ on testing ground. In the first of them, racing off a mark of 125, (Wincanton 3m1f Soft Dec26) he travelled well throughout and comfortably held the challenge of Broadclyst who was receiving 15lbs.  5 weeks later, racing off a 5lbs higher mark, he outstayed the 137 rated, The Kings Writ, for a 2L victory over the same course and distance on Heavy. The latter victory was all the more meritorious as the runner up was well ridden by a 7lbs claimer that day which makes the improving Nicholls horse look very well treated on his mark of 137 at the weekend.

Michael Scudamore, whose yard is currently operating at a 100% success rate (3/3 in the last 14 days) runs the lightly raced 9yo, Some Chaos and if by some miracle the ground did start to dry out could be interesting. A winner of 4/7 over fences he ran his best race to date when winning a Kelso Class2 Handicap (3m2f Good)off a mark of 138 last March by 2 1/4L from the 146 rated Blue Flight. Retired for the season he has run 3 times this term, twice in Novice Hurdles and just the once over fences when finishing 13/24 in The Ladbroke at Newbury in November. He looks well handicapped on Saturday’s mark of 142 and if the sun did come out would be well worth a second look.

Dan Skelton has 3 entries, all lurking around the bottom of the handicap, and the most interesting of them could be his Warwick Classic Chase runner up, Captain Chaos. The 9yo has a relatively poor strike rate of 3/20 over fences but the Warwick effort was his best for some time, and racing off the same mark on Saturday, (134) will think he’s loose with just 10-1 on his back.

Despite some dodgy jumping, the Caroline Bailey trained 7yo, Boldmere, beat the subsequent Musselburgh Class2 winner, Bob Mahler by 10L in a Clas3 Handicap over 3 miles here at Doncaster off a mark of 133 at the end of December, and 34 days later, taking a big step up in class, looked to have the race at his mercy when coming down at the last when 3L clear in Wetherby’s Grade2 Towton Novices Chase. (3miles Soft) Boldmere only came to the excellent Ms Bailey at the end of last October and has now won 2 of his 4 starts for the yard and if she can get him to concentrate a little better at his fences there could be plenty more to come.

The Stuart Edmonds trained 9yo, Now Mc Ginty was a decent hurdler, (142) and is maturing into an even better chaser. He has only won one of his 8 starts over fences, but has run some excellent races in defeat, not least when giving the 163 rated Santini a fright at Sandown in November. Making his seasonal debut, he made the running until after the 2nd last, where the classy Santini forged ahead, but Now Mc Ginty battled back and was only beaten a head. He was sent off a 7/1 chance for The Welsh Grand National next time out but 3m6 1/2f in the Chepstow mud proved a bridge too far for the son of Stowaway and he finished 9/27, 29L behind the winner. However he has had a nice 9 weeks break since, and considering he ran last weeks Betway Handicap Chase winner, Mr Malarky (151) to 1 1/2L in last year’s Grade2 Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot, he doesn’t look at all badly treated on Saturday’s mark of 147, giving him a comfortable racing weight of 11-0. From a top NH family, 5 of his 6 siblings have been winners, the most notable of them being the triple Grade1 winner Outlander.

Only 3 animals have successfully carried more than 11-7 in the history of the event so top weight, Beware The Bear has a serious challenge on his hands. However he is no stranger to carrying big weights and won a Cheltenham Handicap (3m2 1/2F G/S Jan 2019) with the steadier of 12-1 on his back. However that was off a mark of 146 in a poorer race and he is 13lbs higher on Saturday. He could only finish 4th in The Ladbroke Trophy off a pound lower so a win for the 10yo looks a big ask.

Selection.    : Worthy Farm

EW.              : Captain Chaos  Now Mc Ginty

John Gray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection  : Sir Dragonet

EW.            : Sir Ron Priestley

John Gray

888Sport Grimthorpe Handicap Chase 3m2f Doncaster Saturday

img_5309-1Saturday’s Grand National Trial, The Grimthorpe Handicap, (hasn’t produced a winner of the great race since Amberleigh House in 2004, but the 2016 Victor, The Last Samuri, did go on to finish 2nd at Aintree the following year) is quite a strong heat for trends. Weight has been pretty significant, with only 4 winners in the last 20 renewals carrying more than 11 stones, as has age, with no horse younger than 8 succeeding since the Paul Nicholls trained 7yo, Knight Templar, got his head in front in 2000. With Doncaster’s long attritional straight to cope with, contenders tend to start racing in earnest earlier, putting an additional emphasis on stamina, and winning form over at least three miles has been essential.

Following wins with Shraden Leader, (1994) and The Last Samuri, (2016) Kim Bailey is seeking to bring up a third victory with his upwardly mobile 8yo, Rocky’s Treasure. A winner of 4 of his 6 starts over fences, he hacked up over the course, (3m Good Dec15) where, making all in the Grade2 contest, he stayed on stoutly to beat the 138 rated, Theclockisticking by 17L in a race run at a good clip. He blotted his copybook 4 weeks later in a Warwick Class1 Handicap. Sent off a 6/5 Fav, he didn’t seem to cope with the course’s unique jumping demands, and finished a well beaten 3rd. Stoutly bred, by Westerner, out of the brood mare, Fiddlers Bar, he is a half brother to the classy Double Shuffle, so should find Saturday’s trip ideal. Back at Doncaster, where he had been so impressive in his previous race, and with the stable in good form, he has plenty to recommend him, and my only concern would be his top weight of 11-10.

Cumbrian trainer, Nicky Richards (pictured) who is having such a good season, is represented by the two 10yo’s, Chidswell and course winner, Looking Well. The former has mostly been campaigned at shorter than 3 miles but looked as if Saturday’s trip might be within his compass when staying on well to win a Kelso Class3 Handicap, (2m 7 1/2f) last time out. img_5310However there has to be some doubt as the last fence was omitted, and the time was slow, so Nicky’s best chance of bringing the prize home to Greystoke would seem to lie with Looking Well. By the very successful NH stallion Gold Well, he is bred to stay long distances, and indeed was going extremely well when falling at the 3rd last in the 4m1/2f Scottish Borders National in December. He made amends 10 days ago with a comfortable victory here at Doncaster off a mark of 133, (3m Good) looking like an animal at the top of his game. The extra 2 furlongs on Saturday looks ideal and only 6lbs higher giving him a racing weight of 11-2 he looks quite well treated.

Richard Newland has a well deserved reputation for rejuvenating cast offs from other stables and seems to have worked the Oracle yet again with the 11yo, Abolitionist. Having recorded his last success at Naas in March 2017 he joined the Newland operation in January 2018, and made his debut for the yard (Nov 18) a winning one, cruising up in a 3m Class2 Aintree Hurdle off a mark of 122 by 10L from the 139 rated

richard newland

Can the doctor find the winning remedy?

The Organist, and earning a new mark of 134 in that discipline, 19lbs higher than his previous winning mark of 115. He was excellent 3rd in the 2017 Irish Grand National, racing off a mark of 145, and if the talented Dr Newland has elicited anything like the same improvement over fences from this veteran, he has to be a very well handicapped animal racing off the same mark at the weekend. A slight concern would be the stables lack of recent form, but they are already 7 ahead of their previous best season.


The Chris Grant trained AcDc, a winner of 4 of his 12 starts over fences is attempting Saturday’s trip for the first time but wasn’t stopping when winning over 3m1/2f at Ayr
(Nov2017) and as a son of Kings Theatre out of a Slip Anchor mare shouldn’t find the trip a problem. He won nicely at Wetherby on his seasonal debut in October and ran ok 17 days later, finishing 4th at Ayr. Unsurprisingly beaten when stepped up to Grade2 level last time, he races on Saturday off a mark of 133, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-10 and is worth considering.

Animals younger than 8 have found it difficult to win but Philip Hobbs’s 7yo
Beau Du Brizais, with 10 chases under his belt, has not only had plenty of experience, but has shown definite improvement in his last two runs. The son of Kapgarde won a Ludlow Class3 over 3m1 1/2f off a mark of 123 in early December, and followed up at the same venue a fortnight later (3mSoft) where despite meeting plenty of trouble in running, and racing off a 6lbs higher mark, won by 2 1/2L and 7L from the 132 rated pair Holly Bush Henry and Fox Appeal, which makes Saturday’s mark of 135 look very fair. Philip won with Out The Back ten years ago, and looks to have another serious contender on Saturday.
Selection : Looking Well
EW.           : Beau Du Brizais

John Gray

Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (Group1) 1m Doncaster

Known as The Racing Post Trophy for the last 28 years, it is the final Group1 run anywhere in Britain in 2018, and this terms renewal takes it’s new title from the eponymous firm of Stockbrokers. It has proved a solid guide to The Derby with 5 winners going on to success in The Epsom Classic. Reference Point set the ball rolling in 1986 and Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot became the fifth winner in 2011 to collect The Epsom Blue Riband. There have been none since but last year’s winner, Saxon Warrior finished 4th and the 2013 winner, Kingston Hill finished 2nd at Epsom in 2014. The Master Of Ballydoyle has won the contest an amazing 8 times, two of whom (High Chaparral and Camelot) went on to Epsom glory and he will be hoping that one of his 8 contenders (at the time of writing) can get the first leg of the double done on Saturday. Coolmore Stud’s marvellous stallion, Galileo sired the 2012 winner Kingsbarns and following an excellent performance last time out by his son, Japan, hopes must be high of a repeat.

Japan is out of the prolific Danehill mare, (a cross much favoured by the geneticists at Coolmore) Shastye, which makes him a full brother to the talented, Sir Isaac Newton, and the top class mare, Secret Gesture. Unplaced on his racecourse debut, (Curragh 1st Sept) he won a modest Listowel heat 12 days later, staying on strongly over an inadequate 7f, and two and a half weeks after that, took a major step forward when winning the Group2 Beresford Stakes over a mile at Naas, (a race also won by last year’s winner, Saxon Warrior). He was the least fancied Of the 3 O’Brien runners that day, and despite a far from easy passage, he got himself out of trouble at the furlong marker, and finishing strongly, nailed his stable companion, the warm 11/8 Fav, Mount Everest on the line. Further progress will be required on Saturday but with his positive attitude, and impressive pedigree it could well be forthcoming.

Current market leader, and Japan’s stablemate, Magna Grecia, was only having his second start when beaten a neck by the talented French colt, Persian King,(won his 2 previous races by an aggregate of11L) in the Group3 Autumn Stakes at Headquarters a fortnight ago, where stablemate, Western Australia, was a further 6 1/4Lback in 4th. A slightly tenuous form-line through the 4th, would suggest that the first two home are at least equal to, if not superior, to the highly promising Madhmon, who won a Leopardstown Group2 quite easily from Broome 6 week’s ago and the runner ups subsequent close 2nd in Longchamp’s Group1, Prix Jean-Luc Legardre adds definite gravitas to the form. If we take the above form at face value, Magna Grecia will be hard to beat.

The 3rd contender from the Ballydoyle Octet, Norway is a full brother to the 2013 Epsom Derby winner, Ruler Of The World, and he showed that he was going the right way when winning the 10f Listed Zetland Stakes 2 week’s ago. In a muddling race, the son of Galileo quickened of a slow pace to land the spoils, and while further improvement is required at the weekend, he certainly won’t fail for lack of stamina.

The all conquering Gosden yard is represented by Turgenev and Kick On, and of the two, Turgenev looks the more likely to give the trainer his first success in the contest. A son of Dubawi out of a Group2 winning mare, he hacked up in a lowly Class5 heat on Newcastle’s AW, (Sept24) on his 2nd racecourse appearance, and 9 days ago was most impressive when easily beating Aidan O’Brien’s Il Paradiso, in a Class4 Newmarket Novices. Il Paradiso is one of the lesser lights at Ballydoyle, and that Newmarket heat was run in a time nearly 5 seconds slower than standard, but nevertheless, the manner of the victory certainly caught the eye, and Turgenev could be anything.

The Charlie Hills trained Phoenix Of Spain has won two of his four starts, and the manner of his second victory, in York’s 7f Group3 Acomb Stakes, suggested a rapidly improving animal. He stayed on well over the 7f trip to win by 1 1/2L from Watan and had Broome 6 3/4L back in 6th. Further progress was confirmed when stepped up to Group2 level next time, in Doncaster’s 7f Champagne Stakes. He was an excellent 2nd to the subsequent Group1 Dewhurst winner, Too Darn Hot, (Btn 1 3/4L) and if he stays the extra furlong on Saturday he could be involved. There are mixed messages coming from his pedigree, his half brother, Lucky Beggar, trained by Hills, was best at 5f, but 2 other half brothers, Central Square and Kingsdesire stayed 10f.

Selection : Japan (if abs Magna Grecia)

EW. : Norway

John Gray

William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group1) 1m6 1/2f Doncaster Saturday

st leger historyFirst run in 1776, the St Leger is the World’s oldest classic. Contested over an extended 1m6f the race is invariably run at a sustained pace, and when turning in, the runners face a relentless battle up Doncaster’s long attritional strait, putting a huge emphasis on stamina. Non stayers don’t win the St Leger! Training honours in the modern era, with five victories apiece are shared by Saeed Bin Suroor and Aidan O’Brien, while the riding accolade goes to Frankie Dettori who only needs to hit the back of the net twice more to equal the immortal Lester Piggot’s seven wins, and he looks to have excellent prospects of getting one closer on the John Gosden (4 St Leger winners to his credit) trained filly, Lah Ti Dar.

a mug of Lester Pigott from june 1962

Lester won the St Leger on seven occasions

Unraced as a 2yo, the daughter of Dubawi has gone from strength to strength in her three races. She made her racecourse debut in April, hosing up in a lowly Class4 Newbury Maiden (1m2f Gd/Sft) and 16 days later took a big step up in class to win the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes (1m2f Gd/Fm) in equally impressive style at Newmarket. Further progress was evident last time when stepped up in trip she spread eagled a decent field in the Listed Galtres Stakes (1m4f Gd/Fm) at York 23 days ago, winning by 10L. More will be required at the weekend, but as a Daughter of the super mare,
Dare Re Mi, who was twice successful at the top level, including when winning the 2010 renewal of the Group1 12f Sheema Classic from the legendary Japanese Mare Buena Vista, (won over £10 million pounds in prize money) there should be plenty more to come from the Gosden filly. With only seven post war victories for Fillies in the final Classic, (Meld 1955 Cantelo1959 Dunfermline 1977 Sun Princess 1983 Oh So Sharp 1985 User Friendly 1992 and controversially, Simple Verse three years ago) the stats aren’t exactly encouraging but the 3lbs sex allowance is certainly a bonus in such a testing heat.

andrew balding st leger

Andrew Balding’s Maid Up has great each way claims

The only other filly in Saturday’s field is the Andrew Balding trained Maid Up, and she has demonstrated she has the requisite stamina for Saturday’s test, going down by a Shd over 14f in a Goodwood Group2 at the beginning of August, and comfortably winning the Group3 Lilly Langtry Stakes, run at a good clip, over the same course and distance 22days ago. This stoutly bred filly has a very progressive profile, and having paid plenty to supplement her, connections will be hoping, at the very least, to land some place money.

The Charlie Appleby trained Old Persian stayed on gamely to win the Group2 Great Voltigeur Stakes (1m4f) at York 24 days ago by a head from stable companion Cross Country with the current St Leger market leader, Kew Gardens, who was conceding 2lbs, 1 3/4L back in 3rd. While this was a considerable advance on his 6th in the Irish Derby there isn’t much in his pedigree to suggest that Saturday’s trip will bring further improvement, and it is 11 year’s since a Great Voltigeur winner (Lucarno 2007) went on to collect at Doncaster.

At the time of writing Kew Gardens heads a 7 strong challenge from Ballydoyle and following that effort in the Great Voltigeur last time is a warm order to give Aidan O’Brien a 6th victory in the race. The son of Galileo showed how well suited he is by Saturday’s trip when running away with The Queen’s Vase at The Royal Meeting in June and further enhanced his stamina credentials when winning the Group1
Grand Prix De Paris (1m4f Good) in July. In a fast run heat he kept on strongly to assert in the final 50yds where he had Saturday’s opponent, Dee Ex Bee 4 1/4L back in third.
2lbs better off with Old Persian and with Ballydoyle back in top form he is going to be difficult to beat.

Aidan’s son, Joseph is hoping to become the first handler who has ridden a winner of the Classic, (Leading Light 2013) to train one, since Harry Wragg brought off the double with Intermezzo in 1969, and he must have a serious chance of doing so with his Irish Derby winner Latrobe. The son of Camelot kept on really well to keep his dad’s Rostropovich and Saxon Warrior at Bay in The Curragh Classic, and is easily forgiven his poor effort in the 10f Juddmonte International last time where the trip was too short. There are mixed messages from his pedigree but his half brother, Entangling, stayed quite well, albeit at a modest level, and his full brother, Pink Dogwood, currently racing as a 2yo, shapes like a stayer.

Selection  : Lah Ti Dar.   (If abs) Kew Gardens
E.W.            : Maid Up
John Gray

Sky Bet Handicap Chase Tips 3m Doncaster Saturday

Historically known as The Great Yorkshire Chase, it was first run in 1948, and was won by Cool Customer, carrying the eye watering weight of 12-7. However, heavy burdens have been a serious bar to success in recent renewals, with the Henrietta Knight trained Calgary Bay (11-11) in 2012, being the only animal to carry more than 11-02 to victory since Speaker Weatherill in 1998. Older horses have a poor record in the race with only five in double figures obliging in the entire history of the contest. Proven stamina at three miles has proved essential, as Doncaster with it’s long strait, is a track where they tend to start racing in earnest early, and it takes a true stayer to get home. Another couple of significant relevant stats are that all of the last ten winners had winning form going left handed, and there hasn’t been a winning Northern trainer since Richard Guest won with Tyneandthyneagain fourteen years ago.

One horse that fits plenty of the above criteria is the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bigbadjohn. The 9yo was sent off favourite for last years renewal when trained by Rebecca Curtis, but never travelled after a bad mistake at the sixth, and slipped up on the following bend. He put up an excellent performance next time out winning a Grade2 Ascot Novices Chase over three miles but alas, his next five races have been very disappointing. However he can be excused as the Curtis yard has been hopelessly out of form all season. He recently joined the Naunton powerhouse, and it wouldn’t come as the biggest surprise, if Nigel, who has won the race on two previous occasions, ( The Young Hustler 1993 and Beau 2000) didn’t effect a Renaissance in the horse, who is 3lbs better in than last year, and has only the featherweight of 10-00 to carry.

Paul Nicholls has also trained the winner twice, (Colourful Life 2005 and Big Fella Thanks 2009) and of his two contenders, the 9yo, Warriors Tale (pictured) has the more taking profile. He was only beaten a neck by the talented Gold Present (Newbury 2m6 1/2f Dec9) where he was staying on stoutly. warriors taleHe has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday and as his Newbury conqueror, having won at Ascot since, is now on a mark 13lbs higher, the Nicholls animal looks very well treated. He has won over three miles and had the pace to win over shorter. With a nice racing weight of 11-0 he looks one for the shortlist.

The Emma Lavelle trained Vibrato Valtat has been rated as high as 162 in the past, but having failed to catch the judges eye since November 2015, had dropped to a mark of 145 last time out. He showed then that there was still plenty of petrol in the tank when putting in an excellent performance he ran Mustmeetalady to a neck over Saturday’s course and distance. He meets his conqueror on 2lbs better terms on Saturday, and only raised four pounds to 149 giving him 11-02 to carry, has to be worth considering.

Despite jumping badly out to the left, the Neil Mulholland trained, The Young Master put in one of his better efforts for some time when finishing third behind Fountains Windfall and Ballykan at Kempton two weeks ago. He has been dropped to a mark of 139, nine pounds lower than his highest winning mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-6 with a further 3lbs to come from his talented owner/Jockey, Mr S Walley-Cohen. Back on a left handed track worth a second look!

The Kim Bailey trained 8yo, Thumb Stone Blues, has only had the three outings over fences, and put up a very creditable effort on his handicap debut last time out,

(Catterick 3m1f Nov27). Jumping soundly he finished second off a mark of 132. Racing off the same mark at the weekend, there could be more to come over the larger obstacles from this very genuine and consistent animal, (has won three and been placed ten times from his fourteen races under rules).

We have to rewind ten races to the last time the Nicky Henderson trained, L’Ami Rouge (pictured), jumped a fence in public. In the meantime he has been making hay over the smaller obstacles, winning twice, including at the highest level, and as a result is now rated 7lbs lower over fences. Mind you, he was no slouch steeplechasing, winning twice at distances of 2m1f and 2m4f. Judging by his strong staying performances over hurdles, he seems sure to be well suited by Saturday’s trip, and will undoubtedly have been well schooled at the Seven Barrows Academy and deserves his place at the top of the market.

Selection : L’Ami Rouge

E.W. : Warriors Tale

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

November Handicap Tips 1m4f Doncaster Saturday

Brian Ellison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection: Seamour.

E.W. : Zand.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Selection: Deauville

E.W. : Shogun

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