1000 Guineas Day Preview & Selections

In the 1000 Guineas itself, the ante post bet on Iridessa at 20/1 is looking quite nice and I’m happy enough with it. The only concern would be that the track bias turns out to be similar to yesterday’s, although I think that the major factor in the Guineas was Shine So Bright breaking so quickly up the rail, giving the three horses on that side a nice passage into the race off a strong pace. I’m going to have another small bet in the Guineas today on Mot Juste who was weak in the betting before the Nell Gwynn and should come on for the run. She hit the front just a bit too early and I reckon she’ll appreciate the step up to the mile. It’s easy to get 20/1 on the exchanges this morning.
0.5pt win Mot Juste 20/1 (general)
Already Advised: 1pt win Iridessa 20/1

In the 4:30 at Gowran I’m quite keen on Lady Olenna, who I thought ran a nice race last time out. She broke slowly and and Colin Keane allowed her to take her time under an easy ride, but she made up ground nicely without Keane asking too many questions to finish just 6 lengths behind the winner. 33/1 seems generous.
1pt win Lady Olenna 33/1 (BetVictor, Betway, William Hill)

Saturday’s In-Form Trainers Across the Cards

In-Form Trainers

It seemed that Kim Bailey had a case of seconditis in the last few weeks, with his runners from April 11th-17th recording form figures of P222PP42. However, in more recent days they have been managing to get their heads in front, and their form in the last two weeks reads 385211161. He runs four today at Uttoxeter:
2:45 – Masteen – non-runner
3:25 – First Flow – non-runner
4:00 – Station Master – 9th at 7/1
4:35 – Silver Kayf – non-runner

It’s likely that Marcus Tregoning won’t see today as being particularly successful, with Greenham winner Mohaather missing what looks to be a wide open Guineas. However, the Greenham win was just one of a number of successes for Tregoning in the last month or so, with his form from March 23rd onwards (he hadn’t had a runner in almost 3 weeks before this point) reading 1312181241. He just runs one today at Newmarket:
1:50 – Power Of Darkness – 7th at 7/2

Declan Queally has had just one runner at Punchestown this week and although Fennos Storm did make the places in 3rd, he was a long way behind the winner. However, Queally’s string appear to be in good order, with form of 212422131051U13 since the beginning of April. This is a 33% strike rate in the last 30 days (he has operated at a strike rate of around 10% through his career although that has increased to around 24% in the last year) and a 67% win/place rate (about 33% throughout his career but up to 51% in the last year). He runs one today at Punchestown:
3:10 – Cloudy Morning – 1st at 11/1

2000 Guineas Day Selections

The Irish National Hunt season comes to a close today at Punchestown but the main focus will obviously be on Newmarket, where the first real highlight of the flat seasons takes place in terms of the 2000 Guineas.

Punchestown
The Mares Champion Hurdle sees just 5 runners go to post and Benie Des Dieux, who arguably improved from Cheltenham to Punchestown last year, really should be good enough to win and it just doesn’t seem like a betting race. The other grade one on the card is the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle and it might be a more attractive betting prospect. Fusil Raffles is the 7/4 favourite and certainly has leading claims based on his Adonis win and on the fact that he comes here a fresh horse. However, I’m a bit surprised to see that Fakir D’Oudairies is 3/1 and I think he looks a fair play in a race where there should arguably be joint favourites.
Fakir D’Oudairies 1pt win 3/1

The other race I’m interested in is the handicap hurdle at 5:35, which features two horses that I’ve been keeping an eye on. Cartwright lost significant ground at the start in the Martin Pipe but came home very strongly. He was disappointing at Ayr next time out but certainly wouldn’t have liked the ground there, with a strong preference for testing conditions. Canardier’s preference in terms of the going appeared to be the opposite before this spring, when he was a good 5th in the Coral Cup and then 3rd in the Merseyrail Handicap Hurdle at Aintree. He has only gone up a pound since the latter and it’s his form in big fields that makes him particularly interesting – his form in fields of 16 or more reads 13153. The ground might be a small bit on the good side for Cartwright, but Canardier is of interest and can be backed at 10/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying 6 places.
Canardier 0.5pt e/w 10/1 (1/5 odds 6 places, Paddy Power)

Newmarket
3:35 – I’ve backed Magna Grecia in the 2000 Guineas ante post and would stick with him at 5/1 – the money is coming for Ten Sovereigns but this can be explained by jockey bookings. I have my doubts over whether a stiff mile is ideal for the favourite, while there are no such concerns for Magna Grecia. Skardu could well keep improving but he looks a bit short after winning a messy race in the Craven. Madhmoon had to give away 3 pounds to a race-fit horse on tough ground in the Leopardstown trial and that defeat probably wasn’t as disappointing as it may have seemed at first glance, but I thought that he might have been a bigger price off the back of that than he is. The same can be said for Royal Marine, who was just unlucky in the Craven but I wouldn’t want to back him at his price. Advertise has strong claims but again, the trip is a concern. I suspect that Shine So Bright will be seen to best effect over 7 furlongs, and Kick On might be best over 10 furlongs.

Al Hilalee is a Dubawi so should progress as a 3yo and should get the mile – he was very impressive on debut at the July Course last season. The very fact that he has been supplemented means that he is of interest, and I think that 16/1 isn’t a bad price.
Magna Grecia 2pt win 5/1 (general)
Al Hilalee 0.5pt win 16/1 (general)

4:45 – UAE Jewel is a seriously exciting horse and one to keep a close eye on this season. Walkinthesand got to within a neck of Kick On in the Fielden Stakes and the winner had the advantage of a lead on the rail. He didn’t look 100% before the race and so should come on for the run, and he didn’t seem to deal that well with the dip either. With only four horses today, there doesn’t look to be much value in the race, but a close eye should be kept on both of these horses.

Punchestown Day 1 Preview & Selections

Day one of the Punchestown Festival may not match the other spring festivals in terms of quantity, with the three grade one contests consisting of eight or less runners, but it’s nevertheless top class action and is required viewing for National Hunt fans.

2:40 – Herald Champion Novice Hurdle – 2m – Grade 1
The first of the grade one races is the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at 2:40 and on the face of things it doesn’t look a betting race. Klassical Dream was brilliant in the Supreme and the clock backs up this view. It would be no great surprise if there was more improvement in him and it’s possible that he could step up in trip considering the fact that the Ballymore was an option. However, he faces stiff opposition today. Felix Desjy was 5th in the Supreme after receiving considerable market support before the off. He travelled well but couldn’t find much towards the end of the race. I’ve wondered for a while whether small fields could be key to this horse and he duly obliged in a field of 7 at Aintree next time out, beating Aramon by a length and a half (although he idled on the run in and could well have won by a lot more).

Aramon is a horse that I feel has been unlucky this year, though. He exceeded expectations on the good ground that prevailed throughout the season but was unsuited by the softer conditions at Cheltenham and Aintree. I still think that he could be a very good horse on better ground, although the concern will have to be whether he begins to feel the effects of a long season.

The interesting thing about the race is that each and every one of them could be considered in with a chance. Champagne Platinum has been hugely impressive on both starts to date although this is a big step up in class. Mister Blue Sky won a grade 2 at Fairyhouse a few weeks ago and deserves his place here. Quick Grabim was ruled out of Cheltenham due to injury but his win in the Royal Bond in December (beating Aramon with considerable ease) suggests that he could be in the mix here if back to his best. He was a really exciting horse early in the season and may benefit from coming here a fresher horse than the others. This will be a great race to watch.

5:30 – Boylesports Champion Chase – Grade 1 – 2m
Min is the odds on favourite here after a terrific display at Aintree. Next in the betting is Un De Sceaux, who would appreciate some rain, followed by Great Field. The interesting point here is probably that these three are all likely to go forward. These tactics worked well for Min at Aintree and it would be a surprise if they were deserted today, while Un De Sceaux has always gone from the front (the exception was the Ryanair last time out when more patient tactics didn’t work out) and Great Field is another confirmed front-runner (the question in his case will be how long his jumping can hold up).

With these three getting into a battle up the front, the race could play to the strengths of something else. Hells Kitchen may not go forward but does tend to race very keenly and so he wouldn’t be the prime candidate for picking up the pieces. Castlegrace Paddy and Ordinary World are the two at the bottom of the betting and it’s this pair that we know will be given patient rides, hunting around and attempting to come through in the finish when others have expended too much energy early on. Castlegrace Paddy does have a decent record at right-handed tracks (4 wins from 8 compared to 0 from 4 going left-handed) but all of his wins have come on softer ground and after a longer break.

This leaves us with the somewhat unusual option of Ordinary World. He was 7th of 9 in this race last year, 26 lengths behind the winner. However, that was on tougher ground than he will encounter this year and his form in chases around this trip in going conditions more similar to today’s is 12323232. On all known form he shouldn’t be good enough to win today. However, with six runners we have the prospect of a without the favourite market in which we can still bet each-way.
Ordinary World 0.25pt e/w 100/1 (1/4 odds, 2 places, Skybet, BetVictor, Boylesports)
Ordinary World W/O Min 0.25pt e/w 50/1 (1/4 odds, 2 places, Boylesports)

6:40 – Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase – Grade 1 – 3m½f
Delta Work only managed to finish 3rd in what was a high class RSA Chase but there are plenty of reasons to think that he could be better than that already impressive standard. Firstly, he’s only 6 years old, a year younger than any other horse than ran in the RSA that day other than Mister Malarky. Secondly, Gordon Elliott’s form at that point hadn’t been brilliant – his form for the festival overall was 7%, whereas he usually operates at a strike rate of around 15% and his strike rates for the 2017 and 2018 festivals were 21% and 25% respectively. Thirdly, the ground still had some cut in it on the Wednesday at Cheltenham and Delta Work has shown his best form this season on a sounder surface (212111 on yielding or better, 3324313 on soft or worse).

Fourthly, the key to his form looks to be a recent run (4 wins and 2 places from 6 starts when back out within 30 days of his last start), but he had had a 74-day break going into the RSA (his break since that race has been 48 days). Finally, a look at the race itself suggests that he suffered from a lack of luck in running. One excellent jump probably brought him to the front earlier than would have been ideal. He committed at that stage and then was short of space jumping the last and was forced to switch out to the right.

Overall, I’m just convinced that Delta Work is a very good horse. To me, 7/4 seems a very reasonable price due to the fact that A Plus Tard is so short in the betting. The latter certainly looked like a graded horse when winning the Close Brothers, but it has to be remembered that the Close Brothers is rarely a fantastic race and the subsequent form this year hasn’t done anything to suggest otherwise. He’s competing for favouritism with Delta Work at the moment and my preference has to be for the former.

Getabird is clearly a talented horse on his day and has run well at Punchestown in the past but again, 7/2 is a bit short for me. Discorama is also a nice type, but the concern would be that the gruelling four miler at the festival may have taken a lot out of him. Clondaw Cian and Atlanta Ablaze, two other horses which were involved towards the finish in that race, didn’t look like themselves next time out and Discorama tends to run well fresh anyway, with his form when back out within 50 days of his previous start reading 2372552, compared to 11F after a longer break. He has also shown his best form in bigger fields.

Winter Escape would need to improve significantly from his last start on Easter Sunday to be in contention, Drovers Lane has 21 lengths to find with Delta Work and Chris’s Dream and Articulum would also need to find significant improvement.
Delta Work 2pt win 7/4 (general)

Naas Monday Preview

A Look Back on Sunday

I was very keen on Capri coming into this season but he was disappointing in the Vintage Stakes. It’s possible that he needed the run but I don’t want to get too carried away with that theory considering the form of O’Brien’s team in the early stages of this season (something that was covered in another post). Southern France was very sweaty before the race, though, and looked a bit big, so it’s not hard to imagine improvement from him and he seemed quite green throughout the season this year. Of the two, he’s the one who looks to have more room for improvement, although the Ascot Gold Cup could come a bit soon.

Verhoyen ran another good race in defeat and I’m still convinced that he’s well handicapped but if he was to go up a few pounds from that run I’m not sure that I’d want to keep following him. Encapsulation was a nice each-way win and considering the rate of her progression so far, she looks like an exciting prospect – the winner is the Oaks favourite, after all. Crimson King finished less than a length outside of the places and he might be one to keep an eye on – it’s a tough uphill finish at Navan and he came through the field well, so I would think that this is his trip.

Monday at Naas

It’s a good card at Naas on Monday and a couple of horses who I’ve been keeping an eye on are running.

5:15 – Sonaiyla’s first two starts came over 6f at Naas. On her first appearance she was 5th of 18 in October 2018 when drawn in stall 17 of 18. She was just 4 lengths behind the winner and the stalls of the first 7 home were 6, 1, 12, 7, 17 (Sonaiyla), 5, 2. She was only a head behind the horse in 4th, who went on to win her maiden a week later and is now rated 84. Sonaiyla was the only runner that day without a run under her belt. She then went to Naas on Lincoln day, finishing 2nd by 2 lengths when drawn 18 of 20. The winner came from stall 5 and the 3rd came from stall 2. Pedigree suggested that a step up in trip might suit and she ran creditably over 7f at Leopardstown next time, hitting the front over a furlong out but eventually getting passed by a few stronger finishers in the last 100 yards. The drop back to 6f seemed like a good idea and she’s back at Naas today, but yet again has been unlucky, drawn in stall 23 of 24. If she runs creditably again from a bad draw, she’ll definitely be one to keep an eye on.

5:50 – T For Tango is also drawn very badly in stall 24 of 24. It’s just worth noting that he was rated 90 two years ago and is now rated 76. There was a bit of money for him first time out this season and was slowly away from a bad draw, was unlucky in running and then ran on well. He didn’t run an awful race at Leopardstown last time and again, if he runs well at a bad draw today he might be worth keeping an eye on, especially back at this trip.

6:20 – Primo Uomo was highly thought of in the early stages of last season but lost his way a bit after that. He was unlucky in running in the Cork Stakes, though, finishing 6 lengths back but encountering interference a few times, so he probably could have gotten closer. It will be interesting to see whether he is getting back on track, but he’s a bit short for me today.

6:50 – Crockford hasn’t always seemed like a horse that you would want to trust in a tough finish, and has been wearing a tongue tie since his second start. However, he ran really well against a strong draw bias and pace bias at Naas last time, coming from last to first on tough ground. I suspect that the patient ride is given intentionally and that he may be a bit of a rogue when he hits the front, but his mark may be lenient and he has been given a much nicer draw here today in stall 3 of 15 (16 of 16 last time). 12/1 looks like a fair enough price.
Crockford 1pt win 12/1 (Bet365)

That’s it for today – I’ll be posting on Monday evening with a look at the first day of the Punchestown festival. For anyone who missed the only ante post bet for the meeting, Bellshill (Gold Cup) can still be backed at 7/1 and the bet was 2pt e/w.

Sunday Navan Preview & Selections

A Look Back on Saturday

Getaway Trump ran a seriously good race to win the first race on the card at Sandown carrying 11 stone 12lb, and he’ll be an exciting horse to watch next season. Scarlet Dragon ran a good race to finish 4th and it seems as though the big field and strong pace made all the difference, as he ran too keenly on his previous start and the conditions yesterday helped him to settle. Definitly Red was a non-runner in the Oaksey Chase and so Black Corton went on to be the impressive winner. Altior was excellent and although he didn’t win with the swagger that we’ve seen in the past, it was another solid run from the champion considering the fact that he would have preferred not to have made the running and the right-handed track didn’t necessarily help his jumping.

Step Back ran creditably back at a right-handed track and that does seem to be the key to his form. Talkischeap appears to have been a very well handicapped horse. Over at Haydock, Spirit Of Lund missed the break again and then ran no race at all. I wouldn’t necessarily give up on him as it was his first time running on a softer surface and it’s possible that this went against him. Overall, it was a poor day for the selections after a good day on Friday, but that is only to be expected from time to time and it’s onwards and upwards.

Sunday

It’s a quieter day today after a manic Saturday, and the best of the action is at Navan with two listed races in the support card for the Vintage Crop Stakes.

2:35 – The first handicap on the card sees the return of a horse that we backed a few weeks ago. Verhoyen went off at 20/1 that day and finished a close 3rd at Naas. He has shown definite promise in his last two starts and I don’t think that going up 2 pounds was overly harsh for that performance. He’s dropping back to 5½f today which shouldn’t be an issue and it’s a similar class of race. I reckon that the 8/1 on offer at the moment is more or less the right price and if he was to get any bigger, he’d probably be a bet for me at around the 10/1 mark – not as of now, though. UPDATE: Bet365 have gone 10/1 on Verhoyen and it seems a fair price to me for a horse that I suspect is still well handicapped.
Verhoyen 1pt win 10/1 (Bet365)

3:10 – The Irish Rover really caught my eye in the 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown. He wasn’t quite up to the top level as a juvenile but he didn’t seem to get the toughest ride first time out this year and once Heffernan did ask him for some effort he made some nice headway through the race. O’Brien has always maintained that he shows plenty of speed so it’s no great surprise to see him drop back to this sort of trip and he’d be my idea of the winner here, but again, I was looking for a bit more than the current best price of 5/2. If strong support comes for Cava or another runner and The Irish Rover drifts, he will be more interesting, but I’m not having a bet at the current prices and will update here if that changes.

3:40 – Encapsulation is one that we’ve been following since she caught the eye running green at Leopardstown first time out. She broke her maiden impressively next time out but this is a serious step up in class – that said, she is one of the only fillies in the field who is more or less guaranteed to stay the trip and considering it’s a ten-runner race I don’t see any harm in having a small each-way bet, although the race is likely to be dominated by Pink Dogwood who is ante post favourite for the Oaks.
Encapsulation 0.5pt e/w 25/1 (1/5 odds 3 places Paddy Power, Betfair)

4:15 – Capri is likely to go off at a short price here and he’s a horse than I’m very keen on. He did win first time out last season and the yard is in flying form, but O’Brien seems to think that he’s the type to need the run. He wouldn’t be a betting prospect for me today but he is interesting for the Ascot Gold Cup. Southern France is another to keep an eye on. He took a while to mature last season so one would imagine that he will have come forward a bit over the winter and he could be there or thereabouts in the staying division this season.

4:45 – Crimson King missed the break at Leopardstown on Guineas Trials day but stayed on into 6th like a horse with plenty of stamina. I was wondering whether they might step him up even further in trip, but that 10 furlong race was his first run over further than a mile and it will be interesting to see him again over that trip. A look back at some of last year’s form suggests that he’s well handicapped: he ran at Naas in a handicap over 7f, coming out of the stalls slowly that day too and then shaping like a horse who wants a step up in trip, staying on for 3rd. He was carrying 7lb less than the winner, Antilles, who finished 4 lengths ahead of him but who is now rated 35 pounds higher. The horse in 2nd (Colfer Me, also 4 lengths ahead) was carrying 1lb more than Crimson King and is now rated 27 pounds higher. Crimson King may well come on for his last run, will be suited by the trip and looks very well treated (on the assumption that he breaks well, which has been an issue on every run to date).
0.5pt e/w Crimson King 33/1 (1/4 odds 4 places, Skybet, William Hill, BetVictor)

5:15 – Newcross is just one that I want to keep an eye on over the next couple of months. He was unlucky at Galway last summer (in fact, he was unlucky a few times but Galway is the one that stands out in the memory) and that run saw his mark increase from 75 to 83. It’s back down to 80 now which makes him top weight today, but I get the impression that they might be aiming him at something. Whether or not it’s today remains to be seen, so he’s not carrying my money, but he would be interesting if his mark was to drop another few pounds over his next couple of starts.

Saturday’s In-Form Trainers

This isn’t a definitive list of in-form trainers, but just three that it might be worth keeping an eye on today, as well as a bit more information about Aidan O’Brien’s strong current form:

Dan Skelton
Dan Skelton’s duo of winners yesterday won’t have come as any major shock at starting prices of 4/9 and 8/13 but both won with considerable ease and were just a latest in a stream of winners over the past week. In the last 7 days, his runners’ form reads 4P22P1126U111141P201453233111 – that’s 11 wins (and another 6 places) from 29 runners. Skelton runs 6 at Sandown today in a bid to keep his winning run going right up to the end of the season:
1.50 Sandown – Flash The Steel
1.50 Sandown – Humble Hero
2.25 Sandown – Cobra De Mai
3.35 Sandown – Captain Chaos
4.40 Sandown – Bandsman
5.15 Sandown – Wynford

Aidan O’Brien
This wouldn’t always be considered Aidan O’Brien’s time of year but his yard has a 46% strike rate over the last two weeks, with 12 wins from 26 runners. His strike rate throughout April is 25% which is only bettered by the strike rates of April 2016 (26%), 2012 (29%) and 2010 (26%) in the last 10 years. His strike rate in the month of April last year was 17% and in 2017 it was just 15%, so the usual theory that O’Brien’s will need the run hasn’t necessarily applied this year.

Even more striking is the record of his newcomers (note that the following statistics regard any horse which has never run in the UK or Ireland as a newcomer) – over the last 2 years, just one O’Brien horse won on their first ever outing in March or April from 17 total runners, and that was So Perfect. This year, 5 of his 12 runners have done it, a 42% strike rate (the highest that he has had since 2004). One point which may be worth noting is that the old strategy of backing his horses on their second appearance on the basis that they needed the run the first time out may not work out as well this year – of the 7 that were beaten, two have had a second start and both have disappointed (one of them, 3yo King Pellinor, was 4/5 favourite on his second start having been considerably unlucky in running first time out). Magic Fountain runs in the 2:50 at Limerick today, having finished 10th at Leopardstown on debut, and this may tell us more in this regard.

George Baker
Finally, George Baker warrants a mention despite the small sample size – his form figures in the last week are 1162, and the interesting thing about this is that his winners came at odds of 2/1 and 12/1 and the runner-up was 10/1 and only narrowly beaten. He runs two outsiders today (The Gates Of Dawn in the 1:40 at Leicester and Borderforce in the 4:50 at Haydock) and it will be interesting to see whether they outrun their odds.