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  1. A quieter weekend up here with the final day of the July Meeting at Newmarket the headline. 13 go in the July Cup over 1200m but the ground is on the soft side so this will make this more of a stamina test than is often the case. Joint top rated are the 3-y-o GOLDEN HORDE and the 4-y-o HELLO YOUMZAIN and these two won the key 1200m championship races at the Royal meeting. GOLDEN HORDE won the Commonwealth Cup for the 3-y-o and did it well while HELLO YOUMZAIN won the Diamond Jubilee. Who to choose? The 3-y-o gets 6 lbs which is not insignificant but will it be enough? SCEPTICAL and KHAADEM were third and fourth in the Diamond Jubilee and THREAT was fifth in the Commonwealth Cup. I'm not convinced SCEPTICAL will get home and I'm doubtful as to the ground for the other two. None of the others make a lot of appeal in all honesty. I'm with HELLO YOUMZAIN and I'm on at 11/2. The supporting Group 2 is the Superlative for the juveniles over 1400m. All ten have won and six are unbeaten so this could be a decent heat. HUDSON RIVER represents Aidan O'Brien and has been backed into favouritism. He won on debut over 1400m at The Curragh while John Gosden's SEVENTH KINGDOM won on 1400m at Doncaster on debut. MASTER OF THE SEAS won on soft ground on the Rowley MIle track. It's very difficult to tie up these form lines and make a call so it's a race to watch for the future for me. At Ascot, 11 go in the Group 2 Summer Mile on ground described as Good. It doesn't look the strongest renewal and former Queen Anne winner LORD GLITTERS could be the one back down in grade. He's always performed well over the track. MARIE'S DIAMOND was third, MOHAATHER seventh and SKARDU eighth in this year's renewal of the Queen Anne and the former has obvious claims on that effort. Sunday's feature is the Jean Prat at Chantilly over 1400m. 11 go to post with the favourite PINATUBO who was third in the 2000 Guineas and second in the St James's Palace. To me, he's always looked a 1400m horse and he's going to take a lot of beating if he settles. MOLATHAM won the Jersey but this is Group 3 form, not Group 1. ALSOM was third in the Poulains but I'm more interested in TROPBEAU who was fourth in the Pouliches. She was very good over course and distance as a juvenile and I've backed her each way at 12s.
  2. A quick look at Friday's action at Newmarket which features the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes over 1600m. Just seven run and TEREBELLUM remains a firm 11/8 favourite. On her Queen Anne run, she's going to take a lot of beating. MAGIC WAND backs up quickly after her fourth in last Sunday's Eclipse while NAZEEF won a Group 2 at Ascot and ONE MASTER is the Foret winner who was second in this last year. It's a decent heat but it's hard to look beyond TEREBELLUM. The Duchess of Cambridge is a Group 2 for the juvenile fillies over 1200m. DANDELLA was hugely impressive in the Albany at Ascot winning by six lengths but the ground was soft and she is by Dandy man whose progeny love some juice in the ground. The Newmarket ground is currently Good. TIME SCALE was a strong winner on the other Newmarket track at the end of June and is on the upgrade. The interesting runner for me is MORE BEAUTIFUL who won convincingly on debut at Naas over 1000m. For those who don't know the Irish track, it's a stiff uphill finish and I was surprised to see Aidan O'Brien run her in the Queen Mary in which she got predictably outpaced. This is much more suitable and I rate her a big chance to overturn the locals.
  3. Before I dish up some nonsense on Friday's racing, I thought I'd remind you all of my thoughts on the Jockey Club from last week. OCEAN ATLANTIQUE is the mount of Pierre Charles Boudot and bolted up in a Listed race last time. This is a big jump in class but from the yard of master trainer Andre Fabre that's less of a concern. THE SUMMIT was second to VICTOR LUDORUM in the Poulains and is a huge each way price at 22/1. However, I think this race is heading across La Manche or the English Channel courtesy of MISHRIF who sidestepped Epsom for this and was an impressive winner of the Listed Newmarket Stakes over 2000m beating VOLKAN STAR who followed up last weekend. I've backed him at 10s against the locals. I mean, I give you the winner AND the second - what more can I do? Anyway, enjoy the race but I doubt you'll enjoy it as much as I did. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZKPlVoARc0 With Mrs Stodge's steak and champagne supper secure, I thought all that had to happen was for ALPINE STAR to follow up in the Diane. Well, as the saying goes "the best laid plans" - to be fair, I thought she got a decent ride from Pasquier but whether it was the trip or the ground she just ran out of steam in the final 100m and this enabled Irish 1000 Guineas runner up FANCY BLUE to nick the race on the stick. The Irish 1000 Guineas winner PEACEFUL was third and it confirms the widely-held view that, LOVE apart, the 3-y-o fillies are nothing special so far. I suspect ALPINE STAR will come back to 1600m next time and I wonder if they may be tempted to run her against the colts in the Sussex. FANCY BLUE was young Donnacha O'Brien's first classic winner as a trainer but we can be certain it won't be the last. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL9hXfvHTR0 Just a quick mention of Saturday's big races at Belmont. VEKOMA put up a gutsy performance to win the Metropolitan Handicap and could be a serious player in the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile. MCKINZIE was disappointing and while CODE OF HONOR, the 2019 Kentucky Derby runner up, travelled into the race well, he just couldn't quicken against these specialist milers. I think he'll go back up to 2000m. Finally, INSTILLED REGARD just prevailed in a thrilling finish to the Manhattan over 2000m on the turf. I suspect the placed horses may fancy their chances of reversing the places at the Arlington Million in Chicago.
  4. Before offering the Sunday review, a quick look forward to the action up here in the coming few days. The Newmarket July Festival starts on Thursday and runs to Saturday. It has two Group 1 features - the Falmouth for the fillies and mares over 1600m and the big July Cup over 1200m on Saturday. That's not to say there isn't a strong set of supporting races at both Group 2 level. On Thursday the Group 2 July Stakes for the juveniles has 10 runners. QAADER was second to the 150/1 NANDO PERRADO in the Coventry while TACTICAL won the 1000m Windsor Castle. Into the mix comes SWISS ACE from the all-conquering Aidan O'Brien yard. He won a 1000m maiden on debut at Tipperary and falls into the "could be anything" category. I like QAADER because at Ascot he was on the wrong side of the course and had too much to do late on. The Princess of Wales's Stakes is over 2400m. Eight go and a number of these have to come back from some moderate efforts last time including COMMUNIQUE (who won this last year), DESERT ENCOUNTER and OLD PERSIAN who was frankly dismal in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. Charlie Appleby is trying cheek pieces so he's of interest. ALOUNAK ran a blinder in the Hardwicke and must be considered. The two that interest me are both fillies - ENBIHAAR had a stellar 3-y-o campaign as a tough staying filly and ended up running third to Oaks winner ANAPURNA in the Royallieu on ground which probably didn't suit. ANTONIA DE VEGA had a quiet 3-y-o campaign but started this season with a nice win at Pontefract. She's got to find a fair bit against these but with eight runners we can play the each way shark and 9s is a decent price. Newmarket isn't the only game in town on Thursday with York staging its belated opening day and a race which is normally a Derby trial, the Dante, taking place five days AFTER the Derby. That's 2020 for you and I don't really understand why they feel they need to run the race given we are experiencing a glut of quality and a dearth of moderate races. Just six go and favourite is HIGHEST GROUND who dished out a beating to Waldgeist's brother WALDKOENIG at Haydock a fortnight ago. It's solid form but he's taken on by CORMORANT who beat RUSSIAN EMPEROR in the Derby Trial at Leopardstown and that's a good race most years. It's rare Frankie Dettori swerves Newmarket and even rarer he swerves it to go to ride a 10/1 shot but ENCIPHER is that horse and he was a close second to AL MADHAR at Newbury. That's a way below the form of others in the field but the jockey booking makes me sit up and take note. Nine have been entered for Friday's Falmouth at Newmarket over 1600m. TEREBELLUM ran a huge race in the Queen Anne against the colts and back among her own gender has a huge chance. NAZEEF won the Group 2 for the fillies and mares at Ascot and to be honest looks to have it on against TEREBELLUM. ONE MASTER brings Group 1 form to the table - she was second in this last year and won the Foret at Longchamp. She was sixth to HELLO YOUMZAIN in the Diamond Jubilee and while 1200m is clearly too short, 1600m may be far enough but if they dawdle, she will be the one who will be coming home best. There are three 3-y-o entered including PEACEFUL who won the Irish 1000 Guineas before running a close third to the horse she beat into second place that day, FANCY BLUE, in the Diane last Sunday. I'd be surprised if she backs up so quickly but getting the weight she does would put her in this. 15 have been entered for Saturday's July Cup for which Commonwealth Cup winner GOLDEN HORDE is 5/2 favourite with the winner, third and fourth, HELLO YOUMZAIN, SCEPTICAL and KHAADEM the next three in the market. Sunday sees the Jean Prat at Deauville for the 3-y-o over 1400m. French juvenile star EARTHLIGHT is missing the race but among 29 entries are PINATUBO who I think will love the trip and the track.
  5. Good to see plenty of comment on Saturday's extraordinary events at Epsom Downs. Starting with the Derby, I won't bother posting a link to the race as other people have. I can't recall if Reference Point made every yard in his Derby or if Slip Anchor did the same but in recent years it hasn't happened. It's extraordinary to think SERPENTINE won a maiden seven days before winning the Derby which makes a nonsense of all the usual trials and form lines. It was a brilliant tactical ride from Emmet McNamara but to what extent was he gifted the race by the other riders? Perhaps they had forgotten SERPENTINE's dam had been an Oaks runner up so he wasn't going to stop though he was weakening in the final 200m (understandably). I thought he handled the Hill and Tattenham Corner superbly and that as much as anything else enabled the horse to skip 12-15 lengths ahead with 600m to go. From a form standpoint, it could be a fluke or he could be a seriously good horse in a mediocre crop. Ordinarily, he'd head for The Curragh for the Irish Derby but that can't happen this year so where next? The King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes means taking on his elders but he'll be getting a lot of weight and perhaps he'll take the staying route so the Voltigeur at York before the Leger at Doncaster and perhaps a tilt at the Arc. Could he be a Cup horse next year? As for the others, KHALIFA SAT was second throughout and did well to hoid on as did AMHRAN NA BHFIANH who rallied back into third on the post. After them, the first five in the betting market occupied the next five places split by less than three lengths with KAMEKO, ENGLISH KING, MOGUL, RUSSIAN EMPEROR and VATICAN KING all in a heap suggesting there's not much between them as the pre-race hype suggested and that none of them are superstars. Aidan O'Brien did of course win with another long priced horse in Wings of Eagles in 2017 and he was retired after a narrow defeat at The Curragh so we just don't know. It was O'Brien's eighth win in the race which is a modern record. As for the Oaks, an even wider margin winner in a slightly faster run race as LOVE powered home by nine lengths. There was so much to like about this performance and for all the tv pundits wanted her to win the Triple Crown at Doncaster, the Leger is an afterthought these days and I think we saw the Arc winner on Saturday. LOVE won this with all the authority ENABLE showed back in 2017 and then some. I look forward to her taking on the colts and perhaps the older horses down the road and on this performance she's have probably beaten the colts on Saturday. ENNISTYMON ran another huge race and if LOVE sidesteps the Irish Oaks, team O'Brien look to have a ready alternative. My guess is LOVE will head for the Yorkshire Oaks and then the Arc via the Vermeille. I'm also sure FRANKLY DARLING will be back at her best on a more galloping track and she could give LOVE more of a test at York but it's hard to see her reversing that kind of deficit. The ground at Epsom was good and fast times (and perhaps front runners) were aided by a tailwind up the straight. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_utIhKxtcDc
  6. Sunday is another huge racing day with Sandown Park (about 11 miles from Epsom) hosting the Eclipse over 2000m. Just seven go to post with LORD NORTH taken out this morning which wrecks the race from a punting perspective. John Gosden has said this week ENABLE might need the run but he said that last year and she still won. She is a tremendous filly who was won more than her fair share of battles. GHAIYYATH dominated the Coronation Cup at Newmarket and Sandown is a good track for front runners but this is 400m shorter and I just doubt if GHAIYYATH will be able to get these quality rivals off the bridle while still having enough to get home up the hill. JAPAN was disappointing in the Prince of Wales but I'm sure he will strip much fitter and he's the logical choice against ENABLE on that basis. He won the Juddmonte and on a line through Crystal Ocean there's very little between him and ENABLE. I don't doubt in a real battle she would have his measure but first time up may be the time to catch her out so JAPAN is the tip but I'm not getting involved financially. At Chantilly, we have the Jockey Club and the Diane. The Jockey Club is known as the French Derby but that's a misnomer as it is run over 2050m. I'd argue the real French Derby is the Grand Prix de Paris but that's just my opinion. The Jockey Club has 17 runners and the ground is Soft at Chantilly. VICTOR LUDORUM won the Poulains after a disappointing run in the Fontainebleau and you'd think from the breeding the trip would be fine so he must have a big chance. OCEAN ATLANTIQUE is the mount of Pierre Charles Boudot and bolted up in a Listed race last time. This is a big jump in class but from the yard of master trainer Andre Fabre that's les sof a concern. THE SUMMIT was second to VICTOR LUDORUM in the Poulains and is a huge each way price at 22/1. However, I think this race is heading across La Manche or the English Channel courtesy of MISHRIF who sidestepped Epsom for this and was an impressive winner of the Listed Newmarket Stakes over 2000m beating VOLKAN STAR who followed up last weekend. I've backed him at 10s against the locals. 11 go in the Diane and since ALPINE STAR did me such a favour in the Coronation at Ascot I'm on her again here at 5/2. PEACEFUL won the Irish 1000 Guineas but that loos inferior to the Coronation Stakes form and the locals don't look a stellar group. RAABIHAH won a Listed last time but she'll have to be a lot better than that to trouble proven Group 1 performers.
  7. A huge weekend up here with classic action in both the UK and France. Starting on Epsom Downs where the ground is Good in advance of the Derby and Oaks which are being held on the same afternoon for the first time. As we know, both are run over the unique switchback roller coaster of a track that is Epsom with the rise from the start climbing the height of Nelson's Column and then a sharp descent down the hill into the famous Tattenham Corner and a 700m run home with a rise in the final 100m. The Derby for the colts (fillies can run as well but not geldings) has 16 runners and looks a wide open heat. Favourite was ENGLISH KING, who looked very good winning the Trial at Lingfield (the race ANTHONY VAN DYCK won in 2019) but he's got a terrible draw from stall 1 and for a horse setting to make the running or be close to the pace this is a real problem. He has Frankie Dettori but he'll need luck to get a position without expending too much energy. There are real questions over the value of his Lingfield form with the runner up BERKSHIRE ROCCO well held by Irish Derby winner SANTIAGO at Ascot. KAMEKO won the 2000 Guineas and in most years that would be enough for him to be favourite but there are doubts over the form of the Newmarket classic and there are real questions in KAMEKO's breeding as to whether he will get 2400m. I think 2000m is his limit and he could well be running on empty in the final furlong. Aidan O'Brien has a large entry but it's hard to be enthusiastic about his 3-y-o middle distance colts for all he dominated the Irish classic last weekend (there were no UK or French runners permitted). Hampton Court winner RUSSIAN EMPEROR has been punted into 5/1 second favourite and he's got a better draw than MOGUL but it's hugely significant Ryan Moore has opted for the latter. MOGUL was disappointing behind PYLEDRIVER in the King Edward VII but he looked as though the race would bring him on a lot physically. He's long been regarded at Ballydoyle as the Derby horse but he's drawn stall two and even at 15/2 I'm not tempted. VATICAN CITY is lightly raced but ran a blinder in defeat to SISKIN in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Solid form but he's out of a dam who was a sprinter and her progeny have all raced at around a mile so there are real stamina doubts there as well. The draw hasn't been kind to PYLEDRIVER wither but we know he sees out the 2400m from his win at Ascot. It would be a huge story if he won but I can't see it. HIGHLAND CHIEF has been punted but he won a handicap on soft ground at Ascot so this would be a huge step up. The Stodge tenner each way in a race I don't find easy to read has gone on MOHICAN HEIGHTS at 20/1. He won both his starts as a juvenile and was a fair third on re-appearance to PYLEDRIVER at Ascot. I'm not sure his draw is ideal but I do think he'll see out the trip and could be running on from the rear when others are running on fumes. I'll be honest - I doubt this is a vintage renewal under the circumstances. The Oaks looks a very different proposition. Just 8 runners and I think only three matter. LOVE is favourite having been a convincing winner of the English 1000 Guineas. She's a full sister to Peach Tree and Flattering who were both well beaten in the Oaks but ran well over middle distances so I've every confidence LOVE will see out the trip. FRANKLY DARLING beat ENNISTYMON in the Ribblesdale and for all the winner won it well, I thought the runner up was closing at the line and the difference in prices (7/4 for FRANKLY DARLING and 5/1 for ENNISTYMON) doesn't make any sense. I'm not playing in the race - I hope LOVE turns out to be the clear best middle distance filly and she will be my selection. Two Group 1 races at Belmont tomorrow evening - the Metropolitan Handicap over 1600m on the Dirt has 8 runners and I fancy MCKINZIE to return to top form. The Manhattan Stakes over 2000m on the turf looks wide open - INSTILLED REGARD won last time and might be the one.
  8. Thanks for the kind word. I wish I had some answers for you - I know how passionate so many in NZ are about their racing and if that was all it needed you'd be fine.
  9. A huge weekend coming up in the UK with the Derby, Oaks and Eclipse all taking place. For the first time ever, the Derby and the Oaks will be run on the same afternoon at Epsom albeit behind closed doors though with the proviso some Owners may be allowed to attend. 17 have been entered for the Derby which will have a much reduced first prize of £283,550. Aidan O'Brien has entered seven so the final shape of the field is far from clear. ENGLISH KING remains favourite at 9/4 with 2000 Guineas winner KAMEKO at 7/2. RUSSIAN EMPEROR, MOGUL and VATICAN CITY are all at 6s and 7s with PYLEDRIVER the best of the long shots to my eye at 14s. The Oaks has just 11 entries with English 1000 Guineas winner LOVE at 11/8, Ribblesdale winner FRANKLY DARLING at 9/4 and Irish 1000 Guineas winner PEACEFUL at 9/2 The ground at Epsom is currently Good and while it's a cool, and unsettled week up here there doesn't seem any large amounts of rain forecast. About nine miles north-west of Epsom Downs is Sandown Park and if Saturday's classic action isn't too much Sunday sees the Group 1 Eclipse over 2000m. An important one-off change to the conditions for the race is 3-y-o are ineligible this year so it's effectively the Prince of Wales's Stakes two and a half weeks later. 8 have been entered but this is without doubt the best race of the season so far. Horses rated 124, 126 and 128 in opposition tell you all you need to know and when the multiple Group 1 winner DEIRDRE is a 25/1 outsider you know you've got a quality race. Obviously, the Prince of Wales is a key from line and winner LORD NORTH bids to cement his ascent to the top table while JAPAN has to bounce back from a disappointing effort. GHAIYYATH won the Coronation Cup with a brilliant front running galloping display. Sandown suits front runners but this is 2000m not 2400m and the opposition is much better - indeed, they son't come much better than ENABLE who is understandably favourite. ENABLE is probably the best horse to have raced in Britain since Frankel - she is a dual Arc winner and was only just denied a hat trick in the Paris mud last October. She has won 13 of her 15 races and amassed nearly £10.5 million in win and place money. She won the Eclipse last season on debut beating MAGICAL in a close finish but if anything this year's renewal is a notch better with stable mate LORD NORTH a real challenger. The reports from Newmarket are she is as good as ever - she'll need to be.
  10. I can only give you the winners and the long priced each way horses. A tremendous Irish Derby run in a rainstorm but as expected they went like the hounds of hell were after them through halfway and many of them just didn't get home. We knew from Ascot SANTIAGO would stay 2400m as he had won at 2800m on soft and the rain that fell before and during the race helped as it was genuine good ground. I have to confess I got excited as I saw TIGER MOTH come out of the pack and thought my each way bet might turn out to be a serious winner but it wasn't to be. To be fair, 14/1 each way still returns a decent profit and Mrs Stodge got a decent fish and chip supper out of the winnings. TIGER MOTH was only having his third run and ran a huge race. SANTIAGO looks ideal for the English or Irish Leger and I suppose the next question is whether he could be a staying horse next year - he's the biggest threat I see to STRADIVARIUS next season (unless Aidan O'Brien heads for the Goodwood Cup which would be fascinating as the 3-y-o would get a huge amount of weight from the triple Gold Cup winner and the irony is STRADIVARIUS broke through into the staying hierarchy when winning the Goodwood Cup as a 3-y-o. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4kBwX9X24Q Sunday saw the Pretty Polly and as expected it was a romp for MAGICAL. Seamie Heffernan kept it simple bouncing the mare out the front from the gates and making every yard to win by four and a half lengths. A thoroughly satisfactory first run and it will be interesting to see where Aidan O'Brien and "the lads" choose to campaign her. The Juddmonte or the Irish Champion seem obvious if they are going to stay at 2000m and perhaps another tilt at the Arc or the Breeders Cup Turf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NzkkP2kRX4 The other big Group 1 race this weekend was in France and it was the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud over 2400m and it saw a last gasp win for WAY TO PARIS who, in typical French style, came from last to first under Pierre Charles Boudot to upset NAGANO GOLD and pacemaker ZIYAD. He was beaten by Waldgeist in the Foy last September and connections swerved the Arc for the Cadran but I supect they'll head for the big prize this autumn and he's the best of the French older horses at this time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4waZeAwxqM On the under card at Saint Cloud, PERSIAN KING was a smooth winner of the Group 2 Muguet - let's not forget he won the 2019 Poulains and was only just held by SOTTSASS in the Jockey Club. He's a talented miler and I expect he'll be a player in the Marois.
  11. This weekend sees Group 1 action in Ireland with a quiet weekend in the UK. Saturday's Irish Derby has 15 runners which is a larger field than most years - normally, the race is run three weeks AFTER the English Derby rather than the week before. Aidan O'Brien sets us a poser by running no less than six. Top rated and ante post favourite is Queen's Vase winner SANTIAGO and the galloping 2400m at The Curragh will suit. ARTHUR'S KINGDOM was second in the King Edward VII but that looked a moderate renewal. IBERIA was third in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown but on the same card TIGER MOTH was a nice winner of the 1600m maiden and he might surprise for those looking for a Ballydoyle horse at a big price. Joseph O'Brien runs three and I like Gallinule winner CROSSFIREHURRICANE who accounted for GOLD HAZE but the second should come on a lot and isn't a lost cause at 10s. FISCAL RULES was a close fifth in the Irish 2000 Guineas - that was a scrappy race and I'm doubtful as to the quality of the form. There's lots of ifs, buts and maybes about this lot - it might be a vintage renewal but we won't know that for a while. There's the suspicion the better Ballydoyle runners will be at Epsom next weekend. SANTIAGO is the obvious choice if they go hard - he's a relentless galloper but give me someone else's tenner and I'd have a speculative punt on TIGER MOTH at 14s. We've not got the final decs for Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes over 2000m but it seems likely MAGICAL will run and if she does she will take a world of beating. This wonderful 5-y-o mare ran nine times last year - after three easy wins in Ireland including a romp in the Tattersalls Gold Cup she was runner up to CRYSTAL OCEAN in the Prince of Wales Stakes and then was runner up to ENABLE in both the Eclipse and the King George. After winning the Irish Champion Stakes, she was disappointing in fifth behind Waldgeist in the Arc before winning the Champion Stakes at Ascot. It's not her fault she's in the same generation as ENABLE - both are champions - and she has won connections £3.4 million prize money. 2000m on decent ground at The Curragh will be ideal. Meanwhile, it's Soft ground in Paris for the 2400m Grand Prix de Saint Cloud. Just five are entered so far and on a day which saw two British raiders win Group 3 races at Longchamp, OLD PERSIAN looks an interesting runner for Godolphin. He was disappointing in the Breeders Cup Turf after a nice win in the Northern Dancer at Woodbine but I get the sense he's a notch below European Group 1 class and I much prefer WAY TO PARIS who was a close second in the Ganay and will love the 2400m as he showed when an impressive winner of the Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly. Though he's a 7-y-o, he's improving all the time and I see him as a serious Arc contender.
  12. Just a few final reflections from me on Royal Ascot 2020. An extraordinary event bereft of crowd and atmosphere if I'm honest but the racing was high quality though perhaps a notch down on normal years. Credit to all who made it happen but the stark truth was Ascot and British racing had too much to lose by it not happening in terms of worldwide exposure (especially for the bloodstock industry) and money coming in to the world pools operating on the main races. Juveniles: Ascot normally takes place 10 weeks into the season and some form lines are established. With just two weeks since the resumption, it was guesswork. As I said above, QAADER and SACRED ran very well in defeat but the Albany winner DANDALLA looked special for all she relished the soft ground. 3-y-o: Again, very early days. GOLDEN HORDE won the Commonwealth Cup but whether he's ready to go against the older sprinters at Newmarket I'm not sure. Among the classic milers, both PALACE PIER and ALPINE STAR had swerved Newmarket and The Curragh and this possibly paid dividends. Both look very nice prospects and I hope we get a clash later in the year. The Newmarket Guineas form looks a little shaky after Ascot though in all fairness KAMEKO and LOVE were always going elsewhere. MOLATHAM and MONARCH OF EGYPT dominated the Jersey and both look viable Group 1 contenders in the future. SANTIAGO looks a nice staying prospect though not a Derby horse to my eye. FRANKLY DARLING was impressive in the Ribblesdale and is on course for a clash with LOVE at Epsom early next month and while it may be heresy at this point I do think the Oaks is a more interesting race at this stage. The King Edward VII told us nothing and it may be the 3-y-o middle distance colts are nothing special (probably should give KAMEKO and ENGLISH KING a chance before writing them off). Older Horses: BATTAASH dominated the King's Stand and I can't see one to bother him at Goodwood over 1000m or in the Nunthorpe (unless Wesley Ward runs CAMPANELLE). TEREBELLUM gave a good account in the Queen Anne but CIRCUS MAXIMUS is a wonderfully tough horse and while I'm not convinced the sharper Goodwood track will suit, he'll lack nothing in courage. MOUNTAIN ANGEL emerged as a nice prospect when taking the Wolferton which is often a key form race for the season. The strength of the Gosden team in the older horse ranks was evident all week (Sir Michael Stoute was shut out). In FANNY LOGAN and LORD NORTH he was two wonderful prospects. LORD NORTH's plans are unclear but I'd love to see him in the Irish Champion or the Juddmonte while FANNY LOGAN's impressive win in the Hardwicke adds yet another layer to a potentially crowded Arc pack for Mr Gosden. Another element of that might be STRADIVARIUS who produced the performance of the week routing the Gold Cup field by 10 lengths. The Coronation Cup run, which drew some criticism at the time, was the perfect prep race and he ran here at the top of his form. Owner Bjorn Nielsen has long expressed his desire to have a tilt at the Arc even if that means taking on ENABLE and John Gosden is diplomatic enough to know the Owner pays the bills but it may be a harder call for Frankie Dettori. The circus rolls on as the more normal calendar starts to re-assert but it will be a busy early July with the Derby/Oaks and the Eclipse over the first weekend swiftly followed by the three day July Meeting at Newmarket.
  13. Right, time to draw the curtain on Royal Ascot 2020 and that means the final day review. A very strong card to close proceedings with three Group 1 races. The feature of these was the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and as Kiwis will no doubt know, a "home" win for HELLO YOUMZAIN who just held the late challenge of DREAM OF DREAMS with favourite SCEPTICAL just running out of petrol in the final 50m to finish third. To be fair, HELLO YOUMZAIN is a proven Group 1 performer and while I'm not convinced the July Cup is his race, Haydock in September might be more up his street. I wonder if connections of SCEPTICAL will fancy taking on BATTAASH at Goodwood. As for DREAM OF DREAMS, first time up is the time to catch him and he doesn't seem to take to much racing. HELLO YOUMZAIN made almost all and that's not easy over the 1200m at Ascot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8djqOYgR1A The St James's Palace Stakes over 1600m for the 3-y-o colts was a race I got completely wrong as PALACE PIER made the transition to Group 1 effortlessly and was far too good for PINATUBO and WICHITA. As I expected, PINATUBO didn't get the run of the race and Buick was forced to do too much too early in the straight. The horse barely gets 1600m and on a stiff track like Ascot, stamina was always going to be an issue. Goodwood on the other hand will be much more suitable and I'm not surprised to see him mentioned for the Sussex but he'll probably take on Irish 2000 Guineas winner SISKIN and perhaps the Poulains winner VICTOR LUDORUM. PALACE PIER has all manner of options. I suspect connections won't be tempted by 2000m just yet and talk was of the Marois at Deauville (over the straight course). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZA5_NB0aDI Frankie Dettori had a magnificent Ascot and emerged as top jockey at the meeting with 6 winners and 4 seconds beating Jim Crowley who had 6 winners and 1 second. It's my wallet talking but I thought the ride he gave ALPINE STAR in the Coronation Stakes was the ride of the meeting. The manoeuvre to cut back inside in the straight was brilliantly executed and the filly did it really well. Whether she's as good as her half-sister Alpha Centauri remains to be seen but this was very impressive. She could go well for the Falmouth at Newmarket or wait for the Rothschild at Deauville. I'd love to see her take on the colts sometime somewhere. QUADRILATERAL is another talking horse like PINATUBO and there will come a point when the excuses have to stop. She does too much too early and perhaps a drop back in trip might help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlpE7TRDGbs The supporting Group 2 races were for the juveniles. The Queen Mary Stakes saw Wesley Ward's CAMPANELLE come from off the pace to cut down SACRED in the final 100m under a power-packed Dettori ride. CAMPANELLE's not your typical American juvenile with all the speed and strength in the hind quarters - indeed, she looks far more a European horse which isn't surprising given her breeding. It'll be interesting to see how she fares in America ans I suspect we'll see her back in the UK soon. The second, SACRED, is the longer term prospect and ran a huge race in defeat. The Coventry Stakes saw history made as NANDO PARRADO (like CAMPANELLE, by the sire Kodiac who is gaining a reputation for throwing precocious juveniles) became the longest priced winner ever at the Royal meeting by coming in at 150/1. Now, good luck to those who backed him but it wouldn't have made much difference if there had been a crowd at Ascot - it would have been silent (apart from the bookmakers). Whether this was a flash in the pan or we completely misjudged how much improvement he'd find from his debut run remains to be seen. Second placed QAADER ran perfectly well and he's in the Stodge notebook.
  14. I've not forgotten the final day of Ascot - the review is in the works. Elsewhere, TIZ THE LAW was an impressive winner of the Belmont Stakes which for this year was reduced in distance from 2400m to 1800m. The Kentucky Derby is now on September 5th with the Preakness not until October 3rd. A quieter week (mercifully) in the UK and Ireland but the coming weekend has more Group 1 action in the Emerald Isle with the Irish Derby at The Curragh on Saturday evening and the Pretty Polly at the same track on Sunday afternoon. In France meanwhile, all restrictions on racing have been lifted and the Paris tracks have re-opened. Sunday sees the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. France is also leading the way on re-admitting spectators with crowd limits of 5,000 imposed from Monday July 11th (just in time for the Bastille holiday). I suspect British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a significant further easing of restrictions in the UK from tomorrow so it may well be owners may be able to come back in the near future but there seems no immediate prospect of a large scale return of racegoers.
  15. On then to the fourth day of the Royal meeting and after a dry night and morning the ground was upgraded to Good to Soft on the Straight Course and Soft, Good to Soft places on the Round track. The feature Group 1 of day four was the Commonwealth Cup for the 3-y-o over 1200m. This went to GOLDEN HORDE who was close to the pace if not leading all the pace and saw it out very well. KIMARI fluffed the start which is unusual for a Wesley Ward type but ran on strongly. Did it cost her the race? I think not but it didn't help. Some of the other fancied horses such as PIERRE LAPIN and LOPE Y FERNANDEZ were poor and the latter's dismal effort does cast a shadow on the quality of the Irish 2000 Guineas form. As for the winner, he will no doubt take on the older horses at Newmarket next month and we'll get a sense of how the generations compare. One point I would make is trainer Clive Cox is one of the best handlers of sprinters we have and he made no secret of the fact GOLDEN HORDE was trained for this race rather than for the classics with this as a consolation. You need a specialist for this - it's too soon for the classic horses and too quick for those building into their 3-y-o season. GOLDEN HORDE had solid juvenile form and I backed him at 6/1 so it was a steak supper instead of dog food. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT2EDFBf6Hc A much stronger under-card than the previous two days featured the Hardwicke Stakes over 2400m for the older horses. This produced a breakthrough win for the Gosden-trained filly FANNY LOGAN who put the older colts to the sword winning by two and a half lengths. She had herself been well beaten in a Group 3 at Haydock on debut but this was a commanding performance and for a stable already full of very good fillies and mares it's an embarrassment of riches. The fact is FANNY LOGAN could be an Arc contender which of course means locking horns with ENABLE and STRADIVARIUS to name but two. I suspect she'll head for the Yorkshire Oaks first. Of the others, ALOUNAK ran a huge race at 40s in second and he didn't get the best of runs up the rail not that he would have beaten the winner but he might have been closer. The others were in a bit of a heap with DEFOE rewarding each way support at 6s but both ANTHONY VAN DYCK and ELARQAM were disappointing - the latter, I felt, didn't quite see out the trip and I suspect he'll drop back to 2000m. The Queen's Vase for the staying 3-y-o over 2800m turned into a real slog on the holding ground. SANTIAGO clearly possesses stamina in abundance and outstayed BERKSHIRE ROCCO who ran another huge race in defeat and remains very much on my Derby shortlist at 20/1. As to whether the winner will come to Epsom I don't know. With the Irish Derby before the English version this year Ballydoyle have to shuffle their pack even more carefully than usual. The front two drew nearly nine lengths of the others, most of whom went too hard too soon and paid the price. The Norfolk Stakes for the juvenile colts over 1000m went to THE LIR JET who, having smashed the track record on firm ground at Yarmouth from the front, showed massive versatility and courage in coming from off the pace to run down GOLDEN JET from the Wesley Ward stable who did the usual trick of going hard from the front. It might have worked on a quicker surface and it almost worked here but not quite. The front two were nicely clear so are obviously decent types. I wonder if THE LIR JET might be a player in the aforementioned Commonwealth Cup in 2021 but that's a long way off. Just a word from the other races - DANDALLA was a hugely impressive six length winner of the Albany Stakes and could be anything. It's true the progeny of Dandy man do go well on the ground but she routed these and might be worth trying at further - the dam was placed at 1600m but I don't see DANDALLA as a Guineas filly but she might be in the mix for a race like the Duchess of Cambridge at Newmarket next month.
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