Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Royal Ascot 2018 - Day 3

To me, this year's Gold Cup is the highlight race of Royal Ascot. No offence to Big Orange, but I've waiting for a match between Order of St George and Vazirabad for a long time. With the new stayer prince Stradivarius set to challenge these 2 perennial kings of the staying division, we are going to be treated to a truly royal race.

Order of St George needs no introduction. He has been the best stayer running in Ireland and Britain for the past years. He was a rather unlucky loser to Big Orange in last year's race but his reputation is as big as Yeats, his Ballydoyle predecessor and winner of 4 Gold Cups. The son of Galileo is always formidable in any top race beyond a mile and a half. One thing that concerns me is his last race where the post-race comments had him winning cosily, yet it was only less than a length comfy. Connections seemed elated with the win but his win over Twilight Payment was not visually impressive although the rest of the field were 8 lengths adrift of the pair. There is ground to believe that Order of St George might have lost a step as he is now aged 6.

Vazirabad is the king of the staying division in France. As well as Dubai, since he's won their Gold Cup 3 times. It seems weird but it will be his first appearance in the Ascot Gold Cup. How he acts on the track will play a big part in his chances. This son of Manduro is blessed with stamina as well as a good turn of foot. I believe he has a massive chance if he adapts to this new environment and since he has been a good traveller to Dubai, there is every chance that he will be fine with the conditions on the day.

Stradivarius is the new staying champion in waiting. The only concern regarding this son of Sea The Stars is the distance but the way he has been progressing suggests that is within his compass. This is a winner of the Queen's Vase, Goodwood Cup and Yorkshire Cup. His last win in the latter was overly impressive and he will enter this race in peak form. The Gold Cup should be his within the next few years, and the big question is whether he is good enough to take the crown this year.

This is going to be a spectacular race and the winner should come from one of the three. Order of St George is a warm favourite but I believe he is vulnerable and at current prices, he should be taken on or laid. There should not be much between the other two and with push comes to shove, I give preference to Stradivarius because he has won at Ascot before and trainer John Gosden should have him primed for this.


Win: Stradivarius

Monday, June 18, 2018

Royal Ascot 2018 - Day 1

Royal Ascot is the meeting of the year for many and if the entries on the 4 days are anything to go by, it should be filled with memories to come.

The Queen Anne Stakes starts proceedings with the older generation fighting over a mile. The distance should be on the sharp side for Benbatl who makes his return after this Dubai exploits. The Godolphin representative is best over a further furlong and I suspect he will lack the speed require to land this. Rhododendron from Ballydoyle won the Lockinge and should be in the whereabouts again, particularly that she will enjoy her filly allowance against the boys. But it is Recoletos from France that seems to hold the aces for this race. The son of Whipper is two-for-two this year and seems to be thriving on the shorter than middle-distances in which he had been running in prior years. The French don't usually cross the channel unless they have a fighting chance and the quick ground and master rider Peslier could very well steer Recoletos to good effect.

The King's Stand Stakes will be the race of the whole meeting for many as it will pit super sprinters Battaash against Lady Aurelia; they met once before last year in a race where it was Martha who prevailed by nailing the US star on the wire. Battaash was a no-show on that day, possibly due to pre-race antics. The son of Dark Angel will have to be at this best behaviour to have any chance against Lady Aurelia who's won at Royal Ascot in spectacular style for the past 2 seasons. It is really a penalty kick between the two.

The St James' Palace Stakes looks to be a competitive affair regrouping quite a few top milers from the Classic generation. The favourite is Without Parole, an unbeaten son of Frankel in 3 starts. His win on fast ground on his seasonal debut was visually impressive and he should be able to give a good account in similar conditions. Wootton is held in high regard from the Godolphin base in France but his reputation was somewhat dented when he finished a close-up forth in the French Guineas although he had every chance to pounce in that race. He has a big race in him, I believe. But the one with the best from going into this race is Tip Two Win who came out a gallant second to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas. This son of Dark Angel has never been out of the first 3 in 8 races and should be at the finish if he replicates his Newmarket form.

Win: Tip Two Win, Recoletos

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Justify-cation for a Triple Crown?

All eyes in the racing world will converge to Belmont Park on Saturday to witness Justify's attempt at landing the Triple Crown. The unbeaten son of Scat Daddy will try to emulate American Pharoah and affirm his name among the other legends of American racing. Can he do it?

The connections are certainly bullish. Thriving is the common word coming from Baffert, the trainer, to describe the status of Justify. Baffert, the same trainer of American Pharaoh at that. But there should be a few causes for concern.

The main one is how the son of Scat Daddy will handle the mile and a half. This distance has been the graveyard for many Triple Crown aspirants. The field has a few gallopers for which the distance will suit better. Think Hofburg, Blended Citizen, Free Drop Billy. The most likely scenario is that those closers will try to wear Justify down in the last quarter mile of the race. How he will respond will determine the race.

The other question is how much the Preakness took out of Justify. That was his hardest race to date as Good Magic gave him a good run for his money for all but the last 100 yards of the race. Once Good Magic was taken care of, Justify had to withhold the assaults of Bravazo and Tenfold and certainly the finishing post came much as a relief. It would not be stretching to think that 3 weeks rest might not be enough to overcome the exertions at Pimlico.

But Justify might just be a superior horse that can overcome all these concerns. The field is deep but not overly talented. Somehow, if there is an all-out closer that will relish the gruelling distance, then the favourite might be vulnerable towards the end. The comparison line I can come closest to is Smarty Jones, who ultimately failed to land the Triple Crown after going to Belmont undefeated. He had an easy Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness in a canter. He looked to win the Belmont from far way out but was gunned down in the closing stages by a true middle-distance runner named Birdstone, losing his only race in the process. Justify had a relatively easy Derby, albeit in the slop. He had a hard Preakness, in the slop as well. He will be facing a deeper field including a few with staying pedigrees. So his work is cut out for him to win the Belmont.

If he is a superior or super horse, as Baffert seems to believe, then he should have enough in hand. At current odds, it might be worth taking him as it will only take a horse of the greatest caliber to overcome all the questions above.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Saxon Warrior - An Epsom Derby for Deep Impact

Much has been said about what could bring down Saxon Warrior, worthy favourite of this year's Epsom Derby. He will come out of the jinxed stall 1. He might have too much speed to last the stiff mile and a half of Epsom. And finally some say the ground might be too soft for him.

Bollocks.

The son of Deep Impact has enough speed to extricate himself from an unfavourable position coming off the blocks. Ryan Moore should be able to steer him into a good position. Too much speed because he won the Guineas? For good measure, Camelot and Sea The Stars were fast enough to win at the Classic mile distance and held enough stamina to win at Epsom. Saxon Warrior is yet another fantastic son Deep Impact, one of the best stayers ever to grace the turf. There should be no stamina concerns. Soft ground? He won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes hands and heels on only his second start. Sure he is more formidable on good ground but the Epsom soft ground will hold more fears for rest of the field than Saxon Warrior.

Nothing is assured in a horse race but Saxon Warrior should win the Derby on Saturday because he ticks all the right boxes going into the Epsom test. He has beaten everything thrown at him and there is every indication that he will do so again. It's hard to oppose him.

Roaring Lion is best out of the rest. The way he won the Dante was oh-so impressive. He has been beaten twice by Saxon so far. He is the best horse bar the son of Deep Impact. The distance should suit but the soft ground, although drying out, will not be ideal. Still, I expect the son of Kitten Joy to run his race into a podium finish.

I expect Delano Roosevelt and Knight To Behold to run respectable races and can probably follow the above 2 home.

Win: Saxon Warrior
Place: Roaring Lion



Friday, May 25, 2018

Elarqam - a Classic winner for Frankel?

Elarqam pleasantly surprised me in running 4th in the 2000 Guineas. That was the Frankel colt's only third run of his life and he responded admiringly against seasoned milers from the Classic crop. He is the deserving favourite of the Irish 2000 Guineas on Saturday and if he runs to form, he should tower over the rest of the field. The 2 dangers should be Gustav Klimt and Zihba. The former carries the main flag for the Ballydoyle team and thus cannot be under-estimated. The son of Galileo came within a length of Elarqam at Newmarket and is entitled to give a better performance, although Elarqam is the one with more scope for improvement.  Zihba is unbeaten in 3 starts and looks like a smart colt in the making but might be stretched out against some Group 1 level colts at a mile after only 13 days rest.

The Champions League final takes center stage in the football world on Saturday as Real Madrid and Liverpool battle it out in Kiev. I have gone against Madrid the past couple of years and obviously the results have gone the other way. Real Madrid are deserved favourites here as they have the better team on paper. But the Kops will pose them problems with their terrific forwards and Klopp is a master at these kinds of matches. Liverpool will have to keep it tight in defence if they are to have a chance beat the Spaniards. Sitting on the fence on this one but enjoy the match.

Win: Elarqam


Friday, May 18, 2018

Justify - On the way to the Triple Crown

A loaded Saturday looms up as league football comes to an end and racing starts its full flight.

The FA Cup brings the curtain down in English football. Man Utd against Chelsea is an intriguing match as the teams are close and have proven very tricky to back. It's Mourinho against Conte with what promises to be a defensive match with not many goals. I believe this match will go the extra distance and possibly decided on penalties. Chelsea have lost their way in the last weeks of the season possibly because of all the exit talk regarding manager Conte. The Italian will definitely not be at the helm next season and there is a serious question mark regarding his or his team motivation. Winning the FA Cup won't save him. On the other hand, as everyone knows, Mourinho has a near-impeccable record in finals and will have done his home work so as not to lose to his old team. I just cannot see Man Utd losing this match in 90 minutes. If it goes to penalties, then it will be the luck of the lottery to get the winner. For punters itching for a bet, I suggest a draw-no-bet on the Red Devils.

The German Cup sees champions Bayern taking on Frankfurt. This is the last match of manager Heynckes behind the Bayern bench as they go against a team managed by his successor next season. Although the Munich team will be missing a few regulars, it's hard to see them lose this match. Heynckes should go back to retirement on a winning note.

I don't think I've seen such a poor quality field lining up for the Lockinge on Saturday. Sure, 16 horses will provide the quantity but it's hard to be excited about a star running the show. There is no Group 1 miler in the field. Limato and Rhododendron are legitimate Group 1 horses but that would be at sprint level for the former and middle distances for the latter. If push comes to shove, Rhododendron is my pick.

The racing event to follow will be at Pimlico Stateside where Justify runs the Preakness, the second step of the Triple Crown. His form towers against anything else in the field. Provided he takes to the sloppy track, he should win this handily. Having heard all angles and from the bullish connections, I think he will.

Friday, May 11, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 38

Burnley v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s WBA - Home win
Huddersfield v/s Arsenal - Away win
Liverpool v/s Brighton - Home win
Man Utd v/s Watford - Home win
Newcastle v/s Chelsea - Draw
Southampton v/s Man City - Away win
Swansea v/s Stoke - Home win
Tottenham v/s Leicester - Home win
West Ham v/s Everton - Home win

Only a few matches are of significance for the last game week of the season. Here are my picks.

Crystal Palace should beat West Brom at home. Despite a strong level of form under caretaker manager Moore in the last weeks of the season, in which they beat Man Utd and Tottenham while also drawing with Liverpool, the Baggies will be playing Championship football next season. Moore has achieved miraculous results in his short tenure but the club is eventually paying the price of rotten results before his arrival. The Baggies will arrive at Selhurst Park with a blown up confidence to play a host team that has gradually been getting significant results under the care of ex-England manager Hodgson. Zaha is their main man but Hodgson has steadied and righted a ship that seemed destined to sink midway in the season. Palace should finish the season with a decisive win.

Liverpool are vying to secure the fourth and last UCL spot and they should have no problem doing so against Brighton. Watch for Salah to eye for yet more goals as he goes for the Golden Boot glory.

Arsenal have lost 7 consecutive matches on the road and I think that streak will end on Sunday. It will be Wenger's last match and no doubt that the Gunners will try to make it a winning one. It will be a winnable one as well as Huddersfield will still be in partying mode, having secured their stay in the EPL after a gained point at Stamford Bridge in mid-week. Arsenal look good value to win that one.


Thanks for tuning in for this EPL season. There's more to come over the Summer; horse racing, World Cup, definitely more ramblings coming!


Win: Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Liverpool

Friday, May 4, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 37

Brighton v/s Man Utd - Draw
Stoke v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Swansea - Home win
Leicester v/s West Ham - Away win
Watford v/s Newcastle - Away win
West Brom v/s Tottenham - Away win
Everton v/s Southampton - Home win
Man City v/s Huddersfield - Home win
Arsenal v/s Burnley - Home win
Chelsea v/s Liverpool - Home win

The best value odds seem to be at Stamford Bridge where the Blues host Liverpool. The Kops booked their UCL final ticket in mid-week after a hard-fought qualification in Rome. There will obviously be questions on their mental state and more particularly their fitness. I think they will be ripe for the taking in a stadium where Chelsea hold very few prisoners. One intangible to take note is the loss of Klopp's number 2 Buvac. The headlines have it that the ex-Reds coaching brain is on his way to replace Wenger at Arsenal but the general effect on Liverpool remains to pan out. His loss is certainly badly timed given the Kops are still in the race to land the UCL final and a top 4 league spot. Chelsea will have a lot in its favour on Sunday.

Win: Chelsea

Friday, April 27, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 36

Liverpool v/s Stoke - Home win
Burnley v/s Brighton - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Leicester - Home win
Huddersfield v/s Everton - Away win
Newcastle v/s WBA - Home win
Southampton v/s Bournemouth -Draw
Swansea v/s Chelsea - Away win
West Ham v/s Man City - Away win
Man Utd v/s Arsenal - Home win
Tottenham v/s Watford - Home win

It's Mourinho against Wenger again, probably the last chapter of the saga, as the Frenchman will leave his managerial post at Arsenal at the end of the season. It is not difficult to see why the Portuguese has an enviable record against the Frenchman; he relishes foiling plays of attacking sides and break their spirits before delivering the lethal counter punch. This plays particularly well against the one-dimensional attack-minded teams of Wenger. I don't see why that pattern would change in Sunday's match at Old Trafford. As long as the Red Devils don't deliver a big doughnut like they did against West Brom in their last home defeat last week, they should come on top of that one.

Spurs are still fighting for a UCL spot and they won't come much easier than Watford on Monday. Look for Kane to eagerly go for goals in the remaining 3 matches as he tries to catch Salah for the goal scoring title. This should be a high-scoring match with most goals going to the home side.

Accumulator: Man Utd/Tottenham

Friday, April 20, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 35

WBA v/s Liverpool - Away win
Watford v/s Crystal Palace - Away win
Arsenal v/s West Ham - Draw
Stoke v/s Burnley - Home win
Man City v/s Swansea - Home win
Everton v/s Newcastle - Draw

The news broke in this morning that Wenger is to step down as Arsenal manager after 22 years! Many Arsenal fans will have seen their dear wish granted as they grew disgruntled with the downward spiral the club has been sucked into for the past decade. Can Wenger go on a high by winning the Europa League? That is going be really tough, particularly with Atletico Madrid as adversaries in their upcoming semi-final.

I liked Crystal Palace last week and they confirmed the confidence by winning and I am hoping for a bis repetita this week-end. Watford are still not secure from relegation and are only 3 points up on the Eagles but the hosts' form has been so poor of late that I think they will be vulnerable when faced to the likes of Zaha and Milojevic. It might be worth chancing on a Palace win or draw-no-bet.

Stoke are due a win and I think they will finally get it against Burnley. The Clarets lost a rare match at home to Chelsea yesterday and will have a short time of recuperation. I cannot see Stoke losing this match and their odds for winning look really juicy in the markets.

Win: Crystal Palace, Stoke


Friday, April 13, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 34

Southampton v/s Chelsea - Away win
Burnley v/s Leicester - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Brighton - Home win
Huddersfield v/s Watford - Draw
Swansea v/s Everton - Home win
Liverpool v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Tottenham v/s Man City - Home win
Newcastle v/s Arsenal - Home win
Man Utd v/s West Brom - Home win
West Ham v/ Stoke - Home win

Even though their situation is still precarious, I do not see Crystal Palace dropping out of the EPL this year. They are definitely better than their current standing and I believe on Saturday they will sail further from the relegation zone as they host Brighton. The visitors are in fair form but Palace have the weapons to overcome them and bag the full points. Milivojevic and Zaha are in fine goal-scoring form and should lead the Eagles to a much-needed win.

Man Utd should finish the season strongly as they try to secure second place. Truth be told, they were lucky to win at the Etihad last week-end but credit to them for being lethal in the second half. In the first half, City should have been at least 4 up and put the match to bed. But as the saying goes, never count the Red Devils out. They should crush WBA on Sunday.

Finally, for a value punt, I think Arsenal is going to fall at Newcastle. The Gunners escaped a tricky second leg at Moscow in the Europa league and should be vulnerable. Recent history says that they find it hard to follow up after a major European exertion. Newcastle as a home win or draw-no-bet looks enticing.

Dupla: Man Utd/Crystal Palace
Win or draw-no-bet: Newcastle

Friday, April 6, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 33

Everton v/s Liverpool - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Crystal Palace - Draw
Brighton v/s Huddersfield - Home win
Leicester v/s Newcastle - Home win
Stoke v/s Tottenham - Away win
Watford v/s Burnley - Draw
WBA v/s Swansea - Away win
Man City v/s Man Utd - Home win
Arsenal v/s Southampton - Home win
Chelsea v/s West Ham - Home win

Huddersfield and West Brom are 2 teams that look to be in a downward spiral and it looks enticing to go against them again this week-end. Brighton are a tough team to beat when they are at home and I cannot see anything other than them winning their match against the Terriers. West Brom have lost Pardew along the way and are now under the care of unproven Darren Moore. I think it spells more trouble for them and it might be worth chancing visiting Swansea who are on the up.

Spurs will be buoyed by their last away win at Stamford Bridge where they deserved the full points after so many years of win-less visits. They should overcome Stoke who have yet to get out of first gear under manager Lambert.

Finally, Arsenal look to have regained some form back and the visit of hapless Southampton should bring them more home comforts.

It seems value to put all the above in an accumulator.

Accumulator win: Arsenal, Tottenham, Brighton, Swansea

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Road to Kentucky

Thunder Snow might have won the showpiece Dubai World Cup on Saturday but it was really Mendelssohn that got jaws dropping in the UAE Derby. Out-of-the-ordinary performances do happen in Flat racing but they are an infrequent occurrence; Winx has done a few in the past years, so did Frankel, Black Caviar and Deep Impact. The manner of their wins left the gallery in awe.

On Saturday, many people were expecting Godolphin's Gold Town dominate the Derby in the desert. Others had tipped Mendelssohn but certainly none would have predicted the manner of his victory by 18.5 lengths! For a Group 2 Flat race with some smart types, this was a staggering performance by the budding superstar from Coolmore. In the immediate aftermath, he was installed co-favourite for the Kentucky Derby and will definitely give trainer O'Brien a first live chance at landing his first American classic. It's hard not be excited by the potential of a European-based horse landing the most prestigious prize in American racing. Fingers crossed.

A few hours after the Mendelssohn demonstration, Audible won the Florida Derby in convincing style that makes me believe he will be a serious candidate for the prize on the first Saturday of May. It's amazing to think that the horse's owners, the China Horse Club, just ventured in racing only a few years back and are now on the cusp of winning the KD. The irony of it all is that Teo Ah King, the founder of the China Horse Club, and Coolmore have been successful partners a while back as co-owners of Australia, the Galileo colt that won the Derby for them in 2014. Now both sides are at the forefront of landing the American version of the Derby.

But let's not get too far ahead as a lot will happen in the trials to Kentucky. There are a couple of legitimate contenders yet to showcase their credentials during this month namely Bolt d'Oro and Justify. It is clear that Mendelssohn will not have it as easy at Churchill Downs as in Dubai. But for now and until then, that Wow performance on Saturday is still lively in the minds. Watching the road to Kentucky looks really interesting this year!


Friday, March 30, 2018

EPL 2017/18 - Week 32

Crystal Palace v/s Liverpool - Home win
Brighton v/s Leicester - Draw
Man Utd v/s Swansea - Home win
Newcastle v/s Huddersfield - Home win
Watford v/s Bournemouth - Away win
WBA v/s Burnley - Away win
West Ham v/s Southampton - Home win
Everton v/s Man City - Away win
Arsenal v/s Stoke - Home win
Chelsea v/s Tottenham - Home win

Crystal Palace have been close to getting positive results against top teams lately and it would be no surprise if they got one against visiting Liverpool early Saturday. The Kops are irresistible when they are at their best. We've talked so much about Salah, Firmino and Sane obliterating defences at will. The other side of the coin for Liverpool is that at times, they can fail to fire or take their chances, and their defence is prone to lay one or two eggs in matches as well. Were it not for some stoppage-time misfortunes, Crystal Palace should have beaten Man City and drawn with Man Utd recently. Roy Hodgson clearly has a game plan to play the strong teams and can always rely on Zaha to cause havoc near the opponent's goal. I see them getting a good result and are a value draw-no-bet.

I also see wins for Man City, Man Utd and Arsenal and see worth in bundling those in an accumulator.

Accumulator Win: Man City/ Man Utd/ Man City
Draw-no-bet: Crystal Palace


Meydan Dubai World Cup Day - 31st March

1. Heavy Metal - Economic Model - Rosa Imperial
2. Barnamaj - Tallaab Al Khalediah - Paddy's Day
3. Vazirabad - Rare Rhythm - Torcedor
4. Gold Town - Reride - Mendelssohn
5. Blue Point - Jungle Cat - Faatinah
6. Roy H - X Y Jet - Mind Your Biscuits
7. Neo Realism - Benbatl - Real Steel
6. Cloth of Stars - Hawk Bill - Rey de Oro
7. West Coast - Talismanic - North America

There are 3 things to note in this year's Dubai World Cup day.

First, I expect Godolphin to have one last strong outing after having had their most dominant Carnival ever. They have taken no prisoners in the past months because Charlie Appleby has and bin Suroor have acted like a formidable one-two punch on their way to the top of the trainer leaderboard. Mike de Kock, the usual challenger to boys in blue over the years, has been virtually non-existent this year. On DWC day, trainer Andre Fabre will add to the Godolphin armada with some real live chances. Gold Town, Blue Point, Benbatl, Cloth of Stars and Hawkbill have strong chances for the outright win, so at the end of the day, I expect Sheikh Mohammed's colors to prevail in at least 2 or 3 races.

Second, American runners are the best on dirt and thus have to be respected accordingly. They should win at least 2 of the dirt races. Roy H, in the Golden Shaheen, is the closest to a banker for the night. This is the best sprinter of the U.S coming to Meydan. All vibes are positive from connections and bar accident, he should win. West Coast is the best middle-distance horse in America and he will be hard to beat in the World Cup. The dark horse of that race is Talismanic and if he takes to the dirt, he might pose problems for the favourite. It's a big 'If' though.  I think the son of Medaglia D'oro will run well and is best punted for a place.

Third, Japanese runners always do well coming to Dubai in the middle-distance turf races. They regularly snatch the Dubai Turf or Scheema Classic. So, one or two of Neo Realism, Real Steel, Rey  de Oro or Satono Crown could very well be poised to strike. Their odds should be enticing as well.


Win: Roy H, Blue Point, Gold Town, West Coast
Value Win: Cloth of Stars, Neo Realism, Vazirabad
Value Place: Rosa Imperial, Talismanic, Hawk Bill