Friday, May 3, 2024

2000 Guineas & Kentucky Derby 2024

 Ah, the smell of the roses in May... Saturday is epic horse racing day as the 2000 Guineas and Kentucky Derby crown the first stars of the Classic crop on turf and dirt. It could be a historic day for the Coolmore boys as they are very well poised to strike in both Classics with City of Troy and Sierra Leone. But let's get in more depth into those 2 races.

City of Troy starts his sophomore year with the greatest expectations of any horse since Frankel. Superlatives have come and gone elevating the son of Justify to near Frankel-esque levels. His 3 wins last year were visually impressive and the excitement exacerbated by the boastful remarks of connections. If he's trained on, he will crush the race. The vibes from the yard look very positive and it's hard for nay-sayers to find anything to say against the horse; maybe the odds are prohibitive but throw those away and you are looking at a form that is just incomparable to the field. Rosaillon might prove a better sprinter than miler when looking at his pedigree, so I wouldn't go close to him for the win. Notable Speech is from Charlie Appleby's yard and thus cannot be discarded but he's never run on the lawn. I think Task Force might be one apt for the places as he looks an improving Frankel out of a top-class mare.

The Kentucky Derby might be very tactical this year given the prevailing wet conditions. Whoever gets into that lead could go from start to finish and I have Dornoch in mind. He will have no problem winning the dash from gate 1. On pure strength and form, the best horses look to be Sierra Leone, Fierceness and Forever Young. Sierra Leone has the best kicking finish of the field and starting from gate 2 will be a problem for such a strong closer. If he can get a clear trip, he will win but there are chances that he faces a wall entering the straight. Fierceness crushed all in the Florida Derby but since he alternates the good and the bad, it's hard to be fully confident that he will show his A game in Kentucky. I will have no problem tossing and laying him on the day. Then, there is Forever Young, the undefeated UAE Derby winner from Japan. How good is he and how will he like the slop? His Japanese trainer has won 2 Breeders Cup, so why not the Derby? His draw in 10 is ideal for this closer and provided his jockey takes to the Churchill track and have him in a good spot, he can shock this field If there is a non-American horse that will win the Kentucky Derby one day, it will be a Japanese one. Forever Young could be the one.

Win: City of Troy, Sierra Leone/Forever Young


Friday, March 29, 2024

Dubai World Cup 2024

 Dubai World Cup day, one of grand days of racing and the real signal to the start of Flat racing as far as I am concerned. With the recent removal of the ban of the South African horses, I am waiting with trepidation of the return of Mike de Kock's horses at Meydan in the near future. The Carnival has missed the presence of such kind of opposition to Charlie Appleby's domination, particularly on the turf. With that, here are my brief views of the Saturday racing card.

Kahayla Classic (Arabian)

Look no further than the 2 Khalediah's in the race. Asfan Al Khalediah is unbeaten in 14 races while Tilal Al Khalediah won nine out of ten outings. It's a toss up between these two for the win and Falaah has Place claims.

Godolphin Mile

Saudi Crown is the standout horse of the field here. He did not quite get the distance of the Saudi Cup and dropping back to a mile should suit him. He will go down as a short price favourite and any reproduction of this form in Saudi Arabia will make him hard to beat. Watch out for Caramel Chip who alternates wins and fourth places and his pattern streak indicates that his next outing should be a win.

Gold Cup

Tower of London won the "prep" race in Saudi Arabia after encountering traffic problems and I just question whether he will have recovered in time for the extra efforts needed in that race.  I like the profile of French raider Sober who has good form on staying races and although he was slightly disappointing on his seasonal return, he is bound to be sharper and fitter for this. He looks good value at double-digit odds.

Al Quoz Sprint

I think this is where Charlie Appleby gets his win of the night with Star of Mystery. The Godolphin filly is taking her task well in sprint races in Meydan and was albeit unlucky to come out second in her last outing. If she has carried her Carnival form, she should be bang at the finish. Her last conqueror, Frost at Dawn has legitimate claims as does Hong Kong raider California Spangle who brings some serious sprinting form from the east.

UAE Derby

Japan has a good record in this race and will have a strong representative in Forever Young, winner of the Saudi Derby. But it would be no surprise if it is countryman George Tesoro that comes up trump. The son of Best Warrior will foray beyond the mile for the first time and could prove a danger if he is left dictating operations up front. Ballydoyle don't go to Dubai on a whim and Henry Adams has shown useful form in his juvenile year and could prove to be anything on the dirt.

Golden Shaheen

Obviously, this will go to either a Japanese or American-trained horse. Out of the pack, I will pick Remake but it will be a competitive race.

Dubai Turf

I don't see Lord North 4-peating in this strong race and I don't know why Real World is even entered in this. Measured Time, Luxembourg and Do Deuce are all legitimate contenders but I think it will be a duel between smart performer Nashwa and top-class Voyage Bubble from Hong Kong. There must be confidence in the Gosden camp to have brought the Frankel mare and she should play a leading role despite a terrible draw.

Scheema Classic

The best race of the night by a mile. I know, Auguste Rodin is in there but he can throw a bad one as we all know. Look no further than Liberty Island. She is a Triple Crown winner from Japan and only found the incomparable Equinox too good in her last race. With the latter sadly retired, she is the best horse in Japan, period. She is so good, easily the punt of the night despite the amazing competition.

World Cup

Much is said of Ushba Tesoro and Senor Buscador but I think their duel in Saudi will have taken a bit from them. That is to say that they will not be able to repeat their performance in this short time frame. It think it will go between Newgate and Derma Sotogake with my preference to the Japanese raider who won the UAE Derby last year and has proven resilient and never outclassed every time he's been popped the question. 

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Arc de Triomphe 2023 - Invincible Ace Impact races towards immortality

 Here's my take of all the horses running in the greatest race in the world.

Haya Zark - Only a Group 3 winner, can't be taken seriously.

Onesto - On his best day, can aspire to a spot in the frame but this looks too much for him.

Simca Mille -  His outside draw could be a problem but if things fall his way, he could spring an upset. One of the better each-way offerings.

Bay Bridge - His season has been rather disappointing given that grandiose things were expected of him after his Champion Stakes win last year. Won his last race at the distance, albeit against inferior opposition, but it wouldn't be surprising if he is in the whereabouts at the finish. Can place.

Westover - Seems to be a perennial bridesmaid and needs a win in a race like this to be considered a top horse. Lost in an agonizingly close finish in the King George and if he can leverage a good position from his No.1 draw, he will be a main threat. Cannot be discounted.

Hukum - He looks the best from the British raiders. No 6-year old has ever won the Arc and he could be the first one. There's not much chink in his armour. Group 1 winner with an impressive record, he rarely runs a bad race. If favourite Ace Impact does not show up on the day, he will be the horse to beat.

Place du Carrousel - She is a Group 2 winner, it's hard to see her playing a leading role here.

Through Seven Seas - Her record looks nothing to glow about but her second place to world's best horse Equinox was a real eye-opener. If she can repeat that form, she is in with an outstanding chance. Japanese horses cannot be underestimated in any circumstance and she could be the one breaking the duck and winning them their holy grail.

Free Wind - Detorri's last Arc ride but she lacks the speed to play a major role here.

My Hollywood - It wouldn't be entirely shocking if he pulled a Torquator Tasso and won this. One of the best from the German classic crop, he can be a leading player if things fall in place for him.

Feed the Flame - Very talented colt that has an impressive turn of foot on his best day but has failed to win consistently. His inside draw might be problematic as he comes from behind. Clearly has ability and cannot be dismissed but my feeling is that he can claim a place spot at best.

Ace Impact - The deserved favourite and still unbeaten after 5 races. He possesses a rare and fanstastic turn of foot and unless he has a bad day, he should win. There are doubts on his stamina but the way he won the Jockey Club seems to indicate he should handle it fine. At 4/1, he looks like a steal.

Fantastic Moon -  Boasts an unbeaten record at the distance, is the German Derby and Prix Niel winner. Looks a dangerous foe on the day and worth an each-way look at double-digit odds.

Continuous - How he trades at single-digit odds is mind-blowing. Being a St Leger winner is actually bad news for this race; even the great Nijinsky failed to land the Arc after the Doncaster classic. The recuperation time is too small even if classic race is won easily. The sole Ballydoyle representative seems to lack serious speed to be a live contender and he is a big day all day.

If Ace Impact is the superstar many (including I) think he is, then it's his race to lose. He has a proper jockey in Demuro who won the race before with Sottsass. If patiently ridden in midfield, the Cracksman colt can make good use of his potent acceleration in the long straight to put the race to bed. The danger will be if he is left too far behind with too much ground to make. This is something Demuro will need to judge well. Through Seven Seas is the dark horse that can potentially break all Europeans' hearts if she repeats her performance in the Takarazuka Kinen. The greatest day for Japanese racing if that would be the case. Mighty Hukum will certainly bring his A game and it will take a great one to bring him down.

Win: Ace Impact

Each-way: Through Seven Seas, Fantastic Moon 

Friday, September 29, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 5 - Gunners keeping pace at the top

Champions Man City still boast a perfect record after 6 matches and if there is a team that seems that it can keep pace with them, it's Arsenal. While still unbeaten, the Gunners will feel unfortunate to have lost points in their 2 draws. Arteta has his team firing on all cylinders and with a visit to lowly Bournemouth, anything other than 3 points will be disappointing and harmful to their title chances. Arteta's men will go into the match with some material injury news to their personnel with fitness doubts over Saka, Rice, Trossard and Saliba to name a few. Bournemouth are yet to win this season and new manager Iraola is under the gun already. With the injuries besetting the club, I don't expect Arsenal to win this in a canter; I think it will be more than a dogfight with the hosts working hard to get that first win. Arsenal should have too much firepower though and should not be losing this. At market prices that factor in their injury woes, I believe it's value to go for an all-out Gunners win.

Win: Arsenal

Friday, September 22, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 4 - Red Devils back on track?

  Man Utd are reeling at the moment and they seem to have gone backwards while everyone was expecting them to start the year all guns blazing. There are 2 changes that happened before the start of the season  that they are still trying to ingest. First was the sudden departure of stalwart keeper De Gra. To say it was a shock that the Spaniard was let go would be an understatement. Getting a keeper like Onana in was always going to take some settling in for the Cameroon international and the defence. His unorthodox style is so far causing more confusion and mayhem to the back four and the synergy will take some time to develop. At the other end, having a new designated striker like young Hojlund will also take time to gel with the forward line. He's not going to be a Haaland talent that took the EPL by storm in his first year. That said, the Red Devils are not playing badly; their last 3 matches were against top opposition in the form of Spurs, Brighton and Bayern. On Saturday, their opponents Burnley will not present such kind of force. In fact, the Clarets are more up to survival in the EPL this year. Man Utd should have too much firepower for them and I expect Rashford to provide the fireworks up front. They might scrape through it but in the end, the Red Devils should get the much-need 3 points.

Win: Man Utd

Friday, September 1, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 4

 Sheffield Utd v Everton - Home

Brentford v Bournemouth - Home

Burnley v Tottenham - Draw

Chelsea v Nott Forest - Away

Man City v Fulham - Home

Brighton v Newcastle - Draw

Crystal Palace v Wolves - Away

Liverpool v Aston Villa - Draw

Arsenal v Man Utd - Home

The current clashes between Arsenal v Man Utd will never match the intensity or heights of the Ferguson and Wenger era but the motivation is still well and alive for both teams as they try to usurp the title from Man City's grasp this year. Both have started the season rather tepidly while one would have thought they would be off the starting blocks with pomp. While they boast 2 wins out of 3 outings, the Gunners seem to lack the fluency and gusto that made them appealing as a team last season. They would then be going all guns blazing to overwhelm their adversaries. Struggling to beat so-called minows such as Nott Forest and Crystal Palace and not being able to overcome 10-men Fulham at home seem to indicate that something is amiss with the Gunners at the moment. Maybe the return of striker Jesus will help in the attacking department. Man Utd have been equally disappointing as they struggled to beat Nott Forest and Wolves at home and suffering a deserved defeat against Tottenham. While they overly counted on Rashford last season to bail them out, the England striker has started very quietly this time. Given the Red Devils' poor current form, I see it worthwhile going for a home win here; if the Gunners score early, the visitors could be in for a long day.

Win: Arsenal 

Friday, August 25, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 3

 Bournemouth v Spurs - Away

Arsenal v Fulham - Home

Brentford v Crystal Palace - Draw

Everton v Wolves - Away

Man Utd v Nottingham Forest - Home

Brighton v West Ham - Home

Burnley v Aston Villa - Home

Sheffield Utd v Man City - Away

Newcastle v Liverpool - Home

It's a massive game for Man Utd against Nottingham Forest on Saturday. After 2 un-inspiring opening matches, the Red Devils are in a much-needed win situation to keep up with the pace for the title. They were lucky to get the win against lowly Wolves and they deservedly lost against Spurs last week-end. Something is amiss in the cog wheel for Ten Hag's men and if they don't right the ship soon, it could be the start of the end for the Dutch manager. Much has been said about their lacking in midfield and newcomer Mason Mount will miss the match, which might actually be a blessing in disguise for their midfield; it could be bringing back Mc Tominay in the holding role is the catalyst that they need to get their fluidity back and kick-start their season. Forest were lucky to win their last match in stoppage time after a valiant effort against Arsenal on opening day. Steve Cooper's side will fancy their chances at Old Trafford and if they can keep the contest close, it would not be a surprise if they were to nick the winner in the later staages. I still think that Ten Hag will start tinkering with the team tactics and formation after the last 2 dubious efforts and have the hosts full-gun blazing from the start. Man Utd for the win.

I can't see Liverpool winning at St James Park, a place where the Magpies have developed into a fortress since last year. Although they were rather tepid against Man City in their last match, I don't think the hosts will have any reservation against a Liverpool team with a brittle defensive unit at the moment. The Kops are proving unable to get a clean sheet lately and this will be music to the ears of Isak and Wilson. Liverpool will again rely on the output of Salah up front, hopeful that their in-demand talisman will not succumb to the riches of the Saudi League. I think it best value to go for an outright Newcastle victory.

Win: Man Utd, Newcastle

Friday, August 18, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 2

Nott Forest v Sheffield Utd - Draw

Fulham v Brentford - Home

Liverpool v Bournemouth - Home

Luton v Burnley - Home

Wolves v Brighton - Home

Tottenham v Man Utd - Draw

Man City v Newcastle - Away

Aston Villa v Everton - Home

West Ham v Chelsea - Draw

Crystal Palace v Arsenal - Away

Mid-week Super Cup winners Man City face a huge test this Sunday as high-flying Newcastle come into town. The Citizens are garnering trophies like never before and at their best are the best team in the world. They are however, not fully flowing at the moment. Their wins against Burnley and Sevilla were workmanlike and those teams are certainly not top notch. But the main problem right now for Guardiola is the loss of influential playmaker De Bruyne for months. His prolonged absence will be a huge blow to their title hopes. And here comes Newcastle, fully loaded to the hilt, and a team that has started strong in demolishing Aston Villa on opening day. The Magpies made it to the UCL last season and look set to be among the leading title contenders this year. The free-flowing Saudi money will aid to the cause for sure. This is a fantastic opportunity for Eddie Howe's men to bag full points against a City team still finding its feet. Haaland can change the match out of nothing, so I expect lots of goals in this match. If the Magpies do not edge this, a draw is very well possible, so I recommend a double chance or draw-no-bet on Newcastle.

Double-chance/Draw-no-bet: Newcastle

Friday, August 11, 2023

EPL 23/24 - Week 1

Burnley v Man City - Away

Arsenal v Nott Forest - Home

Bournemouth v West Ham - Home

Brighton v Luton - Home

Everton v Fulham - Away

Sheffield Utd v Crystal Palace - Draw

Newcastle v Aston Villa - Home

Brentford v Spurs - Home

Chelsea v Liverpool - Draw

Man Utd v Wolves - Home

Hope everyone had a great break and it's now time to roll again with this new EPL season. City conquered the Triple last season and after all the famous partying, the question will be whether they are still hungry for more silverware and if the rest of the pack can come anywhere closer. If history is any indication, Sir Alex's Ferguson Man Utd won the league in the next 2 years following their Triple. I have a feeling history will not repeat itself for the Citizens as Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool have reinforced well during the break and are very much a hungry pack of wolves ready to pounce. I cannot see the title out of those 4 teams.

For the inaugural week, I see easy wins for many of the main protagonists; Man City, Arsenal, Man Utd and Newcastle have been handed easy encounters and they will be hard pressed not to win. Having them in accumulators or in singles should make for a rewarding first week.

Win: Man City/Man Utd/Newcastle/Arsenal

Friday, May 12, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 35

 Leeds v Newcastle - Away

Aston Villa v Tottenham - Home

Chelsea v Nott Forest - Home

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth - Home

Man Utd v Wolves - Home

Southampton v Fulham - Away

Brentford v West Ham - Home

Everton v Man City - Away

Arsenal v Brighton - Draw

Leicester v Liverpool - Home

Liverpool have been on fire and unbeaten in their last six matches as they look to reach the elusive UCL 4th spot. They have been rather lucky to snatch wins in their last 2 matches and I believe this week could very well be their comeuppance although hardly anyone is seeing them losing to struggling Leicester. Results have improved slightly under Dean Smith since the parting of manager Rodgers a few weeks back. Their defence is still horrendous and are more prone to opening the floodgates more than not, but it is their attacking frame that can dig them out of their relegation troubles. Playmaker Maddison seems to have gotten a new impetus under the new system and Leicester's hopes of staying in the EPL very much on the creative abilities of the England midfielder. Liverpool are facing a race against time to usurp rivals Man Utd and Newcastle for the UCL remaining spot. While they have been more consistent lately, winning matches that they are expected to win, I can't see them maintain that winning cadence in the coming weeks. Leicester can shock them and I really like their maket odds for the outright win.

Win: Leicester

Friday, April 14, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 30

 Aston Villa v Newcastle - Draw

Chelsea v Brighton - Away

Everton v Fulham - Home

Southampton v Crystal Palace - Home

Tottenham v Bournemouth - Home

Wolves v Brentford - Draw

Man City v Leicester - Home

West Ham v Arsenal - Away

Nott Forest v Man Utd - Away

Leeds v Liverpool - Away

Arsenal can make a big statement on the title this week-end as they travel to fellow Londoners West Ham. The Gunners haven't shown many signs of weakness lately as many thought they would capitulate in the title run-in. Last week's point at Liverpool can be seen as either gained or lost, depending on how you view the match. But one point at Anfield is always a good point to have. Against West Ham, the Gunners should have it easier and with the Hammers struggling for any consistency this season, an in-form Arsenal should bag the 3 all-important points and put it up to Man City to keep pace.

Win: Arsenal

Saturday, April 1, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 28

 Man City v Liverpool - Home

Bournemouth v Fulham - Home

Arsenal v Leeds - Home

Brighton v Brentford - Draw

Crystal Palace v Leicester - Home

Nott Forest v Wolves - Home

Chelsea v Aston Villa - Draw

West Ham v Southampton - Home

Newcastle v Man Utd - Home

Everton v Tottenham - Draw

Roy Hodgson is back at the helm at Palace and like so often is the case, a win could very well be bestowed to the team playing under the manager's first outing. The Eagles were simply horrible to watch under Vieira lately and having only one shot on goal in their last 5 matches was simply atrocious to watch. You can be sure that they will have more than one shot on goal against the visiting Foxes. Although they haven't been playing badly, Leicester are on a poor run at the moment and manager Rodgers looks to be on his way out sooner than later. Gone are the days where the Foxes were a nuisance to any team in the league; they look set to fight in the relegation zone from now on, unless the squad gets a complete overhaul, which is unlikely to be the case. I see the home team edging this one.

Win: Crystal Palace

Friday, March 17, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 27

Aston Villa v Bournemouth - Home

Brentford v Leicester - Draw

Southampton v Spurs - Away

Wolves v Leeds - Home

Chelsea v Everton - Home

Arsenal v Crystal Palace - Away

Chelsea are riding a winning sequence and it needs to stay that way for manager Potter to keep his job. On paper, I cannot see a better squad than that of the Blues but it's only the wins that will appease the new owners. If they can keep the recent positive momentum, they should be able to overcome visiting Everton, who are genuinely fighting for their survival in the top flight. It might not end in a rout but the home team should have enough to edge this one.

More often than not, a team losing a manager, does very well on its first outing; players that have been underperforming try to impress the new coaching staff. So, slumping Crystal Palace might seem to have a card to play when visiting league leaders Arsenal. The Eagles have been dismal under the coaching of ex-Gunners star Vieira recently and it was no surprise to see the Frenchman sacked. Arsenal are showing good form at the moment and although they can scrape through matches like against Bournemouth, much remains to be seen how much resilience they have left in them in difficult matches. They were tossed out of European action in mid-week and have shown vulnerability when missing stalwarts like Saliba to injury. It would not be a shock to see Palace get a result here and the odds for an away win look very enticing.

Win: Chelsea, Crystal Palace

Friday, February 24, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 24

 Everton v Aston Villa - Draw

Leeds v Southampton - Home

Leicester v Arsenal - Draw

West Ham v Nott Forest - Home

Bournemouth v Man City - Away

Crystal Palace v Liverpool - Draw

Tottenham v Chelsea - Home

It is amazing to see Man City throwing away matches they should have been bagging as early as half-time. Case in point against Forest last week where City was rampant but so profligate in front of goal. In mid-week, same story against Leipzig where Guardiola's men again failed to kill the match in the first half, giving their opponents a lifeline to restore parity. City fans would hope to think that this is just a blip, as failure to secure such types of wins will have damaging effects in the final standings of the league or outright boot them out ot the UCL. Although their minds will be on the return leg against Leipzig, City should go all guns blazing against Bournemouth for nothing less than 3 full points. Haaland is due a big match after a couple of below par performances and the relegation-threatened Cherries will provide him the ample opportunity for redemption. This looks a straight victory for the visitors and keep City firm on track in their pursuit of Arsenal.

In the Carabao Cup, Man Utd have a glorious chance of silverware after 6 years of drought. The Red Devils have improved tremendously under Ten Hag and are in the running in all 4 competitions. Rashford is in the form of his life and the whole squad seems to have been lifted particularly after the departure of Ronaldo. Newcastle have a solid team but they have been missing the beat lately. Their main problem for this final is that they will be playing their third-string keeper in goal. On form, it's hard to bet against the Red Devils and the best the Magpies can do is hope this goals to penalties. But I think the Mancunians will settle this match well before that and bring a first major silverware under the Ten Hag era.

Win: Man City, Man Utd 

Friday, February 17, 2023

EPL 2022/23 - Week 23

 Aston Villa v Arsenal - Home

Brentford v Crystal Palace - Home

Brighton v Fulham - Home

Chelsea v Southampton - Home

Everton v Leeds - Draw

Nott Forest v Man City - Away

Wolves v Bournemouth - Home

Newcastle v Liverpool - Home

Man Utd v Leicester - Home

Tottenham v West Ham - Draw

Will clown keeper Emilio Martinez give his ex-club Arsenal a helping hand or will he be the thorn to their title aspirations? The keeper might be good but his lack of sportsmanship are a turn-off to the neutral fan. On his good day, he can help the Villains dent the Gunners who are showing a poor vein of home in recent weeks. They are win-less in their past 3 matches and although it is not down to the fact that they are playing terribly, they are being less lethal in front of goal as before. The youngsters in the team are still playing fluent attractive football but at this point, only wins count and they will have to win matches the dirty way to regain their position at the top of the table. Villa can certainly pose serious threats and ex-Gunners manager Emery will also have a point to prove against his old team. At current odds, a Villa win looks attractive.

Newcastle are suffering from a lack of goals in their recent slump and although they find it hard to win, it's hard for their adversaries to beat them as well. Their encounters with Liverpool have produced exciting multi-goal matches and it could be this match on Saturday that helps them find their goalscoring touch. Liverpool are the disappointment of the season and it seems an end to the cycle of Klopp's dominant team of the past years. The team is in serious need of rebuild. In a past life, Klopp managed to reinvent himself and his team at Dortmund (before an ultimate crash and burn) and it remains to be seen whether he can do it again with Liverpool. 

Win: Aston Villa, Newcastle