Thursday, June 30, 2011

The buck stops here

Been on the move to a newer house and now getting all the online connection back. About time.

My last recommendation, Carlton House, came out 4th, out of the placings in the Irish Derby. My feeling is that he has shown that he's not a pure stayer and needed more time off to recuperate from his last race at Epsom. He will be better suited by the distances of the Champion Stakes races.

Nothing much extra-interesting in the world of sports besides Wimbledon. Frenchman Tsonga played spoilers by downing slumping Federer for the final 4 spot. Djokovic, Nadal and Murray are still in the hunt. I think the buck stops here for Tsonga in his semi-final against Djokovic. I actually think the the Serb is under-value at the exchanges and I see no problem recommending him to win and book his final spot.

Win: Djokovic

Friday, June 24, 2011

Irish Derby

Another For Joe was a disappointing 5th and did not seem to have any interest in the race. I will still follow him closely next time because whenever horses are held up in that fashion and ridden at the end without giving much impression, they tend to benefit from a tactical change in their next race and run to their true form.

In my preview to the Epsom Derby, I was downright downbeat on Carlton House. I just couldn't see it win, but I must admit that the Queen's colt surprised me considerably by finishing only a length off Pour Moi. I thought he ran a great race and dismissed any stamina concerns that I had had on him.

Carlton House is the deserving favourite for Sunday's Irish Derby and I like his chances to win it. Interestingly, there are no sons of Montjeu in this race, the Coolmore stud being the best source of Classic distance runners. The other runners in the race are rated very close and the one to emerge from the pack will probably be the one that adapts best to the good/yielding going. Treasure Beach gets my vote for the runner-up position. My recommendation is for a Carlton House each-way punt.

Each-way: Carlton House.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chester Friday

Latansaa was withdrawn from the Warwick race, which Above Standard won.

I am looking at the Chester Friday 20:50 race-card and I really like Another For Joe, which seems over-valued at 8/1. This Lomitas gelding will love the good/soft ground, the distance will suit and the Ian Williams stable is very much in form. I recommend the Kingscote ride as a strong Each-way recommendation. I can't see it staying at current odds of 8/1.

Each-way: Another For Joe

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Warwick Thursday

Sapphire won by beating Haziyna for a good recommendation. Good price at 2/1 too, I thought.

On Thursday,  Latansaa could make a winning return after a 416-day absence in the 16:40 race at Warwick. This horse from the Tregoning yard has run in good company last year but has been beset by injuries. Provided he is fit enough, he should be in the first 3 among this rather exposed lot. I recommend him as a Place. The Shamardal colt Above Standard looks to be the main threat.

Place: Latansaa

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Naas preview

There's been no relapse in the world of sports since the end of Royal Ascot, with the US Open, and now Wimbledon grabbing the headlines. I think the usual suspects will again be in the final four; Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer. Advantage to the Serb and Spaniard who are the clear best in the world at the moment. Federer will be at home on the grass but it's a big ask of him to beat those 2.

In racing, I like Sapphire in the 20:00 race at Naas. Her form is really good having trailed very smart Banimpire and Wild Wind. I believe she has good chances to win this contest and Haziyna from the Oxx yard looks to be the main challenger. Sapphire should be in the first 2, and is recommended as a Place bet.

Place: Sapphire

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rory! Rory! Rory!

Without doubt, the news from the week-end was Rory McIlroy's tremendous win at the U.S Open. 4 rounds of under par and leading from start to finish, we haven't been witnessing this kind of dominant display for a long time. Soon enough, the questions abound as to how many more Majors is he going to win, and more importantly how does he and Tiger compare. Basically, what is the expectation of the Irish man?

It is often said that the first Major is the most difficult to get, and the floodgates open soon after that. Phil Mickleson was the ridicule of many for years before he finally ended his Major drought. Since his breakthrough, he has gotten a few more. When Rory came close in the 3 Majors before this year's US Open, particularly after his collapse in the final round of the Masters, there was little doubt in everyone's minds that he had this mental barrier to overcome first; would he close Majors like Greg Norman or like Tiger? The resounding answer now, is that maybe neither. He blew the opposition from the gates like Frankel did in the Guineas!

With this first win, can he aspire to many more to levels of Tiger and Nicklaus? It's very much too early to say even though age-wise, he has gotten very much a head-start. The thing with Tiger is that winning the most majors has been his almost-singular goal in life. It's ingrained in his DNA. Rory appears more laid-back and does not seem to have that urge to be the all-time best, at this moment. Anyway, it would seem pretentious of him, given that Tiger is still active.

Rory's domination this week-end was a pivotal moment. Before, the saying was if Tiger is playing at his best, every one else is playing for second place. The feeling now is even if Tiger plays at his best, a top-notch Rory could still outgun him. 2 Champions, 2 contrasting styles. If Tiger can get his old form back or be even better, this new rivalry could be worth its pot of gold.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


So You Think got turned over by Rewilding in what was a thrilling race. Many conclusions could be drawn right after the race. Was So You Think an overhyped phenomenon? Or it Rewilding that good? The Godolphin charge won fair and square and it seemed to indicate that the Australasian star was not that superior as many and I had thought.

Trying to explain the defeat, Aidan O'Brien goes on camera to the blame on himself for having "under-trained" the horse for the race. Wait a minute. Bombshell. So, So You Think was not fully prepared for Royal Ascot's Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes? Why? The other horses were no good? Overconfidence? Arrogance?

It seems to be a trait of the Ballydoyle master to put a blame on himself when things don't go right. He blamed himself, not anyone else, for St Nicholas Abbey's dismal last season. Now he's blaming himself for SYT's loss yesterday. Very honourable, but where does that leave the rest of punters that put their faith in the horse thinking that he would at the very least, have been given optimal preparations to win?

It's ok when you back a horse that is beaten fair and square. It's bad when a horse you back is hampered or suffers conditions in a race that prevents it from winning. It's unforgivable when you back a horse that is entered in a Major race that is not given the proper chance from the trainer to win.

Racing is a tough enough sport to crack, and when you get a flagrant lack of judgment from a leading trainer whose abilities most, including I, respect, you don't have to wonder far to see why many are leaving the sport.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Royal Ascot Wednesday - The Monster

Off to a flyer! Canford Cliffs and Goldikova justified all the hopes placed on them by filling the first 2 places, and Frankel also won as expected. Absolutely smashing start with the recommendations.

By beating Goldikova fair and square, Canford Cliffs can be crowned the king miler of the world at this moment. Hopefully Frankel can meet both of those champions in a championship mile race later this year. The Galileo colt did not produce the fire works many were expecting, and opinions are abundantly diverging as to what to make of his narrow win. My take is that the connections got the tactics wrong on him and he was given a harder race than he should have. Probably it would have been best for his jockey to set for home two furlongs from home, and not four! Once he's in clear daylight, it's hard to gauge if he was idling or actually tiring. Anyway, both mile races were a joy to watch.

Wednesday is all about the Monster from Down Under. So You Think should have no trouble landing the Prince of Wales Stakes. The opposition is not feeble, but SYT is just a class apart. Twice Over will be better suited to this 10 furlong distance than the Lockinge mile, but he seems to be missing a step this year. Anyway, he's not of the class of SYT. Rewilding runs well fresh but will be better suited by 12 furlongs. Planteur is a high-class horse that I really like. The distance will really suit him and he's the one that can get close to SYT. But bar any accident, SYT should have way too much class for all of them. So You Think to win is the recommendation.

Win: So You Think

Monday, June 13, 2011

Royal Ascot Tuesday

Swiss Spirit won on Saturday for a winning recommentation.

Tuesday kickstarts the Royal Ascot meeting and I must say that this year's programme looks the most exciting in years. Many of the superstars are there and the coming of raiders from many parts of the world bring a true international and intriguing  flavour to the meeting.

The first race starts with a bang with the much-anticipated Canford Cliffs/Goldikova clash. Unless the ground gets very soft,  I cannot see another horse in this race taking the spoils. It will be the first time that these 2 milers will clash and one way to compare their form is through the opposition they beat or got beaten by. They were both beaten by Makfi, another high-class miler, but those races did not show a true measure of their capabilities. The great thing about Canford Cliffs is that at 4 years of age, he's on the upside and can even be better than what he's shown to date. You feel Goldikova has already reached the top (although that might be good enough to win tomorrow!). One thing to be concerned with Canford Cliffs, in my opinion,  is that not many Lockinge winners have done well after winning at the Newbury showcase.

There is little doubt in my mind that one of these 2 champions will win this.  With both being at odds-against, I will recommend playing both to Win, Place as well as couple them in an Exacta. The end product should be a positive return.

The King's Stand Stakes is a tale of foreign raiders against what the best locals can offer. The Americans are represented by Bridgetown and Holiday For Kitten and are always dangerous in speed races.  But if they are in their best form, the Australian Star Witness and the Budapest Bullet Overdose should be the major contenders for the big prize. If Overdose had his form of a couple of years back, he would be my favourite to win this race. There were excuses in his last flop that soft ground would be more to his liking, and that he will relish the softish side of the racecourse tomorrow . I don't really buy that. If he hasn't improved markedly from this last race, there's no chance he'll play a part in this race whether the going is soft to his liking. Star Witness has to be considered since horses from Down Under have done so well in this race. He's been beaten quite a few times by Black Caviar, so he's used to racing in big company.

There are too many question marks regarding these 4 raiders to give a sure recommendation on this race. I believe one of them will win this and if I were to guess, my preference would go to Star Witness.

The St James' Palace Stakes will go to Frankel. That's the banker of the Tuesday meeting! He is easily recommended as a Win. The race is wide open for Places; Dream Ahead will need the run, Dubawi Gold might find this race one too many, and I don't think Grand Prix Boss is that high-class a horse that his connections are making him out to be. Wootton Basssett, to me, looks like a decent Place prospect, if one is really looking for a punt.

Win: Frankel
Win (couple): Goldikova/Canford Cliffs
Exacta: Goldikova/Canford Cliffs
Place: Goldikova, Canford Cliffs

Friday, June 10, 2011

York and Belmont

2 more great results on Friday with Watneya winning and Right Result placed second. Hopefully the good run continues on the week-end.

On Saturday, I like Swiss Spirit in the 16:25 Maiden Stakes at York. Ryan Moore will ride this son of Invincible Spirit which came out a staying-on second on his debut a fortnight ago. The newcomers in the field will have to show above-average potential to prevent this colt from the Elsworth yard from winning. He will definitely be in the first 3, so is an each-way recommendation.

The main attraction Stateside is the running of the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the American Triple Crown. There won't be a Triple Crown winner this year since Animal Kingdom won the Derby but lost the Preakness Stakes to Shackleford. One thing that seems for sure at Belmont is that Shakleford won't win. He just does not have the stamina pedigree-wise and his front-running style makes him very vulnerable. Unless he succeeds to putting the field to sleep, like he did in the Preakness, he is a great lay.

Animal Kingdom is probably the best horse in the field but this might be a race too much for him in the space of the last 5 weeks. He seems vulnerable to some of the sorts that will run fresh after having skipped the Preakness. The dangers will come from Master of Hounds, Nehro, and Brilliant Speed, with Santiva being the dark horse of the race, in my opinion.

Master of Hounds will relish the trip and if he takes to the dirt like he seemed to do at Churchill Downs, he could be a major danger, and can provide Aidan O'Brien with this first American Classic. Nehro is a fast-finisher who should get the trip on pedigree being by Mineshaft. Brilliant Speed ran a good race in the Kentucky Derby. He stayed on that trip and being by Dynaformer, will appreciate the step up to 12 furlongs. Santiva could spring an upset if he's improved from the Derby and takes to the trip, which should be his maximum distance.

This Classic is an open race and there are no guarantees (except if you lay Shackleford). If you were to fancy a punt, I would advise Master of Hounds and Animal Kingdom as good each-way selections. Staying clear of the betting would make sense as well.

Each-way: Swiss Spirit

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Friday racing

Not a bad day at the races on Thursday. The Red Riverman/Chaussini exacta was spot on as were Place recommendations on Notable Graduate, Red Riverman and Floral Beauty. Things would have been even better if Floral Beauty had won, and Deraasa just did not show much on her debut. She was finish far off though, so is to be followed closely in her next races.

On Friday, I like Watneya in the 16:00 Fillies Handicap race at Sandown. The Dubawi filly seems very progressive and kept on to finish third at 7 furlongs on her seasonal debut three weeks ago. I believe she should be in the first 3, so recommend her as a Place.

In the first race at York, Kieran Fallon is an interesting booking on Right Result from the Hannon yard. The Acclamation colt came out third of thirteen at 6 furlongs 9 days ago at Ripon but will definitely be suited by the drop in trip. Most of the field looks exposed and his main challenge could come from Pen Bal Crag of the Richard Fahey stable. I recommend Right Result as a Place.

The news are in that Australian super sprinter Black Caviar will come to England next year for the Royal Ascot 2012. I would have hoped to see her this year and my hope is she's still unbeaten this time next year and more importantly even better than now.

Place: Watneya, Right Result

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thursday racing

Andy Murray won his opening match at Queens in 3 sets for a winning recommendation. Thursday sees a very busy racing card and there are a few races that catch the eye.

In the first race at Leopardstown, Devotion seems the least exposed, having had the benefit of a debut run some weeks ago. This daugther of Dylan Thomas was not disgraced when five and half lengths behind the winner in a 6 furlongs race. The 7 furlong distance will suit better and she's fancied as a Place prospect and recommendation. In the last race, Notable Graduate should take all the beating as he is rated several pounds higher than the best from the field. He should be in the first 3 and is recommended as a Place as well.

At Yarmouth, the first race should be a duel between Chaussini and Red Riverman. I will call for an Exacta in any order between those two, coupled with a Place recommendation on Red Riverman.

At Nottingham, I will be following the Godolphin filly Deraasa closely in the 16:00 Maiden Stakes. Her pedigree is very American and her dam Saywaan was a very classy filly by Fusaischi Pegasus. She was good enough to have an entry for the Epsom Derby but injuries hampered her career and she won the only race she ran. The mile distance should suit Deraasa for her debut and only if there are returns left from the earlier races, I would recommend an each-way punt on her.

Finally at Newbury, Floral Beauty should in the first 3 in the 13:30. This Shamardal filly caught the eye on her debut and should take all the beating among a lot that seems very exposed. I recommend her as both a Win and Place

Win: Floral Beauty
Exacta: Red Riverman/Chaussini
Each-way: Deraasa
Place: Devotion, Notable Graduate, Red Riverman, Deraasa, Floral Beauty.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Murray on the up

A rather quiet week, with the football winding down with the Euro qualifiers and the racing world gearing up for Royal Ascot. In tennis, the Queen's tournament has started in preparation for Wimbledon. I like Andy Murray's chances against Frenchman Xavier Malisse. Murray did pretty well in the French Open before losing to Nadal in the semi-finals. He's still nursing an injury from that tournament but that should not deter him from winning his opening match on a surface that seems to suit his game best. I recommend him as a safe Win on Wednesday.

Win: Murray

Monday, June 6, 2011

Musings from a great week-end

A superb week-end indeed as Nadal and Pour Moi did what was expected of them for 2 winning recommendations. I still can't believe the odds the layers were giving these two.

Nadal had his worrying moments in the first set when Federer started strongly. At one point, I was starting to believe those stories that the Swiss was back to his best and could upset an out-of-form Nadal. But the Spaniard roared back like a wounded animal and once he rallied for the first set win, there was never any doubt that he would be hard to beat. It's not that Federer is not back to his old best; it's just that Nadal has that mental edge on him that he has yet to overcome; and on clay, that's just impossible. Maybe at Wimbledon..., but there again, Nadal has shown he can beat him there too. Anyway, looking forward to the English major in a couple of weeks.

Pour Moi.... I had been following him all week, particularly after Andre Fabre's comments that he was the real deal. Those Montjeu's are just the best at a mile and a half. I have to say that Carlton House did better than I expected and was far from disgraced. This horse will be dangerous at the big mile and a quarter races.

One other 3-year old that impressed me this week-end was Baraan, who stormed to third place in the French Derby after a tardy start and encountering huge traffic in the straight. This colt looks to be the flag bearer of the Aga Khan's stable, particularly after Behkabad failed to win (by a head) on his seasonal appearance.

Finally, talking of stars, St Nicholas Abbey's win on Oaks day is a reminder that he's not to be forgotten in the upcoming middle distance races. The fact that he beat super mare Midday despite having to switch lanes and giving her the first run in the straight, was quite impressive as well.

Add to those names mentioned above with the likes of Workforce, So You Think, Planteur, and some Japanese raiders coming to strut their stuff on the European scene, one cannot help to think the big Summer middle distance races and Arc will be as hotly contested as we've seen in a long time. One or maybe some real champions will emerge.

Friday, June 3, 2011

All about France

If only Novak.... 5 good recommendations out of 6, with only Novak Djokovic losing to Roger Federer. The Serb had his chances to tie it at 2-2, but just could not take his chances. To be fair, Federer had a lot of break chances as well, and the match was decided on a few points. Nadal dismissed Murray in 3 easy sets, Antara won and Wonder of Wonders, Midday and Tortoni were all placed.

As for the French Open final on Sunday, I still cannot see Federer beating Nadal. The Swiss can still have a few tennis Majors in him before he retires, but beating Nadal on clay is a tough ask. I recommend Nadal to be crowned French Open champion for the sixth time on Sunday.

The Derby gets run tomorrow and Carlton House will finally be able to take part having overcome his setback earlier this week. There is obviously a strong popular support for the Queen's horse to win. I don't think he will however. In my opinion, his best distance is at 10 furlongs, and I believe he will lack the stamina to get the full 12 furlongs of Epsom. I mentioned it before and I maintain my pick for the race; Pour Moi, the French raider from the Andre Fabre stable. He's by the sire that produces the best 12 furlong horses in the world in Montjeu, and the French champion trainer seems to have him in top condition for the race. I think he will definitely be in the first 3 and I recommend him as a safe Place. I give him a strong win chance as well for those that fancy an outright win punt.

Recital, another Montjeu colt, could be his main challenger. The distance will suit and he looks to be ridden by Kieran Fallon if the absurdity of Native Khan's connections are thrown out in court. This is quite an unbelievable story going on off the race-tracks, with Native's Khan's owners trying to stop Fallon from riding Recital. No matter what kind of verbal promises could have been made and broken previously in the rundown to this race, this reach to the courts is unsporting and should not be condoned in racing.

Win: Nadal
Place: Pour Moi

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ladies Day

Rafael Nadal dismissed Soderling in 3 straight sets but Zarabajad came out 2nd after a very suspect ride from Johnny Murtagh. I think the Aga Khan jockey is the best in the business in Ireland but he did not seem to have his customary zest at the finish.

Talking tennis, I can't see past a Djokovic/Nadal final (again) in the French Open. Nadal should be too much to handle for Murray, and Djokovic certainly has the mental edge on the aging Federer. So I recommend Nadal and Djokovic to win their semi-final matches on Friday.

Friday is Oaks day in racing and there are 3 fillies/mares that I will be following closely. In the first race, I like Antara who makes her seasonal return for Godolphin. She clearly is the classiest of the bunch and the only question mark is her current fitness. Bin Suroor mentions that she will improve for the run, which indicates that she will not be at her peak. She won this race last year on her seasonal return as well, so the track and long layoff should not be of concern.  I recommend her as a Place prospect and see Timepiece from the Henry Cecil yard as her main opponent.

The Coronation Cup seems to be a 2 horse race between St Nicholas Abbey (SNA) and Midday. Dandino should be a close third if one of the two mentioned fails to fire. It's hard to forge a clear opinion on how good is SNA. If he runs to the potential that he showed as a 2-year old and confirms his win at Chester 28 days ago, he will be hard to beat. This race will see confirmation of whether he is a serious horse, one that "could walk on water" according to his trainer Aidan O'Brien. Midday is the more reliable to side with and is almost always in the frame. She gets my vote as a Place recommendation.

The Oaks race is very open in my opinion. I am not a huge fan of Blue Bunting although she surprised me considerably (and many others) by winning the 1000 Guineas. On pedigree she should have just enough stamina for the 12 furlongs being by Dynaformer and a middle-distance mare. She has never raced over 8 furlongs though, and with the speed she's shown in the Guineas, 10 furlongs might be a more suitable distance for her. I like Wonder of Wonders in this race. She has raced and won at the distance, and she's got that fantastic pedigree being out of All Too Beautiful, daughter of super mare Urban Sea. I see her being involved at the finish and I recommend her as a Place.

At Doncaster, I like Tortoni in the first race. The son of Teofilo has been placed in his first 2 races and I see him being in the frame again. Whether he actually wins depends on how good is Campanology from the Richard Hannon stable who have interestingly booked Johnny Murtagh for the ride. Tortoni is recommended as a Place.

Win: Nadal, Djokovic.
Place: Antara, Midday, Wonder of Wonders, Tortoni.