Thursday, May 31, 2012

Open Classic

Carlton House obliged by making a winning return despite looking unsettled through most part of the race. The talent is definitely there, but his keen-ness will have to be corrected if he is to be play a leading role in the top middle-distance races this year. Maybe it was his re-adaptation to the racing surroundings. Colombian, on the other hand, failed to fire. He wasn't far off behind, but , it seems to me that he probably acts better on softer conditions.

Tomorrow is Oaks day and the Fillies Classic looks a very open affair; it would not be surprising that the winner turns out to be a long-shot.

Maybe from the strong Ballydoyle contingent, is the favourite; she lost her unbeaten tag in the 1000 Guineas although she was a staying-on third. Conditions will be different at Epsom as the ground will be much firmer, and possibly better to her liking.

Kailani from the Godolphin team has been supplemented and is the subject of bullish reports from her conditioner, Al Zarooni. Her dam is Kazzia who won the Guineas and Oaks double for the Blue team. Can she emulate her mother? Unbeaten in 2 races, she could still be missing a bit of seasoning and racecourse experience. If she does not fire on the day, she's still got the pedigree to make a very nice filly this year.

There are other promising contenders such as Kissed, The Fugue, Vow and Was in particular, who could snatch this on their best day. A really open race it is, but the experience and unexposed form of Maybe makes her a deserved favourite. She looks to be a good Place bet, and whether she'll get the necessary luck to beat all remains to be seen.

Staying at Epsom, the best chance of the day looks to be Worthadd in the Group 3 Diomed Stakes. The son of Dubawi won a Group 3 race in Germany a fortnight ago and provides the best form of the 6-horse race. He should be in the first 2 and is recommended as an each-way.

Each-way: Worthadd

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Brigadier duel

As we approach this year's Derby, it is apt to remember last year's favourite at Epsom was the Queen's horse Carlton House, who finished a honourable third behind Pour Moi. The son of Street Cry makes his seasonal appearance after nearly a year on the sidelines in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes. I am a little bit surprised that he will not go to the Coronation Cup over the week-end but maybe the connections want a gentler start to his 4-year old campaign.

Tomorrow's race is really between Carlton House and Colombian, who made an impressive return a month ago, winning over 6 lengths and relegating Twice Over to nearly 9 lengths. Any representative from the John Gosden yard is to be respected at this level, and should Carlton House not be full wound-up or fit, Colombian looks prime to take the spoils.

I recommend Carlton House as an each-way, and Colombian as a Place.

Each-way: Carlton House
Place: Colombian

Monday, May 28, 2012

Racing extravaganza

That was an eventful week-end of racing. Power won the Irish 2000 Guineas proving that he did not handle the sloppy conditions in the English version. The field was within a few lengths on the good ground which means that there isn't much of a gap between the milers of this generation. If they meet again, the standings might very well be different. But certainly the biggest satisfaction of this blog is to have pinpointed long-shot Reply, who came out 3rd at odds of 25/1. A fantastic each-way that was for those that had the same confidence on supposedly weakest string of the Ballydoyle contingent.

Trumpet Major flopped but like the rest, wasn't disgraced, which means that none of them should be discarded in their future races. The eye-catcher of the race was certainly Born To Sea, who looked lively in the closing stages and the son of Urban Sea looks set to be on the progressive path. Definitely something worthy of note for future reference.

The female equivalent went to Samitar, a first Classic for the Mick Channon stable, and a first Classic for her sire Rock of Gibraltar. The son of Danehill has shown renewed promised as a sire from the past year, and this vital win could be the turning point of his stud career.

On the same card, So You Think started his last European campaign by easily disposing of an average field to win the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He cantered easily on-the-bridle and seems to have none of his ability. The only other runner of note was Famous Name, who's a Group 2 horse really. I just hope O'Brien gets it right this year with the best son of High Chaparral so that he can truly gets to show his steel.

French racing was also the subject of some momentous races, highlighted by the winning return of Golden Lilac, the Galileo filly that took the 3-year old honours last year. She had been sidelined since her only defeat and she seems to have overcome the injury problems that made her miss the second half of last year. By beating Cirrus des Aigles and Planteur fair and square, she proved she could be the one to beat in the important middle-distance races in Europe this year. The Arc looks right up her alley at this point and Andre Fabre, her conditioner, is a master planner for that race.

Lastly, Deep Brillante won the Japanese Oaks by the touch of a short head. Yet another Classic winner for Deep Impact, whose daughters in particular are really rocking this year.

This week is all about the lead-up to the Derby; It seems impossible to oppose Camelot at this stage, the son of Montjeu looks to prolong the sublime winning record of his sire in England's most prestigious race.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Irish 2000 Guineas

All 11 entries stood their ground for the Irish 2000 Guineas on Saturday. I believe the winner will come from this pack, in no particular order of preference; Born To Sea, Hermival, Parish Hall, Power, Reply, Takar and Trumpet Major. The others are simply not of the same class as the above.

Born To Sea disappointed in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Connections can point to the soft ground but I think he's more of a sprinter-type, and his pedigree confirms that, being by Invincible Spirit. Over the course of the year, it could be that can get a mile against seasoned milers, but this race might possibly come a little too soon for him after his flop a few weeks back. I think he can run a Place at best.

Hermival sprang a surprise when coming home third at Newmarket. This son of Dubawi should have no concern regarding the distance, although he will not be getting his preferred soft ground at the Curragh. He can be involved in the placings again but I don't think he will win.

Winner of last year's Dewhurst, Parish Hall makes his seasonal appearance in the Classic. It remains to be seen in what kind of disposition he is, and how well he's progressed over the winter. Connections must be bullish because he's been the subject of major market support in the run-in to the race. It's impossible to gauge his chances against horses that have already had one or two important outings already, but if he wins this, he could turn out to be the top miler of his generation. It seems to be safer to have him in the frame than an outright win.

Power looks to be the No 1 representative from the Ballydoyle camp, despite having tailed off at Newmarket, seemingly because of the soft ground conditions. He's clearly got a lot of talent, but as a sprinter and not as an outright miler. A slow pace will play to his advantage, but it's hard to see him reverse form with the other contenders from the 2000 Guineas and take this.

If there is to be a huge upset, I would not be surprised if it came from Reply, again from the Aidan O'Brien camp. Unless he's already been tasked to take the role of the non-honourable pace-maker, he is making his seasonal appearance and has unexposed form. He has been placed third in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes last year, so his race history has to be respected. If he is to be given a proper chance to run his race, this might be a value pick for long punters.

Takar is the ride of Johnny Murtagh for the Aga Khan. He's clearly a smart sort who's won his last race at listed level very comfortably. That race should have brought the necessary improvement in him but he will feel the difference in class. He might have his say in elite company, but a place at this stage looks more of a possibility than a win.

Finally, Trumpet Major represents the Richard Hannon stable, and comes from a honourable fourth place at Newmarket. He looked the winner two furlongs out and while connections point to the soft ground for his downfall, I think he just might not have been suited to the dip of the Rowley track. The firmer track might be to his advantage, and the fact that he stayed on in the 2000 Guineas means that the distance will suit well. I think he's sitting on a big race.

All said and done, I like Trumpet Major as an each-way. The Hannon camp won this race with Canford Cliffs a couple of years back, and they look set to strike again, or at least play a major role again. I think Takar and Parish Hall look poised to run well and complete the placings.

Each-way: Trumpet Major

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Delivery time

Great last week-end with the Lockinge and Preakness delivering the 1-2 punch as expected.

What else to say about Frankel that hasn't yet been said? He's not as imposing as Sea The Stars but his mechanics are just unbelievable. In full flight, he's an unstoppable machine in motion. At this point, there seems nothing to stop him in the Prince of Wales stakes at Ascot, possibly his next stop. Excelebration ran the race expected of him but again had to settle for second place. Unfortunately for him, it looks like there are more runner-up spots in the offing for him each time he locks horns with the Galileo colt.

State-side, I'll Have Another outran Bodemeister in the final strides to complete the Derby-Preakness double, opening the possibility of achieving the Triple Crown. Can he do it? It's a little early to say but I believe much of it will depend on the disposition of Dullahan and Union Rags. Both horses will be fresher for the Belmont showpiece as they skipped Pimlico. The Triple Crown is far from a certainty for I'll Have Another, but he's proved to have lots of ability, and certainly is among the best of his generation.

In football, Chelsea finally won the Champions League after coming close in recent years. Their success had looked so improbable in their encounters with Barcelona and in the final against Bayern, but it seems that it was written somewhere that they would win it. Di Matteo showed all his savviness and when you look at his short managerial career, he's never really showed he was a bad manager. He did well at West Brom and looked unlucky to be sacked there. Whether he stays at the helm of Chelsea of not, he looks destined to be wanted by other top clubs in Europe.

Coming up over the week-end are the Irish Guineas Classics and both colts and fillies races look competitive. With Camelot certain to step up in trip from now on, this year's 3-year old top miler could be making a statement at the Curragh. It will be interesting to see if the returning Parish Hall can confirm all the promise of last season, or if one of the flops at the Newmarket Classic, such as Born To Sea and Power, can redeem himself and take a leading role in the division. There certainly will be no more room for excuses and ability or non-ability will be there for all to see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Return of the Greatest Miler

The Lockinge, a race that has been a curse to many of its winners in recent years, when you think of the likes of Hawk Wing, Rakti and Creachadoir etc, who then never won again. This year, Frankel looks poised to win it and let's hope that this will not stop his winning sequence because so much is expected of him this season.

This is a race that Frankel will win even with the presence of Excelebration, possibly the second best miler in the world after the Galileo colt. The naysayers will mention that Frankel is vulnerable because of the injury he incurred a few weeks back that disturbed his training for nearly 10 days. They will mention that Excelebration has one run under his belt already which Henry Cecil concedes as a real advantage for the Ballydoyle colt. I believe Frankel will be as vulnerable as he's ever been, but his connections will not have risked him for the race if they did not think he would win. The logic should be respected at the end with Frankel leading Excelebration at the finish.

A few hours later, the Preakness will see a rematch between I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, the first 2 finishers in the Derby. Although the shorter distance of 9 furlongs will better suit Bodemeister, that does not mean that he will have enough to outlast the Kentucky Derby winner at the distance. My theory is that whoever of the 2 has better recuperated from their exertions of the Derby will win this. Usually, the one with the better stamina recuperates the better, so it is advantage I'll Have Another, and the shortened distance should not give any definitive edge to Bodemeister. The other theory is that Bodemeister lost the Derby not because of stamina issues, but rather because of a lack of seasoning and career starts. If that is the case, then he is the deserved favourite for the Preakness. In the end, this second Classic of the season should play between these 2 protagonists and I am inclined to have both as a Place.

Obviously, I couldn't close this preview of the week-end without mentioning the Champions League final between Bayern and Chelsea. Playing at home gives the Germans a big advantage. The fact that Chelsea will miss much of its defence gives the Bavarians an ever greater advantage. However, their form is suspect as demonstrated by their drubbing from Borussia Dortmund in the German Cup last week. As for Chelsea, their best chance is to play it tactically, like against Barcelona, and hope to nick a goal against the run of play, then park the bus. It's not an impossible task for them, but much of their chances will depend on the disposition of the host team. If Bayern are on song on the day, they should win. But this is not a guarantee, and neither is the result. Hopefully the best on the day wins and real football prevails.

Win: Frankel
Place: Bodemeister, I'll Have Another, Excelebration

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Classic impact

The predictions were good with Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham all winning on the last day, but obviously, fat chance played a big role. City finally won the game and the title after giving their supporters the biggest fright imaginable. Their title win and that of Real Madrid in La Liga made for a nice double that was fancied here for the last few months. Sports is a funny game where this kind of selection could easily have gone astray had the Citizens failed to score in injury time. It worked this time.

The excitement of the last day of the Premiership showed why it is the most thrilling league to follow. It's not the best anymore, in that the best 2 clubs in the world are in Spain. However, I don't think anyone in the FA will want to swap places with a league where the gap between 2nd and 3rd place are 39 staggering points!

Some news of the note over last week-end and in the last few days. The non-selection of Rio Ferdinand for Euro 2012 is a good one. He's become more a liability at the back nowadays and his game has slowed markedly over the past couple of years. One of the reasons Man Utd lost the title this year was because the loss of Vidic exposed the vulnerabilities of Ferdinand.

The selection of Terry is a good one too, the only reason being that there is no other accomplished central defender in the squad. Reality is there is a serious lack of a top-class English central defender and that even a regressing Terry is better than what is available. That said, with or without Terry, England will concede goals because the defence is poor.

On the racing front, the French Guineas saw the coronation of Beauty Parlour and Lucayan. The former is a daughter of Deep Impact and looks set to dominate the 3-year old division this year. If she has no rival at a mile, I wonder who will challenge her at longer distances for which her pedigree suits perfectly. This is oh-so sweet revenge for her sire, who was not given the best preparation to showcase his talent on his only foray on French soil.

Another Japanese sire that had a prominent runner in the male Classic was Hat Trick, sire of Dabirsim, the champion 2-year old. He did not have the best of trips, but he also showed he did not quite get the mile distance. He could be factor over the sprint distances in Europe this year if that is the route his connections choose for him. But all this is a far cry from the greatness he looked set for after his overly promising debut season.

This coming week-end is all about the Preakness Stakes in the US and the return of Frankel in the Lockinge at Newbury. I don't usually favour ante-post but with the race only 2 days away, the odds in that market for the superstar miler will not be reached again. It's impossible to go against Frankel, and the recommendation is to take Frankel now and on race-day as well.

Antepost win: Frankel

Friday, May 11, 2012

Winners and Losers

Sunday brings the curtain down in the EPL with a champion still to be decided, the fate of one final relegated club to be determined, and third place ensuring next season Champions League football up for grabs. Some thoughts for the final day.

Man City will be champions. No shocker here. The Citizens are in full charge and I cannot see them being stopped at home to QPR. Man City are easily recommended as a Win here.

Man Utd will rue their final moments of madness against Everton a fortnight ago which will eventually cost them the title. They are going to Sunderland their heads low, and might not even get the 3 points at the Stadium of Light. A quick QPR goal at the Etihad might en-liven the Red Devils but I am not counting on it.

QPR will lose to Man City but in my opinion, won't be relegated. That's because I don't see Bolton going to win at Stoke City. It's true that the hosts have nothing to play for and are finishing the season with a whimper. Bolton could draw this game, but it's hard to see them grab the 3 full points they need to stay up. The Wanderers are going down on Sunday after some memorable years at the top.

Arsenal will grab third place for guaranteed next season UCL football. They need a win at West Brom and I think they will get it. Their main opponents for that coveted spot is Tottenham who also look set to win at home against Fulham. It's just that Harry Redknapp's men will regret having gone on a mad winless streak of late, that eventually will cost them third place. Arsenal and Tottenham are both recommended as draw-no-bets.

All these matches will surely provide drama on Sunday, and in the end, the winners and losers will agree that they got what they deserved from their season's work.

Win: Man City
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal, Tottenham

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Classic after-math

Man Utd won, most possibly in a futile fashion, Bodemeister was a good-placed second while Born To Sea flopped in the Guineas.

The Classics came by and produced some interesting thoughts regarding the 3-year old generation. Let's start with the 2000 Guineas where Camelot was up to the monumental task that was bestowed on him all over the winter and met all the expectations with a thundering roar. He's the real deal and for a Montjeu colt to dominate his contemporaries at a mile shows that he's truly in a class of his own. I hope his next stops will be the Derby and St Leger, for a crack at the British Triple Crown. I however think that his owners Coolmore will go on a more commercial path for his stallion career and go for the Champion Stake races instead. Let's hope that the romance of the Triple Crown wins them over, but I wouldn't punt on it.

What to make of Born To Sea? The excuse from connections looks to have been the very soft ground and the fact that he didn't settle from the on-set. I still think he's got the talent and will keep close tabs on him on his future races.

The 1000 Guineas went to un-fancied but progressive Homecoming Queen giving his sire Holy Roman Emperor a first Classic. Her win is most amazing given that it took her 8 races to break her maiden tag. You never know with those Aidan O'Brien horses, they can spring up when you least expect them. Maybe, the favourite, lost her unbeaten tag, but I wouldn't discount her out yet.

Stateside, I'll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and this horse shouldn't be taken lightly from now on. If his win over fancied Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby did not make him a household name, this win will do it. He was well-placed all the way and ran down Bodemeister because of his superior stamina. Both must certainly be leading players going to the next Classic, the Preakness Stakes in 2 weeks.

There are lots of good racing going on in the UK at the moment but most of it is getting wrecked by the wet weather. Long studies of form can be easily wrecked by the soggy and heavy conditions prevailing at the tracks. As can be seen in the past days, long-shots and outsiders rule the roost in such circumstances, and it looks best to stay away unless there's a clear shout in a race. Long punters should be enjoying this but I cannot find any good-value certainties in the cards worthy of mention.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Crowning moment

This week-end will determine the eventual winner of the EPL. If Man City win at Newcastle, they'll win it. Anything else will lead to a Man Utd win, I believe. Man City holds the cards here and have their destiny in their hands. Can they win it at St James park where Newcastle has proved so difficult to overcome this season? I have a feeling they won't and will have to settle for 1 point at most.

Man Utd will beat Swansea at home, no doubt. There should be many goals in that one. Man Utd is a recommended as a straight win.

The 2000 Guineas will be the center of attention for racegoers. I persist in thinking that Camelot is not tailor-made for the mile and will be much better over longer distances as his pedigree suggests. He's a very good horse no doubt, but I think he's vulnerable at the distance and he is definitely way too short at his current price. He's a lay in my books. I believe his stablemate Power and John Oxx's Born To Sea are the value punts of the race. There are stamina doubts regarding Power, particularly if the grounds gets worse than soft. But if the conditions dry on race day, this battle-hardened colt has shown enough potential in his 2-year old season to be among the contenders. For punters looking for value, he looks like a good Place punt.

Born To Sea looks destined for great things like his half-brothers Galileo and Sea The Stars. His pedigree suggests that he will have more speed than these two, and a mile should be right up his alley. Like Power, he should be more convenienced with drier track conditions. At his current price, he looks worthy of a Place punt and this is the recommendation.

There are quite a few dark horses in the race such as french raiders Abtaal and French Fifteen. They could very well emulate Makfi and trump them all. But I think that Trumpet Major and Caspar Netscher have been over-cooked in their trial wins and are lays at the same level as Camelot.

This year's Kentucky Derby looks the most competitive it's been for years. I don't think Daddy Long Legs, the Coolmore representative has much of a chance here, unless he's turned out to be a superstar. First post and having flopped on his only start on dirt, do not provide confidence to the son of Scat Daddy. I think Bodemeister and Union Rags are sitting on big races here. Bodemeister was by far the most impressive in the prep races and although he's only had 4 races to date, he's been battle-hardened this year. Union Rags was mighty impressive before his disappointing run in the Florida Derby. I don't subscribe to the majority notion that his awful trip was the cause of his defeat. I think his trip wasn't as bad as perceived and that he was well-beaten on the day. Maybe he was under-cooked on the day, but he looks in prime condition for Saturday's race. Bodemeister looks the least vulnerable of the lot and he is a Place selection.

Win: Man Utd.
Place: Born To Sea, Bodemeister

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Classic Countdown

It is a case of "one down, one more to go" as Real Madrid won La Liga, the Los Blancos being heavily tipped to land the title in these pages for a long time. The other one, Man City for the EPL, currently looks a good shout as well, although it is by no means a certainty as their next travel to Newcastle will certainly determine the destiny of the title.

The first Saturday of May one of the most exciting of any year as one side of the Atlantic holds the Kentucky Derby and the other one the 2000 Guineas. Just last year, Frankel gave a scintillating display for the ages in trouncing his contemporaries in the Newmarket classic. The focus this year has been on Camelot who's not put a foot wrong in his 2-year old campaign, not least winning the Racing Post Trophy in a canter. Will he do a St Nicholas Abbey and flop? That is the main question.

The other question is how good is Born To Sea, the half-brother to superstar Sea The Stars? His trainer John Oxx would not send him across the Irish Sea if he thought he'd be going to the wolves. One thing is certain, his pedigree suggests that Born To Sea will have been born with speedier genes than his half-brother and if a mile on soft ground is within his realm, he will be a major player on Saturday.

Stateside, it's the countdown to the Triple Crown race they all want to win, the Kentucky Derby. This looks a very close affair as well with at least 5 main protagonists in my cards; Bodemeister,  Union Rags, Gemologist, Creative Cause and Alpha. I think the winner will come from this group, unless there is an extreme outsider out there that is destined for a good day. Powerhouses Godolphin and Coolmore are represented in this year's race, it would be something if one of them were to land this.

Track and weather conditions are bound to play a big role in these Classics come Saturday; I'll be more confident on my selections as we get close to race-day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Good appointment

Solid week-end with Real Madrid and Wigan winning and Swansea and West Brom drawing their matches. Man City took a massive step towards the title by edging the Manchester Derby but the title is by no means over. I think both clubs will still lose points in their remaining games and it will come down to who loses the least points. The Citizens visit to Newcastle will play a huge part in the final verdict.

Today's main news is the appointment of Roy Hodgson at the helm of England. That might not have been the most populist vote, but it is a great appointment nonetheless. What he's achieved with the Swiss, Inter, and Fulham are testament of a very good manager with international experience. Obviously, the loser in all this is Harry Redknapp who would have been an equally good appointment in my opinion. Certainly public fervour was strongly and mostly in favour of the Tottenham manager, while the FA people definitely were not as warming to him. Has he missed his chance? Time will tell as much depend on how Hodgson tenure goes. Should he have any regrets over the whole appointment? It all depends, as the public never knows what really takes place in the background, with the approaches, negotiations etc. But the one thing that is for sure is that if Redknapp certainly hasn't given out the signals that a prospective employer would want in a willing candidate. 'I never think of England' isn't the sort of come-and-get-me plea. If his rather hard stance on the job prospect has been a negotiating smoke-screen, then it must be said that it has back-fired spectacularly and he will live to regret it. But on the other hand, who knows? maybe he was never in contention in the FA's eyes, and whatever he said wouldn't have budged the selecting committee.

Finally, the England national team has a proper manager to go to the Euros. Good thing it wasn't with caretaker manager Stuart Pearce. No grudges against Psycho, but he has proved nothing in management yet. Whether with fan backing or not, short preparation time or not, Hodgson has to show that England can compete again with the best in Ukraine. There needs to be renewed hope and the rest will follow.