Friday, June 28, 2013

Irish Derby 2013 - Ruler to convince the world

Although he won the Epsom Derby quite convincingly, Ruler of the World still has doubters about whether he is the real deal and is indeed the creme de la creme of the Classic division. He will have the opportunity to put the question to bed in Saturday's Irish Derby.

Some would say that Battle of Marengo was unleashed too soon at Epsom which ruined his chances at the finish. The way that ROTW stormed by in the closing stages seems to indicate that he still had the race in control had the sprint to the finish line started later than actual. The fact that ROTW is still undefeated in 3 races and looks a progressive type means that he is the deserved favourite for the Curragh Classic. At evens, he might be a little short, but he definitely should be in the first 3, albeit without regular partner Ryan Moore in the saddle.

I believe the main challenge will come from Libertarian, Sugar Boy or Trading Leather. Derby runner-up Libertarian looked a very good closer at Epsom which looked to indicate that the St Leger might be up his alley. He will certainly appreciate the less-undulating Curragh track and cannot be dismissed in any trifecta.

There is a slight question mark on Trading Leather at a mile and a half distance. He's produced high-class races at a mile and ten furlongs this year and he might have too much speed for the Classic distance. He's from the top drawer though and very possibly the best 3-year old in Jim Bolger's care after Dawn Approach. If he gets the distance, he represents a good value each-way chance.

Sugar Boy beat Libertarian in the Sandown Classic Trial at ten furlongs. He's been either in first or second places in his last 6 races, and has made the frame in all 8 of his outings. He will relish the distance. It remains to be seen how to interpret his 64 day absence from the tracks; will he be too fresh or just fresh enough to run down quite a few opponents that might still not fully recovered from the Epsom race?

I think that if ROTW runs his race, he should win. For the placings, I see value in both Sugar Boy and Trading Leather. One stands not to lose if at least one of them makes it in the first 3.

Win: Ruler of the World
Place: Trading Leather/Sugar Boy 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Royal Ascot - Day 2 Prince of Wales' Stakes

I can think of only 5 names to retain in Wednesday's feature race, the Prince of Wales' Stakes at 10 furlongs; Al Kazeem, Camelot, The Fugue and the 2 French raiders Maxios and Saint Baudolino. I believe the winner should come out of that lot.

Al Kazeem is the favourite of the race and if he has retained the form that saw him beat Camelot last time, I think he will be a big player. He's only been outside of the placings once in 10 outings, and that happened on his racing debut and on soft ground. He will be getting his preferred good ground on Tuesday and the way he mastered Camelot at the Curragh a few weeks ago shows his mettle as a genuine Group 1 runner and one of the best middle-distance horses around.

Camelot disappointed when beaten to Al Kazeem and it remains to be seen if he's still the same horse after his surgery during the winter. I still believe that his best distance is 12 furlongs, being a son of Montjeu. It's hard to see him reverse the form against Roger Charlton's colt.

I rate The Fugue as a top filly but I have doubts of her winning on Wednesday after more than 200 days of layoff. Her stablemate Elusive Kate floundered in the latter parts of the Queen Anne Stakes after a similar lengthy spell on the sidelines, possibly due to a lack of fitness. There isn't much confidence in backing her with the lack of a prep run.

Maxios has been a revelation in France this year having notched 2 wins and a second place out of 3 top races. It seems that trainer Jonathan's Pease has found the solution to the 5-year old half-brother of Bago after a rather start-stop career to date. Maxios needs plenty of rain to be at his most effective but it does not seem that there will be plenty or any of that in the weather forecasts. He's got to be considered if it starts pouring on the day.

Saint Baudolino can never be counted out as the son of Pivotal is blessed with a smart turn of foot that can help him make the difference against this field on his best day. This lightly raced colt is the dark horse of the race as he's very unexposed. It remains to be seen how his transfer from Fabre to Godolphin has panned out because many of similar transfers have ended up in rather catastrophic fashion. It would not be surprising if the mount of Barzalona snatched up a place.

All roads seem to be going back to Al Kazeem in this one. He almost never runs a bad race and if he is true to form, he should be very close at the finish. I cannot see him out of the first 3, and he looks a good value Win selection.

Win: Al Kazeem

Monday, June 17, 2013

Royal Ascot 2013 - Day 1

Animal Kingdom towers above the field in the opening race Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot. If he is anywhere near his true form and has no problem adapting to the undulations of the track, there is really nothing in the field that can beat him. Signs from connections have been positive throughout his preparations so it looks like he will be tough to beat. Should he fail to fire, I see Elusive Kate and Trade Storm as his nearest pursuers. The former runs very well fresh and has had good form in Group 1 races last year. Trade Storm has been a revelation in Dubai and if he gets the firm ground that he relishes, he has strong claims to be in the placings. Animal Kingdom is short-priced but he should win.

The King's Stand Stakes is an intriguing contest with Shea Shea, the Mike de Kock representative, being another short-priced favourite. This is a big field of 19 runners, so it won't be a surprise if he's turned over. The Aussies have a great record in the race and will be represented by Shamexpress, who although does not seem to have the star power or reputation of Choisir, Takeover Target and Miss Andretti, should be be respected. I think Reckless Abandon represents tremendous value in this race. The son of Exchange rate lost  his unbeaten tag on this seasonal return this year when a good third to Kingsgate Native in the Betfred Temple Stakes a few weeks ago. This race will have brought him on nicely and he's shown very good speed in all his races to suggest that he can be one of the premier sprinters in the country if kept at the 5-6 furlong distance. I see value in having him in the placings.

Finally, the St James Palace stakes looks set to be a dandy. The rather shocking return of Dawn Approach has turned the race upside down. If he's truly recovered from the disastrous Derby and is still the horse that won the Guineas, then he must have a live chance to win. Magician is a top-drawer horse in his own right and his backers will be eager to see if the setback in his preparation will have any effect on race day. Despite his Guineas flop, Toronado is still highly regarded in the Richard Hannon camp. I think we can throw away that race. He showed great speed and the way he floundered in the end definitely meant that something had bothered him. Very possibly his newly-fitted spoon-bit might be the solution to the issue. The vibes from the connections are most positive and I think there is a great chance that he will run to his full potential. I think he's the value Place punt of the race.

Win: Animal Kingdom
Place: Reckless Abandon, Toronado

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

US Open - Tiger can end drought

Sad news in racing yesterday with the passing of Sir Henry Cecil, without any doubt,one of the greatest trainers in the history of Flat racing. I got the bug of racing following the likes of Oh So Sharp, the Triple Crown winner which he masterfully trained like so many other champions over the years. The Frankel story might not be as unblemished and memorably told today had it been in the hands of another trainer. A genius of a horseman he was. RIP Sir Henry.

The US Open golf gets underway tomorrow and looks a tricky affair as the conditions prevailing are far from optimal. The latest downpour looks set to make the course slow and soggy. I think this sets Tiger Woods pretty well here. It is hard to believe that Tiger hasn't won a Major tournament for the past 5 years. He's definitely come close of late and although he had a stinker tournament last week, his game is definitely back. I believe he just needs that ounce of luck to win a big one again and that would open the floodgates for many more Major glories. He's won the US Open in these kinds of conditions before and even had a practice round at this year's venue in the rain. Looking at the odds on the exchanges, his even odds for a Top 10 look appealing. He might not win but I definitely think he should be in the whereabouts on Sunday.

Top 10: Tiger Woods