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