The Group 1 Racing Post Trophy, scheduled for 3.05, is a race that usually has a lot of significance for the following season Derby. It is also a race that is usually won by a still unexposed well-bred animal from top connections. One could say that favourite Kingsbarns fits the bill, as he comes from the Ballydoyle connections, is completely unexposed having just won his maiden at Navan and is entered in the Epsom Derby. However, he is facing top opposition for the first time and his pedigree is not outstanding from the dam side. Of course, Aidan O’Brien’s horses must always be highly respected, especially when he only sends one for a race like this. However, his words about the horse sounded more hopeful than confident. Steeler has very good form but does not fit the profile as he is not in the Derby and has already run quite a few times. He can win, of course, but does not look the typical Racing Post Trophy winner. The same applies to First Cornestone, who loves very soft ground and has won at Group 2 level last time in Ireland. If he wins he will be regarded as one of the best money spinners of recent times, as he failed to sell at 12,000gns as a yearling. His breeding does not look the part and he is not in the Derby. Richard Hannon sends Van Der Neer, who created a good impression in a Conditions Stakes on soft ground at Leicester ten days ago. He is not in the Derby though, and is markedly stepping up in class. My pick is TRADING LEATHER, trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning. This colt by 2006 top juvenile Teofilo out of an unraced daughter of Sinndar has always been well regarded by his powerful trainer, who was brave enough to send him to a listed contest on debut. On that occasion Trading Leather was “only” second but improved to win his following two starts, the second in a Group 3 at Newmarket. Entered in the Derby and with a top pedigree, this 3yo can force his way to the top in the juvenile division.
The 1.25 Universal Recycling Apprentice Handicap is a weak affair and topweight BE MY ROCK looks to have a fair chance at good odds (13/2). Jamie Jones is his usual rider, which is a plus in this kind of affairs, and this 3yo showed good form when 2nd of 15 at Nottingham behind an 82 (now 85) rated horse. Proven on soft, he can give in-form trainer Rae Guest another small prize. Albert Tatlock is a danger and so is bottomweight Oakbrook, who has a chance at big odds if recapturing the form he had during the Summer.
Proofreader a one raced son of a Derby winner trained by John Gosden, runs off a 90 mark against tough horses in the 2.00 Racing Post Ipad App Handicap. Even though he is likely to be very smart, he has yet to prove he can outgun such a good opposition. He has also been already gelded, which raises doubts about his real class. I’d rather try my luck with a more seasoned handicapper, who has gone down the weights a lot but pointed to a return to form last time and is available at 12/1. He is FULGUR, trained by Luca Cumani and ridden by Kieren Fallon, who has shown he can go on bad ground and is now just 1lb higher than when taking a very good handicap at Nottingham one year ago. His last performance at Yarmouth was encouraging and the step up in trip should suit on breeding (dam listed placed at 1m 4f and sire is High Chaparral). Sirvino and Scrapper Smith are two big priced alternatives.
Many hold a chance in the 2.30 Genting Casinos Levy Board Handicap, a 22 runner sprint over the minimum trip. Jack Dexter, the uneasy favourite, sharply drops back in trip, while Dungannon might be on the wrong side of the track. Bottomweight Kaldoun Kingdom is well handicapped and might go well at a big price, but is not a frequent winner. The one that looks solid on every department is topweight DOC HAY, trained by David O’Meara and ridden by Daniel Tudhope, who is having a good season. This 5yo arrives to Doncaster at the top of this game, with a win at listed level at Ascot three weeks ago. He beat extremely good sorts that time, loves soft ground and is a 5f specialist. He is also a course winner, so he answers more questions than most in this contest.
Not many good propositions in the 3.35 Crownhotel-Bawtry.com Nursery, a pretty modest contest over 7f. My choice is INTIMIDATE, who won a maiden by wide margin on heavy ground last time at Yarmouth and looks on the improve. Bought for 88,000gns as a yearling, he was always in the frame before his Yarmouth success and trainer Jeremy Noseda is always to be feared.
On form, TAAYEL looks a class apart from the rest in the 4.10 Park Hill Hospital Stakes, a listed sprint over 6f. This colt has made a good impression when winning on debut at Yarmouth but did even better when 3rd in a Group 2 at Newbury, when a neck behind a 108 rated colt. He has never run on soft but it seems that the ground is drying up at Doncaster, so he deserves his even money price. Emell and Invincible Warrior could be anything having won maidens by wide margins against weak opposition, while Lucky Beggar, who has the form to go close, seems to be better at 5f. For those who love betting at big odds I’ll advice Baddilini, a 20/1 colt trained by Alan Bailey who was 4th of 21 in the Two year old Trophy at Redcar last time. He goes on any ground and looks underrated.
Four horses stand out at the weights in the 4.45 Racing Post Supports Prostate Cancer UK Conditions Stakes. Bronterre and Monsieur Chevalier are far from their best, according to their recent runs, so preference must be given to Captain Ramius and SKILFUL. On their recent runnings, Skilful was six lengths in front of Captain Ramius, so this looks an easy call. Unfortunately he is only around even money but is hardly opposable as he is in form, from top connections and suited by ground and distance.
The 5.20 Universal Recycling Apprentice Handicap is a modest affair in which my choice is 5/1 FORTROSE ACADEMY, who looked to be heading to the right direction last time at Wolverhampton and runs off a lowly mark. Trained by Andrew Balding, the gelding operation looks to have had the right effect and this 3yo can win under Daniel Muscutt, who claims 5lb.
The flat season is nearly over but there is still the chance to watch a cracking meeting at Ascot, where together with Frankel’s likely final start, there are quite a few top quality races to savour.
One of them is the 1.45 Qipco British Champion Long Distance Cup, a Group 3 staying contest that has the look of a Group 1. Colour Vision, Opinion Poll and Saddler’s Rock face each other again. They are closely matched according to their numerous encounters and it’s hard to say who will be the best on the day. Then we have Fame And Glory, who is a danger to all if back to last year’s form. However, this season he has been a big disappointment. Rite Of Passage is classy but has a long break to overcome, while Ile De Re, who won the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle, has quite a few pounds to find with the best here. Aiken is a very promising 4yo who goes on soft ground but has never tackled a trip this long. The safest option looks OPINION POLL, who has won on soft and might be fresher than his usual rivals Colour Vision and Saddler’s Rock, who both ran twice in the last two months. My selection was a very close second to Colour Vision over 20f at Royal Ascot when last seen and after this break he can reverse the form.
The 2.20 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes is another excellent contest (Group 2) with two runners standing out in my opinion. No wonder they are the two market leaders: Society Rock and WIZZ KID. I’m not saying the others have no chance but none of them can boast the same level of form at Group 1 level, apart from Restiardargent, whose last runs have been disappointing. Society Rock goes well on any ground and has been in the form of his life this season. His win in the Haydock Sprint Cup warns respect but still the French representative Wizz Kid, second in this race last year on less favourable ground, looks as strong as ever. His win in the Prix de l’Abbaye two weeks ago was quite impressive, as he had to make a lot of ground on the leaders in the final two furlongs. He didn’t have his ground when only 6th to Society Rock at Haydock and has an excellent chance of reversing that form.
I fancy another French runner in the 2.55 Qipco British Champions Fillies’ and Mares’ Stakes, an extremely competitive Group 2 event. The two market leaders are Great Heavens, who was well fancied for the Arc only to finish 6th, and Sapphire, mudlover who showed her well being when destroying weaker opposition last Summer. They both come from top yards and cannot be discounted. However, I feel they have a few questions to answer. Sapphire is somewhat unexposed but beat quite lower class opposition when a three time winner this season. The only time she met a better class horse (Izzy Top, rated 115), she was a beaten favourite. Great Heavens is more proven at this level but the Arc was a hard race and she had less than two weeks to recover. If she is at her best she is likely to win but that is a big “if”. My choice is LA POMME D’AMOUR, trained by French master Andre Fabre and proven on every department. She is very well-bred, stays the trip, goes on the ground and won at Group 2 level with ease at Deauville with subsequent Arc winner Solemia in 4th and subsequent Group 2 winner Dalkala in 3rd. She failed at Group 1 level next time, but Andre Fabre said “I don’t count it”, because the filly got unbalanced going downhill. I share his opinion and I’ll bet on La Pomme D’Amour at a tasty 8/1.
Nobody can say John Gosden has no guts, as his Elusive Kate takes on males and older horses in the 3.30 Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Sponsored by Qipco. She is an amazing filly but was beaten by the two market leaders when 3rd at Deauville last Summer and that time she had more suitable ground than today. The most likely winner is without a doubt EXCELEBRATION, who would have won many more races if he hadn’t been sent to chase Frankel on a number of occasions. He likes soft ground more than Cityscape and Elusive Kate and should win this contest. Carlton House was 3rd in the 2011 Derby and according to trainer Sir Micharl Stoute might be back to that level of form. However, it looks unlikely he can beat Excelebration, especially on this ground.
And finally the big event, the mother of all races. The wonder horse, the seemingly unbeatable FRANKEL, faces a very serious challenge. This is likely to be his last race but it will be no pushover at all, as French hope Cirrus Des Aigles, winner of this race last year, is in fantastic form and will love the desperate ground. Indeed, the 4.05 Qipco Champion Stakes looks an extraordinary event. The French runner won by a Frankel-like margin last time at Longchamp (Group 2) and might be fresher than the favourite with only that run in the last four months. He won top races both in France and Dubai, has top rider Oliver Peslier on the saddle and has no stamina or ground issues. A real tough challenge for Henry Cecil and Khalid Abdullah’s superstar. The field also includes Nathaniel, just touched by Danedream in his attempt to a double in the King George and surely worth to be in this field for top trainer John Gosden. Enough to worry anybody but a fairytale like Frankel’s deserves the best of happy endings. Technically speaking, Frankel has 10lb in hand of Cirrus Des Aigles on official ratings and he answered the doubters about his stamina for this trip by destroying a very useful field at York in the Juddmonte Stakes. This will be a harder test, since the ground will be very soft and Ascot is a stiffer track. However, this marvellous horse was bred to do 1m 4f and has already won on easy ground. Perhaps it won’t be by 10 lengths, perhaps will have to fight his way through as never before, but at the end of affairs this phenomenal animal should impose his class once again.
The 4.45 Qipco Future Stars Apprentice Handicap is a 29 runner affair, so it won’t be easy to call the winner. My pick is 10/1 Highland Colori, who was a very close 2nd in a good handicap at Ayr on heavy ground last time and has run very well at Ascot before. With no ground or stamina issues and a good apprentice (Thomas Brown) who will offset his recent 4lb rise at the weights, he has a decent chance for trainer Andrew Balding.
It wasn’t as impressive as other times but world superstar Frankel kept his unblemished record intact in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot by comprehensively outpointing gallant French hope Cirrus Des Aigles.
In truth, the phenomenal 4yo trained by Sir Henry Cecil fully showed his class, as the ground was as soft as he could handle and nothing in the race seemed to go by plan. Indeed, Frankel was the slowest away when the gates opened, giving the fast breaking Cirrus Des Aigles nearly three lengths. Oliver Peslier did not refuse the gift and went straight into the lead at his own pace on the inside. Ian Mongan, on Frankel’s pacemaker Bullet Train, looked a bit puzzled, until deciding a sharp move to get into the lead in order to increase the pace. Nathaniel followed the leading pair on the outside and Frankel was forced quite wide all the way, giving the impression of not being totally at ease on this sticky ground. However, at half way, despite continuing to travel wide, the champion settled better and when Cirrus Des Aigles and Nathaniel winded up the tempo turning for home, Tom Queally was relaxed enough to concede a couple of lengths to their rivals by keeping wide. His mount then moved menacingly to challenge the leader and when Oliver Peslier started to use his whip, Queally was still calm on Frankel. He passed his opponent with relative ease, but the French gelding, second rated horse in the world, fought back with determination, forcing Frankel’s rider to go nearly at full strength in order to stretch away. One length and three quarters was the official margin, with Nathaniel two and a half lengths adrift.
Even though less spectacular than in most of his races, the crowd loudly cheered the champion at the Winning enclosure, seemingly aware of being watching history. Indeed, Frankel’s owner Khalid Abdullah destroyed the hopes of those who still hoped in another running season for this exceptional colt, who has given the racing industry a real boost in difficult times: “This is the end, he will retire”, said the Saudi businessman, prepared to earn millions from Frankel’s career as a stallion.
So, after three fantastic years, Frankel is now legend. It will be hard to realize that we won’t watch him again destroying any kind of opposition put in front of him. But that’s racing, a sport in which is often more profitable retiring the best horses even before they reach their pick. And Khalid Abdullah has already given the fans the gift of a third season, as the best colts are mostly retired after passing the age of the classics.
At least we live in an age in which it’s easy to find videos to savour those moments that made up the legend, such as his stunning front running display in the 2011 2,000Guineas, his demolition work of Canford Cliffs in the Sussex Stakes or his 11 length romp at Royal Ascot this season. Here we propose a nice video on this horse of a lifetime.
Even those who accused his connections of taking the “soft” option with Frankel are now wondering whether the appearance of the same adjective, in the official going report from Ascot, will entail a fitting measure of the unbeaten champion’s claims to greatness.
Having declined the chance of seeking out fresh challenges overseas, Frankel makes what is expected to prove the final appearance of a sensational career in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot tomorrow. But he will do so in more testing conditions than he has ever experienced in 13 previous starts, and his trainer today admitted that further rain could take him out of his comfort zone.
FENCING has always been well regarded by trainer John Gosden and he managed to be 6th of 18 in the 2,000 Guineas despite a troubled preparation. He handled the ground that time and posted another good effort when 3rd in a 10f Group 2 at York last May. Badly hampered when flopping in a Group 1 at Ascot next time, he looks well capable of taking the 1.50 Dubai Challenge Stakes (Group 2) over a trip that will favour his natural speed. Libranno is the top rated runner of this field but carries a penalty and needs better ground. Edinburgh Knight and Red Jazz have not been running well lately, while Scarf, who is in good form, is a front runner going up in class and might not have the run of the race like last time at Newbury. Arnold Lane will enjoy the conditions but on official ratings has 8lb+ to find with most of the other runners. Fulbright is a bit unpredictable and would likely prefer a faster surface; Pearl Mix is unproven at this level on turf; Reply has a big chance on his earlier season efforts but was disappointing after. Among the two who run for Peter Chapple-Hyam, Telwara looks outclassed but Sunday Times, the only filly in the field, might go close after her good win at Group 3 level at Doncaster a month ago. She goes against the colts for the first time, though, and is unproven on soft. Fencing (7/1) looks the right answer for the in-form combination John Gosden/William Buick.
The 2.20 Group 1 Middle Park Stakes is an intriguing affair in which quite a few excellent 2yos test their chances for some of next season’s best races. Quite rightly, Reckless Abandon is favourite, as he is the only Group 1 winner in the field and is unbeaten in four starts against very strong opposition. A very fast sort who can finish surprising well, he risks to be involved in a very strong pace with quite a few front runners in the field. Indeed, Hototo, Blaine, Cristoforo Colombo, Gale Force Ten and Heavy Metal all like going up with the pace. That’s why I’ll resort to a held-up horse with excellent form at a very big price. He is Aidan O’Brien’s apparent second string PARLIAMENT SQUARE, a 1l 3rd to Reckless Abandon at Group 1 level in France, proven on easy ground and winner of a listed contest in Ireland. I’m not worried about his latest 5th of 21 (not totally bad, by the way) at Doncaster in a hot contest as that was over 7f. Back to sprinting, this 370,000gns purchase can be very dangerous at 18/1 and it must be taken into account that he had to challenge wide when 1l behind Reckless Abandon at Deauville, so it’s definitely not out of question that he will reverse the form.
It’s hard to fault Dawn Approach, 2/5 favourite of the 2.55 Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. Unbeaten in five starts, included a Group 1, in the hands of top trainer Jim Bolger and reportedly in good form, he has an obvious chance. However, I never like backing horses at this sort of price and I will try my luck with John Gosden’s ASHDAN (9/2), who is totally unexposed and is very well-bred. He is not proven on this ground and at this level, so I won’t empty my wallet for him, but this Dansili colt has the profile of a horse who will go for the top targets over middle distances next season. Owned by the powerful Juddmont Farm’s connection, he won the two races he contested with some authority and fully deserves to take his chance. Another interesting one is 16/1 The Ferryman, but he showed a few signs of greenness last time and might be a bit immature.
Picking the winner of the Cesarewitch is never easy and this season’s renewal, scheduled for 3.35, makes no difference. A lot will depend on the ground but if it does not get very soft I believe HURRICAN HIGGINS has an outstanding chance. Proven over the trip, which can’t be said about most of the others, he was 3rd at Group 2 level last time and is officially 10lb ahead of the handicapper. At 14/1 looks a really good shot. Obviously there are many others with a chance in a 36 runner race like this, so I won’t go into details about the various runners. I’ll just say that 28/1 MARTIAL LAW, running for jumping master David Pipe, is in form, is not badly handicapped, should stay the trip and goes on soft. He looks to hold a nice EW chance.
SCINTILLULA looks a filly of real potential and is taken to win the 4.05 Group 2 Rockfel Stakes. Quite a few have good form in this contest, especially Just The Judge, who won in very likable fashion at listed level, and Gift From Heaven, who won by 3l against a 95 rated filly on debut. However, Scintillula, trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by Kevin Manning, left her modest debut (heavy ground) behind when 2nd in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. She looked really smart on that occasion and should have the ability to open her account in this valuable event.
Jim Bolger thought TRADING LEATHER to be good enough to contest a listed contest on debut. The colt was a good 2nd in that but with that experience under his belt, he scored by 7l dropped into Novice company. He is back up in class but is expected to be a Group 1 horse by his powerful trainer and has a good chance to be better than the nice bunch of winners we have in the Group 3 4.40 Autumn Stakes. Mostly unexposed colts take part, among whom Eye Of The Storm and Flying Officer represent top connections and must be feared. Galileo Rock has dominated his only race so far and should be destined to nice prizes but if we want an outsider to win I would go for Glenard, who might be less classily bred then some but did very well when winning a good maiden at Doncaster when things didn’t exactly went his way.
In the 5.15 Darley Stakes I’d rather look for a Group performer rather than for a progressive handicapper. FRENCH NAVY and Stipulate are those who fit the bill and my preference goes for the Godolphin runner, who looked in good form when last seen in June, is one year older and has been more lightly raced this season. He goes on good to soft and has a good chance at 6/1. The other Godolphin runner, Mandaean, won a Group 1 in France as a 2yo but did not keep up to that level this season.
Not many promising sorts in the 1.40 E B F Yorkshire Radio Maiden Stakes, a class 5 event over 7f. Breden and King Of Kudos have already experienced the racecourse and come from top stables but still look less classy than some of their stable companions. That’s why I prefer siding with a newcomer in ALGORITHMIC, trained by Michael Bell and ridden by Tom Queally, whose breeding is outstanding. By Danehill Dancer out of a half sister to very useful sorts, this colt must have shown a lot at home, as he was bought for 340,000gns one year ago. A full brother to a Group 2 winner and to the French 1,000 Guineas runner-up, he is entered in the Epsom Derby and should have no problems with the trip. If he handles the testing ground he will hold a good chance against apparently modest opposition. Another interesting newcomer is Ed Dunlop’s Singersongwriter, who will be ridden by in-form Graham Lee. A February filly by Raven’s Pass, she does not have fancy entries and looks a bit less attractive than my selection.
We can find a similar situation in the 2.10 E B F Kat Communications Knowledge About Telecoms Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, another class 5 event, this time over 1m. Those who have already run do not look exceptional, so I’ll again resort to a newcomer. Many will go for Godolphin’s Winter Snow, by Raven’s Pass and half sister to a few useful and precocious types. She is a very late foal though, and even though that’s not too much of an issue in this late part of the season, still it’s a bit off putting, especially at a shortish price. This time I’ll go for a big priced newcomer who definitely looks underestimated. My pick is PARIS ROSE, trained by William Haggas, who knows how to ready a horse first time out, and ridden by excellent Joe Fanning. This Cape Cross filly’s dam was a listed winner who stayed 1m 5f. This big stamina injection will be regarded as a problem by many race analysts, but in my opinion that might reveal to be an important asset in a race over a mile at this early stage of the career of these fillies, especially on soft ground. She is about 14/1 on the exchanges at the moment, which looks worth taking.
PENNY ROSE looks more convincing than favourite Darkening in the 2.40 Bet Through The Racing Post Mobile App Nursery. Her 4th of 19 in the most valuable fillies’ event of the year at Newmarket three weeks ago looks excellent form, especially as she found trouble in running and was shuffled back before running on again. She had previously easily beaten Desert Image, who then went to win a Newmarket maiden by four lengths. Trained by in-form Mark Johnston and ridden by Joe Fanning, she goes on soft, will be suited by the mile trip and despite having been raised 5lb for his latest effort, she looks the most likely winner of this nursery. Darkening is already a gelding but showed to be quite decent in all his five starts. However, his form does not look as good as Penny Rose’s, as he was beaten off 6lb lower last time at Newmarket. Richard Hannon’s Ronaldinho does not look to have the same class either and has flopped at Kempton last time in a lesser event than this. The same can be said about the other two runners even though Aint Got A Scooby will certainly be suited by the soft ground.
High numbers look best in the 3.15 Racing Post/SIS Betting Shop Manager of the Year Handicap, a sprint over 6f for 3yos or older horses. If this assumption is right, we have the chance to dismiss quite a few runners and narrow our shortlist. The favourite is Prodigality (drawn 13) who goes on soft and is very consistent in his races. However, he is 6lb higher than when winning at Goodwood last time, where he had a 5lb claimer on the saddle, so he is effectively 11lb higher. A bit too much to take 7/2 in a 22 runner event. Khubala (drawn 16) is 5/1 after his excellent 2nd on soft ground at Ascot three weeks ago but has now changed trainer and you can never tell what his reaction will be. Ancient Cross (stall 15) is officially 4lb well-in and is in very good form as his recent close 2nd at Catterick shows. He also goes well at Doncaster but his believes he would be better over a slightly shorter trip and his record of only four wins in 52 attempts is not exciting. For the same reason I discard Secret Witness (stall 20) who would otherwise be a very good outsider. He can be backed to be placed at a decent price but as a win prospect he does not appeal that much, having tasted success only five times out of 64 (15 times 2nd). My choice is GATEPOST, trained by Richard Fahey with Paul Hanagan on board. This young gelding was the best of the 3yos when 5th of 23 beaten 3 lengths in the Ayr Silver Cup last month and he can run off 2lb lower today. Off 92 when he was as high as 107 last year and he is still rated 102 on the All Weather, he can be really competitive now that he got back to form. He goes well on soft ground and from stall 14 he can have the best of this field at a juicy 14/1.
A penalty might no be enough to stop THE BETCHWORTH KID in the 3.50 Genting Club Sheffield Handicap after his 8l romp at Salisbury on heavy ground ten days ago. This gelding is still 5lb ahead of the handicapper and he ran very good races at Doncaster in the past. He can win again for Michael Bell under jockey Hayley Turner. Livery is not likely to take part, so the biggest dangers should be Yours Ever, whose profile is quite similar to my selection’s (4lb ahead of the handicapper and a good recent win on heavy ground) and John Gosden’s Daneking, who might lack a real change of gear but has solid form at this level.
The Lock Master and Change The Subject are closely matched after filling the first two places in a soft ground handicap at Leicester ten days ago. They have both been raised and I’m not fully convinced they can defy their new mark, especially Change The Subject who might not be suited by the ground. The bookies believe Aegaeus to be the best alternative to the Leicester pair but he did not look totally straightforward when only 4th at Goodwood last time, albeit after a four month break. I’ll take my chance on 16/1 BUSTER BROWN, who failed on heavy last time but usually likes cut in the ground. Trained by James Given, he is not weighted out of it and Tom Queally looks the right jockey to exploit his hold-up style at best. Indeed, this 3yo colt has a turn of foot and has been a revelation since switched to this tactics after having made the running in his previous starts at this trip. He has a decent chance, certainly much better than his high odds would imply.
Not many in-form or well handicapped runners in the 5.00 Lidget Compton Handicap over 1m 2f. Uphold has gone down the handicap quite a lot and his recent run at Wolverhampton (2nd behind an 88 rated horse on unfavourable terms) shows he is back to form. However, that was a claimer over 12f on polytrack, a very different situation from today’s. Besides, Paul Hanagan takes the ride from Michael Murphy, who could claim 5lb. He looks opposable. Hydrant does not look particularly well handicapped, was a beaten favourite last time and has a very poor win record. Brockfield is better handicapped and ran well on heavy three weeks ago at Ayr, but I’m not sure this front runner achieved too much in there, as most runners did not enjoy the ground.
My pick is MISTRESS OF ROME, a progressive 3yo filly who can boast two wins and four seconds from 14 runs. She likes soft ground and went very close to winning a couple of times off similar marks last Summer. Her 10/1 price is due to her flop at Ayr a month ago but that was over a much longer trip on desperate ground. Back at the right distance, she can run a big race for Michael Dods, who has had a good season, and jockey Paul Mulrennan, who was an unlucky close 3rd on this filly at Beverley in July.
The 5.00 Artsign Apprentice Handicap is a bit of a puzzle but my choice is course specialist SHE’S A CHARACTER, who can boast a liking for the ground, very good connections (Richard Fahey), an excellent rider in Laura Berry (15% this season) and strong recent form. Some will dismiss this mare’s recent success, as it was obtained in a five runner claimer at Hamilton. However, on that occasion she destroyed a 10lb higher rated horse at level weights displaying a neat turn of foot in difficult conditions. Still off 73 (she has been 82 in the past), she might be well handicapped and has a lot in her favour at 6/1 on a course where she won three times.
On official ratings, only three are there with a shout in the 1.45 Grabel Mares Hurdle at Punchestown. They are odds-on favourite Tarla, Burn And Turn and MAE’S CHOICE. Tarla escapes a penalty for her Group 3 success on this course in 2010 and earned a RPR of 150 when winning by 20l at Roscommon last August. However, on this latter occasion she was left clear by a faller when taken on for the lead and her subsequent start on the flat three weeks ago was so bad that she had to be pulled up. Her trainer Willie Mullins blamed on the juicy ground that time, which is not going to be much different here. Mullins this time says the mare should cope with the ground but after such a bad performance, with the doubt about the conditions, 4/5 looks a terrible price. Burn And Turn is another who will not be at her best on heavy going, as clearly stated by trainer Mrs John Harrington. That’s why I’ll go for Mae’s Choice, who makes her comeback after a Group 3 win here at Punchestown on heavy ground. Her record under rules is three wins in four runs, she is quite well-bred and according to trainer Gordon Elliot, she has strengthened up during the Summer. She is stepping up in class but will have her conditions and I believe she can defy her penalty and win this race at 4/1 under Paul Carberry.
According to curriculum and official ratings, TRIFOLIUM should have no problems at landing the 2.15 Ryan’s Cleaning Events Specialists Hurdle, another Group 3 contest for 4yo or older horses. The Charles Byrnes trained gelding has shown he is a real Group 1 horse with his 3rd in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and his close 2nd to Alderwood in another top contest here at Punchestown. He won on heavy quite a few times and his 147 mark rates him clear of the others despite his penalty. Miley Shah is the one who might take advantage should Trifolium fail to run up to his level.
Not much form to go by in the 2.45 Buy Your 2013 Annual Badge Maiden Hurdle. Rather than going with a horse with a doubtful experience, I choose debutant RULE THE WORLD, a very well-bred 5yo point winner who was purchased for 90,000gns two years ago. Won on yielding to soft between the flags, so he has a good chance to go on this ground, with a lot of stamina in his pedigree.
Quite a few in-form horses in the 3.15 10 Euro Admission All Non Festival Racedays Handicap Hurdle, but none as much as RAWNAQ, who posted five consecutive solid efforts under both codes. He is 10lb higher than when taking a handicap at Bellestown last August but really looked a progressive sort on that occasion, jumping fluently and running on willingly to stretch 9l ahead of the runner-up. He was than placed twice on the flat over staying trips and his last 3rd of 16 from the front at Down Royal confirmed the view that this horse enjoys his racing. Barry Geraghty, who won on him at Bellestown, is again on the saddle. Civena, Jeunopse and Mark Me Up look the main dangers, even though Station Lane can come good if the ground is really desperate.
Protaras and Special Tiara are two young and progressive chasers but their form so far cannot match BAILY GREEN’s, who has also the plus of being proven on heavy. Mouse Morris’ 6yo is an extremely accurate jumper and is in the form of his life, having won his last five races. His win at Group 3 level at the beginning of this month impressed the handicapper, who raised him from 135 to 147. Another bold show looks very likely and is quite hard to oppose this very likable sort.
Joncol receives 10lb by Follow The Plan in the 4.15 Star “Best for Racing Coverage” Chase, a Group 3 event just short of three miles. He has excellent form and goes on heavy, so has the right to be favourite in this contest. However, he is only 5/4 and runs for the first time in ten months after he got injured last December. Trainer Paul Nolan believes he will be fit and well but that after such a long break and an injury, he might need the run. I can’t be enthusiastic of betting on him at that price. Besides, over three miles he won only once in six attempts. Follow The Plan ran well on heavy when 2nd to China Rock on this track last Spring. His comeback race at Galway, though, was really bad and he surely prefers faster conditions. The others have all something to find with the principals. Magnanimity hasn’t run a good race for two years, while Roi Du Mee was tailed off on his comeback run two weeks ago. With question marks over all runners, I’ll try my luck with the lowest rated runner in the race: ARABELLA BOY looked progressive last April, goes well on heavy and has all the stamina in the world. He might well get outclassed if the market leaders run up to their mark, but since there is a strong chance they will underperform, this 7yo could score at a double digit price with Nina Carberry on.
The 4.45 Ingoldsby (Q.R.) Handicap Chase is very hard to call. The four horses at single digit prices all need to answer questions. The two who took part to a handicap at Listowel last month (Western Star and Dunroe Boy) did not look straightforward, while Highdownhill is a decent hurdler but failed miserably the four times he tried the higher obstacles. Sherika has 16l to find with Western Star and is only 2lb better in. I’ll side with topweight COUNT SALAZAR (12/1), who is a useful point to point/hunter chaser who goes well on heavy ground at this trip. He usually jumps very well (even though not last time at the Cheltenham Festival but that was a hot contest) and could be better than this lot.
HECK THOMAS won’t be a big price but looks the safest option in the 5.15 Stars Of Tomorrow Flat Race. Most of the eight runners did not find a buyer in sales at very cheap prices and most trainers involved have not a great record in bumpers. That’s why this 4yo trained by Noel Meade, with Nina Carberry on, looks the part. By Oscar out of a decent pointer, this young prospect should have the best of Molly’s Affair, who looks the main conceivable danger.
Aaim To Prosper created history by becoming the first horse to win the Betfred Cesarewitch at Newmarket for a second time. The Brian Meehan-trained eight-year-old (66-1) has not been victorious since he struck in this race in 2010, but cashed in courtesy of a never-say-die ride by Kieren Fallon.