The King George And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Group 1)

Ground is a the major factor here.

Ascot got a dumping on the eve of this, the centrepiece of the British flat racing season. A race that some had thought had lost its lustre has been restored over the last few year’s. German thoroughbred’s have had a hand to play with Dandredream and Novelist playing no small part.

Today is about the excitement generated by the John Gosden filly, Taghrooda, set to be crowned the new The Fugue. If she win’s this she’ll wear the mantle lightly.

Her Oaks victory was a commanding performance, never in doubt she wrote class all over it yet the step up here is a brave move not only for her trainer but for owner too. Hamdan Al Maktoum silks have made a welcome return to the Group 1 circle lately but to put out want may be an absolutely talented but inexperienced filly into this company is some statement of intent.

You could argue there’s a hole on the incline in the road. The filly second at Epsom, Tarfasha, ran poorly at the Curragh last weekend although Volume threw in a tough and honest run to uphold the form when holding on to be third.

That’s the thing about throwing a three year old filly into the bear pit against the older males. She might get scared of them and let then dominate her through sheer inexperience or she might hold them like putty in her hand, a thing to play with till she decides to show them how it’s done.

These boy’s are no mugs, there led by Telescope the impressive winner of the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot over the same trip last month. If you had a horse like him with the potential he showed you would feel very comfortable that patience would be rewarded. His trainer Sir Michel Stoute can do master classes in how to turn near misses into block busters. His general level of form says nearly but his last run suggested superstar.

There’s another hot three year old in the hands of John Gosden. Eagle Top destroyed Adelaide in the King Edward VII over this trip. He’s unknown to us in reality when we’re talking this level and fit’s into the category of could be anything.

Magician hasn’t given us that Breeders Cup moment this year though that’s benchmarked against a 1 3/4 L downing to The Fugue at Ascot. Trading Leather this year is considered a bit last year in the fashion sense. That doesn’t mean he can’t still dress for the big occasion. Jim Bolger call’s it on himself and while the first run was trainer error the second was just beaten by a better horse.

Between the Oaks and this the meat in the sandwich is the Eclipse. Mukhadram is considered to have got the better of the field when the pilot’s were asleep at the back but that denies the truth of his authoritative performance. He took it on and burned a hole in all bar Trading Leather who battled to try to create a fight.

Romsdal brings the Derby form to the contest, (and a shiver to the spine if you thought of Australia being here). He was only beaten 4 1/2L at Epsom.

If Taghrooda is as good as she looked at Epsom then she’s the one to beat but back to where we started, the ground.

These are horses who so far have shown a preference for a quick surface to show their best and finger’s crossed that’s what we’ll get but if the thunderstorms appear and with the word soft appearing in the going description then a horse who can win a Curragh maiden in October by 6 L as a two year old on heavy ground shouldn’t be discounted.

Recommendation : Magician win 5/1 win



The Coral Eclipse (Group 1)

The Fugue winning last years Irish Champion Stakes

The Fugue winning last years Irish Champion Stakes


The money has come for Kingston Hill this morning. 11/2 overnight he’s now a 4/1 shot. The ground rides good to firm despite 3mm of rain overnight. The difference for the Varian team between this week and last week is that the drop of rain should be enough to take the sting out.

The Fugue is on the drift from 2/1 to 5/2 as the sponsors attempt to take her on. This reflects the depth of the race. It’s only 17 days since she beat Magician, Treve and Mukhadram at Royal Ascot in the Prince’s Of Wales over this 10 f trip. It’s now considered her favourite as she excelled last year at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Stakes ahead of Al Kazeem and Trading Leather.

As well as Kingston Hill four other three year olds get the weight for age allowance. The Guineas winner Night Of Thunder had the form overturned with Kingman in the St James’s Palace Stakes where War Command ran on to be third. Richard Hannon’s colt might find the trip brings him to the edge of his stamina whereas War Command looks likely to benefit from the step up in trip. True Story didn’t stay in the Derby and he will surely benefit from the drop in trip. The Dante run behind the Great Gatsby shouldn’t be forgotten.

The two four year olds come from Ireland. Last years Irish Derby winner ran a moderate race at Newmarket over 12 f in early May. Likewise his trainer Jim Bolger also had a moderate start to the season but between Fairyhouse on Wednesday and Leopardstown on Thursday he’s had 7 runners of which 4 won and 2 were second.

Verrazano is getting better, third in the Lockinge, second in the Queen Anne to Toronado both over the mile he goes a furlong further than his best performance when he won the Haskell Invitational over 9 f. Tullius is going the other way second in the Lockinge he could only manage fourth in the Queen Anne.

The 17 day gap since The Fugue’s last run will encourage to the opposition. In high summer it might not affect her but she did break the track record which would have required some exertion.

A cracking race, the first meeting of the generations this year. The three year old’s look to be above average this year and the weight advantage might pay this afternoon. The Derby and Guineas form is hot and arguably the Derby is the hotter. Kingston Hill was the best stayer in the race beaten by an exceptional speedster in Australia . The trip is the question here. He might just find this trip too sharp on ground that not ideal.

The one who could have the cards fall his way is True Story. He hated Epsom, the trip, the switchback nature of the track and the chamber all of which blunted his natural talent and curtailed the one thing you need to win this race today, pace. This won’t be short for pace and weight for age can put Kieron Fallon and Godolphin back in the limelight.

Recommendation : True Story 16/1 ew


Irish Derby (Group 1)

John Oxx's Ponfeigh returning to the ring after his recent win at Navan

John Oxx’s Ponfeigh returning to the ring after his recent win at Navan

“They never get it right, it was meant to be sunny today”.

“They never get it right it was meant to be raining today”.

The two things you hear said most often in Ireland every summer.

The beauty of the Irish weather is its unpredictably. The painful phrase that all Irish people have grown up to. It means “expect to get pissed on”

When dealing with high class proven animals the major consideration one must have is the going. Treve taught us an invaluable lesson last week. She didn’t handle good to firm whereas The Fugue did. As John Gosden said come autumn in Paris instead of high summer at Ascot and the chances are that The Fugue would have no chance.

Similarly here at the Curragh in what is effectively a match between Australia and Kingston Hill, first and second at Epsom, the major consideration is the prevailing ground.

The Curragh authorities have been left with a most difficult balancing act.

Aidan O’Brien has strongly intimated that should the surface be slow he will not repeat the mistake he made when running Camelot two years ago and he will go the route John Oxx did with Sea The Stars and wait for the Eclipse next week.

Roger Varian on the other hand wants it no worse than decent but the more give the greater the chance his horse, Kingston Hill will have to shine.

5 mm of rain fell Thursday night on the track to leave it remaining good to firm.

Advantage Australia, as they would say in Wimbledon, so much so it risks the scenario that the match won’t happen at all.

Tempting as it might be to run when Roger put’s his head in the fridge and think’s back to the Guineas he’ll surely conclude that there will be another day for his stable star.

What do you do if your track manager?

Water tonight just enough to take the jar out which will leave it good to firm?

Come post time tomorrow evening it will most likely be on the quicker side of good to firm.

Whew, Australia will be there to romp home as Kingston Hill drives out the gate.


Water tonight enough to leave it good?

Whew, Australia and Kingston Hill will be there to fight out a tremendous battle.

Of course you run the risk that the artificial intervention will be followed by the beauty of the Irish weather in which case Kingston Hill will be there to romp home as Australia drives out the gate.

If he does then Geoffrey Chaucer will get his chance to put Epsom behind him. Tailed off last 90 Ls in arrears of the winner says forget the run, it doesn’t matter, he’s a hell of a lot better than that.  The others who ran at Epsom Fascinating Rock, Kingfisher and Orchestra all have over 10 L to find and would look to be running for places. The one who never made Epsom was Ponfeigh who instead prepped at Navan over 10 F. He had Maskoon 3 3/4 Ls behind him who ran a decent race in the Premier Handicap tonight to be third.

One thing for sure, as any Irish person will tell you, the beauty of the Irish weather is one pain in the hole.

Recommendation : If one drops out stick Ponfeigh in the forecast with the one who hasn’t.


Royal Ascot Day 2 – Featuring The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1)


Treve’s form is in reality is only enhanced by the defeat in the Prix Ganay by Cirrus Des Aigles.

Cirrus has gone on to take the Prix D’Ispahan and Coronation Cup since and before the Ganay had run a cracker in Dubai behind Gentildonna. The advantage of a run gave Cirrus the edge and the fact that Treve got involved in an epic battle up the straight showed not only has she trained on but also she is a willing fighter with a will to win to match her class.

She’s truly a superb animal, one of the best we’ve ever seen over middle distance’s. She trounced a top class Arc field last year when she had no right to. Lit up early, out of position for most of the race, it didn’t matter she sauntered past them as if they weren’t there.

This field is decent.

Another top class filly in the shape of The Fugue (triple G1 winner, last time in the Irish Champion Stakes), Magician (top class Breeders Cup Turf winner and Irish Guineas winner), Dank (Beverley D winner), Mukhadram (2nd in Dubai World Cup) and a rejuvenated Parish Hall (Dewhurst winner, albeit 2011). They’re all playing for place money. The fact that Jim Bolger continues to let Parish Hall mix it with the best means he’s some faith in him. He ran his best race since that Dewhurst when making Magician battle all the way last time out at the Curragh. He could sneak a place at long odds.

Recommendation : Treve 4/6 win, Parish Hall 80/1 ew (if all 8 run)

In the other races :

The Jersey Stakes (Group 3)

Strong Irish challenge in number and quality, with Surdiman’s two year old form suggesting he’s overpriced. He’s a won the Phoenix Stakes and was second in the National and should strip fitter for a recent run at Naas where he ran out of puff in the closing stages to finish fourth.

Recommendation : Surdiman 25/1 ew


The Queen Mary ( Group 2)

Wesley Ward’s Spanish Pipedream will be all the rage after Hootenanny romping home today but Eddie Lynam’s Anthem Alexander a 7 L winner at Tipperary is a worthy second favourite. Maybe she didn’t beat much but like another of yesterday’s winner’s The Wow Signal she’s by Starspangledbanner who showed he’s capable of passing on his speed gene. Eddie know’s how to produce quick one’s too. Wonder if she’s worked with Sole Power?

Recommendation : Anthem Alexander 7/2 win

The Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2)

Certify is worth another shout, only beaten the once she was overturned by L’Amour De Ma Vie in the Balanchine at the Dubai Carnival having beaten her earlier in the carnival. She was a proper two year old beating Sky Lantern and Purr Along before winning the G1 Fillies Mile by 4 1/2 L’s from Roz.

Recommendation : Certify 14/1 ew

Royal Ascot Day 1 – Featuring The Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)

Toronado leads the market over Verrazano where it’s fair to say there is not the same depth of quality we have come to expect in the Queen Anne. Take out the front two and you would find a race where only Side Glance, a 40/1 here was a previous G1 winner.

Of the two we have a choice between a proven turf miler in Toronado the winner of the Sussex Stakes from Dawn Approach last year and Verrazano, the US import whose feet have only once touched the ground in battle on turf before.

Last year Toronado played second fiddle to Dawn Approach who set the standard in the three year old division having won the Guineas and the St James’s Palace Stakes, a short head from Toronado.

Neither Dawn Approach or Toronado managed a win when pitched against older opposition last year. Dawn Approach failed in France in the Jacques La Maoris and also in the QE 11 on Champions Day while Toronado went down a dismal 22 L in the International at York behind Declaration Of War the winner of this last year.

Verrazano was well fancied for the Kentucky Derby last year but could do no better than finish 14th. He didn’t contest either the Preakness or the Belmont but instead was kept for the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park where he duly obliged by an impressive 9 3/4 L from Power Broker.

He was stepped up to 10 F for The Travers Stakes but didn’t stay and was then brought back in distance for the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile going off favourite when beaten 7 L by Will Take Charge. The last throw of the American dice was the Cigar Mile in late November where Flat Out had 3 1/4 L on him.

The lads decided there was still a stallion in there hence the move across the pond from Todd Plecther to Aidan O’Brien.

Thanks lads must have been how Aidan felt. A dirt failure in the hands of the best in America and now you want me to make a turf stallion out of him. The Haskell proved he had an engine, that the talent was there. The step up in trip didn’t work and brining him back proved he had got stuck in the wrong gear. His season was wrecked but still there was an engine there to be tuned.

Aidan introduced him to grass in the Lockinge where he ran a very respectful race to finish third to Olympic Glory. The engine still ticked.

It’s a big ask to bring Verrazano to Europe and establish himself at the top but if it can be done then Aidan is the right man to do it. They brought Hardasun from Australia in 2008 to do it and of course Declaration Of War came from France to do it last year. They were both turf horses and so to do this with a dirt horse will prove an even bigger achievement.

Thanks lads.

Recommendation : Verrazano 4/1 win

In the other races

The Coventry Stakes (Group 2)

Ger Lyons could well have a Guineas horse on his hands in the shape of Cappella Sansevero. He was the sale topper in the Goffs London Sale yesterday when picked up by Qatar Racing for £1.3m. He’s unbeaten in three and Dick Whittington gave the form a boost at Navan on Saturday when he beat Dandyleekie also from Ger’s yard. Don’t be surprised to see Dick Whittington win the Norfolk on Thursday.

Recommendation : Cappella Sansevero 9/1 ew

The King Stand Stakes (Group 1)

He’s a 5 F specialist who came from last to first to nick it off Shea Shea last year. The ground has come right for him and whilst he won’t have the benefit of Johnny Murtagh in the plate he has a more than able replacement to repeat the dose in Richard Hughes.

Recommendation : Sole Power 5/1 win

The St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1)

Toormore can prove his two year old career stands up in the ranks of the three year old division. He beat The Grey Gatsby (subsequent winner of the Dante and French Derby) in the Craven before going down in the Guineas when leading the group on the stand side before weakening in the last 75 yards. He’s the value price.

Recommendation : Toormore 10/1 win


The Epsom Derby (Group 1)

Australia leaving the paddock prior to winning the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes At Leopardstown

Australia leaving the paddock prior to winning the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes At Leopardstown

Opposition to Australia looks thin on the ground or so the market would have us believe.

A 7/4 shot this morning the price reflects the fear the ground will come up soft by race time rather than the depth of the opposition. Should the rain not come there will only be contraction in the favourite’s price.

If ever there was a horse bred with a race in mind it has to be Australia for the Derby. By the 2001 winner Galileo out of the 2004 Oaks winner Quija Board his race record reads two from four.

He was slowly away first time out running on to be second. He took his maiden three weeks later and then closed his juvenile career with a 6 L victory over Free Eagle in September in the best two year old race run last year rightly replacing Free Eagle as Derby favourite on the back of the display.

Touted and talked about as something special he returned in the Guineas winning the battle on the near side but going down to Night Of Thunder and Kingman on the far side. A messy race was none the less satisfactory as a prep for the Derby.

We have since learnt the he did four furlongs of 11 seconds a furlong, one after another as a two year old. Exceptional. Aidan O’Brien is criticised in some sections for talking up his horses which is very unfair.

He always gives us context.

In the case of Australia he compares him to Camelot his previous best Derby horse and says he’s a step up on him.

Camelot beat eight colts in the 2012 Derby. Only one of those animals, Thought Worthy, ever won a race again when he won that years Great Volitgeur. Camelot followed up at the Curragh in dreadful ground where he beat four home and only one of those ever won again, Akeed Mofeed who won the Hong Kong Derby and Hong Kong Cup. After that Camelot was beaten in the his bid for a triple crown by Encke when under the care of Mahmood Al Zaronni, he then failed in the Arc and after a bout of colic his four year old career didn’t fire when beaten twice by Al Kazeem in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

Context, Camelot’s classic year was not vintage and he was not the horse at four that he was in his early three year old career.

Australia is a better horse than Camelot at this stage according to Aidan and he’ll need to be to win this year’s renewal. The class of 2014 look superior to their 2012 counterparts.

The principle challenge may come from home. Stablemates Geoffrey Chaucer, Kingfisher and Orchestra all line up on merit.

Geoffrey Chaucer won the Beresford as a two year old and was third to Fascinating Rock and Ebanoran in the Derrinstown Derby Trial. Fascinating Rock won in it in the stewards room on the disqualification of Ebanoran for interference. Another messy race yet it looked quality. Rumour has it (denied by Aidan) Geoffrey Chaucer subsequently beat Australia in a piece of work on the gallops which is why the money has come for him in recent weeks.

Dermot Weld will have been well pleased with the run of Tarfasha in the Oaks which can only encourage one on the chances of Fascinating Rock. You can take it that John Oxx won’t be going to Epsom for a day out either. Three runners in the the Derby before, two winners Sinndar, Sea The Stars and a third with Alamshar.

Orchestra got home a nose from Romsdal in the Chester Vase won last year by Ruler Of The World. He travelled beautifully and really caught the eye only tiring inside the last 100 yards. Kingfisher was also impressive in the Dee Stakes the next day.

The Dante form reads well for Peter Chapple-Hyam after The Grey Gatsby’s win in the French Derby. Arod was a 3/4 L second and will surely relish the step up in trip. Saeed Bin Suroor will also be encouraged that True Story’s season is not over. He was odds on when beaten into third. The rejuvenated Kieren Fallon says he possess more speed than any of his previous Derby winners Oath, Kris Kin or North Light. Sudden Wonder the mount of Kevin Manning, all change at Godolphin, ran third in the Lingfield Derby Trial won by the absentee Snow Sky.

The Racing Post winner Kingston Hill could provide a bitter-sweet moment for Derek Smith should he beat the favourite. Owned by his son Paul this part of the family will be happy to see the rain arrive.

Western Hymn will try to provide the Oaks Derby double for John Gosden. The winner of the Sandown Classic Trial previously beat Snow Sky and if the money comes for him we’ll know they’ve worked him with Taghrooda the impressive Oaks winner.

This morning the bookies want to get the favourite and what should be an odds on shot has been pushed out to a generous 7/4 . Rain overnight has been a drizzle not a deluge which makes the price of Australia very attractive.

His third in a top class Guineas means he’s got that sub 11 second speed Aidan told us about yet he’s bred for this trip.

Producing that speed coming round Tatthenham corner and the ability to stay says he’ll blitz them.

As an alternative Ebanoran can add to the Oxx bow.

Recommendation : Australia 7/4 win

                                     Ebanoran 16/1

                                    Both in the Reverse F/C




The Oaks (Group1)

Talent – Richard Hughes riding the 20/1 shot to win last years Oaks. Can he turn up the Volume to do it again? Phew. Good ground for the Oaks. Not looking so good for the Derby though. The Oaks tends to throw … Continue reading

‘He’d go wandering. He’d fall over. He had no control over anything.’

Superb piece from Bren Fanning of The Sunday Independent on the dangers of ” contact” in sport.

The Irish 2000 Guineas (Group 1)

The rain will have well got into the ground when post time arrives for Ireland’s first Group 1. Yielding to soft will make this a stamina test for these young milers.

Before the English equivalent the fear in the Kingman camp was that it would come up too firm at Newmarket. With no such fears here and at first glance looking at the opposition you would be forgiven for thinking the market has got it right to send John Gosden’s colt off a shade of odds on. The depth in behind measures little in comparison to Kingman’s reputation and now after the English Guineas that reputation has been enhanced.

A very unsatisfactory race may have produced three very good colts.

They split in two groups with Kingman delivering his challenge on the far side. He looked to be getting into top gear when driven towards the line only to find Night Of Thunder sluice past him who then drifted all the way across the track to nearly collide with the horse coming up the near side, the eventual third Australia. Had they raced together it might well have been different. The best horse won the race but in the prep the Greenham it was Kingman who hampered Night Of Thunder 4 1/2 Ls. Fourth across the line was Shifting Power stalemate of the winner whom Richard Hannon hopes can give him a two out of two in Guineas.

The home challenge is led by Mustajeeb for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen. He took on the older horses in the Amethyst Stakes beating Brendan Bracken rated 112 easily by 2 1/2 Ls. Dermot had no hesitation in nominating this as his next target. Big Time from the John Joe Murphy yard had three runs as a juvenile winning first time out beating Fountain Of Youth and then going down a 1/2 L to Surdiman in the Railway Stakes and the Phoenix Stakes where he had War Command back in third. Ger Lyons sends Obliterator for Qatar Racing. He only had the one run last year winning at the Curragh and one this year when beaten 7 L s by True Story in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket. He looked to have found the pace of the race at Newmarket a little on the quick side and the mile trip here might prove a touch too sharp.

Aidan O’Brien is mob handed with five running.

War Command was strongly fancied at Newmarket but didn’t feature doing no better than 9th when running in the group on the near side. A very talented two year old and winner of the Dewhurst Stakes winner he should not be discounted from doing a Power who bounced back from a 37 L last at Newmarket to win at the Curragh two years ago.

Seamus Heffernan gets the leg up on Great White Eagle suggesting he’s the second string while the booking’s of Micheal Hussey on Johann Strauss, Colm O’Donoghue on Michaelmas and Fran Berry on Fountain Of Youth suggest pace making roles.

Surely not in the case of the Johann Strauss who is a horse who could benefit hugely from the confidence booster he recieved from winning at Dundalk recently. He ran second in the Racing Post Trophy on soft last year looking like a colt of the future. He was unlucky running second first time out at Leopardstown this year and then didn’t feature when sent to Newmarket for the Tattersalls Millions Three Year Old Trophy. The Dundalk win may sharpen the attitude.

It was at Tattersalls Book 1 Sale in 2012 when Pattern spent a million sterling on 5 horses (albeit fictitiously) with the express aim on winning a classic in 2014. Our first horse goes to post today. Purchased for £110 grand Johann Strauss will get all our money back and then some even if’s it’s only got the same value as the monopoly type.

Where’s the dance floor?

Recommendation : Johann Strauss 40/1 ew

JLT Lockinge Stakes (Group 1)

The first of 33 G 1′s in England this year.

Olympic Glory is a dual G1 winner having taken the Champion’s Mile at Ascot at the backend of last year and as a two year the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere over 7 f at Lonchamp also at the end of the season. Both were won with considerable ease in the ground hence the label of soft ground horse. That fails to take account of what was probably his best run when second to Moonlight Cloud at Deauville in the Jacques Le Marois over a mile at Deauville on good.

Last year the new kid on the block for Coolmore was Declaration Of War and he was backed for this as defeat was out of the question. Verrazano comes from America with a similar reputation as Declaration Of War when he came from France. The difference here is that this will be the first time Verrazano runs on turf. He went off favourite for last years Kentucky Derby disappointing but bouncing back with a top class performance in winning the Haskell Invitational by 9 3/4 L. He’s been beaten three times since in the Travers Stakes, Breeders Cup Mile and Cigar Mile. That no doubt cemented the decision to transfer to Europe.

Of the others Montridge has form to suggest he’s will make a decent four year old and connections expect he’ll come on for the run when second to Tullius at Sandown in the Bet365 Mile.

Another horse on the up could be Pat Deegan’s Sruthan who put in a good performance recently at the Curragh in the Gladness Stakes.

The German raider Chopin is no mug. He was quietly fancied for last years Derby on the back of big winning distances in two prep runs. He’s lightly raced and was second in a Group 3 at Dusseldorf in April.

Is it worth taking Olympic Glory on at the even money price he is now?

The depth of the race suggests maybe not. Verrazano will probably prove himself the real deal but the market indicates little confidence that today will be his day. Olympic Glory might be the best horse in the race but he is vulnerable having lost 4 from 6 attempts in G1 company.

With 8 runners and 3 to be placed Sruthan at 22/1 offers a nice alternative from a punting point of view.

Recommendation : Sruthan 22/1 EW