Tag Archives: Kentucky Derby

Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (G1) & Kentucky Derby (G1)

US Navy Flag on Debut at Naas last year

It’s Wednesday before the first classic of the season on Saturday, the 2000 Guineas. It might be three days away but already the forgotten horse in this field is surely US Navy Flag.

On official ratings he’s 9 lbs clear of his stablemate and current 5/2 race favourite Gustav Klimt and 2 lbs clear of his other stable companion and 5/1 second favourite Saxon Warrior yet the market puts him in as a 20/1 shot.

Granted he was beaten 15L by Gustav Klimt on his seasonal debut in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial three weeks ago but that was on heavy ground and his form of last year would suggest he has a strong chance of bridging that gap on ground that could ride good come Saturday afternoon.

He’s obviously a hardy soul having raced eleven times last year improving throughout the season. He was on the go from early May when he made his debut at Naas through to November at Del Mar where he contested the Juvenile Dirt at the Breeders Cup. He didn’t handle the surface and was well beaten there hence the change in the Ballydoyle plans where Mendelssohn became the choice for the Kentucky Derby.

Go back one run and you’ll find he was a good winner of the Dewhurst over 7f where he got the better of Mendelssohn, now joint favourite for the Kentucky Derby and prior to that he’d shown a serious turn of foot to win the Middle Park over six furlongs, the first G1 he captured.

The question is, is he a sprinter or a miler?

His debut at Naas was over 5f which proved too sharp however up to the Middle Park his runs were all then at 6f.

He’s by War Front out of Misty For Me. She got a mile and then some so you’d say he’s likely to find this mile within his compass and when asked he’d no problem in stepping up to 7f in the Dewhurst.

He has something else going for him, besides being a double G1 winner. His stable companions, who lead the betting here, have not yet encountered Newmarket’s famous dip before. It can unbalance a horse who lacks experience. Gustav Klimt did win the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket but that was over the July course and Saxon Warrior will encounter the course for the first time.

US Navy Flag on the other hand bossed both the Middle Park and Dewhurst grabbing the ground and powering out of the dip on both occasions. With the ground drying out and that crucial course experience it’s likely the 20/1 won’t last, come post time he could be a lot shorter.

A few hours later Mendelssohn will take his chance in the Run For The Roses in Kentucky. His prep run in Dubai on dirt was nothing short of stunning winning by a going away 18L and Aidan O”Brien reports him in rude health now. If he reproduces what he did in Dubai and what what he did in chasing home US Navy Flag last year in the Dewhurst he’ll be very hard to stop.

Recommendations: US Navy Flag 20/1 e/w

                                         Mendelssohn 9/2 e/w

                                           US Navy Flag, Mendelssohn  e/w double




Yum Brands Kentucky Derby (G1) – An Irish View

In Kentucky Coolmore are already celebrating having bred the Oaks winner Princess Of Sylmar. Hope of more success will be in the hands of Ryan Moore tonight who will partner Lines Of Battle from the Ballydoyle yard. It’s such a huge ask for a European horse to go and win this race but that won’t stop Ballydoyle trying and this year they go with their best chance.

Priced a 30/1 shot on the morning line in America the locals rate him a no hoper. They discount the thought a foreigner can win the biggest race in America especially one whose prep has been on the Tapeta surface in Dubai. Are they right?

Lines Of Battle is by War Front so ticks the first box needed. He’s bred for dirt racing. He ticks a second box. In winning in Dubai he has proven he can travel, compete and win. He ticks a third box. He comes from a yard that has time and again proven themselves on the international stage.

Those three ticks make this price look too big.

Aidan favours sending his horses in late on international raids and once again he has done this with the colt only arriving trackside on Tuesday. The concept is to keep the horse in his own familiar surroundings for as long as possible prior to any raid.

It’s a snatch and grab philosphy that’s proved reliable in the past.

When one considers the quality of the team, Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore and all team Ballydoyle assets, add a dirt pedigree then this doesn’t quite look as dismissive a challenge as 30/1 suggests.

What about the quality of the horse?

Lines Of Battle had six runs.

First time out he beat Leitir Mor (finished second in The Dewhurst, the premier juvenile event in Europe) a head in a Curragh maiden. He then was 6 L inferior to Dawn Approach (champion two year old in Europe, who has just wo the 2000 Guineas) in the Coventry Stakes(G2) at Royal Ascot. He was then beaten a neck by Graffelli in the Tyros Stakes (G3) at Leopardstown. He followed up with a trip to the polytrack at Dundalk where he had Tennessee Wildcat 2 1/2 l behind in a Listed event. Next stop Santa Anita where in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) from a wide draw he ran 6 1/4 L behind stable companion George Vancouver and then in his prep at Meyden he beat Elleval easily.

The pace was slow at Meyden that night as it was for all the contests on the Tapeta and this is the concern. We know from the victories at Dundalk and Meyden that he can handle a synthetic surface but what about a quick dirt surface.  The probability on breeding is the answer is yes. The Dundalk run on a track that can ride slick suggests he will relish a quick surface. Breeding suggests dirt will bring out the best in him.

We know he stays having won over 10 f. We think he’ll like the quick dirt. We know the quality of the team. Add in the good draw, gate 11 and you can see why the noises coming out of Ballydoyle are the type of positives we have come to expect when they know their in with a real chance.

The run for the roses might well come draped in shamrock.

Recommendation : Lines Of Battle Pari Mutuel Price e/w 

OIPCO 2000 Guineas Stakes (G1)

Dawn Approach

Dawn Approach (Photo credit: Tote Ireland)

Classic action is upon this weekend.

In America the run for the roses takes center stage with the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs while in England the 2000 Guineas is the focus. Both contests are of enormous importance for the breeding shed ultimately. Here we’ll look at the Guineas.

At Newmarket the standout is Dawn Approach, the son of  New Approach who was just touched off by Henrythenavigator in 2008 Guineas. Jim Bolger’s colt comes here as an unbeaten six-time winning juvenile. Out of the blocks on the first day of the season he was kept on the go to Royal Ascot where he bagged the Coventry Stakes (G2). Jim then gave him a break bringing him back in the autumn for Ireland’s and England’s premier juvenile events The National (G1) and Dewhurst Stakes (G1). The criticism you hear of the colt is that he didn’t beat that much through his juvenile campaign and his racing style, lazy, will catch him out as a three year old. Neither criticism stand up. At Ascot he beat Olympic Glory unbeaten since including the Prix Jean-Luc Langardere , France’s premier juvenile race. In the National he beat the outsider Designs On Rome and stable companion Leitir Mor. Designs On Rome had previously come second to Sugar Boy who last week won the Sandown Classic Trial. The form stands up.

It’s ten years since the last Craven winner Haafhd went on to success in the Guineas. Toronado the winner of this year is second favourite in the bookmakers lists. Richard Hannon’s colt like the Godolphin colt is also unbeaten with a record of four from four. He beat Dundonnell twice in the Champagne Stakes (G2) last year and in the Craven again this year where he was an impressive winner. Does his style of racing put him anywhere near Dawn Approach?

Garswood from the Richard Fahey team comes into the frame on the back of a European Free Handicap win also at Newmarket three weeks ago. Again he did it well and on the back of it has been the subject of a sustained gamble all week.

Ballydoyle play third fiddle here with three runners. Pilot bookings indicate that Cristoforo Colombo, a son of Henrythenavigator is their most forward. He’s a one time winner from five attempts, the win on the first visit to the racecourse. He come’s into the reckoning here on the back of a third placed effort in the Coventry where he was beaten a length by Dawn Approach. He was unlucky next time out when he clipped heels and fell in the Phoenix Stakes and in his next and final run in the Middle Park(G1) he failed to land a blow 2 1/4 L behind Reckless Abandon. George Vancouver another son of Henrythenavigator has some to find with Dawn Approach being 3 1/2 L down on him in the Dewhurst however he did follow up the run by winning The Breeders Cup Turf Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita. Mars is the unknown quantity, well touted prior to his one and only racecourse appearance he did his job as he pleased. He could be anything but to overcome his lack of experience against this quality field is a big ask especially when you take the dip into account over the Rowley mile.

The Bolger second string is intriguing, Leitir Mor. The expectation is he’s there to provide the pace for the favourite. A job he’ll no doubt do. He does have some smart form in his own right and with twelve runs as a two year old he’s certainly the most experienced runner in the field. He was only beaten a head by Lines Of Battle on his second run and in his last run in the Dewhurst where he made the running for his stablemate he stayed on to be second beaten only 2 3/4 L.  He’s also a G3 winner in the Round Tower last year where he had Cristoforo Columbo in behind. Jim also considered keeping him for Paris next week so he holds him in some esteem.

Last year in the Dewhurst we recommended the forecast and here although a step up to 8 f is a concern we however see it no different. If he sets a good and not silly pace he may well stay on with only one or two getting past him.

At the odds available he’s worth backing each way.

Recommendation : Dawn Approach 6/4 win

                                         Leitir Mor 66/1 ew

                                        Dawn Approach and Leitir Mor F/C (small stake)

137 th Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands

There has never been a European winner of the Kentucky in its 136 running’s.

In fact rarely have European trainers taken on the challenge. The degree of difficulty associated with preparing a horse to peak in early May on dirt after a harsh European winter is enough to put most off. Adding to the surface concerns is the issue of having to beat the best American three year olds which have been primed for the occasion.

This year that challenge is again taken on by Aidan O’Brien ten years after his first attempt with Johannesburg in 2001.

Master Of Hounds with Gareth Gomez aboard will represent Ballydoyle in John Magnier’s navy silks tonight at Churchill Downs.

His race record reads one from seven. On the face of it, that’s not encouraging though on closer inspection you can see why Aidan O’Brien would attempt such a difficult task with this horse.

The colt while missing the dartboard brings some very interesting experience into the race. As a two year old he boasted very good form with the top juveniles in Europe prior to a run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November. He wasn’t beaten that far in sixth and at the tail end of the season it was a good run.

His reintroduction this year on Meydan’s tapeta surface left a very good impression when beaten a nose in the UAE Derby. You would, as is often the case with Aidan’s runners, expect an improvement from his first run of the season.

This week has seen team Ballydoyle sparkle. Since Yesterdays second in The 1000 Guineas on Sunday, he is four from four at Chester’s May meeting. St Nicholas Abbey’s victory in the Ormonde Stakes was the highlight where his devastating turn of foot last witnessed in the Racing Post Trophy returned.

Unlike Johannesburg, preparation of this colt has remained out of the limelight. There is no doubt that Master Of Hounds has been laid out for this race since his early juvenile day’s and with track experience, a proven traveller and the O’Brien camp in scintillating form you can expect a big Run for the Roses.