Tag Archives: Newmarket

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

 

 

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The Challenge Stakes (G2)

True Valour at Leopardstown in August

Recommendation: True Valour 25/1 ew

The G1 Fillies Mile is the main event with the G2 Challenge Stakes acting as support on what is a cracking card on this the opening day of the Future Champions Day Festival at Newmarket.

It has attracted four Irish entries, Rehana, Gordon Lord Byron, True Valour and Cougar Mountain.

If one is to win they’ll have to beat a home team headed by Limato. He has not hit the heights he did last year when winning the July Cup and Prix de la Foret and he comes here on the back of a below par run in the Lennox Stakes in early August in what it has to be said has been a below par season.

When he took the July Cup last year he beat Suedois a comfortable 2 L s and in France in The Foret he had him back in third beating him an even more comfortable 3 L s that time. Suedios went to America last weekend and won the Shadwell Turf Mile one of the premier turf races on the American pattern calendar.

Before that Suedois was in Ireland where he won The Enterprise Stakes, the form of which is working out very well. He beat Johnny Murtagh’s True Valour a 1/2 L on that occasion, who’d gone off an unconsiderd 25/1 shot with Phsychedelic Funk back in third and Sir John Lavery back in fourth.

Phsychedelic Funk has won since and Sir John Lavery was second in the Joel Stakes.

The Enterprise was a real step up for Johnny’s colt and if he can match that now dropping down in trip to 7 F he can present a real alternative to the favourite. Again he’s unconsidered and available at 25/1.

1000 Guineas Stakes (G1)

Embed from Getty Images Talaayeb winning at Newmarket last September. Picture courtesy of Alan Crowhurst and Getty Images.

 

Churchill did the business as expected in the 2000 Guineas and here in the 1000 Guineas Ballydoyle hold a strong hand again.

Rhododendron one of a trio from Fethard is the choice of Ryan Moore and heads the market at 6/4. Like Churchill she was beaten first time out. Rehana got the better of her in a maiden in last June at the Curragh then Aidan sent her to Goodwood to win her maiden. In mid August she contested the Debutante Stakes (G2) where she was a winning favourite by a head from Hydrangea with Intricately a further 1 1/4 L behind in third. Next time out in the Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1) Intricately had a short head over Hydrangea with Rhododendron 1 3/4 L behind in third.

She was asked to turn that defeat around in the Fillies Mile in September (G1) at Ascot which she duly did with a 2 1/4L win over Hydrangea on good to firm ground. She travelled sweetly relishing the conditions and the step up in trip. Both brought out the best in her and it’s no surprise to see her such a short price for this.

Fair Eva trained by Roger Charlton is a daughter of Frankel and will race in the same colours as her father. She is the second choice of the market at 6/1. She was a winner first time out at Haydock following up in the Princess Margret Stakes (G3) at Ascot. She was then sent off an odds on favourite in the Lowther (G2) in August where she was beaten by Queen Kindly and Roly Poly. In her last run she was again sent off favourite for the Rockfel Stakes (G2) where Spain Burg got the better of her by 1 1/4 L.

Closely followed in the market is Daban at 7/1. She’s only had two runs. A winter winner of her maiden at Kempton John Gosden’s filly came back in the spring to win the Nell Gwyn Stakes (G3) here at Newmarket when an unfancied 12/1 shot with Unforgettable Filly 3/4 L back in second and Poet’s Vanity 1 1/4L further back in third.

Talaayeb is a 12/1 shot. Sheik Hamden’s filly trained by Owen Burrows has only had the one run. In September at Newmarket she beat another Sheik Hamden filly who was favourite for the race in impressive style showing a nice turn of foot to win cosily. She could be anything.

Hydrangea has franked the Irish two year old form at Leopardstown in the 1000 Guineas Trial. She beat Winter a head with Intricately fourth beaten 1 1/2L. The form of the race is working out well.

On Monday at Naas Rehana (beat Rhododendron on her racecourse debut) boosted the Leopardstown form when she was an impressive winner of the Athasi Stakes (G3). Drumfad Bay eighth in the Leopardstown race also contributed to the form boost when she ran second to Doctor Geoff in the Tetrarch Stakes. This might explain why the money has come for Winter. She was available at 33/1 on Monday, since then a steady flow of cash has seen her price contract into 8/1.

There’s seems more depth to the Irish form than there is to the English. Hyendgea Leopardstown win stands up with the money suggesting that Winter has progressed best from the race however Rhododendron stands above the Leopardstown form for that Fillies mile performance and that puts her on top of the Irish team.

The home horse who could spoil the Ballydoyle party could be Talaayeb. She lacks experience but the bit she has came here at Newmarket. That day she relished the track and the ground was good to firm. Much like today.

Recommendation: Talaayeb 12/1 ew

Rhododendron and Talaayeb. (Reverse forecast)

2000 Guineas Stakes (G1)

Lancaster Bomber is greeted by Aidan O’Brien after winning his maiden at Leopardstown last August

The smallest field in 22 years contests this Guineas and last year’s top ranked two year old Churchill heads the market.

He was beaten on debut last May but in five runs since he’s come out on top. The win sequence began in the Chesham Stakes (L) at Royal Ascot in June and continued through the summer with wins in the Tyros Stakes (G3) and the Futurity Stakes (G2). In the autumn he added the National Stakes (G1) and Dewhurst Stakes (G1), the top two-year old races in Ireland and Britain.

In command, kept on well, going away, comfortably and stayed on strongly are the descriptions of those runs. What it means is that he was a top class two-year old who improved throughout his juvenile career. As a three-year old will that progression be maintained?

This time last year Air Force Blue held similar credentials. In fact he was rated higher on 124 lbs going into the Guineas, 2 lbs above Churchill’s current mark of 122 lbs, and he started an odds on favourite for this race. He turned out to be bitterly disappointing only beating one home in this last year and his further three runs were no better. It’s unlikely Churchill fate will be similar more likely he’ll continue to progress. Air Force Blue is a War Front whereas Churchill is by Galileo.

Aidan O’Brien also sends Lancaster Bomber and Spirit Of Valour. The latter is the likely pacesetter. In the Dewhurst last year the betting suggested that Lancaster Bomber sent off at 66/1 was there to make the pace for Churchill but he stayed on strongly, as he did when he won his maiden, and filled the runners-up spot. He did it again in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). He was given a spin on dirt in the UAE Derby (G3) in March this year where he ran on well and connections have decided he’s better placed here than in Kentucky. If the pace collapses he will take it on and again he may prove difficult to overhaul.

Eminent trained by Martin Meade comes here on the back of a smart Craven win where he beat Rivet the Racing Post (G1) winner of last year. Prior to his win at Doncaster Rivet had run in the Dewhurst where he was beaten 3 1/2L by Churchill. It’s worth noting that we have not seen the Craven/Guineas double done since Haafhd in 2004.

Godolphin have a brace of entries headed by Barney Roy trained by Richard Hannon who also sends Larchmount Lad into the fray.

Richard is no stranger to winning this as in his first season in charge in 2014, after taking over from his father, he sent Night of Thunder out to overturn Kingman at odds of 40/1. That was a reversal of the result of that year’s Greenham. Barney Roy has travelled the same path and was an impressive winner of the Newbury trial where he beat the other Godolphin runner Saeed Bin Suroor’s Dream Castle by a cosy 2Ls.

Andre Fabre has made a flying start to the season already having won nine Pattern Races at home in France. He sends Al Wukair whom he hopes will follow in the footsteps of Zafonic and Pennekamp who both won the Guineas in the nineties. He has been bullish about his chances saying he expects a place at worst for the son of Dream Ahead. A winner of a maiden and at listed level as a juvenile he won his trial the Prix Djebel comfortably beating the previous G1 winner National Defence who had won France’s premier two-year old race for colts the Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1).

This Guineas field might be a small in number but it’s deep in quality.

There will be plenty of pattern race winners coming out of this and it’s conceivable six could go on to score at G1 level as the season progresses. The question is which will lift this prize. Barney Roy bursts with potential as does Al Wukair and both have already won over a mile. Eminent, Dream Castle and Lancaster Bomber are all promising colts but Churchill is rock solid.

Rarely does a colt who has achieved so much already break from the gate in a Guineas. There’s a slight question mark on the distance as he’s never raced beyond 7f but his pedigree suggests he’ll stay and his win in the Tyros suggests he’ll love the this good to firm ground. He also has the experience of winning over the course. Whilst the others are capable of achieving success at the highest level none of them have done it so far.

This will be a battle. You would imagine the Ballydoyle strategy will be to set a high cruising speed through Spirit Of Valour with Lancaster Bomber tracking him. If Seamie Heffernan’s mount falls away then Lancaster Bomber will be asked to pick it up.

Coming out of the dip Barney Roy will be produced with Al Wukair and Eminent in hot pursuit. Churchill is a very relaxed and laid back sort and Ryan will be able to leave it late to make his challenge. When he’s asked to quicken he won’t be flashy but he’ll get the job done probably by the minimum margin but also with the minimum of fuss.

He might be a short price but he’s the most likely winner of this.

Recommendations:

Churchill  11/8 win.

Churchill and Barney Roy  (forecast)

Churchill, Barney Roy and Lancaster Bomber  (tricast)