Glorious Goodwood 2015 Day 1 Preview, Tips
One of the Summer highlights, Glorious Goodwood is as much a treat for the casual racegoer as it is for the hardened turfistas. Five days of high class action get underway with a septet of largely insoluble shemozzles, commencing with an eighteen runner ten furlong handicap.
2.00 Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 1m2f)
Small mercy is that two are already out on account of the ground at the time of writing (3pm Monday afternoon), and inevitably punters should brace themselves for at least one further withdrawal and, therefore, one less place to shoot at from an each way perspective.
Mark Johnston's record in this race is simply incredible: he's saddled 29 horses, winning the prize five times. Not only that but he's trained another seven horses to make the frame, so his trio command close scrutiny.
The three includes last year's winner, Sennockian Star, a horse whose teak toughness is well known. He was having his tenth start of the year when prevailing last term, and will similarly be having a tenth run this year here.
The similarities continue: he is rated a pound lower than when winning last year; he again comes into the race off a fair run in the John Smith's Cup; and he is again favourably drawn, in stall four as opposed to five last year, for his prominent running style.
Sennockian Star has twice won on good to soft, so everything looks primed for another bold showing from the defending champ. 12/1 looks at least fair, and probably a tad appealing.
Fire Fighting is the second string to Johnston's bow. Though he's bidding to become the highest rated winner since at least 1997 from his perch of 110, hope comes in the knowledge that four of the last dozen winners were rated 107+.
Indeed, put another way, of the thirteen horses rated 107+ to contend this race since 1997, four have won and another three have made the frame.
This son of Soldier Of Fortune has a late running style which ought to somewhat mitigate his wide draw, but the worry is the ground: although he's won on good to soft, his best form in this grade is on quicker.
Joe Fanning would have had first dibs on the 'Always Trying' squad, and he's opted for the third runner, Zand. Formerly trained by John Oxx, he was more recently campaigning - and winning - in Switzerland. This will be his first run in a handicap and for his new trainer.
Rated as high as 99 for Oxx, he comes here off a mark of 102, which is ostensibly stiff enough. But Fanning's casting vote, allied to some of his best runs coming with give in the ground, and a draw in box one for a handy racer, offer an attractive cocktail for those prepared to make a punting leap of faith.
Many other chances, perhaps most notably Collaboration, who was seeking a four-timer when beaten only three lengths in Listed company at Royal Ascot last time. He's proven on good and soft ground so no worries on that score, and the trip is spot on. Stall 17 could be tough to overcome, but I fancy Andrew Balding's runner might have a hand in the finish under the consistently under-rated David Probert.
Mount Logan is capable of winning a race like this but might just prefer a bit further, and is a somewhat frustrating sort in any case.
A really tricky race and I'll take a chance on SENNOCKIAN STAR. Collaboration and Zand will also find their way on to my placepot ticket, along with at least a couple more!
SKYBET are offering money back as a free bet if your horses loses in this race.
2.35 Vintage Stakes (Group 2, 7f)
The Hannon family's monopoly of this race was usurped last year when Aidan O'Brien's Highland Reel scalped Tupi with ease, and the local trainer looks to again have his work cut out with just 16/1 outsider of the field, Palawan, flying the Hannon flag.
At the other end of the market, Birchwood vies with Godolphin ownermate, Strong Challenge, for market leadership. The former has the 'got the t-shirt' credentials having already claimed a seven furlong Group 2 prize at Newmarket's July meeting.
That was on good to firm though, and he was soundly beaten on his only run on slower than good. Still, it might have been the overseas travel - for a race at Naas - or it might have been the shape of the race - he had no cover running into a strong headwind - that beat him that day.
Being by Dark Angel, often an influence for soft ground horses, he deserves another chance at least, though a top price of 3/1 tempers enthusiasm.
Strong Challenge won well last time out over six furlongs on this non-conformist strip in a time that was little to write home about. However, the horse he beat there - Gutaifan - won a Group 2 in France at the weekend to complete a subsequent hat-trick, and that clearly adds plenty of substance to Saeed bin Suroor's charge's effort.
Moreover, the horse that beat Strong Challenge on his debut, Riflescope, has since run well at Royal Ascot before winning a Listed race at Sandown. 4/1 in a place makes more appeal than the favourite based on this lad's upside potential after just two racecourse spins.
Talking of upside potential, Ibn Malik ran a very fast time on his only start to date, when making all over this trip at Newmarket. The second and third have both won their only races since, meaning this lad beat some good sticks in a field a dozen strong.
Whether he'll act with give in the ground remains to be seen - his US pedigree (Raven's Pass out of a Storm Cat mare) is less than supportive - but if he does, 11/2 will look big.
Hugo Palmer's Galileo Gold has been snapped up by Al Shaqab Racing, meaning Frankie Dettori takes over from Martin Harley in the saddle. The son of Paco Boy doubled his win tally over trip and ground last time and, while this is a step up in grade (actually, it's several steps up in grade), he is proven in conditions.
Palmer remains in very good form, and here is another with a chance.
The same can be said about Dean Ivory's unbeaten Twin Sails. Winner of a big field Newbury maiden at a big price over this range on debut, he proved it was no fluke by comfortably bagging a Class 3 conditions event at Salisbury last month. Neither race was won in a fast time, and both were on much quicker ground. Further, the form of the Salisbury race has received few boosts from six subsequent starters.
Despite all that, Twin Sails has a pedigree that could be made for the soft side of good, and it is hardly his fault if horses he's beaten comprehensively have failed to fire thereafter. There's a chance he's not good enough, of course, but in what looks a very tough race to fathom, 10/1 for small stakes is playable.
Mark Johnston hasn't won this since completing a back-to-back brace with the fine stallion, Shamardal, in 2004. He's double handed this time, and his juveniles have been in stonking form all year. Beaverbrook has already been to many parties, and has been outdrunk, outdanced and outfought by Birchwood twice at those shindigs. He's exposed and would be a surprise winner, to this scribbler at least.
Welford, Johnston's other entry, is also more exposed than most with five races to his name but he is at least upwardly mobile, having won his last two. The form of all of his first four races has worked out - his most recent run was just a week ago - and he should run well in the ground.
I'd be fairly confident he'll finish in front of his stablemate despite being the longer priced of the pair. Joe Fanning seems to agree as he's elected for this chap. Welford's bold pace-setting style in recent times could see him set the tune for a long way before the challengers emerge and, as we all know, Fanning on the front is a tough man to pass.
So many imponderables mean this is not a betting race for me. At the prices, I think Twin Sails and Welford have more going for them than their double digit odds imply, but in truth any one of this field could win.
3.10 Lennox Stakes (Group 2, 7f)
Ah, now this is more like it. A sensible sized field, some established form, and no (major) weight-for-ability scale. Not named after the ice cream-guzzling British former Canadian former heavyweight champion Lewis, but rather the Duke of Lennox, one of the Goodwood guv'nor's monickers, the roll of honour is a mixed bag. Smart nags like Paco Boy and Iffraaj share the page with less able equines but, with five of the field rated 113+, the 2015 renewal looks well up to muster.
Top of the tree according to BHA figures is Toormore, a horse with some excellent Group 1 form, but who has found winning pretty difficult. Indeed, he's not got his head in front since his seasonal bow last year, when he took the Craven Stakes. Still, he won the course, distance and grade Vintage Stakes as a juvenile, and was a very close second in this last term.
His rating of 119 would be the highest ever for a Lennox winner, though the race was only established in 2000. Despite his poor win record in the last two years, he's perfectly genuine. Rather, it is that he has been pitched at the very top level time after time. Third, beaten a length, in the QE II Stakes last backend (on heavy), second in the Lockinge (beaten a neck) first time this season, and then fourth (beaten three lengths) in the Queen Anne Stakes reads way better than his rivals' recent efforts, and I have little doubt he's the best horse in the race.
Barring his way to victory, however, are two unanswered questions: 1. has he lost the will to win? and 2. can he overcome the seven pounds weight for age he (and all older horses) must concede to the Classic generation?
The answer to the first question is no: I've already stated I don't believe there's any lack of resolution. So we turn to the WFA scale, which when applied against Tupi and Dutch Connection, means Toormore would actually be two pounds inferior to the former and a pound behind the latter.
Dutch Connection is a seven furlong horse, and that specialism is worth a bonus tick in my box; but his form is not in the same parish as Toormore, in spite of a fine win in the Jersey Stakes backed up by a very fine second over a mile in the Prix Jean Prat. Good to soft would be a question mark, his only effort on that surface being when hammered by the never-seen-again Faydhan at Haydock.
This might come soon enough after that gutsy Jean Prat effort too so, while I respect him, I prefer Toormore. As for Tupi, all his best form is on fast ground, and I'd be a tad disappointed if he was good enough. His rating looks a little on the generous side to me.
Godolphin's Safety Check has to concede a Group 2 penalty as well as weight for age, which is fair enough given he's won five of his last seven races. All of those wins were on good or good to firm ground, however, and the two defeats were on good to soft, and over course and distance on good. He won a Class 2 handicap at this meeting last year off 96, and is now rated fully twenty pounds higher.
Conceding weight all round on ground presumed softer than ideal, he's not for me.
The best each way play might be Absolutely So, Andrew Balding's five year old an out-and-out six and seven furlong sort. Seemingly better than ever this term, he moved from a bronze medal in a Group 3 at Haydock to gold in a Listed race at Salisbury, and conditions here look plum. I remain to be convinced he's good enough, but at 16/1 with Paddy, he's worth the chance.
All told, I think this is TOORMORE territory. He might be considered an unsexy price to many at around 9/4, but if he's ever going to get back to winning ways, this ought to be spot on. I'll be looking out for any specials on him, and probably using him in a few doubles as a banker. He'll also be my placepot banker.
You'll know my fate on the day as a result!
3.45 Summer Handicap Stakes (Class 2, 1m6f)
A staying handicap over a mile and three quarters, and many chances as 7/1 the field attests. Farquhar and Notarised are a pair with solid profiles.
Farquhar won a huge field Newmarket handicap over a mile and a half last autumn and was staying on well behind Notarised last time over that same trip, and on this sort of ground. Five pounds better off with his conqueror there, Peter Chapple-Hyam's four year old will again be played late off what should be honest fractions.
Notarised has a polar opposite run style to Farquhar, preferring to set the pace when he can. As a Johnston/Fanning-controlled beast, he's good at what he does, and a placed record of four from four on good to soft (and seven from eight on soft or good to soft) says conditions are as he likes them. His last five form of 19101 has been a bit binary this season, and on that record he's due a duck egg, but on the balance of form - including a course and distance win three back - he could hang tough until very late in the day.
Far more speculative is Montefeltro, a horse whose old form gives him a fine chance, but whose three efforts this season do not. Prior to his three tame runs this year, he was off for a full season, and prior to that he won the Irish Cesarewitch - worth £48k to the winner - which was not bad for a ten grand reject buy jettisoned from John Ferguson's Bloomfields squad!
He's dropped from 98 to 95 and, with Tom Marquand taking over from Robert Tart and claiming a five pound allowance, he races off 90 now; that could see a much better effort from one who was only beaten six lengths last time despite finishing 13th in the Northumberland Plate. I reckon Brian Ellison will land a nice pot with this fellow before the season is out, and it might just be here. I'm speculating for a couple of quid, win and place, at 22/1.
Many (many!) chances, and I'll take each way interest in FARQUHAR from the top of the market and Montefeltro from further down more in hope than expectation.
4.20 Handicap (Class 2, 5f)
Fifteen of them (no fourth place) over a flying five on rain softened ground. Let's start with those who have shown they like soggy turf: Perfect Muse, Lucky Beggar, Chilworth Icon and Confessional.
Perfect Muse has been in the frame in all three soft ground runs, finishing second each time. If that is a bit of a worry, so is the fact that those races were all in Class 4 or below, and this is Class 2. Three runs in this grade have yielded an unpromising 050 and maybe 12/1 is right.
Lucky Beggar looks more compelling. First or second in eight of fourteen five furlong dashes, his form on the soft side of good at the minimum reads 1442214. That string includes some high class events, including two Pattern races. With trainer Charlie Hills in good form, and plenty of pace to charge at, all looks set for a strong run.
Another racking up his tenth start of the year is Chilworth Icon for Mick Channon. I do like this horse: he's game and pretty good on his day. However, I think his day tends to come on soft ground and a slightly stiffer test than this - either an uphill finish or six furlongs. He's run well in one of his two course runs, both over seven furlongs, the good one of which was in the 2012 Group 2 Vintage Stakes behind a certain Olympic Glory.
Confessional is 97 years old (OK, he's eight, but he seems to have been around since the Pathé News days), and has winning form on soft. He ran second in this grade on this ground and over this trip as recently as last October and followed that up with a fine fourth over the same conditions. This will be his first run since on what might be a perfect combination, and the booking of Andrea Atzeni for Tim Easterby fairly knocks the eye out. I'm playing small change each way at 16/1.
The favourite is Double Up, who is attempting to do just that after a last day win. He'd be making it four from five this season, one of which was on the soft side of good. Clearly on the upgrade, and in Roger Varian's capable hands, he might be too good... but I can't look at 3/1 in a race like this. Good luck if you can.
Again, many chances, most of which I've failed to mention. At least this race has a solid favourite for those who like the 'security' of such things. He looks sure to run well again, but doesn't have much in hand on the likes of Top Boy and Humidor, and I don't especially like either of those. No, I'm going to tickle the old lag, Confessional, for a seriously left field combo of Easterby and Atzeni. 16/1 has latitude to that end. And I'll throw a couple of quid at 10/1 Lucky Beggar too, again win and place.
4.55 Maiden Stakes (Class 2, 6f)
Please don't be disappointed that I'm not going into any depth on this one. I'll leave you with a single thought: Sir Roger Moore would not be raising any eyebrows if he was to win.
5.30 Handicap (Class 3, 1m)
Having hoped to get through the card in less than 3000 words, I've done my budget with a race to spare, and that's with ignoring the preceding maiden. If only verbosity was an Olympic sport...
Draw monkeys will be vexing themselves for this big field mile contest and, depending on who you listen to, you may get strongly held but conflicting opinions. My own take is that off a strong pace, a low drawn prominent (second rank) racer ought to be favoured, though late runners should also get a shot at the pot.
With Dr Red Eye, Ifwecan, and Third Time Lucky in the field, this will most definitely be a burn up from the start.
The one I'm most drawn to is VOLUNTEER POINT, drawn in box one. A lightly raced three year old, she gets weight for age from her elders and is off a handy mark if the softer turf ekes any improvement. By Footstepsinthesand out of a Pivotal mare, there are grounds (excuse the pun) for optimism, and for one like her that has just looked to lack a gear change this anticipated rapid race might play into her slightly one-paced hooves.
If she can hold a position through fast early fractions, I'd be hopeful for her, and I've taken the 14/1 (non-BOG) with Ladbrokes each way. She's as short as 8/1 elsewhere and that looks nearer the mark.
On the other side of the coin, blazing speed could set up for a deep closer, and that might be the ostensibly horribly drawn Rembrandt. Trained by Richard Hannon, this fellow has backed up three fair maiden runs with three fair handicap runs, and the feeling remains we have yet to see the best of him. He's another taking his first steps on softer than good, and another for whom that might elicit improvement. I'm far from confident but, at 16/1, it could be worth just better than a saver for connections who generally have plenty of options for races at Glorious Goodwood.