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Royal Ascot 2018: Day 4 Preview, Tips

Day 4, Friday, at Royal Ascot offers another six chances for redemption, wagering glory, or simply to watch the finest thoroughbreds in the land do what they do best. As is the new custom, we begin with a two-year-old race, the...

2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 6f, 2yo fillies)

Six furlongs this time, and fillies only, in the Albany Stakes, a Group 3. A big field of 18 has assembled where many will fail to see out the three-quarter mile trip, and many more will simply be not nearly good enough. One who will stay and who looks good enough is Fairyland, a rare Aidan O'Brien runner not running in the Coolmore silks (though she is, of course, a Coolmore-owned filly).

By Kodiac, a strong influence for speed, Fairyland was much the best in a Curragh Listed race over distance and going. She was good enough to win first time up this season, too, something only three of 26 have been able to do for the yard in 2018. The other two to achieve that are So Perfect (close up fourth in the Queen Mary on Wednesday) and Just Wonderful, who lines up here and is the choice of Ryan Moore.

Moore rode both fillies on debut but it was Seamie Heffernan who rode Fairyland to that Marble Hill success last time, and it may be that he keeps the ride rather than Ryan had the pick. That is, obviously I hope, so much guesswork on my part. At any rate, Ballydoyle have the top of the market between them, and I slightly favour the greater experience and level of form of Fairyland over the deeper potential of Just Wonderful.

In opposition are a number of unbeaten fillies, including the Mark Johnston-trained Main Edition. She has been impressive in winning a brace of novice events by more than three lengths each time, and on ground ranging from soft through to good to firm.

Wesley Ward runs Stillwater Cove, winner of her only start in America. She was all out to hang on over four and a half furlongs there, and though she is bred for this extra 33% range, Ward's record in the race stands at 0 from 7 (1 place). Indeed Ward's record at Royal Ascot in six furlong juvenile races reads 0 from 10, one place. Now that's not a sample upon which to hang a man, but set next to his five furlong record (7 from 25, including Shang Shang Shang yesterday) it is pause for thought.

Of more interest in the overseas raider department may be the French brigade of Reponse Exacte, Byron Bay, and No More Regrets.

It was Matthieu Palussiere's Different League who prevailed in the Albany last term, at 20/1, and he saddles No More Regrets this time. Bought on Monday by the Leicester City owner for £130,000 after running second in an Italian Listed contest, this lass doesn't look to have that one's class, though it is a bit of a guess that that's the case.

Reponse Exacte hacked up in a little race in France last week and is turned out quickly here. That rapid return didn't stop Calyx winning the Coventry on Tuesday, and at 33/1 she is the sort of blind pennies guess I like in a race like this. She was bought at the breeze up sale in May so had clearly done a fair bit of work already.

The other Frenchie is Byron Bay, winner of a six furlong Chantilly maiden in May. She was more patiently ridden than Reponse Exacte but pulled right away by the finish and it might be that that is a more appropriate run style for this big field straight six. It's somewhat irrelevant inasmuch as we're very much in stab in the dark territory, but again 33/1 is worth a quid, maybe two. That boy Barzalona rides.

Not a race about which to be confident.

3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo colts & geldings)

The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival has acquired the monicker, "the potato race", but perhaps this one - the King Edward VII Stakes - is more befitting of such root vegetable likenesses. Fripperies aside, I have no idea which of these lightly raced improvers might claim primacy in the 'Ascot Derby'. [No, I definitely prefer 'the potato race'!]

What I do know is that outsiders don't win it: 12/1 Eagle Top was the biggest priced victor in more than twenty years; and the first three in the betting have won 16 of the last 21, with nine jollies obliging (43%, +10.25).

The jolly is Delano Roosevelt, sixth in Masar's Derby. He has some good form, but it is shy of top class so, in spite of history, I'm looking further afield, though not much further.

It is the Johnny G-Frankie D axis, teaming up here with the China Horse Club's Raa Atoll, which draws the eye. Second to Nordic Lights on debut, he has won both starts since, most recently when sauntering clear of an equally well-fancied stablemate in a Leicester novice. There were four and more lengths to the rest that day with only the fifth and sixth having run since: the fifth won, and the sixth ran third in a similar race.

Gosden has had three winners of this race, in 2005, 2011, and 2014, and another seven placed, from 18 starters since 2000. His record since 2010 reads 21312(83)(52), the brackets denoting two runners in each of the last two years. With no runner in 2013, that means JHG has hit the board in every King Eddy in which he's been represented since 2010. That's good enough for me.

3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1, 6f, 3yo)

This new race is turning out to be an inspired decision. Not only has it produced some scintillating winners - my favourite was undoubtedly Muhaarar in the inaugural running - it has also invigorated the entire three-year-old sprinting division, and added value and fashion to such pedigrees in the breeding sheds. Nice job.

Muhaarar was also the toughest winner of the three thus far to find. His 10/1 starting price looks wild next to Quiet Reflection's 7/4 and Caravaggio's 5/6; and it has been a feature of the race to date that the market has a solid handle on the best horses. Last year, the first three in the betting were the first three home.

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It's a bigger field this time, and seemingly a more open contest, and yet still the pair of Equilateral and Sioux Nation at the head of the market stand out. Equilateral had the stopwatch hounds barking after winning a Doncaster novice by eight lengths last month; he lacks the experience and proven class of some of these but that was obviously a massive effort and puts him right in the frame.

SIOUX NATION by contrast has the top level form: he won the G2 Norfolk Stakes at the Royal meeting last season, following that up with success in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes (six furlongs, good to firm). Beaten twice on the soft side of good after that, he bounced back on his second and most recent run of the current campaign with a Group 3 win (six furlongs, good to firm).

The feeling is that he needs fast ground - his form is 2111 when hooves have rattled, the wins coming in G1, G2 and G3 company. Sioux Nation is drawn wide apart from Equilateral, and looks to have the speed horses in his part of the track. That ought to provide some tension to the race pace elastic band, if you see what I mean, and allow Ryan Moore's mount to find his stride and surge through, as is his wont.

There should again be little between Sands Of Mali and Invincible Army, but if you want one at a price with which to take a chance, then perhaps Clive Cox's Heartache, winner of the Queen Mary at this meeting last year, is too big at 25/1. Sure, she flopped on debut this season, and yes, she may be better at five than six; but that was her 2018 bow, for which she's entitled to improve, and it was her first attempt at six. It is far too early to say she hasn't trained on, and Clive Cox can boast four Royal Ascot Pattern race sprint winners and four more places.

A terrific race in prospect.

4.20 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo fillies)

Another cracking race for the top of the market, it has often been the next stopping off point for the 1000 (and/or Irish 1000) Guineas winner, as it was for Winter who last season snaffled all three of those Group 1 pots.

So it is that the winners of those two Guineas, Billesdon Brook and Alpha Centauri, lock horns with the Newmarket victor offered at twice the price of her Irish counterpart. Throw in the French 1000 Guineas winner, Teppal, for good measure, and we have a worthy gathering of the clans.

Alpha Centauri came closest to arresting Different League's run for glory in the Albany last year before showing that she's a miler through and through by barreling her way home late in the Curragh Classic. Decent ground looks the key to her, on which surface she's 1121, compared with 50 on softer. Conditions are favourable then, but with her Classic formline open to question (though the 2nd there was 3rd in the Jersey Stakes) and at odds of around 3/1 the value must lie elsewhere.

Billesdon Brook was under-rated for the 1000 Guineas - she was sent off at 66/1! - but that doesn't look a fluke, with the second filly, Laurens, now a dual Group 1 winner in France; the third home, Happily, a dual G1 winner last year and thrice Classic placed this term; and four placed Wild Illusion subsequently second in the Oaks and claiming the same position in the Ribblesdale here yesterday. In short, her form is rock solid IF she can run to that level again. Sean Levey may need some luck in running if riding her patiently but she seems over-priced on what she, and the fillies around her, has done. She has a similar profile to 2013 1000 Guineas/Coronation Stakes winner, Sky Lantern, from the same stable.

The first two from the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches - French 1000 Guineas - reacquaint themselves here, David Simcock's Qatari-owned Teppal having shaded the verdict from the Japanese-owned Coeur de Beaute. Simcock's runner is less exposed, and is unbeaten, so looks likely to prevail once more, though it is hard to assimilate that form against the domestics. That said, it is worth noting that the 2015 and 2016 winners emerged from the Pouliches.

The cat amongst the pigeons is Clemmie. She was disappointing in the Irish 1000 Guineas, trailing home ninth. That was her first attempt at beyond six furlongs and, while she's a daughter of Galileo and sister to Churchill, she is out of a five furlong winner and may just be a sprinter plain and simple. She wasn't given a hard time at the Curragh and will improve for the outing, and the evidence is far from damning that she's a non-stayer... but at 7/2 she's a pass.

There are others in the field to have declined the Classic route thus far, but we have to go back six years to find a shunner of the bright lights who tripped it fantastic in the Coronation.

5.00 Sandringham Handicap (Class 2, 1m, 3yo fillies)

24 fillies, three-year-olds all, hurtling up the straight mile. I only hope that my life won't ever depend on finding the winner in such a race. Despite the perennially bumper turnout, horses priced at single figures have won nine of the last 13, and no winner for at least 20 years has been returned bigger than the 20/1 about Con Te Partiro last term. That Wes winner, tipped in these pages, was as welcome as it was surprising.

Handicap debutants have won ten times since 1997, but those 48% of the winners have come from 57% of the runners, and the percentage play value wise is look for those with a couple of handicap runs under their belts. Such experienced fillies may 'only' have won five of the last 20 Sandringham's, but they have achieved that from just 12% of the runners (5/43), and they have a better place strike rate: 28% compared with 20% for 'cap debs (and 'cap second timers).

One to fit this, granted potentially shoehorned, bill is Charlie Appleby's Dathanna. A winner of four of her last five starts - second on heavy in between - she's clearly progressive and experienced, and has run in - and won -  a couple of conditions races since her brace of handicap runs as a juvenile. The daughter of Dubawi made all over course and distance last time, though that was on soft ground: indeed, apart from the obvious 'is she good enough?' question, the only other unanswered niggle is 'will the ground be too firm?' - in the circumstances, she's playable at 10/1.

The other checker of the two handicaps box is Wisdom Mind, Joseph O'Brien's filly currently a 25/1 play. She would be a longer priced winner than any for two decades as things stand, but there's a fair chance she shortens between now and post time - and in any case her price won't stop her winning if she's good enough!

Wisdom Mind sneaks in towards the foot of the weights, a perch of 85 having been unmoved for a third consecutive race. She's six pounds better off for a two length beating by Hence two back, and had terrible luck in running last time. She's certainly interesting at a price.

Ryan Moore rides Hence. I don't especially like backing Aidan O'Brien runners in handicaps, though they have won twice at the Royal meeting - Sir Isaac Newton and War Envoy in case you were wondering - and I'll let him/them beat me again this time.

In summary, there is a good chance a handicap debutante wins the Sandringham for an 11th time in the last 22 years. But trying to establish which of the 15 fillies (63% of the field) that might be is much too tricky. So I'll take a couple of more experienced guesses against the dark horses.

5.35 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 1m4f, 3yo+)

22 runners and nigh on impossible stuff. Ostensibly at least. Plenty of shorties have got it done in recent seasons, mind, and the high draw looks seriously advantageous: since the track was re-layed in 2006, eleven of the twelve winners emerged from a double digit stall, the last three winners coming from 21, 19, 19.

High draw, fancied runner then? Thundering Blue is the answer to that two-part request. David Menuisier's big improver was a highly impressive winner at York last time, but he'll need plenty of luck with his late running style.

Appeared, similarly highly drawn and almost as well fancied, has a more prominent run style. Roger Varian trains and Andrea Atzeni rides this six-year-old son of Dubawi. Second in the race last year from stall 18 and a mark of 101, he now exits stall 19 off a mark of 103. This will have been the target, he's gone well fresh before, including when winning a course and distance (good to firm) handicap first up last season. He'll do.

You want to be out in the clear in this race, jockeys in behind frequently made to look a lot worse than they are by the configuration of the course. Three wide three back is way better than on the rail two back generally speaking.

Good luck!

Matt

p.s. it is traditional for there to be no Saturday Ascot preview, a tradition that will continue to be upheld this year. You may very well be glad of that by 5.45 or so on Friday afternoon! Hopefully these posts have provided some insights and entertainment, if nothing else. Of course, hopefully they've nailed a good winner or two as well, but you don't need me to tell you that this is a meeting where it is generally way better to be lucky than good. At least, that's how I view it...

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Two down, three to go, and humpback day at Royal Ascot, also known as Ladies' Day, features the centrepiece of the entire week, the Gold Cup. That stayers' Group 1 looks an excellent renewal, though wagering there - and indeed throughout the Thursday card - provides pitfalls aplenty. No matter, for on the day when lassies don their finery, rarely was it truer that faint heart never won fair maiden. So let's have a crack! We kick off in the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2, 5f, 2yo)

A shortish field of ten, though not hugely out of keeping with recent tradition. A few interesting patterns - let's call them trends - have emerged, as follows:

- All bar one of the last 15 winners had a pre-race RPR of at least 106. Only Vintage Brut, Konchek and Land Force fit that bill

- Six of the last ten winners were by US sires. Just Pocket Dynamo, Shang Shang Shang and Land Force tick this box

Land Force is of clear interest on this basis, then. But... he was beaten last time out, over six furlongs, and has never won at the minimum. Those are both negatives in the context of the trends. And yet I still want to be with this son of No Nay Never, the 2013 Norfolk winner. He showed good speed in the Listed Marble Stakes last time, only fading in the last furlong or so.

The other to catch my eye in a race where they'll pretty much all move forward on what they've demonstrated to date is Pocket Dynamo. The Robert Cowell-trained son of US stallion Dialed In is that sire's first British runner as far as I can tell. He was second in a Brighton maiden on debut - hardly Royal Ascot form, though the winner and third have won since - before showing more in winning a Chelmsford novice and then a quite valuable conditions race at Longchamp. He was tenacious in victory there, is more experienced than many and, with an RPR of 105, falls just one note short of ticking both my trendy boxes above. He's 20/1.

Wesley Ward's Shang Shang Shang is the favourite, and could win. In truth I don't know much about the horse, but I do know his trainer is 'only' one from six in the Norfolk, the solitary victor being the aforementioned No Nay Never. Four of his other runners were sent off bigger than NNN's 4/1 SP, with a number of them drifting notably on the day. Keep an eye on the market if you want to back this lady.

Vintage Brut and Konchek represent the Listed National Stakes form, running 1-3 there, and Racing Post consider it the best form in the race allotting them the top two RPR's. Vintage Brut had the favoured rail draw that night at Sandown, whereas Konchek was drawn wide and carried wider before rattling home. Clive Cox's colt must have a great chance to turn the tables on this fairer strip.

But I'll take Land Force and Pocket Dynamo at double digit odds against the field.

3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m 2f, 3yo)

The first of four races restricted to three-year-olds on day three is the Hampton Court Stakes. Such races are not really my thing, as I struggle to assimilate what horses have achieved with what they might be capable of doing. Today's preview will be lighter than usual on that basis, and should be taken more lightly also (unless I get all six winners, in which case I meant it, and I hope you backed them all!!)

Although only a Group 3, three of the last four winners - Cannock Chase, Hawkbill and Benbatl - went on to Group 1 glory. The other in that recent quartet, Time Test, was G1 placed on multiple occasions.

Godolphin have won the last two, and they own the early favourite for the 2018 renewal, Key Victory. A winner of his first two starts, he was beaten only three lengths in the French Derby last time. This will be his third run since the beginning of May and, if William Buick can hold a position, he should run well: the worry is that he might encounter traffic problems in this big field around the tight Ascot bends.

Charlie Appleby saddles Key Victory, and also Nordic Lights. This son of German stallion, Intello, was unraced as a juvenile and encountered defeat for the first time in the Dante Stakes at York. Disregarding the facile winner there, he was only a length and a half off second and should progress again. James Doyle rides.

Rounding out the Godolphin triumvirate is Saeed bin Suroor's National Army, who leaps up in grade after winning a novice stakes on debut at the start of the month. He beat fourteen rivals in a fair time and the second home has since bolted up in a similar race. Christophe Soumillon is an interesting jockey booking for a completely unexposed colt with a potentially good draw (if not held up).

Lots more unexposed types where your guess is as good as mine, but one other worth a quick mention is Mini P. Second in a Newbury maiden over this trip on his only start, his trainer Brian Meehan normally knows what he has and is capable of producing big priced surprises.

But, honestly, I haven't a clue.

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo fillies)

The Ascot Oaks. Ten more unexposed three-year-olds, some of whom ran in the Oaks at Epsom and some who did not. WILD ILLUSION is the clear form pick. She was fourth in the 1000 Guineas and second in the Oaks, clear of the third there. With no Forever Together to fret about here, a repeat of that Classic run gives her daylight over her rivals that day, though it could be argued that the well beaten and re-opposing Magic Wand didn't handle the track.

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Of the rest, Sir Michael Stoute's novice stakes winner, Sun Maiden, looks the main danger. She won that little race by fully twelve lengths and in a fair time. It would be no shock if this typically beautifully-bred Juddmonte filly (Frankel half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner, Midday) prevailed but 3/1 doesn't set the pulse racing.

The likes of Musidora second, Dancing Brave Bear, and Johnny G's Highgarden are interesting projects for the season, but this looks a really good chance for the twice Classic-placed Wild Illusion.

4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m4f, 4yo+)

A super race in prospect even in the absence of last year's winner, Big Orange. The field is headed by the 2016 champ, Order Of St George, pipped by Big Orange in his repeat bid last term; and last year's Queen's Vase winner, Stradivarius, who went on to beat Big Orange at Goodwood. Further spice is added to the pot by the presence of French staying superstar, Vazirabad, himself a triple Group 1 winner.

In such a race as this we need to consider more than merely the respective form credentials of the field: pace is a key component. Last year, Big Orange was gifted a lead early in the race that he never relinquished, fending off the desperate late rally of Order Of St George and Ryan Moore in the dying strides.

Order Of St George is one of those hide behind the sofa horses. He has obvious class and stamina, but he gets beaten when he probably shouldn't a little too often for comfort. Although winning eleven of the twenty stakes races in which he's competed, he's been beaten at odds on in four of them, including at 1/7. Ouch. He was a little workmanlike last time in a Listed race but that was a prep for this. He may well win and good luck if you want 7/4 about that. I do not.

Stradivarius is the other vying for market leadership. As well as the Queen's Vase and Goodwood Cup, he was a very close third in the St Leger and Long Distance Cup in a terrific three-year-old season. He looked better than ever when bolting up in the Yorkshire Cup on his seasonal bow for this campaign, and could be the champion stayer in 2018. He does have to prove his stamina for this longer trip, something which is not a given for all that he looked robust enough at the two mile range. Again, 2/1 is insufficient in what is a hot race.

Of the front three in the market, I suspect VAZIRABAD offers a little value. Alain de Royer-Dupre's six-year-old has many T-shirts for being there and doing that: he's won two G1 Prix Royal-Oak's, a G1 Prix du Cadran, and has never been out of the first two at races beyond a mile and a half. Indeed, his full form string is 6211111/117121/211112-211, which is rather spectacular when you consider that the last 18 of those 22 runs have been in Group company.

He'll be ridden patiently, but as a veteran of so many races in France he clearly has the gear change required to quicken off a pedestrian gallop. 5/1 looks a very solid each way play.

With little obvious pace in the field, it may be that Torcedor, who adopted pressing tactics in a Group 3 here last time, may again play catch me if you can. He was a nine length fifth (when waited with) behind Big Orange last year, before running up in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day and, most recently, that five length score last time. Ascot, then, holds no fears. Nor either does fast ground, so 10/1 could be another reasonable each way play - perhaps without the favourite - about a horse whose form ties in pretty closely on a number of lines with Order Of St George.

I'm struggling to make much of a case for the rest, the pick of which might be Desert Skyline.

Really looking forward to this one!

5.00 Britannia Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 1m, 3yo)

No idea. Genuinely no idea. Winners since 2007 at 33/1, 28/1, 25/1 and 20/1 twice mean the market has no idea either. Seriously, why the hell would anyone bet in a race like this?

Crack On Crack On was a good winner last time in a big field at Haydock, and he's ridden by geegeez-sponsored jockey, David Probert. He's improving fast, like most of these. Similar comments apply to Corrosive, who is now on a four-timer after a big field course, distance and going win last time; and Richard Hughes' George Of Hearts, who steps up to a mile having not quite reached the winner over seven here last time.

Twenty-seven others worthy of mention. Where's Mr Felt Tippy's magic pen sticker when you need him?!

5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f, 3yo)

More of the same for all that there are 'only' 21 runners this time. Draw has been material: double digit stalls have bagged ten of the last dozen. Why? Not sure, but I presume because it is very difficult to lead all the way in such a big field over such a trip; and if you don't lead from a low draw, you're probably in the pocket screaming for room entering the straight.

So on that basis I've deselected half the field. Honestly, if you've got a better idea, I'm all ears...!

This has been a decent race for the top of the market, too, with two-thirds of the winners since 1997 coming from the top four in the betting.

That leaves me with Cross Counter and Baghdad.

Godolphin colts have won three of the last four renewals, so Cross Counter is your winner. Maybe.

**

Royal Ascot really is a super tough meeting at which to back winners, and I make no apology for being almost flippant in some of my analyses above, particular in the last two races. This is probably a sensible time to remind readers that nothing on these pages constitutes financial advice - duh!

Good luck with your Thursday wagers. I've a feeling we'll need it!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 2 Preview, Tips

In theory, Day 1 is the easiest. That may not bode well if you're already licking your wounds, but with 24 contests still to come there are many opportunities for salvation yet. And, if you went well in the opening skirmishes, don't be getting complacent now...

Day 2's revised line up starts with the juvenile fillies, and the

2.30 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2, 5f, 2yo Fillies)

Two shy of two dozen fully unexposed fleet-footed fillies dashing harem scarem up the straight five strip: what could possibly go wrong? Where do I start? Perhaps with some numbers...

Peter May's figures have the following as top five:

So Perfect 82
Little Kim 79
Kodyanna 78
Gossamer Wings 78
The rest 72 or lower

Timeform see Shades Of Blue (99p) as top of this pile, with Servalan (94p) and Come On Leicester (93p) next in.

Zero crossover.

Whilst keeping in mind that all of these young ladies are capable of stepping forward significantly, it is the case that some need to do so more than others regardless of which set of numbers one peruses.

The pace map, which again is subject to change as the field will respond unpredictably to the big occasion, might look a little like this:

Queen Mary Stakes pace map 2018

Queen Mary Stakes pace map 2018

The above is sorted by draw, and we can see that there is plenty of pace on both flanks, perhaps marginally more so high than low. The fly in the ointment, and the missing line in the grid, is Chelsea Cloisters. Wesley Ward's juvenile entries always demand close scrutiny at this meeting, and they almost always burn away from the traps. Frankie has the steering job: he may elect to veer towards high numbers or to time trial it down the middle. Either way, his filly could be the speed of the speed.

It's a guesser's race, in truth, and one I'm not inclined to get seriously involved in. I'll be taking Clive Cox's Shades Of Blue, Richard Fahey's Kodyanna, along with the Wez wunner, on the placepot. And I might just have a tiny play on Karl Burke's Little Kim: she only won a Carlisle event on debut but did it in a decent time, with the yard's horses generally improving a fair bit from first to second run. She's 33/1, which is a guesser's price in a guesser's race.

3.05 Queen's Vase (Group 2, 1m 6f, 3yo)

Run prior to last year over a two mile trip, this step back to a mile and three quarters makes the Queen's Vase a trial for the St Leger. A field of twelve has assembled, among them Derby also rans and lightly raced staying types. Actually, the only Derby runner is ninth placed Kew Gardens who will be close to favourite for this. He had looked a stayer in the Lingfield Derby Trial before being used as a pacemaker in the Derby itself; here he's expected to be allowed his own head and has already demonstrated a touch of both stamina and class.

But there may be one (or two) to improve past him from this upwardly mobile collective. Lurching into the unknown as we are here, with most of these never having faced this sort of trip, pedigree can offer pointers. That said, I'm going to start on a tenuous footing by discounting the Galileo's in spite of their winning two of the last three, and four since 2007; and in spite of the race being cut back two furlongs. Feel free to skip what follows!

Geegeez Gold has pedigree data which helps understand the performance of sires based on their two-year track record. For instance, we can see that Kew Gardens is a son of Galileo out of a Desert King mare. Galileo's have won at a solid one-in-eight clip (12.43%) in flat staying races, and tend to do very well as three-year-old's. But 11/4 doesn't particularly excite about the pedigree/form combination, hence casting the net more widely.

We can see that Nelson, a son of Frankel, has more to recommend on pedigree. Out of the Oaks second and Irish Oaks winner, Moonstone, he is clearly bred to stay. Frankel's flat stayers have struck at a rate of 18.67% thus far.

Stream Of Stars, by Sea The Stars, also has an 18%+ hit rate with stayers; and look down the list at Henry Candy's Sovereign Duke. He's by Jukebox Jury, who has had 33% winners in flat staying races, and 53% placed. Out of a Lando mare, he's bred for stamina all day long, and yet this is his first try beyond ten furlongs.

Now, of course, it's possible he got found out in that Group 3 last time, but it is also possible that he didn't appreciate the lack of pace in the small field. Here, with Johnston and O'Brien saddling multiple runners, there is likely to be a strong gallop. Which makes 33/1 of mild interest: I'd rather be beaten six lengths with a 33/1 poke than a head at 5/2! Each to their own, I guess...

 

3.40 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2, 1m, 4yo+ fillies & mares)

At last, a race with a bit of form and, therefore, a bit of hope of finding a winner. Only a bit of hope, mind.

The French have a great record in this race, including winning the last two renewals but, surprisingly, as unrepresented this year. Of the domestics, Sir Michael Stoute is the main man, with four victories since the race's inception in 2004. But he doesn't have a runner either. Crikey.

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Yet still there are a couple of minor trainer angles, the first of which may be considered a negative. Saeed bin Suroor has saddled ten mares in this, none of them winners. Three of the ten made the frame and that could be the best that either Promising Run or Arabian Hope will achieve.

More interesting is the record of the brilliant James Fanshawe. He has had two winners in this race, and three further places, from just seven runners. The winners were 10/1 and 11/8 with placed horses as big as 25/1, all of which makes Tribute Act worthy of a second glance. She's finished second on her last two starts, either side of the seasonal break, both in handicaps and both here at Ascot.

Handicap form is not generally expected to be good enough to win a Group 2, particularly not with more exposed animals, and in truth it is only the Fanshawe angle that puts her in the mix. But she was close up behind Urban Fox on that '18 debut, with the William Haggas runner re-opposing and priced at half Tribute Act's odds. This will have been Fanshawe's target in which case his filly can be expected to step forward from her last run in a race where the 2016 winner was a similarly unconsidered price.

All that said, by far the most likely winner is HYDRANGEA, a Group 1 winner from a mile to a mile and a half last term. She carried a five pound penalty for that but is rated the best of these by six pounds and more and could progress again this season, as a number of O'Brien fillies have, most notably the superstar, Found. She'll undoubtedly come on for her opening run of the campaign (2nd in a Group 2 last time) so, in what looks a fairly shallow heat for a Group 2, the 7/4 Hydrangea may not last.

4.20 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1, 1m2f, 4yo+)

Seven go to post for this ten furlong Group 1 - each way backer sigh heavily, particularly in light of the presence of an odds on jolly. That imposing shadow is cast across his field by the mighty CRACKSMAN. He may have had a bit of a fright at Epsom last time, but it would be fair to say that he's no fan of that Möbius strip configuration: indeed, it could be argued that he should be marked up for being able to get the job done in the circumstances.

He is eight pounds and more clear of the next best on official ratings - Hawkbill - and the most likely in the field to run his race. I'd imagine he'll be sent off at closer to 1/2 than his current quote of 4/6, which actually looks value if you have a few spare sixes knocking about.

Poet's Word is comfortably second choice in the betting, which is good news for those of us who like to bet 'without the favourite' in such lop-sided contests. Good news because I think he's rather short all things considered. Yes, he hails from the Sir Michael Stoute Academy of Bring-'em-along-slowly's, and yes, he was a comfortable winner of the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) last time; but he was trounced by Hawkbill in Dubai two runs back, and has never won at this rarefied level.

Hawkbill on the other hand has, twice. He won the 2016 Coral-Eclipse, and the Dubai Sheema Classic three months ago. There is often a doubt about Dubai form transferring to mid-summer races in England, something with which a heavy defeat behind Cracksman in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time seemed to tally. But I expect Hawkbill to come on plenty for that and, hopefully over the jetlag, he can be backed each way without the favourite.

Cliffs Of Moher and Eminent are similar prices. The former must be considered a disappointing sort after promising so much with that close second in last year's Derby. He has since been beaten seven times from eight starts, the sole notch coming in a soft Group 2 at Naas.

Eminent, likewise, has largely let supporters down since a close fourth in the same Epsom showpiece. He too has a solitary hollow-looking Group 2 score in the interim. Although none of Cracksman's rivals are bombproof reliable, Hawkbill is the one with the two Group 1 victories, and the one with the best form this season. Hawkbill may also make the running, a fair tactic on this turning triangular circuit.

Of the rags, Royal Julius is only a pound behind Cliffs Of Moher on official figures. He followed up a heavy ground Group 2 second with a good ground Group 2 victory last time, albeit that was in Italy. That at least shows he can travel and win, so 66/1 might appeal to the Hail Mary players.

5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2, 1m, 3yo+)

No three-year-olds, as usual, that age heading for other pots at the meeting, so it's basically an older horse cavalry charge up the straight mile. Four-year-olds have won eight of the last eleven renewals, and represent the sort of unexposed improving type that plunders most of the Royal Ascot handicaps.

But... the average odds of those eleven winners were over 17/1, and the eight 4yo winners averaged out at just greater than 15/1. Further, 18 of the last 21 winners were aged four or five. What else?

Half of the last 20 Hunt Cup winners were first or second last time out.

That leaves nine: Zhui Feng, Afaak, Saltonstall, Repercussion, Escobar, What's The Story, Mukalal, Kynren, and Seniority, the last named - owned by HM The Queen - sneaking in as a result of a stablemate being declared a non-runner. Who'da thunk it?

Zhui Feng is the reigning champion, a been there seen that sort of guy who loves this place, big fields and fast ground. But he's eight pounds higher this time, and looks increasingly susceptible to younger improving types. Still, he's quite likely to run his race.

Drawn next door is Saltonstall, last day winner of a decent Curragh handicap and flying the flag for the 2016 winning stable of Mick Halford. He's lightly raced, has very good mile handicap form, including when second in a 20 runner field, and gets the tongue tie for the third time having worn it previously in the aforementioned win and second placed runs. 14/1 with as many extra places as you can get looks fair enough.

Repercussion is another with decent big field mile handicap form, but his best form is with cut in the ground; not so Escobar, whose last day victory on this sort of turf and over this trip marks him as an improver for the step up to a mile. But the other one I want on my team is David Barron's Kynren.

Hyper-consistent, the four-year-old son of Clodovil has career form of 311132, including in a mile Class 2 big field handicap, and he gave the impression last time that a fiercely run race would fit his bill. There's a bit of 25/1 knocking about as I write, and I'll try a slice.

The Queen's Seniority comes here in search of a hat-trick after back to back Chelmsford handicaps. That level turning all weather mile could not be more different from this straight uphill turf one so, while connections are greatly respected, my chips are chucked elsewhere.

5.35 Jersey Stakes (Group 3, 7f, 3yo)

A tough finish - not as tough as the Royal Hunt Cup, of course, but very tricky all the same.

Placed in any Guineas, or ran close ish in the 2000 Guineas, looks a route in, albeit one not lost on the market. The last four winners fitted that bill and, with the pure sprinters now squirreled away to the Commonwealth Cup, we have a theoretically easier task. That doesn't help too much when presented with 23 runners on the race card!

Those on my list are James Garfield, Expert Eye, Headway, and Could It Be Love.

James Garfield crossed the Atlantic last autumn to contest the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf: although no-showing that day, he bounced back with a win over seven the Craven Stakes on his seasonal debut. He's been kept busy since, with a four length seventh in the 2000 Guineas followed by a drop to six furlongs in the Sandy Lane Stakes where he again finished quite close but again failed to make the frame.

Staying on over six, not getting home over a mile, and a winner over seven this season... this looks ideal in terms of trip and ground, represents a drop in class, and he's close to top rated in the field. 14/1 is playable each way, again especially if you can burgle an extra place.

Expert Eye is a bit hot and cold: he was electric when winning the Group 2 Vintage Stakes, a performance that saw him installed as ante post favourite for the 2000 Guineas. Three subsequent defeats, two of them heavy, two of them behind James G give him plenty to find. A price of 9/1 does not appeal for all that a reversion to the Vintage form would make him very tough to beat.

Headway, a proverbial cigarette paper second in the Coventry Stakes last term, has a mixed score card since then. Third in the Gimcrack, he won a Listed seven furlong all weather prize first time up this season before running a limp race in the 2000 Guineas. He didn't have the best trip there but even so was disappointing and has a little to prove now. Again, his price is short enough all things considered.

Could It Be Love is the other I like. She just failed to get home when second in the Irish 1000 Guineas, so this drop in trip looks tailor-made. Ryan Moore steers the daughter of War Front, which is always a plus, and she'll further benefit from a three pound fillies' allowance.

Interesting horses abound, including the six-timer-seeking Society Power, Irish 2000 also ran Symbolization, Wesley Ward's US raider Hemp Hemp Hurray, and the trainer switching full brother to American Pharoah, St Patricks Day.

But I'll take Could It Be Love to lead them a merry one, before perhaps James Garfield sweeps by in the last half furlong.

Trippy trappy stuff on day two - good luck!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 1 Preview, Tips

It's Royal Ascot 2018, the finest week in the flat racing calendar. The finest but, from a wagering perspective, very far from the easiest. It's a meeting which, as a consequence of one too many bloody reversals, I personally take fairly lightly, and the following ruminations should be consumed in that context.

As well as this post, you may also be interested in Andy's Royal Ascot Day 1 Trends.

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 4yo+)

The Royal meeting begins with a bang. Actually, given its G1-G2-G1-G1 opening quartet of races, it begins with a two hour firework display of equine superstars. The grand overture is the Queen Anne Stakes, a test of speed, class and stamina up the straight mile course.

As was shown in this article on Ascot pace and draw biases, it is very difficult to lead all the way on the straight mile here. While those waited with have fared the best of the four general run styles over course and distance, it should be noted that a number of recent winners of this race were more prominently placed in the opening quarter.

Deauville looks set for a relatively uncontested lead and if the race is run at less than championship pace, it may again suit those near the fore. Deauville's stable mate, Rhododendron, will not be far away; after needing every yard of Newbury's round mile to collar Lightning Spear (re-opposes) in the Lockinge, she appears well suited to this stiffer task. The only reservation is that this will be the first time she's raced on a straight track, and her first visit to Ascot. Regardless, she will give those mythical favourite backers a run for their money.

More appealing, though undoubtedly more of a punt also, is BENBATL. Godolphin's four-year-old son of Dubawi, unraced as a juvenile, was asked to do a number of things he couldn't last year - run over a mile and a half, and race on heavy most notably. In between twelve furlong spins, he was dropped to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot and duly won the Hampton Court Stakes.

This season he had four runs in Dubai, all over nine furlongs, winning three of them including, most recently, the Group 1 Dubai Turf. The stopwatch boys have raved about his times in the Emirates so, if he's been well enough rested since returning to Blighty, Saeed bin Suroor may 'have it right back at ya, Charlie' in this prestigious heat. He's worth a go at 5/1.

It's a deep race, though, and the likes of overseas raiders Recoletos and Yoshida may be slightly longer prices than they ought to be. At huge odds, Century Dream has a strikingly progressive profile. This is a big ask of course, and there's a slight reservation about the ground, but he may well run better than his odds imply, albeit that that may not be good enough to nick a place or more.

3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2, 6f, 2yo)

Total guesswork here... Here's what I know:

- No Nay Never has started very well as a sire and represents the Scat Daddy lineage - numerous strong performers at this meeting in recent years.

- Peter May's figures have Cosmic Law and Sergei Prokofiev at the top, closely followed by the once-raced Indigo Balance.

- 13 of the last 16 winners had either one or two previous career starts.

- Once-raced debut winners have fared well, scoring in the Coventry in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2017.

- Those off the track for more than a month have done very well, in terms of wins and places to runners.

That leaves me with a shortlist of two - though neither with especially high speed ratings: Advertise and Getchagetchagetcha.

The former is trained by Martyn Meade, winning comfortably in maiden company at Newbury, a race which has worked out quite well so far. The latter comes from the Clive Cox speed camp, and won his debut at this track. That was over five furlongs on softish ground in a four-runner field, however, meaning he has a bit more to prove against conditions than the Meade runner.

I'll take a chance on another once-raced debut winner in the form of Jessica Harrington's Indigo Balance. He won a six furong Curragh maiden beating Decrypt, himself a subsequent winner.

In an open race where those at the head of the market - Sergei Prokofiev (Scat Daddy), Calyx (debut winner), Cosmic Law (No Nay Never), and The Irish Rover (No Nay Never) - all tick one box or another above. But in a race where guesswork is the order of the day, why not side with a couple of 'could be anything' blank canvasses at a price?

Advertise and Indigo Balance for small stakes.

3.40 King's Stand Stakes (Group 1, 5f, 3yo+)

Back to Group 1 action, and a five furlong dash. There are some very fast starters in this field, perhaps none more so than the electric Kachy, whose performance when smashing his rivals by nine lengths at Chester had to be seen to be believed.

That was Chester, around the bend, and this is Ascot up the straight; that was a Class 3 and this is a Group 1: rapid he is, but I doubt he has the class of a number of these.

Lady Aurelia is also lightning from the stalls, and she comes here bidding to defend an unbeaten course record: she beat a field of 17 by seven lengths in the Queen Mary of 2016, and she beat the same size field in this race last year, prevailing again by daylight, three lengths on that occasion. The daughter of Scat Daddy will be very tough to beat if turning up in that sort of form. But she was beaten on her seasonal bow, albeit when very likely half-cooked and with this in mind. She's going to be a short enough price as the second most popular Lady on Day 1 of the Royal meeting, but I couldn't put you off her.

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Battaash is perceived to be Lady A's main rival, this fellow having been a new man since suffering the misfortune of decoupling after fluffing his lines in the 2016 Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting. He's not returned to this piste in the interim so there is something of a leap of faith required to back him at around 9/4, for all that when he's good he's very good. He was generally very good last season, in fairness, and his narrow last day triumph can probably be marked up a jot. Still, of the pair, I'd rather be in Wesley's corner and that of his marauding mare.

The quest for a value loser is not always in vain in this race - as Choisir, Equiano and Goldream have all reminded us since 2003. In that spirit, and although I don't especially fancy him, Washington DC advertised his outside chance when chasing Battaash home at Haydock last time. The five-year-old son of Zoffany has only won once over the minimum since his juvenile season; but then, way way back in 2015, he did win the Windsor Castle from 26 rivals. He's quirky and a late runner, and it is hardly in his favour that Ryan Moore has plumped for a thrice-beaten-this-season stable mate upon which he doesn't wear the Coolmore silks; but 16/1 might just make the frame for the ever more accomplished-looking Donnacha O'Brien.

But, actually, the more I look at it, the more I think LADY AURELIA will win.

4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo)

My heart is screaming for the underdog, Roger Teal's Tip Two Win. Not only trained by one of the sport's lesser-known names, he is ridden by one of the more under-rated jockeys in the weighing room, David Probert (who just happens to sport the liveries of this 'ere website on his breeches). It would be spectacular for Roger and David, not to mention owner Anne Crowley, if he could prevail.

Having finished closest to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas, he has a legitimate chance, too. That followed up solid two-year-old form and helped sandwich a brace of lucrative victories in Doha around the turn of the year. Sure, he hasn't the progression of some of these but he has the most in the book of all of them. Come on David!!!

OK, partisanship aside, the most exciting horse for neutrals is probably Without Parole. Trainer John Gosden has brought this fellow along slowly, shunning the bright lights for wins at first Newcastle (actually, that was under the bright lights, last December!) and then Yarmouth, before raising his sights a touch in the Listed Heron Stakes.

That trio of wins are only mildly interesting in or of themselves, but the manner of victory, particularly on Without Parole's second start, has flagged him as a colt of rare potential. The problem for would be backers of a horse stepping up to Group company, not to mention Group 1 company, for the first time is that his price suggests he's already an established top tier performer. As such, fully cognisant that it may end in tears, I want to try to take him on.

Romanised, another from an unfashionable stable - this time that of Ken Condon, bounded forward from his 2018 bow to put the Irish 2000 Guineas field to the sword in convincing manner last time. As a two-year-old, he ran second to Masar, form which obviously looks oodles better in light of the latter's resounding Derby success. He, like Tip Two Win, is more exposed but has achieved more.

French raider Wootton is also a very interesting contender. Unbeaten in three going into the French 2000 Guineas, he was two lengths fourth there. He didn't get the run of the race off what looked steady fractions, and he ought to be suited by a quicker tempo this time. However, whether he wants fast ground remains to be seen. Trainer Henri-Alex Pantall is 0-14 in Britain and Ireland since 2013, including unplaced runners at 5/2, 5/1, 7/1 twice and 8/1.

And what of Gustav Klimt? Like his namesake's paintings, this fellow has always been more impressionist than lifelike when it comes to top class winning form, though it should be remembered he was Saxon Warrior's better-fancied stablemate in the lead up to the 2000 Guineas, and he did run third in the Irish equivalent. Progressive as a juvenile it is starting to look as though he hasn't improved from two to three as much as others in the line up, though he retains the scope to bounce back yet.

This is a truly fascinating clash of established form versus unexposed early-season three-year-olds, and it is hard to choose between them. What is for certain is that my heart says Tip Two Win; but one rarely needs to invest capital where one is already emotionally in the game. Thus it becomes a choice between the unexposed sorts Without Parole and Wootton. The former may be the pick for all that I don't want to back him at the price. Indeed, I'm not betting in the race: it's too difficult with not enough meat on any wagering bone to justify a punt.

5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 2m 4f, 4yo+)

Twenty older horses, many of them used to facing obstacles rather than morning suits, and the first of the week's near impossible handicap puzzles. A trend may be our friend in the circumstances, so here are three:

13 of the last 16 were won by a predominantly National Hunt stable, including the last eight

10 winners since 1997 (92 runners) won last time out, for a LSP of 19.50 points

The best win and place strike rates were achieved by horses returning from an absence of 14-60 days

That leaves five, though there is a strong possibility that bubba was lobbed with bathwater in the above. Did I already mention I find this meeting tough?

No matter, for our shortlist looks promising, as follows: Whiskey Sour, Look My Way, [White Desert, Sam Missile], Garo De Juilley

Outsider Garo De Juilley has not been seen on the level since notching a four-timer in France in the autumn of 2015. The last of that quartet was in a big field mile and a half Saint-Cloud handicap, where as far as I can tell he carried top weight off an official rating of 43.5, which I think equates to 95. I might be wrong here, but that gives him a bit of a chance off the same mark. He's changed stables twice since then, first to Paul Nicholls and now to Sophie Leech, for whom this will be the six-year-old's first run. He's fit from hurdling and might run better than 66/1, especially if you can nab a bonus place or two.

More likely perhaps is Whiskey Sour from the Willie Mullins yard. Mullins has won this twice in the last three years and three times in the last six. He has other bullets to fire but none with the matching profile to my guessing game trends above. This five-year-old had a successful hurdling season, including winning a Grade 1 at Christmas and running second in the Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle (also Grade 1) when last seen. He won his final two flat starts last term, both fifty grand big field Galway Festival handicaps - in the space of five days, so comes here progressive in that sphere and battle proven. Christophe Soumillon is an eye-catching jockey booking for the 10/1 chance, though Whiskey Sour will need plenty of luck in the run if adopting his usual hold up tactics.

Look My Way repelled the fast-finishing Coeur De Lion in the consolation Chester Cup last time and ought again to get first run on that rival. But the stiffer test of Ascot could play to the presumed stronger stamina of the latter who may finally bag the big one he's promised for so long - albeit that it will be too late for connections who flogged him at the sale last month (looks like some of the outgoing syndicate bought him back in for £110,000, half of which they could claw back here).

Charlie Appleby is looking to supplement his Derby win with a Royal Ascot score to truly mark his 2018 season. He'll have a number of fine chances in better class races than this, but White Desert should not be under-estimated. It may not have been much of a race he won last time, in the context of this gig at least, but he won it by six lengths. The application of first time cheekpieces may have been a factor, and those are retained. He has solid turf form as well as the services of William Buick, who rides the course well.

A winner at the track last month, Sam Missile bids to double up in this notably better race off a seven pounds higher mark. That will make life trickier but Jamie Osborne's five-year-old remains unexposed at staying trips.

The last two above are, of course, not from NH yards, so as per the arbitrary pruning of the field at the start of this race preview, I'll choose from the other trio. Whiskey Sour's run style concerns me in a race of this nature: he might have a lot to do in the last quarter mile and there will be plenty of horses going backwards and getting in his way in the short home stretch.

Garo De Juilley is worth a very small each way fun punt, as his flat form of old was both progressive - he's on a five-timer - and high class. The ground is a bit of a question mark, how much flat ability he retains is a bigger one, but 66/1 justifies the tickle.

Look My Way is usually thereabouts, stays quite well and is likely to be in the right place turning for home; with his trainer in fine form just now, 16/1 is fair enough even if there is a chance that Coeur De Lion - among many others! - will go by him in the final furlong.

5.35 Wolferton Stakes (Listed, 1m2f, 4yo+)

A change to both the race order and conditions, with the Windsor Castle moved to later in the week and its replacement as the Tuesday nightcap, the Wolferton Stakes no longer a handicap. It might have been marginally easier if it was a handicap in truth as 5/1 the field attests.

I genuinely have no clue how this will play out, so the following is little more than to fill the gap between race five and the end of the piece. With that said, if you're still reading, John Gosden won three of the last seven handicap renewals and has also had two placed runners, from ten sent to post.

Johnny G saddles two here, the better fancied of which appears to be Monarchs Glen. This Frankel gelding seemed to be getting it together at the end of last season with a brace of wins in Listed and Group 3 company. That was prior to a thumping in a Dubai Group 1 first time up this season. If one can overlook that setback - class and the travel are acceptable excuses - and if he can pick up that previously ascendant thread, then 10/1 is fair in a race which is no great shakes. Frankie Dettori rides, his mount wearing a hood for the first time.

Gosden's other runner, Muntahaa, has been disappointing since winning a mile and a half Group 3 last midsummer. But the fact he won a G3 puts him a step ahead of many of these, with race conditions (fast ground, decent pace, big field) reasons to be hopeful.

Elsewhere, Henry Candy has an excellent record when teaming up with Harry Bentley (11/31, +18.49) in the last two years, and they try with the filly, Chain Of Daisies. She looks like she might get a softish lead, and may find this more straightforward than the Group 2 Musidora she contested last time. The shorter straight here than at York is in her favour making 16/1 attractive about a filly with a verdict over Ulysses in her back catalogue (same ground and distance, Group 3).

Good luck!

Matt

Monday Musings: Fine Margins and the Royal Regatta

What is the relevance of the following succession: neck, head, nose, short head and neck? No they are not a new variant on the heads, shoulders, knees and toes kiddies rhyme, although they would comfortably fit the meter of the song, normally sung to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down, writes Tony Stafford. They are race distances which added together barely stretch to a single length.

These narrow margins offer unarguable evidence of the toughness and talent of the Karl Burke-trained, John Dance-owned, P J McDonald-ridden Laurens.  They were achieved successively in one maiden race (on debut); one Group 2 and three Group 1’s, the latter trio encompassing the Fillies Mile (last October) and then the Prix Saint-Alary and yesterday’s Prix de Diane, her first Classic.

When she didn’t win, second time out as a juvenile at Deauville, and behind the Richard Hannon longshot Billesdon Brook in the 1,000 Guineas on her 2018 reappearance, the margin of defeat was also uniform, one and three-quarter lengths each time.

Maybe the fact of five tight photo-finishes has kept us from celebrating her class until now. There were distinct impressions for instance that if she met her nose Fillies Mile victim, the strong-finishing September, again, she would struggle to replicate the performance, but while September has been off the track since her Breeders’ Cup third at Del Mar in November, Laurens has continued to thrive.

At Chantilly yesterday, race commentator Patrick Faraday (or is it Ferraday, I can never quite catch the name accurately, so sorry Pat) gave emotional gloss to the drama as he talked of a “host of challengers” as they neared the finish. His additional information, after she crossed the line, must have given a jolt to one former jockey who until George Baker’s career-ending injury in San Moritz last year, acted as his driver. No Patrick it was P J, not Frankie McDonald, but happy soul Frankie would have enjoyed the mention.  Again there was a late flourish from the Andre Fabre-Godolphin runner, Musis Amica, coming from last into second, but we won’t be fooled this time.

Who is John Dance? We ought to know as in 2017 he ran 34 individual horses on the Flat and already this year 24 have carried his predominately white colours. These are (or were until sold in a couple of cases) spread among nine trainers with Burke ‘s Spigot Lodge in Middleham housing eight, the most. They are all based in the north apart from one, so far unsuccessful, with Hugo Palmer.

Mr Dance is the proprietor of Salcey Forest Stud, in the centre of Forestry Commission land ten miles from Northampton and he added to that breeding involvement by acquiring Robert Barnett’s Fair Winter Farm in Buckinghamshire last October.

When that purchase was announced, reflecting the history of the place based on the family’s Time Charter line, Mr Dance was already anticipating having Laurens as his own foundation mare, calling her a Classic prospect for 2018. That prediction looks pretty smart eight months down the line.

Will Edmeades, who looked after the Barnett breeding interests in Buckinghamshire, has returned to his former base in Newmarket, no doubt leaving Dance to undergo another demanding activity, staving off the bids which are sure to come from the biggest breeding operations around the world.

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It would be nice to think that he will be as resolute in resisting them as his daughter of Siyouni, one of the most promising young French stallions, has been during her racing career. One of the friends of Salcey Farms Stud’s web page was congratulating herself last night for having “backed her for the Arc before her latest win”. I’m not surprised.

Trainer and owner have already shown admirable enterprise in her programme, never flinching from the next challenge however daunting, so I fully expect to see her back at Parislongchamp – great name for a racecourse! – on the first Sunday in October. Maybe Happily, one of the foiled “host”, barely half a length back in fourth after a far less smooth run than the winner’s, will be there but the O’Brien filly  has been generally frustrating so far this year.

Aiden will have his usual blanket coverage at Royal Ascot this week when there is little doubt that victory for Order of St George will be among the principal aims. There will be no Big Orange to foil his delayed quest for a second victory in the race unlike last year but the quirky Frenchman Vazirabad and John Gosden’s Stradivarius pose obvious challenges.

Royal Ascot always represents the mid-point of the Flat racing year, with car park activity before and after racing celebrating the approach of the year’s longest day. I hope to take up invitations to Jamie Osborne (“Tuesday or Friday, usual spot”) and Brian Meehan (Wednesday), same location, but it all gets a bit hectic. I wonder how I ever got on when I had to write about it, do the tips for every race and bet on all of them – not always the ones I’d selected for the Daily Telegraph readers either?

I enjoyed a ride in Jamie’s gallops car in Lambourn last week, marvelling at his ability to travel up a dirt road at above 30 mph, anticipating and accommodating the regular speed bumps and still keeping the five horses in the work sufficiently in his camera phone screen for me to receive a What’s App recording immediately afterwards.

Raymond Tooth was encouraged by the representation of the display of his home-bred Pour Moi colt, Waterproof (ex Laughing Water), and this first foal might have a bit of a future. On one hand Pour Moi has been swiftly re-branded as a jumps stallion at Coolmore’s NH division: on the other, he was sire of the 2017 Derby winner Wings of Eagles, so clearly he can get a good one given the right ingredients of nature and nurture.

Saturday night was interesting. I’ve never been to Fontwell for a race starting at 8.55 p.m. but that was the assignment of Ray’s lightly-raced Starcrossed in a handicap hurdle stretching up to nearly two and a half miles for the first time.

Compared to the much more experienced and improving staying mare Rebel Yeats, he clearly has plenty to learn as a quite serious mistake at the third flight showed. That meant the gelding and Harry Skelton (who had ridden the two previous winners) forfeited first run to the 10lb claimer-ridden winner, but Starcrossed stayed on resolutely up the hill to get within a length and a half.

Dan Skelton reported him in great shape on Sunday morning and will no doubt be scouring the final days of Volume 2 of the Programme Book 2018 for a quick return. More realistically, he might wait until early next month to find the winning opportunity he strongly anticipates for the Cape Cross six-year-old, bought cheaply on Steve Gilbey’s inspired hunch at Newmarket sales in October 2016 and already a novice hurdle winner at Huntingdon on the second of just four runs.

So enjoy Ascot, whether you are there in person or watching on the box. One normal regular attendee of my acquaintance is staying away in favour of blanket home absorption of all things World Cup. Hope he’s been laying the short ones! [No comment! – Ed.]

 

Stat of the Day, 18th June 2018

Saturday's Pick was...

8.40 Leicester : Esspeegee @ 10/3 BOG 7th at 5/1 (Took keen hold, held up tracking leaders on inside, pushed along over 4f out, hung right 2f out, weakened over 1f out)

We start the new week via Monday's...

4.45 Ayr :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Wor Lass @ 7/2 BOG

A 10-runner, Class 5 Flat Handicap for 4yo+ over 1m5f on Good To Firm ground worth £3752 to the winner... 

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Why?

This 10 yr old mare won back to back handicaps in August & September 2016 off marks of 69 and then a career-best 75 before a further 6lb hike after the second win gave her an Official Rating in the 80's. Sadly, she wasn't (and still isn't) an 80+ rated horse and this manifested itself in a string of 16 defeats, mainly off marks of the mid 70's and higher before finally getting back to winning ways last time out at Musselburgh 16 days ago.

In fairness, since dropping down the weights, she has looked revitalised this season, finishing as a runner-up at Carlisle in May when only headed inside the final furlong over 2m1f despite needing a run after a 217 day absence, before dropping back in trip by 3f for that LTO Musselburgh win 12 days later, defying a step up in class to Class 4.

She's admittedly up 2lbs to a mark of 72 (and I'd not want her much higher than this), but she does drop back a furlong and is back down at Class 5, so this mark should still be within her grasp today, especially based on past performances, where she has...

  • 10 wins & 11 places from 46 in handicaps
  • 7 wins & 8 places from 37 going left handed
  • 9 wins & 5 places from 32 in the months of June to August
  • 6 wins & 5 places from 20 runs in Scotland
  • 4 wins & 5 places from 17 at Class 5
  • 7 wins and 2 places from 14 at odds of 4/1 and shorter
  • 3 wins & 3 places from 9 runs here at Ayr
  • 3 wins & 1 place from 5 at 1m5f
  • 3 wins & 1 place from 5 over course and distance
  • and 2 wins from 3 under today's jockey Rachel Richardson.

Now, it's fair to say that trainer Donald Whillans hasn't really got the best out of her just yet, but I don't believe that's anything he's done wrong himself. Most of this mare's defeats have been down to her running in contests she was simply carrying too much weight to win. It should be noted that three other trainers have also failed to get her to win off a mark higher than 75 in the past.

That said, this mare loves it here at Ayr as shown above and Donald's own record here isn't too shabby either with 10 winners from 50 (20% SR) since the start of the 2012 campaign yielding 187pts profit at a tremendous ROI of 374% with his handicappers winning 9 of 38 923.7%) for 167.6pts (+441.1%) including...

  • 8 from 30 (26.7%) for 31.5pts (+105%) after a break of 16-75 days
  • 8 from 20 (40%) for 41.5pts (+207.5%) at odds of 7/4 to 9/1
  • 5 from 20 (25%) for 22pts (+110%) in races worth less than £4,000 to the winner
  • and 3 from 13 (23.1%) for 13.4pts (+103%) at Class 5...

...whilst those priced at 7/4 to 9/1 competing for less than £4k after a break of 16 to 75 days are 5 from 11 (45.5% SR) for 31pts (+281.8% ROI) with Class 5 runners winning 3 of 7 (42.9%) for 19.4pts (+277%)...

...pointing to...a 1pt win bet on Wor Lass @ 7/2 BOGwhich was on offer from Bet365, BetVictor & SunBets at 6.30pm on Sunday evening. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.45 Ayr

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 11th to 16th June 2018

6 picks, of which 1 was a non-runner and the other five lost could quite easily be seen as disappointing by many people.

Personally, I was more frustrated than disappointed, as any of the first three picks of the week could (and some would argue should!) have won their respective contests. Add in Thursday's non-runner, which I felt was my strongest pick of the six and you end up with a 5pt loss from what could actually have been a very good week.

That above, admittedly is all built on supposition rather than proven facts, and as we're only in the business of facts, the bottom line is a total loss on the week, This dents both June's and 2018's figures a little, but the year has still been good and I'm still expecting to declare a profit for June.

Selections & Results : 11/06/18 to 16/06/18

11/06 : Roundabout Magic @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 10/3
12/06: Fanfair @ 4/1 BOG 2nd at 4/1
13/06 : Danzay @ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 5/2
14/06 : Glencadam Master @ 3/1 BOG non-runner
15/06 : Indian Temple @ 5/2 BOG 6th at 15/8
16/06 : Esspeegee @ 10/3 BOG 7th at 5/1

11/06/18 to 16/06/18 :
0 winning bets from 5 = 0.00% SR
P/L: -5.00pts

June 2018 :
3 winners from 12 = 25.00% SR
P/L: -0.60pts
ROI = -5.00%

2018 to date :
34 winners from 130 = 26.15% SR
P/L: +28.31pts
ROI = +21.78%

Overall:
557 winners from 2015 = 27.64% S.R
P/L: +516.10pts
ROI: +25.61%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is here.

Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are now available here.

Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here

And here is the full story from 2017.

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take your £1, 30-day trial right now?

Click here for more details.

Royal Ascot 2018: Course Overview and Draw Bias

Royal Ascot 2018 will be the best domestic flat race meeting of the year. It will also be among the hardest from which to derive a betting profit. Personally, it doesn't play to my strengths - too many unexposed 'could be anything' types - but I don't suppose that will stop me getting involved..!

What does play to my strengths is to have a game plan: this is a five day meeting comprised of thirty races, so let's know what we can know about the course and any nuances or biases it may have.

Ascot Course Characteristics

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Uphill

The above graphic illustrates the stiff test that Ascot's track presents, with the red triangle just past the winning post signifying the highest point on the course. Thus there is an uphill drag almost the whole way up the straight. On the round course, the lowest point is at the round mile (Old Mile) start, meaning that distance is also almost entirely uphill.

For longer races on the round course, which is actually closer to being triangular than round, there is some early respite in the loop prior to the long climb for glory.

Tight bend

It is also worth noting that the bend into the home straight for round course races is tight and, being situated just two and a half furlongs from the finish, can cause trouble in running with horses either locked in a pocket or having to fan very wide into the straight to find daylight.

For round course races, then, it is often advantageous to be on or close to the pace: here, a horse and rider will have no traffic problems and, if the fuel has been burned proportionately, can slingshot into the straight and prove very hard to peg back.

 

Ascot Draw / Pace Bias

There may then be a pace bias on the round course, but what of the straight track? Races here are run at five, six, seven and eight furlongs, many of them big field handicaps or Group race sprints.

Ascot 5f Draw

The below chart shows place percentages for big field five furlong races since 2009, based on actual draw (i.e. after non-runners have been accounted for).

If there is any bias, it may be slightly to high numbers; but the reality is that it is more likely where the pace lies.

 

Ascot 5f Pace

Horses racing from the front in big fields down Ascot's five furlong straight have fared best, as can be seen below:

The coloured blobs tell us that horses which led (or were very close to the pace, e.g. "pressed leader") in big field fast ground five furlong races at Ascot won eight races from 76 to adopt such a run style. That's a little over 10%, and was worth a profit at starting price of £35.50 to a £1 level stake. All other run styles were loss-making with win strike rates of around half that of early leaders.

That is not to say it is always easy to identify the early speed, nor that a one-in-ten hit rate will be plain sailing; but it is worth knowing that pace bias looks a little stronger than draw bias at the minimum on fast ground and in big fields.

 

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Ascot 6f Draw

It's a similar story over six furlongs. If there is a stalls position bias, it might be slightly against low drawn horses, with middle to high hitting the frame slightly more often as can be seen from this chart:

There is not a great deal in it, and this may be no more than the fact that a number of the big field races see the field congregate in the middle of the track thus conveying a 'distance travelled' advantage on those which have not had to steer themselves to that location.

Ascot 6f Pace

Front runners have the best of it again over six furlongs, as demonstrated in the below, but they are not the only favourable running style.

Early leaders are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to prevail than average, with the next best group being those held up, presumably when the early gallop is a scorcher. Those racing close to the pace have managed just two victories from 142 runners.

As at the minimum trip, it looks as though there could be more of an advantage to possess early speed than to be berthed in position x or y in the stalls.

 

Ascot 7f Draw / Pace

Low numbers have again won least often in big field fast ground races over this trip, but their place numbers are comparable to the other two thirds of the draw. But, from a pace perspective, a different story emerges.

It is a long way home in a big field cavalry charge up a stiff straight seven furlongs, and those waited with have fared clear best.

 

As can be seen, it's very difficult to lead all the way at this trip, and the midfield to back rank emerge late on to steal most of the spoils. Those help up win most often, but you'll need to know more than that to make it pay!

 

Ascot Straight Mile Pace / Draw

In fuller fields on the straight mile course, close to a wing has been better than up the middle:

The pastel chart lines show that, while generally higher is marginally preferred, in the context of the likely race conditions for, e.g. the Royal Hunt Cup, either flank may be favoured (blue FILTERED line).

From a pace perspective, there is no dominant running style, though it is fair to say that close to - but not on - the speed has been disadvantageous. The place percentages, especially, for held up horses suggest that may be where generally to focus.

 

Summary / Takeaways

As with all tracks, it is a very solid starting point to know about the constitution of the course and any general principles which may assist. Our course pages, including this one for Ascot, may help in that regard.

Based on the above, we know that in spite of the stiff finish, pace pressers win twice as often as might be expected (IV) compared to those ridden further back in five and six furlong sprints. We also know that it becomes much harder to hold on to the lead at seven furlongs and a mile, and that it may be preferable to be drawn closer to one rail or other in big field straight mile races, particularly if you like a hold up type.

On the round course, being handy will keep a horse out of the trouble which often manifests due to the fairly tight turn into the home straight and the relatively short run in.

None of the above will help you find a winner by itself, but it may steer you generally in the right direction. Naturally, Geegeez Gold has many more tools to assist the elimination process. Good luck!

Matt

Syndicate Opportunity: Very exciting 3yo filly almost ready to go

Lovely unraced Black Type 3yo Getaway filly ready to run in the autumn.

Lovely unraced Black Type 3yo Getaway filly ready to run in the autumn.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, while the big summer flat festivals are playing out, this is also the time when the jumps boys are readying their more precocious youngsters ahead of the season proper in the autumn.

Anthony Honeyball, whose yard geegeez.co.uk sponsors, has sourced this little (actually, not so little) cracker for us, and I have a few shares still remaining. Full details are below.

 

HER PEDIGREE

Getaway, the stallion, needs little introduction – he’s very fashionable and is responsible for rising stars like Getaway Katie Mai, Jetez, Return Ticket, and of course Getabird.

The dam, Chicago Vic, will be less familiar to you though she performed to a consistently high level. A winner of five hurdle races and a chase, she was also 3rd in a G3 novice hurdle, 2nd of 24 in a Punchestown Festival G3, 2nd of 15 and 2nd of 16 in Listed chases, and 3rd in each of a Grade 2 and Grade 3 chase. She won or was Graded placed on all ground – literally from heavy to firm – and over distances from two miles to three miles, and obviously in hurdles and chases (2nd of 16 in a National Hunt Flat race too). Basically, she was an extremely versatile, tough and talented mare, rated 130 or so. Here’s the link to her full form profile: https://www.racingpost.com/profile/horse/584376/chicago-vic/form

As you can see from the pedigree sheet below, there is plenty of black type on her page, and her half-sister has won her last two completed point-to-points (the run before that she was 2nd to a horse that sold for £60k and subsequently ran 3rd in a Tipperary bumper on Rules debut).

This mare is a big unit, and we’re obviously hoping she has an engine to match. She was given, and fully passed, a five stage vetting before purchase.

 

CURRENT WORK [VIDEOS]

But she’s off the page now and in the flesh. To that end, here are a couple of video links of her taking her first educational steps towards being a racehorse:

Ridden at the yard for the first time: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7e8ri17m34v7orv/VID-20180609-WA0003.mp4?dl=0

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Ridden around the roads for the first time: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kqimwdmjphtci53/VID-20180613-WA0003.mp4?dl=0

She’ll be given a quiet canter by the end of next week, and is going along really well – “great” as her trainer described her progress to date.

 

THE PLAN

The plan is to bring her straight into light training for four to six weeks before allowing her time in the paddocks to grow, both physically and mentally.

Thereafter, she'll be brought back in around August and trained with a view to running in a mares' junior bumper in October/November and, if showing enough ability, will be targeted at the Listed Junior Bumper at Cheltenham on New Years' Day.

 

HER TRAINER

Anthony's winners-to-runners ratio was the 2nd best in the country

Anthony's winners-to-runners ratio was the 2nd best in the country last season (25+ individual runners)

Anthony Honeyball trains in Mosterton, a village on the Dorset / Somerset border, in southwest England. He has quietly made a name for himself as one of the best trainers in the country, from very limited opportunities. Indeed, last season, only Nicky Henderson had a (marginally) higher winners-to-runners strike rate than Anthony of those trainers with a meaningful number of individual runners. See image to the right.

The coming season promises to be a breakout one for Anthony, with some high quality young stock and some proven older horses, many of which still look fairly handicapped.

Importantly, Anthony is also a very nice chap, and always has time for his owners.

 

THE SYNDICATE

Still unnamed (you'll have the chance to name her), she is being syndicated into ten shares at £2,500, plus £200/month thereafter. She was a bit of a gamble from the field when we bought her, but has pleased Anthony in everything she’s done so far. She seems a lovely forward type, as you can see from the videos above, and we’d be hopeful she’ll be racing before the end of October. She has also been insured.

I’m keen to fill out the syndicate in June, so please do let me know ASAP - my email is here.

 

Here is the pedigree page:

Black type all over the page marks this filly out as well bred

Black type all over the page marks this filly out as well bred

How I’m Betting The 2018 World Cup

I love horse racing. I love football. I bet on both to win, but I use a lot more data to support wagering decisions on racing than I do on footy. Natch. So the following World Cup 2018 thoughts come with an even bigger wealth warning than usual... caveat emptor, amigos. With that said, and if you see any point in reading further, here are some of the things that interest me in the upcoming tournie.

OUTRIGHT

Whilst I can see a few minor shocks in the group phase, I'd expect a familiar look to the last 16, which in turn means a familiar look to the quarters and semi-finals. Where there is scope for upset, in my opinion, is in who will top certain groups. That obviously impacts last 16 games and could make for some very hot encounters some way from the final!

In particular, I'm thinking that if the - granted, extremely mercurial - Croatian crowd get it together, they could beat an out of sorts Argentina and top the group. That would likely lead to Messi's mob mixing it with a swashbuckling French unit in the first knockout stage. Keep in mind that Croatia beat Spain in the Euro's, and pummeled Portugal without scoring (17 shots to 3, 60% possession) before losing massively against the run of play late in extra time.

I think France have a solid chance but not one missed by anybody. Indeed, as you'd expect, the market has a full nelson grip on prices with value looking in scant supply. In the end, I've wound up back where I started, with Brazil. True, they're in the tougher half of the draw: they ought to top their group comfortably, and may then face Mexico as the second placed team in Germany's group. But if the Germans under-perform, as they have been recently, it'll be Brazil-Germany in the last 16 match!

That's a risk, but it should be Brazil-Mexico, which ought to be a cracker, before a quarter-final clash with either England or, more likely, Belgium. The Samba chaps should dance past either of that pair - I really don't fancy the Belgians when it comes to the big stage, they seem to have inherited the Dutch mindset for all their undoubted technical riches.

France or Uruguay, on my prediction chart at least, will be tough in the semi-final, but by this point I'll be getting out for a free bet.

In the other half of the draw, Spain should prevail in what might be a pretty dull group; and Germany do look to have a relatively serene passage to the semi's... if they can top the group. Croatia are a dangerous floater if topping their group ahead of Argentina, and look a possible back-to-lay at 40/1 if you can see them getting a result against their more feted group rivals.

I think Brazil would be favourites against either Germany or Spain at this point so, while that can certainly change between now and then, I'm not inclined to save on either of those.

I'm backing: BRAZIL at 9/2 (will try to lay half stake back after group stage at around 7/2, and the other half before the semi-final at around 2/1 hopefully)

Croatia are a back-to-lay also. They probably need to top their group to make this pay, and I think they can do that.

 

TOP SCORER

There look to be some ringers at the top of the market here, which potentially makes for value down the lists. The last five winners have been Rodriguez (150/1), Muller (100/1), Klose (25/1), Ronaldo (16/1), and Suker (33/1). Good luck if you like Messi at 10/1! The trick, of course, is being smart or lucky enough to land on the right value play.

Most of the goals wil be scored in the group phase, which counts Spanish players out for me. Apart from believing they'll share their product between the likes of Costa, Silva, Isco and so on, I think they'll fight out dull affairs with Portugal and Morocco, either side of a chance to score a few against Iran. Add in the fact that defender Ramos may be on penalty duty and Spain is off this menu.

So too is Brazil, though I do see them scoring more goals in the group phase, and Neymar is likely to be on penalty duty. But he'll have to share the strikes with Jesus, Coutinho, and Paulinho amongst others: it will depend on how unselfish some of these lads decide to be.

Messi has failed to fire in the big tournaments in spite of a laughable award of the Golden Ball at the last World Cup. This does not look a vintage squad for the South Americans, and he is easily opposed, by me at least.

Likewise, Ronaldo for Portugal, who Greece'd their way to the Euro prize, riding their luck - as alluded to above - along the way. Ronnie has been the best player on the planet for a long time - even if you think Messi is, you have to have this guy number two, and vice versa - but his qualification tally of 15 was heavily weighted by four against the Faroe Islands and five against Andorra. Portugal are in that "Group of Dull", and Andre Silva might be the better bet at around 5/1 to be team top scorer.

Griezmann makes most appeal of the names at the top, but he too may have plenty of competition from teammates. I like his deep-lying pacey style and think he could be the player of the tournament if France progress. But 12/1 is not what I'm looking for in a wide open contest.

No, I'm looking for a proven goalscorer and/or a player who, like Griezmann, has generally been considered a support or deep-lying forward. The former just score goals, the latter are pretty hard to mark and can go unnoticed by defenders focused on the main name player. Each of those big priced Golden Boot winners above wore one of these two slippers, the last pair fitting the latter mould snugly and at VERY BIG prices.

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The first guy I want is a proven goal machine in a team that score bundles of goals... but also concede bundles. That's Robert Lewandowski at 33/1. Poland are in a group with Colombia, Japan and Senegal from which they're odds on to progress; so, while they may lose to either Belgium or England in the last 16, the big front man could have five on the board by full time in that fourth game. He's a certain starter, scored 16 in qualifying - the most in Europe, and he will take penalties.

In the stab in the dark camp are the following: Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, James Rodriguez

The first pair are in the same team, Croatia, which presents challenges already. But the big unit up top is an excellent target, and the incisive left-sided brilliance of Perisic puts him on the fringes of player of the tournament territory if his team go far. It's a big if, but then 150/1 (win only, 100/1 e/w) Mandzukic and 150/1 e/w Perisic are big prices. As you'll have gathered by now, I'm looking to Croatia to have a big tournament. They will be one of the best teams to watch if they can get it together. That's another big: IF.

Rodriguez is the reigning Golden Boot after his 150/1 shock at the last World Cup, and he may again be on the premises. There is precedent for this, with Thomas Muller winning in 2010 at 100/1 before finishing second in 2014 at 33's. James, pronounced Ham-ez don't forget, is 66/1. Which is a tasty price about a tasty player who might just score some tasty goals. Check out his 2014 showreel, which includes a penalty, a header, a solo run with a dinked finish, a left foot tap in, a right foot tap in, and the Goal of the Tournament. (Remember, Messi won player of the tournament? I'm calling bullsh*t on that one!!)

I'm backing: Robert Lewandowski (33/1 with Hills, bet £10 get £5 free bet each time he scores), James Rodriguez (66/1 general), Mario Mandzukic (25% win at 150/1 888sport, 75% e/w 100/1 Coral), and Ivan Perisic (20% at 250 Betfair Exchange, 80% place only 40/1 Unibet)

 

GROUP BETTING

I'm taking a few positions on the spreads as well. If that means nothing, fair enough, but I'm not going to explain it here today, I'm afraid! [I will add this, though: spread betting can be extremely volatile, so please don't follow me in if you don't know how they work. It will very likely end in tears!!]

I'm looking at the following:

Tournament Goals

Sell England at 7.75 - We have problems breaking down poor teams, and problems matching good teams for skill. If we score early against either Panama or Tunisia, this position will be under threat. But the longer those games go on goalless, the more insipid/desperate I expect us to look. Sigh.

Buy Poland at 5.25 - Clearly related to my Lewandowski position, I'm banking on the Poles hitting the onion bag a good bit in the group. Hopefully they'll nab a couple against Senegal in what could be a high scoring, blood-and-thunder sort of group opener, before closing out against a Japan side who may already be eliminated at that point. There won't be too many Japanese defenders that can live with Lewandowski's height, although they do have the rock solid Saints defender, Yoshida, to mark him.

 

TEAM GOALSCORER ACCA's

A(n expensive) bit of fun more than anything, I'm going to be rolling some team scorers up in ABC combo's.

That basically means playing them in weighted combinations with more staked on the more likely outcomes, and not all permutations covered.

They're fivefolds, so plenty of scope for a sob story with no escape! Equally, there is scope to hedge if the bet emerges from the group stage in reasonable shape.

This is comprised of the following teams, players and approximate odds (have to place different bets with different books to optimize the available prices):

R1: BRAZIL - A 1 Neymar 5/4, 2 Jesus 5/2, C 3 Paulinho 10/1
R2: POLAND - A 1 Lewandowski 8/13, C 2 Milik 7/1
R3: CROATIA - A 1 Mandzukic 11/4, 2 Perisic 4/1
R4: PORTUGAL - A Ronaldo 8/13, B Andre Silva 5/1
R5: FRANCE - A Griezmann 6/4, B Mbappe 5/1, C Giroud 5/1, Dembele 14/1, Pogba 14/1

The worst case return is the £10 acca on ticket 1, which would come to around £585 (£135 staked). There are plenty of outcomes where the return is north of £1,500 and, importantly, there will be loads to cheer throughout the group stage and beyond.

Obviously, you could do this for smaller stakes - example £13.50 would give you £1 acca's on ticket 1, 50p acca's on tickets 2 and 3, and 25p acca's on tickets 4-7. Still plenty of interest, and still a chance of a return between £60 and £200.

**

FINAL THOUGHTS

As you can see, I'm getting stuck into the World Cup, with my wagering focused on a few mildly contrarian opinions. If I'm wrong, I'll do most, or all, of it in; but if I am right about any of those opinions it should at least cover what will end up being a fairly significant outlay.

Here's to a belting tournament...

Matt

p.s. what are your best bets for World Cup 2018, and why? Leave a comment and share all.

p.p.s. don't forget this post, which contains the best 'all customers' bookmaker offers at World Cup 2018

Best World Cup 2018 Bookie Offers

Here at geegeez.co.uk, we promote bookmakers very little these days. Where we do, it is because the offer is a very attractive one for the customer, and it is almost always an offer that applies to existing customers as well as new ones. We also tend to promote companies who 'welcome winners', i.e. who essentially offer markets for buyers and sellers (exchanges and pool betting firms).

The table below contains no affiliate links. In fact, it contains no links at all. That means geegeez.co.uk gains nothing by sharing these offers with you. You are reminded to check the terms and conditions of any offer you might plump for.

With that said, these are all ways to play up a small interest in the tournament. If you know of other 'all customer' offers from reputable bookmakers please leave a comment below, and I'll add them to the table.

You may sort the table by any column heading, and filter by typing into the 'Search' box top right. For instance, if you want to know the bet365 offers, type 'bet365' into the box. If you want only outright offers, type 'outright' into the box, and so on. Good luck! Matt

MarketSub MarketBookieOffer
OutrightWinnerbet365Money back if your team is eliminated on penalties
OutrightWinnerskybetMoney back as a free bet if/when your team is knocked out (£10 max)
OutrightWinnerHillsBet £10, get £5 free bet for every win your team achieves
OutrightWinnerunibetBet £10, get £2 free bet for every win your team achieves (£5 if you back a team with no chance!)
OutrightWinner888sportBet £20, get £1 free bet for every goal your team scores
OutrightTop ScorerHillsBet £10, get £5 free bet for every goal your guy scores
OutrightTop ScorerPaddyBet £10, get £2 free bet for every goal your guy scores
Matches90 Minutesbet365Bets settled as a winner if your team goes 2 goals ahead
Matches90 MinutesPaddyBets settled as a winner if your team goes 2 goals ahead
Matches1st/Last Scorerbet365Money back if match ends 0-0
Matches1st/Last Scorerbet365Each way 1/3 odds on 1st scorer market for player to score at any time (90 mins)
MatchesCorrect Scorebet365Money back if match ends 0-0

 

Monday Musings: If it wasn’t for bad Luck…

Nick Luck on Sunday should be required viewing every week on Racing UK, writes Tony Stafford. This Sunday the show conveniently wrapped around racing from Hong Kong featuring Graham Cunningham who seems to have settled seamlessly into the racing there after a long career on this side of the pond, in more recent years as a regular on the channel.

In my case, disciplined as ever, I usually miss most of it. Yesterday the first segment included Hugo Palmer, who according to his stable jockey Josephine Gordon, also on the show before her dash to Goodwood, had to attend a party so left precipitously. I didn’t begin watching until after Hugo’s departure unfortunately.

That left Luck, soon, believe it or believe it not, to attain the unimaginable age of 40 with Gordon, tipster Maddy Playle and Hughie Morrison, with emphasis on the last-named’s trials and tribulations with the BHA courtesy the Wolverhampton steroids case.

As both interviewer and interviewee readily attested, the affair could easily have ended with Morrison’s losing his licence under the “strict liability” rule even though almost nobody believed the trainer likely to have been in any way involved in wrong doing.

Morrison believes it was his previously unblemished disciplinary record and the access to (if not ownership of) the excessive funds needed to challenge the BHA’s in his mind dilatory approach to the making available of evidence that ended with a satisfactory if expensive outcome on his part.

He talked about “£5,000 to send a letter and £25,000 to arrange a meeting with a barrister and the BHA”, figures which would take the cost of possible justice “far beyond the reach of most trainers”. Far beyond reason if you ask me.

Hughie, who trains three horses for my boss Raymond Tooth, also readily attested that few owners expect to make anything like a profit from their horses but that they should expect to be treated much better on the racecourse than was previously the case. He says, though, that the situation is improving at a number of courses.

Morrison cited the new facilities for owners at Cheltenham and Newbury – both top notch – but could easily have included Ascot and York at the upper end as similarly exemplary. I was at Haydock on Wednesday and that course provides another enjoyable experience for owners, but the five and a half hour trek back down the 50mph limit blighted M6 was less tolerable.

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That was after a disappointing sixth place for Raymond’s and his partners Dilip Sharma and Shahpur Siddiqui’s Laxmi in a fillies’ maiden race over six furlongs. Harry Bentley reported afterwards that she found the going too firm and the trip too short and the fact she did rally late on after getting outpaced seemed to support that opinion.

Laxmi could have run in any number of different types of two-year-old races, being an auction buy (£42,000), and also a product of a stallion (War Command) whose progeny qualify for mid-range median auction races, as well as the now ubiquitous novice contests.

The same cannot be said of all juveniles. In the old days, most races for two-year-olds at this stage of the season were either maidens or winners’ races. This year, the BHA’s race planning division – you know that part of the executive which scheduled afternoon meetings on Saturday at Haydock, Beverley, Catterick and Musselburgh to make it simple for northern trainers and racegoers – have thrown the programme into almost total reverse with previous winners being allowed into most races, both for two and three-year-olds.

Hughie Morrison was more concerned with the older division, complaining that inexperienced, later-developing maidens in their early days are habitually confronted by pattern-class horses totally schooled in racing. He reckoned most novice races for three-year-olds now go to previous winners. He implied that all this is doing is offering additional easy pickings for the most powerful stables – step forward Mr Gosden, and he does!

As an attempt to try to put myself into a trainer’s place, I had a look at the 57 two-year-old races over six furlongs in Volume 2 of the Programme Book for 2018. In order of availability there were 21 novice races, 12 novice auction, nine novice fillies’, five maidens, three each novice median auction and novice filly auction, two for maiden fillies (including Haydock last week) and one each median auction maiden and median auction fillies’ maiden.

The five maiden races were interesting. The first is at York this weekend, a Class 3 that carries a £15,000 prize fund and will therefore be very hard to win. The others are at Brighton, Windsor, with two (in a course series) at Hamilton. In all only nine are confined for maidens out of the 57. For home-breds that didn’t go through a sale to secure a mark for auction races, their opportunities are also limited, in my opinion unnecessarily so.

**

A few weeks ago I rather unfortunately chose Jeremy Noseda as an example of a small-to-medium size trainer who habitually takes on the big stables with excellent hopes of success. I was pointing to his forthcoming proposed challenge with the high-class, Phoenix Thoroughbreds-owned Gronkowski for the Kentucky Derby, even though news had come out the previous week that his colt had suffered a setback and would miss the race. I missed the news! It needed the better-informed resources of the Editor to prevent total embarrassment in this quarter. For Noseda it could hardly have gone worse in the interim.

Subsequently Phoenix, presumably in a pique that the Derby challenge was off, removed all their horses, including Gronkowski (three for three this year) and Walk in the Sun (two for two), along with 12 others. The latter has joined Martyn Meade, while the useful Lansky has gone to Robert Cowell.

It must have been galling for Noseda to read in the build up to Saturday’s Belmont Stakes from new trainer Chad Brown that Gronkowski came to him in wonderful condition. But that would have been nothing compared to his feelings after Gronkowski came from a long way back on his delayed US debut to get nearest to Justify as that brilliant colt gave Bob Baffert a second Triple Crown in three years following American Pharoah in 2016.

After some quiet times it seemed that 2018 would herald a major revival in Noseda’s fortunes. Understandably, following the removal of pretty much all of his best and certainly most expensive horses, his yard seems almost to have ceased operations with no runner since the unplaced Laughing Stranger at Newmarket on May 17. One can only hope that a mid to late summer surge will be forthcoming.

Stat of the Day, 11th June 2018

Saturday's Pick was...

3.15 Beverley : No Lippy @ 11/4 BOG 7th at 3/1 (Chased leaders switched left 2f out, ridden and went 2nd over 1f out, wandered inside final furlong, soon weakened)

We continue with Monday's...

4.00 Brighton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

Who?

Roundabout Magic @ 11/4 BOG 

A 5-runner, Class 5 handicap for 4yo+over 5½f on Good to Firm ground worth £3752 to the winner... 

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Why?

This 4 yr old colt has two wins and two places from his last six outings, so he's clearly in good shape and was actually an SotD pick last time out 13 days ago when finishing third over 5f at Lingfield.

He was unlucky that day, beaten by just a head and a neck staying on well at the finish despite being denied a clear run. The extra half furlong should therefore help today, as should a drop in class for this horse who is 5 from 16 when ridden by Nicky Mackay, he has 4 wins in this grade, has won over this trip, has won on good to firm ground and is 1 from 2 here at Brighton, both over course and distance.

In addition to his own suitability for the task ahead, trainer Simon Dow's handicappers dropping in class are 12/80 (15% SR) for 44.7pts (+55.9% ROI) since the start of 2016, including...

  • males at 12/72 (16.9%) for 53.7pts (+75.6%)
  • those last seen 6-15 days earlier are 8/24 (33.3%) for 61.9pts (+258%)
  • those dropping into Class 5 are 5/23 (21.7%) for 4.9pts (+21.2%)

AND...males dropping into Class 5 contests, 6 to 15 days after their last run are 3/4 (75% SR) for 16.64pts (+416% ROI)...

...pointing to...a 1pt win bet on Roundabout Magic @ 11/4 BOGwhich was available from Betfair & Paddy Power at 4.55pm on Sunday with plenty of 5/2 BOG on offer elsewhere. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.00 Brighton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

SotD Update, 4th to 9th June 2018

A decent week for followers of SotD with three of our five runners making the frame and with two of them going on to win at payouts of 3/1, we made a nice 3pt profit on the week.

Much is and has been made about the rise and fall of our fortunes of late, but 2018's figures so far almost mirror the performance we've achieved since we started. The strike rate tends to be constant around 27% and our ROI around 26% and we're currently bang on course to repeat that again this year.

That would mean in a year of say 300 selections, we'd hope to give you around 80 winners and 80pts profit, but whilst those are fantastic figures, we need to remember that even such a good year brings 220 losing bets and we don't know when they'll come! So, when they come in close succession, patience/tolerance is needed.

Selections & Results : 04/06/18 to 09/06/18

04/06 : Global Thrill @ 4/1 BOG non-runner
05/06: Blazed @ 3/1 BOG 8th at 5/2
06/06 : Mischief Managed@ 3/1 BOG 3rd at 11/4
07/06 : Quantatmental @ 11/4 BOG WON at 3/1
08/06 : Oeil De Tigre @ 3/1 BOG WON at 9/4
09/06 : No Lippy @ 11/4 BOG 7th at 3/1

04/06/18 to 09/06/18 :
2 winning bets from 5 = 40.00% SR
P/L: +3.00pts

June 2018 :
3 winners from 7 = 42.86% SR
P/L: +4.40pts
ROI = +62.86%

2018 to date :
34 winners from 125 = 27.20% SR
P/L: +33.31pts
ROI = +26.65%

Overall:
557 winners from 2010 = 27.71% S.R
P/L: +521.10pts
ROI: +25.93%

P.S. The full month by month SotD story can be found right here.
P.P.S The review of SotD's 2012 performance is here.

Whilst the details for 2013 are now online here.
And the figures for 2014 are now available here.

Our review of 2015 can be found right here
Whilst 2016's details are right here

And here is the full story from 2017.

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take your £1, 30-day trial right now?

Click here for more details.

Race of the Day 7th June 2018 (plus new bits)

In today's video presentation, I go through Thursday's 9.20 at Carlisle using pace, draw and form to land on a horse that looks over-priced; and I also reveal a few cool new features which are coming soon...

Watch and listen to the video below!

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