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Social Discourse – Winx Farewell Edition (Monday 15th April)

There were tons of good races over the weekend, but only one horse will be talked about for decades afterwards, so this is the Winx Farewell Edition of Social Discourse.

  1. Winx and you’ll miss her

Here are the numbers. 43 starts. 37 wins. 33 successive wins. Four years unbeaten. 25 group 1 wins, and £14,564,743 in earnings.

Even those astonishing numbers don’t quite do justice to the remarkable story of Winx’s career, which at one point seemed like it would never actually end – but all good things have to come to a close (to steal and paraphrase some words) and her amazing career finally concluded when – for the 33rd time in a row – she rolled through the straight with a customary late turn of foot to take the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

 

48,333 racegoers packed into Randwick, but this mare has captured so many more hearts and minds than that, and for the last time a small army of people woke up in the dead of night or at the crack of dawn to see one of the outstanding horses of the 21st Century.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Legacy

There are many things that make the Winx story special, but after the Lord Mayor’s Show the online debate turned to the great mare’s legacy. There were many strong views on show.

 

 

It’s clear that she has left a deep mark in history – indeed in a modern era where Black Caviar raced less than a decade ago, that Australia has another supermare is absolutely remarkable – and that she’ll be remembered for decades to come, but where does she stand with the on-track ranking?

 

 

 

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One of the features of Winx’s career has been a fierce debate about the value and quality of her opposition and, by extension, middle distance Australian racing. This was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike Black Caviar, she never came to the Northern Hemisphere.

 

Winx does have much less to answer on that score than most Australian horses. Her last Cox Plate win involved a brilliant and easy defeat of Benbatl, a previous Epsom Derby fifth who had a rating of 124 thanks to an impressive win in the Dubai Turf in March 2018, and in one of her Cox Plate victories she also had a certain Highland Reel well beaten in third.

When assessing her on track ability, it should be remembered that there was ample opportunity (and also financial incentive) for top-class European horses to go over to take her on, and only a couple did; but also that she is a fundamentally different horse to the middle distance champions we have been so blessed to enjoy recently, as a versatile horse who possessed a sprinter’s speed in a country where the majority of races are won with a late burst, a completely different style of racing to European racing, where races are hotly run across a number of undulating courses.

Many critique the class of horse that she faced, but being so dominant – and also racing in a country with plenty of Group 1 races – was understandably going to scare off plenty of her opposition, and perhaps her greatest asset is one of her most underrated, her longevity.

 

 

 

Racing until the age of seven – even more a mare – and doing so 43 times is a remarkable achievement and privilege for a horse that was so good and Chris Waller’s choice to extend her career by avoiding some of the other challenges is likely to have benefited Australian racing in the long term too.

 

Whatever one thinks of her form on the track, we know that she has left a huge impression on the history books.

 

  1. Newbury

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that there was a lot of other racing on this weekend from my opening two missives, but we had a packed weekend of racing both on the level and over the jumps. At Newbury, Classic Trials day saw a number of fine performances for the season ahead:

  • Mohaather emerged as a genuine 2000 Guineas contender with a clear-cut success in the Greenham Stakes, showing an impressive turn of foot to get the better of Great Scot, also giving Marcus Tregoning perhaps his best shot at a Classic since Sir Percy.

 

  • Rockfel second Dandhu prevailed in a blanket finish for the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, getting the better of Tom Dascombe’s Iconic Choice, Aidan O’Brien’s So Perfect and Richard Hannon’s Star Terms, having previously looked set to win with something in hand

 

  • Melbourne Cup runner-up Marmelo came home much the best to make a winning return to action in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Stakes, passing Aspetar, Laraaib and Defoe in the last furlong.

 

  • Chatez was rejuvenated for coming back to the flat with a 16/1 success in the Spring Mile, denying The Dominic Ffrench Davis import, Indeed, by a neck and giving jumps trainer Alan King a big flat winner.

 

  1. Scotland

Jumps fans, fear not – the Scottish National is clearly not forgotten in these virtual notes and this year’s renewal saw an upset at Takingrisks won at 25/1 for Nicky Richards, with jockey Sean Quinlan producing a fine sit over the very first fence to keep the partnership intact.

 

This was another recent big win for Richards, the son of two-time Scottish National winner Gordon Richards, who trained the legend Monet’s Garden and went through a rough patch before coaxing plenty of fine performances out of the likes of Simply Ned, Guitar Pete and Baywing.

Travelling well in behind a very strong gallop set by Cogry and Vintage Clouds, he was always moving like a contender and, in the end, stayed on powerfully for a comprehensive win over Eider Chase winner Crosspark with the Trevor Hemmings-owned Cloth Cap in third whilst Big Big River ran a fine race in fifth after losing a lot of ground mid race.

Vintage Clouds was a creditable sixth, having forced the pace very hard from early on.

 

Looking Ahead: It’s only been a week since Tiger Roll won the Grand National but could both these two be headed to Aintree next April? Nicky Richards has already mentioned it for Takingrisks and Crosspark, who is a year younger and would look a natural for the Aintree.

Nicky Richards, trainer of Takingrisks: "I considered running Takingrisks in the race after he won at Carlisle last month as the cheek pieces seemed to improve him a bit. I don't see why he couldn't be an Aintree horse, he jumps and stays, and although he went on this quick ground it was heavy when he won at Carlisle."

 

Also at Ayr….

  • Verdana Blue took advantage of fast ground to rout her Scottish Champion Hurdle rivals, with 7lb claimer Connor Brace taking the biggest victory in his fledgling career

 

  • Secret Investor looked a very smart horse when he provided Paul Nicholls with his seventh win in the Future Champion Novices’ Chase despite bulldozing a number of fences on the way round

  • Azzurri landed a massive week-long gamble to win the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase by nine lengths, going off 5/2 favourite after starting 8/1

 

  1. Meanwhile, around the globe...

Persian King laid a big marker as he outclassed his rivals in the Prix de Fontainebleau at Paris Longchamp, giving Godolphin yet another classic contender

 

  • Magical, last seen pushing Enable to the limit at Churchill Downs in the Breeders’ Cup, was an impressive winner of the Alleged Stakes (once sponsored by geegeez.co.uk - Ed.), beating classic winners Flag Of Honour and Latrobe

 

  • Monarch Of Egypt became a first winner for his sire, American Pharoah, the former US Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner, from his first start, for Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore, with Royal Ascot now on the cards

 

  • Saturnalia maintained his unbeaten record in the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas), winning a thriller from Velox, who got first run in the straight

 

  • Omaha Beach fended off the late charge of Improbable to take the Arkansas Derby, in a result that sealed Kentucky Derby spots for the 1-2-3 (Country House was third)

  • Rushing Fall made a winning debut against older horses when grinding out a very creditable success in the Jenny Wiley Stakes, her fourth success from four starts at Keeneland

  • Delta Prince took his first Grade 1 with a deep rally from last place to win the Grade 1 Maker's 46 Mile Stakes, also at Keeneland

 

Racing is a truly global sport, and I hope this wrap of the week's action sets the tone for various national and international narratives in the weeks and months to come. You'll be able to track the stories right here in your weekly dose of Social Discourse...

- William Kedjanyi

Tony Keenan: Irish Flat Season 2019 Preview

You might have guessed this already but more than anything in horse racing, it is the role of the trainer that fascinates me, writes Tony Keenan. We can wonder about the influence of various factors in trainer success, some of which are very obvious, others of which we will never know; no more than a punter, if a trainer has an edge, they can hardly be expected to comment on it publicly.

(A somewhat random aside: I read recently that Thady Gosden – son of John – had spent some time at the Joseph O'Brien yard and while I appreciate O’Brien Jr. seems a thoroughly decent man, there surely had to be the temptation to either: one, fill him with misinformation to take back to Gosden Senior, or, two, lock him in a darkened stable with a fire and a poker to extract the secrets of what his father does so well. I have never understood this part of racing where one trainer allows a rival, actual or potential, access to their yard. It must be because they’re all lovely people.)

One thing we can do however is look at the broad sweep of success trainers have over a period of time. Below I have put together the records of the top 20 active Irish flat trainers (with one exception, Patrick Prendergast, for reasons that will become apparent) and their turf runners in Ireland over the past decade; Dundalk is not included. It necessarily leaves out some relevant figures – notably Fozzy Stack – but should offer a decent overview of what has happened since 2009.

It deals with winners only which is a pretty blunt instrument but one that most trainers seem to apply as a measure of their own success. A clatter of winners doesn’t always equal success however; Aidan O’Brien had a record-breaking season at home in 2018 but most (including the trainer himself) would have regarded the campaign as a down year if not a failure. Ken Condon had only seven turf winners last year but one of them was Romanised in the 2,000 Guineas so 2018 might even prove the best of his training career. But in the main, winners figures are useful, especially when compared to what went before.

 

That’s a whole lot of numbers right there so the Cliff Notes version is below:

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This does give us a fair overview of what has happened over the last ten years or so, which yards have risen and which have fallen, what rising stars made it and who never got there (hint: it’s very difficult to make it in Irish flat racing). The decline of the veteran pair John Oxx and Kevin Prendergast are patterns that jump out immediately as is the gradual rise of Ger Lyons, while a recent jump from Jessica Harrington and the rapid growth of Joseph O’Brien are also notable.

Atop the table for the decade and every year of it is, of course, Aidan O’Brien. 2018 was represented as a disappointing campaign for Ballydoyle, a mid-season bug impacting a number of horses, his record outside of Ireland significantly worse than previous years and the yard a little thin on stars, relatively speaking (see last season’s flat season review for more on this). But at home, it wasn’t just business as usual but a record-breaking season with 143 winners on the turf, his previous best being 124 in 2013.

From the point-of-view of the other major Irish yards, it was both disappointing and surprising that they weren’t able to exploit this brief chink in the Ballydoyle armour with the likes of Weld, Bolger and Lyons having down seasons to one degree or another. Perhaps his continued success at home, numerically at last, allowed O’Brien to remain quite sanguine about his horses being sick though experience does seem to have brought confidence whereas in times past he may have let it rattle him a little. If anything it was his son who took advantage of any slippage, his win in the Irish Derby standing out, though much of Joseph’s success came in lower grade handicaps with acquisitions from other yards. Aidan can at least console himself that should things ever go belly-up at Ballydoyle, he can have an assistant trainer post on the hill!

It is hard to get away from the belief that 2019 will be another big year for O’Brien, Sr. He has a huge team of horses, the spring has been kind weather-wise and his stars all seem healthy, none of the big guns ruled out yet. His early returns have been good with the likes of Magical, Le Brivido, Flag Of Honour and Sergei Prokofiev running well on seasonal debut.

One of O’Brien’s old rivals in the best races was John Oxx and his 2019 could be one of the most fascinating of all, Patrick Prendergast having come on board as assistant trainer and taken his team of horses with him. Plenty wondered at Prendergast’s motivation for this move, viewing him as a trainer on the up with Oxx the main beneficiary of the new setup. I don’t think it’s as simple as that as the John Oxx name still has some cachet while there is also succession to think about with Oxx aged 68.

It is also important to note that while Prendergast trained his first Group 1 winner in 2018, these successes have proved largely useless in elevating mid-range trainers to a higher plane. There have been numerous examples of Irish trainers winning their first Group 1 race this decade and it doing little or nothing for them in terms of getting more winners or horses in the short-term. Ger Lyons won the 2011 Cheveley Park with Lightening Pearl; he trained 31 winners that year and 24 and 29 the following years. Eddie Lynam won the Nunthorpe with Sole Power in 2010; he had 10 winners that year and 13 and 9 respectively the next two seasons.

It was a similar story with Mick Halford and Jessica Harrington in 2010 as they won Group 1 juvenile races with Casamento and Pathfork and while it could be argued that all those trainers making the top-level breakthrough around that period was awful timing with a view to attracting new owners as they may have cannibalised each other’s opportunities, neither Adrian Keatley nor Ken Condon seem likely to ‘kick on’ from recent Classic victories. Both Lyons and Harrington have gone to another level since those wins but that was because of their broad body of work rather than one win or horse and Prendergast may well have been wise to learn that lesson from recent history.

One thing Oxx may be hoping to get from Prendergast is an edge with juveniles; Oxx has trained only one two-year-old Group winner since 2013 and if there is a single cause for his decline this might be it. His patience, once seen as a virtue, now seems a black mark for prospective owners. Oxx did have a reasonable record with juveniles in the early part of the decade but that dwindled to nought in the last five years with only nine two-year-old winners from 137 runners (6.6% strikerate) between 2014 and 2018; in that period, Prendergast was 21 from 196 (10.7% strikerate).

Last season, with Skitter Scatter playing a big part, Prendergast finished tenth in the trainers’ championship, Oxx only thirty-eighth. Combining their prizemoney would have brought them up to eighth overall. Oxx commented in a recent interview that he felt he had only seven horses that could win a race going into last season (eight won in the end) but combining his and Prendergast’s numbers puts them in a better place for 2019. Oxx ran 35 horses, Prendergast 28, and 63 total horses would have left them just behind the O’Briens, Weld, Bolger, Lyons and Harrington last year. In the same interview, Oxx said they had 75 horses in for the season and while all of them won’t run, they should be significant players.

To conclude, let’s look at a yard or two that might be due some regression, be it positive or negative. One way to do this might be to compare what a trainer did last season versus the broader picture of the last ten years but sometimes that gives a false impression. Using an approach like that, one might think that the likes of Jessica Harrington and Johnny Murtagh are due to drop off now while someone like Mick Halford or Kevin Prendergast will bounce back. The reality is that both Harrington and Murtagh are simply yards on the up, the former in particular having taken a leap seemingly out of nowhere, never having more than 28 winners prior to 2017 but having 40 in each of the past two years.

I do think that strikerate could be informative here is it takes less account of the actual of number of horses in the yard; a trainer might be able to maintain a broadly similar return regardless of how many individual runners they have from season-to-season, allowing that there are outliers now and then. So below are the ten-year strikerates of the top 20 active turf trainers versus what they did last year.

 

 

The majority of the differences are too small to be statistically significant though the numbers for Oxx and Patrick Prendergast are interesting in light of what is discussed above. The one that stands out however is Harry Rogers who had a terrible 2018 but might be about to improve on that this year. Smaller yards like his can be a hostage to fortune and the dry summer of last year hardly suited his horses, many of whom prefer an ease. I must admit to being a bit of a fanboy of this stable as I like how his horses run frequently when they are fit and better days should be ahead.

- Tony Keenan

Monday Musings: Never Say No Nay Never

I happened to call Wesley Ward on Friday, writes Tony Stafford. The California-based Royal Ascot juvenile specialist trainer was typically bullish about having a half-sister of his brilliant Queen Mary/ King’s Stand speedball Lady Aurelia ready to make the trip to the meeting in June.

Indeed, after Lady Pauline’s near 10-length debut Keeneland win on dirt a week before our chat, he is even considering aiming the Munnings filly at the newly-branded Trials Day at Ascot on May 1. A £9,000 winner’s prize for the five-furlong conditions race might not be much of a financial draw but the chance to give this precocious filly a sight of the track is something he is trying to sell to connections.

Wesley was also understandably bullish about No Nay Never, his easy 2013 Norfolk Stakes winner at the meeting. Few horses better illustrate the topsy-turvy world of international bloodstock than No Nay Never, originally sold as a foal at Keeneland for $170,000 on 11/11/11 (any significance there?) but picked up at the same venue the following September for only $95,000.

Since then it’s been a case of an upward course all the way. Ward raced him only six times in all, going unbeaten at two at Keeneland, Ascot and in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville. He stayed in the US at three, winning a Grade 3 at Keeneland in between second places at Gulfstream Park (Grade 2) and in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) when Frankie Dettori joined forces with the trainer.

Dettori, associated with around half of Lady Aurelia’s career, John Velazquez stepping in when the Italian had to miss Ascot in 2017, will be hoping to jump up on Lady Pauline. Lady Aurelia had a similar winning juvenile start as No Nay Never, at Keeneland, Royal Ascot (Queen Mary, by seven lengths!) and the Morny.

No Nay Never’s first-season exploits as a Coolmore stallion were so exceptional that his stud fee for 2019 has been quadrupled to €100,000, from €25,000 last year, and Wesley, who has an interest in the stallion, is understandably delighted that the colt he put on the path to the top has done so well.

There was a non-Coolmore No Nay Never colt on view in the Naas opener on Saturday and it would not have upset Ireland’s premier stud that Ming Warrior, a €75,000 yearling, bred incidentally by Anne-Marie O’Brien and trained by the talented Michael O’Callaghan, could fare no better than second.

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The winner, ridden by Ryan Moore, was the Aidan-trained and Coolmore (plus Peter Brant)-owned Monarch Of Egypt, the first son of US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to make the track. The winning margin for the odds-on chance was close to three lengths.

The name of the game is producing stallions so the fact that American Pharoah was off the bat straight away will have been a source of much joy. Equally the Lads would not have minded that when Highland Chief, Gleneagles’ initial runner, also won on debut at Newbury the previous day, it was in Mrs Fitri Hay’s colours, especially as the Hays are well-established associates of the team.

Highland Chief’s SP of 16-1, despite his being in the care of Paul Cole, one of the all-time skilled handlers of juveniles was a big surprise. I realise it’s a long time ago, but when Cole gets a good horse he exploits its talents to the full. I well remember when he won three major two-year-old races at the 1991 Royal meeting all for the late Prince Fahd Salman. Magic Ring won the Norfolk, Dilum the Coventry and Fair Cop the Chesham. The last-named obviously has no connection with the filly of the same name that runs this afternoon at Windsor for Andrew Balding. She could well win.

Another more than shrewd participant in various areas of the industry is the veteran jockey John Egan, now 50 but well-established as a pin-hooker par excellence as well as father of the brilliant young rider David Egan.

Egan Sr. has been honing the talents of his US-bred pin-hooks, colts by American Pharoah and War Front (this one out of Coolmore notable, Quarter Moon) in preparation for this week’s Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up and his investments of respectively $350,000 and $400,000 could well be lavishly repaid, with many of the big hitters expected to be around.

He was justifiably thrilled that Monarch Of Egypt has already made it to the track, emphasising a potential precocity in the breed, a remark that goes too for the progeny of Gleneagles when they turn up at Breeze-Up sales this spring and early summer.

*

There was a nice result in the Coral Scottish National on Saturday when the Nicky Richards-trained Takingrisks won the £122,000 first prize under Sean Quinlan by four lengths from Crosspark. Before the race Richards had pointed out that his 10-year-old had form on good ground – even though his preceding win at Carlisle had been on heavy! – and that he would get the four-mile trip.

With five non-runners from the original 28-horse acceptance because of the fast surface, it was something of a surprise that Takingrisks started at as big a price as he did, and for the last mile of the marathon he was always going like the probable winner.

Richards afterwards spoke emotionally about the fact that there are trainers in the north of England perfectly capable of competing with their relatively better-off southern counterparts and with some pride that Takingrisks’ owner, Frank Bird, is based down the road from Richards’ Greystoke stables in Cumbria.

I do a daily early-morning job (needs must!) compiling the thoughts of around a dozen trainers on a web site and Nicky is one of them. Apart from being unbelievably frank and accurate about his horses, he can come up with the funniest remarks. I could not have been happier when Takingrisks won, although I must admit to having a small each-way bet while at Newbury on seventh-placed 40-1 shot Red Infantry. Hill’s paid each-way first six. Plus ca change! (sorry no cedilla!)

To give an illustration of Richards’ frankness, I recall his comments about Glinger Flame before that horse’s recent handicap debut at Hexham. The horse had been beaten a couple of times when “expected” for decent novices while appearing not to go through fully with his effort. Nicky said “I never like to call a horse ungenuine…” leaving little doubt that he feared internally he might be.

Different tactics were employed, along with first-time cheek-pieces, in an attempt to find the key and Glinger Flame won by 18 lengths. Wisely Nicky is not letting him back into another handicap, for which he would be 16lb higher after that romp, but instead allows him to carry a penalty in the opener there today. Wise indeed. No wonder he’s long odds-on despite the 13-runner field.

- Tony Stafford

SotD Update, 8th to 13th April 2019

The second week was April was another good one with 2 winners and a placer from 6 picks and another 4pts profit to put us within touching distance (1 more win needed) of guaranteeing a profitable month and it's not quite the halfway point yet.

It could, of course, quite easily go the other way and we are due some form of correction of results, but I'll be doing my level best to get us beyond that line as early as possible. Today would be good!

I'll sign off with a quick reminder that I'm still in Florida until Easter Monday, so post times will continue to be later than usual.

And now, a resume of the week just gone!

Selections & Results : 08/04/19 to 13/04/19

08/04 : Sameem @ 5/1 BOG WON at 3/1
09/04 : Coopers Square @ 3/1 BOG WON at 3/1
10/04 : Shanghai Grace @ 11/4 BOG 5th at 11/4
11/04 : Fingerontheswitch @ 5/2 BOG 3rd at 3/1
12/04 : Hooflepuff @ 10/3 BOG 4th at 5/2
13/04 : Zapper Cass @ 9/2 BOG 6th at 5/2

08/04/19 to 13/04/19 :
2 winning bets from 6 = 33.33% SR
P/L: +4.00pts

April 2019 :
5 winners from 12 = 41.67% SR
P/L: +12.85pts
ROI = +107.1%

2019 to date :
25 winners from 79 = 31.65% SR
P/L: +46.10pts
ROI = +58.35%

Overall:
615 winners from 2257 = 27.25% S.R
P/L: +542.50pts
ROI: +24.04%

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.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Stat of the Day, 15th April 2019

Saturday's pick was...

6.30 Wolverhampton : Zapper Cass @ 9/2 BOG 6th at 5/2 (Tracked leaders, ridden and edged right last bend, stayed on same pace inside final furlong)

Monday's pick runs in the...

4.40 Hexham :

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?

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Ravished @ 11/4 BOG

...in a 7-runner, Class 6, Open Hunters Chase for 5yo+ over 3m on Good ground worth £2184 to the winner...

Why?...

This 11 yr old gelding was a good 11 lengths winner of a similar Class 6, 3m, Hunter Chase last time out, 17 days ago at Wetherby, having triumphed by 30 lengths in a 3m Point to Point some 13 days prior to that, so he should be fine with the trip again today.

Today's rider Joe Wright was in the saddle for both wins, so there should be some familiarity there to work with for a horse who has an overall record of 5 wins from 31 under Rules including 4/22 over fences (1/1 in hunter chases from LTO) and of his 5/31 Rules record he is...

  • 4/12 at trips of 3m and beyond (3/10 over fences)
  • 4/6 at odds of 4/1 and shorter (4/5 over fences)
  • and 1/1 for trainer GC Brewer, 1/1 at Class 6 and 1/1 under Joe Wright : all three achieved LTO!

He's by Oscar, whose offspring are 8/33 (24.2% SR) for 31pts (+93.8% ROI) in hunter chases at 2m7.5f and beyond since the start of 2017, from which..

  • 6/13 (46.2%) for 42.4pts (+325.9%) on Good ground
  • 4/12 (33.3%) for 24.9pts (+207.3%) from 11yr olds
  • whilst 11 yr olds on Good ground are 4/7 (57.1%) for 29.9pts (+426.9%)

Whereas trainer GC Brewer's only runners under Rules are those running in this type of race and since the start of 2017, his hunter chasers are 4 from 8 (50% SR) for 19.75pts (+246.9% ROI), including...

  • 11 yr olds at 3/4 (75%) for 20.15pts (+503.7%)
  • sub-5/1 shots are 3/3 (100%) for 7.29pts (+243%)
  • whilst sub-5/1 11 yr olds are 2 from 2 (100%) for 4.68pts (+234%)

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Ravished @ 11/4 BOG as offered by Betfair, Hills, Paddy Power & Sky at 8.30pm on Sunday (3.30pm here),. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 4.40 Hexham

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!

P.P.S. I'm out of the country for most of April, but SotD will still be here every day, albeit in slightly different circumstances, click here for the end of March update which explains the plan in fuller detail!

A correlation between trainer and sire?

stallion DUBAWI at Dalham Hall Stud, Newmarket
31 Jan 2019 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

A couple of weeks ago, I began thinking about this article and was trying to work out what I was going to research in terms of content and subject matter, writes Jon Shenton. For quite a while I’ve felt that it’d be interesting to evaluate prolific sires whose progeny train on (or otherwise) from the age of two to three. I started work by “messing around” on Query Tool (I believe that’s the most accurate description of the activity) trying to determine whether the data were material enough to construct an article from.

As I explored, a part of the data jumped out at me, exhibiting something that I hadn’t really considered previously. I wasn’t quite sure if it made sense, and to some extent I’m still not, but the more I think about it the more I think there is a possibility that it is underwritten by a degree of discernible logic.

I’m talking about the so far unconsidered and unheralded angle of trainer / sire combos!

Before you start sniggering, let’s work this through. Many of us consider trainer/jockey combinations a cornerstone of punting. Nothing wrong with that, I love a good old review of TJ combo data as much as the next man or woman.  But why would trainer / stallion be any less relevant? After all, the bloodline is essentially the raw material that a trainer crafts, shapes, develops and races. You could argue that if a trainer has expertise with a specific bloodline or stallion, they may have an edge on knowing how to get the best from those related animals; or that prior success leads to the acquisition of similarly bred horses.

I realise this may sound fanciful, but for now we ought to suspend any such reservations and see what can be unearthed.

The data utilised in the article are restricted to horses running at the ages of two or three, the rationale being that generally racecourse evidence will take precedence over breeding as a primary indicator of performance in older horses. Of course, there may also be merit in looking at the more experienced cohort but that’s for another day.

Starting with a broad-brush the below table shows simply the stallions that are ubiquitous in flat turf racing. The dozen detailed in the table below have accounted for over 24,000 runners since 2012.

There is one name on the list that stands out like my thumb after a rare and clumsy day of DIY, Dubawi. The Darley Stud resident checks in with a current price tag of a cool £250,000 per covering, which is the third most expensive in the world (behind Galileo and Deep Impact). His progeny reads like a hall of fame with a monumental 38 Group 1 wins. Current leading lights include Too Darn Hot and Quorto, ably supported by Benbatl, Wild Illusion, and Kitesurf in terms of recent G1 victories.

The graph above is very simply the strike rate of Dubawi stock in comparison to the other prolific stallions contained in the table.  Performance is significantly higher than the others, nearly 5% ahead of his nearest rival, Sharmadal.

If you’d backed every 2&3-year-old Dubawi runner over the last 7 summers at SP you would have yourself a tidy 7% profit which, quite frankly, seems ridiculous. It casts any cash ISA onto the naughty step in comparison (1.45% easy access, 2.3% fixed were the best I could find if you’re interested!).  Incidentally, just for the avoidance of doubt, the small print states that in no way am I advocating a Dubawi investment fund as a tax-free alternative to an ISA...

In terms of TS combo the table below shows Dubawi’s by trainer:

 

No huge surprises in where the majority of Dubawi offspring end up plying their trade. The boys in blue take the lion’s share of the animals, particularly Charlie Appleby.

There is without doubt promising data contained therein. As you’d expect, an elite stallion’s progeny in the hands of elite trainers results in elite level performance (aside from perhaps the Varian operation based on this intel). The non-Godolphin duo of John Gosden (who does inform buying decisions for Godolphin) and Sir Michael Stoute stand out a little though. Key data items of A/E, win% and ROI all point towards further investigation.

 

John Gosden / Dubawi TS combo

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The baseline performance of 44 wins from 148 runs, A/E of 1.15 and a SP ROI of 42% may well be good enough, but it’s always worth examining in more detail to establish if we can find any legitimate enhancement.

A logical starting point of refinement with this data is by horse age. We might expect with Gosden better 3YO numbers than the 2YO equivalent, given his general focus on the Classic generation. The numbers in the table below support that.

At first glance it would seem to make sense to sharpen the focus by building the angle around the 3-year-old’s only, that would be a very reasonable approach.  However, in this case there may be another factor that could be of equal, if not greater, importance.

We know that in general terms Gosden is not a renowned trainer of sprinters so it would make sense to check the profile of these 2 and 3-year-old animals against race distance.

The graph above shows the average strike rate by distance of Dubawi progeny (orange line), which is pretty consistent across all distances. A Gosden-trained Dubawi, however, appears to underperform versus the average at distances up to a mile; but, from that 8-furlong distance up to 12.5 furlongs, Gosden strike rates are roughly 10-15% greater than the overall Dubawi benchmark (the unhelpful spike of 100% for 9-9.5f is derived from a perfect 1/1 record at that distance so can be discounted as meaningful data).

Taking only these races of a mile up to an extended mile and a half the table below illustrates the annual performance:

 

For me, using distance rather than age is a better approach in this case. It’s a subjective call though. Gosden’s mastery of middle distances feels instinctively more important than the age of the horse but it could certainly be cut both ways.

I’ve included both factors individually in this article to try and share some of the thought processes and considerations I use when inching towards data-driven conclusions. It’s seldom that I take a linear approach to building an angle and I always check several factors to try to work out what is driving it and then make a call accordingly.

As a final call-back here are the 108 runners across both age bandings at those key distances of 8-12.5 furlongs. Clearly Johnny G Is peaking with the classic generation but to throw out all 2YO’s based on the higher-level data could be an erroneous conclusion to reach, especially on a small sample.

 

Back John Gosden 2 or 3-year-old runners sired by Dubawi at race distances of 8-12.5 furlongs inclusive, or all 3YO Gosden Dubawi runners if preferred

 

Sir Michael Stoute/Dubawi TS Combo

Secondly, let’s address the subject of the TS Combo of Stoute/Dubawi (so much for my usual focus on the smaller underdog operations!). With 15 Classic wins and 10 Champion Trainer awards there aren’t too many unknowns when evaluating Sir Michael’s imperious record on turf.

Starting with horse age again makes complete sense. It’s probably edging into cliché territory regarding Stoute’s famously patient approach to the training of thoroughbreds, but it would be expected that the older grouping demonstrates stronger performance than the juveniles.

Sure enough, in this case it certainly appears as though the numbers support the view that a slow and steady progression is the preferred mode of the stable. Unlike with Gosden, I’m not motivated to search for something in the 2YO grouping. 3 wins from 25 tells its own story and as a result I’m content to leave a Stoute juvenile alone.

Again, SMS is generally not a trainer associated with the sprint division.  Splitting Dubawi 3YO progeny performance paints the picture below.

The data contained in the red box are of great interest: 39 runs, 19 wins, A/E 2.04 and ROI of 94% to SP, albeit on a small sample size. This could be construed as a nano-angle as micro seems too grand for it in terms of scale, but the statistical basis of it is sound enough.

In very specific terms Stoute had three 2YO Dubawi offspring making their racecourse debuts in 2018: Karnavaal, Calculation and Vivionn. I doubt very much that we’ll see huge prices on them when they race at three years of age, but they’re in my tracker and if they run between 10-12.5 furlongs during 2019 they’ll certainly be of interest.

Back Sir Michael Stoute 3YO Dubawi runners between 10 and 12.5 furlongs inclusive

 

So, where does that leaves us in terms of trainer/sire combinations? In Formula One, the best cars generally are piloted by the best drivers; as a result they win with almost tedious regularity. I suppose calling out Gosden/Stoute & Dubawi is not hugely left-field and maybe isn’t dissimilar to asserting that Mercedes/Hamilton will perform well in the predictable world of F1. Not that backing that F1 combo will lead to a profitable outcome, their dominance heavily factored into the market.

I feel the data are very interesting and that there is at least a modicum of logic supporting this route in. After all, as stated earlier, the raw materials of the racing game are provided by the bloodlines of the animals, trainers can only work with what’s there already and if premium stables are working with exceptional bloodstock that surely must be a positive? The only real surprise may be that their appears some value in the market for these high-profile trainers and benchmark stallions, at least hitherto.

Finally, by way of wrapping up the TS Combo subject I’d like to share a bigger data table showing the raw info of the most productive combinations in terms of A/E from 2012 onwards (75 runs to qualify). I did check the stand out Dalgleish/Kodiac axis but the number of qualifiers in 2018 was low (only 2) so it’s one to keep a watching brief on. Clearly there is further research to get stuck into if you are so inclined – do share if you go down that route, and thanks!

- Jon Shenton

 

 

 

 

 

Social Discourse: 8th April 2019

You all know where this is starting.

 

  1. The Eye Of The Tiger

Look at it. Drink it all in. Reminisce, all over again, and enjoy Tiger Roll’s history-making repeat Grand National triumph.

 

Normally we post the best tweets in here that you might have missed, but there were so many that only the photos can do justice to racing’s collective scream of joy.

 

 

 

 

Hindsight is a powerful thing, but Davy Russell and Tiger Roll were always travelling beautifully and once the diminutive nine-year-old jumped to the front after the Elbow, it appeared – just like last year – to be simply a matter of how far, and he fairly sprinted clear of the young mare Magic Of Light, who ran a sensational race to finish second at 66/1.

The racing community – and basically the whole country of Ireland – were in raptures after taking a 1-2-3, with the popular Rathvinden finishing third, but this was all about one brilliant horse.

What they said: “Tiger Roll isn’t Red Rum – he’s Tiger Roll – and I feel no pressure to go back and try to win a third time. There’s huge public affection for him and I think we’re duty-bound to mind him now.” – Michael O’Leary with some performance trolling regarding Tiger Roll’s potential attempt at a three-timer.

“I was trying to watch all of mine, I can’t believe it. I never once thought he was going to win until he crossed the line, because all I could remember was last year. He didn’t tie up this year. He’s an absolute gentleman to deal with.” – Gordon Elliot in the aftermath of his third national win

 “This horse and this place is amazing. People go on about certain sporting events, but Liverpool and Aintree are so far ahead. People come here in their droves to cheer you on and they can be so proud of what they have here, it’s so well run. It’s televised all around the world and I’m so proud to be a part of it, I can’t believe it.” – Davy Russell, who had an easier time of things this year in the home straight 

 

  1. Those in behind….

There were 39 other horses (I know, did you also forget?) who lined up at the start, and many fine performances from the 19 horses who managed to complete the course.

It’s something of a surprise that Jessica Harrington, arguably the best dual code trainer around, hadn’t participated in the race before, and she nearly took it at the first attempt with eight-year-old mare Magic Of Light, who ran a tremendous race from the front before Tiger Roll flew past. Despite a mistake at the last (and a significant one at the Chair, after which Paddy Kennedy did well to stay on board), she came home two and a quarter-lengths clear of Rathvinden, who travelled best for much of the way, and looks sure to be back next year.

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Rathvinden gave a bold sight in third, although he was unable to give Ruby Walsh another National winner, whilst Walk In The Mill, the Becher Chase winner, was best of the British. He delighted the shrewd Robert Walford and gave James Best a fine spin; still only nine, all roads would lead to Aintree next year for him.

Spare a thought for Anibale Fly, who ran a titanic race to finish fifth under top weight, just half a length behind Walk In The Mill. Tony Martin has one of the most consistent staying chasers in the game, although he looks set to be forever too high in the weights to win this great race.

The 2017 winner One For Arthur had unseated twice but looked like the horse of two years ago when making a huge move around the outside coming for home, before he just faded late, and Lucinda Russell is already thinking of aiming him at next year’s contest.

 

 

  1. Meanwhile, back on the level….

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore kick-started their season with a treble on Leopardstown’s Classic trials day, where we saw a number of eye-catching performances.

  • Lady Kaya ran out a comfortable winner of the Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes for trainer Sheila Lavery and jockey Robbie Colgan, with the fast-finishing Happen in second and last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner Idressa in third under a 3lb penalty

 

  • Leading Guineas hope Madhmoon was beaten for the first time as Never No More ran him down on his seasonal bow in the 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes, taking advantage of a 3lbs concession in the weights and the benefit of a recent run on slower ground than he'd faced before

 

  • Broome gave the standout performance of the day as he bolted home in the Ballysax Stakes, winning by eight lengths and being cut to 9/1 for the Derby

  • In America, Roadster came with a powerful late run to take the Santa Anita Derby, beating stablemate and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Game Winner

 

  • Ghaiyyath put himself in the frame for a host of middle-distance honours this season with an eye-catching performance on his seasonal debut in the Prix d'Harcourt at Paris-Longchamp, as he stretched eight lengths clear before being eased down. The Ganay and the Tattersalls Gold Cup are on the agenda for Charlie Appleby's potentially top class colt.

 

  1. Box Office Tiger

Back to the Grand National, arguably the biggest PR moment for racing of the year, and certainly the biggest moment for any broadcaster involved in the sport, so ITV and the BHA have every right to be delighted with their viewing figures.

 

The coverage on Saturday scored a peak of 9.6 million viewers, a 12 per cent increase from the 8.5m in 2018 according to audience figures, with the average audience for the National show up from 5.1m to 5.4m, an endorsement of a programme which makes a lot of effort to reach first-time viewers and non-experts.

There are a multitude of personalities on the programme – different strokes for different folks, as they say – and it worked through the week too, as shown by a seven-figure audience for the Foxhunters’ on the first day.

Wake Up To ITV: There was also a record audience for The Opening Show too of 300,000 – a fine figure considering it was an FA Cup semi-final morning.

 

Takeaway: There’s much to be said about the draw of a horse who had such a big chance of back to back Nationals, but these figures are welcome news in an era when there has never been so much choice for sports fans. ITV’s approach of trying to convert causal watchers and educate first timers is the right one when younger fans are needed more than ever.

 

  1. What else?

Across the three days of Aintree, in case some had forgotten:

  • Kemboy made up for a first fence fall in the Gold Cup with a dominant success in the Betfred Bowl, confirming himself a top class staying chaser

  • Min bounced back from a below par showing in the Champion Chase with a 20 length romp in the Melling Chase, making it 2 feature race wins for Willie Mullins

  • Supasundae got the better of Buveur D’Air and  County Hurdle hero Ch'tibello in a thrilling Aintree Hurdle

 

  • Pentland Hills followed up his JCB Triumph Hurdle victory with a gritty display in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

  • Kalashnikov presented trainer Amy Murphy with a first Grade One success in the Devenish Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree.

 

  • Cadmium gave Mullins another winner as he dominated the Topham Chase and Top Wood fought back to pull the Foxhunters out of the fire

 

Next week? The small matter of Winx’s last race….

 

Monday Musings: Tiger’s No Red Rum… Yet!

So they wound up the clockwork horse once again at Aintree on Saturday and it all went, well, like clockwork, for Tiger Roll, Davy Russell, Gordon Elliott and Michael O’Leary in the Randox Health Grand National, writes Tony Stafford.

Once we first caught proper sight of the tiny star on his bay forehead coming down to Becher’s first time round, there was an air of inevitability about his second win in the great race. Indeed there wasn’t even a frisson of tension unlike last year when Pleasant Company rallied late to get within a head of the diminutive winner.

That horse’s departure from the leading group when unseating his rider Paul Townend at the fourth-last fence took away just about the last potential threat to the reigning champ. Thus the Summerhill-trained nine-year-old was left with the unexpected challenge of the year-younger and sole mare in the 40-horse line-up, Magic of Light.

Her trainer Jessica Harrington will have been especially proud of Magic of Light, running in the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, but originally in the ownership of the trainer’s daughter Kate and briefly after the couple’s sad death a couple of years ago, the trainer herself.

Since late December Magic of Light has raced six times in all, including once at Fairyhouse when unseating Robbie Power in the Bobbyjo Chase won by Saturday’s third Rathvinden. The other five represented a tour of the UK respectively at Newbury, Ascot, Huntingdon and Cheltenham before Saturday. One trip encompassed two runs, victory in a Grade 2 mares’ hurdle at Ascot and six days later runner-up spot in a mares’ chase over an inadequate two and a half miles at Huntingdon behind Happy Diva. She spent the intervening days with Paul Webber I seem to remember.

Last week in a very brief footnote to the article I suggested that potential pitfalls of the Grand National course vintage late 2010’s are very few once the legendary Becher’s (no Brook these days for fallen jockeys to roll back into for refuge) is negotiated second time round.

That obstacle’s once problematic nature has been eroded, happily with equine safety and public sensibilities to consider. In three races over the three days of the meeting, started in horrible weather on Thursday for the Foxhunters, better for Friday’s Topham and in glorious spring sunshine for the big race, only one horse was victim to Becher’s.

That was in Thursday’s Foxhunters when the 12-year-old Seefood unseated his rider, Miss Charlotte Crane. He has been racing in hunter chases this season for Justin Landy. The once Dessie Hughes-trained chaser started favourite for last year’s Topham for Dr Richard Newland but fell having made an earlier mistake at Becher’s.

Race-day absentees meant there were 27 rather than 30 runners in the two races over the Grand National fences before Saturday.  Twelve completed in the Foxhunters, with none actually being recorded as falling; three unseated and the remaining dozen pulled up.

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The stats were slightly different but in a way just as remarkable for the Topham. Twenty of the 27 completed the course, with three fallers, while two each unseated and pulled up.

The Grand National itself sadly did feature one fatality, the Willie Mullins-trained Up For Review, brought down when the much-fancied Vintage Clouds in the Trevor Hemmings colours, departed at the first fence. In the bad old days it was commonplace for approaching double figures to come down at that early stage.

The third fence also featured in multiple departures, but on the second circuit, as the 18th fence (normally 19th, but the 17th was by-passed because of the stricken Up For Review). Two of Gordon Elliott’s 11-strong team were eroded here, Jury Duty unseating and General Principle falling, bringing down Rock the Kasbah.

But 19 did complete, and of the remaining 21 only three actually fell, with two each unseating and being brought down and 14 pulling up.

It is easy, especially with only the statistics to draw upon, to mention Tiger Roll in the same breath as Red Rum, the first part of whose epic Aintree story was matched 45 years on with a second consecutive victory.

Starting at the same age as Rummy, he still has a fair way to go but the time also to achieve it. There can be little doubt that it will not be easy to gain a third victory next year even though the suggestion has been aired that he “would have won with another stone”, to which I offer the counter-claim “rubbish”.

Tiger Roll was relatively leniently treated by the handicappers. He won off 150 last year when he carried 10st 13lb. On Saturday he was 9lb higher on 159 but carried only 6lb more, 11st 5lb. After his second successive win in the Cheltenham Foxhunters last month, the UK chase handicapper said he would have put him up 8lb for that if the weights had not already been framed. So that will be the starting point before any extra massaging of his rating.

Red Rum’s first win in 1973 was achieved under a weight of 10st 5lb, relatively light in face of the opposition of the top-class two-miler, Crisp. He went agonisingly close after Richard Pitman took him miles clear all the way only to be foiled in the last 30 yards.

The following year Red Rum, like Tiger Roll flat-race-bred - he even dead-heated in a two-year-old race at Aintree six years before his initial National triumph - won under twelve stone top-weight, a demanding 23lb more than before.

One regard in which Tiger Roll has beaten Red Rum was in Saturday’s winning time of 9 min 1sec. Rummy’s fastest unsurprisingly came on his first attempt, but was 0.9 sec slower than Saturday’s time (though the start has of course moved forward in the interim). None of the four Nationals he featured in from 1974-7 was run slower than Tiger Roll’s 9min 40sec last year on heavy going. Twelve of 38 finished last year, the more testing conditions bringing six fallers, five unseated riders, two brought down and 13 horses pulled up.

Realistically it should be possible that faster times can be achieved nowadays with the demands of the old bigger, less forgiving fences with their exaggerated (especially Becher’s) drops on the landing side having been largely eliminated; and with the shortening of the run to the first fence.

Red Rum followed his second win with a gallant second in 1975 on very soft ground behind double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner L’Escargot, who still after almost half a century is my favourite racehorse; another runner-up spot to the very smart Rag Trade (Fred Rimell)  in 1976 and then his march to immortality the following April.

Trainer Ginger McCain had by now replaced Brian Fletcher, successful the first twice, with Tommy Stack, and the 12-year-old again carried top weight, though with only 11st 8lb in the saddle. My earlier reference to the relative demands of the fences was borne out by the fate of many of the 42 starters that day.

Eleven completed but seven departed (five falling, one unseating and another brought down) at the first; four fell at the third, the big ditch and three more fell at first Becher’s. That obstacle claimed five more (three falls, one pulled up and one refusal) second time and it was left to Churchtown Boy, carrying 10st to follow Rummy up the run-in in reverence, 25 lengths behind. Two days earlier Churchtown Boy had easily won the Topham.

Everyone loves a hero and in these days of social media, Tiger Roll is in danger of becoming an object of hyperbole if not hysteria. He’s great and he’s unique in his versatility – evidence his Graded hurdle win this year – but as yet he’s not Red Rum.

For a start to make it three he’ll have Magic of Light, now she’s shown her Aintree credentials, and my on-the-day each-way bet, fourth-placed Walk in the Mill, especially if it comes up soft, to worry about. Never mind what revenge the slighted handicapper will be planning. No wonder Michael O'Leary, his owner, is talking of retirement post-Cheltenham 2020.

What is not in doubt is the amazing popularity of the race, with ITV claiming an audience of ten million. Sorry ITV, I watched it on Racing TV and it was pretty good viewing there too!

- Tony Stafford

Stat of the Day, 8th April 2019

Saturday's pick was...

8.00 Wolverhampton: Zapper Cass @ 5/1 BOG 4th at 7/2 (In touch, headway to chase leaders over 2f out, soon driven to challenge, kept on well towards finish)

Monday's pick runs in the...

3.30 Redcar:

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?

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Sameem @ 5/1 BOG

...in an 10-runner, Class 4 Handicap for 3yo over 1m2f on Good to firm worth £5531 to the winner...

Why?...

James Tate's three-year-old New Approach colt is making his handicap debut in this contest. The trainer excels with handicap debutants and has won with 12 of the 36 he's saddled in the past year (33.33%, +15.19, A/E 1.85).

Indeed, in the last four months, Tate's form with first time handicap runners reads 6112111278611.

Tate is in excellent form recently, too, having scored with four of the eleven runners he's had in the past fortnight (36.36%, +7.63, A/E 1.52). Two more have made the frame in that time.

A winner on his previous start by no less than six lengths, staying on over 7 1/2 furlongs at Beverley, the step up in trip looks ideal for Sameem, but it is the switch to handicaps that catches the eye. Tate is three-from-five in the past year with such horses when they won their last start (60%, +5.33, A/E 1.95)...

...giving us... a 1pt win bet on Sameem 5/1 BOG which was available from Betfair & Paddy Power at 6.35pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.30 Redcar

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!

P.P.S. I'm out of the country for most of April, but SotD will still be here every day, albeit in slightly different circumstances, click here for the end of March update which explains the plan in fuller detail!

SotD Update, 1st to 6th April 2019

A great start to April with 3 winners and a placer from 6 picks and a very healthy 8.85pts to get the ball rolling. The obvious highlights of the week were Wednesday's winner where we absolutely smashed the SP and then Champ was so impressive on Friday, as we landed a rare Big Meeting success, a far cry from my bread butter Class 5/6 handicaps.

Mind you, an 11/4 winner in a £2,500 A/W contest pays the same as we made from Champ, so there's definitely no racing snobbery here at SotD, nor from Geegeez in general.

I'll sign off with a quick reminder that I'm travelling to Florida on Sunday, so Matt will provide Monday's pick (no pressure, mate 😉 ) and then I'm back in the hotseat for the rest of the week, but post times will be later than usual.

And now, a resume of the week just gone!

Selections & Results : 01/04/19 to 06/04/19

01/04 : Busy Street @ 9/2 BOG 3rd at 4/1
02/04 : City Tour @ 4/1 BOG WON at 5/2
03/04 : EarloftheCotswolds @ 6/1 BOG (=5.1/1 after 15p R4) WON at 9/4
04/04 : Dolly Dupree @ 4/1 BOG 5th at 9/2
05/04 : Champ @ 11/4 BOG WON at 9/4
06/04 : Zapper Cass @ 5/1 BOG 4th at 7/2

01/04/19 to 06/04/19 :
3 winning bets from 6 = 50.00% SR
P/L: +8.85pts

April 2019 :
3 winners from 6 = 50.00% SR
P/L: +8.85pts
ROI = +147.5%

2019 to date :
23 winners from 73 = 31.51% SR
P/L: +42.10pts
ROI = +57.67%

Overall:
613 winners from 2251 = 27.23% S.R
P/L: +538.50pts
ROI: +23.92%

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.

2018 was the latest full year for SotD and the yearly review is right here

Stat of the Day is just one component of the excellent package available to all Geegeez Gold Members, so why not take the plunge and get involved right now?

Click here for more details.

Colossus Bets Review / Demo

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Colossus Bets Review / Demo

Colossus Bets is a pool betting platform for wagering on UK and Irish racing as well as many other sports. It is much loved by geegeez.co.uk subscribers for its flexibility. Players on Colossus may syndicate, or crowdshare, their bets; they can cash out all or part of their bets; and they can receive consolation payouts for being 'nearly right'.

If you like playing multi-leg place or win bets, like the placepot, I think you'll really love Colossus Bets. And if you sign up for a Colossus account, please use Refer A Friend code, geegeez - we receive a small percentage of your staked amount, which I put to good use in building new bells and whistles on this site (as well as an occasional cappucino for yours truly..!)

IMPORTANT There are very few betting companies we promote. The reason I am happy to receive a kickback from Colossus is that, unlike traditional bookmakers, you don't have to lose for me/us to get a small commission. Rather, Colossus fund that from their takeout, the same as totepool or any other such service provider. That means we get the same share when you win, which I/we obviously want you to do!

Check out this video, which shows how Colossus Bets works, and why I love it so much...

 

Matt

2019 Grand National Anti-Preview, Trends, Tips

2019 Grand National Anti-Preview, Trends, Tips

It's the biggest race in the British racing calendar, the 2019 Randox Health Grand National at Aintree, and so it is the weekend where friends, family and those people you only hear from once a year request a tip in the most impossibly deep contest of the season!

As regular readers will know, I've long dispensed with sensible approaches to trying to isolate the winner, preferring instead to go full on guerilla contrarian. Results from this approach have been mixed, but then they would be whichever approach is taken and, at least this way, we're dealing in fat-priced contenders rather than the sharp end of the market. That's important in a race where the talk often overtakes the form, as evidenced by an average SP for the top six finishers in the last five years of 27.5/1. Yum!

Indeed, in spite of the last two winners averaging only 12/1, the previous five returned 33/1, 66/1, 25/1, 25/1, and 33/1. Clearly, bravery - likely mitigated by splitting stakes between two or three (or four or even five) runners - is the route forward.

2019 Grand National Trends

This is difficult. For a long time, the Grand National trends were sacrosanct: proven stayers, proven jumpers, proven in a big field, proven touch of class, aged 8 to 12, job done.

But the race has changed. Each of a reduction in the distance, a (necessary) softening of the fences, and the encroachment of discretionary handicapping (where the official handicapper gets to allocate a unique 'Aintree' rating to a horse, which is different from its rating for all other steeplechase races) has levelled the playing field. Where ten years ago we might have a fairly confident shortlist of eight or ten horses, now it is hard to categorically rule out that many runners.

Quite simply, and on many levels this is great for the broader appeal of the sport beyond us aficionados, in my opinion it has become the lottery that many once incorrectly claimed it was.

Allow me to repeat a now annual mantra: if you find the winner of the National, you'll have been at least as lucky as you are good. Do not revel too long in the happenstance of that outcome, but wallow in the fruitful returns all the same! 🙂

Getting back to the matter at hand, as I wrote, the race has changed markedly in complexion in the past seven or eight years. Below are some ten-year trends, but mostly five-year and even three-year (top six finishers) trends. That's because the distance has been shortened and the discretionary handicapping increased during that time.

Grand National Age Trends

Let's start with age. The ten year mean average winning age is 9.5. The ten year median (ranking the winners in age order and taking the mid-point) is also 9.5.

However, the five year average is just 8.8, and the median 8. That's because the last four winners have been aged 8, 9, 8 and 8. It's a tiny sample and it could very easily be coincidence. But that sample aligns with the reduced race distance and the height of discretionary handicapping.

And it's not just winners. In the last ten years, 9 of the 20 top two finishers were aged 8 or 9; in the last five years, seven of the ten top two finishers were that age. And yet eight-year-olds accounted for just 41 of 196 horses to line up in the Nash since 2014. That's 60% of the winners from 21% of the runners; and looking at 8-9yo's, it's 53% of the runners taking in 80% of the winners and 60% of the places. In short, I believe that youth is more material in the Grand National than before and I will happily cast aside any horse older than 10.

At the other end of the spectrum, horses aged six (now ineligible for the race) and seven have failed to register a placed effort from 64 to try since 1997. Ramses de Teillee is not for me.

From a whittling perspective, that only takes out roughly a quarter of the field (down as far as The Young Master, #44) and there remains a decent chance we've ditched the winner!

Grand National Ratings Trends

An interesting route in are official ratings. In theory, if discretionary handicapping has made a material difference, we should see winners and placed horses from all over the ratings scale.

The ten year average winning rating was 149.4, with the median 149. The five year average winning rating was 149.8, and median 148. But that doesn't tell the whole story, which is this: in the last six years, horses have won the Grand National from ratings as high as 160 (the magnificent Many Clouds) and as low as 137 (Auroras Encore).

Consider that, prior to discretionary handicapping, the highest winning rating since 1997 was Lord Gyllene's 149; and since it was introduced we've seen five winners rated 150+ since 2010 (nine years).

The ratings of the top two finishers in the last five renewals have been 150-148-148-150-148-149-160-143-143-150. Nine of the ten top two finishers were within a spread of eight pounds from 150 down. Bottom weight this year will be around 143 with half of the field or so rated 151+. Should we then be looking to the lighter weights? The data say so, but I'm not so sure...

Grand National UK vs Ireland Trends

The Irish had a good record in the National. From just before the turn of the century, the likes of Bobbyjo, Papillon, Montys Pass, Hedgehunter, Numbersixvalverde and Silver Birch gave them a near stranglehold on the great race. But then came discretionary handicapping and a relative drought, which in recent times led Gigginstown Stud and Ryanair supremo, Michael O'Leary, to an acerbic outburst aimed at the capo di 'capping. Given that O'Leary's colours have been worn to victory twice in the last three years, methinks the laddy doth protest too much!

But, after Silver Birch (2007) and before Rule The World (2016), the Irish went 0 from 32 (just two places). That has changed again now, in what might be an interesting way. Look at the top six finishers from the last three renewals of the Aintree Grand National. Focus on the UK/Ire column, but also on the Going column. See anything?

 

There appears to be a strong correlation between the state of the turf and nation that has fared overwhelmingly better. Again, this might be no more than a confusing coincidence; but it could be material. Frustratingly, the current going forecast is right on the cusp. I'm erring towards good to soft in my own mind, but the evidence of the track and the weather 'twixt now and race time will be a far better indicator.

Let's just tease out a couple of points from the above.

The first thing to say is that in each of the last five renewals one or other side of the Irish Sea has been dominant, taking at least five of the top six spots.

When the going has been good to soft, as it has been in three of the five renewals in the that time, UK-trained horses have claimed 16 of 18 top six positions; when it has been softer, Ireland has bagged ten of the 12 top six places. It's up to you whether you believe that's relevant or just a coincidence. I tend to think there might be something in it: after all, in a typical season (not that this has been a typical season), Irish-trained horses will race on much more deep ground than their British counterparts.

It is important to contextualise such observations in terms of the horses that ran. In the soft and heavy pair of Nationals, Ireland saddled 29 runners to UK's 48. Thus, their 83% of the places came from just 38% of the runners.

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In the good to soft trio of renewals, UK saddled 89 of 119 runners (one French entry, 29 Irish), which was 75% of the fields from which 89% of the top six emerged.

It might also be worth noting that when the ground has been at its softest, two 13-year-olds have snuck into the frame ramping up the average age of top six finishers to 9.7. When it's been drier, that average is just 9.2. Indeed, last year's heavy ground renewal has bumped up the overall age average notably.

Grand National Last Race Trends

Where did horses run prior to a big effort in the Grand National? Looking at the last five years and the top six placings - 30 spots - the following can be noted:

Cheltenham Festival Cross Country Chase: 1 win 2 seconds (all three won the Cross Country race)

Cheltenham Gold Cup: 1 win 1 4th

'Standard' handicap chases: 1 win, 2 2nds, 3 3rds, 2 4ths, 1 5th, 1 6th

Hurdle race: 1 win, 1 6th

Novice chase: 1 win, 1 5th (graduation chase)

Thyestes Chase: 1 2nd, 1 6th

UK or Irish Grand National Trial: 1 4th, 1 5th, 2 6ths

The Irish National, Midlands National, Ryanair, Bobbyjo and Cotswold Chases have all contributed a top six finisher in the last five years

From the above, there is absolutely no doubting the credentials of the Festival Cross Country Chase as the leading Grand National trial. Winners of that race have a superb record at Aintree.

Otherwise, the Gold Cup is a solid trial, last time hurdlers are noteworthy, and the form of more run-of-the-mill staying handicap chases should not be overlooked. The Irish and Haydock National trials have a fairly moderate record in recent times.

Grand National Last Time Finishing Position Trends

Two of the last five National winners also won last time out.

16 of the 20 top four finishers finished top six last time out.

Grand National Stamina Trends

All of the last five winners had run beyond three-and-a-quarter miles, and 18 of the 20 top four finishers had won beyond three miles.

2019 Grand National Trends Summary

Phew, and crikey. Where does all that leave us? From an identikit profiling perspective, we're looking for something like:

- A younger horse, aged eight or nine, preferably eight

- Ideally rated 150 (or so) or below

- A UK-trained runner if the going is not soft or heavy, an Irish-trained runner if it is

- May have been last seen at the Cheltenham Festival, in a hurdle race or in a 'standard' staying handicap chase

- A top six finish last time out, bonus points for winning last time

- A winner at beyond three miles that has also run beyond three-and-a-quarter miles

- A horse at a price!

*

Grand National 2019 Preview

Who ticks the boxes? That's the obvious next question if you're prepared to believe the above: in the Aintree land of the blind and all that...

Every horse from Jury Duty up is rated 151+. Strictly speaking then they should be eliminated, but I think I'd want to include those rated 153 or lower, which still excludes the top 16 at the five day stage, including Anibale Fly (gulp) and Tiger Roll (double gulp).

Working through the other trends leaves me with eight horses including all weights, and just four in the ratings zone, as follows and displaying their current best odds (with bookies paying at least six places):

Rated/weighted too highly?

Anibale Fly (14/1), Tiger Roll (7/2), Lake View Lad (14/1), Dounikos (33/1)

In the zone...

Jury Duty (20/1), Monbeg Notorious (66/1), Vintage Clouds (14/1), Walk In The Mill (25/1)

 

There is a good chance that Tiger Roll just wins. He was imperious in the Cross Country and, as the data above relating to that race show, dismissing that as a form line is reckless in the extreme. You need luck to win a National and, if Tiger Roll gets past the Chair on the first circuit, the reigning champion will take a heck of a lot of beating. Plenty will want to oppose him - he's not exactly a working woman's or househusband's price, in a spin on the dated vernacular - but he has the most solid and obvious claims of any runner in this race for many a long year. He probably merits at least a saver bet.

Anibale Fly is a horse I love. Third in the Gold Cup last year, he seemed to flatten out a little when subsequently fourth in this race; but that was heavy ground and this will be less testing. He was second in the Gold Cup this time around, is six pounds well in according to the Irish handicapper, jumps and stays well and may again be on the premises. Lovely chap is this lad (not that Tiger Roll isn't adorable also!)

Lake View Lad would be a fantastic story for Borders trainer, Nick Alexander. His staying on second in the Ultima was eye-catching, but he lacks either a standout class piece of form or an attractive enough price to justify a bet. He can still be involved in the finish, of course, he's just not for me.

I think on good to soft or better ground, Dounikos is pretty interesting. Gordon Elliott's Grand National record is superb: his 16 runners in the race have yielded two winners, a second and a third - and a winner, second and third from six runners in the last two years! Elliott has plenty entered, not least of which is the jolly, but I think this fellow is over-priced as an eight-year-old last day winner.

As we move into what might be 'the zone', I really wanted to lob Monbeg Notorious; but the memory of Rule The World, a Gigginstown horse with a quirky back story who won in 2016, made me look again. This 8yo Milan gelding won the Thyestes Chase last season, as well as finishing second in a Grade 1 novice at the Punchestown Festival, before losing his way somewhat this term. That was high class form and, if he's been aimed at this all season (ran easily his best race last time, "kept on well, never nearer") and if he gets some luck in the run, he might be Rule The World mark II. He's exactly the sort of contrarian play this article needs!

More obvious is Jury Duty, who won on his travels in America in October and who also prevailed on his sole spin since, last month in a small field nondescript rated chase. He too fits the eight year old last day winner profile of the last two National victors, and he's getting backed.

Vintage Clouds' form ties in with Lake View Lad on their running behind Beware The Bear in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival last month. The Sue Smith-trained nine-year-old is more stoutly bred and has more staying form. Both are owned by Trevor Hemmings, who has tasted National success with Many Clouds, Ballabriggs and Hedgehunter since 2005. He should run a bold race.

And that leaves Walk In The Mill, trained in Dorset by Robert Walford. Though I'd love a small trainer from the county of my birth to win the most famous race in the land, I'm not sure this Walk In The Park (who else?) gelding will stay and, besides, I'll be cheering another Dorset trainer's runner: Regal Encore from the Anthony Honeyball yard.

Naturally, there are about thirty others with chances..!

*

Grand National 2019 Tips

Forty of 'em, running more than four miles, jumping thirty fences. Even in this mildly diluted variant of the fierce test of yore it is still a hugely demanding ask, and one which places a degree more emphasis on speed as well as abundant stamina and acceptable jumping ability.

If the ground is good to soft or quicker, I want to be with Anibale Fly, Vintage Clouds, Dounikos and Monbeg Notorious.

If the ground is soft or slower, I want to be with Vintage Clouds, Lake View Lad, Monbeg Notorious and Jury Duty.

But this is an anti-preview, so I'm just going to back the biggest priced horses from those lists and see where it gets me: Devil take the hindmost!

Grand National Betting Suggestion: Back either Monbeg Notorious (66/1) or Dounikos (40/1) with as many places as you can get. Chuck in Vintage Clouds (14/1) and/or Anibale Fly (14/1) if you want a more conventional contender.

Matt

p.s. if you want to spice up your Aintree interest, how about a bit of Colossus action? It's pool betting, with cash out, syndicates and consolations in the win pools. Check out this post to learn more about it.

Geegeez System Reviews : 1st quarter of 2019

As mentioned in the latest Geegeez Systems Reviews monthly roundup (posted here 3rd April), I've not been great at keeping you all informed, so here's an overview/catchup of how things have gone so far this year...

To 2nd Jan...

System Profit/Loss Service Days Trial days Monthly P/L Full Review ROI
The Wizard of Big Odds £363.05 (at day 41) 41 £213.55 Click Here 26.58%
Snowy Bets £105.00 (at day 32) 32 £384.00 Click Here 3.11%
Trends Experts £49.25 (at day 8) 8 -£173.25 Click Here 1.92%
Rhodium Racing £44.16 (at day 50) 50 -£127.10 Click Here 1.96%
Star Horse Tips -£58.75 (at day 30) 30 -£41.25 Click Here -8.90%
MK Horse Racing Tips -£168.33 (at day 42) 42 -£149.02 Click Here -12.91%
Overpriced Horse Tips -£219.50 (at day 36) 36 -£165.00 Click Here -47.72%
The Shortlist -£611.45 (at day 60) 60 £92.27 Click Here -8.60%
The BSP Tipster -£710.21 (at day 66) 66 -£401.00 Click Here -21.95%

To 6th Feb...

System Profit/Loss Service Days Trial days Monthly P/L Full Review ROI
The Wizard of Big Odds £1,025.05 (at day 70) 70 £662.00 Click Here 49.44%
Trends Experts £221.75 (at day 13) 13 £172.50 Click Here 6.17%
Star Horse Tips £113.46 (at day 57) 57 £172.21 Click Here 8.86%
Rhodium Racing -£0.08 (at day 60) 60 -£44.24 Click Here 0.00%
Snowy Bets -£166.25 (at day 52) 52 -£271.25 Click Here -3.38%
MK Horse Racing Tips -£285.05 (at day 55) 55 -£116.72 Click Here -16.16%
Overpriced Horse Tips -£299.50 (at day 60) 60 -£80.00 Click Here -41.60%
Most Recently Completed
The BSP Tipster -£710.21 (at day 66) 66 £0.00 Click Here -21.95%
The Shortlist -£611.45 (at day 60) 60 £0.00 Click Here -8.60%

 

And to 6th March...

System Profit/Loss Service Days Trial days Monthly P/L Full Review ROI
The Wizard of Big Odds £1,443.55 (at day 90) 90 £418.50 Click Here 58.19%
Trends Experts £519.15 (at day 19) 19 £297.40 Click Here 10.46%
Place For Profit £175.06 (at day 4) 4 £175.06 Click Here 97.26%
Jakblak Racing -£50.00 (at day 5) 5 -£50.00 Click Here -100.00%
Most Recently Completed
Snowy Bets -£442.25 (at day 60) 60 -£276.00 Click Here -8.03%
Star Horse Tips £67.84 (at day 60) 60 -£45.62 Click Here 5.06%

 

Now that I'm all up to date, normal service has been resumed and the latest update is right here.

 

Chris

System Reviews : An Update and an Apology…

As most of you are aware, we review lots of commercial tipping services here on Geegeez, so that we can try before you buy!

The basic premise is that we review them, so you can see if they're any good. If they are, we'll say so (but we don't recommend many, if I'm honest!) and we'll show you how you can get involved.

If you sign up to a service via one of our highlighted links, we get a small commission from the vendor and this helps to fund the ongoing development of Geegeez, enabling us to keep our subscription fees as low as we possibly can. You are, of course, more than welcome to sign up for a service without using our links, but the prices are always the same :in fact some vendors let our readers join at reduced rates!

Anyway, enough waffle about why we review products and more about the reviews themselves. Basically we get free access to services for 90 days and my small band of trusty volunteers (yes, they do an amazing job for free!) report on the day's tips/results each evening after racing has ended, enabling you to track the progress of those tipsters you might be interested in.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn't run the review side of Geegeez without these reviewers, so I'd like to publicly thank them for their help.

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My role is to source the reviews, get them set up on Geegeez, monitor them and do a monthly update on the first Wednesday of the month aka a state of play report and here's where the apology comes!

Sadly, for various reasons, none of which I'll bore you with today, I've let this side of the business slide and no updates were published in January, February or March and I must apologise for that, it's not good form at all!

That said, I've attempted to redress the situation and I've spent a considerable amount of time in collating all the figures since December, setting up 9 new reviews and taking 3 more on for pre-review proofing and all the spreadsheets are now up to date!

January, February & March's figures are all here on a separate page showing the progress (or lack of!) during the first quarter of the year and now...

...here is the current state of play (up to and including 2nd April)...

System Profit/Loss When? Days Monthly  Review ROI
Jakblak Racing £200.00 (at day 33) 33 £250.00 Click Here 46.51%
Trends Experts £169.35 (at day 23) 23 -£349.80 Click Here 2.81%
Place For Profit £73.00 (at day 33) 33 -£102.06 Click Here 4.55%
Racing Odds £60.00 (at day 16) 16 £60.00 Click Here 46.15%
Quentin Franks Racing £57.50 (at day 7) 7 £57.50 Click Here 17.42%
Anthony Moore £27.50 (at day 2) 2 £27.50 Click Here 39.29%
APP Lays £19.00 (at day 2) 2 £19.00 Click Here 95.00%
Simplicity Racing £0.00 (at day 2) 2 £0.00 Click Here 0.00%
Each Way Expert -£70.25 (at day 8) 8 -£70.25 Click Here -22.66%
Phoenix Racing -£140.00 (at day 9) 9 -£140.00 Click Here -45.16%
Most Recently Completed
The Wizard of Big Odds £1,443.55 (at day 90) 90 £0.00 Click Here 58.19%

As is normally the case, clicking a service's name will direct you to their homepage, where you'll find more info and no doubt be offered the opportunity to take out a subscription.

The above is pretty self explanatory, of course, but if anything's unclear, feel free to ask. You'll notice that all of the above are still in the early stages of their time with us, so I've no real guidance to give you, but if I was pushed to give you one to keep an eye, then I suppose it's fairly obvious that Jakblak Racing might just be one of interest so far.

If there's a product/service out there that you'd like me to review or that you think we should review, please do get in touch. Other than that, I'm done here for another month and I'll leave you with another reminder that the next update will be here on 1st March, when I'm home from holiday!

Thanks for taking the time to read this today and sorry again about the break in service,

Chris 

Social Discourse: Monday 1st April 2019

Welcome to April and the first Social Discourse of the Spring and, consequently, the flat turf season. I'm William Kedjanyi, and here is my perspective of the past week (and the coming days) through the eye of the tweet machine...

First things first: today is the first day of the reduced FOBT Maximum Stake, which is now £2 from £100, and also my last day writing this column, as I am leaving to join BBC Newsnight as their new sports editor, with a focus on racing. Thanks to Matt for his very hard work, faith and dedication, and to you for all the memories.

 

  1. Blue Planet Live

It’s a Godolphin world, and we’re all just living in it. The Men in Blue are at the top of the sport again after a time in the relative wilderness, and they look here to stay for the foreseeable future.

They have had some brilliant moments in the past year or so, but the Dubai World Cup is arguably the most important meeting of all for them: they duly smashed it out of the park, with a brilliant four-timer on the card.

Melbourne Cup Winner, Cross Counter, took the Dubai Gold Cup with a late charge, Blue Point bossed the Al Quoz Sprint with his customary class, Old Persian was a comprehensive winner of the Sheema Classic, and of course, the incredibly admirable Thunder Snow nailed The Dubai World Cup for the second time, the first horse to win it twice.

The winning started at 5.30 am, as Avilius won the Group 1 Tancred Stakes at Rosehill in Australia, and they didn’t leave out Britain either, thanks to Auxerre’s demolition job in the Lincoln, which was very much the performance of a Group winner in waiting.

https://twitter.com/itvracing/status/1112074808773230593

That makes it 9 Group 1 winners for them so far this season, and that before the dew has dried on the first morning of April, with a number of good returning juveniles to come and, potentially, an extended campaign for their Dubai World Cup night winners too.

This shouldn’t be the peak for them, either: one would think that we will see still further improvement from Cross Counter and Old Persian, and Thunder Snow looks bound for the US and a campaign focused on the Breeders' Cup Classic once again.

Everyone Benefits: The rivalry between Godolphin and Coolmore is well and truly back, and fans and bettors can both benefit from more clashes over the season to come.

 

 

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  1. Almonds and Rubies

Despite all those heroics, the winner of the day on the international stage was Almond Eye, the latest in a long list of Japanese superstars to take their talents abroad, including to Dubai.

Almond Eye fans couldn’t have had higher expectations ahead of the Dubai Turf, and she would have pleased even the most demanding of fans as she cruised through three quarters of the race; but, as she went to the front of the race – and about a length clear – on the bridle, she didn't quite pick up in the way it looked likely, in what was ultimately a less impressive victory. Accounting for the travel and that she'll come on a ton for the run, she can be marked up notably, however, and expect a bigger showing next time out.

It was a performance that her fans and the market expected, confirming once again the remarkable speed that she possesses, beating the previous winner Vivlos and the consistent Lord Glitters with a length and a quarter to spare on her first run for four months.

Destination Paris: As with the other Japanese greats before her, including Deep Impact and Orfevre, a first Arc for her nation is the hope. On this evidence, the Japanese fillies’ Triple Crown winner has her chance, though she'll need to step forward from this 2019 bow.

Unsurprisingly, opinion is split on whether she can take on and beat Enable and Sea of Class, but it promises to be another epic if the three make it there in peak form.

 

Sakae Kunieda, her trainer, speaking to Tony McFadden of the Racing Post: "It was a really great race. She broke well, settled well, got a good position and accelerated well to win well. It was the result I thought we could get and I’m happy she proved us right. I was nervous, I’ve lost my voice. Almond Eye can continue my dreams, so next we’ll go to Europe, our dream is to take her to the Arc."

One to note: Without Parole went off the boil after taking the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last term, but he was a fair fifth on his return here and that potentially hints at better to come this season as a four-year-old.

 

  1. Do The Splits

Not all these big days can go off without a hitch, however, and sadly for would be viewers of the Sheema Classic, the ultimate hitch occurred: there was no live coverage!

This took place on Racing TV, but apparently was also the case for Sky Sports Racing; it’s fair to say that neither set of viewers were happy, and rightly so: to miss such a big event on premium broadcasting stations is unacceptable.

This, again: We’ve talked here regularly - like, weekly - about Racing TV’s top class team, but also about the channel's increased commitments and the balance between their jurisdictions as they now have to cope with being the sole provider of racing from Ireland whilst also taking on more UK flat fixtures. This means busier Saturdays, especially during the major international fixtures, and a compromise or solution, whatever one wants to call it, has not yet been found.

 

  1. Elsewhere…
  • Petrus gave Tom Marquand a perfect 21st Birthday present as he won the Spring Mile at Doncaster, holding off Exec Chef to win by half a length with the pair well clear
  • Maximum Security announced himself as a Kentucky Derby contender in the Florida Derby, a key prep, going from the front for a decisive three and a half length victory under a canny ride from Luis Saez for trainer Jason Servis
  • Last year’s Champion Apprentice Jason Watson rode his first winner of the year aboard Forbidden Planet in the Rosebery Handicap at Kempton, almost three months after a horror fall at the same track
  • Mootasadir maintained his unbeaten record on the all-weather in the Listed Magnolia Stakes on the same card, potentially starting a road to the Melbourne Cup if things go right for him down the road
  • Globetrotter Red Verdon bagged his first victory in 13 months in the Unibet Conditions Stakes at Doncaster yesterday, on his first run since being gelded

 

  1. To Be Decided

The Grand National Meeting is this week – doesn’t time fly? – and plenty of runners have now had their plans confirmed. They include

Bristol De Mai, and Clan Des Obeaux, who will head to the Betfred Bowl after their Gold Cup efforts; Ch’tibello, who will head to the Aintree Hurdle after his County Hurdle success; David Pipe’s Umbrigado, who could run in either the Sefton or the Mersey Hurdle; Sam Spinner, who will head to the Liverpool Hurdle following his return to form in the Stayers' Hurdle; Festival Plate runner up Janika, who is set to take his chance in the Topham having jumped the National fences well at home; Valtor, who could go to the National or join Janika in the Topham; and Roksana, the Mares Hurdle winner, who will step back into open company in the Liverpool Hurdle. 

They, sadly for those travelling to Liverpool, do not include:

  • Altior or Santini, who will both be staying home
  • Blaklion, who has unfortunately injured himself
  • Cyrname, who is more likely to head to the Celebration Chase for a potential clash with Altior

Stay well!

- William Kedjanyi

p.s. I'll see you next week. Sadly, Newsnight can't afford my services, so I'll be continuing here on geegeez.co.uk for the foreseeable future, or until the Beeb up their offer! 😉

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