Monday Musing: The Coolmore Numbers Game

Life is basically all about choices, writes Tony Stafford. Do you turn left or right? When I collected my laundered shirts by Snaresbrook station on Saturday morning, with an immediate destination of Loughton to pick up Harry Taylor en route to the 2,000 Guineas and Newmarket, option one was to turn right and go via the A12 and M11.

But almost of its own volition, my car instead turned left and travelled the urban way through South Woodford, Woodford and Buckhurst Hill, all stops along the Central underground line, but avoiding the bottleneck at Debden.

Halfway there, at Woodford Green, it was impossible to miss the statue of that location’s former Member of Parliament, Sir Winston Churchill, cast in familiar bulldog pose and dominating a piece of greenery on the southern tip of Epping Forest. A few hundred yards on, Churchills fish bar, destined to be an impulse stop around 30 hours later for a celebratory cod fillet – no chips – offered a second nudge to possible events at turf’s HQ.

Classic winners are supposed to have “good names” and there is little doubt that the octet of 2,000 Guineas heroes trained by Aidan O’Brien, all for various combinations of the Mrs Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith team, have that distinction in common.

King of Kings (1998), Rock of Gibraltar (2002), Footstepsinthesand (2005), George Washington (2006), Henrythenavigator (2008), Camelot (2012), Gleneagles (2015) and now Churchill all, bar maybe Foostepsinthesand, fulfil the nomenclature requirement and offer testimony to the language skills of Mrs Magnier, daughter of Vincent O’Brien.

More pertinently, as the late, great Vincent’s successor at Ballydoyle, Aidan (no relation) O’Brien has set the record for 2,000 Guineas victories, beating that set in the mists of time by John Scott, when that stable manager had neither the might nor the money of the Maktoums and the Qataris to contend with.

You say something, like “a record eighth win” quickly and as bald fact it deflects the enormity of the statistic. Nineteen years on from his first 2,000 Guineas triumph, it means that Aidan has won 40% of the possible opportunities in that timeframe. When you look at the potential fire power of some of the 200-strong teams around the UK and the almost bottomless pockets of a number of their patrons, such monopoly is truly embarrassing for his rivals.

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I took a minute before yesterday’s 1,000 Guineas to talk to Michael Prosser on just that point, and he trumped me with an even more unlikely one. I’d just taxed Aidan with the question: “Are you any good at maths?” hoping to confound him with the 40% thing, but in true character Aidan had first to apologise and then rush away to monitor one of his trio into the parade ring before the Classic.

Prosser said: “We have nine Group 1 races here and last year Aidan won six of them.” Add to that the weekend Guineas double of Churchill and Winter and that makes eight out of the last 11 and 73%!

One 2,000 Guineas which Aidan did not win was its 2011 version, dominated throughout by Frankel, named for a great horseman, New York-born Bobby Frankel, Prince Khalid Abdullah’s principal US trainer. Almost an equal part of the Frankel mystique, apart of course from the fact that he was never beaten in a three-year career, was that he was trained by Sir Henry Cecil in the closing phase of his own eventually life-ending illness.

Frankel, the racehorse, shares with Churchill and Winter, as well as Saturday’s impressive Jockey Club Stakes winner Seventh Heaven, a common factor in that all four are products of Galileo, the most potent of the stallions that have fuelled Coolmore Stud’s recent pre-eminence.

For some sections of the media – especially television – members of Frankel’s initial crop have been portrayed as embodiments and thus likely equals of their father, but in horse racing that sort of expectation can only be cemented on the racetrack, rather than in sentiment.

A number have already proved precocious, and four of his early stakes horses appeared with a fair degree of expectation in the two Classic races. Fair Eva and Queen Kindly both made good starts to their juvenile seasons, but were respectively only fifth and ninth in the 1,000, while Dream Castle and Eminent were fifth and sixth, close behind the principals the previous day. Two other sons of Galileo, shared the spotlight with dad on Saturday: Teofilo, the best of his first-crop sons, is the sire of Permian, runaway winner of the Listed Newmarket Stakes and Ronald R is by Frankel’s old racetrack rival, Nathaniel.

I cannot resist one statistical fact away from racing that further embellishes the amazing level of O’Brien’s achievements. Tottenham Hotspur, renowned as the true FA Cup team – “if there’s a “1” in the year, Spurs win the Cup” as the adage used to go, last won that competition in 1991 and the League Championship 30 years earlier! Not that you would think so with some of the coverage of that “sport” in recent months.

I’m sure there must have been a number of Churchills racing in the UK over the years and the Racing Post also lists a few reared and raced elsewhere. James Burridge, breeder and part owner of the great Desert Orchid, also probably held quite high expectations for the 1995-born son of Derby runner-up Carlingford Castle – behind Teenoso, Lester Piggott’s last winner of nine in 1983.

Lester was in the paddock before Saturday’s race, but I doubt he remembers the 1995 Churchill, sold for 700gns  to Keith Brown Properties, Hull, and a four-time raced non-achiever with a 31-length seventh, 69-length 12th before an unseated and pulled up ended his unremarkable time in action.

Also in the house on Saturday was Andy Smith, owner and bloodstock agent, who might just have got the best of the Frankel euphoria. Andy was the original owner, apart from David and Diane Nagle, the breeders from Barronstown Stud, of the filly, Toulifaut.

She won three times for the Jean-Claude Rouget stable before going under the hammer at the Arc sale, less than 24 hours before her date in the Prix Marcel Boussac. She changed hands for 1.9 million Euro, becoming the property of the Yoshida family’s Shadai Farm but was only eighth in the Boussac behind Godolphin’s Wuheida and fourth of six in her comeback run this spring.

There were critics of Ryan Moore’s performance on Rhododendron after he was briefly denied a run on the filly, but the way Winter strode clear up the hill, makes it less of a certainly that the favourite would have beaten her even with a clear run.

I am less than overjoyed that two days after he took a little each-way 20-1 on what has proved inspired information, Mick Quinn only passed on the news when Winter was already down to less than half that price. He can begin to make amends by getting a good run tomorrow night with Circuit at Leicester. She’s in the last, under Jamie Spencer, after which it’s off to Chester for three days and a switch of emphasis to Derby and Oaks trials. Phew!

- Tony Stafford

5 Good Bets for the 2015 Flat Season

Bill Turner: early punters' pal

Bill Turner: early punters' pal

Doncaster hosts the first flat turf meeting of the year this weekend and, ahead of the Brocklesby and the Lincoln and the rest, I've picked out what I think are five good bets for the season.

Time inevitably will be the final arbiter of how good they actually are, but hopefully all have some sort of robustness to the rationale.

Good Bet #1: Just That Lord to win the Brocklesby

The opening race of the turf flat season, and the first for two year olds, is the Brocklesby Conditions Stakes. It's a race in which one generally low profile trainer has a preposterously good record.

Bill Turner is his name and, though he may be more famous for riding a zebra to his local boozer, he always has his babies very well forward for the start of the flat.

Incredibly, he's saddled no less than six Brocklesby winners, and four of the last nine. Since 2006, from a single runner each year, Turner's Brocklesby form string reads 101621412, a remarkable feat for any trainer let alone one with just a handful of horses.

I don't know anything about Just That Lord's breeding, except that he's a home bred by owner Mrs M S Teversham, who also bred and owned the 2002 winner, The Lord. But I do know that if he's lining up in this for Mr T, he must be nippy.


Good Bet #2: Richard Pankhurst to win 2000 Guineas

Who knows how last year's juvies have wintered and progressed as we head towards the first Classics of 2015? Those closest to them, of course. So unless you have a mole in Newmarket - most are dealt with as vermin (the underground burrowing types, I mean) - the best barometer may be the market, in conjunction with the form book.

Richard Pankhurst scores well on both fronts. Trained by Johnny G and bred by his wife, Rachel Hood, Mr P has changed hands since his taking win in the Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot to run in the Godolphin blue this season. That was the last we saw of the son of Raven's Pass on the track, but a similar layoff hasn't prevented stable mate Faydhan from standing second in the betting for the first Classic.

Raven's Pass himself was fourth in the Guineas in 2008, and Gosden had to settle for second last year with horse of the year, Kingman.

Despite his ostensibly more illustrious barn buddy, Richard Pankhurst has achieved more on the track and, in recent days, attracted more support in the betting. He's still available at 16/1, and that might be worth a small interest.

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Good Bet #3: Tiggy Wiggy to win 1000 Guineas

She may not stay the mile trip. And she may not improve enough from two to three. But she looks the wrong price to me at 25/1 to win the 1000 Guineas.

In the not so distant past - 2004 to be precise - Attraction won four races at five furlongs and the Cherry Hinton Stakes (Group 2) over six as a juvenile before claiming the Guineas. She was only slightly more stoutly bred than Tiggy Wiggy, who ought not to get beyond seven furlongs on pedigree.

In 2008, Natagora won the Cheveley Park Stakes, a Group 1 over six furlongs, before winning the Guineas. At this point in her career, she had yet to race beyond six pegs, and she had a five from seven career record (second the other twice).

Tiggy Wiggy won six of eight starts as a juvenile last season, second on the other two outings. And she was good enough to win the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes in comfortable fashion.

In 2010, Special Duty won a contentious renewal of the 1000 Guineas having raced exclusively at six furlongs or less as a two year old. She too won the Cheveley Park Stakes en route to Classic success.

Tiggy Wiggy will probably get jiggy in a seven furlong trial as an attempt to prove her stamina before the big day, and if she fails that rehearsal she may not run in the Guineas.

But 25/1? About the best juvenile filly of 2014? History says she's over-priced, even if we have to tear up the ticket before May 3rd.


Good Bet #4: Elm Park to win the Derby

Elm Park, former home to Reading Football Club, and the name of the current Racing Post Trophy holder. Bred by the Kingsclere Stud, he was owned by their racing club prior to the acceptance of a doubtless un-refusable offer from Qatar Racing.

Having been bested into third on his debut, Elm Park went through the rest of the season unbeaten in four. That quartet of wins included the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes and, as mentioned, a ready success in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.

Elm Park has reportedly wintered very well and filled out considerably. Team Balding is obviously excited about his prospects and I'm looking forward to seeing him at a stable visit on 14th April (I will of course share all the gen shortly thereafter).

He needs to be supplemented for the Epsom showpiece which, all other things being equal, will happen; and while it's not a triumph for the little guy any more, it'd still be a fantastic achievement for Andrew Balding and team.

Elm Park has already shown he acts on good to firm and soft ground, so it'll be of little concern to him how the turf rides in early June, though stamina has to be taken on trust as with all Derby aspirants at this stage.

A staying on run behind Richard Pankhurst in the 2000 Guineas is something of a dream result, but more sensibly a closing-on-the-leaders top four finish there on his seasonal bow would be pitch perfect preparation. 14/1 looks generous.


Good Bet #5: Found to win the Oaks

Winner of the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, a fillies' mile race, last backend, Found is favourite for both the Guineas and the Oaks. She's by Galileo - who else? - out of an Intikhab mare and, though she was speedy enough to win that G1, she did get done for toe in the Moyglare Stud Stakes over a furlong shorter.

Whatever she does in the 1000 Guineas she'll surely improve on in the Oaks. Her trainer, Aidan O'Brien, says she is a big filly with a rounded action, which on the face of it raises questions about fast ground. But she won her maiden on good to firm, and was a close third in that Moyglare; she might prefer a bit of cut without it being a prerequisite.

4/1 is pretty unsexy in the context of a bet in a race two months down the line (yes, that's all it is!), but any sort of staying on close to the places performance in the Guineas and she'll be 2/1 or less I would think.


So, what's your best bet for the flat season? Leave a comment and let us know. 😀


p.s. the REAL best bet for the flat season is a subscription to Geegeez Gold. Right now, you can get two weeks for £5, and a seriously low £24 a month if you decide to stay with us. The bit of Gold that I rarely promote - tipping - has enjoyed winners at 12/1 and 10/1 from just four picks this week on Stat of the Day. It's obviously not always like that... but it often is 😉

Go here for your £5 fortnight

Fahey puts his Guineas faith in Hamilton

Garswood (r) beats Emell at Newmarket

Garswood (r) beats Emell at Newmarket

Jockey Tony Hamilton is looking forward to Saturday’s 2000 Guineas more than most, as he’ll have his first ever Classic ride in the race. Read more

Dettori medical marks major step to his return

frankie detWith all the furore around Mahmood Al Zarooni and his misuse of drugs on some of the horses in his stable, an important step in the rehabilitation of the highest profile jockey to fall foul of drug abuse could easily be overlooked. Read more

Trainer Stats: 26th Mar 2013

Jim BolgerAndy Newton’s got a trainer operating at a 75% strike-rate to look out for this week, plus five other ‘red-hot’ yards....... Read more

Sat TV Trends: 13th Oct 2012

It's Cesarewitch Day at HQ!

Excellent cards at Newmarket and York this week and as usual we’ve got all the key TV Trends for the LIVE C4 races..... Read more

Camelot yet to prove O’Brien claim that he’s the best

The renewal of a partnership in yesterday’s Arc that had rarely worked together for the past five years prompted speculation in some quarters that it could become a regular sight during next year’s flat season. Frankie Dettori rode Camelot for the Aiden O’Brien/Coolmore team, a move which could further undermine his position as a key employee of rivals Godolphin. Read more

Triple Crown bid for Camelot?

Camelot’s part owner Derrick Smith floated the idea of a shot at the Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger shortly after the colt won the first Classic of the season on the Rowley Mile on Saturday. Smith said the idea would be up for discussion with partners Michael Tabor and Sue Magnier if Camelot wins at Epsom. Read more

Sat TV Trends: 5th May 2012

Aidan Just 3 from 36 With His 3-year-olds at HQ

Did you know that Aidan O’Brien is currently just 2 from 36 with his 3 year-olds at Newmarket? Read more

Trainer Stats: 3rd May 2012

Jim Boyle Is Starting To Hit Form

Andy Newton gives you eight in-form trainers to look out for this week........... Read more

2000 Guineas 2010 Newmarket Preview

2000 Guineas 2010 Preview

After the last hoorah of the Punchestown Festival on Saturday, dear reader, and also the traditional British curtain call for the National Hunt at Sandown, it's now all systems go for the Flat season.

This week, I’ll be taking a look forward to the first two of the British Classics, the 1000 and 2000 Guineas this weekend.

Both races are run over a straight mile at Newmarket and, over the years, it has proven to be an interesting and less than straightforward challenge to find the winner.

Successful selection has demanded one to assimilate two year old form from UK, Ireland and France; to project which horses were more likely to improve from their juvenile year to the classic season; and to interpret whether a fitness edge from a Guineas trial was material or otherwise.

The Newmarket meeting is spread over both days this coming weekend, and the first of the features is the 2000 Guineas on Saturday.

It is a rarity indeed for one of the lesser stables to lift this high class prize and, to that end, there are some strong trainer trends in recent years.

Aidan O’Brien’s mighty battalion has won a staggering five of the last dozen renewals; and Saeed bin Suroor and Sir Michael Stoute have each chipped in with two of the last fourteen. Anything this trio runs must make the shortlist.

Aside from O’Brien, this is a fantastic event for the Irish, with Dermot Weld and John Oxx also on the roll of honour since 2003 (the latter last year with the incredible Sea The Stars).

Eleven of the last fourteen winners had won last time out and all of them were in the first three last time. Being such a top race, that does little to whittle down the serious contenders in the field.

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Perhaps a more interesting stat is that only three winners in the last eleven years had won a Group 1 race as a juvenile. Trying to find some logic to support this seemingly perverse observation, I suspect it has to do with the most mature two year olds winning the Group 1 races but, thereafter, having less scope for improvement than others. So it may follow that those weaker or less forward can improve at three, beyond the level of form demonstrated in juvenile Group 1 races.

Assuming that rationale holds water, which I shall, this counts against a number at the top of the market, including St Nicholas Abbey, the ante-post hot favourite. Awzaan, the third favourite, is in the same boat having looked a thoroughly complete juvenile when racking up a four timer including wins in the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes and Group 1 Middle Park Stakes.

Although Sea The Stars famously did not, nine of the last eleven 2000 Guineas winners made a winning start in their juvenile season. Beethoven and Hearts of Fire look to have it to do on that count.

In recent years, the market has been an excellent guide to the first Classic, with only 25/1 Cockney Rebel causing a shock. All other winners in the last decade paid 11/1 or less for your wager. Conversely, and perhaps another chink in the St Nicholas Abbey armour, only one favourite has won since Zafonic way back in 1993.

From a profiling perspective then, I would be looking for a horse that was fancied in the market; had won first time out last season; also won last time out, and had won a Group race though not a Group 1; and ideally from an Irish stable, or bin Suroor or Stoute’s yard.

Fencing Master, a neck second in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes on just his second start, looks capable of significant improvement and ticks all the boxes, except the price element (I’d expect him to truncate in the market between now and next Saturday). Although he was beaten by stable mate Beethoven that day, the winner was having the tenth run of his juvenile season!

I’d be confident of Fencing Master reversing the places if both line up and, at 16/1 at the time of writing (as short as 12’s with Coral), he looks good value. [Stop press: Beethoven is not now running, meaning I'm even more confident of FM reversing the places!]


The other thing I wanted to touch on today were two fantastic days at the end of last week, where I sat down at a private meeting with some of my Platinum Programme students for the first time.

The sessions were excellent: full of really enthusiastic and knowledgeable horse racing systemites looking to build their own businesses in this great area.

There were a number of things about the two days which I found uplifting:

1. The verve and vibe in the room was totally energising. I know that sounds a bit 'kooky', but you have to realise that whilst I love what I do and wouldn't trade it for anything, it can be quite lonely sometimes. So, to sit in a room and share ideas with ten plus people who are passionate about the same things that I am was incredible.

2. The universal belief that we have to put more good betting systems and services out there to make it so much harder for the scumbags and rip-off merchants to make money. All of the people at those two meetings were totally dedicated to providing the best quality they possibly can, and to raising the bar in our community. As you might know, that's something of an aspiration of mine, so I'm very excited to help these guys get on!

3. Almost everyone already had a great system or service that they'd been trialing or using for themselves, and a number of them will be commercially scalable (in other words, lots of people can use them without removing the profitability). This means that soon enough, I'd hope to see some of these guys making a name for themselves.

As uplifting and inspiring as those two days were, they were also quite 'knackering', as I had to do a LOT of speaking to get all the info across. My voice has packed up on me for now (Mrs Matt is thrilled!), and I'm on the 'easy list' for a couple of days.

But I've got much more for you this week, including a 1000 Guineas preview probably tomorrow, and a revisit of a cracking fun system that landing some tidy bets last year (including The Last Derby at 25/1).

So stay tuned!

That's all for today. I've backed Fencing Master as a value alternative to St Nicholas Abbey. Who do you like in the boys' Classic? Leave a comment below...


Horse Racing’s January…

As many racing commentators have observed, dear reader, this is a very funny time in the racing year. The jumps season officially ended on Saturday, with the Bet365 Gold Cup; and the flat season really gets underway this weekend with the 1000 and 2000 Guineas meeting at HQ.

Factor in that Punchestown will stage their NH Festival meeting this week - probably the best Festival in the Irish racing calendar - and it's certainly a week of transience for us racing fans.

The aforementioned Bet365 Gold Cup, formerly the Whitbread, was a pretty shabby affair if truth be told, and it's not hard to see why this 'feature' race has had so much flux in terms of the sponsor in recent years. Despite the relatively low quality of the field, there can be no doubting that it was a tremendous spectacle.

That man A P McCoy, whose horses became 'never lay' material after the imperious 'never say die' ride aboard the late Wichita Lineman at Cheltenham in March, underlined and emboldened the case for not opposing his mounts with a further peerless performance of potency, power and panache aboard Carl Llewellyn's Hennessy.

The beast was well backed, but also looked well beat down the far side second time around. No matter, for SuperMc nipped into a phonebox in a quiet corner of Esher, pulled his underpants over his breeches, fastened his red cape and rallied his reluctant steed to new heights. Mostly metaphorically, of course. (Not sure where this is going, so I'll just truncate the Superman metaphor at this point, and move on...)

On the same card at Sandown, we saw this year's Breeders Cup Mile winner in action. Paco Boy had been something of a 7f specialist prior to Saturday's authoritative win (always holding the placed horses, and brought to the front soon enough, in my opinion). But in taking the Group 2 Bet365 Mile on Sandown's stiff oval, Paco has show he has what it takes to win in Santa Anita.

Of course, it's a long old way to SoCal in late October from here, and the proximity of Longchamps' Prix de la Foret may scupper my transatlantic wagering hopes. But, if he gets to Santa Anita, he'll be fair tough to beat!

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Over at Navan yesterday, the legend that is Yeats put in a rare stinker in the Listed Vintage Crop Stakes. He was apparently blowing very hard after the race, meaning he likely will come on for the race. At eight years old now though, it's not impossible his legs have gone. That being the case, and assuming his seeds have not, the old boy - who is still in possession of his meat and two veg - may make up into a spectacular NH sire. You heard it here first... (Unfortunately, I'll probably have to wait at least five years to crow about this particular piece of clairvoyancy!)


To this week, and what a week! Punchestown's punting and drinking marathon starts tomorrow, and those that plan to be there for the duration had better ration their powder if they've any hopes of survival. It's truly a test for a thorough stayer, and many will pull up / fall / unseat rider / run out long before Saturday's 5.05 race has concluded. (Incidentally, for the 'iron man' marathoners out there, I note that the racecourse will be showing the Munster vs Leinster Heineken Cup semi-final after racing, and the bars will still be open. Good grief!)

I'll be offering some insights into the trends for some of the Punchy races, with a big thank you to Tony Mac for kindly sharing his research on the cards.


Of course, here in UK, where we've put the jumps season behind us, we're looking forward to the first two classics of the season, and they offer the usual conundrum of last season's 2yo form against this season's 3yo trials. Chuck in the Irish vs English relative form imponderable, and the waters are well and truly muddied.

But fret not, for I'll endeavour to take a view on these affairs towards the end of the week as well, in what is likely to be a bumper bloggathon.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also the biggest drinking session of them all, the Kentucky Derby, this Saturday. I was lucky enough to go to Louisville a couple of years ago for the Breeders Cup, and all the locals told me that the Derby (pronounced 'dur-bee' - heathens!) absolutely dwarfs the BC meet.

Cheltenham's Gold Cup day boasts crowds of around 65,000... The Derby at Epsom plays host to a staggering 120,000... Wembley holds 90,000... Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May will play host to over 160,000 baying, drinking, wagering sports fans for its 'Run For The Roses'.

Wow! And boy, do they like to party? I was told the college kids will be in town all week drowning themselves in booze. In many ways, I wish I was there. But I'm not sure my liver could survive the pounding... maybe next year!

As for who's going to win... it's almost an irrelevance. Apparently. But of course, I'll be having a crack at this one too. Much more to follow later this week then...


With so much great sport later in the week, I'll be maintaining a watching brief only today - Mondays being my least favourite betting day in the week at the best of times.