Andy Newton is on hand with all the trends & stats at Epsom, Musselburgh & Haydock this Derby Day Saturday. Read more
Frankie Dettori must have been surprised to find himself left in the weighing room for York’s Derby trial, the Dante Stakes, yesterday. Whilst he might have felt rather alone for fifteen minutes each side of 2.30, many racing fans will have shared his surprise that he was not riding Mandaean for the Godolphin team. Read more
Day Two of the York May meeting is headlined by the pre-eminent Epsom Derby trial, the Dante Stakes. This year, the first three in the betting for the Blue Riband go head to head (to head) in the Dante Stakes, so we are bound to see some serious shaking up in the ante-post Derby betting subsequently.
(Last year's Derby winner, Workforce, became the first horse beaten in the Dante to go on to win the Derby. He was beaten by Cape Blanco, who himself went on to win the Irish Derby).
That trio of Derby fancies lining up this afternoon are Seville, Carlton House and World Domination, representing the powerful yards of Aidan O'Brien, Sir Michael Stoute and 'Sir' Henry Cecil and owners Michael Tabor/John Magnier, Her Majesty The Queen, and Prince Khalid Abdullah respectively.
And what of their chances? Well, as ever with Derby trials, there are plenty of imponderables. All horses will have been lightly raced, all expected to improve this time, and all are likely to have something left to work on between now and Derby day. With that in mind, betting is tricky. But let's consider the merits of this trio, as well as anything lurking in the rest of the field that might have a chance.
The form pick is Seville, who was last seen at the end of last season running up to Casamento in the Racing Post Trophy. That form has worked out quite well, despite the 'too bad to be true' run of the RP Trophy winner in the 2000 Guineas. Native Khan, who was fourth in the Trophy, subsequently won the Craven Stakes before a gallant third in the 2000 Guineas.
Master Of Hounds, third in the Trophy, finished a staying on fifth in the Kentucky Derby last weekend. Dunboyne Express, fifth in the Racing Post Trophy, won the 2000 Guineas Trial, a Group 3, on his only subsequent run.
Even ninth placed Dubawi Gold won two Listed races on the all weather before a superb second spot in the 2000 Guineas behind 'the beast' Frankel.
What I'm trying to say is that the form of Seville's second placing in the Racing Post Trophy is far and away the best public form in the race.
Against him are two, presumably, rapidly improving types who are handled by masters of their craft. Between Sir Michael and 'Sir' Henry, they've amassed nine Derby's, with Stoute just edging it 5-4. In fact, Stoute has the best recent record, having won three Derby's since 2003 (Kris Kin, North Light and last year's with Workforce).
'Sir' Henry last bagged the Blue Riband back in 1999, when Kieran Fallon booted home Oath. Both are obviously to be respected in the context of this race. In fact, the scoreline for the Dante Stakes is 6-5 to 'Sir' Henry, albeit that his last winner in the race was Tenby way back in 1993.
So that's the history lesson, but what of the two equines they send to post today? World Domination has had just the one run this season, when carting up in a warm looking Newbury maiden. Only three horses have come out since, with third placed Reflect scrambling home by a neck in a Salisbury maiden and two down the field runners, Sirius Superstar and Camporosso, finding the frame (the latter from two starts).
World Domination will clearly improve for the run and connections are obviously extremely hopeful. They did however have Arizona Jewel flop badly yesterday.
Carlton House is bidding to give The Queen her first Derby winner since, well ever so far as I can tell. (Leave a comment if this is wrong!). Carlton House is a son of teak tough US dirt horse, Street Cry, who won at up to a mile and quarter, today's race distance. He's out of a Bustino mare so there's stamina on the dam's side too, which gives hope that he'll stay the Derby trip though I'm not certain of that. Any dosage fans out there care to take a look at the four generation view? 😉
What about the form? Carlton House was second on debut in a race that hasn't worked out terribly well (two winners from 21 subsequent starters), before decisively crushing a large field by nine lengths in a Newbury maiden. That was on good to soft, and his debut was on soft, and he may well improve for faster ground.
That second run has worked out better, with four subsequent winners from the top ten in that race, including Yaseer, who reopposes today.
Of the rest, Yaseer was then beaten by Native Khan, which gives him plenty to find with both Carlton House and Seville; Pisco Sour is exposed and not good enough; and Ashva was beaten in a Class 3 handicap last time (say no more).
It's Seville for me, as long as he's fit enough on debut. He is a clear form pick and the improvers will need to find something like two stone even if Seville hasn't himself improved, which he probably has. That's possible of course, as they are both less exposed than the selection...
I shall be there this afternoon to cheer Night Orbit in the last, but the card kicks off three and a quarter hours earlier, at 1.30, with an impossible sprint over five furlongs. The three winners of this race were priced at 11/1, 16/1 and 33/1, so I'll take a speculative chance on something at a price.
Five furlongs on good ground looks ideal for Judge 'N Jury, and his York record (5th in this last year, 2nd of 20 here since) means he could be thereabouts. On the minus side, he hasn't won since 2009 and may be slowing up at the age of seven. Nevertheless, he's a (well backed) 16/1 shot today, and might run well.
In the 2.00, the Middleton Stakes (Group 2), we've a treat with top mares Midday, Music Show and Timepiece heading the field. Midday is undeniable the best of these, but... she hasn't won on her first start in any of her three racing seasons, and she will certainly be geared at bigger contests later in the season. On that basis, I think there's value to be had opposing her at around evens.
Timepiece is another who has taken a run (or three) to get match fit in her two racing seasons, and in a warm race the one I'd side with each way is Music Show. She deservedly won her Group 1 last season in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket's July meeting, having been unlucky in the 1000 Guineas (drawn on the wrong side) and third in the Irish equivalent.
I don't believe Music Show is a better mare than Midday, or even than Timepiece necessarily, but she will be fit to fight today, having had a seasonal debut in the Sandown Mile, another Group 2, against the boys. The reservation with her is the trip, as this is the first time she'll have stretched out beyond a mile and the extra quarter mile may be too far for her.
At a bigger price, Nouriya appeals a little too. She was on the up and up last season and a run against the boys last time will have got her to concert pitch for this afternoon. Her trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, has won this race three times in the last eight years, and he is a whizz at improving older horses. She may well run better than odds of 16/1 suggest.
My Dante thoughts have been shared above, and the next race is the Hambleton Stakes, a Listed handicap over a mile, at 3.00. Julia Feilden's Spirit Of Sharjah runs here and, whilst the trip might be a little beyond his optimum seven furlongs, the grade is spot on.
He finished seventh in this last year off a five pound higher mark, and he'll give us a run for small each way wagering.
Taking the Feilden blinkers off, another I like in this contest is last time out winner, Light From Mars. He has Tom Eaves on rather than the brilliant Mickael Barzalona this afternoon and that is a small negative (no offence, Tom), but that was a very solid run and over optimum conditions, he should run well.
It should also go without saying that these massive field handicaps are not my speciality so I won't be betting big and I wouldn't encourage anyone else to take a strong view on what is little more than a token offering.
The 3.35 follows, and this is conditions sprint with an odds on favourite, Night Carnation, bidding to double up after a last time out success. She has a good chance of doing just that, but at 5/6 she doesn't tempt me. We'll get paid three places unless there are two non-runners, so each way is the play.
The second favourite, Margot Did, would have been the one if this race was six furlongs. She's got no five furlong experience and may just find this a bit too quick. Certainly at the price she has a little to prove, though not too much to find if she's as effective at the shorter trip.
Fillies have won both runnings to date of this both sex contest and whilst the two mentioned above are also the fairer sex, the each way tickle for me here is Shoshoni Wind. She's another last time out winner, and might have as much improvement as the favourite. At 11/1, she'll pay more for a place than Night Carnation will to win, and she'll do for me.
the 4.10 is a two year old maiden with lots of unraced babies. I'm following the form of Hamza's race and as such will be having a tiny tickle - each way again - on Art Dzeko, who was well beaten by Hamza the last day. He's a 33/1 chance who will improve for the run. Whether he's (anywhere near) good enough to make the frame remains to be seen.
At the business end of the market, Mick Channon's Noor Zabeel may be the one. Channon has a good handle on the juveniles having saddled Gatepost to the most impressive performance so far from the 'baby brigade' and he'll know where he is with these. Of course, something unraced could easily trump the experienced entries, but I do like the juniors to have the benefit of a run, so Noor Zabeel is the suggestion.
Finally, and most interestingly for me, the 4.45 is a two and a quarter mile handicap, featuring two Feilden inmates, Blackmore and Night Orbit. The latter is part-owned by me, and I've donned my best suit to cheer him home.
He's a tryer, albeit at a moderate level, and he will appreciate the ground, trip and pace of today's race. Greg Fairley again takes the mount, which is another positive and, without meaning to get too excited about his chances, I think he could make the frame. I'd certainly hope that he beats more than beat him but, in a field of eighteen, that won't necessarily reward financial support.
Blackmore is a better horse, with more class. He also has seventeen pounds more in weight to lug here, and I'd be hopeful that we can beat him with the concession. Of course, the Blackmore mob are themselves hopeful of a good run and such is the blinkered manner of horse owners!
With a bit of luck both can make the top six, and with a massive stroke of luck, one of them might win.
Last year's winner, Hollins, is a big danger if he's back to that sort of form; and Hawrdige Star is capable of winning first time out.
Best of luck to you with your Thursday picks, and come on Night Orbit!!!!! 😀
It's a complicated business, dear reader, is changing one's web host. And a business not without it's pitfalls, as I've learned this morning.
Being something of a techno-dunce at the best of times, I seriously underestimated the amount of faff involved, not to mention the scope for cock-ups.
Well, if you're reading this, then the job is done and the hosting switch is complete (in case you're wondering, I was with 1&1 which, while fine as a host has it's limitations from an SEO perspective. If that doesn't make sense, please don't worry about it!)
On with the show!
Flat racing's travelling summer circus is camped in the beautiful city of York for most of this week, for the Dante meeting. And the race that gives the meeting its title is today, and - wow! - what a race it is.
There isn't a horse in the field of ten that you could confidently rule out. Indeed, prior to my website jiggery-pokery, the outsider of the ten (Native Ruler) was showing as the third most popular choice to win the race on the newly installed Geegeez 'Question of the Week' (top right corner).
I have absolutely no idea who will win today, but I stand by my comment that the winner of the Derby is probably in this race. I mean, including the 2,000 Guineas, can there have been a better Derby trial than this so far this season?
I don't say that the winner of the Dante will win the Derby, though he might. But I do believe that one of the first three home will win the Derby. I suspect that some of the runners will still have a little bit of blubber on them, for their trainers to whittle prior to the first Saturday in June.
As you may know, I've backed Nehaam and Kite Wood for the Blue Riband, so am hoping for a good run from those two.
My other fancy, a wild 220/1 outsider on Betfair, is Stately Home. He's due to run in the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton tomorrow. Now I know that Hamilton is not exactly a hotbed of Classic winners, and that Listed race form doesn't readily compare with Group 2 form (i.e. the Dante), but at the odds, he's interesting.
If Stately Home makes it to Epsom for the Derby (and even that is still a substantial 'if'), he'll be about a 20/1 shot (imagine, a two from two Aidan O'Brien horse...). It might be value and it might be scrap paper, but I'm on now, so I'll be cheering accordingly.
York's card has a general look of impossibility for the punter today, but a couple of speculatives are as follows:
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I'll be against Dar Re Mi at around 10/11. She's the best form in the book, but it's likely to be a tactical affair and - for my money - this lady has too many places and not enough wins to her name.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Hambleton Stakes normally goes to a 4yo towards the bottom of the handicap, and I reckon Racing Post's verdict may have hit the nail on the head with Paul Cole's Moynahan. The other one I like in the race is Barry Hill's Wasan. I'll be having a small win bet on these two.
Over at Newmarket tonight, John Gosden is usually a man worth following. He has Twisted in the 6.50, and the 12/1 might look generous by seven o'clock. Once raced over 7f, he stayed on at the one speed behind stablemate, a certain Nehaam, fancied in the Dante this afternoon.
Finally, at Perth later, a chap I've never heard of before might be one to follow. Aidan Anthony Howard is his name, and he trains over in Ireland. He was VERY close to a massive double yesterday, when first The Ginger Man ambled home at 33/1, and then So Billiant cantered into the lead at 10/1, before finding nothing and finishing 2nd.
He has both Ushers Island, who also ran last night, and So Billiant entered again, but I imagine they won't start. But he's also got Rathrockscourt in the 4.10, and this could reward each way support.
It's Thursday, so how about a spot of Thursday Fun? I received this from a friend, and I have to warn you there is some strong language in it. If that's likely to offend, please don't watch (and certainly don't watch it in the office!). But George Carlin appears to be a very funny man...
So, after some false starts and red herrings, it seems the casting for the lead roles in this year's Derby is coming closer to resolution. The Guineas may (or may not) be a decent trial, and the Lingfield and Chester trials were inconclusive at best (downright misleading at worst). But Leopardstown yesterday seemed to point spectators in the direction of a likely leading man.
Fame And Glory took his career record to four from four when annihilating the field in the Group 2 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. Although he arguably had little to beat, the time was excellent, and the manner of victory was taking.
He only had one crack with the whip and surged clear. Note though that he did show temperament - a flash of his tail - when the assistor was applied. It is likely that he'll not win the Derby without recourse to the shillelagh so that would be a minor cause for concern, but he's put the best performance on the board thus far, and looks almost certain to stay.
There is significant disparity in the bookies' opinions currently, which offers the shrewdie some value. It also gives us a chance... 😉
Fame and Glory is now available at 3/1 with Ladbrokes, and it's always a slight negative for me when 'The Magic Sign' go best priced. The reason for Lad's apparent generosity is that they were taken by Sea The Stars' win in the 2,000 Guineas.
But no Guineas winner has won the Derby this century - Golan was 2nd in 2001, everything else either didn't run or was well beaten - and Sea The Stars is bred for a mile on the sire's side, despite what the eye may have suggested at Newmarket (by Cape Cross, out of a Miswaki mare).
That said, hope for STS backers comes in the fact that his mum was the excellent racemare, Urban Sea, who did win Arc but was generally raced at around 10f. Moreover, Urban Sea has been an exceptional mare, already responsible for the 2001 Derby winner, Galileo.
Moreover, in relation to the 2000 Guineas, bear in mind that the runner-up at Newmarket went on to win the Derby in two of the last three years (New Approach and Sir Percy), so it does have merit as a trial.
It's easy enough to see why Ladbrokes make him just a 5/2 shot for the Derby, especially given he's trained by a judge in John Oxx. And if he wins, I'll wipe my mouth. But I won't be collecting at those odds.
Next in is Crowded House, clear winner of the Racing Post Trophy last backend, and favourite for the Dante Stakes at York this week. He was beaten twice from four starts as a 2yo, which doesn't inspire confidence from this quarter, even though those defeats were against beaten Guinease favourite, Delegator (on debut), and Breeders Cup Juvenile winner, Donativum.
The step up in trip looks very much in his favour and, if he's trained on from two to three, he'd be interesting. But at the price, and with the possibility that his trainer will have left something to work on between York and Epsom, I'd rather see him beaten running a nice race this week, and then back him at around 12/1 afterwards. Of course, the flip side is he might well win the Dante, and go favourite for the Epsom race. That's the chance you take!
Gan Amhras is fourth in the betting, but with just one win from four starts, I'm prepared to readily overlook this one.
Then we come to the rest of the O'Brien squad: Rip van Winkle, Age of Aquarius, Black Bear Island, Freemantle, Golden Sword, Masterofthehorse, Mastercraftsman, Rockhampton, Stately Home, and Westphalia (among, incidentally, numerous others!). I mean, really, what is a punter to make of that?!
Rip van Winkle is the shortest in the betting after a good fourth in the Guineas, but he was never going to win that race, and wasn't staying on any better than those in front. Not for me, although I had backed him last season. Age of Aquarius won the Lingfield trial, but has a reverse against Fame And Glory to overcome, so ostensibly can't win.
Black Bear Island just doesn't look good enough (though he's as low as 12/1 in places for the Derby. Freemantle beat a 89-rated handicapper last time out, which isn't Derby winning form. Golden Sword beat Masterofthehorse in the Chester Vase when supposedly the pacemaker, and it is unlikely he'd beat him again. However, it's also unlikely that Masterofthehorse can find the required improvement to be competitive in the big Epsom race.
Mastercraftsman is not bred to stay, but has strong top level form; Rockhampton will likely improve for a mile and a half, but not be nearly enough to win; Stately Home is a once raced impressive maiden winner, who has entries in both the Dante and the Glasgow Stakes this week. Should he run in either and win, he'll look very interesting for Epsom. I don't know what the Ballydoyle intentions are, but this one looks one to follow for the season whatever.
Finally, Westphalia was disappointing in the French 2000 Guineas at the weekend, and I couldn't have him for the Blue Riband.
Are we any the wiser yet?!
There are a few others that merit attention: Harbinger, Kite Wood, and Nehaam.
Harbinger, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, won a Chester maiden and may just be too inexperienced for the hurly burly of a Derby. Then again, Stoute has nothing higher in the betting and he knows what it takes to win the 3yo Classic. Breeding suggests he might not quite see out the 12 furlong trip though.
Kite Wood is in the Dante this Thursday, and won the same race that Nashwan and Nayef did at Ascot last backend. He's another who should improve for the run, and can be considered for Epsom at this stage.
And, finally, Nehaam did very well to overcome the inexperience of just a single previous run when extending his unbeaten career in a valuable sales race at Newmarket over 10f last time out (Rockhampton in 3rd). He takes a deserved step up for the Dante this week, which will teach us a lot.
Ok, so what does all this mean? Well, it means we need two more pieces of the jigsaw before we can see things more clearly:
- Aidan O'Brien's running plans
- the race for the Dante Stakes
Looking at the quality of the field for the Dante, and fitness taken on trust notwithstanding, it seems to me that the Derby winner will run on Thursday. What is much harder to say is which of the beasties that is...
One further potential fly in the ointment (as if there weren't enough already!) is that Redwood, who will not be a big outsider for the Dante, would need to be supplemented for the Derby should he run well enough to merit it.
My take is that I hope that Nehaam or Kite Wood wins the Dante and, if Crowded House is unfit and runs into a place, I'll look to back him at around 10's afterwards.
Stately Home is an interesting throwaway bet. My current exposure is as follows (backed RvW last year):
Now, as promised, the much-requested and long-awaited return of system / service reviews is upon us. Already lined up for this week are both Lowlay.com (a laying service) and The Protege (a very interesting backing system), with more to follow.
The approach will be that posts will appear most days, but will be unadvertised (i.e. you will need to check here to see what the latest news is). I will still continue to post as I do now, and to send you an email to tell you that. But most or all of the daily system updates will 'just be here'.
Hope that makes sense. I've added a new page, called the Horse Racing Systems Review Wishlist, which you can access from that link. That page contains most of the systems you requested, and details of how you can request other systems be added, so check it out.
That's all for today - I never like betting on a Monday, hence the ante-post squint.