Record Breaking O’Brien is a Donny Dazzler

Doncaster played host to history in the making, as Aidan O’Brien broke Bobby Frankel’s record when landing the 26th Group One of the season in the Racing Post Trophy.

Saxon Warrior proved a worthy favourite when bravely fending off what had looked a race winning surge from the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion. Ryan Moore had hit the front at the two-furlong mark, but looked set for the runner-up spot as Oisin Murphy swept past. As Gosden’s talented youngster wandered off a true line, it was Moore who galvanised his mount for a renewed effort, and as the line approached Saxon Warrior responded tenaciously.

O'Brien said of the winner: “He travelled very strong and Ryan gave him a brilliant ride. When John's horse went by him you thought he was beaten, but he found plenty and we're delighted. Ryan said he'd have no problem being a Guineas horse, so we could start off in that and go on, but there's plenty of stamina in his pedigree. I think he'll be comfortable at anything from a mile to a mile and a half. He's a very special horse, we think. He's done everything we've asked of him and he's only been a baby.”

Moore was also impressed, saying: “He's a beautiful horse and he gave me so much confidence the whole race. It wasn't going right, but he's very good and that's the difference - they're beautiful horses that are beautifully prepared. When the other horse came, I hadn't asked my lad a question.”

Saxon Warrior’s performance was understandably overshadowed by the history making trainer. O’Brien was modest as ever, though clearly thrilled with the achievement, when saying: “It's incredible. I'm so delighted for everyone, I'm thrilled. You just don't expect it, all you can do is your best. I feel so proud for everyone. It's a privilege to be working with such special people. We're in a very lucky position and we're a small link in a big chain.

“It is so hard to win Group Ones that I never expect it. We've just got a great team, that's at the heart of it. The lads (Coolmore trio of John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor) do a great job breeding and buying the horses and it is our job not to damage them. It's been a funny year really. A lot of horses have progressed and progressed. There were so many horses like that, it was unusual. A lot of very well-bred horses just got better and better.”

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The record had stood since 2003, and the master of Ballydoyle had come close on numerous occasions. But after a quick-fire opening to the 2017 campaign, O’Brien managed to maintain the momentum throughout, thanks to a stunning array of thoroughbred talent.

Churchill got the show on the road back in May when landing the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. Just a day later it was the turn of Winter to prove herself the outstanding three-year-old filly at a mile, as she romped to victory in the 1000 Guineas. The pair went on to repeat the feat in Ireland at the end of May, ensuring that the race to 26 was well and truly on.

His Classic generation proved exceptional, especially the fillies. Along with the outstanding Winter, Roly Poly weighed in with vital Group One victories. And then came a late rattle from another dazzling duo in Rhododendron and Hydrangea.

But it is the dominance of the Juvenile division that truly sets O’Brien and the Ballydoyle Boys apart. In Clemmie and Happily they have a pair of Group One fillies with the potential to reign supreme at three. And then there’s the young colt’s U S Navy Flag and of course Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior.

Both past and present have been wonderfully glorious for all connected to the ‘Ballydoyle Bandwagon’. And with history now made, the future looks set to be just as triumphant.

O’Brien’s Doncaster Date with Destiny

Could Saturday prove to be Aidan O’Brien’s ‘date with destiny’ as he saddles four in a bid to capture the Racing Post Trophy and finally break Bobby Frankel’s record?

Currently standing on 25 top-level winners for the season, the Ballydoyle master is set to launch a powerful assault in search of the magic 26. With three victories from the past eight renewals, this is a race that O’Brien often targets with his elite juveniles. Camelot won in 2011, and in Saxon Warrior and The Pentagon he has a pair that currently head the market for next year’s Epsom Derby.

Favourite for tomorrow’s renewal is Saxon Warrior. He’s unbeaten in two starts, having landed a maiden at the Curragh, and then capturing the Group Two Beresford Stakes at Naas. That last victory came on soft ground, though he’s by Deep Impact and should appreciate a sounder surface. He’s a powerful looking youngster, with the size and scope to progress nicely in time. This race often goes to lightly raced juveniles, with favourites having an impressive recent record of seven wins from the last 10. Ryan Moore takes the ride.

The Pentagon appears to be the stable’s number two, though Seamie Heffernan makes a habit of winning on the supposed second-string. Off the track since July, his bare form is possibly a little shy of what is required to win this. He beat the Jim Bolger trained Theobald last time, and that colt has since been thrashed on two occasions. Moore clearly thinks Saxon Warrior is the better of the pair, and he may be right.

The markets suggest that Jim Bolger’s Verbal Dexterity is the main danger to Team Ballydoyle. His impressive victory in the Group One National Stakes last time looks to be the strongest piece of form. That success came on heavy ground, and there’s a danger that he was somewhat flattered by the inability of others to cope with conditions. His pedigree lacks the ‘wow factor’, and if the rain stays away I fancy he’ll be outgunned by one or more of O’Brien’s colts.

John Gosden has had another sensational campaign, and his Royal Lodge winner, Roaring Lion, looks a leading contender. He got the better of Aidan O’Brien’s Nelson on that occasion, despite finding Newmarket’s undulations a little unsettling. He’s a beautiful looking son of American stallion Kitten’s Joy, and though this is certainly his toughest assignment, he looks capable of a huge performance.

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Aidan’s Seahenge is another Group Two winner, having captured the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September. He came up a little short in Group One company when third to another Ballydoyle colt, U S Navy Flag, in the Dewhurst a few weeks back. He’s certainly not without a chance, though it would be a surprise if he were the best of the Ballydoyle boys.

Jockey Andrea Atzeni is going for an incredible five Racing Post Trophy victories on the trot. He gets the leg-up on Martyn Meade’s Chilean. The youngster was an impressive winner of a listed event at Haydock last time. That came in testing conditions, and the form took something of a knock when the runner-up flopped at Pontefract earlier this week. Nevertheless, he has an exciting pedigree, being by Iffraaj out of a Duke Of Marmalade mare. The stallion’s standing was well advertised by Ribchester and Nathra in last week’s QEII. A drop of rain wouldn’t do his chances any harm, and at 14s he could be the each-way play.

Godolphin have supplemented Loxley, though the Charlie Appleby trained colt has only had one run in public. This gorgeous looking son of New Approach got going late, when dead-heating with a fair yardstick at Goodwood. He looked green that day, and though this race has favoured unexposed types, he’ll need to be far more streetwise to win. Nonetheless, that debut was full of promise, and connections clearly think plenty of him.

I fancy the ‘main man’ will get his record-breaking victory. Opposing O’Brien in juvenile Group One’s is a futile exercise. Saxon Warrior is beautifully bred and has the right kind of profile. I’m pretty sure that Roaring Lion will run a huge race, but at 14/1 I’ll take Chilean to hit the frame for each-way punters.

Cracksman Shines Brightest on a Grey Day

It was a case of ‘like father like son’, as Cracksman provided the show-stopping performance of Champions Day 2017, to capture the Champion Stakes.

So often during his illustrious career we witnessed Frankel powering clear of the opposition, winning his races by a country-mile. And so, what a thrill to see Cracksman mimic his ‘old man’ at Ascot yesterday. It wasn’t always that way for Gosden’s talented colt, but this late season version has packed on the power and is able to maintain a relentless gallop despite testing conditions.

The question is whether he possesses the gears to be as effective on a sounder surface, but there’s no doubting that he is a machine in the mud.

Frankie Dettori had him tucked in behind the leaders in the early stages yesterday, but on turning for home the jockey struck-out for glory. Cracksman immediately put lengths between himself and the field, and with stamina aplenty powered clear in devastating fashion. He hit the line a yawning seven lengths clear of Poet’s Word, with Highland Reel third.

“He’s improved through the year and grown up a lot,” said a thrilled John Gosden. “If he was a middleweight earlier in the season, he is a light heavyweight now. He's really progressed and to do this against older horses, he's a fast-improving horse.”

Dettori was completing a stunning Champions Day double, and said of Cracksman: “I’m thrilled for everyone. It’s Frankel’s first Group One [in Europe], my first Champion Stakes, a lot of firsts and a great performance. The Champion Stakes is a colossal race, my father came close, I came close a couple of times, it’s been bugging me a long time to put it to bed with a great performance.”

He went on: “I didn’t expect Persuasive to win, I didn’t sleep very well because of Cracksman, I really felt the horse was in tip-top shape. When the rain came I was delighted because I knew it would make it a test of stamina, the headwind helped because it makes it even harder to get to the end, it stacked up towards my side, but the horse still had to deliver, and he did. I’m made up.”

When asked of next season’s selection dilemma, Dettori added: “To have Enable and Cracksman in the same year, well done John Gosden, he’s a genius. We’ll tackle the bridge next year. It’s Cracksman’s day today, let him have the glory!”

It proved to be a sensational day for Gosden and Dettori. They caused something of an upset earlier in the day, when Persuasive swooped late to take the QEII. Ribchester had looked the likely winner at the two-furlong pole, when moving stylishly to the front. But he began to flounder in the testing ground and approaching the furlong mark Dettori launched an attack aboard the grey filly. She handled conditions better than the rest for a huge victory, with Ribchester and Churchill chasing her home.

Thrilled, though clearly surprised to have won, Dettori said: “To be honest, looking at the line-up I thought God, she'll have to run well as there were Group One winners all over the place. But the key thing was that she had got the ground.”

Gosden said of the winning filly: “He (Frankie) was saving and saving, trying to keep her together. He went for a run on the inside and got blocked, so had to take her back and swing out. She'd have been an unlucky loser. When she got out she flew down the middle of the track.”

Richard Fahey, trainer of runner-up Ribchester, cursed the ground for the defeat: “It's deja vu, the ground has beaten him again. He's a horse that's won on soft ground, but he's such a good moving horse. William (Buick) felt he came there to win and win well and he just gets blunted in the dead ground. He just doesn't put it to bed and the winner coped with the conditions better. That's twice he's been beaten in desperate conditions.”

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A successful Champions Day is the icing on the cake for Gosden, having had a glorious 2017 campaign. The firepower at his disposal can only be surpassed by one other trainer. And many Flat racing fans had arrived at Ascot in the hope of seeing Aidan O’Brien break Bobby Frankel’s Group One winning tally. Team Ballydoyle have yet again set the standard for others to follow, and though Caravaggio and Churchill came mighty close, it was another outstanding filly that gave them the Group One success they so desperately sought.

Hydrangea, like Cracksman, is another talented racehorse from a Pivotal mare, and as such had no problem coping with the testing ground. The issue was whether she would see-out the trip, having never previously attempted the mile and a half. When French filly Bateel loomed large at the furlong pole, Hydrangea’s stamina was put to the test, and she responded admirably to Ryan Moore’s urgings. Pulling out plenty for pressure, she battled on bravely to win by two-lengths.

On drawing level with the record, O'Brien said: “It's incredible for everyone, they all put in so much hard work, day in day out. We're a small link in a big chain and I'm delighted for everyone, it's a magic, special day. She's by Galileo and they will not stop, their will to win is incredible. She pulled out more and it was Ryan's idea to run her as he thought there was a chance she'd get the trip. We weren't sure, but she did.”

Moore echoed the thoughts of his trainer, when saying: “What Aidan O'Brien has done this year is remarkable and it is a massive team effort. Everyone who looks after these horses, they put in so much time. The filly has been on the go all year and has got better and better. I thought she had a good chance. I'm delighted for Aidan.”

O’Brien also landed the opener, when Order Of St George produced a battling performance to take the Long Distance Cup. He needed every yard of the straight to get his nose ahead of Jess Harrington’s Torcedor. John Gosden’s well-fancied three-year-old Stradivarius, produced another performance full of promise in finishing strongly to take third. He remains a young horse with a huge future.

Harry Angel’s Ascot hoodoo continued when he made it 0-4 at the track in the Champions Sprint Stakes. He’d travelled wonderfully well through the race, but possibly struck for home a little early at the two-pole. The writing was on the wall as he entered the final furlong, with Tasleet attacking to his right and Librisa Breeze to his left. As Harry crumbled it was Dean Ivory’s grey Librisa, that found plenty for pressure, pulling a length clear of Tasleet at the post. Caravaggio got going too late, but managed to pip Harry A for third.

Winning jockey Robert Winston told ITV Racing: “It means a hell of a lot. My career was finished, only for this horse, and that's being honest. I was packing up last year, I gave my notice to Dean, but this horse and Mr Bloom have kept me going. Dean is a great man to ride for, he has great staff and brilliant owners, including Mr Bloom.” Of the winner, Winston added: “He'd get a mile-plus, but has so much natural speed and is so genuine. I know I have been criticised a couple of times this year when he should have won, but that's the way you have to ride him.”

For Ivory, a winner on Champions Day was clearly a huge thrill: “I could not believe it. The ground and everything went right for us. He has been off a long time, seven weeks, and he has been so unlucky this year. We have got the luck when it mattered. That was the hardest field in the last 10 years and to come out and do it like that, I'm thrilled. He is a horse that has never had a clean run. This year is his year and I've seen him grow into a proper horse. Robert Winston believes in the horse as much as we do.”

The final race of the day went to yet another grey, when Lord Glitters came with a thrilling late rattle to nab Europe’s most valuable handicap, the Balmoral. Stuck out the back with nowhere to go, Daniel Tudhope switched the David O’Meara trained four-year-old to the wide outside with just a furlong remaining. In the clear, he thundered home, hitting the line a neck ahead of yet another Gosden runner, Gm Hopkins.

It was a suitably thrilling finale to an exhilarating Champions Day.

Stat of the Day, 21st October 2017

Friday's Result :

4.55 Redcar : Restive @ 9/2 BOG WON at 10/3 : Towards rear, headway 3f out, ridden to chase leaders over 1f out, stayed on to challenge when carried right inside final furlong, led towards finish, scoring by a length...

Saturday's selection goes in the...

1.25 Ascot :

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.


Stradivarius @ 8/1 BOG


A Group 2, 3yo+ contest over 2m on soft ground...

...and a 3 yr old Colt who is a former Group 1 winner and has won three times and been placed twice from 5 runs this year.

His suitability for today's task can be shown by the following achievements...

  • 3/3 going left handed, 2/2 after a short 25-45 day break
  • 2/2 at odds of 5/1 and bigger, 2/2 in fields of 12 or more
  • 1/1 at Group 2, 1/1 here at Ascot and 1/1 over 2 miles

He's trained by John Gosden, whose runners are 19/99 (19.2% SR) for 2.94pts (+2.96% ROI) over the last 30 days, of which Frankie Dettori has ridden 5 winners from 20 (25%) for profits of 17.03pts (+85.15%).

More long term, this trainer/jockey partnership is 44/170 (25.9% SR) for 21.7pts (+12.8% ROI) in Class 1 contests over the last four seasons, including...

  • those priced at 5/4 to 12/1 : 32/132 (24.2%) for 38.9pts (+29.5%)
  • 3 yr olds @ 27/91 (29.7%) for 28.3pts (+31.1%)
  • here at Ascot : 7/30 (23.3%) for 2.4pts (+8%)
  • and at Group 2 : 7/25 (28%) for 18.4pts (+73.6%) us... a 1pt win bet on Stradivarius @ 8/1 BOG, which was widely available at 8.50pm on Friday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply... here for the betting on the 1.25 Ascot

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


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!

Barney Army – Hannon Colt to repel French Raiders

It’s primed to be as good a Champions Day as any before, with numerous plots and subplots at play, set to engage and enthral the expectant Flat racing masses.

Ascot has practically sold-out, and it’s no wonder with the talent on display. Even the late withdrawal of Ulysses (anticipated in yesterday’s piece) cannot dampen the spirits for what is set to be a high-class end of season extravaganza. Stoute’s outstanding four-year-old heads to America for a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf, but in his absence, there remains a glut of exceptional thoroughbreds battling for supremacy on the richest day of British racing.

News also came yesterday that Churchill will contest the QEII, rather than take on Cracksman and Barney Roy in the Champion Stakes. The dual-Guineas winner has disappointed since his success in the Irish Guineas at the Curragh, but it is hoped that a drop back to a mile will spark a revival in fortunes for O’Brien’s high-class colt. He and Caravaggio remain the most likely of the Ballydoyle team to deliver the Group One success needed to match Bobby Frankel’s record.

Though I am not focusing on the QEII for today’s preview, I fancy that Ribchester will prove an unsurmountable obstacle, though a reinvigorated Churchill is a huge danger to Godolphin’s talented miler.

It’s the showpiece event that I have chosen to look at today. The Champion Stakes is the most valuable event, and arguably along with the QEII, the most coveted. It’s fair to say that the roll of honour lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, though does carry the names of Brigadier Gerard, Frankel and last year’s exceptional French colt Almanzor.

Despite Ulysses resting-up prior to an American excursion, the remaining field of 10 still pack a high-class punch.

It’s quite amazing that neither Frankie Dettori or John Gosden have yet managed to capture this prestigious event. They look to put that record straight with tomorrow’s race favourite Cracksman. Winner of the Great Voltigeur and the Prix Niel in his last two starts, this son of the mighty Frankel (himself the winner in 2012) out of a Pivotal mare has been campaigned at a mile and a half throughout the summer, and this drop to 10 furlongs could prove an issue. The forecast rain due to hit Berkshire should aid his chances, along with a forceful ride from Dettori as he looks to make his mounts stamina a telling factor.

Fellow three-year-old Barney Roy appears the main danger to the favourite. Connections will have been thrilled to hear the news on Ulysses, having finished behind Stoute’s fella in the Eclipse and the Juddmonte. You could argue that Hannon’s contender would appreciate a sounder surface, though he coped admirably at York following an apocalyptic morning’s downpour prior to that Juddmonte race. Barney won the St James’s Palace Stakes on his last visit to the track, and is likely to have a little more ‘zip’ than Cracksman. Nevertheless, the favourite will likely take some passing, and that may well prove the thrilling aspect of this race.

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The French challenge is a two-pronged assault, and although Jean-Claude Rouget’s Brametot has star appeal, his compatriot Recoletos should not be underestimated, especially if the ground turns soft or heavy.

Brametot won the French Guineas and followed up by taking the Prix du Jockey Club. He was a creditable fifth in the Arc when incurring traffic problems, but this 10-furlong trip appears his optimum. Rouget’s Almanzor took this race 12 months ago, and though this challenger is not as good, none of the contenders are. I believe that he’s a leading player and is likely to be delivered late and fast, as he was in the French Derby.

Recoletos was just behind him that day having looked a likely winner inside the final furlong. The softer the ground the better for this three-year-old, and odds of 25/1 are more than generous. Though his season started in March he’s not been overplayed, and I have a strong feeling he’ll outrun those odds. He could prove a surprise package with conditions to suit.

With Ulysses away, Sir Michael sends Poet’s Word into battle. A typical Stoute sort, he has improved rapidly during his four-year-old campaign, and was a terrific runner-up last time in the Irish Champion Stakes. He stays further and goes on any ground. First or second in his last six starts, he looks sure to go well, though I fancy a place finish is the best he can hope for.

Of O’Brien’s duo only Highland Reel can win, and for that to happen the rain must stay away. Cliffs Of Moher is simply not good enough.

Yet again I find myself siding with Barney Roy. I was sure York would suit him last time, but he came off third-best behind Ulysses and Churchill. I fear Cracksman, especially if plenty of rain falls, as he’s a relentless galloper, rather than a colt with gears. Favourites have a modest record with three wins from the last 10, and so I’ll be backing Barney for the win. If plenty of rain falls I’ll chance a French three-year-old each-way, though it will be Recoletos rather than Arc fifth Brametot.

Best of luck to all those having a punt. And to those heading to Ascot on Saturday, enjoy a thrilling day of racing.

Champions Day Chat

His pedigree (by Frankel out of a Pivotal mare) suggests that the 10 furlongs of the Champion Stakes should prove ideal, yet the trip is touted by many as a concern for Cracksman. His last four outings have all come at a mile-and-a-half, and he looked a powerful stayer when winning both the Great Voltigeur at York and the Prix Niel last time at Chantilly.

Frankie Dettori appears confident that the trip on Saturday will not inconvenience his mount. Speaking on Racing UK he said: “I think he'll be fine over 10 furlongs, he's getting stronger and if the rain comes it will help him and disadvantage some of the others, like Highland Reel and Ulysses. It will make it more of a test of stamina, so I'm praying the rain comes. John (Gosden) has done a brilliant programme for him this year bearing in mind we've got next year to look forward to as well. We're going there with lots of confidence and hoping for the best.”

France have a decent record in the Champion Stakes and have a live contender in the French Guineas and Derby winner Brametot. Racing manager for Al Shaqab in France, Rupert Pritchard-Gordon, said of Jean-Claude Rouget’s runner: “He did his last piece of work on Monday morning in Deauville and all the signs are good. He looks like he's taken the Arc very well and I think a truly-run mile and a quarter will really suit him. He comes into the race relatively fresh having only run twice since June and everything points to a good performance.”

Rouget’s Almanzor won last year’s race, though he was exceptional. Brametot is undoubtedly talented, but has something to find if he is to beat Ulysses. And the French three-year-old form in general looks a little below par this year.

The amount of rain that falls in the next few days may well dictate whether Ulysses takes his place at the start. The main target for Stoute’s classy four-year-old has always been the Breeders’ Cup, and should the ground become testing at Ascot, the Eclipse and Juddmonte winner may well head straight to the States.

“We’ve said from a long way out the aim is Del Mar,” said the Niarchos family racing manager, Alan Cooper. “It was natural to leave him in this after the Arc. The other thing is the ground and we will have to see what the weather is doing.” Stoute has always said that a sounder surface is ideal, and with just two weeks separating Champions Day and the Breeders’ Cup, his participation has to be in some doubt.

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A pair that look certain to take up their engagements at Ascot are Ribchester and Barney Roy. The Godolphin owned duo are fancied to go close in their respective races, with Barney, hopefully, set to clash again with his old adversary Ulysses. Pipped in the Eclipse, he was beaten further in the Juddmonte, though tactics look sure to change this time around.

Richard Hannon is clearly looking forward to the day, saying: “He’ll go to Ascot in great nick having had a break. He’s fresh, he’s a very exciting horse. Ride him a little bit differently and anything can happen.” Barney’s last visit to Ascot resulted in victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes, and he is yet to finish outside of the first three in six career starts.

Ribchester is favourite to land the QEII, having finished runner-up to Minding 12 months ago. Richard Fahey sounded happy with his outstanding miler when speaking earlier in the week: “Everything has gone according to plan. He’s a very easy horse to train with no issues, touch wood. He tends to go on any ground. When he got beaten at Goodwood, I’m not blaming the [heavy] ground, I’m blaming the conditions. It was blowing a gale and pouring down with the rain. It was a horrible day. But he’s bounced back and won a Group One in France since, so we are very happy and comfortable with him.”

It could be an exciting day for John Gosden. Along with Cracksman, he has a pair of talented fillies lined up for the Fillies And Mares Stakes. Speaking earlier this week, he said of Journey and Coronet: “Journey’s in great form. She ran a blinder in France when she ran into a filly (Bateel) who loved that ground more than she did. It will be her swansong, she goes to stud after this.”

Of Coronet he appeared just as enthusiastic, saying: “Coronet ran an exceptionally good race in the Yorkshire Oaks to Enable and just found the pace and distance too far in the Leger. She’s a very good filly and she’s getting better all the time. She seems to be racing more alertly now than she used to, so fingers crossed, they will both run good races. I haven’t got as far as riding arrangements. I’ll talk to Mr Dettori, who likes to tell us what to do. If he gets it wrong then it’s his fault, not mine.”

Stoute has an Expert Eye on the Dewhurst

The Future Champions Festival begins tomorrow at Newmarket and promises to be a thriller.

Aidan O’Brien is just two shy of the world record Group/Grade One winners for a calendar year, set by American trainer Bobby Frankel in 2003. With fancied runners in the Fillies Mile on Friday and the Dewhurst on Saturday, there’s a chance the master of Ballydoyle could draw level on 25 winners.

For that to come to fruition, he would have to defeat one of the summer’s most exciting juveniles, and current favourite for the 2018 Guineas, Expert Eye. Sir Michael Stoute’s youngster put in a devastating display last time at Goodwood in winning the Group Two Vintage Stakes. With just a couple of runs under his belt, he’ll be up against more experienced two-year-olds, including O’Brien’s Group One Middle Park winner, U S Navy Flag.

Stoute sounded confident in the ability of his youngster, when saying: “He seems in good shape. I contemplated going to the Curragh but he had a bit of an issue when we scoped him. That knocked that out of the way so we trained him for the Dewhurst. We've had precocious two-year-olds, but we don't seem to get them nowadays. This fellow just came along and was naturally precocious. You would have to say that he’s the best two-year-old that I have had for quite a while. He’s been pretty natural from the beginning.”

The trainer added: “Before we ran him we knew that he was pretty smart as he has always shown speed and been very athletic. And then, when we were preparing him for Goodwood, we began to realise just how good he was. The form has worked out but this is quite a while later. We have had plenty of time to prepare him for this so there will be no excuses.

“The Dewhurst looks a tough race. In the past we never had to go up against a battalion like Aidan’s, it’s quite incredible really. Let’s just see what happens on Saturday. Andrea Atzeni will again be riding him, but I would be surprised if he gets beyond a mile as a three-year-old. I am having a resurgence. I am very happy with the way that the summer has gone and my whole team has done a great job.”

John Gosden is another trainer having a season to remember, and he has a leading contender in the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Emaraaty. He’s a well-fancied third-favourite for the race, despite this being a completely different proposition from the race he won at Newbury.

The owner’s racing manager, Angus Gold, said: “I watched Emaraaty work on the Limekilns on Saturday morning and he is in fine physical shape. Jim Crowley rode him and was very pleased with him. It is a big step up from a maiden to a Group One and I would be stupid to assure you that he was going to beat horses like Expert Eye on Saturday. But he’s a very quick colt with great potential and we are very hopeful that he will be a Group One horse at some point in his career.”

A day prior to the Dewhurst, it’s the fillies that take centre-stage. Following her success at Longchamp, Aidan O’Brien’s Happily looks a worthy favourite for the Group One Fillies’ Mile. Doing her best work at the end of the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, the final climb to the finish on the Rowley Mile should prove ideal.

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September is also set to take her place for Team Ballydoyle, and should be better suited by conditions having got a little ‘stuck in the mud’ on her previous two starts. She was mightily impressive on quick ground at Royal Ascot, when comfortably accounting for a classy pair in Nyaleti and Masar.

If O’Brien is to be beaten, then Godolphin’s Magic Lilly may be the one. It’s a tough ask for one with so little experience (one career outing), but her performance on debut at Newmarket was eye-catching. She’s exceptionally bred, being by Derby winner New Approach, out of the Oaks winning mare Dancing Rain.

“Magic Lily is a filly we were confident would run a nice race on her first start, but she ended up winning very impressively and seeing out the one-mile trip really well,” said trainer Charlie Appleby.

“She did a nice piece of work on Saturday and that made our minds up to supplement her. She has worked together with my recent Prix Marcel Boussac winner, Wild Illusion, and worked well. The Dubai Future Champions Festival is an important festival for the whole Godolphin team. I’ve been lucky to have winners there in the past and it’s good to have a few live contenders, including Magic Lily, this year.”

Though the highlight of the two days is undoubtedly the juvenile events, we also get the opportunity to see one of the most talented sprinters back on the track. It’s proved a frustrating campaign for five-year-old Limato, but his trainer Henry Candy will be hopeful of a change in fortunes tomorrow.

With drier conditions at HQ, he looks to run his stable star in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at seven-furlongs. “It has been infuriating to have a horse of his calibre and not be able to do anything with him," Candy said. “I am very happy with his condition at the moment and looking forward to running him on Friday. His defeat in the Lennox Stakes was 80 per cent down to the ground, which was riding soft. We talked ourselves into running him that day when we shouldn’t have.”

The trainer added: “At least it’s been no problem keeping a lid on him at home without a race, as he is a very free worker and keeps himself pretty fit. This seven-furlong trip should be fine. I think he is capable of winning Group races at anything between six furlongs and a mile, and I don’t see any problem with him handling the Rowley Mile as he is very light on his feet. This is likely to be his final start of the season and, although we are toying with the idea of trying him over a mile again next year, we will go wherever the ground is right.”

Roly Digs Deep for Group One Glory

Roly Poly displayed guts along with a fair splash of class to take the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

Despite a hectic campaign, Aidan O’Brien’s filly showed no sign of fatigue, as she fought off the challenge of race favourite Persuasive, to land her third Group One. Ryan Moore took her to the front from the off, setting a sensible pace. Headed by Dawn Of Hope at the two-furlong pole, Moore refused to panic, instead gathering his mount for a renewed effort as they met the rising ground. Persuasive threatened to land a blow, but Roly Poly found plenty for pressure, hitting the line more than a length ahead.

This was O'Brien’s 23rd Group One victory in yet another glorious campaign. He said of the win: “Ryan gave her a class ride. She's a great filly, with a great heart. She's tactical and tough, amazing really. She's a great pedigree, out of a very good Galileo mare and by War Front, and the lads do a great job with her at home.” When asked if a trip to America was on the cards, he added: “I think so, the lads will decide what they want to do, but herself and Rhododendron could be trained for the Breeders’ Cup fillies race.”

John Gosden trained the second and third home in the Sun Chariot, and said of Persuasive and Nathra: “They both ran superbly well. The winner on this ground was too good for us. With a bit more juice in the ground, both of our fillies would have troubled the winner. They have run true and honest right to the end of the season. I think that will probably be it for both of them and the breeding sheds beckon.”

Chris Richardson, the managing director of Persuasive's owners, Cheveley Park Stud, hinted that one last hurrah remained a possibility, saying: “She ran a blinder, she just needs a bit of juice in the ground. We are just going to keep the door open for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. If it came up soft and she was still in good form, it could be an option and we might just give her one more whirl.”

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The strong French challenge failed to materialize, with Usherette proving best of the raiding party, staying on late for a fourth place finish. Likewise, Qemah was also doing her best work in the latter stages, though could only finish sixth.

O’Brien is now within touching distance of Bob Frankel’s single-season Grade One world record, and said of the challenge: “It would be incredible for everybody, but the horse always comes first. That's the important thing. After every race, the lads sit down and have a chat and see what race they want to pick. They have a big discussion with the people around them, make a target and we go with that. It's race to race, but the horse always comes first and we're doing our best in every race, it's all we can do.”

The trainer will now focus on the Future Champions Festival at Newmarket on Friday and Saturday, as he searches for further Group One glory. A year ago, Team Ballydoyle took both juvenile features, with Rhododendron winning the Fillies’ Mile and Churchill landing the Dewhurst. The stable have been responsible for the last three winners of the fillies’ race, and have Happily entered on Friday. O’Brien has also won three of the last four Dewhurst’s, though Sir Michael Stoute’s Expert Eye is a short-priced favourite for Saturday’s renewal.

Hard as Rock Roly can land a Ballydoyle Blitz

Saturday’s Sun Chariot Stakes is the feature race at Newmarket.

First run in 1966, it was originally open to three-year-old fillies and run over 10 furlongs. Older fillies and mares were invited in 1974, and the race was cut to its current distance of a mile in 2000. The race achieved Group 1 status in 2004.

The race regularly attracts the best milers from the UK, Ireland and France. The French have taken five of the last 10 renewals, thanks in the main to a stunning run of success from Sahpresa, who racked up a treble from 2009 to 2011.

Three-year-olds have a decent record, having won five of the last dozen, though only two of the last eight. Alice Springs took last year’s race, making it two from the last nine for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Roly Poly is possibly only third or fourth best of the Classic generation milers at Ballydoyle, but with others having run at the Arc meeting, she is his main contender for this. She has improved throughout the summer, chasing home the dual-Guineas heroine, Winter, on a couple of occasions, then landing the Falmouth and the Rothschild in July. She was below par in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, when probably asked to do a little too much up front. Ryan Moore will be back onboard tomorrow, and she looks sure to go close.

The French challenge is a powerful one, with a trio of fillies representing arguably the best three trainers in the country. Jean-Claude Rouget’s Qemah is without doubt a high-class miler. Twice a Group One winner, she was fourth to Roly Poly in the Rothschild, though incurred traffic problems and got going far too late. Slightly disappointing at Leopardstown last time, when keen early and again doing her best work too late, she does needs things to fall just right if she is to land a blow. Nevertheless, she has the talent and the gears to go close.

Andre Fabre took the race with Esoterique in 2015 and has a leading contender in the Godolphin owned Usherette. She’s proved slightly disappointing this term, if a little unfortunate when third to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Ascot. Ridden from the front in the Rothschild, the change of tactics failed to spark improvement as she faded to sixth late-on. She did win a listed event last time, but will need to step forward again if she is to win this. Rain would probably help her cause, though I fancy she’ll find a few in better form on the day.

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The final French challenger is trained by Freddy Head. Siyoushake was fourth in last year’s race and has run consistently well this season without success. A close third to Roly Poly in the Rothschild (without looking likely to win), she then finished runner-up in a Group One over 10 furlongs. She’s a solid performer at this level, and is likely to be doing her best work late on.

Her trainer spoke earlier in the week: “Siyoushake is still in great condition and I have been very happy with her work. We tried her over a mile and a quarter last time but I think that a mile is her best trip. I think that she has improved since her fourth in this race last year. It’s been a very good season for her and she’s been placed in a couple of Group 1s.”

Persuasive leads the UK challenge, and Gosden’s filly currently heads the market. She was runner-up in last year’s Matron Stakes, and though only third this time round, possibly ran slightly better, when finishing with a real rattle in just failing to catch Ballydoyle’s Hydrangea and Winter. Her belated return to action this summer came in the Rothschild, when a strong finishing fifth behind Roly Poly, and there’s every chance she’ll be able to reverse that form. Favourites have a good recent record, and I fancy she’ll be flying at the finish.

Aljazzi is the other significant UK contender and trained locally by Marco Botti. Runner-up to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Royal Ascot when a 40/1 shot, she was very impressive last time when winning a Group Three at Sandown. Like Persuasive, she arrives here a relatively fresh filly and looks to be improving at a fair old rate. This is a hugely competitive renewal, but several of the leading players appear exposed, and the race may be open to an improving sort.

This is a tough race to call, and though I’m not convinced Roly Poly is as good as last year’s winner Alice Springs, she arrives here off the back of a very similar looking campaign. O’Brien clearly believes that she is hardy enough to take this on her eighth start of the season (identical number as Alice in 2016) and who am I to argue.

As O’Brien hunts down Bobby Frankel’s Group One winning record, I’ll take Roly Poly to land the Sun Chariot. Persuasive looks sure to go close, but still needs to prove she can win a Group One. She lacks gears for me, and though I see her finishing strongly she may find herself with a little too much ground to make up. Best of luck to those having a punt.

Majestic Enable Crowned Queen at Chantilly

Enable was duly crowned Queen of Chantilly, winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with a performance of sheer majesty.

We hoped and prayed that Gosden’s outstanding filly would arrive in France at the peak of her powers. And it proved a five-star performance all-round, as she made it five Group One victories for the campaign, giving Frankie Dettori his fifth success in the Arc. Owner Khalid Abdullah was also securing his fifth victory in Europe’s most prestigious race.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and that man was the enigmatic Italian Lanfranco Dettori. Tactics were always going to play a huge part in the Arc, especially with a Ballydoyle ‘bunch of fives’ doing their utmost to spoil the party.

As anticipated by many, and no doubt by Frankie, a pair of O’Brien colts were immediately sent to the front in hope of unsettling the favourite, maybe even trapping the filly on the rail. Dettori was alert to such a manoeuvre, and having shadowed Idaho in a move towards the head of affairs, she was then switched outside of Order Of St George, as he made his move alongside his stable companion.

That piece of quick-thinking from the Italian enabled Enable a perfect ‘posi’ outside of the Ballydoyle boys, ensuring a clear passage once the moment came to strike. At the two-furlong mark Dettori could wait no more, and with a ‘Whoosh’ the flying filly was gone. She stretched four-lengths clear in the blink of an eye, with the Juddmonte International winner Ulysses doing his best to stay in her slipstream. Resistance proved futile and at the line Andre Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars ran on strongly to snatch second from Stoute’s courageous colt.

An emotional John Gosden said of his phenomenal filly: “She’s very special. She was well positioned by Frankie in order to show her sheer class and brilliance.” And of the future he added: “I think it would be hard on the filly to go to the Breeders’ Cup. If she’s in great form, we should consider next year. It would be wonderful to go to Longchamp, for the opening of the new Longchamp, and try and do it again.”

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Dettori was as exuberant as ever after the thrilling success, saying: “She won like I expected. She’s an absolute freak. I said to John last week that she’s the best she’s ever been. He’s a genius to keep this filly 100% for the whole season. I got in position A, and knew I had no weight, and I know she stays, so I kicked and she gave it to me and I put four lengths and the race was over.”

Sir Michael Stoute appeared satisfied with third-home Ulysses, saying: “He's run his race and there are no excuses regarding the ground as it rode well. I don't think he's had too hard a race and, if that's the case, we will take him to the Breeders' Cup Turf again.” His jockey Jim Crowley was also pleased with the performance, adding: “I had a lovely position throughout, tracking Enable. He picked up well for me when I asked him in the straight, but the winner must be an exceptional filly.”

Order Of St George proved best of Ballydoyle in fourth. Aidan O’Brien summarised by saying: “That was probably far enough for Winter and we might go back to a mile and a quarter for the race at Ascot (Qipco Champion Stakes). Seventh Heaven is getting better and Idaho was probably lit up a bit. Order Of St George ran very well and we might look at the two-mile race (Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup) at Ascot.”

As for Enable, the thrill of victory was almost matched by the possibility of a return to action next season. She has proved herself peerless, and the prospect of witnessing such power and elegance during another summer campaign is simply glorious.

Enable – Queen of Chantilly

She’s proved peerless throughout the summer, and now John Gosden’s Enable heads to France to be crowned Queen of Chantilly.

A short-priced favourite for Sunday’s Arc, the dual-Oaks heroine has won her last five starts, including four at Group One level. She’s dished out punishing defeats to those of her own sex, and at Ascot in July proved devastating in defeating the boys in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes. That victory came in testing conditions, though this stylish mover had arguably looked more impressive at the Curragh, when winning the Irish Oaks on quick ground.

She’s won going left-handed and she’s won going right. She’s been destructive on galloping tracks, stiff tracks and those that were tight. She’s been ridden prominently throughout the campaign, possessing a high cruising speed, but then when asked for her effort has shown an abundance of stamina in pulling clear of all opposition. I would envisage Frankie Dettori keeping things as simple as possible. He’ll likely settle the filly in behind the leader, before making his move with around three-furlongs to go. She’ll take some catching.

Ulysses is likely to be the one giving chase. Sir Michael Stoute’s progressive four-year-old was unable to live with the filly at Ascot, though he’s 3lbs better off, and the ground may well be less testing on Sunday. He’s a powerful traveller, and there’s likely to be a point in the straight when an upset appears on the cards. Jim Crowley rode him beautifully in the Juddmonte International at York, when waiting as long as possible before asking for maximum effort. The question is whether Ulysses can ‘creep’ close enough to Enable, to allow him to land a serious blow. There also remains a doubt over his ability to see-out this trip effectively.

Chances are that Aidan O’Brien’s battalion will be doing their utmost to unsettle the favourite. His three colts have an abundance of stamina, and will need a thorough end to end gallop if they are to have any chance of success. Order Of St George may be the one to take it on from the front, though Idaho could also force the issue. Despite both being high-class thoroughbreds, I’m struggling to envisage either having the ability to trouble the favourite. Quite simply, they both lack the speed to get Enable out of her comfort zone.

Ryan Moore surprised many by opting to ride dual-Guineas winner Winter. Clearly he believes she’s the only Ballydoyle entrant capable of beating Gosden’s filly. Though a four-time Group One winner, the worry for Winter fans, is whether she’ll see-out this extended trip. Her victory in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood will give hope, and she’s given the impression throughout the campaign of being a ‘tough as teak’ sort. You have to go back to 1990 to find a winner of the Arc who was attempting the trip for the first time. There’s no doubting the magnitude of the task, but she’s hugely talented.

Though France has captured the lion’s share of Arcs, their recent record is no more than mediocre. They have four wins from the past 10 renewals, with Treve accounting for two of those.

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French Derby winner Brametot is arguably their best hope this time, though he has to overcome a poor last run, when trailing home fifth in a Group Two at Deauville. Jean Claude-Rouget appears confident that the colt is back on track, and he certainly looked a classy sort earlier in the campaign. He defeated Waldgeist at Chantilly, though the form took a knock when Andre Fabre’s colt could only manage fourth in the Irish Derby. Brametot is a horse with gears, and without doubt a contender. He’s also two from two at the track.

If the French are to be successful, I rather fancy that Alain de Royer-Dupre will be heavily involved. Twice the winning trainer with Aga Khan inmates, he runs four-year-old Zarak, a son of 2008 winner Zarkava. Runner-up to Almanzor in last year’s French Derby, it was a little surprising that he wasn’t then aimed at the Arc. He stayed-on well to win the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud last time, and at around 16/1 he looks a decent each-way proposition.

Danedream won the Arc for Germany in 2011, and they have a leading contender this time in the four-year-old colt Dschingis Secret. His form at three was ordinary at best, but he’s improved a ton this year. He defeated Hawkbill in a Group One in Germany, and earlier this month looked good in winning the Prix Foy at Chantilly. He has to be on the shortlist for a place finish.

Finally, I feel that I have to mention Aidan O’Brien’s Seventh Heaven. I’m a huge fan of the filly, though her preparation for the Arc has been a disaster. Off the track since a stunning success in May, I was looking forward to her return at the Curragh three weeks ago, but she ran an absolute stinker. Practically tailed-off throughout the Group Two Blandford Stakes, it could be argued that her odds of 33/1 are actually a little skinny. Nevertheless, O’Brien has decided to send her over, and I could not resist a few quid each-way.

Fillies have a terrific recent record in the Arc, as do three-year-olds. The British and Irish have won five of the last 10, and though favourites haven’t got the best of records, I cannot see any other than Enable winning on Sunday. I would love to see her put in a stunning performance, and believe she will. Winter and Brametot are potential dangers, and I also expect Ulysses to go close. I’ve already backed Zarak and Seventh Heaven each-way, but if pushed would have Enable, Ulysses and Zarak as my one-two-three.

Best of luck to all of those having a punt. Let’s hope the filly does the business.

Classy and Courageous Capri lands thrilling Leger

The St Leger proved to be the cracker many had anticipated, with the Aidan O’Brien favourite Capri landing the odds in a thrilling finish.

He’d looked the standout on form, having captured the Irish Derby at the beginning of July. And so it proved, though he had to show grit and determination to hold off a strong challenge from both Stradivarius and the highly talented Crystal Ocean.

Ryan Moore had kept Capri near the front-end throughout, seemingly confident that the colt would get every yard of the St Leger trip. Speaking to ITV immediately after the success, Moore said: “He’s a very good horse, an Irish Derby winner and was a Group Two winning two-year-old. He dug in and fought very hard, and it was a very good performance in a very good Leger.

Aidan O’Brien was securing a fabulous fifth St Leger, and said of the winner: “The lads did a great job. We had a little blip around York time, so were a bit worried coming here. But Ryan gave him a class ride, and I can’t tell you how happy we all are. He’s a horse with a lot of class, like obviously we saw in the Irish Derby.” When asked about the challenge from Crystal Ocean he added: “I’m always worried, and until they go past the line you never know what’s going to happen.”

O’Brien went on to say that Capri could now head for the Arc at Chantilly, assuming he comes out of the race fit and well. Kingston Hill finished fourth in the Arc of 2014 just weeks after winning the St Leger. I’m guessing Capri could run into a place should the ground run on the soft side, though no one should underestimate just how punishing Saturday’s Classic victory would have been.

Crystal Ocean had loomed large at the two-pole having travelled beautifully throughout. Crowley got him to within a length at the furlong pole, but Capri found plenty for pressure, and at the line had a half-length to spare. “I'd prefer to have won it, but he ran a great race, we're thrilled with him,” was Stoute’s verdict of his classy runner-up. “I thought he was going to win, but we won't run him beyond a mile and a half again. It was always a danger that he was a mile-and-a-half horse and that's his trip. Jim (Crowley) gave him a lovely ride and I always felt he might win. Jim reported he was always pretty confident, but he was just outstayed.”

With Stoute’s ability of improving a racehorse from three to four, Crystal Ocean may prove a revelation next season. It seems just a matter of time before he captures a Group One, and with the yard insisting he’d be much stronger next year, he looks to have a sparkling career ahead of him.

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Stradivarius battled bravely to the line for a third-place finish, and having already won the Goodwood Cup and Queen’s Vase, looks destined for a crack at next year’s Ascot Gold Cup.

I also felt Rekindling was something of an eye-catcher back in fourth. He was caught a little far back when Capri struck for home, and had to follow Crystal Ocean in cutting through the pack, before finally getting a clear run to the line. He stayed on powerfully, and looks another capable of taking high-rank in the staying division.

As for Coronet in fifth, it appeared she found the trip to be just beyond her. She’ll now head for the Fillies and Mares at Ascot on Champions’ Day, and is sure to be a major player in a race won by John Gosden 12 months ago.

The undoubted disappointment of the Leger was Roger Varian’s Defoe. The progressive colt had been fancied by many, and indeed elected by myself as a major danger to Capri in my Friday piece. Drying ground wouldn’t have helped his cause, but in the end he was simply outclassed. Atzeni was rowing away before the pack turned for home, and as the main contenders stepped on the gas, his challenge fizzled out.

In the final analysis, it was once again the ‘big-guns’ that dominated on the main stage. O’Brien, Stoute and Gosden are the powerhouses of middle-distance events, and though many will say the St Leger suits the stayer, the first two home on Saturday will ply their trade at a mile-and-a-half next season.

Battle-hardened Capri can prove Leger hero and defeat Defoe

Saturday’s St Leger is set to be an absolute cracker, with many of the 11 starters looking to have a realistic chance of landing the season’s final Classic.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained Capri and Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean currently head the market at around 4/1. Ballydoyle’s leading hope captured the Irish Derby at the beginning of July, beating the Great Voltigeur winner Cracksman in the process. It was a gutsy performance that day, suggesting he’ll likely cope with the demands of the extended St Leger trip. He’s proven on all types of ground and there’s no doubting that the Irish Derby victory is the strongest piece of form of any contenders.

Crystal Ocean was a comfortable winner of the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood last time. That win came on soft ground, and he looks a progressive sort who ought to get the trip. He was placed in the Group Two Dante at York earlier in the campaign, and then placed again in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. The slight concern is the trainer’s insistence that the horse needs to ‘fill his frame’, and that he remains somewhat weak. Such comments suggest he may not be ready for a gruelling 1m6f war of attrition.

Throughout the week money has piled in for Defoe. Roger Varian won the St Leger of 2014 with Kingston Hill, and has had a terrific meeting thus far. In Andrea Atzeni he has a jockey who simply loves Town Moor. The horse is yet to be beaten as a three-year-old, and was a stylish winner of the Geoffrey Freer last time. He travelled powerfully in testing conditions, and kept on strongly to see out the mile and five furlongs. The St Leger distance holds no fears, and punters must now decide whether this son of Dalakhani is classy enough to land the Donny showpiece.

John Gosden has won three of the last 10, and is double-handed this time round. Stradivarius looked to be his main contender, though Frankie Dettori has chosen to ride stable companion Coronet. James Doyle comes in for the ride, and must be thrilled to be on one of the market leaders. The colt won the Goodwood Cup last time and the Queen’s Vase prior to that. His abundance of stamina is undoubted, but the worry for punters, and clearly Dettori, is how he will cope with soft ground. The Italian’s defection has to be seen as a huge negative.

Coronet is the beneficiary, and the only filly in the race. She’s seen the back end of Enable several times this season, but has been getting closer on each occasion. She battled on bravely to finish runner-up in the Yorkshire Oaks last time, handling soft ground well. She looks a gutsy sort, and I fancy this extended trip should suit. I’m not convinced she has the gears to win a Leger, and she may have to settle for a place finish at best.

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Joseph O’Brien took the race as a jockey in 2013, and has a decent contender in Irish St Leger runner-up Rekindling. He took a beating from Order Of St George at the Curragh, but there’s no shame in that. He was a place behind Crystal Ocean in the Dante at York before disappointing at Epsom. With trip and ground to suit, my concern would be whether he is able to stay close enough when the taps are turned on. He may find himself outpaced at some stage before staying-on again at the death.

A St Leger contender that has finished ahead of Enable this season is the Brian Meehan trained Raheen House. That came in April, when runner-up to Shutter Speed at Newbury. He was a close fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot, when a place behind Crystal Ocean. His last run came at Newmarket, when winning the Bahrain Trophy. That form looks a little shy of what’s required to win this, and though Meehan appeared bullish in the week, I’m less convinced that his horse is good enough.

In an ultra-competitive renewal, Capri has the outstanding form and I’m taking him to have the class and the battling spirit to win this St Leger, despite slight reservations over the trip. Crystal Ocean may prove to be the best of these in the long term, but he remains a work in progress, and susceptible to a ‘hardier’ type. I fancy Defoe will prove the biggest danger, though he may just lack the class to get the job done.

Best of luck to all those having a punt.

The King Of Backend Maidens

From September to the end of the turf flat season, many of the top trainers in the land will be introducing the cream of their Classic aspirant juveniles to the racecourse for the very first time. Plenty of these unraced babies will be given what might be considered educational rides while others will be ready, willing and able to fire first time.

As punters it is our job to recognise this sub-season at the end of the turf campaign, where young horses in particular have been given more time to grow and mature. Of course, as we'll often be told, they'll be much better with another winter under their belts; and, in many cases, with another winter after that.

But such is the nature of the British racing and breeding programme, with its thirst for precocious racehorses and its ridiculously antiquated front-loaded Classic sequence (all bar the St Leger are run before the season is nine weeks old).

Thus, those which have been held back until the autumn - the so-called 'backend' - have either had training issues, are later developers, or are considered good enough to be given more time.

One trainer stands above all others in this regard, the peerlessly patient John Gosden. An exceptional trainer by any measure, that fact is seldom lost on the market, meaning we punters have to dig and scratch for a route in. Here may be one:

From the start of 2012 until now, Gosden ran 271 juveniles on the turf for the first time in maiden or novice company.


John Gosden's impressive 2yo first time stats

John Gosden's impressive 2yo first time stats


Pretty impressive for such a high profile trainer. But breaking them down into March to August and September to November groups makes for interesting reading:


John Gosden's backend first time juvenile starters are well worth noting

John Gosden's backend first time juvenile starters are well worth noting


From less runners there are more winners and more placed horses in those closing weeks of the season. This stands to reason: after all, Gosden didn't run the likes of Golden Horn or Enable (notwithstanding the latter debuted on the all weather) until late October and late November respectively.

But look at the wagering difference between the two groups: backing the 141 juvenile first-timers up to the end of August would have lost 34 points (a quarter of all stakes) at SP, and most of 24 points at exchange prices. Waiting for the tail end of the season produced a profit of 58 points at starting price (45% ROI) and 80 points at Betfair SP.

It's a relatively small sample size from which to work, so care is required when drilling down any further. But it is worth looking at the backend runners by month and race distance.

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Gosden juvenile first timers by month and race distance


Some interesting patterns start to show themselves now. Firstly, Gosden's September performance has been exceptional in this context across the board. Although less of the longer distance runners have won, they have more than paid their way.

As we move into October, there seems to be a clear shift in focus towards those expected to need a trip as a three-year-old, something doubtless accentuated by a shift in focus in the programme book: there are more juvenile maidens over longer trips at this time of year. Regardless, more than half of Gosden's 63 two-year-old debut runners in this month raced over at least a mile. The place strike rates for the shorter distances suggest those runners remain worthy of consideration.

November is a quieter time, and again we may be better served looking at the 46% place rate than the 8% win rate here. Or ignoring the tiny sample completely. The key point here is that this is Johnny G season. Backing his two-year-old debut starters on the turf has proved consistently profitable.


The key point here is that this is Johnny G season. Backing his two-year-old debut maiden and novice starters on the turf has proved consistently profitable.


Gosden has been consistently profitable to follow with backend juveniles

Gosden has been consistently profitable to follow with backend juveniles


As can be seen, we haven't missed anything this year yet: just two fourth places at Sandown. Without suggesting following the approach blindly, it is certainly an angle to be aware of, and to deploy as you see fit.

Good luck!



p.s. A good way to follow John Gosden, or any trainer, is to add them to your Geegeez Tracker. Register here, if you haven't already, then click the star icon next to the trainer's name on our racecards, or search for them from the Tracker itself.

Masar is Solario Stakes Star

Masar put in a power-packed display to win the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown on Saturday.

Taken to the front inside the two-furlong pole, he galloped relentlessly to the line, pulling a couple of lengths clear of the useful Irish raider Romanised. Now as short as 16/1 for next season’s 2000 Guineas, he’s by New Approach out of a Cape Cross mare, and looks a colt that will be suited by at least a mile though likely further.
Prior to this success, the Godolphin juvenile had chased home classy fillies September and Nyaleti in a strong looking Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot.

“I thought it was a nice, professional performance,” said jockey, James Doyle. “He had good form in the book, obviously. Being placed in the Chesham was pretty smart. We knew he'd see out the trip quite well and we just kept it simple. He took a little bit of time to drop down into gear, but once he did he powered away nicely. I was pretty confident after going a furlong. I'd say a step up in trip will suit him.”

Charlie Appleby was clearly impressed, saying after the win: “I'm delighted. James gave him a lovely ride. He got the run we were hoping for. We thought they (Connect and De Bruyne Horse) were the two pace angles in front of us and he got a dream run. I was confident going into the final furlong he was going to carry on galloping and he galloped out nicely. It was a pleasing performance and I hope he's a horse with a bright future.

“He's potentially a horse for the Royal Lodge. We feel next year will be his year, so we'll treat him with some kid gloves, hopefully get another run under our belts and then put him away for the winter.”

Of the remainder, John Gosden’s Purser looked a little unfortunate back in fourth. Denied a clear run throughout, Frankie Dettori had to sit and take his punishment, and when a gap finally appeared the winner had long-since flown. Owned by Khalid Abdullah, and by American stallion Mizzen Mast, he’s an interesting sort and certainly worth keeping an eye on when next on the track.

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Later at Sandown, we saw another impressive performance in a Group Three, when Aljazzi romped to victory in the fillies and mares Atalanta Stakes. Marco Botti’s four-year-old is quite a unit, and she proved her Duke Of Cambridge Stakes runner-up finish to Qemah was no fluke with this authoritative display.

“She's definitely a filly who has got better as a four-year-old,” said Botti. “She's more mature and stronger. The plan was to be a bit closer to the pace, but they went a genuine pace all the way and Andrea sat at the back and she picked up well. She's progressing and she's a nice filly to have in the yard. If she did well here the plan has always been to go straight to the Sun Chariot and I think that will be the plan.”

From relative youngsters impressing as Sandown, to a senior citizen turning back the clock at Beverley. With career earnings of more than half-a-million quid, Take Cover at the grand old age of 10 remains a high-class sprinter, and he proved a worthy favourite when making all to take ‘The Bullet’. Fifth in the King’s Stand in June, the better the ground the quicker he goes, and so it proved, as the rest were unable to land a blow in Beverley’s most prestigious event.

The David Griffiths trained stable star defeated Paul Midgley’s Final Venture, as he had done at York in July, when the pair were again first and second in a listed race. Rain on Friday night had caused concern, but the official going remained good to firm on raceday, and jockey Tom Queally paced things perfectly from the front. The pack loomed large a furlong from home, but Take Cover found plenty, and bravely saw off all-comers. “I’m absolutely chuffed to bits,” said an understandably proud trainer.