Monday Musings: A Visinari Visionary

Peter Ashmore and I stood hanging over the rail at the top end of the paddock adjacent to the saddling boxes before the opening race of Newmarket’s July Course season on Saturday, writes Tony Stafford. A big grey colt came by and we agreed: “It’s a giant! Surely he’s come in early before the following handicap!”

Further inspection revealed it was Visinari, a tall, leggy son of Dark Angel trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by an unusually-available Ryan Moore, taking some non-Coolmore mounts on home turf while Seamie and Donnacha shared a juvenile winner apiece at Navan.

A year before, Calyx – earlier in the week reported to have suffered an injury when losing for the first time at Doncaster which will put him out of Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup – won his debut in the corresponding six-furlong race by five lengths and six.

Thirty minutes later Gunmetal, rated 93, won the handicap in 1min 10.76sec, 1.80 sec faster than Calyx’s recording of 1min 12.56 sec on good to firm going. Gunmetal now has an official mark of 104. With the weight-for-age scale decreeing that in the first week of June, two-year-olds should receive 38lb from their elders, for Calyx to run within 1.80 sec (nine lengths) of a five-year-old was meritorious.

So how can one begin to explain what Visinari was about to show us after those few languid spins around the paddock? He was bought at Arqana as a yearling for €55,000, apparently breaking the mantra of Johnston buys requiring dams to be rated at least 90; but Visinada, a daughter of Derby winner Sinndar, has already produced two winning progeny exceeding that level.

It is so easy to forget. Sinndar dominated racing in 2000, winning all but one of his eight career races including the Derby, Irish Derby and Arc for his owner-breeder the Aga Khan. He brings to Visinari’s pedigree an obvious stamina influence, but his winning siblings both showed decent speed on the track.

Anyway, on debut and faced with a well-touted Godolphin colt with previous experience, the clearly well-schooled Visinari went off in front. Moore needed to push him out when Ottoman Court, a son of Shamardal tried to join him on the outside at around the two-furlong pole, and he responded to the tune of an always-extending three and a half lengths.

There were echoes of Calyx in the result as it was another ten back to the rest. Just to confirm what the eyes told us, half an hour later the four-year-old Flavius Titus, rated 95, won the all-aged handicap in a time 0.14 sec SLOWER than Visinari’s 1 min 10.41sec. Add the 32lb (four-year-olds get 6lb from their elders in the scale at this stage of the season) and Visinari has run to somewhere near 127! One can only surmise that with the official going both this year and last “good to firm” and a disparity of only 0.21 sec in the times of the two all-age handicaps, Visinari must be something special to be two seconds faster than Calyx.

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Maybe it’s a freak result but looking at Visinari before and listening to what Charlie Johnston was saying afterwards: “He’s all legs and because he’s so big we kept delaying running him until after one more impressive gallop” or words to that effect. The clock doesn’t lie as I could hear Phil Bull saying and those days of yore were imprinted again on my mind in the middle of the night as I prepared to begin this epistle.

George Hill, who one must remember is younger than me, sent me four pages from different editions of the Racehorse from 1965 when he would have been 18 and I had only just left school, almost a decade before I edited the same weekly.

He wrote a couple of columns talking in one about trainer Earl Jones – someone he got to know very well 50 and more years ago – and his horse Honey End, who later finished an unlucky second as the favourite in Foinavon’s notorious Grand National.

Thanks for that Georgie, when will you start coming racing again?

But I digress. So what now for the grey giant? You can imagine Ryan saying in the de-brief: “Well really, he’s so big I’d give Royal Ascot a miss, give him time to mature and bring him back here for the July meeting.” Maybe they will, but you’d have to be thinking Coventry and a clash with the best of Ballydoyle.

Whether that would mean the winning Navan debutant Royal Lytham, a son of first-season sire Gleneagles, who among others had an odds-on stable-companion (by War Front) well beaten in fourth when causing a mild surprise at 10-1 on Saturday.

Thus he became the third winner by Gleneagles and first in Ireland for the dual Guineas-winning son of Galileo. It was always the hope that the king of Coolmore would produce top milers to go with the middle-distance and staying champions, and Gleneagles is the first in a plentiful pipeline hoped to bring precocity to the breed.

Gleneagles has won with three of nine runners so far, and the non-winners include Daily Times, a John Gosden-trained half-sister to the 2018 juvenile champion Newspaperofrecord who incidentally suffered a second defeat of the year at odds of 3-20 (1.15 in Betfair parlance) at Belmont Park on Thursday. Daily Times, the 9-2 second favourite, was fourth behind Visinari, just edged out for third after being prominent for most of the race.

Charlie Johnston spoke about the yard’s Royal Ascot team “taking shape” and referred to a number about to run with the possibility of aiming at the Chesham. That seven-furlong race is not until Saturday week, opening up the fifth day and requires sire or dam to have won at ten furlongs or above.

That qualification lets in Romsey, a daughter of the Coral-Eclipse winner Mukhadram, who opened her account with a smooth success second time out at Chelmsford on Saturday. Unlike the top-end home-breds and sales buys, Romsey started her public life in unprepossessing fashion.

Entered in Tattersalls Book 3 last October from Lavington Stud, she didn’t attract a bid and was recorded as “Vendor 800gns”, the minimum. She ended up with Hughie Morrison. After a promising debut third over six furlongs at Windsor, she went on to Chelmsford and upped to seven, won by four and a half lengths.

When I asked Hughie about the sales debacle, he said. “I went to see her at the stud during Goodwood last year with a bloodstock agent and we both told Al <Alasdair Macdonald-Buchanan> that she’d struggle at the sale as she was so weak.

“I must say, though, I don’t think I’ve ever had a two-year-old improve so much so quickly. Even allowing for her weakness, you must have expected some interest as she’s half-sister to two two-year-winners including Indian Viceroy who won twice for us last year.

“The Chesham might be an option. The alternative, carrying a 7lb penalty running for three grand against horses from top stables, is most unattractive.”

Hughie cheered up the Raymond Tooth team when bringing out Say Nothing for a much-improved run under 9st10lb at Haydock last week and she might turn out again at Sandown on Friday. Stable-companion Sod’s Law will definitely run there, stepping up to a mile and a quarter with P J McDonald’s endorsement after his running-on fourth over a mile on the firm at Leicester. Wish us luck. We need it.

But I can’t stop thinking about Visinari!

- TS

Stat of the Day, 16th August 2012

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day, 15th August 2012

It was like taking candy from a baby yesterday, as SdS did all I hoped he would: stalked the pace and quickened two out. After that, they were never getting Aliante and she won by three lengths going away. 4/1 was a surprise and a nice bonus too! 🙂

Less straightforward today, but another wagering friend of mine over at HQ in the…

2.40 Newmarket

David Elsworth has long been a man to follow at Newmarket, especially on the July course. And that's hardly surprising given that he has his own all weather gallop right next door to the July strip in Newmarket!

His handicappers on the July course have recorded figures of eight from 33 in the last two seasons for an SP profit of fifty points!

Tonight he runs one in a handicap, and Odin looks to have a very good each way chance.

It's a ten furlong contest, Class 4, on good to firm ground.

Last time out, Odin ran second in a Class 3 course and distance handicap on good ground. He was beaten a length and, two runs previously, he'd won a ten furlong handicap on good to firm (albeit in lower class).

So our 'man' goes on the ground, at the track, over the trip, and is dropped in class.

There have been non-runners already, reducing the field to nine, and the price is dropping on Odin. I backed him at 9/1 BOG with bet365 just now, and that is still available. Alternatively, you can get 10/1 (not best odds guaranteed) with Stan James.

Each way, Odin.

Click here for the latest odds for the 2.40 Newmarket.

Newmarket Trends: Day Two

More trends and stats from the second day of the Newmarket July Festival this Friday..... Read more

Stat of the Day, 12th July 2012

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day: 12th July 2012

Cuteasafox was the pick yesterday, and while she truncated from an advised 8/1 into 5/1 at the off, she ran more like an 8/1 shot, finishing mid-division. No excuses for her, or us, and we both have something to prove on our respective recent records!

Curiously perhaps, then, I'm taking in a big field handicap at Newmarket's July Festival for today's choice…

2.25 Newmarket

An extremely tricky handicap today, which means we'll at least get a decent price about a loser, and at best get a decent price about a winner!

The name in the frame this afternoon is Andrew Balding, a man who is having another fantastic season. His record in July at Newmarket is very good and, in the last four years, he's recorded six winners from 26 runners, specifically with his three year old entries.

From a handful of runners this afternoon at summer HQ, Balding has just one 3yo, Stature. He won last time out over this trip and on ground that was probably too fast; he's run well in this grade over a trip too far; he's a front runner who should be suited by the pace in today's race (i.e. might get an easy lead); and best-jockey-in-the-land Ryan Moore does the steering.

It's my view that as a son of Montjeu he'll be better on today's ground and, though this is ferociously competitive, he has robust place prospects at least, if Moore can control the race from the front.

Stature is 18.5 on the exchanges, best priced 14/1 and best BOG price of 12/1, so take anything bigger than 16.0 on the exchanges is my advice. I'm about to! I'm also backing the place, and each way is recommended if you're using a traditional bookie.

Make sure you check the link below in case it's drifted out when you read this…

Click here for the latest odds for the 2.25 Newmarket.

Stat of the Day, 30th June 2012

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day: 30th June 2012

The last day of June and, after a 13/2 advised winner yesterday in Greek War, we are remarkably less than a single point down on what's felt like a poor month. That is testament to the approach we take here, and why it's imperative you insist on getting value about your bets.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, value is NOT a price (e.g. 6/1 is better than 6/4). Rather, it is a better than true odds chance of the event occurring (e.g. 11/10 about the even money true chance of a coin toss landing on heads).

We’ll head back to HQ, the scene of yesterday's winner, to attempt to pull a positive monthly account rabbit from what looked a moderate slight losing month hat, in the…

4.05 Newmarket

By my calculations, SotD is around 0.71 points in the red for the month. As such it was very tempting to select Michelangelo in the opener at Newmarket. He's clearly the highest rated, and has much the most scope for improvement, and I think he'll win. At 4/5, I don't think he's bad value, but it's fair to say there's little scope for upside in that price. Which is a shame from an SotD perspective, if he goes and wins, and the selection doesn't. 😉

OK, to the last day of the month 'get out stakes' pick.

I am a huge fan of the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". So today, I'm getting straight back on the al Zarooni/Barzalona horse.

Both enhanced their already fine reputations on Newmarket's July strip yesterday, and they're now four from seventeen when pairing up, for a profit of 6.5 points. Not stellar, but not at all bad either.

Indeed, on both Newmarket strips (July course and Rowley mile), they're a more delicious ten wins from 35 runs, and a profit of 33.5 units at SP. Clearly, this is an emerging A Team (al Zarooni is obviously Hannibal, and Barzalona probably Face)...

In any case, they team up with one horse today, the once raced two year old, Quintilian. This son of Cape Cross finished fourth to the very highly regarded The Taj on debut, over six furlongs. He wasn't given a hard time of it once his winning chance had gone and, in my opinion, should have definitely been third there.

Today he races over an extra furlong which, on breeding, should be right up his street (he's bred to be a miler through and through).

More will be expected this afternoon and, in a race full of promising newcomers, the experience of that debut run, allied to a decent level of ability can see Quintilian come home in front.

Of the newcomers, perhaps the one most feared is Quintilian's stablemate (for obvious reasons - it's bloody annoying when you back the wrong one from the yard!), Blue Wave, who is a beautifully bred son of Raven's Pass. But the likes of Disclaimer, Inaad and Hoarding are all worth watching with an eye to the future.

[Incidentally, this is a race that Richard Hannon has won five times since 2004. He had Ninjago engaged, but he's now a non-runner. Worth looking out for, that one.]

Quintilian's currently 4/1 BOG with bet365 to continue Stat of the Day's record of every month being a winning one, and win only is the suggestion.


Click here for the latest odds on the 4.05 Newmarket.

Sat TV Trends: 30th June 2012

Andy Newton gives you the key trends, plus trainer/jockey stats for the LIVE C4 races at Newmarket and the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle today..... Read more