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Monday Musings: Of Black Type and Newsprint

What is it about Frankie Dettori, Ascot racecourse and Magnificent Sevens?, writes Tony Stafford.  On September 28 1996, aged 25, he totally monopolised a single Champions Day (as it was to become) card by riding all seven winners. In the process he bankrupted a number of bookmakers – most vocally the larger-than-life Gary Wiltshire – and caused some extra work for your correspondent.

Between June 18 and 22, 2019, at the peak of the summer solstice and almost exactly twenty-two and a half years later and therefore at almost double the age, the master jockey compiled another seven wins during the five days of Royal Ascot. Thus Dettori gained his first championship at the meeting since 2004, in the days when he was still riding for Godolphin.

Fundamental to the latest extravaganza was Thursday’s opening four-timer, which for one member of a famous racing family, could have been the precursor to potential financial ruin.

Mylo Sangster, grandson of Robert and son of Guy, was part of a group of racing and gambling enthusiasts who started the company Black Type Bet three years ago. Their idealistic aims of providing a service whereby punters could actually get their bets on might well have become compromised in the meantime by the particular issues of the gambling industry, but until Thursday all seemed serene.

Then came Dettori’s 449-1 four-timer, but worse, tons of money running onto Turgenev, his mount in the following Britannia Stakes which caused his starting price to contract to 7-2 in the manner of Fujiyama Crest (2-1 from 12’s), Dettori’s last of seven winners all those years ago.

As Turgenev was sent to the front in the last two furlongs of the 28-runner handicap, the partners of Black Type were quaking in their boots, Sangster relating on Sunday that there had been the potential for a crippling £750k shortfall. As he drew three lengths clear they watched with bated breath, awaiting the coup de grace.

They needed a knight in shining armour, and in Harry Bentley they found one. Riding Biometric, appropriately a son of Bated Breath, in the Khalid Abdullah colours for the Ralph Beckett stable, Bentley brought the 28-1 shot (55-1 on Ascot’s Tote: I know, I backed him, only very small!) from way back to collar Dettori 100 yards from home.

If ever there was an appropriate winner this was it as Bentley is sponsored by, wait for it, Black Type Bet. Talk about earning your fee, I think Harry might well be in line for a nice bonus.

Apparently when seeking a jockey to sponsor, they contacted Johnno Spence, racing’s media fixer supreme and Donald Trump body double – almost! Spence initially suggested Oisin Murphy but when he had already been snapped up, turned to Gentleman Harry with Saturday’s spectacular business-saving result.

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I discovered the Black Type connection with the youthful Mylo – not that it hadn’t been in the public domain since the start – while chatting to his mum Fi at Ascot on Saturday. She put us promptly in touch, possibly as reward for having tipped her Cleonte to win the Queen Alexandra, after which she had no opportunity of doing back her winnings. Mylo revealed he was one of a team of six original start-up execs, a number that has expanded to around 14, of whom he is the main horseracing trader.

Like his older brother Ned, leading light in the Mull of Killough syndicate with Jane Chapple-Hyam a few years ago, he has the Sangster family heritage in racing and indeed punting in full measure. The third generation is carrying on the example of his own father and uncles Ben, Adam, boss of Swettenham stud in Australia, and Sam. His cousin Olli, Ben’s son, looks after the Wesley Ward horses at Manton, the family base now owned by Martin Meade.

At the top I mentioned that Dettori’s 1996 Ascot extravaganza caused me some extra work. I had been commissioned by Pete Burrell, Frankie’s business manager, to write an account of his year in racing in 1996. At the time as a complement to my newspaper responsibilities I was also doing some work with David Loder, then one of Frankie’s major supporters, so came across the jockey quite a lot.

The idea was to write Frankie Dettori – A Year in the Life – as ghost writer. There were some amusing incidents on the way. Often we’d settle down for an hour or so and while I was fresh enough after a normal start, it would nearly always be after a long morning on the gallops for him. It wouldn’t take long for him to look wistfully out the window onto the paddock and say:  “You know what I mean,” leaving it to me to finish the thought in question.

One incident I keep recalling was when early on, for some reason I asked him about his reading habits. He said: “I only ever read one book, Ten <20> Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Jules Verne would have been horrified that Frankie had managed to navigate only half of it!

Anyway, as the fateful Saturday arrived, Frankie’s book was fully printed and ready to roll for the Christmas market. It had the benefit of a high-powered literary agent, Christopher Little, who went on to fill a similar role for the Harry Potter books. What a come-down!

So what to do? Publishing vintage 1996 had little bearing on the push-button era of today. But everyone agreed we had to do another chapter and duly managed it over the next couple of days. I think one or other of my three children, who all came to the launch of the book, has retained a copy, but I don’t have one and cannot tell you whether the extra words were at the front or back of the book.

Publishing had been part of my life ever since the Greyhound Express in the late 1960’s and one event which happened between that entrance into the business and the Dettori episode was brought back to life at Ascot last week.

I was introduced in the paddock to Peter Brant, and amazingly it was the first time I’d met the New York newsprint magnate and racehorse owner-breeder since November 1982. That was during my first visit to Kentucky.

David Hedges, the late founder of the still-active International Racing Bureau in Newmarket secured an invitation for me to go to Kentucky for the November Breeding stock sale, as a guest of celebrated owner-breeder Robin Scully at his famed Clovelly Farm in Lexington.

Apart from the novelty of seeing tobacco hanging out to dry in one of the Clovelly barns, I was taken around town and one of the first jaunts was to the Hyatt Hotel on the Sunday, the day before the sale in Keeneland started. Kentucky was “dry” on Sunday in those days, but the Hyatt was very busy with the sales in town and Robin introduced me to Henryk de Kwiatkowski, whom I would soon get to know much better, and Mr Brant.

Upon finding out my job, Peter said: “You know, if the big UK newspapers could sort out the union problems they would be one of the best investments anywhere in the world.”

At the time, the Berry family which owned it would have considered a bid and I suggested to Brant maybe he should buy it. I asked him at Ascot whether he recalled the conversation and amazingly he did.

In the meantime a couple of days later at that sale I discovered an exclusive that should have made a decent racing story on the Daily Telegraph pages. Danny Schwartz, one of the Sangster team of investors, revealed across the bar (and me) to Henryk that they had bought the top lot of the sale. I knew it had been knocked down to Sir Philip Payne-Gallwey, Stavros Niarchos’ legendary agent, so this had to be news of an alliance between Sangster and Niarchos.

I prepared the article, which I then transmitted over the phone to one of the telephonists back in Fleet Street. Imagine my frustration when not just that article but everything else I sent back never appeared in print. An ongoing dispute over a new printing machine developed into a full week’s strike by the printers, which only ended when management agreed to repay the boys all their lost money along with a few extra concessions.

As Peter Brant said, UK daily newspapers should have been a great investment, if only you could be sure that the unions would allow the papers to be printed!

- TS

Stat of the Day, 22nd June 2019

Friday's pick was...

7.50 Newmarket : Agincourt @ 10/3 BOG 2nd at 9/4 (In touch, headway 2f out, led over 1f out, ridden and headed inside final furlong)

Saturday's pick runs in the...

3.40 Royal 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.

Who?

Defoe @ 4/1 BOG

...in the 9-runner, Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes  for 4yo+ over 1m4f on Good (Good to Firm in places, but was initially Good To Soft!) ground worth £127598 to the winner...

Why?...

Well, I'm taking one of my rare dips into Class 1 racing with this 5yr old gelding who has got better and better this season. He finished 113 last season and was then gelded. He returned from a long break to finish fourth in a Gr3, then was a runner-up at Gr2 before winning the Gr 1 Coronation Cup over this trip at Epsom 22 days ago.

Technically, this is a slight drop in class and if he gets the breaks he might need, then we should all be celebrating at 3.45pm today.

He has won 8 of 14 starts to date, including of relevance today...

  • 6/7 as favourite
  • 6/9 at odds below 5/1
  • 6/11 under today's jockey Andrea Atzeni
  • 5/10 at Class 1
  • 4/6 at 11/12 furlongs
  • and 4/7 on Good ground

His trainer Roger Varian had a winner here yesterday and since 2012 over trips of 6-12 furlongs at Class 1, has notched up a vey respectable 70 winners from 444 (15.8% SR) for 117.7pts (+26.5% ROI), from which the following are at play this afternoon...

  • 48/183 (26.2%) for 8.22pts (+4.5%) at odds of 6/1 and shorter
  • 42/280 (15%) for 123.8pts (+44.2%) on Good/Good to Firm ground
  • 37/199 (18.6%) for 111.6pts (+56.1%) ridden by Andrea Atzeni
  • 33/194 (17%) for 119.7pts (+61.7%) at 11-30 days since last run
  • 31/156 (19.9%) for 121.1pts (+77.6%) in fields of 9-12 runners
  • 27/147 (18.4%) for 58.1pts (+39.5%) from LTO winners
  • and 17/84 (20.2%) for 18.9pts (+22.5%) from 5/6 yr olds

And finally, a quick glance at the pace and draw tabs on our interactive racecard  suggests that horses drawn highest do well in this type of contest, as do those who like to be held up for a late run, whilst those drawn higher and are held up do very well indeed.

Defoe certainly won the Coronation Cup from off the pace and looks the likeliest to be held up today and he'll come from stall 7. He might need a gap or two to open up for him (the track is certainly wide enough anyway), but if he gets a clear enough run, he's the one for me here...

...hence... a 1pt win bet on Defoe @ 4/1 BOG as offered pretty much everywhere at 6.05pm on Friday. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 3.40 Royal Ascot

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

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Social Discourse – 10th June 2019

Happy Monday, and welcome to another weekly round up of the pick of the news as seen through the tweet machine lens...

There’s only one place to start this week’s Social Discourse, and that is the fire which could have been a tragedy if not for the extremely quick work of those based at Jamie Osborne's Old Malt House Stables in Upper Lambourn. When flames engulfed the yard at 4am in the morning, destroying the tack room, a bungalow and mercifully nothing more, it was thanks not only the quick thinking of Osborne but of all those involved, and the kindness of - amongst others - Stan Moore, who stabled some of the affected horses for a day afterwards. See some of the events below:

 

 

Tweet Of The Week: This says it all. What a man Jamie Osborne has been, and what a team he’s got behind him.

 

  1. All Rise for Sir Winston

This has been a rather dramatic Triple Crown year. It’s only six weeks or so ago that we had the first disqualification in Kentucky Derby history. Then, in the Preakness, the middle leg of the Triple Crown, we saw a riderless horse (having unshipped Johnny Velazquez, no less) stealing America’s heart, perhaps gaining more love than the winner. And in the third and final leg, we had another surprise as Sir Winston nipped up the rail to record an upset in the Belmont Stakes.

 

Making his Classic debut for Mark Casse, who was training a second of the three Triple Crown winners, Sir Winston travelled like he’d been at this level for just as long as any horse in the field. Held up early, he moved into contention smoothly in the run-up to the far turn; thereafter, jockey Joel Rosario had to hold his nerve when he was briefly boxed in, but when the gap came he scooted up the inner for what was a perfectly timed winning run. The Twittersphere had plenty to say about the race, the rides, and the tactics.

https://twitter.com/Calim1701/status/1137499938542182402

 

Any later, and it’s possible that favourite Tacitus, fourth in the Kentucky Derby before skipping the Preakness, might have got there in time, whilst Japanese contender Master Fencer appeared to finish fastest of all (just as he did in the Durby), but the glory went to Sir Winston.

A shout out to Master Fencer's connections, who have taken the Triple Crown in stride, and hopefully they will be back very soon.

 

  1. Judge, Jury and Mr Adjudicator
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Tory leadership contenders talking about taking drugs, taxes and Willie Mullins winning the Prix la Barka. They’re three certainties in life and we’ve had all of them this weekend, with Mullins continuing the Closutton domination of this French Grade 2 hurdle. This time, Mr Adjudicator denied stablemate Bapaume in that one's quest for back-to-back wins.

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1137813615791071232

Mullins had won the last three renewals, with Un De Sceaux and Shaneshill scoring prior to Bapaume 12 months ago, and he'd entered over half the field on this occasion.

Elsewhere on the card, the Prix des Drags was a race of contrasting emotions; joy for Isabelle Pacault and dedicated ally Jonathan Plouganou after Jubilatoire's win, and despair for the Mullins brigade after the loss of Irish Grand National runner-up Isleofhopendreams, who was fatally injured at the water jump in front of the stands.

The Prix Questerabad saw Irish interest in the shape of French Made, but she was a blowout when fourth behind L’Autonomie, an impressive winner.

 

  1. Santa Anita-Close Down

Breaking: As I write this newsletter...

The consequences: Obviously massive. California’s premier racetrack – and arguably the premier racetrack in America, if not the most famous one – has been here before, and the first question that comes to mind especially for many readers here, will be what happens to the Breeders’ Cup, which took place at Churchill last year but which was set to return to Arcadia in 2019.

https://twitter.com/ArsenioHall/status/1137969596433162241

This is another reputational disaster for racing – there have already been nationally uncomfortable questions – and once again, questions to which the authorities do not have the answers will be asked, especially PETA, on a national stage (see the New York Times tweet above). Where do we go from here?

  1. Elsewhere at Belmont

Heading back to America, it was a truly top class card at Belmont to entertain on Saturday.

  • Bricks and Mortar, now firmly established as the best turf horse in the US, added to his Pegasus Turf win with a cosy success in the Manhattan Stakes

https://twitter.com/HorseRaceSite/status/1137479973135179779

 

  • Mitole took a thrilling and extremely high-class renewal of the Metropolitan Mile Handicap, holding off the late and unlucky challenge of McKinzie with Thunder Snow a fine third over a trip short of his optimum. The latter will stay in America for a summer campaign, perhaps heading to Saratoga next.

 

  • Thanks to a meltdown early pace, Hog Creek Hustle sprung an upset in the Woody Stephens, beating fellow outsider Nitrous, and an objection from the stewards as they debated whether the winner caused Mind Control to lose any chance in the lane when he shifted in his stretch run.

https://twitter.com/WHR/status/1137455811322683392

  • Guarana showed herself to be a horse of immense promise when graduating straight from maidens into Grade 1 company, breaking the track record as she slammed Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress by six lengths in the Acorn Stakes.

https://twitter.com/WorldRacing_/status/1137442373288505344

  • World Of Trouble had no trouble in taking the Jaipur Invitational Stakes.

  • Midnight Bisou got the better of Come Dancing in impressive style when landing the Odgen Phipps Stakes.

  • Rushing Fall started what would be a Grade 1 treble for Chad Brown when landing the Just A Game Stakes.

 

  1. A Right Royal Treat, Part 1

With just over a week to go, some of the best racing days of the year are on their way, and there’s so much to look forward to. 

On the Tuesday:

  • The Queen Anne will see a host of names which fought out the Lockinge Stakes meet again, with Mustashry favourite to beat Laurens, Accidental Agent and Le Brivido amongst others
  • Last year’s 1-2-3 will meet again in the King’s Stand, with Blue Point, Battaash and Mabs Cross re-opposing
  • In the St James’s Palace, there’s the chance we might get to see Magna Grecia – if he can recover from the pulled muscle which saw him disappoint at the Curragh – take on Phoenix of Spain, bringing together the English and Irish Guineas winners
  • There are more Coventry contenders than one can count, in what looks set to be one of the most open races of the week

 

Wednesday:

  • Sea of Class and Waldgeist could be joined by last year’s Derby winner Masar and Crystal Ocean in what looks a potentially belting Prince of Wales’s Stakes

Thursday

  • The Gold Cup sees last year’s Champion, Stradivarius, take on Melbourne Cup winner, Cross Counter, and 2018 Derby fourth and improver since stretching out, Dee Ex Bee

https://twitter.com/Punters/status/1137947074752786432

 

Friday

  • Dual 1,000 Guineas winner Hermosa is now likely to take on the wide margin Newbury winner Jubiloso in the Coronation Stakes

  • In the Commonwealth Cup, Ten Sovereigns heads a field packed with speed and potential, including Jash, with whom he clashed in last year's Middle Park

 

Saturday

  • Invincible Army, a very impressive winner of the Duke of York Stakes, takes on Godolphin's French raider Inns Of Court, who was different class in the Prix du-Gros Chene, as we conclude the week’s Group 1’s in The Diamond Jubilee

Tip top stuff, of which more next week.

Meanwhile, this is WK signing off...

- William Kedjanyi

Royal Ascot 2018: Day 1 Preview, Tips

It's Royal Ascot 2018, the finest week in the flat racing calendar. The finest but, from a wagering perspective, very far from the easiest. It's a meeting which, as a consequence of one too many bloody reversals, I personally take fairly lightly, and the following ruminations should be consumed in that context.

As well as this post, you may also be interested in Andy's Royal Ascot Day 1 Trends.

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 4yo+)

The Royal meeting begins with a bang. Actually, given its G1-G2-G1-G1 opening quartet of races, it begins with a two hour firework display of equine superstars. The grand overture is the Queen Anne Stakes, a test of speed, class and stamina up the straight mile course.

As was shown in this article on Ascot pace and draw biases, it is very difficult to lead all the way on the straight mile here. While those waited with have fared the best of the four general run styles over course and distance, it should be noted that a number of recent winners of this race were more prominently placed in the opening quarter.

Deauville looks set for a relatively uncontested lead and if the race is run at less than championship pace, it may again suit those near the fore. Deauville's stable mate, Rhododendron, will not be far away; after needing every yard of Newbury's round mile to collar Lightning Spear (re-opposes) in the Lockinge, she appears well suited to this stiffer task. The only reservation is that this will be the first time she's raced on a straight track, and her first visit to Ascot. Regardless, she will give those mythical favourite backers a run for their money.

More appealing, though undoubtedly more of a punt also, is BENBATL. Godolphin's four-year-old son of Dubawi, unraced as a juvenile, was asked to do a number of things he couldn't last year - run over a mile and a half, and race on heavy most notably. In between twelve furlong spins, he was dropped to ten furlongs at Royal Ascot and duly won the Hampton Court Stakes.

This season he had four runs in Dubai, all over nine furlongs, winning three of them including, most recently, the Group 1 Dubai Turf. The stopwatch boys have raved about his times in the Emirates so, if he's been well enough rested since returning to Blighty, Saeed bin Suroor may 'have it right back at ya, Charlie' in this prestigious heat. He's worth a go at 5/1.

It's a deep race, though, and the likes of overseas raiders Recoletos and Yoshida may be slightly longer prices than they ought to be. At huge odds, Century Dream has a strikingly progressive profile. This is a big ask of course, and there's a slight reservation about the ground, but he may well run better than his odds imply, albeit that that may not be good enough to nick a place or more.

3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2, 6f, 2yo)

Total guesswork here... Here's what I know:

- No Nay Never has started very well as a sire and represents the Scat Daddy lineage - numerous strong performers at this meeting in recent years.

- Peter May's figures have Cosmic Law and Sergei Prokofiev at the top, closely followed by the once-raced Indigo Balance.

- 13 of the last 16 winners had either one or two previous career starts.

- Once-raced debut winners have fared well, scoring in the Coventry in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2017.

- Those off the track for more than a month have done very well, in terms of wins and places to runners.

That leaves me with a shortlist of two - though neither with especially high speed ratings: Advertise and Getchagetchagetcha.

The former is trained by Martyn Meade, winning comfortably in maiden company at Newbury, a race which has worked out quite well so far. The latter comes from the Clive Cox speed camp, and won his debut at this track. That was over five furlongs on softish ground in a four-runner field, however, meaning he has a bit more to prove against conditions than the Meade runner.

I'll take a chance on another once-raced debut winner in the form of Jessica Harrington's Indigo Balance. He won a six furong Curragh maiden beating Decrypt, himself a subsequent winner.

In an open race where those at the head of the market - Sergei Prokofiev (Scat Daddy), Calyx (debut winner), Cosmic Law (No Nay Never), and The Irish Rover (No Nay Never) - all tick one box or another above. But in a race where guesswork is the order of the day, why not side with a couple of 'could be anything' blank canvasses at a price?

Advertise and Indigo Balance for small stakes.

3.40 King's Stand Stakes (Group 1, 5f, 3yo+)

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Back to Group 1 action, and a five furlong dash. There are some very fast starters in this field, perhaps none more so than the electric Kachy, whose performance when smashing his rivals by nine lengths at Chester had to be seen to be believed.

That was Chester, around the bend, and this is Ascot up the straight; that was a Class 3 and this is a Group 1: rapid he is, but I doubt he has the class of a number of these.

Lady Aurelia is also lightning from the stalls, and she comes here bidding to defend an unbeaten course record: she beat a field of 17 by seven lengths in the Queen Mary of 2016, and she beat the same size field in this race last year, prevailing again by daylight, three lengths on that occasion. The daughter of Scat Daddy will be very tough to beat if turning up in that sort of form. But she was beaten on her seasonal bow, albeit when very likely half-cooked and with this in mind. She's going to be a short enough price as the second most popular Lady on Day 1 of the Royal meeting, but I couldn't put you off her.

Battaash is perceived to be Lady A's main rival, this fellow having been a new man since suffering the misfortune of decoupling after fluffing his lines in the 2016 Windsor Castle at the Royal meeting. He's not returned to this piste in the interim so there is something of a leap of faith required to back him at around 9/4, for all that when he's good he's very good. He was generally very good last season, in fairness, and his narrow last day triumph can probably be marked up a jot. Still, of the pair, I'd rather be in Wesley's corner and that of his marauding mare.

The quest for a value loser is not always in vain in this race - as Choisir, Equiano and Goldream have all reminded us since 2003. In that spirit, and although I don't especially fancy him, Washington DC advertised his outside chance when chasing Battaash home at Haydock last time. The five-year-old son of Zoffany has only won once over the minimum since his juvenile season; but then, way way back in 2015, he did win the Windsor Castle from 26 rivals. He's quirky and a late runner, and it is hardly in his favour that Ryan Moore has plumped for a thrice-beaten-this-season stable mate upon which he doesn't wear the Coolmore silks; but 16/1 might just make the frame for the ever more accomplished-looking Donnacha O'Brien.

But, actually, the more I look at it, the more I think LADY AURELIA will win.

4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo)

My heart is screaming for the underdog, Roger Teal's Tip Two Win. Not only trained by one of the sport's lesser-known names, he is ridden by one of the more under-rated jockeys in the weighing room, David Probert (who just happens to sport the liveries of this 'ere website on his breeches). It would be spectacular for Roger and David, not to mention owner Anne Crowley, if he could prevail.

Having finished closest to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas, he has a legitimate chance, too. That followed up solid two-year-old form and helped sandwich a brace of lucrative victories in Doha around the turn of the year. Sure, he hasn't the progression of some of these but he has the most in the book of all of them. Come on David!!!

OK, partisanship aside, the most exciting horse for neutrals is probably Without Parole. Trainer John Gosden has brought this fellow along slowly, shunning the bright lights for wins at first Newcastle (actually, that was under the bright lights, last December!) and then Yarmouth, before raising his sights a touch in the Listed Heron Stakes.

That trio of wins are only mildly interesting in or of themselves, but the manner of victory, particularly on Without Parole's second start, has flagged him as a colt of rare potential. The problem for would be backers of a horse stepping up to Group company, not to mention Group 1 company, for the first time is that his price suggests he's already an established top tier performer. As such, fully cognisant that it may end in tears, I want to try to take him on.

Romanised, another from an unfashionable stable - this time that of Ken Condon, bounded forward from his 2018 bow to put the Irish 2000 Guineas field to the sword in convincing manner last time. As a two-year-old, he ran second to Masar, form which obviously looks oodles better in light of the latter's resounding Derby success. He, like Tip Two Win, is more exposed but has achieved more.

French raider Wootton is also a very interesting contender. Unbeaten in three going into the French 2000 Guineas, he was two lengths fourth there. He didn't get the run of the race off what looked steady fractions, and he ought to be suited by a quicker tempo this time. However, whether he wants fast ground remains to be seen. Trainer Henri-Alex Pantall is 0-14 in Britain and Ireland since 2013, including unplaced runners at 5/2, 5/1, 7/1 twice and 8/1.

And what of Gustav Klimt? Like his namesake's paintings, this fellow has always been more impressionist than lifelike when it comes to top class winning form, though it should be remembered he was Saxon Warrior's better-fancied stablemate in the lead up to the 2000 Guineas, and he did run third in the Irish equivalent. Progressive as a juvenile it is starting to look as though he hasn't improved from two to three as much as others in the line up, though he retains the scope to bounce back yet.

This is a truly fascinating clash of established form versus unexposed early-season three-year-olds, and it is hard to choose between them. What is for certain is that my heart says Tip Two Win; but one rarely needs to invest capital where one is already emotionally in the game. Thus it becomes a choice between the unexposed sorts Without Parole and Wootton. The former may be the pick for all that I don't want to back him at the price. Indeed, I'm not betting in the race: it's too difficult with not enough meat on any wagering bone to justify a punt.

5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 2m 4f, 4yo+)

Twenty older horses, many of them used to facing obstacles rather than morning suits, and the first of the week's near impossible handicap puzzles. A trend may be our friend in the circumstances, so here are three:

13 of the last 16 were won by a predominantly National Hunt stable, including the last eight

10 winners since 1997 (92 runners) won last time out, for a LSP of 19.50 points

The best win and place strike rates were achieved by horses returning from an absence of 14-60 days

That leaves five, though there is a strong possibility that bubba was lobbed with bathwater in the above. Did I already mention I find this meeting tough?

No matter, for our shortlist looks promising, as follows: Whiskey Sour, Look My Way, [White Desert, Sam Missile], Garo De Juilley

Outsider Garo De Juilley has not been seen on the level since notching a four-timer in France in the autumn of 2015. The last of that quartet was in a big field mile and a half Saint-Cloud handicap, where as far as I can tell he carried top weight off an official rating of 43.5, which I think equates to 95. I might be wrong here, but that gives him a bit of a chance off the same mark. He's changed stables twice since then, first to Paul Nicholls and now to Sophie Leech, for whom this will be the six-year-old's first run. He's fit from hurdling and might run better than 66/1, especially if you can nab a bonus place or two.

More likely perhaps is Whiskey Sour from the Willie Mullins yard. Mullins has won this twice in the last three years and three times in the last six. He has other bullets to fire but none with the matching profile to my guessing game trends above. This five-year-old had a successful hurdling season, including winning a Grade 1 at Christmas and running second in the Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle (also Grade 1) when last seen. He won his final two flat starts last term, both fifty grand big field Galway Festival handicaps - in the space of five days, so comes here progressive in that sphere and battle proven. Christophe Soumillon is an eye-catching jockey booking for the 10/1 chance, though Whiskey Sour will need plenty of luck in the run if adopting his usual hold up tactics.

Look My Way repelled the fast-finishing Coeur De Lion in the consolation Chester Cup last time and ought again to get first run on that rival. But the stiffer test of Ascot could play to the presumed stronger stamina of the latter who may finally bag the big one he's promised for so long - albeit that it will be too late for connections who flogged him at the sale last month (looks like some of the outgoing syndicate bought him back in for £110,000, half of which they could claw back here).

Charlie Appleby is looking to supplement his Derby win with a Royal Ascot score to truly mark his 2018 season. He'll have a number of fine chances in better class races than this, but White Desert should not be under-estimated. It may not have been much of a race he won last time, in the context of this gig at least, but he won it by six lengths. The application of first time cheekpieces may have been a factor, and those are retained. He has solid turf form as well as the services of William Buick, who rides the course well.

A winner at the track last month, Sam Missile bids to double up in this notably better race off a seven pounds higher mark. That will make life trickier but Jamie Osborne's five-year-old remains unexposed at staying trips.

The last two above are, of course, not from NH yards, so as per the arbitrary pruning of the field at the start of this race preview, I'll choose from the other trio. Whiskey Sour's run style concerns me in a race of this nature: he might have a lot to do in the last quarter mile and there will be plenty of horses going backwards and getting in his way in the short home stretch.

Garo De Juilley is worth a very small each way fun punt, as his flat form of old was both progressive - he's on a five-timer - and high class. The ground is a bit of a question mark, how much flat ability he retains is a bigger one, but 66/1 justifies the tickle.

Look My Way is usually thereabouts, stays quite well and is likely to be in the right place turning for home; with his trainer in fine form just now, 16/1 is fair enough even if there is a chance that Coeur De Lion - among many others! - will go by him in the final furlong.

5.35 Wolferton Stakes (Listed, 1m2f, 4yo+)

A change to both the race order and conditions, with the Windsor Castle moved to later in the week and its replacement as the Tuesday nightcap, the Wolferton Stakes no longer a handicap. It might have been marginally easier if it was a handicap in truth as 5/1 the field attests.

I genuinely have no clue how this will play out, so the following is little more than to fill the gap between race five and the end of the piece. With that said, if you're still reading, John Gosden won three of the last seven handicap renewals and has also had two placed runners, from ten sent to post.

Johnny G saddles two here, the better fancied of which appears to be Monarchs Glen. This Frankel gelding seemed to be getting it together at the end of last season with a brace of wins in Listed and Group 3 company. That was prior to a thumping in a Dubai Group 1 first time up this season. If one can overlook that setback - class and the travel are acceptable excuses - and if he can pick up that previously ascendant thread, then 10/1 is fair in a race which is no great shakes. Frankie Dettori rides, his mount wearing a hood for the first time.

Gosden's other runner, Muntahaa, has been disappointing since winning a mile and a half Group 3 last midsummer. But the fact he won a G3 puts him a step ahead of many of these, with race conditions (fast ground, decent pace, big field) reasons to be hopeful.

Elsewhere, Henry Candy has an excellent record when teaming up with Harry Bentley (11/31, +18.49) in the last two years, and they try with the filly, Chain Of Daisies. She looks like she might get a softish lead, and may find this more straightforward than the Group 2 Musidora she contested last time. The shorter straight here than at York is in her favour making 16/1 attractive about a filly with a verdict over Ulysses in her back catalogue (same ground and distance, Group 3).

Good luck!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2018: Course Overview and Draw Bias

Royal Ascot 2018 will be the best domestic flat race meeting of the year. It will also be among the hardest from which to derive a betting profit. Personally, it doesn't play to my strengths - too many unexposed 'could be anything' types - but I don't suppose that will stop me getting involved..!

What does play to my strengths is to have a game plan: this is a five day meeting comprised of thirty races, so let's know what we can know about the course and any nuances or biases it may have.

Ascot Course Characteristics

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Ascot's course layout: straight up to a mile, with longer races on the round course. Also a round mile

Uphill

The above graphic illustrates the stiff test that Ascot's track presents, with the red triangle just past the winning post signifying the highest point on the course. Thus there is an uphill drag almost the whole way up the straight. On the round course, the lowest point is at the round mile (Old Mile) start, meaning that distance is also almost entirely uphill.

For longer races on the round course, which is actually closer to being triangular than round, there is some early respite in the loop prior to the long climb for glory.

Tight bend

It is also worth noting that the bend into the home straight for round course races is tight and, being situated just two and a half furlongs from the finish, can cause trouble in running with horses either locked in a pocket or having to fan very wide into the straight to find daylight.

For round course races, then, it is often advantageous to be on or close to the pace: here, a horse and rider will have no traffic problems and, if the fuel has been burned proportionately, can slingshot into the straight and prove very hard to peg back.

 

Ascot Draw / Pace Bias

There may then be a pace bias on the round course, but what of the straight track? Races here are run at five, six, seven and eight furlongs, many of them big field handicaps or Group race sprints.

Ascot 5f Draw

The below chart shows place percentages for big field five furlong races since 2009, based on actual draw (i.e. after non-runners have been accounted for).

If there is any bias, it may be slightly to high numbers; but the reality is that it is more likely where the pace lies.

 

Ascot 5f Pace

Horses racing from the front in big fields down Ascot's five furlong straight have fared best, as can be seen below:

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The coloured blobs tell us that horses which led (or were very close to the pace, e.g. "pressed leader") in big field fast ground five furlong races at Ascot won eight races from 76 to adopt such a run style. That's a little over 10%, and was worth a profit at starting price of £35.50 to a £1 level stake. All other run styles were loss-making with win strike rates of around half that of early leaders.

That is not to say it is always easy to identify the early speed, nor that a one-in-ten hit rate will be plain sailing; but it is worth knowing that pace bias looks a little stronger than draw bias at the minimum on fast ground and in big fields.

 

Ascot 6f Draw

It's a similar story over six furlongs. If there is a stalls position bias, it might be slightly against low drawn horses, with middle to high hitting the frame slightly more often as can be seen from this chart:

There is not a great deal in it, and this may be no more than the fact that a number of the big field races see the field congregate in the middle of the track thus conveying a 'distance travelled' advantage on those which have not had to steer themselves to that location.

Ascot 6f Pace

Front runners have the best of it again over six furlongs, as demonstrated in the below, but they are not the only favourable running style.

Early leaders are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to prevail than average, with the next best group being those held up, presumably when the early gallop is a scorcher. Those racing close to the pace have managed just two victories from 142 runners.

As at the minimum trip, it looks as though there could be more of an advantage to possess early speed than to be berthed in position x or y in the stalls.

 

Ascot 7f Draw / Pace

Low numbers have again won least often in big field fast ground races over this trip, but their place numbers are comparable to the other two thirds of the draw. But, from a pace perspective, a different story emerges.

It is a long way home in a big field cavalry charge up a stiff straight seven furlongs, and those waited with have fared clear best.

 

As can be seen, it's very difficult to lead all the way at this trip, and the midfield to back rank emerge late on to steal most of the spoils. Those help up win most often, but you'll need to know more than that to make it pay!

 

Ascot Straight Mile Pace / Draw

In fuller fields on the straight mile course, close to a wing has been better than up the middle:

The pastel chart lines show that, while generally higher is marginally preferred, in the context of the likely race conditions for, e.g. the Royal Hunt Cup, either flank may be favoured (blue FILTERED line).

From a pace perspective, there is no dominant running style, though it is fair to say that close to - but not on - the speed has been disadvantageous. The place percentages, especially, for held up horses suggest that may be where generally to focus.

 

Summary / Takeaways

As with all tracks, it is a very solid starting point to know about the constitution of the course and any general principles which may assist. Our course pages, including this one for Ascot, may help in that regard.

Based on the above, we know that in spite of the stiff finish, pace pressers win twice as often as might be expected (IV) compared to those ridden further back in five and six furlong sprints. We also know that it becomes much harder to hold on to the lead at seven furlongs and a mile, and that it may be preferable to be drawn closer to one rail or other in big field straight mile races, particularly if you like a hold up type.

On the round course, being handy will keep a horse out of the trouble which often manifests due to the fairly tight turn into the home straight and the relatively short run in.

None of the above will help you find a winner by itself, but it may steer you generally in the right direction. Naturally, Geegeez Gold has many more tools to assist the elimination process. Good luck!

Matt

Monday Musings: Ferguson’s Royal Ascot Legacy

I saw John Ferguson in the stands at Ascot on Saturday, writes Tony Stafford. He said he wasn’t making any immediate plans, but that he’d keep me posted when he does. He should have been giving himself a big, silent, inner thumbs-up after the perceived revival of Godolphin’s fortunes – since his departure.

The irony is that the six wins for the Boys in Blue, equalling the six of Aidan O’Brien for Coolmore, were in large part of Ferguson’s making. Two home-breds, Benbatl in an outpouring of emotion for his trainer Saeed Bin Suroor after winning the Hampton Court Stakes; and Sound and Silence (Charlie Appleby) in the Windsor Castle, contributed to the score, but otherwise it was pretty much all Ferguson.

The other quartet included Ribchester, bought privately from David Armstrong and successful in the opening Queen Anne for Richard Fahey’s stable, and Barney Roy, acquired after initial promise for Richard Hannon, and now a Group 1 winner after turning 2,000 Guineas tables on Churchill.

In the handicaps, Rare Rhythm (Duke of Edinburgh), knocked down to Ferguson as a 2013 yearling for 650,000gns, was an example of Charlie Appleby’s skill, being brought back a year from his previous run in the corresponding race to win readily. Then later in the week, there was a convincing success for Atty Persse (King George V). He was a private buy from owner-breeder Bjorn Nielsen after a debut win for Roger Charlton last autumn, who prepared him for last week’s victory. It must have been great for Nielsen when another home-bred, Stradivarius, won the Queen’s Vase for him and John Gosden.

Ferguson could also point to the excellent Group 1 second places of his two recruits from Clive Cox: Profitable, second to Lady Aurelia in a brave bid to repeat last year’s King’s Stand success; and Harry Angel, who needed a flying Caravaggio to deny him and fellow Godolphin sprinter Blue Point (Appleby) in the Commonwealth Cup.

The sprawling Godolphin “empire” also of course informally extends to the satellite operations of Sheikh Mohammed’s friends such as Saeed Manana, and family members like his son Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. Sheikh Hamdan’s Permian came back from Derby disappointment to show his Dante- winning quality for Mark Johnston in the King Edward VII over the Classic trip.

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They were screaming St Leger for the next three home in that race, and here I’ll declare an interest and suggest that my friend Lew (John Lewis to you) Day can win it with Raheen House. The Brian Meehan-trained Sea The Stars colt turned for home last of 12 and had to be switched outside, but in the last furlong he was going on much the best. He was less than three lengths behind the winner in fourth, making up a conservative six lengths in the straight, and this long-striding colt will love Doncaster’s long finishing straight. He was a close fourth in the Racing Post Trophy over a mile there last autumn.

If he were mine, I’d be tempted to have a look first at the Ebor, three weeks before the St Leger where the 10lb or thereabouts of his weight-for-age concession from his elders might be enticing even from his present mark of 109. That should not change much after this, as the top four in the King Edward were rated 113, 111, 110 and 109 before the race and a tape measure could not have been any more accurate.

Coolmore’s two major reverses were Churchill, out of fettle and never looking like getting into it when a sluggish fourth to Barney Roy, and Order of St George, just too late to get to grips with the ultra-determined Big Orange in his Gold Cup repeat attempt.

They more than redressed those disappointments with three performances of supreme quality. Winter headed home yet another Ballydoyle 1-2-3 in the Coronation Stakes to add to the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas while Caravaggio’s acceleration in the Commonwealth Cup was matched the following afternoon by pocket-rocket September in the Chesham. Until, if ever, her mini-stature inhibits her development, it’s hard to see what can stop her in the major races in 2018, given her stamina-laden pedigree as a daughter of Japan’s supreme stallion Deep Impact and multiple Group 1 winning mare Pepping Fawn.

At this point, I’d like to throw a compliment to one of the O’Brien supporting cast. Roly Poly was having her 12th career start and hasn’t missed a dance since making an early start to her career as a juvenile in April last year. She ran the following month, twice in June and again in July, August and September, by which time she had three wins on the board and second places in the Lowther (Group 2) and narrowly behind stable-companion Brave Anna in the Group 1 Cheveley Park.

Instead of running again in October, she headed over the Atlantic for the Breeders’ Cup, where she was the unplaced favourite on Nov 4. Back again in April, she was over to Newmarket for the Nell Gwyn, but was unplaced, as she was next time in the French 1,000 Guineas, sixth behind Precieuse. But she was back in the frame when runner-up to Winter in Ireland and on Friday harried Precieuse for the first part of the Coronation, seeing that filly off before rallying again to deny Rhododendron the runner-up spot.

There are few more desirable qualities than honesty, in people as much as horses, and you certainly get that from all the inmates, human and equine at Kingsley House, Middleham. Ascot’s a great place to bump into people – you don’t say, Ed! – and I saw Charlie Johnston after one of the stable’s fillies won at Newmarket. In response to my “well done”, he replied, “that’s three there today, but we could do with one here”.

They duly got one in the last race and it took a supreme effort and no shortage of courage from Oriental Fox to wrest back the initiative from Thomas Hobson after Tuesday’s Ascot Stakes hero looked sure to give Willie Mullins and the Ricci’s the meeting’s traditional marathon double. To repeat his 2015 win in the race, he also needed to see off the classy pair of US Army Ranger (rated 112) and Qewy (110). The last-named won races in Australia last winter, having been re-cycled from the Bloomfields jumping team operated under John Ferguson’s hands-on supervision.

Few mid 70-year-olds can have a more hands-on role than Wilf Storey, my friend of more than 30 years. A Co Durham (just inside the Northumberland border) sheep farmer, he had careers as stallion keeper for Arthur Stephenson and cattle brander before succumbing to the love of riding of his daughters Fiona and Stella, to take out a training permit.

I’ve known him for, as, I say, more than 30 years since he bought Fiefdom and Santopadre from me, turning both into prolific winners. That caused me to get a visit from Jockey Club Security who believed that far from being trained by the unknown Wilf, they’d heard they were actually still with Rod Simpson 300 miles further south.

Having put their man right on that score – we met funnily enough at Ascot racecourse – I’ve watched as Wilf struggled with the odd decent horse and a lot of lesser ones for all those seasons, often going a whole year without a winner.

Now the yard has fewer horses, but with Stella riding out every lot, feeding, driving them to the races and leading them around when they get there, with excellent help from some local lasses, the formula seems to work. On Saturday Ardakhan made it seven wins from fifty 2017 runs and Wilf needs just one more to equal his best full seasonal tally of eight, set in 1996 and 1997 when he had three times as many horses.  I’m betting on at least 10 this year, and if he gets there, nobody will deserve success more than him (and Stella). [Hear hear! Ed.]

Stat of the Day, 21st June 2017

Tuesday's Result :

4.05 Stratford : Our Three Sons @ 4/1 BOG 2nd at 5/2 Made most and set good pace, headed approaching last, kept on same pace run-in, no chance with winner.

Wednesday's pick goes in the...

4.20 Royal 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.

Who?

Highland Reel @ 11/4 BOG

Why?

It might look an obvious pick to go with the favourite in the race with least runners at the meeting, but I assure there was a little more than that behind my thoughts, as I rarely "take" SotD to the big Festivals, although my record when I do is decent enough : it's just not my bread and butter!

So, let's look at the horse himself, shall we? A 5 yr old with 5 wins from 11 so far and this 45.5% strike rate includes the following that are at play today...

  • 5 from 6 when shorter than 6/1, 4 from 6 in fields of 8-11 runners
  • 4 from 6 after a break of just 2 to 5 weeks, 5 from 5 as favourite
  • 3 from 5 on good to firm ground, 2 from 3 under Ryan Moore and a win plus a runner-up spot from two runs at Ascot.

The Ryan Moore for AP O'Brien in Class 1 racing combination is a successful one with 57 wins from 204 (27.9% SR) since the start of 2011 and despite it being very well publicised, it's still very profitable at +49pts, a return of some 24%. What might not be as well known, is that of those 204 runners...

  • Irish horses are 45/149 (30.2%) for 54.8pts (+36.8%)
  • In the months of May/June : 39/113 (34.5%) for 60pts (+53.1%)
  • LTO winners are 33/92 (35.9%) for 60pts (+65.3%)
  • Those last seen 11 to 25 days ago are 25/89 (28.1%) for 68.1pts (+76.5%)
  • At Group 1 : 21/79 (26.6%) for 24.7pts (+31.3%)
  • And here at Royal Ascot : 12/51 (23.5%) for 10.7pts (+21%)

On top of the above, Male Gr 1 runners who ran at Class 1 LTO, 4 to 30 days ago and have at least one previous Class 1 win are 18/63 (28.6% SR) for 28.3pts (+44.9% ROI) since 2008, of which...

  • those trained by AP O'Brien are 6/11 (54.6%) for 9.23pts (+83.9%)
  • at Ascot : 3/8 (37.5%) for 32.8pts (+410%)
  • and at Royal Ascot : 2/3 (66.6%) for 35.4pts (+1179.2%)

...whilst Gr 1 runners with a career strike rate of 45% and higher including at least two Class 1 wins and who have the top OR in their race are 83/155 (53.6% SR) for 36.7pts (+23.7% ROI) since 2010 and these include...

  • at Ascot : 15/25 (60%) for 8.7pts (+34.8%)
  • trained by AP O'Brien : 12/19 (63.2%) for 3.43pts (+18.1%)
  • at Royal Ascot : 8/10 (80%) for 8.98pts (+89.8%)
  • 5 yr olds are 4/7 (57.1%) for 2.63pts (+37.6%)
  • and Ryan Moore is 5/7 (71.4%) for 2.43pts (+34.7%), all on hiorses trained by AP O'Brien!

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Highland Reel11/4 BOG which was widely available at 7.10pm on Tuesday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply...

...click here for the betting on the 4.20 Royal Ascot

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

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

Monday Musings: Defending the Royal Castle

It is unusual in my experience for Michael Bell, the long-serving and usually affable Royal trainer, to stick his head above any particular parapet, writes Tony Stafford. Last week, though, he saw fit to take Ascot to task for allowing Wesley Ward to work his Royal meeting candidates on the course.

Bell, who has ten horses in the Queen’s ownership – only Sir Michael Stoute and William Haggas (11 each) have more – reckoned it gave the American an unfair advantage. This theme was followed up by Sheiklh Fahad Al Thani, the boss of Qatar Racing and David Redvers, the Sheikh’s senior advisor who runs Tweenhills Stud.

Nick Smith, the Royal meeting’s main overseas talent-sourcer for many years, replied that Ascot have always allowed overseas challengers to get to know the track. He says this mirrors the situation for British and other overseas challengers on US tracks who have the opportunity to work their horses on turf, whereas the home team cannot.

Maybe the Qatar Racing gripe stems from the fact that a recent acquisition, the Ivor Furtado-trained Marchingontogether will line up in tomorrow’s Windsor Castle Stakes against not just one, but two of Ward’s flying juveniles.

I stopped off at Leicester one night last month, before continuing on to Chester, and while taking advantage of the new owner food facility – well done Nick Lees! – had a minute bet on said Furtado horse, who duly won on debut at 14-1. The fact that Silvestre De Sousa was her jockey assisted my pin on its way down the card.

Until that day, Marchingontogether had been a financial flop for her breeder Whatcote Farm Stud. From the first crop of Havana Gold, one of Qatar Racing’s stallions at Tweenhills, she would have cost her breeders a fee of £8,500 to be covered, but went through the ring as a foal around 18 months later for just 1,000gns.

Her temporary new owner re-presented her almost a year later at Doncaster’s Goffs sale and her price dropped again to £800. Early indications are that Havana Gold has a future and Marchingontogether is one of six individual winners from the stallion, headed by Havana Grey, winner of Sandown’s Listed National Stakes last month for the Karl Burke stable.

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When Michael Bell (and his brother Rupert on TalkSport, and possibly Rupert’s son Olly, on the telly), speak of unfairness, they might think of Whatcote Farm Stud and the interim temporary custodian of the filly and what they think is fair as they watch their former property line up in the Sheikh’s maroon. At the same time, the lucky recipients of Marchingontogether once Furtado had added her to his string – she is one of just two juveniles listed for him in Horses in Training 2017 – namely Bgc Racing & Partner, will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The two Wesley Ward adversaries to Marchingontogether, both owned by Hat Creek Racing, have single wins on their record and coincidentally both beat the filly CJS Suzie Byu. Nootka Sound, a daughter of Australian-born stallion Lonhro, was first in to bat, winning by more than five lengths over four and a half furlongs at Keeneland in late April.

Four weeks later, the Goffs Ireland recruit Elizabeth Darcy, by Camacho, started out at Indiana Grand. She was the even-money favourite and had almost eight lengths to spare over CJS Suzie Byu, despite that filly’s connections’ hopes for better as the 7-5 starting price suggested.

As ever the Windsor Castle will take plenty of winning with representatives of Charlie Appleby’s almost invincible juvenile team and one-time Coolmore Coventry Stakes contender Declarationofpeace (by War Front) aiming to add to last year’s win by Washington DC in the same race.

Rather than Hat Creek Racing, there is a better known ownership group on what is probably Wesley Ward’s best juvenile contender of the day, Arawak, a son of Uncle Mo, and winner by seven lengths on his Belmont debut last month.

Arawak is due to wear blinkers and carry the colours of Derrick Smith, while Aidan O’Brien’s pair, first-choice Murillo and US Navy Flag will be similarly attired. It will be interesting to see which of the three is entrusted with the first-choice cap.

Wesley’s biggest fish of the entire week, though, will almost certainly be Lady Aurelia, the dominating Queen Mary Stakes winner from last year and later on more workmanlike at Deauville before her third place behind Brave Anna in the Cheveley Park Stakes. She returned with an emphatic victory at Keeneland last month and is the favourite for tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes ahead of Marsha and French-trained Signs of Blessing.

Lady Aurelia gets a 6lb allowance from her older filly rivals, including Marsha and Temple Stakes heroine Priceless, whom Alan Spence will be half shouting for, seeing he will get another big chunk from Godolphin if their acquisition Profitable follows last year’s success when in his red, white and blue livery.

The re-match between Churchill and Barney Roy from the 2,000 Guineas, and for that matter Churchill and Thunder Snow from the Irish 2,000, will go a long way towards whether Aidan O’Brien and “the Lads” dominate another Royal meeting.

Churchill starts off in the St James’s Palace in a week when Order of St George (Thursday’s Gold Cup) and the Friday pair of Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup) and Winter (Coronation Stakes) are all overwhelming favourites. No doubt there will be considerable liabilities for ante-post bookmakers linking the quartet and the layers will be hoping for an Annie Power-type reprieve from at least one of them.

Today’ Racing Post was embellished by news of a gamble on the Jeremy Noseda-trained Abe Lincoln, out of action on the track since a possibly unlucky second place in the Britannia Stakes 12 months ago. Most of the principals in that race find a home immediately afterwards, often for massive money in Hong Kong, but Paul Roy has stayed faithful to the now four-year-old and will be hoping for another win in the race he and Noseda took with Forgotten Voice in 2009.

The Post also tried to link the Abe Lincoln challenge with the background to the Wokingham Stakes success of Jeremy with Laddies Poker Two the following year, in her case after two years off the track. Noseda said the two situations were different. He is correct on one score, Abe Lincoln will certainly not be responsible for producing a dual Classic winner, unlike Laddies Poker Two, dam of Winter.

As to my idea of the handicap bet of the week, it’s another from the Noseda/Roy team, Sixties Groove, who can win Friday’s finale, the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, after a nice run round on his comeback at Epsom the other day.

- Tony Stafford

Monday Musings: A Royal Villa Thriller

Monday meander

By Tony Stafford

After five consecutive days’ driving around the M25, I spent all yesterday morning wondering why I wasn’t doing the same again until realising Royal Ascot was over for another year. The presence of some Druid-like people around Woodford on my way home from a family barbecue where my children and all bar one of the grandchildren attended, reminded me that, from today, the nights are getting longer again.
Almost half a century of Royal meetings must have offered up plenty of spectacular performances, but Lady Aurelia in the Queen Mary Stakes on Wednesday almost defied belief. She streaked clear in the last furlong, having already set a fast pace, and stopped the clock at a time two seconds and change better than Profitable – told you – on the opening afternoon.

We always learned in the time/lengths equation that at five furlongs, a length is worth 3lb and five lengths represent a second. So Lady Aurelia, winning by seven lengths and up from her rivals, was a full 21lb superior to French-trained runner-up Al Johrah, and two stone and more better than the remainder.

Lady Aurelia was the latest Wesley Ward speedster to grace Ascot and, like Acapulco, last year’s sensation, and No Nay Never, is by the late Scat Daddy who would have been covering his mares at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky this year at $100,000 but for his much-regretted death late last year soon after the fee announcement.

I was lucky enough to bump into Wesley Ward a couple of times after Lady Aurelia’s victory and he contented himself with a measured reaction to the win. “Yes, she’s special” was as far as he wanted to go, but having gone a full second – 15lb - faster than Friday’s Norfolk field he could have been excused for a little more extravagance.

Wednesday was the chosen day for Mrs S to accompany me to Berkshire and naturally we had to endure the showers as we traditionally waited on the front row outside the far side of the paddock for the other (and first) procession of the day.

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This was a very hot contest. In the first of four carriages there was the Queen and Prince Philip, in the second Charles and his Duchess. Edward and Sophie were in the third, and after a clearly staged gap, the eagerly-awaited Prince William and Kate saved the best for last.

Magically, as with everything that’s happened in the year of the Queen’s 90th, the weather cleared minutes before the coaches turned under the stands and bright sunlight accompanied their arrival. For the first time, the boss didn’t have her proper camera, contenting herself with a phone, like the rest of Ascot, on which she recorded the event on video.

The result was a nice moment, captured on the above still of William reacting to some good-natured calls from a couple of Brummies just behind us. “Up the Villa!” can just be heard on the You Tube clip before a louder repetition from his mate caught Wills’s ear, whereupon he grinned, turned round and pointed to the pair.


[Photo and video credit: Ekaterina Stafford Photography]

I thought it was encouraging that a future monarch can be relaxed enough to confirm his affection for his football club – even if Aston Villa were relegated. On Saturday I took the chance to congratulate Claudio Ranieri for his achievements with champions Leicester adding that “we’re Arsenal fans and so is Ryan <Moore>”. To which he replied: “He told me!”

Wednesday involved a quick departure to get home in time for the viewing of boss Ray Tooth’s Acclamation filly Climax’s debut at Ripon and she ran a blinder, three-parts of a length second to more-experienced Rosebride. Mark Johnston expects her to go one better very soon.
Friday also involved an abbreviated stay, this time a mid-afternoon, three-hour limp up to Newmarket for Dutch Law in a seven-furlong 0-95 handicap. He looked sure to win what was the best race he’s contended yet until nabbed on the line by a filly that since her winning debut had never previously raced in anything other than Listed or Group 3 class.

Last time, over a mile and a half in a Haydock Group 3,she was fifth of seven, highly-creditable considering all her opponents, including the pair she beat comfortably, were (and still are!) rated in the 100’s. The handicapper’s reaction was to drop her 1lb, allowing her in this race. If it had been anywhere but on his local track, trainer James Tate might not have entered her at the absurdly-shorter trip of seven furlongs, but he did and Namhroodah did the business battling to a last-stride win.

Jockey Luke Morris was at his strongest and it was not until the last stride that William Twiston-Davies was denied. Willie, delighted with his Ascot win, was a late and very effective replacement for Jamie Spencer, who failed to get to HQ after his helicopter, also due to transport Messrs Moore and Dettori, was unable to take off. They should have used the M25/A1 like the rest of us!

I wonder how long the Goffs London sale will continue. It’s lovely to partake of champers and canapes in the grounds of Kensington Palace the night before Royal Ascot opens, but quite how long can the punters be found to pay what is always a hefty premium for runners at the meeting?
Jet Setting, the 12k Julie Wood cull from Richard Hannon’s stable last October, was the obvious star of the show. Trainer Adrian Keatley transformed her over the winter and spring into a three-year-old capable of beating Minding, later impressive in the Oaks, in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

Adrian was bullish going into the week with Jet Setting apparently guaranteed the type of easy ground she encountered at The Curragh, so it was no surprise when the China Horse Club coughed up £1.3 million for her. The Coronation Stakes did not bring an immediate return for the new owners, though, as while the celebrating syndicate were popping the corks on Friday, Jet Setting could do no better than a share of sixth place.

There were a few horses around the place for the first of so far three auctions in Kensington, but this time just one in-foal mare gave evidence this was something to do with horses. I probably would still have gone along if the weather hadn’t been so awful on Monday, but I bet most of those who bought horses with Ascot entries that night will be wishing they hadn’t bothered.

This week will be steady until Friday when the boss potentially has three to run, possibly Climax at Doncaster, newcomer Stanhope, a home-bred two-year-old Equiano colt trained by Mick Quinn at Yarmouth and Harry Champion at Newmarket on Friday night.

Later today I’ll find out if Cousin Khee is likely to get in the second half of the Northumberland Plate on Saturday. The old boy has not been on all-weather since running a close sixth in last year’s Lingfield Marathon or on the level since his staying-on eighth of 22 in the November Handicap. Hughie’s trained him for it, but we need 12 of the 51 above him to come out. As more than 20 of them ran principally at Ascot last week, there’s a chance they might not be in shape for another stamina test so soon after slogging through the Berkshire mud.

Royal Ascot 2016: Wokingham Preview

Royal Ascot 2016: Wokingham Preview, Trends, Tips

The final day of Royal Ascot brings the challenge of the Wokingham, a six furlong sprint handicap contested by upwards of 25 runners. Finding the winner will not be easy, but it should be rewarding with the average payoff being 13.6/1 in the last decade.

In this post, I'll review some facts and figures from recent history - let's call them trends - before considering the draw and pace scenarios, and then finally squint at the form book in the hopes of solving this fiendish sudoku of a puzzle.

Wokingham Handicap Trends

As always, thanks are due to horseracebase.com for their historical trends data, which goes as far back as 1997. That offers 20 winners and 76 placed horses from 19 years of data. The extra winner is as a result of a dead heat in 2003.

Age: There hasn't been a three-year-old winner since Bel Byou in 1987. But before you write off Mr Lupton, this year's sole entry from that age group, consider that the previous 3yo winner was in 1986 and, perhaps more pertinently, that only 14 3yo's have even run in the race since 1997. Four of them have made the frame, which is a better strike rate than any other age group, roughly twice what might have been expected. Mr Lupton is a non-runner.

Four- and six-year-olds have won roughly in line with their numerical presence, but five-year-olds have outperformed representation. They've won 45% of the races in the sample period from just 25% of the runners. They've also made the frame just over 30% of the time from the same 25% of runners.

In fairness, I can't think of a logical reason why five year olds would be so much better suited to the race, and I suspect it's just a quirk of a smallish dataset.

However, older horses have hit the board just 6.5% of the time, from 20% of the runners. That looks to be a strong negative trend.

Avoid horses older than six in the Wokingham.

Days since a run: How long should a horse have rested if it has designs on Wokingham glory? The answer is probably not as some 'trends analysts' would have you believe.

Those coming into the race off a short layoff of a fortnight or less have won five of the 20 races in the sample. But that 25% of the winners came from 30% of the runners. Moreover, they only achieved 22% of the placed horses.

Those showing up after two weeks to a month off won 35% of the races from 37% of the runners, and hit the board 43% of the time.

And those returning after an absence of one to two months won 30% of the races from 27% of the runners, making the frame 25% of the time.

The small group who were off for longer than two months won 10% of the races from 6% of the runners, and placed 9% of the time.

So, statistically, the longer layoff horses have outperformed their numerical representation by more than 50%, while most other groups have run largely in line with numerical expectation.

Still with me? Essentially, there is little positive or negative about days since a run with the possible exception of those off more than two months. That might be a slight mark up for Stepper Point and Spring Loaded.

Distance form: What sort of a six furlong specialist is required for this mission?

Four of the twenty winners had never won over six panels before. What is interesting about that is that those 20% of winners came from almost exactly 20% of runners, and they actually placed 24% of the time. In other words, it doesn't matter if you haven't won over six furlongs before.

But here's a really interesting snippet that I wouldn't have expected... the performance of five furlong winners in the Wokingham is very poor. I actually didn't expect that 55% of Wokingham runners would never have won over shorter; but that just over half of the sample won 80% - 16 - of the races, and 66% - 50 - of the 76 place positions.

Of the four Wokingham winners in the sample to have won over shorter, two had only won once at less than six furlongs. Hmm.

So what about a win over further than six? This is really interesting. Those never to have won beyond six furlongs won nine times from the 20 winner sample, 45%. But that came from 68% of the runners. In fairness, they made the frame 66% of the time - about right - so it might simply be another quirk, but...

those to have won over further claimed the other 55% of races from just 32% of the runners. Again, and obviously, the place percentages were largely in line with expectation.

Could it be though that, at the end of a protracted battle, those with proven stamina are at a significant advantage? I'd be prepared to believe they are.

Overlook those with winning five furlong form.

Official ratings: The handicapper's job is not an easy one. The team at BHA have to contend with wily trainers and demanding owners on a daily basis. In the circumstances, they do a very good job almost all of the time. And it is their lot that when a rick happens, they are publicly chastised for it. It's not the sort of job sensitive souls line up to do.

Anyway, the Wokingham can be considered something of a triumph for the official handicapping team, as there seems very little advantage to any part of the ratings set. Indeed, if anything, those with the highest ratings have had a slight benefit over their more lowly-rated - and weighted - rivals.

But this is a compressed handicap - a Listed conditions event almost, on ratings - so it's probably safest to assume there is nothing of consequence in the ratings.

The same comments apply to weight, which it may be reasonable to contend will have little to no bearing on the outcome this year (though, naturally, if the runner up is beaten a nose giving three pounds to the winner he will protest otherwise!)

Last time out position: In such a hotly contested race as the Wokingham, it should be no surprise that those who went close to winning last time have come closest to winning this.

The numbers are thus: 17.5% of runners were last time out winnners, and they won 20% of the races, and placed 25% of the time. Sadly, and predictably, they'd have collectively lost you 57.75 points at SP.

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Top 3 finishers last time out (including the above winners) accounted for 41% of the runners, and 80% of the winners as well as 57% of the placed horses. Thanks to decent prices about some of those last day placed horses, this group as a whole was profitable to SP - which is rather surprising.

88% of the placed horses, and all of the winners since 1997, finished in the top seven last time out. That was from 72% of the runnners.

Insist your horse was top seven last time, and mark up podium finishers on their most recent start.

Trends summary

Where does all that leave us? Well, from a trends perspective, we might be especially interested in a horse aged six or younger, whose winning form is over six and seven furlongs, and who was in the first three last time. Three-year-old, Mr Lupton, and favourite, Brando, have both won over five furlongs, which leaves a shortlist of...

Buckstay, Interception, Huntsmans Close, Mutawathea, Shared Equity, Flash Fire and Spring Loaded.

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Wokingham Draw and Pace Analysis

Is there a draw bias in big fields on the straight six furlong track at Ascot? Or is it a pace bias only?

Here's what the Geegeez Gold draw tab says about six furlong handicaps of 16 runners or more run on ground ranging from good to soft, for races since 2009.

 

Ascot Wokingham draw bias

Ascot Wokingham draw bias

 

Although there's the lack of a pulse to the right hand end of that graph, I'd be wary of over-stating things there. Firstly, it comes from very few runners; and secondly it is in stark contrast to the spike in the low 20's.

What this chart says to me is that there is very little advantage to one side over the other, or to the middle.

But... looking specifically at the four 22+ runner 6f handicaps contested on going described as between good and soft reveals that the winners were berthed in 11, 13, 15 and 19. The placed horses were drawn in 3, 6, 6, 11, 13, 15, 15, 16, 16, 16, 19, 22, 23, 23 (duplicates when there is more than one placed horse from the stall).

So it is probably fair to say that, in really big fields like the Wokingham, low may be disadvantaged.

With the ground expected to be tacky after a wet week followed by warm dry spells, it should pay to be close enough to the leaders. The below chart shows the expected pace in the race, sorted by draw.

 

Pace map for the 2016 Wokingham Handicap

Pace map for the 2016 Wokingham Handicap

 

A score of 16 means a horse has led in each of its last four UK/Irish runs. A score of 14+ means a horse is a habitual pace-presser.

In that context, we can see that the guts of the pace in this race may be right down the middle, in stalls 15 to 21. That aligns conveniently well to my previous contention about the favoured part of the draw meaning that, even if there is actually no track bias, the pace bias should see the action unfolding down the middle.

 

Wokingham Form Preview

Thirty-odd runners, all rated within a few pounds of each other, hurtling up the punishing straight course at Ascot: it's as tough a test of horse and rider as it is of punter, but each will be well rewarded if getting it right.

The favourite - clear favourite - is Kevin Ryan's Brando. He's a lightly raced progressive four-year-old with winning soft ground big field six furlong form. So far so good. But as a horse that has been racing over five the last twice, with enough toe to win and run second, this far stiffer test could find him out, as it has with most similar profiles in the recent past. He's easy to pass up at 6/1, and fair play if he wins.

Compare Brando's obvious credentials but less obvious shortcomings with Outback Traveller's less obvious credentials and more obvious shortcomings... Here is a horse with form of 040-070 in a hyper-competitive sprint handicap, and yet he's 10/1 second choice. Why?

Because he's trained by sprint king Robert Cowell who has plenty of Group horses from which to get a measure of this chap's ability. Because he's making only his third start for Cowell off a dangerous looking mark. Because his seven furlong form entitles him to get competitive.

But he's not for me. He's drawn away from the action in 28, though he'll get some sort of a lead off Salateen in 25. He has no form on a soft surface. And, though he has two good runs at the track, he also has three absolute clunkers. I can see why there's been some money for him, but he must be working like a Group 1 horse to be the price he is. And the race does't look to set up for him.

Flash Fire, on the other hand, is drawn in the thick of it in trap 16. He's up five pounds for a narrow beating of Mutuwathea, over seven furlongs here last month. That was on good to firm but he's run fairly well on soft previously and has scope to better his current mark. He's a big player.

The second there, Mutawathea, has a two pound pull but is drawn in stall three, away from where I believe the main action will play out. He also ran poorly on his only try on softer than good.

Although best known as an all-weather horse, Spring Loaded has won on turf too. In fact, that was his last grass race, prior to which he was second in a big field over course and distance on good to soft. The longest layoff in the field is not a worry, as outlined above, and he could run a nice race if Shane Kelly can get the splits on this versatile son of Zebedee. I quite like him, and 16/1 is fair enough.

I quite like the three-year-old Mr Lupton, too. Yes, he's won over five furlongs. But he's also won over seven, more recently, in a valuable big field sales race where the second went on to finish fifth in the Derby! More recently he's won a big field six furlong handicap, on good to soft, and he gets a nice seven pound weight for age allowance. Stall 22 should be perfect to track the perceived middle order pace, so we might see the first Classic generation Wokingham winner for almost 30 years. Mr Lupton is a non-runner.

Buckstay dances all the big field dances, and he's a fantastic stick. But he's probably not ideally suited by six furlongs, a trip over which he's run just once. That, however, was when a strong-finishing fifth in the Ayr Gold Cup. Stall one here is unlikely to support his prospects.

Last year's winner, Interception, should appreciate this drop back into handicap company having been beaten only six lengths in the Group 1 Champions Sprint last autumn. She was third in a Listed contest on her 2016 bow and David Lanigan's filly is just five pounds higher than a year ago. She flanks the centre-track pace in stall twelve and handles easy ground.

Shared Equity is a very consistent beast, having placed in twelve of his eighteen starts. He's won four, and was last seen finishing second at Epsom over this trip. He'll be one of the pace pressers low - maybe the leader there - and it will be interesting to see if he gravitates across to the middle from stall seven. He is almost certain to give backers a run for their money and is a possible each way play with firms paying extra places.

And what about old Jack Dexter? According to history, he's too old. And that might be right. But he's a heavy ground-loving six furlong specialist who was rated 114 in his pomp. A tumble down the weights to 102 gives him a squeak: from connections' perspective it's a shame the race wasn't run on Tuesday when the ground was deeper.

If you're still not sure which way to turn, below is the Instant Expert grid - a form profiling tool showing how each horse has performed historically against the race conditions - for the Wokingham. It is displaying the place form, with going set on a range from good to soft to soft, and ordered by number of places in 16+ runner fields.

Wokingham Handicap Form Profile, via Geegeez Gold Instant Expert

Wokingham Handicap Form Profile, via Geegeez Gold Instant Expert

 

Wokingham Handicap Tips

All that thinking out aloud is fine, but who is actually going to win? Good question, that.

Obviously, it's ferociously competitive and, in such a tight handicap, the key credentials will be history and happenstance.

History, as in form history - which horses have shown they can stay this far and further, can act on drying soft ground, and in a big field hurly-burly?

Happenstance, as in draw location - which horses have the pick of the positions across the track?

My contention is that the action will take place down the centre of the course. If I'm right about that, very low and very high could be compromised - not good news for Outback Traveller in 28 or Buckstay and Mutawathea in 1 and 3 respectively.

My shortlist is Interception, Spring Loaded, and Flash Fire. And I'll be backing all three. Good luck whichever way you turn - for me, this is about redemption after an absolute howler of a week.

It's not the first time I've personally struggled so badly at Royal Ascot. It's a meeting that asks punters to project which horses can improve the most rather than assessing established and settled form in the book. Moreover, unlike the spring National Hunt Festivals which close the jumps season, June is still very early in the flat term meaning many horses have yet to even hint especially at what they're capable of.

That's before you factor in this year's track conditions which have been, at best, sticky soft and, at worst and to my mind, unfathomable.

If those sound like excuses, they are! As much as I love the pageantry and the occasion of Royal Ascot, it's been punting armageddon for me more than once.

Good luck!

Matt

p.s. geegeez' view of the Wokingham racecard can be found here.

p.p.s. Most firms are betting five places, but Paddy are betting 1/4 SIX places. That at least makes it a BIT easier to hit the frame!

Click here for six places on the Wokingham

 

Also, if you're not currently a Betbright account holder, this is a good way to get free bets all day...

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Monday Musings: A Profitable System?

A simple but Profitable system for Ascot?

A simple but Profitable system for Ascot?

Monday Musings

By Tony Stafford

It’s Derby week and I’m sure you expect me to delve into the two mile and a half Classics taking advantage of my many years’ experience. With that in mind I had a nice day on Epsom Downs last week, at Breakfast with the Stars, where there were a number of stars, equine and human, and even more Breakfast of which your correspondent and for one that I can vouch for, Mick (Michael) Channon junior, partook with great alacrity.

It was later that morning when I started to project my thoughts a little further forward, having spent a pleasant half an hour in the company of Alan Spence, who has been having a good time of it with his horses this season.

Thoughts turned into research; research into statistics and stats into a sure-fire profitable system. How appropriate that the next horse to test the seemingly unbreakable thrust of my argument, is Profitable, owned by A D Spence!

Amazing. The system is one I bet cannot be replicated anywhere else in the history of English racing, at least not with such spectacular returns. It involves a Group 3 race run in either late April or early May, and a Group 1, around six weeks later. My research also encompasses an interim race, this time Group 2, with all three races being over the minimum distance.

So step forward, Newmarket’s Palace House Stakes on 2,000 Guineas day, the Temple Stakes (optional) at Haydock three weeks later and the King’s Stand three and a half weeks after Haydock.

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The Newmarket race has been going for more than half a century and I fondly remember the first winner, Galivanter, a Major Lionel Holliday home-bred trained by Major Dick Hern, who won in 1961. Plenty of army stuff there!

The Temple has an even longer history, but having been a feature of the old Sandown Whitsun meeting and run either on Bank Holiday Monday or the following evening, it switched to Haydock for the first time in 2008. Such are the differences in the two tracks, I have confined my studies to the Haydock period <lazy sod, Ed>.

Ascot in 2016 is also a fair bit different from its pre-2006 model, as the straight course has been re-aligned so that at the finish it is 42 metres further north (nearer the High Street) than previously. Inevitably the character of the track has been at least marginally altered.

So that’s fine, you say, where is this profitable system?

Ok, there have been eight King’s Stand Stakes run on the modified course since 2008, the period of the study. I took note of all the Palace House Stakes winners in the period and noticed that only four of them took the quick return to Haydock, none winning. Six of them went on to run at Ascot and four of them won.

Of the four that ran in all three races in the same year, Equiano, now a stallion at Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire, performed easily the best. Trained in 2010 by Barry Hills, he was second, beaten by dual winner and still active Kingsgate Native at Haydock. Equiano had also won the 2008 King’s Stand when trained in Spain on his first appearance in England.

In 2009 the Henry Candy-trained Amour Propre, a gelding, won at Newmarket, missed the trip to Haydock before finishing unplaced behind Australian sprinter Scenic Blast at Ascot. In 2011 Tangerine Trees, like Kingsgate Native still active on the racecourse, was easily beaten both at Haydock and in the King’s Stand (last of 19 to Prohibit).

Mayson, the 2012 Palace House scorer, got off the mark with his first stakes winner, Global Applause, in the National Stakes at Sandown last Thursday. He missed both Haydock and Ascot, but then took the July Cup (6f) before finishing runner-up in the Prix de l’Abbaye on his final appearance.

Otherwise, all the Palace House winners followed up at Ascot. Equiano’s second success, much more anticipated than his unconsidered first came at 9-2. The remarkable Sole Power, another durable gelding, took a close fourth at Haydock before his first Ascot win at 8-1.

Sole Power made it a double double – missing the trip to Haydock this time – at 5-1; and, last year, Goldream, having won the Newmarket race for sprint specialist Robert Cowell, bombed at Haydock, but came bouncing back at Ascot at 20-1!

So in other words we have six contenders for a Royal Ascot bet, with only two losers. The other four collected 37.5 points profit, making it 35.5 points overall, or almost 600% to level stakes.

So, what do we do about this year, you could ask? Well for the first time, the two key races have provided the same winner, the eponymous Profitable – by name and by nature. The last Temple Stakes winner to succeed in the King’s Stand was Cassandra Go in 2002, when of course it was run at Sandown. Sole Power has won all three races, but has had a fair few goes at it, and never in the same year.

Profitable, now four, and by Mayson’s sire Invincible Spirit, has apparently caught the eyes of several would-be suitors following his latest win in the Group 2 Temple. There he had to contend with softer ground than ideal, and the attentions of the talented Mecca’s Angel, who had beaten the flying Acapulco on soft in the 2015 Nunthorpe on her previous start.

The insistent attempts by sections of the media to suggest the Haydock result should have been reversed after the pair came close through the last furlong would have been less unfair had their proponents first contemplated the potential downside for the winner’s connections.

Profitable is one of the few top sprinters in independent (non-Arab or Coolmore) hands, and as a colt also a highly-attractive and rare stallion prospect, being by a noted sire of sires. Whether his value would have been adversely affected by a demotion – I’m sure it would have; who cares if a goal is incorrectly ruled out, it’s not a goal?– the result on the ground was almost certainly unaffected by their coming close together.

So with all that in mind, how can Profitable, rated by Timeform as recording the best Time Figure of the season, better than any of the Guineas winners, still be available at 8-1? Clive Cox is in flying form, too. Fill your boots. Wonder what price ADS has on his voucher?

My appearance at Epsom was principally to run the eye over Harry Champion, who went along to keep company with Hugo Palmer’s Oaks contender, Architecture. He did a nice job and acted well enough on the track, although his rider reported the ground was too soft. If Architecture wins on Friday, stay around for Harry in the last off just 8st 3lb.

Sunday Supplement: Sires and Spousal Pleas

Champion 2yo Sire elect, Zoffany

Champion 2yo Sire elect, Zoffany

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

Another Royal Ascot is over, the countdown to winter began with the Summer Solstice overnight and racing has had one truism thrust in its face. Zoffany, a brilliant two-year-old for Ballydoyle and Coolmore five years ago, when his only defeat in his first six starts came when he was a disappointing sixth in the Coventry Stakes behind Strong Suit, has made it as a stallion.

One minute it seems they were whispering about his colts and fillies from his first crop. Now they are shouting his name from the rooftops. No matter the son of Dansili out of a Machiavellian mare – hardly Coolmore breeding lines – never won again, Royal Ascot 2015 was almost as much his week as Ryan Moore’s.

In a way it’s fitting, for as we wait impatiently for the first Frankels to hit the track next year, it’s Zoffany who has stolen a march on his old rival. The pair met in the St James’s Palace Stakes at the 2011 Royal meeting and ridden for the first of only two occasions by Moore, he gave Frankel his closest call since his debut, getting within three-quarters of a length to the tiring champion.

Ryan was up again for the Prix Jean Prat the following month, the partnership going under by a narrow margin to an Andre Fabre inmate, before the pair drifted apart and Zoffany ended his career on a downslope.

So it’s nit-picking to call them old rivals unlike the true rivalry of Frankel and Nathaniel, two sons of Galileo who fought out a close finish to their respective debuts in a Newmarket maiden and then were basically phantom foes until they both bowed out, again at Ascot in first and third (split by Cirrus des Aigles) in the 2012 Champion Stakes.

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Maybe they’ll be at it again next year when their first progeny hit the track, representing the might of Juddmonte and the ever upgrading Newsells Park operations.

Zoffany’s earliest supporters at the farm and at the sales rings have had the sort of instant gratification that happens so rarely in this game. One doyenne close to Coolmore rarely drops far below Galileo when matching up the farm’s mares but has taken a punt on Zoffany in the way that Jim Bolger did with Galileo and got Teofilo and New Approach in the early crops. Another delighted supporter reported five mares safely in foal – “that was my budget”” he said, “doubt if I’ll afford him next year!”

For the record, of the six two-year-old races at this week’s meeting, three went to Zoffanys, the Norfolk with Waterloo Bridge, the Windsor Castle with Washington DC and the Albany with Illuminate. The first two are in Coolmore ownership, the last-named with Richard Hannon for Prince Fasal Salman’s Denford Stud.

Zoffany already is sire of the winners of 12 races and more than £220,000. The title of first-season champion is his already and I’m delighted to say that one good friend, who paid very little for a nice Zoffany foal is beginning to think his luck – rubbish so far this year – may be turning.

I’ve no idea whether Jim Bolger, whose three fancied Ascot runners were all beaten, although Pleascach and Lucida both ran blinders in defeat, is supporting Zoffany, but by all accounts he’s taken a shine to Pour Moi, a stallion that boss Ray Tooth has patronised this year with two winning French-bred and French-raced mares. Both are in foal and the reports of nice juveniles around the place, and especially in the Bolger yard, are lapped up with anticipation in this quarter.

I’ve said here a few times that the Tooth Flat-race operation has been concentrating on home-breds and there was more than a little satisfaction all round when Dutch Law, a three-year-old trained by Hughie Morrison, won a 15-runner Newmarket 0-75 emphatically on Friday night under top-weight.

Martin Harley, who rode him on his previous start, put all the knowledge gained from Haydock into his plan, and he employed the gelding’s undoubted speed to shoot clear on the far rail to win by two lengths.

Initially I’d planned a fleeting visit to see the first couple of races at Ascot, but Friday night travel is often horrendous at the foot of the M11 and this Friday was no exception. Once sanity took over, I watched the first few at home, but couldn’t leave until 5 p.m. It took 30 minutes for the usual initial five-minute breeze onto the motorway from home, and when we hadn’t got to the Stansted turn until 6.30, I had visions of missing the race.

All the while Mrs S, chatting away on the phone to a friend in her native tongue, remained confident, indeed complacent as she recalled a previous trip seven years earlier on the occasion of our wedding. That night ten of us sat down to a spread in the press room and then watched Excape win in the Tooth silks.

It was probably a Newmarket Night, but we ate, won and then came back for some drinks. There was no doubt this time of the entertainment, with Kylie Minogue waiting to perform what was an exceptional set after racing. The nicest thing was that two of the wedding day guests joined me in the paddock while the camera was employed outside, warming up before Mrs S’s main motivation, to record bits of Kylie’s 90 minutes for posterity.

As we waited in the car park, I noticed the amazing Dave Butler running past, heading to the main exit. Dave’s worked at racecourse car parks – and Wembley stadium – for many years, and some time ago he bought the company. Yet there he was every day at Ascot working in the field and showing an example to his staff and customers alike.

As we neared the roundabout at the top of the High Street in Ascot on Wednesday, I pointed Dave out to Katy. “That man owns the company!” On Friday it was: “It’s that man again!” At Ascot all day and still at it full on at 11 p.m. at Newmarket. Heroic I’d call it.

As we waited Katy said, “Do you know, before we met I had two ambitions, to see Madonna live and then Kylie.” The first was achieved a couple of years back when she saw Madonna in Hyde Park accompanied by a friend who was over for a holiday.

Kylie was a different challenge. “I couldn’t see how I’d get to one of her shows,” she said. In the same press room where seven years ago, we’d been welcomed by the press boys, of which only two, Colin Roberts and David Milnes were there again on Friday, we had a coffee and then went outside to watch from the Press viewing area.

There were 22,000 there, a sea of faces, more men than women and many singing along. I must confess that apart from I Can’t Get you out of my Head, I’m stumped most times, but these guys with the adoring looks and full-on vocals had the time of their lives.

We did too from our perfect pitch a few feet above and never more than ten yards away from the action. “Never give up the press badge” might have been the spousal plea, if she ever thought about it. Don’t worry dear, I won’t!

Sat TV Trends: 20th June 2015

It's the final day of Royal Ascot today and the C4 cameras head there to cover ALL SIX races on the final afternoon of action. Like all Saturday's we've got all the LIVE races covered from a trends angle.............

Find those TV winners!

2.30 - Chesham Stakes (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (2yo) 7f

11/12 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
12/12 – Had no more than 2 previous career runs
11/12 – Ran over 6f last time out (7 won)
10/12 – Had just 1 previous career run
9/12 – Were foaled in March or earlier
8/12 – Won their previous race
8/12 – Returned 7/1 or shorter in the betting
3/12 – Winning favourites (1 joint)
2/12 – Trained by Mark Johnston
2/12 – Trained by Richard Hannon
2/12 – Ridden by Richard Hughes
1/12 – Irish trained-winners
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 8/1

3.05 - Wolferton Handicap (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (4yo+ 0-110) 1m2f

10/12 – Had between 1 and 3 runs already that season
9/12 – Aged 4 years-old
9/12 – Had won 3 or more races during their career
9/12 – Carried 8-11 or more
8/12 – Unplaced favourites
8/12 – Finished unplaced last time out
8/12 – Had won over 1m2f or further before
7/12 – Had run at Ascot before
7/12 – Returned a double-figure price
6/12 – Ran at either York (3) or Goodwood (3) last time out
2/12 – Trained at Kremlin House Stables (Roger Varian/M Jarvis)
1/12 – Winning favourites
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 12/1

3.45 - Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+) 1m4f

12/12 – Had won over at least 1m2f before
12/12 – Had won a Group 2 or 3 previously
11/12 – Placed last time out
10/12 – Had won over 1m4f before
10/12 – Had at least 2 previous runs that season
9/12 – Placed favourites
8/12 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
8/12 – Trained by Aidan O’Brien (2), Mark Johnston (2) or Sir Michael Stoute (4)
8/12 – Had run at Ascot before
7/12 – Aged 4 years-old (inc last 6 winners)
5/12 – Ran at Epsom last time out (Coronation Cup)
5/12 – Winning favourites
4/12 – Won their previous race
3/12 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 4/1
Telescope won the race in 2014

4.25 - Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) (CLASS 1) (3yo+) 6f

10/11 – Previous distance winners
9/11 – Had run at Ascot before
9/11 – Failed to win their last race
8/11 – Aged 5 or younger
7/11 – Won by a UK-based yard
8/11 – Previous Group Race winners
6/11 – Unplaced favourites
7/11 – Returned a double-figure price
4/11 – Ran in the King’s Stand Stakes earlier at the meeting
3/11 – Ridden by Johnny Murtagh
1/11 – Winning favourite (joint)
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 15.5/1

5.00 - Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo+ 0-110) 6f

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15/15 – Ran sixth or better last time out
15/15 – Had won before over 6 or 7f
15/15 – Had no more than 4 runs that season¬¬
14/15 – Ran within the last 6 weeks
13/15 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
13/15 – Had won a race over 6f before
10/15 – Had at least 2 runs already that season
8/15 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/15 – Had run at Ascot before (5 had won here)
6/15 – Ran at either Ascot, Goodwood or Newmarket last time
5/15 – Won their previous race
4/15 – Won by the favourite
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 13/1
The last five winners came from a double-figure stall
In the last 5 runnings all top 3 finishers have come from double-figure stalls
Horse from stall 15 has been placed in 3 of the last 5 runnings
Since 1980 there have been only 7 winning favourites
Since 1980 there have been 27 winners returning a double-figure price

5.35 - Queen Alexandra Stakes (Conditions Race) (CLASS 2) (4yo+) 2m5f159y

10/12 – Finished unplaced last time out
8/12 – Aged 4, 5 or 6 years old
7/12 – Had won over at least 2m on the flat before
6/12 – Had run at Ascot before
3/12 – Winning favourites
3/12 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
3/12 – Won by a NH yard
3/13 – Irish-trained winners
2/13 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
2/12 – Ridden by Kieren Fallon
The average winning SP in the last 10 years is 6/1

 

 

Trainers Quotes

FREE TRIAL: TRAINERS-QUOTES.COM: GET THE BEST INFO FROM 20 TOP STABLES EACH DAY - Sent direct to your in-box!

"Fantasy Gladiator: This old-timer continues to show a love for the game. Not much hiding place from the handicapper now but he's a past CD winner and has run well the last three times (not beaten far). Is on a handy mark and despite his advancing years seems very well and in what looks a poor race I expect him to be in the mix."
Mick Appleby

15/06/15 1st 5/2

"Lady Marl: Back to a more suitable trip at a track she runs well at which should give her every chance."
Gary Moore

15/06/15 1st 8/1

"Furrows: We are dropping him back in trip, he does seem to be a bridle horse. He has ran respectably so far but it would be nice to see him get his head in front and this looks like a good opportunity."
Oliver Sherwood

15/06/15 1st 13/8

"Fine Blend: Been money for the Henry Candy horse, but we come here hopeful too. Nice filly - works well at home and if running like that on the track will take some beating. But you never know how these young horses will act first time on the track so a small bit of caution based on that, but all that said I'm hoping for a big run."
William Muir

13/06/15 1st 11/4

"Royal Brave: Ran well last time - but we were unlucky to get stuck behind two pacesetters that were dropping back. That cost us time and ground. Ground, draw and trip ideal - should go well."
William Muir

13/06/15 1st 5/2

"Lamool: Ran well when third here the last time. That was over fences so the return to hurdles sees him running off a 4lb lower mark. Every chance and the horse seems in great order. I fear the Tom George horse (Roc D'Apsis) but really the horse is very well and we expect him to take this."
Tim Vaughan

12/06/15 1st 8/11

"Sellingallthetime: Our only runner in the race now with the other a non-runner. Been running well of late but another step forward needed off this mark. Jockey gets on well with the horse and conditions ideal. Upped in grade here too so really be delighted if he can hit the frame - anything else a plus."
Mick Appleby

12/06/15 1st 9/2

Follow Andy Newton Here - @NewtsDailyLays

Royal Ascot 2015: King’s Stand Stakes Preview & Tips

King's Stand Stakes Preview Tips

King's Stand Stakes Preview Tips

Royal Ascot 2015: King's Stand Stakes Preview & Tips

The second Group 1 of the opening day, and this is for the fleet. Tardy starters, short runners, and slow coaches need not apply.

The king of the King's Stand is unquestionably Sole Power, Eddie Lynam's eight-year-old is bidding for an unprecedented third win in the race. As well as aiming to be the first horse to bag a hat-trick in the race, he will also bid to be the first of his age to prevail since at least 1973.

This is a race in which overseas runners have nicked the pot numerous times in recent seasons. Little Bridge in 2012 was the last, and before that there was a five year spell between 2005 and 2009 when the trophy was packed in a suitcase annually. 'We' only regained it when ex-Spanish flyer, Equiano, was relocated in Lambourn with Barry Hills in 2010.

The raiding party stands at just three this year, but they're a talented trio and command respect, as we'll see.

There is only one place to begin this preview, however, and that is with the returning hero, Ireland's champion sprinter, Sole Power. This lad is getting on, as I've mentioned, but he still commands the utmost respect. His form can look a little inconsistent to the naked eye, but inspect it closely and a few key points emerge.

Firstly, ignore his six furlong runs. Sole Power is a five furlong horse, no question. How else can one explain a record of five Group 1 wins at the minimum, and no wins of any description from ten runs over six furlongs?

Secondly, beware traffic jams. Over five, when Sole Power has been beaten, it is generally because he gets stuck for a run at a crucial time.

And thirdly, his form on softer than good is far less impressive. No wins in seven starts, despite some solid efforts in defeat.

Removing his six furlong efforts, those on softer than good, and races where the comment references trouble in running, the Power's Group 1 form figures read 18327417111. Five wins in eleven starts, and four in his last five.

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If that sounds like I'm making excuses for him, I'm not. At least, not in the main. Rather, I'm trying to highlight the generally optimal nature of race conditions: five furlongs, good (to firm) ground, and... well, traffic in a 19 runner field will always be some sort of issue. But at least stall six will give his rider, Richard Hughes, some options.

Connections are bullish, and they believe Sole Power to be in as good a form as ever. If that's the case, 7/2 will find many buyers.

But the massed ranks in opposition will take advantage of any chinks in his ageing armour. Muthmir heads the pretenders, according to the betting at least, and he's unbeaten in two runs over less than six furlongs. The pick of that pair was his last day win in a French Group 2, a number of rivals here further back. He got checked in his run there but quickened smartly to win by a Gitanes paper on rain softened ground.

Despite Muthmir's class and his ascendant profile, I worry about the combination of fast ground and five furlongs though, on the plus side, the stiff finish will help him. He's too short for my tastes at 9/2, but he'd be far from a shock winner.

The clock, at least the GMT version, says Mecca's Angel is the fastest in the field. Lightly raced and most progressive, Michael Dods' filly has gone from handicaps a year ago to the top of the sprinting grades. She may not have finished improving yet, but this represents a far sterner test than anything she's encountered thus far.

She did have good horses behind when easily winning a Group 3 in France last time - Hot Streak, Maarek, Catcall, Spirit Quartz and Pearl Secret were all at least two-and-three-quarter lengths her inferior, and there's no clear reason any should reverse form.

Aside from the grade, the other niggle is the ground. Mecca's Angel's form is almost all on good or softer. This will ride on the fast side of good, and she's yet to prove she can handle it. That minor irritation is scratched somewhat by noting that she's only raced on quicker once - running well over six furlongs - and she seems to have a 'top of the ground' action, to my - granted, rather untutored - eye.

As short as 11/2 with Coral, she's as big as 8/1 with Hills, totesport and Betfred, and the latter price looks a smidge on the fat side.

The most obvious of the three overseas (Irish excluded) runners is Shamal Wind, representing the Australian barn of Robert Smerdon. She won a Group 1 handicap over an extended five at Caulfield last time (end of February), and comes here fresh. That was a breakthrough G1 win and, while I honestly have no real idea how good she might be, she's probably not the best Aussie sprinter we'll see this week, and I wonder how she'll cope over a straight track: her main asset seems to be an electric gear change around a turn.

It's 14/1 your pick bar that quartet, and there are some interesting runners therein.

Although G Force probably needs six furlongs to show his rapid best, Pearl Secret's seven wins have all come over five. They include a Group 2 last time which was close to a career high, and despite having seven pounds or so to find with a few, he could run a big race under ideal conditions.

One at a massive price who could offer something of a run for a bean or two is the ex-Robert Cowell-trained Spirit Quartz. Rated as high as 115 in his pomp in 2013, he lost his way after that. But a switch to France and Xavier Nakkadchji has seen him return to close to his best.

Generally a prominent racer, he's not been beaten far by the likes of Muthmir and Mecca's Angel this term, and was a half length fourth in the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp last year. That's top class sprinting form, and the ground will be fine. He'll be any price you like on the exchanges and I'll have half a sausage win and place on there.

King's Stand Stakes Tips

A field full of fast sprinters, but four that look worthy of primary focus. Sole Power is on a hat-trick in the race and will take some stopping with a clear run. Muthmir and Mecca's Angel are both upwardly mobile, especially the filly; and Aussie, Shamal Wind, is the wild card.

I love Sole Power, but I can't really back him at 7/2. Maybe at 9/2 if that happens. At the prices now, Mecca's Angel looks too big at 8/1 on that Prix de Saint-Georges run.

Pearl Secret could make the frame, and for a bit of fun, Spirit Quartz looks capable of out-running triple digit exchange odds.

King's Stand Stakes Selection:

Mecca's Angel each way (8/1 totesport, Betfred, 1/4 1-2-3)

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St James's Palace Stakes Preview and Tips >>>

Queen Anne Stakes Preview and Tips >>>

Sunday Supplement: Forget? I couldn’t even remember!

tony_stafford

Tony Stafford's Sunday Supplement

Sunday supplement

By Tony Stafford

You might have thought that waking up with the on-the-window thermometer showing 25 degrees Celsius and the road outside closed because of the imminent start of the Run Hackney Half Marathon – no I’m not one of the 12,000 participants – would be pleasurable.

Sadly, no. The end of five wonderful days at Royal Ascot coincided with the summer’s longest day. Five unbroken dry afternoons were therefore the precursor of ever-shorter days, 182 of them to be precise. No wonder I hate August, despite the prospect of York.

Saturday’s highlight was Telescope’s final emergence into the spotlight and a run in the Hardwicke which will be his prep for the King George in four weeks’ time. It was disappointing that the Nagles, David and Diane, who bred him at Barronstown, joined in the post-race rush for the airport, so my congratulating will – until Saturday – have to be confined to this medium.

I say until Saturday. I’m planning to travel over for the Irish Derby with my mate Harry to see the next instalment of the Australia phenomenon. Not all the Aidan O’Brien horses managed to run up to expectations, but Leading Light’s Gold Cup win over Estimate has to be right up there, not least because of the Queen’s classy decision to hand over the trophy to the boys with genuine smile firmly in place.

John Magnier was highly impressed by the promising run shown by the three-year-old US import Due Diligence as he chased home Slade Power right to the line having got adrift in the smaller stand side group in the Golden Jubilee. The Eddie Lynam double of Sure and Slade will look nice on the Power family sideboard, but will it placate young Paddy after a week when the bookies generally will have done their brains?

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Already struggling by Saturday, then they had to contend with Ryan Moore getting into full flow with a treble on Arab Spring, Telescope and Pique Sous in the closing Queen Alexandra Stakes for Willie Mullins.

All week, Ryan’s uncomplicated riding – watch his Arab Spring mount for untroubled calm – had set him apart, and the punters piled in on all three with hurdler Pique Sous showing once again that Martaline, who had a big hurdle winner with a three-year-old filly in Paris on Saturday, is an excellent dual-purpose stallion. His untried lots in the upcoming Arqana sale in Deauville will attract plenty of attention from the top jumping boys over here and in Ireland.

Slade Power was the opening half of a big sprint double for Dutch Art. The Cheveley Park Stud stallion’s fee has jumped up over the past few years from £6,000 before his first runners hit the track to the £35,000 of 2014. In addition to the Golden Jubilee, the admirable sire provided impressive Wokingham Stakes winner Baccarat for a joint 400-plus grand payday.

His success has been gratifying for me too, as over two seasons, my boss Raymond Tooth had a total of five (two twice) mares visit Dutch Art at the rock-bottom level. He sold one, last year’s juvenile winner Dutch Art Dealer, who made a promising comeback in fifth yesterday at Newmarket, lost one in a paddock accident, and has three in training.
Dealer’s younger brother, with Hughie Morrison, is nearing racecourse action, while two more, a three-year-old and a two-year-old filly, are a little further behind.

We just managed to catch Dutch Art halfway to his present figure when Catfish, third with a slipping saddle in the world-record timed Vodafone Dash at Epsom, visited at 18 grand last year. She has produced a beautiful filly foal. With yearling prices so high thanks to the arrival of the free-spending Qataris, we’ve made a conscious decision to try to produce our own in concert with the highly-efficient help of Rachel and Richard Kempster of Kinsale stud in Shropshire.

There were a number of highlights for me at Ascot, not least the victory of The Wow Signal, trained by John Quinn, in the Coventry Stakes on the opening day – seems ages ago now.

I landed on him, as usual, by virtue of bias rather than industry, although when you looked at the form of his debut win at Ayr, it was hard to dismiss his chance. So to do it that way round, he made a winning debut, by nine lengths and 11 in a five-runner maiden up in Scotland. The second went on to win his next race by six lengths; the third, his by two and he was quite well backed – being trained by Mark Johnston – to turn around that 20 length deficit on Tuesday.

In the event, he was third, but I landed on the winner in a very roundabout way which involves a tea stall in Yarmouth market. My mate Roger, you know the fellow who lived near and whose family shared that celebrated party phone line in Nuneaton with Larry Grayson, is now the life and soul of the Norfolk seaside town.

His mate, Murphy, a Cockney who upgraded many years ago to Yarmouth and indeed was manager of one of its betting emporia until redundancy took over, is married to the owner of said Julie’s Tea Stall. That worthy lady’s brother owned a couple of two-year-olds and early in the year, the news was quite promising.

One day last month, Roger told me that Murphy’s brother-in-law had a fancied runner at Musselburgh. The horse was Pres Rapide. As usual when you have a few quid on, it almost won, finishing runner-up, and he duly scored second time out the week before Ascot at York.

But the good part was that before the first race, Roger told me that they had another one at home that was a stone better. Yeah right. Anyway a couple of weeks later, Roger had a right touch. The other one, The Wow Signal, a son of Starspangledbanner, romped home. Sadly, Roger never bumped into Murphy, like yours truly one of those nearly punters, so he never got on. I realised that he was the one, about a furlong into that Ayr race, which I saw on Racing UK.

In between there and Ascot, the original owner sold him, but I hope that all around the tea stall in Yarmouth market place, all the lads and lasses were on him. In fact rumour has it that Roger had his topper on when going into the Continental Café – great value! – on Wednesday morning.

That win, and also Starspangledbanner’s daughter Anthem Alexander’s for Eddie Lynam in the Queen Mary, were bitter-sweet for Coolmore, as they were two of just 33 foals produced in the first crop of the fertility-challenged sire, a great sprinter on two continents in his day.

Apparently, he’s a real hit-or-miss project – having had a 50% fertility in his recent southern hemisphere stint – but if the magicians in Co Tipperary can ever get those figures going in a northerly direction, there may still be a chance that he’ll eventually become an A-lister.

  • Post script. Believe it or not, they’re running right by my window (needs a clean - Note to Mrs – and one guy came past ages ago with at least a minute lead probably two-thirds of the way in. Wonder what price he was on Betfair? Big gaps until the eighth and now they’re streaming through. Fun (sic) runners soon. Just another 11,000 or so to go. In a couple of weeks the Tour de France is going past just a street away. Who says Hackney’s a dump? In the first part, forgot to say another ending last night, the final episode of Swedish drama Wallander on BBC4 – better watching than the World Cup. Apparently the lead actor, who’s 67, is stroppy, as is his character, and he’s had enough. I remember when I was 67. The plot says he’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Funny, forgot all about it until now. See you next week, if I remember.

 

  • Editor's postscript: Mrs Matt, Carole, ran the Hackney Half and, having barely trained, completed the thirteen miles and so many yards in one hour forty-three minutes, a pretty decent time. Top lass, Mrs Matt! 🙂