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Social Discourse – Monday 19th August

Refreshed after a week in the sun, Social Discourse is back to digest the action from the previous seven days. Last week was another busy one,with the best race and the best performance appearing only yesterday, writes William Kedjanyi,

 

  1. Planet Earthlight

It was the race of the week, and the juvenile race of the season so far. The winner of the Coventry Stakes, Arizona, faced off against the winners of the Queen Mary (Raffle Prize) and Norfolk Stakes (A'Ali). They were all beaten, however, by star French colt Earthlight, who knuckled down to get the better of a duel with Raffle Prize, the pair coming well clear of third-placed Golden Horde.

https://twitter.com/SammyKing96/status/1163200924455755776?s=20

 

The winner, for whom the heavy ground was a concern, could be coming to a racecourse near you next Spring – if you live near Newmarket, that is. Andre Fabre, when asked by the omnipresent Matt Chapman, strongly suggested that he would be heading to the Rowley Mile.

 

The rest: Raffle Prize did nothing wrong, and the Cheveley Park is her next target. Next year, the Commonwealth Cup could be the aim. Golden Horde ran a sound race to be third and can improve again. Arizona stayed on late to beat A’Ali for fourth but he didn’t do much to dispel the notion that Aidan O’Brien’s horses are not running at their very best right now, and perhaps we’ll see better from him down the road. A’Ali probably found the ground too soft and the trip too far, while this was too much for Aroha, Royal Dornoch, and Devil.

 

Fun Fact: This was a first French winner of the Prix Morny in eight renewals.

 

  1. The Miss, Mrs, and Mister

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past week, you’ve seen this.

 

And most people on your feeds have had an opinion on it.

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This is all fair and well – indeed this series of newsletters is built upon opinions on one social media network – but can there ever be too much? (Spoiler alert: yes).

Here is just one out of a select few.

 

Now, this is not an opinion on what anyone should call their boss, in racing or another industry. Frankly, as long as you’re treated well, it shouldn’t matter. But it gets to a point where one must ask oneself; Do you really need to be this angry when replying? Does this issue really count that much? Is this an appropriate response to a 200-word comment piece?

 

The answer is no.

Does this issue matter all that much?

One suspects the answer to that begins with n, too.

 

  1. La Coronet

Like London Buses, if you wait long enough, you get two of them.

John Gosden doesn’t have to wait for many things, but he did have to be patient to see his wonderfully consistent mare Coronet take the Darley Prix Jean Romanet, thus doubling her Group 1 tally.

 

Holding her head high – as you do when you’re a top class racehorse - she took her second Group 1 in a row, once again finding favour in France, and staying on best to get the better of With You in what was a good stretch duel, albeit a less sustained one than we saw earlier in the Morny. She's gained quite a following, too.

 

 

Le Rest: Red Tea ran a huge race for Joseph O’Brien, ridden by his brother Donnacha, and was ahead of I Can Fly, who ran her usual consistent race but who didn’t make a big impression. It was yet another so-so effort from a Ballydoyle horse in a summer which has not brought much joy for Aidan O’Brien. Spirit of Nation didn’t have the toe to get involved, and Wild Illusion was disappointing and doesn't look like the same horse we saw last year.

Two-Thousand-And-Dettori: This was Dettori’s 13th Group 1 of the summer, for anyone still tracking.

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1163356767750955008?s=20

 

  1. Over The Weekend

In case you missed it…

  • Glorious Journey was a game winner of the Hungerford Stakes, relishing the seven furlong trip to get the better of Librisa Breeze, who ran a fine race on his return, in a game performance that may see him pointed towards the Prix de la Foret in October

 

  • Technician was back to his best and pressed his claims for a shot at the William Hill St Leger with victory in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, getting the better of Morando in another tight tussle at the Berkshire venue.

https://twitter.com/itvracing/status/1162718687402610688?s=20

  • Thunderous backed up wins at Doncaster and Redcar with a game win in the Denford Stakes, beating the Richard Hannon-trained pair Sun Power and Sesame Birah, with the latter coming second

  • Trebellum scored an impressive victory in the Group 2 Shadwell Prix de la Nonette, taking yet another prize for John Gosden

  • Andre Fabre had another two-year-old winner as Lady Bamford's Tropbeau was a smart winner of the Shadwell Prix du Calvados over seven furlongs.

https://twitter.com/AtTheRaces/status/1162706242705346560?s=20

  • Dakota Gold went one better than 12 months ago when making all in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, beating the consistent Summerghand into second

  • Tarnawa gave trainer Dermot Weld a record sixth triumph in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Give Thanks Stakes at Cork.

  • On the same card, Flight Risk showed he still retains plenty of ability at the age of eight when getting the better of younger rivals in the Listed Platinum Stakes
  • In America, Chad Brown took yet another major prize as Dunbar Road claimed the Alabama Stakes in style on a sloppy track at Saratoga

  • Meanwhile, at Del Mar, Higher Power was a wide margin winner of the Pacific Classic, a Grade 1 'Win and You're In' qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic

  • Cambier Parc ran down Hidden Message to win the Del Mark Oaks

  • Japanese Arc contender Blast Onepiece showcased his claims with a neck victory over Sungrazer in the 1m2f Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen under Yuga Kawada.

 

 

  1. Making Hay On The Knavesmire

York’s Ebor meeting is one of the highlights of the summer, and as always here are some pieces of advice for the week coming.

Do

  • Always try and bet the night before if you can. You can very often beat starting price
  • Think about course form. York is a specialists' track, especially when the ground softens
  • If you are going and haven’t already yet, buy and take a mobile phone charger. In fact, two if you can carry them
  • Think about where the pace is. There are many sprints at York where the pace will help or hinder others
  • Try and make use of sectional timings

Don’t

  • Chase: Four days of some of the most competitive races you will find all year will mean you’ll have times when things go wrong. Keep a steady strategy
  • Go too hard too early if you’re going – obligatory notice here but York is a fantastic place
  • Count out a horse completely because of price or draw
  • Disregard sectional timings – there can be many advantages gained for even a cursory glance at the splits

I'm away again next week - try not to miss me too much 😉 - but back in a fortnight for more of the same. In the meantime, enjoy York.

- WK

Social Discourse – The Royal Ascot One

It’s nearly here. The top hats and tails have been measured. The Pimms has been prepared, the tickets sent out, the badges inscribed.

The Royal Family have had their dresses fitted, the carriages are ready, and an army of racegoers have their best outfits – in their own minds at least – prepared. Yes, Royal Ascot is on its way, and in this edition of Social Discourse we are all about the right Royal Affair, and what you think about it.

So without further ado, let’s begin.

 

  1. Do’s and don’t’s

What rules should you follow and what pitfalls should you avoid?

https://twitter.com/Gem1304/status/1140337030947323906

It is worth saying that some of you were not as enthused about the coming week:

From yours truly:

Do:

  • If you’re headed there for the first time, take comfortable shoes. You’d be surprised at how big Ascot is from end to end
  • If you are trying to get good prices and decent each/way terms, bet the night before or in the morning. Raceday markets shorten massively
  • Think about course form. Ascot rewards repeat performers and other courses can correlate well, especially ones with stiff finishes
  • If you are going and haven’t already yet, buy and take a mobile phone charger. In fact, two if you can carry them
  • Think about where the pace is. It can be crucial in races on the straight mile but every race will be affected by it

Don’t

  • Chase: There are five days of racing here and nearly 30 races. Your week is not over after a bad day, and unless you call it quits when ahead, it’s not over after one winner
  • Go too hard too early. There’s nothing wrong with an early pint, but Royal Ascot days are long ones on course
  • Count out a horse completely because of price or draw. Plenty of big fields, especially over 1m4f, have seen high drawn horses win, and we’ve had big priced winners to boot for a ton of races as readers here know
  • Leave it late, especially if you are heading from London Waterloo – there’s a dispute between South West Railway (SWR) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) over train guards. Some are saying that driving by road might be the best way to do it

 

  1. Memory Lane

Now for a trip down memory lane. Let’s just say that one of you has some rather unique memories of Royal Ascot..

And onto the track based ones.....

 

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And one from the Gentleman's bookmaker......

 

  1. Crown Jewels

With so many top class races – there are eight Group 1’s alone – it’s sometimes impossible to know where to look. But never fear, Twitter’s here for a crowdsourced guide.

 

The Social Discourse Choice: It was surprising not to see more shouts for the Gold Cup, but the sheer amount of talented two-year-olds we’ve seen means The Coventry has to be my pick.

 

  1. Nap Hands

Here are the naps from the great and good of Twitter:

https://twitter.com/chatman_phil/status/1140309799206305793

And last but never least....

Mine? You’ll have to wait won’t you.

 

  1. Things to look out for….
  • As ever, a bumper international crop, including horses from at least nine countries. This includes sprinters Enzo's Lad (from New Zealand) and Lim's Cruiser (Singapore), along with the Japanese mare Deirdre, who has managed to get the race moved for better viewing times at home
  • Included in this is the team of Wesley Ward, eight strong this year and boasts Diamond Jubilee contender Bound for Nowhere amongst a host of juvenile contenders
  • The final crop of the sadly departed Scat Daddy, which includes Sergei Prokofiev (King’s Stand), Qabala (Coronation Stakes), So Perfect (Commonwealth Cup, Jersey Stakes), and Beatboxer (Britannia)
  • The return of last year’s Derby winner Masar, who reappears in the Hardwicke on the final day

 

  1. Horses you can’t wait to see

And if you need any more reason to make today just fly...

 

Good luck, and let the Festivities begin!

- William Kedjanyi

Social Discourse: 8th April 2019

You all know where this is starting.

 

  1. The Eye Of The Tiger

Look at it. Drink it all in. Reminisce, all over again, and enjoy Tiger Roll’s history-making repeat Grand National triumph.

 

Normally we post the best tweets in here that you might have missed, but there were so many that only the photos can do justice to racing’s collective scream of joy.

 

 

 

 

Hindsight is a powerful thing, but Davy Russell and Tiger Roll were always travelling beautifully and once the diminutive nine-year-old jumped to the front after the Elbow, it appeared – just like last year – to be simply a matter of how far, and he fairly sprinted clear of the young mare Magic Of Light, who ran a sensational race to finish second at 66/1.

https://twitter.com/HonestFrank/status/1115134738245799936

The racing community – and basically the whole country of Ireland – were in raptures after taking a 1-2-3, with the popular Rathvinden finishing third, but this was all about one brilliant horse.

What they said: “Tiger Roll isn’t Red Rum – he’s Tiger Roll – and I feel no pressure to go back and try to win a third time. There’s huge public affection for him and I think we’re duty-bound to mind him now.” – Michael O’Leary with some performance trolling regarding Tiger Roll’s potential attempt at a three-timer.

“I was trying to watch all of mine, I can’t believe it. I never once thought he was going to win until he crossed the line, because all I could remember was last year. He didn’t tie up this year. He’s an absolute gentleman to deal with.” – Gordon Elliot in the aftermath of his third national win

 “This horse and this place is amazing. People go on about certain sporting events, but Liverpool and Aintree are so far ahead. People come here in their droves to cheer you on and they can be so proud of what they have here, it’s so well run. It’s televised all around the world and I’m so proud to be a part of it, I can’t believe it.” – Davy Russell, who had an easier time of things this year in the home straight 

 

  1. Those in behind….

There were 39 other horses (I know, did you also forget?) who lined up at the start, and many fine performances from the 19 horses who managed to complete the course.

It’s something of a surprise that Jessica Harrington, arguably the best dual code trainer around, hadn’t participated in the race before, and she nearly took it at the first attempt with eight-year-old mare Magic Of Light, who ran a tremendous race from the front before Tiger Roll flew past. Despite a mistake at the last (and a significant one at the Chair, after which Paddy Kennedy did well to stay on board), she came home two and a quarter-lengths clear of Rathvinden, who travelled best for much of the way, and looks sure to be back next year.

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Rathvinden gave a bold sight in third, although he was unable to give Ruby Walsh another National winner, whilst Walk In The Mill, the Becher Chase winner, was best of the British. He delighted the shrewd Robert Walford and gave James Best a fine spin; still only nine, all roads would lead to Aintree next year for him.

Spare a thought for Anibale Fly, who ran a titanic race to finish fifth under top weight, just half a length behind Walk In The Mill. Tony Martin has one of the most consistent staying chasers in the game, although he looks set to be forever too high in the weights to win this great race.

The 2017 winner One For Arthur had unseated twice but looked like the horse of two years ago when making a huge move around the outside coming for home, before he just faded late, and Lucinda Russell is already thinking of aiming him at next year’s contest.

 

 

  1. Meanwhile, back on the level….

Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore kick-started their season with a treble on Leopardstown’s Classic trials day, where we saw a number of eye-catching performances.

  • Lady Kaya ran out a comfortable winner of the Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes for trainer Sheila Lavery and jockey Robbie Colgan, with the fast-finishing Happen in second and last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner Idressa in third under a 3lb penalty

 

  • Leading Guineas hope Madhmoon was beaten for the first time as Never No More ran him down on his seasonal bow in the 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes, taking advantage of a 3lbs concession in the weights and the benefit of a recent run on slower ground than he'd faced before

 

  • Broome gave the standout performance of the day as he bolted home in the Ballysax Stakes, winning by eight lengths and being cut to 9/1 for the Derby

  • In America, Roadster came with a powerful late run to take the Santa Anita Derby, beating stablemate and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Game Winner

 

  • Ghaiyyath put himself in the frame for a host of middle-distance honours this season with an eye-catching performance on his seasonal debut in the Prix d'Harcourt at Paris-Longchamp, as he stretched eight lengths clear before being eased down. The Ganay and the Tattersalls Gold Cup are on the agenda for Charlie Appleby's potentially top class colt.

 

  1. Box Office Tiger

Back to the Grand National, arguably the biggest PR moment for racing of the year, and certainly the biggest moment for any broadcaster involved in the sport, so ITV and the BHA have every right to be delighted with their viewing figures.

 

The coverage on Saturday scored a peak of 9.6 million viewers, a 12 per cent increase from the 8.5m in 2018 according to audience figures, with the average audience for the National show up from 5.1m to 5.4m, an endorsement of a programme which makes a lot of effort to reach first-time viewers and non-experts.

There are a multitude of personalities on the programme – different strokes for different folks, as they say – and it worked through the week too, as shown by a seven-figure audience for the Foxhunters’ on the first day.

https://twitter.com/francescacumani/status/1114093876598407168

Wake Up To ITV: There was also a record audience for The Opening Show too of 300,000 – a fine figure considering it was an FA Cup semi-final morning.

https://twitter.com/olibellracing/status/1114837955254812672

 

Takeaway: There’s much to be said about the draw of a horse who had such a big chance of back to back Nationals, but these figures are welcome news in an era when there has never been so much choice for sports fans. ITV’s approach of trying to convert causal watchers and educate first timers is the right one when younger fans are needed more than ever.

 

  1. What else?

Across the three days of Aintree, in case some had forgotten:

  • Kemboy made up for a first fence fall in the Gold Cup with a dominant success in the Betfred Bowl, confirming himself a top class staying chaser

  • Min bounced back from a below par showing in the Champion Chase with a 20 length romp in the Melling Chase, making it 2 feature race wins for Willie Mullins

https://twitter.com/TheRacingJosh/status/1114180459708260353

  • Supasundae got the better of Buveur D’Air and  County Hurdle hero Ch'tibello in a thrilling Aintree Hurdle

 

  • Pentland Hills followed up his JCB Triumph Hurdle victory with a gritty display in the Doom Bar Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree.

  • Kalashnikov presented trainer Amy Murphy with a first Grade One success in the Devenish Manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree.

https://twitter.com/almracing/status/1113790474031177728

 

  • Cadmium gave Mullins another winner as he dominated the Topham Chase and Top Wood fought back to pull the Foxhunters out of the fire

 

Next week? The small matter of Winx’s last race….

 

Social Discourse: 4th March 2019

Another fascinating week in the racing life, with The Festival (sponsored by cider) getting closer and closer and, as ever it seems, we weren’t light on talking points. That makes Number 5 below particularly special to me – hopefully you like this week’s Discourse.

 

  1. Winx And You’ll Miss It 

Before a stride had been taken in anger, a World Record was broken in racing on Saturday as the amazing Winx made it 31 – yes, really – straight wins with a comfortable success in the Chipping Norton Stakes. That was her 23rd Group or Grade 1 success, an incredible number which is almost as startling as the 31 race winning streak.

At one point she seemed in the slightest of trouble, as Happy Clapper and Blake Shinn had a commanding lead coming into a short home straight, and even with 300 meters left to go her fans would have been right to start biting their nails. 

I’ve heard this before, haven’t I: Yes, you have, because she’s won pretty much all of her last 31 races like that, including four Cox Plates and 19 other Group 1's. Whilst it has always been enjoyable to watch, especially for her legion of fans, it has not been everybody’s cup of tea. 

For much of the past two years, a fierce debate has raged about the true ability of the Champion Mare, mainly conducted across Twitter between fans, punters and handicappers from both sides of the equator.

Winx’s easy defeat of the solid Benbatl, the best Northern raider sent to face her since Highland Reel, went a long way to answering those questions. However, with a dearth of realistic opposition in Australia, there are still a large number of people who have fallen out of love with the eight-year-old Australian treasure.

See an example of the case for:

And an example of the case against:

Happy Clapper himself sets a better standard than most of Winx’s domestic opposition by one sharp tweeter, and the discussion shall rage on.

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Many observers hope to see her travel one day, but she is eight now and the only realistic challenge will come from another Benbatl type heading Down Under. 

The Bottom Line: We’ve been incredibly lucky to have a Champion, fit for three years at the peak of her game – but the debate about what she's beaten and therefore her level of ability will almost never end.

 

  1. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait 

One of the quirkiest parts of racing is the wonderful spectrum of names our equine heroes have, and on some occasions they really do fit perfectly.

Waiting Patiently is one of such horse and Ruth Jefferson’s eight-year-old will keep us all waiting a little bit longer as he’s set to miss the Festival, with a number of options in the near future.

Aintree and Punchestown are both on the table, the Melling Chase presumably a likely target, and a trip to France for Auteuil’s Prix La Barka or French Champion Hurdle were both mooted, given the likelihood that he’d get his favoured ground there.

Owner Paul Colling, speaking to the Racing Post’s Bruce Jackson: "Ascot was Cyrname's ground and if you look at the three behind, we all need cut in the ground. I walked from the second-last with Ruth [Jefferson] and wasn't for running him, but Brian [Hughes] said it was soft enough.

Thinking ahead: This is unrelated, but there’s plenty of rain in the air after a very dry winter, and the Festival could well take place on a softer surface than the winter’s racing, just like last year. Consider that when approaching the races at this late stage.

 

  1. Money Moneyyy (Part 2)

What a difference a week and a boycott (or two) make. Last week’s edition covered the standoff between ARC and trainers who were rightly unhappy at prizemoney levels, especially with further cuts announced – blamed on the Government’s call to cut the maximum stake on FOBT’s to £2 from £100.

A temporary move to reallocate funds in lower-grade races backfired – another race at Sedgefield was a walkover and then there was a call from Ralph 'Red Raif' Beckett for further action this week. 

This isn’t close to over: ARC, in response to the first boycott, have unlocked funding from the levy war chest for the next couple of weeks but there’s only a month until the FOBT funding cut, and a lot of ground to cover to say the least. I mean, just read these quotes: 

Arc Spokesman, speaking on Saturday: "Last night’s agreement with the NTF was made in good faith, with the aim of allowing further time to continue discussions between all parties concerned.” 

Oliver Sherwood, speaking to At The Races on Saturday: “The money at the top end is A1, it’s the bottom end [that is the problem]. And there are more average horses than good horses.”

Gary Moore, who withdrew five Fontwell entries: "I'm supporting the boycott – cutting off my nose to spite my face – and hoping some good will come of it.”

 

  1. On The Track…
  • Paul Nicholls continued his domination of Newbury’s Greatwood Gold Cup with San Benedeto giving Ditchdeat their ninth win of the race – in just 15 years. Nicholls ran three and they were all in the mix until late in the race, but San Benedeto found more than Gala Ball, making his first appearance for Phillip Hobbs, whilst Valdez was third.
  • However, Nicholls did not have it all his own way, with two odds on reverses north of the Border at Kelso. Black Corton was outpointed by the giant Blue Flight in the Premier Chase and then even more surprising was the case of Getaway Trump, moved here after many had predicted he'd head towards the Festival, as Rouge Vif dominated the Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle.
  • Noel Meade was the star of a very snowy Leopardstown as wins for The Red Menace, Aint Dunne Yet and Sixshooter capped a weekend in which the team at Tu Va Stables had a perfect four from four. On the same card, Gordon Elliott bagged a double.

 

  1. Chasing Those Spuds

We have already commemorated the healthy retirement of one staying chaser on these pages and I have no shame about putting Chase The Spud in that category.

The 11-year-old had made himself one of most loved horses at a yard with plenty of such types, winning five races including the Midlands National, and over £100,000 in prize money in just over a year. Happy Retirement, Spud!

- William Kedjanyi