Tag Archive for: Stradivarius

York TV Trends: Friday 25th Aug 2023

Here at GeeGeez we are on hand at this week’s York Ebor Meeting with all the key stats ahead of the LIVE ITV races each day. As the meeting moves into Friday the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes is the big race - a contest that's seen 8 fillies or mares win in the last 12 years - including with Highfield Princess, who is back for more. We've also got the Group Two Lonsdale Cup, where the recent Goodwood Cup winner Quickthorn won last year and could be back on show.

York – Day Three TV Trends

Friday 25th Aug 2023


1.50 – Sky Bet Stakes Handicap Cl2 1m4f ITV

19/20 – Aged 5 or younger
19/20 – Had won over at least 1m2f before (7 over 1m4f)
16/20 – Had 3 or more runs already that season
18/20 – Had won at least twice on the flat before
16/20 – Carried 9-5 or less in weight
15/20 – Aged 3 or 4 years-old
14/20 – Won from stall 8 or higher
9/20 – Ran at either Goodwood (5) or Newmarket (4) last time out
5/20 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute (3) or Mark Johnston (2)
3/20 – Winning favourites (2 joint)
Farhan (20/1) won the race in 2022
Sam Cooke (14/1) won the race in 2021

2.25 – Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup (British Champions Series) (Group 2) Cl1 2m88y ITV

17/19 – Priced 8/1 or shorter
17/19 – Had 4 or more career wins
16/19 – Had won over 1m6f or further before
15/19 – Favourites placed
15/19 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
14/19 – Didn’t win last time out
14/19 – Won a Listed or better class race before
13/19 – Raced 3 or more times that season
12/19 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
11/19 – Had run at York before (9 won)
6/19 – Ridden by Frankie Dettori
2/19 – Winners from stall 1
Quickthorn (9/4) won the race in 2022
Stradivarius (4/11) won the race in 2021, 2018 and 2019


3.00 – Al Basti Equiworld Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2) (Colts & Geldings) Cl1 6f ITV

19/20 – Won just 1-2 times before
19/20 – Raced within the last 6 weeks
17/20 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
17/20 – Finished in the top 3 last time out
14/20 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
13/20 – Won just once before
13/20 – Had won over 6f before
12/20 – Foaled in March or later
4/20 – Trained by Kevin Ryan
4/20 – Winning favourites
3/20 – Trained by William Haggas
2/20 – Trained by Richard Hannon (2 of the last 4)


3.35 - Coolmore Wootton Bassett Nunthorpe Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) Cl1 5f ITV

19/21 – Finished in the top 5 last time out
19/21 – Had won over 5f before
18/21 – Came from stall 11 or lower
18/21 – Had an official rating of 108 or more
17/21 – Had run at the course before
15/21 – Favourites to finish in the top 4
15/21 – Were previous Group race winners
9/21 – Ran at Goodwood last time out (inc 8 of last 13)
5/21 – Winning favourites
3/21 - Won by the Hills yard (Charles/Barry)
3/21 – Placed horses from stall 1 (3rd in 2003 & 2012)
2/21 – Ran at Sandown last time out
2/21 – Trained by Michael Dods
10 of the last 14 winner drawn 7 or higher
8 of the last 12 winners were fillies/mares
10 of the last 11 winners were aged between 4-7 years-old
Highfield Princess (5/1) won the race in 2022
Winter Power (9/1) won the race in 2021

4.10 – Assured Data Protection EBF Fillies’ Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-105) 1m 21/2f

Only 3 previous runnings
State Occasion won the race in 2022
The Flying Ginger won the race in 2021
Trainers Ralph Beckett, Roger Fell and Roger Varian have won the race before
3/3 – Aged 3 or 4 years-old







Monday Musings: The New King of the Stayers

Listening to one racing show last week I was surprised to learn that the broadcaster talking about the Goodwood Cup had not known the race distance had once been two miles and five furlongs rather than the two miles of nowadays, writes Tony Stafford. Why would he, he probably hadn’t been born when the last marathon was staged in 1990?

Funnily enough, as they went over the winning line on Tuesday, the thought crossed my mind that if the longer distance – midway between the two and a half of the Gold Cup and the just short of two miles and threequarters of the Queen Alexandra – was still in operation, the verdict would not have been any different.

We were used in the days of Ardross and Le Moss between 1979 and 1982, when both won the Gold Cup at Ascot twice and then three Goodwood Cups between them, to small fields being the order of the day.

They used to doddle around and then the favourite would generally put in a burst two furlongs out and take the race. So far removed were they from the run-of-the-mill staying handicap performers of their time that few were ever persuaded to take them on.

Not today though. Just as at Royal Ascot and the Gold Cup, first prize here was £283k, with places starting at £107k, through £53k, £26k, £13k and £6,000 for sixth, the lavishly endowed Glorious Goodwood meeting, backed by Qatar, the money was identical all the way down. Nowadays, there’s nothing lost in brave defeats with that sort of remuneration to go with them. There are plenty of poorer prizes around.

The Gold Cup had revealed a new star, although the betting before Ascot’s showpiece left us in no doubt that Kyprios was “expected”.

Slinking away after his fourth in the Lingfield Derby Trial in May last year, Kyprios looked anything but a potential champion stayer. But the Aidan O’Brien recuperation centre has no peer and, when he came back 11 months later to win a Navan Listed race at 5/1 over 14 furlongs, the son of guess who was on his way. You guessed, Galileo, of course.

Bookmakers were alerted now, so when he went on to a four-horse Group 3 at Leopardstown three weeks later, he was a 1/10 chance and won by 14 lengths. In the Gold Cup, he won narrowly from last year’s Derby runner-up, Mojo Star, in a race where Stradivarius took most of the headlines. His defeat was not the main issue, but it was more significant for the sacking, temporarily for the Gosden stable, and permanently by owner Bjorn Neilsen, of the champ’s long-time partner Frankie Dettori.

Mojo Star wasn’t there on Tuesday, but Stradivarius was, with a new partner in Andrea Atzeni, and also Trueshan, enabled to take his chance to repeat last year’s defeat of Stradivarius in the race by the bountiful employment of the Goodwood watering system.

On a day when there were plenty of owners and trainers grumbling at the significantly altered ground, it brought to the race the treasure of Trueshan who had been pulled out late both for the Gold Cup and Queen Alexandra after a couple of anxious and eventually frustrated weather watches by trainer Alan King and his owners.

He did get his June date though, up at Newcastle the following week when, from a mark of 120, he carried 10st8lb to an unthinkable win in the Northumberland Plate, causing the handicapper to put him up to 124.  So what a race we had in prospect and that’s without considering the other sextet who wanted to push on into the elite grouping.

Most obvious of these was Coltrane. Andrew Balding’s progressive stayer was second in the Chester Cup, won the Ascot Stakes and then a Sandown Listed (by ten lengths). Add the Group 1 winning Irish mare Princess Zoe, and Melbourne Cup bound Enemy and you have the deepest of deep races.

Sometimes an appetising prospect can fall flat, but not this time. In the home straight, with outsider Thunderous leading narrowly from Kyprios, the other three top contenders were winding up for the finale. As Thunderous dropped away leaving Kyprios in front, Trueshan loomed up on the outside, causing commentator Simon Holt to anticipate him and Hollie Doyle going straight past and win the Cup for the second time.

Then, on the inside, having extricated his mount from a brief mini-pocket, Atzeni challenged with the indomitable Stradivarius and his run proved longer lasting than Trueshan’s. But having faced both challenges, Ryan Moore, riding as well as ever this summer, asked his mount for a response and readily saw them off.

Riding rhythmically with his stick in his left hand, Moore called in Kyprios’ hidden resources and the answer was instantaneous. Kyprios was going away at the finish and although the winning margin was only a neck it was clear-cut. It was generally accepted that the early pace had been steady, but they came home to such good effect that the time was comfortably below standard.

Afterwards Moore suggested that, if there had been a stronger pace, Kyprios would have won more easily. Only four, he has years ahead of him and he could possibly run up a sequence in the Gold Cup and Goodwood Cup to match Stradivarius and Yeats, his own much-admired forerunner at Ballydoyle. Had it been at 2m5f, all three would have still been at the forefront and you have to conclude that the result would have been no different but maybe more emphatic in favour of the younger horse.

The best news was that Stradivarius, tipped for retirement leading up to Goodwood, may now go on to the Group 2 Lonsdale Stakes at York. Worth half as much as the Goodwood Cup, victory there would still be a worthwhile day out as the prospective stallion continues his farewell tour.


I had a nice chat with Charlie Appleby on Tuesday when he was still disappointed that his 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes winner Coroebus was unable to take up his attempt at ending Baaeed’s flawless record in the Sussex Stakes. With eight from eight in just over a year and a passable imitation of Frankel in terms of his career stopping off points, William Haggas’s four-year-old was the inevitable focus of attention, but Appleby did well to dig out another Classic winner of 2022 to tackle him.

Modern Games won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French,2.000 Guineas) on his comeback this year, and although twice a beaten favourite in Group 1’s in France since - when third to Vadeni in the French Derby and then a close fifth to Tenebrism at Deauville - he is a solid top-level performer.

Appleby’s sharp footwork brought a £215k second place in a race worth precisely double the Goodwood Cup. He edged out last year’s Sussex Stakes heroine, Alcohol Free, who most recently had won the July Cup at Newmarket. Baaeed, held up, breezed past them both with economy and disdain. The margin in distance was one and a half lengths; in class, considerably more.

I loved Haggas’s assessment of the performance:

“It was like riding the Tour De France on a motorbike.”

True words, and some of his fellow trainers, who day to day struggle to match his skilfully-placed and “thrown-in” handicappers, often have a similar sinking feeling.

- TS

Royal Ascot 2022: Day 3 (Thursday) Preview, Tips

Thursday, day three at Royal Ascot, Ladies' Day, features the signature race of the entire week, the Gold Cup, first run in 1807. The Ribblesdale Stakes, Group 2, further bolsters an exciting seven race card with three impossibly difficult handicap puzzles, a two-year-old Group 2 sprint and a Group 3 for the Classic generation completing the menu. As ever, we get underway at 2.30, with the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)

The Norfolk Stakes, first run in 1843, was originally called the New Stakes and run over less than half a mile! It was renamed in reference to the Duke Of Norfolk in 1973.

Favourite this time is The Antarctic, for the Coolmore collective. He's two from two at this minimum trip, the second of which was when beating the smart yardstick, Mehmar, and subsequent scorer and Windsor Castle entry, Wodao. He's the pick of the Irish and may be the pick of the lot, but some have run faster than him to this point.

Walbank is one such. Football agent Kia Joorabchian has invested heavily in the sport in the last couple of years under the AMO Racing banner; and he forked out over half a million for this lad, the first foal of No Lippy - a three-time winner over five furlongs as a juvenile - by Kodiac, at the breeze up sales. A highly promising debut over course and distance when giving best only to Coventry fancy, Noble Style, was improved upon when bolting up by seven lengths in a four-runner York novice. He's obviously quick.

Andrew Balding saddles the once-raced unbeaten Bakeel, and we know already of the Kingsclere handler's deft touch in Royal Ascot juvenile events. Bakeel's win was over course and distance on good to firm, so no reservations about conditions. He will of course progress from first to second start as almost all of Balding's horses do.

Crispy Cat is another about whose level of form we will know more by race time. He's been close to both Maria Branwell and Blackbeard in defeat, those two fancied for earlier juvenile contests in the week. When I say 'close', he's a short head and a neck away from being three-from-three, with fresh air back to the third in the Listed National Stakes last time. I expect he'll be near the lead early.

If Pillow Talk runs here - she's still in Friday's Albany as well - she could be a contender. She beat her 14 rivals in the Listed Marygate Stakes at York last time and, while the margin was only a neck, she was going away at the death: that bodes well for the rise to the line here.

A typically competitive two-year-old race at the Royal meeting, with the winner almost certain to reveal more than the level currently in the book. As such, it's a question of value guessing! Pillow Talk, in receipt of three pounds from the colts, could give the boys plenty to think about and is offered as an each way play more in hope than expectation in a cracking little contest.

3.05 King George V Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

One of the quirkier draw biases in Britain is Ascot's mile and a half when big fields line up. For whatever reason, low numbers seem to have a devil of a job as the images below break down.

The first chart, above, is a simple percentage of rivals beaten (PRB) by draw third. Below is a rolling three-stall average percentage of rivals beaten (PRB3).

With PRB, every runner in every race receives a score for the percentage of rivals they've beaten. For example, in a five runner race, the winner has beaten 100% of rivals and the last home has beaten 0% of rivals. The second horse across the line lost to the winner but beat three others - he beat three of his four rivals and, therefore, had 75% of rivals beaten. Still with me? Good.

From there, we can calculate a PRB score for each stall, or for a trainer's runners, or for... well, lots of things. It's a really useful metric and is always my 'go to' when looking for a draw bias.

We publish PRB on a scale of 0 to 1, representing 0% to 100%; thus a PRB of 0.5 means 50% of rivals beaten, which is slap bang in the middle - no edge, positive or negative. A good PRB score is generally considered to be anything from 55% (0.55) upwards, while a poor PRB score is anything from 45% (0.45) downwards. Remember that, now!

Getting back to our second chart above, we see that stalls 1 to 6 are all at or around 0.45 or lower; this is not good. Stalls 7 to 9 or so hover on 0.5 - no edge - while stalls 10 to around 16 surge into the advantageous zone before the widest stalls of all lapse back towards 0.45 for box 19, the maximum width of starting gate used at this distance.

Because every runner receives a score, that means we have a sample size of 461 in spite of there only having been 26 races under these conditions since 2009, from when our data commences.

The management summary - and I appreciate some of you would have been screaming for this several paras earlier - is that a double-digit draw though probably not higher than 16 or 17, might be optimal, all other things being equal. Phew. [I wanted to share the above because I believe it has much more general utility for the more curious Gold subscribers, and I hope it might help you to gain a more nuanced understanding of draw biases].

Focusing exclusively on the presumed warm zone, let's start with Henry and Jamie - de Bromhead and Spencer - who might be something of an odd couple in one regard but who both know the time of day in another. They combine with Vina Sena, who has been held up in defeat the last four times, largely over ten furlongs. He's gagging for the extra quarter mile and looks to handle quick turf well. Naturally, a charmed passage will be needed but he's a very fair price about which to take that chance.

This is an interesting slot for the William Haggas handicap debutant, Post Impressionist, who was second to Eldar Eldarov (runs in the Queen's Vase on Wednesday). The trip should be no problem as a son of Teofilo whose mum won over hurdles (and was Group placed on the level). Depending on how the Vase goes, his opening mark of 89 could look lenient by the time they enter the stalls.

Israr is a Shadwell colt who has been running as if this mile and a half will suit better than the ten furlongs over which he won last time. That's hardly surprising given that his dam is none other than 2014 Oaks and King George heroine, Taghrooda. He's clearly bred to be good and we have not seen the best of him yet. He's another late runner from a presumed good draw.

And how could I not mention Clock Watcher horse, Franz Strauss? He was noted as an upwardly mobile type in this post in January since when he's run a middling sort of race in a ten furlong Nottingham novice having also run only fairly in a Group 3 the time before. Sights are lowered to handicap company, and Frankie climbs aboard for the first time.

A typical Royal Ascot handicap with oodles of unexposed regally-bred possibles. I'm going to split two units between three horses each way, such is my lily-livered uncertainty (whilst still wanting to be involved, natch). The trio is comprised of Vina Sena - could be a classic Jamie closer; Post Impressionist (bet him before the Queen's Vase, because he'll shorten if Eldar runs well); and Franz Strauss, who might have been pegged for this for a little while - he'd have needed that novice spin to qualify.

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo)

The 'Ascot Oaks', as just about nobody calls it, thankfully, was named after the fourth Baron Ribblesdale, Master of the Buckhounds between 1892 and 1895 and, these days, is contested by three-year-old fillies over a mile and a half having formerly been a mile race.

Three trainers since 1977 have notched five Ribblesdales: the late John Dunlop, Saeed bin Suroor and John Gosden. Saeed is without a runner this time and Gosden 2.0, the John and Thady variant, have decided against sending Oaks runner up Emily Upjohn just 13 days after her narrow defeat at Epsom. As it turns out, only six are declared to run.

With Emily absent, Sea Silk Road is quite a strong favourite having run like she was crying out for further when winning the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood (1m2f, soft) last time. That was only her third career start so she is likely to progress from that perspective, too, and she'll be tough to beat if dealing with the much quicker turf.

Another for whom the longer distance looks a positive is Magical Lagoon, by Galileo out of a strong staying German mare whose progeny have already won over as far as two miles. Connections made plenty of use of her last time when, having raced prominently throughout, she was just out-sped in the closing stages of the Listed Salsabil Stakes (1m2f, Navan, good). It looks as though the Jessica Harrington-trained filly will be able to get a lead from Mystic Wells, but may again have to try to bring her stamina to the fore.

Mystic Wells herself has progressed from a Brighton handicap to winning the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial last time. She will again try to lead her field from start to finish but will find this a good bit tougher opposition.

The Ballydoyle filly, History, cost a cool 2.8million guineas as a yearling and had looked faintly like justifying some of the massive price tag when going back to back in a Gowran maiden and a Leopardstown Group 3; but she was rumbled over the mile of the Irish 1000 Guineas and is now jumping half a mile up in trip. Out of a Showcasing mare, she is not necessarily bred for middle distances, though there is no track evidence yet that it will be beyond her. She has a bit to find on the book as well as the pedometer.

Godolphin have a ticket to the Ribblesdale party, too, and send their twice-raced Life Of Dreams. She was a facile winner of a Newbury maiden over ten furlongs on debut in April and then got closest to Emily Upjohn in the Musidora at York last month. That was still more than five lengths adrift of the Oaks second but she, like a number of her rivals, can be expected to progress further, and also has stamina in her pedigree.

Rounding out the sextet is Mukaddamah, trained by Roger Varian. She won a Wolverhampton novice on debut before taking silver in an Ascot conditions race over a mile, and then most recently a bronze behind Nashwa in the Listed Newbury Fillies' Trial (1m2f, good). She is yet another with pedigree and natural progression ahead of this tilt, though she has a little to find on numbers.

It was a striking performance by Sea Silk Road at Goodwood last time, albeit on very different turf, and she'll take plenty of beating if adapting to this faster lawn. A sporting alternative might be Magical Lagoon who will very much appreciate the extended distance and who might be able to get first run; the balance of her form to date is about as good as any of her rivals.

4.20 Gold Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 4yo+)

The highlight of Ladies Day is the Gold Cup, 215 years old, and for horses that have class and stamina in equal measure. The nature of the race, and of breeding fashion, means that we've been blessed with a clutch of serial winners, the latest of which was Stradivarius, who rattled off a hat-trick between 2018 and 2020. There was a feeling that he ought to have secured the four-timer but for a rare lapse from big race perfection by his peerless jockey, Frankie Dettori; whilst it's certainly true he didn't get a clear run, I'm unconvinced he'd have won on the day in any case.

Since then, the now eight-year-old has found Trueshan too good twice, both times on a softer surface, but has also won thrice, each time on sounder turf. Therein lies the crux of the matter: both Trueshan and Stradivarius appear somewhat picky about underfoot requirements. The former wants it soft or at least softish, the latter wants it quick or at least quickish. On this occasion, the weather gods appear to have smiled upon the three-time champ and, granted normal luck in running, he's going to make a bold bid once more.

But neither is favoured. That honour goes to Kyprios, a relative newcomer to the staying ranks who is now unbeaten in two since stepping up beyond a mile and a half. However, hitherto, he's only stepped up marginally beyond that range, and here will be invited to see out an additional three-quarters of a mile against teak tough veteran warriors. A 14 length last day win was all but expected - his SP was 1/10 - and I'm not (yet) buying the hype on this fella. He's the upstart, all right, but he still has several unanswered questions on his exam paper.

There are other pretenders in the field. Princess Zoe has been at the top table for a while now, winning the G1 Prix du Cadran (2m4f, heavy) in 2020. She was also closest to Subjectivist in last year's Gold Cup (good to firm), so we know she stays very well, has class and handles pretty much any turf. But she was five lengths second and it's hard to believe she'd have finished in front of Stradivarius if he'd had a clear passage. Princess Zoe warmed up for her Gold Cup tilt with a Group 3 score in the Sagaro Stakes on this track though at the shorter two mile range: she shapes up well against conditions, I just wonder if she has the class needed.

For dreamers and fantasists - that's me, in case you'd not already fathomed as much - there's an interesting one in the long grass. Brian Ellison trains Tashkhan, a four-year-old who has improved with age and racing from 0-70 handicaps to Group races. He was second here in the Group 1 Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day (two miles) - Stradivarius third - and was only three lengths behind Strad in the Yorkshire Cup (1m6f) last month. This longer distance looks tailor made, he handles all ground conditions, has only five lengths to find on official figures, and he's a bit of each way value at... wait, what? 40/1? First or last, that's way too big.

Mojo Star was last seen 278 days ago in the St Leger where he ran a mighty race to finish second. He occupied the same position when running an even more impressive race in the Derby so, if he is fit enough after that layoff and if he stays, he could be in the mix. Those are a couple of big if's but his class is demonstrable.

France comes to the Gold Cup via Mikel Delzangles' Bubble Smart. She was third behind Trueshan in the Cadran last October, and had previously rattled off a hat-trick at trips around two miles; but she's been beaten both times this season with no obvious excuses for a below par effort last time. She handles good ground but is unlikely to have raced on turf this rapid, which is another question mark.

This is a race that ostensibly revolves around Kyprios and Stradivarius in the presumed absence of Trueshan. If the last named does run, there are clear reservations about fast ground. Kyprios has to prove he stays this far and that he's a Group 1 horse - he probably does and he probably is, but his price seems to have factored more 'definitely' than 'probably' into it. I can see Stradivarius taking strong support with the Frankie factor in play, and I think he has a great chance to add a fourth Gold Cup to his sumptuous CV. If you want a hail mary play, consider Tashkhan, who looks like he'll appreciate the longer distance and has form in and around Strad and Trueshan - he's 40/1 or so.

5.00 Britannia Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

This is too difficult for me, frankly. A means of shortlisting three-year-old handicaps at the Royal meeting is this:

- Not making their handicap debut
- Ran 1st or 2nd last time out
- Won, or beaten two lengths or less last time out

That removes half the field. Alas, it also leaves half the field! A few of the remaining 15 I like the look of are:

Whoputfiftyinyou - unbeaten in four, he won a strong-looking handicap at Haydock last time beating St James's Palace Stakes-bound Mighty Ulysses. As with other entries in the second part of the week, we'll have a better idea on the merit of the form after other runners have franked, or clunked, the form. Held up to get the trip on his first try at a mile at Haydock, he saw it out very well and now comes to a race where closers are the de rigeur run style.

Tranquil Night - winner of his last three, the form of which has worked out very well. He was nearly four lengths too good for Outgate at Newmarket last time, that horse having won twice since. The 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th have also won since, none of which were in the same postcode as the winner at the jam stick.

Atrium - another from the January Clock Watcher post, he was a three length winner over course and distance in early May since when he's been saved for this. Held up there, he stormed through to score decisively, and the second and third have both won since. The remainder were more than five lengths adrift of the winner.

Koy Koy - race was lost at the start last time when he was badly interfered with and almost fell; despite that he passed all bar the winner around Chester's Roodee, a track where it is almost as hard to overtake as the Monaco Grand Prix. Entitled to improve both for a straight mile and a second run of the season.

Obviously, millions of others with chances. Good luck but don't ask me to choose a winner!

5.35 Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f, Group 3, 3yo)

Contested since 2002, the Hampton Court has had other names: it was initially the New Stakes because, well, it was new; then, in the midst of its Hampton Court days, it was renamed the Tercentenary Stakes in recognition of 300 years of racing at Ascot. It has now reverted to, and presumably will remain - until 400 years of racing at Ascot at least, the Hampton Court.

I'm bound to say that that short gallop through the naming history of the race may be more exciting than either its victorious alumni or this year's entries, both of which could be argued are a trifle underwhelming for the Royal meeting.

However, there is a story hereabouts, and that is the odds on favourite, Reach For The Moon, is owned by The Queen. How wonderful most people would consider it were Her Majesty to enjoy a winner here in the year of her Platinum Jubilee. I would be amongst that group, though I respect others' right to be less excited at the prospect.

To the form, and we again will know more after an earlier race; in this instance, the St James's Palace Stakes will reveal more about the level of My Prospero's ability, RFTM having finished second to that Group 1 aspirant last time. He is already a Group 3 winner, last summer in the Solario Stakes, and was just a neck second in the G2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster thereafter. Reach For The Moon is entitled to step forward for his seasonal pipe opener, is bred to relish the extra quarter mile and has the help of Signor Dettori up top.

Prospective party-pooper-in-chief is Claymore, second in the Craven Stakes on his only 2022 appearance. That form has worked out well with the winner, Native Trail, finishing second in the 2000 Guineas before winning the Irish equivalent. And third placed Hoo Ya Mal hardly let the side down when getting closest to Desert Crown in the Derby.

In contrast, the form of Cresta's second to Star Of India in the Dee Stakes at Chester took a whack when that one ran a stinker in the biggie at Epsom. I'm not sold on this four-time loser since a novice score so, naturally, expect him to win!

Hughie Morrison looked as though he had another good one on his hands when Maksud won in spite of greenness on debut, though some of that initial optimism dissipated with a close up fourth in the Listed Cocked Hat at Goodwood. Fully entitled to step forward again on this third career start, he'll need to find close to a stone on official figures.

The other pair, Howth and Kingmax, are not obvious contenders though could surprise if the race got extremely tactical.

Frankie will probably try to keep this simple by bouncing out and gradually winding up the pace in the hope of burning off his five rivals. I hope that he, and Reach For The Moon, achieve that. Next best looks like Claymore but aside from the Royal angle I'm not too fussed for this one...

6.10 Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

Or this one, either... it is too hard for me. A little bird tells me Vafortino, winner of the course and distance Victoria Cup, might still be sufficiently ahead of his mark to go in again. I didn't want to risk wasting my time, and potentially your money, by offering any of my own thoughts on this most inscrutable of handicaps. The bar beckons...


Until tomorrow.


Monday Musings: Arc Love Abounds

The betting will tell you that next Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is a virtual match between 6-4 shot and dual fillies’ Classic winner Love and the Queen of world racing, Enable, who is available at 5-2 after just the 13 Group wins in an 18-race career over five seasons which has yielded 15 victories in all.

That two of them were in the Arc seems not to matter in the face of Love’s faultless campaign of 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. The memory of an almost unthinkable defeat when going for the hat-trick at Longchamp last October when Waldgeist got up late to deny her, and another second place to Ghaiyyath in the Eclipse Stakes this summer have only slightly dented Enable’s air of invincibility.

The promise of rain in Paris this week will not shake the confidence of the Gosden-Dettori-Abdullah team, nor will the prospect of facing some of the best colts in Europe on Sunday. Those two elements have still to be addressed by Love, representing the Aidan O’Brien filly and her Coolmore owners. Their three-year-old will have a 6lb weight advantage against her revered rival, but obviously boasts a great deal less experience.

That said, Love did run seven times as a juvenile, winning three. Two of those victories last year were on good ground, the other on good to firm. When she was defeated, three of the four were on good to soft or yielding. All three of her Group 1 successes this year have also been officially on good. Add in that she has yet to meet a colt and, while the margins of her wins have been uniformly eye-opening, this represents a new and deeper test.

At this distance, the big two overseas squads (as far as the French are concerned) of Gosden and O’Brien are garnering high-class back-ups. Gosden can bring another six-year-old, the multiple champion stayer Stradivarius, who has shown on two occasions, admittedly in defeat behind Ghaiyyath and Anthony Van Dyck in the Coronation Cup and Anthony Van Dyck again in Longchamp’s Prix Foy, either side of a third Gold Cup at Ascot and fourth Goodwood Cup, that he is effective at a mile and a half. Soft ground or worse would only add to his competitiveness on Sunday.

He will have Olivier Peslier in the saddle this time as Frankie is understandably ever more welded to Enable. The third Gosden runner is anything but a lightweight too. Mishriff had not been considered one of the stable’s superstars when he travelled over to Chantilly for the French Derby (Prix Du Jockey Club) in July, but he won the 10.5 furlong Classic by a length and a quarter from The Summit. Next time out, in a four-horse field for a Deauville Group 2 over slightly further than 12 furlongs, he more than tripled his advantage over the same rival. No non-entity he!

The ground will finally determine which of the host of potential Aidan O’Brien contenders will form his back-up squad. Mogul is an obvious prime contender after his bounce back to form in the Grand Prix de Paris and the trainer was ready to forgive Japan’s lapses this season by pointing out that he has a good record around Parislongchamp, winning last year’s Grand Prix and finishing fourth to Waldgeist and Enable in the Arc. Derby winners Santiago and Serpentine would be possibles along with Anthony Van Dyck – less likely in the event of soft or heavy – and even Magical. I’m sure the mare herself, still on the upgrade at five, would relish the chance of another nip at Enable.

I think it could be a step too far for Pyledriver, but I feel Willie Muir’s three-year-old was unfairly condemned in many quarters as a non-stayer when third in the St Leger. Had he kept straight he could easily have been right there with Galileo Chrome and was getting back to the leaders again at the finish.

Recent Grand Prix de Deauville winner Telecaster will be aiming to complete his rehabilitation as a Group 1 performer without the services of Christophe Soumillon who guided him to a very easy success on soft ground that day at the conclusion of the August festival. That emphatic six and a half-length verdict on heavy ground at Group 2 level has encouraged Hughie Morrison and the Weinfeld family to take the plunge, with far less downside than the colt’s unfortunate Derby experience caused them last year.

A work-out over the full trip on the testing home gallop convinced Morrison that his four-year-old has the tools needed for a strongly-run Group 1 test and hopes it will keep raining. If Love or for that matter Enable can come through to beat that host of dangers on Sunday, she will deserve the highest accolade. But then, they both have been greatly acclaimed already. I take them in that order, LOVE to beat Enable and I’d be thrilled to see Telecaster get third.


Apart from the fact that the two horses I fancied for Saturday’s Cambridgeshire got impossible draws – one of them, Walhaan, won the race on his side and finished 13th of 27, I enjoyed the result. It was nice for Paul Hanagan that at the age of 40 – surely not - he was back in the big time after suffering such a bad injury from a fall at Newcastle when fracturing three vertebrae and having another – the sixth – badly crushed.

How he could come back from that I can barely imagine, but all he could do afterwards was thank everyone, especially Jack Berry House where he did most of his rehabilitation work, and long-term ally Richard Fahey who kept faith with him in the early stages of that recovery and continues to support the former champion jockey.

Now fully fit, and gratifyingly self-effacingly humble as ever, he teamed up with Paul and Olly Cole on Majestic Dawn and their lightly-raced four-year-old surged up the favoured stands rail to win by almost five lengths. This was only his second start of the year, after a last of ten around Kempton three weeks earlier.

At 40-1 it might have looked a forlorn hope, but Olly Cole certainly fancied Majestic Dawn’s chance as he had been fifth in the race last year behind Lord North. Cole junior has grown quickly into his role as co-trainer with his father and it is certain that all those earlier big race triumphs for Paul Cole can be remembered in the context of this revival in the yard’s fortunes.

Paul and Olly Cole were the first of the co-trainers to record a win, quicker even than Simon and Ed Crisford, who were operating under that banner earlier than their Berkshire-based counterparts. The Crisfords have had a brilliant season from their Newmarket yard and so have two much newer operations in the same town.

I remember a few years ago I discovered that George Scott, still working as assistant to Lady Jane Cecil at Warren Place, had a house in Newmarket where Ed Crisford, assistant to his father; James Ferguson, with Charlie Appleby for Godolphin; and George Boughey, Hugo Palmer’s assistant, were his house-mates.

In view of where they all are now, it’s interesting to ponder what they managed to talk about in the evenings when settling down to Coronation Street on the telly. Judging on Scott’s steady progress from his larger premises and support of father-in-law Bill Gredley, and the flying starts made by Ferguson and Boughey, the quartet probably did a little knowledge-exchanging about the business they are now adorning with so much promise.

Talking of promise, I wonder what will assail the ears of young Leo Sangster, christened last week by proud parents Sam and Maddy, over the next week or two. Sam is readying himself for another sales season with his thriving agency, but before that gets too demanding, the Sangsters and their co-owners have a date in Paris, where his late father Robert enjoyed three Arc successes in four years with Alleged (twice) and Detroit.

Sangster senior was one of the first owners that supported Nicolas Clement when he was compelled to take over the Chantilly stable of his father Miguel on his sudden death. Clement struck almost immediately in the 1990 Arc with Saumarez, ridden by Gerald Mosse (still going strong 30 years later) for owners Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky, the ice hockey legend, great friends of Robert Sangster.

Sam Sangster has already enjoyed Stakes success with horses trained by Nicolas Clement and they have high hopes of their bargain two-year-old Camelot filly, King’s Harlequin, bought for only €30,000, in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. King’s Harlequin won the Group 3 Prix d’Aumale, one of the customary trials for the Marcel Boussac, over the course and distance, in impressive all-the-way fashion last time and is sure to be a major contender on Sunday.

- TS

Monday Musings: Trouble’d Times

Last week I wrote in this space that I would not be trying to join the 5,000 racing optimists who were all set to travel to Goodwood for the test meeting set to confirm that the country is indeed coming out of the worst effects of the now almost five-month agony of the Coronavirus pandemic, writes Tony Stafford.

Barely 24 hours before this new departure for so many, the word came of the frustration for the 5,000, the feeding of which was not the matter of a Biblical “five loaves and two fishes” miracle. It was a major logistical exercise involving butchers, bakers and if not candlestick makers, certainly outside caterers who had worked night and day on menus, the provision of champagne, lobsters and smoked salmon as well as the beer, pies and burger vans that keep all us hungry racegoers happy.

My wife’s interest in racing is about as deep as that of Josephina, the Yorkshire terrier’s, but Boris’ statement did strike a nerve and possibly the beginning of a protest movement with the prospect of  ice skaters standing outside 10 Downing Street or as near as security will allow them, wearing their skates. She (not Josephina), in what was to be her first try-out of her repaired broken leg, had lessons booked for today, tomorrow and later in the week. But once again, with the rinks having gone to the expense of getting the ice prepared for action after all that time, they got the same two-week delay as beauty salons, bowling alleys and indoor theatres.

Coaches have lost their income but now, happy to be back had set up the initial appointments, which have now spun on for two more weeks. Champion skaters, those young kids who practice at crack of dawn before school every morning and then again straight after to try to do well enough to represent their country in international competition, often when they are among only a handful of people in the arena, have another fortnight at least to vegetate and try to keep the enthusiasm going. As she says, public sessions should be treated as a separate issue.

The ramifications, as with what happened to all that food prepared for Goodwood, are far-reaching. I hope the bulk of those choice provisions was able to be diverted to people who would have been grateful for it, but you have to wonder whether some was just chucked into a nearby bin with losses covered by insurance.

The cause of the delay was a “spike”, or an increase in parts of England in the mystical “R” figure. As I’ve been boring readers for months, I’ve kept a daily record of the numbers of new cases and deaths and every week since the peak on April 12, the number of deaths had been decreasing. Percentage-wise from the week of April 12th (incidentally in 2020 it would have been my dad’s 100th birthday, and how he would have celebrated Saturday’s Cup Final result!) it has gone down initially by 3%, then 11%, 14.6%, 28.8%, 18.4%, 22.4%, 21.4%, 5%, 28%, 19.2%, 11.5%, 16.2%, 10%, 20% and in the week to July 25th, another 7%.

From 6425 in the week to April 12th, deaths had dropped by 93%. Even though many more people had been tested as the weeks went on, new infections have continued to fall. The last week did show some modest increases on its immediate predecessors in new infections, but fatalities were almost static in the week of “new spikes” and an increased R number. Last week it was 452 and contrary to what we are being subliminally persuaded to believe, this week to yesterday it was still down, albeit by only three.

If the government thinks that bowling alleys, ice rinks and theatres are going to cause the much-feared second wave, then what about pubs where the boyos could watch the Cup Final in close contact with each other, or indeed Goodwood and Galway and celebrate backing a winner? Or the beaches, where in the near 90-degree heat of Friday and Saturday, the crowds were much in evidence again? Social distancing, where?

I’m just waiting, having stayed indoors to all intents and purposes since Cheltenham, to resume normal life, as no doubt we all are. As predicted, I enjoyed Goodwood and Galway, mostly for the amazing performance of Stradivarius, when I confidently expected the Irish Derby winner Santiago to take advantage of the 15lb weight-for-age allowance. The way Frankie Dettori extricated him from a typical Goodwood pocket was a measure of his enduring greatness as a jockey. I expect a big run from him in the Arc. Can he beat Enable and Love? Maybe!

Battaash emulated Strad’s four-timer in the Goodwood Cup with one of his own in the King George Qatar Stakes, but his task was far less onerous. Charlie Hills, a trainer who seems to get very little recognition for his skills - maybe it’s his mild, polite manner or just that he is his father’s son - has done wonders to concentrate all of Battaash’s once-wayward tendencies into track record-breaking brilliance.


In the 20 years since Betfair was launched onto an innocent market place many things have changed, especially in the horse racing world. Its arrival coincided with the last two of my 30 years at the Daily Telegraph and I remember writing in that publication that I believed anyone on the new exchange sites who laid horses should be required to be licenced as bookmakers– and pay for the privilege.

Nothing has changed that opinion, but what is different today is the degree to which Betfair Exchange odds lead running “industry” (as they are almost exclusively now) prices and influence SPs.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that bookmakers do not give money away willingly. So when as happened in the 8.30 race at Thirsk on Wednesday, a horse that the owner had been backing, not excessively, but significantly all afternoon and at 8 p.m. or thereabouts was firm at around 10-1, could, by 8.20, just before the first show in the shops, be available briefly at 60-1 on Betfair, you knew something was probably “funny”.

The horse in question was Trouble Shooter, a five-time winner for owner Simon Lockyer in 2019 under trainer Shaun Keightley but now with Richard Guest. This was to be his debut for the Yorkshire-based trainer and in the build-up to this first run for seven months, expectations had been high. I’ve known Lockyer for just over a year and in the winter we met one of my friends who had been interested in buying into one of the owner’s horses. That didn’t happen but he obviously keeps a close eye on matters racing and betting and called at around 6.30 to say he’d seen that Trouble Shooter “has gone from 12’s to 7’s so presumably it’s fancied.”

I called Simon, and learned that yes they were more than hopeful, at the same time revealing that an associate connected to one of his horses had just called to ask him about Trouble Shooter’s chances.

“He said,” Lockyer began, “that he doesn’t like ringing to ask about another owner’s horses but would like to know if he thought it had a chance. He said he’d had a multiple bet, finding some long-priced winners and that if Trouble Shooter won, it would come to £300,000.”

Upon ending the call, I related that information to my friend and we haven’t discussed it since. Hopefully he didn’t rush to take the reduced price as he would have been no more shocked than me and of course Lockyer when the first show at the track was 25-1. That did prompt some modest mid-market support down to 12-1 but by the off he was out to 20-1 having touched 28’s according to the betting report. After at one time getting as close as fifth, around three lengths behind the leader, he eventually dropped away to finish eighth of the ten runners.

As I said earlier, bookmakers do not give money away. The trainer assured the owner that Trouble Shooter would run well, only reducing his assessment from ten out of ten to nine in the last hours before the race, but I’ve found over 50-odd years’ experience of talking to trainers that even the best of them have slightly diluted optimism as race-time approaches.

It is well known that Betfair have an open line to the BHA, one which has brought about suspensions of a number of jockeys and owners, who contrary to the rules had been found to have laid their horses on the Betfair Exchange. I trust - and I know Nick Rust sees these words every Monday - that Wednesday’s 8.30 race at Thirsk will feature in their deliberations. Not least identifying which bookmaker stood to lose £300k.

The consequences of what happened are still unravelling where Simon Lockyer is concerned, but I repeat someone must have known rather than suspected that Trouble Shooter would not win, and I was aware beforehand that one punter stood to win £300,000 if he did win, or to be Devil’s Advocate, claimed that he would. I think the lay bets should be investigated down to the minutest of transactions. I know at least one other person that could provide evidence of his actions (exclusively backing not laying!) that morning and afternoon.

How can a 7-1 shot (I think they took 10’s at 8 p.m.) open at 25-1? The Editor of this web site was interested as the former Chair of the Horseracing Bettors Forum. Since I originally wrote these words it was he that informed me that Trouble Shooter had never won previously off a layoff of more than 30 days; and that he had been ahead of the eventual winner, the favourite King’s Charisma, three furlongs out; and that he was running off a seven pounds career high mark.

Fair points, I agree, but I still contend that somebody KNEW Trouble Shooter would not be winning. It would be interesting to know who was so certain that he was prepared to offer 60-1 against it happening.

  • TS