It's been a few days since I've posted, dear reader, and for that you have my apologies. Projects like Placed To Win (and, in all honesty, a deep fascination with the Tour de France) have sidetracked me from my usual schedule.
In any case, I'm back - for what it's worth - and in today's scribbles, I'll be reviewing the weekend's racing and previewing this week's fare, which promises to be tip top, should the drip drop of the rain stip stop to allow for horses to clip clop... (yes, I know, you've missed my laboured and juvenile turns of phrase!) 😉
But first, a catch up on the excellent Fantasy Racing competition being jointly run by Racing For Change and the Telegraph. Of course, I would say it's excellent, because a glance at the 'Super League' leaderboard reveals the following:
Second place out of the hundreds of leagues entered, so far!!
This is down to a superb effort from a number of guys, most notably our early leader - and winner of the 'first trimester' trainer of the term, Rob Samme, and his 'Slippery Saddles' team.
Congratulations also go to podium finishers, Dan Tory and Ken Weall, both of whom have contributed to the excellent super league showing.
There is a prize of a Premier day at the races for six people next year to the top super league, so keep on keeping on guys!
In the meantime, Rob, please contact me with your postal address so I can get your racing books prize out to you. 🙂
It seems to have been raining for forty days and forty nights now, and the deluges have claimed their casualties in the racing fixture list. So it was a brief burst of sunshine on Saturday afternoon, when Sandown's Eclipse card went ahead.
As well as the Group 1 ten furlong contest, which is (I think) the first Group 1 of the season where three year olds face up against their olders, there was a most interesting under card, featuring a Group 3 and two Listed contests.
If the Eclipse lost some of its lustre when the ante-post favourite, So You Think, was withdrawn, the race itself was compelling enough. It featured a progressive middle distance horse from last year in Nathaniel, who was making his seasonal début here.
Against him was Farhh, the facile Firsk Hunt Cup first (ok, that should have been Thirsk). This chap had subsequently run fird to the aforementioned So You Fink in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, on his first try in top class company.
He was unlucky not to be closer that day, and there was much conjecture about whether he shoulda coulda woulda won with a better ride from Dettori, who was poor this time.
My own view is that he'd have been much closer, but would likely have been second.
Saturday's race was far from a two horse contest, however, with Dubai World Cup winner, Monterosso; Dubai Duty Free winner, Cityscape; 2010 Eclipse winner, Twice Over; crack ex-Italian horse, Crackerjack King; and, Derby disappointment, Bonfire looking to rekindle his own flame from the dying embers of Epsom's burnout.
The feature of the race for me beforehand was how many of the horses seemed less than ideally suited by the conditions.
Cityscape was stepping up to ten furlongs for the first time; Farrh had yet to win at the ten furlong trip too; and Nathaniel and Monterosso had all shown their best form over twelve furlongs.
As it happened, this made for a great spectacle as, three furlongs out, the first under pressure Nathaniel looked to be a sitting duck for the cruising Cityscape, with Farrh a closing danger.
But racing is a funny game, and you don't get paid for aesthetic beauty in the run: you get paid for having your whiskers in front at the lollipop.
Nathaniel, who was clearly plenty fit enough for this first effort of the year, showed guts galore and kept finding for his jockey of the season, Will Buick.
And, in my opinion, it was that deeper reserve of stamina - allied to obvious class - which won him the races this day. Farrh is an excellent horse, and almost certainly up to winning a Group 1. My strong suspicion is that this son of Pivotal doesn't stay ten furlongs in Group 1 company.
Indeed, from the ten progeny of Pivotal to win a Group 1, only two fillies have won a Group 1 at ten furlongs or beyond. Lest we forget, Pivotal himself was a five furlong horse!
I'm not sure where the nine furlong Group 1's are, but I'd be tempted to have a crack at those. Saying that, I'm pretty sure that Godolphin will want to ultimately point this chap at the Champion Stakes and the Breeders Cup Classic.
The winner looks still to be progressive, and his next port of call, all being well, will be the mile and a half King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on 21st July. There, he could face up against Saint Nicholas Abbey, Sea Moon, Arc winner Danedream, plus top drawer Japanese runner, Deep Brillante. If just three of those turn up, we're in for a belting contest in a fortnight's time!
The front two pulled some way clear of the rest, headed by the staying on Twice Over. This fellow is seven now, and he's still doing a fantastic job in top class races. In fact, he needs just another £13,000 to take his career prize money beyond the two and a half million mark!
With four Group 1's to his name, this was another excellent effort and he'll probably be aimed at the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October in due course.
Cityscape flattened out markedly in the final run, and looks to be a miler who can get nine furlongs when things go right for him. Certainly, I'd be happy to back him against pretty much any opposition over eight furlongs next time. He continues to be another remarkable old stick (now six) for the Prince (Khalid Abdulla).
The rest came in at fits and starts, and Crackerjack King now has something to prove against the best of British (and Irish) runners.
Bonfire fizzled out tamely again, and connections are suggesting he went lame here. If that's true, then fair enough, but this chap is accumulating excuses as quickly as his brilliant trainer is accumulating winners this season. Personally, I suspect he'll be retired soon enough, before he does his stud value any more harm... (cynical old me).
There is a perception going around racing circles - perpetuated by performances such as Bonfire's - that the three year old brigade are pretty moderate this season. Whilst it's too early to be categorical about that, the early evidence doesn't look good for them, and it will take more than Camelot running unbeaten through the season to change many people's opinions. Tempus dico, as they don't say. (Or time will tell, as they do).
Earlier in the day, the Group 3 sprint was a messy - and rough - affair, but there was no questioning the merit of the winner's performance. Caledonia Lady, representing the up and coming Jo Hughes, was much the best despite a winning margin of just a nose.
She found all sorts of trouble in running and, whilst that is her style of racing - which means you'll be cursing your luck often enough if you back her habitually - she ought to continue to run well in Group company, having not been beaten far in the Group 1 King's Stand last time.
She may be pointed to the Curragh next time and, if luck comes her way, she'll be hard to beat. Apart from her, the rest don't look good enough to trouble the main Group 1 protagonists this year, though both Elusivity and Medicean Man were slaughtered in their respective runs and are better than the bare form.
Rolling forwards, this week sees the next of the Summer Festivals, and we're off to Newmarket's July course for their, erm, July Festival.
The highlight is the Group 1 Darley July Cup, run on Saturday, but I'll be attempting to bring you my race by race thoughts from Thursday, when the big meet action starts.
Hopefully we can bag a winner or two, though I have to tell you my winner-finding radar does need a spot of tweaking between now and then, as the weekend was a washout on the wallet, as well as the weather, front!
Anyway, if that might be of interest, stay tuned for that. And, of course, in the meantime, the excellent team of Geegeez writers will be spoiling you rotten with such treats as 'Well I Declare' (tomorrow), 'Punting Confessional' (Wednesday), 'Trainer Stats' (Thursday), and of course 'Stat of the Day' every day.
You can 'fast track' to these posts by hovering over the 'Horse Racing Blog' menu item and clicking your chosen sub-menu item, as per the image to the right.
Oh, and don't forget Ian's brilliant sideways take on the latest horse racing news, both home and abroad. Obviously, I'm massively biased, but I think he's becoming one of the best news writers in the land, and you'll find stories here that you won't find on any of the major racing sites (largely because their writers aren't actually allowed opinions, nor to deviate from the sycophantic norm!).
So stick with Geegeez for your daily dose of racing recreation. 🙂
p.s. I should also thank you / apologise to you for your interest in Placed to Win. That filled up far quicker than I expected (less than an hour!), and we're monitoring price impact at the moment.
The service has had a slowish start, and we're still ironing a few things out with it. I'm sure that things will settle over the next week or two, and then we'll take a view about whether we can let anyone else sign up. If you're on the waiting list, thank you, you'll be the first to know.
If you're not on there, and would like to be, you can add your name here.