For anyone who is not familiar with the format of the Shergar Cup. It is a team event with, GB & Ire, Europe, Rest of the World and of course the Ladies team. A max of ten runners will run in each race and points scored for your finishing position. Two reserves will be in each race and can be supplemented into the race at any stage up the forty five mins before the off. Which makes this a nightmare event to cover! Lets say the quality of racing is not the thing on show here, more a fun day out!
We start this years edition with five furlong race for the Shergar Cup Dash! Double Up is a short price given his draw and conditions of this race. Brett Shinn the Aussie takes the ride for the Rest Of The World team and while his countrymen are getting slaughtered at Edgbaston, favourite backers will be hoping for some better fortune. This horse has done nothing wrong this season but is up thirty pounds since first winning and the handicapper should catch him soon. On that basis he is readily opposed.
The selection is Dutch Masterpiece who will be ridden by in form jockey from Ireland Pat Smullen. He showed some very smart form at two and three and was previously rated at 110. Now twelve pounds below that and with the visor seen to good effect last time out he should give a strong running. Gary Moore has been amongst the winners this week.
SecretInThePark was a supposed runner last night at Newmarket but dodged that to come here. He has shown some old spark recently and must be feared while Green Door represents the same yard but is having first start so would hard to be confident. If either Johnston horses get in they would also be off interest.
Dutch Masterpiece (E/W)
From a dash to a marathon (that is just how the Shergar Cup roles) in the Stayers race. A competitive field where it is currently at time of writing 5/1 the field. A case could be made for most of these but the two to focus on are Teak and Purple Spectrum.
Teak has put up some excellent performances this season at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. That sandwiched a poor enough run over hurdles where he never seemed interested. This sharper trip may just allow him to dictate under Shinn. The yard are most likely building towards a tilt at the Ceaserwhich at Newmarket come end of the season. Teak has a higher mark now but it looks likely to be a hot renewal this year so a slight bump would be welcome. This appears on paper a good opportunity.
Purple Spectrum last run came on soft ground and the best time to do with that is forget it. Prior to that on the all weather he beat High Secret and he went on to finish a head behind Seamour over course and distance recently. Purple Spectrum also ran in that race and as mentioned you can forgive it. Clearly something was wrong and the fact he is out again in arguably an easier race points to his chance for me.
Off the remainder it wouldn’t take much to make a case for any. Hassle and Our Gabriel are course winners but have never won over this distance while Wordiness is the most prolific in recent times and would be the chief threat after a good run at Goodwood.
Teak (E/W if 9/2+)
Purple Spectrum (E/W)
Our third Shergar Cup race this time over on Channel Four after some excellent hospitality on More Four. A trip over a mile and a half await the ten runners. The favourite is Xinbama, and while me and Spencer don’t get on most of the time. I am not a fan of Marmite! It must be said that this horse got a peach from him last time out. Travelled sweetly throughout the race and won by the bare minimum with what appearing to be plenty more in the tank. The second horse English Summer has since gone on to win and they were clear of the rest. This horse will not be for the faint hearted as Xinbama will come late but if Jamie gets it right should take the beating.
Elbereth was unlucky last time out and could still be in form but has suddenly found himself twelve pounds higher than his last winning mark given no claimer on board. That’s enough for me to look elsewhere. Majeed is another who could go close, but has never won on turf.
We head to Haydock for the first of two races, This a class two handicap. Basteen is the favourite and likely to be a warm order given connections and how Paul Hanagan operates here. There is plenty in favour with weight for age received from most of these. His opening run this season was poor but the step up in trip should see some improvement. Given the draw and need for some improvement to take this tough handicap, he would not be my idea of the answer for all that he could hose up and make me look silly!
Master Of Finance deserves a win. If any horse did he does. The son of Mastercraftsman has put up some epic performances in defeat and you nearly always get a run for your money. His run behind Great Park last time was a very good one and the way the Johnston horses hold there form he should run another big one at a fair price.
Festive Fare and Rembrandt Van Rijn are interesting runners, the latter has been winning by minimal distances and could still have something in hand while the former is feasibly treated back down in trip.
Master Of Finance (E/W)
Back to the Shergar Cup for race four and its the Mile! Halation was a definite eye catcher a couple of runs back when not really getting the clearest of runs. He is vulnerable at the head of the market as since then he has not hit the same heights. The handicapper may have him in his grasp. Wee Jean would be interesting if getting, but would need two non runners. Unforgiving Minute needs to prove as good on turf while Red Avenger looks overpriced if ignoring Goodwood run. This is similar to the selection Master The World for Pat Smullen, if you ignore last run, which should be easy to do given he was hampered and brought home in own time, he looked a progressive gelding prior winning and placing in some big handicaps. This again looks a good opportunity to get in front. Drawn poorly as per the statistics but with only 10 runners shouldn’t cause any problems.
Master The World (E/W if 9/2+)
The best race of the day on terrestrial television – the Rose of Lancaster Stakes, a group three, but only five line up. It is very hard to look past the favourite Intilaaq. If doing so your focus should be on Fire Fighting and Master Carpenter. The former has a far bit find based on his last run behind Intilaaq in Listed company. He has since finished third at Goodwood but at the weights couldn’t be offered with any confidence. Master Carpenter looks the one for forecast purposes winning a good York race last time out but back up in class has nine pounds to find on official ratings with the hotpot.
While both wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to win, to offer them as selections would be speculative as Intilaaq should win comfortably. A smooth winner ahead of Consort last time and on collateral form that puts him close enough to Gleneagles. Based on that anything other than a win would be bitterly disappointing for Roger Varian who holds this horse in the highest regard.
We head back to the Shergar Cup for the Classic and by this stage we should have a general idea of which team will take home the trophy.
Another tricky little handicap were cases could be made for the majority of the field.
Percy Veer and Skiddaw Valleys both run from out of the handicap so that could heed there chance. While Shell Bay form has been let down by Biotic who was well beaten earlier in the week. The Johnston duo look to have there work cut out as the assessor has had his say. This drop back in trip is also not certain to suit Havisham.
With most the field whittled away it leaves the favourite Perestroika to carry our flag. Up eight for his last win but was impressive in doing so. Candys runners are starting to pick up again after a slow start. This daughter of Sir Percy is bred for the trip and is still relatively unexposed, she can continue the winning thread.
For our penultimate race we head to HQ for a two year old contest, again like Haydock the turnout is slightly disappointing. Blue Bayou comes here with good form in the book and looks the one to beat after a close second on this course in group two company. She was sent off a big price on both starts but out ran them comfortably. She will take some beating but there are alternatives.
Bint Al Reem comes from a powerful Newmarket operation and was impressive first time up for all it left the impression there was more to come. However the selection as advised on this weeks podcast is Hawksmoor, an Azamour filly won strikingly well when not getting the cleanest run through. The yard are riding on a crest of a wave at the moment and this €80,000 yearling can continue their fine run of form.
The final race of the Shergar Cup and the final race live on Channel Four is a six furlong sprint.
Usually at Ascot you want to be drawn high, however as I’ve alluded to, it is not key with these small fields.
This race is a tricky number with the current market leader having racked up a couple of all weather handicaps. While they were impressive he is under-priced given the doubts on how he acts on turf.
The gelded Grandads World is interesting, however he has been a major disappointment since running Twilight Son very close at York.
Others to mention are Midlander and Roudee, both are holding there form very well and could be up to taking a contest like this. However the selection is Moonraker who represents Mick Channon and GB&Ire jockey team. While he doesn’t have race fitness on his side he was running in much better company last year competing in group races. The son of Starspangledbanner showed good form and has been dropped in the weights. Now with another winter under his belt can go on again.
Listen to our thoughts on this weekends four group races in England and Ireland as well as our eye-catchers to follow in this weeks podcast.