This looks as tricky a betting race as your ever likely to find as most have something to prove. Kings Fete hasn’t been sighted since flopping in the 2014 St Leger, he had previously looked quite decent but he was a known puller. Presumably the tendon injury he suffered in the Leger has enforced this long lay off but he has since been gelded and it has to be seen as a major positive that his top connections have kept in training. Berkshire is another returning from an enforced absence, already twice a winner at Group level he wouldn’t need to be at his best to take this but there are reservations given his absence. Master Carpenter drops in grade and deserves a nice pot after a string of fine efforts in defeat. Now 5, he has the least amount to prove and though he has an exposed look, he does look the one with the least to worry about and is almost a certainty to run a big race. Decorated Knight has a bit to prove in this Grade but he is well bred and entitled to find more improvement this term. Formerly trained by Roger Varian it would be no shock should new trainer Roger Charlton find the key to him and a big run is expected, despite having to prove himself at the trip. Battalion might need rain and is held by Master Carpenter on their Chester running, he strikes as a hit and miss type however and he could be overpriced in this. Educate is tough and has placed in this before, he will likely run his race but a chance is taken on the imposing Berkshire proving good enough.
The Jonjo O’Neil trained Matorico very much caught the eye on his return to the flat when a fair 6th at York last week having met trouble in the run. This smaller field should give him a better chance though his price is short enough and this track is known for hard luck stories. Vive Ma Fille is extremely difficult to judge as her form makes little sense, she is coming down the weights though and if her Goodwood Cup run was reproduced here she would put this lot to the sword. Moscato signed off last season with a fine effort in the Cesarewitch, beaten only a couple of lengths that day he is entitled to go close and this trip looks in his favour. Gabrials King, Saved By The Bell and My Reward are all closely matched judged on their running at Ripon in April The last mentioned of that trio came out best and given his yards fine form, he is taken to uphold the form and go in. Venue likes it here and would become interesting if the market spoke in his favour but the rest are difficult to fancy in what is a wide open contest.
My Reward (WIN)
Moonrise Landing has won her last 4 races and has some tied in form that makes her a very big player in this, a cosy winner over a longer trip at Lingfield the last day she has already proven her effectiveness on turf and should go close. Quest For More won last seasons Northumberland plate and finished a good 2nd in the Group2 Goodwood Cup, he has a lot going for him today and his effort when last seen in the Melbourne Cup was encouraging. Elidor looked in need of the run when finishing a tired looking 3rd behind Dartmouth at Chester a few weeks ago, judged on last seasons form he has a big chance and is handed a tentative vote to improve for the run and take this. The Minch finished 3rd at 100/1 in the Aintree bumper and is a real unknown quantity, clearly smart he could run into a place at fancy odds but it would be some training performance if he won.
There may only be six runners in this race at Goodwood but it doesn’t make it any less competitive with three horses relatively short priced.
The favourite is Roger Varian’s Mount Logan. A previous course winner who has also won over the twelve furlong trip. The yard are in good form and it has to be respected but 13/8 seems quite short and although it looks an improving type this horse hasn’t contested anything above handicap level. The horses form around Goodwood with two victories from two starts is a huge positive but at such a short price I’m forced to look elsewhere.
According to the betting the two horses that are most likely to cause a threat to Andrea Atzeni’s ride is Mr Singh and Bateel.
Bateel is a course and distance winner who, as with the favourite, has a great record around the course. With three wins from four starts and an encouraging second placed finish here last time out this likely improver could be a force to be reckoned with. My slight doubt however is wether or not its faced horses of this calibre before and I feel it may find one or two too good today.
The one I’m plumping for is Mr Singh. Hailing from the top yard of John Gosden this horse has done well at group level, winning a Group 3 race last time and prior to that finishing second in a Group 2 race at Ascot. The Gosden yard are flying at the moment with a near 20% strike rate in the last fortnight. How fit the horse is after a layoff we don’t know but I’m willing to take a chance at the prices and on a horse that has been there and done it at a higher level.
Mr Singh (WIN)
Just when you thought things couldn’t get much tougher, along comes a 17 runner 3 year old handicap! Chief Whip must be high on the list having after finishing a good 2nd behind Castle Harbour over this trip at York a few weeks ago. The feeling is that he bumped into one that day and with no obvious concerns here today, he is taken to gain compensation despite having 6lbs more to shoulder. Predilection has a bit to find with the re-opposing Ode To Evening, he is easily the least exposed of the two however and given his connections, he is feared massively. Garcia, Wild Hacked and Zodiakos are other unexposed sorts with chances and of the outsiders Explosive Power makes some appeal.
Chief Whip (WIN)
A large runner field awaits as sixteen three year olds make their foray into the world of handicapping.
We currently have joint favourites between top weight Haalick and Richard Hannon’s Oh This Is Us.
Both have put in decent performances and deserve their rightful spots at the head of the betting. However with so many runners and so many likely improvers I just have to look for an alternative from the top two.
I don’t think I could go with a horse making their first run of the season so despite a course success to their name I’m looking past Godolphin’s Strong Challenge.
I also want to find a horse with a modicum of consistency and I feel I may have found that in the form of Ed Dunlop’s Alqubbah. The Dunlop team have been firing on all cylinders and I hope the yard can continue in the same vein today. Alqubbah has some decent form on the books. A second behind John Gosden’s Nathra who finished fifth in the 1,00 Guineas and subsequently went on to finish second in the French equivalent. The Dunlop horse also finished placed in a listed contest last time out against older horses and finished well that day. A drop into handicap company and against its own age group is an obvious plus and at a double figure price is worth backing.
A nicely competitive looking Listed sprint race is an intriguing puzzle to decipher up at Haydock where it seems to be a case of a decent level of three year olds are taking on some of the proven older crop.
The best of the older generation looks to be the favourite Interception who took home a big prize at Royal Ascot last season. The horse clearly has a great level of ability, especially to win a big race such as the one it did last year but that was followed by a string of lacklustre efforts. The David Lanigan yard are starting to hit form but due to the horses level of inconsistency I’m going to have to look elsewhere in this one.
The best of the youngsters seems to be Sir Michael Stoute’s Thetis who returned to action over a mile at York last time out. The horse didn’t seem to stay the trip so a step down to six furlongs seems to be a positive move. Between Thetis and Interception I’d marginally side with the three year old who looks to have far more room for improvement but I’m going against the pair of them.
Clive Cox enters Priceless into the race after a disappointing effort on its three year old return. I can forgive that run however after it was bumped at the start and just didn’t seem to be right on the day. I’m hoping the Cox team have rectified any concerns and that run will have helped the horse to learn a lot. With a course victory to its name it’ll clearly enjoy the track conditions and I feel the better ground will be a plus for this horse. Yes it may not be the classiest runner in this but with eleven runners I’m hoping it can place at least.
Our final race from York sees the sprinters come out to play as sixteen are set to go to post for this five furlong contest.
There’s not too much in the betting but as it stands the current market leader is Mick Channon’s Shore Step. A string of five impressive performances shows that this horse can more than hold its own in big handicaps. I feel a drop in trip back down to five furlongs might be beneficial and with Champion Jockey Silvester De Sousa in the saddle it’s bound to put in a great performance. That being said however I couldn’t feel too confident about backing a favourite that hasn’t won in its last seven starts. The horse should definitely be there or thereabouts come the business end of the race but feel it may be a horse that once again finds a few too good.
A horse worth mentioning is Kevin Ryan’s Bogart. A horse that was fancied to do well here last time out but unfortunately flopped. A win over Goldream back in 2013 reads as fantastic form but I feel it isn’t anywhere near that level nowadays. I expect a much better performance compared to its last outing but drawn out in a high numbered stall won’t be helpful and I look elsewhere.
With sixteen runners entered I’m actually going to opt for two selections in this. The more fancied one of the two, according to the bookmakers, is Stuart Williams’ Royal Birth. An encouraging sixth placed finish over course and distance last time out when hampered at the start looks good and if the horse can build on that from a low stall is definitely worth following.
An outsider in the field that looks interesting is Related. Paul Midgley loves to grab a winner at York and although the trainer enters two in the race I prefer the Phillip Makin ridden runner. It’s fair enough to say that the horse has hardly been firing on all cylinders of late but looking through its form and its only run at York garnered a decent second place finish. A fourth in last years Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot looks solid and finally the drop down to the minimum trip is what the horse gets today. Its blistering out of the gate speed is ideal for a five furlong sprint and I’m hoping it has everything lined up for it to put in a big performance at an even bigger price.
Royal Birth (E/W)
We end todays live action with the showpiece, Group 2, race of the day in England where The Temple Stakes takes centre stage at Haydock.
If the bookmakers are anything to go by then this should be a veritable walkover for Michael Dods’ Mecca’s Angel. The five year old is a multiple Group 3 winner who capped off last season with a sensation two length victory over Acapulco in the Nunthorpe at York. It is undoubtedly the class horse in the race but 6/4 is very short indeed. Although I could see it winning I’m hoping to dig out better value.
Next in the betting we have the two Al Maktoum runners in the shape of Muthmir and Waady. Two horses that on their day need the upmost respect. Of the pair I’d say that Waady was the most dangerous threat to the favourite (out of the two) with a more encouraging third placed finish on its return. A drop in trip and a return to firmer going should be helpful and it should run well enough, especially if the newly fitted headgear helps to eek out any improvement.
There’s a small trio of course and distance winners and my selection lies within this trio. As mentioned earlier it isn’t the favourite so that leaves both Steps and Pearl Secret and of the two I’m going for David Barron’s runner.
Pearl Secret has a great record over course and distance with a 50% strike rate. The horse won this race last year and with firmer ground in its favour it’s bound to relish todays conditions. This years renewal looks more competitive than last years but at a best price of around 18/1 it looks ridiculously good value and a chance has to be taken for each way money.
A mention has to go to Group 1 winner Goldream who, now returning back to British soil must surely fair better than it showed in Dubai.
Pearl Secret (E/W)
Away from todays Televised action we also have three top class group races over at The Curragh in Ireland.
The first of the trio of group races in Ireland comes in the form of a six furlong sprint where, to me it looks to be a battle between two top class four year olds. Representing Richard Fahey we have the unbeaten favourite Don’t Touch and king of Irish sprinting, trainer Eddie Lynam sends course and distance winner Fort Del Oro.
It may seem somewhat simplistic and a tad disrespectful of the other six runners but I just cannot see past these two runners. In all honesty I’d say the best bet would be a reverse forecast including these two runners but alas I can’t do that so I’m going to marginally side with the English raider and unbeaten Don’t Touch. It should come on again for its victory last time out and despite the Lynam runner this race doesn’t look overly competitive as the Tony Hamilton runner looks to progress onto bigger and better things this season.
Don’t Touch (WIN)
The big time race this Saturday is the Irish 2,000 Guineas where, as with the previous group race in Ireland it could be seen as another two horse race between English 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold and the favourite for that race Air Force Blue. Between the two of them I’d have to side with Galileo Gold, quite simply because it beat the Ballydoyle runner completely out of site when they met last time out. However returning to Ireland, to a course it’s won at before, in a less competitive race, a smaller field and with a run under its belt I can see Air Force Blue putting up a much sterner test this time around.
Although the top two in the betting are going to get most of the attention the horse that may have slipped under the radar is Awtaad. A lightly raced colt who may have more improvement than both of the market leaders. There’s a few whispers going around for this runner who hasn’t put a foot wrong in two runs this season and it may have a little bit that could worry the top two. All that being said though I’m actually going for a selection that may seem even more “left field” Jim Bolger’s Sanus Per Aquam has a 100% strike rate at the course and finished a creditable third in The Dewhurst when not handling the undulations of Newmarket. Needless to say it needs to bring out a career best performance but it has won a Group 3 in its two year old days so it isn’t completely out of the realms of possibility. I’m hoping it’s come on over winter and with the Bolger team doing well it may surprise a few. In all honesty I don’t expect it to win but it’s bagged a hat full of placed efforts behind some decent types. Although it may be the proverbial bridesmaid at times if one of the main runners fails to fire this one could be there to pounce and at 25/1 it looks a decent chance providing eight runners line up at the start.
Sanus Per Aquam (E/W)
We end the top class action at The Curragh with a one mile, Group 2 contest on the new course.
The favourite is Jim Bolger’s Lucida who has arguably contested much tougher contests than this in her time but despite the promise she showed as a two year old, her three year old campaign of last season consisted of disappointing runs where she was expected to do much better but just didn’t deliver. In theory, on her best form, she should win this race doing veritable cartwheels but after last years poor showing I just couldn’t trust her to put her best foot forward.
One horse that I do think is very consistent, if not always finding herself in the winners enclosure is Ger Lyons Ainippe. The course winning four year old hasn’t quite managed to compete at the highest level but a third behind Legatissimo on ground that wasn’t ideal isn’t too bad a result. I can forgive her last race on very soft going and after blowing off the cobwebs and returning to a surface that’s much more preferable I could definitely see her finishing in the top two. It’s a shame there’s only the seven runners for place purposes but I’m still going to stick with number one on the race card and hope Ainippe can improve even more today.
I cannot ignore Irish Rookie who has done well in big races before without necessarily winning and if the favourite isn’t on song could, along with Ainippe, muscle out the market leader.