New website

Hi all,

Just a quick note that I won’t be posting very often on this blog from now on, as I just feel it’s run it’s course. I’ll be posting my thoughts on Racing on http://www.racingpreviews.co.uk.

Hope to see you on there and thanks for your support in the past!

Regards,

Josh

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2014 Racing Prospects – 07/05

Third week of posting, with three further horses to add to the list. Unfortunately, it was a bit disappointing with Golden Town running pretty terribly on handicap debut at Newmarket last Saturday. He got no cover, was too keen and didn’t get home. He’s much better than that and although he’s one to avoid for now, perhaps he’s worth keeping an eye on when guaranteed a good pace and cover. He may also improve for gelding. But I’ve little doubt that we are yet to see the best of him. Le Deluge also ran at the weekend and ran respectably in a fairly good race. He saw a lot of daylight on the outside but still showed some promise, and the comments I made about him winning when the market suggests he will, look to be spot on.

borntosurprise

216523Born To Surprise – Lee Carter (5yo)

It’s fair to say that anyone watching his last race at the start of April put him in their notebooks, but the 5yo surely has a race or two in him this season after catching the eye on more than just that occasion at Lingfield. His run in the Spring Mile at Doncaster also caught the eye, as he made ground late after seeing plenty of daylight. He didn’t stand much of a chance of winning such a race but races such as a 0-85 or a 0-90 handicap are well within his compass, especially considering he was rated as high as 97 when under the care of Michael Bell. I’m not a big fan of Amir Quinn and I’d be much more interested in seeing what Born To Surprise can do when he receives the handling of another jockey, he looks one to bare in mind for the future. A race over seven furlongs is his preference and when he gets another chance over that trip on turf, and with a good pace guaranteed, he’ll be a realistic betting proposition.

128474Gworn – Ed Dunlop (4yo)

I’ve read some comments on Social Media that Gworn has “gone at the game” (or words to that effect) after two sub-par efforts on turf this year. Sandwiched in between was a fair effort on the all-weather but I do feel that this one can find his form again sometime in the near future and should be capable of picking up a handicap on turf. Gworn handles most ground, having wins on soft and good ground and obviously handles the all-weather too. He looked pretty progressive towards the end of last season, a handicap victory at Haydock off a mark of 88 giving an indication that better was to come in 2014. Although that hasn’t happened yet, he can be excused his reappearance in the Spring Mile at Doncaster (tough race) and his latest turf spin at Ripon, caught my eye somewhat. I don’t think he was given a particularly good ride, given a lot to do and angled out wide. He wasn’t given the most forceful of rides either and I’m simply going to give Gworn another chance at some point in the very near future. Gelding could bring about some improvement considering he’s still an entire and although he may well be a little “soft” in the finish, as shown by his effort at Wolverhampton in early April, a big-field and a strong pace could mean that the race falls into his lap.

150127Eium Mac – Neville Bycroft (5yo)

This could well be the lowest rated horse I’ll put in the list as he’s currently only rated 51 but I long thought last season that Eium Mac could pick up a race and although things didn’t work out that way, he’s from a family that get better as they get older and as long as he doesn’t fall through the bottom floor of the handicap, I’d be amazed if we didn’t see much better from this one. He showed plenty of glimpses of ability last year, with runs at Ripon and Thirsk catching the eye, staying on nicely from the back of the field. Although,I got it completely wrong when he ran next time when upped in trip. I was sure that 1m2f would suit, but he just didn’t get home and he ran atrociously next time too (albeit given too much to do).

Although he could just be not cut out for the horse racing game, Eium Mac has shown enough in a couple of his races to suggest that a low-grade handicap could come his way. It was disappointing that he didn’t show more on his last two starts in 2013 but I’ll back my judgement that something more will happen this year. The family generally get better with age, it’s interesting that he’s been kept in training and will likely go off a very big price on his first start back. Neville Bycroft is able to get one ready first time up and Eium Mac should be worth supporting at huge odds once he shows up again.

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2014 Racing Prospects – 30/04

The second week of the “Racing Prospects” series and last week started with a winner, albeit one at odds-on. Music Master dispatched a field with ease that he ought to have been beating, but did it very well. He was keen early on and will surely improve for a strong pace with a big field around him and entries at Royal Ascot don’t seem too far-fetched, especially if he shows up well at York at the Dante Meeting.

On to this week and I’ve three more to add to the list.

49845Golden Town – Saeed Bin Suroor (3yo)

It has to be presumed that connections will be a little disappointed that the colt wasn’t quite up to earning a place in the Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday but it’s fair to say that they have an exciting colt here, with the only real concern being his tendency to veer one way or another in his races. If he eliminates that bad habit, then connections have a real exciting colt on their hands and he’s one who will get better as the season progresses.

There was plenty of promise on his debut in a decent Goodwood maiden before winning a fair York maiden with plenty in hand. Unfortunately, the steering problems surfaced there but it was a fine run and to me, looked like a horse that connections would possibly be able to go to war with in the Group races this season. He was originally allotted a mark of 93 and although he’s gone up 4lbs since his run in the Greenham, he’s surely still capable of winning off that sort of mark. He’s got a lot of potential, even more so if he grows up a little and I do feel that by the end of the season, he’ll be easily rated 105+. He strikes me as a Dubai type next year but we’ll see some much improved performances this term I’m sure and he’s one to keep a close eye on.

126605Eccleston – David O’Meara (3yo)

His form last season wasn’t up to a great deal, winning a fair maiden on debut before a decent effort in the Super Sprint at Newbury. That was last July and he wasn’t seen until last Friday but he reappeared looking like a horse of serious ability. He travelled like much the best horse and even though he didn’t get the best of passages, he won the race in a matter of strides. It may well be that he’s much better on soft ground, but that shouldn’t inconvenience him too much as there’s plenty of sprints throughout the year, and especially in France that should be run under them conditions. Although a 3yo sprinter is a tough gig sometimes, as connections often have to try running inexperienced horses against much more battle-hardened sprinters, Eccleston looks like a horse to follow. The way he travelled and put the race to bed suggested to me that he’ll be a Group horse in time, and he’s almost certainly going to much higher rated than the 96 he currently is. He’s in the right hands with David O’Meara and will be winning more races this season.

11773Le Deluge – Michael Easterby (4yo)

Previously with John Best, the confirmed front-runner lost his way at the end of last season after showing plenty of ability earlier in his career. He won a fair race in France at Deauville in April 2013 and that could have compromised his chances somewhat, as he struggled off a mark in the 80’s throughout the year. He did show some spark at Newbury last summer off a mark in the 80’s and he’s so much better when running from the front. Therefore, it’s interesting that current shrewd connections have purchased him for 30,000gns, quite a sum for a horse who hasn’t showed too much on recent starts. Michael Easterby will almost certainly get a win out of this one at some point in the season, especially as the tactics they’ve employed have been fairly negative since he joined the stable. Take the example of his Musselburgh outing over the Easter period, where they were much too patient with him and he never showed. A switch to front-running tactics and a drop in grade should see this one join the winners’ enclosure, with the market likely telling the full story.

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2014 Racing Prospects – 23/04

I’m pleased to introduce a new series of posts over the coming weeks, which will be posted every Wednesday evening.

The series essentially gives analysis on some horses to follow over the coming weeks. Most of these included will be running soon after inclusion and hopefully, we can find a few winners along the way. Some of these will be obvious, top-class horses while others will be running at a lower level altogether. My aim is for three horses a week, and all the posts will be archived in a separate page so for easy reference to what’s been included previously.

musicmasterMusic Master – Henry Candy (4yo)

Henry Candy is well-regarded for his training of sprinters but it took plenty of time for him to give this a go over shorter distances after traditionally being campaigned over 7f. Throughout those races he often showed blistering speed, but doing too much too soon and not getting home, emphasised by an effort in a Goodwood handicap, where he was going better than anything 2f out but just got tired. Connections finally relented and dropped him to 6f and the switch almost immediately paid dividends, finishing 2nd in a Group 3 at Ascot. To be honest, he was put in his place quite significantly that day by Tropics, who is well-touted to improve further for Dean Ivory this season.

However, I feel there’s plenty more to come from Music Master and he’s perfectly capable of turning the tables if they meet again. Firstly, another winter on his back will help him no end, seen as though traditionally, three year old sprinters struggle anyway. His four year old campaign will be much simpler and will have plenty more options available, so that’s always a plus. The other main positive is that he’s hardly been tried over these sorts of trips, he’ll have learnt from the experience of that Ascot run and will surely improve for it. Doing so would put him there or thereabouts in most of the big sprints and I think a big year lies in front of him. He even looks to have the speed to be capable at 5f and I wouldn’t be put off if he was dropped to the minimum trip, especially as he looks a sort that just wants to keep going faster.

He’s entered at Warwick on Thursday and it is a race that he should really be winning, especially as he’s the top-rated and the best in at the weights. The Godolphin Mar Mar could be an interesting rival off a low-weight but still has to improve plenty to trouble Music Master, who should win this race really if he’s only 80% fit. You’d be extremely hopefully of him picking this race up before going on to better things, possible in the Duke of York on the first day of the Dante Meeting.

59472Bow Creek – Mark Johnston (3yo)

The three year old has already picked up a Listed race this winter, an average three runner all-weather contest and that has, at this moment, significantly hindered his handicap prospects. He had a pretty tough ask running in the Royal Mile Handicap at Musselburgh over Easter, conceding at least 13lb to his rivals and that proved all too much for him. That being said, I don’t think he was given a particularly tough time of things and travelled pretty well for the most part and shapes to me as one who will find a big handicap when things are more in his favour, a little later in the season. He seems really adaptable in terms of tracks, with wins at Chester, Lingfield (AW) and Newbury all on his resume and he strikes me as a horse who, like many from this yard, will spring back to form at some stage. Although his win at Lingfield came in a average enough race, he did win with a fair bit in hand and never looked like being passed. A win could perhaps come in a Listed or Group race where the weights are more in his favour, but I really would not write him off at this stage, and is worth keeping a close eye on going forward.

The Kid – Tom Dascombe (3yo)

The most modest of this week’s trio but one who should also find some races in the upcoming weeks, after showing plenty of promise in Maidens’ and glimmers of hope on his handicap debut. A staying on 5th on debut over 7f at Haydock last year, his career was always going to be at a bit further and although beaten 17 lengths on his third start in a maiden, it’s fair to say that contest will probably turn out to be pretty decent in time. That, alongside the fact he travelled pretty well for the most part and wasn’t really given a tough time of things, indicates that connections ought to believe that there is plenty more to come (albeit at a low level).

A handicap mark of 65 was allotted and that seems pretty lenient in my view, even accounting for the fact he was beaten seven lengths on his handicap debut. He was seen travelling notably well towards the rear around 3f out, but his finishing effort was a little disappointing. Watching again, he was slightly hampered but it made little difference. He did shape though that he’s worthy of interest when dropped in trip, and perhaps the ground was too lively for him also (didn’t exactly look comfortable). Sent off the relatively skinny price of 9/2, connections must have expected better and I’ll side with that view for the foreseeable future, granted a sharper trip and “good” or softer ground.

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That’s all for this feature this week, I’m making a concious effort to get a bit more activity on here, so please do check back soon. Any comments, feel free to tweet me @joshfletch or leave a comment below.

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The 3yo Fillies’ division is crying out for a real star

With less than two weeks until the 1000 Guineas, thoughts have rightly turned to finding some decent value within the race. But, you have to say that the division is really open this season, especially with the untimely death of Chriselliam, who had the potential to be a true great, having won here and in America last season. She’d have been towards the top of the market in this race had all being well and it’s left a rather big vacuum in the Classic’ generation. What will fill this void? I’m mainly going to focus on 1000 Guineas entrants for now, but there’s some in here that will be really exciting at middle-distances.

The 1000 Guineas Favourite

Rizeena, the 1000 Guineas favourite (Pic: Mirror)

Rizeena, the 1000 Guineas favourite (Pic: Mirror)

The obvious starting destination is that of the Clive Brittain trained Rizeena, who currently heads the market for the 1000 Guineas. Her record of 4/8 and never being out of the frame in her juvenile season shows exactly what she is, remarkably consistent and almost a sure thing to be “there or thereabouts” on the Rowley mile. Some of her defeats have come to the aforementioned Chriselliam, the remarkably precocious No Nay Never, Vorba and Lucky Kristale. As you’ll be aware, some of these names she’ll be reappearing against at Newmarket and it just shows how open this division is, with rivals beating each other throughout the season. Though Rizeena is awfully consistent and a multiple Group 1 winner, you’ll have to be against her at odds around 4/1. Yes, she’s consistent and will run her race, but she doesn’t strike me as having real star quality. Personally, I’d want to be looking for a filly a bit more flashy and although she’ll most certainly pay her way this season, I just feel something will beat her.

Irish opposition

Bracelet (L) and Balansiya (R)

Bracelet (L) and Balansiya (R)

For opposition, a fair starting point could be to look to Ireland. The John Oxx My Titania and the Aidan O’Brien trained Tapestry are towards the top of the market and the former, I believe deservedly so. Sired and running in the same colours as Sea The Stars, she’s 3/3 and although it was only a Group 3 over 7f that she won last September, she and the runner-up pulled well away from the rest and she shapes as she’ll continue to improve for the further that she goes. The vibes from her stable are good and you would definitely expect progeny from Sea The Stars to improve this season out of all recognition and she could well her sire’ first chance of a Classic winner. Odds of 8/1 aren’t necessarily prohibitive, even though you have to taken plenty on trust. Tapestry seems to be the main hope of Ballydoyle and was behind Rizeena last time at Newmarket, being promoted from 3rd after interference. She looks classy but will almost certainly be more of a threat around Epsom later in the season, she looked a fair bit one-paced over the mile last season and I’d hazard a guess that if she had a different trainer, she would be double the price.

Other contenders from Ireland include one of my main horses to follow this season in Balansiya, who was beaten in her trial at Leopardstown in March behind well-touted Oaks prospect Bracelet. It was slightly disappointing that Balansiya was beaten but the ground was likely all wrong for her (connections always said she’d be better on better ground) and she was very impressive on the eye when winning her maiden, settling the race in a matter of strides. Market vibes for Newmarket aren’t particularly great at the moment, but if she’s declared closer to the time, then she’ll be definitely worthy of interest on the basis that she’ll appreciate the conditions and has always shaped to me that she’ll be a top-class filly. If she doesn’t go to Newmarket, I still feel she could be a top-class filly this season and will be a force to be reckoned with wherever she shows up next. Bracelet is also a possible for the Guineas and is well-worth following this season too. She’s slightly under the radar at the moment and could be well worth following closely too, especially when upped in trip.

UK Opposition

Lucky Kristale

Lucky Kristale

Of the home-grown, UK contingent, Lucky Kristale would be a popular winner coming from the relatively small-stable of George Margarson. She’s belied quite handsome odds on occasions as a juvenile as she’s frequently been underestimated, very possibly due to her connections. She looks a fine filly and has a real burst of speed. She should stay a mile but does genuinely shape as if she’ll be better over shorter distances. Connections have always said they’d be no problems with the trip and their opinion is obviously respected but a mile is a big step up, and I do really think that it will be a step too far at a Group 1 level. 3yo sprinters obviously have a hard time of things, but her future may lie at those trips. There’s also Ihtimal, who picked up the UAE Oaks at the Dubai Carnival. Quite possibly, the regular “concern” about Godolphin horses starting the season slowly may be negated by the fact she’s already being on the track this year. She also won by 10 lengths and was mightily impressive, even though she probably did not beat very much. She’s entitled to take her chance, but faces much tougher opposition here, on a completely different surface and meets rivals who haven’t had the stress of having to have done plenty of travelling through the early part of the year.

Sandiva, the winner of the Nell Glyn at Newmarket got things done in workmanlike fashion that day and after an expensive purchase by current connections, is another who may well be underestimated. She was very well thought of last season and although she disappointed in France on her last start, it’s possibly a fair assumption that she didn’t handle the ground that day. With a much sounder surface likely, and her attitude not a question, she has every right to take her chance and although hardly shaping like a horse we will be talking about in ten years, she could be one to go very well in a race such as the Guineas at quite handsome odds. J Wonder also won her “trial” and is very well-thought of by Brian Meehan. She started life in nurseries off a mark of 79 and won hilariously easily. She didn’t immediately step up when tried in Group company as a juvenile but has evidently improved from two to three. She’s still in the betting for the 1000 Guineas but have to improve once again and although possible, you’d have to be sceptical of her picking up a top-level Group 1 and will find her level in less well contested group races. The horse she beat at Newbury, Al Thakhira has a slightly similar profile, having being well-beaten when runner in the Breeders Cup last season. She looks to be pretty decent too but just under the level you’d think to be a winner of a top Group 1 in the UK, especially as she’s shown previously that softer conditions may suit. She may be one to keep an eye on in the French Guineas, alongside any further races with cut/or in France. Amazing Maria is an unexposed one for Ed Dunlop, who belied her average looking pedigree when hacking up at Goodwood last year, after being given a good ride. She’s reported to enjoy faster conditions but good ground at the slower side of good didn’t harm her chances last year. I’m not sure why she didn’t show up in the Nell Gywn and as an immediate betting proposal, I’d have to air on the side of caution, but she looks a terrific physical specimen and will be a really exciting horse for this season when next seen.

French Opposition

Miss France (pic: Sky Sports)

Miss France (pic: Sky Sports)

With the UK and Irish horses not springing out, it’s not unlikely that the best of the fillies will come from France. We saw this last season with Treve and French horses are lingering towards the head of the market for the early season Classics. Miss France looked the part last season, winning with plenty up her sleeve than the winning margin suggests at Newmarket in the Oh So Sharp stakes. She found herself at a single figure price in the betting for the Guineas at Newmarket, especially as that win came on faster ground. However, she was disappointing in her seasonal reappearance back in France, on ground that should have suited that day. In her defence though, the race didn’t really pan out as she’d have liked and was not given a particular tough time of things anyway. She’ll likely be cherry ripe for Newmarket and seen as though her price has doubled since she got turned over in France, perhaps unnecessarily so, she looks overpriced. Other French candidates include Vorda, who was a winner of the Cheveley Park last season and was narrowly beaten in the race Miss France took part in earlier this year. I’d compare Vorda to Lucky Kristale in terms of shaping though the mile will be a tough ask. She was narrowly worn down late on over 7f and doesn’t really spring out as a strong stayer at that trip, not least she’ll be taking on a mile. She’s high-class but isn’t really looking like a big player in terms of Classic success (either here or in France) this season.

Non 1000 Guineas – UK and Irish exciting fillies

Cambridge (R) winning on debut

Cambridge (R) winning on debut

Some of the principles in the betting for the 1000 Guineas are also in the betting for the Oaks and a couple have been mentioned above, such as Bracelet. She looks capable of holding her own at a mile and and at further, so is potentially one of the more versatile horses in the list and one you can quite imagine lining up at Epsom at a very short price. As we’ve already mentioned her, I’ll look to some other fillies who will come into their own over much further than a mile. Taghrooda is prominent enough in the betting considering she’s only ran once but her maiden success indicated that she’ll really come into her own over middle-distances and from a strong staying dam, she’ll likely have no concerns stamina wise going forward. One I’m more excited about at the prices is the Charles Hill trained Cambridge, who was green enough on debut and looked for a long while that she wouldn’t be troubling the principles before absolutely flying home late on to get up.  That was over a mile and that trip then looked awfully sharp for her. She’s out of a Cheshire Oaks winner and from her physical appearance, she’ll be a much better three year old. At current odds of around 25/1, there are much worse ante-post bets available.

Non 1000 Guineas – French and German exciting fillies

Diamond Dove (Pic: Baden Racing)

Diamond Dove (Pic: Baden Racing)

Other horses that look extremely exciting but will swerve Newmarket who are based in Europe include Lesstalk In Paris. She won her trial last time out in a race that was pretty farcical in terms of pace, but did it well enough. She’ll be relatively short for the French Guineas you’d ought to think and shapes as if she’ll be much better if getting a fair race pace, but knowing French racing, this isn’t guaranteed. I wouldn’t be surprised if she came over to the UK considering ground ought not to be a problem later in the season and I’d suspect she’ll have a fairly big reputation by then, so looks one to follow closely. Indonesienne was behind Lesstalk In Paris on her last two starts and although she’s one to also prosper over better run races, I think it’s unlikely she’ll improve past her previously mentioned rival. Royalmania finished behind Indonesienne last October and has dodged that rival since then, picking up a Listed event a couple of weeks ago. She seems to go especially well on better ground and I wouldn’t be horribly surprised if connections supplemented her for the Newmarket contest. If so, she’ll be a fair player and odds of just 16/1 at the moment, even without an entry, show that bookmakers are airing on the side of caution with her at the moment.  Looking outside of France, Diamond Dove was one of the top juveniles in Germany and won the traditionally strong Preis der Winterkoenigin with plenty in hand at the end of 2013. On pedigree, she’ll find a mile at three sharp enough and will find her place at further, but for the German breed which is really prospering as of late, she looks an exciting new star over middle-distances this season. She should also be capable away from the heavy ground, so that ought to open up new avenues should connections seek them.

Verdict

As you’ll have seen by the above post, finding the 1000 Guineas winner is a real struggle. I’ve seen professionals within racing call the result “rather random” on occasions and I’d go along with that view for now. No doubt I’ve missed the winner, but I do feel that the likes of Sandiva, a horse who knows how to get the job done by getting her head down and trying, won’t be far away from winning such a race and at quite big odds. Miss France too, has been underestimated for a run that she’ll surely be better for and is worthy of support at a double figure price. I think others are far more exciting for the future though. Balansiya has a big year ahead and should be supported wherever she goes to, especially if getting the better conditions that she ought to really enjoy.  Longer term, Epsom Oaks principle Bracelet, that got the better of Balansiya at Leopardstown and Diamond Dove, a “dark-horse” entrant to this list from Germany, as well as the exciting looking Cambridge of Charles Hills all ought to improve significantly this season and leave a real mark, the latter being a sensible betting proposition at 25/1 for the Epsom Oaks. She could turn out to be a real star this year. Amazing Maria has an exciting physical appearance and should be making a name for herself in the top races whilst Lesstalk In Paris should improve for a properly run race and even so, has shown herself perfectly capable of winning a falsely run race. She can really make her mark in France and in the UK too if an opportunity arose.

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Listen, Australia is the forgotten horse in the 2000 Guineas

It might be folly to state that a horse is “forgotten” when it is currently 2nd favourite, and trading at best price of 4/1 with the traditional bookmakers. However, he really has been overlooked in the past few weeks, and it is not hard to see why.

Australia (Pic: Racing Post)

Australia (Pic: Racing Post)

The big trials have come and gone, with John Gosden three year-old star Kingman shooting to favouritism and his win in the Greenham at Newbury was supremely impressive. He settled beautifully off a sedate pace early on, travelled strongly throughout and went clear when asked with the minimum of fuss. Opening quotes of 5/2 post-race for the 2000 Guineas were quickly snapped up and with more almost certain to come, he looks an exciting prospect for the season and one to steer clear of taking on too strongly. One angle would be that if the ground comes up fast, but with the Newmarket ground-staff overly keen with the watering can, that doesn’t look too likely.

Toormore is the other big trial winner when he picked up the Craven at Newmarket earlier in the week. He remains unbeaten and could be said by some to be underestimated in the betting. He has the profile of “just doing enough”, which avoids the accolades that the likes of Kingman receive and was reported to have been left with plenty to work with in the Craven, so the fact he won and should come on for the run, can only be said to be a positive.  However, my main issue with Toormore is the fact I don’t think he’s quite good enough. To me, he’s avoided all of the big players in his four races and the likes of The Grey Gatsby, Outstrip and Sudirman, probably aren’t going to be good enough to win a 2000 Guineas. Toormore really reminds me of Toronado about how he gets things done and that just makes me think that his time in 2014 will be later in the season, away from the Classics.

Those that have taken different routes to the Guineas include Noozhoh Canarias who is unbeaten in Spain and narrowly went down in a French Group 2 at the end of last season. That was on bad ground and he’s going to be more at home on a faster surface, hence why connections have brought him here. He’s entitled to take his chance, and even though disregarding the fact he was beating “trees” in Spain (compared to the rivals he’ll take on at Newmarket), Noozhoh Canarias shapes more like a top-class sprinter, as opposed to a miler. I think he’ll give a bold showing but his future may lie at shorter or in France, where they go slower early on compared to the UK.  Kingston Hill has been backed on Betfair from ridiculous prices in the past week and is another in the race that is unbeaten. Although you can say the same about Australia, he’ll be more effective at further and the vibes from the yard have always suggested they’d be using the Guineas as a springboard for the rest of the season.

Cutting to the chase, Australia has really been ignored in the past couple of weeks. He hasn’t been seen and will come into the race fresh, which is an obvious to why people won’t exactly be talking about him. Aidan O’Brien also doesn’t often endear himself to the public at large, quotes include.

Everyone probably knows we always thought he was the best horse we’ve ever had”

 Australia is the second-best horse we’ve ever trained

The way Aidan O’Brien goes about himself in his interviews, as well including his comments about Camelot a couple of years ago, where he gushed about that horse in similar tones but was incorrect, mean people take them with a pinch of salt. It could well be the reason why people are so keen to “get after” Australia at the moment.

The other main reason could be that he’ll be so much better over further. To be fair to them, his pedigree screams potential Derby entrant, being a sibling to some fair middle-distance handicappers who excelled over that sort of trip. Australia is obviously much better than they were and I’d say that it means people analysing his pedigree so closely in this regard are slightly wide of the mark. He’s proved himself to be a much different horse to his siblings, being precocious as a juvenile and hardly lacking pace. Ouija Board wasn’t top-class as a juvenile either and the fact that Australia was really impressive, means he is such an exciting prospect for the season ahead.

The way he won his race against Free Eagle (who unfortunately won’t be seen until a lot later in the season) showed how exciting he is. He settled well and although he was niggled along a little earlier than you’d like, he  showed a real burst of speed to come with a sustained run on the outside of his rivals to win going away.  The run indicated he’d be more than happy at longer trips on his running style, but to me, showed that he’s more than capable of handling himself at a mile trip at the moment.

Why? Essentially, the 2000 Guineas will be run at a furious gallop. This could mean that Australia is left behind, leaves himself too much to do and is running on too late in the day, especially on a track that traditionally favours those who are up with the pace. Those after the race will be saying “nailed on for The Derby” or words to that effect. The notion that the mile trip on good ground will be too sharp for him and that’s why he won’t win is a simple thing to say, a glaringly mainstream and almost fence-sitting opinion and one that I think isn’t correct. He may get beaten on the day, and he will most probably improve at some stage for the step up in trip.

But here is where I differ from the majority, Australia has an extremely good chance of taking the 2000 Guineas this season. The race this season has only possibly one other horse at the moment who we’ll be still talking about in 10 years (Kingman) and horses from Ballydoyle who scream that they need further than the mile at 3, have history of winning this race. Remember how Camelot just got up to beat French Fifteen? It was a Group 1 winning performance, that emphasised the fact he needs further. As I previously mentioned, they’ll go a really nice pace at Newmarket and Australia doesn’t seem to be a slow boat, especially given he travelled well enough on his last start. It’ll be a totally different race to that of when behind Free Eagle too, as they’ll be lots of runners, lots of pace and less opportunity for him to get caught out when the pace increases (as what happened somewhat last time). If things really do go quickly up front, then he won’t be stopping towards the end of the race and that’s an ideal attribute for this sort of race. The 2000 Guineas is a race littered with horses who went on to be much better over further as time went along, and I don’t see why Australia can’t be one of those.

I think he’ll win.

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Betfred Gold Cup Preview

Thursday’s previews were a bit hit and miss from me. I’ll admit I got the Ryanair completely wrong, with Dynaste running out a really nice winner. Al Ferof struck into himself which will have almost certainly compromised his chance, with both Medermit and Benefficient not running anything like up to their best. The World Hurdle was a better result, with Annie Power and At Fishers Cross finishing 2nd and 3rd. The winner, More Of That, I gave a really positive mention to but thought this test would come too soon, he proved more than up to the task and looks like a horse with some future.

Onto the Gold Cup, where I’ve previously spoke about one of the main contenders before here. I’ll go through each runner like I have before, with my top three at the bottom. Good luck in what you’re backing.

bobsw Bobs Worth (Nicky Henderson) Form: 11-61

Winner of last years renewal and a deserved one too, keeping his undefeated record at Cheltenham intact (5/5). This season he ran no sort of race on seasonal reappearance when expected to need the outing before getting back on track over the Christmas period in the Lexus Chase. It was a very promising step back in the right direction and the fact he hasn’t been seen since then isn’t a bad thing (similar preparation done last year). His love of the track and his proven track record at the Fesitval will go a long way to help him retain his title and he is a big contender.

cloudy Cloudy Too (Sue Smith) Form: 3-1012

A winner of the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby this season when putting average Grade 3 competition to the sword , but had previously been well-beaten in the Hennessey at Newbury. Although running well enough in the Betfair Ascot Chase last time out behind Captain Chris, he really has a lot to do here and looks vulnerable in this sort of race, especially over this trip when there’s a strong argument he could be more effective over shorter.

firstl First Lieutenant (M F Morris) Form: 3-3423

Runner-up in last years Ryanair Chase but stays this trip having gone close in the RSA in 2012 and is proven over this sort of distance with his form in Ireland. That being said though, he hasn’t really looked like a Gold Cup winner in waiting on the evidence of last two starts at Leopardstown and although he got close to Bobs Worth on the penultimate one of those, you’d expect a lot of improvement from Bobs Worth returning to this venue. Has a bit to do.

houb Houblon Des Obeaux (Venetia Williams) Form: 16143

Solid performer at the upper reaches of the staying handicaps this season with both wins coming at Ascot this season. He stayed on eyecatchingly well last time out but that was his own doing, having not jumped particularly swiftly. This is obviously much tougher and it is unlikely on this decent ground that he’ll be seen to his best.

katenko Katenko (Venetia Williams) Form: 1-F443

One of the really disappointing horses this season, as he hasn’t shown nearly the form of last season after returning from Colic. There has however been some encouragement on occasions, not least his run in the Peter Marsh Chase off a huge weight. A winner over 2m5f at Cheltenham in 2012, he handles the course and although he could well have regressed since his illness, there may still be something left to challenge for a place in this sort of race. Better ground is an unknown but he travelled strongly on it earlier in the season (before a fall) and it could well illicit improvement. Not discounted.

knock Knockara Beau (George Charlton) Form: 512512

Cleeve Hurdle winner when taking the scalp of Big Bucks and ran okay behind Long Run at Kelso last time. However, was flattered by his sixth I felt when contesting the 2012 renewal and it is unlikely that things will fall so kindly for him like they did over hurdles.

Ruleworld Last Instalment (Philip Fenton) Form: 111/31

Emphatic winner last time out in the Irish Hennessey when running a significant career best. Would be a major player on that form and at least has some form on better ground, winning a Novice Grade 1 back in 2011. On the evidence of his last start, he should have no issues with the extra two furlongs but the one question would regard the surface, especially when running in the top race of the year. Cannot be discounted considering he beat Tidal Bay and First Lieutenant so well, though and one of the more likely ones.

lwind Lord Windemere (J H Culloty) Form: 31-876

Winner of the RSA last season and respected on that form considering it came here, but not shown anything like his best form since then and probably needs more time now outside of Novice company.

53100 Lyreen Legend (D T Hughes) Form: 423-55

Extremely similar profile to that of Lord Windemere, although Lyreen Legend showed slightly more retained ability in the Lexus Chase. Disappointing last time out when behind Last Instalment and can see no real reason why he should overturn the form with that one, not even considering the remaining 13 rivals.

bob On His Own (Willie Mullins) Form: 176611

Sent off short prices for his previous two tries in the Grand National at Aintree (8/1 and 14/1) and is frequently over-bet. A winner of his last two races over in Ireland. Comes from powerful connections and may one day live up to his reputation, with this sort of ground unlikely to be too much of an inconvenience. However, his record at Cheltenham isn’t great and has only been put into this race as a Plan B. Willie Mullins usually knows where he’s at with his horses and this one isn’t likely up to Gold Cup status.

zarka Silviniaco Conti (Paul Nicholls) Form: 1F3-31

A faller when going well in last years renewal, he finally made good on his past promise when a winner of the King George. That was on softer ground though and those who he was against, for whatever reason absolutely failed to fire. It was a dire renewal and the impression you get from this one is that the extra distance he’ll face in the Gold Cup could be his undoing, as well as the stiff finish. His previous best runs had been saved for less testing tracks (Aintree, Wetherby, Newbury, Haydock) and I don’t think Cheltenham as a course is ideal. Alongside that, Paul Nicholls string haven’t been firing this week which would be an obvious concern too.

214662 Teaforthree (Rebecca Curtis) Form: 203-92

A winner over much further and a standing dish in the extreme marathon distance races over the past couple of seasons. He’ll have no issues with the trip of course but his real target is the Grand National and will possibly not be fully wound up. Likely to finish his race and could pick up some prize-money if a couple of the principles fail to fire.

gb The Giant Bolster (David Bridgwater) Form: 7-7U51

A real enigma but finally put things together again when tried in a hood and a visor last time, winning the Argento Chase in really taking fashion. Runner-up here in 2012 and does enjoy Cheltenham, so on that basis is hugely respected. He isn’t however the safest of betting proposition and is likely to find a few too good if he runs to his best, so when he’s hardly guaranteed to do that, then he isn’t one to trust.

tro Triolo D’Alene (Nicky Henderson) Form: 81-131

Winner of the Hennessey at Newbury and has been a market steamer in recent weeks. On the basis of his last run he won’t be too far away considering he was so impressive and value for more when winning at Newbury, and connections are looking onwards to the Grand National. Not proven around Cheltenham though but likely to run a good race considering he looks like he’s still improving.

Verdict

  1. Bobs Worth
  2. Katenko
  3. Last Instalment

BOBS WORTH looks all set to defend his crown and after a really poor effort at Haydock on seasonal reappearance, looked like he could get back to his best after winning the Lexus Chase. His unbeaten record at Cheltenham obviously stands him in good stead and with everything to suit, he looks the obvious choice. Katenko has been in dire form compared to his reputation last season, but showed enough on his penultimate start to suggest ability still remains and switched to good ground, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him outrun his odds significantly and finally fulfil his potential of the 2012/13 season. Last Instalment is a big player on the bare form of his last start and although there’s questions about the ground, he looks capable of further improvement on the big stage. Triolo D’Alene is next best.

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