Just like that, Royal Ascot has come to its final day, ever so quickly.
Only posting a quick preview with my selections today, as the main focus is on Sha Tin tomorrow as the season winds down. Nevertheless, I hope we can find a winner today to add to what has been a profitable week.
LISTED CHESHAM STAKES (7f)
TOSCANINI caught the eye duelling with Kool Kompany to the line at Naas last time out, and despite Kool Kompany’s failure in the Coventry Stakes, I reckon Toscanini can step up here.
CORDERO obviously has to be respected, first time out for American trainer Wesley Ward – already successful this week with Hootenanny.
DICK WHITTINGTON deserves favouritism but given how Ballydoyle’s juveniles have been going, I’d probably steer clear.
Next best JUSTICE WELL.
12 – TOSCANINI
2 – CORDERO
4 – DICK WHITTINGTON
8 – JUSTICE WELL
DUKE OF EDINBURGH STAKES (1m 4f)
There were reports earlier today that Australian buyers were swirling around the lightly raced ARAB SPRING, a winner of all three starts this season. I’m not sure if he’s the right horse for Australia, but he looks the right horse for this race and have to have him on top.
HAMELIN was good on his seasonal debut and looks bound to head higher in the ratings, while CONTINUUM and LAHAAG – out of form and at big odds but did finish fifth to Opinion in this race last year – are other chances.
1 – ARAB SPRING
13 – HAMELIN
10 – CONTINUUM
12 – LAHAAG
GROUP 2 HARDWICKE STAKES (1m 4f)
The hype seems to centre around one time favourite for last year’s Derby TELESCOPE and last year’s King Edward VII Stakes winner HILLSTAR, but I have a preference for two horses who made the trip out to Australia last year.
I loved the return of last year’s Wolferton Handicap winner FORGOTTEN VOICE in the Aston Park Stakes behind Mount Athos, where he found the line powerfully. He may be a nine-year-old now, but he’s racing as well as ever and I’m expecting a strong performance.
The black stunner DANDINO is also a strong chance. This is his first run since he was injured the day before the Hong Kong Vase, but his Caulfield Cup second to Fawkner is good enough for this, as is his second last year to Thomas Chippendale. It’s no secret the Cups will be his aim again.
Telescope and Hillstar are both chances, with a slight preference to the former, while PETHER’S MOON is in good form.
5 – FORGOTTEN VOICE
2 – DANDINO
10 – TELESCOPE
6 – HILLSTAR
GROUP 1 DIAMOND JUBILEE STAKES (6f)
A slightly subpar Diamond Jubilee Stakes for mine, but there still has to be a winner.
And I can’t see why that couldn’t be GORDON LORD BYRON, who beat SLADE POWER by three lengths in the Sprint Cup. He finished fourth in this race last year and, coming off a successful Australian raid, he can salute here. Perhaps that shows my views on the field that a horse who was easily beaten by Lankan Rupee could win.
The most interesting runner is ALJAMAAHEER, who was a top class miler now attempting his hand over sprint journeys. Will be improved for his third in the Abernant Stakes.
Slade Power is the favourite and is aiming to give Ed Lynam a third win this week and the sprint double after Sole Power’s King’s Stand Stakes win. He’s some chance.
At odds, next best MONTIRIDGE, another who has switched back to sprinting after forging a career as a miler.
5 – GORDON LORD BYRON
1 – ALJAMAAHEER
11 – SLADE POWER
9 – MONTIRIDGE
WOKINGHAM STAKES (6f)
It’s a bit of a lottery, the Wokingham, and have looked to the bottom where SEEKING MAGIC strikes me as a horse with a great chance. Loved his run in the Epsom Dash, where he finished off powerfully. Have to give him a chance here.
ROCKY GROUND and BACCARAT were others to jump off the page, and while SECRET ASSET is hopelessly out of form, a return to his form of two years ago – where he finished third in the Krisflyer Sprint – would see him very attractively handicapped here.
24 – SEEKING MAGIC
4 – ROCKY GROUND
8 – BACCARAT
27 – SECRET ASSET
QUEEN ALEXANDRA STAKES (2m 5f 159y)
The final race of the carnival, where we’ll side with the very lightly raced BRASS RING. Brings some solid form into the race, the only real query is the trip.
TIGER CLIFF has not been disgraced in races like the Yorkshire Cup, and strikes a much easier field here. Will relish the trip too.
EL SALVADOR and ROYAL IRISH HUSSAR best of the rest.
14 – BRASS RING
11 – TIGER CLIFF
4 – EL SALVADOR
16 – ROYAL IRISH HUSSAR
Another mixed day, highlighted (for us, anyway) by Missunited’s third in the Ascot Gold Cup at 80/1. We struck the first four in the race too, which paid handily thanks to the present of the gutsy mare – who, admittedly, had everything to suit too.
Now we’re up to Day 4, where we might be able to catch a couple of breaks at odds. It looks a fascinating day on paper, and should set it up nicely for a big final day.
GROUP 3 ALBANY STAKES (6f)
Watching the videos of these fillies, two clearly stood out.
BITTER LAKE looked a ready-made racehorse on debut, such a professional, while PATIENCE ALEXANDER found the line strongly to beat Tiggy Wiggy, who franked the form when finding only Anthem Alexander too good in the Queen Mary Stakes.
Happy to have them on top of SHOWCARD, who fought back strongly last start, and OSAILA, who was no match on debut but can perform admirably again for the on-fire Al Shaqab Racing.
3 – BITTER LAKE
16 – PATIENCE ALEXANDER
21 – SHOWCARD
15 – OSAILA
LISTED WOLFERTON HANDICAP (1m 2f)
This race has produced Melbourne visitors the last few years, including the likes of Lost In The Moment, Gatewood and Forgotten Voice. This year, the visitor will be CAFE SOCIETY, except it looks like it will be a permanent visit as he joins the stable of Gai Waterhouse.
Cafe Society will be Waterhouse’s second Royal Ascot runner after her top sprinter Bentley Biscuit, and he’s definitely in with a show.
However, even if he has lost all form, I can’t believe the price around about WIGMORE HALL. Michael Bell’s galloper may be a light of other days, when he managed to run third in the Dubai Duty Free among other top races worldwide. Still, he’s now down to a mark which surely should allow him to get back into the winner’s circle. Happy to take the 20/1 about him.
Other chances are the Queen’s BOLD SNIPER, who is still fairly unexposed, and 2012 Tercentenary Stakes winner ENERGIZER, who has only had two runs back from a mandatory ban.
8 – WIGMORE HALL
16 – CAFE SOCIETY
14 – BOLD SNIPER
11 – ENERGIZER
GROUP 2 KING EDWARD VII STAKES (1m 4f)
Can ADELAIDE add to the Australiana theme for Ballydoyle’s three-year-olds this season after Australia’s Derby success?
He’s some chance, but too short for mine. I’d prefer to be on EAGLE TOP, who motored to the line to win a lesser race on debut. Probably needed more to suit last start, but fully expect to see him in the firing line here if he runs up to his debut effort.
SNOW SKY was in the mix for the Derby after winning the Lingfield Derby Trial but he suffered a setback which rulled him out. Should relish the trip and reckon he’ll be around the mark.
As stated already, ADELAIDE’s some chance, while it is hard to line up the form of the unbeaten Italian three-year-old DYLAN MOUTH.
4 – EAGLE TOP
9 – SNOW SKY
2 – ADELAIDE
1 – DYLAN MOUTH
GROUP 1 CORONATION STAKES (1m)
An open feature for the three-year-old fillies with no Classic winner here this time.
MY TITANIA looms as the one they have to beat, but the Sea The Stars filly is making her seasonal reappearance so comes in at something of a disadvantage.
I think she can be beaten by TAPESTRY, Ballydoyle’s runner. She finished a distant last behind Miss France in the 1000 Guineas as favourite, but it looks wise to rule a line through the run and judge her on her previous efforts, which would see her go close.
RIZEENA, too, is another one right in the mix. Seventh in the Guineas, she continued to improve last season as it wore on so I wouldn’t be surprised if she is far improved here, but with more improvement yet to come.
Next best KIYOSHI.
12 – TAPESTRY
7 – MY TITANIA
9 – RIZEENA
3 – KIYOSHI
LISTED QUEEN’S VASE (2m)
An uninspiring edition of the Queen’s Vase, which was downgraded this year from a Group 3 – which looks questionable after the last two winners, Leading Light and Estimate, ran 1-2 in the Ascot Gold Cup!
Went with MONTALY, for no other reason than he looks a plugger who will find the step up in trip to his liking.
HARTNELL did beat him by 10 lengths over 1m 2f, while MARZOCCO looks to have plenty of improvement in him. Both are questionable at the trip – I’d think Hartnell is better but Marzocco may appreciate the trip more.
Next best CENTURY.
10 – MONTALY
5 – HARTNELL
8 – MARZOCCO
3 – CENTURY
BUCKINGHAM PALACE STAKES (7f)
An open race with plenty of chances.
It’s a shame that Neil Callan, who has ridden the last two winners of the race, isn’t riding today. Instead, he’s in Hong Kong preparing for Sunday.
I think the lightly raced WATCHABLE could prove one to watch here. He’s clearly improving and he looms as a chance of a low enough mark.
Depending on which ONE WORD MORE turns up, he could be a chance – of some concern, though, is that he doesn’t seem to fire at Ascot. Still, wouldn’t be surprised if he runs alright with a run under his belt.
At massive odds, could see DEAUVILLE PRINCE in the mix – a three-length fourth to Soft Falling Rain at Meydan last year doesn’t look too bad for a horse off his mark.
The favourite RUSSIAN REALM is next best.
17 – WATCHABLE
20 – ONE WORD MORE
19 – DEAUVILLE PRINCE
16 – RUSSIAN REALM
A bit of a mixed day yesterday, but hopefully we can have some more luck on Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot!
Today’s been a bit rushed in terms of a write up, so I’ve only given a quick preview along with my selections. Good luck if you are playing today.
GROUP 2 NORFOLK STAKES (5f)
As has been the case all week, two-year-old form has continued to baffle me, but I do think THE GREAT WAR should just about win and he’s a price that reflects that. He looks headed for better things. BAITHA ALGA best of the rest.
8 – THE GREAT WAR
2 – BAITHA ALGA
6 – MUKHMAL
7 – SNAP SHOTS
GROUP 3 TERCENTENARY STAKES (1m 2f)
I know there’s a big buzz around for CANNOCK CHASE, but I’m looking to bet around him. He beat absolutely nothing, but I loved the style of MUTAKAYYEF’s maiden win and with that confidence booster, the penny may have dropped. Happy to back him at 6/1 or so. OBLITERATOR clearly didn’t handle the going in the Irish 2000 Guineas and I’m expecting big improvement.
4 – MUTAKAYYEF
5 – OBLITERATOR
3 – CLOUDSCAPE
2 – CANNOCK CHASE
GROUP 2 RIBBLESDALE STAKES (1m 4f)
The French can strike here with VAZIRA, who was second last start in the Prix Saint-Alary. Will relish the step up in trip and she can give Sea The Stars another Group winner. At odds, could entertain having something on the Ballydoyle second-stringer TERRIFIC, although she was extremely disappointing at Chester.
11 – VAZIRA
10 – TERRIFIC
6 – INCHILA
2 – BRACELET
GROUP 1 ASCOT GOLD CUP (2m 4f)
For mine, LEADING LIGHT does look the one to beat, no doubt. But at the trip, I couldn’t be taking odds-on about him, so I’ll be backing two to beat him.
I think there’ll be no worries for BROWN PANTHER at the trip, he’s racing in terrific form and I think he’ll
And at a big price, I’ll be having something small each way on MISSUNITED, who won the Saval Beg Stakes gamely last time out. She’s a seven-year-old mare so her improvement is questionable, but I think she will relish the good-to-firm track conditions.
3 – BROWN PANTHER
14 – MISSUNITED
10 – LEADING LIGHT
13 – ESTIMATE
BRITANNIA STAKES (1m)
Won last year by Roca Tumu, while my tip Llaregyb was nowhere to be seen. Who could have thought, this time last year, that I’d see them on a regular basis in Hong Kong just a year later? Roca Tumu is now Beauty Flame, Llaregyb is now Packing Llaregyb, and both have won this season in Hong Kong.
So who might we be seeing over here? Well, it’s an open race and so it’s a bit of a throw at the stumps. I liked the manner in which MINDUROWNBUSINESS won at Yarmouth last time out, he gets in with absolutely nothing although he may be looking for further now. The other one to catch the eye was HORS DE COMBAY, also impressive last time out at Newmarket.
29 – MINDUROWNBUSINESS
9 – HORS DE COMBAT
3 – ZARWAAN
28 – BORN IN BOMBAY
KING GEORGE V STAKES (1m 4f)
Another open race for emerging stayers, including the first Australian representation for the week with Bremner now owned by clients of Gai Waterhouse.
ELITE ARMY is the favoured of the Godolphin runners but I’m keener on PERSONAL OPINION, who chased solidly last start. The 1m 4f here should be right up his alley. Also keen to see VENEZIA up in trip too.
9 – PERSONAL OPINION
14 – VENEZIA
4 – WINDSHEAR
6 – ELITE ARMY
The second day of Royal Ascot is upon us, and I hope to build on what was a solid foundation yesterday. Our best result was Stepper Point finishing second in the King’s Stand Stakes at $23 the place in Hong Kong, but due to the flop of Shea Shea the Double Trio went begging…and that was a costly failure.
Anyway, today is a new day, so hopefully we can find a couple more winners today.
GROUP 3 JERSEY STAKES (7f)
Kingman looks a top, top three-year-old – and that was the case before his St James’s Palace Stakes victory. So I’m going to take a line through his Irish 2000 Guineas win for a guide here, as that looks a strong formline at this stage.
Coming here out of the Irish 2000 Guineas are MUSTAJEEB (third), BIG TIME (fifth), GREAT WHITE EAGLE (sixth) and MICHAELMAS (seventh). And of those, I’m going to go with Big Time, who was first up into the race and plugged away on the soft going for a well-beaten fifth. The step back in trip on top of the ground should suit far better, so I’m confident he’ll run a race at 12-1 or so.
Mustajeeb looks the danger for mine. Always be wary of Dermot Weld bringing one over, especially for the resurgent Sheikh Hamdan, and on his Irish 2000 Guineas run he looks right in this.
The Queen’s MUSICAL COMEDY is stepping up in class and trip but I think is capable of handling both, while the French raider REDBROOK for Alain de Royer-Dupre also looks a chance.
Must say, purely on name – going back to the days where I knew nothing about racing – a win to WALTZING MATILDA would be welcomed ahead of Australia’s clash with the Netherlands at the World Cup tonight.
7 – BIG TIME
5 – MUSTAJEEB
14 – MUSICAL COMEDY
18 – REDBROOK
GROUP 2 QUEEN MARY STAKES (5f)
Again, I’m left completely confused by British juvenile form, so I’ll keep this short and sweet.
American trainer Wesley Ward has become renowned for his trans-Atlantic raids on the juvenile riches at Royal Ascot, and he impressed again yesterday when Hootenanny won the Windsor Castle Stakes. I think he can add a second win for the carnival with SPANISH PIPEDREAM, who won very impressively at Keeneland in late April.
It’s by no means a walkover though – Ed Lynam is another looking for his second win after Sole Power’s King’s Stand Stakes win yesterday, and he looks to have a strong chance in ANTHEM ALEXANDER. She toyed with her rivals at Tipperary last start and a repeat will see her go close.
HARRY’S DANCER looks some chance of adding another success for John Quinn and Al Shaqab Racing after The Wow Signal’s Coventry success, while TIGGY WIGGY looks best of the rest.
21 – SPANISH PIPEDREAM
4 – ANTHEM ALEXANDER
11 – HARRY’S DANCER
22 – TIGGY WIGGY
GROUP 1 PRINCE OF WALES’S STAKES (1m 2f)
This race looks a gift for TREVE, especially considering what Cirrus des Aigles has gone on to do since claiming her scalp in the Prix Ganay. She won the Arc ever so impressively last season, and a return to anywhere near that form will see her competitive here.
She doesn’t look too much of a betting proposition, though, at the current 4/6 on offer, so I’d be going with THE FUGUE each way as a punter. 8/1 seems a big price for a mare who is competitive with the best on her day. Each way, all day.
Third’s a toss up between MUKHADRAM and MAGICIAN, with a slight leaning to the former.
8 – TREVE
7 – THE FUGUE
3 – MUKHADRAM
2 – MAGICIAN
GROUP 2 DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE STAKES (1m)
An open race for the mares, with some talented horses here.
That said, if she returns in peak form, I think SKY LANTERN would be close to my best for the week. Last seen when failing in the Hong Kong Mile, she’d built up a good record over the mile before that with wins in the English 1000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes – and she probably should have beaten Elusive Kate in the Falmouth Stakes too. I’m happy to take her here and I think she’ll prove a tough nut to crack.
INTEGRAL did finish a length behind Sky Lantern in the Sun Chariot Stakes, has five pounds up her sleeve here and does have the benefit of one run under her belt, but I still think Sky Lantern was clearly superior – that length could easily have been more. That said, she does look a clear second pick.
For third, I’m going to go with Godolphin’s second-stringer CERTIFY ahead of their main chance ESOTERIQUE, while GIFTED GIRL looks next best.
1 – SKY LANTERN
8 – INTEGRAL
2 – CERTIFY
6 – ESOTERIQUE
ROYAL HUNT CUP (1m)
A 30 runner mile handicap is enough to strike fear in my heart. The last two years, my selections have run 17th and 23rd, but that was always going to be the case after finding the winner in 2011 – a horse that I’d become very familiar with in Australia called Julienas.
Right down the bottom, the emerging ABSEIL in the Khalid Abdullah colours looks the hardest to beat but he is 9/2 in a 30 runner handicap, so I’ll be looking for a couple to get the better of him.
Hugo Palmer has lofty targets in mind for SHORT SQUEEZE, with the Cox Plate on the horse’s agenda. For the horse to make it into the field for a Cox Plate, though, he’d have to win this well and then make the step up to Group company, all within a few months. It’s a tough ask, but the horse does appear capable of making the transition. He progressed nicely last season, and although I wish he had a run under his belt, I’m happy to have something on him here.
TALES OF GRIMM is always around the mark in these sorts of races and may have found a race to suit at a big price. Probably a tad on the short side distance-wise, but worth something each way.
STIRRING BALLAD hasn’t been seen since failing on this day last year, but on his form prior to that he’s some chance and this looks to have been the plan all along, while Abseil has to go in.
Next best HERE COMES WHEN.
5 – SHORT SQUEEZE
11 – TALES OF GRIMM
27 – STIRRING BALLAD
29 – ABSEIL
LISTED SANDRINGHAM HANDICAP (1m)
Another almost impossible race, a 25 runner handicap for the less exposed three-year-old fillies.
Worth a throw at the stumps though, so going to have something on MIDNITE ANGEL at a big price near the bottom, from MUTEELA, ODISSEIA and PSYCHOMETRY.
But really, a case could be made for nearly all of these horses and it may be better to watch. Or, in my case, have a small each way wager to have something to cheer home.
20 – MIDNITE ANGEL
11 – MUTEELA
17 – ODISSEIA
22 – PSYCHOMETRY
It’s here – one of the world’s biggest racing festivals, Royal Ascot. Sadly, we’re not trackside this year, but we do get to enjoy it from the comfort of our apartment in Hong Kong.
I love doing the form for Royal Ascot, and this year particularly I’ve been following it much more closely, so hopefully we can find a winner or two.
Hong Kong punters get to bet on the first and last days this year. Local punters love a favourite so sadly we might be taking severe unders here on some horses, like Toronado and Kingman. Nevertheless, hopefully there is a split in the other races, particularly the Ascot Stakes.
Despite only being able to bet on the first and last days, I’ll put up a preview – or even just selections – each day.
Here is my preview of Day One:
GROUP 1 QUEEN ANNE STAKES (1m)
The traditional opener to Royal Ascot, it always intrigues me that what could be considered the best race is the first of 30 races over five days. Obviously, Frankel’s romp of two years ago is still fresh in our minds, but it is a race which consistently holds up.
This year’s edition may not be as strong as always, but there is a very worthy addition to the honour roll in TORONADO. This day 12 months ago, he was just beaten in a messy St James’s Palace Stakes by Dawn Approach, before turning the tables in the Sussex Stakes. He failed in the Juddmonte International Stakes, and has not been seen since. He makes his seasonal reappearance here, and can take the next step.
The two main dangers look to be SOFT FALLING RAIN and VERRAZANO. Soft Falling Rain is enigmatic but on his day, he’s a tough hardy miler who can match it with the best. I favour him slightly ahead of Verrazano, Aidan O’Brien’s former American colt who will be much improved for a first-up third in the Lockinge but, according to my American friends, lacks a bit of ticker. Watching some of his replays, that definitely seems to be the case, and if it gets into a scrap here you wouldn’t want to be on him.
Next best ANODIN, who finished a close up second to Cirrus Des Aigles last start in the Prix d’Ispahan, and MULL OF KILLOUGH.
8 – TORONADO
7 – SOFT FALLING RAIN
10 – VERRAZANO
1 – ANODIN
GROUP 2 COVENTRY STAKES (6f)
Juvenile form is tough to follow anywhere in the world, as horses can jump out of the ground and improve significantly from one start to the next, but British juvenile form seems even tougher. Still, there has to be a winner somewhere…
I was really taken with ADAAY’s two wins, but particularly his last win at Yarmouth, beating Windsor Castle Stakes runner Mind of Madness. He really quickened nicely last time out, and to me he looks to have the traits necessary to salute here. Sheikh Hamdan seems to be going through something of a resurgence at the moment, and Adaay can continue that rise.
THE WOW SIGNAL was another to catch the eye on debut, winning by nine lengths, although the second horse didn’t look to be pushed out entirely. Still, The Wow Signal looks to have an abundance of speed – just like his sire Starspangledbanner – and who knows what improvement he’ll have in him going into his second start.
Next best KOOL KOMPANY – unbeaten from three starts – and WAR ENVOY, who goes in as Aidan O’Brien’s sole entrant. Given Ballydoyle has won two of the last three editions, worth keeping an eye on.
11 – ADAAY
15 – THE WOW SIGNAL
12 – KOOL KOMPANY
16 – WAR ENVOY
GROUP 1 KING’S STAND STAKES (5f)
The King’s Stand Stakes feels a bit empty with no runners from Australia after Zoustar’s injury. In fact, it feels a bit flat with no Hong Kong runners either.
Still, there has to be a winner and I’m convinced if all goes to plan, that winner will be SHEA SHEA. He was arguably unlucky not to beat Sole Power last year, while his only other 5f run in England saw him finish a half length behind roughie Jwala in the Nunthorpe Stakes. He was slightly disappointing in the Al Quoz Sprint last start, but that can be attributed to jockey error as much as anything else. Hopefully Christophe Soumillon can atone here.
It looks a strong European three-year-old crop this year, and a lot of English racing fans are convinced HOT STREAK will be their next star sprinter. His effort in beating owner mate Pearl Secret in the Temple Stakes was solid, and he quickened very nicely with two furlongs to go. I still would prefer to be on Shea Shea at this stage of his career, but Hot Streak could easily be king this time next year.
AHTOUG really improved into the later part of his Dubai campaign, pushing Shea Shea in the Meydan Sprint before finding only Amber Sky too good in the Al Quoz Sprint. He’s yet to race since, but if he runs to that form he’ll be right there at the finish.
Next best is last year’s winner SOLE POWER, while at 50/1, I could have something small on STEPPER POINT.
8 – SHEA SHEA
16 – HOT STREAK
1 – AHTOUG
9 – SOLE POWER
GROUP 1 ST JAMES’S PALACE STAKES (1m)
A mouthwatering clash between the English and Irish 2000 Guineas winners, while the rest of the field doesn’t look too shabby either.
KINGMAN won the Greenham Stakes by almost five lengths to NIGHT OF THUNDER, which is why it was such a shock when Night of Thunder managed to turn the tables in the English 2000 Guineas. Night of Thunder hasn’t raced since, but Kingman went on to win the Irish 2000 Guineas comfortably. The English 2000 Guineas form has also been proven with third-placed Australia going on to win the Derby.
I’m expecting Kingman to prove superior today over Night of Thunder, but hopefully we might see another clash like we did last year between Dawn Approach and Toronado.
For third, I’m going to throw in OUTSTRIP at a price. He was well beaten when last in the 2000 Guineas but is a better horse than he showed on that occasion. Next best WAR COMMAND, who can get up for fourth if he brings his best.
1 – KINGMAN
2 – NIGHT OF THUNDER
3 – OUTSTRIP
6 – WAR COMMAND
ASCOT STAKES (2m 4f)
A race which has been won by a mixture of jumpers and flat horses over the years. The most notable winner in recent years is Simenon, who after a failed jumping career stamped his flat credentials with a six length win in this race.
Tough to sort them out, but going with the lightly raced AGREEMENT, who seems to have struggled as a jumper and makes his debut for John Quinn here. It’s a very open race, though, and could also entertain PERFECT HEART, who looks to be heading higher, SURAJ, who was well beaten in this race last year but seems to be coming right down in the weights, and SIR GRAHAM WADE, who last year finished third to subsequent Gold Cup winner Estimate in the Sagaro Stakes.
16 – AGREEMENT
10 – PERFECT HEART
12 – SURAJ
1 – SIR GRAHAM WADE
LISTED WINDSOR CASTLE STAKES (5f)
Assuming Adaay holds up the form in the Coventry Stakes, I’m very happy to stick with MIND OF MADNESS. He stuck to his guns gamely when Adaay raced past last start, and was only beaten three-quarters of a length. I’d be surprised if he’s not there at the finish.
The logical danger is MERDON CASTLE, who was only beaten a half length by Kool Kompany last start, but I think another danger may be MUBTAGHAA, who quickened very nicely last time out to win and who I think is improving steadily.
Next best, at big odds, is COMMANDER PATTEN, who looks a tough customer who can stick around for a place.
18 – MIND OF MADNESS
19 – MUBTAGHAA
16 – MERDON CASTLE
5 – COMMANDER PATTEN
Today is the second and final day of The Championships at Randwick, with four Group 1 races on the card – including Australia’s second richest race, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I’m only able to post my selections for today’s meeting at Randwick. Here they are:
Race 1 – LISTED FERNHILL HANDICAP (1600m)
3 – CARELESS
4 – STANDOUBT
1 – VEUVELICIOUS
2 – CYCLONE
Race 2 – LISTED SOUTH PACIFIC CLASSIC (1400m)
9 – LONGMA
5 – BEAUTY’S BEAST
8 – SPY DECODER
3 – WOODBINE
Race 3 – GROUP 3 ROYAL RANDWICK STAKES (1200m)
6 – SULTRY FEELING
1 – OAKLEIGH GIRL
4 – MEMORIAL
8 – SHAUMARI
Race 4 – GROUP 2 ROYAL SOVEREIGN STAKES (1200m)
11 – BOUNDING
1 – SIDESTEP
3 – DOTHRAKI
9 – CHAUTAUQUA
Race 5 – GROUP 1 QUEEN OF THE TURF STAKES (1600m)
1 – RED TRACER
3 – CATKINS
9 – SOLICIT
2 – STREAMA
Race 6 – GROUP 1 AUSTRALIAN OAKS (2400m)
1 – ZANBAGH
2 – LUCIA VALENTINA
3 – RISING ROMANCE
12 – MISSVONN
Race 7 – GROUP 1 SYDNEY CUP (3200m)
5 – BRIGANTIN
4 – THE OFFER
11 – HIPPOPUS
9 – LET’S MAKE ADEAL
Race 8 – GROUP 1 QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES (2000m)
10 – SILENT ACHIEVER
6 – HAWKSPUR
11 – ROYAL DESCENT
2 – IT’S A DUNDEEL
Race 9 – GROUP 2 SAPPHIRE STAKES (1200m)
1 – DYSTOPIA
7 – PERON
2 – AVOID LIGHTNING
4 – LILLIBURLERO
The first day of Sydney’s thoroughbred grand finals is here – and as seems to be a twice-yearly occurrence these days, when big racing comes to Randwick, the heavens open up. I don’t know why Mother Nature is so displeased…
Despite the wet track, big fields are the order of the day. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen as competitive a meeting in Sydney as this one – if ever.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had some tipping success in the Derby and Doncaster the last few years, while I did tip two of the last three T J Smith winners (although, given it was Black Caviar both times, that’s nothing to boast about). This year, though, all three are nigh on impossible. They are three of the most competitive Group 1 races I’ve ever seen in Australia, which can only be good for racing. Big fields, many with chances – give me them any day over small fields with an odds-on pop.
The very heavy track only adds to confusion, and with many you just have to hope they’ll handle it. It is very hard to be confident about too many selections today.
I’ve written short summaries for the five supporting races, while I’ve gone a bit more in-depth for the four Group 1 races.
Here are my selections for the first day of The Championships:
Race 1 – GROUP 3 KINDERGARTEN STAKES (1100m)
The first is a two-year-old race with plenty of chances. ECHO GAL had a massive wrap on her after her debut, when she beat I AM SNIPPETY by four lengths. Disappointed in the Bruce McLachlan when she was found to have the thumps, but wasn’t too bad in the Magic Millions. She’s a query on the wet track, and perhaps fitness is a concern, but I’m happy to have something on her.
The first-starter KAEPERNICK looked to have some talent and seemed to handle the wet track when winning a trial at Randwick 12 days back. He’s trained by Team Hawkes, and as they seem to be turning everything they touch into gold at the moment, he must be included.
I Am Snippety gets his chance to turn the tables on Echo Gal with fitness under his belt, coming off a six and a half length win in the Wellington Boot, while DONELLE should appreciate the step back in trip. REDOUTABLE HEART next best.
10 – ECHO GAL
5 – KAEPERNICK
8 – I AM SNIPPETY
9 – DONELLE
Race 2 – GROUP 3 CARBINE CLUB STAKES (1600m)
GYPSY DIAMOND is favourite, and deservedly so, but I’m happy to have something on ROCK STURDY to beat her home. He’s taken his time to figure out what it is all about, but he’s now starting to put it together. Gave weight to Singing Flame last start and was just beaten, and Singing Flame was very good in the Tulloch Stakes last weekend. Happy to back him.
Gypsy Diamond looks a bit too short for mine – she’s clearly the most accomplished horse in the race and her trial last week was fantastic. I just want to see how she handles the wet, and I wouldn’t be taking under $3 to find out.
Gai Waterhouse has a couple of chances in a race she has won twice in the last three years. LIBERTY’S CHOICE is yet to have much luck this preparation, while RYKER was good in the Albury Guineas. Both have some chance, while Guy Walter’s GAMBLESTOWN probably rounds out the chances.
Don’t be surprised if O’REILLY’S REVENGE runs a far improved race at big odds.
8 – ROCK STURDY
1 – GYPSY DIAMOND
4 – LIBERTY’S CHOICE
6 – RYKER
Race 3 – GROUP 3 P J BELL STAKES (1200m)
In a day of tough races, this is as tough as any of them.
I couldn’t believe 20/1 was freely available about EVERAGE last night. She’s a mudlark. Five starts on a wet track for three wins, including an upset result over TWILIGHT ROYALE at her second start, a dominant win in the lead up to the Black Opal Stakes, and a Listed win in the Keith Mackay Quality. She’s been out of form this preparation, but at 20/1, I’m happy to have something on. I’m disappointed I missed the 40/1 earlier in the week, though.
In fact, Twilight Royale looks over the odds at 30/1. A terrific juvenile – including a dominant Inglis win at Mornington before a narrow VRC Sires Produce Stakes win over Cox Plate winner Shamus Award – she didn’t find form last preparation and went for a spell. She’s eligible for a $2.4m bonus if she can win the Scone Guineas next month, so I daresay she’ll be spot on for that day. Barrier 20 is very tough, but she doesn’t have too many problems with a wet track and I can’t see why she wouldn’t run a big race fresh.
CALMING INFLUENCE and BOUND FOR EARTH are next best, but happy to stick to the two roughies.
4 – EVERAGE
1 – TWILIGHT ROYALE
6 – CALMING INFLUENCE
2 – BOUND FOR EARTH
Race 4 – GROUP 2 CHAIRMAN’S HANDICAP (2600m)
If the $3 holds up about THE OFFER, take it. It looks a gift! If it was a dry track, it would be a different story, but his two wins at these trips on heavy tracks in Australia have been simply dominant. He won the Ballarat Cup at 2200m by three and a quarter lengths, while he won the Manion Cup by the same margin two weeks ago. Can’t tip against him.
I thought the main upset, if there was to be one, would be from EPINGLE – but she has been scratched due to the track. That might ensure the $3 The Offer is a distant memory.
SERTORIUS would be clearly on top if this was on a dry track, but obviously it’s a different ballgame here. He wasn’t bad at all last week, and I think he’s right on track for the Sydney Cup. Watch him here, back him in two weeks time.
The only other horse I’d consider backing is HIPPOPUS, who was strong to the line in the Neville Sellwood last week – clearly the wet track is no problem. Will be steering clear of OPINION – even with a 3kg turnaround, I can’t see him turning the tables on The Offer. He has to go in but he’s not a punting proposition today.
3 – THE OFFER
1 – SERTORIUS
6 – HIPPOPUS
5 – OPINION
Race 5 – GROUP 1 ATC SIRES PRODUCE STAKES (1400m)
The fillies have completely dominated the colts in this year’s juvenile division, demonstrated last weekend when the first seven across the line in the Golden Slipper were of the fairer sex. I think it can be the same here.
PEGGY JEAN got motoring late in the Magic Night Stakes, and she was only just beaten a short neck by Bring Me The Maid – who then finished third in the Golden Slipper. The 1400m should be right up her alley, and she seemed to handle the wet track fine last start. In fact, she’ll probably like even more sting out of the ground. I’m very keen on her.
The logical danger is BELIEVE YOURSELF, who motored late in the Golden Slipper. I gave her none, but she found the line better than anything else to finish fourth. Again, seemed to have no problems with the wet track last week and a repeat would not surprise at all – and a repeat would see her go very close.
Pago Pago Stakes quinella TIME FOR WAR and KUMAON look the next best, with a slight leaning towards the latter given he threw the race away last start.
I’d have ZULULAND high in my selections if the track was dry, but a wet track does worry me.
8 – PEGGY JEAN
7 – BELIEVE YOURSELF
5 – KUMAON
3 – TIME FOR WAR
Race 6 – GROUP 1 AUSTRALIAN DERBY (2400m)
One of the most open Derbies in years. You can make a case for almost any runner in the field, and there’s far from any standout (even despite the runaway win of CRITERION last start). The wet track only adds to the conundrum.
The win of GALLATIN last weekend seems to have been overlooked. The race hasn’t been ignored, so much, but his win has been downplayed with many talking about the performance of runner-up SINGING FLAME. The Tulloch Stakes tends to be dismissed as a B-grade lead up – and that’s probably a fair assessment, particularly this year – but that’s not to say it’s a poor prep race. In fact, the last three horses to win the Tulloch and run in the Derby – Philippi, Polish Knight and Harris Tweed – all ran second in the feature.
Singing Flame was very good, no doubt, but Gallatin came from last on the turn, was green and struck interference, and still managed to win. I know the Darley team are more confident about the chances of TUPAC AMARU, but I’m going to have something on Gallatin going one better. He just looks a stayer.
Obviously, the main lead-up race is the Rosehill Guineas, and Criterion was utterly dominant. But does that make him the leading three-year-old stayer? Not yet, for mine. He’s done it once, and he had the perfect run. I think it’s safe to say there was nothing wrong with the inside at Rosehill, so perhaps he was flattered. THUNDER FANTASY, who finished second in the Rosehill Guineas, beat him home in the Victoria Derby and I think he can beat him home again.
Two of the best sneaky runs in the Rosehill Guineas were from CADILLAC MOUNTAIN and Tupac Amaru, and both are chances. I also had Peter Moody’s other runner CRIME FIGHTER in my numbers originally, but I’m not sure he’ll like the track.
Of the others in the market, Singing Flame’s obviously some hope but I wonder how he’ll handle the trip. I’m also happy to risk SAVVY NATURE and TERONADO at the 2400m.
The one I can’t line up is PUCCINI. He was given no hope in the Rosehill Guineas – whether due to the ride or circumstances – and I think even Phar Lap would have been heavily defeated if forced to do what he did in the run. On his New Zealand Derby win he’d be extremely competitive. Not sure where to place him really.
8 – GALLATIN
3 – THUNDER FANTASY
1 – CRITERION
14 – CADILLAC MOUNTAIN
Race 7 – GROUP 1 T J SMITH STAKES (1200m)
Where do you start here? We are down to a field of 15 after the scratching of SPIRIT OF BOOM, FONTELINA and ZOUSTAR – a real shame – as well as the withdrawal of three emergencies. Still, we are left with 10 Group 1 winners, and even more chances. Impossible race to figure out.
In the end, I’ve decided to hunt for some value – and I was happy to take the $13 about REBEL DANE. He flies fresh, I think he’s alright on a wet track – his only run on a heavy track was a second in the Hobartville Stakes, beaten a nose by Pierro, with Proisir and It’s A Dundeel third and fourth. Saving him for a tilt at this first-up gives him his best hope of winning, and at the price I’m happy to have something on him.
I think GORDON LORD BYRON is still underrated by Australian punters, and especially back in trip I wouldn’t be surprised to see him drift. He was outstanding in the George Ryder Stakes, he’s a Sprint Cup winner in Britain, he gets his favoured heavy track and he’s right in this. It would be great to see him win again – any international victory only helps the cause of Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club.
This is LANKAN RUPEE’s opportunity to step onto the big stage. His wins in the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap were top notch, but this is a whole new ball game – weight for age, a field with remarkable depth, and conditions unlikely to suit. I think if he wins here, he’ll convert me (and many other sceptics) into true believers.
Tossing up between SWEET IDEA and BUFFERING for fourth, I’ll go with the filly but hardly confident. Next best TIGER TEES.
5 – REBEL DANE
2 – GORDON LORD BYRON
3 – LANKAN RUPEE
17 – SWEET IDEA
Race 8 – GROUP 1 DONCASTER MILE (1600m)
The Doncaster Mile is always a tough race, but it’s been a long time since it’s been this tough. In recent years, there was a rather long tail on the race, but this year, it is hard to say any horse can’t win.
That said, it does look Chris Waller’s Doncaster to lose, with five of the 20 runners – originally six, but BOBAN’s a withdrawal. And when the worst of them in the market is a Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner in MY KINGDOM OF FIFE, you know you are doing alright.
I’m happy to stick with him and go with HAWKSPUR. I think it’s a brilliant decision to bring him back to 1600m for this race, which tends to be won by a 2000m horse anyway. Despite his dominant win in the Queensland Derby, I don’t see him as a strong mile-and-a-half horse. I think a mile to 2000m is ideal, and this race is perfect for him now. Three of the last four winners have dropped back from 2000m to win the Doncaster Mile, and with a bog likely, it sets it up for a horse like Hawkspur. His win over this course and distance in the Chelmsford was electrifying, so I’m hoping he can find that form.
I’m sticking with another member of Chris Waller’s Caulfield Cup brigade from last year for second. ROYAL DESCENT won last year’s Oaks by 10 lengths on a wet track, and I’m sure because of that she’ll probably start single figures. Unlike Hawkspur, I do think Royal Descent is a genuine 2000m-2400m horse so I think she’ll be better in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes if she backs up. That said, a tough 1600m horse could bring her into it.
Last year’s winner SACRED FALLS had the perfect pipe-opener in the George Ryder Stakes and is on track here. He won last year on a heavy track, coming from last, but he snuck through along the inside. Has 3.5kg more this year, but that’s not too much in the scheme of things given he’s a year older and tougher. Has a big plus in Zac Purton aboard and he can be the first horse since Pharaoh in 1994/95 to go back to back (Sunline has won two Doncaster Miles since, but she won them in non-consecutive years).
Don’t be surprised to see a much improved race from MOURO at bolter’s odds. Like many European imports, he’s been desperately searching for a track with give. He gets it here, even if it may be wetter than they would have liked. Definitely not the worst and well worth an each way ticket in an open race.
Next best is another Caulfield Cup runner in DEAR DEMI, while WEARY looks too short now but he is definitely in with some chance.
Obviously Team Hawkes is flying but I’m happy to risk MESSENE on a bog. I can’t see why he wouldn’t handle it but a tough Randwick mile on a bog track could be tough.
I was keen on HANA’S GOAL to run a big race, as her effort in the Coolmore Classic was outstanding and she should have finished far closer. But a wet track really dents her chances, I feel.
Obviously SPEEDINESS is some chance, while I’m happy to risk the three-year-olds with it being so wet. And it’s such an open race, there’s every possibility that I haven’t even mentioned the winner.
5 – HAWKSPUR
9 – ROYAL DESCENT
4 – SACRED FALLS
8 – MOURO
Race 9 – GROUP 3 ADRIAN KNOX STAKES (2000m)
Not a bad little get-out race, and there’s every possibility we’ll need it after the four Group 1 races.
I reckon Guy Walter has a really strong hand here, he’s won the race four times (with Star Alight, Republic Lass, Wild Iris and Operetta Lass) – and two of them (Republic Lass and Wild Iris) have gone on to win the Oaks. I think he might already have the Oaks winner in Zanbagh, if the track dries out anyway, but he can add two more contenders in HIGH HARMONY and MISSVONN.
High Harmony should appreciate the 2000m and a wet track, being by High Chaparral out of a Danske mare. She won a maiden at Goulburn two starts back, before running a good third at Warwick Farm last start. It’s a big step up so quickly, but it’s been done before and I can see her running a bold race.
MISSVONN has already stepped up, running home strongly for sixth behind Lucia Valentina in the Vinery Stud Stakes last weekend. She stormed home a start before in the Keith Nolan Classic behind her stablemate Zanbagh
If there’s one to spoil the Guy Walter party, it could be Roger James-trained LADY CUMQUAT. She won the Manawatu Classic easily last start, and she’s clearly going to be tough to beat. James is on fire, with Silent Achiever finally finding her best form in Australia, while he won the race with Lady Cumquat’s half sister Full of Spirit two years ago.
Next best METAPHORICAL, who has been crying out for this trip, while ROLE MODEL, ARABIAN GOLD and BLUE EYES aren’t hopeless either.
14 – HIGH HARMONY
4 – LADY CUMQUAT
11 – MISSVONN
3 – METAPHORICAL
Best of luck today, and hopefully you can find a winner somewhere!