Friday, July 14, 2017

Enable and Caravaggio to enhance their reputation

The big splash of summer racing is already under way and some of the big guns are out this Saturday to confirm their glowing reputation.

Enable looms large in the Irish Oaks. After her demonstration at Epsom, it's hard to see anything in the race that would go past her. She has proven stamina, the ground will be to her liking, she has had ample days of rest and connections are airing positive and confident vibes. It's is hard to find any negative, if any; unless it's a ring-rusty Dettori coming back from injury that is the hope of the naysayers. I actually think she will be carrying the Italian to the finish. She only has to reproduce near her Epsom form to bag this and I think she will.

Caravaggio towers over the sprinting field in the July Cup. I try not to get swept in the hype that so often accompanies Ballydoyle horses but this son of Scat Daddy is really a bullet speedster. I penned before that his win at Royal Ascot was just visually amazing; he produced a stunning turn of foot to get the better of a really good sprinter in Harry Angel. He will beat the Godolphin flag bearer again. This time though he will have to contend with battle-hardened older types in the likes of Limato and The Tin Man. The fact that he will be dispensed of weight relative to the latter, gives him a big advantage. Caravaggio looks set to add to his remarkable trophy collection yet again.


Win: Caravaggio, Enable

Friday, July 7, 2017

Coral-Eclipse Stakes - Classic Generation to the test

The Coral-Eclipse is the first serious clash between the Classic generation and the older brigade at the intermediate distance of 10 furlongs. This is a race where this year's 3-year olds can confirm themselves as a very solid bunch. It is just too bad that the creme de la creme of the older division will not be there; there will be no Minding, no Jack Hobbs, no Almanzor to name the least. I thus expect a 3-year old to rule this and the three obvious from the list are Barney Roy, Eminent and Cliff of Moher.

Barney Roy is undoubtedly a top-class miler. He avenged his only loss in 4 outings by convincingly beating Churchill (and a bunch of others) at Royal Ascot. They way he has finished his races suggests that a mile and a quarter will not be too much of a stretch for him. While he is very much on the upgrade, his main challenge is to remain relaxed; he will need to in order to see out the distance. On his best form, he is the horse to beat.

Eminent ran very well in finishing 4th in the Derby and the mile and a quarter looks his optimum distance. While he got beaten in both British Classics, he was not disgraced by any means. He is a very good 3-year old which I believe will run a big race on Saturday.

Cliff of Moher hit the front in the Derby only to touched off by Wings of Eagle in the final strides. This prompted the Ballydoyle connections and many to conclude that he did not fully see out the full mile of a half of Epsom. I have my reservations on that; if he had come out on top, chances are that mostly everyone would have said he is a proper 12 furlong horse. I think he is and he just got outgunned by a better out-and-out stayer on the day. I am not convinced the Coral-Eclipse distance is his best one.

From the older generation, mention goes to Ulysses who ran a respectable race at Ascot but does not seem to have the class to be amongst the very top. I see it as a battle between Barney Roy and Eminent, with a slight preference going to the former.


Win: Barney Roy
Place: Eminent

Friday, June 23, 2017

Royal Ascot - Day 5

What a race the Commonwealth Cup was and if only Harry Angel and Blue Point had reversed placings, that would have been quite a perfect evening. As it turns out, Caravaggio stamped his authority on the 3-year old sprinting division and there is nothing much between the 2 other Godolphin top sprinters as well. Can't wait for a re-match between these 3 again.

The showpiece of the last day of Royal Ascot is the Diamond Jubilee where the older sprinting brigade vie for bragging rights. One name looms large here and it is Limato. The well-liked son of Tagula will get his much-favoured fast ground on which he can put his turn of foot into deadly effect. He hasn't raced since his flop at Meydan and the excuse there is that although they were running in the desert, the ground was officially yielding on race day. If he has held anywhere his form of the past 2 years, he should be very hard to beat.

Win: Limato




Thursday, June 22, 2017

Royal Ascot - Day 4

Benbatl obliged as expected and Order of St George was just unlucky not to make it a nice double. Benbatl is definitely a horse to follow over the course of the year, he can be dangerous from a mile to a mile and a half.

The Commonwealth Cup is the center of attraction of Day 4, if not of the entire meeting. This is a regal clash of the best sprinters of the Classic generation, a mouth-watering clash between the best from Godolphin and Ballydoyle and Wesley Ward, the American trainer re-known for some of the fastest runners ever to grace Ascot. Look the winner from no other than the first 4 names on the race card; Blue Point, Bound For Nowhere, Harry Angel and Caravaggio.

Blue Point and Harry Angel represent a very strong challenge from Godolphin in a sprint division that is not usually their forte. But these 2 are genuine Group 1 performers and would be sharing favouritism were it not for the presence of the mighty Caravaggio. Out of the 2 colts from the Royal Blue silks, I give preference to Blue Point for 2 reasons; he's beaten Harry Angel before although it must be said that he was more favourably weighted on the occasion. Second, he will be fresher after 51 days of rest compared to 27 to his Godolphin counterpart. In a match race, I would go with Blue Point.

Then, there's Bound For Nowhere, whose claim to fame has been videos of him giving Lady Aurelia all she can handle on the morning gallops. If he is not usually blown away from Lady Aurelia on the track, he must good. With his trainer's fantastic record at Ascot, it would be no shock if he were to prevail.

And last, mighty unbeaten Caravaggio, the fastest ever from Ballydoyle. A son of Scat Daddy, a source of top-class horses with pure brazen speed, despite a short-lived stud career. You have a feeling that if he is on his game, there is not one mentioned that will be able to stop him. His seasonal appearance was another display of dominance that signaled he has lost none of the ability shown as a juvenile. He has yet to show any kind of chink in his armour. At evens, he looks still value.

Win: Caravaggio
Harry Angel v/s Blue Point: Blue Point
Place: Blue Point

Royal Ascot - Day 3

To the words of the Racing UK commentator, Usherette "should have won" and duly so. Barzalona got stuck sleeping along the rails and the the gaps opened too late for the Godolphin filly. Too bad but that's racing unfortunately.

I like the chances of Benbatl in the Hampton Court Stakes which runs in the next half an hour. This is a high-class son of Dubawi who pleasingly surprised me in finishing 5th in the Derby. Class saw him through in staying on in that race. Certainly, only 19 days rest is a concern going into this race but if he reproduces his form, he should be playing a major role here. I like him an an each-way option.

Order of St George looms large in the Gold Cup. There is talk about him emulating the great Yeats but he needs to get this one in the bag first. If he's on song, there is nothing in the race that can trouble him. O'Brien's horses should be picking things up after a slow start and none have a better chance than Order of St George.


Win: Order of St George
Each-way: Benbatl

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Royal Ascot - Day 2

Barney Roy and Lady Aurelia duly obliged on Day 1 and Godolphin are certainly on fire, having snatched a nice treble while Ballydoyle came up empty-handed. This will have sprung Sheikh Mo's operation in an upbeat boot after the off-field turmoil of late and I reckon there's more to come from the boys in royal blue at this meeting.

Dream Castle came up a honourable 5th in the 2000 Guineas and I think it will come up to its optimal distance of 7 furlongs in the Jersey Stakes. The son of Frankel showed green-ness on his seasonal debut in the Greenham when second to Barney Roy but showed better disposition in the Newmarket showpiece as it kept on and finished around 3 lengths off Churchill. Clearly, this is a smart colt that belongs in Group company. I believe it has live chances for a top 3 finish.

The Duke of Cambridge Stakes looks to be 3-way battle among French raider Qemah and the 2 Goldolphin fillies Laugh Aloud and Usherette. The former is a dual Group 1 winner who finished second on her seasonal return and has never been out of the first 3 in 9 outings. Laugh Aloud, from the John Gosden yard, is in top form having won her last 2 outings by a combined 8 lengths. She absolutely annihilated a Group 3 field at Epsom and her chances for hitting a hat trick of wins is real. My preference goes to the mare Usherette as she is battle-hardened at the top level and won this race last year. She hasn't won in 2 outings this year and somewhat disappointed in finishing 3rd in the 9 furlong Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan in her last race. She is proven as Ascot and this mile race will be more to her liking. There noises from connections are bullish and I think she stands to run a big race.

The Prince of Wales' Stakes is the showcase race of the week for many but there seems to be a lack of star power this year. Sure, Jack Hobbs and Highland Reel are Group 1 winners but bar these 2, the form looks bare. It is hard to gauge Jack Hobbs' form at the moment, having been rested since his Meydan win. Highland Reel almost always runs his race but it is a doubt whether 18 days rest since his win in the Coronation Cup will be enough to prevail. French raider Mekhtaal and Stoute's Ulysses are both on the upgrade and can spring a shock here. I will stay on the fence on this one but it could pay to go against market leaders Jack Hobbs and Highland Reel in this one.

Win: Usherette
Each-way: Dream Castle

Monday, June 19, 2017

Royal Ascot - Day 1

"WINGS OF EAGLES"!!! Hope you got on this Derby touch at 40/1 as mentioned on these pages. Certainly the biggest punt ever mentioned here yet. With the Derby done and dusted (and the result celebrated as it should be!), we now move focus on Ascot week, the highlight for many of the Flat season. Here are my thoughts on some of the races.

In the Queen Anne Stakes, Ribchester is a warm odds-on favourite. It's true this is not a vintage renewal and the races misses the allure of superstar milers of the past. My only concern with Ribchester is that winners of the Lockinge don't have a good record in this race over the past years. My speculation is that Lockinge winners peak early in the season and are exposed thereafter. If there is a horse that can trouble the Godolphin horse, it's Lightning Spear from the Simcock stable. This son of Pivotal was a clear second in the Lockinge on his seasonal return on his less-favoured soft surface. The better conditions at Ascot will be to his advantage but whether that is enough for him to make up the 3 lengths gap from Ribchester remains to be seen. At current odds, Lightning Spear looks like a solid each-way punt.

In the St James Palace Stakes, it's hard to see beyond the 2 market leaders Churchill and Barney Roy, arguably the 2 best milers of the Classic crop. Churchill reigned supreme in both Guineas beating the same Barney Roy at Newmarket and fellow Godolphin miler Thunder Snow at the Curragh. The son of Galileo has a near-flawless record and is the deserved favourite of the race. Should he falter, Barney Roy looks set to pick up the pieces. He still managed to be one length or so off Churchill at Newmarket while struggling with the undulations of the course. Having stayed away from the Irish showpiece, he will be well rested for this race. His connections are bullish and I certainly cannot see him out of the first 2 spots; he will either win or come out second to Churchill.

Wesley Ward, the American trainer with an amazing record at Ascot, is in again and this time with his strongest contingent yet. I think he is in a big shout to add to his tally. In the Coventry stakes, the odds of Arawak look very appealing. The trainer has found a niche of running precocious fast American colts against less-developed European counterparts and Arawak can do him justice yet again. Might be worth an each-way punt.

In the King's Stand stakes, there is a lot of buzz around Ward's Lady Aurelia and if the very fast daughter of Scat Daddy is on song, there is not one of the 17 runners that will match up with her blazing speed. Bar an accident, she should repeat as a Royal Ascot winner.

Win: Lady Aurelia
Win or Top 2: Barney Roy
Each-way: Lightning Spear, Arawak




Friday, June 2, 2017

UCL final 2017 - Juventus on the cusp of greatness

I've gone against Real Madrid the last 2 times they won the UCL final and both times they lifted the cup. However, I am more confident in the chances of Juventus, their opponents this year, than I was with Atletico Madrid, their city rivals they beat on both occasions.

Juventus has simply crushed Serie A for the past years. No team comes close to them. They started their dynasty with Pogba and Vidal and although these have left for richer pastures, the team has remained dominant in Italy. Super coach Conte has gone but newcomer Allegri has done an equally remarkable job to maintain their domestic supremacy. Europe is something they have not conquered during that period and it would be the icing on top for this team.

It is well documented that the Italians, however traditionally dominant at home, have a relatively poor record in the European Cup. Only 2 wins out of 8 finals is a stigma they desperately wish to erase. Contrast that to rivals Real Madrid which are going for their 12th win in the competition. But the past is the past and there are strong reasons to believe that this might be the year of the Old Lady. Their defence is their biggest strength. Ask Messi and the full-powered Barcelona which were brushed aside without scoring a scoring goal in the quarter finals. Ask the young Monaco team, re-known for their attacking flair and dynamic, which could only find the net once against the vaunted Italian defence. This is a very balanced team with workhorses like Marchisio and Khedira supporting the talented cast of Dybala, Higuain and Mandzukic upfront. There is no superstar they have to rely on, the whole is bigger than sum of the parts, where each part fits into a system devised by an astute manager. This is a big contrast to Real Madrid.

The Los Blancos rely on one man, Ronaldo. Take him out of the equation on a match of this significance and this team will struggle to find goals. Except maybe Ramos, their captain superlative that has been getting well-timed goals out of nowhere in their past finals.  The Whites are full of talent but they are not a balanced team. They will struggle to open up the organized and defensively-minded Italians. However, with goal-thirsty Ronaldo, they cannot be dismissed in any match.

It seems to me that the time of the Italians has come. Time for Juventus to confirm their supremacy in Europe, beyond Serie A. Time for Buffon to finally lift the coveted cup, the only one missing from his glorious resume. Time for a team other than Real or Barcelona, other than Messi or Ronaldo, to win the UCL final.





Investec Derby - Ballydoyle's least favoured can ring the till

This year's Derby is so open that more than three-quarters of the 19-runner field has a legitimate chance to win it. It is the realm of speculation to try to pick the winner. There are gaps in all the resumes and there is not really a horse that stands out; an Australia, an Authorized or a Camelot.

Ballydoyle runs six, with five of them by Galileo. Looking at the markets, there could be huge upside siding with the non-Galileo one, Wings of Eagles, currently at 60/1! What I really like about this colt by Pour Moi, a Derby winner in its own right, is the way he finished the Chester Vase, one of the best trials for the Derby in my opinion. He came third but with seemingly a lot of petrol in the tank. The mile and a half of Epsom will be right up his alley. Twenty-three days rest is perfect. The only downside is his jockey booking, Beggy, who rides the left-overs, however well-bred, for Ballydoyle. His strike rate is abysmal. Provided the Ballydoyle tactic is not to steer Wings of Eagles as a suicidal pacemaker for the rest of the stable runners, it would not surprise me to see this son of Pour Moi flying late at the finish. Beggy just needs to have him relaxed till then. Those might be big asks but at 60/1, I will be willing to take a small each-way flutter on a quite capable horse.


Each-way: Wings of Eagles

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Investec Oaks - Rhododendron on the path of Minding

Football is almost winding down with only Saturday's UCL final left and which I shall get to later. The Classic generation takes center stage in the next few days with the running of the Oaks and Derby.

We have been starved of the superpower clashes between Godolphin and Ballydoyle in the last few years. The Irish connections have simply been overwhelming by far and their reliance on the best progeny from home stallion Galileo have made them rather peer-less. Godolphin have honourably countered with the sons and daughters of Dubawi and Shamardal, and this year are throwing in some decent high-class types to stem the Irish onslaught.

Friday's Oaks pits Galileo's Rhododendron against Dubawi's Sobetsu for middle-distance bragging rights among the fillies. Rhod goes into the race as deserved favourite and there are many things to like about Ballydoyle's number one hope. This will be her 7th race and is the most experienced of the field. She's never been out of the first 3. More importantly, her breeding suggests that the Epsom's stiff mile and a half won't be a problem for her. Encouragingly, she came out second in the Guineas, having met trouble in running. She might not have won against eventual double-Guineas winner Winter but she could hardly have shown better form going into this race. Rhod is the filly to beat and if she runs to her ability, she should win.

Sobetsu's participation in the Oaks owes to the rain. She loves easing conditions and her target was actually the Prix Diane but the recent rainfall have re-routed her to Epsom. Her last win in the Group One Saint-Alary was visually impressive. She is definitely top notch and the connections are high on her hopes of winning but I will give you 3 reasons why she won't. It is questionable whether she will handle a mile and a half. She was initially trained for the 2100 metres of the Prix Diane and might be found wanting with the extra 300 metres. Her optimum distance might actually be a mile and a quarter. Her stamina concerns are compounded by the fact that she will only be on 19 days rest since her last start. Lastly, although some might say that juvenile form does not count as much, she was well beaten in her encounter against Rhod in the Group One Dubai Fillies' Mile last year. Her only hope to come on top will be the softening conditions but Rhod and some others will not mind that as well.

Juddmonte is represented by 2 Nathaniel fillies in Natavia and Enable, the latter bagging the Chesire's Oaks in impressive fashion. She is proven at the distance, will be well rested and will have Frankie Dettori in the saddle. She looks to be the main danger to Rhod.


Win: Rhododendron
Place: Enable
Won't win (Lay): Sobetsu


Friday, May 19, 2017

EPL 2016/2017 - Week 39

Arsenal v/s Everton - Home win
Burnley v/s West Ham - Home win
Chelsea v/s Sunderland - Home win
Hull v/s Tottenham - Away win
Leicester v/s Bournemouth - Home win
Liverpool v/s Middlesbrough - Home win
Man Utd v/s Crystal Palace - Draw
Southampton v/s Stoke - Home win
Swansea v/s WBA - Draw
Watford v/s Man City - Away win

Curtain call for the EPL which Chelsea won in a canter. Their sequence of 13 consecutive wins in the early part of the season just broke the backbone of its pursuers. Although all the talk at the start of the season was about Guardiola, Mourinho and Klopp, it was Conte who impressed in keeping the togetherness and composure of his Blues team. By coming out a solid second again, Spurs' Pochettino proved that their runner-up spot last year was no fluke and that Tottenham are a team to be reckoned with in the next few years.

The 4th final UCL spot is what is left for grabs on the last day. Livepool will beat Middlesbrough, that is a banker. Arsenal and Man City have more difficult matches as the former entertain Everton and the Citizens are on a trip to Watford. City need a point to secure their spot and it is difficult to see them getting out of Vicarage Road without a point. Guardiola has disappointed many in his first season and it will be disastrous if he can't get his team in the UCL. I think with the help of striker Jesus, the Citizens will be firing on all cylinders on Sunday.

This is bad news for Arsenal who must win against the Toffees to have any chance of getting 4th spot. Easier said than done as Koeman's men are no push-overs by any means. Their match could very well be academic as Man City and Liverpool probably won't lose any points. It will be a tale of too little too late for Wenger's men.

Win: Liverpool, Man City






Thursday, May 11, 2017

EPL 2016/17 - Week 38

Everton v/s Watford - Home win
WBA v/s Chelsea - Away win
Man City v/s Leicester - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Burnley - Home win
Middlesbrough v/s Southampton - Away win
Sunderland v/s Swansea - Draw
Stoke v/s Arsenal - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Hull - Home win
West Ham v/s Liverpool - Draw
Tottenham v/s Man Utd - Home win


Spurs will certainly not be winning the league this year but they over-achieved again for a second year running. They go as clear favourites against visiting Man Utd on Sunday. With the Europa league final being their game of the season, Mourinho will ring the changes big-time in Man Utd's remaining 3 matches. The final is their best hope of securing UCL football next season and might very well be the Portuguese's only chance to keep his job. If Liverpool or Man City were to stumble prior to the Spurs match, Mourinho might include in a stronger team to attempt bagging the 3 points but he definitely will not be fielding his best XI. Tottenham always make it hard against Man Utd and their home form is very strong. I cannot see Pochettino's men lose this and while a draw-no-bet might be the safer option, going all-out with the home team looks a rewarding proposition.

Arsenal have garnered a glimmer of hope of securing UCL football by winning their last couple of matches and getting closer to fourth spot. They will hope for Man City or Liverpool to lose points while they win their remaining matches. Tougher said than done as they travel to Stoke's bet365 Stadium (ex-Brittania) which has so often been a graveyard for the biggest teams. Hughes' team always poses problems for the Gunners and I see this being another struggle for Wenger's team. The problem with the Gunners is managerial and mental. That double whammy means that they rarely win matches where they are not able to express their football; i.e. against teams that focus on just shutting them down. Think Mourinho's teams, Allardyce teams, and Hughes' teams. They have all relished stifling the flair and creativity of Wenger's teams for which the Frenchman has lacked proper response. Arsenal are not the force they once were and their reliance on Sanchez means that they are very exposed once the Chilean is shackled. I see value in siding with Stoke outright or as a safer draw-no-bet.

Win: Stoke, Tottenham

Friday, May 5, 2017

EPL 2016/17 - Week 37

West Ham v/s Tottenham - Away win
Man City v/s Crystal Palace - Home win
Bournemouth v/s Stoke - Home win
Burnley v/s WBA - Draw
Hull v/s Sunderland - Home win
Leicester v/s Watford - Home win
Swansea v/s Everton - Home win
Liverpool v/s Southampton - Draw
Arsenal v/s Man Utd - Home win
Chelsea v/s Middlesbrough - Home win


Hull have a great chance to bag full points as they entertain relegated Sunderland. This is a massive opportunity for the Tigers to move away from Swansea and the final relegation spot. I don't think they will squander it. Their form has been relatively good lately and they have shown strong form at home where they have shown to scrap points. They should beat Sunderland.

Arsenal are in disarray but they will benefit from circumstances as they host Man Utd. The Red Devils seem to have put all their eggs in the Europa basket to secure UCL qualification. They already have a leg in the final as they went to beat Celta Vigo yesterday. The injuries to the team will most probably prompt Mourinho not to field his best team at the Emirates in view of next week's Europa return leg. On the other hand, the Gunners need to get to the final fourth spot if they are to play in the UCL next year, however minimal their chances look. Wenger typically does not win against a Mourinho team but I cannot see him lose this encounter either. A draw might be the likelier result but Arsenal could also grab the full points by the smallest margin. So, a draw-no-bet on the hosts could be rewarding in the end.

Win: Hull
Draw-no-bet: Arsenal

Friday, April 28, 2017

EPL 2016/17 - Week 36

Southampton v/s Hull - Home win
Stoke v/s West Ham - Draw
Sunderland v/s Bournemouth - Away win
West Brom v/s Leicester - Draw
Crystal Palace v/s Burnley - Home win
Man Utd v/s Swansea - Home win
Everton v/s Chelsea - Home win
Middlesbrough v/s Man City - Away win
Tottenham v/s Arsenal - Home win
Watford v/s Liverpool - Away win


Although Hull have raised their heads above water lately, they have a tough task going to the St Mary's where the Saints have rock-solid form. The Tigers have some great home form of their own which could very well save them from the drop but they have shown difficulties getting points on the road. Both teams are well managed and organized but Southampton have much more firepower at their disposal. Although they lost their last match against league leaders Chelsea, they still managed to score two at Stamford Bridge to keep the match close for a long while. Hull will probably play for the draw here in order to suck an important point out of this encounter but I think Southampton have enough in them to make the difference in the end.

I cannot see Arsenal getting a win against arch-rivals Totteham at White Hart Lane. The Gunners were arguably lucky to down Leicester in mid-week after a freak Huth own-goal. They were muted for much of the match by the champions. It seems Wenger's team is just running out of steam and ideas for a while now. Spurs were also lucky to bag the full points against Crystal Palace on that day. They are contending for the league and that definitely gives them an extra spring in their step. They have strong form at home and several match-winners with the likes of Kane, Ericksen, Ali, Son to name a few. A draw-no-bet is the safest way to go here but going all-out with a Spurs win might be more rewarding in the end.

Win: Southampton, Tottenham

Monday, April 24, 2017

EPL 2016/17 - Week 35 (Part 2)

Chelsea v/s Southampton - Home win
Arsenal v/s Leicester - Home win
Middlesbrough v/s Sunderland - Home win
Crystal Palace v/s Tottenham - Draw
Man City v/s Man Utd - Draw

After booting Spurs out of the FA Cup over the week-end, Chelsea are bound to land a double blow to their London rivals by distancing themselves further in the race to the league title. Conte's men will certainly have a spring in their step after their qualification to the FA Cup final. Southampton are no slouch and will make their chances to score at Stamford Bridge but it is hard to see the Blues not bagging the 3 all-important points. They have been hit by injuries with the likes of Alonso and Cahill but managed to win without starting their best eleven against Tottenham. That says a lot about their frame of mind for the remaining matches. The result might be close but I see Chelsea edging this encounter.

I also see Boro getting a much-needed win against Sunderland. This is a 6-pointer for 2 teams battling relegation; Sunderland look doomed in my opinion but Boro still has a ray of hope as long as they win these kinds of matches. Much will depend on Negredo and Defoe to make a difference at both ends of the pitch. I give Boro home advantage here and can't see them losing this.

Win: Chelsea, Middlesbrough