Friday, September 15, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 5

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

Arsenal's and Arsene's problems will compound this week-end as they visit Stamford Bridge. After a false start, Conte's men have quickly racked up the wins and seem to be gaining momentum even without its best player in Hazard. After 2 consecutive defeats, including a severe drubbing at Liverpool, the knives were out on Wenger. The Gunners somewhat righted the ship by winning against modest opposition like Bournemouth and Cologne, but Chelsea will be an entirely different beast. The good news for Arsenal is the recent return to match fitness of Sanchez and the Chilean will get better as the matches go by. But that should not be enough to get a win at Stamford Bridge and Conte's men are fancied for the outright win.

Spurs are also showing good form as they have trounced Everton and Dortmund in their last matches. As I mentioned before, Wembley will never be the fortress White Hart Lane has been to them in the past years. However, their new temporary stadium will give them a better home feel as the season progresses. Against a Swansea team still looking for some direction, Harry Kane and co should ride their form and bag another 3 points.

Everton are a shambles at the moment and coincidence or not, it seems to have started with the off-field problems of captain Rooney. The former United legend returns to Old Trafford and it will be interesting to see the kind of welcome he receives. Pogba will be out for the Red Devils and while it is always a worry for Man Utd fans whenever Fellaini gets the call-up as a starter, they should have too much for the struggling visitors. In fact, ex-Toffee man Lukaku could prolong the misery of Koeman's team.

Throw in Liverpool in an accumulator and this could be rewarding. The Kops dominated Sevilla from top to bottom in their European encounter but failed to take their chances for the win. Coutinho will probably return for the Reds and I reckon he will be short of match fitness after a forgetful summer. In the end, Klopp's team should have too much firepower and I cannot see Burnley escape Anfield with a point.

Accumulator: Chelsea, Man Utd, Tottenham, Liverpool.

Friday, September 8, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 4

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

It's been only 4 weeks of matches and already managerial changes could very well be under way in some clubs. Frank de Boer is definitely among the ones in the firing line this week-end as his struggling Crystal Palace side visit Burnley. The Eagles are 0 for 3 under his stewardship and with the way they have been performing, it would take a serious gamble to think that things will be improving drastically in the immediate future. The future under de Boer does not look good and going to a place like Turf Moor on Sunday does not look good either. Although they lost their home opener to WBA, the Clarets have been sporting good form at home since last year, which was the main reason they kept up in the standings. Burnley should be keeping that solid home record on track this week-end. Home win.

Man Utd have been flying from the start but Stoke represent a first real test for them. Not many teams come out of the Brittania happy and most are made to work to get anything out of there. Typical of Mark Hughes' sides, the Potters will focus on physical football to disrupt their superior opponent. However, the visitors are playing with such confidence at the moment and if the international break has not dampened their enthusiasm or dominance, they should find a way to break the home side in the end. Away win.

I've been giving positive vibes on West Ham since the start. Ok, they lost all their first 3 matches, albeit all on them were away matches. Manager Bilic is rightly on the hot seat and he could be the one booted next. I think he will be unless they get a positive result against Huddersfield. The Hammers have strengthened their squad with some big-name signings and they need at least a point over the week-end. Nothing else will do for Bilic. Allthough Huddersfield have yet to concede, with Chicharito up front, there is every confidence the home side will score. At current odds, it might be worth going with a draw-no-bet selection on the Hammers.

Win: Burnley, Man Utd
Draw-no-bet: West Ham

Friday, August 25, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 3

Bournemouth v/s Man City - Away win
Crystal Palace v/s Swansea - Away win
Huddersfield v/s Southampton - Draw
Newcastle v/s West Ham - Away win
Watford v/s Brighton - Home win
Man Utd v/s Leicester - Home win
Chelsea v/s Everton - Draw
West Brom v/s Stoke - Home win
Liverpool v/s Arsenal - Home win
Spurs v/s Burnley - Home win

One thing that I don't like with Spurs this year is that they will play all their home matches at Wembley and not at White Hart Lane. As last week's loss to Chelsea demonstrated, not playing on their real home turf could be detrimental to their title chances. They had an impressive record at White Hart Lane over the years, a place where it was tough for any opponent to go gather points. At Wembley, they are certainly less of a threat and they will lose points because of that. That said, against Burnley this week-end, they should be able to pick up full points. The Clarets shocked everyone by beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on opening week-end but it is hard to see them doubling on that. Home win.

Man Utd are firing on all cylinders and Leicester are visiting Old Trafford at an in-auspicious time. Zlatan is coming back for the Red Devils but it remains to be seen whether he will enhance and not hamper the growing team chemistry under development at the club. Leicester gave a ton of trouble in their visit to Arsenal a couple of weeks ago and are a team that never goes down without a fight. Vardy, in particular, can score any time. But it's hard to go against the home team here; they are playing with full confidence and will need the full points if they are to be taken seriously as title contenders. Home win.

For a value punt, I am again turning to West Ham.They almost got something out of their visit to Southampton last week and were it not for the Arnatauvic red card, they could well have sprung an upset. With Chicharito already proving his mark, their chances against newly-promoted Newcastle look good. I see the match ending either in a Hammers victory or a draw and it might be rewarding to go all out for the visitors to prevail. Away win.

Win: Spurs, Man Utd, West Ham

Friday, August 18, 2017

EPL 2017/18 - Week 2

Missed the opening week due to an extended holiday but with the dust firmly settled and the intentions of the teams on open display, we are better armed to gauge their actual capacities. Here's to a new season hopefully as profitable and successful as the previous one.

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

Man Utd are on high spirits after they opening day destruction of West Ham. The Red Devils should be live contenders this year. There is the Mourinho factor, of course; the Portuguese usually wins on his second season in charge of a new team. Their pre-season preparations have gone very well. And last but not least, they are a better squad than last season having been reinforced by the likes of Lukaku, Matic and Lindelof. Unless there is a meltdown from Mourinho, which you can never discount, the Red Devils should be in the Top 2. That said, they seem to be buzzing with confidence and provided they are not as overly-confident as they sound, they should come away with 3 vital points when visiting Swansea. Away win.

Liverpool's chances of Premiership glory seem to have been rocked at the very start with the imminent going-out of their best player, Coutinho. Without him, they are a lesser team, no doubt. Still, they should have too much for a Crystal Palace team that I believe is destined to play in the lower end of the table this season. Home win.

Spurs v/s Chelsea is already a 6-pointer early in the season. Title holders Chelsea were rocked last week in a shocking loss at home to Burnley. Many have already said it and I also believe it; Chelsea won't win the title this year. They won last year because of their 13-match unbeaten run which included snatching many lucky points. Conte is a top manager but his team does not look as good or motivated as last year. The loss of Matic and Costa will be felt. Spurs haven't had a great pre-season and they have been so far relatively quiet on the transfer market. Still, they are a formidable team and this could be the season they end years of hurt. No doubt that last year they would have won the league if Chelsea hadn't had that long winning run. There is bad blood between these 2 teams and at the end, I expect Spurs to prevail. Home win.

As a value proposition, pay attention to West Ham. True, they got hammered by Man Utd last week but this is a much better team than last season. Chicharito and Arnatauvic will score goals and Hart can bring stability at the back even though he will have his occasional blunders. Bilic just needs to keep everything together but they look set for some upsets. It could definitely come in the form of a positive result at Southampton.

Win: Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs, West Ham

Friday, July 28, 2017

King George - A blooming rose among the thorns

What a terrific line-up for the King George! Top-drawer names make this contest wide open and the soft conditions could be the deciding factor in determining the winner. First, let's remove the wheat from the chaff; Desert Encounter, Maverick Wave, My Dream Boat and Sixties Song could aspire to places but it is difficult fathoming any of them coming out on top.

Highland Reel is Mr Exemplary who rarely runs a bad race. This globetrotter has an exquisite travel record and is the title holder of the race. His last run on soft ground was in Dubai in which he finished at the tail end of the field. That does not bode well for him if the conditions remain soft on Saturday. He will need at least good ground to retain his title.

Idaho is the full-brother to Highland Reel and although he has yet to bag a Group 1, he is a horse on the upside that can spring a surprise with some luck. He is clearly the stable's second pick but will run with his own chances and cannot be dismissed as a place chance.

Jack Hobbs is the dark horse of the race. Not because we don't know much about him but because if he clicks as expected on soft ground, he will be involved at the finish line. If the ground conditions don't suit, he could come out with the same stinker as at Royal Ascot.

Ulysses beat Barney Roy in an epic battle in the Coral-Eclipse and is another horse on an upward curve. There is the niggling thought with him that he might have run his race of the season already and I am not entirely sure that 3 weeks rest will be enough to get over his exertions at Sandown. The 12 furlong distance, although within his usual realm, might overstretch him in this case.

Like his Godolphin counter-part, Benbatl comes in with some question marks. There is no doubt in my mind this son of Dubawi is top-class and potentially best over a mile-and-a-quarter. The way he finished so well in the Epsom Derby leads me to believe that it was his class carrying him all the way through; he will need lots of it to overcome these seasoned mile-and-a-half older colts. If all things fall for him, it won't be a shock if he were to prevail and I see him potentially as a value top 4 pick.

Finally, the blooming rose among the lot; Enable is easily the staying filly of the Classic generation, having bagged 2 Oaks in spectacular fashion already. As with all John Gosden horses, the words from the trainer's mouth are so vital; in this case, the vibes from the connections are ever so bullish. That means the filly is ready to go. She is packed stamina-wise and will benefit from a weight allowance from the colts. The fact that she only raced a fortnight ago could be a factor, albeit a small one in my opinion, as she won that race in a canter. She looks set to emulate the mighty Danedream, the last filly to win the race.

Win: Enable
First 4: Benbatl

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