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Epsom invasion, when is a Steward not a Steward, and a juvenile not to be missed!

Paul ColeThose who read last week’s article will not have been overly surprised to see the Mark Usher trained Noor Al Haya drift like the proverbial barge on the exchanges and in the ring before the three year old ran at Kempton on the polytrack DESPITE a dislike of the all-weather being used as a reason behind her improvement at Bath the race before. Naturally, and exactly as expected, the Stewards kept their heads buried in the sand once again and did not ask any questions, so we just have to assume the daughter of Tamayuz genuinely does hate the polytrack (so why did they run her?), but she could be worth looking out for if she shows up again shortly on the turf?

Talking of horses to look out for, Paul Cole introduced a nice son of Cape Cross who goes by the name of Cape Arrow. He was given a pretty gentle education on his debut at Goodwood last Saturday when a never nearer seventh of eleven, beaten seven lengths at the line, but I do know they think an awful lot of him and on breeding alone we can be certain he will improve with both racing and age assuming he takes after his Dad that is.

I would have preferred to gloss over my suggestions from last weekend but Ron prefers me not to hide (?), and as is my habit sometimes, close but no cigar! First Cornerstone ran well for a 25/1 shot to finish fifth (beaten nine lengths but ahead of four horses shorter in the betting), while Morawij stumbled out of the stalls like some drunk giving away any chance in such a competitive sprint, but still ran well enough in sixth to suggest he can be found some decent races this season. The star performance of the weekend in my eyes certainly came from the previously unraced Sir John Hawkins, named after an English shipbuilder, which is a pretty clever name for a son of Henrythenavigator. Word was that he looked the part but may well need the run mentally which pretty much proved to be the case as he landed the odds eventually after taking a while to get the hang of what was expected of him. His next run will almost certainly see him in a better light, and I fully expect that to be at Royal Ascot (I would guess at the Coventry), and Ballydoyle do see him as their best two year old at this very early stage.

Al ZarooniAway from the “live” racing, politics continues and I am intrigued as to why Mahmood Al Zarooni has now withdrawn his appeal against the severity of his sentence? Has he honestly decided that the punishment does fit the crime (despite his earlier protestations), or has someone somewhere “persuaded” him that perhaps his previous employers have suffered enough embarrassment for one season? On the National Hunt front the big (but not exactly shocking) news is the amicable split between Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls as the toll of daily travel proved too much and Ruby will stick to Ireland from now on with the exception of the big meetings (or when he feels like it). As a fully signed up member of the Conspiracy Theory Club am I the only one who has noticed a bit of a slide for the once unquestionable Mr Nicholls? Personally, I have no issues with Paul whatsoever and he has always been straight and to the point with me, but he has fallen out with some of his high profile owners this season and now loses Ruby which makes me wonder if all is as well as it could be inside the Shepton Mallet yard? Daryl Jacob seems like a class act in the saddle (what do I know, I can just about ride a bike?), though his 5% winning strike rate at Cheltenham is a bit of a worry and will need to be improved considerably from 2014 onwards!

Looking ahead I have a busy weekend (yet again), starting Friday when I head off to Epsom for the Oaks plus supporting card. The course is quality (though it is still raining here in the South so the going could be interesting by Friday), though the traffic in and out is a pain in the proverbial, though good practice for the Derby on Saturday, which is ten times worse! Having got the Irish 1000 Guineas so hopelessly wrong I am very wary of the fairer sex at the moment (and the horses), but may be tempted in to a very small bet on Liber Nauticus if only because I am almost obsessed with the idea that Sir Michael Stoute MUST be in line for a decent season! Earlier on the card I will also be stupid enough to back Sendaril in the opener at 1.35pm (William Haggas told me he expects a big season from the four year old who he is still getting to know), and then Tales Of Grimm in the Diodem Stakes at 2.45pm (rumoured to have been Stoute’s 2000 Guineas hope in 2012 until it all went pear shaped), so if they both win, see you in the Bahamas!

Aidan ObrienOn Saturday we have the small issue of the Derby, but as I write riding arrangements are yet to be confirmed, and we may even see a certain Mr Dettori back in the saddle by then. The Aiden O’Brien camp are (at the time of writing) responsible for six of the fifteen entries with his Irish compatriots sending a further four as things stand (so what are the chances of keeping the prize at home this year?), and the betting is certainly dominated by “foreign” challengers with both Germany (Chopin), and France (Ocovango) in with fantastic chances, and Libertarian the first British trained runner in the betting. What this tells us about the health of our racing is a whole new kettle of fish (whatever that bloody means), though the absence of a single runner from the powerhouses of Sir Henry Cecil, John Gosden, Saeed Bin Suroor, Mark Johnston, Sir Michael Stoute and so on may become clearer as the season unfolds (but three English entries in OUR Derby just cannot be a good thing).  As for my ideas of the winner, I was rather hoping no one would ask though if I were given someone else’s money (a charity bet perhaps), then it would still go on Dawn Approach. He runs as if he will get the trip (stayed on powerfully to go away at the end of the 2000 Guineas), though I do admit that Magician did a very similar destruction job in the Irish equivalent and is bred with a lot more stamina. Mars intrigues me as an each way alternative as he was always thought of as their Derby horse before looking outpaced over a mile in our Guineas, while any horse trained by “God” (Andre Fabre) can never be written off, which brings Ocovango in to the equations. Personally, I really suspect that unless Friday is overly profitable then a watching brief may be my own way of playing the big race, with far more questions than answers on the table.

Meanwhile, the race that REALLY matters this weekend takes place at Musselburgh for goodness sake, not lowly Epsom! Grandorio is down to race in what is currently the 3.30pm and once again I can see the race cutting up badly. Fifteen are entered at this early stage BUT quite a few of them are also entered either elsewhere or in the 2.55pm so we may have a tactical battle on our hands, which makes life all the more interesting? Mister Impatience will almost certainly shoulder top weight for Mark Johnston though Brass Ring from the John Gosden yard is the one that really worries me. The son of Rail Link is a bit of a character but is entered at Royal Ascot so they must think a bit of him, and with stamina clearly his forte he may need to be sent on earlier than wanted to take the sting out of others including our boy here – lets just hope he fails to show on the day shall we!

Weekend suggestions :

Sendaril (each way) 1.35pm Epsom Friday

Horses to follow:

Cape Arrow – a once raced two year old trained by Paul Cole and held in very high regard at the stable.

Afortunado – unraced three year old trained by Conrad Allen, entered Leicester 3rd June.

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