And the rains fell down and made all my hard work this time last week a complete and utter waste of time – curse you Mother Nature! As you all know, the heavens opened over night last weekend, leaving Redcar on Saturday abandoned, and everywhere else much softer than we all anticipated making selections even more of a lottery than normal. Little could be learnt as far as I could tell and it seemed more a case of those hating the surface the least than anything actually appreciating it as witnessed by an amazing 66 non runners on Saturday alone, which must be close to a record? Excuses flew around from trainers and jockeys (and me!), though it will be interesting if on this weeks Podcast when I mention to Ron that they say a good horse goes on any ground – somehow, I suspect he may not agree with me on that one?
On Wednesday afternoon Karl Burke had his first winner since being reinstated following his one year ban and voluntary sabbatical while the horses continued to be trained in his wife’s name, but I have to ask if this made a complete mockery of the original ban? Karl himself admits very little changed, so should the powers that be have granted his wife the license (don’t suppose they had a reason not to), and if so, was the original punishment little more than lip service to the public, or did it really serve a purpose – I would (as with every subject covered), love to hear your opinions? Little lese really caught my eye for discussion apart from the brave (laughable?) idea that American trained No Nay Never, winner of the five furlong Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the six furlong Prix Morny a fortnight or so ago. Bought by the Coolmore crew for an unspecified sum (my guess is “loads”), the plan is the 2000 Guineas as a possible race prior to the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot next season – lofty ambitions I agree but he looks so much like a sprinter to me that I can see him back here for the July Stakes or similar but doubt he would stay the mile in a horse box (though to be unbiased, his breeding suggests a mile is easily within his compass)?
Next stop is the weekend, and there is always something good just around the corner in this sport, which in turn is one of the reasons I fell in love with the game all those years ago (don’t ask). This weekend it’s the turn of Sandown to provide the showpiece racing on Saturday (forget your handicaps Ron), with two Group Three races, both equally difficult to solve at this stage with the weather forecasts as unreliable as ever. The Solario Stakes is “interesting” but little more than that to be honest and will not have me rushing for any ante post slips regardless of the results to be honest. As I write (and we all know the list of runners will change considerably between now and Saturday), we have three unbeaten entries in Kingman (John Gosden), Piping Rock (Richard Hannon), and Silent Bullet (Saeed Bin Suroor), though a dozen looks at videos of their wins told me precious little as they all looked odds on to show considerable improvement with all the customary signs of inexperience. That said, sitting on the fence only gets splinters where you really don’t want them, and I have come done on the side of Kingman who ran perhaps the best time first time out, represents John Gosden who sent Ravens Pass to win here back in 2007 (where does the time go?), but more importantly, he did nominate this race in the Winners Enclosure at Newmarket so this is at least part of a long term plan.
The Atalanta Stakes that follows is even more likely to cut up and I will be in shock if as many as half of the 22 currently declared show up on the day! Chigun currently heads the list for Lady Cecil and jockey Tom Queally and would be the most popular winner of course, but is she the best bet I wonder? The line up looks like a heady mix of improving handicappers stepping up in class (Estiqaama and Pearl Of Africa spring to mind), improving three year olds (Integral and Zibelina to name but two), and those dropping in class (Chigun would certainly top that short list), providing us with a conundrum wrapped up in a puzzle that looks ever more difficult to solve. If I was given a charity bet then I suspect I would risk a little each way on the little known Annina for Henry Candy if she finally makes her long awaited reappearance. One run and one win at Lingfield told us very little but she is clearly held in high regard by Henry Candy who knows a decent filly when sees has one (anyone else old enough to remember the brilliant Time Charter?), and although sure to improve for her first run in eleven months or so, she looks a possible value call to pennies if nothing else.
Lastly for my weekend, we have the Moyglare Stakes in from the Curragh on Sunday where the Charlie Hills trained Kiyoshi the probable favourite after she won the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot when last seen in June. The form of that race has been franked with runner up Sandiva taking a Group Three at Deauville quite comfortably and sixth placed Lucky Kristale taking a pair of quality races with the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes and then the Lowther Stakes last weekend. Add wins for the seventh ninth and twelfth and we may have just about the best juvenile form of the season but is she good enough to hold off Aiden O’Brien’s Tapestry, the winner of both her races to date and high in the betting for next years classics? Maybe I have been hanging around with Ron too long as I am thinking form in the book is far more valuable than possibilities for the future, and for my last suggestion, I will happily stick with Charlie boy!
Selections this week:
Kingman – Solario Stakes Sandown Saturday
Kiyoshi – Moyglare Stakes The Curragh Sunday
Horses to follow:
Afortunado – unraced three year old trained by Conrad Allen who I nearly removed from the list – though we all know that would mean he wins first time out at a price!
Taayel – a nice lightly raced sort trained in Newmarket by John Gosden – should be Group class, will improve for his reappearance, and well worth adding to your little black book (ignore his last run, then ground went against him).
Soft Falling Rain – needed the run last time out when losing his unbeaten record, still held in the highest regard and entered in all the top autumn sprints.
Winter Picnic – low grade two year old (no insult intended) who caught my eye on his Brighton debut and is sure to improve for the experience. Nice looking sort who ought top pick up a small race at a price.
Araqella – I doubt we get too rich off this one but she did sweep clear with an impressive turn of foot and could be anything – sure to improve for her first run but we need to see how highly they aim her next!