Classics Ahoy…

Nick Hardman returns with an in depth look at some great racing this Saturday from Newmarket, Goodwood and Thirsk including the 2000 Guineas, the first Classic of the new flat season:

The flat season is well and truly upon us now and this weekend sees the first of the Classics with the QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas.  We also have decent cards from Goodwood and Thirsk on Saturday.  As usual I will be sharing my weekend thoughts and selections with you.  So, without further ado here is where my money is going this weekend.

First up on C4 is the Suffolk Stakes from Newmarket, a Class 2 handicap over 1m 1f.  There are quite a few in here that I have backed before to no avail, so Sod’s Law dictates one of them will win this time.  Using that holistic approach a couple who should go close are Roger Varian’s Farraaj @10/1 and Sir Michael Stoute’s Bold Sniper also @10/1.  Farraaj won the Winter Derby in 2013 but was a touch disappointing in the 2014 renewal finishing 5th.  Mind you that was a muddling race so I am prepared to forgive him that run.  His best form is over 10 furlongs and also on polytrack but he does have decent turf form over admittedly shorter trips (on good ground).  At the prices he rates a decent each way bet.  Bold Sniper is interesting in that 4 of his 6 races have been over 12 furlongs and he takes a drop in trip to 9 furlongs for this race.  Last year he ran 3rd in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot (when I backed him to win) and followed that up with a course win in a decent handicap 3 weeks later.  He went up 6lbs for that and could only finish 7th off that mark at Goodwood in August.  He races off the same mark here and I just think he is an interesting runner down in trip.  He also has the joint highest Racing Post Top Speed rating and Ryan Moore on board.  The trip is a concern, so I won’t be ploughing in, but I have had a speculative punt.

Next we have the Listed race for Fillies and Mares at Goodwood and at the prices I am prepared to take on the favourite Waila with Wall Of Sound @6/1 and Special Meaning @6/1.  Wall Of Sound has won 3 of her 7 starts and has only once finished outside the three (over in France on good to soft ground).  With all her form on good and good to firm ground I am hopeful of a decent.  Special Meaning has winning form on good to soft and good to firm so she will not be inconvenienced by any rain.  She has also won at the distance which is another positive.  If the short priced favourite fails to fire then I am hopeful one of my two selections can take advantage.

Back to Newmarket and The Pearl Bloodstock Palace House Stakes (Group 3) over 5f is probably a race just to watch as you can make a case for at least 5 or 6 of these.  Last year’s winner Sole Power is the obvious starting point and he will be very popular.  So will grand old servant Kingsgate Native.  The 9 year old was as good as ever last year finishing second in this race before going on to land the Temple Stakes at Haydock.  Both are likely to be thereabouts.  Last year Moveista rose from handicapper to Group winner when landing the King George Stakes at Goodwood before finishing last in the Nunthorpe.  Pearl Secret finished 9th in the Nunthorpe and then went on to finish 3rd to Sole Power in the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot.  That form entitles him to go close.  Hot Streak could turn out to be top 3 year old sprinter this season and he is another who may prove popular with the punters.  I can’t call it with any real conviction.  It would be great to see Kingsgate Native win and if he puts his best foot forward he does have a squeak.  However, if he does win he will not be carrying my money.  Who do I think will win?  Sole Power and at 4/1 with Bet365 (1/4 odds, 3 places) he could well be a bet to nothing.

The second featured race from Goodwood is the Class 2 Handicap over 7 furlongs and I’m happy to back a couple who have decent course form.  Magic City @4/1 has two 7f wins on good ground and this might just be his trip, his ground and his course.  Not quite so spectacular is Jack’s Revenge @13/2 who was a decent 7th in the Lincoln on his return, beaten just 5 lengths in total.  He goes well here having finished 3rd, 2nd and 4th on his last 3 visits.

The Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes looks like a good opportunity for Trading Leather to add another Group race to his CV that includes last year’s Irish Derby.  Twelve furlongs is definitely his best trip and the ground will, if anything, be in his favour and the 11/8 is not a bad price (and it soon vanished!).  If he fails to deliver then Gospel Choir @6/1 could be the one to capitalise.  The Sir Michael Stoute trained 5 year old made a pleasing reappearance over an inadequate 9 furlongs and could be ready to make the step up to Pattern company.

Another horse I am backing runs in the 5f handicap at Goodwood at 3.30pm.  The horse is Ajjaadd who belied odds of 66/1 to finish second in last year’s Steward’s Cup at this very course.  That was off an official rating of 98 and he runs here off 95 following some below par efforts on the all-weather (which I am prepared to forgive).  He is also 8 from 15 when competing in Class 3 or lower and this is a Class 3 handicap so I expect a decent run.

The last race on C4 is the first Classic of the season, the 2000 Guineas.  The problem I have with races like this is that the runners are still fairly unexposed and to some degree, inexperienced.  Collateral form is thin on the ground and we have a fair few hype horses.  Potential superstars abound but we don’t really know at this time of the year what exactly they have beaten so far.  I imagine all eyes will be on Kingman and Australia, both of whom have been impressive from their few visits to the racecourse.  However, Australia could be the most over-hyped horse this season so far.  Having said that, he may well win at a canter and justify the hype.

While recent renewals of the race have been kind to favourite backers (Dawn Approach 11/8 last year; Camelot 15/8 in 2012 and Frankel 1/2 in 2011), there have been some upsets.  Most notable of these being Makfi @33/1 in 2010 and Cockney Rebel @25/1 in 2007.  Last year’s runner up Glory Awaits was sent off 150/1 and third placed Van Der Neer was 20/1.  Camelot beat French Fifteen and Hermival who went off at 12/1 and 16/1.  The year Frankel won, Dubawi Gold was second at 33/1 with Slim Shady fourth @200/1 and Happy Today sixth @100/1.  This is a race where horses can outrun their prices, so do not be afraid to have a speculative punt on a big priced outsider.

Whilst this is not a race I usually bet on, I can’t help being drawn to Outstrip @25/1 as a value each-way play and I have duly backed him at that price earlier in the week.  He has form at least on a par with several others much shorter in the betting and Charlie Appleby thinks he will out run his price.  He won his maiden at Newmarket, beating stable mate True Story.  From there he finished a ¼ length second to Toormoore who is now third favourite for the Guineas.  He went on to win the Group 2 Champagne Stakes before a disappointing 3rd of 6 in the Dewhurst.

He put that run behind him when he went off to the USA and duly won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile turf over 1 mile on fast ground.  That is not bad form.  He is equal 4th on official ratings and does have something to find with those at the head of the market.  I just like the fact he has won over 1 mile (1 of only 5 runners in the race to have done so) and the quicker the ground the better for him.  I think 25/1 is a great price as I believe he will run a good race and there will be much worse 25/1 shots this weekend.  Of the others, do not be surprised if Night Of Thunder (50/1 with BetBright as I type this), Charm Spirit (33/1) and Ertijaal (40/1) all out run their massive odds.

On a side note I read an interesting article this week on the influence of American pedigree on recent 2000 Guineas winners and it puts Outstrip and Ertijaal right in the mix.

Of those at the head of the market I think the one who is value is War Command @9/1.  He is the apparent Ballydoyle second string here behind Australia but the difference between the two, in my humble opinion, is that War Command has done it on the racecourse whereas much of the talk about Australia relates to his work at home.  War Command won the Coventry and the Dewhurst last year – two of the most prestigious races for 2 year olds.  Ryan Moore is an eye catching booking too.  I have taken the 9/1 win only with William Hill (money back for second place) and together with Outstrip these are my two selections for the opening Classic of the season.  My only concern is how much they water the ground between now and race day.  In my opinion they should not water it at all and if the ground is riding fast then so be it.  It would certainly suit Outstrip and War Command is bred to appreciate firm ground.

I have already written on this blog that the Doncaster Spring Mile and Lincoln form has been boosted in no uncertain terms and we have a couple from those races contesting the Thirsk Hunt Cup.  One I have backed without hesitation is Off Art @5/1 who finished 5th in the Lincoln.  His trainer has said he will come on for the run and that’s good enough for me.  The other one is Farlow who won us some place money in the Spring Mile.  He came out of that race and won at today’s course just 2 weeks later.  However that victory was by a short head so I’m not sure if the handicapper has his measure now and I’m prepared to swerve him in favour of Ingleby Angel @9/1.  David O’Meara’s horse was highly progressive last year, racking up a sequence of three wins in the process.  Ryan Moore was booked for his reappearance 5th at Haydock and I am hoping he will come on for that run.

So that is where my money is going this weekend.  Some of you may agree, most may disagree so please feel free to leave a comment or two and let us know who you fancy this weekend.  Once again, best of luck whoever you are backing.

Newmarket 2.05pm Faraajj @10/1 & Bold Sniper @10/1

Goodwood 2.20pm Wall Of Sound @6/1 & Special Meaning @6/1

Newmarket 2.40pm Sole Power @4/1 each-way (Bet365 pay ¼ odds, 3 places)

Goodwood 2.55pm Magic City @4/1 & Jack’s Revenge @13/2

Newmarket 3.10pm Trading Leather @11/8 Gospel Choir @6/1

Goodwood 3.30pm Ajjaadd @11/1

Newmarket 3.50pm Outstrip @25/1 each-way & War Command @9/1

Thirsk 4.15pm Off Art @5/1 & Ingleby Angel @9/1

 
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