Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Doings at York

Thursday’s Group One Yorkshire Oaks, figures to be a sensational affair with three of the very best fillies in the world, Snow Fairy, Sariska, and Midday, ready to rumble. Competing at 12 furlongs over the York course, each look to prove who is the top distance running filly in Europe by winning the historical race which dates back to 1849. The three fabulous fillies have combined to account for the last two runnings of the Epsom and Irish Oaks, as well as, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies & Mare Turf.

The slight betting favorite may be Sariska, a four-year-old daughter of Pivotal. Trained by Michael Bell, Sariska has won 5 of 9 lifetime starts and pulled of the prestigious double of Oaks victories in 2009. She has only run twice so far this year, but has a sharp win over Midday at York, and finished second to current Arc de Triomphe favorite, Fame And Glory in the Group One, Coronation Stakes last time out.

Midday, also a four-year-old, is well known to American race fans thanks to her front running victory in last Fall’s Breeders’ Cup, but she has yet to get the better of Sariska in each of their three meetings to date. She finished 2nd in the Epsom Oaks and 3rd in the Irish Oaks to Sariska last year, and finished 2nd again to her in this May‘s Middleton Stakes, in what was both fillies opening race of the season. Midday followed that solid effort up with a sharp score in the Group One, Nassau Stakes at Goodwood on July 31, highlighting both her class and current form.

If youth is to be served tomorrow, it will be Snow Fairy who is the beneficiary. After winning only 1 of 6 races while sprinting as a juvenile, the Ed Dunlop trained sophomore is undefeated in three starts and has been more impressive each time. In emulating the dual Oaks feat of Sariska, Snow Fairy absolutely crushed her foes when winning the Irish Oaks by 8 lengths in her latest start.

A meeting of three standouts like this does not happen everyday, so the Yorkshire Oaks will be a must see, much the way yesterday’s Juddmonte International proved to be.

Rip Van Winkle awakened his massive talents yesterday to run his best race in at least a year, if not ever. Displaying an irresistible closing run, the four-year-old Aiden O’Brien trained colt swooped by in the closing strides to get up over the Prince Khalid Abdullah duo of Twice Over and Byword in a rousing stretch run. The victory at York once more elevated the reputation of Rip Van Winkle as one of the world’s best horses. The International was his first in three starts this year, and his connections said he could be headed to America once again for a Breeders’ Cup attempt.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Videos of an Overdose Romp and Makfi Defeating Goldikova

The Budapest Bullet …

Makfi surprises Goldikova …

Monday, August 9, 2010

Harbinger Will Be Missed

It was announced today that Harbinger, the world's top-rated horse by both Racing Post and Timeform, has been retired. Despite successful surgery to his fractured cannon bone, it was decided that calling it a career would be the best course of action for the son of Dansili. Thankfully, news from his ownership has been good since the injury. Harbinger is recovering well, and should begin a happy second career as a stallion next year.

Owned by the partnership of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, Harbinger certainly goes out a winner. His 11 length tour-de-force victory in the historic King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes was one of the most spectacular performances of the 21st century.

A group 3 winner as a three-year-old, Harbinger was far from the star he became this year. Beginning with the Finest Surprise Stakes in April, Harbinger became first a consistent winner, and then race by race progressed into the monster we saw last month. A promising win in another group 3 stakes followed his four-year-old debut, and it would be on to Ascot for the Sir Michael Stoute trainee. And it would be at Ascot that Harbinger would be first considered a potential superstar. A smashing victory against a solid field in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot in June opened the world’s eyes, and then the absolute dismantling of a stellar bunch in the Group 1 King George left mouths agape.

Overall, Harbinger won six of his nine starts and earned nearly $1.2 million.  The bay colt was injured in a workout preparing for York’s Juddmonte International on August 17. A win there would have sent the four-year-old colt to huge races such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and possibly the Breeders’ Cup Turf as a strong favorite. After such a marvelous performance like his last, you always want to see the horse come back and repeat that form. It is a shame that Harbinger will never get that chance.

Photo by Alan Crowhurst of Getty Images

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Harbinger of the Breeders’ Cup Turf

Did you see that??? This has been the repeated response after viewing yesterday’s turf shattering performance. Anyone who wants to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf come this November, may want to seriously root against a certain 4-year-old son of Dansili from making the trip across the pond. Yesterday’s result in the $1.5 million King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot should be proof of that. Facing a compact, but class filled field of six, Harbinger crushed his foes into submission with a stretch run that harkens back to the best performances ever witnessed at the tradition rich racecourse. The result was impressive on every front as he cantered home to a stunning 11 length victory.

Underlining the quality of the performance was the final time of 2:26.78 on the good turf, bettering the former track record by nearly half a second.  Harbinger’s victory margin was the greatest in the history of the King George, England’s most important race for older horses at the classic 12 furlong distance. The eye-catching margin came at the hands of Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco, English Derby winner Workforce, Hong Kong Vase winner Daryakana, and three-time Arc runner-up Youmzain. So impressive was Harbinger yesterday, that some betting houses in England have knocked down his future odds to win the Arc to an astounding even money.

The win raised the Michael Stoute trained runner’s record to six wins in nine starts, with a perfect record in four increasingly impressive starts this year. The second choice at 4-1, the bay colt gave trainer Michael Stoute back-to-back King George victories. Last year he trained Conduit to victory, before successfully defending his crown in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Stoute trains him for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, a partnership that includes American interests. After the race the connections praised their colt, and looked to the future, mentioning the Arc and the BC Turf as possible targets.

I like several of the American turf horses this year, such as Paddy O’Prado, Gio Ponti, and The Usual Q.T., but honestly, I do not think they want any part of this...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

English Nonsense, or. . .Do You Believe in the Snow Fairy?

Trainer Ed Dunlop is so impressed with Snow Fairy’s recent improvement that she soon will be at the same level as Ouija Board, in his estimation. Say what? Is he really comparing the Irish bred, and English based three-year-old filly, who only won a single race in six tries as a juvenile, to the great, multiple champion, Ouija Board? Clearly this has to be an egregious case of horse racing blasphemy. Maybe.

Moments after Sunday’s Group 1 Irish Oaks there was good reason to let the hyperbole fly. With pacemaker, Ice Empress, setting a strong pace, rider Ryan Moore had Snow Fairy more than ten lengths off the lead for the first mile of the 12 furlong classic. As the real running began in the Curragh’s long stretch, Moore guided his mount off the rail for clear sailing. Snow Fairy quickly responded with an explosive turn of foot. The rally culminated with an eye-popping, eight-length demolition of a strong Oaks field. Snow Fairy left the field farther behind with each powerful stride. The romping win, in the historic race, spoke volumes of her ability and gives credibility to Dunlop‘s bold statement.

The victory came six weeks after Snow Fairy, owned by Anamoine Ltd, first announced herself as a high class individual with a victory in the Group 1 English Oaks. But make no mistake, Sunday’s race was another huge step up from the neck victory at Epsom. This is a filly that is improving leaps and bounds with every start. After moderate success running exclusively in sprints at two, she is now undefeated in three starts as a sophomore, with all three wins being run at a distance. He second consecutive classic victory placed her in an elite sorority by becoming only the 13th filly to complete the English and Irish Oaks double.

It was the third Irish Oaks victory for Dunlop, who called the victory “pretty spectacular,” and added that he would think of going down a similar path as the one he mapped out for Ouija Board. He also sees no reason why the daughter of Intikhab will not continue to run as an older horse. If Snow Fairy is to indeed follow in the huge hoof prints of Ouija Board, she will become an equine globetrotter. Dunlop’s former great, campaigned in seven countries over her four year career, with 10 wins in 22 starts against the best of competition. And the potential good news for U.S. fans is that Dunlop brought Ouija Board over for the Breeders’ Cup in three straight seasons.  Look out American turf mares ... here comes Snow Fairy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Planteur in the Grand Prix de Paris?

by Dan Munn

On Wednesday, Aidan O Brien unleashes Jan Vermeer on Longchamp in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris. Normally a classy individual is required to win this race and one who relishes the 1m 4f distance. With that in mind, and taking into account my large sway of Jan Vermeer in the Epsom Derby, I'm unsure if Jan Vermeer is really that kind of horse.

Ideally, Jan Vermeer would have won a slowly run Irish Derby last time out if he were the classy horse we all believed he was yet he was beaten by his stablemates Cape Blanco and Midas Touch on that day and, despite being bumped a bit in the final few furlongs, pretty much franked the form with Midas Touch on their Epsom run. The main questions for me in the lead up to this race are: Does Jan Vermeer stay 1m 4f well enough to win a Group 1 on foreign soil? and What has Jan Vermeer beaten? With too many questions surrounding Jan Vermeer, the 7/4 is hardly value to me and i'll be swerving him come Wednesday.

Instead three French colts really take my eye and none more so than Planteur. Planteur's form since the tail end of 2009 is a 6 length demolition of a highly Fabre colt Lumineux, a 2 length beating of Rewilding when he was also with Andre Fabre and a 3 length second to Lope De Vega in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. On Wednesday trainer Elie Lellouche runs his pacemaker Vivre Libre to yet again set the perfect pace for Planteur and the step up to 1m 4f.

My second choice in this race would be Goldwaki. Owned by Wertheimer & Frere (owners of Goldikova and US G2 winner Exhi) this colt is trained by Andre Fabre who won this race last year with Cavalryman. Ironically, Cavalryman was stepped up to Group 1 level in exactly the same way as this colt and it is eyecatching that Andre Fabre already sees Goldwaki as a Group 1 contender. Goldwaki, partnered by Olivier Peslier, has had one run in Group level prior to this race when winning the Prix du Lys over Manshoor and Prizefighting. However, he has been campaigned at this kind of trip in all of his starts this year and is arguably the more experienced of all the runners in terms of the distance. At 8/1, taking into account Fabre's record with similar style colts and the distance experience, it would be wise to keep this in your portfolio for the day.

Finally, Ice Blue ran no kind of race in the Prix du Jockey Club and it would take more than one bad run to put me off of him. Arguably, Ice Blue has run to form in the Prix du Jockey Club in keeping 2 lengths between him and Handsome Devil whom he has beaten by that distance on four occasions this year. However, the hype surrounding this Juddamonte inmate is hard to ignore and Pascal Bary really believes that this colt is something special. Will he benefit from a step up in trip to this distance? Possibly and with that he has to be the saver in the field.

A small note on Behkabad who was surging towards the finish in the Prix du Jockey Club. The extra distance will play in his favour and it may hurt to ignore this one. However, Ice Blue is one I'd much rather keep on my side for this weeks race.

The Suggestion (Using 10pts)
PLANTEUR 5pts @ 3/1
ICE BLUE 2.75pts @ 11/2
GOLDWAKI 2.25pts @ 8/1

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 Emirates Singapore Derby

by Su-Ann Khaw

The sound of a race field galloping past the finishing post. Definitely a sound that I never grow tired of and always, without doubt brings a rush of excitement through my veins.

Singapore racing has truly upped the ante over the past few years. With horses such as Golden Shaheen runner up, Rocket Man and recently retired 2009 Singapore Derby winner Jolie Shinju making their mark Internationally, we can only expect more to come from Kranji racecourse.

As I arrived at Kranji ten minutes before the first race, I saw an array of beautiful hats and fascinators reminding me of a feature Autumn/Spring raceday in Australia. I walked by the mounting yard, situated at the back of the course (similar to Moonee Valley in Victoria), catching a glimpse of horses parading and a big smile broke on my face. It always does every time I see a thoroughbred.

The Corporate Boxes are situated on the 4th floor and is in perfect sight of the finishing post, most of the mounting yard action is watched on flat screen TVs as we eagerly wait for the runners to head out.

12 races (30-40 minutes between races) in a day seems a large number considering back over in Australia it’s around 7 to 9 races in a day. What I find great about the races at Kranji is how quickly the jockeys return to scale and payouts are cleared immediately.

I didn’t think I would be making any trips to the mounting yard but ended up heading down (in the scorching 35 degrees Celsius weather) for one of the earlier races before the Derby.

All I can say is, I cannot blame any of the horses for throwing a little buck here and there. It was very warm outside and as I watched the 2YOs parading and some playing up, I carried out conversations with my eyes darting around to make sure I wasn’t in the line of bucking fire!

By the 6th race I returned back to the Corporate Boxes where the AC is cranked up on full blast and the 2YOs heading out to the barriers. Four more races to go till the Derby!

Next to the SIA Cup and KrisFlyer Sprint, the G1 Singapore Derby is the feature race of the year with SG $1150000 prizemoney attached to the race for the top 4YO stayers in the country. Singapore Racing’s prizemoney has increased significantly over the years attracting owners from around the world, in particular Australia and New Zealand.

This year’s Derby field of 16 reflect pedigrees from both NH and SH. Escamonda (Alpha Plus ex Wise Girl) bred in Argentina, My Drumbeat (Montjeu ex Maskaya) and Tarankali (Selkirk ex Tarakala) both bred in Ireland flying the flag for NH bred Derby contenders. According to the local form guide, My Drumbeat (6th) was purchased for 650,000 Euros as an entire and has since been gelded as of Feb 2010.

On course favourite, New Zealand bred Race Ahead (Al Akbar ex Mertie Love) was the pick of Singapore racing fans at Kranji. Although despite his last two starts seemed disappointing on form; running 8th to scratched Derby contender Ghozi (Catbird ex Finito Fling) and 10th to Intercept (Zerpour ex Haughty Miss) in G1 1600m Patron’s Bowl.

Trainer, Bruce Marsh made changes in Race Ahead’s gear and added blinkers to the gelding and evidently, in the last 400m of the race with ears pinned back Race Ahead kicked away from Powerful Ruler (5th) with Australian bred mare New Rose Wood (Love A Dane ex Western Explorer) and Intercept (3rd) at his heels.

Much credit must be given to the Desmond Koh trained New Rose Wood for making up exceptional ground in the last 400m but it was Race Ahead’s day with a brilliant ride by NZ jockey Opie Bosson on board.

As the field is heading out for the last race and the sun is beginning to set. Some of us feeling very contented with the race day, after all – ‘winners are grinners!’ Others gripping on to faith in the Racing Gods for a ‘get out of jail’ card with the last in dire hope for a roughie pick to win!

I returned home feeling contented from what I believe was a wonderful day of racing at Kranji and expect many more to come from the Singapore Turf Club on the rise.