Thursday, December 13, 2012

International Hurdle Preview

International Hurdle Preview

By Stephen Dwyer

There is a great race in prospect at Cheltenham on Saturday. Perhaps the most competitive hurdle race this season sees three course and distance winners out to stake a claim for the festival in March.

Zarkandar is the freshest horse in the race, he beat Prospect Wells in a hard race at Wincanton last month but I am mindful that this race will have taken it out of him. He is the 5/4 favourite and gets 4lb from Grandouet and Rock On Ruby but could be vulnerable to the older horses, Grandouet and Rock On Ruby.

Grandouet won this race last year and hasn’t run since because of injury. He beat Overturn and Brampour that day and beat them easily enough too. Barry Geraghty said he has schooled really well and he is ready to give a very good performance. He has been beaten twice by Zarkandar and coming back from a serious injury he might just need this race so I have to pass him over for Rock On Ruby

Rock On Ruby, the highest rated horse in the race runs off a mark of 170. He has the best Cheltenham form two wins and two seconds at the track, beaten only by First Lieutenant and Bob’s Worth, he has a 245 day layoff to deal with and he missed the fighting fifth because of the ground, Harry Fry says he couldn’t be happier with him and for me he is the one because he is a real grinder and I can see him in the mood for a scrap on Saturday.
Recommendation: Rock On Ruby 2 points win @ 7/4

Thursday, November 22, 2012

William Hill Winter Festival

William Hill Winter Festival

By Stephen Dwyer

With twelve top quality races across two days, the William Hill Winter Festival at Kempton is the finest mid-season meeting in the National Hunt calendar. A crowd of over 30,000 travelled to Middlesex to attend the festival last year where Kauto Star was the leading attraction. Since William Hill began sponsoring the Winter Festival in 2009, it has been heavily promoted within the industry. The festival features multiple Grade 1 races including the Feltham Novices’ Steeple Chase, the Christmas Hurdle and the William Hill King George VI Chase, all showcase events in their own right.

From a betting perspective the King George VI Chase day at Kempton is one of the busiest of the year. In 2011 it formed a large percentage of the £100m wagered on Boxing Day. The King George is a perennial favourite for punters and layers alike and with a prize fund of £180,000, it attracts the top staying chasers. The race is the centrepiece of the two day William Hill Winter Festival and is second only in the pecking order of National Hunt racing to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

First run in 1937, the King George VI Chase has been held on Boxing Day since 1947. Arkle, Wayward Lad, Desert Orchid and One Man are among the greats of National Hunt racing to have won the race. Many will acknowledge that for the first time since 2006, there will be no Kauto Star at Kempton.  Winner of five of the last six King George’s, the retirement of the greatest National Hunt horse since Arkle opens the door for the next contender to the throne. Kauto Star retired amidst good company, Long Run, already a Gold Cup and King George winner heads the betting for the King George at odds of 11/4 with race sponsors William Hill. Multiple Grade 1 winner, Grand Crus (9/2) is close to Long Run in the betting and Paul Nicholl’s holds a strong hand with the exciting Silviniaco Conti (5/1) and Kauto Stone (10/1) who is now proven over the trip.

Even without the great Kauto Star, this year’s renewal of the King George is highly anticipated as Kate Miller, William Hill PR Director, noted: “Whilst Kauto Star has dominated the William Hill King George for the last six years, the entries this year demonstrate what a fantastic race it is and the legacy of the King George being the mid-season Championship is set to continue.  As things stand, we are expecting a competitive field with the winner likely to head the market for the Gold Cup next March.”

Thanks in no small part to Kauto Star, trainer Paul Nicholls boasts no less than seven wins in the race and is its leading handler. Aside from the five timer from Kauto Star, he won it twice with See More Business. The King George is a race famed for multiple repeat winners. This is backed up by the statistic that no less than twelve horses have won it more than once.

Favourite for the race, Long Run, has not raced since his Cheltenham Gold Cup third to Synchronised. Beaten twice by Kauto Star last term, the seven year old boasted his only victory of the season when narrowly winning the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury. He has yet to confirm the form showed when winning the King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010/11 season but his record at Kempton reads 112 so he has a huge chance if back to his best. At times Long Run needs to have his mind made up for him at fences and works best when ridden prominently but he is still a brilliant horse and you cannot safely discount him.

Both Long Run and Grand Crus have won the Feltham Novices' Chase at Kempton. Last year Grand Crus ran out a hugely impressive winner of the 3m race when eased down ahead of Silviniaco Conti. Grand Crus has not raced since his fourth in the RSA at Cheltenham but has won twice on his seasonal reappearance and David Pipe’s grey is a class act.

The Nicky Henderson team saddle Finian's Rainbow who overcame early jumping errors in his races last season before comfortably winning the  John Smith's Melling Chase at the Aintree Festival. Finian's Rainbow is unbeaten at Kempton, he won his bumper by 6l in 2009 before outstaying Wishfull Thinking in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at the Winter Festival last year. He has yet to race beyond 2m 4f but he showed stamina in abundance in Aintree and may stay the trip. Another entry worth noting is Kempton Park specialist Nacarat, he has won both the Racing Post Chase and the Racing Plus Chase at the track and has run in the last three renewals of the William Hill King George VI Chase.

Finally, Cue Card is an intriguing contender. He demolished a useful field in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter recently. In beating Menorah and Edgardo Sol, the odds of Cue Card were slashed from 20/1 to 8/1 for the King George. Cue Card’s jumping improved readily towards the business end of the race and his speed allowed for a 26 length victory. Trainer Colin Tizzard has always had Kempton’s Boxing Day highlight in mind for his six-year-old and said after his win at Exeter: “If he’s ever going to get three miles, it will be around Kempton. Pace is just not an issue for him as he was always cruising. He used to tank but he was a lot less fizzy than he normally is on his first run back. When Joe squeezed him up, he was gone.” What is also interesting is that the dam of Cue Card, Wicked Crack, was a three time winner over three miles in Ireland for Eddie Hales so on the face of it, Cue Card is equipped to stay the trip.

Though the highlight of the meeting is the King George, there are several other top class Grade 1 races to contend with. The Christmas Hurdle, won by Binocular for the past two years is always an exciting race and the Feltham Novices' Chase aims to be as competitive as ever.

With stiff fences and a short run in, you need a horse that can jump and travel well at Kempton. With several runners unbeaten at the track, this year’s William Hill Winter Festival promises to be as exciting as ever.


Tom Mullins

Tom Mullins

By Stephen Dwyer

The binoculars were broken, no question about it. Flung with disgust to the Cheltenham concrete as Tom Mullins believed the chance of Alderwood had been taken away in a moment. It was the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, one of the most competitive races at the Cheltenham Festival. Badly hampered on the inside rail two flights from home, Tony McCoy steered and squeezed Alderwood out of trouble. The gelding rallied well after the home turn and barely held on by under a length to the Paul Nicholls-trained Edgardo Sol. Despair had turned to disbelief of a different kind, Tom Mullins had just trained his very first Cheltenham winner.

The Mullins family are masters of understatement, true too for Tom when mentioning after Alderwood won; “It is an unbelievable feeling ,I just wanted to get one on the board”. Tom’s father, Paddy along with his brothers Tony, Willie and his cousin Seamus, had all won at Cheltenham. Now another Mullins had joined the illustrious band. In a way, Alderwoood’s victory at Cheltenham was fitting. It had been thirty years since Paddy Mullins won the National Hunt Chase with Hazy Dawn and thirty years also since Tom Mullins completed his jockey’s course at the National Stud.

A stint in America was followed by over a decade as a very useful amateur rider but the training world was never far away. It was the priceless time he spent as assistant trainer with his father, Paddy, that the practicalities and procedures of training thoroughbreds were repeated over and over again. In February 2004, Tom took out his public training licence and since then he has consistently performed well. In his first season he trained fifteen winners. There were eighteen in the second, a season which brought its own good fortune in a resolute mare called Asian Maze.

Asian Maze, a full sister to Quantitativeeasing won four Grade One races for Mullins. She was a top performer at the highest level in races which included the Aintree Hurdle and the Champion Stayer's Hurdle. As well as Asian Maze, Tom also trained Oscar Dan Dan to win the Hatton's Grace Hurdle a couple of seasons ago. Training from his base at Goresbridge, last season was a highly profitable one for Tom Mullins. With 15 winners from 71 rides, Mullins turned out a level stakes profit of €31.71, one of the highest in the region.

A fine example of the ability of the younger Mullins brother was the transformation of Alderwood. Owned by JP McManus, the gelding was winless in his first seven starts. He would become one of the training success stories of last season. Alderwood is one of the most improved horses in training , his progression included that famous win in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham, a Grade Two at Fairyhouse and a gritty Grade One triumph in the Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown. Now destined for a career in Novice Chasing, Alderwood could be one for the notebooks over fences.

Aside from Alderwood, there was another high point this year for the Tom Mullins yard. Bob Lingo provided Mullins with the biggest win in his short career when gallantly powering to victory in this year’s the Galway Plate. He beat his brother Willie’s Blackstairmountain into third when running out a five length winner of the Galway Festival’s biggest race at Ballybrit. Additionally, Some Article ran out an impressive winner of the valuable Goffs Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown.

It was predominantly these achievements which led to Mullins being nominated for the HRI awards under the 2012 National Hunt category. The awards, which take place 10th December at Leopardstown Racecourse acknowledge the human and equine excellence in the sport of horse racing where Ireland continues to outperform other countries with greater resources. In addition to Tom Mullins, the nominees in the National Hunt category are, Barry Geraghty, Tony Martin, Davy Russell and of course Willie Mullins.

Ever modest, no matter what the outcome of the HRI awards, Tom Mullins remains an exciting trainer to follow. As a side note, Tom has the enviable record of being unbeaten on the legendary Dawn Run. It was he who rode her in her remaining two flat races after Mrs Hill stopped riding the mare. There is a lot more than meets the eye with Tom Mullins, lots held in reserve you feel, in a well that runs very deep indeed.



2012 Breeders Cup

2012 Breeders Cup

By Stephen Dwyer

You will be familiar of course with a little horse called Sea The Stars. Winner of six Group One’s he is the only horse to have won the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the same year. So exceptional was Sea The Stars that no matter what Aidan O’ Brien threw at him, he was forever bested. Mastercrafstman, Rip Van Winkle and Fame And Glory all finished second to Sea The Stars. In particular Fame And Glory was beaten into second twice, he himself is no slouch having won a collection of Group One’s. As good as the colts were, they were unlucky to run against one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Such was the case with Frankel and Excelebration. Second to Frankel on no less than four separate occasions, it seemed that Excelebration was constantly the bridesmaid. That was until recently. With no Frankel in the field, Excelebration ran out a comfortable winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champion’s Day. This was the biggest win of his career and he now heads to Santa Anita for the Breeder’s Cup Mile this Saturday.

Opened in 1934, Santa Anita is the oldest racetrack in Southern California. The San Gabriel Mountains provide the backdrop to the prestigious Breeder’s Cup. The 29th running of the showcase meeting will be televised to more than 130 foreign countries It is the richest prize-money event in sports, consisting of 15 races and prize money totalling $26 million. It thus attracts the best thoroughbreds in the world. Worth $2 million alone, the Breeder’s Cup Mile is one of the most valuable races in the world. And Excelebration has every chance of winning it.

Cut from 7/2 into 7/4 favourite for the Breeder’s Cup Mile, Excelebration is bidding to provide Aidan O’ Brien with his first ever success in this race. It is a notoriously difficult race to win. Only two Irish trainers managed this feat, John Oxx trained the brilliant filly Ridgewood Pearl to win the 1995 renewal; this was the last time an Irish trainer was successful in the event. Before that it was Vincent O’ Brien and Royal Academy in 1990.

The 7/4 on offer for Excelebration is a short price for what is a very competitive affair. Excelebration though is held in the highest regard at Ballydoyle. Originally bought for £20,000 at the 2009 Doncaster St Leger sales by Marco Botti, Excelebration was acquired at the start of this season by Coolmore for a sum believed to be in the region of €1.5 million. By champion Australian sprinter Exceed And Excel, Excelebration was precocious in his first season and always showed class in abundance. He won the German 2000 Guineas, the Group 3 Hungerford Stakes and was twice a Group 1 winner in France. Speaking after his win at Ascot, Aidan O’ Brien noted “The boys (Coolmore) had it in their head they would go to the Breeders' Cup after Ascot. He has progressed with every run and we have only had him this year so we were experimenting with him a little bit. The beauty is this horse is on the upgrade.”

O’ Brien also noted "We have learnt a lot about him. He is a very fast horse right up to a mile which he gets well. He shows an awful lot of speed and is a very classy horse." Just the type of horse that could win a Breeder’s Cup.

Speed and class he has in abundance. Excelebration was officially rated as the joint seventh best horse in the world in 2011, with a rating of 126. He was rated the third best miler behind Frankel and Canford Cliffs. But it will be no easy task and the opposition is fierce. Wise Dan, trained in Kentucky by Charles Lopresti is the current second favourite for the race at 3/1. Winner of twelve races, Wise Dan can trace his bloodlines back to 1973 Triple Crown winner and two-time Horse of the Year Secretariat.

Fillies have a good record in this race and Moonlight Cloud, trained in France by Freddy Head is a battling sort. By leading sire, Invincible Spirit, Moonlight Cloud is a three time Group 1 winner and is expected to go well. Animal Kingdom, last year's Kentucky Derby winner and champion three-year-old also lines up in the valuable field.

Successful in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf last year with St Nicholas Abbey, Aidan O’ Brien would dearly love to continue his winning ways. Keep an eye out for Excelebration, he could make the headlines and finally banish the ghost of Frankel from his memory.

The Open Meeting

The Open

By Stephen Dwyer

It is the Home of Jump Racing. As Cheltenham Racecourse opens its doors for The Open meeting, it heralds the start in earnest of another season of top class National Hunt racing. The Open is one of eight major meetings at Cheltenham which culminates in March with The Festival . The Open has steadily become one of the most promoted meetings in recent years and for many it has become the spiritual start of the winter campaign.

Spread out over three days, Friday November 16th to Sunday November 18th, The Open meeting begins with a slew of Amateur and Conditional jockeys races. Coupled with the marathon 3m 7f Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the first day of the meeting also features a Class 2 Novices’ Chase over 2m 4f. This race in particular is traditionally one of the most anticipated Chases in the early season as it provides useful pointers for the Arkle and the RSA. Won in recent years by Denman and Imperial Commander, the race was taken in great style last year by Grand Crus and this year’s renewal should be just as competitive.

Although it begins with a JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, Day two of The Open is centred around the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase. This Grade 3 handicap chase, run over 2m 4f, is one of the best handicap races of the national hunt season.  Often times it is the starting point for one or two of the potential Gold Cup horses at the Festival later in the calendar. It is worthy to note that more than almost any other National Hunt track, course form at Cheltenham is crucial. Great Endeavour, winner of last year’s Paddy Power Gold Cup typifies this. He was a previous winner of a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at the Festival and finished sixth in the 2010 renewal of the Paddy Power Gold Cup. The undulating surface of Cheltenham does not suit every horse and those with proven form around Prestbury Park cannot easily be discounted.

Grand Crus, current 6/1 favourite for Paddy Power Gold Cup, has proven course form and although beaten for the first time over fences at short odds in the RSA last March, he looks a fascinating contender. A three-time winner around Cheltenham, including a ten length victory in the Cleeve Hurdle, Grand Crus also finished  a commendable second to Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle. Winner of three of his four starts over fences, David Pipe’s imposing 7yo deserves his place at the head of the market.

Another interesting runner in the £150,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup is trained by Somerset handler Keiran Burke. Last season’s fairy-tale horse, Hunt Ball aims to continue his winning ways at a track he handles well. Hunt Ball began last season running off a mark of 69 and finished, seven wins later, with a lofty mark of 157. Under top weight, he won the Pulteney Land Investments Novices' Handicap Chase at The Festival and worthy of significant note, this is a race that is run over the same course and distance as the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Hunt Ball was head and shoulders the most improved horse in training last season and his trainer reported recently “I am very happy with Hunt Ball. He has come back from the summer bigger and stronger and he looks better than ever.” Making light of his a shortening price of 8/1, Keiran Burke also revealed; “I think he can win the Paddy Power Gold Cup off his mark, but he is not the easiest horse to get fit as he is big horse. He will take a fair bit of work and we will give him a few racecourse gallops beforehand and try and get him as fit as we can.”

From a trend perspective the favourite has won The Paddy Power Gold Cup three times in the last nine years with the winning weight spread from 10-2 - 11-7. Given that there are fifteen fences to be jumped over the Old Course, it is a good test of stamina. Cyfor Malta won in 2002 carrying 11-7 but since 2007, all five winners have carried under 11 stone.

Out of eighteen races at last season’s Open meeting there were six winning favourites. Betting interest is expected to increase this year as the stars of the national hunt scene begin their campaigns in style.

At Cheltenham, at The Open, all will be revealed.



Friday, September 7, 2012

QIPCO Champions Day

QIPCO Champions Day

By Stephen Dwyer

Ascot racecourse has a slight problem. Too many people want to attend QIPCO Champions Day. Although the course is licensed for 80,000 spectators, officials there had expected 30,000 to attend Champion’s Day on October 20th. But now all Premier Enclosure tickets have sold out, with only Grandstand tickets remaining. Given that this is just the second year of the QIPCO Champions Day, the extra demand is firmly attributed to what may be the final race for the wonder horse, Frankel.

Nick Smith, Ascot's head of PR, stated recently “Ticket sales were ahead of last year anyway but people will now start thinking that not only is there a chance to see Frankel, it's pretty much definitively the last chance to see him." This would seem to be true, plans for the Arc have been scrapped in favour of a run in the QIPCO Champion Stakes. The race is the most valuable in Britain, richer than the Derby, with a total prize fund of £1.3m. For the race, Frankel is priced up with most bookmakers at 1-10 to bring the curtain down on what has been an astronomical career. He is unbeaten in 13 starts with nine of these at Group One level. Should Frankel win the QIPCO Champion Stakes he will set a European record of nine consecutive wins at Group One level.

If we rewind twelve months ago, there were a fair amount of layers willing to take on Frankel at this meeting when he faced Excelebration and Immortal Verse. Again the opposition mattered little as Frankel justified his odds of 4/11 when stretching the field to a clear cut victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Sir Henry Cecil jubilantly noted after the race “You're going to see a better horse next year, I'm really looking forward to having another winter over him next year and I think he will get a mile and a quarter very easily”. And so it came to pass, as a four year old Frankel dispatched the Lockinge, Queen Anne, Sussex Stakes and Juddmonte with such comparative ease he may as well have been having a leisurely morning canter around the gallops at Newmarket.

Should the QIPCO Champion Stakes prove any different ? Given that it is a middle distance showcase race over 1 mile 2 furlongs, a distance he is now proven over, Frankel is more than capable of destroying any type of field that he lines up in. The race itself has undergone a transformation in recent years. Worth €350,000 in 2010, QIPCO invested heavily in 2011 to completely change its status. The 2011 QIPCO Champion Stakes included world's highest-rated middle distance horses. Victory went to the France when the Corine Barande-Barbe -trained Cirrus Des Aigles (12/1), defeated the ex-Australian superstar, So You Think (7/4f). Frankel though is a different prospect and markedly Sir. Henry Cecil is the leading trainer in the race with no less than four wins (1988, 1996, 2009, 2010).

Twice Over completed a memorable double for Sir. Henry Cecil, Khalid Abdulla and Tom Queally when winning the race in 2009 and 2010 and connections will should have little trouble in winning the race this time around with Frankel. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Khalid Abdullah recently noted that the decision to run at Ascot had been taken in the best interests of the horse. "That was the overriding factor," Grimthorpe said. "All the possible options were discussed but Prince Khalid has always wanted to do what was right for Frankel.

With £737,230 to the winner, Frankel will naturally have his fair share of opposition. Cirrus Des Aigles swerved a tilt at the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown recently to attempt defend his title against Frankel. Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe remarked "The English Champion (Stakes) is the big plan." Another confirmed entry is Mario Hofer's three-year-old German star Pastorius. A surprise 25/1 winner of the German Derby at Hamburg in July, he followed up with an eight length win in a Group One at Munich over 10f. His trainer is very happy with the colts form but conceded "We know we can't beat Frankel, I don't think anybody can beat him, but it will be great just to be in the same race. If we can finish second, third or fourth we'll be very happy.” Nathaniel too may line up against Frankel on Champions Day, the possibility of soft ground wold work in the colts favour and jockey William Buick believes “If Ascot came up testing and stamina came into it, he will definitely give him a run for his money”. But all things being equal, QIPCO Champions Day will be a swan song for Frankel, deservedly so.

If Frankel was not enough to entice the crowd, QIPCO Champions Day features several other valuable races. Serving as the culmination of the QIPCO British Champions Series, there are Championship races in other distances including a Sprint, Mile, Long-Distance and Fillies & Mares. The Group Two QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes over 6f features £250,000 in prize money while the Fillies & Mares Stakes over 1mile 4 furlongs is also worth £250,000 . The Long Distance Cup over two miles is a Group Three won last year by Fame And Glory (3/1) in a memorable finish beating Opinion Poll (12/5f).

Champions Day, even though it is at the end of the flat season is a case of saving the best for last. Many runners, including Frankel will be retired to stud after it and the quality of equine talent on offer is truly astounding. QIPCO, a private investment company based in Qatar announced last month that they extending their support for the event by a further five years to 2017. Currently in the region of £3 million in prize money is offered on Champions Day, this could be increased to £4 million over the next couple of seasons. This will crystalize the day as a permanent conclusion to the British flat racing season.

Last year, QIPCO Champions Day generated £40 million in industry-wide betting turnover. All layers reported a massive increase in betting which is set to be surpassed this year as the meeting generates even more momentum. Kate Miller of William Hill noted after last year’s meeting: "Our betting shops were packed, and stakes mirrored those we would see on Royal Ascot Saturday - one of our busiest days of the year”. Adding to this, Matt Doyle of Sky Bet said: "At a time when the industry needs to make headlines for the rights reasons, Champions Day has been an overall success.”.

For Frankel, the 2012 Champions Day will be a crowning glory and for all in the industry Champions Day is the continuation of an event that is becoming that little bit special.

Copyright: Betview Magazine - October 2012.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Juddmonte

The Juddmonte

By Stephen Dwyer

Strictly speaking it is not The Juddmonte but rather the International Stakes. Held at York over a distance of 1 mile, 2 furlongs and 88 yards the race has been sponsored by Juddmonte Farms since 1989. Wednesdays renewal of the International Stakes is the fortieth since the race was inaugurated in 1972. The very first running of the International Stakes was won by Roberto. It was a terrific upset. Roberto, although a Derby winner, beat the great Brigadier Gerard who started at odds of 1/3 for the race. It was to be the only defeat in eighteen starts for Brigadier Gerard, who it must be said was giving the winner 12lb and was unwell after the race.

This year however, there should be no upset. The equine superhero that is Frankel lines up as the unopposable 1/8 favourite and should have little trouble in dealing with racing over an extended trip. But just how good is Frankel ? We all know his is unbeaten, but many good horses were unbeaten throughout their career. Frankel however is simply a class apart.

 The facts tell all. In the world of black type he is the only horse in to win the Group One Sussex Stakes at Goodwood twice. In doing so Frankel equalled the record for consecutive wins in European Group 1 races (seven in a row) set by Rock Of Gibraltar. The only time Frankel started at odds against (7/4) was on his racecourse debut in 2010, a middle class Newmarket maiden that was just a little bit hot. The race contained and unearthed a host of future stars including the Group One Coral Eclipse winner Nathaniel and Ascot Gold Cup Group One winner Colour Vision. His Racing Post rating of 142 is the highest recorded. His Timeform rating of 147 awarded after his Queen Anne Stakes victory is the highest in Timeform's history.

Frankel is also owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of the House of Saud, the Prince also owns Juddmonte Farms, where the colt was foaled in 2008. By champion sire Galileo, Frankel Frankel is bred on the Galileo-Danehill cross which also features in the pedigrees of Group 1 winners Teofilo, Golden Lilac and Maybe. Successful as this cross is, it seems Frankel is still improving. His three starts this year have resulted in wins totalling twenty two lengths and it seems there is more to come. Trainer Henry Cecil is on record as stating: "I think it's a facetious thing to say, but he's the best I've ever seen”

The main opposition to Frankel will be the Ballydoyle colt St Nicholas Abbey. Aidan O’ Brien has won two of the last four renewals of the Juddmonte, including posting a new race record with Duke of Marmalade in 2008. Last year’s runner Await The Dawn finished a disappointing third in the race for Ballydoyle, he was the 8/13 favourite that day but could not pass the Henry Cecil duo of Midday and Twice Over.

Twice Over bids to retain the race this year but his current odds of 14/1 reflect his chances against his stablemate. St Nicholas Abbey though will be no pushover, he races well over the distance and his trainer notes “We've always thought the world of him -- he is a very exciting horse. And we still think he is on the upgrade. We're looking forward to seeing him run at York”. A winner of four Group One races including repeat wins in the Coronation Cup at Epsom he still may have to settle for second best behind Frankel but he will stretch the unbeaten colt to the limits of his stamina.

Many will think Frankel has questions to answer over his stamina. The best miler in the world he may be, but how will he cope with the extra two furlongs on the Knavesmire ?

He will laugh at it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Ladbrokes St. Leger

The Ladbrokes St. Leger

By Stephen Dwyer

It is the oldest of the classics. First run in 1776, the same year that The United States declared their independence, the St. Leger  is also the longest of Britain’s five classic races. Sponsored by Ladbrokes since 2005, the St. Leger is run at Doncaster over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards.
The 2012 renewal of the St. Leger takes place on Saturday September 15th. .This year’s race is centred around a rare event, a bid for the Triple Crown. The unbeaten Ballydoyle colt, Camelot is attempting to become the first horse since Nijinsky to win the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger. The Triple Crown has eluded many top class racehorses since it was last won in 1970 and it has become a rare occurrence for a horse to attempt it nowadays. Almost out of fashion, there is a tendency from top yards to target other races.
Most recently Sea The Stars, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2009 opted for the Juddmonte International, the Irish Champion Stakes, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe instead of the St. Leger route. Remember Sea The Stars is only the second horse since Nashwan in 1988 to have won the Guineas-Derby double so this in itself is a rarity. Expect the hype machine to kick into overdrive as Camelot attempts to make history by becoming the first colt to win the triple crown this century.
Currently available at a best priced 1/2 for the St. Leger, Camelot was always that bit special. He was bred by Sheik Abdulla Bin Isa Al-Khalifa from the Sheik’s own mare Tarfah. By Montjeu, Camelot was sold for 525,000 guineas at the Tattersalls October sales in 2010. Demi O’Byrne, bloodstock agent for Coolmore acquired the colt and he is now unbeaten in all five starts. Already a winner over a mile and 1m 4f, Camelot has plenty of stamina on his dam’s side. Tarfah won the Snowdrop stakes and the Group 3 Dahlia stakes and the colt is fully expected to stay the extended 1m 6f trip at Doncaster.
It was only after the Derby win that Camelot’s connections copper-fastened an assault on the Triple Crown. John Magnier noted “ We’re all getting older and somehow these things start to mean a little more”. Yet for all the confidence behind Camelot, the race is still a classic and one that is never easily won. Shergar was beaten in the St. Leger, and although Nijinsky won it comfortably, the race settled from two furlongs out , Camelot is out of the same top drawer. After his heavy ground win in the Irish Derby, Hayley O'Connor of St. Leger sponsor Ladbrokes said: "Conditions were far from ideal yet Camelot still managed to impress us and on better ground his St Leger performance could be even more spectacular.”
The St. Leger can be a gruelling test of stamina and Aidan O’ Brien has given Camelot a break since his Irish Derby win and will run fresh at Doncaster. As short as 1/4 in places at one point, Camelot’s price has improved in recent weeks but he is still very cramped odds for the final classic of the season.
Those vying to upset the Coolmore champion include Great Heavens, Shantaram and Main Sequence. Owned by Lady Rothschild, Great Heavens is a sister to Nathaniel and is a well-finished daughter of Galileo. A winner of four of her five starts she suffered her sole defeat on her racecourse debut when running green. Great Heavens then made all the running to win cosily in the Listed Lord Weinstock Memorial Stakes at Newbury in June before employing similar tactics in the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks, a race she won by 8 lengths as favourite. Her latest run on heavy ground at the Curragh saw her stay on strongly in the final furlong to win the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks, beating all local challengers including Epsom Oaks heroine Was. Great Sequence is hovering around the 7/1 mark for the St. Leger and with William Buick on board and a valuable 3lb fillies allowance, she is likely to race prominently and provide Camelot with plenty to think about.
Trained by John Gosden, who is going for a third St. Leger win in a row, Shantaram is stablemate to Great Heavens. By Galielo and out of All’s Fogotten, a Darshaan mare, Shantaram is a full brother to Gan Amhras. The colts most notable win was in July at Newmarket when staying on well in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket. Run over 1m 5f, Shantaram handled the soft ground just fine and will appreciate any cut in the ground at Doncaster where he has been supported into 9/1 from 12/1.
By Aldebaran a former champion sprinter, Main Sequence has already run against Camelot. Following a narrow win in the Group 3 Derby Trial at Lingfield, Main Sequence finished second to Camelot in the Investec Derby at Epsom. He quickened well enough but could not live with the eventual winner. Trained by David Lanigan in Lambourn, Main Sequence            will get the green light for the St. Leger if he runs well in the Great Voltigeur. After finishing fourth in the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris, his trainer was asked about his St. Leger hopes and replied "You never know if they will get that sort of trip [1m6½f] but he relaxes well and would give himself every chance. All he did in France last time was stay". Before last year’s St. Leger, 4 of 10 winners of the St. Leger ran in the Derby, finishing 0274 at Epsom, Camelot though has much more in reserve than these contenders. Of interest too is that there have been only 2 winners of the race priced above 8/1 in past 15 years. Time will tell but Camelot seems unstoppable in his bid for the Triple Crown. The first Triple Crown in forty two years may become one of the most memorable.

 Copyright - Betview Magazine - September issue 2012.


  1. Details of Labdroke’s sponsorship

  1. Odds comparison to ascertain the best odds for entries.

  1. Quote : Hayley O’ Connor – Ladbrokes.

  1. List of British Triple Crown Winners:

  1. Camelot’s pedigree

  1. Nijinsky’s St. Leger win- 1970

  1. Aldebran – Sire Details

Snippets from the world of horse racing

Snippets from the world of horse racing

By Stephen Dwyer

Champion Jockey Title Race Heats Up

Richard Hughes, after knocking on the door for so many years is now the odds on favourite to be crowned Champion Jockey in the UK. Available at odds of 7/1 at one point in the season, Hughes is now as short as 1/3 to claim his first ever champion jockey title. The top flat earner last season with over £2.6 million in prize money, Hughes has been in scintillating form recently. A native of Kildare, Hughes recently won a four-timer at Bath and is now currently level with his rival Ryan Moore. Son of National Hunt trainer, Dessie Hughes, Richard rides mainly for Richard Hannon in the UK. Hughes has a strong book of rides to finish out the season, he rode his first winner in 1996 and has since become one of the best jockeys Ireland has ever produced.

Kauto Star Plans Still Undecided

Connections of Kauto Star, the greatest steeplechaser since Arkle, are still undecided on the future of the 12 year old. After Kauto Star was pulled up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, his owner admitted he was almost certainly retiring the horse. Yet a decision has not been made whether to keep him in training for the forthcoming season. Trainer Paul Nicholls noted “Nicholls explained. "He's out in the field at the moment. He'll probably come into the yard in the next week to 10 days and he'll be paraded at the owners' open-day early next month.” Kauto Star is a history maker on so many fronts, he is the first National Hunt horse to win more than £2 million in prize money. Additionally  was the first horse to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup and is the only horse to have won the King George VI Chase five times. Whether he jumps a fence in public again remains to be seen but he is a horse with nothing to prove.

Ruby aims for Listowel return

Following a fall at the fourth hurdle aboard the former Howard Johnson-trained novice hurdler Drive Time at Galway, jockey Ruby Walsh is hoping to return to the saddle in time for the Listowel festival. Trained by Willie Mullins, Drive Time was the 4/1 favourite for the Guinness Galway Hurdle but fell awkwardly in front of the stands at Ballybrit. Walsh was briefly knocked unconscious as he was trampled on by Donald McCain's Lexi's Boy, who was brought down in the incident. Suffering a small break in his ankle, Walsh was ruled out of action for six weeks following the fall.  All is not lost however with Ruby noting: “I've bruised my shoulder and have a cast around my ankle, but I've been enjoying a lot of the Olympics on TV.”. With the first day of the Listowel Festival on September 17th and Walsh feels that date is a realistic target for his comeback, "We're looking at around six weeks, so Listowel would be a good target”. Ruby, who turned 33 in May was also injured at this time last year when he crushed a vertebra in his neck and tore a ligament after falling in a handicap hurdle at Killarney. He returned in time for the Listowel festival, admitting “It was a lot easier to be hurting during the summer than the winter. Being injured is part and parcel of being a jumps jockey. I guess I’ve learned to cope with it”. There is every chance he will make the trip to Kerry and resume his winnings ways.

GAA and Horse Racing Superstars clash at Saint Conleth’s Park

A celebrity hurling match takes place on Tuesday, August 14th in Saint Conleth’s Park Newbridge in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. The event has been organised by trainer Jim Bolger & Champion Jockey Davy Russell. The teams will feature a mixture of GAA and horse racing stars and include; former All Ireland winners Mark Landers, T.J. Ryan , Pat Fox, Joe Deane, Dave Bernie, Kieran Purcell, Damien Fitzhenry and Charlie Carter and  D.J. Carey; Wexford all Ireland winning manager Liam Griffin; Aidan O’Brien; Kilkenny Manager Brian Cody; Derby winning Jockey Kevin Manning; Colm O’Rourke; GrĂ¡inne Seoige; Micheal O’Leary; Ronnie Delaney; Sile Seoige; Irish Sports Woman of the year, top lady jockey Katie Walsh; Niall Quinn; Nicky English; with Cork legend Jimmy Barry Murphy as Referee for the day. Entertainment on the day will include the Artane Band and Internationally renowned tenor Anthony Kearns. Tickets are €10 for adults and €15 for families.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pat Smullen

Pat Smullen

By Stephen Dwyer
There is no busier jockey in Ireland at the moment than Patrick Joseph Smullen. Even at the start of the Galway Festival, a week in which he is partnered with practically every runner Dermot Weld turns out, Smullen has had 327 rides this season. This is a significant figure for although Smullen sits second in the Jockey’s title race behind Joseph O’ Brien, he has had 110 more rides than the young Ballydoyle pilot. With 44 wins to his name so far this term, Smullen is just 4 wins behind Joseph O’ Brien. Bound to be buoyed by the inevitable success that he encounters each Summer at Galway, it will be no surprise to see Smullen top the leading riders charts. Deservedly so.
Pat Smullen is a native of Rhode in County Offaly, he turned 35 last May and is married to Frances Crowley who in her own right is a fine horsewoman both as a former trainer and the first ever woman to be crowned Irish Champion Amateur Rider. Crowley is also the sister-in-law of Aidan O’Brien. Many years before becoming a leading rider, Smullen became interested in horses through his brother Sean. Sean Smullen worked with Joanna Morgan where he prepared horses for the breeze-up sales. As a slight teenager, Pat was noticed by Joanna Morgan and he began to exercise horses for her and ride them at breeze-up sales. It was shortly after this introduction that Smullen began cycling down to Tom Lacy, a small trainer with about 15 horses based about three miles away from the Smullen household.
Shortly after turning sixteen, Smullen would ride his first winner, Vicosa, trained by Tom Lacy in an apprentice handicap at Dundalk. From that starting point it took just two years before Smullen was crowned champion apprentice with 26 winners, a title he retained the following year with 29. In 1997, at the age of 20, he rode his first Group 1 winner. After wintering in Dubai for a couple of seasons, Smullen became stable jockey to Dermot Weld in 1999 when Mick Kinane moved to Aidan O’ Brien. Smullen claimed his first Irish jockeys' championship in 2000 with 80 wins from 514 rides, leaving him 14 clear of both Johnny Murtagh and Mick Kinane and retained that title in 2001 when finishing three in front of Kinane.

Aboard Vinnie Roe, Smullen would win four Irish St. Legers, he would also win the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket with Refuse to Bend and he Irish Derby with Grey Swallow. One of his most famous career wins came courtesy of Rite Of Passage in the Ascot Gold Cup at Royal Ascot Aside from this glittering cast there have been major career wins both in France and the USA.
Smullen is an accomplished rider, a multiple Champion Jockey he is tenacious in the saddle and one of the best judges of a race in living memory. His association with Dermot Weld, especially throughout the Galway Festival is a symbiotic one, both trainer and jockey gel so closely that rarely has a partnership lasted so long, hand in glove. Remember it was Pat Smullen who was the bookie’s even-money favourite to take the vacant post at Ballydoyle when Johnny Murtagh resigned in 2010. At the time Smullen elected to rule himself out of the post in record time, noting “I've got a very good job and I ride for some very good owners, so I'm happy where I am". To be Champion Jockey at the end of the season, Smullen is a best-priced 7/4, although Joseph O’ Brien is a short 4/7, the value could be with Smullen. His work rate, ride frequency and dogged belief are all admirable and he could be the percentage call.

Staggeringly, Smullen rode 592 times during the 2011 flat season, 645 times in 2010 and 671 times in 2009. He has historically ridden more times per season than any other jockey in Ireland. Although 35, he has no intention of retiring just yet, when questioned “I haven’t really thought about a point when I will give it up really. I have always said that I’d want to give it up before it gives me up, I want to be riding at the highest level when I do decide to give up. I don’t think I’ll be riding until I’m 50, like Mick Kinane”.
Dare we think that the best is yet to come.

Onefortheroadtom a solid each way option

Onefortheroadtom a solid each way option By Stephen Dwyer Onefortheroadtom, pictured above after being sold last year at ...