Lucky 15 Wednesday May 17th  

Tuesday 6.10pm If you say you love horse racing but the York Dante meeting doesn’t get the juices flowing, as a good friend would say, I can only presume you wear tweed underpants and your season is four days in Gloucestershire in March!

Me, I love both and the Knavesmire is one of my favourite places on planet earth. Change in the going has made punting a little trappier but this season really looking forward to the Dante itself on Thursday.

Going at YORK – Anthea L Morshead‏ @AntheaLMorshead  Clerk of the course @3.30pm Tuesday

Going now Good to Soft, Good in places. Currently dry, mild & breezy. 4mms rain today @yorkracecourse

(GoingStick: 6.9 overall. Home Straight; Far Side; 6.9 Centre; 6.8 Stands Side; 6.9 on Tuesday at 07:30)

Wednesday – band of rain, possibly heavy at times, passing through region.

Thursday and Friday – mixture of sunshine and showers.

Going/Weather/Other last updated @Tue 16 May 8:19am

Wednesdays Lucky 15

At these rather exciting prices you may want to play half stake each way? Get shopping!

York 2.20                    SAUNTER                                    12/1 PP 11/1 general

York 2.50                    MUNTADAB                                 9/1 Coral? 13/2 Ladbrokes+WH? 

York 4.35                    MAZYOUN                                        16/1 WH 14/1 general

York 5.35                    ST MALO                                     11/2 PP+WH

and here’s why

York 2.20                    SAUNTER Possibly the most interesting part of this race will be as the field enters the straight and where they choose to race?  The selection will appreciate the trip and the give in the ground, has had a seasonal pipe opener and this lightly raced gelded 4yo could still be open to improvement. Drawn well in stall 7, races prominently, doesn’t do anything quickly but keeps on galloping. I like this trainer, David Menusier, and he sends a select team of just three north to the Knavesmire for the Dante meeting from his Pulborough base in Sussex, the yard made famous by Guy Harwood. The other two are Contrapposto in the Dante and Havre de Paix in the Hambleton, both on Thursday.

When Saunter ran in a Listed race in France last November Menusier said about the left handed track, “It does favour front-runners, however, especially on soft ground, which it will be and which should suit Saunter. He found the fast ground against him and the mile and a half a bit far at Newmarket last time. Like Saunter, all of the opposition are stepping up into Listed company rather than being already proven at that level and I expect our horse to go well. He’s a progressive type who should be even better next year.” Sounds like York tomorrow will be spot on!

York 2.50                    MUNTADAB Sometimes when I start going through these big meeting handicaps anything up to a week previous the selection is double figures and then when I get to post the blog they are favourite! Ho hum it’s the nature of the beast. It has to be a low draw for me on the 6F course whatever the going. Like my horse to race prominently, a bit of York form doesn’t go amiss and a horse in form. Muntadeb covers all that although I have a nagging doubt that he could set it all up for a finisher and two in particular.

George Bowen has his ground, is down to OR88, Hanagan rides but stall 13 won’t help and has the horse forgotten how to win? Kevin Ryan has an unexposed top weight in Ride Like the Wind who will be familiar to blog regulars. He had a “bruised foot” last Thursday and we did our money in the Victoria Cup. Surprisingly he drops a furlong here, should appreciate softer ground and if anyone can bring one from off the pace out of stall 12 Spencer can, Mr Lupton remains a master class in the Charity Sprint over C&D last season.

York 4.35                    MAZYOUN A seventeen runner 3yo 7F handicap on uncertain ground. Not the best medium for a punt perhaps! So the positives are he drops in class, Dettori rides, the softer ground (he’s by mudloving Mayson), crucially he’s drawn in stall 3 and this 7F should be spot on for this blinkered gelding. Concerns are Hugo palmer hasn’t landed any big fish this season. Winners yes but Home of the Brave in a Listed at Leicester probably the biggest. Mr Palmer now has two yards to operate and one on Newmarket’s biggest strings and perhaps he’s still coming to terms with the logistics? His thoughts on Mayzoun in today’s ATR stable tour “He should win when things go his way. He is a little bit of a nearly horse as he has won a fair bit of prize money but only one race and made heavy weather of that. He might run at York this week over seven furlongs.” At the price I’ll take the chance “things go his way” at York!

Loads of dangers with so many improving 3yo’s. Fahey’s three are surely beaten by the draw as I put on twitter “Investigation at York please. Fahey runs 3 in 18 runner 4.35. Gets stalls 16,17 18. Come on! 4000/1+”. Chessman and Battered are both in the notebook but at 5/2 and 7/1 IMO offer no value.

York 5.35                    ST MALO Owned by the China Horse Club tells me he wasn’t cheap, indeed a £200K yearling, but they don’t seem to buy too many duds. This 4yo son of Street Cry has obviously had a few ‘issues’ as he was unraced on turf as a 2 and 3yo, was gelded last July then had three runs on the AW in October, improving each time and won the third over this trip at Newcastle. This opening mark looks most workable. Love to know his long term target, Ebor, Melbourne Cup, Ludlow novice hurdle?

Catching Pigeons on sportinglife.com sum it up nicely “St Malo can start his second season off on the right note in the York Data Services Internet Cloud Solutions Handicap. Roger Varian won this race 12 months ago with Appeared, and looks to have another unexposed four year old for what is always a fascinating race. St Malo improved with each of his three outings last season, and ended the campaign with an easy six-length win over subsequent winner Mutadaffeq. The runner-up started his campaign with a three and a quarter length win off 73 in a Thirsk handicap last weekend, and that suggests St Malo may be underestimated by the handicapper with a mark of 82.”

The 6/1 on offer could look a steal in a couple of month’s time!?

 

Richard Fahey May 16 2017 Dante (1)

Innocent Touch is our first runner of the York Dante Festival in the opening Sky Bet First Race Special Handicap. He has nothing hidden from the handicapper and was a little disappointing at Epsom last time and we don’t know why.

He’s in good form heading into this though.

George Bowen is an extremely disappointing horse. We’ve stuck a hood on him in the Infinity Tyres Handicap to try and find the key. We’re very happy with him at home – as we always are – but he just hasn’t raised a gallop in his last five starts. He’s extremely well handicapped on what we see on the gallops – but not on the racecourse at the moment.

The recent rain at York is great news for Growl going into the Duke Of York Clipper Logistics Stakes as I was just a fraction worried a sharp six furlongs here could just have him a little on his head. The more it rains the better and he is working very well ahead of his reappearance. He’ll need to be at the top of his game though as this looks a Group One in all but name and is very competitive.

We’ve three in the Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap and they’ve drawn 16, 17 and 18. I’m sure a mathematician could tell me what the statistical chance of that happening was but it will be a huge number. It’s far from ideal.

Senator is a horse we like and he will stay further in time but we want to get a run into him. We’re very happy with him at home but it will be a big performance to win from out there under top weight. It wasn’t a massive shock to see Sir Reginald Brown win at Redcar on debut and he’s come on a ton for the experience. He’ll win more races but again the draw is a worry – although it can sometimes be negated a little by them coming towards the stands’ rail in soft ground. It would be a good sign if he was up to winning a race as competitive as this on only his second start.

Starlight Romance did well to win at Beverley the last day but I’m a little worried about the ground for her, ideally she’d want it good or faster. We like to have winners at York so we’re firing our all bullets at this. If I had to pick one it would be Senator but the draw is the worry and we’ll need luck.

It Don’t Come Easy is a nice horse who makes his debut in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes. He’s not fully tuned up and the run will do him no harm but he goes very well at home and is a horse with a future.

The Right Choice ran at Beverley on Tuesday. He was put in both races in case it got too soft there – but the rain came at York so he went to the other track.

Island Flame is our final runner in the closing York Data Services Internet Cloud Solutions Handicap. He had a great season last year and as a consequence is another with nothing hidden from the assessor. The soft ground won’t bother him but I’m just a little concerned he could need it on his reappearance.

 

Saturdays Lucky 15

A non-runner, two nightmares and an upwardly mobile winner! £9 back for our £15. Considering I was struggling to pick my nose on Saturday that is almost a result!

Ascot 2.15                   MORNINGTON                           Non runner

Ascot 3.25                   ARISTOCRATIC                               6th 9/2                             (3/1 general)

Friendless in market. Led to 3F out, fell in a hole 2F out!

Haydock 3.45             BIRCHWOOD                                   6th 11/2           (4/1 general)

Déjà vu, just about! Friendless in market. Led to 1F out, fell in a hole!

Haydock 5.25             LEADERS LEGACY                       1st 2/1F            (3/1 Ladbrokes 11/4 general)

Like this chap. Looks a proper horse for Godolphin and I will stick with him until he is beaten. Up 5lb from OR89 to OR94 for this win. Royal Ascot handicap such as the Britannia or will it be the normal Godolphin overfacing inexperienced horses in Group company?

 

Here’s a reminder of the Ante Post piece I put up last Tuesday.

If my maths is right that’s 14 stars out and seventeen stars back. Got them all to post bar one. Got some great prices and George William would have topped it off nicely.

Wednesday 3.35 Chester Cup

Who Dares Win                                       4th 5/1                 two star** win   7/1 WH+Coral

Would have won for Marquand but Murphy beat him to the gap 1F out.

Montaly                                               1st 16/1           one star* win     16/1 WH+Betfred

Gutsy ride from Oisin Murphy with a willing partner. Looked outpaced 3F out but got the breaks in the straight and put his head in front in the shadow of the post.

Blakeney Point                                   12th 4/1F            one star* win     7/1 WH+Betfred

Too much too soon for this improver? Should be back next year.

Saturday 3.10 Swinton Hurdle Haydock

London Prize                                      8th 8/1                  two star**win    12/1 PP+WH

Prominent to two out, one paced.

Traditional Dancer                            11th 40/1               one star* each way          33/1 PP+WH 1234 ¼

Midfield, weakened three out.

Saturday 4.00 Victoria Cup Ascot

George William                                  2nd 8/1                 one star*win      16/1 PP 12/1 general

Tad unlucky in what was a messy and at times confusing race.

Ride Like The Wind                           Non Runner   one star* each way 25/1 BetFred+WH 1234 ¼

Taken out with “bruised foot”. Loser. Runs at York less than a week later? Obviously a small bruise!

Taurean Star                                       16th 8/1           two star** each way selection (16/1 PP+BetFred 1234 ¼)

Could see what Spencer was trying to do but don’t think he nor me expected the whole bloody field to come to the stands rail!! Needed a helicopter from 2F out.

 

The Epsom Derby 2017

When a horse wins a C4 handicap at Windsor, just, and gets a 20/1 quote for The Derby you know the market hasn’t a clue and to me that says “VALUE”. Will the Dante at York on Thursday sort it out? It will certainly shuffle the market. My two each ways over the winter were Sir John Lavery, awful at Lingfield but Coolmore are telling me not to give up, and Mirage Dancer who was fourth in the Dee Stakes at Chester but his price has halved! Crazy.

Which of the trails will prove relevant? The Dee, the Derrinstown (Is Yucatan the chosen one?), the Epsom Trail, the Dante or is it the 2000 Guineas all along and Churchill turns up and hacks up at evens?

Here are a couple of guys I respect on line and their take on the situation.

Monday 15 May 2017 Kevin Blake At The Races Trying to make sense of the Derby

The Derby is less than three weeks away, but with most of the trials that have been run thus far having proven inconclusive at best and the leading form pick being a far from certain runner, the race has yet to really take shape. So, will the Derby winner emerge from this week’s Dante at York, or is he already hiding in plain sight?

The first horse that has to be discussed is CHURCHILL, as both the race and the market for it revolve around the question of his participation. While some may feel that he is now more likely to line up after what have been a series of inconclusive trials, I still strongly suspect that he won’t be asked to run in the race.

The commercial reasons for this were discussed in this space last week and even though it looks far from a vintage Derby right now, there just doesn’t seem to be enough for his connections to gain from venturing into unknown territory with him at this stage. What many considered to be the inconclusive nature of the 2000 Guineas means that there is plenty of upside to him being kept at a mile for the time being and I will be surprised if that doesn’t prove to be the case.

Of those that faced Churchill at Newmarket, BARNEY ROY remains in some bookmaker’s lists for the Derby despite needing to be supplemented for the race. In the unlikely event that he was added to the field, I would have major concerns about both his stamina for the longer trip and his ability to handle the track given that he got lost on the descent into the dip at Newmarket.

A more likely Derby runner from the Guineas field is perhaps EMINENT. While he was perhaps a bit disappointing in the Guineas after getting caught wide throughout, his Craven form received a boost with the runner-up Rivet finishing third in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Deauville on Sunday. He has given the impression that a longer trip will suit and he isn’t a forlorn hope.

The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown has produced more than its share of Derby winners over the years, but plenty were understandably reluctant to get behind the form of this year’s renewal given that three Ballydoyle horses hit the line with just a head separating them. That said, while the finish being so compressed hardly inspires confidence, it should be remembered that all three of those involved put Group 1 form in the book as juveniles.

Indeed, all three are likely to have achieved more in the Derrinstown than many of the horses involved in the finishes of the other Derby trials involving less exposed runners. With that in mind, it may be ill-advised to write off YUCATAN in particular as a Derby contender, given that shaped the best of the three on the day.

CLIFFS OF MOHER was the big Ballydoyle hope going into Chester and while he duly won the Dee Stakes, it was an undeniably workmanlike performance. It seems likely that he will improve from that first run of the season and while it may be ill-advised to judge him too harshly on his performance around a track such as Chester which is unlikely to have played to his strengths, it wasn’t a performance that screamed Derby.

Indeed, the eye was drawn just as quickly to the performance of MIRAGE DANCER back in fourth who flew home after getting caught in a poor position. While he may be too raw for a race such as the Derby at this stage, he is a high-class prospect going forward.

The apparent lesser of the trials at Chester was the Chester Vase and it produced a 1-2-3 for Ballydoyle led home by VENICE BEACH. A half-brother to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Danedream, it had taken him three starts and a step up to a mile-and-a-half for him to break his maiden at Tipperary last month, but he has been improving with each start and this was another step in the right direction. While the race is not being given as much prominence as the other trials, Venice Beach is an improving, well-balanced colt that should have no problem with the test that the Derby presents and shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Lingfield Derby Trial presented an opportunity for SIR JOHN LAVERY to throw his hat in the Derby ring, but he ultimately proved very disappointing. A month ago Aidan O’Brien had revealed in his At The Races stable tour that Sir John Lavery had a setback that had held up his preparation and perhaps it was a case of Lingfield coming too soon for him, but it was undoubtedly a poor effort from him.

As it transpired, it was the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained BEST SOLUTION that took the spoils in good style on the day. While it is natural to underestimate one that has been beaten six times, including on the dirt at Meydan in February, he has Group 1 form in the book and has more than earned his place in the Derby.

Given there is so much uncertainty surrounding the Derby at present, the hope for many is that the Dante will reveal a stand-out contender for the race and looking at the likely runners, it could well do so. The likeliest candidate for that role is considered to be the John Gosden-trained CRACKSMAN. The son of Frankel didn’t score value highly in the style stakes when overcoming some trouble in running and an unsuitably tactical race tempo to win the Derby Trial at Epsom by a short-head in April, but that effort looks better now than it did at the time with the runner-up Permian bolting up in a Listed race at Newmarket and the third home Bay Of Poets finishing second Cliffs Of Moher in the Dee Stakes. Just as importantly, what Cracksman’s performance at Epsom showed was that he handled the track. He has his own way of moving, with his action being quite wide in front, but for him to handle the unique undulations of Epsom so well on just his second start in what was a tactical race showed that balance is not an issue for him and that can only be considered a positive for his Derby prospects. A more truly-run race in the Dante will suit him and he could well find significant improvement.

One that has emerged as a potential Derby contender in recent days is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained CRYSTAL OCEAN and his credentials will be tested in the Dante. However, while he did look promising in beating a subsequent winner in a maiden at Nottingham in April, he looked green and his action suggests that Epsom on quick ground may not be to his liking, so for me at least, he will need to show substantial improvement at York to put himself in the mix.

The biggest danger to Cracksman is likely to come from the horse that is perhaps being underestimated the most in the Derby build-up, the Joseph O’Brien-trained REKINDLING. Trained by David Wachman to win a maiden at Gowran Park last year, he made a successful start for O’Brien when winning the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown in April, beating what would go to be the aforementioned first three home in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. It was a performance that had plenty to like about it, with him travelling nicely and showing a good attitude to pick up into a tight gap in the closing stages. His pedigree suggests that a step up to a mile-and-a-half could well bring about improvement. Indeed, his full-brother Golden Sword made a bold bid from the front in the Derby in 2009 only to weaken close home to finish fifth behind Sea The Stars. Not only is it surprising that there hasn’t been more chat about Rekindling given his clear form claims, the fact that he is trained by a man that will have only just turned 24 at the time of the Derby and has already won the race on two occasions as a rider is a story that should be getting more attention than it is. That is likely to change very quickly if Rekindling can indeed shake up Cracksman and announce his arrival as a leading contender for the Derby.

 

Sunday 07 May 2017 ATR Ante-post expert Gary Nutting has a speculative selection with analysis for this years Epsom Derby now online.

ATTY PERSSE is almost certainly a lot better than the bare bones of his narrow Esher Cup success might suggest and worth backing at big odds for the Investec Derby ahead of his scheduled next run in the Dee Stakes at Chester this week. Roger Charlton’s colt looked an above-average maiden winner on his only start last year and it was interesting the trainer elected to go back to Sandown and remain over a mile, rather than go for the ten-furlong handicap there on the same day.

Pedigree wise the son of Frankel has reasonable prospects of staying a mile and a half (dam Dorcas Lane, a Pretty Polly winner, was placed in the Ribblesdale and Lancashire Oaks) and on both starts he’s looked more stamina than speed.

In some ways, although the trip nearly got Atty Persse beat, the Esher Cup could hardly have worked out better because he learned barrel-loads in a rough race, which is sure to stand him in good stead as he goes up in grade.

James Doyle could have made better use of his inside draw going into the bend but as he explained afterwards he was minded to keep a hold of the colt’s head as he wanted to teach him to come through horses and didn’t want him over-racing on his first run back. Despite getting into three separate barging matches during the course of the race, and being short of room for most of the straight, Atty Perse showed great determination to go through a gap when one finally appeared and get up on the line.Raised just 4lb for that victory to a mark of 91, he would be some bet if going for another handicap but Charlton knows he is destined for much better things (currently holds three Group-race entries) and has opted for the Listed trial round the Roodeye for the next stage of his education. The extra two furlongs there should see him in a better light and physically he looks the sort to cope well with the tight turns (likewise the gradients at Epsom).

 

GG.Co.UK Tips Den Ante-Post: Best Of Days could be a Derby gem at 33/1 KEVIN O’MALLEY 9:57am, Mon 8 May 2017

The Derby picture was made a little clearer by virtue of an underwhelming Derrinstown Derby Trial on Sunday, where Douglas Macarthur was a gutsy winner over Capri and Yucatan; all three failing to scream “Epsom”. The 2000 Guineas on Saturday, as it always is, was also quite revealing in regards to the Investec Derby on June 3rd.

Churchill was a fluent winner, benefitting (along with his obvious quality) from a near-on perfect run through the race near the inside rail. He is favourite for the Derby and understandably so, but a pre-season stable tour comment (credit: ATR) from Aidan O’Brien throws into question whether he is really thought of as a Derby horse: ”In terms of trip, I always thought he’d be fine at a mile and maybe up to a mile-and-a-quarter. I wouldn’t be sure about a mile-and-a-half for him, but his temperament will give him every chance if he’s ever asked to try it.” So, there we are. Churchill is the best horse in the race and is likely to run as a result of that. Class alone may well be good enough to see him complete the double, but at the same time a) he still may not run and b) if he does run, he may not stay and although he’d go off considerably shorter than the 5/1 on offer by a few bookmakers now, Churchill doesn’t appeal as the bet to be had.

Barney Roy looks a miler, Eminent is likely to take his chance in the Derby but he too will surely struggle to fully appreciate the 1m4f Derby challenge. Cracksman is a solid candidate for Epsom glory and his trial form is already working out promisingly with Permian securing a fluent Listed win at Newmarket on Saturday. John Gosden’ charge is an 8/1 chance and solid, but doesn’t set the pulses racing for a long range punt.

Essentially, the pool of horses who’re glaringly obviously suited to the Derby in profile and being targeted at it as such is very thin on the ground, so perhaps we’re yet to see the Derby winner this year.

As soon as Best Of Days won his Sandown maiden on July 20th of last year, I immediately tweeted “Best Of Days looks a Derby horse…..discuss”. It got no interaction, but I wasn’t the only one to be taken by this handsome son of Azamour and perhaps most importantly, it was his trainer Hugo Palmer who immediately started talk of Epsom for this horse after that Sandown win and again after his victory in the Royal Lodge Stakes two months later. He is yet to race beyond a mile, but 12f should not just be within his compass, it should bring about significant improvement. The concern is, Palmer has said he is proving difficult to get fit and may well miss the Dante, in which case the only trial left for him is at Goodwood. Nevertheless, the thick end of a year has passed since the Newmarket trainer first mentioned dreams of Epsom for this horse and the latest news tells us that plan remains the same. He is available to back at 33/1 with several firms and if he were to make a winning return at Goodwood, you can be sure that would set the wheels in motion for a collapse in price.

In terms of ground, he won’t want it to be rattling fast, but it rarely becomes too quick at Epsom so Best Of Days should be fine. Any rain would see his chances increase.

Hopefully this 3yo colt can begin to find his fitness at home over the next couple of weeks and strip sharp enough to take in one of the few trials left. It is leaving it all a little late, but he is a lovely prospect and at 33/1, I’m willing to take a chance on him given the water that went under the bridge over the weekend, which in my view cleared the way for an attempt at unearthing a dark horse gem. Best Of Days certainly fits that profile, in part – it remains to be seen just what type of gem he is – but I’m excited to have him on side.

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