Showcase Meeting eyecatchers

Baron Alco

Impressed on his chasing debut to finish third in a race against useful and fit rivals. There was no hiding place given the gallop and it was good to see his jumping hold up. Fitness-wise, he can come on for the run and with him having form beyond two-and-a-half miles, this was a great start for the Gary Moore team over the minimum. Still only five, you’d hope he could at least reach 150 over fences this campaign.

Brownville

Made his seasonal debut for the Nigel Twiston-Davies team and ran a lovely race to be fourth. He was further back than ideal off the early fractions on ground where he is susceptible to quicker horses. He made eyecacthing late progress and will be at home over three miles plus when we get some softer terrain.

Pulp Fiction

Ran a lovely race to be third for Ben Case in the closing bumper of the two-day meeting. In the hands of Daryl Jacob, the four-year-old really caught the eye with how he travelled and is entitled to build on this. An Irish point-to-point graduate, he fetched 50,000 euros at sale and being by a quality sire in Robin Des Champs, he can pay his way for connections.

Robin Of Locksley

The Skelton team may be able to bag a handicap or two with Robin Of Locksley this season on the back of a taking comeback. Keener than ideal on his first run since April, he made progress from well off the pace to finish third in this handicap hurdle. A more galloping track off a strong pace may suit him better.

West Approach

A half-brother to the brilliant Thistlecrack, West Approach already looks an improved performer this season on the back of an excellent second in a three-mile novice hurdle. Given how enthusiastically he travelled, the son of Westerner did really well to see out the trip, for all it wasn’t a race run to test stamina. The fact he carried a penalty makes his effort even sounder and if he can improve like his pedigree suggests, he shouldn’t be too long in climbing the ranks for the Tizzard team.

Eyecatchers

Aside

Goodwood (May 2) & Salisbury (May 3)

Crowned With Stars (David Simcock)

Pitched into a strong maiden at Salisbury on May 3 which is already working out. This son of Sea The Stars didn’t disgrace himself despite being very green throughout the race. He is possibly a touch flattered by the bare form and may not be the type to immediately strike, but he’s got ability and should improve with racing.

Illuminate (Richard Hannon)

Royal Ascot isn’t too far away now and one juvenile filly that should make your shortlist is this daughter of Zoffany who really caught the eye when running away with a conditions race at Salisbury on May 3. Green early she got behind before learning as the race progressed. By the two pole she looked in control before sprinting past her rivals to score nicely. This was the same race Richard Hannon Junior won with Tiggy Wiggy last season so plenty points to her being Royal Ascot calibre.

Maxwell (Ralph Beckett)

A son of Big Bad Bob who showed a lovely attitude when winning a handicap at Salisbury on May 3. In a better position than most off a fair gallop he looked to get quite badly taped for pace before eventually grinding his field down to win. There is plenty of stamina in his pedigree so 10-12 furlong races will suit. He looks progressive.

Open The Red (Amanda Perrett)

A big horse of Amanda Perrett’s that took the eye in winning a poor 0-70 handicap at Goodwood on May 2. It wasn’t a great race, but the style of the victory was taking and he may be the type to win two or three races back-to-back. In the worst position off the pedestrian gallop the son of Lawman travelled win great ease before easily putting the race to bed. If Open The Red can show the same turn of foot off faster fractions he’ll be one to follow. The handicapper has put him up nine pounds, which isn’t too bad.

Thunder Pass (Hughie Morrison)

This son of High Chaparral appears to be a stout stayer on the evidence of his Goodwood win (May 2) where he chased a very strong early pace. As well as sitting close to a ferocious gallop he was a little keen early in the hands of Adam Kirby, but it didn’t stop him from winning. In doing so he showed a nice attitude which is always a positive. He looks one to keep on the right side over trips ranging from 12-16 furlongs.

 

Guineas meeting eyecatchers

Academy House (Michael Bell)

Probably wasn’t the strongest Newmarket maiden ever run given the time was poor. That said, the winner is said to be Royal Ascot bound so best not to be firm on the above just yet. The horse that most caught the eye in the race was this son of Kodiac, who, of the first three home, was most inconvenienced by the slow early gallop. Under Tom Queally he ran green before the penny finally dropped late in the day. He finished his race strongly and should be capable of breaking his maiden.

Balios (David Simcock)

Quite simply, was given an awful Jamie Spencer ride. Sat last off pedestrian fractions Spencer allowed the winner, and indeed the majority of the field, a distinct advantage early in the race. The son of Shamardal ran like the best horse in the line-up and is bordering on Group 3 class judged on this evidence. This was only his second run so is entitled to improve. David Simcock’s inmate has a useful pedigree and will probably stay 12 furlongs. Although the early pace was slow he didn’t pull and looks uncomplicated. His Derby entry looks a step too far at this stage, but there is more to come.

Gamesome (Olly Stevens)

I’m sure there is a big handicap in this son of Rock Of Gibraltar, but his hold-up style over six furlongs means his chance of winning depends on a strong pace and luck in running. He once more caught the eye at this meeting when one of a few horses to make up ground from off the pace. Tracks like Ascot, although he has not run there yet, may suit him better and he’s one horse I have on my radar for the Wokingham Stakes. Cut in the ground may also just improve him that couple of pounds.

Malabar (Mick Channon)

Legatissimo and especially Lucida looked good in the 1000 Guineas, but of those further down the finishing order, Malabar (4th) caught my eye. She’s not over big so there may have been a worry if she would train on. On this evidence you’d have to stay she has. Having sat closer than the aforementioned pair to a strong pace, she just didn’t have the change of gear to compete with the first two home. This is not a surprise given her stout pedigree. Her sire, Raven’s Pass, did win over ten furlongs while on her distaff side there is an abundance of stamina. The Irish 1000 Guineas is next and while that stiffer track may help her get closer to Legatissimo and Lucida, Malabar looks ripe for a step-up in trip. If she were mine I’d go down the Oaks avenue. She’s one to keep in mind when stepping up in distance on fast ground.

Marma’s Boy (Ralph Beckett)

This son of Duke Of Marmalade put up a no-nonsense strong-staying type performance to win the concluding handicap on the Sunday. Off a fair gallop he was always up with the pace before getting tapped for toe. He showed a good attitude to get his head back in front, however, and hit the line pretty strong. On this evidence 12 furlongs is his best trip, but he has scope to stay further. He looks progressive.

I see he is entered over ten furlongs at Sandown this week, but he wouldn’t interest me over that trip.

Newbury’s Greenham Meeting Eyecatchers

Desert Force (Richard Hannon)

I was really taken with how the Hannon three-year-old won on the opening day of the meeting in a useful-looking handicap. Under Pat Dobbs this strong, imposing-looking sprinter was into stride quickly. Last off the bridle, the son of Equiano travelled like a dream before staying going to win nicely. Given the size he possesses you’d like to think he’ll improve for the run. Longer-term, it’s hard to say what level he might reach as his dam, Mail The Desert, was a Group 1 winner. Seven furlongs and fast ground suits although he may get a mile. I would say a mark of 94 is workable still

Fabricate (Michael Bell)

I thought this horse made a lovely start to his career in a three-year-old maiden on the Saturday. A little slowly away and appearing to be green he continued his education in the straight. It took a while for the penny to drop under Tom Queally, but he really got the hang of it late and ran on nicely. Despite being a son of Makfi, a previous Guineas winner, he stays very well and twelve furlongs looks to be ideal in the short and medium-term. He may bag a race or two over the summer for his owner, the Queen.

Murgan (Peter Chapple-Hyam)

Ran in the same maiden as Fabricate (above), but was ultimately well-beaten in the end. While it looked like young jockey Oisin Murphy went off far too quick and set the race up for the rest, it looked, to me, that his horse just had an abundance of early speed, and while he was a little keen, the son of Galileo was by no means a runaway. A drop in trip, on decent flat-racing ground, with similar forward-going tactics may be the key. Ten furlongs is as far as he wants to go at this stage and he may even be competitive over a mile. The Qatar Racing Limited-owned colt now has a rating of 82 and that looks workable given his previous form came in useful races.

Muhaarar (Charles Hills)

Going into the Greenham there was plenty of talk about how this race looked the best trial for the Guineas thus far. Coming out of it people didn’t seem so keen, but I liked what I saw from the winner, and runner-up, Estihkaar. Off a strong pace Muhaarar travelled quite keenly, which I can forgive on seasonal debut, but it didn’t stop him from winning. Under Frankie Dettori the Sheik Hamdan-owned equine travelled supremely well before hitting the front and going a length clear. He seemed to idle, get tired close home or maybe shaped like he wouldn’t want to go further. While the case, he wasn’t tying up badly and given it was his debut effort, I’m willing to ignore the above negative possibilities, for now. If in fact he was idling, however, we may have a potential Guineas winner on our hands as the runner-up is a good horse and they came clear of the third, Ivawood, who is rated 117. There is talk of the French 2000 Guineas, but for me, racing around a bend in France will only see his jockey fight him in the early stages, something he doesn’t need, stepping up to a mile for the first time. The straight mile at Newmarket may suit him better, although a good gallop will be needed, and, on home soil, while it is a worry, the effect of the draw is not as strong. A wide draw in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and you’re really fighting an uphill battle. The prospect of better ground in England is also another important variable. Frankie Dettori won’t be able to ride which is a concern, though, as I felt the pair worked nicely. Paul Hangan’s style wouldn’t suit going up in trip so should he take his chance at Newmarket, the magic hands of Jamie Spencer could prove the key. It’s just a suggestion should Sheik Hamdan run the first two at Newmarket given Spencer has ridden winners for Charlie Hills before, but you’d imagine Dane O’Neill will be called as he is Hamdan’s second rider and I like talking bolox occasionally. Should he go, the 20/1 on offer looks big.

Vibe Queen (John Gosden)

A horse of Lady Bamford’s that should be capable of at least breaking her maiden. Ran fourth in a contest won by her stablemate, Yasmeen, who is said to be Coronation Stakes bound at Royal Ascot. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if she matched the winner in terms of ability as the daughter of Invincible Spirit came from a fair way back in a race where nothing got involved from off the pace. A step-up to a mile may suit in time and on this run, she looks a useful filly to follow.

Newmarket Craven Meeting eyecatchers

Amazing Speed (Saeed bin Suroor)

A beautifully-bred daughter of Shamardal from the family of Preakness winner Bernardini this Godolphin filly made a lovely start to her career in what may be a useful three-year-old maiden. Held-up off a less than ideal gallop she ran on nicely under James Doyle to finish fifth. Saeed Bin Suroor is a good handler of fillies and this strapping type can only improve. Despite being a big horse she has a real fast ground action.

Beautiful Romance (Saeed bin Suroor)

This is a filly that may improve drastically when she is stepped up in trip and would even interest me in a soft ground Guineas, if it transpired, on the back of her Nell Gwyn Stakes third. Her hold-up style isn’t suited to the Newmarket track on quick ground especially over distances well shy of her best. A big filly she can improve on this fitness wise while finishing third in a Nell Gwyn on your second start isn’t bad. Cut in the ground may suit going forward. Longer-term the Oaks may well play to her strengths.

Bermondsey (Luca Cumani)

It’s hard to know when some of Luca Cumani’s middle distance types will start to deliver, but I felt there was plenty to like about Bermondsey’s opening effort in the Wood Ditton Stakes. Off a nice gallop the son of Galileo was far too keen to ration his energy correctly and ultimately paid for it late in the race. While beaten five lengths in the end he ran like a much better horse and when learning to race properly may go on to fulfil his six figure price-tag and well above average pedigree.

Encore D’Or (Ralph Beckett)

A sound start to the season in the £100,000 Tattersalls Millions 3-Y-O Sprint. This son of Oasis Dream is a big stamp of a horse and should strip fitter for the outing and well as going on to improve. He chased a strong pace here and paid for it late. It’s interesting he is in the new Royal Ascot Group 1, The Commonwealth Cup, so maybe more is expected of him in time. He went up seven pounds for this effort to 92 which isn’t too bad. A flatter track and seven furlongs may suit best in time although he showed a fair bit of pace for six here.

Golden Horn (John Gosden)

This horse has really impressed me in both of his starts. John Gosden’s inmate was good at the backend last season when winning a Nottingham maiden suggesting he may be a pattern class performer. He once more created a favourable impression when winning the Listed Feilden Stakes under Frankie Dettori. Giving the field a big headstart he got into contention easily, made significant midrace move before staying on well to score in good style. He easily beat a 106-rated match-fit rival on his second run. The Dante is said to be next and while he’ll need to improve again you’d have to think there is more to come. It’s risky, but I’ve taken some 33s about him in the Derby although he needs to be supplemented.

Weekend eye-catchers (All Saturday)

1.55 Ascot

Not getting any younger at the age of seven, but the old boy Zero Money is still showing plenty of early pace, and I mean plenty. He shot out of the stalls in this handicap and was leading his side a merry dance early. He was so far clear he was basically racing on his own before hanging to the stand side and eventually going down by two lengths. It wasn’t a tip top handicap for the grade and a slight ease in class, coupled with returning to an easier track, over five can see him run well again. He’s won at Goodwood, Haydock and Newmarket before so they may be suitable destinations if a race can be found. Formerly with Roger Charlton but now in the care of the young, up-and-coming Hugo Palmer he has a nice race in him on current form.

2.05 Newmarket

Not exactly an eye-catcher, but Prince’s Trust was selected on this blog to run well on Saturday and things didn’t materialise – he ran an absolute shocker to finish a well beaten second last. I was confident of a big run and even more so when I saw Richard Hughes dictating his own, slow fractions after breaking smartly from the stalls. After seeing him get the run of the race I was shocked that he trailed 11 lengths in behind the winner. He was weak in the market before the off, nothing of note though and said to move poorly to post so maybe the writing was on the wall beforehand. It was his first run back off a two month break and may be all the above just found him out. A return to easier ground and may be a step up to ten furlongs can help. It was too poor to be true and he’s worth keeping an eye on for later. Softer ground may be the key.

2.30 Ascot

Two horses caught my eye here, the second and third; Mull Of Killough and Guest Of Honour respectively. The former, I felt, didn’t receive the best of rides although the jockey’s hand may have been dealt with his widest draw. Usually he sits just off the pace, but he couldn’t get near the early lead and had to sit and suffer widest of all, with no cover throughout. It was encouraging to see him run so well, responding to William Buick’s every call and finish second. He’s not getting any younger, but at seven he still seems to be improving. Tactically versatile I’m not sure where he’ll go next, but over a mile/nine furlongs, on good or softer he can win a Group Three, maybe a Group Two.

Guest Of Honour is a well-bred sort in the capable hands of Marco Botti. This son of Cape Cross from the family of Rakti is improving with each and every run and was a shade unlucky not to finish closer to the eventual winner. Having travelled with great ease throughout his path was blocked repeatedly at the business end of the race. He got up for third in the end, staying on nicely when properly let down. His ability to travel so kindly will be a great asset and granted a good draw, and he goes of course, I can see him going very close at the speedier track of Goodwood in the Betfair Summer Mile. It’s a while to wait for connections, but hopefully he doesn’t go to Goodwood for the Sussex Stakes as I don’t think he’s up to that level yet.

5.35 Newmarket

The first three home in Havana Cooler, Pether’s Moon and Cat O’Mountain will probably all go into notebooks, but given the circumstances I felt like Cat O’Mountain went like the best horse. He was very reluctant pre-race and played up a bit, but still managed to run soundly. I felt he was given a strange ride as he was kept well away from the rest of the field and raced markedly wider. While Newmarket is a predominately straight course there is a slight bend and at a point and I felt he gave away significant ground compared to the first two home. He also raced quite freely and with no lead or company he very much did all his own donkey work. This took its toll late on as he finished quite tired. Not before seemingly showing an ability to quicken where he looked to have made a race winning move. He couldn’t sustain it however and finished third, pulling nicely clear of the fourth horse. A drop to ten, around a bend, with a lead in a solid gallop around a track like Ascot (did you get all that?) would be perfect right now I feel. This is unlikely to play out, but I hope you get my drift? He looks a nice horse with a future, as do the first two home so hopefully he can prove it as the season goes on.