The Investec Derby runner-up Kingston Hill looks more than likely to have his next racecourse outing at York on August 20, but ground conditions will dictate whether he goes for the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes or the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes.
The Roger Varian-trained colt was the only one to make a serious race of it at Epsom with the impressive Australia, who subsequently went on to follow up with a facile victory in the Irish Derby following the late withdrawal of Kingston Hill on account of the unsuitably quick ground at the Curragh.
Varian’s charge turned up instead at Sandown a week later to tackle older horses for the first time over 10 furlongs in the Group 1 Coral Eclipse where he finished a staying-on fourth behind William Haggas’ admirable Mukhadram.
Apparently lacking the pace to find a good early position in the Eclipse, Kingston Hill raced to the rear of the field under Frankie Dettori and kept on steadily in the closing stages to be beaten just over four lengths by the winner.
The ground at Sandown was on the quick side and the online race guides seem to have taken the view that if the going at York is good then connections will bid for the 12 furlong Great Voltigeur Stakes, a race seen as a key St Leger trial. If there is some cut in the ground then the son of Mastercraftsman will again take on older horses over the 10 furlongs of the Juddmonte International Stakes. Both races are scheduled for August 20.
On the evidence of his latest outing, the longer York race would appear the best chance of success for Varian’s talented colt, a horse who won at the highest level over a mile as a juvenile when running away with the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last October.
Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe winner Treve is set for her first appearance in the UK next week where she is scheduled to race in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The French-trained runner is odds-on in the Betfair ante-post betting for the 1m2f contest on day two of the royal meeting.
Treve suffered the first defeat of her career last time out in France when she went down by a short neck to Cirrus Des Aigles in the Group One Prix Ganay. That was the four-year old’s first outing since her five length win at Longchamp in October in the Arc.
Aidan O’Brien will be represented in the Prince of the Wales’s Stakes by Magician who has raced in three different countries in his last four starts.
The biggest win of Magician’s career came at the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita in November. He was successful in the Breeders’ Cup Turf when going off at 7-1 with Betfair for the race. Jockey Ryan Moore chose to hold his mount up in the early stages of the 1m4f contest before coming with a late surging run to deny the even money favourite The Fugue.
Since his victory in the United States, O’Brien’s colt finished sixth in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan before winning the Group Three Morresbridge Stakes at the Curragh where he was the warm odds-on favourite in the flat race.
Mukhadram goes into Royal Ascot at the age of five bidding for his first Group One win. He has not featured since coming home second in the Dubai World Cup behind African Story.
William Haggas’ runner is third best in the betting with Betfair as he looks to build on the best run of his career at Meydan.
Royal Ascot, one of the biggest betting events of the racing year, sees punters rightly looking for decent-priced winners with hugely competitive odds on offer for each and every race, but there are three apparently rock solid short-priced favourites who look set to provide plenty of punting ammunition for the five days as a whole, writes Elliot Slater.
With so many horse racing tips flying around for each and every race it’s sometimes easy to miss the wood for the trees, so here are three fairly short-priced horses who really should take all the beating at the royal fixture. They should provide your ‘bread and butter’ punting money for the bigger odds opportunities along the way.
In the very first race of the meeting, the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, there have been stacks of horse racing tips for the Richard Hannon-trained Toronado, available in places at around even money. In what looks to be a below-par renewal of this showcase event over the straight mile the son of High Chaparral can gain compensation for the narrowest of defeats at the meeting 12 months ago, when he lost out by just a short-head in a titanic duel with the Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach in a memorable battle for the St James’s Palace Stakes.
Richard Hughes ‘ mount subsequently gained his revenge on Dawn Approach in another great race for the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood a month later, before running an uncharacteristic stinker on his first attempt at 10 furlongs when last of six in the Juddmonte International Stakes at York in August. Reported to be in fine shape ahead of this belated seasonal reappearance, Toronado can get favourite backers off to a flying start for the five-day fixture.
Also on day one (June 17) we the St James’s Palace Stakes sees the rematch between Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Night of Thunder and the runner-up Kingman, who subsequently went on to hack up by five lengths in the Irish equivalent. There’s no doubt that Night of Thunder covered more ground at Newmarket and almost certainly deserved his win, but Kingman really looked to have progressed when bolting in at the Curragh and with some give anticipated underfoot he has plenty going for him as he bids to take his revenge on his HQ conqueror. At around even money Kingman looks one to have on your side.
The other hotpot that will really take some beating at Royal Ascot is the star French filly Treve, who tasted her first even career defeat when narrowly edged out by the superb Cirrus des Aigles in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp on April and bids for compensation in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Wednesday June 18). Andre Fabre’s brilliant Prix de l’Arc de Triomnphe winner was almost certainly not fully wound up for her seasonal bow and has reportedly been doing everything asked of her in training of late.
At around 8/11 there have understandably been masses of horse racing tips for the four-year-old filly, but she really does have the look of a ‘good thing’. Breeders’ Cup Turf hero Magician would appear to be her main danger but had a hard race at the Curragh recently when bogged down in the mud and only second by Noble Mission.
Classic winning trainer Roger Charlton is hoping for much better luck this season than last with his talented mare Thistle Bird, reported in good shape after her winter break and scheduled to make a return to action at York’s first fixture of the season in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes in mid-May, writes Elliot Slater.
The six-year-old daughter of Selkirk has been a fine servant to her owner-breeder Lady Rothschild, but having enjoyed two highly successful seasons as a three and four-year-old during which she won four times in listed class, last campaign Charlton’s charge kept hitting the crossbar after winning on her second start in the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom (returning the 3/1 favourite with bet365), although she was tackling smart company on each and every occasion.
After disappointing at Royal Ascot when last of nine in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes, Thistle Bird ran the race of her life when narrowly beaten by shock winner Winsili in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, a performance that marked her down as an apparently sure-fire future winner at the highest level. The quirky character then failed again to run to her best form in the Celebration Mile back at Goodwood in August but ran an absolute blinder on her final start of the campaign when sent across the water to France to bid for the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera Longines on Arc day at Longchamp in October.
Partnered as usual by James Doyle in the 10-furlong top-class contest, the Beckhampton-trained mare was in something of a pocket towards the inside rail for much of the trip, but once angled out for a clear run she fairly flew in the closing stages, eventually failing by just a nose and a neck to peg back the Aga Khan’s Dalkala, and Andre Fabre’s hot favourite Tasaday. Plenty who saw that race felt that had she enjoyed a clearer passage Thistle Bird might well have won the prestigious mares’ race – but it wasn’t to be.
This term it is hoped that Thistle Bird’s luck will change and the sporting decision by her owner to keep her in training deserves to be rewarded. Charlton has made no secret of the fact that the mare is not an easy customer and has been difficult to train and also difficult to ride for a number of jockeys. Her trainer feels that the key to this season proving her most successful yet is her learning to settle well enough to stay 10 furlongs, something that has given connections far more options for the new campaign.
Assuming she runs well at York on her reappearance Thistle Bird will be targeted at a number of the top 10 furlong events in Britain and abroad this year. As she has grown older she has also surprised connections in being able to handle soft ground, a new factor that gives Charlton plenty more options, especially in France where there tends to be easy ground at the majority of fixtures.
OK, no one can tell you who’s going to win this year’s Grand National exactly, but we can narrow the field right down and tell you what the horse’s overall features will probably be. That’s because the race is far more of a form race, these days, than it’s often given credit for. But here’s the interesting thing – this is very often not properly reflected the Grand National betting market.
The Grand National is by far the world’s most famous chase and if we look at the actual results down recent years since the track and fences were made a little easier, the stats tell an interesting story. Firstly, consider the age of your selections. Eighty per cent of all winners are aged between 9 and 11.
Next – weight is all important. The mean average carried by the winner over the last three decades is just under 10 stones 9 pounds. In recent years, though, the average has crept up a little to 11 stones, but very few horses are capable of carrying much more over the four and a half tough miles, particularly in slightly yielding ground. So the eventual victor is likely to be carrying anywhere between 10 stones and around 11 stones five pounds maximum.
So don’t go for anything carrying over 11 stones four pounds. Interestingly, this approach rules out some of the favourites for this year’s race. For example, Betfair has former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run at around 13-1 at the time of writing and Tidal Bay at around 15/1, yet both carry weights which previous stats say won’t happen.
Betfair punters still make Teaforthree the 19/2 favourite, however, and as the horse will carry 10 stones 12 – this is far more of a winning mark.
The same can be said for second favourite Monbeg Dude, currently a 12-1 chance with Betfair and set to carry 10 stones 9 pounds.
There are many other things to consider, too, though such as a horse’s liking for the going on the day, its warm-up preparations (four out of five recent National winners had had a hurdle race in the build-up) and the official rating; most winners these days have a rating of over 136. Also; all the last ten winners of the race had won a chase worth £17k or more before the National and had won over three miles or more.
So now who’s going to win?