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Bad Manners, The US Open and Royal Ascot Day 1.

Capt. Kneesup

Capt. Kneesup

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The Oaks Dinner 2023

In the midst of all the Ascot preparations, the thinking, the calculations, the decisiveness and confidence, sadly coupled with the loss of all value perceptions and risk management, I managed to scramble home from The Derby crash, by dint of good fortune and the bond of friendship.  I cannot recall a more topsy-turvy year when I simply could not see the trees for the wood. Luckily, Hoo Ya Mal dug me out alongside the draw at The Derby Dinner, to which I had been kindly invited, which stopped the ship from rolling totally over.

As you have doubtless read, a brace of attendees to said dinner, sadly decided that the way to air a grievance was to spitefully go to the press anonymously. Trumpeting their disgust at the fact that the dinner was a men-only affair, they climbed high up their self-righteous ladders, got their virtue-signalling flags out and waved away like a pair of demented banshees. As both the complainants know a fair bit about marketing, it is reasonable to assume that they also understood the impact of pouring petrol onto the bonfire of disregard the majority of the UK has for horseracing, and for those who follow it. The pair knowingly provided yet another rallying point for people with a view on the whip, water jumps, two-year-old racing, National Hunt racing, Gambling, and women being allowed to go to dinner with their husbands, even if they don’t want to.

I am however confused, possibly because I’m simply too woke, or maybe even overly sensitive. Explain please – what is the difference between a Private Members Club that has no clubhouse, that meets once a year to celebrate and bet on a particular sporting event and, for example, The University Women’s Club? As far as I can gather The UWC does exactly what it says on the tin, and even benefits from a lovely building. It may possibly even benefit from having no noticeable inclination towards horses, gambling, billiards and other St James Club club activities. Am I missing a point? How does the Derby Club dinner differ from those held by The Boscombe Ladies Golf Club, or indeed that of The Formby Ladies GC. I tried to book lunch at The Allbright, a Women Members Club in Maddox Street for lunch but couldn’t get in on the grounds that I wasn’t a member and was unlikely to be. If I rush I might just make it to The Wing in Fitzrovia… but only if I have surgery! As for The University Women’s Club… I never went, so couldn’t get in, snipped or nay. These club memberships are £1500+ pa, so they are by no means frivolous. They are clubs with purpose – and that purpose isn’t men. Maybe the issue is that I have absolutely no sense of entitlement that demands that the membership criteria to private clubs be altered to fit my profile. But then even if they did, surely the Groucho Marx club principle would be uppermost in one’s mind?

Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now, and the DC has flung open the doors. Next year, if I’m invited, I shall be surrounded by chums out with their “Nieces”. Perhaps I can bring a friend from The Folies Bergere instead of The Hon. Huzzah! Meanwhile, I have entirely forgotten that the initial complainant was appallingly rude to the charming lady who administrates the Club, a fact unreported by any of the zealous hacks as they levelled the playing field with concrete.

God save us all from Little men’s personal agendas.

But I digress….. we also have the US Open starting on Thursday, and crikey if you thought the Derby Club invitation was contentious – the rancour surrounding the LIV, Saudi’s tosh passing for a Golf Tour, has been monumental. Like the French Police, the PGA went straight for the Pepper Spray and simply got rid of any PGA member playing in the LIV. I think the European Tour will do the same. However, Charles Schwartzel, who is a decent golfer, this week earned more money than he has in the last four years on the PGA Tour. In my mind, Sports Pros have, in the main, a finite amount of time to earn their money – after which anno domini and tempus fugiting means the body collapses and you’re left with TV or nada. And I should know! On charitable grounds alone, I am thus inclined to let them seek their employment where they can and to play the market. You might think that the issue would then be between the platforms (PGA, LIV, USGA, et al), and not the participants. Sadly the reality is that in the USA at least, it will be between the crowds and the players because it is the Saudis behind LIV. To a Yankee, regardless of political hue, a Saudi is seen as a 911 terrorist on crack. I’m just guessing that the Boston crowd will make their views known and Messrs Johnson, de Chambeau, Mickelson, and Schwartzel, who can play because it is not a PGA event, will be lucky to play a shot without loud comments and worse. The polarisation of US socio-political views will become increasingly apparent in US Daily life and increasingly dangerous. The Storming of the Capitol may turn out to be prescient and we are already seeing it here in Blighty. Films being taken out of circulation for fear of violence between two Muslim sects, Shi’ite and Sunni is the precursor to mob rule, violence and anarchy.

Incidentally, LIV is a reference to the Roman numeral for 54, the score if every hole on a par-72 course was birdied, and the number of holes to be played at LIV events. Tell me if you have stopped caring.

This week, in case you haven’t noticed, we also have Royal “Kerching” Ascot, at which I may have many responsibilities which have the potential to occupy some of my time. (None of them involves my being invited to The Royal Box – I wonder if the Racing Post will care). However, it will mean I shall be brief with my suggestions, as on some nights I shall be returning late. The eye-watering sums being charged this coming week, for badges, Car Parking and consumables will I fear deliver more press outrage, this time on the conspicuous consumption of The Posh. They are mistaken of course, for in the main, the UMCs abandoned four days at Ascot some time ago, so fed up were they at meeting their hairdresser and car dealer in the Royal Enclosure. Undeterred by the actual identity of those with the sorts of sums needed to fund even a No 1 Car park picnic from Waitrose, the Government will hike a rise from the UMC somewhere. Quite possibly CGT on house sales over £1m. Socialists everywhere will be thrilled, until, they realise, they too have been caught in the trap. You have been warned.

The US Open and Day 1 Royal Ascot thoughts are below. Here too, you have been warned!

US OPEN

Be very careful where you place your bets. The prices I have quoted are for William Hill who is offering 9 places for a fifth of the odds. That simply means that many of the bookmakers offering fewer places but possibly bigger odds. Bet365 is offering 5 places to ¼ odds. Boyle Sports is offering 11 places. Yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice.

This year the US Open returns to The Country Club, Brookline, Massachusetts for the first time since 1988, when Curtis Strange won a play-off from Nick Faldo. Pretty short by modern day standards, the course has been rerouted and renovated by Gil Hanse. The last time we saw top action here was the 1999 Ryder Cup and then in 2013 they played the US Amateur here – won by Matthew Fitzpatrick.

I have looked at four key metrics for this

  • Greens in regulation (GIR): Tiny greens demand accuracy on the approach. The last 10 US Open winners averaged 5.2 on their GIR ranking.
  • Par 4 Efficiency – 450-500 (P4): Seven of the Brookline par 4s are between 450 and 500 yards – who plays well at that distance?
  • Driving distance (DD): In an ideal world you want a high GIR accuracy coupled with length – because length matters!
  • Scrambling (S): Narrow fairways and long rough means greens are going to be missed.

SELECTIONS

2 pts e/w 21/1 or lower – 1 pt e/w 22/1 or bigger.

  • Matt Fitzpatrick: If I were some ancient oriental sensei, I would be suggesting that the time is propitious for Matt Fitzpatrick to take his first Major. As I’ve already said, he’s won at this course before, is in great form and he can – as the figures suggest –  “scramble” out of trouble. (GIR: 95 – P4: 123 – DD: 108 – S: 4)
    • 28/1
  • Sung-Jae Im: 6th top 10 finish LTO in the Memorial at Muirfield, 9 behind Billy Horschel with a decent last round 3-under for a 69 to finish tied 10th. His Tee to Green has been exemplary and whilst one would like to see his putting improve – this sort of short course seems best for him 50/1 (GIR: 8  – P4: 9 – DD: 87 – S: 3)
    • 40/1
  • Xander Schauffele. Consistent in the US Open (5/5 Top 10 finish) . 13th in the PGA.  The US Open is no stranger to maiden major winners, with 10/13 never having won a mahjor title before. He ranks third across my key metrics needed to win this and he has valuable course experience having competed in the 2013 US Amateur. (GIR: 16 – P4: T7 – DD; T34 – S: T49)
    • 25/1
  • Max Homa: If you want a laugh, follow hm on twitter… during the rounds! But his joshing hides real skill and he has top 25 finishes in 9 of his last 11 events. He won the Wells Fargo at another short Par 70, TPC Potomac and was 5th in The Memorial. (GIR: 112 – P4: 42 – DD: 51 – S: 143)
    • 40/1
  • Scottie Scheffler: Won the first major, the US Masters, with a great performance. However his PGA performance was train crash, and I am confident we will see the focus regained. GIR: 2 – P4: T25 – DD: 16 – S: T126)
    • 14/1
  • Sam Burns: Won the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour and had a solid performance in the PGA Championship. (GIR: 5 – P4: T25 – DD: 24 – S: 59)
    • 25/1
  • Corey Conners: Ranked 34th in the world and is the best Canadian golfer on the tour. Three top 10 finishes on the bounce and appealing at the price. (GIR: 4 – P4: 37 – DD: T93 – S:67)
    • 50/1

Justin Thomas: Looked as though he was going to take the RBC this weekend in Canada, but looked as though he was wobbling at the end. Other than that possibly incorrect observation, he is playing consistently well. He won the PGA after a playoff with Will Zalatoris – but with his third yesterday, I think he is now just too short.

JUST ONE BET?: SUNG JAE IM (look at those stats) 3 pts e/w 45/1 for 10 places with Skybet

ROYAL ASCOT

RACE TIMES THROUGHOUT THE WEEK: 14:30 – 15:05 – 15:40 – 16:20 – 17:00 – 17:35 – 18:10

TUESDAY JUNE 14th

I think we should consider doing some doubles and trebles with what promises to be a day for favourites. If we use BAAEED as the quoin stone, supported by COROEBUS, we might have the opportunity to do some useful low-cost trebles. Also, I am reminded that The Tote (why is it branded lowercase?) is global for the meeting, which means that the Yanks, Hong Kong, Oz, the PMU de France and, of course, Ireland are all punting with us. That should make the payouts pretty solid.

QUEEN ANNE – 1mile, Group 1, 4yo+

Having gone through the stats, you’re only left with a choice of two BAAEED and REAL WORLD, who won’t win. In the real world, there aren’t many viable markets for this race. You could bet on the winning distance (3-4 lengths would be my guess), or betting without the favourite which would give you 6/5 about REAL WORLD or 4/1 ORDER OF AUSTRALIA.

I’m just going to cut in on myself here – because this is worth remembering. Imagine you back ORDER OF AUSTRALIA e/w at 22/1 (if you can get those odds) to come first or second, at ¼ of the odds the place. If he comes second, your total return to a £10 e/w stake is £65 – but £20 of that was your money to start so you are getting a profit of £45 or 45-20 which is actually 9-4…. because don’t forget, you lost the win part of the e/w bet. Knowing that it is going to be very difficult to beat BAAEED – possibly the best miler in the world – are you better off backing him e/w or to back him in the beeting without the favourite market at 4/1 for a straight tenner? 

SIR BUSKER is here for the £8k of 6th place prize money and would be delighted to pick up £32k for 4th. Forget LIGHTS ON, girls don’t win this except on Wednesdays and everything else is just here for G1 placed black-type and enhanced breeding values.

BAAEED for Trebles plus. see end.

ORDER OF AUSTRALIA  – REAL WORLD for the Placepot.

COVENTRY STAKES – Group 2, 6f, 2yo

The first of the future stars races, and having had a couple of sherberts with Archie Watson’s mama over the weekend, BRADSELL’s name was never mentioned. although he does make the cut on my trends. I would worry about the ground being a little too fast for him. The favourite is AOB’s BLACKBEARD who has already got a hat-trick, and looked very comfortable in his G3 victory LTO. Ryan Moore in the plate tells you all you need to know about preferences. PERSIAN FORCE is vying for favouritism and looks best of the brits having won The Brocklesby and a 3-runner race at Newbury. I’m afraid that phrase tells you all you need to know about the state of UK racing. You’re vying for favouritism for a G2 2yo Royal Ascot race and you have been forged in the white-hot heat of competitive racing against nine horses in two races. This also means that taking a crazy low price is a mistake because we simply don’t know how these two-year-olds are going to perform in the white-hot heat etc. It’s going to be a boiling hot day, they have never seen so many horses down at a start before, and they’re going to be hearing tannoys and crowds like never before. ROYAL SCOTSMAN caught my eye at Goodwood, as did the Brian Meehan fourth in that race SHOW RESPECT, whose debut was marred by traffic and confusion and who was running on properly at the end. He has won since and I have backed it e/w at 33/1 with Bet365 for 5 places.

Dutch ROYAL SCOTSMAN and BRADSELL for 5pts combined and SHOW RESPECT 2 pts e/w for 6 places with Sky at best price.

KINGS STAND – Group 1, 5f, 3yo+

I remember my friend Owlie having it away big time on this race, backing Aussie horses he had encountered in his Asian travels and which remained a mystery to us wretched untravelled serfs. On the trends I’m down to four;  GOLDEN PAL  7/2 – MOONIESTA 16/1 – NATURE STRIP 9/4 – PONNTOS 33/1. The favourite and MOONIESTA have both tightened up considerably in the last 24 hours. The reason I suspect GOLDEN PAL is not being backed with any enthusiasm is that all his wins have come off a bend and the twice he has raced on the straight he’s been beaten by a fast-finishing horse from off the pace. The favourite NATURES TRIP has equally got a flaw which is most of his wins have come with cut and most recently over 6f. That leaves me with MOONIESTA who was 2nd in the G2 Greenlands Stakes LTO with the Al Quoz winner back in third. More importantly, she has had a top 3 finish in 13 of her 17 starts. There is pace across the track and one of those is PONNTOS which I haven’t mentioned so far because I haven’t a clue – one of the hazards of trends selection. His trainer is the Czech trainer Miroslav Nieslanik, who according to the Ceske Republiky Jockey Club website has 29 horses in training and in 2022 is 12/80 (15% SR) and the horse itself has perfectly respectable form having won a G2 LTO in France on GS – ridden by Frankie Dettori. PONNTOS ran badly the twice before in France on the unspeakably heavy ground including a 6th in The Prix de L’Abbaye but it’s the jockey’s experience and the fast ground that I’m concerned by. What else catches the attention? Away from the trends, TWILIGHT CALLS has conditions very much in his favour and will love the fast round. Drawn in stall 6, I see him arriving in the nick of time.

TWILIGHT CALLS 3 pts Win – MOONIESTA 2 pts e/w

ST JAMES PALACE – Group 1, 1m, 3yo colts

The race that theoretically tells us which of The Guineas was the better. The 2000 Guineas winner COROEBUS is an odd-on favourite but the question is – will he travel? He has never been anywhere other than Newmarket. He has never raced on the turn. He has never raced on a track as comparatively narrow as Ascot, when compared to the Heathland spaces of Newmarket. It’s all sunshine glinting off car windscreens and shouty noises and tents at Ascot for a 3yo. The trends also suggest the Irish 2000 Guineas second NEW ENERGY  and BERKSHIRE SHADOW who won the Coventry last year and has done relatively little since.

COROEBUS in trebles plus – see the end

NEW ENERGY – BERKSHIRE SHADOW 2 pts e/w both for 4 places with Bet365

ASCOT STAKES – Handicap, 2m4f, 4yo+ 

I managed to narrow this down to just nine runners and most of them are towards the head of the weights. However bear in mind that many of these are NH horses (can’t wait to see Gordon Elliott in a morning coat), and many will find the ground uncomfortably fast. One horse that has won on fast ground is SCARAMANGA who won last July at Newbury and who has Hollie Doyle in the plate. ARCADIAN SUNRISE who hated Chester LTO in the Chester Cup looks progressive and has very few miles on the clock for his age. His Chester performance was pretty good considering he hadn’t raced for 6 months. He’ll be fitter this time and gets 5lbs from Harry Davies in the plate.

ARCADIAN SURPISE 4 pts Win – SCARAMANGA 2½ pts e/w

WOLFERTON STAKES – Listed, 1m2f, 4yo+

There is little to go on other than form because it changed from a handicap to a Listed race in 2018. Since then the 4 winners were 4-6yo men, with 6+ career starts under their belt, and were rated 107+ this being at least 30+days since their last race. It was won last year by JUAN ELCANO and at 7/1 for 5 places I might suggest he is e/w value.

JUAN ELCANO 3 pts e/w

COPPER HORSE STAKES – Handicap, 1m6f, 4yo+

This was a new race in 2020 and while snapping up the AOB favourite seems the obvious choice, I think Im going to have the tiniest pop at Charlie Appleby’s BANDINELLI who is 5 from 10 and has William Buick to help matters along. He is currently 11/1 with Willam Hill for 5 places and the price won’t last long I fear.

BANDINELLI 2 pts e/w

What do we do with the certainties?

QUEEN ANNE: BAAEED  – ST JAMES PLACE: COROEBUS – CHESHAM STAKES: ALFRED MUNNINGS – HARDWICKE STAKES: HURRICANE LANE

4 x 2 pt trebles and a 2pt fourfold = 10 pts.

At current prices, and with all four winning, one would show a 35.86 pt profit or approx odds of 7/2.

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