Really tricky on Thursday, despite the 14 hours notice of impending rain and likely going changes. I was already struggling when I got tucked up by Roger Varian and his observations on Molatham’s last outing on Soft ground. “He’ll hate it” he said or words to that effect. Lumme, it turns out Roger, old darling, that he doesn’t handle Soft ground, to the same degree that I can’t abide Lafite and loathe Petrus.
Meanwhile, the Soap-on-a-Rope that is Ed Chamberlain was exhorting me to celebrate the fact that Waitrose had opened it’s doors to trade, because “key staff are being celebrated today” and then that I should join them in a singsong afterwards. He may not have specifically mentioned Supermarkets, but then another voice told me I should bet responsibly, Oh and I should not forget to mention something on social media, put the kettle on, and don’t forget to wash your hands, Oh and …… ITV Racing is like a relentless Public Service announcement with racing. Oh and Francesca Cumani… I’m sorry can I just be blunt? She’s fun. She is fanciable. She is sharp. What is it with the hats though? Relentless, endless hats. Mea Maxima Culpa, I know I am alone in thinking this, as ITV has managed to get 900k+ people to watch, and if 25% will come back for Fran’s bonnets, then tickety boo.
Meanwhile, dear Lord of Racing Advisors, Tipsters and Flaneurs, give me a couple of long-shots. today. Please.
1:15 pm – Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap (Handicap)
One of my silly stats is that since 2003, claiming jockeys have only won 6 times at the Royal Meeting from 245 runs. One of them was on Coeur de Lion the other day. But, if you only back those in the top four in the market you won’t have many bets, but you would have a near 18% strike rate and show a profit of 12+pts from 3 winners from 16 runs. Why do I mention this? Because Cieren Fallon is on board KEEP BUSY and because he is a damned good jockey. The horse has been placed a couple of times on Soft will get the distance and is no forlorn hope. My only fear is the handicapper, might already have Keep Busy in his merciless grip. The likely winner is ART POWER who has always struck one as decent. He’s turned up here rather than the G1 Commonwealth Cup so is obviously regarded at home. I watched his last race at Newcastle on that very deep Tapeta over 6f and he walked it winning by 5½l. On this properly sticky ground, the five won’t be an issue, he’s got a decent draw, and he won’t mind the ground. DANCIN INTHESTREET had a dreadful run at Haydock LTO and never got to strike a blow. He came third, beaten by under 3l and made me go hmmm.
ART POWER win – KEEP BUSY e/w – DANCIN INTHESTREETe/w
1:50 pm – Albany Stakes (Group 3)
A Wesley Ward juvenile FLYING ALETHA sits around the 7/1 mark and has William Buick on board. She was hugely impressive at Gulfstream, and like all W2’s horses could be tricky if allowed to go from the front. Frankie takes the ride on WILLABELL from Johny G’s on-fire stable. She had a blistering start and her rivals were off the bridle 2f out at Yarmouth LTO. Everything looked super until Frankie gave her a crack as the eventual winner arrived to make a challenge; at which point the filly changed legs, did a jig, called for a taxi, checked her makeup and generally lost concentration. That won’t be allowed to happen again.
WILLABELL e/w FLYING ALETHA win
2:25 pm – Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
EYE OF HEAVEN is considered one of Mark Johnston’s top juveniles and he rather astonishingly broke the 2yo 2016 course record at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile. He was generally feted afterwards and there was quite a lot of “Classic” and “Pattern” being thrown about. It will be an interesting race to follow, as EYE OF HEAVEN should perhaps be today. His form was franked on Wednesday when Tactical, who was third at Newmarket, won the Windsor Castle, with the runner-up Get It, also running well to finish fourth from a low draw. MJ won this with Russian Valour in 2006 and Frankie is back to guide him home. Anything longer than evens seems fair. Meanwhile Frankie’s great mate, Wes Ward runs GOLDEN PAL trying to add his third Norfolk winner after No Nay Never and Shang Shang Shang. I was originally keen on him, but I am not that keen on horses being beaten first time out in this, something neither of Wes’ two other winners had done. So I shall swerve him, despite vaguely encouraging noises from Timeform. If there is a long-shot here it might be JOJO RABBIT who won LTO in a strangely-run race but in a manner which suggested there was more on offer.
EYE OF HEAVEN win JOJO RABBIT e/w
3:00 pm – Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)
The Sir Michael Stoute Annual Testimonial Race has been won by him 11 times, five of those coming in the last 8 renewals. I almost feel I should just leave it there, except of course he has decided to make life difficult for tipsters, by not having an entry. Now I’m going to have to make a case for ANTONY VAN DYKE, who won the Derby last year and then didn’t win anything else. As a charming Irish trainer once said to me; “Coming second simply means you came last first.” So the fact that AvD has run well in The Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes and The Breeders Cup Turf and The Coronation Cup simply means that he’s met better opposition. Maybe that’s his G1 level, because at G2 level and lower he is 711111 – but I want 5/1 to find out. Instead, I suggest a small bet on ELARQAM simply to give one interest and to see whether his shorthead defeat in the rescheduled Brig. Gerard Stks by Lord North was an accurate reflection of his compatible ability with The Prince of Wales winner.
3:35 pm – Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)
GOLDEN HORDE won The Richmond Stks last summer and gave Earthlight a tough race when beaten just a neck in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. His form looks solid, with the Goodwood second, Threat going on to win the Gimcrack and Champagne Stakes and then coming fifth in the Middle Park. A decent e/w chance lies with the winner of The G3 Pavilion Stakes at Newcastle, DUBAI STATION. He was 3l behind A’Ali and Ventura Rebel in last year’s Norfolk Stakes and turned that form on its head as he ran out good winner. He has had injury issues at home, but given he had been off for over 240 days, his run a couple of weeks ago was a very decent effort and at around 20s and with soft ground form he looks a decent place prospect with the possibility of a win.
GOLDEN HORDE win DUBAI STATION e/w
4:10 pm – Queen’s Vase (Group 2)
Aiden O’Brien has had this away five times in the last ten years and I quite like the combination of Frankie and NOBEL PRIZE. He won’t mind the ground, and his last run on heavy ground in November gave the impression that he was toying with his rivals. I don’t think the tank was anywhere near empty when he went past the line and he kept engaging a seemingly endless supply of gears whenever anything came to challenge. Frankie might ride him to arrive late on the scene – if you’re an exchange player in running, keep that in mind
NOBEL PRIZE win
4:40 pm – Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap)
DEJA – INDIANAPOLIS – WEST END CHARMER – SCARLET DRAGON e/w the lot