Well it’s a been a while since I’ve done one of these, 2 months to be exact. I’ve just been very busy with work and by the time I get in I just can’t be arsed to spend a good few hours writing a blog to be honest. But I’m off work for the whole week so the plan is to write one of these for every day of the Ebor festival. Will then probably take a break until Irish Champions Weekend, and after that, well fuck knows when the blog will be back! Anyway, in the past I’ve always advised level £10 stakes, but from now on I’ll be using a points system. The reason behind that is there’s always some bets you’re more confident on than others, and a points system allows you to stake accordingly.
3.00 – Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes (Group 2) – 1m 3f 188y
Cracksman heads the market here at EVS, and I can’t argue with that at all. He’s by some way the most likely winner of this, and this has been his target ever since the Irish Derby, and will also be his last run of the season so will clearly be fully tuned up for this. He was a good 3rd in the Derby when seeming to run in snatches, and in my eyes was the moral winner of the Irish Derby, only undone by a tactical masterclass from Ballydoyle. He does seem a bit of a #FrankelBastard who wouldn’t be the easiest to trust as he can be a bit lazy in his races and take a while to get going. But I have no doubt he’s the best horse in the race. Of the other Frankels in the race, I’m not a fan of any of them. Mirage Dancer and Count Octave I just don’t like, and Atty Persse isn’t up to this level. You could make a case for Khalidi on his debut for Clive Cox at the prices, but it’s the 3 Aidan O’Brien horses I think are bigger dangers. Spanish Steps won the Ballyroan against the older horses a couple of weeks ago under a Seamie special from the front, and whilst he’ll probably make a bold bid at doing the same here, this is a better race. You’d imagine both he and Douglas Macarthur will go forward, which could set the race up for the other Ballydoyle runner, Venice Beach. I’ve long been a fan of the horse, and have backed him on all 5 of his starts this season. He won the Chester Vase back in May when beating Wings of Eagles, but flopped in the Derby afterwards. But I’m willing to forgive any horse a poor run in the Derby. Some horses just don’t handle the track at all, and that looks to have been the case with Venice Beach. On his only run since, he was beaten a length into 3rd in the Grand Prix de Paris by Shakeel and Permian. He raced prominently that day and was outpaced entering the straight, before staying on well. He looks like a Leger horse to me and this morning I have backed him at 20/1 for that race. Aidan usually sends his St Leger horse here, and he’s the stable first string with Ryan on board. He stays all day but my concern here is that Aidan’s often need this run before the Leger so I’m not convinced he’ll be completely ready here. If you’re looking for one at a bigger price Venice Beach would be the one, but I just can’t see past Cracksman.
Selection: 1.5pts WIN Cracksman EVS (Stan James)
3.35 – Juddmonte International Stakes (Group 1) – 1m 2f 56y
The Nunthorpe aside, this is the race I’m most looking forward to this week, despite only having 7 runners. My Dream Boat can be discounted as he needs cut in the ground and hasn’t looked the same horse this campaign. Bar him though, it’s not easy to rule any of these out. The obvious starting point is Barney Roy. 2nd in the Guineas before getting the better of Churchill at Royal Ascot (more on this later), he was then a very narrow, and closing, 2nd to Ulysses on his first try over 10f in the Eclipse. He was very keen early on that day and the undulations of Sandown clearly weren’t to his liking. A flat, galloping track like York will suit him no ends, and for that reason many fancy Barney Roy to reverse that Eclipse form with Ulysses. But I’m not so sure. Yes, Barney Roy is improving rapidly, but so is Ulysses. He was the only one that got anywhere near Enable in the King George (granted, he was still beaten a fair way) and that was on ground he really wouldn’t have liked. If that hasn’t taken too much out of him, I’d rather back him than Barney Roy. One reason for this is the fact that for some unknown reason, Godolphin haven’t put in a pacemaker for Barney Roy, which is ludicrous. He needs a strong pace to help him settle, and we are left with just 7 runners, none of which will go hard from the front. That is a major negative for Barney Roy. With a pacemaker, I’d probably have sided with him here, but reluctantly I’m going to pass him over. I’m also going to discard Ulysses, as the King George must have taken a fair bit out of him so with that doubt I’ll look elsewhere. If we’d come here straight from the Guineas, Churchill would probably be odds on. But of course he flopped in the St James’ Palace behind Barney Roy, and no reason was found for that. Now there’s no doubting that definitely wasn’t his true running, but I do have a suspicion that at this stage of his classic season that others like Barney Roy may have caught up with him physically. He was a monster of a 2yo, and its possible some of the reason for his Guineas win was because he was simply the most mature and experienced. Obviously he is a very talented horse as well, and despite the fact that you can completely put a line through his Ascot run, I don’t feel compelled to back him here. Decorated Knight runs looking to win his 3rd Group 1, which is ridiculous in all honesty. He probably won the weakest Group 1 of all time when winning the Jebel Hatta, before adding another very soft Group 1 when winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh in late May. He’s not true Group 1 class and I’d be shocked, and rather pissed off, if he wins this. Shutter Speed is interesting. At the start of the season John Gosden described her as without a doubt the best filly he has. Now Enable has since turned into a world beater, but Gosden certainly hasn’t hidden the regard she is held in. Her French Oaks run was disappointing and there were no real excuses either. Yes she stumbled late on, but that was the difference between 2nd and 4th, as she wouldn’t have beaten Senga anyway. The plan was to run her at Deauville last weekend, but she was pulled due to the ground and therefore runs here as plan B, and she’s not for me. I’ve only left one and that’s my pick in Cliffs of Moher, who looks to have been a little forgotten about. The Derby form has been crabbed by many, but I think it’s a lot better than people are giving it credit for. Wings of Eagles might have been a huge priced winner, but there’s no doubt in my mind he was a very, very good horse, and it’s a huge shame he picked up that injury in the Irish Derby. But back to the Derby form, the 3rd Cracksman should have won the Irish Derby, but Ballydoyle went 5 wide across the track and forced him to go round, and he was still only just beaten. The 4th, Eminent, disappointed in the Eclipse, but pissed up in a Group 2 at Deauville last week, with the French Derby 1st and 3rd beaten miles. The 5th, Benbatl, won the Hampton Court at Royal Ascot. The 6th, Capri, won the Irish Derby. The 10th, Permian, won the King Edward VII, and was desperately unlucky not to land a Group 1 over at Saint Cloud before he devastatingly lost his life at Arlington a couple of weeks ago. Even the Derby 16th, Rekindling, has since won the Curragh Cup, so to my eyes, I don’t think it is justified to be calling that “the worst Derby of all time” like many on social media have. Granted, no superstar has emerged from the race, but Wings of Eagles could have been just that. Cliffs of Moher was of course 2nd in the race on just his 4th lifetime run. Since then, he was 4th in the Eclipse that Ulysses narrowly won from Barney Roy. However, he was very badly hampered early on and its tough for any horse to recover from that. He was lucky to still be standing, so for me a line can be drawn through that. He went off 7/4 to beat both Ulysses and Barney Roy that day, so why he should be over double the price of both of that pair now I have no idea. Add to that the fact there is no pace in the race whatsoever, I think Seamie may go forward on Cliffs of Moher here, and how many times have we seen him set a false pace and nick one from the front? He is by no means a confident selection, but at the prices he has to be my bet in the race.
Selection: 0.75pts WIN Cliffs of Moher 6/1 (Stan James)