ON THE RADAR
Vita Nova was initially recommended in Talking Horses early last May, before she won a Newmarket handicap, and this Sir Henry Cecil-trained mare went on to finish second at Group One level. She has so far failed to make the anticipated breakthrough in Pattern grade, but has enough talent to do so and is ready to start her 2012 campaign with a victory in a Listed race at Goodwood this Saturday, 5 May.
Fort Bastion was another given a glowing write-up in May 2011 and, although he is yet to get off the mark, the now three-year-old son of Lawman established a smart standard of juvenile form. Second in both Royal Ascot's Chesham Stakes and the Acomb Stakes at York, this Richard Hannon-trained colt holds entries in maidens at Salisbury and Thirsk this weekend and should score wherever he turns up.
Underfoot conditions at Punchestown on 25 April were very testing and margins between horses were inevitably extended, but it was difficult not to be impressed with the 24-length debut success notched by Flash Of Genius. Willie Mullins's six-year-old beat the more experienced OK Oscar without being hard-pressed in a two-and-a-quarter-mile bumper and, given easy ground, should have a bright future.
Time may show that an easy surface ideally suits Catwalk, but the most significant factor to take from her third place on her first start at Doncaster on 27 April is that six furlongs is inadequate for her. The daughter of Pivotal finished powerfully over that distance to be beaten just over a length and a half by Pretty Primo and, given trainer James Fanshawe's habitual method, ought to be sharper next time out.
Shaleek, runner-up in the Doncaster contest in which Catwalk took third, has now had to play second fiddle on each of her three outings. There appears precious little wrong with the Roger Varian-trained filly's attitude, though, and my opinion is that she has just been unfortunate in tackling more talented rivals. A winning opportunity should soon come her way, perhaps at slightly farther than six furlongs.
Nobody can be sure about the form of Sandown's mile-and-a-quarter Classic Trial on 28 April, as the ground was bottomless and the winner, Imperial Monarch, raced way wide of his rivals. It may not be wise to dismiss the contest as a farce, though, as Aidan O'Brien's colt was well backed beforehand is regally bred. Closely related to 2003 Derby second The Great Gatsby, he will win more Group events.
I advised readers to make a note of Kissed last October, shortly after she landed a Navan maiden, and now, following her eight-and-a-half-length success in a mile-and-a-quarter Listed contest at the same venue on 29 April, she is recommended again. When making all to defeat Aaraas, who has an official rating of 98, O'Brien's Galileo filly suggested she will hold her own in races at the very highest level.
DIGGING THE DIRT
Dank was recommended as a filly to follow in a Talking Horses column written last September, so it was no surprise to me when Sir Michael Stoute's charge landed a one-mile maiden at Kempton on 25 April. She was pressed all the way to the line, however, by the Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Ihtifal, who eventually lost out by just a neck. Like the winner, Ihtifal is a daughter of Dansili and, given that she is out of a Zafonic mare, has fair prospects of handling farther. She should break her duck quite soon.
NOTED ON THE GALLOPS
William Haggas has given Stencive an entry for a mile-and-a-quarter Listed event at Newmarket this Saturday, 5 May, and, while that might be too ambitious a target for a once-raced maiden, there is no doubt this three-year-old son of Dansili is a decent prospect. His workouts at home have been sound since last season, when he ran third on his only start, and he seems to have improved over the winter.
Chachamaidee enjoyed a productive 2011, notching two wins and five first-three placings from seven starts, and her work this spring suggests she should do just as well this time around. Sir Henry Cecil's five-year-old mare has looked in fine nick, exercising alongside a recently-successful stablemate, and seems set to make her seasonal reappearance in a one-mile Listed contest at Goodwood this weekend.
STATS THE WAY TO DO IT - Palace House Stakes (Group 3) - run at Newmarket on 5 May
It may be worth noting that last-time-out scorers have an outstanding recent record in Newmarket's five-furlong Group Three Palace House Stakes, scheduled this season for Saturday, 5 May.
Seven of the last ten winners - Kyllachy (2002), Needwood Blade (2003), Tax Free (2007), Captain Gerrard (2008), Amour Propre (2009), Equiano (2010) and Tangerine Trees had collected on their latest outing.
Four of those - Captain Gerrard, Amour Propre and Tangerine Trees, who were making their seasonal reappearance, are the exceptions - had notched that last-start victory during the relevant campaign.
Two other winners in the period under scrutiny - Frizzante (2004) and Dandy Man (2006) - went to Newmarket having already raced that season.
Both of those had finished runner-up in their latest outing, which means only Avonbridge (2005) has collected after failing to make the first four on his latest racecourse assignment.
All bar one of the winners from 2002 onwards - and here Needwood Blade is the sole exception - had already scored over the big-race distance.
Four - Needwood Blade, Frizzante, Equiano and Tangerine Trees - had previously won at HQ.
Favourites have given punters a solid return over the past decade, with four wins by market-leaders, courtesy of Kyllachy (2-1), Needwood Blade (9-4), Frizzante (13-8) and Tax Free (11-8).
Just one second-favourite has been successful in that time - Equiano (5-2) - while two scorers - Dandy Man (25-1) and Tangerine Trees (18-1) - have started at double-figure odds.
Five-year-olds have easily the best strike-rate within my chosen timeframe, with their quintet of wins coming via Needwood Blade, Frizzante, Avonbridge, Tax Free and Equiano.
Three-year-olds are next in the generational pecking-order, having taken the prize three times in the past five seasons, thanks to Dandy Man, Captain Gerrard and Amour Propre.
One four-year-old - Kyllachy - and one six-year-old - Tangerine Trees - complete the roll of honour from the past decade.
Henry Candy is the only trainer to have lifted the trophy more than once in the last ten years - via Kyllachy and Amour Propre - and it is interesting that big Newmarket stables have fared poorly.
Punters who watch the draw may well have had reasons to celebrate, though.
No fewer than eight winners in the past ten years - Kyllachy (3), Needwood Blade (9), Frizzante (1), Avonbridge (1), Tax Free (4) Captain Gerrard (1), Equiano (9) and Tangerine Trees (3) - were housed in a stall bearing a single-digit number.
BIG RACE FOCUS
Betting on this year's 1000 Guineas, due to be run on Newmarket's Rowley Mile this Sunday, 6 May, could prove to be the financial equivalent of dancing on thin ice.
There is no doubt hot-favourite Maybe has the best form credentials, after winning on all five of her two-year-old starts and taking the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes on the last of them
The level she has reached is not, however, high enough to make her a banker, according to my maths, as her rating of 106 falls well short the 110+ that it usually takes to land the first fillies' Classic.
Time may tell, of course, that she does not need to improve to beat what appears, strictly on figures, a sub-standard entry for a race won in recent seasons by such as Russian Rhythm and Attraction.
My view, though, is that Aidan O'Brien's charge is too vulnerable to potentially more progressive rivals to justify a whole-hearted recommendation at odds as low as 5-4.
It certainly would not surprise me if she collected - indeed, I advised readers to follow her prior to her victory in last term's Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot - but her price can hardly be called value.
The 1000 Guineas is rarely won by the market-leader - Russian Rhythm started at 12-1 and Attraction at 11-2 - and O'Brien has lifted the trophy just once, with 12-1 shot Virginia Waters in 2005.
I suspect, given those disconcerting factors, plus the unexceptional ratings achieved by the remaining entries (see below), that I shall watch the event without a monetary involvement.
For those who cannot resist the temptation, however, I would suggest a lingering look at Diala (16-1) and The Fugue (25-1), who need to progress considerably but are well-regarded by their trainers.
|1)||Maybe||Aidan O'Brien (Ireland)||106|
|2=)||Discourse||Mahmood Al Zarooni (GB)||102|
|2=)||Lyric Of Light||Mahmood Al Zarooni (GB)||102|
|4=)||Fire Lily||David Wachman (Ireland)||101|
|4=)||La Collina||Kevin Prendergast (Ireland)||101|
|4=)||Lightening Pearl||Ger Lyons (Ireland)||101|
|7)||Mashoora||Jean-Claude Rouget (France)||100|
|8)||Sunday Times||Peter Chapple-Hyam (GB)||99|
|9)||Gray Pearl||Charlie Hills (GB)||97|
|10)||Homecoming Queen||Aidan O'Brien (Ireland)||95|
|11)||Nayarra||Mick Channon (GB)||93|
|12=)||Alla Speranza||Jim Bolger (Ireland)||92|
|12=)||Moonstone Magic||Ralph Beckett (GB)||92+|
|14)||Up||Aidan O'Brien (Ireland)||91|
|15=)||Diala||William Haggas (GB)||90|
|15=)||Laugh Out Loud||Mick Channon (GB)||90|
|17=)||Lily's Angel||Richard Fahey (GB)||89|
|17=)||Starscope||John Gosden (GB)||89+|
|19)||The Fugue||John Gosden (GB)||85+|
|20)||Radio Gaga||Ed McMahon (GB)||82|
|21)||Wonderful||Aidan O'Brien (GB)||78|