Talking Horses

    David Lawrence takes a weekly look at the racing scene and as well as his horses to follow, has a statistical look at Saturday's Greenham Stakes at Newbury and has ratings for Thursday's Craven Stakes at Newmarket.
  • Thursday 20 April 2017
  • Blog

ON THE RADAR

Newbury’s Fred Darling Stakes (now known as the Dubai Duty Free) has a shocking recent record as a trial for the 1000 Guineas. A host of top-class three-year-old fillies took this seven-furlong event in the last century - including the likes of Salsabil and Bosra Sham - but not one winner of the Newbury Group Three has followed up on the Rowley Mile since Wince in 1999. Indeed, the last contestant in the Berkshire course’s prep-race to land the HQ Guineas was fourth-home Lahan in 2000, so punters  looking for Classic clues may not be helped a great deal by this season’s renewal of the Fred Darling on Saturday, 22 April. My view of the 2017 edition is that - as with its predecessors since the turn of the millennium - it is unlikely to have a significant bearing on the 1000 Guineas. It is probably worth noting, though, that John Gosden, the trainer of Lahan, appears set to be represented this weekend by DABYAH , whose form claims at Newbury are obvious following her third in last October’s Group One Prix Marcel Boussac. Of her rivals this Saturday, only QUEEN KINDLY  has reached a comparable level.             

PROMISING NEWCOMERS

Clive Cox introduced a potentially useful two-year-old at Bath on 14 April, when CHAGATAI overcame trouble in running to land a conditions event over the course’s extended five furlongs. Cox’s colt was impeded by a wayward rival at the start, before encountering traffic problems with a furlong left, yet still showed fine acceleration in the closing stages to score by a neck from the more experienced Last Page. A son of Kodiac, out of a Royal Applause mare, Chagatai should handle a sixth furlong in time.

DINONS may have made only a minor prize-money contribution to Gordon Elliott’s bid to lift the Irish jump trainers’ championship, picking up a mere €19,000 for his second in the bumper that concluded the Fairyhouse meeting on 16 April, but must have delighted connections on his first appearance. The four-year-old Balko gelding went down by just a length and three-quarters to the warm favourite, Red Jack, and did so despite being hampered. Dinons is bred for jumping and will appreciate a longer trip.       

CODEBREAKERS

Andre Fabre completed a clean sweep of the stakes races run at Maisons-Laffitte on 10 April - thanks to Al Wukair (Group Three), Via Ravenna (Group Three) and ULTRA (Listed) - with the last of that trio seemingly especially interesting for the future. A son of Manduro, Ultra was an impressive winner of over a mile and a furlong, bringing his career score to four victories from six starts, and, being out of a Nashwan mare should appreciate a step up in trip. He may well handle a mile and a half this season.

BRIAN THE SNAIL figured in Talking Horses last November, following a seven-length Catterick victory, and this Richard Fahey-trained three-year-old colt warrants a further commendation after his decisive success in a six-furlong handicap at Pontefract on 11 April. The son of Zebedee collected by a length and three-quarters, from an official mark of 95, and is now expected to tackle a higher grade. He will undoubtedly need to improve again to win in Pattern company - but that appears a distinct possibility.           

DIGGING THE DIRT

Simon Crisford’s team endured an uncharacteristic quiet period towards the back end of the 2016 Flat season, but his horses seem in excellent form at present and EAGLE CREEK  made a big impression when landing a one-mile maiden at Lingfield on 11 April by six lengths. This three-year-old son of Raven’s Pass had finished only fifth on his solitary juvenile outing, despite being well-backed beforehand, but, at the Surrey all-weather venue, he was never in danger of defeat. More victories are surely imminent.

Most punters must have been surprised by the 25-1 success of FOREST RANGER  in a one-mile conditions event at Newcastle on 14 April, but there seems no obvious reason to think the Richard Fahey-trained colt’s victory was a fluke. Indeed, to my eyes, Forest Ranger appeared a thoroughly-deserving winner, coming from off the pace to defeat the well-regarded Syphax by two and three-quarter lengths. Forest Ranger certainly deserves a step up in class and, based on his pedigree, ought to stay longer distances.          

NOTED ON THE GALLOPS

John Gosden has not made a flawless start to Britain’s 2017 Flat campaign - one or two of his runners have performed below market expectations - but I shall be disappointed if his colt CHESSMAN does not prove markedly better than his opening BHA rating of 87. This son of Acclamation scored on his only outing last term (a seven-furlong Kempton maiden in November) and has progressed over the winter.  

Few fillies currently in training can be considered better bred than Jeremy Noseda’s LA FIGLIA , who is by the superstar stallion Frankel and out of Finsceal Beo, winner of the 2007 edition of Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas. Unraced at two, but already entered at Group One level, she will be worth a fortune as a broodmare if she can land a maiden and, judged on her recent workouts, that looks decidedly likely.

Vying with La Figlia for the best-bred unraced three-year-old at HQ is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained MORI , another daughter of Frankel. Her dam is Midday, heroine of six Group One contests, including three renewals of Goodwood’s Nassau Stakes and the 2010 Yorkshire Oaks. Mori is also set to make her debut in the near future and she too shows enough at home to suggest she will soon register a win.     

STATS THE WAY TO DO IT - GREENHAM STAKES

Punters considering a bet on Newbury’s JLT Greenham Stakes, which is staged this Saturday, 22 April, may be wise to note that strongly-fancied runners have a fine recent record.

Five favourites have won this seven-furlong Group Three event for three-year-old colts and geldings within the past decade, a period in which only one winner has started at a double-figure price.

The quintet of successful market-leaders were Vocalised (at 2-1 in 2009), Frankel (1-4 in 2011), Olympic Glory (8-11 in 2013), Kingman (15-8 in 2014) and Tasleet (4-7 last season).

Tasleet might realistically be excluded from these statistics, as his victory came at Chelmsford, with  Newbury abandoned due to waterlogging, but that should not detract from the persuasive trend, since two second-favourites have also scored - Major Cadeaux (100-30 in 2007) and Caspar Netscher (3-1 in 2012) - alongside two third-favourites: Paco Boy (6-1 in 2008) and Dick Turpin (8-1 in 2010).

Muhaarar, 2015’s 14-1 winner, is therefore the sole exception to this strong head-of-the-market bias.

Another fascinating factor to consider is that six of the last ten successful contestants - Dick Turpin, Frankel, Caspar Netscher, Olympic Glory, Kingman and Muhaarar - had already landed a Group race.

Three more - Paco Boy, Vocalised and Tasleet - were previously victorious at Listed level.

Major Cadeaux did not fulfil this criterion, admittedly, but his two-year-old performances included a second place in Royal Ascot’s Coventry Stakes.

Last-time-out wins seem slightly less significant, with just five Greenham scorers in the past ten years - Paco Boy, Vocalised, Frankel, Olympic Glory and Kingman - having come home in front on their most recent outing before lining up at Newbury.

Three on that list - Frankel, Olympic Glory and Kingman - were making their seasonal reappearance when landing this prize, while the other two - Paco Boy and Vocalised - had raced once beforehand during the relevant campaign.

Previous successes over the Newbury contest’s distance are obviously a useful attribute for Greenham winners, because five colts on the last decade’s roll of honour - Paco Boy, Vocalised, Frankel, Olympic Glory and Kingman - had precisely such a win on their CV.

Just three scorers within the same period, however, already had a course victory to their name, that trio being Major Cadeaux, Paco Boy and Caspar Netscher. 

No currently-licensed trainer has notched more than one Greenham win within my chosen timeframe, but punters might like to register the fact that Richard Hannon senior lifted the trophy thanks to four of the horses referred to above: Major Cadeaux, Paco Boy, Dick Turpin and Olympic Glory.

BIG RACE FOCUS - CRAVEN STAKES

According to my ratings (see list below), Rivet has the strongest form among the seven colts declared for Newmarket’s Craven Stakes, which is run over the 2000 Guineas mile this Thursday, 20 April.

William Haggas’s charge earned a two-year-old mark of 106 on my scale, a figure which gives him at least 3lb in hand over all his rivals in this week’s £60,000 bet365-sponsored Group Three contest.

That does not make Rivet a good thing in my book, though, as the level he has achieved so far leaves him around a stone shy of Classic standard and below the par for an average recent Craven winner.

This being the case, I cannot help believing that if there is a serious Guineas contender in Thursday’s field, then the colt concerned is less-exposed than Rivet and likely to improve significantly more.

The obvious candidates to prove the accuracy of my theory are the thrice-raced pair War Decree (103) and Larchmont Lad (101) and the once-raced maiden scorers Benbatl (95) and Eminent (81).

bet365 Craven Stakes declarations
(ranked in order of ratings achieved by 18 April 2017)

Rank Name (age) (gender) Trainer (country) Rating
1) Rivet (colt) W Haggas (GB) 106
2) War Decree (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 103
3) Larchmont Lad (colt) R Hannon (GB) 101
4) Benbatl (colt) S bin Suroor (GB) 95
5) Contrapposto (colt) D Menuisier (GB) 83
6) Gulliver (colt) H Palmer (GB) 82
7) Eminent (colt) M Meade (GB) 81

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