Talking Horses

    David Lawrence takes a weekly look at the racing scene as well as his horses to follow, has a statistical look at Saturday's Amix Silver Bowl Handicap at Haydock and has updated his ratings for the leading Investec Derby hopes.
  • Wednesday 24 May 2017
  • Blog


More than nine months has passed since PROMISING was first recommended to Talking Horses readers and, after four frame placings in as many outings, the now three-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit is likely to have snapped the patience of some of you. I remain convinced Richard Hannon’s filly still has more than enough ability to land a maiden, though, and she may well get the chance to prove it in a seven-furlong event at Goodwood on Saturday, 27 May. Promising’s last start - when she took third in Newbury’s Fred Darling Stakes - represented decent form, superior to her potential weekend rivals.       


Reading too much into the form at York’s Dante fixture may be unwise, with the ground having been softened by persistent rain, but the six-furlong two-year-old maiden on 18 May appeared to be a solid contest and I expect several winners to emerge from among its beaten runners. My pick of them is the second, RED FORCE ONE , who stayed on gamely in the closing stages before going down by a length to Zap. Red Force One, by Lethal Force, and from Tom Dascombe’s yard, will be suited by faster going.

Bookmakers response to the success of DUBAI THUNDER in a mile-and-a-quarter three-year-old maiden at Newmarket the following day was predictable - some pricing him up as short as 12-1 for the Derby - and there is no doubt he was visually impressive in collecting by ten lengths. The form of his defeat of Hawridge Flyer is a long way below Classic standard, though, and, while I am sure he can score in far stronger company, backing him to come home in front at Epsom next month is not recommended.

Calling a horse ROGUE might be construed as asking for trouble - but the Richard Hannon-trained colt of that name displayed courage as well as ability when filling fourth in a six-furlong conditions event at Newbury on 20 May. This son of Epaulette, the only debutant in the line-up, was hampered shortly after the start and lost a shoe at some stage during the race, yet still stayed on bravely to finish within two and three-quarter lengths of the favourite, Denaar. Hannon’s charge should soon get off the mark.              


Connections of CRYSTAL OCEAN did not confirm their colt’s entry for Epsom’s Derby and, given the son of Sea The Stars has had only three outings and still behaves as though he is well short of full maturity, that seems a wise decision. Nonetheless, Sir Micahel Stoute’s colt performed valiantly in filling third in York’s Dante Stakes on 18 May, indicating that, somewhere down the line, he can collect a Pattern contest. Crystal Ocean kept on takingly on the Knavesmire and is bred to appreciate a mile and a half.

The five-furlong Listed Marygate Stakes - which began York’s meeting a day later - brought together the strongest field of juvenile fillies so far assembled this season and its winner, Michael Bell’s Main Desire, seems sure to perform creditably at Royal Ascot. Bell’s charge is not the one I shall be taking from the race, however, that ‘honour’ going to third-home MISTRESS OF VENICE , who stepped up on an encouraging previous outing at Beverley and showed enough to suggest she will land a maiden event.    

ALPHA CENTAURI posted a performance even superior to Main Desire’s Knavesmire display in winning a six-furlong Listed contest at Naas on 21 May and, according to my figures, is currently the quickest two-year-old female seen in either Britain or Ireland in 2017. Alpha Centauri has now scored twice at Naas, by an aggregate of seven and a half lengths, and will surely be giving trainer Jessica Harrington high hopes of a Royal Ascot success. The Albany Stakes would appear an obvious target next month.


Richard Spencer is not (yet) one of Newmarket’s best-known trainers, and his stable does not house a huge string, but, having learned his trade with the likes of Peter Bowen, Barry Hills and Michael Bell, you can be certain he knows a talented horse when he sees one. He appears to have found one, too, in the shape of RAJASINGHE , successful by four lengths in a six-furlong novice contest at Newcastle on 19 May. Spencer’s colt, by Choisir, quickened decisively in defeating Indomeneo and should handle turf. 


John Gosden seems ready to give a two-year-old colt named DICHATO his first start and, judged on the encouraging work this son of Scat Daddy has done at home, he should not take too long to get off the mark. Gosden’s charge is related to several stakes winners in North America and, being out of a Canadian mare by Lemon Drop Kid, ought to have no trouble handling six furlongs for his debut run.

Richard Hannon’s juveniles appear to be finding top gear, after a relatively tardy opening to the 2017 Flat campaign, and I expect his colt TATHMEEN to get on the score-sheet soon. By Exceed And Excel, and out of a Storm Cat mare, he too should have sufficient pace to score over six furlongs, although his overall pedigree suggests slightly stiffer tests may well suit him as the season progresses.

Hannon has enjoyed regular success with sons and daughters of Kodiac and, in ALGAM , he has another colt by that prolific sire showing promise at home. A 200,000gns yearling purchase, Algam is related to several useful performers - including York’s 2008 Lowther Stakes heroine Infamous Angel - a fact indicating he is bred for speed. His dam is by Sadler’s Wells, though, so he ought to stay six furlongs.

Amix Silver Bowl Handicap (Haydock, Saturday, May 27)

Statistics covering the last ten years’ results of Haydock’s Silver Bowl - the latest renewal of which is scheduled for Saturday, May 27 - suggest the winner will figure towards the head of the betting.

Five favourites have taken first prize in the past decade - Tobosa (100-30 in 2007), Desert Creek (5-4 in 2009), Balducci (4-1 in 2010), Mutarakez (2-1 in 2015) and Garcia (7-2 in 2016) - while just one winner - 12-1 shot Shebebi in 2013 - has come from outside the leading three in the market.

One second-favourite has scored in that same period - Gabrial (9-2 in 2012) - and the longest-priced winner, apart from Shebebi, was third-in-the-betting Chatez, who started at 7-1 in 2014.

Four of the horses to have collected this one-mile handicap in the past ten years - Staying On, Desert Creek, Mutarakez and Garcia - were last-time-out winners.

Four others - Balducci, Sagramor (2011) Gabrial and Chatez - had finished runner-up on their most recent start.

Earlier victories over the big-race distance are certainly worth noting, as four winners in the past decade - Staying On, Desert Creek, Chatez and Mutarakez - had notched a one-mile success before running at Haydock.

Anna Pavlova (2006) was the most recent previous course scorer to land the prize, but all the winners within the timeframe under scrutiny had notched a victory somewhere prior to taking the Silver Bowl.

Runners near the top of the weights have been infrequent scorers during the period under discussion, with nine of the ten winners carrying 9st 2lb or less.

Admittedly, Tobosa did defy 9st 7lb, but the other winners in the past decade have arguably been a sounder reflection of the overall statistics.

In chronological order, starting in 2008, they were Staying On (9st 1lb), Desert Creek (7st 12lb, under a 5lb claimer), Balducci (8st 3lb), Sagramor (8st 2lb), Gabrial (9st 1lb), Shebebi (8st 2lb), Chatez (9st 2lb), Mutarakez (9st 1lb) and Garcia (8st 11lb).

Gatwick, in 2004, was the last runner to score under a penalty - his impost was 8lb - and the most recent out-of-the-handicap winner was Jazz Messenger - by 2lb - in 2003.

Interestingly, especially for those who like to assess races using official handicap ratings, five of the last ten winners - Desert Creek (87), Baldacci (84), Sagranor (85) Shebebi (88) and Garcia (89) - had a BHA mark in the 80s.

Four others - Staying On (93), Gabrial (91), Chatez (92) and Mutarakez (95) - were rated in the 90s.

Richard Fahey - thanks to Gabrial and Garcia - is the only trainer to have lifted the trophy more than once in the last ten years. His record looks all the better when you consider he was also responsible for the success of the aforementioned Anna Pavlova.


I have been proffering the opinion that this season’s Classic crop are far from a vintage bunch since their two-year-old days and, following the 2017 Derby trials, nothing has caused me to change it.

Not even the bookmakers seem certain about which colt to make favourite, although I expect Aidan O’Brien’s Epsom record will ultimately decide that, and 4-1 the field may be available on the day.

Punting in the Investec-sponsored big race could look attractive, therefore, on the morning of Saturday, 3 June, especially for those who like multiple-choice betting at decent each-way prices.

That is not my style, however, and, given none of the likely runners has achieved a rating close to my normal Derby standard, this year’s renewal will probably pass by without my cash being splashed.

Epsom winners regularly achieve a figure of 118-120 on my scale - Harzard earned the lower of those two marks last term - so, as the rankings list below ought to illustrate, the maths are no help in 2017.

My instinct tells me Cracksman (rated 109) and Cliffs Of Moher (103) will figure prominently at the business end - the betting market shares that view - but they may need to improve markedly to score.

Leading Investec Derby likely runners
(ranked in order of ratings achieved by 23 May 2017)

RankName (gender) Trainer (country) Rating
1) Eminent (colt) M Meade (GB) 111
2) Cracksman (colt) J Gosden (GB) 109
3=) Best Solution (colt) S bin Suroor (GB) 108
3=) Permian (colt) M Johnston (GB) 108
5) Benbatl (colt) S bin Suroor (GB) 106
6) Waldgeist (colt) A Fabre (France) 105
7=) Douglas Macarthur (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 104
7=) Rekindling (colt) J O'Brien (Ireland) 104
9=) Cliffs Of Moher (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland) 103
9=) Yucatan (colt) A O'Brien (Ireland)) 103

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