Australia on target for Juddmonte International

With the British Flat racing season well past the midway stage of 2014 the York Ebor Festival, featuring the top class Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, is drawing nearer, this year promising to feature the outstanding three-year-old middle-distance colt Australia, trained by Aidan O’Brein, writes Elliot Slater.

The International is always one of the most eagerly anticipated races of the year, a clash between the best three-year-old’s and older horses in training, often attracting the cream of the crop from not only Britain and Ireland, but also from France, and occasionally from even further afield. If Australia does indeed take his chance in the 10 furlong contest he will be expected by most experts to start at odds-on on Betfair, despite the strength of the opposition that could include such as Mukhadram, Noble Mission, Trading Leather, and The Grey Gatsby.

Australia, a son of Galileo, proved himself a smart performer last term when landing two of his three races as a juvenile, including a Group 3 success at Leopardstown in September that made plenty of good judges sit up and take notice, marking him down as a potential Derby winner. The Ballydoyle-based colt did little wrong on his seasonal reappearance when running over an inadequate mile in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, staying on strongly under pressure inside the final furlong under Joseph O’Brien to finish a close third behind the surprise winner Night of Thunder and the outstanding three-year-old miler of this season, Kingman.

His 2000 Guineas run unsurprisingly hinted at much better to come over a longer trip and Australia duly started a warm favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom on June 7, never giving his backers a moment’s concern as he glided around Tattenham Corner before coasting into the lead a furlong from home, eventually going on to beat the gallant Kingston Hill with plenty in hand by a length-and-a-quarter,

His subsequent victory in the Irish Derby was little more than an exercise canter when Kingston Hill was a late withdrawal leaving O’Brien’s star to beat two inferior stable companions without turning a hair. It won’t be that easy at York, and with the likes of Eclipse Stakes winner Mukhadram, subsequently an excellent third in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot behind the brilliant Taghrooda, the much improved Noble Mission (a Group 1 winner this term), and the impressive French Derby winner, Kevin Ryan’s locally trained The Grey Gatsby amongst his potential rivals, any flaws in Australia’s ability to perform at the highest level over just 10 furlongs could well be exposed.

For his part, Aidan O’Brien appears to have few concerns on that score, pointing out that his charge had the pace to go very close over a mile in the 2000 Guineas and is one of the classiest thoroughbreds he has ever handled.

It all points to Australia in the Juddmonte International at York on August 20, a race that looks well worth waiting for.

2:30 Goodwood (29th July) BET365 MOLECOMB STAKES (Group 3) (CLASS 1) (2yo)

A Group 3 Class 1 Stakes race over 5f on good going. Eight two-year-olds take part: seven colts and one filly. All juveniles have multiple race experience, winners bar one colt trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam. A fascinating race featuring some of the best juvenile sprinters.

Beacon has shone brightly since losing on debut when strongly fancied. It is interesting to consider that Richard Hughes [jockey] said this son of Paco Boy was better than another of their stars Kool Kompany who has won five of his six races, twice at Group 2. In fairness, Beacon has something to prove to match that talent but this January foal has caught the eye with a progressive profile, seemingly taking a major step forward last start when winning the Dragon Stakes Listed Race at Sandown over the minimum trip. This bay colt was a great yearling buy at £52,000 and a supreme acquisition for the familiar racing silks of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing (Albany). This good-looking juvenile won well last start and was favoured by Hughes' hold-up tactics. In some respects the Sandown race fell a part with Mukhmal & Snap Shot setting the pace. That approach has proven the downfall of the former when giving what could only be described as a ridiculous ride in the Norfolk Stakes Group 2 at Royal Ascot. If this turns into a tactical affair, Mark Johnston's juvenile may prove a tougher nut to crack if ridden with more restraint.

However, you can guarantee Hughes will sit off the pace and play a waiting game with Beacon, to pounce in the final furlong. 

Cotai Glory looked a difficult horse horse to control on his first three starts and moody when winning at Bath in the hands of George Baker. I had fears this son of Exceed And Excell would spit the dummy out when racing at Listed class, stepping up to 6f. In truth, he ran well and showed a professional attitude. Although beaten in fair style by Limato, time may tell that unbeaten horse trained by Henry Candy is smart. Dropped back to the minimum trip there will be no fears about him getting the distance but whether these fractions will have this chestnut colt slightly struggling for pace only time will tell. 

Dougal hails from the Hannon stable, which always impress at Goodwood. This son of Zebedee was outclassed when a 25/1 shot when well behind the stable's star turn Ivawood. There may be strength in numbers but more is needed today. 

Fast Act is a winner trained by Kevin Ryan and ridden by Jamie Spencer. A fair juvenile but may need the favourites to disappoint to prove victorious.

Union Rose seemingly ran a superb race when second in the Windsor Castle Listed Race at Royal Ascot but looking flattered when beaten with ease by Beacon at Sandown. He needs an excuse and a return to those dizzy heights, which doesn't seem likely. 

Spirit Of Xian is the only filly in the field, one of three runners for Richard Hannon. The blinkers are applied in hope of finding improvement which is needs against the boys. 

Burning The Clocks doesn't look good enough. 

Summary: Beacon looks the logical horse after beating Mukhmal last start at Sandown. However, it would be interesting if Hanagan could play a more tactical role and restraint rather than blast off too fast on Mark Johnston's two-year-old. He hasn't had a chance to show his true ability on these last two starts. Beacon will make a late charge and could well be a class act. Hughes rides this horse and track well and the one to beat. Cotai Glory has ability but whether this drop in distance will suit is a matter of opinion. Although well behaved last time out he could boil over if his temperament shows and one to watch until the off for those who fancy a bet. Beacon should take all the beating.

Saturday Tipping Competition

The final week of this month's Saturday Tipping Competition. It's tough at the top. OneEyeEnos & Rawnsley share the lead with 26pts. Will we see a tactical tipping heat? I'd go for an ew bet on a 1/10 shot myself. That's what makes this competition so much fun. It's like playing chess against Barbara Windsor. You're thwarted by images of Carry On Doctor and an enpassant of two fond memories. Sorry, I was daydreaming there. Back to proceedings. It might not be enough to rest on your laurels because Betmanmike sits on their heels with 20pts. Bobby Talk heads the field for the free competition with 21ts and could well pocket a tenner if backing a winner. Emanuel is a fraction behind with 20.5pts after a solid month.  Other double-figure point scorers include: Shukman (14pts), Fred Pippage (14pts), Capt Heathcliffe (13.41pts) & Racing Mama (10.4pts). Longbow has 9pts wrestling with Danny et al. No  entries will be uploaded until (1pm DEADLINE) as we don't want any tactical tipping. Email me if you want to keep your tip a secret! Good luck to all.  

Tipster selections:

1:55 Newcastle   - Playboy Bay 2pt w (Longbow) Unp
2:05 Ascot           - Goldcrest 2pt w (Bobby Talk) Unp
2:05 Ascot           - Tongue Twista 1pt ew (Racing Mama) Unp
2:40 Ascot           - Sir Guy Porteus 2pt w (Shukman) Unp
2:40 Ascot           - American Hope 2pt w (OneEyeEnos) 2nd
3:15 Ascot            - Field Of Dream 2pt w (Jodonovan) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Heavens Guest 2pt w (Tecbet) 4th
3:15 Ascot            - Brazos 2pt w (Gareth) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Redvers 2pt w (HCE) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Majestic Moon 2pt w (Betmanmike) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Bronze Angel 2pt w (Capt Heathcliffe) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Watchable 2pt w (Uncle Keith/Paul) 3rd
3:15 Ascot            - Gabriel's Lad 2pt w (Clint) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Pastoral Player 2pt w (Me Old Mum) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Georgian Bay 2pt w (Fred Pippage) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Don't Call Me 2pt w (Davidson) Unp
3:15 Ascot            - Heavy Metal 2pt w (Inittowinit) 1st (68pts)
3:30 York             - Hoof It 2pt w (Eric) Unp 
3:50 Ascot            - Mukhadram 2pt w (Mark) 3rd
3:50 Ascot            - Trading Leather 2pt w (Danny) Unp
3:50 Ascot            - Eagle Top 2pt w (Emanuel) Unp
3:55 Newmarket - Fast Track 2pt w (Rawnsley) 1st (12pts)
4:05 York             - Must Have 2pt w (Pam) 4th
5:00 Ascot            - Rising Breeze 2pt w (Waterhouse) Unp
5:45 Salisbury      - Massai Moon 2pt w (Winter) 3rd
7:15 Salisbury      - Mywaysalways 1pt ew (Bird) Unp

Still to update the final board but congratulations to Rawnsley winning the pro comp while Inittowinit won the free prize. 

Long-term leading fancies for the 2015 Grand National 

When Dr Richard Newland’s Pineau De Re stormed home five lengths clear of the admirable Balthazar King in April’s first Crabbies-sponsored Grand National at Aintree it catapulted the trainer very much into the headlines, shining the spotlight on a man who has for some time been noted as very much on the up-and-up by aficionados of the winter game.
Newland ended last campaign with a tremendous 23% winning strike rate and so far this season has sent out 11 winners from 39 runners at an even better winning ratio of 28%. These figures would be the envy of virtually every other National Hunt trainer and there is no doubt that the Worcestershire-based handler is a very talented horseman. It therefore is far from beyond the bounds of possibility that Newland might be able to bring this year’s winner of “the world’s greatest steeplechase” back to Aintree where he has showed such a liking for the track and its still unique fences.
Looking at the current Grand National odds, Pineau De Re [pictured] is currently a 25/1 ante-post joint-favourite alongside the 2014 Irish Grand National winner Shutthefrontdoor, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, and the Martin Brassil-trained Double Seven, third behind Pineau De Re at Aintree and like Shutthefrontdoor owned by leading National Hunt jumps owner and gambler, JP McManus.
McManus has never hidden his fondness for the Grand National and celebrated in style when his Don’t Push Me landed a massive gamble under Tony McCoy on the big day back in 2010. Shutthefrontdoor will be an eight-year-old for next year’s big race, the perfect age for a horse with a tremendously progressive profile as a staying chaser.
Double Seven, sent off the 10/1 joint-favourite for the 2014 Grand National under Tony McCoy, has now shown that he can handle the hurly-burly of the great race and as a nine-year-old will also fall into the ideal age category for a race that could very well be within his capabilities. 

Europe coming back for one more season

Fans of the tremendously popular veteran chaser Sizing Europe have learned that the 12-year-old is set to return to training with one more season in action on the cards despite reports at the end of last term that the Henry de Bromhead-trained star would most likely be retired. 
The gelded son of Pistolet Bleu ended last season with an emotional success at the Punchestown Festival, running-on powerfully from the home turn to beat Ballynagour by five-and-a-half lengths in the Grade 1 Champion Chase.
Many believed that owners Ann and Alan Potts would send their star performer off to a much deserved retirement following that win but it appears that the old horse has given plenty of indications that he is not yet willing to hang up his racing shoes and has been brought back into training. Connections are set to make a final decision about his future in a couple of months’ time.
In terms of which race guides to look out for over the coming months, it looks like the target for a first run of the 2014-15 campaign is the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park in October, a two-and-a-half mile contest that Sizing Europe has won for each of the last three seasons, most recently justifying odds-on last autumn when cosily accounting for the smart Ballynagour.
In a career spanning nine jumps season de Bromhead’s charge has won no less than 21 races – 16 in Graded company – from a total of 42 starts. His greatest moment came at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival when, having landed the Grade 1 Arkle Novice Chase Trophy 12 months earlier, he then proved just too good for another Irish star Big Zeb when putting up a memorable performance to land the two-mile chasing crown.
All in all the horse who has also won races at up to three miles has won very nearly £1.3 million in total career prizemoney and is a credit to all involved with him.

Saturday Tipping Competition

The month is rolling on and the tipster competition is warming up. OneEyeEnos & Rawnsley hit the high notes last Saturday winner a juicy winner to bag 26pts, while Betmanmike still has 20pts in his pocket. Shukman is also fighting fit with 14pts. In the free competition Emanuel is going well on 20.5pts. Other with double-figure points are Fred Pippage & Capt Heathcliffe. Still all to play for. 1:30PM Deadline.

2:15 Hamilton Racing Tip (17th July) IRISH CHAMPIONS WEEKEND EBF MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 5) (2yo)

An EBF Maiden Stakes over 5f 4y on good ground. Eight two-year-olds take part: three colts/gelding and handful of fillies. Five horses have race experience. This looks a pretty ordinary race with a few debutantes from less fashionable stables and others who need to be primed against a few with race savvy. Craigemdar is the horse of focus. This daughter of Tagula cost £44,00 from the Doncaster 2yo Breeze Up Sale 2014. This bay filly wasn't overly fancied on debut but ran a great race if not a little too keen in the early stages which told in the final furlong. That pace may be blunted by dropping back to the minimum trip but she will finish with gusto. David Barron is a supreme trainer and this race doesn't have much depth. There will not be too much meat on the bone but I've snapped up about 2/1 on Betfair, which I expect to lay off at shorter odds to a decent no-lose bet. If it happened to drift to bigger odds I'd simply put more money on this horse. Looks to have a touch of class against this field.  

2:35 Brighton - Burning The Clocks is on a recovery mission after disappointing at Yarmouth. Connections were disappointed by that effort and expect a big run today. Amber Crystal steps up in distance after running over the minimum trip. On breeding you would think it will be a positive although she is a keen horse and has seemingly struggled to finish her races so far. If settling, John Gallagher's charge could set a stern test for many of these and likely to travel with supreme ease. If available at fair odds I will be tempted to try and lay at shorter odds in-running. Such betting strategies can be a tricky business if connections have a change of tactics but looks a fair bet to hit shorter odds. I would be tempted to lay a few quid at 1.01 to win a few thousand if going clear of the field because she could well hit a brick wall in the final furlong. 

7:00 Doncaster - A decent-looking race. From a statistical point of view I'd keep an eye on John Gosden's Lashkaal. This home bred daughter of Teofilo ran with promise on debut and if priced at 13/2 & less must have decent win and place claims. 

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