Wednesday, December 30, 2015


One of the two features on the New Year's Day card at Sha Tin is The Chinese Club Challenge Cup run over 1400m. This is a race which on the outset doesn't appear to contain much early speed with Multivictory from barrier three appearing the most likely leader. The inclusion of Secret Sham, who led over this trip in the G1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup last year, and Super Lifeline, who has twice in a row rolled forward from wider draws, however, will ensure this isn't a slow tempo throughout. Instead, this is a race which figures to be slowly run early while everyone jockeys for position, but there is every possibility the tempo will speed up significantly midway through, thus favoring those who will be held up early.

Rewarding Hero won this event last year in what was his sixth run of the season. Off a rating of 110, he won a HKG3 despite having not placed in four prior attempts in group level company, This year, he enters with inconsistent form, but with preferred jockey Douglas Whyte back aboard and trending upwards off his most recent run, he figures to run better than appears likely on paper at first glance.

While Rewarding Hero is his chief threat, we'll instead side with a different Moore trainee in Exciting Dream. While mostly tried over 1200m, he successfully handled the step up to 1400m when third in the HKG3 Prince Jewellery & Watch Premier Cup to end last season in June. His rating from the end of last season has been well preserved (104 now versus 106 to start season). He's had three attempts at this level off similar marks in which he's finished fourth, third and fourth with the latter two runs both being over 1400m. Derek Leung rode him in all three of those runs and he jumps back aboard here. He'll carry the same 115lbs which he had in the HKG3 Celebration Cup earlier this season, but the kicker here is that day's winner Contentment now carries 132lbs -- a 17 lb swing from that meeting in Exciting Dream's favor.

Should they not go as fast as predicted in the mid-race, Contentment will likely sit an ideal trip with Moreira aboard. A revelation this season, he brings talent to the table, but his big weight makes winning a tall task.

The progressive Packing Pins should be suited back to 1400m, but he's drawn poorly particularly considering his connections' propensity to push him forward, but just off the speed, in recent races regardless of draw.

While unremarkable this season, Super Lifeline has been his usual consistent self. His one-paced grinding style is suited in these sorts of 1400m affairs, especially when he's sent forward early from the gates as can be expected given his draw. While he's not a chief threat to win the race, he's been sent off at large odds every time this season. He's a logical place chance here once again and he's also the recipient of a massive weight swing with Contentment.

Picks and Plays:
1. #8 Exciting Dream
2. #4 Rewarding Hero
3. #2 Contentment
4. #10 Super Lifeline

Quinella: 4-8, 8-10, 4-10
Trifecta: 4,8 / 4,8,10 / 2,4,8,10

For more Hong Kong spot plays, check out the Horse Player NOW BUZZ 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Three-Year-Olds To Watch

With 2015 coming to a close, it's on to the new year -- which means new crops of three-year-olds. We've been lucky in the past year to have seen an abundance of talent worldwide among the juveniles and we're focusing here not on which juveniles accomplished the most, but which of them appear to have the potential for greater success in 2016.

Note: For Southern Hemisphere-bred horses, we have only included those which turned three on August 1, 2015.

1. Minding (Galileo - Lillie Langtry, by Danehill Dancer)
IRE 2yo, Aidan O'Brien

Considering the connections, it is no surprise that Minding is as well-bred as they come. She is by top stallion Galileo out of Little Langtry, a top class racemare who was a G1 winner, taking both the Coronation Stakes and Matron Stakes. A winner of her second career outing at Leopardstown, she finished behind her more-fancied stablemate Ballydoyle in the G2 Debutante Stakes, but always looking the more unexposed and progressive type. Not only did she reverse that form with Ballydoyle next time out in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, but she emphatically won the G1 Dubai Fillies' Mile, relishing every bit of the distance when stepped up to that trip for the first time. Of all the juvenile champions trying to win three-year-old classics, she appears far and away the most likely to accomplish that feat.

2. Leontes (King Kamehameha - Cesario, by Special Week)
JPN 2yo, Katsuhiko Sumii

Those who remember Cesario's romp in the 2005 American Oaks at Hollywood Park will recognize her son straight away. A spitting image of his mother, Leontes is a big strapping son of Deep Impact who towers over his peers in terms of size and strength. Still very raw, he fought his jockey throughout his entire debut run while wide and at times without cover and yet when asked, he burst four wide around the bend en route to an easy victory. A half brother to 2014 Japan Cup winner Epiphaneia, Leontes was the first horse to win Japan's two-year-old feature Asahi Hai Futurity at only his second start since the beginning of the graded stakes system in Japan in the mid-1980s. The scary part is that he clearly has more development in him, both physically and mentally, which should lead to further improvement over time.

3. Songbird (Medaglia d'Oro - Ivanavinalot, by West Acre)
US (KY) 2yo, Jerry Hollendorfer
United States

While American Pharoah was clearly the best horse in America (and the world) this past year, no American runner dominated their division quite like Songbird. Stylistically, she harks back to her dam Ivanovinalot, a speedy Florida runner who won the G2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream Park over one and one eighth miles. Being able to sustain front-end speed over a distance is one of the greatest weapons a dirt runner can possess and it shows in her results, as she has never won by less than 4.5 lengths. The combined margin of her four victories? 22 lengths. Connections have indicated they don't plan to run her against the males, so expect her to head towards the G1 Kentucky Oaks.

4. Jameka (Myboycharlie - Mine Game, by General Nediym)
AUS 3yo, Ciaron Maher

A daughter of young breakthrough stallion Myboycharlie, Jameka showed potential from the start, but often found a few too good before her maiden victory in the G2 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington at her fourth career start. A versatile filly, she can be ridden off the pace and yet when pushed forward in the G1 Oaks over 2500m at Flemington, her trademark turn of foot was as good as demonstrated despite being ridden on the pace. While she may not offer the potential progression of others on this list, a horse who has her speed and stamina (having shown her real potential at 2,000+ meters) is going to win races.

5. Hartley (Deep Impact - Wickedly Perfect, by Congrats)
JPN 2yo, Takahisa Tezuka

It seems every year Deep Impact has a few good ones and this year is no exception. The influx of classy international racemares has only further strengthened his already outstanding books and Hartley is the product of such a mating. Out of former Doug O'Neill trainee Wickedly Perfect -- a daughter of Congrats who won the G1 Alcibiades Stakes -- Hartley is every bit the classy two-year-old he was bred to be. With a superior closing kick, Hartley figures to fit right in with the typical large Japanese fields with races run at moderate tempos. There is every reason to believe Hartley is the best Japanese juvenile, but while he possesses obvious class, he perhaps doesn't offer the extent of improvement of his compatriot Leontes.

6. Swipe (Birdstone - Avalanche Lily, by Grand Slam)
USA (KY) 2yo, Keith Desormeaux
United States

While Nyquist may have beaten him countless times now, as the distances increase along the three-year-old Kentucky Derby trail, there is every reason to believe this son of Birdstone will reverse that form. Looking every bit a router physically, Swipe has clearly improved for each step up in trip he has had and the way he finished off the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile -- fastest of all and over three-tenths faster than Nyquist in the final sectional -- there's reason to believe that the step up to nine furlongs will be ideal. With tactical versatility, stamina and mental soundness on his side, Swipe has all the markings of a top Kentucky Derby contender.

7. Ami's Mesa (Sky Mesa - Victorious Ami, by Victory Gallop)
ON 2yo, Josie Carroll

A winner of both of starts to date, Ami's Mesa possess a turn of foot unmatched by this year's juvenile crop. She has both the speed to stay in touch over the all-weather and the breeding and sharp turn of foot necessary in quality turf events, should she be tried over the surface. A half-sister to G3 Grey Stakes winner Ami's Holiday, Ami's Mesa looks to be still figuring things out, but with a bit more seasoning she should reach new heights.

8. Air Force Blue (War Front - Chatham, by Maria's Mon)
USA (KY) 2yo, Aidan O'Brien

A winner of four from five, Air Force Blue hasn't done much wrong in his career to date. Clearly the best of the Ballydoyle charge, Air Force Blue still shows signs of greenness, but should he become more professional in nature in the offseason, he'd be extremely difficult to beat in the 2000 Guineas. While at times, progeny of War Front have been criticized as being merely precocious types, Air Force Blue physically appears to have quite a bit of scope about him. His full sister Bugle won over one and one sixteenth miles at Churchill Downs and the American influences of Maria's Mon and Seeking The Gold in his pedigree should result in him seeing out a mile no problem.

9. Mohaymen (Tapit - Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
USA (KY) 2yo, Kiaran McLaughlin
United States

So often those who have big reputations as a result of their breeding fail to live up to expectations, but that is not the case for Mohaymen, a son of leading American sire Tapit and a half to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day. Purchased for $2.2 million in the 2014 Keeneland September sale, he was workmanlike in his maiden victory over six furlongs. He's another on this list who has improved for added distance, however, and in doing so he completed the G2 Nashua - G2 Remsen double, getting Lasix for the first time in the latter. In a year where the juvenile crop has lacked many who look like true Derby contenders, Mohaymen's tactical versatility and the ease with which he passes runners (inside and out) stands out. His effortless win over the one and one eighth trip of the Remsen also makes him one of very few who have the look of a true "classic distance" horse.

10. Xtravagant (Pentire - Axiom, by Zabeel)
NZ 3yo, Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards
New Zealand

Few young horses travel with the same authority as this son of Pentire does in running and seemingly time and time again, he's able to put fields away in a matter of three or four strides. Xtravagant, a NZ$375,000 purchase at the Karaka Premier sale, is the full brother to New Zealand 2000 Guineas runner-up He's Remarkable and he is out of a daughter of leading broodmare sire Zabeel, winner of the Australian Guineas who unfortunately died at the age of 29 earlier this year. From start to finish, Xtravagant pummels the competition, as he routinely shoots out of the barriers fastest of them all and often gallops out far past the field after the finish. While only tested over 1600m to date, his performances combined with the gallop outs indicate this is a true stayer in the making. At a time when Kiwi racing is thriving, particularly when it comes to stamina tests -- over which they've historically dominated -- and with planned targets including the G1 Australian Guineas and G1 Australian Derby, Xtravagant looks the next Kiwi to make his mark Down Under.

11. People's Knight (Exceed And Excel - Allegra, by Dehere)
AUS 3yo, John Moore
Hong Kong

An A$1 million dollar purchase at the 2014 Inglis Australian Easter yearling sale, People's Knight came to Hong Kong with a mountain of expectations on his back. Having won griffin races over subsequent winners General of Patch and Classic Emperor, People's Knight’s form was franked on multiple occasions before he finished second against a group of smart older horses including the winner Jolly Jolly. Back against his age group in his second run of the season, he flew home fastest of them all by a wide margin. From the family of US Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox, People's Knight looks set to shoot up the local rankings.

12. Perfect Reflection (More Than Ready - Reflected Image, by Bluebird)
AUS 3yo, Grant Williams

A daughter of Bluebird mare Reflected Image, winner of the 1999 G2 Western Australian Oaks, is a full sibling to Listed stakes winner Ideal Image. A winner of five-from-five to date, she stamped herself as a true up-and-comer when she became the first three-year-old filly to win the G1 Kingston Town Classic over stablemate Delicacy. While she has been sent to the paddock, the runner-up has since gone on to convincingly win a G2, further franking that form.

13. OS Hwadap (Friesan Fire - Meg's A Lady, by Menifee)
USA (PA) 2yo
South Korea

Undefeated in four starts, OS Hwadap's biggest win to date came earlier this month in a Juvenile Special which was open to imported horses. In a powerful front-running display, OS Hwadap put away a field which included two-from-two Keeneland September graduate Miso Wangja. A $50,000 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic purchase, OS Hwadap looks to be another progressive descendant of Menifee in one of Asia's emerging jurisdictions.

14. Airoforce (Colonel John - Chocolate Pop, by Cuvee)
USA (KY) 2yo, Mark Casse
United States

Out of a solid racemare in her own right, Chocolate Pop -- second in the 2009 Busanda Stakes -- Airoforce was an impressive winner when taking the G3 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes over a large field of well-bred horses at Keeneland in what was only his second start. He arguably ran his best race to date in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf when second to Hit It A Bomb despite traffic troubles over a yielding turf course. His G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes win was flashy and has since been boosted by the win of Mor Spirit in the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, but a sloppy track win doesn't mean he would handle a dry dirt surface. With influences like Mr. Prospector and In Reality via Relaunch indicating he would take to a sloppy surface, he'll have to prove that dry dirt is no issue in order to be a true Kentucky Derby contender. Even if that doesn't work out, though, he can always head back to the turf -- a division ripe for the taking.

15. Robin of Navan (American Post - Cloghran, by Muhtathir)
FR 2yo, Harry Dunlop

Never worse than second since his debut, Robin of Navan has found a home in French races where his early speed can be used as a serious weapon. He's a straightforward type in that he typically goes forward and more often than not, he simply hasn't stopped. Having won over ground ranging from good to very soft, there doesn't seem to be a course condition which really hampers him and he has won going both left and right-handed. He's provided a fairy tale story for connections, as he is his trainer's first G1 winner, and with the French classics his aim and a win at Chantilly under his belt, he looks to take the feel good story to new heights.

16. Get Jets (Scat Daddy - Sunny, by Dixieland Band)
USA (NY) 2yo, Anthony Dutrow
United States

A winner on debut, Get Jets always looked a horse who would always need much further than the six furlongs he competed over that day. While he took a substantial amount of money as the low priced second favorite in his subsequent start in the Betram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont, he just missed, closing behind lone speed Sudden Surprise who has since won two stakes. Further improvement was seen when stepped up to a mile, where despite a wide trip, he cruised past a well-meant Fish Trappe Road late, relishing every bit of the added distance. Given how erratic the runner-up was in deep stretch, it was also encouraging to see Get Jets keep to task in spite of that happening near him. He's not as accomplished as the other Americans listed to this point, but Get Jets seems to be flying under the Kentucky Derby trail radar despite showing an affinity for routes.

17. Sanus Per Aquam (Teofilo - Fainne, by Peintre Celebre)
IRE 2yo, Jim Bolger

A large, scopey type, Sanus Per Aquam looks every bit a late developer so it's encouraging to see the quality of competition he's competed with to date. A winner of the Group 3 Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket over seven furlongs, Sanus Per Aquam won in spectacular fashion when struggling with the course configuration and being outpaced when the field quickened around him. He was no match for Air Force Blue in the G1 Dewhurst, but again he appeared to both still be learning his job and in need of substantially further. Perhaps an Irish Derby or St Leger type down the road, with physical maturity expected in the offseason, Sanus Per Aquam appears one to follow once he gets the step up in trip that he so desperately needs.

18. Magnum (Per Incanto - Sound Lover, by Sound Reason)
NZ 3yo, Michael Freedman

A winner of two from four starts, Magnum did plenty wrong in his most recent victory in a $75,000 Graduation race. Despite overracing throughout the beginning stages and struggling to handle the bend, Magnum showed exactly why he was one of the more fancied runners in the event when he found the line strongly to overcome his rivals (and himself, for that matter). The way he finished there, the step up in trip to 1600m for the G1 Singapore Guineas appears ideal, and with time and further education awaiting him in the meantime, he appears every bit an improver.

19. Ava's Kitten (Kitten's Joy - Reachfortheheavens, by Pulpit)
USA (KY) 2yo, Chad Brown
United States

It took Ava's Kitten a few starts to find her way into the winner's circle, but she backed up that maiden victory with an impressive win in the Chelsey Flower Stakes at Belmont Park. Despite pulling hard throughout while wide for most of the running, covering substantially more ground than most. Should she learn to relax with more experience, she'll be one to keep an eye on in a wide open filly and mare turf mile division aside from Tepin. Still young and raw, she possesses one of the key pedigree marks for Kitten's Joy progeny and that's being inbred to Roberto, a hallmark which is seen in nearly all of his most successful sons and daughters.

20. Serienholde (Soldier Hollow - Saldenehre, by Highest Honor)
GER 2yo, Andreas Wohler

Twice having finished second, Serienholde was more impressive when second to Dhaba in the G3 Preis Der Winterkonigin at Baden-Baden. Having chased the leaders throughout, she hit the front before being overtaken late and yet she still stayed on well to fend off the third-placed Pagella. A half to Auteuil G3 Hurdle Handicap winner Serienschock and G3 Maurice Lacroix-Trophy winner Serienhoehe, Serienholde hails from the family of G3 Deutscher Stutenpreis winner Saldenschwinge, G3 Baden Wurttemberg-Trophy winner Saldentigerin, and G1 placed Saltas. With a stamina and durability-laden pedigree, one can expect there is plenty more to come from Serienholde in the next year.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

12/26 Japan Plays (Nakayama)

Picks and Plays from Japan:

Race 9: #6 Hartley
Sunday Racing's son of Deep Impact looked a smart two-year-old when closing from the clouds to win on debut. He doesn't have the luxury of Ryan Moore aboard this time around after he copped a suspension for his winning ride aboard Maurice in the Hong Kong Mile. Hartley does get a fine replacement in the form of Hugh Bowman. Well-bred, Hartley is out of former Doug O'Neill runner Wickedly Perfect, who won the G1 Alcibiades in 2010. In a race which features a great deal of front end speed, Hartley figures to be roaring home late. 

Play: Win bet #6 Hartley

Race 10: #7 Gold Actor
The featured Arima Kinen is a more complex race from a pace scenario. There are a fair number of frontrunners, but those horses who do typically go forward don't go especially hard early in their races. For that reason, we'll give the slight edge to individuals who are likely to be placed in the front half of the field early. He's unproven versus this quality of competition, but Gold Actor -- third in last year's G1 Kikuka Sho -- enters here with three straight wins and looks to be well placed from barrier seven in a race which should suit him to a tee from a pace and distance perspective. He appears to have recovered well from his knee injury and looks a ripe chance to make the frame at a nice price. While they won't be privy to the same setup, it's impossible to ignore Gold Ship -- who'll have been primed for what is the final race of his career -- and G1 Yushun Himba runner-up Rouge Buck in what will be her second-up run of this form cycle. Rouge Buck will have the poor recent record for fillies in this race to overcome, but she's always looked a progressive type and given how well she ran first-up in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup, a big effort is expected from her here. As far as Gold Ship is concerned, make sure to have a look at him on course before betting. When he appears cool, calm, and collected -- as he did last time out -- he tends to flop. Three-year-olds Lia Fail and Kitasan Black offer place claims entering this race in good form and likely being two who will control the tempo from the outset. 

Play: Win/show bet #7 Gold Actor
          7,13 exacta box
          7,13 / 7,13,15 / 7,11,12,13,15 trifecta

Thursday, December 17, 2015

HKIR: An Early Christmas Carol And The Emergence Of A New Era

‘Twas a chilly Sunday evening when the local punter entered the front doors of the spacious Sha Tin facility. As tens of thousands filled with glee flooded onto the grounds, their excitement apparent and cheers deafening, he was disgusted. The magic of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, which had captivated one and all, had not affected him in the same manner.

“What makes today so special?,” he thought. “Racing is racing. Punting is punting. Each day is no different from the rest.”

But as he wandered with form in hand, counting his HK$100 notes, he was met by the Ghost of HKIRs Past.

Staring him in the face was a massive figure, a physically imposing specimen with a quiet and calm temperament unexpected from a horse of his stature.

That recognizable figure was superstar Able Friend -- and with him, the vision of the locals’ dominance in the Hong Kong Mile. The past nine editions were won by the home team and it was he -- the highest rated horse internationally in the jurisdiction’s history and Longines’ highest ranked miler in the world -- who led the charge once again.

While, on the surface, it seemed an uphill battle for his opponents to face him at the racecourse where he’d earned his fame, a four-year-old named Maurice -- a winner of five straight, including Japan’s two biggest mile races -- was up to the challenge.

To suggest he would end the local streak earlier in the week would have been laughable. He clearly failed to acclimatize to his new surroundings initially following his short hop over from Japan, appearing nervous and sweaty on track each morning. His appearance steadily improved throughout the week to such a degree that not even Able Friend on his home turf could stand in the way of the son of Screen Hero, who caused his own shock winning the Japan Cup in 2008.

No other event is more intertwined with Hong Kong’s ascension on the global horse racing scene than this race, so to see one of its better runners to represent the jurisdiction toppled fairly easily was shocking, regardless of the announcement of Able Friend’s foot ailment earlier in the day.

Past victors Flintshire and Designs On Rome were also usurped from their Vase and Cup thrones respectively by Ireland’s Highland Reel, a globetrotting son of Galileo who led home a three-year-old trio in the feature staying event, and Japan’s A Shin Hikari, a horse who in spite of his obvious talent had been known more for his quirks and misbehavior than his successes before his runaway victory.

Three defending champions were sent off as favorites and all three lost in rather convincing fashion. The punter was spooked by what he had seen, but he wanted to know more. If not them, then who would ascend to the top on the day?

Thus emerges the vision of HKIRs Present, via the hallmark son of Dandy Man: Peniaphobia.

Three times a winner in Great Britain, including a win in the Wetherbys Super Sprint, before arriving in Hong Kong, Peniaphobia’s first local win came at his third start -- the first time he appeared with his now-distinctive brown cheekpieces. He was the only horse to break 23 seconds for his final 400m sectional that day, throwing down an impressive 22.59 en route to passing long-time leader Sight Believer in the final stride of the 1,000m Class Three at Happy Valley. He would go on to win four of his next seven, rising over 20 points in the ratings during that period, made more impressive by the fact he was only a three-year-old.

While his results this season were perhaps below the lofty expectations which had been set for him, his individual performances were outstanding. After an ideal start, from a preparation standpoint at least, in the HKG3 National Day Cup, he had no chance when sent forward in two races which were run at such vigorous early tempos that they essentially collapsed late. Regardless, he by far stayed on best of those who showed early toe in both races and when he was handed the opportunity of a soft lead in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint, he left everyone behind.

This was not only a victory for Peniaphobia and for all those who had expected so much from the tenacious bay, but it was also a measure of the current state of Hong Kong’s sprinting ranks. Additionally, in the past year, Hong Kong-trained horses made up three of the four placings in Dubai’s two G1 sprints, the Al Quoz Sprint and the Golden Shaheen, in addition to winning international G1 sprints in Japan (the Takamatsunomiya Kinen) and Singapore (the KrisFlyer Sprint) with Aerovelocity.

It’s far from the first time Hong Kong has experienced sprinting success abroad with Little Bridge and Cape of Good Hope winning at Royal Ascot, the latter also winning the G1 Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley, while the great Silent Witness was the first international runner to win the JPNG1 Sprinters Stakes. In more recent times, Hong Kong sprinters won five of the last seven runnings of the KrisFlyer Sprint, Sterling City won the Golden Shaheen, Amber Sky won the Al Quoz Sprint and Rich Tapestry won an American Grade One on dirt.

At this time, though, it’s the depth of the division overall which is notable. And if Peniaphobia’s powerful front-running win wasn’t enough of an exclamation mark, second, third and fourth in the Hong Kong Sprint were all locals in a race which included recent G1 winners from Japan, Ireland, and the United States.

Over longer distances, it was the Japanese once again asserting themselves as the top source of quality middle distance runners with Maurice winning the Hong Kong Mile and A Shin Hikari and Nuovo Record filling the quinella in the Hong Kong Cup.

Prior to this meeting, Japanese racing as a whole had endured a tough 2015 as it struggled to maintain its status atop the middle distance rankings -- in particular, the industry failed to recover from the retirements of Gentildonna, Just A Way, Epiphaneia and Kizuna, primarily as a result of setbacks sidelining dual classic winner Duramente and fellow G1 winners Real Steel and Toho Jackal.

Class was the query for eventual Cup winner A Shin Hikari, who had been nothing short of professional in the days leading up to the featured event. Back to his signature front-running style, which had deserted him at his disappointing last start effort in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn), he transferred the professionalism he’d shown in the mornings to the race itself, allowing jockey Yutaka Take to rate him perfectly on the lead.

Closing furiously behind was his countrywoman, 2014 G1 Yushun Himba winner Nuovo Record, who, off a three-month spell, had twice found one better. For the second race in a row, too, she was handed a brutal draw -- widest of them all. Despite 2,000m being slightly short of her best, she flew home fastest of all with a 22.71 final 400m.

For a nation which was desperately looking for a new star, by meeting’s end they had three.  

And with the solemn notes of Kimigayo marking their successes, the Land of the Rising Sun made an emphatic statement that they are again a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

Looking towards the HKIRs yet to come, there are plenty of reasons for optimism -- not only for future editions of this meeting, but for the quality of local racing as a whole.

Aside from the featured events, the Longines Hong Kong International Races undercard is historically the coming out, the presentation of the next crop of stars. Future international G1 winners Aerovelocity, Able Friend, Rich Tapestry and California Memory all ran well on this card in the past five years.

In fitting fashion, the most exciting prospect closed out the day with a victory. From the family of HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile placegetter All’s Well, Fabulous One -- who was unplaced as a three-year-old -- reeled off his fourth straight win over 1,200m at Sha Tin, dominating from the front yet again, looking every bit a future Group horse in doing so.

Two others who also showed they are on an upward swing were Sun Jewellery and Amazing Kids, who flew the flag for John Size’s yard -- which, at the moment, is overflowing with classy four-year-olds. While the latter looks a promising sprinter, the former, a son of Snitzel, has the HKG1 Hong Kong Derby in his sights having won four-from-five and never finishing worse than second in his local career.

Formerly known as Tan Tat Sun in Australia, Sun Jewellery defeated Winston’s Lad in his maiden victory at Bairnsdale in Victoria and, interestingly, the runner-up that day was another standout on the HKIR undercard. Ever so easily winning the 1,200m Class Three with Brett Prebble aboard, Winston’s Lad is now two-from-two in Hong Kong and appears to have ratings points in hand.

Not to be forgotten is People’s Knight, still just a early season three-year-old, having been bred in Australia. He stayed on well in what was his first start of the season to finish second behind a nice-looking horse in his own right: Jolly Jolly. An A$1 million purchase at the 2013 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, People’s Knight is by Exceed and Excel out of a half-sister to the dam of G1 Golden Slipper winner Mossfun. With a speedy and precocious pedigree backing up his obvious physical talents, expect People’s Knight to be one who will make a large step forward ratings-wise this season.

Having seen the changing of the guard take place right before his eyes, the punter gained a true understanding of where the HKIR meeting stands presently.

While a true racing world championship meeting is currently nonexistent, HKIR serves as a perfect middle marker between season-ending meetings in England, France and America, as well as carnivals in Australia and Japan, and the upcoming international meeting in Dubai. It offers a spot for veterans who have perhaps just missed in prestigious events such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and Japan Cup, in addition to Northern Hemisphere three-year-olds attempting to move up another rung on the ladder before they turn four. Looking for one last run and a crack at additional black-type before sending your horse off to stud? You can get that here, as well.

While it’s not routinely the featured turf card on the global calendar, regularly taking a back seat to the Dubai World Cup and Royal Ascot meetings -- which, in the case of the former, offers mammoth money, whereas the latter has both tradition and prestige -- this meeting more than filled its spot on the racing calendar, with four showpiece events featuring 29 individual international G1 winners.

Allowing for the melding of formlines from all four corners of the world, a spotlight for the stars of the past year, and a debutante ball-like welcoming of the stars of tomorrow, this was a far cry from your average day of racing. Mission accomplished.

And yet, with the ever-increasing quality and competitiveness of Asian racing, along with the willingness of Western trainers to ship accomplished individuals, the takeaway is not that this is the world’s best race meeting in its current state -- a title which varies from year-to-year to begin with -- but that it easily has the most upside.

While not yet the racing calendar’s Frankel, the HKIR meeting is more the Limato: new, fresh, in-your face, with that flash of brilliance and plenty of grit -- good as it is in current form, but with greatness a possibility given time, experience, and maturity. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hong Kong's Dirt-y Dilemma? Not On Our Turf

It's no secret that outside America, horse racing is essentially turf racing -- at least, those races which matter most.

In the States, though, the weather, as well as the sheer number of race days at most tracks, plays a large role in why dirt reigns supreme. Not to mention, dirt has historically been the preferred surface for America's best runners. 

Regardless, turf racing not only exists but thrives within America's borders, as has been shown in recent years through Breeders' Cup winners Wise Dan and Tepin and G1 Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man. American-trained turf runners have even begun to make inroads in marquee events overseas -- just have a look at the most recent overseas performances by Acapulco, Undrafted and Miss Temple City. 

Turf racing is, and always will be, second best in America -- and rightfully so, really. Recent changes to the Eclipse Awards -- the renaming of Older Male to Older Dirt Male and the equivalent for the older females -- only reinforces this sentiment further. 

But as much as US racing fans at times have hoped accomplished turf horses like Wise Dan would taken on the best dirt gallopers in his prime -- he was a G1 dirt winner, after all -- imagine if a horse like him had not other options and was forced to race on dirt.

That's the case, albeit reversed, in Hong Kong. In a jurisdiction where racing is dependent on ratings, horses are only permitted to run in races in which they are eligible -- where they fit within the ratings band. For example, a horse rated 93 could run in a 100-80 Class 2, but would be ineligible for a 120-95 Class 1. Ratings are adjusted up or down based on performance, with a horse's rating moving up a minimum of five points for each win. 

In Hong Kong, dirt racing typically features lesser quality individuals, with no Group races on the erroneously named "all-weather track", so when a dirt horse reaches the upper echelons of the ratings, a decision must be made. 

Take eight-year-old veteran Lucky Nine. The son of Dubawi twice ran over the dirt in his first five local starts, resulting in a three-length win and a runner-up finish. He thrived over the surface, but after only seven local races he reached stakes company. His dirt days were done and in the six seasons since, he has only raced once on dirt and that was in Dubai. 

More recently, Rich Tapestry twice ran over the dirt at Sha Tin, both of which he won easily. By comparison, though, he has struggled on turf at the local Group level. While he has one HKG2 victory, he has never finished better than fifth in four other Group races. Unlike Lucky Nine, however, Rich Tapestry's connections have sought to return him to his preferred surface by the only means possible: travelling. To their credit, his international expeditions have met with great success -- in five overseas runs on either dirt or AW, Rich Tapestry has won twice, including the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship, and he has only once finished off the board, when he was found to have bled. 

Looking to follow in his globetrotting footsteps is Gun Pit, a son of Dubawi who has taken the Hong Kong dirt scene by storm. Boasting a perfect seven-for-seven record over the surface, Gun Pit began this season in thrilling fashion -- breaking his own 1,650m track record when winning by two lengths, spotting second-placed Eroico 21 pounds. In doing so, his rating was boosted nine points from 112 to 121 and his Class 1 days for the near future were done. As a result, his days wowing the locals are also likely done, at least for now. Just days after his big win, he was sent to Japan to compete in this weekend's G1 Champions Cup, a race formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt. Should that foray prove to be successful, potential targets such as the Dubai World Cup have been mentioned by trainer Caspar Fownes. 

On one hand, it seems somewhat cruel that a horse is punished, to some extent, for being "too good" -- by virtue of having no opportunities to run on his preferred surface locally. Putting the best dirt runners on turf isn't ideal and travelling them can be expensive, as Rich Tapestry's trainer Michael Chang learned the hard way after running his charge in California. 

The chance of dirt Group races being carded, however, appears unlikely, partially due to the notion of dirt races being second-tier. More importantly, there is a small horse population stabled locally, fluctuating somewhere between 1,200 and 1,300 horses. There are rarely full fields in turf Group races, so with less interest from connections, the demand simply isn't there.

Nevertheless, imagine the best American turf horses couldn't run over the surface any longer because they were "too good". It is unfathomable. What if Wise Dan couldn't have campaigned in the United States as a result of having won too many turf races? 

So when we, as Americans, look back at some of the best turf runners this country has produced in recent years -- the English Channels and Mizdirections -- perhaps instead of wishing they were racing over a different surface, we can be grateful our stars have the ability to race on their preferred surface and wow us local fans. It's a privilege not all racing fans are granted ... just ask those in Hong Kong.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015 Japan Cup Preview

The Japan Cup -- its native land's richest race -- will be run this weekend, and with the retirement of defending champion Epiphaneia, in addition to a slew of injuries and retirements among the highest rated Japanese middle distance horses, we are left with a fairly open race. 

Four overseas shippers have joined the fray, led by Melbourne Cup fourth Trip to Paris. While on paper he appears to be up to the best of these, overseas runners have a dismal record in this race in the last decade with the most recent top three finish coming via the great mare Ouija Board in 2006. This race, however, is likely an afterthought after big runs in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups and, in reality, he's probably best over further.

German G1-winning colt Ito is probably more a pace presence than a winning chance as he is a free-running on-pace type. How fast he will go out front is one key to this contest. 

The lightly raced Erupt likely needs to improve to win this, but given his young age and relative inexperience, he has the potential to do so. Despite rain earlier in the week, he also appears likely to get the quick ground he needs. Another positive is his draw, which should allow him to be handy, but off the pace. 

Lovely Day enters here in the best form of the locals. A winner of four straight, and his last six in races between 2,000 meters and 2,400 meters, the five-year-old son of King Kamehameha has blossomed this season into the country's top middle distance runner. He's also won two of six at Tokyo Racecourse and barrier one makes him clearly the horse to beat. 

One would expect a few of those drawn wide to go forward with Ito on the front end, and should that scenario formalize, it would favor Gold Ship -- a stone cold closer who is known as much for his quirks as his talent. His two most races are a perfect example of his temperament with him having been every bit as lackluster last time out as he was spectacular two back when winning the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring). He has won one of three races at Tokyo and with this his penultimate start, the nation hopes their most popular grey maniac can get back on track before his swansong in the Arima Kinen.

The star of the three-year-old fillies this season, Mikki Queen, has tactical speed, which should allow her to get the first jump on the likes of Gold Ship. She is loaded with talent and a potent turn of foot, which was on display in both the Yushun Himba and Oka Sho. Whether or not it is wise to bet her in her first attempt versus older males, however, remains to be seen.

With no superstars in the field, this appears a race ripe for an upset and we will play it that way with Last Impact.

2014 was a breakout season for the five-year-old son of Deep Impact who won two G2s, one over 2,000m and the other over 2,400m in the autumn. Even his seventh place finish -- only 1 3/4 lengths behind superstar mare Gentildonna in her final race -- was admirable. His staying ability is among the best in the field, and it showed in the G1 Tenno Sho (Spring) when he finished within 1 1/4 lengths of Gold Ship when employing similar come from the back tactics.

His Sapporo Kinen run was much better than it looks on paper. He finished sixth, making an eye-catching outside move, circling the field into the far turn before flattening out a bit late -- yet still only finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind winner Decipher. He had substantial trouble last time out in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) including hitting the rail, so that run is best forgiven.

While he is effective over longer distances, Last Impact has the raw speed to compete over this trip particularly if he is placed further forward than he has been of late. He used to be more of a midpack runner, but has been pulled back over longer trips this season. With Ryan Moore aboard and drawn a good gate, however, one could expect him to sit midfield, from where he can be most effective over this trip.

Other longshots with a chance include One And Only, who loves Tokyo and on his best form would be right in the mix, but has unfortunately not performed up to par this season; Admire Deus, who won two G2s in good style this season, but needs to show he can do the same at Tokyo and from a bad gate, no less; and Hit The Target: the eye-catcher of the Sapporo Kinen. 

Japan Cup Top 4:
1. Last Impact
2. Gold Ship
3. Lovely Day
4. Hit The Target

Beauty Flame Conquers "The Beast"

Last weekend's Sha Tin meeting was rocked when reigning Horse of the Year and 1.4 favorite Able Friend finished third in the Jockey Club Sprint, the final major preparation for December's Hong Kong Mile.

In the days since his defeat, everything from him having lost his luster since his Royal Ascot defeat to concerns about his chances come the December feature have been echoed both in print and on social media. 

In reality, Able Friend's defeat was nothing more than a typical example of the cliche "pace makes the race" and perhaps stable tactics gone wrong. 

Slow out of the gates, Able Friend was forced to settle further than back is typical for him over this distance, while stablemate Secret Sham was pushed forward. Secret Sham is Able Friend's most reliable pacemaker, but while he has tactical speed over 1,600m, he's not overly fast. For this reason, he's by far most effective in aiding his stablemate's chances when he's pressing the leaders, ensuring honest fractions particularly in the middle sections of the race.

These tactics were used perfectly in last year's HKG2 Chairman's Trophy -- one of three races in which Beauty Flame finished second to Able Friend. This time around, however, Beauty Flame reversed the score, sitting second behind Secret Sham. When leading over 1,600m, Secret Sham is a blatant non-stayer against these types, leaving Beauty Flame in the box seat, able to control his own fate after only 200m of the race had been run. 

At that same point, Able Friend was near the rear of the field and at the first call, he found himself over eight lengths behind the leaders. 

It was in the third section (1,400m-1,200m), however, where Able Friend's race was lost as the leaders were allowed to get away with murder out in front -- eventual 1-2 Beauty Flame and Contentment clocking 23.67 and 23.63, respectively. However, unlike "sit-and-sprint" type races where Able Friend's far superior turn of foot would typically see him through regardless, the faster nature of the race at the start had resulted in such a strung out field that Able Friend in seventh place still had five lengths to make up.

From that point on, it was "garbage time", as we say in American sports. Able Friend finished the race in 21.87, the second fastest final sectional of the race and over 0.4s faster than the 1-2 finishers. In just 200m, he made up three and a half lengths and did so along the rail -- a position from which he is clearly not as effective, mainly due to his large build. 

Whether or not Able Friend will win the Hong Kong Mile remains to be seen, but this performance showed exactly how the best horse can be beaten without running significantly under par. This is particularly the case in a jurisdiction like Hong Kong, where pace plays an integral role in turf racing -- which, for the most part, differs from Northern Hemisphere racing over the same surface.  

The lesson to be taken from Able Friend's weekend fiasco is that when analyzing form, don't look for the best horse, per se. Instead, look for the best horse given the conditions of the race. The crux of these races are about the match-ups of the horses in the field and the race shape created as a result. 

Or, in the spirit of Vitas Gerulaitis, maybe it's as simple as, "Nobody beats Beauty Flame four times!" 

Either way, Able Friend is still clearly the one to beat in December and this result won't cause me to think otherwise.

Friday, November 13, 2015

HKJC The Panasonic Cup (11/14, R8) Preview

They say pace makes the race and that's undoubtedly the case with this week's Panasonic Cup (1400m, Sha Tin) in which a slow tempo appears more likely than not without a regular leader in the field.

With the light weight and a wide draw, Dashing Fellow figures to take up the running, but he was urged to lead in his most recent outing, run at a slow tempo overall, so he won't by any means be winging it on the lead. Happy Yeah Yeah, a 1200m specialist who was pushed to lead in a dirt trial recently, will also likely head towards the lead. Others who could be expected to roll forward into pressing positions include Divine Calling and perhaps Super Lifeline, who was just off the pace in last season's very slowly run Prince Jewellery & Watch Premier Cup and gets Neil Callan aboard for the first time. The latter is a one-paced individual, however, so unless he's urged to lead, this race shape would be an unfavorable one with regards to his chance of winning. Of even greater concern for Divine Calling and Super Lifeline would be their weight carried, as they'll both be conceding weight to two up-and-coming runners in Blizzard and Sun Jewellery. 

Blizzard has thrived in slowly run affairs thus far in his Hong Kong career and although he's impressed visually, his furious closing runs out wide need to be viewed in this context. He improved for the step up in trip to 1400m, however, when beating highly regarded Thewizardofoz and he's drawn a much better gate than has been typical for him. He figures to get a nice tracking run on the forward end of midpack, but if they meddle out front, traffic could become an issue for a horse who takes a bit of winding up. 

Instead we'll turn our focus to Sun Jewellery who has done nothing wrong in three local starts and is drawn perfectly in barrier one. The progressive son of Snitzel has gate speed and was near the pace in his second start, which was run at a very solid tempo from the start. He has the potential to be either on the lead or more likely in the box seat just behind the front runners. He appears to be entering this -- his seasonal reappearance -- relatively fit in spite of a small setback which delayed his start to the season. Perhaps he'll be the one to avenge his stablemate's loss to Blizzard. 

Some added value may be found via Apollo's Choice, who enters this light in the weights and second-up after running well enough in his foray on the dirt over a much too short 1200m. He showed good enough early speed for a turf horse and despite losing momentum when short of room at the top of the straight, he ran on fine late. He probably needs to get back up to 1600m to find his best, but this looks a perfect storm of a race conditions-wise for him to make the frame. 

Picks and Fair Odds:
#5 Sun Jewellery (1.8) 
#9 Apollo's Choice (21.0)
#7 Blizzard (4.5)
#2 Super Lifeline (17.0) 

Suggested Play: 5-9 quinella and 7-9 quinella; 5,7,9 / 5,7,9 / 2,5,9,7 trifecta

Candice's spot plays for every Hong Kong race meeting can be found on the Horse Player NOW BUZZ

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Thoughts on Michelle Payne and the Battle of the Sexes

In a breakthrough year for women in sports, another monumental accomplishment was achieved when Michelle Payne -- a 30-year-old veteran of the sport -- became the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

Following her victory, Payne had a stern message for not only her peers in the industry, but the sports world, as a whole.

Payne continued on to say: 
“I would like to say that, you know, it’s a very male-dominated sport and people think we are not strong enough and all of the rest of it ... you know what? It’s not all about strength, there is so much more involved, getting the horse into a rhythm, getting the horse to try for you, it’s being patient and I’m so glad to win Melbourne Cup and hopefully, it will help female jockeys from now on to get more of a go. Because, I believe that we sort of don’t get enough of a go and hopefully this will help.”

For these words to be uttered by a woman who has lived and breathed the sport since her childhood, whose siblings were also trained as jockeys and whose brother -- who suffers from Down Syndrome -- and strapped the very horse to win "the race that stops the nation" is as momentous as it is eye-opening. 

While strides have been made in recent times, there is little doubt that stigmas against both sportswomen and those who are disabled exist and yet with one win via a 100-1 longshot, the message that anyone can accomplish their dreams no matter the obstacles thrown in their way was displayed in front of one of the larger international audiences of the sport. 

The fallout has been massive with several applauding Payne's comments and others deeming them misguided or poorly timed. Questions of whether or not the sport is truly chauvinistic have been raised, again with wide-ranging responses. Blaming her for what some unfairly deemed as speaking out against the sport, however, is misguided. 

The fact of the matter is that these sorts of topics are never going to result in a singular answer. As easily as I could find five people who would say that horse racing -- and the world for that matter -- is full of male chauvinistic pigs, I could find just as many who would disagree completely. 

There is no universal truth. In this instance, the only truth is her truth. 

If Payne indicates that in her experience she feels she had to overcome her gender in order to achieve her goals, then from her perspective the sport is in fact chauvinistic and nobody should try to tell her otherwise. While others may not share the same experiences as she has within the industry, to say someone shouldn't feel discriminated against because it's not a universal truth for all is inappropriate.

As far as the timing of her comments is concerned, it's worrisome that critics have deemed said timing selfish, saying she should be a more graceful winner. It's when given this platform that role models in any community should speak out either against what they feel are injustices or to inspire the next generation. 

In a few short lines, Payne did both and, dare I say, taking the time from what was easily the biggest moment of her career was not only selfless, but it's indicative of her deep-rooted love for the sport. For her to choose a platform as large as the winner's enclosure at Flemington following a historic victory deems her message of such importance that she felt it worthy of an international audience of millions. Should one struggling young woman -- who has perhaps faced similar challenges to Payne -- find her dedication to the sport reinvigorated, the goal was achieved. 

Payne is a living example to young girls riding ponies that it can be done. Even they can win the nation's biggest race and her words merely back up her actions. 

Whether or not horse racing is universally a chauvinist sport should not be the takeaway from this statement. Instead, Payne let it be known that no matter what obstacles a woman faces, even she can win the big one. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Melbourne Cup 2015 Picks and Plays

This year's edition of "the race that stops a nation" looks a wide open one despite the market being firmly in the corner of Japanese raider Fame Game. If you're a follower of mine on Twitter (@chare889), it's no surprise that I'm leaning towards Hartnell in this spot.

A useful type in England with form through the likes of Snow Sky, Postponed, and Prince Gibraltar, Hartnell has always looked an outright stayer, but he was rarely given the opportunity at those events during his English career. His victory in the Queen's Vase was the biggest indicator of his staying ability and while it's debatable whether or not he truly stayed that trip, a questionable two-miler in Europe typically will stay the trip in Australia.

In four runs during the Australian Autumn season, his highlight came in the G1 BMW where he showed a solid sustained closing finish en route to defeating To The World, who previously had been second to Gentildonna in the G1 Arima Kinen. While his G1 Sydney Cup was disappointing after he struggled to settle throughout when questionable tactics to go to the lead versus the quality of competition were applied. He had led versus softer company in the past, but it's always been clear he's best when held just in behind the main speeds. He also pulled up lame after the race and as a result, his run there is best left scrapped.

Fast forward to this season and while he hasn't explicitly caught the eye, all three of Hartnell's runs have been solid and he's quietly been ticking over solidly en route to this, his clear goal from the day he set foot in Australia. His G1 Turnbull over 10 furlongs in particular stood out, as he was one of only four horses to break 12 seconds in his final 200m and was the second fastest finisher (behind the winner) over the final 600m. He was taken back that day due to a wide draw and compromised as a result, but that won't be an issue here. Expect him to sit near the forward end of midpack, which is a position which much better suits him tactically, as he doesn't posses the turn of foot to win from the rear.

Following a solid fifth in the G1 Cox Plate, Hartnell moves back to Flemington, a track which clearly suits him better than Moonee Valley, and the step up in trip is exactly what he needs. Subtle gear changes involving his bit and noseband have occurred, but with him steadily improving as the season went on, there's no reason to be concerned about said changes. Godolphin has yet to win the Melbourne Cup, but Hartnell looks a big chance to break that streak of "close but no cigar" finishes in the biggest handicap in the world.

As for the others, lightweight The United States intrigues as one who is clearly unexposed over this staying trips. He's a horse on the rise and has improved for the steady step up in trip over which he's ran since arriving in Australia last year. Other chances include the clear favorite Fame Game, who ran enormous first up in Australia when clearly being given a run in order to protect his handicap mark and should he run back to his Tenno Sho (Spring), he'll be close at the finish. He'll be ridden more prominently here, which while it was expected is slightly concerning considering his strength is his superior turn of foot. Almoonqith's Geelong Cup was outstanding and puts him square in the mix here, as does Trip to Paris' runner-up effort in the Cox Plate for a trainer who knows how to go close in this race in Ed Dunlop. Lastly, we'll give place claims to Max Dynamite, who was dominant in the G2 Lonsdale Cup over the likes of Trip To Paris and G2 Long Distance Cup runner-up Clever Cookie.

Top 4:
#6 Hartnell (31.00)
#22 The United States (20.00)
#3 Fame Game (4.40)
#10 Trip To Paris (7.50)

My Wagers:
#6 Hartnell to win, place, show 
Exacta box: 3,6,10,22
Trifecta: 3,6 / 3,6,8,10,17,22 / 3,6,8,10,17,22,24

Friday, October 23, 2015

Moonee Valley Tips for Cox Plate Day

R1: #12 Twist Tops ($10) 
Trialed exceptionally at Randwick before being absolutely luckless in the Gimcrack. Drawn very wide, she was pushed forward in a race which fell apart late. Her draw isn't much better this time around, but I'd expect her to be ridden much more patiently here, which should help her cause. Connections opting to run her here instead of versus a small field at Randwick is a nice sign of confidence, as well. 

R6: #10 Bondeiger ($5.50) 
Bondeiger ran very well in a Herbert Power which was dominated by on-pace runners. The slight step-up in trip and meets chief rival Bohemian Lily better off at the weights. Look for him to be the one hitting the line strongly when it's all said and done.

R8: #6 Bow Creek ($7.00)
New import for John O'Shea and the boys in blue has shown flashes of talent that would put these by the wayside. Having beaten Helene Happy Star -- who has since gone on to place in a G1 in Hong Kong -- and a solid field at Leopardstown which included Group-level winners Mustajeeb, Gordon Lord Byron, Top Notch Tonto, and Parish Hall, a return to that form should see him through here relatively easily. He's disappointed in 2015, but a freshening should help and he's racing for the first time with synthetic hoof fillers, which indicate he's perhaps had foot and/or shoe issues in the past, to which his poor recent runs could be attributed. Nevertheless, he has the style of a horse who should take well to Australian racing and if right, could be  too much for these. 

R9: #10 Gailo Chop e/w ($21.00) and #14 Winx ($5.00) 
Pace-wise this race looks to go one of two ways: either they run at a steady tempo which gradually increases as the race continues or they go fast straight from the start, so we'll try to have ourselves covered somewhat either way. Gailo Chop is a solid runner from France who aside from a run at Ascot during which he was overracing from the start, hasn't done much wrong in recent times. His most recent win was eye-catching and his ability to handle an American course rated "good" makes me believe this ground and style of racing will be no problem for the four-year-old son of Deportivo. He'll be forwardly placed in the running, but if he can settle just in behind the main speeds, the race may very well fall straight into his lap. His record at this distance is also a stellar 4-for-6. Should they go hard from the start, however, keep an eye out for Winx. Chris Waller's wonder mare may be ever so slightly compromised by her draw which may force her further out the back than ideal, but her turn of foot is second to none, which she showed in the Epsom Handicap. Sure these are tougher, but should she get any sort of a setup. she'll be in the mix late. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

10/2/2013 Plays from Australia


Randwick (Aus A) 

R1: Eyezoff (Aus $41.00)
Son of Zoffany was very green in his trial, but he did show quite a bit of talent. His trainer does well with this type and given his greenness, an outside draw might not be a bad thing -- one who could make the frame at a big price.

R2: Slumber Party (Aus $15.00) 
Gai Waterhouse's daughter of Snitzel was very professional in her trial. She's one we have our eye on for bigger and better things down the road and Waterhouse knows how to improve these types rather quickly. Calliope is the one to beat off the stellar trial time, but Slumber Party -- from the more ideal draw -- could be the one to break up the party.

R6: I'm Imposing (Aus $13.00)
I'm Imposing should relish this step up in trip to 2000m and drawn six, he can sit in behind the three main speeds. Twice a winner out of three attempts over this course and distance, expect him to be thereabouts near the finish.

R7: Sweynesse (Aus $17.00)
While some will quickly say he's not the same horse, I'm of the belief that Sweyenesse has been unlucky in that he's caught soft ground, over which he doesn't not travel well, in his most recent outings. That won't be the case here and with quite a bit of speed signed on, he figures to be flattered by the projected race shape.

R9: Chance To Dance (Aus $8.00)
Son of Teofilo won well over The United States first up. He finished eighth over soft ground in the Hill Stakes, but still wasn't far off of it at the finish. Third up here, he could improve further and the step up to 2400m -- over which he's finished in the top two in three of four runs -- will be right up his alley.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Keeneland September Book 1: International Pedigrees

As the biggest yearling sale in America, the Keeneland September sale, approaches, we are going to look at some of the most internationally relevant pedigrees from the sale -- starting with Book 1.

Hip 28: Lonhro x Wild Idle, by Seeking the Gold
By Australian Horse of the Year Lonhro, this colt's second dam is champion two-year-old filly and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Storm Song. He is also from the family of Another Storm, who is the dam of seven foals, five of them winners including G3 Prix Paul de Moussac victor Asperity; Sehoy, a winner of the Listed Skanska Faltrittklubbens Jubileumsloping on dirt in Sweden; and G3 Curragh Cup winner Order of St George. Additional close relations include G2 Sankei Sports Sho Flora Stakes winner Midsummer Fair, as well as Better Life: a popular Smarty Jones mare who was a multiple champion in Singapore and won such races as the Kranji Mile and Singapore Derby -- both local G1s but internationally categorized as listed stakes.
*Bred on a similar cross to Listed Carmichael Stakes winner Euryale

Hip 38: Fastnet Rock x Wonder of Wonders, by Kingmambo
A top class stallion in Australia, G1 Lightning Stakes winner Fastnet Rock is represented by a few yearlings in this first book of the sale, although it'd be tough to find many more as well-bred than this colt. Out of Wonder of Wonders, a dual Oaks placegetter on both sides of the Irish Sea, this yearling hails from the family of Oaks runner-up All Too Beautiful, who also happens to be a sister to multiple G1 winner and top-class sire Galileo. This, of course, means the family of incredible broodmare Urban Sea, as well as her other progeny: G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner and Horse of the Year Sea The Stars and G1 Irish Derby runner-up Born To Sea among other Group level horses found in this female family. If that wasn't enough class already, Victory Song -- a Figge trainee who won the Listed Premio Coppa D'Oro Di Milano at San Siro in Italy -- is also a fairly close relation.
*Bred on the same cross as Group 1 Australian Cup winner Super Cool.

Hip 58: Lonhro x Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch
G1 Australian Cup winner Lonhro has been one of the more interesting shuttlers to arrive in America and this colt only adds to the intrigue, being a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern. Bayern's sire Offlee Wild was sold to stand in Turkey last year, and although we don't yet know how his progeny will rate, there are plenty of notable influences on the female side of this pedigree. This colt's second dam is Aquilegia, a G2 winning sister to champion two-year-old filly Althea -- also the dam of G3 July Stakes winner and G1 Nunthorpe runner-up Bertolini. In addition to his successes in England, Bertolini was also G1-placed in France and he twice placed in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Prior to his death in 2013, he sired Dutch Horse of the Year Dancing Flyer and G1 New Zealand Breeders' Stakes winner Juice, in addition to being the damsire of Japanese Triple Crown winner Gentildonna via his daughter Donna Blini, who herself was a G1 winner in England. Also in this family is G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up He's Had Enough.
*Bred on a similar cross as Listed Carmichael Stakes winner Euryale

Hip 203: The Factor x Dancing Trieste, by Old Trieste
One of the more exciting young stallions shuttling between America and Australia The Factor is the sire of this grey filly, a three-quarters sibling to West Virginia Horse of the Year and G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Giovanni Boldini, to whom she's very similarly bred. Giovanni Boldini was a winner in Ireland and has since been named champion miler in Scandinavia. Her second dam was a G1-placed daughter of top-class Argentinian sire Southern Halo, who also happened to be a sister to Argentinian champion two-year-old filly La Galerie and Gouache, the dam of champion Argentinian older mare Guerinka, who in turn threw Japanese G2 winner Eishin Osman. Peru's champion three-year-old filly Arte Pop is also closely related to this filly.
*Bred on a similar cross as G1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes runner-up Due Diligence.

Hip 227: Bernardini x Divalarious, by Distorted Humor
By American champion three-year-old Bernardini, this colt has the potent classy influence of A.P. Indy on top of his pedigree. On the female side, however, there's no lack of class as his dam placed in the Listed Riskaverse Stakes at Saratoga and his second dam Alidiva -- a half sister to multiple G1 winner in France and dual purpose sire Croco Rouge -- was champion broodmare in both Ireland and Italy. Among her best progeny was multiple Italian G1 winner Taipan, an earner of over $1 million. In addition to his wins in Italy, Taipan was a G2 winner in France, a G1 winner in Germany, third in the G2 Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland, and third in the G2 Hong Kong Vase. Alidiva also threw G1 Sussex Stakes winner Ali-Royal and G1 One Thousand Guineas winner Sleepytime. Additional close relations include G3 winner Somewhat (now known as It's Somewhat in Australia).
*Bred on a similar cross as G2 Cherry Hinton Stakes winner Gamilati

Hip 288: Medaglia d'Oro x Funny Feeling, by Distorted Humor
A useful sire in Australia, Medaglia d'Oro makes this colt a Down Under special being that the dam is a Listed stakes winning sister to Jimmy Creed, who himself is in Australia this breeding season for the first time. While this pedigree also includes the likes of multiple G1 winner Pussycat Doll and Hookedonthefeelin,the dam of G1 winner Midnight Lucky, it's the Australian breeding element which makes this yearling especially intriguing.
*Bred on the same cross to G2 Fleur de Lis Handicap winner Funny Proposition

Hip 437: Redoute's Choice x Mantilla, by Gone West
Out of a sister to Juddmonte Farm's G2-placed Trekking, the pedigree of this daughter of three-time leading sire in Australia Redoute's Choice oozes class. Not only was her second dam  Didina a Listed winner in England and a G2 winner in America, but she is a half-sister to Listed winner in France Espionage. Among her second dam’s other progeny are English stakes winner Tantina, who in turn was the dam of Cityscape -- a Group level winner in France, Dubai, and Ireland in addition to G1 placings in Italy, Hong Kong, and Canada. Cityscape is a half-sibling to Canadian G2 winner Bated Breath. Also appearing among this yearling's close family is Crying Lightning: a daughter of Holy Roman Emperor who won in both England and Dubai.
*Bred on a similar cross as G2 New York Stakes winner Waltzing Matilda

Hip 485: Bernardini x Night Lagoon, by Lagunas
A strong German family backs up this Bernardini colt as his dam Night Lagoon won the G3 Preis der Winterkonigin and was German broodmare of the year in 2013. Her six winners from as many horses to race includes one standout: Novellist, who was a G1 winner in England, France, Italy, and Germany with the highlight of his career coming in the G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes. In addition to his most famous sibling, this yearling is also a half to G3 German winner Nuntius and is closely related to G1 German Derby runner Up Night Tango.
*Bred on a similar cross as American multiple G1 winner Alpha

Hip 513: Invincible Spirit x Plaza, by Chester House
By G1 Sprint Cup winner and top-class stallion of two-year-olds Invincible Spirit, this colt out of a French-winning Chester House mare has a G1 Prix de Diane-winning second dam via Juddmonte's Jolypha, who also won the G1 Prix Vermeille before racing in America. Jolypha is a sister to English champion three-year-old and G1 2000 Guineas winner Dancing Brave; but, that's not the end of the classy influences in this female family. Jolypha's daughter Autumn Lily is the dam of both the G3-placed Perennial and more notably Redwood, a Group level winner in England and Canada in addition to Group level placings in France, Dubai, and Hong Kong.
*Bred on a similar cross as G1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Vorda.

Hip 564: Giant's Causeway x Ring of Music, by Sadler's Wells
G1 Irish Champion Stakes winner Giant's Causeway sires this colt who is by an unraced half-sister to both globetrotting G1 winner Singspiel and the influential Rahy, who sired the champions Serena's Song, Dreaming of Anna, Fantastic Light, and Noverre. Glorious Song, who was not only a star broodmare but a champion in both the United States and Canada during her racing career, headlines this colt's strong female family. Close relations include Campanologist, a multiple G1 winner in Germany who also won Group level races in England and Italy in addition to being Group level placed in Ireland and Turkey, G2 Matriarch Stakes winner Well Rounded, local Japanese G2 winner on dirt White Fugue, and G1 Durban Golden Horseshoe winner One Fine Day.
*Bred on the same cross as G1 Mile Championship winner Eishin Apollon

Hip 571: Frankel x Rose of Summer, by El Prado
By undefeated European champion Frankel, this grey colt is a half-sibling to both G1 Hollywood Starlet winner Laragh, who has a Deep Impact yearling and has since been covered by Orfevre, and multiple graded stakes winner Summer Front. Additional close relations include G1 Hollywood Futurity winner Siphonic and multiple graded stakes winner Dixie Dot Com.
*Bred on a similar cross to Listed August Stakes winner Opera Gal

Hip 686: Giant's Causeway x Supreme Goddess, by Theatrical
Champion sire Giant's Causeway has another on this list in the form of a colt out of Supreme Goddess, an unplaced daughter of Irish champion older horse Theatrical. Her Japanese foals haven't had much success on the track, but there is plenty of class in this pedigree via the likes of G1 NHK Mile Cup placegetter L'Ile D'Aval and Japanese stakes winner Volsheb. The third dam of this colt is also the influential Wind in Her Hair, who was not only a G1 winner in Germany, but the dam of Japanese champion and Triple Crown winner Deep Impact. Others who are fairly closely related to this yearling include G2 Springs Stakes winner Black Tide, the sire of G2 winners Kitasan Black and Tagano Espresso, and the late Jeremy, who sired G2 Robert Papin winner Kool Kompany and classy hurdler Our Conor.
*Bred on the same cross as G3 Tokyo City Handicap winner Niagara Causeway