It’s Monday again and my weekly look back at the best of last weekend’s action.
On Saturday it was Derby & Oaks Trials Day at Lingfield. The track is like Epsom, although overall, it’s a much sharper track. However, the conventional wisdom of most racing pundits is if a horse handles Lingfield it should be able to handle Epsom. Well both trials threw-up good winners who handled the course well.
Anthony Van Dyck Enters Derby Picture
Anthony Van Dyck was one of the greatest portrait painters of all time, and the horse named after him could well carry that famous name to Derby glory in a few weeks’ time.
The Aidan O’Brien trained colt was surprisingly weak in the betting for the race and was sent-off the 2/1 favourite. This despite the colt being the only runner in the race with Group 1 form.
His trainer already had a stranglehold on next month’s Derby after his colts had won the Epsom Derby Trial, and last week’s Chester Vase & Dee Stakes. Given those circumstances, Anthony Van Dyck’s weakness in the pre-race betting was rather surprising. Maybe it was the soft ground, or it could have been the feeling that the colt needed his seasonal reappearance.
The horse for the money was the Ed Walker trained Cap Francais, who had run well to finish runner-up to the O’Brien trained Cape of Good Hope in the Epsom Derby Trial. He ran well enough here, and looked to be travelling really well coming to 3f out, but his effort flattened-out inside the final furlong.
Recent Salisbury winner Eagles by Day put his Derby credentials on the line here. He was another who seemed to be going well three out, but didn’t find much when asked for his effort and eventually finished 6th. The soft ground probably didn’t suit the son of the Sea the Stars, who will be worth another chance when he gets quicker ground, like he did at Salisbury.
Back to the winner; Ryan Moore always had him up in a nice position on the rail. Coming to three out others seemed to be going better than the O’Brien horse. However, once Moore pushed the horse into the lead a furlong out, it never really looked like he would be caught. He eventually ran out a 2 ½ length winner from the 97 rated Pablo Escobar.
He did what he needed to do here. I doubt he liked the soft ground, and it was his class that got him home on Saturday. Before the race there was a slight doubt on pedigree about the 1m 3f distance for the colt, who has plenty of speed on the dam’s side, but the further they went the better he looked.
He needs to improve plenty in the next couple of weeks to win a Derby on this form, but he probably needed this run, and he will be all the better with this race under his belt. There should be more to come from this likeable colt.
Gosden Unleashes Another Oaks Filly
Whilst Aidan O’Brien seems to have a stranglehold on the Derby, it’s John Gosden who looks to have a strong hand in the Oaks. Last week he won the Cheshire Oaks with the impressive Mehdaayih, and on Saturday it was the turn of the well-backed Anapurna to do the business for the trainer. The daughter of Frankel, who had won a maiden here on the all-weather back in January, ran out a very easy winner of the Lingfield Oaks Trial.
Like Anthony Van Dyck, the further the filly raced the better she looked. On and off the bridle in the early stages of the race she looked green, and still learning about the game.
When Frankie pushed her into the lead two furlongs out, she soon strode clear of her six rivals, and was six lengths clear at the line. This was her first start on the grass, and she certainly handled the soft ground and the track well enough.
I was really impressed with the filly’s win. Granted she probably didn’t beat much, but she’s going the right way and can improve a lot more with racing. I fully expect her to take-up her Oaks entry on the back of this performance.
Of the two trial winners, Anapurna looks the more likely to go on to victory at Epsom next month.
Salouen Gains Well Deserved Win.
Over at Ascot, it was nice to see Salouen return to the winner’s enclosure for the first time since his juvenile days. The 5-year-old has run plenty of good races since his last win. He was a bit unlucky not to finish in the first four in the 2017 Epsom Derby, and last season he almost caused a big shock in the Coronation Cup, before finishing runner-up to Cracksman. He also finished a close 3rd in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, and was beaten less than four lengths into 6th in the Arc.
Sent off the 4/6 favourite here, he was soon in the lead and was never headed. In all truth this was a desperate race. Just the four runners, and two of them had no real chance at the weights.
Salouen’s seven length victory was what could have been expected on official ratings, although his nearest rival Barsanti, who had won this corresponding race last year, did seem to run below par and lost second in the final strides.
The horse is a credit to trainer Sylvester Kirk, and it’s good to see that the owners have kept him in training with the Epsom based handler. The Coronation Cup will once again be his next target. Given his connections, he will go off at a decent price there again. If he gets some cut in the ground ,he will no doubt outrun his odds.
York Dante Festival
The York Dante May Festival one of my favourite meetings of the year: Maybe it’s because it’s one of my local tracks, or maybe it’s the sense of anticipation of a long and, hopefully hot, summer of top class flat racing. Whatever the reason, this this a great meeting. Sadly, this year I won’t be attending, but at least I can enjoy the action on TV.
Here are a couple of interesting stats for this week’s York Dante Festival. One is a positive one and the other is a negative.
Follow the Favourites
If you are a favourite backer, you will have liked this meeting in the past five years. Clear, Co or Joint favourites have won 35 of the 105 races run at the meeting. If you had backed all the favourites at the meeting you would have made a profit of £15.44 to a £1 level stake.
Gosden Favourites Are Value Bets
Which is the trainer whose runners you need to note when the money is down? Well the top performing trainer in number of winning favourites is John Gosden. The Newmarket handler has had 8 winners from 15 runners 53% +7.96, 11 placed, 73% with such favourites having outperformed market expectations by 33%.
His favourites, who were last-time out winners, have produced 5 winners from 8 runners 63% +6.29 7 placed 87%.
Can O’Brien Come Off the Dante Cold List?
Last week I pointed out how well Aidan O’Brien does with his runners at Chester’s May Festival. Well in recent years York has not proved a profitable course for the Irish trainer.
In the past five years he’s had 0 winners from 11 runners 3 placed 27%.
If you dig even deeper and look at his record at the meeting since 2008, he’s had just 2 winners from 29 runners 7% – 10.5 11 placed 38%. His favourites haven’t obliged his backers either, having provided 0 winners from 8 runners 4 placed.
In fact, the Knavesmire hasn’t been a good track at all for Aidan. Since 2015 he’s only had 3 winners from 60 runners 5% -51.34 17 placed 28% at all meetings at this course.
Looking at the above stats, if you fancy an Aidan O’Brien runner this week, you will need compelling reasons to back them. On the positive side such trends are there to be broken, and maybe they will be this week.