The Classics 2018 - Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger

Classics 2018

1000 Guineas - Alpha Centauri 33-1 N/R (Won Irish 1000 Guineas!)

2000 Guineas - Masar 7-1 = Third

1000 Guineas - Soliloquy 13-2 = Sixth

The Oaks -  Wild Illusion 4-1 = Second

 Sarrocchi 25-1 each-way N/R

The Derby - Saxon Warrior 7-2 = Fourth

St Leger - Kew Gardens 25-1 = First

18th September 2018:

So what did the Handicappers make of Kew Gardens St Leger victory. This has been explained in the BHA Handicappers blog 'Kew Gardens had a pre-race Irish rating of 117. After consultation with Irish handicapper Garry O’Gorman, we have decided on a new figure of 121 for him – he beat Lah Ti Dar by two and a quarter lengths, which equates to 3 lb over this distance, and was also giving the filly 3lb (hence 6lb ahead in total). The colt will now be rated 121'.

As for what that means in the bigger picture. Kew Gardens is rated a pound higher than last year’s winner Capri (120), and is rated the best winner since Masked Marvel (also 121) in 2011. Only two winners have been allotted higher figures in the race this century 2008 winner Conduit (122) and 2001 winner Milan (122).

5th September 2018:

Aidan O’Brien expects Kew Gardens to thrive at Doncaster as he bids for William Hill St Leger glory on Saturday week. The Galileo colt is a short-priced favourite for the final Classic of the season after winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the Group One Grand Prix de Paris earlier this term. While he was beaten just under two lengths when third in the Great Voltigeur at York last time, O’Brien felt Kew Gardens’ 5lb penalty for his ParisLongchamp win proved crucial and anticipates renewed form when switching back up to 14 furlongs on Town Moor.

He said: “I was delighted with Kew Gardens’ run (at York). It was not ideal having a penalty, but we felt we had to have a run and we thought that was the perfect place to give him a prep. Ryan Moore was delighted with him and obviously he stays further. We always thought Doncaster would suit and hopefully the ground will be nice there.”

O’Brien is likely to run four in the Classic with The Pentagon, Nelson and Southern France set to join the favourite. “Nelson will handle ease in the ground if it comes that way. He stays very well and he will probably stay further than the Leger trip,” said O’Brien. “Southern France is a lovely, big horse. He is a giant and he will be an even better four-year-old. We were delighted with him at the Curragh. There was not a very fast pace and that wouldn’t have suited him when we were riding him back a bit. The reason we rode him back is because it was his first run in a while and we didn’t want him to get too tired, but Seamie (Heffernan) rode him and he was delighted. You would imagine Doncaster would suit him as it is a lovely, flat track and he is a big-striding horse.”

22nd August 2018:

Kew Gardens finishes third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York over 1m4f. He was giving Old Persian and Cross Counter weight so no disrespect in a 1 3/4 length defeat. Ryan Moore gave him plenty to do, was a country mile off the leaders turning for home, and to my eyes he looked to be staying on best of all which bodes well for the extra couple of furlongs at Doncaster. I am still pretty happy with the 25-1 ticket I have for the St Leger, he is anywhere from 2-1 - 11-4 after this. 

Kevin Buckley, Coolmore’s UK representative, said of Kew Gardens to reporters afterwards “He’s run a great race, he’s just been beaten by the penalty. It’s nice to see him come back from his little break after his race in France in such good form.He should step up on that perfectly in time for Town Moor (Leger). Ryan (Moore) was very happy with him.”

15th August 2018:

I was interested to read this morning that Aidan O’Brien intends to send my 25-1 ante-post punt for the St Leger Kew Gardens to York for the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes next Wednesday.  O’Brien said: “He (Kew Gardens) is probably going to go to the Voltigeur for a trial and go from there.”

The colt has progressed all season, as I hoped when I backed him for the St Leger back in December, having won the G.2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the G.1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in his last two runs. He is now generally 7-1 for the last Classic of the season. The G.2 Great Voltigeur Stakes is seen as a natural trial for the St Leger and hopefully, he will pass his latest test with flying colours.

Charlie Appleby hopes Old Persian can also enhance his Leger credentials in the Great Voltigeur. This year’s King Edward VII Stakes winner, who is as short as 14-1 for the final Classic of the season, will bid to get his career back on track after failing to feature in the Irish Derby.

23rd July 2018: 

Kew Gardens could lead Aidan O’Brien’s assault on the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on Saturday. The son of Galileo has been in a rich vein of form lately, winning the Queen’s Vase at the Royal meeting and the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. While O’Brien has yet to firm up plans for the summer showpiece over a mile and a half, he does have a provisional list.

“At the moment Kew Gardens is a possible, Cliffs Of Moher is a possible, Rostropovich is a possible and so is Nelson,” said the Ballydoyle trainer. “Kew Gardens is progressing lovely. We were delighted with him in France. We’ll see what the lads want to do, but we’ve been happy with him since France. That’s the way we are thinking at the moment and we’ll see what this week will bring.”

Lets not forget the St Leger lads!!!!!!

20th July 2018:

Saeed Bin Suroor trained Desert Fire is being quoted for the St Leger following his victory at Leicester in the Next EBF Novice Stakes at 1-16. It’s a long way and a big step-up from this to Doncaster in September but as I mentioned on the blog yesterday (19th July) he looks decent and has an intriguing bloodline. He has an entry in next month’s G.2 Great Voltigeur at York and if he takes that up we’ll learn a lot more about him. Right now you can get 33-1 at Paddy Power. I am very happy thank you with my 25-1 about Kew Gardens taken back in December; the colt is now generally 7-2.

16th July 2018:

Kew Gardens shortened further for the St Leger, 4-1 is as big as you will get now, after winning the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp over the weekend. I, of course, am sitting on a 25-1 ticket and very happy I am with it too. I am not sure if I am happy about it or not but it looks likely he will now go for the Group One King George and Queen Elizabeth Stakes later this month for which he is generally 6-1 behind Crystal Ocean and Poets Word. Aidan O'Brien said after the race "We came here with the view that we might go back to the King George and that's why we wanted to go back to a mile and a half with him. Ryan took his time with him and rode him for a bit of pace and he quickened up well so we're delighted with him. Ryan was really pleased with him. He’s a lovely-moving horse, and Ryan rode him quietly with the intention of finishing with pace. He is a beautiful-moving horse, he handles good ground, he's brave and he's in a good place. It's very special and credit to everybody, it's a big team effort."

30th May 2018:
As touched upon yesterday (see below) Magical is the big name missing from the list of nine declarations today for the Investec Oaks at Epsom. Wild Illusion is now your 5-2 favourite. Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday with the going currently described as soft. The forecast is better for Friday and Saturday. O'Brien still has five entered, Magic Wand and Forever Together, first and second in the Cheshire Oaks at Chester, along with Bye Bye Baby, Flattering and I Can Fly.  Musidora winner Give And Take, Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Perfect Clarity and Ejtyah complete the nine runners. 

29th May 2018:

Magical, second favourite for the Oaks is a possible non-runner for the fillies’ Classic after reportedly picking up a knock while cantering on Tuesday morning.  Of the thirteen fillies still left in on Tuesday morning Aidan O’Brien had eight and as is the case so often with Ballydoyle I am not convinced even they know which their best filly is! 

I am taking them on anyway with the Charlie Appleby trained Godolphin filly Wild illusion. I talked about her a lot in the build-up to the Guineas, finished fourth, saying that I thought she’d be better over further and how her French Oaks target made a lot of sense. Well after the Guineas I am not surprised she comes for this and with the ground good-soft with showers forecast all week being in her favour I am on at 4-1 as of Tuesday lunchtime.

22nd May 2018:

The Epsom Derby field starting to take shape. John Gosden has announced his Dante Stakes winner Roaring Lion will take his chance in the Investec Derby in preference to the Prix du Jockey Club 24 hours later. He edged to the left again that day and that habit still worries me, the fact he doesn’t seem able to stay straight when being ridden, though at least Epsom is left-handed.

Third in the 2,000, and my tip for that race, Masar is also likely to line-up at Epsom Charlie Appleby saying he is showing "all the right signs".

Saxon Warrior of course lies in wait again and truth be told I am pretty happy with the 7-2 ticket I am sitting on about the colt from Ballydoyle.

4th May 2018 the 1,000 Guineas line-up:

Altyn Orda, Anna Nerium, Billesdon Brook, Dan's Dream, Happily, I Can Fly, Laurens, Liquid Amber, Madeline, Sarrocchi, Sizzling, Soliloquy, Vitamin, Wild Illusion and Worship

4th May 2018:

Charlie Appleby has Wild Illusion and Soliloquy for the 1,000 Guineas and both must have chances though I have a preference for one. Back on 18th  April after Soliloquy had won the G.3 Nell Gwyn in some style (tipped on Triple G) Appleby said “We'd like to keep the two fillies apart and we'll see where we are in the next couple of weeks. This filly goes on a quicker surface whereas Wild Illusion broke her maiden on soft and won on soft in the Boussac as well.”

Godolphin paid the £30,000 to get Soliloquy in the line-up. I have been on weather watch for days as I want to back one of these two. With the weather as it is, dry and sunny and likely to stay that way, with the ground drying daily, on Friday it is Good, Good-Soft in places, it looks as though the going will better suit the Nell Gwyn winner. I think Wild Illusion wants it softer and I also believe she will be better over further and her original target of the French Oaks makes a lot of sense, she may yet got for the French Guineas as well. All this means Soliloquy becomes my 1,000 Guineas bet at 13-2. William Buick had to choose between the two and will be onboard. Buick, who has yet to win either Newmarket Classic, said on Thursday "I will be riding Soliloquy. She has always been a lovely filly and won the Nell Gwyn well. However, Wild Illusion has the Group 1 form at two, so has the class edge as far as we know. I think both of them will run very well – it's great for the team to go into a Classic with two live chances."

3rd May 2018 the 2,000 Guineas line-up :
Cardsharp, Elarqam, Expert Eye, Gustav Klimt, Headway, James Garfield, Masar, Murillo, Nebo, Raid, Rajasinghe, Roaring Lion, Saxon Warrior, Tip Two Win 

1st May 2018:
For those of you on weather watch for the Qipco Guineas Festival, I know I am, Michael Prosser, clerk of the course, has said: "There was a vast difference between the reality and the expectation of the rain we were forecast on Monday. We ended up with 4mm when we were expecting 20mm. It's the slow side of good at the moment and temperatures dipped to 2C this morning with the clear skies, and after a heavy dew we've had a lovely day today."

He continued: "There is some rain forecast from the early hours through Wednesday, which should yield around 6mm. After that we're set to be dry right through until the end of play on Sunday, with temperatures nudging 20C. At this stage it is not inconceivable we'll start the meeting on good ground." 

30th April 2018:

Soliloquy will be added to the field for Sunday’s G1 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, in which Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby hopes she will be joined in the final field by stablemate and fellow Dubawi filly Wild Illusion.

“I have spoken to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and he has decided to supplement Soliloquy for the Guineas following her fine win in the G3 Nell Gwyn Stakes,” trainer Charlie Appleby said. “We are hopeful that Wild Illusion will also take her chance, but as we have said all along, it all depends on the ground. She does not want it too quick,” he explained, “The forecast is for a dry spell at Newmarket from the middle of the week. We will keep an eye on conditions. If it is on the faster side of good, there will be discussions on whether she should run at Newmarket, or wait and travel to France for their Guineas (on Sunday, 13 May),” the trainer added.

Godolphin’s impeccably bred Ghaiyyath is set to test his Derby credentials in the G2 Dante Stakes at York on Thursday, 17 May, a race that many regard as the key trial for Epsom. The son of Dubawi and the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Nightime is to bypass the G1 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket to focus on the Dante, which leaves Masar to carry the Godolphin banner into the first Classic of the British season on Saturday.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “Both Masar and Ghaiyyath came through routine work (on Saturday) in good order. Masar came out of the Craven very well and he has pleased at home since that race.” Masar, a much-travelled son of New Approach, crushed his rivals in Newmarket’s G3 Craven Stakes on the Rowley Mile in a most impressive nine-length victory earlier this month. “The signs are good,” Appleby said. “I’m very happy with him going into the Guineas, and I expect him to give a good account of himself,” he added.  

Tuesday 24th April 2018:

The more I look at the Derby ante-post market the more I find myself asking the question will this horse stay. Stamina has come more to the fore than ever in recent years, 12 of the last 14 winners were sired by a sire with a stamina index of at least 1m1f and there was stamina on the dam’s side to boot. O’Brien trained colts dominate the market and three have been on my mind most of all. The Pentagon is one toward the top of my short list being by the top boy Galileo out of Group One winning mare over 1m2f Vadawina. He is a half-brother to four winners, three rated over 100, including Vadamr who won a Group Two over 1m4f out in France. He didn’t do a lot in the Ballysax Stakes over 1m2f in April but that was on heavy. Stable mate Nelson won that race and he is by Frankel, whose progeny are showing the ability to stay middle distances – see Cracksman as on example - out of Moonstone. The dam was second in the 2008 Oaks before winning the Irish version. He is a full-brother to US Army Ranger, second in the 2016 Derby, and top performer over middle distance trips at three. Saxon Warrior is the 7-2 jolly in April and being by Deep Impact out of Maybe he ticks all the boxes as they say on breeding at least ad far as stats are concerned. It will be fascinating to see how the colt goes as a three-year-old and could prove massive for the Shadai Stallion Station where Deep Impact stands if this colt can win the Derby. I have taken the plunge and backed him at 7-2 as if he comes out and goes well in the 2,000 Guineas the price will shrink pretty fast. I think the mile trip will be too sharp for him this season, all three starts and wins at two were over a mile, and Guineas winners without form over shorter than a mile at two are rare, Camelot being the only one in the last 30 years. 

Monday 23rd April 2018:

Veracious, who was due to be the mount of Frankie Dettori, has been ruled out of the Qipco 1000 Guineas due to a "training setback"The Sir Michael Stoute-trained daughter of Frankel was an impressive winner of a Newmarket maiden last October and had impressed Dettori in a gallop before racing at last week's Craven meeting. In a statement to Press Association Sport, Stoute said: "Veracious will not be running in the 1000 Guineas because she has had a training setback." Veracious had been as low as 6-1 for the Newmarket Classic on May 6.

Thursday 19th April 2018:

Masar is a member of my Dirty Dozen for 2018 and as mentioned on that page his trainer had the French Derby as his long term target. Well he has a short term target now having blitzed the G.3 Craven Stakes field at Newmarket by nine lengths – tipped on here at 15-2 each-way. A return visit for the 2,000 Guineas is a must now and I have the 7-1 about him for that as I was very, very impressed with what can only be called a spectacular front-running display leaving the odds-on Roaring Lion whimpering back in third. William Buick in the saddle made the straight-mile contest a thorough test winding up the gallop with over two furlongs to run and I would expect similar tactics come Saturday 5th May.

Wednesday 18th April 2018:

All three of my ante-post punts have run over the last few days and at least there were no disasters. Sarrocchi run at Leopardstown in the G.3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes over seven furlongs on Sunday 14th April and finished down the field in 8th on heavy ground keeping on one paced and not knocked about. She remains 25-1 for the Oaks and this run can been seen as nothing more than a run to blow away the cobwebs as she is all about middle distances to my eye. Alpha Centauri was 10th in the race on ground she would have hated; she made some good headway six horses wide to press the leaders about two out but faded out of it in the heavy ground. She has drifted to 50-1 in places for the 1000 Guineas and I hope come May she will get the ground she requires as I believe she is a different filly on good fast ground.

Kew Gardens was third in the Listed Fielden Stakes at HQ over 1m1f on his seasonal bow on the first day of the Craven meeting. He took a while to pick-up and to my eyes was far from hard-ridden as he stayed on at the same pace pleasingly enough in the final furlong bearing in mind the trip was a long way short of what I expect to be his optimum and he remains generally 25-1 for the St Leger.  

Thursday 12th April 2018:

I think I may have found one in the plethora of likely types housed with Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle that isn’t actually at the head of the market for one of the Classics but I think should be backed for the Oaks. The filly in question is Sarrocchi. By Galileo out of Thai Haku the sire needs little introduction so I will not waste ink. The dam won a Listed race out in France as a three-year-old and ran at Group level for the rest of her globetrotting career without winning including at Meydan in Dubai and Belmont Park in the States.

Sarrocchi was owned in partnership by the ‘lads’ of Coolmore and China Horse Club International Ltd before their parting of the ways. The ‘lads’ bought her back at the Goffs October sales for €215,000 and she promptly went out and won a maiden at Leopardstown over seven furlongs in late October before being put away for the winter.  To my eyes she did it pretty comfortably in the end despite being well back in the field and green as grass before the penny dropped and she knuckled down at which point she went passed her rivals nicely. She a middle distance type and might just have progressed past her better known stable mates of Happily and September to name but two come Friday 1st June.

You can get 25-1 as I write in April and I have had a little tickle at that each-way as if she comes out and goes well or wins on her first start at three, is entered in the G.3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown on 14th April, that price will shrink quicker than a cotton vest in the boil wash

Wednesday 27th December 2017: On a cold and wet day between Christmas and New Year what else are you going to do other than get out the crystal ball and consider your ante-post bets for the following years Classics.

Very unusually the first name on my list for the Classics in 2018 was in fact my fancy for the St. Leger. It seems crazy to be thinking about the St Leger three months before the season even starts but I honestly think Ballydoyle has a contender in their colt Kew Gardens. Naturally he will be in the Dirty Dozen for the season and everything about him says he will stay as he matures. Being by Galileo, no introduction required, he is out of Chelsea Rose who won a Listed heat over 1m4f in her career and went in with some of the best, second in the G.1 Pretty Poly of 2006. On breeding a mile-and-a-half will likely be the minimum trip for this colt as he matures; unsurprisingly entered in the Epsom Derby and Irish equivalent. The grand sire on the dam side Desert King won the Irish Derby and grand dam Cinnamon Rose was campaigned up to a mile-and-a-half as well. As a two-year-old he played second fiddle to some more obvious Guineas type stable mates over a mile, such as Saxon Warrior when fourth in the G.2 Beresford Stakes, before signing off his first season winning the Listed Zetland Stakes over 1m2f at HQ in October drawing clear and looking to love every yard of the trip that day. At 25-1 he is a very long-range punt for me in the 2018 St Leger as I think that has to be the race for him. Stable mate Delano Roosevelt heads the market, he was second in the Beresford mentioned above, along with Saxon Warrior who basically heads every list for the 2018 Classics!

As for the other Classics Ballydoyle and ‘the lads’ yet again have a stranglehold at the head of the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas markets over the winter. For the fillies the market is headed by Clemmie with Happily and September whilst the market for the colts sees the aforementioned Saxon Warrior as favourite with stable mates Gustav Klimt and U S Navy Flag just behind in the betting.

The Oaks sees Happily and September top the list with that colt again Saxon Warrior favourite for the Derby with yet another Ballydoyle inmate The Pentagon second in the betting.

The problem here is a simple one, more than ever this year you just do not know what horse Ballydoyle will campaign where and as was the case last season the one all the ‘experts’ think is the best just simply might not be; see Wings Of Eagles beating Cliffs Of Moher in last years Derby as just one example of a lesser fancied Ballydoyle runner winning the big one. If you are going to punt ante-post over winter on any of the early 2018 Classics you have to go against the Ballydoyle entrants.

For the fillies Alpha Centauri is a horse I like and will be another member of the Dirty Dozen for 2018. By Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mastercraftsman out of the unraced Alpha Lupi the grand sire on the dam side Rahy was a high-class two-year-old who went on to be a smart dirt miler, with the grand dam being East Of The Moon a multiple Group One winner over a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter out in France including the G.1 1994 Poule D'essai Des Pouliches. At 33-1 for the 1000 Guineas I honestly believe she would be half that price if at Ballydoyle rather than with Jessica Harrington and she clearly did not enjoy the very soft underfoot conditions when beaten in the G.1 Moyglare. It will be better ground at HQ on 6th May and 33’s could look huge by then.

As for the colts there are a couple on my mind. Expert Eye owned by Khalid Abdullah and trained by Sir Michael Stoute was one many were talking about after his first two starts; destroyed the field in the G.2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Unfortunately he finished lame in the G.1 Dewhurst won by U S Navy Flag on his third run. Would have to be on your mind for the 2000 Guineas on the Vintage Stakes form if he comes back from the injury at three as good as he was. The Qatar Racing owned Roaring Lion trained by John Gosden went unbeaten until losing out by a neck to Saxon Warrior in the G.1 Racing Post Trophy and is an interesting one with his American breeding. By Kitten’s Joy, five-time leading Turf sire in America, out of Vionnet, winner of a Turf race at Del Mar in her short racing career. Grand sire on the dam side is Street Sense, 2006 champion US 2yo who won BC Juvenile that year making the great grand sire 2002 Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry.

For now I am keeping the powder dry regards the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Oaks and await the ‘trial’ races such as the Craven Stakes, Greenham Stakes and Dante Stakes with anticipation.