The Racing League makes its long-awaited return for the summer with Doncaster hosting round one of this nonsense.
This year’s rounds will be shown live on ITV4. Will I be watching? I might have to on this occasion just to see ITV gushing over proceedings. Oh, and the delightful Leonna Mayor will be managing Team Yorkshire so what’s not to like.
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Will I be embracing the festival vibe, donning my Team Yorkshire cap, and cheering on the guys in true football style? What do you think?
Before all the razzmatazz at Doncaster. Its day two of the Brighton’s Summer Festival this afternoon. However, the race of the day is across the Irish Sea at Leopardstown where it’s the Group 2 Ballyroan Stakes (6.45).
In today’s main piece and its a long one. I look ahead to what is the 2-year-old race of the season Saturday’s Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (4.15) at the Curragh. Plus, there’s a selection from this evening’s Leopardstown card.
Hollie Day at Pontefract
It was Ladies Day at Pontefract yesterday. The sun shone, the weather was pleasantly warm and there was plenty of ladies in short dresses and skirts. Just your typical Ladies Day crowd. Granted it doesn’t have the glamour and champagne drinking of Ladies Day at York. No, it’s more working class and in many ways all the better for it.
I haven’t been to its Ladies Day for a few years, but I don’t think the crowd was a big as it was when I was last there, but it was a healthy one, nonetheless.
As ever on these days it can get a bit loud by the middle of the day as copious amounts of alcohol are being consumed. Thankfully it’s not held on Friday evening or a Saturday. I dread to think what its like on such nights at other racecourses.
Hollie Doyle came to Pontefract for four rides and went home with four winners. It went down well with racegoers and a few of the ladies I chatted to had been on Hollie’s winners. Probably not a day to be a on course bookmaker.
Hollie’s winning margins were a head, ½ length, head & head and she rode the track to perfection. Those fine margins are what separate an elite jockey from their journeyman counterpart. Hollie is now clearly in that elite bracket and she makes that albeit small difference that means a horse wins by a head rather than lose by the same margin.
It turned out to be profitable day with Soul Seeker doing the business at a generous 13/2.
Looking ahead to the weekend
Racing fans can forget about the Shergar Cup because there’s a real horse race across the sea at the Curragh on Saturday. I’m old enough to remember when the race was run at the long-gone Phoenix Park racecourse.
A Group 1 race since 1979 this year’s renewal looks to have a great line up with the likes of Bradsell, Little Big Bear, Persian Force, Blackbeard, Meditate and Shartash all having entries. I have my doubts about the participation of Blackbeard and Mediate. However. if the other four turn up it’s going to be some race.
Keeneland Phoenix Stakes – Curragh
Not surprisingly the winning most trainer is Aidan O’Brien who has saddled 16 winners. He’s 5 winners from 25 runners 10 placed in the race since in the last ten years. However, his last winner was Sioux Nation in 2017.
I’m not going to get to caught up in the draw stats because I’m not sure there will be more than seven runners. However, for those who like that kind of information. Nine of the last ten winners were drawn in stall 1 to 5 with those in stall 6+ producing 1 winner from 21 runners -15 4 placed in the past ten years.
Aidan bids for 17th success
Little Big Bear won the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and has since gone to win the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes here over an extended 6f. There was plenty to like about the way he strode clear of his rivals 1f out to win going away. There is a better performance in the colt, and he looks the most likely to give Aidan a 17th win in the race. Paddy Power have him as the 6/4 race favourite.
Stablemate Blackbeard is more exposed, but he’s got solid form. He was 4th to Bradsell in a red-hot Coventry Stakes and then finished a short head runner to Shartash last time. He’s since gone onto win the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly.
Although I don’t think she will run Mediate would be an interesting runner. The daughter of No Nay Never made it 3-3 when winning the Group 2 Albany Stakes (6f) at Royal Ascot last time. She showed a good attitude to win that day and the form of that race looks solid. The runner-up Mawj won a Group 2 at Newmarket last month and the fifth won a Group 3 at Deauville on Tuesday.
Besides Little Big Bear Mediate & Blackbeard. Aidan O’Brien also has Never Ending Story and Aesop's Fables among the entries. The first named a winner of a 7f maiden at the Curragh improved as expected when beating five rivals in the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown last time.
Aesop's Fables looked a speedy sort when winning on his racecourse debut at Navan over an extended 5f in April. We haven’t seen the half-brother to speedy juvenile Washington DC since but he’s likely capable of better. The form of his debut win hasn’t been working out which would be a concern.
Bradsell unbeaten on both career starts won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. The form of the race is working out well with runner-up Persian Force winning the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket. The third home Royal Scotsman won the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last week. Meanwhile the fourth Backbeard has gone on win the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly. He should keep progressing and would be my favourite for this.
Persian Force lost his unbeaten record when a 1 ½ length 2nd of 17 to Bradsell in the Coventry Stakes. I thought he was beaten fair and square that day. However, his trainer Richard Hannon believes he can reverse placings with the winner on Saturday. Yard won this in 2009 with Canford Cliffs and 12 months later with Strong Suit.
Shartash a winner of Naas maiden improved again when beating Blackbeard in the Group 2 Railway Stakes over C&D last time. Blackbeard has gone on to boost that form when winning at Chantilly. There was plenty to like about his win, given he had to wait for a gap 1f but still managed to get up on the line. Given his dam won over 1m 2f he shown plenty of speed to win over 6f. There’s more to come from the colt.
Verdict: There’s not much between Bradsell and Little Big Bear on the figures. Bradsell shades favourtism on the figures but I suspect Little Big Bear has the more scope for improvement. Of the rest, if Mediate doesn’t run which seems likely, then the value looks to lay with Shartash. The H H Aga Khan’s son of Invincible Spirit is progressing into a smart colt and can find the improvement required to go close.
I have had a look at the big race at the Brighton Summer Festival. Plus, there’s a competitive looking card at Leopardstown this evening which I have a few fancies on that card.
3:20 – Star Sports Bet Brighton Challenge Cup Handicap – 1m 4f
Hughie Morrison saddled Ravens Ark to win this 12 months ago and he relies on Percy Jones here. The 3-year-old looked on a workable mark when a 3-length 2nd of 8 at Goodwood on his seasonal return. Didn’t really build on that promise when a 5 ½ length 5th of 14 to Nathanael Greene in a better race at Haydock last time. He’s worth another chance back at 1m 4f. However, good to firm ground does ask another question of him.
Postwick was no match for a useful performer when a 9-length 2nd of 11 to Honiton in a Sandown maiden (1m 2f) in June. The step up to 1m 4f and more of s stamina test could see improvement from the 3-year-old on handicap debut.
Mark Johnson won this is 2015 & 2017 and his runner Fairmac looks a fair price. The 4-year-old is a consistent performer. He did best of those ridden prominently when 3 lengths 4th of 11 at Ascot last time. Needs to get over from stall nine to lead. However, provided he doesn’t do too much out in front he shouldn’t be far away on ground that suits.
6:15 – Grant Thornton Ballyroan Stakes (Group 3) – 1m 4f
Cleveland winner of the Chester Cup and runner-up to the improving Get Shirty in the Copper Horse Handicap (1m 6f) at Royal Ascot. Now with Joseph O’Brien but in the same ownership. He's capable of better and although he drops back to 1m 4f he makes plenty of appeal with Ryan Moore in the saddle once again. Stablemate Gear Up looked as good as ever when 2nd of 7 in Curragh Cup last time and is respected.
A bigger danger to Cleveland is the improving Beamish who made it 3-3 when winning a Listed race at Roscommon last time. He’s going the right way, is ground versatile and capable of better. Hold an Irish St Leger entry and could have the speed to beat to Cleveland.
Other to note at Leopardstown
7:20 – Reverberation doesn’t win very often and is on a long losing run. But he’s dropped a long way down the handicap and is now 16lb lower than when a ½ length 3rd of 23 at the Curragh 12 months ago. He needs to be produced as late as possible to win but should get the strong pace he needs. Colin Keane up for the first time and today could be the day.
7:50 – Satono Chevalier normally gives his running. However, he needs the first time cheekpieces to eke out the improvement to win of his present mark. Riccardi Medici was doing his best work at the finish when a 3 ¼ lengths 5th of 12 here on handicap debut last time. Today’s extra furlong could bring out more improvement in the 3-year-old. Stormy Jenn put in her best performance of the season when a 2-length third of 18 at Naas last time. The mare isn't the most consistent of horses. However, Colin Keane who rode to her sole career success is back in the saddle.
Tara Power, 0-8 on turf, put in a career best on the grass when a ½ length 2nd of 13 at Bellewstown two stars back. Didn’t get the best of runs 2f out when a 4-length 5th of 13 at Dundalk last time. He’s got a decent draw in stall 4 and remains on a workable mark. Plenty in with a chance but Tara Power will do for me and he's my Thursday selection.
7:50 – Tara Power – 10/1 @ Coral & Ladbrokes.
Good luck with your Thursday bets.