Sunday, June 27, 2010

Man v horse update

Regular readers will recall a previous post which looked at the Man v. Horse challenge which is set to take place at Kempton Park racecourse on Wednesday evening June 30th; Jamie Baulch takes on Brendan Powell's eight-year-old entire Peopleton Brook. This one has caught my imagination - most people I've talked to seem to think the horse will win easily but on the times shown below, at his peak, Baulch would have won this challenge.

I have done some more research and am particularly grateful to library staff at Warwickshire College, Moreton Morrell who have helped with this work.

My understanding is the race has been framed as follows:

Jamie Baulch will race over the final 100 metres of Kempton's all-weather track and will use starting blocks;
Peopleton Brook has a 20 metre handicap (so races over 120 metres) and will break from a starting stall;
Peopleton Brook will have the advantage of the inside running rail.

At racing speed an average thoroughbred covers 100 metres in roughly six seconds. Winning times for recent five furlong (1000m) races at Kempton are a fraction over 60 seconds. The question is - how long does it take a thoroughbred to reach racing speed from a standing start?

A quick summary of findings...

In studies intact male thoroughbreds were 0.7% faster than females and neutered males (Etin , Pauline Do racehorses and greyhound dogs exhibit a gender difference in running speed?, Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology, Vol 4 Issue 3-4, November 2007, pp 135-140).

The mean speed for thoroughbreds racing through the beginning section of 402 metre races has been recorded as 36.1 km/h (+/- 1.5). At this speed the horse will cover 100 metres in 9.97 seconds, 120 metres in 11.96 seconds (Nielsen, B.D. and Turner, K.K. Racing speeds of quarter horses, thoroughbreds and Arabians, Equine Veterinary Journal Supplement 2006, August (36), pp 128-132.

Jamie Baulch's personal best over 100 metres is 10.51 seconds, achieved in 1995. Baulch, now 37, retired from athletics five years ago and manages Welsh rugby star Shane Williams. He has been training for some months but, of course, we don't know what times he has been clocking. I sent a tweet to the athlete asking that very question but he hasn't replied...

In a nutshell:

Peopleton Brook
Fit - run three times this month already, finishing fourth at Newbury last Tuesday;
Professional jockey on board but not regular rider;
Likely to carry around eight stones five?
Has advantage of inside running rail;
In studies intact males run 0.7% faster than neutered males / females;
Often receives comment 'held up' in his races -will he break quickly enough?
Not used to racing in this manner;
The start will be critical - lack of other horses could lead to slower start.

Jamie Baulch
Would have won this challenge at his best;
Now 37, retired from athletics five years ago and past his prime;
Has been in training but fitness levels unknown;
Better initial rate of acceleration, aided by starting blocks;
More likely to be affected by track conditions.

Much will depend on Baulch's fitness but it could be a lot closer than many think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Northumberland Plate 2010

Recently a number of long distance races on the Flat have gone the way of horses with form over the sticks - Mamlook took the Chester Cup in May, while Junior won the Ascot Stakes and Bergo the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot last week. The start of a trend? Probably not, but the jumpers in tomorrow's field include the aforementioned Mamlook (ridden on this occasion by Seb Sanders), Halla San, Overturn together with the Irish-trained pair Rajik and Zaralabad. Although the Pitmen's Derby is a two mile affair, a decent pitch early on is crucial so lower drawn horses tend to be favoured - in the last ten years the winner has come from a double figure berth on just three occasions. Weight plays its part as well - just one winner has carried more than eight stones eleven pounds in the past decade and in that time only one favourite has obliged.

With those stats in mind, of the jumpers mentioned above Mamlook looks to have a little too much weight, both Halla San and Overturn have been done by the draw while Rajik in stall three is better placed than his stablemate but finished well beaten behind Junior at Ascot eleven days ago; will the gelding have had enough time to recover? Before I knew the draw, I fancied Donald McCain's Overturn but the draw is the big negative - this evening William Hill go 12/1 which makes some each-way appeal.

On the back of two recent wins at York Deauville Flyer has been heavily backed over the past couple of days and heads the market this evening at 4/1. Jockey Robert Winston is wasting to do the eight stones three required. Of Andrew Balding's pair I considered Bernie The Bolt but the trainer states the gelding is probably better in the autumn while the value about Stanstill (was 20s now 14s) has ebbed away. I'm fast running out of options so, in a typically difficult handicap, Desert Sea is the each-way suggestion. He will like the ground, has a decent draw, a racing weight and is 14/1 with most layers this evening; beaten just under four lengths by Mamlook in the Chester Cup the selection is six pounds better off here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ascot aftermath

Hmmm... not very chuffed at all. Blogger has just 'lost' my post, no draft saved. Re-typed shortened version below.

Punters came out on top at Royal Ascot. Coral spokesman Dave Stevens 'It has been carnage.'

Blog's highlighted selections - just two wins from eleven selections resulting in loss of 6.28 points over the five days.

Best performance - Starspangledbanner in the Golden Jubilee. July Cup is next target.

The Form Book Jumps Annual 2009/10 published Friday 25th June. 35% off RRP at Amazon.

Emma & Jamie Spencer split after jockey admits affair with leading lady rider Hayley Turner.

Finally a quick question & answer from Wednesday's Times:
What are the Queen's Plate, Prince Of Wales Stakes and Breeders' Stakes collectively called? Answer in the comments section.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 - Saturday

You know it's been a right wretched Royal Ascot when your first winner of the meeting is in the penultimate race on the penultimate day - my grateful thanks to Johnny Murtagh who got Mikhael Glinka home a nose in front of Jeremy Noseda's Theology.

In tomorrow's Hardwicke Stakes Harbinger is the clear form choice and will be priced accordingly. Those looking for an each-way alternative could do worse than consider the game mare Barshiba. Blind in one eye, she's as tough as old boots and outbattled Duncan over course and distance in May - Duncan didn't appear to go through with his effort that day but I think there were valid excuses afterwards. Since then the mare, who likes to go off in front and undeniably has her own way of doing things, has been well beaten on good to soft ground at Haydock; that probably accounts for Ladbrokes offering 33/1 about her chance this evening while they go 16/1 about John Gosden's charge. Two additional points of potential interest - Petara Bay is registered to Mrs Bernie Ecclestone (but she's now divorced from him if my memory serves me right) and favourites have won just two of the last ten runnings...

The finale is the longest race in the Flat calendar. Jumpers to catch the eye include Sentry Duty (marked up favourite this evening but would probably prefer more cut), Bergo and Ringaroses. The last-named is usually ridden by A P McCoy but he couldn't do the weight here so George Baker (six winners in the last fortnight) takes over. Ladbrokes offer 16/1 about Jonjo O'Neill's charge who won a three-mile graded handicap hurdle at Aintree in April. Ringaroses looks reasonable value at 16s and is worth an each-way interest at that price.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 - Friday

Something of a shock with 20/1 chance Rite Of Passage taking the Gold Cup earlier today...

I'm short on time this evening so here's a couple of quick selections for Friday's card.

Buzzword is the top-rated in the 3.05. Supplemented for the Derby at a cost of £75,000, he wasn't certain to stay and ran eighth there. Connections must feel he's worth perservering with at this distance.

Jacqueline Quest goes in the Coronation Stakes (3.45). She was unfortunate to be demoted in the English 1000 Guineas but the draw did for a number of horses that day. Mick Channon's Music Show was beaten a head and a neck in the Irish Guineas, Anna Salai taking second. That filly took the race by the scruff of the neck, going on well over a furlong out and could be considered unlucky to get caught on the line. A tight race - Anna Salai is the suggestion.

On ratings Mikhail Glinka has five pounds and upwards in hand over most of the field for the Queen's Vase (5.00). Dermot Weld's Alburj (no rating) is probably worth a second look given Rite Of Passage's performance in the Gold Cup. Mikhail Glinka get the vote.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 - Thursday

Thursday is Ladies' Day and the feature on Ladies' Day is the Ascot Gold Cup run over two and half miles. Aidan O'Brien's Yeats has been something of a standing dish winning the previous four runnings but the great horse is in retirement now and the race has an unusually open look to it. Henry Cecil's Manifest is the market leader but at the prices he doesn't really make much appeal. Ballydoyle run Age Of Aquarius but the yard hasn't been in the best of form and this colt doesn't look certain to get the trip. Sir Michael Stoute is on record as saying this is a stiff ask for Ask on his first run of the season - Kieren Fallon has a good word for the horse in today's Weekender. Kasbah Bliss was beaten three quarters of a length by Frankie Dettori's mount Kite Wood the last time at Longchamp; connections will fancy their chances of reversing that form over another four and a half furlongs, although at the age of eight many will feel the best years are behind Francois Doumen's charge. There was a time I was sure a Cheltenham World Hurdle would come the way of this one but Inglis Drever and Big Buck's had different ideas.

Question marks surround many of the market principals so I'm tempted to look elsewhere although that approach hasn't served me at all well so far this meeting. John Dunlop's Akmal likes to race from the front and wouldn't be without a chance especially if he's given a soft lead. Akmal and Tastahil (just beaten in the Chester Cup from a poor draw) are officially rated on the same mark. Granted, Akmal receives two pounds here, yet the books have John Dunlop's gelding at 12/1 while Barry Hills' charge is 66/1! Hills' son Richard prefers to ride the Dunlop horse (I assume he would have opted for his father's horse if he thought it good enough); that being the case I'll chance an each-way wager on Akmal.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 - Wednesday

A couple of quick suggestions for Wednesday's card at Royal Ascot...

The highlight is the Prince of Wales's Stakes (3.50) which is run over ten furlongs. Twelve are set to face the starter with Andre Fabre's Byword installed the market leader. On his last run this colt was beaten half a length by Goldikova, no disgrace at all as Freddie Head's mare won the opening Queen Anne Stakes earlier today a neck from Paco Boy, the pair three and a quarter lengths clear of the rest. He's my idea of the winner. Mawatheeq was a shade unlucky to be beaten by Twice Over in Newmarket's Champion Stakes last autumn but he suffered a training setback in the spring and this is his seasonal debut. Twice Over went on to to finish third behind Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic and down the field in the Dubai World Cup in which Allybar finished third. Henry Cecil has given Time Over plenty of time to recover but at the back of my mind is his fourth in this last year. If Allybar can reproduce his Dubai World Cup effort on turf, 16/1 (Chandler) looks decent value - I'm tempted to have an each-way dabble on Godolphin runner Allybar.

In the Windsor Forest Stakes (3.05) on official ratings Antara is the one they have to beat. This filly won a Group Three at Epsom eleven days ago and makes more appeal now that trainer Saeed Suroor is in better form. Dangers abound including previous winner Spacious and Sir Michael Stoute's Strawberrydaiquiri who beat Spacious a head and four lengths the last time at Newmarket. Antara is the suggestion.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Royal Ascot 2010 - Tuesday

A quick write-up compiled on Sunday evening with a copy of Raceform's Royal Ascot Guide at my side. Unfortunately I'm having to post this earlier than is ideal - I assume the ground will ride good / good to firm.

The opening Queen Anne Stakes over a mile looks exceptional with the big trio, Goldikova, Paco Boy and Rip Van Winkle, taking each other on; at the time of writing the books make the five-year-old mare Goldikova 7/4 favourite. Fillies and mares have a poor record in this race - no wins in the last ten years - but trainer Freddie Head seems very confident. Paco Boy won this last year and has two Group wins to his name so far this season; handler Richard Hannon is on record saying his charge will struggle to give three pounds to Goldikova. At the weights there's nothing between Rip Van Winkle and Goldikova but Aidan O'Brien's colt hasn't been seen out since finishing down the field when sent off favourite for the Breeders' Cup Classic last November. The form of Ballydoyle runners has been a little in-and-out this season but I'm leaning towards the four-year-old Rip Van Winkle [see important footnote*]; four-year-olds have won eight of the last ten runnings. Of the other runners Dream Eater (50/1 in places) is worth a mention. Connections were bullish before the Timeform Jury Stakes at Haydock where the easy going went against him. I'm still not certain he stays a stiff mile - he finished fifth in this last year - but a wind operation carried out over the winter may help the cause.

In the King's Stand Stakes Australian raiders Nicconi and Gold Trail will attract plenty of attention. The former is currently priced up favourite but has shown hints of temperament in the past. Total Gallery won the Prix De L'Abbaye at Longchamp in October but is drawn wide here. Kingsgate Native beat Equiano half a length in the Temple Stakes at Haydock three and a half weeks ago (Borderlescott, Spin Cycle, Total Gallery and Blue Jack all behind) and is fancied to confirm the form - Kingsgate Native gets the vote. Should Blue Jack take the spoils, England fans will hope it's a good omen as the bay gelding is part-owned by footballer Michael Owen.

In the St James's Palace Stakes English 2000 Guineas winner Makfi represents better value than Irish 2000 Guineas winner Canford Cliffs, while each-way thieves could do worse than check out that well-known highwayman Dick Turpin.

I like to spot old friends (and foes) from the jumping game at this meeting - they tend to turn up in numbers in the long distance races. The Ascot Stakes at five o'clock contains entries from Unleashed, fourth in a maiden hurdle at Worcester ten days ago; Plumpton winner Tyrells Wood; Worcester winner Ghimaar, trained by Nicky Henderson; Woolfall Treasure, previously registered to Harry Findlay, I think; Callisto Moon, a juvenile hurdle winner at Cartmel back in 2007; Junior, who has spent the first half of this year novice chasing; Sleepy Hollow, famous for running out two from home when still holding the lead in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival and Bon Spiel - a modest third in a maiden hurdle at Fontwell the last time. Who said it's all champagne and strawberries at Royal Ascot?

*Footnote - added 13.40 Monday 14th June.
Lead story in Monday's Racing Post - Aidan O'Brien expresses concerns over Rip Van Winkle's fitness.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quick comments

With Royal Ascot just around the corner, a few quick comments on a weekend when I intend to keep my powder dry for next week's big meeting.

Workforce was impressive taking the Derby seven lengths in a course record time. To my eyes the winner looked to have a hard enough race and afterwards Ryan Moore said he could have given his mount an easier time and still won. Connections reported the colt had only lost nine pounds in weight since Saturday which would appear to show he's taken this tough race remarkably well. I'd guess the Irish Derby may come a bit too soon and the King George would be the next target.

The crowds flocked to Epsom on a fabulous summer's day but both the bookmakers and the broadcasters told a different tale with the former reporting turnover down by up to 20% and the latter's viewing audience down by 33%. Coral has called for a debate to be started on moving the race to a Friday.

On the first day of the 2010 World Cup, the big racing story is that Denman owner Harry Findlay has been warned off for a period of six months after he was found guilty of laying Gullible Gordon, a horse he owns. Findlay has vowed to fight the ban but has said 'Win or lose the appeal, I will never own horses in Britain again.' Betfair, the exchange service Findlay used, said 'We do not believe the punishment to be proportionate or, for that matter, consistent with similar offences in the past.' Andy Roberts of Sky Sports asks the question 'Racing shoots itself in the foot again or a triumph for rule sticklers?' Looks like both to me.

To conclude, a couple of notes on Saturday's Hexham card. Donald McCain's Dorabelle missed a reasonable looking opportunity in the bumper at Market Rasen earlier today and goes instead for the opening mares' novices hurdle. Both her runs to date have been on decent ground so it remains to be seen how she'll handle the easier conditions here. McCain's runners are always worth a second look at Hexham - in addition the stable has a 20% win strike rate in the past fortnight. Connections must think she has a chance as it's a fair way up from Cheshire to Northumberland. One who has spent even more time in the horsebox is Red Jester. Trainer G A Ham has sent the nine year old gelding all the way from Axminster in Devon; he runs in the Lords Taverners Handicap Chase at 3.05 and is Liam Heard's sole ride at the meeting. The last time the bay ran here (May 2009) he finished a well-beaten seventh of twelve - this appears slightly less competitive. The likely favourite Stagecoach Pearl is from Sue Smith's yard which is out of sorts at the moment.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Another one horse race?

In what Kempton Park racecourse describes as 'an exciting UK first', the last race at their meeting on Wednesday 30th June will see Olympic silver medalist Jamie Baulch run against a horse over the final 100 metres of the all-weather track. In this unique Man v. Horse handicap, the horse has to start 20 metres behind the human, the winner claiming £10,000 prize money for their charity. With Fergus Sweeney in the plate, the horse is expected to complete the course in less than twelve seconds and consequently the bookmakers have installed the equine contestant as their favourite.

The names of two Brendan Powell trained sprinters have been put forward to take on Baulch - Peopleton Brook, an eight year old entire who has won 9 of his 88 starts to date and Who's Winning, a nine year old chestnut gelding who has won 11 of his 114 starts. A quick look through the form shows that Peopleton Brook tends to be held up at the start of his races while Who's Winning receives the comment 'quickly away' on a couple of occasions.

Aged 37 Baulch would be the first to acknowledge he's probably past his prime but he has been training hard in recent months. On New Year's Day 1995 he ran a personal best of 10.51 seconds over 100 metres. Anything near that puts him in with a fighting chance; should the horse miss the break, surely the deficit will be too big to make up? Of course, the weather will have an important part to play as will the fact the horse is set to race with the benefit of the inside rail.

I'll keep an eye on this story - I don't think Jamie's is a hopeless cause by any stretch of the imagination.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Epsom Derby 2010

For those who like to make up their own mind, my Twitter Guide to this year's Derby (compiled on the back of a fag packet late Monday afternoon) may be of some limited interest. For everyone else, there's this.

No more than twelve will go to post at 4.00pm on Saturday; at present the Coolmore and Godolphin entries combined make up half the field. Much of the talk in the build-up to this Classic has surrounded Coolmore's plans. St Nicholas Abbey has been a short-priced favourite through the winter months on the back of a scintillating victory in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last year. In recent weeks however the vibes coming from the yard have been anything but positive and last week St Nicholas Abbey was usurped at the head of the market by stablemate Jan Vermeer. In due course, St Nicholas Abbey was declared a non-runner and perhaps more surprisingly another Coolmore inmate, Cape Blanco, winner of the Dante, was re-routed to France. The stable regularly declares multiple entries for this race; last year each of their six entries incurred a £140 fine for arriving late in the paddock so it will be interesting to see if there is a repeat performance this time. Johnny Murtagh rides the top-rated animal and market leader Jan Vermeer, Derrinstown winner Midas Touch will be partnered by Colm O'Donoghue while the other Coolmore inmate At First Sight is set to carry out the pacemaking duties.

Godolphin has spared no expense in supplementing two, Rewilding (winner of the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood - formerly the Predominate) and Buzzword (fourth in the French Guineas) at a cost of £150,000. Al Zir completes the line-up. Stable jockey Frankie Dettori is aboard Rewilding - the last horse to win the Goodwood race and then go on to take the Derby was Troy in 1979.

Perhaps there's more to come from Sir Michael Stoute's Workforce who looked awkward when finishing second in the Dante; it came to light afterwards that the bit had slipped through his mouth. Although no horse placed in the Dante has ever gone on to win the Derby, Workforce merits plenty of respect, as does Henry Cecil's Bullet Train who won the Lingfield Trial in fine style, although I don't like this one's low draw. John Gosden's Azmeel was visually impressive when taking the Dee Stakes at Chester and is likely to appreciate both the step up in trip and quicker ground but I'm not convinced that was Derby winning form.

In the last ten years Sinndar was the biggest priced winner of the race at 7/1, two joint favourites and two outright favourites have obliged, while three second favourites have collected the spoils. On each occasion the winner has come from the top four in the betting.

I'm going to oppose Jan Vermeer on grounds of value and because the form of the stable has been a concern this season - that latter comment also applies to Midas Touch but at around 6/1 the Galileo colt makes more appeal than the favourite.

I take Workforce to step up to the mark and win the spoils. Those looking for an each-way suggestion at a bigger price could do worse than consider Azmeel (12/1) while for those who simply just don't care, 66/1 about Buzzword looks big given the stable has stumped up the supplementary fee and stated that the colt's recent homework was their reason for letting him take his chance. He's not guaranteed to stay the trip but connections seem hopeful following his staying-on fourth at Longchamp...

Good luck to one and all!

Epsom Oaks 2010

To paraphrase Martin Waller, City Diary columinst at The Times - Bing! Yet another email falls into my overflowing electronic intray...

This particular missive isn't one of the many I receive at regular intervals from person(s) unknown who inform me that I have either won $1,000,000 in a lottery I never entered or that a regal gentleman from a far-off land wishes to pay a similarly vast amount of money into my humble bank account. No, this mail originates from respected tipster Peter Naughton and offers a free Oaks preview - this looks of some considerable interest. The accompanying advertising encourages me to 'join the 10p line for as little as £4.50 a day' - confusing, I know, but I'm keen to read the free Oaks advice and I soon discover Peter predicts a 'massive' run from Sajjhaa but takes Marcus Tregoning's Rumoush to collect the big race spoils. In the ensuing interview, the trainer points out she has a great chance, has beaten the colts in the Gerry Fielden and says '... I know our filly picks up well and I'm fairly sure she will stay.'

In the past decade the market has proved a decent enough guide to the Oaks with the favourite / joint favourite collecting on six occasions. Rumoush is near the head of he market, although I am perturbed by her draw in stall two. Ideally, in both the Oaks and the Derby, I prefer a high-drawn horse - I feel that runners from the lower berths have to use up a little more petrol to get a good racing position in the early stages.

This year's Oaks is wide-open - on the back of the trainer's bullish comments I'm going to take Peter's advice and have a small win wager on Rumoush.