Virtual Paddock = Epsom (Barzan,
Auction, Fratellino, Jack My Boy, King's Approach,
Little Perisher, Red Avalanche & Walkingonthemoon)
The Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom usually has little significance
in terms of winners in higher class races during the season and less so
for development 3yos. It typically features a range of early season runners
and the majority of this year's field had started their careers in the
first 3 weeks of the season. Those that finish in front will often ends
up as OR80s sprint handicappers at 3yo and struggle to win in that season.
This will be because they have ended up rated in the OR95-105 range that
horse placing in a Listed event will get no matter what the performance.
The figure will also not factor in what improvement the horses have so
that the precocious horses, with limited 2-3yo physical scope to improve,
will not be able to make the 15-20lbs of expressed ability performance
the average thoroughbred is expected to make. Occasionally a better
7f horse may be in the field but they will normally be for trainers Hannon
(Kings Point) or Channon (Cedarburg) who start horses over 5f in early
season that most trainers would not.
Go back to 2002-3 and Mark Johnston had the winner both years with The
Bonus King & Parkview Love. Look at their 3yo careers & no wins
as their ORs tumbled down from 100ish through to 80s or 70s. 'Disappointing'
people will say but if you looked at them as 2yos you would not have had
that emotion. They were not the long term OR100+ older Listed, or Group,
winning physical types but the OR80s handicapper they proved to be. Same
in 2004 with Screwdriver winning well but descended the OR ladder at 3yo.
None of those three won a race after the Woodcote until the end of the
3yo season. And, they were lucky. 2005 winner Ba Foxtrot did not win either
but got a skin illness that caused him to lose all his coat hair.
The 2006 winner Sadeek & Declaration Of War in 2007 both proved able
to train on a bit better although neither managed to win again at 2yo.
Both were much stronger builds than a typical precocious type. Last year's
winner Smokey Storm did not seem real OR80s on appearance at the time.
His jockey Alan Munro had to keep reminding himself to play-the-game when
interviewed after the race. He clearly thought the horse was limited and
was surprised to have won a Derby Day race so cheaply. When tossed one
of those "..that must have been great to win on such a top-class horse.."
type questions afterwards he managed to subdue the giggle. He managed to
come back with a nice bit of misdirection about "...today was the first
time he felt like he might be a nice horse..". Later thumpings in Group
races put it into the right perspective if you had not managed to work
it out already. His runner up was the bigger & more solidly built Indian
Art who did not win again either but seems to be into the normal OR level
competitively this year.
On a look through the Virtual Paddock for the race it is not obvious that
we have a bigger & better type for the long term there. They seem to
be to the usual template with the possible exception of Red Avalanche.
Jack My Boy has a bit of size but narrow bodied & Walkingonthemoon
another lighter bodied one. Of the 5 not in the VP then Corporal Maddox
& Avon River might be a little better on profile. But the
first of those was downplayed by the trainer after his Hamilton win when
Karl Burke gave a passable Munro impression when asked a similar question
about whether the 'Moon' was the limit for this one. [Possibly by Tom Ryan,
the King of the greasy, sugar coated, inquisition. Usually along the lines
of "....how do you manage to be so effortlessly brilliant all of the
time..." to some old 'pal'.] The second appears to be a Hannon second
string and his win was not worth anything in a farce of a race. Just a
niggle that Jimmy Fortune is not the second choice to Hughes though &
Avon River is well drawn.
Mention of the Draw brings us on to Run Styles that work on the course.
This is a bigger than normal field which throws a bit of doubt in but here
is a Bluffer's Guide :-
The start is in a chute but you are soon across the main track and into
a left hand curve downhill. The bend tightens at the base of the hill as
you turn into the straight. If you are drawn low you are naturally on the
inside of the bend & cover less ground. The recent winners of the race
with 6+ runner fields reads 2003 (3 of 10, SP 11/2); 2004
(1 of 8, 7/2); 2005 (2 of 10, 4/1); 2006 (1 of 6, 6/4f);
2007 (11 of 13, 9/2, from stalls 9 (pressed leader
early) & 1 (led early)); 2008 (3 of 10, 4/1).
Like Chester the bottom three stalls have an advantage if they can use
it and the others need to find something different in quality terms to
overcome it. That seemed to be the reason in 2007 when Declaration Of War
(probably a real OR100 horse) managed to run down, lower end, precocious
types in Bespoke Boy & Mount Pleasure. Those two had pressed on hard
to soften themselves up.
When it comes to Run Styles being well drawn does not help if you are not
forward going. 6 of the last 7 winners have been in the first 3 through
halfway and usually less than 2 lengths off the lead. Front running tends
not to be the answer at the course and tracking in second or third a better
option. Declaration Of War came from 9th at halfway to be exceptional in
that way also.
The races at the course yesterday were a good example of how these races
tend to unravel. You have a ribbon of horses working away from the rail
in the straight with the leaders on the rail. Those further back and
further off the rail are from higher draws plus slow starters. As the
efforts made to make the pace tell those in the front start to stall and
those further back in the ribbon starts to close up. How far back you can
close from depends on the usual dimensions including ability & race
pace. The front runners struggled to get home and horses were able to close
in centre track to some extent but the advantage was still there if you
run the inside route. The big point to note for today is that the rail
was out yesterday lifting horses off the normal inside rail and further
up the cambered straight. Presuming the rail is in it's normal position
today that may well change the shape of the finishes a little.
To summarise that you should be looking for a low drawn, prominent racer
with as much Class advantage as possible. An obligate front-runner
is not so good because the downhill early part & lots of other enthusiasts
will usually break them before the finish. A deep closer is no good unless
he is very high class or the leaders go berserk. The horse storming through
the final furlong-and-a-bit to finish 3rd or 4th after getting behind is
one of the perennial Characters in the Woodcote story. If they do not get
to the front they are OR80s horses chasing down other OR80s horses, of
some shade, who have softened themselves up somewhat. Even if you are an
OR98 horse you will not get to the front if you bungled the first bit badly.
Ok, so nothing is outstanding on 'Class' terms what about if we add in
the Draw & Run Style? 8 of the 13 have lead their fields through halfway
at least once and of the other 5 only Mon Brav & Yeadon
have not been in the first 3 at the same point and within 2 lengths
of the lead. Mon Brav is best drawn in 1 but was 6th at mid-point on debut
on a stiff track. Not reviewed he may be better than his pedigree profile
but he does not appeal as one to to get prominent in this group of, relatively,
hardened sprinters. Yeadon is drawn 12 so a 'No' anyway. Terrific, two
off the long-list.
To get the numbers down quicker let us take a Draw 6 as an outer point
& ask whether anything above that can get prominent. Jack My Boy
(7) has led his last two race but on stiffer courses and the quality of
the form not strong. He isn't going to get to the lead here unless he has
turned into the next 'Tamagin' in the horsebox so will need to close from
mid-field. Just an average profile to do that. Fratellino is a bit
more interesting because he may well have a right good go at crossing over.
But he is lightweight & limited a this level & the effort would
ensure he faded by 1 furlong out at latest. [If you believe horse size
matters then probably the favourite moment of the season would be Fratellino
being shunted aside Monsieur Chevalier at Sandown later in the race. There
it was, the Truth encapsulated in one shot. B2yoR would encourage people
to watch yesterday's Catterick fillies' race if they get the chance as
well as a close second favourite. From the rail out the tiny Tillys Tale
is shadowed by the small but bigger Oondiri with the much bulkier Ceedwell
outside. Like Russian Dolls. Ceedwell takes time to gather herself against
the little ones but when she applies the power she has the situation under
Desert Auction in 9 appears the Hannon first string and has a good
Run Style profile having sat 2nd or 3rd in each of his 4 races and within
2 lengths of the lead. Whether he can do that from stall 9 seems a bit
doubtful but jockey Hughes does not mind cutting s few up if he can get
the horse out smartly. Leave him on the possibles list. The fact that he
has beaten Star Rover has to be a plus too since that horse seems close
to the top of the form so far among the precocious 2yos. He beat him when
that horse had run 24 hours before & below his best but still a solid
effort in the context of this field.
Walkingonthemoon has led twice on softer ground and been granted
easy pacemaking both times. He ran less well on firmer going with Fratellino
to bother him. First string for the stable but too much of a job on overall.
Corporal Maddox would need to be higher class & comes up short
of that. King's Approach seems the Hannon 3rd choice and put in
13 and with a review that says he is short of even the OR88 required Standard.
We are left with a look through draws 2-6 for credentials with Desert Auction
not dismissed fully. Jimmy Fortune bullied Avon River to get to
the front at Kempton in a small field then applied the breaks. He turned
that race into a short sprint in the straight with him best placed. He
will not be able to do that here but he is in a good spot to get to a good
position if the ability is there. He is probably not far behind the required
level and a possible overall. The Market should be some help because it
should tell you whether the Hannon Stable think he is good enough to compete
or just here for a Derby Day out for the owners. Let's say, single figures
if he is ok?
Red Avalanche has a solid profile overall. Good enough in quality
terms, well drawn, has been 1st or 2nd at midway in his last three races
and gave Star Rover a good tussle when Red Avalanche was below his best.
He seemed to show improved form on softer going but has run well on firmer
going. He did not run that well last time when held up in a slower race
but that should not happen here. His last run looks better now Crown has
won again since as well. Some niggle but a profile you could live with
if he got beaten.
Royal Desert looked short of the class required in his first two
runs and well beaten by Red Avalanche first time. He seemed to improve
for leading at Bath but in a low level race and a time just faster than
the juvenile seller on the same card. The trainer usually runs OR80+ types
in the race and some respect for that but short overall. Barzan
is the stable's second string & his Brighton win has mixed messages
from the subsequent runners. The placed horse she beat look limited on
later outings and the 4th has improved for settling STO to win a minor
Little Perisher is drawn wider than you would like and his Run Style
suitability depends upon his latest outing. But, he has developed with
racing and the last two runs have looked like real steps forward. The Ascot
race he ran 3rd in has looked a Key form race for these early season events
and he looked better next time with a comfortable win. A solid second choice
to support Red Avalanche and two needed in what is really a quite closely
In summary, a tricky race and not the obvious Trump Card of superior
quality among the field. Would take Red Avalanche & Little Perisher
against the others in a competitive race. See how the Market goes for Avon
River as possible each-way value. Pass on Desert Auction overall with the
wide draw but become a lot more interested 'in running' if Hughes can get
him 3rd-4th without much effort. Who is going to be the slightly bigger
one steaming down the outside to finish 3rd-4th? Let's guess, err, Estimate
at Corporal Maddox.
A fascinating fillies' maiden at Doncaster which pulls together
a number of stories. Interesting enough in naming terms with Proper
Littlemadam taking on She's A Character while Raddy 'Ell
Pauline takes the attitude outside of the horse behaviour into disguised
swearing. Meanwhile the 'Old Money' worlds of Highclere & the Rothschild's
give us Caviar and a Love Match. Raddy well done, everybody.
Two of the fillies have run before and Brinscall seems proven as
short of the required standard. Babylonian is a more difficult
puzzle and one of a batch of Mark Johnston STOs from his May debuts. B2yoR
would admit to being a trifle puzzled about how to assess Johnston debuts
if you are short of direct review information. The Market mostly knows
very little except at the extremes and the way they perform on debut hints
at how different the Johnston preparations are to many other trainers.
Try thinking about this. In 2008 he ran 16 horses on debut between May
1st and the first week in June. One of those won FTO and only 8
managed to win during the season. Many in later May were Maktoum family
'Surplus Stock' (usable OR60-73 types) with good pedigree & sales credentials.
The SPs got longer in late May but did not help to pinpoint which of the
16 were competitive on the day or likely winners in future. The other 7
later winners, aside from the FTO success, managed 3 places & 4 unplaced
on debut including Takaatuf (yes, that one) 13th at 33/1. Here is a list
of his 17 debuts in the same period this year to peruse to see if there
are any 'angles' to find to assess which are the good ones from FTO.
|King Of Axum
||-6 & +1
||Accidental win in weak race. Beaten x2 since.
||+4 & +23
||Too free FTO & fade. Good winner & Listed placed since
|Step In Time
||Laboured winner of late race sprint STO
||Step to 6f STO. Too free FTO?
||Ok 2nd STO
||Chosen for York debut
||Outpaced 3rd in late race sprint STO
||Good winner at Bath
||Runs in Musselburgh Conditions Today
|Layali Al Andalus
The colours are the usual Green for later winner, yellowish for later placer
& reddish for unplaced subsequently. Overall, you would say that this
year's bunch look better than the crop he gave us last year. Try it for
yourself & look through the list to try to find a pattern in one of,
or combination, of FTO SP, place, rating ([Est]), Run Style to see if you
can predict how strong the STO run will be. On SPs you would say that Take
Ten & Bikini Babe are actually better class ones that failed FTO for
some reason. Bikini Babe was the Johnston debut that steams off in front
then blows up in later race and hangs left (never right). Bigger &
flashy & believable as better one.
In general, you would say he horses are not trained to 'quicken' in preparation
or to cope with difficulties. If they can get to a balanced position &
prominent on ability they can but put them under pace pressure they cannot
handle & they flounder. When they make ground in later race it is a
laboured process and they take time to gather. Looking through the ones
above Capercailie probably came as close as any to quickening & runs
at Musselburgh. Drawn against the rail you suspect he will be favourite
& add 10+ to his debut rating and he comes out near the top of the
profile. Despite his whacking penalty Archers Road just tops it & interesting
to see how that plays out. That race also features North Central's debut
as a full brother to South Central who won by miles on debut this time
last year. He looks competitive with his allowances if he has ability.
The race will presumably see Dispol Keasha going haring off in the lead
but not getting home & providing a target for the best of Archers Road,
Capercailie & North Central to close onto. Eternal Instinct & Reignier
come next on the profile with the latter competitive with a bit of extra
Which brings us back to Doncaster where Babylonian runs for Johnston.
In short, B2yoR does not much fancy that York maiden she debuted in nor
how she went through it. She rolled around and faded with a lot of moderate
fillies behind a stiff pace set by the, probably, OR70s Falling Angel which
allowed Sweet Sonnet's daft win. A low rating FTO & not up to winning
this unless she can find 15+ points improvement & not a lot of excuses
for her first run. That's the theory.
Anyway, a number of solid FTOs to take her on with so a decision to live
with. To clear a few out the better ones do not include Caviar who
seems likely to be an ordinary Hannon debut rather than the high class
one (but watch for late Market support below 4/1). Some interest in how
Fasette goes because the trainer is running his first batch at present
& the first two have shown quiet promise for the future. Fasette only
cost 1,000 guineas but the trainer says she is a good size and usable.
But, he does not get FTO winners normally so a pass for the day.
Which means the FTO shortlist comes down to Raddy 'Ell Character, Love
Match & She's A Character. Love Match is the first runner of
the year for Roger Charlton and he picks out competitive 2yos for the earliest
runners. He ran the STO winner & later Group placed Rose Diamond in
this maiden last year and she finished 4th at 9/2. Which is pretty much
the point. If Love Match is running here-and-now she is a solid 2yo and
up to winning at OR80+. But, the trainer does not press for debut wins
and, while competent, the horses will not be fully ready. As a daughter
of Danehill Dancer out of a mare that won at Group level as a juvenile
Love Match could well be up to Rose Diamond level but still a place would
be good promise here.
Richard Fahey has had a Doncaster debut winner already this year to add
to one last year. He runs She's A Character who has just a middling
2yo pedigree and a solid debut on profile but short of the level for a
better debut. But, the best of the Northern debuts on profile is Kevin
Ryan's Raddy 'Ell Pauline. Ryan has had just one winner (of two
races) to date in a poor season. This filly was retained for a very high
140,000 guineas at the breeze up sales and hard to make a case for that
on pedigree grounds. She is by the new sire Dubawi who has yet to have
a winner but we should be seeing some of his better representatives starting
out soon. The same could be said for the trainer who normally batches up
his better debuts and later May into early June is a good time to expect
to see one. Obviously, if she is 33/1 the confidence goes down a lot &
She's A Character perhaps becomes the one to take Babylonian on with.
In summary, that's all very well in practice but what about the
Theory. Babylonian does not appeal on what she achieved FTO which seem
to lack any hints of the Johnston debut promise. The better of the Southern
debuts looks like Love Match who may be the best filly in the long-term
but would only place normally. Kevin Ryan must have a good one somewhere
to start out soon and the better ones win FTO at this time of the season
which makes Raddy 'Ell Pauline a strong possible on her overall profile.