Sunday 18 March 2018

Her majesty to step back in time with Dartmouth

The Queen's racing manager John Warren Photo: Tony Gavin
The Queen's racing manager John Warren Photo: Tony Gavin

Wayne Bailey

Quite often, horses from outside the UK and Ireland are ignored by punters simply because it's hard to assess the form from abroad. That means they can go off at higher prices than they should.

The best shortcut I've found for backing international runners is to let the official handicapper do the work for me and I like to back them if they're top-rated in the race in question, especially in the big events.

Despite the fact that they are officially the best horses in the contest, punters still tend to side with animals they are familiar with, and that has meant that foreign top-rated horses have proved profitable if blindly backed in UK Group One and Group Two races.

Since 2009, 27 such horses have raced in Britain and 12 of them won for a healthy profit of 24pts to SP. Trained by Francis-Henri Graffard in France, Erupt is an interesting entry in this afternoon's King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot (4.30) although he doesn't qualify for that little system as he's rated 3lbs inferior to both Dartmouth and Highland Reel.

With no obvious front-runner in today's seven-runner field, connections are worried about where the pace will come from with Erupt normally being a hold-up type. Interestingly, Timeform rate him 1lb clear of the field but at 9/2 in the early markets, I reckon his price is about right.

The Queen provides the favourite for the race named after her parents in Dartmouth, and the Michael Stoute-trained colt ticks the right boxes for me around 5/2.

The last time The Queen won this race with Aureole, Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister (1954), and although strict protocol ensures that racing's most famous owner always appears diffident about her horse's chances, I wonder if she secretly breathed a sigh of relief when the 1/2 ante-post favourite Postponed was ruled with a respiratory infection.

Even before Postponed's name was scratched from the declarations, The Queen's racing manager John Warren seemed quite bullish and described the four-year-old as being in "exceptional form".

The fact that they supplemented Dartmouth at a cost of £75,000 is a vote of confidence in itself although The Queen won't be at Ascot as she's got commitments in Scotland.

Olivier Peslier gets the ride and Stoute certainly knows the type it takes to win the King George having saddled no less than five horses to victory including the famous Shergar back in 1981.

Dartmouth battled hard to beat Aidan O'Brien's Highland Reel in the Hardwicke Stakes last time and I don't think that form will be reversed - although Highland Reel's supporters will point to the fact that Seamie Heffernan was a little unlucky and dropped his whip.

At Chester, no major changes have been made to the course as far as I'm aware but an inside draw in stall one has not proved as lucrative this season with just five winners from 59 races so far. That's a strike rate of 8.5pc which compares poorly with 2015 (14pc) and 2014 (22pc).

Sometimes, there's a reason for these changes in trends but often, it's just part of the randomness one can expect from racing results from time to time.

Considering the place strike rate is holding up well against previous years at 36pc, I'm inclined to think it's the latter and quite a few horses this year have ended up unlucky in-running despite the draw advantage.

Whatever the reason, it means my usual strategy of backing some of the top-rated horses in handicaps from stalls one and two at Chester hasn't produced much profit this term but I'm confident that The Nazca Lines can give the coffers a boost in the Stella Artois Nursery (2.15) around 3/1.

Trained by John Quinn, the Fast Company colt comes here fresh from winning a maiden at Ripon last week and jockey Killian Leonard's 7lb will come in handy in this six-runner field.

At York, it's hard to see anything beating Time Test in the Group Two Sky Bet York Stakes (3.35) although he's priced accordingly and is unbackable at 4/11. Rated 121, he's got 4lbs in hand over Mahsoob.


A large 28-runner field goes to post for the Gigaset International Stakes Handicap at Ascot (3.55) for which Suzi's Connoisseur is a worthy favourite in the early markets around 7/1.

But a strong case could be made for half the field here and I wouldn't put anyone off backing an outsider each-way. It's interesting to note that nine of the last ten winners had previously won at 7f and I'm quite keen on Mick Channon's Lincoln, which is expected to go off somewhere in the region of 25/1.

Rated 104 this time last year, it's been 26 months since he won a race but he's dropped a stone in the ratings since his peak. His latest race when fifth of eight in a minor event at Lingfield last time is forgiven as he found himself in an impossible position.

Today's selections

2.15 Chester: The Nazca Lines

2.45 Ascot: Fair Eva

3.25 Chester: War Glory

3.55 Ascot: Lincoln (e/w)

4.30 Ascot: Dartmouth

Do the double


I'm not too keen on backing horses after just one run but Roger Charlton's Fair Eva, a daughter of Frankel, looked the business when winning at Haydock last month and has an exciting future ahead. That race has already produced a couple of winners and Frankie Dettori can steer her to victory in the Princess Margaret Juddmonte Stakes (2.45 Ascot), priced around 8/11.


Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald underwent minor heart surgery on Wednesday, but I reckon his side are a decent bet to beat Galway in tomorrow afternoon's All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium. Bookmakers have chalked up the Banner at 10/11 following their win over Limerick in the qualifiers but were less impressed by the Tribesmen (11/8) who faded badly in the second-half of the Leinster final against Kilkenny.

Irish Independent

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