Thursday 26 April 2018

Keep it simple and have faith in Ribchester

Jockey William Buick. Photo: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile
Jockey William Buick. Photo: Cody Glenn / Sportsfile

Wayne Bailey

Chinese philosopher Confucius is often quoted as having said something along the lines of "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated".

That phrase can be true in many walks of life but it definitely applies in horse racing, and regular readers will know that when it comes to the top races, I encourage punters to keep things as uncomplicated as possible - especially on the Flat.

Take today's Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.30) for example. A quick look through the list of recent winners which includes Frankel, Canford Cliffs and Paco Boy shows that the cream rises to the top in this race, and it's very rare for the winner to come from outside the top three in the betting.

Although Belardo broke the trend last year, six of the last seven winners were rated above 120, with Frankel a freak of nature at 136.

Frankel would go on to be rated an astonishing 140 which means he was arguably the greatest Flat horse of all time, and while we may never see the likes in the Lockinge again, we've a few decent sorts this year nonetheless.


Dartmouth ridden by Ryan Moore. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Dartmouth ridden by Ryan Moore. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

If the market and rating trends are to be followed, the two horses to focus on are favourite Ribchester (122) and Galileo Gold (121), which are priced 7/4 and 3/1 respectively in the early markets.

In truth, I'm finding it hard to figure out last year's 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold. Any Classic winner must be highly respected wherever they go and Hugo Palmer's colt also won the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, but that came after an unsuccessful attempt at the Irish Guineas and he was later beaten in the Sussex Stakes.

It would be an exaggeration to say the son of Paco Boy can't be trusted but his form certainly tailed off at the end of last season, finishing up with a fifth place to Minding in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, a race in which Ribchester came second.

While Ribchester was beaten fair and square by Galileo Gold in the Guineas, he progressed well, winning the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.

The nine-furlong trip in a Group One at Meydan appeared to stretch him a little in March so his third place is overlooked and he should be more comfortable back down at a mile in the hands of William Buick (below). He's versatile ground-wise, his price is fair, and I see no reason to oppose this afternoon.

Trainer Richard Fahey reckons he's maturing nicely physically this year and his work at home is going very well. Aidan O'Brien's Somehow is in with a chance too although she seems best at slightly longer distances.

In the opening Group Three Aston Park Al Rayyan Stakes (1.50), Midterm will be popular in the betting but Michael Stoute's colt hasn't made much of an impact in his last four races and has a bit to prove.

Stablemate Across The Stars is another one with claims under Frankie Dettori, having won a Group Two, although preference is for Charlie Appleby's Hawkbill, available at the rather generous price of 7/2 yesterday evening.

He made little impression when fifth in a Group One in France recently but it was a good warm-up race and he's best judged on last season's form, in which he won the Group One Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.

He can put in the odd poor run but he has won half of his 12 races to date and has some interesting big-race entries later this season.

Half an hour later on the same card, Richard Fahey's Private Matter seems overpriced around 4/1 for the Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes (2.20) under Ryan Moore.

Usually a front-running type, he wasn't disgraced when fourth in a handicap last time after six months off and he finished up last season with success in a Listed contest in France. He does have a 3lb penalty, which makes things a little harder, but Fahey has said he'll love the ground today, which is expected to be soft.

At Newmarket, Beat The Bank is my idea of a value bet in the Betway King Charles II Stakes, priced in the region of 9/2.

Andrew Balding's charge is seeking a hat-trick of wins here, having scored in a maiden in Dundalk for Darren Bunyan and later won a minor event at Newmarket for Balding. Another son of Paco Boy, his trainer has suggested he might make up into a Jersey Stakes horse.

Richard Hannon's Larchmont Lad deserves a mention too having won a Group Three here last season.

Back at Newbury, Prosper can earn her third win for trainer Roger Varian in the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes (4.40) around 6/1.

A maiden winner at Kempton in November, she is related to some talented horses and traded odds-on before being beaten by Son Of The Stars at Chelmsford in April, but got back to winning ways at Ascot at the start of this month when beating Icespire by a short head.

She looks to have more to come and has an entry in the Oaks, although I'm not quite sure she'd stay that far based on what we've seen, and her price of 66/1 for the Classic is probably about right.

Gracious Diana is 16/1 for the Oaks and should go well too. John Gosden's filly won over course and distance on her seasonal debut in April, beating some promising sorts in the process.


The Palmer-trained Bush House has been given a rating of 81 after three races including a winning maiden at Wolverhampton, and was fourth off that mark last time on his handicap debut at Doncaster.

A son of Canford Cliffs, the colt is learning all the time and may have more to come before the handicapper gets a measure on his talent.

At 14/1 or thereabouts, I'm happy to take him each-way in the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup Handicap (2.55 Newbury).

Century Dream may well go off as favourite and is respected for Simon Crisford. He raced a little freely when third on his handicap debut at Sandown last month but if he settles a little better today, he's sure to go close off at rating of 87.


1.50 Newbury: Hawkbill

2.05 Newmarket: Leshlaa

2.20 Newbury: Private Matter

2.40 Newmarket: Beat The Bank

2.55 Newbury: Bush House (e/w)

3.30 Newbury: Ribchester

4.40 Newbury: Prosper

Irish Independent

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