Sunday, February 8, 2015

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Preview: Hennessy Gold Cup

15.50 Leopardstown: Hennessy Gold Cup (Grade 1)

Boston Bob, stays the trip and is fine on the ground but has been a bit disappointing in three starts this season. Needs to fin back to his best to feature.

Carlingford Lough was faded badly in the Lexus Chase in December after travelling well until the last. Better ground may well suit today and should strip fitter.

First Lieutenant hasn't won since April 2013 and seems to regress. Chance on best form but plenty to find on recent showings.

Foxrock was an excellent Novice last season and did well this season as well. There might be still a bit improvement left in him, but he has to find a bit with most of this field.

Home Farm is still generally lightly raced and may well be a fresh horse after he fell at the first in the Lexus. He won a Listed chase at Thurles back in November. Has stamina to prove today.

Lord Windermere hasn't shown much since winning the Gold Cup last season. Obviously he is in with a chance judged on his best, but one has to wonder if this is only another prep towards Cheltenham?

On His Own was a strong runner-up in the Lexus after setting a gruelling pace for most parts. Runner-up in the Gold Cup last year and Ruby on board this time.

Texas Jack has all to prove over 3m today and on form shouldn't be good enough.

Verdict: For me this race really evolves around the first three in the market. Foxrock may well have the improvement in him to feature here, but he hasn't shown this kind of level of form that is required here normally, which is the case for Boston Bob, On His Own and Carlingford Lough the case, however. Boston Bob hasn't convinced me this season in his two starts. He was rather fair and square beaten. Obviously on his best he'll be a big runner with the good ground to suit. 

But Ruby has opted for On His Own, the Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, who finished in the same position in the Lexus. He's a hardy horse, never knows when he is beaten. If he can set his own pace, and a less demanding one than in the Lexus, he could be tough to peg back. But how much has this tough recent race taken out of him? 

Carlingford Lough in contrast has only his second start this season. He is an improving animal and the way he travelled super strongly in the Lexus until the last, caught my eye. He faded badly soon after, but on soft ground and first seasonal appearance, that can happen. I imagine him to strip fitter today, and the better ground should suit as well. He may be able to pull out a bit more improvement to put his head over the line when it matters.

Carlingford Lough @ 7/2 Coral - 5pts win

Review: Saturday Highlights

It's been a busy Saturday racing wise. Top class National Hunt in the UK, rounded up by excellent Graded action over in the US during the night - can a racing fan ask for more? Well, I don't think so! But hey, let's quickly reflect on the key points from yesterday...

Coneygree could win a Gold Cup - sooner or later!

You will have seen my preview of the Denman Chase (I hope!) - a really exciting renewal of this Grade 1 at Newbury yesterday. It shaped to be a cracker beforehand, and it turned out to be quite a noteworthy race in the end, indeed! However, none could have foreseen what really happened.

As I stated in my preview, I was extremely sweet on the chance of Novice Coneygree. Lightly raced, a smart hurdler, taking extremely well to fences. An exciting prospect, that is was he was and after yesterday certainly is. He was so impressive at Kempton, such a good, relentless galloper with big potential, when winning the Kauto Star Novice Chase. But yesterday, he brought it to another level. Taking on some really talented, tough & experienced chasers, he jumped off in front and literally ran them into the ground. Turning for home he had the whole bunch sitting in his neck. They were all poised to take him on. Waiting for him to tire and fade. It was the ultimate real test for his class. What would he have left to offer in the home straight? Well, an awful lot, it turned out! He prevailed. Easily. Jumping well, not slowing down, just galloping strongly to the line. It was a demolition job and resulted in a breathtaking seven lengths success in the end. Coneygree has the "WOW factor"! So question is now: Arkle or Gold Cup - what's next?

Grugy's return a jumping error

Staying with jump racing for the moment: Saturday was the day we saw last years Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy back after his long injury absence. He clearly didn't look his old best unfortunately, his jumping wasn't good, he blundered badly at the fourth last and jumped the third last even worse, eventually unseating jockey Jamie Moore. That says the Champion Chase is up for grabs now. Grugy disappointed, so did Sprinter Sacre on his respective seasonal debut. Will both improve towards Cheltenham? Sure, they will. Will they be ever as good and dominant as they used to be in the past? Unlikely.  Un De Sceaux. it's all yours - if you want...

Dortmund plays it well in California

Over to the US and a brilliant card at Santa Anita. Usually at this time of the year, we have to start talking about the Derby - the Kentucky Derby I mean! And I do really wonder: Have we seen the Derby winner at Santa Anita yesterday? Because there is this extremely good looking colt, called Dortmund (how appropriately named, knowing how poorly the once famous German football club of the same named town is playing in the Bundesliga at the moment), who started into his classic season the same way as he ended the last year: with a gutsy performance, landing the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a late surge! This should be a stepping stone for him towards the Derby. Admittedly, I was already mightily impressed with his attitude, presence and long stride when getting up late in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity Stakes in December. A son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown, he should have the right pedigree and the way he races suggests the Derby trip will suit. He's currently trading as the 10/1 ante-post favourite....

Not quite a #TheRematch

Shared Belief made it look easy in the end, when effectively eased down before crossing the line as the clear winner of what was branded as ‪#‎TheRematch‬. He beat California Chrome by 1 1/2 lengths in the San Antonio Invitational. Shared Belief got a perfect start this time - unlike in the Breeders Cup Classic - tracked Chrome's every move, and Mike Smith was probably rubbing his hands when Espinoza let Chrome lose - a bit too early I thought actually. That played into the hands of Shared Belief, who, once looming alongside Chrome in the home straight, went easily past him. Bob Baffert's Hoppertunity ran a fine 3rd, but was never really able to challenge the two big guns. Reflecting on this race, I believe both, Shared Belief and California Chrome will come on for this run. Chrome is going to Dubai and will do well there. He has a chance to win the Dubai World Cup. But only if Shared Belief doesn't go down the same route. Chrome could then be heading for Europe and some of the good turf races in England. Surly it would be interesting to see how he fares over here.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Oh before I forget: It's nice to have a bit of punting success lately again. Coneygree went off a 15/8 favourite. If you followed me, you would have got 7/2, which turned out to be a huge price, as we know now. Also Shared Belief went off the evens favourite, I got him at 7/4 as advised. It wasn't quite 3/3 yesterday. Ballista ran a cracker at Lingfield, made all, and would the winning post come a couple of yards earlier, he would have won. A narrowly denied third is what he ended up. 

What's on the tab today

Well, I could write a long essay about what all the great racing today. But I believe, sometimes an image can speak for thousand words. So just look at this below - I don't think I need to say more! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

PREVIEW: San Antonio Handicap (Grade 2)

Branded as the re-match", the San Antonio Handicap is certainly a spicy affair given the clash of the two big guns of US racing, Shared Belief and California Chrome. The latter one as the excellent Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes winner, who didn't quite stay the Belmont trip but redeemed himself with an fine third in the Breeders Cup Classic as well as a subsequent Grade 1 win on turf. Chrome looked a very ready colt throughout his three year old career, who has had already 16 starts, and while I believe that he should be capable to run good races this year, I'm wondering how much improvement he has left, or if he is even capable to maintain the pretty high standard he set last season. We'll see. Connections are positive and want to bring him to Dubai and Europe. 

I'm surprised to see Shared Belief not being clear favourite in the betting. This brilliant gelding had an outstanding 3yo career. He missed the Triple Crown series but improved throughout the middle of the season, winning three Grade 1's including the Pacific Classic, when beating Toast Of New York, who should finish subsequently runner-up in the controversial Breeders Cup Classic. A race that was lost for Shared Belief right at the start, when heavily bumped twice within a couple of seconds, in fact almost knocked off completely. He did well to finish 4th eventually and would have gone much closer without all the trouble early on. What a hugely talented horse this Shared Belief is - albeit a rather smallish stature - proved his last start in 2014 when he took on some top class sprinters, dropping down to an inadequate 7f trip, yet winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes. He'll be much more home over the 9f trip today.

Can Hoppertunity spoil the party? Bob Baffert's four year old missed the Derby due to injury, but has nicely progressed, won the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and started into the new year with a fine success in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes here at Santa Anita. He looks big and scopy, more potentially to come, but isn't the quickest as it appears and more of a battler, then a hugely talented individual. He's a nice price, and I feel tempted for that reason and may slap myself if he does win indeed. But effectively, I just don't see him as a talented individual as Shared Belief is, who should simply be a better horse. Also there is the additional fact that Hoppertunity prefers a softer, deeper dirt, like at Churchill where he won the Clark. And while his most recent success came here at SA, his Beyer rating wasn't as impressive. I believe he will have to bring his absolute best to the table to beat the two big guns today, and since it is rather unknown if he can produce that here at this track, I'll leave him alone and stick with my initial selection, which is Shared Belief, for whom form & talent speaks, and who looks overpriced. I'm pretty convinced that he improves past California Chrome and will set the record straight today. 

Shared Belief @ 7/4 PP - 10 pts win

Preview: Lingfield - 3.45 Handicap

Boom The Groom: Improving over the winter on AW. Nice winner over CD on penultimate start. 3lb higher now. Tough task in hot conditions stakes lto. May still do better.
Go Far: Last seen in November. Not travelling at all but eye-catching finish over 6f at Wolverhampton. Much improved last season, career highest required, 5lb above last wining mark.
Nocturn: Off for a good year. Disappointing in all last starts. 1lb above last (turf) winning mark. Hard to know what to expect.
Baddilini: Photo finish runner-up over CD lto, 2lb up in the mark, career best required. Consistent on AW in these races without winning many.
Ballista: Hasn’t shown too much for long time and slipping down the weights. On interesting mark if somewhere back to his best. Front-runner, faded late lto.
Extrasolar: Back after break, never won on AW and never done anything as a fresh horse in the past. Career best required to win.
Money Team: Two fair recent performances, but never won on AW and never over 6f in nine starts. Further down in mark though.

Verdict: Looks a tight race, without one that has too many too obvious win candidates. Obvious favourite is Boom The Groom after some excellent performances. I'm sure he'll run well and has a fair chance to defy his new mark in this field. But he got beaten a couple of times before when having excellent chances as well, so I can't see him a much better than 9/4 chance, therefore no value in the price. Baddilini is very consistent and should run his usual good race. He isn't quite handicapped to win though, and while he has a fair opportunity to achieve a career best here, he is one who finds it hard to get his head in front. He is short enough. 

The other horses and prices make little to no appeal. Money Tam ran okay the last two but the trip looks beyond him and he may need bit more lenience from the handicapper either. No idea what to expect from Nocturn and Extrasolar. Back to their best, and they may be able to feature. I like to think Go Far can improve still a bit. Expect him to run well today but his Lingfield record is off-putting. The one that appears most interesting and overpriced in this field is likely front-runner Ballista. On pure form she hasn't shown much for a very long time, though those last two starts were clearly promising when he was up with a good pace, travelling well, and just fading late without getting too hard off a race. Off another two pounds today, he looks pretty well handicapped on old form. On those two last runs, he looks to be capable of running to such a rating and I feel this here is an excellent chance for him to feature big. if that is enough to win, we'll see, but he looks a smart investment at current odds. 

Ballista @ 7/1 Coral - 5pts win

PREVIEW: Denman Chase (Grade 2)

Harry Tropper: Won this race in heavy conditions last year. Only seen twice since then and both times pulled up. This is easier than latest Betfair Chase. Ground should suit and perfect track record. Hard to know what to expect today, though, and would need to be trusted to find back to form.
Unioniste: Course and distance winner. Back to form when clear winner of Handicap at Sandown last month. CP fitted 1st time. Probably below a bit Grade 2 standard.
Double Ross: Pulled up in King George, all wins came over shorter, has been placed over 3m in the past though. Still stamina to prove to be capable to win Grade 2 over this trip,
Houblon De Obeaux: Runner-up last two, including in Hennessy. Finds it hard to put his head in front these days nonetheless. Trip and ground fine but has a bit to prove on this level.
Coneygree: Unexposed and still lightly raced. Smart hurdler who took very well to fences, won last two in Novice company in Grade 2 & 1 level. Track & trip should suit,
Taquin Du Seuil: Pulled up in King Gorge. Fine runner-up behind Menorah in the Charlie Hall. Bit of a break may have done him no harm. Trip in soft ground conditions slight worry.

Verdict: If Taquin Du Seuil gets his jumping together and has no problem with the soft ground over the 3m today, he'll be a big runner. Houblon De Obeaux as the Hennessy runner-up must be rated a good chance as well. He is in fine form and this race looks one where he could finally win on this high level since leaving the novice ranks. Harry Tropper won this race last year but it's hard to know what to expect from him today. I don't think Unioniste is good enough, neither should be Double Ross. But the lightly raced Coneygree makes plenty of appeal, now going outside Novice company for the first time. He was a smart hurdler and has excelled over the big fences in two career starts so far, most impressively landing the Kauto Star Chase. It would be only appropriate if he'd win subsequently the Denman Chase. He could be anything, but potentially has a good deal of improvement left, and neither trip nor ground conditions should pose a problem for him. 

Coneygree @ 7/2 Bet365 - 5pts win

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Betting: 4th February 2015

6.15 Meydan: Captain Lars @ 16/1 VC 

Intriguing and competitive handicaps. The two horses at the head of the market finished their respective races in eye-catching fashion and over 1.400m they would be clearly the ones to beat. However over 1m this may look different as both have stamina doubts over this trip. Short Squeeze is tipped to do much better today, after he needed his recent outing badly. He looks on a manageable mark, having won a tough Handicap off 5lb lower back in the UK last season.

Mike De Kock has four runners in this field and Ajeeb looks his best chance, however as mentioned above, I have doubts about his stamina. De Kock may have a horse going to post with a better chance to get the trip in Captain Lars, who is a previous Listed winner over 1m in his native South Africa. He was very progressive there and had only a handful of starts today. There may well be more to come. He looked to needed his most recent run quite badly here at Meydan three weeks ago. He should come one allot and Mike De Kock voiced cautious confidence for his chance today. Our Channel is another interesting contender, having been Group 2 placed last summer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Betting: Wednesday 3rd February 2014

15.40 Chelmsford: Rita's Boy @ 33/1 Ladbrokes - 5pts win

This looks much more open race in reality than the betting reflects. Rita's Boy is a huge price and has a good deal to find on the ratings, however the way Chelmsford is riding at the moment, slow and deep, should suit him, who has shown his best around Southwell so far. It' noteworthy that Danny Tudhope comes down for this only ride today for a trainer he has had loads of success in the past. With first time visor fitted, it may well be that Rita's Boy can go much better than one would expect from his last forms. 

16.45 Kempton: Rocket Ronnie @ 10/1 PP - 5pts win

Rocket Ronnie is back after a break and fitness is a concern, but he has his first start for new trainer Ed McMahon who had his small string in fantastic form lately.Gibbons booked is another bonus and confidence boost for the five year old who can race off a feather weight here. The Mahon/Gibbons combo has a 100% strike rate this year (2/2). Rocket Ronnie is 4lb below his last winning mark, and has been a neck beaten off 1lb higher than current last summer in a good Handicap. However he has never raced on All-Weather before. On pedigree he has every chance to get on well though. With the positives outweighing the negatives, a chance his taken on him to prevail today.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

J&B Met Review: Futura a true champion!

Hype - a word, when associated with horses, then often with a negative perception. This is because hyped horses often don't do what everyone expects them to do. They don't live up to the hype and more often than not their names are quickly forgotten again. Happens all the time. Nothing new. 

The more it is astounding what South Africa's Futura has done since he has been hyped to win the countries most prestigious race - the Durban July - last summer. Without ever having won or even contested a a race at the highest level, he was the focus of some huge hype. His ante-post price slashed to only a fraction of it, he went off as one of the favourites on the day of the July. 

He didn't win. He finished 'only' third. Still a remarkable achievement considering that he didn't have the run of the race that day. He didn't quite live up to the hype, but he proved to be a pretty good racehorse. Since then, Futura hasn't looked back. 

Soon he won a deserved first Grade 1, and after a well earned break he started into a new season with a brilliant success in South Africa's most important race over 1.600m, the Queen's Plate. Eventually Futura bagged his third Grade 1 victory yesterday, when he landed the prestigious J&B Met, the countries Premier 10f race, and in its importance only overshadowed by the Durban July. Futura, the second favourite behind last years Triple Crown winner Louis The King, travelled like a dream throughout, and once the home straight opened up, jockey Bernard Fayd'Herbe had only to press the button at the right time.... and whoosh off the went to win the big race! Futura produced an instant turn of foot, flying home to the line. That was easy! That was breathtaking! The world on his feet now, Futura is still a young horse with so much more to come. He truly has lived up to the hype. He's a superstar! 

Sunday Horses - 1st February 2015

13.50 Chelmsford: Class 4 Handicap, 1 mile

Bow And Arrow: Back after half year absence. Won maiden back in August nicely, drawing clear. Should take to new trip. Fair opening mark. 
Thanksgiving Day: Consistent miler. Neck beaten last month at Lingfield, won well off 8lb lower at Kempton good Nursery. Wants to lead.
Golden Highway: Fair debut winner over CD ten days ago. Probably wants further in time. Will enjoy good pace. 
Logorrheic: Good maiden winner at Kempton in November. Off since. 

Interesting little race which does evolve around the odds-on favourite. Bow And Arrow won well a 7f Kempton maiden back in August last year, a form that works out fairly well. He looked that day not the speediest but drew clear in the final furlong, suggesting that a step up in trip will suit, so does his pedigree. So up in trip today must be a plus. Question mark is obviously fitness and if he has trained on over the winter. Also while his opening mark looks fair, it is not a given that he is really up to, as the maiden he won, was a rather dismal one. 

Potentially this will be a pretty fast ride, which most of the four runners enjoying to be up with the pace if not making it all. Thanksgiving Day has excellent form in his book and was just narrowly denied at Lingfield recently. Another 2lb up for that, but he is likely to give another good account and at least is one who is trusted to be up to his current mark. Golden Highway and Logorrheic both won maiden races, while the later one has been off since Novembr after his Kempton win, when he enjoyed very much the run of the race. An opening mark may not beyond him, but doesn’t look overly generous either. 

Same applies for Golden Highway, who has been allotted a mark off 78 for his recent course and distance success. However he’s the least exposed and showed good attitude here last time. A race probably not quite run to suit him from a pace perspective, he battled hard and drew clear eventually. He may need further fairly soon, should however enjoy the likely good pace today. If he is up to his opening remains to be seen as he didn’t beat much here last time. In this rather open looking race, he’s the 6/1 outsider of the field, and that looks too big.

Selection: Golden Highway @ 6/1 VC - 5pts win


15.50 Chelmsford: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 5f

- Kingscombe: Southwell specialist, all career wins there of up to 2m, 5lb above last winning mark.
- Wordiness: Last win almost 2y ago. Still 2lb above this last winning mark. Off since October 2013.
- Taaresh: Good winner over 12f at Kempton in December. 2lb up. Additional furlong shouldn’t be a problem.
- Celestial Bay: Runaway winner at Lingfield in December.Couple of fair efforts since then. Runner-up over 12f at Wolverhampton last week. Looks in grip of Handicapper.
- Jarlath: Couple of turf wins last year, back after break. Won fresh in the past. Career best required.
- Karam Albaari: Excellent run in defeat over 2m here last month. 2lb up in the mark but won off higher in the past. 
- Arashi: Prolifice 2 miler in low grade Handicaps. Fair recent form but in grip of the handicapper. 

Karam Albaari looks the logical winner with his recent strong course run. Dropping in trip shouldn't be an issue. That was clear return to form. If he can be trusted to repeat it, is another question. Consistent Taaresh has been winning three of his last four starts, most recently over 12f at Kempton where he seemed to be always under control, despite the right winning margin. Two pounds up looks far from harsh and the additional furlong shouldn't pose a problem. 

Taarsh @ 13/2 VC - 5pts win

Saturday, January 31, 2015

PREVIEW: J & B Met (Grade 1)

This is the big one - South Africa's premier race over 2.000m, and only overshadowed in its importance by the Durban July. And what a renewal it promises it to be. Now, unfortunately, it lost a bit of its excitement due to the scratching of horse of the year Legislate. The champ suffered from a viral infect which caused him to run below par in the Queen's Plate earlier this month and wouldn't have been ready in time for the Met. While that is unfortunate, the 2015 J&B Met still remains an intriguing contest. We have South Africa's two second-highest rated horses in the field, the brilliant Futura, and last years triple crown winner Louis The King. Those two are expected to fight it out, and since they finished first and second in South Africa's premier mile race last month, it'll be very interesting to see how it pans out today, now over the additional two furlongs. 

Futura was last season the up and coming superstar, hyped throughout the year and particularly before the Durban July, without having ever won at the highest level. However a brilliant third in the July, and a subsequent well deserved Grade 1 triumph, proved that he is no flash in the pan. In fact he has trained on and is back now even stronger it seems. Earlier this month he was able to land the prestigious Queen's Plate, despite a troubled preparation, and over a seemingly trip short of his optimum. Coming from off the pace in a slowly run race, he got a no-nonsense ride to prevail. Considering that he is thought to be better over further, and that the Plate was only a prep, one would hope that he is able to progress again towards the Met, with the additional 400 meters a positive. He's drawn in the middle, right beside his potentially closest pursuer - Louis The King. 

Louis The King. The 2014 Triple Crown winner (Gauteng Guineas, the SA Classic and the SA Derby over trips from 7f-12f) had the Met as his main target in sight since coming back from a seasonal break. Potentially he had the perfect prep in the Queen's Plate, when he finished a close runner-up behind Futura. That day he travelled really well, but in contrast to winner Futura, didn't get a clear passage and had to sit and suffer until late. Once In the clear he finished like a train without being really touched. Connections couldn't have been happier. He didn't get a hard race but clearly showed excellent form over a trip definitely too short of his optimum. He'll be enjoying the 10f trip today and looks the one to beat to my eyes. Class, heart & stamina - he's got it all.

On pure form, it looks hard to look beyond these two. They are top of their generation and with Legislate out, either of those two has the huge chance to win this prestigious race. However there are a couple of pretenders who are worth mentioning at least. Geoff Woodruff's Telina has been the focus of some good ante-post money and trades currently as third favourite - which looks probably a bit surprising, given that he hasn't won in over a year, and never in Grade 1 company. However there is no doubt that on his day, this gelding can be very competitive and a recent fifth in the Queen's Plate was promising. He wasn't quite speedy enough over the mile that day, however wasn't beaten by far and looked to me always like one who actually would enjoy the 2.000m trip. With a good draw today, he should run well.

Justin Snaith won't be saddling his stable star Legislate today, however has five other runners in the line-up and most of them have good credentials. With Arion he's got last years Derby third here today. This four year old colt seems to hit form since he won a prep race a fortnight ago. He's a bit to find on the ratings and this is much tougher today, but he has a good draw which helps his positive tactics. Stable mate Dynamic is also one who likes to be up with the pace, and who enjoys a fine draw today as well. Already a five year old, he's still pretty lightly raced with only eight career starts under his belt. That is because he lost almost two seasons due to injuries. He finished an excellent runner-up in the Derby back in 2013 behind smart Capetown Noir, but then leg injuries hit him badly and he was thought to be unable to race ever again. He got plenty of time out in the field and healed eventually. A little miracle. In September last year he was back and has taken really off since then. Two rather easy tasks with perfect execution followed by a Grade 2 success in December. He has had his time off since then but that is because he is best fresh and Snaith wanted to ensure he is the fresh horse today, giving him the best possible chance to run to his best. No doubt, this Dynamic is the dark horse in the race. Least exposed, with only one start over 2.000m, which was his fine Derby second. He's bred for this trip and is for obvious reasons one who could easily spoil the party. 

Silvano son Power King is another one who is unexposed over 2.000m. He had only one start so far, raced most of the time over shorter, but has been able to stay 2.400m on the sand when runner-up in the Winter Derby. He hasn't quite shown this class on turf yet, but has potential to progress. Veteran Gold Onyx is a consistent runner over various trips. However he's best known for strong staying performances, like when he was a close third in last years Gold Cup. He would hope for plenty of pace to bring his stamina into play. Killua Castle has had even more career starts - 32 - but seems to get better with age. He has always shown his best over slightly shorter, but finished a very good runner-up in the Sommer Cup last November behind Louis The King. A repeat of that sort of performance would see him go close, given that he can see out the trip on his first start here at Kenilworth. 

Last years Met third Puntas Arenas hasn't shown much lately and on pure form looks very much up against it. His recent prep was okay however, and he goes well at this track. This renewal looks stronger than last season, however, and he may need an awful lot of luck to be in the money once again. That all says he is a huge price and might be worth an each-way nibble if one is into it. Jet Explorer ran on strongly in the Queen's Plate, as he did last year already. He subsequently failed to fire in the Met and the same fate looms today as the trip seems simply beyond him. The other three big prices are hard to fancy. Though it is not unusual that one of those longshots finds somehow its way into the money. On form, Helderberg Blue could be the one.

Verdict: On paper it looks impossible to ignore the credentials of the two favourits. They are the one to beat, and it is hard to distinguish those two. Futura won well in the Queen's Plate, but my feeling is that he may have peaked too early, and that Louis The King will benefit most from the longer trip today. For that reason if I'd have to make decision between the two, I'd go with the tripe crown champ. That says, neither is a price to get involved with. Fair prices? Yes. But not generous, and no value. As mentioned above, the dark horse is without the shadow of a doubt Dynamic. The least exposed runner, improving nicely after his return, bred for the trip, loves it around this track, which good draw - he is a very big price. Too big to ignore.

Dynamic @ 14/1 Sportingbet - 5pts win

PREVIEW: Cape Derby (Grade 1)

One of the biggest race days of the South African racing calendar kicks off with the Cape Derby, which historically throws up some legendary winners. Last year it was Legislate, who moved on to win the Daily News and of course the Durban July, which in turn brought him the honour of becoming the 2014 horse of the year. Potentially we have a similar star on our hands in this years renewal, the question is only who is it? Checking the betting, this looks a one-horse race. But is it? 

Well, Act Of War, currently trading a 1/5 favourite to land the Derby, looks certainly the real deal as he's going for seven in a row today! The son of legendary sire Dynasty was only beaten on his racecourse debut, and then only by the narrowest of margins. Since then he never looked back, nicked in a couple of Graded races, with his biggest triumph to date, a decisive victory in the Cape Guineas. All those forms have also worked out very strongly, with plenty of subsequent winners. He looks right now a world class miler. Can he take this form to the next level over an additional two furlongs? That is the main question. Being a son of Dynasty surly helps, so he has enough stamina on his sire side for obvious reasons. Small doubts coming from his dam side though, with that line effectively never having anything produced over further than a mile. So far Act Of War looked special over trips ranging from 1.200m to 1.600m. He'll be hard to beat if he's taking well to the longer distance, that is for sure.

Realistically, there is only one real danger for Act Of War in this field , and that one is coming of course from Mike De Cock. His lightly raced Ertijaal is equally as exciting a colt as it gets. He had only three starts to date after having an injury troubled 2yo old career, and has been rather rushed to get here. He had three starts in the last two month, and one has to see how the takes this amount of racing. However he has been rapidly improving all the same. 

He was far too good on debut and second start, winning by a culminating 16 lengths those two races. Stepping into Listed company earlier this month, he turned on things in the final furlong to get up on the line. He was always going to win once in full flight and finished this task nicely. He looked green an immature all the same though, and will have learned plenty. He's a nice, scopy colt who has already proven his stamina over 2.000m and going back to this trip today, will be a bonus, since he is bred for middle-distance. 

Verdict: It is not worth to look anywhere else, trying to find the winner of this race. The rest of the field should simply not be good enough and it would be a major surprise to see any of those go even close. It seems rather a lottery to determine who else could make the frame. So concentrating on the two fancied runners makes sense. That says I'm going to have a nibble on Ertijaal. Simply for the reason that he has plenty of improvement left in him on what is only his fourth start. With a steep learning curve, and a trip to suit perfectly, he should be a close match for hot favourite Act Of War, as long as he takes the recent starts well. That says, Act Of War looks a special horse and if he stays the trip, will not be beaten. But odder things have happened in racing than a proven star miler fading over the additional two furlongs. 

Ertijaal @ 7/2 Ladbrokes - 5pts win