By the time Public Opinion’s next issue is posted, Jamaica’s first classics will have been run so readers must be satisfied with this very early preview.
This one is troublesome as new ante-post favourite, Lady Blue, presents something of a puzzle. For some unknown reason, she was fitted with blinkers for her first three races as a 2yo. I don’t believe in running 2yos in blinkers unless there’s an obvious problem but I’ve no intention of second-guessing Wayne DaCosta. Despite placing each time (winning one) her performances weren’t exciting and, on her third run, she was comprehensively beaten by hyped 2yo Corazon.
The headgear was removed for her fourth 2yo start (November 24) and she improved markedly (stepped up to 1400m) making most and finishing only 1¼ lengths second to Corazon. Without blinkers for 2019, she has trained on brilliantly clocking an impressive 1:13.3 for 1200m (February 23, on a fair track). A month earlier, old rival Corazon had clocked 1:12.4 (on a fast track; corrected time 1:13.1’ carrying 1.5kg less than Lady Blue).
In the Thornbird (1400m) on March 16, Lady Blue (receiving 3kg) confirmed she had improved past Corazon by making all impressively with Corazon 4th, seven lengths in arrears. Adjusted to 57kg, her Terrible Tout Speedfigure (TTSF) for that race is 98 equalling the standard for a 1,000 Guineas winner. But I can’t shake the nagging doubt that her stamina may be stretched at 1600m and her running style makes her vulnerable to an improving come-from-behind filly.
The obvious danger is Thornbird 2nd Princess Ava who, on only her third start, was gaining at the end (2 lengths 2nd) and seems sure to improve again at 1600m. She won at 1600m on her second start in a time (corrected for the track variant and adjusted to 57kg) of 1:41.1 or a TTSF of 90p (p = improvement expected). She shouldn’t be far away.
If there’s a value bet in the race it must be CASUAL DRINK who hasn’t yet replicated her exciting debut form (1100m) when she tracked the leader, led at the top of the lane and drew off emphatically final 200m in the manner of one who would relish further. She returned three weeks later (September 29) as the 3/5 favourite (1200m) but was beaten 2 lengths by Top Shelf. Still, the way she kept on resolutely in the last 200m again suggested sprinting wasn’t her strong suit.
It looks as if something went amiss because she wasn’t seen out again in 2018. On her re-appearance (February 23; 1200m) she stumbled at the start and ended up 7 ½ lengths 3rd to Lady Blue (held up this time; wide at the quarter; stayed on very well final 400m). this was a creditable effort.
But, next time (The Thornbird), she was fitted with cheekpieces (why?); chased the early pace and weakened out of it up the lane. Then, on March 27, dropped back to 1100m (obviously needed another run) running against some smart colts, she again pressed the pace; had every chance at the top of the lane (leader there) but was outpaced up the straight.
CASUAL DRINK’s front joints were taped on her first two 3yo starts and more protective bandages used on March 27 so it seems there’s a need for careful protection. Therefore she probably wasn’t fully wound up for any of her 3yo starts. Next weekend, if she takes her chances in the classic, she’ll be trying 1600m for the first time. She should be a cracking each-way bet.
Although the pre-season favourite Run Thatcher Run suffered a well publicized training setback, his iconic conditioner has, as always, accepted the hand he was dealt and done what was needed. His 2yo Stakes win produced a corrected time of 1:39.1 or a TTSF of 110. It was 3/5th second faster than Overnight Allowance/2,000 Guineas winning standard (1:39.4 or TTSF 104).
After the setback, his 1500m run on March 30 (second in a week) produced a TTSF of 105 which is already more than good enough for this race. He should be better than that next week but there’s a nagging doubt because of the rushed preparation and three races in such a short time so the value lies in opposing him with TOONA CILIATA who has improved with every race and looks nailed on to improve again over 1600m. His Prince Consort win produced a TTSF of 104p.
These two could fight out a thrilling finish with TOONA CILIATA marginally preferred. Sebastian (another improver whose last run produced a TTSF of 100p) could be next best and Supreme Soul (more a Derby type) 4th.
This regular review of local performances is based on REAL times.
Abbreviations: CT = “Corrected Time”; TV = “Track Variant” (a calculation of the effect of track conditions on official times to arrive at “real” or “corrected” times); TVs are in fifths of a second; “minus” means a fast track; “plus” a slow track (e.g. -2 means fast by 2/5ths of a second). Variants beside horse’s names represent the difference between its official time and the grade standard.
March 27, 2019 [TV-0.142 per 200m (Round); -4 (straight)]
DUKE (-5) produced a taking turn of foot over an unsuitably sharp trip (Race 6; 3yonw2/imported maidens; 1100m; TV+1; KEY RACE) to win going away by 2½ lengths from importee DYNA’S PRIDE (-1) with PHENOM (-2’), 3rd, a nose further behind. The winner’s CT (1:06.4) is only 1/5th second faster than nw3 but he’s a stayer so this is very encouraging going forward!
The 2nd’s CT (1:07.2’) is comparable with the standard for imported maidens (1:07.3) but she’s also a stayer and this is only her 2nd start in headgear so she should be winning one of these over 1600m+
The 3rd, PHENOM (-2’) hasn’t progressed as much as the winner but his CT (1:07.2’) is 2½ lengths faster than nw2. He can win one of these.
Overseas Betting Opportunities (OBOs)
Tomorrow is the Grand National for which my long lost love Blaklion is a very late scratch. This has meant that last year’s Scottish National winner JOE FARRELL is likely to get in and he has a chance second to none after his two runs this season have put him spot on for the race. His trainer Rebecca Curtis, who is also a part-owner, has saddled a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in the past. Her barn is down on numbers now but really excited about JOE FARRELL’s chances. She was quoted as saying:
“He’s everything you’d want in a National horse; he stays well, he’s won a Scottish National; has a nice low weight; jumps well; has a high cruising speed, and he’s a relatively fresh horse for the spring.
“He’s 3lb well in and I think he’s on quite a nice rating. Although he’s ten, he started his career late, so he’s relatively unexposed and he’s not your typical old handicapper”.
Get in early and often!
Dangers are headed by Anibale Flyer, 4th last year and most recently a staying on 2nd in the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup after a gentle preparation. Rathvinden won the Grade 3 Bobbyjo Chase (Fairyhouse) on February 23 and, based on that, he could be hard to beat.
Joe Farrell’s defection to Aintree leaves the way clear for dour stayer BEWARE THE BEAR in next week’s Scottish Grand National (4m; April 13) at Ayr. He’ll need plenty rain but, once the ground is soft, he could be a good thing.
Readers should note that last issue’s notebook horse Cartwright is entered at Aintree TODAY in a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle (1345 GMT). At time of writing, 12/1 is generally available.
On the flat, my early Lincoln selection Kynren was 2nd at 10/1 so each way backers got off to a great start for the new turf season. More after the Grand Nationals are behind us.
Don’t forget the Masters tees off at Augusta on April 11 and although his odds have been savagely cut, I’m still big on RORY MCILROY to win despite the course not exactly fitting his eye. I wouldn’t be surprised to see young Thai hopeful Kiradech Aphibarnrat (T15 3 years ago and has been working on his health and fitness with admirable results) or Chinese rising star Li Hao Tong go close. Both are excellent with the short stick and this is a crucial discipline on Augusta’s large, undulating and difficult greens.
Finally, a Notebook horse for the flat:
LEDHAM [4yo b.c Shamardal- Pioneer Bride (Gone West)] Two wins, two seconds and a third from five 3yo starts bodes well for this unexposed colt’s 4yo career. He’s expected to show marked improvement at or around a mile and it wouldn’t be surprising if he became a serious contender for the Royal Hunt Cup. His two wins came on synthetics.