Tom Stanley: "A Quieter Week But Plenty For The Notebook"

11 min

Dubai and Ireland still provide some quality on the racecourse and Tom picks out a few horses to keep onside.

Not as much action to review as expected this week, for obvious reasons. Dubai and Ireland continued as normal though and there were certainly some performances of note and runners to keep an eye on going forward.

No Need To Write Off North America

Starting with the Meydan action, the two features had two odds-on pokes at the top of the market. Walking Thunder, beaten in the 2000 Guineas, and North America, winner of Round 2 of the Al Maktoum Challenge, had posted massive efforts on their previous starts. If you’re not interested in Meydan betting, apologies (and get interested), but there are angles to play and edges to be found. Huge efforts on the dirt are difficult to back up and horses are often under-priced on subsequent efforts. Both of the above looked different animals this time around.

North America was described by his assistant trainer as weaker and lighter than on his previous start. He’d bolted up but had clearly taken a while to get over it. He still won but was definitely feeling it at the finish. Talk of him idling is nonsense, he was pooped. Now, go back twelve months and he’d posted a career-best in Round 3 of the AMC. His next start was the Dubai World Cup where he missed the break and looked a shadow of the horse who’d won three weeks prior.

Tom makes a strong case for more improvements from North America.

He will now likely be freshened up and go straight to the Dubai World Cup and, with a decent draw, he’ll be tough to beat.

An on-song North America can live with whatever comes over from his namesake. And I’m convinced he’s a superior horse on his day to current champion and favourite Thunder Snow.

Walking Thunder was slower away in the Guineas than ideal and had a far more energy-sapping trip than the winner, Estihdaaf. He was paying the price for that effort from a wide draw in the trial last time out and I’m confident he’ll reverse form with the winner in the UAE Derby. The betting says otherwise. He’s a very, very good horse and this was not his running.

Some Imperial Cup Day Markers

Going back to Tuesday, there was a strong novices’ hurdle at Market Rasen which was also an EBF Final Qualifier. That race will take place at Sandown on Matchbook Imperial Cup Day and the first four get a place. I’ll start with the fifth, favourite Clarendon Street, who may well turn out best of these. He has form with Ballymore Trial winner Birchdale and kept on having looked outpaced when the tempo eventually increased. He raced keenly early too and isn’t one to give up on. The winner wasn’t too far behind the favourite on his last start and was suited by going forward under a smart ride. There was some qualification going on in behind, that is not to say winning wasn’t an option for some but the nature of the race means qualifying is the priority.

Garrettstown, one of my podcast horses to follow this year, is looking a good horse now and would have gone very close with a stronger pace. He’ll be suited by a bigger field handicap, though I worry a little for his mark off the back of this. Sub 130 would be ideal but that’s pretty hopeful and the EBF Final is a hot little heat. I think this was a race which will produce winners.

Garrettstown, one of Tom’s Horses to follow this year got a good gallop at Market Rasen last Tuesday.

A Couple Of Cheltenham Longshots To Note From Naas

In Ireland on Saturday, Naas was the saving grace. Pravalaguna took the feature and she’s looking a far better chaser than she was a hurdler. Benie Des Dieux took this race last year and came back over hurdles to win the mares’ race at Cheltenham but I’m sure fences will remain the aim for Pravalaguna. She’s 46.0 for the Arkle and 41.0 for the JLT with her trainer suggesting the owners would be keen to go to the festival. I’d keep an eye on her mark too. She beat the 142 rated second easily but was getting plenty of weight. A mare won the JLT last year when rated 144 and could have raced in the novices’ handicap chase (though connections will be glad they didn’t!). A Grade 1 at Cheltenham is quite the step up but I think, given her profile coming into this, there’s a chance she’s a touch underestimated wherever she goes.

The following race was won by Band Of Outlaws from stable companion Konitho. The most telling thing here was Joseph O’Brien’s post-race interview. He suggested Konitho is regarded as the superior horse and the winner was suited by his flat speed in a race run at a slow gallop. He went to 26.0 for the Triumph and now heads the betting for the Fred Winter. On that, at least he’s qualified for that race.

I’ve no idea how long the lockdown in the UK will last but it could mean some horses miss intended races and will struggle to get their three runs in for the Fred Winter.

This, should the situation continue for another few weeks (which admittedly looks less and less likely) would give the Irish a massive upper hand.

Konitho despite his second place finish at Naas is strongly fancied to do well at Cheltenham.

Interestingly, the second on the day had beaten the winner on hurdles debut. Maze Runner set his own fractions and was well beaten but this son of Authorized doesn’t have the speed of the winner and appears to want easier ground. He too is qualified for the Fred Winter and is worth keeping in the back of the mind for a wet festival Friday. I’d also not give up on Konitho who was running just thirteen days after his impressive win. He’s better than this and, with his owner/trainer combo having the favourite for the Triumph, could well be another for the handicap. The numbers are key on the day remember…only big prices win the Fred Winter!

Each week Tom is joined by guests such as Rory Delargy, Donn McClean, Sam Turner and Brendan Powell on Matchbook’s Horse Racing Podcast. Subscribe now to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, or on your preferred Podcast app by searching for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’.