HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend racing preview. This week the former Talksport tipster focuses on the The StanJames.com Guineas festival at Newmarket.
The StanJames.com Guineas festival is one of the highlights of the racing calendar with the first two classics of the flat season.
All the noises coming out of Ireland suggest champion two-year-old St Nicholas Abbey has wintered extremely well and it is possible that we will see something a bit special on the Rowley Mile this afternoon.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has saddled the winner of the colts’ classic on no fewer than five previous occasions including three of the last five renewals and the grapevine suggests St Nicholas Abbey (3.05) compares favourably with his previous winners. He is plenty short enough in the betting (6/4 with StanJames.com) but his near 4 length victory in the Racing Post Trophy was the best juvenile performance in Europe last year and the form has been franked in spectacular fashion this spring.
We at StanJames, as well as offering Best Odds Guaranteed on the race, will pay out bets on the winner of the two classics over the weekend in Guineas. Thus for those of you under 150 years of age you will get an additional 5% to your winnings.
Riggins has switched stables since disappointing in a valuable York handicap back in July and makes his debut for Andrew Balding in the Newmarket opener. He was held in the highest regard by previous connections and is lightly raced for a six year old. He can reward ew support.
Amour Propre won the StanJames.com Palace House Stakes last year and he can follow up for Henry Candy in the 3.40 although dual Group 1 winner Borderlescott escapes a penalty for his Nunthorpe successes, goes well fresh and is likely to start a short-priced favourite. Candy had an impressive winner at Bath last weekend and has his string in excellent form.
Devil To Pay (2.15) is held by Curacao on Salisbury running last year but the former is taken to take revenge in the Goodwood opener. The selection ran out a comfortable winner on his only start at the Sussex track and I hope to be presenting the prize to Alan King’s four-year-old in the winner’s enclosure.
I am prepared to take a chance on Russian Spirit in the 3.25 despite looking as if 6f stretches her stamina on more than one occasion in 2009. The hope is that she becomes more amenable to restraint as she matures and I believe she is a filly who can land a big prize in 2010.
Sunday’s big race is the StanJames.com 1000 Guineas for three-year-old fillies’ over the straight mile.
I was fortunate enough to sit next to Teddy Beckett, who is racing manager for Prince Khalid Abdullah, at a lunch to celebrate Guineas week on Monday and he was very confident that we will see a very different Special Duty tomorrow from the filly who was beaten in her prep race at Maisons-Laffitte last month.
Special Duty is trained by Criquette Head-Maarek who has saddled the winner of the 1000 Guineas on no less than three previous occasions including with Hatoof in 1992 who was beaten in the same prep race as Special Duty before landing the classic.
I’m not convinced the favourite will get the mile, however, and preference is for the Luca Cumani trained filly Seta who created such a favourable impression when winning on debut and lost little in defeat when third to Pollenator on her only subsequent start.
The money has come for Pollenator this week (14 into 7s with StanJames.com) but Seta partnered by Kieren Fallon is reported to have delighted connections in recent days and appears to be coming to hand at the right time.
Enact (3.55) may need further than 6f later in the year but she looks open to further improvement and with a strong pace, seemingly, guaranteed she can give Sir Michael Stoute and Champion jockey Ryan Moore a winner in the valuable sprint handicap.