Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann marks your card at Churchill Downs, Wincanton, Down Royal, Doncaster and Sandown.
The Breeders’ Cup is the weekend racing highlight with the brilliant unbeaten six-year-old American mare Zenyatta looking to retire after a 20th successive victory in the big race of the night the Classic. She gave the boys a start and a beating on the Pro-Ride surface of Santa Anita last year but can she follow up on the Kentucky dirt?
The whole of America is behind her, but it should be noted that she has only run once against the boys in her 19 career wins and there are some, myself included, who do not feel she will be as effective on today’s surface especially as her come from behind tactics will mean she will get her fair share of kickback.
Looking At Lucky (10.45) would have been a confident selection had it not been for his dreadful draw in stall 13 but the hope is that jockey Garrett Gomez can get the Preakness Stakes’ winner into a challenging position at the first bend from his coffin box. The selection has eased in the betting from 7/2 to 5/1 with StanJames.com as a result of the draw but we should know our fate by the first turn.
If Zenyatta is to retire undefeated she is likely to have to pass the vast majority of the field and she normally circles her field. She showed last year she was a special mare. Tonight will show us if she deserves to be called one of the sports’ greats.
Earlier on in the card French winning machine Goldikova is bidding to become the first horse in history to land three Breeders’ Cups. She showed she was as good as ever when winning the Prix Foret at Longchamp last time and has finished in front of Paco Boy on each of the four times they have met. She overcame a moderate draw at Santa Anita last year and could have been more fortunate with the draw again tonight.
Ryan Moore takes over from Richard Hughes on Paco Boy as the latter is embroiled in a battle for the jockeys’ title which has gone down to the wire at Doncaster. It would be somewhat ironic if Paco Boy was to finish in front of Goldikova for the first time without the assistance of Hughes, but I look elsewhere for the winner and suggest Gio Ponti (8.40) can keep the prize at home.
The forecast firm ground won’t inconvenience Gio Ponti who finished runner up to Zenyatta over 10f in last year’s Classic. He will need an end-to-end gallop at a mile given he needs holding up, but he showed a smart turn of foot at Keeneland last time and may cause a shock.
The dual former Gold Cup winner Kauto Star (2.25) is in action at Down Royal and cannot be opposed given there remain stamina doubts about his main market rival Arkle winner Sizing Europe staying 3m. Kauto Star is nearing his 11th birthday and is unlikely to be getting any better, but he goes well fresh, is arguably better going right-handed and ought to make a winning reappearance.
As long as there is no significant rain at Wincanton I am keen on the chances of Kerada (1.40) who has a big pull in the weights with Banjaxed Girl on Newbury running back in the spring. Some of the stables’ inmates have been needing a run but as long as the ground is no worse than good to soft Kerada must take some beating off 10st 5lbs.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a couple of runners in the Elite Hurdle and jockey bookings would suggest that American Trilogy is the one despite not having run for 690 days. The grey is a former Festival winner but I just favour Tito Bustillo (2.10) in a cracking renewal. The selection showed with his two wins at Taunton last year that a tight handed track is his optimum conditions and this could be his best chance of a big race win this term.
I hope the 2010 flat jockeys’ title is shared by Paul Hanagan and Richard Hughes and the latter is aboard Senate (3.10 Doncaster) who has long been at the top of my November Handicap shortlist and will appreciate the forecast good to soft ground.
At Sandown Sonny Mullen (3.30) is taken to go one better having jumped well on his chase debut at Ffos Las over 2m 4f. Kim Bailey has his horses in excellent form and with the step up in trip a plus he merits nap material.