Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Down Royal, Newmarket, Santa Anita and Wetherby. View selections below
It is hard to know where to start with such a magnificent weekend of racing including the Breeders’ Cup from Santa Anita, the Bet 365 Charlie Hall Chase from Wetherby and the Grade 1 JnWine Chase from Down Royal.
Let’s start with tonight’s Breeders Cup and in the Classic due off at 12.35 I can’t see past Game On Dude, runner up in the corresponding race back in 2011 but a disappointing favourite 12-months ago, who can make it third time lucky. Trainer Bob Baffert wasn’t happy with the ride his gelding was given last year and jockey Mike Smith is unbeaten on the horse this year when he has carried all before him. As with all dirt races the start will be important and Baffert insisted his horse lost
Planteur and Declaration Of War are the British interest with the latter having his first start since landing the Juddmonte International at York back in August; Aidan O’Brien has never saddled the winner of the Classic, although Giant’s Causeway was only beaten a neck by Tiznow at Churchill Downs, and the concern with the British horses is they get too far back but there is sure to be a speed duel up front and Declaration Of War oozes class. He is a fascinating contender but I thought Game ON Dude looked really well when he worked at the track earlier in the week.
The Europeans really should have a couple of winners on the card though with Dank (7.43) in the fillies’ and mares’ turf and The Fugue (10.22) in the 1m 4f Turf; the former put up a career best performance when easily winning the Beverly D Stakes at Arlington back in August and she will bounce off the forecast firm ground with Ryan Moore keeping the mount.
William Buick does the steering on The Fugue who was an unlucky loser in the fillies’ race last season but takes on the boys stepping up in trip 12-months later. Ballydoyle’s Irish Guineas winner Magician is a fascinating contender stepping up in trip; he looked a Derby horse when scoring at Chester in the BetVictor.com Dee Stakes in May but then sluiced up at the Curragh back at a mile. He has not been seen since finishing last of nine in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and there are mixed messages from his breeding as to whether he will stay 12f.
At Wetherby At Fishers Cross (3.00) is hard to oppose for Rebecca Curtis and AP McCoy who, at the time of writing, is eight short of 8000 winners; the selection may want softer ground going forward but you don’t ride 3992 winners and counting without knowing the time of day and it is sure to be a decent test.
I would have been very keen on Harry Topper (3.35) if the ground was testing in the Charlie Hall but little rain is forecast and former Gold Cup winner Long Run is difficult to oppose for Nicky Henderson and Sam Waley-Cohen.
If normal service is resumed at Wetherby I am hoping there is a changing of the guard in Ireland as I am sweet on the chances of Mount Benbulben who I have backed at a big price for the King George and at 7/1 for today’s JN Wine Chase at Down Royal at 2.30.
The selection has always had stacks of ability but was incredibly frustrating last season until everything fell right at Punchestown when he ran away with a Grade 1 chase; yes he was helped by a number of fancied runners failing to complete the course but he must go right-handed and trainer Gordon Elliot has said this horse will be his flag-bearer this season.
The brilliant Sizing Europe has never won over 3m and he will be 12 at the end of the year but he is obviously the main danger having made a winning reappearance at Gowran Park (2m 4f) last month.
There is a fascinating mile handicap at Newmarket and like the look of Buckstay (2.20) trained locally by Peter Chapple-Hyam; 3-y-olds have won the race three times in the last four years and think the selection and John Gosden’s Magistral can fight out the finish.
I shall be at Ascot where I hope to see a winning hurdling debut