16:55 – MansionBet Handicap (Class 3) 3yo 0-90 – 1m
Count Of Amazonia ran in some nice races last season as a Juvenile, finishing 6th on debut at Ascot over 7f behind Enemy (89) and Law Of Peace (85) – just keeping on at the one pace. A step up in trip looked like it would suit this Son of Lope De Vega, and he got that for his next start at Yarmouth in September – running in a hot 1m Novice Stakes. Travelling in a more prominent position that day, Count Of Amazonia once more didn’t quicken against some nice Horses – staying on at the same pace to finish 6th, but this time a lot closer to the winner. The Horse who won that day was John Gosden’s Ursa Minor (86), who looks like an exciting Colt having previously placed in Maidens amongst the likes of Military March and Al Dabaran.
Connections switched tactics on Count Of Amazonia when last seen on the track, running in a 7f Novice event at Newcastle on the AW. As this Colt stays a mile, Andrea Atzeni took him to the front that day where he led from the 5f marker. Taking up the running really seemed to suit Count Of Amazonia, as instead of suddenly needing to quicken, he could wind up the pace steadily. This Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum Colt stayed on nicely that day to win by a length, beating Khaloosy. This exciting Roger Varian Horse has since boosted the form by winning a Wolves Novice event by 4½ lengths, and in the process has earned himself an official rating of 94. Considering Count Of Amazonia beat that rival by a length, an official rating of 83 looks very lenient on Handicap debut. Stepping back up to a mile having had the winter to strengthen up should suit him well, and you’d imagine that he wouldn’t be inconvenienced by the forecast rain considering his running style and Sire. Richard Hannon was the winning-most trainer at Newbury last year with a 15% strike rate, showing an impressive +38.39 level stakes profit. When you delve into the stats further, Richard Hannon also has a 23.1% strike rate with three-year-old Colts/Geldings at Newbury in 1m-1m1f Handicaps since 2016.
Among the dangers in the field is Breathalyze, who won twice at Chester last season over 7f and 7½f. He beat the same rivals on each occasion, but between those victories is a piece of form that could potentially leave him well Handicapped. Breathalyze was only beaten a length by Berkshire Rocco on the 31st August, a Horse now rated 104. You do have to take that form with a pinch of salt however, as Berkshire Rocco has shown dramatic improvement stepping up from 7f to 1m2f+, finishing 3rd in the Zetland Stakes and then 2nd in the Lingfield Derby Trial. In fact, Berkshire Royal was only given an official rating of 84 for beating Breathalyze. Tom Dascombe’s interesting runner is now rated 88 for his efforts, so I fancy Count Of Amazonia to get the better of him receiving 5lbs.
17:55 – MansionBet at Newbury Handicap (Class 2) 4yo+ 0-100 – 1m4f
One of my strongest fancies of the evening is Away He Goes, who makes his Handicap debut for Ismail Mohammed. This four-year-old began his career on Newmarket’s July course last June, running in a 1m2f Novice Stakes. Slowly away from the stalls that day under Sean Levey, this Son of Farhh made ground quickly to travel prominently in third position. Switched to the outside to challenge from the 3f marker, Away He Goes showed a tenacious attitude to battle on under pressure, running on well to take second. The winner that day was none other than subsequent Group 2 Great Voltigeur and Group 1 St Leger winner Logician (118), who already had a victory to his name when winning at Newmarket. Considering Away He Goes got within 1¾ lengths of that more experienced rival on his first ever racecourse start, clearly speaks volumes about his ability.
Away He Goes went to Newbury for his next start in July last year, running in another 1m2f Novice Stakes. This Colt was slowly away from the stalls once again that day (Not helped by stall 1 being detached from the rest of the field), but he made smooth progress from the rear – cruising down the inside running rail. When asked for his effort from Sean Levey, Away He Goes was brave to go through a tight gap and assert inside the final furlong to win by half-a-length back to Passion And Glory (93). This form is also looking really strong thanks to the third placed Hamish (108), who’s since won two Class 2 Handicaps at York off 92 and 98. Away He Goes was last seen on the racecourse when contesting a 1m4f Novice Stakes back at Newmarket’s July course 2 weeks after his Maiden success. Faster out of the stalls that day, Away He Goes raced prominently in second, tracking old rival Passion And Glory. Travelling powerfully as ever, Away He Goes once more showed his game attitude when in a battle to go on and win by half-a-length, despite carrying a penalty for his Newbury success. Considering Passion And Glory has twice boosted the form since, it was a very good effort from Away He Goes to beat that rival again, despite being 6lbs worse off the second time around.
Away He Goes has been given an official rating of 95 for his efforts to date, and I think this mark is very fair. This course winner looks an exciting middle-distance Horse to follow this season, and I would expect him to be ready first time up under regular rider Sean Levey. Trainer Ismail Mohammed has only had 6 runners since racing resumed, but he did have a 40/1 winner at Kempton on Wednesday, so his Horses are seemingly ready to go first time up. Ismail has a good record with runners at Newbury, recording a 25% strike rate since 2016, and he also has a good record with 4yos, with a 20.9% strike rate across all tracks since 2016. It is interesting that Away He Goes will have first-time cheek prices applied on Handicap debut, but this wouldn’t concern me.
17:10 – Equine MediRecord Handicap 3yo+ – 6f
If this race doesn’t come too soon, then Dark Vader looks to have an outstanding chance back in Handicap company. This Joseph O’Brien Horse has been a bit of a star for the yard over the winter, running four times at Dundalk and winning three of them. Last summer Dark Vader run some good races as a two-year-old, finishing 4th to Arizona on debut before then only three-quarters-of-a-length second to subsequent Group 2 July Stakes winner Royal Lytham (111). His last start in the Summer came back at the Curragh in June, finishing 4th to Roman Turbo (101), who won a Group 3 on his next start. Given a break after this, Dark Vader made his first start at Dundalk a winning one when beating Hieroglyphic by 2¼ lengths, and he just didn’t stay 1m when 4th to stablemate Choice Of Mine (runs in the Gallinule Stakes) on his next start. Back down to 6f in January, Dark Vader returned to form by once again winning easily, beating Power Ahead by 2¼ lengths.
Dark Vader made his Handicap debut at Lingfield in February, finishing second to Auchterarder (92). Although that doesn’t sound too promising, Oisin Murphy’s saddle slipped that day, so he did incredibly well to only go down by 1¼ lengths. Back at Dundalk in March, Dark Varder returned to winning ways by landing a really nice three-year-old conditions race. Dark Vader stayed on gamely under Dylan McMonagle that day to beat You’resobeautiful by a neck, and that Horse has since boosted the form by winning a Maiden at Navan on Wednesday. The third The King Of Kells (86) was 3rd in a good Handicap on Naas’ sole Flat meeting in March, but most importantly the 5th Punita Arora (was rated 97) went on to win the Listed Committed Stakes at Naas on Monday, beating Alligator Alley (104) and Pistoletto (103).
Dark Vader was another to run on Naas’ original Flat Season opener in March before the lockdown, where he was sent off the 5/2 favourite. The soft to heavy ground that day would’ve been completely against his chances however, and he was beaten by 4 lengths into second by the well Handicapped Fastar. Despite a decent way off the winner, Dark Vader still pulled 3 lengths clear of the remainder, despite ground conditions being against him. This promising Joseph O’Brien charge took his chance in the Listed Trial Stakes at Leopardstown on Tuesday this week, where he ran a nice race from the front, but faded out in the final furlong over the 7f trip to finish 4th. That was no surprise to me as he doesn’t seem to see out his races over trips longer than 6f, but he still ran well in Listed company. Dark Vader drops back to 6f and back into Handicap company at the Curragh tomorrow, where he will receive an 8lbs 3yo allowance, and conditional jockey Dylan McMonagle steps back on board to take off a further 7lbs. If this race doesn’t come too soon after Leopardstown on Tuesday, then his race fitness will be a huge advantage, and I have little doubt he’ll be well handicapped off 92 with all the allowances on top. Another positive is that he likes to race prominently, which last year was favourable at the Curragh.
18:10 – Coolmore Ten Sovereigns Gallinule Stakes (Group 3) 3yo – 1m2f
Mythical ran four times as a Juvenile, and he was always going to need a trip being by Camelot out of a Cape Cross Mare. This Colt finished 6th on debut at Leopardstown when given an education ride over 7f, staying on at the one pace behind some nice Horses in Cormorant and Agitare. Stepped up to 1m for his next start at Gowran Park in September, Mythical showcased just how good he can be when bolting up by 8½ lengths – relishing the extra distance. It would be Group company for this wide-margin Maiden winner going forward, with his first start coming in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes at Newmarket in October. Mythical got stuck behind a wall of Horses that day under Ryan Moore, but he stuck to his task well to finish fourth – running behind some nice types such as Max Vega (110) and recent Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Miss Yoda (102) on his first try at 1m2f. Mythical rounded off his season when running in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud just two weeks later. Ridden by Mickael Barzalona, Mythical challenged for the lead with 2f left to run, but he was just outstayed by Mkfancy – keeping on to eventually finish third, with stablemate Arthur’s Kingdom taking second near the line. The ground was absolutely bottomless that day at Saint-Cloud, but Mythical once more showed his ability to place in Group 1 company – and his stablemate Arthur’s Kingdom (107) is another Derby type Horse for this season.
Mythical returns to calmer waters in Group 3 company on Friday evening, and an official rating of 106 means he’s already rated 10lbs+ clear of these rivals. The Curragh will see him return to the fastest ground he’s encountered since his education debut, but there should be more to come from this Ballydoyle Colt this Season, who holds entries in the Irish Derby and Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot next week.
16:40 – Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden 3yo – 1m2f
Lough Cutra only ran once as a two-year-old last season, but the form is working out extremely well. This Ger Lyons charge ran in a 7f Maiden at the Curragh in October on Soft ground, keeping on strongly to the line under Colin Keane to finish half-a-length second. The rival he was just unable to pass that day was Ten Year Ticket, who boosted the form no end this week by winning the Listed Trial Stakes at Leopardstown on Tuesday. The Horse back in third that day was Aidan O’Brien’s Tiger Moth, and he also boosted the form on Tuesday by winning a 1m2f Maiden at Leopardstown under Wayne Lordan. Lough Cutra was one of the lucky few who managed to get a run at Naas in March on what was supposed to be the first day of the Flat Season, and once more he ran a nice race. Stepped up to 1m for the first time, Lough Cutra again stayed on all the way to the line, but this time he finished third behind two nice Horses in Russian Emperor and Lobo Rojo. The former is another Horse to have boosted our selections form this week, as he finished half-a-length second in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
Lough Cutra has received three very nice form boosts this week, but in terms of his chances back at the Curragh, stepping up to 1m2f will surely see him in better light. This three-year-old has already achieved a fair chunk on the track, and the fact that he was on the go before lockdown should be an advantage for him tomorrow – so I’d expect him to be able to land a Maiden. The Ger Lyons team have started to hit stride too, recording a double at Gowran Park on Thursday.