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6 Jul 2020

Trainer Michael Bell Aiming for His First Nunthorpe Victory in Almost a Decade

Although Battaash's proposed participation in August's Nunthorpe Stakes is likely to dominate the headlines, Michael Bell is hoping to spring a surprise with the unbeaten The Lir Jet. The Newmarket trainer does have history in the Group 1 event having saddled Margot Did back in 2011, and he will be hoping that the Qatar Racing-owned colt can end his almost decade-long drought in this sprint event. Two-year-old competitors don't tend to fare well in this 5f contest, and with plenty of experienced rivals set to line-up on the Knavesmire once again this summer, it's shaping up to be a suitably competitive renewal. Since the aforementioned Margot Did triumphed nine years ago, three of the subsequent winners have been aged seven, whilst Michael Dod's Mecca's Angel was a four-year-old when clinching the first of two consecutive victories in the event. Despite his lack of maturity, The Lir Jet will certainly attract plenty of interest pre-race and at 10/1 in the latest ante-post horse racing betting, he is expected to go close at the end of August. 

He was last seen triumphing in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, seeing off the challenge of US raider Golden Pal. Wesley Ward's charge blazed a trail, but despite appearing to have done enough with a furlong left to race, The Lir Jet and Oisin Murphy had other ideas. It was a fifth success at the royal meeting for the trainer, and with the race having been added to the Breeder's Cup "Win and You're In" series in 2018, the 59-year old may view the Nunthorpe as the perfect preparation for a trip to Keeneland at the beginning of November. 

Prior to his all-conquering display in Berkshire, the speedy two-year-old had caught the eye in East Anglia, breaking the Yarmouth track record with a time of 59 seconds. The newcomer won by almost three lengths and showed a tremendous amount of early speed to leave his nine rivals competing for the minor honours. His sire, Prince of Lir also enjoyed a winning start and was successful in the Norfolk Stakes. However, that proved to be his final career victory, with his subsequent three outings proving to be hugely underwhelming affairs. Unlike Robert Cowell's charge, The Lir Jet is expected to follow up his wonderful performance at Royal Ascot, and a trip to York could provide him with the ideal opportunity to secure a memorable hat-trick.  He will face stiff competition from Battaash, who dominated in the King's Stand Stakes in mid-June. He romped home in last year's Nunthorpe and is likely to take some stopping in 2020. Charles Hills' stable star is versatile ground-wise and is likely to go off at an odds-on price for this year's event. However, as his disappointing performance in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp proved, he is fallible, and The Lir Jet could be the one to take advantage this time around.  The experienced handler has enjoyed success in a number of top-class events during his distinguished career with notable winners in the Goodwood Cup, the Irish Oaks and the Golden Jubilee, yet it's been almost ten years since he last tasted victory in the Nunthorpe. The Lir Jet is a progressive type and is already shaping up to be one of the UK's classiest sprinters, and he could help Michael Bell to get back to winning ways at the Ebor Festival later this summer.

2 Jul 2020

Kameko to Emulate Mill Reef in Epsom Derby

There is a buzz in the air and I can understand why. With Coronavirus being a thorn in the side of sports fans across the United Kingdom, many horse racing fans questioned whether they would see the greatest race of them all... 

The Epsom Derby, which is set to be run at 4:55 Epsom, Saturday 4th July. 

Not only is it a race to savour with a 17-stong field but it's a chance to make history for the Balding family as Andrew tries to emulate the success of his father Ian who won the Epsom Derby in 1971 with Mill Reef, ridden by Geoff Lewis, in the ownership of Paul Mellon. 

Their two-length success proved a reference point for Kingclere Stables as this bay colt in the familiar black, gold cross and stripe on cap made a name for himself winning top-class races including the Coventry, Gimcrack, Dewhurst, Derby, Eclipse, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Prix Ganay and Coronation Cup. 

In fact, he won 12 of his 14 races and second on two other occasions, beaten three lengths by Brigadier Gerard in the 2000 Guineas to arguably the greatest miler ever saw. 

Andrew Balding has seen Kameko make into a potential Derby winner in his five starts to date. This son of Kitten's Joy out of the mare Sweeter Still races in the familiar silks of Qatar Racing Ltd. 

This comfortable winner of the Futurity Trophy Stakes (Group 1) came out all guns blazing with a neck victory at odds of 10/1 in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on the 6th June. 

This year's Epson Derby looks a cracking race with Ed Walker's English King heading the betting while Kamako is price 4/1 with leading bookmakers. In opposition is a host of Aidan O'Brien runners. 

Good luck to connections and Kamako who could well put a smile on the faces of all at Kingsclere Stables.       

1 Jul 2020

Lucky Seven Epsom Derby Entries for Aidan O'Brien

The 241st Investec Epsom Derby takes place this coming Saturday and will be held behind closed doors for the first time in its history. Not even the famous Downs will be open this year although up to two Owners will be able to attend in a "safe and risk-managed way", under plans agreed by the Racecourse Association, the Racehorse Owners Association and the British Horseracing Authority. 

Irish Trainer Aidan O’Brien has seven of the seventeen entries at the five-day stage for the Epsom feature as the Ballydoyle legend attempts to follow on from the amazing feat of saddling the first four in the Irish Derby at the Curragh last weekend. Santiago backed up his Royal Ascot win in scintillating fashion by winning the Irish Derby, but will not be running at Epsom. 

The seven entries for O’Brien are headed by Mogul, Russian Emperor and Vatican City who are all currently at odds of around 7/1 in the ante-post betting market according to WhichBookie. Stable jockey Ryan Moore will choose his preferred horse later in the week and that will have a big effect on the odds of all the O’Brien horses. 

The Ballydoyle elite Derby hit squad is completed by Amhran Na Bhfiann, Armory, Mythical and Serpentine, although Armory and Mythical also have an entry for Sunday's French Derby at Chantilly. 

Frankie Dettori’s mount English King is favourite for the race and the one they all have to beat after the Ed Walker trained colt cruised home in the Lingfield Derby Trial. For Walker, it would be a childhood dream come true as he confessed “"I've been thinking about it since I discovered horseracing when I was 13 years old, so of course you think about it in this position. It would be a great day if it happened.” It promises to be some quite some race and not many would bet against O’Brien celebrating his eighth Epsom Derby success come Saturday night!

Photo: Galileo winner of 2001 Epsom Derby

25 Jun 2020

Brian Meehan on Fire this Early Two-Year-Old Season

The two-year-old season is underway and I'm pleased to say that everything seems pretty normal. And that's good news horse trainers big and small and the racing industry at large. 

In truth, we have a lot to be thankful for.  

Early season is always a time to be extra careful but for all those who love to wager at you could still fill your wallet with a bundle of lovely cash. 

Well, that's the idea and there is a winner in every race so don't complain to me if your selection falls short of the mark. 

That brings me to horse trainers and why it pays to follow a stable in form. One such proponent is Brian Meehan whose two-year-old colts, geldings and fillies have been in flying form - a number have won.

Manton House Estate, Marlborough, Wiltshire has been the starting point for many a class thoroughbred who achieved greatness. 

For instance, major two-year-old wins in the United Kingdon include: 

The Cheveley Park Stakes (Group 1) with Magical Romance (2004) & Donna Blini (2005).

In addition, the Racing Post Trophy (Group 1) in 2008 with Crowded House, ridden by Jamie Spencer. 

This season has seen the two-year-olds set a sparkling pace from a handful of runners.

These include three debut wins (which is unusual for the stable):

Talbot made a fine debut for Meehan when winning well at Lingfield. This son of Gleneagles disappointed when heading to Royal Ascot's Coventry Stakes (Group 2) but clearly a horse with ample ability.

There was much to like about the performance of Frankel filly Ghaaliya who held on well at odds of 14/1 when looking an easy winner at Kempton on debut. Looking green and inexperienced, she is likely to improve a good deal from this racecourse bow and is sure to be racing at pattern class soon. 

If that wasn't good enough, Meehan sent out another debutante to taste victory at Windsor. Tanfantic finished the race with zeal to win at odds of 12/1. This good-looking gelding, a son of Gutaifan, is a real bargain yearling buy at just £25,000. 

In total, at the time of writing, Meehan has had five two-year-olds racing this season and achieved four winners and two second places. 

If you follow the maxim of betting on a stable in form, then Brian Meehan is likely to add to your riches.

20 May 2020

A look back at the last three winners of the Irish Guineas

Over the last week or so, it has been announced by Horse Racing Ireland that racing will resume after its indefinite postponement, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. With the news that Naas will host the first racecard on June 8th, it’s also been revealed that the Irish Classics will be taking place, with the Curragh hosting the famous 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas on June 12-13th. While you check out yesterday's racing results on Betfair's Blog, we go back through the archives and look back at the past three winners of these two very famous races.


1,000 Guineas winner: Hermosa 

A dominant display from Hermosa saw the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly complete a Classic double, winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh, having already won the English equivalent at Newmarket. The 5/2 favourite always held the pace and kicked on in the final furlong to beat Pretty Pollyanna by four lengths, and provide O’Brien with his eighth win in the Classic. 

2,000 Guineas winner: Phoenix of Spain

Phoenix of Spain upstaged his rival Too Darn Hot (and joint-favourite Magna Grecia, who had won the Newmarket race) to take the 2,000 Guineas title – despite not having raced all season. The Charles Hills-trained colt missed the English namesake race, but certainly rose to the challenge at the Curragh, going on to win by three lengths, with Too Darn Hot finishing in second and Magna Grecia in fourth. It was a first win for both trainer Hills and jockey, Jamie Spencer. 


1,000 Guineas winner: Alpha Centauri 

Jessica Harrington’s Alpha Centauri upset the odds and took the crown, as favourite Happily flopped. It was a first win in the Classics for Harrington, who’d had podium finishes in the past. The filly beat massive outsider Could It Be Love by a length and a quarter, consigning the O’Brien duo (father and trainer, Aidan and son, jockey Donnacha) to second place. 

2,000 Guineas winner: Romanised 

There was a shock in the 2,000 Guineas, when Aidan O’Brien was ousted by Ken Condon’s Romanised. The highly-decorated trainer had to make do with a trio of second, third and fourth-place finishes, but at 25/1, Romanised was good value for his win. It was a debut win for Condon in the Classics and a first win on the track for 10 months – with the three-year-old, and Shane Foley in the saddle, winning his first major race.



1,000 Guineas winner: Winter 

There were no surprises this time around, with favourite and winner of the Newmarket 1,000 Guineas, Winter taking the crown at the Curragh. With Wayne Lordan in the saddle for the race three weeks previous, it marked another win for the dream duo of jockey Moore and trainer O’Brien. It was a good day for the highly successful trainer, who secured a one-two-three with Roly Poly and Hydrangea completing the top three – and he wasn’t done there… 

2,000 Guineas winner: Churchill 

O’Brien made it a double-double as he secured victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. He’d previously won the Newmarket namesake with Churchill and the colt came good with Moore in the saddle once more to complete a clean-sweep of Classics. He was the 4/9 favourite ahead of the race at the Curragh and held off the challenges of Thunder Snow to win the race by two and a half lengths – and become the ninth horse to complete the Curragh/Newmarket 2,000 Guineas double.

12 May 2020

Three Significantly Underrated UK Trainers

Roger Fell Horse Trainer (UK)
There are a number of trainers who have gained notoriety for regularly producing winners at high-profile events such as Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival. Whilst the likes of Nicky Henderson and Charlie Appleby are superbly astute operators, who deserve enormous credit for their assiduous attention to detail, there are also a whole host of handlers who are rarely courted by the media yet continue to thrive at a lower level. We take a look at a trio of trainers who go about their business in a hugely efficient manner, yet rarely find themselves in the spotlight.

Roger Fell 

Roger Fell has been involved in the sport since purchasing Arthington Barn Stables back in 2008 and although he only took out his license four years ago, his partnership with fellow trainer David O'Meara gave him the perfect grounding and experience required to make a success of going solo. One of his most notable successes in recent years is Burnt Sugar, who had seemingly lost his way for Richard Hannon. The eight-year-old enjoyed a hugely profitable 2018, taking the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket before following up in the Gigaset International Stakes. Although his class 2 competitors are few and far between, the trainer has been worth following in all-weather events over the last twelve months. 

Fell is a regular at Newcastle and Southwell and occasionally makes the trip south to Kempton and Lingfield. If today's racing results page features any of the UK all-weather tracks, it's highly likely that the Yorkshire-based trainer will feature prominently. He's operating at 12% in 3-year old events on artificial tracks, returning a profit of £64.38 to a £1 stake. Roger Fell is undoubtedly worth keeping a close eye on throughout the course of the season.
Nicky Richards

Nicky Richards is synonymous with horse racing in the north of England, and is arguably one of the most underrated trainers in the UK. Based at Greystoke in Cumbria, the 64-year old rarely goes a week without firing in several winners. Over the last five years, he's been operating at 20% over larger obstacles, and if you'd bet £1 on each of his chasers during that period, you'd currently have a profit of around £40. The cunning handler has a fairly pragmatic approach to his runners, and his knack of finding the perfect race for his performers is admirable. Monet's Garden may be his most successful horse to date; however, punters who enjoy betting on class 3 and class 4 events will undoubtedly be familiar with some of his more recent representatives such as Caius Marcius and Takingrisks.

Olly Murphy 

Based in the beautiful countryside of Stratford-upon-Avon, Olly Murphy has quickly become one of the brightest training talents in the UK; although he may not quite be a household name just yet, he is surely destined for bigger and better things. He managed just six winners in 2019, but he has made a superb start to 2020 with Itchy Feet's victory in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase undoubtedly the highlight. Although the six-year-old wasn't able to land a blow at Cheltenham next time out, he is likely to come back stronger when the National Hunt season recommences later this year. Murphy also has a small clutch of flat performers with Krazy Paving recently proving a hit at Chelmsford City. At just 25 years old, the Warwickshire-based operator is one of the youngest handlers in the country, and he appears to be improving with every passing season.
Dedicated fans of the sport may already be familiar with the likes of Nicky Richards, Olly Murphy and Roger Fell, but they rarely get the column inches that they deserve. This trio of savvy operators continue to go about their business surreptitiously, and their runners should always be taken extremely seriously.