UK Racing looks at the races of interest this weekend

Sometimes I think that being a racing journalist was the best decision I ever made – not only is it fun, interesting, and a sport I genuinely love, but there is never a shortage of stories I can add my comments to, and this week is no exception. 

We start the other side of the Irish Sea for a change with the racing authorities versus Willie Mullins – a heavyweight battle if ever there has been one. 

To cut a long story short, Stratum was declared to run at Cork with well-known jockey Paul Townend in the saddle. Sadly he was injured on Sunday, and replaced by seven-pound claimer Kieran Callaghan – if only life were so simple. Mr Mullins saw that as his choice to make, and a chance to give the young jockey a decent ride in a competitive contest, the authorities vehemently disagreed. 

I will not quote chapter and verse but the rules basically state a like for like swap and in this case that did not really add up. Understandably, the trainer felt that it was up to him who rides his horses, but as a punter (albeit it a very bad one), I can understand the rules. If the horse had lost with a claimer on board there would have been uproar (“I would never have backed him had I known”) – ditto if he had won – and I personally felt the stewards made the right decision as the rules stand, though I can also see the Mullins side of the argument.

Meanwhile the good ship British horseracing continues to take on water with Joe Tuite the latest trainer to decide to call it a day citing financial pressures. It has been that way for as long as I can remember, to be fair. 

Racing will be a far poorer place without him, and for me and many others, the success of the smaller trainers brings a far bigger smile to my face than yet another expensively bought blueblood. Sadly, they lack the economy of scale of the huge yards makes life ever more difficult, but in this case let us not blame poor prize money for a change, let us blame fickle owners who enjoyed the good times, but move their horses as soon as the winners stopped flowing. 

The oft used phrase “horses are not machines” has never been more apt – they have good times and bad times as do the yards themselves, but we live in a throwaway world and with other stables seemingly in good form, the horseboxes arrive and the end is nigh. 

It is undoubtedly a huge shame for the character of the sport that means so much to me personally (do we really want to turn in to greyhounds, a race every two minutes, no fans at the track, but who cares, it’s betting fodder for the bookmakers), and although my answer is consistently ignored (an independent enquiry in to the whole sport, complete transparency, and let’s see a) where the money goes and b) how we can share it about for the good of the sport LONG TERM), while everyone can simply blame everyone else, more and more will be forced to leave the sport.

On a similar subject, it is amusing to see some courses putting their weight behind plans to amend and/or cut the fixture list when we all know that some who cannot be named were the ones firmly against the idea when it was put forward by the BHA, how the worm has turned. The bottom line is nothing has really changed – either everyone is behind it, or no one – I still cannot see courses volunteering to lose some of their fixtures while their financial rivals refuse to play ball, if they were children and we were in a different decade you would suggest knocking their heads together!

Lastly, for those who like to listen to the podcast, Ron and I will be talking about the pros and cons of the Shergar Cup – it’s not really for me (I can’t take to team tactics I’m afraid) but I am sure Ron will put you all straight – it’s a subject he likes to discuss every year here…

And now, on to the racing this Saturday…



3.00pm Haydock

I was torn between two horses here despite a quick look at the early odds with the word soft currently appearing in the going description the thorn in my side. Passion And Glory is the one with the form in the book on going with plenty of cut in it, including wins at Doncaster, Goodwood and Ascot (in the Group Three Queen’s Plate last season), and he came mighty close to being my selection, but I am hoping that Grocer Jack will handle the going in which case he is the more likely winner. Last time out at Newbury he put nine-lengths of daylight between himself and runner-up Finest Sound (placed third), and if he can repeat that here, he looks difficult to oppose. He has placed on soft going in France and Germany so there is hope he will not be too troubled, and if that is the case, he ought to come home alone.   

3.15pm The Curragh

British raiders Dubawi Legend and Wings of War should run well with preference for the first named of the pair, but Go Bears Go is a personal favourite of mine. A winner at Ascot on his first start of the season, he has not really gone on from there as hoped with a tenth in the Commonwealth Cup and a second in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury last month, but connections reach for the cheekpieces for the first time here, and if they help him to give his all, he may well be good enough to come home at the head of the chasing pack.  

2.52pm Redcar

A handicap for a change but not a particularly “big one” meaning I will have to settle for good old fashioned detective work without resorting to the stats for a change. Give It Some Teddy makes the shortlist here with his record of five wins here at Redcar from thirteen starts, four of them over this trip and the latest in October 2019, but he is getting long in the tooth at the age of eight, though a place remains on the cards. Star Shield won last time out and represents the David O’Meara stable who have won three of the nine runnings and he deserves a mention though he was all out that day and cannot be guaranteed to put in the same run, leading me rather reluctantly to New Approach gelding Oak Street. A winner at Kempton on his last start for the Gosdens, he was moved on at the February sales for 47,000gns and has his first start as a three-year-old here. There is the not insignificant matter of over seven months off the track to overcome, added to a smaller stable with just the three winners all season (and all with older horses), but this may not take that much winning for the (pitiful) prize money for a Saturday, and with a bit of luck he will go off at an each way price. 

3.35pm Haydock

There are plenty of improving fillies engaged in this mile contest including Thunder Shower and Crenelle to name but two, though if Oscula turns up at the top of her game, she ought to take some stopping. She seems to thrive on her racing with a nose second at Ascot in the Valiant Stakes and a win at Goodwood four days later when she got up close home to win the Oak Tree Stakes by a head. That was over seven furlongs so the return to a mile looks ideal, and although her supporters can expect some heart-stopping moments as jockey Ben Curtis looks for a late run, she is the class act here and the obvious one for me to suggest.

3.40pm Newmarket

Trainer Mark Johnston has won three of the last seven runnings of this contest, the latest in 2019 with West End girl, and he is responsible for early favourite Lakota Sioux, last seen coming home third in the Chesham Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot.  She does look the one to beat if that form is taken at face value, but I was really taken with the debut win of Novakai who scorched home by over four lengths in a Doncaster novice on her only start. Sent off at odds of 12/1 that day it seems fair to assume there is plenty more to come from the daughter of Lope De Vega, and if that is the case she looks the better value of the two, though a reverse forecast may pay even bigger dividends on Saturday afternoon. 

4.15pm The Curragh

I am clearly seeing this race very differently to everyone else as you will all find out when I reach my selection. Firstly, I will not be knocking the form or ability of any of these, far from it, in fact it looks like a very speedy renewal and that may make this more of a stamina test than you would normally expect. Coventry winner Bradsell is an obvious player as are the Aidan O’Brien pair of Blackbeard and Little Big Bear and Richard Hannon’s Persian Force, but I wonder if they might set the race up for the bigger priced Shartash. Third on his debut, he has won both races since at Naas and here over course and distance, getting up very late on each occasion. He is clearly already crying out for a furlong further but if they go off as fast as I hope, he will be the one motoring at the end, and at 8/1 at the time of writing, he looks a ridiculous price.   

Sean’s Suggestions:

Oscula 3.35pm Haydock