Cracksman – what might have been

Followers of this blog who watched Cracksman annihilate the opposition in today’s Champion Stakes can be forgiven for feeling aggrieved at the way this horse’s career has been managed.

I’ve said more than once that I don’t think there is a horse standing in a stable anywhere in Europe that could beat Cracksman over 12 furlongs on soft ground.  You could count fast ground runnings of the Arc on one hand in the past 30 or so years and that was given as the main reason for the horse missing the French race for the second year in succession.

The reality appears to be that his trainer John Gosden was once again masterminding his pursuit of prize money.

Gosden had Enable in the yard, hugely well treated in the 2017 Arc and stil looking good after coming back from injury this season.

Last year Gosden discovered (or had reinforced) that Oppenheimer is an owner who never questions his decisions. The trainer can be pretty sure he’s the only danger to Enable and that he’d be a hot favourite to win the Champion Stakes.

Why not – as a trainer – grab two big races rather than one?

This year, Enable bounces back nicely at Kempton and in what looks a comparatively mediocre Arc (if Cracksman doesn’t run) he plans to do exactly what he did last year. Oppenheimer, predictably, rolls over.

Reality is that Cracksman was never seriously being prepared for the Arc. I had thought his price a few weeks ago of 8/1 to 10/1 was a crazy overreaction to a comparatively disappointing season. I strongly suspect now that the key bookies knew that Cracksman was never likely to run.

Any doubters on that theory should note Gosden’s post race comments today, when he pretty much summed up his approach to the horse’s season – not a single mention of the Arc.

“He won the Prix Ganay in explosive style and I don’t think he was quite the same after that – I think a few things were bothering him. Obviously, he got very distracted at Royal Ascot by the girls coming back from the Windsor Forest and then we went for the King George, where it was too firm, and the Juddmonte [non-runner for the same reason] then packed in and freshened him up to come here, where he was back to his best.”

An unusually loose-tongued Gosden pretty much admitting he’d done Oppenheimer over again, as well as Cracksman’s fans and bettors.

I don’t blame Gosden in the least. His priority is to do what is best for his yard – he has done that in magnificent fashion.

Oppenheimer is the villain of the piece. Had he shown some backbone and nous, he’d have fought for what was best for the horse rather than what was best for Gosden and Dettori.

Aside from the money lost in antepost bets (last season and this), my main grievance is, as with an NH favourite of mine, the late Vautour, the horse was never given the chance to prove himself on track, despite the fact he is now likely to be voted, as he was last year by the BHA, the best middle distance horse in Europe.

 

 

Cracksman a cracking bet at 8/1 to win the Arc

Two fine horses fought out the finish of today’s King George at Ascot, although it’s unlikely they’re both world beaters, and I cannot fathom why Cracksman has been pushed out to 8s for the Arc. He was only a baby when beaten a length in the Derby; wasn’t much older when failing by a neck at the Curragh where I think he would have won the Irish Derby under a better ride. Since then he went undefeated until meeting fast ground for the first time (also getting upset in the preliminaries and at the stalls and never travelling in the race). He went down to today’s King George winner Poet’s Word.

Highly unlikely to meet fast ground in October, he’s 2 from 2 in France and very probably still improving (Gosden reported him in great order today even though he withdrew him because of the quick ground, having said at the start of the season the horse had matured massively since last year).

Other than his defeat last time when most good judges reckon he was not himself, Cracksman has been beaten only twice in his ten-race career: 3rd in The Derby and 2nd in the Irish Derby.

8/1 for the Arc is the best value I’ve seen this Flat season, although it’s essential that you understand and are prepared to risk the downside of antepost betting: if for any reason Cracksman does not turn up for the Arc, your stake is lost.

Cracksman to win the Arc at 8/1 (Betvictor) is a strongly recommended* bet.

Good luck

Joe

*See here

 

Cracksman: thoughts on his defeat

I’ve tipped and backed Cracksman for the King George next month and would like to have seen him win today. But I’m not quite so dismayed as some by his performance.

He’s turning into a fascinating horse. Whatever the excuses last time, at the end of the Coronation Cup the furthest thing from your mind would be to run him over 10f on fast ground. When the form is reviewed at the end of the season it might show he ran as well as can be expected for this trip/ground.

Poet’s Word is an improver and until he’s beaten we just won’t know the level of that improvement. I understand Stoute is renowned for developing this type of horse.

When hotpots are turned over there’s a tendency to seek excuses, and there’s no knowing the validity of what connections come up with and pundits speculate upon. Cracksman was a touch reluctant to go into the stalls today and, when they opened, simply did not pick up his bit, dwelling slightly and having to be visibly rousted out. Was his last experience at Epsom, when he reportedly gave his head a right bang exiting the stalls in his mind? He came onto the bridle within a furlong today but the experience seemed to panic Frankie more than the horse and it could be that the jockey made too much use of him (even Frankie could be excused that given how long the horse took to pick up last time).

I think Cracksman just needs a proper trip now. He doesn’t have the tactical speed of others and finds it tough when they quicken mid race. I suspect he’d do much better sitting out the back – much like he did at the Curragh – and being brought with one sustained run rather than being regularly hustled to keep close tabs on the leaders.

Some bookies pushed him out to 7/2 for the KG and, given that nobody knows the strength of Poet’s Word over 10f on fast ground, I think that’s a risky move for bookmakers. No question whatsoever that Cracksman will be better suited by 12f and the ground will be no faster than it was today. They’ll go steadier and Frankie will hopefully ride him with a bit more confidence and give the horse a chance to relax.

If anything does need fixing between now and the KG, no better man to do it than Gosden. It will be interesting to see if he resorts to headgear, although if that Epsom stalls experience has remained with the horse perhaps blinkers should be eschewed in favour of a crash helmet.

TV Tips Saturday 28th April 2018

Post-race update: well, rather a tame end to the season. Winnerless today, but the blog has finished £11.12 in profit on calendar year 2018 for TV tips. Current profit on recommended tips for 2018 is £24.70. All figures to a £1 stake.

I might tip the occasional runner on the flat via the ‘recommended’ tips page, and I hope to see you back for the new jumps season.

We’ve reached the final day of the NH season, which makes it the final day too for TV tips on this blog. I’ll review things over the summer; despite managing a profit on both the TV tips and on recommended bets, the blog gets comparatively few visitors these days compared to two or three years ago. Our best figure was close to almost 4,000 visitors one Grand National day.  We see nothing like that these days although attention spans grow ever shorter and reading opportunities ever greater.

Anyway, we bring a profit of £17.12 into today. Let’s see if we can add to it.

Sandown

1.50

I like Act of Valour in this. He showed a good attitude last time at Fakenham and I got the impression the longer straight here and the uphill run-in would suit him well.

Act Of Valour 8/1 (Ladbrokes)


2.25

I suspect Double Shuffle needs a flat track, and I’ve never been a big fan of Top Notch. He’s a nice horse but I believe he has always been a bit overrated and therefore overbet. Art Mauresque has fair form and was arguably made too much use of last time when not seeing out the trip. A more conservative ride here could help, but he still has the stiff finish to deal with.

The value in the race to my eye is O O Seven who goes well right handed and also on this better ground. He’s run two solid races in his only Sandown outings, winning one and finishing second to Yorkhill in the other.

O O Seven 16/1 (general)


3.00

It’s great to see a champion on the last day of the season. Altior ought to win this but he is unbackable at the price. One for watching.


3.35

Regal Encore has been something of a problem horse. In his last 13 outings he’s been pulled up 7 times. Most people avoid him these days but I wonder if Richie McLernon might have found the key in riding him much more prominently this season. He’s usually held up and can race keenly. Perhaps he gets disappointed being so far back or having to fight his rider (Geraghty has ridden him for most of the horse’s chasing career).

He ran a fine race, initially from mid division to finish third under McLernon in the Hennessy (as was). Geraghty was back on board next time at Ascot, dropped him out in his usual fashion, and the horse was pulled up. Back at Ascot next time and reunited with McLernon he was ridden much more prominently and battled on well to beat Minella Daddy (who was tipped that day by this blog).

I think he could surprise a few tomorrow and nominate him as one of my bets here.  The other is a horse who has not run for more than a year because of a tendon injury, Domesday Book. Last time out he won the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham festival on just his second run for his new trainer Stuart Edmunds, whose first decision was to fit the horse with blinkers for his yard debut; he ran his best race for some time in them and they were retained for that Cheltenham victory. He wears them again here and the same jockey, the talented 3lb claimer Gina Andrews is in the saddle.

Edmunds is not a big name trainer, but that helps keep the price long at no cost in the skills department. Edmunds is a very good trainer. Domesday Book is much too big a price and I’ll be backing him.

Regal Encore 18/1 (general)

Domesday Book 50/1 (Boylesports)


I’ll be having £1 on each of the above selections (except Altior) and two £1EW doubles coupling Act Of Valour with Regal Encore and Domesday Book. I suggest you do the same for total stakes of £6.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

Back Min EW at 20/1

Update: Min is now a non-runner

Most of the noise today surrounds Samcro who’s favourite to win the Punchestown Champion Hurdle (5.30). This is his first proper test and he might well be up to it. But so far, although his form looks solid, he has not posted a speed figure that would entitle him to go off favourite here.  Speed figures are a useful cross check against form ratings. It might be that the races he’s contested have been run in such a fashion that they haven’t lent themselves to a high speed rating for the winner. Also, he has just 4 hurdling runs to his name so it can be rightly argued that he has plenty more races – certainly in comparison with his rivals here – in which he’ll have the chance to show how fast he is. Today might not be that day, though, unless connections decide to jump him off and try to make all; this is unlikely on the evidence of his past runs, but it’s far from impossible as there is no confirmed pace in the race.

A fast run race would bring Samcro’s proven stamina into play, and the same could be said for Supasundae. It would suit Melon too as he has proved difficult to settle in the past. But where is this pace to come from? The only one who makes a habit of front running/ racing prominently is Melon’s stablemate, Coquin Mans. Although this one is an outsider in the betting, his form is probably smart enough for the others not to let him get too far in front. I am assuming he will set the pace.

Min is pretty much being ignored in the betting, probably due to having been beaten in a steeplechase here on Tuesday by stablemate Un De Sceaux. This followed a defeat by Politologue at Aintree on April 13th. Min ran a fine race that day and was just outbattled. I think he had a hard race too, and his trainer said on Tuesday that he believed Min had had a tough race at Aintree.

So why run him not only on Tuesday but again today? Who knows? The only thing we can be fairly sure about is that Min is sound and in good enough shape to run. The other thing we can be sure of is that on his best hurdling form he should be nowhere near the price he is today.  The last time he ran over hurdles he finished second in what has become recognised as the best modern-day running of the Supreme Novices. He finished 2nd to Altior that day. Third was dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air.

Min is two from two over hurdles at Punchestown. He has never looked a natural steeplechaser to my eye, seeming leggy and awkward sometimes at his fences (although he jumped well at Aintree). There’s a fair chance, I think, that Min will appreciate a return to hurdles. Despite the perceived drawbacks, I think he is far too big at 20/1 in this eight-runner race. I’d have him as about an 8/1 chance, so he must be backed each way.

Min is a “strongly recommended” bet (see here) each way at 20/1 (several bookies) in the 5.30 Punchestown.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

 

Back Un De Sceaux EW at 11/2

The Punchestown festival starts tomorrow and I fancy Un De Sceaux to upset his stablemates Douvan and Min in the Champion Chase (5.30). He looks a solid bet each way at 11/2. The ground should be fine for him and he ought to settle better over this shorter trip than he did at Cheltenham where he raced much too freely to do himself justice.

I’ve always thought Douvan’s jumping susceptible to the type of massive blunder he made at Cheltenham. Although he can throw some breathtaking jumps, he seems to me leggy and awkward at times and unable to organise himself. That goes for Min as well, although to a lesser extent. Min’s Aintree run was probably the best I’ve seen him jump but I think he had a hard race there. And I think he was outbattled rather than outstayed so there could be a character weakness too.

Anyway, Un De Sceaux is a top notch horse in his own right and might not need defects to show in others for him to win this.

Un De Sceaux is a strongly recommended (see here) bet each way at 11/2, which is widely available.

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe

Bet Cracksman for the King George at 4/1

I seldom bet on flat racing but sometimes a horse catches my eye as a potential champ; Cracksman is one of those. Last season I was convinced that such was his rate of progress after July, he’d turn up in the Arc. But his trainer John Gosden also had Enable and, although Cracksman was with a different owner, Gosden persuaded the owner, Anthony Oppenheimer, that Cracksman was too immature mentally to take on Enable in the Arc.  When I watched Enable win the big one in style, I didn’t feel quite so bad tearing up my Cracksman antepost tickets, but when the colt turned up at Ascot for the Champion Stakes, it made me wonder again what might have been.

He pulverised a decent field that day, drawing away in such a manner that it seemed the real race was going on behind him. Racing Post Ratings judged him to have run 2lbs better than Enable did in winning her Arc, and jockey Dettori reported that there was a lot more to come from the colt.

So why can he be backed right now at 4/1 for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot in July? It’s a race that rarely pulls in double figure fields. Nine opposed Enable last year, but that was the first time in five years the field had reached double figures. Given the likely presence this year of Enable and, hopefully Cracksman, I suspect we’ll see the smallest field for many years. I believe too that Cracksman will go off favourite if he lines up. The ‘if’ is the reason for his current price. Last season Cracksman’s connections said that it was unlikely he would meet Enable until October this year in the Arc. But it seems that the owner (perhaps not the trainer) is having second thoughts.  Cracksman had a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last week. It went well. Oppenheimer was there and was quoted thus: ‘I’d like to see him run in the King George’.  Gosden also made a point of mentioning the King George as the first potential public meeting of his two stable stars. So, I’m assuming there has been a rethink.

But the bookies know this too and 4/1 is still available. The other potential barrier to Cracksman’s Ascot participation will be the ground. Although he has run three times on good ground (and won on it), his best form by some way is on easy ground. It was soft at Ascot for his Champion Stakes. The King George is in July and the race has been run on good to firm ground three times in the past ten years. I’m far from sure Cracksman would take his chance on fast ground and I believe this ground doubt is playing a part in the current 4/1. Also, as antepost betting has other risks attached – a horse getting an injury or not working well at a critical time – why bet Cracksman now? Why not wait until he is due to run next? Well, by that time, the yard will probably know for sure what his programme is and if the King George is in it, he’ll be 5/2, rather than 4/1 in my opinion.

I’m laying out the argument in this detail to give you as much information as possible so that you can make your own decision. I have backed him this morning and I am making him a ‘recommended’ bet now for readers. If I were sure he was running, he’d be a ‘strongly recommended’ bet as I’m confident he can beat Enable, even with her mare’s allowance. But, as ever, bear in mind the antepost pitfalls.

Cracksman at 4/1 to win the King George VI with Paddy Power is a ‘recommended’ bet (see here).

Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.

Joe