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Last Updated

22/8/2013



Level Stake Profit of 23 points!

Marten has made a great start to the Ebor meeting, with advices for Dutch Connection 16/1, Felix Leiter 3/1 and Postponed 5/2 from five selections on the first day and Tapestry at 11/1 from four selections on the second day, yielding a profit to level stakes of 23 points.

 

Friday 22 August

This has been a good meeting for followers of the Online Preview, with Pale Mimosa winning in good style today to follow the earlier winners on the first two days.

The 2mm of rain which feel early on Friday morning just took the sting out of the ground, which suited Dermot Weld's filly. I think there is more to come from her, possibly in the Qipco Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot in October. This is the race in which she stayed on to finish fourth last year.

The 7f maiden at York today was packed with Group-entered two-year-olds but the race went to Luca Cumani's White Lake, for whom I received a late message. The son of Pivotal had been working well with the yard's best youngsters but there was so much news for the other runners that connections could not be sure he would win.

Unfortunately Cartmel clashes with Ebor day tomorrow, which means I will struggle to see the big race live, but my news for the fourth and final day of the meeting will be available by 11.30 in the morning when, as usual, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Wednesday 20 August

I had a good feeling about this week's Ebor meeting and the day started well, with Postponed and Felix Leiter and a strong message for Dutch Connection.

I was torn between Dutch Connection and Prince Gagarin for the Acomb Stakes but I have to say when I saw the support for Basateen and Jamaica my confidence started to ebb away. Dutch Connection had quickened up in fine style at Goodwood so I was not surprised to see him find a change of gear inside the final furlong. This form looks rock-solid, with the winner breaking the two-year-old course record.

From a betting viewpoint it was frustrating to see Kingston Hill withdrawn from the Great Voltigeur Stakes. I was fairly hopeful that Postponed would go close to beating him anyway on the quick ground, and it was clear a quarter of a mile from home that Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him. There is a line that suggests Postponed could have gone well in the Derby, although when I was with Luca in April he had slight doubts about the colt staying a mile and a half. The colt is most unlikely to run in the St Leger.

Australia showed that he is on the way to becoming a great horse when beating a top-class field in the Juddmonte International Stakes. It is just a shame for those who followed my advice in the Dark Horses that we didn't collect that handy double on the colt for winning and Guineas and the Derby. Mind you Kingman was probably the best horse over the mile at Newmarket and he didn't win either. I expect they will now go for the Irish Champion Stakes - a race they like to win - and then perhaps consider the Arc.

Felix Leiter battled on well to land the closing nursery to make a profitable day for Online Preview clients.

Bye for now

***

Tuesday 19 August

I have just completed writing Part One of the York Ebor Preview, covering the first and second days of the meeting. I am approaching the meeting with a fair degree of confidence. This is not always the case, of course, but on this occasion I have some sound thoughts and good information.

It is not too late to order. Please refer to the shop if you wish to do so.

Bye for now

***

Monday 18 August

I am busy working on the Online Preview for York, with Part One available to view on Tuesday evening.

News has come through for a progressive three-year-old handicapper and a horse for a nursery. I am also feeling confident about my Ebor selection, with other pieces of news expected over the next couple of days.

Eagle Top will miss York. Connections want to give him time to get over his hard race at Ascot, with an autumn programme the plan and then I suspect big plans for next year.

Bye for now

***

***

Friday 15 August

I am really looking forward to York next week.

I have received news for another handicapper to go with the information I mentioned earlier.

It's a busy weekend on the International scene and John Gosden will monitor conditions closely after heavy rain overnight on Thursday regarding Kingman's proposed challenge for the Prix Jacques le Marois. The course took 21mm of rain through Thursday night and Friday and the ground is now officially described as holding. A final decision will be made when John walks the course again on Sunday.

Meanwhile, over in the States, Magician will be taking his chance in the Arlington Million, where the firm ground should be ideal for him. Joseph O'Brien takes the ride, against Ryan Moore who is on Finnegans Wake for the home team.

I expect to have plenty of news to keep us going over the weekend. As always you can ring me on 0906 150 1555 when any selections will be given in the first minute of the lessage.

Bye for now

***

Tuesday 12 August

I seem to be making more money laying short-priced horses than backing winners at the moment.

I felt that Zora Seas, who was matched as low as 1.28 on Betfair, could be vulnerable in the 1m maiden at Ffos Las. I have said time and again over the years that if an older horse, by which I mean three years or up, is still a maiden in the summer then it is has either had problems or is just not that good.

Zoras Seas did nothing wrong, but the form of her Ascot debut had been let down by the winner, who though rated 91 had run to a mark in the low 70s at the weekend. As it turned out James Tate's Scottish Strand, who had shaped well on his debut at Nottingham last June, was very well supported and just got the better of the favourite, who had drifted out to 4/6.

The two pulled nine lengths clear of the third, so the form may not be that bad.

I also took a liking to the way Richard Hannon's newcomer Elysian Flyer won the opener. There were a couple of good benchmarks here and I rate the winner quite useful. The second, Fingal's Cave, is on 79 so the winner could be rated as high as 90.

I am currently busy writing the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle essays for my National Hunt Dark Horses Guide. This may seem early, but I am keen to get the hard core stuff done so that the book will be with the Racing Post in time for a mid-October deadline.

Next week it will be all about York, for which I am writing a two-part Online Preview.

Bye for now

***

Monday 4 August

It would not surprise me to see two of today's winners at Naas - Lucida and Parish Boy - feature in the top two-year-old rankings by the end of the season.

Both horses are trained by Jim Bolger. Lucida, a daughter of Shamardal, beat two previous winners in the opening 6f contest. To my eyes the result never really looked in doubt, and I expect the filly to be mentioned in the context of the Cheveley Park Stakes at some point.

Parish Boy had shaped well when fifth at Leopardstown. He is bred to stay beyond a mile and could be one for middle-distance honours next season after staying on well to win this 7f maiden.

These are early days, but keep Lucida and Parish Boy in mind for the longer term.

Bye for now

***
 

Friday 1 August

It's not been a bad week for my clients, with a couple of decent winners, and I am sticking my neck out tomorrow with some advices at double-figure odds.

Wannabe Yours, who won the 1m Group 3 on Friday, is probably the horse to keep on your side from the day's action. John Gosden usually keeps his cards close to his chest, but he said afterwards that he would have been "disappointed" if the son of Dubawi had been beaten. There was even mention of the Sussex Stakes next year, so it will be interesting to see how the colt is campaigned in the second half of the season. Bow Creek ran well to finish third after a troubled run through.

I was disappointed with Velox in the Betfred Mile. He had every chance from a handy position on the outside of the field but the turn of foot he displayed at Sandown was missing. I reckon he is worth another chance.

Henry Candy's good run with his two-year-olds continued when Son Of Africa won the nursery. Henry makes few Group entries and it was significant that he had given this colt an entry for the Champagne Stakes.

You can hear my thoughts for the fifth and final day of Goodwood by ringing my line (0906 150 1555) at 11.30 in the morning when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 30 July

I tend to approach Goodwood with a feeling of trepidation on the grounds that it is one of the handful of tracks where, in my view, one cannot be sure that the best horse in the race will win.

I have seen more horses trapped on the rails here than at any track in the country but I have to say there have been very few examples of that on the first two days. It may be that modern-day riders are simply better at handling the idiosyncracies of racetracks than was once the case - perhaps as much due to the experience gained through international travel as anything else.

I have adopted a highly selective approach to this week's meeting, and things got off to a good start on Tuesday with a strong message for 2yr old debutant Misleading and pointers to Van Percy and Extremity.

Peter Chapple-Hyam has had to overcome a few demons in recent times but he remains one of the best judges of a two-year-old in the business and he knew that Misleading was decent, advising the owner beforehand that the favourite - who also ran in her colours - could struggle to beat his colt. Peter has a handful of decent two-year-olds this season and I suggest you keep an eye on anything he runs in the near future. They may well be better to come.

I have news for another two-year-old newcomer in the next couple of days and also some information for Friday's big handicap.

You can hear my early thoughts for the following day's action at 8.00pm each evening or my final selections at 11.30am on 0906 150 1555.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 27 July

I feel a little guilty at deserting Taghrooda in yesterday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Having dug her out in the Dark Horses as my Oaks selection I was swayed by the statisticians into believing that history was against her winning the race. That view was possibly the reason why she proved weak in the market, but the key to this filly is her stamina and tenacity and that is what clicked in as she moved alongside Telescope and Mukhadram approaching the final furlong.

The winner comes from one of the Aga Khan's top staying families, the dam a winner up to 1m 6f and related to a host of quality staying fillies including Gold Cup winner Estimate. She does not lack pace, but the key to Taghrooda is stamina and although there is talk of the Yorkshire Oaks and Arc, it would not surprise to if the St Leger was raised in discussion as there is not the slightest doubt that she is bred to stay the trip.

Of the others I was a little disappointed with the ride Eagle Top received. I knew that William Buick would probably try and ride a race similar to last time, but at this much higher level it was possibly unwise to hang back so far out of his ground. In fairness he was tracking stable-companion Taghrooda for much of the way, but he was not quite good enough to maintain his rate of progress to the line. He was beaten only five lengths by what may turn out to be an exceptional filly and, as John Gosden has said all along, it will be next year that we see the best of him.

Mukhadram stayed the mile and a half better than I was expecting but Trading Leather never really picked up. Romsdal, beaten 23 lengths, did little for the Epsom Derby form or his St Leger credentials. John Gosden says the colt lost his footing round the inside of the track.

Earlier in the day Osaila staked her claims for next year's 1,000 Guineas. There may be plenty more fillies to come along, but this daughter of Danehill Dancer is out of a mare by Entrepreneur so a mile will pose no problem to her.

I am busy this week working on the Glorious Goodwood Online Preview, with Part One out on Monday evening. It looks as if the weather is set fair, so we should not have any dramatic late changes in going. This meeting is always a challenge, but I have a few early thoughts for a week when a high degree of selectivity will be the order of the day.

Bye for now.

***

Wednesday 23 July

I wonder how much water Ascot's clerk of the course is  thinking of putting on to the track before this weekend's meeting.

I would still prefer the clerks to leave the ground as God made it, but there is an obsession these days in getting the word 'good' into the going description at some point. I expect Jim Bolger, trainer of Trading Leather, and Andre Fabre, who has charge of Flintshire, would prefer the ground to be left as it is.

Flintshire has never really had the chance to race on good to firm going, but his record on good ground reads 1112, with that second coming in the Coronation Cup when conditions were on the easy side.

I reckon the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes could become a tactical affair, with the gutsy Trading Leather likely to win the early battle for the lead.

I will keep you updated with developments as we approach the big day.

Bye for now

***

Friday 18 July

There is plenty of dross around at the moment but the odd gem catches the eye and I think we will be hearing plenty more of New Story in the second half of the season.

Ishmail Mohammed's son of New Approach was set to race from a mark of 85 for his first handicap at Haydock today and, following hefty support, he made light of top weight to win by five lengths with plenty in hand. The handicapper will raise him about 8lb for this, to something like 93, but it will be next season that we see the best of him. He got the mile and a quarter well here despite being out of a mare by Zafonic. Fast ground suits him and I expect to see this progressive colt perform creditably at Pattern level.

Henry Candy, who came out with great credit in James Pyman's article in today's Racing Post about the effectiveness of trainers of two-year-olds, had something else to celebrate when Limato landed a hat-trick in the Rose Bowl Stakes at Newbury. There was some doubt beforehand about how the son of Tagula, who had won his previous two starts on the Polytrack, would handle the turf but the trainer was pretty confident before the race, saying the colt had always done his work at home on the grass.

There is not much of him, but he did this in very good style and he has to rank as one of the season's top juveniles.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Friday 11 July

Although the ground at Newmarket was quite evidently soft for the second day of the July meeting it was interesting that Deeds Not Words, a horse that consistently proved best suited to fast ground last season, handled the conditions far better than expected in the competitive 6f handicap.

I had a great fondness for this horse last season and my understanding was that the plan this summer was to have him spot on for Goodwood - a track close to the owner's heart. I am not sure what will happen now, but having won such a competitive race quite comfortably I expect his mark to rise to something in the mid-90s. My advice is to keep him in mind for something better back on fast ground.

I was keen to oppose the favourite Obsidian in the 1m 2f maiden and he was duly well beaten. The winner was Astronereus, a son of Sea The Stars that had shaped well the time before at Goodwood when he lost a shoe. Amanda Perrett has something at Goodwood in mind for him, possibly over a longer trip. This could turn out to be quite good form.

Integral handled the easy ground better than many expected to win the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes in the manner of a very progressive filly. Rizeena ran a strange race, racing in the lead then losing her place before running on again up the rising ground. I would take this run from Sky Lantern with a pinch of salt. She owed her run of success last season to the consistent fast ground and I suspect she ran here because, having won her Classic and Group 1s, they felt she had nothing to lose. She is not easy to get fit, so watch for her back on faster ground next time out.

Bye for now.

***

Tuesday 8 July

It may have been Coral-Eclipse day at Sandown last Saturday but the weekend's most impressive display came from Sea The Moon, who won the Deutches Derby by 11 lengths.

Christophe Soumillon had the son of Sea The Stars in the lead or thereabouts from an early stage and then made the decision to tack over to the nearside rail on turning for home. He was out of camera shot for a while, but when he did come into view it was apparent that he was many lengths clear. By the line he was being eased down, winning by 11 lengths from Lucky Lion, the unbeaten winner of his previous three races. Irish challenger Geoffrey Chaucer was again disappointing, finishing tailed off beaten 64 lengths with just one of his 17 rivals behind him. Godolphin's Pinzolo was beaten 33 lengths, 15th of 18 at the line.

Lines of form taken through Pinzolo and Geoffrey Chaucer, rated 104 and 112 respectively, would be unreliable but it is not hard to see why Sea The Moon has provisionally been rated 2lb superior to Australia and backers were quick to step in for the Arc, taking the 8/1 leaving a top price now of 7/1, behind Australia and Treve.

The early signs are that if those three get to Longchamp in one piece we could be heading for a vintage renewal of Europe's greatest race.

At this stage I would not like to choose between them, but it will be to Sea The Moon's advantage that he likes to race handily. That way he should stay out of trouble, and his pedigree suggests soft ground would not bother him.

I am busy working on the Newmarket July meeting Online Preview today. Part One, covering Thursday, will be available to view on Wednesday evening, with Part Two, covering Friday and Saturday, on Thursday evening.

Bye for now

***

Monday 30 June

One of the joys of taking a little time off is that is can help focus the mind, and I have to admit that I was not looking forward to studying last Saturday's racing for my clients.

Newcastle Plate day, rather like Great St Wilfred day, is one of those busy but low-key Saturdays when I seldom win money. Bank Holidays and Sundays can, for a reason or reasons unknown to me, fall into the same category.

However last weekend one horse stood out - Red Passiflora, who features in my Dark Horses Annual. There are some trainers that I find easier to 'read' than others, and Sir Mark Prescott is pretty high on that list.

Although Red Passiflora fell into the dreaded 'maiden filly' category, she had shaped with promise in three starts last season over trips way short of her pedigree requirements. As a daughter of Danehill Dancer out of a mare by Montjeu she was entitled to be far better suited to the mile and a half of Saturday's race. Furthermore, as I always say in the case of horses from certain yards, she would not still have been in training if Sir Mark felt that a rating of just 62 were a true measure of her ability, or potential.

For some reason she drifted in the market to 8/1 - I would love to know why - but she won in good style and will probably go in again.

I know from talking to Sir Mark that he was concerned at the start of the season that he did not have a particularly strong bunch of three-year-olds this year but after a slow start, due to ill-health in the string, he now seems to be moving into gear.

As for the big race on Saturday, I expect connections will be very keen to make Australia a Group 1 winner over a mile and a quarter, perhaps even a mile. The Irish Champion Stakes is a race they like to target, with the Juddmonte beforehand a possibility if they don't have a suitable older horse to represent them.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 22 June

With the exception of Friday I think we have to say that results at Royal Ascot went very much the way of punters.

This is, in part, due to the consistent ground both in the fortnight or so leading up to the meeting and the week itself. That was not always sure to be the case, with the going officially expected to be on the soft side of good for the first day, but the times soon revealed that it was good racing ground, with course records falling like skittles.

Thankfully the records will show that to level stakes Online Preview clients would have broken even, but it was tough going and the end tally owed everything to 14/1 chance Born In Bombay.

Sir Michael Stoute had a great week, with Telescope relishing the fast ground in the Hardwicke and Arab Spring continuing his upward curve in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes. Handicaps will now be a thing of the past for Arab Spring, who won this off 104 and will now be rated around the 112 mark.

The one from the yard which most intrigues me is Cannock Chase.

Rated on 97 going into the race, he was up to 12lb wrong with the highest-rated of his rivals yet the market confidence behind him was compelling. Starting 7/4 favourite, he powered away to win by a length and a half to beat the 107-rated Mutakayyef. Next week will see his mark rise to around 112, perhaps a pound higher. I gather he was working very well with some of the yard's other Ascot winners and it will be very interesting to see where he next runs.

I am travelling south for a few days on Sunday so I will update this page as and when I can.

Thank you to all those who joined me for Royal Ascot. I am only sorry things did not go a little better for us.

Bye for now

***

Thursday 19 June

Thankfully Born In Bombay got my people out of trouble for the meeting although I am not especially proud of my performance this week.

I thought Postponed was a little unlucky in the Tercentenary Stakes although his problem is that he lacks a turn of foot. I expect we will see him over a mile and a half before long. Cannock Chase, who had worked very well with Telescope last week, was confidently supported to win this and may well prove capable of competing at Group 1 level in time.

Leading Light was my lay of the meeting but his class and tenacity enabled him to get home in the Gold Cup. He went out to almost 30 in running on Betfair when Joseph O'Brien reached for his whip turning for home, but he then stayed on strongly and actually won with a little bit in hand.

I went for a touch on Zee Zeely in the last but he was very weak on Betfair before the race - never a good thing to see with horses from this yard - and at no point was he placed to challenge. It was all rather strange.

Bye for now

***

Tuesday 17 June

Wednesday 18 June

I will be back here with some reflections on the first two days of Royal Ascot tomorrow.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 18 June

I cannot remember when I last saw a three-year-old colt show the turn of foot we witnessed from Kingman in today's St James's Palace Stakes.

There was a point, two furlongs from home, when I thought Richard Hughes had stolen the race from the front on Night Of Thunder but then, as in the Greenham, the race was over in a few strides as Kingman quickened past and immediately drew clear, lugging right such was his momentum before eased down to win with plenty in hand.

This was a staggeringly impressive performance and I will be surprised if there is a horse to beat him over a mile this season. His next run may be the Sussex Stakes, where he could meet Toronado who, a short while earlier, won the Queen Anne Stakes. War Command made encouraging late headway and may be coming to hand, although the overall form of Aidan O'Brien's horses remains a concern.

I thought Hootenanny was most impressive in the closing Windsor Castle Stakes. Wesley Ward's colt had made his debut on the Polytrack at Keeneland before finishing third in the mud at Pimlico. It took him a while to pull up and there was talk afterwards that he might take on older rivals in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 15 June

It's going to be very busy in the next few days, writing Part Two of the postal Supplement covering the third, fourth and fifth days of Royal Ascot, and then Online Previews each evening starting on Monday with my latest news and information on Tuesday's card.

My line will be updated each evening as well, starting at 8.00pm on Monday looking ahead to the following day, with any selections given in the first minute of the morning update around 11.00am each day.

I am surprised that more fuss has not been made about the ground, which will be officially described as good to soft for the first day following watering on Friday and then a heavy thunderstorm overnight.

It would probably have been good ground but for the watering, although with no rain forecast it will dry out through the week.

I am writing this in the morning and will be back here with a few reflections and thoughts on Sunday's action tomorrow.

Bye for now

***

Friday 13 June

Part one of the Supplement was despatched today, covering the first two days of Royal Ascot. The Bulletin Book went out on Wednesday and Thursday.

I am just popping down the road to Aintree for a change of scene.

I will be back with more thoughts on Royal Ascot over the weekend. 

Have a great weekend and bye for now

***  
 

Wednesday 11 June

I am pleased to report that the Royal Ascot Bulletin Book was back with us this afternoon. I have not yet seen a copy myself but I believe as many as possible will be despatched today.

The advance going for next week's meeting is currently given as good, with good to firm patches, and looking at the advance forecast I don't see much sign of rain. This will be an important factor, as most of the recent form has been with give underfoot.

The one horse for whom there may be concerns is Kingman in the St James's Palace Stakes. John Gosden will take every precaution before running the colt - he is sure to walk the course - but don't be surprised to see a little speculative interest in the others with people possibly taking the view he may be a non-runner.

The colt who would be especially suited to quicker ground is War Command. After a slow start this could be the week when we see Aidan O'Brien back firing again.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 8 June

In my view we saw one of the better Derbys of recent years at Epsom yesterday afternoon.

As they say it was the right horses in the frame, with Australia just staying on well enough to repel the persistent challenge of Kingston Hill. The two colts pulled over three lengths clear of a progressive colt in third, with Arod over three lengths further behind in fourth.

The time of the race was impressive - beating standard by just over a second - on ground that was probably riding generally good.

Australia has not yet done enough to vindicate Aidan O'Brien's claims that he is the best flat horse he has ever trained. He will need to win a few more Group 1 races, over a variety of trips, to warrant that accolade, but this was a step in the right direction following what I think we can now say was his misfortune in the 2,000 Guineas. Looking back, and taking note of O'Brien's comments about the health of his horses, in my view Australia was not at his best at Newmarket. The trainer did say that the colt had, like many of his others, been laid low with a virus but that "some had recovered quicker than others". It was clearly a tussle preparing him for Newmarket and it would not surprise me, in times to come, to hear someone say the colt was physically under par for the Guineas. That said, he might still have won had he had something to race against in the final quarter mile.

O'Brien insists that the colt has loads of pace - we have been told many times about that four-furlong workout in 44 seconds - and so for that reason, and commercial ones also, I would now expect him to be aimed at a Group 1 race over a mile and a quarter. The Coral-Eclipse may be an option, with the Irish Champion Stakes a race they have favoured over the years. They may decide on an Arc challenge later, but they will initially be keen to try and get Group 1 form over a mile and a quarter, and perhaps a mile, to his name.

Runner-up Kingston Hill might have won had the ground been softer. Australia did not have much in hand of him at the line, while third-placed Romsdal will have the St Leger as his autumn target. Peter Chapple-Hyam says Arod wants fast ground while True Story, under a good ride from his poor draw, ran well until fading. He does not seem to stay as far as his pedigree would suggest.

The Derby completed a good run in the Classics for the Dark Horses Annual, as all four winners received a mention in my conclusions.

I have just finished writing the Bulletin Book for Royal Ascot. This will be available to view on Tuesday and be ready for despatch to postal clients on Thursday.

Thank you to those who bought the Epsom Online Preview. I hope that we maintain the good run at Ascot.

Bye for now


***

Friday 6 June

It's nice when things come together and having advised Night Of Thunder as one of my final two selections for the 2,000 Guineas, Taghrooda today landed the Oaks having been advised in the Dark Horses preview of the race at 33/1.

Unfortunately I did not have what could have been a life-changing double, with Miss France thrown in for good measure from the 1,000 Guineas as well.

The two I am left with for the Derby are Australia and True Story, although if the forecast rain arrives it could scupper any chance the Godolphin colt may have. His other problem is the draw, in stall one, as I read that from 174 races up to today run over 1m 4f in fields of 10 or more at Epsom this century, only two horses have won from stalls one or two.

I see market strength has returned behind Australia, although Ladbrokes are a shade longer than anyone else at 13/8. Things may change if the track is hit by the forecast heavy rain, although it should be noted the ground was riding on the quicker side of good today - contrary to expectations.

Looking back to today's Oaks the unlucky filly of the race was Inchila, who was my best outsider on the day. She was left a long way out of her ground and would have been a clear second but for being hampered twice inside the final furlong. The winner was always going to stay well and her next target is the Irish Oaks. By the way I think she was given a copybook Epsom ride by Paul Hanagan.

Volume did well to keep plugging away for third, vindicating the decision of Luca Cumani to let her take her chance.

Earlier Abseil overcame signs of inexperience to win a competitive handicap, acquiring a penalty which should ensure he gets into the Royal Hunt Cup, for which he is now 6/1 favourite.

Bye for now

***

Monday 2 June

I've had some tussles in my time but the task of sifting through the likely runners for Royal Ascot is proving as demanding as any assignment I can remember. When you think that in many cases not even the trainers have decided what to run, and uncertainty about the likely state of the ground, you can imagine the difficulties I am facing.

We did get a few more Ascot clues today, when Kool Kompany showed great tenacity to win the Listed race at Naas. After racing keenly in the early stages it looked unlikely that he would last home, but he kept sticking his neck out to hold the persistent challenge of Toscanini, with War Envoy three-quarters of a length back in third. War Envoy started 8/15 to win this and Aidan O'Brien said afterwards he might have left the colt a little short. The Coventry Stakes remains the plan for him.

You can order my Ascot services by referring to the online shop. My Bulletin Book will be available to view next Tuesday evening, while my Online Preview for Epsom's Derby & Oaks will be available this Thursday evening.

Bye for now

***

Friday 30 May

I am busy at the moment working on the Epsom Derby & Oaks Online Preview, which will be available to view on Thursday, and also the Royal Ascot Bulletin Book.

The proximity of Royal Ascot to Epsom this year rather caught me on the hop, with Ascot starting just 10 days after the Derby. I am sure this has happened before, but it means I am having to write the text for the Bulletin Book this coming week - with entries for only a few of the races. Mind you this was the case two years ago when I had one of my best ever Ascots, so I have no qualms on that score.

This is the time of the season when a three-year-old can make rapid strides and we saw an example of that today with Top Tug, who won the 1m 2f 76-95 handicap at Newmarket.

In the end the son of Halling  was all out to reverse recent form with Cloudscape, but I liked the way he was staying on at the finish and having won here off 84 he will probably be rated around the 90 mark by next week. That could be just high enough to allow him into the foot of the weights for the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot, but either way he looks a tough sort with the potential to improve for a step up to a mile and a half.

Earlier in the day Bitter Lake showed a bright turn of foot to win the 6f maiden, possibly earning a trip to Royal Ascot for the Albany Stakes.

Wonderstruck, who beat the promising Forever Now in a decent maiden, will now run head for the Ribblesdale Stakes.

You can hear my thoughts for the weekend racing by ringing me on 0906 150 1555 around 11.00am tomorrow when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Friday 23 May

You need to check on the ground at the weekend meetings, with heavy rain falling in parts of the country. The going at Goodwood today was soft, while I was very surprised to see that Haydock expected firm ground until after the first race, when it was changed to good.

It seems that the hot spell has come to an end for a short while and as far as betting goes I will be looking closely at race-times rather that accept the published going reports.

I am steadily compiling a list of progressive handicappers for Royal Ascot, and one horse who warrants inclusion is Crowley's Law, who won the 1m 66-80 today at Haydock with plenty in hand. She put up by far and away the best time of the day and will be of great interest if allowed to run again at Carlisle on Monday under a penalty. Connections may be tempted to bring her out again quickly to ensure she receives a high enough mark to get into the Britannia Handicap, even though she is bred to stay beyond a mile when needed.

You can hear my thoughts for the weekend on 0906 150 1555 when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Tuesday 20 May

Paddy Power make Rizeena and My Titania 4/1 joint favourites for the Irish 1,000 Guineas this weekend. Lightning Thunder is next at 9/2, followed by Palace at 5/1 and Vote Often at 8/1.

The same firm make Kingman 4/6 for the Irish 2,000 Guineas, with Mustajeeb at 11/2, War Command at 13/2 and Shifting Power at 7/1.

John Oxx has warned that if the ground is deemed too soft My Titania will miss the race and go direct for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, which would seem to suggest that the Oaks is not a consideration.

Paul Day has written a preview of the French Open Tennis which starts at the weekend. His piece can be found in the Guest Contributor section.

Bye for now

***

Thursday 15 May

Today's Dante Stakes proved inconclusive, with the admirably gutsy The Grey Gatsby battling on strongly to hold the late finish of Arod with True Story one paced away in third.

The result did not really surprise me. The Grey Gatsby became a favourite of mine last year, and he had run well in the Craven Stakes and then when finishing six lengths behind Night Of Thunder in the 2,000 Guineas. Although related to horses best up to a mile he stayed this extended ten furlongs well without suggesting he would get any further. With this in mind his main target will be the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. As for Arod he will go to Epsom as will True Story, who would have found the ground softer than ideal and was stopped in his run when the winner drifted into him. In my view True Story underperformed to the tune of about 10lb. Working through BHA figures he ran to 106 through the winner - as opposed to his mark of 116 - and I am confident that back on quicker ground we will see him in a better light. Also his pedigree is all about stamina, so each-way backers of the colt for Epsom should not despair.

Australia is now, inevitably, odds-on for the Derby. The colt's supporters will want to see some evidence that Aidan O'Brien has his team in better form in the next couple of weeks. I am sure that will happen, but it needs to be sooner rather than later.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 14 May

I am not expecting today's Musidora Stakes to have provided the Oaks winner following the victory of Madame Chiang over Lily Rules, with Regardez in third. In fact the winner is not certain to run at Epsom, with trainer David Simcock feeling that she requires ease in the ground to be seen at her best. With this in mind connections may prefer to run her in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly.

Mick Channon's maiden Nancy From Nairobi ran a sound race to finish fourth. It was a shame for connections that she just missed out on third, as this would have earned her black type in a Group 3 race. Mick has always rated her highly and there may be more to come.

David O'Meara has a nice prospect in the form of That Is The Spirit. The son of Invincible Spirit made all to give weight to his 18 rivals in the 7f 76-90, comfortably defying a mark of 90. He will be raised about 7lb for this and pattern races now beckon.

David Barron has a useful colt on his hands with Mignolino. The son of Kodiac disappointed him when fifth at Newcastle but this was more like it.

Earlier Clever Cookie landed the extended 1m 2f 86-100 handicap in the style of a progressive horse. The six-year-old did well to win over this trip because he has shown over hurdles that he stays well. Trainer Peter Niven has the Ebor in mind for him.

Bye for now

***

Monday 12 May

Aidan O'Brien seemed as enthusiastic as ever about Australia when talking today at a press open morning. In relation to the colt's Newmarket run he said "there were so many variables" and added that the horse was "special" from the first time they worked him as a two-year-old, stating that he had "always shown something different" and was half-speeding with horses he shouldn't have been at that stage of his career.

Ladbrokes have shut up shop, cutting him to even-money for Epsom and extending True Story to 6/1 (from 7/1 yesterday).

Kingston Hill will miss the Dante Stakes on Thursday and is now weak at around 16.5 on Betfair for Epsom. Bunker is available at 3/1 for the Dante, with Arod at 7s and Marzocco at 8s. The Grey Gatsby, who could run well, is at 10/1.

Bye for now

***

Sunday 11 May

We had another inconclusive Derby trial at Leopardstown today when John Oxx's Ebanoran just got the better of Fascinating Rock only to lose the race in the stewards room.

Nobody who has seen the head-on footage of the closing stages could disagree with the stewards, as the Aga Khan's colt drifted left before hanging right when Declan McDonagh changed his whip hand. On both occasions Geoffrey Chaucer had his path blocked, while Fascinating Rock was taken right into the middle of the course.

I will be surprised if the Derby winner ran here, as I would in relation to yesterday's Derby trial at Lingfield.

It now looks as if the key to the race will be at York next week, where the ground is now soft following 18mm of rain. More wet weather is expected over the next couple of days before conditions dry up from Wednesday. True Story is a top price of 11/10 for the race, with Kingston Hill - who should appreciate the easy ground - a best price of 4/1.

Bye for now

***

Wednesday 7 May

Kieren Fallon might well have preferred to be riding at Chester than Brighton today, but he left visitors to the seaside track in no doubt that he is back firing on all cylinders with a double on Heavy Metal and Dreams Of Glory.

Kieren has always said that he is a 'confidence' jockey, at his best when he has built up momentum, and following his success in the 2,000 Guineas last Saturday he is now looking like the Kieren of old.

Things could continue in the same vein next week, when he rides True Story in the Dante Stakes. He has been riding this colt in his work at home and a bold display at York will see him shorten still further in the Derby market. The colt was a little keen in the early stages of the Feilden Stakes - something Kieren will try to address - but he was impressive once his stamina kicked in well into the final furlong. As a son of Manduro out of a Darshaan mare his pedigree is all about stamina, so the extended ten furlongs on the Knavesmire will suit him well.

Australia looked like a colt with more to offer at Newmarket. I heard Joseph O'Brien tell the lad as he came past me that he had "nothing to race with". It is hard to say how things would have turned out had the three protagonists been able to race together, but my impression on the day was that Australia was the best horse in the race. He would appear to have more speed than True Story, although his stamina is less certain.

Soft ground at Epsom would being Kingston Hill into the act, while Bunker and Berkshire could also stake a claim if they run well at York. Aidan O'Brien may have others in the wings - Blue Hussar is a possibility - but Australia is obviously his main hope.

Bye for now

*** 

Monday 5 May

I am currrently still away at Newmarket but will be back with some reflections on the weekend on Tuesday.

Bye for now

***

Thursday 1 May

I am shortly hitting the M6 again for the journey south to Newmarket. I gather 5mm of rain fell there today so I would not expect Michael Prosser to resort to watering the track. The rain will be good news for John Gosden and backers of Kingman, although it's interesting to see that he is proving a little weak in the betting. This may be because a few of the yard's horses have underperformed recently, although there have still been three winners in the last week.

Australia is holding firm in the market and of those at the top of the betting I expect Toormore to prove solid and Kingston Hill to be weak.

The news came through today that My Titania scoped dirty and will now miss the 1,000 Guineas. John Oxx's filly was one of the best backed horses for the race in recent days. Rizeena has now shortened up to 3/1 with some firms while the odds on the others have also been trimmed.

I am writing my Online Preview for Newmarket on Friday, available to view by 8.00pm in the evening.

Everything is nicely poised for the weekend, with strong information coming through for a horse in the Listed Newmarket Stakes on Friday and also something for Sunday’s Pretty Polly Stakes. I have also just received news for a horse in the opening race on Sunday.

I am hopeful that I can repeat last year’s feat of finding the winners of both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas on what promises to be a truly absorbing weekend of action.

You can hear my thoughts, direct from the track, by ringing me on 0906 150 1555 on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 11.00am when, as always, any selections will be given in the first minute of the message.

Have a great weekend and bye for now.

***

Sunday 27 April

I am writing my first Online Preview of the new season for this weekend's Guineas meeting.

Last year I was on the first and second in the 1,000 Guineas and the 2,000 Guineas winner from the Dark Horses, and fortunately I stayed with them on the day. There will be a few tweaks to the views I expressed in this year's Dark Horses, but in truth the colt's Classic is all about whether Australia is as good as Aidan O'Brien believes he is. After a slow start he is now sending out a few winners - he had four last week - and Australia is remaining quite steady in the market despite the strength of Kingman.

The going at Newmarket was probably good after steady rain last week and with more forecast it may be on the soft side by the weekend. This should suit Australia more than Kingman, as it could play to the former's stamina rather than the favourite's speed.

With Toormore looking very solid and Kingston Hill now likely to find the ground in his favour, this looks an intriguing renewal.

I have fairly firm views on the 1,000 Guineas, toget

Marten Julian, 69 Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria. LA9 4ED    Tel: 08448 11 22 96    -    Fax: 08448 11 22 97    -    email: info@martenjulian.com