Lessons to be learnt by @RachelEMwilson

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Hi all

July’s Super Saturday (racing at 3 Grade one tracks and seven others) was fighting for airtime with not just the Wimbledon Ladies final but with stage 8 of the Tour de France which tackled the iconic Col du Tourmalet.  My remote control took a beating that day.

The Tour de France is one of my favourite sporting events, three delicious weeks of endurance and power in extreme heat, altitude and at speeds of up to 80mph. The strategy and tactics of Grand Tour racing could easily form the basis of a three year dissertation and we are lucky enough to have a British Team – the peerless Team Sky – to cheer on. Chris Froome – now three – time winner, Mark Cavendish the greatest ever sprinter and winner of 30 Tour Stages, Geraint Thomas, Sky Team member and winner of this year’s prestigious Paris-Nice race and the new kid on the block, Adam Yates, aged only 23 winner of the white best young rider jersey and overall 4th at this year’s tour.

There is much to delight in but as someone whose main delight is horse racing there is also much to learn from the sport of cycling.

Road racing pits very skinny people on their bikes against wind, gradients and ground conditions. Horse racing pits very skinny people against wind, gradients and ground conditions. But whereas horse racing has focused all its developments on improving the speed of the thoroughbred (naturally and sensibly) cycling has spent millions on researching and developing new ways to reduce wind and weight resistance. Hence, streamlining body position, improving clothing to reduce wind resistance, reducing every extraneous gram of weight, refining team tactics to protect team leaders from wind and redesigning training and rider nutrition.

Of course with horse racing you have to factor in the biggest variable which is the abilities and character of the horse. Not a feat of engineering as Chris Froome’s Pinarello Dogma bike is, more the result of 400 years of breeding and training but still, there are surely cross-overs that racing could pick up.

Especially in the matter of defying wind resistance: in a road race, a Team Leader is protected from the wind, by his team of ‘domestiques’ who ride in front of him in sequence dropping away once their work is done to leave the Leader to fight out the end stage of the race alone.  Drafting, riding behind a car or other vehicle, is banned and during cross winds echelons (diagonal formations) are formed to protect the peloton (field) from the wind.  Watching the magnificent and relatively small Mark Cavendish shelter behind the huge figure of German sprinter Marcel Kittel only to swing out at the last moment and take the sprint victory, describes the absolute importance of protection from wind.

Preserving energy to the latest possible moment by allowing others to take the wind must also apply in horse racing. How many times do we see sprints won by horses that make all? Very rarely. We applaud the timing and tactics of certain jockeys (Richard Hughes, Jamie Spencer, Paul Carberry) who can produce their horse from behind to win on the line, but if the same laws of physics apply to a field of horses as they do to a peloton of cyclists then surely producing horses late, having been covered up (protected) by the field, is greatly underestimated.

Streamlining position in the saddle and wearing less flappy fabrics might also be something we would do well to pay more attention to. There are a few riders whose silks are made in aero-fabrics (Sam Waley-Cohen for one) but most wear the traditional silks with elastic bands at the cuffs and safety pins at the neck.  Literally millions have been spent developing clothing for cycling that reduces wind resistance.  Why doesn’t racing take better note of the obvious advantages it offers?

The other area where racing could take a big lesson from cycling is in the field of nutrition. Cyclists put out a massive wattage, burning vast numbers of calories each day of the Tour de France. In the saddle for six or seven hours working constantly, often in very high temperatures, means working out the energy and hydration needs is vital science. A rider is said to have ‘bonked’ if they run out of energy by miscalculating how much to feed before and during the race.  Cyclists like jockeys must be as light as possible. Chris Froome is 6 ft. 1 and weighs 10 stone. His body fat % is in single digits. Despite this necessity there is no culture of flipping, sweating off weight or otherwise abusing the body to reduce weight. Top cyclists treat their bodies as precious machines into which the correct fuel must be put to provide the right amount of energy. We are merely at the foothills in racing of understanding how to better fuel jockeys bodies.  A team led by Dr.George Wilson at the University of Liverpool that has spent years researching extreme weight making for jockeys, does include the Head of Nutrition at Team Sky, so a cross fertilization of intelligence is underway. We now need to more widely disseminate the lessons of this research.  

I would love to see Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Sky’s brilliant leader be invited to talk to trainers about the ethos and management of his athletes. Author of the theory of ‘marginal gains’ whereby the smallest advantages are built upon little by little which is there for all to see at the Tour de France, with Team Sky powerfully controlling the race and showing how constant renewal and a thirst for betterment leads to victory after victory. When he announced some five years ago that a British Team would win the Tour within five years people laughed. But Team Sky has won four of the last five Tours.  Open mindedness to new methods is a mark of intelligence and the desire to continue to succeed.  Racing could learn from this Team of winners.

The Lennox Stakes – By @PollyRodgers

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Glorious Goodwood is here at last..  Goodwood Racecourse hosts this annual meeting, which is one of the highlights of the British flat racing calendar. It is home to two of the UK’s 31 Group One flat races, the Sussex Stakes and the Nassau Stakes, these are to take place on the Wednesday and Saturday over this week, something to really look forward to!

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The Lennox Stakes

Today’s highlight for me is The Lennox Stakes, this is a Group 2 flat race that takes place at Goodwood Racecourse in the opening day of Glorious Goodwood! It is open to horses aged three years or older and run over a distance of 7 furlongs.

The market at the moment are clearly undecided which should be the sole favourite, as at 9/4 (Coral) both Dutch Connection and Home of the Brave are sharing favouritism. The #BlueArmy are in town.. and they are here to win!
One of the three Godolphin runners and one of the two Hugo Palmer Trained horses is Home of the Brave. He’s a front runner and one that is forced to be setting the pace and will be hard to keep up with throughout this race. This season has already meant he has had two wins under his belt, one of which was the Jury Stakes, a Group 3 race at Haydock back in May. James Doyle is on board and is back to retain his crown after winning this race last year on board Toormore. Can he do it again and join the top jockeys of a total of two wins for this race? Only time will tell!

James Doyle

Dutch Connection, was a runner up in this race last year and looking to go one better. He hasn’t been disgraced this season despite not finding a win since Ascot back in 2015. It must be noted that that win was at a 7 furlong distance so the drop in distance again may just be the best way forward here. It will be interesting to see how well he will take to the race again and if he can get his head in front when it matters most. Last time out Dutch Connection came second to Mutakayyef by two and a quarter lengths in the Summer Mile stat Ascot and has been on the improve.

The final Godolphin runner is Birchwood, trained by Richard Fahey and will have the top man Ryan Moore in the saddle. Birchwood has been a smart performer but hasn’t made a big impact this season, especially on his first two starts. Last time seem to make a difference having the effect of a visor added to the mix, managing to land a Chester listed race earlier this month, the visor will be back on so no doubt Fahey will be looking for this form to now continue. There is certainly stronger competition on paper, but as we know anything can happen in racing.. and that was proven at Wolves on Monday with a 200/1 winner!

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Markaz, currently 7/1 with Coral, a Group 3 winner over this distance of 7f back in 2015 but this season last time out was dropped back to 6f and seemed to be the trip he suited most after a career best at Newcastle Group 3 a month ago. Will the trip be too much again for this four year old? Having experience over this distance should mean that he will stay fine, but whether he will make the front runner with this competition is left to be questioned, an EW shout at a good price though for Paul Hanagan to squeeze the most out of this one.

The second of the Hugo Palmer representatives is Gifted Master (8/1 Coral), over his career has been showing bag of potential having 5 wins on the bounce, and was most impressive when coming home by two and a quarter lengths from Dream Dubai in the Pavilion Stakes Group 3 at Ascot, really kick starting his new season. His last two starts haven’t been quite up to his best and a little disappointing so it’s unclear whether he will be back to his best but would be great to see his form improve again.

The veteran in the race is the Buckstay at a grand age of 6 years, he’s has had real experience and seems to love his racing. On paper his form hasn’t been the best but certainly is consistent and a real trier in his races. He does have a hold-up style so how the race will unfold at the start will be the most important for Backstay and whether he will be able to keep up with the pace. One that will be a surprise with the competition that is in the race if he does makes the top three but still one we all get behind and wish him well. Always great to see that he still gets into Group races and is able to star on the big stage once again.

Dream Dubai, the outsider of the pack – has Group 1 experience but is now up in trip and has previously been against Gifted Master as mentioned earlier. This race is not going to be easy and understand odds of 25/1 with Coral. It’s been a total of 62 rides since Silvestre de Sousa’s last winner and is really looking to break this spell, he’s coming close being in the places and will really be focused to get a Group win, but the jockey is only as good as the horse… or is that necessarily true? I will let you ponder that one!

Not forgetting, we have Tupi, trained by Richard Hannon Jnr who is looking to follow in the footsteps of Richard Hannon Snr, being a leader trainer with a total of two wins for this race. Tupi has won listed races at Newmarket at a variety of trips but the season hasn’t been one that has really made an impact and been slightly disappointing. Was a good second in a 6f Group 3 that was won by Magical Memory but nothing else has really shown that he will be an improver of this race.

Overall, I think it could be a 1-2-3 Godolphin take-over, the question is what will be the actual order? My heart still lies with Home of the Brave to stick it out at the front and set the pace to get Hugo Palmer his first Lennox Stakes winner. My EW fancy would be Birchwood with Ryan Moore on board for Fahey and the visor to help do the trick once more.

#PollysPicks

200 – Mutamakkin // Second Wave (EW)

235 – Larchmont Lad // Medieval (EW)

310 – Home of The Brave // Birchwood (EW)

345 – Gold Prince // A Soldiers Life (EW)

420 – Blithe Spirit // Confessional (EW)

455 – Mazyoun // Swag (EW)

530 – Quebee // Home Cummins (EW)

It’s a good luck to all the runners and riders, as always wishing them all a safe return.
I will have my fingers crossed for all connections and hope everyone enjoys a great days racing at Goodwood!

@PollyRodgers

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes – By @PollyRodgers

WIR
The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race that is open to horses aged three years or older and it is run at Ascot Racecourse over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs.

ASCOT
As we take a look over the runners for this high profile event, it has been noted that during the past ten year, only four of those market leaders have then gone on to win this race.

Our favourite for this race as quoted by Paddy Power is Highland Reel, however other markets are showing Dartmouth to be the market leader and Coral have even got both at joint favs, it’s certainly looking to be a tricky one where the odds are concerned.

Highland Reel (11/4 Paddy Power) trained by Aidan O’Brien, is definitely a global star having run in over three different countries. Last time out was at Ascot once again and was narrowly denied by Dartmouth by a head in the Group Two, Hardwicke Stakes over course and distance, therefore should be ready to make another bid, this time for Group 1 success.
They will be going head to head once again, however with a different jockey, we will be seeing Ryan Moore is in the saddle rather than Seamie Heffernan, will this make that little bit of difference?
Aidan O’Brien also has another runner, Sir Isaac Newton (16/1 Paddy Power) he is bred to stay and previously won his last two starts at Group 3 level at Curragh that were at 10f. The extra trip will be of interest and one that I can see is able to overcome his market position.

Trainer, Sir Michael Stoute is one of the leading trainers for this race having won the title a total of five times with Shergar (1981), Opera House (1993), Golan (2002), Conduit (2009) and Harbinger (2010). This title is shared along with Saeed bin Suroor and Dick Hern.
The charge for Sir Michael Stoute is The Queen’s Dartmouth (3/1 Paddy Power), one that has been improving his campaign and has hit a whole new level this season having won three races on the bounce, the question is now, can it be a fourth? As we already know he has the course and distance behind him having won here last month but could be argued that there is more still to come and will have a bright future ahead of him if all goes to plan here.

The youngest of the competition is one of two John Gosden runners, Wings of Desire (7/2 Paddy Power). He made his debut this season and not had as much experience as the others but you can certainly see he’s considerably improved after following up an all-weather win at York in the Dante. Last time out came a galant fourth in the Derby and this time round the faster ground should suit. Frankie Dettori is searching for his big milestone of 3000 winners so no doubt his mindset will be for hunting down the winners! Will we see him jumping for joy after this race? I personally am looking forward to seeing Wings of Desire in this Group One and will be ready to take on his elders.

WINGS OF DESIRE
Gosden’s second runner is the very popular Western Hymn, a loveable horse in flat racing, plenty of experience and a very smart performer. Has never won a Group 1, however has been in group company after winning a total of three Group 3’s and one Group 2. Despite being in Group one’s before, has yet to really shine to this level. The distance in trip is a first since sixth in a 2014 Derby, so going to this trip may be something that would be required, but at the level others are at at the moment would be hard to see this taking first spot and the market is showing that, being at 25/1 with Paddy Power.

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Erupt (7/2 Paddy Power), trained by F-H Graffard is a runner that has already previous has Group 1 form when winning at Longchamp back in July 2015. Since then he has been in high profile races but most recently at Saint-Cloud when coming second to Silverwave by one and a quarter lengths as he was left too much to do but certainly not disgraced. The french-raider has by far the best experience in big group races and will no doubt will want to repeat his Group 1 success again. It is however Erupt’s first time over on UK turf, the only question that remains now is how well we he take to the Ascot course?
Last years winner, Postponed was trained by Luca Cumani – now even though Postponed isn’t back to retain his crown he has still bought a charge with him for the race which is Second Step. This gelding is five years of age, an older horse in the race along with Western Hymn and is the outsider having odds of 25/1 with Paddy Power. He has been a Group 2 winner at Newmarket in 2015 and has landed a Group 1 win in Germany. His last race was another Group 2 at Newmarket this time however, we saw him drop away over the July Course and only managing fifth place. This season hasn’t been at his best performance and will be hard to see him reach the top level with the strong contenders here.

Overall, I believe Wings Of Desire and Dartmouth will be the two to fight this one out.
Dartmouth is looking for his fourth win in a row for The Queen and Sir Michael Stoute and definitely an improver that has form of already beating the runners in the race, if all goes to plan the race will be in his favour.
Wings of Desire has been a continuous improver this season and the to which I can see Dettori being able to squeeze a little more out of him and come that bit closer to his 3000 winners, the three year old is one that should be feared and with Gosden also having a strong history of this race will be one he is reaching out to win again, it’s going to be a reverse forecast for me!

#PollysPicks

Ascot:-

210 – Dubai Hero // Frankuus (EW)

245 – Fair Eva // How (EW)

320 – Folkswood // Mustashry (EW)

355 – Heaven’s Guest // Brazos (EW)

430 – Wings of Desire // Dartmouth (RFC) // Sir Isaac Newton (EW)

500 – Fieldsman // Secret Glance (EW)

535 – Wave Reviews // Imari Kid (EW)

It’s a good luck to all the runners and riders, as always wishing them all a safe return.
I will have my fingers crossed for all connections and hope everyone enjoys a great days racing at Ascot!

@PollyRodgers