A farewell to old friends, a weekend round up and Windsor takes center stage as Daryl Carter talks you through a brand new week.
"These are not just horses, these are friends, so for one final time thank you and farewell."
Plenty of action to get stuck into for punters on Monday with flat meetings from Catterick and Windsor on the turf, Lingfield host an all-weather meeting and summer jumps racing continues at Ffos Las and Southwell.
However, I couldn't start this column without touching on some of the big news from the weekend so let's have a quick catch up.
End of an Era
News broke over the weekend that the star-studded trio from the Willie Mullins yard Faugheen, Douvan and Benie Des Dieux owned by Rich and Susannah Ricci, would all be retired.
Faugheen "the machine" as he was nicknamed by many, took the racing world by storm from the moment he stepped foot on a race track scoring in his debut bumper by twenty-two lengths at Punchestown.
He would go on to record eleven victories in Grade 1 company and produce a devilish display in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown to win by 15 lengths in 2016. He pulled at the heartstrings of all involved in racing when he took a horrid fall at the same venue in 2018 but he rounded off his career as a Novice Chaser at the age of eleven and won the hearts of those who doubted his master trainer.
He scored in three of his four starts over fences including the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase to the elation of the Leopardstown crowd and created an unforgettable moment for racegoers that would have made even the toughest of men whimper.
Douvan simply oozed class and racked up a thirteen run winning sequence culminating in eight successes in Grade 1 company. He was plagued with injury problems but returned for one last hurrah in a Grade 2 at Clonmel in 2019 off a 569 day lay off to show that class is, in fact permanent.
Benie Des Dieux picked up where the great Annie Power left off and racked up an impressive eight consecutive victories and only saw defeat once under Willie Mullins when completing on the racecourse at the hands of the new baton holder, Honeysuckle. P.s We forgive you for your last flight fall at Cheltenham.
Armor impenetrable on final day of May Chester meeting
Armory 2.35/4 was a smooth winner of the Huxley Stakes on the final day of Chester's May meeting running out a winner by three lengths over the Sir Michael Stoute trained, Sangarius, who suffered a troubled passage on the home turn and into the straight.
The race had significance on the Royal Ascot market's notably the Prince Of Wales Stakes with the winner cut from 10/1 into 6/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook.
The Derby dance continues
Outsider of the field Third Realm 1514/1 caused an upset in the Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes on Saturday when pushed out to beat the well-supported market leader Adayar 2.26/5. All roads are likely to lead to the Epsom Derby on June 5th for Roger Varian's charge for which he is now currently 11.010/1 as yet another contender waltzed in to a wide open market on Saturday.
Bolshoi Ballet however, bulldozed his way to the fore in that very same market and is now as short as 2.962/1 for the race in June after a devesting six length victory at Leopardstown in the Group 3 Derby Trial Stakes on Sunday.
Calvin in Clover
Tony Calvin's followers were lathered in clover this weekend as Betfair's top tipster advised Lights On 3.7511/4 to land the opener at Ascot in the EBF Fillies Handicap and followed up with River Nymph 15.014/1 who won the feature race on Saturday at the same venue in the Victoria Cup. Be sure to check out his column's this week.
Dudman's Double at the ready
Alan Dudman looks to kick the week off with an 11/1 double.
Read his two selections here
Race of the day
Windsor host the Listed Racing Welfare Royal Windsor Stakes at 6.30 this evening in which a small but select field of six go to post.
This looks a tricky heat but the recent rain will give connections of Brentford Hope 3.211/5 every confidence that he can take this step up in grade in his stride. He has missed a couple of engagements likely in search of a softer surface and with the ground officially described as soft at Windsor he is sure to take his chance.
There is no doubt that Richard Hughes' four-year-old will need to improve on the form he has shown thus far but he has been extremely impressive when encountering these conditions. He was last seen at Haydock and cruised past his rivals hard on the bridle to win with the minimum of fuss and took his form figures to 131 on soft ground with the only defeat over the longer trip of 1m4f.
You could argue that the once thought of Derby hope could lack the speed of his 1m specialist rivals and on the official figures he has something to find.
Solid Stone 3.55 is never one to be over enthusiastic about but he has some rock solid handicap form and with his reappearance run under his belt at Listed level on return behind Oh This Is Us 7.413/2 a case can easily be made for him to reverse that two length deficit. However, Oh This Is Us has finished runner-up in this contest the past two years and clearly arrives in good heart.
Qaysar 8.88/1 was behind the Solid Stone and Oh This Is Us at Ascot but got back to winning ways at Haydock two day's ago and cannot be passed over lightly if handling this quick turn around.
Stormy Antarctic 7.06/1 is a regular at Group and Listed level but has struggled on these shores for quite some time now and although talented on his day is vulnerable to an improver.
Rhys Williams heads to Southwell
Racing expert is back after his weekend break and has found an overpriced selection over at Southwell this evening.
Timeform heads to Ireland
There's plenty of action up and down the country, but Timeform have decided to head to Killarney, where they have their best three bets.
Something for the jumps fans at Ffos Las
Ffos Las holds an eight race card meeting with two Class 3 races during the afternoon. The 2.40 Class 3 Handicap Chase see's Aaron Lad carry top weight off a reduced handicap mark of 132 on this his return to Chasing. Fergal O'Brien is represented with Ocean Cove who sports the first time blinkers and Land Of Smiles for Peter Bowen goes in search of a four timer in a fiercely competitive heat.
The 3.15 Class 3 Handicap Hurdle has attracted a field of fifteen including Voodoo Doll and Poker Play who both put their unbeaten course records on the line. The unexposed Little Awkward will prove popular but arguably the most interesting is Aye Aye Charlie for Fergal O'Brien who was last seen in this sphere in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett in 2019 and is off a reduced handicap mark of just 119 after he failed to progress over fences.
Gambles here there and everywhere. Call Me Freddie sent the social channels into meltdown when winning at Cork on Saturday after being supported from 40/1 into 13/8 before a small drift saw his BSP at 11/4. He was winless from 10 starts and beaten a combined distance of 330 lengths in his last five starts with form figures of 97090.
If that wasn't enough to ensure the fire burned bright into the night on Twitter then the 35 rated Danilo D'Airy at winning over fences at Warwick by nine lengths eased down certainly would have added the fuel they needed. The eight-year-old was 100/1 at a place during the day but was heavily supported into a BSP of 13/2.
These gambles are all well and good in isolation and provided there is nothing untoward going on I have no qualms but should this become a more regular occurrence racing needs to go careful it doesn't put itself in a position where it is always having to defend it's integrity because lets be honest, its hardly an advert to attract a new audience is it? And that's how these gambles should be looked at, not judged on whether you were "on" or not, or "sticking it to the bookies" but as a line of integrity that effects the whole sport.
All in all I am ok with it in isolated instances, but a word to the wise, most would much rather a trainer claim ownership of a good "coup" rather than hearing the same spiel of "I don't know where the money came from" or "I'm a surprised as you" after the race, I mean come on...really?
On a happier note it's rare for any horse to capture the publics heart but the Ricci trio saw an outpour of emotion from race fans on social media unlike no other on Saturday and across the weekend. These are not just horses, these are friends, so for one final time, thank you and farewell.