Royal Ascot Day 5: Shining in the City Lights

There was no greater advertisement for the unpredictability of racing than Watch Me’s success in the feature Coronation Stakes on the penultimate day at Royal Ascot. This meeting has certainly proved to me how foolish it can be to call winners across the board, but there’s only one day left, so I’ll chance my arm once more. Every race on the final day is previewed below.

Chesham:

Immaculately bred and, having fetched a King’s ransom at the sales, Lope Y Fernandez could not have made a better start to his career than when hacking up by three lengths on debut. Few of his charges win on debut and confidence is high in this son of Lope De Vega, but he may just meet a juvenile beast in PINATUBO. The Godolphin runner is monstrous for a two-year-old and the way he fought back to win the Woodcote at Epsom from well off the pace, on a course that evidently did not suit, suggested big things await and this seven furlong trip should bring out even more from him. Heaven Forfend is another who owes a lot to his heritage, but his maiden conqueror was down the field in the Coventry with Year Of The Tiger boasting a similar profile over from Ireland. Rose Of Kildare has already raced five times so is probably too exposed while there must be a lot of stable confidence about Montanari to run him here on his debut and the market may end up reflecting that. Highland Chief showed more speed than would be expected of one of his size and that might hint that he has a fair bit of ability as well.

  1. Pinatubo
  2. Lope Y Fernandez
  3. Highland Chief

 

Jersey:

Here’s hoping Godolphin get off to a flyer as SPACE BLUES looks the most solid in this three-year-old contest. He took a while to improve into his reputation, but his Listed win at Epsom over Urban Icon gives him stronger claims than most here as his best is likely to come. Urban Icon only has a neck to make up from Epsom, but he’d have to show something new, as would So Perfect under a 3lb penalty for her latest triumph. Happy Power beat older horses last weekend and is preferred to the same connections’ Bye Bye Hong Kong who needs to get out the stalls quicker than he did at Epsom as a front-runner. Momkin ran a solid enough race in the Guineas and should improve back to seven furlongs having been second in the Craven while Duke Of Hazzard boasts an outside chance if he can recapture the form that saw him finish fifth in the French Guineas.

  1. Space Blues
  2. Happy Power
  3. Momkin

 

Hardwicke:

 

The question will be asked until the off as to whether last year’s Derby winner Masar is fit enough to win a competitive race after 385 days on the sidelines. The suspicion is that, though he won the Craven very easily to begin last season, that this will prove slightly beyond him as many runners will thrive upon a stern test of stamina which Ascot’s stiff 1m4f track will deliver. Defoe finally got the job done in the Coronation Cup, but that seemed to be a bolt from the blue and Lah Ti Dar was soundly beaten that day. She had SOUTHERN FRANCE behind in third in the St Leger, but he went down by under a length to the sensational Stradivarius last time. His re-appearance and non-staying effort in the Cesarewitch can be discounted and this would be within his reach if coping with dropping back in trip: he has shown enough ability to suggest that may well be the case. Mirage Dancer is a big danger as Sir Michael Stoute’s record in this race is outstanding though his horse usually falls short up to this level. Salouen is the only other with a realistic chance if getting his own way up front.

  1. Southern France
  2. Mirage Dancer
  3. Defoe

 

Diamond Jubliee:

Blue Point’s appearance in the final Group One of the meeting is of enormous interest. He has already taken the King’s Stand this week and is a Group One winner in Dubai over this extended six furlongs. However, his form at this trip in the UK would leave him vulnerable given his exertions and, particularly at the prices, he’s worth opposing. Invincible Army has looked just that in two starts this season, but the race definitely fell his way at York most recently and that brings Yafta into equations at a working man’s price as his two starts this term have seen everything go against him. The Tin Man won this two years back, but suspicions creep in that his best days have been and gone while Bound For Nowhere is now one of Wes Ward’s last hopes of recording a victory at this year’s meeting. Le Brivido is another who runs for the second time this week, but it is last year’s second CITY LIGHT (nap) who appeals as the likely hero. He missed the break last year and still went down by the narrowest of margins and he warmed up with a highly encouraging second to the top-class Inns Of Court in his native France. If he reproduces last year’s effort, he’ll almost certainly be right in the equation. Of the rest, the in form Dream Of Dreams, Kachy and Keystroke are other runners who could make this a fine contest.

  1. City Light
  2. Invincible Army
  3. Yafta

 

Wokingham:

One of the best handicaps of the season. Bacchus managed to win this on his re-appearance last season, so that cannot be considered a negative for chances again in 2019 off just 3lb higher. Cape Byron won here over seven furlongs in May and could be suited by a strongly run six, while Spring Loaded and Foxtrot Lady have big-field form in the locker that could serve them well from extreme draws. Soldier’s Minute ran right away with a handicap at York in the Spring, but that was not reflective of his previous efforts. Perfection is a Listed winner over the trip while it would now take a leap of faith to support Gifted Master after he disappointed last time, though he is now on a very appealing mark. For his first big handicap, however, it appears that HEY JONESY should be well treated to go close. He was only two lengths behind Eqtidaar in last year’s Group One Commonwealth Cup here and is admirably consistent at a strong level. Watchable has bounced right back to form recently and if the nine-year-old continues to retain some of his old verve, then he will be positioned to challenge while Fighting Irish was also close up in the aforementioned Commonwealth Cup, but has lost his way since.

  1. Hey Jonesy
  2. Watchable
  3. Bacchus

 

Queen Alexandra:

The longest race in the flat calendar, so it is no surprise to see the likes of Max Dynamite, Younevercall and Black Corton running in this code. The first named has actually raced most recently on the flat and is the highest rated of these having been second in the Doncaster Cup last year, though the latter two have only ever run in the National Hunt sphere, so it is very tough to gauge if they’ll enjoy this. Cleonte should shoe up better than when only sixth in the Chester Cup as he’d previously been third in the Cesarewitch. Corelli is well worth a step up in trip for Gosden and Dettori, but last year’s winner PALLASATOR may be slightly overlooked. His last two runs have seen him well beaten, but over nearly a mile shorter and he’d need at least this trip to be seen at his best on the level. He is now ten, but enjoys his trips here and Oisin Murphy gets the leg up for Gordon Elliott. The rest look up against it.

  1. Pallasator
  2. Corelli
  3. Cleonte

Royal Ascot Day 4: Time to follow Aidan off a cliff

Paddy Power reported that they were in danger of their biggest ever daily pay out as Turgenev and Frankie Dettori appeared to be surging clear in the Britannia Stakes yesterday. They were saved, just, by Harry Bentley in a driving finish, but Thursday 20th June will go down as one of Frankie’s most glorious days in the spotlight. Today, however, should be much more about the biggest name in training and with his three-year-olds shining so far, Aidan O’Brien will be hoping for a profitable Friday. Tips for all six races below.

Albany:

Frankie begins the day for the same trainer as yesterday, with Simon Crisford’s Last Surprise, unsurprisingly, backed down into second favouritism off the back of his rider’s glorious Gold Cup day crusade. There is no doubting the potential is there after she won with plenty in the tank at Lingfield, but Godolphin’s SILENT WAVE was arguably as impressive when overcoming greenness to win at Goodwood. That form alone is not enough, but she tried every trick in the book to lose and still came nicely clear, so any amount of improvement is plausible. Roger Varian has had a tremendous season and Daahyeh beat Queen Mary winner, Raffle Prize on debut though she’ll still have to have trained on again. Galadriel was sent straight into Listed company and performed with significant credit in spite of missing the break, while Nayibeth ran a much quicker time under the same conditions as stablemate Chilli Petin at Keeneland. Exclusively only lost by a neck to a Listed winner last time out and was conceding 4lb, so she is seen as the best each-way ploy.

  1. Silent Wave
  2. Galadriel
  3. Exclusively

 

King Edward VII:

Only three who ran in the Epsom Derby try again here and by far the best hand is held by JAPAN (nap). He powered home into third despite Wayne Lordan dropping his whip in the closing stages and he only lost second on the nod. He may yet prove the pick of his generation in middle distance races and this is a great opportunity to pick up a first Group race prize of the season. Private Secretary is definitely trending in the right direction and there’s no limits to what Gosden and Dettori can do at the moment. Bangkok and Humanitarian were both well held at Epsom and Pondus is only just stepping out of novice company for all his limitations are not yet exposed. Pablo Escobarr may prove the biggest danger as he was runner-up to Anthony Van Dyck in the Lingfield Derby trial and should be fine upped in trip.

  1. Japan
  2. Pablo Escobarr
  3. Private Secretary

 

Commonwealth Cup:

This revolves around three horses dropping back to what should prove an ideal trip. It is too difficult to vote against TEN SOVEREIGNS who still performed respectably enough despite not staying in the 2000 Guineas and was only robbed of a place in the final strides. He has won all three races over this trip to date and should be seen to best effect even in the absence of a traditional O’Brien pacemaker. Jash was only beaten half a length by the selection in the Middle Park and clung on to record a Listed success over seven furlongs on his seasonal return. He may not have truly stayed, but he’d still need to improve markedly on that anyway. Advertise is the other returning to shorter distances as he was well beaten in the Guineas, the first time he’s finished outside the top two. However, the problems seem to extend beyond non-staying as Martyn Meade resorts to blinkering his charge today. Hello Youmzain’s defeat of Calyx at Haydock could prove impressive, but the bare form against the other two he beat that day is not good enough while, of the rest, Khaadem remains unexposed and is chasing a four-timer and Forever In Dreams is moving in the right direction and was bought for over £400,000 at the beginning of the week.

  1. Ten Sovereigns
  2. Jash
  3. Khaadem

 

Coronation:

Jubiloso and Castle Lady are fillies of the grandest potential, but as a three-year-old, no horse has been able to touch HERMOSA. A dual Guineas heroine after a gutsy success at Newmarket before a divine display at the Curragh, it would be a surprise if she did not dominate again in the face of new opposition. Jubiloso’s pedigree and double of facile successes ensure she comes here with some reputation while Castle Lady will enjoy any cut that remains having won the French Guineas on heavy. She remains unbeaten while Pretty Pollyanna was initially the star juvenile of her sex. She is now race fit and could close the gap on Hermosa from the Curragh where she was runner-up. Watch Me wasn’t beaten too far behind Castle Lady in their mutual Classic and she is an intriguing entry and Main Edition’s German Guineas success may be being underrated by the bookies.

  1. Hermosa
  2. Castle Lady
  3. Jubiloso

 

Sandringham:

This truly is anyone’s to win. At the top of the weights are the classy pair of Magnetic Charm and Coral Beach. It will take a mammoth performance for the former to concede 5lb and more all round and 105 is a sky-high mark for a Listed winner of only a neck. The latter does not inspire confidence in terms of her recent form (a pair of Group One 8ths) though this could prove markedly easier. The trio of Hotsy Totsy, Invitational and Nonchalance arrive seeking hat-tricks for the season and the form of each has positives. Maamora finally broke her duck last time out and that experience may benefit her while both Kimblewick and Garrel Glen appeal at big odds returning to a level in which they can acquit themselves more thoroughly. That said, the two to appeal most won on their returns to action. Those are Desirous and LADY MADISON, with slight preference for the latter at the prices. She is slightly less exposed and her four length victory has since been franked.

  1. Lady Madison
  2. Desirous
  3. Nonchalance

 

Duke Of Edinburgh:

Baghdad and Corgi were one and two in the three-year-old equivalent last year and though the latter is now in a better position at the weights, his conversion rate in terms of wins is poor for a horse of his quality and Mark Johnston’s charge, with the benefit of Ryan Moore in the saddle, should confirm the form given his impressive displays so far this season. However, both have continued to rise higher in the weights while both Fujaira Prince and JOHNNY DRAMA are far less exposed and run from towards the bottom of the handicap. Roger Varian’s horse was denied narrowly by First Eleven at York, but a 4lb rise for finishing runner-up could prove challenging to surmount. Johnny Drama, meanwhile, must overcome a rise of nearly a stone, though he’s clearly on a steep upward curve, winning by a long way over a mile-and-a-quarter latest. The step back up in trip should favour him even more and a chance is taken that he could prove fairly useful. Top Tug’s best days are probably past him while Aquarium’s habit of popping up when you least expect him is unlikely to be seen today. Sevenna Star and Kasparenko offer value at their prices.

  1. Johnny Drama
  2. Baghdad
  3. Corgi

Royal Ascot Day 3: Dee Ex Bee can force Stradivarius out of tune

Ascot may not have shone in any actual sunshine, but with Lord Glitters and Crystal Ocean taking home two of the principle races to date, there’s certainly been a lot of sparkle on the racecourse. Day 3 promises more of the same, with the premier prize being the prestigious Gold Cup for the champion stayers. Tips for all six races below:

Norfolk:

Though he’s a short enough price for a Group level two-year-old contest, SUNDAY SOVEREIGN’s form is so spectacular for this stage in his career that there’s no escaping his obvious prospects. Coventry winner Arizona was left comfortably in his wake two starts back an he looks King Power’s best hope of the week having won on soft by seven lengths last time out. He should have Air Force Jet in his rear view window on collateral form while King Neptune has failed to build on the promise of his debut victory. As such, Mount Fuji is treated with a little hesitation for the same yard, though Godolphin’s juveniles have run creditably enough so far this week and so Expressionist is not discounted. A’Ali is a maiden but went very close having pulled well clear of the rest on debut, though the best two each way punts look to be Wesley Ward’s Maven, who is reportedly in rude health and Mark Johnston’s Misty Grey who was blisteringly quick over the first few furlongs at Epsom recently and so the drop in trip looks sure to suit.

  1. Sunday Sovereign
  2. Misty Grey
  3. Maven

 

Hampton Court:

Aside from maybe one or two outsiders, no horses can be discounted in this. Fox Chairman met trouble in running when third in the Dee Stakes at Chester and that form was given a major boost with Circus Maximus’ win in the St James’ Palace. That said improvement is still required and a line through the runner-up gives him a lot to find with Cape Of Good Hope although there are question marks over the soft ground for the O’Brien runner. King Ottokar failed to stay when upped in trip, but he was impressive under similar conditions at Newbury, but there is a chance that GREAT SCOT will relish the extra quarter-mile to his furthest trip to date. He stayed on powerfully when looking beaten in the German Guineas and snatched third late. That hints that more is to come stamina wise and he has form with significant cut in the ground. Sangarius looked a very promising two-year-old and there are reasons to believe he’ll stay while Eightsome Reel is unexposed enough to suggest 33/1 is too big a price.

  1. Great Scot
  2. Fox Chairman
  3. Cape Of Good Hope

 

Ribblesdale:

Ready preference is for FLEETING (nap) who romped home to be placed in the Oaks when ridden as if she wouldn’t necessarily stay or be good enough. She answered both those questions by finishing off best of any filly in the field and a slightly more aggressive ride should showcase her abilities to best effect as she may yet prove to be the pick of her generation at this trip. Frankellina was my selection in the Oaks and though she’s a likely improver, three lengths looks too much to find with Fleeting, especially as she looked a dubious stayer at Epsom. It is interesting that she looks set to be her connections’ second string with Star Catcher the choice for Anthony Oppenheimer’s red cap with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. However, Queen Power looks to hold her on that form with Sir Michael Stoute in great form and the promise of more to come. Sparkle Roll was hugely disappointing in the Musidora, but that may not have been her true form while Irish raiders Altair and Fresnel could relish this new trip.

  1. Fleeting
  2. Queen Power
  3. Frankellina

 

Gold Cup:

Champion stayer and millionaire Stradivarius is obviously as fearsome an opponent as they come, but I’ll gamble on last year’s Derby runner-up DEE EX BEE relishing every yard of this newfound trip. His form briefly went to pieces after running a blinder at Epsom, but he’s turned it around with two strong galloping wins over two miles to begin this season. His rangy style ensures he can gallop his rivals into submission and I envisage a Big Orange/Order Of St George type of scenario with Johnston’s charge grinding out the win. Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter is another danger having taken his form to another level in Dubai, though he is much less certain of seeing out the trip. Capri has folded tamely so far this season and so stablemate Flag Of Honour looks the O’Brien number one. He win last year’s Irish St Leger and has recently been running over inadequately short trips while Magic Circle looks the best each-way option as he’s a likely stayer with a Chester Cup to his name.

  1. Dee Ex Bee
  2. Stradivarius
  3. Flag Of Honour

 

Britannia:

Thirty runners with varying levels of experience ensure this is the hardest code to break this week. Migration sneaks into this at the bottom of the weights with the absence of two in the original line-up. He has been progressing quicker than most this year with cut suitable enough and the same can be said of Motafaawit, who is already a duel course hero. Dunkirk Harbour lurks dangerously on his mark if his recent effort in a Group Three is anything to go by while the 8 in Awe’s recent form can be discounted due to meeting a nightmare passage. Velorum looks the pick for Godolphin as he’s impressed with two wins so far this term while Hero Hero looked smart at Chester. However, two at enormous prices stand out with Finoah having convinced enough that another furlong is within his range last time and a 6lb rise not looking overly harsh. Even higher in the market is HOT TEAM. His Listed win in France came on heavy ground and he won by 4 lengths that day. His two starts this term have been underwhelming, but he’s down 5lb for his first handicap start this season and there’s a chance he’ll relish conditions and run a mighty race.

  1. Hot Team
  2. Finoah
  3. Dunkirk Harbour

 

King George V:

Constantinople may well be very smart, but his rating of 105 leaves him vulnerable here in conceding 5lb and more all round for all that he is a Group Three winner. Stablemate Antilles was five lengths behind latest, but now receives that amount in weight. Sinjaari is raised a cruel 8lb for a runner-up finish at Newbury though he could surpass that in improvement for this trip. Almania needs to leave his Dante form behind, but the fact that he was considered good enough for that race speaks volumes, though the up and coming GREAT EXAMPLE was eased down to win in fine style in a novice race at Ripon and he carries a relative featherweight here. He is well bred and easily worth a shot at this if ready. Fox Premier and Sir Ron Priestley are the others of note.

  1. Great Example
  2. Constantinople
  3. Almania

Royal Ascot Days 1 & 2: A Darn Hot and Magical duo

It’s a racing festival like no other and though some superstars remain on the sidelines, Royal Ascot will attract world class fields. Wesley Ward’s American brigade will prove as popular as ever in the juvenile events, while in Barney Roy and Masar, Godolphin will hope to see a duo of revitalised champions proving themselves once again on the biggest stage. Below are my tips for the opening two days.

Day 1:

Queen Anne:

The ground is officially good as it stands, but with rain having fallen all week and with more expected, conditions are likelier to be slippery. Mustashry won his Lockinge on lively ground in impressive fashion, but both Le Brivido and Accidental Agent shaped impressively in behind and will prove dangers as they’ve both won at the Royal meeting before. Barney Roy has not yet looked the same horse as before his brief retirement, but did well to win in Listed company last time and this is still a weak division. Laurens’ last run at Ascot (soft) is a concern for all she’s tough and should come on from Newbury, but a chance is taken on HAZAPOUR. He is two from two over the mile trip having run in last year’s Derby. This now looks to be his optimum distance and he has operated to his best with cut in the ground. He won routinely in a Leopardstown Group Three latest and is well worth a second glance in this open contest. Both Lord Glitters and Beat The Bank are too often found out at this level, though Olmedo put in a performance much closer to his best again last time out and is dangerous. At big prices, expect solid runs and each way chances for Matterhorn and Stormy Antarctic.

  1. Hazapour
  2. Accidental Agent
  3. Mustashry

 

Coventry:

It is always tempting to follow the big stables off a cliff in mid-season two-year-old races and there is no doubt that Arizona’s maiden win at the second attempt was mightily impressive. He and Threat are evidently top prospects, but having faced soggy conditions on his second start at Hamilton, MAKYON looks an enormous price to follow up for Mark Johnston and Sylvester De Sousa. He bumped into subsequent winner War Storm on debut, but appreciated conditions when readily scoring next time. At that rate of improvement he may be going places even though that was a weaker event. Light Angel represents last year’s winning connections and enjoyed every yard of his first experience of six furlongs at Newbury, while Guildsman, Royal Lytham and Monoski are others to boast facile victories that put them in the mix.

  1. Makyon
  2. Light Angel
  3. Arizona

 

Kings Stand:

Last year’s top two do battle again, with preference for BLUE POINT (nap) over Battaash. The latter, perhaps, has the better pedigree on the potential ground, but has a tendency to become hot-headed on the big occasions. If he settles he is the most electric, but the selection has been cleaning up in Dubai over the winter. He prepared for this race in similar fashion last season when he took this race and he has the ability to apply himself better in a driving finish than his big rival. Mabs Cross lost a shoe when defeated by Battaash at Haydock and is a Group One winner in her own right while all four three-year-olds, Sergei Prokofiev, Soldiers Call, Fairyland and Signora Cabello, have the scope to be dangerous with their respective weight allowances.

  1. Blue Point
  2. Battaash
  3. Mabs Cross

 

St James’s Palace:

Things may finally fall into the hands of TOO DARN HOT here. His season to date has seen him outstayed in the Dante before being readily disposed of by the re-opposing Phoenix Of Spain in the Irish Guineas. However, there were just nine days in between those two outings and the combination of the short space of time and the requirement of an injection ensured John Gosden’s charge may not quite have been right. He’d beaten Charles Hills’ grey easily as a juvenile and much more looks to be in his favour. King Of Comedy looked very smart on his latest outing, but faces a reality check at this level while Skardu looks unlikely to improve past the principles despite solid performances in both Guineas races. Circus Maximus is interesting back in trip having been outstayed in the Derby and any rain would do him the world of good.

  1. Too Darn Hot
  2. Phoenix Of Spain
  3. Circus Maximus

 

Ascot Stakes:

Many recognisable names from the National Hunt business change codes to contest this marathon handicap. Both Buildmeupbuttercup and Mengli Khan are priced based on their hurdling and chasing exploits, but neither is particularly well treated based on what they’ve achieved on the level. Gordon Elliott has appointed Frankie Dettori for the ride on Batts Rock, though he was underwhelming on his latest flat start at Leopardstown while Fun Mac ran a big race for a long way in the Chester Cup and this might be easier. Nevertheless, one who is flying under the radar here is ULSTER. Archie Watson is better known for his work with two-year-ld sprinters, but his charge was second to Pattern performer Austrian School on his turf debut and though he has finished second on all three of his handicap starts, he has been dropped 1lb for his latest run which looks kind. If he copes with the extra half mile here, he might prove niftily treated. Time To Study ran much better than the bare form of eighth at Chester while Arctic Fire can never be ruled out wherever he turns up.

  1. Ulster
  2. Fun Mac
  3. Time To Study

 

Wolferton:

The concluding race of day one often attracts those who have a point to prove at the highest level. Elarqam had, until his latest start, proved disappointing at the top tables, though there was no denying he looked good in defeating Willie John. Magic Wand ran a grand race when third in the Man O War over in the States while Addeybb stayed on menacingly in the Huxley Stakes without ever threatening there. Riven Light is intriguing for Willie Mullins as he builds towards rejuvenating a hurdling career, but LATROBE appears criminally underrated on his achievements to date. He’d probably prefer further, but there is no shame in his defeats by the excellent filly Magical and he’s been a neck second at Group One level at this trip in Australia. Mountain Angel emerges from handicap company to appear here, but he was cosily home and dry at Epsom and looks ready to challenge.

  1. Latrobe
  2. Magic Wand
  3. Mountain Angel

 

Day 2:

 

Queen Mary:

Virtually impossible to find the winner in this with a maximum field of 28 in attendance. It may pay to keep it simple in which case Tango, who lines up as the O’Brien first string with Ryan Moore onboard, could be the answer. She was 1/6 when winning her second start which tells you a fair bit about the opposition, but she was impressive nonetheless and should now improve for her experiences. The head of the market is made up of Godolphin filly Final Song and the Wesley Ward trained Kimari. Both have pedigrees and connections designed to win this, although neither were originally the first string of their respective operations. Good Vibes was strong at the finish when winning the Marygate at York and that big-field contest will have done her the world of good with that contest also having provided three winners of this race. However, at a big price, LIBERTY BEACH represents last year’s winning trainer in John Quinn and is 2/2 so far while Flaming Princess and Al Raya contested what looked to be a good maiden at Nottingham.

  1. Liberty Beach
  2. Good Vibes
  3. Tango

 

Queen’s Vase:

Tactics and a late squeeze for room ensured NORWAY could finish only eighth in the Derby. However, he still has the best form on offer of those in attendance here and previous evidence suggests a step up in trip is right up his alley and Ryan Moore favours him over stablemate Western Australia. Son Donnacha rides the latter named for Aidan O’Brien and his Listed win over 1m5f was very encouraging and he had enough class to run Magna Grecia to a length in the Futurity Stakes last autumn. Nate The Great was third to Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck in the Lingfield Derby Trial and gives Hollie Doyle the chance of a big race victory while both Jalmoud and Moonlight Spirit have been brought along steadily by Charlie Appleby while Eminent Authority ran on very strongly near the finish over 1m4f last time out and is an imposing presence.

  1. Norway
  2. Western Australia
  3. Eminent Authority

 

Prince of Wales’:

This should be between the two superstar fillies MAGICAL and Sea Of Class. Narrow preference is for the first named, who has a race fitness edge and has been on a roll, sweeping up poor quality Group Ones in Ireland. That said she also pushed Enable to within a length in America and although Sea Of Class got even closer in the Arc, she will need to be stunningly impressive to win this first time out against the O’Brien filly at her optimum trip. Crystal Ocean is better over further and is ultimately better over further while Waldgeist re-discovered his best form in France recently and will provide a strong challenge if he can produce that level again. Zabeel Prince won a French Group One, but this is certainly more difficult for all he’s a better horse this year.

  1. Magical
  2. Waldgeist
  3. Sea Of Class

 

Duke of Cambridge:

Both Rawdaa and Pretty Baby are improving fillies, but the form of each of their recent runs lacks either depth or class and both would need to show something new to win here. The more established fillies include Veracious, Anna Nerium and I CAN FLY (nap). Sir Michael Stoute’s filly should never be as skinny as 6/1, while Anna Nerium’s one run at Ascot is a slight concern and so another O’Brien runner gets the nod. I Can Fly’s second to Roaring Lion at the track on soft ground in the autumn is highly encouraging and having finished sixth in the Lockinge, she should go very close here with a recent second in an equivalent contest reading well enough. Threading ran well in the Coronation Stakes here last season, but this is her seasonal re-appearance while Nyaleti should run far better than at Epsom where her temperament got the better of her.

  1. I Can Fly
  2. Anna Nerium
  3. Pretty Baby

 

Hunt Cup:

The big betting heat of the week and a gamble in the build up sets this up for a headline. New Graduate has the benefit of public support and Frankie in the saddle, but has to contend with a rise of over a stone in the weights and that should prove too costly. Chief Ironside’s recent form at Listed level makes him very dangerous, but he will need the rain to stay away as much as possible while both Robin Of Navan and Key Victory have recorded wins at higher levels than this in the past. Kynren can be followed off a cliff yet again after just falling short in the Victoria Cup, though just behind him that day was RAISING SAND who is given another chance. He was fourth when flying home against the stands rails that day and so the extra furlong can see him challenge once more. The danger to him could be yet another extreme draw from stall 32. Settle For Bay and Afaak were the first two home last year and neither is unfairly treated although both have recent form issues to overcome. Cardsharp might be undone by top weight but he’s a class act on his day and defied a significant burden latest while Zhui Feng won this two years ago off 4lb lower and made a promising seasonal re-appearance. A win for the Queen’s Seniority would likely be the most popular of the week.

  1. Raising Sand
  2. Zhui Feng
  3. Chief Ironside
  4. Robin Of Navan

 

Windsor Castle:

Much like the opener, this is nigh on impossible to predict and only one trainer has won this on multiple occasions in the last decade. That man is American Ascot specialist Wesley Ward and his FOOLISH HUMOUR looks to be the stable pick over Karak. Temple Of Heaven has already struck up back-to-back triumphs for Richard Hannon while last year’s winning trainer Archie Watson arriving here mob-handed with Better The Devil and Illusionist looking the pick of his quartet. Show Me Show Me took the Brocklesby and could be an enormous price on that with excuses for her second defeat and Monoski’s form worth a look in the Coventry. Iffraaz, Rayong and Bill Neigh are all attractive as once raced debut winners as well.

  1. Foolish Humour
  2. Temple Of Heaven
  3. Show Me Show Me

Derby Preview: Who can tame Sir Dragonet?

While I’m an advocate for imposing a limit to how many horses a trainer can run in a Classic, it is still admirable that Aidan O’Brien is able to field seven of the 13 strong field for Britain’s greatest flat race.

His dreams of possessing a triple crown winner in Saxon Warrior were dashed by the mighty Godolphin operation last year and though his Guineas hero, Magna Grecia, stays away, he still fields favourite and potential superstar Sir Dragonet. But the equine with the noble nomenclature will need to display firepower similar to that which he showed at Chester to repel his rivals.

As with every Classic, here are my thoughts on the runners and riders.

  1. Anthony Van Dyck: If you’re simply scrolling through to find out who wins tomorrow’s Epsom Derby, stop here. You need read no further. Anthony Van Dyck’s human namesake was a Flemish artist from the 17th Century and I’m expecting a dazzling performance from Seamie Heffernan’s mount. Along with Madhmoon, he was the best of these at two, finishing placed in two Group Ones over seven furlongs, In hindsight, those form lines are distinctly promising regards him possessing a turn of foot and he ground out the job in honest fashion to win the Lingfield Derby trial earlier in May. The Lingfield form was given a boost when Oaks trial winner Anapurna took the Oaks and the soft ground that day arguably played against him. Back on a sounder surface, he may be even better and his classy performances to date, as well as a bulldozing pedigree, give him a brilliant chance of regaining the Derby trophy for Aidan O’Brien. 5/5
  2. Bangkok: It is one of racing, and indeed sport’s greatest tragedies that Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a helicopter accident last October. His budding racing operation runs its first Derby entry with Bangkok and there are reasons to suggest an emotional triumph could be on the cards. He is unbeaten so far at three, beating Dante winner Telecaster in a maiden at the start of this term, before he won Sandown’s Classic Trial in authoritative fashion. Conditions would appear to suit, though a mile-and-a-half may ultimately play to others’ strengths before him. Furthermore, its likely Telecaster has now developed beyond him and so, while a respectable performance is likely, he has enough to find with some of the principles. 3/5
  3. Broome: There was nothing desperately wrong with Broome’s success in the Derrinstown Derby trial at Leopardstwon. However, given how he forged clear in the Ballysax over the same course and distance a month prior, his more workmanlike showing in beating Blenheim Palace and Sovereign was somewhat underwhelming. He was still an easy enough winner in a respected trial, though and has progressed from two to three (and he was placed at Group One level at two anyway). He will be peaking as he passes the line and he should love his first dig at 1m4f, but he takes a while to get going which may spell trouble as far as Tattenham Corner is concerned. It might not be the easiest watch, but he is guaranteed to pick up once off the bridle and his relentless galloping should ensure he’s firmly in the picture. 4/5
  4. Circus Maximus: Since Frankie Dettori was confirmed as his rider, punters have laid into Circus Maximus, particularly since his effervescent jockey took the Oaks earlier today. However, on form, I simply cannot understand this move. While he eventually won decisively enough in the Dee Stakes at Chester, he likely appreciated the ground softening before the off. Even then, he travelled with less fluency than most and the two in behind him could count themselves unlucky. Runner-up from that race, Mohawk, let the form down in the Irish Guineas next time out and Circus Maximus does not look in dire need of the extra quarter-mile. His jockey is a genius and it has paid to be on the inside so far at Epsom and I imagine he’d be handy. Tactics and personnel are the only reasons he scores higher than 1. 2/5
  5. Hiroshima: There probably haven’t been as many more strangely named horses than Hiroshima to contest a Derby, but fortunately it is almost certain the Epsom engravers can sleep easy before having to write his name onto their winners’ boards. He won a Southwell maiden at the beginning of the month in taking fashion, but that was a Class 5 affair and he was readily disposed of by my selection in the Lingfield trial. No chance. 1/5
  6. Humanitarian: This 66/1 outsider is, remarkably, John Gosden’s only representative. As such, there may well be a few who have a nibble at the price, though he is firmly up against it. His two wins from three starts have been achieved in the lower echelons of flat racing’s calendar. He’ll likely appreciate this trip, but there’s a chance he’ll still be at the top of the stretch once the winners are passing the post. Rab Havlin didn’t get his day aboard Mehdaayih in the Oaks, but this is beyond the realms of the ridiculous to hope Humanitarian will win. 1/5
  7. Japan: There’s always one isn’t there? The one you couldn’t possibly place even if you spent days sifting through statistics. On bare form, Japan has to make gigantic strides to feature having been cut adrift by Telecaster in the Dante and with just two wins to date, both won by under a length. Yet, before the trials, he was the O’Brien yard’s main hope for glory in this Classic. Given his inmates scooped prize after prize in the build-up, that suggests the regard Japan was held in prior to his York effort and so expect him to come on bundles for that run. Much like Broome, this trip should bring out his best as he displayed a depth of stamina even as a juvenile. What his best is, though, is anyone’s guess and he isn’t reliable enough to take a punt on. 3/5
  8. Line Of Duty: Given I’m backing Anthony Van Dyck, it would seem absurd to discount the horse that had him nearly six lengths behind when he won at the Breeders Cup. That was a significant victory for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin and, of course, they won this last year with Masar. However, his re-appearance in the Dante was as flat as a pancake and he showed none of the zest he’d showcased on his forays to America. He may well be a horse who cleans up prizes in Dubai and further afield in the future, but his form in this country leaves him as a genuine 33/1 shot. This trip may end up suiting, but he may have require some extra building blocks at a lesser level prior to this. Alas, he hasn’t had them. 2/5
  9. Madhmoon: Last year I backed Masar in the 2000 Guineas but not the Derby and will likely never forgive myself. This year I backed Madhmoon in the Guineas and once again, I have to forgo him for another at Epsom. That said, I’m much keener on his chances than I was Masar’s as a result and unfortunately, I think he’ll go very close. He may not be bred to stay this trip, but the manner of his fourth at Newmarket suggested that a mile was simply too short for him at the highest level. He flashed home and though an extra half mile is some leap upwards, he possesses enough potential to cope. His stride is powerful which bodes well for his stamina in time and his form over a mile, including when beating Broome at Leopardstown, at two is hugely taking. The 16/1 about him initially is long gone and punters may be wary of making a similar oversight to last year. If I’m to back more than one, he’s certainly going to be the second. 4/5
  10. Norway: I’ve been a secret admirer of this horse ever since he ran on powerfully to finish fifth on his debut last July. He latterly won the Zetland Stakes over the maximum trip for two-year-olds (1m2f) before finishing fourth when too keen in the Grand Criterium de Saint-Cloud. He finished almost out of sight of Sir Dragonet’s rear-view mirrors in the Chester Vase, but his temperament got the better of him that day and he would not have appreciated the constantly falling rain. Back on faster ground and with a test of stamina likely, I actually believe he’ll close the gap on Sir Dragonet unless utilised purely for pacemaking duties. The one guarantee is that he’ll stay better than any of the 13 runners in the field and he could prove a Kew Gardens type who goes onto better things in the St Leger. Not without a chance and certainly worth a second look at the current prices. 3/5
  11. Sir Dragonet: Coolmore’s utter domination of the sport in our country should preclude any fairytales emerging from their midst. However, Sir Dragonet was not originally entered in the Derby, extraordinary for an O’Brien horse, and had been virtually forgotten about before they decided to chance their arm in a Tipperary maiden. He won that bloodlessly and so a chance was taken to enter him in the Chester Vase, where he devoured the ground to demolish the field by eight lengths. It was difficult to believe at first, but far more so in hindsight. The soft ground looked to have benefitted him far more than the rest of the field (and certainly the runner-up). Similarly, while I have no doubt Donnacha O’Brien intended to play a waiting game in that contest, I cannot believe it was his intention to be five lengths behind the pack so early, as he was that day. While he eventually pulled clear, it would be a slight concern if they went a blitzing gallop early, as it may unsettle him, particularly if he doesn’t take to firmer ground. Overall, he’s distinctly beatable and easy enough to take on. 3/5
  12. Sovereign: Padraig Beggy’s name will forever be synonymous with Derby day, especially if he continues to get the odd ride on an O’Brien seventh string in the big race. Omen grabbers will look to Sovereign as his mount. If the rain somehow pours a flood’s worth of water onto Epsom, this horse’s odds will tumble as he won on a Galway bog by 14 lengths at two. However, having set the pace for Broome in the two Leopardstwon trials and been beaten with disdain in both, he looks set to do only the donkey work before the race unfolds in front of him up the stretch. Other O’Brien pacemakers have fared well in this (look up At First Sight, Golden Sword and Treasure Beach), but Sovereign looks unlikely to emulate those. 1/5
  13. Telecaster: Britain bit back to claim their first home-soil Classic this afternoon, and if they’re to level the score at 2-2 in a field dominated by the Irish contingent, Telecaster may be one to rely on. His defeat by Bangkok at Doncaster in March was perfectly acceptable given that was his racecourse debut and subsequent victories at Windsor and in the Dante at York have seen him rise above his conqueror from that day in the Derby market. He beat star juvenile Too Darn Hot at York and tracked the Gosden pacemaker that day. The fact that he was able to store enough in reserve to outgun the subsequent Irish Guineas runner-up was impressive and it will be a dream come true for Hughie Morrison if he were to challenge tomorrow. I do not at all doubt his ability, but I can’t trust that he wants the added two furlongs. 4/5

Anapurna was the first Classic winner this season who had no claims to any form at two. However, I still believe the juvenile formbook may be worth following and both ANTHONY VAN DYCK and Madhmoon were classy even before their good efforts this season. The fact that the former has displayed his aptitude for this trip on ground softer than ideal gives him the vote to stave off the 2000 Guineas fourth although I suspect Kevin Prendergast’s horse will stay strongly enough. Broome and Telecaster have each won trials over 1m2f and their contrasting abilities should see them involved too.

  1. Anthony Van Dyck
  2. Madhmoon
  3. Broome

Oaks Preview: Frankellina or What’s In A Name?

Having made a fairly bold statement about the second fillies Classic on Twitter earlier this month, it would be remiss of me to backtrack and veer away from previous assumptions. While the inmates of stables O’Brien and Gosden are alluring, the Oaks looks far more open than to have two favourites trading at around 2/1 and 5/2 in a 14-runner contest.

Both of those fillies arrive off the back of convincing victories. However, three of the last four winners were beaten on their previous start before this Classic while even the mighty Enable had tasted defeat earlier in the season. While being beaten should never be a trend to follow, victory the start before should not be a prerequisite for selecting the Oaks winner.

Below, as with the previous British Classics, I have previewed every horse in the field in detail, narrowing down to one who ticks the most boxes.

  1. Anapurna: It is most unusual that Frankie Dettori is partnered with what would seem to be the John Gosden team’s second string. However, as he rode Anapurna to victory at Lingfield in the Oaks Trial, he retains the faith and it is not difficult to see why. Though she was well beaten when horribly green at Wolverhampton in Decemeber, she has since cruised to an all-weather maiden before hosing up in that aforementioned trial at Lingfield. That was her first attempt on turf and the soft ground may not even have been her optimum surface. The further the field went, the further into the sunset Anapurna disappeared. The market is tellingly in favour of her stablemate, however and the runner-up from Lingfield is 50/1 to reverse the form. That suggests her contest may have slacked in comparison although her potential talent is obvious. 4/5
  2. Blue Gardenia: Her career to date has been anomalous for a couple of reasons. The first is that she failed in maiden and novice company on four occasions before deciding that Listed company was more to her liking when striking for the first time at Newmarket last November. The second is that, as a result of the former, she may still be on the upgrade as her comeback did not lack promise (5th in the Musidora at York). She’ll need to prove she stays, though, and her career to date suggests the need for cut in the ground. Others arrive with more promise and difficult to see Jamie Spencer working any wonders here. 1/5
  3. Delphinia: Aidan O’Brien holds a much stronger hand in the Derby than the Oaks though Delphinia still looks the stable’s fourth string out of his quartet for tomorrow. She boasts just the one win from five starts and has been beatn on both attempts in Group company. Her latest start was her most promising to date when slightly unlucky in running behind Tarnawa which suggested this trip is within reach, as her pedigree would tell us it is. Nevertheless, she has a lot to find and lacks the sparkle which others bring to the table. 2/5
  4. Fleeting: Sometimes finishing last in the 1000 Guineas is not always a barrier to brighter things to come. Qualify won the Oaks having done just that and Fleeting, at least, looks to possess an amount of ability. She won a Doncaster Group Two over a mile at the end of last season when finishing off her race strongly and she simply seemed to lack the pace at Newmarket. With Derby winner Motivator as her Dam’s Sire, there’s a chance stamina will play a part in her future and she could come on for her re-appearance in spite of that result. Two-year-old form has been key to the Classic winners so far this season and if that is anything to go by, Fleeting’s record as a juvenile would give her a squeak. A possible each-way play at a big price. 3/5
  5. Frankellina: As per my earlier statement, here is the Oaks winner. Experience and temperament stand against her, but the quirks she showed when missing the break at York last time were hopefully symptomatic of greenness and nothing long-term. That Musidora performance was a serious run having given the field at least three lengths (more if you count the momentum she had to gain compared to others) and there should be so much more to come anyway Being by Frankel, there’s every chance that she is a very capable filly and WIlliam Haggas has her down as the likelier stayer between her and Maqsad. If she doesn’t play around from stall 14 and settles, the ground looks ideal for her and if she has come on at all from York, which should be guaranteed, then 14/1 could look enormous. But for ignorance, she’d have won a key trial by a safe margin. 5/5
  6. Lavender’s Blue: The second flowery filly in the line-up looking to blossom on the biggest stage. Along with Frankellina, she is the least experienced horse in the field with just two runs to date although she’s looked a little more straightforward. She was denied late on in Newbury’s Fillies trail over 1m2f by the talented Queen Power which was a bold effort for a filly with just a maiden victory behind her. She will need to come on significantly from that to even dream of featuring, however, and all of her athleticism will need to be put to good use. Could prove useful in time, but lacks the vast scope to be good enough this early on in her career with such talent around her. 2/5
  7. Manuela De Vega: Went off favourite when readily disposed of by Mehdaayih in the Cheshire Oaks. She encountered her share of trouble in running that day, so the fact that she stayed on for second implied that a step up in trip would be beneficial. As well as this, she was unbeaten in two starts as a two-year-old which hints that her ability is fairly innate. Should come on for the run, but even if she does the weight of distance between herself and Gosden’s Chester winner looks fairly vast as the latter looked to have plenty of petrol of left even by the finishing line. She should be versatile in both tactics and ground, though even a perfectly planned race would leave her needing a little luck. 3/5
  8. Maqsad: Has evidently made huge strides since the turn of the year. Failed to win at two and on that form, she has plenty to find with Mehdaayih, but she romped home with Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes in convincing fashion. She was never hard pressed, so it is difficult to know whether she’ll definitely improve for the extra quarter of a mile, but she is bred to stay at least the mile-and-a-quarter she faced on her latest start , so its definitely worth a crack. William Haggas has stated that she is blessed with natural pace so patience may be the aim of the game before unleashing her in the straight. She has an obvious chance. 4/5
  9. Mehdaayih: Should almost certainly be favourite after annihilating the field in the Cheshire Oaks, which has proven a reliable source for winners of the Oaks in recent years. She positively whizzed past the finishing line on the Roodee which is ominous for those she faces today as goodness knows what was left. She showed an admirable temperament having been briefly caught in a pocket and she drifted left which should benefit her down Epsom’s cambers. Nevertheless, I have my doubts about some of the Chester festival’s form with a number of wide-margin winners emerging from the top contests and rain on the day ensured Mehdaayih’s victory on “good to soft” was likely on the damper side. Conditions will make this tougher on that form, but on a track where it’s imperative to possess some speed, she has some in abundance. 4/5
  10. Peach Tree: Donnacha O’Brien has taken his chances well in the Classics in recent seasons, but he’ll have to be at his very best if Peach Tree is to challenge. She had initially looked like staying distances would be her sort of thing when staying on behind stablemate Just Wonderful in a Curragh Group Two as well as cosily winning a Navan Listed contest over a mile from Tarnawa. However, that re-opposing rival turned the tables in convincing style at Naas earlier this month (Tarnawa had the benefit of a run two week prior) when both were stepped up in trip and though Peach tree may have needed the run slightly, her performance gave the visual impression of a sketchy stayer over 1m2f, let alone a mile-and-a-half. 1/5
  11. Pink Dogwood: Unlike her stablemate, Pink Dogwood has shaped every inch as if she would appreciate the Oaks’ extra test of stamina. She was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths in the Prix Marcel Boussac having bolted up in a maiden on her third start at two and was gutsy if unspectacular when winning on her seasonal debut. That form is well below others, particularly at three and her best performances to date have been achieved in boggier conditions than she will see in Surrey. For such a short-priced favourite, she has an awful lot to prove, so she is readily opposable even if she revels in the extra two furlongs. No doubting she’s O’Brien’s number one for tomorrow and for that, she cannot be dismissed too easily. 3/5
  12. Sh Boom: Really hope that she causes an immense shock because of her name, but fewer than two weeks since her last run (a disappointing sixth in behind Lavender’s Blue at Newbury) suggests my hopes will be dashed. She ran in two decent novice contests as a juvenile, winning the second, but that was by just a short head and she’d be in at the deep end regardless of her poor Newbury run. A true 100/1 shot and will do well to be in the top ten. 1/5
  13. Tarnawa: Found an O’Brien stablemate too good in her first three starts (one being Hermosa, the dual Guineas heroine) before eventually tasting victory at Leopardstown this April. She has two lengths to find with Pink Dogwood on Navan form that could potentially be bridgeable given how she shaped when victorious in a Group Three latest. She beat the useful Who’s Steph that day, getting up close home and so 1m4f is not discounted from suiting. She strikes me as being below the required Classic standard, though and it might take a bit of ingenuity from jockey Chris Hayes for her to be successful. Connections won the Derby three years ago and have an affinity with Epsom, but Tarnawa might struggle under the weight of that expectation. 2/5
  14. Tauteke: Roger Varian continues to impress this season, but unlike Qabala, who had a live chance in the 1000 Guineas, Tauteke looks seriously up against it. She has yet to win on turf, her only success being achieved on the all-weather and was left firmly in Anapurna’s wake at Lingfield when simply unable to live with that rival. She did, at least, stay on best of the rest and the soft ground might not have played to her strengths last time, but for a horse having just her second start on grass, Epsom will provide a stern test of her capabilities against such a strong field. Even if she somehow reverses form with Anapurna, she has too many others to compete against. 1/5

 

The inexperience of FRANKELLINA could see her bomb from an early stage of the Epsom contest. However, she showed a raw level of ability when second in the Musidora having missed the break, that I believe she has more to come and enough to compete at this level. Mehdaayih’s burst to win at Chester was a delight to watch and she is a troublesome opponent, as are Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Anapurna and Pretty Polly heroine Maqsad.

  1. Frankellina
  2. Mehdaayih
  3. Anapurna

The Myth of the Title Race Moment

The 2018/19 Premier League trophy has gone the way of Manchester City despite intense and unwavering pressure from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. It has been one of the most extraordinary title race’s as both sides have won every single one of their games as they hurtle towards the finish line. The quality and the desire are there for all to see. However, in terms of drama, its been a bit like the final lap around a Formula 1 track between the two fastest cards. Its as if Lewis Hamilton has edged ahead of Sebastian Vettel and the two have blitzed round every corner, Hamilton always holding the edge, but both clearly flying at breakneck pace before they pass the line in the same order.

Manchester City are Hamilton in this case. They’ve always maintained the edge while Liverpool’s Vettel has chased and harried without ever being able to pass. There has never been a top-flight season as beautiful in terms of a spectacle between the top two, but other race’s have involved tos and fros that perhaps encapsulated English football more tellingly.

Whichever race you qualify as the golden year, journalists and pundits alike, without fail, seek a moment during the run-in that summed up the season and swayed it in favour of the champions. Yet, this season, more than any I can think of, has possessed so many potential “moments” that could have been remembered as the ultimate. Furthermore, the moments have not only fallen City’s way, but Liverpool’s as well.

Other such title duels have seen defining moments which football fans welcome with fond recollection: Eden Hazard’s pearler to equalise against Tottenham which handed the trophy to underdogs Leicester, Sergio Aguero scoring that goal against QPR, going as far back to “Collymore closing IIIIINNNN.”

All of these deserve a folkloric, wistful re-telling every now and then. However, an alternative universe is currently pondering what might have been had Hazard not slipped, as he had all season, Balotelli not lost possession, as he had all season and if United had not, as Kevin Keegan foretold, been beaten by Middlesbrough.

In these universes, a separate moment would now be being heralded as the one that changed history forever. The title race is not, therefore, defined by just one of these moments. It is a myth that fans cling to in order to bring that extra spark of showbiz to the football world.

Below, I’ve remembered a number of the Premier League’s biggest title races and discussed how, if things had turned out just slightly differently, there would be other momentous occasions celebrated in the annals of football legend. Multiple fine margins, not just a single isolated incident, have determined our memories otherwise.

2018/19:

Champions: Manchester City

Pretenders: Liverpool

You all know the story. It’s only just concluded.

Their “moment”:

Equalising within 90 seconds on the final day against Brighton was both imperative and reflective of City as a team. However, Vincent Kompany’s wonder strike and arguable goal of the season was the sort of instant the Premier League prides itself on delivering.

Kompany is no longer the immediate first choice centre-back in a team brimming with talent most teams can only dream of. He remain, however, one of the crucial presences in their dressing room and to score his first goal from outside the box, at the 38th time of trying, in a game where City needed stardust from an unlikely position, summed up his contribution to the cause for so long.

Kompany’s goal was necessary for City, else their victory would be remembered more for the slimmest margins illustrated beautifully by goal-line technology. Liverpool were 11mm from scoring twice at the Etihad and going unbeaten, while Sergio Aguero’s winner at Burnley was just three centimetres from being cleared by Matt Lowton. Margins indeed, but multiple of them.

The challengers’ “moment”:

Where do you start?

Liverpool will go down as the unluckiest losers of the Premier League since its inception. Amassing 97 points and still falling narrowly short is crushing. Yet, if they had pipped City themselves, they may be remembered as among the most fortunate winners.

The football played by the top two teams this season has been aeons superior to the other 18. However, the luck Liverpool received, or earned depending on your point of view, was, at times, nothing short of miraculous.

A number of offside goals, a couple of Mo Salah dives (not bitter, promise!) and an incredible scarcity of injuries combined to give them a fighting chance. However, I don’t think anyone has ever seen a goal quite like Divock Origi’s winner against Everton.

Virgil Van Dijk’s wild slice that spun back off the crossbar, having escaped the palms of Jordan Pickford, was followed in by the Belgian striker for the most bizarre goal most must have witnessed. The fact that it came in the 96th minute, against their bitter rivals, to break the deadlock and remain at the top of the league grants it unequalled status as the luckiest moment of the season.

2015/16:

Champions: Leicester City

Pretenders: Arsenal, Tottenham

It is bafflingly brilliant that Manchester City’s centurion tally is only the second most extraordinary title-winning achievement in the last three years. Leicester’s success emphasised the weight of momentum and the power of joy. Every player revelled in the implausible, nay impossible, things their team were doing on the football pitch. They benefitted a touch from circumstance with none of Liverpool, Manchester City or Manchester United threatening and Chelsea reeling from the original Mourinho meltdown.

Their “moment”:

The goal that won them the title is largely credited as the glorious climax to an unthinkable season. Not only was it superbly elevated beyond Hugo Lloris by Eden Hazard, but it was the Belgian’s first Premier League goal from open play that season such was his turmoil. It was also a game that, ultimately, Spurs probably deserved to win and their complete breakdown by the game’s end was metaphoric of the season. The established order had crumbled, paving the way for a deep blue wave from the Midlands to power away.

However, this moment devalues what Leicester demonstrated that season. If anything, the game we should all recall came at White Hart Lane, where Robert Huth’s towering header gave the Foxes a 1-0 win. The BBC reported this as a crucial win “over top-four rivals Spurs” at the time despite the fact that it drew Leicester level on points at the top with Arsenal. Without Huth’s goal, Leicester would have gone four games in a row without scoring, making a decline seemingly inevitable. The steely grit they showed thereafter was nothing short of exceptional.

The challengers’ “moment”:

Danny Welbeck is leaving Arsenal at the end of this season and it seems unlikely he’ll receive a testimonial. However, in another world beyond our eyes, Arsenal will have cancelled their Europa League final with Chelsea to pay homage to the man who’s crucial 95th minute winner over plucky underdogs and oh-so-nearly men Leicester, put the Gunners on the way back to the top.

Welbeck’s goal, to give Arsenal a 2-1 win over Ranieri’s ten men, looked to have turned the title tide. It closed them to within two points of the summit, adjoined to North London rivals Spurs, with a dozen games still to play. Surely Spurs would be unready for the fight and Leicester? Well, don’t be ridiculous.

Instead, it was to be the last challenge of the Arsene Wenger reign and it would end with a whimper. Leicester would fail to lose another game while Arsenal were beaten in their next two, by a severely weakened Manchester United and at home to strugglers Swansea. They ran on for second, but Welbeck’s goal only has the relevance of enhancing the Leicester legend.

2013/14:

Champions: Manchester City

Pretenders: Liverpool

Manuel Pellegrini’s reign as Manchester City manager is one of the most forgotten, yet surprisingly successful spells in Premier League history. He delivered their second title in three years off the back of five straight wins to close out the season and this in his first full campaign in charge. However, it is Brendan Rogers’ Liverpool side, and their late collapse, that make 20313/14 a vintage top-flight season. It is a sign of how far English football has come in the least five years that the principle managers this year are now in charge of West Ham and Leicester having had spells in China and Scotland in between. Food for thought.

Their “moment”:

As mentioned above, City won their last five games to triumph, so you’d imagine those matches would be rife with “momentous” potential. However, the only vaguely memorable game of those five came at Goodison Park, but that fails to deliver the desired knockout blow. No, unfortunately, this was a season not won by the champions, but lost by the runners-up.

That slip is obviously historic and made for marvellous headlines at the time. Steven Gerrard had recently led a rousing chorus of “We do not let this f***ing slip” after his side had defeated Manchester City 3-2 at Anfield. Cue a loss of footing, presenting Demba Ba with a free hit that he so desperately tried to put straight at Simon Mignolet. Fortunately for him his shot snuck through the goalkeeper’s legs and Chelsea held out to put the title back in City’s hands.

This represents only half of the drama plaguing Liverpool’s final few weeks. In the penultimate tie, they travelled to Selhurst Park and led 3-0 with 20 minutes left, seeking to tear into City’s goal difference advantage. Dwight Gayle’s second of the night, before stoppage time had even dawned, capped a watershed night that saw Crystal Palace recover and snatch a 3-3 draw, enabling City the opportunity to draw on the final day. Gayle’s goal, a simple route-one affair, summed up the season’s final chapter as Liverpool’s vast attacking threat gave way to defensive calamity and top-level ignorance. Gerrard’s slip was the frontispiece, but Palace’s comeback should be remembered as definitively.

The challengers’ “moment”:

With five games left, Liverpool held a narrow lead of two points from Chelsea that could evaporate with defeat at Anfield. City were four back, but with two games in hand, knowing that any result would keep the title in their hands.

Liverpool’s busy swarm of attacking “S’s” charged at the City backline from the off, giving Liverpool a 2-0 lead without pausing for breath. Once they did, City fought back, absorbing the deficit.

Kompany’s screamer against Leicester has granted him Premier league immortality, but he almost earned it for the wrong reasons. HIs sliced attempt at a clearance fell at the feet of Phillipe Coutinho, then a hero of Reds supporters. He found the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s net and Liverpool were clear in the hunt for their first Premier League trophy.

Had they achieved even one title in the preceding 20 years, it is likely Rodgers’ outfit would have skipped into the sunset with Coutinho on the shortlist for a statue outside Anfield. Fortunately for City’s captain, Liverpool’s own trumped him.

2011/12:

Champions: Manchester City

Pretenders: Manchester United

Never will a Premier League season ever be defined more by a single touch of a football than in 2011/12. This title race had everything. First United led by 8 points. Then City had it on goal difference, beating United at the Etihad, meaning they required only a win against a QPR side still fighting relegation.

It was beyond the realms of possibility that City would drop points. Yet, they were losing in stoppage time. All QPR had to do, was concede once. And of course…

Their “moment”:

Phonetically, Sergio Aguero’s name is perfect for a Martin Tyler scream of ecstasy. Fate smiled on this linguistic coincidence as the Argentine’s 94th minute winner gave Manchester City their first Premier League title to the dismay (I’m still not over it, nor will I ever be) of the Red Devils.

This is the only moment I will allow to define a Premier League season, for there can be no other. Forget the other 68,399 minutes (plus stoppage time). This was the only one that mattered.

2007/08:

Champions: Manchester United

Pretenders: Chelsea

Manchester City and Liverpool are the undisputed juggernauts dominating English football right now. The last time two teams were so dominant was around a decade ago, when Manchester United and Chelsea sparred it out.

Chelsea’s oil-rich honeymoon ended in 2007 when United wrestled the title back to the north. The following season was set for a showdown between the two. Perhaps Chelsea had grown complacent a year earlier and would simply march back to the top.

Arsenal looked like potential party poopers for a while, much like Spurs this season. But by the season’s end, there were only two in camera shot and United, buoyed by a veteran on the verge of making club history, retained their title.

Their “moment”:

Say what you like about Ryan Giggs’ off-field activities, his service to Manchester United on it is unparalleled among the big clubs. He spent two entire decades in the first-team and adapted his game where others would have dearly struggled.

On the final day of the 2007/08 season, United and Chelsea were level on points, though United’s vastly superior goal difference gave them the edge. Chelsea hosted Bolton, while United travelled to Wigan.

The “moment” arrived ten minutes from time. Both teams were 1-0 up, either knowing that a single second’s complacency would send the trophy to their rivals. Giggs, equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s appearance record that day, intelligently found a yard’s space at the border of the Wigan penalty area. His control and finish beyond Chris Kirkland supplied United with an unassailable 2-0 advantage. news evidently reached Stamford Bridge as the subdued atmosphere worsened with a Bolton equaliser.

In his latter years, Giggs was hardly prolific. Yet, the wealth of experience in his possession was encapsulated in this decisive goal.

United, however, could point to previous games as holding the key. Carlos Tevez scored late equalisers at both Tottenham and Blackburn while in the home tie against the former, Nani’s wonder strike gave United a first win of the season at the fourth attempt. Giggs’ moment was only the summation of a 38-game slog to success

The challengers’ “moment”:

With three games remaining, United journeyed to Stamford Bridge with a three-point lead. Chelsea were still in the midst of their 84 game unbeaten streak at home in the Premier League so the thought of United winning to effectively seal the deal that day was off the table. A draw, however, and the Red Devils would only need one more victory from their final day due to their goal difference advantage.

In hindsight, Chelsea’s “moment” could have been a significant one had United failed at Wigan or against West Ham. With fewer than ten minutes remaining, the game was locked at 1-1 when Michael Carrick was adjudged to have handled a cross from wide. Michael Ballack scored the resulting penalty to draw Chelsea level and retain some hope of regaining their crown.

With the momentum of the title, United held their nerve to beat Chelsea on penalties in the Champions League final. However, football has a funny way of working things out and if Chelsea had emerged triumphant domestically, whose to say John Terry wouldn’t have hit the post.

1998/99:

Champions: Manchester United

Pretenders: Arsenal

Every club will always seek to defend their own achievements. Arsenal fans wax lyrical about their “Invincibles”, City fans’ eyes will always grow foggy remembering their “Centurions”. For United supporters, however, the Treble winners of 1999 remain unsurpassable.

They may have only earned 79 points on their way to the title this season, but no English club, before or since, has won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season. Not only did they rack up the trophies, but they also vanquished an Arsenal side hungry for more success having won the domestic double the season before.

Their “moment”:

This was another season that plunged to the wire. Arsenal had lost at Leeds on the penultimate day giving United the chance to go three points clear against Blackburn. They could only draw, ensuring that they would need to beat Tottenham at Old Trafford to make sure of the title.

2011/12 aside, this was the only final day in which the lead looked set to change hands. United fell behind to Les Ferdinand while Arsenal went a goal up and remained in charge for the whole 90 minutes. United struggled until David Beckham’s equaliser shortly before half-time.

Then, came their “moment”, in the league at least. Andy Cole brought down a ball from Gary Neville that bounced uncomfortably beside him. However, he had spotted goalkeeper Ian Walker off his line and lobbed a delicate half-volley over him that dropped anchor just below the crossbar. Few title-winning goals were as classy as Cole’s and it started United along a ten day road to the promised land.

Cole’s winner against Spurs wasn’t his only vital intervention. he scored an 89th minute winner at Charlton, while as iconic a moment occurred when United travelled to Nottingham. 4-1 up with ten minutes to go, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was introduced and scored four more of his own. The 8-1 scoreline remains the biggest ever away win in the Premier League.

The challengers’ “moment”:

Far from coming on the final day, Arsenal may well have had their moment back in February when drawing 1-1 at Old Trafford.

United and Arsenal had met twice previously that season, both in London and both resulting in 3-0 wins for the Gunners (one was in the Charity Shield). Arsenal had dominated both encounters, riding the high of dual success in 1998.

However, at Old Trafford, it was United who played the superior game. Yet, despite their chances, Arsenal went ahead through Nicholas Anelka. Then came the nearly “moment”.

United won a penalty and Dwight Yorke, their most irrepressible goalscorer that season, stepped up to inevitably equalise with United on top. Instead, he put his penalty wide of David Seaman’s left-hand post. Andy Cole would eventually bring United level, but it was very much a case of a point gained for Arsenal and two lost for United.

Arsenal dropped just seven points in their remaining 13 games, but United clung on. Had Arsenal dropped just two points fewer, they would have denied United’s triple-headed destiny and gone back-to-back. Yorke’s miss fades into statistics in comparison to what United did next.

1995/96:

Champions: Manchester United

Pretenders: Newcastle United, Liverpool

Liverpool’s ten-point lead over Manchester City this season was always a false dawn. However, Newcastle’s 12-point advantage over Manchester United, among others, in January 1996 remains the greatest loss of superiority since the Premier League’s inception. Liverpool’s immense points tally this season will inevitably sting, but as Newcastle have failed to lift the title since, they retain their “nearly men” status.

Their “moment”:

United’s charge in the second-half of the season blitzed others into submission and eventually wore down the Geordie parade. However, it was far from a convincing performance that saw their “moment” come about.

Newcastle were four clear going into the game and even had a game in hand to bolster their chances further. Victory, and the slight concerns beginning to creep into supporters’ minds would have evaporated once more without second thought.

Instead, they pummelled United’s defence, which held out mostly thanks to an imperious goalkeeping display by Peter Schmeichel. The hammer blow was landed at the start of the second half when Cantona struck low, hard and true. It typified the player: a classy first touch to bring it under control and a lethal finish befitting a true poacher.

This result, combined with the “game of the century”, swung the race in United’s favour.

The challengers’ “moment”:

Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle. There have been plenty of other matches whose scoreline is the same, but none with as much impact.

Newcastle still held a slim lead in the title race after this game, but the crushing blow of Collymore’s strike in stoppage time, in a game in which Newcastle had led twice, saw momentum shift away from the Toon.

The goal, immortalised in Sky’s coverage of the game, saw Martin Tyler react in a similar way to the Aguero goal. Liverpool were probing, Newcastle were out on their feet and then Collymore struck the final blow.

Kevin Keegan slumped forward in the Newcastle dugout. It was an image that told its own story.

This was the ultimate acid test of Newcastle’s bottle which is why I have chosen this as their “moment”. They’d already faced the minor heartbreak of being beaten by United undeservedly. Now was their chance to bounce back.

Ultimately, they proved that the task was beyond them and Keegan’s infamous “love it” rant defines him as a manager. With a bit of nerve and a touch less aggression, Newcastle would have a Premier League title in spite of this game. In fact, with the aforementioned traits, this game may even have been seen as the catalyst.

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Enough moments combined to swing this season’s Premier League title in Manchester City’s favour. However, just as many may easily have brought a first title to Anfield. Trophies hinge on the seconds it takes for the net to ripple, but the idea that every title race could have been settled by a single moment within 38 games worth of drama.

If any result had shifted slightly in an alternate direction in any of the race’s highlighted above, other moments will have been heralded. For the scrapbook and the season review’s moments hook you into history.

But the Premier League is bigger than that.