Monday’s best bets, by Chris Cook

The aggression of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby approached the level of savagery, Aidan O’Brien has said as he reflected on the defeat suffered by his Mendelssohn, who was eased down to finish last. But rather than complain about the interference suffered by his horse in the early stages, the Ballydoyle trainer is now concerned with how he can train a horse to cope with that level of aggression in future and perhaps even show it himself.

“In America, dirt racing is very aggressive at the best of times but when the weather goes like that [very wet], the aggression turns into nearly savagery,” said O’Brien, speaking at Newmarket on Sunday. “Because everyone knows if you miss a millimetre at the start, it’s over. So everyone wants to hit the front, everyone wants to make the running. The pressure and the intensity steps up tenfold.

“We never experienced that. We experienced normal dirt racing before and we were prepared for that but we weren’t prepared for the different level of intensity. And obviously when we weren’t prepared, the horse wasn’t prepared. So ultimately the horse and the jockey paid the price for it. But going back next year, we would know a little bit more what to prepare and how to prepare. It’s learning from your failures.”

Mendelssohn was knocked sideways by a rival about two strides into Saturday’s race and O’Brien feels the horse’s chance was lost immediately. “It was over from the gate. At the gate, he was wiped out. And then he went to the bend and got wiped again.”

But O’Brien accepts that his horse did not break as fast as he wanted and this is one of several things he plans to work on with future runners in the US. “It’s like all sport, it’s competitive. If you don’t get to the ball first, the fella besides you gets there. And if you have to stand on his foot on the way to the ball, that’s the way it is.

“Our thing is, always do our very best in a 100% straight way and then accept the result. And if anything else happens, we always say that nothing is ever on purpose, everything is always accidental. Because if you start thinking different than that, there’s no way forward. You try moving to a way that it mightn’t happen again and learn from it. That’s the way life is.

“We obviously have to be more aggressive from the gates. And those [US-trained] horses that are on that road are taught that way from day one and the aggression becomes an impulse after a while, they don’t even think about.” It is, O’Brien noted, a very different culture to European flat racing, in which the aim is usually to teach a horse to settle through the early stages.

Today’s racing offers punters the chance to assess some jumps racing on a sound surface, which feels like a rarity after the winter we’ve had. My focus is on Kempton, starting with Wishfull Dreaming (2.20), who might be worth chancing at 3-1 in a three-runner novice chase.

This full brother to Wishfull Thinking ought to be well suited by fences and seems to prefer dry ground. This is just his second start since joining Olly Murphy from Philip Hobbs and he didn’t show much the first time, in the Lanzarote in January, but that was a hot race on soft going and there might have been an issue with the tongue tie, which is left off this time.

The hot favourite is Amour De Nuit, who is undoubtedly talented but became frustrating over hurdles in the latest jumps season. It’s not clear to me that he’ll thrive over fences and he didn’t have a good experience at Cheltenham last month, being well beaten when falling at a late stage.

Secret Investor (2.55) at 13-8 might be a better bet for fans of the Paul Nicholls stable, as this novice hurdler looks up to conceding weight to his rivals. Bugsie Malone (3.30) could strike a blow for Chris Gordon in the staying handicap chase, being up only 4lb since his most recent success over this course and distance. He’s 100-30.

Warwick 1.30 Hidden Glen 2.05 Simply The Betts 2.40 Free Stone Hill 3.15 Minella Scamp 3.50 Leapaway 4.25 Clearly Capable 5.00 Breaking Ground 5.30 Walter Oneeightone

Kempton 1.45 Eskendash 2.20 Wishfull Dreaming 2.55 Secret Investor (nb) 3.30 Bugsie Malone 4.05 Spin A Yarn 4.40 Peter The Mayo Man (nap) 5.15 Holly Flight

Beverley 1.55 The Great Heir 2.30 Five Helmets 3.05 Life For Rent 3.40 Tadaany 4.15 Detachment 4.50 Society Red 5.25 Burgonet 6.00 Bee Machine

Windsor 2.00 Baltic Prince 2.35 Delagate This Lord 3.10 Tarte Tropezienne 3.45 Nayel 4.20 Tai Hang Dragon 4.55 Employer 5.30 Bullingdon 6.05 Spring Romance

Ayr 2.10 Petite Ganache 2.45 Return Ticket 3.20 Captiva Island 3.55 Miles To Milan 4.30 Steel King 5.05 Weebill 5.35 Ulis De Vassy 6.10 Glinger Flame

Bath 2.15 Karalini 2.50 Mooroverthebridge 3.25 Compton Prince 4.00 Ginger Nut 4.35 Airshow 5.10 Cent Flying 5.45 Secret Agent 


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