Brendan Duke: Laid low by a stag but this French fancy can lift my spirits

It may take him a while to get there but when he does, Dukey makes a compelling case for Kew Gardens in Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

Prix-de-L'Arc-de-Triomphe (R)


After a heavy weekend in Portugal I’m laid low in both body and soul. The first cold of the season brought on by excessive indulgence. Not really my fault. As mentioned before I’ve weak sales resistance, vulnerability to peer pressure is a natural extension of this.

There was a WhatsApp group for the stag do. Always is. Grand job they are too. Full of jokes, pictures and videos from the pre-Harvey Weinstein era. Nothing wrong with a spot of nostalgia, I say.

A couple of days before we left, one of the lads posted a picture of a bottle of beer. Another of our party replied:, ‘Bottles’, followed by two disdainful looking emojis.

Better be no one sipping out of f**king bottles next weekend. It’s a STAG, not a child’s birthday party.

I’m not much of a drinker but know when the gauntlet has been thrown down. Did my best to keep up but ended up drinking water, from bottles no less, and unlike some of my more indefatigable staggers, always made it home well before dawn.

Enjoyed the trip no end despite confirmation of my lightweight status. Particular highlights were the waves. Proper push you under, think you’re going to drown, before spitting you back out on the shore waves. We don’t get that kind of exhilaration on the mill pond that is the Irish Sea.

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The hotel was nice, providing a solid breakfast. I tried everything but the sausages which I was wary of for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t until the last day when another of our party compared them to a ‘terriers mickey’ that it all made sense. Realise this is in danger of turning into a TripAdvisor review but I’ll leave the punters among you with some solid advice I received. If you fancy a bet, use your data as opposed to the WiFi. The latter places you in Portugal and says no bet, the former loves the game and asks if you want the bet again.

It was through my data that I watched the Group 1’s from Newmarket on Saturday. Ten Sovereigns continued his progression and bagged the Middle Park. While not as visually striking as his previous two wins, it was impressive. He became a little unbalanced in the dip, which was surprising given how well he moves. Perhaps this was the first time he encountered undulations. He ultimately won a shade snugly and I’d expect him to handle the track better next time.

Sadly for my ante-post portfolio this won’t be in the Dewhurst. The second must be a very smart horse too as they pulled well clear of the rest. My hunch is he will stay the Guineas trip and remains the one to beat in my eyes.

Fairyland got the job done in the Cheveley Park. That’s just what professionals do. She rolled up her sleeves and knuckled down to the task in hand. While she’s clearly not miles ahead of the opposition, I think the 14/1 for the 1000 Guineas is worth a bet. Her trainer doesn’t have a great record in the race, but given her profile he’s surely going to have her spot on for the day.

She will have an experience edge on most and a tempermental edge on all. She’s unlikley to be the best three-yer-old filly come the end of next season – but in early May I’d give her every chance.

The Americans shipped a right hiding in the Ryder Cup. Told you I was a hopeless golf judge. Unlike my erstwhile colleague Iain McLaughlin who basically went through the card. If you’re looking for some wisdom, or indeed just a chuckle, I’d recommend the golf podcast he does with the Racing Post lads.

Hopefully, this weekend in France will provide more competitive fare than the last. I always look forward to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with greater anticipation than any other race. This year was supposed to be all about the race we should have had last season.

Of course there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. Enable is back to defend her crown but Cracksman is highly unlikely to show due to unseasonably quick ground. It’s still a fascinating clash of the generations, with the fillies holding the upper hand. Enable has only had one run this term but she appears to retain all her ability.


Sea Of Class looks a worthy pretender to the crown. I’m not really mad keen to have a bet, but it’s the Arc so I will. Kew Gardens is interesting. He’s improved all season and will likely put up a career best here. I think his Doncaster St Leger romp will prove strong form.

Factor in the current red hot stable form, that he will likely sit handy in a race not loaded with obvious pace and he becomes an increasingly tasty e/w option at around 10/1. I’m going to wait until the day to back him. A big field looks likely and there must be a fair chance that Paddy decides to offer 4 places along with the current non-runner no bet concession.


My biggest bet of the week will likley be Laurens in the Sun Chariot at Newmarket on Saturday. It’s possible to make the case that she shouldn’t be favourite. Arguably Wind Chimes achieved more in her most recent defeat that Karl Burke’s filly has in her career.

Wind Chimes is also relatively lightly raced and trained by Andre Fabre. However this race looks to set up beautifully for Laurens. There is no other obvious contender to make the pace. She seems to relax much better when allowed to bowl along in front. With her experience of and forrmidable record at the track, I’ll be surprised if anything passes her.

Again I’ll wait until the day as I don’t see her being any shorter than the current price on offer.

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What do you think?