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David Hood William Hill

Tuesday October 25, 2005

David Hood has been Director of Public Relations for Britain's William Hill Organization since 1993.

Universally recognized as one of the leading bookmakers in the world, William Hill specializes in legal off-track wagering and operates the fastest growing Internet gambling site in the UK.

During his time at William Hill, David oversaw the launch and development of William Hill TV and has appeared on numerous live/recorded television programs for Sky Sports, The Racing Channel and William Hill TV – CH425, specifically including many special presentations of International race meetings such as the Breeders Cup & Melbourne Cup.

David is also a regular contributor to BBC Ceefax Racing, All Sport magazine, The Daily Express and the Racing Post.

Now, with the moment of truth almost upon us, David has agreed to answer your questions about the field of hopefuls in the eight races of Breeders' Cup 2005.

MODERATOR:
Today, we have a special treat for our readers: a visit with one of the premier observers of the European racing scene who's in New York for Saturday's Breeders' Cup and has agreed to join us here for a bit to share some of his thoughts about the races as they are shaping up so far.

New York:
What’s the biggest Breeders’ Cup ‘hit’ you’ve taken (winning bets) that you’ve had to pay out?

Hood:
As you would expect it has been the European winners that have hit us hardest in the UK and, ironically, two of them have been here at Belmont. Ridgewood Pearl in the 1995 Mile and Banks Hill in the 2001 Fillies & Mares Turf both inflicted wounds. Another one that was particularly popular in Europe was Barathea in the 1994 Mile.

Cherry Hill, NJ:
Which horses from Europe do you see as having the best chances in the Breeders' Cup? It seems the English are very interested in pre-race odds. Is this the case?

Hood:
As always we are strongest in the Turf, although it s encouraging to see challengers emerging for dirt races like the Juvenile and the Classic. Obviously, Ouija Board has a favourites chance to repeat her win in the Fillies & mares Turf although the rain will not be helping the chances of Azamour in the Turf. Conversely, it will be a major positive for Bago and possibly Shiroco in the same race.

Seattle, WA:
It is probable that the European horses may do well on the soft turf at Belmont, but curious how you'd rate Oratorio and Starcraft in the Classic? Both will be running 'turf to dirt', and both have run very well in Europe, it will be interesting to see how they will compete with some seasoned good older horses that have done very well here and commonly run on the dirt.

Hood:
They are interesting challengers in what I perceive could be a ‘weak’ year for the Classic. I think if Afleet Alex, Roses In May or Ghostzapper were still in there, then Starcraft may have gone to the Mile and Oratorio may have tackled the Turf. BUT, right these two off at your peril. Oratorio always looks like it is struggle and will undoubtedly be outpaced early on, but he finishes more strongly than anything else in the field. Starcraft is a huge horse, with bags of pace and a sporting owner who want to tilt at windmills. It is very sporting gesture to run here….and let's be honest, he has nothing to lose. If he wins or runs well he enhances the colts reputation. And if he runs poorly then they have the excuse that he didn’t handle the dirt!

Toronto, ON:
Good Afternoon David. As a long time account holder with William Hill and a passionate Euro Horse player I would like to get your insight on two questions. First, I watched Starcraft work on the all weather at Sothwell via the web and was not impressed. What chance do you give him in the classic ? And second, do you think Azamour will send chalk players plunging into the Moulin Rouge dumpster?

Hood:
I think Starcraft did little more than stretch his legs, a steady gallop around Southwell with 3 inferior stable mates as a prep for the Classic is like playing 9 holes of golf around your local pitch & putt in preparation for the Masters!But, I don’t write him off in what could be a weak Classic.

Azamour remains the class in the Turf, BUT the extreme rain is a concern for me, he is one I would now want to leave alone now.

San Jose, CA:
In your view, which European horse has the best chance to win one of the three turf races? thanks,

Hood:
Ouija Board is the obvious one (favourite for the Fillies & Mares Turf), but Bago & at a price Shiroco could be the value bets in the Turf.

Villa Hills, KY:
Which European horses in the Turf have the best chance of winning? Who is the better horse at 1 1/2 between Azamour and Bago?

Hood:
There is very little between them in Europe, but the key remains the weather and the state of the Turf track. I fancy Bago over Azamour on a soft turf track.

Covington, KY:
Is Ivan Denisovich bred for dirt in the juvenile, and are Starcraft and Oratorio bred for the Classic? What are their chances of winning these races?

Hood:
Ivan Deinisovitch IS dirt bred. He is by Danehill who throws winners everywhere, but out of Hollywood Wildcat (winner of the BC Distaff and Hollywood Oaks etc). Moreover, he is a tough sun of a gun like Johannesburg and Wilko so he could run in to a place. Oratorio & Starcraft are NOT bred for the dirt, but as already explained they are exceptional racehorses and have a squeak if it turns out to be an ordinary year for the classic.

Torrance, CA:
I've seen Better Talk Now being quoted at odd of 8-1 or 10-1. Do you see him actually going off at these odds or do you think the American fans are going to bet him down lower?

Hood:
He is currently a 9/1 chance with William Hill in the UK. He was a shock in the BC Turf last year, and I think this is a stronger Turf race this time around.

Toronto, ON:
Do you think In the Gold has a legitimate chance in the Distaff?

Hood:
Yes, she has a place/show chance and It was an improved performance to lift the Gazelle. But, I think she may just lack the caliber to trouble the likes of Ashado and Stellar Jayne.

Hyattsville, MD:
The European horses have spent the year beating each other. How do you see them doing in the BC?

Hood:
Hey, haven’t the US horses spent all year beating each other as well? That’s called racing! Records show that each year we now come to the Breeders Cup and steal a race or two (and not always on the turf now!). I suspect we’ll have at least two winners again this year….but the crystal ball can’t tell me exactly which ones! My biggest European hopes are Bago or Shiroco and Ouija Board.

Palatine, IL:
David, After watching the European horses get crushed at Woodbine on Sunday, do you think that the contingent from Europe might be overrated this year?

Hood:
Crushed?? Ah c’mon. Punctilious may have run a stinker (probably over the top for the season) but Vanderlin, Electrocutionist, and Grey Swallow all ran respectably on ground softer than they would like.

If they were crushed what would you say about the ones behind them? We have definite chances here in New York.

Cuyahoga Falls, OH:
John Oxx has been quoted as saying that Azamour does not like soft turf. Long Island has gotten over 19 inches of rain in the last two weeks and the Belmont course will probably be labeled yielding. Would love to hear your thoughts on how this will effect Azamour and other contenders.

Hood:
It is a worry for backers of Azamour. It is not that he doesn’t act on soft ground as he has run respectably (but definitely below his best) in both the Tattersall's Gold Cup and the ’04 Champion Stakes. But, undoubtedly over a mile and half on fast ground he is the Class and John Oxx has planned this for some time (sidestepping the Arc in Paris to come here fresh) and has only ever sent Ridgewood Pearl out here before, so he has a 100% record.

Dallas, TX:
Mr. Hood, this year's BC will mark the fourth time in 15 years that the event has been run at Belmont. With a few exceptions (Woodbine, Arlington, Lone Star), the BC has been run on the same few tracks since its inception. Do you think this is purely a marketing strategy? And do you see the BC being hosted by other name tracks nationwide or even internationally in the near future?

Hood:
I guess you would have to ask the Breeders' Cup people about this one. But, I don’t see the Breeders' Cup being run anywhere other than North America. It would be like playing the World Series in London, it wouldn’t work.

Despite the proliferation of all-weather courses being created in Europe and around the world, the US horses wouldn’t come to Europe. It would be nice to visit a few other tracks, though, and we did enjoy going to Woodbine a few years back.

Thousand Oaks, CA:
Hi David, Thanks for taking my question. Ace has not received much respect in the U.S. I see him as an overlooked value play in the BC Turf race. Your thoughts on Ace's chances this Saturday? Mike

Hood:
He is an interesting horse who always runs a decent race and it was credible in the Turf Classic. But he doesn’t win too often and has been held by most of the top European challengers at some stage in the last year. He could well run in to a place, but I wouldn’t pick him over the front three.

Hobart, IN:
Is Ouija Board really ready to go?

Hood:
I think so. She is an outstanding mare and you have to consider that she really comes here with just the one race this season. She incurred a hairline fracture of her hock when taking on the boys at Royal Ascot in the Prince Of Wales, and we thought we would never see her again. But her comeback win in the Princess Royal (all be it against far inferior opposition) warmed the heart. She won with a lot in hand and if coming forward for the race remains the one to beat.

Ilwaco, WA:
Why is Saint Liam the early favorite? I just don't see him liking the mile and a quarter.

Hood:
Well, as I think I have mentioned already, this looks a weak year for the Classic (no Ghostzapper, Afleet Alex, or Roses In May), and he is a progressive sort of horse who sees out a mile and a eighth very well. I think he’ll get the extra furlong…. question is: will Borrego or Rock Hard Ten get it better?

Spokane, WA:
My question is: how do you feel about Limehouse in the Mile?

Hood:
You know, this one nearly crept by me, until you asked this question. I looked back at his form and you can make a case for him. On the dirt, he ran up against some big horses and he was staying on really well behind Funfare and Artie Schiller on his turf debut. Ok, he was getting a 9 lb pull from Artie Schiller, but he was only beaten a 1 in total and at 33/1 he could be a value bet. I’ll look him up this week and see how keen Todd Pletcher is.

Festus, MO:
With the potential for more rain in New York later in the week, do you feel this to be an advantage to the European horses entered on the Turf races?

Hood:
As already explained, Bago and Shiroco will be fine, but Azamour may get his speed blunt by needing boots on!

Topeka, KS:
What is the best way to wager $20 dollars on each race of the Breeders cup for a casual horse bettor?

Hood:
Good question.....and you’re asking a bookmaker for tips!! lol. Ok here is my top 8.

Juvenile: $10 win & place Private Vow
Juvenile Fillies: $10 boxed exacta Folklore & Adieu
Distaff: $20 win Ashado
F & M Turf: $20 win Ouija Board
Mile:$10 win & place Artie Schiller
Sprint: $10 win & place: Attila's Storm
Turf: $10 win & place Shiroco
Classic: $20 win Borrego

British Columbia:
If you could bet on only one race for the Breeders' Cup, which race and horse would you wager on?

Hood:
I'd be with Ashado for the bankroll in the Distaff.

Berkeley, CA:
How much of a chance would you give defending champion Better Talk Now in the Turf, esp. against this tough European contingent?

Hood:
This is a tougher year for the turf than last year. He goes on yielding ground, so you wouldn't write him off, but I think the challenge of Azamour (providing it is not heavy on Saturday) and Bago is strong; also, he wouldn't necessarily be the number one US challenger, would he? Surely, that title belongs to Shakespeare?

Evergreen Park, IL:
One horse I hope wins by 10 lengths is Lost in the Fog. The owner and trainer have handled this colt professionally. He is ten for ten, won at eight different tracks from coast to coast, and still some experts claim he has not faced anyone when he won the Kings Bishop by five lengths, at that track in upstate New York, um, Saratoga! Where were all these classy sprinters? Your thoughts, thank you.

Hood:
I think he is a monster! Good horses will always get knockers; some people just hate champions and there's always a danger that they get to say 'I told you so' when the tires eventually go flat (and they do all get beaten at some stage). But win, lose, or draw on Saturday, how can you knock the horse? He has done it all ways so far and, if you asked any trainer of the contenders who they'd fear, they would ALL say Lost In The Fog.

Schenectady, NY:
What are your top four contenders in this years Melbourne Cup other than Makybe Diva?

Hood:
I have to say I was gutted to hear the Carte Diamond had been scratched this morning, I had backed the horse with an Australian bookmaker at 66/1 and, the way he was shaping up, I thought we had a great chance. Obviously, Makybe Diva is in freakish form again, as we saw with her Cox Plate victory. She’ll be hard to beat, but perhaps Railings, Eye Popper, and the big priced Bazelle may be worth further investigation.

Chicago, IL:
David: A lot of U.S. racing fans evaluate the significance of a key race to ascertain the outcome. Since most international races aren't as closely followed, which of all the races in Europe this season would be the most significant or key race and who would be most highly regarded as a result?

Hood:
Cracking question! Well, I guess we have two categories to look at which is the Mile and then the Turf --for the middle distance horses. In the Mile, the top 4 races would be the St James Palace at Royal Ascot, the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood; and in France, the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville and, finally, the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp. Because of its place in the calendar, the last of these tends to bring together the winners/placed horses from the previous three, and in this year's race Starcraft beat Gorella (after which he joined Patrick Biancone) and Majors Cast. It is a solid guide and with all three should be respected here in the Breeders Cup; however, yet again it is a little inconclusive because injuries to Divine Proportions, Soviet Song, and Proclamation meant that the 3 really big guns failed to run in the Moulin, so Europe doesn’t have a conclusive Mile Champion.

For the middle distance horses, the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe is the late season climax over a mile and half that brings together the 3yr olds and the older horses, Derby winners, et al. This year's winner Hurricane Run is an exceptional horse but, in his absence, the placed horses of Bago (3rd) & Shiroco (4th) shout out at you. Good question, though!

Bronxville, NY:
Hi David, I was wondering what you thought Oratorio's chances of winning the Classic are, and what conditions would give him on edge in the race?

Hood:
Realistically, I am more hopeful than confident. BUT, this horse is a tough as teak and bone idle. Undoubtedly, he will be outpaced early on but, when the man on top gets busy, this horse always finds gears and I suspect he’ll be finishing best of all. Whether that is from a position too far back is my main worry.

Olive Hill, KY:
After watching Superfly work on Tuesday I thought he was extremely impressive. Could he be improving at the right time and could he pull an upset in the Juvenile? This is not a horse getting a lot of attention.

Hood:
Well, I didn’t see the work, but based purely on the formbook he has a lot to find with First Samurai and Henny Hughes (12 length) from the Champagne. He could be an improver, but he wants to be turn the form around.

Toronto, ON:
Everyone seems to have written off Flower Alley after the Jockey Club race. How do you see his chances?

Hood:
It can always be expensive to write off a horse on the basis of one bad run, because they are entitled to an ‘off’ day as much as the rest of us. Go back to Travers win and he is rock solid, but it is worrying that he folded up so easily in the Jockey Club and got beaten in the Dwyer at Belmont in May as well, so maybe he just isn’t a Belmont type of horse. Because it is a mile and half track, the extra long effort required to last home in the straight can get to the bottom of a horse.

St Louis, MO:
With such deep fields and quality horses, who would you rate as your best bet and upset specials for BC?

Hood:
We stand and fall by these, don’t we? Well, my best bet is probably Ashado. I know she is a favorite, but I’d rather back a short priced winner than a long shot that tails-off.

For an upset, Shiroco is still too big a price in the Turf, and Silver train and Attila Storm have attracted money from some pretty shrewd bettors and so might be worth an interest.

Chicago, IL:
I keep hearing that Suave doesn't have a chance in the Classic. I think he does. He has good tactical speed and is bred to love the distance. Plus, Prado has the mount, so he must feel that he can win it. Your thoughts, please.

Hood:
With Bailey getting on Saint Liam, did Prado have the choice of anything else in the race with a chance? I don’t think he did, so he is taking his best shot, but he was well beaten by Borrego in the Jockey Club and minor honors may be a result for him.

Berea, OH:
I am intrigued by the entry of Leo in the BC Juvenile. Could he be this year's Wilko, since First Samurai and Henny Hughes should have a bulk of win tickets punched their way?

Hood:
Well, Big John (Gosden) would have you think so and the colt looked relaxed on Tuesday morning when I saw him.

I think the recent success of Johannesburg and Wilko has given encouragement to the UK trainers to send over a contender or two and what we do know about the horse is that he stays a mile on his head so the extra 1/8th shouldn’t be a problem. Just think he’ll be outpaced, though.

Park Slope, NY:
David, appreciate you providing us with opinions on the overseas talent. Does Majors Cast have anything resembling a shot on Saturday?

Hood:
Absolutely. Noseda is a very warm operator and, as I have explained earlier, the Prix du Moulin is probably the best guide to the Mile in Europe.

He was third to Starcraft and Gorella and with a clear passage is in with shot…..but are they all running for place money behind the Brazilian monster (Leroidesanimaux).

New York, NY:
David: Are any French and British Thoroughbred workouts timed?

Hood:
Not publicly, no. Godolphin time all of their winter workouts in Dubai and probably put the clock on them at home, but no official workouts are ever published. One of the reasons is that we don't train on the tracks as they do in the USA and, therefore, the conditions are never the same.

Toledo, OH:
Are any of the joovy or joovy chicks drastically overrated in your opinion?

Hood:
First Samurai looks the real deal having won over the track in a good time, but the fillies are open to scrutiny. I like Folklore, as she posted a Beyer of 99 when stepped up in trip last time, so maybe she should be the pick instead of Adieu.

Pilsen, IL:
If Lost in the Fog is defeated, do you think it will be due to an older speed horse cooking him early like Battle Won or due to a closing older horse that is not used to the distance like Imperialism or Gygistar?

Hood:
I don't think he'll be defeated, as he's a monster!!!!!

Naperville, IL:
Does Henny Hughes have any chance of turning it around and beating First Samurai? I have Henny on my fantasy team and still think he might be the second best in the race. Any thoughts?

Hood:
I think you could be right, he looks held by First Samurai and I just wonder if he isn't sprinter. He has demonstrated so much speed that he could be one that bombs out completely.

Chesterton, IN:
I have Island Fashion on my fantasy team. My gut feeling is that the addition of Bejarano might be a beautiful thing for this veteran. Does she have a shot?

Hood:
She was fifth in the race last year and, to be honest, I don't see why she would change that now. She is 0 for 2 at Belmont and 0 for 5 at the distance. She has had a lot of races this year and looks held by the leading candidates.

Coatesville, PA:
Could you compare how British time form ratings equate to our Beyers ratings?

Hood:
There is no exact science but history has demonstrated that, if you take approximately 12 off the Timeform figures, then that is roughly what their Beyer would be.

Emil, IL:
Other than Leroidesanamaux, which Robert Frankel horse has the best chance of winning? Thank you.

Hood:
Could be clutching at straws looking for another good thing, but perhaps Megahertz in the FM Turf, if Ouija Board doesn't run her race.

MODERATOR:
That's about all we have time for today. Thanks again, David, for sharing perhaps another point of view for so many of us.

Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.