First winner for the month on Wednesday: Bang On The Bell (9/2; 4/1 SP) won his race at Wolverhampton. Although, not quite in the manner I had anticipated as he blew the start and had do it the hard way. Thankfully, he held on and showed grit in the final furlong.
Dog Fox was withdrawn, unfortunately; after misbehaving in the stalls; there’ll be another day.
Sharon Macready refused to settle as they tried to drop her in. I could have seen that coming. She’s done it before. Like…. always. Even over the minimum trip. Backing her over 6 furlongs was simply a poor decision.
3.15 Lingfield: Class 3 Handicap, 6f
The “All-Weather Vase Sprint Handicap” looks one of those uncompetitive-competitive handicaps. Plenty of runners, more or less similar ability, plenty of chances without any real standout and very few well-handicapped ones, if any.
Hence I’m prepared to give Emperor Spirit a solid shout at this, who seems overpriced in this field, for a myriad of reasons.
For one, it’s only two runs back that he seriously caught the eye at Newcastle:
He grabbed the lead promptly, set a red hot pace, but was pestered by a rival throughout, yet travelled strongly, before drifting across the track as he got really tired in the closing stages and was eventually overpowered by two horses from off the pace to finish third.
That was a strong performance and rock solid form, and his subsequent and most recent run doesn’t distract from it in my view – he was well beaten when last seen but that was a hot 5 furlong sprint on his debut for a new yard. No doubt the minimum trip is too sharp.
He ran pretty well all winter, though; especially over this course and distance in early December off 5lb higher than he’s currently rated, going off the 15/8 favourite, only beaten late in the day – doing so with cheek pieces fitted, which are on here again after an absence recently.
Subsequent form did suggest he ran not far below that level of form; although he’s a horse who finds it tough to get his head in front, hence he has fallen ever so slightly down to a 85 mark now.
He ran to higher speed ratings in the past, so there is an argument to be made that he’s weighted to win.
The race may develop to his advantage: he could establish an easy lead and good early rhythm and subsequently tough to peg back for a third career victory. He’s got the benefit of the #1 draw and there’s not too much pace pressure especially as other prominent horses are wider drawn.
10pts win – Emperor Spirit @ 11/1
3.25 Bath: Class 5 Handicap, 1m 3.5f
On the basis of ground, trip and handicap mark one can rule out more than half the field. Gastronomy seems the default favourite given his unexposed profile for strong connections, but is clearly poor value given the short price with questions to answers on ground and trip.
Nonetheless, the one I have an eye on is the 5-yeaer-old mare Reach, who could be quite well handicapped here.
She’s one I flagged in the Handicappers To Follow piece, although I didn’t expect to find such an ideal opportunity so soon after publishing the list.
Reach is very lightly raced for her age. She created a strong impression on her first two starts before winning in emphatic fashion at Pontefract in autumn, when upped to 12 furlongs.
She travelled strongly on Handicap debut subsequently, but faded badly over the shorter 10 furlongs; perhaps she paid for having three runs in rather quick succession.
The mare looks all stamina and should have more to offer off 74 going up in trip again, especially with cut in the ground.
I’ve got little doubts about her race fitness. I expect her to be ready to go. Connections couldn’t have hoped for a better race to kick-off the season.
10pts win – Reach @ 15/2